[-empyre-] scalable biopolitics

lotu5 at resist.ca lotu5 at resist.ca
Fri Feb 13 10:40:25 EST 2009

Christiane  Paul observes:
>  I often sense a longing for embodiment in audiences' reactions to
> this processing. I would argue that data is always embodied and has
> a very real effect on our lives (along the lines of Foucault's bio
> politics). I think new media art has addressed or struggled with
> this tension between the virtual, connected, collective and the
> embodied, singular, personal for quite some time.

Hi all,

This is such a great point, because I feel that this tension is already
present in Foucault's notion of biopolitics, which can be seen as a
manifestation of power which takes the form of a statistical management of
populations, such as through health care, but can also be seen as a
politics of everyday life, for example in the phrase “life has now
become... an object of power”[1]. The *particle group* piece, I think, is
particularly interesting in exploring how deeply power and corporations
have invaded our lives, down to the nano level, without our even knowing,
while beatriz da costa's piece also explores lives existing in a different
order of power and the limits of this notion of "life". While Deleuze and
Guattari discussed a politics of everyday life using the word
micropolitics, perhaps the pieces in this show explore something more like
microbiopolitics or nanobiopolitics? Although perhaps Sheldon's piece
could be seen to be exploring the classical notion of biopolitics by
looking at the algorithms that can be seen to be driving urban planning.

Sharon Daniels' piece Public Secret seems particularly interesting in this
regard, as it directly engages with aspects of biopower which Giorgio
Agamben has called "bare life", focusing on the health care management of
women in California prisons. The piece is highly personal, yet when I was
looking at it with a student of mine, he had some good questions. Why is
there so much discussion of health care? Was that just what came up in the
interviews, because it seems to be another area of focus in the work.
Also, this student, Dustin Raphael, was curious as to how the visual
design of the piece corresponds to the concept of the piece.

My own work, Becoming Dragon, is concerned with biopolitics as well,
looking at the question of if and how Multi-User Virtual Environments such
as Second Life and Opensim can be used to construct new ways of living,
new forms of life, which can escape the protocols of biopower through
their novelty and ambiguity, specifically looking at the transgender body
in transition and transspecies subjectivities.

Yet Sharon's focus on women in California prisons is particularly relevant
for this question, as it shows the adaptability of biopower. At the recent
Critical Resistance conference on prison abolition, there was a very
informative workshop about California's plan for Gender Responsive
Prisons, which demonstrate clearly the ways in which contemporary power
can co-opt the language of resistance movements like feminism and turn
them into rhetoric which supports the building of even more prisons. When
this discussion is expanded to queer and trans prisons and cell blocs, it
becomes clearer that these strategies only serve to make particular groups
even more targetable, if we can imagine even lower degrees of bare life.


[1] Foucault, Michel. “Les mailles du pouvoir,” in Dits et ecrits (Paris:
Gallimard,1994) 4:182-201; p. 194

micha cárdenas
performance / social media / public culture

C(a)lit2 Researcher, http://bang.calit2.net
CRCA Researcher, http://crca.ucsd.edu
MFA Candidate, UCSD, http://visarts.ucsd.edu
MA, EGS, http://egs.edu

blog: http://bang.calit2.net/tts

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