23 January 2013 § Leave a Comment
An abstract for an upcoming talkfest on Lacan and the Discourse of Capitalism at Massey University in Wellington . . .
The matheme-atics of Jacques Lacan’s four — or more — discourses can enable us to account for changes in the university, and the place of dissent within (or outside) it. If, to misapply Lacan, we take the discourse of the university to represent the University 1.0 (the national university that exists to create good citizens), his fifth discourse, that of capitalism, can represent the University 2.0 (the transnational university that exists to generate transcendental, or global, capital).
Both discourses, Lacan might say, serve the hidden truth of the master: the mathemes that occupy the position of agency (top left on the quadripode) are “fake masters,” to use Slavoj Žižek’s term, namely,
- in the University 1.0, knowledge (S2) — or learning, embodied in the professorate, and
- in the University 2.0, the subject ($) — or consumers, including managers and academics as well as students.
The shift from a ruling discourse that produces a certain subjectivity (learning producing learned subjects) to one that is driven by a certain subjectivity (consumers producing profit) can account for changes in the university.
How are we, then, to understand the place of dissent within the university (or outside it, given that the university is now taken to be captive to and of a piece with capitalism)? The discourses of the hysteric and the analyst can be read as dissenting: the hysteric questions the hidden masters of university and capitalist discourse to protest against them; the analyst works with the subjectivities that are produced in university discourse and drive capitalist discourse to transform them. But it struck me, when reading Alice and the Cheshire Cat’s ripostes to the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (link), that I might instead construct a sixth discourse: of dissent, or dissensus, to use Jacques Rancière’s term. (The Cheshire Cat hystericises and analyses the Queen; Alice dissents.)
Dissent takes the discourse of the university as its starting point, but swaps the “covert” mathemes (the bottom two mathemes) $ and S1, such that its truth becomes the subject and its product, a new kind of mastery. It is a “subjectification” of the university and a re-mastering of its universe; how so, my talk will explore.
 Before Lacan added a fifth discourse, of capitalism (“On Psychoanalytic Discourse,” 1972/1978), he took the discourse of the university, the historical successor to the discourse of the master, to represent capitalism (The Other Side of Psychoanalysis, 1968/2007).
 Slavoj Žižek, Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle, 2004.
 For this reason, Lacan came to take the discourse of the hysteric to represent science, which offers — or ought to offer — an implicit critique of the status quo of knowledge (e.g., in Television, 1974; 1990).
 Jacques Rancière, “The Thinking of Dissensus: Politics and Aesthetics,” 2003.
 Note that Alain Badiou (Philosophy for Militants, 2012) argues by way of Lacan’s discourses for a re-mastering of philosophy: for him, philosophy has for the most part been co-opted by the discourse of the university (it has become antiphilosophy); to find its rightful place, it must re-appropriate the discourse of the master.
3 January 2013 § Leave a Comment
Perfectionism is procrastination.
After Voltaire, La Bégueule (1772): “the better [le mieux] is the enemy of the good” (compare Jacques Lacan on beauty as our saviour from truth; see The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60, 217).
From Bre Pettis and Kio Stark comes a recipe for productivity (Bre Pettis: I Make Things, 3 Mar. 2009):
- There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
- Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
- There is no editing stage.
- Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
- Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
- The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
- Once you’re done you can throw it away.
- Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
- People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
- Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
- Destruction is a variant of done.
- If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
- Done is the engine of more.
22 December 2012 § Leave a Comment
Materiality has recently claimed centre stage in architectural discourse and practice, yet its critical meaning is ever receding. Tropes like material honesty, digital materiality, material responsiveness and dematerialisation mark out an interdisciplinary field where scientific fact and artistic experimentation interact, and where what in fact constitutes materiality and immateriality is constantly re-imagined.
Interstices14 invites contributions that address the thematic strands: Immateriality; Atmosphere+Experience; Interactivity; Material Politics; Material Technology+Aesthetics; Material Referents.
Immateriality: As a reaction to developments in science, materiality came under scrutiny with the emergence of nineteenth century German aesthetics (Vischer, Schmarsow) and the early avant-garde projects (Lissitzky, van Doesburg). Initiating an epistemic shift in art and architecture, these works pointed point to the connection between the concrete material properties of objects and their interaction with the inhabitant through psycho-physiological effects. From one of these early projects, this publication borrows its title – Immaterial Materialities – a term invented by El Lissitzky to describe the dynamics of our spatial conception, which could be explored through the design of imaginary spaces – possibilities pioneered by film and modern mass media. The inclusion of ephemeral elements such as light, line, colour, and media, reconceptualised materiality as an entirely dynamic category, a kind of ‘materialised energy’ (Vesnin). These ideas re-emerged transformed in the work of the Neo-avant-garde of the 1960s and 70s, and surfaced again in contemporary architectural debates.
Atmosphere + Experience: Gernot Böhme thematizes the idea of ‘materialized energy’ under the heading of ‘atmospheres,’ which he sees as the fundamental concept of a new aesthetics in architecture. Questioning the primacy of vision, Böhme asks “is seeing really the truest means of perceiving architecture? Do we not feel it even more? And what does architecture actually shape – matter or should we say space?” Böhme points to the architecture of Herzog & de Meuron and Peter Zumthor whose works build upon material experimentation and foreground sensory qualities. “Atmospheres”, notes Böhme “are something that defines the human-in-the-world as a whole, i.e. his relationship to the environment, to other people, to things and works of art”.
Interactivity: Considerations on our relationship with atmosphere and weather have informed recent projects, which deploy materials as mediators or activating agents that probe the relationship between audience/user and the physical environment: Spatial investigations with phenomena-producing materials such as water, light, colour and temperature experiment with the viewer’s experience (Eliasson); responsive high-tech materials interact with audiences (Spuybroek); ‘weather architectures’ (Hill), or ‘atmo architectures’ (Sloterdijk) technologically re-create nature as spatial experience and spectacle (Diller and Scofidio).
Material Politics: Traditional materials such as timber and concrete have been re-imagined through the rediscovery of forgotten methods and connect us to the material traditions of historic regional architecture. Through the use of low-cost materials such as corrugated metal, Australian architects connect the beach house, the wool-shed, and industrial estates educing trans-historical, cross-cultural, and climatic associations by fusing the Australian vernacular with international modernism. In East Germany, architect Ulrich Müther’s material experimentation with cast concrete generated an aura of cosmopolitanism that stood in stark contrast to the visual monotony of the iconic ‘Plattenbauten’ (pre-cast concrete towers) promoted by the government; whereas in 1950s Bosnia, Juraj Neidhardt argued that a systematic re-arrangement of architectural elements could facilitate an interactive relationship between the heritage built fabric and the new Communist society.
Material Technology + Aesthetics: Architectural experiments in material-oriented computational design explore the design potential of conventional construction materials. Waste material and natural materials are fused chemically, or mechanically-fixed, providing imaginative design solutions for technological problems. New composites with changed material and aesthetic properties are suitable for an extended variety of applications. The traditional visual language of tectonics gives rise to a plastic aesthetic that rejects discrete structural elements in favour of homogeneity and gradient – a language that is just beginning to be explored.
Material Referents: In contemporary art, Liam Gillick uses materials and architectural elements that reference the universal modernism favoured in corporate architecture; plexiglas, steel, and colour aluminium connect “the project of emancipation of the avant-gardes and the protocol of our alienation in a modern economy”; these material fragments prompt the viewer to reflect on a range of, at times conflicting, environments, which can be read “as partial images that call to mind a range of other moments and environments” (Verhagen). It is precisely this “calling to mind of other moments and environments” that Philip Ursprung detects in Hans Danuser’s photographic representations of Peter Zumthor’s architecture. Danuser’s images evoke seemingly incompatible associations by revealing unexpected links between Zumthor’s atmospheric concrete spaces and the problematic, post-industrial spaces of Alpine power plants and cooling towers. Photography, as Barthes argues, entails a frictional encounter with the reality of an image; an invisible disturbance of the photographic surface.
All these approaches probe boundaries — between material and immaterial, art and science, practice and theory, representation and experience, tradition and innovation, and producer/object/user, giving rise to the following concerns:
- What is the validity of different approaches to materiality in relation to the vital problems of our time?
- Where do materials allow us to cross disciplinary, cultural, or other boundaries?
- Can materials be deployed to create environments which predict user behaviour and control social relations and experiences?
- Which trans-historical correspondences can be detected in contemporary approaches to materiality, and how do these challenge, imitate and expand on previous thinking?
Submissions: Interstices: Journal of Architecture and Related Arts 14, “Immaterial Materialities: Materiality and Interactivity in Art and Architecture,” invites critical investigations of theoretical and historical content from academics, as well as practice-oriented contributions from content providers such as architects, artists and curators, that redress imbalances and missing links in the portrayal and debate of matters concerning materiality and interactivity in art and architecture from the 1920s onward.
For the refereed part, we welcome submission of 5000 word papers and visual submissions with an accompanying text of approximately 500 words. For the non-refereed part, we welcome papers up to 2500 words and project reports and reviews of up to 1000 words related to the issue theme. Please check out the Notes for Contributors for details about the reviewing process, copyright issues and formatting for written and visual submissions.
Please send your submission to Sandra Karina Löschke (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 3 March 2013.
Authors accepted for the reviewing process will receive confirmation and a schedule of production in mid-March and the journal will go to publication in October/November 2013.
19 November 2012 § Leave a Comment
the drift of it every thing
Shut not your doors to me proud libraries,
For that which was lacking on all your well-fill’d shelves, yet needed most, I bring,
Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,
A book separate, not link’d with the rest nor felt by the intellect,
But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page.
Walt Whitman, “Shut not Your Doors,” Leaves of Grass: A Textual Variorum of the Printed Poems, vol. 2: Poems, 1860–67, ed. Sculley Bradley, Harold W. Blodgett, Arthur Golden and William White, Collected Writings of Walt Whitman (New York, NY: NYUP, 1980) link.
1 November 2012 § 1 Comment
Students and teachers alike bemoan the sorry state of academic writing, as both readers and writers. Nonetheless, they are loath to venture beyond what they take to be the well-known territory of the academic (read: expository) essay for fear of going astray, or unsettling their readers. Here I aim to map the academic essay as it is practised for the most part . . . but also as it might be practised. I offer a cartography — and something of a history — of the ‘point-first’ and ‘point-last’ essay. The former dominates the academy, but the latter is truer to the origin of the essay. Point-first essays allow writers to show what they know, to negotiate known territory (terra cognita), hence their dominance in the academy; point-last essays enable writers (and thereby readers) to find out what they think, to navigate unknown territory (terra incognita), where lie dragons . . . or riches.
24 October 2012 § Leave a Comment
Check out Workplace 20 (2012): The New Academic Manners, Managers, and Spaces (link).
Workplace is a refereed, open access journal published by a collective of scholars in critical higher education promoting a new dignity in academic work.
Stephen Turner and my “Cardinal Newman in the Crystal Palace: The Idea of the University Today” appears here.
25 September 2012 § Leave a Comment
Get this: The New Zealand Herald promos Michael Parker’s book The Pine Tree Paradox (2010) in Michael Dickison’s “A Stanford on the Waitemata” (The New Zealand Herald 25 Sep. 2012). Parker argues that
New Zealand’s chance to become a world-leading economy could be on our wharves, with a true research university to rival Stanford.
Stephen Turner and I wrote about this proposal in our essay, “Knowledge Waves: New Zealand as Educational Enterprise,” Australian Journal of Communication 38.3 (2011): 153-77; see my earlier post that links to it.
18 September 2012 § 1 Comment
Because to be productive = to write in the ‘accountabalist’ university, perhaps the problem for scholars today, especially teaching scholars like myself, is how to make time to write — and how to make best use of that time.
For me, being or rather becoming productive as a scholarly writer is not about whether or not my “research environment” is productive; that is out of my control. Nor is it really about freedom from teaching or other pressures — a kind of negative freedom. Rather, it is about freeing myself to write: what might be called positive freedom. I am, I think, my own worst enemy when it comes to writing (and I’m sure this is the case with most academics — though they might not care . . . or dare to admit it). Or rather, if I am to write well — or, at least, better — the easiest place to start is with me.
Freeing myself to write, then, involves two tasks: learning to manage my time better to allow time for writing (see Boice 1997), and learning not to be too careful too early in the writing process to allow writing to do its work (see Elbow 2010). Because I know that once I start writing I never have trouble doing it, I must allow myself to write and to free write.
Here is the essay.
6 September 2012 § 1 Comment
27 August 2012 § Leave a Comment
Joshua Mostafa on Peter Sloterdijk’s Bubbles from the LA Review of Books: Sphere Theory: A Case For Connectedness (21 Aug. 2012).
[Bubbles] is . . . the first volume to be translated of Sloterdijk’s Spheres trilogy: the other two are due for an English release over the next year or two. Each volume uses the motif of the “sphere” in different yet complementary ways to refer to “spaces of coexistence” between and among human beings. Bubbles is devoted to micro-spheres, the most intimate of originary spaces: the womb; the relationship between lovers; and that between God and the human subject. The second and third volumes deal with other kinds of spheres: the world considered as a single cosmopolitan macro-sphere, and then our contemporary decentralized network of social and cultural spheres, in which the concept of a central, self-structuring totality — religion, myth, science, enlightenment — has collapsed, and we find ourselves living in a complex sea of fragmentary yet contiguous spheres, which Sloterdijk likens to a “foam.”
See my “Peter Sloterdijk in English.”