Tuesday, May 10, 2016

<< earth wants to be free >> about rights, autonomy & freedom of other-than-humans (camp/symposium)

as part of my Frontiers in Retreat residency with Helsinki International Artist Programme (HIAP), over the next days i'll be organising this camp/symposium... the proceedings will be published afterwards...

camp/symposium, at Vestlax, Kemiönsaari/Kimitoön, Finland, 14/15 May 2016
mirko nikolić & Helsinki International Artist Programme (HIAP), Frontiers in Retreat

In 1972, the lawyer Christopher Stone wrote “I am quite seriously proposing that we give legal rights to forests, oceans, rivers and other so-called ‘natural objects’ in the environment - indeed, to the natural environment as a whole”. At the same time, the Supreme Court of U.S. was discussing the case in which the preservation organisation Sierra Club was trying to block the development of a ski resort in the Mineral King glacial valley in Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Court ruled against the defendants of the Sierras, provoking a dissenting opinion by Justice William ‘Wild Bill’ Douglas:
The ordinary corporation is a ‘person’ for purposes of the adjudicatory processes …. So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life. …. The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled.
The case was lost, but the ski resort was eventually never developed, and alternative stories of nonhuman personhood have continued to proliferated. Law, economy, politics, art, most of human practices, still to a large extent do not take into account the voices of nonhuman animals, plants, inorganic bodies, entire multitudes of entities are either backgrounded or silences. This oh-so-modern way of dealing with the world is presently contested across the board. Over the past few years, several countries recognised natural entities as holders of legal rights. In their own way, artistic and theoretical practices are increasingly taking other-than-humans ‘seriously’, listening to, co-performing, and conversing with those that do not speak our tongues.

In a two-day camp at the old copper mines in the island of Kemiönsaari in South-West Finland, the symposium will discuss the dynamics of shared trans-species conversations, with emphasis on ethico-political questions that present themselves when crossing the imaginary human–nonhuman border. How do we invite nonhumans to (freely) take part in conversations initiated by humans? What kinds of rights and freedoms are asserted through these naturalcultural minglings? What are the responsibilities and accountabilities of the humans towards the interpellated nonhuman persons? The participants will share their approaches through narration, discussions, exercises, workshops, audio-visual performances. Through this process, the camp hopes to advance understanding about the current possibilities and developmental pathways on this ‘wild side’ of arts and humanities......

The camp/symposium is organised as part of my residency with HIAP within Frontiers in Retreat project. we ❤ copper & copper ❤ us is ongoing art & research project about the intimate interactions of humans and earths that started in spring 2015 at his first HIAP residency. Since then it has had sequels in the UK and in Serbia at the residency with Cultural Front GRAD.

participants >>
Agata Marzecova, the Alps, Baroa Belaobara, Bartaku, bees of Helsinki, birds of Røst archipelago, Christina Stadlbauer, copper mosses, Essi Kausalainen, Felicia Honkasalo + Akuliina Niemi + Sinna Virtanen, Hanna Husberg, Hugo Reinert, Jenni Nurmenniemi, landslides, Laura Harrington, Matterlurgy, Miloš Trakilović, minerals of copper, mirko nikolić, Moss Flats of the North Pennines, Mustarinda working group, mycorrhizae,  ocean of air, Stallo/Áhkkanjárstábba stone, Tuomas A. Laitinen, and many more earth-others.
With contributions by Astrida Neimanis and Elin Øyen Vister.
And support by Jaana Eskola, Paul Flanders, Salla Lahtinen, Sasha Marich, Višnja Vujović.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Practising ‘flat ecology’ in everyday life. Proposal and questions (Part 1)

This text was recently published in Prova 2, Humanities Research Forum Journal, Royal College of Art. It was shaped starting from a presentation i gave at the RCA Humanities Research Forum titled Speculative Thinking: On Object Oriented Philosophies and Science Fiction, organised and led by Nina Trivedi. Thanks to Nina for the invitation and opportunity to develop this piece of thinking.

In my artworks and research, I aim to put to practice an ontological framework I call ‘flat ecology’. It is an ontology based on a conjunction of several new materialist and object-oriented philosophies that share a ‘flat ontological’ stance (DeLanda, 2002: 46). Aim of this framework is to act as a method for creating aesthetic situations which can be thought to operate “in and for a more-than-human world” (Whatmore, 2006). ‘Flat ecology’ thus endeavours to provide ground for the making of aesthetic situations in which humans and nonhumans engage in flat relations, thus in which no entity holds an ontological (and, by extension, epistemological, or any other) privilege over any entity involved. However, working with this ontology and trying to deploy it in real-life contexts opens up a number of questions and problems.

1. Proposal. Outline of a ‘flat ecology’

A ‘flat ecological’ approach begins by assuming that humans hold no special position in the universe. Therefore, it accepts one of the theses of ‘flat ontology’, as formulated by Levi Bryant:

All entities are on equal ontological footing and . . . no entity, whether artificial or natural, symbolic or physical, possesses greater ontological dignity than other objects. (Bryant, 2011a: 246)
However, entities are not disposed on a flat homogeneous plane; “‘to be’ is to make or produce difference” (Bryant, 2011b: 263) which means that flat ontology is populated by “unique, singular individual[s]” (DeLanda, 2002: 46). “Nothing is, by itself, either reducible or irreducible to something else” (Latour, 1988: 158). Since each entity is unique and mutually irreducible, therefore “the world or the universe does not exist” (Bryant, 2011a: 246). Flat ecology implies a “pluriverse” (Latour, 2004: 246) ― individual entities engage with the world in different ways, they are not unified a priori under any umbrella term such as ‘nature’ or ‘society’ or ‘world’. Each entity “makes a whole world for itself” (Latour, 1988: 166), which also means that it is a “strange stranger” to any other (Morton, 2010: 46-7). There is no pre-given mesh which brings everything together, bridges need to be laboriously constructed.

The first characteristic of the ecological subject is that it is able to make a difference; it performs actions. Therefore, at the beginning, I will call the ecological subject an actor (Latour, 2005: 46). Actors never act in a vacuum, they are always “in the middle” of other agencies, thus they ‘intra-act’ (Barad, 2007: 139-40). In other words, they establish, maintain or unmake connections, conjunctions or disjunctions with other entities.

In order to ‘intra-act’, two entities, since they are mutually irreducible, always need a third one which performs ‘mediation’ or ‘translation’ (Latour, 1988: 162). This ‘third person’ can be called either ‘intermediary’ or ‘mediator’, depending on how it ‘transports’ the message (Latour, 2005: 39). Because of the mediators, ‘irreducible’ entities are able to connect, but, because of the uniqueness of each of the three entities involved, every ‘translation’ involves “misunderstanding” (Latour, 1988: 168) ― a surplus or deficit, a difference in meaning, or a certain degree of unknowability. Instead of imagining this inevitable misunderstanding as leading into the darknesses of chaos, this is the soil from which stems and flourishes the becoming of entities. Were they to be fully transparent or deployed, the world would come to a standstill, there would not be any becoming nor time and space.

An actor is never fully actualised, it is “split” between its “local manifestation” (actual) and its “virtual proper being” (Bryant, 2011a: 114). The virtual dimension of an actor is shaped by its affects, which indicate “unactualised capacities to affect and be affected” (DeLanda, 2002: 62), in other words, its relational capacities or openings. Virtual dimension can be imagined as a “phase space”, defined by attractors or structural gravities, virtual trajectories that an actor can potentially actualise or perform (Bryant, 2011a: 89). Importantly, the actual and virtual are not two disjoined levels of being ― “[t]he virtual is fully real in so far as it is virtual” (Deleuze, in DeLanda, 2002: 37), it is a withdrawn thus not present but nonetheless equally real dimension. The virtual conceals all the responses to the question Spinoza posed: “what can a body do?” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 256). In an ecology, we can't ever fully know what one can do, not even about ourselves. Entities emerge only through ‘trials’ (Latour, 1988: 158) or ‘intra-actions’.

When taken together, the virtual and actual dimensions come to identify the ecological subject as a singular ‘actor-network’. ‘Actor’ is the lieu of momentary action (topographical timespace, ‘here’ and ‘now’ of the actor), and ‘network’ is a configuration of its affects (topological timespace of its capacities to ‘intra‒act’). Between the two dimensions, affects are trajectories of intensity that actualise and virtualise action. The notion of phase space moves away from the division interior/exterior; ‘actor-network’ is a multiplicity of trajectories that shoot both centripetally and centrifugally from the ‘actor’.

Actors are situated among other actor-networks, actually and virtually. An actor’s topographical, thus physical, location is determined by and with others, and an actor’s topological timespace is equally configured by the constellation of topologies of other actors. Bodies co-exist in proximity or at distance from each other, and they can perform certain actions within the current state of things and the respective networks of capacities of other adjacent actors. Through intensification of particular affects, topologies of different actors can criss-cross and hence get entangled. This ‘meeting’ or ‘gathering’ of two entities originates in the virtual as it is mediated by affects of actors involved. Counter to the system/environment approach which posits a ‘selective openness’ and ‘operational closure’ of organisms, in a totally ‘flat ecology’, any entity can potentially be affected by any one else. It only depends on the number of mediators necessary between them, and times and spaces of mediation. This does not mean that “everything is connected to everything else”, but it can be. There are no definite firewalls or tax-free havens, everything is exposed to influence.

Based on this brief exposition, one starts seeing the difficulties and possibilities for thinking and making meetings among ‘strange strangers’. There are very different types of meeting or relations that can be forged. Practice of ‘flat ecology’ is interested in a special case of ‘meeting’ which induces two actors into coexistence on equal terms ― flat relation among equal but irreducible subjects (or objects). In this type of conjunction, none of the actors has its virtual capacities or actual manifestation cut down or restrained, their respective capacities are either maintained or increased. The question that ‘flat ecology’ tries to address is whether it is possible to create such associations among irreducible entities. “What would a truly democratic encounter between truly equal beings look like, what would it be―can we even imagine it?” (Morton, 2010: 15). How to make and enact assemblages “where each singularity can live out its own strangeness to the extent of its possibilities” (Raunig, 2013)? 

. . . to be continued . . .

Friday, January 30, 2015

Notes for the workshop of infra-dance with trees, dunes and sea (sketches for practice of a flat ontology in everyday life)

This text was originally developed as the script for the Workshop of infra-dance with trees, dunes and sea, as part of Inter-Format Symposium on Flux of Sand and Aquatic Ecosystems, at Nida Art Colony. An expanded version, the one you can read here, has been recently published in Nida Art Colony Log 6, the issue dedicated to techno-ecologies.

“A human being is not a thing in the environment, but a juncture in a relational system without determined boundaries in time and space.” (Naess, 1989)
Our bodies are assemblies of organic and nonorganic agents. We are “walking (and talking) minerals”. (Margulis and Sagan, 1995) Where lies then the boundary between human and nonhuman?

Power to act is not human only, it is distributed among all the entities, biotic and abiotic, animal, vegetal, nonorganic.
“But, can nonorganic bodies also have a life? . . . Is there such a thing as a mineral or metallic life, or the life of the it in ‘it rains’?” (Bennett, 2010)

Ecology is a process (physis), a becoming made of events, actions in which there are no objects and no subjects.
“I never act alone; I am always slightly surprised by what I do.” (Latour, 1999)

Humans perceive the reality as “equipment”, or as composed of objects that lie at our hand ready to become tools. But, “insofar as the tool is a tool, it is quite invisible, relegated to the background.” (Harman, 2011)
Instead, in ecology everyone/everything is acting with and without humans, “there is no definite background and therefore no definite foreground” for human action. (Morton, 2010)

Ecology is a networking of mutually irreducible entities. (How) do they “talk” one with another?
“Nothing is, by itself, the same as or different from anything else. That is, there are no equivalents, only translations.” (Latour, 1988) Translation is a process of becoming more than one, of associating with others.
At the same time, since there are no equivalents, “two forces cannot associate without misunderstanding.” (ibid.)

Digital (communication) networks are based on connection (exchange among equalised differences). Ecologies are networks based on conjunction (vital becoming together of differing equals).
Connection is about a functional interoperability of organisms previously reduced to compatible linguistic units, whereas conjunction is about “becoming-other, living, unexpected concatenation of bodies.” (Berardi, 2012)

We live in “collectives of humans and nonhumans”. (Latour, 1999)
In ecology, everyone/everything is on the same but differential ontological standing. “All beings equally exist, but they do not exist equally”. (Bogost, 2010) Ecology is a flat ontology, a network of “unique, singular individuals, differing in spatio-temporal scale but not in ontological status”. (De Landa, 2002) 

Ecology is not pre-given, it is not already there. “It is an accomplishment, a form of work, of great effort, in a place, with materials that may resist.” (Law, 1997)
Ecology is made through a labour of assembling, of working the net, net–work (ecological labour).

The subject and the object of ecological labour is the multitude, the socius composed of nonhumans and humans.
“The multitude is a multiplicity, a plane of singularities, an open set of relations, which is not homogeneous or identical with itself and bears an indistinct, inclusive relation to those outside of it” (Hardt and Negri, 2000).
Ecology inhabited by the multitude is radically open to strange strangers (Morton, 2010), it is kept open with absolute hospitality and forgiveness, expecting or wanting nothing in return.

“The only way to do justice to objects is to consider that their reality is free of all relation, deeper than all reciprocity.” (Harman, 2011)
In ecology, everyone/everything is autonomous and coexisting. Since no entity can be translated into anything else, it cannot be swapped or exchanged, as value or as information. Ecological labour is an affective and material tending towards others.

A post-connective, conjunctive collectivity, is not based in communication, but, first of all, sensibility.
“Sensibility is the ability of the human being to communicate what cannot be said with words. . . .  the ability to harmonise with the rhizome.” (Berardi, 2012).

A bumblebee and a rose are heterogeneous “beings that have absolutely nothing to do with each other”. This does not prevent them from working together, from “evolving aparallely”. (Chauvin, 1969) They make a world in common, a common world.

How to work in conjunction with absolutely diverse others?
How to evolve aparallely with beings that have almost nothing to do with us?
How to forge and foster “nonhuman friendships”? (Bingham, 2006)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Geographies of Noir Vol. 4: Day vs Night - Extension of the Night Time

by Ida Grujić

Drawing based on "Kansas City Confidential"
In the previous article I highlighted narrative as something which significantly determines the space in film noir by adopting Vogler's scheme. The attempt was to investigate the extent to which the narrative character relies on myth and its symbolic space. In this piece I will move slightly from this general interpreting tendency to enter the real noir space, not of noir as filmic genre, but in the sense of what I described in the last article as a “special world” and its relation with ordinary world, which, in this case is closest to the daily space of reality. This is a move into relations between contextual and ephemeral space; mystical space of night, where everything takes place according to its own rhythm, and is insufficiently visible and clear. Nevertheless, this space is fundamental in the film, as well as for the story's elan (impulse), which aims to tell a story and connect disparate factors.

Day vs. Night. (The difference between day and night) Does the realism of the story penetrate into the realms of twilight? From which perspective can we examine this relation? In noir, it is clearly the domestic space which corresponds most closely to realism. It is the part which represents the rest, and it is mostly well-lit. In daylight the world looks familiar, whereas in night-time even previously known spaces can appear profoundly unreal or different. This characteristic is structural to film noir.

Roland Barthes claims that exactly realism determines the level of empathy in a film (which maybe does not apply to all genres). The realistic part of noir, the one which is completely clear in terms of content, evidently carries this specific function in terms of inducing empathy.

But realism of the narrative seems to shift from one zone to another. Sequence of events (actions) exists in a common system in which the story moves through day and night. Along this sequence, passage into night carries high suspense, and when it happens we rely on realism of previous scenes to be able to hold onto the story. In the same way, when realistic scenes give way to hues of darkness creating critical situations, noir protagonists will resort to the indicators from the brighter parts of the film. Thus we could affirm that the story is more realistic in day conditions, whereas we move through the night in a more instinctive way, following indicators from the film's earlier sequences.

But even if in the “special” space of the night, realism comes to the surface only feebly, suspense is not created only in that space. It only erupts in the night but its field of action is definitely day as well. How does this building up work?

Fundamentally, noir is almost always a narrative structure, therefore we can use Barthes' analysis of the levels of meaning in the story. Namely, any common sentence can be linguistically described on multiple levels (phonetic, phonological, grammatical, contextual). These levels are hierarchically inter-related, and they can shape meaning only with upper levels, whereas each of them singularly does not mean anything by itself. They can be grouped in two basic sets – the ones which create meaning within its own level and the ones which create meaning with other levels, integrational. “Levels are operations. It is then normal that, by progressing, linguistics tends to multiply them. Therefore, discourse analysis cannot but work only on rudimental levels.” (Elements of Semiology) Independently of the real number of these levels and how they are grouped, in noir story is evident some sort of hierarchy.

In this context, analysis and properties of the individual levels, their inter-relatedness or grouping and flexibility are secondary. What is more relevant is Barthes' claim that their nature can be divided in functions and indicators and that on any of the levels prevails one of the two tendencies. In the same way, the line of noir story can be divided in functional elements – what we see, thus, that for which we have a confirmation, what is and what isn't multi-signifying; and indicators – that which is visually displayed but directs in a specific direction, what is active in more than ephemeral sense.

For example, in Phil Carlson's Kansas City Confidential (1952), when John Payne enters a gambling room with the taxi driver and encounters the man for whom he thinks must be involved in the story, even though there are not too many indicators, we know that something is going to happen in that sense. The scene is atmospherically dense and transpires tension. Smoke which fills the room, the body language, gestures, the voice of the man who dictates the rule of the game, camera angle and its movements, everything serves to indicate to the following scene in the street which plays out in total darkness. Visually speaking, the second scene does not feature innovative elements and the camera angle is again classical. But the first scene has already built up the second, it introduced us into it step by step and on the level of content they form a unity (a curious structuring of grouping and specification of the levels of meaning).

In many crime stories, the literary basis of noir, grouping of levels is carried through intrigue. Exact indicators are extraordinarily important because they are the ones which connect the wholes of the intrigue and eventually build up suspense. In noir, they lead the story through day and night, and thus in some ways the properties of day and night overlap in this process.

The realism of police genre is present in the attention dedicated to the methods of investigation, in the attempts of policemen to connect various factors and in the strategy not to be revealed. With this emphasis on information, our attention is led towards semantic indicators, which appear in more or less predictable sequence. This is where the theme of the story condenses into a mental map which puts together all the dots, and this result depends on fluidity of the indicators and their connections with other levels of meaning. We can recognise this mental map through the tone. Eventually, in noir, tone separates itself from socio-political context and from collective psychology and achieves autonomy. Many noir protagonist are imbued with nostalgia after his/her origins, the source from which the romanticism of his/her struggle with society derives from. This original note can be perceived precisely from the tone. Tone does not posses narrative properties, it adheres to the narrative in a linear fashion, it develops from group action and combination of different structures. Following Barthes' statement about the realism of the story, we can say that one of the main elements which upkeeps the level of realism in noir is precisely tone (tonality).

When adopting the concept of tonality in this context, the question which arises is whether it is positioned more on the side of functional or indicator tendency, or can it be understood outside of these two categories? In its linguistic meaning, tonality (or intonation) brings difference and different functions into the meaning by indicating speaker's emotional state. By highlighting important parts of the content, tonality directs a conversation. Even if it is primarily local, it is important to note that it almost always adds to other aspects of narrative content, thus it can be examined autonomously in relation to the whole. Crystal says that “[..] intonation is not a single system of contours and levels, but the product of the interaction of features from different prosodic systems – tone, pitch-range, loudness, rhythmicality and tempo in particular.” [Crystal, D. (1975) 'Prosodic features and lingustic theory', in Edward Arnold, The English Tone of Voice] According to this theory, tonality can be subsumed both in the functional and indicator categories. In the context of noir, tonality can be understood as not belonging to these two categories but as a connector among them.

A different example from the first one but also of extraordinary tonality, can be found in the sequence of house scenes in Robert Siodmak's Cry of the City (1948). This ambience is fundamental in the construction of the noir tonality of this film. In the film house is the carrier of the realism of a system of signs. From the details of the interior can be read, like from a picture, the historical circumstances, habits and beliefs of the protagonist's family. At the same time, this space integrates with what comes before and after this state of things, and this happens especially when protagonists enter this space. Victor Mature in the role of Lt. Candelle, even if not a negative character, by the act of entering brings a disquiet of another space (even time) and atmosphere into this domestic environment, highlighted by the fact that his appearance takes place during a family lunch. A change comes upon, a tone of unease and caution insinuates itself. But this seems a natural continuation of events and we feel as we knew this tone already from another series of scenes. The very same change happens when Martin Rome comes back to his home, this time looking for hideaway from the law.

In the scene when Rome is eventually discovered by his mother in one of the rooms, the only light on screen comes from the street lamps. The door is opened and a stronger light penetrates the room. In the frame of the door, an undistinguishable silhouette stands outlined by backlight. Only in the following shot we get to realise that the silhouette is his mother. This gradation, from dark to light, carries on over the couple of shots that follow, changing the atmosphere of the sequence, and impregnating the house space with ever increasing level of suspense.

In day spaces the stage set is realistic whereas in the night we have an impression that it is the emotional tension (fear) that is more realistic. Moreover, the night tone does not necessarily withdraw with the change in lighting, and in most occasions the protagonist does not resolve the problems simply by going back home. His/her troubles make their way into domestic space with him/her. The consequences of a criminal act are still tangibly present in the otherwise relaxing environment of a living room. Tone's fluidity allows for this overlapping, it merges into a whole beyond what narrative reveals and contributes to the extension of night space.

In both cited films the creation of spaces relies on introduction of night into day, and vice versa, not by adding but by overlapping the images, resulting in the emergence of a universal imagery space, in which the narrative thread is always present but to different degrees. Relationship between realism and tonality in the construction of noir spatiality are fundamental for the comprehension of film noir's ambivalent effect.

This is consonant to Hemingway's method of “writing like an iceberg”, if we were to understand the visible part of the iceberg as the realistic part of the story. About this part above the surface we do not nurture doubts, but the submerged part, even if far from transparent, it gives the rhythm, weight, texture to the whole iceberg, and in this way supports the story's realism.

Ida is a set designer, active in fields of film, theatre and fashion, and working between Paris and Milano. She holds a strong interest for theory and history of cinema, and she graduated with a thesis on spatiality in film noir and Roman Polanski's cinema.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dead and Live Ends of Networks 0.71

I feel like life has no beginning
I feel like life it has no end
Chromatics, Mask

Where and when do networks start or end? Or how do they start or end?

We are deeply embedded in the “mesh” [Morton, 2011], or ecological relational systems which link everything to everything in a “web of life”. There are also all sorts of so-called networks around us – transportation, communication, sanitation networks, and so on. We negotiate them and they negotiate with us daily. Thus, we are networked all the time. Too much even. But are we really at net-work at all?
First, let's leave aside the idea of networks as structures or infrastructures, and instead think them as composed of infra-actions between actors, of movements tendings tensions towards-an-other. Net-work is a way of acting – of doing politics, economy and ethic, all at the same time. In last instance, net-work is a way of making the social and being in it. Net-work is a floating state of “radical inclusion” [Raunig, 2013], a multiplying multiplicity open to not-yet-multiplicity, to undifferentiated singularities.
This text is a beginning of a search for net-work as a way of becoming multitude.

The multitude is a multiplicity, a plane of singularities, an open set of relations, which is not homogeneous or identical with itself and bears an indistinct, inclusive relation to those outside of it.” [Hardt and Negri, 2000: 103] But, despite what Hardt and Negri state, the multitude is not present already.
Today it is not sufficient to claim that we are already participating in the “mesh”, or that we are in the world wide web. We might be members of ecosystems or digital ecologies, but this does not mean that we are networking. “it is not enough to say, 'Long live the multiple',... The multiple must be made,...” [Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 6] Made and remade.
Network, if we were to follow Deleuze and Guattari in their rhizomatic reading, “has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills”. But the middle is fragile and unstable, and the ends as well as beginnings of networks are everywhere.
If we start from the idea that network is essentially a middle ground or milieu created in a way to allow for “growth” and/or “overspilling”, that means there need to be open ends, invitations into and exits out of a network. Actually, the terms 'inside' and 'outside' do not correspond much to the case of networks. A net-work must be radically open, so what seems to lie 'outside' at a given moment is more precisely not-yet-network, but it could potentially be. It is not excluded or delimited.
If there is no biunivocal relationship between interior and exterior, this applies to the dynamics of the middle as well. There is no priority, there is no subject nor object, no one comes first and the other second.

Networking does not run along the lines AB, BC, CA between nodes A, B, and C. A network would be something like ACBACBA or CBABACBACBC, and so on. Networks are flat ontologically speaking, but they are not bidimensional spatially or temporally, they cannot be mapped or diagrammed.
Networks are not shapes nor forms, but they are real-time events or performances. Hence the difficulty or improbability of integrally representing or visualising a network. This is because the graph theory does not represent adequately the question of agency, it snapshots the network therewith cancelling the temporalities of its relations. [Galloway and Thacker, 2007: 33]
Another obstacle to understanding or visualising networks is that they defy mechanics of causality: action-reaction, answer-reply, input-output are not adequate categories or models to understand the networking's working. Causes and effects do happen within networks, but they are only the segments where the network loses its tension and eventually breaks down. Plus, networking does not obey to the laws of exchange either, be it communicational or economic. There is no give and take between distinct poles. And network does not live according to supply or demand. No one can win or lose in a network.
For all these reasons, networks cannot be merely seen, but I think that a network can be felt. If you are in the middle of one.

What happens in networks is the making of potentiality. Better said, networks make the potentiality happen. This is what Pierre Lévy calls the virtual, a higher ontological state than the 'possible' and diverse from the 'actual'. I would say that the virtual aggregates a hypercomplex intermeshing of heterogeneous energies, whereas the possible consists of a determinate series of homogeneous possibilities or outcomes.
By the virtual we understand the set of powers to act (being, loving, transforming, creating) that reside in the multitude.” [Hardt and Negri, 2000: 357]
Here, Hardt and Negri speak about a virtual as if it were already in being 'residing' somewhere in the multitude, instead I think that it is produced and reproduced through the becoming of the multitude.

Multitude comes into being in the virtual.
Virtuality is an assembling of powers to act.

On the contrary, when the passage from the virtual through the possible to the real is made, thus when an action is accomplished by a machine or a chain of nodes, the potentiality dissipates or dissembles and is reduced into a singularity. This sounds counter-intuitive, but I maintain that a network, if it is net-working, does not accomplish/perform/cause any single thing, if we take it as a result or a consequence or a product. This would mean a meltdown of multiplicity.
Network needs to continue to fold along its edges and turns the nodes inside out outside in and is turned outside in inside out by their agencies. In the overlappings joints underlappings of edges, surfaces behind beyond between the folds are created, these lines are virtualities in potency. (This recursivity generates another improbability to fully comprehend and represent a network.)
How is then the virtuality created and how is it undone?

First, an example of what net-work is not. Transport for London, an immensely complex system of buses, trams and trains daily moves millions of people via a work of thousands of technical machines and humans. But, what happens in this “network” is that one boards a train “in-order-to” move from point X to point Y. Everything else that happens in transit – breakdowns, delays, funny announcements by the driver, unexpected encounters, etc. – is an undesired contingency or chaos. This type of system, I claim, does not act as a network since it does not produce potentiality, but instead is all about actualisation. This is because it is ideated as a tool, as an instrument, a “means” for transport. The implication is that “insofar as the tool is a tool, it is quite invisible”. [Harman, 2011: 38] This is not a problem of perception, but of the fact that a tool is relegated to the background and thus made subject to domination. Subject acts upon something else – an object. In a network, there is no domination, but only inter-agency, thus networks cannot be instruments.

Net-work is an activity of the creation of the potentiality for anything/anyone to connect to anything/anyone, this puts all networking actors on equal footing or status. According to Deleuze and Guattari's rhizomatic principle of connection: “any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be.” This latter “must” is not a diktat for everyone to be perpetually connected to everyone, but underlines the principle as a fundamental right.
What type of networking allows for this right? Alexander Galloway differentiates three types of networks: a) centralised, that is hierarchical and bureaucratic linkage of nodes to a single central hub; b) decentralised, a multiplication of centralised network, with many hubs and their own arrays of dependent nodes; c) distributed network, which “has no central hubs and no radial nodes. Instead each entity in the distributed network is an autonomous agent”. [Galloway, 2004: 33] It is clear that only the third type comes close to this condition, but does not necessarily match it. I will get back later to this.

Heterogeneity of connections is the second condition of the rhizome. Connections are not all identical, contrary to how it looks like on many network graphs. Every single tie is a singularity, there cannot be two identical ones. At a first glimpse, the difference can be interpreted by saying that some ties are weaker and others stronger. But 'weak' and 'strong' are misleading, because they evoke 'power plays', so dear to Latour but also Foucault. Networks are not driven by power relations, if we consider them as power of something over something or similar, because there is no subject nor object. Relations in networks are ties of common labour and affect and desire.

To describe this infinite gradation of ties, I would like to use words like 'thick' and 'subtle', or 'dense' and 'thin', but they are not sufficient either. Let's think about net-working as weaving, literally, not metaphorically, thus knitting or interlacing of (diverse) yarns. An infinitely wide array of yarns of different textures widths resistances colours warmths. These diverse material and sensual properties suggest the heterogeneity of every actor's investment into each tie. The connections are flows of labour, language, passion and desire. All at the same time and in different nuances of each. Connecting is not merely a linguistic act, it always possesses an irreducible and uncountable surplus of sensibility [Berardi, 2012: 121], or I would add, sensitivities.

In weaving networks, connections are something different than conjunctions. As Berardi explains, “[w]hilst conjunction means becoming-other, living, and the unpredictable concatenation of bodies, connection means the functional interoperability of organisms previously reduced to compatible linguistic units.” [Berardi, 2012: 123]
If networking means becoming-other, who/what is the subject that emerges?
Deleuze and Guattari speak of subtracting one from the multiple <n-1> as a process of subjectivation in a rhizome. [Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 6] In my view, a networking subject resonates with the network, she/he/it is in the process of becoming-many and making-many, and is all but 1. Networking subject is less than 1 and more than 1. 3 /4, 2 1 /2, 15, 0, etc.
Multiplicity is not about either addition (n + 1 + 1 … - capitalist accumulation) or subtraction (n – 1 -1 …. - control and command), there are no such mathematical operations in net-working. “The foundation of the production of multiplicity lies just as much in overcoming the additive logic of counting (up) as in rejecting the one, which emerges only in the (dis-)counting from the multiplicity. “ [Raunig, 2013] What is important is that both the network and and all the networking actors are multiplicities.
How does this movement proceed?

When many yarns connecting different points intersect, pass above and below each other, thus interlace or interlock, some are wefts the others are warps. “[Rhizome] is composed not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion” and “[u]nlike a structure, which is defined by a set of points and positions, with binary relations between the points and biunivocal relationships between the positions, the rhizome is made only of lines...” [Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 21]
They do not intend to say that there are no nodes, but that the patterns of interlacing are those which create the tension of the network, which resides in the middle (milieu), a field among the points nodes actors. This middle belongs to no one, and it is of everyone. It may look or even act as a unit, but it is many. Everyone are contributing to it and making it, and everyone is drawing from it and is being drawn by its in-tension. The middle is the common.
Through these movements, subjectivation takes place as a motion between singularisation and multiplication. Singularisation of every conjunction. Multiplication of every actor. Singularisation of the middle through the in-tension of actors. Multiplication of the middle through continuous weaving of the lines. Networking is a process of becoming else than one, more than and less than one.

But network, as we saw, is far from flat, symmetries and asymmetries abound in the relationships between nodes as they pass through the middle. Nevertheless, there is a potential for equality, for each node to conjoin with any other. This must be exercised, conjunctions have to be started, maintained, and restarted. Network is always in restarting, always starts from all of its beginnings, and tends to and fro all its endings, towards and through the middle. This restarting is a quest for equality, which maybe cannot ever be fully achieved. But it is more than worth to keep trying.
Against all the storms and aggressions. “[R]hizome may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines” [Deleuze&Guattari, 1987: 9]. This is not so sure. Network may start again or it may as well not. Actors and actions can get included and excluded, appear and disappear, and this always affects the whole of the network, even if it eventually survives and persists. In the shattering network might have been co-opted and instrumentalised by a sovereign power, something from the outside, and thus it becomes something different.

This shattering, the undoing of the network, how does it take place? Through any operation that aims to
erase the potentiality of any single node in a network to conjoin to the other(s). This is an operation of unstitching, of cutting, of destroying, ultimately of killing out the yarns and/or the node. This is accomplished through monodimensional investment of power on behalf of one or more (unweaving) actors who act upon an other or others. Thereby the nature of the network is destroyed.
This is an action of drawing the yarns in a linear action <chain of action> that moves inconsiderately of the tensions of other actors and their interconnections, without waiting or allowing for response, and, by doing this, it breaks or strains the ties and actors. What remains is a 'line of cutting' – a disjunction – which leads to an end of the network. A dead end. A goal. An outcome. A coming out of the network.

Any operation of moving actors along a single direction, making them work along one line, aligning them, whatever that intent or interest might be, is probably a symptom of gradual or discreet or exponential erasing of potential, flattening down or ironing of the multiplicity of folds and realising them on a grid (or a map or a spreadsheet or a graph). When any such operation becomes real, there is no space for a refolding reverse movement. The communication has ended, the signal is dead. On one side of the line remains nothing, while profits are harnessed on the other.
But, to get there, a great energy effort has to be dispended and the disjoining actors lose at least part of their overall potentiality to act further.
What is bewildering is that this undoing of networks is channelled precisely through a network, so it seems suicidal. Not really, because the undoing actors are dissociating themselves from the network as they go.
A realising action transforms segments of the network into a chain of command. This modus operandi is always grounded in codifying procedures protocols rules , which are as strict as possible. Paradoxically, these protocols still rely on communication, but they enact only connectivity (not conjunction). Disjoining actors make close-mesh nets of meaning, tight chains that resemble shields or armours, certainly not light adaptable floating fabrics. Thus they are slow heavy less robust, their way of being is actually a continual self-shattering. They do not reproduce themselves, they can only incorporate other vital parts of the network.
Disjoining is based on “functional interoparibility” of language (of the code or protocol), on the reduction of network actors to “compatible linguistic units”. Every networking actor is reduced to unit and made exchangeable, functionalised, made pliable to instrumentalisation.

In terms of time, a chain of command&control moves only from past towards the future, which is calculated or postulated, it is a time of realisation of a particular project. In this, ever grander parts of this mechanism become obsolete, lose their function, recede into background, as they played their role. So, it is a mechanism of dispersal of nodes and yarns: n – 1 – 1 – 1 -1 … all the way until one goal is reached, until it becomes real. Then this goal is left in the past, and a new goal is projected and so on. It is always one mission after another, a linear sequence of ones which relies on the process of unifying of actors towards the imposed goal.

Instead, a network does not know where it goes, because of its loose yarns left swinging in the wind, because of its radical openness towards the inside and the outside, its not having boundaries. Because each and every actor is singular and multiple at the same time.
So, a network lives in a state that most intimately weaves past (previous conjunctions of nodes, which create potentiality, the in-between tension of the mesh), present (the provisional position of nodes and of the yarns in between them), and future (made of virtual movements, picking-ups of old threads, makings of new threads, and so on) into a continuum. Anything must be compresently possible for a network.
Looking at Murillo's paintings of the child beggars of Seville, Hegel exclaimed: “We have the feeling that for a young person of this type any future is possible”. [quoted in Ranciere, 2009: 14] This is how one feels whilst net-working, whilst becoming multitude.

Whereas mechanic action works by calculating future and then realising it, “the virtual is never fully realised” [Lévy, 1998]. Better said, it should not be fully realised. Great care has to be taken not to fully realise a collective potential of a network. That does not mean that everything stays in a cloud of fuzzy potentialites, in some kind of a stationary state of indetermination. Potentialities are always partially realised, they need to be, because weaving relies dispenses immense effort. But, the potentiality is reproduced and built up through weaving, by the creation of new twists of yarn, new foldings, joining of new actors, regeneration of the old ones.
That is what the 'networking' or net-work (verb) mean, and this is a “great and unceasing effort” [Law, 1999] of upkeeping and maintaining a network.
To keep up in this, networks should be able to foster and take care of relationships of identification and solidarity, not alienation and instrumentalisation. Along its yarns needs to travel a sense of commonality and it has to be somehow internalised by the actors [Naess, 1989: 172]. Net-work is the place where 'in unity diversity' is being made. This unifying diversity may be the immanent end of a network, if we can say there is one. And this unifying diversity cannot ever be fully realised, but must always be driven by desire. Other name for unitary diversity might be solidarity. “[S]ocial solidarity is not an ethical or ideological value: it depends on the continuousness of the relation between individuals in time and in space.” [Berardi, 2012: 128] Continuousness of the relation. Desire for relation. This is what the net-work is made for and of.

On one start (end), many open endings are in motion. On the other end (start), many open beginnings are in motion.
Network stands in the middle of the infinity of resonations of vibrant matter on one side and the infinity of transformed vibrant matter on the other side. It is a prism of the multiplicity, with no outside (horizon) and no inside (centre or end), a virtual compresence of multiple pasts presents and futures. Virtual as actual power of wish dream desire. And, desire is always the production of the real [Deleuze and Guattari, 1984: 26], the incessant flow between the virtual the possible the real.
There is only desire and the social, and nothing else”. [ibid.: 29] The bridge between the desire and the social is the becoming of net-work.

And this conjoining is never smooth. We daily bump into numerous firewall, closed doors, no-access signsplaces where networks have been brought to dead endsMaybe these once-networks can be reopened, there must be potentiality leftThe same applies to the contrary, we may be trapped in a net, a fortress of power, a vampire castle [Fisher, 2013], thus a multitude must be reassembled to radically open it. For this, we need help and solidarity. There shall not be outsides nor insides.

Where we encounter loose and open threads, we may pick them up and conjoin the multitude. Learning to gather with the other or the others who are weaving, help them to continue the net, solidarise with them.

We can also begin a net-work with an other weaver. Two ends make a beginning of the multiplicity.
Then, when network starts resonatingacquiring a rhythm or a sensibility, while it is happening while it is becoming, network(ing) has and shall not have an end(ing).

Berardi, F. (2012) The Uprising. On Poetry and Finance. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).
Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis / London, University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1984) Anti-Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: The Athlone Press.
Fisher, M. (2013) Exiting the Vampire Castle. The North Star. 22 November 2013.
Galloway, A. (2004) Protocol: how control exists after decentralization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Galloway, A. and Thacker, E. (2007) The Exploit: a theory of networks. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2000) Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Harman, G. (2011) The Quadruple Object. Winchester, UK; Washington, D.C.: Zero Books.
Law, J. (1999) Traduction/Trahison: Notes on ANT. Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University.
Lévy, P. (1998) Becoming virtual: reality in the Digital Age. New York: Plenum Trade.
Morton, T. (2010) The Ecological Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Naess, A. (1989) Ecology, Community, and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Rancière, J. (2009) Notes on the photographic image. Radical Philosophy 156, July/August 2009.
Raunig, G. (2013) n-1. Making Multiplicity. A Philosophical Manifesto. Eipcp.net.

plus a networked conversation thread with Marika Troili

To be continued...