[-empyre-] more on the grid

Zach Blas zachblas at gmail.com
Mon Nov 16 10:10:43 EST 2009

hello everyone--

thanks so much for all the questions and comments on my previous post.

i’ve got a bit of time before my flight leaves new york for durham, so
i’ll try to address your points and questions.

mark, i really like your point that “one worm's vulnerabilities were
previously the systems' opportunities. Or, put another way, a virus
operationalizes a vulnerability.” this is precisely the way that Queer
Technologies tries to intervene in capital. it’s about starting from a
point of working within the system, finding / locating those
vulnerabilities, and then exploiting them.

virginia, i’m glad you brought up krauss. in a larger paper, i am
working somewhat with her article called “grids.” (if she has any more
writings on grids, perhaps you could recommend?) I’d like to share
with you a small fragment of text I’ve written on this awhile back.
I’ll be returning to it soon, so I’d love to hear your feedback.

“But first, what is a grid? Grids appear to permeate contemporary
life: there are the grids of urban planning and the geographical
locations they correlate to, various electrical power grids of
communication and the social grids they enable and foster through
their use, grids of digitization from the pixel upwards through larger
scales of construction and the representations and objects that embody
them, as well as vast networked grids of computation, biology, and
capital that formulate and structure new ontologies, epistemologies,
and relationalities. Indeed, in her 1979 article on grids in art,
Rosalind Krauss heralds the grid as our declaration of modernity, for
while the grid is ubiquitous in the 20th century, it appears in no
artworks of the previous one.2 Krauss also points out that the grid is
antimimetic, in that its organization is not one of imitation but of
it own “aesthetic decree.”3 Importantly for Krauss, this autonomy of
the grid reveals a paradox at the heart of its construction between
matter and spirit (or socialities), in that the grid both masks and
exposes the dimensions of its spirit through its material make-up.

Emerging from that, I’d like to say a grid is a form endemic to our
time that materially and visually organizes something through its own
logic--a logic that emerges as a relationality between various forces
that come to constitute a thing. Of course, a thing may be constituted
by many grids; certainly, this is the circumstance rather than not.
Furthermore, the work of the grid is always in flux, as material and
social processes alter and mutate. Grids may rigidify but they may
also hyperfluctuate.”

To address specifically why I want to use the grid in the context of
my artwork moves toward Renate’s point that my grid “seems like a
phenomenological system of being.”

I’m really drawn to the grid for a number of visual / nonvisual and
theoretical reasons. i’ll just share these as sketchy points:
--as i’ve previously stated...as queer technologies takes a position
within dominant systems, the grid, as a emblem of our time (taken from
krauss), offers a kind of dominant visuality to work inside. to be in
the grid, corrupt it, break and fragment that visuality. Queer
Technologies is always very interested in working subversively with
high fine art. thus, the grid seems to offer a way in to making
“minimal art” that can circulate as such with an infectious / critical
component built inside.
--i’m also extremely interested in current calls to go beyond a form
of representational cultural analysis to a topologically centered one.
Media theorists like Jussi Parikka have called
for a topologically focused form of cultural analysis that moves
beyond representation to
take into account the nonvisual aspects of digital networked culture.
In the spam book, a new book he co-edited with tony sampson, in a
section titled “no metaphors, just diagrams,” it is suggested that a
“becoming-viral” offers the topological potential for new diagrams.
I’m trying to think about the GRID as a visual form of this call for
topological engagement and what a politics of this diagram can offer /
bring about.
--i have also been drawn to brian massumi’s discussion in his chapter
on “the autonomy of affect” in his book “parables of the virtual” on
grids, abstract structuralism, movement, and emergence. importantly,
massumi points of that a grid--or abstract structure--does not
pre-determine a subject, someone, or something. rather, it is all
co-relational and emergent..in that it there is dynamic movement in
time and space. i completely agree with massumi on this point, but
paradoxically, i want to keep the term “grid” because of its
etymological relations to homosexuality and the viral references the
term contains. the grid here lets queer technologies work toward
topologically visualizing an assemblage theory of existence, which
includes all the emergent relationalities that bear upon affect,
bodies, anything.
--lastly, i’m interested in what the grid can actually show and not
show. perhaps the grid is the starting work / blueprint that lays out
the potential for something “nonexistent,” immeasurable, invisible.
maybe a gesture toward what agamben calls whatever-being??

dan, thanks for your questions also. i’m thinking of social,
artificial flesh specifically in relation to hardt&negri’s monstrosity
of the flesh, which i posted about a few days ago. this is more of a
conceptual starting ground, a way of thinking about social
collectivities. i think the tension in hardt&negri’s work between a
type of idealism in the writing and a factual account of how things
are really generates intense affect while reading. as an artist, this
just propels forth powerful visual imaginaries to work with. kind of
like how when i read deleuze and/or guattari i am overwhelmed with all
the images and visualities that i generate in my head while reading.

i wish i had more concrete answers to your other questions about GRID.
but as this project is literally JUST starting / still in development,
everything is up in the air. the basic idea is to make gridded images
/ visualization as forms of cartography that can pass as a map as well
as a minimal painting that would diagram where queer technologies
products are in a given area (los angeles, for example). the
relationalities that emerge for these encounters are almost impossible
to map, express, or document. although queer technologies is
considering developing a more dynamic tracking technology to work
with, queer technologies is also very interested in the explosive
potential of these affective encounters that always exceed being
mapped, gridded. of course, this encounter can go either way; the
reactions can be negative, positive, anywhere in between. in a sense,
queer technologies is really still at a starting point, and the grid
project is a way of thinking about mobilizing collectivity in a
precariously non-teleological manner. queer technologies must work
with the relationalities that generate from this project to move
beyond/forward...just move.

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