Columbia University GSAPP design studio  Spring 2010

Studio Critic: Ed Keller Assisting critic: John Locke

Taking the Post-Empire pulse
geopolitics, affect, use value, postnational, post-model, ‘terabyte age’
empire, network, swarms, biopower, biopolitics, micropolitics, bioinformatics
ubiquity, epigenetics, multi-agent system, noise, pattern, parasite, stigmergy
agalmics, the common

Along the EMPIRE – POST-EMPIRE polytical axis… systems theory, cybernetics, and models

of positive and negative feedback have set the stage for our current situation.Let’s consider this hypothesis: the theory and techniques of encryption are the nextsignificant challenge & opportunity we face. Thanks to computational advances and globalnetworks, we are finally arriving at a point where any citizen [at least in the first world, with alaptop and an internet connection] has the tools necessary to experiment with and observe theconsequences of encryption, interacting in a meaningful and transformative level on a daily basis.Using data channels, creating hidden messages, and performing pattern recognition anddatamining: all aspects of everyday life, and of design, can be revisioned through this model ofcode and meta code. Hidden levels of order, hidden regimes of time.
What will these emerging forms of hybrid media do to individual and collective agency, to theconcept of a common that exists at a global scale? Massively open datascapes, techniques ofencryption, of datamining, of disinformation, are transforming the nature of the citizen/agent.These changes are taking place so rapidly that most of us do not notice, as the consequences ofubiquitous computation and communication have so deeply penetrated our daily lives, renderingus ever more as ‘naked life’ in the global theatre. Unanticipated forms of transparency become therule rather than the exception. A global surveillance mechanism that tracks each individual’s DNAand actions, as Winterbottom shows us in his film CODE 46, is all too likely.

Only 15 years into its popular manifestation, the global network has catalyzed anunprecedented revolution in the production and sharing of knowledge. Some argue that we arearriving at a post-model, post-scientific moment where data mining replaces theory in the terabyteage, and indeed the folksonomies of wikipedia and Delicious operate as political platforms asmuch as communication tools.
Texture, noise and pattern become increasingly important as the process of imbrication andencryption/decoding permeates deeply into our lives. I do not subscribe to the opinion that we areconstrained to live in a post-model/post-theory world. The concept-model assembly of texture,noise and pattern exist as field conditions operating at multiple scales in the city, in the cultureindustry, in the media system, & provide a welcome antidote to the intellectual vacuity of the posttheoryanti-model. Rene Thom’s work developing catastrophe theory has increasing relevance forus in this context. As the mechanisms of DNA are better understood, we see that epigenetic fieldsin the body are as important as the raw code itself. There are stable meta-codes which dependnot only on the building blocks of DNA, but myriad episystemic interactions across multiplelandscapes. We are experiencing yet another paradigm shift conceptually from macro tomicroscopic, from object to pure field, from DNA as code to epigenetic landscape as gradient,from decodeable message to quasi-semiotic content. This opens a new epistemological horizonthat impacts every aspect of our lives.
Cybernetics understood that a concern with infrastructure would address the datastreamspassing through that system; today we are increasingly able to interact with and inflect thosedatastreams. Crowdsourcing is a much debated phenomenon and buzzword. In the next decadeit will become a key technique in a range of seemingly disparate disciplines that will inevitablyoverlap more and more: Military analysis, cryptanalysis, DNA analysis and synthesis; globaltracking and response to crises and pandemics; and problem solving/design in general. Thisatomization of the data processing industry will reframe problems of scarcity/availability: ofbasic resources, energy, and also information.
JG Ballard famously observed that the 20th century witnessed the end of affect, and an erosionand transformation of time. His vision of retrograde time was connected to technological advancesand to biological registers that had lain dormant for eons.
I would argue that he was correct, and that the global timeshifts he anticipated are increasinglyoperational as we collectively explore the deeper layerings of pattern and epigenetic systems. IfAby Warburg hypothesized that the photographic archive was a process, technique, and systemfor recapitulating lost gestures, then what is this new system capable of, when each agent isinseparable from their context- which itself may be alive? Swarms, assemblies: there is a new kindof gesture that we are facing, a radical Bakhtinian heteroglossia, a dialog between matter andthe living agent/character.

“Is there a time structure inherent in political systems, thru which the constant presence of excess value andenergy can be rechanneled? Witness the propensity of certain economic forms to move in a controlled drift toward afuture which is the same as the present. Test this against the idea that within one kind of temporal horizon, the futurewill be given, but in other frames, the future and the past may be in flux. Protocols moderate between forms of timeand the nature of individual and political consciousness. We have to ask how these models may be used to establish[or erase] a range of futures, presents, and pasts for a system, and consider the ethical conditions which result.Ultimately the dynamic between consciousness, awareness and will might produce thought that can think itself.”E. Keller, Temporalism conference

Draw a straight line on a distorted, imaginary map. [Let’s consider a site]. The line forcesnation states and topography to realign. Connect Berlin to Istanbul to Baghdad.If you drew this map in the early 19th century, you would have proposed a train line to connect thedots. But what if you draw this line, this map today? A new incarnation of Jules Verne comes tomind. Consider ‘Around the World in 80 days’ recorded using contemporary HD, new forms ofdistributed cinema- a locative media meets Dziga Vertov process. The site would have somethingto do with mass migrations, landscapes they flow across [global tourist flows; shadow economiesof migrant labor; the Khumb Mela festival; military operations; etc.]; microgradients of culture,genetic materials, political affiliations. Sao Paolo and helicopters; Berlin and the faint traces ofthe Wall, indexing the geopolitical ambitions of MittelEuropa; Istanbul and the echoes of theByzantine, and that vector that finds its third point and terminus in Bagdad. Radical newmodalities of porosity in urban fabric and in time itself.

Let’s conduct a global ‘around the world in only eight days’, under the watchful eyes of G.Bataille’s ghost, imagining his acid projections on the general economies of the comingcommunity. Across all the urban spaces and landscapes that are strategically and tacticallyvaluable, from a ‘swarm’ point of view and from a post-nation state pov, we go hopscotchingacross two thousand years of history: the legacy of the iconoclastic controversy, Bowie & IggyPop in Berlin; the Hagia Sophia; drift cinema or kino eye, and post empire. Always post-empire.


We will follow the line from Berlin to Istanbul, and from Istanbul we will gaze towards thesoutheast horizon. Perhaps with the right lenses we will be able to see the reflex shock wavewhere the future cascades back into the past, and the temporal horizons of Empire evaporate andtransform.


Berlin: We will be based out of the Institute for RaumExperimente and the Olafur Eliasson Studio.Our contact there is Eric Ellingsen, an agent of what we might term the ‘Berlin Feral University’.Istanbul: collaborations TBA



Watching Godard’s film ‘Sympathy for the Devil ‘ [an amazing film] one might be tempted to run astudio like a rock band in a studio recording an album. Let me rephrase that: I’ve always wantedto run a studio like a band in a recording studio: to develop the program, to design systems, todecide on technique, to make buildings. Even though the footage of the Rolling Stones in thestudio is crushingly boring at moments, there is a total immersion in the intuitive process, andGodard constructs a deeply critical viewpoint against the musicians’ use of that process and of therecording studio as a tool. This critical intuition will inform our process.Musicians are encouraged to join this studio.“We are asking for volunteers to step into a rapidly corroding environ that is in the process ofrewriting itself, and along the way become a part of its transformation… volunteering to beoverwritten and reinvented, while all the while remaining conscious on the operating table.Partaking of Burrough’s and Gysin’s host body, and (not) waiting to see what happens as thetrip kicks in. “The studio will run as a thinktank in the first 4 weeks of the semester. We will meet twice a weekas a group, once a week for deskcrits in weeks 1-5. Initial program/technique/site/precedent workwill take place as a group & team endeavor. After the midreview students may continue in groups,or may work individually.

TECH [an expanded cinematic matrix of geo-media-morphology]
Photosynth, Layar, Flickr
Qik/UStream, Youtube/Vimeo
Geotagged data, Dopplr, Twitter
Biopolitical tracking metrics- Google Flu mapping

plus the usual tools for 2D, 3D and audiovisual work.

We will conduct a series of precedent studies in the first 4 weeks of the semester, in parallel to our thinktanking. Inaddition to the site which has been roughly defined, the following precedent examples are offered as a starting pointfor work in the studio.

Bowie, Berlin ‘trilogy’ Low, Heroes, and Lodger
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Byrne & Eno
Violator, Depeche Mode
U2, Achtung Baby
Brian Eno, Bowie and U2 collabs; oblique strategies & generative music
Einsturzende Neubaten, Lou Reed Berlin, Nick Cave
Bill Laswell : AXIOM, many other projects
Perry Hall, Lovebrain, Color Out of Sound
NIN, various

Cyclonopedia, Negarestani
Rainbows End, Vinge
Accelerando, Stross
Agamben [various]
Geopolitical Aesthetic, Jameson
Networks, Swarms, Multitudes, Eugene Thacker [plus other excerpts]
Shockwave Rider, Brunner
Cinema 1&2, Deleuze [plus other excerpts]
Memories of the Space Age, Ballard [plus other excerpts]
Crash & London Orbital, Iain Sinclair
Hawksmoor, Ackroyd
Enduring Innocence, Easterling
Pattern Recognition, Gibson
Gysin & Burroughs
The Invisibles, The Filth; Grant Morrison

Technique, Intuition, Sound
Passenger, Antonioni
Sympathy for the Devil, Godard
Blow Out, DePalma
Don’t Look Back, Pennebaker
Wings of Desire, Wenders
Transes, Ahmed El Maanouni
Step across the Border, Humbert & Penzel
Touch the Sound, Thomas Riedelsheimer

BERLIN [and other cities]
Berlin-Symphony of a Great City, Ruttmannvarious Fassbinder
Cycling the Frame, The Invisible Frame
Third Man, Reed
Russian Ark, Sokoruv
Roma, Fellini
Mamma Roma, Pasolini
Gomorra, Garrone
Head-On, Fatih Akin
Playtime, Tati
Alphaville, Godard
London, Keiller
Zentropa, VonTrier
Street of Crocodiles, Quays

Battle of Algiers, Pontecorvo
Syriana, Gaghan
Element of Crime, VonTrier
Lessons of Darkness, Herzog
Bourne trilogy, various James Bond
Underground, Kusturica
Stalker, Mirror, Solaris, Tarkovsky
Ulysses Gaze, Angelopoulous

Crypto-Occult Technologies
Exorcist, Bug; Friedkin
Constantine, Lawrence
CODE 46, Winterbottom
The Ring, Verbinski
Videodrome, Crash; Cronenberg
Red Desert, Antonioni
Andromeda Strain, Wise
28 Days Later, Boyle
2001, Kubrick
Demonlover, Assayas


just a thought. can comparisons be drawn between the two infrastructers?

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