by SVEN LÜTTICKEN
I’m writing this on March 26—the day when the “pre-trial” event for Jonas Staal and Jan Fermon’s lawsuit against Facebook was supposed to take place at HAU in Berlin. By now, of course, Collectivize Facebook is part of a gigantic archive of cancelled or postponed events,at least in its originally planned form: the site http://collectivize.org is up and running, and at 7 PM, a prerecorded introduction will be broadcast on the HAU’s livestream. Given the centrality of physical assemblies (from people’s tribunals to reading groups, from openings to performances, from lectures to training sessions) to contemporary aesthetic and activist practice, it is hard to disagree with Kader Attia’s rant on Facebook (of course!) about neoliberal powers that be no longer needing “the police” because “we will stay home as perfect puppets of their mistakes.”
The Collectivize Facebook pre-trial had itself been announced on Facebook (of course!), thus performing the dialectic of complicitness between social media platforms and critical cultural events. This kind of enactment of entanglement only emphasizes the project’s point about Facebook being too fundamental to our lives to be left in the hand of private investors. Meanwhile, as Covid-19 puts more and more people in conditions of physical isolation, this drives them (us) even more in the arms of corporate, proprietary software, from Facebook to Skype and ZOOM (even if media autonomists such as Geert Lovink exhort us to use Jitsi). How do the various platforms co-produce what we are, see, and do—while we produce behavioural surplus for them?
Collectivize Facebook only becomes a more urgent project now that its realization in meatspace is blocked, and Staal rightly pushes it forward through corona-compatible media. For a publication I’m currently editing (the BAK reader Deserting from the Culture Wars), Dan McQuillan has written a manifesto for a socialization and recomposition of AI through people’s councils. It would be a grave mistake to think of Staal and Fermon’s project or McQuillan’s proposition as Schnee von gestern, as quaint relics of pre-corona culture. If anything, their relevance has been exacerbated as a new wave of accumulation builds—with the algorithmic production of subjectivity and sociability, as well as the biopolitical gestation of life through patent-driven healthcare, being in the forefront of corona-era disaster capitalism.
In our compromised and entangled ways, we try to keep going, trying to transmutate heteronomy into shades of autonomy. Kader Attia spoke of “perfect puppets.” It may be heartening to remember that, from Freud to Kokoschka and from Mike Kelley to Chucky, puppets and dolls have long revealed their capacity for uncanny shenanigans.
March 26th, 2020, 02 / Rosa Mercedes
Avery F. Gordon, in an interview conducted by Katherine Hite and Daniela Jara in Memory Studies: “Non-participation is one modality of what I call being in-difference. Being in-difference is a political consciousness and a sensuous knowledge, a standpoint and a mindset for living on better terms than we’re offered, for living as if you had the necessity and the freedom to do so, for living in the acknowledgement that, despite the overwhelming power of all the systems of domination which are trying to kill us, they never quite become us. They are, as Cedric J Robinson used to say, only one condition of our existence or being. Running away, living apart, squatting, communing, feral trading, bartering, self-managed currencies, human, debt, labour, knowledge strikes, boycott, divestment, non-policing, throwing your shoe at an occupying president: the ways of non-participation in the given order of things are many, varied and hard to summarize. And they are taken up for a variety of reasons, including the failure or irrelevance of states and the US–European post–World War II social movement model.”
July 7th, 2020, Tom
Denise Ferreira da Silva via Canadian Art: “Visuality or rather visualizability—being available via social media and accessible through electronic gadgets—seems to have become the main (if not the sole) criterion for reality, which becomes crucial for the ethical-political demands for the protection of black lives, for state accountability and for justice. If that is so, the only way is through these conditions of representation. I mean, the creative move first takes the visualizable as it is, that is, as a twice removed re/composition (at the same time a live streaming, news reporting and documenting) of the scene of violence which only tells us that it happens. It exposes the excess that is the state’s use of total violence, of law enforcement as technique of racial subjugation, while simultaneously removing the black person (the father, the sister, the friend) out of the scene of violence and its visualization. It does so by restoring the dimensions of their existence that the camera cannot capture. That is, the creative move must protect (as an ethical gesture) the black person (keeping her obscurity) in the excess that is the very visualization of the scene of total violence.”
June 28th, 2020, Tom
Ajay Singh Chaudhary on the politics of climate change, via The Baffler: “One of the most common misconceptions concerning climate change is that it produces, or even requires, a united humanity. In that tale, the crisis in the abstract is a ‘common enemy,’ and a perfectly universal subject is finally possible in coming to ‘experience’ ourselves ‘as a geological agent,’ through which a universal ‘we’ is constituted in a ‘shared sense of catastrophe.’ The story I am telling you is different. In this story, there is no universal ‘we.’ Climate change is not the apocalypse, and it does not fall on all equally, or even, in at least a few senses, on everyone at all.”
June 23rd, 2020, Tom