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On "Critical Strategies in Art and Media"
Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook
After asking [Nettime] permission to publish our book review in May 2011 and being slightly rebuked, we wondered if it even made any difference to share our hope for a contemporary approach to insurrection. We had taken our own surrender to heart and decided to wait. Recent events have shown our skepticism to be unfounded and we are sharing this now only to support those in the Occupy*, especially Occupy Wall Street, who have thus far refrained from naming demands — from, as Foucault put it, "demand[ing] of politics that it restore the ‘rights’ of the individual, as philosophy has defined them." No demands, no checklist, no politics as usual. "The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization." Occupy EVERYTHING. No demands. Occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy,
occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy, occupy...
Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook
“Originally published by Theory in Action, Vol. 4, No.2, April 2011 (©2011) DOI:10.3798/tia.1937-0237.11017 www.transformativestudies.org”
(The text below is pre-editor copy, apologies for errors)
Thanks to Eva Swidler, Book Review Editor, for requesting our review and John Asimakopoulos, Editor in Chief, for publishing it.
Critical Strategies in Art and Media.
Edited by Konrad Becker and Jim Fleming. New York: Autonomedia, 2009. 182 pp. Paperback $12.95. ISBN 978-1570272141.
Eleven years into the new century, it may be time to discuss terms of surrender. Not a surrender to any civilization but the surrender of civilization to those in control who would use any political participation as a crutch for their failure. The question is not if but when giving up on civilization will be seen as the only rational political stance. Currently, the critical strategy of removing oneself from a failed situation and ceasing participation in a bankrupt enterprise is rarely given serious thought1. Giving up is constantly under attack from politicians and those who benefit from the current situation. Activists remain in the service of an imagined future that only extends the crisis, unable to wean themselves from strategies already four decades old. This is the case in the discussion documented in Critical Strategies in Art and Media, a new book from Autonomedia that documents a conference of the same name. From the predictable return to 1968 as a vague yet singular moment to the insistence on optimism — recuperating even hopelessness and pessimism for continued production and activity — the most common strategies discussed are pragmatic approaches to working with those who fund art projects. Little discussion occurs concerning critical art practice beyond hopeful slogans that parallel Nike’s “Just do It”.
New Old Stories from the Other Situationists
Alan W. Moore
review of Expect Anything Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere
edited by Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen and Jakob Jakobsen
with contributions by Peter Laugesen, Carl Nørrested, Fabian Tompsett, Gordon Fazakerley, Jacqueline de Jong, Hardy Strid, Karen Kurczynski, Stewart Home and the editors
Nebula (Copenhagen) and Autonomedia (Brooklyn), 2011
This book is a badly needed English language introduction to the stories of northern Situationism. While this political and aesthetic avant garde movement of the 1960s is most famous for the work of Guy de Bord (especially Society of the Spectacle, 1967), it had many other adherents and accomplishments, as the Expect anthology makes clear. Most notably for me is the description of a 1963 exhibition produced in Copenhagen in solidarity with a British direct action anti-nuclear group, “The Destruction of RSG-6.” But the northern Situationists also published an important artists' magazine, The Situationist Times, organized a commune in Sweden called Drakabygget, produced many short films and participatory art installations, painted slogans on drab public fences, and for years launched provocations against the smug consensus cultures of post-war Europe.
Since the 1970s I've had a sidelong relationship to the Situationists. They were really out there, politically, when I bought my copy of Debord's "Society of the Spectacle" published by the Detroit anarchist Black and Red house. Now there is a handsome MIT edition at many times the price of that pamphlet as the Situationist movement has emerged from the fog of the underground into the dry bright light of academic industry. In the 1990s, I used the resources of my artists' video distribution project to make pirate copies of De Bord's film for Bill Brown as he intervened in the commodification of the drunken sage's oeuvre.
Critique of Creativity: Precarity, Subjectivity and Resistance in the ‘Creative Industries’
Gerald Raunig, Gene Ray and Ulf Wuggenig (eds)
London: mayfly 2011, 234 pages
Creativity is astir: reborn, re-conjured, re-branded, resurgent. The old myths of creation and creators – the hallowed labors and privileged agencies of demiurges and prime movers, of Biblical world-makers and self-fashioning artist-geniuses – are back underway, producing effects, circulating appeals. Much as the Catholic Church dresses the old creationism in the new gowns of ‘intelligent design’, the Creative Industries sound the clarion call to the Cultural Entrepreneurs. In the hype of the ‘creative class’ and the high flights of the digital bohemians, the renaissance of ‘the creatives’ is visibly enacted. The essays collected in this book analyze this complex resurgence of creation myths and formulate a contemporary critique of creativity.
"Eric Hobsbawm's Marx"
How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011
by Eric Hobsbawm
Little, Brown, 470 pp, £25.00, January 2011, ISBN 978 1 4087 0287 1
In 1976, a good many people in the West thought that Marxism had a reasonable case to argue. By 1986, most of them no longer felt that way. What had happened in the meanwhile? Were these people now buried under a pile of toddlers? Had Marxism been unmasked as bogus by some world-shaking new research? Had someone stumbled on a lost manuscript by Marx confessing that it was all a joke?
"Facebook, or, The Impossibility of Friendship"
Franco Berardi (Bifo)
Financial capitalism and precarious work, loneliness and suffering, atrophy of empathy and sensibility: these are the themes that we may extrapolate from "The Social Network," the excellent movie by David Fincher.
The story that the movie is about is the creation and early diffusion of the social network Facebook: an enterprirse in the age of financial semiocapitalism. But the focus shifts on the psychological side of the evolution of the Internet, in the framework of the info-acceleration and stimulus-intensification that broadband has made possible. Love, friendship, affection — the whole sphere of emotionality is invested by the intensification of the rhythm of the infosphere surrounding the first generation which learned more words from a machine than from the mother.
Although the narration of the beginnings of Facebook, and the following legal conflicts and trials corresponds to the real story, biographical details (for instance the end of a love relation in the first scene of the movie) are not necessarily true, but they are useful for a full understanding of the affective side of social life of the cognitarian labor force.
Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune
Film Review by John Pietaro
PHIL OCHS: THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE
Directed by Ken Bowser (www.philochsthemovie.com
Released, January 2011.
Documentarian Ken Bowser walked up the aisle to the front of the IFC Center in Greenwich Village for the premiere of 'Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune' and explained that this film was some twenty years in the making. Twenty years for a documentary about a folksinger of a time that now seems far into the past, one who never lived to know of his place in the annals of topical music. Citing that Ochs' brief life and briefer still career fell far short of the popular acclaim he struggled for, Bowser reminded the audience that, "it's important that we who love Phil Ochs and understand his relevance let others know". It was never supposed to be a closed society of the initiated, so spread the news—all the news that's fit to sing. The protest singer's vibrancy in performance, the visceral stir in his voice and the earnest plead on his face are back. The music's depth, the urgency of the day and the living movements that Ochs was so central to are visible for all to see. Leaning awkwardly over a microphone while cradling his Gibson 6-string, James Dean haircut spilling over his forehead, cocked eyebrow revealing sardonic wit while the mouth produces an earnest portal for songs of pride and revolution, Ochs erupts onto the screen, something of a celluloid hero. Within the cinema that was once the legendary Waverly Theatre—a site frequented by Phil in the '60s, walking distance from his Bleeker Street apartment—it was easy to feel transported. And necessary. These times, too, need Phil Ochs.
"Desire Was Everywhere"
Reviewing Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives
By François Dosse, translated by Deborah Glassman [Columbia, 651 pp, £26.00, August 2010, ISBN 978 0 231 14560 2]
The ‘philosophy of desire’ was born in 1969, Serge Gainsbourg’s année érotique, when the radical psychoanalyst Félix Guattari met the philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Today, it’s hard to imagine them not knowing each other, and easy to forget how unlikely their partnership was. François Dosse begins his biography of the two men with their first encounter, a year after the ‘events’ of 1968, which, more than anything, inspired their collaboration.
Alex Butterworth's "The World That Never Was:
A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents"
Reviewed by Seetha Vijayakumar
Welcome to the world of dreamers, schemers, anarchists and secret agents. Alex Butterworth's book, The World That Never Was is a stunning account of the anarchist movement that shook Europe in late 19th and early 20th centuries. The anarchists started building a violent network in early 1870s. Butterworth, a historian by profession, says the roots of the anarchist movement lay in the retribution faced by the Communards in 1871. What followed was a chain of violent incidents, including the assassination of a Tsar and several aristocrats. What was their aim? 'Anarchism's ultimate aim was to usher in a society of human beings, a heaven on earth in which harmonious coexistence was achieved without coercion or the imposition of distant authority, but rather arose out of each individual's enlightened recognition of their mutual respect and dependency.'
Review of Gary Genesko’s Félix Guattari: A Critical Introduction
Félix Guattari, A Critical Introduction is Gary Genosko’s third book on this radical French thinker. In this volume, Genosko first addresses a contextual portrait of facts that mark Félix Guattari’s life as an intellectual and militant. He outlines the different forms of social and political practices he engaged in, his theoretical and conceptual creativity, as well as the social movements and a variety of personalities whom he often opposed or was inspired by. Through chapters organized around key dimensions of his life and thought, Genosko delivers contextual material, explanations of concepts, and how the concepts are still relevant. According to the author, “the question of reading Guattari today is embedded in a longstanding problem within the secondary literature of Deleuze studies” (p.13). While the contribution of Genosko work is that it demonstrates Guattari was not an eccentric post-humanist or simply a minor theorist in Deleuze’s shadow, it is a work that assumes extensive knowledge of the poststructuralist epistemology he worked in.
Insurrectional Anarchism vs. Class-Struggle Anarchism
There has been a spurt of interest in a small radical book titled "The Coming Insurrection" ("TCI"), with authorship attributed to the "Invisible Committee" (IC). It was originally published in France in 2007. That country's police cited it as evidence in a trial of "the Tarnaq 9," radicals who were accused of planning sabotage. The French Interior Minister called it a "manual for terrorism" (quoted on p. 5). A U.S. edition got an unlikely boost by the far-right tv talk show clown Glen Beck. He has repeatedly identified it as a manual for a take-over of the U.S. by the left, by which he means everyone from the mildest liberal Democrats leftward. "This [is a] dangerous leftist book....You should read it to know what is coming and be ready when it does" (Beck, 2009). The interest of many on the left has been piqued; Michael Moore is reported to have read it.
From the perspective of revolutionary-libertarian socialism (class-struggle anarchism), I believe that many things are wrong with this pamphlet. But it is right on some very big things. That is a major part of its attraction, despite its opague style (the authors have studied French radical philosophy and it shows). The IC members say that, on a world scale, our society is morally rotten and structurally in the deepest of crises. They denounce this society in every way and oppose all reformist programs for trying to improve it at the margins. They say that a total change is necessary and that this can only be achieved through some sort of revolution. Their goals are the right goals: a classless, stateless, ecologically-balanced, decentralized, and self-managed world. These views are well outside the usual range of acceptable political conversation. Unfortunately, I believe that the tactics and strategy which they propose are mistaken and unlikely to achieve their correct goals.