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

Josephine Berry j.berry at gold.ac.uk
Wed Sep 25 19:42:53 AEST 2019

Dear Pauline,

Thanks for your laying out the terrain in such a generous way. Frankly, I didn't know where to begin with this question of publishing. Interesting though that we find ourselves discussing it here again, in an old skool cyber-barrio, with many old and beloved 'faces'. I was immediately drawn to the way you pose the problem as the disconnect between a proliferation of words, institutional speech and publishing, and degenerating lifeworlds, social infrastructures, embodied spaces, which bring with them the possibility of spontaneity, self-composition and self-articulation. You make this point in statements like these:

'symptom of an erasure of leftist popular education infrastructures, and the multi-pronged, decades-long attack on community resources, sociality and life?'

'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'

For me this is a really key point as well as an extremely confusing topology to live within. The scale of what Agamben calls the 'mass inscription of social knowledge' mounts up like Himalayan peaks, but our metabolic capacities to assimilate and, to some extent, act upon them seem to suffer in response. Something is happening, we are of course changing, becoming increasingly split between so many mediated forms of contact, expression, conviviality, atmosphere and representations on the one side, and, for want of a better term, our embodied experiences on the other which are, in turn, targeted and acted upon by the self-same mass-inscription-machine we serve by merely being alive, moving, consuming, 'liking'.

In so many ways, and to invoke Agamben once more (sorry!), this splitting (and I do insist that it is, which is not quite the same division as the now disparaged one between real and virtual we used to talk about) can be thought of as a perfection of the body/mind, zoe/bios division that has organised and regulated life in the West for some two millennia. This is the apotheosis of a biopolitical regime of power you might say, that works by severing the reflexivity between thought and embodied experience.  My words travel without my face etc. In so many ways, this is just the latest stage in the perfection of the human capacity for mediation, but it is the scale and intensity of it that is world changing and the degree to which our mediatic extensions can be effortlessly congealed into value-producing processes which act as the perfect accompaniment to financial processes.

Of course this relates to much more than just a 'mass inscription' of knowledge online. The process of capitalist biopolitical splitting extends in numerous directions; at one extreme, planetary life forms are being mass-inscribed as information (their DNA, which required a phenotype, becomes binary code) which can be extruded in multiple directions, most of which will relate to the value form (ants as the blue-print for driverless cars etc.). On the other hand, a self-splitting; we take into ourselves the exponential demand to become instruments of a productive system that cares not a fig whether we live or die. Our self-relation is also 'mass-inscribed' by the administrative and productive regime. This is what some people call antisocial reproduction. Adorno explains this as an effect of the growing proportion of capital's organic composition in relation to labour power: 'That which determines subjects as means of production and not as living purposes, increases with the proportion of machines to variable capital”

But getting back to publishing 😉 I'm interested in something very close to what you were describing Pauline in relation what you witnessed at MayDay Rooms, through re-activating archives of struggle, (https://maydayrooms.org/archive_home/) and which put Mute into some serious perspective, which was just how many efforts there have been to pool energies into the collective publishing over centuries, and across numerous political worlds. This tells us something about the useful difficulty (technical, economic and intellectual) of publishing in the past, which required the reflexivity of embodied thought, conversation, meeting, handling, touching, arguing, joking, reconsidering, distributing, knowing, seeing, etc etc. I think the fact that Mute started as a newspaper and demanded crazy amounts of time and energy from us all, produced the social glue - the frustration and fun! - that has kept us connected ever since. That and a whole lot of other preconditions (cheap space, at some point public subsidies, yours and Simon's huge generosity and personal sacrifices, greasy caf lunches).

Back in my lifeworld here, my son is asking for help, and I'm running out of time. But I think the crux for me is how we work to use publishing as intensifiers of meeting-up and thinking together, refracting thought through feeling, fighting biopolitical splittings, using the (not just) human capacity for mediation and representation to connect as well as separate. And as you also say Pauline, in an economic and institutional regime that demands we convert general intellect into individual output all the time, this is becoming increasingly hard. Academics 'want' to bank research points rather than commit to making bio-diverse publishing ecologies. And all of us are tired at the end of the day, and settle for meeting our friends in the bio-secure vats that are social media platforms. How do we work on social, not antisocial, reproduction within these limited means?

Josie x

From: Pauline van Mourik Broekman <pauline.vmbroekman at network.rca.ac.uk>
Sent: 24 September 2019 18:52
To: Josephine Berry <j.berry at gold.ac.uk>
Subject: Fwd: [-empyre-] UNFINISHED publishing - Mute/MetaMute and Neural/Neural.it

HGV as of olde

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Pauline van Mourik Broekman <pauline.vmbroekman at network.rca.ac.uk<mailto:pauline.vmbroekman at network.rca.ac.uk>>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2019 at 16:55
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] UNFINISHED publishing - Mute/MetaMute and Neural/Neural.it
To: <empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au<mailto:empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au>>

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 still...).

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<https://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/memes-force-%e2%80%93-lessons-yellow-vests>, 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<mailto:pauline.vmbroekman at network.rca.ac.uk>
Mob: 07947157338


On Tue, 24 Sep 2019 at 06:46, Shu Lea Cheang <shulea at earthlink.net<mailto: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. "-

"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'....

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<mailto: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).


empyre forum
empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au<mailto:empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au>

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<mailto:pauline.vmbroekman at network.rca.ac.uk>
Mob: 07947157338

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