[-empyre-] Unfolding Complicity

Johanna Drucker drucker at gseis.ucla.edu
Tue Jan 5 01:44:40 EST 2010


Great to read all this! I find myself nodding and wanting to underline  
and put notes and check marks in the margins of these texts! So much  
for the awful physical impermeability of screen space. So here are a  
few affirmative comments and a couple more thoughts.

Since I find myself so much in agreement, I will only mention one or  
two things. John's comment at the end of his last post seems really  
important -- we really DO have to make judgments because that is part  
of the ongoing civil project. I remember once, years ago, when I was a  
young prof teaching contemporary art. I was a guest in public forum  
addressing free speech issues and took the, to my mind at the time,  
only position which was that all speech should be free and all  
censorship avoided. A visitor from Scandinavia raised his hand and  
said very gently that no, that was not the case, that in fact the very  
nature of a civil society was that it was always engaged in figuring  
out what was permissible/acceptable and what was not. That remark  
changed my thinking in many ways, most profoundly, because it pointed  
out the always unfinished and ongoing foundation of ethical behavior.  
So, that is just to extend John's significant remark.

I originally thought of complicity as a way to complicate the  
historical sequence of concepts that began with modern autonomy and  
was replaced by contingency in a post-modern formulation. It was meant  
to express much of what Cynthia put eloquently into her post -- the  
combination of our understanding of ourselves within a structuralist/ 
poststructuralist sense of subjecthood (enunciated and enuciating) but  
also with the recognition that pace Baudrillard et al, we are still  
individuals with actual quirky selves and lives that matter in a  
humanistic sense. I'm resolutely against the notion of posthumanism,  
as I think it makes concessions to a mind set that is destructive to  
the social values of a culture that needs to keep the fictions of  
humanism alive -- that is, the respect for individuals within the  
polis -- while evolving a more conscientious and sophisticated  
understanding of community. I guess I think that for all I love  
Luhmann's work, he seems not to be able to create a model in which the  
somewhat contradictory conditions of system theory, complexity, and  
autopoiesis, and humanist self-hood fictions all co-exist. I see all  
of those things in daily life, and hear them in what Cynthia and Sean  
are saying (though do correct me if I am misreading).

Finally, here is a story about hypocrisy and academics to make my  
other point clear, because of course I am an academic as well as an  
artist and love critical thought as much as any other theory-head.  
Once, when I was teaching at Columbia, I had occasion to attend a talk  
by a very famous architect and theorist whose name I honestly do  
forget, though someone else will no doubt remember. He was talking  
about the then recent renovation of Parc de la Villette in Paris. He  
took issue with the design that had been developed-which was created  
to make a recreational, pleasant outdoor space in a high density  
neighborhood whose demographic was working class and at the lower end  
of the economic scale. He suggested instead that the park should be  
made as unpleasant as possible, disagreeable, difficult to use,  
grating on the senses because then and only then would the working  
classes rise up and overthrow the capitalist masters. This from a  
person whose yearly income had long since topped out the salary scale  
at the University and who lived a life of security and relative  
luxury. I found this appalling, but the colleague I was with told me  
to hold my tongue because the audience was in thrall -- all thought  
this was the most brilliant and radical talk they had heard in ages.  
This seems to me to be a completely different thing from teaching  
students Foucault, for instance, to give them tools for critical  

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: https://mail.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20100104/4d9b1844/attachment.html 

More information about the empyre mailing list