Five Videos: Zach Blas/Queer Technologies' Escape

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Five Videos is an online series "hosted" by Rhizome, in collaboration with FACT, responding to the Liverpool Biennial's theme, The Unexpected Guest. Each week throughout the Liverpool Biennial, a new artist will curate five videos about hospitality. This week, Zach Blas (Queer Technologies) considers escape as radical hospitality:

The art of escape is the art of constructing an indeterminate form of energy from the encounter and interference with a regime of control. The art of control is not to destroy this energy but to transform it to a new form of energy, one amenable to regulation.

—Dimitris Papadopoulos, Niamh Stephenson & Vassilis Tsianos, Escape Routes: Control and Subversion in the 21st Century

 

Escape figures as a crucial tactic of resistance against neoliberal governance and contemporary forms of oppression. Escape is a multiplicitous gathering of concepts, practices, sensibilities, acts, and affects; these variations on escape have been named exodus, desertion, nonexistence, illegibility, and idealism. Importantly, escape not only expresses a desire to exit current regimes of control but also to cultivate forms of living otherwise, or living autonomously. Escape, I would argue, is about radical hospitality: it is a collective attempt—aesthetic, conceptual, political—to eradicate forms of control, exploitation, and domination, which just might make the world more hospitable to all. 

Escape can be a leaving behind or withdrawal, such as various art schools and autonomous universities like The Public School and SOMA. Perhaps these gestures are best described by The Edu-factory Collective as an “Exodus from the Education Factory.”

Escape also relates to tactics of imperceptibility and illegibility, focused upon evading informatic capture. Media theorists Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker have recently described the current century as an “era of universal standards of identification,” referencing technologies that bind identification with locatability, such as biometrics and GPS. “Henceforth,” they write, “the lived environment will be divided into identifiable zones and nonidentifiable zones, and nonidentifiables will be the shadowy new ‘criminal’ classes–those that do not identify.” In The Exploit: A Theory of Networks, they hypothesize about nonidentifiable action, suggesting that “future avant-garde practices will be those of nonexistence.” Such tactics stress the development of techniques and technologies to make one’s self unaccounted for. Anonymous’ own social media networking site Anon Plus and artist Sean Dockray’s “Facebook Suicide (Bomb) Manifesto” evoke such an imperceptible escape as they strive to depart from social media networks that data-mine, market, police, and surveil. 

Escape takes the form of refusals against normative and oppressive logics, calculations, and measurements, often rejecting structures of legitimation and recognition from the state. Consider Against Equality’s queer critique of gay marriage, a refutation of the institution of marriage as heteronormative and perpetuator of economic inequality.

If escape is a politics, then it is one that positions itself against forms of political representation. Political theorists Dimitris Papadopoulos, Niamh Stephenson & Vassilis Tsianos state quite clearly that politics must be a refusal of representation. What this suggests is that a politics of escape concerns itself with autonomy and transformation, changing the very conditions of political and social possibility while fleeing neoliberal control.

I have chosen videos that articulate an art of escape in these contexts. While these works might at first seem disparate from each other, they illustrate the broad, coalitional potentiality of escaping. Notably, this is not an exhaustive list of the possibilities for escape today, but these five videos do make visible some contemporary itineraries of escape currently under way...

 

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