Call for Participation

Joan of Art: Towards a Free Education System

Every year Nomas Foundation invite a guest curator to look at the situation in Italy. This year Mike Watson proposed a project with an international scope after looking at the social and artistic situations in Italy and in the UK and comparing them to the global situation.

In 2012-2013 Mike Watson theorist and writer is curating a project as curator in residence at Nomas as the beginning of a wider project in which a global free education system will be run from a network of art institutions.  Initially, a committee will be set up to discuss what education is and to shape the project in its initial phase.

Hypothesis: Freedom in an unfree society can only be feigned. Such a feigning is by definition an artistic act. In a post-political age art bears a social responsibility.

‘Joan of Art: Towards a Conceptual Militancy’ is currently being written by Mike Watson (PhD in Philosophy, Goldsmiths College, MA Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy) for UK publisher ZerO Books (Mark Fisher, Nina Power, et al.). The book proposes that we evade the unfreedom of the societal whole by establishing a network of social initiatives delivered from galleries and art institutions.

The aim of the project ‘Joan of Art: Towards a Free Education System’ is to deliver a free education system, starting from the very basis of what education is: The sharing of information. In the first stages the very notion of education will be explored so that a new system can be delivered which recognises the value of sharing knowledge between peers and across disciplines. Finally a free accredited system will be set up in such a way that it can be delivered from anywhere in the world, growing and changing organically as it disperses via accessible communication platforms.

An initial research period will bring together artists, academics, activists, lawyers and a range of professionals working across diverse disciplines in order to examine the very roots of our education system. By retaining some areas of the system we have all grown with, and changing others, new technologies will be employed in order to deliver a mode of learning which equips the user with the ability to ask relevant questions.

The passing of the political age suggests that politics was not the only way of managing the world. By setting up an education system as ‘art’ we seek new possibilities that are as yet unimagined.

Call for Participation – Committee, Rome Autumn 2012

A committee is being formed to discuss this project in the Autumn of 2013.

A committee meeting will be held in November to discuss what education is and what it ought to be. The committee seeks artists, academics  and activists with experience in the areas of social art, political art, education to put forward one page to be discussed with a view to shaping the above project. Travel to Rome, accommodation and a stipend will be paid for a period of 2-3 nights.

The committee currently comprises:

Alain Ayers (

David Blacker (The Illegitimacy of Student Debt)

Vincenzo Latronico (

Silvia de Fanti (

Valerio Rocco Orlando (

Maria Rosa Sossai (



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AAAAAWillAC  Click for Pdf




Where did my country go, in leaving behind this vapid numbers machine, void of life? Don’t  ask after when I return to my homeland, for I cannot return to what was is gone. And in tracing  a line of history to better understand what went so wrong, seek not to ask when the banker  became the butcher. Ask, rather, when the butcher became the banker. As you go to and fro, a  piston in the machine.


Objects that cycle around the fixed point of my mind. A fixed point of no substance and no  bearing. It stands at a distance from my hanging shirt of 2 metres, and is 40 cm from my  computer, it sees a light bulb, it reads a book of so many words. It is fed on meat and carbs, and  then it feeds the butcher and the Queen Bee.


When the mechanic becomes the hangman, and the civil servant is inking death warrants.  When the architect is building camps. When the butcher has become torturer, will you hold  your nerve? When the baton has cracked your skull. When freed detainees greet you, with a  sodomised demeanour. When life greets you warm, simply because you’re alive, but you greet it cold, because you envy death.


And ask not when the government became a speculator. Ask instead when the public became its  shareholder. As Che Guevara’s bloodied final grin froths eternal, don’t ask for revolution. Seek  after resolution. Turn fast the screws that fix your mind Let go the grip that holds your party  dear. Back slap that fat grocer as the numbers whir. For you did not seek to stop his meteoric rise.


Don’t look to divide, or ask when, or in who’s name your country, your town, your body,  became franchised, to the economic war machine. Brave comrades, citizens, keen to be the revolutionary. The one who went that extra mile. The top comrade. But, enough, you are an  honourable man.


Do not criticise the colonel and politician, as they visit death upon the hapless. For war does not  only rain as fire, from the sky upon the ground. Is not alone the sabre for maiming. the dicktat  for systematic killing. War’s stricken grimace is with you. Turned smile as you fund it and reap  its rewards. Your war, Peace child.


Let loose the ugly spirit. Turn loose this rabid nature, upon the venal world crowd (crowd  source, crowd sauce, crowding sourcing, source in… saucing). Be damned, consumerist rabble.  Blunt your teeth on third generation phones and on too much internet loving. There’ll be  no ‘Love in’ in the 21st Century . And dine on slim shakes . (You got, he got, I got the shakes.  There’s no shakes, not like the hippy hippy shakes).


Catatonic, individual cells we are. If we stopped to part piss i pissitate… (to participate). Nothing  left to struggle for.. no history left to evoke or live up to… no future dream of utopia over which  we might be held to arms (to account). That utopia hanging heavy on our shoulders, pointed like  a gun: an injunction, to struggle and to maintain struggle (and if you are not struggling, you are  not doing it right. Baby struggle. – Yes, that’s right).


Or liberty held up as a an unstained sheet, a tabula rosa, the virgin’s unbroken hymen, that we  must not trangress or tear… that we must maintain through subervience to government, fellow  men, God, our State. What a State. What state? State what state. State-less. Stateless. These  chains that bind us in perpetual work bondage – working at work, and working hard at home. At being citizens or subjects of a just Europe, a just world.


A world of positivist values and vaccum sealed ethical aims, delivered surgically, where surgery  heals the wound inflicted by a stray Drone. –Yes, justice is delivered as a kind of obverse surgery, which turns back skins and flesh, which turns men inside out, and women. And  following a Drone attack who would know who was who and which was which?, and perhaps  this is the gender revolution that we mete out – meat out – to the world. And who would dare to  ask? As they speak of flying Drones in peaceful zones. Keep quiet as the news man drones on.


Drone on, these comforts which we make for ourselves, by giving credence to these stories and  histories, recited to keep us civilized, over the camp fire. Keep us dumb in front of a flickering  light. Your laptop illuminates like a stone tablet inscribed with the name of the sun god. If you  leave sight of it the harvest will be poor. As it is, the harvest is gathered by illegal migrants and  slaves in the third world. (The third whirled. the third whirled; the rest starved. Much less, and  much more, even).


But we have good and just ideas. They grow in the dark, in the cracks in the system, in the  defective minds of those who would not be co-opted, who do not follow the stultifying rationale.  Who would give up, put the brakes on the grand project. To break it, setting a world free. To halt  an entropic decay?


The newsreader says the butcher is coming for tea with the Queen Bee. As objects come into  sharp focus, more real than you are, your tootbrush is a zeppelin, your camp stove will feed the  emerging armies of the industrialising world. You do not want for anything, but you are missing  a part. And though even your phone tells you where you are, you cannot feel yourself there.


Another object comes to the foreground of your vision. Like a perverse ghost it is less real than  you, but it controls you. Kettle, I obey the kettle. Toothbrush, I obey you and your twinspeed.  Computer, I obey you and your news channels and your friends feed. Friend feeds I obey you.  My new shirt I obey you.


Who would challenge such an abundance of object-drones, which come in and out of focus like  illuminous spirits, who announce their coming and going with a turn of a cloak and a command?  We must live with them. Their cause and their effect, their ethical imperatives which we have made our own. To honour the numerical count with a minimal pitying glance to the worker bee.  Be.  So that they can continue their work. The Queen Bee gives just a little milk and honey to the  worker bee. And the objects continue to whir.



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Their Law

1 I ask you by what right you exercise the law?


2 By the right vested in me by my commanding officer.


1 I ask you by what right your commanding officer exercises the law?


2 By the right vested in him by the chief commanding officer.


1 I ask you by what right the chief commanding officer exercies the law?


2 By the right vested in him by the magistrates.


1 I ask you by what right the magistrates exercises the law?


2 By the right vested in them by the government.


1 I ask you by what right the government exercises the law?


2 By the right vested in them by the State.


1 I ask you by what right the State exercises the law?


2 By the right vsted in it by the constitution.


1 I ask you by what right the constitution embodies the law?  


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God is Deaf

[TEXT FOR AN EXHIBITON OF SOUND ART IN ROME CENTRE:  COSA SI PROVA AD AVER UN SUONO IN TESTA?  — 2’ traccia Costruzione di una metafisica dell’assenza a cura di Elena Abbiatici e Valentina G. Levy 24 settembre – 4 novembre Opening 24 settembre – ore 19.30 Piazza De Ricci 127, Roma]


God is Deaf: Five Meditations on Noise


‘Noise’, a perpetual residue of the universe’s origin, yet the universe did not have one origin, but two: its coming into being, and its coming into being for the human subject, such that the continuous coming into being of the Universe could be heard. Philosophy splits itself into two camps: Those who believe that the Universe has always emitted Noise, and those that believe that it cannot have emitted Noise prior to the advent of beings sophisticated enough to hear that Noise.


Letter to an ex-wife: ‘… and if you sleep with anyone else can you please do it in a soundproofed room, because I find the thought of the sound nauseating?’


On a screen in an empty room an automated stock market monitoring programme displays numbers falling rapidly, and silently. Its movement accompanied only by the faint hum of the computer heralds the start of recession, mass unemployment and war.


A GBU-43/B or ‘MOAB’ – ‘Mother of all bomb’s’ – is tested in the desert, just prior to the outbreak of the Iraq war. Containing 9’525 kilos of high explosives, apart from being able to destroy an area up to ‘nine city blocks wide’, the MOAB was aimed at creating panic in the Iraqi population so that they would then remove their own leader. Whilst that plan did not work, leading the US and UK to enter into a costly invasion, civilians subjected to the constant aerial bombardment that took place in the Iraqi Winter of 2003 suffer nervous disorders as a result of the noise to this very day. If there is proof God is deaf, it is because this noise could not be heard by the far away tax paying citizens of the invading countries. The notion that Noise cannot exist if there is no subject present to hear it is subconsciously utilised by the citizens of war-mongering nations to excuse their apathy and protect their comfortable lifestyles. If there were such a thing as divine justice it ought to include as just one aspect a cacophony of aerial bombardment, screams of the dying, and sounds of systemic rape and torture, played on a loop into the ears of those UK and US civilians who wouldn’t acknowledge, let alone speak out against the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.


A child eats crisps and asks his grandmother if she can hear the crunching noise as loudly in the room as he can hear it in his head.

Mike Watson. 2011.

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Dialogue with Paul Sakoilsky

… on Art and the Object, reposted here:

This text was commissioned for:

Object Culture: Art as Viral Commodity

1-3 Rivington Street • London EC2 Opens Thursday 15th April 2010 • 6.30pm onwards

RED GALLERY is a pop up housed in the old E-Learning School buildings on EC2’s Rivington Street. As part of Hackney
Council’s Shoreditch Regeneration Scheme, the space has seen much recent publicity, and will soon be demolished,
making way for an Art’otel, courtesy of architects Squire and Partners.

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images from Macro Roma

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Art Monthly article, ‘Cuts Both Ways’

New Art Monthly article  Dec/Jan edition


‘Cuts Both Ways’

Mike Watson argues that artists should abandon

the accredited university system.


– ‘Adorno famously remarked that it is impossible to make art

after Auschwitz because the necessary conditions simply did not

exist to allow for its production in a late capitalist society, and

Fredric Jameson later quipped that, in the post-Soviet world, it

was arguably impossible ‘to read Adorno by the pool’, now it

might be said that it is becoming difficult to read Peter Hallward

in the dole queue.’

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Watch Dark Fibre

Dark Fibre is premiering now in episode format on babelgum, an independent film streaming site:

Dark Fibre is an important  film about industrialisation in India, and more particularly about the risk that emerging economies may not choose to follow the path to democracy.

BANGALORE. THE ‘SILICON VALLEY’ OF INDIA. A mysterious private military contractor (Wintonick) rides into town with a mission to take control of the city’s dreams –– to master the desires of the burgeoning slums that his bosses believe will soon determine the world’s future. Meanwhile, young “cable wallah” Rama, who presides over micro-TV-empires in each of the city’s districts, begins to be pursued for a mysterious piece of ‘information’ he may have unwittingly received, and is forced to undertake a journey of discovery that puts him face to face with the foreigner and his plans for the future of India.

Written and Direct by JJ King and Peter Mann. Produced by JJ King. Executive Producers Sean T O Saillaigh and Karol Martesko Fenster

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Art Monthly report on MAXXI, Rome

LR writer Mike Watson has an article on MAXXI Gallery, Rome, in Art Monthly, October Edition, out now:



More positively, architecturally speaking, the unimaginable has been achieved by Iraqi-British Architect Zaha Hadid. The MAXXI fills a sizable area, like a huge and impossibly aerodynamic spaceship, whilst its interior comprises wide and shifting vented spaces, inviting future site specific ventures of great scale. In London such a space would be impressive, in Rome – where contemporary architectural projects are often stalled by protest – it signals incendiary change, to be fanned, or extinguished.


It is unclear whether this space will be matched by the works on display over time. The choice of opening shows, a huge Gino De Dominicis (b.1947, d.1998) retrospective, signals the precariousness of contemporary art in this most immobile of cities. One feels it may be impossible for Italy to accept contemporary art until it learns to speak of the Renaissance and Duchamp as if in the same breath; the latter – and his line of followers up to the current day – as a continuation of, not challenge to, the heritage of prior art. Whilst one best not hold their breath, the De Dominicis retrospective presents something of an opportunity in this respect, for the late artist’s creative diversity as much as for his being Italian.

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The Provenance of ‘Untitled’.

A Prose piece.

I would see the City as if painting it, as if caught up in the goings on of this grand old dame, and daubing its traces on cotton duck, getting caught up, drunk in the city, pissed up with paint and drink and notions of our demise. Me and the Great British populace giddy with notions of immortality and computer utopias, botoxed to the hilt and ready for the ‘ever’.

It is Twenty-Something A.D in the year of my lord, but I’m not sure the date matters too much anymore.

Lanny placed 33 candles on my last Birthday cake, but I could not tell you if it was one more than she had placed a year before, and the year before that I am sure that I had just the one candle. Last time I took account of the date was the year following Pete’s death (2006), up until a point…In any case I think on the whole diaries are redundant these days. As we face a kind of eternity, or oblivion, perpetually waiting.

This waiting for it to happen turns all of time into just one long morning.


When I’m not painting I pace the city tired of what I’ve seen, though I will tell anyone who has time to listen, ‘Come to an end, this never ending end.’

For now though, I am wandering, and painting…mostly wandering. And I see (this, just this morning):

So roll…and roll…and roll…and rock… AND ROLL… Spits the Great Director…

All is dude in heaven’s fair city dude … The city is like a virgin angel
… we all want to fuck her: In our cars, on the trams and buses, in the
pubs and museums … we’ll try and we’ll try to run her arse ragged,
tanning those pink cheeks blue and bluer … but this city is olde and
virginous, she keeps her secrets close and hidden, no man approaches her entrance without being swallowed up head and all in that nice fine labia …
the penalty for trying to screw our fair maiden is to die trying at her
hands, never mastering her; he’ll try to form a sluice for her sweet
juice, but, No!  …She’ll cut him loose, he’ll never savour her,
though he’ll always inhabit her space… This is her cruelty … she laughs …
He, the embodiment of us all, drowning on her river, choking up the Thames … That ole big-bowled- Barge-boy chugging and huffing thru the City in pursuit of love, someone warm and sympathetic to rub up against, wealth – a slice of that all English-pie,  the ever-new (art, Cars, and whiter toothbrushes) and eternal life.

He stops chugging along and takes a left up by the Tower of London… and he waves to the hordes of tourists, and he waves to the hordes of Ghosts, who have come to see the tourists… The old boy goes land bound… Up past Leadenhall Market, which reeks of fish, and of not a little intrigue… the perfect setting for something lurid and illegal to occur… casting his minds eye back, his fishy middle eye, he sees more than a little that was hot to trot, and much more downright rot… Yes, here in the City, the Top hats, the Bowler hats, the Baseball Caps stayed on (and stay on) at all times, whilst the trousers have always remained firmly around the ankles… and who knows why the whores ever wore skirts (or pantyhose)? In these times of fast living and ever faster pleasures we could do a neat line in ready to baste Chica’s… the hide stripped bare for the bachelors, whilst the madame (or an unscrupulous Surgeon) could administer your daily botox injection in the forehead… and of course, this being Liberal Central, Our Fair City, a similar line of trade could be tailored to suit heroin addicts and women, who’s needs would be different.

On up the road, past Liverpool Street – this majesty of a stretch, skyscrapers and pizza bars and chain pubs with no smoking and no music licences, no binge drinking, no character, no life and no soul (but plenty of ghosts!) right through and through to the Spitalfields market extension… and how does it take to the old market adjacent…? And what does the old think of the new? We ask the Ghosts… and this place is full of Ghosts… maybe it’s the high ceilings… Like heat rising, these Ghosts float up to the ceiling of the old market and get left there…and they are hot… the heat of whoring, the friction of fighting, the warmth of money in hand, artists chatter and activity, all forcing the souls of them and us to the rafters, where there is much Yaying, Neighing and Baying… “‘Tis good to change, it is bad…I am indifferent, Yay, Nay,’” and thrice baying. Thrashing and howling …these dogs on the scent…And they hang here to see us living Londoners, who bring youth, and yet more ‘ghosts’…

There are Ghosts here and there are ghosts here… The Ghosts of the dead… and the ghosts of the living… this is a place, if any, that stores up emotions. Stand in one corner… the South East corner, if our old barge remembers correctly… and you will be soaked to the bone in a lingering tear… held sweetly, yet pulverized by the purity of one mans silent croaking… and this is no ‘Ghost’, but the ghost that is a trace of a feeling, deposited, shed, dropped with fearful abandon… only last Tuesday. And then there are the ghosts that are us… botox shells… and fuck me bells… and the why haven’t we burnt in hells?

Painted in, suffocated, fighting for space, these are they that found eternity too soon.

Some of us sense the Ghosts of our forebears on the ceiling… and the emotional ‘ghosts’ that are ours, borne of the fleeting births and deaths of love… We see this place as a swirling soup of Antiques, human smiles and cries… sexual assaults and bath salts…  organic cabbages and freakshow cabbages…

Jack the Ripper frequented this area… but that is a red herring… or cheaper even, like sardines… That is for the uncouth and gormless; just too burlesque, like pantomime, and Punch and Judy… Because in the whole of time before and since Jack… and the market dates back to the 13th Century, and was granted its current location by Charles II… the complete amalgamation of the good the bad, and the ugly; the making loves, through to the breaking loves; the births; the murders; the friendships; lunches; ball games; brisk walks; wonder at passing of others; fallings over onto paving stones, with grazed knees; first steps; last steps; exact middle step (and who’d know?)… the reaching in the wrong pocket to pull out trouser fluff… The pickpocket reaching in the wrong pocket to pull out trouser fluff… Different styles of pockets on different styles of trousers… and those tears in the South-East corner, which cared not of pockets (except perhaps those of his dearest, whose pockets he surely cherished like her bottom!)… that cared not of Jack, or his poor maidens… In this soup that swirls round and round the ceiling in Spitalfields, there is great gnashing of teeth, and great tenderness… like Jack knew, yet Jack is less than a pea in this great dance-soup…War Dance… Rain Dance… Dirty Dance… we are all there… least, all of us who are there… It is one of the pinch points, the G-Spots in this great whore of a city… It is a climax of sorts… if you feel it… some kind of little death that might satisfy the deathless, the botoxed and puckered… us living ghosts that stand on the threshold of the death of death… us ghosts of Ghosts… perhaps our kicks lie here… the old barge stationed in old market places, old churches, and graveyards… we find our jouissance, our climactic joy at defying death, with Ghosts… This is a free liberal society, this is where we go when anything goes… and goes… and goes. This is the cosmic swirl from the Market at the end of the world that won’t end… this is our free City.

This is our free city as it stands… both at logger-heads with the advancement of technology and complicit with it… the original boundary walls protrude  like the remaining tooth on a bronze-age skull, whilst skyrises, Prescott’s erections, the ‘shards of glass’ break through an otherwise clean and tight sphincter. The city representing what we ourselves have become. The dead, the dying, the immortal and the eternally dying.

It was 10 years ago or so (and who knows?), when I was still in art College, that an announcement was tacked onto the end of Channel 4 news to the effect that computer intelligence had surpassed that of human intelligence. Two weeks later it was announced that an individual’s human DNA map had been fully mapped onto a computer. What did this mean? Nobody that I knew was sure. All I know for sure is that since that point, the greed for ever more stuff has become a greed for evermore life… counted in aeons, not years. The mark of a man now resides in his longevity for sure – even more than in his potency. The reams of botox ghosts, just desperate for a fix that would add a month or two, erase a crows foot here and a beak mark there, attested to that. This was the butt end of the experiment. Across town, people were having their entire selves backed onto databases and beamed into imaginary utopian worlds. I had yet to meet one of these people. Either a myth was being peddled, or no one had wanted to come back (and to be sure, it was the latter, because all the crematoria West of centre had long ago stopped billowing their smoke at night).

What I have seen is a neat little venture into art tourism, which involves the beaming of a persons DNA into the perfect computer replication of an old master oil painting, allowing them to explore both the machinery, the narrative and the material makeup at close hand. It was dabbling in this which bought me to the conclusion that there is a case for the continued existence of humanity as is and that art may be fundamental to this project.

The hospital rang and Gran croaked her last again this lunchtime. This never ending end…She had refused a Botox treatment, old wrinkly leatherface, one of the last few, but there were time lapse treatments for her heart and lungs. They would keep her ticking over endlessly as some sort of consolation, a second best to a computer Utopia that she could not afford (but what if she just wanted to die?).

I tried to paint all this, this darned pain – thing. Grey-green river. Zombie flesh, with its metal spine ripped right out and presented like a bridge between two monoliths – to God and to Art.

And so I drank to Art and I drank to God and tried to paint them both.

This damned painting.


The pallor of these botox ghosts, and of those who have had the fortune to be granted ever lasting life is interesting. It is a fearful one. On the one extreme you have those that fear they will never be granted eternal life, and on the other hand you have those who fear because they have been. There are television celebrities – and if you have the money, you can meet them on the ‘Ether-Vision’ – with radiant baby flesh that belies their true 80 years or more. They have a glint in their eye and a sense of self assuredness like none seen before. But there is a grey ground, just back of that glint – a concreting over of the soul, like tar routes riven through elysian fields. There is no duping fate. This ‘immortality’ really will be the death of us.

In seeking after eternity London grows ever sicker and older. Parts of the City that had stood for hundreds of years crumbled as if in indignation at humanity’s arrogant and ill fated path. The Churches were the first to fall. St Paul’s Cathedral, though braced on every side by Scaffolds crumbled, in any case, from the inside. Now it is all skeleton – invertebrate Church: The inside is hollow. It is said that a ghost of the last Dean still holds service daily, attended by sewer rats, spiders, and the dead that are buried there. Between services Lawrence of Arabia tries hard to escape Horatio Nelson… ‘He only ever wants to talk about military tactics,’ he complains to Wellington.

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Meaning of ‘Kafka likes Kafka’.

Facebook’s unremitting automated ability to keep users posted on the connections happening across its pages has recently produced some interesting results, my two favourite being ‘Franz Kafka likes Franz Kafka’ and ‘many People who like Roberto Saviano also like Pizza’.

Indeed, both of these statements, typical of facebook’s predeliction towards banality, tinged with rare moments of unwitting self deprecating brilliance,  are notable, at first glance, for being Kafkaesque.  Kafka deals frequently, most memorably in ‘The Castle’, with  the senslessness of bureaucracies which aim to administer daily life. Facebook, similarly, is a system so perpetual in its production of inanities pertaining to people’s preferences, whereabouts, etc., that these proclamations occasionally point to its own utter inadequacy for the task at hand; managing social and cultural life.

Roberto Saviano, less well known outside Italy than Kafka, is famed for writing an expose’ of the Camorra, Napoli’s organised crime gangs – entitled ‘Gomorra’ –  and is now in hiding for having done so. Unremittingly critical of Berlusconi’s regime, which this week was barely exonerated of its involvement with the Mafia in its formative years, Saviano is Italy’s most outpsoken ‘public’ figure. In a moment of brilliance he responded this year to the violent expulsion of underpaid farm workers from a town in the South of Italy by arguing that Italy’s future lay with its African immigrants, not least as they are uniquely forthright in their opposition to injustice, as opposed to the native population who are famously resigned to the corruption that characterises Italian life. Such a bold statement is maybe decades ahead of even Italy’s most Left/Liberal politicians. People who ‘like’ Saviano on the pages of facebook do so as a political statement. Saviano has over half a million followers on his official facebook page, most of whom, naturally, are Italian.

Amar Lakhous, Algerian born Italy based writer, wrote  in his brilliant satire on race relations in Rome ‘Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio’ :

‘…I saw an Italian girl devouring a pizza as big as an umbrella. I felt so sick to my stomach I almost threw up. Thank goodness she got out at the next stop. It was a really disgusting sight! The law should punish people who feel free to disturb the peace of good citizens going to work in the morning and home at night. The damage caused by people eating pizza in the metro is a lot worse than damage caused by cigarettes. I hope that the proper authorities do not underestimate this issue and will proceed immediately to put up signs like “Pizza eating prohibited”, next to the ones that are so prominent at the metro entrances saying “No Smoking!” I would just like to know how Italians manage to eat such a ridiculuous amount of dough morning and evening.’

Pizza is an intrinsc part of Italian identity, the critique of which opens Lakhous’ witty expose of the diffculties face by communities coming together in Rome’s most multicultural district: Even Italians from different regions find it hard to abide one another.

This aside, the critical import of Pizza, in its relation to Saviano, and his fans, was no doubt missed by ‘facebook’ which ploddingly makes its connections like a very bored administrator, counting the hours until an unspecified date of retirement. The trick played by this machine is to be so thorough as to give its owners exacty what they want… all possible informational connections, all of the time. A final revenge by facebook – which really is the collective will of its users – upon those who honestly want it to  be used for marketing, or other business and political ends. Facebook is Kafkaesque only on first reflection. Looked at more closely it seems more like a random machine for generating the kind of absurdities associated with 60’s and 70’s British comedy. As in Monty Python’s ‘Is this the room for an argument?’ sketch:

1:   Come in.
2:   Ah, Is this the right room for an argument?
1:   I told you once.
2:   No you haven’t.
1:   Yes I have.
2:   When?
1:    Just now.
2:   No you didn’t.
1:   Yes I did.
2:  You didn’t
1:   I did!
2:  You didn’t!
1:   I’m telling you I did!
2:  You did not!!
1:   Oh, I’m sorry, just one moment. Is this a five minute argument or the full half hour?
2:  Oh, just the five minutes.
1:   Ah, thank you. Anyway, I did.
2:  You most certainly did not.
1:   Look, let’s get this thing clear; I quite definitely told you.

And so on, with the ‘client’ gradually ever more aggravated at the thoroughness of the argument he willingly paid for, though, of course, being aggravated is precisely what he went in for! Similarly, advanced capital, what  Mark Fisher calls ‘Capitalist Realism’ may at points be so thorough as to render it ineffective, whilst the consumer (in this case the facebook user) remains entertained despite the inefficiency that utter efficiency brings about, or, rather, precisely because of that inefficiency! There appears to be an inherent resistance to effective commercial control on the pages of the ‘web 2.0’ era internet, and it may, one hopes, be endemic to social networking. Facebook likes facebook’s ineptitude!

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Art and Criminality

Art is criminality because the law demands it : Though not all criminality is art!

We artists are foul dogs and pigs and weasels,

and not beautiful princes and princesses

WE stabbed you in the bath for a quick kick

All the better to paint you Marat

And that first great Revolution with It’s bloody terror;

Art demands fresh heads,

The guillotine; the first great modern artistic invention: How else to grasp the history of modernist social progression, when all that is left of our social revolutions, with their Liberty, Equality, Fraternity – prior to that, Faith, Hope and Charity – is the art? Hanging in the state museum, beautiful pictures of psychopathic social tendencies, on a massive scale, or put another way, society’s tendency to be psycopathic on a massive scale, with absolutely no pretense to the original demands of the revolution that spawned them. As if working in reverse the perfect painting of criminality – terror – got everything it could have wished for in a subject; whilst the subject (social revolution) never really took place. The whole of modern art progresses towards a refinement of this process; First World War poetry (from the war to end all wars, that started the biggest war in history), the tomb of the unknown soldier, as art installation (lest we might forget, yet we did forget, that’s why he’s the unknown soldier and dead), Vietnam War Photography as coffee table books (and we forget to look at them) then a complete convergence of art/war, with the real time broadcast of the twin towers collapse. We are left with a hollow image stuck on a loop. Played forever, as if perfectly arranged to illicit maximum audience interest (maximum audience participation?). Art and life finally meet, albeit in a wholly empty and negative fashion (and we even forget, that this isn’t just art, it’s about war – lest we forget; only it actually is a war, and we’ve forgotten it!). This is art as criminally insane; but not art it’s criminal best, which is the sound of the beating drum that precedes the revolution; the call to arms that calls for a ban on arms. Not the hijacking of reality for artistic pleasure, but the hijacking of art for the sake of our reality.

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Logical Regression at Art Monthly

LR writer Mike Watson has an article in the June 2010 editon of Art Monthly.

See here for internet blurb for  that edition:

Mike Watson on Mark McGowan’s pre-election provocations
‘While McGowan demonstrated the ability of art to mimic politics very convincingly, he also demonstrated the still existing freedom of art from politics. That nothing useful should be done with this freedom from responsibility by artists generally may be the real pity.’

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The human jettisoned in space

A Mosaic Image of the Crab Nebula, Hubble, 2005. The Independent

It is The Indpendent’s turn today to get all doe-eyed over NASA’s hubble telescope photographs of far away detritus (yesterday’s pics were from The Times).

Happily – as I’m in the mood for writing – this is all pretty pertinent to philosophy today, and the Independent – albeit unwittingly – explains just why:

‘When Galileo constructed his first telescope in the early years of the 17th Century, it allowed him to record the phases of Venus, to pick out spots on the surface of the Sun, and to discover the four moons of Jupiter that would later take his name.

But no early Italian genius of astronomy could ever have conceived of the images that today’s most famous telescope have given us. Since the space shuttle Discovery left it dangling in the heavens on 24 April 1990, Nasa’s Hubble Telescope has produced unfathomably beautiful photographs of expanding supernovas six light years wide; thousands-strong clusters of stars held together by their own gravity; far, far away galaxies resembling deep-sea creatures; echoing black holes and vast, glowing clouds of hydrogen gas, floating somewhere out in the dark.’

The Universe changes form year on year, according to new discoveries. The crucial question for philosophy – for those who haven’t been following the correlationist vs. OOP/SR debate – is over whether what we discover is what was already there, or whether what we discover comes into being as and when we discover it.

We could rather turn things around by jettisoning some human made objects in space – suppose they are art objects – then asking whether they hold any ‘meaning’ or ‘value’ (the kind bestowed on objects by humans) millions of years from now, when humanity no longer exists (assuming that might well be the case). We might go further, and jettison a human in space, in a sealed craft, with perhaps some means of it resisting the aging process. This will no doubt be possible in time. Maybe a small group of humans, hermetically sealed in floating oxygen bubble (like the floating foetus at the end of 2001 Space Oddyssey, but multiplied). They might interact in limited ways, create a psychic bond even. Yet devoid of stimulus, devoid of an overarching outer meaning bestowed upon these beings what would they amount to? Would they exist before their dicovery by aliens, and would those aliens take them to be what they were held to be when they were jettiosned in space by their scientist forebears some millenia before?

In a sense this is the question over what intrinsic meaning life on Earth might have if we admit of humanity’s base objectivity. For one could argue that just as questions over the nature of the existence of the Crab Nebula (above) prior to its discovery still resound in philosophy* (and they haven’t been adequately buried by Brassier, Harman, et al., not yet, at any rate), it might also be asked over whether humanity can be said to exist prior to its discovery! This is the price of Rationalism, and it is arguably to art we must look in circumventing the nihilistic implication which abound in a Universe devoid of meaning. For art is the ‘just because’** the ‘why not?’ which may give the impetus for humanity to take a decent moral path despite its base meaninglessness.

* And this is not to say for a moment that it is at all possible that the Crab Nebula didn’t exist prior to its discovery by man. But at the same time it is beyond denial that the human subject is the vehicle of philosophy, and it must remain that only everything within the purview of that vehicle might be philosophised upon, otherwise philosophy extends beyond its own realm into a hegenomy over the object (in assuming to know that object, when it can’t). It is in this sense that we must stop philosophy at the bounds of what is perceivable, and not because Post-Kantian philosophers really think that thought manifests the World and Universe. I don’t know of a philosopher that was daft enough to say that. All ‘correlationists’ I can think of work out from within the limits of the knowable, rather than arguing that what exists is limited to what is known, that is the very point of Kant’s ‘noumenon’… there could not be an unknown thing in itself if all existence was manifested in human thought. Arguments to the contrary – which abound in OOP and SR circles – are a mis-representation.

** The ambiguity here is deliberate it is ‘just [only] because’ and a ‘just‘ because (in terms of ‘justice’).

Creative Commons License
Questo/a opera è pubblicato sotto una Licenza Creative Commons. This work is published under a creative commons licence. You may distribute but not sell or change the work. Credit Mike Watson.

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The Aesthetics of Outer Space

Click to enlarge: Left – Hubble’s Eagle Nebula 1995. Right – The Carina Nebula 2010.

The hubble space telescope is 20 years old, and we are treated to new pictures, this time composed of six layers, three taken in infrared. The Carina Nebula – pictured right – is a cloud of dust and plasma residing around 10’000 light years from Earth. It is home to the Eta Carinae, one of the biggest stars known to man, at about one hundred times larger than our Sun.

These are big things. Yet somehow one wonders ‘is that it?’ Why do enormous intergalactic events always look like kitsch paintings of enormous intergalactic events? I doubt that it is simply because so many paintings exist of the said events. In fact, there are really relatively very few such paintings, being as representational art, especially that made in the image of ‘nature’, became unfashionable long before hubble started delivering such images to us.

I think perhaps the enormity of our Universe is just beyond imagination, and that leads to the viewer pronouncing a tired ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ in front of images that we are told are of very big galactic explosions, or the suchlike.

What I do like the idea of though is perhaps claiming such constellations as ‘readymades’, in the way that Duchamp once famously claimed a urinal to be ‘art’ (Fountain, 1917). Though the Carina Nebula declared as ‘art’ arguably has the opposite effect of the urinal declared as ‘art’. Where the latter gesture confounded the judging panel at the exhibition to which Duchamp submitted the urinal, as it was deemed to bring art down to the level of the toilet – the pissing bowl – it is more likely, when applied to the Carina Nebula to confound the kind of people who want everyone to be equally enthused by the enormity of the Universe. At the least, it seems to reduce, make palatable, the Universe, rather than demeaning art.

Perhaps this ‘game’ – of declaring that ‘things’ are ‘art’ – has a useful role in this respect. To those Object Oriented Philosopher’s who argue that all objects are equal, perhaps it is worth seeing what effect is had on ‘art’ by declaring various differing objects to be ‘art’. Food for thought… and as close I have yet got to an ‘object oriented aesthetics’…

Creative Commons License
Questo/a opera è pubblicato sotto una Licenza Creative Commons. This work is published under a creative commons licence. You may distribute but not sell or change the work. Credit Mike Watson.


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Dialogue with Paul Sakoilsky

reposted here:

This text was commissioned for:

Object Culture: Art as Viral Commodity

1-3 Rivington Street • London EC2 Opens Thursday 15th April 2010 • 6.30pm onwards

RED GALLERY is a pop up housed in the old E-Learning School buildings on EC2’s Rivington Street. As part of Hackney
Council’s Shoreditch Regeneration Scheme, the space has seen much recent publicity, and will soon be demolished,
making way for an Art’otel, courtesy of architects Squire and Partners.

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Graham Harman article on aesthetics at Dialogica Fantastica.

>>>A Larger Sense of Beauty: by Graham Harman<<<

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Dialogue with Mark Fisher

Mark Fisher and Mike Watson: Dialogue on Free Education, Capitalism, and its Alternatives n-ideas-mark-fisher-and-mike-watson-dialogue-on-free-education-capitalism-and-its-alternatives

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Mark Fisher’s ‘Capitalist Realism’

See the above link for my review-article on Mark Fisher’s ‘Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?’

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Post over at Speculative Heresy

I have this post up at the Speculative Heresy/Inhumanities blog event page:

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