The Lebanon-based Daily Star reports that Egypt's current economic crisis is making it difficult to maintain the country's wealth of cultural artifacts, not to mention excavate for new ones. Due in part to a steep decline in tourism since the 2011 revolution, attendance at museums and cultural heritage sites, such as the Giza pyramids, has dropped dramatically. As a result, there is less money to maintain precious artifacts and keep museums open. Here's an excerpt from the article:
[Antiquities minister] Khaled al-Anani says that without a revival in tourism none of his new projects – such as the introduction of year-long museums and heritage site passes or extending opening hours – will have the desired effect.
Neither will reopening Pyramid Complex of Unas – built for Pharaoh Unas, the ninth and final king of the Fifth Dynasty in the mid-24th century B.C. – which has been closed since 1998 for fear of overcrowding and which Anani reopened in May.
Anani said Egypt plans to partially open the Grand Egyptian Museum – an ambitious center for ancient Egyptian artefacts, said to be the world’s largest archaeological museum – in 2017, bringing forward the scheduled opening date by a year.
This is only possible because the $248 million needed came from a Japanese loan years ago.
Financial woes also affect excavation attempts, he said, which have seen a steep decline since 2011.
Image: A box of King Tutankhamun sits in the Wood Laboratory of the conservation centre of the Grand Egyptian Museum, under construction, on the outskirts of Cairo, August 21, 2016. Via the Daily Star.
To Fredric Jameson, the detective novels of Raymond Chandler are not mere hardboiled entertainment. They rise to the level of literature, on par with Proust and Zola. They do this not by simply smuggling high-minded themes into the popular form of detective fiction. Rather, they use the formal elements of detective fiction to explore themes of isolation, mortality, and political corruption in a way that more "literary" fiction cannot. Thus writes Jameson in a new collection of his writing on Chandler, Raymond Chandler: The Detections of the Totality, just released by Verso. Below is a short excerpt from the book. You can read a longer one at Verso's blog.
The action of Chandler’s books takes place inside the microcosm, in the darkness of a local world without the benefit of the federal Constitution, as in a world without God. The literary shock is dependent on the habit of the political double standard in the mind of the reader: it is only because we are used to thinking of the nation as a whole in terms of justice that we are struck by these images of people caught in the power of a local county authority as absolutely as though they were in a foreign country. The local power apparatus is beyond appeal, in this other face of federalism; the rule of naked force and money is complete and undisguised by any embellishments of theory. In an eerie optical illusion, the jungle reappears in the suburbs.
In this sense the honesty of the detective can be understood as an organ of perception, a membrane which, irritated, serves to indicate in its sensitivity the nature of the world around it. For if the detective is dishonest, his job boils down to the technical problem of how to succeed on a given paid assignment. If he is honest, he is able to feel the resistance of things, to permit an intellectual vision of what he goes through on the level of action. And Chandler’s sentimentalism, which attaches to occasional honest characters in the earlier books, but which is perhaps strongest in The Long Goodbye, is the reverse and complement of this vision, a momentary relief from it, a compensation for its hopeless bleakness.
The detective’s journey is episodic because of the fragmentary, atomistic nature of the society he moves through. In European countries, people no matter how solitary are still somehow engaged in the social substance; their very solitude is social; their identity is inextricably entangled with that of all the others by a clear system of classes, by a national language, in what Heidegger describes as the Mitsein, the being-together-with-others.
But the form of Chandler’s books reflects an initial American separation of people from each other, their need to be linked by some external force (in this case the detective) if they are ever to be fitted together as parts of the same picture puzzle. And this separation is projected out onto space itself: no matter how crowded the street in question, the various solitudes never really merge into a collective experience, there is always distance between them. Each dingy office is separated from the next; each room in the rooming house from the one next to it; each dwelling from the pavement beyond it. This is why the most characteristic leitmotif of Chandler’s books is the figure standing, looking out of one world, peering vaguely or attentively across into another
Image of Raymond Chandler via the Guardian.
For the New Yorker, Dana Goodyear writes a profile on Michael Heizer and his quest to finish "City," a decades-in-the-making work of land art. Heizer, now in his 70's, has been living in Soho and has seemingly developed a cartoonish "cowboy in the city" persona. Read Goodyear in partial below, in full via the New Yorker.
Throughout his career, in paintings and in sculptures, Heizer has explored the aesthetic possibilities of emptiness and displacement; his voids have informed public art from the Vietnam Memorial to the pits at Ground Zero. “Levitated Mass,” a three-hundred-and-forty-ton chunk of granite that since 2012 has been permanently installed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is one of the few sculptures in the world designed to be walked under, an experience that strikes most visitors as harrowing. Heizer once told Vander Weg he’d like his tombstone to read, “Totally Negative.”
“City” is a monumental architectonic work, with dimensions comparable to those of the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., and a layout informed by pre-Columbian ritual cities like Teotihuacan. Heizer started it in 1972, when he was in his late twenties and had already established himself as an instigator of the earthworks movement, a group of artists, including Robert Smithson and Walter De Maria, who made totemic outdoor sculptures, often in the majestic wastelands of the American West. “City” is made almost entirely from rocks, sand, and concrete that Heizer has mined and mixed on site. The use of valueless materials is strategic, a hedge against what he sees as inevitable future social unrest. “My good friend Richard Serra is building out of military-grade steel,” he says. “That stuff will all get melted down. Why do I think that? Incans, Olmecs, Aztecs—their finest works of art were all pillaged, razed, broken apart, and their gold was melted down. When they come out here to fuck my ‘City’ sculpture up, they’ll realize it takes more energy to wreck it than it’s worth.”
It is either perfect or perfectly bizarre that Heizer’s sculpture, a monument meant to outlast humanity, is flanked by an Air Force base and a bomb-test site; in recent years, the land surrounding “City” was under consideration for a railroad to convey nuclear waste to a proposed repository at Yucca Mountain. As it happened, Senator Harry Reid, a dedicated opponent of Yucca Mountain and an advocate for public lands, fell in love with Heizer’s crazily ambitious project and its quintessentially Nevadan setting. “I decided to go and look at it,” Reid told me. “Blew out two tires. I just became infatuated with the vision that he had.” Last summer, at Reid’s urging, President Obama declared seven hundred and four thousand acres of pristine wilderness surrounding “City” a national monument, meaning that it will be protected from development, including a nuclear rail line, for as long as the United States exists.
“City” reflects the singular, scathing, sustained, self-critical vision of a man who has marshalled every possible resource and driven himself to the brink of death in the hope of accomplishing it. “It takes a very specific audience to like this stupid primordial shit I do,” Heizer told me. “I like runic, Celtic, Druidic, cave painting, ancient, preliterate, from a time back when you were speaking to the lightning god, the ice god, and the cold-rainwater god. That’s what we do when we ranch in Nevada. We take a lot of goddam straight-on weather.”
Glenn Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, says, “ ‘City’ is one of the most important works of art to have been made in the past century. Its scale and ambition and resolution are simply astonishing.” Its unseen status has made the place almost mythic—it’s art-as-rumor, people say—and has turned the artist, who became known for chasing off unwanted visitors and yanking film out of cameras, into a legend, or a “Scooby Doo” villain. Heizer says that he simply does not want his sculpture judged before it’s finished.
After decades of torment—“When’s it gonna be done, Mike?”—the piece is nearly complete. Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, says that the site, which lacma will help to administer, will admit its first visitors from the general public in 2020. Govan, who has been raising money for “City” for twenty years, sees it as one of our civilization’s greatest achievements. “Mike started the idea that you can go out in this landscape and make work that is sublime,” he says. “There is nothing more powerful, romantic, and American than these gestures that in Mike’s case have taken his whole life.”
For Heizer, urgency, suffering, drama, and hazard are requisite conditions for making art. “My work, if it’s good, it’s gotta be about risk,” he says. “If it isn’t, it’s got no flavor. No salt in it.” He produced his first significant pieces—burials, dispersals, pits, motorcycle drawings in a dry lake bed—in the shadow of the Vietnam War, after being summoned before the draft board and narrowly avoiding service. “Thinking you’re going to die makes you get radical in a hurry,” he says. In “City,” Heizer gave himself a near-impossible task in a forbiddingly isolated place with no obvious means of support. Physical danger was inevitable. “My rib cage is blown out,” he said. “My feet don’t work. Every bone in me is torqued and twisted.” Since the mid-nineties, he has been afflicted with severe chronic neural and respiratory problems, likely stemming from exposures during the sculpture’s construction; treating the pain led to a morphine addiction, which he hid for years. “Then I did all this shit to my brain,” he went on. “Burned twice and almost dead. Crashed bikes. I’m surprised I’m still alive—I bet everyone is.” “City” ruined him, he says—destroyed his personal life, his health, and his finances—but he is determined to finish it if he can.
Two years ago, Mary Shanahan, Heizer’s wife of fifteen years, and for a decade before that his studio assistant, collaborator, and companion, left him. He is baffled by this loss, and can only guess why it happened. “Me and my goddam art and everyone talking about me, me, me—just overpowered her, wrecked her,” he says. The ranch declined—Shanahan had taken care of the cattle—and so did Heizer. He stopped eating, and was down to an emaciated hundred and six pounds. “Winter came, I couldn’t breathe, I was broke, I was gut-shot, probably the best thing would have been just to off myself, though I’m not suicidal at all,” he told me.
With the help of Govan and Vander Weg, Heizer left the desert for New York, bringing his favorite border collie, Tomato Rose. Now he feels like Sleeping Beauty, awakened from a needle dream. At first, he says, “my brains were gone. I couldn’t hail a cab. I got an iPhone—I’d never seen one. They’re bringing me into the modern world slowly, a step at a time. I’m pretty primitive. I got a long way to go.” The biggest surprise has been to discover that he isn’t the pariah he believed himself to be. “I pissed off everybody and insulted everybody,” he told me. “I got ’em all. And nobody likes me, or they didn’t. Now everybody likes me, now I’m accepted. Which is hilarious to come back and find out that I’m O.K.”
*Image: Heizer, a pioneer of the earthworks movement, began “City” in 1972. A mile and a half long and inspired by ancient ritual cities, it is made from rocks, sand, and concrete mined and mixed on site. PHOTOGRAPH BY JAMIE HAWKESWORTH FOR THE NEW YORKER
It's been a year since Greece accepted its third massive bailout, after left-wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras threatened to defy international lenders but ultimately acquiesced. Helena Smith of the Guardian recently visited Athens to gauge the economic climate and the popular mood. She found a large swathe of the population unable to live on the lower wages and increased taxes, and so they turn to buying and selling on the black market. She also found widespread disillusionment with the political class as a whole, with Tsipras "now a reviled figure." It seems apparent that the latest bailout will not solve Greece's economic woes in a stable way, and was perhaps never intended to. As Smith reports:
Almost all agree that last summer’s bailout simply kicks the can down the road – an art EU mandarins have mastered since Greece’s ordeal by financial collapse begun. Europe’s weakest link will face further tumult when the latest measures kick in this autumn and the Syriza-led government is forced to enact contentious employment reforms to secure a further €2.8bn in loans.
"I wish I could say Greece has been on the mend over the last year,” says George Papaconstantinou, who oversaw the country’s first rescue package as finance minister. “Instead we are witnessing a double-dip recession that can be wholly ascribed to Syriza’s first six months in office, which almost destroyed the country and certainly set it back many years.”
More than ever, he says, Greece needs large-scale foreign investment to kickstart growth – investment that is unlikely to happen in the face of government hostility to investors, both domestic and foreign.
Papaconstantinou, who has chronicled the crisis in a memoir, Game Over, argues that last summer’s lifeline was all the more tragic for being unnecessary. “What really differentiates the latest bailout from the previous ones is that this time around, it could have been avoided,” he writes in the book. “It became necessary because of a mix of ideological blindness, lack of understanding of basic eurozone rules, unforgivable brinkmanship and plain incompetence during the first six months Syriza was in power.”
A year on and Greece, though quiet, remains as febrile as ever on the frontline of the euro storm.
Image: Greek anti-austerity protesters staging a demonstration in May. Via the Guardian.
Dylan Matthews writes for Vox about the internet-sprung, increasingly popular (and worrisome) political philosophy nicknamed "alt-right." Like all political philosophies born on the internet, alt-right, and its cohort neoreactionism, deserves some unpacking. Given that Clinton and Trump have seemed to pick up on alt-right rhetoric, Matthews' introduction to the problematic movement seems all the more timely. Read Matthews in partial below, or in full via Vox.
Later today in Nevada, Hillary Clinton is scheduled to deliver a speech on the subject of "Donald Trump and his advisors' embrace of the disturbing 'alt-right' political philosophy" that she characterizes as "embracing extremism and presenting a divisive and dystopian view of America which should concern all Americans, regardless of party."
That's a striking level of prominence for a movement that until recently was extremely obscure. A movement lurking in Reddit and 4chan threads and in community blogs and forums, a movement of right-wingers who openly argue that democracy is a joke. That it's weak, it's corrupt, and it caters to the whims of a fickle electorate rather than the needs of the citizenry. That Congress and the president must be replaced with a CEO-like figure to run the country as it truly should be, without the confused input of the masses.
For some in the movement, Donald Trump really is that figure. For the hardcore, even the most authoritarian-styled presidential candidate in decades isn't good enough.
Welcome to the alt-right.
The label blends together straight-up white supremacists, nationalists who think conservatives have sold out to globalization, and nativists who fear immigration will spur civil disarray. But at its core are the ideas of a movement known as neoreaction, and neoreaction (NRx for short) is a rejection of democracy.
Thus, within the world of neoreaction, Trump's seemingly authoritarian impulses are a feature, not a bug. The only real problem is he may not go far enough. NRxer Michael Perilloux, for example, complained that Trump wouldn't pull off the kind of power grab that many of his critics fear him capable of:
Is Trump likely to cancel the constitution, declare martial law, declare himself emperor to be succeeded by his children, nationalize the banks and media, hang some of the worst criminal bankers, send the Israelis back to Israel, call the National Guard to roll tanks into Harvard Yard, place all communists and other anti-American elements under house arrest, retire all government employees, replace the USG with the Trump Organization, and begin actually rebuilding America and western civilization?
Short of that, he is simply another phenomenon within the arcane workings of the system, as worthy of support as the ebb and flow of the tides. Surely, the unprecedented nature of his campaign warrants excited interest as a historical case-study and promising fore-shock of a true restoration, but he is not the king, and we have a ways to go yet.
Others on the alt-right hew closer to Trump, though. The alt-right has become a major base of Trump's online support, causing Trump observers from BuzzFeed to National Review to take notice. They're striking fear into the hearts of the mainstream rightists.
"They are the vehicles by which anti-liberal and dehumanizing sentiments become legitimized in conservative circles," Washington Free Beacon editor Matthew Continetti explained in an essay for Commentary. In an essay for the Federalist called "You Can’t Whitewash the Alt-Right’s Bigotry," Cathy Young assails the movement as, "a mix of old bigotries and new identity and victimhood politics adapted for the straight white male."
The alt-right is often dismissed as white supremacist Trump supporters with Twitter accounts, and they are certainly that. But spend some time talking to key players and reading the movement's central texts, as I did, and you'll find it's more than a simple rebranding of the white nationalist movement. It's the product of the intersection of a longstanding, long-marginalized part of the conservative movement with both the most high-minded and the basest elements of internet culture. It's a mutated revival of a monster William F. Buckley thought he killed in the early 1990s, given new energy by the web.
And it's making its impact felt in a big way this election. In the past, when mainstream conservatives have gone up against racialist, conspiratorial elements on the right, they have emerged the victors. Buckley successively marginalized the John Birch Society in the 1950s, and then Pat Buchanan and his followers in the 1990s. People like Continetti and Young are trying to do the same thing to the alt-right. But with huge amounts of online energy behind the movement, and Trump this year's GOP nominee, it's not clear that the mainstream will win.
*Image of Elon Musk via the Telegraph
The website of n+1 has an excerpt from a new book by one of its most compelling regular writers, Kristin Dombek. The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism examines how narcissism evolved from a clinical diagnosis to a ubiquitous cultural phenomenon, and asks whether narcissism really is more prevalent in the age of the internet than before, as is widely believed. In the excerpt, she suggests that narcissists are really empty people pretending to be full. Here's a snippet:
It might take you a while to realize that the narcissist is not merely selfish, but doesn’t actually have a self. When you do, it will seem spooky, how good she has been at performing something you thought was care. Now you see that she is like a puppet, a clown, an animate corpse, anything that looks human but isn’t. For the narcissist, life is only a stage, writes Alexander Lowen, the author of Narcissism: Denial of the True Self, quoted on the Wikipedia page about narcissism, and “when the curtain falls upon an act, it is finished and forgotten. The emptiness of such a life is beyond imagination.” You might empathize: how horrible to live this way, having to imitate self-ness all the time. You can think of it that way, compassionately— intimacy issues, attachment styles, some childhood trauma beyond their control—or you can decide that your compassion is another sign you’ve been tricked: that because the narcissist has a priori no empathy, yours is just applause to her, and she is not just fake, but evil.
If you work for a narcissist, or are the child of one, or are in love with one, what should you do? Some mental health professionals think that you can love a narcissist, in a way, but that you just have to treat him or her like a six-year-old and expect nothing from that person. Some do think that narcissists can change. Deciding between these two theories can haunt you forever. And on the internet, the change theory is a minority opinion; just about everyone advises that if a narcissist begins to entangle you, you should run. As one blogger put it: “What does one do when encountering a narcissist for the first time? The simple answer: grab your running shoes and start your first 5K right there in the middle of the cocktail party!”
Image via n+1.
Almost a year after the unveiling of its first version by the Laboria Cuboniks collective, a new and more stable version of the XENOFEMINIST Manifesto has been successfully reconstructed by operators at The New Centre for Research & Practice. Deeply hidden in a myriad of encrypted files and multi modal firmware, the components of the Manifesto which were produced and sent sporadically from a distant future to the year 2014 by cyberalien hybrids of humanoids have been freshly reassembled into a new code and released as an authorless user manual. The researchers are inviting the members of public to use their version as a starting point and, in the spirit of the manifesto itself, rearticulate and upgrade it through collective thinking, writing and action.
0x0 Abstraction, virtuality and complexity are part of daily life. XENOFEMINISM constructs a worldview adapted to these realities: a theory of practical cunning, scale, and vision; a future in which the realization of emancipation contributes to a universalist politics assembled from the needs of all.
0x00 No more futureless repetition on the treadmill of capital, no more submission to the drudgery of labour. XF seizes alienation as an opportunity to generate new worlds. We are always already alienated. It is through, and not despite, alienation that we can liberate ourselves from immediacy. Freedom and parity are neither a given nor natural and their construction entails more not less alienation. Alienation is the labor of their construction. Nothing should be accepted as fixed and permanent—neither material conditions and social forms, nor the technological horizon. The glorification of ‘nature’ has nothing to offer. XF is anti-naturalist because naturalism stinks of humanism and theology.
0X000 In regards to feminism, XF seeks to eventually eliminate the need for such theory and its hegemonic deployment.
0x01 XF promotes the idea of using existing and emerging technologies to re-engineer the world. There should be no doubt that technology is fraught with serious risks; it is prone to imbalance, abuse, and exploitation. Rather than pretending to risk nothing, we ought to augment political interfaces between technologies in accordance with these risks. Technology is neither inherently progressive nor intrinsically regressive; it functions influx with culture in positive and negative feedback loops that make linear sequencing, prediction, and total caution impossible. The real emancipatory potential of technology remains unrealized. Fed by the market, its rapid growth is offset by bloat, and its elegant innovation packaged for consumers whose stagnant world it decorates with updates and upgrades. Gender, racial, class and geographical disparities still characterize the fields in which our technologies are conceived, built, and legislated.
0x02 XENOFEMINISM is rationalism par excellence. To claim that reason or rationality is "by nature" White, patriarchal and European is to simply concede defeat. Yes, it is true that the canonical “history of thought” is dominated by men, and it is male hands we see throttling existing institutions of science, politics and art. But this is precisely because of this miserable imbalance, and not despite it that opposing the dominance of white heterosexual European-descent man must be itself rational. Science ought to ultimately be redefined as the only true suspension of inequality. If today it is dominated by masculine egos, then it is at odds with its own true function. Reason seeks the kinds of parity and freedom, which Eurocentric patriarchy cannot provide.
XF is genderless, sexless and inhuman, unbound by physical, biological, natural and historical limitations. XF is a space for marking the intersection of these claims visible. It names reason and reason alone as the engine of emancipation, and the right of everyone to speak as no one in particular.
0x03 The excess of modesty in emancipatory movements is not proportionate to the world’s monstrous geopolitical, cultural and scientific complexities. Systematic thinking and structural analysis have largely fallen by the wayside in favor of admirable, but insufficient struggles, bound to arbitrary identities, fixed localities and fragmented insurrections. While capitalism is understood as a complex and ever-expanding totality, most anti-capitalist projects remain profoundly fearful of transitioning to the universal, resisting big-picture speculative politics by condemning them as suspicious vectors. Such a false guarantee treats universals as absolute, generating a debilitating disjuncture between what we seek to depose and the strategies required for reaching this objective.
0x04 Global complexity opens us to Promethean cognitive and political demands. Much of twenty-first century politics—from the remnants of post-war Western Marxism to Postmodern countercultural movements— fail to address these challenges in a manner capable of producing substantial and enduring change. XENOFEMINISM encounters these obligations as a collectivity capable of transitioning between multiple levels of political, material and conceptual organization.
0x05 XENOFEMINISM is synthetic, unsatisfied by analysis alone. It urges constructive oscillation between description and prescription to mobilize the recursive potential of contemporary technologies upon disparities of power. Given that there are a range of challenges specifically relating to life in the digital age, the situation requires a philosophy at ease with computation. However, XENOFEMINISM is about more than digital self-defence, cyber equality and freedom from oppressive networks. We assert the exercise of positive freedom--freedom-to rather than simply freedom-from--and demand the invention of novel cognitive and material technologies in the service of the common ends.
0x06 The radical opportunities afforded by new forms of technological mediation should no longer serve the interests of capital, which, by design, benefits the few. The constantly proliferating fruits of technology can be annexed, and although no one can claim their total accessibility, digital tools have never been more widely available or more sensitive to appropriation than they are today. This is not an intentional omission of the fact that a large amount of the world's poor is adversely affected by the expanding technological industry. Multinational corporations’ employees work the developing world under abominable conditions while entire towns are becoming a repository for the world's electronic waste. XF acknowledges these conditions as a target for elimination. Just as the invention of the stock market was also the harbinger of the economic crash, XF understands that technological innovation must responsively anticipate its own systemic failures.
0x09 XF rejects illusion and melancholy as political inhibitors. Insisting that the weak need no strategic coordination to prevail over the strong leads to unfulfilled promises and unmarshalled drives. This is a politics that, in wanting so much, ends up building so little. Without the labor of large-scale and collective social organization, declaring one's desire for global change is little more than wishful thinking. On the other hand, leftist melancholy teaches us that emancipation is an extinct species to be wept over and that flashes of negation are the best we can hope for. At its worst, such an attitude generates nothing but political lassitude, and at its best, installs an atmosphere of pervasive despair which too often degenerates into factionalism and petty moralizing. The malady of melancholia only compounds political inertia, and—under the guise of being realistic—relinquishes all hope of recalibrating the world. XENOFEMINISM refuses to mourn.
0x0A We take politics that valorize the entirely local in the guise of subverting waves of global abstraction, to be utterly insufficient. To secede from or disavow capitalist machinery will not make it disappear. Likewise, suggestions to pull the lever on the emergency brake of velocities is not a universal option but a possibility available only to the few, ultimately resulting in catastrophe for the many. If we refuse to think beyond the microcommunity and foster connections between fractured insurgencies, we have no choice but to remain satisfied with temporary and defensive gestures. XF is an affirmative creature on the offensive, insisting on the possibilitiy of large-scale social change for our alien kin.
0x0B A sense of the world's volatility and artificiality seems to have faded from contemporary Queer politics, in favor of a plural but static constellation of identity, in whose light bleak equations of the good and the natural are stubbornly restored. All the while, the heterosexual center marches forward. XF challenges this centrifugal referent, knowing full well that sex and gender are exemplary of the fulcrum between norm and fact, between freedom and compulsion. To tilt the fulcrum in the direction of nature is a defensive concession at best, and a retreat from what makes queer and trans politics more than just a lobby: that it is an arduous assertion of freedom and parity against an order that seemed immutable. Like every myth of the given, a stable foundation is fabulated for a real world of chaos, violence, and doubt. When the possibility of transition became real and known, the tomb under Nature's shrine cracked and new histories bristling with futures, escaped the old order of "sex". The disciplinary grids of gender and sex are in no small part an attempt to mend that shattered foundation, and tame the lives that escape it. The time has now come to tear down this shrine entirely, and not bow down before it in a useless apology for what little autonomy has been granted.
XF advocates not only for the eradication of gender identities but the annihilation of nuclear family and the global dismantling of heterosexuality. Instances of sexuation between a man and a woman are not a concern, but a lifelong commitment to reenacting them is. We demand a world in which the sexual, legal and ideological union of a man and a woman both in its traditional and contemporary forms is scientifically, culturally and legally recognized as a pathetic and pervasive social illness. At the heart of this perversion is the idea that two units of humanity with opposing or even the same or similar genders are sufficient for the cultivation of new-born subjectivities. XF finds queer emancipation insufficient if heterosexual ideologies and practices are politely tolerated and quietly afforded their historical privileges. XF aims to completely liberate and deliver humanity to its real sexual and communal desires and objectives.
0x0C XENOFEMINISM is gender-abolitionist. "Gender abolitionism" is not code for the eradication of what are currently considered "gendered" traits from the human population. Under patriarchy, such a project could only spell disaster--the notion of what is "gendered" is attached disproportionately to the feminine. "Gender abolitionism" is shorthand for the ambition to construct a society where traits currently assembled under the rubric of gender, no longer furnish a grid for the asymmetric operation of power. "Race abolitionism" expands into a similar formula--that the struggle must continue until currently racialized characteristics are of no more significance than the color of one's eyes. Ultimately, every emancipatory abolitionism must incline towards the horizon of class abolitionism, since it is in capitalism where we encounter oppression in its transparent and denaturalized form: You're not exploited or oppressed because you are a wage laborer or poor; you are a laborer or poor because you are exploited.
0x0D XENOFEMINISM understands that the viability of the projects aiming for the abolition of class, gender, race and geography hinges on a profound reworking of the universal. The universal must be grasped as generic. Genericity slices through every particular, refusing the classification of bodies and lands. This non-absolute, generic universality must guard against the facile tendency of conflation with bloated, unmarked particulars. Absent such a universal, the abolition of class will remain a bourgeois fantasy, the abolition of race, a tacit white-supremacism, the abolition of gender, a thinly veiled misogyny, and abolition of geography a new form of global imperialism.
0x10 XENOFEMINISM seeks to construct a coalitional politics, a politics without the infection of purity. Wielding the universal requires thoughtful qualification and careful self-reflection so as to become a maximally ready-to-hand tool for multiple political bodies and something that can be appropriated against the numerous oppressions that transect with gender and sexualities. The universal is no blueprint, and instead of dictating its uses in advance, we propose XENOFEMINISM as a platform. The very process of construction is therefore understood to be a restless, iterative, and continual refashioning. XENOFEMINISM seeks to be a mutable architecture that, like open source software, remains available for perpetual modification and enhancement following the navigational impulse of militant ethical reasoning. Open, however, does not mean undirected. The most durable systems in the world owe their stability to they way they train order to emerge as an "invisible hand" from apparent spontaneity, or exploit the inertia of investment and sedimentation. We should not hesitate to learn from our enemies, and seek ways to seed an equitable order into the geometry of freedoms these platforms afford.
0x11 Our lot is cast with technoscience, where nothing is too sacred for reengineering and transformation so as to widen our aperture of freedom and parity. To say that nothing is sacred, that nothing is transcendent or protected from the will to know, to tinker and to hack, is to say that nothing is supernatural. We understand ”Nature" as the unbounded arena of science. We will tear down melancholy and illusion, the unambitious and the non-scaleable, and the libidinized puritanism of Nature as an un-remakeable given. There is nothing, we claim, that cannot be studied scientifically and manipulated technologically.
0x12 This does not, however, mean that the distinction between the ontological and the normative, between fact and value, is simply cut and dried. The vectors of normative anti-naturalism and ontological naturalism span many ambivalent battlefields. The project of untangling what ought to be from what is, of dissociating freedom from fact and will from knowledge, is, indeed, an infinite task. There are many lacunae where desire confronts us with the brutality of fact, where beauty is indissociable from truth. Poetry, sex, technology and pain are incandescent with this tension. But give up on the task of revision, release the reins and slacken that tension, and these filaments instantly dim.
0x13 The potential of early, text-based internet culture for countering repressive regimes, generating solidarity among marginalised groups, and creating new spaces for experimentation that ignited cyberfeminism in the nineties has clearly faded in the twenty-first century. The dominance of the visual in today's online interfaces has spaces of interaction, but this does not mean that cyberfeminist sensibilities belong to the past. Sorting the subversive possibilities from the oppressive ones latent in today's Internet requires a feminism sensitive to the insidious return of old power structures, yet savvy enough to know how to exploit the potentials. Digital technologies are not separable from the material realities that underwrite them; they are connected so that each can be used to alter the other towards different ends. Rather than arguing for the primacy of the virtual over the material, or the material over the virtual, XENOFEMINISM grasps points of power and powerlessness in both towards unfolding this knowledge as effective interventions in our jointly composed reality.
0x14 Intervention in material hegemonies is just as crucial as intervention in digital and cultural ones. Changes to the built environment harbour some of the most significant possibilities in the reconfiguration of our horizons. As the embodiment of ideological constellations, the production of space and the decisions we make for its organization are ultimately articulations about 'us' and reciprocally, how a 'we' can be articulated. With the potential to foreclose, restrict, or open up future social conditions, xenofeminists must become attuned to the language of architecture as a vocabulary for collective choreography—the coordinated writing of space.
0x15 From the street to the home, domestic space too must not escape our interventionalist tentacles. So profoundly ingrained, domestic space has been deemed impossible to disembed, where the home as norm has been conflated with home as fact, as an un-remakeable given. Stultifying "domestic realism" has no home on our horizon. Let us set sights on augmented homes of shared laboratories, of communal media and technical facilities; the home is ripe for spatial transformation as an integral component in any process of futurity. But this cannot stop at the garden gates. We see too well that reinventions of family structure and domestic life are currently only possible at the cost of withdrawing from the economic sphere—the way of the commune. If we want to break the inertia that has kept the moribund figure of the nuclear family unit in place, which has stubbornly worked to isolate men and women from the public sphere, we must overhaul the material infrastructure and break the economic cycles that lock it in place. The task before us is twofold, and our vision necessarily stereoscopic: we must engineer an economy that liberates reproductive labor and family life, while building models of familiality free from the deadening grind of wage labor.
0x16 From the global to the local, from the cloud to our bodies, XENOFEMINISM avows the responsibility in constructing new institutions of technomaterialist hegemonic proportions. Like engineers and artists who must conceive of a total structure as well as the molecular parts from which this totality is constructed, XF emphasises the importance of the mesopolitical sphere against the limited effectiveness of local gestures, creation of autonomous zones, and sheer horizontalism, just as it stands against transcendent, or top-down impositions of values and norms. The mesopolitical arena of XENOFEMINISM's universalist ambitions comprehends itself as a mobile and intricate network of transits between these polarities. As pragmatists, we invite contamination as a mutational driver between such frontiers.
0x17 XF asserts that adapting our behaviour for an era of Promethean complexity is a labor requiring both action and inertia, a ferocious patience at odds with simply waiting. Calibrating a political hegemony or insurgency not only implies the creation of material infrastructures to make its values explicit, but places demands on us collective subjects, as to how we are to become hosts of this new world. How do we build a better parasite--one that arouses the desires we want to desire, that orchestrates an emancipatory and egalitarian community buttressed by new forms of unselfish solidarity and self-mastery?
0x18 XF thinks like the schemer or lisper, who constructs a new language in which the problem at hand is explained, a code in which solutions for an entire class of problems become relatively trivial. XENOFEMINISM is an open-ended ambition to construct a new language for new politics--an explicit language capable of seizing its own methods as materials, bootstrapping itself into existence piece by piece. The problems we face are systemic and interlocking, and that any chance of global success depends on infecting myriad skills and contexts with the logic of XF. Ours is a transformation of both seeping but directed subsumption as well as that of rapid overthrow; it is a deliberate construction, submerging the white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy in a sea of procedures that soften its shell and dismantle its defenses, so as to build a new world from the scraps.
0x1A XENOFEMINISM indexes the desire to construct an alien future, with a triumphant X on a mobile map. This X is not a mark of destination, but the insertion of a topological-keyframe for a new forging logic. In affirming a future untethered to the repetition of the present, we struggle for accelerating capacities, for spaces of freedom with a richer geometry than the aisle, the assembly line, the barricades, and the newsfeed. If geometry implicitly structures our exterior world already, our Umwelt, we need new perceptions and actions unblinkered by naturalised rigidities. "Nature" shall no longer be a refuge of injustice, or a basis for any political justification whatsoever!
If nature is unjust, rebuild a new nature from scratch!
At Public Seminar, McKenzie Wark surveys the books of Chris Kraus, from her seminal debut I Love Dick to her latest novel, Summer of Hate. You might think that nothing new and interesting could be said about Kraus's work, since its been covered exhaustively over the past few years by a younger generation of aficionados from the spheres of art and literature. But you'd be wrong. Wark suggests that Kraus's books expose "the means of production of theory," and take theory more seriously that academia does by asking how it illuminates the pleasure and abjection of a real physical body—her own. Here's an excerpt:
Sometimes reading Chris Kraus is like archaeology. Somewhere beneath the surface of the text are some rich fossil layers. Call it the hyperreal strata of the Anthropocene. Some of it smells like the New York of a certain era, all speed-sweat and peroxide. On top of that layer is something else, something that filled the niche when those punk creatures went extinct. Once there used to be whole separate ecologies of art and fortune. There were poets, performers, artists of a sort. They made their own rules for glory. Then they went away, and after that comes pedigree creatures, sired by great names for brilliant careers.
Among other things, Kraus has written the Domesday Book of the lost wilds and commons of New York. “All of New York’s mystery had long since been depleted.” This is perhaps the case with a lot of the cities of what the Situationists so usefully called the overdeveloped world. Kraus: “There is no longer any way of being poor in any interesting way in major cities like Manhattan.” As late as the winter years of the eighties, other lives, other communities, other values still survived in neglected corners. But is that still possible? “It’s only rarely that the overwhelming sadness of the city galvanizes into anything like rage. And when it does, this rage is quickly channeled into new careers in the art world.”
As people get older they start to think it is all over and the good old days are gone. As a Kraus-like character says of LA: “There’s no alternative hierarchy of glamour here. Those who work outside the gallery system are simply losers.” And yet the actual Chris Kraus could still celebrate the brief and brilliant life of the Tiny Creatures scene in LA’s Echo Park: “What all these people do best is collage. They’re all on speed….” So while her books are in part like archaeological records, they are also blueprints for how to turn your own quirk and smarts and boredom into its own scene, with its own intensities, if only for a time.
Perhaps this is not the least reason Kraus’ books have a following. They are about working the inside-outside margin. As the Kraus-character says in Summer of Hate: “She saw no boundaries between feeling and thought, sex and philosophy. Hence, her writing was read almost exclusively in the art world, where she attracted a small core of devoted fans: Asperger’s boys, girls who’d been hospitalized for mental illness, assistant professors who would not be receiving their tenure, lap dancers, cutters and whores.”
Image of Chris Krauss via the Guardian.
At the n+1 website, Jeanne-Marie Jackson writes a nuanced and illuminating review of a dizzyingly complex and ambitious new novel, Square Wave by Mark de Silva. Exploring the colonial history of Sri Lanka, microtonal music, and modern American urban dissolution, Square Wave uses the form of the novel to engage in a kind of wide-ranging philosophy that is rarely seen in conventional academic texts. Here's an excerpt from Jackson's review:
If this all seems rather chaotic, that’s because it is: there are character links between plotlines and sections (the microtonal music theorist, for example, is Stagg’s girlfriend’s friend from high school), but they are not points of interest in their own right. Nor do the subdivisions stop there. The sections set in Sri Lanka also alternate between multiple imperial perspectives (the English and the Dutch), as well as that of an indigenous Sinhalese monk who contemplates the criteria by which political events are admitted into the island’s official history. Unlike other “philosophical novels” that are unified by a single idiosyncratic persona—David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress and Sergio De La Pava’s A Naked Singularity might be generative comparisons—Square Wave is consistently alienating. There is no unifying through-line of voice; only of concept.
To speak of a “plot” in any traditional sense would be to greatly oversell Square Wave’s mass marketability. (This will hardly count as a problem for De Silva, who once published an essay in 3:AM on the merits of “putdownable prose.”) A better way of describing the book’s nearly 400 pages is as a chronicle of intersecting fields of innovation, in which things might “happen,” sure, but only to point back toward the structures being analogized. When Stagg discovers the hurt prostitute in a vacant lot, it does not set in motion a relationship between the two characters that can then come to some kind of psychological or social fruition. They do interact a few more times, but their conversations would carry much the same weight even were they devoid of context.
The take-away is rather that the prostitute, named Jen, embodies the dark side of a democracy that has lost its capacity to effect humanity’s elevation: she’s left college and chosen this path of self-debasement. This meeting in turn prompts De Silva and Stagg’s meditations on the nature of democracy in its populist versus non-representative forms, neither of which satisfies. Jen’s life and the elitist goals of The Wintry then look like two sides of the same political coin. Similarly, the atmospheric physicist is involved in a collaborative plan between the US and India to manipulate storm systems across the world, which might alternately serve humanistic or weaponistic aims. Square Wave presents morally ambivalent systems without any clear evaluative standard: redemption looks like apocalypse depending on your point of entry, and there are many.
Aheda Zanetti, the designer who invented the burkini, has written an op-ed for the Guardian about how she created the swimsuit to give Muslim women freedom. She speaks against the intolerance of French authorities banning the burkini, saying that they're as bad as the Taliban. Read Zanetti in partial below, in full via the Guardian.
This has given women freedom, and they want to take that freedom away? So who is better, the Taliban or French politicians? They are as bad as each other.
I don’t think any man should worry about how women are dressing – no one is forcing us, it’s a woman’s choice. What you see is our choice. Do I call myself a feminist? Yes, maybe. I like to stand behind my man, but I am the engine, and I choose to be. I want him to take all the credit, but I am the quiet achiever.
I would love to be in France to say this: you have misunderstood. And there more problems in the world to worry about, why create more? You’ve taken a product that symbolised happiness and joyfulness and fitness, and turned it into a product of hatred.
Also, what are the French values? What do you mean it doesn’t combine with French values, what does that mean? Liberty? You telling us what to wear, you telling us what not to do will drive women back into their homes – what do you want us to do then? There will be a backlash. If you are dividing the nation and not listening and not working towards something you are naturally going to have someone who is going to get angry. If you are pushing people away, and isolating them – this is definitely not a good thing for any politician to do, in any country.
I remember when I first tested the burkini. First I tested it in my bathtub, I had to make sure it worked. Then I had to test it by diving in it, so I went to the local pool to test that the headband would stay put, so I went to Roselands Pool, and I remember that everyone was staring at me – what was I wearing? I went right to the end of the pool and got on the diving board and dived in. The headband stayed in place, and I thought, beauty! Perfect!
It was my first time swimming in public and it was absolutely beautiful. I remember the feeling so clearly. I felt freedom, I felt empowerment, I felt like I owned the pool. I walked to the end of that pool with my shoulders back.
Diving into water is one of the best feelings in the world. And you know what? I wear a bikini under my burkini. I’ve got the best of both worlds.
*Image of burkini via jpost.com
Writing in the Boston Review, social-movement historian Robin D. G. Kelley delves into a rich and detail policy document recently released by the Black Lives Matter movement, “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice.” Kelley shows that in its call for a universal basic income, community control of policing, and reparations for US slavery, the document is a roadmap for ending the oppression of not just African Americans, but of all marginalized people. Read an excerpt from Kelley's piece below or the full text here.
If heeded, the call to “end the war on Black people” would not only reduce our vulnerability to poverty, prison, and premature death but also generate what I would call a peace dividend of billions of dollars. Demilitarizing the police, abolishing bail, decriminalizing drugs and sex work, and ending the criminalization of youth, transfolk, and gender-nonconforming people would dramatically diminish jail and prison populations, reduce police budgets, and make us safer. “A Vision for Black Lives” explicitly calls for divesting from prisons, policing, a failed war on drugs, fossil fuels, fiscal and trade policies that benefit the rich and deepen inequality, and a military budget in which two-thirds of the Pentagon’s spending goes to private contractors. The savings are to be invested in education, universal healthcare, housing, living wage jobs, “community-based drug and mental health treatment,” restorative justice, food justice, and green energy.
But the point is not simply to reinvest the peace dividend into existing social and economic structures. It is to change those structures—which is why “A Vision for Black Lives” emphasizes community control, self-determination, and “collective ownership” of certain economic institutions. It calls for community control over police and schools, participatory budgeting, the right to organize, financial and institutional support for cooperatives, and “fair development” policies based on human needs and community participation rather than market principles. Democratizing the institutions that have governed black communities for decades without accountability will go a long way toward securing a more permanent peace since it will finally end a relationship based on subjugation, subordination, and surveillance. And by insisting that such institutions be more attentive to the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable—working people and the poor, the homeless, the formerly incarcerated, the disabled, women, and the LGBTQ community—“A Vision for Black Lives” enriches our practice of democracy.