Brian Holmes on Wed, 15 Jul 2020 09:40:06 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> "Consume revolutionary media"

Thanks to all those who answered my questions, both onlist and off. I want
to answer Prem right now, and Max a bit later.

Since media is about looking and listening, Prem, I was glad to listen to
your podcast interview, a compelling voyage through your life, your
sensibility, and what seems to be a socially complex and multiple
architectural practice involving lots of reflection on Indian national
life. As well as some comments about international norms and trends - what
a journey!

There is a point where you bring up the issue of informality - meaning,
forms of labor and more broadly of life that are not integrated to the
registers and regulations of the modernizing state. You note that this
category covers over 80% of people living in India. Speaking as an
architect, you say that "in situations where they are given security of
[land] tenure, and where they can incrementally build and improve their
house over a long period of time, they produce fairly decent quality
housing, which is far better than professionally delivered solutions." That
remark expresses a critical relation to your own profession, but above all,
it's what you're calling a metaphor of hope.

Here, the major issue that has come out of the recent social movements is,
how can communities empower themselves to take care of each other, in ways
that don't require the protection - or permit the violent interference - of
increasingly brutal police? So that has a lot to do with what you
recommend: "Shift from overriding emphasis on the vertical axis between
citizen and state, and build constituencies through the lateral connection
between citizens." It's happening - and in my experience of a much more
formalized and overly modernized country, it happens a lot more during
periods of so-called unrest and insurgency, which are really just about
life breaking out all over the place.

It's interesting that you end up talking a fair bit about the relation to
the state nonetheless, but you do it to ask how the lateral relations
between people could be either empowered, or simply left to flourish,
depending on the case. This is a lot different than just get the state off
our backs (neoliberal slogan) or smash the state (anarchy). To empower is
subtle, because it means both to give, and to give some room, to not
impose, to avoid control. To let flourish at respectful distance, in our
time of vampire corporations and strongman states, is surely the most
important thing. You talk about getting rid of neoliberalism - I'd say, not
just because it turns everything into a market, but because in those
markets, toxic production is rammed down everyone's throats. It's bad food,
it's poisoned entertainment, it's industrial waste, it's climate change,
and sometimes - or very often, depending on who and where you are - it's
just a bulldozer. Gentrification is a sophisticated form of dispossession
in the US and probably in India too, but things like the fossil-fuel
industry are just as brutal here as anywhere, a literal bulldozer with its
exhaust pipe of ecological destruction. You are totally right, Prem, that a
vertical relation between citizen and state can do nothing about that -
it's obvious, the citizen is pinned to the wall like an insect, when not
just trampled by the corporate state. The question is, can horizontal
relations among people generate both the metaphors of hope, and the actual
power, to change that kind of relation?

Thanks to, well, let's call it revolutionary media, I have realized that in
the city of Chicago where I live, some people want to take the literal
production of power - electric power in this case - back from the
corporations, in order to eliminate its most toxic forms and diversify all
the rest into a new kind of grid ( To my way of
seeing, this kind of effort is on a similar level as the calls to defund
the police. It's happening through a proliferation of relations between
people who are able to care about things that are in no way abstract, but
just situated at scales that are not directly accessible to isolated
individuals. Today the solar panels on my roof are just an isolated gnat in
the open maw of the electric utility. As long as the grid they're connected
to is run by a monopoly corporation, they are just a fantasy of change, a
true utopia (no-place). It takes a socially complex and radically multiple
civil society to build another world. I want to dream of and move toward a
lighter, more intricate, more diverse and more sharable kind of real and
situated power - one that would still permit these great conversations that
we sometimes have to flourish.

all the very best, Brian

On Mon, Jul 13, 2020 at 8:40 AM Prem Chandavarkar <>

> Brian,
> I was on this podcast some weeks ago and will repeat something I said
> there.


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