In 1945 Vannevar Bush described what he-called the “Memex”, a single device that would store all books, records and communications, and mechanically link them together by association. This concept was then used to formulate the idea of “hypertext” (a term coined two decades later), which in turn guided the development of the World Wide Web (developed another two decades later).
The times are urgent, let us slow down.
The times are urgent, let us play.
Anab Jain at FIBER Festival
The so-called speculative realists tend to be paradoxically dis-embedded and dis-embodied: they are really speaking from nowhere, though they try to hide it. They are unable to account for where they are speaking from. To me, however important it is that we concern ourselves with a-subjective or non-human matter, the politics of locations of the subject is something we cannot let go. What we should be speaking about are extended minds, distributed cognition, experiments with forms of affirmative relational ethics that take these parameters into account.
I agree with the distinction Katherine Hayles makes between anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism. You can be a posthumanist and post-anthropocentric thinker. In fact, in advanced capitalism, in which the human species is but one of the marketable species, we are all already post-anthropocentric. But I don’t think we can leap out of our anthropomorphism by will. We can’t. We always imagine from our own bodies – and why should we, considering that we still live on a planet populated by humanoids who think of themselves as humans, in different ways, with different points of reference? Our very embodiment is a limit, as well as a threshold; our flesh is framed by the morphology of the human body, it is also always already sexed and hence differentiated.
RB For me, the human or posthuman subject is still very important, if only because we experience everything from a position that is human. Of course, as we speak, scientists working in robotics are cloning the scent of dogs, or the radars and sonars of other species like spiders and bats. So, within a posthuman reality, multiple standpoints can be taken. But you cannot step outside the slab of matter that you inhabit. The limits of your skin – porous, highly intelligent skin that processes information as we go – are the limits of your perception. Complex, multiple – but not infinite.
Austin’s early distinction between the constative and the performative is useful for thinking about how we might begin to distinguish a performative paradigm from the qualitative and quantitative paradigms and make an alternative “truth claim”. While constative utterances and statements establish a correspondence between the description or modelling of the world and something in the world, performative utterances productions do something in the world. Constative statements and descriptions are the propositional or discursive statements of qualitative and quantitative research. Quantitative and qualitative research methodologies rely on constative statements or utterance to establish truth claims. Here truth is seen as correspondence. In other words: they are representationalist.
Performativity offers an alternative model, one that is no longer grounded in the truth as correspondence, but sets up a different paradigm altogether. Here I propose to return to the foundational understanding of performativity. Firstly, we have established that the performative model of language is not based on the correspondence between a statement and the facts of the situation, but the utterance/production is actually already part of the facts. The performative act doesn’t describe something, but rather it does something in the world. This “something” has the power to transform the world.
Secondly we have identified that the underlying principle of performativity is iterability, and a priori iterability is subject to the dynamics of différance. Thus good performances, bad performances, playful performances and the excessive performances are all generative of difference. Thought in terms of différance, performative research necessarily begins to bud and grow in a disorderly fashion. While operating against the backdrop of convention, re-iteration and citation produce repetition with difference, rather than repetition of the same. According to this principle, as I have argued elsewhere, even representation is mutable.33
While Deleuze’s transformative understanding of performativity remains fashionable in film theory and among visual artists, Butler’s theorisation of the performative act has inspired Performance Studies and Theatre Studies and has framed its theorisation of performativity. It is this understanding of performativity that retains the greatest currency in the performing arts and to a lesser extent the visual arts, while Von Hantelmann’s How To Do Things with Art (2010) has profoundly influenced the concept’s uptake in contemporary visual art and aesthetics.
The notion of conventionality and iterability may not sit comfortably with our preconceptions of the originality of art or the singularity of the performance. Nor does it conform to the commonly held assumptions that the “shock of the new” ushers in the transformative power of the art. Butler’s elaboration that the notion of performativity as an iterative and citational practice at first glance may not adequately account for the singular “performative” acts, that come under Von Hantelmann’s banner of experiential art. However, Von Hantelmann’s focus is on the “experiential” aspect of the work—its reception rather than at the level of process and production. In this sense, Von Hantlemann’s gaze is somewhere else than Butler’s. It retains its focus on the singular unconventional act and in doing so negates the foundational assumptions that underpin Butler’s notion of performativity—iterability and convention. Von Hantelmann’s account is compelling in understanding a particular mode or model of contemporary practice. However, it does not help establish a performative paradigm that may be used to account for research in the creative arts. An “experiential turn” and a performative paradigm are two different, if related, beasts.
While science methodology demands that experiments are replicable and only verifiable if replication produces the same, the performative principle demonstrates that iteration can never produce the same. This is the “novelty” that the UK review of Practice-led Research in Art, Design and Architecture found in its assessment that one of “the distinctive qualities of practice-led research is its propensity to disrupt the status quo and produce research that is novel both in its contribution to research and in its very nature.”34
However, the “discovery” of the fundamental condition of iterability strikes at the very heart of science-as-research’s “standards of proof”. In scientific experimentation, binding adherence to standardised procedures constitutes the rigour of research and establishes the validity of its “truth” claims. Through the standardisation of procedure other researchers are able to replicate the study in order to validate results from research. However, Heidegger identifies the prescriptiveness of the scientific methodology as part of the problem with science-as-research.35 He argues that science-as-research is a testing of the unknown in terms of the already known; a confirmation or refutation in terms of a law already established. Through Butler and Derrida we have seen that originary knowledge emerges from the mutability that is inherent in iterability. Perhaps then, there is a “flaw” in the very procedures through which science-as-research aims to establish its truth claims. In science, as in art, we might suggest that the paradigmatic shifts have occurred through this mutability rather than repetition of the same.
- distinguishes between two types of utterances, those that describe or report on something, and those that, in saying, actually perform what is being said. An example of the first, which Austin calls constative utterances, might be the statement, “It’s a sunny day,” or “I went shopping” (Austin also calls these perlocutionary acts); by saying “I went shopping,” I am not doing it, I am merely reporting an occurrence. On the other hand, if I am a heterosexual man standing in front of a registrar in a Register Office and I utter the words “I do” in answer to the question, “Do you take this woman to be your wife?”, then I am actually performing the action by making the utterance: statements like these are called performative utterances or illocutionary acts. “To name the ship is to say(in the appropriate circumstances) the words ‘I name &c.’ When I say, before the registrar or altar &c., ‘I do’, I am not reporting on a marriage, I am indulging in it” (Austin 1955: 6).
- “gender proves to be performance—that is, constituting the identity it is purported to be. In this sense, gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who might be said to pre-exist the deed”. She then quotes the claim Nietzsche makes in On the Genealogy of Morals that “there is no ‘being’ behind doing, acting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is merely a fiction imposed on the doing—the doing itself is everything” (1887: 29), before adding her own gendered corollary to his formulation: “there is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results” (GT: 25).
- whereas performance presupposes a preexisting subject, performativity contests the very notion of the subject
- there is no identity outside language
- repeatedly refutes the idea of a pre-linguistic inner core or essence by claiming that gender acts are not performed by the subject, but they performatively constitute a subject that is the effect of discourse rather than the cause of it: “that the gendered body is performative suggests that it has no ontological status apart from the various acts which constitute its reality,”
- Gender is a “corporeal style,” an act (or a sequence of acts), a “strategy” which has cultural survival as its end, since those who do not “do” their gender correctly are punished by society; it is a repetition, a copy of a copy and, crucially, the gender parody does not presuppose the existence of an original, since it is the very notion of an original that is being parodied.
asking a gallerist what she lookfs for in artists? Commitment! Commitment to being an artist!