Re: [-empyre-] Free Cooperation

hi Trebor & list,

I feel I should apologize for responding so quickly after your recent post
on list culture, but I often find if I don't respond quickly, I lose
interest in the discussion at hand. Go figure. For me, list culture is more
like a conversation .. and often I think aloud. Read the below as a murmur,
it is meant in the best of spirits.

True, I don't really think there is an answer to be found here in terms of
forever solving group dynamics. The answer IS in negotiation, which is a
process. The last resort of walking away, however, is often interpreted as
burning bridges and the peer pressure from such a costly move can recreate
models of ostracization and moreover, idealities of egoism, martyrdom, "the
underground," and so on .. "Free Cooperation" for me sounds like a projected
ideal which one could use to combat freeloading and negativity by its
brand-like usage. As a practical organisational tool, however, it seems to
encounter all the issues which have plagued the relation between the
individual and the group (as well as questioned the form of this relation)
since time immemorial.

I feel that the same issue is at stake with responsibility. How does one go
about "dealing with" issues of free-riding when walking away would simply
jettison the entire project? I like the idea of safe haven to step into to
negotiate such territory; it sounds almost like a psychic-geography of some
sort where the balance can be tipped in favour of a subtle reminder to
freeloaders to chip in their part. But this can also take on the character
of group coercion. Is the point to remove the freeloader, to exclude them as
un-useful, or take the opposite approach of trying even _harder_ to figure
ways to re-incorporate them so they can feel a "contributing member"? This
latter aspect is noble but has all the time limits at stake as well as the
savioural themeatics of rehabilitation. Perhaps the question should simply
be posed: why are you _here_?

My point in writing here is that for me the best group work has always been
born of deep commitments between friends who trust each other, who have
created common experiences that require a level of responsibility that
overcomes the "meeting" structure and comes to define the ways in which
one's life is lived with others on a daily basis. For me this was found in
the production of ritualistic, political soundsystem events. In the call for
formats for the Free Cooperation conference-thing, the PARTY was mentioned
and I guess that guise has been rather effective in several ways these past
dozen years. That said, the most effective groups have been ones that have
embraced a totalitarian, short term leader--these have led to the most
spectacular projects, but the most serious consequences in terms of the
bonds of friendship being subjected to severe strain. It also raises various
questions as to the totalitarian myth of art vs. its new, networked ideal,
an ideal which is prevalent in Free Cooperation but I am not sure anyone has
yet to fully understand in its implications, nor, I think, is it necessarily
possible to realise--rather, it becomes the projection of an ancient model
of community infused with the new delays offered by technology. Yet as an
impossibility it offers all the potentials of producing an event none of us
can readily predict.

A good way to think about this for me is the DJ vs. the new collaborative
laptop music nights at SHARE DJ in NYC and here in Montreal such as the
tri.phonic series under jam_sessions @ La SAT.. The DJ is totalitarian;
although a feedback loop is effected between dancer and DJ the limits of
this loop lie in the DJs desire and ability to read and utilise the feedback
on a conscious level. There is a process of negotiation but often it is in
terms of "feeding the floor" what it wants vs. attempts to "educate" the
crowd on new styles. A memory game.  On the other channel, shared, jazz-like
jamming situations, such as the laptop plug-in jam sessions mentioned above,
are totally different. They are fun and neat yet often their only listeners
are the musicians themselves.. the audience has forsaken them, as the result
is often a rather chaotic and unorchestrated mess. With enough structure,
the results can be good--but often the feedback is between the musicians,
and the audience is left out. For example, the massive Narod Niki jam at
MUTEK here in Montreal last year, featuring eight technoheads on their
laptops jamming away, was exciting and wonderful, but lacked the responsive
qualities and precision of a class turntablist. The question is: do we need
to retune our ears to hear the chaos (as Cage wanted, perhaps) or is it just
that "not everybody is a musician" and "not everybody should be playing at
once"? As you say, it's a question of having a "good chairperson," and
everything, the entire crux of the matter is in having a preconception of
what is meant by _that_ ..

Thanks for the thoughts as always ..



> Hi Tobias,
> Self-sacrifice is all too often associated with collaboration.
> Meetings without coordinator often drag on forever. For these situation it
> really needs a chair person. Surely there is no perfect
> collaboration but we should withdraw from abusive, exploitative, or forced
> relationships of any kind. This touches on the utopian aspects of the idea
> of free cooperation. How can self-sacrifice be avoided, you ask. I don't
> have an one-fits-all answer to the question of withdrawal vis-à-vis
> the compromise with the larger goal in mind. But not shying away from
> conflict and finding save arenas in which to stage that negotiation is a
> possible beginning.
> The German media critic Christoph Spehr describes free cooperation as a way
> of working together in which you remain independent and can walk out with
> your contribution to the joint action under your arm. I don't know what that
> would look like. 
> Best,
> Trebor
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum

tobias c. van Veen -----------
---McGill Communications------
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