Latest

'Filosofía pirata, edición libre', discussion with Perro Tuerto y Pucho (El Rancho Electrónico) y Gabriela Méndez Cota (Universidad Iberoamericana) for the Mexico city radio station Ibero 909.fm, September 12, 2019.

Open Humanities Press – The Inhumanist Manifesto

Pirate Philosophy, This Is Not A Pipe Podcast

HyperCritical Theory

Übercapitalism and What Can Be Done About It

Recent publications

Masked Media (limited edition paper-only publication for The House That Heals The Soul exhibition, Tetley, Leeds, 2018) 


 The Inhumanist Manifesto: Extended Play (Techne Lab, 2017)

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here in Media Gifts or in Coventry University's online repositories PURE here, and CURVE here 

Radical Open Access

Monday
Apr082019

Posthumanities Publishing

This is an 'authors-cut' version of the abstract Janneke Adema and I have put together for our forthcoming presentation at the Institute of Network Cultures' 'Urgent Publishing: New Strategies for Publishing in Post-Truth Times', Making Public conference Arnhem, 15-16 May. Janneke and I are speaking with Lídia Pereira and Axel Andersson on the 'The Carrier Bag Theory of Non-Fiction' session. 

  

This plural-voiced presentation will focus on what publishing does rather than what publishing is. It will intervene in the debate over publishing in the post-truth era by shifting the focus away from a hegemonic, modular, object-centered understanding of modularity, toward a more relational model of posthumanities publishing. Here research, reading, writing and the published text (not to mention software, the market and the commons) are understood as emerging from the intra-actions of a heterogeneous constellation of both human and nonhuman actors, many of which are ignored by existing theories of media. Drawing boundaries – whether it involves conceptualising information containers via the figure of the net, leaf or carrier bag – is still recognised as unavoidable from such a posthumanistic perspective. For us, then, it is a matter of drawing the boundaries differently, in a manner that does not impose on such relational intra-actions a version of capitalism’s old, closed, pre-digital logic. The latter emphasizes the finished object that is made rather than the process of making, as under existing IP law only the discrete finished object, be it a book, zine or platform, can be turned into a marketable commodity (not the idea or creative process itself).

This collaborative presentation will proceed to discuss processual posthumanities publishing experiments that have emphasised different forms of relationality – forms that do not revolve primarily around the published text-as-object, or indeed the individual human author-as-subject. In discussing these experiments it will show strategising publishing in terms of urgent and non-urgent, fast and slow can be unhelpful: the art of critique requires its own pace. It is not even certain publishing in our post-truth, postdigital era still means ‘making public’.

 

Monday
Mar182019

Anti-Bourgeois Theory

This is the abstract for my forthcoming keynote lecture at Technology, Science, and Culture: A Global Vision Universidad de las Américas (UDLAP), Puebla, Mexico, 6 September 2019.

In his celebrated 2009 memoir Returning to Reims, the Parisian intellectual and theorist Didier Eribon travels home for the first time in thirty years following the death of his father. There he tries to account for the change in politics of his working class family over the period he has been away: from supporting the Communist Party to voting for the National Front. (With the notable exception of the 2018 election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, it’s a shift toward the populist nationalism of the far right that’s visible in many countries today: UK, Germany, Poland, Italy, Greece, Hungary, US, Brazil.) But Eribon also discusses the transition he himself has undergone as a result of having escaped his working class culture and environment through education, and how this has left him unsure whom it is he is actually writing for. He may be addressing the question of what it means to grow up poor and gay, however he is aware few working class people are ever likely to read his book.

At the same time, Eribon emphasizes that his non-conforming identity has left him with a sense of just how important it is to display a ‘lack of respect for the rules’ of bourgeois liberal humanist ‘decorum that reign in university circles’, and that insist ‘people follow established norms regarding “intellectual debate” when what is at stake clearly has to do with political struggle’. Together with his friend Édouard Louis and partner Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, Eribon wants to ‘rethink’ the antihumanist theoretical tradition of Foucault, Deleuze, Cixous et al. to produce a theory ‘in which something is at stake’: a theory that speaks about ‘class, exploitation, violence, repression, domination, intersectionality’, and yet has the potential to generate the same kind of power and excitement as ‘a Kendrick Lamar concert’.

In this keynote talk I likewise want to reinvent what it means to theorise by showing a certain lack of respect for the rules of bourgeois decorum the university hardly ever questions. I want do so, however, by also breaking with those bourgeois liberal humanist conventions of intellectual debate that – for all his emphasis on rebelling ‘in and through’ the technologies of knowledge production – continue to govern the antihumanist theoretical tradition Eribon and his collaborators are associated with. Included in these conventions are normative ideas of the human subject, the proprietorial author, the codex print book, critical reflection, linear thought, the long-form argument, self-expression, originality, creativity, fixity and copyright. I will argue that even the current landfill of theoretical literature on matter and the material, the posthuman and the Anthropocene, is merely a form of bourgeois liberal humanism that is padded with nonhuman stuffing – technologies, objects, animals, insects, plants, fungi, compost, microbes, stones, geological formations – to make it appear different. Can we not do better than this?


Thursday
Mar142019

Experimental Publishing I – Critique, Intervention, and Speculation: a symposium

Experimental Publishing I – Critique, Intervention, and Speculation

A half-day symposium with talks by Rebekka Kiesewetter and Eva Weinmayr (AND Publishing/Valand Academy)

                                                   


11 April 2019, 1-5pm

Centre for Postdigital Cultures
Teaching Room
3rd Floor Lanchester Library
Coventry University
Registration (free): 
https://www.post-publishing.org/2019/03/10/experimental-publishing-i-critique-intervention-and-speculation/

In 2019 and 2020, the Centre for Postdigital Cultures (CPC) will be hosting a series of symposia exploring contemporary approaches to experimental publishing. Over the course of the series, we will ask questions about the role and nature of experimentation in publishing, about ways in which experimental publishing has been formulated and performed in the past, and ways in which it shapes our publishing imaginaries at present. This series aims to conceptualise and map what experimental publishing is or can be and to explore what lies behind our aims and motivations to experiment through publishing. As such, it forms the first activity within the CPC’s new Post-Publishing programme, an initiative committed to exploring iterative and processual forms of publishing and their role in reconceptualising publishing as an integral part of the research and writing process, i.e. as that which inherently shapes it.

Speakers 

Rebekka Kiesewetter holds a Lic. phil. I (MA) in art history, economics and modern history from the University of Zurich. Her works in critical theory, practice and making as critique focus on the intersections of experimental publishing, architecture, arts, artistic research, and the humanities.

Eva Weinmayr is an artist, educator, researcher and writer based in London and Gothenburg investigating the border crossings between contemporary art, radical education, and institutional analysis by experimenting with modes of intersectional feminist knowledge practices. She currently conducts a PhD on micro-politics of publishing at Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg and runs together with artist Rosalie Schweiker AND Publishing, a feminist publishing practice based in London.



Concept

Experimental publishing can be positioned as an intervention, a mode of critique, and a tool of speculation. It is a way of thinking about writing and publishing today that has at its centre a commitment to questioning and breaking down distinctions between practice and theory, criticality and creativity, and between the scholarly and the artistic.

In this series of events we propose to explore contemporary approaches to experimental publishing as:

  • an ongoing critique of our current publishing systems and practices, deconstructing existing hegemonies and questioning the fixtures in publishing to which we have grown accustomed—from the book as a stable object to single authorship and copyright.
  • an affirmative practice which offers means to re-perform our existing writerly, research, and publishing institutions and practices through publishing experiments.
  • a speculative practice that makes possible an exploration of different futures for writing and research, and the emergence of new, potentially more inclusive forms, genres, and spaces of publishing, open to ambivalence and failure.

This take on experimentation can be understood as a heterogeneous, unpredictable, and uncontained process, one that leaves the critical potentiality of the book as a medium open to new intellectual, political, and economic contingencies.

For further information, please contact Janneke Adema (ab5796@coventry.ac.uk) or Kaja Marczewska (ac8966@coventry.ac.uk). 


Thursday
Mar072019

MEDIA:ART:WRITE:NOW - new book series from Open Humanities Press

Media art is a space in which the human sensorium can recognise itself as fundamentally entangled with technology. It is also a filter through which urgent socio-political issues can be engaged, mediated and transformed.

 

Open Humanities Press's MEDIA : ART : WRITE : NOW series mobilises the medium of writing as a mode of critical enquiry and aesthetic expression. Its books capture the most original developments in technology-based arts and other forms of creative media: AI and computational arts, gaming, digital and post-digital productions, soft and wet media, interactive and participative arts, open platforms, photography, photomedia and, last but not least, amateur media practice. They convey the urgency of the project via their style, length and mode of engagement. In both length and tone, they sit somewhere between an extended essay and a monograph.

The goal of the series is to recalibrate how we see, hear and feel in the contemporary mediated environment – and to intervene in it, right here right now. It is also to challenge the unified ‘we’ of aesthetic and political experience.

To contribute to the series, please contact Joanna Zylinska, Goldsmiths, University of London <j.zylinska@gold.ac.uk>.

Advisory Board

Morehshin Allahyari, artist, activist, educator, US
Mark Amerika, University of Boulder, Colorado, US
Oron Catts & Ionat Zurr, SymbioticA, University of Western Australia, Australia
Kristoffer Gansing, Transmediale, Germany
Kenneth Goldsmith, University of Pennsylvania, US
Asbjørn Grønstad, Bergen University, Norway
Greg Hainge, University of Queensland, Australia
Eduardo Kac, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, US
Ryszard Kluszczyński, University of Łódź, Poland
Esther Leslie, Birkbeck, University of London, UK
Benjamin Mayer-Foulkes, 17: Institute of Critical Theory, Mexico
Gabriel Menotti, Espírito Santo Federal University, Vitória, Brasil
Nicholas Mirzoeff, New York University, US
Kate Mondloch, University of Orgeon, US
Bo Reimer, Malmo University, Sweden
Katrina Sluis, The Photographers’ Gallery, London / London South Bank University, UK
Cornelia Sollfrank, artist, Germany
Hito Steyerl, artist, Germany

 

Image credit: Walter Van Der Mäntzche, Des perturbations sont à prévoir / Disturbances are expected, 2013.

Monday
Feb182019

The Left Can't Meme?

‘The Left Can’t Meme?’ is an extended version of the presentation I gave at the Transmediale Festival in Berlin on February 1, 2019. I was speaking on the Creating Commons: Affects, Collectives, Aesthetics panel hosted and organised by Cornelia Sollfrank and Felix Stalder on behalf of the Creating Commons @Zurick ZHdK research project. The other panelists were Laurence Rassel and Jeremy Gilbert. (An audio recording of the entire panel discussion is available here.) The specific question Cornelia and Felix asked me to address in my 10 minute presentation was: How can spaces within existing institutions allow for affective dimensions to be articulated?

 

It’s going to look like what I’m talking about today is publishing. But if we’re interested in creating commons, then we need act and think and work differently to the way in which most of us do at the moment. This is what I’m really going to be talking about: different ways of being and doing. As a media theorist, I want to reinvent theory by breaking with a lot of the categories and frameworks of what it’s currently considered to be. Specifically, I want to change it from the bourgeois, liberal humanist model that’s enacted by most theorists today, regardless of whether they’re Marxists, feminists, new materialists, Deleuzians ... Paying attention to how we create, publish and disseminate knowledge is just one means of doing so.

On this panel we’re concerned with the affective forces - those drives, desires, fantasies and resentments - that motivate people to become part of a group, and form the basis of collective forms of identification. And as we know, the right have succeeded in using affect as a mobilizing populist political force. They’ve used the repetition of slogans – Brexit’s ‘Take back control’, Trump’s ‘Make America great again’ - to create chains of equivalence across disaffected groups of people and to mainstream their ideas, transforming the political landscape in the process. The left has it’s own affective-emotional themes. When it comes to theory, you just have to say words like ‘commons’, ‘collective’, ‘cooperative’, ‘Anthropocene’, even ‘affect’ itself, to realise this. But the left have been conspicuously bad at turning their representations into actions that make different people, in the mainstream of society especially, want to constitute themselves as a group around issues such as the commons. (Even taking #MeToo and BlackLivesMatter into account, there’s been no real progressive equivalent of the kind of forceful play epitomised by the Pepe the Frog meme.)

Mobilizing some of these left affective drives in order to create institutional projects as a political force is what myself and my colleagues have been working on for some time. We've been doing so via a number of projects for the production of free resources and the commons of the kind Cornelia and Felix understand as ‘aesthetic practices’. 

(We’ve been asked to focus on concrete practices on this panel; however, I have to say, it’s often forgotten that the practices that produce theory are very concrete, while the theory behind ideas of the material and the ‘concrete’ is often very weak. When they invited me I think Cornelia and Felix also thought my talk would shift the panel’s focus somewhat, from Laurence’s emphasis on community, to a concern with resources on my part. But I’m not sure that’s right, as the resources I’m referring to are produced by communities working collectively. In fact I’d argue that perhaps the most important resources we produce are these communities.)


In 1999 we launched the 
Culture Machine journal of critical and cultural theory – which is just about to relaunch out of Mexico.

In 2008 Culture Machine became a founder-member of Open Humanities Press, which involves multiple semi-autonomous, self-organising groups, all operating in non-rivalrous fashion to make works of contemporary theory available on a non-profit, free/gratis, open access basis. OHP currently has 21 journals, 40 plus books distributed across 8 book series, as well as experimental, libre, texts such as those in our Liquid Books and Living Books About Life series.

OHP was in turn a founder member of the Radical Open Access Collective, a community of non-profit presses, journals and other projects, formed in 2015. Now consisting of over 50 members, this collective seeks to build a progressive alternative ecosystem for creating and publishing research in the humanities and social sciences, based on experimenting with a diversity of non-profit, independent and scholar-led approaches.

Meanwhile, in the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University, and it’s Post Office research studio, we’re interested in reinventing hardware, software and network infastructures – especially those involved in the production and dissemination of theory: the book, journal, seminar series. But also infrastructure that operates at a larger scale: institutions such as the archive, museum, library and so on. And we’ve brought together people involved in a number of such ‘aesthetic practices’. There’s myself from OHP, Janneke Adema from the Radical Open Access Collective, Jacqueline Cawston from the Mandela 27 pop-up, Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak from the Memory of the World shadow library…

Hopefully you’re already getting a sense of how we’re working a little differently to the individualistic, bourgeois, liberal humanist model of authorship adopted by most theorists. We don’t always act as virtuoso authors - we often operate in terms of communities and collectives. Indeed, our theory doesn’t always involve authoring at all. Along with such affective labour as supporting, encouraging and inspiring, it can involve building, developing and maintaining far more than authoring - as with Marcell Mars’s work with UbuWeb. This is because, for us, theory isn’t just a means of imagining our ways of being in the world differently; it’s a means of enacting them differently too. So our projects are performative or pre-figurative, in the sense they’re concerned not just with representing the world but also with intra-acting with it in order to make things happen. They’re ‘being the change we want to see’.1 

Now it might appear the trajectory we’ve been on for the last 20 years has been about becoming a mobilizing political force by scaling our work on creating common resources: from the single journal Culture Machine, to the 21 journals of Open Humanities Press, through the 50 plus members of the Radical OA Collective, to The Post Office’s collective presence of all these projects as part of an existing formal institution. However, actually, we don’t want to grow any of these aesthetic infrastructural and institutional projects at all. We prefer to non-scale them, as some of my colleagues have recently taken to calling it, following Anna Tsing (although, as I say, we’ve been working like this for 20 years now): by developing relationships with a diversity of others in different parts of the world through collaboration; and by allowing our content and infrastructure to be openly copied, shared and reiterated, free of charge.

Non-scaling like this is important to us because (as I’ve argued elsewhere), it helps avoid repeating the centre/periphery model of the geopolitics of knowledge, whereby ‘there are just a few nations at the centre of the global information networks’ such as the UK, US, France and Italy, ‘who are exporting, and in effect “universalizing”, their knowledge. … and a whole host of other nations outside of the centre who … don’t have opportunities to publish, export, or even develop their own “universal” knowledge’. At most, scholars on the so-called periphery ‘get to “export empirical data” that provides local detail that can be used to flesh out the “universal” knowledge of those closer to the centre.

Developing in terms of collaboration and reiteration - rather than growth and expansion - can help prevent the reproduction of this state of affairs: not simply by enabling us to place more emphasis on privileging non-standard contributions from others, understood geographically (i.e. in terms of the global South and East), but also in terms of BAME, LGBTQIPA, working class and other nonconforming identities. Although the decolonizing agenda is important to us, for example, such an approach risks repeating and maintaining the kind of centre/periphery relationality of power we want to challenge. We see non-scaling as enabling us to produce a pluralistic and multi-polar network, one with a far more complex, antagonistic and decentred structure.

The emphasis we’re placing on multi-polarity and antagonism is important, as it ensures no single aesthetic project, collective or commons becomes the one to rule them all. Contrary to the impression sometimes given, creating unity, harmony and ‘oneness’  - a Kantian perpetual peace, as it were - is not what the becoming of the common and community is about. In fact, there’s no common understanding of the commons. Creative Commons, free software, open source, copyfarleft: all have different and conflicting concepts of the commons.

That said, the making of a decision in such an undecidable terrain – the refusal to decide what the commons is in advance, in our case - is just what politics is, as we know from Chantal Mouffe. So keeping the question of the common open like this enables us to be political in a way many versions of the commons are not. For just as Facebook has data points, so the Left has data or datum points of its own; and often these take the shape of those very affective drives, desires and fantasies that constitute the basis of collective forms of left identification. Does saying the kind of words that underpin most accounts of creating commons - democracy, solidarity, respect, human, freedom, cooperative, community, collective - not produce something of a dopamine rush in us?

At the same time we’re aware doing this kind of rigorous political work around concepts of democracy, freedom, the commons and so on is hard – and even more so in improvised sessions like this.2 The tendency is to lapse back into what seems self-evident, taken-for-granted, common sense, even though we know doing so maintains the bourgeois, liberal humanist status quo. 

 

Endnotes

1. For one political account of prefigurative practices, and how they can intervene and modify relations of power within existing institutional arrangements, see Valeria Graziano, ‘Prefigurative Practices: Raw Materials for a Political Positioning of Art, Leaving the Avant-garde’, in Lilia Mestre and Elke Van Campenhout eds, Turn, Turtle! Reenacting The Institute (Berlin: Live Art Development Agency & Alexander Verlag, 2016).

2. In Rogues, for example, Jacques Derrida refers to ‘the great question of modern parliamentary and representative democracy, perhaps all of democracy’: can ‘the alternative to democracy always be represented as a democratic alternation’, in which one democratic party elected by the people is replaced by another democratic party elected by the people? (Jacques Derrida, Rogues: Two Essays On Reason (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2005) 30). In this question Derrida identifies a democratic paradox of his own. For him, democracy ‘itself, in its univocal and proper meaning’, can never be fully realized (34). Democracy is no more self-identical than are Europe and the West. It is rather defined by the ‘lack of the proper and the selfsame’, as indeed is the ‘very ideal of democracy’ (37). An authentic democracy is thus always to-come. Yet even if democracy could be fully realized, there is always the possibility that the people may decide to suspend it by legitimately voting into government a nondemocratic party that has the intention of changing the constitution and abolishing the ‘normal functioning of democracy’ (31). In short, democracy could ‘lead democratically to the end of democracy’ (33). Nor do the potentially paralyzing ambiguities of this paradoxical situation end there. Fearing such an outcome, the state and a large proportion of the people could decide to take power and act in a sovereign fashion to end democracy themselves, as in fact happened in postcolonial Algeria in 1992. This new power could interrupt the democratic electoral process ‘to suspend, at least provisionally, democracy for its own good’, in order to protect it from a much worse fate at the hands of the enemies of democracy (33). In both scenarios there would be a certain autoimmune suicide of democracy. All of which calls for the ‘event of the interruptive decision’, according to Derrida (35).