The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

December 10, 2004

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 2004 10:05:37 +0000
From: Joseph Bradshaw <josephbradshaw@HOTMAIL.COM>
Reply-To: UB Poetics discussion group <POETICS@LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU>
Subject: NY Times Mac Low Obit

Jackson Mac Low, 82, Poet and Composer, Dies

Published: December 10, 2004

Jackson Mac Low, a poet, composer and performance artist whose work reveled
in what happens when the process of composition is left to carefully
calibrated chance, died on Wednesday at Cabrini Medical Center in Manhattan.
He was 82 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was complications of a stroke that he had last month, according to
the Academy of American Poets, which announced his death.

The author of more than two dozen books of poetry, as well as musical
compositions, plays and multimedia performance works, Mr. Mac Low was a
seminal figure in the American experimentalist movement of the 1950's and
after. A founding member of the avant-garde group Fluxus, he collaborated
frequently with the composer John Cage. In recent years Mr. Mac Low often
worked with his wife, Anne Tardos, a poet, artist and composer.

What united Mr. Mac Low's output was a fascination with randomness and with
the limitless combinatorial possibilities of language.

"The sense of words as being primarily in a circumstance that's limiting -
sentencing them to sentences - he did not take kindly to that," the poet
Robert Creeley said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Mr. Mac Low's poems, like his musical compositions, did not so much blur the
boundary between language and music as render it invisible. He prized words
not simply for their meaning (he worked as an etymologist as a young man)
but as movable fragments of pure sound.

Sprung from their sentences, shuffled and reassembled, Mr. Mac Low's words
became layered acoustic collages, meant to be performed aloud. Constantly
shifting, always evolving, rarely the same twice, his poems laid bare the
machinery of poetry-making itself.

In Mr. Mac Low's work, structure depended on chance. He composed some poems
by shuffling index cards containing words and phrases. For others he used
random-number tables and, in later years, computer programs.

Some sprang from a roll of the dice. "!11.6.7!4.,a biblical
poem" was the first in a cycle, begun in the mid-1950's, that was rooted in
the Hebrew Bible. The poem comprises not only words (spoken aloud by one or
more performers) but also rhythmic silences (represented by "/__ /").

Mr. Mac Low prefaced the poem with two pages of instructions describing the
various possibilities for reading it. (The title represents the number of
words and silences in each line, which he determined with dice.) When read
aloud by multiple performers, each going at a different pace, the poem
evokes the wash of murmuring of Orthodox Jews at prayer.

Jackson Mac Low was born in Chicago on Sept. 12, 1922. After receiving an
associate's degree from the University of Chicago in 1941, he earned a
bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College in 1958. He was awarded a Guggenheim
Fellowship in 1985 and in 1999 received the Wallace Stevens Award, which
carries a $100,000 prize, from the Academy of American Poets.

Mr. Mac Low's first marriage, to Iris Lezak, ended in divorce in 1973.
Besides Ms. Tardos, whom he married in 1990, he is survived by two children
from his first marriage, Mordecai-Mark and Clarinda, both of Manhattan, and
one grandchild.

His other work includes "Two Plays: The Marrying Maiden and Verdurous
Sanguinaria" (1999), "Pieces o' Six: Thirty-three Poems in Prose" (1992) and
the CD "Open Secrets" (1993).

In a 1999 lecture, Mr. Mac Low described what he called his "ways of

"They are almost always ways in which I engage with contingency, and in
doing so I am often, to a large extent, 'not in charge' of what happens
while I do so," he explained. "They often surprise me, and they almost
always give me pleasure and seem to give pleasure to others."

all night i work on dance dvd.

i burn and the burn stops early.
it continues to stop early, there is no warning, it just stops.
later i realize i was placing cd in dvd burner, stupid me.

two days ago, i was burning dvd and dvd.
there was no sound, azure checked the cable, no sound.
i burned and burned, all was broken.
later i realize the other sound cable was disconnect, sound just stops.

all night i work on dance dvd.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 2004 18:14:59 +0100
From: Anny Ballardini <anny.ballardini@GMAIL.COM>
Subject: From Al Aronowitz


I will have an opportunity to meet those of you in the Pittsburgh area
on Thursday, December 16, when I appear at Pittsburgh's Club Caf� at
56-58 South 12th Street along with what I consider the Pittsburgh
area's best up-and-coming band, MOSES, for a Booksigning party
scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.
With me will be an ample supply of copies of the two books I now have
You buy 'em and I'll sign 'em.

Otherwise, this message is to inform you that once again we are
unavoidably late with this issue of THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST, COLUMN
112, dated December 1, 2004, which is now on the web. Illness
continues to force us to publish an abbreviated issue. To take a look,
click on

LAFAYETTE PARK BLUES. Virginia author Joe Bageant mourns the lost
freedom and idealism of the '60s, which he says has been replaced by
the militaristic attitude of the "Red" states.

ROAD column by the legendary John Sinclair, one of those so important
to America's counterculture of the '60s. In this one, John tells how
Holland's counterculture continues to exist despite the country's
Bush-like lightwing government.

Ballardini's POETS CORNER and we now add, which is a
comprehensive compilation of stories from various alternative
newspapers from around the country!

foreign, independent and Hollywood movies.

SECTION FIVE: THE MUSIC SECTION, features the usual links to
SONGSCENTRAL, PURR, POWER OF POP, all contemporary music e-zines; ART
ATTACK, all about jazz; THE CELEBRITY CAF�, all about celebrities; the

SECTION SIX: THE ADVERTISING SECTION, offers 13 pages of ads from
Earwraps; Cleveland International Records; Richard X. Heyman;
Christopher Pick; J. Crow's Milled Cider; An Advertisement for Myself;
Tommy Womack, Compliments of a Friend; Zoe Artemis invites you to
literary retreat in Greece; Richard Dettrey, who will help you with
your shopping; BABY ON THE WATER by Tsaurah Litzky; BOB DYLAN AND THE
BEATLES; and Arrogant Prick T-shirts.

Would you, too, like to help keep THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST on the
Internet? For a nominal contribution, you can have your own
advertising page in the Advertising Section of THE BLACKLISTED
JOURNALIST. Simply send us an email to find out about particulars.
There are links to friendly sites and we also feature MARK PUCCI'S
ONLINE REVIEWS, originally edited by John Williams.

Hope you read and enjoy. And hope to see you in Pittsburgh Thursday,
December 16.
Best, Al Aronowitz

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Anny Ballardini
The aim of the poet is to awaken emotions in the soul, not to gather admirers.
Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsk

This is brilliant - Alan

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 2004 11:14:14 +0530
From: Monica Narula <>
Subject: <nettime> X Notes on Practice

Dear all

Here is an essay we wrote a few months ago, meant to be published in:
Immaterial Labour:  Work, Research & Art, ed. Marina Vishmidt, Melanie
Gilligan, Black Dog Publishing, London/New York, 2004. This is our day for
sending in our essays, so there is another one next which extends some of
the ideas raised in this .



X notes on Practice
Stubborn Structures and Insistent Seepage in a Networked World
Raqs Media Collective

The Figure of the Artisan

The artisan stands at the outer threshold of early modernity, fashioning a
new age, ushering in a new spirit with movable type, plumb line, chisel,
paper, new inks, dyes and lenses, and a sensibility that has room for
curiosity, exploration, co-operation, elegance, economy, utility and a
respect for the labour of the hand, the eye and the mind. The artisan is
the typesetter, seamstress, block-maker, carpenter, weaver, computer,
oculist, scribe, baker, dyer, pharmacist, mason, midwife, mechanic and
cook - the ancestor of every modern trade. The artisan gestures towards a
new age but is not quite sure of a place in it.

The figure of the artisan anticipates both the worker and the artist, in
that it lays the foundations of the transformation of occupations (things
that occupy us) into professions (institutionalized, structural locations
within an economy). It mediates the transfiguration of people into skills,
of lives into working lives, into variable capital. The artisan is the
vehicle that carried us all into the contemporary world. She is the
patient midwife of our notion of an autonomous creative and reflective
self, waiting out the still births, nursing the prematurely born, weighing
the infant and cutting the cords that tie it to an older patrimony. The
artisan makes us who we are.

Yet, the artisan has neither the anonymity of the worker drone, not the
hyper-individuated solipsism of the artist genius. The artisan is neither
faceless, nor a celebrity; she belongs neither in the factory, nor in the
salon, but functions best in the atelier, the workshop and the street,
with apprentices and other artisans, making and trading things and
knowledge. The artisan fashions neither the mass produced inventories of
warehouses, nor the precious, unique objects that must only be seen in
galleries, museums and auction houses. The objects and services that pass
through her hands into the world are neither ubiquitous nor rare, nor do
they seek value in ubiquity or rarity. They trade on the basis of their
usage, within densely networked communities that the artisan is party to,
not on the impetus of rival global speculations based on the volumes and
volatility of stocks, or the price of a signature. As warehouses and
auction houses proliferate, squeezing out the atelier and the workshop,
the artisan loses her way. At the margins of an early industrial
capitalism, the artisan seemingly transacts herself out of history, making
way for the drone and the genius, for the polarities of drudgery and
creativity, work and art.

II. Immaterial Labour

Due to the emergence of a new economy of intellectual property based on
the fruits of immaterial labour, the distinction between the roles of the
worker and the artist in strictly functional terms is once again becoming
difficult to sustain. To understand why this is so we need to take a
cursory look at the new ways in which value is increasingly being produced
in the world today.

The combination of widespread cybernetic processes, increased economies of
scale, agile management practices that adjust production to demand, and
inventory status reports in a dispersed global assembly line, has made the
mere manufacture of things a truly global fact. Cars, shoes, clothes, and
medicines, or any commodity for that matter, are produced by more or less
the same processes, anywhere. The manufacture of components, the research
and design process, the final assembly and the marketing infrastructure no
longer need to be circumscribed within one factory, or even one nation
state or regional economic entity. The networked nature of contemporary
industrial production frees the finished good from a fidelity to any one
location. This also results in a corollary condition - a multiplication of
renditions, or editions, (both authorized as well as counterfeit) of any
product line at a global scale. Often, originals and their imitations are
made in the same out-sourced sweatshop. The more things multiply, the more
they tend towards similarity, in form and appearance, if not in function.

Thus, when capital becomes more successful than ever before at fashioning
the material surface of the world after its own image, it also has more
need than ever before for a sense of variety, a classificatory engine that
could help order the mass that it generates, so that things do not cancel
each other out by their generative equivalence. Hence the more things
become the same the more need there is for distinguishing signs, to enable
their purchase. The importance given to the notions of 'brand equity' from
which we get derivatives from which we get derivatives like 'brand
velocity', 'brand loyalty' and a host of other usages are prefixed by the
term 'brand' indicative of this reality.

Today, the value of a good lies not only in what makes it a thing
desirable enough to consume as a perishable capsule of (deferred)
satisfaction. The value of a good lies especially in that aspect of it
which makes it imperishable, eternally reproducible, and ubiquitously
available. Information, which distils the imperishable, the reproducible,
the ubiquitous in a condensed set of signs, is the true capital of this
age. A commodity is no longer only an object that can be bought and sold;
it is also that thing in it which can be read, interpreted and deciphered
in such a way that every instance of decryption or encryption can also be
bought and sold. Money lies in the meaning that lies hidden in a good. A
good to eat must also be a good to think with, or to experiment with in a
laboratory. This encryption of value, the codification and concentration
of capital to its densest and most agile form is what we understand to be
intellectual property.

How valuable is intellectual property?

How valuable is intellectual property? In attempting to find an answer to
a question such as this, it is always instructive to look at the knowledge
base that capitalism produces to assess and understand itself. In a recent
paper titled "Evaluating IP Rights: In Search of Brand Value in the New
Economy" a brand management consultant, Tony Samuel of
PricewaterhouseCoopers' Intellectual Asset Management Group says:

"This change in the nature of competition and the dynamics of the new
world economy have resulted in a change in the key value drivers for a
company from tangible assets (such as plant and machinery) to intangible
assets (such as brands, patents, copyright and know how). In particular,
companies have taken advantage of more open trade opportunities by using
the competitive advantage provided by brands and technology to access
distant markets. This is reflected in the growth in the ratio of
market-capitalised value to book value of listed companies. In the US,
this ratio has increased from 1:1 to 5:1 over the last twenty years.

In the UK, the ratio is similar, with less than 30% of the capitalised
value of FTSE 350 companies appearing on the balance sheet. We would argue
that the remaining 70% of unallocated value resides largely in
intellectual property and certainly in intellectual assets. Noticeably,
the sectors with the highest ratio of market capitalisation to book value
are heavily reliant on copyright (such as the media sector), patents (such
as technology and pharmaceutical) and brands (such as pharmaceutical, food
and drink, media and financial services)."1

The paper goes on to quote Alan Shepard, sometime chairman of Grand
Metropolitan plc, an international group specializing in branded food,
drinks and retailing which merged with Guinness in 1997 to form Diageo, a
corporation which today controls brands as diverse as Smirnoff and Burger

"Brands are the core of our business. We could, if we so wished,
subcontract all of the production, distribution, sales and service
functions and, provided that we retained ownership of our brands, we would
continue to be successful and profitable. It is our brands that provide
the profits of today and guarantee the profits of the future."

We have considered brands here at some length, because of the way in which
brands populate our visual landscape. Were a born again landscape painter
to try and represent a stretch of urban landscape, it would be advisable
for him or her to have privileged access to a smart intellectual property
lawyer. But what is true of brands is equally true of other forms of
intangible assets, or intellectual property, ranging from music, to images
to software.

The legal regime of intellectual property is in the process of
encompassing as much as possible of all cultural transactions and
production processes. All efforts to create or even understand art will
have to come to terms, sooner or later, with the implications of this
pervasive control, and intellectual property attorneys will no doubt exert
considerable 'curatorial' influence as art events, museums and galleries
clear artists projects, proposals and acquisitions as a matter of routine.
These 'attorney-curators' will no doubt ensure that art institutions and
events do not become liable for possible and potential 'intellectual
property violations' that the artist, curator, theorist, writer or
practitioner may or may not be aware of as being inscribed into their

III The Worker as Artist

What are the implications of this scenario? The worker of the twenty first
century, who has to survive in a marker that places the utmost value on
the making of signs, finds that her tools, her labour, her skills are all
to do with varying degrees of creative, interpretative and performative
agency. She makes brands shine, she sculpts data, she mines meaning, she
hews code. The real global factory is a network of neural processes, no
less material than the blast furnaces and chimneys of manufacturing and
industrial capitalism. The worker of the twenty first century is also a
performer, a creator of value from meaning. She creates, researches and
interprets, in the ordinary course of a working day to the order that
would merit her being considered an artist or a researcher, if by 'artist'
or 'researcher' we understand a person to be a figure who creates meaning
or produces knowledge.

Nothing illustrates this better than the condition of workers in
Information technology enabled industries like Call Centre and Remote Data
Outsourcing, which have paved the way for a new international matrix of
labour, and a given a sudden performative twist to the realities of what
is called Globalization. In a recent installation, called A/S/L
(Age/Sex/Location)2, we looked at the performative dimension in the lives
of call centre workers.

The Call Centre Worker and her world3

A call centre worker in the suburb of Delhi, the city where we live,
performs a Californian accent as she pursues a loan defaulter in a poor
Los Angeles neighbourhood on the telephone. She threatens and cajoles him.
She scares him, gets underneath his skin, because she is scared that he
won't agree to pay, and that this will translate as a cut in her salary.
Latitudes away from him, she has a window open on her computer telling her
about the weather in his backyard, his credit history, his employment
record, his prison record. Her skin is darker than his, but her voice is
trained to be whiter on the phone. Her night is his day. She is a remote
agent with a talent for impersonation in the IT enabled industry in India.
She never gets paid extra for the long hours she puts in. He was laid off
a few months ago, and hasn't been able to sort himself out. Which is why
she is calling him for the company she works for. He lives in a third
world neighbourhood in a first world city, she works in a free trade zone
in a third world country. Neither knows the other as anything other than
as 'case' and 'agent'. The conversation between them is a denial of their
realities and an assertion of many identities, each with their truths, all
at once.

Central to this kind of work is a process of imagining, understanding and
invoking a world, mimesis, projection and verisimilitude as well as the
skilful deployment of a combination of reality and representation.
Elsewhere, we have written of the critical necessity of this artifice to
work, (in terms of creating an impression of proximity that elides the
actuality of distance) in order for a networked global capitalism to
sustain itself on an everyday basis, but here, what we would like to
emphasize is the crucial role that a certain amount of 'imaginative'
skill, and a combination of knowledge, command over language,
articulateness, technological dexterity and performativity plays in making
this form of labour productive and efficient on a global scale.

IV. Marginalia

Sometimes, the most significant heuristic openings are hidden away on the
margins of the contemporary world. While the meta-narratives of war,
globalization, disasters, pandemics and technological spectacles grab
headlines, the world may be changing in significant but unrecognized
directions at the margins, like an incipient glacier inching its way
across a forsaken moraine. These realities may have to with the simple
facts of people being on the move, of the improvised mechanisms of
survival that suddenly open out new possibilities, and the ways in which a
few basic facts and conceptions to do with the everyday acts of coping
with the world pass between continents.

Here, margin is not so much a fact of location (as in something peripheral
to an assumed centre) as it is a figure denoting a specific kind or degree
of attentiveness. In this sense, a figure may be located at the very core
of the reality that we are talking about, and still be marginal, because
it does not cross a certain low-visibility, low-attention threshold, or
because it is seen as being residual to the primary processes of reality.
The call centre worker may be at the heart of the present global economy,
but she is barely visible as an actor or an agent. In this sense, to be
marginal is not necessary to be 'far from the action' or to be 'remote' or
in any way distant from the very hub of the world as we find it today.

The Margin has its own image-field. And it is to this image-field that we
turn to excavate or improvise a few resources for practice.

A minor artisanal specialization pertaining to medieval manuscript
illumination was the drawing and inscription of what has been called
"marginalia"4. "Marginalists" (generally apprentices to scribes) would
inscribe figures, often illustrating profane wisdom, popular proverbs,
burlesque figures and fantastical or allegorical allusions that
occasionally constructed a counter-narrative to the main body of the
master text, while often acting as what was known as "exempla": aids to
conception and thought (and sometimes as inadvertent provocations for
heretic meditations). It is here, in these marginal illuminations, that
ordinary people - ploughmen, peasants, beggars, prostitutes and thieves
would often make their appearances, constructing a parallel universe to
that populated by kings, aristocrats, heroes, monsters, angels, prophets
and divines. Much of our knowledge of what people looked like in the
medieval world comes from the details that we find in manuscript
marginalia. They index the real, even as they inscribe the nominally
invisible. It would be interesting to think for instance of the incredible
wealth of details of dress, attitude, social types and behaviours that we
find in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, or Pierre Breughel as
marginalia writ large. It is with some fidelity to this artisanal ideal of
using marginalia as exemplars that we would like to offer a small gallery
of contemporary marginal figures.

V. Five Figures to Consider

As significant annotations to the text of present realities, and as ways
out for the dilemmas that we have faced in our own apprehensions of the
world, we find ourselves coming back repeatedly to them in our practice -
as images, as datums and as figures of thought, as somewhat profane icons
for meditation. We feel that these figures, each in their own way, speak
to the predicament of the contemporary practitioner.

Figure One: The Alien Navigates a Boat at Sea

A boat changes course at sea, dipping temporarily out of the radar of a
nearby coast guard vessel. A cargo of contraband people in the hold,
fleeing war, or the aftermath of war, or the fifth bad harvest in a row,
or a dam that flooded their valley, or the absence of social security in
the face of unemployment, or a government that suddenly took offence at
the way they spelt their names - study the contours of an unknown
coastline in their minds, experiment with the pronunciations of harbour
names unfamiliar to their tongues. Their map of the world is contoured
with safe havens and dangerous border posts, places for landing, transit
and refuge, anywhere and everywhere, encircled and annotated in blue ink.
A geography lesson learnt in the International University of Exile.

Figure Two: The Squatter builds a Tarpaulin Shelter

Tarpaulin, rope, a few large plastic drums, crates, long poles of seasoned
bamboo, and quick eyes and skilled hands, create a new home. A migrant
claims a patch of fallow land, marked "property of the state" in the city.
Then comes the tough part: the search for papers, the guerrilla war with
the Master Plan for a little bit of electricity, a little bit of water, a
delay in the date of demolition, for a few scraps of legality, a few loose
threads of citizenship.  The learning of a new accent, the taking on of a
new name, the invention of one or several new histories that might get one
a ration card, or a postponed eviction notice. The squat grows
incrementally, in Rio de Janeiro, in Delhi, in Baghdad, creating a shadow
global republic of not-quite citizens, with not-yet passports, and
not-there addresses.

Figure Three: The Electronic Pirate burns a CD

A fifteen square-yard shack in a working-class suburb of northeast Delhi
is a hub of the global entertainment industry. Here, a few assembled
computers, a knock-down Korean CD writer, and some Chinese pirated
software in the hands of a few formerly unemployed, or unemployable young
people turned media entrepreneurs, transform the latest Hollywood, or
Bollywood blockbuster into the stuff that you can watch in a tea shop on
your way to work. Here, the media meets its extended public. It dies a
quick death as one high-end commodity form, and is resurrected as another.
And then, like the Holy Spirit, does not charge an exorbitant fee to
deliver a little grace unto those who seek its fleeting favours.
Electronic piracy is the flow of energy between chained product and
liberated pixel that makes for a new communion, a samizdat of the song and
dance spectacular.

Figure Four: The Hacker Network liberates Software

A community of programmers dispersed across the globe sustains a growing
body of software and knowledge - a digital commons that is not fenced in
by proprietary controls. A network of hackers, armed with nothing other
than their phone lines, modems, internet accounts and personal computers
inaugurate a quiet global insubordination by refusing to let code, music,
texts, math and images be anything but freely available for download,
transformation and distribution. The freedom is nurtured through the
sharing of time, computing resources and knowledge in a way that works out
to the advantage of those working to create the software, as well as to a
larger public, that begins swapping music and sharing media files to an
extent that makes large infotainment corporations look nervously at their
balance sheets. The corporations throw their lawyers at the hackers, and
the Intellectual Property Shock Troops are out on parade, but nothing can
turn the steady erosion of the copyright.

Figure Five: Workers Protect Machines in an Occupied Factory

Seamstresses at the Brukman Garment Factory in Buenos Aires5 shield their
machines against a crowd of policemen intent on smashing them. The power
of the Argentine state provokes a perverse neo Luddite incident, in which
the workers are attacked while they try to defend their machines from
destruction.  The Brukman Factory is a "fabrica ocupada", a factory
occupied by its workers, one of many that have sustained a new parallel
social and economic structure based on self regulation and the free
exchange of goods and services outside or tangential to the failed money
economy - a regular feature of the way in which working people in
Argentina cope with the ongoing economic crisis. Turning the rhetoric and
tactics of working class protest on its head, the seamstresses of the
Brukman factory fight not to withdraw their labour from the circuit of
production, but to protect what they produce, and to defend their capacity
to be producers, albeit outside the circuit desired by capital.

VI. Significant Transgressions

These five transgressors, a pentacle of marginalia, can help us to think
about what the practitioner might need to understand if she wants to
recuperate a sense of agency. In very simple terms, she would need to take
a lesson in breaking borders and moving on from the migrant, in standing
her ground and staying located from the squatter, in placing herself as a
link in an agile network of reproduction, distribution and exchange from
the pirate, in sharing knowledge and enlarging a commons of ideas from the
hacker, and in continuing to be autonomously productive from the workers
occupying the factory.

The first imperative, that of crossing borders, translates as scepticism
of the rhetoric of bounded identities, and relates to the role of the
practitioner as a 'journeyman', as the peripatetic who maps an alternative
world by her journey through it.  The second, of building a shelter
against the odds of the law, insists however on a practice that is located
in space, and rooted in experience, that houses itself in a concrete
'somewhere' on its own terms, not of the powers that govern spaces. It is
this fragile insistence on provisional stability, which allows for
journeys to be made to and from destinations, and for the mapping of
routes with resting places in between. The third imperative, that of
creating a fertile network of reproduction of cultural materials, is a
recognition of the strength of ubiquity, or spreading ideas and
information like a virus through a system. The fourth imperative, of
insisting on the freedom of knowledge from proprietary control, is a
statement about the purpose of production - to ensure greater pleasure and
understanding without creating divisions based on property, and is tied in
to the fifth imperative - a commitment to keep producing with autonomy and

Taken together, these five exempla constitute an ethic of radical alterity
to prevailing norms without being burdened by the rhetorical overload that
a term like 'resistance' invariably seems to carry. They also map a
different reality of 'globalization' - not the incessant, rapacious,
expansion of capitalism, but the equally incessant imperative that makes
people move across the lines that they are supposed to be circumscribed
by, and enact the everyday acts of insubordination that have become
necessary for their survival. It is important to look at this subaltern
globalization from below, which is taking place everywhere, and which is
perhaps far less understood than the age-old expansionist drive of
capitalism, which is what the term 'globalization' is now generally used
to refer to. It embodies different wills to globality and a plethora of
global imaginaries that are often at cross-purposes with the dominant
rhetoric of corporate globalization.

The illegal emigrant, the urban encroacher, electronic pirate, the hacker
and the seamstresses of the Brukman Factory of Buenos Aires are not really
the most glamorous images of embodied resistance. They act, if anything,
out of a calculus of survival and self-interest that has little to do with
a desire to 'resist' or transform the world. And yet, in their own way,
they unsettle, undermine and destabilize the established structures of
borders and boundaries, metropolitan master plans and the apparatus of
intellectual property relations and a mechanism of production that robs
the producer of agency. If we examine the architecture of the contemporary
moment, and the figures that we have described, it does not take long to
see five giant, important pillars: (5)The consolidation, redrawing and
protection of boundaries (6)The grand projects of urban planning and
renewal and (7)The desire to protect information as the last great
resource left for capitalism to mine - which is what Intellectual Property
is all about, (8)Control over the production of knowledge and culture and
(9)The denial of agency to the producer.

Illegal emigration, urban encroachment, the assault on intellectual
property regimes by any means, hacking and the occupation of sites of
production by producers, each of which involve the accumulation of the
acts of millions of people across the world on a daily, unorganized and
voluntary basis, often at great risk to themselves, are the underbelly of
this present reality.

But how might we begin to consider and understand the global figures of
the alien, the encroacher, the pirate, the hacker and the worker defending
her machine?

VII. Capital and its Residue

The first thing to consider is the fact that most of these acts of
transgression are inscribed into the very heart of established structures
by people located at the extreme margins. The marginality of some of these
figures is a function of their status as the 'residue' of the global
capitalist juggernaut. By 'residue', we mean those elements of the world
that are engulfed by the processes of Capital, turned into 'waste' or
'leftovers', left behind, even thrown away.

Capital transforms older forms of labour and ways of life into those that
are either useful for it at present, or those that have no function and so
must be made redundant. Thus you have the paradox of a new factory, which
instead of creating new jobs often renders the people who live around
'unemployable'; A new dam, that instead of providing irrigation, renders a
million displaced, a new highway that destroys common paths, making
movement more, not less difficult for the people and the communities it
cuts through. On the other hand sometimes, like a sportsman with an injury
who no longer has a place on the team, a factory that closes down ensures
that the place it was located in ceases to be a destination. And so, the
workers have to ensure that it stays open, and working in order for them
to have a place under the sun.

What happens to the people in the places that fall off the map? Where do
they go? They are forced, of course, to go in search of the map that has
abandoned them. But when they leave everything behind and venture into a
new life they do not do so entirely alone.  They go with the networked
histories of other voyages and transgressions, and are able at any point
to deploy the insistent, ubiquitous insider knowledge of today's networked

Seepage in the Network

How does this network act, and how does it make itself known in our
consciousness? We like to think about this in terms of Seepage. By
seepage, we mean the action of many currents of fluid material leaching on
to a stable structure, entering and spreading through it by way of pores.
Until, it becomes a part of the structure, both in terms of its surface,
and at the same time continues to act on its core, to gradually
disaggregate its solidity. To crumble it over time with moisture.

In a wider sense, seepage can be conceived as those acts that ooze through
the pores of the outer surfaces of structures into available pores within
the structure, and result in a weakening of the structure itself.
Initially the process is invisible, and then it slowly starts causing
mould and settles into a disfiguration - and this produces an anxiety
about the strength and durability of the structure.

By itself seepage is not an alternative form; it even needs the structure
to become what it is - but it creates new conditions in which structures
become fragile and are rendered difficult to sustain. It enables the play
of an alternative imagination, and so we begin seeing faces and patterns
on the wall that change as the seepage ebbs and flows.

In a networked world, there are many acts of seepage, some of which we
have already described. They destabilize the structure, without making any
claims. So the encroacher redefines the city, even as she needs the city
to survive. The trespasser alters the border by crossing it, rendering it
meaningless and yet making it present everywhere - even in the heart of
the capital city - so that every citizen becomes a suspect alien and the
compact of citizenship that sustains the state is quietly eroded. The
pirate renders impossible the difference between the authorised and the
unauthorised copy, spreading information and culture, and devaluing
intellectual property at the same time. Seepage complicates the norm by
inducing invisible structural changes that accumulate over time.

It is crucial to the concept of seepage that individual acts of
insubordination not be uprooted from the original experience. They have to
remain embedded in the wider context to make any sense. And this wider
context is a networked context, a context in which incessant movement
between nodes is critical.

VIII. A Problem for the History of the Network

But how is this network's history to be understood? To a large measure,
this is made difficult by the fact of an "asymmetry of ignorance" about
the world. We are all ignorant of the world in different ways and to
different degrees. And that is one of the reasons why the "Network" often
shades off into darkness, at some or the other point. This is what leads
to global networks that nevertheless ignore the realities of large parts
of the world, because no one has the means to speak of those parts, and no
one knows, whether people exist in those parts that can even speak to the
world in the language of the network. Thus the language of the network
often remains at best only a mobile local dialect.

A media practitioner or cultural worker from India, e.g., is in all
likelihood more knowledgeable about the history of Europe than could be
the case for the European vis-a-vis India. This is a fact engendered by
colonialism that has left some societies impoverished in all but an
apprehension of reality that is necessarily global. The historian Dipesh
Chakrabarty has reminded us,

"Insofar as the academic discourse of history is concerned, 'Europe'
remains the sovereign, theoretical subject of all histories, including the
ones we call 'Indian', 'Chinese', 'Kenyan', and so on. There is a peculiar
way in which all these other histories tend to become variations on a
master narrative that could be called 'the history of Europe'."6

But this very same fact, when looked at from a European standpoint, may
lead to a myopia, an inability to see anything other than the
representational master narrative of European history moulding the world.
The rest of the world is thus often a copy seeking to approximate this

All this to say: not merely that we have incomplete perspectives, but that
this asymmetry induces an inability to see the face in the wall, the
interesting pattern, produced by the seepage. We may inhabit the anxiety,
even be the source and locus of the destabilization and recognize the
disfiguration, but the envisioning of possible alternative imaginaries may
still continue to elude us.

IX. Towards an Enactive Model of Practice

Recently in a book on neuropolitics7, we came across an experiment which
is now considered classic in studies of perception, (The Held and Heims
Experiment) which might give us an interesting direction to follow now.

Two litters of kittens are raised in the dark for some time and then
exposed to light under two different sets of conditions.  The first group
is allowed to move around in the visual field and interact with it as
kittens do - smelling things, touching them, trying out what can be
climbed and where the best places to sleep are.  The kittens in the second
group, (though they are placed in the same environment) are carried around
in baskets rather than allowed to explore the space themselves, and thus
are unable to interact with it with all their senses and of their own

The two groups of kittens develop in very different ways. When the animals
are released after a few weeks of this treatment, the first group of
kittens behaves normally, but those who have been carried around behave as
if they were blind; they bump into objects and fell over edges. It is
clear that the first group's freedom to experience the environment in a
holistic way is fundamental to its ability to perceive it at all. What is
the significance of this? Within neuroscience, such experiments have
served to draw neuroscientists and cognitive scientists away from
representational models of mind towards an "enactive" model of perception
in which objects are not perceived simply as visual abstractions but
rather through an experiential process in which information received from
this one sense is "networked" with that from every other.  Vision, in
other words, is deeply embedded in the processes of life, and it is
crucial to our ability to see that we offset the representations that we
process, with the results of the experiences that we enter into. We need
to know what happens when we take a step, bump into someone, be startled
by a loud noise, come across a stranger, an angry or a friendly face, a
gun or a jar of milk.

In a sense this implies a three-stage encounter that we are ascribing
between the practitioner and her world.  First, a recognition of the fact
that instances of art practices can be seen as contiguous to a
'neighbourhood' of marginal practices embodied by the figures of the five
transgressors. Secondly, that 'seeing' oneself as a practitioner, and
understanding the latent potentialities of one's practice, might also
involve listening to the ways in which each of the five transgressive
figures encounters the world. Finally, that what one gleans from each
instance of transgression can then be integrated into a practice which
constitutes itself as an ensemble of attitudes, ways of thinking, doing
and embodying (or recuperating) creative agency in a networked world.

For us here, this helps in thinking about the importance of recognizing
the particularity of each encounter that the practitioner witnesses or
enters into, without losing sight of the extended network, of the
'neighbourhood' of practices.

It is only when we see particularities that we are also able to see how
two or more particular instances connect to each other. As residues, that
search for meaning in other residual experiences; or as acts of seepage,
in which the flow of materials from one pore to another ends up connecting
two nodes in the network, by sheer force of gravity. Here it is the
gradients of the flow, the surface tension that the flow encounters and
the distance that the flow traverses, that become important, not the
intention to flow itself. Intentions, resistances, may be imputed, but in
the end they have little to do with the actual movements that transpire
within the network.

X. Art practice and protocols of networked conversation

What does art and artistic practice have to do with all this? What can the
practitioner take from an understanding of interactive embeddedness in a
networked world? We would argue that the diverse practices that now
inhabit art spaces need to be able to recognize the patterns in the
seepage, to see connections between different aspects of a networked

To do this, the practitioner probably has to invent, or discover,
protocols of conversation across sites, across different histories of
locatedness in the network; to invent protocols of resource building and
sharing, create structures within structures and networks within networks.
Mechanisms of flexible agreements about how different instances of
enactment can share a contiguous semantic space will have to be arrived
at. And as we discover these 'protocols', their different ethical,
affective and cognitive resonances will immediately enter the equation. We
can then also begin to think of art practice as enactment, as process, as
elements in an interaction or conversation within a network.

For the acts of seepage to connect to form new patterns, many new
conversations will have to be opened, and mobile dialects will have to rub
shoulders with each other to create new, networked Creoles. Perhaps art
practice in a networked reality can itself aspire to create the
disfigurations on the wall, to induce some anxieties in the structure,
even while making possible the reading of the face in the spreading stain,
the serendipitous discovery of an interesting pattern or cluster of
patterns, and possible alterities.

This text draws from a presentation by Monica Narula (Raqs Media
Collective) at Globalica - a symposium on "conceptual and artistic
tensions in the new global disorder", held at the WRO Center for Media
Art, Wroclaw, Poland in May 2003.

The images are from A/S/L, an installation by Raqs Media Collective. A/S/L
support: Editing: Parvati Sharma, Sound Design: Vipin Bhati, Production
Assistance: Ashish Mahajan, T.Meyarivan, Produced at Sarai Media Lab,
Sarai/CSDS, Delhi.


1. Tony Samuel, PricewaterhouseCoopers' Intellectual Asset Management
Group, Evaluating IP Rights: In Search of Brand Value in the New Economy

2. A/S/L: A video, text and sound installation by Raqs Media Collective
that juxtaposes the protocols of interpersonal communication, online
labour, data outsourcing, and the making/unmaking of remote agency in the
'new' economy. Presented at the Geography and the Politics of Mobility
exhibition, curated by Ursula Biemann for the Generali Foundation, Vienna,
(January - April 2003).

3. Raqs Media Collective, "Call Centre Calling: Technology, Network and
Location", Sarai Reader 03: Shaping Technologies, February 2003.

for more on the call center industry in India, see - Mark Landler, "Hi I'm
in Bangalore (But I Dare Not Tell)", New York Times (Technology Section)
March 21, 2001.

India Calling - A Report on the Call Centre Industry in India

4. Andrew Otwell, Medieval Manuscript Marginalia and Proverbs, 1995.

5. Naomi Klein, Argentina's Luddite Rulers: Workers in the Occupied
Factories Have a Different Vision: Smash the Logic, Not the Machines,
Dissident Voice, April 25, 2003

6. Dipesh Chakravarty, "Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who
Speaks for 'Indian' Pasts", Representations, 37 (Winter, 1992)

7. William E. Connolly, "Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed", Theory
Out of Bounds, Number 23, Univ. of Minnesota, 2002

-- Monica Narula [Raqs Media Collective] Sarai-CSDS 29 Rajpur Road, Delhi
110 054

-- Monica Narula [Raqs Media Collective] Sarai-CSDS 29 Rajpur Road, Delhi
110 054

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