[-empyre-] on re-thinking our practices

Ana Valdés agora158 at gmail.com
Sun Mar 18 16:54:43 EST 2012

Thank you Lucio, Brian, Teddy and all participating in the discussion in
the last two days! I feel very inspired and very challenged here, because
we are discussing things at the macro level and at micro level.
How can we change things in the suprastructure and in the everyday life?
How can we deal with children care, the care for the elderly, a health
system based on needs and not in greed, how can we garantee social housing
to all who need it? How can we deal with multinationals as Monsanto,
poisoning the planet and taking patents for beans cultivated for peasants
for hundred generations and taking patent for the blood of an old
indigenous woman with an unusual spectre of inmunization? How can we deal
with the banks, who are choking the small enterprises and the young

On Sun, Mar 18, 2012 at 6:42 AM, Brian Holmes
<bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com>wrote:

> Hello everyone -
> Greetings from Chicago, and thanks to all for a fascinating list
> conversation so far.
> Here is a perfect place for me to jump in (so thanks particularly to Teddy
> Cruz for relaying and reformulating many core ideas of the entire
> conversation):
>  the question remains: How are we
>> to re-organize as artists, communities, to perform a more effective
>> project that can enable institutional modifications? [snip]
>> -Can conflict itself become a tool to enable a more critical debate
>> beyond our clichés and the clichés of the other, as well as the
>> retooling of artistic practices?
> It seems to me that practically everywhere, conflict has been such a
> retooling tool in the agitated year of 2011. An important tool, for a
> simple reason: the individual operating within contemporary institution
> can, imho, do nothing to change the inequities of society. The conditions
> of competition are such that the individual can "excel" (as they say) but
> that's it. "Excel" means stand out from the rest, so, no common struggle,
> so, no change.
> Conflcit, on the other hand, has the wonderful effect of putting even the
> "excellent" individual in the position where s/he is likely to lose. Lose
> your money, lose your job, lose your "career opportunities": these are the
> most likely dangers for middle-class individuals who might post to an email
> list such as this one. The threat of losing it all is cool because then you
> have to look around and think: With whom can we all save our skins and
> maybe change things so as not to get into such a position again tomorrow?
> In the best of cases, a more generous and wide-ranging philosophy can stem
> from this initial, diectly existential concern.
>  -What I mean is that while we debate the ‘differences’ between
>> ‘resistance’ and ‘resilience,’ capitalism has stolen those terms from
>> ‘us’ already, a long, long time ago.
>> -And I say ‘stolen’ because those and many other terms in the last two
>> decades initially emerged from the ‘left,’ in our attempt to ‘resist’
>> binary thought: ‘fluidity,’ ‘multiplicity,’ ‘hybridity,’
>> ‘self-organization,’ ‘anti-centralization, and beyond.
> If we are threatened - and I definitely feel threatened, not so much in
> career opportunities ('cause I have no career) but on some more basic level
> of human potentials - then maybe it's necessary to figure out why so many
> terms can be "stolen from us."
> On the one hand, it's obvious: the big money has the big transmitters. But
> why is it that even in the domains of culture, philosophy, art, sociology,
> economics, urbanism and similar areas where the left was once strong, "we"
> have lost control over language itself? Why, in fact, are we not
> "resilient" at all? Why has it taken so long for resistance to arise on the
> left (in the US I mean), and to the extent that it has, how to reinforce it?
> I think one of the major mistakes has been, for decades, the idea that
> self-organization and the resistance to centralization are (or at least,
> were) the exclusive property of the left. Because this idea is historically
> false. The neoliberal ideology which grew up in opposition to New Deal
> programs, and to social democracy wherever in the world that it had taken
> root, was clearly against centralization and in favor of self-organization.
> All of Hayek, all of Friedman and Posner and Becker are there to prove it.
> We on the left were against centralization and for self-organization as
> well, because for us as well, the social-democratic state (which in the US
> at the time was called the Great Society of LBJ) was itself unbearable. In
> the US, both the libertarian left and the libertarian right called the LBJ
> regime the "welfare-warfare state." If we don't recognize that "we" shared
> many ideas with "them," then we will never be able to do the important work
> of identifying our real problems and developing solutions.
> Since the 1960s, and this appears true across the world, the left end of
> the spectrum has been simultaneously anti-statist and continually outraged
> at the cuts to social budgets. Now, there is a sense to this: we are
> against certain state abuses (both repression and state-mandated
> massification and commercialization) and yet we still recognize that only a
> function of redistribution can create conditions of material equality where
> substantial freedom can be experienced by all and cultural differences can
> emerge without inequity and consequent hatred among the social classes. The
> problem is: we no longer have a unifying philosophy to express what we are
> for and what we are against. Crucially, we cannot properly define where the
> powers of government should be limited and how the techniques of
> redistribution should be modified and perfected.
> > Only the
>> knowledge of the protocols embedded in stupid urban policy and
>> discriminating economic models can give ‘us’ the ammunition to present
>> counter models.
>> -Only by understanding –very well- the conditions that produced the
>> current crises can we advance the conversation: those conditions
>> themselves must be the material for artists today.
> I totally agree. It seems to me that the question is how to develop this
> knowledge? Again, I doubt an individual can do it. Since the advent of
> neoliberalism in the 80s there have been 3 decades worth of opportunity and
> intellectuals have produced remarkably little in terms of
> counter-governance. I am a little suspicious now of the sort of friendly
> and formally projects that have been showcased in art schools for so long:
> if they could change something, they already would have. Most of what I see
> is fundamentally good but radically insufficient.
>  -We need to be the producers of new political processes and economic
>> models (the site of intervention is the very politics and economics that
>> have perpetuated a selfish urbanization in our time),
>> -We need to be the enablers of new models of political representation
>> and participation (the site of intervention is education itself and the
>> very notion of community: who represents who during this period of
>> transformation)
>> -We need to be the ones who visualize and expose institutional conflict
>> (the site of intervention is educational processes themselves, at the
>> scale of the urban)
> I would love to hear more about the above. Concerning the first and third
> statements of that list, some of us in Chicago recently tried an
> experiment. We set about trying a truly "self-organized" seminar to explore
> the very politics and economics that have created, not just a selfish
> urbanization but what you might call "institutions of selfishness" across
> the board. To do this in a strong and deeop way, we focused on Three
> Crises. The 30s from which the welfare-warfare state ultimately emerged.
> The late 60s-early 70s from which neoliberalism emerged. And now, the time
> of great danger. Our idea was to "intervene in the educational processes"
> by generating a collective outside, not in order to withdraw but as a kind
> of goad to thinking and acting, directed at potentially anyone, including
> those who teach and those who learn. As we did this, the Occupy movement
> erupted (on the very day when we kicked off our program, as it happened).
> That was an incredible experience, a new principle of hope. The seminar is
> all archived here:
> http://messhall.org/?page_id=**771 <http://messhall.org/?page_id=771>
> That's a "modest experiment," in other words, from my view, still
> practically useless. But it has not only generated interest from many
> people - as content and as a model for autonomous education - but also,
> crucially, the study involved has alerted those of us who did it to other
> things being done by other people in other places. I do hope over the next
> 5 or 10 years to be able to pursue work on common themes with many many
> people, in order to arrive at well-conceived and shared modes of action
> that can allow the left to reaffirm its major demands, which I take to be
> equality, care of the environment and respect for/ love of difference.
> all the best to everyone on this list, Brian
> ______________________________**_________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre


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