Aluminum Casting Dinner : A Feast of the Accursed Share


Cambridge / 2016
   In the spirit of Georges Bataille, Sky Milner and I invited friends to a feast of the Accursed Share, a celebratory dissipation of energetic surplus. With aluminum ingots melted down from foraged scrap metal, soda cans consumed at the party, and aluminum offerings brought by guests, we fired up a backyard furnace and cast a small batch of lost styrofoam molds. The newly-minted aluminum vessels were then used to present dipping sauces for grilled meats and vegetables enjoyed by guests at a table custom-fabricated to the details of the event, and while sharing readings from the Bataille source text and on the global energetics of aluminum manufacture.

The Necessity of Losing the Excess Energy that Cannot be Used for a System's Growth
(from The Accursed Share: An Essay on the General Economy by Georges Bataille)

At first sight, it is easy to recognize in the economy - in the pro­ duction and use of wealth - a particular aspect of terrestrial activity regarded as a cosmic phenomenon. A movement is produced on the surface of the globe that results from the circulation of energy at this point in the universe. The economic activity of men appro­priates this movement, making use of the resulting possibilities for certain ends. But this movement has a pattern and laws with which, as a rule, those who use them and depend on them are un­ acquainted. Thus the question arises: Is the general determination of energy circulating in the biosphere altered by man's activity? Or rather, isn't the latter's intention vitiated by a determination of which it is ignorant, which it overlooks and cannot change?

Without waiting, I will give an inescapable answer.

Man's disregard for the material basis of his life still causes him to err in a serious way. Humanity exploits given material resources, but by restricting them as it does to a resolution of the immediate difficulties it encounters (a resolution which it has hastily had to define as an ideal), it assigns to the forces it employs an end which they cannot have. Beyond our immediate ends, man's activity in fact pursues the useless and infinite ful­fillment of the universe.

Of course, the error that results from so complete a disregard does not just concern man's claim to lucidity. It is not easy to realize one's own ends if one must, in trying to do so, carry out a movement that surpasses them. No doubt these ends and this movement may not be entirely irreconcilable; but if these two terms are to be reconciled we must cease to ignore one ofthem; otherwise, our works quickly turn to catastrophe.

I will begin with a basic fact: The living organism, in a situa­tion determined by the play of energy on the surface of the globe, ordinarily receives more energy than is necessary for maintain­ ing life; the excess energy (wealth) can be used for the growth of a system (e.g., an organism); if the system can no longer grow, or if the excess cannot be completely absorbed in its growth, it must necessarily be lost without profit; it must be spent, will­ingly or not, gloriously or catastrophically.

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