the Aesthetics of Digitization
Man-formation surfaced in the nineteenth century because the
forces of Man joined with other finite forces, such as life,
work and language. Today, we often say that Man confronts new
forces: silicon and not merely carbon, cosmos instead of the
world… Why would the form still be composed as Man? Human rights?
Yet, as Ewald has shown, it is the very transformations of right
that testify to the change of formations. Foucault joins Nietzsche
by reawakening the question of the death of man. And, if man
has had a manner of imprisoning life, is it not under another
formation than man that life can free itself? (Deleuze,
1990a, p. 125)
In a globalising
culture, by no means are all people constituted as subjects in
the Western rationalist tradition; by no means are all subjects
citizens; by no means do all citizens have access to the languages
in which are concentrated the public discourses of arts, science
and policy. In turning the planet into the object of speculation,
remote sensing premises a public sphere which is global. Global
imaging in corporate hands produces a global subject whose instrumental
rationality excludes the mass of the world’s population. In this
dialectic, a toll of wonderful potential can become a weapon of
mass murder. Cubitt, 1998, p. 59)
requires a formulation of aesthetics that no longer centers around
Man. It is politically untenable to pursue an aesthetic of digitization
derived from generalized anthropocentric faculties such as memory,
perception, consciousness or interpretation. The notion of an “augmentation
of the human intellect”  that appears in some digital aesthetics, e.g.
Weiland (2001) or Heim (1987), may seem hopeful and enlightening
– but it is also extremely provocative. Assuming the existence of
a singular human intellect makes for an easy and predictable analysis,
but it cannot address the really pressing challenges that the ongoing
process of digitization poses for western society.
rejected here in the name of digitization was, however, no less
objectionable to many artists and philosophers in the nineteenth
century. But modern anti-humanism is no simple affair. The ideas
and thoughts that together formed a counter-revolution to humanism
were diverse and would today be impossible to delimit as a homogenous
direction or school.  Politically, these ideas are often regarded
as residing in rather murky waters between anarchy and fascism.
As if still in Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche’s claws, the fundamentally
flawed association between Nazism and her brother’s writings serve
even today as a ready at hand dismissal of anti-humanism. To show
the fatality of this political misconception is one of the more
important preliminary tasks today for researchers on globalization
and the digital machine ensemble.
though the past 200 years of industrial pollution, colonial imperialism,
corporate greed, technological progress and minority exploitation
have been projected in the name of Man as defined by the hierarchy
of occidental systematization, a world without him is probably as
politically viable as the one ruled under his centralized regime.
let us pause here for a moment. What would motivate a connection
between Man and these violent phenomena? Perhaps nothing more than
a certain structural analogy? It is important that I begin by specifying
the ambivalent term ‘humanism.’ Here, I define humanism as a form
of knowledge that bases the legitimacy of its knowledge on the proper
reflexiveness of the world as guaranteed by human reason. 
may find examples in Socrates’ dialogues, in Brunellesci’s architecture,
in Kant’s philosophy and in Hobbes’ political writings. At the heart
of this architecture of knowledge stands representation as the human
imperative: “Know thyself.” Humanism privileges the mind’s capacity
for reflection and representation over the body’s immediate sensation.
Thinking like a humanist may be illustrated by Gustav Rodin’s sculpture
of a thinker with the back of his coarse body turned against the
rough chaotic world. Matter will be triumphed by the spirit of his
gaze that dwells in a distance where the mind is joining with the
truth of this world. There is a beautiful truth beyond mere appearances,
and humans may reach there with reason in order to organize the
there is a political downside; the desire for a truthful reflection
and responsibility can only be mythically fulfilled. The human struggle
to get there, to proceed toward oneself, must always use some other
means. There is always a price to pay for Man to arrive at self-knowledge.
The natural, the material or whatever is related to the base parts
of existence have always been judged expendable. Everything has
its place in a hierarchy determined by humanism’s metaphysical telos
and the lower parts always pull the shortest straw.
this point in my argument, I would like to introduce the concept
‘line.’ A line is that which conditions a specific mode of selfhood.
The specific line that conditions a humanist structure of thought,
in the nineteenth century, gave rise to a large number of new phenomena.
Michel Foucault’s early work forms a veritable catalogue over that
which conditioned the possibility for their appearance, what in
his vocabulary are called ‘apparatuses,’ or dispositifs.
A line is that which connects these apparatuses into a certain constellation.
According to Foucault, the prime weakness of the line that crystallizes
into humanism is that its constellation of apparatuses prevents
it from posing other questions than those it already knows will
fit within its self-reflecting mode of knowledge. Foucault stated
this very clearly in an interview with Madeleine Chapsal in 1966:
With terms like morality, values and reconciliation, humanism has
had a way of solving the problems it didn't have to resolve at all.
Do you know what Marx said? Humanity does not pose other problems
than those it can solve. I think that one ought to say: humanism
pretends to solve the problems that it cannot pose.
are those problems?
Well, the problems of the relation between man and the world,
the problem of reality, the problem of artistic creation, of happiness
and all the obsessions that absolutely don't merit to be posed
as theoretical problems… Our system is absolutely dissociated
from it. Our task today is to definitively emancipate from humanism
and in that sense, our labor is a political work. ("Dits
et écrits," p. 544)
It is, however,
important not to understand humanism as the exclusive cause for
alienated labor and Eurocentric imperialism. Humanism is the name
of a dominant line whose formation determined the possible conditions
for industrial, social and political knowledge from the nineteenth
century and onwards, but nothing says that a line cannot be changed.
Other lines always coexist with a dominant line and sometimes they
grow strong enough to challenge the main line. History proves that
a line changes and becomes other than itself all the time – and
in a very dynamic rhythm. This means that in a world emancipated
from humanism, one may expect different conditions of life arising
from the newly linked apparatuses.
Yet as both
Foucault and Deleuze are undoubtedly aware, these new possibilities
will not necessarily be less unjust or violent. The revolutionary
hope is not, therefore, that anti-humanism automatically will lead
to utopia. Rather, the expectation is that as a vanguard against
the desire to restrict the development of new lines or to singularize
one of them into a new totalitarianism, anti-humanism may be able
to confront post-humanistic forms of violence and repression. Digital
technology confirms the existence of new conditions for the production
of knowledge, and any aesthetics of digitization must therefore
concern political issues just as much as artistic and philosophical
the beginning of so-called western modernity (1780s-1960s), the
notion of right becomes inseparable from the concept of Man. How
did that happen? A new dominant line appeared. This line is just
as much expressed in the American Constitution as in paintings by
Delacroix or David. Philosophically it is present in Kant’s critique
as well as in Hegel’s dialectics.  Here, we may use Kant as an example.
The new line to which Kant (1781, 1787) gives philosophical expression
needs a new formation of subjectivity. In Kant’s formulation of
the transcendental subject, man has ceased to reflect himself outwards
in a world of essences and appearances, but turns inward, toward
his own capacities to perceive and understand the appearances. Why
does he do that? Because Kant has realized that if knowledge should
become what it essentially is, then the subject that has knowledge
can only truly know anything about how appearances may appear but
nothing about the thing itself. This reverses everything in philosophy.
Truth is no longer in the outer essence of God, but in the subjective
essence that make appearances possible. There is nothing knowable
beyond appearances – but more importantly, a lot is knowable about
the human capacities that enable appearances.
divides these capacities in three: sensation, understanding and
reason. He calls them faculties. A faculty determines what is possible
to perceive, to understand or to rationalize, and it does so from
conditions based on necessary, or a priori judgments. Man’s potential
for knowledge is subjected to a hierarchical system of faculties.
In other words: a faculty determines the general capacities of the
subject. Since each of the subject’s three faculties judges only
what another faculty has rendered possible, the entire subject is
erected on interrelating judgments.
instance, Kant’s notion of right is determined within the faculty
of practical reason, which “legislates immediately in the faculty
of desire” (Deleuze, 1984, p. 28). The faculty of practical reason
determines that in order to be free, human will must determine its
own law. A will that desires to determine its own law does not legitimize
that desire from the prospect of its liberation but rather from
an abstract notion of right. Free will is only free if it is auto-legislative,
and it can only justify this legislation by means of its right.
The right to freedom is a priori. Only a subject has right. A will
that does not participate in the formation of legislation or does
not realize that it can be free only in self-legislation can never
legitimize its desires with right.
shows that the same line that expresses right in Kant speaks as
penal law in the republic and as rehabilitation in the prison’s
spectacle of punishment. (Rodin’s “the thinker” may just as well
be called “the prisoner.”) In Discipline and Punish (1979),
Foucault shows that the modern penal law determines a criminal act
from the same rational horizon of right that was described by Kant.  The line that conditions
both right and penal law gives a new meaning to madness. Insanity
now becomes a possible escape from the law and hence from social
rights as well.
 (Charles Dickens painted a most colorful portrait of this
new social gray area in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby,
the late eighteenth century and Kant’s expression of this reversal
– during what Foucault calls the ‘classical age’ (starting at around
the early sixteenth century) – right is equal to the right to rule
over determinable actions. This right spirals outwards and down
from a divinely justified center: the Prince. (It is the spatial
representation of this organization of power that motivates Foucault’s
analysis of Velasquez’ “Las Meninas” in The Order of Things,
1970.) The severity of illegal acts is measured against the
hierarchy of right. Hence crimes against persons situated closer
to the center are judged as worse than crimes against those more
marginal, and the severity of punishment is proportionate to the
social distance between the marginal perpetrator and the central
victim. According to the logic of classical legislation, a gray
area exists where the criminal is more central than the victim.
(Foucault mentions cases where people have their social rank reduced
before being prosecuted.)
the nineteenth century, the modern association of right, freedom
and law demanded a symmetrical relationship between crime and retribution
regardless of social class. Fiodor Dostoyevskij understood this
transition as being not necessarily a path toward increased equality,
but a transformation within the structure of justice. A character
recently returned from Europe as a recovered idiot, Prince Myshkin
soon becomes a most sensitively attuned seismograph for describing
the social and juridical earthquakes in Russia. These are earthquakes
that occur when the fault-line shifts from the withering spiral
of Russian feudalism to the social grid of rising Bolshevism. A
young, sick revolutionary from the lower ranks of society intrudes
with his gang upon the aristocratic party that is gathered on a
summerhouse veranda and shouts repeatedly at the Prince: ”What rights
have you?” Myshkin’s reply is always the same: “None whatsoever,
none whatsoever” (Dostoyevskij, 1998, p. 261).
this shift, the concept of law changed around the early nineteenth
century. As François Ewald (1987) showed with regard to labor responsibility,
what was profoundly altered was the law itself as social function.
The relation between right and law was no longer determined by the
positions in a social hierarchy but by the rationality of human
faculties. The jurisdiction of the new kind of law was at the same
time extended to include the accused person’s understanding of the
criminal act while simultaneously limited to penalize only those
crimes committed exclusively in a state of sanity.  Foucault shows that from the beginning of the nineteenth
century, it was no longer under all circumstances punishable to
commit murder. Only when a murderer had understood what he or she
had done could a person be subjected to trial – in cases of madness,
punishment was meaningless for it had no rehabilitative effect and
was therefore replaced by medical treatment. The line had connected
law with a whole new range of disciplines: psychology, education,
analysis, language, etc.
of right, justice and penalty cannot be disentangled from aesthetics.
Foucault always paid attention to how formations of social institutions
correlated to new formations in the sensuous faculty. Hence, in
the early nineteenth century, new objects appeared as new bodies
and old objects were reconfigured and seen as different. The most
reiterated example is the transformation of the spectacle of punishment
– from the gory descriptions of public torture that Foucault delivers
with almost Bataillean minutiae on the introducing pages of Discipline
and Punish to the clinically described panopticon prison, chosen
not for exemplarity but for its architectonic actualization of self-reflection
as the road to social rehabilitation. What these pages seem to convey
is that anti-humanist aesthetics is not expressed merely through
artworks (though it often has a privileged place) but in the ways
that new practices and material bodies unfold in light with a formal
40 years after the publication of Foucault’s first books, it is
safe to say that they expressed some very new and different conditions
for thinking and speaking about thought, language and history. Foucault
drew one of many new lines that countered humanism, but he was far
from alone. Guy Debord invented the concept of ‘the spectacle’ as
another new line: “The
spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among
people, mediated by images” (1995, p. 12). And the situationists
were not the only artists noticing the different conditions for
aesthetic experience. The diversity of early postmodern art formed a collective refusal of subjecthood under the
hegemony of human self-reflection. A different perceptibility emerged
in the folds of the new line. Its desire for becoming other than
itself had to be articulated materially: Rodin’s thinker met Rauschenberg’s
goat (Monogram, 1955-59) and Joseph Beuys’ Fat Chair (1964).
In 1992, Mark C.
Taylor wrote a history of the lines' different alterations in art,
philosophy and religion. The title of his book, Disfiguring, was already an overdetermined slogan, but Taylor aimed specifically
for the constellation of conditions that enabled the figure of man.
What the word ‘disfiguring’ meant here was less the end of art, philosophy
or religion but a deformation of what Foucault once termed the modern a priori: History. That history changed its figure with Foucault’s
archaeology was a threat far more severe to the modern discursive
formation than any claim that history had come to an end. For the
end of history was always a precondition for History as a category
for knowledge.  When history becomes disfigured, it is a new
fold on the line. But there is no author behind the event when the
dominance of humanism ended. It was not the publication of Foucault’s
books, nor was it this or that artist that made it happen – it was
quite simply that the apparatuses this line connected changed and
tore it apart. The new fold is synonymous with an overall reorganization
of reflection, art of the sixties sought social movement – or rather,
movement as a social condition – as its prime concern. While John
Cage showed that silence is an unruly collective body of raw noise,
Jimi Hendrix taught us to hear it with the entire body; Joseph Beuys
became a shaman of the mutable materiality of expression; Diane
Arbus praised the changeable masks of human sociability; Pop Art
transplanted socially determined modes of looking into other tempi
and Land Art reflected the flux of social life in the entropy of
soil. A new ‘perceptibility’, based on becoming other than oneself
emerged from the line and radically contradicted the desire of historical
Man. Dichotomies such as form/content, expression/meaning, particular/
universal, and even words and images lost their self-evidential
force and collapsed in front of a stronger desire to find out what
was going on in-between. The possibility for maintaining a panoptic
grid, with its clearly definable inside and outside, was radically
put to the test with discoveries like Augusto Boal’s spect-actor
and William Burroughs’ literary Interzone of cut-up writing.
new attention toward the power of movement was in no sense an isolated
event within the art community. Martin Luther King’s famous speech
at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 lent its voice to the same new folding
line of resistance. Using the trope of deferral as a weapon against
historicist logic – e.g. the cashing of Lincoln’s check, the future
awakening of the state, the time of Now and the repetition of Dream
– King targeted not merely his present social conditions, but the
conditions for social change. The attack on historicism and the
grid-logic of class was a new anti-humanist strategy in the sixties,
expressed not only by MLK on that August afternoon, but also by
artists in Europe and America,  in
French philosophy with Jean Hyppolite’s readings of Hegel and the
younger generation’s return to Nietzsche and in science with the
applications of quantum physics and the discoveries of chaos theory
and the DNA double helix. The world was no longer ordered according
to the stable progression of a definable system but subjected to
an irreducible increase of complexity.
this amounts to is not an argument for the appearance of a new Zeitgeist
in the sixties. Change did not happen according to a ghostly
new structure, which all by itself set the tone and the tempo for
how things should be done; this is not a description of some Spirit
that saturates an era with a new order. What I am trying to describe
is, in Deleuzian terms, the revolution of a line of life that suddenly
starts to connect other ‘abstract machines’ than before.  In the sixties, the
dominant line had to bend out of shape because the knowledge forms
it excluded found a new way to form a collective, alternative line.
The shape of a line of life is the mode of its subjectification:
it determines the way a subject becomes a subject. Historical Man
with his self-reflections and representations is pushed aside by
a new line in the sixties and a different subject that constantly
becomes other than itself appears. For now, I will call this new
subject ‘Movement’. As Foucault described the penal law and the
prison as a new and very powerful institution for Man, I will also
suggest that a new and very powerful type of archive appeared under
the subjectification of Movement. It is probably not for nothing
that Deleuze referred to his friend Foucault as a new archivist
(1986, p. 11).
As the figure
of History showed signs of disintegration in the sixties and early
seventies, the modern order was bound to react. Threatened by an
internal pressure from multidirectional and irreconcilable histories,
a counterstrategy was brewing. Yet, ‘reaction’ is not a proper term.
The new line of movement certainly meant new and powerful forms
of resistance against ‘humanism’s’ hierarchies, but it also meant
new possibilities for exploitation. These developed in parallel,
along the same new line.
minority groups began to demand a history dissociated from that
written by and about the established white, western, male heterosexual,
the emphasis was on the word ‘dissociation.’ Disfiguring history
means to splice it into several histories that do not and cannot
subject under a common denominator. Times, events, truths, causes
and consequences all are different and mean different things, but
none is absolute. The right to a limited historical sovereignty
– the right to write one’s own history – became a primal right under
the pretext that it must not universalize.
it a class struggle? Was the fight for the right to a history in
order to produce concrete political change a matter of class? To
some extent, yes, but a negative answer seems in many respects more
to the point. As minority communities, primarily in the United States,
but also in Europe and later in South America, Asia and South Africa,
demanded an autonomous history as an important first step toward
social justice, it was a class struggle merely in the sense that
the group demanding further rights may to a certain extent be termed
a social class. But it was not a Marxist class struggle in the communist
sense, since its objective was the very opposite to the social homogenization
that a cooperatively owned workshop intended.  That the early connection between Marxist leftism,
feminism and ethnic minority rights was a confusion of interests
became increasingly evident with the shift of economic sovereignty
in the late seventies and early eighties.
1974, the western economic markets started to show an increase in
unemployment and inflation at the same time -- a so-called stagflation.
In the following years, while oil prices soared, neither the Carter
administration in the U.S. nor the Heath government in Great Britain
could but realize that their Keynesian strategies to come to terms
with the situation were to no avail. After five years of economic
crisis, the newly elected conservatives released a demon that had
been caged up since the depression. Thatcher and Reagan loosened
the political grip on the market economy and removed several supporting
pillars and restrictive chains that had been in place since the
thirties. Mass unemployment followed when a large number of unprofitable
and no longer state funded industries were forced to close, but
the inflation slowly came to a halt and after a few years, private
investors became increasingly aggressive. The yuppie was born as
economic sovereignty moved from the Congress in Washington to Wall
Street in New York. At the same time, music as an expression of
protest witnessed the transformation from the Sex Pistols and Velvet
Underground to Bronski Beat and Run DMC.
the early eighties, capitalism took a great leap forward with the
translocation of economic sovereignty. It was a serious blow to
leftist Marxism but did not discourage the political interest in
feminism and cultural histories of ethnic and sexual minorities
that slowly began to grow in American and European universities.
Quite the contrary, and this is not because economic deregulation
caused growing attention to feminism and minority studies. It is
because a new kind of subject had made life different from itself
in the sixties, and fifteen years later this new subject expressed
new ways of thinking, both as capitalism and as new forms of knowledge
in art, science and philosophy. Both sides were active parts in
forming a new line of academic studies and social research while
Marxism was still too embedded in the logic of reflection and representation.
is worth noting that the call for multiplicity and paradoxical coexistence
in postmodern art in no way opposed capitalism: market shares of
PoMo art, for example, were quite profitable. In the SoHo galleries
of both New York and London artists as diverse as Keith Haring,
Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Prince, Mary Kelly,
Bruce Nauman, Helen Chadwick, Jana Sterbak and Jeff Koons laid the
foundation for what was to become a virulent proclamation for pluralism
and multiplicity. Their work found an audience willing to pay, and
retail of postmodern artworks exploded. Paula Cooper Gallery and
Leo Castelli Gallery became internationally known venues for ultra
wealthy art investors, and with the economic upswing in the early
eighties, artists could reach stardom overnight. In the eyes of
several investors the latest art could fill the gap reserved for
financial speculation and tantalizing provocation in one – a promise
to future revenue for the already instantaneously wealthy from a
deregulated finance market.
economic marvel during this short period helped produce remarkably
instantaneous artist careers like that of Jean-Michel Basquiat,
but often at the price of domesticating the critical edge of the
art works. The irony in Koons’ rococo-porn or Shermans’ Film Stills
always turned proclamatory when mediated through the art critic
of the month, though it was too subtle to be noticed by those who
took offence. Today, the only trace of irony left in these art works
is that they appear so documentarily true to their time. Music artists
also made good use of the booming economy to fashion critical pseudo-politics
among teenagers. Band Aid and other similar projects in the early-
and mid-eighties attempted to call attention to mass famish in Africa.
But a telling difference between Band Aid and demonstrations against
international indifference to environmental disasters in the sixties
(e.g. the Minamata disaster) was that the word “solidarity” had
completely lost its value. In the 1980’s, solidarity had been traded
for compassion. The TV images broadcast worldwide of a devastated
Bob Geldoff wandering aimlessly around in an Ethiopian village where
children, pacified from malnutrition were dying in their mother’s
arms, was a call for nothing but charity. Critical voices against
the alliance between art and business politics, e.g. David Byrnes’
True Stories (1986) or Tinseltown Rebellion (1981)
by Frank Zappa, often pointed explicitly to the stupidity resulting
from mixing irony and compassion.
traditional Marxism, with its call for unification and international
solidarity with exploited classes, by this time had lost nearly
all means to attract, postmodernism offered the possibility for
a simultaneous, contingent and coexisting order of multitudes. As
beautiful and utopian as it was, the postmodern call for liberation
sought its ratification in various analyses of language and was
therefore aggressively attacked by rationalists who held postmodernism
to be poetic at its best and downright dangerous at its worst.  What both parties seemingly
forgot was that capitalism itself had changed. The most extensive
analysis of this change was undertaken by Gilles Deleuze and Félix
Guattari in the two volumes on Capitalism and Schizophrenia:
Anti-Œdipus (1977) and A Thousand Plateaus (1987).
could illuminate this highly complex situation by aiming beside
the target and turn analysis into allegory. An image from Nancy
Burson’s series of digitally manipulated ‘composites’ (1983) serves
well as the persona of such an allegorical exposition.
1. Nancy Burson, Composite Man (1983)
Although Burson herself
sometimes claims otherwise about her work, the Composites neither depict nor argue for a Marxist egalitarianism of the human
subject. It shows the subject’s desire for being other than itself.
The image above, Composite Man, is a digitally constructed
portrait reminiscent of an old black and white photograph. The face
in this portrait is the result of a digital computation intended
to extract the ‘average’ feature from a large number of scanned
photographs. The photographs used to render this image are selected
from one criterion: the number of people representing different
races in the scanned photographs must correspond proportionally
to the number of people of different races in the world. Hence a
globally proportionate racial ‘mix’ – should it add up in one countenance
– would look something like Burson’s Composite Man.
to state that this is an image of ‘humanity’ or ‘the human face’
would be a jump to very essentialist conclusions. Instead, this
image is two images in one: an image of a face that belongs to no
person and an assemblage of a multitude of photographic portraits.
The digital composition of these two images is neither a collage,
because it is not fragmentary, nor a reconciliation because it is
impossible to reconcile a face-without-a-person with faces-that-have-been.
The two images are not to be reconciled but nothing prevents them
from being paradoxically coexisting. A new subject appears that
does not constitute a representational relation to a collective,
but rather constitutes itself as a dynamic multitude of relations
that unfold both successively and simultaneously. (Gilles Deleuze,
1990c, discovered this subject in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.)
Burson’s image cannot be an imaginary representative of racial equilibrium
among the world’s population. But it may be a presentation of the
postmodern difference in language that humanism has stifled with
utopian notions of unification and equality. If that paradoxical
image would speak in Lyotard’s tongue, and not as restricted by
humanism, it would tell us that we have a right to something that
is unaccountable for by law. We have a right to difference, a right
that is irreducible to humanism. People on this planet are not equal
and have never been. They only have to be told they are equal when
they are subjected to unequal standards of evaluation (i.e. as alienated
labor force, as poorer education in non-white communities, etc).
To assume that people are equal is to conceive of social structures
being capable of equilibrium, of being able to form a stable and
well-organized system under which all people, once and for all would
want to subject equally. It is to reduce all desires to the freedom
of forming one’s own law, just as Kant said. Revolution is to liberate
us from this self – to release Nietzsche’s laughter!
imagine if a student of Habermas were to appear. He or she would
say that, for sure, it is possible that Burson’s image conjures
a revolution of difference, for in revolution we create new laws.
But would a law expressed to the full extent of such a paradoxical
being be responsible enough to form any new social structure? Stunned
silence from the PoMo corner. Are we really willing to sacrifice
that which binds us to a contract, to an obligation or a promise?
Do we really want to rid ourselves of that which make us responsible
to each other? How could we ever work for a common cause, and what
would protect us from exploiting each other in the name of pure
self-interest after such a revolution? And a right to being outside
the law? That means that you would have a plurality of conflicting
laws that are of equal standing and hence no opportunity to enforce
any of them other than by unrestrained violence. If we abandon reason
and rationality because of the flaws that are present in their contemporary
structure, we also abandon ourselves to social collapse – not freedom.
One must not forget that both Kant and Hegel wrote their systematizations
so as to describe the potentialities of reason to make a better
society, and in which society ought to participate. Burson’s portrait
is nothing but an image of the equality of reason in which all human
beings have a share, and hence it is a call for equal rights that
we must work towards with reason!
to both, Deleuze and Guattari might have said. The Composite
Man has the advantage of not being a stable portrait. It does
not show an object, something that exists as a representable Other.
But this is not an abandonment of reason! It is merely a different
form of reason, based on a perfectly valid logic – one that does
not exclude the third but produces alterability and movement. A
third way to see Burson’s image is as a machine of alteration rather
than a representation of either equality or difference. It produces
alterability for two reasons: as a machine it allows that the Composite
Man could be different, and is different at the same time. It
is becoming female, smiling and crying, with shorter and longer
hair, older and younger, wearing other clothes. Race is neither
natural nor cultural in the first place – it is a capitalist invention.
And capitalism is an abstract machine that runs on alteration: dreams,
hopes, ideals and identities are all transformable into commodities.
Secondly, Burson’s portrait of capitalism is also a composite of
times. It is built up of times nesting in each of the photographs.
The commodification of race is not separable from the potential
understandings of time, memory and history. The way we figure time
determines the limitations of alterability. Since Burson’s portrait
is a composition of photographic deferral, it allows any race to
slide into another, which is the opposite of melting all different
races into one.
is in this sense that Composite Man is an allegory of the
complexity of power structures in the early eighties. It shows how
the biopolitical realizations of power act upon several domains
without any regard to the figure of Man. Let me clarify: the portrait
provides an image of how the domain of History is genealogically
spliced into a multitude of histories under constant rewriting.
The portrait can also be said to be an image of how the domain of
economy has decisively altered its basis and (after the dissociation
of the dollar from gold in 1973) become increasingly dominated by
the value of pure exchange. Biologically, the portrait shows the
human being as a coded (and hence re-codable) assemblage, morphologically
determined by DNA sequences. Politically, this is a social agent
in a democracy that is fed with commercially motivated propaganda
where information is indistinguishable from entertainment, and both
proclaim the untouchable right to free choice. Militarily, it may
even be a phantom image of what today haunts us under the term,
the “domestic terrorist.”
It seems suggestible that what has been described above can be summarized
as a change in the notion of sovereignty. Modern sovereignty of
Man describes the right of any individual to social, juridical,
political and humanitarian rights. National sovereignty is the right
of a nation’s citizens to determine their own laws and the right
to defend itself. Sovereignty is always exclusive and reflexive. 
After World War II, the atrocities committed called for a global
formulation of human rights. In 1948, the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations without one dissenting
vote. By the eve of the twentieth century, human rights seem no
longer to be of such unanimous concern.
at the United States’ administration, the Human Rights Watch
noted in 2002 that for the first time since the signing of the
declaration, the question of human rights in America is no longer
considered an imperative but relative to possible interference with
national security. Their annual report explicitly states that:
first eight months of George W. Bush's presidency, the promotion
of human rights occupied a low priority in the administration's
domestic political agenda. The president and Attorney General
John Ashcroft were criticized for insufficient concern about violations
of individual rights and liberties, particularly in the criminal
justice context. Questions about the government's commitment to
protect basic rights increased markedly as it developed anti-terrorist
measures after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
New laws permitting the indefinite detention of non-citizens,
special military commissions to try suspected terrorists, the
detention of over 1,000 people, and the abrogation of the confidentiality
of attorney-client communications for certain detainees, demonstrated
the administration's troubling disregard for well established
human rights safeguards as it sought to protect national security.
Indeed, in taking steps to defend the U.S. from terrorists, the
government adopted measures that eroded key values and principles
it said it sought to protect, including the rule of law. (World
allegations signify violent changes of American juridical standards.
But the document also reveals that the changes are not imposed on
society from above but have been saturated in a biopolitical body
since September 11. Recalling Ewald, this change in the conception
of human rights testifies to the disintegration of Man as the center
of right and knowledge. In other words, the human sovereignty of
right disfigures when national security is threatened by terrorist
attacks. Just like the human sovereignty of knowledge was disfigured
decades ago in genetic and microbiological research when the border
of the human was not only transgressed but was found irrelevant.
Knowledge and right are no longer attached to the essentially human
but to movements of social life. The right of communication, of
trading, of exchange, of development, of becoming different and
of choice and selection are not to be understood as rights that
belong to Man, but to the mobility of free social life as such.
Only when the subject of right has changed is it understandable
why security against a future possible event is more relevant than
Although this may sound very violent – especially, perhaps, to Europeans–
it is not more violent than previous forms of control. Security,
in its new form, is more the control of movement than of people
(Deleuze, 1990b.) Today it is a matter of anticipating and preventing
hostile territorial motions by anyone, since any territorial
alteration is potentially threatening. Movement is the primary target:
the object that moves can be identified later, and partly based
on the analysis of movement. This formula is a necessary condition
for understanding the argument US Secretary of State, Colin Powell
presented to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003.  This is also the condition for arguing that
a mere threat, or anticipation of a possible attack, can serve to
legitimize a democratic state’s aggressive use of military force
in the name of defense. When this legitimation coincides with a
refusal to subject American military personnel to the jurisdiction
of the International Criminal Court, it strongly suggests that the
Pax Americana concerns a different subject than that intended in
the Declaration of Human Rights.
security means to objectify movement, whether around private homes,
between bank accounts, of email correspondences, in public space,
around military compounds, along nation borders or within social
groups. It is reducible to a singular formulation: movement must
be identified before we know what is moving. When movement is the
subject as well as the object of control, incredible amounts of
information have to be produced, processed and organized. This is
because unlike stable objects, which can be organized and catalogued
in a treelike organization, movements are not identical to themselves
and requires a mobile archive order. In order to identify a potentially
hostile movement without infringing on movement’s own rights, one
must repeatedly target and evaluate changes in as many points of
reference as possible in order to calculate whether the shifting
ratios between amplitude and direction has a probability of interfering
with the movements one seeks to protect. It is necessary that the
vast amounts of information thus produced be properly processed
so that relevant segments can easily and quickly be retrievable.
This is not for the purpose of locating a singular piece of information.
Every piece of information must be readily available so that it
can be brought in conjunction with any other piece of information.
These pieces build up an image of the event only from their relation
to each other. The relevance of a piece of information is not determined
by its direct relation to a given event. There is no key piece of
information. Every piece is expendable and may be exchanged for
another. Hence, there is no linear causality leading up to an event
– it ‘happens’ from several points of view at the same time.
one compares the 1960 version of Ocean’s Eleven and that
produced in 2001, this difference in the rendering of an event is
the one major difference that makes a difference. It is very likely
that a new understanding of archives is paramount with digitized
information, and several blockbuster movies are explicitly dealing
with that issue (e.g. the Matrix movies (1999 and 2003),
Swordfish (2001) or Avengers (1998)). Already in the
1960’s, these elements came together in the research of a remarkable
scientist. J.C.R. Licklider
prophesized a future symbiosis between computer and man for the
purpose of greater mobility (1960), he was one of the initiators
behind ARPANET and in 1965 he published a book called The Future
transition from what Foucault described as the modern prison to
Deleuze’s nicknaming Foucault an archivist corresponds to the change
from the inside/outside dichotomy to an evaluation of ratios between
variables and variations.
How is this expressed today as a new visibility? If digitization
is a technical manifestation of the subjectification of movement,
what aesthetical consistencies does this new line bring with it?
I will return to this question shortly in a discussion of five contemporary
artworks, but first I should introduce the common exposition site
for the works I have chosen. The global art event that takes place
in the German town Kassel every five years under the title Documenta
is a monstrosity in the art world. The eleventh Documenta exposition
opened in the summer of 2002 and was both met with very high public
expectations and a response in German media that was not exclusively
positive.  To privilege it here, in a discourse on digital
aesthetics, is admittedly not without its problems: for one, the
very purpose of Documenta as a worldwide ‘survey’ of the contemporary
art scene attaches an elitist tag of exemplarity to the entire project.
The top-of-the-hill position of the official curator group – as
a ‘central committee’ of sovereign control – was an issue often
raised by critical voices, as was the complaint that the same committee
was obviously more interested in politics than in art. What is even
more problematic for my choice of reference would be the almost
complete lack of digital art at the Kassel expositions. Though all
of the above would be relevant objections, my sole defense is that
Documenta11 is not chosen for its ostensible exemplarity. To the
contrary, it is chosen and singled out because it articulated the
capacities for a non-humanistic sensuousness in the age of digitization.
I have already hinted at, this non-humanism is very different from
the anti-humanism of modern avant-garde art. Then, the conditions
for an anti-humanistic aesthetics rested on the transgression towards
an outside of human experience (the unconsicous, the instantaneous
moment, the war, the metropolis, etc). In a very different way,
the aesthetics of digitization seems to form serial, dynamic strings
that do not transgress but form curves around problem zones. The
curves move with greater or lesser speed around those zones depending
on how the zones’ level of intensity increases, decreases or sometimes
even divides. For instance, in Seifollah Samadian’s video The
White Station, the fluttering black chador of an anonymous woman
waiting at a bus stop during an unexpected snow blizzard in Teheran
describes this formation very well. It has nothing to do with transgression
or identity: it is much more revolutionary. This video shows an
allegory of power in its simplest form: it is an image (not a narrative)
of a black zone, or singularity determining the white lines cast
about it. The flying snowflakes may swirl and curve around her from
the force of the wind, but it is her body that determines the movement
and the shape of the curves. The waiting woman becomes the most
powerful persona around which the politically isolating blizzard
of Iranian theocracy rages. ‘She’ is paradoxically no one and many
at different times simultaneously. If this is an allegory of the
biopolitics of theocracy, then the swirls of snow are movements
of white-on-white, an Islamic mourning of the total prohibition
against dissent and a singular condition for speech. But the woman
is the pure power of resistance: she is the condition for expressing
a multitude of voices. What I have called a ‘line’ in the previous
sections corresponds to her subjectification. She is not
restricted by humanism.
artworks will now serve to expand this formal figure and explain
how a non-human aesthetics is formed in the digital age: Andreas
Siekmann’s installation Aus: Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (From: Limited Liability Company); Fabian Marcaccio’s mural
paintings Multiple-Site Paintants; The Atlas Group’s Already
Been in a Lake of Fire and Fareed Armaly’s From/To.
Formally very similar to Samadian’s The White Station, Andreas
Siekmann’s work positions the body of the visitor as a mobile singularity.
There are strips of images across the walls, nailed to the ceiling
and displayed on several long tables, together with cutout Styrofoam
words. As these images don’t ‘swirl’ physically as much as they
move as a composition, this immediately becomes a challenge to the
mobility of the body. A visitor may walk slowly, bend down, arch
back or use one of the red office chairs and roll along the strips.
Figure 2. Photos of
Samadian’s The White Station
one walks, or wheels around, perhaps uncertain of whether one reads
or looks, it becomes striking that this is not an ordinary gallery
walk. Walking is the very subject of the piece: the very zone of
power. Strolling along a table while reading the sequences of drawings
is like following an open and quite disorganized debate about globalization.
The images comment on media and politics, they argue for and against
economic regulation, they attend a G8 protest rally, and they chat
on the net. But the Styrofoam title words introduce some consistency;
their firm type but fragile material correspond to their painted
shadows which are more often upside down or backwards than not.
And their color is declarative like a warning, crimson red, in the
same hue as the drawings and the office chairs. All this, the entire
setup or assemblage, cannot be looked at; it is put together
with a certain consistency so that moving into the bands of words,
images and colors becomes imperative for experiencing the piece.
nevertheless, Siekmann’s space is no place for action. There is
freedom of movement, just as the handout from the plexi boxes on
the wall proclaims, but solely around the strips. This is no workshop,
no factory; there is almost no stuff left, no touch and no construction.
There are several members from the Documenta staff constantly in
this room to make sure that nothing is touched. It seems like revolution
on tape, laid out for scrutiny, under plexiglass for protection.
And the specific gait, the way to sit, to stand or lean over when
touch is prohibited but movement is mandatory, undoubtedly recalls
a museum’s restriction of body movement. I call it a museum body.
In Siekmann’s installation this museum body is intensely provoked
by another body – one that is far more interested in the mobility
of the set-up than inspecting the drawings. This is a body for which
the office chairs offer the opportunity to roll along a strip of
drawings fast enough to make them unfold like a film, a body that
indulges in rotating on the spot while gazing up at the images in
the ceiling or randomly move from one table to the next regardless
of the order of strips.
bodies, then, created by the imperative mobility and the restriction
to touch that are simultaneously built into this machine. Once one
experiences the divide, the body’s movements become political. It
can either submit to the machine’s directions, or it can insist
on its right outside the law, which doesn’t break the law but renders
it obsolete. Or it can paradoxically do both at the same time: submit
to a law that its movements render obsolete. Then it is not two
conflicting bodies anymore, but a new paradoxical body that is wholly
different from both. The movement of such a no-one-and-many-body
can reinvent the entire machine and make sense of it in a quite
seems that such a subject is quite precisely what is depicted as
the protagonist of the drawings: an empty pair of blue jeans. My
body becomes a pair of jeans. And, Aus: Gesellschaft mit beschränkter
Haftung is a new kind of materialistic history of socio-economic
change that should be taken quite literally. It describes the shift
from modern industrialism to global economy as the history not of
humans but of jeans. The handout, which is an integral piece of
the artwork, states that the jeans trace the historical transition
from worker’s pants to an image of youthful leisure and, as such,
are both “a field for projections, anxieties and repression” as
well as a “vehicle for political commitment.” (Siekmann, 2002.)
The jeans, a blue hollow bifurcation in the midst of reds describe
perfectly well the political ambivalence in the visitor’s new body.
One might even suggest that a new type of history is experienced
bodily as the historical division between labor and leisure of the
jeans correspond to the division between a museum body and the body
of mobility. The spectator’s twin body stands in each of the trousers’
legs. Then the meaningful point is that a global subject paradoxically
coexists simultaneously in what formerly were mutually exclusive
positions (work/leisure, touch/visuality, present/past) but has
sundered conceptual pairs like law/right and subject/sovereign.
Figure 3. From
Andreas Siekmann’s installation Aus: Gesellschaft mit beschränkter
Siekmann’s blue jeans learn to walk in a digitized environment,
they confront the need to navigate in a space where phenomenal materiality
is merely borrowed. It was explained previously why incredible amounts
of information must be produced when movement is objectified. From
this follows that every piece of information that is produced cannot
have a materiality of its own that corresponds to human sensuousness.
The archive would be too slow and cumbersome if these were organized
as self-identical objects. In a digital environment, material carriers
(like a CD or a hard drive) store pieces of information that are
self-identical only when read or processed. In the earliest computers,
the carrier stood in a 1:1 relation to the interface: the shift
of one switch registered as one bit. That is a long time ago. Information
must today be translated onto an interface where digital artifacts
of billions of bits are dealt with as if they had a material
consistency of their own. We all know that they do not have that.
We know that they are called forward to appear with the borrowed
materiality that a screen supplies. But Siekmann does not thematize
the problem of the materiality of his paradoxical jeans nor how
they get from one image to another and manage to form the strip.
Fabian Marcaccio deals with this issue. Judging from the look of
his painting, this is somewhat difficult. Like Siekmann and Samadian,
Marcaccio presents singularities and curves in the vicinity of these
singularities, but Marcaccio’s paintants does not express
the relation between these two. The curves and the singularities
appear completely integrated in the paintants. Siekmann showed
that curves are that which stretch and reconfigure the materiality
of bodily figures. Samadian showed that the singularities are that
which enable the curves to do so. Singularities determine the curves
that tear in the flesh of the figures. But in Marcaccio’s work,
this is seen from another side.
Figure 4. Fabian Marcaccio, Multiple-Site Paintants
(2001 – 02)
difficulty lies in the complexity of the composition of the paintants.
But in the composition lies another way to understand what may be
called the visibility of curves and singularities because Marcaccio
looks at the entire structure from a side where the altered capacities
for conceptualization appear. These changes are simultaneous with
the reconfiguration of the body in Siekmann. While both Siekmann
and Samadian show the abstract relations between singularities and
the formation of curves that spontaneously form this new body of
movement, Marcaccio has no need to keep them apart. The singularities
and the curves are indeed separated, but, when describing
the challenge of a new conceptualization, it is not necessary to
describe them as other than one.
Figure 5. Close
up photos from Fabian Marcaccio, Multiple-Site Paintants (2001
is the phenomenological, or better yet, the epistemological side
of the aesthetics of digitization. Marcaccio asks new questions:
what are the possibilities for perceiving something, or for knowing
that something is something in a global, digital environment?
Have not our perception and our ability to form knowledge of the
world radically changed when so much of the stimuli we receive are
mediated from screens where material consistency is no longer attached
to appearance? Are we not differently ‘in-the-world,’ i.e. have
we not entered a new Dasein? Marcaccio proves very convincingly
that we are mistaken if we speak of immateriality, as in concepts
like ‘immaterial labor’ that appear in several discourses on globalization
(Cf. Lazzarato, Verno, et al., 1998; Hardt and Negri, 2000). Neither
appearance nor labor is strictly speaking immaterial, but – and
this is very important – phenomena mediated on a screen are separated
in their presence from their own individual materiality.
is perceptible on a screen has no materiality of its own but is
merely a borrowed materiality from the screen. When a computer is
supplied with a screen interface that mediates a phenomenon that
is digitally alterable, some very new conditions for labor appear.
The alterations effected by labor onto an object on a screen must
be actively ‘saved,’ that is, implanted in the information string
that instructs the appearance. Unless this is done successfully,
or if one forgets to do that (and that happened a lot before ‘auto-save’
became standardized on most programs), labor itself risks becoming
undone. That labor became confronted with an object that involved
the risk of labor itself being undone was a very new and frustrating
experience for most new PC users in the eighties and nineties. But
that risk was merely a symptom of a new condition for knowledge. The Multiple-Site Paintants show the material conditions
for a form of knowledge whose object may undo the labors that are
aimed at it.
exposition of this new formation of knowledge neither relates it
to an object, nor to a phenomenon, and not even to its own capacities
for perceiving and understanding these phenomena; the condition
for a ‘digital’ form of knowledge becomes possible by the configuration
of curves that appear between singularities. (These curves are the
image strips in Siekmann or the swirls of snow in Samadian.) The
object of knowledge is the multitude of possible variations that
these curves produce. (This objectification may be executed as control
of movement as explained previously.) Materiality must here be conceived
in a different way. Especially when the change in conditions for
labor reveals that materiality is very differently related to the
capacities for producing knowledge. Materiality is not the raw stuff
that is formed by knowledge into a certain shape. To the contrary,
materiality, as the configuration of curves, forms knowledge.
is the revolution that Marcaccio displays: knowledge does not form
materiality; knowledge is formed by materiality when materiality
is dissociated from an individual appearance. That materiality was
always dissociable from the appearance of its object has been known
since the first reflection in a pool of water, and Marshall McLuhan
(1964) rightly pointed this out with reference to media and the
Narcissus myth. As Rodolphe Gasché (1986) and Hans Blumenberg (1993)
have shown, reflection has been the dominant paradigm for metaphysical
knowledge from Plato to Heidegger. But the computer is no prosthesis
to Man, no addition to his or her body and hence does not fall under
the dominance of reflection. Because it allows the reflection to
be altered before that which is reflected, the computer is a straight
line of movement. This is what Marcaccio reveals so convincingly:
the body of movement has a capacity for conceptualization that is
not opposed to the materiality of the conceptualized. Instead of
the traditional hierarchical order that arises from such a metaphysical
opposition, materiality is a constellation of curves that conditions
knowledge. But this knowledge has a particular capacity to understand
and conceptualize the materiality that conditions it. It is not
expressible as reflection, but as composition. And that is why the
composition of the paintants is of such importance: it shows
that movement is a precondition for any knowledge about these
curves and singularities, and that this is what forms our concept
of freedom as well as our call for security.
If Marcaccio suggests that materiality forms knowledge, a violent
protest must be taken into account. How, then, can one possibly
claim any freedom of choice? If our form of knowledge is determined
by materiality, then we have no power to choose what is best for
us! A very cool and perhaps cynical answer is possible from the
structure of the paintants. We must not mistake freedom for
domination. We may lose our dominant position over materiality,
as ecologists around the world have argued for decades, but not
thereby necessarily losing our freedom. The very concept of freedom
must be redefined with the new formation of knowledge. Two artworks
that addressed this issue at Documenta were The Atlas Group’s Already
Been in a Lake of Fire and Fareed Armaly’s From/To. The
former can be said to argue for a freedom related to a conceptualization
of what is historically possible as knowledge, while the latter
argues for a freedom in a political production of knowledge.
suggestion made earlier in this text regarding a reorganized archive
as a consistent order of knowledge is to a large extent inspired
by Lake of Fire. But at Documenta , this was by no means the
only archive-related work: Sanja Iveković, Chohreh Feyzdjou,
Ecke Bonk and the documentary display of Maria Eichorn’s non-capitalist
company all seemed to use the archive as a vehicle for expression.
But in the works of The Atlas Group, a very particular archive had
been employed, one that seems congruent with the concept of the
archive in Foucault’s The Archaeology of Knowledge (1989).
The archive as historical a priori is appropriated as an
archive of “what can be imagined, what can be said, taken for granted,
what can appear as rational or not, as thinkable and sayable about
the civil wars” (Walid, 2001). When this Foucauldian knowledge is
aimed at what is possible to say, to see and to think (not for a
transcendental subject but for subject determined by the mobility
of singularities), then the notion of freedom must be the measured
by the lack of restraints laid on this subject’s becoming other
this subject, there can of course not be a singular, uniform history.
The Atlas Group takes responsibility for a historical truth that
by definition is a multiplicity: not the history of what really
happened during the Lebanese civil wars, but the histories of what
was possible. This is no phantasmatic history. The documents that
are displayed in Lake of Fire, or ‘monuments’ as Foucault
would call them, are more real than any documentary photographs
or films. Instead of saying ‘Look! This car bomb has really exploded!’
they show that nobody could know when a bomb would go off, but that
a car could explode at any time and any place. Showing the possibility
for car bombs must be regarded as far more concrete than documentaries
that merely show that they happened.
Figure 6. The
Atlas Group, Notebook Volume 38, Already Been in a Lake of Fire
of cars, pasted onto 145 sheets with added comments and descriptions
in Arabic, make up one volume in the archive of the Lebanese civil
wars. From the text one may learn that each pictured car corresponds
exactly to a vehicle used as a car bomb during the civil wars between
1975 and 1990. One must suspect this is an ironic statement. The
text does not convey accurate information about the explosions that
took place – there are of course no records that could verify any
such data – but the text constructs the archive wherein the archived
events can be collected as possibilities.
is particular about the form of this archive is not that it fabulates:
it is rather the way in which it fabulates. Ignoring an important
aspect of traditional archive practice produces a mode of fabulation
that actually conditions the possibility of archiving these events.
The Atlas Group removes the distance between the archive record
and the archived object. On each displayed page of volume 38 one
may see both the object of the archive: the make, model and color
of the cars used for bombings, and the archival information of when
and where it took place, together with notes on the size of detonation.
When an archive traditionally exhibits its artifacts, it is common
practice to keep the information about the objects separated from
the object itself (usually on a plaque beneath it) in order to maintain
the archive’s objective distance. By willingly failing to observe
this practice, The Atlas Group archive makes a point of constructing
its own historical objects by inscribing the record information
upon them. Thus, ignoring the objectivity and the responsibility
of the archives (of registering the objects in a catalogue and keeping
the objects intact) is to ignore the objectivity that is intimately
tied to history. But creating a mode of fabulation that questions
the objectivity of history produces another important distinction.
While one is politically guilty of historic revisionism if one fabulates
a history under the pretext ‘as it really was’ (and this is in any
case unavoidable), when we articulate the history of what was possible,
fabulation is necessary.
further important aspect of The Atlas Group’s archive fabulation
is that the formal consistency of neatly registered information
seems inversely related to the visual presentation of vehicles on
the sheets. It seems that cars of the same make and model are grouped
together on the same paper, but in a way that is more reminiscent
of bad advertisement or sloppy collage than straight documentation.
Why is that? A car bomb is not a straight line of attack, although,
of course, it is intended to kill. It is an unreliable vehicle for
assassination -- an ordinary means of transportation converted into
a highly destructive weapon that is equally imprecise. The potential
coexistence of function in each car during the civil wars – a means
for transportation and a lethal detonation – is a condition for
any historical account of this civil war: a low cost, low tech,
civil war where death occurred by chance rather than by planned
military action. The conceivability of such a car bomb is a highly
destructive line that neither reveals how many or who will die,
nor when or where it will happen. It kills indiscriminately, contingently,
anywhere – camouflaged by being a quotidian object of use. It is
the secrecy of that line that is brought out and given historical
shape for the very first time in The Atlas Group archive. And the
visual form of the historical shape is accentuated in the asymmetry
between the neatly registered information and the cars glued one
on top of the other, some too big for the sheet of paper and hence
cut off. What is archived is not the event of the bomb, it is the
line of contingency and indiscriminancy that could kill anywhere
at any time, leaving practically no opportunities open for protection.
Figure 7. The
Atlas Group Missing Lebanese Wars (1999)
objective historicism `always fabulates' is argued in Missing
Lebanese Wars. Here is a fictive collection of old lost and
found gambling sheets, revealing a society of historians betting
on how many seconds a race track photographer is off the mark snapping
the image of the winning horse. Historians gambling on the inaccuracy
of freezing an image for later inspection is a mockery to all factual
historicism, and an archive of their gambling sheets is, more than
anything, a frightful image of the time when the line of History
was invested with sovereign power to determine knowledge. Historians
do, in fact, gamble, and an archive of their sheets is an allegorical
image of the fragility and danger inherent in the conviction that
truth is in equilibrium and a one.
Arguing that the freedom of knowledge lies in the capacity to conceptualize
what was historically possible at a given time, The Atlas Group’s
imperative is supplemented by Fareed Armaly’s political invocation
that the production of knowledge is a condition for freedom. In
collaboration with filmmaker Rashid Mashrawi, Armaly set up a public
research center at Documenta , a public library without walls, focusing
on the crisis in Palestinian territories. From/To has been
described as a “map that unfolds in real-time,” “with the logic
of a website at the scale of architecture” (de With, 1999).
contents of this archive are limited to the concerns of Palestine:
the archive offers information on Palestinian culture, Palestinian
politics, Palestinian families, Palestinian social programs, Palestinian
cinema and so on. The symbol for the project is a stone whose shape
has been 3D-scanned and rendered by triangulating its contours.
In Palestine, the stone is a weapon but here, where it lends its
materiality from the screen, it is also a map. At a computer terminal
that is part of the installation, one may turn the stone by dragging
the mouse, whereby thematically organized information sites appear.
The triangulated shape of the stone has been flattened out on the
floor so that it forms a network. On the lines of the network, as
they converge towards an intersection with other lines are written
directions to Palestinian cities and refugee camps: “To Su’fat Camp”,
“From Al-Halazon Camp”, To Gaza”, etc. While these lines tie the
rooms and the different workstations together, they form an imaginary
map over a Palestine where it would be possible to travel safely
from one place to another. The stone is both a map and an image
of the limited right to move. On a wall in one of the screening
rooms is written that in order to control a people, it is no longer
necessary to control their land, their territory and the crops that
they grow, but it is crucial that one controls the borders they
have to cross.
8. Fareed Armaly From/To 2002
of reterritorialization are projected on a large screen (fig. 8)
where Israeli troops effectively regulate borders and checkpoints.
Furthermore, there are photographs to look at, more online computers
to access, posters to leaf through, films to watch, postcards to
inspect, more videos, more flyers and information sheets to read;
everything is organized as workstations, places to sit for a while
and work. To participate in this cartography is to constantly transport
one’s paradoxically distracted attention to somewhere else, to another
aspect of the issue, a different crease on the stone’s surface.
The point of the piece is not to have its visitors digest all the
information that is available. The point is rather to present an
abundance of informative material, large enough to create a space,
a mobile archive in which to move. As the title suggests, the paradoxical
doubleness is not only geographical but also timely and social:
“From/To” suggests a moving relation that Fareed’s
library installation encourages as a principle for collecting. Possibly, it may engender a collective redissemination
and re-collection of the knowledge and the criticism aroused here.
Movement can produce further movement, in diverging directions,
but only in the name of an open and free relation.
public research archive on site exclusively concerns the Palestinian
people and could very well be criticized on a number of points:
for not making clear the political, historical, social and the religious
differentiations concerning the Intifadas, for ignoring the diversity
of voices within the Palestinian community, for neglecting to thematize
Palestine’s dependency on diplomatic, economic and military forces
outside the strictly Palestinian and not least for refusing to give
a voice to the Israeli side. But even though these are crucial aspects
that are largely or completely unaddressed, it is important to remember
that the choice to found the piece on movement’s rights involves
the recognition of a necessary incompleteness inherent in From/To.
It is an appeal to the freedom of engaging in continuous critical
research regardless of political or social borders, but also a plea
to the responsibility to step outside overtly well defined research
areas. Hence, the installation invites the visitors inside, just
as much as it throws them back out. With a global society it becomes
a duty to participate in the production of knowledge, to maintain
the doubleness intended with the stone. The diversity of roads that
emerge from its surface must be met with the mobile architecture
of an archive; what was historically possible will become a weapon
today against any order of knowledge that exclusively wants to reterritorialize.
Without a doubt, these cartographies and these architectures,
their political consequences and aesthetical resources are significantly
(though not exclusively) indebted to the technological manifestation
of digitization. The digitizing society (if there is such a thing)
has discovered mobile relations that have enabled formerly discrete
areas of knowledge to coalesce into new ensembles. Biochemistry
is one such new ensemble of knowledge as is the military oxymoron
‘smart missiles’. The general observation that movement in a digitizing
society is privileged over that which moves, and that the right
to move and the responsibility to produce knowledge is in practice
more highly valued than individual human rights suggest that the
risk of social, economical and linguistic marginalization is a threat
more severe than ever.  The digitizing society is a structure whose
form is not universal. It organizes and reorganizes itself in a
number of different forms. Social marginalization is not the same
phenomena everywhere. Different ‘network’ societies do not organize
their laws of connectibility in a uniform fashion. This also means
that the control over movement may take many different shapes. 
The network structure that governed the overall experience
of Documenta11 was a legacy to the postcolonial critiques of historicism
and Eurocentrism. The result was an exhibition whose curatorial
principle was firmly rooted in a biopolitical, or perhaps better
expressed, in a topological normativity. Much of the criticism against
Documenta's almost exclusive focus on postcolonial theory and national
political crises at the expense of other artistic concerns actually
gave voice to political doubts regarding the form of network put
into practice. Was it a reterritorializing structure where the curatorial
group functioned as a centrally positioned spider in full charge
of any disturbance in its creation,  or was it a network allowed to spin
off, to bifurcate and spontaneously reorganize its structure when
faced with crises? That a network is a structure not devoid of governance
and control organs – as these are functions necessary for its existence
– is a fact sometimes all too readily forgotten. It is in order
to be able to see when these new network apparatuses become restrictive
or ‘totalitarian’ in their own way, that we need a new aesthetics.
We need different perceptive organs to notice when a given post-humanistic
line starts to benefit from marginalizing certain groups, when it
starts to prohibit the development of other lines or when it in
other ways stifles alternative formations so as to strengthen its
own. When the hegemony of self-reflexivity shows up again we can
rest assured that it appears in a very new shape, and even if we
do not see it yet, it has most certainly caught sight of us.
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 The term is from Douglas Engelbart’s groundbreaking
work Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework,
from 1962. Reprinted in Cyber_reader, ed. Neil Spiller
(New York and London: Phaidon Press, 2002) pp. 60-67.
 From Baudelaire, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and
Bergson through Proust, Benjamin, Marinetti and Breton towards
Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, Lyotard, Serres and Deleuze may be
drawn a line of anti-humanism that also traces backwards to
Leibniz, Spinoza, the German mystics Böhme and Eckhardt, to
Hellenists like Lucretius and presocratic thinkers like Heraclites.
 This is not a philosophically constructed definition
but a formulation that summarizes many of the prevailing definitions,
e.g. “The International Humanist and Ethical Union,” available
at http://www.bethami.com/definition.htm or the ten requirements by Corliss
Lamont, (1997), available at http://www.humanists.org/hum_lamont.htm.
 In Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Kantian Man, defined
by a dialectics of right and duty, enters into a state where
he understands Sittlichkeit, whereby the essence of the
family is born. Hence, Hegel can argue for a social evolution
from individual right towards the constitution of the nation
state, without abandoning the dialectical starting point.
 Foucault describes this transition from the classic
to the modern (Kantian) subject and its conception of law in
Discipline and Punish (1979): “Knowledge of the offence,
knowledge of the offender, knowledge of the law: these three
conditions made it possible to ground a judgment in truth. But
now a quite different question of truth is inscribed in the
course of penal judgment. The question is no longer simply:
‘Has the act been established and is it punishable?’ But also:
‘What is this act, what is this act of violence
and this murder? To what level or to what field of reality does
it belong? Is it a phantasy, a psychotic reaction, a delusional
episode, a perverse action?’ It is no longer simply: ‘Who committed
it?’ But: ‘How can we assign the causal process that produced
it? Where did it originate in the author himself? Instinct,
unconscious, environment, heredity?’ It is no longer simply:
‘What law punishes this offence?’ But ‘What would be the most
appropriate steps to take? How do we see the future development
of the offender? What would be the best way of rehabilitating
him?’ A whole set of assessing, diagnostic, prognostic, normative
judgments concerning the criminal have become lodged in the
framework of penal judgment.” (p. 19.)
 See Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Saccer (1998)
on the transition of the ‘sacred man’ from the figure of the
Germanic outlaw (fredlos) to the appearance of the madman.
 Foucault points to article 64 of the French 1810
penal code, which states that madness relieves both crime and
offence was soon misunderstood, as judges assumed the possibility
of being both guilty and mad. Apart from several juridical absurdities,
the misunderstanding led to the delegation of juridical decision:
the sentence extended toward an “assessment of normality and
a technical prescription for a possible normalization.” (1979,
p. 19-21). The extension of the legal field into several other
discursive practices signifies that the penal system became
an increasingly intensified domain of power, involving more
and more sectors of the entire social field.
 The end of history was a necessary notion that
actually secured the ontology of the modern historical Dasein;
e.g. the dialectics between culture and remembrance in Hegel’s
Spirit, the determinable evolution of species in Darwin and
the final revolution of the proletariat in Marx. From this perspective,
Francis Fukuyama’s (1993) notion of an end of history in the
age of global machinery is completely mistaken.
 A relevant European example is the Viennese Actionism
under Günter Brus, Otto Mühl, Hermann Nitsch and Peter Schwarzkogler.
In America is a different expression in Leon Golub and Diane
 For an analysis of the relation between power
and knowledge, and between abstract and concrete machines that
have been excluded from this text, see Petersson, (2003).
 The discrepancy of their overall aim could be
detected by comparing two highly important works: Howe (1970)
and Fanon (1967).
 This is of course most famously expressed in
the dispute between Lyotard (1979) and Habermas (1983).
 See Agamben, (1998). An interesting response
to Agamben’s analysis of sovereignty, contextualized within
the discourse around questions on internet democracy, see May-Ling
 A transcript of Powell’s speech to the UN Security
Council is available at http://www.un.int/usa/03clp0205.htm
 Very few of the many critical websites and articles
concerning Documenta that was available on the net in the summer
and fall of 2002 are still up, but for one example, see Hanke,
 In his opening essay to the Documenta catalogue, “The Black Box” chief curator Okwui Enwezor
quotes Jürgen Habermas on the demand for social rights tailored
for a social minority: “‘Does not the recognition of cultural
forms of life and traditions that have been marginalized, whether
in the context of a majority culture or in a Eurocentric global
society, require guarantees of status and survival – in other
words, some kind of collective rights that shatter the outmoded
self-understanding of the democratic constitutional state, which
is tailored to individual rights and in that sense is ‘liberal?’”
(Enwezor, 2002, p. 54.)
 In an early draft to this
article – written in September 2002, before the major dispute
between ‘Old Europe’ and the US in the UN Security Council –
I included at this point a lengthy footnote that in the light
of later development contains some interesting historical observations.
I hereby quote myself: “I refer to the general notion that the
E.U. and the U.S. represent very different standpoints on issues
of security and military involvement. In a series of articles
in the Washington Post, Republican commentator Robert Kagan
argues forcefully that the year 2002 has seen an increasing,
and irreversible divide in foreign policy between Europe and
America. While the European structure functions according to
laws of what Kagan calls ‘moral consciousness’ – i.e. implementation
and collective adherence to international law and persecution
by international court whenever these laws are violated, America
takes the responsibility of maintaining international justice
by intervening by force. While foreign policy in the U.S. obeys
what Kagan refers to as a ‘Hobbesian world where international
rules are unreliable and where security and the promotion of
the liberal order still depend on the possession of military
might,’ Europe has entered a ‘post-historical paradise, the
realization of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.”’ This irreconcilable
difference motivates in Kagan’s view the strong European reactions
against the Bush administration’s refusal to sign for participation
in ICC. Kagan’s lack of social analysis and philosophical knowledge,
fundamental as they seem to be, does not, however cover up the
fact that America and Europe indeed has chosen two very different
models of network orders. The interlacing of economies and common
policies in the EU follows a less centralized, but perhaps also
a less translucent model than that in the U.S., which may be
characterized as a concentric main net with several subnets.
That the military arsenal of the U.S. is a legacy from the Cold
War, at present fed with a massive budget increase in order
to adapt to a situation where national security is threatened
from a multitude of microscopic agents with the potential power
of short-circuiting the movements of flow between the subsets
(post 9-11), and not a police force of the world fighting for
law and justice should be obvious from the reluctance to intervene
in situations that does not concern American interests. And
this situation is perhaps the immanent cause of an organization
such as the American network. It may very well be that it is
the social and economical infrastructure of the U.S. that needs
more direct access to implementation of force in order to stand
up. Not only does it in that case need more power to maintain
itself, it also needs to show this force to the rest of the
latest three articles have appeared in the Washington Post:
”The U.S.-Europe Divide” May 26, 2002, p. B07; “Europeans Courting
International Disaster” June 30, 2002, p. B07 and “Iraq: The
Day After” July 21 2002, p. B07.”
 In the preface to the catalogue for Documenta11,
Okwui Enwezor writes: “Throughout the preparations for Documenta 11, I have had the exceeding good fortune of working with a
team of six brilliant and committed colleagues in shaping every
single facet of this project.” (p.