Hello! Here is the schedule for today and author abstracts and bios below:
LIVESTREAM HERE: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/e-flux
Saturday, December 13, 3–7pm
3pm: Science Fiction Panel
Renata Lemos Morais (via Google Hangout), Ben Woodard, Ed Keller, McKenzie Wark, and Mary Dery
Moderated by Jason Adams
Julieta Aranda, Stealing one’s own corpse (An alternative set of footholds for an ascent into the dark), 2014
5:30pm: Computation Panel
Antonia Majaca (via Google Hangout), Ekaterina Zavyalova, T'ai Smith (via Google Hangout), Troy Conrad Therrien, and Reza Negarestani
Moderated by Tony Yanick
Renata Lemos Morais: The Marvelous Realism of “Worlds Beyond Science”
What would happen if Meillassoux’s extro-science fiction would instead be understood as extro-science fact? This talk explores the concept of “worlds beyond science” in the context of the wave-like fluctuation of fact vs. fiction in actual nanoscience and technology, and proposes that Latin American marvelous realism and Amerindian cannibal metaphysics are a privileged universe of discourse to come to terms with the fantastic realities of “worlds beyond science,” be they factual or fictional. The fusion between what is real and what is imaginary is an essential characteristic of nanoscience’s discourse, and has been a constant in the marvelous realism of our postcolonial literature and in the cosmologies of our Amazonian tribes.
Renata Lemos Morais is a Lecturer in Media and Communication at Deakin University, Melbourne, and a member of CIRET, The International Center of Transdisciplinary Research.
Ben Woodard: Augmentative Idealism, Three Forms of Science-Fictional Time
Woodard’s talk argues that science fiction is not a future-oriented genre in narratological terms alone, but that it involves an asymmetricalization of time in general toward futurity. This augmentative model of time, Woodard will argue, is an achievement of philosophical idealism, an idealism that undergirds the socio-political simulations of science fiction in its strongest forms. Taking numerous films and stories as examples, Woodard argues that Science Fiction is a generic model for the real ideality of time.
Ben Woodard is a recent PhD graduate in Theory and Criticism from Western University. His doctoral work focused on the relationship between idealism, pragmatism, and naturalism in Schelling. He is an instructor at the New Centre for Research & Practice, an associate of the Laboratory for Ontology (UK branch), and a co-founder of P.S., a philosophy collective at the Performing Arts Forum in St. Erme, France.
Ed Keller: “She’s a Killer Queen”: Cosmopolitical Gestures and the Swarming of Infinite Space
A consideration of alternate forms of collectivity and compassion, in the context of planet-scaled or alien computational systems. Is there a point of balance between mutual aid and mutually assured destruction? What might constitute the “cosmic commons” (c.f. Hanson) and what alternate cognitive frameworks might we need to map it? Does anything human make it out of the near future? Orbiting the film Under the Skin (Glazer, 2014); informed by a range of hard sci-fi including Peter Watts’s Blindsight and Echopraxia; Lem’s Solaris; Vandemeer’s Annihilation; and Robin Hanson’s The Rapacious Hardscrapple Frontier.
Ed Keller is director of the Center for Transformative Media at The New School, and Associate Professor at Parsons The New School for Design. Designer, professor, writer, musician, and multimedia artist. Prior to joining Parsons, he taught at Columbia University GSAPP (1998–2010) and SCIArc (2004–09). With Carla Leitão he co-founded AUM Studio, an architecture and new media firm that has produced residential projects, competitions, and new media installations in Europe and the US.
McKenzie Wark: The Anti-Robinsonade
It is ironic that one of the most consistent refutations of the myth of “Robinson,” of a bourgeois subject making itself alone on a desert island, comes from Kim Stanley Robinson. Here Wark will talk about Robinson’s later fiction as allegories for planetary processes of enduring self-making by assemblages of species, information, machines, and information.
McKenzie Wark is the author of The Beach Beneath the Street (Verso), Telesthesia (Polity), A Hacker Manifesto (Harvard, 2004), Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene (Verso, 2015), and various other things. He teaches in the Liberal Studies MA at the New School for Social Research in New York City.
Mark Dery: Afrofuturism Reloaded: Fifteen Theses in Fifteen Minutes
When Mark Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” in his 1993 essay “Black to the Future,” he drew on the guerrilla semiotics of Henry Louis Gates’s Signifying Monkey; the radical science fiction of Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler; hip-hop envisioned as black America’s answer to the white hacker culture whose battle cry was “the street finds its own uses for things”; and the Dubois-ian notion of rebooting lost historical memory, in a willfully amnesiac nation, as an essential precondition for any black Futurism that dreams of storming Tomorrowland to demand a say in the myths that constrain or liberate our visions of a better world. Now, at a moment when the Afrofuturist meme has gone viral and the marketers, hipsters, and hangers-on are closing in, it’s not a minute too soon to ask: What does Afrofuturism have to say to a world where #BlackLivesMatter is rising up; the state-sanctioned murder of black men by cops is an everyday occurrence; and a billionaire with an unconvincing comb-over is rousing the rabble with the sort of blood-and-soil racism that had played so well in Munich beer halls in 1923? In fifteen minutes’ worth of probes and provocations, Dery asks urgent questions about Afrofuturism, the politics of myth, and the future present.
Mark Dery is a cultural critic. He coined the term “Afrofuturism,” popularized the concept of “culture jamming,” and has published widely on media, technoculture, science fiction, American mythologies, and masculinity (and its discontents). He has been a professor of journalism at NYU, a Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellow at UC Irvine, a Hertog author in Columbia University’s Hertog Fellowship program, and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome. His books include The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink and Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century. His latest book is the essay collection I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams.
Jason Adams is an organizer at the New Centre for Research & Practice
Screening: Julieta Aranda, Stealing one’s own corpse (An alternative set of footholds for an ascent into the dark), 2014
Julieta Aranda is an artist and editor of e-flux journal.
Antonia Majaca: The Incomputable
Foucault opens the The Order of Things by quoting an ancient Chinese scheme of classification, dividing animals into numerous nonsensical categories. Pointing that the Western schemes of philosophy and science were no less arbitrary and no more true, Foucault called these schemes episteme or discursive regimes that set the limits of what can be said, thought, and known. The only escape from these regimes, according to Foucault, is in writing/art, and in brief moments of transition from one episteme to another, as was the shift from the episteme of representation to the episteme of man at the turn of the 19th century. In the periods of such radical shifts, a new kind of art is possible, free from governing conceptual schemes. In our time, human-machine interaction and the rapid development of algorithmic operationality is reconfiguring the very notion of knowledge, generating an entirely new epistemic space which in turn puts art in an entirely new position. If our age the age in which knowledge is finding its new form and what the implications of this change might be on art’s epistemic scope? If we assume that algorithmic govermentality introduces a new discursive regime, i.e. that we are indeed witnessing a shift into the episteme of the algorithm, does that shift open up a chance for the emergence of a new kind of art, resisting the governing conceptual schemes as Foucault would have it?
Antonia Majaca is a researcher and curator and the Visiting Professor at the IZK Institute for Contemporary Art at the Graz University of Technology, where her work focuses on the art-based transdisciplinary research and the epistemology of art in the age of algorithmic governmentality. She recently curated “Memorial For(u)ms: Histories of Possibility” for DAAD and HAU, Berlin and “Knowledge Forms and Forming Knowledge: Limits and Horizons of Transdisciplinary Art-Based Research” at the Halle für Kunst & Medien, Graz. Her three-year research and publishing project “The Incomputable: Art in the Age of Algorithms,” funded by FWF Austrian Science Fund, is currently being developed through an international platform involving Graz University of Technology, Goldsmiths University of London, and the Department of Human and Social Sciences at the University of Naples.
Ekaterina Zavyalova: Decentralized Architecture Office
The Quantified City consists of market-driven platforms, shaping and optimizing space beyond the singular work of an architect for human and nonhuman users. Yet, space-time has been succeeded by absolute synthetic time, since the introduction of the blockchain time-stamping technology. Secured by scarce resources extracted from the Earth, not abstract markets, the blockchain is the rare sign. Architectural creativity is found interstitial to global networks of circulating value. A decentralized architecture office, running on blockchain technology, is a platform for distributing equity, connections, and tools to regain agency in the city. The architectural transaction evolves to be banked not with mortgage derivatives but with crypto-equity. Exchanges and economies of virtual communities can be applied to a site-specific location by the architect, short-circuiting algorithmic paths in space. When reciprocal capture between users occur, the value is stored, traded, and circulated in parallel markets of space.
Ekaterina Zavyalova is an architect and, with Ryan John King and Nick Axel, founder of FOAM—a decentralized architecture office (ĐAO) working to apply blockchain technologies to the production of the built environment and office-form. FOAM recently realized a partner installation, “The Tropical Mining Station,” and symposium, “The Art of Economy,” for the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial. Ekaterina’s work has explored the relationship between high-tech and craft, the use of recycled materials, automation in design, alternative funding strategies, community organization, and cryptocurrency.
T’ai Smith: Branding as Computation, or Epigenetic Mutation
Recently it was discovered that a common brand of antidepressants could create epigenetic mutations in mice and perhaps also human patients. These blue or yellow gel-cap devices apparently change the way gene proteins attach and replicate, thereby reforming neural links—that is, the way we think about or fashion ourselves as emotional beings. Taking an SSRI every morning does not simply affect this body now, on this day, like changing one's clothes from Prada to Gucci; it is reformatting the computational logic of my psychical genes. So my psyche is branded and rebranded in keeping with the seasons, and then some future anterior. This is not because I've changed styles, but because I've restyled these cells and their mode of replication. In fact, it doesn’t matter which brand is “chosen,” but that branding writ large is the mutable substrate onto which I am and will be inscribed. Affect follows form.
T’ai Smith is an assistant professor in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She is the author of Bauhaus Weaving Theory: From Feminine Craft to Mode of Design (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), and her articles have appeared in Art Journal, Art Practical, Grey Room, Journal of Modern Craft, Texte zur Kunst, and Zeitschrift für Medien-und Kulturforschung.
Troy Conrad Therrien: Oedipus NeXT
The idea that the entire universe might be a large computer carries no shock value for architects. Architecture has always claimed a special relationship to a coherent nature as the mediator between humans and the cosmos, the means by which the universality of order stretching from one to the other could be represented at their interface. For computing to lay claim to the universe, then, it must go through architecture. The history of computers bears this out as a strategy of eating architecture. From the IBM System/360 to the NeXT Computer to Ethereum, a contemporary “planetary scale computer,” each in turn has served to metabolize more and more of the domain of architecture in the march toward a digital world. Architecture thus remains a cipher with which to project and evaluate the potential effects of computation at large.
Troy Conrad Therrien is a Curator of Architecture and Digital Initiatives at the Guggenheim. He was previously adjunct professor of architecture at Columbia University, where he co-founded the Architecture Online Lab, and is co-founder of Therrien–Barley, a design and innovation consultancy. Initially trained as a computer engineer, and later in architecture design, history, and theory, Therrien’s current work focuses on the relationship between architecture, communication technology, and political economy through a curatorial practice that blends traditional exhibitions with other experimental forms of programming.
Reza Negarestani: Cognitive Contact with the World
The topic of this presentation is the semantic complexity of cognition and its implications for the program of artificial general intelligence (as in contrast to the classical project of artificial intelligence as primarily focused on syntactic complexity). What I would like to focus on is the computational picture of the semantic complexity and what it takes for a machine to be able to sufficiently come into cognitive contact with itself and the world.
Reza Negarestani is a philosopher. He has contributed extensively to journals and anthologies and lectured at numerous international universities and institutes. His current philosophical project is focused on rationalist universalism beginning with the evolution of the modern system of knowledge and advancing toward contemporary philosophies of rationalism, their procedures as well as their demands for special forms of human conduct.
Tony Yanick is an organizer at the New Centre for Research & Practice.