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e-flux conversations

Circulation and Withdrawal, Part I: Circulation


Circulation organizes time and vice versa. Public discourse is contemporary, and it is orientated to the future, the contemporaneity and the futurity in question are those of its own circulation.
—Michael Warner

Nothing is less passive than the act of fleeing, of exiting. Defection modifies the conditions within which the struggle takes place, rather than presupposing those conditions to be an unalterable horizon; it modifies the context within which a problem has arisen, rather than facing this problem by opting for one or the other of the provided alternatives. In short, exit consists of unrestrained invention which alters the rules of the game and throws the adversary completely off balance.
—Paolo Virno

It lies in the nature of a magazine that it goes public, hence the term publication. At a certain moment, and with specific intervals, a magazine is made available to the public, whether on newsstands, in specialist bookstores, or online. It thus circulates its discourse through punctuation. But what happens in between—namely, the decisions on themes, articles, edits, graphic design, and, yes, adverts—is nonpublic. In some cases the publication of a publication may even be accompanied by a public campaign, from marketing to launch events. But in many ways, the main work of a magazine, of its production of meaning, is nonpublic—up until the moment of publication, when another circulation and production of meaning happens: that of distribution and readership.

After all, the meaning of a magazine and its discursive production is as dependent on reading as it is on writing and editing: a magazine is always its audience, if not one with its audience. But the fact that the production of a magazine is withdrawn from the public is not the same as an exit from the public sphere as such; it is not a withdrawal from and of discourse. Why, then, circulation and withdrawal? This has to do with the relation a magazine has to its objects and subjects, and how it constitutes a public as specific, and sometimes in opposition to dominant forms of publicness and official cultural policies. Sometimes withdrawal is enforced, through economy or censorship, but other times it is intentional and tactical: the withdrawal from certain public debates and arenas is what makes an alternative cultural and critical production possible. However, it is not a question of circulation or withdrawal, i.e., publicness or concealment, but of a movement between these two moments, heightening their connection. It is a question, in other words, of circulation and withdrawal.

Read the full article here.