Tuesday, 8 December 2009

As If It Were The Last Time

On my ongoing preocupation with examining altermodern prepositions -by this I mean works, plays, authors, ideas that can be used to identify some of the character of altermodernity- I turn today to a piece, a performance/theatrical experience by Duncan Speakman I attended recently (12 November)

As if it were the last time by Speakman, uses the concept of the subtlemob, and it is part of generationtime and the VauxHall creative. They describe the experience as:

“Putting on a pair of headphones you find yourself immersed in the cinema of everyday life. As the soundtrack swells, people in the crowd around you re-enact the England of today. Sometimes you’re just drifting and watching, sometimes you’re creating the scenes yourself. This is no requiem, this a celebratory slow dance, a chance to savour the world you live in.” Duncan Speakman

And this is precisely what you do, you send them an email, download a track to your phone/mp3, get a map to where to go, get a time and sycronize your clock with them. Don't hear the track before you go, it spoils things (they say).

You show up at the place in the map, at the time they tell you, with the track and a partner (I did it without partner). The performance starts at the hour, through your MP3, the music and voice narrating what is happening on the street, and then gradually you are place in the performance itself.

You never know who are the performers, the subtlemob, or who the audience is. Anyone on the street could be either of the many people, were we the performers? were I the subtlemob?, where the other couples the authors, the makers of it as they followed their tapes? It was a play for reflection and contemplation of these boundaries but it was also peaceful, unsettlingly quiet.

...I remember standing under the rain, a street full of umbrellas, people dotted in the landscape, gradually recognising we were all wearing headphones, still, listening, watching...

...The rest is an entrancing, beautiful and serene experience, one where the boundaries between performer and performance, evocation, suspension of time, re-definition of public space get blurred one with another.

re-telling participant observation: altermodern emotions

I felt uneasy at first, partly because I didn't have a partner with me, and the play is based (perhaps too heavily based) on the partnership you bring alone. Also because I always feel uneasy at being placed in the terrain of the performance, being 'led' by others. I have experienced many open performances where I rather stay quietly in one side and only perticipate when I want to, not when I am asked to. However, perhaps because this time the music was a means to a trance and partly because I was feeling terribly sad in my life and genuinelly interested in the concept of the performance that I went along. Not having a partner meant that you were 'switched off', both participant and observer, rather than a full 'native': that suited my nature.

As anthropologist, I am used to participant observation, it is one of the methods we use in anthropology when doing fieldwork research, it is a kind of second nature by now. Here I do not mean it in a strict ethnographic sense, but in the sense that it allows people to find a space where to position themselves on what anthropologists recognise as 'participant observation'. This is a re-told one, partly because I distinguish it -narrowly- from the anthropological use of it. I had never considered its role as an altermodern emotion, in its re-told sense, but I am considering now as an idea to use and explore.

Streets to meditate on

I remember the track, it took me to a street I didn't know and I street I recognised. Gradually as the track moved us the other couples emerged to my vision, and then the others, and the the actors -or now, you just didn't know- and then the people on the street again; troubled as I was, the play allowed a space for refelction that I welcomed very much.

And there it was a silentmob of faces and bodies, independent from me, atom-like, each following the play from their headphones, moving at times, quiet, reflective, some people shinning from the experience, transported, others hugging and some crying, all immersed and all part of it. The pictures I took were about us, the place, the public space that the play and us as silentmob had occupied, taken over, they only reflect my experience of it, that of each one of us moving, meeting each other, missing each other on the street, watching out for people who didn't know that a performance was taking place, busy shopping amongst us, watching oddly why so many people were smiling, dancing, moving and static with our headphones on. I knew their radiance and knew their hug because it was shared -and not-. And here, photography was only a way of entering back into the performance that were leaving, merging and substracting from.

By the end of it -I hated discovering a camera (at the very last minute) filming us so I hurried out of its frame to find myself in a small street of strangers and friends, and a skyline at nigh. It was the moment of moving away from the camera that brought it togheter for me, as I hide from the over-exposure (overexposure for me I mean) I was finally amongst publics of all kinds and also feeling a sense of subtlemob-part-of-it-all. I then took three pictures of us, of them, of the street, of it all, touching something of magic realism, immerse myself back through an image, and then put the camera away again.

Suspeded in a street

The actual moment of the performance, for me, came when it ended and I had to remove my headphones off. I didn't expect it, but the feeling within me was that I didn't want to remove the headphones off, I wanted it to go on for a bit longer, to remain 'there' in the space that the performance had/we had created.

I walked the streets taken by an emotion akin to a wish to remain suspended in that track and that space, just a bit longer, just a bit longer. And I walked out of that new space into the street, meging the two worlds, feeling still a silentmob within me.

Sublty not quite

The thing is, with this performance, on the one hand it is different from what you would expect. On the other, it does not fulfill in an 'awe' sense. There is something uneasy about placing oneself in that space that is being created as you walk and hear it, as a self-generating space.

Thinking about it, all I could say, at first is that the performance is 'not quite'. However, although it does leave you with a nag for 'I'm not sure about this' at the same time it also creates many feelings of exhilaration, melancholy, emotion, that start within you 'subtly'. Despite its couple-oriented and 'not quite the expectation' feeling you also get, the play is transformative at the level of perception, and it does create art; or perhpaps I'd rather say, you live it as art, and speaks to you as art does, at different levels, different enjoyments and distastes, contradictory but enhancing of new perspectives about the self.

I would say that I liked 'as if it were the last time' much more than I enjoyed it when I was in it. I really liked what it did to my sense of belonging and rootedlessness, some of its transformative aspects and its lingering condition, like a movie that you enjoy better once the credits have ended and as you walk out of the theatre....well, at least for me.

I liked it so much I kept the map -like searching for a treasure- and the track -it has an elusive quality to transform space each time you hear it.

I would recommend it to anyone really.

Re-telling space, time and participation

What the performance did, and did so beautifully well, is that it gave its participants a narrative. Furthermore, it gave the participants the possibility of re-narrating the event, among themselves, through twitter, in the videos, through blogs and so on. In that sense for me it fulfilled some of the altermodern features very well. I was impressed by some of the comments, they were very reflexive, intelligently articulated, felt, and involved. The play fitted london and londoners well, it was good for the streets, the urbanity of our lives.

This performance, the concept (and its associated concepts -the aibot which run instead of a website for sometime during the days leading to the performance,- and the frameworks around it -vauxhall (that came to substitute the bot for the actual final website)- is for me an addition that stands out as an altermodern one.

Three altermodern features: the atomisation of emotional experiences, the performance impact on 'time' itself, and the re-narrativisation of the stories met also the tranformance of space, a theme that I feel, altermodernity is exploring further and further as it moves on (I will comment on it in my next blog).

So, for these reasons I have put the 'as if it were the last time' in my list of altermodern conditions.

Some reviews here

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Winner of Time (Yellow Futures 2)

X is for XTRA HOURS IN THE DAY CLOCK - Never be pushed for time again. Simply pull the lever and this clock will double your time. An hour of indulgence can last for two, and a week off will feel like a fortnight.

By Brenda Durham, The XClock

This above is the Selfridges winner.
I think this public competitions where people choose one item is a seriously dated modern concept. The winner was the Xclock, but then, dated the idea of competition on of choosing 1 item as it is, the choice on time does meet at the heart of altermodernity as being concerned -in one of its themes: with the heterocronos.
The event makes me feel of a kind of juxtaposition of intentions between publics, ideas, exhibit that feels right on time, out of time, so to speak....

Yellow Futures

Oh, and my latest and absolutely taken by it is the fenomenally altermodern window display of Selfridges.I feel the yellow logo is pure genius, but then logos were very much postmodern in preocupation, what captures my aim are the little connected islands of display oh my! the little giant ducklings and all..Now, for me the difference, where it crosses the line of altermodern has to be with their display on their Centenary windons and the one on Future 2109 also called 'Idea X'....

Yes, they have had amazing displays over the years, see the 2007 ones, for example 2007 windows

and April 09 windows

But I never felt that the earlier versions in 2007 transcended the objectification of their own commodities, they quite couldn't fetishise them enough pass the artifact of fashion -in itself a very good goal of postmodern period, and as such, no complains here. I liked them, like I like other displays. However, the new displays suggest a finnese of current thinking that other shops and chains in our High Streets as well as exhibits, fashion and design -including those from Selfridges ino ther occasions- are still not quite getting...but these, the centenary and in particular the x-2109 have captured some of the altermodern period beautifully. I was so mesmerised by the 2019 that it just took my entire day, missed all my appointments...the designers -Wieden + Kennedy- deserve a price, more than one, whatever a price would be in a conceptualised altermodern idea

I mean...Here are the ones for 2109

Selfridges Future
Element 15856

and must see more detail of the alphabet Details

Of course, what is crucial for me in the defintion of this display as an altermodern preoposition is the narrative of each of the letters, not just the mere display. The re-telling of each letter into a future narrative, the journeying of each letter and so of each story for each of the objects, in their insular and simultaneous alphabetic story.The objects encased and illustrating these narratives are beautiful in themselves, each one echoing the new telling, adding on, increasing a departure from the previous one and of the totality itself.The capture of time displaced, and heteronormic moving across the lines is intensified with each letter, and the fact that the viewer can actually skip letters, jump across, make words with them, and re-tell in as much the alphabet extend towards the missing X.

Try making a word, like tree, or yellow, and read the letters in that order, and the stories within..that's what I mean. Here is for you: Q -for qUEER (basically, you do need to add the other words to get the full telling, but I hope you get my meaning here. I only got the Q, so it is quick vacation of my virtual holidays, virtually anywhere...

You can see some more here, really worth the look....Alphabet


Rehearsal of the Plinth

On the island of journeys...the plinth continues to attract my attention -the much missed London Purple paper (as much as I dislike its parent company I really liked the paper)- had a feature on them here and there and it is worth looking at their archives for daily account of the different experiences of the plinth. The way they created a narrative of London, themes, arguments, fears, worries, and our current world presented to me an array of questions that would well fit into a altermodern tale...I hope there is someone out there taking pictures of each new plinth as it unfolds, in that sense of re-telling the journey of the plynth, or ever doing something not quite just like taking pictures with it. A rehersal seemed appropriate to me.

Altermodern at the Co-op

Altermodern at the Co-Op could well describe itself as an altermodern concept of place, but here, really it is not so today. WHat I meant to come today to do here was to relate that there has been a fabulous discussion on altermodernity that I startet at the Open Access Anthropology Co-opearative, hence. I think the responses are brilliant and have helped us develop the concept and the discussion much further than I ever anticipated. Here it is, the link

My altermodern preposition for today, however follows next in my 'Yellow Futures' below/above

Friday, 15 May 2009

The little yellow booklet of the Altermodern Exhibition Journeys

In a previous post I was saying how in our last conference, as we tried using the concept of the Altermodern to frame our discussions (in anthropology and in education), Anna and myself found that people responded really well about the altermodern.

Yesterday a colleague of ours called home and asked if Anna would give her paper again (on exclusion and education)...and not only that..they want to hear again about the Altermodern, so there we are...back to the leaflet again.

So we have found ourselves going to conferences with the little yellow leaflet (basically we explain B's ideas and his notes from the Tate's website and publications, and then we read one or two paragraphs from the little yellow book, enough to give a sense of flavour and to use the original sources). We then pass the yellow book around, and let people read and think about it...-don't you think that despite my issues with the manifesto and how to extend its postmodern ideas into a fuller altermodern meaning of it I do not like or use the original ideas! I do, actually).

So, we have realised that our yellow booklet is now quite travelled and old (and a bit torn on the edges), it has travelled all around all the exhibitions of the Tate britain, including toilets and caffe, it has lived in our handbag and between the pages of our notebooks. It sits in our desk, at home. It has travelled up to Manchester, and a bit of Oxford, and even touched by my sister, and that means its influence is gone to Barcelona with her, too. It will travel to York, to Anna's next conference, and it will travel to Belfast next year to the ethnographic conference on Interviewing where I hope to use it to re-frame ideas of time and movement in doing anthropological research

In honour of the little yellow booklet and the inspiration on maps, I did my version of the journeys of our little yellow altermodern booklet (from the tate to the undergound, home and UK and abroad).....

Altermodern Things

Today I am making a list of things that I feel, share a commonality in the ideas that underly the theme of altermodernity. This list will grow, so it is an altermodern blog in the sense of it is actually not going to stop moving into a miriad of encounters. It also features articles out there that I feel, add to it all...

I must start, of course with the work of all the authors at the Altermodern at the Tate.

1) The Altermoderns - the amazing group of art and artist that exhibited at the Altermodern (
see the Prologues), its curators at the Triennial, and Bourriad - Bourriad's book 1 is out -

2) the 4th Plinth - I think the dynamism and re-telling of stories by people and the expression of it in Trafalgar Square amongst the non-animated three plinth makes of
Gormley's idea (as put into action by the people) a way into altermodernity

3) I can't quite point at why,
Le Roux video has defining qualities that take both the song, the moving image and the re-projection of 1980s a bit more far than other things I have seen

4) I didn't know what to think of the Google India Bus or
Google bus . At first, specially as I was twitting his India tour it kind of reminded me of development programs in 70s going-really-wrong and being build in a cross-road of post-colonial intentions. The difference this time, however, was the way in which it was building up pictures of the communities, the links and videos and how these communities were having an impact on this project itself. Where the project is short of more ethnographic validity (which would mirror, for example, the ethnographic strenght of the Pakistani-Indian-Thai-Japanese piece at the Tate), is that it is hard to see what are people's actual contributions, it is a 'hands-top-down' project. I would like to see and read what those communities make out of it. It is not fully an altermodern piece but it would have some potential if more narrative of indigenous voices were brought into the project. A blog would help...how could Google not think of it? if it doesn't do so, bring all those stories in their voices, it will crash and burn as an altermodern project.

In itself the project is very short of (even) postmodern qualities, let alone altermodern ones, however, if you add the news reports from India,
TheHindu, HinduBusiness,
and labnol's blog responses is starting to make more of a better altermodern qualities altogether.

5) Ok, I must confess I work on things to do with Japan (being an anthropologist of Japan), so my next one is a good article on altermodernism,
an article here.

Twittervision I just think the Twittervision 3- version of the world map with its non-synched rotation and emerging twitts from all over the world is just altermodern technology at its best

another article, and this (unlike the Japanese one that it is a conventional article, does have a very interesting altermodern twist and I agree with the authors's enchatment with the Altermodern and its great potential).

8) Click Opera
Altermodern Week is a great live journal with some good musings and a flare for all things altermodern

9) Oh, this is one of two of my new finds:
http://www.politicalremixvideo.com/ that just crosses the line (although not of the videos have altermodern qualities), but the idea of popular culture and re-mixing involves a generic altermodern sense of journeying and re-telling that fits here.

10) And even better Rip:Re-Mix

11) This is a MUST, the Altermodern Exploration at the Tate is a gorgeous trip through theory, art, visuality...and it explains the altermodern concepts at a greater level, http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/altermodern/explore.shtm

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Power and the Academy

I attended Power & the Academy conference in Manchester. There Anna and I gave papers, both of which presented the Altermodern as a new direction where to go with theory in academic contexts.

One interesting thing was that whilst the audience had not heard of the term Altermodern they were very keen on its ideas and on the kind of ideas we presented through the Tate's leaflet (the exhibition description of the Altermodern and its pieces). The Tate's narrative on the Altermodern is a great source for looking into how to extend the original theory of the Altermodern into specific interpretations of it (one for each of the pieces on the exhibition leaflet), and we mostly read out some of their descriptions to the different audiences. The outcome was unexpected, the audiences were very keen on it. In one of the sessions the discussion on the Altermodern took over the actual discussion that was going on in a Q&A session we were at.

What struck me from the experience was that people were ready to examine the new prepositions, willing to listen to it, with the emphasis that is given to those moments that people know they have heard a distinctive preposition, as opposed to when they hear 'waffles' of 'here and there and no-where'. There is a sense of journey on the very description of the Altermodern that appears to make sense to people we speak.

Altermodern way of doing: 'Universities as 're-usable objects''

Anna is nearly ready with her paper, I wish mine was too. My paper is about 'universities as 're-usable objects' as a way of addressing some of the confrences concerns. I hope to use 'Altermodern' as a way to conceptualise my discourse on 'universities as 're-usable' objects', although it is rather a difficult task in a textual form as I would like to use the syntagmatic possitions of re-usable objects (as in context of e-learning, visually and hyperlinked) as ways of thinking of how academies may look like if we challenged their contemporary outlook.

My preposition is simple, though. Academic contexts are problematic in the way in which the knowledge society and neo-liberal crisis have constructed (and enclosed) these context as privileged arenas. If we were to think of possibilities, of different academies, other than the neo-liberal and knowledge society driven ones (an exmaple of this are the way degrees are 'marketed' and employability applied to our teaching spaces) we would have several problem in theorising this 'new academy'. Some of these are about modularisation, transparency, accountability, ethics and so on.

One way to think about possible academic futures is to take the example of 're-usable objects' as found in e-learning, and to try to think of the 'academy' as a 're-usable object'. Treating academic contexts as 're-usable objects' using postmodern approaches would lead us to a critique that in using 're-usable objects' we are buying into the knowledge society use of 're-usable objects', and perhaps a reification of Universities as 'boutiques of knowledge'.

However, if we could think of 're-usable objects' in a more altermodern way, perhaps, in the way in which, in the Tate exhibition, one of the authors took conventional museum pieces and challenged their journey through art and meaning by su-perimposing light, movement, sound and the challenged position of the viewer, maybe then we could think of a University (as with the conventional museum piece) as if we projected unto it the shape of our 're-usable objects', its hyperlinks and reusability and made our students walk through a new journey in our academic practice. I argued, in my presentation, that directions for this new university may emerge through the 'cracks' that appear, as it indicated by the example of e-learning contexts, where people also go to learn (facebook, second life, and other sites) through the new classrooms re-defined by their use in social sites. I am merely using the example of e-learning, and its re-usable learning metaphors to indicate that there are already places of learning like the ones we say may be 'in our future'.

I think using the Altermodern examples to theorise about our academic future may, one example being that of re-usable objects (There are many more things besides the little re-usable object, Anna proposes re-narrativisation of biographies in educational studies, for example) may help us in address the question of what kind of learning contexts do we want our students to be in our immediate futures.

What is your anthropological journey?

David facebooked me with a related theme after my discussion with him on Altermodernity, globalisation and the current crisis.

David had talked to another anthropologist and this person had said that he felt 'postmodernity was exhasuted, and that the modern phase (the post-post modern phase) the contours of which were unclear.' (...) 'We need to stand on some foundational questions like: What is your anthropological problem?', his interlocutor had said at the end of the discussion.

My reply to David was that the feeling that postmodernity was exhausted echoed with the concerns of Altermodernity, and that indeed, the contours of our globalised lives are unclear. That makes them quite Altemodern in itself. I told David his interlocuto should jump, to jump to the Altermodern because otherwise, at the edge of postmodernity, his friend will be tempted to tip-toe into the muddy watters of liquid modernity, one of the incarceration moments of late modernity trying to find a way back in.

Jump to Altermodernity, I said. I felt a bit foolish at that moment because the water (jump into the waters of) analogy has been used before. maybe I should clarify that it is more like 'jump'. I like jumping because if I could have it, I would like to try an anthropology of Altermodernity that is a bit of a 'parkour' (freerunning) of ideas.

Cluttered with obstacles, free running (I am aware parkour and free running are not always synonyms, it just happens I came to both at the same time under parkour, as the art of 'deplacement' -as always the English translations of 'free running' was not perhaps the closest understanding of 'deplacement') keeps moving accesing areas that otherwise are innacessible (roofs, edges of buildings, facades...) and for me (in parkour) also evading, dissenting (not just an atlethic value of executing free jumps) and enhancing one's strenght for dealing with urban life's landscapes (including both physical urban and emotional ones - I'd be a traceuses if I could).

An example of this in anthropology would be how we deal with obstacles like providing an interpretation to the current financial crisis, the obstacles are many (including the distance between anthropology and public anthropology). Here it is where I hope David understands my meaning of where Altermodernity comes into helping make those jumps, in providing some strenght to the process of moving to 'innacessible' areas and dealing with obstacles.

What would parkour and free running be like in the altermodern context? (parkour is for me, even my great love for it, one of my postmodern endeavours)

In an Altermodern context, I wrote to David, the questions of anthropology('what is your anthropological problem? as the axiomatic place from where to stand) may be better phrased with 'what is your anthropological journey?' when defining the object and nature of anthropological endevours in an altermodern, global context. When asking about 'what is your anthropological journey?' I feel a series of questions popping into my head, one the one hand, re-loading 'journey' for 'problem', it allows for some postmodern qualities of transience and for some of the fashions of autobiography and reflexivity to be mantained, on the other hand it also allows for an enquiry that is aimign to trascend the strict academic (and modern postitivistic) boundaries of thinking of anthropology and its endevour as 'the problem'.

Looking back at my reply to David I think 're-prasisng' the question as 'journey' rather than 'problem' is not new, and perhpas we ought to consider other ways of articulating 'what does anthropology do?' , 'what are you (as anthropologist) looking at when looking at human issues?'. Here I feel, looking at the Tate exhibition we could learn from some of the authors solutions at addressing similar issues. I greatly enjoyed an exhibit that had a series of 'Head' pictures. In this exhibit the artist put a series of shots of 'heads' one next to the other, creating an elaborate visual narrative of meaning, it felt genuinely ethnographic. If we were to put a picture of each one of the theoretical 'heads' how would it look like? (I do not mean people's pictures or pictures of their heads, I am talking of theories), how would it look like for anthropological theories? for our endevours, for the kinds of questions we ask?

(There was an attempt, a fully postmodern attempt I should say, at the edge of tipping-over-Altemodernism-but-not-quite, on an earlier exhibit in London on "Martian Museum of Terrestial Art" that was attempting to do so from a perspective of art. I felt, it perhpas embraced the museum and the art too much for my linking, but it was a truly good way to re-think post-colonial and postmodern anthropology)

Where was I?....ah, yes, back to how best could we imagine the 'Academy' in the context of our globalised, uncertain contours. I would like to use the 're-usable objects' not as a 'defining' strategy, but as a way of thinking of possibilities, the 'Academy' as a re-usable object. Maybe, we could take example from the Altermodern authors in the Tate and to be less afraid to re-load concepts like parkour or 're-usable objects' in trying to identify ways in which to present both anthropology and the academic contexts in which it is often validated through.

When trying to do so, a word of caution....it is an ambitious project, trying to be altermodern artist-like about theories is always fraught with difficulties.

Diasporic Meanings

a genuine postmodern...'jump' (as in a parkour vault)

...draw some light with your body as you do

re-tell the jump by re-loading new light

and for anthropology?

I am thinking of an anthropology of diasporas (of ideas), as if anthropology was narrated from journeys into theories, back from such journeys, parting to new destinations, retold in the ethnographic sense, a sense of transnational movements, some described here , if we coud gather a story from each of these stories and that of those found on similar links, we may get a sense of that globalised contour....

Relationality is central to contemporary times and situations. In this relationality, bodies and embodiment articulate narratives of encounters with globalised culture. The body of related persons and the mobilisation of intimate relations happen in our times across different borders and lines of contact. Maybe because I have a preocupation with desire, exchange and relations of creative technologies I see of my current period in anthropology as a period that demands new wanderings of thought, places where we can ground the way human relational subjectivity is mediating the contours of our life. In our latest theories we have grounded these subjectivities in the politics of biopower, performativity, new kinship, embodiment, transnationalism, diasporas, cultural innovation. I am interested in an anthropology of relationality and the meanings this relationality acquire as it passes through our age of biotechnology, cultural globalisation and altermodernity.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Re-loading the Altermodern Manifesto

I take Altermodernity to help us in thinking through the question 'what next after postmodernity?'.

The Manifesto
I do not take Altermodernity as defined through Nicolas Bourriaud's manifesto as the defining answer to what comes next but as one, the first indeed, of the many attempts at starting somewhere.

I like the fact that the genesis of the concept emerges from the specific context of art, in the way in which Surrealism, Cubism or Abstract are also underpinnings to our evolving conceptualisations in theory.

This is the Manifesto (Bourriaud's Manifesto)
Altermodern Manifesto POSTMODERNISM IS DEAD A new modernity is emerging, reconfigured to an age of globalisation – understood in its economic, political and cultural aspects: an Altermodern culture Increased communication, travel and migration are affecting the way we live Our daily lives consist of journeys in a chaotic and teeming universe Multiculturalism and identity is being overtaken by creolisation: Artists are now starting from a globalised state of culture This new universalism is based on translations, subtitling and generalised dubbing Today’s art explores the bonds that text and image, time and space, weave between themselves Artists are responding to a new globalised perception. They traverse a cultural landscape saturated with signs and create new pathways between multiple formats of expression and communication. The Tate Triennial 2009 at Tate Britain presents a collective discussion around this premise that postmodernism is coming to an end, and we are experiencing the emergence of a global altermodernity. Nicolas Bourriaud Altermodern – Tate Triennial 2009

Re-loading from Postmodernity with Anthropology
I use Altermodernity in a specific anthropological way, rather than on its manifesto definition.

I am less concerned with the 'modernity' aspect of it than the 'alter'. I wish it not to be reduced to the already dead 'us-them' dichotomy or the equally postmodern understanding of 'otherness'. If we simply end up reloading the other-us/them in a new fashion, the importance of art created in intersections other than the postcolonial and postmodern orders will be missed, 'lost in translation'. I hope it will be an Altermodernity that will understand relationships in the many roads we are taking across our global axis, and encounters in culture, rather than essentialisations (us, them, other, non-other, Creole) in neo-liberal late modernities.

Translation of Modernity
I think 'translation', in Bourriad explanations is a step back to many of the rich debates that took place in postmodernity (I will address later how to get away from the 'lament' on postmodernity).

The issue of modern, supermodern do not appeal so much to me because, I felt Altermodernity, as a concept does not need back to a revisiting of modernity, maybe I take it, it has a 'reloading' quality, but if taken too literaly, a constant reloading would simply synch with many of the elements of the late modernity and liquid modernity, in particular the melancholy of liquid modernity. I think the 'reloading process' Bourriad talks about needs to be developed more carefully.

is also a term amply debated in Anthropology, and in a sense, I felt, we had moved passed this to much adventurous terrains and thus, I don't feel attached to it in particular and I am not sure if it is another essentialisation, or another reification of earlier debates on 'otherness'.

Journeys and Global cultures
What I like about Altermodernity, however, is that it is the end of postmodernism, is that it is a break, and that it allows for 'journeying' rather than destinations.

I do not know if the manifesto is critical enough of the dominance of 'art' in western sense. Whilst the exhibition does reflect the meeting of globalised localisations of diasporic identities the manifesto is perhaps not so good at doing so.

Liquid Modernity
I liked the exhibition much more then I like the Manifesto. The idea of chaotic lives and teeming universe is a liquid modernity preposition, and Zygmunt Bauman (despite my disagreements with his work) does a better job at describing liquid modernity. I can't agree with its melancholy, I stick with postmodernity rather.

What I felt, however, through the exhibit is that the works were less about chaotic lives but actually attempts at giving new meanings to a new period. Once again I felt, the manifesto is dampen buy its slight liquidity whilst the exhibition is very powerful and much ahead of the words to describe it.

The Tate had already dabbed with Okwui and the concepts of 'specious modernity' or speculations on encounters of postcolonial utopia', still I feel, ideas that intersect with the liquid modernity and quite do not take proper exile from these. As Ben Lewis at this is London, the theory is not cutting-edge (mind you, it couldn't be if you were just on your first attempt of re-loading from postmodernity)... I recommend 'Nothing Ever Happens'

I agree with Lewis that "Any definition of our age as a new era of travel, interconnectedness and political activity is tricky. On one hand, Bourriaud is right that for the first time it’s difficult to tell where art is from in the world. On the other, that is a definition that would apply to art made in the past 20 years, not, as Bourriaud maintains, to art after the credit crunch". The difference being, art in the last 20 was not attempting to position itself in other than within postmodernity and in achieving so they have transcended it and projected themselves into Altermodernity. The issue of projection, here is more important than it seems. I believe one of the pieces in the exhibition, Lindsay Seers, illustrates well the move between periods.

Non-static, moving...
I like the non-static nature of the pieces, the definition of borders and how these are crossed... In the most touching piece that of Lindsay Seers, I understand the evolution of the artists where she goes from being a postmodern camera to becoming an altermodern projector features some of the ideas and develops them much further. In the postmodern camera, memory, voice, image, are elusive and the author is for ever more in a melancholic state trying to re-capture the lost identity, lost again, reconceptualised in herself becoming a camera. And then, she moves away from that postmodern space to become a projector, herself in the darkened forest, light coming out of her face, projecting a growing tree.

We were all so touched by it. I was particularly touched by it. None of the exhibits, minus one perhaps, left me untouched, they have remained with me and they are genuinely having an effect on how I see the world, and in that respect the exhibit did have a transformative effect on me. I felt, a bit, like I had become into projecting through it.

Culture Driving Globalisation
There is one idea, in that 'Bourriad's show marks a break with postmodernism' (Shaw in Art and Ecology) that I totally agree, whilst the manifesto does not, the exhibit does. I do not know, if it a new stage of globalisation. Here I am inclined to use Henrietta Moore new work on globalisation, on the way she argues for culture (in an anthropological sense) as the driver for globalisation rather than the other way around. I am not sure there is a new stage of globalisation, if it was, using the old fashion model of globalisation 'from above' (or from below) or Giddens stages of globalisation it would amount to much of the same. If it was to be, or to be understood as a 'new stage' in the Moore's sense of the world I feel it could have some theoretical power. All in all I feel, the ideas need to be developed from the Manifesto, much further togget the theoretical power than the concept of Altermodernity deserves.

Multiculturalism and Creolisation 2
Shaw quotes Bourriad's on that 'Multiculturalism is overtaken by creolisation', here I feel, the two terms do not have enough power. First, multiculutralism and creolisation have been very well argued for and criticised against, including the critique that multiculturalism is quite a policy-driven concept -I feel in the manifesto this term is taken to much to 'face value'.

Multiculturalism is a policy driven concept of our age of postmodern transparency (I rephrase here Strathern's famous title and article on 'the tyranny of transparency') that stands for our fear of what is left in absence of political correctness and managerial politics (what last night Ashdown noted in his talk, the professionalisation of politics), a liberal, neo-liberal concept itself.

Multiculturalism has so many problems as a concept itself that merely opposing it to creolisation, does merely reproduce a metonym of the worst of postmodernity (multiculturalism) with -perhaps- the worst of its intersection with altermodernity (creolisation).

I like, however, the idea that artists (or other less western terms for it) 'are now starting from a globalised state of culture'. However, what I like here is that they are starting from a defined position (not just a globalised state of culture). Here once again, while I understand the preposition made by Bourriaud, I think Moore is much more helpful in actually giving vision to the defined position from where artist and people are starting from in globalised encounters. The critique should be perhpas on how political altermodernism really is in addressing postmodern claims on post-colonial disorder, the ethnocentric quality of western narratives about art and artist...

Re-loading Globalisation
I grow up in postmodernism and whilst I want to understand how altermodernity comes next I do not want an altermodernity that is simply a reproduction of ethnocentric values. I do not mind a step forward, but it needs to be based on recognising what postmodernity did well. There are many excellent postmodern tools that can and must and need be taken further, but they need to be taken further from a more critical altermodern position. I guess this is no fault of Bourriad. As Cummings argues, I agree with her 'it is not a very thrilling definition, or redefinition', or rather I would say it is a re-loading of a page where the cookies are not yet quite working, a bit slow on the uploading...however, I believe it is a good question about the journey where art is heading and with help from us all it will eventually reload with a more powerful theoretical vision.

Reloading the best of postmodernity?
Maybe postmodernism is dead. I like the potential of our new age of Altermodernity.

One could argue that Altermodernity is in its infancy. I could also argue that the flaws with the manifesto is because we had had the joy of having very mature postmodern ideas to play with, and that, perhaps, we miss the maturity of the last days of postmodernity. In doing so, however, we are giving in to the melancholy of liquid modernity and its chaos.

I will not dwell in such melancholy, I will not simply stand 'missing' something that went before.

I want to take those mature postmodern tools away from the melancholy stage and reload them into the new Altermodern context. Maybe this is this what, ultimately, Bourriad was attempting to do, to re-load some postmodern concepts into Altermodernity. I just wish he had chosen to re-load better postmodern concepts than the ones in the manifesto but, as I said above, it is also our task to improve the postmodern concepts that are reloaded in Altermodernity.

Monday, 23 March 2009


Postmodern Fragmentations: Fear of Replicants

When I was a student postmodernity started. I remember it well. One of the metaphors of our postmodern beginnings came from several films, robocop, bladerunner and the likes dealing with artificial intelligence. In these and many other films, robots and other mechanisms challenged us with a new sense of fragmentation and independence. We were worried about a technological future, not an ecologic one. Machines, technology and computers filled the end-of-modernity imagination with these, with the possibility of replication, machines fragmenting the self, society, machines becoming independent, becoming alienated from us and also, of course against us.

With the loss and the coming of age of the computer anthrophomorphised as robot or as replicant (as self and soul) we finally understood such concepts as 'fragmentation' and postmodernity along with it. I spent some of my student years back in early and mid 90s debating on these themes, running sessions that would take in parallel readings of Geertz and Marcus with the screening of BladeRunner and the discussion of the semantised duplicity of the term 'replicant', both in the sense of a reproduction of the self, but a contestation of the self and its soul and societal order.

BladeRunner came and went and our future was never found. At the down of the millennium I remember sitting down with my brother, and he looked at me seriously, contemplating the pass of the time. We had longed for that moment since we were little. When we were little we used to ask each other, how old are you going to be in the millennium? ...and to us, in the millennium night the thought of having become 31 and 33, numbers that as children felt as incomprehensible as a trillion pounds of debt are now for us as adults felt strange. He looked at me, deeply, worried, stranged, perplexed, disapointed, annoyed, cynical...There weren't any star-wars like transports, space travel wasn't more far or distant that the ashes of the Challenger. It simply wasn't there. Looking at my brother's eyes I remembered the day, he and I, still small, walked nine miles from our home to a near town to watch BladeRunner. No replicants, no fear of contestation,no deconstruction? where was the future where the self had acquired a fragmented soul and removed fathers-as-gods? Did our extinct animals never dreamt of electronic pets then?

We weren't worried about the end of time, or even the end of history which he had seen few years early with Marshal Sahlins, no, we had not acquired a milenarist vision of our future, but we had acquired a technological vision of our future, and it wasn't there. On that day, at that millennium moment, nearly 9 years ago now, we felt missing, where was our sci-fi world? Not even mobiles started to look like that future 9 years ago. Why weren't we, we felt, there yet?

Altermodern Fears: The Melting of Snow and Numbers

We are not there yet and Postmodernity is well over. We are not postmodern in the sense of the kinds of worries we used to share, or even the perplexity of 'drowning with numbers', our new fears take millenarism way beyond its possibilities. More than ever, we are now in the age of ecological fear, -some of it anticipated with apocalyptic modernities and milenarist crisis metaphors (and their movies) of a kind different than before.

Would you rather have a future of unruly robots, an adolescence of machines, or would you rather have climate change and the 'day after tomorrow' by quantification? The robots, so full of 0 and 1 and number-driven, don't scare us anymore, and with them the end of postmodernity. The fact we can point out the second, that our fear or ecologic crisis is felt more real than our fear of machines and technologies emerging independently from us, tells me we have now encountered the future of our modernity. We have become the altermodern.

We have been able to visualise the grim 'WatchMen' after 20 years of not being able to see that comic turned into film, 20 years in which we couldn't re-metaphorisise it anew for new audiences. But now, we have. Ecology is our grim reality, like in the movie, governments and corporations will extend their control through engineering fear of the end of the world, the millennium, like its postmodernity, echoing through our new times. 'I robot' has been replaced by 'Knowing', same director and all. We do have, I grant you, technical horrors aplenty in the movies right now, some re-brining, echo like, and probably as a result of the enlargement of postmodernity I was talking about earlier, transformers and aliens and many other technological horrors and hopes, including a new treekie event and a further trail of horror movies (the gothic theme of the family under a new guise). I will be watching out when these break their postmodern predicament about the self and how it deals with the altermodern qualities.

Set aside the use of filmic metaphors for conceptualising the gap between late modernity and altermoderity, the underlying issue (to which I hope to write some in the next blogs) is about biopolitics and the conceptualisation of the 'antropos', to phrase Rabinow's text on the Anthropologist Dilemma in Global Assemblages that I will also refere to later.

A genuine concern of the world that movies metaphorise in the tales of robots, machines and replicants alike is not a mere representation of fragmentation, but much more deeply, a recollection, a kind of memory re-collection, of the issue of biopolitics in late modernity.

In a similar way we may want to ask ourselves how will our new altermodern economies look like, we may want to ask ourselves if altermodern styles of biopolitics -with the new forms of volunterism, citizenship participation, positioned politics, their anchoring of 'society' as deterministic biology- will come to explore the late modern conceptions of biopolitics and be able to articulate these within a framework of critical disassociation with our uncanny environmentally-concerned ideologies, or not.

I will come back to the issue with something useful I learned on Friday with Max Ferrar's paper on reconceptualisations of 'the soul' in the context of this discussion about biopolitics and ecopolitics.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Altermodern Economies

Earlier on I commented on how Postmodernity had enlarged itself. The enlargement of Postmodernity owes to a series of factors, one of it is the inherent ability of this period to reconstruct its own alterity as part of a reflexive paradigm, thus enabling ideas, concepts, art, exchange of goods and so on to implode onto other generalising metaphors such as 'globalisation'.

In a sense, one could say, postmodernity had a life larger than itself, simply because it could project itself onto other conditions better than any movements prior to it. It could also deconstruct and semanticise without many boundaries. One of the reasons, though, why postmodernity lasted longer,in this kind of enlargement is because of the current social context, a context that has been re-defined through the second wave of the financial crisis: the economic crisis wave (first being financial, then economic, then social, I mean).

In 1995 I witnessed an economic crisis in Japan, and shortly later smaller bursting of bubbles, the .com bubble for example. Some of the resolutions to those crisis were postmodern and took us to an unprecedented space vacuum that was made clear when the 2008 crisis came along.

Without the power of the financial world in mystifying the elements that lead to building up of the current financial collapse I feel, perhaps, postmodernism would have entered a sense of change and movement different than, the altermodern period. Postmodernism lasted long, and it did (and still echoing, it is not a 'beginning and end' kind of preposition, or rather both postmodernims and altermodernims coexist at present) thanks to the good measure of financial, social and economic expansion of the period thrown in, for good measure, as if it were.

So, altermodern economies start at a time when postmodern economies are struggling to position themselves in that enlarged space that used to inhabit. It is yet to see if altermodern economies will serve us the purpose of highlighting inequality and the many deficits in our social justice, or it will be lost in a vortex of imploding economies and social practices.

...must dash to work...continue later...

Monday, 2 March 2009

The interconnected modernity of alterity?

The Altermodern started being defined as 'the new period' after postmodernism in art.

In the article below, Bourriaud argues that altermodernity is a 'wandering in time, space and mediums', in a sense, as I see it, inheriting some of the qualitie of the online domains in the physicality of art. I quote from the article:

“Altermodernity,” Bourriaud continues, “arises out of negotiations between different agents from different cultures and geographical locations.” Artists, by this reckoning, have become nomads, a mobile community of outsiders within a vast globalised society, choosing their images, like words, from roughly the same visual language. It’s the next stage, Bourriaud claims, for civilisation after postmodernism, and artists who mocked its own claims to greatness"...

When I tried using the term Altermodernity, I felt the term 'alterity' in the name fit well the precursor anthropological understanding of 'otherness' into the differential of alterities that social cultures represent to each other. I also feel the idea of mobility and negotiations between different cultures appeals to this new period. My first reticence to using this term for anthropology was, however, that negotiations and mobilities were distinctive of the previous postmodern capacities for understanding the world. A good example of this, was Henrietta's Moore's 'global anxieties'.

A second interpretation of the Altermodern I read gave an example of Altermodernity as opposed to Postmodernity. A postmodern example was Hirst and his Shark in the Tank (in lego:
http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/exhibitions/littleartists/sharktank.asp), and other similar pieces. They are postmodern in their specified dismemberment of concepts but they are 'fixed', Altemodernity, on the contrary presuposes exchanges that are mobile, art that is born out of routes and meetings with others. A good example of transition between postmodern and altermodern is perhaps the lego example above.

An example of Altermodern, from this new point of view would have to be Gormley's plynth
http://www.london.gov.uk/fourthplinth/ which extends the possibilities of Ewans' ideas in the Tate.

I agree with Lewis in the article that "Any definition of our age as a new era of travel, interconnectedness and political activity" as defined by Bourriad is tricky [I will continue tomorrow or soon]


Postmodern towards the Altermodern

Between 1995 after Geertz, Marcus, a re-emargence of Foucault's genealogies, Moore's subjects, Strathern's parts and wholes and Butler's performativity and her govermentality of pain, sometiems I feel there is no remaining gap one can escrutinize our new 'panopticon' from, the gaze has become far too ingrained in the current and also postmodern flexibility of exchanges about deconstruction of power and enlargement of our intellectual perspectives. With perhaps the rare solace of Nikolas Rose, the years between the turn of the Millenium and last year's financial crisis, have left me with one doubt, we are in period that although we recognise as postmodern it can not longer take on all the predicaments of postmodernity. Postmodernity has enlarged itself.

There were few attempts at defining changes of understanding theorisation within this period, for a short while the term 'naive ethnographies' came to define anthropological work that tried to reassess ethnographic approaches from new angles albeit less theoretically ingrained in the postmodern theories equally building upon these. In this period the idea of flexibility, multiplicity, engaggement, complexity of identities, de-territorialisation, post-capitalism, glboalisation came to dominate the vocabulary of ideas. The anthropology of globalisation is a good example of this period after naivety. But then, the term naive was not conducive, its connectivity failed to engage us. The anthropologies of x and z, and in particular of globalisation were built on the analysis of the aftertaste of postmodernity as a quality of taste (see earlier blog on taste).

Other anthropologies have kept happening during this period, of course, amongst them perhpas the most important have been the 'shared' and 'open' approaches to the production of anthropological knowledge on the Internet. This was a 'less perceived' period in terms of linear sequencing (i.e postmodernism, naive ethnographies, anthropology of globalisation), partly, and I am as responsible as any other anthropologist working for this media.

The Altermodern...

Let me start with the original concept in Art and then linking back to the period just before us...

The Altermodern - What came after Postmodernism?

Altermodern, and thus I guess, our move to Altermodernism, was originally described for me by the Tate in London and in the local free underground (in the tube) news on the Tate.

For the past ten years I have been concerned with postmodernity, a condition we were once not so familiar with, we did not know what to do with, and then we came to develop. Postmodernity has left us with an aftertaste, a taste for finding new deconstructions and critiques to the genealogies of power and governance. An aftertase of some kind of vague reminisence of taste. I keep re-assessing the feeling of my tongue with a sense that the original taste is now evading me.

For the past three years I have been asking Anna, and she has asked me...what after Postmodernism? what is there after Postmodernism, what do we call this period...clearly it is still postmodern but it is already an aftertaste of it.

A month back I went home and I said to Anna. I know our new period. It is the Altermodern.

Anna answered back: yeah, I heard a rumor...how would you explain Altermodernity then?

This is the attempt to look at altermodernity (from the point of view of anthropology, that is)

AlterModern, Altermodernism(s)

The Altermodern

This blog is called 'Altermodern' and worried as I was about briging all my blogging and twitting and web pages together I left for today something much more close to my heart, to look at the concept of the Altermodern. Here it is then.

Monday, 23 February 2009

I want to see the Oscars. No chance, I'll have to follow it on my mobile.
Simultaneoulsy I am updating my website. Today I included NWAS. I am struggling with using a template. It is the first time I have used a template, ever. I have always done my pages from scratch. This time, however, I wanted to try my own predicament of the constrains on using pre-made templates wehre you adapt to the template rather than the template being designed for the discipline.

Contemporary European Social Theory

I am preparing a lecture on 'The New Europe', looking at citizenship, identity and democracy. The lecture is in a power point and starts at looking at identity, different kinds of identities, national and ethnic identity, Anderson's imagined communities, moving towards complexity, multiplicity, contextuality of social identies. It then develops into the nation state, superstates, rights and obligations, supressed national identities, cosmopolitan democracies, political interest and engagement on active citizenship. I hope the convenor of the course will be pleased with the line I have followed for teaching this theme. Tomorrow I need to finish the PowerPoint and prepare a tutorial on this theme. I will do an exercise where the students will have to take votes and look at the meaning of 'majority' on two controversial themes (energy and security in Europe). I need to get two study cases and to find a country description (for each student's country) of these issues so they can compare across Europe. I need to add links to the council of Europe website, and to my own article on the European Elections.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Back to Blog

Back to Blog

All my blogs, past, present and future will have some room here, anew

Back to Blog

Maybe this time this blogs will enjoy a much contextualised life, at least that is what I hope for them

Back to Blog