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August 09, 2005



Continental Drift Seminar with Brian Holmes

We are pleased to invite you to participate in a Seminar with Brian Holmes this September and October online and at 16Beaver. There are two possible ways of joining: 1. to physically attend in NYC and 2. to participate via webcast. We will give more information about the online version, as we have details, so for this email, we focus on the physical participation.

Continental Drift is a modular and experimental seminar that will attempt to embark upon the "impossible" task of articulating the immense geopolitical and economic shifts which took place between 1989-2001, the effects of those changes on the emerging bodies of governance (i.e., the formation of economic blocs like EU or NAFTA) and in turn the effects on subjectivity. Having witnessed the incredible vibrancy of social movements which took hold in that same period, the seminar acknowledges that new modes of control and channeling of various flows have merited a shift in tactics and strategies. The question of "what now?" is precisely at the core of our study.

"The goal, then, is to map out the majority models of self and group within each of the emerging continental systems, to see how they function within the megamachines of production and conquest – and at the same time, to cross the normative borders they put into effect, in order to trace microcartographies of difference, dissent, deviance and refusal."

We hope you will be able to join us in what should be an open and critical discussion.

1. Dates

Part 1 of the seminar will be September, (12) and (15-18): We have spent the last year coordinating and developing the format and context for this event. The seminar is open to all who are interested, however, for practical reasons we want to limit enrollment. Please see directions for enrollment below.

Part 2 will take place in October (20-24). (details forthcoming), if you already know that you are interested in part II please let us know.

2. About Seminar Format and Schedule

It has been 6 years now since we have been initiating various events, activities and discussions. We have over this time sought opportunities to find partners in organizing small colloquia, workshops, and seminars which take on a subject in a more focused manner. This collaboration with Brian is further development of this desire for a more concentrated involvement and discussion around a specific set of questions.

The schedule will be the following:

Monday September 12 -- Introduction / Conversation with Brian -- 7:30 PM
Thursday September 15 -- Lunch -- 12:00 PM -- Participant Introductions
Thursday September 15 -- Session 1 -- 6:30 PM
Friday September 16 -- Lunch -- 12:00 PM -- Participant Introductions II
Friday September 16 -- Session 2 -- 6:30 PM
Friday September 16 -- Dinner Event -- 9:30 PM
Saturday September 17 -- Session 3 -- 1:00PM -5:00PM
Saturday September 17 -- Social TBA -- 6:00PM
Sunday September 18 -- Session 4 -- 1:00PM -5:00PM
Sunday September 18 -- Social TBA -- 6:00PM

Participants who are traveling to NYC can of course attend from Thursday to Sunday.

We should also note that we are making arrangements to stream the seminar online, so those who are not able to attend can follow and hopefully still participate.

3. How to Enroll? + Funding

To enroll in this seminar please send an email to: seminars[at]16beavergroup.org

The participation fee is 25-50$ (sliding scale). We will waive the fee for those who have great difficulty in paying but have a strong desire to participate.

Last year, we were given $700 by RepoHISTORY as they officially closed their bank account. We will be applying all of that money towards Brian's airfare. We would like to extend a thanks to their assistance in realizing this event.

4. Continental Drift - An Overview by Brian Holmes

Continental integration refers to the constitution of enormous production blocs – and particularly, to NAFTA and the EU (while awaiting the emergence of a full-fledged Asian bloc around Japan and China).

But continental drift means you find Morocco in Finland, Caracas in Washington, "the West" in "the East" – and so on in every direction. That's the metamorphic paradox of contemporary power.

The continental blocs are functioning governmental units one scale up from the nation-state. They represent specific attempts to articulate and manage the vast constructive and destructive energies that have been unleashed by the last four decades of technological development, from the introduction of the worldwide container transport system in the sixties, all the way to the emergence of widespread satellite transmission in the eighties and the Internet in our time. Military strategies, the competitive rush for markets, but also the uncertainty and turbulence of the neoliberal globalization process itself has led capitalistic elites to seek forms of territorial stabilization – however violent this "stabilization" may be. This means re-organizing, not just spaces and flows, but also hearts and minds, whether in the centers of accumulation or on the peripheries. We are all affected, wherever we are living.

The main hypothesis I want to put out here is that the two really-existing blocs – NAFTA and the EU – are both developing not only a functioning set of institutions, but also a dominant form of subjectivity, adapted to the new scale. This form of subjectivity is offered to or imposed upon all those who still live only at the national level, or on the multiple edges or internal peripheries of the bloc, so as to integrate them. At the same time it serves to rationalize – or to mask – the concomitant processes of exploitation, alienation, exclusion and ecological devastation. In what different ways does this integration of individual and cultural desire take place? How is it resisted or opposed? How to imagine an excess over the normative figures of continentalization? Where are the escape hatches, the lines of flight, the alternatives to bloc subjectivity? And what types of effects could these exert on the constituted systems?

To answer such questions in any meaningful way requires several different levels of investigation. First, the driving forces of the globalization process – including neoliberal doctrine, the globalized financial system, the transnational institutions and Imperial infrastructures such as the Internet or the GPS satellite mapping system – have to be identified and observed in operation. Second, the evolving forms of territorial governance and the constantly shifting territorial limits of the major continental blocs have to be described and differentiated from each other. Third, the dominant forms of subjectivity in each bloc - the models of success and jouisssance - have to be characterized, using the tools of social psychology. But the most interesting and probably the most urgent thing is to conduct singular and transversal investigations on the margins of these majority formations, to see how people are reacting, innovating, resisting and fleeing.

The goal, then, is to map out the majority models of self and group within each of the emerging continental systems, to see how they function within the megamachines of production and conquest – and at the same time, to cross the normative borders they put into effect, in order to trace microcartographies of difference, dissent, deviance and refusal. For that, it's necessary to travel and to collaborate, to invent concepts and also set-ups, ways of working. One tactic is to juxtapose sociological arguments with activist inventions and artistic experiments. Another is to crisscross the languages, and even better, the families of languages, and to reside in the gaps between their truth claims and sensoriums. But still another is just to drift and see what happens. The ideas of Felix Guattari, particularly in Chaosmosis and the untranslated study, Cartographies schizoanalytiques, can provide a kind of crazy compass for these attempts to articulate something subjectively and collectively, outside the existing frames.

Obviously, this kind of project is scientifically "impossible." No conceivable group of researchers, and certainly not an ad-hoc operation, could possibly synthesize the varieties of knowledge needed at these scales. This is where a de facto censorship begins to operate, with all kinds of consequences. To accept the impossibility is to condemn oneself to ignorance, not only of the contemporary macrocosm (the world-space), but also of the dynamics of your own microcosm (what happens in your head, what pulses in your veins). So we're gonna try the project nonetheless.

Modularity and experimentalism will be the strategies for eluding any tacit censorship of this irrational desire to know. Modularity, because it refuses the totalizing construction and always leaves room for an extra module to be inserted in a line of questioning, completing it, problematizing it, or opening up a new bifurcation. Experimentalism, because the existing rationalities and protocols of truth are simply not enough to make a world, and only the undiscovered form or order holds a chance of breaking the deadlocks that confront everyone, at the micro and macro scales of disaster in the twenty-first century.

This project stems from the geophilosophical desire of an individual, but demands only to multiply. The research will be done through the opportunities of various collaborative projects, on location and over the net. The seminars in which the major hypotheses will be formulated and explored, and certain case studies presented, will be carried out with a series of mostly non-institutional partners, beginning with the 16 Beaver group in New York, for a seminar extending from September 12 to 18. Certain research modules will be published with cooperating institutions, and/or presented at conferences. Results of the research and contributions by participants will be posted on here on www.u-tangente.org, and perhaps on a specific project website.

5. About Brian Holmes

Brian Holmes is an art and cultural critic, activist and translator, living in Paris. He has a doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures from UC Berkeley, but prefers to develop research outside the academy. He was the English editor of publications for Documenta X, Kassel, Germany, 1997, worked with the French graphic arts group Ne pas plier around the turn of the c entury, and has collaborated with the critical mapmakers Bureau d'Etudes, most recently on the website Tangent University. His essays appear on the mailinglist Nettime, in the art magazines "Springerin" and "Brumaria" and in the philosophy and sociology journal "Multitudes," among others. He is the author of a book of essays, "Hieroglyphs of the Future: Art and politics in a networked era" (Zagreb:
Arkzin/WHW, 2002). That book, a forthcoming volume called "Unleashing the Collective Phantoms," and a range of other work in various languages can be found in the archive at www.u-tangente.org, along with all the material for the current project "Continental Drift."

6. Specifics

As Brian is updating the program daily, we will for the interim rely on the following website:

http://www.u-tangente.org (click continental drift) or http://ut.yt.t0.or.at/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=14&Itemid=125

16 Beaver Group
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New York, NY 10004
phone: 212.480.2093

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Posted by jo at August 9, 2005 01:09 PM