Guy Debord, Selections from Ch. 1 of Society of the Spectacle, 1967

The spectacle is the existing order's uninterrupted discourse about itself, its laudatory monologue. It is the self-portrait of power in the epoch of its totalitarian management of the conditions of existence. The fetishistic, purely objective appearance of spectacular relations conceals the fact that they are relations among men and classes: a second nature with its fatal laws seems to dominate our environment. But the spectacle is not the necessary product of technical development seen as a natural development. The society of the spectacle is on the contrary the form which chooses its own technical content. If the spectacle, taken in the limited sense of "mass media" which are its most glaring superficial manifestation, seems to invade society as mere equipment, this equipment is in no way neutral but is the very means suited to its total self-movement. If the social needs of the epoch in which such techniques are developed can only be satisfied through their mediation, if the administration of this society and all contact among men can no longer take place except through the intermediary of this power of instantaneous communication, it is because this "communication" is essentially unilateral. The concentration of "communication" is thus an accumulation, in the hands of the existing system's administration, of the means which allow it to carry on this particular administration. The generalized cleavage of the spectacle is inseparable from the modern State, namely from the general form of cleavage within society, the product of the division of social labor and the organ of class domination.

The spectacle originates in the loss of the unity of the world, and the gigantic expansion of the modern spectacle expresses the totality of this loss: the abstraction of all specific labor and the general abstraction of the entirety of production are perfectly rendered in the spectacle, whose mode of being concrete is precisely abstraction. In the spectacle, one part of the world represents itself to the world and is superior to it. The spectacle is nothing more than the common language of this separation. What binds the spectators together is no more than an irreversible relation at the very center which maintains their isolation. The spectacle reunites the separate, but reunites it as separate.

The alienation of the spectator to the profit of the contemplated object (which is the result of his own unconscious activity) is expressed in the following way: the more he contemplates the less he lives; the more he accepts recognizing himself in the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own existence and his own desires. The externality of the spectacle in relation to the active man appears in the fact that his own gestures are no longer his but those of another who represents them to him. This is why the spectator feels at home nowhere, because the spectacle is everywhere.

The worker does not produce himself; he produces an independent power. The success of this production, its abundance, returns to the producer as an abundance of dispossession. All the time and space of his world become foreign to him with the accumulation of his alienated products. The spectacle is the map of this new world, a map which exactly covers its territory. The very powers which escaped us show themselves to us in all their force.

The spectacle within society corresponds to a concrete manufacture of alienation. Economic expansion is mainly the expansion of this specific industrial production. What grows with the economy in motion for itself can only be the very alienation which was at its origin.

Separated from his product, man himself produces all the details of his world with ever increasing power, and thus finds himself ever more separated from his world. The more his life is now his product, the more lie is separated from his life.

The spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image.

Rudi Dutschke, Selections from On Anti-authoritarianism, 1968

Using all the means at its disposal, the existing System strives to prevent us from introducing those conditions in which men can live creative lives without war, hunger, and repressive work. Every radical opposition to this System must necessarily assume a global dimension today. In the current historical period, the globalization of the revolutionary forces is the most important task of those who are working for the emancipation of the human race. The underprivileged in the whole world constitute the historical mass base of liberation movements. In them alone lies the subversive-explosive character of the international revolution.

A new stage began in the 1960’s with the revolutionary upheavals in Algeria and Cuba and the unbroken struggle of the South Vietnamese Liberation Front against the Diem dictatorship. Only the latter achieved world-historical significance for the worldwide opposition movement. The American aggression in Vietnam, too blatant and brutal to be overlooked, took place at a time when imperialism's various mechanisms for influence and control could no longer prevent the victory of the revolutionary liberation forces in South Vietnam. [...] This apparent contradiction dissolves once we understand that imperialism had to recognize the ideology of coexistence, sponsored by the Soviet Union, in order to stabilize a calm zone of the System, at least in middle and Western Europe, and in order to “cover its rear” for the short-term and effective destruction of the revolutionary movements of the Third World. The historical guilt of the Soviet Union consists in its complete failure to grasp this strategy of imperialism in a deep and fundamental sense and to counter it in a subversive and revolutionary manner.

When, in the middle 1960’s, Vietnam became a living issue for us through lectures, discussions, films, and demonstrations, we revolutionary socialists were able historically to sublimate, so to speak, our guilt feelings over the existence of the Berlin Wall and of Stalinism in the German Democratic Republic by propagating the specific difference between seizing power through force, without, however, revolutionizing the masses and the collectivization of the idea of social liberation in the process of revolutions, as in Vietnam.

As students - although varying from faculty to faculty - we find ourselves in an intermediate position in the total social reproduction process. On the one hand, we are intellectually and educationally a privileged fraction of the people, but actually this privilege signifies nothing but frustration. Frustration because the student, especially the politically committed student, day after day experiences critically, and sometimes materially, the stupidity of the cliques of political hacks who do the bidding of the irrational authorities. Moreover, these anti-authoritarian students have not yet assumed any materially secure positions in society and are still relatively far from power interests and power positions. This temporary subversive position of the students by itself engenders a dialectical identity between the immediate and the historical interests of the producers. Hence, the vital needs and interests in regard to peace, justice, and emancipation can best materialize in these sociological positions. But students develop with real virulence only when they become politicized in the anti-authoritarian struggle against the bureaucracy within the milieu of their own university institution, when they more resolutely engage in the political struggle for their interests and needs. We must not forget the direct relationship of the student producer to his educational milieu. His learning situation in the university is determined by the dictatorship of examinations, rising in an inflationary way, and by the dictatorship of professordom. In turn, the professors are the servants of the State. The present day nationalization of the whole society creates the basis for an understanding of the anti-state and anti-institution struggle of the radical extraparliamentary opposition.

The ruling class has undergone a deep transformation. For a long time now it has no longer been identical with the nominal owners of the means of production. Marx had already seen the dawn of a new "class" of "industrial bureaucracy." This class cannot overcome the fundamental contradiction of bourgeois capitalist society. Rather, it brings it to a climax and ushers in its last phase, in which all capital functions have been socialized and delegated to certain groups and institutions. “The more a ruling class is able to absorb the most impotent men of the oppressed classes, the more solid and more dangerous is its rule" (Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 3). The development has gone beyond this phase and has completed the repressive socialization of capital. Therein lies the strength and the weakness of the system of late capitalism. In fact, this development does not leave any groups outside the total context and tries to dominate all through "a system of concessions within the capitalistic framework" (Sering). This structural framework is guaranteed by the "dull compulsion of conditions," the internalized norms and ideas of bourgeois capitalistic society. But if a socially relevant fraction of the underprivileged outside the circle of vested interests, where the national product is distributed, bursts asunder this matter-of-course restriction of interests and needs to the ruling framework, the whole system is called in question. "Thus the breaching of false consciousness can provide the Archimedean point for a more comprehensive emancipation-on an infinitely small place to be sure but the chance for a change depends upon the widening of such small places." (Herbert Marcuse, Repressive Tolerance).

Our historically correct limitation of our action to the university should not be made into a fetish. A revolutionary dialectic of the correct transitions must regard the "long march through the institutions" as a practical and critical action in all social spheres. It must set as its goal the subversive-critical deepening of the contradictions, a process which has been made possible in all institutions that participate in the organization of day-to-day life. There no longer exists a sphere in our society which would be exclusively privileged to express the interests of the whole movement in its cultural revolutionary phase.

The old concepts of socialism must be critically suspended, not destroyed and not preserved artificially. A new concept cannot yet be realized. It can be worked out and brought into being only in the practical struggle, in the constant mediation between reflection and action, practice and theory. Today revolutionary science is possible only within the anti-authoritarian movement, as a productive force for the liberation of man from the uncomprehended and uncontrolled powers of society and nature. Today we are not bound together by an abstract theory of history but by an existential disgust in the presences of a society which chatters about liberty and yet brutally oppresses the immediate interest and needs of individuals and peoples fighting for their social-economic emancipation.

But let us not succumb to any illusions. The worldwide net of organized repression, the continuity of power, will not be easily broken. The “new man of the twenty-first century” (Guevara, Fanon) who represents the preconditions of the “new society,” will be the product of a long and painful struggle in which temporary upsurges will be followed by unavoidable “defeats.” viewed in terms of classical revolutionary theory, our cultural revolution is a transitional re-revolutionary phase in which persons and groups still yield to various illusions, abstract ideas, and utopian projects. It is a phase in which the abstract ideas, and utopian projects. it is a phase in which the radical contradiction between revolution and counterrevolution, between the ruling class in its new form and the camp of the anti-authoritarian and underprivileged, has not yet matured in a concrete and immediate sense. What in America is already a clearly defined reality has a great significance for use, with some modifications. “This is no time for sober reflection but a time for adjuration. The task of intellectuals is identical with that of the organizer of the street, the conscientious objector, of the Diggers: to talk with the people and not about the people. The literature that leaves a mark is now the underground literature, the speeches of Malcolm X, the writings of Fanon, the songs of the Rolling Stones and of Aretha Franklin.

All the rest sound like the Moynihan Report or a Time article which aims to explain everything, understand nothing, and change nobody." (A. Kopkind, From Nonviolence to Guerrilla Warfare, in Voltaire-Flugschriften, No. 14 ). We still do not have a broad, continuous underground literature, the dialogues of intellectuals with the people are still missing, that is to say, from the standpoint of the real, immediate, and historical interests of the people. There is the beginning of a desertion campaign in the American occupation army, but there is no organized desertion campaign in the Bundeswehr. We dare to attack American imperialism, but we do not yet have the will to smash our own power structure.

True revolutionary solidarity with the Vietnam revolutions consists in the actual weakening of the centers of imperialism and in their processual overthrow. The roots of our ineffectualness and resignation thus far lay in our theory. The decisive precondition for the revolutionizing of the masses is the revolutionizing of revolutionaries.

Benno Ohnesorg, German university student, Berlin, 1967


Paris, May 1968


Members of the Internationale Situationniste, Selections from On the Poverty of Student Life, 1966

We might very well say, and no one would disagree with us, that the student is the most universally despised creature in France, apart from the priest and the policeman. Naturally he is usually attacked from the wrong point of view, with specious reasons derived from the ruling ideology. He may be worth the contempt of a true revolutionary, yet a revolutionary critique of the student situation is currently taboo on the official Left. The licensed and impotent opponents of capitalism repress the obvious--that what is wrong with the students is also what is wrong with them. They convert their unconscious contempt into a blind enthusiasm. The radical intelligentsia (from Les Temps Modernes to L'Express) prostrates itself before the so-called "rise of the student" and the declining bureaucracies of the Left (from the "Communist" party to the Stalinist National Union of Students) bids noisily for his moral and material support.

Up to now, studies of student life have ignored the essential issue. The surveys and analyses have all been psychological or sociological or economic: in other words, academic exercises, content with the false categories of one specialization or another. None of them can achieve what is most needed--a view of modern society as a whole. Fourier denounced their error long ago as the attempt to apply scientific laws to the basic assumptions of the science ("porter régulièrement sur les questions primordiales"). Everything is said about our society except what it is, and the nature of its two basic principles--the commodity and the spectacle. The fetishism of facts masks the essential category, and the details consign the totality to oblivion.

Modern capitalism and its spectacle allot everyone a specific role in a general passivity. The student is no exception to the rule. He has a provisional part to play, a rehearsal for his final role as an element in market society as conservative as the rest. Being a student is a form of initiation. An initiation which echoes the rites of more primitive societies with bizarre precision. It goes on outside of history, cut off from social reality. The student leads a double life, poised between his present status and his future role. The two are absolutely separate, and the journey from one to the other is a mechanical event "in the future." Meanwhile, he basks in a schizophrenic consciousness, withdrawing into his initiation group to hide from that future. Protected from history, the present is a mystic trance.

"There is no student problem." Student passivity is only the most obvious symptom of a general state of affairs, for each sector of social life has been subdued by a similar imperialism.

The student is a stoic slave: the more chains authority heaps upon him, the freer he is in phantasy. He shares with his new family, the University, a belief in a curious kind of autonomy. Real independence, apparently, lies in a direct subservience to the two most powerful systems of social control: the family and the State. He is their well-behaved and grateful child, and like the submissive child he is overeager to please. He celebrates all the values and mystifications of the system, devouring them with all the anxiety of the infant at the breast. Once, the old illusions had to be imposed on an aristocracy of labour; the petits cadres-to-be ingest them willingly under the guise of culture.

The student's old-fashioned poverty, however, does put him at a potential advantage--if only he could see it. He does have marginal freedoms, a small area of liberty which as yet escapes the totalitarian control of the spectacle. His flexible working-hours permit him adventure and experiment. But he is a sucker for punishment and freedom scares him to death: he feels safer in the straight-jacketed space-time of lecture hall and weekly "essay." He is quite happy with this open prison organized for his "benefit", and, though not constrained, as are most people, to separate work and leisure, he does so of his own accord--hypocritically proclaiming all the while his contempt for assiduity and grey men. He embraces every available contradiction and then mutters darkly about the "difficulties of communication" from the uterine warmth of his religious, artistic or political clique.

Driven by his freely-chosen depression, he submits himself to the subsidiary police force of psychiatrists set up by the avant-garde of repression. The university mental health clinics are run by the student mutual organization, which sees this institution as a grand victory for student unionism and social progress. Like the Aztecs who ran to greet Cortes's sharpshooters, and then wondered what made the thunder and why men fell down, the students flock to the psycho-police stations with their "problems".

The real poverty of his everyday life finds its immediate, phantastic compensation in the opium of cultural commodities. In the cultural spectacle he is allotted his habitual role of the dutiful disciple. Although he is close to the production-point, access to the Sanctuary of Thought is forbidden, and he is obliged to discover "modern culture" as an admiring spectator. Art is dead, but the student is necrophiliac. He peeks at the corpse in cine-clubs and theaters, buys its fish-fingers from the cultural supermarket. Consuming unreservedly, he is in his element: he is the living proof of all the platitudes of American market research: a conspicuous consumer, complete with induced irrational preference for Brand X (Camus, for example), and irrational prejudice against Brand Y (Sartre, perhaps).

He thinks he is avant-garde if he has seen the latest happening. He discovers "modernity" as fast as the market can produce its ersatz version of long outmoded (though once important) ideas; for him, every rehash is a cultural revolution. His principal concern is status, and he eagerly snaps up all the paperback editions of important and "difficult" texts with which mass culture has filled the bookstores. (If he had an atom of self-respect or lucidity, he would knock them off. But no: conspicuous consumers always pay!). Unfortunately, he cannot read, so he devours them with his gaze, and enjoys them vicariously through the gaze of his friends. He is an other-directed voyeur.

The Right is well aware of the defeat of the workers' movement, and so are the workers themselves, though more confusedly. But the students continue blithely to organize demonstrations which mobilize students and students only. This is political false consciousness in its virgin state, a fact which naturally makes the universities a happy hunting ground for the manipulators of the declining bureaucratic organizations. For them, it is child's play to program the student's political options. Occasionally there are deviationary tendencies and cries of "Independence!" but after a period of token resistance the dissidents are reincorporated into a status quo which they have never really radically opposed.

The student, if he rebels at all, must first rebel against his studies, though the necessity of this initial move is felt less spontaneously by him than by the worker, who intuitively identifies his work with his total condition. At the same time, since the student is a product of modern society just like Godard or Coca-Cola, his extreme alienation can only be fought through the struggle against this whole society. It is clear that the university can in no circumstances become the battlefield; the student, insofar as he defines himself as such, manufactures a pseudo-value which must become an obstacle to any clear consciousness of the reality of his dispossession. The best criticism of student life is the behavior of the rest of youth, who have already started to revolt. Their rebellion has become one of the signs of a fresh struggle against modern society.

The revolt of youth was the first burst of anger at the persistent realities of the new world--the boredom of everyday existence, the dead life which is still the essential product of modern capitalism, in spite of all its modernizations. A small section of youth is able to refuse that society and its products, but without any idea that this society can be superseded. They opt for a nihilist present. Yet the destruction of capitalism is once again a real issue, an event in history, a process which has already begun. Dissident youth must achieve the coherence of a critical theory, and the practical organization of that coherence.

Selections from Lacan - Atlas discussion, 1972


Atlas: "I'd just like to add that I specifically chose this moment to intervene and that the composite body which up to fifty years ago could be called 'culture' - that is, people expressing in fragmented ways what they feel - is now a lie, and can only be called a 'spectacle', the backdrop of which is tied to, and serves as a link between all alienated individual activities. If all the people here now were to join together and, freely and authentically, wanted to communicate, it'd be on a different basis, with a different perspective. Of course, this can't be expected of students who by definition will one day become the managers of our system, with their justifications and who are also the public who with a guilty conscience will pick up the remains of the avant-garde and the decaying 'spectacle'. That's why I chose this precise moment to have some fun to be like those guys who express themselves authentically. I didn't do it to annoy you but I did choose this particular moment."

Lacan: "So... let's see what we can do. By expressing yourself in this way in front of this audience which is more than ready to hear these revolutionary statements what was it exactly that you wanted to do?"

Atlas: "That's the question which parents, priests, ideologists, beaurocrats, and the cops always ask the growing number of people who act like me. My answer is, I want to do just one thing - make revolution. It's obvious that at the stage we've reached at this moment one of our main targets will be exactly these moments when people like you are bringing to people like these justification for their miserable lives."

Angela Davis, Selections from Prison Interviews, 1972

The court system in this country is increasingly becoming a powerful instrument of repression. It is being used to crush the struggle for the liberation of oppressed people and not only to crush the conscious revolutionary but to break the rebellious spirit of black people, Chicanos and Puerto Ricans in general. And I think that one of the best methods of radicalizing an individual today is to have him spend a day in court witnessing the way we are unceasingly railroaded into the jails and prisons. Therefore we cannot expect justice from a repressive judicial system and I'm sure that an exclusively legalistic approach to my defense would be fatal. Oppressed people must demonstrate in an organized fashion to the ruling class that we are prepared to use every means at our disposal to gain freedom and justice for our people.

One can't really be a true revolutionary without being cognizant of the need to link up forces all over the world battling with imperialism. My trips abroad most of which were undertaken for purposes involving my university studies, contributed a great deal to my own political development. In Paris in 1962 experiences which were transmitted to me by partisans of the Algerian struggle provided a stark contrast to our civil rights struggle in the United States. The increasingly aggressive posture being assumed by the Algerians gave me a concrete idea of the general direction in which our own movement should be heading; that is, if we were really serious about total change. As for the French themselves, they conveyed to me the idea, free from abstraction, that repression was a universal phenomenon wherever there were people struggling for freedom and justice. In a number of demonstrations, I personally felt the cutting streams of water from the firehoses manned by French police. And of course my Algerian acquaintances were incessantly subjected to police harassment.

My trip to Germany, inspired by a desire to learn more about the philosophical tradition out of which Marxism arose, taught me one basic fact. Marx was right when he said in the 11th of the Feuerbach theses that philosophers as philosophers have simply interpreted the world and that the point, however, is to change it.

This I experienced by witnessing and participating in the student movement growing conscious of itself, growing conscious of the need to break away from the mentors - the very philosophers who had stimulated the students to comprehend the nature of Marxism - and begin to act, to act directly. This action took the form of increasingly militant demonstrations against U.S. imperialism, its aggression in Vietnam, its flunkies in West Germany and also the form of moving to organize the dispossessed at a grassroots level and the attempt to involve labor. It was my involvement in the demonstrative political activity led by German SDS (Socialist Students League) which made me realize that I had to come home to wage the fight among my own people, black people.

My decision to join the Communist party emanated from my belief that the only true path of liberation for Black people is the one that leads towards a complete and total overthrow of the capitalist class in this country and all its manifold institutional appendages which insure its ability to exploit the masses and enslave Black people. Convinced of the need to employ Marxist-Leninist principles in the struggle for liberation, I joined the Che-Lumumba Club, which is a militant, all-black collective of the Communist party in Los Angeles committed to the task of rendering Marxism-Leninism relevant to Black people. But mindful of the fact that once we as Black people set out to destroy the capitalist system we would be heading in a suicidal direction if we attempted to go at it alone. The whole question of allies was crucial. And furthermore aside from students, we need important allies at the point of production. I do not feel that all white workers are going to be inveterate conservatives. Black leadership in working class struggles is needed to radicalize necessary sectors of the working class.

And we should never forget that fascist tactics have been employed against Black people, Black communities, for centuries. Fascist tactics of repression should, however, not be confused with fascism. To do so would be to obfuscate the nature of our struggle today - for once we have acknowledged the existence of a mature fascism our struggle takes on a purely defensive character and virtually all of our energies are concentrated on the task of defending ourselves from the onslaught of oppression, for the circumstances surrounding our existence have so degenerated that we have lost all possibility of movement; that the only alternative for organizing is the clandestine type. Conditions in this country have not yet deteriorated to that level, We still retain a slight degree of flexibility. Therefore, we must continue to make use of the legal channels to which we have access which of course does not mean that we operate exclusively on the legal plane. At this point, the underground movement has its role to play also, The important thing is to realize that we must do everything in our power to consolidate and solidify a mass movement devoted to struggling not only against repression but with the positive idea of socialism as its goal. This means, of course, that we assume an offensive rather than a defensive posture.



Herbert Marcuse, Selections from Repressive Tolerance, 1965

Tolerance is an end in itself. The elimination of violence, and the reduction of suppression to the extent required for protecting man and animals from cruelty and aggression are preconditions for the creation of a humane society. Such a society does not yet exist; progress toward it is perhaps more than before arrested by violence and suppression on a global scale. As deterrents against nuclear war, as police action against subversion, as technical aid in the fight against imperialism and communism, as methods of pacification in neo-colonial massacres, violence and suppression are promulgated, practiced, and defended by democratic and authoritarian governments alike, and the people subjected to these governments are educated to sustain such practices as necessary for the preservation of the status quo. Tolerance is extended to policies, conditions, and modes of behavior which should not be tolerated because they are impeding, if not destroying, the chances of creating an existence without fear and misery.

This sort of tolerance strengthens the tyranny of the majority against which authentic liberals protested. The political locus of tolerance has changed: while it is more or less quietly and constitutionally withdrawn from the opposition, it is made compulsory behavior with respect to established policies. Tolerance is turned from an active into a passive state, from practice to non-practice: laissez-faire the constituted authorities. It is the people who tolerate the government, which in turn tolerates opposition within the framework determined by the constituted authorities.

Tolerance toward that which is radically evil now appears as good because it serves the cohesion of the whole on the road to affluence or more affluence. The toleration of the systematic moronization of children and adults alike by publicity and propaganda, the release of destructiveness in aggressive driving, the recruitment for and training of special forces, the impotent and benevolent tolerance toward outright deception in merchandizing, waste, and planned obsolescence are not distortions and aberrations, they are the essence of a system which fosters tolerance as a means for perpetuating the struggle for existence and suppressing the alternatives. The authorities in education, morals, and psychology are vociferous against the increase in juvenile delinquency; they are less vociferous against the proud presentation, in word and deed and pictures, of ever more powerful missiles, rockets, bombs--the mature delinquency of a whole civilization.

In the interplay of theory and practice, true and false solutions become distinguishable--never with the evidence of necessity, never as the positive, only with the certainty of a reasoned and reasonable chance, and with the persuasive force of the negative. For the true positive is the society of the future and therefore beyond definition arid determination, while the existing positive is that which must be surmounted. But the experience and understanding of the existent society may well be capable of identifying what is not conducive to a free and rational society, what impedes and distorts the possibilities of its creation. Freedom is liberation, a specific historical process in theory and practice, and as such it has its right and wrong, its truth and falsehood.

The danger of 'destructive tolerance' (Baudelaire), of 'benevolent neutrality' toward art has been recognized: the market, which absorbs equally well (although with often quite sudden fluctuations) art, anti-art, and non-art, all possible conflicting styles, schools, forms, provides a 'complacent receptacle, a friendly abyss' in which the radical impact of art, the protest of art against the established reality is swallowed up. However, censorship of art and literature is regressive under all circumstances. The authentic oeuvre is not and cannot be a prop of oppression, and pseudo-art (which can be such a prop) is not art. Art stands against history, withstands history which has been the history of oppression, for art subjects reality to laws other than the established ones: to the laws of the Form which creates a different reality--negation of the established one even where art depicts the established reality. But in its struggle with history, art subjects itself to history: history enters the definition of art and enters into the distinction between art and pseudo-art. Thus it happens that what was once art becomes pseudo-art. Previous forms, styles, and qualities, previous modes of protest and refusal cannot be recaptured in or against a different society. There are cases where an authentic oeuvre carries a regressive political message--Dostoevski is a case in point. But then, the message is canceled by the oeuvre itself: the regressive political content is absorbed, aufgehoben in the artistic form: in the work as literature.

With all the qualifications of a hypothesis based on an 'open' historical record, it seems that the violence emanating from the rebellion of the oppressed classes broke the historical continuum of injustice, cruelty, and silence for a brief moment, brief but explosive enough to achieve an increase in the scope of freedom and justice, and a better and more equitable distribution of misery and oppression in a new social system--in one word: progress in civilization. The English civil wars, the French Revolution, the Chinese and the Cuban Revolutions may illustrate the hypothesis. In contrast, the one historical change from one social system to another, marking the beginning of a new period in civilization, which was not sparked and driven by an effective movement 'from below', namely, the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, brought about a long period of regression for long centuries, until a new, higher period of civilization was painfully born in the violence of the heretic revolts of the thirteenth century and in the peasant and laborer revolts of the fourteenth century.

Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left. As to the scope of this tolerance and intolerance: ... it would extend to the stage of action as well as of discussion and propaganda, of deed as well as of word. The traditional criterion of clear and present danger seems no longer adequate to a stage where the whole society is in the situation of the theater audience when somebody cries: 'fire'. It is a situation in which the total catastrophe could be triggered off any moment, not only by a technical error, but also by a rational miscalculation of risks, or by a rash speech of one of the leaders. In past and different circumstances, the speeches of the Fascist and Nazi leaders were the immediate prologue to the massacre. The distance between the propaganda and the action, between the organization and its release on the people had become too short. But the spreading of the word could have been stopped before it was too late: if democratic tolerance had been withdrawn when the future leaders started their campaign, mankind would have had a chance of avoiding Auschwitz and a World War.

Education offers still another example of spurious, abstract tolerance in the guise of concreteness and truth: it is epitomized in the concept of self-actualization. From the permissiveness of all sorts of license to the child, to the constant psychological concern with the personal problems of the student, a large-scale movement is under way against the evils of repression and the need for being oneself. Frequently brushed aside is the question as to what has to be repressed before one can be a self, oneself. The individual potential is first a negative one, a portion of the potential of his society: of aggression, guilt feeling, ignorance, resentment, cruelty which vitiate his life instincts. If the identity of the self is to be more than the immediate realization of this potential (undesirable for the individual as a human being), then it requires repression and sublimation, conscious transformation. This process involves at each stage (to use the ridiculed terms which here reveal their succinct concreteness) the negation of the negation, mediation of the immediate, and identity is no more and no less than this process. 'Alienation' is the constant and essential element of identity, the objective side of the subject--and not, as it is made to appear today, a disease, a psychological condition. Freud well knew the difference between progressive and regressive, liberating and destructive repression. The publicity of self-actualization promotes the removal of the one and the other, it promotes existence in that immediacy which, in a repressive society, is (to use another Hegelian term) bad immediacy (schlechte Unmittelbarkeit). It isolates the individual from the one dimension where he could 'find himself': from his political existence, which is at the core of his entire existence. Instead, it encourages non-conformity and letting-go in ways which leave the real engines of repression in the society entirely intact, which even strengthen these engines by substituting the satisfactions of private, and personal rebellion for a more than private and personal, and therefore more authentic, opposition. The desublimation involved in this sort of self-actualization is itself repressive inasmuch as it weakens the necessity and the power of the intellect, the catalytic force of that unhappy consciousness which does not revel in the archetypal personal release of frustration - hopeless resurgence of the Id which will sooner or later succumb to the omnipresent rationality of the administered world - but which recognizes the horror of the whole in the most private frustration and actualizes itself in this recognition.


Theodor Adorno, Out of the Firing-line, 1944

Reports of air-attacks are seldom without the names of the firms which produced the planes: Focke-Wulff, Heinkel, Lancaster feature where once the talk was of cuirassiers, lancers and hussars. The mechanism for reproducing life, for dominating and for destroying it, is exactly the same, and accordingly industry, state and advertising are amalgamated. The old exaggeration of sceptical Liberals, that war was a business, has come true: state power has shed even the appearance of independence from particular interests in profit; always in their service really, it now also places itself there ideologically. Every laudatory mention of the chief contractor in the destruction of cities, helps to earn it the good name that will secure it the best commissions in their building.

Like the Thirty Years' War, this too - a war whose beginning no-one will remember when it comes to an end - falls into discontinuous campaigns separated by empty pauses, the Polish campaign, the Norwegian, the Russian, the Tunisian, the Invasion. Its rhythm, the alternation of jerky action and total standstill for lack of geographically attainable enemies, has the same mechanical quality which characterizes individual military instruments and which too is doubtless what has resurrected the pre-Liberal form of the campaign. But this mechanical rhythm completely determines the human relation to the war, not only in the disproportion between individual bodily strength and the energy of machines, but in the most hidden cells of experience. Even in the previous conflict the body's incongruity with mechanical warfare made real experience impossible. No-one could have recounted it as even the Artillery-General Napoleon's battles could be recalled. The long interval between the war memoirs and the conclusion of peace is not fortuitous: it testifies to the painful reconstruction of memory, which in all the books conveys a sense of impotence and even falseness, no matter what terrors the writers have passed through. But the Second War is as totally divorced from experience as is the functioning of a machine from the movements of the body, which only begins to resemble it in pathological states. Just as the war lacks continuity, history, an 'epic' element, but seems rather to start anew from the beginning in each phase, so it will leave behind no permanent, unconsciously preserved image in the memory. Everywhere, with each explosion, it has breached the barrier against stimuli beneath which experience, the lag between healing oblivion and healing recollection, forms. Life has changed into a timeless succession of shocks, interspaced with empty, paralysed intervals. But nothing, perhaps, is more ominous for the future than the fact that, quite literally, these things will soon be past thinking on, for each trauma of the returning combatants, each shock not inwardly absorbed, is a ferment of future destruction. Karl Kraus was right to call his play 'The Last Days of Mankind'. What is being enacted now ought to bear the title: 'After Doomsday’.

The total obliteration of the war by information, propaganda, commentaries, with camera-men in the first tanks and war reporters dying heroic deaths, the mish-mash of enlightened manipulation of public opinion and oblivious activity: all this is another expression for the withering of experience, the vacuum between man and their fate, in which their real fate lies. It is as if the reified, hardened plaster-cast of events takes the place of events themselves. Men are reduced to walk-on parts in a monster documentary film which has no spectators, since the least of them has his bit to do on the screen. It is just this aspect that underlies the much-maligned designation 'phoney war'. Certainly, the term has its origin in the Fascist inclination to dismiss the reality of horror as 'mere propaganda' in order to perpetrate it unopposed. But like all Fascist tendencies, this too has its source in elements of reality, which assert themselves only by virtue of the Fascist attitude malignantly insinuating them. The war is really phoney, but with a phoneyness more horrifying than all the horrors, and those who mock at it are principal contributors to disaster.

Had Hegel's philosophy of history embraced this age, Hitler's robot-bombs would have found their place beside the early death of Alexander and similar images, as one of the selected empirical facts by which the state of the world-spirit manifests itself directly in symbols. Like Fascism itself, the robots career without a subject. Like it they combine utmost technical perfection with total blindness. And like it they arouse mortal terror and are wholly futile. 'I have seen the world spirit', not on horseback, but on wings and without a head, and that refutes, at the same stroke, Hegel's philosophy of history.

The idea that after this war life will continue 'normally' or even that culture might be 'rebuilt' - as if the rebuilding of culture were not already its negation - is idiotic. Millions of Jews have been Murdered, and this is to be seen as an interlude and not the catastrophe itself. What more is this culture waiting for? And even if countless people still have time to wait, is it conceivable that what happened in Europe will have no consequences, that the quantity victims will not be transformed into a new quality of society at large, barbarism? As long as blow is followed by counter-blow, catastrophe is perpetuated. One need only think of revenge for the murdered. If as many of the others are killed, horror will be institutionalized and the pre-capitalist pattern of vendettas, confined from time immemorial to remote mountainous regions, will be re-introduced in extended form, with whole nations as the subjectless subjects. If, however, the dead are not avenged and mercy is exercised, Fascism will despite everything get away with its victory scot-free, and, having once been shown so easy, will be continued elsewhere. The logic of history is as destructive as the people that it brings to prominence: wherever its momentum carries it it reproduces equivalents of past calamity. Normality is death.

Cinema newsreel: the invasion of the Marianas, including Guam. The impression is not of battles, but of civil engineering and blasting operations undertaken with immeasurably intensified vehemence, also of 'fumigation', insect-extermination on a terrestrial scale. Works are put in hand, until no grass grows. The enemy acts as patient and corpse. Like the Jews under Fascism, he features now as merely the object of technical and administrative measures, and should he defend himself, his own action immediately takes on the same character. Satanically, indeed, more initiative is in a sense demanded here than in old-style war: it seems to cost the subject his whole energy to achieve subjectlessness. Consummate inhumanity is the realization of Edward Grey's humane dream, war without hatred.

Ewa Partum, "Self-Identification", 1980

John Berger, Photographs of Agony, 1972

The news from Vietnam did not make big headlines in the papers this morning. It was simply reported that the American air force is systematically pursuing its policy of bombing the north. Yesterday there were 270 raids.

Behind this report there is an accumulation of other information. The day before yesterday the American air force launched the heaviest raids of this month. So far more bombs have been dropped this month than during any other comparable period. Among the bombs being dropped are the seven-ton superbombs, each of which flattens an area of approximately 8,000 square metres. Along with the large bombs, various kinds of small antipersonnel bombs are being dropped. One kind is full of plastic barbs which, having ripped through the flesh and embedded themselves in the body, cannot be located by x-ray. Another is called the Spider: a small bomb like a grenade with almost invisible 30-centimetre-long antennae, which, if touched, act as detonators. These bombs, distributed over the ground where larger explosions have taken place, are designed to blow up survivors who run to put out the fires already burning, or go to help those already wounded.

There are no pictures from Vietnam in the papers today. But there is a photograph taken by Donald McCullin in Hue in 1968 which could have been printed with the reports this morning. It shows an old man squatting with a child in his arms, both of them are bleeding profusely with the black blood of black-and-white photographs.

In the last year or so, it has become normal for certain mass circulation newspapers to publish war photographs which earlier would have been suppressed as being too shocking. One might explain this development by arguing that these newspapers have come to realise that a large section of their readers are now aware of the horrors of war and want to be shown the truth. Alternatively, one might argue that these newspapers believe that their readers have become inured to violent images and so now compete in terms of even more violent sensationalism.

The first argument is too idealistic and the second too transparently cynical. Newspapers now carry violent war photographs because their effect, except in rare cases, is not what it was once presumed to be. A paper like the Sunday Times continues to publish shocking photographs about Vietnam or about Northern Ireland whilst politically supporting the policies responsible for the violence. This is why we have to ask: What effect do such photographs have?

Many people would argue that such photographs remind us shockingly of the reality, the lived reality, behind the abstractions of political theory, casualty statistics or news bulletins. Such photographs, they might go on to say, are printed on the black curtain which is drawn across what we choose to forget or refuse to know. According to them, McCullin serves as an eye we canot shut. Yet what is it that they make us see.

They bring us up short. The most literal adjective that could be applied to them is arresting. We are seized by them. (I am aware that there are people who pass them over, but about them there is nothing to say.) As we look at them, the moment of the other's suffering engulfs us. We are filled with either despair or indignation. Despair takes on some of the other's suffering to no purpose. Indignation demands action. We try to emerge from the moment of the photograph back into our lives. As we do so, the contrast is such that the resumption of our lives appears to be a hopelessly inadequate response to what we have just seen.

McCullin's most typical photographs record sudden moments of agony - a terror, a wounding, a death, a cry of grief. These moments are in reality utterly discontinuous with normal time. It is the knowledge that such moments are probably and the anticipation of them that makes "time" in the front line unlike all other experiences of time. The camera which isolates a moment of agony isolates no more violently than the experience of that moment isolates itself. The word trigger, applied to rifle and camera, reflects a correspondence which does not stop at the purely mechanical. The image seized by the camera is doubly violent and both violences reinforce the same contrast: the contrast between the photographed moment and all others.

As we emerge from the photographed moment back into our lives, we do not realise this; we assume that the discontinuity is our responsibility. The truth is that any response to that photographed moment is bound to be felt as inadequate. Those who are there in the situation being photographed, those who hold the hand of the dying or staunch a wound, are not seeing the moment as we have and their responses are of an altogether different order. It is not possible for anyone to look pensively at such a moment and to emerge stronger. McCullin, whose "contemplation" is both dangerous and active, writes bitterly underneath a photograph: "I only use the camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job."

The possible contradictions of the war photograph now become apparent. It is generally assumed that its purpose is to awaken concern. The most extreme examples - as in most of McCullin's work - show moments of agony in order to extort the maximum concern. Such moments, whether photographed or not, are discontinuous with all other moments. They exist by themselves. But the reader who has been arrested by the photograph may tend to feel this discontinuity as his own personal moral inadequacy. And as soon as this happens even his sense of shock is dispersed: his own moral inadequacy may now shock him as much as the crimes being committed in the war. Either he shrugs off this sense of inadequacy as being only too familiar, or else he thinks of performing a kind of penance - of which the purest example would be to make a contribution to OXFAM or to UNICEF.

In both cases, the issue of the war which has caused that moment is effectively depoliticised. The picture becomes evidence of the general human condition. It accuses nobody and everybody.

Confrontation with a photographed moment of agony can mask a far more extensive and urgent confrontation. Usually the wars which we are shown are being fought directly or indirectly in "our" name. What we are shown horrifies us. The next step should be for us to confront our own lack of political freedom. In the political systems as they exist, we have no legal opportunity of effectively influencing the conduct of wars waged in our name. To realise this and to act accordingly is the only effective way of responding to what the photograph shows. Yet the double violence of the photographed moment actually works against this realisation. That is why they can be published with impunity.

Martha Rosler, "Red Stripe Kitchen", 1967-1972

Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulations; The Precession of Simulacra, 1981

If once we were able to view the Borges fable in which the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up covering the territory exactly (the decline of the Empire witnesses the fraying of this map, little by little, and its fall into ruins, though some shreds are still discernible in the deserts - the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction testifying to a pride equal to the Empire and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, a bit as the double ends by being confused with the real through aging) - as the most beautiful allegory of simulation, this fable has now come full circle for us, and possesses nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra. Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory - precession of simulacra - that engenders the territory, and if one must return to the fable, today it is the territory whose shreds slowly rot across the extent of the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours. The desert of the real itself. In fact, even inverted, Borges's fable is unusable. Only the allegory of the Empire, perhaps, remains. Because it is with this same imperialism that present-day simulators attempt to make the real, all of the real, coincide with their models of simulation. But it is no longer a question of either maps or territories. Something has disappeared: the sovereign difference, between one and the other, that constituted the charm of abstraction. Because it is difference that constitutes the poetry of the map and the charm of the territory, the magic of the concept and the charm of the real. This imaginary of representation, which simultaneously culminates in and is engulfed by the cartographers mad project of the ideal coextensivity of map and territory, disappears in the simulation whose operation is nuclear and genetic, no longer at all specular or discursive. It is all of metaphysics that is lost. No more mirror of being and appearances, of the real and its concept. No more imaginary coextensivity: it is genetic miniaturization that is the dimension of simulation. The real is produced from miniaturized cells, matrices, and memory banks, models of control - and it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times from these. It no longer needs to be rational, because it no longer measures itself against either an ideal or negative instance. It is no longer anything but operational. In fact, it is no longer really the real, because no imaginary envelops it anymore. It is a hyperreal, produced from a radiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere.

By crossing into a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real, nor that of truth, the era of simulation is inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials - worse: with their artificial resurrection in the systems of signs, a material more malleable than meaning, in that it lends itself to all systems of equivalences, to all binary oppositions, to all combinatory algebra. It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real, that is to say of an operation of deterring every real process via its operational double, a programmatic, metastable, perfectly descriptive machine that offers all the signs of the real and shortcircuits all its vicissitudes. Never again will the real have the chance to produce itself - such is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather of anticipated resurrection, that no longer even gives the event of death a chance. A hyperreal henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and for the simulated generation of differences.

The impossibility of rediscovering an absolute level of the real is of the same order as the impossibility of staging illusion. Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible. It is the whole political problem of parody, of hypersimulation or offensive simulation, that is posed here. Transgression and violence are less serious because they only contest the distribution of the real. Simulation is infinitely more dangerous because it always leaves open to supposition that, above and beyond its object, law and order themselves might be nothing but simulation.

But the difficulty is proportional to the danger. How to feign a violation and put it to the test? Simulate a robbery in a large store: how to persuade security that it is a simulated robbery? There is no "objective" difference: the gestures, the signs are the same as for a real robbery, the signs do not lean to one side or another. To the established order they are always of the order of the real. Organize a fake holdup. Verify that your weapons are harmless, and take the most trustworthy hostage, so that no human life will be in danger (or one lapses into the criminal). Demand a ransom, and make it so that the operation creates as much commotion as possible - in short, remain close to the "truth," in order to test the reaction of the apparatus to a perfect simulacrum. You won't be able to do it: the network of artificial signs will become inextricably mixed up with real elements (a policeman will really fire on sight; a client of the bank will faint and die of a heart attack; one will actually pay you the phony ransom), in short, you will immediately find yourself once again, without wishing it, in the real, one of whose functions is precisely to devour any attempt at simulation, to reduce everything to the real - that is, to the established order itself, well before institutions and justice come into play.

It is necessary to see in this impossibility of isolating the process of simulation the weight of an order that cannot see and conceive of anything but the real, because it cannot function anywhere else. The simulation of an offense, if it is established as such, will either be punished less severely (because it has no "consequences") or punished as an offense against the judicial system (for example if one sets in motion a police operation "for nothing") - but never as simulation since it is precisely as such that no equivalence with the real is possible, and hence no repression either. The challenge of simulation is never admitted by power. How can the simulation of virtue be punished? However, as such it is as serious as the simulation of crime. Parody renders submission and transgression equivalent, and that is the most serious crime, because it cancels out the difference upon which the law is based. The established order can do nothing against it, because the law is a simulacrum of the second order, whereas simulation is of the third order, beyond true and false, beyond equivalences, beyond rational distinctions upon which the whole of the social and power depend.

Thus, lacking the real, it is there that we must aim at order. This is certainly why order always opts for the real. When in doubt, it always prefers this hypothesis (as in the army one prefers to take the simulator for a real madman). But this becomes more and more difficult, because if it is practically impossible to isolate the process of simulation, through the force of inertia of the real that surrounds us, the opposite is also true (and this reversibility itself is part of the apparatus of simulation and the impotence of power): namely, it is now impossible to isolate the process of the real, or to prove the real.

This is how all the holdups, airplane hijackings, etc. are now in some sense simulation holdups in that they are already inscribed in the decoding and orchestration rituals of the media, anticipated in their presentation and their possible consequences. In short, where they function as a group of signs dedicated exclusively to their recurrence as signs, and no longer at all to their "real" end. But this does not make them harmless. On the contrary, it is as hyperreal events, no longer with a specific content or end, but indefinitely refracted by each other (just like so-called historical events: strikes, demonstrations, crises, etc.), it is in this sense that they cannot be controlled by an order that can only exert itself on the real and the rational, on causes and ends, a referential order that can only reign over the referential, a determined power that can only reign over a determined world, but that cannot do anything against this indefinite recurrence of simulation, against this nebula whose weight no longer obeys the laws of gravitation of the real, power itself ends by being dismantled in this space and becoming a simulation of power (disconnected from its ends and its objectives, and dedicated to the effects of power and mass simulation).

The only weapon of power, its only strategy against this defection, is to reinject the real and the referential everywhere, to persuade us of the reality of the social, of the gravity of the economy and the finalities of production. To this end it prefers the discourse of crisis, but also, why not? that of desire. "Take your desires for reality!" can be understood as the ultimate slogan of power since in a nonreferential world, even the confusion of the reality principle and the principle of desire is less dangerous than contagious hyperreality. One remains among principles, and among those power is always in the right. This is not a dream out of science fiction: everywhere it is a question of doubling the process of work. And of a doubling of the process of going on strike - striking incorporated just as obsolescence is in objects, just as crisis is in production. So, there is no longer striking, nor work, but both simultaneously, that is to say something else: a magic of work, a scenodrama (so as not to say a melodrama) of production, a collective dramaturgy on the empty stage of the social. It is no longer a question of the ideology of work - the traditional ethic that would obscure the "real" process of work and the "objective" process of exploitation - but of the scenario of work. In the same way, it is no longer a question of the ideology of power, but of the scenario of power. Ideology only corresponds to a corruption of reality through signs; simulation corresponds to a short circuit of reality and to its duplication through signs. It is always the goal of the ideological analysis to restore the objective process, it is always a false problem to wish to restore the truth beneath the simulacrum. This is why in the end power is so much in tune with ideological discourses and discourses on ideology, that is they are discourses of truth - always good for countering the mortal blows of simulation, even and especially if they are revolutionary.

Steve Biko, Fear - An Important Determinant in South African Politics, 1976

It would seem that the greatest waste of time in South Africa is to try and find logic in why the white government does certain things. If anything else, the constant inroads into the freedom of the black people illustrates a complete contempt for this section of the community. My premise has always been that black people should not at any one stage be surprised at some of the atrocities committed by the government. This to me follows logically after their initial assumption that they, being a settler minority, can have the right to be supreme masters. If they could be cruel enough to cow the natives down with brutal force and install themselves as perpetual rulers in a foreign land, then anything else they do to the same black people becomes logical in terms of the initial cruelty. To expect justice from them at any stage is to be naive. They almost have a duty to themselves and to their "electorate" to show that they still have the upper hand over the black people. There is only one way of showing that upper hand - by ruthlessly breaking down the back of resistance amongst the blacks, however petty that resistance is.

One must look at the huge security force that South Africa has in order to realise this. These men must always report something to their masters in order to justify their employment. It is not enough to report that "I have been to Pondoland and the natives are behaving well and are peaceful and content." This is not satisfactory, for the perpetrators of evil are aware of the cruelty of their system and hence do not expect the natives to be satisfied. So the security boys are sent back to Pondoland to find out who the spokesman is who claims that the people are satisfied and to beat him until he admits that he is not satisfied. At that point he is either banned or brought forward to be tried under one of the many Acts. The absolutely infantile evidence upon which the State builds up its cases in some of the trials does suggest to me that they are quite capable of arresting a group of boys playing hide and seek and charging them with high treason. This is the background against which one must see the many political trials that are held in this country. To them it looks as if something would be dangerously wrong if no major political trial was held for a period of one year. It looks as if someone will be accused by his superior for not doing his work. The strangest thing is that people are hauled in for almost nothing to be tried under the most vicious of Acts - like the Terrorism Act.

Aimé Césaire once said: "When I turn on my radio, when I hear that Negroes have been lynched in America, I say that we have been lied to: Hitler is not dead: when I turn on my radio and hear that in Africa, forced labour has been inaugurated and legislated, I say that we have certainly been lied to: Hitler is not dead".

Perhaps one need add only the following in order to make the picture complete: "When I turn on my radio, when I hear that someone in the Pondoland forest was beaten and tortured, I say that we have been lied to: Hitler is not dead, when I turn on my radio, when I hear that someone in jail slipped off a piece of soap, fell and died I say that we have been lied to: Hitler is not dead, he is likely to be found in Pretoria". To look for instances of cruelty directed at those who fall into disfavour with the security police is perhaps to look too far. One need not try to establish the truth of the claim that black people in South Africa have to struggle for survival. It presents itself in ever so many facets of our lives. Township life alone makes it a miracle for anyone to live up to adulthood. There we see a situation of absolute want in which black will kill black to be able to survive. This is the basis of the vandalism, murder, rape and plunder that goes on while the real sources of the evil - white society - are suntanning on exclusive beaches or relaxing in their bourgeois homes.

No average black man can ever at any moment be absolutely sure that he is not breaking a law. There are so many laws governing the lives and behaviour of black people that sometimes one feels that the police only need to page at random through their statute book to be able to get a law under which to charge a victim. The philosophy behind police action in this country seems to be "harass them! harass them!". It is this fear that erodes the soul of black people in South Africa - a fear obviously built up deliberately by the system through a myriad of civil agents, be they post office attendants, police, CID officials, army men in uniform, security police or even the occasional trigger-happy white farmer or store owner. It is a fear so basic in the considered actions of black people as to make it impossible for them to behave like people - let alone free people.

Yet this is a dangerous type of fear, for it only goes skin deep. It hides underneath it an immeasurable rage that often threatens to erupt. Beneath it lies naked hatred for a group that deserves absolutely no respect. Unlike in the rest of the French or Spanish former colonies where chances of assimilation made it not impossible for blacks to aspire towards being white, in South Africa whiteness has always been associated with police brutality and intimidation, early morning pass raids, general harassment in and out of townships and hence no black really aspires to being white. The claim by whites of monopoly on comfort and security has always been so exclusive that blacks see whites as the major obstacle in their progress towards peace, prosperity and a sane society. Through its association with all these negative aspects, whiteness has thus been soiled beyond recognition. At best therefore blacks see whiteness as a concept that warrants being despised, hated, destroyed and replaced by an aspiration with more human content in it. At worst blacks envy white society for the comfort it has usurped and at the centre of this envy is the wish - nay, the secret determination - in the innermost minds of most blacks who think like this, to kick whites off those comfortable garden chairs that one sees as he rides in a bus, out of town, and to claim them for themselves. Day by day, one gets more convinced that Aimé Césaire could not have been right when he said "no race possesses the monopoly on truth, intelligence, force and there is room for all of us at the rendezvous of victory." It may, perhaps, surprise some people that I should talk of whites in a collective sense when in fact it is a particular section i.e. the government - that carries out this unwarranted vendetta against blacks.

There are those whites who will completely disclaim responsibility for the country's inhumanity to the black man. These are the people who are governed by logic for 4½ years but by fear at election time. One must not underestimate the deeply imbedded fear of the black man so prevalent in white society. Whites know only too well what exactly they have been doing to blacks and logically find reason for the black man to be angry. Their state of insecurity however does not outweigh their greed for power and wealth, hence they brace themselves to react against this rage rather than to dispel it with openmindedness and fair play. This interaction between fear and reaction then sets on a vicious cycle that multiplies both the fear and the reaction. This is what makes meaningful coalitions between the black and white totally impossible. Also this is what makes whites act as a group and hence become culpable as a group.

One can of course say that blacks too are to blame for allowing the situation to exist. Or to drive the point even further, one may point out that there are black policemen and black special branch agents. To take the last point first, I must state categorically that there is no such thing as a black policeman. Any black man who props the system up actively has lost the right to being considered part of the black world: he has sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver and finds that he is in fact not acceptable to the white society he sought to join. These are colourless white lackeys who live in a marginal world of unhappiness. They are extensions of the enemy into our ranks. On the other hand, the rest of the black world is kept in check purely because of powerlessness.

Powerlessness breeds a race of beggars who smile at the enemy and swear at him in the sanctity of their toilets; who shout "Baas" willingly during the day and call the white man a dog in their buses as they go home. Once again the concept of fear is at the heart of this two-faced behaviour on the part of the conquered blacks.

This concept of fear has now taken a different dimension. One frequently hears people say of someone who has just been arrested or banned - "there is no smoke without fire" or if the guy was outspoken - "he asked for it, I am not surprised". In a sense this is almost deifying the security police; they cannot be wrong; if they could break the Rivonia plot, what makes them afraid of an individual to the point of banning him unless there is something - which we do not know? This kind of logic, found to varying degrees in the Afrikaner, the English and the black communities, is dangerous for it completely misses the point and reinforces irrational action on the part of the security police.

The fact of the matter is that the government and its security forces are also ruled by fear, in spite of their immense power. Like anyone living in mortal fear, they occasionally resort to irrational actions in the hope that a show of strength rather than proper intelligence might care the resistors satisfactorily. And of course the laws from which police derive their power are so vague and sweeping as to allow for all this. Hence one concludes that the South African security system is force-oriented rather than intelligence-oriented. One may of course add that this type of mentality, in this country, stretches all the way from State security to the style of rugby whites adopt. It has become their way of life.

One will therefore not be surprised if it proves very difficult to accept that "there is room for all of us at the rendezvous of victory". The tripartite system of fear - that of white fearing the blacks, blacks fearing whites and the government fearing blacks and wishing to allay the fear amongst whites - makes it difficult to establish rapport amongst the two segments of the community. The fact of living apart adds a different dimension and perhaps a more serious one - it makes the aspirations of the two groups diametrically opposed. The white strategy so far has been to systematically break down the resistance of the blacks to the point where the latter would accept crumbs from the white table. This we have shown we reject unequivocally; and now the stage is therefore set for a very interesting turn of events.

Ulrike Meinhof, Armed Anti-Imperialist Struggle, 1974

West Germany: post-fascist state, consumers, culture, metropolechauvinism, mass manipulation through media, psychological warfare, Social Democrats. The guerilla is a politico-militaristic organization operating within illegality. It struggles aligned with internationalism, the Internationale of the liberation movements waging war against imperialism in the third world and in the metropoles. These liberation movements are the armed avant-gardes of the world proletarian struggle.

Reality can only be perceived in a materialism related to struggle - class struggle - and war. Revolutionary action - no matter how it is brought about - will always be understood by the masses. Words are senseless, outrage is no weapon; the Guerilla takes action. The Guerrilla has no real viewpoint, no basis from which to operate. Everything is constantly in motion, as is the struggle. Struggle comes out of motion, moving on. The struggle is moving on. All that matters is the aim. The Guerrilla perceives class struggle as the basic principle of history and class struggle as the reality in which proletarian politics will be realized.

Man and woman in the Guerrilla are the new people for a new society, of which the guerrilla is the "Breeding cell" because of its identity of power, subjectivity, a constant process of learning and action (as opposed to theory). Guerrilla stands for a collective process of learning with the aim to "collectivize" the individual so that he will keep up collective learning. Politics and strategy live within each individual of the Guerrilla.

Andrei Tarkovsky, Fragments from Interviews, 1976-84

We can express our feelings regarding the world around us either by poetic or by descriptive means. I prefer to express myself metaphorically. Let me stress: metaphorically, not symbolically. A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image — as opposed to a symbol — is indefinite in meaning. One cannot speak of the infinite world by applying tools that are definite and finite. We can analyse the formula that constitutes a symbol, while metaphor is a being-within-itself, it's a monomial. It falls apart at any attempt of touching it. I am an enemy of symbols. Symbol is too narrow a concept for me in the sense that symbols exist in order to be deciphered. An artistic image on the other hand is not to be deciphered, it is an equivalent of the world around us. Rain in Solaris is not a symbol, it is only rain which at certain moment has particular significance to the hero. But it does not symbolise anything. It only expresses. This rain is an artistic image. Symbol for me is something too complicated.

I think people somehow got the idea that everything on screen should be immediately understandable. In my opinion events of our everyday lives are much more mysterious than those we can witness on screen. If we attempted to recall all events, step by step, that took place during just one day of our life and then showed them on screen, the result would be hundred times more mysterious than my film [Stalker]. Audiences got used to simplistic drama. Whenever a moment of realism appears on screen, a moment of truth, it is immediately followed by voices declaring it "confusing." Many think of Stalker as a science fiction film. But this film is not based on fantasy, it is realism on film. Try to accept its content as a record of one day in lives of three people, try to see it on this level and you'll find nothing complex, mysterious, or symbolic in it.

It makes no difference to me how the public receives and interprets my films. I make films in such a way as to create certain spiritual state in the viewer. As a result he cannot remain unchanged after watching the film. But what the viewer thinks about my film's style is unimportant to me. Viewers search for meanings as if this was some sort of a charade. I know of no work of art whose meaning would be clear to the degree demanded by some. When they listen to music, read a novel or watch a play they frequently encounter fragments they don't understand. It's a normal state of the relationship toward a work of art. But when they go to the cinema — they demand complete clarity, total understanding. I am against discrimination in art. Clarity is not most important. The world created by an artist is as complex as the world that surrounds him.

Today the world is developing on a strictly material plane. The evolution of contemporary society is now totally empirical and, in the final analysis it has divested itself of every trace of the spiritual. If one considers reality as a tangible, material order of things, then one has to expect from it only immediate effects, things one can touch with one's hands. Consequently, if man finds himself confronted solely by empirical givens, be it on a social, political or technical plane or on that of his own lived experience, the results can only be dreadful and life itself becomes impossible. For we cannot live without allowing ourselves room for spiritual development: even the most dull-witted brute can understand that - or at least feel it to be so. With his universe shrinking and its harmony destroyed, man has no longer any reason for living.

Peter Bruegel, "Hunters in the Snow", 1565

Kathy Acker, Algeria, 1979

A SERIES OF INVOCATIONS BECAUSE NOTHING ELSE WORKS



THE LAND IN ALGERIA IS PINK LIFE IN THIS AMERICA STINKS



CUNT

IN 1979, RIGHT BEFORE THE ALGERIAN REVOLUTION



BEGINS, THE CITY IS COLD AND DANK...



1 THE STUD ENEMY


I am fucking you and you are coming you have a hard time coming you breathe hard you have periods when you strain to come then your cock withers you strain to come again. I hear you I see you I don't feel I am doing anything to help you the rhythm is so steady I come jagged to your steady rhythm my coming is insignificant compared to your building. You gasp. You are three laps away. Oh I am coming again. My coming is always so unexpected. I want you to come. I want you to come. I want you. I want you. When you come I never come you are unable to move it is always so unexpected.

I leave Kader because I live in New York City and Kader lives in Toronto. In New York I feel I'm a jagged part skin walking down the street. I feel part of my being no longer is. That is disgusting. That is an outrage.

I have to leave the man I love because I have no money and he has no money. I want to bust up the government to destroy every government that's telling me what to do, controlling the me that I most want to be me, bust up the society that causes government, the money that denies feeling and irrationality I hate.

Separation from Kader makes me have to fill that separation with nothing, makes me grab at everyone, makes me hate everyone for me every single thing is equal to every other single thing: I have to get to you. I have to get to you.

I HATE equals I LOVE YOU.

Here in New York, every morning I wake up, I don't want to be awake. I have to persuade myself to wake up. I have to use my will to get food in my mouth because my heart sees no reason for anything. I don't feel unhappy. I don't think my life's repulsive even though I have no money for food I have to beg friends for food. I don't care about poverty. I want. Kader and I write each other a lot. I write Kader I'm a terrorist which is obviously a lie. Kader writes me he's waiting on a subway platform when the subway comes he doesn't know whether to throw himself under it or walk into it when he gets home he sticks a knife into his own hand beats his head against the wall. I write we're not going to see each other again because we live in separate cities and we have no hope of attaining money. Kader writes me if he doesn't see me soon he'll go crazy.

The Algerian revolution began on May 8, 1945, in Setif, a largely Muslim town 80 miles west of Constantine. The town inhabitants were preparing to celebrate the Nazi capitulation to Western European forces of the previous night. The Algerians had always passively resented their French occupants. The newly formed nationalist movement Parti du Peuple Aigerien (P.P.A.) was the first occasion for direct Algerian anger. Right before the anti-Nazi celebration, the French sent the leader of the P.P.A, Messali Hadj, to jail. The Muslim population of Setif wanted the anti-Nazi celebration to become a strong suggestion that the French leave Algeria to the Algerians.

Actually there was no such important rational plan. All people are hungry, wanting. Hungry people do not act by rational plans, but by instinct. During the anti-Nazi celebration, a French policeman saw a beautiful Algerian boy, got a hard-on, couldn't tell what he should do. The Algerians were carrying their green-and-white national flag and banners saying "Long Live Messali" "Free Messali" "For The Liberation Of The People, Long Live Free And Independent Algeria!" Instead of fucking him up the ass, the cop shot the beautiful Algerian boy in the stomach. People act in accordance with the energy levels of their situations. The Muslims jumped the Europeans. Anger was out on the streets.

The next week the Europeans murdered 45,000 Muslims.

Over the phone I tell Kader to come to New York. He phones me he's planning to come he doesn't have any money he needs to find free rides each way and some free money. We're both feeling desperate.

Kader says he'll come to New York he'll borrow the money. I tell him if he can't get hold of the money, he's not old enough to have me. I'm forgetting who Kader is. My forgetting gets me scared cause I'm desperate to have someone else in my life.

I decide as if the decision is no part of me I stick with Kader. I ask him when are you coming to New York? Kader says he'll be here in three days because he's been able to borrow the money. I love him. I don't want him to come here, break into my isolation. My body desperately wants a cock inside her.

Before and after Setif, the French colonists were controlling more and more of Algeria and decimating more and more Algerians. By 1954 an average European in Algeria owned ten times the land an average Algerian owned and earned 25 times as much moola. The French pumped the Algerians full of penicillin and other antibiotics so the Algerians would have more kids. All these kids had no way to eat so they’d do anything for money. They were dispossessed de-everything-ed. The French Arab Culture ministers told the Arbas they’d have to stop speaking and writing their language, Arabic. They told the Arab women their Arab men had made them into slaves.

Over half-a-million Algerian Muslims a year fled to france to the garbaged cities in which they worked for French bosses for almost nothing though to them it was a lot because in Algeria the average Muslim worker earned twenty-two cents a day if he was lucky one-ninth of the population was unemployed and earned nothing.

I, Omar, live alone in a room. I almost never leave my room. I am lonely out of my mind sometimes. A lot of this time I worry a lot about money because for the last three months I have owned about ten dollars a week I am two months behind on rent I hate all other people; I am unable to fuck I am horny; I see nobody I am scared I am in danger kill kill; I am unable to kill my grandmother who is rich many people kill many people in wars I hate myself because I do not kill; because I do not walk out of my room.

Whenever a cock enters me every night three nights in a row, I ask myself regardless of who the cock belongs to should I let my SELF depend on this person or should I remain a closed entity. I say: I'm beginning to love you I don't want to see you again. The man thinks I'm crazy so he wants nothing to do with me.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SEX BECAUSE IT BREAKS THE RATIONAL MIND.

The French police fastened the gegene's (an army signals magneto) electrodes to the Algerian rebel's ears and fingers. A flash of lightning exploded next to the man's ears he felt his heart racing in his breast. The cops turned up the electricity. Instead of those sharp and rapid spasms, the Algerian felt more pain, convulsed muscles, longer spasms. The cop placed the electrodes in his mouth. The currents plastered his jaws against the electrodes. Images of fire luminous geometric nightmares burned across his glued eyelids. While the Algerian longed for water, they dumped his head into a bucket of ice-cold liquid until he had to breathe the liquid. They did this again and again. They did this again and again. A fist big as an ox's ball slammed into his head. The screams of other prisoners were all around him. He no longer knew he was in pain, pain was wrong, living wasn't a constant fire of torture and disgust. The moment before the Algerian went crazy and accepted horror as usual, his greatest fear and torment was this consciousness that he, the Algerian, is about to go crazy, has to give up his mind which is anger and accept the horrible inequality, the French way of living he is fighting against.

THE PROBLEM OF WE THE COLONIZED

All those people of whom we are afraid, who crush the jealous emerald of our dreams, who twist the fragile curve of our smiles, all those people we face, who ask us no questions, but to whom we put strange ones: Who are they?

What can our enthusiasm and devotion and madness achieve if everyday reality is now a tissue of lies, a tissue of cowardice, a tissue of contempt for human mentality? The degree of alienation of the people who gave me this world seems frightening to me. Alien to alienation, we now have to live depersonalized or....

Right now there is no difference between a legal and a criminal act. Lawlessness, inequality for the sake of desire, multi-daily murders of human beings have been raised to the status of legislated middle-class principles.

This social structure negates our beings, makes us who are without into nothings. If we hope: if we talk of or search for love, this hope is not an open door to the future, but the illogical maintenance of a subjective attitude in organized contradiction with reality.

Beneath the lousy material way we live, beneath our petty crimes, we want to eat food without roach-eggs and we want to love people. I think a society that drives its members to desperate solutions is a non-viable society, a society to be replaced.

HOW CAN I WHO AM DISINHERITED ACT?

I have to make Kader here even if he isn't here. I talk to Kader on the streets. I write down the conversations I have with Kader over the phone. I use Kader for everything. I can't write down what I think I should be writing Kader's thoughts keep interrupting me. I have to fuck I have to fuck I have to fuck I.

I think that for a kid American family life is so bad (cause the parents, taking shit from their parents, bosses, the media, etc., have only their kid to dump on), that all a kid can do these days by the time he has his first chance to try to control a little of his life is find some decent parents so maybe he can grow up. Each young person is desperately trying to find a parent. Since there are no adults now, there are no other relationships.

Kader is in New York now. I don't feel anything for him.

After the French murdered 45,000 Muslims, they seized and imprisoned the rest of the rebel leaders. But the Algerian people didn't stop being angry. The young Algerian boys who were growing up knew smatterings of Marxist revolutionary techniques. They didn't care for liberal sentiments or revolutionary discussions. They weren't interested in groups. They enjoyed having. They liked to fight. They respected violence.


Aaron Swartz, Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, 2008

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You'll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It's outrageous and unacceptable.

"I agree," many say, "but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it's perfectly legal — there's nothing we can do to stop them." But there is something we can, something that's already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It's called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn't immoral — it's a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we'll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

Judith Butler, Fragment from Reading Rodney King, 1993

The defense attorneys for the police in the Rodney King case made the argu­ment that the policemen were endangered, and that Rodney King was the source of that danger. The argument they made drew from many sources, comments he made, acts he refused to perform on command, and the highly publicized video recording taken on the spot and televised widely before and during the trial. During the trial, the video was shown at the same time that the defense offered a commentary, and so we are left to presume that some convergence of word and picture produced the "evidence" for the jurors in the case. The video shows a man being brutally beaten, repeatedly, and without visible resistance; and so the question is, How could this video be used as evidence that the body being beaten was itself a source of,danger, the threat of violence, and further, that the beaten body of Rodney King bore an intention to injure, and to injure precisely those police who either wielded the baton against him or stood encircling him? In the Simi Valley courtroom, what many took to be incontrovertible evidence against the police was presented instead to establish police vulnerability, that is, to support the contention that Rodney King was endangering the police. Later, a juror reported that she believed that Rodney King was in "total control" of the situation. How was this feat of interpretation achieved?

That it was achieved is not the consequence of ignoring the video, but, rather, of reproducing the video within a racially saturated field of visibility. If racism pervades white perception, structuring what can and cannot appear within the horizon of white perception, then to what extent does it interpret in advance "visual evidence"? And how, then, does such "evidence" have to be read, and read publicly, against the racist disposition of the visible which will prepare and achieve its own inverted perceptions under the rubric of "what is seen"?

In the above, without hesitation, I wrote, "the video shows a man being brutally beaten." And yet, it appears that the jury in Simi Valley claimed that what they "saw" was a body threatening the police, and saw in those blows the reasonable actions of police officers in self-defense. From these two interpretations emerges, then, a contest within the visual field, a crisis in the certainty of what is visible, one that is produced through the saturation and schematization of that field with the inverted projections of white paranoia. The visual representation of the black male body being beaten on the street by the policemen and their batons was taken up by that racist interpretive framework to construe King as the agent of violence, one whose agency is phantasmatically implied as the narrative precedent and antecedent to the frames that are shown. Watching King, the white paranoiac forms a sequence of narrative intelligibility that consolidates the racist figure of the black man: "He had threatened them, and now he is being justifiably restrained." "If they cease hitting him, he will release his violence, and now is being justifiably restrained." King's palm turned away from his body, held above his own head, is read not as self-protection but as the incipient moments of a physical threat.

How do we account for this reversal of gesture and intention in terms of a racial schematization of the visible field? Is this a specific transvaluation of agency proper to a racialized episteme? And does the possibility of such a reversal call into question whether what is "seen" is not always already in part a question of what a certain racist episteme produces as the visible? For if the jurors came to see in Rodney King's body a danger to the law, then this "seeing" requires to be read as that which was culled, cultivated, regulated—indeed, policed—in the course of the trial. This is not a simple seeing, an act of direct perception, but the racial production of the visible, the workings of racial constraints on what it means to "see." Indeed, the trial calls to be read not only as instruction in racist modes of seeing but as a repeated and ritualistic production of blackness (a further instance of what Ruth Gilmore, in describing the video beating, calls an act of "nation building"). This is a seeing which is a reading, that is, a contestable con­strual, but one which nevertheless passes itself off as "seeing," a reading which became for that white community, and for countless others, the same as seeing.

If what is offered here over and against what the jury saw is a different seeing, a different ordering of the visible, it is one that is also contestable—as we saw in the temporary interpretive triumph of the defense attorneys' construal of King as endangering. To claim that King's victimization is manifestly true is to assume that one is presenting the case to a set of subjects who know how to see; to think that the video "speaks for itself" is, of course, for many of us, obviously true. But if the field of the visible is racially contested terrain, then it will be politically imperative to read such videos aggressively, to repeat and publicize such readings, if only to further an antiracist hegemony over the visual field. It may appear at first that over and against this heinous failure to see police brutality, it is necessary to restore the visible as the sure ground of evidence. But what the trial and its horrific conclusions teach us is that there is no simple recourse to the visible, to visual evidence, that it still and always calls to be read, that it is already a reading, and that in order to establish the injury on the basis of the visual evidence, an aggressive reading of the evidence is necessary.

It is not, then, a question of negotiating between what is "seen," on the one hand, and a "reading" which is imposed upon the visual evidence, on the other. In a sense, the problem is even worse: to the extent that there is a racist organ­ization and disposition of the visible, it will work to circumscribe what qualifies as visual evidence, such that it is in some cases impossible to establish the "truth" of racist brutality through recourse to visual evidence. For when the visual is fully schematized by racism, the "visual evidence" to which one refers will always and only refute the conclusions based upon it; for it is possible within this racist episteme that no black person can seek recourse to the visible as the sure ground of evidence. Consider that it was possible to draw a line of inference from the black male body motionless and beaten on the street to the conclusion that this very body was in "total control," rife with "dangerous intention." The visual field is not neutral to the question of race; it is itself a racial formation, an episteme, hegemonic and forceful.

Manfredo Tafuri, There Is No Criticism, Only History, 2009

There is no such thing as criticism, there is only history. What usually is passed off as criticism, the things you find in architecture magazines, is produced by architects, who frankly are bad historians. As for your concern for what should be the subject of criticism, let me propose that history is not about objects, but instead is about men, about human civilization. What should interest the historian are the cycles of architectural activity and the problem of how a work of architecture fits in its own time. To do otherwise is to impose one’s own way of seeing on architectural history.

What is essential to understanding architecture is the mentality, the mental structure of any given period. The historian’s task is to recreate the cultural context of a work. Take for example a sanctuary dedicated to the cult of the Madonna, built sometimes in the Renaissance. What amazes us is how consistently these buildings have a central plan and an octagonal shape. The form cannot be explained without a knowledge of the religious attitudes of the period and a familiarity with the inheritance from antiquity—a reproposal of the temple form devoted to female divinities. Or take the case of Pope Alexander VII, whose interest in Gothic architecture at the cathedral of Siena [mid-17th century] compared to his patronage of Bernini in Rome can only be explained through a knowledge of the Sienese environment and traditions. The historian must evaluate all the elements that surround a work, all of its margins of involvement; only then can he start to discover the margins of freedom, or creativity, that were possible for either the architect or the sponsor.

The problem is the same for comprehending current work. You ask how the historian might gain the distance from a new work to apply historical methods. Distance is fundamental to history: the historian examining current work must create artificial distance. This cannot be done without a profound knowledge of the times—through the differences we can better understand the present. I’ll give you a simple example: you can tell me with precision the day and year of your birth, and probably the hour. A man of the 16th century would only be able to tell you that he was born about 53 years ago. There is a fundamental difference in the conception of time in our own era: we have the products of mass media that give us instantaneous access to all the information surrounding our lives. Four centuries ago it took a month to learn of the outcome of a battle. An artist in the 15th century had a completely different reference to space-time; every time he moved to a new city (which was very rarely) he would make out his will. In earlier centuries, time was not calculated but was considered to be a gift from God. Knowledge was also considered to be God-given and thus teachers in the Middle Ages could not be paid; only later was their payment justified as a compensation for time. These factors belong to the mental web of another era. The way for us to gain distance from our own times, and thus perspective, is to confront its differences from the past.

One of the greatest problems of our own times is dealing with the uncontrollable acceleration of time, a process that began with 19th-century industrializations; it keeps continually disposing of things in expectation of the future, of the next thing. All avant-garde movements were in fact based on the continual destruction of preceding works in order to go on to something new. Implicit in this is the murder of the future. The program of the “modern” artist was always to anticipate the next thing. It’s just like when you see a “coming attraction” ad for a film, essentially you have already consumed the film and the event of going to see the film is predictably disappointing and makes you anxious for something new.

This anxiety for the future represents a secularization of the Book of the Apocalypse—things only have meaning in relation to the eschatology of their final goal. This is the basic parameter. This continual destruction of the present contributes to the nihilism of our times.

The historian has to abandon his prejudices about the quality of the work in order to deal with the problem behind it. The work of Eisenman and Hejduk was much more interesting 10 years ago than it is today because it showed a curious problem of Americans looking to Europe, and what they chose to look at was an “Americanized” Europe—Eisenman’s Terragni is an architecture without human history. Using the theoretical precepts of Chomsky and Lévi-Strauss (rather than the more characteristic American pragmatism), they succeeded in emptying their historic sources of the human subject.

As to the problems of architecture, it is more interesting to note cycles—series of things—rather than individual works of architects. The historic cycle tells us more than stylistic taxonomies. In the US, for instance, the attitudes toward public housing that emerged during the Progressive era under Theodore Roosevelt were regenerated during the New Deal and present a significant cycle for the historian to analyze.

The greatest confusion in the “criticism” of architecture is in fact due to the magazines attached to the profession: architects should do architecture and historians should do history. Can you imagine what would happen if I built a house? Or do you think that Reagan took a copy of Machiavelli (or even something contemporary like Schlesinger) to Geneva—impossible, he just acts, and this is also what the architect should do. The study of history has indirect ways of influencing action. If an architect needs to read to understand where he is, he is without a doubt a bad architect! I frankly don’t see the importance of pushing theory into practice; instead, to me, it is the conflict of things that is important, that is productive. I don’t see it as being prophetic, but what I was saying 15 years ago in Architecture and Utopia has become a fairly standard analysis: there are no more utopias, the architecture of commitment, which tried to engage us politically and socially, is finished, and what is left to pursue is empty architecture. Thus an architect today is forced to either be great or be a nonentity. I really don’t see this as the “failure of Modern architecture”; we must look instead at what an architect could do when certain things were not possible, and what he could do when they were possible. This is why I insist on the late work of Le Corbusier, which had no longer any message to impose on humanity. And as I have been trying to make clear in talking about historical context: no one can determine the future.

Until recently history has been conceived of as Universal History, which had a finite sequence from beginning to end. There was always a goal to history, inherited from millenarian thought, and this remained with historians as they moved from hermeneutic history based on the interpretation of sacred texts to a history based on human action. The desire to understand life according to a final outcome necessarily led to a causal way of thinking, evident even in someone as modern as Benedetto Croce, who considered history as the history of freedom. If we look at it, however, as the continual exposure to the unexpected instead of seeking causes, we get a different history, one that presents concatenations rather than causes. Instead of a linear history, we get a history with a hole in the middle.

The time of connections (collegamenti) is over. Knowledge seen as analogy is no longer valid. The correspondences that were considered capable of linking microcosm to macrocosm (i.e., treating the headache as a storm in the head), this system of concordia-discors gave way because it could no longer alleviate man’s anxiety. Even our great 19th-century minds—Nietzsche, Marx, Freud—retained some millennial thinking when they proposed the possibility of a better time by bringing us to the limits of our own existence. Building on their knowledge, we can only try to live more completely—if we really are resolved to eliminate anxiety, then we would realize that history serves to dispel nostalgia, not inspire it.

Moisei Ginzburg, Competition Entry for the Palace of the Soviets, 1931


Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin, 1971-95

Umberto Eco, Towards a Semiological Guerilla Warfare, 1967

Not long ago, if you wanted to seize political power in a country, you had merely to control the army and the police. Today it is only in the most backward countries that fascist generals, in carrying out a coup d'etat, still use tanks. If a country has reached a high level of industrialization the whole scene changes. The day after the fall of Khrushchev, the editors of Pravda, Izvestiia, the heads of the radio and television were replaced; the army wasn't called out. Today a country belongs to the person who controls communications. I'm not saying anything new; by now not only students of communication but also the general public is aware that we are living in the Age of Communication. As Professor McLuhan has suggested, information is no longer an instrument for producing economic merchandise, but has itself become the chief merchandise. Communication has been transformed into heavy industry. When economic power passes from the hands of those who control the means of production to those who not only control information media but can also control the means of production, the problem of alienation also alters its meaning. Faced by the prospect of a communications network that expands to embrace the universe, every citizen of the world becomes a member of a new proletariat. But no revolutionary manifesto could rally this proletariat with the words: "Workers of the world, unite!" Because, even if the communications media, as means of production, were to change masters, the situation of subjection would not change. We can legitimately suspect that the communications media would be alienating even if they belonged to the community.

The contents of the message will not depend on the author but on the technical and sociological characteristics of the medium. For some time the severest critics of mass culture have been aware of all this, and they agree: "'The mass media do not transmit ideologies; they are themselves an ideology!" This position, which I defined as "apocalyptic," implies this further argument: It doesn't matter what you say via the channels of mass communication; when the recipient is surrounded by a series of communications which reach him via various channels at the same time, in a given form, the nature of all this disparate information is of scant significance. The important thing is the gradual, uniform bombardment of information, where the different contents are leveled and lose their differences.

The communication chain assumes a Source that, through a Transmitter, emits a Signal via a Channel. At the end of the Channel the Signal, through a Receiver, is transformed into a Message for the Addressee. Since the Signal, while traveling through the Channel, can be disturbed by Noise, one must make the Message redundant, so that the information is transmitted clearly. But the other fundamental requirement of this chain is a Code, shared by the Source and the Addressee. A Code is an established system of probabilities, and only on the basis of the Code can we decide whether the elements of the message are intentional (desired by the Source) or the result of Noise. It seems to me very important to bear in mind the various links in this chain, because when they are overlooked there are misunderstandings that prevent us from observing the phenomenon with attention.

We have mass communication when the Source is one, central, structured according to the methods of industrial organization; the Channel is a technological invention that affects the very form of the signal; and the Addressees are the total number (or, anyway, a very large number) of the human beings in various parts of the globe. American scholars have realized what a Technicolor love movie, conceived for ladies in the suburbs, means when it is shown in a Third World village. In countries like Italy, where the TV message is developed by a centralized industrial Source and reaches simultaneously a northern industrial city and a remote rural village of the South, social settings divided by centuries of history, this phenomenon occurs daily. But paradoxical reflection also is enough to convince us on this score. The American magazine Eros published famous photographs of a white woman and a black man, naked, kissing; if those images had been broadcast over a popular TV channel, I presume that the significance attributed to the message by the governor of Alabama would be different from that of Allen Ginsberg. For a California hippie, for a Greenwich Village radical, the image would have meant the promise of a new community; for a Klansman, the message would have signified a terrible threat of rape.

The mass communication universe is full of these discordant interpretations; I would say that variability of interpretation is the constant law of mass communications. The messages set out from the Source and arrive in distinct sociological situations, where different codes operate. For a Milanese bank clerk a TV ad for a refrigerator represents a stimulus to buy, but for an unemployed peasant in Calabria the same image means the confirmation of a world of prosperity that doesn't belong to him and that he must conquer. This is why I believe TV advertising in depressed countries functions as a revolutionary message. The problem of mass communications is that until now this variability of interpretation has been random. Nobody regulates the way in which the addressee uses the message -- except in a few rare cases. And here, even if we shift the problem, even if we say "the medium is not the message" but rather "the message depends on the code," we do not solve the problem of the communications era. If the apocalyptic says, "The medium does not transmit ideologies: It itself is ideology; television is the form of communication that takes on the ideology of advanced industrial society," we could now only reply: "The medium transmits those ideologies which the addressee receives according to codes originating in his social situation, in his previous education, and in the psychological tendencies of the moment." In this case the phenomenon of mass communication would remain unchanged.

There exists an extremely powerful instrument that none of us will ever manage to regulate; there exist means of communication that, unlike means of production, are not controllable either by private will or by the community. In confronting them, all of us, from the head of CBS to the president of the United States, from Martin Heidegger to the poorest fellah of the Nile delta, all of us are the proletariat. And yet I believe it is wrong to consider the battle of man against the technological universe of communication as a strategic affair. It is a matter of tactics. As a rule, politicians, educators, communications scientists believe that to control the power of the media you must control two communicating moments of the chain: the Source and the Channel. In this way they believe they can control the message. Alas, they control only an empty form that each addressee will till with the meanings provided by his own cultural models. The strategic solution is summed up in the sentence "We must occupy the chair of the Minister of Information" or even "We must occupy the chair of the publisher of The New York Times." I will not deny that this strategic view can produce excellent results for someone aiming at political and economic success, but I begin to fear it produces very skimpy results for anyone hoping to restore to human beings a certain freedom in the face of the total phenomenon of Communication.

So for the strategic solution it will be necessary, tomorrow, to employ a guerrilla solution. What must be occupied, in every part of the world, is the first chair in front of every TV set (and naturally, the chair of the group leader in front of every movie screen, every transistor, every page of newspaper). If you want a less paradoxical formulation, I will put it like this: The battle for the survival of man as a responsible being in the Communications Era is not to be won where the communication originates, but where it arrives. I mention guerrilla warfare because a paradoxical and difficult fate lies in store for us - - I mean for us scholars and technicians of communication. Precisely when the communication systems envisage a single industrialized source and a single message that will reach an audience scattered all over the world, we should be capable of imagining systems of complementary communication that allow us to reach every individual human group, every individual member of the universal audience, to discuss the arriving message in the light of the codes at the destination, comparing them with the codes at the source.

A political party that knows how to set up a grass-roots action that will reach all the groups that follow TV and can bring them to discuss the message they receive can change the meaning that the Source had attributed to this message. An educational organization that succeeds in making a given audience discuss the message it is receiving could reverse the meaning of that message. Or else show that the message can be interpreted in different ways. Mind you: I am not proposing a new and more terrible form of control of public opinion. I am proposing an action to urge the audience to control the message and its multiple possibilities of interpretation. The idea that we must ask the scholars and educators of tomorrow to abandon the TV studios or the offices of the newspapers, to fight a door-to-door guerrilla battle like provos of Critical Reception can be frightening, and can also seem utopian. But if the Communications Era proceeds in the direction that today seems to us the most probable, this will be the only salvation for free people. The methods of this cultural guerrilla have to be worked out. Probably in the interrelation of the various communications media, one medium can be employed to communicate a series of opinions on another medium. To some extent this is what a newspaper does when it criticizes a TV program.

But who can assure us that the newspaper article will be read in the way we wish? Will we have to have recourse to another medium to teach people how to read the newspaper in a critical fashion? Certain phenomena of "mass dissent" (hippies, beatniks, new Bohemias, student movements) today seem to us negative replies to the industrial society: The society of Technological Communication is rejected in order to look for alternative forms, using the means of the technological society (television, press, record companies ...). So there is no leaving the circle; you are trapped in it willy-nilly. Revolutions are often resolved in more picturesque forms of integration. But it could be that these nonindustrial forms of communication (from the love-in to the rally of students seated on the grass of the campus) can become the forms of a future communications guerrilla warfare -- a manifestation complementary to the manifestations of Technological Communication, the constant correction of perspectives, the checking of codes, the ever renewed interpretations of mass messages. The universe of Technological Communication would then be patrolled by groups of communications guerrillas, who would restore a critical dimension to passive reception. The threat that "the medium is the message" could then become, for both medium and message, the return to individual responsibility. To the anonymous divinity of Technological Communication our answer could be: "Not Thy, but our will be done."

Richard Serra, Excerpt from Yale Lecture, 1990

My decision early on, to build site-specific works in steel took me out of the traditional studio. The studio has been replaced by urbanism and industry. I rely upon the industrial sector to build my work, upon structural and civil engineers upon surveyors, laborers, transporters, riggers, construction workers, etcetera... Steel mills, shipyards and fabricating plants have become my on the road extended studios. I began to work steel mills when I was seventeen to support my education. These mills have since provided a source for material, inspiration, fabrication and construction. I consider their most advanced processes and how I can interact with them. To be able to enter into a steel mill, a shipard, a thermal plant and extend both their work and my needs is a way of becoming an active producer within a given technology, not a manipulator or consumer of a found industrial product.

The history of welded sculpture in this century has had little influence on my work. Most traditional sculpture until the mid-century was based on a relationship of part to whole. That is, the steel elements were collaged pictorially and compositionally together. Most of the welding was a way of gluing and adjusting parts which through their internal structure were not self supporting. This is clearly evidenced in most Modernist sculpture, be it Gonzalez, Picasso, Smith, or Calder. To work with steel not as a picture making element, but as a building material in terms of mass, weight, counterbalance, loadbearing capacity, point load, compression, friction and statics has application within the histories of architecture, technology and industrial building. Sculptors for the most part have ignored the results of the industrial revolution failing to investigate these fundamental processes and methods of steelmaking, engineering and construction. The builders I have looked to have therefore been those who explored the potential of steel as one of the most advanced materials for construction: Roebling, Maillart, Mies van der Rohe.

The concept of site-specific sculpture has nothing to do with opinion or belief. It is a concept which can be verified in each case. The process of conception can be reconstructed and the specificity of a work in relation to its site can be measured by its effects on the site. The fact that the technological process is revealed depersonalizes and demythologizes the idealization of the sculptor's craft. The work does not enter into the fictitious realm of the 'master'. How the work alters the site is the issue, not the persona of the author. Site-specific works deal with the environmental components of given places. The scale, size and location of site-specific works are determined by the topography of the site, whether it be urban or landscape or architectural enclosure. The works become part of the site and structure both conceptually and perceptually the organization of the site. My works never decorate, illustrate or depict a site.

The specificity of site-oriented works means that they are conceived for, dependent on and inseparable from their location. Scale, size and placement of sculptural elements result from an analysis of the particular environmental components of a given context. The preliminary analysis of a given site takes into consideration not only formal but social and political characteristics of the site. Site-specific works invariably manifest a value judgement about the larger social and political context of which they are part. Based on the interdependence of work and site, site-specific works address the content and context of their site critically. Site-specific solutions demonstrate the possibility of seeing the simultaneity of newly developed relationships between sculpture and context. A new behavioral and perceptual orientation to a site demands a new critical adjustment to one's experience of the place. Site-specific works emphasize the comparison between two separate languages that can therefore use the language of one to criticize the language of the other. To quote Bertrand Russell on this problem: 'Every language has a structure about which one can say nothing in that language. There must be another language, dealing with the structure of the first and processing a new structure about which one cannot say anything except in a third language - and so forth.'

It is the explicit intention of site-specific works to alter their context. Le Corbusier understood this as early as 1932. He wrote in a letter to Victor Nekrasov: 'You have in Moscow, in the churches of the Kremlin, many magnificent Byzantine frescoes. In certain cases, these paintings do not undermine the architecture. But I am not sure they add to it, either; this is the whole problem of the fresco. I accept the fresco not as something which gives emphasis to the wall, but on the contrary as a means to destroy the wall violently, to remove any notion of its stability, weight, etcetera. I accept Michelangelo's "Last Judgement" in the Sistine Chapel, which destroys the wall; and I accept the Sistine Chapel's ceiling as well, which completely distorts the very notion of ceiling. The dilemma is simple: if the Sistine Chapel's wall and ceiling were intended to be preserved as form, they should not have been painted as frescoes, it means that someone wanted to remove forever their original architectural character and create something else, which is acceptable.'

However, the contextual issues of site-specific works remain problematic. Site specificity is not a value in itself. Works which are built within the contextual frame of governmental, corporate, educational and religious institutions run the risk of being read as tokens of those institutions. One way of avoiding ideological cooptation is to choose leftover sites which cannot be the object of ideological misinterpretation. However, there is no neutral site. Every context has its frame and ideological overtones. It is a matter of degree. But there are sites where it is obvious that artwork is being subordinated to/accommodated to/adapted to/subservient to/required to/useful to... In such cases it is necessary to work in opposition to the constraints of the context, so that the work cannot be read as an affirmation of questionable ideologies and political power. I am not interested in art as affirmation or in art as manifestation of complicity. I think that if sculpture has any potential at all, it has the potential to work in contradiction to the places and spaces where it is created.

Large scale site-specific projects which do not allow for secondary sale are hardly ever considered to be a worthy investment. For that reason the concept of site specificity and corporate sponsorship are antithetical. Corporate sponsorship for the arts breeds economic opportunism and reinforces palatable artistic conventions. Artists who willingly accept corporate support likewise submit to corporate control. Their hands and minds are set in motion by external strings: supply upon demand, accommodation with consent. Corporate funded artworks are often advertised as public service. Slogans such as 'art for the people' mask the cynicism of commercial and political manipulation, which would like to make believe that we all live in a homogenous society of consumers. Cultural and educational inequalities based on economic inequality are a reality which needs to be revealed and not glossed over by a populist notion of art for the people. This aspiration of art cannot be to serve and thereby reaffirm the status quo by delivering products which give people what they want and supposedly need. Marketing is based on this premise. By mimicking the strategies of the media, Warhol became the master of art as a commercial enterprise. The more one betrays one's language to commercial interests, the greater the possibility that those in authority will reward one's efforts. If artifacts do not accord with the consumerist needs of people, if they don't submit to exploitation and marketing strategies, they can be voted ad hoc into oblivion. Tolerance exists only for officially sanctioned ideas. Submission is at the core of the problem. For sure there is relief in submission to authority. But how much of our autonomy do we cede to a government for example that pursues policies which we find contradictory to our basic beliefs. At one point one must say that such and such a policy is nonsense. If one remains silent and does not speak out, it is tantamount to abdicating responsibility.

Atsuko Tanaka, Electric Dress, 1956

Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century, 1985

An ironic dream of a common language for women in the integrated circuit


A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction. The international women's movements have constructed 'women's experience', as well as uncovered or discovered this crucial collective object. This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial, political kind. Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility. The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women's experience in the late twentieth century. This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.

By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs. This cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical transformation. In the traditions of 'Western' science and politics — the tradition of racist, male-dominant capitalism; the tradition of progress; the tradition of the appropriation of nature as resource for the productions of culture; the tradition of reproduction of the self from the reflections of the other — the relation between organism and machine has been a border war. The stakes in the border war have been the territories of production, reproduction, and imagination. This chapter is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction. It is also an effort to contribute to socialist-feminist culture and theory in a postmodernist, non-naturalist mode and in the utopian tradition of imagining a world without gender, which is perhaps a world without genesis, but maybe also a world without end. The cyborg incarnation is outside salvation history. Nor does it mark time on an oedipal calendar, attempting to heal the terrible cleavages of gender in an oral symbiotic utopia or post-oedipal apocalypse. As Zoe Sofoulis argues in her unpublished manuscript on Jacques Lacan, Melanie Klein, and nuclear culture, Lacklein, the most terrible and perhaps the most promising monsters in cyborg worlds are embodied in non-oedipal narratives with a different logic of repression, which we need to understand for our survival.

The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity. In a sense, the cyborg has no origin story in the Western sense — a 'final' irony since the cyborg is also the awful apocalyptic telos of the 'West's' escalating dominations of abstract individuation, an ultimate self untied at last from all dependency, a man in space. An origin story in the 'Western', humanist sense depends on the myth of original unity, fullness, bliss and terror, represented by the phallic mother from whom all humans must separate, the task of individual development and of history, the twin potent myths inscribed most powerfully for us in psychoanalysis and Marxism. Hilary Klein has argued that both Marxism and psychoanalysis, in their concepts of labour and of individuation and gender formation, depend on the plot of original unity out of which difference must be produced and enlisted in a drama of escalating domination of woman/nature. The cyborg skips the step of original unity, of identification with nature in the Western sense. This is its illegitimate promise that might lead to subversion of its teleology as star wars.

The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence. No longer structured by the polarity of public and private, the cyborg defines a technological polls based partly on a revolution of social relations in the oikos, the household. Nature and culture are reworked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other. The relationships for forming wholes from parts, including those of polarity and hierarchical domination, are at issue in the cyborg world. Unlike the hopes of Frankenstein's monster, the cyborg does not expect its father to save it through a restoration of the garden; that is, through the fabrication of a heterosexual mate, through its completion in a finished whole, a city and cosmos. The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust. Perhaps that is why I want to see if cyborgs can subvert the apocalypse of returning to nuclear dust in the manic compulsion to name the Enemy. Cyborgs are not reverent; they do not re-member the cosmos. They are wary of holism, but needy for connection- they seem to have a natural feel for united front politics, but without the vanguard party. The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential.

So my cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political work. One of my premises is that most American socialists and feminists see deepened dualisms of mind and body, animal and machine, idealism and materialism in the social practices, symbolic formulations, and physical artefacts associated with 'high technology' and scientific culture. From One-Dimensional Man (Marcuse, 1964) to The Death of Nature (Merchant, 1980), the analytic resources developed by progressives have insisted on the necessary domination of technics and recalled us to an imagined organic body to integrate our resistance. Another of my premises is that the need for unity of people trying to resist world-wide intensification of domination has never been more acute. But a slightly perverse shift of perspective might better enable us to contest for meanings, as well as for other forms of power and pleasure in technologically mediated societies.

Fractured identities

It has become difficult to name one's feminism by a single adjective — or even to insist in every circumstance upon the noun. Consciousness of exclusion through naming is acute. Identities seem contradictory, partial, and strategic. With the hard-won recognition of their social and historical constitution, gender, race, and class cannot provide the basis for belief in 'essential' unity. There is nothing about teeing 'female' that naturally binds women. There is not even such a state as 'being' female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices. Gender, race, or class consciousness is an achievement forced on us by the terrible historical experience of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism. And who counts as 'us' in my own rhetoric? Which identities are available to ground such a potent political myth called 'us', and what could motivate enlistment in this collectivity? Painful fragmentation among feminists (not to mention among women) along every possible fault line has made the concept of woman elusive, an excuse for the matrix of women's dominations of each other. For me — and for many who share a similar historical location in white, professional middle-class, female, radical, North American, mid-adult bodies — the sources of a crisis in political identity are legion. The recent history for much of the US left and US feminism has been a response to this kind of crisis by endless splitting and searches for a new essential unity. But there has also been a growing recognition of another response through coalition — affinity, not identity.

It is important to note that the effort to construct revolutionary stand-points, epistemologies as achievements of people committed to changing the world, has been part of the process showing the limits of identification. The acid tools of postmodernist theory and the constructive tools of ontological discourse about revolutionary subjects might be seen as ironic allies in dissolving Western selves in the interests of survival. We are excruciatingly conscious of what it means to have a historically constituted body. But with the loss of innocence in our origin, there is no expulsion from the Garden either. Our politics lose the indulgence of guilt with the naivete of innocence. But what would another political myth for socialist-feminism look like? What kind of politics could embrace partial, contradictory, permanently unclosed constructions of personal and collective selves and still be faithful, effective — and, ironically, socialist-feminist?

Catherine MacKinnon's (198Z, 1987) version of radical feminism is itself a caricature of the appropriating, incorporating, totalizing tendencies of Western theories of identity grounding action.12 It is factually and politically wrong to assimilate all of the diverse 'moments' or 'conversations' in recent women's politics named radical feminism to MacKinnon's version. But the teleological logic of her theory shows how an epistemology and ontology — including their negations — erase or police difference. Only one of the effects of MacKinnon's theory is the rewriting of the history of the polymorphous field called radical feminism. The major effect is the production of a theory of experience, of women's identity, that is a kind of apocalypse for all revolutionary standpoints. That is, the totalization built into this tale of radical feminism achieves its end — the unity of women — by enforcing the experience of and testimony to radical non-being. As for the Marxist/ socialist feminist, consciousness is an achievement, not a natural fact. And MacKinnon's theory eliminates some of the difficulties built into humanist revolutionary subjects, but at the cost of radical reductionism.

MacKinnon's radical theory of experience is totalizing in the extreme; it does not so much marginalize as obliterate the authority of any other women's political speech and action. It is a totalization producing what Western patriarchy itself never succeeded in doing — feminists' consciousness of the non-existence of women, except as products of men's desire. I think MacKinnon correctly argues that no Marxian version of identity can firmly ground women's unity. But in solving the problem of the contradictions of any Western revolutionary subject for feminist purposes, she develops an even more authoritarian doctrine of experience. If my complaint about socialist/Marxian standpoints is their unintended erasure of polyvocal, unassimilable, radical difference made visible in anti-colonial discourse and practice, MacKinnon's intentional erasure of all difference through the device of the 'essential' non-existence of women is not reassuring.

The informatics of domination

In this attempt at an epistemological and political position, I would like to sketch a picture of possible unity, a picture indebted to socialist and feminist principles of design. The frame for my sketch is set by the extent and importance of rearrangements in world-wide social relations tied to science and technology. I argue for a politics rooted in claims about fundamental changes in the nature of class, race, and gender in an emerging system of world order analogous in its novelty and scope to that created by industrial capitalism; we are living through a movement from an organic, industrial society to a polymorphous, information system--from all work to all play, a deadly game. Simultaneously material and ideological, the dichotomies may be expressed in the following chart of transitions from the comfortable old hierarchical dominations to the scary new networks I have called the informatics of domination:

Representation Simulation
Bourgeois novel, realism Science fiction, postmodernism
Organism Biotic Component
Depth, integrity Surface, boundary
Heat Noise
Biology as clinical practice Biology as inscription
Physiology Communications engineering
Small group Subsystem
Perfection Optimization
Eugenics Population Control
Decadence, Magic Mountain Obsolescence, Future Shock
Hygiene Stress Management
Microbiology, tuberculosis Immunology, AIDS
Organic division of labour Ergonomics/cybernetics of labour
Functional specialization Modular construction
Reproduction Replication
Organic sex role specialization Optimal genetic strategies
Bioogical determinism Evolutionary inertia, constraints
Community ecology Ecosystem
Racial chain of being Neo-imperialism, United Nations humanism
Scientific management in home/factory Global factory/Electronid cottage
Family/Market/Factory Women in the Integrated Circuit
Family wage Comparable worth
Public/Private Cyborg citizenship
Nature/Culture fields of difference
Co-operation Communicatins enhancemenet
Freud Lacan
Sex Genetic engineering
labour Robotics
Mind Artificial Intelligence
Second World War Star Wars
White Capitalist Patriarchy Informatics of Domination


Julien Coupat, Interview, 2009

Q. Do you define yourself as an intellectual? A philosopher?

A. Philosophy was born like chatty grief from original wisdom. Plato already heard the words of Heraclitus as if they had escaped from a bygone world. In the era of diffused intellectuality, one can’t see what “the intellectual” might make specific, unless it is the expanse of the gap that separates the faculty of thinking from the aptitude for living. Intellectual and philosopher are, in truth, sad titles. But for whom exactly is it necessary to define oneself?

Q. What does the word terrorism mean to you?

A: It means nothing, if not sovereignty. It is the sovereign in this world who designates the terrorist. He who refuses to take part in this sovereignty will take care not to respond to your question. He who doesn’t suffocate from bad faith will find instructive the case of the two ex-“terrorists” who became the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority, respectively, and who - to top it all off - were both given Nobel Peace Prizes.

The fuzziness that surrounds the designation “terrorist,” the manifest impossibility of defining “terrorism,” does not affect several provisional lacunae in French law: terrorists are at the source of this thing that one can define very easily: anti-terrorism, for which “terrorism” forms the pre-condition. Anti-terrorism is a technique of government that thrusts its roots down into the old art of counter-insurrection, so-called “psychological warfare,” to be polite. Anti-terrorism, contrary to what the term itself insinuates, is not a means of fighting against terrorism, but is the method by which one positively produces the political enemy as terrorist. By means of a wealth of provocations, infiltrations, surveillance, intimidation and propaganda; by means of the science of mediatic manipulation, “psychological action,” the fabrication of both evidence and crimes; by means of the fusion of the police and the judicial; and by means of the annihilation of the “subversive menace” by associating the internal enemy, the political enemy - which is at the heart of the population - with the affect of terror.

In France, one isn’t ready to let oneself be terrorized by us. The prolongation of my detention for a “reasonable” period of time is petty revenge, quite comprehensible due to the means mobilized and the depth of the failure; as comprehensible as the petty fury of the [intelligence] “services,” which since 11 November [2008] have through the press attributed to us the most fantastic misdeeds and stalked our comrades. How this logic of reprisals has seized control of the minds of the police and the small hearts of the judges, this is what the cadenced arrests of those “close to Julien Coupat” will have had the merit of revealing.

Q. You’ve read Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault. Does this analysis still seem pertinent to you?

A. The prison is indeed the dirty little secret of French society, the key to and not the margins of the most respectable social relations. What is concentrated in the prison is not a pile of wild barbarians, as it pleases some people to think, but in fact the ensemble of the disciplines that weave together so-called “normal” existence outside.

Envisioned from this impregnable angle, prison isn’t a pit for society’s failures; instead, current society is a failed prison. The same organization of separations, the same administration of misery through shit, TV, sports and porno reigns everywhere else, but much less methodically than in prison. These high walls only hide from view this truth of explosive banality: there are lives and souls, entirely equal, who drag themselves along on both sides of the barbed wire, and because of it.

All of the debate on the horror of incarceration and the necessity of humanizing detention is as old as the prison system itself. It is part of its efficacy, which permits the State to combine the terror that the prison must inspire with the hypocritical legal status of “civilized” punishment. The little system of prison-based spying, humiliation and violence that the French State uses more fanatically than any other State in Europe isn’t even scandalous. The State pays for it a hundred times over in the suburbs [banlieus], and this, from all the evidence, is only a beginning: vengeance is the hygiene of the plebes.

But the most remarkable imposture of the judicial-penal system certainly consists in pretending that it exists to punish criminals when, in fact, it only manages illegality. Any boss - not just the boss of Everything - any president of a general council - any cop knows that illegality is necessary for the correct performance of his or her trade.

The discussion is not - as the judicial fiction would have it - between the legal and the illegal, between the innocents and the criminals, but between the criminal whom one judges suitable for prosecution and the criminal whom one leaves in peace, as the general powers of society require. The race of the innocents was wiped out long ago, and the penalty is not what condemns you to justice: the penalty is justice itself; thus, it isn’t a matter of my comrades and I “claiming our innocence,” despite what is ritualistically repeated in the press, but trying to derail the hazardous political offensive that these vile proceedings constitute. Of course, one isn’t suggesting, given what the Foucaultians have done with the works of Foucault for the last twenty years, that they should spend some time in jail.

Rosi Braidotti, Cyberfeminism with a Difference, 1996

I take postmodernity to signify the specific historical situation of post-industrial societies after the decline of modernist hopes and tropes. Symptomatic of these changes is urban space, especially in the inner city, which has been cleaned up and refigured through post-industrial metal and plexiglass buildings, but it is only a veneer that covers up the putrefaction of the industrial space, marking the death of the modernist dream of urban civil society.

Technology has evolved from the Panoptical device that Foucault analyzed in terms of surveillance and control, to a far more complex apparatus, which Haraway describes in terms of "the informatics of domination." Approaching the issue of technology in postmodernity consequently requires a shift of perspective. Far from appearing antithetical to the human organism and set of values, the technological factor must be seen as co-extensive with and intermingled with the human. This mutual imbrication makes it necessary to speak of technology as a material and symbolic apparatus, i.e. a semiotic and social agent among others.

All this to say that I wish to take my distance equally from, on the one hand the euphoria of mainstream postmodernists who seize advanced technology and especially cyberspace as the possibility for multiple and polymorphous re-embodiments; and on the other hand, from the many prophets of doom who mourn the decline of classical humanism. I see postmodernity instead as the threshold of new and important re-locations for cultural practice. One of the most significant pre-conditions for these re-locations is relinquishing both the phantasy of multiple re-embodiments and the fatal attraction of nostalgia. The nostalgic longing for an allegedly better past is a hasty and unintelligent response to the challenges of our age. It is not only culturally ineffective - in so far as it relates to the conditions of its own historicity by negating them; it is also a short-cut through their complexity. I find that there is something deeply amoral and quite desperate in the way in which post-industrial societies rush headlong towards a hasty solution to their contradictions. This flight into nostalgia has the immediate effect of neglecting by sheer denial the transition from a humanistic to a posthuman world. That this basic self-deception be compensated by a wave of longing for saviours of all brands and formats is not surprising.

Whereas mainstream culture refuses to mourn the loss of humanistic certainties, "minor" cultural productions foreground the crisis and highlight the potential it offers for creative solutions. As opposed to the a-morality of denial, "minor" cultural genres cultivate an ethics of lucid self-awareness. Some of the most moral beings left in Western postmodernity are the science-fiction writers who take the time to linger on the death of the humanist ideal of Mann thus inscribing this loss - and the ontological insecurity it entails - at the (dead) heart of contemporary cultural concerns. By taking the time to symbolize the crisis of humanism, these creative spirits, following Nietzsche, push the crisis to its innermost resolution. In so doing, they not only inscribe death at the top of the postmodern cultural agenda, but they also strip the veneer of nostalgia that covers up the inadequacies of the present cultural (dis)order.

Parody

Confronted with this situation, that is to say with culturally enforced icons of white, economically dominant, heterosexual hyper-femininity - which simultaneously reinstates huge power differentials while denying them - what is to be done? This is a very sobering prospect: after years of post-structuralist theoretical arrogance, philosophy lags behind art and fiction in the difficult struggle to keep up with today's world. Maybe the time has come for us to moderate the theoretical voice within us and to attempt to deal with our historical situation differently.

Nowhere is the feminist challenge more evident than in the field of artistic practice. For instance, the ironical force, the hardly suppressed violence and the vitriolic wit of feminist groups like the Guerrilla or the Riot Girls are an important aspect of the contemporary relocation of culture, and the struggle over representation. I would define their position in terms of the politics of the parody. The riot girls want to argue that there is a war going on and women are not pacifists, we are the guerilla girls, the riot girls, the bad girls. We want to put up some active resistance, but we also want to have fun and we want to do it our way. The ever increasing number of women writing their own science fiction, cyberpunk, film scripts, 'zines', rap and rock music and the likes testifies to this new mode.

There is definitely a touch of violence in the mode exposed by the riot and guerilla girls: a sort of raw directness that clashes with the syncopated tones of standard art criticism. This forceful style is a response to hostile environmental and social forces. It also expresses a reliance on collective bonding through rituals and ritualized actions, which far from dissolving the individual into the group, simply accentuate her unrepentant singularity. I find a powerful evocation of this singular yet collectively shared position in the raucous, demonic beat of Kathy Acker's In Memoriam to Identity, in her flair for multiple becomings, her joy in the reversibility of situations and people - her borderline capacity to impersonate, mimic and cut across an infinity of 'others'.

As many feminist theorists have pointed out, the practice of parody, which I also call 'the philosophy as if', with its ritualized repetitions, needs to be grounded in order to be politically effective. Postmodern feminist knowledge claims are grounded in life-experiences and consequently mark radical forms of re-embodiment. But they also need to be dynamic - or nomadic - and allow for shifts of location and multiplicity. The practice of 'as if' can also degenerate into the mode of fetishistic representation. This consists in simultaneously recognising and denying certain attributes or experiences. In male-stream postmodern thought, fetishistic disavowal seems to mark most discussions of sexual difference. I see feminist theory as a corrective to this trend. The feminist 'philosophy of as if' is not a form of disavowal, but rather the affirmation of a subject that is both non-essentialized, that is to say no longer grounded in the idea of human or feminine 'nature', but she is nonetheless capable of ethic and moral agency. As Judith Butler lucidly warns us, the force of the parodic mode consists precisely in turning the practice of repetitions into a politically empowering position. What I find empowering in the theoretical and political practice of 'as if' is its potential for opening up, through successive repetitions and mimetic strategies, spaces where forms of feminist agency can be engendered. In other words, parody can be politically empowering on the condition of being sustained by a critical consciousness that aims at the subversion of dominant codes. Thus, I have argued that Irigaray's strategy of 'mimesis' is politically empowering because it addresses simultaneously issues of identity, identifications and political subjectivity. The ironical mode is an orchestrated form of provocation and, as such, it marks a sort of symbolic violence and the riot girls are unsurpassed masters of it.

Utopia

Another qualitative leap is also necessary, however, towards the affirmation of sexual difference in terms of the recognition of the dissymetrical relationship between the sexes. Feminists have rejected the universalistic tendency which consists in conflating the masculine viewpoint with the 'human', thereby confining the 'feminine' to the structural position of devalorized 'other'. This hierarchical organization of differences is the key to phallo-logocentrism, which is the inner system of patriarchal societies. In this system, women and men are in diametrically different positions: men are conflated with the universalistic stand and therefore are confined to what Hartsock defines as 'abstract masculinity'. Women, on the other hand, are stuck to the specificity of their gender as the 'second sex'. As de Beauvoir observed: the price men pay for representing the universal is disembodiment, or loss of gendered specificity into the abstraction of phallic masculinity. The price women pay, on the other hand, is loss of subjectivity through over-embodiment and confinement to their gendered identity. This results in two dissymmetrical positions. Whereas women need to repossess subjectivity by reducing their confinement to the body, thus making an issue of deconstructing the body, men need to repossess their abstracted bodily self by shedding some of the exclusive rights to transcendental consciousness. Men need to get embodied, to get real, to suffer through the pain of re-embodiment, that is to say incarnation.

The answer to metaphysics is metabolism, that is to say a new embodied becoming, a shift of perspective which allows individuals to set their pace and rate of change while moving towards workable social forms of consensus to readjust our culture to these shifts and changes. In her splendid text In Memoriam to Identity, Kathy Acker points out that so long as "I" has her identity and her sex, "I" is nothing new. I would add also that, as long as one believes in grammar, one believes in God. In modernity, God died and though the stench from his rotting corpse has been filling the Western world for over a century, it will take more than hysterical experiments with bad syntax or the solipsistic fantasy of joy-rides to get us collectively out of his decayed but nonetheless still operational phallogocentric folly.

We rather need more complexity, multiplicity, simultaneity and we need to rethink gender, class and race in the pursuit of these multiple, complex differences. I also think we need gentleness, compassion and humour to pull through the ruptures and raptures of our times. Irony and self-humour are important elements of this project and they are necessary for its success, as feminists as diverse as Hélène Cixous and French & Saunders have pointed out. As the Manifesto of the Bad Girls reads: "Through laughter our anger becomes a tool of liberation". In the hope that our collectively negotiated Dionysian laughter will indeed bury it once and for all, cyber-feminism needs to cultivate a culture of joy and affirmation. Feminist women have a long history of dancing through a variety of potentially lethal mine-fields in their pursuit of socio-symbolic justice. Nowadays, women have to undertake the dance through cyberspace, if only to make sure that the joy-sticks of the cyberspace cowboys will not reproduce univocal phallicity under the mask of multiplicity, and also to make sure that the riot girls, in their anger and their visionary passion, will not recreate law and order under the cover of a triumphant feminine.

Geert Lovink, Theses on Wikileaks, 2010

One

Disclosures and leaks have been a feature of all eras, however never before has a non-state or non-corporate affiliated group done anything on the scale of what WikiLeaks has managed to do, first with the "collateral murder" video, then the "Afghan War Logs", and now "Cablegate". It looks like we have now reached the moment that the quantitative leap is morphing into a qualitative one. In a sense, the "colossal" WikiLeaks disclosures can be explained as the consequence of the dramatic spread of IT use, together with the dramatic drop in its costs, including for the storage of millions of documents. Another contributing factor is the fact that safekeeping state and corporate secrets – never mind private ones – has become difficult in an age of instant reproducibility and dissemination. WikiLeaks becomes symbolic for a transformation in the "information society" at large, holding up a mirror of things to come. So while one can look at WikiLeaks as a (political) project and criticize it for its modus operandi, it can also be seen as the "pilot" phase in an evolution towards a far more generalized culture of anarchic exposure, beyond the traditional politics of openness and transparency.

Two

One of the main difficulties with explaining WikiLeaks arises from the fact that it is unclear (also to the WikiLeaks people themselves) whether it sees itself and operates as a content provider or as a simple conduit for leaked data (the impression is that it sees itself as either/or, depending on context and circumstances). This, by the way, has been a common problem ever since media went online en masse and publishing and communications became a service rather than a product. Content vs. carrier debates of this kind have been going on for decades among media activists, with no clear outcome. Instead of trying to resolve the inconsistency, it might be better to look for fresh approaches and develop new critical concepts for what has become a hybrid publishing practice involving actors far beyond the traditional domain of the professional news media. This might be why Assange and his collaborators refuse to be labelled in terms of "old categories" (journalists, hackers, etc.) and claim to represent a new Gestalt on the world information stage.

Three

WikiLeaks raises the question as to what hackers have in common with secret services, since an elective affinity between the two is unmistakable. The love-hate relationship goes back to the very beginning of computing. One does not have to be a fan of German media theorist Friedrich Kittler or, for that matter, conspiracy theories, to acknowledge that the computer was born out of the military-industrial complex. From Alan Turing's deciphering of the Nazi Enigma code up to the role played by the first computers in the invention of the atomic bomb, from the cybernetics movement up to the Pentagon's involvement in the creation of the Internet – the articulation between computational information and the military-industrial complex is well established. Computer scientists and programmers have shaped the information revolution and the culture of openness; but at the same time they have also developed encryption ("crypto"), closing access to data for the non-initiated. What some see as "citizen journalism" others call "info war".

WikiLeaks is also an organization deeply shaped by 1980s hacker culture, combined with the political values of techno-libertarianism that emerged in the 1990s. The fact that WikiLeaks was founded – and to a large extent is still run – by hard-core geeks is essential to understanding its values and moves. Unfortunately, this comes together with a good dose of the less savoury aspects of hacker culture. Not that idealism, the desire to contribute to making the world a better place, could be denied to WikiLeaks: on the contrary. But this brand of idealism (or, if you prefer, anarchism) is paired with a preference for conspiracies, an elitist attitude and a cult of secrecy (never mind condescension). This is not conducive to collaboration with like-minded people and groups, who are relegated to being the simple consumers of WikiLeaks output.

Four

WikiLeaks has built up a lot of trust and confidence over the years. Newcomers will need to go through that same, time-consuming process. The principle of WikiLeaks is not to "hack" (into state or corporate networks) but to facilitate insiders based in these large organisations to copy sensitive, confidential data and pass it on to the public domain – while remaining anonymous. If you are aspiring to become a leak node, you'd better start to get acquainted with processes like OPSEC or operations security, a step-by-step plan which "identifies critical information to determine if friendly actions can be observed by adversary intelligence systems, determines if information obtained by adversaries could be interpreted to be useful to them, and then executes selected measures that eliminate or reduce adversary exploitation of friendly critical information" (Wikipedia). The WikiLeaks slogan says: "courage is contagious". According to experts, people who intend to run a WikiLeaks-type operation need nerves of steel. So before we call for one, ten, many WikiLeaks, let's be clear that those involved run risks. If publishing is not carried out in a way that is absolutely secure for all concerned, there is a definite risk that the "revolution in journalism" – and politics – unleashed by WikiLeaks will be stopped in its tracks.

Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, Michael Brown, 2015

How can we survive genocide? We can only address this question by studying how we have survived genocide.

In the interest of imagining what exists, there is an image of Michael Brown we must refuse in favor of another image we don’t have. One is a lie, the other unavailable. If we refuse to show the image of a lonely body, of the outline of the space that body simultaneously took and left, we do so in order to imagine jurisgenerative black social life walking down the middle of the street - for a minute, but only for a minute, unpoliced, another city gathers, dancing. We know it’s there, and here, and real; we know what we can’t have happens all the time.

Imagining what exists requires and allows analysis. Michael Brown is the latest name of the ongoing event of resistance to, and resistance before, socioecological disaster. Modernity’s constitution in the transatlantic slave trade, settler colonialism and capital’s emergence in and with the state, is The Socioecological Disaster. Michael Brown gives us occasion once again to consider what it is to endure the disaster, to survive (in) genocide, to navigate unmappable differences as a range of localities that, in the end - either all the way to the end or as our ongoing refusal of beginnings and ends - will always refuse to have been taken.

The fall is anacatastrophic refusal of the case and, therefore, of the world, which is the earth’s capture insofar as it was always a picture frozen and extracted from imaginal movement. At stake is the power of love, which is given, in walking down the street, as defiance to the (racial capitalist, settler colonial) state and its seizures, especially its seizure of the capacity to make (and break) law. Against the grain of the state’s monopolization of ceremony, ceremonies are small and profligate; if they weren’t everywhere and all the time we’d be dead. The ruins, which are small rituals, aren’t absent but surreptitious, a range of songful scarring, when people give a sign, shake a hand. But what if together we can fall, because we’re fallen, because we need to fall again, to continue in our common fallenness, remembering that falling is in apposition to rising, their combination given in lingering, as the giving of pause, recess, vestibular remain, custodial remand, hold, holding in the interest of rub, dap’s reflex and reflection of maternal touch, a maternal ecology of laid hands, of being handled, handed, handed down, nurture’s natural dispersion, its endless refusal of standing. Fallen, risen, mo(u)rnful survival. When black men die, it’s usually because we love each other, whether we run, or fight, or surrender. Consider Michael Brown’s generative occurrence and recurrence as refusal of the case, as refusal of standing. You can do this but only if you wish to insert yourself, and now I must abuse a phrase of Ah Kee’s, into black worldlessness. Our homelessness. Our selflessness. None of which are or can be ours.

The state can’t live with us and it can’t live without us. Its violence is a reaction to that condition. The state is nothing other than a war against its own condition. The state is at war against its own (re)sources, in violent reaction to its own condition of im/possibility, which is life itself, which is the earth itself, which blackness doesn’t so much stand in for as name, as a name among others that is not just another name among others. That we survive is beauty and testament; it is neither to be dismissed nor overlooked nor devalued by or within whatever ascription of value; that we survive is invaluable. It is, at the same time, insufficient. We have to recognize that a state - the racial capitalist/settler colonial state - of war has long existed. Its brutalities and militarizations, its regulative mundanities, are continually updated and revised, but they are not new. If anything, we need to think more strategically about our own innovations, recognizing that the state of war is a reactive state, a machine for regulating and capitalizing upon our innovations in/for survival.

This is why what’s most disturbing about Michael Brown (aka Eric Garner, aka Renisha McBride, aka Trayvon Martin, aka Eleanor Bumpurs, aka Emmitt Till, aka an endless stream of names and absent names) is our reaction to him, our misunderstanding of him, and the sources of that misunderstanding that manifest and reify a desire for standing, for stasis, within the state war machine which, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t confer citizenship upon its subjects at birth but, rather, at death, which is the proper name for entrance into its properly political confines. The prosecution of Michael Brown, which is the proper technical name for the grand jury investigation of Darren Wilson, the drone, is what our day in court looks like and always has. The prone, exposed, unburied body - the body that is given, in death, its status as body precisely through and by way of the withholding of fleshly ceremony - is what political standing looks like. That’s the form it takes and keeps. This is a Sophoclean formulation. The law of the state is what Ida B. Wells rightly calls lynch law. And we extend it in our appeals to it.

We need to stop worrying so much about how it kills, regulates, and accumulates us, and worry more about how we kill, deregulate, and disperse it. We have to love and revere our survival, which is (in) our resistance. We have to love our refusal of what has been refused. But insofar as this refusal has begun to stand, insofar as it has begun to seek standing, it stands in need of renewal, now, even as the sources and conditions of that renewal become more and more obscure, more and more entangled with the regulatory apparatuses that are deployed in order to suppress them. At moments like this we have to tell the truth with a kind of viciousness and, even, a kind of cruelty. Black lives don’t matter, which is an empirical statement not only about black lives in this state of war but also about lives. This is to say that lives don’t matter; nor should they. It’s the metaphysics of the individual life in all its immateriality that’s got us in this situation in the first place.

How has it determined how we understand the complex nonsingularity that we know now as Michael Brown? It would be wrong to say that Michael Brown has become, in death, more than himself. He already was that, as he said himself, in echo of so much more than himself. He was already more than that in being less than that, in being the least of these. To reduce Michael Brown to a cypher for our unfulfilled desire to be more than that, for our serially unachieved and constitutionally unachievable citizenship, is to do a kind of counterrevolutionary violence; it is to partake in the ghoulish, vampiric consumption of his body, of the body that became his, though it did not become him, in death, in the reductive stasis to which his flesh was subjected. Michael Brown’s flesh is our flesh; he is flesh of our flesh of flames.

On August 9, like every day, like any other day, black life, in its irreducible sociality, having consented not to be single, got caught walking - with jurisgenerative fecundity - down the middle of the street. Michael Brown and his boys: black life breaking and making law, against and underneath the state, surrounding it. They had foregone the melancholic appeal, to which we now reduce them, for citizenship, and subjectivity, and humanness. That they had done so is the source of Darren Wilson’s genocidal instrumentalization in the state’s defense. They were in a state of war and they knew it. Moreover, they were warriors in insurgent, if imperfect, beauty. What’s left for us to consider is the difference between the way of Michael Brown’s dance, his fall and rise - the way they refuse to take place when he takes to the streets, the way Ferguson takes to the streets - and the way we seek to take, but don’t seem to take to, the streets: in protest, as mere petitioners, fruitlessly seeking energy in the pitiful, minimal, temporary shutdown of this or that freeway, as if mere occupation were something other than retrenchment (in reverse) of the demand for recognition that actually constitutes business as usual. Rather than dissipate our preoccupation with how we live and breathe, we need to defend our ways in our persistent practice of them. It’s not about taking the streets; it’s about how, and about what, we should take to the streets. What would it be and what would it mean for us jurisgeneratively to take to the streets, to live in the streets, to gather together another city right here, right now?

Meanwhile, against the dead citizenship that was imposed upon him, the body the state tried to make him be, and in lieu of the images we refuse and can’t have, here is an image of our imagination. This is Michael Brown, his descent, his ascension, his ceremony, his flesh, his animation in and of the maternal ecology - Michael Brown’s innovation, as contact, in improvisation. Contact improvisation is how we survive genocide.

Hito Steyerl, "Spam of the Earth" from Wretched of the Screen, 2012

Dense clusters of radio waves leave our planet every second. Our letters and snapshots, intimate and official communications, TV broadcasts and text messages drift away from earth in rings, a tectonic architecture of the desires and fears of our times. In a few hundred thousand years, extraterrestrial forms of intelligence may incredulously sift through our wireless communications. But imagine the perplexity of those creatures when they actually look at the material. Because a huge percentage of the pictures inadvertently sent off into deep space is actually spam. Any archaeologist, forensic, or historian - in this world or another - will look at it as our legacy and our likeness, a true portrait of our times and ourselves. Imagine a human reconstruction somehow made from this digital rubble. Chances are, it would look like image spam.

Image spam is one of the many dark matters of the digital world; spam tries to avoid detection by filters by presenting its message as an image file. An inordinate amount of these images floats around the globe, desperately vying for human attention. They advertise pharmaceuticals, replica items, body enhancements, penny stocks, and degrees. According to the pictures dispersed via image spam, humanity consists of scantily dressed degree-holders with jolly smiles enhanced by orthodontic braces.

Image spam is our message to the future. In terms of sheer quantity, image spam outnumbers the human population by far. It’s formed a silent majority, indeed. But of what? From the perspective of image spam, people are improvable, or, as Hegel put it, perfectible. They are imagined to be potentially “flawless,” which in this context means horny, super skinny, armed with recession-proof college degrees, and always on time for their service jobs, courtesy of their replica watches. This is the contemporary family of men and women: a bunch of people on knockoff antidepressants, fitted with enhanced body parts. They are the dream team of hypercapitalism.

But is this how we really look? Well, no. Image spam might tell us a lot about “ideal” humans, but not by showing actual humans - quite the contrary. The models in image spam are photochopped replicas, too improved to be true. A reserve army of digitally enhanced creatures who resemble the minor demons and angels of mystic speculation, luring, pushing, and blackmailing people into the profane rapture of consumption.

Image spam is addressed to people who do not look like those in the ads: they neither are skinny nor have recession-proof degrees. Image spam is addressed to the vast majority of humankind, but it does not show them. It does not represent those who are considered expendable and superfluous - just like spam itself; it speaks to them. The image of humanity articulated in image spam thus has actually nothing to do with it. On the contrary, it is an accurate portrayal of what humanity is actually not. It is a negative image.

Mimicry and Enchantment

Why is this? There is an obvious reason, which is too well known to elaborate on here: images trigger mimetic desires and make people want to become like the products represented in them. In this view, hegemony infiltrates everyday culture and spreads its values by way of mundane representation. Image spam is thus interpreted as a tool for the production of bodies, and ultimately ends up creating a culture stretched between bulimia, steroid overdose, and personal bankruptcy. This perspective - one of more traditional Cultural Studies - views image spam as an instrument of coercive persuasion as well as of insidious seduction, and leads to the oblivious pleasures of surrendering to both.

But what if image spam were actually much more than a tool of ideological and affective indoctrination? What if actual people - the imperfect and nonhorny ones - were not excluded from spam advertisements because of their assumed deficiencies but had actually chosen to desert this kind of portrayal? What if image spam thus became a record of a widespread refusal, a withdrawal of people from representation?

For a certain time already I have noted that many people have started actively avoiding photographic or moving-image representations, surreptitiously taking their distance from the lenses of cameras. Whether it’s camera-free zones in gated communities or elitist techno clubs, someone declining interviews, Greek anarchists smashing cameras, or looters destroying LCD TVs, people have started to actively, and passively, refuse constantly being monitored, recorded, identified, photographed, scanned, and taped. Within a fully immersive media landscape, pictorial representation - which was seen as a prerogative and a political privilege for a long time - feels more like a threat. The numbing presence of trash talk and game shows has led to a situation in which TV has become a medium inextricably linked to the parading and ridiculing of lower classes. Protagonists are violently made over and subjected to countless invasive ordeals, confessions, inquiries, and assessments. Morning TV is the contemporary equivalent to a torture chamber - including the guilty pleasures of torturers, spectators, and, in many cases, also the tortured themselves.

Additionally, social media and cellphone cameras have created a zone of mutual mass surveillance, which adds to the ubiquitous urban networks of control, such as CCTV, cellphone GPS tracking and face - recognition software. On top of institutional surveillance, people are now also routinely surveilling each other by taking countless pictures and publishing them in almost real time. The social control associated with these practices of horizontal representation has become quite influential. Employers google reputations of job candidates; social media and blogs become halls of shame and malevolent gossip. The top-down cultural hegemony exercised by advertisement and corporate media is supplemented by a down-down regime of (mutual) self-control and visual selfdisciplining, which is even harder to dislocate than earlier regimes of representation. This goes along with substantial shifts in modes of self-production. Hegemony is increasingly internalized, along with the pressure to conform and perform, as is the pressure to represent and be represented.

Warhol’s prediction that everybody would be world-famous for fifteen minutes had become true long ago. Now many people want the contrary: to be invisible, if only for fifteen minutes. Even fifteen seconds would be great. We entered an era of mass paparazzi, of the peak-o-sphere and exhibitionist voyeurism. The flare of photographic flashlights turns people into victims, celebrities, or both. As we register at cash tills, ATMs, and other checkpoints - as our cellphones reveal our slightest movements and our snapshots are tagged with GPS coordinates - we end up not exactly amused to death but represented to pieces.

Crisis of Representation

This creates a situation that is very different from how we used to look at images: as more or less accurate representations of something or someone in public. In an age of unrepresentable people and an overpopulation of images, this relation is irrevocably altered. Image spam is an interesting symptom of the current situation because it is a representation that remains, for the most part, invisible. Image spam circulates endlessly without ever being seen by a human eye. It is made by machines, sent by bots, and caught by spam filters.

They are still not a representation of the people, because, in any case, the people are not a representation. They are an event, which might happen one day, or maybe later, in that sudden blink of an eye that is not covered by anything. Who knows what the people in image spam are up to, if nobody is actually looking? Their public appearance may be just a silly face they put on to make sure we continue to not pay attention. They might carry important messages for the aliens in the meantime, about those who we stopped caring for, those excluded from shambolic “social contracts,” or any form of participation other than morning TV; that is, the spam of the earth, the stars of CCTV and aerial infrared surveillance. Or they might temporarily share in the realm of the disappeared and invisible, made up of those who, more often than not, inhabit a shameful silence and whose relatives have to lower their eyes to their killers every day.

The image-spam people are double agents. They inhabit both the realms of over- and invisibility. This may be the reason why they are continuously smiling but not saying anything. They know that their frozen poses and vanishing features are actually providing cover for the people to go off the record in the meantime. To perhaps take a break and slowly regroup. “Go off screen,” they seem to whisper. “We’ll substitute for you. Let them tag and scan us in the meantime. You go off the radar and do what you have to.” Whatever this is, they will not give us away, ever. And for this, they deserve our love and admiration.

Franco Bifo Berardi, Communism is back but we should call it the therapy of singularisation, 2009

Beyond our knowledge

Economists and politicians are worried: they call it crisis and they hope it is going to unfold like the numerous previous crisis that stormed the Economy in the past century and then passed away, leaving Capitalism stronger. I think this time it is different. This is not a crisis, but the symptom of the incompatibility of the potency of productive forces (cognitive labour in the global network) and the paradigm of growth. This is not a crisis but the final collapse of a system that has lasted for five hundred years. The political knowledge we have inherited from Modern Rationalist philosophy is useless now. Chaos (i.e. a degree of complexity which is beyond the ability of human understanding) is the new king of the world. The problems that the world is facing nowadays cannot be solved by the way of adaptation and rationalization of Economy. The capitalist paradigm can no longer be the universal rule of the human activity. Let's face it: the history of modern capitalism is over. So what?

Net VS Crime

There are two faces, in the postmodern economy of the last thirty years: one face can be labelled 'Net-Economy', the other 'Criminal capitalism'. The Net-economy is based on collaboration and sharing, on the creation of new ways of managing social activity. The Net-economy is challenging the proprietary principle that has ruled Modern capitalist society. In order to reassess and re-impose the proprietary rule, Capitalism has reacted in a criminal way: the criminal face of capitalism is based on the abandonment of every legal rule in the pursuit of profit and the sanctification of competition. Criminal politics has led the global economy to the present mess, but criminals are still in power in every country, although they have failed to govern the chaotic reality created by deregulation.

The private occupation of the social space of communication (advertising, TV…) has produced an effect of alienated identification, privatisation of life, need and consumption. Need is not a natural impulse, but the product of the cultural action of modelling the social imagination and sensibility monopolised by the corporate media-system. The privatization of life has pulverized social solidarity, and forced each person to think in isolation about his/her own necessities.

During the 90's the rise of networked production and the spread of libertarian cyberculture opened the way to an alliance between financial capitalism and cognitive work. Under the flag of the dotcom, young intellectuals and scientists could find money to create their own enterprise, and a process of redistribution of revenue became possible. But this alliance was broken when the criminal class took over the new potency of technology and subjected it to the power of war. The dotcom experience was captured by the neoliberal lure, and in the first decade of the new century intellectual labour was made precarious and forced to accept any kind of economic blackmail. The criminal class enslaved the cognitive class: knowledge was fractalized, revenue reduced, exploitation and stress grew and grew.

The dotcom crash and 9/11 marked the subjugation of the high tech experience, perverting the potency of technology and knowledge, provoking countless victims, and igniting hatred all over the world. The mass production of Fear, fanaticism and ignorance were not enough to get western people's consent to the war. Western citizens were invited by president Bush to go away and shop. Shopping against Terror, shopping against psychic depression. But this massive access to consumption has been financed with a boundless Debt. The Euro-American population has been systematically pushed to buy huge amounts of useless things, mentally intoxicated by advertising and forced to identify happiness with consumption and well-being with numbers of possessions.

The privatization of need and the reduction of well-being to acquisition has destroyed any sense of dignity and self-love. The social time of attention has been occupied by the flow of info-labor and advertising. Language has been absorbed by labour and deserted by affection. Love, tenderness, sex, affection, and care for others have been transformed in merchandise. Every single person has became the owner of many credit cards, a shopping machine, obliged to work more and more in order to pay an ever growing debt. Debt turned to be the universal chain, and this created the perfect conditions for universal collapse. At last the collapse did happen. So what next?

Ethical protest and war

At the very end of the capitalist century, in the extreme West of the West, the city of Seattle, hundreds of thousands people gathered and marched to stop the WTO summit and protest against the effects of global exploitation.They were trying to warn the people of the Earth that a great danger was in sight. Now we know they were right. No-global protesters were giving us a warning of the coming catastrophe, and now the catastrophe is here. Catastrophe means, in Greek, a change of position that allows the viewer to see things that s/he could not see before. Catastrophe opens new spaces of visibility, and therefore of possibility, but it also demands a change of paradigm. The ethical demonstrators were defeated after the world-wide march against the war on February 15th, 2003. One hundred million people marched against the war in Iraq on that day. President Bush answered that he did not need the people's advice, and he started the war.

A new cycle of insurrection started exploding somewhere in the West. The riots in the Paris banlieux in November 2005, the insurrection of the teachers of Oaxaca in 2006, the explosion of a general rebellion in Greece in December 2008 have been the harbingers of an insurrectional wave that will storm many parts of the world in the coming years, while the Recession ravages social life. Scattered insurrections will take place in the coming years, but we should not expect much from them.

Communism without Aufhebung

The theoretical justification of the institution of private property (in the writings of John Locke, for instance) is based on the necessity to ensure the exclusive enjoyment of a thing that cannot be shared: an apple cannot be shared, if I eat it you will not eat it. But in the digital age the status of goods has changed: immaterial goods are semiotic stuff that is not annihilated by use. When it comes to semiotic products private property becomes irrelevant, and in fact it is more and more difficult to enforce it. The campaigns against piracy are paradoxical because the real pirates are the corporations that are desperately trying to privatize the product of the collective intelligence, and artificially trying to impose a tax on the community of producers. The products of collective intelligence are immanently common because knowledge can neither be fragmented nor privately owned. A new brand of communism was already springing from the technological transformations of Digital Networks, when the collapse of the financial markets and Neoliberal Ideology exposed the frailty of the foundations of hyper-capitalism. Now we can predict a new wave of transformation from the current collapse of Growth and Debt, and of private consumption as well-being. Because of these three forces – commonality of knowledge, ideological crisis of private ownership, mandatory communalisation of Need - a new horizon is visible and a new landscape is going to surface. Communism is coming back.

The old face of Communism, based on the Will and voluntarism of an avant garde, and on the paranoid expectations of a New Totality was defeated at the end of the 20th century and will never resurrect. A totally new brand of communism is going to surface as a form of necessity, the inevitable outcome of the stormy collapse of the capitalist system. The communism of capital is a barbarian necessity. We must put freedom in this necessity, we need to make of this necessity a conscious organised choice.

Communism is back, but we should name it in a different way because historical memory identified this particular form of social organization with the political tyranny of a Religion. The historical communism of the 20th century was based on the idea of the primacy of Totality over Singularity. But the dialectical framework that defined the Communist movement of the 20th century has been completely abandoned and nobody will ever be able to resurrect it.

The Hegelian ascendance played a major role in the formation of that kind of religious belief that was labelled 'historicism'. The Aufhebung (abolition of the real in favor of the realization of the Idea) is the paranoid background of the whole conceptualization of communism. Inside that dialectical framework Communism was viewed as an all encompassing totality expected to abolish and follow the capitalist all encompassing totality. The subject (the will and action of the working class) was viewed as the instrument for the abolition of the old and the instauration of the New. After abandoning the field of the Dialectics of Abolition and Totalization, we are now trying to build a Theory of the Dynamics of recombination and singularization. By the world singularity I mean an agency that does not follow any rule of conformity and repetition, and is not framed in any historical necessity. Singularity is a process that is not necessary, because it is implied in the consequentiality of history neither logically nor materially. The proliferation of singularities (the withdrawal and building of non temporary autonomous zones) will be a pacific process, but the conformist majority will react violently, and this is already happening. The conformist majority is frightened by the fleeing away of intelligent energy and simultaneously is attacking the expression of intelligent activity. The situation can be described as a fight between the Mass Ignorance produced by Media-totalitarianism and the shared Intelligence of the General Intellect.

Politics and therapy will be one and the same activity in the coming time. People will feel hopeless and depressed and panicking, because they are unable to deal with the post-growth economy, and because they will miss the dissolving modern identity. Our cultural task will be attending to those people and taking care of their insanity, showing them the way of a happy adaptation at hand. Our task will be the creation of social zones of human resistance that act like zones of therapeutic contagion. The process of autonomisation has not to be seen as a Aufhebung, but as Therapy. In this sense it is not totalizing and intended to destroy and abolish the past. Like psychoanalytic therapy it is rather to be considered as an unending process.


Freidrich Kittler, There is No Software, 1995

The bulk of written texts do not exist anymore in perceivable time and space but in a computer memory's transistor cells. And since these cells in the last three decades have shrunk to spatial extensions below one micrometer, our writing may well be defined by a self-similarity of letters over some six decades. This state of affairs makes not only a difference to history when, at its alphabetical beginning, a camel and its Hebraic letter gemel were just 2.5 decades apart, it also seems to hide the very act of writing: we do not write anymore. This crazy kind of software engineering suffered from an incurable confusion between use and mention. Up to Hölderlin's time, a mere mention of lightning seemed to have been sufficient evidence of its possible poetic use. After this lightning's metamorphosis into electricity, human-made writing passes through microscopically written inscriptions which, in contrast to all historical writing tools, are able to read and write by themselves. The last historical act of writing may well have been the moment when, in the early seventies, Intel engineers laid out some dozen square meters of blueprint paper (64 square meters, in the case of the later 8086) in order to design the hardware architecture of their first integrated microprocessor. This manual layout of two thousand transistors and their interconnections was then miniaturized to the size of an actual chip, and, by electro-optical machines, written into silicon layers. Finally, this 4004 microprocessor found its place in the new desk calculators of Intel's Japanese customer and our postmodern writing scene began.

Programming languages have eroded the monopoly of ordinary language and grown into a new hierarchy of their own. This postmodern tower of Babel reaches from simple operation codes whose linguistic extension is still a hardware configuration passing through an assembler whose extension is that very assembler. As a consequence, far reaching chains of self-similarities in the sense defined by fractal theory organize the software as well as the hardware of every writing. What remains a problem is only the realization of these layers which, just as modern media technologies in general, have been explicitly contrived in order to evade all perception. We simply do not know what our writing does.

In order to wordprocess a text and, that is, to become yourself a machine working on an IBM under Microsoft DOS, you need first of all to buy some commercial programs. At the one hand, they bear grandiloquent names such as WordPerfect, on the other hand, they bear a more or less cryptic (because non-vocalized) acronym such as WP. The full name, alas, serves only the advertising strategies of software manufacturers, since DOS as a microprocessor operating system could never read file names longer than eight letters. That is why the unpronounceable acronym WP, this posthistoric revocation of a fundamental Greek innovation, is not only necessary, but amply sufficient for postmodern wordprocessing. Surely, tapping the letter sequence of "W", "P" and "enter" on a keyboard does not make the Word perfect, but this simple writing act starts the actual execution of WordPerfect. Such are the triumphs of software.

In fact, however, these actions of agent WP are virtual ones, since each of them has to run under DOS. It is the operating system and, more precisely, its command shell that scans the keyboard for eight bit file names on the input line, transforms some relative addresses of an eventually retrieved file into absolute ones, loads this new version from external mass memory to the necessary random access space, and finally (or temporarily) passes execution to WordPerfect.

The same argument would hold against DOS which, in the final analysis, resolves into an extension of the basic input and output system called BIOS. Not only no program, but no underlying microprocessor system could ever start without the rather incredible autobooting faculty of some elementary functions that, for safety's sake, are burned into silicon and thus form part of the hardware. Any transformation of matter from entropy to information, from a million sleeping transistors into differences between electronic potentials, necessarily presupposes a material event called "reset".

In principle, this kind of descent from software to hardware, from higher to lower levels of observation, could be continued over more and more decades. All code operations, despite their metaphoric faculties such as "call" or "return", come down to absolutely local string manipulations and that is, I am afraid, to signifiers of voltage differences. Formalization in Hilbert's sense does away with theory itself, insofar as "the theory is no longer a system of meaningful propositions, but one of sentences as sequences of words, which are in turn sequences of letters. We can tell [say] by reference to the form alone which combinations of the words are sentences, which sentences are axioms, and which sentences follow as immediate consequences of others."

When meanings come down to sentences, sentences to words, and words to letters, there is no software at all. Rather, there would be no software if computer systems were not surrounded any longer by an environment of everyday languages. This environment, however, since a famous and twofold Greek invention, consists of letters and coins, of books and bucks. For these good economical reasons, nobody seems to have inherited the humility of Alan Turing, who, in the stone age of computing, preferred to read his machine's output in hexadecimal numbers rather than in decimal ones. On the contrary, the so-called philosophy of the computer community tends to systematically obscure hardware by software, electronic signifiers by interfaces between formal and everyday languages.

Firstly, on an intentionally superficial level, perfect graphic user interfaces, since they dispense with writing itself, hide a whole machine from its users. Secondly, on the microscopic level of hardware itself, so-called protection software has been implemented in order to prevent "untrusted programs" or "untrusted users" from any access to the operating system's kernel and input/output channels.

Precisely because software does not exist as a machine-independent faculty, software as a commercial or American medium insists all the more. In the USA, notwithstanding all mathematical tradition, even a copyright claim for algorithms has recently succeeded. At most, finally, there has been, on the part of IBM, research on a mathematical formula that would enable them to measure the distance in complexity between an algorithm and its output.

Under these tragic conditions, the criminal law, at least in Germany, has recently abandoned the very concept of software as a mental property; instead, it defined software as a necessarily material thing. The high court's reasoning, according to which without the correspondent electrical charges in silicon circuitry no computer program would ever run1, can already illustrate the fact that the virtual undecidability between software and hardware follows by no means, as system theorists would probably like to believe, from a simple variation of observation points. On the contrary, there are good grounds to assume the indispensability and, consequently, the priority of hardware in general. Only in Turing's paper "On Computable Numbers With An Application to the Entscheidungsproblem" did there exist a machine with unbounded resources in space and time, with infinite supply of raw paper and no constraints on computation speed. All physically feasible machines, in contrast, are limited by these parameters in their very code.

Software, if it existed, would just be a billion dollar deal based on the cheapest elements on earth. For, in their combination on chip, silicon and its oxide provide for perfect hardware architectures. That is to say that the millions of basic elements work under almost the same physical conditions, especially as regards the most critical, namely temperature dependent degradations, and yet, electrically, all of them are highly isolated from each other.

This structural difference can be easily illustrated. "A combination lock," for instance, "is a finite automaton, but it is not ordinarily decomposable into a base set of elementary-type components that can be reconfigured to simulate an arbitrary physical system. As a consequence it is not structurally programmable, and in this case it is effectively programmable only in the limited sense that its state can be set for achieving a limited class of behaviours." On the contrary, "a digital computer used to simulate a combination lock is structurally programmable since the behaviour is achieved by synthesizing it from a canonical set of primitive switching components."

Jasbir Puar, Queer Times, Terrorist Assemblages, 2007

These are queer times indeed. The war on terror is an assemblage hooked into an array of enduring modernist paradigms (civilizing teleologies, orientalisms, xenophobia, militarization, border anxieties) and postmodernist eruptions (suicide bombers, biometric surveillance strategies, emergent corporealities, counterterrorism gone overboard). With its emphases on bodies, desires, pleasures, tactility, rhythms, echoes, textures, deaths, morbidity, torture, pain, sensation, and punishment, our necropolitical present-future deems it imperative to rearticulate what queer theory and studies of sexuality have to say about the metatheories and the “realpolitiks” of Empire. Queer times require even queerer modalities of thought, analysis, creativity, and expression in order to elaborate on nationalist, patriotic, and terrorist formations and their intertwined forms of racialized perverse sexualities and gender dysphorias.

I allude to queer praxis of futurity that insistently disentangle the relations between representation and affect, and propose queerness as not an identity nor an anti-identity, but an assemblage that is spatially and temporally contingent. The limitations of intersectional identitarian models emerge progressively—however queer they may be—as I work through the concepts of affect, tactility, and ontology. While dismantling the representational mandates of visibility identity politics that feed narratives of sexual exceptionalism, affective analyses can approach queernesses that are unknown or not cogently knowable, that are in the midst of becoming, that do not immediately and visibly signal themselves as insurgent, oppositional, or transcendent. This shift forces us to ask not only what terrorist corporealities mean or signify, but more insistently, what do they do? In this conclusion, I review these tensions between affect and representation, identity and assemblage, posing the problematics of nationalist and terrorist formations as central challenges to transnational queer cultural and feminist studies.

I propose the assemblage as a pertinent political and theoretical frame within societies of control. I rearticulate terrorist bodies, in particular the suicide bomber, as an assemblage that resists queerness-as-sexual-identity (or anti-identity)—in other words, intersectional and identitarian paradigms—in favor of spatial, temporal, and corporeal convergences, implosions, and rearrangements. Queerness as an assemblage moves away from excavation work, deprivileges a binary opposition between queer and notqueer subjects, and, instead of retaining queerness exclusively as dissenting, resistant, and alternative (all of which queerness importantly is and does), it underscores contingency and complicity with dominant formations. This foregrounding of assemblage enables attention to ontology in tandem with epistemology, affect in conjunction with representational economies, within which bodies interpenetrate, swirl together, and transmit affects and effects to each other.

The "affective turn" in recent poststructuralist scholarship indicates, I believe, that no matter how intersectional our models of subjectivity, no matter how attuned to locational politics of space, place, and scale, these formulations may still limit us if they presume the automatic primacy and singularity of the disciplinary subject and its identitarian interpellation. Patricia Clough has recently anointed this resurgence of interest in affect in poststructuralist inquiry the ‘‘affective turn,’’ marked by the spheres of technoscience criticism (Massumi, Hardt, Hardt and Negri, Clough, Parisi, De Landa) and queer theory on emotions and tactile knowings (Muñoz, Ahmed, Sedgwick, Cvetkovich). While reflective of the effects of poststructuralist exhaustion with representational analyses—in both Spivakian senses of portrait (Darstellung) and proxy (Vertreten)—an interesting split genealogy is emerging in these efforts. There are those writers who deploy affect as a particular reflection of or attachment to ‘‘structures of being’’ or feeling (per Raymond Williams; that is, a state prior to interpellation) that otherwise remains unarticulatable. In many cases affect in these works is situated in a continuum or becomes interchangeable with emotion, feeling, expressive sentiment (‘‘gay shame’’ is one such overdetermined fixation). The other genealogy we can point to is situated within a Deleuzian frame, whereby affect is a physiological and biological phenomenon, signaling why bodily matter matters, what escapes or remains outside of the discursively structured and thus commodity forms of emotion, of feeling. Brian Massumi, for example, posits affect as what escapes our attention, as what haunts the representational realm rather than merely infusing it with emotive presence. He regards affect in terms of ontological emergence that is released from cognition, codified emotion being the evidence of the escaped excess that is affect.

We must encourage genealogies of sexuality that suspend, for a moment, the rubrics of desire, pleasure, erotics, and identity that typically subtend ‘‘sex acts,’’ yet simultaneously avoid collapsing sexuality into a thin biopolitical frame of reproduction, hetero or homo. For if race and sex are to be increasingly thought outside the parameters of identity as assemblages, as events, what is at stake in terms of biopolitical capacity is therefore not the ability to reproduce, but the capacity to regenerate, the terms of which are found in all sorts of registers beyond heteronormative reproduction. The child is just one such figure in a spectrum of statistical chances that suggest health, vitality, capacity, fertility, ‘‘market virility,’’ and so on. For queer politics, the challenge is not so much to refuse a future through the repudiation of reproductive futurity, what Edelman hails as the reclamation and embracing of ‘‘No Future’’ that he claims is always already attached to gay bodies, but to understand how the biopolitics of regenerative capacity already demarcate racialized and sexualized statistical population aggregates as those in decay, destined for no future, based not upon whether they can or cannot reproduce children but on what capacities they can and cannot regenerate and what kinds of assemblages they compel, repel, spur, deflate.

As opposed to an intersectional model of identity, which presumes that components—race, class, gender, sexuality, nation, age, religion—are separable analytics and can thus be disassembled, an assemblage is more attuned to interwoven forces that merge and dissipate time, space, and body against linearity, coherency, and permanency. Intersectionality demands the knowing, naming, and thus stabilizing of identity across space and time, relying on the logic of equivalence and analogy between various axes of identity and generating narratives of progress that deny the fictive and performative aspects of identification: you become an identity, yes, but also timelessness works to consolidate the fiction of a seamless stable identity in every space. Furthermore, the study of intersectional identities often involves taking imbricated identities apart one by one to see how they influence each other, a process that betrays the founding impulse of intersectionality, that identities cannot so easily be cleaved. We can think of intersectionality as a hermeneutic of positionality that seeks to account for locality, specificity, placement, junctions. As a tool of diversity management and a mantra of liberal multiculturalism, intersectionality colludes with the disciplinary apparatus of the state—census, demography, racial profiling, surveillance—in that ‘‘difference’’ is encased within a structural container that simply wishes the messiness of identity into a formulaic grid, producing analogies in its wake and engendering what Massumi names ‘‘gridlock’’: a ‘‘box[ing] into its site on the culture map.’’

Terrorist assemblages not only counter sexual exceptionalisms by reclaiming contagion—the nonexceptional—within the gaze of national security. In the commingling of queer monstrosity and queer modernity, they also creatively, powerfully, and unexpectedly scramble the terrain of the political within organizing and intellectual projects, weakening the tenuous collusion of the disciplinary subject and the population for control. We cannot know assemblages in advance, thus taunting the temporal suffocation plaguing identity politics to which Chow draws our attention. Displacing visibility politics as a primary concern of queer social movements, assemblages demonstrate the import of theorizing the queer affective economies that impact and engrave but also announce, trail, and emblazon queer bodies: suicide bombers, the turbaned Sikh man, the monster-terrorist-fag, the tortured Muslim body, the burqa’ed woman, the South Asian diasporic drag queen, to name a few. These terrorist assemblages, a cacophony of informational flows, energetic intensities, bodies, and practices that undermine coherent identity and even queer anti-identity narratives, bypass entirely the Foucauldian ‘‘act to identity’’ continuum that informs much global lgbtiq organizing, a continuum that privileges the pole of identity as the evolved form of western modernity. Yet reclaiming the nonexceptional is only partially the point, for assemblages allow for complicities of privilege and the production of new normativities even as they cannot anticipate spaces and moments of resistance, resistance that is not primarily characterized by oppositional stances, but includes frictional forces, discomfiting encounters, and spurts of unsynchronized delinquency (the jamming of technological and informational infrastructures such as underground hacker subterfuge, viruses, mobile models of crowd gathering at antiwar protests). These unknowable terrorist assemblages are not casual bystanders or parasites; the nation assimilates the effusive discomfort of the unknowability of these bodies, thus affectively producing new normativities and exceptionalisms through the cataloguing of unknowables. Opening up to the fantastical wonders of futurity, therefore, is the most powerful of political and critical strategies, whether it is through assemblage or to something as yet unknown, perhaps even forever unknowable.

Wu Ming, Selected Interviews

Q. Does Wu Ming represent "the death of the author"? Are you saying that the name of the writer is not important because what's important are the multimedia narratives created by the multiple entities behind the same pen name? Where does this stance put Wu Ming in the ongoing battles over copyright?

A. I'm not particularly interested in the debate on the death of the author. I don't bear any grudge against authors in and of themselves. We're authors ourselves. However, we believe that the author is overrated. There's too much bad rhetoric around the author. Some of those people are too full of themselves, and there's a whole system thriving on their being full of themselves, and on the public contemplating in awe their selfish attitude. Authors have no supernatural powers. Quite a few of them don't even have anything to say. Their only asset is that they know how not to say it. They have the language to say nothing at all and be praised about it. As for the copyright battle—it is no mystery that all our books are freely reproducible, they can be downloaded from our Web site, and people can distribute them in any way they please, as long as distribution remains free and they don't ask for any money. If they make money, we want a slice of the cake.

Q. 'It's the economy, stupid!' What are your thoughts about the current cultural situation, both in a national, European and global context?

A. The complete failure of the neo-liberal economics pushed by the IMF and the WTO is under everyone's eyes. Capital devised two main "solutions" to the 1929 Wall Street Crack and the 1930's Depression: one was Roosevelt's New Deal, the other one was Fascism. So far, the answer to the current global crisis is no new deal, it is warfare. The Neo-Con gang (which includes Tony Blair) has declared war on the planet but nobody can win a war on the whole planet, also because the US are a gradually declining superpower, not the Romulan empire. The inevitable "Vietnamization" of the Middle East shouldn't have taken anyone by surprise, it is only natural. More and more soldiers will die, by the end of 2004 we'll have counted them by the thousands. We're not happy about it but it shows that anti-war movements were right, that "pre-emptive war" was going to be a catastrophic adventure. The point is that the powers-that-be are nihilist, they don't give a shit about the future, they just want power and profits now. If not so, why don't they care about global warming instead of waging absurd wars? Why don't they care about power outrages instead of trying to fool us into thinking that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction?

Q. After the protests in Genoa in 2001, you described the event as a “crucial moment for the latest generation of activists” and talked about how it contributed to the understanding that you cannot “besiege a power that is everywhere” – the realization that capitalism’s power lies in the fact that it does not reside in a single place (a castle, a conference hall etc) but has been incorporated into almost every aspect of our social and economic life. Can this criticism be easily applied to the Occupy Movement that has turned up at Wall Street – the formal home of our financial system – or do you think there are important differences?

A. Violating the “red zones” was pure self-delusion, there was nothing in there, actual decisions were not taken in those summits. Capitalist power isn’t inside any fortress: it is in the microphysics of daily exploitation, in financial exchanges, and so on. The Occupy Wall Street movement, which has now turned into the Occupy Everything movement, is already a step – maybe several steps – ahead. As McKenzie Wark wrote, they started by occupying an abstraction, they weren’t actually occupying Wall Street, they were occupying the concept of Wall Street, and the rhetorical device by which Wall Street had come to mean “financial capital”. There is a more precise insight on how power works. In Italy we had “Occupy Bank of Italy”: campers weren’t really occupying the bank, they were shifting the focus of public discussion from Burlesquoni’s theatrical antics to the austerity measures dictated to Italy by the European Central Bank. They chose Banca d’Italia as a target because that was Mario Draghi’s last week as governor of the Bank. He was going to become president of the ECB. The movement was attacking enemy troops not in the positions they were leaving, but in the positions they were about to take possess of. In short, there were no trivialities like “Let’s besiege the palaces of power.”

Peter Sloterdijk, Cell Block, Egospheres, Self-Container, 2007

Those who study the history of modern architecture in relation to the forms of life found in a mediatized society will immediately realize that the two most successful architectural innovations of the 20th century - the apartment and the sports stadium - are directly related to the two most prevalent sociopsychological tendencies of this epoch: the setting free of solitary individuals with the help of individualized home and media technologies, and the aggregation of masses, unified in their excitement, with the help of staged events held in "fascinogenic” mass structures. For now, we will not emphasize that the affective and imaginary synthesis of modern society is more likely to take place through mass media - that is, through the telecommunicative integration of nonassembled people - than through physical assembly; meanwhile, the operative synthesis of society is more likely to organize itself through market relationship.

The modern apartment, or that which is referred to as a studio or one-room apartment - is the material realization of a tendency toward cell-formation, which can be recognized as the architectural and topological analogue of the individualism of modern society. As to the meaning of these individualistic aspirations, we will content ourselves for the moment with an observation that Gabriel Tarde already made in the 1880s: "Today's civilized person is really aspiring to the possibility of dispensing with human support." One can also read, in the evolution of apartment construction, that nothing is less based on presuppositions than the seemingly natural expectation that there should be at least one room for every person, or one living unit per head. Just as Soviet modernism was condensed into the myth of the communal apartment, which was to be the press that would mint a New Man fit for the collective, so too does Western modernism gather itself under the myth of the apartment, where the liberated individual, who has been made flexible by flows of capital, devotes himself to the cultivation of his relationship to himself.

We will define the apartment as an atomic or elementary "egospheric" form - as a cellular world-bubble, the massive repetition of which generates individualistic foams. There is no moral judgment tied to this conclusion; it contains no concessions to current catholic and neoconservative criticism that, in its discussion of the contemporary trend toward "singles culture," offers little more than a stereotypically Augustinián scolding of egoism and indifference. The only new thing offered is the pointed remark that the modern egoist has started subscribing to the Daily Me. We will also keep our distance when terms like Existenzminimum are brought into play.

To get closer to understanding the phenomenon of the apartment, one must take note of its close alliance with the principle of seriality, without which the crossing over of building (and manufacturing) into the age of mass- and pre-fabrication could not be imagined. Just as, according to El Lissitzky, constructivism represented the transfer point between painting and architecture, so too does serialism represent the transfer point between elementarism and social utopianism. In serialism - which regulates the relationship between part and whole through precise standardization, so that decentralized fabrication and centralized installation become possible - lies the key to the relationship between cell and cellular compound. Just as the composition of the cell, by fully returning to the elementary level, accommodates itself to analytical thinking, so does the building of houses on the basis of these elements suggest a combinatorics - or better, a form of "organic construction" - with the goal of generating architecturally, urbanistically, and economically tenable ensembles out of modules.

The semblance of individualism, which in modernism was supposed to harden into an ontology of separateness, could not become truly suggestive until today's media revolution had run its course. Ego-technological media in particular contributed to this by inscribing the individual with new routines and methods of returning to the self. In the first line are the writing and reading technologies with whose help historically unprecedented kinds of procedures of inner dialogue, and of self-examination and self-documentation, have become habituated. Consequently, the homo alphabeticus did not just develop the characteristic practice of self-objectification, but also the practice of reuniting with oneself by appropriating the objectified. The diary is one such ego-technological form; soul-searching is another. In my thinking on the history of human faciality in general, and European interfacial relations in particular, I referred to the recent and incisive introduction of the mirror into the optical self-relationship of Europeans, and emphasized the contribution of this paradigmatic, ego-technological device in the transition from sensual reflection in the other to so-called self-reflection. In the everyday routine of the modern apartment resident, just as in that of his contemporaries, the glance in the mirror has become a regular practice that serves his ongoing self-adjustment

This presupposes the individual's unrelenting self-observation of any metabolic and aggregative change in all of its dimensions. Individualism is a cult of digestion that celebrates the passage of foods, experiences, and information through the subject. As all is immanence, the apartment becomes an integral toilette: everything that happens here is under the premise of end use in every respect. Eating/ digesting; reading/writing; watching television/opining (Meinen"); self- recovery/self-engagement; self-arousal/self release. As a micro theater of autosymbiosis the apartment sheathes the existence of individuals who apply for experience and significance. As it is simultaneously a cave and a stage, the apartment as much provides accompaniment for the debut of the individual as it does for his return back into irrelevance. One can illustrate this with the typical stations of the self-care cycle, through which the apartment's subject moves as he follows his daily script. It begins with the morning toilet, which consists of voiding, washing, cosmetic allowances, and dressing. Cosmetic autopraxis already offers, at a relatively simple level, a universe of differences that are given great intrinsic value by their users. Through cosmetics, one's own facial countenance - the appearance - can near the level of the artwork. Similarly, the choice of clothing for its part encompasses many micro universes of nuances and gestures; here the outfit becomes a design problem, and the clothing choices a self-project. In fact, in a developed "experience" society the individual qualifies as an author who claims authorship of his own image. The individual determines the psychosocial revenues of his clothing strategy by the direct and indirect successes of his appearances.

With good reason it has been claimed that postmodernism is a by-product of remote control. The telecommander represents the key technology for the control of sound and image input, and eo ipso of reality admittance into the egosphere. Considering that a creature of the homo sapiens type becomes that which it hears, the transition to an individual having the option to self-tune presents an anthropological juncture: involuntary outer hearing, like involuntary inner hearing, of which psychoanalysis offered a partial transcription with the term superego (which concerned the moralistic aspect of the individual being outvoiced by the collective), dissolves in the trend toward the choice of one's own auditory environment. Of course there will always be layers of inner and outer hearing in which involuntarily heard sounds enter into voluntary hearing, even in the individual phonotop.

Only the telephone can rival the significance of audio media in the atmospheric framing of the egosphere - and represents, without saying, one of the most effective means of connecting the reserve of the apartment to the world because of its quality as a two-way medium. In contrast to even the latest one-way media (radio, TV, newspaper, books), the telephone possesses a double ontological privilege: it not only transmits calls from (usually) the Real, it also brings the one being called, provided that he picks up, into an (actually experienced) synchronicity with the caller - on the same level of being as the placer of the call from afar. Because of this effect of immediacy, it is legitimate to describe the telephone as a biophone - anything less than a life cannot make a call. Somebody on the phone - this is always a distant life made present, a voice with a message, maybe even an invitation. Because it can be reached with a phone call, the apartment loses its "unity of place" as it is, in turn, connected to a network of virtual neighborhoods. The neighborhood then becomes, in effect, not a spatial one, but a telephonic one. From an immunological point of view the telephone represents a more ambivalent recent arrival, because it introduces apotential canal for risky infections from the outside into the living cell, but at the same time explosively stretches out the radius of the inhabitant in the sense of expanded alliances and opportunities for agency (the Internet does not have to be the focal point in this context because, for the time being, it only offers the continuation of the telephone by visual means). After writing had already dissolved the synchronicity of communication, the telephone also abolished the need for having to be in the same place.

In no other dimension of life does this make itself so obvious as with sexuality, which in the individualistic regime is often set up as an apartment-based sexuality of "experience," or, respectively, as research into an inner erotic space of possibilities. Clearly, the transition to so-called liberated sexuality in the second half of the 20th century is inextricably tied to the privacy gained by the discretion of apartment culture, or at least the safety of one's own room. The overanalyzed phenomenon of biochemical contraceptives, which have been available to women, married or not, since the 1960s, only confirms the fact that the manifestrend since the 1920s has been toward an affirmation of solitary eroticism. The apartment forms a miniature erototof in which singles can pursue their impulsive desires in the sense of also-wanting-to-experience-what-others-have-alreadyexperienced. It represents an exemplary backdrop for existence because in it a form of consumer relations can be practiced toward one's own sexual potential. But if the lover (erástes) and the beloved (e romenos ) fall within one and the same person, this centaur is not spared the elementary experience of all lovers, which is that the love object only rarely responds on the same wavelength.

In autoeroticism, as in its bipersonal counterpart, the same rule follows that when the need for choosing a partner arises, most are doomed to misfire. As the rule is that generally people do not get the one they really want, they replace them with someone else - in this case, with themselves. For this reason the apartment is also an atelier for dealing with frustrations - more specifically, a testing cell in which the desire for a real or imaginary opposite is transformed into a desire for oneself as the most plausible representative of the other one had one's sights on. In this paradoxical circle, a self-gratifying masturbation with offensive tendencies is developed. Apartment onanism, most likely prefigured in cloister cells, sets the stage for the complete three-figure relationship between the subject, the genitals, and the phantasma. It must be made clear, by the way, that even if masturbatory sexuality achieves a pragmatic abbreviation, it does not necessarily represent a structural simplification of an interpersonal bigenital operation. One can hence best explain the erototopic characteristics of the apartment with an analogy to the brothel: just as the suitors look around at the available sexual partners, and, after having come to an agreement, go to a rented cell with the object of their preference, so too the resident chooses himself as the closest other, and uses the seclusion of his living unit to get it on with himself. Self-pairing is carried out here with the nuance that the individual, without any formalities, makes advances toward himself as a self-suitor. This can, as a familiar example shows, even lead to a promotion by one's own grace.

The modern apartment cell takes on - aside from its chiro-, thermo-, and eroto- topic qualities - the characteristics of an ergotop the moment its inhabitant makes it the scene of his athletic self-care. This transformation from apartment to private gym is encouraged by modern society's trend toward fitness-oriented lifestyles, which demand that their adherents pay constant attention to their figures. From this point of view, the structure of self-pairing modifies itself so that the exercising individual splits himself into both the trainer and the trainee in order to unify both into a coordinated routine. Here, fixed or moveable training equipment can take over the manifest third role in the objective organization of a self-relationship. In other cases it is equipment-free exercises on the floor, with which a gymnastic monologue is carried out. Existentialism explicated itself somatically: based on the philosophical formula that being (Dasein) is the relationship that relates oneself to oneself, a new version has come onto the market, one that is more easily understood, according to which "being" means keepingoneself-in-shape.

Finally, the apartment can be described as the satellite station of the aletbotop (republic of knowledge). In every life, as much as it might be averted from the universal, there is a residual interest in truth, even if it is just in the demand for vocabulary that helps the individual to be plugged in to the signs of the times. He who demonstrates a moderate level of consumption of media generally attains the cognitive Existenzminimum that is customary for our current world form (Weltform), and is granted the license to vote and have one's voice be heard. Those who demand more strive for knowledge, which would enable them to orient themselves during extensive navigation in murky waters. In the self-relationship of the alethotop, individuals are informally employed as self-tutors who are responsible for sustaining a certain fit with the cognitive or scientific position of society; as minimal autodidacts they afford themselves an idiosyncratic share of the publicly available resources of the cognitive souci de soi . Even if it is true that learning, according to the current requirements of cognitive theory, can at most be interpreted as an enlightened management of ignorance, halfway discriminating contemporaries in so-called "knowledge societies" must at least put themselves to the task of constantly updating their deficiencies. From here on the point of positive information is above all to more realistically determine the scale of what is unknown or unclear. In addition, information increasingly gains a function that is in keeping with fashion and labels - one wears isolated particles of knowledge just as one wears sunglasses, expensive watches, and baseball caps. In Japanese youth culture a scene was started in the 1980s that was dedicated to the cult of senseless, specialized knowledge. These youths understood that knowledge does not prepare you for life, but for quiz shows.

Scene and fashion magazines usually serve as information sources for single inhabitants, in addition to nonfiction books that now and again get incorporated into the domestic collection. For many, the reception of a new book into the community of objects that populate the apartment is still an event. To the charm of life in an apartment belongs the fact that one can here, without any witnesses, dedicate oneself to the honest bookkeeping of the unique ignorances that are unmistakably one's own.

Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, 2015

“The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request.” Sometime in the spring of 2011, I wrote to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to request the release of any documents pertaining to Frantz Fanon under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). He arrived in the United States on October 3, staying at a hotel in Washington, DC, where he was “left to rot,” according to Simone de Beauvoir, “alone and without medical attention.” I didn’t get any documents from the CIA except a letter citing Executive Order 13526 with the standard refrain that the agency “can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records,” and further stating that “the fact of the existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and properly classified and is intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure. Document #105-96959-A, the news clipping, names The Wretched of the Earth (1963) as Fanon’s most important book describing Fanon as a “black intellectual,” a “radical revolutionary,” and “a philosophical disciple of Karl Marx and Jean Paul Sartre, [who] preached global revolt of the blacks against white colonial rule.”

During lectures Fanon put forth the idea that modernity can be characterized by the “mise en fiches de l’homme.” These are the records, files, time sheets, and identity documents that together form a biography, and sometimes an unauthorized one, of the modern subject. In a manner similar to the detailed case histories of colonial war and mental disorders found in the fifth chapter of The Wretched of the Earth, in a section of the notes on these lectures titled “Le contrôle et la surveillance” (in English “Surveillance and Control”), Fanon demonstrates his role as both psychiatrist and social theorist, by making observations, or social diagnoses, on the embodied effects and outcomes of surveillance practices on different categories of laborers when attempts are made by way of workforce supervision to reduce their labor to an automation: factory assembly line workers subjected to time management by punch clocks and time sheets, the eavesdropping done by telephone switchboard supervisors as they secretly listened in on calls in order to monitor the conversations of switchboard operators, and the effects of closed- circuit television (CCTV) surveillance on sales clerks in large department stores in the United States. This is control by quantification, as Fanon put it. The embodied psychic effects of surveillance that Fanon described include nervous tensions, insomnia, fatigue, accidents, lightheadedness, and less control over reflexes. Nightmares too: a train that departs and leaves one behind, or a gate closing, or a door that won’t open.

Dark Matters suggests that an understanding of the ontological conditions of blackness is integral to developing a general theory of surveillance and, in particular, racializing surveillance—when enactments of surveillance reify boundaries along racial lines, thereby reifying race, and where the outcome of this is often discriminatory and violent treatment. It is through this archive and that of black life after the Middle Passage that I want to further complicate understandings of surveillance by questioning how a realization of the conditions of blackness—the historical, the present, and the historical present—can help social theorists understand our contemporary conditions of surveillance. Put another way, rather than seeing surveillance as something inaugurated by new technologies, such as automated facial recognition or unmanned autonomous vehicles (or drones), to see it as ongoing is to insist that we factor in how racism and antiblackness undergird and sustain the intersecting surveillances of our present order. Surveillance is nothing new to black folks. It is the fact of antiblackness.

Dark Matters stems from a questioning of what would happen if some of the ideas occurring in the emerging field of surveillance studies were put into conversation with the enduring archive of transatlantic slavery and its afterlife, in this way making visible the many ways that race continues to structure surveillance practices. If we are to take transatlantic slavery as antecedent to contemporary surveillance technologies and practices as they concern inventories of ships’ cargo and the arrangement laid out in the stowage plan of the slave ship, biometric identification by branding the slave’s body with hot irons, slave markets and auction blocks as exercises of synoptic power where the many watched the few, slave passes and patrols, manumission papers and free badges, black codes and fugitive slave notices, it is to the archives, slave narratives, and often to black expressive practices, creative texts, and other efforts that we can look for moments of refusal and critique. Slave narratives, as Avery Gordon demonstrates, offer us “a sociology of slavery and freedom.”

Dark Matters seeks to make an intervention in the literature by naming the “absented presence” of blackness as part of that absence in the literature. In the sense that blackness is often absented from what is theorized and who is cited, it is ever present in the subjection of black motorists to a disproportionate number of traffic stops (driving while black), stop- and- frisk policing practices that subject black and Latino pedestrians in New York City and other urban spaces to just that, CCTV and urban renewal projects that displace those living in black city spaces, and mass incarceration in the United States where, for example, black men between the ages of twenty and twenty- four are imprisoned at a rate seven times higher than white men of that age group, and the various exclusions and other matters where blackness meets surveillance and then reveals the ongoing racisms of unfinished emancipation. Unfinished emancipation suggests that slavery matters and the archive of transatlantic slavery must be engaged if we are to create a surveillance studies that grapples with its constitutive genealogies, where the archive of slavery is taken up in a way that does not replicate the racial schema that spawned it and that it reproduced, but at the same time does not erase its violence.

If, for Foucault, “the disciplinary gaze of the Panopticon is the archetypical power of modernity,” then it is my contention that the slave ship too must be understood as an operation of the power of modernity, and as part of the violent regulation of blackness. I plot dark sousveillance as an imaginative place from which to mobilize a critique of racializing surveillance, a critique that takes form in anti-surveillance, counter-surveillance, and other freedom practices. Dark sousveillance, then, plots imaginaries that are oppositional and that are hopeful for another way of being. Dark sousveillance is a site of critique, as it speaks to black epistemologies of contending with antiblack surveillance, where the tools of social control in plantation surveillance or lantern laws in city spaces and beyond were appropriated, co-opted, repurposed, and challenged in order to facilitate survival and escape. Dark sousveillance is also a reading praxis for examining surveillance that allows for a questioning of how certain surveillance technologies installed during slavery to monitor and track blackness as property (for example, branding, the one- drop rule, quantitative plantation records that listed enslaved people alongside livestock and crops, slave passes, slave patrols, and runaway notices) anticipate the contemporary surveillance of racialized subjects, and it also provides a way to frame how the contemporary surveillance of the racial body might be contended with.

DAAR, Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, 2013

The army withdrawal seemed to have been the last act in an ongoing struggle of local and international activists against the oppressive presence of the base. Some years previously, on a legendary day, protesters broke into the military base and called for its immediate removal. The soldiers, taken completely by surprise, did nothing but watch. Relief gave way to cathartic release. Using iron bars, young people smashed windows, walls, and doors. others tried to salvage and take away whatever they could. The commotion was incredible, but nobody got hurt. This was the end of the long life of the site as a military outpost. The evacuation of the outpost was surely only a tactical move, a reorganization of the military matrix of control. No one was under any illusion that this might have been the first stage of decolonization. Still, “something” had taken place - a military base had been evacuated and people had access to it. This moment of evacuation - “nothing” in the grand scheme of things - captured our imagination as it had defied the logic of impossibility and the seemingly hard geography that is prevalent in occupied Palestine.

The access to the military base provided a new point of observation over the city itself. Its evacuation offered local people the opportunity to see their own city from this direction for the first time. For many, it was a strange feeling, similar to that of looking at a recording of oneself and discovering unknown aspects. Having access to the evacuated military base we experienced the most radical condition of architecture - the very moment that power has been unplugged: the old uses are gone, and new uses not yet defined. Only after such initial encounters can collective thinking about the future of this place begin.

If one insists, as we do, on colonization as the frame of reference for understanding the political reality in palestine, one should naturally accept that decolonization is necessary. The general conceptual question nonetheless remains: what is decolonization today? The current political language that utilizes the term “solution” in relation to the Palestinian conflict and its respective borders is similarly aimed at a fixed reality. “Decolonization,” however, is not bound as a concept, nor is it bound in space or in time: it is an ongoing practice of deactivation and reorientation understood both in its presence and its endlessness. Decolonization, in our understanding, seeks to unleash a process of open-ended transformation toward visions of equality and justice. The return of refugees, which we interpret as entailing the right to move and settle within the complete borders of Israel-Palestine, is fundamental in decolonization.

The philosopher Giorgio Agamben has been generous in engaging us in conversations about how the concept of “profanation” would be a productive way of thinking through the process of decolonization. In his book, Agamben points out that “to profane does not simply mean to abolish or cancel separations, but to learn to make new uses of them.” Might decolonization then be the counter-apparatus to restore to common use what the colonial order has separated and divided? Decolonization as an act of profanation is playful, child-like, and a necessary contrast against actions disposed towards the diverse manifestations of the contemporary sacred.

Zones of Palestine that have been or will be liberated from direct Israeli presence have produced a crucial laboratory for studying the multiple ways in which we could imagine the reuse, re-inhibition, or recycling of Israel’s colonial architecture. The popular impulse for destruction seeks to spatially articulare “liberation” from an architecture understood as a political straitjacket, an instrument of domination and control. If architecture is a weapon in a military arsenal that implements the power relations of colonialist ideologies, that architecture must burn. Frantz Fanon, pondering the possible corruption of governments after decolonization, warned during the Algerian liberation struggle, that if not destroyed, the physical and territorial reorganization of the colonial world may once again “mark out the lines on which a colonized society will be organized.” For Fanon, decolonization is always a violent event. “To destroy the colonial world means nothing less than demolishing the colonist's city, burying it deep with the earth or banishing it from the territory.”

The impulse of destruction seeks to turn time backward. It seeks to reverse development to its virgin nature, a tabula rasa on which a set of new beginnings might be articulated. However, time and its processes of transformation can never be simply reversed: rather than the desired Romantic ruralization of developed areas, destruction generates desolation and environmental damage that may last for decades. In 2005, Israel evacuated the Gaza settlements and destroyed three thousand homes, creating not the promised tabula rasa for a new beginning, but rather a million and a half tons of toxic rubble that poisoned the ground and water.

The other impulse, to reuse, seeks to impose political continuity and order under a new system of control. It is thus not surprising that post-colonial governments have tended to reuse the infrastructure set up by colonial regimes for their own emergent practice needs of administration. The reuse of Israeli colonial architecture could establish a sense of continuity rather than rupture and change. That is, ruining the evacuated structures of Israel’s domination in the same way as the occupiers did - the settlements as Palestinian suburbs and the military base for Palestinian security needs - would mean reproducing their inhere alienation and violence: the settlement’s system of fences and surveillance technologies would inevitably enable their seamless transformation into gated communities for the Palestinian elite.

There is, however a third option: a subversion of the original intended use, repurposing it for other ends. We know that evacuated colonial architecture doesn’t necessarily reproduce the functions for which it was designed. Even the most horrifying of structures of domination can yield themselves to new forms of life. Looking at the fractured remains of a plantation house, the Caribbean poet Derek Walcott pondered the decay of an institution once powerful, and wondered about “the rot that remains when the men are gone,” but he also opened ways to negotiate, inhabit, and thus transform the colonial structures that have generated deep deformations of space and geography. Colonial remnants and ruins are not only the dead matter of past power, but could be thought of as material for re-appropriation and strategic activation within the political of the present. The question is how people might live with and in ruins, or, “within the house of the enemy.”

The prisoner-of-war camp Fossoli di Carpi, northern Italy, was used as a concentration camp for Jews who were imprisoned there before their deportation to death camps in Eastern Europe. Two years after the end of the war the priest Zeno Saltini opened an orphanage there. The walls and barbed wire were pulled down, and the barracks were transformed into living quarters, a school, workshops. Trees, gardens, and vegetables were planted. The camp watchtower was transformed into a church.

Another interesting case was that of Staro Sajmište. Built as a fairground in 1936 it had a series of national pavilions built around a central tower. The area had fallen into Nazi hands at the start of World War II. The visual order of the exhibition suited the new logic of surveillance and control. After the way, the site was occupied by artists and Roma people. The circular layout of the camp has thus been interpreted in radically different fashions three times: as a display mechanism, a site of incarceration and murder, and then a site of renewed communal life.