Frantz Fanon: Contemporary Perspectives

Brian McCarthy Reinhold Martin May 11, 2010

I. “. . .an inchoate resentment starts in people who cannot combat this palpable transformation at the ground level. . . multicultural democracy and international civil society both applaud only the social productivity of capital - and all structural constraints are lifted as obstacles. The needy are seen as individual occasions. Needy, or groups of

needy. Whether Foucault is right or wrong, violence and alibis (for intervention) are now
turned into chiasmus – remember what Foucault says: that in the subindividual field, which is almost like an electric force-field, there are these irreducible vis-a vis’s, they’re irreducible face-to-faces, which get inhabited by certain kinds of pairs, whatever is at hand, and you have a power situation. . .well, that’s what’s happened. . . whether he’s right or wrong it serves as a form . . . Violence and alibi have become a chiasmus rather than a critical pair, which would have been an asymmetrical riddle, that must leave space for an intuition of the “transcendental”: the dying old woman says “humanity, humanity”. That’s the intuition of the transcendental, you cannot mourn nor judge without that one. . . below the radar, and

which radar we will see, you cannot chose only to “empower women”, violence will not be undone that way. . .”1
Gayatri Spivak, 2010, Berkeley

II. “. . .the contingent statute that characterizes artistic labour . . . doesn’t have to give primary importance to being recognized as such in accordance with the primacy of current legibility criteria sanctioned by the corresponding institutional fields. . . in
1

excerpt from BBRG lecture at UC Berkeley, “Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on Situating Feminism”, April 1, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=garPdV7U3fQ.

. October 2006. . . Barcelona III. http://eipcp. 2007. . because attempts at constructing freedom could only take place inside given power relations.This critique of institutions doesn’t refer to an essential freedom.” 2 Marcel Exposito. labour in art is no different to the way in which post-Fordist labour in general oscillates between self-valorization and control (subjugation). and it’s often paradoxical because it operates under the conditions of autonomy and subjugation simultaneously. In 1974 Martha Rosler produced a series of photographs which were eventually organized under the title of “The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems”: depicting scenes from the Bowery section of New York City – abandoned storefronts. . In this order of things. “Inside and Outside the Art Institution: Self-Valorisation and Montage in Contemporary Art”. .particular when the formalisation of the work or its processes shift in and outside a particular institutional field.net/transversal/0407/exposito/en. Nevertheless I think that the operations carried out within the institutional field should seek to go beyond it. at least partly outside of it. alleyways – in which the images are entirely devoid of human subjects. Rosler counterposes these black and white photographs with a second “descriptive 2 Marcel Exposito. . 4-10. and above all valorize what is produced. street corners.

and in Rosler’s on both the emphatic lack of a human subject in each of the photographs. tantalizing yet inaccessible unutilized real-estate which impel the housing market. Martha. or at least how it attains reification through elements of image and descriptive language (each. In Rosler’s own analysis of this piece in an essay entitled “in. what I would like to emphasize is a form of trans-historical continuity in this vision of urban life as presented in each of the texts. sporadically placed against the white background of the page.(and polemically-) nuanced figuration of this “appropriation” (her term) of sanctioned systems of legibility to depict the “real” of neighborhood life and “impoverishment”. in Rosler’s words. where absence signifies an eerie mode of presence. as a way in.: MIT Press. verging into a poetic figuration of urban experience toward the end of the essay which is reminiscent of Arjun Appadurai’s “Spectral Housing – Notes on Millenial Mumbai”. ultimately “inadequate”). Cambridge. . material and “cultural” matrices. 303-341." In The Contest of Meaning. to Frantz Fanon. 1989. Both essays are predicated on a curious space of void at the heart of their respective cities: (in Appadurai’s example. in Mumbai. which necessitates her use of paratactic juxtaposition – text and image. we could say. in a space between). eo ipso. colloquial euphemisms for drunkenness. "In. and afterthoughts (on documentary photography). with a different set of historical. 3 Rosler. the “real” of the urban experience emerging. around. around. edited by Richard Bolton. and afterthoughts (on documentary photography)” from 19813 she offers a politically. Though the sites and specific historical fields (the Bowery in the mid-1970s and Mumbai during the Hindu-Muslim riots of 1992-93) are vastly different. Each of the two modes of depiction is meant to metonymize the (ecstatic) experience of “life on the bowery”. Mass. and the ultimate “inadequacy” of a single descriptive system for this experience of the urban.system” – words.

IV. is central to postcolonial discourses following Fanon such as Spivak herself. Gayatri Spivak’s theoretical work of “situating feminism” (evident I think most clearly in the BBRG lecture held at Berkeley on April 1. relational field. saying that “harsh abstractions” . Spivak’s analysis is “post-Fanonian” in the sense that it is through the “critical chiasmus” of self and other opening onto a critical. abstract. Fred Moten. 4 J. and its corresponding power relation. Gibson-Graham. . intrinsically and irreducibly. 4: 659-664. in what J. only the here and now – that the ultimate political horizon is located. very reminiscent of Fanon. predicated on what she calls this “irreducible vis-à-vis”. Mahatma Gandhi’s greatgranddaughter). in the (inexhaustibly) immanent. Spivak articulates a notion of feminism which hinges on the critical figuration of the self-other distinction. that the emergence of a figure of sublaternity (in a sense. relational moment.) from this irreducible potentiality of site merely serve to blur. with which I opened this analysis. and that all successive abstractions (capital. I think. politics are what lies “below the radar”. institution) must be clearly nuanced or disambiguated. as Fred Moten claims. state.K. nationalism. state. fetish. again. affective. provides a fairly precise point of congruence with Graham’s fundamental insight (one which. such as democracy (and by extension. There is. Gibson-Graham referred to in the work before one of this writing teams’ death from cancer emphatically as “place-based globalism”4. “spontaneously”. and most recently Leela Gandhi. fetish. 2010 entitled “BBRG Presents Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on “Situating Feminism”). and generate (spontaneous) hierarchies of power. in order to negotiate the problematic of violence. both sides of a structurally ambivalent divide of either power or powerlessness) arises. defer. dissolved. or. 2008 “’Place-based globalism’: a new imaginary of revolution” Rethinking Marxism 20. All politics are irreducibly local.K. etc.

Below the radar. We could say. and his own political imperatives for local “liberation”= nevertheless derives its theoretical potency from a critical figure of subaltern consciousness which is essentially Fanonian. V. is counterposed with the sub-individual field of the other. where peasants. the critical subjectivity of feminism. as a matrix of legibility. as a conceptual . mediated by complex cultural modes of interdiction. I would like to invoke two figures that implicitly contemporize Fanon’s model: first. Articulating a notion of inter-cultural translatability (in which. a consciousness “below the radar”. Spivak’s ultimate interest is to provide modalities of representation for tribal/communal culture (a very politically committed. and. Chiasmus of self and other. in its most irreducible element the “subindividual” field of self.Spivak’s notion of feminism . in one system of description. Bengali aim). to form this “chiasmus”) which stems from the interface between these two fields. in corresponding terms. both by India’s media and by media in the West. we could say. in Agamben’s sense. could be seen to fall into the category. Or (and to this I shall return): “voiceless”. largely in conditions of extreme poverty. the Naxalite Maoist “insurgency” that has been proceeding for more than a decade in the socalled “Red Corridor” of India’s south. have been coded through political criminalization and whose experience has been largely underrepresented. as a critical stand-in perhaps for a new humanity though this gendered figure (and its implication of a “post-human” subject) must itself be strenuously nuanced through the legibility criteria of Fanon’s historical moment of writing. that the Naxalite peasants live a form of “bare life”: and yet “bare life”.in contrast to Fanon’s own gender-specific call for the creation of decolonized “new men”.

equivalent in their impulses as any other. of what Spivak calls merely “northern Radical Chic”5: an abstraction in a preexisting system of abstractions. articulating the need of the “illiterate” peasant is a dangerous reification – rather. 1. we must realize that these are desiring subjects. which in a sense stems not only from the “colonizers” own desire for property but also from a kind of structural blindness intrinsic to the settler’s worldview. from 9 in the evening until 6 in the morning”6 – enacts a kind of “subaltern neurosis”. in Spivak’s language. 7 The second figure I would like to invoke. a “structural ambivalence” manifest. critically unmediated way7. Curiously. for emancipation. Frantz Fanon.) – a desire that is the reciprocal product of the imposition or presence of commandement. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. and the figure of a half-open mouth becomes visible through the image. but in an apolitical. 1963). in Fanon’s figuration of Algerian metropolitan experience. for power. as a depiction of “subaltern” or peasant experience. etc. Chap." Grey Room 01 (Fall 2000). Desire is a critical figure in Fanon’s model of decolonization: the “native” or subaltern subject is constituted in a sense by his or her desire (for possession. Cha’s use of script at the beginning of the piece raises the issue of legibility and making visible/iterable." 52. in which ecstatic cathexis is achieved or redirected through sites of neurotic ritual and forms of ecstatic experience – again experiencing the potentials for site. "Concerning Violence. Following Spivak.figure. "Megacity. through the inscription of a constructed text vaguely reminiscent of Sanskrit. The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press. through the complex mechanisms of alibi. “Your presence creates a demand in me” – and yet the “settler” is unaware of the intricate systems of subjugation that his or her blindness to this fact generates. the native – who “never stops achieving his freedom. in an artificially constructed script: slowly the sound of static begins to build. Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Mouth to Mouth (1975) begins with scrolling text. 23. 5 6 .

Adrian Piper. who is primarily affiliated with the 16Beaver collective in New York City) offered that we can trace this notion of institutional critique back to Buddha – a prince. including texts by Arjun Appadurai. Guy Debord. feminism. Fred Moten. following Fanon. pictures. All abstractions which proceed from this moment – where Fanon’s nuanced analysis of nationalism and native collaboration as forming a symmetrical (uncritical) pair with commandement. Examples will include works by Trihn T Minha. born in Mumbai. diaries. Gerald Raunig.K. wishes to criticize. Michel de Certeau. one which resonates with Rosler’s own critique of institutions through feminist strategies and styles of appropriation8 – are sites of the sort of “harsh abstraction” that Spivak. Renee Green. For example. amongst other writings and projects that highlight contemporary stories of globalization in feminist. Yomango. and how are their voices and struggles represented and documented? Could we interpret media in ways that would challenge the established perceptions. Harun Farocki. It is this notion of a “spectral city” and the legibility criteria for this spectral city. By beginning with these questions and objects. J. and trace their emergence through inter-disciplinary media. Leela Gandhi. amongst others. about us? Combining cultural studies. I would like to argue that these forms of “unmediated experience” create a figure of what I would refer to as the spectral city. a product of all local interactions – that I would like to emphasize in relation to Fanon’s text. whose teachings were in a tribal language (Pali ) with no script – 8 In an upcoming course for the New School. Readings will be assigned each week. how have women. Sites or residues of Jesal Kepadia (a video artist and educator at the New School for Social Research. Mona Hatoum. refugees. when and where. and will seek to abolish the separation between poetry and mass communication by reclaiming the power of media from the merchants and returning it to the poets and artists. people of color. socialist. exiles. the city. that is. we will investigate the social and artistic aspects of documentary practice in photography. Ultra Red. Cinema. one hope of this seminar is to detect the intricate workings of certain ideologies which have previously been and are still in effect. Specifically. Together we will explore ways of resisting neoliberal definitions of subjectivity.” . videos and maps. and non-capitalist politics. predicated on the “irreducible vis-àvis” – with the vis-à-vis as its irreducible moment. Hollis Frampton. Anand Patwardhan. Helke Sander. grassroots activists. Kepadia describes it this way: “What. film and video. Yvonne Rainer. migrants. lesbians and gays. and postcolonial investigations this seminar will address alternative and critical media practices. similar to Rosler’s work. and question easy assumptions about the past and the present. who. Gayatri Spivak. how. minority populations and communities of dissent participated in the public debate throughout history. Martha Rosler. in a sense. A spatial void. meaning we will focus primarily on the process and conditions of the subject who is making the media rather than the object that is made and consumed in the contemporary capitalist economy. Lygia Clark and Helio Otitica. Gibson-Graham. It is organized so as to locate other openings in art and culture.VI. among other forms of technology-enabled collective actions from different cultural perspectives.

In a sense. 2010). where there is no longer an enemy to be touched. all politics become irreducibly local (Spivak’s “irredicble vis-vis’s. untouchable.A. we could say.: Semiotext(e). or we might even say the posthuman – is implicated through a complex series of aesthetic and metaphysical “abstractions” – qua the “machine” of Marx writings on technology and more recently Gerald Raunig’s 2011 book A Thousand Machines9 – where local structures irreducibly reproduce the power dynamics of all higher orders: democracy. A Thousand Machines (L. In this paradigm. A western hallucination. in its largest level. and imaginary/administrative forms of political representation (her example is “democracy”). as a harsh abstraction. what Anna Gibbs refers to as mimetic communication (mimesis or “mimicry”) and relationality of the stripe in Gibbs’ and Leela Gandhi’s model recapitulates and sites this process locally (in Gibb’s analysis in a kind of visceral affect contagion. disambiguating the “harsh abstractions” (Spivak’s term) of fetish. literalizing itself in affect. invoking Anita Dube’s work). embodies a level of local interpersonal violence (in a sense it’s “alibi” ) to the point where. . Nothing is possible (because of an unsynthesizable negativity) but one can see what is possible together. It is. the second-wave feminist rubric – that all politics are personal – and yet the personal. it becomes invisible. state. at a contemporary level of metropolitan “abstraction”. the metropolitan figure. in Gandhi’s in affective community). or at least.for this forgetting. and opening onto to the true particular micropolitical/affective potentials of the “field” of each individual place. Whereas we might globalize this process under the rubric of the progressive displacements produced by the capital fetish (with the leaf of money being the ultimate machine – a form of “poise” . one could argue. a site of “intimacy”. All politics are based on this irreducible vis-à-vis (the recurrence of which defines. the only site of real exchange). or relation). nothing on which to base a notion of “civil society”. aided by the abstractions of capital. we live in this generalized 9 Gerald Raunig.capitalist abstraction. as I have argued.

according to Fanon.of violence . are post colonies par excellance: or. .we live in a postcolony. through the creation of new human beings. refers to this process (of the revolutionary/emancipatory creation of this new human being – the “decolonized”) as one which necessitates “absolute violence” (literally). metaphysical. in effect.must be voided and transfigured) dialectic: the imposition of otherness (from which “originary” site?) causes a displacement to the “natural” terrain of the territory.field . The decolonized subject. Fanon. all cities. only exists because of this imposition (what he calls the “Manichean” aspect of colonial rule). What we see at work we could term a fundamental “postcolonial” (and in a precise way this term – “postcoloniality” . What is this figure? From a certain perspective (aesthetic. and its activist parallels – strike. autonomy.or that merely the commandement has become an internalized commandement for politically unreflective “enjoyment”. which creates or highlights not only new boundaries and mechanisms of inclusion/exclusion but also a new zone of possibility: one. Similar to a notion of autonomy and capacity. occupation. perhaps hyperbolically. not just Algiers. that can only be seized. in a sense which Fanon is careful to articulate. as evidenced above by Marcel Exposito’s quote (whose work is inflected by similar concerns in the literature emerging from the Autonomia movement of Italy in the 60s and 70s) – where the intensities (and intensive insinuation) of capital simultaneously liberate and expropriate human affective capacities (necessitating what Negri and following him Jacques Ranciere call a critical notion of separation – exile. refusal to work). Thus. literally. including New York. affective) this is the city.

again. An “equivalence”. and vulgarization of the figures of commandement . and Spivak herself in her work on communalism and the Megacity. Is this what we’re after though? Achille Mbembe in his essay “The Aesthetics of Vulgarity”. how do we assign values to new economic and relational forms emergent in this (new) “space”? In Fanon’s case the dialectical tension of commandement opens up this possibility of a new form. futuristic) possibility of a decolonized city is congruent to the effort . parody/irony. in a post-colonial (post-human?) situation the originary a priori source of this expropriation is sited. of which violence . We can say on the one hand that this affective void is created through the incessant degrees of abstraction created by capital. And yet his ultimate proscription for action is violence. as a (conceptual) threshold or border – thus the effort here to actualize the (utopian. one that can only be actualized first through a shared form of revolutionary consciousness – the creation of a new man (the post-human subject).merely (re) constitutes a symmetrical and self-defeating response to the field of power. following Simmel in the Philosophy of Money. a relational form. The “familial” intimacy of colonial rule. has pointed out that this kind of mutually reenforcing intimacy with power. post-human. nowhere – it is a merely a kind of natural balancing act in which capacities are controlled.VII. unreflective. but we can also say that the originary site of this “distance” comes from nature itself. We can say that in distinction to a colonial situation where there is an enemy (the settler).in the form of banal humor. In this situation. It is only because of this displacement that the figure of a decolonized “Algiers” becomes possible. of the void of power. in effect.

10 . . Over against him torpid creatures. wasted by fevers. the waves lap against the pebbles. obsessed by ancestral customs. In this becalmed zone the sea has a smooth surface. Chap. ground to the figure of expropriation. The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press. . 1. which Fanon sees as possible only through revolutionary violence. Fanon’s invocation of the natural terrain as silent justification for colonial rule is thus highly interesting: “.to create a disalienated city. and raw materials are ceaselessly transported.this process which moves uninterruptedly from the banks of the colonial territory to the palaces and the docks of the mother country." 51. justifying the presence of the settler [emphasis mine]. form an almost inorganic background for the innovating dynamism of colonial mercantilism. Similar to Kracauer. 1963). This is only possible because of this originary displacement. this ground and its silent implication of legitimacy necessitates the creation of a post-human subjectivity. it is from this point of differential – between the “originary” Algiers and its colonial formation – that the imaginary of a metropole itself emerges. Unalienated “decolonialized” Frantz Fanon. To create this however requires vision. existing as a naturalization of the always-already negated potentials of a decolonialized. more natural than nature. an urban space of politically aware play and contingent affect a la Guy Debord and Henri Lefebvre. .”10 On one end of the continuum (where on the other end the tautologically self-justifying “poise” of commandement. post-human revolutionary subject) nature itself seems to justify the process. If the imaginary of an “originary” Algiers – whose “natural” integrity as an entity has been disturbed or displaced by the imposition of a colonial rule. "Concerning Violence. . the palm tree stirs gently in the breeze.

are the Derridean reminders. that the structures of [telecommunication] are already present as residual elements in the cultural process. the colonial city becomes a metonym (as in Rosler’s metonymic displacements) of all metropolitan environments – where “commandement” as the imposition of control sourcing from nature itself is homologous to similar displacements to which we would ascribe the designations of “capital”. and that this metapsychological work blurs the distinction between “natural” and “artificial”. the “state”. then. affective relation). Second. the bearers of disease. begin to make this claim. VIII.at the heart of things. all cities are thus postcolonies. producing newer and newer kinds of “communication machines” inaccessible to the theater of the human mind.” . From a post-human perspective. including New York: it is their fundamental future and their imaginary: or at least we can. which. and the “harsh abstractions” which impel the process (of which globalized imperial democracy is the ultimate form) eventually begin to reflect an absence or distance . the “machine” .on and on down to a fundamental structural ambivalence in human consciousness itself11: (the abyme. This structure is reproduced on all levels of imaginary designation. digested in my own fashion: First. if one allows that the work of the psyche produces the “I”.spontaneously – emerging from this point of “differential” (a local. but again. emerges in the dissatisfaction of the Fanonian native. on the same level as the Christian religion which wages war on embryonic heresies and 11 As Spivak argues: “Here. through a principle of all relations being local. however slow. “That is why we must put the DDT which destroys parasites. the “institution”. In this way. for all communication is structurally [telecommunication].activity still exists . this spontaneous activity is possible only because of the imposition of the reciprocally determining hegemony of colonial rule. his (or her) passional frustrations). from a politically aware standpoint. one may be able to grasp that that work can be described by more and more complex manifestations of the machinic potential of the silicon chip.

13) Fanon argues that this originary psychic/affective/material double-bind (in its largest. whose research into what she calls “affective communities” resituates the potentials for anti-imperial Frantz Fanon. not only on a local. It is on the way to data. micropolitical level in the psyche of the colonized subject (sited as it were in a micropolitics of affect). which must be given. historically. Or. To counter this model. I would like to cite the work of Leela Gandhi. "Concerning Violence. and through this very quantification make them more attractive for purchase. I would like to nuance the emphasis that Fanon places on this figure of “violence” as a proscription. nationalism was a privileged form). really only touched upon here under the rubric of capitalism) can only be resolved through what he calls “absolute violence”. affective. seeing them as essentially and structurally symmetrical to commandement. cathexes for a rampant process of financialization that mirror (or mirrored) the affective excesses liberated by globalised capital. more “destructive” (and subtle) forms of “advanced” financialized capital such as Black-Scholes-inspired derivatives. the ANDI scores assigned to vegetables at Whole Foods – where the concentration and density of nutrients in each vegetable are given “scores”. Nutritive value is fetishized – this is very Spivakian. ultimately. an iterable. 13 To cite a contemporary example that reproduces the structure perfectly.”) 12 . Chap. we could add. “harsh abstractions”) that would emerge or emanate as a response to this structural impasse (of which. 1963). where the natural world itself becomes data (in Megacity: “The rural is not trees and fields anymore. 1. Again. Fanon is very skeptical of forms of nationalism." 42. but through its various iterations in the successive forms of administration and organization (all. The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press.” 12 (Fanon’s use of the term “balance sheet” is apposite. and on evil as yet unborn. in a sense. most expansive sense. relational form.instincts. The recession of yellow fever and the advance of evangelization form part of the same balance sheet. which are just as much a product of “subaltern neurosis” and its abreactive forms as ecstatic ritual was in Fanon’s Algiers. Thus the “natural” properties of the vegetable are quantified.

a sublimation. no mediation. psychic maneuver. or the issuant of the demands of colonialization – where is this process ultimately sited? This is the postmillenial situation – there is no enemy. Society of the Spectacle. Spivak refers to this as “training for epistemological performance”. a modality of perception. “control”. The irreducible vis-à-vis. Debord’s analysis in the last two chapters of Society of the Spectacle concurs that we live in a generalized field of violence.spontaneity into the relational form itself. commandement. 1994) 138. All interactions are local. no one to exercise violence against – the naturalized. and the revolutionary potential of this she sees as vast. turned into an awareness. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books. or in effect. globalization. Thus the potential for revolution can only be sited in a self-emancipatory form of consciousness. the progressive “abstraction” of capital. . based on the various alienating mediations of what he calls “spectacle” and the defense of a certain (repressive) form of “subcommunication”14 – where the substructural. In a sense. a local. IX. If we are to take away this figure of “the enemy” – the colonizer. abstract workings of the machine are sited nowhere (similar to Fanon’s invocation of the “natural” setting of Algiers). homologous mediations that have been figured critically to describe this process of “global” generality – spectacle. trans. affective “violence” that Fanon refers to has been generalized so thoroughly through the mediation of the image – and here we could adopt whichever of the alternate. intimate interactions – there is in effect. “empire” – to a point where the abreaction (enemyless) 14 Guy Debord.

and systems of control – “property”or possession taken to higher levels. a form of abstraction. voiceless) neurosis – liminal forms of redistribution and subjugation from the black-scholes equation to pharmaceutical interventions into the human subject . At various progressive levels. catastrophe. “democracy”. rather than what he calls an explicit “dialectical” or pedagogical response. which in self- . state.becomes wholely naturalized. Ranciere in his analysis privileges. foundering on the material conditions which we constantly have to negotiate (perhaps – most basically . and sexual violence. trauma. forced migration. In order to begin to nuance and expand Fanon’s analysis from a cross-cultural perspective (from the other side of the divide as it were) I would like to invoke Ranciere’s own critical model in the Emancipated Spectator (2009). and any attempt to exceed this locality is a form of violence. Regarding aesthetic responses to frameworks such as war.the relational form (as all level interactions are irreducibly local. as a “Western” model for politically informed art production. a source of sexual violence) up through a series of abstractions – capital. X. from the dyadic pair (intimate violence. material manifestations. In order to counter this harsh series of abstractions as uncritical chiasmus (ultimately generating its own inclusions and exclusions.our “need”). and seamlessly integrated into a generalized form: of precarious virtuousity. which recapitulates or mimics a basic form of abstraction such as the capital fetish) the relational form – intimacy .or even on its most base levels as manifestations of “subaltern” (powerless.thus becomes inherently critical to capital. media representation – the structure is reiterated and remains uncritical.

“capital”. trauma. works that reconfigure our idea of “the political” (an aesthetic.negating fashion employs the very forms of signification it wishes to critique (and which he sees ultimately. vulnerability. and is essentially congruent with both Fanon but also contemporary discourses on autonomy and radical collectivity. multilayered sensory environment in which political realities and experiences of catastrophe and political domination are effectively singularized and displaced onto more contemplative modes. memory. In effect this “affective” dimension of the image registers that which is always in excess of whatever discursive frameworks which would be imposed upon them by the political realities surrounding their production. or “war” (with each of these always already occupying an abstract. intimate . “violence”. drift. thus allowing for more poetic. personal or intimate response which simultaneously expands a larger political framework based on mastery. etc. which I will examine briefly. this model emphasizes and privileges a mode of “translation” – the translation of intimate or aesthetic experience through the image as a way of “blurring” or disturbing a register of indignation or explicit political critique. “sexual violence”. the empathetic. works that effect this transformation (and here I would argue that projected image is the most powerful form) provide a reconfigured paradigm and an alternate signifying register – a “new regime of visibility” . and endlessly deferred form in a system predicated on capital). mediatized. a transfigured anger. According to Ranciere. we could say. as a strategic impasse). Often by creating an immersive. “virtuosity” (employing Virno’s term). attention. one that doesn’t necessitate violence as a form). I would like at the outset to examine image practices in Ranciere’s model which effect a similar metonymic displacement and provide concretely a “new regime of visibility” for the realities and responses depicted: whether they be curiosity. or the excesses of domination) onto different discursive registers (slowness. privileges rather the production of more subtle or contingent affects through the use of images as a critical mediation. anger (and yet. similar to Fanon. an expanded or poetic field for the biological).for simple discursive frameworks such as. competence. say. “catastrophe”. contemplation. Critically. the vulnerability of the body.

194 ff. but also through more abstract modes. ed.in the face of the massive excesses of violence. a critical formation of the subject . The autonomy of individual perception (and the “autonomy” of artistic practice configured as critique) is thus integrated into a larger framework for the political. and catastrophe. 15 Emily Apter. “Thinking Red: Ethical Militance and the Group Subject”. “militancy” (or to borrow Emily Apter’s phrase. . et al. Desire. in Communities of Sense: Rethinking Aesthetics and Politics. which (as an excess) escapes or eludes hierarchical institutional constraints.and polyvalent approaches and highlighting an altered continuum between what we would define as “aesthetics” and “the political”. this paradigm critically invokes the idea of “capacity” which is central to Ranciere’s model – human capacities for the empathetic as a counter-political response. evidence. In this way. are seen to be limitless (are limitless). both through testimony. a la Spivak (and the capacity of images to provide this critical mediation. its institutional instantiations. As a response to contemporary discursive practices which seek to provide “aesthetic” paradigms for human rights. and narrative. 2009). an “ethical militancy”15) takes on the possibility of a new form – the militancy of preserving individual experience. XI. (Durham: Duke University Press. Beth Hinderliner. Implicit to the structure of autonomy as a political framework theorized by the writers and activists of the Italian Autonomia movement is this notion of capacity. war. exploitation. and yet are expropriated. the intervention of a superstructural mediation that “vocalizes” the base). capital. but also productive capacity.

in her essay on mimetic communication . This is the parallax of European styles of autonomy. following Cha’s piece. even “abstract”). where. isomorphism without identity – produced in the translation [emphasis mine] from one sensory mode to into another that. according to Fanon.capital. In a certain way.[where] similarity is crucial. this “dissatisfaction”. This “structure” (or the product of a sort of intensified structural ambivalence. also constrains.) is reminiscent of Frantz Fanon’s theoreticization of subaltern neurosis in the chapter On Violence. affective attenuation.or negatively . Guided by Marx’s notion of a “general intellect” from the Grundrisse.” 16 Here we can say that human capacities for the empathetic (and for autonomous operation) are effectively entrained . by the very intensities or mediations which serve to produce them. 195. liberation is achieved only though abreactive or “political” violence.paradoxically. For it is the difference. facilitates the … gradual recognition of the interiority of the other. from within the optic of the formation of the self. Synchrony. and the possibilities for its ecstatic complement. economic. Seigworth (Durham: Duke University Press: 2011). while impelling. in The Affect Theory Reader. implicit to institutions . Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. paradoxically. . state power.as a force which. or the correspondence. physical. . 16 Anna Gibbs. colonial domination. as a negativity. . even a sort of nascent form of sovereignty. Anna Gibbs. “Native” (or subaltern) sovereignty is as well predicated on or structured by the very system of constraint and domination of colonial administration and its various architectures (behavioral. are liberated. through the very “abstract” or material systems of constraint. “After Affect: Sympathy. but so too is the difference produced in the sensory translation.whether we view this positively as a developmental process of affect regulation that affords the developing individual an eventual measure of autonomy .refers to what she calls “crossmodal imitation – or translation. and intensification against which they must react. affective or “informal” capacities. and Mimetic Communication”. . ed. etc. possess a kind of visuality.

this form of mimesis literalizes the reversal implicit to institutional and capitalistic forms of constraint and opens up the space for a truly critical dimension to art practice. and from the space of this separation. Ranciere's strategy of what he calls "separation" is thus figured as a primary critical paradigm for political art production. Psychic revolution. one more in line with the tradition of not only Fanon but also its Western modalities (autonomous Marxism and contemporary anarchism. Mimicry thus appears as a critical mediation that attempts a sort of literal reversal of this: or. It is also the unsynthesizable that creates the possibility for collective agency. such as the forms of radical subjectification figured in Tiqqun’s seminal essay “Introduction to Civil War” ) which is politically engaged. in a sense it is merely the synthesis of the unsynthesizable as an anticipatory response) in what is essentially a model of reception that she proposes. in the words of Toril Moi in her essay on Helene Cixious: an art practice which . to critically engage. arguably. I would like to articulate a different conceptual figure.What I would like to highlight in Gibbs article is the supercession of this dialectic (though not properly a dialectic. merely a plurality or polyvalence of meanings activated in the viewer by an artwork. In the context of the present analysis I would like to privilege this figure of critical autonomy as all you can hope to engage in a spectator. a kind of spectatorial semiosis. To separate. and most importantly. It is this unsynthesizable that manifests itself in the image. I would like to argue that as a critical/political strategy. critical. More broadly than the figure of “emancipation” as theorized by Ranciere which is. This in her mind is the potential (“revolutionary”) essence of mimetic communication. repeatable.

similar to Debord’s figuration of a spectacular society. production and reception (spectatorship. as a critical form. 1996). following Fanon. as Pavi presented us in class. 140. 17 In this model.” 17 VI. to the point where it becomes a strategy. Spivak. Agamben’s The Coming Community. merely existing on the edge of an inarticulate and abreactive irritability . “the chiasmus”). on Irigaray’s textual strategies. New French Feminisms and Sexual/Textual Politics (London: Methuen.what Spivak calls in relation to subaltern subjectivity. an elliptical traverse of twentieth century art in of. what form of civil society could potentially organize a “decolonized” form of urbanism? Toril Moi. would be to open a truly political practice and field for politics that goes beyond the institution. is “pre-decolonization”. we could say. even hyper-sophisticated examples such as Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. and its more even complement. 1985). Catherine de Zegher (Boston: The MIT Press. and Tiqqun’s Introduction to Civil War . the subaltern subject sings “I would give you something I value but I don’t even know what it is you have given me ”. If all “European”/Western models .it’s “poise” or “void” . and Kracauer. what is a more politically-informed. in Inside the Visible. alternative form of relationality? Do we situate this in a form of cross-cultural dialogue a la Spivak? If. which include.(and America could be said not to have a model. 25. ed. miming the miming. where spectacle is predicated merely on the communication of the incommunicable – think American television. .“doubles the mimicry back on itself.are merely examples of what Spivak refers to as “Northern Radical Chic”. and the stunted forms of “politics” that America practices) – if all European models. though even the notion of spectacle. and from the feminine. participation) are essentially isomorphic: to develop a critical practice which functions articulately on both sides of the “divide” (or . or Tafuri-esque forms of alienation a la Dada that don’t amount to much of a political critique.

Gandhi describes in successive chapters of Affective Communities various forms of antiimperial relationality. Our “political” question: How do we make this legible? I also believe that it is through revolutionary forms of intimacy qua Gandhi. photography. This shift – from a dialectical positionality of native/settler. while not being inconscient of the “harsh” realities of power. involve forms of productive and creative interface through cross-cultural dialogue. and her model offers tantalizing aspects of the possibilities of a decolonized relationality not predicated on an (outmoded?) notion of Fanonian “absolute violence”. as a way of beginning to open up possibilities of a new theorization for urban experience. to a form of affective connection opening up into a space. critically. and true to a “placebased globalism” in which immanent relationality is the site for all true political critique. The micropolitics of intimacy (radical forms of intimacy) are seen as inherently threatening to capital. and the singularity of self-emancipation . and text – that would make these alternate visions possible: the specialized states of cognition and ways of life (often ephemeral) given critical form and value. that this critical practice can and should be articulated: in a way. where there is no equivalence.Gandhi’s answer. forms of radical visuality. This maneuver does not involve violence. following Derrida. rather. in its most . Importing perspectives from theorists such as Gandhi and Spivak thus reconfigure Fanon’s proscription for violence (itself merely a self-negating or symmetrical response in itself to commandement) from a “feminist” or rather a neo-humanist perspective. its opposite (a critical subjectification). where there is an equivalence – involves the opening of a relational field. all of which. and. perhaps. with film. is friendship. in fact. I invoked Martha Rosler’s artwork at the beginning of this paper because I feel that it is through site-specific representation – a critical representation. and cross-cultural dialogue. True to the Spivakian credo that “training for epistemological performance” as a political principle mitigating interpersonal violence comes from the commensuality of individual vis-à-vis relationships. apolitically. video.

left to its silent justification. Jesal’s Addendum (or. cross-culturally. to cite a contemporary example – embody the same “avant-garde” productive energy that art does. . as yet has no voice. in her words. would produce. Removing or de-situating the institutional mediation involves extending this frame or vision of productive activity (that would be expropriated not only as labour but also.powerful dimension. in a sense the ultimate extension of her theoretical interventions. where the incommunicable itself is invested into the image as a vehicle for capitalist expropriation. or under the law of an uncritical naturalization. From this perspective. through the progressive institutional mediations that would cite this activity as “art”) into the entire world. perhaps more intrinsically. we might say. the world is on its way to data. even the sound of frogs in a forest in India becomes an instance or site of this new “avant-garde” mode of vision. which resists the modes of separation and subconscious hierarchy that capital. A critical/visionary detournement involves this re-situation of the results of productive activity. productive activity must be critically re-situated as art practice. objects preexistent in the world – Farocki’s bricks. the next step): It is important in this new form of “vision” to see that all productive forms – a yert in Africa. the “silent justification”. The critique of Dada in Tafuri is then subject to a critical inversion: instead of the intensive “avant-garde” contextualization or recontextualization of craft and machine objects. As. This critical perspective is perfectly in line with Spivak. Just turn on your television – the hypnotic energy invested into the image built from the pixel (following Spivak in Megacity) captures this “natural” potential which. a threshing machine in Tibet – are works of art as much as and on the order of Duchamp’s urinal. in the same way that the aesthetic potentials and energies of this which are expropriated into the Image (a la Debord) – “naturally”.

Not violence. “Image” or “spectacle” or “empire” or “control” – as universal abstractions. . this “post-colonialization” of media practice .” This would be the basis for a world-wide and equitable revolution. are critically re-situated to give a “voice” to the “voiceless”: power – taken to its highest degree as capacity. we just don’t know what it is you have given us. post-coloniality.In a certain way. but something of a subtler order. and experimental film and video – are needed to communicate it.where “subalternity” in the same way that “abstraction” in European theoretical models has reached a level of development/incommunicable investment in the image to where spectacle or empire becomes universally distributed as this imperial mean – involves finding the productive or creative energy of mankind in the most minute localities. Art and critical articulations of this mode of seeing – indebted to the discourses of feminism. this revolutionary “datatizing” of the world – following the critical perspectives outlined above. dislocated from its sensory and conceptual imbrication in a hierarchical and unjust system of capital expropriation: “We would give you something in return. Similar to Rosler’s call for a style of feminist appropriation/critical juxtaposition which would provide inherent critique to institutionalism. will be the basis for my future curatorial work. where its power ultimately resides.

Guy Debord. 8-23." 35-106. Martha. et al. Mass. 194 ff. edited by Richard Bolton. (Durham: Duke University Press. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Beth Hinderliner. A Thousand Machines (L. Gerald Raunig.A. trans. Fin-de-Siècle Radicalism. Siegfried Kracauer. 1. Emily Apter. and the Politics of Friendship (Durham. Chap. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books. 2006). 1994). around. 1995). Rosler. Thomas Y.: Semiotext(e). Leela Gandhi. Public Culture 12. . 2010). 303-341. No." In The Contest of Meaning. 627-651. Cambridge. 254 pp. 1963)." Grey Room 01 (Fall 2000)." in The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays. Frantz Fanon. "Megacity. ed. “Thinking Red: Ethical Militance and the Group Subject”. "Concerning Violence. and afterthoughts (on documentary photography).Bibliography Arjun Appadurai. The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press. Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought. in Communities of Sense: Rethinking Aesthetics and Politics. trans. 3. NC: Duke University Press. "Spectral Housing and Urban Cleansing: Notes on Millennial Mumbai”. MA: Harvard University Press. 1989. Levin (Cambridge. 74-86. "The Mass Ornament. Society of the Spectacle.: MIT Press. 2009). "In.

. Alexander R. trans.Tiqqun. Introduction to Civil War.A. 2010). Smith (L. Galloway and Jason E.: Semiotext(e).

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