ENCORE: Militant-art and Alien-Subjectivity – Writing Worlds
“[…] in the war between the world and truth the ones who refuses to play the crude game of the world (played by refusing the truth, either in that cynical way or in that vitalist way, in the name of the demands of survival, sensual and dominating for the first, or devoted to bustling activity for the second) and who refuses to submit to the ideal (to the travesty of the category of truth in that manner pretending to be compatible with the world’s revolutions) are the ones who may rupture with the sphere of the world, rupture with the sphere of the possible, with the sphere of mastery and its rules of imperial composition. These are the ones who can aim at the impossible. To them is given rebellion”1
“what counts is no longer the statement [the enunciation] of wind, but the wind“2
After all that has been articulated in contorted series of thoughts in the previous blocks, we have finally acquired some conceptual momentum: art has to be understood as the ethical imperative that through vectors of abstraction commits to the search of true-change, to formally model and to materially instantiate a communal force, transformative experiences, producing systemic levelling and always, attempting at averaging and redistributing resources. We should pass from entropy to negentropy through platform making, we need once more a form of militant collectivity, one making sense of itself and of the possible worlds it could construct. Alright, one may say, but what ethical militancy is required and to work within what?
The current situation coagulated in time and some recap may be necessary. In plain sight, the militarisation and commodification of language, that is, of the subject, is carried out. Production, control, autonomy: the space and time of the word, of the archive, is now given as it is constituted by self-governing and self-producing processes; the actualisation of the present takes place within-upon multi-scalar topologies. What are the fields of contemporary struggle? How can a renewed will-to-change be active within, whilst transforming, the ubiquity of global productivism and of the coercive systems through which productivity is maintained and executed? How to think and build collective spaces not subjugated by the law of profit and not subject to the semiotic exploitations of capital? How are heretical, asemic spaces to be designed—outside direct semiotic control and commodification, outside immediate exploitation? How are such spaces able to signify communion and emancipation if they operate an impossible semiosis? How are these spaces to be designed and managed? What has become of desire, of the fantastic, of the subconscious and how to subtract them from the logic of capital? How can the human agent develop an alternative within a topology that allows only more within and no “outside”? How to develop an opposition, if we can still talk about oppositional tactics and strategies? Could an opposing common be developed as a force without identity and without central control? What is the identity of the left, crumbled and corroded by years of ideological withdrawal, almost not wanting to get its hands dirty, not wanting to touch-integrate-redesign those systems that are now so distant from the scale of direct-action? Does it make sense to talk about human scale of intervention? Human-scale, what a simulacrum of a word, what an oxymoron. Still what a word, I keep writing as I cannot but carry within myself a romantic gaze, the ebullient hope, the spirit of emancipation. Intentions are good, but what is a subject, what is emancipation?
The subject cannot but be experiencing a continuous crisis, a deracination of its unity, it is the destitution of the Cartesian subject and the constitution of something else, one without a name and incapable of naming, without cognitive autonomy and with incapacitated collective functions. Life is caught in a process of real subsumption, which means the total industrialisation of the vectors of subjectivation, which also implies the maximisation and standardisation of language as-for enhanced productivity. As it was written by John David Ebert online: “[h]ypermodernism has created the Hyperindividual, a new–and bizarre–kind of individual that is nothing like the traditional Western idea of the transcendent Self, for this new self is floating, discarnate, deworlded and decontextualized from all world horizons. The Hyperindividual has no connection with history, community or any kind of idealistic, utopian projects. Those all characterized the past. The Hyperindividual is a world unto himself.”3 How must the human and the multitude be designed —the former understood as being in a continuous artificial process of externalisation and abstraction and the latter understood as the maximum expression of collectivity that ethically administers itself through language and abstraction— in relation to the present technical forms? How is it possible to establish a subjectivity able to direct its process of becoming-something within a system of real subsumption, of continuous governamentality? How should we face the current situation, in which any form of life is harnessed in the cybernetic processes, which are both the medium to produce the novel apparatus of the common, and also the medium of its possible coercion? Stiegler appropriately described what determines the actuality, the cognitive and bodily deficiency, the deteriorated collective agency of the individual, of the hyper-individual: “the contemporary reality of the Anthropocene qua digital stage of grammatization […] produce[s] an automatic performativity that channels, diverts and short-circuits individual and collective protentions: by outstripping and overtaking the noetic capacities of individuation, and doing so precisely insofar as the latter are protentional capacities (that is, oneiric capacities); and, at the same time, by short-circuiting the collective production of circuits of transindividuation.”4 We look at the extended-human becoming, we always knew it without fully knowing it: in the face we see hybrid topologies, we don’t feel bodies but mergers of physical and digital events, fibrous bundles of relationships extended and splintered over diachronic times and multi-scalar spaces. There is no unique space and time for the subject, but there are parallel space-times, sensed and performed by agents with different abilities of actualisation.
We live qua high-frequency subjectivity; life is juggled in the middle, spaces made up of protocols and algorithms, where to-be is to be constantly mediated. Memory deteriorates due to sustained explorations and encounters in the screen’s flat dimensionality, and in the vr extensions’ dull seemingly deep space. Or so it seems, perhaps we are required to find alternative models of memorisation. It’s too early to know why, but events seem incapable of sedimenting upon mnemonic matter. Short term memory defines the extent of thought, which now necessitates more intense use of devices of exteriorisation. To be is to know how to be an interface, “being” is constant mediation and movement between interfaces, encrypted portals and passwords. We are the formal and real subsumption of the process of living, we live encompassed by a formless form of capitalisation, a form without categories of predefined structures which is therefore impossible to map and that seems to cannibalise any aspect of matter and thought. There is no outside the meta-capitalism of the present, which means that everything is subject to formal and real subsumption of the process: not only the present but the autocatalytic construction of the future. Life has become and misnomer encompassing not a bracket of time, but a bracket within which alien temporalities swerve, forms impossible to grasp and so resistant to design. Kafka’s law is extended to every spectrum, the law of cognitive capitalism is everywhere, everywhere formed by, and forming new packed and black-boxed physical and digital infra-structures of production. Desire is dis-placed within channels of automation that manage and produce new desire. Desire is placed at the service of capital production and extraction whereby every desire emerges within pre-coded, pre-selected structures; and so it is always a desire that has a pre-constituted pre-scribed orientation, which is to say it is a paradoxical and self-defeating desire. I remember the epistolary phrase “there is no outside of capital”; indeed, there seems not to be any alternative to capitalism as there is no more space and time for non-productive signs, which is to say time of self reflection and construction. The exploitation and commodification of thoughts is performed, it extract new desires, to form new subjects adapted to live through the continuous desire of some form of commodified novelty. To live requires at times a certain stoic endurance, perhaps self-deception, as there’s no emancipative pathway outside networked topologies. To be is to accept a certain dose of being given the possibility of membership, so to live within the medium, in the constant hope that you’ll be able to expose your thoughts to other, to gather something together of some value, that is not yet there. Questions then. What and how should the position of the antagonist subject be thought of? What autonomy can the human subject-multitude engage whilst being held captive and actively confronting the alienating threads of capital? Dynamic and intransitive resistance is ultimately what we should call freedom, an agency that is not given and that necessitates a continuous process of struggle that gets re-oriented at each turn towards models of ethical subjectivation. There is no bio-politics outside of, withdrawing from, the power of abstraction. Therefore what needs to be designed are spaces allowing alternative processes of abstraction and materials re-appropriation. What is to live in a continuous emancipatory struggle? The struggle to be consolidated is one taking place and formed from within: first within one-self, second a tactical deviation within a given system, and third the strategic construction of a process of transformation that has taken over part of the system.
If such is the communal orientation of art made through the creative mastering of abstraction, what is that the process of abstraction does on one-self? First: the struggle with one-self, namely iterative reflection, the splintering of the self through the labour of abstraction. At the individual level abstraction is employed to alienate the subject from itself, from the remnants of God (or the different names through which the transcendent one is given, nowadays, “nature”), from the “given” structures of the “world”. This is a reiterative process of self-reflection —which is in essence a pendulum swinging out and in a formless self. It is a question of expanding ethically the materiality of life, in a reiterative expansion of abstraction and subsequent acts of concretisation: there’s no ethical freedom in-itself, given, there’s no direct liberation or liberatory withdrawal through asceticism, but by trailblazing escape routes made by the modelling of abstract tools through which concretise and actualise fictions. Such is the first step, and as Negarestani stated, “[a]nyone who is not suited to the labour of abstraction cannot liberate thought from its idleness and from its oppressive determination by its own present image i..e. what it is or what it is supposed to be.” There is no possible alienation-from-alienation (a positive, future oriented, collective and emancipatory alienation) but through the internal call to abstraction. The process of abstraction requires a certain dose of destabilisation from the conditions of the here and now, from the givens in which thought dwells and sediment (affects and effects, captured and imbricated in habits due to the persistence of patterns). Hence, as Negarestani continued in the same manuscript, “thought cannot destabilize its relation to whatever hinders it without first destabilizing its relation to itself - that is to say, unbalancing its unitary formation, it uncompressed homogeneity. In other words, thought cannot effectively employ the cruelty of abstraction until and unless it exercises cruelty against itself. This is where thought adopts as its own the protocols of cruelty that lie at the basis of abstraction”6. Therefore first stage: a will of exploring the contour of thought must be formed from within. Such is not pure abstraction but its initial instantiation carved out by an unnameable call, the desire to explore what is that constitutes the condition for exploration. Clearly, at each beginning one cannot fully capture the paradoxical and shape-shifting stance of such proposition: there will be nothing else, till the last instance, but a continuous redefinition of the contours, the continuous remodelling of that that constitutes always anew, the condition for more exploration. At its basic; again Negarestani, “[a]bstraction then becomes the art of rendering intelligible the mutual perturbations of thought and matter by organizing the space through which their respective forces are expressed”7. This is to be employed by each one to stop seeing-commemorating-collecting figures, to radically and iconoclastically embrace the other as oneself, to understand the inter-subjective nature of thinking and being, to dismantle the self-assuring entrapment given at birth —the model of one-self, and the entitlement that comes by possessing a “presence” and forgetting that such presence is first and foremost what it is due to a collectivity of other presences. There is no other reason for art to be; any other mode of making art is the expression of commodification, and so a mode for trivial aesthetic consumption. The hyper-spectral agent thus emerges as the militant subject evolved from the stage of the hyper-individual, which is what was called the subject of hyper-modernity. Hyper-spectral is the internal, wilfully design-driven deterioration of one’s subjectivity, a process and strategy for the internal corruption of the hypermodern subject: the necessary deracination of the bundle of norms and rules coalesced in the subject because of the logic of profit, because of imperial categories of knowledge, because of imposed and exploiting class and gender binaries. It is the constitution of a subject degree-zero that has the will, one to rest open and committed to the construction of patterns, open to accept the presence and contingency within a community of others entities. The hyper-spectral is less-than-one and more than many, a subjectivity that feels it-self as an inconsistent multiplicity, that has learnt that to be, is to generate a subjective emptying so grand as to be able to start creating an unfettering semiotic process of positive augmentation-transformation.
Second phase of the process: the tactical parasitical struggle for setting the communal conditions. Such level of struggle is to be initiated by starting a parasitical relation from within a system, to constitute the base of a new condition. One must perform as a parasite that, as Michel Serres has written, “speaks in a logic considered irrational up to now, a new epistemology and a new theory of equilibrium. He makes the order of things as well as the state of things - solid and gas - into diagonals.”8 Rebellion is the act of the monster-poet, an hacker, the signifier-subject that produces signs of corrosion, of fire. As he continues, “some whose word is of fire and some whose word is location. Those of location without fire are the master - the cold one. Those of fire without location burn madly, so strongly that around them, objects change as if in a furnace or near a forge. Flame of fire in the wind; the wind comes from where it will, blows from where it will to stir up the fire. They are not the masters; they can be the slaves, but they are the beginning. They are the noise of the world, the sound of birth and of transformations”9. The agent of change, and a community of those, is one that corrupts the language of location, that invents expression as incendiary medium. The nomad is agent of change; not the nomad that moves without creation or that passively changes location, but the nomad that actively opens space by learning, questioning, debating, crafting abstract tools for molecularising language and itself, that become invisible, because, Serres again, “if you can become invisible, you will become king, and if you are king, you have as much power as the invisible. Power is invisible; it is the white domino. It is the joker, multivalency”10. Dynamism instead of nomos-stasis, since “metamorphosis is omnipotence. It occupies space by crossing black boxes; it occupies time by transformations”11, thus “victory to the parasites, those who drink and eat and who have hidden so well that we no longer know their names, their number, their presence, shadows […]”12. One need to start a parasitical relation that gradually transforms itself and the host.
Third, the struggle of strategic and sustained transformation. It is not simple tactical rebellion but a work of strategic and formal intervention that must be initiated at the same time as the tactical coordination. The emergence of novelty is tied to the process of mapping the spaces where presence and relations are given, so as to radically redefine the epistemological scaffolding (and the medium allowing such scaffolding), so as to build a science of being (ontology) which must be designed qua models (so a meta-ontology open to experimental epistemology) and not given as an absolute law already found as it is discovered. Models are to be constructed so as to be radically connected back to the struggle, to the collective effort to define (another-) future. At the end what has driven this text is the desire to think not only agency in general but the agency of art —digital, information-based media-art—, as a material practice, one which should have an imperative: to strategise on how to perform and to act in order to create life-forms committed to a more “generic”13 orientation of the subject, of/towards the future. From the very beginning of this text it has been, as Stiegler put it, “a question, therefore, of how to re-establish a true process of transindividuation with digital, reticulated tertiary retentions, and to bring about a digital age of psychic and collective individuation.”14, to construct a new form of control and organization, new archives and tools to write the archeologies of the future15, to write the possibility of new words. We must trace down and write what kind of physical and digital worlds are there to desire. Which one do we fetishise, and do we still need to design it? Perhaps asking “what world?” is an outdated question; let’s begin by thinking that there is a finite planet but there isn’t a finite set we call the “given world”, that there will always be latent multiplicities of possible worlds, to be constructed. Paul Éluard wrote that “there is another world but it is this one”, Octavio Paz stated that “there is another world, in this one” and Emile Cioran concluded that “there is no other world, not even this one”16. These literary axioms remind us how open a thought must remain by confronting the idea of “world”. A realist take to be added will be that of the romantic criminal Jacques Mesrine, who spitted in the face of bourgeois society that “another world does not exist. What exists is simply another modality of living.”17 To each its own. Although to interpret-invent one’s own model of the world one must feel a certain internal call for action first. This is a common requirement, otherwise one would not go through the trouble of thinking of transforming oneself and the world. Such call is a solipsistic self-entitled belief, a necessary one to begin, a spectral voice summoning the beginning of ethical action, a voice that whispers, as Ernst Bloch wrote, that “[t]he world isn’t true in-itself, but wants to come home through men and Truth.”18 “Worlds” are models to be made. They are hybrid sets, made of mereological parts and networks, information, interruptions, catastrophes, patterns, desires of agents and bodies —bodies which must be thought of not as nouns but as adverbs, acting in non absolute space-time as both space and time must be open categories to be narrated, sets to be made of adjectives. “Worlds” need the manipulation of matter, abstract and physical matter, the construction of heuristic procedures and collective tools for understating in the non-exclusive duality of the “discrete” and the “continuous”19. We cannot but as epitaph to these syncretic text-blocks inscribe a passage written by Aurélien Barrau: “[b]eyond continuity and discontinuity, the horizon of the sayable and the ineffable opens. Perhaps it is also a matter of learning to let the elytra float in order to make sense of a conjunctive duality at the threshold of historical taxonomies. The continuum and the discrete project two matrices upon the real of which it is impossible to know which is the most precise or the most exact. More than choosing, the issue for today could consist in inventing an elsewhere at the heart of this very world, to invert the hierarchical schema and to relativize the in-[it]self.”20
4 Bernard Stiegler, “The Neganthropocene”, edited, translated, and with an introduction by Daniel Ross (London: Open Humanities Press, 2018), p.46.
5 Reza Negarestani, “Torture Concrete: Jean-Luc Moulène and the Protocol of Abstraction” (New York: Sequence Press, 2014), p.5.
6 Ibid., p.6.
7 Ibid, p.14.
8 Michel Serres, “The Parasite, trans. L.R. Schehr (Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 2007), p.36.
9 Ibid., p.38.
10 Ibid., p.214.
11 Ibid., p.215.
12 So he continues (Ibid., p.236): “victory to the parasites on the chain that erase the very chain itself, victory to the parasite who erase their own foot print as they go by, victory to the parasite who have disappeared, named, appearing to substitute themselves for others, drinking and drunk, eating, eaten, snapping up the bread and snapped up by history”.
13 We cannot further unpack the terms of this cryptic proposal, specifically the connection to the term “generic” as it is conceptualised in the work of Laruelle. For a more thorough elaboration of Laruelle’s work in relation to that of Deleuze and Badiou, see the author’s PhD thesis titled “Immanence and Contingency in Meillassoux, Deleuze and Laruelle. A Philosophical Inquiry on Signs, Models and Diagrams at the Edge of Natural and Formal Language”, defended in 2019 at The European Graduate School.
17 Jacques Mesrine, translation by the author, source missing.
18 “Spirito dell’utopia”, Avvertenza del 1936 (Milano: BUR, 2009). Translated by the author, originally: “Il mondo non è vero, ma vuol tornare a casa per mezzo degli uomini e della verità”.
19 For an expanded take on the subject see the author’s PhD thesis titled “Immanence and Contingency in Meillassoux, Deleuze and Laruelle. A Philosophical Inquiry on Signs, Models and Diagrams at the Edge of Natural and Formal Language”.