Blog 2 (part 2)

Resonances (part 2- July 2012) – dialogue continues from resonances part 1. To read part 1 click here

… Speakers of all ages and backgrounds stand at the microphone and parrot sounds stuck in discourse and intonations that are obedient to the very institutions they seek to dismantle, deconstruct, remake. The empty and verbose dictates of university rhetoric, the exasperating and frustrating narcissistic dogmas of tired party ideologies, the outmoded phrasings of the generation that resisted the junta and the blindly loyal words of those who adhere to a fossilized sickle and hammer, as if imagination, creativity and the left are anathema. As the sinelfsi, the assembly, as we all attempt to find the ways to speak  I sense that at the heart of Agamben’s notion of communicability and politics as a gestural capacity is the tremoring of potentiality. The improvised and impromptu assembly at Syntagma is the performance of agoraphilia: an improvisation of ‘democracy.’ A crucial and inevitable moment and space that offers us ways to practice communication and communion. A synedochic sphere that reveals the globally shared crisis that necessitates what Fred Moten beautifully phrases as the “art making art”(2003: 254)[4] that is the creation of the never finished product of our stammering selves as points of arrival. (Vourloumis, 2011)[5]

Obstacles provide opportunities for improvisation and the new.  I shared with Gigi how I  would have liked to have heard the human microphone, the echo chambers of the Occupy movements in the US. Here is how Andrew Ross expresses his feelings regarding OWS when it emerged a few months later:

Our campaign is framed as an action initiative, not a set of demands, since we share the Occupy ethos that demands cannot be adequately addressed by the current political system, not when it is under the baleful influence of corporate dollars. Actions taken to re-appropriate wealth and power are not only empowering in themselves, they are also constituent, as you put it, of a new kind of political culture. Most Occupy participants will testify about their feelings of personal transformation–the language is often one of radical innocence, a manifest symptom of the birth of a new “structure of feeling” as Raymond Williams once put it.”

Yes, in Athens 2011 too sensed this indefinable feeling. I remember feeling it during the revolution that ended Suharto’s authoritarian regime in Indonesia while living there in 1998. And feeling those same stirrings in body and mind when hearing about and seeing what was going down in Tunisia and Tahrir Square. And then again when the squares of Spain and Greece and then New York were occupied and on and on. If the manifesto written by the students  who occupied the New School in solidarity with the December 2008 Athens riots predicted an infinity of occupations to come, how can we begin to think of an infinity of historical occupations and preoccupations as conditions of their escalations in the present. For example, how can we begin to think about the Tunisian revolution of Jan 2011 that set a worldwide fire sparked by a single man’s desperation as always and already inflected by the squashed protests that took place in Tunis in the beginning of 2008 and beyond? How can one begin to archive a history of civil disobedience, of differing occupations, that trace a “coming community”?

 Common wayfinding

What is coming? What is possible? In an interview Susan Buck Morss expresses her political support of the movements of 2011 as well as her interest in their philosophical implications:  “Because it’s not just a geopolitical shift, there is a real questioning of all the fundamental categories with which we’re dealing – literally all of them. Nation state, democracy, national identity (or any kind of political identity), solidarity, equality – all of these principles seemed to be synonymous with modernity and we actually shared them both in Marxist and in bourgeois science. But all of them are somehow not adequate any more. I haven’t seen such thing in my lifetime before.” For Buck-Morss it is the international character of the social movements facing the irrationality of capitalism’s ‘progress’ that is of particular interest. At the same time, she is careful not to define this ‘commonism’ too soon. Not to fix it through naming, as it radically attempts to create a “truly new space.”

YET: What is the common? The problems with ‘horizontality’ and ‘common’ as terms is that they can inadvertently lapse into producing homogeneous, monolithic categories that blanket over the internal differentiations and antagonisms that lie within and effuse out of any subject and any manifestations of the gathering of bodies.  The ‘being singular plural’ as Jean –Luc Nancy puts it. How can we think of the common, as Agamben writes in ‘The Coming Community,’[6] as a “whatever being?”   He offers a recuperation of that too often forgotten moment, that of the occupation of Tiananmen Square. He reminds us that what was “most striking about the demonstrations of the Chinese May was the relative absence of determinate contents in their demands.” (1993:84)Here we have a something ‘common’, the lack of demands, across civil disobedience movements rarely thought together; the Chinese May of 1989 and the global protests of 2011. Agamben correctly predicts:  “The novelty of the coming politics is that it will no longer be a struggle for the conquest or control of the state, but a struggle between the state and the non-state (humanity), an insurmountable disjunction between whatever singularity and the state’s organizations”(ibid).  In Greece today as the state violently propagates the categories of Greek and non Greek, citizen and foreigner, we are very clearly seeing how “What the state cannot tolerate in any way is that the singularities form a community without affirming an identity, that humans co-belong without any representable condition of belonging.”(ibid)

Recognizing this non-affirmation of a fixed identity the following authors understand the category of the common as a process of questioning becomings and not a shared collective identity or set of political demands. Writing on the occupation of Athens central Syntagma square Nelli Kambouri and Pavlos Hatzopoulos state: “The global occupy protest movement materialises and disperses in multiple ephemeral processes of transformation that construct a common for the multitude of protestors. The common produced by the global occupy movement is not a mutually shared opposition to the capitalist crisis, nor a collective identity (of the “indignados” or of the 99%), nor a consensual political project (for real, authentic democracy). The common does not even embody an identical strategy of occupying public space, but rather to a series of becomings that question established categorizations and taxonomies that normalize the production of subjectivities and the organisation of life.”

In turn, and actually doing the work it takes to recognize and name just some of the specificities and differences that make up a common, Occupy Oakland has released one of the most militant critiques of this blanket term and the ‘whitening’ of Occupy by way of a scathing, radical, and crucial black, queer, feminist and anti-colonial manifesto that emphasizes the very materiality and dangers that come with fighting identity-based institutional oppression. Required reading.

And from Buenos Aires (where many lessons can be gleaned from the responses of its inhabitants to their 2001 default) the ‘common’ as understood by Colectivo Situaciones: “If collective experience has any meaning for us, it is, above all, in the way it allows us to actively confront, produce, and inhabit the context in which we live and produce: neither as a subject who knows and explains, nor as the passive individual of postmodernity. This capacity is a way of recognizing ourselves as multiple within a multiplicity, and of coming to terms with a certain mode of being of that multiplicity in practice.” (2Something More on Research Militancy: Footnotes on Procedures and (In)Decisions” in Constituent Imagination: 88)

A multiplicity of voices

Occupying space through language on the day of political speechmaking in Athens during campaigns prior to elections. Two days before the critical second round of Greek elections of in June 2012, occurring at the same time as large demonstrations and politician’s speeches, mkultra
[7] and collaborators presented a city-wide performance intervention reproducing speeches of hope in disused or empty spaces of Athens. Speeches ranging from Lord Byron’s speech to Parliament after the Northern riots, to Rosa’s Luxemburg’s ‘Order Prevails to Berlin’, to Sukarno’s speech at the opening of the Bandung conference in 1955, to the words of Greek politician Lambrakis. In a series of disparate city spaces parallel to the political rallies, these repeatedly voiced speeches constituted an ephemeral network of lived spectral words and places.

The Last Poets – Time and Space:

Occupy: The Last Poets speech-making calls us to occupy time and space across time and space. What interests us is thinking through the idea of occupation as signifier. Let us take for example the current moniker ‘Occupy Wall Street.’ What it firstly brings to mind are the diverse meanings and values of the word and action ‘occupy’. To occupy is to take over. To occupy is to inhabit, fill. To be preoccupied by something is to be concerned by it, in thought. To occupy something is to keep it busy, to be occupied by something is to be kept busy by it. To be occupied is to do something for a living as in the question: what is your occupation?  How do you occupy your time?

Wall: The wall is limit, a placed zone and demarcation. It conditions flows‘ trajectories, stops flow but in so doing always and already forces that necessary fissuring gesture that is the impossibility of not being.

Street: Streets and history’s streets lead to and from, through, against and around walls and occupations.

Talking in Empros: What is its occupation about? What are this occupation’s material and relational specificities and thus singular potentialities? What is it to be preoccupied by Empros’ occupation? What are the walls of Empros limiting and what are the walls of Empros now emitting? The writing on, within and against these very particular walls.

Which streets and history’s streets lead to and from and surround Empros? Who and what lives there and why ?

Link to ela na deis:

When the dancers emerge to regenerate an indeterminate sounding and moving body these moving moments and feelings express a realm of intensity that becomes the point of emergence of contradictions where as Massumi puts it ‘[t]he charge of indeterminancy carried by a body is inseparable from it” (p.5)[i] and is the “system of the inexplicable: emergence, into and against regeneration (the reproduction of structure)(p.27)[8][ii] We are working against the fixing of spaces and bodies in “cultural freeze-frames” and aim to break down the binaries inherent to theories of construction by suggesting that when spaces and bodies move they transform themselves and do not simply leap from one definition to the next. An emergence, a rite of passage but also a RIGHT of passage. The synchronous encountering of both object and subject by way of the theatricality of presence.

We are opposed to essentialist notions of the marginalized subject or space as any attempt to locate such subjective agency will, according to Gayatri Spivak, necessarily function by way of presumptions gleaned from Western discourses on the subject as “other.” This does not mean however that certain sights and sounds do not hint at, through momentary intimations, consciously performed commitments to the questions surrounding agency. The elusive subject here figures much in the same way as the elusive ephemerality of sound and gesture and thus by hearing and seeing sound and gesture (without essentializing the source of these emanations) our interest lies in how and what these performances do to the “mechanics of constitution” of subjects and the spaces they occupy. (“Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, p. 294)

These pictures tell the story of neighbourly and collective gestures within civic zones. The project of an urban garden in the concrete filled city is a civic inspired one, a practice within a society in transition, transition understood as associational life, as participation, through the fugitive dimension of civic action and art.

We walk. But we do so with a “newly animated sense of the social, carefully cruising for the varied potentialities that may abound within that field.”(Muñoz, 2009:18.)[9] We arrive at many junctions and look around, we know we are not quite there, elusive horizons can only be potential revelations if and when we keep on moving.

Thinking of the political we find ourselves trapped by previous conceptions, models and practices. But as this occupancy (in Embros Theatre) we resist the idea of serving something that feels familiar and responds to the expectations of others. We think the political through practical structures that respond to the experiential practice in Greece. Models that we re–evaluate before they can become immobile structures…. Today as we collectively write this text it is the last day of the ‘re–activation’ of Embros Theatre in Athens. A pilot proposal that included actions, theoretical presentations, debates and participants from different fields of practice and theory. This model is dependant upon re–thinking and re–evaluation so there is a commitment that we will decide about its future on this last day. Thinking of the political today we wander about the consequences of our decisions and actions and how they create a future landscape? And what is our responsibility today? What modes and practices might allow us to rethink relations and roles in society? Perhaps practices that do not follow familiar approaches, practices that exhaust themselves. Without the necessary solutions we think the political today through collective meetings and proposals that we hope will continue to be ‘places’ of exchange, re–evaluation, and thought that perhaps will produce future alternatives. (Mavili Collective 2011:120)[10]

Above a threshold that is a doorway in Empros an artwork made during the 12 day Embros re-activation Program says:


[4] Moten, Fred. In The Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003,pp. 254

[5] Paper presented in symposium ‘The communi(cati)on of crisis’ in Nafpaktos, Greece.

[6] Agamben, G. (1993) The Coming Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

[7] mkultra performance group (

[8] Massumi, B. (2002) Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham: Duke University Press

[9] Muñoz, J. (2009) Cruising Utopia: The then and there of queer futurity. New York & London: New York University Press.

[10] Mavili Collective (2011) ‘Να ξαναφτιάξουμε το πολιτικό’, Unfollow Magazine 1:120-121.