lotu5 on Mon, 11 Feb 2008 08:50:30 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Copyleft Porn Praxis and Subversion over Sabotage, was: The Ideology of Free Culture and the Grammar of Sabotage

Matteo Pasquinelli's recent article "The Ideology of Free Culture and
the Grammar of Sabotage" examines recent practices concerned with
licensing as an anti-capitalist tactic and its broader ideological
ramifications for dialogs about file sharing and freedom of
information, using the ideas of the parasite, cognitive capitalism and
offering a strategy of sabotage.

Pasquinelli refers to "large torrents of pornography" as part of the
"excess of energy that shapes economy and social conflicts". I would
like to discuss a collaborative project which I am participating
in, Sharing is Sexy (SIS), as a material example that engages and
activates the issues in Pasquinelli's article. In short, Sharing is
Sexy is a collective project with the aim of creating queer porn that
is licensed under a Creative Commons, By Attribution, Non Commercial,
Share Alike license. The process of creating and distributing porn
is used to create radical queer community and to facilitate new
conceptualizations of gender and sexuality. Most members of the
collective consider it an anti-capitalist project.

// Is Copyleft anti-capitalist? //

In critiquing Free Culture, Pasquinelli refers to "Open Source Art" as
one part of it and says "what it is questioned here is the off-line
application of these paradigms." Since part of our project with
Sharing is Sexy is to examine the intersection of cultural production
and Open Source or Free Software methodologies, I wish to engage in a
discussion with some of these points.

Now, so as not to suffer from premature speculation, I would like to
look at some of the arguments against Creative Commons. Pasquinelli
mentions "those who point out Creative Commons complicity with global
capitalism." If we are going to critique Creative Commons, or those
seeking a "GPL society" for being complicit in global capitalism, it
seems that we should start with their inspiration, the GNU Public
License (GPL) itself, and its relation to capitalism.

Is the GPL anti-capitalist? In my interview with Richard Stallman
[1], he states that the GPL is, or was intended to be, not
anti-capitalist, but anti-fascist, in the sense that fascism is the
unity of corporations and government. So, in short, Stallman, the
principal author of the GPL, sees the GPL as anti-corporate, or
anti-corporate-control, not anti-capitalist.

Also, the term Open Source was developed to make Free Software
business friendly and the Creative Commons licenses such as the remix
license clearly demonstrate efforts to please the information control
industries. I personally used to work for a corporation developing GPL
software, so I know that there is no inherent conflict between the
GPL, capitalism and corporations.

Yet, to generalize that all Creative Commons licenses are in favor of
corporations is an oversimplification. For example, one can license
one's work under a Share Alike Creative Commons license, which is the
closest approximation of the GPL itself. Do we consider the GPL to be
as friendly to global capitalism as the remix license? I don't.

Also, with regards the non-commercial clause, we in SIS have discussed
the proposed idea of Copyfarleft, and find that it assumes too literal
of a meaning of the word commercial. It takes itself too seriously. We
use the non-commercial license to facilitate a porn making praxis, to
be able to invite someone to experiment with their sexual expression
and know that no one is making money off of it, or very little money
at best, in the case of bandwidth. We don't want porn corporations
to use our content and resell it with their massive infrastructures,
which we would consider commercial. Yet if someone wants to make a
zine of our work and sell it at the local diy zine fair and sell it
for a few dollars, I do not consider that usage commercial, as it is
not oriented towards making a large profit. Another important point is
that Creative Commons licenses are easy to understand and communicate
to people. The members of our collective are not all interested in
detailed analyses of the politics and theory of copyleft licenses.
The GNU Free Documentation License doesn't have any simple iconic
representations. Your only option is to read the entire license. The
process of building community and experimenting with our bodies is
facilitated by quick, tactical production and distribution methods.
The open source method of "release early, release often" expresses
this well, where we are more interested in coming together and
creating something and releasing it and getting feedback on it than
on working in secret for a long time trying to create the perfect
anti-capitalist queer porn.

// Porn Praxis //

Then, if the GPL license is not anti-capitalist, and licenses derived
from it like Creative Commons licenses are also not, then how could
a project like Sharing is Sexy, which aims to apply Open Source
methodologies and uses a Creative Commons license, claim to be
anti-capitalist? And why would we use a Creative Commons license?

As I started to say above, I would like to point out that I am
interested in an experimental, materialist, affective approach to
epistemology, meaning, I am approaching Sharing is Sexy (SIS) as
a concrete exploration of the possibilities of porn production as
an anti-capitalist activity and as an attempt to apply open source
methodologies to cultural production.

Also, in our discussion about how SIS is anti-capitalist, one member
of the collective asked why it has to be anti-capitalist? He said
that perhaps we are building something that is anti-patriarchical
and therefore doing something completely new, in the sense that one
can't imagine a world without patriarchy, since our lives have been
shaped by patriarchy. He asks, why does it have to be restricted to
the same old terms of resistance? Similarly, Michael Warner in his
book "Publics and Counterpublics" says "by queer culture we mean a
world making project, where world, like public, differs from community
or group because it necessarily includes more people than can be
identified, more spaces than can be mapped beyond a few reference
points, modes of feeling that can be learned rather than experienced
as birthright." [2]

Yet, we still consider our project an anti-capitalist project and
we wish to redefine what anti-capitalist action is. With respect
to oppression, non-oppressive porn which simply does not "contain"
oppression is not enough. We strive to make anti-oppression porn,
which challenges the institutions of oppression along lines of race,
class, gender, and sexuality. Similarly with capitalism, we want
to make anti-capitalist porn, which challenges the existence of

How is our work anti-capitalist? Is it enough that it is free, and
therefore "outside" of the economy? I would argue that no, because
being outside of the economy is an almost unreachable horizon. We
still buy props, lube, bandwidth and computer hardware for production.
Still, I think it is important to avoid rigid binaries of thinking
that something either is or is not challenging capitalism. What would
we think is the "most" anti-capitalist act, shutting down the WTO,
kidnapping the son of a wealthy businessman and falling in love with
him, or building other worlds, parallel to and partly outside of

Our strategy is heavily informed by movements in Latin America, given
our location in the US/Mexico borderlands. Many of us have been to
Chiapas and done solidarity work with the Zapatistas, some of us are
chicana or other south american / north american hybrids.

The concepts of building "a world where many worlds fit", and
"caminando preguntando", or walking while asking, are central to my
understanding of our project. I see the world as already heterotopic,
or as Fanon says "compartmentalized", which means that there is
space for world building. I see it as a fundamental weakness in the
distributed control society that Alexander Galloway describes in
protocol, that if power is distributed and the forces of order are
farther away, that means that sometimes when we rise up, we find
that they are not there, we find that no one is looking at those
security cameras after all. We are exploring this moment and space of
freedom created by the vacuum of politics in our post-democratic and
post-ideological society. In doing so, we are starting from zero and
walking while asking, developing our own way and not assuming we have
the answers. We are struggling to learn to live without capitalism,
patriarchy and heteronormativity.

Still, this is not a struggle for individual liberation, but
collective liberation. While the spaces we are using for this
exploration are our living rooms and bedrooms, we are using the techné
of social software, Free Software and access to cheap cameras to use
our personal explorations as a tool to change the community, city and
world around us, beyond the boundaries the world we are building. SIS
is not a utopian project, but a Critical Utopia, as described by Jose
Esteban Muñoz, in that it seeks to create a better world by being
rooted in a critique of the current world.

// Subversion over Sabotage //

Another influence on our strategy are the movements for Horizontalidad
in Argentina [3]. I see our project as anti-capitalist in that
we reject the worker/boss dichotomy and instead are all working
collectively, non-hierarchically, using techniques developed by
feminists to challenge the built-in hierarchies we experience in
our everyday lives. For example, we use techniques such as formal
consensus and "step up, step back" to try to counteract the privileges
of race, class and gender that we learn from society and we come
to the group with already [4]. One of my main disagreements with
Pasquinelli's argument is that it is based on an Autonomous Marxist
analysis grounded in a concept of "the worker" and their ability to
make money off of the commons. I don't identify as a worker and I
think that it is part of a false binary of worker/boss that is created
to facilitate a dialectical analysis but doesn't describe reality
well. It is an analysis based in a nineteenth century understanding of
working in a factory for one's whole life. My identity is not fully
described by my being a worker and the kind of work I do makes this
distinction between worker/boss difficult, both in my free time and in
my paid time.

Which leads to my critique of the proposal of sabotage as an important
political strategy. Sabotage assumes a single world, assumes that
the worker spends most of his days in the factory making machines
or in the cubicle writing software, and therefore his best chance
of resistance is in sabotage. Our strategy with Sharing is Sexy
puts subversion over sabotage, focusing on reuse of the garbage of
capitalism for our own purposes of world building. In our heterotopic
world and multi-faceted identities, it makes sense for us to bring
home the cameras we may use at work for photographing products, and
use them to produce queer anti-capitalist porn. We don't harbor an
illusion of anti-capitalist purity. Maybe this is a product of the
praxis of the borderlands, reusing tires from the US in Tijuana to
build walls, working with what we have to get to where we want. We
recognize our limitations and contradictions. After all, we are
fucking on camera and showing it to everyone. We try not to take
ourselves too seriously. The usage of the latest Britney Spears song,
"Piece of Me", downloaded from file-sharing networks, for a burlesque
performance by a group of transgender, queer and genderqueer people,
as a means to challenge capitalism and develop anti-capitalist queer
community is a good example of the possibility for subversion in a
heterotopic condition.

In part, anti-capitalist projects must be valued as such simply
because they are openly described as such, and the viewer can look
at the project to evaluate it as such. For any project there is some
interface with the economy, so any claim of pure anti-capitalist
action in a capitalist world seems inadequate and based in a
Platonic-idealist approach as opposed to a materialist development
of praxis. As Zizek describes, when talking about his and Lacan's
use of examples, "for a materialist, there is always more in the
example than what it exemplifies, i.e. an example always threatens
to undermine what it is supposed to exemplify since it gives body to
what the exemplified notion itself represses, is unable to cope with."
[5] In this way, in the tradition of conceptual, post-conceptual
and performance art, since the members of SIS consider it queer,
anti-capitalist porn, we can look at it as a material example to see
what queer, anti-capitalist porn is and to see how it expands our
conceptions of these notions.

Should we see the most spectacular gestures, such as shutting down the
WTO, as the most anti-capitalist, or could we see a more fundamental
process as challenging the very foundations of capitalism? A major
part of why I consider our project anti-capitalist is because
heteronormativity and patriarchy support capitalism. Capitalism needs
war, started and supported by the aggression of the 8 men who run the
global economy, such as George W. Bush defending his daddy. Capitalism
needs straight soldiers who can be segregated by gender and have their
sexual desires tightly regulated and used as part of the war machine,
as Freud discuses with regards to the sublimation of libidinal energy
for work. Capitalism needs a world separated into couple units where
everyone has their own vacuum, television and internet access.

The project of developing new ways of conceptualizing love and
desire, creating polyamorous collectivities and genders that defy
categorization challenges the very protocols that capitalism relies
on to order populations and control their flows and actions. Giorgio
Agamben, in a seminar at the European Graduate School spoke on
the topic of inoperability, in the way that poetry makes language
inoperable by giving it new meaning. He stated that the most important
political project, for him, is to develop new ways of making the
human body inoperable, to develop new uses for the human body.
Similarly, in Empire, Hardt and Negri state "A new nomad horde, a
new race of barbarians, will arise to invade or evacuate Empire?
These barbaric deployments work on human relations in general, but we
can recognize them today first and foremost in corporeal relations
and configurations of gender and sexuality. Conventional norms
of corporeal and sexual relations between and within genders are
increasingly open to challenge and transformation. Bodies themselves
transform and mutate to create new posthuman bodies.?

SIS is part of an anti-capitalist artistic tradition of infrastructure
as art which one can see in the Fluxus movement. Owen F. Smith writes,
"Fluxus not only attacked the existing cultural forms and systems,
but also attempted to create an alternative distribution system", and
he goes on to quote Nam June Paik in saying "George Macunias' Genius
is the early dtection of this post-Marxistic situation and he tried
to seize not only the production's medium but also the DISTRIBUTION
SYSTEM". [6]

That is what we are doing with Sharing is Sexy, creating an
infrastructure for developing new somatic practices of gender and
sexuality beyond male and female heterosexual coupling. Further, we
are trying to make these practices sexy, contagious, spreading these
new practices as far as possible by creating networks of content
sharing and production. This part of the project is supported by the
DIY, non-commercial nature of the project. As one collective member
pointed out, since there is no money involved, the viewer can have
more confidence that we are doing these things because we want to,
sharing our actual desires, unlike much "gay for pay" porn.

I see the process of creating and spreading these new somatic
practices as more anti-capitalist than making images that someone else
can sell on the capitalist market. Identity can be seen as a social
process of feedback between one's gender and sexual expression and the
way others perceive it and respond, like the Lacanian Mirror stage and
the feedback between one's imagined image of self and one's actual
abilities. Similarly, we are facilitating a process of building new
genders and sexualities by making these images accessible, in that the
viewer can know that they were not made under exploitative conditions,
the images are free and they are licensed to be shared. Creating a
dynamic of sharing is important to us in order to facilitate dialog
and processes of feedback and exchange and allowing new shapings of
desire to come out of those feedback processes.

Thanks to Lil' Dynamite for contributions and editing help.

1. See http://gnu.org.in/pipermail/fsf-friends/2005-January/002687.html .
The ogg and mp3 files are currently offline, because radio.indymedia.org
is down, but work is being done to restore the archives.

2. Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics, p.198, 2002, Zone Books

3. See Horizontalism, edited by Marina Sitrin, 2006, AK Press

4. On Conflict and Consensus, http://consensus.net/

5. Slavoj Zizek, Enjoy Your Symptom, p. xi, 1992, Routledge

6. Owen F. Smith, "Fluxus Practice: An Exploration of Connections,
Creativity and Community", At a Distance, p. 126, 131, 2005, MIT Press


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