Aesthetics & Politics 2013-14
Christine Cangelosi Nathaniel Deines William Eley Brigitte Grice Emily Hopkins Rachel Kennedy Johanna Kozma Jo Letke Francis Magnotta Tom Marven Jessica Newberry Matthew Robertson Emma Louise Vezey Elliot Vredenburg Maria Ziering
First & only edition, June 2014 © Editorial matter and organization Christine Cangelosi, Nathaniel Deines, William Eley, Brigitte Grice, Emily Hopkins, Rachel Kennedy, Johanna Kozma, Jo Letke, Francis Magnotta, Tom Marven, Jessica Newberry, Matthew Robertson, Emma Louise Vezey, Elliot Vredenburg, Maria Ziering, Martín Plot, and The School of Critical Studies, California Institute of the Arts, 2014. © The collected material their respective authors, 2014. All rights reserved. Published in the United States by the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles. ISBN: 978-0-9916593-1-9 Printed in Los Angeles, U.S.A. by Typecraft Wood & Jones. Typeset in Univers 45 Light and ITC Cheltenham. Designed by Elliot Vredenburg.
Martín Plot Foreword
Nathaniel Deines Sharing is Caring: Leaked Documents and the Pharmakon of Secrecy
Christine Cangelosi Filling a Lacuna: Exploring the Land of Fiction within History and Film
William Eley Just War? (my italics): a sketch of the aesthetics of preventive war from the Exposition Line
Josef Gerhardt Footnotes to a Polemic against Brassier
███ █████ Red Diaper Baby
Johanna Kozma Cathartic Humanism: The Political Need for Emotional Transformation
Jo Letke Chemical Framing
The Postgrid Appendix
Jessica Newberry The Sound of the Crest
Elliot Vredenburg Walled Gardens Under Grey Skies: A Meteorology of the Pallium
Appendix: How to cite a leaked document
During the year we shared with the MA Aesthetics and Politics 2013-4 class that is the collective behind this volume, we had the opportunity to discuss several times the heterogeneous ways in which Hannah Arendt, Claude Lefort, and Jacques Rancière could be said to agree on a general understanding of the political as the egalitarian institution of spaces and times of appearance; spaces and times in which the visible and the invisible, the speakable and the unspeakable, get both disrupted and rearranged, changed and instituted. It is this shared understanding that made two of these authors (Arendt and Rancière) equally mistrust political philosophy, defining it as the “politics of the philosophers” (Rancière)—a “politics” that is not such, since what it rejects is precisely the “way of the polis” (Arendt), the anarchic isonomy (both) that springs from equality and disrupts the rule of those “naturally” used to command in non-egalitarian social relations. This unique, shared way of articulating politics and equality that characterizes Arendt and Rancière's political thinking, is fundamentally associated to the plural character of the spaces and times of co-perception implied in their positions. During the year of work together, several dimensions of these three aesthetico-political thinkers’ work were reconsidered. From Arendt's seeming blindness to the emancipatory character of the modern dissolution of the markers of certainty (Lefort) and the democratic relevance of the declarations of rights (Rancière), to Rancière's own inability to explicitly acknowledge Arendt as a fellow traveler in his denunciation of philosophy's anti-political foundations. It is in this argumentative context, I believe, that a central idea remained a constant: Rancière's insistence that politics and democracy mean the same thing—i.e. the egalitarian disruption of any hierarchical distribution of the perceptible. This insistence became articulated to his critique of our contemporary (post)democracies as plutocratic communities of fear. Although probably understanding it differently, the three authors would have agreed with Rancière's assertion that democracy is a “provisional accident within the history of forms of domination.”1 With a focus on contemporary American politics and relying on a diversity of theoretical backgrounds that goes way beyond the limits set by these authors’ research, many of the chapters in this book interrogate the status of this accident in our own time—a time in which phenomena such as the digital civil disobedience of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden or the banality of our desensitized warriors of terror killing with joysticks at-a-distance are in a desperate need of critical assessment. Rancière, Jacques. “Ten Theses on Politics?” In Dissensus. On Politics and Aesthetics. London: Continuum, 2010, p. 35. 1
The common sensibility to the political, and to democracy, expressed in the writings of Arendt, Lefort, and Rancière is indeed astonishing. It is true that Rancière has, for example, distanced himself from the narrative that Lefort uses to describe the symbolic mutation that gave birth to modern democracy—a narrative inspired in Ernst Kantorowicz’s analysis of the two bodies of the king in theologico-political regimes. The truth however is that Rancière’s distance with Lefort—and, it can be safely added, also from Arendt in her aesthetic view of politics and the space for their appearance—is far from great. The only important disagreement between Rancière and Lefort relates to the explicit historicity of the democratic form of society and the generative principle of equality in the latter and the seemingly permanent datum of politics in the former. At the same time, however, the birth of politics to which Rancière returns again and again is quite historical: the naming of the counting of the uncounted in the Greek polis and the re-emergence of egalitarian disruptions—from that of proletarians and feminists to those of civil or immigrant rights’ movements—of all kinds of police orders. In this framework, Rancière’s distinction between archi-politics (the antipolitical dream of a hierarchical, good, “geometric” order) and meta-politics (the antipolitical rejection of the fact that politics is a question of aesthetics, a matter of appearances) on the one hand, and para-politics (which does not reject the aesthetic character of politics but attempts to solve its scandal by intertwining the egalitarian disruptive logic of freedom with the establishment of police orders) on the other, remains in need of further exploration. A fundamental question reveals itself as crucial to us: can a political thought be other than para-political? Is not the tension between Rancière’s political philosophy and the politics of the para-political philosophers—Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, probably even Arendt and Lefort—rather a quarrel among para-political philosophies in which his, Arendt, and Lefort’s are examples of the ones that embrace the destabilizing force of equality as the (historico-) ontological generative principle of democracy? Indirectly, sometimes even through sheer silence, this volume aims to interrogate the chiasm between para-political thinking and the distribution and redistribution of the perceptible that it ambivalently and unavoidably deals with.
Nathaniel Deinesâ€™s American Express number is 3790 390480 95807. Its expiration date is 10/22. Its CSC is 112.
Sharing is Caring: Leaked Documents and the Pharmakon of Secrecy
At the end of the academic year in 2014 a large group of graduate students in the Aesthetics & Politics program at Calarts, myself included, gathered to discuss how to cite a leaked document. We’re supposed to come up with a small contribution, a few sentences each, for the book you’re reading but I’m prone to rambling and the mild weather of June in Los Angeles only makes things worse. Couple that with a coffee shop opening across the street and a few e-cigarettes and bob’s your uncle: an essay. In the course of these group discussions I twice posed the question: What information would be required for you to find the citation credible? The group first responded with uncertainty but at the second meeting it was stated adamantly that there was no such criteria (at least for the adamant person, but no one disagreed). This poses a bit of a problem. What is this purpose of this endeavor if no such criteria exists? What is the concern with citation? Why bother to cite a leaked document at all? Citation in the humanities has lived a fairly short life. Although the practice of citation has existed for ages, first in biblical scholarship and then in legal writing, the Chicago Manual of Style’s first edition was published in 1905. It’s the oldest. The good folks at the Modern Language Association published their first guide less than thirty years ago and by some accounts it’s a bit of a mess. Perhaps one of its significant departures from the world of citation in general is that, “scholars in the humanities not only comment on the primary material but on the secondary material as well, and studies made by Kautto and Talja (2007) suggest that when using texts, scholars in the humanities do not distinguish between scholarly and fictitious texts. All texts are equal and all texts and relationships between texts can be of interest in the research.”1 This distinction is especially relevant in the context of a leaked document of questionable origin. Perhaps my colleague was right to question the necessity of formal citations for these documents when we practice in a discipline where fictions are treated with the same referential practice as facts. Furthermore, “citations are used as rhetorical devices to signify the context of a statement, or to act as a symbol for a theory or method, but to a lesser extent as a tool for turning statements into facts.”2 This observation rings true with regards to a number of the suggestions from my colleagues concerning the point of origin, the digital format, and other contextual elements of the documents. It is worth noting the distinction between citations and references themselves. Hellqvist, B. (2010), Referencing in the humanities and its implications for citation analysis. J. Am. Soc. Inf. Sci., 61: 310–318. doi: 10.1002/asi.21256 1
In a way, the citation’s main purpose is to disavow. That is to say, its intention is to delineate one’s work from someone else’s so that any concerns about plagiarism might be dispelled. We cite to hold things at arm’s length; to say, “this is important to what I’m saying but I didn’t say it.” The purpose of the reference is to provide a trace, a way to track down and confirm what has been cited. The citation tells the reader, “I did not say this.” This relationship becomes a bit problematic for those who cite leaked documents out of affinity for those who have leaked them or their respective political project. It is the academic equivalent of saying, “I didn’t do this but I can take you to the guy who did.” In Walt Disney’s 1984 adventure/fantasy The Flight of the Navigator a young boy named David (played by Canadian Joey Cramer) encounters a fully sentient spacecraft. The thrust of the story is that David is abducted in 1978 and returned to earth in 1984 without having aged a day and amnesic about his own absence. A series of tests by NASA scientists reveal that David’s brain was enlisted as a biological hard drive and now contains vast quantities of star charts and technical manuals of alien origin. Shortly thereafter, David is lured telepathically to the spaceship which has crashed into some high-tension power lines and, like him, is now in NASA’s custody. David reunites with the ship which informs him that his brain, now overloaded with extragalactic data, is leaking. There is a sense now in which we are, all of us, just like David. He experiences the kind of information saturation emblematic of life in a mass of digital networks. We are leaking all the time. We cannot be perfect containers of information. Even before the digital age, when people had five or six things to think about, we were fairly leaky. We have a tendency to tell people things, transmit information. There is no perfect container that holds everything. It’s downright kabbalistic. In the Kabbalah, the holy containers are filled with the spirit of the divine but because the spirit is infinite and the vessels were ‘immature’, some of them ruptured, sending shards down to earth. It is said that this rupture doesn’t indicate a flaw in creation but rather creates the opportunity for diversity of existence and allows people to choose between doing good and doing evil. This is the world of big data and the internet. The divine light of data is infinite, functionally, there is more to know than possible. We are but imperfect vessels, lacking maturity to contain this data. It must leak out. Many of us intentionally leak personal information everyday. That’s what Facebook is for. Facebook acts as a mature vessel, one that can contain the trillions of discrete bits of data we offer up. And now, thanks to celebrity leakers (I almost wrote ‘professional leakers’ but I realized they are not that at all, they are amateur leakers3) we know that we are involuntarily leaking information to the National Security Agency, the most mature vessel thus far, every time we make a phone call or send an email or text message. Or even just talk out loud in the presence
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of a networked device with audio or visual capability. The reason the NSA and Facebook can be conflated, and the reason Snowden and Manning are caught up in this slipstream as well, is that leaking falls into the realm of a larger word (a larger vessel): sharing. Leaking is sharing and sharing is the purported model of the digital network. Files are shared, information is shared. Photos, music, video. Shared, shared, shared. And what Snowden has shared with us is that we are sharing our information with the NSA even if they don’t want to share theirs with us. Manning shared what she knew about the military’s activities and now she’s not allowed to share anything with anyone any more. Not even a cell.4 Things get a little bit tricky when the thing we are sharing is a secret. Of course secrets, and the sharing of them, aren’t intrinsically bad or good. They operate, as so many things do, as what Bernard Stiegler describes as a pharmakon, that is, they have both the potential to cure and to poison. The pharmacological aspect of secrecy is a major problematic of digital culture. There is a significant public movement towards something problematically called ‘free information’ that grows from the hacker/open source communities on the internet. These are, generally, the same folks who promote file-sharing, are anti-copyright, and demand the kind of transparency from organizations and governments that leakers like Snowden and Manning facilitate. But at the same time, many of these people are self-described ‘privacy advocates’ who believe in protections that, at first blush, seem antithetical to their free information leanings. Information should be free and open to all except for information about them and then it should be their private property. One year before the first Chicago Manual of Style was published, sociologist Georg Simmel released his now-cherished text on secrecy. In it, he acknowledges, quite sensibly, that some degree of nescience (not knowing, aka: secrecy) is required for intimacy, which in turn is required for group formation. Fast-forward a hundred years and this concern for intimacy and what comes to be called psychic and collective individuation appears in Stiegler when, writing on digital social networks, he says, “On a psychical level, [the destruction of secrecy] is perhaps the destruction of the possibility of a psyche endowed with intimacy and of singular individuation, if it is the case that the unconscious is what remains hidden and secret to oneself.”5 Simmel, in his text, innately understands the pharmacology of secrecy, observing that, “the possession of full knowledge does away with the need of trusting, while complete absence of knowledge makes trust evidently “Amateur” in the Stiegler sense that they have leaked out of love and not, clearly, out of economic rationality. 3
I don’t know for certain Manning is in solitary at Leavenworth, but she was while at MCB Quantico so I hope you’ll forgive the dramatic flourish. 4
Lovink, Geert, and Miriam Rasch. 2013. Unlike us reader: social media monopolies and their alternatives. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures. 5
impossible,” and advocates for a “navigation of these two states which amounts to ‘discretion,’ which is nothing other than the sense of justice with respect to the sphere of the intimate contents of life.”6 Here discretion, knowing what should be hidden and what should be open, has significant resonance with Stiegler’s notion of maturity. In the case of maturity with regards to nescience, the minoritized adult will have a drive to know everything, to consume knowledge without care for what should be left unknown, a condition that has plagued Western culture, mostly fragrantly in the sciences. The minoritized, or immature, person tends to consider the issue of secrecy as a kind of economic problem. That is to say, they believe the problem is not the existence of secrets, but rather that there is an inequality of it. There is an overaccumulation of secrets. One must wait for great secrecy crashes (data dumps of leaked material) which rob the larders of the secrecy barons and level the playing field. This is anti-nescience at work and this attitude is all too familiar in the world of digital social networks. In Dave Egger’s The Circle, the titular anti-anonymity tech giant seeks to cure the ills of the world through a state of total transparency. The company has consolidated its online power through TruYou, a unifying internet identity system that single-handedly civilized the internet through personal accountability. They then encourage the installation of better-than-HD micro cameras all around the world and broadcast the video feeds to any soul who’d care to take a look, a system surpassed in invasiveness only by the next project: a Google Glass type, near-twenty-four-hour personal video necklace that quickly becomes de rigueur among elected officials. The company, prone to sloganizing even the blandest of corporate platitudes, epitomizes this trajectory during an allstaff meeting by projecting the words:7 SECRETS ARE LIES SHARING IS CARING PRIVACY IS THEFT
If these mantras have a totalitarian communist flavor to you, you’re not the only one. The attitude expressed in them is adroitly summarized as ‘infocommunism’ later in the book. But let us leave the economic model of secrecy for a moment to focus on that second tenet because of its apparent relevance outside of Eggers’s not-too-distant-future, dystopic tale. Sharing is a concept vital to our particular moment. Every trip through the web elicits countless admonitions to share what we’re doing, where we did it, and with whom. Jenny Kennedy remarks Simmel, Georg. 1906. “The Sociology of Secrecy and of Secret Societies.” American Journal of Sociology. 11 (4): 441-498 6
Eggers, Dave. 2013. The circle: a novel. San Francisco: McSweeney's.
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that “sharing is a political construct. Sharing content raises questions about the ‘ownership’ of that content which points to the fact that while the internet may be built within a cohesive technological framework, there are distinct (political) divisions within sites between policies for users, providers, and data handlers”8 Today, sharing has become the basis of a new kind of economy with all the sights and sound of Silicon Valley: Ted Talk, half-caff, bourgeois pseudorevolutionaries getting glossolalic about app-based messianism. To be sure this is no Mausian/ Bataillean gift economy. Also known as ‘mesh economy’ or just ‘mesh’, this system of exchange is purported to be peer-to-peer but is instead more like peer-topeer-to-shareholder (shareholder itself an interesting instance of sharing). This economized form of sharing extends far beyond digital media and status updates. For example, carshare services like Lyft and Uber levy the familiar claims of ‘disruption’ and ‘connection’, masquerading as some kind of next step in urban livability as if there weren’t already fleets of cars for hire that are capable of electronic summoning. Rather than tapping dormant utility, these services short-circuit the existing, regulated livery systems. This kind of sharing is simply repackaged exploitation. But I digress. Consider in this context Spike Jonze’s film Her as a kind of opposite future from The Circle. The film follows the dopy love story of a man and his pretty-dang sentient, smoky-voiced ‘lady’ operating system. Her centers on the production of intimacy between the bodied and the virtual, but entirely absent, almost to the point of being tone-deaf, is any sense that the networked nature of this relationship could result in a compromise of that intimacy. Twombly is allowed to inform people of his relationship with the OS as he pleases. Nor does Samantha (the OS) seem to be analyzing Twombly for the purposes of sending him ads. In fact, ads are entirely absent from Jonze’s Los Angeles. This level of digital intimacy is simply unimaginable at the moment. “The traceablity of personal data,” Stiegler writes, “creates a kind of digital nudity which is an indignity for the human [l'homme]. Intimacy is the possibility and the necessity of having a secret life that I compose for myself.”9 But in the digital nescience of Her, a thing very much or exactly like love can emerge, and “love is that which needs to be maintained through care, through those practices of care that make possible the access to consistencies that exist on the plane of the extra-ordinary—and that, because they do not exist, are intrinsically doubtful and improbable, un-provable.”10 Lovink, Geert, and Miriam Rasch. 2013. Unlike us reader: social media monopolies and their alternatives. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures. 8
Stiegler, Bernard, and Sam Kinsley. “The Net Blues.” http://www.samkinsley.com/ 2013/11/21/bernardstiegler-the-net-blues/ (accessed June 15, 2014). 9
Stiegler, Bernard, and Arne de Boever. “Proletarianization of the Sensible.” The Proletarianization of Sensibility. http://www.lanaturnerjournal.com/archives/ prolsensestiegler (accessed June 15, 2014). 10
So I think this is why we cite. Or rather, why we’re worried about how to cite a leaked document. Because people like Manning and Snowden leaked not because they’re 4chan kids who thought it would be hilarious to doxx some CIA agents or whatever. They did it because they cared about people’s rights and about their abilities to exist as a community. Their sharing is caring. They are heroes. That is sharing in a mature form and it’s what Simmel called ‘discretion.’ What is needed now are techniques for discretion during this heightened state of digital intrusion. And this is why our class met several times to discuss the logistics of citing a leaked document and why no one felt there was an essential fact or description needed to be included in the citation. Because more important than any codification of style or demonstration of authorship is that we, as scholars and citizens, must take a great deal more care when navigating the terrain of nescience and openness. We must cultivate techniques of discretion.
Christine hails from the mystical valley, Yore located in the plasmic vortex of Tremea on the underbelly of Saturn. She is currently in the process of converting a vast array of thoughts, dreams and realities into a gargantuan microcosm that will hopefully corrupt the digital abyss for eons to come. When she is not stirring her intangible kettle, she enjoys laughter, reading books from the remnants of Earth and swimming through dancing freckles of light.
Filling a Lacuna: Exploring the Land of Fiction within History and Film
Humankind cannot stand very much reality. — T. S. Eliot
i. Introduction History tells us that human beings have short memories…History is written by the victors. All what will be left from this war are just scripts and some history books. And that’s it.1 — Samir Khader, CEO of Aljazeera Media, Control Room
“And that’s it.” A comment so sweeping is almost too difficult to contemplate. However he points to an issue that continues to incite a plethora of irresolvable issues. Irresolvable precisely because they are swept in to the dark tunnel of human history, perpetuating a journey down a poorly lit path humans must continue to follow: because the only visible light is the one dangled in front of us by a familiar yet shrouded hand—one that moves further away as we walk towards it. This course of action, as melodramatic as it may seem is reminiscent of theorist Walter Benjamin’s messianic delineations on history, particularly those found in his essay, “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” Yet prior to engaging with Benjamin’s work, it is necessary to further consider the political and historical implications of Samir Khader’s words. “Scripts and history books” implies this tunnel of human history is divided. Yet this division has the potential to be just as blinding in comprehending how human memory is secured and retold over and over again. The notion that “history is written by the victors” reflects a critique so thoroughly developed by thinkers such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche that its echoes still define contemporary perceptions of history today.2 To maintain the boundary of “scripts and history books” implies the boundary between fiction and non-fiction may in fact exist, yet neither category is sufficient in capturing the truth—or dare we say essence of a political occurrence—at least not long enough to linger in human memory. Given the violent track record of human history and my natural inclination towards skepticism, I agree with Mr. Khader, but only in part. Humans do seem to 1
Control Room, dir. Jehane Noujaim (2004).
“Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Walter Benjamin. (New York: Schocken, 1978), 254. 2
have short memories, and with technology dramatically changing our culture at an incalculable pace, it seems our memories are becoming shorter and shorter. Yet despite my skepticism, I believe in the power of film. I believe films pertaining to political and historical events have the potential to shape human memory in powerful ways—particularly those based on fictional narratives. When a person mentions World War II, Vietnam, the Atomic Bomb, 9/11, the Assassination of Osama Bin Laden: violent imagery typically comes to mind. Some imagery may be journalistic coverage from news sources, yet much of it is cinematic. In the midst of those conversations of politics and war, how often are films referenced? Apocalypse Now, Dr. Strangelove, Stalingrad, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Zero Dark Thirty. The list could go on, but the point I am making is that fiction plays a necessary role in human life not only as a means of entertainment and escapism, but how we come to terms with violent, political events from our shared past. This is not to say other genres of film do not carry political and historical weight. Experimental and documentary film also plays an integral role in human culture and history. Alain Resnais’ Night and Fog leaves audiences devastated with haunting imagery from concentration camps, while Jehane Noujaim’s Control Room reveals how dysfunctional journalism has become in recent years, and how convoluted the notion of truth remains in the post 9/11 era. Given these realizations that Control Room brings forth, it seems appropriate to address one of Alain Resnais’ fictional films pertaining to World War II, Hiroshima, Mon Amour in conjunction with Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now. Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Paradise Now successfully address the tragedy of human memory as it relates to the struggle and violence of warfare. By examining these films in relation to Noujaim’s Control Room and invaluable insights found within contemporary political and aesthetic theory, perhaps we can catch the shadow of the hand that holds the light in this dark tunnel of history we all walk within. Yet prior to diving in to Paradise Now and Hiroshima, Mon Amour, let us consider another feature film that blends a fictional narrative with a historical occurrence—a film that has incited some of the most tempestuous controversy in recent cinematic history in the United States: Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 Hollywood film, Zero Dark Thirty. Politicians and critics from both ends of the political spectrum took issue with the film in terms of historicity and the way in which torture was presented. On the day of Zero Dark Thirty’s premiere Senator John McCain, along with two other U.S. senators submitted a “letter of protest” to the CEO of Sony Pictures in contestation of the way in which torture was presented as a widely used and necessary method of interrogation in the search for Osama Bin Laden.3 Conservatives claimed this was incredibly inaccurate, using informaHoberman, J. “Zero Dark Thirty: the US election vehicle that came off the rails.” The Guardian. January 2013. Accessed January 03, 2014. 3
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tion found only in classified documents to support their claims.4 However critics weighing in on the left ultimately had the most sway, as their condemnations became validated once the source material for the script was declassified following the release of the film. Despite all of this, Bigelow continued to emphasize the research and technology used to recreate actual environments in countless interviews.5 Though she acknowledged the film’s narrative is dramatized, she skirted questions pertaining to precise information yet upheld the conviction that Zero Dark Thirty could be considered a “reported film.”6 Though countless journalists, critics and scholars scrutinized the film over its depiction of historical occurrences, the most insightful review of the film came from acclaimed journalist, Peter Maass. In an article printed in The Atlantic in December 2012, Maass condemned Zero Dark Thirty as an “embedded film,” discussing the dangerous historical ramifications that often come with blending cinematic and journalistic practices. He claims, “the fundamental problem is that our government has again gotten away with offering privileged access to carefully selected individuals and getting a flattering story in return.”7 Maass’ argument gained even more merit once the C.I.A. was forced to release classified documents pertaining to the CIA’s involvement with the research and early development of the film.8 These documents also gave Glenn Greenwald’s rhetorical punch at the film even more power, as they proved the narrative of Zero Dark Thirty was in fact built upon ‘hagiographical’ components and ‘propagandist’9 information not only put forth by, but also mandated by the CIA.10 Yet it would be historically negligent to ignore propagandist films that have emerged from Hollywood prior to Zero Dark Thirty. Need we mention the era from our recent history that we still describe in euphemistic terms—ones used to glaze over policies also created out of secrecy, fear and ideology? Cold War, Red Scare, Black List (so strangely reminiscent of “Patriot Act”!) - if anyone needs a reminder, watch Sam Fuller’s 1953 classic, Pick Up on South Street. Outside the world of cinema, judgments concerning factuality, secrecy and surveillance are flying out from every news media outlet around the globe at warp speed. With every new leaked document that emerges in the vast, digital 4
Taubin, Amy. “1000 Words: Kathryn Bigelow.” Artforum, January 2013. Accessed January 03, 2014.
Maass, Peter. “Don't Trust ‘Zero Dark Thirty’” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 13 Dec. 2012. Web. 07 Jan. 2014. 7
“Judicial Watch Obtains DOD and CIA Records Detailing Meetings with Bin Laden Raid Filmmakers,” May 22, 2012, accessed July 2, 2014. 8
Greenwald, Glenn. “Zero Dark Thirty: CIA Hagiography, Pernicious Propaganda.” Review of Zero Dark Thirty. The Guardian, December 14, 2012. 9
“Judicial Watch Obtains DOD and CIA Records Detailing Meetings with Bin Laden Raid Filmmakers,” May 22, 2012, accessed July 2, 2014. 10
abyss most of us as refer to as the Internet, the fragile, deteriorating condition of the Bill of Rights—a document that was once considered a foundational component to American democracy becomes more and more visible. One glimpse of the decay can be seen in the Supreme Court case, “Risen vs. the United States.” Due to the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 2, 2014 on the case involving New York Times reporter James Risen, he will now most likely face jail time for refusing to name an anonymous source used in his 2006 book, “State of War.”11 What’s more, the court’s ruling has significantly curtailed the rights of reporters and journalists, nullifying much protection offered to journalists by the Reporter’s Privilege Act.12 In an article published by Freedom of the Press Foundation, Journalist Trevor Timm calls out the parallel between the Supreme court’s actions recent acts of civil disobedience that have blatantly disrupted the eerily quiet rhythm of surveilled life in America.13 Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange: these persons will go down in history as the first to render the acute dysfunction of the digital realm transparent to the public as it continues to cataclysmically re-structure national security, privacy laws and warfare tactics with a complete lack of ethical and legal regulation. So as drones quietly infiltrate the skies near and far and our cell phones and computers are secretly hijacked in the name of security and patriotism, what do we do? Perhaps we turn on the television to find a bit more insight on the topic. Televised news media appears on the screen: pouring out endless scrolls of stock market reports, popular tweets and hashtags coupled with footage from embedded reports in the Middle East, interviews from the latest mass shooting and debates over the imminent threat of war plaguing several nations beyond U.S. borders. This is all too overwhelming: so perhaps we change the channel to escape the numbing sensation of reality that is now fogging our minds and escape in to the land of television and film. This, of course begs the questions of how we define “reality,” and if such an escape is ever truly possible. Philosophy continues to pursue these questions and has yet to find anything but ambiguity... so let’s turn to film. ii. The Past, Presence and Future in Paradise Now and Hiroshima, Mon Amour Paradise Now, directed by Hany Abu-Assad in 2005 throws us in to a world of inescapable political conflict. This conflict is complex, multifaceted and amorJosh Gerstein, “NYT Reporter James Risen Asks Court to Protect Sources,” Politico, February 2, 2012, accessed July 1, 2014. 11
Trevor Timm, “Make No Mistake, This Case Is a Direct Attack on the Press,” Common Dreams: Building Progressive Community, June 2, 2014, accessed July 1, 2014. 12
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phous, and only by moving through the internal and external worlds of each character does its historical, political and cultural depth become fully visible. The film follows two young Palestinian men, Said and Khaled living in Nablus, a Palestinian refugee camp on the West Bank. Once elected to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel, the story navigates through Said and Khaled’s conflicting experiences in choosing to engage in a political act that will ultimately end in their own death. The third significant character, Suha dramatically influences the resolution of the film through her interactions with Said and Khaled. Given that Paradise Now was released four years after 9/11, in the thick midst of the War in Iraq it is safe to say that the film provides a thorough critique of the lack of cultural and historical understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that plagues millions of persons living in the Middle East and abroad. What's more, Paradise Now offers this critique from the perspective of suicide bombers. At first glance, particularly from western audiences these characters may immediately appear as complete antagonists. However Hany Abu-Assad deflects this assumption by transplanting audiences in to these characters’ points of view through their personal memories and histories. This choice proves vital to audiences, as each character’s personal experience firmly dictates their course of action throughout the film. Each character’s perspective, particularly Said’s, also sheds light on the history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Their personal narratives show how war and oppression render morality; a notion built upon the black and white polarity of good and evil a complete gray scale. This is not to say suicide bombings are an acceptable political strategy: they devastate lives, communities, the environment, and ultimately lead to more and more violence. However misconceptions of culture and religion put forth by U.S. televised news reflect an imperial and xenophobic attitude that has shaped U.S. domestic and foreign policy throughout American history. Not only does this attitude incite conflict inside and outside U.S. borders, when coupled with jingoistic sentiments provoked by violent acts committed against the United States such as 9/11, the results can be atrocious. Guantanamo remains open and filled with human beings stripped of their personhood and basic human rights, well over 100,000 people were killed in the Iraq War, and horrific violence continues to ring out from the Gaza strip, Syria, and Iraq to this day. Media coverage of 9/11 and other suicide bombings around the globe have deemed suicide bombings as terrorist acts, yet the rationale behind such acts is not thoroughly explained—particularly in western news media. These acts are typically discussed in terms of the horror, pain and suffering they incite within communities while their intentions are guised by gestural remarks made about Islam coupled with assumptions of anti-western sentiments that appear as the irrational and unfounded motivation behind all terrorist acts. Again, for the sake
of clarity it must be acknowledged that violent acts that seek to expunge persons based on religion, ethnicity or nationality are inherently unethical. Yet the religious and political history behind every party involved in a conflict—particularly those as complex in the Middle East—must be accounted for when attempting to comprehend, judge and respond to violent acts. In Paradise Now, Hany Abu-Assad uses metaphor, memory and lexical semantics not only as a means of developing the narrative and the back story of fictional character, but also to account for the religious and political history that shapes the contemporary political conflict between Israel and Palestine. Abu-Assad successfully blends these components to construct a perspective that reveals how complex, muddled and imbalanced the relationship between Israel and Palestine has been throughout history and carries on to this day. The opening scene depicts Suha crossing the Israeli-Palestinian border on the West Bank, returning home to Palestine after living in Europe for many years. The second scene of Paradise Now introduces Said and Khaled working at an automobile repair shop, arguing with a customer. The customer claims the bumper of his new car is crooked. He blames Said and Khaled for the supposed damage. They deny it and use a level to show him that the bumper appears crooked because the ground is also crooked. The customer then insults Said by making reference to Said’s dead father, who was a collaborator with the Israeli Defense Force. Upon hearing this, Khaled takes a bat and hits the bumper until it is completely hanging off on the right side. This scene is pivotal for a number of reasons. Firstly, it establishes Said’s family history, and loyal friendship between Khaled and Said. Secondly, it addresses the multiple layers of tension that construct the historical, religious, cultural and political conflict between Israel and Palestine. And he did it all with a car bumper. Something appears uneven because the ground is uneven. Denial. Refusal to accept this claim because of the identity of the person making it. This form of structural violence is made known. Retaliation to structural violence: physical violence. In his widely acclaimed book titled, Orientalism, cultural theorist Edward Said stresses the importance of philology while examining issues of race, ethnicity, religion and history. He turns to philology to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in order to move beyond the limiting, prejudiced notions of Orientalism worldwide.14 He discusses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one that has carried on between “eastern and western civilizations,” particularly since the emergence of the French in the 18th century.15 Said covers the interconnected cultural and political histories often lost in western understandings of the Middle East. He es14
Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), xlv-xxii.
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tablishes the construct of “eastern and western” in itself carries great controversy as it each essentializes each culture, respectively and echoes a Cartesian dialectic that is impossible to escape. He claims only through studying language can humans work past the obtuse demarcations of “east and west.” These misconceptions continue to be perpetuated by the United States’ words and actions as are they broadcasted to the American public through the media, which in turn continue to shape U.S. foreign policy.16 Within the narrative of the film, these linguistic revelations as they relate to violence occur through the words and actions of Suha, the intervening character responsible for a dramatic plot twist in the film. “If you can kill and die for equality, you should be able to find a way to be equal in life….If you kill, there’s no difference between victim and occupier.”17 Suha, a name of Arabic origin that translates to “brilliant person,”18 acts as an intermediate voice between both sides of the conflict. In a momentous car scene with Khaled towards the end of the film, this quote stabs the heart of conflict coalescing within and around Said and Khaled, and Israel and Palestine.19 In this moment she fills a gulf between these polarities, offering wisdom that exceeds both the temporal parameters of the film and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is also linguistic significance pertaining to the other two lead characters: Said translates to “happy” while Khaled translates to “immortal.”20 These translations arguably reflect integral dimensions of each character—particularly considering Khaled is the one who chooses not to go through with the mission while Said carries it out; fulfilling a personal void in his life left by the haunting memory of his father, an executed Israeli conspirator. Ultimately, his faith in Paradise and desire to fulfill a personal and historical void leads him to follow through with the bombing. The ending to this film indicates how powerful language, history and narrative remain not only in the realm of film, but also contemporary and future political action. Further, Paradise Now points to the fact that if history and memory remain unaccounted for, they can produce a tragic reality no one wants to live within. Another incredible use of language and memory in a fictional film dealing with historical, political events is Alain Resnais’ 1959 classic feature film, Hiroshima, Mon Amour.21 This astoundingly heart-wrenching film leaves the audience with strong, unforgettable sentiments regarding the aftermath of the atomic bomb in 16
Paradise Now, dir. Hany Abu-Assad (Warner Independent Pictures, 2005).
“Names Translated into Arabic,” Names Translated into Arabic, accessed March 05, 2014.
Paradise Now, dir. Hany Abu-Assad (Warner Independent Pictures, 2005).
“Names Translated into Arabic,” Names Translated into Arabic, accessed March 05, 2014.
Hiroshima Mon Amour. Directed by Alain Resnais. France, 1959. DVD.
Hiroshima dropped by the United States, and the overall terror incited by Nazi Germany in World War II. It brilliantly captures the horror, trauma and tragedy that occurred during World War II in Japan and in Europe through the lens of the main character, Elle. Through Elle’s experience in Hiroshima shooting a feature film about “peace,” she reveals the details of a past love affair with a German soldier during WWII to her current lover, a Japanese man named Lui. Dealing with trauma, memory and history, this film encapsulates specific political and historical issues that continuously emerge within political conflict today. Hiroshima, Mon Amour incites a resurgence of repressed emotions tied not only to a specific political event, but also to universal human suffering and the pain of remembrance and forgetting. These dynamics are prevalent from the outset of the film. The opening scene depicts a close-up shot of Elle and Lui’s naked bodies embracing one another. At first their skin is textured to the point of seeming burned by chemicals, deformed or permanently damaged. As the shot continues, the skin appears wet from the shower. That visual interplay between the texture of skin depicting deformity to the pleasure of a shower sets the stage for their paradoxical relationship throughout the film, and the political and cultural issues of suffering and memory dealt with in Japan and Europe post World War II. The choice for Elle to be an actress performing in a film in Hiroshima, Mon Amour creates many layers within the film in terms of her character development on a psychological and political level. Within the framework of the film Elle performs in, Alain Resnais brilliantly uses real imagery from the aftermath of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. The imagery depicts the dead, wounded and mutilated persons from the aftermath of the bomb. All too ironically, Elle is never shown actually acting in the film—her character is always broken when Lui arrives on set. In The Pain of Others, Susan Sontag discusses the illusions of peace and violence often carried in western countries, particularly the United States.22 She claims that peace is seen as the norm, while violence is abnormal, or an “aberration.”23 Resnais plays with that idea, confusing and conflating the notions of peace and violence through the use of violent imagery shown in a film about “peace.” Sontag places great value on the use of text or narrative with imagery, particularly images depicting violence. She claims text is necessary to frame the context of the work. In consideration of how the real, violent imagery was presented in Hiroshima, Mon Amour, the narrative plays an integral role in how violent imagery was shown in that it placed it within a framework that prevented it from being too obscene or banal.24 22
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), 70.
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“Transforming is what art does, but photography that bears witness to the calamitous and the reprehensible is much criticized if it seems ‘aesthetic;’ that is, too much like art.”25 In this quotation, Sontag further emphasizes the necessity of narrative with imagery in the sense that it distinguishes images that capture human suffering from images that objectify, or “other” human suffering in a way that turns them into a spectacle.26 Sontag maintains that photographs neither “repair our ignorance about the history and causes of the suffering it picks out and frames.”27 Yet the narrative of Hiroshima, Mon Amour successfully frames historical images of suffering in a manner that “reflects” on the horror of the historical event that incited the suffering, revealing the necessity to remember the event. Another relevant concept in Susan Sontag’s work comes about in her rejection of the “dual powers of photography: to generate documents and to create works of visual arts.” She believes this claim is an exaggeration, in that these two roles “stand in opposition.”28 This point carries great weight in terms of fictional narratives in feature films dealing with historical events in the sense that these roles are naturally interrelated, and the binding element between these two polarities is the text. Thus Hiroshima, Mon Amour’s fictional form plays an invaluable role in terms of evoking long-lasting historical memories through text and imagery of a historical, political event- particularly in comparison to other uses of film deemed as “non-fiction,” such as televised news media.29 How are we made to forget human tragedy, oppression and injustice through televised news media? We move on to the next story. Stories in news media today speak of tragic occurrences in a perpetual state of passing. Susan Sontag discusses this in terms of violent imagery, in what she calls the “CNN Effect.”30 She holds that the news media “hyper-saturates” the public with tragic and violent imagery, leaving audiences feeling immune to witnessing others’ pain.31 However this immunity also emerges from the sheer amount of news stories depicting suffering and how quickly they emerge and disappear. Watching the ongoing newsfeed on the bottom of CNN on television or observing the lifespan of stories on the online version of the New York Times is quite telling of how historical memories are made and then forgotten.32 A political event will be addressed briefly—through an article or two, some images and perhaps 25
Ibid., Ch. 5.
a video. If the event is catastrophic, such as the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or the recent eruption of Mount Kelud in Indonesia, these stories will immediately make the front page of the paper.33 However depending upon the extent in which it impacts American security, civil rights or economics—the story will be pushed aside: forcing the reader to manually search the rest of the website for more information on the subject. The day of that Mount Kelud erupted in Indonesia was a prime example of this. It was the headline story that morning online, including several images of people covered in ash: distressed, injured or dead. By 3 pm it was nowhere to be found on the front page. The front-page story replacing it dealt with the conundrum of “how young people successfully brand themselves on YouTube.”34 iii. Control Room, the Dangerous Fictions of Embedded Journalism Turning back to Jehane Noujaim’s Control Room, the weight of Susan Sontag’s arguments can be fully felt. The film explores the political and ethical problems of embedded journalism and propaganda occurring during the War in Iraq through interviews with journalists, executives and military personnel, including U.S. Marine Lt. Jon Rushing and the CEO of Aljazeera Media, Samir Khader.35 In the film, Aljazeera Media and American media corporations, represented by Lt. Jon Rushing go back and forth regarding their diverging presentations of reality through their companies. Rushing critiques Aljazeera Media’s liberal use of violent imagery of injured Iraqi citizens, claiming it is propagandistic because it demonizes the U.S. military, while Lt. Rushing, operates as the face of embedded journalism forced upon U.S. media outlets during the War in Iraq. This latter point, horrifying as it is in terms of democracy and the telling of history, reveals how fictional our understandings of “the real” truly are. Sontag discusses early forms of censorship and embedded journalism in The Pain of Others. She explains that, due to the restrictions imposed by the British during their campaign in the Falkland’s, the U.S. military endorsed “images of the techno war.”36 These were images of the missile filled sky, indicating the United States’ supreme reign over their enemy.37 These practices echo forth within the mainstream news media, leaving us with the chilling question—what is actually happening in the world beyond Joe Cochrane, “Major Volcanic Eruption Kills at Least 14 in Indonesia,” The New York Times, February 01, 2014, accessed March 05, 2014. 33
Leslie Kaufman, “Chasing Their Star, on YouTube,” The New York Times, February 01, 2014, accessed March 05, 2014. 34
Control Room, dir. Hany Abu-Assad (Magnolia Pictures, 2004).
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), 66.
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our peripheral vision? Yet the even more chilling question is, what is happening within our periphery that we cannot see, that we are only capable of catching the footprints of as they flash up on our television screens before disappearing in to the dark, digital abyss? iv. Conclusion …Great art is capable of overcoming the inertia of existing traditions and moving the interconnected ontological and ethical wheels of history, either giving us a new sense of what is and what matters or else fundamentally transforming the established ontology and ethics through which we make sense of the world and ourselves. — Walter Benjamin, The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism
Paradise Now and Hiroshima, Mon Amour both explore how the blurred distinctions between fiction and non-fiction in the scope of history. Despite their divergent styles and methods, both films use fictional narrative to guide the audience through historic occurrences that continue to affect political action today. Films such as Zero Dark Thirty and Control Room also serve an incredibly important role in history as well, as they point out the dangers that can arise from misconceptions emerging from embedded journalism. In his essay, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Benjamin states: “The past carries with it a temporal agreement by which it is referred to redemption.”38 He inadvertently points to an internal conflict humanity experiences that can be resolved through faith in a higher power. This power alleviates the lack of control persons experience when faced with divergent paths of action and the uncertainty of the future. The theological framework from which his argument emerges cannot be denied. However as history shows us and as Benjamin himself knew all too well, higher powers with redemptive qualities emerge in endless forms and styles. Whether wearing a cloak, suit or uniform the person in a position of authority of judgment provides answers to the questions individuals are faced with prior to action. Which is the “right” course of action? What are the moral and ethical components that structure these divergent paths? Further, how are actions completed within the safeguard of a higher power remembered throughout history? This last question bears the weight of the power of a messiah-like figure and addresses the risk of placing faith—a faith that may often be considered blind— in the omnipresence of authority. “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Walter Benjamin. (New York: Schocken, 1978), 254. 38
When it comes to faith in a higher power, there may not be a way in which to escape the risk of blindness. Too often in human history has what we sense, or what we feel overruled what we can actually see. This is one of several reasons courses of political action remain so intertwined with theology. Furthermore, the connections between theological figures and political leaders are endless and as old as human civilization itself. But what about the historian? Does this person have a religious counterpart? It may be safe to say the historian is something like a prophet, one who strives to bear that philosophical-theological torch called “Truth.” Benjamin also claims, “A chronicler who recites events without distinguishing between major and minor ones acts in accordance with the following truth: nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost for history.”39 This, he holds is the only way for humanity to be truly redeemed; to know, comprehend and judge past events in order to make a future history that seeks to be redeemed. Putting aside the religious fervor, I would have to agree with Benjamin. All events, ‘major and minor’ must be accounted for. The age of digital technology we exist within today offers incredible opportunities for accomplishing this goal. Yet we must seek to articulate the ever-evolving relationship between technology and news media. In order to comprehend how this relationship irrevocably alters human perception of the world, this articulation must include the importance of language, narrative and ethics in the way history is told. If we do not strive to accomplish this goal, we will not only be blind to the realities outside of our peripheral vision, but also blinded by the realities put forth in televisions and theaters.
William is a part-time political scientist and a recovering cable-news addict. Having once joined the United States Marine Corps after being dared to do so, he now thinks the majority of his interrogations of American foreign policy inherently valid and profound. He currently resides in Los Angeles, which is to say he lives within the Arendtian gap "between the clashing waves of past and future."
13 Just War? (my italics): a sketch of the aesthetics of preventive war from the Exposition Line
This sketch is modeled after a to-be-written novel that was proposed by the character Jessie, played by Ethan Hawke, in the 2004 Richard Linklater film Before Sunset. The narrative-to-come that Jessie articulates, chronologically speaking, will span only the length of a pop song, as the pages of his novel will attest to the power of memory: “it’s all happening all the time, and inside of every moment is another moment, all happening simultaneously.” Pursuantly, this essay documents a caffeine induced dérive that lasted only the length of the Exposition Line (approx. 25 minutes). I can neither confirm nor deny that any of the events subsequently outlined ever transpired. “If you qualify and choose to participate, your organization will become one of over 13,000 local LEAs who have taken advantage of this unique program.” — California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services “For me, this seemed similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.” — Chelsea Manning (Article 39(a) session of United States v. Pfc. Manning on February 28, 2013 at Fort Meade, MD, USA)
I boarded a train car along the Exposition Line, a line that would soon whisk me from an elevated platform above Culver City, CA to a downtown Los Angeles library located at the base of the tallest building in the world with a rooftop helipad. However, before I could reach this unique library and officially begin my research for the writing of a graduate thesis that would claim civil disobedience as its central theme, the militantly distinct color that is coyote brown turned the right flank of my periphery. After quickly calculating a proper azimuth, I determined that this government-issued-earth-tone was emanating from what appeared to be a rather bored looking group of LA County sheriff’s deputies. This shade I had seen before, but never had I witnessed it beyond the borders of a Pentagon-owned slice of real estate. And although these listless deputies were properly dressed to receive a five-paragraph order that would outline in detail the manner with which they were to conduct a night-raid along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, they were—for the metro-matters at hand—quite simply overdressed for writing tickets to jumpers-of-turnstiles. I thought to myself, “might one of these guys actually be wearing the very interceptor body armor vest issued to me as a gung-ho officer candidate while aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico just a few years ago?” With it then growing unbearably impossible to dismiss my concerns regarding the waxing militarization of local law enforcement agencies, and its obvious rela-
tion to America’s waning wars in Afghanistan and Iraq(…),1 I reached for my smart phone that was resting at the bottom of my overfilled daypack, a daypack whose seams were stretched taut by books bearing titles like Perpetual War, The Passion of Bradley Manning, Crises of the Republic, Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, No Place To Hide, Just and Unjust Wars and, most fittingly, my heavily annotated copy of the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. The books felt as nearly numerous as those countries whose respective skies hold aloft American drones,2 and as heavy as the lines of redaction that obscure the frequency and lethality of those “pilotless” machines.3 Feeling anxiously poetic and, most of all, quite sublimated by the thought that I shared a proverbial chest-of-drawers with the LA County Sheriff’s Department, I began searching the internet from my phone for information relating to specific pieces of legislation that would have facilitated such an importation of surplus military gear into the civilian city-scape… Google placed a USA Today story at the top of the page, “Police forces pick up surplus military supplies”: A growing number of law enforcement agencies are taking advantage of a program that gives them free surplus military equipment left over from U.S. military campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere4 (my italics)…The Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which Congress passed in 1997 to expand on a 1991 initiative, initially aimed to give surplusmilitary equipment for police use in counter-narcotic and counter-terrorism situations… Now, with the government giving away thousands of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, weapons and more pedestrian items such as cars and clothing, even smaller police departments in cities and towns with low crime rates are acquiring items.5
I found my way to Jerry Brown’s Governor’s Office of Emergency Services website to discover something called an “Indemnification Clause.” Upon page twelve of an instruction manual that guides various “California Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) who wish to acquire and/or retain 1033 Program Excess Property”:
As I was composing this essay, three-hundred-plus U.S. military advisors had just arrived in Baghdad in support of Iraqi government forces that are presently battling militant strongholds in the west of that country. 1
Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Turkey, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Mali, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Niger, and the Seychelles. This list of nations was gleaned from a Guardian Weekly article written by Craig Whitlock titled “Drone warfare: Niger becomes latest frontline in US war on terror.” 2
The United States government was responsible for the classification of over ninety-two million documents in 2011 alone, as outlined in Chase Madar’s The Passion of Bradley Manning. London: Verso, 2013. 3
Always interesting to see “elsewhere” denoting/connoting(?) a theater of armed conflict.
Firozi, Paulina. “Police Forces Pick up Surplus Military Supplies.” USA Today. Gannett, 17 June 2014.
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XIX.INDEMNIFICATION CLAUSE The LEA acknowledges that there are hazards associated with the use of this property that could cause damage to property and/or serious injury or death. The LEA agrees that it is not the responsibility of the U.S. Government, Cal OES and /or the State of California to provide appropriate training to any person who may use this property. To the extent permitted by law, the LEA shall indemnify and hold the U.S. Government, Cal OES and/or the State of California harmless from any and all actions, claims, debts, demands, judgments, liabilities, cost, and attorney’s fees arising out of, claimed on account of, or in any manner predicated upon loss of, or damage to property and injuries, illness or disabilities to, or death of any and all persons whatsoever, including members of the general public (my italics).6
As a member of this “general public,” I was not too terribly surprised by the contractual and conceptual distance expressed therein. The history of America’s systemic distribution of lethal machines is as myopic as it is vast and para-liable, and this essay’s form and word-count constraints could not hope to capture even a shard of its breadth. But it is also a history that has been illustrated anew within a recent cable-news-scape inundated by hundreds of images of thousands of ISIS militants driving through the streets of Iraqi cities in American-made humvees dragging American-made artillery pieces and, within an arms-length radius, by the state-side distribution of war zone grade protective body armor so as to protect LA County sheriff’s deputies from paper cuts that may result from their mishandling of insufficiently funded metro cards. Accordingly, the questions that should arise from the study of such a perverse history require placement within a vastly larger constellation of causality. It requires an engendered fluency in what we could call the aesthetics of preventive war. Within the introduction to the fourth-edition of his text Just and Unjust Wars, Michael Walzer contextualizes well the precedences established by the United States in its responses to the attacks of September 11th. By framing the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq as his tantamount referent, he argues that the United States not only expanded its physical presence in the world with such a decision, it expanded the criteria through which doctrines of jus ad bellum—that “right to war”—could be invoked. “When we act in the world,” Walzer states, “…we must respond to ‘the evil that men do,’ which is best read as ‘the evil that they are doing,’ and not the evil that they are capable of doing or have done in the past.”7 Well, Walzer’s maxim was not only breached, it was sovereignly reinterpreted. California Public Safety Procurement Program (CPSPP) 1033 Program Certification Package and Instructions. revised 06.2014. 6
Walzer, Michael. “Regime Change and Just War.” Preface. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. New York: Basic, 2006. 7
And, as made so evident by the Obama Administration’s exponential enculturation of drone warfare and in its constituent “signature strike” policy—“extinguishing people’s lives with targeted, extra-judicial killings, when you don’t even know their names, based on ‘patterns’ of behavior judged from thousands of miles away”8 —the half-life of the emergency that coauthored this latest draft of “just war” theory appears all the more tenacious, impenetrable, even, to democratic transfers of executive power.9 Responding to the evil that others might be capable of has become not only become public policy, it has become the domestically contagious aesthetic of power, as seen on my train. We might very well also attribute this aesthetic’s source of permeance with what Bonnie Honig would call the “sense of stuckness that emergency produces.”10 After positing that democratic theory may, at times, be tasked with alleviating this “stuckness” and articulating more imaginative sites of power, Honig continues, asserting that “political emergencies rarely occur as a result of mere innocent wanderings. Instead, emergencies are usually the contingent crystallizations of prior events and relationships in which many are deep implicated.”11 So, what we can conclude is that the crystalline structure upon which she casts a light upon is precisely the cultural medium through which the aesthetic of preventive war has been transmitted from the black-sites and battlefields of the war on terror to, well, the Los Angeles public transit system. In privileging the emergency over the repercussions that may result from our responses to them, we have perpetuated this aesthetic. Just as words cannot be unsaid, neither can the objects of war. We are “stuck,” just like those deputies on the Exposition Line, wearing body armor that we should have long ago removed and discarded. I continued my impromptu search using my left thumb to retrace steps back through my browser, hoping to find an embedded link from that USA Today article… “Overkill? Small Town Buys Armored SWAT Vehicle.” “Yes, overkill,” I thought. The small town outlined is in Johnson County, Indiana, and the vehicle they purchased was an MRAP, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle specifically designed for deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq to better protect the lives of those troops vulnerable to improvised explosive devices. Yes. Overkill. Later in the piece, Sheriff Doug Cox admits that “We don't have a lot of mines in This summary of “signature strike” policy was excerpted from Glenn Greenwald’s “America’s Drone Sickness” published in salon.com on 19 April 2012. <http://www.salon.com/2012/04/19/americas_ drone_sickness/>. 8
It is hard to dismiss the ironical value found in the curricula vitae of America’s past two presidents. George W. Bush was the first U.S. president with an M.B.A, but he engineered an economy that would, by the autumn of his tenure, crash. President Obama, on the other hand, served for twelve years as a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He has since instigated the prosecution of more Americans under the rubric of the Espionage Act of 1917 than all previous presidents combined. 9
Honig, Bonnie. Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2009. 10.
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Johnson County.” However, qualifying his purchase in light of this lack of such a threat, he continues and asserts, “My job is to make sure my employees go home safe.” Of course, his concern for the deputies under his charge should not be dismissed, but what unknown breed of affect does this purchase, in turn, elicit from those citizens whose livelihoods he has also been tapped to safeguard? Does this aesthetic of preventive war, in this particular case, dismiss for good the tenets and vocabulary of community policing. Is he, as outlined by Honig, privileging the emergency? I ask this question because of an embedded video I found in the same article that captures Sheriff Cox taking his new MRAP for a cruise. From his elevated, armored vantage point behind the wheel, can he only see future firefights and crises where he would have otherwise seen only politics and a community-in-need? My imagination turned to the government instituted “re-sampling” of civilian accessible satellite images to a resolution that commands the erasure of the human being, thinking that this Indiana sheriff, the deputies to my right, and the satellites above are all philosophically and ontologically related.12 The sheriff will end his ride about town with an address to the camera. Well defining the thesis to my nervous-mobile research, he speaks to the belief that it is better that his department use the vehicle than to have it sit and rust on a “concrete slab somewhere in Virginia or Texas.” I disagree. By removing such a machine from such a slab, I think we turn our cities’ streets into kinetic museums of history that dangerously and short-sightedly commemorate military misadventures past. Within such museums, the mutual promises that could bind citizens and law enforcement officials together cannot be humanely imagined. Attempting to decompress, I decided that I would conduct just one more search: “DoD 1033.” The top result was an LEA Weapon Request Form from The Missouri Department of Public Safety’s website, which you will find on the following page. The form’s “JUSTIFICATION” space feels a bit small. My train would come to a stop just beneath the surface of downtown Los Angeles. I sat and waited for those combat-ready deputies to pass before I rose from my seat. As they marched by, I looked closely, though, half-jokingly, for any defining characteristics that would have indicated to me that one of those deputies was wearing one of my hand-me-downs. No such luck. Instead, I assessed the aesthetics and politics that their weapons might implicate: right hip (lethal)… 9mm pistol… left hip (non-lethal)… taser. Was this another expression of the aesthetic of preventive war? I have heard that upwards of ninety percent of the planet Laura Kurgan, in Close Up at a Distance, provides her readers with an explanation of re-sampling that she gleaned directly from GeoEye: “While the satellite collects imagery at 0.41-meters, GeoEye’s operating license from the U.S. Government requires re-sampling the imagery to 0.5-meters for all customers not explicitly granted a waiver by the U.S Government.” Essentially, this why you cannot see humans via Google Earth. 12
LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY (LEA) WEAPON REQUEST
REQUESTING AGENCY ID:____________________________________________________________________ REQUESTING AGENCY:_______________________________________________________________________ ADDRESS (No P.O. Box):_______________________________________________________________________ CITY:_____________________________________________ STATE:___________________________________ ZIP:_______________________________________________EMAIL:___________________________________ PHONE:___________________________________________FAX:______________________________________ LEA USE TYPE OF WEAPON
LESO USE ONLY QUANTITY
The Chief Executive Official or Head of Agency (Local Field Office) read and agrees to the following (INITIALS REQUIRED): •
• • •
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is “right-handed.” What if law enforcement officials were commanded to reverse their lethal/non-lethal configuration, forcing their dominant hands to grab first for a taser. We could invoke Michael Walzer, again, modeling this reconfiguration as emblematic of his “force-short-of-war,”13 a doctrine that maintains the possibility of a mutual promise for life and politics. It was hard to dislodge thoughts I had concerning a recent film I had seen called Fruitvale Station. It is a narrativized account of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a life that lasted only twenty-two years. He was murdered on a train platform by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer, an officer who claimed at his trial that he thought he had grabbed his taser instead of his gun before he fired his weapon into the back of Oscar as Oscar was lying prone. This makes me think my weapon relocation idea not such a silly idea. One of the deputies turned back and gifted me with a glare of suspicion. A typical cop move, he would peer directly into my eyes and breath in deeply through his nose so as to, I guess, collect enough bio-evidence to hypothesize my sobriety, etc. My eyes were a bit tired looking, I suppose, but I smelled only of the anxious sweat I had accrued during my 20 minutes of smartphone based research. Thinking back, I had experienced two consecutive nights of disjointed sleep provided to me by the LAPD’s nineteen-helicopter-strong Air Support Division, but my visible daze was not potent enough to warrant a (il)legitimate “frisk.” I ascended the stairs that led to the streets above double-quickly, hoping the omni-present sunlight of Southern California would assuage my subterranean-geo-politcal blues. I could now see northward up a Grand Avenue lined with spire-less skyscrapers. I had recently been told that the Los Angeles skyline is flat—without the telescopic spires and steep crowns associated with most modern metropolises—because of a building code instituted in the 1970’s that requires all structures in the city cresting a specified height to have enough space to safely land a helicopter in the event of an emergency situation that would require a roof-top evacuation. I see the aesthetics of preventive war everywhere. Also, I have to go. I am tired, and I have to write my thesis. You know, because of those helicopters and graduate school, respectively.
“Force-short-of-war,” as described by Michael Walzer in the preface to the fourth edition of Just and Unjust Wars, would be best explicated as armed non-violence. This muted use of force could, in international relations vocabulary, be called “containment.” Walzer’s examples include the maintenance of no-fly zones over Iraq between 1991 and 2003. He argues that if regime change can be achieved in such an indirect fashion, then war would be deemed unnecessary. Therefore, war would become unjust. 13
A few years ago I looked up and saw Josef Gerhardt glowering at a group of us from the other end of a café and when I walked over and asked why, he said, "I hope I’m never so sophisticated as to call movies ‘films’," but now I hear him say ‘films’ all the time. Don’t mind him.
Footnotes to a Polemic against Brassier
The passage continues, less essentially for us here, but yet merits our attention: “This shame is that of the age of carelessness that was also that of our generation after 1968—and this is not at all to forget or erase what was also the greatness of what still seemed then to constitute an epoch properly speaking, which we call ‘the sixties’, during which so many beautiful things took place in so many places.” (Stiegler, What Makes…) 1
2 We know ours is only nominally a democracy; so what is our political regime, given Machiavelli’s assertion that there are four possible political regimes: kingly-despotic, aristocratic-oligarchic, democratic-chaotic, and finally a mixed regime which is the best one, the only plausible one, because it preserves the good elements of each of the former three while warding off their destructive tendencies? (Kingship left to itself devolves into despotism, aristocracy into oligarchy, and democracy into the rule of the crowd.) Stiegler’s work seems to imply, more or less consistently with Ranciere’s polemic in Hatred of Democracy, that, far from being “rule of the crowd” (we should be so lucky!), ours is more likely an oligarchy that has the luxury of being called democracy, in which the largely short-term goals of largely economically-driven forces determine our media, i.e. our spiritual economies, as an inescapable atmosphere of poisonous pharmaka that exploit our worst tendencies by capturing and destroying attention, so desire, and so the reasons (i.e. motivations) for living. And, moreover, this oligarchy lacks any “elite” behind the curtain pulling the strings. Ours is a world in which, as Deleuze says, slaves rule slaves, as what used to be call mastery seems to have vanished from our horizon of possibilities, and everyone increasingly become a victim of the anonymous, seemingly inevitable forces of mass media: “systemic stupidity”, for Stiegler. 3
Lacanian psychoanalysis aims primarily to cultivate a capacity for shame in this precise sense.
Brassier criticizes Heidegger for being incomprehensible unless you have already experienced what he calls “authentic” and for “dismissing requests for justification as symptoms of the forgetting” of authentic experience. For my part, I would rather say: to understand Heidegger you must have understood that “there is a price you’ll have to pay / for trying hard to become whatever they are / and saying whatever say.” (Smith) 4
5 But also, equally, the one that doesn’t want time, the one that shirks time, which is merely a deficient mode of having time (a human is finally irreducible to an animal; he always has a remnant of or a potentiality for temporality—and that is perhaps the tragedy of human life: everyone tries in various ways and to various degrees to rid oneself of time, to rid oneself of oneself). That’s the sense in which Tiqqun asserts: death is nothing special; death is everyday. (A kind of “living death” perhaps after the manner of Brassier, but in any case an impossible assertion, or merely irresponsible, for anyone who has not had that experience. Who knows whether to take Tiqqun seriously, but I like what they say about: “the dismay of a being, the Worker, whose only sense of something beyond production lies in degradation, leisure, consumption, or self-destruction, a being that has so utterly lost contact with its own inclinations that it breaks down if not moved by some external necessity, by some finality.” (Tiqqun, either This is Not… or Civil War, I forget, 133) “Leisure”, here, not as otium but as “terrible idleness”, recreation, “passing the time” or—killing it.
References Brassier, Ray. “The Pure and Empty Form of Death”, in Nihil Unbound. Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Discourses on Livy. Ranciere, Jacques. Hatred of Democracy. Smith, Elliott. “Single File”, from Elliott Smith. Stiegler, Bernard. “How I Became a Philosopher”, in Acting Out. — Uncontrollable Societies and Disaffected Individuals, v. 2 of the Disbelief and Discredit series. — What Makes Life Worth Living: On Pharmocology Tiqqun. This is Not a Program, or Introduction to Civil War.
Emily Hopkins is an artist and the executive director of Side Street Projects. Emily works to develop sustainable, community-based systems that connect working artists directly to communities. She is committed to hands-on, standards-based art programs for K-12 that appeal to multiple intelligences and incorporate into core curriculum. Emily serves on the art curriculum advisory committee for the Pasadena Unified School District (DAT CAT), and the advisory board for John Muir High Schoolâ€™s Arts Entertainment & Media Academy.
Red Diaper Baby
My mother was raised on a turkey ranch under an assumed name but she didn't know that at the time. Most of the pictures of her are of a little cross-eyed child elbow deep in a turkey carcass. She liked her childhood, and her favorite horse whose name was Amigo. He was apparently a very ugly horse with one eyebrow. Her father told her that his family was French Huguenots and that he had only 1 brother, Frank, and Frank was dead. He told stories of how he had played football as a child and stayed in touch with many of those friends. Sometimes they would come visit the farm, and he would travel to their weddings and funerals. Her family would visit N.Y. and tour the Lower East Side. Her father spoke Yiddish fluently because he said: he grew up there. My mother knew that the F.B.I. had an interest in her family. They had come to the ranch more than once. She remembers her parents being visibly shaken when they would appear. She remembers her mother crying while listening to the MacArthur trials on the radio. My mother knew the stories did not line up. My mother went to school in Chicago. One day a man named Izzy called her and said he was her father's brother. He pronounced her last name wrong. She told him that her father only had one brother, Frank, and Frank was dead; and if he was really her uncle why did he pronounce her last name wrong. He told her: Yes, Frank is dead but there were 12 brothers and 1 sister, and her father was using a false name. He told her he had visited the ranch when she was a child, and remembers meeting a little cross-eyed girl with dark hair. He asked if she ever got her eyes fixed. He told stories of weddings and funerals he had seen her father at that matched the stories of “the people he played football with as a kid”. Izzy wanted to meet her. She called her brother and they agreed that this guy might be telling the truth, but that he might be dangerous. She met him in a public place, and he explained: Their cousin was the head of the Communist party in the U.S. during the red scare. Her father organized unions for farm workers. He actually did so for the government before the Red Scare. Her mother's family had been Wobblies. My grandparents met because in their youth because my grandmother was spying on my grandfather's party. The entire family had been blacklisted. Her father was able to get a clandestine loan to buy the ranch. Most of the brothers changed their name. Izzy was the only one who had kept it. He turned to her and said “by the way, you are Jewish”. The pieces fit together…The Yiddish, the F.B.I., and the trials. She called her mother: “I know who dad really is”. Her mother replied “Oh Crumbs! Was it Izzy? He has been threatening to tell you for years.” They had kept the truth from their children to protect them. Writing another line to have a full sentence of redaction and look secretive. In the process we lost track of our family. I have an F.B.I. record. I have requested the record and have received redacted documents. My family still doesn’t think I should talk about it.
Since 2011, Johanna Kozma has been attempting to solve all her problems by doing magic. Spell #1 was to watch The Dark Knight for three days in a row. This didn't work because she watched it only two days in a row. The result was that it doubled all her problems. Spell #2 was to make unwavering eye contact with strangers at various moments. The result has been occasional success in ending their existence as such. Spell #3 is forthcoming?
34 Cathartic Humanism: The Political Need for Emotional Transformation
“What do we learn we learn to notice everything now.” — Anne Carson, “Beckett’s Theory of Tragedy”
Introduction: A Poetic Reading of the Political I know I’m reading about the political if it makes me sad. Not unlike the feeling I have while reading poetry, the political as content elicits a distinct melancholy in me, the horizon of which seems to be a dire catastrophe—the end of all humanity—and the immediacy of which is touched with an affect of mild suffering— the sight of the unseen or the sound of the voiceless. It always, no matter how much I read, catches me off-guard. I begin reading something that purports to be about such-and-such topic or theory, and halfway through, I notice a heaviness congealing in my chest, I have background thoughts of strife and hardship, and then, it alights in my mind that what I am in fact reading is a tracing, a calling-out, of the political realm. I’m reading a play, a novel, a newspaper, ancient philosophy, contemporary theory, a tweet. It says something about vulnerability, fleeting action in the face of immense obstacle. It’s about loss. Or, if not, it’s about struggle. Ah, I see. It must be, then, about the political. “Politics,” Rancière writes, “has no proper place nor any natural subjects.” What kind of thing, then, is that? Where does it happen, if in no proper place? Who is it for, if without any natural subjects? And without these qualities, how do we identify it? What does it do? What does it feel like when it occurs? “A demonstration is political not because it occurs in a particular place and bears upon a particular object,” he writes, “but rather because its form is that of a clash between two partitions of the sensible…A political demonstration is…always of the moment and its subject are always precarious.”1 Precarity born from a clash. Placelessness erased only in momentary instances. The world of politics conjured by Rancière is peopled with those who have been uncounted, un-placed, and whose existence in public relies on a brief and hard-won participation.2 It lasts for only a moment. It Jacques Rancière, “Ten Theses on Politics,” in Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, trans. Steve Corcoran (London: Continuum, 2010), 36. Rancière defines it: “The partition of the sensible is the dividingup of the world and of people...This partition should be understood in the double sense of the word: on the one hand, as that which separates and excludes; on the other, as that which allows participation.” This theme of the shared being also that which separates, can be traced throughout all of Rancière’s work on collective life. It will come to be of importance when, later on, I discuss the interstice of the public and private realms. 1
“In my own work, I have tried to conceptualize democratic practice as the inscription of the part of those who have no part—which does not mean the ‘excluded’ but anybody whoever.” Rancière, “Does Democracy Mean Something?” Dissensus, 60. 2
is a lonely place, one where, he says, “political difference is always on the shore of its own disappearance.” I wonder why it is that I feel sorrow when reading about the political, and though I understand that of course it must not be the only response possible, I wonder how to get to the place of this other response. Something guides me toward a premise that suggests sorrow opens up a space of optimism and hope in the political project, that it is a call to action. In an effort to get beyond my stubborn presumptions marrying sorrow to the political, I need to trace out some of these descriptions in order to be sure of their implications. Let me take a moment here to note that this melancholy to which I’m referring is a quale of a democratic political.3 If my context here is the “voice of the people,” my primary interest is in the timbre of that voice. “The democratic experience,” Rancière writes, “is thus one of a particular aesthetic of politics. The democratic man is a being who speaks, which is also to say a poetic being.”4 What is the poetic texture of democratic life, principally according to the democratic life proposed through the lineage of Arendt, Lefort, Rancière, Butler, and Honig? All of these thinkers grappled with, more or less, the same question. As an artist and poet, I can’t ignore the presence of emotional qualities and textures to be found in all of their works, and so this is my starting point. I don’t mean to draw a literal parallel between emotions and that which can be considered poetic. Rather, I am concerned with all that falls under the realm of the visible and the invisible, the thinkable and the unthinkable, the tangible and the intangible, the sayable and the unsayable, or, in Rancière’s terms, that which pertains to the “distribution of the sensible”5 —but I am also equally invested in thinking in terms of affect, feeling, emotion, the performativity of such, and the presence of what could be considered stuff of the private realm within these theories of the political. Let me say that I don’t consider poetics to be in opposition to aesthetics—the realm of the distribution of the sensible—but subtending it. By poetics, I am following a genealogy of thought that culminates in the study of affect as opposed to hermeneutical meaning that can be drawn from any text. I think here of Sontag’s famous declaration in “Against Interpretation”: “In place of a hermeneutics, we need an erotics of art.” I would, without much hesitation, be comfortable here substituting “poetics” for her term “erotics,” because it is useful to situate it in opIf there were an emotional affect to be tied to totalitarian regimes, melancholy would not be sufficiently outraged enough. 3
Rancière, “The Uses of Democracy,” in On the Shores of Politics, trans. Liz Heron (London: Verso, 2007), 51.
Rancière begins his essay “The Distribution of the Sensible” with the following statement, which the reader will note my instrumentalization of: “I call the distribution of the sensible the system of self-evident facts of sense perception that simultaneously discloses the existence of something in common and the delimitations that define the respective parts and positions within it.” Rancière, “The Distribution of the Sensible,” in The Politics of Aesthetics, trans. Gabriel Rockhill (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), 7. 5
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position to the hermeneutic. Rather than privileging the intentions of the maker, poetics proposes a reading of the work through the perceiving subject, and so it follows that the affect produced in the reader or spectator would be privileged over the hermeneutics inscribed by the maker. These qualities can resonate with not only poetry or literature, per se, but any kind of “text,” and I find it particularly captivating to consider the poetics to be found in these, from newspapers to receipts. Catharsis and Citizenship My investment in tracing stuff like emotions within political theory can be specifically ascertained through a reading of the notion of catharsis, a term that first appears in Aristotle’s Poetics. Aristotle wills the term into existence after defining tragedy as an imitation of an action comprising “incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions.” The Greek term is both a medical and religious one, pertaining to the cleansing or purging of the body and/or the soul. Since then, it has come to encompass a whole host of meanings. As Maggie Nelson notes in The Art of Cruelty, catharsis “has stretched to signify or entail a wide variety of processes, including clarification, enlightenment, purgation, elimination, transubstantiation, sublimation, release, satisfaction, homeopathic cure, or some combination thereof.”6 I read the quality of purgation as an operation that transforms. Catharsis, for my purposes, can be defined as a profound emotional transformation, going from one state to a radically different other state. Nietzsche gives us a vivid description of this context enacted on the tragic stage: Watching the myth as it moved before him, he felt himself elevated to a kind of omniscience, as if the visual power of his eyes were not merely a power to attend to surfaces, but as if it were capable of penetrating the interior, as if, with the help of music, he were now able to see before him, in sensuously visible form, so to speak, the undulations of the Will, the conflict of motives, the swelling current of passions, and as if he could dive down into the most delicate secrets of unconscious stirrings.7
What is key here is a transformative process occurring in emotional states: the swelling of passions, the unconscious stirrings, the undulations of the Will, all seen as stemming from a capacity to penetrate the interior. Oscillation within and
Maggie Nelson, The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012), 23.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, ed. Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 104. 7
between different affective states is the crucial quality: things are moving, shifting, becoming. From Aristotle, the location of the site of catharsis is unclear—in the viewer of a tragedy, or within the events themselves. I work along the lines of thinking catharsis as a liminal state, situated precisely upon the boundary of private and public experience, and, importantly, initiating a connection between the two. By occurring at the site of intersection between the viewer and the affect of the work, it thus creates a channel of communication between them. The initiation of such an interstice recalls Rancière’s partition of the sensible: that which separates and excludes, and also allows for participation. Within both my pedagogical and professional experiences as a performance artist, catharsis has been arguably considered to be the most intense—and thus desirable—affect that a performance can produce. I think it is this connection between private and public, as it is induced by catharsis, that is so attractive to artists: it generates not only a channel of communication (via speech and action) between the private and public realms (what all art can be said to do), but a heightening of the resonance between the two. What I like about catharsis is its relationship to the shadowy worlds of pity and fear, the poetics of that darkness, how it “penetrates the interior,” and yet, that it requires a group of people—a public—experiencing the same act for it to occur. Its very existence requires the kind of place that art surely seeks to create: a site constituted by the relationship between the private and public, so that what is experienced intensely in the former can have a role and use in the latter. What is vital is the orientation of catharsis toward the world beyond the stage and what consequences this might elicit: The Nicomachean Ethics and Rhetoric show that for Aristotle emotions were inextricably tied to certain beliefs about the world. To feel pity, for example, we must first judge that the suffering is undeserved; to feel fear, we must calculate that a given disaster is such as might happen to us. Such complexes of thought and feeling have no need to be ‘purged,’ it is argued, and one can go further to maintain that attending tragic plays habituates us to feel the right emotions toward the right objects, which is a major condition for Aristotleian ‘virtue’ or human excellence. In this view, tragic katharsis becomes a complex engagement of our feelings and judgments together, not a gross orgy of weeping, but a structured evocation of emotions that shapes them so they may better conform to proper judgments in real life.8 (emphasis mine)
Ford is suspicious that catharsis brings any kind of moral training to bear on the audience. I am too. I am not implying that catharsis, as it relates to the public 8
Ford, ibid, 112.
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realm, does so through a lens of moralism. However, a “structured evocation of emotions” that comes to effect “real life” seems to have some hold on the emotional landscape, and the relationship between it and the public realm, as outlined in political theories of the likes of Butler, Honig, and Rancière, as well as a tending-toward it in Lefort and Arendt. Let me propose that this linking of the public and private realms through an emotionally transformative operation has ties to the notions of citizenship, to the political as it is instituted for Arendt, through speech and action in the public sphere; I think there is a key political mode of action to be found in the interconnection of affect to effect. Consider the Arendtian reading of the polis and the space of appearances wherein the emergence of its actors is distinctly performative: With word and deed we insert ourselves into the human world, and this insertion is like a second birth, in which we confirm and take upon ourselves the naked fact of our original physical appearance…This beginning is not the same as the beginning of the world; it is not the beginning of something but of somebody, who is a beginner himself.9
The beginning of somebody, the emergence of who one is: as Susan Bickford notes, for Arendt, “The ‘who’ is a public identity, not an intimate one, and only appears by speaking and acting in public.”10 This relationship between the private and public worlds, and how we navigate between the two—coming to institute both vis-à-vis the other—resonates especially when considering the channel of communication that is produced by catharsis. It could be said that an analogous process to Arendt’s notion of our “second birth” into the human world could be the oscillating of emotional states, during a catharsis, as it occurs at the interstice of the connection between the private and public realms. In other words, is the transformative operation of a “second birth” not unlike the transformation produced by catharsis? Arendt never mentions catharsis in her writings on action, but she often seems to be writing about theater as theater. Recall that, for Aristotle, the presence of an audience was required for catharsis to occur (insofar as it occurs on a stage for viewers of a tragedy). This can be read as imprinted in Arendt’s space of appearances: Action…is never possible in isolation; to be isolated is to be deprived of the capacity to act. Action and speech need the surrounding presence of others no less 9
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 176.
Susan Bickford,“In the Presence of Others: Arendt and Anzaldúa on the Paradox of Public Appearance,” in Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt, ed. Bonnie Honig (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), 317. 10
A&P 2013-14 than fabrication needs the surrounding presence of nature for its material, and of a world in which to place the finished product.11
We might question what exactly action looks and feels like in Arendtian terms: When one enters the space of appearances, in view of others, through action, what can be said about the qualities of their deeds? Because the actor always moves among and in relation to other acting beings, he is never merely a “doer” but always and at the same time a sufferer. To do and to suffer are like opposite sides of the same coin, and the story that an act starts is composed of its consequent deeds and sufferings.12
What is important in the above quote is the ubiquitous notion of suffering, the omnipresence of frailty, in any and all action in the visible realm. We can, as the Greeks did, extend this to the notion of the polis. Arendt writes: “The organization of the polis, physically secured by the wall around the city and physiognomically guaranteed by its laws—lest the succeeding generations change its identity beyond recognition—is a kind of organized remembrance.”13 I cannot imagine a better definition of the theater than that of “organized remembrance.” When considering deeds and suffering in the context of modern democracy, I am persuaded to draw an association between the character of life as a citizen and the suffering inscribed therein. As we have seen, catharsis is predicated on witnessing intense moments of suffering. What, then, is the relationship between the witnessing of suffering and political action? And can this relationship be linked to the concept of catharsis and its constitution of the private/public channel? I venture a hypothesis that there is a connection, even going so far as to claim that the witnessing of suffering is central to political action in a modern democracy. Cathartic Humanism I have here wandered into the territory recently traversed by various branches of neo- humanism. At the risk of classicization, I might have backed myself into a position of “mortalist humanism,” as it is defined in the writing of Bonnie Honig. Mortalist humanism, according to Honig, is a subset of neo-humanism that finds mortality to be the primary constitutive element of a community: “The 11
Arendt, ibid, 188.
Arendt, ibid, 190.
Arendt, ibid, 198.
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mortalist humanist idea [is] that we should dwell longer in grief or forge in grief new solidarities, or find in grievability a new social ontology of equality…Shared suffering, publicly acknowledged, provides the basis of a new order.”14 Following from thinkers like Judith Butler, in Precarious Life, Honig traces vulnerability, suffering, mourning, and loss as universalizing agents within a political community, resulting in what she claims is an “anti- political” position. For Honig, the politics of lamentation quickly turns into a lamentation of politics. She fears that its primary result is an extraction of the political actor from the political realm, mainly because they are too busy grieving, what Honig classifies to be, a private grief. Contra Butler’s positioning of lamentation as constitutive of political action (within, say, the AIDS community),15 Honig proposes against mortalist humanism the position of “agonistic humanism,” which takes as its constitutive force the notion of natality. “Humans also all seek pleasure, rebirth, and more,” she writes. Clearly situated within an Arendtian context, for her privileging of natality, as well as her reliance on a public and private distinction for sorrow, Honig would prefer a “resilient” position, one that does not draw a horizon of mortality around itself, but one of forward-moving birth and rebirth.16 However, it strikes me that these two positions might not be a binary, as Honig sets them up to be. She is working between the neo-humanist and anti-humanist positions, as they have been recently read through the tragedy of Antigone. “For humanists, [Antigone’s] suffering cries mark an extra-linguistic, universal experience of human grief or the isolating solitude of deep human pain recognizable to all. For anti-humanists, they are signs of a dehumanizing, monstrous animality that limns the limits of human meaning.” She wonders: “Are these the only options? A humanism of universal or principled suffering versus an anti-humanism of death-driven, desiring monstrosity?” If situated between two extreme poles such as these, it makes sense that Honig would come out advocating for an irrepressible, buoyant force like agonistic humanism. But is there not a relationship to be found between the suffering of mortalist humanism and the rebirth of agonistic humanism? If we read Butler’s proposal of vulnerability and mourning as a constitutive element, we must necessarily consider her assumption that it will lead to action. For Butler, “loss has made a tenuous ‘we’ of us all. And if we have lost, then it follows that we have had, that we have desired and loved, that we have struggled to find the conditions of our desire.”17 Just as quickly as she proposes loss as constituting a “we,” she follows with the presence of desire and love, 14
Bonnie Honig, Antigone, Interrupted (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 26.
Honig’s mortalist humanism is not so narrow as to speak only of Butler, but Butler is her primary target.
Think of Arendt’s “second birth.”
Judith Butler, “Violence, Mourning, Politics,” Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence, (London: Verso, 2004), 20. 17
and the pursuit—specifically, the struggle of the pursuit—of both. This, to me, is about that which we as humans seek and desire—resilience and rebirth. Anticipating the claims of depoliticization that Honig will later make, Butler writes: Many people think that grief is privatizing, that it returns us to a solitary situation and is, in that sense, depoliticizing. But I think it furnishes a sense of political community of a complex order, and it does this first of all by bringing to the fore the relational ties that have implications for theorizing fundamental dependency and ethical responsibility… What grief displays…is the thrall in which our relations with others hold us, in ways that we cannot always recount or explain, in ways that often interrupt the self-conscious account of ourselves we might try to provide, in ways that challenge the very notion of ourselves as autonomous and in control.
It is clear here that the driving force behind Butler’s “mortalist humanism” is not mortality-as- death, per se, but the acknowledgement of our relationship with others, and the ethics of that relationship, that our own mortality leads us to. The knowledge of our own mortality, for Butler, is what is required to get us to the position of being able to recognize the vulnerability and precarity of others. Consequently, she will draw this out to include the Other, all Others, that are even, to some extent, also ourselves: Maybe ecstasy is more persistent than [its presence in the history of feminist and lesbian/gay movements]; maybe it is with us all along. To be ec-static means, literally, to be outside oneself, and thus can have several meanings: to be transported beyond oneself by a passion, but also to be beside oneself with rage or grief. I think that if I can still address a ‘we,’ or include myself within its terms, I am speaking to those of us who are living in certain ways beside ourselves, whether in sexual passion, or emotional grief, or political rage. (emphasis original)
The workings of ecstasy as transporting us beyond and beside ourselves, as we see here, is central to Butler’s notions of human life as being marked by vulnerability and precarity. When we, as citizens, are in states of sexual passion, emotional grief, and/or political rage, we are in states of ecstasy—decidedly not weighed down by our impending, inevitable death. Our ecstasies as living beings are that which is produced by our relationships to others, Butler claims, and it is this quality that she reads as the constitutive force of a political community. Reducing vulnerability to mortality, as Honig does, is a heavy-handed way of describing Butler’s description of our state as living beings, and misses Butler’s point. When reconsidering the mortalist humanist position as defined not by death but by the relations, dependencies, and consequent ecstasies between the self and
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others, we begin to see that Honig’s agonistic humanism—characterized by pleasure and rebirth—is not that much different from her proposed opposite. In fact, I see the two terms as limning a third zone, one that is predicated on human suffering, vulnerability, and sorrow as that which institutes transformation and rebirth, e.g., natality in the space of appearances. In other words, the horizon of mortality is necessary for an impetus of natality to be leveraged. To put it simply, one produces the other. The term I’d like to propose for this third position, found at the intersection of mortalist and agonistic humanism, is cathartic humanism. Following from my above definition of catharsis, the position of cathartic humanism can be read as the political need for emotional transformation as that which constitutes and institutes a community of political actors. Cathartic humanism requires for its existence (1) a democratic political and a (2) performative reading of the political realm (á la Arendt), and is characterized by the profound emotional transformation as experienced by its citizens in witnessing instances of vulnerability and suffering in others, that thus (re)orients them toward political action. Whereas mortalist humanism is claimed to produce, in Honig’s terms, a “sentimental ontology of fragility” and agonistic humanism produces, what I would call, a dispassionate ontology of resilience, I position cathartic humanism as an affective ontology of transformation. The importance of transformation to political life I read through Claude Lefort’s theory of democracy, when he famously declared: In my view, the important point is that democracy is instituted and sustained by the dissolution of the markers of certainty. It inaugurates a history in which people experience a fundamental indeterminacy as to the basis of power, law, and knowledge, and as to the basis of relations between self and other, at every level of social life…18 (emphasis original)
The continual process of dissolution, the experience of “fundamental indeterminacy,” indicates a practice of transformation that occurs on multiple levels of social life. Nothing is stable in such a place, and it follows that it is always changing form. What is central for me is that the transformative properties of democracy are continual, and interwoven with both natality and mortality as their principal agents of instigation. One leads to the other, in other words, and it is this cyclical movement that institutes and reinstitutes the democratic political realm. Cathartic humanism does not foreclose the possibility of action being provoked through experiencing one’s own suffering, rather it primatizes the presence of others, specifically in bearing witness to the sufferings of those others, as Claude Lefort, “The Question of Democracy,” in Democracy and Political Theory, trans. David Macey (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press in association with Basil Blackwell, Oxford, UK, 1988), 19. 18
the fundamental element for political action and subsequently, the most important constitutive element of a political community. It proposes that we who bear witness to each other’s suffering, vulnerability, mourning, and loss are necessarily presented with an opportunity for political action through such witnessing—that this act of witnessing is what begets the process toward political belonging. So, in order to furnish a sense of political belonging and subsequent action, the ties that bind us to each other must be called out; and in the case of what I’m proposing, the ties that bind us are conditioned by both our natality and mortality. In order to produce an understanding of one, there must be recognition of the other; and the relationship between the two is prescribed by a transformative process of becoming. A sense of political belonging is an unstable position. Much like how Butler defines gender identity as a site of continually reinstituting and performative acts, my definition of citizenship is here constructed out of a process of continuous renewal—e.g., transformation—of one’s relationship to others and the performativity of such as seen through a lens of interrelational mortality and natality. When read through an understanding of catharsis—of an emotional transformation situated on the border between private and public—we can see how cathartic humanism reinforces the linking between these realms in a move that follows a lineage of feminist theory and theories of the dispossessed. In fact, it aims to permanently instantiate the channel of communication between the two as a vehicle for making meaning in both, a fact that owes a debt to the work of feminist and queer theory, insofar as they have sought to cement and centralize such a connection as a political project. Conclusion As Lauren Berlant says, “public spheres are always affect worlds.”19 By enfolding a premise of emotional transformation into the political community, I am seeking to engage with the notion of political citizenship as it is linked to our private affective experiences. What happens—what is at stake—when these worlds collide? I belong to the position that declares that the two are inextricably tied, that one’s private affective experiences are central to making meaning out of, what Berlant calls, our “thrashing around for a political way of being.”20 The notion of catharsis as being central to the body politic is useful in considering the causes of political response. Why are we moved to act? What do our actions seek to accomplish? A cathartic humanist reading would propose that the catharsis of emotions is one such accomplishment, and a very important one at that. By 19
Lauren Berlant, “Media, Sensationalism, and Political Desire.” Franke Forum lecture, May 4, 2011.
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emphasizing the affective influences of its actors, a cathartic humanist position grapples with the plurality of the democratic body politic, and how it came to be instituted as such. It allows for a space for bodies, psyches, and emotions to be recognized as political entities, and not relegated to the apolitical private sphere. Extending from this operation, it proposes that the continual transformation of emotional states, as they are performed and enacted in public, is crucial to the formation of that public. I began by speaking toward my sorrow when reading about the political, and so it should come as no surprise that I agree with Berlant when she remarks that finding one’s political way of being is like a thrashing. I wondered if sorrow was the only possible response to the political. I don’t want to be a pessimist. It seems clear to me, though, that the presence and influence of sorrow, suffering, mourning, and vulnerability must be accounted for when we seek to understand the makings of political action, and how citizens come to be furnished with a sense of political belonging. To this end, I find it useful to locate the formation of political identity around a locus of heretofore seemingly private stuff: not only grief, sorrow, and suffering, but also pleasure, desire, and rebirth. Considering a spectrum of private emotions, affects, and desires as they come to ignite the public realm is the only way I can see of getting closer to identifying how political belonging and action become constituted. This, it seems to me, gets us to the messy heart of things, where we need to be.
Works Cited Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Pbk. ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989. Berlant, Lauren. “Media, Sensationalism, and Political Desire.” Lecture, Franke Forum from University of Chicago, Chicago, May 4, 2011. Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London: Verso, 2004. Bickford, Susan. “In the Presence of Others: Arendt and Anzaldúa on the Paradox of Public Appearance.” In Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt. Edited by Bonnie Honig. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995. 313-335. Honig, Bonnie. Antigone, Interrupted. Cambridge: Cambridge university press, 2013. Lefort, Claude. “The Question of Democracy.” In Democracy and Political Theory. Translated by David Macey. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press in association with Basil Blackwell, Oxford, UK, 1988. 9-20. Nelson, Maggie. The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings. Edited by Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Rancière, Jacques. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. Translated by Steve Corcoran. London: Continuum, 2010. Rancière, Jacques. On the Shores of Politics. Translated by Liz Heron. London: Verso, 2007. Rancière, Jacques. The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. Translated by Gabriel Rockhill. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.
Jo is an exiled sociologist-in-training who thinks in theory but writes in fiction. This causes problems when coordinating the two efforts. He has a history with ghosts as he unofficially apprenticed a ghost tour guide in London for four months. Now Jo is obsessed with the strange aesthetics of chemistry and ice, living far away from all former passions in LA.
© Judy Natal 2014 www.judynatal.com
0/ Thinking chemical thoughts, or the eruption of some voice inside telling me these are chemical thoughts, is a messy affair. Messy in the sense that the chemical is a stack of junk that phases in and out of my existence, and will eventually (if it has not already) contort my fossil into a pleasing future-aesthetic. Timothy Morton writes, “when you approach an object, more and more objects emerge” (55). I have been approached at the same time as I am approaching—there is a slimy, unidentified mess between the chemical and me, in contrast to the cosmic. Chemistry is more than the symbols and signs that become distilled into formulae, but invites other concepts in: the molecular, life, art, unreasonable scales to mentally inhabit, new material intensities, and so on. All of this is to propose a new
workshop—one that looks from a distance like a desert, yet contains richness underneath, in the vibrating and matter filled earth we occupy. 1/ Those who would trace our region back to its beginnings must also say something about the original appearance of the earth, and about the nature of the soil and what it contains. — Leibniz in Protogaea
The whole business of tracing origins is sketchy and will never provide an answer for the openness and complexity of matter. Arguably, our soil is not the same soil that Leibniz wrote about in 1690; ours has undergone untold changes, contains carbon from the first years of industrialization, nuclear testing in Nevada and elsewhere, and perhaps a touch of the present energy crisis: the chemicals used to frack for natural gas, which lubricate the conditions for landslides, earthquakes, and poisoned aquifers. I do not intend to do archeological work in this essay, dig in the dirt for more “pure” combinations of minerals, or attempt a defense for looking downwards in an essay filled with horizontal text. Rather, a new sense attuned to things still chemically bonded to the abyssal static is imminent, and so getting cozy with a chemical orientation may be more than subscribing to a particular theory, but necessary, as we transition into a new geopolitical time of accidental megastructures that are presently revealing themselves—“stacks” (Bratton) or “hyperobjects” (Morton). There is a kind of chemical drive, a wish to have chemicals affect us. We witness this in the attention one gives a bubble, children and Peter Sloterdijk included. We read it in the repetitive use of the words fossil fuels together in documentaries, newspapers, and on signs at demonstrations. The chemical form of ecology (even environmentalism) is a hard pill to swallow, similar to contingency for Robin Mackay, so we have the color green to neutralize any radical sense of ecology—one that may look grey, black, X-ray, or ultraviolet. But green nevertheless makes sense, and can provide a nice springboard into the variations of green, what it means to have unique earth-tones as compared to other, speculative hues expressed on exoplanets galaxies away. Latour’s term kakosmos, which he says is polite Greek for “a horrible and disgusting mess!” is something we created so well without knowing it (perhaps in our attraction to something exterior to us). He writes, “it would be like playing the piano while turning one’s back to the keyboard...from this horror you cannot flee! It is coming at you” (487). Dystopian techno-apocalypses are popular for a reason as they accidently synchronize to the kakosmos—to the chemical drive.
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What are the agents on the other side doing the chasing or teaching the AI to reach technological singularity? Jeffrey Jerome Cohen talks about the Mississippi river as a “place of intertices, mixing, hybridity, autonomy, cogency” (xxvii), yet what does this mean? Could we say the same of an earthquake? What about a busy Michigan Avenue office building in Chicago? Other theorists like Jane Bennett, locate a dynamic other side in the indeterminacy of power grid outages and in debris caught in the grate of a storm drain. Describing the latter, she writes, “when the materiality of the glove, the rat, the pollen, the bottle cap, the stick started to shimmer and spark, it was in part because of the contingent tableau that they formed with each other, with the street, with the weather that morning, with me” (39). Portraying the scene in this way seems to disservice her main point: that these objects “existent in excess” are active and interactive, chemical. My point is that the chemical language is both there and not there, we have ingredients, mixtures, but no trace of a larger chemical alembic in her language. It is as if her writing does it, unintentionally, while she turns her back and sees another disordering of common, inconspicuous items. Bennett gets close to arriving at a vocabulary of the chemical in her description of mineralization in the same essay. However, it quickly gets sidelined for a reduction of the human into minerals; a process Bennett says brings humans to realize their “thing-powers” above a mere object. I disagree that accounting for the mineral composition of a thing offers a better way at showing its “mineralization” or chemical form. This essay is about showing larger chemical processes and breaking away from the stickiness of certain terms and their familiarity with each other. The unicity of substances is out, chemicals are no longer pure or consistent—the “island of stability” is theoretical and speculative without the right particle accelerator, and chemicals are not a background or “mere” background. Like noise, which is never strictly noise but contains minimally (in)perceivable elements as well as maximal ones, is a description of an effect and not an entity— chemistry is the effect of something bigger, a meta-text, format, or book spine for our spines, our solipsism. Similar to Meillassoux’s great outdoors, there is the threat that the chemical paradigm I propose is wrapped up in a current aesthetic already—not entirely free to burst into our vision via a new frame. I am speaking of boredom, the medium and message of fog, grey, bureaucratic architecture, and the periodic table of elements. Originally, the al- chemical had to do with the “romantic imagination conjuring up dreams of natural abundance” (Leslie 23), and thus was speculative and tied to the imagination. If it was a revolution, it was also a resistance because it determined the material sense of our world very early on. Then, capitalist production mandated acceleration in microprocessing and communication; our everyday existences have more precious metals than ever, and yet, our potential
to imagine an alternative economy has dwindled as we become disillusioned into taming rather than imagining. This has come to hurt our ability to make continually newer smart phones (not just idealist utopias) comprised of rare earth materials that will one day need substitution.
Images like these are created to display the dryness of our predicament, a type of standardization that puts limits on the infinite creation of Bestand or stockpiles. Morton claims nature is a Bestand too—even that other extreme of capital, nature, has a necessity for the speculative nature of chemistry in how it forms or dictates new material. The stockpile and the subject of the hoarder has been appearing lately; Jane Bennett’s theorization of hoarders (and of course, the debris we already mentioned) and the Waste Not (2009) exhibition at the MoMA are just a few examples. We cannot help but notice the deliberately chosen landfill in Examined Life or hear the layering of recurring alien frequencies in I Am Sitting in a Room (1969) by Alvin Lucier. Bratton’s Black Stacks are the shadow of a kind of stockpile, one that can better predict the state of a bankrupt mineral earth, and also show what we have after the obsession with stockpiling: The Black Stack is less the anarchist stack, or the death-metal stack, or the utterly opaque stack, than the computational totality-to-come, defined at this moment by what it is not, by the empty content fields of its framework, and by its dire inevitability.1
Black stacks are confusingly without territory, while suggesting a territory-to-come, a promise of emergence without addition, “like scratching paint from a canvas” (Bratton). It is unknown how life will look covered in the shadow of our fixation for stacking—which is the same fixation in my view—as that of chemistry. 1
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One could say we are only partially disguised as separate from stacks, able to step outside and see things from a much taller height. On the other hand, we help cook and share DNA with the dregs contained on the ground floor. Eugene Thacker writes, “the very materiality of the world is cooked and eaten” (444)—a common practice among humans and nonhumans, applicable to the morphology of matter as well. Thacker’s term general cooking deals with the cookery of the earth. It is a cooking that never stops even in the shadow at the edge of mineral depletion. We have strayed from the chemical boredom that is a fixture in the aestheticochemical process. I am speaking about the mono-organism that is cloned golf course grass, the Shepard scale that constantly descends in pitch and tricks our ear into eventually not listening, the spiraling form of the road, which goes everywhere and nowhere new. Not just the sterilization of labs, the feeling of latex, and containment of harmful liquids, gases, and solids (especially the containment of those non-Newtonian fluids or substances that defy striation, categorization). What we have learned is that boredom is affixed to materials that are strange— that the chemical process of witnessing it is a fraction of the aesthetico- chemical process that allows it to occur.2 After all, we are in the shadow of the stack-tocome and the fossil that is here already, who blames us for playing the same note on the piano with our back turned? 2/ Levi Bryant’s book Onto-Cartography is about the nature of machines, how “machine” might be better at describing entities and their abilities than “object.” The transformation of object to machine is said to be a relatively painless one. Should we not try to escape the boring 400 years of philosophizing the subject/object divide? Should we not test the waters and strengthen the nascent movement of Speculative Realism with something fresh? Machines could provide a revisionary frame for life, but I think they fail to enclose the chemical frame. This is because the chemical is always subdivided—some think it is only subdivision! And still, it carries on contingently with an excess not unlike a stack’s shadow or the virtual notion of slackspace. How is this possible? Resembling Laruelle’s efforts to avoid conflating photography to a history of styles and evolution of techniques, or Thacker’s term general cooking, which lies outside any possible dimensionality of a cookbook, chemistry is either ultraform or a sinister form of matter (the two can look indistinguishable).3 Foucault only deals with the text version of the phantasm that swarms. There is an entirely open phantasm made from other material giving off an excess of perceptibility; that is the dimension we inhabit. 2
Bratton in Some Trace Effects of the Post-Anthropocene notes that chemistry “storms within us and around us.” If I am reading him right, it is the diffusion of a locatable geopolitical aesthetic into xenopolitics 3
This not knowing the “true” capacity of our terms is partly unsolvable and partly not an issue. Žižek says, “not every epistemological limitation is an indication of ontological incompleteness” (907). The Thing itself, chemistry or contingency as examples, are not lacking entrances into them, but instead, influence our epistemological shifts in such a way that they dictate their openness. In other words, we have now begun to question correlationism (a term of Meillassoux’s) because of some event unable to be registered any other way. Later on, in Less Than Nothing, I think Žižek’s breakthrough moment is connecting the above point—that the Thing itself creates our (incomplete) knowledge— and pushes it further: “Our experience of everyday reality thus remains the phenomenological background and foundation of quantum theory” (918). Our reality is oozed out of some exo-physics made aesthetic via mathematics and new discoveries like superheavy elements and particles called droplets.4 The delivery of the Real to reality or from being to knowing is naturally chaotic or conceived as a fold by Merleau-Ponty, but should we instead leave it up to chemistry?5 Regardless how we answer, something chemical has happened. Especially when looking at Duchamp and Manzoni’s art practices that play with air to invoke emotions toward arguably insignificant and miniscule differences in air. Artist’s Breath (1960), which is now a deflated balloon, challenges us to see air as a relic tied to an event (the balloon popping) and as seemingly everywhere, here and now. What happened to Carl Wilhelm Scheele’s “foul air” that was then known as common air, or that which refuses combustion? Could we not say that it got incorporated back into the invisibility of air because of some chemical process— maybe combustion engines became more advanced and less discriminatory? More than a material rhythm of balloons, air dictates mediation, gives life to lungs that need oxygen or completes the chemical process of photosynthesis in plants, marks the style of en plein air, that stuff kept in (air lock) or out (airtight). Fresh air in a can is marketed in China as a supplement, as “better” air unlike the grey, chemically impure, and all-to-visible stuff that comes with urbanization today. The dynamism of air will be governed and more micromanaged than ever now that private companies want to drive space travel and asteroid mining. Planetary Resources sees asteroid mining as a natural extension of our mineral extraction here on earth—in fact, they have created an infographic: “Why Asteroid and xenoaesthetics. His section called “frame” is perhaps satirical for this reason. Which is to say: the anthropocentric frame is warped, inverted—and so we are foolish to claim the alien is inside or outside, ultra or merely rare and thus, difficult to observe and colonize. Element 117, which is described as “man made,” is also said to be a turning point for the usefulness of elements in colliders versus those produced in “nature.” Whatever claim is made towards this new finding, it hinges on the accuracy of state-of-the-art technology to observe such a finding. The connection between this piece of technology and the element, or the quantum particle, is more interesting in my view. 4
This is undoubtedly Manuel De Landa’s project in A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, albeit, with an additional focus on how humans are shaped through geography and biological factors. 5
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Mining Is Necessary” is the blaring title, ending with “is it all just pie in the sky?”6 It is surely speculative, but no less interesting, since the design duo Dunne and Raby write, “Much of today’s dreaming around technology is shaped by military priorities or a short-term, market-led view of the world based on standardized consumer dreams and desires” (168). Directing any energy toward sending unmanned or piloted machines into space consumes “our” mineral resources here on earth, and not to mention, will most likely serve the wrong interests or fall into the wrong hands. Importantly, questions are not being asked about the irreversibility of this acceleration and intensity—the new paradigms where air will be an agent “out there,” where the divisions between earth and space are removed, where oxygenation becomes a sacrament. In addition, this acceleration includes machines; machine-to-machine communication is potentially creating more languages than data, multitasking, and working indifferently to ensure more contact in the future. M2M sounds conspiratorial because it is—in all respects, it is a lump of rare minerals “talking” to other rare minerals in ways that would be deemed outside the limits of alchemy or magic in another time. Dark chemistry is about predicting life ahead of itself amid these changes. It remains dark like dark matter because when it engages thought, it turns our frames upside down, makes them slimy and unrecognizable. Dark chemistry is chemistry-to-come, or the persistence of darkness, the dark ages being its incomplete birthplace where the first controlled reaction took place (when in actuality, it was probably not what we would call a significant event). Just like the omnipresence of barcodes that hope to remain current to some future algorithm, we are just as hopeful. The Crystal World (2012) exhibition discussed by Matthew Fuller seeks to express this hopefulness (curiosity, intensity?) of remaining current—while not succumbing to ordinary chemical paradigms that seek to identify/map the power of material expression and say it is for-us. The Crystal World consists of old stacked computer parts, and more broadly, “a general economy of oozings” (Fuller 120) that are disturbing because of their reactions. Reactions-to-come, or chemistry-to-come if you prefer, are built into the miasma from day one, instituted from the fossil that was something else but nevertheless exists as a parasite/blockage for what is now (thus, Chrystal World is more like a ready-made). Oozings are another chemical entity. They are chain reactions and objects fighting for visibility at the same time, radio-active, and cousins of fog, they are aesthetico-mutants uncovering trajectories we would rather not follow. Are humans involved in this larger story of slime and oozings, doing our part chemically to pollute the world for ideal slime habitation? Thinking so is within the dark chemical frame, which 6
Â© Judy Natal 2014 www.judynatal.com
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we have seen is not a stranger to smart phone markets, cooking, and speculative art practices. Looking at the age of cosmos as opposed to today’s chemos, we see a vast array of uncertainty towards what existed then—why was it so complicated? The school of today is functionally a chamber for digging, whereas before, schools (plural) looked like the architecture that also generated power, where old forms of governance stored files and papers for pending review—not places of imaginative matter(ings). Being attuned to the postsub(s)lime means destroying a little bit of that parasitic self (with the help of anti-oxygenation) that came before—it is about knowing the limits of your fossil body and the scales (not just historic eras) that envelope it. 1st glacial period, 2nd theological-hyperchaos, 3rd dark chemics. We’re somewhere transitioning from the 3rd scale to some unknown exo-scale—where the darkness bleeds out a potentiality—teaching us 100 percent is a mysterious ceiling to have invented. The physical surroundings are the same as our ancestors, only ours is a radiant coming forth of surrounding, making sure the chemical surrounds the whole of our vision, not just the safe, pretty, “natural” aspects of it. Their environment was functionally ruined, or so I am told, but I see it as merely changing owners, mutating into a hospitable place for us+1. Does it look strange that I am posing or imitating the synaptic image of the human? One does not forget chemical recipes once they are learned or once they are prominent for a number of years. And it is a synaptic-image among many that are familiar; the great lens that sees into chemical behaviors many millions of reactions away repeatedly shows the same order: e300Cv92. Or, in meat terms, a conscious foggy mixture that once clouded humans. It seems the foggy mixture was really a breathing of a fog-to-come, what today we would call classical astronometrics. What does it mean to constitute space today? Take a room and fill it with “failed” objects, then mix this around in your memory—forget it tomorrow, remember it the next day. What does the room look like now? Certainly, the mixtures of forgetting/ remembering did something to the mental objects and to your mental space. This is elementary knowledge; that interactions are horizontal but that imagining is not. We now use the radical openness of artists as (for better or for worse) sensors of the vertical—what will be the reaction of a “top piece,” how do we explain chemic gravity? Well, it isn’t explained, just dealt with through the labor of the artist interacting with matter. Openness and interaction are almost cliché now, the fashionable terms are left-dead and myopic branching. Take a room and fill it with an algorithm and a chemistry set. One will not look the same after—the other will speculatively haunt the room, and future rooms-to-come will not know what happened. What happened was a form of pollution. Pollution opens up new ways of performing addition in a world where scratching the surface is considered meaningful facetime with the Chain.
Â© Judy Natal 2014 www.judynatal.com
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Works Cited Bennett, Jane. “Thing-Power.” Political Matter: Technoscience, Democracy, and Public Life, eds. Bruce Braun and Sarah J. Whatmore, 2010. Bratton, Benjamin. “The Black Stack.” E-flux, 53, 2014. Dunne, Anthony and Raby, Fiona. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2013. Fuller, Michael. “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Mute, 3:4, 2013. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. Latour, Bruno. “Compositionist Manifesto.” New Literary History, 41, 2010. Leslie, Esther. Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry. Clerkenwell, UK: Reaktion Books, 2005. Morton, Timothy. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. Thacker, Eugene. “Spiritual Meat: Resurrection and Religious Horror In Bataille.” Collapse, 7 ed. Reza Negarestani, 2011.
The Postgrid Appendix
(12:21 pm) Metadata reports the location of drone strikes on my phone. (12:21 pm) My phone transmits data across invisible nets of servers, yet still can find me within actual physical space. (1:20 pm) “Citation is like a GPS device, except it bleeds into other positions, saturating them with rules and formatting, the appearance of the universal. Citation rarely uses scales of location where the earth is the prime unit of measurement, how could it? With longitude and latitude? This coordinate system is an outdated geopolitical tactic of location in a world of gray skies, where stacks and stockpiling cannot be seen in all of their complexity from above, where points are quanta and no longer fixed (as described by theoretical physics).” (1:21 pm) The grid attempts to bend under the weight of accelerated intercontinental travel, overpopulation, and the melting of glaciers. (3:56 pm) “A new grid will eventually demand invention, one that temporarily draws attention to leaks and their epicenters. Like the lingering effect of a musical cadence, the leak can then ‘hook’ geopolitical lines toward it, rather than exist as ancillary (or mere meat-eye) data for readers of them.”
(4:39 pm) “By geopolitical lines we mean actual curvatures in the earth, tectonic disagreements, and cognitive delineations of space as collective markers of lines at all (the first lines). If a leak can move nations to spy or not spy on their citizenry, why couldn’t it move mountains? This is already called mountain top removal mining and it is used for coal extraction. Why couldn’t leaking disrupt the flow of the Mississippi for instance? This is already called channeling resources of the life-giving river somewhere else; it is called green environmentalism when the disruption is considered positive. NOW IT IS CLEAR—leaking does not need a fixed location in classical space, but given special properties so that it can mesh with any number of geopolitical struggles. Leaking is a struggle that survives best immersed in the fog of messier orders.” (5:07 pm) “The grid is not a prison but a pregnant aesthetic form capable of mutation.” (5:09 pm) Common colds circulate in the organic ether only to replicate based on what is mutually rewarding for the sickness and for the host-body. There is a grid-type at work here also. (7:15 pm) The mathematics involved in geodesy data is subordinate to a technology that could take or leave the grid. All that the technology floating above the stacks knows is what conditions are ideal to remain plugged-in. (9:01 pm) “Where do we stand as far as authorship goes? Standing is essentially a useless term. Authorship maybe more so. As the grid decays and chemically alters, the question that once was a starting point: “How to cite a leaked document?” becomes something else entirely—evidence that documents would willingly marginalize themselves into data, or “reports,” or worse: evidence. Nowadays, at 9:01 pm, we are not so sure. A document is a fragile carrier of a future reading, a future grid.”
Jessica has a recurring dream of a gigantic wave rolling in to take her back to the sea. Sometimes it is approaching from far off in the distance. Sometimes it has already swept her up and she is tumbling through the water with her family and everyone she has ever met. Sometimes the sun is shining and the city is full of sparkling light as the wave rushes in. Sometimes there is a sense of foreboding, only a feeling and she doesnâ€™t realize that itâ€™s there until the moment before she wakes up.
The Sound of the Crest
In 2009, a high school student named Kevin Terris from Claremont, just east of Los Angeles, happened upon the skeleton of a 75 million year old duck-billed dinosaur called Parasaurolophus on a school field trip. The particular specimen was an infant at six feet tall, and it is the most complete fossil of its kind ever found. Even the toes on each of the Parasaurolophus’ feet have fossilized in neat rows. Today it is on public display at a museum not far from where it was found. Something peculiar about this specific dinosaur, and the reason that I am writing about it, is the protuberance, the horn-like crest atop its head, whose purpose has been the source of some debate. Whether it acted as a distinguishing marker for age, or as a snorkel, or if it could smell: scientists do not unanimously agree upon this point. The crest is hollow, with distinct tubes leading from each nostril to the end it before reversing direction and heading back down the crest and into the skull. The most intriguing idea, to me, that has been posed as to its purpose, is that the crest was used as a sort of bodily resonator. Casts have been made of it so that you might hear what the dinosaur sounded like, and in this way the hollow crest of the long extinct creature might arguably be considered the first musical instrument, in that it did not only produce the sounds of other dinosaurs, but musical tones. The crest’s particular shape would have acted like a crumhorn, an instrument of the woodwind family used most commonly during the Renaissance period. The name of the dinosaur is also of some interest, in that it implies a proximity to its cousin Saurolophus, yet is also neatly exemplified in the fact that today we might know what the sound of the dinosaur would have been despite the many years separating us. The Para of Parasaurolophus is also a Bengali word (পাড়া) that describes a neighborhood or locality, usually characterized by a strong sense of community. The Estonian biosemiotician Jakob Johann von Uexküll, famous for his thinking of species as the sum of the milieu of their environment that would be later taken up by various philosophers, often wrote about the distinctly useful character of music for understanding these relations. In comparing the wholeness and functionality of organisms to the wholeness of instruments in an orchestra, he gestured towards an older understanding of the word organism, organon, Greek for instrument. Uexküll also coined the term umwelt (environment) that would become an essential concept within the work of phenomenology, especially in the thought of Martin Heidegger and his mentor Edmund Husserl (who developed the concept of the lebenswelt, the lifeworld). Maurice Merleau-Ponty would also aim at reconsidering Western philosophy’s established thinking of the world not in comparison to the infinite or eternal (the Unendlichkeit) but in terms of what he repeatedly referred to as the openness (Offenheit) of the Umwelt. Too
often, Uexküll affirmed, we imagine that the relations that other organisms have to the things in their environment take place in the same space and the same time as those which bind us to the human world. This illusion rests on the belief in a single world wherein all living beings are situated. Uexküll maintained that such a unitary world does not exist, just as space and time that are equal for all things do not exist. The fly and the robin that we observe flying next to us on a sunny day do not move in the same world as the one in which we observe them, nor do they share with us or with each other the same time and the same space—so the world is really a multiplicity, an epiphany of countless worlds. The cultural theorist Claire Colebrook wrote recently in an essay titled Posthuman Humanities: A being is alive insofar as it maintains itself and does so in relation to a milleu that it perceives according to its own capacities; humans and animals have worlds, and the world is not so much data to be represented by an imposed order nor a book of life but an interactive and dynamic mesh of living systems.
Uexküll cited experiments analyzing the flight patterns of bees, the ebb and flow of tides, the inner workings of fish, birds and mammals of multitudinous varieties, speculating how color, sound, vision, etc, might work together and be manifest in the experiences of each entity within their respective worlds. There is, therefore, a home for the limpet, for the snail, for rust; the body itself, in this understanding, is a living house within and amongst countless others. Today we might conduct these analyses based upon drone footage, which is becoming common practice so as to leave creatures undisturbed as they are recorded. Thousands of dolphins were recently shown stampeding off the coast of California, and this event was captured with such means: a drone launched from a boat set benignly on the ocean. Cinematography, in fact, influenced Uexküll’s thinking of the visual fields of flies and mollusks, as well as other species. There could be no imperfection, even in the simplest creatures—for every organism, through this interpretation, is bound to its dwelling-world. He decided, then, that meaning must have priority in all living beings. Putting himself in dialogue with Goethe, he wrote in A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: Were the flower not beelike And were the bee not flowerlike, The consonance could never work.
The harmonious image of belonging provided by Uexküll’s investigations would lead him to be the most frequently cited scientist in Heidegger’s writing, though Heidegger’s interpretation of belonging would relate exclusively to Das-
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ein (there-being), and not to animals or any entity that is “poor in world”. Uexküll was widely and enthusiastically published in Germany, where his interest in nonhumans was mired in this language of authenticity. The similitude between their strands of thought is clear—from A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: “Without a living subject, there can be neither space nor time”, and from Heidegger’s Being and Time: “If no Dasein exists, no world is ‘there’ either.” The world, therefore, might be attended to hermeneutically, as one would read a text. For Heidegger, consciousness could not be found through the pure work of phenomenology—that is, for him there could not be a description of consciousness that excludes a world. Worldhood is inextricable from Dasein and all entities that may be present-at-hand within the world. It is not an entity within the world, but is inseparable from such entities. So Dasein cannot be understood except as inhabiting a world that it also necessarily shares with others—and the opposite is also true. This constitutes what Heidegger called being-with (mitsein). The being-with of Dasein, therefore, paints a picture of a shared world wherein the resolute Dasein may, at best, tolerate others who lack something fundamental: that is, Dasein’s resolute potentiality-for-being, which is essentially non-relational. More realistically, however, and importantly, there is the violence of irreducible Being somewhere just beneath the veil of this concern for others. Moments wherein the cherished feeling of habitude is challenged are particularly revealing of this violence. The philosopher Timothy Morton wrote in Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics: “the idea of ‘our’ environment becomes especially tricky when it starts to slither, swim, and lurch towards us.” There is a breakdown of signification and understanding in such moments, during which the logical processes of interpretation we engage with daily fail us. Animal footprints being tracked down (or dinosaur prints by paleobiologists) can be read, but will still not relinquish their mysteries. Even hearing the sound from a cast of the crest of a Parasaurolophus that died millions of years ago in the mud comes with the realization that it took the entire milieu of its existence with it in death. The narrator of W.G. Sebald recalled in The Rings of Saturn the Englishman Thomas Browne, who wrote upon various topics of science, medicine, and religion, frequently through a melancholic lens. One piece of writing in particular concerned burial and funerary customs ancient and current, which led him to address the problems and uncertainties of mortality and meditate upon these. Browne could not have known that after his death, his skull would be taken into possession of a parish chancellor and put on display until nearly 250 years after his death, when it was ceremoniously laid to rest: Curiously enough, Browne himself, in his famous part-archaeological and part-metaphysical treatise, Urn Burial, offers the most fitting commentary on the
A&P 2013-14 subsequent odyssey of his own skull when he writes that to be gnaw’d out of our graves is a tragical abomination. But, he adds, who is to know of the fate of his bines, or how often he is to be buried?
Sebald’s narrator would go on to describe Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson, which Thomas Browne very well could have attended given the biographical information we have of him. The scene depicted in Rembrandt’s painting shows a society, framed for a moment, which saw itself as rising from the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge within the event of a public dissection of the corpse of a petty thief. Edmund Husserl’s distinction between noesis and noema, in turn, was predicated on a conception of the körper and the leib. Körper means “body” or “corpus” (to suggest an organically closed entity), essentially, corpse. And leib, or leben, refers to life, specifically movement and the lived body. He defined the intersubjective phenomenon and empathic experience of the lifeworld (lebenswelt) as the living tradition in which all beings find themselves immersed. The lifeworld is the intentional background of the world, the horizon of all experience. It lives with us, but is not internal to us (as it would be for Heidegger). The lifeworld is lived, and it determines through movement what is: permitting meaning, appearance, and what is, in turn, apprehended. Husserl wondered, much later, if the lifeworld was the manifestation of a mania to theorize everything. How could it become a separate entity of investigation for future modes of thought? This is a question that invites no straightforward response, in that it involves a kind of knowledge that does not conform to established theoretical or scientific thinking—the kind of thinking that would be taken up enthusiastically by several of his students before he was forbidden to teach in Germany. According to Husserl, there are both scientific truths and relative truths of everyday situations in the world that overlap and intersect everywhere, so the concept of the lifeworld provided him with the ability to place the many levels of enframing found in intersubjectivity to philosophical scrutiny. Of course, this would be a collaborative project. Claire Colebrook, in turn, would go on to write tangentially about this distinction between körper and leib that is so crucial to the activity of this form of phenomenological thought: Life is, properly considered (which is to say, always considered in terms of what defines humanity), selection: we say something is living if it maintains or strives to maintain itself through time. The dispersed, the haphazard, the inert, the contingent, the diffuse and the unformed—these are not living. They are therefore not only not valuable but also (significantly) not valuing. We value what values: we defend animal life because it too make its way in the world, possesses a degree of choosing this rather than that, and is therefore on its way to something like
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meaning or sense. We seem to think not only that the prima facie value of life lies in its modes of flourishing, but that something like destruction and annihilation are other than life and therefore unacceptable.
Colebrook’s argument is, essentially, that through valuing life, and holding it self-evidently valuable, we have saved our own lives at the expense of everything else. The sense of belonging untouched by destruction and death is also characteristic of what has been named biopolitics. And congruent with the spread of biopolitics is what Jean-François Lyotard called the megalopolis. In the last chapter of The Inhuman he wrote about the megalopolis in relation to the domus, the homely and the unhomely (which refers to a size that exceeds the domestic scale, the point where the city merges with its surrounding suburbs). This does not only pertain to cities, the moment when habitude collapses, yet it is exemplified in them. The domus, Lyotard wrote, haunts us, and it is unclear why: the feeling of “here” and “mine” conjuring images of ploughed fields and pastures freckled with towns, small cottages and ponds, the harmonious changing of seasons…In cities and minds estrangement procures a feeling of being outside, so Lyotard proposed that the domus could therefore only be understood from the world become megalopolis. He wrote “We know all that by heart, sick of it, today. This slow retreat of domestic, Neolithic life, we know what does indeed have to be named, from here, the revolution of the spatio-temporal regime of being-together.” So the question becomes, how do we inhabit the megalopolis and relinquish the domus that has long overstayed its welcome—how do we drop the act? Lyotard wrote that the city is a pain that is always new, something we bear witness to yet do not belong to, so the impossible work of the lost domus leads us inevitably to the impossible work of the city. Yet it seems exhausting to even begin to think how we could be committed to the city, when even Lyotard did not go into detail about what the megalopolis actually was or what it meant. This situation mirrors the problem of being committed to humanity though humanism despite being unable to define what it is to be human—so now we speak of non-human ethics. In a recent article titled The Labor of the Inhuman, the Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani wrote: Now we can turn the argument regarding the exigencies of making a commitment into an argument about the exigencies of being a human, insofar as humanism is a system of practical and cognitive commitments to the concept of humanity. The argument goes as follows: In order to commit to humanity, the content of humanity must be scrutinized. To scrutinize this content, its implicit commitments must be elaborated. But this task is impossible unless we take humanity-as-commitment to its ultimate conclusion—by asking what else being human entails, by unfolding the other commitments and ramifications it brings about.
This non-locality of the human is also a feature of the hyperobject as described by Timothy Morton. He wrote that hyperobjects are viscous: we can’t shake them off; they are “stickier than oil and as heavy as grief.” So we have a tendency to stick to one another; stick to the cities we try to inhabit and the habits that have adopted us. Does this not have something to do with the activity of writing as well? From The Rings of Saturn: For days and weeks on end one racks one’s brains to no avail, and, if asked, one could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane.
At the end of this book, Sebald described the peculiar devices used by the Huguenot master weavers in Norwich factories, which were filled with unimaginable and ceaseless commotion. The weavers spent their lives strapped to looms that resembled instruments of torture, straining their eyes into blindness upon the complex patterns that they had created, until they were frequently goaded into madness. It could be that the madness of the weaver is also the madness of the writer, and tied to this problem of habitude. Sebald described, through that narrator of his, walking through cities and seeing the alignments, facades and rows of windows, which only upon slowing come towards us out the future’s resounding emptiness “as if to bring the plan of eternity into the city born of the terror of the vastness of space.” His character Austerlitz was likewise confounded by the fantastic nature of fortifications, whose excesses kept the city secure within incredible labyrinths that were (and still are) like slumbering beasts waiting for a conflict of some kind to usher in a new array of guests. The skeleton of a Parasaurolophus, found accidently not far from where I sit writing this and might be heard today by the sound of its crest, exemplifies the sort of occurrence through which the strangeness of our surrounding spaces finally speak to us. As all marks of the human are inevitably fossils, the city illuminates these invaluable entanglements between life and death, and may help us to put into question the potentiality or impossibility of inhabiting a world.
mrof- A RAP - ni Works Cited Claire Colebrook, Death of the PostHuman: Essays on Extinction, Vol.1 (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, 2014). Johann von UexkĂźll, A Foray into the Worlds of Humans and Animals: With a Theory of Meaning (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010). Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (New York: Harper & Row, 1962). Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007). W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (New York: New Direction Books, 1998). Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time (Redwood City: Stanford University Press, 1992). Reza Negarestani, The Labor of the Inhuman (http://www.e-flux.com/journal/thelabor-of-the-inhuman-part-i-human/)
Originally from Toronto, Elliot lives in Los Angeles and drives a 1995 Honda Civic LX (blue).
Walled Gardens Under Grey Skies: A Meteorology of the Pallium
California is experiencing one of the most serious droughts in history. Some sources claim that it is the worst in over 500 years, with over 70% of the state now being classified as experiencing “extreme drought.” As the grounds of the California State Capitol turn brown, Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, continually urging residents of the state to save water. Anthropogenic climate change has now caused more than 2.5 million fish and other livestock to be evacuated from their habitat. California’s native tricolored blackbird population has dropped by over 44%. In this period of extreme drought, there are rarely clouds in the sky. Every evening, I sit on a Monobloc chair on the roof of my Los Angeles apartment to watch the sun disappear behind the horizon. The city is famous for its sunsets, the diminishing light refracted through the omnipresent smog hanging over the metropolis. The clear sky is transparent; a ground upon which a figure is clearly distinguished (as the fifty-plus helicopters that fly over my house every day so frequently attest to). It is the current environmental and atmospheric climate—caused largely by human CO2 production, and resulting in steadily rising temperatures and sea levels, reductions in snow and ice, and an increase in extreme weather events, like California’s current drought—that allows for this. There is no doubt the world is undergoing a period of climate change to a degree as yet unseen, and this is true too for the political climate we find ourselves in. The premise of detailed weather forecasts is meteorological observation. In his pamphlet Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?, cultural climatologist Mark Fisher (2008) describes the oft-cited contemporary condition of it being easier to imagine the end of the world, than to imagine the end of capitalism. He writes that “capitalism seamlessly occupies the horizons of the thinkable” (8). An ominous cloud has eclipsed that global horizon of neoliberal capitalist realism. This is not a friendly cumulus cloud, but rather a dark, grey, sheetlike formation— what meteorologists call the pallium. The pallium envelopes political activity through palliation, and by acting parafactually as a figure of authority. The pope wears the pallium around his neck to demonstrate his supreme pastoral power. Whereas curative approaches require consideration and cogitation—care—what the pallium offers instead is palliation; alleviation and absolution of symptoms
without any real remedy. Reforms occur in appearance only, their real effects masked steganographically. In the current political climate, the grey cloak of the pallium has met the opaque horizon of capitalist realism. Tropospheric clouds take on many forms. They can be grouped into three broad categories, developed by amateur meteorologist Luke Howard in the early 1800s: cumuliform, cirriform, and the formless stratiform. To find information on these meteorological categories, I queried Google with the search term “clouds.” When using the term “cloud” though, I only received results about server-based computing. Thus the cloud is singular, not plural; stratiform, the pallium: 100% cloud cover, blanketing the pellucid sky with grey. Opposing or divergent views are eradicated, leaving us with an artificially cleansed, AstroTurfed landscape that is paralyzing in its uniformity. This totalitarity of grey is the official (un)colour of the state: the sterile shade of bureaucratic waiting rooms, websites and office buildings; the colour of the year, every year, for the built world. The standard shade for U.S. warships and military helicopters is grey, rendering them invisible at a distance, disappearing into a realm of contingency, where perception is constantly navigating indeterminacy. Grey noise is perceived as equally loud at all frequencies. Nothing is fixed in this environment; always in flux between instituting and instituted, it is the location of the new coming into being. A 13-yearold drone attack victim, Zubair Rehman, was quoted by Tomas van Houtryve in Harper’s Magazine, testifying to a congressional oversight committee: “I no longer love blue skies […] in fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey.” Cumulus [...] data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing—they should be in a “cloud” somewhere. — Eric Schmidt, Search Engine Strategies Conference, 9 August 2006
Eric Schmidt was the first to use the word cloud to express its contemporary definition: computing over a network, encompassing many distinct computers simultaneously using the same applications or programs. On the contemporary web, Luke Howard’s categories of clouds parallel the multifarious manifestations of the contemporary cloud, in commercial data collection for targeted marketing, as well as government surveillance for preemptive law enforcement. A digital meteorology of these cloud formations—the marketing-friendly cumuliform, appearing in the logos of Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft’s OneDrive, and other corporate cloud-computing services; the striated, interstellar cirriform; and the ominous stratiform—must be considered, in order to predict and prepare for the imminent
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approach of the panopticonic pharmakon of the pallium, as it arrives under the guise of a swarm of cutesy cumulus clouds. Though the cloud is the standard visual metaphor for server-based computing, this analogy disregards a fundamental element of clouds, and meteorology in general: rain. Clouds are only the in-between of the precipitative process. Though cumuli do not indicate rain to come, cirri signal a storm on the horizon, and the pallium accompanies a torrential storm’s arrival. Do any of these forecasts accurately analogize the precipitative process of the cloud? If so, is it a drizzle, or a downpour—or, as the NSA’s image-collection and facial recognition program is dubbed, a “WELLSPRING”? Rappers yell make it rain to illustrate affluence. Can we reduce that flow to effluence, in order to make it leak? After much debate over the origin and meaning of the cloud, The National Institute of Standards and Technology developed a standard definition in 2011. They define cloud computing as a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. (6)
In this model of a ubiquitous and convenient “shared pool” of resources, user data must be collected on servers. Many cloud-based companies in the social and sharing economies have benefited from this model: social networking platforms like Facebook, mapping and navigation applications like Waze, and the behemoth that is Google are only a few that come to mind. Now, these companies undoubtedly provide novel forms of social value. Not a day goes by that I do not use at least one of these cloud-based services, but the adage “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product” shows how mass data collection is part and parcel of their profitability. The panopticon has been financialized, in the form
of marketing’s favorite terrestrial cloud formation: cumulus. The financialized attention economies of the web are obscured by the friendly, fluffy cloud floating across the firmament. Notoriously secretive corporations like Google and Facebook collect all their users’ information, under the auspices of providing them with more personalized, user-friendly product experiences. More importantly, they seek to collect detailed personal information in the interest of composing detailed data images of their users to sell to advertisers, and to market to them more effectively. The revenue of these companies is rooted primarily in advertising—In 2013, Google made $50.58 billion in advertising revenue, and a comparatively modest $4.9 billion in licensing and other revenues. The cloud’s mythical silver lining has turned out instead to be an even more precious metal: Advertising makes up 91% of the company’s profits (Google 2013). Accordingly, cumulus means “heap,” “pile,” or “surplus” in Latin, and also happens to be the root word for the term “accumulate.” In a recent consumer report by the global advertising agency network McCann Erickson, a “younger person from the US” describes the social web: “You put your info into a little lake, and then it goes into a river and then it goes into the ocean” (5). Whereas cloud companies accumulate user data for targeted marketing and quantitative evaluation of human intelligence, in the same vein, a leaked presentation authored by JTRIG’s Head of Human Science refers to an individual as an OCEAN (40).1 The cloud heaps and piles data extracted from these OCEANs, in order to create surplus value to accumulate profit. Though the economic, political and atmospheric climates are vastly different from the time in which Karl Marx wrote Capital, Karl Marx’s circuits of commodity trade nonetheless aptly illustrate the cumulus cloud’s precipitative process. Marx describes two inverted circuits: C-M-C—the circulation of commodities—and M-C-M—the circulation of money.2 The C-M-C model “has for its ultimate end the exchange of use-values” (Marx 1981, 384)—selling only occurs in order to buy. In this kind of need-based economy, value remains constant in the process of exchange. The M-C-M circuit, conversely, is based on the accumulation of socially-generated surplus value, through buying commodities only in order to sell. By changing the C from “commodity” to “cloud” in this model of finance capital, we can begin to understand how and what the cloud precipitates. Marx (1990) may as well have been describing the contemporary pallium when he writes, “the circulation of money as capital is an end in itself [...] The movement of capital is therefore limitless” (253). Just as the precipitative process can be described OCEAN is an acronym: “Openness/Contentiousness/Extroversion/Agreeableness/Neuroticism” (JTRIG, 40). Maybe you too see an eerie parallel between JTRIG’s OCEAN and Orwell’s OCEANia. 1
Marx’s formula for finance capital is Money-Commodity-Money (Money-Money); the formula for merchant’s capital is Commodity-Money-Commodity (Commodity-Commodity). 2
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(and admittedly simplified) as one of evaporation accumulating into visibility, producing a surplus of condensed saturation that causes the cloud to rain, the financialized attention economies of the web accumulate surplus value in order to precipitate capital. Effluence becomes affluence. This process is undoubtedly why the hydrous neoliberal metaphor of trickle-down economics is demonstrably subscribed to by Silicon Valley’s techno-libertarians.3 The “ceaseless augmentation of value” cannot occur in the C-M-C model. Prior to the advent of Web 2.0, not only advertising, but financial interests in general were barred from the web’s communities. Barter and trade are integral parts of web-based gift economies, in which value is traded and shared amongst a complex ecosystem—an OCEAN— rather than its surplus value being hoarded by the rain barrels of post-industrial cognitive capitalism. Wealth, freedom, and security evaporate into, not trickle down from the pallium. Stratus As the social web’s interests shifted from collection for usership to surveillance for targeted advertising, the place between the puffy cumulus cloud and the ominous, formless pallium was blurred. With its growth, the cloud has concomitantly come to encompass a much broader meaning: the internet, as a whole. This coincides with a concurrent shift from the social web’s modi operandi of data collection and aggregation, with its purposes centered on the user, towards more comprehensive forms of data surveillance, in the interests of prediction, preemption, and prefiguration. One of the NSA’s original internet data-collection schemes, ThinThread, actually incorporated automatic encryption for everyone surveilled—only once a threat was algorithmically identified would the data be decrypted for human investigation. But the Five Eyes countries were looking for unknown conspirators, and the only way to do that is to look at everyone—a remarkably ambitious goal for those at the helm of the governmental panopticon. Every day, I stream content from the internet. “Streaming” is also the metaphor deployed to describe how the cumulus cloud’s data evaporates into the pallium. Governments gather human intelligence from the OCEANs of individuals’ data, in both directions: upstream and downstream.4 Upstream data collection is deployed by Special Source Operations (SSO), using programs like PRISM. In these schemes, telecommunications and internet service providers supply the NSA with communications conducted within their cloud. Downstream collection, on E.g. “Apple used technicalities in Irish and American tax law to pay little or no corporate taxes on at least $74 billion over the past four years” (Yadron, Linbaugh, and Lessin 2013). 3
A more detailed description can be found in Chapter 3 of Glenn Greenwald’s No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. surveillance state. 4
the other hand, intercepts the flow of OCEANic communications at the internal links connecting companies’ data centres. The strategy behind these programs is to collect all communications. Michel Foucault (1977) defines the position of the quintessential panopticonic surveillant as “[seeing] everything without ever being seen” (202; emphasis mine). It’s no surprise then that Barton Gellman and Glenn Greenwald, among others, have reported former NSA chief Keith B. Alexander’s personal motto and mission as: “Collect it all.” When asked to provide a list of all those surveilled to The Guardian, GCHQ lawyers conceded: “This would be an infinite list which we couldn’t manage” (MacAskill et al. 2013). The pallium manages to get away with this by incorporating what the GCHQ outlines as their “five Ds”: destroy, deny, degrade, disrupt, and deceive (GCHQ and JTRIG, 2). Not only does the contemporary surveillance apparatus collect data from commercial cloud companies, but also dogmatically adopts their marketing techniques as strategy. The aforementioned leaked JTRIG presentation, inundated by stock photos and computer-generated illustrations, succinctly sloganizes this appropriated tactic: “Hide the real; show the false” (JTRIG, 17). This is the crux of branding, and the presentation accordingly echoes many similar displays in today’s advertising world—in fact, images of Whole Foods,5 Coca-Cola, and other exemplary brands appear throughout the 50-page document. As if they were advertising agency employees, GCHQ operatives are tutored in social creativity and message delivery methods, and educated on “managing attention,” in order to entrap their political opponents. By clouding transparency with opacity, the cloud covers the clear sky. The goal of the pallium, outlined by John Adams, Major General of Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)—“We want to master the Internet”—shows that any reduction in the size of the pallium is impossible, except when controlled like the Chinese government’s attempts at cloudbusting in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Cloud seeding is a technique used by governments to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds, either to increase rainfall, or to suppress fog. This is accomplished by seeding the clouds with silver iodide or dry ice, that fake cloud condensation. There have been recent reports of cloud seeding by drone in Nevada. The NSA program TURBINE engages too in a form of cloud seeding, implanting intercepts into the cloud, in order to attain automated management and control of a global network.6 Jeremy Bentham’s panopticonic vision of “a network of mechanisms that would Whole Foods is indeed a master of hiding the real, and showing the false: many of their organically produced, locally-sourced meat and dairy are actually the product of prison labor. See Rosen, Rebecca J. 2014. “How Dairy Milked by Prisoners Ends Up on Whole Foods Shelves.” The Atlantic, June 18. 5
English singer Kate Bush unwittingly alludes to this surveillance tactic in her 1985 song “Cloudbusting:” “Every time it rains, you’re here in my head.” 6
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be everywhere and always alert, running through society without interruption in space or in time” (Foucault 1977, 206) has finally come to fruition. While the contemporary surveillance apparatus has appropriated the strategies underpinning their “five Ds” from the advertising industry, the advertising industry too has learned to follow the lead of the contemporary surveillance apparatus. In recent months, both Google and Facebook have acquired pilotless-drone manufacturers. In the past two years, Google has acquired at least eight significant robotics companies, and the London-based artificial intelligence firm Deepmind. Though one could read some insidious intent into these acquisitions, a more likely motive is their commitment to increasing the reach of the pallium: As there is already 100% cloud cover above the developed world, any further growth has to come from the more than 5 billion people still without the cloud hovering over them. Clouds become visible due to two processes: cooling of the air and/or adding water vapor. One of the main causes for the formation of clouds is the arrival of cold fronts, which move quickly, and cause harsh meteorological changes in their wake. While the front is passing, the pallium emerges. In legal parlance, the term “chilling effect” is used to describe an interference or deterrence of the exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction. Journalist Jane Mayer adds some much-appreciated rhetorical flourish: “It’s a huge impediment to reporting, and so chilling isn’t quite strong enough, it’s more like freezing the whole process into a standstill” (Redden 2013). Many studies have been conducted on the effects of the cold fronts of ubiquitous surveillance on journalists’ communications, and the general public’s internet search habits. Just the title of a report released in November 2013 by the PEN American Center summarizes their findings: “Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor.” The report claimed that after the Snowden revelations, 24% of journalists observed deliberately avoided certain contentious topics in phone or email correspondence. Another study authored by Alex Marthews and Catherine Tucker (2014) found measurable shifts in the general public’s internet search habits after the PRISM revelations were made public, in both overall volume and content. Users were less likely to search for not only potentially tendentious topics, but also personally embarrassing ones. These studies signal the aftershock of a critical compromise of the private realm, a crucial element of public debate in a democratic society.7 The chilling effects of the pallium’s ubiquitous surveillance are a cold front in the current climate, not only freezing political action and discussion, but also snowing in the surveillance agencies collecting the data. Well before the emerThe most chilling part, as Benjamin Bratton has pointed out, is not that we see the mirrored tower and act accordingly, but instead that we know that we are being watched, and still somehow manage to behave is if we aren’t. Perhaps instead of chilling, we are seeing some sort of communicative warming. 7
gence of big data, Gilles Deleuze (1992) famously wrote that “Individuals have become ‘dividuals,’ and masses, samples, data, markets, or ‘banks’” (5; emphasis in original). Under the pallium, the snowbanks of dividuals’ data have become so prohibitively large that they preclude any meaningful surveillance of worthwhile targets. A standard response by defenders of the Five Eyes surveillance dragnet is that some level of surveillance is always necessary, but even if this was the case, Edward Snowden’s revelations have revealed that they are, indeed, snowed in. The surveillance apparatus’s posture of collect it all only serves to fog its lenses, and obscure real plots that could potentially be concocted and orchestrated by extremists. The pallium’s agenda is to obscure any perspective other than that of neoliberal capitalist realism, through commercial and government surveillance and the use of these technologies in prediction and preemption. In the process of the pallium’s atmospheric accumulation, palliative cloud-seeding inevitably occurs, but it is also where collective data-fictions can take place, through exploiting automated predictive analytic tools by pandering to their algorithms. Cirrus It may well be doubted whether human ingenuity can construct an enigma of the kind which human ingenuity may not, by proper application, resolve. — Edgar Allen Poe, The Gold Bug
Both the cloud and clouds exhibit contradictory elements: Though meteorological events often arrive in the destructive form of a cyclone or hurricane, they also play a vital role in nurturing the earth’s flora and fauna. Similarly, the very same protocols that are used to monetize our everyday communications are what helped mobilize Occupy, the Arab Spring, and other major protest movements. Just as humans rely on clouds to engender fecundity, but are also subject to their destruction, the panopticonic pallium is what Bernard Stiegler calls a pharmakon: a medicine that can function as both poison and cure. Even with the omnipresent shadow of government surveillance and financialization over the digital spaces in which we interact, the cloud also presents the option of obfuscation from these forces. Satellite imagery is useless when there happens to be 100% cloud cover, so human operators are forced to conduct more conspicuous forms of surveillance. Though police departments now have the ability to track the movements of entire cities in real time, as noted by Eyal Weizman in a recent lecture (2014), privacy laws still require a level of pixelation so that human subjects remain indistinguishable to satellite surveillants. Like the helicopters that fly day and night over my house in Los Angeles, human operators must conduct more obvious forms of
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surveillance in order to procure higher resolution images than those available in satellite imagery. This too, however, has its dark side. Weizman outlines the use of delayed-fuse Viper missiles in U.S. targeted drone strikes, producing miniscule (150 cm²) “drone holes,” that are invisible to the satellite image. These murderous acts “hide within the pixel” of the digital image (Weizman 2014). Opponents of oppressive orders also have the ability to shroud their dissenting disclosures within the digital image. A demonstration of this steganographic capability can be found on China’s version of Twitter, Sina Weibo. Algorithms are programmed to automatically detect and delete dispatches tagged as disruptive, but human censors are required to probe the popular microblogging service to find images deemed unacceptable by the ruling regime. Images are imperceptible to the censorship algorithm, so employing the machine-unreadable .jpg format to broadcast messages was quickly realized to be a useful strategy for activists and dissidents. The non-profit independent news agency ProPublica has collected some of this inflammatory imagery, the majority falling under the category of “political speech.” Though many of the images are visibly politically sensitive—most prominently, the unnamed man that confronted the tanks invading Tiananmen Square in 19898 —many of the images are actually text-based, only masquerading as imagery in order to avoid algorithmic censorship. The trap of panopticonic visibility can be thwarted by exploiting its automatic functioning. When human perception is needed to police the pallium, the panopticon is flattened by the digital image. A major contributor to this levelling of the panopticon is the increasing omnipresence of mobile cameras. Despite the amount of research exploring the effects of cameras on human behavior, scant investigation has been conducted into the panopticonic impact of this most prevalent type of recording devices. This was the context in which a compelling example arose, surprisingly, at the police department of the Californian city of Rialto. A pilot project of reverse-panopticonic surveillance in 2013 required half of the department’s officers to be randomly assigned miniature body-worn surveillance cameras, which would start recording thirty seconds before, and terminate thirty seconds after an interaction with a civilian. The results were remarkable: even with only half of the Rialto police department’s 54 officers wearing cameras, they resorted to using force nearly 60% less often. Correspondingly, the overall reduction in the number of complaints filed against officers was so large as to be immeasurable (Farrar 2013). Vast asymmetry in power, force, and authority is the main cause of exploitation, erosion and extinction of the human family and the ecosystems, of which mass surveillance and Tiananmen translates, literally, to “Gate of Peaceful Skies,” in another unwitting allusion to the “blue sky days” that terrify Zubair Rehman and other victims of drone attacks. 8
drone strikes are sample symptoms. Especially in situations like these, the pallium offers to individuals the ability to flatten the panopticon, by turning its inescapable gaze on those with the potential to exploit their position of power. In the current climate, the walled gardens of the contemporary web are quickly becoming fortresses. Online communities emerge through complex ecosystems of socially-generated value; of relationships and contribution. In file sharing communities, a seed refers to a machine possessing some part of the data. A peer only becomes a seed by sharing content. Every one of the now-dominant platforms on which these interactions occur—Facebook, Twitter, and so forth—only initially grew from seed as an organic grassroots effort. This metaphor corresponds to the techno-utopian walled garden, redolent of the surroundings of Silicon Valley; an idyllic fantasy of surging rivers flowing into lush valleys, with profits raining from plush cumulus clouds. AstroTurfing, in contrast, is a practice intended to give credibility to messages or organizations by obscuring the financial interests behind a message. Industrially-produced AstroTurf needs no seeds—the blades are inorganic polypropylene, rubber, and silicone. This vision is more realistic: Silicon leaking downstream, into the AstroTurf lawns of drought-affected citizens, presided over by the portentous shadow of the pallium. Are the seeds of online communities nurtured by the imminent precipitation of the cloud? Can they “tear a hole in the grey curtain of reaction which [marks] the horizons of possibility” under the pallium (Fisher 2009, 81)? Or in the current climate, can only AstroTurf survive? In the aforementioned JTRIG presentation, after outlining the vulnerabilities in the OCEAN of individual communications, the question “Can I game this?” appears in a playfully menacing image of a black cloud. Opponents of the surveillance state should be asking the same question. The political value of tricking the machine to reach the human is clear, especially when the pallium of digital surveillance precludes the existence of any meaningful public sphere. Through masquerading, falsifying, and hiding in plain sight, it becomes possible to sustain vital elements of a democratic society, even with the omnipresence of the pallium above.
mrof- A RAP - ni Works Cited Brenner, Molly. 2013. "Is the ‘Chilling Effect’ Real?" New Republic, May 15. Accessed June 29, 2014. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113219/doj-seizure-ap-records-raises-questionchilling-effect-real. Deleuze, Gilles. 1992. "Postscript on the Societies of Control," October 59: 3-7. Farrar, Tony. 2013. "Self-Awareness to Being Watched and Socially Desirable Behavior: A Field Experiment on the Effect of Body-Worn Cameras on Police Use-of-Force." March. http://www. policefoundation.org/sites/g/files/g798246/f/201303/The%20Effect%20of%20Body-Worn%20 Cameras%20on%20Police%20Use-of-Force.pdf. Fisher, Mark. 2009. Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?. Winchester, UK: Zero Books. Foucault, Michel, and Alan Sheridan. 1977. "Panopticism." In Discipline and Punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage Books. Google, Inc. 2006. "Search Engine Strategies Conference: Conversation with Eric Schmidt hosted by Danny Sullivan." Last modified August 9, 2006. http://www.google.com/press/podium/ ses2006.html. Google, Inc. "2013 Annual Report." https://investor.google.com/pdf/20131231_google_10K.pdf Government Communications Headquarters and Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group. FullSpectrum Cyber Effects. By [names redacted]. Leaked by Edward Snowden. Published by Glenn Greenwald, Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Mark Schone and NBC News. February 7, 2014. http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/snowden_cyber_offensive2_nbc_ document.pdf. Government Communications Headquarters and Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group. The Art of Deception. By JTRIG Head of Human Science [name redacted], Human Science Operations Cell. Leaked by Edward Snowden. Published by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and The Intercept. February 24, 2014. https://firstlook.org/theintercept/document/2014/02/24/artdeception-training-\new-generation-online-covert-operations/. Greenwald, Glenn. 2014. No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. surveillance state. New York: Metropolitan Books. MacAskill, Ewen, Julian Borger, Nick Hopkins, Nick Davies, and James Ball. 2013. "GCHQ taps fibreoptic cables for secret access to world's communications." The Guardian, June 21. http://www. theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/21/gchq-cables-secret-world-communications-nsa. Marthews, Alex, and Catherine Tucker. 2014. "Government Surveillance and Internet Search Behavior." March 24. Accessed June 29, 2014. http://ssrn.com/abstract=2412564. Marx, Karl, and Ernest Mandel. 1981. "Historical Data Concerning Merchants’ Capital."In Capital: a critique of political economy. Vol. 3. London: Penguin in association with New Left Review. Marx, Karl, and Ernest Mandel. 1990. "The General Formula for Capital." In Capital: a critique of political economy. Vol. 1. London: Penguin in association with New Left Review. McCann Erickson. April 2012. "The Truth About Privacy." http://truthcentral.mccann.com/wpcontent/uploads/2012/04/McCann_Truth_about_Privacy.pdf PEN American Center and The FDR Group. 2013. "Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor." November 12. http://www.pen.org/sites/default/files/Chilling%20 Effects_PEN%20American.pdf. ProPublica. 2013. "Memory Hole: The Images Erased From Sina Weibo." ProPublica, November 14. https://projects.propublica.org/weibo/. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology. 2011. The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing: Recommendations of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. By Peter Mell and Timothy Grance. NIST Special Publication 800-145. Gaithersburg, M.D.: Computer Security Divison. Van Houtryve, Tomas. 2014. "Blue Sky Days." Harper's Magazine, April. Weizman, Eyal. 2014. Keynote speech, THE ANTHROPOCENE PROJECT | FORENSIS. Berlin, March 15. http://hkw.de/en/app/mediathek/video/26362. Yadron, Danny, Kate Linbaugh, and Jessica E Lessin. 2013. "Apple Avoided Taxes on Overseas Billions, Senate Panel Finds." The Wall Street Journal, May 20. http://online.wsj.com/news/ articles/SB10001424127887324787004578495250424727708.
How to Cite a Leaked Document
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59 How to Cite a Leaked Document: a Valencia Style and Citation Guide
When in the course of (non/in)human(e) events we find ourselves beset by an anxious criticality that we can only feel—a criticality we are unable to “think” or even gesture towards within the perceived boundaries of our human-to-human language (H2H)—we might, in reaction, generatively beg the same question that Hannah Arendt so aptly intoned at the mid-point of our last, and most paradoxical, century: that we may very well “move in a world where speech has lost its power”.1 Presently befogged by an Orwellian filigree woven by the 0’s and 1’s of Big Data, and the seemingly omnipresent exhaust of an “unmanned” drone fleet whirring-from-above, actionable political discourses have grown increasingly difficult to imagine, as their edges are ever blurred and surveilled by, and through, shifting shades of militant grays—laptop gray and battleship gray and drone gray and “In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.” Even the founder of the “New Aesthetic,”2 artist James Bridle, went so far as to characterize the epochal drone as “an emanation of the network itself—not just a surveillance platform, but a dark mirror.”3 So, in the face of this dark mirror, presumably mundane tasks once taken for granted—for example, the simple citation and style procedures we have followed while writing cogent academic papers—are made all the more evasive and perplexing. However, I am not referencing pagination, typeface, or government-induced-self-censorship, specifically. Within our globalized network, wherein anonymity, the public and the private, institutional transparency, and traditional geopolitical structures are eroding, enmeshed, and embattled, my concerns surround issues of spatiality and of authorship. As we communicate, consume, create and, most ominously, kill from previously unquantifiable distances, I am left with a simple question: how do you cite a leaked document? How might we construct a causal map of greater complexity befitting the network in which we all now reside, something simultaneously textual and para-textual?
Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1958. 4. Print. Van Houtryve, Tomas. “Blue Sky Days.” Harpers Magazine. N.p., Apr. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. <http://harpers.org/archive/2014/04/blue-sky-days/>. 3 Blum, Andrew. “Children of the Drone.” VanityFair.com. Vanity Fair, 12 June 2013. Web. <http:// www.vanityfair.com/culture/2013/06/new-aesthetic-james-bridle-drones>. 1 2
How do you cite a leaked document?
Method of citation 1. Title of document 2. Form (ie. leaked document) 3. Timestamp of leak: Date, time, time zone 4. Coordinates of location of leak (if available) 5. Page numbers referenced 6. Date accessed 7. URL Annotation In addition to specific information pertaining to one’s use or reference of a leaked document, the annotation must include the following information, if available: -Leakers of document -Persons who comprise the form of document (ie. if document is a transcribed conversation, list persons in conversation) -Source/website document originally leaked on (ie. if document was originally leaked on Wikileaks and therefore does not have coordinates available, list the website the document was originally leaked on) Example “Somalget.” Leaked Document. May 19, 2014, 8:43 PM EDT. Pgs 1-2. Accessed June 11, 2014. https://firstlook.org/ theintercept/document/2014/05/19/somalget-memo/ Glenn Greenwald originally obtained this document from Edward Snowden during a private meeting in a hotel room in Hong Kong. Snowden placed the document in Greenwald’s possession using a zip drive. Greenwald then leaked the document to the public through The Intercept's website: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/.