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Re: <nettime> Why I say the things I say
Nicholas Knouf on Sun, 6 May 2012 21:54:10 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Why I say the things I say


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Brian, and others,

Admire is a strong word.  Admiration is for me something that happens
only rarely.  No, Brian, and others who might agree with his
characterization of me, I do not admire Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller,
Koch, Olin, or others.  Their actions are, as I said before, repugnant
in almost every way.  I am quite familiar with the Koch funding of
conservative groups.  Let's take John M. Olin.  Every time I walk
through the doors of the Olin Library on my campus I curse John Olin
and the Olin Foundation for their support of conservative groups,
support that was occasioned, supposedly, by a building takeover on the
campus of my university.  Yet I know firsthand that the Olin Library
contains a lot of radical material that, given Olin's support of the
Powell memo, Olin would himself find morally reprehensible.

Let's continue with universities.  The situation of the UC system is
an absolute travesty, it's a blight on the state, it's a reneging on
promises made long ago.  The fact that universities continue to hike
tuition in order to pay for more athletic facilities or shinier
buildings is also extremely problematic.  (Unfortunately cutting
tuition will do nothing to stem the funding towards military research
on campuses; that change has to come from decreasing government
appropriations.)  I also find the continued intrusion of corporate
monies to be highly problematic as well, something I'm intimately
familiar with given where I am in the university, and something I've
explored in some projects and writing of my own as well.  We also know
from the important work going on analyzing the UC system that the
humanities and many of the social sciences actually bring in _more_
money than they cost, if we wanted to measure things on such a rubric.
 Endowment monies that might change the decrease in state
appropriations are tied up by donor restrictions; it's too bad the
"financial exigencies" that allow schools to cut staff don't also
apply to these restrictions.

Graeber and Shukaitis, in their introduction to _Constituent
Imagination_, suggest something that I think we ought to consider:
what if the radical activity of universities starting in the
mid-sixties was itself a blip on a much longer history?  That it was
only an anomaly within an extensive history of acquiescence to power?
 Whither universities then?  Does this mean those of us who have gone
through the system must withdraw our tacit support that comes by being
inside it?  Here, Brian, I think we disagree.  If I read you right, in
this message and other recent ones, you would suggest that people in
my position do so, pull our labor away from the university or college
in order to not contribute to the furthering of an unjust system, of
one that, as you suggest, "enslaves" the students.  How does one
explain, then, the fact that I have been able to teach courses on
radical art and activism for the past three years to first-year
students?  That we've had them reading about TM, EDT, CAE, subRosa,
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, afrofuturism, Hakim Bey, Victor Papanek,
Radical Software, the Public School, pirate radio, and Brecht?  (And
that's just from this year's syllabus.)  That is the rare situation
where you can work with people for sixteen weeks going deep into
concepts they've never encountered before.  This of course does take
place outside of universities, as you've done, Brian, at the Mess Hall
or 16 Beaver, and as others on this list have done at the Public
School and innumerable other places.  But there is something special
about the pedagogical situation of the university, once you begin to
break down the hierarchies between the professor/student, once you
begin to shape the course more in terms of a discussion rather than a
lecture, once you begin to _listen_ to the texts you've been reading
for so many years and apply it in practice.  This is what I try to do
in the courses I teach.

I know that others within universities do not have this freedom in
their classrooms; that they are watched over as if by cameras; that
they must teach as if to a script.  Those bureaucratic processes must
be fought against as much as is possible.

Of course perhaps I'm being deluded, deluded in my belief that this
small opening into an otherwise behemoth of a system will do
_absolutely nothing other than further the production and accumulation
of the system_.  But then again I've never been a believer in false
consciousness.

Museums are a complex (there's that word again!) beast, in my
understanding always existing in a complicated relationship with the
state and private enterprise in the US.  Yet there's a lot of radical
art hanging in our oligarch-funded museums, and I sure hope that one
day we can recapture it and place it in the cafes as the Situationists
suggested.  But we won't be able to do that if the museums fall apart,
if the artwork gets sold in order to keep the museum or related
institution running (as has been happening with university museums
recently).

No, no, I do not admire the "oligarchs".  Their actions deserve to be
denounced.  I disagree, however, that the oligarchs are "quaking", as
Armin Medosch just posted; worried, perhaps, but they've seen worse
actions against their power.  Nor do I want to see things in terms of
the friend/enemy distinction; Schmitt's never been my thing.  I'm more
afraid of what that distinction _does to us_, _says about us_, than
anything the oligarchs do.  Histories show us what happens when
sectarian divisions take hold, when ideological purges take place.

What confuses me is this: whatever happened to tactical
re-appropriation of these resources as part of larger strategies of
struggle?  Perhaps it's because I'm being "naive", that I still might
believe in some of the things said on this list over a decade ago.
That one of the strengths of the position we are in is _precisely_ the
fact that we try to understand the complex dynamics of things.  It
might just enable us to find the places where we can insert ourselves
and exert some pressure.  Now is not the time, IMHO, to be reducing
systems to binaries.  To do so is to fall into a trap, to repeat the
mistakes of the past activities, to replicate the positions of exactly
those whom we oppose.  Purity in thought and action has never been my
thing either, and I prefer to see its lack as potential.

Best,

nick
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