[-empyre-] affect, low theory, and capture

Clough, Patricia PClough at gc.cuny.edu
Fri Jun 22 04:50:16 EST 2012

Yes   I do think that this is a great question:  are we in anyone else's moment? Never mind one's own   While I do appreciate your point about the untranslatablility  it is funny, Micha  that you end on Deleuze.   And I know much more is going on below than just  Deleuze.    But actually there are challenges to Deleuze right now that have implications for politics  and even what  can be  made out of the experiences you describe below.   Lauren might have been asking the same question     what can we say about the many experiences  we are sharing and failing to share with each other?
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of micha cárdenas [mmcarden at usc.edu]
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2012 2:25 PM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] affect, low theory, and capture

I absolutely agree that place persists as a major determinant of life
possibilities, as much or more than class, despite the ongoing
pounding of the rhetoric of digital globality and neoliberal
plentitude. I find it hard to support any claim that there is a
zeitgeist or taxonomy of the moment, unless we're talking about the
moment in the US or in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California.

When I used to go to UCSD and spend my time crossing the US/Mexico
border regularly I was often reminded that even in Tijuana, with it's
proximity to the US, most people don't speak english and there is
almost no usage of the word "queer", an untranslatable word. Also,
throughout Latin America, as Diana Taylor describes, the word
Performance is largely untranslatable and has a handful of poor
substitutions, or substitutions with difference, perhaps a best one
being "lo performatico". Being someone who does queer performance with
technology means that conversations about my work in Latin America
have a very, very different valence. I was invited to speak a couple
of years ago at the Universidad de Baja California in Tijuana at what
the organizers described to me as the first gender studies / queer
theory event they had ever seen at the school, and I spoke about my
transreal work in virus.circus and technesexual, mostly. When I was
interested in doing my PhD at Concordia in Montreal, Viviane Namaste,
the head of the women's studies department there responded to me
saying I was interested in queer theory by saying that queer theory is
a US centric invention that is merely trying to capitalism on french
poststructuralism, perhaps revealing her own french nationalism while
offering a certain view of queerness and place.

Are we perhaps in an anti-taxonomical time? A time of hyperlocalities
that are hyper-connected but always losing something and gaining
something in the translation and the "static on the line" to conjure
Ronell again? It seems that Deleuze is a useful referent here, as
striving towards non-teleology still seems to be a radical act in many
circles. I wonder if a taxonomy like that of Borges, quoted by
Foucault in The Order of Things, is best suited to our contemporary,
US based (which I am) moment. Note that this taxonomy is still based
in a fundamental Orientalism that uses the foreign other, the Chinese
in Borges' case, as the basis for fantastical imaginings.

Borges describes 'a certain Chinese Encyclopedia,' the Celestial
Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, in which it is written that animals
are divided into:

those that belong to the Emperor,
embalmed ones,
those that are trained,
suckling pigs,
fabulous ones,
stray dogs,
those included in the present classification,
those that tremble as if they were mad,
innumerable ones,
those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
those that have just broken a flower vase,
those that from a long way off look like flies.

In my own work, rather, I try to use my own experience of oppression
as the basis for fantastical imaginings of future dystopias,
heterotopias and other possible futures. It seems that starting with
the frameworks, or realities, we're given and building resistance to
them is a common flaw in political organizing. I prefer to imagine
other mythopoetic systems to inhabit and to use my relation to the
world towards disturbance, a non-teleological form of resistance,
inspired by my work with Ricardo Dominguez who will join us next week,
which aims more to unsettle, annoy, unravel power and invite it to
reveal itself, rather than trying to identify and destroy it.

On Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 10:20 AM, Clough, Patricia <PClough at gc.cuny.edu> wrote:
> Oh this (2) below is one that grabs me.   I often ask students  especially when I get tired of asking myself how close to the crisis do we need to get  to figure a way around, through away  from---change it.   How do we theorize or approach that which is blinding us   called the present (although it might just be some collapse of time we call the present)   How do we describe well the defining taxonomy of the moment  without reinforcing it.   Turning to the difference between Deleuze and OOO/SR  for me has been another way to ask these kinds of questions.   I say this because I notice how much our conversation about objects is human oriented not object oriented.   Not sure what to make of  that here.   But  composing  a writing, a film  a  digital thingy  also may be a way of describing without  becoming the taxonomy or reenforcing it.  I think digitalqueerreal might be what to call this kind of composing.   What this composing allows  is  leaving much (energies) on the composing plane that the taxonomy of the moment might not allow if we describe only it.
> So what is the defining taxonomy of the moment? and what does it have to do with digital and affect?
>>> 2.  This leads me back to Zach's insistence on negativity as that which seems negative: withdrawal, subtraction, immeasurability, escape from capture. I said this to Zach last spring when we were talking about the common and sex, so this is where we are stuck, but: I think it's a mistake to take the state's biopolitical aesthetics of the subject's and a population's forced appearance and translation into data as the defining taxonomy of the moment, because by copying the dominant fetishizing idiom, repeating its own profound stupidity about the relation of information and knowledge, even in resistance to it,  you reproduce its idiom as the idiom of the world. Any representation of relational processes (or of object/scenes, as I call them) makes a new closet and a new disturbance. Practices of exposure and literalization  are false comforts. (I feel this as well about the romance of the nomad--being a nomad is a lot scarier and incoherently scavenging than Braidotti suggests! That's one way to read Patricia's poem...)
>>> I think it's a sign of the crisis of the reproduction of life that the world's "we" are in that literalization, the sheer immeasurable description of the materiality of affect in action and relation, is everywhere seen as necessary for a new realism.
>>> XxoL
>>> Sent from my iPad
>>> On Jun 20, 2012, at 6:56 AM, Ana Valdés <agora158 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> I saw in the city of Umeå in the North of Sweden a very interesting
>>>> exhibition, "Lost and Found Queerying the Archive". The curators Jane
>>>> Rowley and Louise Wolthers built the show around some central and
>>>> pivotal questions: identity, love and sexuality. Many of the voices
>>>> presented are anonymous, people questioning themselves, searching for
>>>> some belonging, for some identity, asking themselves about normality
>>>> and normativity. The norms are made of conventions and consensus,
>>>> agreements, historical memes written on people's experiences and
>>>> stories.
>>>> For me personally it was a great "aha" moment to read Rosi Braidottis
>>>> "Nomadic Subjects", a book where she writes about our fragmented
>>>> identities, our ability to wander between different identities and
>>>> belongings but not staying in one.
>>>> Ana
>>>> On Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 2:44 AM, Zach Blas <zachblas at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>> hi all--
>>>>> i’m finally jumping in here again after some great posts from
>>>>> patricia, lauren, jordan, and jack again!
>>>>> i’d really like to pull in some empyre subscribers to this discussion,
>>>>> so i wonder if we can try to tackle some more general questions about
>>>>> the stakes and stances around affect and its relations to queerness,
>>>>> digital technology/media, and political art.
>>>>> patricia and lauren, you have already somewhat laid this out, but i
>>>>> think it would be great to hear more about how you parse affect and
>>>>> feelings and what those frameworks / structures of thinking permit,
>>>>> enhance, delimit, enclose. in my experience, discussions around affect
>>>>> always run up against conflicting approaches to defining it as well as
>>>>> how it relates to feelings or emotions.
>>>>> patricia, it seems that many theorists and writers who focus on
>>>>> technology, the nonhuman, and the new materialisms you have already
>>>>> mentioned engage affect through a deleuzian / spinozan approach. and
>>>>> they do so because it affords them a particular way to think technical
>>>>> / nonhuman materials. it seems like one of the critiques we could
>>>>> think about here is the one that jack has already brought up, which is
>>>>> on the use of high theory and a politics of citations. do you think
>>>>> its possible to explore this strand of affect through low theory? do
>>>>> you know of anyone who is doing this? in this area of deleuze, affect,
>>>>> queerness, and feminism, luciana parisi has talked about a fundamental
>>>>> queerness through her notion of abstract sex and claire colebrook has
>>>>> also considered how doing theory could be fundamentally queer. i’m
>>>>> just really curious how the feminist new materialisms, which engage
>>>>> affect and queerness, could align/overlap with jack halberstam’s
>>>>> investments in a low theory and what that might look like--or what it
>>>>> already looks like if someone is doing this....and for this week, how
>>>>> low theory and high theory differently impact and shape our
>>>>> understandings and experiences of affect.
>>>>> lauren, thanks for bringing in the transitional objects video! i
>>>>> wonder if was can all take a look at a recent work by jordan crandall
>>>>> called “hotel.” http://vimeo.com/7091631 maybe we can think about the
>>>>> relations and (dis)alignments between these two videos and how they
>>>>> convey affect. notably, jordan’s piece does not use language, while
>>>>> the other piece has consistent speaking.
>>>>> maybe another way to think about affect, queerness, and technology is
>>>>> around capture, withdrawal, and escape. i’m pretty taken by recent
>>>>> theories of escape, invisibility, refusals of recognition, tactics of
>>>>> nonexistence, becoming imperceptible. personally, i’ve been really
>>>>> interested in how alex galloway and eugene thacker have framed this
>>>>> around what they identify as the coming era of “universal standards of
>>>>> identification,” which of course are already here with devices like
>>>>> biometrics. “henceforth,” they write, “the lived environment will be
>>>>> divided into identifiable zones and nonidentifiable zones, and
>>>>> nonidentifiables will be the shadowy new ‘criminal’ classes–those that
>>>>> do not identify.” this is something phil agre has also written about,
>>>>> what he calls the capture model and grammars of action. different from
>>>>> surveillance, capture is specific to our information age and grammars
>>>>> of action are what capture produces. arge writes that “the capture
>>>>> model describes the situation that results when grammars of action are
>>>>> imposed upon human activities and when the newly reorganized
>>>>> activities are represented by computers in real time.”
>>>>> i bring this all up because i’m generally interested in affect,
>>>>> capture, and measurability. since i recently read a lot of hardt &
>>>>> negri for my prelim exams this spring, immeasurability and beyond
>>>>> measure surfaced a lot. this is a pretty open-ended question at this
>>>>> point, but i’m just wondering if anyone has thoughts on affect’s
>>>>> relation to (im)measurability and capture--and how that might weigh on
>>>>> queerness and feminism...
>>>>> thanks!
>>>>> --
>>>>> zach blas
>>>>> artist & phd candidate
>>>>> literature, information science + information studies, visual studies
>>>>> duke university
>>>>> www.zachblas.info
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> empyre forum
>>>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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micha cárdenas
PhD Student, Media Arts and Practice, University of Southern California
Provost Fellow, University of Southern California

New Directions Scholar, USC Center for Feminist Research

MFA, Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego

Author, The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing Realities,

blog: http://transreal.org
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

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