May 9, 2011

Nawaat, Tunisian news site, declines the Bahraini eContent award. This would have been Nawaat’s third prize this year, after it claimed the honors from The Reporters Without borders and Index on Censorship.  Sami Ben Gharbia, Nawaat’s co-founder, now living in Netherlands, is speaking at EFF in San Francisco, on May 20th.

A group of Russian archaeologists  is protesting actions by a developer, which are destroying remains of an historical (12-16 century) village. Although this location has been named a memorial site by the order of the President in 1995, in April 2011 development company “Sosnovka” dug trenches there, destroying layers of potentially meaningful archeological data. reported this based on testimony by Anton Lagutin, who works in the Tsarytsyno park-museum. Lagutin, in his facebook page, also recently cheered rehabilitation of Piotr Krasnov, argued that nazism and fascism are not the same thing, and ( that’s the only thing I get angry about) averred that bolshevism is a worse evil than both nazism and fascism combined. I imagine his attitude is pretty typical in his profession. Perhaps, he even has friends who think that the Book of Veles is authentic.

R.I.P Arkady Vaksberg, a political journalist and historian with flair for legal aspects. He wrote a biography of Vyshinsky, Stalin’s chief prosecutor


I like being sick, because, after calling it in to work, I can now look forward to a day of leisurely reading. I can update this blog.

I can notice how physical frailty affects one’s philosophical posture. When I am sick, I aalways remember Bataille saying  that his philosophy is of a man who is sick, or crushed by a terrible heavy stone and unable to breathe. Like Loki, crushed by Thor’s hammer. (The new Marvel movie is quite bad).

I have been reading a lot of Alain Badiou, and even getting other people to read him. Today I have a nasty cough, and  i find him too stringent, and addressing only an average healthy person. (This is why, yesterday, I picked up, finally, Kurt Goldstein’s The Organism). Badiou does not have much to say about the weaknesses of the flesh, does he? This, perhaps, is because he is a Cartesian, after all. His Hegelianism might be a continuation of his Cartesianism. The individual cogito and the Geist are the same. Hegelian Spirit which comes to knows itself etc. becomes, with Badiou, the human subject: that subjectivity (in a sense of subjecthood) is earned, as Peter Hallward puts it by “those rare individuals who constitute themselves as the subjects of a truth, as the ‘militants‘ of their cause” (Ethics, translator’s introduction, viii). Rare individuals. This is Hallward speaking, not Badiou. BAdiou does say that subjecthood is earned, not simply assumed to be possessed by every human being. But I don’t recall him qualifying just how rarely that happens.

Badiou’s subject is what Gurdjieff called ‘soul’. Not everyone has one, and the getting of it is a reward for the painstaking process of overcoming what Gurdjieff calls ‘automatism‘ of modern life. Gurdjieff’s automatism, in some ways corresponds to what Hallward describes as “the ‘ordinary’ realm of established interests and differences, of approved knoledges that serve to name, recognize and place consolidated identities“(ibid, same page). I suspect that Gurdjieff saw this automatic living as pre-eminently the modern malady, postulating a forgotten paradise where it was easier TO BE. Badiou, I suspect, finds no such untroubled flourishing in ancient history. Rather, his “Communist hypothesis” is predicated on the desirability of such a future.

Julian Assange puts it in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist: “There are three types of history. Type one is knowledge. Its creation is subsidized, and its maintenance is subsidized by an industry or lobby: things like how to build a pump that pumps water, how to create steel and build other forms of alloys, how to cook, how to remove poisons from food, etc. But because this knowledge is part of everyday industrial processes, there is an economy that keeps such information around and makes use of it”.

Second type of history, acc. to Assange, is history proper: “This second type of information no longer has an economy behind it. It has already found its way into the historical record through a state of affairs which no longer exists.” I’d like to take an issue with this formulation “no longer exists”, as well as with his assertion that “no one is actively trying to destroy this type of information.”

Third type information ( it is curious how Assange is switching between the terms ‘history’ and ‘information’ ) is “the information that people are actively working to prevent from entering into the record.”

Provisionally, I’d say that Badiou’s demarcation line between stable knowledge and truth production runs midway though Assange’s second type.


May 9, 2011

Julian Assange interviewed  by Hans Ulrich Obrist at e-flux journal. The next issue will contain second part, where Assange answers questions posed to him by artists: Goldin+Senneby, Paul Chan, Metahaven (Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk), Martha Rosler, Luis Camnitzer, Superflex, Philippe Parreno, and Ai Weiwei.

In the December 2010 issue of e-flux, Obrist interviews Hakim Bey. E-flux is pretty cool, with essays by Latour, Boris Groys, Franco Berardi Bifo.

Young Assange was inspired politically by Solzhenizin and the anti-Stalinists in The God that Failed.

“the use of mathematics and programming to create a check on the power of government, this was really the common value in the Cypherpunk movement.”

Some art news

April 15, 2011

A few weeks ago there was a series of reshufflings in the directorship of some premiere Moscow theaters. (And the creative director of Bolshoi resigned after a home made porno depicting him was leaked on internet).
At the time I didn’t realize that in France, an artistic director can also be fired by a governmental decree.

China bans (or, to put it better: suggests self-censorship) on fictional films about time travel – they show disrespect towards history. the bad does not extend on literatuyre and theater productions.

In UAE, the director of the Sharjah Biennial Jack Persekian is fired, by personal order of Sheik Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi, in response to compiants about a work by Mustapha Benfodil (Algirean who spends a lot of time in UK), the subject of the work being rape in the Algeria during the recent civil war, when religious extremists justified rape by references to the Sacred Scriptures.  Persekian has distanced himself from the work in question. Indeed the work was chosen by Rasha Salti, a curator.

Cahiers pour l’Analyse

March 11, 2011

New site on Cahiers pour l’Analyse. Fun.
Some names I was not familiar with until now:

Jacques Bouveresse, analytical one, unusually for France. In Prodiges et vertiges de l’analogie he criticized Regis Debray’s extension of Godel’s incompleteness theorem from mathematics to social sciences. He attacked post-structuralists as well as nouveaux philosophes.

Antoine Culioli, Corsican-born linguist, student of Benveniste.

Andre Green, a psychoanalyst, who broke with Lacan over his neglect of affect in his theory of signifier.

Martial Guéroult, historian of 17th century philosophy. Gueroult was important for Jules Vuillemin, who, in turn, influenced Bouveresse.

Michel Pêcheux, aka Thomas Herbert, discourse analysis.

François Regnault, philosopher, Lacanian, close to Badiou, but also writer of plays! (re: Tankred Dorst). Was he at Avignon, when Jean Vilar was booed?

To read:

Mathematics and the Roots of Postmodern Thought, by Vladimir Tasic. (re Jean Cavailles, mathematician, active in Resistance, shot by the Germans)
The Dead Mother, by Gregorio Kohon, Argentine-British psychoanalyst, apparently of the Horacio Etchegoyen-Andre Green school.

March 11, 2011

The Arabist reports about freeze flash mobs in Rabat, Morocco. Immovable human statues. One of the most touching scenes in Chris Marker’s Grin Without a Cat is the day of the funeral of Jan Palach, a 21-year old who immolated himself in 1969 in protest against Soviet aggression in Czechoslovakia. The procession starts after a period of frozen movement: people, a tram, everything is immovable, until a signal is given.

March 10, 2011

Greg Harman reports on Mubarak’s ridiculous problems with finding a lawyer. A lawyer of a notorious murderer turned Mubarak down, so he is saddled with somebody who once defended a shipping company on whose watch a thousand people drowned, while the captain abandoned ship.

China Mieville. I’ve only read Un-Lun-Dun and The City and The City. He doesn’t excite me. However, I think he is the best Marxist that popular literature got at present. I see his work as being agit-prop and didactic in the best sense of the word: imaginative, verisimilitudinal, typical. Perhaps, too typical, as such reminding me of some of the excesses of socialist realism. He should leave more unsaid. I think most anyone who’d been to graduate school for literary theory will agree with me. On the other hand, this explains his appeal to leftist in academia, but outside of literature departments.  Witness his passage on allegory versus metaphor in this recent interview: it’s basic to the point of being boring, but perhaps only to literature majors. Also, his remarks about psycho-geography are not startling, but necessary and I applaud them:

Some really interesting stuff has been done with psychogeography—I’m not going to say it’s without uses other than for making pretty maps. I mean, re-experiencing lived urban reality in ways other than how one is more conventionally supposed to do so can shine a new light on things—but that’s an act of political assertion and will. If you like, it’s a kind of deliberate—and, in certain contexts, radical—misunderstanding. Great, you know—good on you! You’ve productively misunderstood the city. But I think that the bombast of these particular—what are we in now? fourth or fifth generation?—psychogeographers is problematic.

Presumably at some point we’re going to get to a stage, probably reasonably soon, in which someone—maybe even one of the earlier generation of big psychogeographers—will write the great book against psychogeography. Not even that it’s been co-opted—it’s just wheel-spinning.

I ve been laid up with a cold, which gave me time to finish watching two very long documentaries: Chris Marker’s amazing Grin w/out the Cat and Marcel Ophuls’ indifferent Hotel Terminus. Regis Debray appears in both.  I did learn from Ophuls’ film about how conflict-ridden is the history of Resistance, with some people still accusing the Communists in the Resistance of perpetrating acts similar to those performed by Stalinists against Trotskyists in Civil war Spain, though outsourcing to Gestapo. I find it hard to believe, though.

Fun Fact: Rene Hardy, who is believed by many to have led Claus Barbie to Jean Moulin’s hide-out, wrote a book, later turned into a film by Nicholas Ray: Bitter Victory, a war drama which takes place in Libya!


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March 1, 2011

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