CFP: Real Things: Matter, Materiality, Representation

i need to get into this conference. just a few days to make up a paper, though…

5-8 July 2007

Proposals for twenty-minute presentations or panels of three to four presenters are invited for a conference entitled “Real Things: Matter, Materiality, Representation, 1880 to the present,” to be held at the University of York, England and co-sponsored by the University of Sussex.

Keynote speakers: Bill Brown, Mary Ann Doane, Hal Foster, Patrick Keiller, Hermione Lee, Edmund White

This conference proposes a re-engagement with representational realism and its objects and effects across a wide range of aesthetic, critical and theoretical practices. We seek to engage cutting-edge work that raises new questions about the status of the object of representation; representations as archives of material history; the shifts in representational practices associated with modernism and postmodernism; the changing status of real bodies and lives (as opposed to their representations) as objects of analysis in the humanities; and the politics of these transitions. Topics of interest include but are not limited to the following:

* Realism as modernism/modernism as realism
* Rethinking photographic indexicality; cinema and/as archive
* Paintings, documents, realism: literary and visual representation
* The turn to science
* Postmodernism, realism and the real
* Representation and the psychoanalytic Real
* Evidence, document and representation
* New philosophies of nature
* Documentary film practices
* Biopolitics, biopower, bodies
* Forensics, indices and popular culture
* Performance, theatricality and materiality
* Success and/or failure of representation
* Presentation vs. representation
* New technologies, representation and embodiment
* Anti-sublimation and resistance to metaphor

Please send 250-word paper abstracts and 1000-word panel abstracts to by 1 February 2007. Organisers: Victoria Coulson (University of York), Jane Elliott (University of York), John David Rhodes (University of Sussex).

sadism/masochism with Alexander Galloway

i have been emailing with gaming and protocol theorist Alexander Galloway on some topics relating to his most recent book Gaming: Essays on Algorhithmic Culture [bad ass picture, by the way]. we got into this discussion on whether gaming is sadistic or masochistic. here is Galloway’s take as it will appear in a forthcoming essay.

“Is not sadism the essential perversion of cybernetic systems, in that they have as their end the emergent expression of action events (what in other contexts might be called desire) via a complex of machinery whose prime directive is the control and manipulation of objects? The sadism of a game like Manhunt is, in this sense, merely a hypertrophy of software itself which solicits us to pursue, target, isolate, reconfigure, process, execute, and generally inflict pain on objects in the world as if they were endless masses of data. What makes the computer different from something like the cinema–which essentially establishes object relationships through a variety of forms of masochism–is the active, expressive, exploitative, ergodic, vigorous, driven materialization of measurable presence and measurable activity. It is this hubbub of activity that is the cybernetic system.”

although i agree that the *gamer’s* position is often masochistic at the same time–repetitive stress disorder, blurry eyes, skipping bio breaks, etc.

Here is my response:

i am interested in your application of sadism to gaming, however, i still think i disagree. in fact, i think Manhunt is the perfect example for precisely the opposite expression. i have only played the first 2 parts of Manhunt, so i could be wrong about how it plays out, but isn’t that game a staging of “The Most Dangerous Game,” or “The Pest,” or “Surviving the Game?” As such, the players algorhythmic adversary situates the playable character as prey in his televised *sadistic* spectacle of manhunting, while the player’s enjoyment of the game is thus a *masochistic* fantasy of being the hunted and harmed.

I suppose my point of disagreement is based mostly in the player’s role in the game’s narrative, how the game situates and defines the activities. It is one thing to be Tommy Vercetti and working you way up the food chain a la Scarface and quite another to be Carl Johnson in San Andreas trying to get your brother out of jail and crooked cops off your block. But, then one has to ask what the correspondence is between narrative and game play, which is a microcosm for the larger question, what is the connection between gaming and life.

Galloway is invested in the material nature of gaming; what does it mean to be pressing the buttons; hence, his statement that gaming is masochistic in that it can lead to afflictions. I do not think, however, that the experience can be separated from the narrative, what players think of themselves as doing. As D+G write, the masochist wants to feel fear at the sound of his mistresses boots. that is a manifestation of masochism that happens completely on the level of symbolism: boots means beatings.

i wonder if that is enough to be considered masochism, identity masochism. isn’t that, after all, what D+G are proposing in BwO? A mental concept of body?

Ruthie Wilson Gilmore

Last night i went to see Ruth Wilson Gilmore. It was one of the best talks I have been to here, but not because of the talk itself. [check out this
e-flyer PDF from the Simpson Center for the topic]. As i continue to find, talks do not try to accomplish much; how could they with our limited attention spans? What made her talk great was that she stayed for over 45 minutes afterwards to answer ALL the audience questions. She was extremely welcoming, interested, and undeniably knowledgeable. It was awesome. Thank you.

Part of her basic point was that the prison-industrial complex is a form of human sacrifice that casts populations as ‘inhuman humans’ in order to set them aside in what she termed a ‘politics of abandonment’. One challenging question suggested that “sacrifice” was not a good way to describe this abandonment because those set aside are set aside as commodities, used occasionally as labor power, but mostly wasted. Gilmore responded that it is the process and procedure of the complex to turn humans into things and that is where the sacrifice takes place, humanity given up for commodity. Her questioner persisted to say that sacrifice usually includes a moral goal or aim that he did not see in this situation. Gilmore said the moral is for Father State to protect his helpless children and provide an [ambitious] safety. Her questioner then responded, ‘well, no one actually believes that,’ to which Gilmore responded with the example of the state of the union address just earlier this week.

Although this did not satisfy the questioner, it seems to me quite evident that this is precisely what the public believes is the purpose of prisons. What other reason could one use to justify the prison system? revenge? rehabilitation? Perhaps, but these still seem to me to have the overall motive of safety. It is a strange give and take: the exaggeration and exposition of dangers, public concerns/crises, and so on that rationalize and justify certain political practices. See, ‘war on terror,’ and, formerly but continuing, ‘war on drugs’.

I’d love to know what others think on this one.