Much of our work as a critical art collective turns on two senses of the word ‘surplus’: surplus populations, that is, people who are forced to the margins of or outside the wage relation and whose ambivalent status as labour-in-waiting and revolutionary potential translates into often violent disciplinary regimes of the state; and surplus value, that is, that which is produced when labour is sold for less than it produces, that which drives capital accumulation.
In coming to this issue as editors in the wake of 2020, a year that laid bare the foundations of capital exploitation and its modes of appropriation and alienation in especially crude terms, we decided to ask contributors to think of the problem of surplus as the engine of capital accumulation as well as the promise of surplus against capital. In other words, what kinds of surplus energies, desires, and materials are made with and for each other, on the clock but not for the boss, in the hallways and streets, at the dinner table, in the forms that our study and love and friendship take?
The responses to this call were clear, loud, smart, staunch. In this issue, you will find essays, poems and art works on the question of artistic labour, on the problem of the liberal humanist imagination, on the brilliant potential of refusal and withdrawal; you will find indexes of exhaustion, waste, excrement, as well as traces of love, desire, kinship and attention. Across the issue, the idea of surplus is explored, challenged and extended into unexpected sites for examination. We feel lucky to have discovered new ways of thinking about surplus and its shadow – extraction and deficit. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did, and we hope the conversations can continue across the margins, as you tuck the issue into your back pocket, head into the street and look up towards the angular winter sun.