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toward an antidiscursive approach to the investigation and erosion of structures for subjectivity management
paradig-matic, Berlin, May 2008
the usual bullshit: our existence, market capitalist ideology and resistance, a stunning panorama opens itself to our observation - a panorama of subjectivities managed by the international financial, entertainment and political concerns and of imaginations occupied by these agents of power and world bureaucracy.
It seems impossible to ignore these circumstances, for ignorance would mean cooperation. It seems impossible to remain neutral, for neutrality would mean defeat. Yet it seems equally impossible to stage any act of resistance, of non-cooperation, of revolt, for it seems that every act we stage can and will be used against us.
So we propose this starting point:
We must be the many mirrors that reflect all their most horrible blemishes. We must be continually acting - inserting raw, unfiltered and unmanageable subjectivity into the system of checks and balances and regulations. We must be continually moving - so they can't pin us down, identify us, classify us, make us into statistics.
or, how belief systems spread - by adopting deeply rooted cultural symbols. Just as christianity adopted new holidays to match existing pagan calendars and rituals, businesses adopted symbolic communication as they began to expand beyond the reach of local and personal communication, continuing to use ancient associations - and inventing new ones. Now international, the most "successful" business and political bodies create, redefine and destroy desires by occupying the imaginary and defining its limits.
Advertising has emerged as an international currency, and a sort of science has come with it - assessing the strength of meaning, a precision of message-making and a refinement of symbolic communications. How can one elicit the most precise feeling with the most economy of time and attention?
We call this precisely orchestrated and economical communication, in all of its forms and permutations, Subjectivity Management. Subjectivity management is the precise and deliberate regulation of sensations, thoughts, desires, etc on a large scale. Where there is highly calculated and massive symbolic communication, there is subjectivity management. It is present in marketing, security measures, urban planning, architecture/design, crisis management, politics - pretty much everywhere. It is the functional underpinning of what has been called the spectacle.
Subjectivity management doesn't tell one what to think or feel. It simply reduces the number of possible or likely interpretations as far as possible. In its ideal expression, subjectivity management could in every situation create the circumstances in which there is only one way to think or feel. When Deleuze and Guatarri posit schizophrenia as the outer limit of capitalism, it would seem that this is why. Mass schizophrenia is the seemingly inevitable logical extension of total subjectivity management, but it is also the best way out. When the situationists theorize how to bring down the spectacle, it is precisely subjectivity management which they attack. For the best way to destabilize this system of checks, balances and codings is to insert into it as many anomalies, unknowns and unpredictabilities as possible.
The biggest and most annoying risk of resistance is of course that one's resistance itself becomes managed. Thus the first and most important concern of any potential troublemaker is that the trouble made be entirely unmanageable. Since subjectivity management concerns itself most with mass and economy, it would seem there to have the most expertise - and that tiny ruptures, discontinuous fissures in the fabric of the multitude would be the most likely to escape its reaches.
Once upon a time, it seemed like the internet would be that which set the world free from all dominators, but we see that it is also a site for subjectivity management. It is part of the world like any other, and must be seen as such. That virtual realms can be so easily subjected to subjectivity management would be cause to wonder whether the category of virtual has in fact any reason to exist. To resist subjectivity management is to exceed its capacity to categorize, to be simultaneously all categories and none at all.
We presume that one cannot attack subjectivity management by ignoring subjectivity. Further, we presume that one cannot restrict oneself to the same managed words, or the same tired discursive senses.
We would like to advance a notion of antidiscourse as a communicative method which resists subjectivity management, first by evading its categorizations and regulations with imprecision, indefinition and inexplicability and second by evading its grasp through its minutiae and incessant motion. Antidiscourse is the opposite of a fixed and fixable academic discourse. It is uninterested in power games and professional advance. It does not want fame, and it certainly cannot restrict itself to the rigid bounds of method and (visual) objectivity which is the realm of academic discourse.
Joint Manifesto of AVANT-AVANT Montreal and Berlin offices: Berlin, 25.02.2006
2. Cultural Hedonism
3. Spatial Hedonism
4. Economic Hedonism
5. Social Hedonism
6. Conclusion : The Act of Anti-Hedonism
We define hedonism as an overemphasis of form at the expense of content.
Cultural hedonism, an over-commercialization and loss of signifying value in cultural products, is a byproduct of the entertainment industrial complex. (see Guy Debord, la Société du Spectacle)
In today's context, these are manifested in superficial acts of name- and concept/terminology-dropping which, upon closer inspection, reveal themselves incapable of meaningful signification. Further, these are manifested in self-obsessive acts resulting in fully self-referential (applying to a fully self-contained representational system) cultural products, which have no representative value because they fail to relate to any externally established signifying code.
Both manifestations are examples of identity consumption- the warped commercialized, neutralized and packaged version of identity politics. In the field of advanced artistic production, this can be linked to an art-critical and art-historical machine that overstates the artist's identity in a misinterpretation of the historical avant-garde, (esp of Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp) and relies upon the simple regurgitation of the key concepts of years of theoretical production. In the field of mass popular cultural production (of which politics and journalism can safely be named sub-categories), this can be linked to the packaging and marketing of superficial identities devoid of depth of thought. In every case, identity is defined, expressed, and consumed through a series of infinitely repeated and weakly linked statements and/or citations which do more to obscure reality than to reveal it.
Spatial hedonism refers to experience-based REdevelopments which transform the urban environment into a kitsch museum where experience is subverted to spectacle (see Walter Benjamin, on the difference between Erfahrung and Erlebnis). Such redevelopments fail to recognize the value of social interaction in spatial design, and in fact seek more to eliminate it. This is a function of the spectacular, where the consumer of experience is encouraged by its creator to passively accept the experience.
Insofar as we can speak of "cultural experience," experience labeled as cultural, but separated at one degree from cultural meaning, we speak of the kitsch experience, a fundamental anachronism.
Kitsch experience is :
__ a nostalgic recreation of a fundamentally no longer (if ever) existent environment.
__ a mode of historical preservation which transforms the city into a museum.
__ an urban environment defined by a self-caricaturizing marketing strategy for urban tourism, (identity consumption).
Economic hedonism is a fully self-referential economics which is, as such, self-motivated, self-fulfilling and finally self-perpetuating. It is inconducive to cooperation and hinders the flow of wealth.
The very visible result of economic hedonism today is an absurd concentration and stagnation of financial resources. This is caused by an equally absurd insecurity, the narcissistic consumption of one's own identity and the inevitable outcome of excessive self-referentiality. This condition has been known as "angst" in existential philosophy, and variously named in psychoanalysis.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (L'Anti-Oedipe) link freudian psychoanalysis to bourgeois culture, and a dictatorship of the bourgeois can be linked to economic hedonism. Historically, the bourgeois exist in a condition of fundamental financial insecurity, because their wealth has no external guarantee. From the beginning, the bourgeois have stood in contrast and in opposition to the historical landed gentry, whose wealth and position were guaranteed by the monarch, whose wealth and position were guaranteed by god. However absurd the guarantee, it left the ruling elite in a condition of self-assurance and security for which the bourgeois were doomed to eternal longing.
The bourgeois, at the present moment, have achieved a near-complete control over financial and ruling systems. This dictatorship of the bourgeois is synonymous with security culture. Insurance is one of today's most profitable businesses. The bourgeois are "safe" investors and, as such, have never been inclined to fund advanced cultural production or radical art. That was always the function of an "enlightened elite," those with the money to burn and the education to appreciate.
Social hedonism is directly linked to fully self-referential economic hedonism and demonstrates a variant of the kitsch experience (detached experiential consumption).
In the simple collection of contacts, the individual, consumed by the insecure and narcissistic consumption of his own identity, superficially constructs and projects his personal identity through fashion. Many individuals in a group performing these same actions is the extent of social experience and this is a kitsch experience.
In social hedonism, social segregation is leisure-based and voluntary. Individuals engage in leisure as a social responsibility. Linked to the insecure narcissistic consumption of one's own identity, leisure is an expected behavior. In this system, a refusal to participate in leisure is a refusal to develop an identity.
The act of anti-hedonism is precisely the refusal to participate in leisure as social obligation. It is the refusal to participate in an inauthentic construction of one's identity. It is the refusal to waste energy on superfluous activities which are not creative (schöpferisch, see Friedrich Nietzsche, esp Jenseits Gut und Böse).
An anti-hedonist identity construction is content-based, internally motivated, and externally oriented. It results in the successful communication of really existent ideas, opinions, feelings, etc. Identity is not consumed and bourgeois insecurity is denied. On a large scale, this can lead to an active undermining of the kitsch experience.