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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Feminist Mappings of the City

What is a feminist “image of the city”?

The city is often experienced negatively by women. Easily measured causes for negativity include criminal violence, physical and sexual assault, and street harassment. Less easy to measure are the effects of these and other negative experiences, which are often registered rather subjectively.

This paper proposes a new mapping of gendered experiences of the city based on Kevin Lynch’s environmental images. My proposal is informed by feminist art projects that measure and represent women’s negative experiences in the city. My goal is to develop a new environmental image that reflects these experiences. Continue reading “Feminist Mappings of the City”

The Metropolis as a Media Object and The Polarized Politics of Asymmetry

nevelsonThe reconfigured terrain of network culture frustrates many traditional modes of social engagement. Political power has both spread and concentrated – spreading as global corporations, international bodies, and private interests bypass the forces of traditional political institutions, and concentrating as information systems employed in government and industry enable the surveillance, registration, and control of populations.[i]

The common form of dissent in digital culture is rather the tactical use of media to signify “the intervention and disruption of a dominant semiotic regime, the temporary creation of a situation in which signs, messages, and narratives are set into play and critical thinking becomes possible.”[ii] Tactical media’s emphasis on symbolic disruption leads to a focus on artistic practices, from persuasive video games made to criticize immigration policy to chat-based interventions in the US Military’s controversial recruiting game America’s Army.[iii] The prevalence of cultural and artistic critique as the preferred style of political engagement should be expected, as it echoes a wider transformation in contemporary power whereby “the dissolution of an autonomous sphere of culture is rather to be imagined in terms of an explosion: a prodigious expansion of culture throughout the social realm, to the point at which everything in our social life – from economic value and state power to practices and to the very structure of the psyche itself – can be said to have become ‘cultural.’”[iv] The literary import of tactical media threatens to obscure potentials singular to media, however, as it focuses on the expression of and not the struggle within the “computational layer” or information itself – a slippage that threatens to ruin tactical media by “confusing tactics and strategy.”[v]

There is a way to cut through this confusion: if the urban space of the Metropolis is theorized as a media object, whereby “the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium,” then culture and materiality intersect, which allows analysis to go from signs to signals and from semiotics to physics and back again.[vi] This principle is elegantly demonstrated by Austrian design studio mischer-traxler’s project “The Idea of a Tree,” an autonomous solar-powered production project that transduces the intensity of inconstant natural inputs to mechanically produce one object a day from sunrise to sunset. The product of process is a bench-like object that incorporates the sun conditions of the day by varying thread and glue color and thickness as it is wrapped around a mold to make a three-dimension representation of the day and place of production.[vii] The simultaneous transduction and transcoding of environmental energy into a material object exemplifies that multidimensional objects can be both technically diagrammed and studied according to their cultural expression. Generalizing from “The Idea of a Tree,” then every media object similarly contains both a diagram and an expression that make up its emergent environment.[viii] Media and literary studies have outlined theories for such a multi-dimensional analysis, demonstrating the different operations of speech, writing, and code.[ix] The Metropolis should then be described in similar terms to network culture not only by information, but the vectors of change that result from an abundance of information and an acceleration of informational character.[x] In particular, the Metropolis can be said to utilize information in three distinct ways: as “the relation of signal to noise,” “a measure of the uncertainty or entropy of a system,” and “a nonlinear and nondeterministic relationship between the microscopic and the macroscopic levels of a physical system” – all of which find corollaries in culture.[xi] Bringing together digital telecommunication flows and physical corporeal flows, urban geographers have conceptualized the contemporary process of urbanization through Internet eXchange points and MIDT airline traffic data[xii] It is through a similar combination of digital culture and informatization more generally that strategies common to struggles in the culture, technology, and environment of the Metropolis can be identified, analyzed, and enhanced.

Abstractly, the Metropolis connects through inclusive disjunction, a process that puts otherwise foreign elements into communication with one another and does not require its pieces to operate through a shared logic but unfolds their interiors through exposure.[xiii] Continue reading “The Metropolis as a Media Object and The Polarized Politics of Asymmetry”

New – Hostis: A Journal of Incivility

bagh-nakha

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Hostis: A Journal of Incivility

Call for Submissions

Issue 1: Political Cruelty

Few emotions burn like cruelty. Those motivated by cruelty are neither fair nor impartial. Their actions speak with an intensity that does not desire permission, let alone seek it. While social anarchism sings lullabies of altruism, there are those who play with the hot flames of cruelty. We are drawn to the strength of Franz Fanon’s wretched of the earth, who find their voice only through the force of their actions, the sting of women of color’s feminist rage, which establishes its own economy of violence for those who do not have others committing violence on their behalf, the spirit of Italy’s lapsed movement of autonomy, which fueled radicals who carved out spaces of freedom by going on the attack (“Il Diritto all’Odio” – The Right to Hatred), the assaults of Antonin Artaud’s dizzying “Theatre of Cruelty,” which defames the false virtues of audience through closeness with the underlying physicality of thought, and the necessity of Gilles Deleuze’s ontological cruelty, which returns difference through the pain of change that breaks through the backdrop of indifference.

We are looking for submissions that defend cruelty. In addition to scholarly essays, we are looking for any original work suited to the printed page: directions to dérivés or other lived projects, maps, printed code, how-to instructions, photo-essays, détournements, experimental writing, directions to word-games, illustrations, or mixed-media art. To remain consistent with the journal’s point of view, we seek material whose tone is abrasive, mood is cataclysmic, style is gritty, and voice is impersonal.

Submissions will be selected by an editorial collective. Contributors should expect to receive critical feedback in the first stage of review requesting revisions to improve their submission and make it consistent with the other contributions selected for inclusion. While we are not soliciting proposals, we are happy to comment on possible submissions before official review.

We will begin reviewing submissions on February 28th, 2014. Send your submissions to hostis.journal@gmail.com as MS Word, rtf, pdf, jpg, or png files. Include a title, author name, content, and any formatting requests. Expect to complete requested revisions during March-April.

Continue reading “New – Hostis: A Journal of Incivility”

Matter That Matters: Materialist Feminism & Sexual Difference

bodies-that-matterReading Elizabeth Grosz’s Chaos, Territory, Art for the first time finally made materialism click for me. I had been feeling a growing dissatisfaction with social constructivism; and while I had been reading plenty of materialists who insisted on “matter that mattered,”  I never knew how to explain it, or at least without recourse to a crude reductionist paradigm. With Grosz, however, we see how differences (and in her case: sexual difference) create a beautiful tension from which art and culture spring forth. At last, a beautiful demonstration on why matter matters. Enjoy.

I want to start with some mythical sense of “the beginning.” “In the beginning” is chaos, the whirling, unpredictable movement of forces, vibratory oscillations that constitute the universe. Chaos here may be understood not as absolute disorder but rather as a plethora of orders, forms, wills—forces that cannot be distinguished or differentiated from each other, both matter and its conditions for being otherwise, both the actual and the virtual in-distinguishably. Somewhere in this chaotic universe, in a relatively rare occurrence, through chance, molecular randomness generates [6] organic proteins, cells, proto-life. Such life can only exist and perpetuate itself to the extent that it can extract from the whirling and experientially overwhelming chaos that is nature, materiality, and their immanent forces those elements, substances, or processes it requires, can somehow bracket out or cast into shadow the profusion of forces that engulf and surround it so that it may incorporate what it needs. Henri Bergson, one of Deleuze’s major philosophical influences, understands this as a skeletalization of objects: we perceive only that which interests us, is of use to us, that to which our senses have, through evolution, been attuned (Bergson 1988). That is, life, even the simplest organic cell, carries its past with its present as no material object does. This incipient memory endows life with creativity, the capacity to elaborate an innovative and unpredictable response to stimuli, to react or, rather, simply to act, to enfold matter into itself, to transform matter and life in unpredictable ways.

Such elementary life can only evolve, become more, develop and elaborate itself to the extent that there is something fundamentally unstable about both its milieu and its organic constitution. The evolution of life can be seen not only in the increasing specialization and bifurcation or differentiation of life forms from each other, the elaboration and development of profoundly variable morphologies and bodily forms, but, above all, in their becoming-artistic, in their self-transformations, which exceed the bare requirements of existence. Sexual selection, the consequence of sexual difference or morphological bifurcation—one of the earliest upheavals in the evolution of life on earth and undoubtedly the most momentous invention that life has brought forth, the very machinery for guaranteeing the endless generation of morphological and genetic variation, the very mechanism of biological difference itself—is also, by this fact, the opening up of life to the indeterminacy of taste, pleasure, and sensation.6 Life comes to elaborate itself through making [7] its bodily forms and its archaic territories, pleasing (or annoying), performative, which is to say, intensified through their integration into form and their impact on bodies. Continue reading “Matter That Matters: Materialist Feminism & Sexual Difference”