Review – April 14, 2017
This is a wise and timely book, grown out of a passion for thinking as it is intensely connected to doing. In his latest book, network cultures theorist and activist Geert Lovink scrutinizes the net behaviour of providers and users, making painfully clear the long-term consequences if we continue to uncritically bond our lives to social media platforms. While arguing for inventive forms of disengagement from the virtual world he admits that it would be difficult ‘to lose interest in something designed to be vital’. He insists on reinvigorating our attention to code and network architecture while at the same time warning against offline romanticism.
He sees politicizing hidden online infrastructures and making their workings public as an important step in retaking some control and rebuilding trust among users. By asking why the Internet has not been maintained as a public infrastructure from the beginning, he reminds us how the potential for redistributive practices has been hampered by Silicon Valley. He bravely proposes crowd funding as a system for producing the commons, where private inputs are translated into common outcomes. Recent initiatives within the art context involve Art Basel teaming up with Kickstarter and the […]
Review – April 13, 2017
A Living Earth is filled with the sound that you feel behind your ribs before your ears catch up. Sound that’s in the back of your throat before you can say you’ve heard it – darkness chips away a thousand feet below the surface – your alveoli shrink as the (w)hole gets wider and deeper. Plunging downwards, the sound buckles and you are on your knees listening to what happens after the ‘apocalypse.’1 Ore pulses throughout the sheath of rock that folds over your head. Tap the shining lines – blackness, sweat, a seething mass, a wall of sound, bodies – copper, nickel laced with pyrrhotite: metal. Feel a ringing in your molars and in your palms. ‘Something not in your ontic vicinity is exerting causal pressure on you.’2
Essay – February 24, 2017
I would like to start today with presenting a really interesting graph I encountered in a book by Tine De Moor, who is quite well-known here, as she works in Utrecht.1 In her booklet Homo cooperans (2013), she calculates the number of civic and cooperative initiatives in the Netherlands. There is linear growth from 1980 until 2005, but from then on growth is exponential. This has been confirmed in a second report by Oikos for the Flanders, which saw a ten-fold increase in less than ten years, starting in 2009.
Now, it is very easy to be pessimistic about the future, especially after the election results in the US and elsewhere, but this flowering of civic initiatives should not be discounted and shows us another type of transition is on the way as well.
What I think we are seeing today is a major shift in the value regime. Robert Moore, in his book The First European Revolution (2000), describes how until the tenth century Europe was still structured more or less as it had been during the Roman Empire. The actual political power of the Roman Empire was gone, but its type of political and social structure based on masters, slaves and freemen was still very much alive and the economic wealth was based on conquests. It took a social mobilization of the common people, resulting in a social revolution, a movement called The Peace and Truce of God. The movement started in the South of France with the massive mobilization of poor people under the leadership of the monks of Cluny to create a new social contract, which led to the transformation of the plunder economy to the feudal economy. This means a change in the value regime towards one based on extracting surplus from land. Similarly, you could think of the fifteenth century, with the invention of double bookkeeping, the printing press, the purgatory as an ideological construct and other changes that would eventually lead to the value regime of […]
Editorial – February 23, 2017
Technology / Affect / Space (T / A / S) is a conceptual and interdisciplinary research project into the interaction between technology, affect and public space initiated by Open! together with media theorist Eric Kluitenberg. It can be considered as a continuation and actualization of the Hybrid Space issue of the Open! print cahier in 2006 on the mobilization of public space facilitated – and even initiated – by wireless media. In Hybrid Space we noted that publicness has become ‘a complex of concrete and virtual qualities, of static and mobile domains, of public and private spheres, of global and local interests’ and asked how a critical position could be possible in a hybrid space that is characterized by invisible information technology. Since then Web 2.0 and wireless media have only developed further; social networks such as Facebook and Twitter came into being and mobile media devices are now ubiquitous. T / A / S takes into account the ultimate implications of this for the public sphere in exploring the dynamics, aesthetics, design and politics of an emergent techno-sensuous spatial order that we refer to as ‘Affect Space’. There have been three exploratory public events so far on this topic in 2016: Amsterdam (with De Balie […]
Essay – February 20, 2017
Baywalk Mall is one of Jakarta’s newest commercial developments, inviting visitors to ‘Enjoy True Leisure!’ The mall is located in the Green Bay Pluit super block and provides for a complete shopping and time out adventure for the residents of the seafront apartments and condominiums. This packaged experience delivers a sought-after elite lifestyle for Jakartans – for whom the water sports recreation centre; the kids entertainment zone; the fitness centre; the restaurants, cafés and boutiques; the BBQ area; the plaza and swimming pool; the three-hectare botanical park for cycling, fishing, jogging and relaxing; the twenty-four-hour security; and the closeness to the airport, medical facilities, international schools and shopping centres provide ‘a high value investment.’1 In addition to residential units, Green Bay Pluit also offers business kiosks to reach its estimated 20,000 inhabitants with new services and products.
On the ground floor of Baywalk Mall is an extremely large model of yet another ambitious development connected to Green Bay Pluit by multiple stylish bridges. Pluit City will be a 160- hectare ‘stunning modern city’ on reclaimed artificial land half the size of New York […]
Essay – February 20, 2017
‘Let us not then make the future our project, let us improvise.’
– Fred Moten
‘You make clear that affect is before emotion, feeling, and perception. Is there any thing before ‘‘affect’’? – There is everything before affect: participation.’1
– WTF Affect in discussion with Brian Massumi
‘[...] improvisation’s ubiquity becomes the modality through which performance is articulated.’
– George Lewis
Essay – December 31, 2016
Communicative capitalism names the intertwining of democracy and capitalism in global telecommunications networks and personal participatory communication devices. Just as industrial capitalism relied on the exploitation of labour, so does communicative capitalism rely on the exploitation of communication. In communicative capitalism, reflexivity captures creativity, sociality, resistance, and critique enclosing them into mediated networks for the financial gain of a corporate and shareholding class. Within mass social and personal media networks, expressions of dissent enrich the few and divert the many. The media practices we enjoy, that enable us to express ourselves and connect with others, reassemble dissent into new forms of exploitation and control.1 Once we accept that capitalism is communicative and communications are capitalist, where might we find openings for critique, opportunities for resistance, and possibilities of breaking free? Differently put, if a central contribution of Marx’s analysis of capitalism was his identification of the ways capitalism produces its own gravediggers, what elements of the present pointing beyond it does communicative capitalism identify? One answer appears in the commoning of faces, a practice that emerges out of the communicative practices of mass social and personal media. To explore this commoning, I develop the idea of […]
Review – December 30, 2016
Ever since being mentioned by Dutch chemist Paul J. Crutzen at a global change conference in 2000, the concept has been pervasive: we are living in the Anthropocene, a geological epoch marked by global ecological change caused by humans.1 An article Crutzen wrote with American biologist Eugène Stoermer further elucidated the intertwined history of human beings and planet Earth from the late eighteenth century invention of the steam engine onward.2 The term Anthropocene has been met with divisive response, however – be it in the art world or otherwise. Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols (2016) addresses this reaction by asking: What is implied in the ‘anthropos’ as single agent of biogeophysical destruction? What narrative binds humans to ecocidal charges? Taking this notion to task is timely, especially given the authors’ argument that the ‘dazzling brilliance of the Anthropocene idea’ can only be seen clearly in its waning light.
The book consists of three parts, each written by one of the authors. Although they delve into slightly different aspects of the Anthropocene – Cohen argues for a cynical attitude that questions whether climate change should be ascribed to anthropos alone, especially given his observation more generally that climate change be a […]
Artist contribution – November 16, 2016
Present-day society has advanced to become a grid of identities wherein agents, according to their desires, are expected to integrate and take part in enacting the new state’s protocols. At the same time, and due to the open-source nature of today’s technological tools, the new state, however ubiquitous and infiltrating its mechanisms strive to become, is no longer a unique source of government. While it is the mainstream power network by default, it is being challenged by a multiplicity of alternative forces of various origins, all of which could fall under the term cyborg politics. This contemporary category of political resistance is activated via agents’ potential to transgress the grid and to drift freely.
Cyborg politics is a system of relations open to everyone – it is not assumed that participants need to plug into the grid or register with their local city council. The new kind of politics is dispersed, queer and based on affinities; it has no leaders; its members are no longer subject to disciplinary mechanisms, or any kind of sovereignty, or control apparatus of biopower alone. Cyborg politics fosters diversity and renders ideological constructions such as race, class and gender […]
Essay – November 1, 2016
‘Power is invisible, until you provoke it.’1 – GFK
‘Bread and circuses for everyone, wealthfare for the elites and welfare for the restless disenfranchised.’ – ZeroHedge
‘“Rock stars” are arrogant narcissists. Plumbers keep us all from getting cholera. Build functional infrastructure. Be a plumber.’ – Molly Sauter
‘We live in the golden age of ignoring smart people.’ – Zak Smith
‘We lost the fight for the Internet. But the battle against central authority remains.’ – Peter Sunde
‘We may be decentralized and disagree on a lot of topics amongst ourselves, but operations are always carefully coordinated.’ – Anonymous
Operating inside the contexts of technology, media activism, and Internet politics, the ‘commons’ is finally turning into a hotly debated topic outside of theory and activist circles. Code is shaping our world, and its architecture is voluntary and plastic. However, written by geeks and engineers this code is anything but God-given, let alone neutral. Where do the underlying ideas come from and how are we going to accelerate the transition? Who is taking the l […]
Essay – October 12, 2016
Since the late 1990s French artist duo Bureau d’Études (Léonore Bonaccini and Xavier Fourt) has worked on the investigative visualization and theorization of a system of global power relations. Their strikingly complex organizational charts of the ‘world government’ constituted by corporations, supra-national organizations, NGOs, state bureaucracies, the military and prison industries complexes, etc., populated the collective imaginary of the alter-globalist movement of the second millennium. The maps provided activists in Seattle, Porto Alegre, Genoa and elsewhere with hyper-dense information about a largely hidden network of repression and rule. Close collaborator Brian Holmes remembers how Bureau d’Études’s infographic work ‘exerted an estranging effect of disidentification and disorientation’ among its audience.2 ‘Again and again you would see people peering into them, lost in thought, dumbstruck with curiosity, charged with a kind of cerebral rage.’3 However, as Holmes does not fail to mention, the conditions under which such artistic-activist knowledge production took place were about to change drastically with the post-9 / 11 ‘new normal of global war and financial boom.’ […]
Review – September 8, 2016
In his address at Moscow University in 1988, President Ronald Reagan stood in front of a mural of the October Revolution. Pitting revolution against revolution, Reagan extolled the virtues of the ‘tiny silicon chip,’ the emblem for his revolution, which would allow humanity to break ‘through the material conditions of existence’ to enter a dematerialized world of information and code. His was an updated version of the American dream: a coming digital sphere promising universal connectivity, within which, value would be created ex nihilo, through the mere performativity of social signs, tying finance to the (in)formal subsumption of all aspects of life. It was not Reagan who invented this dream of a dematerialized economy but it was he who turned it into a capitalist religion: ‘Like a chrysalis,’ Reagan argued ‘we’re emerging from the economy of the Industrial Revolution – an economy confined to and limited by the Earth’s physical resources – into, as one economist titled his book, “The Economy in Mind”, in which there are no bounds on human imagination and the freedom to create is the most precious natural resource.’ Invoking the ‘ancient wisdom’ of the Bible, the president concluded: […]
Review – September 7, 2016
The ‘Benjamin in Palestine’ conference and workshop in Palestine from 6 to 11 December 2015 was organized by an international group of critical theorists, activists, artists and Benjamin scholars.1 Three days of workshops – interspersed with artistic and academic presentations and interventions – centred on close readings of some of Benjamin’s key texts including: ‘Theses on the Concept of History’ (1940) in which Benjamin advocates for the necessity to stand with the oppressed at any given time vis-à-vis the power of the oppressor over history, thus keeping the space for the oppressed open; and ‘The Task of the Translator’ (1923), an exploration of translation and of language in terms of power relations and preventing instrumentalization in and through text. The last two days consisted of a conference with keynote speeches by Rebecca Comay, Susan Buck-Morss, and Slavoj Žižek, each of whom elaborated on Benjaminian thought in relation to the Palestinian context. Benjamin is a key person to turn to in contemporary Ramallah, as while a Jewish intellectual and icon of Western humanities, he remains an extremely influential cultural theorist due to his critical ideas on representation, state violence, and oppression, all of which still profoundly shape cultural production and the humanities of relevance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Case in point: Comay presented a paper on how to address the lack of a revolutionary testament of use in our current conditions by reconsidering […]
Artist contribution – July 10, 2016
0001 is coming meeting you. What is you though? Is it you the singular or the plural pronoun? Is it gendered? Come linger in the Cloud, and decide for yourselves what you rather consider to be seductive, what repulsive; thus make sure to programme your algorithm according to those resolutions. After all, future is never far.
– The Cloud
In a full state of meaning 0001 became a plant. Suppose that you consider yourself to still be a self, as you remember 0001 to be at time (1460456465)? What would you want to keep with you from your contemporary sensations?
Would you want to remember how it feels to be touched? If you knew that you would live forever would you still need to reproduce? Survival won’t be at stake in the land of eternity. No need to defend your skin, only your metrics. But you don’t want to imagine a future that looks like time (922910409); a virtual reality of leather coats, plugged in a sensory deprivation tank. 0001 stopped the bullets, with the power of the 1 and the 0. You are your own […]
Artist contribution – July 7, 2016
In the 1990s German philosopher Thomas Metzinger began working on a complex and suggestive understanding of the analysis of the mind and consciousness in phenomenological terms, developing his Phenomenal Self-Model (PSM) of the process through which we experience consciousness. Metzinger considers the ‘transparency’ of the PSM a phenomenal notion: that is, the experience of seeing represented content (what we perceive as reality) produced by the PSM but not the process that allows for the formation of that content. The relation between transparency and opacity, according to Metzinger, involves reducing the presence of large representational mechanisms inside the PSM in order to interact with the world since the ‘represented of the system’s self-representation occludes the representing that gave rise to it.’ 1 The PSM outlines a process of forming our consciousness and what is generated by it as represented content, or, in other words, between the human being as representing process (vehicle) and the representational content produced by it. The PSM receives real information from the world (Phenomenal World Model)2 and circulates it, at which point it might be transformed by behaviour (rational consciousness) or other causes. For Metzinger the self has always been a […]
Essay – July 7, 2016
In the Cree and Michif (First Nations and Métis) languages, Niw_hk_m_kanak means ‘all my / our relations.’1 Within this essay, I endeavour to explain and weave together a possible collaboration between Niw_hk_m_kanak and Karen Barad’s notion of diffraction. I believe these philosophical concepts can benefit each other and expand upon a discourse of science and philosophy – without relying on Cartesian dualities (nature / culture, human / animal, object / subject) – through Indigenous scholarship, especially that of Kim TallBear, Audra Simpson, Leroy Little Bear and Glen Coulthard.
Rather than Indigenous sciences acting in parallel to Western philosophy and physics, Little Bear, founding Director of Harvard University’s Native American Studies programme, proposes a collaboration between Indigenous and Western sciences. I take up this purview in connecting the non-dualistic Indigenous paradigm of all my / our relations to diffraction as observed in the Western scientific field of quantum physics. Diffraction is seen in the two-slit experiment, in which energy waves (in light or water) pass through a barrier with two openings, creating single wave or diffraction patterns. Energy, on a quantum level, can behave unpredictably producing contingent […]
Artist contribution – July 7, 2016
This is surrounded with other social practices
At many perceptions of interdisciplinarity
Thus, capable of interdisciplinarity
Key to our perceptual life
As with the true horizon
—Posthuman_poem generated by Mogu and Malcolm Kratz
Artist contribution – July 4, 2016
Zones of extraction become sites of extinction, geographies of sacrifice.
– Ian Boale
Essay – June 7, 2016
Since the 2008 economic crisis, we have witnessed the emergence of an entire discourse in art practice centred around representations of the financialization of economy. One basic assumption underpinning most of this artistic and textual production is that successful representations of finance today are wholly impossible: work in this discourse recognizes, for instance, that the sheer speed of financial transactions renders them beyond (or below) the treshold of human perception, making them literally extra-aesthetic, unavailable to the senses. Within this form of production an uncanny concreteness is often given to abstractions of financial capital (transactions made by non-human agents in the virtual sphere of electronic futures can have devastating effects on very-much-human agents). Much work within this discursive strand thereby seems to further the already widely held conviction that the complexities of finance are essentially irrepresentable.
At its best, this ‘irrepresentability of finance’ discourse is highly politicizing. Its emphatic failing to make finance intelligible could be an effective means of pointing to its parasitical and exploitative relation to what one might be tempted to call the […]