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

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.