A police officer wearing a pair of smartglasses with a facial recognition system at Zhengzhou East Railway Station in Henan province, China, February 5, 2018. -/AFP via Getty Images.

Issue #115
With: Fahim Amir, Jace Clayton, Ariel Goldberg, Yazan Khalili, Sven Lütticken, Sonali Gupta, H. Bolin, Xenia Benivolski, Nikolay Smirnov, J.-P. Caron, Imogen Stidworthy
This week in Russia, Alexei Navalny was sentenced to over two years in prison, partly for violating parole while in a coma from a state-sponsored murder attempt. Following a week of large-scale demonstrations across Russia protesting his arrest, the skilled lawyer and anti-corruption activist stood in court before his sentencing and stated, “I hope very much that people won’t look at this trial as a signal that they should be more afraid. This isn’t a demonstration of strength—it’s a show of…
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10 Essays February 2021
Cloudy Swords
Fahim Amir

While bees are currently esteemed as universally valued bringers of life, there is another insect that can’t be left off of any Buzzfeed listicle of the world’s deadliest animals: the mosquito. No other animal accounts for as many human fatalities as this insect. That’s why the eradication of mosquitoes is a typical focus of philanthropic initiatives, from the Rockefeller Foundation to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But what if the front lines are not so clear-cut?

Bennani replaced the singing with canned screams and nothing else. There’s no faint rustle of the crowd, as in the original footage, for example. Nor has she applied any reverb, which would create the effect of the vocalists inhabiting the same acoustic space. All the members of this choir howl in isolation—from the world (there’s no diegetic sound) and from each other (there’s no reverb). A crowd vocalizing with none of the subtle audio cues that let us know we are in a crowd: Bennani’s audio treatments mirror the eerie social alienation that is only possible in digital domains.

We Stopped Taking Photos
Ariel Goldberg and Yazan Khalili

A photo hides more than it shows, which is merely the physical and reflective light of the world: bodies in a place, scars on skin, a wall in a landscape, a person holding a book, fireworks at night, trees, four people hugging each other in a joyful moment, a boy looking at his drawing, a policeman shooting at demonstrators. We have seen all of that, we have photographed it, but what about the unphotographable violence that goes through the image without leaving a trace in it, the systematic violence that is normalized within life itself, the pain of the forest, the law that doesn’t allow your child to get a birth certificate, the fear of being profiled, of not being allowed to travel, and the bureaucracy of everyday life?

After decades of There Is No Alternative ideology, we see a pathos of the possible that aims to quell fears about empty possibilities without potentiality. But what are the potential possibilities—as opposed to largely hypothetical ones? In Peter Osborne’s characterization, the space of art is project space, and hence the space of the projection of possibilities and the presentation of “practices of anticipation.” And indeed, much contemporary aesthetic practice is possibilist—from speculo-accelerationist “we were promised jetpacks” retro-Prometheanisms to various forms of social and political practice seeking to foster and form alternative forms of assembly and cooperation.

The virus exists in the liminal space between life and nonlife. A small amount of genetic material contained within a perfectly geometric molecular envelope is somehow able to self-propagate, manipulate its environment, adapt, and evolve—all features we might find evocative of life. And yet, a virus does not breathe. Whether you call it prana, qi, or basic biochemistry, respiration is simply a metabolic process of energy transduction. The smallest entity capable of breath is the cell—perhaps why we designate it as the “fundamental unit of life.” The final utterances of Eric Garner and George Floyd, “I can’t breathe,” reflect the singular experience of blackness in America. Yet, these words also echo within us like a phantom pain as a global pandemic chokes the life out of millions and uncontrollable wildfires decimate forests—the lungs of the earth. In this planetary asphyxiation, we look to that which does not breathe but nevertheless remains animated—the virus.

You Can’t Trust Music
Xenia Benivolski

Music reflects changes in the world: its mechanism relies on making noise palatable by means of subjectively defined order. The dialectic between order and violence mirrors another dialectic between music and pure noise: each reveals hidden physical and social architectures. By examining degrees of deviation from order, one can decipher the social code of a society at a particular time.

Popular religiosity, Sophiology with its Fedorovian, cosmist charge, and the alchemical unconscious of Marxist theory are the three distinct but in some ways related “holy families” of Russian immanentism. On the level of ideas, the various members of these families are easily coupled and hybridized, despite their heterogeneity. In consequence, we witness the emergence of a kind of ideological field of integral immanentism in the first decade of the twentieth century.

For Flynt, structure art involves an underdevelopment both of structure and of the sensible content of the art. This results from the mutual tethering of one to the other. Insofar as music seeks to satisfy both poles (structural and sensible/musical) at the same time, both are diluted: structure becomes impoverished as it needs to be incarnated in sounds, and music becomes impoverished to the extent that it obeys a logic external to sounds themselves. Concept art is a way of releasing the abstract structure from the sensible carcass; when concepts are freed from incarnation, it is possible to create more complex and interesting logical structures.

Imogen Stidworthy

Losing a sense of bodily boundaries can happen when we are dancing, attuned to another person, or immersed in nature. Many people on the spectrum describe intense feelings of a “leaky sense of self”: becoming confused with other people or with one’s surroundings, losing or having no sense of being “me,” in ways that can sometimes be existentially threatening, but also exhilarating, liberating, and joyful.


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