This essay argues that the diagram and mechanomorph, those idioms for which Francis Picabia is most known in the history of the avant-garde, pushed past representation on the one hand and aesthetic abstraction on the other to access and articulate the historical specificity of the emergent proletarian subject position. Split between human labor bearer and source of abstract labor, the worker becomes both appendage and analog to productive technology as a node in the circulation of value. Borrowing language from Marx, who used the term “universal prostitution” to describe surplus-value-productive, or modern, labor that not only internally divides but also pits the worker against her or his own interests, Picabia's work investigates the advent of the post-human as a function of value. In this sense, his work is indicative of “real,” or concrete, abstraction.

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