8 essays
Compiled by Nashin Mahtani

The current pandemic perceptibly expresses the viral as a socio-psychological event, driving all forms of
psychosis and panic that amplify biological contagion but also, and importantly, drives the simultaneous
emergence of manifold forms of social solidarity. As psychosocial contagion spreads through
communication networks, hashtag virality amplifies both segregative fascism-paranoia and expansive
anarchy-schizophrenia; in doing so, it provokes questions concerning vectors of potential
transformation. As the virus exposes the fragility of foundational (and often invisible) infrastructures—from
the supply chains of just-in-time production, to socioeconomic imparities, and discordant divisions of
governance—will somnambulistic notions of accumulation be significantly rattled to instigate radical
socio-ecological transformations?

This reader speaks to the relationships of virality and ontology. In amplifying existing tendencies of policy
and behavior, will this moment be approached as an occasion to transform the relations of a nearly
extinct Anthropocenic subject?

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Franco “Bifo” Berardi and Massimiliano Geraci
Killing Swarm, Part 1
Originally published in September 2019

But a bird in flight has no idea of the shape of its flock. The idea of a flock emerges from creatures that are completely unaware of their collective form, of its size and formation. A bird that joins a flock is blind to the grace and cohesiveness of the geometries of flight. After their flash action, those kids return to their daily activities. They do their homework and curl up in front of the TV to watch a reality show. The brain of a bee can remember things for six days, but the beehive as a whole has a memory of three months, which is twice the average life span of a bee. Ah, I forgot—producing a single spoonful of honey takes the entire life span of twelve bees. Think of that the next time you spread honey on a piece of toast. Think of it, my friend.

Kali Stull and Etienne Turpin
Our Vectors, Ourselves

Nothing can hold out against civilization and the power of industry. The only animal species to survive will be those that industry multiplies.
Jean-Baptiste Say

Matteo Pasquinelli
Abnormal Encephalization in the Age of Machine Learning
Originally published in September 2016

To make machines look intelligent it was necessary that the sources of their power, the labor force which surrounded and ran them, be rendered invisible.
—Simon Schaffer

If a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent.
—Alan Turing

Orit Halpern
Hopeful Resilience

From the tailings of large open pit mines and omnipresent data centers to the over-concentration of capital in the hands of the few, we appear to be in an age of accumulation, feeling the weight of what once seemed so light. The internet and information has become concrete, literally utilizing the sand and metals of our earth to transmit its data in a manner not so different then constructing roads and buildings. So much weight makes us dream of being plastic and light, mobile, modulatory, capable of bearing all these materialities while continuing to sustain the technical and economic fantasies of eternal growth and novel change. It is perhaps of little surprise then, that since the 1970s, it is the word “resilience” that has become the figure of hope for planners, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and environmentalists alike. Resilience is a system’s ability to absorb shock and continue functioning. The best system is the one that can bear the weight, if we will, of dynamic change and flexibly respond to the accumulations of population, matter, contaminants, and money. The best ecology is one that can keep operating under a lot of pressure.

Benjamin H. Bratton
Some Trace Effects of the Post-Anthropocene: On Accelerationist Geopolitical Aesthetics
Originally published in June 2013

Any conjunction between aesthetics and politics (for a political aesthetic, an aestheticized politics, a geopolitical aesthetic, a politics of aesthetics, and so forth) is necessarily fraught by estranged agendas—all the more reason for us to conceive of their inter-activation from a willfully ahumanist perspective. Aesthetics and/or politics of what and for what? The cascade of Anthrocidal traumas—from Copernicus and Darwin, to postcolonial and ecological inversions, to transphylum neuroscience and synthetic genomics, from nanorobotics to queer AI—pulverize figure and ground relations between doxic political traditions and aesthetic discourses. Before any local corpus (the biological body, formal economics, military state, legal corporation, geographic nation, scientific accounting, sculptural debris, or immanent theology) can conserve and appreciate its self-image within the boundaries of its preferred reflection, already its Vitruvian conceits of diagrammatic idealization, historical agency, radiating concentric waves of embodiment, instrumental prostheticization, and manifest cognition are, each in sequence, unwoven by the radically asymmetrical indifferences of plastic matter across unthinkable scales, both temporal and spatial. But while the received brief for political aesthetics is denuded, abnormal assignments proliferate.

Maurizio Lazzarato and Éric Alliez
To Our Enemies
Originally published in December 2016

There is a flagrant imbalance between the war machines of Capital and the new fascisms on the one hand, and the multiform struggles against the world-system of new capitalism on the other. It is a political imbalance but also an intellectual one. Our first thesis is that war, money, and the State are constitutive or constituent forces, in other words the ontological forces of capitalism. The critique of political economy is insufficient to the extent that the economy does not replace war but continues it by other means, ones that go necessarily through the State: monetary regulation and the legitimate monopoly on force for internal and external wars. To produce the genealogy of capitalism and reconstruct its “development,” we must always engage and articulate together the critique of political economy, critique of war, and critique of the State.

Antonia Majaca and Luciana Parisi
The Incomputable and Instrumental Possibility
Originally published in November 2016

If it is true that the individual is caught in a circle of continuous undulation between enslavement and liberation, trapped in the paradox of simultaneously being her own master and slave, can learning from the logic of the machine provide a path for a new, alien beginning? And if it is true that instrumentality as such has developed its own logic through the evolution of machine complexity, shouldn’t we attempt to think the instrumentality of the post-cybernetic individual beyond the dualities of means and ends?

Godofredo Enes Pereira
Towards an Environmental Architecture

Global environmental change poses two immediate challenges to architecture: the first is how to respond to its myriad consequences, from rapid transformations in land-use to food scarcity or population displacements; the second is how to re-assess the legal, ethical and political limits of architecture’s responsibilities, as—from an environmental perspective—these cannot be confined to the limits of the building. All around the world several inroads are being made to address these issues, from adopting sustainable building practices to incorporating concerns with materials’ embodied energy and CO2 emissions. And yet, the multi-scalar complexity and intricate chains of causality that characterize environmental issues, not to mention the different ways in which these affect architecture, requires moving beyond piecemeal responses to a more systematic approach. It implies the development of a new field, concerned with re-imagining architecture as a practice that has the environment as its object of concern.

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