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Posts tagged ‘分裂 disjuncture’

失物 018:电脑 (联想 thinkpad)、火车票、现金 (八千多)、一本行为艺术的书、若干英文资料

Lost & Found Object No. 018: Lenovo Thinkpad laptop, one train ticket, 8,000+ RMB, book on performance art, a number of English text papers
Last seen: morning of 14 March 2012
Location: in the trunk of a taxi headed from the east side of Dongzhimen bridge, at the public transport station across  from the Ginza Mall, headed towards Jiaodaokou Beiertiao (diagonally across from the Fenjiu liquor shop)


如果您要收回家作坊失物招领处的任何物品,或者有关于以上列的物品的信息,请跟我们联系Please contact HomeShop if you would like to reclaim any lost & found item or have information regarding the above mentioned items.
photo by GAO Ling

After trying to begin to write for quite a long time now, it finally comes down to seeing no other simple way to begin but with all the complexity of ‘I’, which means that proper reading and research are lacking enough to make one unable to (attempt) to pursue a more objective line of reasoning and/or explanation. In all honesty, the last months have dried up words, and parched like this city, thoughts do not find language in balanced cycle. Even the pronouns don’t dance as much as they used to, as per those (known for) past avoidances of the reflexive pronoun, and I wonder which particular subjectivities have been lost along the way.

I think about the past often, but I’m not so nostalgic.

Where does this ‘I’ come from, this ‘I’ that has somehow come in the last years, across particular oceans and with the looking back upon those far fallen bridges? There is a loathsome identity game going on here, and recent events have triggered repeated keywords, or perhaps it’s simply grammar.

‘I’ cannot separate from this question of what ‘this’ is, but where we were led astray during the conversation was the point at which things needed to be named, where it matters how we define [定义] a certain audience, forms of art-making, goals and Five-Year Plans. The fact is that I don’t want things to fit so easily into well-written descriptions, institutions or fixed modes of communication.

Communication, or art, for that matter, does not occur in ‘I’ alone, or even by mere grammar. The signifieds are too complex these days, like Hollywood hoaxes piled upon political ones. The politics exist in representation as much as in our language, and ‘I’ should get confused with ‘we’ or ‘she’ or ‘he’ much more often than it does, perhaps.

Name Game

If the only thing to be trusted is individuality’s subjectivity, then being divided (split-off) is not the self but the system; it is a form of becoming precipitated by a fissure in the system. [1]

– 麦巅 MAI Dian

Some friends at Womenjia Youth Autonomy Lab [“我们家”青年自治中心] in Wuhan recently had one of their texts re-translated at China Study Group, and what strikes me most is the need for a rethinking of terms amidst the proliferation of #tags# and “elevator pitches”. In the same moment that some may ask us for more clarity in explaining a practice, or a work, it becomes also useful to note when the omittance of certain signifieds allows a form of agency that cannot be practiced otherwise.

The Womenjia Youth Autonomy Lab describes itself thus on its Douban page with a question mark, and this, as shown in his text, is fraught with all the layers of subjective and objective dilemma that come with giving “the house a name”:

So long as you put forth the effort, physical space will arrive rather easily, and transformation will proceed smoothly. What we didn’t expect was that the moment we hung up the sign with the word “autonomous,” everyday social relations would have to be redefined. From that moment onward, the destructive and constructive sides of change began to collide with each other. New relations have no blueprint. [2]

Words like ‘I’, ‘community’, ‘representation’ and some of their possible outputs—’we’, ‘society’,  ‘art’ and ‘media’—exist likewise in constantly shifting relation. This occurs at the level of semantics but also in the means with which we can create those outputs. I think we somehow failed to get to this in all the discussions of ‘alternative practice’ that have gone on lately [3], and this is also why it may be quite tricky to look at such researches (at least contemporarily) as anything more than an index, or a means of self-reflection.

This goes back to the ‘I’, and of course, its evil partner ‘other’. Alternative arts practices and many other forms of cultural production in China are catalysed to a great degree by ‘the foreign others’, and this can be explained largely by matters of economy, varied forms of thinking of agency and initiative, as well as, at a larger scale, ideas about what ‘DIY’ or ‘politics’ mean (and where they coincide). Media finds itself intertangled within all of this, from the rhetoric of finding Chinese origins for Western initiatives [西学中原], to the politics of representation and yes, language. This tends to be frustrating or opaque-rendering for those seeking forms of lateral exchange, and a lot of the time, well, the vocabularies are just too different. This is not to say that nothing can be exchanged, but we should be careful of what ulterior motives drive seemingly open-ended discourse. Desire is rarely so easy as the statement ‘I want you’, and more often than not, “the ‘tragedy’ that is love is simply laughed at”. [4]

I’m circling around here. After cynicism about cultural exchange, more recent topics that have come up as possible focuses for our next publication include translatability, opacity, ballsy. It sounds vague, but I trust that we are already in the same vein. At the same time, we are thinking about how different forms of media we utilise can be better refined to address the who, what, where, why and when we would like to communicate. This is why I am relieved and re-struck to refer to DYAC again, albeit from the somewhat sophomoric attempt of our own Beiertiao Leaks. This very slow day newspaper was a first attempt from our new home base at Beixinqiao to organise a form of media that is participatory, multiplicitous and public. It is not an equal exchange. But, as Michael says, it’s “a conversation starter”.

All of this rambling, likewise, is a kind of conversation starter. For HomeShop and for optimistic efforts to understand the juxtapositions between language, art and politics. “最正经的如「政治」,并不是理所当然的政党与特殊利益集团的国家治理,甚至法西斯极权,它更是我们作为一个有主体性的人参与社会关系的建设…” Politics not as in the “state administration by parties or special interest groups,” but as “our participation as subjects in the construction of social relations”—a kind of grammar, perhaps—involving more than one pronoun. [5]


[1]  麦巅 MAI Dian. “复制抑或连接:两个亚洲人飞往欧洲 To Copy or to Connect: Two Asians Fly to Europe”.  穿 Wear, No. 2. 家作坊 HomeShop: 北京 Beijing, 2010年.
[2] 唐水恩 TANG Shui’en. “一个小朋克的基础另类教育 The Alternative Education of a Chinese Punk”. First printed in Chutzpah!. Shao Foundation: 北京 Beijing, 2009年. Translated to English by www.libcom.org, and later revised by 猢狲子 HUSUNZI at China Study Group.
[3] I refer here to the alternative arts practices in China as having been recently discussed by a number of critics and researchers, including Edward SANDERSON, Clara KIM, 蔡影茜 Nikita CHOI and The Office for Art and Theory (刘鼎 LIU Ding and 卢迎华 Carol Yinghua LU).
[4] 唐水恩 TANG Shui’en, “一个小朋克的基础另类教育 The Alternative Education of a Chinese Punk”.
[5] ibid.

re-jigging around the interruption. a compelling incompleteness. this must be the place.

When you start in-between, what you’re in the middle of is a region of relation. Occurrent relation, because it’s all about event. Putting the terms together, you realize straight away that the relational event will play out differently every time. In repeating, it takes up the past differently. In taking up the past differently, it creates new potentials for the future. The region of occurrent relation is a point of potentiation. It is where things begin anew. Where things begin anew is where they were already present in tendency.

JM: Then what precedes the event? What gives rise to it?
BM: Shock. That’s what Peirce says. Affect for me is inseparable from the concept of shock. It doesn’t have to be a drama. It’s really more about microshocks, the kind that populate every moment of our lives. For example a change in focus, or a rustle at the periphery of vision that draws the gaze toward it. In every shift of attention, there is an interruption, a momentary cut in the mode of onward deployment of life. The cut can pass unnoticed, striking imperceptibly, with only its effects entering conscious awareness as they unroll. This is the onset of the activation I was referring to earlier. I’d go so far as to say that this onset of experience is by nature imperceptible.

This is one way of understanding “microperception,” a concept of great importance to Deleuze and Guattari. Microperception is not smaller perception; it’s a perception of a qualitatively different kind. It’s something that is felt without registering consciously. It registers only in its effects. According to this notion of shock, there is always a commotion under way, a “something doing” as James would say. There is always a something-doing cutting in, interrupting whatever continuities are in progress. For things to continue, they have to re-continue. They have to re-jig around the interruption. At the instant of re-jigging, the body braces for what will come. It in-braces, in the sense that it returns to its potential for more of life to come, and that potential is immanent to its own arising.

It might not sound political, at least in the way it’s usually meant. But it is, because the virtuality is of an event to come, and as we saw before the event always has the potential to affectively attune a multiplicity of bodies to its happening, differentially. Aesthetic politics brings the collectivity of shared events to the fore, as differential, a multiple bodily potential for what might come. Difference is built into this account. Affective politics, understood as aesthetic politics, is dissensual, in the sense that it holds contrasting alternatives together without immediately demanding that one alternative eventuates and the others evaporate. It makes thought-felt different capacities for existence, different life potentials, different forms of life, without immediately imposing a choice between them. The political question, then, is not how to find a resolution. It’s not how to impose a solution. It’s how to keep the intensity in what comes next. The only way is through actual differentiation. Different lines of unfolding bring the contrast into actuality, between them. The political question is then what Isabelle Stengers calls an “ecology of practices.” How do you tend this proliferation of differentiation? How can the lines not clash and destroy each other? How do they live together? The “solution” is not to resolve the tension through a choice, but to modulate it into a symbiosis: a cross-fertilization of capacitations that live out to the fullest the intensity of the event of their coming together.

There’s a certain incompleteness to any micropolitical event, like the events I was talking about. A lot of things that you feel were on the verge of taking shape didn’t quite happen. Potentials that you could just glimpse didn’t come into focus. The goal is not to overcome the incompleteness. It’s to make it compelling. Compelling enough that you are moved to do it again, differently, bringing out another set of potentials, some more formed and focused, others that were clearly expressed before now backgrounded. That creates a small, moveable environment of potential. The goal is to live in that moveable environment of potential. If you manage to, you will avoid the paralysis of hopelessness. Neither hope nor hopelessness—a pragmatics of potential. You have to live it at every level. In the way you relate to your partner, and even your cat. The way you teach a class if you’re a professor. The way you create and present your art if you’re an artist. If you participate in more punctual events like the ones I was describing, this will provide a continuous background for what comes of those events to disseminate into and diffuse through. A symbiosis of the special event and the day-to-day, in creative connivance.

Micropolitics is not programmatic. It doesn’t construct and impose global solutions. But it would be naïve to think that is separate from that kind of macro-activity. Anything that augments powers of existence creates conditions for micropolitical flourishings. No body flourishes without enough food and without health care. Micropolitical interventions need macro solutions. But success at the macropolitical level is at best partial without a complementary micropolitical flourishing. Without it, the tendency is toward standardization. Since macropolitical solutions are generally applicable by definition, by definition they act to curtail the variety and exuberance of forms of life. Macropolitical intervention targets minimal conditions of survival. Micropolitics complements that by fostering an excess of conditions of emergence. That inventiveness is where new solutions start to crystallize. The potentials produced at the micropolitical level feed up, climbing the slope that macropolitics descends. Micropolitical and macropolitical go together. One is never without the other. They are processual reciprocals. They aliment each other. At their best, they are mutually corrective.

It has become a commonplace recently to say that we are in a situation where the end of the world is now imaginable—but the end of capitalism isn’t. That is definitely one “solution” that is not likely to come programmatically, top-down— given who’s on top. The dismantling of capitalism is a “corrective” that will only come from a breaking of the reciprocity I was just talking about between the macro- and micropolitical. The prevailing operating conditions of macro/micropolitical reciprocity should not be taken to imply that the symmetry is never broken, that a bifurcation can never occur. The complementarity can be broken in both directions. When macrostructures miniaturize themselves and work to usurp the ground of the micropolitical with scaled-down versions of the dominant generalities, that is fascism. When micropolitical flourishings proliferate to produce a singularity, in the sense of a systemic tipping point, that’s revolution. The ultimate vocation of micropolitics is this: enacting the unimaginable. The symmetry-breaking point, the point at which the unimaginable eventuates, is but a cut, “smaller” than the smallest historically perceivable interval. That is to say, qualitatively different. A moment of a different color, one you never see coming, that comes when it’s least expected. Inevitably, a next micro/macro complementarity will quickly settle in. But it will take a form that could not have been predicted, but is now suddenly doable and thinkable. Micropolitics is what makes the unimaginable practicable. It’s the potential that makes possible.

–Brian Massumi, Of Microperception and Micropolitics

国际大缝隙——香港和深圳之间的口岸,或在所有的国与国之间,区与国之间的那些转换地,也就是那些既不属于此国也不属于彼国的国际空间,有时候只是几栋楼房的距离而已。那些有限的 “ 之间 ” 和 “ 飘地 ” 。


或许有一天,我们应该在不同的“ 国际缝隙 ”中同时穿梭,算好时差,带着气球。

how can we think about disjunctures so that they are not only about contradiction, contrast and binaries? i found it somehow melancholic yet comforting to hear someone from the media talk about the grey, and yet with it, i feel paralysed, that there are no solutions, no means with which we can find productive recourse. the urban situation here is so layered by the complexities of social relation, i find here, moreso than anywhere else i have been, that structure/infrastructure/production trace human paths, leave vestiges of relations, relationships and/or human error. at one point i could say this leaves all the optimism of sheer possibility to the chinese condition, as in shoe brand Li Ning’s campaign slogan, “Anything is possible.” Adidas’ is, “Impossible is nothing.” One could easily talk about bootlegging again here, but the minor difference in the wording, and the space in between the two, make all the difference in the world. Lately I’ve been feeling suffocated, trapped and adamant against certain aspects about my life here, ways of doing in this (my?) city. Beijing is a grey city. But we’re not supposed to say I don’t know.

Anything is possible.


from fotini’s obsession during grad school:

As far as the postmodern urban environment is concerned, Jameson claims that the mutation in built space and the new hyperspace that has been created has not yet been accompanied by the necessary transformations in the human subject in order for it to be able to perceive and grasp this space. This has led to the inability of the individual subject to locate itself in reference to its surroundings and to cognitively map its position in the world. There is an analogous experience on a sociopolitical level in the inability of the individual subject to map the global multinational world in which it is located. Toward the end of the essay Jameson introduces the concept of cognitive mapping that can “enable a situational representation of the part of the individual subject to that vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of the city’s structure as a whole.” Through this practice the individual can resist the otherwise totally homogenizing space of global multinationalism, and at the same time conceive the connections between the intimate local dimensions of subjective experience and the abstract and impersonal forces of the global system.

In this sense cognitive mapping is a postmodern practice. We could actually go on and claim that there can be no cognitive map as a product of this practice, since what is important is the process of mapping itself and not its outcome. Both Jameson and the Situationists have promoted through their mappings a political understanding of space and made evident their intention to construct new social relations. The practice of cognitive mapping can help us coordinate the discontinuous realities in which we find ourselves and give us a sense of orientation. Even if we can never actually produce a cognitive map, our attempt to do so can prove to be a first step in the restructuring of our world and of our position in it and will definitely influence our relations to each other and to the urban environment. As Jameson concludes at the end of his essay on cognitive mapping “even if we cannot imagine the productions of such an aesthetic, there may, nonetheless, as with the very idea of Utopia itself, be something positive in the attempt to keep alive the possibility of imagining such a thing.”

“The epidemic of ‘India’, ‘China’, ‘Africa’ and ‘Mexico’ exhibitions that have done the rounds of major European venues in the last decade or so may have unwittingly contributed a jubilant affirmation of extant stereotypes and inaugurated the career of a few new ones. Notions of identity can get powerfully linked to the question of provenance when distance is brought into the mix, because things from afar are firstly and most importantly read in terms of the fact that they are from afar. What something is becomes eclipsed by the fact of where it is from.

Everything that comes from a distant geographical-cultural point of origin is then read predominantly against a matrix of things that too are seen as originating from the same space. This leads to the assumption that if enough objects from a given space were to be brought together at a time, then the objects themselves would automatically yield information about what made them look alike to the distant observer. However, their ‘likenesses’ may in fact be nothing other than an averaging out of what made them unlike the observer’s own idea of himself/herself or his/her familiar co-ordinates.

This arbitrary ‘likeness’, a conceptual fiction, can also help construct a grid of authenticity, a criterion that can be used to index all things that originate from a given space. In such a way, the distant observer can judge an object that is named alien in terms of how true or authentic it seems to its designated alien-ness.

This search for the ‘authentic’ other is a fallacy born of a desire to view objects at a distance solely in terms of their alterity. However, the mere fact of alterity has nothing to do with distance. Things can be alien, or familiar, regardless of where they are found: close at hand, or far away. The aggrandisement, or amplification, of alterity is a fact that has little to do with distance but gets attributed to it, so as to distract attention from the scopic desires of the distant observer. Deep within this desire is a paradox of anxiety about the contamination that contemplation can induce.

Here, desire and anxiety intersect to create an interesting phenomenon. Things from afar, when telescoped and magnified and brought close to the field of the observer’s attention, can generate a fear of invasion, of infection and contamination. The maintenance of their ‘alterity’ within the distant observer’s scopic regime can both stoke that anxiety and also be seen to act as a prophylactic against it. It works by inoculating the observer from the infection of the alien by subjecting him/her to ‘difference’ only in controlled doses.

What comes undone?

What can come undone is the assumption that cultures and places stand in anything other than a densely networked relationship to one another. Prejudices and extant notions can be subverted by the fact of resonance and the exposition of interwoven threads of history, politics, and the web that emerges from the commerce across distances in images and ideas. This can lead to modest epiphanies, such that it becomes difficult for any one person not to acknowledge the debts they owe to others who may be quite different from themselves. To do this is not to buy into a glib universalism, because all of this can happen as much due to inequalities in power and violence as to voluntary exchange and intercourse. The simple fact remains that the world cannot any longer be thought of in monadic terms. The privileging of centrality and achievement that may have been the ruling illusion of some protagonists and advocates of any cultural matrix comes undone when faced with the intimate relationship that their trophies have with the material of other cultures. The distant observer then begins to see the debts that one might owe to the other. Hierarchies, both temporal and spatial have then to be held in abeyance in favour of more realistic assessments based on careful observation.”

[from “Once again, to the distant observer”, Raqs Media Collective]

I was completely humbled and impressed by the quiet but critical intelligence of this essay — the kind of writing that i long for, and some interesting parallels regarding disjunctions in space. Different from what we talked about in the last post, which i suppose talked more about an intra-disjunction as opposed to the intercultural gaps referred to here. But abstracting the conversation into the geometries of the gaze of objects in space in interesting. In the case of china, can we consider the bending of space and time (beijing construction, real estate boom, socio-cultural angst, apathy, inefficacy) in response to the inability to fix one’s gaze upon anything solid here?



Time/disjunctures/to follow on destructuring…

Yes, indeed, I think that here you point to a key issue, constitutive of contemporary China: disjunctures. Temporal and spatial are indeed constitutive of the society.

I would say that disjunctures are constitutive of contemporary world since globalization and technology and modernity have increasingly brought together subjects that were previously spatially and temporally separated.

If I think here in urban terms – which are those I am most familiar with – we could say that this process is extremely visible in cities like Beijing, as disjunctures materialize (and are constituted) by changes in the built environment. Yet china has a particularly long history, that is continually brought on to nurture a national feeling, and changes have been so fast in the past 3 decades…that people can’t possibly cope with them…and produces many…leftovers. It is quite interesting to think that reforms have started 30 years ago already…which means that reforms time has been as long as M.a.o time…but again, time seems not to be the same, considered the events that shaped those different periods…

Once I read an interview of film maker Jia Zhangke 贾樟柯 and he said something very interesting : China is changing, but most importantly: china has changed already, and it’s time to stop and think about where we are. I found this extremely appealing because Chinese society has been on the move for such a long time and “hope/belief in a better future” has been carefully nurtured by Chinese leaders in order to carry on the reforms [no need to think about Deng who said that they first needed to create rich and then help the poor, or what was it again?] Yet, thinking about the future definitely hides the present, and I feel china is now at that particular turning point where people start realizing that life is in the present and future might not change anymore – at least, for them.

And again—encounters, how do people cope with those disjunctures? where do the disjunctures meet ?

Yourself are a product of such disjunctures, because of your family’s history, because of your own experiences and history…and here comes the link with the overseas project, at least in my understanding.

Again, in urban terms, this makes me think about Deljana, an architect doing a PhD in Tokyo but working on Shanghai…and she has been studying those disjunctures appearing in the time new buildings are being built and added to the old fabric…and she tries to understand how those urban disjunctures are lived by inhabitants, what are their rhythms, etc… very interesting.

And coming back on a few questions: how do people live/practice/perceive/produce disjunctures? Maybe here we have something to explore…


a friend just sent this link to the news about the reprinting of La Jetée, reminding me about how amazingly beautiful this work is and what a destructuralist achievement it represents for cinema. how it plays with time so integrally, through the narrative and the way it is made. and then, hmm… the parallel thought occurred that perhaps this way of disjointed time is something relevant for us. the chinese sense of time is something of ceaseless fascination for me, historically and how contemporary China seems to cancel/reverse/contradict itself (and its history) in so many ways… all of these show senses of time that have become unpredictable, 没有希望的,and just plain 没办法的… and today i overheard a woman of 30-something say she 很讨厌 the 后年代 generation.

and then, and then?

from the fifteenth floor…

“乌龙公司,换我血汗钱” [Shanghai, 23 January 2008]