[-empyre-] UNFINISHED publishing - Mute/MetaMute and Neural/Neural.it

Pauline van Mourik Broekman pauline.vmbroekman at network.rca.ac.uk
Wed Sep 25 01:55:57 AEST 2019

Dear all,

Thanks so much to Shu Lea for inviting us here to discuss publishing as
unfinished business :) The themes & discussions of prior weeks have also
been fascinating...

It's a curious time to be thinking about publishing when so much else
momentous is going on: we've just had a ruling from the Supreme Court here
in London that the government's prorogation of parliament was unlawful. The
sense of social crisis fostered by years of austerity is palpable, and yet,
what can sometimes seem even more so is the bedding-in of each new
'unbelievable' development as a so-called new normal. The calculatedness of
power, one senses, that there is an energetics to resistance; and that the
social systems that (are supposed to) support us can, over time, be relied
to tip the balance in its direction – never ours.

Somewhat incredibly, Mute is approaching its 25th anniversary (it was
launched in London with a thin pilot issue on 30th November 1994), and as
it ages I have been thinking about this phenomenon of
what-happens-as-time-passes in a number of contexts. Going back into higher
education to do a PhD in Fine Art, for example, I was really quite shocked
by how little had changed in what appeared to be students' sensibilities,
aspirations and even work since I left art school in 1991. To be honest, I
went about a lot of the time feeling that some of the failure to change
things more was on us – our generation of media-aware writers, publishers,
critics and artists, who were supposed to have rejected the art world, its
spaces and values, in favour of, if not a wholly affirmative embrace of
networked media, then at least intense hope around the alternative models
of production they promised. We argued about their notionally innate power
to upend the status-quo, route around gate-keepers, give voice, etc. in
ways I imagine anyone involved thought would create some change. In keeping
with much of European net culture, a magazine like Mute was never going to
uncritically assert the democratising power of the internet – in fact its
self-reflexive, flesh-pink corporeality intended always to insist that
technology is socially and materially embedded – but, we likewise wouldn't
have bothered launching a publication around the question these new media
posed for art and society if we didn't believe something enormous was
possible, and that this needed to be pushed for, engaged with.

What I see more and more, though (including in my own thinking I have to
add!), is the significant difficulty of actually performing that coupling
we all attempted; meaning, of thinking media WITH the social conditions
that spawn, surround, and sustain it. This can lead you to the kind of
back-to-front conclusions that casts a university cohort you're in, or the
work that it produces, as even vaguely neutral, rather than structured from
top to bottom by neoliberal education policy, financialisation, and the
recomposition of staff, support and syllabus that goes with that. Or, as is
perfectly understandable but increasingly problematic, to witness the panic
about the 'evil' of Cambridge Analytica, or the professionally 'unfit'
character of Mark Zuckerberg, and the kinds of coercive digital and image
culture created by their companies. To be sure, they are the product of a
racist and sexist Silicon Valley tech capitalism, deregulation, Floridaean
creative cities dogma, but isn't their dominance also a – by now indeed
extreme – symptom of an erasure of leftist popular education
infrastructures, and the multi-pronged, decades-long attack on community
resources, sociality and life? (The decline in voting in the second half of
the twentieth century anyway always makes me scratch my head at how we can
use the vocabulary of democracy without a hundred permanent caveats.) Even
for those schooled against any easy techno-determinism, the conjuncture of
forces playing out in the present are hard to untangle. Sarah Schulman's
Gentrification of the Mind is really interesting on the complex ways in
which MFA culture and the evisceration of cities under gentrification
intersect to bleed out certain basic DiY/creative attitudes and
capabilities towards organising directly in neighbourhoods and I find
myself thinking of that over and over...

What do we do then when we, for example, witness a newly published author
telling a full house of post-graduate students that her work is an attempt
to address the dearth of critical analysis of 'prosumerism's' capture of
free labour, as analysed by Tiziana Terranova and Trebor Scholz (here
presumed to be unknown, and presented as recently (and individually)
discovered). I obviously concur with the thesis on free labour, but what
frankly upset me when I experienced this recently, nearly two decades after
the publishing and production cultures that had been formative for me
started engaging with these questions was that, somehow, the knowledge we
all produced during that time hadn't become the bread-and-butter of
pedagogic culture. (I do realise colleges can be unique in this respect,
and that the UK very likely is worse than e.g. Europe and America, but

I remember when Mute first applied for subsidies to do its publishing circa
1995/6, we got some furious responses from older film, video and
electronic-art practitioners, who disputed our claims to any novelty or
originality. In founding MayDay Rooms, I also remember coming across no
amount of incredible magazines I had been unaware of, and whose editorials
made me realise Mute had just been doing the kind of thing groups in any
generation do – i.e. make a critical media intervention, operate on the
tacit assumption it's timely, historically significant and can exert
agency, and try and sustain it as if it's needed in perpetuity. These
experiences were very *relativising*, shall we say, of what we had done,
and seemed to beg the question of how magazines and journals occupy time.
Of course it is completely fine to just accept something as bounded and
historically situated, even totally done and dusted (and in our case the
end of our successive stages of funding in 2013 meant our publishing
definitely decelerated – though as editors we're still actively in
discussion and even have our publishing spikes now and then!). It's also
not as if what I'm describing hasn't happened in time immemorial... or been
unpicked at length in the classic genealogies of knowledge production. But
still, if you're staying active for longer as we are, it's hard not to
think about how what you've produced sits in a larger ecology of
publishing, media, education, etc., and I find it a shame that – bar with
honourable exceptions like the collaborative magazine networks that
Alessandro and Simon put so much time into – there doesn't seem to be that
much thought going into that... mostly because these self-same social
conditions make it so hard for anyone to think beyond immediate survival,
and of course to some extent because it will always feel much too damned
unique, great and exciting when you're starting something new (!).

What preoccupies me, then, especially in this age of 'agnotology' (the
deliberate, and sometimes tactical, production/maintenance of ignorance) is
how to work on this problem together – when in the background we have the
Twittering Machine (as Richard Seymour's recent book describes the
networked social) sucking so many of the best surplus energies from us.
Also, though this is perhaps more tendentious, how words and bodies,
writing and organising, seem to hurtle in opposite directions, such that we
have veritable heaving virtual metropolises of conferences, panels,
symposia, journals, books and blogs, without, really, anything like
adequate life worlds for these to sit within, where also people whose
specialisms aren't WORDS (but who anyone who's ever worked in a group knows
are essential) are valorised as much as the scribes, influencers and
intellectuals. A recent article in the magazine, Memes with Force
spoke about these expressions of the body – and a rejection of words – in
relation to the Gilets Jaunes protests in France, and was to my mind
utterly compelling on that point.

Anyway, I've gone on too long. Thank you again Shu Lea and empyre for
organising these discussions, I hope these thoughts might pique others, and
here's to generalising the anniversary!


Pauline van Mourik Broekman
PhD, Fine Art, RCA
'The Network Optic: Vision, Authorship and Collectivity after Vertov'
Email: pauline.vmbroekman at network.rca.ac.uk
Mob: 07947157338


On Tue, 24 Sep 2019 at 06:46, Shu Lea Cheang <shulea at earthlink.net> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> throw in here another thread while the wild fire of AMAZON IS BURNING
> cannot be contained.
> I am introducing here two stay unfinished media publications whose vision
> and persistence in producing ideas, introducing emergent genres, engaging
> in critical dialogue, networking the spheres, are remarkable.
> *"Mute *magazine was founded in 1994 to discuss the interrelationship of
> art and new technologies when the World Wide Web was newborn....... While *Mute
> *was born out of a culture that celebrated the democratising potential of
> new media, it becomes ever more apparent that we need to critically engage
> with the ways in which new media also reproduce and extend capitalist
> social relations. "-
> http://www.metamute.org/about-us
> "Neural is a printed magazine established in 1993 dealing with new media
> art, electronic music and hacktivism. It was founded by Alessandro Ludovico
> and Minus Habens Records label owner Ivan Iusco in Bari (Italy). The
> magazine’s mission was to be a magazine of ideas, becoming a node in a
> larger network of digital culture publishers". In 1997 the first Neural
> website was established, and it was updated daily from September 2000." -
> http://neural.it/about/
> It is a great honor for me to introduce the Mute Team together here
> online, Josephine Berry, Pauline van Mourik Broekman, Simon Worthington
> and from Neural, Alessandro Ludovico.
> They 'publish'....
> sl
> Josephine Berry has been part of the editorial collective of Mute
> magazine, from intern to Editor and now board member, from 1995 til today.
> She was a passionate believer in DIY media during the 1990s, and in a much
> less euphoric way to this day. She wrote the first dissertation on net.art
> in the late 90s. From this time her attention has shifted to a more
> specific investigation of art and creativity’s relationship to late
> capitalism and the abstraction, mimesis and norming of creative life in
> both.   Her monograph, 'Art and (Bare) Life', (Sternberg Press, 2018),
> brings the biopolitical theory initiated by Michel Foucault to bear on
> aesthetic theories of autonomous art in order to consider how the
> avant-garde 'blurring of art and life' intersects with the modern state's
> orientation to 'life itself'. This project grew out of an earlier book
> project, co-authored with Anthony Iles, titled 'No Room to Move: Radical
> Art and the Regenerate City' (Mute Books, 2010), which considered the use
> of contemporary art within neoliberal urban regeneration.   Josephine
> lectures on culture industry at Goldsmiths, University of London.
> Pauline van Mourik Broekman is the co-founder and co-publisher, with Simon
> Worthington, of Mute magazine, for which she also served as co-editor and
> contributing editor. Published in print and online between 1994 and 2013,
> Mute also ran many media projects, including Fallout Radio (with Kate
> Rich), and OpenMute, a software and platform development project for
> independent producers. From 2011-2013 it also shared in coordination of the
> Post-Media Lab at Leuphana University, Germany. Mute has since that time
> continued as a voluntarily run online journal – with all editors working
> together as a collective. In 2011 Pauline co-founded MayDay Rooms, which
> seeks to activate historical material in political struggles, and broadly
> to socialise practices of historical research and archival work. Its
> commitment to anti-copyright practices, commoning and free education was
> also a feature in work done with Coventry University’s Centre for
> Disruptive Media and Ted Byfield, which concluded in Open Education: A
> Study in Disruption, co-authored with Gary Hall (Roman and Littlefield
> International, 2014). Since 2014, she has been doing a practice-based PhD
> at the Royal College of Art, London, titled: The Network Optic: Vision,
> Authorship and Collectivity after Vertov.
> Simon Worthington is a researcher in future publishing — free and open
> source systems, economic models, and the politics of Open Science. Author
> of ‘The Book Liberation Manifesto’ supporting the FOSS community to make
> research available to all through platform independent, interoperable
> publications. He is the Editor-in-Chief at *Generation Research* an
> editorial platform for open scholarship for the Leibniz Association
> Research Alliance Open Science and is based in R&D at the Open Science Lab,
> TIB – German National Library of Science and Technology. As of 2019 he is a
> Board Member of FORCE11 an organisation for the future of scholarly
> communication. He has worked as a research author for the Akademienunion at
> the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften on ‘AGATE’ a
> research publication for scoping the technical data connection of all of
> Europe’s Academies of Arts and Science digital repositories. From 2012/15
> he led the research unit ‘Publishing Consortium’ as part of the Hybrid
> Publishing Lab at Leuphana University, Germany. In 1994 he co-founded and
> published *Mute* magazine a culture and technology publication, the
> European counter to *Wired* magazine, and continues as a member of the
> editorial collective and as publisher. He originally studied media art at
> the Slade School, UCL (UK) and CalArts (USA).  ORCID
> http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8579-9717 @mrchristian99
> simon.worthington at tib.eu *Generation Research* https://genr.eu/ The Book
> Liberation Manifesto http://linkme2.net/1gs
> Alessandro Ludovico is a researcher, artist and chief editor of Neural
> magazine since 1993. He received his Ph.D. degree in English and Media from
> Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge (UK). He is Associate Professor at
> the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, where he joined
> the AMT (Archeology of Media and technology) research group. He has
> published and edited several books, among them “Post-Digital Print: The
> Mutation of Publishing since 1894", and has lectured worldwide. He also
> served as an advisor for the Documenta 12's Magazine Project. He is one of
> the authors of the award-winning Hacking Monopolism trilogy of artworks
> (Google Will Eat Itself, Amazon Noir, Face to Facebook).
> http://neural.it
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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