[-empyre-] disidentifying with capital, design, use, experience in queer technologies

Zach Blas zachblas at gmail.com
Wed Nov 11 07:25:18 EST 2009

thanks for your question, renate. this matter of conceptualizing,
structuring, and situating the project within / against / through economic
flows has always been at the center of Queer Technologies’ praxis.

To put it simply: QT starts from within the capitalist system so that it may
exploit its flows, distributions, and deployments in order to actually
expand outside of it and corrupt it. QT has always been interested in the
Deleuzian notion of accelerating a system to the point of implosion. This
seems to speak to the directionalities of resistant practices, that is, QT
thinks it is more productive, more subversive--in fact, it generally
increases the stakes--to not primarily practice a purely oppositional
resistance. Of course, when this is needed and/or called for, Queer
Technologies does not hesitate to perform in this manner.

I really liked David’s comment in one of his emails to Dan on IAR: “I would
say that an exploration of the effect of form on exchange is the primary
domain in which we are trying to experiment.” Even if we are approaching
this exploration in two very different ways, I would say that this is also a
primary domain of experimentation and interrogation for Queer Technologies
as well. What happens when a critical art project is encountered and
experienced primarily as a mass-produced tech product? One point is that new
sets of questions and concerns arise around this encounter--around use,
buying, selling, functionality, necessity, brand. Like it or not, the
traditional art object resists use; as a “product,” QT calls for nothing but
use. Importantly, a use by all; not only those that are traditionally

Provocatively, Queer Technologies calls this practice Queer Capitalism.

Queer Capitalism exploits capitalism for the fastest means of replicating
itself widely with minimal effort. In a sense, Queer Capitalism is a tactic
to exploit viral capitalism as a starting point for the emergence a more
radical collectivity.

QT practices Queer Capitalism as a disidentification. As Jose Muñoz has
carefully explicated, acts of disidentification move between the normative
and subversive through a complex web of interconnections. Importantly, Eve
Sedgwick has written that queerness must maintain its proximity to the
normal / normative in order to be / maintain its queerness. Queerness only
exists in its relations and tensions to the normal.

To perform this type of disidentification between capitalism, commodities,
and queerness, Queer Technologies locates design at the center of its
practice. Design as performative contradiction. Design as disidentification.
This design operates through layers of visuality and experience. The design
of Queer Capitalism can locate itself easily within the company of other
consumables in various shops, stores, outlets. Yet, the tension of the
design resides in closer interactions or the point when the product moves
from the shelf to the consumer’s inquiring hand. The point here is that the
experience changes once the product is engaged--and therefore the
relationalities with the design shifts. While QT products may look like
finished, sealed-off products for application only; once engaged, they are
all actually open-ended processes that call for the person(s) engaged to
join in on their continuously under-going collective constructions and uses.

This type of lurking, spreading, exploiting the dominant systems begs the
question of invisiblity. Many political theories have begun to surface
around digital technologies and invisible politics, a
becoming-imperceptible, a tactics of nonexistence. In a future post, I would
like to talk about how the praxis of Queer Technologies is attempting to
engage is this tactics of nonexistence. Alex Galloway has claimed numerous
times, “Future avant-garde practices will be those of nonexistence,”  noting
that these acts of nonexistence are not nihilistic but the purest form of
love. I would like to connect this form of love with Queer Technologies’
work around viral queer affect and forms of political love.

As further military developments encroach upon the homosexual as a weapon to
defeat the enemy, we find gay bashing tags on US bombs used in the Middle
East. One in particular states, “High Jack this Fags”:
Technologies refers to its products as gay bombs. Appropriating the
mid-90s US Air Force proposal for the development of a biochemical weapon
that would turn combatants of war gay. Gay bombs, as queer political
products, explode and infect. QT’s Gay Bomb is tagged, “Hi Jack this

With the design and branding of queerness, QT wants to push queerness beyond
the traditional identity politics of its conception to more unhuman concerns
of the workings of viral capital and networked media, which of course have a
powerful impact upon the still meaningful and important concerns around the
human individual and identities. QT also aims toward a critique of
queerness. With the publication of Jasbir Puar’s work on homonormativity and
homonationalism, Queer Technologies rides the wave queerness’ own enfolding
into capital, nationalism, and the mainstream through designing /
disidentifying with queerness’ progression from the radical into the
normative mainstream.

Design is the praxis of Queer Capitalism. Design instigates the
restructuring of buying, selling, and using.

In Queer Capitalism, buying and selling Queer Technologies must exploit
capital. Our tactics include shop dropping, barcode manipulation, price
based on cultural institute of dissemination, e-business scams, free
giveaways at rallies, and fake tech support centers. Queer Capitalism should
not be limited to these tactics but start from them and expand as necessary.
No matter what tactic is employed, Queer Capitalism is a politics, not a
commodity. The products of Queer Capitalism virally spread this politics.

After dissemination, at the moment of potential, use becomes the unknown
remainder in the equation of this exchange. Use will ultimately be decided
inside and outside of Queer Technologies, but this use will still constitute
QT’s existence, functionality--its assemblage. Queer Technologies wants to
complicate the relationship of content to functionality. Wendy Chun’s
provocative statement that there can never be a purely technological
solution to a political problem powerfully resonates here. This is not to
reduce Chun’s claim only to the realm of the functional but to point toward
the suggestion that technology might have to break in order to operate in
certain political realms. Users of Queer Technologies must find primarily
political ways—rather than technological—to use its products. The practice
of use, therefore, becomes an interrogation. It is at the point of an
experimental engagement when the technological and the political can
realign—or the definition of the technological expands. Whether or not a
technological material instantiation “works,” Queer Technologies functions
and operates.

In our Gay Bombs manual, QT outlines a structure of how it attempts to
intervene in the world. each level builds upon the next, like software (I
can happily explain these in more detail if anyone would like):

1 Physical Interface - Materialism of Everything (all materiality is up for
grabs in this project)

2 - Knowledge Interface - Component Theory

3 - Network - GRID (or identities-in-difference, i.e. swarms, viruses, the
pack, faces of fakeness)

4 - Transport - theSoftQueerBody (the material assemblage of QT)

5 - Application - Gay Bombs, queer technologies

6 - World Production - Technotopias

so there is a progression or move in QT’s various tactics and strategies to
work from within viral capitalism, as I previously discussed around Jussi
Parikka’s work--using its logic and replicative practices--to attempt to
move completely outside it. Taking note of Hardt & Negri’s difficulties of
thinking about how to mobilize the desires of their multitude, QT finds
immense political potential with the affective encounter. It is this
affective encounter between the person and production situated within the
world that has so much potential to mobilize.

zach blas
phd student
literature & information science + information studies & visual studies
duke university
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