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Notes from Benjamin Bratton's 'Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution' book launch at transmediale


#1

Please join Benjamin H. Bratton and e-flux journal editor Julieta Aranda at transmediale on Friday, February 5 for the Berlin launch of Bratton’s new work of theory-fiction, Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution. The event includes a reading from the book accompanied by image evocation, conversation between Bratton and Aranda, and a toast to celebrate the tenth title in the e-flux journal Series with Sternberg Press.

Equal parts Borges, Burroughs, Baudrillard, and Black Ops, Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution charts a treacherous landscape filled with paranoid master plans, failed schemes, and dubious histories.

Benjamin H. Bratton’s kaleidoscopic theory-fiction links the utopian fantasies of political violence with the equally utopian programs of security and control. Both rely on all manner of doubles, models, gimmicks, ruses, prototypes, and shock-and-awe campaigns to realize their propagandas of the deed, threat, and image. Blurring reality and delusion, they collaborate on a literally psychotic politics of architecture.

The cast of characters in this ensemble drama of righteous desperation and tactical trickery shuttle between fact and speculation, action and script, flesh and symbol, death and philosophy: insect urbanists, seditious masquerades, epistolary ideologues, distant dissimulations, carnivorous installations, forgotten footage, branded revolts, imploding skyscrapers, sentimental memorials, ad-hoc bunkers, sacred hijackings, vampire safe-houses, suburban enclaves, big-time proposals, ambient security protocols, disputed borders-of-convenience, empty research campuses, and robotic surgery.

In this mosaic we glimpse a future city built with designed violence and the violence of design. As one ratifies the other, the exception becomes the ruler.

This launch event is presented by transmediale in cooperation with e-flux and Sternberg Press. For more information, see transmediale’s schedule of events: http://2016.transmediale.de/content/book-launch-dispute-plan-to-prevent-future-luxury-constitution-by-benjamin-h-bratton.

Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution
by Benjamin H. Bratton
Series editors: Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle
Foreword by Keller Easterling
Publisher: Sternberg Press
Series cover design by Liam Gillick, design by Jeff Ramsey
December 2015, English
10.8 x 17.8cm, 200 pages, softcover
ISBN: 978-3-95679-195-6
Also available as an iBook (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dispute-plan-to-prevent-future/id1072464093?ls=1&mt=11) and on Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ABCB8FM)

Julieta Aranda is an artist and editor of e-flux journal.

Benjamin H. Bratton is a theorist whose work spans Philosophy, Computer Science, Art and Design. He is Associate Professor of Visual Arts and Director of D;GP The Center for Design and Geopolitics at the University of California, San Diego. He is also Professor of Digital Design at The European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. His research is situated at the intersections of contemporary social and political theory, computational media & infrastructure, architectural & urban design problems, and the politics of synthetic ecologies and biologies. His most recent books, both published in 2015, are The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty from MIT Press, and Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution from e-flux & Sternberg Press.


#2

Julieta Aranda with Benjamin Bratton

e-flux founder Anton Vidokle introduces the day, announcing that e-flux has some new publishing ventures on the way, including e-flux classics and Supercommunity books. Julieta Aranda introduces Bratton, who says a few words about the book. He reads an excerpt from the chapter “El Proceso: The Process.” Here’s an excerpt from part iv to give you an idea of the book’s fabric:

El Proceso de Reorganizacíon Nacional, or “The Process of National Reorganization,” usually known simply as El Proceso, was the official name of the authoritarian agenda of the military junta and its partners that ruled Argentina from 1975 to 1984. The Process took its inspiration from numerous sources, including historically similar adventures in Spain and German, of Stalinist regimes that were purportedly the junta’s world-historical enemies, as well as junta leader Jorge Rafael Videla’s own personal involvement with Robert de Grimston’s Aleister Crowley-inspired cult group, which was also known simply as The Process. In the years 1969-70, Videla spent months studying with the de Grimston in London, traveling back and forth at least eight times, and he credits this association with providing the regime with “a philosophy of will through which we will guide the witness of revitalization of the Argentine body and spirit.” The reclusive de Grimston also visited Buenos Aires in the early years of the Argentine version of The Process. As in Santiago, tens of thousands of suspected Leftists were detained at football stadiums in and around Buenos Aires and kept in the stands at gunpoint as spectator-prisoners. Survivors have testified that de Grimston would address the assembly over the stadium’s loudspeaker system with cryptic sermons about death, destiny, illumination, and other esoteric topics. In fact, two photographs taken inside the stadium in 1976, which were used in court testimony, show a figure now thought to be de Grimston surveying a lineup of prisoners.

For a longer excerpt from Bratton’s book, check out the January issue of e-flux journal.


#3

After Bratton finishes reading his excerpt “El Proceso,” Aranda states in the Q+A that she knows the texts in the book are fictional, but at some point they walk a line that they becomes believable." They agree It has something to do with the fact that Bratton is writing in first person. As an aside, I would argue that sci-fi and fantasy have recently been given a larger, more important role in our cultural imaginary as high-frequency trading algorithms and personal drones have become a fact of life. When I ask Bratton about his take on science fiction and its relationship to emerging technology, he says that it’s vital to not cast the entirety of emerging technology with the disrepute given to them by popular narratives in science fiction, but to rather think of these remarkable achievements as stem cells for greater things to come.

Aranda says she was trying to place the book into a kind of fiction, wondering what kind of fiction Bratton’s book belongs to. She says she keeps thinking about three types of sub-fiction. It reminds her of “The Dictionary of Magical Places,” which is fantasy, and Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities,” and Borges’ “On Exactitude of Science.” Bratton says that he thinks the most resaonsable answer is that it remains as ambiguous as possible.

Bratton says that a theme of the book is that some sort of utopian logic could be realized through unstacking the bricks or re-stacking the bricks, which is somewhat akin to a sort of political terrorism. This is where the book begins and ends, through this dynamic and characteristic of our current political situation.

Another theme that runs through this is something Bratton refers to as a reversability between the camp and enclave as architectural model. A penultimate state of exception. When does an enclave become a camp and when does a camp become an enclave? These points of contestation are never final. This is similar to the idea of an island as a site of jurisdictional exception.

Anton Vidokle asks from the audience about a passage in Bratton’s book in which he says that acts of theory have become irrelevant since the 90s and are replaced by algorithms. Is this ironic or does Bratton actually mean it? He kind of means it, but adds the caveat that it’s not meant to be declarative. Anton presses on, the use of theory in art schools has declined rapidly since the 90s and we’re looking at other alternatives. Perhaps this is the turn to fiction, fantasy and sci-fi that we’re seeing both in popular culture and in the art and culture industries.