In solidarity with the Québec student strike I interviewed Christian Marazzi, Silvia Federici and Georges Caffentzis on the question of student debt. The whole interview is below and can also be accessed at: http://eipcp.net/

images

Debt, Affect and Self-Reproducing Movements

Zurich, May 25, 2012

In the wake of the 100th day of the general student strike in Québec and in the aftermath of passing the so-called Special Law 78, the global rupture these events evoked cannot be overlooked. In solidarity with Québec, its students, activists and the Quebecois people reminding us of the rights for free education, the right for peaceful assembly and political expression, this interview has been prompted spontaneously during a workshop at Zurich University of the Arts. Based on discussions in the work of Christian Marazzi on the shift from real production to what he calls financialization and Silvia Federici’s and George Caffentzis’ conceptual, activist and feminist involvement in the Occupy movement in New York and Maine this interview hopes to put emphasis on the problem of debt at the core of current movements around the globe. Aspects concerning the role of affect and the problem of continuity in these movements are inseparable from the social, political and economic circumstances usually foregrounded in the public media.

CB       –            Christoph Brunner
GC       -            George Caffentzis
SF        -            Silvia Federici
CM       -            Christian Marazzi

CB: The genealogy of student loans and fees in the United States is dating back to the 1960s and 1970s. From the introduction of tuition fees an unraveling process of debt has been taking off. Current conservative opinions concerning the circumstances in Québec often refer to the modest increase of fees proposed by the Charest government and the general acceptance of fees as a legitimate contribution to society. These inappropriate and anachronistic perspectives lack any resonance with the current unfolding of a biopolitics tied to debt as a central part of human existence. Could you shed light on the relation between this process of financialization and its biopolitical development?

CM: What came out of the 1970s in response to a general crisis of the Fordist mode of production is a number of counter-tendencies, like the attack on wages, de-localization, international investments and financialization which have become chronic to the extend of not being counter-tendencies anymore. It is a kind of permanent counter-revolution to the extend that financialization has really changed the relationship between the sphere of production and the sphere of reproduction. Both at the level of modes of production: the post-fordist enterprise is something that has to do very much with the capturing of value outside the direct process of production – outsourcing, crowdsourcing and so on. But also at the level of forcing labor power to assume a number of risks which were circumscribed by the capitalist sphere before the crisis. In this respect Foucault in La naissance de la biopolitique is very interesting because of the passages on neoliberalism where labor power is concerned as an entrepreneurial in itself. This idea that each of us has to behave like an entrepreneur. That’s when the debt-economy comes in because of the double-crisis: First of all the dismantling of the welfare state as a dispositif of creation of additional demand through deficit spending. And at the same time the privatization of this same mechanism through private indebtedness. Every household, every person has become a center of creation of additional demand by means of debts. The financialization has been the way by which profits have been able to be realized thanks to this growing volume of private debts allowing to turn surplus value into money. I think by now the process has reached a point where it is legitimate to talk of neoliberalism as a huge factory of the indebted man. In this respect Maurizio Lazzarato got the point addressing indebtedness as a sort of social condition which functions on the same level as the wage relation and at the same time reminding us of the fact of being wage earners as the general condition throughout the history of capitalism. This poses a number of serious political questions because to be indebted does not only mean to be financially trapped. At the same time, debt in German like Nietzsche said is Schuld meaning debt and guilt which complicates the whole issue: How do we get out of this moral trap? Debt is not anymore what it used to be, that is a way of bridging the present with the future in Keynesian terms. In capitalism debt always had a positive function; debt being a sort of investment into the future. Today debts are accumulating because on the one hand you invest into the future but on the other hand the future is investing in you so that you will never be able to pay back and you will always be trapped in this dispositif. I think here is where you guys come in because you have been with the Occupy movement and what is happening precisely in Québec is a demonstration of the importance of a sensitivity for those phenomena. The only thing that I would also like to add, concerns the fact that this process is similar to what is happening in Greece at the moment: Greece is a laboratory where all the levels, individual, collective, public, political and so on are gathered together. Maybe speaking about struggles and the difficulties that you mention can also be referred to a very concrete situation on a national level like the one in Greece.

CB: One important aspect in the current events in Quebec concerns the question of the production of subjectivity as an indebted man in relation to governance and how governance is responding to these events. Particularly in Québec concerning the special law 78 that they just passed. I am very surprised that a state or rather a province in its governance reacts by imposing a law. It seems very outdated for me and still they believe it’s the kind of means to stop what they call “crisis.” What is going on in this bi-directional mode of governance?

GC: Well, I mean this is not very new compared to what has happened in response to the Occupy movement in the United States which has been tremendously repressive in response to a movement that has been systematically and pragmatically nonviolent. New York city is full of windows and as far as I know not one window has been busted in the long period of the occupation of Zuccotti Park. These laws and the response have been quite clearly very violent and brutal responses both physically and as well in terms of the legal status that has been attributed to it.

CB: Isn’t it a prolongation of debt because of the fines you get which put you even more in dept because of this continuous spiral indebting you and creating guilt?

GC: Yes, the fines are huge!

SF: And now in many states they are considering reinstituting the prisoners. They want to bring back imprisonment. In Illinois it is already in place. In a number of states they found ways or ways of wording the bills so that they can actually put you in prison for that. It is imputing some sort of fraud. A fraudulent way in which you are left taking the loans. That puts prisons back on the agenda.

CB: And of course the capitalist production machine of the university is involved. The highest fines you get are for preventing other students wanting to go to class. So the question of what kind of production does this system seek and what the deployment of that law aims at is the increase of debt because they continue to study because there is no term taken out of the students’ accounts which could happen if students assert that they were not able to go to class. Which would be a catastrophe on the side of the university or the state. How did we come to this point of fees being put in operation in the first place and why are they continuously rising?

SF: To me I read the process of financialization in general but in particular applied to education also as a response to the student movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It is a political response that tries in fact to bring a new form of discipline in order to kill the movement. I think the student movement basically dissolved the idea that has been very dominant in the 1950s and 1960s that motivated big investments of the state into the educational system – certainly in the United states but not only there. The idea for example in the US that inspired investment in mass education was that mass education would pay the investment back, that the workforce would be much more productive and also education would function as a lesson of democracy making you identify with the system. The student movement in a sense was a major disappointment in terms of this objective. I think the capitalist class came to the conclusion that this investment will not pan out. So, you have financialization beginning to provide the mechanism for this major transformation. In fact there is a reversal of the ideology of these optics resulting in the imposition of fees. By the end of late 1970s open admission was eliminated. The introduction of fees first started on a small scale and then continuously increases and outplays all measures of inflation. The way the change has operated is based on the assumption that investment in education will not pay back in the future. Accordingly, education is transformed into an immediate point of accumulation. This is one function of the introduction of fees: to make education pay right away. Instead of the state investing, giving the student the resources to educate themselves now you force them to perform accumulation, to produce profit immediately, to produce surplus immediately. The other objective is of course the discipline imposed on students while they are in the university. When you have to pay these very high fees you have to find a way of getting out of the university as quickly as possible. You don’t have the time to socialize, you don’t have the time to read the extra book that does the political work. In a sense all your time has to be consumed by getting out of the university as quick as possible to find a job. I have students that even had three jobs. They come to school, they fall asleep and they tell me, ‘don’t take it personally but I had to work until 12 a.m. last night. The discipline is actually a disciplinary mechanism that extends throughout your work time because immediately after you finish classes you have to figure out how to find a job. You don’t have the luxury to decide which kind of job you are going to choose but you have to find out what allows you to pay the debt. What happens of course is that many students have put a lot of investment in the time to go to get this or that certificate to provide them with the good job and at the end they find out they can’t get the good job anyway. Sure enough they realize that the bank will triple the interest rate if you don’t pay your installment in time. Very soon they find themselves in a situation when they cannot pay the debt. And then your life begins to unravel because particularly the private banks have collectors who persecute you, call you, call your mother, call your family. There have been cases of students who have to go underground. I actually know some students who left the country as they did during the war in Vietnam. Because they found themselves in front of an amount they will never be able to pay and confronted with an immense amount of pressure.
The question of debt is extremely important in relation to its transformative impact on social relations.  The ideology of debt rules out any form of entitlement. The ideology of the 1960s was in a way that you as a student contributed to the wellbeing of society and that the university has made an investment in you. This was functional toward your future contribution to society. It was a social contract between you as a social figure and the state. Now things are different. Now we are told that in this neoliberal ideology you are the only person who benefits from these investments. You want to have a better job? You want to have a better life? Well, that’s your business. You are a micro-entrepreneur.  You are a micro-investor. Why should the state pay for you to have higher wages? It is the same kind of ideology that they are now imposing on us in relation to health-care and in relation to pensions. If you want to have a pension, you will have to invest in it. They are telling us as soon as you have a child we have to put aside money for it to go to university.
Everything has become a private matter. This ideology is very perverse because it percolates into the consciousness and the subjectivity of people. It creates people who are consumed by a feeling of guilt that they shouldn’t have allowed themselves to take so much money out of their accounts, etc. Once they leave university they are already outside of a social relation. They take the debt on campus but they confront the payment in a situation of isolation when this ideology can be more effective. The sensation of failure is a very paralyzing feeling.
Fortunately there is a struggle that is taking place on many levels. Canada now is really leading the way. It is very important what is happening there. The students are saying: No! – even to smaller increases in tuition fees because they have seen what has happened across the border. You start with small fees and once you begin that road soon the fees escalate beyond control. In the United States too there is a movement that is growing and it is a movement that has many sources. For example the organization is taking a kind of consumer perspective, saying: ‘what we should fight for is a kind of private bankruptcy.’ Another strategy says: ‘what we should fight for is the cancellation of the debt because this will stimulate the economy.’ Now there is a third movement growing which has been stimulated by the Occupy movement, saying: we are not going to pay the debt because this debt is not legitimate. ‘We have to pay for the right to have a certificate and the right to work. We have to pay in order to be exploited.’ This is a movement that is both by students and teachers. It is a movement that is working through the pledge stating: ‘if another million students are not going to pay their debt I am not going to pay.’ This movement also has pledges for teachers because many like us do not any longer want to be accomplices for an educational system that turns students into slaves.
We don’t find it politically acceptable anymore to teach as if this was purely a matter of transmitting cultural ideas while we are involved in this machine which is basically working on the students’ lives. It is very good that the movement has made a space for that as well.

CB: The question of affect and aesthetics interests me in relation to these movements. Now everyone talks about the new movement and the embrace of difference and radical inclusion as well as the refusal of naming clear demands. They are very important steps to be taken. But also the questions of aesthetic strategies being deployed are of relevance. There is a politics of aesthetics happening through the movements, an affective politics. For me this question pertains much more to the question of affect itself than a mere discussion of affective labor which deals with reproductive forms of labor and the problems coming out of that. What I am interested in is the affective level of something that is felt and through that feeling there is a different sense of collectivity happening which is not just the grouping of people under an ideology or an idea but a felt intensity of something happening. Through this process new modes of expression come to the fore. You mentioned in an earlier conversation that the question of technology should not be undervalued in these kinds of practices. How does that relate to the aesthetic and affective level of these movements?

SF: The way I like to put it if you speak of aesthetics and affective levels is that we have a movement now – whatever its objective and organizational form – representing something new because it brought to the fore this whole issue of reproducing in itself at the center of political organizing. We have seen even before the Occupy movement  – but the Occupy movement has made it visible – the need and desire for a kind of politics that recalls something of a feminist politics: the refusal to separate the political and the personal, the affective and the political. We used to discuss in New York particularly with people of the younger generation of activists the idea of creating a self-reproducing movement. We conceptualize this as a movement that would not continuously surge and collapse, surge and collapse but would actually have a continuity through all its transformations. This continuity would be precisely the ability to also place the needs of people and the relationship of people at the center of the organizing. This is also what you are referring to by affectivity as a sharing of space, the sharing of reproductivity, like the preparing of food, the conversations in the nights or the sleeping together under the tents, of making a sign together, of bringing together this creativity as being an extremely important aspect of this movement. For many people it has been really a transformative experience inseparable from the specific demands, which I wouldn’t actually call demands. Demands imply a passive relationship to the donors weather this is the state of capital or the employer. Whereas if we speak of objectives we speak of something that has an effect in the way it brings people together. An objective maps a terrain on which people can come together rather than mapping a relation of dependence. The way that the movement has insisted on not following the politics of demand and refusing a politics of representation has been extremely important.

GF: My sense of the experience of being in the encampments that developed not only in New York but also in Maine. The Occupy movement there showed me that is was by the ability of people to stay at the encampments. When the temperatures went down below freezing and they spent the night there to go to the general assemblies in the middle of snow it was a physically and bodily measure of how fed up these people were in an affective way. People facing tremendous assaults and lots of criticism for demanding to be able to stay together against their own health showed to me that something is happening. It is like the temperature check in the assembly showing that something is really happening, that it’s really hot.

SF: And the joy and the resonance of these tactics, of these bodily tactics, like the mike-check is a symbol of the affectivity you are referring to. The way people speak of mike-check is so powerful. Mike-check has become a kind of statement for saying: “we are together! And we are going to do what we desire weather the others are going to allow it or not.” It has become this emotional solidarity pledge or solidarity expression.

CB: On the expressive level mike-check is interesting because it is not an order-word anymore, it’s a proposition. It is very moving for instance how the “casseroladas” are taking place now every evening in Montréal as such a mode of expression.

SF: Exactly, and how they moved from Argentina to Madrid and now to Montréal. Something that began in Latin America is now circulating through different languages defining a common notion.

CB: And isn’t that part of the continuity you described earlier? Since the 1970s there has been a continuous struggle in Argentina, ceaselessly reproducing and reinventing itself and steadily inspiring similar techniques for struggles around the globe?

SF: Exactly!

George Caffentzis is a political philosopher and atunomist Marxis teaching at the University of Sothern Maine.

Silvia Federici is a feminist theorist and activist living in New York. She is professor emeritus teaching at Hofstra University.

Christian Marazzi is an economist and autonmist. He is the director of Socio-Economic Research at the Scuola Universitaria della Svizzera Italiana

Christoph Brunner is a research at Zurich University of the Arts and PhD candidate at Concordia University Montréal.

cover_yb

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

contents_yb

After submitting a shift proposal (the more performative format) for the next Performance Studies International Conference in Leeds, June 27-30 2012, we, Bianca Scilar Mancini, Alanna Thain and myself, have been accepted with our proposal Ecologies of Siting. Here is the abstract:

ABSTRACT

Ecologies of Siting

The relation of ecology and economy coincides with the concerns of our inter-institutional Research–Creation series “Technologies of Lived Abstraction”, which culminated in July 2011 with ‘Generating the Impossible’. 55 participants explored the limits of a collaborative creative process through techniques of improvisation across heterogeneous backgrounds, following no scripts, without a predetermined landing site, and responsive to the durational intensities of encounter. An always-dissolving collective dedicated ten days to a critical multidisciplinary creative process that involved both a movement of thought and a production of an aesthetic residuum, i.e., an art “object”. This shift is a creative recapitulation of that event’s echoes (where porosity was already a compelling prompt). An “Ecology of Sitting” is based on a process of the improvisation of differential disciplinarity, a contagious attentiveness to how we define environment and landscape as an event-location.

This porous shift will radically experiment with performance methodologies for the improvisation of thought, a critical alternative to and reactivation of the (in)attentive audience of the traditional conference format.  Addressing the notion of concepts, bodies and the environment as variations of duration, we will seek modes of provoking sliding forces always improvising in the ways they generate confounding ecologies to challenge dualisms of body (agent/actor/performer) and environment (site/ location).

The radicalism of our proposal lies in our trust in the event of the encounter, and our conviction that authentic collaboration cannot be catalogued prior to sharing and exchange between participants. What we share are procedures and techniques for the improvisation of thought.

We propose biweekly working group meetings where participants accumulate conceptual or artistic residuum (defined here as the experiential liveliness of duration) from discussions shared through virtual meetings and tasks, as ecologies of improvised thought.  Drawing on a Guattarian ecosophical rejection of a human/non-human dualism, our performance technique of “attentiveness” will be geared towards (re)discovering an “agency of assemblages”, rather than an “acting upon” of the performance of the encounter. “Ecology of Sitting” resists a predetermined utility based on the economies of institutions (academic or arts), and reopens zones of collaborative attentiveness as a method of opening to unexpected connection.  As a set of techniques, we use a creative diagrammatics (Deleuze) drawn from movement work and event-based visual practice.  The goal is to produce a distributed attention that challenges the distinction between rehearsal and event, in an anarchival approach.

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

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

mcghillie1

I have been experimenting with the newly installed exhibition apparatus (dispositive) Palaver developed by artist Eran Schaerf and Professor Florian Dombois and installed by the Y-Institute at Berne University of the Arts. The occasion for the experiment was enabled through HKB’s open house (Oct. 2010)  and the desire to develop strategies for the use of alternative exhibition models with a wider public.

mcghillie2

In a nutshell: Palaver is an assemblage of a wall, two screens and two cameras. A space can be divided by a mobile wall, one screen is attached to each side of this wall and each side is equipped with a mobile camera. The idea is to exhibit an artwork or a performance or anything on one side and project it to the other side where the audience is. Through such an arrangement the audience as well as the object/performance are put into a mediated relationship. With the help of the camera, the screens and the separation a process of negotiation and estranged, mediated contact is facilitated. A palaver in its original meaning is the week-long political negotiations in a public space in African native cultures. The idea for such an exhibition apparatus is the change in roles and time that might accompany the experience of art. In other words, the role of the spectator, the work its reception and the way to think and talk about it discursively might be transformed through such a renewed assemblage. The palaver centers the art object but at the same time mutually positions spectators, art critics, art historians artists and curators on a plane of negotiation. Instead of unfolding each ofthese participants into his/her discipline and mode of reflexion, Palaver aims at an intense engagement with the object, modes of representation, ways of speaking and sensing, the refomualtion of space and the role of speaking in formal and informal ways.

palaverpalaver2

What I have been trying in this particular occasion of experimentation was to undermine the conception of the object or the subject by becoming a non-subject and a non-object. The creature that lives at the interstice of non-subject and non-object is McGhille (see post below). McGhillie is neither a thing nor a person. McGhillie rather melts with its environment to liberate the one inhabiting the suit to become pure (in)difference and therefore not being accountable by vision or speech. McGhillie is perceivable but one cannot know it nor can one interact with it. I aimed at rendering McGhillie’s movements the least possible anthropomorphic. McGhillie was supposed to become a pure presence therefore demonstrating its disappearance. The visitors on the other side were estranged and curious. I aimed at a long duration not allowing for any interaction but forcing the audience to turn onto itself and initiate any kind of intercourse. The situation was at times uncomfortable due to its indeterminacy and at times charged with excitement when something happened. At one point I was compelled to end the performative situation but didn’t preclude how to go about it. The people in the room were already at the margins of the wall separating the spaces. The screens mediating the situation became fairly obsolete, live experience seemed to be more attractive. Hence, McGhillie was bemoaning the annihilation of the mediation by a screen and longed for its re-installation. Finally approaching the door to leave the room in a crouching way, a participant had blocked it to not allow for any escape. This provocation to leave the state of non-subject-object forced me to imagine what it means to be kept in a cell, to be considered outside of the general discourse and therefore being regarded as free to be subjugated. The liberating and almost powerful feeling of a Becoming-McGhillie shifted towards a Becoming-Animal with all its negative attributes in relation to the human master and the animal-slave. Finally forcing the door open, still being follwed by the crowd I managed to leave the situation and to allow McGhillie to become free for a future becoming.

mcghillie3

In sum, I can say that the attempt to undermine the dispositive of Palaver only partly worked. One of the main concerns that remain after the experience is the question of how a situation can be generated where one can feel the potential forces towards negotiation. In other words, is the apparatus as it is right now providing the right port of entry into a self-generative process of negotiation. In other words, are the enabling constraints given to allow the object/subject to speak in its own right or is Palaver just another discursive tool that hovers on the surface of representation and language.

This nice video shows what I would call an ethico-aeshtetic and ethico-political intervention into the crisis shaken British student body that is facing decades of dept for higher education that only privileged members of society will have access to [unless you buy into being in depth for the 20 years to follow the moment of your graduation] … or has anyone heard of a new massive scholarship program to be launched by major banks and the government? I guess not.

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

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

Interdisciplinary Dialogues II

nouveau terrain d'apparition panoscope sphere

On January 7, 2010 we launched the first general meeting after phase one of the “nouveau terrain d’apparition” (NTA) project has been accomplished. The first phase focused on establishing a solid and properly working system to run the panoscope in a networked state, allowing telepresence between two characters in a shared and immersive virtual space. The general meeting targeted at a presentation of the technical system (mostly developed by Mike Woznieski), a demo of the system and theoretical reflections on the potentials of the system from my side. Guest at the event were students from Université Laval in the the Museology Department and members of the Institut Technologies de l’information et Sociétés, Bob White from the Anthropology Department at Université de Montréal, Erin Manning, Brian Massumi and of course head researcher Luc Courchesne.

I will here focus on some potential alleys and first insights from the conversations. My presentation was targeted at opening the NTA-system’s black box (à la Bruno Latour) and to outline its actants and interdependencies. The importance for the first phase lies in the system or rather assemblage that has been developed. As Luc pointed out the other day, the system is at its limits in terms of computation and therefore we will have to take its state as “enabling constraint.” The first important move which occurred consists in going beyond the conceptualization of such a system as dispositif and to use the notion of the assemblage instead. This shift in terminology brings us close to think different registers of realities (those realities of matter included) together and to annihilate any kind of other-worldly conception of virtual reality. To unfold this move I was drawing on Andrew Murphie’s article “Putting the Virtual back into VR.” Here Murphie claims with a Deleuzian approach through “The Fold” that Virtual Reality as a concept can help us to understand and play with what Deleuze defines as the virtual, the continuous immanence of potential in each actualization.  Since assemblages of virtual reality provide the potential to narrow the usually very crowded (with percepts and affects) experiences in our general “Umwelt” (von Uexküll), we can more precisely tap into the field of the potential. What we encounter as assemblage exists on the one hand as a complex intertwining of different realities - material, human, social, spatial and computational -  and on the other hand as a narrowing of our sensory focus to experiment with the virtual relay in our experiences.

In resonance with the system’s actual state these considerations take specific configurations:

  • Space-time: In an immersed experiential space such as the panoscope the narrowing aspect of VR allows us to experiment with new experiences of space-time. Important for a successful design of such different experiences seems to me an appropriation of affective interaction design (as developed by Jonas Fritsch). As Fritsch outlines: the account of affect will have to ”…directly address forms of experience, forms of life, on a qualitative register” (Fritsch 2009). “Affect as a whole then is the virtual co-presence of potentials” (ibid.)
  • Affect & Interaction + Memory: To feel these co-presences of affective potentials the system might not only offer shared spaces for experience but also allow the potential for interaction. This point has been uttered by Massumi and Manning, as well as in my presentation and by Mike Wozinieski. The potential to actively contribute to the system seems crucial for an enhanced interactive immersive experience. This circumstance has two important values: On the one hand the experience of space-time is always related to the way memory occurs in Bergson and slightly different in Whitehead. Memory here functions as the potential side of an actualization in a new experience. Obviously, the human participant always carries potentialities into the system through memories. Such a form of memory adds a singular (yet potentially always collective) aspect to each experience with the system. Hence, an important consideration would be the generation of memory with the system. Not only through giving machine perception the potential for interaction but also to generate an affective moreness of computing other than traditional approaches of “affective computing” as emotional aspects of programming. For the future I will follow up this thought under the concept of “affective and perceptive traces.”
  • Time and Duration: Another form of space-time configuration that might be enhanced through interactive modes of contributing actively to the system would be jumps, leaps and the sensation of duration through the system. At the moment the space inside the panoscope consists of spheres (360° images), time-lines with images that relate to certain biographies, spatial city environments (e.g. Toronto), and animated spheres with moving sound and image. Since experience here is spatialized and therefore according to Bergson misses in its euclidian appearance a thorough attribute of duration (durée), the durational aspect need to be generated by particular strategies. One of these strategies has been mentioned by Erin Manning as boredom. For her, a new user of the system has to arrive at a point of boredom to become creative with the system. To allow this creativity, we need the experience a certain durational quality inside the panoscope and the potential of active participation and contribution.
  • Collective Experience: The final point touches upon the collective experiences the system might allow. On the one hand collective experience occurs through the potential telepresence with other users. On the other hand experience surfaces through the contribution to the system and the creation of traces that can be encountered by others. What seems important here is the experience of a fully embodied state in the immersive environment of the panoscope. The embodied quality of experience allows us to embrace multiple (crossmodal) perceptive modes. On the one hand one can share experience through telepresence. On the other hand (which has been suggested by Erin Manning) one can also have the same collective experience with more than one person inside one panoscope. There is a difference in the shared expereince either through telepresence or through the physical sharing of the space in a panoscope. Interesting in that regard world be a blending of collective experience that not only includes human participants in actual physical or tele- presence but also the contribution to this experience by the flow of memories and contributions to the experience by an active and interactive (responsive) system. In that sense, to provide an initial idea, the collective individuations that might be facilitated through the system, could be generated through an internal resonance of the system with its users. To conclude with Simondon: “Internal resonance is the most primitive form of communication between realitities of different orders. It is composed of a double process of amplification and condensation.” Amplification here defines the process of an individuation (of a system for instance) as a resolution of anterior tensed states. Its condensation is the very presence as event that ties together all its anterior disparate realities and tendencies. A nexus with social character in Whitehead. The internal resonance of the user-panoscope individuation expresses its amplification and condensation through the emergent relation between different realities (of users, memories and the systems active contribution) and its condensation in an actual occasion (an event in all its complexity and singularity).

smaller panoscope for torso immersion

nta-demo3

interdisciplinary dialogues - what is research?

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

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

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

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

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

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

deleuze

The Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory In cooperation with Culture, Imagination and Practice Research Group, School of Social Sciences

link

In light of my acceptance for the Deleuze and Activism Conference in November in Cardiff, I would like to publish my abstract for remarks and discussion:

Expression as Micropolitical Force of Change

For Deleuze and Guattari expression evokes a shock that is in excess of the human body’s contained capacity of perception. It is the potential for change as an ethico-aesthetic and political enunciation. Expression as ethico-aesthetic concept yields the creative capacity of a becoming through an unfolding of its transductive and transversal forces of potential. Expression’s ethical implications lie in the question of “how one performatively contributes to the stretch of expression in the world” (Massumi 2002, xxii). It defines a particular mode of emergence, a becoming that is singular and yet in relation (collective). As a collective mode of becoming, expression reshapes the body as event producing a complicated field of potential that is constantly negotiated by molar captures and molecular series of singularities. The body in its state of shock becomes a negotiated territory for capture being executed (the molding of the expressive potential into a defined system) or it creatively acknowledges change (the acceptance of expression’s potential as novelty).

In an attempt to contribute performatively to the “stretch of expression in the world,” and thus to open up bodies towards the excessive potential of expression, the Senselab (www.senselab.ca) launched a series of events, called Technologies of Lived Abstraction, of which the latest was entitled “Society of Molecules (SoM).” Echoing Whitehead’s concept of society as a relational collective, SoM is a transnational and transversal series of events creating ethico-aesthetic interventions in their immediate local environment. The process-based events yielding an activist micropolitics will function as domain of inquiry to trace expression’s affects on a global, yet transversal, territory.