Here Comes Everybody Noura Al-Salem | Li Li Chung | Natalia Cifuentes Friedman | Charlotte Cirillo | Marianna Hovhannisyan | Suzie Jones | Vivi Kallinikou | Emma Massoud | K. C. Messina | Ximena Moreno | Edward Sanderson | Urok Shirhan | Benjamin W. Tippin | Franziska Wildfรถrster | Yuqiong Xu | Tutor | Louis Moreno |
Geographies Collaborative Project 2013-2014
Table of Contents
Gatherings Edward Sanderson
On Squatting Othering Spaces
K.C. Messina 31–35
An Alternate World Photography in Time of Domination
Natalia Cifuentes Friedman 37–45
Producing a Radical Everybody Against the Temptation of Populism
Benjamin W. Tippin 47–50
The Hobo Code Fieldwork in an Alternative Market Guide for the London Property Buyer
Noura Al-Salem 5
Here Comes the Liquid Body Charlotte Cirillo and Suzie Jones
[Il]legal Bodies A Personal Genealogy of Citizenship
Urok Shirhan 75–85
Dog Ta(i)les Marianna Hovhannisyan
Referendum Rethinking the Rules
Ximena Moreno 105–114 Here comes everybody... ...from the f*@*ing plane
Emma Massoud and Li Li Chung 117–123 Ain’t no body What Amazon Turk Teaches Us About Politics of the Body and Digitalisation
Franziska Wildförster 125–135 Action, Intervention and Daily Deployment Reflection on a research project on protest practices and their visual representation
Vivi Kallinikou and AIDD Collective 137–146 Bishan Project Here Comes Everybody
Yuqiong Xu 149–150 Acknowledgements 6
Here Comes Everybody is a collection of critical studies and responses composed by the 2014 Geographies group of the Visual Cultures Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. Our wideranging concerns converge upon our contemporary moment. This moment, characterised by a feeling of perpetual crisis and state of emergency, exists post 2008, after the Global Financial Crisis, the presence of which was felt throughout the fabric and ordinary experience of daily life. Stemming from recent, globally dispersed irruptions of collective struggle, we aim to articulate the pressing demand for a reconsideration of body-potentiality that might challenge and overcome the social and spatial contradictions of and within global capitalism. We adopt a complex interdisciplinary approach to address the emerging set of textures and gestures within the urban landscape (the site at which many of these contradictions emerge). 9
Now, we position ourselves amongst the residue of these things; a disarticulated body that seeks to find itself. This position offers new critical perspectives from which we—as artists, curators, cultural practitioners, and academics—might engage, in order to reveal and politicize the social field. We are no longer able to work solely within our disciplines. Indeed, singular disciplines are ceasing to be effective, without engaging laterally. Our research, across specializations and concerns, within the fields of globalization and visual culture, must be informed by our entanglements. For, at a time when to be “thin on the ground” is no longer a temporary state of emergency, but rather a constant state of being, we must reassess what it means for our bodies to form. Taking our cue from the political and social possibilities propositioned by the idiom coined by James Joyce, ‘Here Comes Everybody,’ the works in this anthology seek to understand what constitutes the body (as an individual or socio-political entity), and its capabilities, in this way evoking Gilles Deleuze’s reading of Spinoza’s philosophy as posing the question ‘what can a body do?’1. We ask ourselves: what is the nature of the body? How do we form bodies? And what can our myriad bodies do? For the political theorist Andy Merrifield (2013), this phrase describes the ontology of collectivity: a constituency which is, as Joyce says, a “pattern mind” (2012, p.70), “more mob than man” (2012, p.266) and an “imposing everybody…and magnificently well worthy of any and all such universalisation” (2012, p.32). As the urban, globalized citizen has been transformed into one of new global resistance, we ask what it means to resist now? Understanding infrastructure as something that is omnipresent and inevitable, our works hope to offer new positions and actions which we might take in relation to them. We explore diverse tactics—from Giorgio Agamben’s ‘potentiality to not-be,’ to infiltrating liquids and ‘straying’—to consider how the body can be a catalyst for change within the status quo; a collective change that does not necessitate a tent and an ‘activist’ aesthetic. 10
Many of the works in this project take on a distinctly urban spin. Henri Lefebvre and David Harvey’s influence on our early thoughts asked that we continue to examine ourselves as citizens, and consider the ways in which urban infrastructures constitute, and are constituted by, social relations. Our research areas have included architecture, urbanism, literature, film and the visual arts. Through reading Michel Foucault and Agamben, our work also seeks to develop an understanding of the ‘apparatus’ in which the body is enfolded; Foucault’s heterogeneous ensemble presents itself in these works via the London housing market, the immigration system and the implementation of the online labourer in the expanding global economy, to name but a few. This collection of works attempts to stimulate criticality around those apparatus that are a part of everyday lived experience, but that have become increasingly de-socialised. As neoliberalism renders these apparatus increasingly invisible, yet supra-global, how do we grapple with loss of agency? Our thoughts seek to uncover and understand these apparatus, and posit strategies through which we may ‘re-socialise’ it. Each of these studies allude to the recent problems of globalization that are disseminated through social and cultural landscapes. Our concerns emerge from the contradictions of global space that materialize in the social; we access these problems through an analysis of the varying degrees of spatial composition, from a molecular to a global level. We attempt this through a collection that might be considered a thought experiment, a speculative assemblage, or a theoretical mapping. This project encompasses a close examination of what every body can do—politically, aesthetically, actually and hypothetically—in order to tap into the potential of contemporary “everybodyness”. We feel the use of ‘Here Comes Everybody’ points to the confidence we have developed, as a group, in the essential role of sociality in recognising and constructing realities that serve needs rather than interests. 11
Notes 1. As drawn by Gilles Deleuze in his essay “What Can a Body Do?” (1990), in Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, New York: Zone Books. Works Cited Agamben, G. (2009) What is an apparatus?. 1st ed. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. Foucault, M. (1980) Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–77. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books. (See in particular ‘The Confession of the Flesh’ [interview, 1977]). Joyce J. (2012) Finnegans Wake. London: Oxford University Press Lefebvre, H. and Nicholson-Smith, D. (1991) The Production of Space. 1st ed. Oxford: Blackwell. Merrifield A. (2013) ‘Here Comes Everybody: Joyce’s Urban Chaosmos’ http://antipodefoundation.org/2013/12/18/here-comes-everybody/ [Accessed May 16 2014].
Gatherings Edward Sanderson
[Letâ€™s imagine that this text has been written by someone living and working in China. This text is destined to be emailed through a network, and printed by a printer, located in that country. In that situation certain restrictions must apply.] There is a popular pedestrianized shopping street in the capital city of this country. The pedestrian street is full of people. People are in police uniforms. People are in plain clothes. People are journalists, camera operators and presenters, recording pieces for news programmes. People are workers performing street maintenance. One or two other people have flowers. Some others order a particular set meal in an American fast-food restaurant on one side of the road. There may or may not be some other people. Today, the workers have hastily dug up the street outside the restaurant such that people cannot easily walk through the area. Small cleaning trucks are traveling up and down the other side of the street spraying water on the road. It is too wet for people to walk there. Another set of people is comprised of what appear to be tourists and shoppers. The street is close to the centre of the 15
city. The centre of city is the location of the centre of government. The city plan is designed around this centre, although the plan predates this particular government. The centre holds the highest religious and secular significance. Prior registration of organised gatherings of people must be submitted and approved by the local public security bureau. Informal gatherings of people will be broken up if such an action is deemed necessary. A few days earlier, an anonymous call was published on a website hosted in another country calling for people to go for a walk in various places in various cities. Websites hosted on servers in other countries load more slowly for people inside the country than those hosted internally. Some websites are inaccessible. Social media is popular, however not all messages can be posted to social media. It might appear to the writer that their message has been posted to social media, yet they are the only people for whom it is visible. This can be predictable. And unpredictable. There is a ritual to access inaccessible websites. Rituals must be renewed periodically. Slowness, indirection, and rituals are subtle mechanisms. These subtle mechanisms affect the choices that are made and present them as if they are natural. Companies are responsible to the state. Relevant companies hold near real-time GPS information from mobile phones. The people hold mobile phones. People in the street are mapped by GPS signals. In one of the short texts published in his book The Coming Community, Giorgio Agamben responds to events that took place in China in 1989. This is one a series of expositions that Agamben has made on the nature of potentiality, or (as he refers to it in this text) the “potentiality to not-be.“ He suggests that potentiality still expects an object for an act, or a “determinate activity”, and so must be distinguished from this “potentiality to not-be.” Such a problematizing of the place of an object for an act is also raised in Agamben’s notion of the “means without an end” (addressed in the titular book) as a way to approach politics from the place of a pre-political activity. Agamben suggests that this focus on the prepolitical of an activity (characterised as the gest, or “gesture” by Agamben) leads to these actions being unable to be subsumed into 16
the state apparatus, where they would lose any possibility of being transformative. It is possible to see this “potentiality to not-be” as still evident in events 25 years later. Agamben sees the State struggling against the non-State, the latter being labelled as “humanity” or the “whatever singularity” which is made much of in this context. Whatever singularity, which wants to appropriate belonging itself, its own being-in-language, and thus rejects all identity and every condition of belonging, is the principal enemy of the State. Wherever these singularities peacefully demonstrate their being in common there will be a Tiananmen, and, sooner or later, the tanks will appear. (Agamben, 1993, p. 87)
Well, there were no tanks this time, only water trucks (society has progressed). If, as Henri Lefebvre says, “social space is socially constructed” what space is the space of this “not-be”? If, as Agamben says, this is radically non-identifiable, what kind of community is this, and how can a social space be constructed by it? Is social space even necessary? It is not certain that people appeared. It might be said that the visible reaction of the state apparatus to the threat of appearance made it difficult for the appearance to manifest itself. This was, perhaps, intentional and in itself significant. What does this mean? What kind of spanner is being thrown into the works, and what kind of result is expected? Maybe none at all, and it is merely the potential for the action to take place that is important. This would seem to fit with Agamben’s argument but begs the same question, “what then?” Is this the utopia that Fredric Jameson sees as a systemic otherness that “clearly” does not lead to “a new and effective practical politics for the era of globalization”, as a result of “the obligation for Utopia to remain an unrealizable fantasy”? Nevertheless without such a utopian impulse there will never be such a politics at all and it is the “disruption” these possible futures insinuate that provides the possibility for the present. (Jameson, 2004) 17
Credits and captions redacted at the authorâ€™s request.
While I am hesitant to make any claims that art can step in and provide a solution to the impasse between visibility and effectivity, I will note that Jacques Rancière sees a certain “political art” as holding a possibility: Suitable political art would ensure, at one and the same time, the production of a double effect: the readability of a political signification and a sensible or perceptual shock caused, conversely, by the uncanny, by that which resists signification. (Rancière, 2004, p. 63)
I believe this is not a naïve “political art”, in the sense of a practice that comes from outside and tries to engage with an issue or situation, but is a practice that is engendered by the situation itself and acts in concert with the given circumstances; it becomes political by virtue of what it does.1 These particular aspects are the ways in which political effectivity takes place. Or, as artist Hito Steyerl puts it, 19
“A standard way of relating politics to art assumes that art represents political issues in one way or another. But there is a much more interesting perspective: the politics of the field of art as a place of work. Simply look at what it does—not what it shows.” (Steyerl, 2010)
Perhaps it is this that is important: that the practice (not the work) is produced as if by the situation. There is then only a (nonspecific) potentiality that there will be a (non-specific) effect, a radically “open” and “relevant” effectivity that must bide its time and await its moment. This “strolling” serves as a form of maintenance of that state of expectation that looks forward to a resolution as futurepossible. Notes 1. Thanks to Elaine W. Ho for this insight. Works Cited Agamben, G. (1993). “Tiananmen.” In The Coming Community (M. Hardt, Trans., pp. 85–87). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Jameson, F. (2004). “The Politics of Utopia.” New Left Review (25), 35–54. Rancière, J. (2004). “The Janus-Face of Politicized Art: Jacques Rancière in Interview with Gabriel Rockhill.” In The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible (G. Rockhill, Trans., pp. 49–66). London: Continuum. Steyerl, H. (2010). “Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to PostDemocracy.” e-flux Journal.
On Squatting Othering Spaces K.C. Messina
Asses, swine, have litter spread And with fitting food are fed; All things have a home but one â€“ Thou, Oh, Englishman, hast none!1 Although the home should serve to fulfill basic human needs, the commodification of housing has denied us of this human right. Most of my early experiences involved an unbroken sense of stability that remained sealed within the rooms and secured behind the doors of a house. Unfortunately, this perspective is considered one of privilege. Anything beyond those walls could not guarantee the same element of certainty, for better or for worse. In that sense, the roof over my head established a foundation for my entire concept of reality. In more recent years, doors no longer seem to offer the same sense of security; now, buildings confront 23
the urban body—our urban bodies—with opposition. The following article begins an attempt to better understand the precariousness of urbanity when the physical and social landscapes increasingly create disseminated spaces of exclusion. As doors come into existence to keep us out, how and where do we begin to form inclusive communities that sterilize and reverse the production of greater inequality? S144 LAPSO – Dishonorable criminal! Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (2012) made squatting in residential buildings a criminal offense throughout England and Wales. Enacted to tip the scales in favor of property rights, the law effectively renders “squatters’ rights” null-and-void. Where “squatters’ rights”2 signs previously deterred authorities from using force against property or individuals within a property, S144 carves visible and violent lines into the borders of private ownership. In response to the 2012 law, Squatter’s Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) launched an investigation and subsequent campaign to repeal S144 on the grounds of its exploitative nature.3 Vulnerable social groups, including the homeless, have felt the most substantial effects of the law. Not only does S144 reinforce and increase social inequity by dispossessing the rights of subordinate social groups, but the law also encourages real estate speculators and landlords to leave buildings vacant. Beyond the logic of real estate markets, within the socio-political climate that leans evermore in favor of dominant social groups, the squat presents itself as a heterotopic space. As such, a reconsideration of the squat’s political relevance is crucial. “The history of the twentieth century is indissolubly linked to the epic struggle against capitalism…we are now certain, to the extent that such presumption is admissible in the study of history, that the revolution—the revolution against capital—failed.”4 “We need, then, to posit a peculiar suspension of the political in order 24
to describe the utopian moment: it is this suspension, this separation of the political—in all of its unchangeable immobility—from daily life…this externality that serves as the calm before the storm…that allows us to take hitherto unimaginable mental liberties with structures whose actual modification or abolition scarcely seem on the cards.”5
Creating ‘other places’: The political relevance of heterotopic space Utopian thought entails an experimental break with the totalizing structures of capital. Whilst utopian experiments exist in conceptual thought, heterotopias hold a substantive material role in what Jameson observed as the ‘peculiar suspension of the political.’ Heterotopic space breathes life into the notion of utopia and so propels the embryonic stages of an equalizing force. Michel Foucault and Henri Lefebvre elaborate on the concept of heterotopia in two distinct ways that underscore the value of movements such as squatting. In the essay Of Other Spaces, Foucault defined heterotopias as: “…counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality.”6
These lived utopias exist as the “other spaces” within everyday life, unlike utopian non-spaces that occupy an entirely transposed reality. Not only does the heterotopia generate spatial difference in a given reality, but it also retains a distinctive temporality, thereby opening various ‘heterochronies.’7 As such, a heterotopia remains suspended at an intersection between traditional experiences of space and time. In this sense, squatting transforms an accepted, linear conduct—i.e. the succession of legal and moral grounds leading to the 2012 law protecting real estate— into a questioned logic through the creation of heterotopic space. Differing from Foucault’s notion of heterotopia, Lefebvre’s theory adopted a vital revolutionary tone. David Harvey 25
encapsulates Lefebvre’s theoretical formulation of a radical political moment as the instance “when disparate heterotopic groups suddenly see, if only for a fleeting moment, the possibilities of collective action to create something radically different.”8 According to this notion, the capacity for the heterotopia to produce radical change relies on two conditions: a transformation from militancy to logic, and connecting the autonomous senses of reality between the disparate marginalized groups. Opportunities for liberation occur when the self-contained spaces realize a potential to collectively break the conditions which initially forced our bodies into heterotopic peripheries. We do not want to leave your house We do not want to smash the stove We want to put the pot on the stove House, stove and pot can stay9
Romek A Z K Griffiths ‘Do it yourself electricity’ 13/03/2012 Deptford, London. Image: Courtesy of R. Griffiths.
Squatting not only provides a practical solution for immediate human needs, but the re-use of vacant and abandoned properties also opens the possibility of transforming urban social relations. “When Housing is a Luxury, Squatting is a Necessity.” This motto, embraced by the squatters network Squattastic, calls into question the ways that heterotopic squatting communities resolve themselves as politic.10 One the one hand, the occupation of empty residential and non-residential sites exposes an element of spatial contradiction produced in contemporary capitalism, alluding to the housing crisis that is symptomatic of its failure. Many organized movements aim to prioritize housing as a human right. In these cases, the act of squatting provides a material critique of individual property claims that result in dispossession of common land. On the other hand, the act of squatting manifests ulterior systemic desires, which inherently pose challenges to the logic of private real estate mentioned above. Within these urban heterotopias, squatters deny the restraints of institutional decision-making and so create the ability to plant radical seeds of social, political, and economic transformation through the establishment and practice of counter-logic. On the margins of real social space, squatters refuse to accept and comply with acts of reform. This is evident in the continued pursuit of alternative inhabitation through squatting despite the recent laws that criminalize trespassing, but that do little to alleviate the conditions that lead one to squat in the first place. Social and political norms claim to work in favor of fairness and equality through democracy; however, these policies operate under the guise of a diluted interest in human welfare that re-enforces and re-produces the neoliberal logic of privatization, or loosely what Harvey termed “accumulation by dispossession.” Disruptive strategies that generate fluid heterotopic configurations – i.e. mutable physical spaces that adapt according to particular cultural and/or historical necessities – provide a tangible break from the centralizing principles supported and reinforced by dominant social groups in the hegemonic order.
Enclosure is a temporary political means to pursue a common political end.11 How can the local principles of squatting “jump scales” for integration into wider socio-political goals? As much as the logic of squatting is predicated on an opening of common land to supplement human rights, heterotopias only exist in a localized enclosure. Squatted enclaves function as semi-autonomous units with a strength in constructing intelligible systems of equality on two levels. Firstly, the squat magnifies a local utopian impulse that illuminates the consequences stemming from concentrations of wealth and power, regardless of geographical location. Squatter communities in Brazil, for example, reflect unequal economic conditions on a different scale than in the UK, yet both geographic examples find the creation of urban centers and peripheries that position squatter communities against mainstream modes of inhabitation. On another level, the enclosure provides a platform for the conception of wider, more enduring goals. Although squatted spaces allude to a potential for greater social equality, they remain contained within the hegemonic structure; therefore, despite finding unique expression through a suspension of the political, squats and squatters remain in an antagonistic dialogue with the “legitimate” order. To collectively extract from the mechanisms of the market entails a solution that does not lead to reintegration. Thus, as it stands, the relationship between suspended spaces of disruption and spaces of capital reveals a weakness in the autonomous politic of the squat that, in its very principle of existence, seeks to shatter reform and produce substantial change. Additional Information: Advisory Service for Squatters: http://www.squatter.org.uk People Before Profit: http://peoplebeforeprofit.org.uk/what-we-are-doing/housing Spatial Agency: http://www.spatialagency.net 28
Notes 1. Excerpt from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Mask of Anarchy (1819). 2. First established in Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. 3. A full summary of the report can be found on www.squashcampaign.org. 4. Sassoon, D. (1996) One Hundred Years of Socialism. London: Harper Collins. p.756. 5. Jameson, F. (2004) “The Politics of Utopia.” In New Left Review, 25 (Jan/Feb). p.45. 6. Foucault, M. (1984) “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias.” Translated by Miskowiec, J. In Architecture/Mouvement/Continuite (October). pp.3–4. 7. Ibid., p.6. 8. Harvey, D. (2012) Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. London: Verso. p.xvii. 9. Excerpt from Berthold Brecht’s Ten Poems from a Reader from Those who Live in Cities (1926–1927). 10. For more information on Squattastic and squat-related links, visit http://squattastic.blogspot.co.uk 11. Harvey, op.cit., p.79. Works Cited Foucault, M. (1984) “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias.” Translated by Miskowiec, J. In Architecture/Mouvement/Continuite (October). Harvey, D. (2012) Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. London: Verso. Jameson, F. (2004) “The Politics of Utopia.” In New Left Review, 25 (Jan/Feb). Sassoon, D. (1996) One Hundred Years of Socialism. London: Harper Collins.
An Alternate World Photography in Time of Domination Natalia Cifuentes Friedman
It seems that the inhabitants of the world cannot escape time. Time gives us a structure and a measurement system. All of our daily activities are marked with a number that enounces an activity. So what is time today? Does the apparatus control all our movements? Are there other possibilities? Jacques Rancière stresses, in “In What Time Do We Live?”, that there is a “time of domination”. This time is established through the institutions that we unavoidably have to be part of in order to be a citizen of the estate. The “time of domination” determines what is possible and what is not.1 Work, education, wealth fare, social security, leisure, traveling and personal relationships all work for global capital and for a distribution of capacities. However, we can escape the established time. Rancière posits that there is a diversion of the global and dominate time, a time that creates a new world inside the apparatus. This new times separates people and their capacities. Work is not only from 9am to 5pm. In this new time there are strikes, immigrants, refugees, unemployment, and war. 31
Source: Oscar L贸pez
Source: David A. Smith
Source: Baher Kamal
Source: Baher Kamal
Thereafter, I want to create an exercise exploring how far can we can go beyond the dominate time using machines that store instants of the “time of domination” and transform these instants into secondary possible times. Rancière considers “… little machines or dispositifs that construct other possibilities of looking at the present, at a remove from both the unanimist convergence of times and the critical construction of their divergence.”2 Hence, photography is a machine that can produce a different time, and thus, my instrument to create this exercise. I want to recreate a daily life in images. I am aware that daily activities are controlled by this domination; nevertheless the reflection of static images does not form part of the global mechanism. 34
It is something that stands out of time and creates a new awareness of our own freedom within time. With the help of my images and images from the media, I will create a state that questions time and our relationship with it. As Rancière postulates, global time has created a world of individualism. Thus we can only outflow the domination in our capacity of individuals. The images demonstrate a different time by shooting the global and reflecting how can it be changed. There is the possibility of altering our current, individual states and constructing an alternate time through public events that question the system (strikes, immigration, etc.). The contrast between them will engage the viewer’s doubts and mentally exercise their current relation with time, today and throughout their life. Notes 1. Rancière, J. (2012) “In What Time Do We Live?”, in The State of Things, eds. Marta Kuzma, Pablo Lafuente, Peter Osborne, Cologne: Walther Koening, p.20. 2. Ibid., p.34. All images courtesy of the author, except where stated otherwise.
Producing a Radical Everybody Against the Temptation of Populism Benjamin W. Tippin
The production and exercise of radical political subjectivity is necessary for the further development of humanity, for the further development of our current stage of capitalism, or the possibility of moving beyond it. Capitalism—all social production, really—requires challenges and competition in order for it to change and synthesize new modes of its existence. The lack of a radical challenge to the liberal mode of production—capital, social, or otherwise—is the most pressing urgency of contemporary capitalism. The inherent tendencies of Capitalism toward decay and inherent contradictions necessitate constant movement in order to prevent absolute collapse. Without it, the crises produced by the innate structure of Capitalism overwhelm and consume society. What does it mean to be revolutionary in our era of extensive and entrenched capital that dominates systems that examine and produce political will? Can art exercise of revolutionary politic within these systems? How Does One Produce of Radical Agency? In order to answer these questions, we must explore what ‘revolutionary’ is. The revolutionary desire is the desire for radical 37
change to the social order and the sociopolitical structure. It is the production of a radical program that reproduces new structures that overthrow old systems of production. This is not simply limited to economic production, such as that of goods or currency, but, following the legacy of Marx, the political and the production of social relations as well. Thus, the revolutionary and radical act must abolish or assault the extant structures that produce the social, the self, and public space to replace them with radically different modalities. To be a radical expression, to be an act that strikes against the central discourse, it must destabilize, confront, and acknowledge the contradictions built into our contemporary mode and generate a coinciding agency that exemplifies revolutionary potential. Agency is the manifested product of the political self, the engagement of a will with the external world, and to function it must manifest within or against systems that produce the social. Its production creates a relation to systems of power and engagement; agency is the voice with social contract and hegemony. Radical agency must challenge these foundations of power relations without performing the roles set out by them. Following from Marx, real agency must be produced by collective political engagement. The individual, the autonomous self, must ally with others in order to maximize the product of its action. Political alliances, such as collective movements and collective action, are necessary for the production of radical agency. It is not enough to collectivise and produce an action, though. In order to truly be radical, the agency must produce a collective will that confronts and challenges the system that produces alienation and contradiction. Thus, drawing from Lenin’s critique of Left Communism, acts of retreat, such as squatting or the commune strategies of Anarchists and Left Communists, or exclusion, such as the production of heterotopias, cannot produce an agency that operates against the structures of society.1 The retreat into the production of hermetic spaces is the retreat into the imaginary space; it is, in Lenin’s words, an ‘infantile disorder’ of radical politics. 38
The spaces that these actions inhabit are, by definition, outside of society and non-hegemonic. These actions merely reproduce society and generate an illusion of agency that only exists within these spaces. This ‘agency’ is completely disconnected from an ability to effect actual social change. In keeping with these criteria, to generate a radical subjectivity, in order to establish a radical collective will that acts upon social production, the act or engagement must be visible and exert itself in an overt manner. It is through visibility and opposition that hegemonic agency is developed. This enchains radical desire to radical engagement. The desire to affect the structure of hegemony by the dissolution of hierarchy or demanding concessions is thus necessarily entangled with conversations of power. Separating Populism and the Radical While the production of collective and engaged will is the first step toward challenging and affecting Capital, collective, populist will is simply not enough. It must be radical. Populism, according to Ernesto Laclau, is the most distilled kernel of politic. For Laclau, populism is not a movement; it is the generation of a political entity, the ‘people,’ through democratic demands.2 These demands produce a ‘people’ as agent and voice and reduce all global tensions—the struggles and antagonisms on the Right, Left and Center—to centralized iterations of a global struggle characterized of ‘us against them’ whose membership is “not prescribed in advance but is, precisely, the stake of the struggle of hegemony.”3 Laclau utilizes this definition to insist on a neutrality of popular struggle; he wishes to distinguish popular struggle and hegemony from historical ‘class struggles.’ While he feels that ‘class struggle’ presupposes a privileged political agent/group, the contents of his populist struggles are couched in the contingencies developed in particular political struggles for hegemony.4 Slavoj Žižek, on the other hand, points out problems that arise from Laclau’s designations. Laclau’s ‘people’ cannot be a preexisting group. It, by definition, arises from the act of demanding and therefore does not continue to exist without active demands. 39
The ‘people’ have no real ties holding them together and must create external definitions and outsiders that define it. The ‘working class,’ on the other hand, is a preexisting social group, and the ‘proletariat’ is the revolutionary class consolidated by its collective awareness of its history and class-consciousness which empowers a collective radical subjectivity. The ‘proletariat’ is the expression of an empowered subjectivity, while the ‘people’ is an arbitrary set of demands. Laclau’s examination of populism seeks to explain both the revolutionary and destructive potentials of mass politic. He creates a theory of social political action in order to adequately describe the civil rights movements, fascism, and communism, all with the same system. The issues with this become apparent, Žižek points out, as populism requires both a reified antagonism and a constructed enemy for it to function—“The enemy is externalized or reified into a positive ontological enemy (even if the enemy is spectral), whose annihilation would restore balance and justice.”5 This enemy is an “intruder who corrupts” the system and is crucial to the establishment and unification of the political subject into a ‘people.’6 This subverts the revolutionary potential of populist action because the system itself is never culpable. For Marx, crises are the natural functions of Capitalism—as Žižek puts it, “the pathological is the symptom of the normal”—and the totalizing structure itself becomes the problem.7 The driving agent for change is not an external enemy, the rectification of the wrongs inflicted upon the system from the outside, but the ‘fundamental systemic violence of capitalism’ itself.8 Thus, populism displaces the antagonisms inherent to the flaws of the structure in favor of an antagonism between the ‘people’ and the other. This actively suppresses the production of radical social change; the ‘democratic demands’ become couched within the structure itself. Laclau’s democratic demands trap themselves. According to Žižek, the term ‘demand’ automatically creates a dynamic between the demander and a constructed “Other presupposed to be able to meet [them].”9 This populist subject, while possessing political agency, cannot be radical or revolutionary; the revolutionary position opposes the 40
structures of power, and its subjectivity is couched in its intention to destroy them. Thus a distinction between populism and radical politic must be created. The former is stuck within the system. While constituting hegemonic agency through a ‘people’ established by their demands on the system and able to affect some change, the ‘people’ are ultimately stuck within the prevailing sociopolitical structure demanding concessions from it instead of effecting systemic change. Revolutionary or radical mass politic on the other hand is led by ideology; its enemy is systemic; and, its goals are nothing less than a new social ordering. From this distinction, it becomes clear that a distinction must be drawn between the Occupy Movement that sprung up (mainly in the West) in late 2011 and the collective events comprising the Arab Spring which started in late 2010. The intricacies of the Arab Spring are beyond the scope of this article, but the political changes that emerged from the uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria stand in evidence of their radical natures. These were not Left-wing uprisings by any stretch of the imagination, but the emergent mass politic challenged the systems of power in place in these countries. The people attacked the structures of political power and the capacity of the system to reproduce this power. Standing in contrast to these events, the framework of Occupy centered on demands addressed to the extant systems of power: full employment, greater equality in the distribution of wealth, and the establishment of Robin Hood taxes (taxes targeting financial transactions). These demands established a clear, non-radical populism at the foundation of the movement. Occupy’s now famous slogan, “We are the 99%,” sets Occupy up in opposition against an implied, or sometimes explicit, “1%” which controls vastly disproportionate access to capital. Occupy established the “99%” as the defining universal political subject of their movement while establishing the “1%” as interloper corrupting the system. This 41
implies that the corruption destroying the economic and political systems is a product from outside of the system, not the system itself. Occupy is a bourgeois populist movement whose goals and methods, far from being anti-capitalist, sought to preserve the system and structures of Capitalism against incursions by predatory venture and financial capitalists. The anger at the excesses of Capital were turned against a perceived parasitic enemy with protesters demanding ‘those responsible’ be held accountable instead of the inequity built into the economic system itself; crisis and collapse are intrinsic fatal flaws in Capitalism that are inscribed into the reproductive processes of the system. The failure of Occupy was that it asked Capitalism to fix the problems with Capitalism. Through Occupy’s failure to produce a radical act, it failed to be the radical challenge needed to shift the course of history. Art and Radicality We have finally come to the question, “Can art be revolutionary politic within these systems?” To answer this, we must ask: can an art act be a political act, and if so, is it capable of being radical? The political emerges from social engagement. If the political can be considered a structure of social relations, the production of the social generates its structure; it generates politic. Art, then, is politic. The act of the art production is an act of social relation; the creation of art—object, image, performance, composition, or otherwise—is at the same time: a product and producer of political agency; a producer and product of libidinal political engagement; and, an exercising or expression of voice through both concrete and abstract discursive social dynamics. Art manifests biopolitical agency through artist-audience relations and through actions that challenge and render the space of relations. The twin roles of spectator and spectated exercise complex sociopolitical hierarchies that produce political exchange. The artwork—the art act made discrete—is, then, a political act, and the art producer is both a social role and the individual that enacts it. As we have explored earlier, the radical act must produce radical agency; it must engage and assault the normalizing 42
structures of society, the mechanisms of social totality. A radical act cannot merely demand concessions from the system in the form of reparation or conciliation. It must challenge the reproduction of the system itself. Graffiti is possibly one such practice. The authentic graffer10, as opposed to the street artists who produce work for the gallery, challenges the conventional production of space and produces political statements and alternatives to the norms. The act of incising, carving, and writing on walls, especially the walls of others, is a wildly political act that inscribes space and generates new perceptions of ownership and perceptions of materiality and public space. The sharing of this art through visibility in public space and unmediated generation of its audience extends the act and transforms the graffer’s engagement with the wall into the expression of the libidinal drive to mark or create and the expression of radical desire. Graffiti enchains this desire to spatial alternatives. As more mechanisms of social awareness and interaction migrate onto internet-based platforms, the spaces of political generation migrate as well. Cyberspace has adopted interactional qualities that public space traditionally generates, and artists like Tammam Azzam have taken advantage of this. Azzam’s Freedom Graffiti is a digital media piece, a manipulated photograph, depicting Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss superimposed over a bombed out, devastated building in Syria. It is part of a larger series, Syrian Museum that exposes the devastation of the Syrian Civil War upon the urban landscape, especially upon Syria’s cultural history. His work, especially Freedom Graffiti, made an impact online in early 2013 and led to the work being shown in London in December of 2013.11 Azzam claims that “it’s a different effect when you see any artwork face to face. For me, I prefer [the work in real life] because there are many details that you can’t see when you see it on a computer.” The real problem is not its presentation on screen. The need for the gallery to grant this work a ‘real life’ presence exclusivises it. The work, which previously existed as a kernel of protest shared from person to person and broadcast into cyberspace, now ‘exists’ in a gallery, a mediated space that controls the context of the work. 43
The gallery, in the contemporary art context, acts as an entity that exposes and validates art. The gallery system, along with the museum, is an entrenched system of commodity that reinforces its own position to sell and define art through its ability to validate. Mirroring the expansionary capitalist practices, galleries must constantly seek out new work, new artists, and new political agendas that they can trade upon in order to increase market share and customer draw. To this end, the system must attempt to engage, lead, or create the ‘political’ discourse in art rendering the radical act totemic, draining it of agency, and transforming it into an image of the ‘radical.’ The gallery becomes the space that fetishizes agency while alienating the agent through reification. In this way, the agency of art is reduced to commodity, and the gallery reproduces its own power. This position as gatekeeper of validation actively opposes the revolutionary artwork. Just as the radical act is an act that, by its very nature, does not require validation from the system it opposes, the radical artwork does not seek validation; it seeks change. By entering into the gallery system and passing into commodity, Freedom Graffiti has become yet another fetish object locked away from public space. The object in the gallery is rendered non-hegemonic and non-revolutionary; it cannot change the structure of dialogue or exchange. The agency Azzam constructed is now cycling within systems of exchange demanding recognition, validation, and concession from patrons, not the totality whose contradictions we can see in Syria. Not just Azzam’s style of work is enchained this way. Famous ‘street artists,’ such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey, have traded radical productions of space for the production of abstract commodity. Once traded, the commodification of an artist’s work denudes it of radical or revolutionary action no matter how political the piece or vocabulary. Instead, these works merely reproduce the mechanisms of capital. Extrapolating Žižek’s critique of populism, artworks benefiting from these systems, even those that criticize the institutions, inhibit their own radical potential. Galleries are spaces that maintain the illusion, the image, of radicality. Galleries and the artists and artworks 44
that strive to exploit their resources are stuck within the system of Capitalism, unable to affect the totality, and henceforth operate within the system’s inclination to grant concessions. They are stuck within the limits that we see in Laclau’s populism. Art, then, is a powerful political tool that can generate revolutionary subjectivity, but like all revolutionary subjectivity, art is susceptible to bourgeois opportunism that enchains it to Capital and aborts revolutionary acts. The artist is stuck performing the cultural role of ‘subversive’ artist without subversive capacity. Notes 1. See Lenin, V.I. (1940) Left-wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder: a popular essay in Marxian strategy and tactics. New translation. New York: International Publishers. 2. Žižek, S. (2007) “A Leninist Gesture Today: Against the Populist Temptation,” in Budgen, S., Kouvélakis, S., and Žižek, S. (eds.) Lenin Reloaded: Toward a Politics of Truth. Durham: Duke University Press. p.79. 3. Ibid., p.79. 4. Ibid., p.79–80. 5. Ibid., p.82. 6. Ibid., p.81. 7. Ibid., p.81. 8. Ibid., p.91. 9. Ibid., p.83. 10. Graffer is the colloquial term, the street term, for a tagger or graffiti artist. It is a term that I was taught by taggers in Los Angeles. 11. Azzam, T. via Nagesh, A. (2014) “Syrian Artist Behind Viral Kiss Image To Show In London.” Blouin Art Info. Available at: http://uk.blouinartinfo.com/news/ story/982068/syrian-artist-behind-viral-kiss-image-to-show-in-london (Accessed May 5, 2014). Works Cited Azzam, T. via Nagesh, A. (2014) “Syrian Artist Behind Viral Kiss Image To Show In London.” Blouin Art Info. Available at: http://uk.blouinartinfo.com/news/ story/982068/syrian-artist-behind-viral-kiss-image-to-show-in-london (Accessed May 5, 2014). Lenin, V.I. (1940) Left-wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder: a popular essay in Marxian strategy and tactics. New translation. New York: International Publishers. Žižek, S. (2007) “A Leninist Gesture Today: Against the Populist Temptation,” in Budgen, S., Kouvélakis, S., and Žižek, S. (eds.) Lenin Reloaded: Toward a Politics of Truth. Durham: Duke University Press. 45
The Hobo Code Fieldwork in an Alternative Market Guide for the London Property Buyer Noura Al-Salem
April, 2014 – London, UK THE QUESTION What is the value of an apparatus? And perhaps more vitally, what value can be found in providing a counter measure to that apparatus? Giorgio Agamben posits that “Indeed, every apparatus implies a process of subjectification, without which it cannot function as an apparatus of governance, but is rather reduced to a mere exercise of violence.”1 According to Agamben, the supposed value of this subjectification is that the apparatus allows “living beings” to function as a society – to keep them a step removed from their primal desires in order for them to live and work together according to some sort of order. But what is to be done if the remove goes too far? If the apparatus is applied beyond its original purview? His assertion is that without rationalizing the apparatus as a mode of governance, it becomes instead an “exercise of violence.”2 Those that are charged with building apparatus must wholly understand the responsibility inherent in this act, so as to use it as an enabling force rather than one of “violent” repression. However, in the case of misuse, it is often in fact within 47
the apparatus itself that one can determine its antidote. Within every measure there lies the indication of a counter-measure. It is with the action of this counter apparatus that one can attempt to change the status quo, and if change is not possible, then at least render it transparent. THE PROBLEMATIC One such problematic to consider could be the ever-inflating housing market in the capital – where land has become commodity stock and prices inflate as indicators of market security rather than of actual value. Where much of the new building developments are sold off-market in foreign economies, and sizeable swaths of central London stand empty – houses being second, third, or even fourth homes for wealthy families. In many cases, property even remains unoccupied – a stable, physical asset in the manner of gold bullion or government bonds. In considering the determined refusal of the UK governing bodies to address this rapidly escalating issue, we once again turn to Agamben: “… capitalism and other modern forms of power seem to generalize and push to the extreme the processes of separation that define religion.”3 In this case, the religion he alludes to can be seen in the government’s unshakeable faith in the virtue of ever-increasing property values.
Graffiti: ‘Property is theft’. Source: Flickr, CC 2.0
Hobo Code. Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0
COUNTER-MEASURE Considering the structuring of an “anti” or “counter” apparatus is to understand it as what Giorgio Agamben designates a process of “profanation.” He states: “Profanation is the counter-apparatus that restores to common use what sacrifice had separated and divided.”4 In other words, a re-appropriation 48
(or perhaps reorientation) of the power afforded by the imposition of an apparatus. In fact, there are apparatuses that have only ever existed as a counter-measure, already operating as a mechanism of rupture. An example of just such an apparatus is the American Hobo Code – a series of predetermined symbols dating back to the 1880’s that were inscribed by transients on various buildings, posts, fences, railway lines and so on throughout towns, informing other itinerant travellers of what they could expect of the area. A cat symbolizes, “a kind-hearted lady lives here”; a cross means, “talk religion, get food”; crossed shovels indicate, “work available.” These symbols are radical in their usage as they represent a visual language not only for subversive communication outside the realm of concretized language, but also a language for those who were unable to read or write. In considering this counter-measure, I began to think how a similar system could be applied as a solution to a pressing contemporary issue. FIELDWORK Using the pre-existing structure of the Hobo Code, I begin by creating my own scheme of symbols. These symbols are then disseminated both by extensive flyering and via a website – www.londonhousingcode.co.uk, which displays a key to the different symbols:
Image: Courtesy of the author.
I then inscribe these physical marks directly onto various buildings all over London. My aim is that by indicating various aspects of the city’s housing market, the market itself loses its mystique. It becomes transparent and readable – an overlay of strategic information akin to Google Glass: the Londoner’s guide to the market that has disenfranchised them. In attempting to build a readable topography, I propose this question: Will the act of physically inscribing the condition of the London property market on the walls of this “commodity” perhaps stir those who are victims of Agamben’s “mere exercise of violence” to action??
Images: Courtesy of the author.
Notes 1. Agamben, G. (2009) “What is an Apparatus?” In What is an Apparatus? and Other Essays, Kishik, D. and Pedatella, S. (trans). Stanford: Stanford University Press. p.19. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 50
Here Comes the Liquid Body Charlotte Cirillo & Suzie Jones
â€˜Smooth spaces are not in themselves liberatoryâ€™ Deleuze and Guattari (2013:581) In this globally networked world of capitalist flows which subsume and submerge all encountered opposition, how might we form a politic? In this text we are trying to understand the spatial and infrastructural expressions of late capitalist, neoliberal ideology, how we might subvert these to develop a conscious politic, and how might we resocialise processes and infrastructures and regain collective and individual agency? As the quote by Deleuze and Guattari above asserts, the smooth interface of neoliberal ideology, expressed immeasurably through government and corporate law, institutions, technologies, and architectures is not liberatory; rather, it is a channel for containment. In our social condition of dependability, relations are articulated through constantly fluctuating states of unity and opposition. These states of unity and opposition are descriptions of the energetic relationships that determine the organisation of 53
the liquid body; when in ‘opposition’, and maybe especially so, we are all active participants in a seemingly ungraspable, liquid infrastructure. This is the subsuming nature of capitalism. If the nature of capital is abstract, amorphous and enveloping, then what is the nature of the liquid body with which it is entangled and seeks to contain? The liquid body is, of course our liquid body – fluid and unruly yet profitable, exploitable, and necessary. The liquid body appears to be as abstract as capitalism, yet this very form could offer strategies against its exploitation and containment. As capitalism functions through abstraction, so too the leaky body can employ abstract, subterfugal tactics in order to insist on a conscious politic, resocialise the apparatus through recognition of our shared liquid body, subvert the exploitation of our liquid body through inefficiency and spillage, and permeate rather than be permeated. I live in the parametricity: an urban sprawl designed by architectural algorithms that allow sinuous, curved forms to be created from concrete and steel; where blocks of flats are more like blobs; and Haussmann’s boulevards have been replaced by watercourse-like walkways. “Husssh”, whisper the streets, “do not protest”. The city’s architecture transformed and swelled hand in hand with neoliberal politics; through the smooth interfaces of the corporate offices, leisure centres and universities, a neoliberal ideal was cemented: an ideal which strived for depoliticisation of the people, whereby messy government outsourcing, privatisation and inequity could be hidden like the scripts of a CPU. The city dwellers became end users; the experience of the city, rather than it’s functioning, became the priority; the government shirks accountability; and capitalism appears as a self-sustaining automaton, a slippery slime mold that evades taxonomy. “Feel fluid, feel free”, shouts a spectacular Zaha Hadid museum. I read that in her early years she was influenced by Bolshevism; now, she designs free schools with dinner halls that mimic trading floors where kids study 8-5 in order to ready themselves for working life, and ‘classes’ are retitled ‘conferences’. 54
Cities are our social relations manifest, physical declarations of our political and social rights and history. The global city is then capitalism’s abstract, liquid nature writ large; the propulsion of privatisation, expansion and individualisation is reflected in its architecture, from overt, shiny new buildings to the private management of once public squares and walkways. With the advance of this urban space, citizen rights are diminished. Reading this more broadly, we may contemplate the lack of agency that accompanies less tangible neoliberal macrostructures. Lewis Mumford and Henri Lefebvre were among those who warned of the dangers of building cities to which citizens have no right. Still, the ground was seized from beneath our feet; the city became desocialised; no longer a place constituted by social activity, it became the global city constituted by its ability to capture and release finance, act as hub for global media and communications and to attract multinational corporations, academics, skilled professionals, real estate investment and, of course, further capital. In 1961, Mumford described the beginnings of the dematerialisation (or desocialisation) of the city that “is in itself an expression of the fact that the new world in which we have begun to live is not merely open on the surface, far beyond the visible horizon, but also open internally, penetrated by invisible rays and emanations, responding to stimuli and forces beyond the threshold of ordinary observation.” Like Marshal McLuhan, Mumford alludes to the electrical network of telecommunications and systems of data transmission which, in the 60s, started to pervade cities to the point of constituting them, rendering them invisible. He was also referring to the cities’ transformation into megalopolises, or “continuous cities”, beyond the mind’s eye; to the way that the global city logic permeates and manifests itself in our imaginary. For Keller Easterling this is expressed as a ‘retinal afterglow, of a soupy matrix of details and repeatable formulas that make up most of the space in the world’ (2013). 55
We noticed it happening around the docks at first, then the warehouses and factories followed; some places were raised to the ground; hoardings constructed around others. The builders came in, then the landscapers and then the interiors team. The artists were commissioned to provide finishing touches by way of bronze sculpture, and thus our industrial sites emerged from their transformations – tasteful shopping villages, bright and funky office spaces for the burgeoning media industry. What are the affects of this insidious apparatus? We still live and play out our social relations in these spaces, but we no longer feel that we should be the constructors. Neoliberal ideology, which thrives in and organises the city, instructs that the citizen must not take part. The citizen is persuaded to act as an individual rather than as an active social being that might affect change in the architecture and rhythms of the apparatus. Assuaged, seduced even, by the apparent freedoms of the ‘smooth space’, we trade in our rights; the flow of the stream carrying our agency like pebbles. My body has become permeable, punctured; news feeds drip into me, out of me – Huffpost, Facebook, the Guardian; the paper pamphlets shoved through my letterbox announce new takeaway places and changes to my borough’s recycling service. My zoe just about kept intact by the state. I can visit my GP for free, and there’s always the dole I can claim if I get the sack from my job, but my bios is offered up in a free for all; my cultural, social, thinking self becomes a free market where commodities and cultural capital are exchanged in the blink of an eye. So long as my physical body is kept functioning at a basic level, my bios may be pawned for its sum of education, intellect, sociability and happiness. In a neoliberal agenda I am worth my bios and must fulfill that founding idiom of western philosophy, cogito ergo sum – I think, therefore I am. 56
Within myself, infinitesimal splinters of countless networks are layered. Each of these play a role in my subjectivity; each member of each network, whether participating or not, plays a role in the nature of each network and therefore myself. Like water molecules, cohesion with others is a necessity to exist; electrons are shared, and movement is incessant. Stability is an illusion; if I were stable, I would be ice, at 0° Kelvin, lifeless. Our liquid body, then, is organised by the forces that shape desires and create tendencies. In 1992, on the eve of World Wide Web becoming an extensively used social resource, a study suggested that there is a cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships: this number, known as the Dunbar number, is 150. Therefore, through the seductive technologies that expand and abstract our capacity for social relations, the immeasurable networks of neoliberal apparatus will, by definition, prevent inclusivity and participation and prevent collective action by consequence. We were too busy on Facebook to care, too busy primping our avatars and building our websites to look out the window. Occasionally we’d glance. Some of us liked it; some of us lamented at the gentrification, but it was so nicely packaged up – the pictures on the hoardings sold us the lifestyle, pictures of people like us benefiting from a boost in the local economy, eating brunch at the nice little cafes, strolling along the wide pavements...it seemed so idyllic. Tracing again the beginnings of this shift towards fluidity to the 1960s, the advent of electronic and the subsequent desertion of the analogic led to a broader shift from centralised and geometric modernist logic to today’s fluid circuits of network. Such a paradigm shift promised an increase in connection and collaboration and, therefore, inclusivity. Yet in order for such macro-networks to flow, a standardisation of means of exchange, such as language, currency, 57
and cultural rituals – what is agreed upon as knowledge – must occur, a process of cultural short-circuiting that excludes locality and promotes globality. Now we find ourselves in a condition whereby fluidity and transparency are not only prioritised and promoted over friction and opacity but also directly employed as the orators of the neoliberal ideology; they speak with a language of convincing clarity, ever giving answers and minimising questions. From within this illusion of transparency, this place of global cartographers, networks are mapped out and flows monitored. The density and viscosity of the liquid body will determine its character within a channel, but if the flow is filtered and divided into myriad interconnecting ducts, not impeding free movement but slowing down and weakening the liquid’s force in unity, flows can be monitored and managed. The internet links our online selves directly to robot analytics, allowing our machinic traces to be taken apart and mapped out in any way desired, the strategic style chosen to dissect the our clicks determines how our desires, attentions, fears, and ideologies are interpreted. The data is organised, packaged, sold, reorganised and materalised into ever-increasing sales, ever-increasing investment, and ever-increasingly intertwined intimate preferences, corporate automation, virtual desire, speed, gratification, knowledge creation, surveillance, collection and piloting. The immediate future is paved before us algorithmically corresponding to and affecting our desires and ensuring that we develop compatibly with the existing flows and networks; innovation, even when apparently controversial, is eventually incorporated into the flow. In this subsuming apparatus, a binary opposition will merely charge the same subject with positive and negative connotation, a bipolarity that may invert opinion and perception but ultimately does not subvert tendencies towards the evolution of a collective or paradigmatic shift (e.g. institutional critique internalised by institutions). So, given that binary opposition is bound to be subsumed and mobilised in order to flow within a hegemonic apparatus, and that “the machinery of power criminalises with little 58
distinction both violent and non-violent opposition” (Fisher 2002:64), how might we enact our rights to participate in and resocialise our conditions? Strategies for this must be non-oppositional; thought of in terms of a third force – a queer, subterfugal, divergent action – through which we may be able to build complexities that disallow the short-circuiting inherent in this efficient flow. This third element of disturbance is enacted by the liquid body, utilising fluidity as a tool for its own undoing. Easterling proposes a similar strategy when she suggests that an architect’s spatial training may give insights into how to deal with the immeasurable apparatus: “What if we even can tinker with the operating system, not just with object form, but with form making that’s almost more like making software?” To enact subterfuge, or a third force, we must recognise the strength of our liquid body as an entity which may unite, pool, or trickle and diverge. As Jameson argues for a utopian vision that takes the form of disruption (2007:211-233), and Glissant argues for an opacity that disallows a free flowing, dominant ideology (1997:189-194), our aspirations for resocialising the apparatus will be of a tangible, corporeal and sensible nature. Tactics like this are described by Michel De Certeau as acts of “la perruque”. “La perruque”, whilst being assertive, is nonoppositional, prioritising the strengthening of social relations over the efficiency of a production line. The worker’s own work disguised as work for his employer. It differs from pilfering in that nothing of material value is stolen. It differs from absenteeism in that the worker is officially on the job. ...The worker who indulges in la perruque actually diverts time (not goods, since he uses only scraps) from the factory for work that is free, creative, and precisely not directed toward profit. In the very place where the machine he must serve reigns supreme, he cunningly takes pleasure in finding a way to create gratuitous products whose sole purpose is to signify his own capabilities through his work and to confirm his solidarity with other workers or his family through spending his time in this way. (1988:25-26) 59
The character of the la perruque performing character is developed by Jean Fisher into the character of the trickster, a carnivalesque figure whose spirit “arises with the demand for ethical, renewing, and re-empowering practices” (2002:69) – in other words, resocialisation. For Fisher the trickster “challenges the proper codes of civilized conduct and the hierarchies that attempt to ensure that everything stays strictly in its proper place. Indeed, trickster is concerned with neither the ‘proper’ nor the ‘place’; he or she is always on the move, simultaneously grounded and ungrounded, the artful master of liminal space-time, irony, parody and dissimulation” (p.68). The nomadic nature of Fisher’s trickster character offers an answer to how we might utilise the abstraction of our liquid body to its best advantage. Rather than viewing our collective body as scattered, abstract and de-politicised, why don’t we instead view ourselves as pervasive, entrenched and tricky? De Certeau’s worker, whose inefficiency and spillage outside of the production line shows we have an agency in our liquidity, and it is an agency that we share. We are all the liquid body. That agency, again, through its liquid nature, may be employed subterfugally: the trickster is anyone and anywhere, a third force to be reckoned with. Through the act of subterfuge, we can insist on a more complex, leaking discourse. No longer allowing for the efficient monitoring and managing our data - for our online clicks to be used to be used to strengthen a dominant, hegemonic flow - through subterfuge, we might realise a resocialised apparatus where social relations are prioritised over capitalist production lines, and the pervasion of the global city into our subconscious is not a given. Through the act of resocialising, we endeavour to reconcile the chasm between body and mind. The transparent and efficient flow of neoliberal apparatus, which negates the needs of the body and the complexity of both body and mind, will be disrupted. No longer accepting the maxim ‘I think, therefore I am’, our leaky 60
bodies, in all their complex forms, will be acknowledged. Through the act of resocialising, we strive to remap those cultures that have been short-circuited. Bodies will not be excluded. Let’s group together and bust the dams, drench the sidewalks and flood the banks. Let’s write the obsolete technologies and technologisers back into history along with the outcasts and repressed. Narrativise and revere the “cranks and tinkers, the sort who file for a hundred patents in lifetime and never make a penny for their labours” (Johnson 1997:206). Let’s dismantle the interface and reprogramme the software; let’s slip upstream, swim against the current and see what we might find at the root of it all. Works Cited Appadurai, A. In conversation with Marianne Franklin, during UK book launch of Digital Dilemmas (Franklin, M. OUP 2013) at Goldsmiths University of London, 26 March 2014. Certeau, M. (1984). The Practice of Everyday Life. 1st ed. Berkeley: University of California Press. Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (2013). A Thousand Plateaus. 10th ed. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Easterling, K. (2013). The Space in Which We’re Swimming: Keller Easterling at TEDxYale City. Fisher, J. (2014). Toward a Metaphysics of Shit. In: Documenta 11_Platform 5: Exhibition Catalogue, 1st ed. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, pp. 63-70. Glissant, Edouard. (1997) “For Opacity”. Poetics of Relation, University of Michigan Press Mumford, Lewis. (1961) The City In History. Harcourt Brace International. p. 567 Jameson, F. (2007). “The Future as Disruption” Archaeologies of the Future. 1st ed. London: Verso. pp. 211-233 Johnson, S. (1997). Interface culture. 1st ed. [San Francisco]: HarperEdge. Stiegler, Bernard. In conversation with Irit Rogoff about Transindividuation, during Pharmaconomics lecture series at Goldsmiths University of London in February, March 2010. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/transindividuation/
[Il]legal Bodies A Personal Genealogy of Citizenship Urok Shirhan
â€œOnly in a world . . . in which the citizen has been able to recognise the refugee that he or she is, only in such a world is the political survival of humankind today thinkable.â€? Giorgio Agamben
My grandparents, Hatem Shamki Alshabibi and Melia Hamadi Ginaibar. Baghdad, 1975.
1906 My grandfather, Hatem Shamki Alshabibi, is born Ottoman.
1917 Britain seizes Baghdad.
1920 Britain creates state of Iraq with League of Nationsâ€™ approval.
1920 Great Iraqi Revolution, rebellion against British rule.
1924 My grandmother, Melia Hamadi Ginaibar, is born Ottoman.
1924 First Iraqi Nationality Law no. 42 is implemented: The person bearing an Ottoman Nationality, who has attained his majority, and habitually living in Iraq, shall lose his Ottoman Nationality, and shall be deemed to be an Iraq National from the sixth day of August, 1924. His son shall also be deemed an Iraqi national in succession.
My grandmother Meliaâ€™s Certificate of Iraqi Nationality. 65
1932 Iraq becomes an independent state.
1949 My father, Qassim Shirhan Alsaedy, is born Iraqi.
1952 My mother, Nebal Hatem Shamki, is born Iraqi.
1958 The monarchy is overthrown in a military coup, and Iraq is declared a republic.
1963 The Prime Minister of Iraq is ousted in a coup led by the Arab Socialist Baath Party.
1963 Nationality Law No. (46) of 1963: Article 11: Every Iraqi national who has acquired a foreign nationality in a foreign country by his own choice, shall lose his Iraqi nationality
1963 The Baathist government is overthrown.
1968 A Baathist-led coup overthrows government. The Revolutionary Command Council takes charge.
1975 Nationality Law reform allows any Arab to be granted Iraqi nationality, a first in the region.
1976 My brother is born Iraqi.
1979 Saddam Hussein becomes president of Iraq.
1979 My parents are forced to flee Iraq.
1979 In Lebanon, my parentsâ€™ status is illegal. They are not allowed to work or study. They are able to obtain work with solidary foreign organisations in Beirut.
1980 Nationality Law reform is implemented to allow the withdrawal of Iraqi nationality from dissidents (particularly Iraqi communists): The Revolutionary Command Council have decided in their session held on 07.05.1980 the following: The Iraqi nationality shall be dropped from any Iraqi if it is appeared that he is not loyal to the homeland, people, higher national and social objectives of the Revolution. Saddam Hussein Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council
1980 In the former South-Yemen, my parentsâ€™ status is legal because of agreements between the communist party of Iraq and South-Yemen.
1984 In Syria, my parents can enter and work legally, but as there is no Iraqi embassy, they cannot officially leave the country without passing through the Syrian secret service.
1984 I am born Iraqi in Damascus.
1987 In Libya, our status is legal, and my father has a one-year work permit that can be extended each year.
1990 My father is forced to quit his job because he refuses to change the red colour in a mural for supposedly being “too communist”.
1990 After Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait and the sanctions, Iraqi nationals cannot obtain any visas to anywhere in the world.
1990 Kaddafi temporarily suspends residency laws for all Arabs, allowing them to freely live and work in Libya.
1993 My family applies for political asylum in the Netherlands.
Information folder of Dutch refugee camp (front view).
Information folder of Dutch refugee camp (rear view).
1993 We are acknowledged as political refugees and are placed in a Dutch refugee camp.
1994 We are granted a ‘positive’ refugee status.
1998 We are granted Dutch nationality and citizenship.
2006 Amendments to Iraqi Nationality Law: Article 10: I- An Iraqi who acquires a foreign nationality shall retain his Iraqi nationality, unless he has declared in writing renunciation of his Iraqi nationality. Article 17: Decision No. 666 of 1980 issued by the (defunct) Revolutionary Command Council shall be repealed and Iraqi nationality shall be restored to all Iraqis deprived of their Iraqi nationality under the said as well as all other unfair decisions issued by the (defunct) Revolutionary Command Council in this respect. Article 18: I- Any Iraqi, who was denaturalized on political, religious, racist or sectarian grounds, shall have the right to restore his Iraqi nationality, subject to submission of an application to this effect. In the case of his death, his children, who have lost their Iraqi nationality consequent to his father’s loss of nationality, shall have the right to submit an application to restore Iraqi nationality. 71
Official letter notifying that Dutch nationality has been granted to my mother and I.
Works Cited Agamben, G. (2000) “Beyond Human Rights” in Means Without Ends: Notes on Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p 26. Iraq profile, BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14546763 “Law No. (46) of 1963 - Iraqi Nationality 1963”, available at: http://www.refworld. org/docid/3ae6b4ec38.html [accessed 1 May 2014] “Law No. 5 of 1975 Granting the Iraqi Nationality to the Arab, 18 January 1975”, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b4e31c.html [accessed 1 May 2014] “National Authorities, Iraq: Resolution No. 666 of 1980 (nationality), 26 May 1980”, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b51d28.html [accessed 1 May 2014] All images courtesy of the author. All rights reserved. The author retains all copyrights in any text, graphic images and photos. No part of this contribution may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
ACTIVIST ART PRACTICE noun
In activist art practice the function of the artist seems to shift from the role of a producer of objects or surfaces to the role of a critique of the neo-liberal condition. In this role s/he takes over the responsibilities of governmental authorities, non-governmental agencies, administrations, economical or cultural institutions. Following the Foucauldian notion of power structure and relation, everyone can exercise power, by shaping culture, by making choices within a system. Art is therefore not only a place where thinking can be practiced, and theories can be tested; it is also a place where basic civilian tasks can be executed, where the desire for art or artâ€™s creative potential can be used and put to work to improve existing socio-political circumstances. 75
ALTERNATIVE TIME noun
The alternative time is the possibility to create new worlds within the time of domination. To escape physically or psychologically the time of the institutions by creating an alternative method of belonging.
Agonism is a we/them relation where opponents are not enemies. This means that opposing groups acknowledge each other and share a common space. In agonism the goal is not to reach a consensus, but rather to be in dialogue.1
Antagonism is a we/them relation in which there is no shared ground between opponents.
A unit of potential that acts as a catalyst for changing the status quo of an environment. This body can manifest in physical form as a physical body (of one or a multitude) or as a concept or ideology.
A predetermined set of logistical indicators, that when understood through shared knowledge, form the basic language through which alternative modes of communication are rendered possible.
Collectivity is often misunderstood. There is a general tendency to associate collectivity with a lack of space for the individual and individual expression. As if collectivity meant that we should all be in constant agreement, and painstakingly reach a consensus. But this does not have to be the case. Collectivity may exist despite, and one might even say thanks to, disagreement. Collectivity may simply entail a fluid multiplicity of different individual voices and expressions in dialogue. Collectivity means to cooperate and exchange thanks to dissensus. It means committing to an ideal precisely because of our inevitable doubts and skepticism. It means taking responsibility for the society we live in, for after all, it is our society.
The urban space seems a container confronting two ontological questions of the body passing through it: “being” and “becoming.” If “becoming” is processual and relational, this might re-shape and redefine both human and non-human, the way they should live, share and claim the space and, thus, “to become.” “To be a body” indicates the 77
need for a normative act to be named, “to be exposed to social [and political] crafting and form.”2
An aggressively insular occupation of space.
EVERYDAY PROTEST noun
Can we think of a different kind or representation of protest? One that focuses on the statements and commitments that are executed at the intersection between the privacy of our own homes and the public sphere? Considering the actions of boycott campaigns, “Buy-Nothing-Day,” or urban gardening as social practices, can the results of these interventions be regarded as more sustainable? Can we think of protest in an everyday manner? Acted upon in everyday life? Change would therefore be evoked not only by voicing disapproval, but equally by offering alternative ways to make it sustainable, by performing and living the difference.
Freedom is not freedom if it is granted by an authority, from the top-down. Freedom is not something fixed or static. Freedom only exists inasmuch as it is constantly enacted, and activated. Freedom is not for sale.
A set of parts that together make the body or the structure of an organisational unit which can operate in a tangible or abstract sense.
Localized between social work and politics, between media work and management. Concerned with questions of space, political subjectivity, performative and symbolic actions. Interventions seek to identify a specific problem, propose an effective concept to improve a local socio-political deficiency and eventually translate the proposal into action while implementing it into a community. The intervention as a protest to specific historical and geographical situations and constellations is not repeatable, but in fact the method is. It asks of the practitioner to constantly reframe questions, and rethink concepts or structures for a more dignified cohabitation of different social groups. Protest movements around the world have been met with brutal resistance by governments, police and/or military. Can we think of a future political action than will not fail? Or to be more precise, can we think of art activism in the form of intervention as the political action that will not fail?
“. . . a space that cannot be defined as relational or historical or concerned with identity,” as Marc Augé wrote. 79
Floatspace is a territory, an ephemeral moment and space in time, known to an air traveller on his walk towards the immigration desk. His final destination is not yet accessible to him whether he is a citizen or foreigner (re-entering or attempting to enter for the first time, respectively) – he is just an arrivée, one of everybody as well as just an every-body like every-body else walking and queuing.
To take up “space” as defined in physical terms – a physical entity, either as a singular unit or an accumulated grouping inhabiting physical space. Alternatively, occupation can be an “overtaking” of space, (physical or figurative, i.e. political, ideological, media) either by force or through peaceful means.
A state of impenetrability which constitutes a constructive difference, which one should view not simply as the limit of one’s knowledge, but the potential to build further, unanticipated and unimagined understandings; by recognising irreducibility, one may mobilise one’s subjectivity to inhabit local realities and untranslatable subtleties, experiencing them not as observer but as participant. A tangible, experiential form of knowledge production.
The radical desire is that which challenges the foundation of society. It is that will which drives new utopias. Radical politic seeks to uproot the hedgerow to plant trees. The radical is a pig that roots in the earth for food, digging up new nourishment as well as bringing the foundations into the light of day. Through this digging action, contradiction becomes apparent. The framework of society must yield to the radical pig.
To change a thing so it remains the same while looking different. Reforming the system asks those in the position of power to include you within it. This is the act of Occupy. “Take, for instance, a poodle. You can reform him in a lot of ways. You can shave his whole body and leave a tassel at the tip of his tail; you may bore a hole through each ear, and tie a blue bow on one and a red bow on the other; you may put a brass collar around his neck with your initials on, and a trim little blanket on his back; yet, throughout, a poodle he was and a poodle he remains. Each of these changes probably wrought a corresponding change in the poodle’s life. When shorn of all his hair except a tassel at the tail’s tip he was owned by a wag who probably cared only for the fun he could get out of his pet; when he appears gaily decked in bows, probably his young mistress’ attachment is of tenderer sort; when later we see him in the fancier’s outfit, the treatment he receives and the uses he is put to may be yet again and probably are, different. Each of these 81
transformations or stages may mark a veritable epoch in the poodle’s existence. And yet, essentially, a poodle he was, a poodle he is and a poodle he will remain.”3
Ability of a person or object to maintain their qualities and keep strong against the threat of the other.
An environment in which one says only what one thinks one can say. Applies to topics that—under certain circumstances—cannot be addressed directly, but must be approached with dissimulation. This is not directly affected by directives from above, but by speculations as to the allowable within society that in turn affect one’s conduct.
“Solidarity has nothing to do with altruistic self-denial. In materialistic terms, solidarity is not about you, it’s about me. Like love, solidarity is not about altruism. It is about the pleasure of sharing the breath and space of the other. Love is the ability to enjoy myself thanks to your presence, to your eyes. This is solidarity. Because solidarity is based on the territorial proximity of social bodies, you cannot build solidarity throughout fragments of time.”4 82
SPATIAL PROPERTY noun
A manipulated boundary of ownership that is established through the seizure and commodification of land and housing. The state protects the right of a vacant private property to remain as such.
An opportunity where one is free â€“ even if only temporarily and mentally. To be free from a contract with the state, where he imagines himself as one with another or with new identity. His solitary individuality has the potential to be community worlding such that non-places, like floatspace, create a shared identity of being with similar others. He has the opportunity to enact or imagine Guy Debordâ€™s acts of dĂŠtournement or culture jamming to subvert existing apparatuses, be it imagined visually, textually or verbally in order to manifest resistance of social, cultural and political norms.
To physically resist the inequalities produced by the protection of spatial property at the expense of human life; occupying a spatial property with the possibility of one day re-claiming and re-opening the land to serve greater common interests; to begin the formation of a collective subject with the potential for effectuating systemic change. 83
An enclave within the urban lived reality; a space for conceiving alternative political strategies and/or forms of living; a heterotopia.
Straying is the change of the “social contract,” which makes the animal the animal, and the human the human. It develops a new transgressive space in the street, that of straying.
Directed wandering. A naive understanding might think of it as a leisure activity, with no purpose except relaxation. In certain societies such an act can express political motivations, leading to a reaction by the state apparatus.
“When the Social Body is techno-linguistic automatisms it acts like a swarm: a collective organism whose behavior is automatically directed by connective interfaces. (. . .) Techno-linguistic procedures, financial obligations, social 84
needs, and psycho-media invasion – all this capillaric machinery is framing the field of the possible and incorporating common cognitive patterns in the behavior of social actors. So we may say that social life in the semiocapital sphere is becoming a swarm.”
TIME OF DOMINATION noun
The time that is structured and given by the state. Being part of this time makes you a citizen. It is also a time that functions by and for the institutions.
An artificial construct of significance that traverses myriad realities, formed by knowing the other through one’s accepted references; assigning meaning to the unknown without encountering it relationally, denying the negotiation of one’s subjectivity; divulging knowledge whilst refusing to inhabit challenging relations, in order to avoid disrupting one’s discursive coherence. A form of understanding difference as a definable entity. Notes
1. Mouffe, C. (2008) “Public Spaces and Democratic Politics.” In High-Rise & Common Ground, Boomgaard, J. (ed.). Amsterdam: Valiz. pp.146–147. 2. Butler, J. (2009) Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? London: Verso. p.3. 3. DeLeon, D. (1896) “Reform or Revolution?” [Online]. [Accessed 12 May 2014]. Available from: https://www.marxists.org/archive/deleon/works/1896/960126.html 4. Berardi, F. (2012) The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance. p.54.
Dog Ta(i)les Marianna Hovhannisyan
Introduction Urban theorist Andy Merrifield considers “everybody” to be manifested through a process of “becoming” within the urban fabric (2013). Merrifield analyses James Joyce’s concept “Here Comes Everybody” as us being “an urban existence” in two conceptual relations: Joyce’s proposition “as synonymous with the urban process [...], the social, political and economic environment to which everybody is coming or shaping, if always unevenly,” and Henri Lefebvre’s “complete urbanization of society” (2013). Dog Ta(i)les is a speculative writing rendering a specific nonhuman perspective by taking hold of an artefact, a stray dog’s tail, that designates belonging to a non-human state. It views the subject of “everybody” by its component form, “every-body”, set in an urban condition. Dog Ta(i)les questions whether the universal assumed “everybody” within Merrifield’s revolutionary vision and critique 87
of neoliberal citizenship limits the framework and excludes ‘the potential outsider other’ of whom the urban condition also relates. As Judith Butler states “when we claim to know and to present ourselves, we will fail in some ways […]” (2005, p. 42). The body-text is created as body-less writing, by mapping ‘tails’ from different bodies of research – encounters with theoretical texts and arguments – that acknowledge the straying points of the “other” in the discourse of “everybody”.
Tale One Scholar Boria Sax states that what “all ‘animals’ have in common [...], is that they are not one of ‘us’” (2008, p.1). Derrida calls this “the absolute alterity of the neighbour”, especially in the moments when “I see myself seen naked under the gaze of the cat” (2002, p. 380). What separates humans from non-human animals from a physiological perspective is the tail (Adams et al, 2008). In everyday life we often encounter this difference in the domesticated case of the dog’s tail. What kind of “-body” might a non-human’s tail expose and possess? Does it reveal something about humans, as well, when confronted with non-humans, not in the domestic space the way Derrida has been naked in front of his cat, but in the streets and in urban space meant for “everybody to come together”?
Tale Two The tail of a stray dog in Armenia is a context-sensitive object. It is an incomplete artefact constantly seeking the absented body, a production of human intentions (Thomasson, 2007, p.52) that exposes the management and power of a state apparatus. 88
Since 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Armenian Independence, Armenia has faced the challenge of modernising infrastructures, inventing and proposing various programmes and state strategies in social, political and cultural domains. In the early 2000s, the Yerevan State Municipality began to address the stray dog problem. Annually, the Trade and Services Department of the Yerevan Municipality announces an open call for an institutional body to implement stray dog sterilisation and euthanasia programmes. The only winning vendor since 2006 is Unigraph X LLC (Media Center, 2013), which the municipality allocated an annual amount of 180 million AMD (approximately 500,000 USD) from the state budget for these sterilisation programmes (Muradyan, 2011). In reality, this “well-designed” system physically exposes “the tail of the stray dog” as a remainder of the process, and whose presence is evidence of a corrupt apparatus operating through monopoly and illegal actions. Unigraph X, in partnership with the municipality, has an extermination strategy for stray dogs. They annually register 40- 50,000 stray dogs in Yerevan alone, which scientists and professionals argue is an impossible number for a city that size (Muradyan, 2012). These stray dogs are mainly shot with guns and rarely sterilised (Dingo Team, no date). In order for Unigraph X workers to receive payment from the state (approximately 8 USD), they have to file a report1 with proof of completing the task. The severed tail from the dead body of each neutralised stray dog is provided as this evidence2 (Muradyan, 2012).
Tale Three For Giorgio Agamben, the conception of subject is located between living beings and apparatus, and in the contemporary capitalist period it “becomes” through constant desubjectification processes enacted by apparatus (2009, pp.19-20). Straying suggests a threshold between two “becomings”: that of the domestic, civilised and controlled by norms, rules and rights – being inside at home – and of the violent, unacceptable 90
and transgressed – being outside in the street. A stray dog is desubjectified, “the other” (the straying one) among “others” (nonhumans), which is “the other” of the human ones. Outside of any institutional logic identifying its validity, the stray dog cannot be institutionalised but exists exclusively in the public/urban space. It cannot be included in the “normative” frame “through which we apprehend or, indeed, fail to apprehend the lives of others as lost or injured” (Butler, p.1, 2009). The tail of the dead stray dog becomes the politicised code left from the disposed body of “the stray other”. It is also a marker of the transgression of the social contract and exposition of “the act of killing that other”, the moment when “power relations become concrete” (Agamben, 2005, p.6) and apparatus profoundly structured via strictly juridical, technological and military senses (Agamben, 2005, pp.7-8). The tail in a way turns into another threshold, conveying strategies of two realities of cities and politics; one inclined to the liberal, “to let live and make die”, the other inclined to the neoliberal – “to make die and to let live” (EGS). The urban constitutes the space in which “straying” involves a sense of transgression, a movement in areas across and outside the borders and rules. At the same time, “straying” also forms a strategy to create “stray communities of interest” against the apparatus of power.
Tale Four A conception of a stray body as an urban collective existence is exemplified in the history of the Ottoman Empire, particularly in relation to the Young Turks regime in the beginning of the 20th century because the capital city, Istanbul, was in the process of “westernization” (Pearson, 2012). This process went through a process of modernisation with technological growth, development and construction of urban infrastructures meant for newly formed Francophone and Anglophone Turkish citizen-flâneurs (Sesim Rüzgara: Modern Bir Sürgün Hikayesi, 2010). 91
Dogs of Constantinople, 1880-90. Image: Abdullah Freres Studio, http://lusadaran.org/artists/abdullah-freres.
At that particular moment in Istanbul’s history, the large number of stray dogs had become a problem. Scholars claim that, historically, the large number of stray dogs were due to religious observation which did not allow dogs (animals) to be welcomed in the home. However, people still cared and fed them in the streets, such that Istanbul was known as “the city with animals” (ibid.). For officials attempting to modernise in 1910, stray dogs were representatives of “disorderly and backward urban society” (Pearson, 2012), especially when compared with the Western paradigm of modernisation which managed to deal with “the other” in the streets at that time. Their solution was to exile the stray dogs to a barren island in the Marmara sea (Whittington, 2013). 80%, or around 80,000, of Istanbul’s stray dogs died of thirst and hunger and drowning as they tried desperately to get across the sea (Whittington, 2013).
Tale Five In 2014 guerrilla geographer Daniel Raven-Ellison launched a proposal-project called “Greater London National Park*”. It calls upon the officials of London to remember the fact that London is a city with “8.3 million humans [...] [and] 13,000 wild species as well as lots of cats and dogs”, and it has a rich biodiversity with Greater London 47% green area (Greater London National Park*, 2014). It is not new for the city that wild animals migrate there which is partially the result of the urbanisation process. Raven-Ellison’s proposition calls for London city to turn into the new urban national park that would accommodate everyone and have more green areas. Interestingly enough, this urban national park project demonstrates an upcoming paradigm change of the “straying” subject. It changes the threshold of straying from its original relation, the movement from domesticated space onto the urban street, to a contemporary notion where the straying refers to leaving the space of the “wild” for an urban park.
Greater London National Park project-proposal. Source: http://www. greaterlondonnationalpark.org.uk
Conclusion For Andy Merrifield, “[Joyce’s] Here Comes Everybody is what global citizenship ought to be about” when it forms an intersection, coexistence against the neoliberal condition, a planetary urban (2013). Myra Hird, agreeing with Donna Haraway, suggests that the one (body) is constituted because of the other residents of the world (2009, pp. 134-135). Could these two positions, “global citizenship” and “other residents” in the world, placed within relation to each other allow for recognition at the threshold, an other “straying body” collected in the framework of Dog Ta(i)les? In this case the “the urban becoming” remains processual as Merrifield proposes, but it now requires a differentiation of “straying others”. The significance of the dog’s tail as something more than a body segment is that it allows differentiation (contextually different articulations of the straying others) in terms of “becoming” which draws nearer to the question of “who is everybody still to come?” Notes 1. Since 2009 there has not be any inspection by the Financial Supervision, therefore, perhaps there has not been any need to dock a tail, but just directly to kill. 2. It is said that the sterilised sex organs of a sterilised dog are also a part of the report. But in regard to the conceptual focus of this paper, it means a dog stays somehow alive and body is not disposed from it. Works Cited Adams, J. and Shaw, K. (2008) ‘Atavism: embryology, development and evolution’, Nature Education, 1(1):131. Agamben, G. (2009) What is an Apparatus?: and Other Essays. Trans. by David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella. California: Stanford University Press. Butler, J. (2005) Giving an Account of Oneself. New York: Fordham University Press. Butler, J. (2009) Frames of War: When is Life Grievable?. London: Verso. Derrida, J. (2002) ‘The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)’ Trans. David Wills, Critical Inquiry, 28(2), pp.369-418. 94
Dingo Team (no date) Stray Animal Problem Solution. Available at: http://www.dingo.am/index.php [Accessed: 2 May 2014]. EGS (no date) Available at: http://www.egs.edu/library/michel-foucault/biography/ [Accessed: 04 May 2014]. Greater London National Park*(2014) Available at: http://www.greaterlondonnationalpark.org.uk/ [Accessed: 4 May 2014]. Hird, M. (2009) ‘Eating Well, Surviving Humanism’ in The Origins of Sociable Life: Evolution After Science Studies, Palgrave, pp.133-143. Lefebvre, H. (2003 ) The Urban Revolution. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press. Media Center (2013) Issue of Stray Dogs in Yerevan. 4 October 2013. Available at: http://www.media-center.am/en/1381130851 [Accessed: 2 May 2014]. Merrifield, A. (2013) ‘Here Comes Everybody: Joyce’s Urban Chaosmos’ Intervention Section, Antipode Foundation-Journal. 18 December 2013. Available at: http://wp.me/p16RPC-Sp [Accessed: 3 May 2014]. Muradyan, A. (2012) “Do not kill me, you have no right to it!” Ankakh. 25 February 2011. Available at: http://archive.ankakh.com/2011/02/96891/ [Accessed: 2 May 2014]. Pearson, Ch. (2012) ‘Stray Dogs in Istanbul’, Sniffing the Past ~ Dogs and History. Available at: http://sniffingthepast.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/stray-dogsin-istanbul/ [Accessed: 02 May 2014]. Sax, B. (2008) ‘Do You Believe in the Animal?’ H-Nilas, H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences, July. Available at: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/ showrev.php?id=14720 [Accessed: 2 May 2014]. Sesim Rüzgara: Modern Bir Sürgün Hikayesi (2010) Directed by Emre Sarıkuş [Film]. Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival Catalogue 47. Thomasson, A. (2007) Artifacts and Human Concepts. In: Stephen, L. and Margolis, E., eds. Creations of the Mind: Essays on Artifacts and their Representation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.52-73. Whittington, E. and T. (2013) ‘Street Dog Genocide: The Sad History of Turkish Street Dogs’, A street dog’s story, 16 September. Available at: http://streetdogstory. com/2013/09/16/street-dog-genocide/ [Accessed: 2 May 2014]. Front image: “The Illustrated Book of the Dog”, 1881. Available at: https://archive. org/details/illustratedbooko00shawrich [Accessed: 2 May 2014].
Referendum Rethinking the Rules Ximena Moreno
‘If they somehow did come together, what should they demand? (…) greater democratic control over the production and utilization of surplus. Since the urban process is a major channel of surplus use, establishing democratic management over its urban deployment constitutes the right to the city.’ David Harvey
The version of the steam engine created by James Watt was one of the most transgressive inventions of the eighteenth century, which catalysed the growth of the Industrial Revolution in London and then the world. The well-known history of the Industrial Revolution not only consisted of a process of expansion into other 97
regions of Europe and the world, but also involved the movement of people from rural areas to cities, which was emblematic of this historical period. The migration of individuals from rural to urban areas, occurred in response to the economic expectation brought by a life of an industrialised and urban nature, introduced by new mechanisms of production and commercialisation. Thus, the speculation of finding better opportunities incited the transit of people encouraged by individual and collective desires. The expression ‘the right to the city,’ explored by Henri Lefebvre (1968) and David Harvey, speaks of the need to install a discussion on the right to the city, in the sense of an alerting to the need for human dignity in urban space, as the city comprises all contemporary social, economic and political practices. Today, the common desire of citizens who populate cities calls for the compliance with norms that protect people’s rights and a demand of the review of those that (in their eyes) are insufficient. Besides being the centre of many social events and social debates against the practices of the sub- infrastructures that form the city, as a large apparatus it is at the same time a provocative matrix that in its defects promotes social rupture and disruptions of various kinds. The collective motivation to go and start a life in the city has led to a series of manifestations and uprisings, which protest against multiple deficiencies in urban dynamics and promote various social issues. Among the recurring problems in the city, in terms of violations of human rights, are labour exploitation, racism, discrimination, inequality, violence, to name but a few. In the context of contemporary society, contemporary artists have been tireless receptors of these signs or problems, leading to the execution of artistic works as instruments for reflection. As David Harvey explained, ‘establishing democratic management over its urban deployment constitutes the right to the city.’ Then, we are left thinking, is ‘the right to the city’ subordinated to the right to democracy? If so, what role do democratic states play in defending or guaranteeing people’s rights? ‘Can globalization promote human rights?’ (Howard-Hassman, 2010). 98
Taking into account the democratic states—on the basis that democracy has been the great political model of globalisation—it is worth putting aside the social conflicts that emerge in them and focus on the basis of democracy: the moment of reflection and creation of the democratic constitution. Many of the conflicts that have arisen in some democratic states—mainly in the city, as a large containment space—are recurring conflicts that respond to social patterns of behaviour in situations where people’s rights are being threatened. The instability and contradictions threaten the behaviour and functioning of every part of the infrastructure, including the parts that are the motor of the infrastructure itself – which for democratic states is the democratic constitution. Following this line of thought, and assuming the existence of a wide spectrum of social conflicts that occur in democratic governments, it is interesting to reflect on the contradictions that exist in certain democratic motors, that is to say, in certain constitutions, and identify how citizens organise themselves in order to denounce them. Considering this, it is worth asking, what is the importance of the process of thinking and designing the basis of a democratic society? Which democratic societies are accused of instability or failure in their constitutions?
What Everybody Can Do Iceland’s constitution was founded in 1944, with minor modifications made thereafter. Over the past few years, the Icelandic people have expressed a desire to rethink its structure and create a new constitution. Since the economic crisis of 2008 social uprisings began demanding a significant change in the constitution. Without wanting to delve into what has been a complex political process, phases of which included: the calling of early elections; the emergence of the figure of Social Democratic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir as the driving force behind the reform; the establishment of a Constitutional Council; the calling of a Constitutional Assembly; the drafting of a new constitution; and the obstacles for it to be instituted, it is worth noting how the Icelandic 99
document has symbolised a storyline where the desires of citizens converge, where the value of collective participation, in terms of clamouring for an opportunity to rethink civil rights, has prevailed. In Chile on the other hand, together with the great social demonstrations that began in 2009 against for-profit education, the demand for the establishment of a new constitution emerged with the same force. The current Chilean constitution, established in 1980 under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, is the current heritage of the regime responsible for a disastrous era in the history of Chile, which left thousands of political victims and disappeared detainees. Despite the efforts that have been made by Chile since the restoration of democracy after the plebiscite in 1990, and in spite of the visible progress in matters of social inequality and with the economy, Chilean society still demands that the current constitution be changed, as it was made during the dictatorship and runs counter to the core principles of any democratic state. The contradictions and instabilities that are part of the process put in place in order to change it, obstacles that the constitution itself carries, have made this subject a national issue that marked the most recent presidential election (December 2013) and the campaign of Michelle Bachelet, who came into power last March. The AC movement (Asamblea Constituyente, or Consituent Assembly), through use of the media and demonstrations, quickly established an urgency to rebuild the basis of Chilean democracy, suggesting a Constituent Assembly as a method to accomplish such a purpose. Meanwhile, due to the national debate regarding this issue, which led to demonstrations across Chile, participatory mechanisms, methods without traps, that once and for all end the abuse of power still present in the ironically named Chilean â€˜democracyâ€™ left behind by the Pinochet dictatorship, are now being sought.
Alfredo Jaar, Venezia, Venezia, 2013. Photo: Agostino Osio
In the case of Egypt, the constitutional referendum held in January 2014 was a major impulse to change the 2012 constitution established under President Mohamed Morsi’s government. An overwhelming 98.13% of the people confirmed the desire of Egyptian society to give more power to the army, banning religious parties (although Islam still is ‘the state’s religion’), in the hope of making advances in matters of human rights through the recognition of gender equality and allowing women access to judicial posts, criminalising torture, and changes to the attribution of powers to the President, amongst other changes. In summary, the transition from ‘Here Comes Everybody’ (HCE) to ‘What Everybody can do’ (WECD) in the context of civil rights and democratic societies, can be analysed by identifying ‘HCE’ as the collective desire of individuals to settle in the city and ‘WECD’ as a question in order to analyse the problems of the city, and hence, the social right to be manifest with the intention of taking action against said problems. While many of the social problems that are explored repeatedly in contemporary cities are 101
present among the themes of contemporary art (which is natural as they correspond to artists’ reactions to global practices), they are generally analysed as specific problems. This work intends to look at the social conflicts that coexist in the city in a primary state, considering the regulation of the apparatus as a whole, which in the case of cities, is the democratic constitution as the basis of the democratic system (applicable to the cases of democratic states). Beyond the difficulty of changing democratic constitutions that are not supported by the desires of its citizens, this paper aims to focus on the moment of reflection of the rules and foundations of a democratic system as a human exercise. ‘To change a constitution is always unconstitutional. To bring something about is always, in principle, difficult.’ (Docherty, p.157). In ‘a poetic attempt to question the model of the Biennial’ (Alfredo Jaar, 2013), the work of the Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar Venezia, Venezia was presented at the last Venice Biennale in 2013, consisting of a model of the Biennale’s Giardini that sinks 24,860 times. In this way, this work questions the Biennale, home to 28 important countries such as England, France, and Germany, challenging an outdated cartography that reveals the concept of nations that existed at the origin of this mother of biennials. Just as referendums offer an opportunity to rethink the foundations of a system, Venezia, Venezia sinks 24,860 times in order to ‘imagine a different order, a kind of cultural democracy open to all.’ Works Cited Docherty, T. (2006) Aesthetic Democracy. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Harvey, D. (2012) Rebel Cities. London: Verso. Howard-Hassman, R. (2010) Can Globalization Promote Human Rights?. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University. Lefebvre, H. (1996) Writing On Cities. London: Blackwell Publishers. M. Hill, D. (1994) Citizens and Cities. London: Harverster Wheatsheaf. Zolo, D. (1997) ‘Cosmopolis’ Prospects for World Government. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Here comes everybody... ...from the f*@*ing plane Emma Massoud & Li Li Chung
‘In the concrete reality of today’s world, places and spaces, places and non-places intertwine and tangle together. The possibility of non-place is never absent from any place. Place becomes a refuge to the habitué of non-places (who may dream, for example, of owning a second home rooted in the depths of the countryside).’1 Marc Augé
The Floatspace We coin a new word, floatspace, which is the walk that international travellers immigrants make heading for the immigration desk after getting off the plane. He would have flown into and landed inside the legal boundaries of a country but has not yet been processed by the country’s border control to enter the country. Only through immigration is his identity acknowledged and approved for entry and mobility, proceeding to his “reality of availability.” Floatspace is territory known to the travellers but the final destination is not yet accessible to the citizen nor the foreigner – he is just an arrivée one of everybody as well as just an every-body like every-body else walking and queuing. Facing the immigration officers is the view of “here comes everybody,” a group of individuals looking to enter the country. Our idea originates from investigating an exhibit at London’s Parasol Unit in 2009 entitled “Here Comes Everybody” that showed artworks on parades and processions.2 Floatspace therefore visualizes an enactment, that of walking, by everybody. It involves everybody’s body, specifically using one’s legs i.e. walking, standing. Therefore, the arrivée is an artist, a geographer who uses his legs to locate his being – however ephemeral. In Walking and Mapping, Karen O’Rourke called walking an art form, necessary in “speculative mapping” e.g. by contemporary artists such as Guy Debord who walked to trace Paris’ urban flows and explain its “psychogeography,” or British photographer Richard Long who trampled a path in the grass to make A Line Made by Walking in 1967.
The Floatspace – a Non-Place To the air traveller, floatspace is a zone of ambiguity, a place in limbo existing only temporarily. It is liminal space akin to a transitional or initial stage of a process. The arrivée can be thought to occupy a spot at a boundary or threshold, neither here nor there. He has landed but is not free to roam, not mobile as he intended until he exits immigration clearance. He knows who he is, he is not stateless, he has his passport and sometimes landing card, but no one judges his identity (except his traveling companions if he has any), although his movements are monitored by CCTV cameras. Yet, he is part of a group, a community, all walking towards an immigration desk. The realm of the floatspace undoubtedly poses feelings of inconclusiveness, apprehension and fear of the unknown, regarding the arrivée’s continuation of his/her travels and immigration or rejection, deportation – the confirmation of not belonging. Within these ephemeral moments of uncertainty, the possibility of desires and reimagining of the rules or given reality is an avenue in which one can attempt to highlight alternate forms of the given apparatuses in place, biometrics, document checks, questioning, signage, the physical presence of border control and customs officers, in which our infrastructure is implemented in order to sieve through those the State deems as belonging and those who do not. 108
Visualising Apparatus While queuing before the Immigration Desk, the arrivée is incognito and innocent such that “… the passenger accedes to his anonymity only when he has given proof of his identity; when he has countersigned (so to speak) the contract”.3 Augé’s translator has an interesting footnote: “The expression non-lieu, which in the present text usually means ‘non-place’, is more commonly used in French in the technical juridical sense of ‘no case to answer’ or ‘no grounds for prosecution’: a recognition that the accused is innocent.”4 Despite the apparatus and its binding contract, floatspace “can be entered only by the innocent. … [such that] a person entering this non-place is relieved of his usual determinants. He becomes no more than what he does or experiences in the role of passenger. Perhaps he’s weighed down by personal thoughts but he is distanced from them temporarily by the environment of the moment. Subjected to a gentle form of possession, to which he surrenders himself … he tastes for a while—like anyone who is possessed—the passive joys of identity-loss, and the more active pleasure of role playing.”5
What can the Floating Body do? French anthropologist Marc Augé differentiates a place and non-place: “[if] a place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space that cannot be defined as relational or historical or concerned with identity will be a nonplace.” Augé argues his hypothesis: “… that supermodernity produces non-places, meaning spaces which are not themselves anthropological places6 and which … do not integrate the earlier places: instead they are listed, classified, promoted to the status of ‘place of memory’ and assigned to circumscribed and specific positions [e.g. hospitals, retail checkout counters] and transit points and temporary abodes (hotels, holiday clubs, refugee camps) … where a dense network of means of transport which are also inhabited space is developing; where the habitué of supermarkets, slot machines, credit cards communicate wordlessly, through gestures, with an abstract unmediated commerce; a world thus surrendered to solitary individuality, to the fleeting, the temporary and ephemeral.”7
This solitary individuality is interesting such that non-places like floatspace create a “shared identity of [being] passengers, customers or Sunday drivers. No doubt the relative anonymity that goes with this temporary identity can even be felt as liberation, by people who, for a time, have only to keep in line, go where they are told, check their appearance”8. Yet, the arrivée is a “face and voice of solitude, made more strange and baffling by the fact that it echoes millions of others.”9 Additionally, though not visible or acknowledged, he has relations with his fellow travellers as an every-body in that floatspace. Speculating a New Everybody Therein lies an opportunity to speculate on this peripatetic way of life: non-place is “one that can be quantified … so peculiar that it often puts the individual in contact only with another image of himself.”10 Could he imagine himself or a fellow arrivée as a tourist, nomad, migrant, vagabond, vagrant, fugitive, asylum seeker? He can only do this while walking and queuing before he retrieves his identity at the immigration desk. 110
Meanwhile, he obeys the same code as others, receives the same messages, responds to the same instructions. The space of non-place creates neither singular identity nor relations; there is “only solitude and similitude.”11 Thus, the arrivée has to negotiate at least two possible territories: on the one hand, this personal, singular sovereignty is possible as he is part of everybody and shares the “indivisible sovereignty of the human species” as Michel Foucault wrote. It reminds us of Foucault’s heterotopia, seemingly “a nowhere,” a space that functions in non-hegemonic conditions, a space of otherness that is neither here nor there but importantly, in the present and a moment of being free.13 On the other hand, or perhaps simultaneously, despite being alone, the arrivée “… is in contractual relations … with the powers that govern it. He is reminded, when necessary, that the contract exist,” as floatspace is a non-place in a space “formed in relation to certain ends”13 (i.e. border clearance). That contract is mediated by words/text such as on signboards. Therein lies one signifier of floatspace’s controlling apparatus, the destination country’s immigration bureaucracy and staff. To be free from this contract, speculative reimagining of the given floatspace needs to happen. Wherever one might be, the common in the temporal space allows citizen and immigrant alike to retain a momentary status of everybodyness in that neither has either been processed or declined, and in this sense, as Augé highlights, ‘there would be no individualization … without identity checks.’14 Forms/acts of detournment or culture jamming, derive from Guy Debord and the Situationists (e.g. The Yes Men and Adbusting) in which given structures and formats are subverted, be it visually, textually, or verbally in order to raise awareness concerning varying social, cultural and political areas and issues. 112
The arrivée knows that for him to be processed, he is likely to be finger-printed, asked many questions including “Why are you here? How long do you intend to stay? How much money do you have? How do you intend to support yourself? Do you have a return airticket? Where is your father from/how many brothers does he have? Is this stay for leisure or business? Will you be working/Do you intend to work?” What can he really do? He imagines the new everybody…
Notes 1. Augé, M. (2008) Non-Places. Brooklyn, London: Verso. p.107. 2. Parades and Processions: Here Comes Everybody exhibit at Parasol Unit, London, 28 May – 24 July 2009. Catalog edited by Ziba de Weck Ardalan. London, Koenig Books, 2009. http://parasol-unit.org/parades-and-processions-here-comeseverybody. In James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake one of the main protagonists, HCE is both ‘Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker’ and ‘Here Comes Everybody,’ that is simultaneously an individual and a “universal representations of humanity.” 3. Augé, op.cit., p.82. 4. Ibid., p.82–3. 5. Ibid., p.82. 6. “‘anthropological place’ is formed by individual identities, through complicities of language, local references, the unformulated rules of living know-how.” Ibid., p.82. 7. Ibid., p.63. 8. Ibid., p.82. 9. Ibid., p.83. 10. Ibid., p.64. 11. Ibid., p.83. 12. Foucault, M. (1987) “La Ville Inquiete.” In Le Temps de la Reflexion. pp.204–5. Foucault, M. (1984) “Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias.” In Architecture, Mouvement, Continuité 5. pp.46–49. 13. Augé, op.cit., p.82. 14. Ibid., p.102. Works Cited Augé, M. (2008) Non-Places, Brooklyn, London: Verso Foucault, M. (1987) “La Ville Inquiete” in Le Temps de la Reflexion, pp. 204-5 Foucault, M. (1984) “Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias.” In Architecture, Mouvement Continué 5. pp.46-49 Illustrations by Emma Massoud. All images courtesy of the authors. 114
Ain’t no body
What Amazon Turk Teaches Us About Politics of the Body and Digitalisation Franziska Wildförster
â€˜To reclaim a real political agency means first of all accepting our ignorance onto fantasmatic Others is our own complicity in planetary networks of oppression. What needs to be kept in mind is both that capitalism is a hyper-abstract impersonal structure and that it would be nothing without our co-operationâ€™.1 Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism The observation that we live in an age of hyper-connectivity is not a particularly new one. This naturalness, this self-evident manner with which we take in digital streams of data and information via email, Facebook and Twitter before having digested our breakfast, though, is possibly more striking than those acts themselves. As more and more people (admit to) wake in the middle of the night to somnolently reach out to their smartphone devices on the 117
bedside table, forced by an inner pressure not to not miss out on something during these few hours that we are, literally, off-line. The adjustment of our internal clocks to the production protocols of 24/7 cycles reaches nearly unpredictable levels. While the possibilities of managing our social, cultural, political, working and leisure life conveniently and comfortably via digital services, hyperlinks and apps seemingly exponentiate themselves, the ranges of behaviours and varieties of perceptions ceaselessly shrink. Fostering our friendships demands the same clicks and patterns as managing our bank accounts. Most fatally, we are increasingly adapting, perfectly merging with devices, digital services and seemingly abstract processes and as late-stage capitalism extracts value from every single waking moment, the real involvement of bodies on multiple levels, of our own and others, is rendered invisible. Non-stop In line with an ethos that, according to Jonathan Crary, defends the idea that “when people have nothing further that can be taken from them, whether resources or labour power, they are quite simply disposable”2, the Amazon Mechanical Turk seems like the next logical step in the expanding processes of global economy. An internet marketplace for ‘crowdsourcing’, this new website by mega-corporation Amazon brings businesses and individuals, known as Requesters, together with workers, or Turkers, who complete the tasks almost exclusively from their own computers. These “fun” little tasks called HITS usually do not take longer than a couple of seconds, minutes at the most, and, surprisingly, cannot be accomplished by computer programs, or at least they are accomplished much better by human beings: describe pictures simply so that they can be catalogued; categorise tweets; categorise Google search keys; “get paid to rate funny stuff”; “tag 5 images”; and “categorize these products from Amazon.com”3. The minor tasks offered are indeed crucial for keeping the digital economy running, systematising and categorising our incidental traces throughout digital networks, and increasing the comfort and convenience with which we move through virtual paths supertailored for us. 118
Harry Sanderson, Human Resolutions 2012
This marketplace system splits globally distributed workers into groups of up to 100 in order to produce a new form of cloud work, or micro labour services. These “Turkers” are paid only the value of the task they have completed (or less) and thus become a resource whose only value is its direct use-value within the greater system – the average wage of a mechanical Turker, if they work quickly, is about one American Dollar per hour, with most tasks paying only a few cents. In other words, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program generates every neoliberal’s dream working conditions, extracting surplus value from endlessly exchangeable subjects globally on any day, hour, minute, or second. A convenient side effect of the digitally and globally dispersed fragmentation of work is the fact that no labour laws act upon it; this marketplace moves within a global grey-zone where they are literally out of governmental control. The individuated working process that mediates Mechanical Turk’s status identifies no employers and has limited and onesided visibility. As the work is extracted directly from the source, the workers, it never risks unproductivity, causing ruptures in the stream of efficiency, complaints or demanded rights! 119
Hidden bodies Quite audaciously, the Amazon Turk plays on our perceptions and consciousness; it is self-reflectively plays the trick implied in the name itself. The name “Mechanical Turk” stems from the chess-set trick conducted by a Hungarian nobleman, Wolfgang von Kempelen, who convinced people that he had built a machine that made decisions using artificial intelligence, when in fact it contained a chess master – a human body. Amazon therefore seems to know quite well what it is doing: making people believe that digital technology and digital economy runs itself and that there is no human work required to keep these systems operational (this is also true for the “Turkers” themselves because their labour does not appear to be distinguishable from online leisure time). If no one has to see the people involved, the system appears to be autonomous. This avoids the responsibility on Amazon’s part, but it also stands for a larger development that increasingly dematerialises personhood and renders bodies invisible on multiple levels. As harmless as this case may seem, the creeping, non-stop extraction of labour coincides with an intensifying desensitisation of our faculties and makes the Amazon Turker a striking case arguing for an altering human condition, undisturbed and seamlessly adopting protocols of exploitation, control and surveillance. In no way should violence that workers in mines and factories be compared to Amazon’s millions of “Prosumers” (the designation for consumers such as you and me) who merge with the 24/7 cycle of consumption, distribution and production, or even Amazon “Turkers” (who are very likely, also, you and me). The violent work is destructive and physical exploitation of workers in locations such as raw earth mines in Congo and ‘e-waste dumps‘ of Ghana; these locales are necessary for the production or disposing of our digital devices, and their labour is embodied in the surfaces and technologies. However, it is very important to understand that the workers in Congo and Ghana , the Turker and Prosumer stand in relation to each other, not just by the fact that they are all bodies necessary for the maintenance of digital economies but also when it 120
comes to asking why, despite exploitation, unemployment, growing inequalities and income disparities, a global (network) uprising is so very unlikely? Self-liquidation The Cartesian separation of cogito and body is rooted deep within our ontological heritage; it lays ground for the desire to control the messiness of the body and the physical world and the growing desensitisation and alienation of the body in relation to 24/7 digital technology and economy. As, “all facets of individual experience as continuous and compatible with the requirements of accelerated 24/7 consumerism”4, we the subjects, our consciousness and our senses, are posed as a site of non-stop regulation and dominance within a system that re-enacts the global socio-political structure and the liquidation of our very selves. For Friedrich Kittler, “everything [within digitalization] becomes a number: quantity without image, sound, or voice”. This means that digital information technology destroys the image of man as the subject of knowledge and of its synthetic production. The optoelectronic channels and patterns of sounds, image, voice and text, are mere effects on the surface, which is the interface of the consumer, externalised and is always directed outwards. The fluctuating textures of human affect and emotion adapt to efficiency and seemingly frictionless handling, a transition that entails a reformatting of the conscious organism in order to make it compatible with the connective environment. Diminishing perceptual capabilities combined with routinised, habitual or trance-like behaviour produce an ‘impossible experience’. Political body / Distribution of the insensible In order to add more to the category “we’re screwed”, Franco Berardi agues “governance produces pure functionality without meaning, the automation of thought and of will. It embeds abstract connections in the relation between living organisms, technologically subjecting choices to logical concatenation.”5 Slavery wears the mask of freedom; it intensifies the integration of our time and activity 121
into the parameters of electronic exchange and depoliticisation and, according to Agamben, generates “the most cowardly of all social bodies”; Hyper-connectivity leads to a growing separation and isolation within a state of unbearable proximity lacking sociability. Is there a way to reclaim our bodies, our will, and our senses, that “generate[s] cognitarian awareness with regard to an erotic, social body of the general intellect; (…) to speak in a way that sensibly enacts a paradigm shift, a resemiotization of the social field, a change in social expectations and self-perception?” Berardi claims that in this dreadful situation, “we are forced to acknowledge that we do have a body, a social and a physical body, a socioeconomic body.”6 In this regard, the play on our perceptual apparatuses, engagement of art in the process of increased de-materialisation, frictionless merging and permeation might hold some promise in the potentiation of relation between political economy and aesthetics. If we retake Ranciere’s infamous account of the “distribution of the sensible” and focus our attention upon the distribution of the insensible – encompassing new forms of fluidity, the movement of capital, the abstraction of the self and the social body – the value of criticality within the arts on a structural level gains new currency. Take Hito Steyerl’s “Liquidity”, Harry Sanderson’s “Human Resolution” or Nicolas Baier’s “Vanitas”; works such as these may just be the starting point for a new awareness of the sensuality of our bodies and the necessity to collectively reclaim it. While we know from Frederic Jameson that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism, it is the imaginaries that are the soil for the growth of possible change. Notes 1. Fisher, M. (2009). Capitalist Realism. Ropley: O Books, p.15. 2. Crary, J. (2013). 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. London: Verso Books. 3. Examples of HITS taken from the Amazon Mechanical Turk marketplace. 4. Crary, p.98. 5. Berardi, F. (2010). ‘Cognitarian Subjectivation’. e-flux [Online] no. 20, p 5. 6. Ibid., pp.4-5. 122
Works Cited Amazon. (2014). Amazon Mechanical Turk: Artificial Artificial Intelligence. [Online]. Available at: https://www.mturk.com/mturk/findhits?State=K2tj dGhoekdVd0VJ VTRzY1oyVithR01zQ3Q0PTIwMTQwNTE0MTYyMVVzZXIudHVya1N lY3VyZX50cnVlJQ--&match=false [Accessed: 14 May 2014] Berardi, F. (2010). ‘Cognitarian Subjectivation’. e-flux [Online] no. 20. Available at: http://www.e-flux.com/journal/cognitarian-subjectivation/ [Accessed: 10 May 2014] Crary, J. (2013). 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. London: Verso Books. Fisher, M. (2009). Capitalist Realism. Ropley: O Books.
Action, Intervention and Daily Deployment Reflection on a research project on protest practices and their visual representation Vivi Kallinikou & AIDD Collective
‘We are not protesting what we don’t want, we are performing what we want.’ Emily Roysdon
Introduction In the Spring Term of the 2014 academic year, I got involved with a group of people in Goldsmith’s MA Lab who were interested in the broad notion of ‘everyday protest.’ Initially our understanding of possibilities through both content and practice varied, and it was difficult to grasp the concept of what we already had termed this ‘everyday protest’ at that early stage, even more so what it was that we could do about it. With time and in relation to our other courses 125
at college, our understanding slowly began to take form. As a result we founded the AIDD Collective, a research collective concerned with alternative protest practices and their visual representations. Each member of our group brought different ways of thinking and relations to the table: from an interest in socio-political influences on artistic production; participatory and collaborative art making; the relationship between space, practitioner and audience; the multidimensionality of experiences between physical and psychological space; current or recent protest events and their potential failures. All these led to an attempt to produce a rather informal body of knowledge concerned with questions of space, location and subjectivity, that we could circulate beyond the borders of the university infrastructure. As a student of Visual Cultures/Global Arts, my personal interest in both Geographies and the Lab was driven by the question of what is art’s relevance in today’s society? What can an artist do to push the limits, to challenge socio-political urgencies, to question living conditions? Are there rules for an engagement for a better world? Are there rules for the practice of political agency? If so, what are they? I was interested in practices that confronted, challenged and entered contemporary urgencies conceptually rather than only comment on them or take them up as a subject matter, practices that offer alternatives, rather than only disapproval. T.J. Demos states that today, “what is needed more than ever are powerful and creative artistic expressions and interventions that join other social movements for positive change, social justice and equality, working together toward the progressive re-creation of our common world.”1 It is exactly this link of art and activism that I wanted to implicate in my work that led to my participation in AIDD. My analysis of ruling economic and political power structures, “everybody’s” disapproval with those structures exposed in recent protests movements around the world, have since paired with questions about aesthetic forms, representative and symbolic gestures. So far they have resulted in the appreciation of an individual act’s power becoming a collective and collaborative 126
act, and this collective act in turn having the power to mobilise energy that will help rethink the production of the world and reinvent possibilities. When we established AIDD we answered the question of “Who is everybody?” quite literally. To us everybody was everybody – as in every single individual that acts in relation to other individuals and in relation to the world. Every individual that reframes questions, second-guesses mainstream ideals and develops strategies and innovations to confront and challenge contemporary urgencies by performing the difference in his or her everyday life. Our thesis understands an individual’s protest act as a habitual act, founded on firm believe in something, and acted upon consciously in everyday life. The leading question was how sustainable this way of political agency was. Agency not organised by a protesting apparatus against something but out of the individual need for something. I have decided to reflect on AIDD Collective’s work within the context of this publication, as it is no longer only speculative thought, but experience – a collection of practiced political agency within systems. My individual research and practice during the AIDD project has been shaped and inspired by my encounters with political, philosophical and social writing presented within the context of my courses in Geographies and Global Arts. The questions that have emerged out of these encounters were a driving force behind my participation. The following writing is a reflective piece on the work around the notion of ‘everyday protest.’ It is collectively written by AIDD and is based on both individual research and the collective experience of establishing an archive, of producing and circulating knowledge. It consequently continues in the plural form.
Action, Intervention and Daily Deployment In the wake of recent protests across the world, the immediate association of â€˜protestâ€™ is to a mass of people coming together to voice their disapproval. Many of such actions have been confronted with violence, arrest and opposition. Have you ever taken part in such actions? Were you frustrated or disappointed when what you were claiming for was not realised? Was it possibly too short-lived to make a difference? We asked ourselves: can we think of a different kind or representation of protest? If we shift away from this general idea of protest and rather focus on the statements and commitments that are executed at the intersection between the privacy of our own homes and the public sphere, is there any difference? Consider actions of boycott campaigns, Buy-Nothing-Day or urban gardening as social practices, can the results of these interventions be regarded as more sustainable? Does it matter whether it is an individual act or a movement, and how can we grasp such a shift? Are such actions temporary? Consciously acted upon? Do they have an end goal? With these questions in mind, we are ultimately trying to investigate different practices for socio-political change and examining how we can detect it. We believe that change can be evoked not only by voicing disapproval, but equally by offering alternative ways to make it sustainable and living by example. Who is everybody? I am everybody, we are everybody We are a research collective formed at Goldsmiths College, University of London, in January 2014, dedicated to the collection and investigation of everyday protest practices and their visual representation. We encounter protest practices in an on-going conversation which we document on a website we set up called aestheticsofprotest.org. The website consists of an accessible online archive, a playful encyclopaedia and a growing collection of writing. 128
AIDD Collective was established out of the need to tackle issues surrounding the notion of ‘everyday protest,’ actions and interventions that individuals undertake on a daily basis with the hope of making change. As opposed to mass protests that are frequently being shown on the media being confronted with violence, arrest and opposition, AIDD is interested in examining alternative practices that individuals take through everyday means that may prove to be more sustainable. In this manner, we are observing the shift from the public to the private, or vice versa, and examining how we can detect that shift in individual everyday practice and what it means in a social context. We believe that by collecting this information we can create an alternative representation of protest, open debates, raise awareness, and display different conditions of entering and challenging contemporary urgencies. What can everybody do? In order to find out what everybody could/can do, we decided to publish an open-call for submissions. The open-call allowed anyone interested in this field to share with us their own understandings and practices of ‘everyday protest’ through various submissions to be included in our homepage. In a short period of about three months, we exchanged our work and thoughts with artists, activists, practitioners and researcher around the world. The work was mostly concerned with collaborative, participatory projects, designed to exchange ideas with a wider, and mostly nonacademic public, and primarily designed to make a difference. We were introduced to Zero-Waste, a philosophy, strategy, and practice devoted to the redesign of resources so that less waste is produced and sent to landfills. It is goal and message at the same time. The social movement growing out of this ideology is concerned with learning to resist some of our socially ingrained impulses to constantly buy and then throw away. It is not one single organisation that preaches the importance of less waste; it’s countless individuals, groups, institutions, or governmental agencies around 129
the world driven by a disapproval of excessive waste, consumption, and exploitation of resources, who promote the idea of “reducing, refusing, reusing, recycling and rotting.”2 Bea Johnson is one of Britain’s leading figures in the Zero-Waste-Movement. The blogger and author of Zero-Waste Home generates less than a small jar (!) of rubbish in an entire year.3 To her, wasting less and being more sustainable is a matter of habits. Question your habits in everyday life, get to the bottom of what you actually need, and you will realise that you can forgo many things. According to WRAP, a government agency assigned with reducing household waste, people in the UK are still producing 27.7 mega tonnes of garbage each year. So, there is still work to do. Making visible the amount of unnecessary waste and common unsustainable strategies to make it disappear (landfills and incinerators) is thus not enough to make a change. Zero Waste therefore starts in one’s everyday life and continues to develop in education. Only by practicing the “ideology” in everyday life to the best of one’s abilities and knowledge will there be a difference in dealing with waste. We were introduced to the art practice of Alexandra Baybutt, Mira Loew, Jane Frances Dunlop4 and their implementation of generosity in their performative work. The notion of “holding dear,” the title of their most recent performance series, as the motor for change, the motivation for sharing, volunteering, contributing and collaborating, as a way of protesting against the individual, egoistic accumulation of ‘stuff’ is not only an important contribution to both art practice and daily life practice but long overdue. We were introduced to guerrilla gardening, a term first introduced in 1973 in New York. At that time, the city could count only five community gardens in all five boroughs, since all the money was spent on constructing residential complexes and commercial and industrial buildings only.5 Many residents complained about the neglect of their neighbourhood and the accumulation of waste, but the city itself never intervened. Finally, artist Liz Christy, who 130
lived in the city’s Lower East Side, assembled her friends and neighbours to clean out the district. Naming themselves the ‘Green Guerrillas’ they planted food crops, flowers and trees within the neighbourhood and threw ‘seed bombs’ in empty sites. Furthermore, they took back an abandoned space on the corner of Bowery and Houston by removing the rubbish and revitalizing the soil, planting flowers, trees and edibles, while offering gardening workshops. Liz Christy negotiated with the city’s Housing and Preservation Department a way to make their newly created garden an official community garden. In the end, the administration approved the site for rental as the ‘Bowery Houston Farm and Garden’ for one Dollar a month (In 1986 the Garden was dedicated as the Liz Christy’s Bowery-Houston Garden, in memory of its founder). Surrounding neighbourhoods got inspired and participated in the initiative.6 Since then, guerrilla gardening was also considered and used as a tool to show dissatisfaction and disagreement in the public sphere by secretly seeing plants and food crops on land, which does not legally belong to the gardener. One attempt was staged by ‘Reclaim the Streets,’ a London-based group behind the ‘mass guerrilla gardening action,’ at Parliaments Square on May Day 2000. They were claiming for a global and local social-ecological revolution.7 The protest was partly filmed and can be watched on YouTube.8 What can we do? Once we had developed our thesis we asked ourselves what could we do about it? How could we research this field? The most exciting and overwhelming experience was to find ways to organise ourselves, and the people we brought together, without being an organisation. We were students, researchers, with limited funds and no infrastructure. So it became clear it was up to us to facilitate an infrastructure. Communication tools such as social networks or online tools such as Wordpress, Google Drive and Mail Chimp generated one. They helped us work in a professional manner while being flexible enough to coordinate action without financial 131
pressure. This is where questions of physical institutions, a constant debate in art practice, became interesting. Online institutions in many ways are replacing physical ones because of their convenience, flexibility and ability to bring more people together than would be possible in an actual, real-world setting. Realising this made us more convinced about the idea of developing, distributing and sharing everything with everyone online, from our open call and invitations to our online archive tool itself. But, what did we do? We set up an online-archive. The AIDD online-archive is a resource comprising of a collection of documents, writings, videos, interviews, art works, and other entries related to socio-political practices and engagement of what we call everyday protest. We collected information and media reflecting on the different perspectives and characteristics of such perceived protest practices. The entries are not only based on our own research but also on submitted works by artists, writers, activists and other parties. It is an open resource created to inform and inspire practitioners, researchers, scholars, or any other interested parties concerned with different kinds of actions and interventions practiced through daily life. Since the twentieth century, the traditional concept of the archive has been examined, contested, and reinvented by different scholars concerning what constitutes an archive, the condition of its existence, its partiality and its exclusions.9 In its basic meaning an archive is understood as a â€˜collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people.â€™10 Today, in the age of technology the Internet has opened up the context of the archive. ReneĂŠ Sentilles considers the World Wide Web as one big archive and the Internet as the transportation device for research. As a result, the Internet democratises the principle of archives and archive stories can now also be found in domains outside the academy. The value of what is stored lies in how it can be used in the present, and in its operationality rather than in its meaning. Therefore, the relationship with sources changes as they become better accessible, more abundant and less tangible and the questions about exclusion and between fact 132
and fiction become even more essential.11 By creating this website that we understood as an online archive, we were examining and pointing out different protest practices, actions and interventions at the intersection between the private and the public. Foucault considers the archive as a ‘[…] general system of the formation and transformation of statements […] and a construct of exclusion.’12 By including academic texts, field works, arts practices and interviews not only produced by us but also by submitters from various backgrounds we were trying to ensure a wide range for our purview. Following Jacques Derrida, we are captured by an archival impulse, a phenomenon today for what he established the term ‘archive fever.’ Derrida argues for an archival desire that seeks to assure a future always threatened by finitude.13 We are very aware that by creating this archive we are jumping on this archival wave. But within the scope of our research, we have discovered a lack of a comprehensive online body of knowledge, where an overview for everybody who is interested in that topic is provided. Outlook Our work on this project results from an understanding that the every-body relies on the every-one in the every-day. Following the Foucauldian notion of power structure and relation, everyone can exercise power, by shaping culture, by making choices within a system. The everyday is not only a place where thinking can be practiced, and theories can be tested; it is also a place where basic civilian tasks can be executed, where every-one and every-body can take over responsibilities of governmental authorities, nongovernmental agencies, administrations, economical or cultural institutions. Realising the enthusiasm, interest and people’s engagement with AIDD and its archive over the past couple of months, knowing that it is recognised as worthy and meaningful by others, we feel confident about the research we have started and look forward to its development. Arjun Appadurai states in the foreword to his essay 133
collection The future as cultural fact, “The future is ours to design, if we are attuned to the right risks, the right speculations, and the right understanding of the material of the world we both inhabit and shape […] and since, following Marx, we cannot design the world as we please, it is vital to build a picture of the historical present that can help us find the right balance between utopia and despair.”14 In this sense, we hope to be able to picture a “historical present” by providing the information collected on our pages, and inspire future innovations and strategies to challenge contemporary issues in everyday life. Remarks More details on the work and writing referenced in this piece can be found on aestheticsofprotest.org. This essay was written and published in consultation with AIDD Collective (namely Wei-Hsin Chen, Wiebke Hahn, Aline Khoury, Karina Hanney Marrero, and Vivi Kallinikou). Notes 1. Demos, T.J. (2013). The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis. Durham: Duke University Press. p. XXIII. 2. http://zerowastehome.blogspot.co.uk/ [Accessed: 8 May 2014]. 3. Ibid. 4. http://aestheticsofprotest.org/holding-dear/ [Accessed: 8 May 2014]. 5. http://www.evidero.de/veraendern/die-ur-geschichte-des-urban-gardenings [Accessed: 19 February 2014]. 6. http://www.pps.org/great_public_spaces/one?public_place_id=45 [Accessed: 19 February 2014]. 7. Tracey, D. (2007). Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers. p.25. 8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4HUbeyGnOs [Accessed: 8 May 2014]. 9. Merewether, C. (2006). “Introduction//Art and the Archive,” in Merewether, C. (ed.). The Archive. Cambridge: The MIT Press. pp.10–17. 10. Online Oxford Dictionary [Accessed: 17 January 2014). 11. Sentilles, R. (2005). “Toiling in the Archives of Cyberspace,” in Burton, A. Archive Stories. Facts, Fictions, and Writing of History. Durham: Duke University Press. p.142. 12. Foucault, M. (1969). “The Historical a priori and the Archive,” in Merewether, C. (ed.) (2006). The Archive. Cambridge: The MIT Press. p.26. 13. Derrida, J. (1996). Archive Fever. A Freudian Impression. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.13. 14. Appadurai, A. (2013). The Future as Cultural Fact. London: Verso Books. p.3. 134
Works Cited Appadurai, A. (2013) The Future as Cultural Fact. London: Verso Books. Demos, T.J. (2013) The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis. Durham: Duke University Press. Derrida, J. (1996) Archive Fever. A Freudian Impression. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Foucault, M. (1969) “The Historical a priori and the Archive.” In Merewether, C. (ed.) (2006). The Archive. Cambridge: The MIT Press. pp.26–31. Merewether, C. (2006) “Introduction//Art and the Archive.” In Merewether, C. (ed.). The Archive. Cambridge: The MIT Press. pp.10–17. Sentilles, R. (2005) “Toiling in the Archives of Cyberspace.” In Burton, A. Archive Stories. Facts, Fictions, and Writing of History. Durham: Duke University Press. pp.136–156. Tracey, D. (2007) Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers.
Bishan Project Here Comes Everybody Yuqiong Xu
‘. . . we could say that today there is not even a single instant in which the life of individuals is not modelled, contaminated, or controlled by some apparatus. In what way, then, can we confront this situation, what strategy must we follow in our everyday hand-to-hand struggle with apparatuses? What we are looking for is neither simply to destroy them nor, as some naively suggest, to use them in the correct way.’ Giorgio Agamben Introduction In the process of China’s urbanization, one of the most significant phenomena is that millions of rural populations are flooding into cities. The Chinese government has ambitious plans to migrate another 250 million people into towns over the next 12 years in a bid to drive growth and boost consumption. However, the curator Ou Ning deems that China’s massive urbanization has been 137
a destructive social force and its benefits unfairly distributed. For instance, Ou Ning realizes that the problem of the ‘urban village’ is closely associated with the countryside. Therefore, Ou Ning hopes to encourage not only intellectuals but everybody to go back to the country and balance the relationship between urban and rural areas through his ‘Bishan Project.’ The ‘Bishan Project’ mainly focuses on artistic and cultural events. Moreover, Ou attempts to use art and culture as the starting point of entry and influence or reshape politics and economics with their work in rural areas. Part One The ‘Bishan Project’ is not only an art project but a conception and practice on the rural reconstruction movement. Ou Ning (2003), the initiator of the project, elucidates that his starting point is the anxiety over the manifested and grim China’s social realities, such as the imbalance between cities and countryside, deterioration of agricultural industries and loss of rights of agricultural labour, which are the “direct result of excessive urbanization” (Ou, 2003). Consequently, Ou attempts to advocate that intellectuals and artists return the country from cities, establish the relationship between urban and rural areas based on mutual sustenance and dedicate their intellect to influence culture, economy and politics in rural areas. This project based on the historical experience of “the rural reconstruction movement led by Chinese intellectuals since the Republican Era” (ibid.) and the cultural practices of diverse rural regions across the world. Being inspired by Chinese traditional rural philosophies and utopian spirit, the ‘Bishan Project’ expects to achieve a restarting of rural vitality, fulfilling “Mutual Aid” (ibid.), and exploring an approach to rural revival. Bishan, located in Yi Country of Anhui Province, is well-known as its well-preserved Hui-style architectures in the historical Huizhou Region and belongs to a part of Mount Huangshan and Yi Country tourist areas. However, Ou Ning (2011) deems that the existing monotonous tourism development mode is neither concerned with the protection natural eco-environment and rural development, nor committed to the revival and inheritance of traditional farming 138
heritage and culture. Especially, this pattern can only provide superficial visits and lifeless specimens to more tourists, yet more widespread and active participation in rural reconstruction cannot be inspired. Meanwhile, an unsophisticated imagination about rural areas has been broken. Based on the consideration for depressed rural situations and the critical standpoint on over-urbanization, Ou Ning and his partner—the artist Zuo Jing—chose the Bishan village as their site for Bishan Commune and began the exploration and experiment on co-housing and rural reconstruction in 2011. Part Two Since the end of the Cold War, China has actively embraced globalization. As Ou (2013) states, the urbanization movement which is guided by GDP has reallocated social resources even more intensely than under revolutions. Xiang (2008) summarizes that the process of urbanization is, in short, a natural historical transformation process from rural society and civilization to modern urban society and civilization. Meanwhile, the World Bank report (1997), China 2020, states that one of the two significant transformations which are happening in China is the shift from countryside and an agricultural society to cities and an industrial society. Based on the data that is provided by Xiang (2008), if China will be able to achieve modernization in 2050, the urbanization rate must be more than 70%. On the other hand, every year the number of rural population flooding into the cities will be more than 10 million in China. However, it should be noted that the transformation from peasants to citizens has happened without sufficient preparation. Under the condition of a serious shortage in the social security system, peasants have completed the transformation of identities and roles; they have to face with a terrible dilemma – the contradiction between institutional identity and their self-perceived identity. Furthermore, the dilemma has brought various troubles and inconveniences. Ou Ning has realized the grim status quo as well. He (2013) deems that peasants contributed both land and labour force over the course of China’s urbanization, yet they are not be able to get equal opportunities to share benefits brought by urbanization and modernization. 139
Fig. 6 All images from Ou Ning’s blog Fig. 1 The logo of Bishan Commune, Designed by Xiao Ma and Cheng Zi, 2010 Fig. 2 The project called ‘Craftsmanship in Yi County’ 2011 Fig. 3 Designers Xiao Ma and Cheng Zi are visiting the Yu Ting Gao Workshop, 2011 Fig. 4 Fashion designer Ma ke is investigating the process of making flax, 2011 Fig. 5 Chu Di Fang: Harvest Ceremony, performed by villagers of Bishan, 2011 Fig. 6 The design of Bishan Hours in Ou Ning’s second Moleskine notebook on Bishan Project, 2014 Fig. 7 Bishan Hours (back side), 2014 Fig. 8 Bishan Hours (front side), 2014
In 2005, Ou investigated the urban villages around San Yuan Li area of Guangzhou and the slums in Da Shi La region of Beijing in order to achieve his two urban study projects: the San Yuan Li Project and Meishi Street. Through these investigations he found the majority of residents who live in urban villages or slums are landless peasants and migrant farmer labourers who have not finished the transformation of citizen. These people can be described as landless, without guarantee, with no stable position, and unskilled; they cannot find a foothold except in humble and cheap residences in cities. Additionally, the Hukou system (household registry systems in China) objectively has caused that the landless peasants and migrant farm labourers who hold the agricultural Hukou cannot conveniently access public service facilities, acquire stable occupations, participate in politics and guarantee due entitlements. Xiang (2008) deems, as well, that they still suffer from the identity crisis and complex mentality of marginal people. Even if they have lived in cities for several years, they cannot establish self-confidence and fully integrate in urban mainstream lifestyle yet. Therefore, Ou (2011) insists that the problems that seemingly only exist in urban city are, in fact, the reflection of sick realities in rural areas. Fei (1992) argues that traditional Chinese society, in both countryside and cities, is a unified rural society that is based on ‘the notion of one’s native soil’ (Ou, 2013). Fei (op.cit.) further states that with respect to familial relationships, social organization followed a differential mode of association, and with respect to politics, started at the top with politically centralized power and moved down to power at the county level. From the county level down, social organization and stability relied on the autonomy of landowners in small villages. However, Fei (ibid.) points out that the traditional social structure has been continually criticized and transformed leading to chronic disorder, since the May Fourth Movement (1919). According to Fei’s argument, Ou (2013) insists that in China, the large-scale urbanization movement is a disruptive social force. Taking Bishan village for example, Bishan is one of the oldest villages in Anhui province China. It is rich in natural resources and traditional Chinese culture. A kind of Chinese rural patriarchal 141
clan tradition is still kept in these villages like Bishan. Since Ming dynasty (14th century AD), Anhui province started to be one of the richest regions in China. Businessmen born from Anhui made a huge amount of money in big cities like Shanghai and Yangzhou. They often organized association of hometown fellows. Furthermore, they kept sending the money back to their relatives living in villages. Therefore, owing to the fortune from the cities there were many so called ‘Hui style’ architecture being built in the villages (‘Hui’ is the abbreviation of Anhui province). It can be found that there is a very harmonious relationship between the urban city and rural area. The urban-rural interactions mean that the village supplies business elites to cities, and then gets fortune from these talented people, earned in cities. However, the current reality of this village gives a quite different picture compared with its past. Although it is not extremely poverty-stricken, most of the houses are abandoned. The ordinary residents living in the village are children and the elderly. The tradition of filial piety is becoming weaker and weaker, and the majority of old people lose the care of their children. It should be emphasized that the situation of Bishan village is very typical in modern China. A huge gap exists between villages and urban cities. New generation farmers who are able to find jobs in cities no longer wish to return the country again. Through this way, the rural area is grabbed by the city, and both of them are standing in each other’s opposite position. The purpose of the ‘Bishan project’ is to restore the selfconfidence of the villagers. Taking art as the starting point, the history of the local region is reviewed, and the villagers are wishing to be inspired by their glorious history and outstanding ancestors. Based on the above achievements, Ou Ning attempted to make a practice to help the famers express their demands. Ou (2013) deems that no matter at the political or economic level, there is only the stage of the political party and the wealthy. The famers as the lowest stratum of this system can never be the subjects of history. Ou (ibid.) states that the subject of farmers should manifest as their reactive capabilities, negotiation abilities, and initiative when they have to face practical issues. Additionally, developing the strength 142
and knowledge of the people is still an important talking point in today’s China. Meanwhile, Ou wishes to rebuild the relationship between rural area and urban city. His project aims to make the village more attractive for the youth and integrate more human resources and financial support in this process. The intellectuals, or so-called rural intellectuals, become the leaders in this rural construction movement. Through this method, it is hoped that the interactive relationship between rural areas and urban cities could be revived as well, as before. Part Three Different from numerous rural study think-tanks in China which are more willing to start their works from building rural community college and farmers’ cooperative, Ou Ning and his partners chose to organize artistic and cultural events as the main starting point of ‘Bishan Project.’ As a curator and artist, Ou Ning believed that the fascinating and diverse local rural art resources are the crucial parts of rural life that should be recommended and developed. In addition, Ou Ning acquired the further financial support as this project was involved in 2011 Chengdu China Biannual Exhibition at its early stages. In 2011, Bishan Commune was founded in Bishan village. Ou invited artists, architects, designers, musician, film directors, writers and student volunteers from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to visit the Bishan area and investigate local society. Based on extensive fieldwork, they planned and held the first Bishan Harvestival in cooperation with the villagers. In this festival, Ou and his partners focused on ‘the presentation of village history, protection and revitalization of housing, design of traditional crafts, staging of traditional regional opera and music performances, production and screening of documentaries about the villages, and conducting forums where rural reconstruction workers who advocate different schools of thought and practice in various areas can share their experiences.’ (Ou, 2013) 143
A significant project, ‘Craftsmanship in Yi County,’ should be introduced. In this project, artists, architects and designers from modern urban cities were invited to work with local craftsmen and folk artists to create modern versions for traditional objects. One of the cases that was an extension of this craftsmanship project was that a team of graphic designers and product designers takes part in the ‘excavating’ and ‘redesigning’ a kind of local food, the ‘Yuting Cake.’ It is expected that this traditional food could be taken into market in the near future to bring economic benefits for local villagers. Another case is about the preservation of traditional domestic architecture, led by the local people with architecture graduate students in their summer camp. Ou (2013) states that it will be a significant approach to protect and spread the culture of Hui-style architectures, if the architects can be inspired by these elements of Hui-style architectures and use them in their designs. In 2012 the second Bishan Harvestival was held, with the organization of the International Photo Festival. The festival centred on a much more wider range of issues, such as environmental protection, community-supported agriculture, rural economic cooperatives and community colleges. Through the development of these projects, Ou Ning and his partners attempted to push their rural practice to touch and influence the economic and political realms in rural life. Ou Ning, was more ambitious, and attempted to achieve a social experiment on the concept of ‘anarchism’ and ‘autonomy.’ For instant, farmers were engaged in the exchange of labour and mutual aid so that the dependency between people and public services will be lowered. Finally, Ou summarizes three key concepts, Permaculture, Co-housing, and Consensus decisionmaking as the ultimate goals of the ‘Bishan Project.’ Part Four For the purpose of designing the ‘Bishan Project,’ Ou Ning and his partners studied worldwide rural projects, such as the EchigoTsumari Art Triennale in Japan and the Land Project in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The one which inspired Ou very much were the intentional communities in New Zealand. These started from a so-called “Back 144
to the land movement” in the 1970s. Even now, there are still 20–30 people living together and they make their public decisions by consensus. Looking back on the history of China, Chinese intellectuals have never stopped their efforts of rural study and practice since the early twentieth century. For a very long time, there have bee two schools in this realm: the so-called ‘classical school’ took Confucianism as the philosophy of rural construction; while the ‘modern school’ had Y. C. James Yen as its major figure, and put effort into literacy programs and hygiene education. Y. C. James Yen contributed his work experience in 1950s as nine rules of rural construction: 1. Go to the People; 2. Living Among the People; 3. Learn from the People; 4. Plan With the People; 5. Start With What They Know; 6. Build on What They Have; 7. Not to Conform but to Transform; 8. Not Piecemeal but Integrated Approach; 9. Not Relief but Release.
During the study of these rural construction cases, Ou focused on the social movement happening in Taiwan because it is ongoing and this society has the same traditional culture as China mainland. A concept called the ‘organic intellectual’ has been created by Taiwan’s intellectuals. It represents a group of people with high professional and educational background; they are not only the ‘model citizens’ who participate in public life, but also the ‘society builders’ through the approaches of community educations, environmental protections etc. The characteristics of this movement should be emphasized, they are based on the ‘new generation of public space’ – social media. It is referred as a ‘peaceful revolution’ (Xu, 2009, p.36) as people do not need to express their dissatisfaction on the street any more. The only thing they need to do is to share information through the Internet. 145
Conclusion For Ou Ning, the Bishan Commune is a kind of Utopia and experiment based on mutual sustenance. However, it should be recognized that the country in today’s China is in a grim situation rather than a romantic fantasy. Ou (2003) insists that the most crucial mission of rural reconstruction is to give assistance to establishing the subject of the country. In the practice of the ‘Bishan Project,’ its three strategies come from Yen’s nine rules: start with what they know, not to conform but to transform, and not relief but release – these are considered the most essential principles. Furthermore, the rural reconstruction movement initiated by intellectuals is not the coercive entrance of alien cultures, yet it does not unlimitedly conform with every aspect of rural areas either. It should be an in-depth action toward the reality, which pertains not only to scholars but everybody. Works Cited Agamben, G. (2009) What is an apparatus?: and other essays. Trans. by David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella. California: Stanford University Press. Fei, X. (1992) From the Soil: the Foundations of Chinese Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. Ou, N. (2012) Rural Reconstruction in China. Alternativearchive. http://www. alternativearchive.com/ouning/article.asp?id=877 [Accessed 13 April 2014] Ou, N. (2013) Bishan Project: Restarting the Rural Reconstruction Movement. Alternativearchive. http://www.alternativearchive.com/ouning/article.asp?id=897 [Accessed 10 April 2014] Xiang, B. (2008) The Transformation from Peasants to Urban Residents during the Process of Urbanization - Taking the Guangzhou Development District as Example. Wanfangdata. http://d.g.wanfangdata.com.cn/Thesis_Y9042935.aspx (Accessed 15 April 2014) Xu, Y. (2009) ‘Yong Xu Sheng Tai De Wen Hua Shi Jian---Lai Zi Taiwan Tu Di De Shen Yin’ [‘the Cultural Practice of Sustainability---the Sound From Taiwan’s Land’] [China Academic Journal Electronic Publishing House] 1994–2012. pp.34–36.
Goldsmiths, University of London Department of Visual Cultures – MA in Global Arts Geographies Course 2013–2014. Contributors
Noura Al-Salem, Li Li Chung, Natalia Cifuentes Friedman, Charlotte Cirillo, Marianna Hovhannisyan, Suzie Jones, Vivi Kallinikou, Emma Massoud, K.C. Messina, Ximena Moreno, Edward Sanderson, Urok Shirhan, Benjamin W. Tippin, Franziska Wildförster, Yuqiong Xu Tutor Louis Moreno
The contributors wish to express special thanks to the staff, advisors and visiting professors of the Department of Visual Cultures, particularly Louis Moreno and Prof. Irit Rogoff for their meetings and important contributions to the group, as well as to Dr. Astrid Schmetterling and Dr. Ayesha Hameed for their engagement in the MA in Global Arts. Our gratitude goes out to Isaac Julien and Dr. Michel Feher for their valuable time and thoughts, which have influenced us at an early stage of the project, as well as to Dr. Andrew Harris for an insightful meeting. Final thanks to Joanne Dodd for her support, and to Goldsmiths, Department of Arts for hosting the launch event. This publication is an integral part of the final project for the Geographies 2013–2014 course. It accompanies the event ‘Here Comes Everybody’, the collective project launch taking place at Goldsmiths, University of London on 30 May 2014. Postgraduate Art and Curatorial Studios Laurie Grove Baths Goldsmiths, University of London New Cross, SE14 GNW, LONDON Publication supported by: Goldsmiths, University of London Printed at: Goldsmiths Print Services Print run: 100 copies Printed in the UK, 2014 Available online for free download in PDF format on http://herecomeseverybodyepub.wordpress.com/ 150
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Department of Visual Cultures Geographies 2014
Here Comes Everybody is a collection of critical studies and responses composed by the 2014 Geographies group of the Visual Cultures departm...