[-empyre-] violent conflict

Apologies to Ted and Markus for a slow response. I'm thankful for the chance to talk about their work. Certainly their projects have come up here in some of our discussions in Illinois.

I have some thoughts and questions related to their initial posts.

First, I'll paste the snippets to which I'm primarily responding. Skip on down if you've already read their posts -


[from Markus]

Participation is war. Any form of participation is already a form of
conflict. In war, enemy and adversary usually hold territory, which
they can gain or lose, while each has a spokesman or authority that can
govern, submit or collapse. In order to participate in any environment
or given situation, one needs to understand the forces of conflict that
act upon that environment. In physics, a spatial vector is a concept
described by scale and direction: in a field of forces, it is the
individual vectors that participate in its becoming. However, if one
wants to participate in any given forcefield, it is crucial to identify
the conflicting forces at play.

....participation becomes conflict, conflict becomes space. Re-inserting
friction and differences into both the scale of the institution and the
city bears the potential of micro-political forces that render conflict
as practice. In this context, participation becomes a form of
non-physical, productive violence. ...

[from Teddy]

No intervention into public domain can begin without first exposing
political jurisdiction and conditions of ownership. As architects we
are responsible for producing counter spatial procedures, political
and economic structures that can produce new modes of sociability and
encounter. An urbanism that understands conflict and can embrace the

[more from Teddy...]

4. The challenge at this moment is to pull things apart, to
critically understand the way certain institutions operate, only then
we can propose counter procedures that can generate new models of
possibility. Traditionally, though, the notion of the avant-garde has
proposed the opposite: that the artist keeps a 'critical distance'
from the institutions in order to critique these spheres of power
from the outside. Today, what's important is what I would call a
'critical proximity,' which in fact is the opposite: it's about us
tactically entering the institutions in order to mobilize their
resources and logics of organization. It is a very different agenda,
less this sort of fake protest or rebellion.


[Back to me - ]

There is some obvious resonance between these two initial posts, and they raise some questions that I've thought only a little about, and don't have any answers for. I'm going to mingle my responses to the two in the interest of promoting discussion. I hope neither of you will take this as collapsing your posts into one voice.

The rhetoric of "participation" is certainly in need of the sort of agitation that Markus introduces here - whether in interactive art, internet-based social forms, or in political representation. I also often find conflict obscured by the very notions of "community" under which participation is celebrated. To this end, Nancy's work on the Inoperative Community has been helpful for me, as have histories of utopian approaches to communication. (Just today, I delivered a presentation here on campus about how the celebration of "creativity" has also served to mask such conflicts.)

Likewise, I'm all for discovering, exposing and sharing the ways in which "certain institutions operate," and doing so from within.

But are the military metaphors for our response really necessary, and how do they function here? I don't deny that the spaces within which we operate - the streets and hallways through which I move, and also the cross-border spaces I've never seen on which my movements are equally dependent - are often/usually structured to foment violence. But aren't there any other modes of describing response than through military metaphors? There are so many possible responses to dealing with conflict than through counter-conflict. I've been wondering here about nonviolence but also of "ethics of plenitude" or grace, in which new social orders are brought about through giving, radical religious orders and such. Have either of you come across worthy examples of counter-action within these conflicted spaces that adopt less militant approaches to space? "Embracing the contradictory" could be related to this - as in contradictory economies of expenditure, gift, and return.

I don't really know what I'm talking about in this line of thought, I've got no experience there. But I'm frustrated with how the tactics/ strategies language sometimes ends up repeating some of the same uses of space. Thinking here of Weizman's piece about Deleuze and the IDF...

Teddy's sentence about "tactically entering the institutions in order to mobilize their resources and logics of organization" comes to mind here. To what end are these resources and logics mobilized? From knowing a little of your work Teddy I imagine that you don't mean that in the same way that some of the legacies of "culture jamming" mean it. Perhaps you can apply that to one of your projects, or one you know? It would be good to get some differentiation from "fake protest" here via examples, especially since our modernist legacy keeps tugging us back to the abstract, the structural. Not looking for a definition of authenticity here, just looking to clarify strategy through grounding it in specific ends.

Thanks again to you both for your work.


This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.