Category Archives: think tank

Common House (new activist communist organising space) opening party 20.7.2013

TheCommonHouse_Flyer

review of CCS grad Dr Craig Smith in Washington Post

This piece by Philip Kennicott was published August 15 2012 here.

[read the whole text by clicking the link above - the part about Craig is here]: But what if such things fell into the hands of bad people? The answer to that is addressed in fascinating, elliptical ways by the most conceptually complicated project on display, “FireSale©TM,” by Colin Beatty and Craig Smith, who operate as the collective SmithBeatty. The project involves purchasing a gun, disassembling it and mailing its pieces to “33 stakeholders, including museum directors, art curators, artists, university professors, lawyers and a weapons manufacturer president.” The pieces are defined as shares in a corporation and beautifully packaged into sturdy cases. Recipients aren’t asked whether they want to participate, and when the collective issues a call on the shares — the gun pieces — the participants can ignore the whole thing or return the gun parts as asked, which are then reassembled.

The inevitable “missing” pieces are manufactured using a 3-D printer, a powerful technology that may at some point allow almost anything to be reproduced at home using digital design files readily found on the Internet. In the case of “FireSale©TM” — which includes extensive and beautifully rendered documentation of the project, a blog on which participants record their reactions, and the gun pieces (or their 3-D printer substitutes) — the missing gun elements, made from a fragile white plastic compound, are not functional.

But with apparently credible reports that 3-D hobbyists have managed to use more sophisticated iterations of the technology to create the essential operating element of an M16 — heralded by some observers as “the end of gun control” — the dark side of SmithBeatty’s work is obvious. If you have the right specifications, at some point you could “print” yourself enough firepower to topple governments. Perhaps.

The positive, practical elements of this technology are obvious: Surgical tools could be available in remote locations; easily acquired replacement parts might put an end to landfills stuffed with barely broken toasters. But there’s a deeper utopian element in how SmithBeatty conceived its game. By structuring the project as a corporation, the duo demonstrates how the complexity of human interaction may be the greatest brake on our collective suicide. The busy executive who tosses out his piece of this gun effectively stops the reassembly. Only complete participation — almost impossible to get in any project — can yield a functioning gun. At least for now, but perhaps not for long if 3-D technology is sufficiently advanced.

If nothing else, “FireSale©TM” makes us aware of how we are invested, wittingly or not, willingly or not, in our collective destiny. Technology drives us forward in a magnificent spectacle of human accomplishment, yet it propels us toward ever-more apocalyptic possibilities. The artist’s role — one role, at least — is to warn us about these dark possibilities, before Rubicons are breached that can never be uncrossed. If you don’t like a world filled with guns bought at gun shows, over the Internet or at mom-and-pop corner shops, imagine a world — what is being called the “Thingiverse” — in which almost anything can be replicated by anyone, anywhere. We will have democratized our world all the way back to Thomas Hobbes’s jungle of violence and despair.
And so technology, progress and enlightenment make and undo us. Rousseau has been warning us about the dangers since his 1750 “Discourse on the Sciences and Arts.” Then, as now, it’s tempting to retreat into a shell, to focus on the self and feeling and the near-at-hand world, and hope the rest of this vast system takes care of itself. It won’t, of course, which is why we need exhibitions such as “Manifest: Armed.”

 

Manifest: Armed [was] at the Corcoran’s Gallery 31 space through Sept. 2. Call 202-639-1700 or visitwww.corcoran.org.

What other CCS graduates have been up to is here

#madconference number 137

Somehow I have been targeted by pranksters who keep making up neoliberal sounding fictive conferences that could not possibly exist even in this benighted corporatized world. This one is a spoof on the UfSO, no? The fee is £395, with a whopping £70 off if you are gullible enough to even consider going to this bore-a-thon. ‘opportunities to network’ – wow.

 

Scanning the jobs section for the possibility of an admin-idioten free life, the following research post seemed like the honey pot of honey pots – a cultural history of the secret handshake??

Dodgy Dodgy Dodgy: ‘many thousands of young men have been introduced to Freemasonry through these two Lodges [Oxford and Cambridge], and they provided the inspiration for the Universities Scheme’. As blokey as Wee Willie Willets and his heinous kind.

Whittington’s Cat notes for Panto Terror (redux)

Punch and Judy (redux from 27.08.08). The grim and glum reality of opportunism is today more and more prevalent, more and more accessed, acquiesced, more or more or less bad, worse than before. We are confronted on all sides by both overt and covert ‘research’ groups, by think tanks and lobbyists, who have decided – in a climate of total war – that we need to attend to (the control of) the global public sphere. The tanksters are interested in ideas, in projects and in strategies, they are interested in the management of feelings, the orchestration of responses, they are interested in refining a certain clarity of message. They bring us bread and circuses – both stale.

Their boosterism says nothing. The climate they encourage thrives on the sentiment of abstract disengagement – alongside the promulgation of procedure and the ‘dictatorship of the secretariat’ – they persuade us that we abjure our interest or involvement in political questions because a) things are too complex and b) complexity needs to be controlled.

These people are sceptics who rail against scepticism. They present themselves as those who present answers, but the way they do so cynically narrows the space of answers to a tightly controlled furrow. The engagement they favour is disengagement except on their own studiously abstract terms. There is no room for the questioning of sceptics in their cynical world.

And then they sometimes claim they are for democracy – but not broadband democracy or open debate – rather a pay-per-view, programme management, narrowcasting, niche-market democracy. Their democracy excludes debate, questions, objections and alternatives. They have long ago vetoed the possibility of thinking outside the box, for there lies danger, difference, a multiplicity that cannot be corralled. The box must always have a brand mark, a slogan, a font or a strapline – sometimes just a colour (the colour is always drab).

They promote their insights as research, as scholarship, as traditional values and as wisdom – but they are faceless, passionless, automatons – going though the motions (jack boots are not far away, but they forgo them for frequent flyer miles and airport lounge privileges).

I do of course think there are more than two sides – the lines shift and the players change, sometimes swapping, sometimes double agents. But there are some, the best you can say of them is that while they are one of ‘them’, they do at least talk like ‘us’. We should carefully watch these ones especially.

Who are they? In fact they are us. Turn again Dick Whittington, Turn again.

———

And why Dick Whittington? – see here for both the real and the Pantomime story, where a cloth-merchant adventurer pilfers some gold, travels to the orient to get rich, and returns to London to become Mayor. OK, this all happened 700 years ago, but the cat seems to have nine lives. These are notes for Pantomime Terror – inaugural on 30/09/08 (5.30, IGLT Goldsmiths).

Whittington’s Cat notes for Panto Terror.

Punch and Judy. The grim and glum reality of opportunism is today more and more prevalent, more and more accessed, acquiesced, more or more or less bad, worse than before. We are confronted on all sides by both overt and covert ‘research’ groups, by think tanks and lobbyists, who have decided – in a climate of total war – that we need to attend to (the control of) the global public sphere. The tanksters are interested in ideas, in projects and in strategies, they are interested in the management of feelings, the orchestration of responses, they are interested in refining a certain clarity of message. They bring us bread and circuses – both stale.

Their boosterism says nothing. The climate they encourage thrives on the sentiment of abstract disengagement – alongside the promulgation of procedure and the ‘dictatorship of the secretariat’ – they persuade us that we abjure our interest or involvement in political questions because a) things are too complex and b) complexity needs to be controlled.

These people are sceptics who rail against scepticism. They present themselves as those who present answers, but the way they do so cynically narrows the space of answers to a tightly controlled furrow. The engagement they favour is disengagement except on their own studiously abstract terms. There is no room for the questioning of sceptics in their cynical world.

And then they sometimes claim they are for democracy – but not broadband democracy or open debate – rather a pay-per-view, programme management, narrowcasting, niche-market democracy. Their democracy excludes debate, questions, objections and alternatives. They have long ago vetoed the possibility of thinking outside the box, for there lies danger, difference, a multiplicity that cannot be corralled. The box must always have a brand mark, a slogan, a font or a strapline – sometimes just a colour (the colour is always drab).

They promote their insights as research, as scholarship, as traditional values and as wisdom – but they are faceless, passionless, automatons – going though the motions (jack boots are not far away, but they forgo them for frequent flyer miles and airport lounge privileges).

I do of course think there are more than two sides – the lines shift and the players change, sometimes swapping, sometimes double agents. But there are some, the best you can say of them is that while they are one of ‘them’, they do at least talk like ‘us’. We should carefully watch these ones especially.

Who are they? In fact they are us. Turn again Dick Whittington, Turn again.

———

And why Dick Whittington? – see here for both the real and the Pantomime story, where a cloth-merchant adventurer pilfers some gold, travels to the orient to get rich, and returns to London to become Mayor. OK, this all happened 700 years ago, but the cat seems to have nine lives. These are notes for Pantomime Terror – inaugural on 30/09/08 (5.30, IGLT Goldsmiths).

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