Brian Holmes on Fri, 11 Jan 2008 07:13:48 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> One World, One Dream: China at the Risk of New Subjectivities

Do we live in a world society? The answer is yes, at least for all those
who use the Internet, the global transportation and communications
systems, or the metropolitan environments saturated with transnational
publicity. Have the territorial societies with their historically
conditioned relations and their specific class and cultural divides
ceased existing? Not at all, as any prolonged contact with even the most
highly modernized society will show, in profound and sometimes
excruciating detail. So we live in nation-states too, or in territorial
containers of one kind or another. Yet these are clearly involved in
far-reaching processes of change, as they seek to confront the realities
of global scale. A new political economy is in the making. It
articulates a fivefold realm, weaving together the intimate,
metropolitan, national, continental and world scales.

These questions of scale were constantly on my mind, as I wandered last
spring and then again this fall through China's disproportionate cities.
What are the social forces that bring these glittering monsters into
being? What desires do they incite? On what economies are they based?
What risks do they face in the future? And what, if anything, do people
from the former centers of accumulation have to do with this onrushing
wave of new development in East Asia?

The search for answers to these questions led me to seemingly endless
places, works and people, then on to a vast library of articles,
websites and books. Though I've done somewhat similar projects before,
this one really caused me to confront the difficulties, or indeed the
impossibilities, of a cultural critique of world society. The problem is
not so much in the "object," because world society exists, in all its
sophistication and brutal repetition. Instead, the problem is uncovering
and understanding the vast realms of experience that world society is
founded on, and that it strives to render invisible, or even

One way to get around the problem of surface effects and limited
interpretive frames is to make the critique itself dialogical, the
result of a social rather than an authorial practice. I have been trying
to experiment with that in collaborative work with the 16 Beaver Group,
around the seminar Continental Drift. Soon we will be proposing
something new in that direction, in a further collaboration with the WHW
group in Zagreb, Croatia. I would definitely like to do other things
too, in other people's contexts.

In the meantime, the only way to make sense out of what I was
encountering in China was to focus on the problem itself, the cultural
critique of world society, with its attendant zones of blindness. A
current name for one of the most potent vectors of this blindness is
"the creative industries." The role of these techno-economic practices
in the production of new subjectivities is what I have written about in
the text, under the title "One World, One Dream." It's not necessarily
an ode to the upcoming Games in Beijing, as you might imagine....

It would be great to exchange with anyone who is interested in the
questions of world society. The same goes for those involved with the
theories of individualization. And there are a lot more Chinese artists
mentioned in there too, for anyone who wants to pursue the recent
discussions on nettime.

Here's the text:

best, Brian

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