Biopolitique

Empêcher d’exister – une hypothèse cosmopolitique négative

Intervention lors de la table ronde « Échelles de la violence à l’époque de la mondialisation », à l’occasion du Colloque « Sociétés, États, « terreur » et « terrorisme » – une perspective historique et philosophique », sous la responsabilité de Rada IVEKOVIC et Ranabir SAMADDAR (Paris, 02.11.06/04.11.06)

(Version française)

« Plus la brutalité est cassante, plus la violence qui est vie sera exigeante jusqu’à l’héroïsme » écrivait Jean Genet en 1977, lorsqu’il prenait la défense des Fractions Armée Rouge. La violence, affirme Genet, est partie intégrante de la vie, la naissance est violente, comme tout ce qui se développe et s’affirme. Cette qualité ontologique, nous dit Genet, ne doit pas être confondue avec la « brutalité », qui, elle, dégrade, et en définitive empêche d’exister : brutalité propre à « l’architecture des HLM, la bureaucratie, le remplacement du mot propre ou connu par le chiffre, la priorité, dans la circulation, donnée à la vitesse sur la lenteur des piétons, l’autorité de la machine sur l’homme qui la sert, la codification des lois prévalant sur la coutume, la progression numérique des peines, [… l’inutilité de la gifle dans les commissariats, le tutoiement policier envers qui a la peau brune, [… la marche au pas de l’oie, le bombardement d’Haïpong, la Rolls-Royce de quarante millions ».

Si nous voulons mesurer la « violence » à l’« époque de la mondialisation », comme nous y invite cette table-ronde, si donc nous voulons déterminer son « échelle », il nous faudra distinguer entre divers genres de violences, leur nature intensive et leur domaine d’extension. D’une manière ou d’une autre, il sera sans doute important de faire une différence entre violence et brutalité :

1. d’abord pour une question d’assignation de la violence, et par conséquent de justice. Le président Anote Tong, chef d’Etat de Kiribati, un atoll du Pacifique de 90 000 habitants, considère l’émission incontrôlée de gaz à effets de serre comme une forme d’« éco-terrorisme », conduisant à l’engloutissement de certains territoires du fait de la montée des eaux provoquée par le changement climatique – phénomène mondial s’il en est. Phénomène brutal par excellence, qui exemplifie selon nous le degré de destruction auquel on peut désormais atteindre: portant atteinte aux conditions de possibilité de la vie, l’on peut du même coup détruire certaines sociétés. « Je fais l’apologie systématique des sociétés détruites par l’impérialisme » soutenait Aimé Césaire au milieu des années 50. Assignant la brutalité aux instances destructrices des conditions de possibilité de la vie, nous ferons l’apologie systématique des formes de vie détruites par l’éco- ou cosmo-terrorisme ;

2. c’est, d’une façon plus générale, les atteintes portées à la possibilité des formes de vie psychiques, sociales, humaines et non-humaines qui doivent aujourd’hui être prises en considération pour mesurer ce qu’il en est de l’échelle des « violences ». Si le changement climatique est l’effet global du mode de production capitaliste, c’est tout aussi globalement qu’il faut étudier, à l’autre bout de la chaîne, dans les lieux inavouables de l’« expropriation originaire », la prolongation de l’impérialisme dans les pratiques actuelles de bio-piraterie : poser un brevet sur une plante, un savoir ancestral, c’est détruire une formation sociale en la séparant de son rapport co-opératif avec la terre, en ayant préalablement séparé l’information brevetable du vivant considéré comme processus auto-organisé ;

3. l’intensité de cette destructivité ne laisse et ne laissera personne indemne : malgré leur pratique narcissique organisée, ce que certains qualifient d’autisme, les Etats-Unis d’Amérique font partie du monde, leur déni d’appartenance au monde ne recouvre sans doute pas totalement la prise en considération de l’existence fragile des ressources, des territoires et de la bio-sphère . Selon une logique fatale mise en évidence par Derrida, leur tentative d’immunisation ne peut qu’échouer, et il faut supposer qu’un à un certain niveau, dans certains Etats tout du moins, ils le savent. Nous vivons sans doute aujourd’hui les affres de l’impérialisme immunitaire, pour employer une expression calquée sur la « démocratie immunitaire » d’Alain Brossat, nous vivons sans doute la présentation de son échec, c’est-à-dire l’exposition totale, la fin de la séparation entre exposés et protégés, l’absence de refuges. Mais la rage immunitaire peut conduire, au moment même d’une prise de conscience encore confuse d’un réel – celui de la mort, celui de la « fatale auto-immunité de l’indemne » (J. Derrida) – à son exacerbation suicidaire ;

4. on pourrait peut-être envisager la « guerre contre le terrorisme » comme la formation hallucinatoire d’un monde que l’on pourrait, encore, diviser en deux – deux groupes, deux classes ou deux civilisations. Mais c’est impossible, c’est l’impossible même, « nous sommes embarqués » et la barque est mondiale – planétaire, terrienne, comme vous voulez, quel que soit le mode d’interdépendance historiquement retenu. Le « choc des civilisations », cet énoncé barbare, doit être compris comme un acte de langage performatif, et au final perforant, ayant pour fonction d’ordonner le monde là où seul le monde est encore capable de donner cet ordre – même si la place d’où pourrait se dire un tel ordre est vide, même si le nomos de la terre ne peut être aujourd’hui qu’an-archique. C’est contre ce vide et contre cette mondialisation que se dressent les instances de la brutalité mondiale, qu’elles soient nord-américaines ou qu’elles relèvent de tous les nationalismes qui aujourd’hui tentent en pure perte de se constituer des poches d’immunité. Si la règle juridique et l’exception sont aujourd’hui indistinctes, c’est parce qu’il n’y a plus de lieu d’exception capable de résister bien longtemps au démasquage sanglant de la supercherie qui maintiendrait une dimension du symbolique en déphasage absolu d’avec la condition du vivant ;

5. et c’est toujours selon cette même logique, cette même hypothèse cosmopolitique négative, que tout individu est tendanciellement assimilable à un terroriste. Parce que le Deux du « choc des civilisations » est introuvable, il lui faudra se constituer sur le dos de tout individu. Il y aura de plus en plus d’étrangers dans le monde. Non seulement parce qu’il y aura de plus en plus de réfugiés politiques, économiques et écologiques, mais parce les identités autistiques feront de plus en plus l’épreuve de leur impossibilité. On peut donc prévoir l’extension de la brutalité ;

6. Il faut certes analyser ce montage désastreux, c’est la fonction même de la pensée critique. Et l’assignation de la brutalité, du terrorisme ou de l’éco-terrorisme d’Etat est un préalable à toute pensée politique globale. Mais une fois cette attribution effectuée, il s’agira d’inventer un plan de construction transversal capable de proposer une autre figure mondiale, un Grand Récit si l’on veut, aussi déchiré, aussi troué, aussi fendu soit-il. Une construction capable d’endiguer les formes de brutalité qui empêchent d’exister. On ne voit pas très bien comment la naissance d’un tel monde pourrait s’effectuer sans violence. Mais l’on voit très bien en revanche que la brutalité redouble lorsque la violence vitale n’est plus récitée.

* * *

To prevent from living – a negative cosmopolitic hypothesis
(version anglaise)

If we want to measure « violence » at the « time of globalization », if consequently we want to determine its « scale », it will be necessary to distinguish between different kinds of violences, their intensive nature and their field of extension. Somehow or other, it will be important to make a difference between « violence » and « brutality », as Jean Genet did it : if « violence » is inherent in life, in development and assertion of life, « brutality » is what prevents from living.

1. President Anote Tong, Head of State of Kiribati, an atoll of the Pacific of 90 000 inhabitants, regards the anthropogenic greenhouse effect as a form of « éco-terrorism », leading to erase many territories, because of the rise of water caused by climatic change – a global phenomenon, a brutal phenomenon that exemplifies, according to us, the degree of destruction reached nowadays : on attacking conditions of possibility of life, one can at the same time destroies human – and non-human – communities. « I make systematic apology for the communities destroyed by imperialism », Aimé Césaire said in the Fifties. Assigning brutality to the authorities destroying the conditions of possibility of life, we will make a systematic apology of the forms of life destroyed by éco or cosmo-terrorism;

2. it is, in a more general way, the attacks against possibility of psychic, social, human and non-human life’s forms that must be taken into account today to measure the scale of « violence ». If climatic change is the result of the capitalistic mode of production, it is necessary to study it in its originel moment, its moment of originel expropriation by which imperialism extends to the current practice of bio-piracy: to pose a patent on a plant, an ancestral knowledge, is to destroy a social formation by separating it from its co-operative relation with the Earth, while having beforehand separated the patentable information of life, that is consequently not regarded as a self-organized process;

3. the intensity of this destructiveness does not let and will not let anybody undamage: in spite of their organized narcissistic practice, which some describe as autism, U.S.A. belong to the world, their refusal of membership of the world undoubtedly does not completely cover the taking into in consideration of the fragile existence of resources, territories and biosphere. According to a fatal logic highlighted by Derrida, their attempt at a total immunization can only fail, and they know this, even though obscurely. Today, we undoubtedly live pangs of immunizing imperialism, to employ an expression copied on the « immunizing democracy » of Alain Brossat, we undoubtedly live the presentation of its failure, that is to say the total exposure, the end of the separation between exposed and protected people, an absence of refuges. But the immunizing rage is able to lead the world to suicidal exacerbation;

4. one could perhaps consider the « war against terrorism » as the hallucinatory formation of a world that one could still divides into two (groups, classes, civilizations or races). But it is impossible, « we are embarked » and the boat is the world. The « clash of civilizations », this barbarian statement, must be understood as a speech-act : its purpose is to organize, to « order » the world, but only the world is still able to give this order – even if the place from where such an order could be given is empty, even if the « nomos of the Earth » can only be today anarchistic. In fact, authorities of world brutality rise up against this void and this universalization, american or any authorities that try to constitute spaces of immunity – in vain. If legal rule and exception are today confused, it is in fact, beyond political explanations, because there is no more geographic, ecological exception in the world ;

5. and it is always according to this same logic, this same negative cosmopolitic hypothesis, that any individual is tendentially comparable to a terrorist. Because the Two of the « clash of civilizations » are untraceable, it will be necessary to constitute them on the top of any individual. There will be more and more strangers in the world. Not only because there will be more and more refugees, economic and ecological refugees in the world, but because autistic identities will more and more test their impossibility. One can consequently envisages extension of brutality;
it is necessary to analyze this disastrous frame. And the assignment of brutality, terrorism or éco-terrorism of State is a precondition to understanding our global, and individual situation. But it’s not enough, we will have to create a plan of construction able to propose another world image, a sort of new Great Narrative – however split, however cracked. A construction able to prevent the forms of brutality which prevent to living. One does not very welle see how the birth of such a world could be carried out without violence. But one can see very well that brutality redoubles when vital violence is not recited any more.

Economies of affectivity

http://www.vinculo-a.net/english_site/text_prada.html

Life and biopolitics

It is no longer an exaggeration to claim that we are in the
« biological century », judging by the intense development and the
dimension of the achievements attained in recent years in some of
the life sciences, such as Genomics and Biotechnology. However, let
us not forget that the increasingly more efficient knowledge of
the biological processes or genetic determinations of life and its
functional mechanisms is only a small part of biopolitical action,
whose real capacity for regulation is much more extensive, spanning
all of the vital processes that ultimately make up the collective
production of subjectivity. Thus, the capacity to improve or transform
bodies or the biological conditions of a life are no longer prevalent
among the keys of biopolitics but rather, more than anything else, the
production and reproduction of ways of living.

Therefore, the permanent questioning of the limits of what is natural
and of human ethics as regards genetic manipulation or the fact that
the scientific industries aimed at these areas of work should be the
most probable environment for the future capitalism revolutions[1 to
take place, are just a minimum number of problems within the extremely
complex series of biopolitical practices with which any exercise of
power is integrated with the logics of vitality (and from which it
would be non-differentiable). Thus it seems inevitable to validate
Giorgio Agamben’s claim that the concept of life should constitute
the object of the philosophy to come[2. It is certainly obvious
that the most industrialised societies have reached the full stage
of consolidation of this process in which the zoé (bare life) will
gradually merge with the field of the political (although this process
is actually more likely to have occurred inversely). The diagnosis
posed by Michel Foucault in the seventies regarding the concept of
biopower is obvious today. It is evident that power has taken intense
control over life, it is exercised at the level of life, losing almost
all its autonomy and transcendence, the exteriority it used to have
from its field of application, now acting from inside life, regulating
it from the inside, an integral part of it. And if power is not
exercised on individuals, but rather if it moves around them (we all
make it move, at varying degrees of consciousness), it seems logical
that the most efficient dispositifs in the exercise of power can no
longer be unilateral or permanent, but rather participative, adaptive
and reversible.

Thus, more than through the exercise of traditional political
sovereignty, power acts by producing and extending ways of living,
ways of enjoying and experiencing life. Therefore, biopower should
be understood to mean much more than power over bodies, much more
than technologies to control the biological or physical life of the
population. In short, almost all politics today are biopolitics,
because practically all of the political and economic strategies now
focus on life and the living ( whereas this term does not refer only
to the biological, but to the wider, vital sphere)[3.

Production and affectivity

Throughout the recent history of industrial and commercial practices,
affectivity has generally acted as a language or a means that incites
a certain positive predisposition in the interlocutor, like when
a salesperson smiles and affectionately greets a new customer (in
fact, many affective expressions are socially and not emotionally
motivated). However, the gradual acknowledgement of the relationship
between affectivity and business effectiveness has meant that little
by little, values such as personalised attention, closeness and
proximity to the customer have become some of the essential principles
of corporate action. To make the customer feel valued, to ensure
that he/she notices that the company appreciates his/her interest
in a particular product or service and considers him/ her to be
important, to ensure that the customer has sufficient expectations
that he/she will receive personalised attention, or even that he/she
is going to be a friend and not only a customer (as is often offered
in advertising for banking services, for example), are some of the
practices of this emerging « emotional marketing » whose priority
strategy would be to « captivate the customer’s heart »[4.

It can come as no surprise that in a society in which the majority
of the goods that are consumed are services with a duration in time
(telephony services, Internet connection, etc.), to achieve customer
fidelity often depends more on the establishment of these relations
of appreciation and attention that the customer seeks, rather than
the actual quality or the comparative assessment of the cost of the
service offered. A humanisation of the corporate production and
management systems, however, which very often only exists in a virtual
sense in its slogans and advertising spots, based on sentences of the
type, « we want to get to know you » or « the most important thing is
to be close to you ». Therefore, it seems to be almost evitable that
the increasing computer automation of the productive and management
processes in companies should only be able to generate the mere
effects of closeness, affective simulations of service for the user,
who will not cease to complain about the lack of contact with actual
« flesh and blood » people when hiring services, solving doubts or
presenting complaints. In order to reduce the negative consequences
of these situations, there has been a major proliferation of a
whole sector of workers for remote assistance, normally subject to
unusual timetables, with low salaries, mostly formed by young people
and especially by women, whom the human resource departments in
companies usually consider to be better suited to this role of patient
attention to users and customers, for friendly processing of their
complaints and indignations. This reminds us of the persistence of the
damaging effect of the loss of prestige of affective work throughout
the history of humanity and its being assigned to the sphere of
the feminine, of the presumed incompatibility between affection
and control down through the centuries. In this regard, we should
highlight that the traditional association of women to emotions and
affection, limited to the intimate space o the home and restricted
to providing loving care for the family, has always been opposite
the presumed coldness of the man in his professional relations and
links. A differentiation on which actively discriminatory practices
towards women have been sustained, leaving them outside the « cold »,
organisational fields of masculine work and therefore far from the
exercise of public or corporate power or responsibility. A separation
that has been nurtured, deep down, by an ancestral paradox: the
mothers’ dedication to looking after children and families has always
been considered to belong to the sphere of voluntary work (and has
therefore never been remunerated), but without bearing in mind that
it is generally caused by an involuntary or even mandatory situation
(i.e. to have children or not to be able to work outside the home).
A paradox that is compounded by many others, especially the one
that is derived from the fact in spite of new technologies taking
affective work practices outside the reproductive and family sphere to
make them work as an engine for production (what some have called a
certain « feminisation of work »), this has not led to a higher economic
valuation, in general, of the affective work activities that are most
common in all fields of industrial production today.

Of course, it is possible that in the near future we may cease from
considering affectivity to be merely an added value for work or a
means of facilitating it. This will happen when the key to the new
production processes will not consist only of care and attention to
the individual adopting market logic. Perhaps then the circumstances
would be right for the real discovery of the immense productive
force of affections and emotions, which will mean that affectivity
may be considered as a job in itself, requiring a total rethinking
of affectivity within the future forms of biopolitical production.
It is clear that the first step towards this situation has already
been taken, and it is the aforementioned dissolution of the former
incompatibility between work and affection, by virtue of which
affectivity is for once and for all liberated from its former,
restrictive enclosure in the contexts of intimacy and the family
and is gradually becoming the real object of production in new
industries that are increasingly designed to produce new forms of
life and subjectivity. And in this context of multiple interrelated
dynamics, the presence of the body, subject for decades to the
immense proliferation of its images at the service of fashion,
cosmetics, dietetics or the health industries in general, is extremely
intensified in many other channels as a result of the emerging
interest in managing its emotional chemistry. Emotion, understood as
the alteration of the body that is linked to a certain affective state
or mood, is a privileged point in the new economic dynamic, which
invests great efforts in propitiating its intensified experience in
several ways[5. Precisely in order to manage affection and emotional
involvement in specific fields, they are constantly resorting to a
countless number of narrations and representations, For example, the
celebrity gossip programmes or soap operas, two of the most important
components of the television industries, show us the intensity of
the pleasure that seems to be derived from experiencing affective
relations through those of others (perhaps because of the compensatory
capacity of this process), showing the immense power of the trend
towards the most extreme simplification of affectivity ( reality
shows like Big Brother are good examples of the dynamic of reducing
affective complexity, taking the affection/ disaffection polarity
to its maximum expression, focussing precisely on the expression
of this polarity and providing the public with their only possible
participation with the contestants: to vote for/ against someone).

On the other hand, the biopolitical paradigm is fast imposing the
consideration of human beings more as the possessors of a life to
enjoy and make the most of rather than as political subjects (or as
political subjects inasmuch as they are possessors of life), which
means that the context of the societies with the highest rates of
consumption is no longer propitious for disciplinary technology, not
even for the pole of biopower that Foucault believed was focussed
on an « anatomopolitics » of the human body, based on the pretension
to achieve its best possible adaptation to the production system so
that it would be capable of producing more and better. Nowadays, the
individual as a living body, is starting to be considered as a wealth
in him/herself, even when not active in employment. For example,
anyone that strolls around any of the macro centres for leisure and
free time that proliferate in the outskirts of our cities is actively
collaborating, just with his/her expectations of having a good time,
in the production of an « affective territory », an environment of
collective relaxation and receptivity to pre-designed entertainment,
a space where he/she and many others will feel good, thus allowing
to set in motion all of the complex systems of consumption and
membership of the increasingly powerful « conscience industries ». This
is because the productive value of subjects no longer lies in their
potential as a force of production as workers, but in their condition
of the possessors of a life that yearns for entertainment, enjoyment,
satisfaction. That is why it has been said on so many occasions that
life itself « works » nowadays).

Of course, the new biopolitical economy aims above all to extract
a surplus from life, a corporate profit obtainable in life and
from life, with a global and biopolitical territorial structure
led by large multinational companies, producers and exporters of
specific ways of life and enjoyment. Thus the domination becomes
more diffuse, inherent to the social body, permanently interiorised
in the latter. Society and power have now established an integrated,
qualitative relationship. The individual serves and is served, in
turn, by an economy based on desire, affectivity and pleasure, even
in the joyful disappearance induced by the entertainment industries.
Therefore, in the context of the most highly developed technological
societies, economic power does not intend to continue to base all of
its privileges on the exploitation of its subjects as a workforce but
on the increasingly lucrative regulation of their ways of life, life
dynamics and personal and affective interactions, emotions, consumer
habits and satisfaction.

In other words, in today’s context, the concept of production
(historically linked to that of goods) is being continuously extended,
because the new industries, increasingly oriented to pleasure and
entertainment, and to the computerised production of « intangible »
goods and information, are really producing contexts of interpretation
and assessment, forms of identification and membership, interpersonal
behaviour and human interaction – in other words, its mission is
essentially the production of sociability itself. If this is its
objective, we can hardly digress from Michael Hardt’s claim that
the hegemonic form of economic production is what is defined by a
« synthesis of cybernetics and affectivity »[6, and by its vision of
the biopolitical context as « the field of productive relations between
affectivity and value »[7 .

Affective technologies

The nature of the mechanisms for the production of collective
subjectivity are intrinsically affective nowadays. In a way, the most
important raw material that will be used by the new « social worker »[8
in the immediate future will be affectivity, as this is already one of
the main engines of biopolitical production (some have appropriately
defined affection as « productive subjectivity »[9). This explains
why the most successful products of the new industries are the ones
that are characterised by the necessary flexibility and capacity to
adapt to each user, his/her tastes or particular needs (such as the
possibilities of « personalising » computer products) and, especially,
the interpersonal communication technologies, specifically designed
to exploit the field of emotions and affective interactions. Of all
of the technologies in existence today, the mobile telephone and the
Internet chat rooms are the leaders in producing feelings related to
the wellbeing of company and proximity, the states of proximity and
the continuous evidence of interpersonal affectivity, offering the
best of the technological representations of this new fusion that
exists today between communication and affection. Thus the eminently
affective nature of communication appears to be fully recognisable in
all of human interactions, intensified by the proliferation of these
new technologies that we could well call « affective technologies »,
responsible for an addictive technical mediation of affectivity that
allows for the intensive multiplication of the (continuous) exchange
of its need.

In this regard, it is highly descriptive that the immense growth in
the number of calls or SMS messages between mobiles in recent years
is statistically proportionate to its informative insignificance
beyond its basically affective nature. This is similar to the case
of communicative interactions in Internet chat rooms, in which
the visual representations of emotions and various expressions
using « emoticons » or by innumerable interjections of enthusiasm or
displeasure seem to be more a case of attempts at what Daniel N. Stern
called « interaffectivity », the correspondence between the emotional
state as the individual feels it inside and how it is observed « in » or
« inside » another[10.

Affectivity and sociability

And if affectivity as a concept takes on extreme importance today, it is
also because its most negative symptoms, like depression and anxiety, are
ever on the increase. In fact, it is possible that most of contemporary
anxiety could be described as floating affectivity, as the unsatisfied yet
eager willingness to affect and be affected emotionally by the environment
(let us not forget the definition of the human being as « pure
affectivity »[11 linked to ontology overcoming phenomenology).
And if on the one hand, communication technologies can in fact increase or
create the conditions for new affective interactions, it is also true that
they are potential resources for isolation, due to the addictive protection
afforded by bodily distance, technical and telematic distance between bodies
that interact in an ever frequent virtualisation (understood as
bodilessness) of affectivity. This is very much linked to the reclusion and
increasing isolation of a very high number of adolescents and young people,
the most dramatic representation of which would be the adolescents suffering
from the Hikikomori syndrome: closed up in their rooms, after any kind of
academic or affective failure, they avoid maintaining any relations with
their families and friends, shying away from any personal contact,
dedicating their time to watching television or playing on the videogame
console. This syndrome occurs not only because the most technologically
advanced societies are increasingly incompetent in solving problems of an
affective nature (mostly because they have given absolute priority to
competitiveness and to the recognition of success), but also because the
domestic entertainment technologies afford the depressed individual an
active abandonment, a stimulating hideaway. What these entertainment
technologies offer is a set of activities that despite requiring high levels
of concentration and energy – like what is required by the exciting action
of videogames – the individual does not have to expose or risk him/herself
affectively. In this hideaway, everything is liable to be disabled,
temporary, and innocuous from any affective responsibility. Nobody can hurt
you because there is nothing and nobody « real » at stake.

We could even go so far as to talk of an important transformation
provoked by the temporary dynamic to which the society of the media
and especially all of the entertainment technologies induces. It is
surely possible to claim that the experience of time imposed by these
technologies is more relevant in hindering affective interactions
than the weight exercised by their contents, fundamentally based on
the practice and identification of violence and entertainment. The
predomination of the reflex impulse, perhaps more dependent on the
speed with which it takes place than on its precision is, too often,
the only thing that allows the videogame to continue. And if this
experience is more and more often becoming a habit, in which one only
responds to the here and now, in its instantaneity and immediacy, we
cannot fail to consider this situation to be yet another difficulty
for opening up to the experience of affective interaction. This
is because there can be no doubt that affection requires time and
this provides evidence of the constructive capacity of affective
interaction compared to a system based on the motto « there is no time
to lose ». Perhaps affection could even be defined as shared biography,
with either people or other beings, even with places or environments,
like the memory of accompanied time (in most videogames, for example,
there is no company; the most is the accompaniment in the on-line
multi-player versions).

Affective resistance

It does not appear to be of no use to propose the study of the systems
of collective order in a society precisely through the moments in
which it is moderately or momentaneously disordered, like in its
parties and excesses, its nightlife, or in the always unforeseeable
sphere of affections. To take affectivity as the axis for social
analysis and research seems even to promise the solutions for many
of the problems of burnout that have arisen regarding some of the
key issues in the aesthetics and politics of our times, such as, for
example, the issue of identity, a concept that has almost always
been studied on a negative basis, i.e. as regards its conflicts. On
the contrary, to consider affectivity to be a methodological axis
for study would oblige us to study identity on a positive basis, in
its enjoyable functioning. There is no doubt that our social and
political thought is increasingly from the heart rather than from the
traditional exercise of criticism, which has time and time again been
neutralised by the institutions and bodies of political action and
government.

And it is precisely from the emotional apprehension of social
relations and the regulation of the perceptions (let us not forget
that affectivity is an essential element in perception, as Bergson
claimed on so many occasions), that the new cultural and entertainment
industries derive their greater capacity for social transformation and
their most important lucrative potential. It is no coincidence that
these are exactly the same elements where some of the most radical
artistic practises of the avant-garde and neo avant-garde movements,
particularly those based on the correspondence or comparison between
« art and life » (and therefore also biopolitics in the fullest sense
of this term) focussed the possibility of a critical and emancipating
action against the impositions of the « conscience industries ».
Therefore, we may claim that our days will witness the culmination
of the appropriation by biopolitical production of some of the
principles that used to oppose the former systems of economic and
political domination a few decades ago. Nowadays, contrary to the
mechanisms that characterised industrial production in the past, the
mechanisms of today’s biopolitical production are nor only related but
they fully coincide with those that are based on the expression of
difference and diversity, freedom and singularity (the characteristics
of young fashion, for example), ecology or solidarity. Therefore,
the deployment and globalisation of certain ways of living are not
carried out from an ideological or evaluative structuring (which
although still active, is hardly effective), but rather by extending
dynamics and habits of action that become particularly intense in
the spheres in which, like the culture of leisure and entertainment,
are unquestionably more useful in extracting a surplus from life, by
touching on the most non-renounceable and permeable aspects of the
latter: emotions, affectivity, enjoyment, happiness, fun, etc. Thus
one may be against the particular interests and inequalities that go
along with today’s system of production, but it is almost inevitable
to be more or less involuntarily condescending with the practices in
which the entire biopolitical system becomes stronger, because they
have precisely been mingled with those of life itself.

Therefore, the possibility of effective political resistance, appears
to reside, more than in the negativity of criticism, in an operation
from the inside of biopolitical production itself, in that the
subjects should active appropriate the latter. This process is only
possible, of course, after we have acknowledged the emancipating
potentials that are inherent to some of the principles that, like
affection, cooperation, meeting, attention or care, form an essential
part of the bio political productive dynamic. Up to now, the capacity
of social transformation of these principles had remained practically
dormant, inactive, as they were maintained at the superficiality
required by their immediate usefulness and productive efficacy. To
acknowledge in these principles a really collective, social purpose,
is the mission of the new resistance, which should make very clear
the potential they contain for the production of community and beyond
the latter, for generating an active deployment of the principle of
commonness.

And it is probably the expansive power of « freedom and ontological
opening » contained in affection that is most promising in this
mission. Toni Negri’s and Michael Hardt’s claims that political
rebellion would be replaced by a « project of love », or the graphic
exemplification that they propose in their book Empire of the future
life of political militancy with the figure of Saint Francis of
Assisi (he who identified real wealth as the « common condition of the
multitude ») are certainly two of the most explicit examples that we
might mention within the countless set of proposals launched in this
direction by the most recent political theory. Of course, in order to
achieve this, it is necessary, in the first place, that communication
should no longer be usurped by the economy, that it be allowed to
flow. In order to do so, the creation of an endless number of new
channels, of free means for collective contact and interpretation, of
free technologies for meeting and creation, should go on. We already
know, this teleology of the common, also specified in the enlightening
potentials of the « general intellect », is the power of solidarity,
exchange and cooperation, of the occurrence of the subject through
actively being with others, of a certain dissolution of being in
language, in communication, participation and collective, shared
creativity, all of which will be fuelled, of course, by the enjoyment
and happiness that belong to a radical (and affective, of course)
opening up to diversity.

Notes:

[1 See Maurizzio Lazzarato, Les Révolutions du Capitalisme. Empêcheurs de
Penser en Rond, Paris, 2004.

[2 See G. Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, Stanford
University Press, 1999.

[3 Under no circumstances, however, should we forget that the old
disciplinary technology that arose at the end of the 17th century, is still
active, buried in biopolitics. For example, in the international events of
recent years, particularly those that were derived from the so-called fight
against international terrorism, the right to die, the threat over the
individual’s life that belonged to the traditional sovereignty regimes,
continues today, almost paradoxically, alongside the most intense of the
orientations for dealing with life and the productive regulation of its
processes that characterise the political systems of the countries that are
most advanced in terms of economics and industry (and which paradoxically,
are the ones that play the leading role in this contradiction).

[4 See Brian Clegg, Cautive el corazón de los clientes y deje que la
competencia persiga sus bolsillos (Capturing Customers Hearts: Leave the
Competition To Chase Their Pockets) Pearson Alhambra, Madrid, 2001.

[5 In the repertoires offered by the new emotion markets, life experiences
are the most relevant goods to be consumed. We could therefore speak of a
commercialisation of the experiences of life themselves and of their most
adequate contexts, through a countless number of systems acting in a very
wide spectrum of action, from the chemistry of the vitality of energy drinks
or new designer drugs to the leisure culture or methods of relaxation and
for combating stress.

[6 Michael Hardt, « Affective work » (text included in this same e-show).

[7 Ibidem.

[8 According to Toni Negri, the « social worker » would replace the
« professional » worker and the « mass worker » of the past, « the social worker
is the producer, the producer, before any good, of his/her own social
cooperation » in « Eight preliminary theses for a theory of constituting
power », « Contrarios » Criticism and Debate Journal, April, 1989.

[9 See Toni Negri, « Value and affection », at

[10 See D. N. Stern, El mundo interpersonal del infante (The interpersonal
world of the infant). Ed. Paidós. Barcelona, 1991.

[11 We should remember that Spinoza had already identified life with
affectivity. However, it was Michel Henry that defined the subject as « the
appearance of appearing », « pure affectivity » in his work Phénoménologie de
la vie, PUF, Paris, 2004.

Immanent war, immaterial terror

Edited transcription of the author’s address to Antonio Negri in June 2004 at Birkbeck College, London.From its very inception, the contestation of liberal modernity has involved the refusal of the biopolitically constituted forms of peace that liberalizing regimes inculcate within and among the populations they govern. Subject to the imposition of their ‘zero time of peace’ we are compelled to retrieve and create anew the ‘time of life’ (Negri: 2003, 123). This is the grand paradox of liberal modernity that Foucault’s original account of biopolitics in The History of Sexuality first exposed. Founding themselves upon the challenge of the mastery of war in the name of a commitment to the promotion and enablement of life, liberal regimes are being shaken to their core today, animated by a fear and insecurity at life’s refusal to submit to techniques aimed at its pacification. Founded as a project based upon the pursuit of peace, liberal modernity reconstitutes itself in the form of an endless terrorization of life’s radical undecidability. Life’s aleatory immeasurability initiates a biometrics of security. The time of life is suborned to the regulation of a biopolitics that functions in accordance with the degenerative powers of the norm. Zero time begins, constitutive time ends. Those institutions, practices and processes of subjectivation, indivisible from liberal strategies for the mastery of the problem of war within society, can only be understood in this context as a form of the terrorization of human dignity, where time is lived constitutively.
 
In this paradoxical context, which we might more realistically describe, after Achille Mbembe, as necropolitical (2003: 11-40), it is imperative not only to continue to join in the longstanding critique of the martial strategies of liberal peace but also to reinvigorate our understanding of the immanent necessity of war to the limitless movements of life that liberal peace attempts to block through its incessant pursuit of biopolitics.2 This is the precise foundation of a counter-strategic response to the impositions of liberal techniques of discipline, control and regulation that has empowered a tradition of thought which stretches back as far as Clausewitz and Nietzsche. This tradition is most readily identifiable in much of the later works of Foucault, as well as others who have adapted their own polemologies against liberal peace from him – most notably, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, as well as Antonio Negri.3 In turn, this is also the form of argument we see empowering the renewal of radical democratic traditions of ‘politics as war’ in response to the current onslaught of liberal terror defined by the global extension of biopolitical techniques of control, shaping the responses of liberal societies to their new insecurities.4 For a better grasp of what is at stake in this present conjuncture, we must therefore reverse the terms in which this struggle is being articulated, and speak of the prosecution of ‘Terror on War’. The concept of war refers here to what is most material and immanent to the dignity of human life, and the concept of terror – to that which is most abstract from it. Far from representing a war upon an immaterial abstraction as its discourse otherwise suggests, this is a conflict incited by an immaterial regime of biopower dedicated to the terrorizing of life’s most material instinct – war.5 

If the discourse of peace was fundamental to the consecration and development of biopower in the modern nation-state, it has become as – if not more – fundamental to the increasingly biopolitical forms of regime that have now exceeded the traditional form of the nation-state. These biopolitical forms of regime now function as the bedrock of a globalizing order, in the name of the extension of which terror is being conducted today. The global control of populations via technologies deriving from the molecular and digital revolutions, the targeting of the natural life of individual bodies through biometric techniques, hail the formation of biopolitical regimes that are in the process of establishing new thresholds of strategic virtuosity.6 Contesting the globalizing tendencies of those biopolitical regimes which now exceed the traditional nation-state form necessarily involves not only refusing their most fundamental value of peace and exposing their foundation in terror, but also engaging in the further and decisive act of retrieving the constitutive dignity of war as the font of life. In this sense it means not only contesting the ways in which peace has been formulated as a response to the political problem of war – formulations which have themselves been, and continue to be, constitutive of the failures of modernity to realize in any tangible sense its foundational ideal of peace – but also insisting on the retrieval of the irreducible force of war that liberal regimes attempt to capture and put to work in the reproduction of their docile social orders. The current conflict provides clear testimony to both these paradoxical features: liberal regimes’ propensity to terrorize populations into submission and the irreducibility of the force of war to the vagaries of terror. If the current prosecution of Terror on War represents the vainest of attempts to trap the movements of war within the narrow confines of a biopolitical account of human being, as well as testifying to the decrepitude of the liberal ideal of a pacified humanity, it also bears witness to the indissolubility of the warrior class.

Such idle talk in support of war and its warriors is, of course, likely to be misconstrued. In preemption of such misunderstandings we would do well to remind ourselves of a crucial but oft forgotten distinction, that between warriors and soldiers. Foucault it was who first drew attention in Discipline and Punish to the military origins of all disciplinary and biopolitical systems of subjection and regulation. This biopolitical machine for the production of social civility, which liberals called into being in the name of peace, has developed only in the context of a form of regime founded upon the ability to reduce the warrior’s dignified immeasurability to the calculated uniformity of the soldier. Biopolitics was prefigured by the development of the disciplines, which meant that 

by the late eighteenth century, the soldier had become something that could be made: out of a formless clay, an inapt body, the machine required could be constructed; posture was gradually corrected; a calculated constraint running slowly through each part of the body, mastering it, making it pliable, ready at all times, turning silently into the automatism of habit; in short, one had ‘got rid of the peasant’ and given him ‘the air of the soldier’. (Foucault, 1991: 135) 
Those disciplinary techniques for the reduction of the war instinct to an aptitude for logistics via ‘the supervision of the smallest fragments’ of the bodies of men all derived from the new military systems of organization that emerged in the eighteenth century, the development and refinement of which have haunted the passage of liberal societies from war to terror. It is only slowly, through the gradual dissemination of civility throughout society as a whole, that we have become subject ‘in the context of the school, the barracks, the hospital or the workshop’, to this paranoiac system for the ‘mystical calculus of the infinitesimal and the infinite’ (Foucault, 1991: 140). ‘I see many soldiers: if only I could see many warriors!’ remonstrated Nietzsche (1969: 1974). How sorry, for old Friedrich, that he did not live to see the gay denizens of Falluja; they who did not flinch in resisting the contingencies of the forms of logistical connectivity otherwise insisted on as universal and objective conditions for the generation of civil and pacific life forms. 

If we must not forget the martial genealogy that accounts for the upright bearing of our civilities and proprieties, neither must we surrender that immanent force of war which biopolitical regimes attempt to martial to extinction. In answer to this injunction the counter-strategic tradition finds its voice. Its call to arms is incessant – from Foucault’s own exhortation to an ascetic ‘combat’ of the self (1992: 63-72), to Deleuze and Guattari’s construction of a counter-concept of philosophy to wage ‘war against past and future wars’ (1996: 160), to Hardt and Negri’s multitudinous intervention in their construction of a grand ‘civil war’ of modernity between order and desire (2001: 74-5). As liberal modernity problematizes life’s undecidability as the source of the problem of war, and as the development of biopolitical peace takes the form of a terrorization of the very condition of being alive, we have as often sought an answer in the return to and an insistence upon war as a condition of possibility for the expression of life. Faced with the grand paradox of the experience of a liberal modernity in which the promise of a world devoid of violent differences forces us in a fundamental sense to choose sides, we who object have literally followed suit and attempted to choose sides. The martiality of liberal biopolitics revealed, the pursuit of a response to the phenomenon of liberal terror has assumed the form of a war of resistance against the imposition of this insidious biometric violence. As such the question rendered is that of how to assume war as a condition of possibility for the constitution and generation of life. What form does life take when peace is no longer its foundation but its enemy? What form does being assume when war is the determinate condition of its possibility? What is the temporality of war when the decision for war is life’s aleatory throw of the dice?

Yet are we perhaps tiring of the marshalling we subject ourselves to when we succumb to such endless polemologies? For some time the temptation has been to respond to such paradoxes by inverting the terms in which the problem of war is traditionally posed by those modern formations of power that have sought peace. War is nothing other than a political instrument, declared Clausewitz (1993: 77). His apparent insistence upon the subordination of war to politics has functioned as the principal formula for the strategy by which political sovereignty delegitimizes questions over the terrorizing techniques with which life is marshaled biopolitically to surrender the autonomy of war to its protector. In opposition to this strategy of sovereignty, Deleuze and Guattari have exhorted us to think the concept of war as the ‘pure form of exteriority’ that life assumes irrespective of the sovereign’s duress (1996: 354). War is not simply the mythical condition of a state of nature which legitimates the political relationship of sovereign to subject and which biopolitical regimes declare as their basis for the administration of life. It is the speed of a force of movement that political sovereignty ceaselessly fails to capture in performing the kinds of biopolitical manoeuvres upon which forms of civil pacificity are built. And in response we are necessarily exhorted to pursue the intensive counter-state of an abstract ‘war without limits’, which Clausewitz evoked in his more sublime moments.7 It is precisely this heretical reading of Clausewitz which empowered Deleuze and Guattari’s conceptualization of war as antithetical to State power. And it is in turn they who have inspired the more latter-day attempts of Hardt and Negri to reground war as a condition of resistance to post-nation-state formations of Empire.8 

Foucault’s ultimate significance in this context is, however, of another order altogether. How long, he asks in Society Must Be Defended, will it be until we recognize the limits of the invocations of these imperatives of counter-strategy?9 How long until we tire not so much of the old-fashioned demand for neutrality but of this perpetual parlor game of proliferating divisions, minor offensives, sieges and snares that enslave the counter-strategic tradition? Is there no idiom imaginable to life other than this endless wiring of force relations and incessant generation of war’s limitless potentialities? Regardless of the challenges to the disciplinary techniques and biopolitical management for the manufacture of subjectivities that this insistence upon war’s exteriority affords, it is today as necessary to raise questions about the limits imposed on the potentialities for life when such an ontological account of being as time of war is mobilized as politics. If the peace that political sovereignty sanctions and upholds is a historically and politically contingent disequilibrium of force relations, then one means to contest that peace is to disturb its martial genealogy, to pervert its order and disinter its pathologies. The biopolitical figures in this context as the residual forms which life assumes once political sovereignty renders the labour of immanence constituent, conceivable only in the context of the existence of the insurrection of immanent struggles against the forms of transcendence that biopolitically sanctioned forms of life necessarily acquire. In this sense all of these post-1968 messianic refrains aid ultimately the sustenance of the regimes of biopolitics they would otherwise claim to undermine. Forces of immanent war and biopolitical regimes of immaterial terror exist in the form of a confrontation, yet the development of biopolitical modernity has only ever functioned as the sign of the tragic labor of immanence, not simply of the weakening of modern forms of political sovereignty but of the intensification and dissemination of the biopolitical imperium – ‘produce at all costs’. The commodity of this biopolitical production, which Hardt and Negri endorse fully, resembles nothing more than the kind of living death evoked by Farquhar’s ‘Peace’ so exactly above, and which in turn provokes a grim symbiosis with the mis en scène of a Musab al-Zarqawi home video (Hardt & Negri, 2004: 94-5).

In attempting to think the temporality of war we subject ourselves to that same slavish imperium of biopolitics: 

One can summarize in the following manner the imperatives of the immeasurable for the singularities that constitute the multitude: do not obey, that is be free; do not kill, that is generate; do not exploit, that is constitute the common. In other words you will be able to decide the common. (Negri, 2003: 258) 
When will the tireless duty of ontological labor, the demand to know the temporality of war itself, incite the challenge of a concept of living that exceeds such biopolitical imperia? This is the ultimate demand of Foucault to his counter-strategic peers. It is one by which he realizes the essential logic of war, rather as Hannibal did in enveloping the Romans at Cannae, and destroys those grounds of enunciation from which virtually everything he had enabled himself to argue previously had been declared.

It would be wrong, then, to read these final words of Foucault on the problem of the relation of war to biopolitics as a simple demand for the reassertion of a pacifist politics. Neither is it a call merely to clarify the boundaries that define the differences between a newly legitimate democratic violence and the illegitimate wars of sovereign powers. Such demands only ever lead, as they do so perspicuously in Hardt and Negri’s most recent Multitude, to tame insistences upon the resubordination of violence to politics (2004: 342). How ironic that such a heartfelt project of the deterritorialization of the war-instinct should lead to the adoption of a position in respect of the problem of violence which pulls precisely the same manoeuvre of delegitimization that consecrated the sovereign power of the nation-state! And how demoralizing when the repentance of war provides the discursive grounds for the constitution of a ‘new race’ whose ‘accomplishments’, they tell us, must be defended (2004: 356, 344). The problem of war becomes, at this conjuncture, utterly intractable. Immanent war begets immaterial terror.
 

Endnotes

1 This is an edited transcription of the author’s address to Antonio Negri in June 2004 at Birkbeck College, London.

2 For a different account of the martial politics of liberalism see Michael Dillon (2003) ‘Intelligence Incarnate: Martial Corporeality in the Digital Age’. Body and Society.9, 4: 149-68.

3 Most significantly in The History of Sexuality: Volume 1 (1990: 92-102). The ‘strategic model’ of power that Foucault portrays derives from his claim that ‘it is one of the essential traits of Western societies that the force relationships which for a long time had found expression in war, in every form of warfare, gradually became invested in the order of political power’ (102). See also Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1999) A Thousand Plateaus .London: Athlone Press, 351-423; Antonio Negri (2003) Time For Revolution. London and New York: Continuum, 122-26.

4 See, for example, Miguel Vatter, ‘Politics as war: a formula for radical democracy’, http?//multitudes.samizdat.net/article.php3?id_article=42

5 A much neglected yet valuable discussion of the relation of war to the instincts is to be found in Edward Glover (1935) War, Sadism & Pacifism. London: George Allen & Unwin.

6 See Michael Dillon & Julian Reid (2001) ‘Global Liberal Governance: Biopolitics, Security and War’. Millennium: Journal of International Studies.30, 1: 41-66.

7 Clausewitz (1993: 85). While Clausewitz is almost exclusively remembered for his dictum that war is nothing but the continuation of politics with other means, his more fundamental definition of the concept of war was that of ‘an act of force’ to which ‘there is no logical limit’. 

8 On Clausewitz’s influence upon Deleuze and Guattari see, A Thousand Plateaus (1999: 420-21). For a more extensive analysis of how Deleuze engages with Clausewitz see also Julian Reid (2003) ‘Deleuze’s War Machine: Nomadism Against the State’. Millennium: Journal of International Studies. 32, 1: 57-85.

9 Foucault (2003) Society Must Be Defended. London: Picador. See especially the first lecture of the series, pp1-19. There can be no doubt that Foucault understood one of the foundational remits of the series to be the laying down of a challenge to the conceptualization of war as a condition of possibility for resistance to political sovereignty, a point that was developed by Deleuze and Guattari in their two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 
 

References

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1996) What is Philosophy? London and New York: Verso.

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1999) A Thousand Plateaus. London: Athlone Press.

Dillon M. & Reid, J. (2001) ‘Global Liberal Governance: Biopolitics, Security and War’. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 30, 1: 41-66.

Dillon, M. (2003) ‘Intelligence Incarnate: Martial Corporeality in the Digital Age’. Body and Society 9, 4: 149-68.

Foucault, M. (1990) The History of Sexuality: Volume 1, An Introduction. London: Penguin.

Foucault, M. (1991) Discipline and Punish.London: Penguin.

Foucault, M. (1992) The Use of Pleasure: The History of Sexuality: Volume 2. London: Penguin.

Foucault, M. (2003) Society Must Be Defended. London: Picador.

Glover, E. (1935) War, Sadism & Pacifism. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Hardt, M. & Negri, A. (2001) Empire. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001. 

Hardt, M. & Negri, A. (2004) Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. New York: Penguin Press.

Mbembe, A. (2003) ‘Necropolitics’. Public Culture 15, 1:11-40.

Negri, A. (2003) Time for Revolution. London: Continuum.

Nietzsche, F. (1969) Thus Spoke Zarathustra. London: Penguin.

Reid, J. (2003) ‘Deleuze’s War Machine: Nomadism Against the State’. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 32, 1: 57-85.

Vatter, M. (2002) ‘Politics as war: a formula for radical democracy’, Multutides WEB. http://multitudes.samizdat.net/article.php3?id_article=42

Von Clausewitz, C. (1993) On War. London: Everyman.
 
       
     

Surveillance, Performance, Self-Surveillance

Interview with Jill Magid by Geert LovinkIllustrated version on www.networkcultures.orgUS-American, Amsterdam-based artist Jill Magid was a ‘must see’ at the
2004 Liverpool Biennial (www.biennial.com). Her work fitted in tightly
with the Biennial’s topic of the city and the ‘engagement with place’. The
installation, Evidence Locker, shown at the Tate Gallery and the Fact
centre for new media and screen culture, is a seductive play with
Liverpool’s CCTV infrastructure. Instead of portraying citizens as victims
of Big Brother, Magid’s works opens up a new field of art and activism in
which predictable forms of protest against the almighty eyes of power are
turned into a dandy-like performance. Early 2004 Jill Magid spent 31 days
in Liverpoolthe amount of time CCTV footage is stored, unless
it is used as evidence of a crime. Wearing a red coat she was followed by
the CCTV cameras, and an intimate relationship between her and ‘the
Observer’ developed. The installation consists of a variety of formats,
from a printed daily/exchange with the Observer to audio files of
Citywatch employees describing ‘suspect’ behavior of individuals they
follow to Jill strolling through the inner city shopping zone. There are
two outstanding pieces: one in which the Observer is guiding Jill while
having her eyes closed, through mobile phone contact, jumping from one
camera to the next. The second one is a short piece, with Jill on the back
of the Observer’s motorbike, blurry pictures, switching quickly from
camera perspective, until they drive outside of CCTV reach. In the
following interview, which was done via email and live at Fact on October
2004, we talked about the Liverpool in relation to Magid’s earlier work
and about the responses to this remarkable piece of urban techno poetry.

I will fill in the gaps, the parts of my diary you are missing. Since you can follow me inside, I will record the inside for you. I will mark the time carefully so you will never lose me.

Dont worry about finding me. I will help you. I will tell you
what I was wearing, where I was, the time of day… If there was
anything distinguishing about my look that day, I will make sure you
know.

—Excerpt taken from the Evidence Locker Prologue (Jill Magid, 2004)

GL: The dominant presumption about surveillance is that it turns all
civilians into victims. Instead of creating a feeling of security, CCTV
systems treat each of us into potential suspects. At least, that’s the
common belief. How do you look at this widely shared set of ideas? It’s
funny that also political activists, and artists I have to say, have not
yet have transcended the surveillance ideology.

JM: I have never looked at surveillance technology from the position of a
civilian under its gaze. Or rather I should say that when I have done so,
it has been in response to a question such as this. I was drawn to
surveillance technology for its potential, as a tool that offered specific
qualities and capabilities; CCTV systems enabled me to see and capture
myself (and my body) in a form that I could not experience without its
employment. Surveillance cameras create stages, or fixed, monitored
platforms. Under their gaze there is a potential for me to act, and a
potential to save this act as a recorded event. By watching an area rather
than an individual, the camera in its static position seems to favor its
context over the pedestrians passing through it. It seems to say: The city
is permanent, the civilian ephemeral. In a positive sense, this technology
offers me a way to place myself, to become visible (and potentially
permanent) within the city, through a medium bigger than myself. It is
thus a creative field in which I choose to play. In terms of its political
position (as maintaining security or, conversely, invading privacy) I see
these positions as qualities of the technology itself- criteria of the
tool that simply makes its use, in my way, more loaded. I have also looked
at CCTV cameras as objects, or visual signs. In my past project, System
Azure Security Ornamentation, I played with the cameras political
ambivalence: between its position as a tool th= at protects public space
as watched space, or as a sign of watched space. As a sign the camera stands more as a reference to the body or institution that is watching rather than as a tool with the
function of securing. I wondered, are the cameras ornamental? And if so,
do they signify authority?

I approached Police Headquarters in Amsterdam and asked if I could cover
the surveillance cameras on their fade with fake jewels as an art
project. They rejected my request and the idea of working with an artist.
I remade myself into a company- System Azure- and again approached them
with the same question, this time for a fee. After months of negotiations,
I succeeded in officially covering four of the Headquarters
cameras in jewels, in colors with police-assigned meanings. (See
www.systemazure.com). Even here I do not feel I was taking sides
politically, I was more interested in the camera as an image that
triggered questions of meaning, even from those who controlled them.

GL: In your writings for the Liverpool Evidence Locker project you’re
talking about the city of L. Everyone will understand you mean Liverpool.
Why have you chosen to use an abbreviation? Liverpool is not an average
city. It’s quite an extreme and exceptional case, in terms of its history,
decline and attempts to revitalize urban life. What’s special about the
Liverpool surveillance culture?

JM: Using was not really meant to mask the citys identity; it was rather a way to place this identity as secondary, or less important. This question reminds me of the first in that both CCTV and Liverpool have their own histories and connotations that are so loaded with preconceived images and critiques that those suppositions come before
the story I want to put forth. When I speak of CCTV or surveillance in
relation to this piece, or those previous, I try to use analogous terms
that are slightly less recognizable: such as spelling it out as
closed circuit video, or in the book the camera or you to replace those watching through them. I want to get beyond presumptions of the system, or the city, so that the qualities or details that get less attention-that, for me, truly
make them up- can be for-fronted. What is special about
Liverpoolsystem is the criteria it is run by-the 31 day
period of holding footage, the laws of the Data Protection Act 1998 (a
British act), and the fact of it being so new (the system on this scale is
one year old). Some activists based in Liverpool remark that the cameras
are symbols of hygienic space, in which Cunwante are
targeted and removed; or as marketing signs to businesses and consumers
that the city is now watched and thus safer. While I may agree with these
ideas, the debates around them run parallel to my own questions and
desires. I was more concerned with the size of the system and how the
presence of so many cameras turned the city into a movie set with 242
cameramen.

GL: For Evidence Locker you have chosen to take up the role as the
red-dressed heroine, the seductive female dandy that strolls through
anonymous metropolitan areas. In this way the story of urban surveillance
systems so to say steps back and becomes an instrument in YOUR story. What
does this reversal of functions means to you, compared to the viewers of
the installation?

JM:The desire to bring abstract concepts or technologies toward myself in
order to understand them intimately is a constant within my work.
LiverpoolCCTV system is extensive, based on complicated legal
structures and anonymous as public video surveillance. To come to know it,
I needed to use it, to add myself into its equation. I recognized the
system potential to extend beyond its prescribed intentions= .
For me, this potential was romantic: I could be embedded into the
city memory for seven years; the city could be my stage; I
could perform and be watched. If what I created was not my story, but
someone else or that of an invented character, I would not
have been able to feel it in the same way. Only by being watched, and
influencing how I was watched, could I touch the system and become
vulnerable to it.

I designed the two installations, Evidence Locker at Tate and Retrieval
Room at FACT, in a way to bring the viewer along my journey, along a loose
narrative path. At Tate you enter a controlled space, like that of the
secret CCTV station, and at FACT you remember the
xperience through retrieved footage and my letters.

The viewer approaches the work as a third party witness
: He or she watches me being watched. I imagine some viewers identify with
the controller and some identify with me. I am an individual of the public
under view, one who has been singled out. Some people find this position
scary and others find it desirable. I found it to be the latter.

GL: Late 2002, during the WorldInformation.org festival in Amsterdam you
have already done a work that involved police security cameras. Was it
really different to work with the Amsterdam police department?

JM: It was very different, but this difference reflects my approach. With
System Azure, I transformed myself from an artist to a businessperson in
order to be seen by the police. My intention, in either case, remained the
same; this transformation was necessary for them to hear me. I was curious
to explore how those in authority related to their cameras- as ornaments
or as serious tools of security. Once we established the cameras ability
to act as architectural ornament for the police building, the negotiating
space and the project itself became more theatrical. The deeper we got
into the patterns and colors of the fake jewels, the farther we moved from
the camera so-called int= ended function. It was this slippage
that intrigued me; I questioned the representation of power verses the
activity of power.

Working with the Liverpool police was more collaborative. I did not
clearly state my position in terms of career, rather my interest in using
the system. The work was not about representation, but about function. I
wanted to expand the function of the system- a function that was latent
within it- and I needed them to work with me.

GL: In Amsterdam your artistic strategy consisted of the ‘beautification’
of public security cameras: ornamentation of something that is essentially
ugly and suspect. Did you try to make the cameras visible? Was the idea as
simple as that? I found it interesting that you did this in the red light
district.

JM: While the final product-the jeweled camera- is simple, the story
behind it is layered. This is true for a surveillance camera even before
it is ornamented. Surveillance cameras are painted beige as to not stand
out too much, yet- as with the police cameras I used, they are often large
and prominently placed. The police themselves, remarking on the
tools inherent contradiction, explained how the perception of th=
e cameras depended on who was looking: invisible to the innocent civilian
yet a deterrent to the criminal. To be hidden and to simultaneously act as
a signifier is quite an ambiguous position!

Attached to the police headquarters the cameras announce their power: the
power to look down on those walking by, from nine different positions. In
this way the camera is both an ornament and a tool of power. A security
camera on a police station is like a gargoyle on a castle.

It was the police that offered the colors, and the meaning attached to
them. According to the authorities, the color red, meaning liefdevol or
full of love, represents police love
What is that and what does it mean? Love for whom and in what form? My
proposal to ornament police cameras in the red light district in red
jewels simply put that question out there. In this area of Amsterdam, red
is the sign for prostitution; the color signifies the place of consumption
and the kind of services rendered. To use red on the police cameras adds
this meaning of the color with that of the police. What happens to their
meaning then? Asking the police to cover their cameras in red jewels (and
red hearts) is also a way of asking them to claim responsibility for their
cameras (as opposed to the shops and pimps that leave them beige).

GL: You mentioned that there are those who are exhibitionists, and those
who are not.

JM: Some viewers who saw my work reacted to me in a kind of horrified way,
saying how scary they found my watched position to=
be. Others told me they wished it had been them. One man said to me that
he wanted to be the girl in the red coat on the back of the
motorcycle, in reference to my video entitled Final Tour. I
have also been told that there seems to be a large group of young women
who are drawn to the work as a kind of escapist fantasy. I did experience
this to be true when I returned for our talk at FACT. I am not surprised
by the two opposing reactions, as many of my projects in which I have
placed myself before the camera have elicited similar contradictory
responses. I did a project at MIT called Lobby 7 in which I hijacked
the lobby informational monitor to broadcast my own
transmission. This transmission was a real time exploration of my body
beneath my clothes via a pinhole surveillance camera that I held in my
hand. While the experience of exposing myself in this lobby was
terrifying, it was also exhilarating. I created a new relationship with my
body, as well as to the lobby and the people in it, via this technology.
It left me stronger and yet more vulnerable. I don’t assume that everyone
wants to feel this, or would feel this way from the same performance. We
all choose the kind of relationships we like, and the roles we like to
play.

GL: How would you describe the audience responses to the piece? It
certainly raises a lot of questions, in particular about your role as a
performer and artist.

JM: During the performance I was not aware of the audience response; I did
not take my eyes from the monitor. I watched myself while the audience
appeared and aggregated in the lobby behind me. You might call them
witnesses. I could hear comments of those people who watched closely
behind me, and others as they passed.

I could hear one couple close by for at least half the piece; they
discussed the composition of my body on the monitor and how my skin
related to the surrounding architecture. Two men, looking like professors,
passed and one asked the other Cwhat is on the monito
his response: I think its one of those videos about a baby being
born I was told seven police officers came in and asked people
who put the sex tape in the system. These reactions say a lot about how
images of the (female) body, in general as well as in the academic
environment of MIT, can be perceived, as well as the assumptions that come
with those perceptions.

In the days after the performance, at least five women came to me and said
she wished it had been her. Other women I did not recognize gave me nods,
smiles, or angry looks around campus. Both men and women seemed to look at
me longer.

In the documentation video (I had people hiding in the above balconies
filming) it was clear that the image was not readily legible; the viewer
would look at the monitor confused and then his/her face would betray
recognition. Some looked around to find who was doing this, but many just
stared at the screen. Viewers often changed the way they stood: pulling
baseball caps lower, or crossing their arms before their chests. Others
put their hands in their pockets.

The best reaction I got was from a professor of mine named Ed Levine. He
told me that after he had seen the performance, he could never look at the
Lobby 7 monitor again without seeing the image of my body on the
screen.

GL: At MIT you studied with Krzysztof Wodiczko. Is it through him that got
involved in this type of performance?

JM: Not directly. Krzysztofwas part of a team of professors, amongst which
was Dennis Adams, Julia Escher, Ed Levine, and later Joan Jonas. I chose
to go to MIT because I had no longer been satisfied with my studio-based
work. I lived in New York and felt a need to engage with the city
directly. I was making models of architecture that I wanted to build
within the city, which would exist as pockets of silent or intimate space.
The professors asked me if I had experienced these spaces I imagined, and
suggested that until I was offered the millions of dollars it would take
to build them, I should find a way to test my designs. I scaled the models
down to wearable objects and clothing. The only way to test them was to
use them, out in the urban environment. I guess you could call this the
beginning of my performances.

GL: Out of the rich Liverpool material you have been trying to extract a
film script. Are you really thinking about feature film? Would you use the
original footage from the security cameras? Would it be fiction or
something in-between, like a hyper real fictionalized documentary?

JM: The original idea was to use the police footage I have and to adapt
the Subject Access Request forms (the letters) I wrote into a script. I
hoped to make it a feature length film with a narrative structure closer
to fiction than documentary. Since the beginning of the project I wanted
to treat the system as a film crew making cinema. Beginning this process
of adapting the footage into a feature in LA this summer taught me a lot;
the approach I used to make the videos for the art installation did not
easily translate to a cinema space, and I am still considering how this
can be done. There is surely a Hollywood story here; the question is how
to do it. I am also curious to see if someone within the film industry
takes this challenge on. I love the idea of police surveillance footage
inspiring a Hollywood film- of the project making a full circle. I
surprisingly found that what I was faced with- adapting the footage for a
feature- was closer to the process reality TV editors face rather that of
film directors.

GL: What’s the purpose for you of making narratives? This seems to be an
important drive of you in your artworks.

JM: I dont often feel in control of the narratives that happen in my work. When a narrative does happen, I am usually riding along with
it, to a place I am unsure of until I am there. I also would not say that
narrative is consistent within my work. The work I do with mirrors is more
of an action. With the mirror tools and videos, I cut small mirrors to fit
the shape of my hand or to fit the object I want to catch or hold within
them. For example, if I want to hold a skyscraper, I cut a small mirror
the size of a pen. In it, I catch the Empire State Building. Through the
video lens, I drag it across the skyline.=20

The narrative of Evidence Locker grew from a process, or a series of
actions. My intention upon arriving to Liverpool was to use the CCTV
system as a film crew, to act as the protagonist, and to be saved to the
evidence locker forever-or at least seven years. I planned to use the
Subject Access Request Forms as my diary in the city. I dont think most of us imagine our diaries as a story, but of course it reads as a
kind of narrative. The (love) story grew from out from the relationship
that the controllers and I formed through the camera, especially with one
of them.

As for the general occurrence of narrative, I would refer again to my
desire to bring abstract concepts closer to me. A way to do this is to
re-write or reconstruct myself into them. This process is a kind of
storytelling to myself. It is this story I present.

GL: Could you tell us more about the difference you make between private
and public spaces?

JM: To describe private space, I often speak of bubbles. Inside the bubble
is private, outside is public. The boundaries are subtle, possibly
invisible. The inside is softer, quieter, and time runs more slowly. Like
Foucault=E2=80=99s notion of heterotopias, this bubble is a mirror of
its surroundings. In the mirror I see where I am not. A bubble can appear
inside of other spaces, while everything outside its boundaries continues
on as it was. In my example above, I use a small mirror to hold the Empire
State Building in my hand. For me, I have used the mirror to create a
bubble for the tower and myself. Inside I can hold it.

GL: What is self-surveillance in your opinion? Is it self-examination or
rather an urge to control your own image and reach a stage of super
self-awareness? Do you think that the presence of so many cameras means
that we are ‘internalizing’ technology? Is it really ‘invading’ our bodies
and minds or do see ways to ignore it?

JM: Self-surveillance is a way of seeing myself, via technology, in a way
I could not otherwise. In self-surveillance I use a system or a technology
as my mirror. The type of reflection I face is specific to the tool I am
using. Who I appear to be in that reflection is unfamiliar. The process of
coming to recognize myself as I appear there is what I call my work.

URL of the Liverpool Biennial project: www.evidencelocker.net Security
Ornamentation website: www.systemazure.com