Friday 30 October 2009

The Future

[I am speaking at this, on an image from JG Ballard (to be revealed, and the talk will be posted here after). No one, as far as I know, is speaking on the above image. I just chose it in contemplation of Ballard's remarks about the space race lacking the ability to excite the imagination / or any 'manifest insanity'.]

Accompanying the exhibitions The Sculpture of the Space Age and The Object of the Attack (2/10/09-19/12/09) at the David Roberts Art Foundation

The Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture at University of Westminster, in association with the David Roberts Art Foundation, presents:

Thursday 5 November 6:30
Location: The David Roberts Art Foundation Fitzrovia, 111 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 6RY

Presenting images of the future with:

Tom Corby is an artist and writer whose research is concerned with relocating digital imaging processes within wider aesthetic and social frameworks. He is the deputy Director of CREAM at Westminster and coordinates the digital art research cluster in the school of arts and media. His experimental digital artworks (produced in collaboration with Gavin Baily) have been internationally exhibited and have won numerous awards.

Benjamin Noys is Reader in English Literature at the University of Chichester. He is author of, among other works, The Culture of Death (2005) and Georges Bataille: A Critical Introduction (2000), and is a member of the editorial board of the journal Film-Philosophy. He has a forthcoming book entitled The Persistence of the Negative due in 2010.

Kester Rattenbury is an architectural journalist, critic and writer, whose many publications include the edited collection This is Not Architecture. She is a consulting editor for the Architects Journal, series editor for the SuperCrit series with Routledge, and leads the ExP research group at the University of Westminster.

John Timberlake is a photographer and writer, who also leads the BA in Fine Art at Middlesex University. He has exhibited widely in Europe and North America and is an alumnus of the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Programme. A former editor of Everything Magazine, his most recent publication is the book Bussard Ramjet (Artwords 2008) and he is currently exhibiting work at the Pittoresk: Neue Perspektiven auf das Landschaftsbild group show at MARTa in Germany.

David Cunningham is Principal Lecturer and Deputy Director of the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster. He is an editor of the journal Radical Philosophy, co-editor of the book Photography and Literature in the Twentieth Century (2005), and has published widely on modernism, aesthetics, architectural theory and urbanism.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Badiou, critique of SR avant la lettre

'The fact remains that they are turned off by the partisan taking of sides. The asymptotic perspective of flight makes of the empiricist a wandering materialist, a vagabond philosopher of natural substances. Ignorance of the mirror turns the empiricist into the mirror - of the world.' (209)
Badiou Theory of the Subject

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Postone online

With thanks to Principia Dialectica for this link to a collection of work by Postone - easier than reading Time, Labour and Social Domination...

Monday 26 October 2009

plumpes Denken

In the handbooks of philosophy, you will see that like the epithet of a two-bit Homer, the adjective "vulgar" almost invariably attaches itself to the noun "materialism". Well yes! There is something trivial about reading the abject secret of a speculative permanence in the densest of social hierarchies. But that is how it is.
Badiou, Theory of the Subject (p.185)

An excellent post by Infinite on the risks of a dialectics of nature and the rush to ontology (btw I don't have an ontology...). A rapid reply by Nick as well.

To add my meagre thoughts I'm not so concerned with deriving politics from philosophy / ontology / metaphysics, but rather with making a theoretically-informed political critique of philosophy etc. This is primarily because I regard it as perfectly possible to read a bad politics off SR / ANT whether they deny being political or not (allowing for the variants of SR). To be more particular, and this is elaborated at somewhat tedious length in my book, ANT is bad politics and bad metaphysics, precisely because the bad politics is derived from the bad metaphysics. Despite all the claims to make networks malleable and to regard capital as merely fragile network, these conceptions constitute a reformist voluntarism because of the fundamental desire to protect such networks from change and because they obscure, for me, the actual nature of the value-form.

I also doubt SR returns politics to its autonomy because, contra Nick, the tendency seems still to be to derive political consequences from metaphysics (see Graham's remarks about ethics and politics in the debate with Peter Hallward at 21st Century Materialism - vacuum-packed proletariat and all). Even if it does somehow make politics autonomous, we still have the problem of what SR adds then qua philosophy, which seems to be to return to certain 'traditional' questions (which is not bad in itself) but in ways that deny any connections with politics (which is bad). Finally, again, we have the possible political reading of SR precisely in this mode of detachment and refusal of politics. Perhaps a salutary dose of Lukacs is required.

Sunday 25 October 2009

The University as Event-Site

Excellent post from Evan on the university as Kampfplatz (I really like the German better...). I think it's exactly true that we don't have to wreck the university, that's being done for us.

Black Metal

Black Metal Theory Symposium
December 12, 2009
The Public Assembly
70 North 6th St
Brooklyn, NY
1:00-7:00 p.m.

I: 1:00-2:15
The Light that Illuminates Itself, the Dark that Soils itself: Blackened Notes from Schelling’s Underground
Steven Shakespeare

The Counter-Reformation in Stone and Metal: Spiritual Substances
Erik Butler

BAsileus philosoPHOrum METaloricum
Scott Wilson
(moderator: Niall Scott)

II: 2:20-3:30
Transcendental Black Metal
Hunter Hunt-Hendrix

Anti-Cosmosis: Black Mahapralaya
Nicola Masciandaro

Perpetual Rot: Obsessive Cycles of Deterioration
Joseph Russo
(moderator: Steven Shakespeare)

Interlude: 3:30-4:30
Nader Sadek, Baptism in Black (Phase II)
Sym-posium (together-drinking)

III: 4:30-5:45
‘Remain true to the earth!’: Remarks on the Politics of Black Metal
Benjamin Noys (in absentia)

The Headless Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Evan Calder Williams

Black Confessions and Absu-lution
Niall Scott

Meaningful Leaning Mess
Brandon Stosuy
(moderator: Scott Wilson)

IV: 5:50-7:00
Black Metal and Evil
Aspasia Stephanou

Red in a World of Black: A Discussion of Blood in Black Metal
Murray Resinski

‘Goatsteps behind my steps’: Black Metal and Ritual Renewal
Anthony Sciscione
(moderator: Erik Butler)

Sunday 18 October 2009


An excellent article from Mute by John Cunningham on 'Communisation', putting together the Tiqqun / Invisible Committe with Theorie Communiste / Dauve. Altough I personally tend more to the TC line, and would be less 'Deleuzian', this is a remarkably clear and even-handed summary.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Militant Dysphoria - some thoughts

I've only been slightly following / intervening in the debates that have followed the Goldsmiths event for Dominic's Cold World. To be a Habermasian hippy (a surprise to many, no doubt), I think the debate is part of the intellectual point, and certainly one way to get out of or minimise the elements of 'hype' and 'promotion' that are bound to surround any commercial venture (except perhaps academic publishing...). I also hope many of the contributors to the debate get to publish their works via Zero, to go all Maoist: 'let a thousand disputes bloom'.

I was thinking of Cold World in terms of Perry Anderson's remark that for revolutionary agency we need a coordination of knowledge and will. The dysphoric relation, whether aesthetic, political, or actual, seems to me a relation of knowledge: the preceptual awareness of the stark and delibidinised mechanisms and structures of the 'practico-inert'. In this it's quite unusual, because I think often the focus of contemporary work has fallen, understandably, on the necessity of will (See Peter Hallward's essay - pdf). I think that Cold World traces the absence of agency, or its antinomy - drawn out between stylised despair (as in BM) or frantic (manic?) activism (the RAF).

The problems noted, which I have some sympathy with, is how such a relation of knowledge might produce a new form of will? The old, and for that reason essential and difficult, question of what used to get called the 'negation of negation'. Dysphoria essentially often seems to lead to a paralysis of will, or at least its collapse / attenuation.

(I think here the other crucial problem raised by many is between the singularity of particular forms of suffering / depression / dysphoria as lived experience, the diagnostic / psychiatric categories (of which I am highly suspicious), and then the question of dysphoria as figure / cultural diagnosis. Certainly some may remember the heyday for such cultural diagnostics in the 1960s / 1970s - Deleuze and Guattari's schizophrenia, Jameson's 80s addenda, Christopher Lasch's Culture of Narcissism, Norman Mailer's hipster as psychopath, and I'm sure there are many more. Similar problems were raised in respect of all these, not least related to Freud's comment about the difficulty of supposing a cultural or societal 'standard of health' against which we could measure social pathology).

As I've said I'm very suspcious of any politics of the worst in the current conjuncture, which is not to say it couldn't have a role to play at other points. But what I think 'militant dysphoria' probes is our concept of the will - and also the point made by Badiou concerning the translation or integration of affects within the consistency of the truth-process. I think Dominic on this is far more interesting than, say, Franco Berardi's similar remarks on the 'intellectual potency' of depression - which definitely lead straight to Baudrillard (in a bad way). Perhaps I'm imposing my own modest reading on Cold World, but I see it as a manual of the antinomy.

Monday 12 October 2009

Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum

Scare in the Community
Saturday, 24th October 2009, 6-9pm

A one night art event at Core Arts in Homerton showcasing video, performance, 2D and 3D works by artists addressing issues relating to community care and institutional critique both inside and outside the context of art.

Core Arts
109 Homerton High Street
London E9 6DL
train: Homerton
(London Overground)
buses: 236 / 242 / 276 / 394 / W15

Frank Bangay, George Barber, David Blandy, Ian Bourn, Boyle and Shaw, El Vonne Brown, Enda Burke, Leona Christie, CoolTan, Tessa Garland, Julika Gittner, Alex Ingram, IRE-MIND, Stephen Jackson, Terry Jones, Jean-Paul Martinon, Octavia Arts, Jo Panter, Laure Prouvost, Jon Purnell, Natasha Rees, Erica Scourti, Temple of Mithras, Josephine Wood

Society is an insane asylum run by the inmates’, Goffman, E. (1961) Asylums
The theme of the show resonates with current tendencies to prioritise principles of care in the community over extended hospitalisation. The idea of the mentally ill being free to roam the streets and mingle with the general public has caused much fear amongst communities and frequently leads to sensationalist news headlines in the tabloids such as "Armed and dangerous: public at risk as mental patients escape the care net." (Sunday Express, 2006).
On the other hand, the art world has shown a revived interest in the ‘outsider’ artist. The fantasy of the ‘outsider ‘ who, ignored by society, obsessively practices his ‘authentic’ and untrained creativity has lead to exhibitions such as Inner Worlds Outside at the Whitechapel Gallery (2006). While giving artistic credibility to the work of self-taught artists by exhibiting it next to the work of established artists, such exhibitions do not challenge the authority of the art institution to select who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’.

Scare in the Community aims to confront both sides of the coin by showing art, which relates to ideas of institutional ennui and social norms alongside work that responds directly to the implications of the closure of asylums over the past decades.

Scare in the Community is curated by Julika Gittner and Jon Purnell.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Strategy and Tactics

I find it difficult to comment on the UCSC occupation due to reliance on the statements, but I would say I probably find myself on the side of sympathetic disagreement, ie not agreeing with the tactics, but recognising the genuine nature of the protest (see the SW interview).

First, I personally doubt the 'terminal crisis of capitalism' thesis (I'd like it to be true...), or at least that the crisis will (a) lead to collapse anytime soon, or (b) lead to an accumulation of new radicalised forces (or automatically lead to such an accumulation). Maybe it's pessimism, which I certainly have, but I don't see the capitalist 'practico-inert' simply falling away or disintegrating except on a very much longer time scale (to be honest, at a minimum fifty years, and probably longer), unless there is a far more global and substantial development of alternative social forms (ie socialist / communist / non-commodified). These forms would also be required to prevent the 'common ruin of the contending classes' or simply authoritarian solutions. This is not a spectre of fascism argument, but a recognition of the risk of re-tooled authoritarian forms and national-popular mobilisations.

Second, I'm doubtful about maximalist 'demandless' occupation as a tactic. I have no real knowledge of the US university experience, but I do think actually particular administrations here are responsible for their responses to the crisis, and how they work within the crisis - and they should be held accountable. In fact, precise demands are what are required I think, and I know this is not my own original argument, far from it. This is especially the case in the context of the 'solutions' being offered of more business to solve the problems business caused.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Commandeering the Commons

Evan's final statement on the occupation, and here on tv. My comments to follow.