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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Queer Media Art & Theory on empyre

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This month Empyre is devoting to a conversation on Queer Media Art & Theory including Rhizome contributor Jacob Gaboury. The conversation is moderated by Zach Blas, (interviewed by Gaboury for Rhizome in 2010.)

 

Moderated by Zach Blas (US) and Micha Cárdenas (US) with Amanda Philips (US), Margaret Rhee (US/Korea), Jacob Gaboury (US), Jack Halberstam (US), Homay King (US), Michael O’Rourke (Ireland), Jordan Crandall (US), Patricia Clough (US), Lauren Berlant (US), Pinar Yoldas (Turkey/US), Ricardo Dominguez (US), Heather Davis (Canada) and more. http://empyre.library.cornell.edu/

This month’s focus on empyre will explore queerness and its relations to media art and theory. Featured guests will introduce their artistic and theoretical practices to consider and reflect upon the multiplicitous terrain of queerness and technology.

We understand queer new media--art and theory--as something more than just new media produced by LGBTIQ peoples. Queer new media to us encompasses queer methodologies and political commitments, a general troubling of binaries from the technical level and beyond, a continuous challenging of gender roles, the explorations of possibilities for sexuality, alternative friendship and kinship structures, and a general desire for the non-normative, strange, subversive, and utopic. Importantly, queer new media for us is about the continual re-making and refashioning of queerness. New media theory has taught us for some time to pay careful attention to materiality, in all its human and nonhuman forms. Queer new media practices engage our material world and consider the shifting feedback loops between the construction of queerness and material existence. What happens to queerness when we engage it with / through new media?

These discussions emerged out of conversations between Blas and Cárdenas based on their shared practices. Recently, we created a mailing list, Q [http://lists.transreal.org/listinfo.cgi/q-transreal.org], because we saw a need for ...

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