(P)olitics (p)olitics – Some thoughts after a mini seminar with Emily Apter

April 20, 2013 § Leave a comment



As part of a joint Art History/ Architecture History PhD colloquium series Emily Apter came to talk to us about to recently published articles; “Planetary Dysphasia” and “Occupy Derivatives!” … funny I didn’t notice until now the double entendre there… Anyway she is thinking of developing each of them into larger projects. It was an interesting discussion. Planetary Dysphasia places two apparently opposing philosophical problems – ontology and ethics within the frame of the “planetary”—by inserting a post-Freudian conception of trauma into the mix. For me, the idea of an ontological ethics is an impossibility, but framed this way it seems sorta possible. If we act, not according to the categorical imperative but rather out of love for this object—the ultimate object (i.e. the earth/breast, the pure externality) we can still save humanity, whether humanity is considered in and of itself an end. But where does that leave us? Does it matter the motivation?

Emily Apter’s other article on Occupy was also very interesting. In a way it was as if in Occupy she was seeing cultural hegemony in the mirror—culture as a possible strategy of liberation (with a little l)… one that can only be practiced (or cultivated) and not demanded of the increasingly nebulous and unrepresentable state. I guess that just makes it plain culture… but then again, Occupy requires organizational strategies, so it’s not quite ‘organic’ … it is, rather speechless, direct action without pontification… hmmm the word ‘culture’ itself suggests a sort of coaxed organicism. I will have to think about this.

Actually it reminded me of a story that Erik Carver just told me about a guerilla booklaunch for The Coming Insurrection, at a Barnes & Nobles… after Barnes and Nobles broke it up the crowd moved outdoors where some shouted “Take the Sephora!!!” (this was covered in the NY TImes). This of course seems absurd, but somehow not absurd, considering Occupy’s strangely cohesive incoherence. The difference between cohesion and coherence is something vaguely though intriguingly addressed in H. Lefebvre’s The Production of Space.  Anyway, if we are to understand politics with a little p—this does make alot of sense. No connection is too small, too distant, too trivial. There are no sides—everything is entangled, imbricated. The action was confusing and it didn’t make any sense… but that weird carnivalesque aesthetic is actually, in many ways right on target. I mean, it’s no more ridiculous than when AllBuisness.com plastered billboards all over the city of someone tattooing Alan Greenspan’s leathery face on their arm. Anyway, it wouldn’t surprise me if those ‘taking the Sephora’ have also, at least once or twice also bought lip balm there. But that doesn’t make those people hypocrites. Just because you contribute to the system doesn’t mean you can’t also hate it. The totality of the system somehow shores up critiques against it by invoking individual guilt. It is as if once you’ve bought something within the system, that was somehow a profession of belief of that system, and that speaking out against it is somehow a lack of gratefulness to everything it has given to you. Hmmmmmm… when I was doing an image search for The Coming Insurrection … the following popped up in the Ad bar… SEEE!!! Tautology, proof—BUT just because you can’t escape it, doesn’t mean you can’t have a problem with it, even if you do frequent the Sephora or buy The Coming Insurrection from the Wal-Mart.



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