Audio available here: https://soundcloud.com/cca-wattis-institute/andrew-culp-on-aesthetics-of-refusal (Soundcloud embed not currently functional.)
“I’m against it.” (The Ramones, Road 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 nerve—a 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, connection, transmission, 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 hand—it all depends on what side you’re on.
In this lecture, Culp uses Jean–Luc Godard and Jean–Henri Roger’s 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 film’s famous 10–minute 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, increasingly–synthetic life,and digital communication networks. If so, how far must we go to maintain an avant–garde orientation toward the present?
Andrew Culp teaches Media History and Theory at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. His 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 year–long season about and around the work of Seth Price.