Archive for the ‘piracy’ Category

blind signifiers in the new age

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
No More Potlucks 17

No More Potlucks 17

The seventeeth issue of the illustrious No More Potlucks, edited by Sophie Le Phat Ho, is dedicated to inducting its readers into magic — magie no. 17 | no more potlucks.

The choice of ‘magic’ as a topic came out of a concern – une préoccupation qui semble être partagée, vu la richesse des contributions présentées dans ce numéro – for what we are up against… En effet, la magie relève de la technique, de la pratique, du procédé, de l’art, de l’action. Elle est donc intimement liée à une analyse de la réalité, de l’environnement, et ne serait être de l’ordre du divertissement, de la fantasmagorie… Bref, this is serious. [Sophie Le Phat Ho, editor]

This issue features a brief piece I writ entitled Blind Signifiers in the New Age, introduced by a recent communication sent to Hakim Bey.

Blind Signifers is a condensed text on magick as the art of the slippage between signifers, the minimum distance of which constitutes consensual reality. Magick in this respect is a force in the sense that it generates effects wrought from symbolic subterfuge. Magick traverses the realms of the illusionary and the imaginary; it is precisely that viscosity that allows us to conceive of that which would puncture reality with its surreality or irreality. In this sense, magick (a) is generative through effects of signifying systems and (b) is not to be trifled with. Its underlying principle is that CHAOS NEVER DIED.

on the plains / Hakim Bey postcard

on the plains / Hakim Bey postcard

The principle point is that magick is very much in use all around us: it connects the surface of things; it is especially engaged to ensure consistency of action/reaction in systems of capitalist desire, notably consumerism. It is not magic at work here, not the mere trickery of an illusion, but magick, the technics of signifier slippage, the art of symbolic subterfuge. These be the darker arts when used to deceive.

Any such concept of magick as a praxis of symbols follows from the work of Hakim Bey, whose creative work with chaos theory (and the Mandelbrot Set), connecting anarcho-politics to the folds of physics and geography as well as the deconstruction of semiotics and philosophy some 25 odd years ago is, I would argue, indispensible to grasping semiocapitalism. Yet like all texts, including this one, it is writ with a cleaved-edge. Beware the folds.

There are many good essays in this collection (do read them) but relevant to my own work is Magic, Strategy and Capitalism: An interview with aladin by Anja Kanngieser and Leila, who pose the question “what happens to magic once it is embedded in the languages of business and industry?”. Indeed; this is the fundamental question that founds the dark art of advertising and second order cybernetics. However this question ought to be reinscribed: how is it that magick is the basis of capital? How is it that magick constitutes the language of capital itself?

To this end, I would suggest a deeper reading into the “tradition” of magick, as well as that of Marx. Perhaps magic has always been about entertainment and tricks, but magick operates at ways far more embedded into the technics of perception, which is to say, the way in which value is inscribed and perceived.

In this sense—which needs qualifying—the language of magic has been, as the article suggests, “put into use for capital,” but only as a secondary effect or diversion from the magick of capital itself.  Reading Marx, magick is that operation which derives exchange value from use value. Capital operates by way of magick. It is that which makes the “commodity stand on its head” in Das Kapital. Marx often discusses capital as “phenomena” and “illusion,” as a “phantom,” but none of these are terms meant in the tradition of cheap tricks: a social relation is masked behind the relations of capital. Violent, dark magick, in other words, the magick of turning quality into quantity, humanity into slavery, world into resource, is at the heart of capital. Capital is no cheap trick; its cost is Faustian.

As Marx writes, capital’s effects are phantomic; it is precisely this haunting effect, this “specter” of capital which, according to Marx, needs to be exorcised. Over a century later, in 1994, Derrida argued in Specters of Marx that the phantom in general—hauntology—cannot be exorcised. In short, the revolutionary magick proposed by Marx (which was famously unthought) against the magick of capital cannot eradicate the fundamental principles (of magick) upon which capital is based. Why? For the principles of capital—magick—are also those of its antithesis. Any possible antithesis. One cannot eradicate the simulacra; for at base, there is only a doubling of simulacra. Or to put it another way: to attempt to exorcize capital would obliterate the very principle of revolutionary communism, the imaginative magick of a collective ideal. To attempt to practice absolute exorcisim only unleashes the violence at the core of all magicks claiming to unveil or obliterate the true origin or the true illusion (the two being equivalent in force). One cannot exorcise ghosts nor dark magick in toto or ex nihilio. The principle of magick is always thus always doubled: (1) magick never comes from nothing; it always draws from another power and (2) thus it always produces unintended effects and consequences that remain in excess to its intentions. As Derrida thoughtfully explored—in a way few have—one has to learn to live with ghosts. To speak with them. Speak to it, Horatio. Learn to speak the language of magick. One does not exorcise magick; one seeks to practice it as the art of samizdat and containment. Infiltration. And other creative arts that destabilize the easy yet dangerous magick of commodification.

Likewise, when Marx wrote that “All that is solid melts into air” as effect of capitalism, he had in mind the magick of substantial transmutation, not as trick or hoax but as the slippage of signs in which an object of use value (the table) is stood on its head, begins to walk, and becomes the commodity of exchange value—out of which evolves further signs:

But, so soon as it [the wooden table] steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than ‘table-turning’ ever was. (Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities” in Capital Vol 1)

Magick breeds magick; we are deep now in the realm of these wooden, grotesque ideas of semiocapitalism. In the 21st century, magick has revealed itself as operative mechanism of capital in-itself; this is the meaning of the 2008 financial crisis. This is a crisis of the system of signifiers which determines valuation, a crisis of completely speculative levels of capital which are completely estranged from what Marx called “use value.” It is the beautifully complex world where negative effects (debt) are valued as positive on a completely speculative basis of future returns—returns which, as the various complex operations of debt transfer and futures demonstrate, are expended infinitely until “all that is solid melts into air,” completely suspended, and crashes. And the effects of this crash are disastrous.

Herein lies the “trickle down” effect of capitalism: all the debt culled from below and profited from above returns with a vengeance, as it does not trickle but torrents down and pools in the trenches. At the bottom, those impoverished drown in debt. This is what smiling Reagan meant when he sold trickle-down capitalism to the masses. Shit runs downhill. While all shall inherit the debts of the financial crash, those at the bottom, unable to dodge the wreckage, will reap its total effects, as all of semiocapitalism, as all that dark magick and uncollected emptiness, trickles down into a whirlpool of poverty. This is the lesson of trickle down capitalism: those above, unless clinging to the burning hulk as it splits apart, never even have to open an umbrella. The metaphors are pushed here, but you get the point.

A keyword missing from this discussion with aladin would be afrofuturism, where the dark arts of magick take on another dimension, that of the transmutation of concepts such as race. Perhaps more on this soon.

double p/androgyne: s/he is (still) her/e

double p/androgyne: s/he is (still) her/e

I would also highly recommend the evocative Sex Magic in One Act: Exploring the Properties of Extensional Sex by Lolix. The reversal of inside to outside using sex magick’s gendered body from female to male is here rendered explicit in creative sex work. Pan/drogyne, in short. Lolix explores a shift that takes us beyond -x to +x, presence of the phallus/absence of the vaginal interiority, and into the  z/y axes to a third-eye dimensional sense of the chiasmus. This text and its images work on many layers. It brings to mind the latest incarnation of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, as s/he becomes neither male nor female, yet both, as the physical incarnation of Genesis’ now deceased partner. The signifying magick be: S/HE IS (STILL) HER/E, the permutations of which continue to unfold in the flesh.


free vampirism

Friday, July 15th, 2011

had a bit of a revelation on the whole “free” economy. it can work in specific cases but the reality is that here/now, things aren’t set up to be able to handle free. energetically or otherwise. so the very idea of “free” here… if it’s expected and ends up draining people in the process is a type of vampirism of sorts. thats a strong word… but we need fair exchange, not people greedy sucking at an all you can eat menu. if we where balanced, then its a different story. it should be free. we know deep down that it should be. but we’re here, and things aren’t balance. and that’s where we’re at, so free a lot of the times can be feeding the greed economy, the suck them dry economy. when it comes to protecting the integrity of important knowledge, copyright is super important. [vynny]

Indeed, though copyright is super important only if it’s collectively enforceable, claimable by content creators, and modifiable. Getting paid is key, I’d say, not necessarily the archaic apparatus of copyright. What we need is protection from theft by megacorps. Copyright shouldn’t be about hoarding. Squatter’s laws in effect. If you don’t use it, it’s up for grabs—but not for corporate use. Though I’ve heard plenty of critiques of Creative Commons, I think it’s “share-alike” license is the best thing going.

21C book burning: Scribd & the DMCA

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

\ I’m not sure what to say about this, considering that the essay existed in PDF form not from Leonardo but from my own Word document. Leonardo never even gave me a PDF, nor a Galley proof, for that matter. Is it Leonardo / MIT Press that is blanket-searching Scribd for phrases that may correspond to their own published material?

If so, I never signed over copyright to them [see below]—I wasn’t paid for this piece, nor was it printed on paper. It was relegated to an abstract at the back of the printed Journal, with the piece distributed over email and online. It lacked proper formatting and remained generally unread because of its poor presentation. From what I remember of discussions with other authors, those of us who were “bumped” in this manner were not impressed. This is precisely why I am behind cracking open the locked vaults of academic knowledge. Enough overpaid subscriptions to ivory towers. Viva Open Access Publishing!

As far as I am concerned, this is censorship—not of the malicious, targeted-kind,  as if I am spreading some kind of samizdat here, but of the dumb, computers-are-fucking-us-over-kind, aided & abetted by some lawyer somewhere who is currently earning more than all the authors he is screwing-blind combined. Thus I proudly present the paper in its pirate lair, where it has been drinking merrily for years:

Turn/Stile: Remixing Udo Kasemets’ CaleNdarON

Leonardo Music Journal 13; Leonardo Electronic Almanac: Groove Pit and Wave. MIT P: 2003/2004.

The more these commercial distribution services like Youtube, Soundcloud, etc, pander to blanket-DMCA requests generated by some robot somewhere, the more it forces a redistribution into decentralized nodes of underground information. Just imagine—in the future, you won’t even be able to use citation on a blog as the Internet Robot will immediately recognise the use of someone’s words without permission. (Remember, Hallmark owns the copyright to “Happy Birthday”…).

Think it won’t happen? Think again. Because when machines do the reading, they don’t think—they just execute a binary decision based upon a percentile of a parameter matched. Think about that. The technocracy is indeed a troubling concern.


23 March 2011: An update–see my counter-file DMCA notice. I did sign over copyright to ISAST, but I retain specific rights which, as I interpret it, include publishing the article in my own “anthology” on Scribd. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I’d sign such a broad agreement today for an unpaid piece that does not guarantee (a) a publication format; (b) reversion of rights to author should the Press fail to keep the work in print;  (c) renumeration rights for paid electronic distribution services (i.e. Kindle); and (d) the right to electronically distribute for educational and academic purposes (not just “photocopy” for teaching—note  the imbalance of rights, where the publisher retains all future-forward electronic rights of distribution while the author can only photocopy as a means of distributing their own article for teaching purposes!). From the Publication Agreement:

Agreement:  We are pleased to have the privilege of publishing your Article in a forthcoming issue of  Leonardo Music Journal. By your signature below, you hereby grant all your right, title, and interest including copyright for the text, layout, and image placement of the Article, to The International Society for the Arts Sciences and Technology (ISAST).

Rights Reserved by Author: You hereby retain and reserve for yourself a non-exclusive license: 1.) to photocopy the Article for use in your own teaching activities as long as the article is not offered for sale, and 2.) to publish the Article, or permit it to be published, as a part of any book you may write, or in any anthology of which you are an editor, in which the Article is included or which expands or elaborates on the Article, unless the anthology is drawn primarily from Leonardo Music Journal.  As a condition of reserving this right, you agree that MIT Press and Leonardo Music Journal will be given first publication credit, and proper copyright notice will be displayed on the work (both on the work as a whole and, where applicable, on the Article as well) whenever such publication occurs.

It’s worth reiterating that I gave MIT Press free content. Their DMCA shennanigans strikes at the very core of why academics publish: to see the work distributed and archived. To this end, MIT Press is not meeting its obligations, as the content is no longer available online. This is the link provided for the article; it no longer exists:

So after failing to distribute and archive the article, MIT Press then strikes it off the Net with a DMCA. Why? I believe the answer is here:

With the re-launch of the Leonardo Electronic Almanac (LEA) we inherited a rich historical collection of writings and thematic issues that spans twenty years.

Historical collections, particularly historical collections of digital media hosted over the Internet, have had a tendency to disappear with the closure of a server or to be left abandoned on a database hosted on the hard drive of a dusty computer in the department of a university. The editorial choice for LEA was not simply that of re-presenting the same material, but to propose to the academic, artistic and scientific communities to re-engage with issues and themes 20 years later. The idea is to develop new discourses, re-attempt to put to rest old diatribes and to engage with the developments in the field of the interactions between art, science and technology.

The editorial choice I made was to collect the old material and make it available on Kindle, remediating the old format and rekindling old arguments and passions by finalizing arguments that appear to no longer have relevance and by breathing new life in to historical subject areas that are still relevant today, picking up from the threads left by the pioneers and commentators of the recent past.  [Lanfranco Aceti, Editor-in-Chief, LEA]

What does this mean? It means that Leonardo/MIT Press/ISAST failed to keep up their end of the publishing contract, which is to maintain the electronic source online. Since they’ve now repackaged the lot and published it with Kindle, they’ve got the lawyers hopping across the internets striking down the content that authors have since self-published or otherwise distributed due to the complete failure of LEA to maintain a proper digital archive.

And that, my friends, is why closed academic publishing in a digital, online environment is a complete mistake. Don’t sign such agreements. Renegotiate. Nobody wants their work locked up on some “dusty computer in the department of a university”, which is precisely what the LEA has done. Republishing on Kindle is not sufficient, in my opinion, to uphold the original contract, which called for online publication in the Journal. So where are the LEA’s archives? Why is content dating back to the early ’90s being sold when the content was never paid for to begin with? Why isn’t the LEA making such content free and open to the public?



après moi, le deluge — & the Olympicon

Monday, February 15th, 2010

eye-in-the-sky security blimp over the Callaghan as the crowds press on toward a logistics nightmare

I am currently living in the midst of the Olympic maelstrom. For some reason I thought I might find myself frantically blogging the madness, but for the most part I find myself uninterested in doing so. Organised indie media such as the Vancouver Media Coop have kept it under control, and the damage is flying so fast & furious — see Democracy Now’s coverage of Olympic resistance to CBC on VANOC’s bad logistics & lack of venue foresight — that keeping up on Twitter seems to be the way to roll. So instead of daily blogging, I’ve been tweeting impressions & links [ @fugitivephilo ]. Anyway, first came the torch, and for that I have a video, ambivalence & beer included:


music as an organisational principle: resonance

Thursday, August 20th, 2009
musikal resistance (2000) / dj.glim

musikal resistance (2000) / dj.glim

Revolutionary movements do not spread by contamination but by resonance. Something that is constituted here resonates with the shock wave emitted by something constituted over there. A body that resonates does so according to its own mode. An insurrection is not like a plague or a forest fire – a linear process which spreads from place to place after an initial spark. It rather takes the shape of a music, whose focal points, though dispersed in time and space, succeed in imposing the rhythm of their own vibrations, always taking on more density. To the point that any return to normal is no longer desirable or even imaginable. (The Coming Insurrection 13)

As of 2009, the suspected authors of this lively and at times satirically brilliant text – in the best tradition of insurrectionist French theory, a nod to Voltaire – are still facing charges, some released from prison, others being held & questioned. Any following critical comments are critical only insofar as they applaud the force of this text.

Yet – and there is a yet with this text – something of the darkly humorous & inventive tone is lost by the time the text announces, in a rather didactic fashion, its prescriptions for action as a way of closure. These prescriptives are a tad too prescriptive for me. And I think in this passage all of what invigorates me – yet frustrates me – can be heard.


pirate librarians.

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
capitalizing on the library pirate.

capitalizing on the library pirate.

The rate of piracy and cloning ensures, despite copyright protections, the rapid diffusion of ever new products. Their real economic interest lies in achieving mass use of their products, which requires a certain level of initiation on the part of potential consumers. The example of the first public libraries at the end of the 18th century can help us to understand this apparently paradoxical phenomenon. At first, the opening of the first public libraries was seen by book publishers as a serious threat to their profits. But afterwards, free access to reading led to the massification of the publishing market well beyond the initial portion of readers/consumers to whom publishers sold their books, as they exercised a monopoly based on the cost of production. We now know that the monopolistic control of book readers is no longer exercised on the basis of the costs of production and sales but on control over distribution, of the organization of access to knowledge in general. (Marazzi, Capital and Language 95)

The predicament of the music & film industry today – or rather any industry in which the object can be not only easily digitalized & cloned, but then disseminated  – could perhaps learn something from  book publishers of the 18th century. While the case for sharing one’s property in the 21C usually cite  the ‘home taping’ debates of the ’80s (whether cassette tapes or VCRs), the historical precedent stretches into the history of knowledge itself, and its most pointed moments arise in the production of that which tends towards the intangible: the text. (Music, as film, remains a text in this sense.)