[NetBehaviour] Accelerationist aesthetics

Tom Kohut thenewennui at gmail.com
Fri Apr 22 15:37:23 CEST 2016

Hi Ruth,

That really is a very interesting piece, and particularly germaine to the
questions of accelerationist aesthetics in its developments of *times*. The
speed of the humans flashing in and out of the camera contrasting with the
permanence of the wall and, for me at least, the slightly foreboding
messages on the wall that suggested a sort of Zeno's paradox effect: each
day you are alive is 1/7 of the week that you were alive which is 1/4 of
the month etc.
But I do wonder if, name nonwithstanding, if accelerationism and
accelerationist aesthetics means something a bit more than just the
cultural registration of speed. After all, Jonathan Swift in *The Tale of
the Tub* is, among other things, about the massive over-proliferation of
books, news media and popular (admittedly printed) culture, and that was in
the relatively sedate 18th century. I forget who mentioned the futurists,
but Benjamin Noys, who initially coined the term accelerationism to
describe that late 60s conjunction of Deleuze&Guattari, Lyotard and
Baudrillard in "Marxist heresy," has a short geneaology in *Malign
Velocities* about the "fetishization" of speed, or speed as a cultural
imperative. Obviously, grounding any sort of cultural movement in the
Italian futurists is pretty dangerous (facism, but also anti-feminism,
pro-imperialism and militarism with the racisms that go along with that).
And I agree that the Nick Land solution -- mass suicide by communication
overload -- is unpalatable to say the least and doesn't make a whole lot of
sense in terms of constructing any sort of political culture. To get to the
point: is there something specific about this particular moment now that
makes accelerationism possible as a political aesthetic?
One thing that occurs to me by way of response to that question is related
to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, when it appeared that the
prognostications of the first wave of accelerationists had partly came
true: namely, that the accelerations inherent in capitalism, specifically
the tendency to mobilize more surplus labour and resources at greater rates
of efficiency and abstraction, would exacerbate the system's inherent
contradictions to a catastrophic point. Only partly came true though: the
system did not collapse but massively reorganized itself (all those
would-be John Galts suddenly all too happy to accept government bail-outs,
massive expropriation of assets from the poor). This required a
recalibration of the theses of that first wave of accelerationists, a
recalibration that perhaps either is reflected in art, or in which art

On Fri, Apr 22, 2016 at 5:27 AM, ruth catlow <ruth.catlow at furtherfield.org>

> Hi Tom,
>  I like where you take this question of accelerationist aesthetics.
> >So the question that accelerationism poses might be something like: what
> sort of coordination can/should exist between a post-capitalist political
> program and art?
> I think/hope that there are a number of people preparing to join this bit
> of this discussion soon.
> For me, in politics as in art, a successful encounter is one that moves
> diverse people to seek agency (on their own terms) within contemporary
> culture; and that acts as a spur for joyful, mutualist acts.
> Not that we all need to be in an unending frenzy of communication and
> exchange. More that we have ever-more nuanced ways to sense the
> significance of different kinds of participation: in a loop of unwitting
> participation and active collaboration and organisation.
> I am currently showing a live networked video piece, I created with Gareth
> Foote, called *Time is Speeding Up* at 20-21 Visual Arts Centre up in
> Scunthorpe as part of the show We Are Not Alone. I have no idea whether
> this is an Accelerationist artwork.
> The image capture software is designed to reproduce the sensation that we
> have of how time speeds up as we get older. A webcam takes a new image
> every 3 or 4 minutes and adds it to a 3 minute looping video. The video is
> becoming more dense over time- and so the images of individual gallery
> visitors are gradually being crushed out of memory, like dead leaves into
> oil.
> See it live here ( we are now on day 44 approx 17fps)
> http://gtp.ruthcatlow.net/
> And after 8 days (at 3fps)
> https://embed.ascribe.io/content/1PHX3XJid9Erh5rCTNgf6L2M15ePL39Ror
> I agonized about the aesthetics of the work- at first- so un-"cool", so
> un-cyber - because the humans are so alive AND they make the work.
> But now I'm really happy with it and would like to assert a place for this
> almost folksy aesthetic (rather than a rush to slick, black fluidity) in
> post-capitalist art.
> Cheers
> Ruth
> On 21/04/16 23:09, Tom Kohut wrote:
> Regarding what an accelerationist aesthetics might resemble (or the set of
> things which m ight be grouped via family resemblance as an
> "accelerationist aesthetics"), there's the June 2013 *EFlux* which was
> devoted to exactly this question. In it, Patricia MacCormack (In
> "Cosmogenic Acceleration: Futurity and Ethics") asks:
> "[…] what is the qualitative difference between a nihilistic reading of
> acceleration as saturation without refined intensity [as in its 90s, Nick
> Land versions], and an accelerationist aesthetic that does not equate speed
> with the too-fast replacements of capitalism, instead seeking intensity in
> all movement, and thus all movement as acceleration (even
> multidirectional)?"
> I think this last point is particularly interesting insofar as it insists,
> as I think Rob Myers pointed out vis-à-vis Futurism, that speed is not an
> absolute quality, but is a relational concept. In this sense, no continents
> without islands.
> I also wonder about how accelerationism's aesthetics relates to the larger
> question of political aesthetics. What I mean by this is: accelerationism,
> in its latest version, started off primarily as a way of naming a political
> tendency: how to best bring about a post-capitalist global situation using
> the tools which are available. Thus, not exactly an oppositional stance –
> we must smash capitalism – but rather a repurposing/hacking of the
> platforms that capitalist interests have made available and using them as
> weapons against that which impedes a transition to post-capitalism. Is
> aesthetics one such tool? I might point out that the 90s cyber version of
> accelerationism certainly had aesthetic investments (*Neuromancer*, *Blade
> Runner*, *Terminator*, etc.). So the question that accelerationism poses
> might be something like: what sort of coordination can/should exist between
> a post-capitalist political program and art?
> Sent from my iPad
> On Apr 21, 2016, at 3:11 PM, Rob Myers < <rob at robmyers.org>
> rob at robmyers.org> wrote:
> I think Haraway is a good historical example. Their Cyborg Manifesto was
> written against sclerotic essentialist-/eco- feminism and amidst the
> decline of left politics in the US during the Reagan era. They take the
> Cold War figure of the cyborg and re-purpose it to critique all of this.
> There are strong parallels to Srnicek & Williams' current argument that
> "folk politics" is insufficient to bring about political change.
> I don't think that Accelerationist aesthetics are even slightly resolved
> yet, and that's a good thing. In "Accelerationist Art" I mention some
> examples and possibilities, particularly art that tries to exit the
> confines of Contemporary Art's simulacrum of freedom. Maybe we can come up
> with something here. :-) In general, Accelerationist aesthetics would
> presumably be about increasing the capabilities of our reason in/via art,
> which I think would require increasing the capabilities of our perception.
> One view of this would be something like Cultural Analytics, the ability to
> deal in millions of images or other cultural/perceptible phenomena at a
> time. But then there's the singular power of myth and icons/iconography to
> guide and organise our thought and perception. Which brings us back to the
> quarantine zone in which we can look at Hyperstition...
> I think that a) and c) are good positions to combine. If they lead to b),
> that's great. If not, hopefully understanding why not will lead to positive
> action in other ways.
> On Thu, 21 Apr 2016, at 06:25 AM, dave miller wrote:
> I don't understand what accelerationism is yet, as I need to read a lot
> more - and a few times - and let it sink in. I find it hard to understand,
> to be honest.
> I'm interested though in the connection with Donna Haraway's Cyborg
> Manifesto
> And I'd like to know more about the accelerationist aesthetic, what it is,
> and why.
> I'd like to know the general view from people on this list - as we are all
> new media/ net art/ media techy types , who have been experimenting with
> art, networked technology and politics for ages, is this something we
> should
> a) take very seriously
> b) embrace
> c) be sceptical of?
> d) be scared of?
> e) wish that we'd thought of
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