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The Exploit A Theory of Networks Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker

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The Exploit
A Theory of Networks
Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker

From P2P protocols to al-Qaeda, a new approach to network culture.

The network has become the core organizational structure for postmodern politics, culture, and life, replacing the modern era’s hierarchical systems. From peer-to-peer file sharing and massive multiplayer online games to contagion vectors of digital or biological viruses and global affiliations of terrorist organizations, the network form has become so invasive that nearly every aspect of contemporary society can be located within it.

Borrowing their title from the hacker term for a program that takes advantage of a flaw in a network system, Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker challenge the widespread assumption that networks are inherently egalitarian. Instead, they contend that there exist new modes of control entirely native to networks, modes that are at once highly centralized and dispersed, corporate and subversive.

In this provocative book-length essay, Galloway and Thacker argue that a whole new topology must be invented to resist and reshape the network form, one that is as asymmetrical in relationship to networks as the network is in relation to hierarchy.

“The Exploit is that rare thing: a book with a clear grasp of how networks operate that also understands the political implications of this emerging form of power. It cuts through the nonsense about how ‘free’ and ‘democratic’ networks supposedly are, and it offers a rich analysis of how network protocols create a new kind of control. Essential reading for all theorists, artists, activists, techheads, and hackers of the Net.” —McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto

“A rich and provocative text. This book is an invaluable resource for those reconsidering the topicality and viability of artistic practice and artistic subjectivity within contemporary culture.” —Art Journal

Alexander R. Galloway is assistant professor in the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University. He is the author of Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture and Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization.

Eugene Thacker is associate professor of new media in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is the author of Biomedia and The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture.

256 pages | 5 3/8 x 8 1/2 | 2007
Electronic Mediations Series, volume 21


On Reading This Book
Proleogmenon: “We’re Tired of Trees”
A Global Dynamic —Political Atomism—Unilateralism versus Multilateralism—Ubiquity and Universality—Occultism and Cryptography—Networks Fighting Networks—The New Sovereignty

Part I. Nodes
Technology (or Theory)
Theory (or Technology)
Protocol in Computer Networks
Protocol in Biological Networks
An Encoded Life
Toward a Political Ontology of Networks
The Defacement of Enmity
Biopolitics and Protocol
The Exploit

Part II. Edges
The Datum of Cura I
The Datum of Cura II
Sovereignty and Biology I
Sovereignty and Biology II
Abandoning the Body Politic
The Ghost in the Network
Birth of the Algorithm
Political Animals
Sovereignty and the State of Emergency
Fork Bomb I
Epidemic and Endemic
Network Being
Good Viruses (SimSARS I)
Medical Surveillance (SimSARS II)
Feedback versus Interaction I
Feedback versus Interaction II
Rhetorics of Freedom
A Google Search for My Body
Divine Metabolism
Fork Bomb II
The Paranormal and the Pathological I
The Paranormal and the Pathological II
Universals of Identification
RFC001b: BmTP
Fork Bomb III
Unknown Unknowns
Codification, Not Reification
Tactics of Nonexistence
Disappearance; or, I’ve Seen It All Before
Stop Motion
Pure Metal
The Hypertrophy of Matter
The User and the Programmer
Fork Bomb IV
There Is No Content
Trash, Junk, Spam

Coda: Bits and Atoms
Appendix: Notes for a Liberated Computer Language


Art for Animals

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Matthew Fuller

Art for Animals
Tekst pochodzi z książki:

Deleuze/Guattari and Ecology
Edited by Bernd Herzogenrath

Second expanded version

“If art is genuine it is creative revolution regardless of who looks at it”1

A crowd of apes and monkeys sit clustered upon a box gawping and grinning and staring at a canvas. They’ve seen nothing like it; or they are bored by it; or they raise their arms in delight at the general hullabaloo. They are of a number of sorts, baboons, gibbons and others, all however have the painting as the primary focus of their attention or reaction. What is on the canvas is hidden from view, all we see is the gilded side of a carved frame. Gabriel von Max’s turn of the century comedy in oils, The Jury of Apes2 points at the trade of the art critic, utter monkey business, but also at the viewer of art, a mug, an enthusiast, or, in the stare of an ape turned to address the viewer through half-closed lids, a rare specimen in itself. For apes to look at a canvas makes the pretensions of those who look with a mind to judge also minds to be judged, or at least, to be sniggered at.

Pliny the Elder’s Natural History3, a book which places painting and sculpture amongst an inventory of animals, plants, and minerals, gives us another story along these lines. In a competition between two painters in trompe l’oeil technique, Zeuxis and Parrhasius, face off in front of a crowd. The first artist pulls away the curtain protecting his work to reveal the most perfectly rendered bowl of fruit, so lucidly real in fact that a flock of birds immediately descends upon it and starts to peck away the paint. Impressed, Parrhasius stirs, but does not move. He simply stands and watches. The annoyed Zeuxis demands that he remove the curtain from his canvas. The second artist does indeed reveal his painting, but by stating that he has no curtain to remove, that it is a painting of a curtain. This painting has deceived the eyes of an artist not a mere bird. Parrhasius wins the competition and perhaps brought to a temporary close a current in art which is only just re-emerging, art for animals.

Art for animals is art with animals intended as its key users or audience. Art for animals is not therefore art that uses animals as a substrate or a carrier, nor as an object of contemplation or use.4 (Needless to say given these criteria it does not fall into the category of transgenic art, with its all to frequent tendency to animal abuse and naive sensationalist celebration of genetic engineering.) It is not art that, like The Jury of Apes, that depicts animals for human viewers, or that incorporates animals into living tableau, but work that makes a direct address to the perceptual world of one or more non-human animal species. There are only a very small number of works that make such an address. This essay will make a brief survey of them and then go on to discuss their implications. Where it differs from Pliny’s tale is in that it works, not on the level of successful imitation, of setting up perception as a means by which one is duped, but in rendering perceptual dynamics as both somewhat more irresolved and more powerful.

A further important category of work that does not usefully fall into this current are objects such as dog-kennels by celebrity architects (such as Frank Gehry5) or housings for birds. Whilst some work in zoo design, notably for Carl Hagenbeck by Johannes Baader, and the aviary in London Zoo by Cedric Price does attempt to engage with animals’ behaviours, in a way that Berthold Lubetkin’s famous double spiral ramped penguin pool at the latter zoo does not.6 Thomas Schütte installed a work originally entitled Hotel For Birds on a plinth in London’s war monument congested Trafalger Square.7 Made of brightly coloured layers of perspex, this is a sculpture in the style of an architectural maquette designed to catch light, and to act as a ‘public space’ for urban rock doves displaced by a cleansing policy established by a different branch of the body commissioning the work. (Indeed on installation the work was re-named Model for a Hotel.) Whilst being of interest, it is primarily a ‘housing’. David Nash, an artist who works with the materiality of wood, and whose aim is for the work to integrate into natural processes, has made shaped blocks of oak for use in a small copse, by sheep who gather there to escape the rain. They use the blocks for “shelter, safety and scratching”8 More recently, the sociology artist Jeremy Deller is using the device of an architectural competition to produce a design for a Bat House for the Wetlands Centre in South London.9 Whilst these are interesting projects, they largely address animals in terms of ergonomics, making spaces that physically ‘fit’ them.

At the same time, because many animals experience and shape a locale by literally inhabiting it, there is no absolute distinction between what is proposed here as art for animals and work that produces scenarios that animals live in, work on, and complete, or render definitively unfinished.10 Equally, other projects that involve moving animals from one context to another as in the case of Hans Haacke’s Ten Turtles Set Free (1970) or sorting systems for animals, as in Robert Morris’, A Method for Sorting Cows, (1967) are assumed to engage some aspects germane to this project, such as the categorical systems, including property, to which animals are assigned, but fall outside the scope of this essay.11 Equally, durational performances of co-existence with animals are related but sit to the side of the present text.12

Other areas, which would possibly suggest further development, but which are outside of the present discussion include the production of visual material by animals (famously including paintings by chimpanzees or elephants.) Other perhaps more promising research includes findings that indicate pigeons’ capacity to distinguish between styles of picture making. (i.e. Shigeru Watanabe’s research that showed pigeons could learn to distinguish between works by Monet and Picasso and subsequently, that they were able to carry over this capacity for distinction to categorically related art by Cézanne and Braque.)13

A weakness of some of the main streams of cultural theory over the past decades is that in its emphasis on the constructive aspects of culture, biological questions are neglected or considered reactionary. At the same time, a thread of biologically based research, functioning largely by an unsophisticated positivism makes any chance of a dialogue between disciplines and styles of research difficult. There is a certain laboriousness in getting through the clunky formulations that are dredged up by instruments incapable of finding anything but what is expected and that are proudly displayed as having ‘explained’ culture. Certain currents in contemporary biology have made an attempt to perform a ‘land-grab’ on culture, to suggest that biology provides a base-line level of explanation for all forms of behaviour. Often these are characterized as being simplistically ‘Darwinian’ in motivation, with characteristics of culture identified as mere epiphenomenon. It is not necessary to get locked into simply refuting the shrillest voices or those advocating the most absolute reductionism as an a priori. But this kind of argument has not come solely in the form of a landgrab on culture, nor has it come only from scientists. A ‘recall to biology’ has been a ruse often played by those in the domain of art discourse who attempt to enforce a ‘shared symbolic order’ of the kind once supposedly provided by religion.14 I would suggest that much of this work is a betrayal of the subtlety and speculative nature of the current of thought set in play by Darwin.

Much of such work prefaces its findings by a complaint. In this scenario, biological approaches to culture are refused out of hand because of a conformist consortium of Marxists, poststructuralists, feminists, queers, and others who bunker culture off from questions of innateness or predeliction. When Marx has written about species being, Foucault on biopolitics, Cixous on ecriture feminine, and there is a plethora of more recent research and art emphasising corporeality, it is unfortunately mistaken to describe those primarily concerned with culture as somehow assuming that they entirely surpass biology. Ellen Dissanyake suggests that art is a refusal to ‘grow up’, a prolongation of the sense of exploring the world for the first time, of maintaining sensual delight in novel growth and experience, the capacity to escape from a subordinate role.15 Perhaps certain participants in science too are undergoing such a thrill in their discovery of culture, and their entry into culture as a previously taboo domain. If so, this is entirely to be welcomed, but perhaps they should calm down just a little. At least, in a society such as ours, for scientists to borrow the Cultural Studies ruse of presenting one’s arguments as the knowledge of the oppressed, at least has the virtue of being amusing.

Art for animals intends to address the ecology of capacities for perceptions, sensation, thought and reflexivity of animals. The capacity for art is part of the rather mobile boundary line that performs the task of annihilating the animal in human and in demarcating the human from animality. The purpose of this text is not so much to legislate upon the placing of this line, but rather to suggest that the sensual and cultural capacities of various kinds of being, whether ordered into species or not can be explored and to follow a few ways in which this has been done. Paul Perry, has installed a small robotic device to spray Bobcat-urine high up a tree to stimulate an imaginary of pheremone responses. Natalie Jeremijenko makes a robotic goose, the aim of which is to set up interactions with a small group of geese, in a number of other projects she sets up devices for inter-species communication. Louis Bec attempts to set up a dialogue between two speciated parts of the same genus of fish. Anthony Hall also works on communications and perceptual reflexivity with weakly electric fish. Marcus Coates stages a series of actions with animal materials and behaviours with interaction with other species as the prime goal. Some of this work is rightfully absurdist, whimsical, self-trivialising. But all of it moves towards setting up actual, multi-scalar and imaginal relations with animals that involve a testing of shared and distinct capacities of perception.

Deleuze and Guattari, following von Uexkühl, Kafka and Maturana and Varela amongst others, have placed animal subjectivity at the core of their reinvigoration of thought. In this, they provide some dynamic formulations of conceptual personae as animal-beings and of animals as engaged in reciprocal relations of life shaped by colour, growth and habitat formation. In their book What is Philosophy art and nature are described as being alike because they combine an interplay between House and Universe, the homely and the strange, and the specific articulation of the possible with the infinite plane of composition. ‘Art for Animals’ takes up such work for the category of art.

In engaging animal cultures and sensoria, these projects also make art step outside of itself, and make us imagine a nature in which nature itself must be imagined, sensed and thought through. At a time when human practices are rendering the earth definitively unheimlich for an increasing number of species, abandoning the human as the sole user or producer of art is one perverse step towards doing so. More widely, a core process of Guattari’s writing, one which it amplifies in that of Deleuze is the project of understanding ecology at multiple scales, from the social, to the medial, technical and aesthetic, to that of subjectification. This text draws upon such processes to develop the question of animal-human subjectivation as a cultural and inventive process. Within a web of interconnected capacities and materials a set of processes and instances, set-ups, ruses, devices, work to establish what Rosi Braidotti has called ‘affirmative interrelations’16 between, not simply a fixed set of innate behaviours and predilections but of the capacities for becoming that might exist between different forms of life and aesthetic dynamics.

It is not the intention here to suggest that there is a necessary continuum between human and animal, a continuum is a figure that implies fixed ends and a neat metric running between them. Rather, what is suggested in this initial sketch of a possible field is a myriadic ecology of perceptual-cognitive sets, some of which my overlap or share functions and capacities. As the primatologist Frans de Waal notes in his reflections on culture, “One cannot expect predators to react the same as prey, solitary animals the same as social ones, vision-oriented animals the same as those relying on sonar, and so on.”17 Equally, we cannot expect sensual experience to stay the same amongst members of what is logged as the same species. Humans for instance have domesticated themselves since advent of agriculture, with, at the genetic scale, changes in composition equivalent in the degree of change to that found to be involved in the transition from wild corn to domestic corn today. In certain populations such changes manifest in the ability to digest foods associated with a sedentary mode of life, (such as the developed ability to digest lactose linked with the unfortunate tendency to eat cow’s milk). At a sensory level, rather than a genetic one, our habituations tend towards similarly substantial changes: one recent study for instance suggests that it is possible, with a little retraining, for humans to acquire an equivalent capacity of smell to that of dogs.18 Regardless of whether this is desirable or not, or whether it might also suggest the need for an uptake of the scenting and smelling habits of dogs, art for animals does send a tingle along the edges of what we take for granted as our current capacities. It suggests that we search out and test the discontinuities and overlaps between our sensual and intelligent capacities and those of others. What would it be like, for instance, to be able to see just the very edge of ultra violet in the iridescence of a petal or on the wing of a butterfly? How would such a change in sensual capacity re-order us, make life bulge? Is there a market for drugs that temporarily reconfigure nervous and perceptual systems to those of other species?

Gilles Deleuze laughingly describes the sensorial world of the spider: a juicy fly can be placed in front of it, it doesn’t care. All it wants to feel are a few small twitches on the far reaches of its web. Just a few details, a muttering in the background, that’s what is appetizing. This, says Deleuze, is the same sense of the world as the narrator of Proust’s “Search…”. Deleuze himself mobilizes various nonhuman sensoria, ticks, lobsters, dogs, lice, bees, wolves, bowerbirds, flies, the horse-knight assemblage. Such creatures become ethological devices to overstep what can be sensed, thought or said. They are paths of becoming, gravitational lodes of traction which pull the human out of its skin, and pull the singular animal into the multiplicity of packs, of evolution and of ecology.

There are a number of ways and particular domains in which such becoming can be seen to occur, at the scale of brains, that of bodily elements and organisation, and that of means and kinds of communication, amongst other things. Paul Rozin for instance catalogues a number of ways in which human cultural processes and evolutionarily accrued predispositions are interwoven in the case of food.19 What such work reveals is that the bodies of individuals in evolutionary conditions are means by which forms of life scan for potential adaptions, they are also means by which eco-systems arrange themselves, and the platforms for cultures to articulate, be experienced, revised and produced. They are in turn worked on and produced by cultures. Ecologies emerge in a multi-scalar way. What Deleuze and Guattari argue for is that an understanding of the virtual be added both as a specific scale within ecologies, as a dimension of relationality that exists at every scale within such a system, and a diagonal which connects them.

Evolution by natural selection, is often characterised as a process of the survival of the most fit. Fitness is a relative, and distinctly processual, term. A whale is fit for its habitat, but, as the current representative of a mammalian lineage that re-entered the water, it is also the result of massive and quite possibly awkward adaptational change.20 It cannot be understood to be perfectly fit, but as the ongoing result of many interlocking morphogenetic, material and adaptive capacities that may involve substantial shifts in the use or function of bodily elements. This given, it is useful to consider the question of the virtual in relation to the way in which bodies, entities that can be regarded as their components (such as genes or organs), their aggregates, and those of their products, such as cultures, explore, adapt to, make adaptations of and co-evolve with and form, ecologies.

It is a commonplace that organs, behaviours or other entities in ecologies can change or add functions over time. Julian Huxley, in his early work of ethology, notes that the behaviour of grebes in courtship includes adaptations and appropriations of movements, such as dives, that might have primarily developed as feeding movements but which are repurposed as displays of fitness and of courtship interest. These are elaborately linked and synchronized in a distinctive and beautiful set of behaviours.21 In a further dislocation of signaling into mimickry across species, when showing aggression Meerkats, raise and curve their long tails over their backs. In this, they are thought to be mimicking the posture of their enemy and food source, scorpions. North American Chickadees (red-breasted nuthatches) are able to distinguish between the alarm calls of Black Capped Chickadees, according to whether the species being alerted of is likely to predate them, so the signaling of information crosses between species.22 Signs given of for one purpose are used for another. Such chains of dislocation are potentially endless, the mouth, originally used for biting and eating, over time gains additional functions such as speech and, in humans and a few other primates, sexual activity. Chains of dislocation constitute a form of primary experimentation of the capacities and materials of bodies and of life. They may occur across all scales of a body or at those of individuals or populations.

Aside from adaptions and accumulations of function and behaviour, co-evolutionary assemblages, such as the wasp-orchid reciprocation machine described by Deleuze and Guattari, set up consistencies across scales and discrete objects or organisms, by means of which each probes the virtuality of the other, but also interacts more generally, as an assemblage, with wider formations and compositional dynamics. Thus an entity, or a process might be imagined to occur in the liver of one being, be sensed as creepy sizzle by the automatic fight or flight responses of another, stimulate pheremone exchange between two members of different species, determine the use of grammatical tense in an essay by a specimen of another, but exist as much more than these. There is no teleology in such occurrences, but rather a drift of reciprocal relays established more or less directly by potentially thousands of interacting and diverging entities.

The question of the exploration of virtuality within an ecology is also carried out at an experiential scale in play. The kinds of play associated with different species are equally heterogeneous. The field of comparative psychology is developing understanding of multiple forms of consciousness: mirror recognition (a test of self-awareness); theory of mind; tool use; emotions and empathy; the capacity to imitate; the capacity to think about thought, metacognition; language; reflection recognition, and other capacities which in turn become affordances for entities, capacities and dynamics, which almost weekly produce experimental results widening the domain of intelligence, and the distribution of skills and aptitudes once thought exclusive to homo sapiens. In his landmark survey of play in a multitude of species, Gordon Burghardt states that, “Play with objects is behaviour in which an animal investigates not just their nature…but what he or she can do with them.”23 This would also suggest that play not only acts as a context in which animals probe potential affordances amongst their conspecifics and the things that surround them, but also count themselves amongst the things that, at multiple scales, are being so probed. Play behaviours can also be autotelic, independent of adaptiveness or function, or as such, producing a reserve of ‘anticipatory adaption’ as such it is at once something that is absolutely live, but also a gateway into the virtual, the plethora of forces and possibilities that interact to produce the actual.

In Deleuze and Guattari’s account of ecology as melody24 affordances become counterpoints, relays between one set of compositional dynamics, such as the bumblebee and the snapdragon, that trip, not simply in tight co-evolutionary couples, but out, from oikos, home, the root word of ecology, to the cosmos. Extending this cosmological dimension, if we concur that, “a work is always the creation of a new space time”25 art for animals also allows us a way of thinking through the processes of intersubjectivation that we experience in ecology, a move that chimes with Guattari’s critique of the ‘pure intentional transparancy’26 of phenomenology. Guattari calls instead for a means of recognition of components of subjectification which meet each other by means of transits that are relatively autonomous from one another.27 The cosmos figured here is one that moves towards openness. The works considered below as art for animals can be thought of as specific articulations of such a process of opening.

Paul Perry – Predator Mark

In his work on the literature of wilderness, Gary Snyder suggests that, “Other orders of being have their own literatures. Narrative in the deer world is a track of scents that is passed on from deer to deer with an art of interpretation which is instinctive. A literature of blood-stains, a bit of piss, a whiff of estrus, a hit of rut, a scrape on a sapling and long gone.”1 In encounter with changes in the use of land, these literatures find themselves recomposed. Urban foxes in London for instance are notorious for their habit of shitting on children’s toys left outside overnight in gardens and yards. Their territory marking habits have been displaced and appear as cunning acts of deposition.

Paul Perry’s 1995 installation Predator Mark is a subtle reordering of such a literature of scents. The work consists of a device made up of an electronic timer, a compressed gas spray mechanism and a flask of bobcat urine. This mechanism was installed high on a tree in a wooded estate, Landgoed Wolfslaar, in Breda in the east of the Netherlands. Bobcats are native to North America and Mexico. Their scents are thus not part of the vocabulary of ecology of the area.

Bobcat urine is however commercially available in north america, along with that of other local predators such as wolves. It commodification, and provision for credit units over the internet, allows its dislocation from territory. Once bought by the user it is judiciously sprinkled to deter certain animals from crossing into the space that the scent suggests is inhabited as territory by another. Other scents, such as the urine of doe deer in heat, are used as lures by hunters, in this case to draw deer away from trails into the line of sight of hunters. The urine of both predator and prey animals, like other animals products available for retail spell out a new kind of literature, one of commodification, of humans gaining the capacities of cunning shitters, and the grisly promise of meat on a stick.28 Whether, like mosquito repellent, these products have anything more than fetish value for men investing in quality time alone with nature remains questionable.

In Predator Mark, introducing the scent of any animal, predator or not, is imagined to shift the register of references to presence within the place. It suggests an openness to the possible that resingularizes experience as an event in which the dimensions of relationality surging through it require recognition. This is a speculative literature of piss, involving floods, drips and sprays of matter, energy and signs, and the intelligences they invoke to sense and comprehend them.

Whilst one form of experiment is to set things out, to wait and see what gathers or grows in the manner of Duchamp’s early artificial life work, Elevage de Poussiere, (Breading Ground of Dust).29 Perry did not set out to observe if there were any differences in behaviour associated with the installation of this work as would be characteristic of a scientific experiment proper in which one variable only is isolated and probed for the conditions of its variation. Indeed it is not even clear whether the species most drawn to the scent marking activity of art was even aware of the work’s existence. This gratuity of the work, that it addresses itself primarily to animals, those who read no press releases, and its operation in a way that is imperceptible, indeed, by its height from the ground and position deep within a wood, almost impossible to experience, distinguishes it from an entity operating within the

normal dynamics of art systems. If, to make one comparison, conceptual art made the move towards experiencing the materiality and multiply structurating forces of ideas and language, such work suggests a means for such conceptuality in multiple species and across many means of sensing, acting in and interpreting the world.Here

Natalie Jeremijenko – OOZ

Natalie Jeremijenko is engaged in an ongoing series of works called OOZ30, which test human animal cohabituation of city spaces and set up novel kinds of instruments and infrastructure for urban and feral animals. OOZ, as a series of works, and ongoing revisions of projects, establishes situations for animal and human interaction in contexts in which, unlike that of a zoo, the animals are free to leave. The OOZ series has involved work adopting the housing paradigm, such as an installation on the roof of the Postmasters Gallery in New York in 2006.31 Whilst this was largely to do with providing amenities such as houses, perches, a supply of fresh water and the growth of plants with medicinal function, there were also two other key directions to this work. One included anthropomorphic architectural organizations of space, such as a ‘shopping mall’, and architectural work offering ironic recognition for the benefit of human viewers, such as components testing the mechanical understanding of what is normal for animal provision by applying architectural notions of ‘luxury’ to fittings and spaces. There is an air of the flea circus about aspects of this project, dinky versions of high-end contemporary architectural concerns and urban systems. To achieve these, the project involved commissioning elements from a number of architectural studios perhaps inevitably leading to a tendency towards calling-card architecture. Such elements might perhaps work as lures, sparkly things that attract attention and draw humans towards them. Perhaps anthropocentrism can work as an interpretative layer for one species, whose cognition is partly organised by glamour, without ruining the primary emphasis on addressing the perceptual and experiential capacities of another. More importantly, the project tests the notion of what the feral condition implies, might there be an outgrowth of provision from urban systems in order to provide more edges, and habitats for displaced and incoming non-human inhabitants of cities? Such provision might entail the imagination of multi-scalar ‘green corridors’, micro-to-macro scale affordances built on into and through cities for ameliorating, or even improving on the kinds of ecological condition they erase, build into or establish.

A common thread between the different components of the OOZ series is that of experimental forms of communication. The Postmasters installation, titled OOZ (for the birds) included a ‘concert hall’ space for pigeon calls. Whilst this functioned as something of an architectural in-joke, being a miniaturely scaled version of Casa de Musica, the Office for Metroplitan Architecture’s 2005 concert hall in Porto, it allowed for the amplification of voices and calls. In other work, Comm. Technology, (2006) Jeremijenko has set up novel devices for pigeons to amplify their vocalizations.32 A series of perches to be attached to buildings consists of a hollow plastic horn fitted with a small microphone and speaker.33 The noises made by the pigeon whilst using the perch are powered up to address the street. Jeremijenko’s wager is that the pigeons will recognize this, and note the changes in reaction of humans using the street, including possible food sharing, and begin to favour the use of the perch. Unlike Perry’s Predator Mark therefore, there is a sense in which the use of the work is monitored and evaluated, even if only informally. This is in part because Jeremijenko’s work sites itself very much in dialogue with design, and the critical design discourse also involving Anthony Dunne34, Beatriz da Costa35, Phoebe Sengers36 and others. Here, design without a direct client or a customer and with animals as its users enters a modality that is enormously suggestive.

An early component of the OOZ project was Robotic Geese (2005 – onwards) one unit of which, in an installation with the Bureau of Inverse Technology, Romancing the Geese, was placed in a small stretch of water next to the De Verbeelding, art centre in Flevoland.37 The goose, a basic plastic decoy body with added features including motorized legs, an articulated neck, a head mounted camera, microphone and speaker, was remote controlled from a seat which allowed a visitor to view the eyeview of the robot, to steer it and to “make utterances” through it.38 The idea is to stage interactions with a small population of Greylag and feral domestic geese who inhabit the area. In the projected full iteration of the work, each speech interaction will trigger the recording of short bursts of audio-visual information to a database. Once it becomes public, items on the database can be correlated so that users can gradually, through standard collaborative filtering algorithms, aggregate opinions on the semantic content of the utterances of the non-robot geese.

Communication amongst humans is increasingly configured as a means of the delivery of order words and the management of the distribution of micro-compulsions to respond, advise, participate, collaborate and to organize attention. Against this figure of the regime of responsiveness, to think about communication outside of the boundary of a species sets up a number of possibilities. Perhaps OOZ allows us to imagine a form of taxonomy in which speciation was marked not by the matter of which animal could engage in effective genetic transfer with another, but on the basis of those which engage in semiotic (memetic) relays.

Marcus Coates – Out of Season, Saprrowhawk Bait, and Dawn Chorus

Marcus Coates has embarked upon a body of work which maps out a certain set of figurations of interactions with animals, with birds in particular. Only a few of pieces of his work fall into the art for animals current and are early, perhaps more minor, more throwaway or institutionally indetermined than the larger-scale projects he is more recently embarked upon. They may indeed be pointing towards something that with his continued interest in ‘animal becoming’, will return to. Before addressing these, some of the other works are also worth mentioning. In a second work entitled Dawn Chorus (2007)39 high quality field recordings of bird songs are slowed down 16 times until they reach a pitch easily matched by a human throat. The resulting sounds are played to volunteers who learn to repeat them. These enactments are videoed, then played back as a projection. It seems that, at least in terms of their re-enaction, only the relative size of the vocal apparatus distinguishes the calls of the birds and humans.

In Journey to the Lower World, (2003)40 Coates uses a persona suggested by brief training in the rituals of Siberian Shamen. He performs a ritual for residents of a soon-to-be-demolished tower block in Liverpool, wearing the skin of a deer, mimicking the work of a shaman, apparently communing with a number of bird spirits and in so doing bringing back a vision of hope for the bemused ladies and gentlemen attending his ritual. The latter work is interesting because it knows that it is weak but makes use of this. The action is awkward, based on a relatively shabby, slightly embarrassing, day of training with the kind of guru who acquires their flock through postcards in health shop windows, and carried out by a denizen of the upper world. Nevertheless this specimen of the contemporary European, gawkily decked out in the culled, shameful, trappings of authenticity, as compromised as it knows it is, attempts to get something going. There is an earnestness achieved through a reflexive mimicry, of ritual, and of animal calls, especially Coates’ constant attention to those of birds, that carries through into his work fitting more precisely into the art for animals current. Mimicry is a means to set up ruses, initiatives that skirt the edge of multi-directional fraud in which the everyday and ideas of the wild, the primitive and capacities of sensual perception that overlap between species can be mobilised. Here mimicry unfolds both as play and as learning; in bird calls with their worlds of call and refrain, or their re-mobilisation of surrounding sounds; and in contemporary art and its constant reversioning of appropriation, pastiche, copy, plagiarism, found materials, how to deal with and configure what exists, what repeats, in relation to the creation of the new. These are vectors in the generation of what Coates calls ‘animal becoming’ but, partially overlapping they also shift each other.

During a series of short live works in the Grizedale Forest, Coates set up three interactions with local bird populations. They share some of the “do it and see, (or imagine) what happens” approach of Perry’s Predator Mark. The experiment is done for its experiential value rather than the extraction of unequivocable data. In Sparrowhawk Bait, (1999) Coates makes himself the target for a predator. The corpses of: a Blackbird; a Blue Tit; a Mistle Thrush; a Grey Wagtail and a Green Finch are tied to his hair. He runs through the forest, with the anticipation that a local Sparrowhawk will be attracted by and pounce on the momentarily re-animated bodies. Of course, it’s silly, nothing happens except for the bouncing of some bodies. In Dawn Chorus (2001) a crop-headed male actor enters an area of young pines and shouts football chants, fan versus fan abuse in good spittle-flinging style. Taking place in a deciduous wood, Out of Season (2000) another short video, documents the same kind of performance, with another actor and the addition of a Chelsea shirt. Aside from its relay and remediation as a video, the primary audience are the birds whose territorial and mating calls normally fill the spaces. In the work concerned with mimicry and imitation, whether of the shaman or of birds, making these chants and calls, listening out for any response, Coates has to link himself as an apprentice to the song domain of the birds, the processes of learning and training of listening and responding, which they establish. Taking the football chants to the forest, sets out not only an idea of how human communications may often be so similar in their territoriality to those of birds. It shows too how demented and dreamy the possibility of talking to the animals really is, but also makes us wonder whether it could ever really be anything more than an unreturnable ‘fuck you’.

Louis Bec – Stimutalogues, and Anthony Hall – Enki

Louis Bec describes himself as a Zoosystémicien, a sole participant of this discipline working with an extended conception of artificial life, an abstraction of life in more general terms, and some developed ideas as to how to proliferate interrelations between technologies of information and different biological manifestations of signification and intelligence. His work tends towards a science fiction in practice and Bec is an adept at the time-accredited techniques of neologism, fabulation, mind-boggling and acronym usage. His manifesto text ‘Squids, elements of technozoosemiotics’41 strives for a moment in which hyperbole and a series of programmatic and poetic statements achieves a density of semantic condensation sufficient to bring a world to life.

Aside from a number of projects developing interactive animated versions of artificial life projects, Bec has worked with various species of fish which use electrical pulses released by special electric organs located in certain parts (varying across species, generally transmission towards the tail, reception in foveal regions at the head) of their bodies. According to a document describing the research programme, this series, the Stimutalogues project includes:

Logognathe Artefact (interactive customizable loop of communication

between the living, artifact and interactive agent)

Logomorphogenesis (modeling by dynamic morphogenesis of information exchanges between 3 Gnathonemus Petersii)

Ichyophonie / PanGea (setting up a communication device allowing exchanges between Mormyridées in Brazil and Gymnarchidées in Africa, trying to connect two continents which are getting separated gradually with the tectonic plates).42

These fish are nocturnal, as well as having good hearing, they use their electric organs over short ranges to signal mating readiness or aggression, to locate food and to navigate in the dark water. Research by the sensory ecologist Gerhard von der Emde43 suggests that their complex sensory system is capable of using the way in which an object resists or stores mild electrical currents to determine its shape, and are able to categorise what they find. The movement of the fish, and the tail bending required for ordinary motion, allow the process of electric organ discharge to effectively ‘triangulate’ objects.

Anthony Hall, is leader of a related project called Enki, (2006) which also uses a number of species of weakly electric fish including Black Ghost Knife fish. (A species which breeds quite comfortably in captivity.) The technique is to place them in a tank containing sensors which pick up the electrical signaling of the fish. The signals are then converted into waves which are played at a seated user by means of sound and flickering LEDs. A lead travels from the arm of the user carrying electrical pulses from the human body to an electrode in the water in which the fish swims.44

As with the Logognathe Artefact and Logomorphogenesis proposals, the fish are placed in conditions in which, compared to their native habitat, they are sensorially and behaviourally deprived. Elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus Petersii) do not breed in captivity, and will therefore in every case of their use as a component in such projects, have been captured from the wild, from areas, Nigeria and Brazil, already subject to significant pillaging for materials. In terms of the development of species-specific art, the question of how markets in animals and animal products intersects with the organization of art, and with the global distribution of habitats and organisms, is essential to recognise. By comparison with the emphasis on the capacity for animals to come and go in OOZ projects, most of the work done with elephantnose fish has substantial problems in terms of its ethical composition. The one clear exception to this is a version of the Ichyophonie / PanGea project which will be discussed last.45

In versions of the Enki project which also involve a human subject, it is not clear whether, if, from the perspective of the fish due to their modeling in the system that receives them, and their mediation by layers of devices, it might not be simpler to replace them, or indeed the human user, with an entity in software equally capable of providing aleatory stimulus to the mechanism. The latter is the approach of Bec’s Logognathe Artefact.

Underneath the generalizations about possible therapeutic implications and pastel fractals of one early iteration of the Enki project website it becomes clear that certain aspects of the project are potentially quite welcomely dark. Gregory Bateson, in work discussed by Guattari in The Three Ecologies, suggests that decisions and learning may be made by systems “immanent in the large biological system – the ecosystem”46 or “at the scale of total evolutionary structure,”47 that are analogous to or developing qualities characteristic of mind. Such minds, systems of learning, occur between interacting elements, they are not isolatable to one single entity bounded by a membrane, but arise from cybernetically describable relays of entities bound at such a scale. One spin on the Enki project is that what we might be seeing here is the production of a mind or mentality, a mind that is at once fish and human but not reducable to either. That the fish part at least, (when petersii are used) in its refusal to breed, is displaying classic signs of confinement stress suggests significant questions about the ethico-aesthetic dimensions of art for animals involving captive life. Extreme doubt must be applied to any project that involves confinement, and especially confinement with such negative consequences. And here the question of the conjunctive form ethico-aesthetics proposed by Guattari is useful to draw upon. The Three Ecologies emphasizes processes of subjectification that are artistic in style and inspiration, in imaginal power, rather than being quasi-scientific. Ethics does not consist of the completion of a series of tick boxes of an approvals committee. More fundamentally, to make of the fish an instrument, even one whose cognitive and communicational processes ‘complete’ the work is to curse it. Art for animals proposes instead that animals have a necessarily ontological world-making dimension. As such an ethico-aesthetic approach disrupts the normal great chain of thought, that starts with ontology, proceeds through epistemology and ends with the mere implementation details of ethics and aesthetics. It suggests that each moment of each scalar state is riven through with such figurations and modes, without any gaining an a priori superiority or precedence to the others. Electronic art is trivial and boring when it simply confirms the inter-relation between sensors and responses. Art using animals is trivial and abusive when it locks animals into devices that deplete its involvement in and creation of the world rather than supplementing it.

This given, the last listed of Louis Bec’s projects in this series is particularly interesting to attend to. Ichthyophonie / PanGea is an attempt to develop a communication network between two families of fish using electric signaling, location finding and, more fully, echoperception. These two families, the Mormyrids in located in South America and Gymnarchids in West and Central Africa, originally sharing an early common ancestor, were split apart into different phylogenetic branches by the movement of continental plates as they broke from the early super-continent, PanGea (or Panagea). As yet unrealised, the plan involves setting a network of sensors / actuators in the habitats of these fish which are to be connected to each other via internet. This would allow the communicatory behaviours of these fish, at least those transferable by such means, to enter into some kind of sense of co-location with the possibility for sensorial interplay: perhaps, evoking and probing remnants of shared signaling; or perhaps simply adding a small sizzle of now meaningless noise to a particular patch of water. Perhaps too, it is something else, a paradox: something that tickles the fishes’ curiosity, changes the economy of their attention, dislocating their access to the virtual.

In this respect, Enki also establishes some interesting possibilities for further development. Electroperception in electric fish has some very special qualities. Electric waves move in curved rather than straight lines, and the reflections produced typically become larger the further they are from the object – so this is something rather different to the capacity for orientation via sonic ecolocation or by vision. These fish can also produce concepts of the objects in the sense of abstract categories that are transferable across entities they may encounter. In other iterations of the project, Anthony Hall set up a context in which no human was attached. The fish’s signal was picked up by one or more electrodes, typically placed in the corner of their familiar tank. This signal was then fed back to the fish in a different corner of the tank. Because the fish perceive the world in waves, the effect of this can be imagined as being something similar to pushing a limb towards a mirror only to have it ‘reflect’ via a wall behind you, an experience Hall recounts as provoking much curiosity in the fish. When two weakly electric fish of either of these families meet they go through a process of modulating the individual frequency of the current they give off in order that each can maintain their own signal or refrain. Interestingly, the signals produced by the fish in this context do not carry this ‘handshake’, suggesting that they recognise themselves in this substantially distorted context, one which they spend time in exploring.

“ Je weet nooit hoe een koe een haas vangt”48

One way in which art for animals might progress is along the lines suggested by biosemiotics or zoomusicology.49 Biosemiotics is concerned with the transmission of information as part of living processes, expanding the domain of signaling from that of DNA, to molecules, the interoperation of body parts and systems to the function of organisms and out into other scales of ecologies. Coupled with this, it is a field which develops an idea of a more generalised domain of semiosis, such as communication, subterfuge, courtship and ludic enjoyment configured at the level of the organism or, as with Bateson’s ecology of mind, in interactions between organisms. Of importance here too is a notion of aesthetics, of the configuration of beauty. This is something that has been present in a certain way in biology from Darwin’s work on sexual selection, and threads through to sociobiological accounts of beauty configured as attractiveness. Amongst other creatures, Deleuze and Guattari draw upon the stagemaker bird, whose pergola is an example both of an extended phenotype and an exuberant courtship display. It is usually taken to be a highly nuanced example of aesthetic judgement involving dimensions that are spatial, colouristic, to do with the freshness of materials and their inter-composition. For them, this constant act of the compilation, sorting and arrangement of materials epitomizes an enactment of territory as rhythm within the melody of ecology.

In many accounts of a possible animal aesthetics there is a dance performed around the threshold of functionality or expressivity configured as being demarcated as that which is gratuituous. This dance may pass through various sub-thresholds according to whether expressivity corresponds to a given stack of drives and needs, to evoke curiosity, to learn, to mate, to eat, to dominate, to play. Where this dance gets stuck is to read these as purely obligatory functions or, in a bipolar switch, as being utterly ‘free’ – without inter-relation with other compositional forces or constraints. This is part of the terms of their composition, but the dance around their thresholds might also usefully recognise the dance within each of these scales themselves. For instance, in a dance within the scale of play as play, comes the dance of the mimicry of mimicry, one which opens out onto all other scales. Such a dance between gratuitousness and functionality needs to be recognized within the context of the general economy, Bataille’s substantial contribution to the intellectual work of ecology in which all, drives included, are ultimately gratuitous.50 As such it is a liberation and a curse which can only be remedied, or modulated, by being entered into with adequately vivid forms of life. Any point in this stack, or others not named or yet to be invented may tip this dance into a new rhythm. Each element of this stack whether operating as drive, function, play, may become more dislocated or increase its capacity of dislocation for a moment yet to come. Equally, in this dance between scalar function and cosmological gratuitouness, elements may exist across many assemblages functioning in different terms in each, as anchors, blocks, voids or torrents. It is taking part in this movement, doubling it by means of reflexivity, in this case, not simply the reflexivity of a single mind or within the scalar boundary of a compositional entity, but its multiplication by an ecology of sensoria, that art for animal emerges.

Whether it is paint, wood, chrome, text, scent, move, sound, leaf, art works with and through materials that are direct to hand, to thought or to experience, but which also anticipate their coming into composition, their recomposition, with, or by means of, other elements, art may require work from primary natural forces in order to become complete. Think of Edward Munch’s habit of leaving his oil-painted canvases out in the rain for weeks in order that they may be worked upon by it. It may be suspected that something of the same happens in the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari, something which brings it closer in practice both to art and which allows it to produce itself as a receptive domain in which ecologies of texts, histories and ideas, occur, spawn and leave their traces. This is philosophy which leaves itself out in too many weathers. In doing so, they form new relays with ecologies.

Before they too become mulch, those who advocate purity of the discipline now have their turn to rain upon this work, so go the almost inevitable recalls to reason. But this is philosophy. With two thousand years worth of beard to avoid tripping over it is almost compelled to immobility. This, disciplinary automatism masked up as a holy stillness allows it to position itself as a meta-discourse towards which all other fields, not simply philosophers, must meaure their orbit and meet their judges. Art is in a certain way equally ambitious, it will admit of no limits. But only in so far as it provides a means by which, in a deeply amateur way, by means of the art methodology of unreadiness, it comes into composition with other techniques of working. Whilst other discursive frameworks cannot by these means become mastered, they can always be used. Whether this capacity really does extend to the sensual, semiotic and world making capacities of animals is something too that needs to be left outside, to see what happens.

© Matthew Fuller 2007


Matthew Fuller is David Gee Reader in Digital Media at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London. His publications include: Behind the Blip, essays on the culture of software; Media Ecologies, materialist energies in art and technoculture; and the forthcoming, Software Studies, a lexicon. Research for Art for Animals is supported by the Fonds voor Beeldende Kunst, Vormgeving en Bouwkunst of the Netherlands.


Alterne, ‘ARAPUCA’, in, Alternate Realities in Networked Environments, online at

Steve Barker, The Postmodern Animal, Reaktion Books, London, 2000

Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2000

Louis Bec, Explications sur le fonctionnement matériel et logiciel des stimutalogues.

Exemple avec le gnathonemus petersii. Nd

Jerome Bruner, Alison Jolly, Kathy Sylva, Play, it’s role in dvelopment and education, Penguin, London 1976

Marcus Coates, Journey to the Lower World, Alec Finlay ed., Platform projects, Morning Star, Film London, London, 2005

Marcus Coates, Marcus Coates, Grizedale Books, Ambleside, 2001

Peter Coe and Malcolm Reading, Lubetkin and Tecton, architecture and social commitment, The Arts Council of Great Britain, London 1981

Frans Ellenbroek, The Biological Evolution of the Arts, Natuurmuseum Brabant, Tilberg, 2006

Matthew Fuller, ‘Towards an Ecology of Media Ecology’, x med a, experimental media arts, Okno / Foam / Nadine, Brussels, 2006

Matthew Fuller, Media Ecologies, materialist energies in art and technoculture, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2005

Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, Animals in Translation, the woman who thinks like a cow, Bloomsbury, London, 2005

Thomas Geissmann,: ‘Gibbon songs and human music from an evolutionary perspective,’ in, The Origins of Music. Wallin, N.; Merker, B. & Brown, S. (eds.), , MIT Press. Cambridge, 2000pp. 103-123

Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies, trans. Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton, Athlone, London, 2000

Félix Guattari, Cartographies Schizoanalytique, Editions Gallilée, Paris, 1989

Anthony Hall, Human to Fish Interface project – Image gallery, September 2006,

Donna Haraway, Companion Species Manifesto, Prickly Pear Press,

Martin Herbert, ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, Frieze, no. 106, April 2007, pp.106-113

Louise Lippincott and Andreas Blühm, Fierce Friends, artists and animals 1750-1900, Merrell, London 2005

Barbara C. Matilsky, Fragile Ecologies, contemporary artists’ interpretations and solutions, The Queens Museum of Art, New York 1992

Thomas Nagel, ‘What Is It Like to Be a Bat?’, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 83, No. 4. (Oct., 1974), pp. 435-450.

Jacob Von Uexküll, ‘A stroll through the worlds of animals and men’, trans. Claire H. Schiller, in Wolfgang Schirmacher ed., German Essays on Science in the 20th Century, Continuum, New York, 1996, p171-178

Pliny, Natural History, books 33-35, trans. H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2003

Shigeru Watanabe, Junko Sakamoto, and Masumi Wakita, “Pigeons’ Discrimination of Paintings by Monet and Picasso”, Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour, no.63, pp165-74

Cary Wolfe, Animal Rites, American culture, the discourse of species and posthumanist theory, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2003

1 Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild, North Point Press, New York, 1990, p.112

1 Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, cited in, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy, experiment in totality, 2nd Edition, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1969, p.87

2 Gabriel von Max, The Jury of Apes, 1889

3 Pliny, Natural History, books 33-35, trans. H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2003, p.309 (book XXXV, section XXXVI,)

4 Notable examples would be Jannis Kounellis’ installation, Horses, Rome, 1969, in which a dozen horses were stabled in the Galleria L’Attico, setting up a situation in which the physical presence, movement, smell and palpability of the horses goes straight to matter conjugated by the multiple kinds of expectation and viewing accentuated in art systems. Paolo Pivi’s work follows somewhat in this trajectory but with an emphasis on exoticism and absurdist conjuncture, an alligator covered in whipped cream, zebras transported to a snowy landscape, a leopard prowling amongst plastic replica cappuccino cups


6 The development of such architectural work in the London Zoo was at the initiative of Julian Huxley, then secretary of the Zoological Society. Lubetkin also worked later at Dudley Zoo, which, almost in reverse of OOZ (for the birds) provided a miniature example of modern town planning.. For an analysis of the development of the architecture of London Zoo, see Hadas A. Steiner, ‘For the Birds’, Grey Room no.13, pp.6-31. The Penguin Pool was eventually abandoned after about seventy years of occupation, with the penguins being moved to a more ‘organic’ site with various kinds of surface and housings. It remains standing as a grade one listed building, but, as of this writing, (April 2007) remain unused.

7 For further information on Hotel for Birds see,

8 Gerttrud Købke Sutton, ‘David Nash, The Language of Wood’ in, Art and Design no.36, p.28-73. The Sheep Spaces sculptures were made in 1993 as part of the TICKON Project, Langeland, Denmark. The same exhibition also included an oversize thatch beehive by Jan Norman.

9 Jeremy Deller, The Bat House Project, 2006-onwards,

10 Elizabeth Demaray, Elizabeth Demaray’s set of plastic casings to substitute for shells for hermit crabs being a further example of an artist producing habitations. A problem with this work, or perhaps the rhetoric that accompanies it, is that it is predicated on a supposed dearth of suitable sea shells. As a design project however, this work failed to take into account the full range of variables that it changed. A radical variation in the colouring, weight, aquadynamic qualities, digestibility and crushability of the shells used by these crabs creates a significant set of changes, amongst others not listed, in their fitness landscape. ‘The Hand Up Project: Attempting to Meet the New Needs of Natural Life-Forms’, Cabinet Magazine, Issue 13 Spring 2004

Another artist Nina Katchadourian, in a series of work called Mended Spiderweb Service, (1998) has added cotton threads to broken spider webs in an attempt to repair then. Whilst these are visually interesting – she uses red cotton and photographs hem against a dark background – they lack any sense of a real attempt to modify her repair practice, the materials used in a way which might actually be accepted by the spiders and incorporated into their webs. Such an approach would of course be unlikely to succeed but would be a mark of some attempt to address the spiders rather than produce interesting pictures. The additions to the web are removed by the spiders.

11 Robert Morris, ‘A Method for Sorting Cows’, in, Kynaston McShine ed., Information, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970. Hans Haacke, Ten Turtles Set Free, 20 July 1970, St. Paul-de-Vence, France, 1970. Haacke’s intervention consisted of buying ten turtles and releasing them into the wild. The methods of the Animal Liberation Front have by and large improved on such approaches.

12 see for instance: Jospeh Beuys, I Like America and America Likes Me (1974) a durational performance in which a room was shared with a Coyote. Bonnie Sherk’s , Public Lunch (1971) was held at the Lion House in San Francisco Zoo, during which the artist would introduce herself to the Lion’s enclosure during feeding times.

13 Shigeru Watanabe, Junko Sakamoto, and Masumi Wakita, “Pigeons’ Discrimination of Paintings by Monet and Picasso”, Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour, no.63, pp165-74

14 See for example, Peter Fuller, The Naked Artist, art and biology, Readers and Writers, London, 1983. In more recent work on similar themes, another writer advances participation in art as a quasi-christian liturgical comfort food.

15 Ellen Dissanyake, What is Art For?, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1988

16 Rosi Braidotti, Transpositions, Polity, Cambridge, 2006, p.209

17 Frans De Waal, The Ape and the Sushi Master, cultural reflections of a primatologist, Basic Books, New York, 2001, p.55

18 Linda Geddes, “Unleash your inner bloodhound – start sniffing”, New Scientist, 17 December 2006,–start-sniffing.html

19 Paul Rozin, ‘About 17 (+/-2) Potential Principles about Links between the Innate Mind and Culture, preadaptations, predispositions, preferences, pathways and domains’, in, Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence, Stephen Stich, The Innate Mind, vol.2, Culture and Cognition, Oxford University Press, 2006

20 Carl Zimmer, At the Water’s Edge, macroevolution and the transformation of life, Free Press, New York, 1998.

21 Julian Huxley, The Courtship Habits of the Great Crested Grebe, (1st ed. 1914), Jonathan Cape, London 1968

22 see, ‘Why Chickadee Calls Spook Other Birds’, New Scientist, 24 March 2007, p.21

see also,

and, Templeton, C.N. & Greene, E. “Bilingual birds and eavesdropping: Nuthatches respond to subtle variations in “chick-a-dee” alarm calls”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0605183104.

23 Gordon M. Burghardt, The Genesis of Animal Play, testing the limits, The MIT Press, Cambridge, 2005, p386

24 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, trans. Graham Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson, Verso, London, 1994, p.184-5

25 Gilles Deleuze, ‘The Brain is the Screen’, interview, in, Two Regimes of Madness, texts and interviews 1975-1995, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Ames Hodges and Mark Taormina, Semiotext(e), New York, 2006, p.289

26 Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies, trans. Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton, Athlone, London, 2000p.37

27 Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies, p.36

28 See i.e.

29 This work is a photograph by Man Ray of the reverse side of Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-1923). It shows the glass in 1920 after having accumulated a landscape of dust.

30 OOZ,

31 OOZ, Inc. (for the birds) Infrastructure and facilities for high-density bird cohabitation on the roof of Postmasters Gallery installed at the Postmaster’s Gallery, September 7 – October 7, 2006.

32 5th April 2007

33 Hans Waanders, another artist living along the Maas would often make perches for Ijsvogel, Kingfishers by setting a stick into a riverbank. Some of these are documented in his book, Perches, published by Morning Star in 2002.

34, see, Anthony Dunne, Hertzian Tales, electronic products, aesthetic experience and critical design, Royal College of Art Computer Related Design Research, London, 1999.

35 see i.e., the PigeonBlog project in which tame pigeons are fitted with environmental pollution data-gathering equipment,

36 i.e. at the Culturally Embedded Computing research group at Cornell University,

37 De Verbeelding,

38 Whilst it might be imagined that the robot is clunky relative to a goose, a number of parallel experiments in animal behaviour, including birds, suggest that devices of this sort can be extremely useful in establishing communication. For a survey of such work, see Emma Young, ‘Undercover Robots Lift Lid on Animal Body Language’, New Scientist, 6 January 2007, pp.22-23

39 Dawn Chorus was first shown at the Baltic in Gateshead in Febrary 2007. It takes part in a thread of work in contemporary art involving animal imitation such as Lucy Gunning’s video of people imitating horses, The Horse Impressionists, 1994

40 documented in, Marcus Coates, Journey to the Lower World, Alec Finlay ed., Morning Star, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2005

41 Louis Bec, “Squids, elements of technozoosemiotics, a lesson in fabulatory epistemology of the scientific institute for paranatural research”, in, Joke Brouwer, Carla Hoekendijk, eds, Technomorphica, V2_organisatie, Rotterdam, 1997, pp279-311

42 Louis Bec, “Arapuca”, in, Alterne, Creation and Technology Proposals, EU IST proposal no.39575, July 2003

43 Gerhard von der Emde, ‘Non-visual environmental imaging and object detection through active electrolocation in weakly electric fish’, Journal of Comparative Physiology, A 192, 2006, pp.601-612

44 One aspect of the project which is not covered here is that Hall works informally with an acupuncturist to apply galvanic skin response sensors to places on the human body with the suggestion that the fish might respond to different currents from the human subject. Additionally, the kind of electrode used is important, carbon electrodes give a soft profile, metal ones, a very hard edge, quite distinct from anything they might encounter in the wild.

45 In sense, this distinction recapitulates the difference between lab based cognitive psychology work with animals and ethology’s insistence on observation of animals in their habitats.

46 Gergory Bateson, “Form, Substance and Difference”, in, Steps to An Ecology of Mind, p.466. See also, Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, Bantam, New York, 1979

47 Ibid

48 trans. ‘You’ll never know how a cow catches a hare.’ (Dutch Proverb).

49 A summary of possible divulgations of aesthetics by means of this approach is given in, Dario Martinelli, Liars, Players, Artists, a Zoösemiotic Approach To Aesthetics, online at,

50 George Bataille, The Accursed Share, vol. 1, trans Robert Hurley, Zone Books, New York, 1991

Art aimed at the perceptual systems of non-human species.
Category: Texts
Topic: ecology-art
July 2007

Luciana Parisi książka i wywiad z M. Fullerem

9 Kwi

Książka dostępna jest na scribid pod tym adresem.

„Jungle laws, animals laws, seabed laws: what are you defending mate?”
Lee Scratch Perry

Luciana Parisi is the author of the recently published book ‚Abstract
Sex, philosophy, biotechnology and the mutations of desire’ (Continuum,
2004). This interview took place by email in September and October

Matthew Fuller: Your use of the term ‚sex’ is used, in Lynn Margulis’
words, in the following way: ‚Sex in the biological sense has nothing to
do with copulation; neither is it intrinsically related to reproduction
or gender. Sex is a genetic mixing in organisms that operates at a
variety of levels; it occurs in some organisms at more than one level
simultaneously’. (Slanted Truths, p.285). Part of your research for
the book involved taking part in a study group run by Margulis. What
were the practices this group was involved in? How did the working life
of biologists intersect with your interests?

Luciana Parisi: First of all, I must say that Margulis’ definition of
sex is fascinating as it directly intervenes and cuts across fields of
study – the sciences and the humanities. The legacy of the notion of sex
as entangled with sexual coupling has been crucial for the definition of
gender. The endosymbiotic definition of sex has always struck me due to
its potential reopening of what constitutes sex and gender in biological
and cultural terms. Indeed, it shows a daring capacity to reinvent the
evolutionary history of the human on a vaster time scale traversed by
parallel phyla of transmission. In this sense, it enabled Abstract Sex
to follow a transversal path to the nature culture, sex and gender
dichotomies by investigating the becoming cultural of a non-given

Lynn Margulis’s laboratory introduced me to the parallel world of
bacteria. You can’t help but be captured by the complexity of such
diverse colonies of the underworld, their collective rhythms of
transmission, and their futuristic architectures. People working in the
laboratory also participated in the study groups. There were several
study groups but those I participated in had scientists from different
ages and scientific backgrounds – geologists, oceanographers, molecular
biologists etc. These were more like gatherings of people who shared
interests in the theory of endosymbiosis and that worked together to
sustain it from different angles – the geological research of fossils
for example carried out by Mark McMenanim’s through his hypothesis of
Hypersea. We also went for small expeditions in the woods, for night
viewing of stars with astronomers and so on. It was an amazing
experience. You could not help but being excited about this adventure in
the unnatural dimensions of the natural world. Indeed, rather than
feeling closer to a given nature, you actually felt closer to its
capacities to vary across scales, from the molecular world of bacterial
aquatic colonies to clusters of fungi and extraterrestrial life. Yet the
whole atmosphere of adventure had nothing to do with an attitude of
‚discovering’ nature or ‚revealing’ its secrets. It was much more
interesting and new for me compared to what I had been reading about
scientists in the main literature of science studies. I mean here the
attitude was closer to a passionate fabrication of what constituted
nature, and more specifically a daring fabrication that endosymbiosis
posed to the entire scientific community. Although there was a strong
sense of sharing a ‚minor’ science, or better a ‚minoritarian’
hypothesis in science, there was also a strong sense that the hypothesis
had a fundamental impact on what we take nature to be. And here I would
like to make a reference to Stengers, who reminds us of the collective
and passionate process that presupposes each innovative scientific
proposition that dares to ask „And if?”. Margulis’s hypothesis clearly
dares asking: „and if the history of bacteria was going on in the
history of multicellulars, and if we should understand ourselves on the
basis of symbiotic populations of bacteria?” (See I. Stengers, Power and
Invention, Situating Science, University of Minnesota Press,
1997:136.7). Retrospectively, I can say that the study group then was
first of all involved in the practice of daring scientific truths, which
for me explicitly questioned the Platonic, Aristotelian and Cartesian
ontological models and thus pointed to different ethical and political
questions. These practices were then an action towards the articulation
of a less given natural world. In this sense, the working life of
biologists also became relevant to my interest in minor sciences. Yet
before being able to see the importance of their practices, I had to
twist the critical head that I had inherited from the structuralist and
deconstructivist approaches to life sciences. For these approaches
scientific truths could not exist outside the text, the binarism of
nature and culture, mind and body, power and resistance. Hence, to put
it crudely, the object of science is always already inscribed upon,
limited from and controlled by the discourse of science, the
metaphysical legacy of patriarchy and colonialism – the presupposition
of the self to the other, male to female, white to black, sex to gender
and so on. On the other hand, however, I had always been suspicious of
the vitalist and existentialist belief in the spontaneity of the body –
ultimately free from the mechanics of discourse. From this standpoint,
the encounter with the work of Deleuze and Guattari and Spinoza has been
crucial for developing an approach to science and technology that
neither starts from an ontology of the given nor from an inherited
structure that cannot account from change beyond the mere shifting of
positions. For my work these critical approaches that have been
dominating academic research for the last 20-30 years – I refer to
structuralism and deconstructivism – did not enable an engagement with
the process of the modification of a body accounting for an entangled
nature-culture continuum. In other words, these approaches did not
highlight a way to take seriously a process of becoming cultural of
nature. On the contrary, I felt strongly at the time, nature was
cornered in the hands of a given ontology or in the discursive
disciplinary construction of science. In my work the crucial relation
between science and culture is defined by a key access to nature as a
process under construction. My interest in the practices of biologists
then became a question of understanding how they were participating
closely in the mutating fabric of life. In this sense, I agree with
Stengers who argues that before judgement and the establishment of
paradigmatic truth, there is a sea of events in which the object of
scientific enquiry participates in its own perception and construction
as an artefact. Thus, the working practices of biologists are themselves
practices of invention each time daring to reconstruct a given. Of
course the difference between these practices will lie less in the
scientific discipline per se than in the molecular and molar assemblages
that characterize them all.

MF: This is an extremely dense and rich text that works on a number of
levels to open up possibilities for thought about life, evolution,
politics, gender, and it is one that is also very optimistic. In a
sense you achieve this by articulating a new grounds for such optimism
in a vividly rendered way that also challenges the usual modalities of
human optimism. If optimism is the right word, of what kind of optimism
is the book an expression of?

LP: I see your point. Yet I would like to try and define this notion of
optimism in a more precise way. First of all I need to say that a
radical challenge to the modalities of human optimism involves an
engagement with the process of human stratification. I use this word in
the Deleuze-Guattari’s sense of collective organizations sedimenting one
upon the other across distinct layers, under certain pressures and
pointing to singular thresholds. Abstract Sex addresses human
stratification on three levels. The biophysical, the biocultural and the
biodigital amalgamation of layers composing a constellation of bodies
within bodies, each grappled within the previous and the next formation
– a sort of positive feedback upon each other cutting across specific
time scales. In other words, these levels of stratification constitute
for Abstract Sex the endosymbiotic dynamics of organization of matter –
a sort of antigenealogical process of becoming that suspends the
teleology of evolution and the anthropocentrism of life. From this
standpoint, the modalities of human optimism, rooted in the net
substantial distinction between the good and the evil and the distinct
belief in negative forces, fail to explain the continual collision and
coexistence of the distinct layers. Following the law of morality, human
optimism would never come to terms with its own paradoxes of
construction and destruction. And if it does it is soon turned into an
existential crisis giving in to the full force of negating power and
thus all becomes intolerable. Once we are forced to engage with the way
layers collide in the human species – the way some biophysical and
biocultural sedimentations rub against each other under certain
pressures and in their turn the way they are rubbed against by the
biodigital mutations of sensory perception for example – than the moral
stances of optimism and pessimism make no longer sense. Indeed we need
to leap towards a plane debunked of ultimate moral judgement. A plane
full of practice and contingent activities, where we find ourselves
plunged in a field of relation – interdependent ecologies of forces
(attractors, pressures, thresholds), which trigger in us modifications
that resonate across all scales of organization. Abstract Sex is not the
expression of the continual flow of life where everything is in
continual becoming in a world of continual interconnection that
ultimately makes everything redundant. It is not even expression of an
ultimate raw, bare or spontaneous force of life that is intrinsic to the
productive forces of the human and will therefore triumph over the
apparatuses of capture – good over evil. I think that to understand the
challenge that Abstract Sex poses to human optimism or pessimism it is
necessary to leap onto a different ontological plane and deal with the
abstract assemblages of desire in matter. This implies a radical move
from notions of spontaneity and blindness in nature. Every process has
then to be considered as the outcome of relations of forces increasing
and decreasing certain tendencies in matter. In this sense, Abstract Sex
points to a singular process of collision of strata undergoing the
biodigital reengineering of life that forces us to engage with what we
take a body, gender, and thus politics to be. For Abstract Sex to face –
rather than remaining dismissive of – the collision of strata implies a
cut from the running flow of life demanding taking a line of flight
towards destratification – a felt experience of change on a
nature-culture continuum. Abstract Sex is then not the expression of a
new kind of optimism, but an evolutionary construction of a sentient
modality of living attuned with the stratified and stratifying
assemblages of desire. This requires no spontaneous force or ultimate
optimism but an enormous capacity to engineer a collective striving: a
Spinozist task towards the generation of common notions that build up
modifications in living. It requires no longer an emotional as opposed
to a rational attitude to life, a positive or a negative tone, but, more
importantly, an investigation of the affective dimensions of the body
(i.e., its capacities to be affected and to affect other bodies). Thus,
it is a matter of changing the parameters of what counts as living and
death, constructive and destructive, nature and culture, sex and gender,
politics and power. It is a matter of not taking for granted the
biological and cultural stratification that compose each body of
relations insofar as these are not internally given or externally
constructed. They are rather in movement, under a metastable process
that goes back in time and forward in the future. Of course changing
parameters is not a recipe for happiness. For ultimate happiness is the
idealistic state for human optimism. On the contrary, joyful passions
are the real immanent engineers of new modifications requiring the
collective agreement of bodies-minds and their capacities to push the
agreement on a newly constituted level. In this sense, Abstract Sex
proposes a schizogenesis: ontology under continual construction
ceaselessly intervening in the ontology of giveness and lack. It is not
optimism that the book expresses. Abstract Sex only exposes a full
warning equipped with key weapons: do not dismiss the daily encounter
with black holes, strange attractors, and unexpected changes; cultivate
joyful passions and their capacities to become positive actions (the
collective intensive building up of new worlds). In particular, the
cultivation of joyful passions – i.e., passions that increase a
collective power of action – demands an active participation in the
mutations of matter.

MF: You mention affect and joy here as important guiding and productive
principles. Abstract Sex however uses the word ‚pleasure’ as something
whose logic or present configuration should be disturbed. What is the
relationship between, or how can we differentiate, the Spinozist
pleasures of potentiality and this other pleasure?

LP: Affect and joy have in common a certain passion or capacity of
being affected open to futurity – becoming. For Abstract Sex, affect and
joy involve a masochist assemblage of desire that as Deleuze explains is
not guided by the principle of pleasure: the economy of genital and
reproductive sex. On the contrary, such assemblage exposes the necessity
to be affected so as to produce the body anew in total independence from
Oedipal pleasure. The capacity of being affected then points to a
supersensorial suspension of pleasure, disavowal of sexuality,
expectation of pain, which is better understood as a rhythmic
combination of velocities: the coexistent tendencies to slow down
(waiting) and speed up (expecting) giving way to new bodily vibrations
that have nothing to do with climactic pleasure. The masochist
assemblage subtracts desire from its capture in the homeostatic circle
of pleasure, where the Oedipal order of heterosexuality and sexual
reproduction is there only to reinforce the sadistic tendency to
eradicate femininity all together as discussed by Klaus Theweleit in
Male Fantasies. For Abstract Sex, the capacity to be affected has in
germ the masochist potential of becoming woman – the destratification
from the biocultural regime of pleasure and the sadist desire to
accelerate the death of femininity. The capacity to be affected then
tends towards a veritable capacity of desiring assemblages to become: a
sort of parthenogenesis giving way to a genitaless sex, a nomadic
mutating cold (non-sentimental) affectivity.

The distinction between pleasure and affect concern the differentiation
between a climactic organization of assemblages of desire aiming towards
equilibrium versus a nonclimactic order tending towards becoming. Indeed
pleasure is here understood as singular aggregation of desiring machines
that under certain condition, according to certain tendencies and
thresholds lend themselves to the production of quick satisfaction,
which assumes the characteristics of transgression so as to return to
balance. Here desire is not understood in terms of lack, as the
Lacannians do, but in terms of full body of potentials tending towards
their actualizations. Once captured in a homoestatic circle that repeats
itself without differentiation by warding off its outside, then desire
lends itself to the state of pleasure. This state more than being
disturbed has to be destratified as it becomes the perfect shelter of
the organism, the individual, the signifier for the spreading of
sadness, paranoia, abolition, lack infecting all kinds of encounters.

Affect and joy on the contrary operate in total autonomy from pleasure
as they expose a distinctive assemblage of desire or singular
actualization of desiring potentials that emerge from encounters between
bodies that agree – i.e. their symbiotic combination enables the
production of a new body or a becoming that has pushed these bodies in a
new composition. In this sense, the new composition exposes the
schizophrenic coexistence of desiring potentials lending themselves to
the production of non-climactic or distributive desire fluctuating
across regions of intensity rather than enclosing itself in an interior
fighting against its outside. It is possible to argue that this
fluctuating movement only navigates on an outside of rhizomatically
connected regions, slightly changing their rhythm, their vibrations, and
thus catalyzing all sorts of microbecomings. In this case the
cultivation of joy entails entering in contact with the biophysical
dynamics of desire, the metastable ecology of relations that can tend to
the parthenogenic diffusion of microfemininity or that can be poisonous
and spread sadness – implying a decrease in the capacity to affect and
become. For Abstract Sex, the capacity to be affected has already in
germs a capacity to experience joyful encounters as an activity of
becoming that opens itself up to a futurity entering the present to
change a state of affairs.

MF: You use the word ‚engineering’ a number of times, as a process that
sorts things out, arranges, modifies and moves materials. But this is
done without the figure of the engineer, as something self-organising.
When you turn in the chapter on Biodigital Sex the figure of engineering
is somehow doubled. It occurs again in the guise of capital-intensive
military, pharmaceutical and medical organisations deploying engineers
who employ analytical and instrumental techniques in order to ensure
that matter does not self-organise but that it operates according to
plan, becomes a standard object. How do you see these two forms

LP: Engineering as you say entails a process of selection, organization
and modification, which is not piloted by an ultimate designer. Its
self-organization however has not to be attributed to a sort of
autopoietic system, where distinct parts sustain the whole. To some
extent, I have a conceptual problem with autopoiesis as it still
presupposes a certain subjection of the parts to the whole with a
limited capacity for them to feedback on it. On the contrary, my use of
the word engineering entails a double or mutual process whereby each
actualized organization becomes a modifying dimension of the whole. Now
a key notion that may help to understand how I discriminate between
engineering dynamics and the intensive capitalist investment in the
engineering of molecular life is the notion of selection. In Darwinism
and neo-Darwinism the notion of selection has a negative attribute –
i.e. it entails elimination or negative force. The function of selection
employed by engineers in the manufacturing of genetic drugs, cells and
tissues indeed implies that ill-fitted genetic structures will not be
able to sustain themselves and will eventually – or naturally in their
jargon – die. In other cases, the selective function may also imply that
the ill-fitted traits are pre-established and therefore easy to
eliminate once they have emerged as it happens in the now acknowledged
realm of biocomputing where the recoding of genes, proteins and
sequences enables a rematerialization of molecular life in vitro. Indeed
this rematerialization together with the preselection of best and
ill-fitted traits will lead us to the conclusion that there is an
engineer, a designer of life in the world of biotechnologies or, even
more so nanotechnology. As I said the key point lies in the notion and
real (read virtual) function of selection. From Bergson to Simondon,
Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari the process of selection has been turned
in a dynamics of production of the new. Selection far from eliminating
deviances entails a mutual change of ecological relations (between the
organism, environment and pressures) unleashing a virtual force
impinging on the relation between the organism and its environment
whereby their mutual capacity to change remains indeterminate. In other
words, selection even when predeterminate cannot escape unleashing its
residual effects in the region of relations (at the threshold of
critical joint between one phase and the other) in which it has
operated. In this sense, the planning and standardization of an object
cannot exhaust the capacity of that object to catalyze a change in its
proximate environmental relations. Thus, I see engineering assemblages
and their use in the capital-intensive military, pharmaceutical and
medical organizations in direct contact as if undergoing a new symbiotic
merging. I mean that the use of engineering assemblages cannot occur
without ecological consequences on a planetary scale – and without
acknowledging the technoscientific capitalist responsibility of
accelerating unexpected mutations in an interdependent ecology of
relations. The work of engineers therefore is not independent from the
consequences of ecological self-organizations. On the contrary, it is as
if engineers were directly called in to experiment with the evolutionary
capacities of the body. From another point of view however, it is clear
that the investment in biotech and even more so in nanotech is linked to
a paradigm of control, adjustment and optimization of engineering
assemblages. Since the first wave of cybernetics, control remains the
most difficult of strategies to manage populations and their
environment. Control indeed cannot occur without the unexpected phase of
becoming. Its affective power cannot impinge without facing the
indeterminate capacities of a body of relations to change – to engineer
a new dimension of the whole modifying its conditions with the rest of

MF: Following from this, you substantially question the model of
capital’s subsumption of all life processes (a theoretical moment that
defines what might be a bleak telos in critical theory or the moment of
a possible total systemic phase-change in accounts such as those of
Hardt and Negri in Empire). What are the strata of energy-information
that you suggest resist real subsumption, in what manner does this
occur, and what are their interfaces to or boundaries against the
mechanisms of subsumption?

LP: Again I need to start by slightly changing the parameters of the
relation between capital and life. In the first place, I want to point
out that capitalism, as Deleuze and Guattari argue in the Anti-Oedipus,
drawing amongst others from Braudel, is the result of long term
contingencies and accidents and that modes of capitalization – exchange,
trading, commerce – existed before industrial capitalism. From this
standpoint, capitalism is not an end product of the human species. The
human species, in other words, cannot be considered as the agent
capitalism. It is no longer possible to dismiss the impact that sciences
such as endosymbiosis, chaos theory and cybernetics have had on the
notion of agency. I am trying to say that this agency is not entirely
anthropomorphic, but has to include assemblages of biocultural and
biotechnical stratification that feed on a kind of increasing social
subjection and machinic enslavement of the human species. Yet this
enslavement and subjection are not to be seen in moralist terms. Capital
is neither intrinsically good nor evil. In Spinozist terms, capital
interests above all seem to clash with those of the human species. Yet,
this clash cannot be understood without reference to desire –
assemblages of joyful and sad passions. It may be important here to
remind ourselves of Deleuze and Guattari’s question: why do humans
desire their own enslavement? That is, in Spinozist terms: how do we
account for human beings overtaken (read: possessed) by external forces
and reduced to servitude? This is why Abstract Sex appreciates the work
that Negri and Hardt do in Empire but at the same time distinguishes
itself from it. As you also remind us, Hardt and Negri’s emphasis on the
phase change of capital importantly points to an ultimate autonomy of
the forces of the multitude from the state and from the logic of
all-encompassing profit. At the same time however, they assign this
autonomy to the forces of life that do not succumb the economy of
exchange, alienation and commodity fetishism. For Abstract Sex, the
relation between the autonomy of force and its capitalization is not a
dialectic one – which accounts for two substances – but entails a
symbiotic process, the mutual coexistence of distinct assemblages of
desire on a manyfolded plane. In this sense, we need to reframe the
issue. It is not that life can resist capital’s subsumption. Life is not
to be confused with organic living energy as opposed to the inorganic
energy of death – e.g., the entropic drive of capital. The challenge
then is to change our understanding of energy lying at the core of our
definitions of life and death, organic and inorganic. This is why
endosymbiosis is so important for Abstract Sex as it forces us to
wonder: what if all multicellular organic life is instead a dimension of
colonies of anaerobic (nonrespiring oxygen) bacteria? This daring
hypothesis forces us to question the entire model of the evolution of
capital, based on the entropic selection of the most competitive, the
elimination of the ill-fitted and the ultimate tendency to death.
Similarly, it forces us to change our understanding of the processes of
life as indeed at the same time entangled and disentangled from capital.
To say that capital in its contemporary form – i.e., Empire – is a
cluster of parasites sucking life from the multitude is to say that
parasites are strictly distinguished from life. In other words, I am
suggesting that the relation between capital subsumption and life
processes is an endosymbiotic one – which points to a mutual host-guest
parasiting process accounting for the formation of new worlds,
neurocellular modifications of assemblages of desire. It is in this
sense that Abstract Sex opposes the capital logic of an all-encompassing
subsumption. From this standpoint, I suggest that the term that we are
looking for to account for the destratification or becoming of layers of
energy-information that are not subsumed is not resistance but lines of
flight – a turning towards the collective construction of worlds. This
is simply because the notion of resistance presupposes an entropic
notion of energy-information. One that has to be fought through negation
and warding off. At the same time, this notion may be not useful for
Abstract Sex because it presupposes the ontological omnipresence of a
given political model that has to be transgressed by exceeding its
limits – as in a closed entropic system that can only collapse by
running it out of equilibrium. The model of power that I have instead
engaged with at an ontological level is a far-from equilibrium cluster
of strata of energy-information. Here resistance will be ineffective, it
will only increase exponentially the power of that which resistance is
directed against insofar as the latter remains blind to vaster causes of
metastable changes. Far-from equilibrium dynamics of organization of
energy-information require dealing with a turbulent composition and
decomposition of causes and their effects. It then requires a leap – the
participation towards changing conditions rather than a resistance to
them. Such a leap is not a jump into the void. A change in the
conditions of life implies a destratification from sedimented states –
biological states, states of mind, economical states, sexual states and
so on. To embark in such a passage it is necessary to be equipped with
weapons that help to address the causes and changes of the mechanisms of
subsumption. For example, as we are confronting an endosymbiotic
relation – a double parasitism – between capital’s subsumption and life
where all life processes are being modulated, all its potential
activated for profit, we need to equip ourselves with practices that
decouple the instant satisfactory pleasure for accumulation from the
building up of collective joyful passions. The flight from real
subsumption entails the continual reengineering of encounters by means
of affective contagion – an anticlimactic practice or experiment of
change attuned with the hyperhythmic vibrations of matter. Thus the
interfaces to the mechanisms of subsumption are the transversal
amalgamation of energy-information falling out or in the middle of the
strata. It is here that that reengineering of the biophysical and
biocultural cluster of strata is happening. It is here that capital by
indifferently precipitating a rapid destratification may well encounter
its own monstrous and unrecognizable transformation.

MF: Deleuze and Guattari, and others whose work you use in the book,
have rendered visible in certain ways a whole host of compositional
dynamics operating through matter, culture, social formations, language,
and their own manifold inter-relation. One of their reasons for arguing
for such a vast bestiary of patternings is, by way of making a more
attentive and suggestive account of the world, to avoid or to supplant
Hegelian dialects. However, I wonder whether, once this work is begun
and underway, we no longer have the need to reject the possibility of
also recognising dialectical dynamics where they occur. Coming after,
with all its precedents, this vast supplement to ways of understanding
and inventing the ways in which things occur we can also find something
to recognise as useful in dialectics in which a non-teleological
dialectics can be seen as simply one kind of emergent patterning amongst
a myriad others. And, if this were so, in what terms might the
movements adopting a direct confrontation with those organisations –
largely certain companies and states – attempting to turn specific
biological processes (not ‚life’) into directly controllable,
restrictively engineered and commodified forms, be considered as part of
a wider vocabulary or active reservoir of patternings that can
recognised as productive in the terms of the discussion that you make in
Abstract Sex?

LP: I think that you are touching some important problematics here. I
think you are right about wondering whether once we supplement one mode
of analysis of power – and you refer specifically to Hegelian dialectics
– does it follow that dialectical dynamics no longer exist? Yet, I
wonder to extent to which dialectics – even when it may be considered as
a pattern, even when we subtract from it teleological synthesis – is the
right way to understand compositional dynamics. One immediate reason may
simply be that dialectics presupposes contradiction, negation and
opposition (or binary distinction), whilst compositional dynamics only
involve differential relations, paradoxes and togetherness: moments or
aspects of a process that mutually determine and presuppose each other.

Another problem with dialectics is synthesis: the reduction of two to
one in terms of quantifiable addition. Dialectics gives no account of
disjunctive connection between terms belonging to distinct scales for
example. It is monist in the sense that it reduces heterogeneities to
sameness. It erects a whole above the parts by negating their
differential con-partecipation. This negation lies at the very core of
the moral law: the necessity of erecting good over evil in order to
reach a purified subject position – a transcendent power that can
justify its own repression. Dialectics gives priority to judgement over
contingent experimentation, negating and suppressing all forces of
collective production. At the base of such dialectical moral stance lies
guilt: the homeostatic pleasure – the climactic satisfaction – of
maintaining sameness. For this reason dialectics is an all too human
account of the world, which assumes a master/slave hierarchy of
categories – a governing and governed force, the perpetuator and the
victim – negating all paradoxical dynamics of a relation.

I think that what we need to distinguish is not dialectic patterns from
non-dialectic ones, but molecular compositions from molar fascistic
assemblages of desire. In this sense, we do not need to reject the
possibility of recognising not dialectical patterns but the repressive
activity of molar organizations operating by means of binary
distinctions separating thought from the body and forbidding thought
from feeling itself. Molar organizations are specific layers of the
strata that unlike dialectics are always amodally or virtually linked to
lines of flights or deterritorialization that define society.

You ask how can movements can be considered as part of an active
reservoir of productive patterning – i.e. how they participate actively
in a dynamics of production – confronting those organizations – you
specifically refer to certain companies and states – attempting to turn
biological processes into directly controllable forms of
commodification. However, as it may be clear by now, I think we need to
locate this relation between movements and organizations away from
dialectics, and right into the dynamics of stratification and
bifurcation – or double articulation – on the strata. We need to engage
with the double pincer of content and expression that has nothing to do
with signification and meaning but, on the contrary, entails the process
of organization of forms and substances on parallel layers of
organization of matter (i.e., content and expression). Yet the double
pincer is in no way dialectical as it cannot be isolated from the
ecologies of lines of flights and deterritorializations participating in
the production of a new order. The double pincer then maps the continual
process of splitting intensities in the very process of order and

In this sense, we may understand the movements adopting a direct
confrontation with those organizations – such as companies and states –
as productive of new dynamics of deterritorialization of biological
processes but also of new power (or reterritorialization). However, I
may add that I think that we need to be aware that it is not easy to
identify companies and states with molar apparatuses of repression,
whilst thinking of movements as molecular dynamics. If we do so, we risk
reimparting dialectics onto intensive dynamics of compositions. Abstract
Sex exposes that each molar organization is composed of and cut across
by parallel dynamics of molecular production that define its paradoxical
nature. Simultaneously, each molecular dynamics under certain conditions
may arrange itself into a microfascist assemblage spreading through all
organizations -i.e. given the conditions it may become molar. In this
sense, the commodification of biological processes cannot be
disentangled from the wider dynamics of desiring assemblages act to
deterritorialize and reterritorialize the biological strata. This is
what I think we are confronting with biotech and nanotech, the
intersection of biodigital technologies with the composition of new
assemblages of desire.

Here, it may be relevant to point out that the Spinozist processes of
modifications – the asymmetrical conjunction of the planes of
stratification and destratification – at the core of Abstract Sex have
not to be confused with the evolutionary monism of dialectics. Movements
are not something that reacts to a given stability – structure – and
sociality is not something that reacts to individualism. Movements as
assemblages of desire are primary to the formation of structures,
organizations. For Spinoza, movements are modifications acquiring
certain dynamics according to certain pressures and under certain
conditions that affect – act back – all dynamics of movement itself. A
Spinozist monism here entails a belonging together to a process of
unpredictable modifications, which implies the necessity of engaging
with the very singularity of each compositional dynamics. In order to
grasp how movements are not just in dialectical opposition with
suppressive apparatuses or are tending towards the final resolution of a
conflict, such as erecting a newly born uncontaminated subjectivity, we
need to step sideways and try to give a more precise definition of
movements, especially social movements. It may be useful then to search
for such definitions in the exciting works of Gabriel Tarde and Alfred
N. Whitehead, where, in different ways but according to a common
concern, define social movements and relations act as primary to all
compositional dynamics encompassing all distinct scales and thus
physical, biological, cultural, technical (particles, cells, organisms,
technical machines and so on are indeed already social movements: i.e.,
they do not need to be socialised by human existence). From this
standpoint, movements cannot be disentangled from organisations.
Productive compositional dynamics do occur at all levels. Yet each
composition is extremely specific and will never resemble another. This
is the sense of grasping the relevance of continual variation in the
open feedback between virtual and actual matter.

MF: To go back to the way one inherits particular ‚writing heads’, and
how they need to be twisted, or decapitated, you stud each chapter with
references to science fiction texts such as those from Greg Bear and
Octavia Butler, writers who explore related themes of biology,
technology and culture. It strikes me however that much of Science
Fiction, particularly as it develops to think through alternate
perceptual universes (as well as those it more traditionally works on
such as the technical and social) might also take on the possibilities
of writing in a way which exemplifies and creates the worlds which it
otherwise only attempts to represent. How might you take the
compositional dynamics of, say bacterial informational behaviours, or
the intense morphological impacts described by Elaine Morgan in her work
on the Aquatic Ape theory, and use them to influence, or set up
resonances with the behaviour of text, of the info-matter of language in
a way which exemplifies the processes that Abstract Sex brings attention
to. Perhaps links might be made to the occasional parallel work you are
involved in with CCRU?

LP: This is the very question that we all need to pose ourselves if we
want to build war machines that construct realities and that open up
towards the activation of worlds rather than limiting our writing to a
representation of what is out there. The encounter with Science Fiction
writing with nomadic science (the Aquatic Ape and Symbiogenesis) is
indeed a key to access Abstract Sex. Haraway’s famous quote reciting
that the distinction between science fiction and science is optical
illusion has acquired a life of its own in the compositional dynamics of
Abstract Sex. This is not only because science fiction offers a
commentary on human anxiety and imagination about technology or a
critical understanding on how scientific discourses become is
popularized. Both of this view presupposes a binarism between the real
world and the one that is represented in science fiction books. On the
contrary, in the compositional dynamics of Abstract Sex science fiction
is already real; it is indeed a dimension of the real as everything
else. One that that produces reality. Like what happens in John
Carpenter’s film In The Mouth of Madness (1995) books have the power to
leak into the social because they are already part of social reality
germinating its affects. My fascination with the works of Greg Bear and
– especially – Octavia J.Butler relates precisely to this germination of
affective worlds that comes from the future to lay out the sensory
perception of edging present. In other words, these books enter not only
the actual compositional dynamics of Abstract Sex as a text but also its
virtual tendency to assemble a new entity holding together the
microdimensions of reality. Thus the continual intersection between
science fiction and science facts in Abstract Sex does not function in
terms of content or representation, but enters in the operational
dynamics of the writing itself, in the way the text or words become
bodies, affects and collective agents setting up a new fabrication of
the real. Last year I wrote a little story for Sandwich entitled
Abstract Sex: an extract, which has come out this fall (2004). Once the
editor received it, he wrote to me straight away asking: what is this?
Did what you wrote really happened or is it about to happen? Is this
real or is it invented? I thought these were the most exciting questions
I had had about my writing in ages.

I think that your question really brings out one of the most
schizoelements of my writing that have been intensively cultivated in
the CCRU machine. Writing is always a collective enterprise involving
the clashes of heads – the ecology of partial machines that connect and
disconnect across time and space, historical inheritances and
geographical locations, modes of thinking and behaving, feeling and
acting. Yet the encounter with the CCRU has most clearly for me
catalyzed the production of a collective brain geared towards the
activation of abstract yet real thought, training therefore the activity
of a certain thought that feels and is felt. All the writings and events
engineered by the CCRU entity have always been more than an occasional
parallel work for me. Actually I think of them as intensive
experimentations of the real and as intrinsically part of the production
of Abstract Sex. The CCRU emphasis on the production of concepts-actions
indeed is not only a practice of writing but an experimental or
affective intervention in the social, plugging itself directly on the
body without organs and transversally on the strata (i.e., between the
strata and the rest). In this sense, the CCRU thinks of words as living
bodies spreading like viruses, exposing the generation of unexpected
consequences in the social field. Thus, to each notion its capacity of
proliferation-intervention. This is why Abstract Sex cannot be accessed
exclusively on the level of philosophical enquiry, scientific theory,
feminist politics, technological advancements, science fiction. Abstract
Sex is above all an entity under construction. I think that affective
contagion is the best way to participate in its productive reality.

Six Legs Better

9 Kwi

Charlotte Sleigh
Six Legs Better: A Cultural History of Myrmecology
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press | ISBN: 0801884454 | edition 2007 | PDF | 320 pages | 2,86 mb

Ants long have fascinated linguists, human sociologists, and even cyberneticians. At the end of the nineteenth century, ants seemed to be admirable models for human life and were praised for their work ethic, communitarianism, and apparent empathy. They provided a natural-theological lesson on the relative importance of humans within creation and inspired psychologists to investigate the question of instinct and its place in the life of higher animals and humans. By the 1930s, however, ants came to symbolize one of modernity’s deepest fears: the loss of selfhood. Researchers then viewed the ant colony as an unthinking mass, easily ruled and slavishly organized.
Książkę można znaleźć tutaj.

Cybernetyczne zoo…

9 Kwi

Wpis poświęcony będzie cybernetycznym „zwierzakom”. Ten temat obecnie mnie interesuje (mam nadzieję, że dłużej niż przez godzinę), dlatego będę co jakiś czas uzupełniać ten post. Na razie to, co wygrzebałam w sieci:
1. z blogu Joost’a Rekvelda, post pt. cybernetic zoo
2. katalog Interact or Die!, link do niego tutaj.
„Interact or Die!” contains a series of interviews with leading biologists in the field of evolutionary developmental biology (“evo-devo”), with architects and art historians in the field of bioconstructivism.
3. Strona Sean’a B. Carolla tutaj. i tutaj.
4. a history of cybernetic animals and early robots
5. Do przeczytania:
– Gilbert Simondon tutaj.
strona poświęcona Simondon’owi na V2.
7. Poszczególne roboty ich twórcy:
– Pierre de Latil, “La Pensée Artificielle”, Gallimard, Paris, 1953
– William Grey Walter, “The Living Brain”, Duckworth, London, 1953
-The Grey Walter Online Archive
-The Grey Walter Picture Archive
– na temat żółwi tutaj.

– David Buckley’s Robot Timeline

about specific robots:
– Thomas Ross, “Synthesis of Intelligence – Its Implications”, Psychological Review, 1938, vol. 45.
– Owen Holland, “Exploration and High Adventure: the legacy of Grey Walter”
in Volume 361, Number 1811 of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A
– a page about Albert Ducrocq’s Electronic Fox
– a text by Richard A. Wallace about his “Maze Solving Computer”
– Blinkenlights page on Edmund Berkeley

Rita Baum 18 (zima 2011): Transhuman

4 Kwi

Nowy numer Rity Baum – niestety trochę niechlujnie wydany, o ile jestem w stanie zrozumieć, że w pośpiechu nie udało się jego redaktorom przetłumaczyć wszystkich tekstów ( w rezultacie niektóre są po angielsku), to nie jestem w stanie zrozumieć jak można opublikować teksty w połowie przetłumaczone (!).
Numer nierówny – ale kilka tekstów z działu Transhuman godnych polecenia.

Alexander R. Galloway, Eugen Thacker, O MIZANTROPII, 3
Carlos Katastrofsky, (, 13
Vernor Vinge, OSOBLIWOŚĆ, 25
Ubermorgen, BE SOFT MANIFESTO, 47
Shane Legg Marcus Hutter, DEFINICJE INTELIGENCJI, 53
Bureau of Inverse Technology, ANTITERROR LINE, 66
Robert B. Lisek, CRASH [MANIFESTO], 77
Critical Art Ensamble, WHEN THOUGHT BECOMES CRIME, 79
Agnieszka Kurant, NIEZNANE NIEZNANE, 85
Przemek(czy Przemysław) Sanecki, PAMFLETY, 89
O NEOPOGAŃSTWIE, z Przemysławem Saneckim rozmawia Emilia Wysocka, 91
Dominik Podsiadły, NEO-GUERILLA-ART, 98
Joasia Krysta, SPECTRUM, 103
Mez Breezz, , 110
Alan Sondheim, (nie wiem, co potraktować jako tytuł, ewentualnie czy zrobić incipit), 111
Michael Basinski, CITY OF WEBS, 113