Monday, 28 January 2008

Sunday, 27 January 2008

The Quiet Men

2 days ago an anecdote was related to me about a personal encounter with a founding member of one of Australia's best known electronica acts, which Simon Reynolds has correctly identified in "Rip it Up and Start Again" as one of many inspired by Throbbing Gristle. As I am familiar with this individual, whose identity I protect through anonymity, I will simply comment that he has previously featured on this blog in the context of discussions of Weber's archetype of "sensualists without heart".
Unsurprisingly, evidence suggests that the song has remained the same since I last spoke to him. Left anarchism is professed as a more radical than thou doctrine, by an individual who has lived off state benefits for more than 20 years. I do not begrudge the ethos of being my "brother's" keeper, except where it is used to maintain a double standard; no action can ever be radical enough to meet utopian objectives, so nothing is ever done, no participation ever takes place. Any sense of reform or a "long march through the institutions", as Raymond Williams referred to "the long revolution", is simply regarded as a complicitous, hopeless bourgeois ideology (much in the manner committed socialists will oftentimes refer to sociology). The end result may be liberalism in another form, but the blinders put on make this something that can be lived with in a manner that does not overtly disturb the conscience.
That much should already be clear from the Weberian context. It explains a lot about the lifestyle; visiting a Thai prostitute once a fortnight, gambling on the horses at the TAB, with the rest of the time spent making tape loops and hunting down obscure electronic music in city record stores. The revolt by bohemians and social movements against bourgeois possessiveness, such as maintaining an exclusive intimate relationship, transmutes into an individualised survivalist creed, where autonomy is valorised above all else. Even the sex worker can be ridiculed by this client, because she doesn't meet the same gold standard of autonomy, namely of being in a position to choose who she has intercourse with. The client pays most of all for the privilege of an episodic encounter that makes no demands for reciprocity.
At such outermost limits, especially when the labor of the self is regarded not as the task of a cultural worker, but as somehow expressive of a unique "personality", or indeed the abandonment of such an implicitly disciplined structure, what is most revealed is how the quest for autonomy demands terrible sacrifices. This figure appears increasingly dissolute, seemingly unaware of its poor standards of personal hygiene, or the tendency to flap the arms around in a manner seemingly unconnected to patterns of thought or speech at the moment of utterance. This particular discussion ranged across footage of post-porn modernist Annie Sprinkle performing oral sex on 2 men simultaneously, in the context of the diverse range of dvds available in JB Hi-Fi stores, to the inverted snobbery of a questioning of the availability of such material in predominantly working class suburbs. Finally, there was a delirious sense of Hegelian recognition from past references in The Wire to this figure and his associate as "sound experimentalists", "I was in an allnight jam session last night, part of this side project I am developing". Meanwhile the witness is reduced merely to a host body to be colonised for the autonomous one to reproduce itself. What is hated most of all is the sense that any theoretical mediation of the activities can be presupposed, as this smacks of the dreaded formalism the anarchist tries to avoid. In other words, little critical awareness extends to the possibility of how there must be some agreement about the "rules" of the game, before play can begin. It might be suggested, once this notion is accepted, that the task of the critic involves the possible redemption of the work of art, and that this itself constitutes a form of creativity. This conception effectively undercuts the sense of the old adage, "those who can do, those who can't teach (or become critics)". A deconstructionist might comment that the adage is logocentric insofar as it presupposes a metaphysics of presence.
Invaluable as these counter-perspectives may be, what has attracted my attention most in light of the report of this encounter is a further dimension to the hyper-reflexive involution and abjection I have commented on before on this blog. I am thinking of the significance of the ressentiment and spite that frames the world view I have been describing. It seems to me that only Howard Devoto has addressed this in an acute fashion, in the classic Magazine song, "A Song From Under the Floor Boards". Anyone who reads Dostoyevsky's "Notes from Underground" or "The Devils" will quickly recognise the archetype, even while this means understanding an intensification and more general dissemination of this experience of tragic selfhood in the 21st century. What Devoto describes is but one step away from Enzensberger's archetype of "the radical loser". But there is more on a sociological level that needs to be accounted for. I was greatly impressed by an essay linking Houellecbeq's carnival of spite to Lyotard's "postmodern condition". The essay charts the transition to a knowledge economy, where contingency planning is used to control risk. The popularisation of this trend places individuals under enormous pressure to ensure that they have indemnified themselves against future losses, which leads to a productivist rationalisation of their time. Little time remains for reproduction, which helps to explain the appeal of sex tourism as a leisure activity. Those priced out of the marketplace of status, a social Darwinian universe of physical attractiveness, engaging personality traits and disposable income, have to risk manage by adjusting to diminishing expectations. Hence the turn of desire to those who are attractive, but have no other bargaining power, nothing to sell, other than their bodies. Such is the reactionary postmodernist condition as portrayed in Houellebecq's "Platform", (sex tourism in Thailand), which become subject to minor variations in his subsequent works.
I am aware that Slavoj Zizek has engaged with Houellebecq, but I avoid him like the plague as it is not clear to me that his thinking is amenable to comparative, deductive reasoning. His usual tactic is simply to argue that any criticism presupposes a blindspot that only Lacan can highlight. More generally, nothwithstanding Lyotard's applicability to Houellebecq, "the postmodern condition" may have become an exhausted term, and this might explain the more recent references to "liquid modernity". If I was discussing popular representations of this trope, even where it predates Bauman use of the term, such as for example in the work of John Foxx for example, there is no way that I would frame the discussion without reference to Anthony Elliott's careful methodological qualification of the former. The question I would want answered is this: is there anything in principle in Elliott's method that could not be used to examine Foxx's metaphors, and by extension, comparable characterisations such as "ballardian" (everyone knows by now thanks to Simon Sellars that Foxx has openly acknowledge J.G. Ballard as an influence)? If the answer is no, as I suspect it probably is, then theorists could benefit by applying the lesson to future variations of this theme.
But given the subject which this posting started out to address, I will return to that point by evoking Ultravox's! classic track "The Quiet Men" as a fitting epitaph for the character type who tries to move independently in a troubled time, where neoliberal ideology uncomfortably tries to cover over a growing globalisation, with all of the attendant interdependence and increased vulnerability this implies:
Waiting, we were waiting
As the traffic moved through all our hearts and our heads
But things were different then
For the quiet men
Shifting, things were shifting
Through the walls and hall, there were no walls at all
For the quiet friends
Of the quiet men
Oh, the quiet men Oh, the quiet men
Springtime, there was sunshine
Through the window panes, down all the English lanes
Where they walked again
The quiet men
Talking, they were talking
Of the times to come, and all the time that's gone
And they smiled again
The quiet men
Oh, the quiet men Oh, the quiet men
Listening, they were listening
As the season changed and all the reasons changed
And people came and went
By the quiet men
Walking, they were walking
Through the rainy days, looking at all the faces
But no-one ever noticed them
The quiet men
Oh Oh, the quiet men Oh, the quiet men Oh, the quiet men Oh, the quiet men
[PDF] Michel Houellebecq and the International Sexual Economy - all 2 versions »D Morrey - Portal, 2004 - Houellebecq, M. 2003, Platform, trans. by F. Wynne, Vintage, London. Klossowski,P. 1997 (1970), La Monnaie vivante, Rivages poche, Paris. Lyotard, JF 1974 ... View as HTML - Web Search
Hans Magnus Enzensberger: The radical loser - signandsight
The social sciences have failed in their analyses of amok killers, frenzied murderers and the terrorist mind. And yet one look is enough to identify the - 55k -
The Contemporary Bauman
Editor’s Introduction Anthony Elliott. Critique: Privatised and Disarmed Zygmunt Bauman Part 1: Liquid Modernit. On Being Light and Liquid Zygmunt Bauman. - 22k -

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Diary of the Dead

Robin Wood was raving about this film in Cineaste. Like some other critics, he expressed reservations about its predecessor, "Land of the Dead", but he is really going all out in his praise of this latest instalment. He admires Romero's unconventional technique, at such a late stage of his career, which he describes as almost avant garde in tone. Wood also claims the characterisation was so good it almost brought him to tears. He is even willing to place "Diary of the Dead" at the pinnacle of Romero's achievements, which is really saying something in light of his appreciative remarks in "Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan."
The official trailer has whet my appetite even further; feast on this cold, dead flesh....

Friday, 25 January 2008


Martyr, 2007, stainless steel, wax, Plexiglas, human hair, Tesla coils, computer, light system

British artist Paul Fryer has a spectacular exhibition, In Loving Memory, at the Guido Costa Projects gallery in Turin.

The show features only one art piece: Martyr, created specifically for the gallery. This large scale installation represents the synthesis of Paul Fryer's research into the origins of technology and the labyrinths of science. The actual elements used to construct the artwork - stainless steel, wax and glass - testify to this synthesis.

The origins of the work are bound up in an event which made news at the end of the 19th century. A Western Union lineman, John Feeks, employed alongside others to hang the thousands of kilometres of wire connecting one building to another and providing the city of New York with electricity and information. Freeks was accidental electrocuted and his corpse corpse dangled for hours in a tangle of wires above the Manhattan streets, to the horror of thousands of onlookers. His fate became symbol of the perils of technological advancement, a martyr of progress, and one of the most famous victims of the electromechanical revolution at the end of the 19th century.

What i found striking is that i was sure i had seen a photography of Freeks death somewhere. After some research i realized that what i had seen what a picture similar to the installation. But it wasn't in the US, it was in Mexico. Jesus Bazaldua Barber, a telecommunications engineer, was electrocuted by more than 60,000 volts whilst installing a new phone line. Toluca, Mexico in 1971 and Enrique Metenides "immortalized" the scene.

Fryer's installation is a sort of modern monument to the forgotten workers and their anonymous contribution to supplying the electricity to power modernity.

Like Ron Mueck, Fryer uses wax to render anatomical details. However, the reason why the artist chose wax was not to re-create life but rather because it the material that best communicates the rigidity of death.

I took many pictures.

By Regine
on January 21, 2008 11:39 AM

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Repress U:
How to Build a Homeland Security Campus in Seven Steps

"Consider the ultimate gift in a homeland security country: the iTaser, a weapon with its own MP3 player and earphones that can deliver a 50,000 volt electrical charge while you catch your favorite tunes. This new Taser, on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, will be available, reports Richard Wray of the British Guardian, in 'red, pink and even leopard print designs.' Anyone carrying the iTaser will be able to make what may be the first homeland-security fashion statement in any one of the 43 states where Tasers are legal. The company that makes the weapon, Taser International, has already sold 160,000 less-stylish versions to private individuals. According to founder and company CEO Rick Smith, 'Personal protection can be both fashionable and functionable.'

"In November 2006, the Taser infamously broke into the news on campus when a student at the University of Florida, questioning Senator John Kerry harshly, was dragged off, Tased, and subdued by campus police. His plea, 'Don't Tase me, Bro!,' is now the stuff of bumper stickers, T-shirts, and cell phone ring tones. Thanks largely to him and the publicity the incident got, the New Oxford Dictionary made 'Tase' one of its 2007 words of the year, the Yale Book of Quotations put it at the top of its yearly list of most memorable quotes, and the rest of us got a hint that something new might be happening in America's 'ivory towers.'

"As Michael Gould-Wartofsky indicates below, that incident was just the tip of an enormous homeland-security presence on campus. Gould-Wartofsky's remarkable report -- a piece that the Nation Magazine and are sharing -- offers real news about just how deeply the new homeland security state is settling into every aspect of our world."

Repress U: How to Build a Homeland Security Campus in Seven Steps
By Michael Gould-Wartofsky

from The Nation

Free speech zones. Taser guns. Hidden cameras. Data mining. A new security curriculum. Private security contractors… Welcome to the new homeland security campus

From Harvard to UCLA, the ivory tower is fast becoming the latest watchtower in Fortress America. The terror warriors, having turned their attention to "violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism" -- as it was recently dubbed in a House of Representatives bill of the same name -- have set out to reconquer that traditional hotbed of radicalization, the university.

Building a homeland-security campus and bringing the university to heel is a seven-step mission:

1. Target dissidents: As the warfare state has triggered dissent, the campus has increasingly become a target gallery -- with student protesters in the crosshairs. The government's number one target? Peace and justice organizations.

From 2003 to 2007, an unknown number of them made it into the Pentagon's "Threat and Local Observation Notice" system (TALON), a secretive domestic spying program ostensibly designed to track direct "potential terrorist threats" to the Department of Defense itself. Last year, via Freedom of Information Act requests, the ACLU uncovered at least 186 specific TALON reports on "anti-military protests" in the U.S. -- some listed as "credible threats" --- from student groups at the University of California-Santa Cruz, State University of New York, Georgia State University, and New Mexico State University, among other campuses.

At more than a dozen universities and colleges, police officers now double as full-time FBI agents and, according to the Campus Law Enforcement Journal, serve on many of the nation's 100 Joint Terrorism Task Forces. These dual-purpose officer-agents have knocked on student activists' doors from North Carolina State to the University of Colorado and, in one case, interrogated an Iraqi-born professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst about his antiwar views.

FBI agents, or their campus stand-ins, don't have to do all the work themselves. Administrators often do it for them, setting up "free speech zones," which actually constrain speech, and punishing those who step outside them. Last year, protests were typically forced into "free assembly areas" at the University of Central Florida and Clemson University; while students at Hampton and Pace Universities faced expulsion for handing out antiwar flyers, aka "unauthorized materials."

2. Lock and load: Many campus police departments are morphing into heavily armed garrisons, equipped with a wide array of weaponry from Taser stun guns and pepper guns to shotguns and semiautomatic rifles. Lock-and-load policies that began in the 1990s under the rubric of "the war on crime" only escalated with the President's Global War on Terror. Each school shooting -- most recently the massacre at Virginia Tech -- just adds fuel to the armament flames.

Two-thirds of universities now arm their police, according to the Justice Department. Many of the guns being purchased were previously in the province of military units and SWAT teams. For instance, AR-15 rifles (similar to M-16s) are now in the arsenal of the University of Texas campus police. Last April, City University of New York bought dozens of semiautomatic handguns. Now, states like Nevada are even considering plans to allow university staff to pack heat in a "special reserve officer corps."

Most of the force used on campus these days, though, comes in "less lethal" form, such as the rubber bullets and pepper pellets increasingly used to contain student demonstrations. Then there is the ubiquitous Taser, the electroshock weapon recently ruled a "form of torture" by the UN. A Taser was used by UCLA police in November 2006 to deliver shock after shock to an Iranian-American student for failing to produce his ID at the Powell Library. Last September, a University of Florida student was Tased after asking pointed questions of Senator John Kerry at a public forum, his plea of "Don't Tase me, bro" becoming the stuff of pop folklore.

3. Keep an eye (or hundreds of them) focused on campus: Surveillance has become a boom industry nationally -- one that now reaches deep into the heart of the American campus. In fact, universities have witnessed explosive growth in the electronic surveillance of students, faculty, and campus workers. On ever more campuses, closed-circuit security cameras can track people's every move, often from hidden or undisclosed locations, sometimes even into classrooms.

The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators reports that surveillance cameras have now found their way onto at least half of all colleges, their numbers on any given campus doubling, tripling, and in a few cases, rising tenfold since September 11, 2001. Such cameras have proliferated by the hundreds on private campuses, in particular. The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, has more than 400 watching over it, while Harvard and Brown have about 200 each.

Elsewhere, it can be tricky just to find out where the cameras are and what they're meant to be viewing. The University of Texas, for example, battled student journalists over disclosure and ultimately kept its cameras hidden. Sometimes, though, a camera's purpose seems obvious. Take the case of Hussein Hussein, a professor in the Department of Animal Biotechnology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In January 2005, the widely respected professor found a hidden camera redirected to monitor his office.

4. Mine student records: Student records have, in recent years, been opened up to all manner of data mining for purposes of investigation, recruitment, or just all-purpose tracking. From 2001 to 2006, in an operation code-named "Project Strike Back," the Department of Education teamed up with the FBI to scour the records of the 14 million students who applied for federal financial aid each year. The objective? "To identify potential people of interest," explained an FBI spokesperson cryptically, especially those linked to "potential terrorist activity."

Strike Back was quietly discontinued in June 2006, days after students at Northwestern University blew its cover. But just one month later, the Education Department's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, in a much-criticized preliminary report, recommended the creation of a federal "unit record" database that would track the activities and studies of college students nationwide. The Department's Institute of Education Sciences has developed a prototype for such a national database.

It's not a secret that the Pentagon, for its part, hopes to turn campuses into recruitment centers for its overstretched, overstressed forces. In fact, the Department of Defense (DoD) has built its own database for just this purpose. Known as Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies, this program now tracks 30 million young people, ages 16 to 25. According to a Pentagon spokesperson, the DoD has partnered with private marketing and data mining firms, which, in turn, sell the government reams of information on students and other potential recruits.

5. Track foreign-born students, keep the undocumented out: Under the auspices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been keeping close tabs on foreign students and their dependents through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). As of October 2007, ICE reported that it was actively following 713,000 internationals on campuses, while keeping more than 4.7 million names in its database.

The database aims to amass and record information on foreign students throughout their stay inside the United States. SEVIS requires thick files on the students from the sponsoring schools, constantly updated with all academic, biographical, and employment records -- all of which will be shared with other government agencies. If students fall out of "status" at school -- or if the database thinks they have -- the Compliance Enforcement Unit of ICE goes into action.

ICE has also done its part to keep the homeland security campus purified of those not born in the homeland. The American Immigration Law Foundation estimates that only one in 20 undocumented immigrants who graduate high school goes on to enroll in a college. Many don't go because they cannot afford the tuition, but also because they have good reason to be afraid: ICE has deported a number of those who did make it to college, some before they could graduate.

6. Take over the curriculum, the classroom, and the laboratory: Needless to say, not every student is considered a homeland security threat. Quite the opposite. Many students and faculty members are seen as potential assets. To exploit these assets, the Department of Homeland Security has launched its own curriculum under its Office of University Programs (OUP), intended, it says, to "foster a homeland security culture within the academic community."

The record so far is impressive: DHS has doled out 439 federal fellowships and scholarships since 2003, providing full tuition to students who fit "within the homeland security research enterprise." Two hundred twenty-seven schools now offer degree or certificate programs in "homeland security," a curriculum that encompasses over 1,800 courses. Along with OUP, some of the key players in creating the homeland security classroom are the U.S. Northern Command (Northcom) and the Aerospace Defense Command, co-founders of the Homeland Security and Defense Education Consortium.

OUP has also partnered with researchers and laboratories to "align scientific results with homeland security priorities." In Fiscal Year 2008 alone, $4.9 billion in federal funding will go to homeland security-related research. Grants correspond with 16 research topics selected by DHS, based on presidential directives, legislation, and a smattering of scientific advice.

But wait, there's more: DHS has founded and funded six of its very own "Centers of Excellence," research facilities that span dozens of universities from coast to coast. The latest is a Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, the funding for which cleared the House in October. The Center is mandated to assist a National Commission in combating those "adopting or promoting an extremist belief system… to advance political, religious or social change."

7. Privatize, privatize, privatize: Of course, homeland security is not just a department, nor is it simply a new network of surveillance and data mining -- it's big business. (According to USA Today, global homeland-security-style spending had already reached $59 billion a year in 2006, a six-fold increase over 2000.)

Not surprisingly, then, universities have, in recent years, established unprecedented private-sector partnerships with the corporations that have the most to gain from their research. The Department of Homeland Security's on-campus National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), for instance, features Lockheed Martin on its advisory board. The Center for Food Protection and Defense relies on an industry working group that includes Wal-Mart and McDonald's offering "guidance and direction," according to its chair.

While vast sums of money are flowing in from these corporate sponsors, huge payments are also flowing out into "strategic supplier contracts" with private contractors, as universities permanently outsource security operations to big corporations like Securitas and AlliedBarton. Little of this money actually goes to those guarding the properties, who are often among the most underpaid workers at universities. Instead, it fills the corporate coffers of those with little accountability for conditions on campus.

Meanwhile, some universities have developed intimate relationships with private-security outfits like the notorious Blackwater. Last May, for example, the University of Illinois and its police training institute cut a deal with the firm to share their facilities and training programs with Blackwater operatives. Local journalists later revealed that the director of the campus program at the time was on the Blackwater payroll. In the age of hired education, such collaboration is apparently par for the course.

Following these seven steps over the past six years, the homeland security state and its constituents have come a long way in their drive to remake the American campus in the image of a compound on lockdown. Somewhere, inside the growing homeland security state that is our country, the next seven steps in the process are undoubtedly already being planned out.

Still, the rise of Repress U is not inevitable. The new homeland security campus has proven itself unable to shut out public scrutiny or stamp out resistance to its latest Orwellian advances. Sometimes, such opposition even yields a free-speech zone dismantled, or the Pentagon's TALON de-clawed, or a Project Strike Back struck down. A rising tide of student protest, led by groups like the new Students for a Democratic Society, has won free-speech victories and reined in repression from Pace and Hampton, where the University dropped its threats of expulsion, to UCLA, where Tasers will no longer be wielded against passive resisters.

Yet, if the tightening grip of the homeland security complex isn't loosened, the latest towers of higher education will be built not of ivory, but of Kevlar for the over-armored, over-armed campuses of America.

Michael Gould-Wartofsky is a writer from New York City and a recent graduate of the new homeland security campus. He has written for the Nation Online, Z Magazine, Common Dreams, and the Harvard Crimson, where he was a columnist and editor, and his work has also appeared in Poets Against the War (Nation Books). He was a recipient of the New York Times James B. Reston Award for young journalists and Harvard's James Gordon Bennett Prize for his writing on collective memory. This piece is also appearing in the latest issue of the Nation Magazine.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Artefacts of Australian Experimental Music: 1930 – 1973

As a follow up to a posting from last year on Andrew Murphie and Ross Harley's "Australian Electronica: A Brief History", here's a quick alert about an interview with Clinton Green who "spent three years excavating, researching and compiling the Shame File Music’s latest release, Artefacts of Australian Experimental Music: 1930 – 1973", an archival effort that has brought "an antipodean perspective to the documentation of early electronic music".

The interview is by Oliver Laing and you can find it in the November issue of Cyclic Defrost Magazine:An Australian magazine focussing on interesting music. You can download a PDF copy of the issue here.

The same issue also has FANGIRL's interview with Burial.

The photo above is of Jack Ellitt whose Journey #1 is included in the "Artefacts" collection

"An excerpt from Ellitt’s ‘Journey #1’ opens Artefacts—its breathtaking collision of cut-up sounds, including the portentous sound of a booing crowd, perfectly demonstrates the fierce exploratory overtones of the collection. “Jack Ellitt’s music has been a real startling find, he’s basically unknown to most people. Very few artists were doing anything like this in the 1930s; it’s quite a startling bit of history on an international scale. Ellitt recorded directly onto film stock, because tape was so rudimentary at that stage. Tape recorders were basically impossible to edit or do any sort of decent long length recording on. ‘Journey #1’ has an incredible amount of editing going on, there were a few other people who were doing a similar sound collage at that stage, but nothing as way out as this recording."

1. jack ellitt "journey #1" excerpt (early 1930s)

ellitt grew up in sydney in the early decades of the twentieth century, where he met the young new zealander len lye (who would later become an important avant-garde film maker and sculptor). ellitt later worked with lye on his films in london from the early 1930s, when ellitt began to create musique concrete compositions on tape. he wrote, somewhat prophetically of contemporary sound art practice, in 1935, "when good recording apparatus is easily acquired, many people will record simple everyday sounds which give them pleasure. the next step would be to mould these sound-snaps into formal continuity" ellitt worked in film for many years and on retiring returned to australia in the 1970s where he continued to work on his sound compositions in private, eschewing attempts from the likes of stockhausen to contact him.

Friday, 4 January 2008

From Consensus to Virtual Reality

This post is a kind of companion to "Becoming Animal". With an open acknowledgement of the source (Tobias's commentary on dancecult), the hypothesis follows: becoming-alien, its *play* on the alien allows us to infiltrate in-between, say, the identity operations of Marxist phenomenology that devalues and sees as "alien" the processes of commodity fetishism (and/also, as Lefebvre would put it, the technics of the machinic object as alienating production) and the AfroFuturist practices, rhythms, technologies, musics and (contra/sub)cultures that embrace, twist and play (with) the alien. There's a lot of bracketing in this last sentence as there's a LOT to think about here, namely quite a challenge to certain fundamentals of leftist politics *as well as* philosophies that rely upon the purity of the phenomenon (which is to say most of analytic philosophy, phenomenology, I guess what Derrida calls "metaphysics").

An interesting way into this for Derrida fanatics might be to consider Derrida's deconstruction of Marx's phenomenology in _Specters of Marx_ that not only shifts ontology to hauntology (from the phenomenology of presence/absence to hauntology of specters) but reveals a similar opening of the alien. The alien is no longer that which *negatively* alienates, distances us as pure subject from work or the pure object from its fetishistic character. The alien precedes the subject and the object, and its meaning is displaced from a negative process of "alienation" to one which is incorporated as part of the process of becoming. "Alien" here can be thought as an otherwise "other" though now displaced from Eurocentric discourses of the "other" which deconstruction is prone to.

To address the question of violence. Here, the alien is liberated through a certain *violence of reading* -- like any great philosopher's reading -- which deconstruction reveals as inherent to any kind of reading, but I think reading violence here means reading liberation -- though again, the idea is to think neither in positive/negative (good/evil) terms of morality, judgement, value, and so on. We are talking about FORCE. The unsettled question here is ethics. FORCE in the name of what. Ghandi exerted FORCE or violence upon his body (fasting). His "nonviolence"falls under a FORCE of inertia enacted upon the state (mass hunger fasts). "Nonviolent" protesters today chain themselves to things and go limp: a violence is enacted in their immobility. I would question, in a way, their adherence to "nonviolence" as a _pure ideology_, though I fully grasp its tactical or even strategic necessity, its value as a media discourse. But as for ethics, Derrida spent his later life working through exactly this problematic: how to read the affirmation of deconstruction as "ethical", ethical to what or whom, and in what meaning of ethos / ethics.

Now, at least in this context, inserting AfroFuturism into the mix allows the alien to take on a pragmatic role when answering the charge: "In the name of what does one perform such a reading, by claiming that that which alienates us is a part of us? For isn't there obviously alienated work and forces of appropriation?"

The response begins with: in the name of what has come already. In the name of AfroFuturism. Of course it might be the case that a scholar such as Adorno (whom otherwise I deeply respect) would critique AfroFuturism outright. This is one possible response, but one that is deeply troubled (let's sidestep such critique for a second). Let us say that if one doesn't wish to negate an existing culture outright, one then has to *deal* with it and *deal with* how it has *worked* for certain people, dammit. Just like hip-hop's the Game -- how it has created an economic empire, form of creative expression, political and social force, media empire, for the afro-disapora where there was little -- it can't simply be written off as "representing" or "furthering" mysogyny and violence.

And the question above can be thought in terms of technics or technology in general: that it comes not from outside to overtake the human and render us as slaves to the machine, but comes from us, is part of us to begin with. And unlike Hegel it will and never can be re-synthesized properly; nor does it merely belong to certain class interests (as if classes could contain the dissemination of "alienating technics" today!). Which does not mean either that passive acceptance of pro-technological discourse is the answer (i.e. the California Ideology, Web 2.0, utopian technocracy in all its forms and twists with late-capitalism), but rather, what is called for is an attentiveness to a slightly more complicated form of infiltration and intervention, a reappropriation of the technics -- ah, let us play or spin here on the play of the Technics 1200, exappropriated for readjusting the rhythms of music and moving bodies -- which is where one finds AfroFuturism.

Such an answer of 'what has already come to pass' is the subtle counterpoint to every enunciation that is more or less commonplace in deconstruction, "in the name of what is to-come [à la à-venir]..." -- in the name of the future, which of course is part of the gesture: for what monstrous creations AfroFuturism has birthed --!!-- and from which we know not what the future can bring.
I take the cue here from Kodwo Eshun, in _More Brilliant Than The Sun_ -- really I am just riffing on his work some 10 years ago now -- who writes of Detroit Techno (as well as jungle and strands of hip-hop and black science fiction such as Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delaney) as AfroFuturist: that is, of the Alien dream, going Offworld, the sci-fi alien embodiment. Escape velocity from postslavery, not as "escapism" -- ie a fantasy -- but as effective escape hatch. Like hiphop's The Game, Black Wallstreet, going Alien is counterindustry. It's not a theoretical presupposition, but rather comes out of (Detroit) technoculture itself, notably in the members of
Underground Resistance, from Drexicya (aquatic race of Afrofuturist ocean dwellers that are the 'black mermen', born from black slaves thrown overboard off the slave ships of the Atlantic -- halfway between Africa and Jamaica, one could say) to DJ T-1000 (the assembly line, the AfroFuturist black body as machinic, nameless, identity displaced into machinic repetition) -- or Jeff Mill's X-101 series ("rings of saturn"), the entire Axis label.

Eshun pushes Going Alien a bit over Getting Real, something of a polemic, though I think anyone far into hiphop knows that hiphop always gets Surreal at its most creative points -- think Outkast's 1996 album ATLiens, which opens with "Are you alien...?" on one track, or "Greetings, Earthlings....". Of course Dr. Octagon is key here, Kool Keith, but so is the uber_realism of NAS or Mobb Deep, a kind of displacement of the steet into counterimaginaries that become increasingly offworld (think NAS' track off album 2 where he rhymes from the point of view of an intentionally misfiring gun). And of course DJ Spooky wrought AfroFuturism not only by bringing dub into the hiphop equation, thus illbient, the tripped out sphere of the spook, but by remixing theory and sociopolitical realms, a kind of transversal spook flitting in-between the dancefloor and the lecture hall...

Going Alien is a way to move postracial, think postracial, post identity politics, for we can all go alien, as Sun Ra invites us to, as Underground Resistance calls out for us to join in "deprogramming the progammers" -- as RAMM:ELL:ZEE writes, if it's about race, then who's racing? RAMM:ELL:ZEE, one of the early graf writers and noted MCs (he's in the movie WildStyle), took graffiti burners, armed them, then took them off the wall, and animated them three-dimensional into letter racers [ check it -- ].

Going Alien is everywhere... we're living it... it's the way to handle, one another tip, alienation... and everywhere an inverted twist to Marx's alienation, which becomes here the -- in Hegelian terms -- reappropriation of the alien not to synthesize identity (self-conscious through overcoming alienation, commodity fetishism, etc.) but rather, embracing alienation to become alien. We are inseparably machinic now, we cannot disassociate as Marx envisioned. In fact AfroFuturism points toward strategies interior to alienation: Alien Nation, which communicates along the levels that UR proposed... Nation 2 Nation, Galaxy 2 Galaxy, Universe 2 Universe...

I post as well some surprisingly lucid commments from disinformation about Jodi Dean's work on the relation of the alien to conspiracy theory. If belief in alien abductions, (as per Tobias's riff on Afrofuturism), and especially the eco-friendly kind described by Harvard Professor John Mack, and featured in last night's documentary, Stefan Alex's "Experiences"), then should we really just take their adherents to task for failure to acknowledge realism? If it is something other than liberal humanism that fosters the solidarity of a critical posthumanism, than is there not something valuable in this as well? Mack may have helped confer some legitimacy on alien abduction experiences, but Dean points out how this occurs in tandem with the contingency of modern communication: a movement from consensus to virtual reality, in the sense that universal narratives become relativized (by gesturing in this postmodern direction, Dean predictably became exposed to accusations of postmodern relativism by academics, who must have been motivated, at least in part, by a desire to preserve their privileged authorial voice, which secured their tenureship; much like those journalists who attack bloggers).
In other words, how is the belief in alien abduction qualitatively different to Christopher Priest's imagining of a world where identity has to be renegotiated in relation to migrant experiences? Unsurprisingly, Kodwo Eshun reappears in the clip from "Martians and Us", discussing Priest.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Becoming Animal

One final piece of synchronicity in tonight's posting session. Manuel DeLanda is renowned for "War in the Age of Intelligent Machines", and this lecture (only one part of which I have posted here) is useful in clarifying the meaning of Deleuze's "geology [sic] of morals". I say this in light of the possibilty that it may in principle be distinguished from some of the developments foregrounded in Laurie Anderson's work (to say nothing of the comments by Deleuze's contemporary, Derrida, that the insidious emergent forms of bioterror will one day almost make people nostalgic for the visibility of the style of attack adopted in 9/11).

It is interesting to consider whether an earlier understanding of biocultural implications in part motivated DeLanda's own switch from his early path as a "transgressive" filmmaker (Nick Zedd even mentions him in his book on the subject). What future for the spectacle when the real effects would be felt beneath the threshold of visual perception? I resisted posting the youtube clip from the documentary Snuff, even though its makers appear sincere in their motivations, in part because of the point I'm making here. Isn't it incumbent on the filmmakers to situate their investment in such material with reference to the ready availability of websites such as What effect does this have on the taboo nature of their topic, even if they choose to ignore the future biocultural ramifications (which will tend to date their work that much quicker).
At the very least, DeLanda's talk, if not his personal biography, will help me revise my manuscript to some extent, which touches on "becoming animal", bioculture more generally, and violence.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Hold Me in Your Biomechanical Arms

Years before N.Katherine Hayles wrote "How We Became Posthuman", and closer to the period in which Haraway was working on her famous "Cyborg Manifesto", conceptual artist Laurie Anderson was already telegraphing the articulation of biotechnology with military and industrial research.She is almost unique among musicians in recognising the significance of these relationships. While obviously critical of how these developments had the potential to spill over into (techno) primitive wars of accumulation, (Norbert Wiener, a founding "father" of autopoiesis, also acknowledged this fact), Anderson has never surrendered to one-dimensional pessimism. Witness her rationale for observing the system from the inside, during her most recent stint as the first ever artist in residence at NASA.

Orford Ness, Suffolk

How to Survive Death

Further frustration on youtube; no clips from Titicut Follies (ach!). Instead, I stumbled across a preview of a documentary on the great Polish social theorist Zygmunt Bauman. I archive it here as a reminder to myself not to forget to look out for it in the future.

Sexual Robots and Plastic Humans

Legendary post-punk musician, artist, biomorphic horror technician and theoretician Philip Brophy offers a very interesting podcast here on representations of technology in anime. I must later archive some of Brophy's earlier music on this blog as well. Unfortunately, youtube is not carrying his short film "Salt Saliva Sperm and Sweat", which would have made an incredible companion piece. Derridata and I saw it on video in about 1990, which seems incredible now, as I was able to get it at the local store, and since then it has become difficult to find. I will also monitor his contributions to the "Cinesonic" seminar series.

Another thought occurs to me; was Phil an influence on Thug and, even further back, how much of a contemporary was he with Jim Foetus????