fear of a wet planet: rhythm I

August 24th, 2009 | 1 comment
Drexciya (descending AfroMer)

Drexciya (descending AfroMer)

We should linger here for a long while on rhythm: it is nothing other than the time of time, the vibration of time itself in the stroke of a present that presents it by separating it from itself, freeing it from its simple stanza to make it into scansion (rise, raising of the foot that beats) and cadence (fall, passage into the pause). Thus, rhythm separates the succession of the linearity of the sequence or length of time: it bends time to give it to time itself, and it is in this way that it folds and unfolds a “self.” (Nancy, Listening 17)

What might philosophy do with rhythm? There are three cardinal points I can think of in regards to rhythm: (1) the chapter on the Refrain in A Thousand Plateaus; (2) Lefebvre’s posthumously published work on Rhythmanalysis; and (3) Nancy’s work on rhythm in Listening. There are, of course, other writings on the topic, but these three examples are cardinal points as they mark out different approaches (mind you, within a late Western philosophy – we’ll get to Afrofuturism). In this post I’ll tackle something of D&G.

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    music as an organisational principle: resonance

    August 20th, 2009 | No comments yet
    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.

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      the convergence towards alter-globalization

      August 19th, 2009 | No comments yet
      Los Angeles, 08.15.2000.

      Los Angeles, 08.15.2000.

      When searching for indications of the global multitude, it has become something of a commonplace for theorists such as Negri, Marazzi, Virno and other Italian Autonomists (but not limited to them) to point towards the “antiglobalization movement,” which is usually granted its worldwide stage debut at the WTO protests in Seattle (1999) with further economic summit gatherings making their mark as well as traditional political gatherings (DNC in LA, 2000; World Economic Forum in Davos, 2001; FTAA in Genoa, 2001; Summit of the Americas in Québec City, 2001). With 9/11, the “movement” is usually seen as dissipating into an antiwar focus; moreover the possibility of organised mass protest after 9/11 disintegrates in the wake of repressive “security” measures globally. The question is how this time of global, networked turbulent uprising has been represented & interpreted among theorists.

      Commenting on Naomi Klein’s No Logo, Christian Marazzi writes (circa 2002) that:

      The “no logo people” has been constituting itself with protest tactics against the privatization of public space, against the symbolic commodification effected by the multinational producers of consumer goods. The protests against the logo and against the world circuit of exploitation of the work force described by Klein have worked as a lever in the global growth of an “antiglobal” movement. (Capital and Language 138)

      Marazzi’s summation remains limited in two respects. First, it is somewhat of a one-dimensional analysis insofar as it accepts without question the term “antiglobal” while overplaying the significance of the “no logo people.” Second, Klein’s No Logo, significant now as it was then in providing the framework for an analysis of the symbolic structures of global capital, remains theoretically and descriptively inadequate to encompass the diverse manifestations of what is not an antiglobalization movement, but an alterglobalization convergence. There remains a terribly incomplete perception of the alterglobalization convergence of the mid-’90s to 2001 among theories of the multitude (Marazzi goes on to write: “The global crisis of the logo, in other words, suggests that it is on the terrain of the political definition of the body of the multitude that the future of the protest movement will be played out”).

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        pirate librarians.

        August 18th, 2009 | 1 comment
        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.)

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          general intellect is in the brain & brawn.

          August 17th, 2009 | 5 comments
          cognitive labour, the human machine.

          cognitive labour, the human machine.

          While I am often taken by the Italian Autonomist readings of general intellect in Marx (from the Grundrisse) the concept of locating ‘fixed capital’ not in machines but in the body of living labour can be challenging to pinpoint on a concrete level. The concept of general intellect, as it becomes what is called “cognitive labour,” is precisely that of the commodification, consumption and conscription of the living concrete today: the subject, in her body, and her cognitive power.

          With a machine,  the investment of capital in an object can be readily grasped. Capital is invested in a machine that generates, through its production, more capital. Voila, this be fixed capital. And to invent a machine, one needs ‘general intellect’, which is to say, science (in the general sense: the knowledge of making X). A machine comes about through the production of a technical knowledge and science. Fixed capital relies upon the production of such knowledge (its invention & dissemination; which leads to an inherent argument for the freedom of information while at the same time providing the condition for information to become a commodity under copyright – but I digress). Thus general intellect is fixed, as in materialized by way of capital, in the machine.

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