I will be giving a paper (for the rare occasion in German) at the Dramturgien des Anfangens (Dramaturgies of Beginning) at Freie Universität in Berlin. The dates are 7-9 of November and the Abstract is below.

Link to the program.

Eine öffentliche Tagung am Institut für Theaterwissenschaft

Abstract:

Dramatisierung als Technik: Affektive Zeitlichkeit in Collective Writing Machines

Gilles Deleuze verwendet den Begriff der Dramatisierung konsequent in Verbindung mit der Frage nach der Aktualisierung von Ideen durch raum-zeitlichen Dynamiken. Wie ergeben sich raum-zeitliche Erfahrungsgefüge anhand von (virtuellen) Kräften und ihren Beziehungen? Der Frage der Aktualisierung nachgehend, entwirft Deleuze (auch in Zusammenarbeit mit Guattari) ein Denken der Aktualisierung, sprich der Emergenz und möglichen Dauer von raum-zeitlichen Manifestationen. Entgegen einer phänomenologischen Annahme von Erfahrung als körperlich geformter Wahrnehmung von Welt, befasst sich der Prozess der Dramatisierung hier mit den nicht-körperlichen, aber realen, Verhältnissen und Singularitäten, deren Dynamiken, Ideen, und Konzepte und wie diese körperliche Erfahrungen hervorbringen. Es handelt sich hierbei eben nicht um einen Prozess der Materialisierung ideell geformter Einheiten oder Prozesse sondern um einen Differenzierungsakt zwischen virtuellen Verhältnissen und empfundenen Qualitäten sowie Singularitäten und geformten Entitäten. Der dynamische Prozess der Dramatisierung unterstreicht, dass es sich im Wechselspiel zwischen Virtualität und Aktualität nicht um lineare Abläufe handelt, sondern um die Hervorbringung von extensiven raum-zeitlichen Gefügen durch die Bewegung von Verhältnissen und Singularitäten entlang eines intensiven Felds. Die Problematik der Dramatisierung verweist auf eine Form der Zeitlichkeit und Räumlichkeit innerhalb der körperlichen Erfahrung, die eine vor-individuelle intensive Tiefe und deren Differenzierungserie voraussetzt.

Wie lässt sich der dynamische Prozess der Dramatisierung im künstlerischen Kontext von Kreativprozessen verstehen? Ich werde hierzu die von Diego Gil entwickelte Performance Collective Writing Machines untersuchen. Die Performance befasst sich mit Prozessen der Wahrnehmung während dem Schreibakt. Die TeilnehmerInnen werden gebeten in verschiedenen Intervallen und mit jeweils unterschiedlichem Aufmerksamkeitsfokus (auf den eigenen Körper, die Umwelt, oder einer Imagination) gemeinsam in einem Raum beim Sitzen und später beim Gehen zu schreiben. Mittels dieser Performance wird deutlich, dass sich Aufmerksamkeit anhand von aktualisierten ebenso wie virtuellen Tendenzen konstituiert, im körperlichen Denken ebenso wie im intensiven Feld der Potenzialität. Dramatisierung in diesem Fall beschreibt die heterogene und heterochrone Bewegung zwischen Aktualität und Virtualität als „a-modalen“ relationalen Prozess zu verstehen (Massumi). Wie können wir diesen Dramatisierungsprozess als kontinuierlichen Übergang begreifen, als ein Verknüpfen von dynamischen Beziehungen? Speziell im Hinblick auf die affektive Wirkung von Zeitlichkeit und ihrem „Timing“ wird Dramatisierung hier zu einer ästhetischen Technik.

I am participating in a really exciting workshop on Simondon and digital culture. Below the poster and my presentation abstract.

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Abstract:
Affective Timing and Non-sensuous Perception in Differential Media

The relation between ethics and aesthetics defines a crucial problematic through which Félix Guattari develops his philosophy and analytic practice. Simondon exposes similar lines in his work with equally strong indications of its political relevance. He conceives of the aesthetic as immanent force in experience pertaining to its preindividual field as unexhausted resource for potential becoming. His overall theory of individuation could be also considered as continuous process of differentiation through such a field of potential.

Simondon defines the aesthetic as temporal relation between the preindividual as partially expressed present experience and its pull towards a future becoming, i.e. differentiation. The aesthetic is the interval through which experience passes as felt intensity in the immediacy of its occurrence. It is Alfred North Whitehead who links this temporal process of experience to perception, not as mere sense perception of given empirical data but through his notion of non-sensuous perception. Non-sensuous perception emphasizes the immediate past shaping the passing of the present and the present, as tendency of the future, shaping the potential function of the past. Through non-sensuous perception an interstice for aesthetic practices opens up allowing for an ‘immanent’ and ‘transcendent’ process of co-becoming between the temporal passing of the event and its metastable bodily expression.

For similar reasons Guattari, thinking at the dawn of the digital media era, envisioned post-media practices as “laboratories of thought and experimentation for future forms of subjectivation.” He underlines that what comes to be termed post-media describes a general transformation away from media as mere technological entities. Guattari interlinks aesthetic and ethical concerns pointing out that a “post-media society “will be invented, created within the perspective of a new aesthetic-political paradigm.“ For both, Guattari and Simondon technology defines an active and vital realm of potential not as a means but as enabling ecology. In their works both emphasize technology’s processual dimension, where aesthetics generates links between perception and its relation to time, ethics pertains to acts developing relations with other acts. How can we conceive of such acts not as a volitional and anthropomorphic activism but as a relaying of temporal entanglements between the immediacy of occasions of experience and their material constraints? Further investigating Simondon’s and Guattari’s take on ethics and aesthetics in a post media era I will look at digital media technologies susceptible to (temporal) differentiation. Such “differential media” (Andrew Murphie) highlight the potential of digital processes of timing as discontinuous yet relational processes of timing. Looking at Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s video installation The Visitor’s I will work through the affective and emotive temporalities of digital media art and its relation to non-sensuous perception. How can we conceive of such artworks as instigating collective individuation foregrounding the temporal affective tonality at the heart of their expression in experience?

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I am very exited to participate in this conference. Here is my abstract:

Affective Politics of Timing: Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors

In his video-installation The Visitors artist Ragnar Kjartansson constructs an immersive nine-screen video-piece of a collaborative sound performance. Eight musicians dispersed throughout Rockeby Farm Mansion in upstate New York, play instruments and repeatedly chant the lines of a short poem by Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir.

The piece deals with duration, repetition and immediation through its insistence on time as collective and affective force holding the work together. While recent responses to affect in contemporary theory have led to a critique of its emphasis on immediacy, I will attempt to reconsider immediacy as opening a problematic field rather than becoming another object of critique. The power of suspense and duration in The Visitors provides a vital ground for addressing its aesthetics as an affective attunement of heterogeneous elements cued into specific timings. Using Brian Massumi’s differentiation of three kinds of memory (active memory, conscious memory and a memory of the future) I will investigate how The Visitors enables a collective sense of emergent ecologies of timing, an affective politics of timing. Immediacy according to this fine-grained conception of affect is not an instant independent of its milieu, on the contrary, its very power of existence consists of disjunctive times constantly attuning and being attuned. Change, and the potential thereof, emerges through the eventual encounter, its re-activation and unnoticed but active tendencies. The political question then is: how to inflect, activate and enable situations capable of more potential to actively become part of our immediate concerns and how to develop a sense of care for their effects?

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I will be participating in a one-day conference at UCL London on March 2nd, 2013. The conference is based on the latest issue of Third Text (see antecedent post). The format is going to be a kind of open discussion/forum without paper presentations and more conversational developments of collective thinking around the theme of art and ecologies.

Conference abstract:

The Eco-Aesthetics conference marks the release of Third Text no. 120 (January 2013), dedicated to the subject of “Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology,” guest-edited by TJ Demos. The event will include numerous contributors to the special issue, which investigates eco-aesthetics in a postcolonial framework—from global warming in the arctic to oil industry environmental damage in Nigeria’s delta, from conflicts between mining corporations and tribals in rural India to the ecological effects of industrial development in the port of Bahia Blanca, Argentina, from urban farming in Detroit to the Occupy movement’s development of a post-media social ecology. The special issue and conference seek to link international and interdisciplinary researchers, artists, and critical theorists in order to consider the questions of how such politico-ecological developments have been recently analyzed, mediated, and negotiated within the visual cultural of art and activism.

Link


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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.

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A bit later than thought, I am positing some images from the collaboration between Martina Fritschy and myself for the dOCUMENTA 13 readers circle we participated in on June 26, 2012. We picked Brian Holmes‘ essay “Profanity and the Financial Markets: A User’s Guide to Closing Down the Casino” from the 100 Notes/100 Thoughts Series. Our idea was not only to read and discuss the text but to change the affective tonality of such a situation toward a less hierarchical and more mutually engaging manner. We started off by facilitating drinks and inviting the members of the Occupy camp outside the Fredericianum to be our guests (thus bypassing entry-ticket checks). After approximately 30 minutes of reading 15 pizzas have been delivered to the main entrance of the gallery allowing all of us to enjoy some food while talking about the text. After about an hour we were asked to vacate the space leading us to continue our exchange occupying the stairs in front of the building.

Questions coming from our experience remain: How can we undo the appropriation of philosophy and political theory by a constantly hollowed out art dispositif? What are the techniques at hand beyond bringing together signifiers and signs? Which vocabulary can we develop for a more gestural approach through “a-signifying processes of existential singularization” (Guattari “Entering the Post-Media Era”)? And how can we move from figures such as analysis and debate toward more open-ended formations of collective aesthetic practices?

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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).


Open 23 - Autonomy


In this time of ideological, economic and political crises autonomy is becoming attractive again.

But how does autonomy - the wish to take matters into ones own hands and have significance independent of old structures -  relate to the call for engagement and performativity? This issue, made in collaboration with Sven Lütticken, examines autonomy from the standpoints of art, art history, philosophy, political theory and cultural criticism, and attempts to resolve the bind between thinking in terms of engagement on the one hand and autonomy on the other.

Steven ten Thije delves into the background of The Autonomy ProjectJohn Byrne argues that art must be freed from its current technocratic framework. According to John Hartle, the rightwing-populist criticism of art lacks democratic legitimacy.Willem van Weelden interviews Franco Berardi on theItalian Autonomia movement and autonomy, Occupy, and education. Hito Steyerl makes a plea for isolation in order to think about how life can recapture its autonomy from art.Christoph BrunnerGerald Raunig, and Roberto Nigroexamine new dimensions in current forms of activism. Joost de Bloois comments on the recent protests against government cutbacks, whereby an appeal is made to autonomy. Sven Lütticken investigates the concept of autonomy and its relation to aesthetics and politics in the context of post-war modernism.Andrea Fraser argues for an approach to autonomy from a psychoanalytic perspective. Peter Osborne analyses misunderstandings about the autonomy of art and goes into Adorno’s ideas in this regard. Thomas Hirschhorn andJacques Rancière investigate what the essence of a work of art might be in these times.

Our contribution

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About Open

Open investigates the contemporary conditions of public space and changing notions of publicness in a structural manner in relation to cultural production. This implies an experimental and interdisciplinary exposition of the reality, possibilities, and limitations of the current public domain, in particular from sociological, philosophical, political, and artistic perspectives. Within the framework of this ‘project in progress,’ themes such as safety, memory, visibility, cultural freedom, tolerance, hybrid space, the rise of informal media, art as a public affair, precarity, and privacy have been examined.

Open is edited by Jorinde Seijdel (editor in chief) and Liesbeth Melis (final editing) and appears twice a year in a Dutch-language and an English-language edition. The graphic design is by Thomas Buxò and Klaartje van Eijk. Open is an initiative of SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain, Amsterdam and is published by NAi Publishers.

March 7, 2012  - I have been invited to have a public conversation with artist Ralo Mayer who is currently showing his latest exhibition Obviously a major malfunction/KAGO KAGO KAGO BE at the Kunsthaus Baselland. The work deals with topics of fiction, narrative and science generating a hybrid mix of objects, tales, imaginative stories and actual historical facts, interlacing into each other generating a mesh of dense relational networks between “things.” Informed by projects like the Biosphere 2, the two major space shuttle catastrophes of the Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 and events such as Tchernobyl, the fall of the iron curtain or global protest movements the exhibition highlights the dense entanglement between historical facts and their contingent recurrence in actual techno-social situations. References to Latour’s actor-netowrk-theory and Graham Harman’s strand of Object Oriented Ontology make their presence as much as Jon McKenzie’s work on performance and performativity. All of this comes into resonance through assemblages of objects and images in different installation clusters. Through fictionlaizations and an interest in science fiction the exhibition avoids an educative gesture and provides the sensing of a semblance of events rather than clear forms and representations.

I am keen on discussing questions of representation, the role of narrative and time as much as concerns with OOO’s heralding of the objective in contrast with a more process philosophy oriented reconsideration of objective and subjective. Time rather than space appears to me as the pertinent force moving through the exhibition. The self-abstracting dimension of matter in movement becomes part of time as a memory ready for pure recollection in the actual re-assembling of situated experiences in the exhibition spaces. Let’s see how we mange to break this down into actual modes of conversion with each other an through the work. I guess we will have to tweak the environment towards sensible transductions.

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.