Thursday, 26 March 2009

You Must Think First Before You Move

For IT

July 12. Yesterday, after playing chess, Brecht said: 'You know, when Korsch comes, we really ought to work out a new game with him. A game in which the moves do not always stay the same; where the function of a piece changes after it has stood on the same square for a while: it should either become stronger or weaker. As it is the game doesn't develop, it stays the same for too long.'
Benjamin, Conversations with Brecht

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Random Purchase

This is excellent (on one listen on our rubbish kitchen cd-player). How could you not like 'the Henry Ford of undergound, slightly avant garde techno and house'? No doubt everyone else has known about this for years.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Financial dual power

There is an excellent debate between Geoff Mann and Robin Blackburn in the latest New Left Review on the political opportunities offered by the financial crisis - excellent because I agree with both positions. Mann makes the argument for the necessity of rupturing with the value form and the essential concept of real abstraction, while Blackburn notes what might seem his minimalist position in fact supposes 'financial dual power', through implementing something like a new Meidner plan. Blackburn also has an amusing anecdote about populist attempts to get all derivative and futures trading banned as inherently deceptive... The 1905 judgement by Oliver Wendell Holmes agreeing futures could be traded took arguments from Holmes's friend William James - with the pragmatic concept of truth involding credit / agreement on value (the anecdote is discussed in this fascinating article, which actually explains what futures are - they are as weird as I thought).
The relation of metaphysics to value (again).

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

High Theory Alert (Funding opportunity)

Don't scare the horses, but someone funds 'high theory' (henceforth to be stricken from my lexicon)

Jan van Eyck Academie
Post-Academic Institute for Research and Production
Fine Art, Design, Theory

Call for applications
Deadline: 15 April 2009
Artists, designers and theoreticians are invited to submit research and production proposals to become a researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie. Candidates can either apply with a topic of their own or for a project formulated by the institute itself. In order to realise these projects, the Jan van Eyck offers the necessary made-to-measure artistic, technical and auxiliary preconditions.

The Jan van Eyck Academie is an institute for research and production in the fields of fine art, design and theory. Every year, 48 international researchers realise their individual or collective projects in the artistic and critical environment that is the Jan van Eyck. In doing so, they are advised by a team of artists, designers and theoreticians who have won their spurs globally. The researchers can also avail themselves of facilities that support their projects from first concept to public presentation. All in all, the Jan van Eyck offers artists, designers and theoreticians time and space to do research and realise productions, either about topics of their own choosing or as part of a project formulated by the institute itself.

Multi-Disciplinary Research
Artists, designers and theoreticians at the Jan van Eyck Academie work alongside each other and establish cross-disciplinary exchange. The academy is not led by predetermined leitmotivs. Artists, designers and theoreticians can submit independently formulated proposals for research and/or production in the departments of Fine Art, Design and Theory. They can also participate in research projects formulated by the departments (see below).
The research projects, miscellaneous in nature, make the Jan van Eyck a multi-disciplinary institute. This also shows in the programme of the institute. Researchers, departments and the institute organise various weekly activities, to which special speakers are invited: lectures, seminars, workshops, screenings, exhibitions, discussions, … The Jan van Eyck community and external interested parties are welcome to attend this programme. The result is a dynamic and critical exchange between the different agents from within and outside of the Jan van Eyck.
Researchers are advised by a team of artists, designers and theoreticians who have won their spurs globally. They receive their own studio and a stipend. Furthermore, researchers can make use of all kinds of facilities which support their projects, from first concept to public presentation, including the library, the documentation centre and various workshops: materials (wood and other materials); time-based productions; analogue and digital (online and offline) publishing (including photography and silkscreen). They can also get assistance with their print work, the editing and distribution of publications and the publicity of events.
Candidates applying for Fine Art, Design or Theory are asked to propose an individual research project. They can also indicate their interest in participating in one of the projects that are offered by the department of their choice or other departments.
The academic year runs from 1 January to 31 December. Research candidates can apply for a one-year or two-year research period starting annually on 1 January. It is also possible to apply to do research for a different period and with a different starting date.
More information about the application procedure can be found at

For questions and more information on the application procedure, please contact
Leon Westenberg at or +31 (0)43 3503724.
For questions relating to the Jan van Eyck Academie in general, please contact Ankie Bosch at or +31 (0)43 3503721.

Fine Art

The Fine Art department offers a unique space for experimentation, production, reflection and debate. Researchers conduct their artistic research in an environment that encourages questioning of the assumptions, forms, meanings and contexts that are tied to the practice of making art today. The Fine Art department welcomes artists, individuals and groups, without stipulating conditions regarding form, content and media. Artistic practice is supported by a programme of events and sustained conversations organised by the researchers and advising researchers, according to their interests.
Advising researchers:
Orla Barry, Hans-Christian Dany, Hinrich Sachs, Imogen Stidworthy, Nasrin Tabatabai & Babak Afrassiabi

The Design department focuses on design as research, design as discourse and design as publishing. It initiates and supports research projects in the areas of cultural and corporate identity, mapping, print and new media publishing, urban and regional identity, and book design. The department expressly solicits individual designers to propose and carry out their own research in exchange with the institute’s array of events and presentations. Whereas the department formerly focused on graphic and communication design, it has widened its scope to include spatial, product and service design.
Advising Researchers:
Keller Easterling, Florian Schneider, Daniel van der Velden

The Theory department at the Jan van Eyck Academie is an international platform for reflection and research. Its mission is to create the opportunity for outstanding researchers to explore alternative ways of shaping their intellectual horizons by providing a stimulating environment for critical inquiry and intense debate. The Theory department welcomes applications from researchers of unusual promise who pursue their artistic and intellectual view of the interface of critical theory, philosophy, aesthetics, psychoanalysis and the visual arts. Candidates can associate to one of the three research project of the department. Applications not or only indirectly related to the research projects will be considered on equal terms.
Advising researchers:
Katja Diefenbach, Dominiek Hoens, Kobena Mercer

Research projects
After 1968. On the notion of the political in post-Marxist theory
The research project After 1968 sets out from a double problematic: the antinomies of thinking the political in Marxism and the deconstruction of its dialectical idealisations on one side, and the failure of minoritarian militancy on the other side. The reintegration of minoritarian politics whereby the heterogeneity of differences supplements the homogeneity of capital has led to a sharp controversy of how to think political struggle.
After 1968 debates the positions present in this quarrel: among others, Butler's ethics of the vulnerability of a precarious life-form, Derrida's messianic expectation of an event which evades any expectation, Agamben's notion of a potentiality that is in any relation to the act, the post-workerist idea of a constituent potentiality, Badiou’s subtractive idea of communism as separation, or Rancière's suggestion that the political conflict resides in the tension between the structured social body and the part with no-part.
Advising researcher: Katja DiefenbachMore information:

Circle for Lacanian ideology Critique
The Jan van Eyck Circle for Lacanian Ideology Critique (CLiC) gathers researchers who are interested in Lacanian theory and see it as an open set of tools which help form a critical look at/on current (post-)modern culture. CLiC intends to activate the psychoanalytical – and especially Lacanian – background of many current philosophers and critics, including Žižek, Badiou, Rancière, Laclau, Mouffe, Jameson, Zupancic, Agamben, Negri, Derrida and Nancy. Insight into the Lacanian background of these theories is indispensable in order to discover the very core of their critical potentialities. That is why a confrontation with – and a reading of – the Lacanian text is one of CLiC’s main objectives.
Advising researcher: Dominiek Hoens
More information:

Design Negation
Design Negation is about finding new vocabularies and aesthetic possibilities for design to formulate a political negation. It aims to respond to the current wave of populist public opinion and politics in the Netherlands. Currently, design has withdrawn its political potential from everyday reality in order to concentrate on abstract goals associated with ‘the good’, i.e. universal ethics and human rights. It turns out that many of these abstract goals are now served by the principles of marketing and advertising, and as such fail to grasp the particularities of situations. Design Negation consists of creative, intellectual and practical research and production that look for possibilities to set up a design regime of negation. In the meantime, by means of a series of public discussions and lectures, Design Negation opens up a discourse about its core topics with artists, designers, theoreticians, politicians, researchers and activists.
Advising researcher: Daniel van der Velden
More information:

ExtraStateCraft: Hidden Organisations, Spatial Contagions and Activism
ExtraStateCraft: Hidden Organisations, Spatial Contagions and Activism researches underexplored territory in the world’s infrastructural and organisational strata. The project focuses on shared protocols, managerial subroutines and financial instruments as they produce and programme physical space around the world, whose political outcomes are often at once pervasive and mysterious. ExtraStateCraft will consider a number of tools effective in manipulating active organisation, but will pay particular attention to the ways in which these organisations are really populations of repeatable components and formats, the arrangement and chemistry of which possess a political disposition.
Advising researcher: Keller Easterling
More information:

Imaginary Property
The research project Imaginary Property consists of three parts that are inextricably linked up with each other. First, the project traces the primarily non-juridical impact as well as the practical implications of the concept of ‘imaginary property’ through various disciplines such as philosophy, psychoanalysis, economics, cybernetics, architecture, new media and design theory. Second, it examines in a practical way how social relationships are configured, designed and performed in connection with the images that are supposed to be owned, used and displayed as one's property.
Thirdly, the results of the analytical part and the examinations will be documented more or less in real-time and made accessible on a multimedia website. Imaginary Property is looking for design practitioners who wish to tackle fundamental issues and query conventions of disciplines such as film, multimedia, web design, networking and architecture.
Advising researcher: Florian Schneider
More information:

The Cross-Cultural and the Counter-Modern
Developing a frame for the study of cross-cultural interactions in the relationship between modernism and colonialism, The Cross-Cultural and the Counter-Modern will review the hybridity concept alongside a range of cognate terms that have been put forward as alternatives, including syncretism, creolisation and transculturation. By working with the notion of ‘multiple modernities’, developed within the sociology of globalisation, the aim is to examine a variety of artistic, curatorial and writing practices that evoke a combinatory logic of heterogeneity and mixture in antagonism with the logic of purification that was supported by the normative tradition of formalist universalism in modernist art criticism.
Advising Researcher: Kobena Mercer
More information:

Monday, 9 March 2009

Brigade of Intervention

While I have a large amount of sympathy with the points made here concerning the communism 'event' at Birkbeck I'm not so sure about the call for 'active' intervention (ie physical disruption), sharing IT's and these doubts. Not very situ I know. In fact, I'm not going partly because I'd actually prefer to read the papers, so I do hope they go online (as well as for the general intellect).
I would say it may be unwise to storm the stage, if you're planning to, when Negri or Badiou is speaking, they both have some experience of these things...
"You're a big man, but you're in bad shape. With me, it's a full-time job. Now behave yourself"

Monday, 2 March 2009

Two Westerns

Perhaps the greatest contribution of the United States to the thematic of the century is to have placed at the heart of its cinema the question of the genealogy of courage and of the intimate struggle against cowardice. This is what makes the western – in which this struggle is permanent – a solid, modern genre, and what has enabled it to yield an inordinate number of masterpieces.
Alain Badiou, The Century

Courage, in the sense in which I understand it, has its origin in a heroic conversion, and is oriented towards a point that was not there, a Real woven out of the impossible.
Alain Badiou, The Meaning of Sarkozy

Valdez is Coming (1971) is an almost perfect example of the Western as a discourse on courage, a Lacano-Badouian exemplification of persistence as orientation toward the Real qua antagonism. Bob Valdez (Burt Lancaster) is a Mexican lawman, who unwittingly kills a man accused of murder by the racist local arms dealer Frank Tanner. The man, who was both innocent and black, had an apache wife. Valdez tries to get compensation for the wife, not the niggardly sums offered of a few dollars, but a decent $200. The real is racism, in which the black ex-soldier, his wife, and Bob (referred to as a 'greaser' by Tanner and his men) do not count. Valdez's courage is the simple insistence on the generic worth of all.
Abused by Tanner's men, treated as a parodic Christ, Valdez simply and constantly pursues getting $100 dollars from Frank Tanner (his part of the compensation). That is why 'Valdez is coming'; not for revenge, or to settle his own suffering, but from this simple insistence. The film ends ambiguously on the final showdown in which Frank Tanner is told he will have to do his own dirty work and kill Bob himself, which he is incapable of doing. It is Bob's courage that turns Tanner's wife (whom Bob has been forced to kidnap) to his side, and which eventually leads Tanner's gang, especially its Mexican leader, to refuse to do Tanner's bidding. Here courage is not only an individual but also a potentially collective subjectivation, a rupturing with the casual racism - whether violent and direct (as with Tanner), or dressed up in more polite terms (as with the other white town bigwigs, who initially offer a couple of dollars and set Valdez on his impossible mission). Courage here is also the courage that the impossible can be done.

Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) is, as usual with Miike, a hyper self-conscious play with genre: a kind of meta-meta-meta Western. If we consider the 1950s meta-Western in the US as already a reflexive and elegiac meditation of the impossibility of the Western, then (which Badiou does not discuss) we have the spaghetti Western as first 'postmodern' moment, most perfectly in the work of Sergio Leone, and then this post-postmodern Western. With his Japanese actors speaking every cliche of the Western, a hyper-stylised staging (think Lars Von Trier remaking Leone), and deliberate anachronism, the film is, for me, a slightly wearying terminal summary of the Western. Should you be teaching intertextuality this is the film for you.

Of course this is further complicated by the series of overlappings which would make an excellent film book in itself. First we have Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961), a samurai film derived from the Western, but also inspired by the 1942 film noir The Glass Key, derived from Dashiell Hammett's 1931 novel of the same name. The film has a lone ronin playing off two warring clans against each other and was, of course, remade by Leone as A Fistful of Dollars (1964), thereby returning to its 'natural' generic home (Leone also claims inspiration from Hammett's The Red Harvest). Leaving aside Miller's Crossing (1990), which I dislike, Miike's film of warring gangs and a lone samurai gunman is obviously another stage in this already deeply complex series of exchanges.

It would obviously be foolish to expect a discourse on courage from Miike's film, rather like the (to my mind excellent) The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001), what appears crucial is the generic 'play'. Unlike that film, Sukiyaki Western Django does not seem as successful in this generic play, perhaps because the spaghetti Western was already the perfect 'play' that remained absolutely serious.