[-empyre-] more on the grid or the folds of hactivism

Timothy Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Wed Nov 18 04:42:56 EST 2009

Hi, everyone.  Thanks ever so much for such a stimulating 
conversation over the past couple of weeks.  I'm fascinated by this 
thread on the grid because it very much represents the tension and 
ambiguity that Renate and I had hoped would arise in discussing viral 
economies and 'hactivism.'

I've often thought of the distinctions between gridding and 
un-gridding or what's been called this week subjection (existence in 
the grid of sovereignty) and non-existence  as running parallel to 
the contrasting technologies of perspective and the fold.  As I've 
mentioned before on the list, in my recent book, Digital Book, I 
reflect on the paradox of the digital condition that relies on the 
hegemony of the grid (via its nefarious legacy, from the politics of 
single-point perspective to the modernist numbings of the grid, to 
the surveillances of GPS and RFID) and the possibility that inherent 
to this same system is the alternative "traumatophilia" of the fold, 
anamorphosis, the in-between, the wired that permits for the kind of 
performative subversion recommended by Zach and Ricardo.

Indeed, when Renate and I first introduced the parameters of this 
month in our presentation at Exit Art for the Institute for Aesthetic 
Research (thanks Dan and Dave), we featured the work of both Ricardo 
and Brooke as means of Re-Designing the commodity laden designerly 

So it's wonderful t follow this conversation that has enfolded the 
political hactivism of Zach and Ricardo into the ambivalent skin of 
the grid, which serves as both the ground of design and the network 
of its hactivism.


>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.
>empyre forum
>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

Timothy Murray
Director, Society for the Humanities
Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
A. D. White House
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

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