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Live coverage: Glass Bead launch at Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers 19-20 Feb


e-flux conversations is pleased to present live coverage of the Glass Bead launch event, “The Depth and the Ply,” written by Sabrina Tarasoff. Please join us for Tarasoff’s coverage here, or join the festivities in Paris 19-20 February at Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers. Check out the first issue of Glass Bead, edited by Fabien Giraud, Jeremy Lecomte, Vincent Normand, Ida Soulard and Inigo Wilkins, here. Contributors include Peter Wolfendale, Guerino Mazzola, Andrée Ehresmann, Mathias Béjean, Ray Brassier, Gabriel Catren, Anselm Franke, Benedict Singleton, Keller Easterling, Giuseppe Longo, Martin Holbraad, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Tristan Garcia, Fernando Zalamea, Deneb Kozikoski Valereto, Olivia Caramello, Tarek Atoui, Linda Henderson, Freeman Dyson, Alex Williams, Holly Herndon, Mat Dryhurst, Laboria Cuboniks, and Amanda Beech.

The schedule, press release and speakers list below.

Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers
41, rue Lécuyer
93300 Aubervilliers
+33(0)1 53 56 15 90

To be human is to enter into a game of ends and means. This game is not a natural game. Animals do not play it. It is the game through which humans construct themselves as well as their environment. It is a normative game whose rules can be altered and transformed, crossing over the whole range of human engagements with the world.

Elaborating on the contents of the first issue of Glass Bead’s journal, this launch event is dedicated to the following questions: what is the function of art in this game? How can theoretical and practical forms of expression help to reshape the rules of the game and further transform our normative landscape?

Contemporary art generally opposes this game of normative gestures with an endless play of indeterminate signification. It puts forward an understanding of creativity and freedom as that which can only be achieved by escaping the game and its all encompassing logic. Doing so, it paradoxically projects normativity into the background, as an implicit condition with which it becomes impossible to engage.

Contrary to this position, Glass Bead contends that any escape from the game already supposes a type of engagement with its fabric. There is no seclusion, no retreat, no outside to the game. Freedom is not the indeterminacy of play: playing the game means committing to an ongoing process of construction and revision that continually changes its nature. Such a claim does not mean that normativity is freedom, but that freedom pertains to the normative game of ends and means. It is through the congruence and divergence of ends and means that norms can be made explicit, revised and transformed.

The event at Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers proposes an investigation into this redefinition of the game and art’s role within it. This exploration will articulate the two dimensions of any game: its depth and its plies. The depth of play names the ability to foresee future moves and adapt the play accordingly. The ply, describes a turn of the game between two players. To take part in the game implies the strategic correlation of these two dimensions where any local engagement within it (the ply) is a transformative commitment with its global structure (the depth).

In such a conception, making a move in the normative landscape of the game is necessarily bound to an act of self-transformation. It does not leave us intact as players by preserving what we are but involves us in a constant redefinition of what we can be and ought to be. These events are dedicated to the collective formalization of this uprooting.

Glass Bead (platform) Laboria Cuboniks (xenofeminists) Suhail Malik (art theoretician) Christopher Priest (writer) Tristan Garcia (philosopher and writer) Tarek Atoui (musician) Metahaven (designer and researcher) Yoneda Lemma (musician)

:arrow_right: SCHEDULE

February 19
7pm – Glass Bead, Presentation of Glass Bead’s overall project by Fabien Giraud, Jeremy Lecomte, Vincent Normand, Ida Soulard and Inigo Wilkins
7:30 pm – Film screening – The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda), (2015, 70min) by Metahaven
9:00 pm – Ear of Cyclone, sound performance and installation by Yoneda Lemma (as d-n-e)

February 20
3:00 pm – Introduction to the day by Glass Bead
3:30 pm – Why a Rationalist Art? by Suhail Malik
4:00 pm – Xenofeminist Manifesto by Laboria Cuboniks, represented by Patricia Reed and Katrina Burch
4:30 pm – Panel conversation with Suhail Malik, Laboria Cuboniks and Glass Bead followed by a discussion with the audience
6:00 pm – Break
6:15 pm – Public conversation between Tristan Garcia and Christopher Priest
8:00 pm – Break
9:00 pm – Sound performance by Tarek Atoui


Greetings from the outskirts of Paris, or more specifically Les Laboratories d’Aubervilliers, where Glass Bead is up-and-running without a hitch and its launch event, The Depth and the Ply, is about to commence. It’s perhaps pertinent to point out, prior to everything starting, that Glass Bead is an online publication readily available here (and not the K-Pop group as the first results on Google might indicate, if you ventured down that route). The journal is collaboratively edited by the fantastic five, Fabien Giraud, Vincent Normand, Inigo Wilkins, Ida Soulard and Jeremy Lecomte, who will shortly take centre-stage to introduce the evening’s events, as well as elaborate on the premise for the journal’s first issue.

Whilst waiting for the event to begin, I’ll offer up a pre-introductory spoiler: Glass Bead is the result of a laborious two-year process, during which, inspired by Herman Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game (1943), the group has worked to synthesise various areas of knowledge in order to create a theory for art premised in the unification of reason. The website itself is split into two parts: the journal, on one hand, and a separate research platform, on the other, which is consistent of an audio archive (interviews, talks and related music performances) and an on-going platform for contributors to elaborate on the material opened in the journal through further research.

Tonight’s agenda (aside from the group’s intro) will consist of a film by Metahaven, and a performance-slash-installation by Yoneda Lemma appearing as Katrina Burch and Donatas Tubutis (collectively known as d-n-e)."

To indulge in the premise: let the games begin!


Having waited a bit for everyone to turn up (to be fair, it is further than what one might expect), the group gathers in a screen-lit salon to introduce the project. Having extended some well-warranted thank you’s to all those involved in the realisation of the journal (specific kudos go out to long-term supporters at Les Labo), the group begins its short introduction.

The journal, in short, intends to revamp the current model of the ‘art journal’ by eschewing the notion of necessary efficacy in art, instead aiming to reopen a new ‘space of reason’ in the interstice of variable disciplines. Each issue will explore a specific ‘site’—broadly defined as all from a fictional entity to a geopolitical locality. The first, more than appropriately, is Site 0: Castalia, the Game of Ends and Means — Castalia being the fantastical site of Hesse’s novel, in which all inhabitants share the univocal goal of attaining pure knowledge. (If my memory serves me right, Castilians also fostered a mission to operate all-boy boarding schools whilst playing the Glass Bead game–a different fantasy, arguably.)

For more on Site 0, click here.


To kick-off a Friday night filled with speculative fun (I’ll be the first to confirm: it’s real), the first event is a screening of a film by Metahaven. For some background 411: the Amsterdam-based design studio consists of Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden, and is focused on the economic, social and political structures that create and enforce the strange experiences of a post-web 2.0 world. The central concern on technological infrastructures and the way these can engineer future scenarios is notably shared by multiple contributors in Site 0.

The 70-minute feature at hand is entitled ‘The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda)’ (2015) and, according to the journal’s incredibly helpful website, intends to challenge “the internet as a weapon of mass disruption.” (Click here for more). Anyways, to paraphrase from the abstract, the film portrays social media as an architecture erected for political activism and propaganda, through a narrative that will apparently bring up military operations, chaotic night-time strolls in rural Russia somewhere and computer screens-cum-scrying mirrors.

It’s hard to surmise exactly how this will unfold as a plot, at least avant-le-lettre (what kind of plot does the Internet promise anyways?), but it seems safe to say theirs is a geopolitical stage unfolding in the realms of digital artifice, which will (I am told) offer up references equal parts Adam Curtis, constructivist, and my personal favourite, “post-Sottsass” (Thanks to Jeremy Lecomte for that one).


Metahaven’s film moves swiftly from quiet, snowing Russian woods, to Los Angeles in 2015; images of uprisings are uploaded on Youtube, intercepted phone calls voice-over scenes from somewhere in the Ukraine. Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, an artist and writer, talks about the emotional impact of videos that enact or perform their audiences, imbued as they are with the spirit that incited their making. MH370 from Kuala Lumpur goes missing; the Syrian and Bahrainian uprisings deleted from history despite neck-to-neck media coverage. How information in the media is framed becomes just as important as the allowance to upload it in the first place. Gharavi confirms our suspicions: circling, capturing and highlighting become actions that blur images into narrative expressions, bringing forth the inevitably tricky question of verifiability. Unrelated content assumes a pattern, an abnormal meaningfulness through media—“if its not just apophenia,” a commentator on MH370 asks, “what is it?”


The film takes a few turns to Crimean politics, less as reportage, than as a strange music video consistent of auto-tuned newscasts. The world (or at least the camera) turns upside down, signalling an inverted architecture in which we can only see ourselves. The screen switches to a caption that reads TOP/PSYCHO/POP, sprawled across an actress positioned against a green screen.’Ms. Wahl’ (of unknown origin) talks about bloggers that have no accountability for the truth, yet rile up a mass amount of people online. The mind inevitably moves to Jodi Dean, only communicative capitalism has here swallowed a handful of shrooms and opened to something far more lysergic. Fiction reigns in political sovereignty. Nothing actually is what it is, says someone, or is what it is not.


Post-screening, and the folly has moved into the lounge, where amidst food and cold drinks we are all free to contemplate the meaning behind Metahaven’s metamorphosing flick. To be somewhat brief, before moving to the next event, the intent seems to be to redirect our attentions from a democratic (and expired) dot-com ideal, to its co-optation by politically marginalised groups such as activists, hacktivists, militant groups and conspiracy theorists. They propose a world where fiction and fact have become inextricable, where the shadows and reflections offered by screens have replaced a sense of the real, where software has been weaponised and technology recruited to enforce a propagandistic way of life.


Next up is a sound performance and installation called Ear of Cyclone by Yoneda Lemma/d-n-e. To provide some biographic information, again courtesy of Glass Bead:

Yoneda Lemma is a quasi-causal brainchild for abstract exploration, experimental research, and a platform for productions, plotted by archaeologist, composer/producer and feminist thinker, Katrina Burch, who practices music to deepen the game of thinking with the universe. Yoneda Lemma’s complex harmonic layers dig into sound densely, shifting sonic elements from one fiction to another.

More soon.


Follow Yoneda Lemma on soundcloud here.

Also, to add insight to the almost-indescribable, or just food for thought: here’s a small description on the premise behind the ‘Yoneda lemma’ from Guerino Mazzola’s The Topos of Music: Geometric Logic of Concepts, Theory, and Performance:

“In order to understand the relations among different parts of a composition, and even to simply recognise them, a change of the given perspective is mandatory. If a never seen object must be inspected, what should we do? You walk around it. This is the most common version of Yoneda’s lemma. The analogy to cartography is straightforward: The natural perspective of the landscape in which we live does not coincide with the perspective which best meets our need for orientation. To reach this goal, we preferably build maps which show the landscape from an infinitely far vertical point.”


At that, the first evening has come to an end, to be resumed tomorrow at 15h00 sharp–first with another short introduction, then a whole range of talks and performances. What will ensue now is probably cocktail hour, but before we disappear for the night into spirited (pun intended) conversations on speculative fiction, let’s consolidate a few things. Though no direct discussion has been engaged in during the evening, the contributions to-date have made it clear that the intent of Castalia (and its crusaders) is to confront (head-on, full collision/collusion) the capacities of art to engender thought—especially in its more slippery and ambiguous forms. Tonight’s film and performance are both solemn reminders of the pleasures and potentials inherent to contingent, elusive spaces, assuring, all the same, that tomorrow’s talks will be worth coming out for. After all, there’s nothing like a house full of theorists talking equivocation (don’t forget the hashtag). Until then …


To preface the afternoon: abstraction abounds and there’s no way out, par for clipping off the threads that cling to contemporary art as we know it. The alternative under inquiry is to dive into rational thought, in order to find not a new efficacy for art (at least in the sense of possessing the direct capacity to change the world – that’s timeworn), but rather, a equivocal space where art can interact affectively with other forms of reasoning. Nothing is predetermined, and all must be rewritten.

From Glass Bead’s editorial note:

“Questions about the efficacy of art thus become spatial questions: How can we operate transformations on a space in which we are immersed? How can art participate in these transformations after having contested its exceptional position? How can these transformations be enacted without calling to any meta-gesture?”

Today’s talks and lectures will focus on various models for a rationalist art, first with Suhail Malik, followed by musings from the Xenofeminist Manifesto by Laboria Cubovniks (consistent of Patricia Reed and Katrina Burch.) Later on in the afternoon we can also anticipate Tristan Garcia and Christopher Priest, a performance by Tarek Atoui, and the audience will be invited to participate. The program will begin promptly at 15h00.

For quick readers, keeners, and those who want to generally be ahead of the game:

Biographic material will follow through-out the day.


As this is France, 15h00 bien sûr means a fashionable 15h20, and here we are again, listening to an introductory note by the Glass Bead group. It’s a rehashing, really, of what we heard yesterday about the core group (Ida, Fabien, Vincent, Jeremy and Inigo for those just joining) and a quick revision of what Glass Bead is and where it can be found. (Like, here)


To begin, however: we are Saturday Night(ish) Live from Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers and the first talk of the day will be Why A Rationalist Art? by Suhail Malik. According to an abstract provided by the event site (found here), the talk will investigate the capacity of art, taking the recent “vindication of rationalism” as a possible overruling of art’s current diagnostics. Following the thematic thread of Glass Bead’s internal inquiries, Malik will delineate how art might move beyond its own internal concerns and begin connect with other practices—only, what kind of rationality does this imply?

From his biography:

Suhail Malik is Co-Director of the MFA Fine Art, Goldsmiths, London, where he holds a Readership in Critical Studies, and was 2012-15 Visiting Faculty at CCS Bard, New York. Recent and forthcoming publications include, as author, On the Necessity of Art’s Exit From Contemporary Art (2016) and ‘The Ontology of Finance’ in Collapse 8: Casino Real (2015), and, as co-editor, Realism Materialism Art (2015), Genealogies of Speculation (2016), and The Flood of Rights (2016).


Suhail Malik premises his talk on three key points: contemporary art and its limitations, the role of rationalism (focusing on a Brandomian rationalism, but we will get there) and the neorational limitations of such a project. Firstly, Malik argues that contemporary art’s limitations can be roughly divided into a two-fold polemic, based partly on its convergence with hegemonic modes of neoliberal domination, and partly on its incapacity to formulate any cogent propositions at all. This is to say, whilst contemporary art believes itself to enact critique in its typical model, in fact, it is contributing to the forms of power it seeks to react against as an art of indeterminacy. Secondly, Malik carries forth Glass Bead’s inclination towards a rationalist art, broadly identifying it with Robert Brandom’s revisionist-constructive philosophy. Briefly, this is characterised by a system where the process of reasoning amounts to the construction of meaning. He elaborates: either we revise given meanings, or we revise given commitments, as (of course) a game of means and ends. Lastly, some neorational limitations are set forth in the statement that contemporary art in its current state is not fit for this process of revision, and so to achieve its rationalist emancipation, art would have to become something else than what it currently is.

From Brandom’s Reason in Philosophy:

Inferential relations alter your commitments and entitlements in ways that depend on what is a reason for what.


Moving swiftly ahead, Patricia Reed and Katrina Burch take the stage to present ideas from their Xenofeminist Manifesto. It was first published online in 2015 by Laboria Cuboniks (b. 2014) a xenofeminist collective spread across five countries and three continents.

Some thoughts brought up:

Xenofeminism seeks to regress the gender balance, hoping to see it multiply: let a hundred sexes bloom, says Burch. XF calls for a commitment to end inegalitarian dilemmas. Weaponised notions of identity should be disarmed. XF insists on agitating towards a political orientation that slices through every particular. The subject is neither woman, nor human, both of which are but snippets of a larger technomaterial existence embedded in language. Theirs is a call towards the post-human, an ideological infrastructure that supports initiatives that want to cultivate the exercise of freedom for urging feminists with the skills and know-how to redeploy existing technologies for their use (hashtag Accelerate, am I right). Hormones hacking into gender systems are political hacks. The question is whether we can construct an entire universe that would exist as an open source platform for gender hacktivism?


Patricia Reed takes over, addressing a politics of scale in a marbled swarm of thought:

Abstractions are not something to be overcome, but serve as epistemic drivers. Abstractions of money, systems of exchange, the category of labour itself. On one hand, value extraction is wholly dependent on the increased abstraction of human capital. A commonly shared intellect or common knowledge as such, assuming waking life to its forces. So many tactics seeking to undo these abstractions resort to local oppositions. ‘We’ isn’t simply a counting of points but a dispersed cognitive core. A concrete core of pure humanity to return to, a pure human state. But, we are socio-technical animals. Power of abstraction is endemic to humanity as a species; it is the power of the organism, especially the brain, to invent new norms. An adaption mechanism, an impetus towards the very changing of the environment. One part of xeno, making something alien, and the other part philia, the forging of a new bond. There’s a necessity for such stereoscopic synthesis. But how do we move between these states without one overriding the other?


The panel dead-heads the last talk, diving straight into broad questions (despite everyone looking asleep in the attached photo).

Directing attention to the Xenofeminists, Ida Soulard opens by asking if they can explain a little bit on what would be the role of rationality in an emancipatory program such as XF? Anecdotally, Patricia Reed cites a realisation stemming from some neorationalist summer school (like said, the fun is real) where several (female) participants were writing affirmatively in the direction of Accerationism, despite on-going critiques of it as a macho, eurocentric thesis. These reviews were particularly directed at Nick Srnicek and Alex William’s Accelerationist Manifesto. Reed, however, saw the text as an explicitly second-wave feminist object to be elaborated on outside of its then concurrent framework (despite its authors being unaware of this aspect of their work).

The attention is directed at Suhail Malik, as Inigo Wilkins asks what might a positive engagement with risk rationality be? And how does it go beyond an inferentialist account of reason? Malik contends that there’s clearly a commitment to revision, in so far as risk becomes the action taken from an infinite amount of future possibilities. But, it seems that the premise of revision can’t be organised through conceptual formulations because the notion of commitment, in a Brandomian account (which is essentially a Kantian account) is the way in which rational revision is deontologically constituted – in other words, the ought. So, what is an ought in the condition of risk?


Following a question from the audience, Patricia Reed and Katrina Burch talk about the view from nowhere in relationship to Laboria Cubovniks own formation as a multifaceted entity that is consistently revising itself as its research progresses. It’s an articulation of what (Gilles) Châtelet would call an indifference point: not fixed, but something taking many different perspectives about what the problem, or what the question at hand is. In order for a project such as this to have traction at all, it needs to develop different positions form this indifference point. Burch posits Laboria Cubovniks itself as a rational procedure for research.

Malik sweeps in: where does Laboria stand in relationship to current conceptions of identity politics?

Beyonce’s ‘Formation’ is brought up, and with it, the question of addressing experiences that aren’t your own. Reed insists upon the need to figure out a mode of articulation to speak of these issues, even when you can’t claim first-hand experience (especially with a universalist telos in mind.)


Questions abound from the audience, moving from an attempt to define or precise, to getting into the nitty-gritty of game theory (football is brought up, of course, albeit briefly):

  • What is art that is too indeterminate?
    (Pierre Huyghe’s Pompidou exhibition is given up as an example from the audience.)

The aim is to create a new discourse not on what art is, but what art does, which eschews the necessity for examples, especially since in resorting to them, one risks falling into illustration. The defence of remaining mute about specifics lies in the possibility that discourse can provoke the work of many variable artists without singling out anyone in particular.

  • How are the speakers defining contemporary art?

Malik portrays contemporary art as a field, consistent of discourses and institutions, but also artworks of course.

Reza Negarestani’s text Torture Concrete is brought up by Burch (on Jean-Luc Moulène), as it represents a model that proposes ideas that aren’t left to indeterminacy, instead using abstraction as something to break thought and change the way you listened before. It’s an abduction into the object or sound that induces transformation. But, what is the distinction: is that contemporary art? Or a rationalist art?

(This is where it gets technical again)

  • A mathematician from the audience asks: what does it mean to act rationally? What about computation that is too hard to be rational? Very complex games imply bounded rationality, in which case contemporary art becomes relevant again, because it also partly operates in bounded rationality?

The notion of game is something GB has been trying to develop: many of the pieces in the journal address these notions and look into the problems. They aren’t talking about a game where all properties are listable, and certainly the rationality called upon is not the rationality of classical game theory, or of perfect information. The aim for the group is not only to move towards bounded rationality, but beyond, as bounded rationality is still an individualistic account of rational agency.

Further questions ping-pong, like is it possible to conceive of games that include the risk management model? What is the notion of a game if the future is unknown? If the future is the predicate of the game, what’s the consistent notion of a game to which all participants adhere?


The break is rearing its inevitably end, as the anticipation builds up for Tristan Garcia and Christopher Priest to take over the talking. The abstract for this session reads as such:

This conversation will stem from the writers’ common interest for the realist description of the world, the notion of literary genre, and the concept of science fiction, as well as the situation of these ideas in regard to the modern novel, to explore their traction on world construction, possibility and futurity.

First remark that has to be made is that Christopher Priest is a hoot, and quick to dish out that his childhood was characterised by a dreary, middle class existance (au contraire to Garcia’s, enlightened as it was by Priest novels revamping his visions of sci-fi and thus his hope for a speculatively narrated future) in which science fiction played a very little part. Curious, considering that as of today, Priest has written 14, about to be 15, illustrious examples of classic science fiction. Priest has also put it out there that Garcia has only read five of his novels, and not the best ones. This is off to a rather witty start!


Here is a link to Priest’s website, for reference!

Priest and Garcia begin by discussing the attraction to a problem familiar to philosophy, or, how the real is perceived in the subject, and how this pervades Priest’s novels. Not as solipsism, but managing rather to find a way to discuss variations between different perceptions of the world, i.e. as intersubjectivity. Maybe reality is a simulation, or maybe there’s a delicate way of blurring between simulation and reality, representation and reality.

Priest responds by saying he writes books, and sentences, and those sentences are descriptive, which at base makes it impossible to describe them as ‘true’. When you’re writing, he says, you have to find a way that is first of all accurate, but also suggestive. That provides them with enough material so that they can see what you are saying. The novel becomes an inherently unreliable form. But, in making a virtue out this unreliability of novels, in so far as the reader is left wondering what the hell you’re talking about, the act of reading is allowed to take centre-stage in creating what we could perhaps call a narrative reality.


Garcia and Priest focus for a bit on his novel The Prestige. From his website:

The novel itself is constructed like a stage illusion: because of misdirection, nothing can be taken for granted — the straightforward narrative tells no lies, but revelations and unexpected twists occur at regular intervals. The secret of the magic is not kept from the reader, because for the antagonists the real mystery lies deeper. Both men have more to hide than the mere workings of a trick.

There’s an idea of classical magic in Priest’s work, which is brought up by Garcia, who identifies the consistent collusions between magic and science, and magic and art. Magic, he says, seems to function as a metaphor for the work itself. In The Prestige, we are told, the idea was that magic was like a novel. Preparing a magic trick, or writing a novel existed as parallel experiences, where things would happen in the dark that the viewers or readers wouldn’t be attuned to. Magic becomes a beautifully elaborated structural premise, the book itself performing a trick.

The novel was notably made into a film by Christopher Nolan, which Priest has, err, unfavourable thoughts about.

(As a tidbit of interesting information, apparently apart from being a boring tech company, IBM also stands for the International Brotherhood of Magicians, whom host a conference of sorts once attended by Priest.)