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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?


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.

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.

Due to several observations throughout my (short) life at universities and all its registers, teaching, administration, research and so fort, I come to a strong disbelieve that thought is actually taken seriously in everyday modes of academic existence as ethical concern. I am using the notion of concern explicitly from Whitehead’s mediation on the Quaker concept of concern in Adventures of Ideas. For Whitehead the “occasion as a subject has a ‘concern’ for the object. And the ‘concern’ at once places the object as a component in the experience of the subject, with an affective tone drawn from this object and directed towards it” (WH (AoI) 1967, 176). A concern creates a relation in the midst of novelty emerging through a subjective form. Without concern, there would be no relation possible and without the possibility of relation as ontogenetic force there would be no event, no emergence and no becoming. This scheme of concern permeates the entire spectrum of existence, up to quantum level, and might be also thought of as that what gives experience the relevance of existence in an actual occasion.

Why do I need this notion of concern to make my point? In academia and particularly in the humanities and even more specific in fields where question of power (à la Foucault) are concerned, readers and writers try to grapple with institutional power by asking what constitutes power relations and what holds them in place. The attempt of a concern is given in the kernel of the question of power but the relevance of it is often not present. To give an example: A teacher introduces first year undergraduate students to Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Questions of the relation between bodies, institutions, architecture and power are raised and disciplinary strategies are highlighted. The movement of thought that the text generates resonates with the students’ own experiences in a place that aims at disciplinary apparatuses, the means of correct training and the subjectiviation in institutional confinements. The teacher then employs techniques of control and discipline by means of examination, judgement and a strong believe on how to interpret the material properly. This is exactly the point where two modes of disciplinarity meet: 1) the disciplinary enclosure of proper interpretation according to a certain episteme; 2) the disciplinary practice of examination and subjugation as means of correct training. The concerns in such “teaching-machines” is not a concern of relevance. In other words, these concerns assume a certain kind of stable subjectivity of the teacher, who has acquired a certain kind of knowledge and joined a certain kind of power apparatus that supports the reproduction of monotonous interpretations. in Whiteheadian terminology, there is no opening for the incurrence of novel objects to become part of a subjective form of an actual occasion of experience . If there was a real concern that has relevance, one would have to make the modes of thought at stake come alive in the reading and writing of one’s own practice and in the presence of the others (e.g. the students, the concepts, the dead authors, the institution, appearing objects).

Similar problems occur in institutional settings. To navigate between the administrative monster, the desire and pleasure for and of research and the obligation of teaching can create moments of great despair. But what is at stake here is the continued concern to not stop thinking. If thinking is reduced to the fabrication of texts for the accurate positioning in designated fields targeted at the proliferation of one’s own personality, concerns are again without relevance. In relation to an occasion’s relevance in the future Whitehead writes: “The relevant future consists of those elements in the anticipated future which are felt with effective intensity by the present subject by reason of the real potentiality for them to be derived of themselves” (WH PR 1978, 27). This conception of relevance feeds the principle of creativity in Whitehead as the emergence of novelty (AoI 179/180). A concern that is relevant can only emerge through the intensive feeling of the subject for objects as part of their relevant future. In other words, a twofold process is underway for a relevant concern: the subject has to have the capacity to feel potentiality of the future elements of a concern and these elements need their potentiality expressed through their independence. Both parts belong to an ethics of the instant of creation by having a relevant concern. In the case of the institutional impasse the relevant concern arises from the subject’s feeling for the object’s potential - it might be a situation with students, a concept, a political event, a conversation, a thing - and the objects’ potential to become in a relevant future. This means for creative movements of thought to be relevant concerns, they have to constantly begin from the ethical plane in the midst of a feeling for and with potentiality. The genesis of the subject can never rest but has to constantly be concerned with the movement of thought in the very moment of one’s practice. The imposition of institutional power, the aspiration for status and the abuse of one’s position (as rank) create an immobile and uncreative suspension without measure. It is the the surrender of creative thought under the disguise of power imposition. The strange thing is that these sates of uncreative suspensions still create feeling and at some points these feelings might be lured into being concerned again in a relevant manner, glimpsing potentiality from afar. Hence, and this is the great danger of habitual inattention, suspension and immobility increase the decline of an ethical concern emerging from the middle of each occasion to think in the presence of the other.

A relevant concern as an ethical concern therefore requires a “believe in the world” as Deleuze mentions: “If you believe in the world you precipitate events, however inconspicuous, that elude control, you engender new space‐times, however small their surface or volume … Our ability to resist control, or our submission to it, has to be assessed at the level of our every move ” (Deleuze Negotiations 1995, 176). Disregarding to asses the ability to resist control at the level of every move, means to stop thinking and to give in to the standardization of everyday life. The desire for power and control lurks around every corner and the comfort to reproduce pre-given actions is daring. The question of concerns of relevance has to do with how the creative act of emergence is concerned as ethically relevant. It is the task of the subject to put itself at risk at the level of every move to be able to produce relevant concerns in a creative manner. Thought is in decline because anxiety reigns over risk and greed over generosity.