[-empyre-] Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Johanna Drucker drucker at gseis.ucla.edu
Mon Jan 11 12:37:50 EST 2010


Just picking up on all this rich exposition below -- what about Clint  
Eastwood as an interesting example with regard to what MAT has  
suggested here.

Can I just say I really find all of what is written by Michael most  
useful -- but can I also say I don't care for the word "imbrication"  
-- it is one of the plague symptoms in my grad seminars.... I know  
when it appears a host of critical diseases will soon follow  
(paraphrasitis with risk of metacitation and logotoxicity). Picky  
picky, I know...

Johanna


On Jan 9, 2010, at 9:12 PM, Michael Angelo Tata, PhD wrote:

> Hi, Johanna!
>
> You’ve really piqued my curiosity with those comments about Parc de  
> la Villette and that little chat you attended back at Columbia.   
> There’s a lot to think about here: your own uneasiness, displeasure,  
> even outrage as these intensities surface and are encouraged to be  
> denied expression by a fellow colleague (gender?), the irony of a  
> big-wig suggesting revolutionary design for potential parkgoers and  
> neighborhood locals, who might otherwise be lulled to sleep by an  
> ergonomic opiate rendering the ugly beautiful, even desirable, and  
> the various complicities attending the reception of his ideas among  
> the leaves and tendrils of an Ivy where rapt professors examine the  
> productive role of misery in the lives of the unfortunate.  This  
> story is just loaded, and takes me to Zola, where this ideal,  
> fantasy park would be the site of a hideous tragedy inflicted on the  
> wrong party, and also to John Waters, where killer trannies would  
> somehow find a way to make it fabulous.
>
> I wonder: what would it be like to design difficult and treacherous  
> parks in the best ‘hoods, making CPW a spike garden with acid pools,  
> or converting Kensington Gardens into a field of Venus Fly Traps?   
> This could be an interesting twist, and might inspire something  
> marvelous.  True, discomfort and displeasure do get the gears of a  
> coup turning, reminding me of Charles Bernstein’s theory of  
> language, indeed, his own ‘complicity,’ if we might call it that,  
> with regard to Analytic Philosophy, whose currency he is quite smart  
> to trade: here, opacity makes us stumble, and stutter, as  
> absorptions are refused and the necessity for action surfaces,  
> calling us to make language into something more than transparency  
> machine.  On the other side, the silence of Wittgenstein and Laura  
> Riding Jackson await, complicities with quiet, renunciations of  
> community and convocation.  Ladders take us so deeply into this  
> world that we leave it.
>
> As you have noted, the switch from the language of contingency to  
> that of complicity is a telling mutation, one with its own material  
> history and spectrum of concrete ramifications influencing cultural  
> production and reception alike. Within this schema, I implicitly  
> want to ally complicity with necessity, which makes some sense,  
> given that the nature of complicity is to necessitate certain acts  
> and events which in many ways are a logical consequence of the  
> constellation of tessellated interests that preceded and facilitated  
> them in the first place.  But what would this mean, to contrast the  
> contingency of a site-specific, potentially non-collectible  
> installation that might otherwise be dispersed to the four corners  
> of the world with the necessity of Business Art, as Warhol called it  
> in the 80s?
>
> I know that Pop in particular invokes the language of complicity,  
> and that Warhol does the most to bring to the foreground connections  
> among lucre and aesthetic creation.  And speaking of Warhol, I am  
> sure some one of his many reviewers—I would look at Arthur Danto— 
> used the word ‘complicity’ or some homonym as a response to one of  
> his exhibitions (my suggestions would be any reviews of the  
> “Celebrity Portraits,” “Still Life (Hammer and Sickle)”, the Mao  
> series, or any of those dollar signs, since these collections  
> inherently beg the question of a necessary and productive connection  
> to capital).  Stephen Koch might have also used the word in a Warhol  
> film review in his Stargazer.
>
> You are correct to suggest draining complicity of its pejorative  
> connotations, since otherwise we will be blinded and miss the  
> Fibonacci motion of its unfolding.  The point is not to judge it,  
> but to examine, maybe even appreciate it.  I would go so far as to  
> say indulge it.  As Nicky has pointed out, there is complicity in an  
> ornate altarpiece of High Catholicism, just as complicity suffuses a  
> Nine Inch Nails track: the trick is to examine the specificities and  
> particularities of each alliance as it crystallizes in a particular  
> space, place and time and among unique accomplices—for example, the  
> complicity of the system of patronage is not identical to that  
> fostered by popular entertainment within the global village; each  
> must be investigated in kind, savored in its own right.   
> 'Complicity’ cannot be reified: it changes over time, as new  
> connections materialize and older ones are eradicated, even within  
> the life of a particular accomplice.  I am drawn to evolving  
> complicities, those ententes and unions that transform  
> chronologically, as, for example, in the political career of  
> Alcibiades, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger.  I am thinking in  
> particular of his recent break with Gold’s Gym, which is now  
> forbidden to run his image in the wake of steroid scandals.  Perhaps  
> Arnold will forbid his Mapplethorpe from being exhibited as well,  
> since it, too, can be read as document of a past medical order he  
> can no longer avow.  Reversed complicities, such as Sartre/nicotene,  
> are also curious developments, calling the temporality of complicity  
> into question (what can complicty be, if it might take be undone  
> posthumously, subjected to historical revision and its motivating  
> forces?).
>
> On this map, which border separates complicity from collaboration?   
> For example, in the 80s triumvirate Debbie Harry, Stephen Sprouse,  
> Andy Warhol, so much more is at stake then electric camouflage.  Is  
> there an art of complicity, an almost honest duplicity, as we find  
> with Jeff Koons, or perhaps Machiavelli (and Makaveli, as revised by  
> Tupac)?  Where does complicity meet the gesamtkunstwerk?
> To turn to your own fascinating work on visuality and textuality,  
> what relationships do Dada orthography embody, create, mobilize,  
> move, erase?  Is the intertextuality of Dada script, its evocation  
> of other venues, other surfaces, other dialogues, other languages  
> and language games, relevant here, pointing to a cultural complicity  
> riddled with revolutionary aspirations via the twists and turns of a  
> détournement?  And what of those secret complicities that surprise  
> us in their emergence: for example, Man Ray’s displeasure when his  
> famous eye-metronome (Object to Be Destroyed) is actually destroyed,  
> or efforts on the part of Agrippa’s publisher to violate Heisenberg  
> and make Gibson’s poem both readable and collectible?  Are these  
> acts of aesthetic treason, secret moments when an entente between  
> art and temporality is revealed, and ephemerality finds itself  
> suddenly and surprisingly dissipated, when all along it has been  
> promised to us as the glittering content of modernism?
>
> Perhaps we have moved from complicity to imbrication, to use the  
> word so popular among New Historicist circles.  This would gel with  
> systems theory and its interconnected networks redefining humanism  
> and ethics, as well as cyborg subjectivity, which rejects models of  
> depth in favor of those emphasizing intertwining, conjunction,  
> nexus.  The CSO cannot be complicit, but it can be caught up  
> (ironically, via disinterest and counterproduction).  Most notably,  
> your experimental poetic hypertexts call out for a technocracy even  
> before one properly exists, emitting a telepoetic call not unlike  
> Nietzsche’s addressing of a community-to-come in texts like  
> Zarathustra (and hence a complicity-to-come).  Yet in here  
> somewhere, we must locate that elusive term, which, as the post- 
> différance Derrida reminds us, might or might not exist.   
> Philosophically, it is only a rumor, a ripple transmitted from  
> Aristotle to Montaigne to Nietzsche to us, its inheritors and heirs  
> and signatories, and the site of a recoil: friendship.  I am  
> reminded of Hannah Arendt’s forgiveness of Heidegger, as well as  
> Levinas’ withholding of this gift.  But if there is no friendship,  
> can there be complicity?  Perhaps complicity is an idealized or  
> perverted version of friendship, or friendship an idealized/ 
> perverted version of complicity?  I pass this stream along to  
> Cinzia, who holds the key.
>
> Love to All, Michael Angelo Tata
>
>
>
> *******************************************
> Michael Angelo Tata, PhD  347.776.1931-USA
> http://www.MichaelAngeloTata.com/
>
>
>
>
> From: drucker at gseis.ucla.edu
> To: jhaber at haberarts.com; empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> Date: Mon, 4 Jan 2010 06:44:40 -0800
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Unfolding Complicity
>
> All,
>
> 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 thought.
>
> Johanna
>
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