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    • postgraduate program
    • reading session
    • workshop
    • associate researchers Cycle 1
    • Not in the Mood
    • Not in the Mood Isabel Burr Raty, Adrijana Gvozdenović, Antye Guenther, Sara Manente, Rob Ritzen, Sina Seifee
      05 April 2021
      posted by: Sina Seifee
    • 03 May 2021
    • 31 July 2021
    • Not in the Mood

      a.pass Block 2021 II curated by Isabel Burr Raty, Adrijana Gvozdenović, Antye Guenther, Sara Manente, Rob Ritzen, Sina Seifee -

      participants: Inga Nielsen, Anantha Krishnan, Jimena Perez Salerno, Carolina Mendonça Ferreira, Gary Farrelly, Aleksandra Borys, Amy Pickles, Chloe Janssens, Anapaula Camargo, and Vera Sofia Mota.

      Having completed a cycle of a.pass Research Center in 2019, the six of us proposed to co-curate the block of 2021/II as a group. We aim to collectively curate an a.pass block where we redistribute and redefine the roles of curator, mentor, guest and workshop facilitator. This implies putting our knowledges, our differences and kinships into (re)productive promiscuous interactions. Each of us thinks of a.pass as an ecology of sensitivities, sentiments, rhythms and styles of knowing, but also as apparatuses, technologies and infrastructures. We do a block curation that pays specific attention to the affective and emotional dimensions of research and knowledge production, which we call here “mood”. Not only do humans have their moods and mood swings, but more-than-human, eco-synth-tech systems, and also climates and markets have it, too. By thinking and proposing practices with and about mood, we are navigating with and within affective interactions, imperfections, subjectivities and sensations of making oneself orient in the research environment and the world.

       

      Block Scenario

      The block unfolds from the 3rd of May to the 31st of July 2021. 

      The fourth floor of a.pass will host two installations, Unrest and The Depository Cat, inhabiting the common space, before the block starts. 

      Unrest, an artwork by Sofia Caesar, is a kinetic space that can move and stretch with our interactions, triggered by the workshops and reading sessions throughout the block. The Depository Cat, by Isabel Burr Raty, is a tentacular inflatable that proposes an ongoing practice based on research-treatments sharing, oriented to harvest living testimonies of the block’s processes and moods.

      During the Opening Week, Sara Manente leads the first collective practice called the Washing Machine. It is a fast-paced associative game and a way to use the filter of mood to look into our research. 

      In the first part of the block, Antye Guenther facilitates a hybrid workshop practice, titled Oh So Serious, around moodiness for de-professionalization.

      Throughout the block, Sina Seifee takes the role of PR by interviewing the participants and publishing regularly online.

      Multiple reading sessions will be conducted on Thursdays during the block.

      In the first part of the block, we will read selected essays associated with or drawn from Affect Theory, namely Lauren Berlant, Sara Ahmed, and Silvia Federici, under the working title Nail Art Affects Reading Sessions, facilitated by Sara Manente and Adrijana Gvozdenović.

      In the second part of the block, Thursdays are reserved for The Labour of Laziness reading sessions, proposed by Rob Ritzen.

       

      OPENING WEEK

       

      During the Opening Week, Sara Manente leads the first collective practice called the Washing Machine. It is a fast-paced associative game and a way to use the filter of mood to look into our research. Every participant is asked to prepare in advance 10 heterogeneous items from their practice under the filter of “obsessions”: bring something that you cannot stop thinking about, or that keeps coming back to you. It can be an unreasonable idea or feeling, a fragment of your own or somebody else’s work. Items can be of any format: a quote, a research question, a scrapbook, a dance move, a thought, a video extract, an object, a dream, or a short practice.

       

       

      ONGOING PRACTICES

       

      THE DEPOSITORY CAT - Isabel Burr Raty
      activated by a workshop at the beginning of the block on Wednesday 12th of May

      The Depository Cat is an ongoing practice throughout the block, which proposes the installation of an interactive space that invites participants to share their research in the form of self treatment/s or treatment/s for others. The idea is to open the possibility for the treatment’s giver/s and/or receiver/s to remain in a constant state of alteration, envisioning flux as one of the foundational resources in the processes of artistic research.

      The “treatment” implies the sharing or design of “healing” tools that give the opportunity to translate personal artistic concepts into physical or imaginary forms. These are put into motion by being with the - self - or with the - other/Cat, to trigger inner and outer mutations that can particularize, de-particularize or meta-morph affects underlying in the creative process of research. 

      The Cat takes the form of a “first aid cavity” that creates a visual space composed of i.e: non-standard animisms technologies, syncretic beliefs and statements, that can be freely inhabited. This cavity is at the same time a tentacular organism, as its limits can be stretched throughout the block, populating the common a.pass room. Participants are invited to deposit the or various “remainants” of the treatment/s offered in order to imprint the memory of the “healing” that took place. The remainants can be ornamental, devotional, cathartic - human and more than human objects and/or non-objects - that can infect, disinfect, contaminate, or not the common a.pass space. The depository process is archived with photographs and shared in the form of an album at the end of the Block.

       

      PR - Sina Seifee
      ongoing interviews, public relation

      Sina will make interviews with the participants throughout the whole block one by one on a weekly basis. The interviews are immediately edited into a short videographic piece with a collage style and animated elements from the imagination, the project, or the environment where the talk takes place. The pieces are published every week on multiple social platforms. The main host for the talks will be a subdomain of the a.pass website, which will be designed as a “collector” of the interviews for future access. The interviews in the format of video will be posted and prompted on both a.pass and non-a.pass platforms, where a wider audience has immediate exposure to it as it gets produced during the block.

      The interviews are informal and playful, with a heuristic approach to getting to know the participants' work and their personalities. The interview will be a substitute for mentoring (around), questioning (at), guessing (what), inventing (off), entangling (with) and imagining (on) what they are doing, what they are up to, and which mood they are in. The aim is less about understanding, and more about engaging and guessing fabulously what their matters of care are, with a perspectival (i.e. a reaction that is particular to me) and speculative (the “what if”) force that I embody in my own practice. The talks might take a maximum of two hours of recording and the final edited piece will not be more than 30 minutes long. The publication of the content will be based on the agreement with the participants, how and to which extent each likes to be exposed on social media. The interviews might take place in a.pass or elsewhere.

       

       

      WORKSHOPS / READING SESSIONS

       

      NAIL ART AFFECTS READING SESSIONS - Sara Manente and Adrijana Gvozdenović
      Thursdays, the first half of the block, before the HWD
      13th, 20th, 27th May

      We propose a formalized but relaxed situation, a hybrid form between mentoring and a reading group. We will do each other's nails while reading essays on affect theory. 

      “In ancient Egypt and Rome, military commanders also painted their nails to match their lips before they went off to battle.” Similarly, we will take care of each other, talk about what makes us happy and why do we feel like we feel (Sara Ahmed) to prepare for the “age of anxiety” (Lauren Berlant), to learn how we can repair (Eve Sedgwick) and to “re-enchant the world” (Silvia Federici).

      Doing manicure is a self-care or a professional service that can be considered a beautification process: removing the dead cuticles, massaging and moisturizing the skin, filing, polishing and decorating the nails. It is an intimate, private process and a ritual of preparation that serves the appearance in public. Could this be also a definition of what mentoring is? Can this situation create a space where different reading and discussing of the text can happen? 

       

      OH SO SERIOUS - Antye Guenther
      two days practice, 31st May and 1st June

      Antye is proposing a hybrid workshop practice around seriousness - approached as a state of non-moodiness - as questionable traits of professionalism in the arts. The aim is to propose and test, in conjunction with the participants, various strategies to insert moodiness,  non-seriousness and silliness (back) into artistic (research) practices as a way to de-professionalize. Where are our desires to be serious/ to be taken seriously in professional artistic contexts coming from? In what ways is this an attempt to champion objectivity and rational thinking in strong opposition to affects, moods and feelings, referring hereby as well to suspicious, idealized concepts of scientific practices in the 19th century? And what kind of strategies could help us to evoke processes of the-seriousness-ization for de-professionalization?

      This two-day practice will consist of a (performative) input lecture to shed light on the complex intertwinement of academisation and professionalization in the Arts, which seem to have been fundamentally boosted by neoliberal demands of constant self-advertising and promoting. This lecture will try to trace back specific tropes of professionalism to the 19th century ideal of the scientist as an ‘objective’ data recording device. After this lecture a short reading session will be proposed, to start and stir a conversation around (problematic) seriousness and professional attitudes. This will be followed by the invitation to the participants to share and to reflect on their own seriousness in their practices, what seriousness might mean for them as artists/practitioners in the arts. At the end of the first day, the participants will be asked to think of strategies to oppose rational-objective thinking and to practice hyper-seriousness or non-seriousness as a way to ‘de-professionalize’, which we want to share and test out together the next day.

      In preparation, Antye will collaborate with Sara and Isabel to invent and test specific ‘body practice’ to be added to the toolbox of de-professionalization on the 2nd day.

       

      THE LABOUR OF LAZINESS - Rob & Steyn Bergs
      reading sessions, Thursdays, the second half of the block, after the HWD and one moment in PAF
      24th June, 8th and 15th July

      The Labour of Laziness is dedicated to exploring the ambiguous, complex, and contradictory valences of laziness, and to examine its potentially subversive or invigorating political effects.

      In neoliberalism, tirelessly working on and investing in the self becomes an exigency. Because of their relative economic precarity, but also because of the nature of their work, artists and art workers often find themselves at the forefront (or rather, at one forefront) of exploitation and, perhaps especially, self-exploitation. We are less interested in laziness as a mode of resistance to this neoliberal regime than we are in laziness as a lateral form of political agency. In other words, we are not necessarily after laziness as a straightforward opposition to work—as passivity, as a simple refusal of work, as ‘doing nothing.’

      Instead, in discussing laziness, we want to raise questions about work and productivity in the arts. We will do so through collective reading sessions, taking place in an installation by Sofia Caesar.

      Furthermore, for the duration of the block, participants will be invited to keep a ‘lazy journal’ as a means of reflecting on their own relation to work and (self-)discipline, as well as on their understanding of productivity and how it informs their practice. These journals will be used as a common ground for a final group discussion/workshop. Importantly, the journals need not take the written form; other formats—video, drawing, or other media—can of course also be explored.

       

       

      PARTICIPANTS

      Inga Nielsen, Anantha Krishnan, Jimena Perez Salerno, Carolina Mendonça Ferreira, Gary Farrelly, Aleksandra Borys, Amy Pickles, Chloe Janssens, Anapaula Camargo, and Vera Sofia Mota.

       

      CURATORS

      Isabel Burr Raty, Adrijana Gvozdenović, Antye Guenther, Sara Manente, Rob Ritzen, and Sina Seifee

       

      Isabel Burr Raty is an artist, filmmaker, teacher and sexual Kung Fu coach exploring the interstices between the biotic and the virtual. She is currently researching on the human body as a territory for sustainable agri-culture and intertwining performance, installation and film to queer labor understandings, offer SF in real-time and play with geo-synthetic magic.
      www.isabel-burr-raty.com

      Adrijana Gvozdenović is an artist interested in artists’ motivation and ways of resisting (self)institutionalized structures. In the last three years, she has been developing methods of collecting and annotating symptomatic artistic practices that recognize their anxiety as a prerequisite state for criticality, which led to developing formats of publicness that push the borders between research, mediation, and production. These will be tested as needed during the block.
      www.gadi.me

      Antye Guenther is a visual artist, born and raised in East Germany. Drawing from her backgrounds in medicine, photography, and in the military, her art practices orbit around themes like ((non)biological intelligence and supercomputing, computer-brain-analogies and mind control, think tank ideologies and self-optimization, neuroimagery and fictionality of science, body perception in techno-capitalist societies and science fiction. Her work comes then in hybrid forms: performances, performative ceramic objects, fictionalized video tutorials, photo-text works, speculative scripts, artist publications, and narrative installations in various collaborations.
      www.aguenth.de

      Choreographer, dancer and researcher based in Brussels, Sara Manente, is interested in the dynamic relation between performer, work and spectator. Her projects are developed throughout hybrid research and become public in different formats. Currently, she works with aesthetics and ethics at the intersection between live arts and live cultures: namely, fermentation technology, noise, chimerization and (auto)immunity.
      www.saramanente.weebly.com

      Rob Ritzen is co-initiator of THAT MIGHT BE RIGHT, a founding member of LEVEL FIVE and coordinator of PERMANENT. My curatorial practice is focused on self-organized and collaborative formats in close association with cultural practitioners. In my research, I am concerned with social and political constellations that have a hold on everyday life. Cultural practices are a way to dislodge the hold the present has on us.
      www.robritzen.info

      Sina Seifee is an artist based in Brussels, Tehran and Cologne. Using storytelling, video, and performance, he explores and teases with the heritage of zoology in West Asia. His work picks up on how epistemologies, jokes and knowledges get shaped in the old and new intersections of techno-media and globalism.
      www.sinaseifee.com/

       

    • reading session
    • research center
    • associate researchers Cycle 2
    • Reading Session 29 June 2020
      posted by: Vladimir Miller
    • Lili Rampre
    • ZSenne Art Lab
    • 16 July 2020
    • aaa

      Lili Rampre's recent developments within RC involved repurposing works of popular culture and their most prominent characteristics of an epic story to help re-narrativise group and community concerns. Lili’s long term interest in (re)imagining an audience, especially within performing arts, found a strong resonance with current examples of collective action carried out by various fan groups. In Zsenne reading session, Lili is inviting you to delve into some of the texts on citizenship through fandom as a vehicle and examples of such performances. The reading will start by addressing the proposed questions:

      • how conflations between activism and fan self-aware agency can re-shape our understanding of the audience,
      • potentials for public participation, civic action,
      • how new civic practices of engaged audience members are defining joyous activism and with your participation move on to opening new ones, concerning your particular practices and angles, approaches to the topic.

      This should not be misunderstood as an extension of the already well developed sociology and anthropology of fandom, but rather as the critical reappraisal that emergent large popular assemblages of self-identifying communities are an under-utilized and under-recognized potentiality for “performance” proper.

      Reading Session will be held online (live participation limited to a.pass participants, due to corona measures)

      please sign up to receive the link on the day of the session

      Thu, 16th July

      14h

    • postgraduate program
    • reading session
    • workshop
    • Troubled Gardens
    • Traveling through square liberateurs – Molenbeek 15 May 2019
      posted by: Nicolas Galeazzi
    • Einat Tuchman
    • Square des Libérateurs, 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean
    • 12 July 2019
    • 12 July 2019
    • I'm inviting you into my neighborhood, to discover the "Quartier Liberateurs "- a specific urban sphere that I'm investigating for three years now. Let us enter some of its local structures with their human and political complexity; small institutes, shops, and churches; artifacts, publicness, and attitudes; architecture, infrastructure, and topographies. We will explore how those elements create a natural habitat that exposes layers of exchange between needs and capacities. 
       
      Taking a distinctive look at the divergent attitudes towards the environment and the social struggles in these different locations, we will learn about the prototypical difficulties and potentials of such culturally dense urban areas. 
       
      Through a reading of Felix Guattari's The Three Ecologies, we will reflect on the three layers of its daily life circumstances. The mental state of its multicultural inhabitants, the social relations in the public sphere and the ecology it proposes. By assembling the necessities and the resources of the "Quartier Libérateurs", we will each develop on our language to interact with such spheres: Probably best we start with writing a letter, a note or a phrase that tries to connect our gazes and impressions with the reality we encounter.
       
    • reading session
    • research center
    • Boundaries do not sit still
    • Streaming media on demand, content-delivery, broadcast
      05 January 2018
      posted by: Femke Snelting
    • Monday Readings
    • Szenne Artlab, Anneessensstraat 2
    • 16 June 2018
    • case of: Lilia Mestre
    • Streaming media

      This extra edition of the Monday reading actually takes place on a Saturday in Szenne artlab. In the context of Parallel-parasite, a residency of the a.pass Research Center, we will focus on the shape-shifting nature of streaming media. After sessions on text processing, local servers and key cards, we will continue with an exploration of streaming, a coverall term for the dominant way that audio and visual content is being delivered on the Internet today. We will read into the different technical protocols that are regulating those flows, and the diverging economies that software like Torrent trackers and companies like Youtube, Netflix construct. By considering how the continuous experience of streaming relies on various politics of separation, re-ordering discrete elements on delivery, we will observe how the production, sharing and consumption of media is radically changing. Session organised with Martino Morandi.

      The Monday Readings are five one day sessions that bring habitual tool-situations in conversation with theoretical and political thinking. They are intimate collective situations on the articulation of technique and the performance of boundaries, reading across technical tools and theoretical devices. The Mondays attempt to develop further connections between artistic research and techno-political practices such as software-as-a-critique, active archives and techno-galactic software observation.

      Each session starts with an exploration of day-to-day tools and technologies: text processing, file compression, on-line communication, security or digital archiving. This tool-reading is followed by a discussion and collective reading of one or two related texts.

      Reading materials: https://pad.constantvzw.org/p/apass.mondayreadings

      Schedule

      11:00-13:00: Reading tools
      13:00-14:00: Lunch
      14:00-16:00: Reading texts

      If possible, bring a laptop.  Participation is free.

    • reading session
    • research center
    • Boundaries do not sit still
    • Databases Stickyness, stopping points, consistency, routines, mnemosyne
      05 January 2018
      posted by: Femke Snelting
    • Monday Readings
    • a.pass, 3rd floor
    • 16 April 2018
    • case of: Sina Seifee
    • Databases

      This Monday Reading prepared with Sina Seifee will be dedicated to the intricate structures of the ubiquitous database. Browsing the tables and rows of this very website, we will try to graps the affordances and limits of organising the world as a collection of digital data.

      Image: Mark Manders, Two Interconnected Houses (2010)

      The Monday Readings are five one day sessions that bring habitual tool-situations in conversation with theoretical and political thinking. They are intimate collective situations on the articulation of technique and the performance of boundaries, reading across technical tools and theoretical devices. The Mondays attempt to develop further connections between artistic research and techno-political practices such as software-as-a-critique, active archives and techno-galactic software observation.

      Each session starts with an exploration of day-to-day tools and technologies: text processing, file compression, on-line communication, security or digital archiving. This tool-reading is followed by a discussion and collective reading of one or two related texts.

      Reading materials: https://pad.constantvzw.org/p/apass.mondayreadings

      Schedule

      10:00-13:00: Reading tools
      14:00-17:00: Reading texts

      If possible, bring a laptop. Sessions take place in a.pass on the 3rd floor. Participation is free.

    • reading session
    • research center
    • Boundaries do not sit still
    • Keycards Movement, security, smartness
      05 January 2018
      posted by: Femke Snelting
    • Monday Readings
    • a.pass, 3rd floor
    • 19 March 2018
    • Keycards

      For this Monday Reading we will follow the path of the keycard system that opens the outside doors at a.pass. What does it mean when opening a door becomes part of a data-flow?

      The Monday Readings are five one day sessions that bring habitual tool-situations in conversation with theoretical and political thinking. They are intimate collective situations on the articulation of technique and the performance of boundaries, reading across technical tools and theoretical devices. The Mondays attempt to develop further connections between artistic research and techno-political practices such as software-as-a-critique, active archives and techno-galactic software observation.

      Each session starts with an exploration of day-to-day tools and technologies: text processing, file compression, on-line communication, security or digital archiving. This tool-reading is followed by a discussion and collective reading of one or two related texts.

      Reading materials: https://pad.constantvzw.org/p/apass.mondayreadings

      Schedule

      10:00-13:00: Reading tools
      14:00-17:00: Reading texts

      If possible, bring a laptop. Sessions take place in a.pass on the 3rd floor. Participation is free.

    • reading session
    • research center
    • Boundaries do not sit still
    • Encoding and compression Monday Readings
      05 January 2018
      posted by: Femke Snelting
    • Monday Readings
    • a.pass, 3rd floor
    • 26 February 2018
    • Encoding and compression
      "Codecs perform encoding and decoding on a data stream or signal, usually in the interest of compressing video, speech, or music. [...] Software such as codecs poses several analytical problems. Firstly they are monstrously complicated. [...] Second, at a phenomenological level, they deeply influence the very texture, flow and materiality of sounds and images. [...] Third from the perspective of political economy, codecs structure contemporary media economies and culture in important ways. [...] Despite or perhaps because of their convoluted obscurity, codecs catalyze new relations between people, things, spaces and times in events and forms." Adrian Mckenzie, "Codecs" in: Matthew Fuller (eds), Software Studies, a lexicon (2008)
       
       
      The third Monday Reading starts with poking holes in different image and video-files. From there we will try put the vocabulary of encoding and compression (Codec, Container, Compression, Interpolation, Interlacing, Artifact, Bitstream, Sampling, Conversion, ...) together with some of the key terms in the work of the philosopher Gilbert Simondon (Allagmatics, Transduction, Analogy, Individuation, Cybernetics, ...). How do structures make operations appear, and vice versa?

      The Monday Readings are five one day sessions that bring habitual tool-situations in conversation with theoretical and political thinking. They are intimate collective situations on the articulation of technique and the performance of boundaries, reading across technical tools and theoretical devices. The Mondays attempt to develop further connections between artistic research and techno-political practices such as software-as-a-critique, active archives and techno-galactic software observation.

      Each session starts with an exploration of day-to-day tools and technologies: text processing, file compression, on-line communication, security or digital archiving. This tool-reading is followed by a discussion and collective reading of one or two related texts.

      Reading materials: https://pad.constantvzw.org/p/apass.mondayreadings

      Schedule

      10:00-13:00: Reading tools
      14:00-17:00: Reading texts

      If possible, bring a laptop. Sessions take place in a.pass on the 3rd floor. Participation is free.

    • reading session
    • research center
    • Boundaries do not sit still
    • Local server Servers and hosts
      05 January 2018
      posted by: Femke Snelting
    • Monday Readings
    • a.pass, 3rd floor
    • 05 February 2018
    • Local server

      In the lexicon of networks, any computer connected to the Internet is called a host. This means that all computers have the ability to host content. But in the current paradigm of the Internet, some hosts are designated to be serving (servers), and other hosts are to be served (clients). For most activities on the Internet (email, web pages, social media applications and so on ...) users act as clients to servers, delegating more and more of their content to the "cloud". To understand the implications of this "delegation of hosting", we will look together at different computers that act as servers, talk about where they are located, who maintains them, and why this all matters. Followed by a collective reading of texts by Muriel Combes and Invisible Committee.

      The Monday Readings are five one day sessions that bring habitual tool-situations in conversation with theoretical and political thinking. They are intimate collective situations on the articulation of technique and the performance of boundaries, reading across technical tools and theoretical devices. The Mondays attempt to develop further connections between artistic research and techno-political practices such as software-as-a-critique, active archives and techno-galactic software observation.

      Each session starts with an exploration of day-to-day tools and technologies: text processing, file compression, on-line communication, security or digital archiving. This tool-reading is followed by a discussion and collective reading of related texts.

      Reading materials: https://pad.constantvzw.org/p/apass.mondayreadings

      Schedule

      10:00-13:00: Reading tools
      14:00-17:00: Reading texts

      If possible, bring a laptop. Sessions take place in a.pass on the 3rd floor. Participation is free.

    • reading session
    • research center
    • Boundaries do not sit still
    • Text processing characters, language and code
      05 January 2018
      posted by: Femke Snelting
    • Monday Readings
    • a.pass, 3rd floor
    • 15 January 2018
    • Text processing

      This first Monday Reading will be dedicated to text processing. We will discuss concepts such as What You See Is What You Get (WISYWYG), the virtues of ascii, what the differences are between writing, language, code, formatting and markup, and how our keyboards perform.

      As a way to map the long-term legacies that are implied in each of our keystrokes, we will play with a Teletype Model 33, one of the most widespread computer interfaces in the 1960s.

       

      [caption id="attachment_7199" align="alignleft" width="320"] A.Audsley[/caption][caption id="attachment_7202" align="alignleft" width="150"] vintagecomputer.net[/caption]

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      The Monday Readings are five one day sessions that bring habitual tool-situations in conversation with theoretical and political thinking. They are intimate collective situations on the articulation of technique and the performance of boundaries, reading across technical tools and theoretical devices. The Mondays attempt to develop further connections between artistic research and techno-political practices such as software-as-a-critique, active archives and techno-galactic software observation.

      Each session starts with an exploration of day-to-day tools and technologies: text processing, file compression, on-line communication, security or digital archiving. This tool-reading is followed by a discussion and collective reading of one or two related texts.

      Reading materials: https://pad.constantvzw.org/p/apass.mondayreadings

      Schedule

      10:00-13:00: Reading tools
      14:00-17:00: Reading texts

      If possible, bring a laptop. Sessions take place in a.pass on the 3rd floor. Participation is free.

    • reading session
    • research center
    • Boundaries do not sit still
    • Monday Readings
    • Monday Readings Reading across technical tools and theoretical devices
      29 December 2017
      posted by: Femke Snelting
    • 15 January 2018
    • 16 April 2018
    • case of: Sina Seifee
    • Monday Readings

      In cultural institutions like a.pass, digital tools are used for communication, archiving, administration and production. These computational infrastructures depend more often than not on the services of tech giants and are put to use without too much space for reflection on how they actually work. If we want to bring technology within reach of interrogation and critique, how to break the spell of those paralysing regimes? How to shift the relationship from efficiency to curiosity; from scarcity to multiplicity and from solution to possibility?

      Sessions are hosted by Seda Guerses, Martino Morandi, Sina Seifee and Femke Snelting.

      Dates

      Monday 15 January: Text processing (with Martino Morandi)
      Read more on this session...

      Monday 5 February: Local server (with Martino Morandi)
      Read more on this session...

      Monday 26 February: Encoding + compression (with Martino Morandi)
      Read more on this session...

      Monday 19 March: Key cards (with Seda Guerses)

      Monday 16 April: Databases (with Sina Seifee)

      These events can be attended for free

      Hosts

      Seda Guerses studies conceptions of privacy and surveillance in online social networks, requirements engineering, privacy enhancing technologies and identity management systems. Recently, she started two new research projects. The first focuses on the implications of current cybersecurity research and development on technical solutions for privacy. The second looks at paradigmatic changes in software engineering practices with the shift from shrink wrap software to services and agile programming.

      Martino Morandi wrote this bio text on a QWERTY keyboard on a Lenovo laptop on a seat of a Trenord train moving on the italian RFI rails, running on electricity from state hydro-electric power plants on the Alps. He researches the tangle of and our entanglements with these elements and is interested in the politics involved in our interactions with technology at different scales, from power plants to bio texts.

      Sina Seifee researches as artist in the fields of narrative, performance and knowledge production. He has been working on the question of technology and storytelling in the arts and sciences of the middle ages and the past-present of material reading practices in collective life. He studied Applied Mathematics in Tehran, received his master in Media Arts in KHM Cologne and in 2017 finished an advanced research program in performance studies in apass.

      Femke Snelting works as artist and designer, developing projects at the intersection of design, feminism and free software. In various constellations she has been exploring how digital tools and practices might co-construct each other. She is member of Constant, a non-profit, artist-run association for art and media based in Brussels. With Jara Rocha she currently activates Possible Bodies, a collective research project that interrogates the concrete and at the same time fictional entities of "bodies" in the context of 3D tracking, modelling and scanning.

    • Walter Benjamin's work could be described as an extremely precise and sensible/sensitive analysis of modernity. Or, more precisely, of the procedures through which modernity is affecting modes of life and of communication and, essentially, of relating to the world. In his "On Language as Such and on the Language of Man" for example, Benjamin describes a practice of an intense “listening”, a mode of extreme attentiveness and generosity towards every-thing that surrounded him, as the precondition for any form of language. And in "The Storyteller", he views storytelling as a way of voicing such experiences of listening to and of experiencing the world. Yet storytelling makes use of almost everything that the modern individual is not or has not, most notably time and the ability to listen. In this mode of communication, the story resonates on multiple levels of meaning without ever assuming the position of an objective truth. In other words, storytelling creates personal narratives where truth and fiction are as much intertwined as the subject of the narration with its object.

      Guided by a desire to take a closer look into Benjamin's work, we propose the feminist reading group.

      What does it mean to read as a feminist? The question may seem odd, or even trivial, but it engages the very ground of our work as artists and thinkers. Indeed, how is our reflection oriented, if not by the very way in which we turn to the text? And yet, when we think about methodologies and epistemologies, we rarely interrogate the practice of reading itself. This is all the more surprising that feminists tend to engage with texts by seeking to counter and denounce what phallocentrism wishes to leave unseen. These oppositional readings are crucial: without them, the insidious fallacies and the fatal acts of bad faith cannot be undone and proliferate unhampered. Yet they also run the risk of turning feminism into a mode of thinking that does nothing but to say “no,” one that destroys but rarely creates, and one that produces its own form of alienation. We want to propose another form of feminist reading: instead of the critical, distrustful distance, we suggest that closeness and intimacy may form an equally powerful approach. In this reading group, we examine what feminist thinking can become when it takes the shape of a lover’s response to a text’s seduction, and when refutation and penetration are replaced by a mode of reading that is founded in an ethics of proximity.

      The structure of the reading group is open. There are no experts. We choose, read and unfold the texts together and according to the interest and individual focus of the participants.

      Meetings from 17:00-20:00 at a.pass studio, 4th floor

      Next meetings & readings:  20.06 / 04.07 / 18.07 / 08.08

      For further information about the texts please contact: marialena.pouskouri@gmail.com

    • postgraduate program
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    • Trouble on Radio Triton
    • YOU CALL THIS PROGRESS ?! 4/4 (revisiting SF Cinema) curated by Dehens & Kaplunova
      17 March 2017
      posted by: Pierre Rubio
    • a.pass
    • 20 March 2017
    • YOU CALL THIS PROGRESS ?! 4/4

       

       


      Screening starts at 16h00
      Entrance free
       
       
      Extended, closing program for Monday 20/03/17
       
       
      Hyperstition
      2016/ 100'
      Christopher Roth with Armen Avanessian

      "Hyper-what?"
      Features Georg Diez, Anke Hennig, Tom Lamberty, Nick Land, Quentin Meillassoux, Reza Negarestani, Björn Quiring, Patricia Reed, Tom Streidl, James Trafford, Jeanne Tremsal, Alex Williams, and Slavoj Žižek.


      Kempinski
      2007/France/14'
      Neil Beloufa

      Shot in Mali, Neil Beloufa’s Kempinski (2007) is a science fiction documentary featuring interviews with local inhabitants as they imagine their visions of the future.
       


      +++ BREAK/ Starts again at 19h30 +++
       
       

      Kin-dza-dza!
      1986 / USSR/ 135'
      Georgiy Daneliya

      Kin-dza-dza! is one of the strangest artefacts in all of Soviet cinema. It’s a science fiction satire in which Vladmir and Gedevan, a gruff Russian construction worker and a Georgian student, find themselves accidentally transported to Pluke, a barren desert-world with a barbaric, bureaucratic society. Gradually realising that they are not in a ‘capitalist country’, the two men begin a long and farcical voyage home that more closely resembles the theatre of the absurd than it does any preconceived notion of cinematic science fiction. The men befriend two locals, Bi and Wef, and are soon busking their way across Pluke and becoming ensnared in various misadventures that stem from the planet’s bizarre and unbendable social rules, and its two-tier social structure of ruling Chatlanians and subservient Patsaks.


      Heart of a Dog 
      1988 / USSR / 113'
      Vladimir Bortko

      An adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s dystopian and comic sci-fi novel Sobache Serdtse about a Soviet experiment of turning a dog into a human, set in Moscow in 1925, not long after the Revolution of 1917.
      Old Prof. Preobrazhensky and his young colleague Dr. Bormental inserted the human's hypophysis into a dog's brain. Couple of weeks later the dog named Sharik became a slovenly and narcissistic incarnation of the New Soviet Man.
    • postgraduate program
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    • Book Club #9 Language as Magic and the Language of Things Book Club Series / Caroline Godart & Marialena Marouda
      03 March 2017
      posted by: Pierre Rubio
    • a.pass
    • 17 March 2017
    • Book Club #9 Language as Magic and the Language of Things

       

       

       

      Bookclub #9

      Close Reading Session with Caroline Godart and Marialena Marouda

      Language as Magic and the Language of Things

      Walter Benjamin’s “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man”

       

       

       

       

      “To whom does the lamp communicate itself? The mountain? The fox?”

       

      In the essay “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man” Benjamin proposes a language metaphysics that extends to every thing. Every thing has a language: objects, animals, human beings but also immaterial things, like the Arts or Technology. For Benjamin language is therefore a medium going very much beyond human language and the communication through words. One could say language is the way in which some thing – indeed every thing – communicates itself to the world.

      During this morning session we will read Benjamin’s text on the metaphysics of language by using the method of the feminist close reading. By encountering the text in such a way we will try to unfold concepts such as the magic in language and the language of things.

       

       

       

      Caroline Godart holds a PhD in Comparative Literature with a concentration in Cinema Studies from Rutgers University (USA), where she studied under the direction of Elizabeth Grosz. She is now an Assistant Professor of Communication, Germanic Languages and Cultural Studies at IHECS (Institut des Hautes Études des Communications Sociales, Brussels) and a Scientific Collaborator at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Her first book, The Dimensions of Difference, was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2016. It explores the question of difference, and in particular of sexual difference, through three axes (space, time, and embodiment), which are approached both as aesthetic devices and as philosophical concepts in the works of Luce Irigaray, Gilles Deleuze and Henri Bergson.

      http://www.rowmaninternational.com/books/the-dimensions-of-difference

       

      Marialena Marouda works in the fields of performance art and choreography. She studied philosophy and visual arts at Columbia University in New York, USA (B.A., 2004) and continued her studies at the Institute for Applied Theater Studies at the University of Giessen, Germany (M.A., 2011).  Marialena Marouda’s work is focused primarily on the development of performance exercises, self-invented practices for relating to and for inhabiting spaces. The experimentation with walking, listening and storytelling as relational spatial practices forms the basis of her work.

       

       

      Friday 17th from 10am to 2pm

      @ a.pass 4th floor

      participation to the costs : 5 euros

      Map

    • postgraduate program
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    • Trouble on Radio Triton
    • YOU CALL THIS PROGRESS?! 3/4 (Revisiting SF Cinema) curated by Dehens & Kaplunova
      03 March 2017
      posted by: Pierre Rubio
    • 06 March 2017
    • YOU CALL THIS PROGRESS?! 3/4

       

       

      Program for Monday 06/03
      Screening starts at 19h30
       
       
       
       
      Testament
      John Akomfrah
      1988 / Ghana / 88 min
       
      Preceeding the visit of Dr. Edward George, member of Black Audio Film Collective (1982-1998), we present Testament, the first narrative feature film of the collective. Link to the event / on Facebook
       
      In Testament, the condition of the postcolony is embodied in the figure of activist turned television reporter Abena who returns to contemporary Ghana, for the first time since the 1966 coup that ended President Kwame Nkrumah’s experiment in African socialism. Adrift in a ‘war zone of memories’ in the words of the film’s subtitle, Abena is caught in the tension between public history and private memory Testament is characterised by a depopulated frame and the deliberately cold look that evoke an emotional landscape of postcolonial trauma.
       
       
       
      The Unity of All Things
      Alexander Craver & Daniel Schmidt
      2013 / USA, Switzerland, China/ 97 min
       
      The Unity of All Things is a work of experimental science fiction about the construction of a particle accelerator beneath the U.S./Mexico border. It is grappling with questions of self and other by employing particle physics as a metaphor for the morphing nature of human identity. The film engages the utopian impulses of the genre, not through the imagining of another world, but through the rendering of this world as Other. All subjects are treated as alien, or as radical others, who search for, or advance different ideological, psychological, or sexual ideals of belonging. Subjects oscillate between the contemplation of past societal traumas and idealizations of futurity that refuse to synthesize or resolve, but instead reveal a troubling satire of the present.
       
       
       
       
       
      Program for Monday 06/03
      Screening starts at 19h30
      Entrance free
      location a.pass 4th floor
      https://www.google.be/maps/place/Rue+Delaunoy+60,+1080+Molenbeek-Saint-Jean/@50.8530792,4.3300367,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x47c3c3f46c54e4c7:0x4e61e376c2f6b53a

       

    • postgraduate program
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    • Trouble on Radio Triton
    • YOU CALL THIS PROGRESS?! 2/4 (Revisiting SF Cinema) curated by Dehens & Kaplunova
      10 February 2017
      posted by: Pierre Rubio
    • a.pass
    • 16 February 2017
    • YOU CALL THIS PROGRESS?! 2/4

       

       

      Program for Thursday 16/02, 19h30
       

      The stuff of stars has come alive
       
      A Visit To The Underground Cities Of Mars
      UNARIUS
      1977/ USA/ 58"

      We'll go visit the underground cities of Mars, as imaginated and documented by an actual psychic experience. It shows for a more embodied approach to the SF imagination and reconsiders the trope of the guest, the visitor, the witness as experience. We will be guided by Uriel and her students of the UNARIUS academy of science, an UFO-religion still active today. 


      The Co-Star Tapes
      Compiled by Miranda July
      1998-2002/ USA/ Var.
       
      Then we head to scroll through The Co-Star Tapes, a series of videos compiled and distributed by Miranda July in the 90s. Let's look at the co-stars of the sky. It's a feminist, queer sky; a betaville for the future.

      The selection includes:

      How The Miracle of Masturbation Saved Me From Becoming a Teenage Space Alien - Dulcie Clarkson
      A coming-of-age story you've never seen before.

      The Amateurist - Miranda July 
      A “professional” woman monitors an “amateur” woman (both played by July) via video surveillance, as she has for the last four and a half years. She has never had direct contact with the amateur, but creates a sense of communion through numbers, knobs and careful language.

      Transeltown - Myra Paci 
      Dante transported to Times Square.




      NOTE: The event is open for limited public. Feel free to invite some friends. 
      Before the screening at 7.30pm, around 6pm we will cook some vegetarian pasta and eat together. 
       
      WELCOME!
       
       
       
    •  

       

      Now if six turned out to be nine,
      I don't mind, I don't mind (…)
      Alright, 'cause I got my own world to look through,
      And I ain't gonna copy you.

      - J.Hendrix

       

      Stimulating the audio nerve directly
      You wanna come flex with me?

      - The Spaceape

       

       

      In this Book Club, we drown together in an ocean of sound and words.

      We listen to echoes of submarine writings. We vibrate to the whale’s praise chants. We embrace syncretic marginal cults. We embark on a slave/space/ship for a time travel into modern cultures.

      1492. Knowledge Freedom/Culture Born Wisdom.

      We build or we destroy.

      We find our way through popular cultures and music. Is there something to hear between the 0 and the 1 of digtised compressed music? Is there something to de-cypher in our coded Nyabinghi drums? What is the message hidden between themes, rhythms, intonations, improvisations, the samples, the drum, the bass, the cuts and the pastes?

      We learn about the Know-Ledge.

      What kind of mental space or imaginary frame allowed/constrained the emergence of a futuristic post-modern culture within the Black Atlantic?

      To mediate our comprehension of the unsubtitled tracks, we'll intensively use texts by Kodo Eshun, David Toop, Peter Lamborn Wilson, S. H. Fernando Jr. and others, hoping we’ll finally kiss the sky.

      We draw an intensive rear view mirror tour in theory, music, politics, visual arts and mysticism.

      Positive – Energy – Always – Creates – Elevation. (PEACE)

       

      We end the session with Zoé Whitley on the “ afrofuturistic transnational geographies”, a framework of thoughts and aspirations called Afro Futurism, today, in 2017.

      Partly reading together, this session will also be a time for listening and thinking together.

       

       

      Peggy Pierrot lives in Brussels and is involved in projects linking information, media, activism, radio art and technology.

      A sociologist by training, she holds a postgraduate degree in multimedia engineering. Peggy worked as a journalist (Transfert.net, Le Monde diplomatique, Minorités.org) and as editorial/technical webmaster in media and non-profit projects. She lectures on African-American and Caribbean literature and culture, science-fiction, information society or related topics. She collaborates with erg (École de Recherche Graphique, Brussels), and she is a tutor in les Ateliers des Horizons in Grenoble (France), a new multidisciplinary professional training located at the boundaries of the art(s) and societ(y)ies.

       

       

      Date

      Thursday February 16th

      from 9.30am to 1.30pm

      (as the session will be quite (con)densed, please be on time!)

       

      Location 

      a pass / Studio 4th floor

      rue Delaunoystraat, 58-60

      1080 Brussels

       

    • postgraduate program
    • reading session
    • a.pass Basics workshops
    • Book Club
    • Trouble on Radio Triton
    • Book Clubs #3 & #4 Situated Knowledge Book Club Series / Sina Seifee
      29 January 2017
      posted by: Pierre Rubio
    • a.pass
    • 02 February 2017
    • 09 February 2017
    • Book Clubs #3 & #4 Situated Knowledge

       

      Which version of "realism" are you talking about? Recollecting truth and objectivity are activated whenever a 'point of view' is produced among other metaphors that we use in our practice and thinking in techno-scientific societies. In this group reading sessions we are going to study one of the most stubborn and pervasive phantasms in art and sciences, the figure of objectivity, with the Donna Haraway's 1988 essay 'Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective'.

      This reading focuses on politics and epistemologies of location, positioning, and situating in our power-sensitive conversations, and what does it mean to become accountable and responsible for one's own noninnocent translations.

      We begin with her essay on the 2nd of February and talk about each of our practices in particular continuing on the 9th.

      From 9.30am to 1pm both days.

    • postgraduate program
    • reading session
    • Trouble on Radio Triton
    • YOU CALL THIS PROGRESS?! 1/4 (Revisiting SF Cinema) curated by Dehens & Kaplunova
      29 January 2017
      posted by: Pierre Rubio
    • a.pass
    • 30 January 2017
    • YOU CALL THIS PROGRESS?! 1/4

       

       

      Program for Monday 30/01/17:
       
      Screening begins at 20:00
       
      Crimes of the future
      David Cronenberg
      1970 / USA / 70 min
       
      Crimes of the Future details the wanderings of Tripod, sometime director of a dermatological clinic called the House of Skin, who is searching for his mentor, the mad dermatologist Antoine Rouge. Rouge has disappeared following a catastrophic plague resulting from cosmetic products, which has killed the entire population of sexually mature women. A bio-political Science Fiction informed by the anti-psychiatry movement mixed with a bit of Ballard and Burroughs and a lot of early Cronenberg imagination. It is curious in many ways - one of which being the fact that no sound was taken on location and the experimental use of foley that resulted from this.
       
      Per Aspera Ad Astra (Through The Thorns To The Stars)
      1st part
      Richard Viktorov
      1981 / USSR / 75 min
       
      Neeya is a striking-looking anthropoid found barely alive in an abandoned space craft... Brought to earth by the Russian space crew, she is nursed back to health and memory of her planet Dessa and its ecological collapse. When Neeya's benefactor Sergey joins the crew of an environmental rescue mission, she sneaks on board and convinces Sergey to change course. Once they have landed on the planet of Dessa, they begin improving the atmosphere and water while simultaneously struggling against the supporters of an evil dwarf Turan and a creepy biomass that has escaped the laboratory…
       
       
       
    • postgraduate program
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    • Book Club #1 COGNITIVE ESTRANGEMENT BOOK CLUB SERIES / Sol Archer
      06 January 2017
      posted by: Pierre Rubio
    • a.pass
    • 19 January 2017
    • Book Club #1 COGNITIVE ESTRANGEMENT

       

      a.pass welcomes Sol Archer on Thursday January 19th from 9.30 to 13h00 as part of the Book Club Series.

       

      “SF’s specific modality of existence is a feedback oscillation that moves now from the author's and implied reader’s norm of reality to the normatively actualised novum… and now back from these novelties to the author's reality, in order to see it afresh from the new perspective gained.”

      Darko Suvin

       

      Science Fiction has enjoyed a massive surge in popularity over the past few years, Utopian, Dystopian, and futuristic worlds abound in the cinema, on TV, in books, and cartoons.  I want to look at what drives this surge, and how imagining difference may be a reflection on the political reduction of possibility, following 2008?

      Starting with Darko Suvin's ideas of Cognitive Estrangement, we will look at some of the mechanisms and functions of science fiction, and consider how the imagining of alternative realities operates is a critical gesture with which to view consensus reality -Suvin's “Zero World”.

      We will read into Ursula LeGuin's “Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction”, consider some classic examples of critical Sci-Fi, and talk briefly about the position of theatre within Science Fiction.

       

      Sol Archer is an artist, primarily working with the moving image to research the layering of narratives within location. Sol’s work has been exhibited internationally, at, among other places, the Sydney Biennial, the MuKHA Antwerp, Action Field Kodra, and the University of California. Currently he is an artistic researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie where he is developing a film workshop, based on an improvisational game of science fiction and alternative futures.

      http://www.solarcher.co.uk

      https://youtu.be/vd4pM5-d3yU

       

       

       on Thursday January 19th from 9.30 to 13h00 !! @ https://goo.gl/maps/n1xo77pA9es

    • I would like to start with a recapitulation of the substantive points made last Tuesday. The purpose of these lectures is to follow the implications of Amerindian "perspectivism": the conception according to which the universe is inhabited by different sorts of persons, human and non-human, which apprehend reality from distinct points of view. This conception was shown to be associated to some others, namely:

      (1) The original common condition of both humans and animals is not animality, but rather humanity;

      (2) Many animals species, as well as other types of "non-human" beings, have a spiritual component which qualifies them as "people"; furthermore, these beings see themselves as humans in appearance and in culture, while seeing humans as animals or as spirits;

      (3) The visible body of animals is an appearance that hides this anthropomorphic invisible "essence," and that can be put on and taken off as a dress or garment;

      (4) Interspecific metamorphosis is a fact of "nature" - not only it was the standard etiological process in myth, but it is still very much possible in present-day life (being either desirable or undesirable, inevitable or evitable, according to the circumstances);

      (5) Lastly, the notion of animality as a unified domain, globally opposed to that of humanity, seems to be absent from Amerindian cosmologies.

      Let us go back to the conception that animals and other ostensibly non-human beings are people.

       

      Animism, or the projection thesis

      You will have probably noticed that my "perspectivism" is reminiscent of the notion of "animism" recently recuperated by Philippe Descola (1992, 1996) to designate a way of articulating the natural and the social worlds that would be a symmetrical inversion of totemism.[37] Stating that all conceptualisations of non-humans are always "predicated by reference to the human domain" (a somewhat vague phrasing, it should be said), Descola distinguishes three modes of "objectifying nature":

      (1) Totemism, where the differences between natural species are used as a model for social distinctions, that is, where the relationship between nature and culture is metaphorical in character and marked by discontinuity (both within and between series);

      (2) Animism, where the "elementary categories structuring social life" organize the relations between humans and natural species, thus defining a social continuity between nature and culture, founded on the attribution of human dispositions and social characteristics to "natural beings";

      (3) Naturalism, typical of Western cosmologies, which supposes an ontological duality between nature, the domain of necessity, and culture, the domain of spontaneity, areas separated by metonymic discontinuity.

      The "animic mode" is characteristic of societies in which animals are the "strategic focus of the objectification of nature and of its socialisation," as is the case amongst indigenous peoples of America. It would reign supreme over those social morphologies lacking in elaborate internal segmentations; but it can also be found coexisting or combined with totemism, wherein such segmentations exist, the Bororo and their aroe/bope duality being such a case.

      Descola's theory of animism is yet another manifestation of a widespread dissatisfaction with the unilateral emphasis on metaphor, totemism, and classificatory logic which characterises the Levi-Straussian concept of the savage mind. This dissatisfaction has launched many efforts to explore the dark side of the structuralist moon, rescuing the radical theoretical meaning of concepts such as participation and animism, which have been repressed by Levi-Straussian intellectualism.[38] Nonetheless, it is clear that many of Descola's points are already present in Levi-Strauss. Thus, what he means by "elementary categories structuring social life" - those which organise the relations between humans and natural species in "animic" cosmologies - is basically (in the Amazonian cases he discusses) kinship categories, and more specifically the categories of consanguinity and affinity. In La pensee sauvage one finds a remark most germane to this idea:

      Marriage exchanges can furnish a model directly applicable to the mediation between nature and culture among peoples where totemic classifications and functional specializations, if present at all, have only a limited yield. (Levi-Strauss 1962b: 170)

      This is a pithy prefiguration of what many ethnographers (Descola and myself included) came to say about the role of affinity as a cosmological operator in Amazonia . Besides, in suggesting the complementary distribution of this model of exchange between nature and culture and totemic structures, Levi-Strauss seems to be aiming at something quite similar to Descola's animic model and its contrast with totemism. To take another example: Descola mentioned the Bororo as an example of coexistence of animic and totemic modes. He might also have cited the case of the Ojibwa, where the coexistence of the systems of totem and manido (evoked in Le totemisme aujourd'hui) served as a matrix for the general opposition between totemism and sacrifice (developed in La pensee sauvage) and can be directly interpreted within the framework of a distinction between totemism and animism.

      I would like to concentrate the discussion on the contrast between animism and naturalism, for I think it is a good starting point for understanding the distinctive stance of Amerindian perspectivism. I will approach this contrast, however, from a different angle than the original one. Descola's definition of "totemism" also deserves some comments, which I shall present for your consideration after contrasting animism and naturalism.

      Animism could be defined as an ontology which postulates the social character of relations between humans and non-humans: the space between nature and society is itself social. Naturalism is founded on the inverted axiom: relations between society and nature are themselves natural. Indeed, if in the animic mode the distinction "nature/culture" is internal to the social world, humans and animals being immersed in the same socio-cosmic medium (and in this sense, "nature" is a part of an encompassing sociality), then in naturalist ontology, the distinction "nature/culture" is internal to nature (and in this sense, human society is one natural phenomenon amongst others). Animism has "society" as the unmarked pole, naturalism has "nature": these poles function, respectively and contrastingly, as the universal dimension of each mode. Thus animism and naturalism are hierarchical and metonymical structures.

      Let me observe that this phrasing of the contrast between animism and naturalism is not only reminiscent of, or analogous to, the famous gift/commodity one: I take it to be the same contrast, expressed in more general, non-economic terms.[39] This relates to my earlier distinction between production-creation (naturalism) and exchange-transformation (animism).

      In our naturalist ontology, the nature/society interface is natural: humans are organisms like the rest, body-objects in "ecological" interaction with other bodies and forces, all of them ruled by the necessary laws of biology and physics; "productive forces" harness, and thereby express, natural forces. Social relations, that is, contractual or instituted relations between subjects, can only exist internal to human society (there is no such thing as "relations of production" linking humans to animals or plants, let alone political relations). But how alien to nature - this would be the problem of naturalism - are these social relations? Given the universality of nature, the status of the human and social world is unstable, and as the history of Western thought shows, it perpetually oscillates between a naturalistic monism ("sociobiology" and "evolutionary psychology" being some of its current avatars) and an ontological dualism of nature/culture ("culturalism" and "symbolic anthropology" being some of its recent expressions).

      The assertion of this latter dualism, for all that, only reinforces the final referential character of the notion of nature, by revealing itself to be the direct descendant of the theological opposition between nature and super-nature. Culture is the modern name of spirit - let us recall the distinction between Naturwissenschaften and Geisteswissenschaften - or at the least it is the name of the compromise between nature and grace. Of animism, we would be tempted to say that the instability is located in the opposite pole: there the problem is how to deal with the mixture of humanity and animality constituting animals, and not, as is the case amongst ourselves, the combination of culture and nature which characterise humans; the problem is to differentiate a "nature" out of the universal sociality.

      Let us return to Descola's tripartite typology.[40] Given the nature/culture polarity, Descola distinguishes three "modes of identification" (these being our familiar triad of totemism, animism and naturalism), then three "modes of relation" (predation, reciprocity, protection), then an indefinite number of "modes of categorization" (left nameless and undetermined); the combinatorial possibilities within and across the three modes are not totally free. Now, I believe that the absence of any specification of the "modes of categorization" is more than a temporary vacancy (but I can always be surprised, of course); it points to a conceptual problem related to the definition of "totemism" used by Descola.

      The typology seems to suggest, correctly I think, that the pre-eminence of the nature/culture opposition in our anthropological tradition derives from the joint privilege of the totemic and naturalist modes, both characterized by dichotomy and discontinuity (the first supposedly typical of "savage thought," the second of "domesticated thought"). Descola's emphasis on the logical distinctiveness of the animic mode - a mode he considers to be far more widespread than totemism - is intended to correct this distortion; it also destabilizes the totemism/naturalism divide and the nature/culture dualism common to both modes.

      Descola appears to adopt an institutional reading of totemism, whilst Levi-Strauss had taken it as a mere example of the global style of the savage mind; the cognitive form exemplified by totemism is considered by Levi-Strauss as much more important than the contingent conceptual and institutional contents to which it is applied. We are accordingly led to infer that animism is also conceived by Descola in an institutionalist key, and that it would be then possible to reabsorb it in the sacrificial pole of the famous Levi-Straussian contrast between totemism and sacrifice, if we interpret it as a general cognitive distinction and not in terms of its somewhat ill-chosen institutional labels.

      If I am right in drawing these conclusions, where does totemism stand? Totemism seems to me a phenomenon of a different order from animism and naturalism. It is not a system of relations between nature and culture as is the case in the other two modes, but rather of correlations. Totemism is not an ontology, but a form of classification - it would not belong, therefore, to the category of "modes of identification," but rather to that, left vacant by Descola, of "modes of categorization." The totemic connection between the natural and the social series is neither social nor natural - it is purely logical and differential. By the same token, this connection is not metonymic and hierarchical as is the case with animic and naturalist modes of relating and defining nature and culture - it is a metaphoric and equipollent relation. This would explain why totemism, as a form of classification, can only be found in combination with animic systems: even the classical totemisms suppose more than a set of symbolic correlations between nature and culture; they imply a relationship of descent or participation between the terms of the two series (Levi-Strauss called this latter relationship the "imaginary side" of totemism - but this does not make it any less real, ethnographically speaking).[41]

      In sum, I believe that the really productive contrast is the one between naturalism and animism as two inverse hierarchical ontologies. Totemism, as defined by Descola, seems to be a different phenomenon. However, let us suspend our judgement till we explore more fully the notion of animism, for it may be the case that totemism and animism reveal themselves to be related by more significant similarities and differences.

      Problems with projection

      The major problem with Descola's inspiring theory, in my opinion, is this: can animism be defined as a projection of differences and qualities internal to the human world onto non-human worlds, as a "socio-centric" model in which categories and social relations are used to map the universe? This interpretation by analogy is explicit in some glosses on the theory, such as that provided by Kaj Arhem: "if totemic systems model society after nature, then animic systems model nature after society" (1996: 185). The problem here is the obvious proximity with the traditional sense of animism, or with the reduction of "primitive classifications" to emanations of social morphology; but equally the problem is to go beyond other classic characterisations of the relation between society and nature.

      I am thinking here of Radcliffe-Brown's 1929 article on totemism, where he presents the following ideas (1952: 130-31):

      (1) For "primitive man" the universe as a whole is a moral and social order governed not by what we call natural law but rather by what we must call moral or ritual law.

      (2) Although our own explicit conception of a natural order and of natural law does not exist among the more primitive peoples, "the germs out of which it develops do exist in the empirical control of causal processes in technical activities" - we find here the "germs" of Leach's distinction between technical and expressive aspects of action, and perhaps also of Bloch's distinction between cognition and ideology.

      (3) Primitive peoples (in Australia, for example) have built between themselves and the phenomena of nature a system of relations which are essentially similar to the relations that they have built up in their social structure between one human being and another.

      (4) It is possible to distinguish processes of personification of natural phenomena and natural species (which "permits nature to be thought of as if it were a society of persons, and so makes of it a social or moral order"), like those found amongst the Eskimos and Andaman Islanders, from systems of classification of natural species, like those found in Australia and which compose a "system of social solidarities" between man and nature - this obviously calls to mind Descola's distinction of animism/totemism as well as the contrast of manido/totem explored by Levi-Strauss.

      Some ethnographers of hunter-and-gatherer economies have appealed to the ideas of an extension of human attributes to non-humans and a metaphorical projection of social relations onto human/non-human interactions. Such arguments have been put forth as weapons in the battle against the interpretation of these economies in ethological-ecological terms (optimal foraging theory, etc.). As Ingold (1996) most convincingly argued, however, all schemes of analogical projection or social modelling of nature escape naturalist reductionism only to fall into a nature/culture dualism which, by distinguishing "really natural" nature from "culturally constructed" nature, reveals itself to be a typical cosmological antinomy (in the original Kantian sense) faced with infinite regression. The notion of model or metaphor supposes a previous distinction between a domain wherein social relations are constitutive and literal and another where they are representational and metaphorical. Animism, interpreted as human sociality projected onto the non-human world, would be nothing but the metaphor of a metonymy. [42]

      The idea of an animist projection of society onto nature is not in itself a problem, if one abides by the doctrine of "particular universalism" (the term comes from Latour [1991]), which supposes the privileged access of one culture - our culture - to the only true, real Nature. This particular universalism would be, says Latour, the actual cosmology of anthropology, being in force even among those who have "cultural relativism" as their official creed. It would also be the only possibility of arresting the infinite regression that Ingold rightly sees in the relativist cliche "Nature is culturally constructed." Particular universalism brings such regression to a halt because it subordinates the Nature/Culture dualism to an encompassing naturalism, according to which our culture is the mirror of nature and other cultures are simply wrong. But all forms of constructionism and projectionism are unacceptable if we are decided not to let "animism" be interpreted in terms of our naturalist ontology.

      Allow me a further comment on Latour's idea that particular universalism is the practical ideology of anthropologists - their official or theoretical one being cultural relativism. While agreeing with Latour, I would just remark that the really characteristic relativism of anthropologists seems to consist less in a clandestine appeal to particular universalism than in a kind of distributive inversion of it, which carefully distinguishes culture (as human nature) from (cosmological) nature. Since every culture studied by anthropology is typically presented as expressing (and recognizing) some deep hidden truth of the human condition - a truth forgotten or denied by Western culture, like, for instance, the very inseparability of nature and culture - the sum total of these truths leads to the dismaying conclusion that all cultures, except precisely the (modern) Western, have a kind of privileged access to human nature, what amounts to granting Western culture an underprivileged access to the universe of culture. Maybe this is the price we feel we have to pay for our supposedly privileged access to non-human nature.

      Now, what is Ingold's solution to these difficulties he found in the projection argument? Against the notion of a social construction of nature and its implied metaphorical projectionism, he proposes an ontology founded on the immediate "interagentive" engagement between humans and animals prevailing in hunter-gatherer societies. He opposes our cognitivist and transcendental cosmology of "constructed nature" to a practical, immanent phenomenology of "dwelling" (sensu Heidegger) in an environment. There would be no projection of relations internal to the human world onto the non-social, i.e., natural domain, but rather an immediate inter-specific sociality, at the same time objective and subjective, which would be the primary reality out of which the secondary, reflective differences between humans and animals would emerge.

      Ingold's inspirational (and influential) ideas deserve a discussion I cannot develop here. In my opinion, his perspicacious diagnosis of metaphorical projectionism is better than the cure he propounds. For all their insightfulness, these ideas illustrate the inversion of "particular universalism" I alluded to above. Ingold never makes it quite clear whether he takes Western constructionism to be absolutely false (that is, both unreal and malignant) - I feel he does think so - or just inadequate to describe other "lived worlds," remaining true as the expression of a particular historico-cultural experience. But the real problem lies not with this. My structuralist reflexes make me wince at the primacy accorded to immediate practical-experiential identification at the expense of difference, taken to be a conditioned, mediate and purely "intellectual" (that is, theoretical and abstract) moment. There is here the debatable assumption that commonalities prevail upon distinctions, being superior and anterior to the latter; there is the still more debatable assumption that the fundamental or prototypical mode of relation is identity or sameness. At the risk of having deeply misunderstood him, I would suggest that Ingold is voicing here the recent widespread sentiment against "difference" - a sentiment "metaphorically projected" onto what hunter-gatherers or any available "others" are supposed to experience - which unwarrantably sees it as inimical to immanence, as if all difference were a stigma of transcendence (and a harbinger of oppression). All difference is read as an opposition, and all opposition as the absence of a relation: "to oppose" is taken as synonymous with "to exclude" - a strange idea. I am not of this mind. As far as Amerindian ontologies are concerned, at least, I do not believe that similarities and differences among humans and animals (for example) can be ranked in terms of experiential immediacy, or that distinctions are more abstract or "intellectual" than commonalities: both are equally concrete and abstract, practical and theoretical, emotional and intellectual, etc. True to my structuralist habitus, however, I persist in thinking that similarity is a type of difference; above all, I regard identity or sameness as the very negation of relatedness.

      The idea that humans and animals share personhood is a very complicated one: it would be entirely inadequate to interpret it as if meaning that humans and animals are "essentially the same" (and only "apparently" different). It rather means that humans and animals are, each on their own account, not the same - they are internally divided or entangled. Their common personhood or humanity is precisely what permits that their difference to be an inclusive, internal relation. The primordial immanence of myth (never lost, ever threatening) is not absence of difference, but rather its pervasive operation in a "molecular" mode (Deleuze & Guattari 1980), as difference not yet "molarized," i.e., speciated. Immanence is not sameness, it is infinite difference: it is (molar) difference preempted by (molecular) difference.

      Among the questions remaining to resolve, therefore, is the one of knowing whether animism can be described as a figurative use of categories pertaining to the human-social domain to conceptualise the domain of non-humans and their relations with the former, and if not, then how should we interpret it. The other question is: if animism depends on the attribution (or recognition) of human-like cognitive and sensory faculties to animals, and the same form of subjectivity, that is if animals are "essentially" human, then what in the end is the difference between humans and animals? If animals are people, then why do they not see us as people? Why, to be precise, the perspectivism? We might also ask if the notion of contingent corporeal forms (clothing) is properly described in terms of an opposition between appearance and essence. Finally, if animism is a way of objectifying nature in which the dualism of nature/culture does not hold, then what is to be done with the abundant indications regarding the centrality of this opposition to South American cosmologies? Are we dealing with just another "totemic illusion," if not with a naive projection of our Western dualism? Is it possible to make a more than synoptic use of the concepts of nature and culture, or are they merely "blanket labels" (Descola 1996) to which Levi-Strauss appealed in order to organise the multiple semantic contrasts in American mythologies, these contrasts being irreducible to a single massive dichotomy?

      Ethnocentrism, or the rejection thesis

      In a well-known essay, Levi-Strauss observed that for savages, humanity ceases at the boundary of the group, a notion which is exemplified by the widespread auto-ethnonym meaning "real humans," which in turn implies a definition of strangers as somehow pertaining to the domain of the extra-human. Therefore, ethnocentrism would not be the privilege of the West, but a natural ideological attitude, inherent to human collective life. The author illustrates the universal reciprocity of this attitude with an anecdote:

      In the Greater Antilles, some years after the discovery of America, whilst the Spanish were dispatching inquisitional commissions to investigate whether the natives had a soul or not, these very natives were busy drowning the white people they had captured in order to find out, after lengthy observation, whether or not the corpses were subject to putrefaction. (1973 [1952]: 384)

      From this parable, Levi-Strauss derives the famous paradoxical moral: "The barbarian is first and foremost the man who believes in barbarism," which, as Aron (1973) noted, may be taken to imply that the anthropologist is the only non-barbarian on the face of the earth. Some years later, in Tristes Tropiques, Levi-Strauss (1955: 82-83) was to retell the case of the Antilles, but this time he underlined the asymmetry of the perspectives: in their investigations of the humanity of the Other, whites appealed to the social sciences, whereas the Indians founded their observations in the natural sciences; and if the former concluded that Indians were animals, the latter were content to suspect that the whites were divinities. "In equal ignorance," says our author, the latter attitude was more worthy of human beings.

      The anecdote reveals something else, as we shall see; something which Levi-Strauss came close to formulating in the Tristes Tropiques version. But its general point is quite obvious: the Indians, like the European invaders, consider that only the group to which they belong incarnates humanity; strangers are on the other side of the border which separates humans from animals and spirits, culture from nature and supernature. As matrix and condition for the existence of ethnocentrism, the nature/culture opposition appears to be a universal of social apperception.

      At the time when Levi-Strauss was writing these lines, the strategy for vindicating the full humanity of savages was to demonstrate that they made the same distinctions as we do: the proof that they were true humans is that they considered that they alone were the true humans. Like us, they distinguished culture from nature and they too believed that Naturvolker are always the others. The universality of the cultural distinction between Nature and Culture bore witness to the universality of culture as human nature. In sum, the Levi-Straussian answer to the question of the Spanish investigators was positive: savages do have souls. (Note that this question can be read as a sixteenth-century theological version of the "problem of other minds," which continues to this day to feed many a philosophical mouth.)

      But now, in these post-structuralist, ecologically-minded, animal-rights-concerned times, everything has changed. Savages are no longer ethnocentric or anthropomorphic, but rather cosmocentric or cosmomorphic. Instead of having to prove that they are humans because they distinguish themselves from animals, we now have to recognize how in-human we are for opposing humans to animals in a way they never did: for them nature and culture are part of the same sociocosmic field. Not only would Amerindians put a wide berth between themselves and the great Cartesian divide, which separated humanity from animality, but their views anticipate the fundamental lessons of ecology which we are only now in a position to assimilate (as argued by Reichel-Dolmatoff [1976], among many others). Before, the Indians' refusal to concede predicates of humanity to other men was of note; now we stress that they extend such predicates way beyond the frontiers of their own species in a demonstration of "ecosophic" knowledge (the expression is Arhem's [1993]) which we should emulate in as far as the limits of our objectivism permit. Formerly, it had been necessary to combat the assimilation of the savage mind to narcissistic animism, the infantile stage of naturalism, showing that totemism affirmed the cognitive distinction between culture and nature; now, as we have seen, animism is attributed once more to savages, but this time it is proclaimed - though not by Descola, I hasten to note - as the correct (or at least "valid") recognition of the universal admixture of subjects and objects, humans and non-humans, to which we modern Westerners have been blind, because of our foolish, nay, sinful habit of thinking in dichotomies. Against the hubris of modernity, the primitive and post-modern "hybrids," to borrow a term from Latour (1991).[43]

      It looks like we have here an antinomy, or rather two paired antinomies. For either Amerindians are ethnocentrically stingy in the extension of their concept of humanity, and they "totemically" oppose nature and culture; or they are cosmocentric and "animic" and do not profess to such a distinction, being (or so has been argued) models of relativist tolerance, postulating a multiplicity of points of view on the world.[44]

      I believe that the solution to these antinomies lies not in favouring one branch over the other, sustaining, for example, the argument that the most recent characterization of Amerindian attitudes is the correct one and relegating the other to the outer darkness of pre-afterological anthropology. Rather, the point is to show that the thesis as well as the antithesis of both antinomies are true (both correspond to solid ethnographic intuitions), but that they apprehend the same phenomena from different angles; and also it is to show that both are "false" in that they refer to a substantivist conceptualization of the categories of nature and culture (whether it be to affirm or negate them) which is not applicable to Amerindian cosmologies.

      The subject as such: from substantive to perspective

      Let us return to the observation by Levi-Strauss about the widespread character of those ethnic self-designations which would mean "real humans" or some suchlike myopic conceit. The first thing to be considered is that the Amerindian words which are usually translated as "human being" and which figure in those self-designations do not denote humanity as a natural species, that is, Homo sapiens. They refer rather to the social condition of personhood, and - especially when they are modified by intensifiers such as "true," "real," "genuine" - they function less as nouns then as pronouns. They indicate the position of the subject; they are enunciative markers, not names. Far from manifesting a semantic shrinking of a common name to a proper name (taking "people" to be the name of the tribe), these words move in the opposite direction, going from substantive to perspective (using "people" as a collective pronoun "we people/us"; the modifiers we translate by adjectives like "real" or "genuine" seem to function much like self-referential emphases of the type "we ourselves"). For this very reason, indigenous categories of identity have that enormous variability of scope that characterizes pronouns, marking contrastively Ego's immediate kin, his/her local group, all humans, humans and some animal species, or even all beings conceived as potential subjects: their coagulation as "ethnonyms" seems largely to be an artefact of interactions with ethnographers and other identity experts such as colonial administrators. Nor is it by chance that the majority of Amerindian ethnonyms which entered the literature are not self-designations, but rather names (frequently pejorative) conferred by other groups: ethnonymic objectivation is primordially applied to others, not to the ones in the position of subject. Ethnonyms are names of third parties, they belong to the category of "they," not to the category of "we."[45] This, by the way, is consistent with a widespread avoidance of self-reference on the level of onomastics: personal names are not spoken by their bearers nor in their presence; to name is to externalise, to separate (from) the subject.[46]

      Thus self-references such as "people" mean "person," not "member of the human species"; and they are personal pronouns registering the point of view of the subject talking, not proper names. To say, then, that animals and spirits are people, is to say that they are persons, and to personify them is to attribute to non-humans the capacities of conscious intentionality and agency which define the position of the subject. Such capacities are objectified as the soul or spirit with which these non-humans are endowed. Whatever possesses a soul is a subject, and whatever has a soul is capable of having a point of view. Amerindian souls, be they human or animal, are thus indexical categories, cosmological deictics whose analysis calls not so much for an animist psychology or substantialist ontology as for a theory of the sign or a perspectival pragmatics. (In a previous version of this argument, I used the expression "epistemological pragmatics" where now I prefer to talk of perspectival pragmatics. This is because in the meantime I developed a deep mistrust of "epistemological" interpretations of Amerindian ontological tenets.)

      So, every being to whom a point of view is attributed would be a subject; or better, wherever there is a point of view there is a subject position. Whilst our constructionist epistemology can be summed up in the Saussurean formula: the point of view creates the object - the subject being the original, fixed condition whence the point of view emanates - Amerindian perspectival ontology proceeds along the lines that the point of view creates the subject; whatever is activated or "agented" by the point of view will be a subject.[47]

      This is why terms such as wari' (a Txapakuran word), masa (a Tukanoan word) or dene (an Athapaskan word) mean "people," but they can be used for - and therefore used by - very different classes of beings: used by humans they denote human beings; but used by peccaries, howler monkeys or beavers, they self-refer to peccaries, howler monkeys or beavers (Vilaca 1992; Arhem 1993; McDonnell 1984).

      As it happens, however, these non-humans placed in the subject perspective do not merely "call" themselves "people"; they see themselves anatomically and culturally as humans. The symbolic spiritualisation of animals would imply its imaginary hominisation and culturalisation; thus the anthropomorphic-anthropocentric character of indigenous thought would seem to be unquestionable. However, I believe that something quite different is at issue. Any being which vicariously occupies the point of view of reference, being in the position of subject, sees itself as a member of the human species. The human bodily form and human culture - the schemata of perception and action "embodied" in specific dispositions - are deictics, pronominal markers of the same type as the self-designations discussed above. They are reflexive or apperceptive schematisms ("reifications" sensu Strathern) by which all subjects apprehend themselves, and not literal and constitutive human predicates projected metaphorically (i.e., improperly) onto non-humans. Such deictic "attributes" are immanent in the viewpoint, and move with it. Human beings - naturally - enjoy the same prerogative and therefore see themselves as such: "Human beings see themselves as such; the Moon, the snakes, the jaguars and the Mother of Smallpox, however, see them as tapirs or peccaries, which they kill" (Baer 1994: 224).

      We need to have it quite clear: it is not that animals are subjects because they are humans (humans in disguise), but rather that they are human because they are subjects (potential subjects). This is to say culture is the subject's nature; it is the form in which every subject experiences its own nature. Animism is not a projection of substantive human qualities cast onto animals, but rather expresses the logical equivalence of the reflexive relations that humans and animals each have to themselves: salmon are to (see) salmon as humans are to (see) humans, namely, (as) human. If, as we have observed, the common condition of humans and animals is humanity not animality, this is because "humanity" is the name for the general form taken by the subject.

      Let me make two remarks by way of conclusion. The attribution of human-like consciousness and intentionality (to say nothing of human bodily form and cultural habits) to non-human beings has been indifferently denominated "anthropocentrism" or "anthropomorphism." However, these two labels can be taken to denote radically opposed cosmological outlooks. Western popular evolutionism, for instance, is thoroughly anthropocentric, but not particularly anthropomorphic. On the other hand, animism may be characterized as anthropomorphic, but it is definitely not anthropocentric: if sundry other beings besides humans are "human," then we humans are not a special lot. So much for primitive "narcissism."

      Marx wrote of man, meaning Homo sapiens:

      In creating an objective world by his practical activity, in working-up inorganic nature, man proves himself a conscious species being. . . . Admittedly animals also produce. . . . But an animal only produces what it immediately needs for itself or its young. It produces one-sidedly, while man produces universally. . . . An animal produces only itself, whilst man reproduces the whole of nature. . . . An animal forms things in accordance with the standard and the need of the species to which it belongs, whilst man knows how to produce in accordance to the standards of other species. (Marx 1961: 75-76 apud Sahlins 1996: 400 n. 17)

      Talk about "primitive" narcissism. Whatever Marx meant by this idea that man "produces universally," I would like to think he is saying something to the effect that man is the universal animal - an intriguing idea. (If man is the universal animal, then perhaps each animal species would be a kind of particular humanity?). While apparently converging with the Amerindian notion that humanity is the universal form of the subject, Marx's is in fact an absolute inversion of it: he is saying that humans can "be" any animal - that we have more being than any other species - whilst Amerindians say that "any" animal can be human - that there is more being to an animal than meets the eye. "Man" is the universal animal in two entirely different senses, then: the universality is anthropocentric in the case of Marx, and anthropomorphic in the Amerindian case.[48]

      The second remark takes us back to the relationship between animism and totemism. I have just said that animism should be taken as expressing the logical equivalence of the reflexive relations that humans and animals each have to themselves. I then proposed, as an example, that salmon are to salmon as humans to humans, namely, human. This was inspired by Guedon's paragraph on Tsimshiam cosmology:

      If one is to follow the main myths, for the human being, the world looks like a human community surrounded by a spiritual realm, including an animal kingdom with all beings coming and going according to their kinds and interfering with each others' lives; however, if one were to go and become an animal, a salmon for instance, one would discover that salmon people are to themselves as human beings are to us, and that to them, we human beings would look like naxnoq [supernatural beings], or perhaps bears feeding on their salmon. Such translation goes through several levels. For instance, the leaves of the cotton tree falling in the Skeena River are the salmon of the salmon people. I do not know what the salmon would be for the leaf, but I guess they appear what we look like to the salmon - unless they looked like bears. (1984a: 141)

      Therefore, if salmon look to salmon as humans to humans - and this is "animism" - salmon do not look human to humans and neither do humans to salmon - and this is "perspectivism."

      If such is the case, then animism and perspectivism may have a deeper relationship to totemism than Descola's model allows for. Why do animals (I recall that by "animals" I always mean: each animals species) see themselves as humans? Precisely because humans see them as animals, and see themselves as humans. Peccaries cannot see themselves as peccaries (and then speculate that humans and other beings are really peccaries behind their species-specific clothing) because this is the guise in which peccaries are seen by humans.[49] If humans see themselves as humans and are seen as non-human (as animals or spirits) by animals, then animals must necessarily see themselves as humans. Such asymmetrical torsion of animism contrasts in an interesting way with the symmetry exhibited by totemism. In the case of animism, a correlation of reflexive identities (human : human :: animal : animal) serves as the substrate for the relation between the human and animal series; in the case of totemism, a correlation of differences (human ≠ human :: animal ≠ animal) articulates the two series. It is curious to see how a correlation of differences (the differences are identical) can produce a reversible and symmetric structure, while a correlation of similarities (similarities differ, for animals are similar to humans because they are not humans) produces the asymmetric and pseudo-projective structure of animism.

      37 Descola's inspirational articles on Ameridian "animism" were one of the proximate causes of my interest in perspectivism.

      38 To remain on an Americanist ground, I might mention: the rejection of a privileged position for metaphor by Overing (1985), in favour of a relativist literalism which seems to be supported by the notion of belief; the theory of dialectical synecdoche as being anterior and superior to metaphoric analogy, proposed by Turner (1991), an author who like other specialists (Seeger 1981, Crocker 1985) has attempted to contest the interpretations of the nature/culture dualism of the Ge-Bororo as being a static opposition, privative and discrete; or the reconsideration by Viveiros de Castro (1992a) of the contrast between totemism and sacrifice in the light of the Deleuzian concept of becoming, which seeks to account for the centrality of the processes of ontological predation in Tupian cosmologies, as well as for the directly social (and not specularly classificatory) character of interactions between the human and extra-human orders.

      39 "If in a commodity economy things and persons assume the social form of things, then in a gift economy they assume the social form of persons" (Strathern 1988: 134 [from Gregory 1982: 41]). The parallels are obvious.

      40 Let me say I have nothing against typologies as such, which I deem an important step in anthropological reasoning: typologies are like rules - we need them in order to break them. And butterfly collecting is a most honourable and rewarding occupation - if carried with ecological circumspection - unjustly reviled by one of our eminent forebears.

      41 Totemic orderings can also be found in combination with naturalist schemes, as shown by modern genetics and its correlations between genotypical and phenotypical differences (the "more natural" series of the genome and the "more cultural" series of its expressions), or by linguistics - the formal model of Levi-Straussian totemism - with its vast repertoire of differential correlations between signifier and signified, physico-acoustical and mental-conceptual series, etc.

      42 In the article referred to above, Radcliffe-Brown also proposed, in contrast to the Durkheimian idea of a “projection of society into external nature,” that “the process is one by which, in the fashioning of culture, external nature, so called, comes to be incorporated in the social order as an essential part of it” (1952: 130–31). This is an interesting anti-metaphorical remark, which Lévi-Strauss (1962a: 84–89) interpreted quite unfairly as a kind of utilitarian argument. Radcliffe-Brown’s point reappears almost verbatim in Goldman (who does not mention Radcliffe-Brown’s article): “To Durkheim . . . it was easy to imagine that ‘primitive’ people projected their own natures onto the rest of nature. It is far more likely that Homo sapiens sought to understand himself and all other realms of nature through a dialectic of interchange, of understanding the outer world in terms of his own nature and his own nature in terms of the outer. If Kwakiutl attribute human qualities to the grizzly bear, they have also learned to define and to regulate their own qualities of physical strength and fearlessness in terms of their knowledge of the bear. . . . Kwakiutl do not merely project themselves on the outer world. They seek to incorporate it.” (1975: 208; emphasis added).

      43 Latour has provided here only the term, not the target: I do not intend his work to be identified with anything I say in this paragraph. By the way, there is another familiar variant of this change in the way "we" think "they" think. At the time La pensee sauvage was written, it was deemed necessary to assert, and to provide abundant illustration thereto, that primitive peoples were endowed with a theoretical cast of mind, showing an authentic speculative interest in reality - they were not moved by their bellies and other such purely practical considerations. But this was when "theory" was not a word of abuse. Now, of course, everything has changed. These peoples have returned to practice; not, it goes without saying, to practice because of an incapacity for theory (well, the "oral vs. written" or the "cosmological disorder" schools would disagree here), but to practice as anti-theory. Be that as it may, not all contemporary primitive peoples seem to agree with our current interest in practice; perhaps because they are no longer primitive (but have they ever been?). So, in Fienup-Riordan's latest book (1994: xiii), we can read the following introductory remark from a Yup'ik man: "You white people always want to know about the things we do, but it is the rules that are important."

      44 The uncomfortable tension inherent in such antinomies can be gauged in Howell's recent article (1996) on the Chewong of Malaysia. Chewong cosmology is paradoxically - but the paradox is not noticed - described as "relativist" (p.133) and as "after all . . . anthropocentric" (p.135). A double mislabelling, at least if carried to the Amerindian universe.

      45 An interesting transformation of the refusal to onomastic self-objectification can be found in those cases in which, since the collective-subject is taking itself to be part of a plurality of collectives analogous to itself, the self-referential term signifies "the others." This situation occurs primarily when the term is used to identify collectives from which the subject excludes itself: the alternative to pronominal subjectification is an equally relational auto-objectification, where "I" can only mean "the other of the other": see the achuar of the Achuar, or the nawa of the Panoans (Taylor 1985: 168; Erikson 1990: 80-84). The logic of Amerindian auto-ethnonymy calls for its own specific study. For other revealing cases, see: Vilaca (1992: 449-51), Price (1987), and Viveiros de Castro (1992a: 64-65). For an enlightening analysis of a North American case similar to the Amazonian ones, see McDonnell (1984: 41-43).

      46 It has become quite fashionable to drop traditional Amerindian ethnonyms, usually names given by other tribes or by whites, in favour of more politically correct ethnic self-designations. The problem, however, is that self-designations are exactly this, self-designations, which when used by foreigners produce the most ludicrous referential problems. Take the case of the Campa, who call themselves "ashaninka," and who accordingly are now called "Ashaninka" by well-meaning NGO people (I thank P. Gow for this example). The root shaninca means "kinsperson"; ashaninca means "our kinspeople." This is what Campa people call themselves as a collectivity when contrasting themselves to others, like viracocha, "Whites," simirintsi, "Piro," etc. It is easy to imagine how strange it may sound to the Campa to be called "our kinspeople" by a viracocha, a white person, who is anything but a relative. It is more or less like if I were to call my friend Stephen "I," because that's what he calls himself, while "Stephen" is a name which someone else gave to him, and which other people, rather more frequently than he himself, use to refer to him.

      47 This idea comes from Deleuze's book on Leibniz (1988: 27): "Such is the foundation of perspectivism. It does not express a dependency on a predefined subject; on the contrary, whatever accedes to the point of view will be subject." The Saussurean formula appears on the beginning of the Cours de linguistique generale.

      48 Be that as it may, Marx's notion of an universal animal - capable of "producing in accordance with the standards of other species" (whatever this means) - is an accurate anticipation of another universal metaphorical being. I am referring of course to the universal machine, the machine capable of simulating (i.e., re-producing) any other machine: the Turing-Von Neumann computer.

      49 This would be our version of "perspectivism," namely, the critical stance regarding anthropomorphism (here crucially and mistakenly conflated with anthropocentrism) as a form of projection. It was advanced two and half millenia ago by Xenophanes, who memorably said (though what he meant is very much open to debate) that if horses or oxen or lions had hands, they would draw the figures of the gods as similar to horses, oxen or lions - a point which reappears under many guises in Western tradition, from Aristotle to Spinoza, from Hume to Feuerbach, Marx, Durkheim, etc. Characteristically, our problem with "anthropomorphism" relates to the projection of humanity into divinity, not animality.





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