[-empyre-] sample from today

Jon McKenzie jvmckenzie at wisc.edu
Tue Nov 11 02:59:44 EST 2014

I’m enjoying the engagement here, troubling as the topics have been. The posts by Alan, Johannes, Ana, Reinhold, John, Eric and others have been very provocative, and the different speeds and tenors of post-communication is breath-taking. 

I’ve tried to respond in a slow way, for I think/believe/feel that absolute terror is both unprecedented and yet everyday, as it connects to the slow terror of economic, environmental, and cultural progress-gone-awry. 

In You Must Change Your Life, Sloterdijk distinguishes vita performativa from both vita contemplativa and vita activa. His figure for Western theoretical man, the neutral observer of vita activa, is one of suspended animation, all head (capital) and no body (Diogenes). In the Art of Life, he traces modernism’s attempts to kill the Man of Logos. 

The most surprising thing I’ve discovered through our conversations is the uncanny resonance between videoed beheadings and Bataille’s Acephale. The significance of this reverb is as legible as a tarot card. 

Are pictographics permitted on this list?

Like graphe, the term “performance” is polymorphic enough to stretch from acts of violence (those we call real, actual, unmediated, etc) to violence enacted within theatrical and artistic contexts (those we call artificial, representational, mediated etc.), while also opening up unsettling practices in-between. In "Prison Theatricality in the Romanian Gulag,” Ruxandra Cesereanu describes Cold War prison performances in which guards forced prisoners to reenact the torture of saints and other scenes of blasphemy in grotesque living tableaus. More mundane and profound is the realization that all techniques, performances, experiences are generated via practice, repetition, alternation, fine-tuning, etc. that is, are emergent via graphe.  

So by performances I mean actual and enacted acts and the blur from which this distinction emerges, for each act of terror, torture, rape is at once unique, singular, immediate and at same time multiple, citational, mediated by the material environments and symbolic contexts through which it unfolds, those of victim, perpetrator, witness, etc. This holds long before cameras, poets, and speculators arrive (assuming they’re not always on the scene: where I’m coming from techne operates in physis along the lines Deleuze and Guattari staked out as machinic phylum, graphe meets autopoesis).

And once media technologies do arrive, they can’t be assumed as external to the performance of violence, merely exploiting the situation, repeating the event, etc. Images and cameras, audio and sound systems themselves carry force, both physical and performative force, to do things not only to witnesses but also to victims and perpetrators. At US prisons at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib, cameras and images were part of the psychophysical interrogation regime, used to humiliate, intimidate, and psychologically torture detainees, as well as to document and produce “actionable” intelligence. Videos posted online by ISIS and its precursor organizations serve as warnings to other groups and populations, as provocations to the international community, and also as recruitment tools for seasoned and new jihadists. Electronic terror is built atop public electric utilities. 

To miss the tele-pathy (pathos, suffering, passion at a distance) of anachronistic (wars on) terror is to miss the most proximate of events and all the affective networks in-between, here, for instance, on this listserv. Triads of victim, perpetrators, and witnesses multiply, morph, recombine, and rotate over time and at different scales. Whether one misses the tele-pathy or not, it’s bound to reverb, if not return.

“Homo sacre data body” is a term coined a decade ago to tune in the reverb by mashing up Giorgio Agamben and Critical Art Ensemble. If Agamben’s camp signals the democratization and generalization of homo sacre, CAE’s data body doubles the physical body with a virtual double composed of information stored in networked databases. Ideally, homo sacre data body is ubiquitous yet intimately customizable. Facebook meets Acephale. The intersection of homo sacre and data body can be a drone strike, a care package, or getting hauled away by border officials. Its thumbprints are your passport, ID cards, passwords, and cookies.

Homo sacre data body emerges as a microcosm of hypergraphe, the metasisizing of graphic violence and graphic media, producing the vast intermittent images of contemporary terror. The society of spectacle of scaffold is as much temporal as spatial, as much rhythm and break as stage and spectacle. Theater and spectacle hook up with visualizations, algorithms, and 24/7 dataveillance. Coming and going, mobile biometrics are the happy form of tiny terror.

To think and act on links between absolute terror and the globality of economic, cultural environmental devastation is to grapple with the emergence and dissolution of individuals and lifeworlds near and far and to struggle with one’s own performances as victim, perp, and witness. 

In puppet theory form, today’s installation of global performance might be called “The deaths of God and Man are trying the patience of Gaia.”


On Nov 10, 2014, at 9:08 AM, Alan Sondheim <sondheim at panix.com> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I want to thank Johannes for all the work he's done here, and all the guests current and future; it's an amazing and intense month.
> and from my current Google newsfeed (space and time displacements) -
> Suicide bombing at Nigerian school kills 47Sydney Morning Herald
> Military Plans 'Operation No Mercy' Against Boko HaramAllAfrica.com
> Palestinian stabbed Israel soldier in attack near Tel Aviv train station, police say
> :Palestinians break through West Bank barrier to mark Berlin Wall anniversary RT
> Egypt jihadists vow loyalty to ISIS In this Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 photo, smoke rises from explosions demolishing houses on the Egyptian side of the border town of Rafah as seen from the Palestinian side of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
> Cyberespionage group targets traveling execs through hotel networks
> Russia Says Sanctions Hurting as Bank Moves to Defend Ruble
> Russian Military Encounters With West at Cold War Levels: Report
> Suicide bomber kills 47 boys in Nigeria school massacre
> Daily Mail	 - 1 hour ago
> Suicide bomber kills 48 at school assembly in Nigeria
> IBNLive	 - 1 hour ago
> UPDATE 3-Suicide bomber kills dozens at school assembly in Nigeria
> Reuters	 - 45 minutes ago
> ... * Suicide bomber dressed as student kills 48, injures 79. * Detonates device during school's morning assembly. * Angry locals block access to school buildings, hospital.
> Leaders of China and Japan hold first face-to-face talks amid tensions CNN
> Trending on Google+:Palestinians break through West Bank barrier to mark Berlin Wall anniversaryRT
> Opinion:Terror attack in Tel Aviv: Palestinian stabs, critically wounds IDF soldierJerusalem Post
> From Nigeria:Scores Of Insurgents Killed In Mubi By SoldiersNAIJ.COM
> Clashes with Israel Police settle down in Arab locales
> ISIS gaining followers but losing leaders?
> CBS News	 - 52 minutes ago
> CAIRO -- Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a jihadi organization based in the Sinai Peninsula that has carried out several attacks targeting Egyptian security forces, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
> African nations counter Ebola's tourism damageTimes of Malta
> Mali due to declare 108 Ebola-free after quarantineeNCA
> China's president praises Hong Kong chief's handling of democracy protests
> Los Angeles Times	 - 1 hour ago
> In a high-profile meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his support for the Hong Kong government's handling of the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations even as student protest leaders seek to schedule direct talks with central government ...
> Opinion:Russian Forces Provoked West 40 TimesDaily Beast
> In Depth:Russia's 'close military encounters' with Europe documentedBBC News
> _______________________________________________
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> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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