back to e-flux.com

Welcome to Supercommunity & Superconversations, Day 1


#1

/// Click here to visit the Supercommunity web site ///

You may have heard that The New Centre for Research & Practice has been invited by e-flux journal to contribute a series of short responses through the e-flux Conversations platform to the texts included in the special 56th Venice Biennale edition of e-flux Journal titled “Supercommunity”. The Supercommunity, we are told by the editors, possesses “no body and no name”, and is “wild… free to move across (some) countries, (some) political boundaries, (some) historical ideologies, and (some) economies”. As presented, the Supercommunity is seemingly no more human than technological, no more alive than dead, and no more material than ideal. It consists of artists, thinkers, and laborers, as much as cargo ships, public squares, and crowds. And although it may do so unevenly, it allows its participants to be “dispers[ed]… everywhere and all the time”, whether connected or disconnected.

While this description may sound utopian, might it not also be fair to suggest that it resembles the technocultural body of late capitalism, that of the precarious labourer and the terrified intellectual fighting daily, both online and offline, to remain relevant? Even if that were the case though, is it not also precisely the resonance between culture and capital that remains to be bootstrapped and diverted towards different, more productive ends? If the lurking danger of the Supercommunity is its consolidation into a Supercommodity, we should not forget the paradoxical nature of every commodity which is constituted by both its use-value and its exchange-value. While community and technological mediation can both be easily reduced to money, without the allure of non-instrumental usefulness, no community would ever succeed. People don’t join Facebook or Twitter simply to accumulate cultural or economic capital: they also join because they are not free-floating individuals, but rather singularities that emerge from conditions of collectivity. Supercommunity begins from this assumption.

Inside the Italian Pavillion, Biennale visitors are greeted with a work of art consisting of a 100-day recital of Marx’s Capital. Outside however, they are confronted with e-flux’s installation, a billboard featuring excerpts from multiple texts selected for the Supercommunity special issue, which thereby invite participants to view the online equivalent, perhaps then becoming involved in these networks. While the readership of Capital historically created community, as in every other case, the book form required live interaction not only between reader and author, body and book, but also between reader, author, and a live community of commenters and interpreters.

We at The New Centre look forward to the unfolding of such a Supercommunity over the course of the next 100 days. What united us in purpose with e-flux is that we both have taken advantage of precarious media to build impactful institutions in the realm of culture at the threshold of the 21st century. e-flux’s model serves as an inspiration for our own projects arriving more recently, both with respect to the seriousness with which we engage the qualities of our medium - the Internet and its associated platforms - and with respect to our commitment to inventing a future.

In the next 100 days, the New Centre’s community members will serve as first respondents to texts from the Supercommunity special issue of e-flux, thereby framing the initial development of the discussions. Subsequent commentary is open to all: please join us in this project by registering your own e-flux Conversations account at http://conversations.e-flux.com/signup.

/// Click here to visit the Supercommunity web site ///


#2

So great to see precarity spoken about in a straightforward fashion, and positioned as a tool rather than as a subject of lament and resentment. Brave new world!


#3

What’s interesting is how e-flux is using this opportunity to bring more than just art and its history into their discourse. Let the 56th Venice Biennale be the one during which the inadequacy of art to deal with itself or the world is made explicit and displayed on a world stage.


Superconversations Day 2: Kate Steinmann responds to Martha Rosler, "The Art of Cooking: A Dialogue Between Julia Child & Craig Claiborne"
#4

The possibility of a generic identity for the conversation as a whole is of interest to me. I will be paying attention to where that identity swerves.


#5

Indeed institutions are in crisis because people are in crisis, but this relationship lately has turned reciprocal. We no longer trust civic institutions, from the cultural to the municipal—our faith lies in the financial.

Without a doubt, building institutions with radical imaginations is incredibly important moving forward. And like the New Centre, I agree in our collective impulse, but I am also equally disheartened by the assertion of earnestness of the Supercommunity and Superconversations project. I understand the promise of seriousness, but it also reveals to me a greater concern: we are suspicious of ourselves and we are anxious about how others will receive our message. So why trust the rhetoric of the Supercommunity and why engage with its playful language? Am I supposed to be surprised/stunned/dazzled by the opening statement?

Surely I am surprised/stunned/dazzled by such a confrontation and trust the Supercommunity because it(?) is correct! These issues are of the imagination—they are cultural and social, rather than technical problems. I think it was Teddy Cruz who said climate change is not a technical problem, but a cultural one. We know that driving cars and burning fossil fuels is bad for the environment, but that doesn’t stop our cultural/social habits. Solving technical problems is not difficult, but radically altering social and cultural imaginations is incredibly challenging—once a culture change happens, issues resolve themselves quite neatly. We need a new social and spiritual order.

I am convinced, but I sure am skeptical. Maybe there is some comfort in this contra-perspective?


#6

If there is anything to be gleaned from its initial statement, the Supercommunity appears to be the General-Intellect bootstrapped to the positive feedback loops in the present. Let’s hope what appears as its initial principle is achieved as material fact.


#7

@jo_rosal, did I hear #Accelerate?


#8

<< People don’t join Facebook or Twitter simply to accumulate cultural or economic capital: they also join because they are not free-floating individuals, but rather singularities that emerge from conditions of collectivity. Supercommunity begins from this assumption. >>

Indeed the idea of here/now the person transcends a material body, no longer a locus of awareness in Lacanian mirror space, no longer a subject, the singularity can assert itself globally, without name, or with many names, without face or with many. As a singularity this singularity asserts a new kind of prosopon, no longer a reflective face in meat space but through emanations cast forth in new media. Singularities in abstract space, topoi casting about functors, gesticulating meaning in supercommunity, a New Centre of orbits and gravities.


#9

Agreed. The interesting thing here is the use of the first person, but in an unsigned article in which the I is actually an impersonal singular “We” (in the original piece under discussion here). Just as all existing antelopes are together a collective singularity that will never appear again if they were to all die out, so too is the Supercommunity a collective singularity, rising from and back into the machinic phylum from whence it came, in this case, e-flux, The New Centre & the 56th Venice Biennale.


#10

Have there ever been civic institutions, cultural or municipal? Or have they always been expressions of the financial, or at least, of the presently-hegemonic political economy in a given time and space? Marx’s assertion that communism is “not for us a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself… [but] the real movement which abolishes the present state of things" is premised upon a further statement: "the conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence”. Those premises are financialized capitalism, and so don’t we have to begin from the conditions in which currently find ourselves in order to find where we might go next? In other words, maybe we can’t solve social and cultural lack of imagination without an adequate grappling with the technological and political economic condition in which we currently exist…


#11

I’d like to respond to the following passage in the initiating statement: Having no body and no name is a small price to pay for being wild, for being free to move across (some) countries, (some) political boundaries, (some) historical ideologies, and (some) economies." I wonder if asserting absence of body and identity really does “justice” to the immanent plane that seems to be emerging here. That’s why I think it important to filter such familiar concepts as Body Without Organs, smooth vrs striated space, singularity and multiplicity, machinic assemblage and so forth, through the discourses of 2nd Order Cybernetics and cognitive- as well as neuro-sciences. A working knowledge of emergent systems, and of the distinctions as well as similarities between embodied and distributed cognition–similarities for example with respect to top-down and bottom-up cognitive processes at work both within the individual embodied and the collective distributed ensemble, will provide an anchor for such theorizing. It’s important to remember that Deleuze and Guattari knew the work of Varela, for example, and that the research of folks like Ewin Hutchins resonate powerfully with the theoretical terminology mentioned earlier. I hope we can follow up with recourse to philosophical AND scientific rigor as we explore the larger implications of this technology, and the art-practices implied by a reading community engaged with this Biennal.


#12

Concerns have been expressed thus far about the General Intellect when conceived as putting technology & political economy in front of imagination. These are oft-remarked concerns, it seems because we are still not comfortable with the machines we both are and are a part of as (always have been), as a material fact. While the aura of public space and print media for instance, are still celebrated phenomenologically, in the terms of “lived experience”, both have always been as temporally conditioned as anything else. And although theoretical engagements with the Internet have long lamented the passing of the periodic rhythms of print, since they too, were supposed to support a (non-interactive) collective reception that would thereby enable a more participatory democracy, the decline of delayed theorizing should not immediately suggest the opposite. To the contrary, while the distributed networks from which thought assembles and into which it disperses are now as irreducible to “universal” intellectuals as movements are to “universal” leaders, what follows may well enable a more radical, complex and whole democracy, one predicated upon “the conditions of the process of social life itself… under the control of the general intellect”. The live temporality of the current moment may tend toward reflex over reflection, conventional answers to conventional questions, but that is not its only possible outcome, as we will hopefully be witness to in the Supercommunity. Indeed, the becoming-resonant of the theorizing process itself may actually enhance the simultaneous, ubiquitous collective reception championed by the adherents of print media and public space, the traditionally-lauded zones of collective imagination…


#13

I think a reassessment of “scientific rigor” must needs be addressed in the space of Supercommunity: too long this has been described using frequentist statistics; p- values, confidence intervals, academically assigned relevancies, I think art-space among singularities gives a place to explore further and maybe come out with new ideas of science rigor, and a philosophical underpinning for such.


#14

Is there really such a thing as embodiment, full stop? If only 1/10th of the human body is actually human and 9/10ths are composed of OTHER bodies, then the rhetoric of embodiment seems to lose 9/10ths of its force, as well. Not to mention that no single body which is itself already many trillions of bodies existing simultaneously in the same corporeality, is itself predicated on a multiplicity of other sustaining bodies externally, trillions and trillions more, to boot. Which is simply to say, embodied cognition is itself distributed cognition, perhaps…

The human body contains about 100 trillion cells, but only maybe one in 10 of those cells is actually — human.


#15

I searched for supercommunity on Google images and came across this picture:

Then when I ran a reverse image search on it, Google images gave me a page full of pictures of snow, ice and north pole, so I picked this one:

I thought maybe suprcommunity can perhaps be located somewhere between these two, a group of people working together to go somewhere adventurous or to just be cool.


#16

And as we learned from Interstellar’s Tesseract, it is only gravity that can create wormholes capable of folding space-tme.


#17

Interesting comment Jason: As embodied, we are multitudes; yet we are also capable of singular agency. The fractional model doesn’t quite work right in this context, because it is irrelevant. Executive Function takes up relatively little space in the prefrontal and frontal cortex, but it exerts far greater agency than its “mass” would predict if your fractional metaphor held. Current theoretical models, and empirical studies bear out the “other bodies” comment; take for example, the neural Darwinism of Gerald Edelman. But the behavior of emergent neuronal ensembles, as, for example, what goes on during jazz improvisation, puts Executive Function on notice that top-down control is not the only way to make the multitudinous a functioning singularity. Same is true for the level of complexity and sophistication of a jazz ensemble, when, say, compared to a conductor rehearsing and then directing the performance of an orchestra as it articulates a score according to the “vision” of that conductor. The larger social and political implications of contemporary cognitive science certainly bears on the issues raised by the initial passage that we are responding to…


#18

A supercommunity might productively be thought of as a blind representation of subcommunities which purposefully eschew that representation (super- logos) in order to retain a generic freedom of access to a transcendental mode of being that forms a virtual gestalt. The exact shape of this speculative gestalt would not necessarily be determined in the last instance. It would rather be radically present to its own virtuality in an underdetermined way. It would never really be content to be curated.


#19

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Laruelle’s statement on complicity in “Intellectuals and Power,” where he states that it is the “principle of philosophical vision of the World,” and how we either in academia, para-academia, the art-world, or any other world for that matter, must struggle with this fundamental complicity.

I sense and hope that Supercommunity is providing us with the generalized exception that is the backdrop of complicity of wildness, freedom, and dispersion that creates the opportunity for grounded but untrammeled dialogue flows through the various intersections of responsibility in the complicitous sense and commitment we articulate in our writings. And here’s precisely where I think that we can begin to rearrange the dialogue and challenge the precariousness of the technocultural body, through the act of complicity or the standing back away from the decision that disallows for the production of what Tom calls “the generic identity.”

I think it behooves us to recognize precisely how separated this conversation can be from the commodity circulation by always struggling with our commitments to each other, to dialogue, and to the act of complicity. Commodities, as far as I understand, do not emanate from capital–this would be to reify the relations of production and to fall in the trap of doing the cognitive work for Capital. Rather, commodities have to be put into a particular kind of circulation in order to create surplus-value, as we all know.

Is that our fear? That we will create a community that circulates as a commodity, that we cannot resist the allure of capital? For me the New Centre is the antithesis of precarity, given that it is formed out of an explicit commitment to resist commodification through the management of its circulation. Precarity is generally either an explicit condition of the social relations of capital, or the secret truth of geological life, but thankfully, the Supercommunity only need be as precarious as its struggle against commodification is.

Let us be multitudes in the singular, as Martin suggests. Or singular collectivities, as Deleuze and Jane Bennett suggest.

At any rate, it should be a damn good conversation.


#20

Call me an intransigent marxist, but I think we might need to always focus on the materiality of the commodity before we give way to fear over our activities.