johanna hedva – my body is a prison of pain so i want to leave it like a mystic but i also love it & want it to matter politically (2015)

Event presented by the Women’s Center for Creative Work at Human Resources on October 7, 2015

Go here for a version of this speech adapted for Mask Magazine.

Johanna Hedva’s Sick Woman Theory proposes that sick bodies are the 21st century’s sites of resistance: chronic, pathologized, and historically feminized illnesses ought to be read as modes of protest against the unlivable conditions of neoliberal, imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist cis-hetero-patriarchy. Sick Woman Theory insists that the definition of “wellness” is a capitalist one — to be well enough to go work — that needs to be rejected. SWT redefines the body with its vulnerability as the default, so therefore, we are constantly (not only sometimes) in need of care and support. Because society has eradicated such infrastructures, what are we going to do now?

From here, Hedva (herself a spoonie) has wound up at mystical anarchism, which proposes a communal politics of love, where the “self” has been obliterated in favor of the Many. This talk will try to converge the feminist mystical tradition of Marguerite Porete, Simone Weil, etc., who proposed rejecting the body for the sake of love, with an intersectional-feminist, anti-white-supremacist, queer, and crip politics, which foregrounds the body as primary matter.

A question for the audience: Are these two positions irreconcilable?

Johanna Hedva is currently a Research Fellow with “at land’s edge,” under the mentorship of Fred Moten.
#JohannaHedva (

Johanna Hedva. Photo: Mask Magazine


xenofeminism: a politics for alienation – laboria cuboniks (2015)

Laboria Cuboniks (b. 2014) is a xenofeminist collective, spread across five countries and three continents. She seeks to dismantle gender, destroy ‘the family,’ and do away with nature as a guarantor for inegalitarian political positions. Her name is an anagram of ‘Nicolas Bourbaki’, a pseudonym under which a group of largely French mathematicians worked towards an affirmation of abstraction, generality and rigour in mathematics in the early twentieth century. Read an interview HERE.


0x00 Ours is a world in vertigo. It is a world that swarms with technological mediation, interlacing our daily lives with abstraction, virtuality, and complexity. XF constructs a feminism adapted to these realities: a feminism of unprecedented cunning, scale, and vision; a future in which the realization of gender justice and feminist emancipation contribute to a universalist politics assembled from the needs of every human, cutting across race, ability, economic standing, and geographical position. No more futureless repetition on the treadmill of capital, no more submission to the drudgery of labour, productive and reproductive alike, no more reification of the given masked as critique. Our future requires depetrification. XF is not a bid for revolution, but a wager on the long game of history, demanding imagination, dexterity and persistence.

0x01 XF seizes alienation as an impetus to generate new worlds. We are all alienated — but have we ever been otherwise? It is through, and not despite, our alienated condition that we can free ourselves from the muck of
immediacy. Freedom is not a given — and it’s certainly not given by anything ‘natural’. The construction of freedom involves not less but more alienation; alienation is the labour of freedom’s construction. Nothing should be accepted as fixed, permanent, or ‘given’ — neither material conditions nor social forms. XF mutates, navigates and probes every horizon.
Anyone who’s been deemed ‘unnatural’ in the face of reigning biological norms, anyone who’s experienced injustices wrought in the name of natural order, will realize that the glorification of ‘nature’ has nothing to offer us — the queer and trans among us, the differently-abled, as well as those who have suffered discrimination due to pregnancy or duties connected to child-rearing. XF is vehemently anti-naturalist. Essentialist naturalism reeks of theology — the sooner it is exorcised, the better.

0x02 Why is there so little explicit, organized effort to repurpose technologies for progressive gender political ends? XF seeks to strategically deploy existing technologies to re-engineer the world. Serious risks are built into these tools; they are prone to imbalance, abuse, and exploitation of the weak. Rather than pretending to risk nothing, XF advocates the necessary assembly of techno-political interfaces responsive to these risks. Technology isn’t inherently progressive. Its uses are fused with culture in a positive feedback loop that makes linear sequencing, prediction, and absolute caution impossible. Technoscientific innovation must be linked to a collective theoretical and political thinking in which women, queers, and the gender non-conforming play an unparalleled role.

0x03 The real emancipatory potential of technology remains unrealized. Fed by the market, its rapid growth is offset by bloat, and elegant innovation is surrendered to the buyer, whose stagnant world it decorates. Beyond the noisy clutter of commodified cruft, the ultimate task lies in engineering technologies to combat unequal access to reproductive and pharmacological tools, environmental cataclysm, economic instability, as well as dangerous forms of unpaid/underpaid labour. Gender inequality still characterizes the fields in which our technologies are conceived, built, and legislated for,
while female workers in electronics (to name just one industry) perform some of the worst paid, monotonous and debilitating labour. Such injustice demands structural, machinic and ideological correction.

0x04 Xenofeminism is a rationalism. To claim that reason or rationality is ‘by nature’ a patriarchal enterprise is to concede defeat. It is true that the canonical ‘history of thought’ is dominated by men, and it is male hands we see throttling existing institutions of science and technology. But this is precisely why feminism must be a rationalism — because of this miserable
imbalance, and not despite it. There is no ‘feminine’ rationality, nor is there a ‘masculine’ one. Science is not an expression but a suspension of gender. If today it is dominated by masculine egos, then it is at odds with itself — and this contradiction can be leveraged. Reason, like information, wants to be free, and patriarchy cannot give it freedom. Rationalism must
itself be a feminism. XF marks the point where these claims intersect in a two-way dependency. It names reason as an engine of feminist emancipation, and declares the right of everyone to speak as no one in particular.


0x05 The excess of modesty in feminist agendas of recent decades is not proportionate to the monstrous complexity of our reality, a reality crosshatched with fibre-optic cables, radio and microwaves, oil and gas pipelines, aerial and shipping routes, and the unrelenting, simultaneous execution of millions of communication protocols with every passing millisecond. Systematic thinking and structural analysis have largely fallen by the wayside in favour of admirable, but insufficient struggles, bound to fixed localities and fragmented insurrections. Whilst capitalism is understood as a complex and ever-expanding totality, many would-be emancipatory anti-capitalist projects remain profoundly fearful of transitioning to the universal, resisting big-picture speculative politics by condemning them as necessarily oppressive vectors. Such a false guarantee treats universals as absolute, generating a debilitating disjuncture between the thing we seek to depose and the strategies we advance to depose it.

0x06 Global complexity opens us to urgent cognitive and ethical demands. These are Promethean responsibilities that cannot pass unaddressed. Much of twenty-first century feminism — from the remnants of postmodern identity politics to large swathes of contemporary ecofeminism — struggles to adequately address these challenges in a manner capable of producing substantial and enduring change. Xenofeminism endeavours to face up to these obligations as collective agents capable of transitioning between multiple levels of political, material and conceptual organization.

0x07 We are adamantly synthetic, unsatisfied by analysis alone. XF urges constructive oscillation between description and prescription to mobilize the recursive potential of contemporary technologies upon gender, sexuality and disparities of power. Given that there are a range of gendered challenges specifically relating to life in a digital age — from sexual
harassment via social media, to doxxing, privacy, and the protection of online images — the situation requires a feminism at ease with computation. Today, it is imperative that we develop an ideological infrastructure that both supports and facilitates feminist interventions within connective, networked elements of the contemporary world. Xenofeminism is about more than digital self-defence and freedom from patriarchal networks. We want to cultivate the exercise of positive freedom — freedom-to rather than simply freedom-from — and urge feminists to equip themselves with the skills to
redeploy existing technologies and invent novel cognitive and material tools in the service of common ends.

0x08 The radical opportunities afforded by developing (and alienating) forms of technological mediation should no longer be put to use in the exclusive interests of capital, which, by design, only benefits the few. There are incessantly proliferating tools to be annexed, and although no one can claim their comprehensive accessibility, digital tools have never been more widely available or more sensitive to appropriation than they are today. This is not an elision of the fact that a large amount of the world’s poor is adversely affected by the expanding technological industry (from factory workers labouring under abominable conditions to the Ghanaian villages that have become a repository for the e-waste of the global powers) but an explicit acknowledgement of these conditions as a target for elimination. Just as the invention of the stock market was also the invention of the crash, Xenofeminism knows that technological innovation must equally
anticipate its systemic condition responsively.


0x09 XF rejects illusion and melancholy as political inhibitors. Illusion, as the blind presumption that the weak can prevail over the strong with no strategic coordination, leads to unfulfilled promises and unmarshalled drives. This is a politics that, in wanting so much, ends up building so little. Without the labour of large-scale, collective social organisation, declaring one’s desire for global change is nothing more than wishful thinking. On the other hand, melancholy — so endemic to the left — teaches us that emancipation is an extinct species to be wept over and that blips of negation are the best we can hope for. At its worst, such an attitude generates nothing but political lassitude, and at its best, installs an atmosphere of pervasive despair which too often degenerates into factionalism and petty moralizing. The malady of melancholia only compounds political inertia, and — under the guise of being realistic — relinquishes all hope of calibrating the world otherwise. It is against such maladies that XF innoculates.

0x0A We take politics that exclusively valorize the local in the guise of subverting currents of global abstraction, to be insufficient. To secede from or disavow capitalist machinery will not make it disappear. Likewise, suggestions to pull the lever on the emergency brake of embedded velocities, the call to slow down and scale back, is a possibility available only to the few — a violent particularity of exclusivity — ultimately entailing catastrophe for the many. Refusing to think beyond the microcommunity, to foster connections between fractured insurgencies, to consider how emancipatory tactics can be scaled up for universal implementation, is to remain satisfied with temporary and defensive gestures. XF is an affirmative
creature on the offensive, fiercely insisting on the possibility of large-scale social change for all of our alien kin.

0x0B A sense of the world’s volatility and artificiality seems to have faded from contemporary queer and feminist politics, in favour of a plural but static constellation of gender identities, in whose bleak light equations of the good and the natural are stubbornly restored. While having (perhaps) admirably expanded thresholds of ‘tolerance’, too often we are told to seek
solace in unfreedom, staking claims on being ‘born’ this way, as if offering an excuse with nature’s blessing. All the while, the heteronormative centre chugs on. XF challenges this centrifugal referent, knowing full well that sex and gender are exemplary of the fulcrum between norm and fact, between freedom and compulsion. To tilt the fulcrum in the direction of nature is a defensive concession at best, and a retreat from what makes trans and queer politics more than just a lobby: that it is an arduous assertion of freedom against an order that seemed immutable. Like every myth of the given, a
stable foundation is fabulated for a real world of chaos, violence, and doubt. The ‘given’ is sequestered into the private realm as a certainty, whilst retreating on fronts of public consequences. When the possibility of transition became real and known, the tomb under Nature’s shrine cracked, and new histories — bristling with futures — escaped the old order of ‘sex’.
The disciplinary grid of gender is in no small part an attempt to mend that shattered foundation, and tame the lives that escaped it. The time has now come to tear down this shrine entirely, and not bow down before it in a piteous apology for what little autonomy has been won.

0x0C If ‘cyberspace’ once offered the promise of escaping the strictures of essentialist identity categories, the climate of contemporary social media has swung forcefully in the other direction, and has become a theatre where these prostrations to identity are performed. With these curatorial practices come puritanical rituals of moral maintenance, and these stages are too often overrun with the disavowed pleasures of accusation, shaming, and denunciation. Valuable platforms for connection, organization, and skill-sharing become clogged with obstacles to productive debate positioned as if they are debate. These puritanical politics of shame — which fetishize oppression as if it were a blessing, and cloud the waters in moralistic frenzies — leave us cold. We want neither clean hands nor beautiful souls, neither virtue nor terror. We want superior forms of corruption.

0x0D What this shows is that the task of engineering platforms for social emancipation and organization cannot ignore the cultural and semiotic mutations these platforms afford. What requires reengineering are the memetic parasites arousing and coordinating behaviours in ways occluded by their hosts’ self-image; failing this, memes like ‘anonymity’, ‘ethics’,
‘social justice’ and ‘privilege-checking’ host social dynamisms at odds with the often-commendable intentions with which they’re taken up. The task of collective self-mastery requires a hyperstitional manipulation of desire’s puppet-strings, and deployment of semiotic operators over a terrain of highly networked cultural systems. The will will always be corrupted by the memes in which it traffics, but nothing prevents us from instrumentalizing this fact, and calibrating it in view of the ends it desires.

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alden wood – radical intersections: the rise of atonal music and the invisible committee’s “the coming insurrection”

the-coming-insurrectionThe Coming Insurrection, a notorious 2007 ultra-left polemical tract written by a collective of French anti-state communists writing under the group-moniker The Invisible Committee, posits a conception of insurrection as the creation of new collective ontologies through acts of radical social rupture. Eschewing the orthodox Marxist line that revolution is something temporally removed from the present, towards which pro-revolutionaries must organize and work, The Invisible Committee’s use of insurrection claims it as an antagonistic challenge to late-capitalism firmly grounded in its own immediacy. Communism is therefore made immediate, and it is willed into being by insurrectionary acts of social rupture.

While much has been written on the debt that The Invisible Committee owes to French strains of ultra-left anti-state communism, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Giorgio Agamben, Situationism, and the Italian Autonomia movement of the 1970s, their implicit nod to the sociopolitical themes of music has been largely ignored. By subtly claiming that insurrection spreads by resonance and that such proliferation “takes the shape of a music,” The Invisible Committee allows for the interpretation of its “coming insurrection” as an inherently musical act. Using a historical reading of the shift from tonality to atonality in Western art music, as exemplified by Arnold Schoenberg, Alden Wood’s interpretation of The Coming Insurrection aims at imbuing its explicitly political premises with a more thorough exploration of its implicit musical qualities.

Published in Interdisciplinary Humanities Vol. 30 pp. 57-65, 2013.

Read this essay HERE, and The Coming Insurrection HERE.

screening tonight: emma goldman – an exceedingly dangerous woman

Tonight at 20h00, Bolo’bolo in Observatory presents a free screening of a documentary about the life and ideas of Emma Goldman: anarchist, feminist and lifelong rabble rouser.

emma goldmanFor nearly half a century, Russian emigrant Emma Goldman was the most controversial woman in America, taunting the mainstream with her fervent attacks on government, big business, and war. To the tabloids, she was “Red Emma, queen of the anarchists,” but many admired Goldman for her defense of labour rights, women’s emancipation, birth control, and free speech.

Goldman’s life was indelibly marked by two violent acts: the attempted assassination of anti-union industrialist Henry Clay Frick by her comrade and lover Alexander Berkman (he spent 14 years in prison for the crime) and the 1901 slaying of President William McKinley by Leon Czolgosz, a young anarchist who claimed he had been “set on fire” by Goldman’s exhortations to political assassination and martyrdom. McKinley’s assassination led to widespread condemnation of Goldman and other anarchists. Fearing for her life, Goldman went underground.

In 1906, she reemerged as founder and editor of Mother Earth, an anarchist magazine devoted to politics and literature. Once again a public figure, she returned to the lecture circuit. Her talks on the struggling revolution in Russia, on the rights of workers, on civil liberties — even on anarchism — drew large, sympathetic crowds. For almost a decade, Goldman maintained a grueling schedule, spending nearly half of every year on the road. In one six-month period, she delivered 120 lectures in 37 cities.

An outspoken opponent of America’s entry into World War I, she was arrested and imprisoned for demonstrating against the draft. In 1919 she, Berkman, and 247 others were deported to Russia, just two years after the October revolution replaced the Czarist regime with Bolshevik tyranny. After two dispiriting years, Goldman and Berkman left the Soviet Union and dedicated themselves to revealing the truth about a revolution gone wrong.

“The State is the altar of political freedom and, like the religious altar, it is maintained for the purpose of human sacrifice.” – Emma Goldman

PS: Non-alcoholic drinks and vegan snacks will be on sale. You may bring your own beer or wine if you’d like. The screenings are free, but donations are welcome.

orphan drift this thursday at bolo’bolo

What do you get if you mix equal parts cutting edge continental philosophy, voodoo, psychedelics, underground dance music, cybernetics and multimedia experimentation? The notorious Orphan Drift!

Happening this Thursday, 25 July, from 20h00, Bolo’bolo Anarchist Info Shop and Vegan Cafe are delighted to announce an evening of Orphan Drift, featuring several short films from founding member Mer Roberts as well as a talk by UWC cyberculture theorist Delphi Carstens, followed by an almost certainly lively open discussion.

Orphan_Drift_540x300Here’s a taste of what you can expect on Thursday evening:

In the mid-90s, the legendary Cyber Culture Research Unit at the prestigious Warwick University was formed: their university-funded activities included producing collaged texts of Deleuze and Guattari, William Burroughs and binary code, theorising the occult underpinnings of markets, composing abrasive electronic music and, ostensibly, consuming inhuman doses of psychedelics as often as possible, much of this via the ORPHAN DRIFT collaborative artist project. A few years later, the CCRU was no more; founding member Nick Land – a genius philosopher and agent provocateur – had achieved full meltdown / deterritorialization and Sadie Plant, author of the well-known Writing On Drugs, had disappeared from sight.

The legacy of the CCRU is very much alive today though, a subterranean influence for the very latest movements in philosophy.

Mer co-created the collaborative artist and hive mind 0rphan Drift in London in 1994. Although it was predominantly made up of visual artists, it also involved sound designers, concept engineers and media activists.

As an artistic entity, 0rphan Drift is known for immersive and visually complex works which use the sample and the remix extensively, treating information as matter and the image as a unit of contagion. The art produced is science fictional and immersive. It complicates the distinctions between material and immaterial phenomena and dimensions, both in content and media. Much of its work explored mimetic patterns of desire, production and consumption- particularly in relation to the rapid technological changes happening at the time- drawing heavily on cyberpunk fiction, polyrhythmic electronica and the underpinnings of African religious systems. This was the social context in which its shifting layers of frightening, disturbing, abject, schizophrenic, beautiful, deconstructive, poetic and fragmented frequencies were able to take affect.

0rphan Drift is cross-contextual and made extensive contributions from 1994 – 2004 in the social arenas around contemporary art, underground music and cyber-feminism/post-structural philosophy. 0D has participated internationally in over a decade of exhibitions, screenings and performance, exhibiting extensively in the UK, Europe, Canada and the States, including at the Cabinet Gallery and Tate Modern in London; writing the Scifi-theory text ‘Cyberpositive’, and featuring in DJ Spooky’s ‘Sound Unbound’ in the ‘Renegade Academics’ chapter. It contributed cybervisuals to the set of Stephen Speilberg’s ‘AI’ and ‘Minority Report’ features and Leftfield and NIN world tours, worked frequently with Kode 9 and participated in 10 years of international Video art and AV Electronica art events in Norway, Germany, Canada, UK, South Africa and USA.

We now collaborate between Cape Town and San Francisco and continue to make science fictional work which is guided by a neo-futurist sensibility and clearly a progression from our earlier work. Our new video work ‘Wilderness of Elsewheres, Colony 1’, which maps contemporary global concerns with survival, insecurity and the unknown, has been shown in Santiago and San Francisco and we subsequently produced a series of Post Apocalyptic postcards for Shadowshop; Stephanie Syjuco’s parasitic shop at SFMOMA. Recently we made video for Delphi Carsten’s Capetown Tedx Talk, ‘Hyperstition’, and were commissioned make ‘You Its Eyes 94-13’ for screening at CTM13, Berlin.


1: You Its Eyes. 1994-2013, 30 minute video remixing 0D’s earlier work
0D employs different frequencies and overlapping rhythmic patterns to activate submerged regions of the brain and create intimacy and proximity through video-sonic signal. The goal of 0D, writes Simon Reynolds (1996), is “the liberation of texture from its environment, of energy-flux from contoured form with the goal to recreate the intensity of being lost”. 0D describes the individual ‘self’ haunted by a sensory cross-talk of signals from realms beyond the physical. Voices from imagined futures haunt the contemporary technological landscape. Feedback from the machines evolves into an unfamiliarity of speed and complexity, coding the textual body and imagination as tools for change. The invisible, fantastical, and anarchic called upon here are what Deleuze and Guattari define as the essence of virtuality. These intensities carry the sorcerous forces that technology and science unleash as they delve further into the quantum, the chaotic and the abstract.

“Surrounding the human self and its island of experience lies a raging sea of intensities” (D&G). All journeys into this space involve a succession of becomings autistic, mimetic, contagious and machinic.

2: Hyperstition – A talk by Delphi Carstens
Delphi is a lecturer at UWC, as well as half of the duo which makes up Groovy Troopers Productions – creators of temporary autonomous zones in the form of art & trance festivals. Delphi is currently completing a doctorate thesis, and will present on: “hyperstition” — a neologism coined by Nick Land that combines the words ‘superstition’ and ‘hype’ to describe how fictions become fact and how our narratives (stories) shape our world. It also describes, particularly, the narrative of capitalism, which is driven by hype and speculation and, which more importantly, turns fictions into facts. One very important fiction that Delphi will be discussing is the fiction of the apocalypse. Focusing on the current secular meaning of apocalypse as well as how popular culture views our current global crisis and the importance of imagining ourselves differently. Hyperstition also describes the nexus where myth or magic and science meet. Delphi explores the world of hyperstition to describe the manner by which hype and speculation become facts in contemporary society. The future is looking uncertain and how we imagine this future may be more important than we realise. This talk will be both an intellectual and a felt experience.

3: A Wilderness Of Elsewheres. 2009, 10 minutes
A two-screen installation in which dark abstract video spaces flow into bright photographic landscapes (the raw desolate tundras of southern Africa), populated and de-populated by animated collages of architecture and fashion, cut and scanned from contemporary print publications. A deliberate rhythmic awkwardness creates an alien time frame. The screens share a soundscape, made from a wide variety of samples including glaciers melting and rocket launches, composed into a sonic ‘event’. The work is imbued with post-apocalyptic sensibility, urges to the neo-romantic and the science fictional blending of first and third world materiality. At once immersive and deconstructive, the work is collision, co-habitation, evolutionary fever-dream.

Join us in mapping the outer edges — and do come earlyish if you want to sit down while doing so ;) !

bifo berardi on how to act now

I must act “as if”. As if the forces of labour and knowledge may overcome the forces of greed and of proprietary obsession. As if the cognitive workers may overcome the fractalisation of their life and intelligence, and give birth to a process of the self-organisation of collective knowledge. I must resist simply because I cannot know what will happen after the future, and I must preserve the consciousness and sensibility of social solidarity, of human empathy, of gratuitous activity, of freedom, equality and fraternity. Just in case, right? Just because we don’t know what is going to be happening next, in the empty space that comes after the future of modernity. I must resist because this is the only way to be in peace with my self.

— Franco “Bifo” Berardi, from After the Future

bataille on the insubordination of material facts

Human life, distinct from juridical existence, existing as it does on a globe isolated in celestial space, from night to day and from one country to another—human life cannot in any way be limited to the closed systems assigned to it by reasonable conceptions. The immense travail of recklessness, discharge, and upheaval that constitutes life could be expressed by stating that life starts with the deficit of these systems; at least what it allows in the way of order and reserve has meaning only from the moment when the ordered and reserved forces liberate and lose themselves for ends that cannot be subordinated to any thing one can account for. It is only by such insubordination—even if it is impoverished—that the human race ceases to be isolated in the unconditional splendour of material things.

― Georges Bataille, from The Notion of Expenditure