[iDC] Reposting - Re: A Reflection on the Activist Strategies in the Web 2.0 Era

Lucia Sommer sommerlucia at gmail.com
Sat Jan 24 06:29:21 UTC 2009

Sorry, I meant to post the below reply to the whole list. Curt, perhaps you
want to re-post your last reply as well? Good discussion. -- Best, Lucia

For de Certeau, individuals and resistant constellations can't produce
strategy, and I think he's pretty convincing on that point. It's not an
ethical distinction I'm making (and I don't think it was for de Certeau
either, rather his was among other things a challenge to certainties of the
orthodox left that had led to impasse and to totalizing notions concerning
the location of resistance). I certainly WISH  we, the "multitudes", had
strategic power. Indeed, the utopian left has long proposed that we do, and
even some recent attempts to re-think Marxism, like Hardt and Negri's, argue
that a "movement of movements" could have strategic power. I myself am
sceptical and tend toward the pessimistic on this point, or at least
"pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will". While I would in
principle support a genuinely left revolution (strategic action), I don't
see it happening any time soon. Meanwhile, all we have is permanent
resistance, by definition tactical.

But to return to the kind of discussion that I think you're proposing with
its emphasis on the questions of efficacy of practices -- which is  also
what interests me: I really appreciate your attempt to problematize the
binary use/production and to open up discussion about the kinds of
negotiations that cultural producers make vis a vis institutions. I agree we
need a better language to describe and think about these negotiations.

In this sense de Certeau's strategy/tactics distinction can be an ally to
problematizing unproductive binaries like the "pure" activists vs. "bad"
institution. I think we need to acknowledge the degree to which our work has
the potential to be used by institutional power in ways that can compromise
the public good, for instance by creating a signifier that houses a false
set of associations that in turn mask the narrow interests and desire for
profit of a few. But that realization can also lead to a paralysis, where
one is afraid to do anything at all. One tactic suggested by Certeau's work
on monumentality and used by many cultural producers in the process of
institutional negotiations is that of ephemerality (as counter to strategic
monumentality): the tactician gets in and out fast, deterritorializing, so
as to avoid leaving material monuments or ideological imperatives.

That's only one example, but perhaps a fruitful area of discussion would be
that of failure. CAE sometimes does a talk called "Crash and Burn," where it
discusses times that projects have failed dramatically and even helped
reinforce authoritarian power.  There's also the related question of how art
fails every day, if we measure cultural activism (or any other resistant
action) by the individual achievement of a single action. But fortunately
collective power, the aggregate of cultural activism, can create the
possibility to shift the status quo.

Thanks again, and best,

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