Issues
Issue #124
With: Yuk Hui, Brian Kuan Wood, Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa, Skye Arundhati Thomas, Boris Groys, Order of Sophianic Marxists, Isabelle Fremeaux, Jay Jordan, Franco “Bifo” Berardi

In the first e-flux journal issue of 2022, Bifo points out a recent social protest movement in China known as tangping (躺平, “lying flat”), in which young people increasingly opt out of the pressure to overwork by taking low-paying jobs or not working at all. In the US, “the Great Resignation” has been the name for four and a half million American workers who left their jobs at the end of 2020. But Bifo reminds us that “resignation” also means re-signification—a new meaning given to pleasure, richness, activity, and cooperation that may unveil a previously hidden egalitarian and frugal sensitivity following the exhaustion of the Western geopolitical order.

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8 Essays February 2022

If, since Walter Benjamin—or even since the avant-garde before Benjamin—we have been trying to ask how technology changes the concept of art, as you find in Duchamp, can we now turn the question around and ask how art can transform technology? I think this is an important question not only in a conceptual sense, but also in a diplomatic one. If you were to talk to an engineer about an art project, how would you talk to them? Do you simply want to import this or that technology to create some kind of a new experience? Or do you want to influence how technology is made, how technology is conceived, how technology ought to be developed? I think we can also turn the question around further by asking: How can art contribute to the imagination of technological development?

In contemplating Camera Lucida now, in the wake of the fortieth anniversary of its publication, I am moved to ask: How could a book so intensely bound up with photography and loss show so little generosity, and why, today, should we heed its call? Beyond this, what might insights from black studies bring to bear on a book so indebted to the identification and rejection of difference in the expropriative formulation of Barthes’s inner self?

Remember the Details
Skye Arundhati Thomas

Two months after the Jamia Millia incident, in February 2020, the Jamia Coordination Committee, a student organization, released CCTV footage from that night. It shows armed paramilitary and police agents entering the Old Reading Hall dressed in camouflage combat gear, faces covered in scarves. They lean over desks and beat students working at computers or huddled over stacks of paper. Despite the narrative the state has maintained, the video proved, without a flicker of doubt, the sadism inflicted on students. “I’ll end my message with this one appeal,” says Umar Khalid in the dispatch he recorded before his arrest. “Do not get scared.”

The famous historian of Russian philosophy Zenkovsky writes that the entire Sophiological tradition of all-unity was essentially a failed attempt to find a third way between the Christian doctrine of creation on the one hand and pantheism and modern evolutionary theory on the other. The result, in his view, was fantastic, mythical systems, which are full of contradictions and as unacceptable to Orthodox faith as they are to science.

Marx, the Alchemist
Order of Sophianic Marxists

Gnosticism needs a prophet—the unmasker, the Revealer, who will open the people’s eyes to the hidden truth: that spiritual substance has fallen into the state of matter, but that it is to be found everywhere (as prima materia), and that universal salvation is in the hands of one and all. Consequently, Gnosis (i.e., Knowledge) and its prophet, Savior (soter), play a central role in the Gnostic/Hermetic tradition. In ancient texts, Simon the Sorcerer (Simon Magus)—the archetypal figure of the Gnostic savior—comes to show the people that Limitless Power is within them. Marx appears seventeen hundred years later for the same purpose. Unlike his orthodox Christian counterpart, the Gnostic savior comes to reunite every person (including himself) with his authentic Self.

Flourishing
Isabelle Fremeaux and Jay Jordan

The forest is too small to provide timber and firewood for all 170 ZAD inhabitants. Choices are made through a customary yearly process that is a cornerstone of commoning. An estimation of the quantity of wood available is calculated, and people and collectives attend a series of assemblies to discuss wants and needs and determine priorities. Each construction project is carefully examined, and a carpenter helps to calculate the precise wood requirements. Collective projects that serve the whole community are prioritized.

Resign
Franco “Bifo” Berardi

It is only in psychopathological terms that this geopolitical dynamic can be deciphered, as the Afghan defeat has crystallized the perception of an inevitable decline of Western supremacy. The Western mind is reacting with a panicked psychosis that could herald a suicidal act. Nothing can interrupt the dynamic of this intersection of paranoid delusions. The only thing we—as intellectuals, as activists, as therapists searching for new subjectivities—can do is prepare for chaos and imagine lines of flight.

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