Tuesday, 10 July 2018

27.4. Los Angeles Plays Itself

Three and some hours of documentary/ video essay and a lot of discussion. That was good!

20.4. Controlling the Many as Many and Repoman

"This ...  raised a series of questions: how do we understand how the socially diffuse worker fights; how can he concretely subvert in the space of the metropolis his subordination to production and the violence of exploitation? How does the metropolis present itself to the multitude and is it right to say that the metropolis is to the multitude what the factory used to be to the working class?"

"The metropolis confused and mixed the terms of the urban discourse: starting from a certain urban intensity, the metropolis constituted new categories, it was a proliferating machine. The measure went beyond itself. What was needed was to provide a microphysical analysis of the metropolis -in this case one of New York- that could account for both the thousands of active singularities and the forms of repression and blockage that the power of the multitude met."

"Mike Davis was the first to provide an adequate image of the phenomena that characterise the postmodern metropolis.
The erection of walls to delimit zones the poor cannot access, the definition of spaces of ghettos where the desperate of the earth can accumulate, the disciplining of the lines of transit and control that keep the order, the preventive analysis and practice of containment and persecution of possible interruptions of the cycle: today, in the literature on empire, when the continuity between war and global police is mentioned we often neglect to say that the continuous and homogeneous techniques of war and police were invented in the metropolis."

"We think that the metropolis is an exceptional and excessive resource even when the city is made up of favelas, barracks and chaos. Neither schemes of order, prefigured by an omnipotent power (from the earth to the sky through war and police), nor neutralising structures (repressions, cushions etc.) can be imposed on the metropolis and inside its social tissue. The metropolis is free." Toni Negri, Multitude and Metropolis.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

30.3. Precarias a la deriva and Precarious Lives

Precarias a la Deriva is an initiative between research and activism which arose from the feminist social center La Eskalera Karakola in Madrid, initially as a response to the general strike in Spain in June of 2002. Faced with a mobilization which did not represent the kind of fragmented, informal, invisible work that we do – our jobs were neither taken into consideration by the unions that called the strike nor effected by the legislation that provoked it – a group of women decided to spend the day of the strike wandering the city together, transforming the classic picket line into a picket survey: talking to women about their work and their days.


From this first tentative experience came the impulse to organize an ongoing research project. It is clear that we need tools for talking about and intervening in new kinds of work -this terrain of labor which often doesn't even have a name - so we set out to map the territory, with one eye always set on the possibility of conflict. This is a bid for survival arising out of our own needs: networks to break solitude, words to talk about what is happening to us.

But who is this 'us'? We depart from a tentative category, almost an intuition: can we use 'precariousness' as a common name for our diverse and singular situations? How can we both seek common names and recognize singularities, make alliances and comprehend difference? A freelance designer and a sex worker have certain things in common - the unpredictability and exposure of work, the continuity of work and life, the deployment of a whole range of unquantifiable skills and knowledges. But the difference in social recognition and the degree of vulnerability is also clear. How shall we articulate our common need without falling back upon identity, without flattening or homogenizing our situations?

We chose a method that would take us on a series of itineraries through the metropolitan circuits of feminized precarious work, leading each other through our quotidian environments, speaking in the first person, exchanging experiences, reflecting together. These derives through the city defy the division between work and life, production and reproduction, public and private, to trace the spatial-temporal continuum of existence, the double (or multiple) presence. More concretely: for a few months an open and changing group of us went almost every week on a wandering tour through the important spaces of daily life of women (ourselves, friends, close contacts) working in precarious and highly feminized sectors: language work (translations and teaching), domestic work, call-shops, sex work, food service, social assistance, media production.

we know that precariousness is not limited to the world of work. We prefer to define it as a juncture of material and symbolic conditions which determine an uncertainty with respect to the sustained access to the resources essential to the full development of one's life.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

16.3. Artificial Life and Blade Runner

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
...  Time ... to ... die."

"Why can the paradigm of representation not function in politics, nor in artistic modes of expression, and here especially in the production of works that employ moving images?
I will attempt to answer these questions by using the paradigm that imagines the constitution of the world from the relationship between event and multiplicity. Representation is conversely founded on the subject-work paradigm. In this paradigm the images, the signs and the statements have the function of representing the object, the world, whereas in the paradigm of the event, images, signs and statements contribute to allowing the world to happen. Images, signs and statements do not represent something, but rather create possible worlds. I would like to explain this paradigm using two concrete examples: the dynamic of the emergence and the constitution of post-socialist political movements and the way television functions, in other words, signs, images and statements in contemporary economy." Maurizio Lazzarato, Struggle, Event, Media

"The semiotic components of capital always operate in a dual register. The first is the register of “representation” and “signification” or “production of meaning”, both of which are organized by signifying semiotics (language) with the purpose of producing the “subject”, the “individual”, the “I”. The second is the machinic register organized by a-signifying semiotics (such as money, analog or digital machines that produce images, sounds and information, the equations, functions, diagrams of science, music, etc.), which “can bring into play signs which have an additional symbolic or signifying effect, but whose actual functioning is neither symbolic nor signifying”. This second register is not aimed at subject constitution but at capturing and activating pre-subjective and pre-individual elements (affects, emotions, perceptions) to make them function like components or cogs in the semiotic machine of capital." Maurizio Lazzarato Semiotic Pluralism

"Hope is a slighter, tougher thing even than trust, he thought, pacing his room as the soundless, vague lightning flashed overhead. In a good season one trusts life; in a bad season one only hopes. But they are of the same essence: they are the mind’s indispensable relationship with other minds, with the world, and with time. Without trust, a man lives, but not a human life; without hope, he dies. When there is no relationship, where hands do not touch, emotion atrophies in void and intelligence goes sterile and obsessed. Between men the only link left is that of owner to slave, or murderer to victim." Ursula K. Le Guin: City of Illusions.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

2.3. Global city and Swallowtail Butterfly

"The globalization of economic activity entails a new type of organizational structure.
To capture this theoretically and empirically requires, correspondingly, a new type of
conceptual architecture. Constructs such as the global city and the global-city region
are, in my reading, important elements in this new conceptual architecture. The activ-
ity of naming these elements is part of the conceptual work. There are other closely
linked terms which could conceivably have been used: worldcities," "supervilles," informational city. Thus, choosing how to name a configuration has its own substantive

When I first chose to use global city/T did so knowingly—it was an attempt to
name a difference: the specificity oFthe global as it gets structured in the contemporary
period. I did not chose the obvious alternative, world city, because it had precisely the
opposite attribute: it referred to a type of city which we have seen over the centuries/ in
earlier periods in Asia^ and in European colonial centers.^ In this regard, it can be said
that most of today's major global cities are also world cities, but that there may well be
some global cities today that are not world cities in the full, rich sense of that term. This
is partly an empirical question; further, as the global economy expands and incorpo-
rates additional cities into the various networks, it is quite possible that the answer to
that particular question will vary. Thus, the fact that Miami has developed global city
functions beginning in the late 1980s does not make it a world city in that older sense
ofthe term."

Cities are very complex and multifaceted. They are sites for extreme exploitation of masses of people; but they are also sites for new types of politics, new ways in which the powerless can engage power in a way they cannot in rural areas, for instance or in small towns. And they are also sites where the many different cultures of resistance, subversion, contestation of power can become present to each other, aware of each other, in a way they cannot on a plantation or in a small town where the diversity is lacking. Cities have become international spaces for a diversity of actors and subjects. They have of course always been so, though perhaps a bit less than today and in a different way from today. Cities are new frontier zones where actors from many many different types of struggles and national origins can come together.

Cities are strategic sites for global capital, sites for exploitation, and sites for developing new forms of resistance. They will remain and become so even more. That is my notion of the global city: it is not just about global capital, as some say, it is also about a new type of politics that has to do with engaging the global in the localized site that is the city, and a coming together of the most diverse types of efforts and people from around the world. Nowehere is all of this as concrete as in major cities.

And nowhere are there such vast concentrations of women in the strategic economic sectors at the top of the system and in the infrastructure of low wage jobs that is strategic for the servicing of the top sectors and households. And nowhere do the conditions of illegal trafficking in women materialize so clearly as a mechanism for illegal profit as in these cities. The strategic nature of all these dynamics and the vast concentrations of women from different countries and socio-economic backgrounds it entails, signals the possibility of a variety of concrete politics of resistance, contestation and implementation by women. Because these cities have women from so many different countries one effect could be to strengthen the formation of existing, and also lead to new cross-border networks. The cross-border network of global cities is a space where we are seeing the formation of countergeographies of globalization which contest the dominant economic forms the global economy has assumed.

Saskia Sassen: Women in the Global City. Exploitation and Empowerment

And the film, 2,5 hours of Shunji Iwai: Swallowtail Butterfly

Friday, 17 February 2017

16.2. The logic of the big city Jacobs and MIB


“Great cities are not like towns, only larger. They are not like suburbs, only denser. They differ from towns and suburbs in basic ways, and one of these is that cities are, by definition, full of strangers. To any one person, strangers are far more common in big cities than acquaintances. More common not only in places of public assembly, but more common at a man’s own doorstep. Even residents who live near each other are strangers, and must be, because of the sheer number of people in small geographical compass.

The bedrock attribute of a successful city district is that a person must feel personally safe and secure on the street among all these strangers.”

2.2. Classics: Walter Benjamin and Fritz Lang's Metropolis

Walter Benjamin: Some Motifs in Baudelaire

To a Passer-By

The street about me roared with a deafening sound.
Tall, slender, in heavy mourning, majestic grief,
A woman passed, with a glittering hand
Raising, swinging the hem and flounces of her skirt;

Agile and graceful, her leg was like a statue's.
Tense as in a delirium, I drank
From her eyes, pale sky where tempests germinate,
The sweetness that enthralls and the pleasure that kills.

A lightning flash... then night! Fleeting beauty
By whose glance I was suddenly reborn,
Will I see you no more before eternity?

Elsewhere, far, far from here! too late! never perhaps!
For I know not where you fled, you know not where I go,
O you whom I would have loved, O you who knew it!


In the sonnet - says Benjamin - the crowd is nowhere mentioned. Yet the poem is possible only against a big-city crowd, like the wind in the sails of a boat. And this big-city crowd is the protagonist and subject of Benjamin's essay. He discusses the dynamics of experience when living in a big city is the norm; and the kind of poetry this could call for. He talks of shocks and our experiences of time, the loss of aura and all kinds of haloes. "Of all the experiences which made his life what it was, Baudelaire singled out his having been jostled by the crowd as the decisive, unique experience."

And then Lang's Metropolis - the dystopian future with a social-democratic happy ending...