[-empyre-] vigilar y castigar

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Wed Jan 19 01:56:54 EST 2011

Dear Johannes,

I believe that I should probably offer some clarifications in response
to your thoughtful reply.  Most importantly, I don't want to suggest
that all art accomplishes the same end (I am talking about the larger
conception of art as techne, where, perhaps, a subset of techne would
be those works which strive for poesis).  When I think of art, I am
not simply thinking of the Fine Arts, critical arts movements,
socially invested art communities, and, even, subversive designers who
have managed to find themselves in commercial firms.  Rather, I am
thinking about the general tide of art, which includes all the
symbolic activities of culture, sensual or conceptual and aesthetic,
empistemological, or practical.   So, to answer your concern, I would
say that there is a great deal of art that strives for meaningful
resistance.....  but that these works are exceptional against the
larger backdrop of cultural production (which ranges from
highly-wrought, big budget consumer media productions down to
quotidian presentations of self).

My sense is that resistance is not simply registered in a dialectical
way, and that in the course of forming opposition to various systems
of oppression....  there are always opportunities to for multiple
expressions of resistance (which is why, as you note, it is difficult
to manage public consciousness).  US history is filled with examples
of counterinsurgency, the most obvious examples being the conspicuous
rise of racism whenever an economic downturn inspires a progressive
turn.  When rich people start getting richer and working people start
getting beat down, the class critique is diluted by populism that pits
working people against working people (it's the Mexicans!  the blacks!
 the Chinese!  the Irish!  the Unions!).  It is so recurrent, that I
would be inclined to say it is human nature (certainly, Rene Girard's
work on scapegoating affirms this inclination)....  but the fact that
these populist turns are fairly consistently backed by capital and
fairly well-orchestrated at this stage suggests that this is a
strategic move, rather than a purely accidental one.

Panopticism IS a powerful metaphor for the way that culture operates.
In this sense, there is no resistance to a process which is a general
process of culture (except, maybe, to live alone in the woods, without
a community).  On the other hand, there is something meaningful about
what priorities and which culture is programmed into us.  We can live
in a culture that is built by market forces, with human priorities
taking a back seat.  Or we can cultivate ways of being that arise from
communities that are ordered by the people who inhabit them.  So, I am
not talking about resisting the panopticon, but talking about a
struggle for control over systems of representation.

I think it is easier to see that art from a blank anthropological
view, over our lifetime, has expressed an ironically posthuman set of
priorities--the service of markets, the expression of those markets,
and the general reification of market mythology.

Rather than surrender to the bleak view that resistance is futile or
flee to the false view that resistance is inevitable, I hope to join
my voice with the growing chorus of people who are saying that a
better world is possible, but we have to work for it.  We need
critical thinking.  We need aesthetic practices.  We need each other.

I hope this helps clarify....


On Mon, Jan 17, 2011 at 1:31 AM, Johannes Birringer
<Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk> wrote:
> dear all
> if allowed (as it's part of last week) , can I  briefly take up Cynthia Rubin's response,
> where she proposes that
>>> now that everything is "digital" the need to push artists to define themselves as tied to a specific medium is now longer relevant, as anyone who is computer literate can move from  video to still image print to 3D output.  What counts is the idea, the research behind the work, the concept...>
> and wonder what that means?  why would there not be plenty of practitioners out there, in many part of the world, who still define their practice (and I mean this obviously in relation to the theme of our discussion here on the panopticon/netopticon) through their medium of choice, whether it's painting or theatre or photography, etc.? and thus in relation to protocols, gate-keepers, guardians, control mechanisms, techniques, formal languages and art markets and venues and professional sectors?   Some of these practices will indeed continue quite perfectly sans-web, and no new protocols need be invented..
> Cynthia, you ask : "The mode of presentation is also dependent on what is available and what is the trend of the day that is likely to get work seen.  Do artists make works specifically to post them on YouTube, or would they make the same works to show at film festivals, or to sell on DVDs?"
> i doubt much that artists make work specifically for YouTube  (some may do so, many may enjoy putting up things on YouTube, and Gabriella's students obviously wanted their "Foucault" performance to be up there to be seen by their friends), but what are we arguing here,  if this is a way to grappling with Simon's proposition?
>>>I've considered our culture, in a post convergence era, to have moved to a situation where the focus should no longer be the media but the conceptual and social territories that determine
> how media exist as social spaces .... However, with the standardisation of web protocols that govern social interaction and therefore social formation, we see media determining social space. Perhaps it is, again, time to undertake a materialist deconstruction of a post-convergent media in order to challenge the normalising protocols of the net.>>[Simon]
> I don't know what "post-convergent media" are, and I live in a world where dance is still dance and performed by dancers on stages, and live music is performed by live musicians, and installations are constructed in places (venues) that show installations and have room for them, I think there is no such thing as a "post-medium condition" even if it is a seductive theory.  Most museums ( and most academies and art schools) tend to know what they are showing/teaching, and in the university where i work very few students who study theater have much professional contact with "the digital" and the normalization and standardization Simon mentioned.  They theatre or dance student may of course be asked to incorporate norms and standards, protocols if you like, into their training and their experience of the art practice, this seems natural. All educational systems are control systems, or, to go another step, all art practices (or other creative cultural practices,  and of couurse po
>  litical practices, like the "congress on your corner" and meeting with constituents that came to the foreground attention after the shootings in Arizona last week) depend on controls that may falter;
> they also depend, in an idealist/pragmatist sense, on "obedience to the inspiration," as painter Agnes Martin wrote.
> What she meant by obedience and the overcoming of pride of course differs from the scenario of voluntary "self-surveilling" that Jon and Alison mention in their first post, or the consumers' (audiences') expression of want or "desires" (to participate in "vigilar y castigar" and other/self-humiliation?) synched to mass media narratives of empowerment, mentioned by Davin.  Davin's post is complicated, as i am not sure how to read the idea that "resistance" (resistance to what, did we not apparently agree that we are all conforming to the panopticon as there is no other reality?) could be co-opted to become resistance against our own common health?
> I'd like to end at the moment by bringing Cynthia's response to Simon on "normalization" to the practice (the art work) that was mentioned by Jon and Alison ---  for example the "London Wall" or the "Warfilm":
> if one were to assume that Jon and Alison work with "ready-mades" -- is such media art a re-posting of the media "determining social space"?   is the work's focus on the "conceptual and social territories that determine
> how media exist as social spaces" and if so, then what do we learn from the art or how do we experience it as anything other than the same (in other words, is such art an expression of Davin's suicidal faux-resistance? or is it inconsequential, simply youtubed and dissolved in the ocean?  are there any consequences to youtubing?)
> And, Davin, i think public consciousness, whether in the United States or Afghanistan or Tunisia or elsewhere, is never effectively managed.
> with regards
> Johannes Birringer
> _______________________________________________
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