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Resistance is Futile

Well I’ve changed the title of my talk, just one of those things, I woke up this morning at four o’clock in the morning and put this talk together. That’s what’s amazing about Power Point, it’s a tool, it’s another dj tool, especially when you DJ your own history, or your own ideas or whatever. I live in Shorditch. I’ve lived there for a year and a half and in Shorditch there’s all this graffiti on the walls because there’s a big club scene there and I was walking around yesterday or the day before and on this wall it said, “Resistance is Futile,” which by the way is what the Borg from the T.V. Series Star Trek always say to the civilizations they are about to incorporate into their own, and I thought no ‘Resistance in Fertile’ so I thought why not have that as the title of my talk? So Resistance is Futile, we’ve heard a lot of talks about this, we’ve heard a lot of people mentioning different ideas that are coming around to this idea of Resistance is Futile. Is there an overriding common as Negri says, a common, a language system that overrides us.

To begin this lecture I would like to go back to 1990 with a quote from Fredric Jameson in his book Post-modernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. He says, “I am proposing the notion that we are here in presence of something like a mutation in built space, my implication is that we ourselves the human subject, who happen into this new space, have not kept pace with that evolution.” There has been a mutation in the object or in built space, what space looks like unaccompanied as yet by an equivalent mutation in the subject. So something is happening out there but it’s not yet happening to us, ‘we do not yet possess the perceptual equipment to match this new hyper space as I call it, in part because our perceptual habits were formed in that older kind of space I have called high modernism. “The newer architecture therefore like other cultural products I alluded to in the preceding remarks, stands as something like an imperative to new organs to expand our sensorium” So what he’s saying is that if you grow up in modernism, if you grow up in a kind of grid environment, you develop perceptual habits that refer to this environment or maybe, and will explain this later, your neuro-biological substrate is sculpted by this kind of environment, when you live in an a very different post modern space where space and time is folded into each other, you are not going to have developed the perceptual apparatus to really understand that post modern object or understand that post modern space. There is a kind of what I would like to call a neuro-biological sublime. The new space the objects it contains and their configuration in that space are beyond the assemblage of your perceptual and cognitive tools to comprehend or understand it.   Or seen in another way the production of your perceptual habits were produced by a sovereignty whose desire was to produce a people of like minds by reduce the variability of their pre-individual subjectivity.

The next quote is from Jonathan Crary who we also have heard quoted many times today. “Attention implied that cognition could no longer be conceived around the unmediated giveness of sense data. To use Peircian terms it made a previously dyadic system of subject-object into a triadic one with the third element constituted by the community of interpretation, a shifting and intervening space is socially articulated physiological functions.” So now society is creating the context, society is creating the institutions that attract our attention, it’s a matter of consensus it’s a matter of even gossip, and continuing with his quote. “Thus attention within modernity is constituted with the forms of exteriority, not the intentionality of an autonomous subject.” Thus attention is constituted from outside from say branded networks rather then something coming from inside the subject. The subject no longer projects the interiority outward but the exteriority finds and interpelates the subject.

And then finally a quote from Arjun Appadurai which concerns the imagination, “The image, the imagined, the imaginary these are all terms that direct us to something critical and new in global and cultural processes, the imagination as a social practice. The imagination is becoming an organized field of social practices, a form of work, (in the sense of both labor and culturally organized practice) and a form of negotiation between sites of agency (individuals) and globally defined fields of possibility… The imagination is now central to all forms of agency, is itself a social factor, and is one key component of the new global order.” These three quotes form the border of a triangulation of thought that constitutes this lecture. That a new world order constituted if you will be the new conditions of neo-liberal capitalism and post-Fordist labor conditions all generated through the new technologies of for instance the internet are producing new forms of subjectivity. First subjectivity that will in fact have mutated according to the logics of post-modern spaces and objects to which it will be able to perceive and cogitate. Secondly that new forms of cognitive apparatti will be formed in the form of an attention which will no longer be unifocal, directed and constituted by an interior self but will in fact be socially and culturally constructed. It will be a Cultural Attention. Finally that this new world order will also reach down into the deep psychic recesses of the person and there affect the ways and means of the imaginary itself.

The next slide is a drawing that I now show in exhibitions as a light projection on an overhead projector, I also show this as part of my culture brain exhibitions, and this is the whole culture brain model I started in 2002.  Here it is as it appears in my book, “Blow-up: of Photography, Cinema and the Brain’. What I am really talking about in this model how the conditions that produce the transformation of culture, a whole system of mutating immaterial social, political, historical, economic and psychic relations are also producing analogous changes in the brain as well.

Here for example is a picture of the Pompidou Center. I am suggesting that the Pompidou Center is in a sense instantiates the specific social, political, economic, historic relations that were present and in which during its creation and construction it was in. That in fact that it and the conditions that help generate it interacted with each other, at a particular time and place, Paris, France. That it instantiated certain kinds of social relations that reflected the conditions of post 1968, for instance, a big open space for demonstrations in front of the building. But also one also notices the escalator on the outside of the skin of the architecture as well as the unveiling and foregrounding of tectonic support structures of the building as well as kind of transparency and superimposition of the glass façade. These are parts of conversations with, for instance, the conditions and forms of labor beginning to dominate at that time. The building becomes a metaphor of the unmasking of labor seen here as tectonics. A condition also apparent in the importance of apparatus in the production of film as was also seen in the avant-garde films of the French Nouvel Vague. It was quite common in the films of Jean-Luc Godard to interrupt its story at different points in the film in order that the director could comment on his decisions and reasons for certain shots and scenes. The story of the production of architecture and film sat side by side with its own narrative it was self-reflexive.

But the conditions of these immaterial relations have greatly changed today. Quoting Arjun Appadurai from Modernity at Large again, “I propose that an elementary frame work for exploring such disjunctures is to look at the relationship among five dimensions of cultural flows, that can be termed ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes, financescapes and idioscapes.” These conditions transform the immaterial relations. The conditions of Empire have commensurately changed the social, political, economic, and psychological conditions that define culture. Just as we saw the conditions of seventies were inflected in the materialization of built space at that time these conditions reconstitute architectural memory producing a very different kind of building. Here a very different picture of an intensive type building of Frank Gehry, a building at Bilbao, the Gugenheim at Bilbao, the skin of architecture is now transformed into a projection surface for new media, it’s folded spaces and titanium skin is made with a computer assistant design program. It is no longer just a museum but is part of the culture tourism that plays a significant role in the economy of Bilboa and is part of a larger scheme of global art domination as it is one of many Guggenheim Museums spread throughout the world. But these same conditions, which together have influenced architecture, are also found in fashion, design, urban planning and fine art production. You could analyze each in the same way I have for architecture. They also affect the conditions of technology for instance the subjective optical technologies invented in which one might use to visualize these changes in the form of for instance photographs and films. Here on the drawing you can see this pseudopod extending outward from the body of the cultural organism. If you follow the laser light here you can see that I have written things like camera obscura camera lucida, stereopticon card, photographic camera, phenakistascope, cinema and now new media.  I have a time line going in an outward direction from the past to the present to the future. This is just for diagrammatic clarity as in fact these changes are not linear or remediated in a positivistic sense. Each medium and each apparatus does not simply remediate its predecessor but there is a lot of continual back and forth and jumping over each other. This part of the diagram illustrates that like architecture, design and urban planning the history of the technologies and specifically optic technologies have mutated along with the conditions described before. That is to say that each culture at each phase in its own production required and produced different apparatti to visualize and inspect it. This visualization allowed each epoch to view itself in order critique that image. In fact one of the reasons for it s production came out of that need. Evolving Culture changes technology and of course vice versa. Of course I might add that this drawing was made for the visual sense but it just as easily could have been made for the auditory or kinesthetic senses. Now if you look at the right side of the optical technological stream, we described the left side just now, we see something interesting. The apparatti on the right side reflect not the subjective technologies used to make photographs and films but the objective diagnostic machines to view inside the body and here specifically the brain. Thus we have first the X-Ray, followed by the  EEG succeeded by the CAT scan and MRI.  As I will show later on in this lecture the same conditions that are changing art, architecture and  technology are affecting the brain as well. The new curved, non-linear and rhizomatic spaces of the post-modern building generate very different neurobiological architectonic conditions in the brain that are necessary to perceive, cognate and act in this very different world.  The new forms of object diagnostic tools constantly being reformulated and improved is an attempt to cope with the new conditions of this brain reflected in its structural and dynamic changes. Remember I said attempt. What is true is that new conditions of mind and the general intellect, what is known, produced by the changing economic, political, social, psychological and spiritual, conditions that define a moment in human cultural history are reflected in new possibilities for the imagination used to create new forms of imaging technology that loop back to produce an evolving  World Picture of inside and outside the brain.

Now I would like to talk a little about these conditions of the brain. First I would like to read a quote from “The Brain is the Screen” by Gregory Flaxman which I think nicely tethers culture and the brain that Barbara will address later in the conference. “Deleuze describes the brain as a relatively undifferentiated mass in which circuits aren’t there to begin with: for this reason, creating new circuits in art means creating them in the brain too. The cinema does more than create circuits, through, because, like a brain, it consists in a complexity of images, imbricated and folded into so many lobes, connected by so many circuits.  While cinema can simply reiterate the facile circuits of the brain, appealing to arbitrary violence and feeble eroticism, it can also jump those old grooves, emancipating us from the typical image-rhythms opening us to a thought that stands outside subjectivity.” Flaxman is commenting on the way that cinema can create new circuits for the brain to release it from a state constructed subjectivity. This is the Resistance as Fertile I want to address later. But more on that later.  On the right side of this drawing you see the words primary repertoire and secondary repertoire. The primary repertoire is coming from outside the drawing while the secondary repertoire is integrated into the cultured brain drawing. These terms primary and secondary repertoire are borrowed from Gerald Edelman who developed the idea important to this discussion called The Theory of Neuronal Group Selection or Neural Darwinism. For this discussion I will not take up the issue of Neural Constructivism. I also might add that his theories owe much to the famous French Neuroscientist Jean Francois Changeux. This theory has three main parts: developmental selection, experiential selection and reenty.  Developmental selection constitutes the conditions and events that surround the development of the brain in the womb. It produces the primary repertoire, which is a dense and variable population of neurons with complex branching patterns that create extensive and at times random appearing neural connections.  Experiential Selection the next stage is defined as that period at birth and continuing into maturity in which that dense population of neurons is sculpted and pruned by the environmental context that individual is born into.  The process by which the environment affects the conditions of the neurobiological substrate is called epigenesis. Most changes in the brain take place in the early years of life however recent research is extending that idea into later life.  Epigenisis is linked to a condition of neural tissue called Neural Plasticity:  the ability of neurons, dendrites and their synapses to be modified by experience. This next group of slides shows that plasticity can operate on different levels. For instance we already talked about synaptic efficiencies.  But as this picture shows the microscopic branching structure of the chicken”s visual cortex changes in the early days of life. On the left you see the disorganized pattern of a matte of neural elements that seem to have no order and on the right seventeen days later those neurons have been pruned like the branches of an apple tree to give a very different picture. The dendritic trees and neurons appear ordered as if they were affected by a plan. The next slide shows the area of the premotor cortex where the sensory field of the right index finger is represented. On the left part of the slide is a blind person while on the right side is a normal person. One can easily notice that the brain scan picture of the blind and normal person s index finger is different.  Look how much larger area lights up in the premotor cortex of the blind persons index finger area.  The representation is larger then normal because when reading brail that finger is used.  Finally this last picture shows the whole brain changing after a person learns a task. When learning changes from a pure perceptual mode to one that is logical you can see here that as the subject changes strategies the posterior part of the brain image lights up, showing that this part is being used, replacing the more anterior pattern.

An important consideration here and one that will be relevant to our discussion later is that experiential selection does not, like natural selection in evolution, occur as a result of differential reproduction, but rather differential amplification of certain neuronal populations. What this means is that those neurons and neural networks that are most frequently and intensely stimulated by, for instance, the conditions the child finds in the outside world during critical periods of development will develop more efficient means of information transmission thus allowing them to have  selected advantage for over those not so stimulated.  In other words these neurons are apt to be more likely favored over other neurons and neuronal networks in future encounters with those stimuli. Of course we are aware that neurons and neural networks do not work in isolation.  They are in fact part of large complexes of networks and they code for complex stimuli. They may code for simple stimuli like an apple in a bowl of fruit, or the more complex situation found in Times Square New York where one finds confounding and competing neon signs. This sculpting by the environment produces the secondary repertoire which is evolving rapidly during childhood and slows down as we mentioned before in adulthood. The third part of the neuronal selection triad is called Reentry. As the name implies it allows for the synchronization of neural events in widely disparate parts of the brain. It plays a role in binding together networks that take part in the grand symphony of constantly shifting neural events. I feel that binding and reentry are also conditions of the world outside the brain and that networks of stimuli are bound together into immanent, dynamic packages of stimuli that pulsate. For our limited discussion it is important just to be familiar with the primary and secondary repertoire and the types of selection that produce them. Edelman beautifully summarizes the above discussion in this quote from his book Wider then the Sky that I am now projecting on the screen. ”
Different individuals have different genetic influences, different epigenetic  sequences, different bodily responses, and different histories in varying environments. The result is enormous variation at the levels of neuronal chemistry, network structure, synaptic strengths, temporal properties, memories and motivational patterns governed by value systems… In this case, selection from such a population of variants could lead to patterns even under unpredictable circumstances… In evolution fitter individuals survive and have more progeny. In the indidual brain, those synaptic populations that match vaule systems and rewards are more likely to survive or contribute more to the production of future behavior.”

I would now like to project three slides of quotes that will create the foundation for the end of my discussion, realizing of course the limitations of this lecture format. A more complete analysis of these issues can be found in the Neurobiopolitics of Global Consciousnes published in the Sarai Reader #6 Turbulence as well as in The Body in Architecture, ed. Deborah Hauptman, 010 Press.

This next section of my lecture might be dedicated to the eminent cognitive psychologist D. Hebb who stated the now famous adage “Neurons that Fire Together Wire Together.” We saw earlier in our brief discussion of Neural Darwinism that this was so. But I would like to modify this to statement to  rather “Networks in the Real, Imaginary, Virtual World create networks in the Brain.”

In this final part of the first part of my lecture which concerns Resistance is Futile I would like to construct an edifice for the means through which the culture industry has conspired to produce intense, super sensorial, attention  grabbing stimuli that preferentially sculpt the brain and the mind. I am only skimming the surface of the argument but in the end I would like to suggest that sovereignty utilizes strategies to sculpt not only the brains of single individuals but groups of individuals in its desire as an agent of the state to produce what Hobbes called the People. I don’t have time today but I would also like to that the conditions of new labor has prompted sovereignty to create alternative diapositifs, as Foucault called them,  with which to control and sculpt the multitude. Diapositifs that see the brain as a multitude of populations of neurons rather then hierarchical assemblages of neurons.

In todays simplified form I will outline three levels through which sovereignty in the age of cultural capital produce and distribute highly attentive stimuli and networks of stimuli that call out to specific neurons and neural networks in its highly heterogeneous population of neurons preferentially. These  sculpt it according to the logic of simulated reality and mediated images. The next three slides will be the starting point of this discussion. First is a quote by Paul Virilio, The Vision Machine, “The phatic image-a targeted image that forces you to look and hold your attention-is not only a pure product of photographic and cinematic focusing. More importantly it is the result of an ever-brighter illumination, of its definition, singling out only specific areas, the context mostly disappearing into a blur.”  At the basic level of the single engineered image the image is phatic. The word phatic is part of emphatic.  It is rich with meaning and affect. It captures your attention like when you are aiming a gun at a target and every thing else in your visual field melts away except the bulls-eye.  Images produced in advertising firms with the help of perceptual psychologist and economic theorists accentuated by special effects computer programs are extremely sexy and can not be avoided. Images enter into an affective ecology of other images in the mediascape and there they compete with other images so constructed creating networks of stimulation.  For instance many companies work with other companies to display their brands and logos together creating intense, the origins of these images are hidden and their effect is non-linear, networks of phaticity. For the next slide I would like to bring the quote from  Jonathan Crary in his Suspensions of Perception back again. “Attention implied that cognition could no longer be conceived around the unmediated giveness of sense data.  To use Peircean terms, it made a previously dyadic system of subject-object into a triadic one, with the third element constituted by a “community of interpretation”:  a shifting and intervening space of socially articulated physiological functions, institutional imperatives, and a wide range of techniques, practices, and discourses relating to the perceptual experience of a subject in time. Thus attention within modernity is constituted by these forms of exteriority, not the intentioinality of an autonomous subject.” Attention is now socially constructed and we now pay attention to things in the distribution of sensibility that are part of sovereignty’s institutional imperative. Attention is no longer a single focused image but is now multiplicitous and immanent in a see of floating signifiers vying for the subject’s attention in time. Finally the next quote in this triad is from Maurizio Lazzarato:
“In the societies of control, power relations come to be expressed through the action at a distance of one mind on another, through the brain’s power to affect and become affected, which is mediated and enriched by technology. The institutions of the societies of control are thus characterized by the use of technologies of acting at a distance, rather then of mechanical technologies (societies of sovereignty) or thermodynamic technologies(displinary societies). The post-fordist cultural industry in the age of empire are now taking these intense phatic images and distributing them world wide on television and laptops where they resonate over and over again in interminable pulses of intense desire.  A new perfume called HYPNOSIS engages eyes and noses from New York to Hong Kong to Barcelona through its multi-network distribution on Billboards, Newspapers and Magazines, Telelvision and Internet.” 5 aug 2012

So what are the implications of all of this?  What happens when you interface theories of Neural Darwinism and Neural Constructivism with these social and cultural paradigms.  Global Capitalism is in the end producing fields and networks of phaticity that engages the brain and mind efficiently.  As we have seen this is a co-evolutionary process in which phatic stimuli and networks compete with each other in the real-imaginary-virtual landscape for the brain/minds attention seamlessly.  As attention is key to salience, those stimuli that most affectively engage the brain mind will stimulate neuronal-synaptic complexes most effectively in the end creating ecologies which favor these complexes at the expense of others. In the end the brain will be predominately sculpted by these inputs especially if they present during critical periods of development. When you add to this equation the fact that these stimuli are disseminated world wide through communication networks and that they are presented incessantly the potential for neural sculpting becomes even more intensified. In the next part of the lecture I want to discuss how architecture and art using their own histories, methods, apparatti, discourses and materials produce networks of sensation that compete effectively with those of sovereignty for the attention of the brain. That the same Neural Darwinistic Theories can also be adapted to explain a brain that is sculpted differently according to art’s alternative logics.

Oh is my time up?  I guess will have to wait for next time for the second part but stay tuned. I guess I should have kept the title Resistance is Futile.