[-empyre-] from terror to pharmakon

Christina McPhee christina at christinamcphee.net
Tue Dec 9 05:00:37 EST 2008


Hello Tim and -empyreans-  ,

The 'pharmakon' is conceptually and practically useful-- because it  
expresses that strange ambivalence at the core of many political and  
phenomenological conditions-- from space and memory to imagined  

the proximity of poison to cure..

Or, you might say, a principle of critical reversability.  from the  
late nineties I dove into diigital media, like Derrida flowing into  
some kind of 'abyme',  the move  was a new kind of topologic mapping  
of psychotropic suffering-- a way to distance myself , isolate the  
poison/wound , lance it, suture it, 'cure' it == l when I got really  
started with it in 2000=  http://www.christinamcphee.net/naxsmash/index.html

and not long after that, met Tim at the "Digital Terror' graduate  
conference at Cornell in 2002 where, thanks to Tim and Renate, I  
brought my naxsmash cyborg to talk at the conference (:-)_  Much later  
I became able to return to my primary media and use it as a pharmakon  
as antidote-- http://www.christinamcphee.net/drawings/antidote_3.html

naxsmash (nascent=smashing) was a way of asking how a topology might  
be produced from the generative space or break between  
oppositions .    I needed this because I felt incredibly trapped--  
literally gasping for air (asthma/trauma)= digital oxygen could come  
via digital performance, becoming new by seperating
out from my 'self' through a healing act of breathing in the disturbed  
landscape.   acting in a place - a real place that is risky  - to make  
something that can heal or create in the break/ the breach.. this  
seems like the magic of transformation involved in "The Winters Tale'  .

I wrote for Neural in 2003,

If the architectonics of networked media are in a continuous process  
of decay and regeneration, like biological processes themselves, we  
can imagine that they need a flow of entropy in order to subsist [2];  
this principle, together with 'a new media format whose logic  
reflected the possibility of the space between generations of routes,  
displacements, remappings, as one connected new types of  
topography...into a state labyrinth...designed to keep the 'other'  
society invisible...' [3] suggests a place of low grade memory  
function, like a stroked-out brain. Farad and Rashid are filming the  
Israeli checkpoints in Gaza, but they speak of potentialities of  
entrapment and enslavement inside the electronic network. The  
labyrinth of control and surveillance further creates a drama of  
amnesia, a sustained remit to forget where and who and what, what came  
next, even; and in its expression through the flood of filmic image,  
as drift, anomie, restlessness and pathos. [4] The problem of  
remembering becomes even more acute, and through memory, the  
imperative to bear witness, to speak within the context of a belief in  
a truth, becomes more and more attenuated. Thus we arrive at a vision  
of the electronic universe as a wired ruin, or alternatively, a  
topology of neural trauma. I am suggesting that to imagine such a  
double universe, a neural net, could inscribe, through the 'magical',  
non-rational technology of the narcissistic mimetic impulse, a human  
meaning within electronic architecture.   http://www.neural.it/english/aphasiaparrhesia.htm 
         [3] Farad Amaly and Rashid Masharawi, artists' statement,  
FROM/TO(2002) Documenta XI   http://www.universes-in-universe.de/car/documenta/11/halle/e-armaly.htm

Much later this imaginary of a fluid amniotic moving across  
checkpoints comes into a deep clash with the horror of Guantanamo.   
Again the possibility that performance in the breach was a kind of  
nascent-smashing-- I empathized with the street activists who took on  
the orange 'paint' of the Gitmo prisoner uniforms
in their efforts to protest the dehumanization , the move to 'bare  
life' , to the prisoners becoming nothingness,  the state of bare  
life.    Again looking to make a leap/suture/saute/between two  
incommensurate conditions I  made an assemblage between the Guantanamo  
and the drowning/gasping for breath figure of my performance work from  
naxsmash == to situate a film as  a dire recipe   http://christinamcphee.net/cinevid/recipe_inst.html 
   == and here the voice (the voice of my daughter, and her poem  
'evacuee cake_) despite its young tone and sweetness of sound pronounces
a terrible dicta = that the refugees of state terror are simply  
consumed, or put into pies.  Poison of let them eat cake.

so these looping figurations have created a series of flexible frames  
much in a Derrida=like way- as I  suppose he would have imagined  
flowing from the midst of 'abyme'  as if such a thing were possible.    
I was also influenced by his long pharmakon-like tale of circumcision/ 
as circumflexion with  a gloss on St Augustine and S. Monica.  a  
reflection on the complexity of his own marginality as  a Jew frm  
North Africa (the Augustinian connection).     Jonathan Cruller has an  
interesting gloss on this flow, " '' one can see fold fanning out,  
scattering itself amonth these figures and recomposing itself, or one  
may see an of these other elements opening into and expressing itself  
in fold.  This structure Derrida describes as a fanning or folding  
movement: "la polysemie des blance et des plies se deploie et se  
reploie en eventeail (the polysemy of balnks and olfds both fans out  
and snaps shut, ceaselessly)  (La Dissemination, p 289/251). ... The  
blank  of a white space, spacing, empty paper is part of the  
Mallarmean thematic series of blanc, but it is also the condition of  
textual series, so that twhat one sought to describe, as a theme  
exceeds the thematic, it folds back on it as it names it.."   http://books.google.com/books?id=UDntxPQ1HQIC&pg=PA211&lpg=PA211&dq=circumflexion+derrida&source=web&ots=vAP7jy261C&sig=WsGxK6ol2sw50BedEVaSn0wX4zs&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result

Taking this blanc/plie movement into the political/aesthetic ethos I  
feel like there's a way for the action of an artist to make a new  
thing , a freedom-thing right in/through the midst of this act of  
engagement with a site of suffering, and that this kind of healing  
comes only when the action of the artist occurs at the (psychic/ 
physical) site of pain/ suffering/ terror.   Thus the efficacy of the  
Gitmo orange suit protestors action persists beyond its moment and  
proliferates by other means.  http://www.christinamcphee.net/tesserae/works/iraqi_eye.html

And to this I think comes an elision to Kristen Alvanson's spells.   
Kristen is working a magic frome some kind of inside space-- I hope  
that she will be able to talk about this a bit with us.   I will post  
her Poison-in-poison-out text in a moment.


>  Derrida adds, by the way, the the pharmakon also
> signifies the artificial tint of painting, thus
> inscribing the pharmakon into the fabric of
> artistic representation,which, of course,
> remained questionable to Plato as a dependable
> apparatus of the state.
> It is a similar flexible play of highly charged
> societal tensions that I mean to invoke by
> emphasizing the paradox of "digital terror"
> within the context of artistic blowback.  While
> differences certainly remain between the extent
> of state terror employed in different regions
> (not to mention by the shift of terror employed
> by state surveillance systems and alternative
> actions of locative media), I would suggest that
> Steve Dietz's legal harrassment is directly
> inscribed in the logic of state of state terror,
> just as CAE's artistic reflections on critical
> and technlogical terror employ the logic of the
> pharmakon in resistance to the deadening logic of
> us and them.
> I frame my approach to "digital terror," as you
> noticed, in dialogue with the 1998 intervention
> of the brave Israeli feminist artist and peace
> activist, Horit Herman-Peled, a former guest of
> -empyre-,who  articulates her own dangerous work
> documenting and critiquing the Israeli oppression
> of Palestinian guest workers as they pass(ed)
> through the Gaza checkpoint:
> "The reality and/or threat of terror shapes
> people's consciousness and unconsciousness, among
> them people who are active in the cultural and
> art-making fields. This raises numerous questions
> regarding the relationships between the digital
> revolution, digital terror, and digital art. Some
> of these questions are:
> 	1.	What is the relationship between
> the production of art by means of digital
> technologies and the production of terror by the
> same means?
> 	2.	Do artists and cultural producers
> in areas inflicted with terror embrace more
> readily the digital media, with its perturbing
> qualities, as natural means of artistic
> production?
> 	3.	Do artists who experience terror
> directly react differently in these respects than
> artists who experience it virtually, through the
> electronic media?"
> (http://web.macam98.ac.il/~horit_a/terror.htm)
> What your post emphasizes, Sean,  is our need to
> reflect cautiously on the practical differences
> between virtual and direct terror, while learning
> from their structural affiliations via the logic
> of the pharmakon.
> Thanks for such a helpful post.
> Best,
> Tim
>> Hey timothy
>> With sincere admiration for the Ctheory piece, doesn't detouring  
>> the term
>> 'terror' to describe "critical analysis and response" rather defuse  
>> the
>> term's emotional clout? Surely, terror is not the prerogative of  
>> non-state
>> actors, and certainly there is a sliding scale of terror, from  
>> Stalinist /
>> fascist / dictator state terror through to the selective deployment  
>> of
>> terror-like tactics in parliamentary democracies. The difference is  
>> between
>> geographical areas where everyone fears the knock on the door and  
>> ones where
>> only some people do - Steve Dietz for instance.
>> Lyotard's indifference might in another context sound disturbingly  
>> like
>> Baudrillard's silence of the silent majority or worse still, the
>> 'immoralist' described by Simon Critchley, who knows what evil is,  
>> but does
>> not choose to act against it. While indifference offers some kind of
>> personal salvation, it is all too often perceived not as the ultimate
>> barrier by power, but as weakness that can be ignored.
>> There's a slippage in terminology which is characteristic of  
>> capital itself.
>> S
>> On 2/12/08 4:20 PM, "timothy murray" <tcm1 at cornell.edu> wrote:
>>>> Hi, Sean and Simon,
>>> I'm not sure that terrorism must necessarily equate itself with the
>>> future of violence.    Could not networked terrorism itself
>>> constitute a significance response to terror?
>>>   In one context, I'm thinking of the alternative media actions  
>>> that I
>>> call "digital terror" for their ability to grab back the numbing
>>> devices of surveillance and scanning (something that Jordan
>>> frequently discusses) for the sake of critical analysis and response
>>> (I elaborate on this in an article on "Digital Terror"  that you can
>>> find on Ctheory. net).
>>> In another context, I frequently rely on some important advice that
>>> my mentor Jean-Francois Lyotard gave me many years ago.  Reflecting
>>> on alternatives to terrorist actions by the IRA and the
>>> Baader-Meinhof that were sweeping Europe, Lyotard suggested, with a
>>> twinkle in his eye, that the greatest counter act of terrorism is  
>>> not
>>> violence, but  indifference.
>>> Best,
>>> Tim
>>>> The 'us and them' that is relevant here was described by WB Yeats a
>>>> century ago:  "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are
>>>> filled with a passionate intensity"
>>>> sean
>>>> On 30/11/08 9:05 PM, "Simon Biggs" <<>s.biggs at eca.ac.uk> wrote:
>>>> That sounds a bit us and them. Are we not all complicit in this?
>>>> Aren't we all oppressors and victims? Events in Mumbai demonstrate
>>>> this. The bombers run amok and people die. Why do they run amok?
>>>> What sort of society is it that engenders such behaviour? Why were
>>>> these people pushed to that action?
>>>> As somebody else observed, terror is endemic to capitalism.  
>>>> However,
>>>> one could extend that and suggest that terrorism is endemic to all
>>>> societies. Why?
>>>> We live in a world of networked cultures, where difference is not
>>>> neatly delineated along historical topographic lines. Difference is
>>>> in every nation, every town, every street - the family. When there
>>>> is intense conflict between different people (for whatever reason)
>>>> it will resemble terror. We shouldn't be surprised that this is how
>>>> we now fight. This is the future of violence. Wars between states
>>>> (which, as Sean suggests, are simply the executive arms of global
>>>> capital) will rarely occur (unless there is a profit margin to
>>>> exploit). Wars of belief (difference) will happen in our streets,
>>>> our towns and anywhere, potentially all at the same time. Conflict
>>>> will be rhizomorphic, just as our cultures are.
>>>> This messy and difficult to model conurbation of cultural diasporas
>>>> is itself a red rag to many. Those that fear difference find they
>>>> are surrounded by 'them'. They panic and strike out. Terror becomes
>>>> street culture.
>>>> We cannot go back to the past. We cannot repatriate populations of
>>>> millions. We cannot revert to a monoculture that was (anyway) a
>>>> mirage. The more likely scenario is that our diasporas will
>>>> proliferate and fragment further. Difference will become our
>>>> defining characteristic (perhaps it already is?). If we fear such
>>>> difference then conflict (and terror) will be endemic - it will be
>>>> our culture.
>>>> Regards
>>>> Simon
>>>> On 30/11/08 01:00, Sean Cubitt wrote:
>>>> The problem now can be phrased like this: The world is split  
>>>> between Evil
>>>> (regimes, terrorists . . .) and Innocent
>> (civilians, victims . . . ). There
>>>> is no room left for the Good. What art can do uniquely is to  
>>>> speak of the
>>>> Good, that is of the very thing that does not exist in or for  
>>>> contemporary
>>>> capitalism
>>>> Simon Biggs
>>>> Research Professor
>>>> edinburgh college of art
>>>> s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
>>>> www.eca.ac.uk
>>>> www.eca.ac.uk/circle/
>>>> <>simon at littlepig.org.uk
>>>> www.littlepig.org.uk
>>>> AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk
>>>> Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland,
>>>> number SC009201
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> empyre forum
>>>> <>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>>> <http://www.subtle.net/empyre>http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>>>> Prof Sean Cubitt
>>>> <>scubitt at unimelb.edu.au
>>>> Director, Media and Communications Program
>>>> Faculty of Arts
>>>> Room 127 John Medley East
>>>> The University of Melbourne
>>>> Parkville VIC 3010
>>>> Australia
>>>> Tel: + 61 3 8344 3667
>>>> Fax:+ 61 3 8344 5494
>>>> M: 0448 304 004
>>>> Skype: seancubitt
>>>> <http://www.culture-communication.unimelb.edu.au/media-communications/ 
>>>> >http:/
>>>> /www.culture-communication.unimelb.edu.au/media-communications/
>>>> <http://homepage.mac.com/waikatoscreen/seanc/>http://homepage.mac.com/waikato
>>>> screen/seanc/
>>>> <http://seancubitt.blogspot.com/>http://seancubitt.blogspot.com/
>>>> <http://del.icio.us/seancubitt>http://del.icio.us/seancubitt
>>>> Editor-in-Chief Leonardo Book Series
>>>> <http://leonardo.info>http://leonardo.info
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> empyre forum
>>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> Prof Sean Cubitt
>> scubitt at unimelb.edu.au
>> Director, Media and Communications Program
>> Faculty of Arts
>> Room 127 John Medley East
>> The University of Melbourne
>> Parkville VIC 3010
>> Australia
>> Tel: + 61 3 8344 3667
>> Fax:+ 61 3 8344 5494
>> M: 0448 304 004
>> Skype: seancubitt
>> http://www.culture-communication.unimelb.edu.au/media-communications/
>> http://homepage.mac.com/waikatoscreen/seanc/
>> http://seancubitt.blogspot.com/
>> http://del.icio.us/seancubitt
>> Editor-in-Chief Leonardo Book Series
>> http://leonardo.info
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> -- 
> Timothy Murray
> Director, Society for the Humanities
> http://www.arts.cornell.edu/sochum/
> Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
> http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu
> Professor of Comparative Literature and English
> A. D. White House
> Cornell University
> Ithaca, New York 14853
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Christina McPhee

DANM Digital Arts and New Media
Porter Faculty Services
University of California at Santa Cruz
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