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<nettime> For those not on Undercurrents
sjkurtz on Sat, 14 Dec 2002 11:49:57 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> For those not on Undercurrents

CAE members feel a little ambivalent about posting this, but for those not
on Undercurrents that might be interested, here is CAE's post from a few
days back. Let's hope that this unproductive, inquisitional thread that
promotes character assassination and empty accusations over constructive
dialogue can be put to bed.


Having just read Coco's recent commentary on CAE's latest book, we thought
it might be a good idea to set the record straight on the content of our
recent publication. While it is fairly obvious that our book only
functions in the post as a trigger for a spewing forth of discontent
against the conspiracy of alt.net culture (whatever that is) and the
genuinely lame attack on postcolonial theory by Hardt and Negri, there are
enough misrepresentations and fabrications about CAE's work that we felt
compelled to give a response. We will limit ourselves to the few places
where we were addressed directly.

<<I am very interested in the subject of CAE's recent publication -- i.e.  
agribusiness' investment in genetically modified seed and food -- because
of its role in enhancing neo-colonialist control over poor countries. At
the same time, I am alarmed by the increasingly overt anti-postcolonial
position of CAE. >>

First, this is not what _The Molecular Invasion_ (MI) is about.  
Agribusiness receives only a modest mention. The book is about the
politics of transgenics, building contestational models and tactics by
using the tools of the biological sciences, and confronting capital in
molecular and biochemical space. What this topic or our treatment of it
has to do with an "overt anti-post-colonial position" is a mystery to us.
The absence of any footnotes, examples, or quotes to illustrate this ugly
accusation only furthers the mystery.

 <<and the blind faith in a "better science' to somehow be invented 
by a band of artists who will miraculously work outside the 
military-biotech-entertainment complex strikes me as terrifyingly 
self-serving attempts at discrediting anti-racist thought or distressingly 

We are not mentioned by name here, but close enough. CAE is not trying to
create a "better science." We are only interested in seeing what kind of
tools of resistance can be derived from this knowledge base. The papers
necessary to accomplish this task are public domain and are easily
accessed in the corporate commons (we like PubMed ourselves), the
equipment is available at a reasonable cost on Ebay, and the processes one
needs to know are fairly simple to perform (You donít need a PhD). One of
the main points of our book is that you do not have to have a contract
with DARPA to explore this area, nor do you have to be a recognized
expert. This is one of the great lessons CAE learned from ACT UP: There is
no territory that cannot be entered by amateurs with radical intent, and
they can command agency in these territories. If this is "distressingly
naive" we are willing to live with it.

<<In earlier publications about electronic civil disobedience, CAE's
tendency was to write off Civil Rights and anti-colonialist derived
approaches to identity as part of a past that had been "transcended" in
the information age. That (false) teleology was troublesome, but not as
openly confrontational as the new position. >>

A very strange reading of ECD.  Not only has CAE praised the civil rights
movement on numerous occasions (most notable in _Digital Resistance_,
pp.16-17), we also actively promoted these (and other post-colonial)
tactics within certain contexts. In ECD, we say how useful such activity
is particularly in local struggles (p.10).  The second chapter then goes
on to speak about resistance tactics for the street. We at no time "write
off" anything. The problem is that CD is not the solution to all
situations in which power is confronted. We wanted to construct a model
that could confront virtual/nomadic power. CD is incapable of doing this.
To argue such a thing is not a teleology. It is only to acknowledge that
political economy and urban ecology have changed over the past 50 years,
and we need more and different tactics to address the various shifts.
Whether it is ECD or contestational biology the point is not to attack the
past or belittle historical triumphs, but to expand our options and
enhance what is already available. There is nothing either/or about our
proposals; they are and/both. The models and tools are designed to work in
harmony with other means, not against them.

<<In Wark's assessment of the CAE book he notes that CAE now suggests that
postcolonial theory is naively dependent on the notions of racial purity
and that its infatuation with hybridity depends on a literal minded view
of it as the mixing of two plant strains.>>

We have never done any thing of the kind. CAE invites anyone to put up a
quote from MI (or any other work) where we have said such a thing, and we
will gladly confess we have done wrong. We never even mention postcolonial
theory in the book, let alone attack it. We say nothing about postcolonial
theory assuming notions of racial purity (incidentally, we don;t believe
this to be true and have never argued this position), and the only time we
speak of hybridity is in its biological sense.

<< At no point does CAE attempt to address specific postcolonial theories
or artworks.>>

That is because the book is not about post-colonial theory or art, so
there is not much point in giving examples.

 <<Postcolonialism and anti-racism become logos without content -- straw
men set up by white male leftists who prefer to foreground ways to negate
postcolonial arguments than to engage them. >>

 It seems CAE is the straw man here. We invite everyone to look at the
text at CAE's web-site <critical-art.net> and judge for yourself. It can
be downloaded free of charge.

As a wise old professor once told CAE, "If you are going to criticize a
text, it helps to read it first."

Critical Art Ensemble

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