I received this very fascinating article by Bernard E. Harcourt, chair of the political science department and professor of law at The University of Chicago. His account of the current practices at Zucotti Park, which he calls “political disobedience” is spot on when it comes to the question of “labelling,” ideologizing or instrumentalizing the ongoing protest. From a philosophical angle I would say the protest has taken up formats that finally grapple with difference as an ontogenetical creative force, which demands the constitution of collectives without central figures, uni-directional goals or simplified solutions. It is not about generating another product or solution but constituting the right problems as they emerge and to work with them, in utmost vigilance and without ideological determinations. It is not a utopia beyond capitalism that is at stake but the actualization of new forms of collective action, thought and creation. The resonance chamber of capitalism is a given and needs to be reconsidered, not as an ideology but as Michel Foucault put it a “micro-physics of power.”

Article by Harcourt in NY Times

As a current resident of Switzerland I wonder why not leave one of the apparently most obviously racist countries in Europe? At least so, according to the world press after last Sunday’s referendum on the deportation of criminal delinquents that reside in Switzerland but are not Swiss citizens. What is internally known as “Ausschaffungsinitiative” is a proposal by the rightwing party SVP that aims to lower the threshold for deportation of criminal offenses for residents with immigrant background. That the proposal as it was propagated might transgress common values of human rights confines the main problem after the referendum has been accepted by 53% of the society.
The incongruence is striking between general self-relfection on the Swiss society the harmony between high percentages of foreigners in urban areas (e.g. Zurich up to 30% and Geneva up to 40%) and the sheer ignorance, xenophobia and idiocy in rural areas. There seems to exist a shared common sense amongst the few who might belong to a local urban intelligentsia that one lives in an open and multicultural society. From my point if view, such perspectives are based on highly bourgeoise values expressed mostly by members of the society with high incomes working for universities, banks and insurance companies.
The reason to stay though might be to seek out the grains of resistance that do exist and to see how they function and work. Another interesting aspect is the fortunate circumstance for me to work at an art school where for students precarity is omnipresent and where the intellectuals have to work outside the acclaimed institutions that are legitimized to produce ‘real’ knowledge or ‘real’ values. Hence, I am wondering why the grains of resistance have not found more poignant formats than the usual, still beloved, visual gestures of street art? One thing is for sure, the subaltern cannot speak, since this might be already considered as enough of a offense to be deported. Hence, I guess one has to find modes of creative intervention that do not speak but act, that use new modes of expression to make the public feel that things are developing in nasty ways. I guess it is time to re-instantiate struggles and to make the force of desire become palpable.

ausschaffung

Phew, exactly one week after I came back from ISEA 2010 I find a few minutes to reflect and share my excitement about one of the better conferences I have been part of this year. What has been very pleasing to me and apparently a lot of other participants was the high quality of art exhibitions and performances that accompanied the symposium. Another beautiful aspect of the conference was the first site for the events in Essen, Zeche Zollverein. Here we had the fabulous fun to plunge into a factory pool at Kokerei made out of shipping containers and experience a performance by Wet Soundswet-sounds

The conference opened with a keynote by Brian Massumi who, as we know, tied in a fine mesh of aesthetic considerations through the lens of pure experience and radical empiricism. Wonderfully presented and even so wonderfully contextualized by a long comment from Marie-Luise Angerer. The second day was scheduled for the Motion Lab Panel convened by Scott deLahunta. It was very interesting to see the different works of Scott, Nathaniel Stern, who’s work I really fell in love with, Erin Manning together with Norah Zuniga Shaw and Chris Ziegler. Despite the circumstance that the two evening performances were overbooked and hard to get in, I really enjoyed the Synchronous Objects installation by Norah in relation to her longterm work with William Forsythe.

Sunday reminded me an Odyssey  trying to reach Marl with commuter trains on a day without commuters to see the exhibition for the German Sound Art Awards 2010. The exhibition was not very exciting but to have seen a conceptually built city complex with wonderful attempts of concrete ornamentation made it worth the journey. In general, the commuting between the different conference sites was a bit a of pain, if one didn’t change hotels. The evening of that Sunday though was quite amazing. At the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen the conference co-organized the Day of Sound with fabulous electro-acoustic pieces and a concert space that made you shiver with its stunning acoustic quality. Highlight, certainly, was the performance with the Max Brand Synthesizer in a piece faithfully called Hell Machine.

On Monday the conference took its proper format meaning too many parallel panels in often too small rooms. Since I had to leave after the second day of the conference, I will only comment on two things. First, The Digital Aesthetics of Climate Change panel, organized by a group of befriended scholars from Aarhus University in Denmark and successfully turned into an “Un-Panel” by The People Speak from London. Thematically and in its expression the panel raised a vital discussion that didn’t leave the impression of flaky and fuzzy climate-talk but a profound an continuous critical inquiry fueled by contributions from outside the room posted and projected on a screen. The People Speak moderated the panel friendly and to the pint which turned it into a refreshing format, especially at 10 a.m. in the morning. The second panel, was the one in which Jonas Fritsch and I presented our reflections on our experiences from Society of Molecules in May 2009 in Montréal. We were surprised about the number of people that crammed into the room for a panel on Urban Interventions. The unfortunate part of our panel was the rather loose time-keeping which resulted in no time for discussions and a focus on one particular, rather uninspiring presentation (no names of course). Apparently, our title “Balloons, Sweat and Technologies - Urban Interventions through Ephemeral Architectures” raised interest trough the very notion of Ephemeral Architectures. Not having thought of it properly, I was asked if our installation was called ephemeral architectures or if we regarded the entire event as ephemeral architectures. A very interesting question for which I would like to thank Katrin Rickerts a lot. At another point in time I will come back to these considerations.

Impressive were the TURST exhibition with very high quality works and the performance by Ei Wada and his Braun Tube Jazz Band. In general one could recognize a shift in digital aesthetics away from a data-centred and often pseudo technological or scientific attitude (except the work of Carsten Nicolai of course) toward a thorough media practice that carefully examines its needs to trigger certain modes of expression. Ai Wada took the notion of the signal to its core and blew the gallery apart with his performance. Here is another set, but you get the impression.

I enjoyed very much the work of Seiko Mikami entitled “Desire of Codes.” The work consists of an entire wall of motorized webcams that trace you. The captured images get projected on a screen where they are remixed with other video material mined from the Internet. Aesthetically and conceptually a very strong work. Another project that caught my attention was Ariel Guzik’s work “Nereida.” Nereida is an underwater capsule that contains musical instruments to establish contact with cetaceans. What impressed me the most was the serious engagement concerning potential means of communication with other species by aesthetic means. For me this is a very beautiful and strong work in the field of research-creation.

isea_trust_-seiko-mikami guzikariel_nereida_prj_02_craulgonzales_plasmaht-lab

I would like to close with a short but definitively worth wile experience of wearing the McGhillie suit provided through an intervention/performance organized by my colleagues in Zurich Knowbotic Research. McGhillie is an un-person, a Batleby-like figure who evades classification and social or physical order. Neither a person nor a mere object but rather a thing with all its potentials and qualities. A Becomnig-McGhillie means to stop thinking and feeling like an individual ant to melt with your environment. Becoming-McGhillie makes you enter the field of the void that is never the void but an in-between filled with new potential. McGhillie is a thing of the interstice, between different modes of being, between different forms of life. Becoming-McGhillie for only 20 minutes allowed me to enter the interstitial field between being and non-being, not only by means of perception (perceiving and being perceived) but by means of affect that allow different milieus to constitute with and without McGhillie. A definitive must if one seeks for modes of pure experience!

becoming-mcghillie

deleuze-and-activism1

After a long stretch from Cardiff back to London and then to Zurich, I am finally able to post a couple of reflections on the Deleuze and Activism Conference in Cardiff. I will here focus on a couple of common remarkable points that could be sensed throughout the event.

In first place the issue of “Deleuze” - “and” - “Activism”: Fortunately and finally precise and creative critique has been uttered concerning the rather dominant refrain of a branding of “Deleuze and …” enterprises. No surprise with the conference’s setting at Cardiff and its filed of Deleuze and-ianisms this might have been the last event termed in that fashion. Nevertheless other participants, respectively Keir Milburn from the University of Leeds, and I amongst many in the audience felt the problematic and discomfort of the framing of conferences through an “and” that creates a binary relation without respecting the eternal “and” prominently proposed by Deleuze and Guattari in their opening chapter of A Thousand Plateaus. From my perspective this has been less framed in a terminological problematic and rather opened the question of enabling constraints for thought to generate a creative problematic plane. In that sense one could feel that discourse has not been challenged in terms of radical thought but rather a rehearsal of established modes of thought. Without deploying a general critique and neglecting the fine nuances uttered by some very inspiring presentations, I would like to emphasize the slow mobility when it comes to rigorously creative and at the same time precise modes of thought. To base discussions on historical convergences between Deleuze and his peers or interpretations by successors, or to draw the discussion into a Badiouian or Hardt and Negri field seems less creative than one might expect.

The second issue of a conference on activism without an act-ivism: This was for me one of the most irritating experiences of the event. A continuous “drive” (and indeed it seems appropriate to not use desire here!) towards excuses of not doing real activism but only talking … I would suggest thinking might have happened once in a while as well. The issue here at stake was to feel uncomfortable if not ashamed of being academics or justifying oneself in such a situation. The more than a century long convergences between theory and practice to their very abandonment of the two explicitly in the philosophy of Nietzsche, Wiliam James, Alfred North Whitehead and Gilbert Simondon seemed to be evicted at various moments of the conference. This has to do for me with the “and”-construction of an event, where a name becomes the place-holder for “philosophy” (proper) and the addendum of activism its other pole. What seemed to happen throughout this series of self-accusation or excuses was the reinforcement of these two terms and their epistemes and ontologies without focusing on the continuum of which these two poles might be part of. In other words, an ontogentic mode of thought would have been helpful to foreground the field of emergences that make such a field of thought between Deleuze and Activism possible. In that sense, “A Thought” as an “act” (and certainly an act as a thought) could be regarded as a milieu for emergencies around a particular mode of thought and practice (that of Deleuze and his field) and another field of thought and practice related to activism - A thought is an act and an act is a thought, both being part of the complex micro-events of emergency as expression and their micropolitical forces.  Without depriving each of these fields from their very own ontologies, an ontogenetic operation could actually facilitate other fields of emergency that are vital enough to sustain a critique by proposing a different problematic, that of separated poles and the actual continuum that provides the plane of emergency for such poles to be potentially actualized. In such a manner the considerations of research-creation where the hyphen emphasizes a continuum of sets of practices across domains and where fields of emergence are the experimental ground seem to me one of the promising avenues for an ontogenetic operation that deals creatively with proclamations of blocks such as philosophy and activism.

Finally the very insightful demonstration of various processes and practices: This was the delightful part apart from also meeting very interesting people whom I have been friends with or heard about a lot. The various insights into Israeli micropolitics of interventions in the Israeli settlement politics by Ronnen Ben-Arie, the creative paper on Dandyism by Laurent de Sutter, or the presentation on the Radical Education Collective by Gašper Kralj and Bojana Piškur offered interesting and engaged approaches across domains. Not only appeared it that practices are able to foster a vital thought but also that a mode of thought can team up with practices when they collide in a creative way. In that sense I wished that conceptual papers would emerge more often from a serious self-understanding as practice and as an act at the very moment, a presentation as part of a series of events, a re-folding of experiences that are the ground for a conceptual trajectory.

Another aspect that surfaced in light of different practices and their contexts, was the very thought and practice that has to feed into creating an event. Such a circumstance has less to do with names and designated research fields but more with the formats we seek and the potential opening of a co-creative process. It seems to me that a small and intense setting as it was the case, works quite well. But at the same time I had the impression of being restricted through modes of organization and overarching formalism as academics/researchers of all fields with an interest in activism. From that angle I am convinced that the framing of an event is as important as the different people and ideas that come together. A board-room with pompous paintings of deans and a conference that doesn’t get in touch with the organizing institution and its students are two of many factors that have an impact on how such an event turns out. To understand a conference (in itself a critical term) as an ethico-aesthetic and aesthetico-political event across transversal registers of creative movement might propose another trajectory that could help to make the co-creative “acts” of such an event being felt.