I am co-organizing with Dimitrina Sevova a symposium entitled The Diagrammatic Practice of the Micropolitical – the Spatio-temporal Expression of Play between Power, Knowledge and the Aesthetics of Existence at Zurich University of the Arts.

Here are all the infos:

International Public Symposium at Pfingstweidstrasse 6, 8005 Zurich, ZHdK, 14/15/16 November 2013, around the notion of play, its processual (diagrammatic) and political and aesthetic potential in times of cognitive capitalism and its mechanisms of control over life and the urban environment.

Left: "The Playground, a Vacant Lot," Hale House, Boston, Mass., c1903, Social Museum Collection, Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museum.  Middle: Seattle Potlatch Parade showing float, 1912. Right: Nuria Vila + Marcelo Expósito, Tactical Frivolity + Rhythms of Resistance, video still, 2007.

Left: "The Playground, a Vacant Lot," Hale House, Boston, Mass., c1903, Social Museum Collection, Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museum. Middle: Seattle Potlatch Parade showing float, 1912. Right: Nuria Vila + Marcelo Expósito, Tactical Frivolity + Rhythms of Resistance, video still, 2007.

SPEAKERS: Paolo Caffoni, Giusy Checola, Binna Choi, discoteca flaming star (Cristina Gómez Barrio & Wolfgang Mayer), David Dibosa, Anja Kanngieser, Maurizio Lazzarato, Isabell Lorey, m-a-u-s-e-r (Mona Mahall & Aslı Serbest), Carmen Mörsch, Daniel Morgenthaler, Roberto Nigro, Susanna Perin (S.M.U.R.), Gerald Raunig, Adrian Rifkin, Kerstin Schroedinger, Marco Scotini, Diego Segatto, Joshua Simon, Kuba Szreder, Axel Wieder, Espace Temporaire (Magdalena Ybarguen).

RESPONDENTS: Jens Badura, Christoph Brunner, Karmen Franinović, Roberto Nigro, Romy Rüegger, Dimitrina Sevova.

PERFORMANCES: Chiara Fumai, T. Melih Görgün, Michael Hiltbrunner, Franziska Koch, David Maroto.

SCREENINGS: Marcelo Expósito, Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson, RELAX (chiarenza & hauser & co).

MICROPOLITICAL WORKSHOP: Wiktoria Furrer & Sebastian Dieterich in cooperation with Elke Bippus.


Throughout three intense days the symposium will be an experimental space for expressing and sharing ideas – a place for intervening, investigating and provoking collective discussions on how to re-activate play’s potentiality in urban space, considered as a playground of deskilled, affective and precarious labor.

The symposium aims at relocating the notion of play from the outdoor to the outside as an ecology and extended space for experimentation and micropolitics beyond spatial confinement. We ask how such an outside emerges through practices unfolding and altering dominant diagrams of power in urban environments. Here, playing-together involves the capacity of forces of resistance to create situations as intensive fields of affection through the micropolitics of diagrammatic practices. Both, playing bodies and the process of learning as a common, a self-productive and living knowledge, perpetuate new forms of social subjectivity and its immanent growth between power, knowledge and an aesthetics of existence.

Bringing together artists, curators, activists and thinkers from the fields of performance, art, aesthetic theory, philosophy, architecture and design, the symposium comprises talks, artistic interventions, performances and screenings.

Curated by Dimitrina Sevova and Christoph Brunner in cooperation with the Bachelor Media & Art, specialization Fine Arts of the Zurich University of the Arts, Elke Bippus, Franziska Koch.

A cooperation with Z+ ‹ http://www.zhdk.ch/zplus ›.

In conjunction with the a-disciplinary project consisting of a platform of irregular non-serial events, screenings, public readings, performances, talks, urban interventions and other ephemera, on the theme of Opportunities for Outdoor Play? Playgrounds – New Spaces of Liberty (The Question of Form) outdoorplay.tumblr.com ›, curated by Dimitrina Sevova at Kunsthof Zürich between March and October 2013 in cooperation with Elke Bippus, Franziska Koch and the Bachelor Media & Art, specialization Fine Arts of the Zurich University of the Arts.

For further information please see ‹ outdoorplay.tumblr.com › or ‹ www.kunsthof.ch .

No registration required. Admission free. Seats limited. Please be on time for each thematic bloc, performance or screening.

[The curatorial text by Dimitrina Sevova and Christoph Brunner, and all other materials, can be found on the project blog, outdoorplay.tumblr.com. And in printable layout as PDF: programabstracts and bioscuratorial text.]


third-text

A new publication by Roberto Nigro, Gerald Raunig and myself is out in the new Third Text issue.

Post-Media Activism, Social Ecology and Eco-Art - Third Text - Volume 27, Issue 1.

Abstract

In his late works Félix Guattari emphasizes the concept of ecology as tool for analysis and pragmatic proposition for contemporary societies. In The Three Ecologies he outlines three tendencies as mental, social and environmental ecologies. All three ecologies play a crucial role in what Guattari conceives as the nucleus for the transformation of society: the production of subjectivity. This article starts from Guattari’s ecological conception of aesthetic practices, which he calls eco-art, to further investigate contemporary forms of activism and their techniques. Through a close reading of the ‘human microphone’ and early footage from Zuccotti Park, the Occupy movement provides the ground for a re-actualization of Guattari’s ecological project. Asking how contemporary technologies integrate into the ecologically open production of subjectivity the authors develop an account of activist eco-art as part of a ‘post-media era’. They propose such a post-media era where technologies as ecological techniques for the production of subjectivity transform the political and social context in which we live.

Here, a direct LINK to the article.

I just found out that an article co-authored with Roberto Nigro and Gerald Raunig has been published in RADAR - MUSAC’s Journal of Art and Thought two months ago:

Towards a New Aesthetic Paradigm: Ethico-Aesthetics and the Aesthetics of Existence in Foucault and Guattari

The article can be read here in English and Spanish.

The entire Journal issue:

Radar #1 - STRATEGIES IN THE FACE OF THE REAL. Limitations and Challenges in Times of Change

and the full PDF: RADAR#1 - PDF.

Our article in full length:

Towards a New Aesthetic Paradigm
Ethico-Aesthetics and the Aesthetics of existence in Foucault and Guattari

Christoph Brunner / Roberto Nigro / Gerald Raunig

foucault72_1felixguattari

Felix Guattari’s and Michel Foucault’s works on the production of subjectivity investigate the transversal relations of social, political, and ecological bodies in their biopolitical constitution. Both authors, most prominently in their late works after 1980, write in opposition to the conservative backlash that has come to dominate institutionalizing forms of enclosure and impositions of legitimized and impoverished forms of subjectivity.1 For them, the production of subjectivity becomes the very existential territory on which social, ethical, and aesthetic transformations must be negotiated. The subject—or rather a processual subjectivity—becomes the machinic foyer out of which new and more transversal accounts of the socius can be developed. These processes rely on practices of self-governance, forms of practices of the self, and modes of constitution of the subject which are recurrent features of Foucault’s late writings on the care for the self and Guattari’s deliberations on a “new aesthetic paradigm.”

A mode of subjectivation does not create subjects ex nihilo; it creates them by transforming identities defined in the natural and social order into instances of the ex-perience of a dispute. Any subjectivation involves a disidentification, a removal from the naturalness of a place. Technologies of the self or the care for the self are practices to be intended in their very political vocation. Political subjectivation is an ability to produce polemical scenes, conflicts, lines of flight, new modes of existence. It redefines the field of experience and reshapes the organization of a community. Political subjectivation is here to be interpreted as a real political experience or process of experimentation; an experience as a movement that wrenches the subject from itself and from its actual condition, an experience that by acting on the subject changes its ontology. However, this very first movement of de-subjectivation achieves its real consistency only by means of a second movement that, almost simultaneously, comes to overdetermine it. It is what we can define, with the help of Lacan, as a movement of alteration of the subjectivity, consisting of an infinite interplay between the self and an (imaginary) limit that never ceases to move on.

In their consideration of subjectivation, Guattari and Foucault take into account the diagrammatic field of power relations as bounding and capturing agents, as well as the productive aspects of desires and forces as auto-affirming properties of creative production. Guattari in particular emphasizes the transversality under which processes of subjectivation take place. His elaborations in Three Ecologiess are based on the assumption that transformations of the social, as well as practices of the production of subjectivity activating new potentials of formerly harnessed power relations, need to traverse social, mental, and environmental ecologies (Guattari 2008, 28). For Guattari, ecology is not to be understood as an enclosed system but rather as a catalyst for change, a complex open-ended process to be conjured up by different modes of existence (material, social, and mental). All three ecological planes gain new importance in light of the contemporary social and political transformations in the Arab and European revolutions, the continuous increasing machinic production of desires in social media, and the environmental disasters of the present day.

Across these ecological registers, Guattari develops concrete steps to be taken toward a resingularization of subjectivity and its relational status as part of the three ecologies: “The important thing here is not only the confrontation with a new material of expression, but the constitution of complexes of subjectivation: multiple exchanges between individual-group-machine. These complexes actually offer people diverse possibilities for recomposing their existential corporeality, to get out of their respective impasses and, in a certain way, to resingularise themselves. Grafts of transference operate in this way, not issuing from ready-made dimensions of subjectivity crystal-lised into structural complexes, but from a creation which itself indicates a kind of aesthetic paradigm” (Guattari 1995, 7).

For Foucault and Guattari, the concern with aesthetics and its relation to existence has nothing to do with the aestheticization of life from a human perspective or, even worse, with the aestheticization of politics, a project already vehemently dismissed by Walter Benjamin in the 1930s. Guattari’s aim is to grasp subjectivity in the dimension of its processual creativity, instead of objectifying, reifying, or “scientifizing” it (1995, 13). Guattari and Foucault use aesthetics as a way to hint at the creative potential of expression and enunciation that has been silenced by the dominant force of signs and signifiers. In order to allow the three ecologies to traverse the production of subjectivity, Guattari elaborates a threefold development of aesthetic paradigms. The two pri-mary phases (which are still operating as part of current transformations) are 1) “collective territories” of a proto-aesthetic paradigm where creativity is not yet institution-alized but drawn into collective practices of enunciation such as rituals (1995, 101-102); and 2) a modularization of subjectivity, detached from the emergence of values and overcoded by capitalist signifiers (1995, 104-105). While the proto-aesthetic paradigm underlies a prehistorical period, the second phase refers to capitalist structure. In the third movement, which has not yet arrived, we might enter an aesthetic paradigm of processual immanence: “It is a striving towards this ontological root of creativity that is characteristic of the new processual paradigm. It engages the composition of enunciative assemblages actualizing the compossibility of two infinites, the active and the passive” (1995, 116). Guattari explicitly underlines the continued impact of the two earlier paradigms. The processual aesthetic paradigm re-focuses on the production of subjectivity as an aesthetic of existence. In a transversal manner (relating abstract as much as concrete dimensions), the production of subjectivity aims first and foremost to “reinvent social practices” (Guattari 1996, 119). The remaking of social practice goes hand in hand with Guattari’s critique of the ecological crisis that “can be traced to a more general crisis of the social, political and existential” (1996, 119).

From this point of view, the aesthetic paradigm resonates well with the desires and demands of 21st-century activism. In order to develop such activism as part of the new aesthetic paradigm, one must investigate the ecological status and the formation of new subjectivities as part of an aesthetics of existence. For Guattari, the production of subjectivity as motor for the flourishing of such an aesthetic paradigm has to include the active role of incorporeal “Universes of Value” (1995, 99) as much as it includes the function of collective enunciations and things or objects that are pragmatic func-tions of existence (1996, 177). Instead of founding his aesthetic paradigm on a clear separation between objects and subjects or between concrete and transcendent, Guattari folds the dimensions of material and immaterial forces into each other, leaving each of them to a certain extent autonomous and at the same time always relationally entangled with other forces.

The aesthetic paradigm is therefore interwoven with ethical and scientific paradigms: “The new aesthetic paradigm has ethico-political implications because to speak of creation is to speak of the responsibility of the creative instance with regard to the thing created, inflection of the state of things, bifurcation beyond preestablished schemas, once again taking into account the fate of alterity in its extreme modalities. But this ethical choice no longer emanates from a transcendent enunciation, a code of law or a unique and all-powerful god” (1995, 107). The genesis of an enunciation is co-emergent with processual invention or creation, and even in scientific statements forms of subjectivation surface as individual and collective-machinic.2

What Guattari identifies as “chaosmosis” defines a practice and tool of analysis at the same time. It is an immanent activism of ethico-aesthetic relevance taking into consideration and shaping the interplay of the three ecologies. Chaosmosis “is a force for seizing the creative potentiality at the root of sensible finitude–‘before’ it is applied to works, philosophical concepts, scientific functions and mental and social objects” (1995, 112).

The relation between aesthetics and existence in Foucault and Guattari is neither ex-clusively attached to art nor does it involve art as institutionalized practice. On the contrary, aesthetics itself shapes a mode of existence that accounts for the transversal relations between subjects and objects, and between corporeal and incorporeal forces, that together make up the real. Nevertheless, art can function as a useful “entrance” to investigating aesthetics of existence in their ethico-aesthetic impact on how the “real” is constituted (Deleuze and Guattari 1986, 3). Modestly put, there is a chance that art might enable us to surpass antagonisms such as those between orality and writing. Guattari foregrounds performance art and concrete poetry: “… this art doesn’t so much involve a return to an originary orality as it does a forward flight into machinations and deterritorialised machinic paths capable of engendering mutant subjectiv-ities” (1995, 90). From here a new world might be assembled and augmented where new forms and modalities of being can flourish through productions of subjectivity: the deconstruction of structures and codes, a chaosmic plunge into materialities of sensation, an aesthetic decentering of perspectives.

According to Guattari and Foucault, one must account for the transversal and machinic constellation in which all existence is enmeshed. In this regard, aesthetic machines are of utmost importance, because they undermine the general aestheticization of everyday life by generating mutant and heterogeneous blocks of sensation, percepts, and affects. The function of art is one of “rupturing with forms and significations circulating trivially in the social field” (1995, 130-131). Especially in a society where the circulation of images and aesthetic productions of affects and percepts rises, we require renewed expertise in the aesthetic field. The important point is to not consign these modes of creative production to an autonomous domain of art, but rather to consider them in their potential to transform, break, and reinvent trivial affects and percepts. In an essay contemporaneous with Chaosmosis, Deleuze comments in a similar fashion: “Creating has always been something different from communicating. The key thing may be to create vacuoles of noncommunication, circuit breakers, so we can elude control” (Deleuze 1995, 175). For Guattari, in a similar vein, artistic and aesthetic cognition detaches segments of the real and deterritorializes them to become partial enunciators. The effects of these quasi-animistic language aspects of a work of art are both the remodeling of the relation between artist and consumer and the (in-)formation of everyday existence (see Guattari 1995, 131). Aesthetics as an ethics according to the transversal aspect of the three ecologies and the aesthetic paradigm always relates to modes of existence and of life.

Through his notion of “aesthetics of existence” Foucault conceives of the “bios as beautiful work” (Foucault 2011, 162). In his last years, he investigated this question of an aesthetics of existence in the ancient writings on parrhesia. According to Foucault, artists, especially during the course of the 19th century, have adapted the parrhesiatic forms of life of the Cynics. As a first principle, artistic life gains its relevance in the 19th century through the life of the artist as an enabling condition for an artwork to emerge, or even through the life of the artist as work of art giving relevance to the artistic existence of that epoch: “Art is capable of giving a form to existence which breaks with every other form, a form which is that of the true life” (Foucault 2011, 187). The second principle for Foucault lies in art’s capacity for “laying bare, exposure, stripping, excavation, and violent reduction of existence to its basics” (2011, 188). For Foucault, figures such as Baudelaire, Flaubert, and Manet take on the task of constituting “art as the site of the irruption of what is underneath, below, of what in a culture has no right, or at least no possibility of expression” (ibid.).

The relations between artistic or rather aesthetic practices and existence are part and parcel of the way Foucault and Guattari envision the aesthetic paradigm as a paradigm of resingularization. Both thinkers are concerned with existence as a way to enable new tastes of life and for life, to create a novel smoothness between sexes, generations, and ethnic groups–as much as compositions of virtual ecologies of “unprecedented formations of subjectivity” (Guattari 1995, 91). Concerning the invention of new forms of life and existence, Guattari writes in Chaosmosis: “One creates new modalities of subjectivity in the same way that an artist creates new forms from the palette” (1995, 7). Hence, as Deleuze points out in a commentary, to “constitute ways of existing or styles of life …. isn’t just an aesthetic matter, it’s what Foucault called ethics, as opposed to morality” (Deleuze 1995, 98-100). In their overlapping of ethics and aesthetics, ways of existing underlie rigorous immanent criteria: “Foucault even makes allusion to ‘aesthetic’ criteria, which are understood as criteria for life and replace on each occasion the claims of transcendental judgment with an immanent evaluation” (Deleuze 1991, 163). Foucault’s late formulation consists in the risky Cynic practice of parrhesia as a formation of life. He foregrounds the creation of relational fields between singularities over an emphasis on individualized retreat from society. For us the question then is: What happens if these revolutionary ethico-aesthetic practices define not only a political project but a molecular revolution as a remodeling of modes of life and existence? Such a molecular revolution underlines an aesthetics of existence and/or pairs it off with a political project as “constantly renewed work of giving form” to life (Fou-cault 2011, 162), or in-forming a living-collectively. Existence as bios and form of life, as much as cutting across all registers of the three ecologies, defines for us a major domain of future investigation, extending and reconsidering the propositional outlines provided by Foucault and Guattari. In particular, it is the transversal relation between modes of existence that interests us. For Foucault, the turn to an aesthetics of existence as ethical concern defines a new terrain lodged between general aesthetic processes of formation and a metaphysics of the soul (ibid.). An aesthetics of existence always produces and leaves traces of ways of being. Being, then, is not entirely tied to a world of concreteness available for human encounter. On the contrary, as Guattari points out: “Being is first auto-consistency, auto-affirmation, existence for-itself deploying particular relations of al-terity. The for-itself and for-others stop being the privilege of humanity, they crystallise everywhere that machinic interfaces engender disparity and, in return, are founded by it” (1995, 109).

In its machinic productivity, existence is a process and aesthetics becomes an ethical practice of becoming with the overall “worlding” of existence. The production of subjectivity therefore is neither an exclusively human affair nor entirely detachable from society. To account for an aesthetics of existence offers an investigation of prac-tices of attention and insertion at the heart of a subjectivity that is always with the world and existence instead of in the world. To reconsider social practices on the basis of existence requires an ethics and an aesthetics that are always subjec-tive-objective across the boundaries of mental, social, and environmental ecologies.

1 Guattari expresses a striking example of his critical remarks on conservative developments in the early 1980s in his poignant book title Les annés d’hiver 1980-1985 (The Winter Years).

2 In their last co-authored work, What Is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari expose the relation between science, art, and philosophy as different modes that all involve processes of creation and creativity (Deleuze/Guattari 1994).

References

Deleuze, Gilles, “What is a dispositif?,” in Michel Foucault, Michel Foucault Philosopher (New York: Routledge, 1991), 159-166.

——, Negotiations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).

——, Two Regimes of Madness (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2006).

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986).

Guattari, Félix, Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995).

——, The Guattari Reader (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996).

——, The Three Ecologies (New York/London: Continuum, 2008).

Foucault, Michel, “On the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of Work in Progress,” in Paul Rabinow (ed.), Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984: Ethics. Vol. One (New York: Penguin Books, 2000), p. 253-280.

——, The Courage of the Truth (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2011).

Lazzarato, Maurizio, Expérimentations politiques (Paris: Éditions Amsterdam, 2009).

cover_yb

Practices of Experimentation: Research and Teaching in the Arts Today is the new book I co-edited. It comprises articles and artwork from members of the Department in Art  & Media at Zurich University of the Arts. The title alludes to an approach we have been fostering throughout the book: How to not make a book not on the level of representation and about what people stand for (i.e. their discursive positioning) but to activate what is happing? Aligning with Isabelle Stengers’ concept of “ecologies of practices” the book wants to think through what is happening - thus foregrounding practices and what they can do or might become rather than what they are in a representational manner. The result is a fine mesh of interrelations and open threads allowing for novel assemblages every time you start engaging with the material. The book unfolds into five “materials” (or subject matter): 1) Laboratory-Experiment, 2) Interfaces, 3) Art-Theory-Science, 4) Teaching-Research, 5) Carte Blanche. The latter “material” comprises  four contributions from authors outside the department: Ute Meta Bauer (MIT), Heiner Goebbels (University of Giessen), Germán Toro-Pérez (ZHdK) and Richard Wentworth (Royal College Art). To give you a better idea, below you find the table to contents.

contents_yb

While reading in parallel two fairly important texts for my work: Deleuze’s talk “What is the Creative Act?” and Toni Negri’s collection of letters published in English as Art & Multitude I feel compelled to juxtapose them with the aim to work out resonances and productive dissonances. A general statement of Negri provides the fundament:

“Art, as we have said, is labour, living labour, and therefore invention of singularity, of singular figures and objects, linguistic expression, invention of sings. There, in this first movement are lodged potenza of the subject in action, the subject’s capacity to deepen knowledge to the point of reinventing the world. But this expressive act only achieves beauty and the absolute when the signs and the language through which it expresses itself transform themselves into community, when they are embraced and contained within a common project. The beautiful in an invention of singularity which circulates and reveals itself as common in a multiplicity of subjects who participate in the construction of the world. The beautiful is not the act of imagining, but an imagination that has become action. Art, in this sense, is multitude” (xii)

In this paragraph Negri condenses the founding principles to establish art as a creative and political act of a multitude. Three important blocks occur at this intersection: 1) The function of living labour as production,2) the potenza lodged in the expressive act of a subject in action, and 3) Beauty as expressive act through a community, i.e. art as expressive act of the multitude. The repeated critique on the concept of multitude is going to be sidelined in what follows, since the concept of the collective takes a more prominent role in my work on Simondon. Another difficult part that I am dealing with in another place is the role of the subject in relation to action or the expressive act. Even though it might seem like Negri and Deleuze conceive of a subject as the locus of creation in both texts that are discussed here, I deem their concept of the subject closer to Guattari’s notion of the production of subjectivity. Hence, subjectivity is a process of creation where acts become expressive but alsways already as a collective that assembles the subjective form of an event. Such a notion of the subjective form refers to Alfred North Whitehead for whom the subjective form is the expressive moment of an event before it perishes, it is concrescence.

For Negri it is crucial to abandon a notion of the natural as separate from the human. What he calls abstraction defines the state of encounter with “nature” as always already artificially shaped by human presence. This general state is lodged in the overall transformation of labour from abstract to immaterial labour as bottom-line of his work with Michael Hardt. For Negri “living labour is nothing but immaterial production, whether it is intellectual or affective” (xiii). Enmeshed in workings of abstraction the subject and in particular the human subject cannot be accounted for as natural.

Both, Deleuze and Negri point out the importance of a necessity or the work/labour that emerges out of a struggle. For Deleuze in relation to philosophy this means not to engage with thinking in general but to invent and create concepts. In a similar way, Negri points out that the work of constitution has to engage with what he considers as the “truth of the factitious” (3). This truth is not a hermeneutic truth but a truth that is constituted by and through the real. The real is not an empirical matter of fact but rather to speak with Deleuze and Latour a transcendental-empirical matter of concern. Negri considers ontological experience “as a truth of abstraction, and the recognition of this as a condition of experience” (5). In other words, for Negri the constitution of truth as factitious means that truth will be always constituted by means of abstraction. Abstraction defines not a pure transcendentality but manifests abstraction as a mode of existence (I will at greater length deal with the notion of “modes of existence” through the work of Gilbert Simondon an Étienne Souriau in a later post and in my PhD-Thesis).

The potential of an anthropomorphizing notion of the subject shifts once we address the process of constitution as partaking in seeking the real. The real is always synthetic as Isabelle Stengers would probably say. As such the seeking of the real is not a desire for final truth. As Negri says: “There are no longer natural determinisms or historical vestiges, nor finality of fulfillments which hold: the space has become entirely a-teleological” (11). To seek the real means to seek it “until it falls into our hands: an encounter, an event” (10). Hence, it is not a final real but a singularity as part of a wider collective that is defined as the quality of art as living labour for Negri: “The abstract is the sole community in which we exist” (11). Such an abstract defines part of Negri’s use of the concept of multitude. Labour, so my own interpretation, is not necessarily only a human concept. How could it be solely human if the human itself does not hold sway as a natural entity? If the human defines an individual or an individual of labour it would lose its factitious mode of existence. From this perspective, labour is not human as such but a collective abstract process with tendencies towards autonomous production. This mode of production defines what Negri calls the beautiful as collective act, an imagination that has become action. Imagination, again, has to be regarded as synthetic and factitious. It is not human but abstract and therefore collective.

For Negri a truth that will be constituted moves trough processes of empirical traces. He proposes: “So let us begin by putting together the most simple things. Both the space of our habitat and the time of our conscience require objects in relation to which we can re-take the measure of our life” (10/11, my emphasis). The objects might be the creation of works of art. Art does not have to be a physical object but marks a mode of existence. Its presence has an incurrence into the ontological experience of the event. Negri defines the abstract as collective. This mode of collectivity is a pre-individual and potential one. For what comes along as abstract might be also called the “autonomy of affect” (Massumi 2002)[1]. The autonomy of affect as the abstract collective relational bond for potentiality to surface in its actual effects requires another component as helpmate to its emergence: space-time. Talking about the differences between philosophy, art and science, Deleuze evokes their common limit as space-time: “All of these disciplines communicate at the level of something that never emerges for its own sake, but is engaged in every creative discipline: the formation of space-time” (Deleuze 2007, 320). Deleuze extends the linking collectivity of abstraction towards its potential holding together in space-time through different modes of expression (which is another notion for disciplines). The seeking as encounter or event is a shock in a double sense: A virtual shock as much as an actual shock neither of them coming in first but both vibrating across their continuum. A shock occurring in space-times delimiting and at the same time populating the limits with potentials. Such is the creative practice that does not allow to speak of creation as such but only to “speak in the name of … creation” (320). To speak in the name of creation accounts for the act of creation as autonomous, as part of an abstraction of living labour. In that sense, as Deleuze alludes to Malreaux “art is the only thing that resists death” (328). To resists death means to engage in the process of constitution of a truth as a collective matter of concern. Negri’s conception of the multitude aims at dealing with the singularity of each mode of existence and their potential for a transindividual force of expression. Only through that abstract collectivity a work of art might achieve beauty, not as the beautiful opposed to the ugly but as a felt increase of potential for a different future to come. Such a collectivity requires always a struggle and a crisis, the continuous movement of thought, a pragmatics of of discomfort, a discomfort that does not stop to ask questions, similar to the idiot invoked by Deleuze and one of Stenger’s main protagonists. Such a struggle defines the relation between the human and the work of art expressed through Deleuze referring to Paul Klee as the people that are missing: “The people are missing means that the fundamental affinity between a work of art and a people that does not yet exist, will never be clear. There is no work of art that does not call on a people who does not yet exist” (329).

[1] Brian Massumi  grants affect an autonomous state to avoid any one-to-one mapping of affect and effect or affect and emotion. Affect exists but autonomously incurs into actual occasions (events) without pre-defining its actual effects. Without affect’s autonomous state, there would be no elbow-room for novelty (Massumi 2002, 23-45).

Deleuze, Gilles, “What is the Creative Act?,” in Two Regimes of Madness, Cambridge Mass.: Semiotext(e), 317-329.

Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2002, 23-45.

Negri, Toni. Art & Multitude. Cambridge: Polity, 2008.

Below the abstract for my mini-presentation at the 2011 Netaudio Festival and Conference:

How do collectives constitute and endure themselves beyond social or interpersonal strata? In a time of “social” media as potential motors of political change, the attention paid to what constitutes the “social” in social media is often considered as a mere connection between humans by means of technology. Marshall McLuhan’s statement “the medium is the message” aims at undermining the conception of media as bare means to human ends. The medium itself determines how a message is expressed and does not merely transmit its content. The medium becomes active and renders what is expressed. I assume that this assertion is difficult to sustain if one tries to consider the Internet as “a” medium. Instead of considering the Internet as medium I would like to address its technologies as enabling for practices of immediation. Immediation accounts for the embodied experience of any aesthetic expression and sensation and locates the event of immediated experience in everyday life. Through immediation the human and the nonhuman become part of a relational logic where the boundaries between subject and object blur and are negotiated to form transindividual collectives. These collectives are as much social as they are political or ethico-aesthetic.

In light of social media the medium is not the message. Rather processes of immediation entangle embodied experience with immediated collective forces. A collective is not the formation of a group composed of individuals, but an affective relational experience amongst different modes of existence: technologies as much as ideas, perceptions humans and other bodies.

One has to consider the constitution of a collective as the co-emergence of social formations with their environment. Collective means to become enmeshed in a relational logic where each situation is negotiated between its participants. To make these relational becomings palpable, I will use as an example the SenseLab’s (senselab.ca) last event “Society of Molecules” (see: inflexions.org, no. 3 –Tangents). By means of physical and (im)mediated exchange different local nodes (molecules) were able to stage a series of collective events across fifteen countries in 2009. The potential to physically experience local events and at the same time to participate in virtual relations between the different produces the constitution of transindividual collectivity.

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I have been asked to participate in the accompanying conference of this year’s Netaudio Festival in London. Since I attended the festival in its first generation in 2006 it has developed massively and presents itself as a solid discourse on general themes concerning collective creative production, issues of open source and various forms of sonic expression, from broadcasts, to live performances and discussion panels.

I will be part of a panel entitled “Creativity and Collaboration in the Internet Era” together with Michael Bauwens, Matt Fuller and Tamara Barnett-Herrin. Other panels include Liliane Ljin, Jeremy Gilbert, Matthew Herbert, Mark Fisher and the UK Uncut.

The format of the conference defines for me the most exciting aspect. While there will be short presentations, a main focus lies in the formation of small working groups with each of the panelists to have in-depth discussions. After some internal discourse the groups will then come together to present their insights to the rest of the panel. I deem it as a relieve to partake in a more experimental format that allows for some dialogue beyond self-representational modes usually deployed at conferences.

In my mini-presentation I will take on the notion of the transindividual in the work of philosopher Gilbert Simondon to discuss modes of collective individuation that are different from general concepts of collectivity as a multitude of bodies. If possible I will make use of the last Senselab event “Societies of Molecules” to highlight modes of collective individuation with the help of online-platforms and actual gift economies.

As part of a twofold workshop on diagrammatic practices we (Sher Doruff, Claudia Mongini, Thomas Jellis, Diego Gil Tizzoni and Christoph Brunner) have spent a weekend at Alpenhof in Appenzell, Switzerland. During that event, which targeted the relevance of diagrammatic practices in relation to research-creation, we were exposed to a continuous play of appearance and disappearance of out immediate environment due to the play of mist. The relation between affect and percept as an intrinsically diagrammatic processes where experience with something is always a tentative edging into existence. More on the entire workshop is coming soon. Here is the first video:

Nebulous Diagramming (Kunsthof Appenzell) from Christoph Brunner on Vimeo.

Here just a quick overview concerning the upcoming Interdisciplinary Dialogues Series I am organizing this year. Session II deals with the theme of Research, Ethics, Politics. A short description of the session outline:

A PhD project in its research and content often touches upon topics of critical importance and ethical encounters. The research we deploy bears a plethora of political and ethical decision we make and are confronted with. This immediate layer of a politico-ethical encounter in the practice of research is reflected onto the modes of creating and composing the content of our papers, presentations, shows, performances, and finally the PhD thesis. What critical considerations of the politics embedded in research might foreground are new practices and techniques of dealing with such issues beyond the well-considered modes of representation. Maybe through an awareness of the multifaceted politics in research we can re-invent modes of creating content and expression.

Interdisciplinary Dialogues II

interdisciplinary dialogues - what is research?

The Interdisciplinary Dialogues 2009/10 series I am organizing in the PhD in Humanities at Concordia Universty, took place for the first time this term with the opening session entitled “Art as Research.” The overall theme for this year focuses on the question of “What is Research?” As part of the annually curriculum the PhD in Humanities is having the Interdisciplinary Dialogues as a platform for PhD students in the program to share ideas with their peers and faculty and to get their work discussed in light of particular topics.

The emphasis of the conceptual framework lies in the notion of “dialogues.” From last year’s experience and due to a general discomfort with terms like panel or paper presentations, this year’s series aims at creating an environment of mutual exchange of ideas in relation to a specific theme. Thus, the PhD students were asked to give 10 minute insights into their work in conjunction with the session’s theme. Once the presentations are over, a discussion with the audience is generated by a faculty member. In our case Owen Chapman from Concordia’s Communication Department took on the role of the discussant.

What follows are some remarks that are based on the experience of this first panel and the experiment it comprised. The presentations were all exercised in perfect idiosyncratic and thoughtful ways. I think the audience received insights into five very different projects that have very different angles around the problematic field of art as research. From preceding discussions the presenters knew each other which turned out to be very beneficial for the session as such. Hence, the challenge of proposing a problematic field instead of a bold statement or a mere provocation played not really in favour of the creative collaboration I envisioned for the session. Once the floor was opened for the audience, people (in reference to one individual in the audience that unfolded the problematic in a more than determinstic mode of thought [à la art vs. science vs. philosophy]) often fell back in defending academic disciplines, their value for dialogues, and their strengths in adressing the issue of art as research.

During the course of the discussion it turned out that the setting of an interesting theme, great presentations, and a discussant, are not necessarily enough, if it is not possible to divert deterministic lines of thought in favour of more productive forces. The techniques at stake need to be more refined without cutting the proces of actual collaborative thought. Hence, and this is the curicial question here, what is needed for a collective thought to emerge? I actually think, that the potential for such a collective process was immanently present but did not actualize due to particular circumstances. This is in its core a very political problem. On the one hand, we have to warrant a certain openness for a process to freely develop in its unpredictability. On the other hand we need a political commitment that is able to cut creatively and therefore to generate new openings. The political act resides not in the selective mode of amplification of a preferred line over others (always the problem of a positioning such as “right” or “left”). On the contrary, the political act here lies in the very attentiveness towards a process that need to be maintained open for new modes of collective expression. In other words, not a strategy or tactic that provides a direction but a continuous critical re-posing of the problematic at stake and its creative productivity.

Once the session was in a certain mode oriented (or territorialized), the refrain, with which the territory appears, became so strong that it disabled any re-emergence of a creative collective process. Participants fell back into straight-forward and short-handed exercises of rehearsing the jargon of their accustomed and inscribed disciplinary modes of thought. What would have been necessary was a little cut to open up another line and therefore a new field of potentials. In that sense a discussant can take on such a job, an audience member as well or one of the presenters (ideally we might want to get to a point where these differentiations are somewhat obsolete). The question refers for me to a lack of intensity and resonance. Certainly a molar resonance developed according to a strong refrain - the deterministic statement according to molar blocks of thought. But there was another resonance immanent yet not activated. The discussion that the presenting students generated in the meetings before bore plenty of potential for a collective mode of thought. A group-intensity, a comfort and ground to work from were the immanent forces that could have been activated to generate a new shift towards a processual opening.

We have two more chances to experiment in the coming sessions. Let’s hope things get more often cut productively than they did this time.