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Re: <nettime> The Art of the Undercommons
Snafu on Sat, 26 Feb 2011 21:59:23 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> The Art of the Undercommons


Hi Stevphen,

thank you for posting this insightful article, I enjoyed reading it, and 
I am glad we get to discuss Konrad's work on this list.

I have a set of questions for you, Konrad, and any nettimer who has 
anything to say on tactics-strategy in the present scenario. From the 
way you are linking Becker, Debord, De Certeau, CAE, and autonomist 
thought it seems to me that your primary preoccupation still lies with 
how to preserve the integrity of what you have called elsewhere "the 
radical imagination." In other words, the good old question of recuperation.

While I agree with you that the wealth of knowledge and "infrapolitics" 
of radical subcultures and social movements can be strategic (without 
necessarily turning into a form of domination) I am not sure whether 
this wealth is best preserved through a strategy of concealment and 
disappearance. I am referring here to the present historic phase, in 
which over the last 4 months we have witnessed the emergence of at least 
four waves of social movements:

1) The North-African / Middle Eastern  pro-democracy movements;
2) The American Midwest public employees movements opposing state budget 
cuts and the attack on collective bargaining rights;
3) The European student movements opposing state cuts to higher education;
4) and the growing Internet-based movements for "radical transparency" 
and freedom of speech (e.g., Wikileaks and Anonymous).

Although these movements are rooted in different socioeconomic and 
cultural contexts, they share common elements and, more importantly, a 
common time-frame. Not only these movements all use the Internet to 
organize, share tactics and express solidarity (from the networked pizza 
deliveries to shared anti-censorship strategies, DDoSes, etc.) but they 
tend to come in waves that feed into each other and amplify each other. 
As Republican representative from Wisconsin Paul Ryan put it as huge 
crowds were gathering in front of the Capitol in Madison "It's like 
Cairo has moved to Madison." Or, as Glenn Beck keeps repeating on Fox, 
the demonstrations in the Middle East are just early manifestations of 
"the coming insurrection" pre-announced by the Invisible Committee. 
(Ironically, the notoriety and visibility of the Invisible Committee in 
the U.S. is due for the most part to a far-right commentator).

But if the Right has very clear in mind how to link the new ideoscapes 
that are storming the public imagination, what could be the role of 
radical art practices in creating imaginal connections not predicated on 
a politics of fear? Is this the moment to concern ourselves with how the 
radical imagination may be recuperated? Or isn't it rather the moment of 
understanding whether, for instance, the wisdom of tactical media can be 
leveraged by those movements? To be sure, ideally, we should be able to 
produce forms of practical knowledge that are both secret and public, 
or, as Debord put it in the first paragraph of the Comments on the 
Society of the Spectacle, a wisdom that can be shared by those who have 
ears to hear while flying below the radar of the society of the 
spectacle. But is this form of obfuscated knowledge really possible in 
this transparent age where, literally, there is no place to hide? What 
if rather than an art of the undercommons we would need an art of the 
overcommons, an art of weaving knowledges from below that are too rich 
and excessive to be confined to a specific subculture, a sector of the 
labor movement, a local student movement, even a "global and neutral" 
techno-cultural milieu? What if the strategic task of the reality 
engineers of our time is to make worlds by shaping new imaginal 
formations en plein air? Is there a way of undertaking such a task in a 
non-reductive manner by drawing the poetry of the social revolution of 
the 21st century from the future rather than the past?

I myself have no answer to these questions, just the feeling that the 
secret history of the twentieth century is becoming increasingly 
inadequate to read and create the public history of the 21st century (by 
which I do not mean, of course, that that knowledge is useless or should 
be sold to the lowest bidder).

Cheers,
Snafu





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