Alienism

MANUFACTURING DISSENT

Public forum hosted by ALIENIST magazine with Vanessa Place, Stewart Home, Louis Armand, Magdaléna Platzová, Andrew Hodgson, Teréza Stejskalová, Jan Běliček, Benjamin Tallis, 25 May 2018, Prague

Benjamin Tallis: Today we’re discussing the manufacture of dissent & the future of resistance, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Paris student uprising & the Prague Spring. I’d like to begin by quoting Antonin Artaud, who said “the duty of the poet is not to cowardly shut himself away in a text, a book, a magazine from which he will never emerge, but on the contrary to emerge, to go outside, to shake, to attack the mind of the public, if not what use is he?” This is a question many of us pose to ourselves: how do we actually make a critical impact on the world? But what might we mean “to emerge,” “to go outside,” are we not always already part of this “outside” to which we seek to go? Are we not already “emerged”? How do we manage to separate ourselves, to actually hide ourselves away, & not partake in the world? These are questions we should bear in mind. How can we “attack the mind of the public” when we are also that public? But moreover, as Louis Armand has written, when we’re in a situation of the appropriation & normalisation of dissent, rampant commodification, the criminalization of protest & the bold resurgence of neo-fascism, what form can active resistance take? This is one of our key questions: how do we go beyond resistance? And how do we stomach the idea of proscribing a “positive vision” for how people should live, given what we’ve learned from the twentieth century?

Louis Armand: The points that I want to address are fairly straightforward, coming down to the terms around which this discussion is framed – manufacturing dissent. The notion of “manufacturing” & how we go about today identifying, for example, the socalled authenticity of discourse; what constitutes dissent in some “authentic” sense. The media in the West tends to valorise opposition movements, protest movements, events & whatnot, that can be depicted as spontaneous. Spontaneous protest is held up as a positive measure of civic consciousness & civil disobedience, as opposed to forms of organised opposition & dissent, which are looked upon sceptically or with a certain amount of suspicion, as if there were a hidden agenda at work to sabotage the due processes of representational democracy. I’m interested in the way in which this notion of spontaneity is used in advance to discredit the idea of opposition as organised, or of critique as organised, or of any form of activism as being organised, in an asymmetrical relationship to institutions of power. The assumption that protest can spontaneously take place & be in any sense effective against those forces deployed by the corporate-state in anticipation of it, other than in some sentimental sense of becoming riot-cop fodder, is an interesting, let’s say, proposition. I’m interested in the way the word “manufactured” can be applied to dissent in these terms: Whether dissent is “spontaneous” or “manufactured,” & therefore less “authentic.” The ways in which forms of dissent have been appropriated & commodified – the ways in which an aesthetics of dissent has become marketed as a “lifestyle choice” – the ways in which the alt-right has absorbed those forms of popular “leftist” dissent into a language of crisis which has traditionally fuelled reaction from the extreme right – in order to mobilise forces of law & order on the side of strengthening existing institutions of power against accountability. So when looking at 1968 as a reference point, through the convenient lens of a half-century anniversary – the legacies & socalled “sprit” if ’68, the way in which “1968” is circulating in the media today as more or less a surrogate for any real contemporary dispute with the way the world is operating, the way in which we are encouraged to “re-live” in some proxy manner something which today s otherwise inconceivable, by being nostalgic for “1968” – we need to consider how this historical event is made to stand not only for a past possibility but a present impossibility. But this shouldn’t cause us to turn our backs on 1968, since as soon as we recognise the forces invested in erected this idea of 1968 in place of any real political action in the present, we see how the very idea of a future has become fed back into a normalisation that has never ceased operating upon the threat 1968 in fact posed. A threat & an opportunity for an ongoing reaction. Thus the legacy of the “failure” of 1968 – the discourse, immediately set in train in the aftermath of Paris & Prague, that these were social experiments that did not succeed, & that could not have succeeded in any realistic sense. The student & worker revolt in Paris was seen as abortive, just as “socialism with a human face” was seen as inherently unsustainable in real political terms: whether in the face of French bourgeois or Warsaw Pact reaction. Did that foreclose on future possibility? This question points to another consideration, concerning the situation & relevance of the socalled avantgarde, as representative of a cultural discourse of dissent & its ambiguous relationship with power as something indeed permitted – & how this structure of permission inaugurates its own processes of normalisation, which extends to political & other forms of dissent within the social imaginary.

Teréza Stejskalová: I’m mainly interested in how the Prague Spring was perceived by subjects excluded from what we consider our history. In my research I’ve dealt the amnesia of the cultural exchange related to the temporary stay of the students from Non-aligned countries in Czechoslovakia. How did they participate & understood the political upheaval of the late 1960s in Czechoslovakia? A crucial document for me is a film by Krishna Vishwanath, an Indian student at FAMU [the Prague Film Academy]. His film Black & White deals with what I call “the paradox of Czechoslovak racism.” Because racism was supposed to be incompatible with socialism, this social problem was a taboo. Czechoslovakian society perceived itself as progressive & enlightened, but in reality it was biased & prejudiced. I’m also interested in how Roma view the experiment in “democratic communism” but I’m still in the beginning of the my research. In 1969 a Union of Gypsy-Roma was founded (to be dissolved in the early 1970s), the first organization of Czechoslovak Roma. Although directed from above, it had a lot of members & organised many interesting activities. They started publishing a magazine containing some of the first examples of written literature in Roma & by Roma. This development was very much linked to the energy of the Prague Spring. In Roma literature we can find important work, such as Elena Lacková’s I Was Born Under a Lucky Star, that complicates what we perceive as the historical picture. Socialist internationalism & egalitarianism demanded that oppressed people who’d been denied subjecthood (like Roma & people from the former European colonies) be treated as citizens & comrades. Yet the reality was very different. The Prague Spring was a unique moment that made it possible to discuss this paradox openly. I feel that these marginal, excluded voices have something important to tell us & that their exclusion & marginalisation from the usual historical narratives has something to do with the political & social problems we face today…

Jan Běliček: The problem of marginalisation extends throughout the discourse. We are in a situation today where “intellectuals” are communicating in a form of new Latin – terms, concepts, presumptions & hypotheses – that “ordinary people” don’t understand. While contemporary leftist theory has many useful ideas & analyses of the recent socio-economic crises, it hasn’t been able to communicate them in a form where ordinary people can be the real recipients of their message. Acquiring the means of communication in this environment of “vertical” discourse is one of the major challenges of today. This is the situation of the resurgence of populism & the alt-right, Trump, Le Pen, Orbán, Kaczynski & many others. The question is how a movement towards a new vernacular can remain critical of such easy binaries, which have always served a political agenda, & how language itself affects that politics. The contemporary crisis is therefore not one of essential “values,” but one of language. It is necessary to tear down the walls erected in the name of these false dichotomies to expose where the ideological “values” of populism are concealed.

Magdaléna Platzová: Fifty years ago, in 1968, the western world lived its last great cultural upheaval. It was all about freedom. In the USA, in France, in Czechoslovakia of course. Freedom not to be dictated to about how to live, what to think, who to love, even if you were black or a woman. The freedom from authority – of institutions, of parents, of church, of governments… The freedom to lead an authentic life, not an empty simulation of existence manipulated by the momentary needs of the market. It was the last time a revolt touched the whole of society. It was political but also private, & as with all real revolutions it provoked a strong reaction. The “normalizace” that took place in the USA & western Europe had of course very different face to the one in former Czechoslovakia. Nevertheless, it was there. The rise of conservatism, the gradual deregulation of investors & finance, the end of the post-war social contract & the rise of a laissez-faire utopia based on the illusion of a self-regulating free market. After 1968, it must have been clear to anybody in business that communism was definitely not going to spread further West. The Russians had their hands full & the West would act accordingly. The final collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989 pushed the process of deregulation even further. There was no point anymore in wooing the “working class.” The less protection, the more insecurity, the better. People asked less & produced more. The traditional left parties, like the social democrats, gradually moved to the centre of the spectrum & left their place to the radicals & insurgent fascist populists. That’s what we are seeing now, all around.

Stewart Home: In the mid-’90s when various people were accusing me of being a police agent & began turning up to disrupt events I was involved in, I began circulating leaflets suggesting that their interventions were part of an elaborate publicity stunt orchestrated by me – which made the people involved in these attacks even madder – & one of the titles I used for these leaflets was Manufacturing Dissent. But I’ve always disliked discourse around what you’d call “serious culture” – Henry Flint coined the slogan “demolish serious culture” in the 1960s under the auspices of Action Against Cultural Imperialism – & one of the things I did in 1993 at the May Festival in Brighton was claim that I was going to levitate the Pavilion Theatre when there was a Stockhausen concert on. And this idea was subsequently copied in protests against the Museum of Modern Art in Glasgow & then against the Houses of Parliament which were allegedly levitated by the Association of Autonomous Astronauts & the London Psychogeographical Association a year later. You can always take things from the past & put them back into play in new situations, & what is & isn’t avantgarde depends entirely on how you construct the context. One of the things I’ve been working on more recently is a project situated where I live, on the border between Islington & the City of London, in an area that had been declared “the cultural mile.” The protest was about the construction of luxury apartments on the site of former social housing & so we turned the site into a curated exhibition, including work by two Turner Prize winners, aimed at attracting national media. The council was embarrassed into allowing the protest to remain in place because of the ambiguity it created between popular dissent & official art. One of the things the protest sought to do was expose the set-up of the City of London which is not like most UK councils elected solely by its residents – instead 80% of the seats on the City of London council are actually elected by local business, many of them major international corporations. It’s also extremely wealthy, with its own sovereign wealth fund, which it makes use of in lobbying around the world for increased free market access. Because the bourgeois revolution was never completed in the UK, to demand the abolition of the business vote & demand democracy in the City of London is actually quite a radical position to take.

Vanessa Place: So it seems to me that the primary question is, in some sense, what’s the entelechy that’s being advocated here? What’s the vitalistic principle that’s supposed to organise the issue of dissent? Because dissent in this sense suggests a kind of “content” to me & I’m much more interested in a structural engagement. And from a structural position – because I’m a criminal defence attorney & I’m very interested in the situation of the “criminal” – rather than “dissent,” which as Louis has pointed out is something that can be picked up by anyone who wants to position themselves as a counter-voice, I’m more interested in “disruption.” Which is also a refusal to hold to the category of the conversation being had. In other words, a kind of structural violence. Part of the way I see structural violence is a position that refuses mastery, that refuses again to adhere to the terms of the discourse as given. I like positions that are too stupid to understand what is supposed to be done & do something other than. The thing that interests me about Mai ’68 is, so to speak, its failure. That it occupies a position as an event that captures the historical imagination rather than changes the world. That is a violence to the notion of what an avantgarde is supposed to do – which is to be positivist, to occupy a new position of mastery. I would like to rethink the position of the criminal in all of this & advocate that as a structural position as opposed to longing for a law-giver &, I would say, in the current age – given social media, etc. – the role of cop which the average citizen seems very happy to play as an enforcer of discourse.

Benjamin Tallis: How can we judge something politically if we make it void of content & thus of context? The globalisation of national discontent, the often nativist rhetoric of the Trump campaign, the Brexit campaign, of the Le Pen campaign, all link to this. We can think of Bifo Berardi & the slow cancellation of the future – well where in this idea of dissent is a vision of the future? Where is actually the future being built & imagined? This is a substantive question. Why embrace failure? This may be productive as an artistic activity but is it productive politically? What if we were to replace the term “manufacturing” with “constructing” or “creating”? There are also some issues for the contested reasoning for dissent among the white working-class, for example: is it globalisation? or it’s not the globalisation, stupid? as Derek Sayer & others have put it. An excuse against agency. Why, for example, can’t we, make more substantial political change happen when we can levitate buildings? Is there no emancipation to be found in “serious” culture? And if we take the figure of the criminal as a starting point for resistance – which is a classic trope that stands on the other side of the criminalisation of protest – we also need to ask, what if we take the criminal as the torturer, for example? What if we take the legal prohibition against torture & the protection of human rights out of the equation: do we also valorise the criminal in that setting?

Louis Armand: Well I like that point about being constructive – & clearly its always easy to construct a framework of legality, particularly in secret, which will suit the interests of power in defining such things as criminality, torture, & so on. Vanessa is absolutely right when she says that dissent for the most part implies content & of course dissent is almost exclusively ideologically constructed, but when we get down to it what we call dissent is entirely relative, just as “subversion” is relative. We can speak of subversion of or with regard to any ideological position, so the term isn’t the property of the socalled left or right. And it should be no surprise that what is loosely referred to as the alt-right has made hay with the idea of subversion with regard to the straw-man of a normalised, technocratic society represented by an elite professional political class, thereby appropriating a traditional kind of blue-collar discourse from a position in every other respect hostile to it. As for notions of failure: failure with regards to what? When we talk about Mai 1968, or when we talk about “Socialism with a Human Face,” what were their “agendas” orientated towards? What was the determined outcome? When we talk about constructivism, the notion that something is being built towards is conditioned by precisely that teleological framework which is presumably being critiqued. If constructivism means working within the social framework of liberal or social democracy, via the ballot box & so forth – if that represents precisely the set of institutions that are perceived as not functioning, then how is any dissenting action with regard to them going to be “constructive”? Constructivism itself is clearly part of the problem here. So therefore how do we gauge failure? Of course we know that to play the game changes the rules, so a mere casting of ballots is only constructive to the extent that it maintains the charade of democratic process – which is perhaps the greatest failure of all when it comes to socalled constructive politics. There’s an interesting quote from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, in his description of the “matrix,” which he calls a mass consensual hallucination. What does it mean to have a mass consensual hallucination? This is ideology, par excellence. It really doesn’t matter if we consent or not – for example, to hallucinate the possibility of constructively envisaging a future, etc. Whether we consent or not we are already hallucinating. This isn’t the same as dissent, which is a refusal to engage with false choices of this kind. These are the types of rhetorical problems that keep coming back whenever we look at systemic issues or structural issues. Of course when you get back to the real abuse of power, & the real consequences of those abuses of power, & the way in which the need to oppose & bring about a changed state of affair arises, there can be no preconditions about constructive alternatives, let alone legality.

Vanessa Place: Leaving aside the slight quibble that torture is actually legal, let me reiterate: the criminal isn’t outside the system – the criminal is never outside the system – the criminal is a constituent part of the system. Criminal signals that which is deemed ungovernable, which then acts as a call for governance. So in that regard the role of the criminal becomes significant in terms of this constructivist notion of politics. In a “positivist” sense, then, if we say yes to the thief, yes to the bad mother, yes to the torturer, yes to the idiot, yes to insincerity, yes to inauthenticity, yes to indiscriminacy versus discrimination, then it forces a different call for a different kind of governance. So instead of having the old content notions of what’s acceptable being versus what’s not acceptable, we need to look at these systemic forms of violence as creating a new demand for a new kind of governance.

Benjamin Tallis: A refusal of mastery is in effect the refusal of government, & it’s a refusal to put into practice a certain positive vision of politics. This is precisely the point of the question: do we dare bear responsibility for actually articulating positive visions of politics, & your answer to that is no, it’s a politics of refusal, which you then claim would create the ground for a demand for a new type of politics – its almost a Giorgio Agamben style argument of transcending all the current dividing practices, transcending the current distinctions, & aiming for indeterminacy, indiscriminacy, that would be the kind of community as Agamben calls it which is founded on a fundamentally different basis than the current state of affairs. I would quibble back at you that if we replaced the figure of the torturer with the figure of the rapist, would we celebrate the rapist in the same way as a revolutionary hero?

Vanessa Place: We already do. That’s where it starts to break down as a conceit. I mean torture isn’t illegal: certain tortures are deemed illegal, & others are not. While all rape is in some ways a legal verdict: it’s not actually a thing independent of legal verdict. So certain forms of violence work very much in place of the law, it’s just that we like to pick who they get enacted upon, or under what circumstances. So given that, then, it seems to me that it’s a bit of an act of self-purification & self-appeasement to say that we’re categorically opposed to these sorts of things, when in fact we’re very strategic about our oppositions.

Benjamin Tallis: Well we could paraphrase that other famous William Gibson quote & say, Well the law is here, it’s just unevenly distributed. And indeed the unequal application of it isn’t an argument against the law itself. It’s clear you’re emphasising that politics & the law are related, but is it an argument against these categories? It certainly raises a very interesting question, which resonates with some of the questions Michel Foucault asked about exactly the kind of dividing practices that we enact in order to enforce certain kinds of governance.

Magdaléna Platzová: The Hungarian economist Karl Polanyi observed, already in early forties, that whenever the impulse to profit-making becomes deadlocked with the need to shield people from its harmful side-effects, voters are tempted by the “fascist solution,” which pretends to reconcile profit & security by forfeiting civic freedom. The French contemporary philosopher Bruno Latour says something similar: The attraction of rightwing populism in the West stems from the fact that people feel abandoned & betrayed by their elites. The globalised world is not a good place for everybody. It is extremely profitable for a tiny group of owners, bearable for a larger group of affluent mobile employees, & very unfriendly to the rest of population for whom the Earth is literally disappearing from under their feet. It seemed at first the crisis of 2008 would put a stop to it, but it didn’t. The guilty got bailed out & wealth remained unfairly distributed. We’re now witnessing the rise of populist strongmen again all around the world. They promise shelter by closing the borders, bullying the press, manipulating the law, harassing or killing anyone who disagrees. But the money keeps flowing, untouchable. Those are the two sides of the same coin: the global investors & the strongmen who come in their wake. And they’ve both learned their lessons from the past. Apart from certain outspoken critics, there’s no need to shoot at people as in 1968. It’s much more efficient to distract them, to brainwash them, to keep them busy, excited, amused. To prevent them from thinking, from seeing. To take them as far away from the real life as possible. There’s a whole industry built to perform this task: fragmentation, infantilisation, manipulation. Fake news is just one small part of it. Sadly, it doesn’t really matter anymore what’s on the news, as long as the pictures keep moving. Social memory is too short anyway. From where we stand now, the world of 1968 seems to be childishly simple. In addition to which, there was no imminent danger of global catastrophe (the Cold War was at a stalemate), yet such a catastrophe is looming for us now & demands immediate & lucid political action.

Stewart Home: I’m not very interested in 1968. I used to use the slogan Fuck ’68, I’d rather 69. It’s not a big point of reference for me.

Magdaléna Platzová: The question is, what are the forms of resistance available to us now? First, of course, you have to define your enemy & your own position. Secondly, you need to know your weapons. Is there any place for an avantgarde? Of course, there is. The World is being choked to death by money, by profit-making. Free creation, voluntarism that doesn’t simply feed back into the machinery of profit, has the power of a radically avantgarde gesture. Anti-art has to be understood as anti-profitability, as a kind of violence against the system.

Naomi Toth [audience member]: I teach at the University of Nanterre, & at the moment Nanterre has been blockaded for the last four months. There’s a large student movement, a number of teaching staff are on strike, & one of the slogans is Nanterre soixante-huit? Ils commémorent, nous recommençons. “They’re commemorating” – because the university is full of official commemorative events for 1968 – & the students are saying, “we’re beginning again.” And they often begin again by saying “Fuck 1968.” That’s also another slogan that you see there. Because it’s a particular way of thinking about the heritage of 1968 in the present. As an historical notion – picking up on what Vanessa said – that didn’t have a concrete realisation, its nevertheless the case that we continue to experience its effects today. And I think the generation of students who are blockading the university at Nanterre are still driven by a sense of unfulfilled possibilities. So when we talk of the failure of ’68: failure in what sense?

Benjamin Tallis: It’s interesting to note that Paul Gottfried & some of the others who are seen as the intellectual inspiration behind some of the alt-right, claim a dual inheritance of critique: they claim Adorno-type critical theory & they claim to be the true inheritors of that, & often target the same groups, the liberal metropolitan elites in charge of institutions, the co-opted academics spewing out endless stuff that actually creates a false pressure-release valve for the system & so on. It’s interesting how their critique echoes that, but they also then in their advocacy for post-truth, alternative facts & so on very much echo a lot of the post-modern critique that started out on the left as well. There’s a dual inheritance there of cooption. I wonder if that doesn’t speak to the idea of creating structures without content – because to me it’s exactly those structures without content that has allowed those things to be appropriated by people whose views I don’t think many of the people in this room would agree with. Just as the aversion to constructivism or a prescribed future plan seems very much to invite the present danger of freewheeling politics. Again I think the question of agency haunts this. Where is the responsibility that has to be born?

Andrew Hodgson: There’s been mention, a few times, of the idea of the future as a projection, versus the idea of a nostalgic past, equally as a projection. Doesn’t this incessant projection of the mythic, utopian future de-temporalise, in the same was as the nostalgic past does, the present moment itself? If art or politics is constantly projecting, what kind of space is art itself functioning in? What space are we living in? Are we always completely adjacent to an authentic present?

Rikki Ducornet [audience member]: It seems to me that the creative imagination functions very well in the present & that it is always engaging in a deep intuitive process. And that it is embodied. But I’d just suggest that part of the problem, the vast problem, the implosion that we’re witnessing, is so much about the fact that we’re simply not living within the present, that we’re not embodied, that there’s this kind of Gnostic terror surrounding the body, since all things embodied embody the world itself. And that’s an existential problem which is very vast, so as long as we have this Gnostic approach to the body of the world & the physical human body we’re not going to make it. If we take as an example someone like Steve Bannon, whose had such an enormous impact on current American & European politics, who really is a kind of suicide-bomber, but on a global scale, because what he wants to do is blow up everything along with him – he’s encouraged a lot of people to believe that the solution to the existential problem is basically to undo existence as we know it.

Burt Kimmelmann [audience member]: Out of everything that’s been said, the thing I find most intriguing is that art & crime are both liminal things, especially in a society where people vie for power & in which that line, between legality & illegality, constantly shifts. When is art not art, for example? When is it a criminal act?

Vanessa Place: What I wanted most to say is that it’s not about the distribution of law, it’s actually about Law with a capital “L.” And what I’m talking about is the way that, for example, starvation if you’re poor is legally acceptable. It’s acceptable to starve yourself to death if you don’t have money for food. It’s unacceptable to starve yourself to death if you’re wealthy – then you’re institutionalised. I’m not interested in responsibility, responsibility is a legal term. I’m interested, to a certain degree, in accountability – which has less of an air of “now I will speak for.” The thing that a criminal can do that is the same thing that the artist can do is enact a sort of structural violence because it can end up in its ideal form throwing something into a state of suspense in which its symbolic register is illegible. What I’m interested in is the place art & language can occupy similar to the position of the criminal – of refusing the government, to a certain extent, or at least creating a problem. To use that to signal a failure to accept one’s position in the symbolic order & to behave appropriately. To be ungovernable, in a sense. Somehow, right now, this is all I want to do & all I’m willing to do. I don’t feel responsible for the future: I don’t know what the future wants. That’s up to those people, if that ever happens – they’re going to be in their own hideous “now.” But what I’m interested in is being that frictive point – it may not stop anything, but it may slow it down, it may cast a moment of illegibility. To me that’s a job well done.

Stewart Home: It’s a long time since I’ve read Theories of Surplus Value, but I believe it’s in volume one, Marx’s comment about the criminal producing no value in capitalist society because if you had the criminal you needed the cop, blah-de-blah-de-blah. But to elaborate on ’68, one of my reasons for expressing my disinterest is because, in the Anglo-American world, you have this focus very much on France, to a lesser extent Prague, & if you grew up with the kind of popular culture I grew up with you’d know songs like “Everything Crash” by the Ethiopians, which is about’68 in Jamaica. Of course if one wants to think about ’68 you should think about repression in Mexico, which was linked to the Olympics, etc. There’s a whole lot of issues around ’68, which is why I don’t want to get into a celebration of people like Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who I met at some point in the ’80s & who couldn’t get where I was coming from – the closest he could figure was that I was some sort of Situationist. Again, I’m more interested in the present, & what we can do now. I’m very interested in what the effect of bringing down the City of London might be, for example.

Louis Armand: I want to get back to something that I think is central to this discussion – a simple formula that most of you will recognise, namely “structure is content.” So when we’re talking about dissent & so forth it’s really not a question of swapping around the terms, & playing a handydandy game of left & right. It’s really a question of structure & what is formulated as being possible or rather permissible by virtue of that structure. We encounter so frequently the idea that dissent is a near neighbour to nihilism of some sort – that it is simply throwing cobblestones or Molotov cocktails more or less for the hell of it if there isn’t an explicitly positivistic programme behind it. The question of course is what could such a programme be if all the possibilities are foreclosed in advance by the structure itself? And this is something that, speaking of 1968, Deleuze & Guattari discussed in terms of a possibility that doesn’t pre-exist the event, but that it is created, so to speak, as the event unfolds. Just as dissent brings into view structures of power & injustice that were not previously visible, or visible as structures of power & injustice. But when we ask “What is to be done?” it almost has the narcissistic sound of a question like “What do I want?” Which can be translated in Freudian terms as “What is wanted of me?” as a nexus of competing desires that constitute a system. In other words, “How am I expected to act within the realm of the permitted?” And this includes permitted forms of protest. When we speak of constructivism, it’s important to keep in mind too that what is called the “failure” of Mai 1968 was immediately transformed into a reformist discourse, where the agents of reform were supposed to be the very institutions of power that had provoked revolt in the first place. This is a model of the self-regulating system in which dissent can always be positivised as a mechanism of market correction, but that’s all. Yet it’s important to keep in mind that the language of power, the discourse of this self-regulating system, is nevertheless language. And it can be operated upon as language. And indeterminacy is one of the fundamental means by which dissent enacts itself.

 

*This an excerpt from an edited transcript of a 3-part roundtable discussion that took place at VENUŠE VE SVĚHLOVCE theatre in Prague between 25 & 27 May 2018. The participants included Vanessa Place, Stewart Home, Jan Běliček, Louis Armand, Miloš Vojtěchovský, Magdaléna Platzová, Andrew Hodgson, Jonathan Austin, Vít Bohal, Teréza Stejskalová, Germán Sierra, Benjamin Tallis. Published in ALIENIST #3.

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