Talk on the Aesthetics of Refusal

Audio available here: https://soundcloud.com/cca-wattis-institute/andrew-culp-on-aesthetics-of-refusal (Soundcloud embed not currently functional.)

“Im against it.” (The RamonesRoad to Ruin, 1978)

Punk is dead, long live punk. In his book The No Texts, the painter Steven Parrino wrote about the ruthless pursuit of freedom via destruction. He tried to save painting by blacking it out, by canceling its image. He saw the job of the artist as that of being an exposed nervea mirror to a world that has become the site of endless distortions. FTW.

Andrew Culp extends that anarchism into politics: the lesson to be drawn is that negation is finding a way to say no to those who tell us to take the world as it is. Today, he tells us,that world is dominated by communication, connectiontransmission, and translation. And those who determine how that works and who that benefits are committing acts of violence and information warfare. The only way to fight them is not to contradict or even to accelerate, but to contaminate and interrupt. Creation and destruction go hand in handit all depends on what side youre on.

In this lecture, Culp uses JeanLuc Godard and JeanHenri Rogers 1969 Dziga Vertov Group agitprop film British Sounds (aka See You at Mao) as a way to think about what agitprop might look like today.Would it be enough to replace the films famous 10minute tracking shot of an automobile assembly line with a similar shot at an Amazon Fulfillment Center? Or maybe the whole repertoire of jump cuts,didactic monologue, and striking color are no longer techniques of agitation in our world of pervasive advertising, informatized production, sprawling commodity chains, increasinglysynthetic life,and digital communication networks. If so, how far must we go to maintain an avantgarde orientation toward the present?

Andrew Culp teaches Media History and Theory at the California Institute of the Arts in Los AngelesHis most recent book is Dark Deleuze (University of Minnesota Press, 2016).

The suggestion to invite Andrew Culp came from both Alexander Galloway and Seth Price.

This is the fifth event in our yearlong season about and around the work of Seth Price.

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The Black Radical Tradition

Goodman_20

To understand blackness, one can begin with the context set by The Black Radical Tradition. Scholars have argued that enslaved African peoples have transferred and edited “historical, cultural, and moral materials” as an ongoing shared resource (Interview). Cedric Robinson argues in Black Marxism for the self-conscious development of those materials into a political project that he calls “The Black Radical Tradition.” Familiar Marxists fill the ranks of the Tradition, namely WEB DuBois, CLR James, and (more recently) Angela Davis. Generalizing the problematic out from individual thinkers, we can think the Lukacsian spirit of the challenge posed by the project of The Black Radical Tradition: how can blackness overcome the self-aware fact of shared condition to become a self-aware political force? Or in the elegant Marxian terms: the transition from a class-in-itself to a class-for-itself (commonly derived from The Poverty of Philosophy). Continue reading “The Black Radical Tradition”

Afro-Pessimism as Aesthetic Blackness

Ligon-Untitled_Four_Etchings_1992_B0The beginning to a talk I will give at the Cultural Studies Association conference in Riverside, CA next week. On the occasion of Achille Mbembe’s new preface to the African reprint of On the Postcolony by Wits University Press

Mbembe: Critique is witnessing as well as endless vigilance, interrogation and anticipation. A proper ­critique requires us first to dwell in the chaos of the night in order precisely to better break through into the dazzling light of the day.

We recognise the moment of pessimism when the layers of the past and the world of the present fall into the void; that is, a place that is not a place. We recognise the moment of pessimism when we trivialise human experience or provoke misplaced empathy or contempt, when, unable to release language, we succumb to the elemental materiality of the there is.

We enter this “dark night of language” when its symbolising powers are suddenly crippled and, instead of revealing what is hidden within the self-evident and what lies beneath the surface, behind the mask, language circles in on itself and hides what it should be showing.

This paper is on the darkness that clings to so-called “afro-pessimism.” My thesis is that to take the “pessimism” of afro-pessimism seriously, I argue for moving from the metaphysical pessimism of making claims about this world to the moral pessimism of a fatalistic attitude towards the world. Continue reading “Afro-Pessimism as Aesthetic Blackness”

Dark Deleuze Project Abstract


alienTitle: Dark Deleuze: A Glossary

Author: Andrew Culp, PhD, The Ohio State University

Abstract: This paper explores the Dark Deleuze by dramatizing the difference between joyfully creating concepts and apocalyptically destroying worlds. Contextualizing this dispute in recent work, the paper draws a contrast between the use of Gilles Deleuze’s thought for a realist ontology of the object and a revolutionary materialism of destruction.

The contemporary turn to realist ontology commonly adopts Deleuze’s metaphysics of positivity (DeLanda 2002; Bryant 2011; Protevi 2013). The basis for the realist side of Deleuze is perhaps best evinced by his biography: those who knew Deleuze consistently note his firm commitment to joyful affirmation and his distaste for the ressentiment of negativity (Dosse 2010 [2007]). Beatifying this sentiment, Deleuze has been used to establish a whole canon of joy. In the canon of joy, the cosmos is a complex collection of assemblages produced through the ongoing processes of differentiation (Stengers 2011, Braidotti 2005/2006; DeLanda 2006; DeLanda 2011). The effect of this image of thought is a sense of wonder but also the joy of creating concepts for knowing how the world really exists.

A different Deleuze, a darker one, has slowly cast its shadow. Emerging from scholars concerned with the condition of the present, the darkness refashions a revolutionary Deleuze; revolutionary negativity in a world characterized by compulsory happiness, decentralized control, and overexposure (Caserio et al 2005; Galloway 2006; Lovink 2014). The refashioned Deleuze forms a counter-canon out of the perfuse negativity of his concepts and affects.* On the level of concept, negativity impregnates the many prefixes of difference, becoming, movement, and transformation: de-, a-, in-, and non-. On the level of affect, Deleuze talks of indiscernibility and concealment, the shame of being human, and monstrous power of the scream. The ultimate task of this approach is not the creation of concepts, and to the extent that it does, the Dark Deleuze creates concepts only to write apocalyptic science fiction (Deleuze 1994 [1968], xx-xxii).

It is time to move from the chapel of joy to the darkness of the crypt.

There are two parts to my Dark Deleuze counter-canon project: a philosophical justification of Dark Deleuze based on textual evidence and a consideration of recent secondary literature; a description of terms that outlines the elements of the counter-canon for use.

Neither of the two parts has been published yet. I leave it up to the editors of xxxx to determine which half of the project they would prefer.

Continue reading “Dark Deleuze Project Abstract”

“Dark Deleuze”: A Glossary

Dark-Deleuze

Those who knew Gilles Deleuze consistently note his firm commitment to joyful affirmation and his distaste for the ressentiment of negativity. Beatifying this sentiment, Deleuzians have established a whole canon of joy. But what good is joy in this world of compulsive positivity?

It is time to move from the chapel to the crypt. There is sufficient textual evidence to establish this counter-canon. And from it, we can create a glossary of the “Dark Deleuze.”

Joyous: Dark:
Our Task Create Conceptions Destroy Worlds
Substance Techno-Science Political Anthropology
Existence Genesis Transformation
Ontology Realism Materialism
Subjects Assemblages Un-becoming
Speed Acceleration Withdrawal Continue reading ““Dark Deleuze”: A Glossary”