[-empyre-] the netopticon

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Thu Jan 13 02:53:51 EST 2011

Hello Christina & all,

I was thinking about your question...

 >But I am wondering whether Foucault can really help us here.

I do appreciate what you mean. Although, Foucault may not 'necessarily' 
be able to directly inform us in relation to our present day, (digital) 
networked experiences and more recent political shifts; what I have 
found useful is that, he has layed out for us an approachable body of 
investigation, where we can define (earlier) examples of where certain 
power relations have existed. As in 'where this all fits', 
psychologically and instrumentally in the past tense, and how it has 
evolved. His writings on power and knowledge, his critical studies of 
institutional behaviours, and psychiatry, medicine, the human sciences, 
and the prison system; allow us to delve into 'an underworld, a 
background world', where readers have a chance to consider matters 
concerning power and these type of influences on everyday people's lives.

 >We may all ultimately be complicit in systems we live amongst
 >because we just want to get on with life quite aside from what
 >self-interest is served, but the fact remains, there are huge
 >power asymmetries here and for any one person to take
 >responsibility for the military-industrial complex we are
 >living under is absurd -- because our range of action is always
 >limited in a variety of ways.

Of course, this is so true. Domesticity and consumerism dictates our 
relationships with others and the larger, stronger power structures and 
its various processes - in which we are all entwined.

Sometimes, I feel that many expect a revolution when really what we 
perhaps need is something less absolute or rather - I feel that many are 
distracted with the romanticism of a revolution. My own perspective on 
this is that, we can experience mini-revolutions and these may be 
personal realizations, locally shared with small groups forming their 
own independent contexts; with progressive and critically engaged 
strategies beyond top-down orientated attacks on particular freedoms. In 
my world, this includes building shared structures (online and offline) 
with artists, thinkers, hactivists etc. Building collective platforms 
using open source methodologies and free code. And, whoever decides to 
engage in these matters (or not), at least try to explore alternatives 
beyond the structures already in place, whenever possible. Whether at 
home, at work, or in leisure.

Getting back to your comment regarding asymmetries and how...
 >one person cannot take on or take "responsibility for the
 >military-industrial complex we are living under."

Perhaps one way around this, is to not view it as an absolute. We all 
have our own small parts to play and can only do so much. As individuals 
we are weak against Goliath, but with others we are stronger and can 
re-arrange things accordingly. We do not necessarily need to fight fire 
with fire. We can (and do) re-hack our way around problems in relation 
to our human-scale intentions.

 >Efficiency is a term that calls to me as a term to be
 >grappled with. Efficiency is a relative term even if
 >"they" try to elevate it to a category. So what is
 >efficient for one set of goals may be highly inefficient
 >for another...

Efficiency is an effective default for weeding or filtering out 
(supposed) mess and subjectivity. With Efficiency, we can also clear 
away nuances, adventures, stories and content. I get extremely perplexed 
when ever I hear or read the word 'mankind', I usually prefer 
'Humankind', yet we are stuck with 'mankind' being fed to us through so 
many different portals of communication and history. Deemed efficient 
for convenience rather than challenging why we use it.

 >But if one doesn't want to engage in the use of power
 >through warfare, assymetrical or not, what are the options?

Well, hopefully we can explore some of the options on this list. I think 
we have already begun...

 >Living inefficiently might be seen as a form of rebellion.
 >And what could be more inefficient than art-making?

Yes, artists, anti-artists, imaginative explorers, or similar types 
choosing to explore in and around the social constructs, loosen the bolts.

 >So now I will quote Foucault back: "What strikes me is
 >the fact that in our society, art has become something
 >which is related to objects and not to individuals, or
 >to life. That art is something specialized or which is
 >done by experts who are artists. But couldn't everyone's
 >life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the
 >house be an art object, but not our life?" Art in this
 >sense is conceived as a process and attitude and less a
 >subject or strategy. (1982, 83: "On the Geneology of
 >Ethics: An Overview of A Work in Progress."

Since the Internet & with some networked art before the Internet the 
argument posed in "On the Geneology of Ethics: An Overview of A Work in 
Progress.", by Foucault, has definitely become more real, and there are 
so many examples now. In fact, many are asking (artists) themselves, how 
to make physical works which exist in real-space, the everyday world; 
whilst imaginatively exporting their knowledge and skills learnt from 
experiences using technology.

To touch upon "Living inefficiently might be seen as a form of 
rebellion." - one of the problems I can see with this is that, when one 
is not formally 'culturalized' or part of a socially accepted grid, and 
when something troublesome occurs, outsiders rarely get much support. 
Especially when they are not connected within certain hegemonies that 
carry on regardless and fit around structures exploiting centralized 
power sources, in traditional modes. This is a typical issue in the 
established arts arena, as well as with more recognized media art 
portals whom demand monetary relationships with their user-base, rather 
than shared values.

The positive side of this in respect of artists and similar types of 
individuals and groups who are discovering alternative processes 
together in creating art experience and systems, beyond reliance on 
mechanized, top-down orientated 'efficient' frameworks and portals. Is 
that, they are engaged at the forefront of an art that brings about 
future possibilities for themselves and others which link to ideas that 
do not just reflect the mono-cultural and (far) too singular trapping of 
being dependent on unimaginative ventures around growth. Growth is not 
sustainability. A recent book I have been reading which I recommend (if 
you have not read it yet) is 'Prosperity without growth? The transition 
to a sustainable economy.' Tim Jackson.

"[...]this report challenges the assumption of continued economic 
expansion in rich countries and asks: is it possible to achieve 
prosperity without growth? Recession throws this question into sharp 
relief. The banking crisis of 2008 led the world to the brink of 
financial disaster and shook the dominant economic model to its 
foundations. It redefined the boundaries between market and state and 
forced us to confront our inability to manage the financial 
sustainability – let alone the ecological sustainability - of the global 
economy. This may seem an inopportune moment to question growth. It is 
not. On the contrary, this crisis offers the potential to engage in 
serious reflection. It is a unique opportunity to address financial and 
ecological sustainability together. And as this report argues, the two 
things are intimately related." Tim Jackson.

I think it's obvious that Wikileaks, and various other factors are 
forcing many to realize that there other ways 'to be'; beyond the market 
forces of 'tiresome' unregulated capitalism, but it is not just an 
economical or an environmental issue. It is also about who is brave 
enough to step out into the darkness, the unknown? I would say that some 
writers and artists are doing so, but unfortunately on the whole, the 
art system just like the governments and administrations controlling 
their cultures, are not brave enough to critique their own actions, and 
prefer to rely on what is already given.

Wishing all well.


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