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Theorizing Wikileaks: Destabilizing the Hegemon
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Public School NYC
Wikileaks: Destabilizing Hegemonic Discourse
“The notion of “heterology” refers to the ways in which the meaningful fabric of the sensible is disturbed: a spectacle does not fit within the sensible framework defined by a network of meanings, an expression does not find its place in the system of the visible coordinates where it appears. The dream of a suitable political work of art is in fact the dream of disrupting the relationship between the visible, the sayable and the thinkable without having to use the terms of a message or a vehicle. It is the dream of an art that would transmit meanings in the form of a rupture with the very logic of meaningful situations. As a matter of fact, political art cannot work in the simple form of a meaningful spectacle that would lead to an “awareness” of the state of the world. Suitable political art would have a double effect: the readability of a political signification and a sensible or perceptual shock caused, conversely, by the uncanny, that which resists signification.”
-Ranciere, The Politics of Aesthetics/The Distribution of the Sensible
Julian Assange describes a "corrosive servility” that has come to infuse present day life and our resignation towards the established political order. Wikileaks fills a gaping chasm where civil society has failed: academia, media, constitutional law, representative democracy, the “intelligentsia,” theory, protest culture. In Ranciere’s terms, it has ruptured or “reconfigured the territory of the visible, the thinkable, and the sayable” in an arena in which the stakes could not be more fraught: the rhetoric, practice, and implementation of American global hegemony. It has whittled away the edifice upon which power takes for granted that it can operate; with comparatively minuscule resources it has found the chink in the armor through which it can untether a whole superstructure of acting, speaking and governing; it has imbued platitudes like “social justice” or a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-like fantasy of populist democracy with an exhilaratingly unexpected palpable reality.
How can we theorize Wikileaks, transparency activism, and leaking itself as speech? Austin’s notion of the “speech act” is based on the notion of the “illocutionary act” in which language is not merely descriptive, but performs an action within a social context. Given this, is the “action” Wikileaks’ speech performs a form of civil disobedience? Anarchic guerilla resistance? An art intervention? The Institute of Applied Autonomy describes, “Interventions change the behavior of a system in a way that the system is not prepared to deal with.” Alex Villar says, “An art intervention is a diagonal force that bursts through a power field. It can cause a disruption, shaking up, a rearrangement of plateaus.”
Seeking a wide range of 10-25 minute presentations, papers, performances, debate arguments, interventions, art, etc. addressing Wikileaks at the Public School, a school-as-artist-project founded by Sean Dockray consisting of visual artists, performers, writers, thinkers, and theorists funded by Telic Arts Exchange. Please send 200-500 word proposal on Wikileaks with a brief bio (max 200 words) by February 11, 2011 to email@example.com to be presented at the Public School's "Theorizing Wikileaks: Destabilizing the Hegemon" from March through May. Questions or comments contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Also welcome are proposals opposed to stances stated here.
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Possible Wikileaks Issues:
Wikileaks and Ranciere
"WikiLeaks cannot be seen in the same way. There has been, from the outset, something about its activities that goes way beyond liberal conceptions of the free flow of information. We shouldn’t look for this excess at the level of content. [...] The real disturbance was at the level of appearances: we can no longer pretend we don’t know what everyone knows we know. This is the paradox of public space: even if everyone knows an unpleasant fact, saying it in public changes everything."
-Slavoj Zizek, London Review of Books
"Indeed he (Assange) appears to have an enunciated philosophical/political position, which is basically that through mass breakthroughs of raw information the ‘conspiracies’ that governments routinely enact to protect the interests of a certain few will be undermined. He appears to be acting on the basis of a mathematical formula, worked out by him, whereby the conspiratorial cabals, which he conceives as relating to each other in terms of information exchanges via a pattern of networks, can be chopped up and incapacitated (through breakouts across established links) such that real parity in knowledge and power might, in theory at least, be enacted."