28. Multitudes 28 : Spring 2007

Multitudes : Spring

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Claire Pentecost. Quand l’art c’est la vie. Artistes-chercheurs et biotech
In the year 2000 the artist Eduardo Kac made TV news by declaring he had ordered the « creation » of a genetically modified bunny. In 2004 the artist Steve Kurtz was detained by the FBI on the suspiscion of bioterrorism, because of the laboratory equipment he uses in installations that demistify biotechnology. The contrast between an artist-publicist who lends a showy allure to biotech and an artist-researcher who critiques its effects serves as the departure point for an examination of the functions of science and art in a neoliberal society. Faced with trade secrets, the privatization of knowledge and ever-tightening control of laboratories, the artist-researcher can intervene to make public the research process and the consequences of commercializing a given discovery, particularly by using installations that allow the participant to manipulate both lab equipment and scientific concepts. But to do so, the artist must also interrupt the normal functioning of the neoliberal art world, where institutions supported by private sponsorship retain exclusive rights over fetishized products, destined to feed financial speculation. The article closes with a look at the work of Brandon Ballangee, an artist-researcher working in the field of ecology.

Eyal Weizman. Passer à travers les murs
The maneuvre carried out by the Israeli army at Nablus in April of 2002 consisted of interpreting the private house as an open passageway, and « walking through walls. » It involved a conception of the city as not just the site, but as the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid matter that is forever contingent and in flux. Who makes such interpretations? Since the end of the cold war a vast intellectual field has been established in order to rethink military operations on urban terrain. Soldiers take crash courses to master topics such as urban infrastructure or complex system analysis, and appeal as well to a variety of theories developed within contemporary civilian academia. The military appropriation of these theories is studied here by way of interviews with officers, in order to turn our attention to the possibility that, as Herbert Marcuse suggested, with the growing integration between the various aspects of society, « contradiction and criticism » could be equally subsumed and made operative as an instrumental tool by the hegemony of power. The subversion of the wall becomes the prerogative of the Israeli military in the Palestinian refugee camps.

Brian Holmes. La Performance spéculative. Art et économie financière
What is the imaginary of finance ? How did it separate off from any social functionality, to become the dominant institution of contemporary capitalism ? This article examines two performances. The first is by the Australian artist Michael Goldberg : installed for three weeks at a Sydney gallery, he speculated artistically on derivatives of News Corp., the media empire of Richard Murdoch. The second is a project by the ephemera collective, who work on « theory & politics in organization ». Having identified the « arbitrary power » of finance capitalism, some forty participants attempted the creation of another imaginary, through a conference and art event on the rails of the trans-Siberian train. The article borrows from the Lacanian sociology of Karin Knorr Cetina to decribe the « post-social relation » between traders and the « unfolding objects » that coalesce into form on their screens. It then calls upon Félix Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Cartographies to find out how the material and discursive elements of an externalized imaginary can be recombined to form the multiply facetted unfolding mirror where a subjectivty in movement can be reflected.

Gerald Raunig. La Critique institutionnelle, le pouvoir constituant et le long souffle de la pratique instituante
The concept of instituent practice should allow us to explore new pathways for institutional critique. This approach rests in part on the link between Félix Guattari’s reflections against structuralization and the closure of (or within) the institution, and the ideas of the anarchist individualist Max Stirner, the author of The Ego and its Own (1844), who can be considered both a rival of Marx and a radical and precocious critic of the institution. I additionally establish a relation between the conceptual genealogy of instituent practice and the concept of constituent power, particularly as developed by Antonio Negri. The modality of institution, and in particular, of participation in the institutional process, determines the formation of constituent power. This problematic, issuing from reflections on constitutional theory, is applied to the analysis of certain artistic practices dealing with the problem of the institution: the Brechtian theory of pedagogical theater, the creation of situations in the practice of the Situationist International, and finally, the ongoing process of the instituent practices of Park Fiction in Hamburg, a project mingling art and politics, which for the last ten years has continually unleashed new waves of the collective production of desire.

Suely Rolnik. La Mémoire du corps contamine le muse
The work of the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark occupies a singular position in the movement of institutional critique that began in the 1960s and 70s. The center of her research consists in a mobilization of the two capacities of perception and sensation that alllow us to grasp the otherness of the world, respectively as a map of forms on which we project representations or as a diagram of forces that affect the senses in their capacity for resonance. In 1976, with the Structuring of the Self, she abandoned the field of art and opted for therapy. The forms of critique that she brought into play over the following decade only found a resonance among the generation that began to assert itself in the mid-1990s. Noting this resonance, Suely Rolnik decided to develop a project for the reactivation of memory around the work of Lygia Clark. The idea was to use filmed interviews to produce a living recording of the effects of the body constituted by Lygia during her exile from art, in her cultural and political environment in Brazil and in France. With the exhibition, the pulsation of this body had a chance of contaminating the territory of art.

Stefan Nowotny. Le Double Sens de la destitution
Beginning from the texts of Colectivo Situaciones on the insurrectional movements of December 2001 in Argentina, this article raises the question of institutional critique on the basis of a reflection on destituent practices. Far from being reducible to the aim of a reinstitution – that is, the aim of accomplishing the classical functions of political power – these practices refer instead to a « positive no », to the self-transforming actualization of the potentials of social action before and beyond the figures of institutional representation. Thus, what appears amidst destitution is not a « labor of negation », but rather the contours of an instituting activity that engenders new forms of coexistence and coaction, even if this activity is partially haunted by the staging of past conflicts. To better understand this instituent activity, we must consider a second meaning of the word « destitution », which is desubjectivation as the destruction of the faculty of subjectivation, as Agamben describes it in Remnants of Auschwitz. It is only on the basis of the double meaning of destitution that the complex co-involvement of institution and destitution can be brought to light and that the privilege long accorded to « constitution » can be questioned, on the level of the theory of subjectity as well as that of politics.

Alice Pechriggl. Destitution, institution, constitution… et la puissance (dé)formatrice de l’investissement affectif
After sketching out the triad of destitution – institution – constitution, the text attempts to develop certain aspects revealed by the concepts of « instituent power » (Negri) and of « instituent imagination » (Castoriadis). On the basis of a brief examination of the latter’s contribution, this conceptual approach aims to adumbrate and partially elucidate the role of the affects in their double relation within the political field: their relation to representations and desires (pleasures, un/pleasures), and their relations to the collective sedimentations of past affects, veritable ghosts in the processes of institution, destitution and constitution. This is a philosophical text reflecting on politics and the political via a dimension that has long been discounted ; but nonetheless, the analysis of the roles of pathos and of aisthesis as core elements of the relations of power and domination is carried out from the perspective of group psychoanalysis. The approach proposed here is situated between the somatico-physical, intrapsychic, and interpsychic and political registers.

Yves Citton. Le Percept noise comme registre du sensible
On the basis of the graphic convergence between the English « noise » and the French word « la noise » (quarrel, disturbance), this article attempts to identify a percept that would be specific to the transgeneric reality of noise music. In order to understand how noise (i.e., the opposite of « music ») has become a source of aesthetic enjoyment, it revisits the history of recording devices, and proposes a philosophical hypothesis on the type of affect that is nurtured and fostered by those who expose themselves to the noise experience : an ontological-political exploration of « letting-be ».

Yoshihiko Ichida. Le Blues, cette chanson si bruyante
From Captain Beefheart to Stockhausen, through the Velvet Underground and La Monte Young, this article redefines the « noise continuum » not so much as a transgeneric reality than, more surprisingly, as the emanation of a raucous « ritournelle » anchored in the work songs of the African-American community. Minor shifts in a chord progression, notes held beyond their expected duration, smoking blabbers : the source of noise music is to be located in the gutters of the musical roads built by the bluesmen.

Boyan Manchev. Noise : l’organologie désorganisée
If musical instruments belong to the organology of anthropotechnics, noise music can be seen as a disorganizing force, as well as a principle of recycling and as a surgery of the sonic flesh. Why is noise so intimately linked to a gesture dis-instrumentation (mistreating pianos, smashing guitars on stage) ? An analysis of Christian Marclay’s video Guitar drag paves the way for a reflection that invites us to consider noise as the place of emergence of what contemporary politics can only leave unthought.

Ray Brassier. Le Genre est obsolète
« Noise » has become a generic label for anything deemed to subvert established genre. Where noise orthodoxy substantializes its putative negation of genre into an easily digestible sonic stereotype—the hapless but nevertheless entertaining roar of feedback—, two extraordinary bands, To Live and Shave in LA and Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock, forcefully short-circuit incommensurable genres, and manage to engender the noise of generic anomaly. It is the noise that is not « noise », the noise of the sui generis, that actualizes the disorientating potencies long claimed for « noise ».

Alexandre Pierrepont. Petit Traité de savoir-bruire
The first half of this article is devoted to sketching a few conceptual paths into the culture of alterations that so many musical genres have practices throughout the ages, and for which « noise » sounds like too narrow a label. The second half of the article follows a few explorers who specialized in disorienting our commonly accepted musical maps (Marion Brown, Faust, Charles Gayle, Mark Hollis, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, X-ecutioners, Otomo Yoshihide).

Wunderlitzer. Densité + saturation
Multitudes intertwines its questions within the multi-layered responses provided by the band Wunderlitzer, about the piling up of sound layers that characterizes its sonic explorations. From which point does multiplicity collapse into saturation ? How can one modulate saturation ? What can be left within it, in terms of distinctiveness, singularity and nuance ? Three unreleased tracks by Wunderlitzer can be downloaded from the Multitudes website.

Abigail Solomon-Godeau. Torture à Abou Ghraib. Les médias et leur dehors
This article discusses the photographs of torture conducted by American soldiers in Iraq, at Abu Ghraib prison, with a focus on the novelty of the phenomenon in which the participants seek to produce a collective representation of themselves performing the act of torturing prisoners. If one considers that these activities were, in many respects, staged for the camera, it is possible to interpret these images of atrocities as belonging to the tradition of amateur photography, particularly pornography. The publication of this material is of immense ethical and political significance, as it shows the hidden side of American values as exported to Iraq. Although the Abu Ghraib archives represent something which is inherently unspeakable, ineffable, the images are enough to reveal what otherwise would have been denied. This seems especially evident in light of the fact that recent wars have been conducted with an unprecedented degree of visual censorship and government manipulation.

Jacques Rancière. Le Travail de l’image
To represent is to stand for something else, it is thus to lie about the truth of thing. The work of Esther Shalev-Gerz doubly refutes this presupposition : on the one hand, the thing itself is never there, there is only representation : words borne by bodies, images which present to us, not what words say but what these bodies do ; on the other hand, there is never any representation, one is always confronted with presence : things, the hands that touch them, mouths that speak of them, ears that listen, images in circulation, eyes in which one can see the attention to what is spoken or seen, and projectors which convey these signs of bodies to other eyes and ears.

Eric Alliez & Jean-Claude Bonne. Défaire l’image
Contemporary art was born out of the radicalization of a crisis begun by modern art (Manet, Seurat, Cézanne), concerning the twofold sensible identity of art, which involves both its image-form and its aesthetic-form. This crisis led Matisse and Duchamp to « undo the image » inasmuch as it is defined by Form, in a kind of phenomenology (or dialectics) of the visible and the invisible (or the sayable). Matisse responds to this with a vitalist energeticism which brings about an expansive constructivism (with an environmental aim) of color-forces which replaces aesthetics with an aesthesis. Duchamp enacts a constructivism of the signifier, in which nominalism and bachelor machinism abolish all effects of being of the sign-image and thus all aesthetic sign-making of the world (Duchampian inaesthetics).

Brian Holmes. Géographie différentielle. « Zone B : Devenir-Europe et au-delà »
Black Sea Files, by Ursula Biemann, and Corridor X, by Angela Melitopoulos, are double-screen video projects which explore the construction of massive infrastructures : the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Paneuropean Transport Corridor running from Salzburg and Budapest to Sofia and Thessalonica. Each of them deals with the abstract character of the spaces produced by contemporary capitalist planning processes; but at the same time, each looks away, to a « myriad of human trajectories on the ground ». There they discover the production of an environment lived and shaped by its inhabitants, a vital space open to the most unexpected becomings, yet one which is internally contradictory because of its very multiplicity. This is what Henri Lefebvre called « differential space ». But between Lefebvre’s time and our own there has been a flowering of feminist inquiries and postcolonial historiographies, which lay particular attention on the interactions between positionality and situated knowledge (including expressive knowledge). These reflections lead to a new treatment of documentary, a multiplication of its gestural and narrative texture, enlarging the production of space to videographic montage itself. In this way, artistic research gives rise to a differential geography : a mode of knowledge (both of self-knowledge and recognition) which allows subjects to inscribe their positionality into the narrative of space, exposing sociocultural determinisms to the flux of intersubjective time and to the fluctuation of the video image.