Spectral Museum
A Chapter from the History of Class Struggle

Alexey Klyuykov, Laďa Gažiová, Zbyněk Baladrán
Joint Exhibition Project, Display – Association for Research and Collective Practice, 2021

Back in 2019, we captioned a series of exhibitions dealing with class society and class struggle with a quote from Warren Buffet: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Indeed, it seems that the class which has achieved its class consciousness in the 21st century is not the oft-discussed proletariat, but rather the richest of the rich. After two years of numerous pandemic waves, the victory of the billionaires is statistically triumphant and seems unstoppable. Economic inequality has increased by hundreds of percent. Its resolution has not moved ahead an inch. This is no longer merely about the human world, as the whole planet finds itself parceled into very few private hands. A few rich folks have come to define social interest as such.
Where has the proletariat gone? As a subject of history, it was the proletariat which was supposed to lead humanity to the resolution of the economic contradictions of capitalism, and towards a more just society, or in the very least a better future. Has communism become a mere philosophical hypothesis, or Kojin Karatani’s future mode of economic exchange “D”?
Is the proletariat still here, and is simply having trouble identifying itself? Or does this class no longer exist, and there are only various groups of oppressed people who share no common ground? During the 19th century, when the proletariat was being born, Europe was haunted by the specter of communism. The specter has remained just that, but now the proletariat has also become spectral. Does it belong in a museum? Or to an exhibition documenting the material legacy of extinct cultures? And what might such a spectral museum look like? How might it help in class struggle at a time when the winners know they are winning, while the losers don’t even know they have lost? We can at least consider the museum as a turning point, an operation of thought which casts new light on the seeds of a new class consciousness glistening among the broken shards of the former. What else are museums good for after all?

Photo credit: Radek Brousil