Thursday, May 30, 2013

science, galileo and us

Notes on the First Two Paragraphs of Dialectic of Enlightenment

by Gene Ray

The two paragraphs that open Dialectic of Enlightenment (hereafter DoE) set out some key elements of the Frankfurt critique of modernist science. The text, based on transcribed discussions between Horkheimer and Adorno (H&A), was worked up in Los Angeles between 1941 and 1944. Toward the end of that period, Brecht, also in exile in LA, began the collaboration with Charles Laughton that would result in 1947 in the staging of a revised, post-Hiroshima Life of Galileo. In both DoE and Galileo, the problem of science and its broken promise is forcefully, if differently, inscribed. Now as then, the problem is an urgent one.

The following notes belong to a work-in-progress: Galileo in the Force Field reflects on the legacies of modernist science, still-unfolding in world facing biospheric meltdown. More notes and fragments will follow, on the way to book-form. Here, I re-read the remarkable opening of DoE; rereading it, I end up retranslating the first two paragraphs. These are offered, for better or worse, followed by a short commentary and some remarks on the standard translations. In this context (scurvy tunes), the gist of H&A’s paragraphs and their importance for a critical reorientation of science will, I trust, resonate helpfully.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

gunboats redux

The Control Society and Gunboat Diplomacy

by Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen

Twenty-two years ago Gilles Deleuze published the short, five-page text “Postscript on control societies” in the French journal L’autre journal edited by Michel Butel. The text is an analysis of the arrival of what Deleuze calls the society of control, which he claims is replacing the disciplinary society. “We are moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people but through continuous control and instant communication”.[1] Deleuze’s text describes how the institutions of the modern disciplinary society wither and are replaced with a new kind of control that is no longer rooted in these institutions but is spread throughout the social body. As Deleuze phrases it, the striated space of the disciplinary society is replaced by the smooth space of the society of control. Control is now everywhere and is no longer only exercised in the delimited space of disciplinary power.

As Deleuze writes, his short sketch builds on insight from his friend Michel Foucault who analysed how in the 18th and 19th centuries there occurred a transformation of the former ‘sovereign’ society, where power was located at the top and was exercised over a territory. This hierarchical structure was replaced by another structure, the disciplinary society, where social mastery was located in institutions fabricating specific productive subjects and behaviours. In this society individuals moved from one closed room to another undergoing a production and regulation of habits and conduct: the factory, the family, the hospital, the school and the prison. The disciplinary society was thus a series of closed spaces producing relatively stable and demarcated forms. Each of these spaces or institutions had its specific logic of subjectification, structured according to a distinction between normal and deviant.

The point of departure for Deleuze’s small note is of course that the institutions of the disciplinary society are in a state of crisis. The closed spaces have become porous and the production of subjects has acquired a new form; it has become fluid, Deleuze writes. Now normalization is no longer restricted to the closed space of the institutions but takes place everywhere directly within the subjects that are no longer able to escape the disciplinary apparatus but are always working, studying, recovering, etc.

Friday, May 3, 2013

jenny brown in berlin

Governmentality and the illusions of emancipation in Jenny Brown's Many Happy Returns

by Sacha Kagan

We all live in a little Village… Your village may be different from other people’s villages but we are all prisoners. (Patrick Mc Goohan)

Since March 17th 2013 (and until the end of April), the gallery Semmer Berlin hosted Jenny Brown’s Many Happy Returns, a show revolving around the cult television series The Prisoner from the late 1960s. The prisoner in that TV series is a British former secret agent (played by Patrick Mc Goohan), held in an isolated mysterious coastal village resort where his captors try to find out why he abruptly resigned from his job. The village is a surrealistically set-up environment, a jail without walls but replete with CCTVs and anti-evasion technologies. The village is also a factitious community where personal names are replaced by numbers (the prisoner is referred to only as “number 6”) and where social interactions are performed and manipulated in a variety of ways.