Magic, Strategy and Capitalism: An Interview with aladin – Anja Kanngieser & Leila

'Throw'.  Portrait of aladin by Ian Greaves at Big Blue World 2011

Keywords: Magic. Strategy. Art. Capitalism. Economy. Transversality.


Audio Clips: Magic, Strategy and Capitalism: An Interview with aladin

Part I
Part II

Part III

Part IV



A common observation over the past few decades has been the rise of labour based on affect and creativity, our capacities to speak, emote and empathise. For philosophers and labour theorists, this trend is tied to an emphasis on the production of social relations and networks. The creative or affective labour paradigm is perhaps most strikingly clear in the worlds of art and business, worlds in which imagination and innovation reign, and the traversal of borders and disciplines is marketed as flexibility and independence. aladin walks through these worlds. A magician, artist, entrepreneur, banker, consultant, community worker and alchemist, he crosses and brings together multiple identities and high profile institutions. He is a creative worker par excellence, an example of the successful subject of contemporary capitalism.

This combination of magic, strategy and art of course throws into question the role and meaning of magic today. aladin offers a more complex narrative than what might be commonly expected. We might ask the question: what happens to magic once it is embedded in the languages of business and industry? Traditionally magic has been used to entertain, to beguile its audience, but also to trick and to hide. Magic, when set into the circuitry of the economy, is a chimera. It is comprised of so many different components, and is put to use in so many different contexts, that one hardly knows where it begins and ends. There is a beauty in this practice, as well as a danger. The radical potential of magic lies precisely in its ability to evade capture. In this sense, magic might be seen as a method of flight, both away from one state and toward another. At the same time, magic’s mutability is a symptom of the way that languages, ideas, practices and relationships are put into use for capital, exoticised and fetishised as novel others with high surplus value.

For aladin, a man whose external biography is unashamedly comprised of secondary sources and rumours, magic is one means to achieve what he desires, which is to make a change. In this sense magic retains some of its old function: to open ways of being and seeing the world up to chance and to new perspectives. Perhaps the magic that aladin invokes is nothing less than fitting for the contexts in which he moves, holding open the tension between aesthetics and economics.

aladin’s command of multiple practices challenges established convention. He has a trans-disciplinary academic and consultancy background in strategic thinking, leaving the London School of Economics to make critical strategic contributions to global corporations, governments and NGOs on their transactions at all levels of civil society. In 2011, strategic counsel to: social enterprise and contemporary arts experiment Fogo Island Arts Corporation in its regeneration of local civic economy; trans Arab parallel initiative ‘The Changing Room Project: Reflections on Arab Praxis and Process’ during Venice Biennale; new British communications practice Borkkowski.Do. aladin is a prime author of the world’s first integrated strategic plan for the culture, media, sport, arts, heritage and tourism of a capital city – that for London 2000-4. Earlier, he led community development work on housing estates in Southwark, London and Montpellier, France – making lasting contributions to local regeneration. He is also an award-winning interdisciplinary artist.

Anja Kanngieser is a cultural geographer who works with labour self-organisation, migration, collaborative practices, radio and the voice. She collaborates on DIY/ DIT political radio projects, such as Dissident Island and Catalyst Radio, in Australia and the UK.

Leila spends a lot of time organising in the context of independent, radical, non-hierarchical, DIY media and tech collectives, and has a particular interest and affinity with radio as a method of communication. Other interests include housing rights, free spaces and food politics.

Creative Commons Licence
This portrait – ‘Throw’ – is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada License.