A Mondofesto for the 21st Century



This is an unedited full-length essay that appears in Studies in Art Education

It is dedicated to members of the Social Theory Caucus who have, over the years, formed a new minor in the deleuzeanguattarian sense.




Our BwO
Appears conceptually in a fractal singular Form.


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Postmetaphysical Vision:
Art Education’s Challenge
In an Age of Globalized Aesthetics
(A Mondofesto)


0.0 Designer Capitalism

1.0 Choreographed Modulation

1.1 Art and its education in whatever forms it is practiced today are embedded within a society of control—what I call designer capitalism. This is my fundamental starting point in keeping with my loyalties to The Social Theory Caucus so that I may project the potential of art practices and their education that challenge this edifice. By a society of control I follow its general description as outlined by Deleuze (1995) and Guattari’s (1997) understanding of capital as a ‘machinic phylum’ where the freedom of movement and the ability of free choice have become illusionary democratic privileges. Leisure travel and materialist consumerism as production define such freedoms. They are illusionary in the sense that their exercise is subject to password controls, capital, privilege and the ability to promote oneself. What appears as an open society is composed of thresholds, boundaries, and gateways, all open and free for movement provided the holder has the right pass—be it a passport, a PIN number, credit card, degree, drivers license, and so on. This open-access designed environment is paradoxically structured by in/visible barriers that keeps “1” in or out. “1” is further encouraged or discouraged from entering spaces, buying and producing objects because of prohibitive costs, exclusivity or high taxes. The trace of movement that “1” leaves in this supposedly open and free environment, what Deleuze and Guattari (1977, p.39) called the “surplus-value of flow,” is then used for market designer research as detection, registration, and then feedback to set up more alluring portholes to pass through and pay, thus redesigning the environment to increase profit margins, but more to the point—to consolidate power.

1.2 Control, therefore, has a contradictory and paradoxical meaning: on the one hand it appears that we are in ‘control’ of our lives, yet on the other hand the exercise of such control is always already pre-determined, subject to the economization space and time. Is this, then a form of soft-fascism? The abyss of freedom can only be found in the interstice spaces and contingencies of time when the self psychically comes up against these territorialized barriers exposing their structuring effects. Then the game of escape can begin. The globe becomes pearl for those who can cultivate it, and it shrinks for those that own it, but for most the short distance over a border or barrier is unreachable while their living space remains barren and unbearable.

1.3 Under designer capitalism the liquid self is potentially no longer branded by color, gender, sex-orientation, moral judgment, class and so on, but through market labels and customer loyalty. Traditional identity distinctions are no longer useful, but a hindrance, and are limiting factors for profit gain. Everyone is meant to be equal in a ne0-liberal democracy provided they can pay as they pass the turn-gates of the allowable portholes in the free space of globalized capitalism. Everything becomes the same so that it can be exchanged so as to become different through exchange value. The machinic force of designer capitalism that relies on flows (codes) doesn’t bother itself with identity politics any longer. It does so only to exploit and cater to difference as a niche market—like the Colors of Benetton. The skin of The Simpsons has become the right color—alien. The alien is the perfect trope for designer capitalism—one of non-identity, the global citizen, a hybrid hyped-stereotype ideally composed as an electronic digitalized body of accumulated information as to its movement, behavior, and ability to spend and move about in selected environments—like video game avatars whose designed environments (levels and plateaus) they dwell in are the phantasmagorical fantasy spaces, the mise-en-abyme effects that materially expose how designer capitalism attempts to manage and regulate the free spaces of the social order. The micro-power ubiquitous throughout control societies repeats itself within video game environments we all love to play where the same paradoxical ‘freedom’ of the self is being exercised through interactivity with the ‘joystick’ manipulating an avatar. The interpassivity (Pfaller, 2002) of such programming seems to have been lost in the hype of teletechnology and its autoaffection. The jury is out as to whether Web 2.0 developments (Wikipedia, Blog, You-Tube, Flickr, My Space) can intervene creatively enough to force a difference in the larger Net given that it is only a small percentage of information ‘rich’ users who are its active creators, and that so much of these innovative developments, especially blogs and ‘my space’ are narcissistic rants.?

1.4 With terrorism continually on the horizon, this exercise of micro-power in a post-9/11 society of control is becoming more and more justified through fear and insecurity to the point where it has become ubiquitous, spreading thinly disguised paranoia: The Snakes on a Plane become Arabs or Muslims about to bite before you take off, or they hide in sleeper cells ready to begin The War of the Worlds. The rise of surveillance techniques adds another layer (plateau) of state control in the name of freedom, liberty, democracy and security. Those who find themselves ‘outside’ these spaces of state and/or capitalist ‘protection’ exist only as la nuda vita (Agamben, 1995). They have no medical coverage, are homeless, live in squatter settlements, favelas, slums, barrios, shantytowns, refugee camps or communes, and die alone—in hospices if they are lucky. Such indesigned spaces become depicted as the ‘bad lands,’ the underground, the squalid ‘outside’ in so many science fictions where paradoxically it is precisely here that social cooperation, support, and resistance are to be found, making them ‘dangerous’ unlawful places. ‘Freedom’ as it is allowed to unfold in designer capitalism leads to the excesses of addiction, substance abuse, obesity, and bankruptcy, an empty Body without Organs(BwO)(D+G, 1987, p.285). Rehab clinics, jails, hospices are the parallel institutionalized spaces to these ‘badlands,’ also excluded from the symbolic order. La nuda vita now takes the form of having hit ‘rock-bottom.’ The science fictions of Philip Dick have become our self-refleXive scenarios.??

l.5 Let me be painfully ‘clear’: designer capitalism as a machinic assemblage of desire is not threatened by contradiction. Contradiction is what is anomalous, forming the cutting edge of its borders. To put it in Third Culture’s terms (see below): as an open system it thrives on contradiction, redefining its structural boundaries as it perpetually lives off its own impossible limit. It is vampiric in this regard, infecting through contagion. Nor is it threatened by the continual deconstruction of representation that generates even more representation, the somewhat radical gestures of visual culture studies where it appears that the excluded and abjected Other is being recognized as a political voice (queer studies, white studies, postcolonial studies, feminist studies, and so on). As radical as these developments appear to be, they are not radical enough since they are easily appropriated into a ‘politically correct’ ideology already in capitalist hands to liquefy subjectivity, or to confine its specificity as a market target. Individuality and difference basically remain interpreted through a pseudo-individualism promoted through forms of consumption and leisure. Desire and its capture is precisely how control works.

1.6 In art and its education, dare I say in the very organization I love and work with, The Social Theory Caucus and its journal (JSTAE), there has been a strong tendency to continually drift into this pluralist relativized position of poststructural historicism that much of the research in visual cultural studies advocate. In short, visual studies in the context of art education, emerging as a symptom of designer capitalism, often practices a historicist relativism which makes no distinction in terms of truth value in fear of forwarding yet another form of Western domination. Premodernist wisdom is given equal billing, as if Indigenous peoples (fetishized as post-Noble savages) and the East Asia (fetishized as post-wisdom cultures) harbor the cure to the addictions wrought by globalized designer capitalism by embracing, for example, Buddhism’s stress on dukkha as the purging of desire, of the ego itself, in the belief this is to see the world as it really is; or an escape into the stringent orthodoxy of Born Again Christianity in its postmodernist forms of strict rules and rituals to lead a moral life that opposes the sinful gluttons of consumerism; or its equivalent—a ‘pure’ Islam of believers freed both of its bickering traditions and violent oppositions. The severity of this claim against designer capitalism’s schizophrenic ability to devour opposition also extends to the contradictions of the ‘radical museum’ and its education which positions itself against the commercialization of culture, at the same time conserving the separate status of the idea of art and its objects, thereby feeding the designer machine.? ??

2.0 Third Culture

2.1 In a designer capitalism, the panopticon has inversed itself into a synopticon. No longer do the few watch the many, but the many watch the few on the screens that pervade our lives: television, film, video, Internet, cell phone cameras, computer screens and surveillance cameras. In such a screen society hyped-vision and sound have become the means of constructing reality through the psychic register of the Imaginary. The ne0-liberal ego of self-will and self-freedom is targeted by digitalized teletechnologies that have synthesized two developments together: neo-cognition and neo-aesthetics.

2.2 Neo-cognition combines the visual, the alphabetical, and the symbolically mathematical to generate a Third Culture, as promoted by American businessman John Brockman, the president of the Edge Foundation. It brings science and the humanities into a new symbiotic relationship referred to here as the posthuman. As a designer science with enhanced visual effects, Third Culture forwards an (r)evolutionary biological model of the human wedded to the machine where a ‘naturalization of culture’ takes place. Both the market and society are seen as autopoetic holistic systems, self-correcting living organisms which are then correlated with a ‘culturalization of nature’ — life is conceptualized as a set of self-reproducing informations; genes now become ‘memes’ in Richard Dawkins (1976) terms, only the best ideas survive through variation, mutation and competition—ideal for designer capitalist expansion. The ideology of the Third Culture presents life as neutral with respect to whether it is natural, cultural or an ‘artificial’ process: both Earth (most often referred to as Gaia) and the global Market Place are simply hyper-complex self-regulating living systems whose basic structure is designed through cyberscience as passing on information—the processes of coding and decoding. The BwO it produces, exemplified by the clone as the new bio-model remains disembodied.

2.3 Third Culture assumes a conscious cognitive subject subjected to indeterminacy but now imbued with a new holistic spiritual self. We move from an earlier naive self-reflection to self-reflexion in the indeterminacy of a Risikogesellschaf (Beck, 1986). This forms the spiritual supplement to the former predominantly reductionalist and proceduralist paradigm of science where what counted was only what could be measured and evaluated. What performatively counts now as designer science is spun with a spiritual New Age twist through the complexity theory of emergence, which has prompted religious ideologues to change their rhetoric from God the Creator to Intelligent Design.?

2.4 Third Culture has its counterpart in advertising as the buying of a lifestyle that comes with a particular product—an atmospheric intangible way of being, recalling Walter Benjamin’s claim that once, in an age of mechanical reproduction, objects lost their aura. Well, that aura is back, packaged as intense aesthetic experiences where marketing and consuming is no longer easily differentiated from buying and becoming. “1” is sold “an experience” in the Deweyian sense. These packaged intense ne0-aesthetic experiences, what phenomenologists distinguish between Erlebnis and Erfahrung, have become the new spirituality perceived as the vitality of life itself, which is strongly infused to the designer culture of staying youthful, beautiful, and energetic. In ne0-liberal designer capitalism the “1” has become its own product of such “immaterial labor” — the makeover for makeover’s sake. Market forces work more by contagion than by convincing, on affect rather than rational choice. Left-leaning conceptual terms—emancipation, transformation and especially performativity (this last term popularized by followers of Judith Butler) have invaded design and architecture in the way the viewer/user is to be assisted in the navigation of space and time. These concepts have been resignified by conservative forces to indicate productive economic growth that can be comparatively evaluated for quality, not just to any “1” previous measure, but from “1” cluster to another cluster enabling comparative stochastic evaluation of market trends.

2.5 Cognitive visual research in Third Culture, what might be referred to as neo-Arnheimian psychological developments in designer graphics has been touted by educational psychologists as the promise of new learning strategies. Spearheaded by James Gee (2004), educational research, the video game industry, the edutainment industry and the military now hold hands together through well-funded consortiums to help improve literacy through cybernetic means. The university, now in ruins (Readings, 1996), has become an institution that largely manages and transmits information through testing to insure quality control.??

3.0 Rise of Ne0-aesthetics

3. 1 The great Dutch historian, E.J. Dijksterhuis (1950) once characterized the age of Pythagoras to Newton as De Mechanisering van het Wereldbeeld. Today, through the technologies of digitalization we have An Aestheticization of the Wor(l)d Picture where the letter through typography as a sur(face) aesthetic increases the shine of things, attracting the eye of desire. This sur(face) ne0-aesthetic pervades all goods and services, along with packaged emotions. The demand is made everywhere that the ‘will’ should enjoy! (Zizek, 1989). Daily urban life now becomes violently aestheticized through various forms of dirty realism as best exemplified by the films of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez and through the aestheticization of televised suffering, especially of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One way to ruin such slick typography —or at least slow it down or make it stutter or stammer—is to play against it through a punning deconstruction of words themselves, preferably to begin to break the aestheticized alphabetization by introducing a tensor (Lyotard, 1993) into the sign, an intensity which triggers off movement in its performativity towards another line of flight.

3. 2 Designer faces and the extreme body makeovers have emerged as the apotheosis of technological representation that began circa 1839 with the invention of the Daguerreotype. A glimpse of the state of visual literacy at the time can be culled. The Daguerreotype process was a recording of an image on what was essentially a mirror. Although the modern mirror dates from the mid-sixteenth century when the Venetians of Murano compressed a layer of mercury between a sheet of glass and a sheet of metal, allowing for perfect, distortion-free reflections, few people had access to one. No mirrors would decorate the walls of ordinary homes before the end of the 19th or the beginning of the 20th century. This lack of self-awareness in the visual sense helps explain the hysteria that accompanied the early years of photography. People were coming face to face with their images for the very first time. Nadar reported the anxiety and nervousness felt by subjects being photographed for the very first time, the anguish that surrounded the most insignificant detail of the sitter’s dress and nuances of expression. For the visually illiterate public, Nadar relates stories about clients becoming angry when they appeared less good-looking than they had believed themselves to be. They fussed and posed with the help of the photographer until they felt they were ready to be photographed, knowing that this would be a permanent record of the way they were represented. Long exposure times meant that a certain stereotypic look for men and women was sought—the dignity and repose of having your hand in your coat pocket in the manner of Napoleon, for instance, made you look important. Women tried to look their very best, always dressed in finery. On occasion a clerk mistakenly handed someone else’s portrait to a client, but the client seemed completely satisfied, commenting on the accuracy of the photography and not wishing to give it back.

3.3 In the 19th century photography continued to capture the subject, but began to do so in an insidious way as capitalism in its colonial and International forms began to solidify power through the social control of representation. The medical and criminal gaze as technologies of representation tried to catalogue and frame the body into various composite types of behavior through appearance alone, initiated by John Galton’s eugenics movement based on phrenology, class and race. These racial classification schemes led directly to the Nazi profiling of the Jews as a particular type that needed to be exterminated to enable a failed capitalism to restore itself in the form of National Socialism rather than social nationalism. The photographic portraits of the German portrait artist August Sander continued this type of approach well into the turn of the 20th century, concentrating on social roles as stereotypes rather than individual people: the boxer, the cook, the worker, the policeman and so on. This was the founding of the stereotypic model as an Ideal Ego, which was not only to appear behind the vitrines of the grand magasins and eventually on the catwalk, but as a Fordable product. Auto-mobile machines and the mannequins that surrounded them still remain strongly connected. Fritz Lang introduced the first ‘robot-fem,’ Maria, in his classic, Metropolis (1927). Such a common measure of the model gave rise to the beautiful Platonic Idea of perfect form—a neo-classicist revival (Bataille, 1967). Against these insidious social developments, the art of painting, especially the Impressionists, maintained that in distinction to photography at the time they were adding syntax to the image and thereby still capturing the elusive subject, still portraying the essence of the person. The mortification and ambivalence of the portrait associated with photography is juxtaposed to the ‘gay life’ of the bourgeoisie led along the banks of the river Seine, captured through the bush stokes of color en plein air.

3.4 This loss of self (of subjectivity) through photographic representation is brought about because the image of “1” self is now subject to scrutiny. ‘Something’ of the self’s control has been removed. Now the photo could be examined, not only by the self, but also by a public of strangers who could then form an opinion about the subject based on the image alone. When the subject is no longer in entire control over his or her representation, the portrait image becomes an anxious object that begins to assert control over the subject as to its effects. To control the technology of the image becomes a political, ethical and moral concern. And, indeed, that is the end game of today’s celebrity status in designer capitalism when it comes to the paparazzi “stealing” the celebrity’s enjoyment for the voyeurism of a larger symbolic mass public who want to “see” the celebrity star “naked” so to speak—literally with his or her pants down, like Britney Spears, exposed for not wearing any panties when getting out of a car that caused such a scandal, but also increased her fame; or much like Janet Jackson’s exposure of her one breast during the 2004 Super Bowl Game, which caused an equal sensation. Was it an accident? Was it staged? Framed within a liar’s paradox, no “1” will ever know, not even Jackson. The paparazzi are in search for the intense face, the face that grimaces, hates, suffers, loves—the vitality of life itself that can be snatched and packaged. Such material excesses lead equally to psychic excesses to find salvation: born-again religious conversions, shaven heads (Britney Spears) to spurn the symbolic order, or jail time like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

3.5 In designer capitalism we now imagine a unique self in the image of the celebrity or a National Idol (Canadian, American, British, Australian…), which is again why there has been the rise of the paparazzi in an age of the screen image, the next step beyond stardom where celebrity faces invade our homes through the ubiquity of television, cable cinema, Internet and advertisements. The paparazzi Blick tries to capture the celebrity star “raw,” off-camera and therefore not posing and in control. The telescopic far away view is brought to us—up too close and personal, scrutinized for our voyeuristic pleasure. This is the new scopic regime of the ‘reality’ image, a hyper-facial machine. The idea is that it is precisely in the unguarded moments, the moments of privacy where a unique self can still be found, where the automatization of the face still reveals an authentic presence. So while the “the ordinary Joe and Jane” must expose their private life (and parts) to become public celebrities on talk shows and reality television shows like Survivor to have their 15 minutes of fame, celebrities must struggle to become private to avoid the not so clandestine activities of the paparazzi in order that they might retain their public lives as ordinary Joes and Janes. Such is the visual economy of the synopticon, reversing the turrets of panoptic looking in disciplinary societies.


4.0 Facial Machine

4.1 The portrait sitters, especially actresses at the turn of the century began insisting that their photos be touched up, colored and perfected to remove any blemishes. Soon all publicity shots began to appear in an idealized form—to present to the public an Ideal Ego. This was a way of taking agency over representation and curbing the anxiety of the image. Film technology made this very easy. Capitalism’s ‘machine abstraite de visageité ’ (D+G, 1987) emerges in the form of the close-up as the body becomes sublimated to the face. It was eventually the face of Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, between the wars in the late 1920s and 1930s and then well into WW2 that captured the fascination of the masses and made this procedure iconic for Hollywood. C.S. Peirce’s typology of signs targeted specifically to the psychic imaginary had already adumbrated this development.? Anita Page for example, was sized up with the perfect body dimensions for Hollywood. Although I cannot develop it here, but the inner soul of the 15th century portrait artist now became captured as starlight, made bigger than life on the silver screen as exemplified by the rise of the cinematic star system.

4.2This development marks the shift from the portrait to the face, from representation imbued with intentional logic (painting, drawing) to representation that is automatically recorded, where intention appears immediate and intuitive. The face—as part of a signifying system where what is expressed on the face (the signifiers) is correlated directly to the concepts or feelings (the signifieds) that are ‘behind’ that face— becomes the established model of representation in screen cultures. What is signified is believed to be ‘in’ the face. It should be recalled that Hitler took acting lessons and practiced his expressions in front of a mirror to make his speeches more effective. Such a trajectory becomes more fully developed in screen cultures via performative and theatrical means as this capitalist ‘facial machine’ now makes the production of ‘avar’ animation films of exceeding high quality possible, like Disney’s Pixar Studios where a renewed moralism is able to reassert itself through transgenerational narratives that recoup Oedipal family values.

4.3 Warhol in the ‘60s presents the end game of this Ideal Ego that began its development at the turn of the century with the photographic touch-up and the turn to pure artifice. Originality and uniqueness, which were the foundational characteristics of the bourgeois subject that emerged in the 1880s with the Impressionists, was completely exhausted with Warhol’s Factory System. Warhol wanted to change the term Pop Art to Common Art. Subjectivity disappears on both sides of the portrait: the sitter and the artist into the myth of the “celebrity star,” as a face now imbued with aura—holy secular in its presence-tation. Warhol’s individuality, his painterly performance is systematically absent, while his photography, silkscreen prints are mechanistically and serially reproduced, leaving no room for the illusion of the uniqueness of the portrayed. A sur(face) aesthetic is complete. The sitters are bereft of interiority.

4.4 The social construction of the Ideal Ego in the mass media, of course was exemplified through the feminist explorations of Cindy Sherman’s portrait photography where, like Warhol, both sides of the portrait equation: sitter and artist disappear by collapsing the two into a zero degree of perception. Everything becomes representation through manipulation. Sherman’s Film Stills were the perfect example of being a copy without an original, a simulacrum made famous by Baudrillard (1994), coming to its popular understanding through the classic sci-fi film 1982 film Blade Runner film based on Philip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In the Untitled Film Stills all that the spectator gets is recognition of a particular style and type of femininity. Femininity becomes an image, a mask. The viewing public is faced with a terrible feeling that there is nothing behind that mask, only an empty void. Where is the ‘self’ to be found? Solution: in the uniqueness of the makeup, in performativity itself, in designer ne0-aestheticism.

4.5 The way the technology of representation structures the style of the image and of the self as a discursive formation became standard fare. The Symbolic Order of composed images—films, advertisements, novels, and paintings — are shaped constructions, managed bodies, managed representations.
But, it should not be forgotten that it was Sherman who staged her look for spectatorship, selecting every aspect of her setting in the Stills. It is here, as Lacan claimed in his 1964 Seminar XI (1998), that the other meaning of screen (écran, Bild(schirm)) must be grasped: as defense, protection, shelter, concealment and partition. In the ‘70s this ‘protection’ was still a series of theatrical masks and costumes that were worn by women that enabled Sherman to stage her resistance. The mask, after all, is fixed in one emotional expression, drawing out uncanny effects, and effective in disturbing perception (think of V for Vendetta). What emerges on designer capitalism’s side of the ledger is the sheer artifice of the construction of the self as mask, so much so that top models have become so made-up that they cannot recognize themselves on fashion covers any longer. Carla Bruni, for example, has appeared on some 250 covers and freely admits that her mask is so complete that she cannot pick herself out amongst other models, nor on which covers she has appeared.

4.6 The shift from mask to a masquerade (in the psychoanalytic sense as developed first by Joan Riviere in 1929 when the face of Garbo became iconic) occurs in the ‘80s where agency becomes a form of mimicry. Such a performativity of affect as simulacra, understood in the positive productive sense following Deleuze (1983), becomes especially disturbing with women body builders who are able to ‘pass’ as men (like Bev Francis). Such affective force, however, is seldom the case. The masquerade’s appropriation in designer capitalism is exemplified by the marketing brilliance of the Material Girl herself, Madonna, who began cynically playing with these masks for profit ends, what I have elsewhere referred to as a form of romanticized resistance. The truth of any transgressive revolt against the establish regime, translated into Hegelian terms, ends up being a new regime where transgression itself becomes part of the game. Designer capitalism in its ne0-liberal democratic form is a gamer society, a society of playing the game—be it video or the market—where the cynical subject emerges as the “1” best able to use and twist the rules in an obscene supplementary way. Madonna held high honors here, as did Michael Jackson. In this regard, as ‘The Entertainment Capital of the World’ Las Vegas and its history remain iconic of capital’s phantasmagoria. Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis, 1995) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 1998) are testimonials to the impossibility of its jouissance, the myth of the American Dream that can only end in death.

4.7 It is of course the face of woman and her body that designer capitalism has built is construction sight on. This is one aspect of the posthuman that has obviously led to the cosmetic industry. The erasure of the subject through plastic surgery is forcefully resisted by the labour of Orlan, a French artist from Lyon. Her surgical performances are a way to unhinge identity entirely, physically becoming-other, complete with a new name. It is flesh that she deals with, critiquing the posthuman developments for their loss of affect and feeling—the fall into what has been called postemotionality (Me?trovic, 1997); our capacity for compassion and ability to have empathy with others erodes as the narcissism of egoic “1” grows. As an audience we can only witness Orlan’s performance. One striking feature has been the implantation of two bumps on her forehead. This increases the grotesqueness of her face; she becomes a probe-head against the Beauty Industry, but it is also a devilish indexical reference, pointing to the carnivalesque ambiance that pervades the operation theatre cum studio. This is the work of the Devil—the drives of bodily excess and ecstatic jouissance that these performances evocate. Thus Saint Orlan, like St. Theresa’s own suffering for “humanity” seems quite appropriate.

4.8 The question of subjectivity is heightened within the context of medical and biological technologies that, in a posthuman context, are able to engineer the body into the Ideal Standard of Feminine Beauty, exemplified by the television series The Swan, where the transformation of the ugly into the drop dead gorgeous by masculine standards is achieved at high tech costs of a specialized team of experts that “operates” on the willing subject for media fodder. Skin, in Orlan’s case, is the boundary between the space of the flesh—mortality, ageing, decay, biology and the sur(face) space where the ego Ideal is established in its striving to become an Ideal Ego as a promise of Immorality and Control. Orlan is therefore, ‘beyond’ Cindy Sherman in her question of the tension between mask and masquerade, presenting us with a hypernarcissistic subject in control. While there is nothing beneath her face, it is her face as a grotesque mask that is manipulated as a changing moving masquerade of constant becoming where time appears to be on her side. The space of the between—the ‘and’—is pried open.


-0.0 Art and Its Education as Anamorphic Skewing;
Acutalizing the Virtual Real

-1.0 Aporia of Antagonism

-1.1 A fundamental antagonism exists in art and its education, an aporia that is not likely to go away. Perhaps only when designer capitalism itself is transformed by as yet an unknowable catastrophe—like the apocalypse that follows a global ecological collapse; or a non-stoppable super-virus is released that infects the global market system of computer networks, resulting in utter and complete financial collapse as all information concerning market assets become erased, plummeting the globe into a utter state of emergency. The fundamental antagonism that I am referring to is between art’s utter uselessness and non-utility as the site of human becoming where a creative deterritorialization in the realm of affects takes place, and its continual recuperation or reterritorializaton for instrumental purposes as a cultural object—be it political, sociological, anthropological, educational and so on—as representation. It is this very aporia that provides art and its education with a ethico-politics of futurality—of creating a new subjectivity, a new BwO in the deleuzeguattarian sense.

-1.2 This antagonism emerges most strongly with the rise of capitalism throughout its various phases, but this rift becomes especially evident during the fin de siècle of monopoly capitalism where a dispersion of artistic movements (the –isms of avant-garde modernism) becomes distinguished from the commercial arts of advertising. The ‘collapse’ between high and low art in designer capitalism does not do away with this aporia, rather it makes it all the more stark and problematic as to the question concerning art’s autonomy and its ability to present a bloc of sensations delivered as a compound of percepts and affects through the sensible and singular style of an artist that is always compromised. There is a dimension of art that harbors within it the potential of excess and rupture that escapes all discursive, productive or receptive determinations. Thus, while designer capitalism always attempts to instrumentally territorialize, “1” as artist is never completely interpellated by the symbolic order, but can maneuver the gaps, utilize the waste, become trash, refuse to participate, and hack the passwords at the boundaries to reach into the abyss of freedom. This fundamental antagonism presents the difference from what art can do or realize as an affective becoming or force from what art represents as an effective being; the former belongs to a realm of art and its education proper in the processes of art-ing, the latter belongs to the realm of designer capitalism where materiality is reduced to the sign—as de(sign), a realm of discursive construction exemplified by Third Culture. The process of art and its education of affective becoming open up new worlds of experiential possibility. It belongs to the order of the potential and the unconscious virtual (Deleuze, 1994).What is required for a new BwO of subjectivity is an education that focuses on the double gesture of de-signing as deterritorialization and affective becoming.

-2.0. What is to be Done? Lines of Flight

-2.1 The question of the sub-title, once raised and answered by V.I. Lenin in 1902, is surely the overriding concern. However, an art and its education appropriated by politics leads to the twin dangers Walter Benjamin already warned about in "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit" written in 1936: 1) Fascism aestheticizes politics through rituals. It uses and manages aesthetics for its own ends, organizing the masses by allowing them to ‘express’ themselves, as in the rallies of Hitler. A point of self-alienation is reached where war becomes ‘beautiful’ in Marinetti’s confessed manifesto. War supplies the artistic gratification of a sense perception altered by technology. We have only to think of the bombs exploding in Baghdad, 2002 delivered courtesy of the Pentagon and CNN in the name of super-patriotism. 2) Communism, on the other hand politicizes art for its own didactic ends. Yet, as Susan-Buck Morss (1992) maintains, Benjamin demands that art “undo the alienation of the corporeal sensorium, to restore the instinctual power of the human bodily sense for the sake of humanity’s self preservation, and to do this, not by avoiding the new technologies, but by passing through them” (p. 5 original emphasis, underlining added). For such a demand to be met, I believe this requires: 1) a relocation of the aesthetic from its hegemonic location as a (prosthetic) eye in designer capitalism to the body, and 2) a disbursal or decentering of the commodified art object into the processes of becoming that take into account the technological specificity of recording and playback. These moves begin to oppose the tele-image of digitalized teletechnologies of designer capitalism that collapse what is near and far, ‘flattening’ the globe, making the ‘spacing’ of time and space itself a cartographic geo-ethico-political issue. This latter point is brilliantly illustrated in the virtual art and theoretical writings of Lisa Parks (2005). The art object now becomes an objectile (moving in time) to grasp serialization as well as an event to be encountered for potential deterritorialization of the self. Its retention and memory are its non-perceptual additions.

-2.3 Both these conditions are already nascent through the ‘new media’ of video (especially in the videos of Bill Viola, see Hansen, 2003) and the newly (re)emergent practices of? ‘60s conceptualism (which strips away aesthetics, turning the ‘visual’ into thinking), installation (where fixed spaces and places are (dis)placed and re(placed) as a form of nomadology), performance (where the body’s affectivity is recovered to de-face, ruin capitalisms facial landscape machine—calling on deformed probe-heads (like Orlan) and ritual as fabulation of myth-science to oppose Third Culture, (especially Mathew Barney)). No longer an object of contemplation, the practice of art must be dispersed as a process of becoming where the somantic experience of self-refleXivity is encountered that disturbs the habitualized self of desire and its responses to the world as framed by dominant forms of screen representations that have shackled the organ of the eye to manqué via desire (be the first to know the ‘news’!).

-2.4 The obligation of artists and their education is thus challenged by an ethical witnessing of a body (BwO) to come, the production of a new ‘subjectivity’ by creating a new style of living that answers Walter Benjamin’s demand that the present alienated corporeal sensorium be undone through new technologies so as to encounter the psychic, environmental and social ecologies, following Guattari (2000), that produce us as subjects. Art becomes a way to explore what is unsayable, unthinkable and invisible. On the other side of the ledger, the reception of the processes of artistic becoming demands an encounter of the? art process as an event by the inter-actor to rupture habituated forms and expose the interpassivity of the coded flows. The body becomes a work of art in the sense of its becoming-other.

-2.5 If art education is to be practiced first and foremost as a ruin of representation within the always already territorialized spaces of designer capitalism to further the abyss of freedom and redefine democracy from its current ne0-liberal forms, then it must practice a politics that is ‘otherwise’ to the usual sense of its meaning as governance. Such a molecular politics is more a reinvention of a critical relation to the actualité of designer capitalism that can challenge its two defining traits—‘artifactuality and actuvirtuality,’ so as to ensure the futurity of a ‘messianic arrival’ of a BwO, which itself remains inseparable from an enigmatic sense of justice? (Derrida, 1994, p. 3, p.13). The politics in art and its education should be a collective minor practice (D+G, 1986), an artistic ‘war-machine’ (or ‘metamorphosis machine’? (Patton, 2000, p.110) set within or immanent to the major (designer capitalism) as forms of de-signing and asignification that are linked to the posthuman social milieu on a number of fronts: ‘becoming woman,’ (overcoming the face of man and his transcendent identity) ‘becoming animal’ (overcoming the face of the state and its fascist tendencies), ‘becoming machine,’ (overcoming the human by recognizing the inhuman) ‘becoming child’ (overcoming the inertia adulthood through creative inventiveness ), all subject to different speeds and movements that can lead to ‘becoming imperceptible’ (overcoming the self through the fragmentation as becoming-other) (D+G, 1987).

-2.6 For Deleuze (1989), following Francis Bacon painterly ‘graph,’ it is the diagram—what might be referred to as the asignifying meaningless marks, the line-strokes and color-patches not in the artist’s conscious control, but are unconscious in the sense of being irrational, accidental, free, random and involuntary—which generates the ‘logic of sense’ as the realm of becoming and deterritorialization of the figure and of the self. There is a shift in such an art and its education from connaissance as knowledge attached to meaning to savoir, knowledge attached to the “X” of unknowable creativity to come.? Minor political practice in art and its education remains a potentiality for what is to come, producing movement within the major. There is no proposed model of conformity; it has no model—only a becoming process (Deleuze, 1995).? I believe that the Social Theory Caucus is such a minor ‘war machine’ whose community of collective autonomous singularities unite in a calling forth of new kinds of collectivities, as a formation of one and its multiple, its futurity remains openly prophetic, the invention of a BwO yet to come.

-3.0 Self –RefleXivity: The X as the Time of becoming of the Virtual Real.

-3.1 For such an art and its education new (virtual) concepts to open up experiences need to be invented. I believe that the inspiration for such an emergence can be culled from Deleuze and Guattari understanding of the virtual and Jacque Lacan’s late work which stresses the psychic register of the Real, most forcefully developed by the many writings of Slavoj Zizek. Both identify unconscious desire as the place of transformative subjectivity and not the conscious ego, but do so differently—the former in a productive sense, the latter as a form of lack (manqué). Both strategies are needed to ruin representation of designer capitalism via art and its education and education in its art. These conceptualizations can be brought together in a anti-Platonist struggle against designer capitalism’s posthuman appropriations. I would argue that the deleuzeguattarian stress on the virtual unconscious body is consonant (in the musical sense) with Lacan’s grasp of unconscious desire at the level of the symbolic—avant la letter.

-3.2 An art and its education that confronts the ne0-cognitivism and ne0-aesthetism of designer capitalism that continues to target the conscious ego by enlarging and gratifying its narcissism through the demand of enjoyment, requires a relocation of subjectivity as the site/sight/cite of creative becoming to introduce a new self-refleXivity in visual education on two fronts (both of which (unfortunately) designer capitalism has already begun to master: the unconscious bodily affect as initially developed by deleuzeanguattarian virtuality (which has nothing to do with the usual ‘virtual’ of cyberspace) and the Lacanian unconscious that is ‘structured like a language’—the realm of non-sense. This new lacaniandeleuzian assemblage I refer to as the virtual Real.

-3.3 I have used the homonym site/sight/cite throughout my work as a short hand for Jacques Lacan’s three psychic registers: Real, Imaginary and Symbolic. Site here must be understood not as a specific physical location, but a site of nomadic singularity that harbours a life—nomadic in the sense that it is nowhere and everywhere that characterizes the Lacanian Real. Site is closer to Robert Smithson’s attempt to erase site-specific art with his notion of non-site, but much more radical in the sense it presents the potentiality of the virtual, the non-place of multiplicities. Each of these registers is defined by a limit: what is feelable, seeable and sayable (hearable) respectfully. Body, I(eye), and the symbolically constructed letter and/or ideogram (as arche-writing—the differential structure of discrete marks or spacing deconstructed in Derrida’s formulation) respectfully come into compossible heterogeneous play. I have mobilized the term self-refleXivity to make a distinction between self-reflection and self-reflexivity as previous conceptualizations which do not recognize the unconscious affective virtual Real, symbolized here by an X. This is a psychic domain that is ‘beyond’ the perceptual Imaginary and the symbolic order of language but not beyond the ‘world,’ but existing in excess of it. The ‘world’ understood here as the sum of potentialities existing in virtual time, ‘all at once,’ as aion. The actualization of a given potentiality is merely an extraction (actualization) of that ‘world,’ typical of our experience of it. This actualization is what Deleuze referred to as the difficulty of ‘the [present] time of Chronos’ as opposed to present time chronologically understood. A pedagogy of ethical encounters explores the X of the self’s unconscious body as experiences of intensity and the unconscious of thought, the realm of sensibility and non-sense respectively—hence the call for a lacaniandeleuzian assemblage.

-3.4 Thus, I make a distinction between art and its educational deterritorialization potential as an affective, ethical witnessing, the nervous aisthetic dimension (asthitikos) of affect as a bodily unconscious shaped by memory (through forms of temporal ecstasis) and by trauma—its preorganizational face as the figural that deforms the figurative (Lyotard, 1971). This affect of the virtual Real bodily register is a separate domain from perception that remains at the level of the Imaginary I (eye) already captured by designer capitalism. Intensity on the skin governs its force, otherwise one may not be affected at all; no encounter with an art takes place unless the objectile looks back at you to produce a certain affective intensity. Such intensity of affect belongs to the drives (Triebe) and (for me) has the equivalency of such concepts as jouissance, la vita, zo? or life as Deleuze spoke of it. All refer to a force of vitality. Such an approach is opposed to its tensional designer capitalist counter part: namely its ability to assert territorialization and reterritorialization through the effects of ne0-aesthetics as a dramatic sur(face) phenomenon (as opposed to affect of aisthetics), which is now aimed not at the nerves, but at the fantasy of the perceptual imagination as lack, mainly as pleasure, either reinserting a hegemonic comforting moral order or continuing to liquefy representation where ever it becomes a hindrance to further capitalist global expansion. Aisthetics (asthitikos) belongs to the body’s affective sensations of the unconscious preindivdiual ‘self’, while aesthetics belongs to the imagination, to perception of the conscious self.

-3.5 The experiences that are actualized by the virtuality of the arting process are not to be confused with the usual understanding of aesthetic experiences, but as encounters of possibility, events subject to ethical questions and witnessing in our schools, museums, galleries; nor should art’s deterritorializing potential be confused with the usual notion of critique as ‘critical’ art and its education as developed in its generalized educational forms by Henry Giroux and Peter McLaren, for instance. Such critique and aesthetics are largely caught up in representation which, following Deleuze and Guattari, I am trying to stay away from.? Deterritorialization by art and its education calls on an immanent critique, which is creative rather being merely oppositional. A productive element has to be strategically mobilized where a skewing or stretching is initiated from the inside of the existing major to generate anamorphic views using new technologies like video, Photoshop programs, Keynote, cyber-web play, and so on to generate simulacra in the positive Deleuzean (1983) sense.

-4.0 Powers of the False: De-signer Hacking

-4.1 Such a move mitigates the oppositional critique of simulacra as developed by the many ‘post-situationist’ writings of Baudrillard, who exposed their appropriation by designer capitalism but found no way out. Copyright laws prohibit, by and large, the manipulation of images, unless it’s for the more blatant ironic situations, which most often aggrandize the publicity of the targeted image even more. I think here of the myriad of Bush mock-ups in the Net. In the wake of appropriated simulacra, the Situationists attempt to rethink the urban landscape through the psychogeographies of the derive'(drift) and detournement (diversion) to find another reality behind the spectacle needs updating since a position ‘outside’ the commodity system seems to be untenable. Even the placards of Barbara Kruger as a form of ne0-detournement, while thought provoking, soon becomes part of the visual clutter of the mediascape. So, what is required is how a certain truth element might be rescued via simulacra that invent its own audience through what Deleuze called, following Nietzsche, the “powers of the false.” One could call this the de-signer art of hacking.

-4. 2 Here I am thinking the way the manipulation of the syntax of the image can be restored by way of the technological media manipulation of the existing ‘truth’ claims. The photo-doctored portrait of the ‘Black Queen’ by Tibor Kalman—perhaps a quote to the 1957 sculpture of the Queen by Nigerian artist Benedict Chukwukadibia Enwonwu, which was criticized for its ‘Africanization’ of the Queen’s features—seems to tell us a truth through a lie about the racial and ethnic mixture of Britain today. Likewise his “brown” photo manipulation of Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks to his governorship of so many Mexican Americans. Through the photographic simulacrum Alison Jackson has constructed the impossible image of Mohammed al-Fayed (Dodi’s Father) most fondest wish: a constructed portrait of Diane and Dodi with their non-existent child between them, blurring fact with fiction, at the same time articulating a truth about Mohammed al-Fayed’s desire, a desire which has eaten up his life since the death of his son. There are many photo-manipulators (Lawick Müller, Andrée Chaluleau, Raphael Hedffl, and so on) working to fictionally blur the masculine/feminine facial divide, yet another form of defacialized probe-heads, recognizing (after Baudrillard) that in today’s world we are all transgendered. In this sense they practice Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) ‘becoming woman,’ the first movement in overcoming the face of individualized subjectivity. Thus the visual lie can reveal a truth that cannot be articulated, and the designer alien can be countered by grotesque mutant forms that live in the between of binary spaces.

-4.3 I have argued elsewhere that both Al Gore’s ‘pedagogy of performative effect’ via Keynote technology in his stunning An Inconvenient Truth, which relies on as much aesthetic imaginary as designer capitalism itself, and Michael Moore’s inventive docu-fictions that rhetorically counter capitalist and state claims are two further de-signing strategies of the powers of the false. They beat capital and the state at its own game. They are kynics (like Borat) who mobilize a disruption in the accepted fabric, most often through joyous laughter, but also—as in the case of Gore—through traumatized urgency. The point to be made here is that we have an encounter of effect against effect, a contestation to elicit a “truth affect” at the bodily level that is disruptive and does not fall into a historicist hole of relativism.

A Nomadic line of flight (0.0ut) into the ‘Open’

I have said nothing of art and its education in the sense of pragmatic prescriptions. That has to be saved for another time. Perhaps the introduction of my own neologisms will be read as a form of smug lacaniandeleuzian forays? Perhaps my obliqueness regarding the political in art education is simply a melee? What I have tried to do is provide a broad philosophical figural sketch—a mondofesto for a postmetaphysical art and its education in a digitalized teletechnological society of control based on the need to engage the ‘new media’ of recording and playback (video, installation, conceptualism, performance, photo-manipulation, Web. 2.0 and so on) to meet Walter Benjamin’s demand. The foundation is based on the psychic dimension of the virtual Real, culled from a new assemblage of Lacan-and-Deleuze-and-Guattari, which can challenge the inherent biologism of designer capitalism’s Third Culture. This is a minor practice that is in search of becoming a new BwO that positions itself immanently within the dominant major of designer capitalism. While I recognize that very little of what I advocate will find its way in schools, universities, galleries, museums, art departments, design schools and so on, in the machinery that produces contemporary art and its education, there is a multiplicity of such artistic becomings that push this avant-garde ‘edge,’ or kairos in Antonio Negri’s (2004) terms, even though they are not democratic, if democratic is interpreted in terms of the current hegemony of power. They recover the trace of the unconscious as I have developed elsewhere from the Symbolists, Dada, Surrealists, the Situationists through to the ‘cyberwar’ machines like Electronic Disturbance. It seems to me that our ethico-political obligation as educators must continue to open in this direction.


Translated from the English by ja-ja



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In this writing I cannot do justice to the performance of the presentation on Friday, March 16, 2007 in New York for the 47th meeting of the NAEA where the theatrical staging of wearing a prisoner’s orange overalls as a sign of the age we live in took place by the character ja-ja. Such staging was not meant to sympathize with terrorists, but to remind ourselves of the generalized anxiety we live in a post 9-11 world where our attunement to it has been hystericized by Present G.W. Bush’s euphemism “war on terror” that has imploded into its opposite, “the terror of war.” Given this limitation, the writing attempts at a similar affective stance through the rhetorical form of a post-manifesto that plays with language. The overuse of italic should be understood rhetorically as ‘links’ that form the rhizomatic website connections one could visit, but cannot due to the limitation of the printed form.