Graphic Novel Clandestine Journal
by Gian Luigi Biagini
The Art of Subjectivity.
"Practice has a logic which is not that of the logician. This has to be aknowledged in order to avoid asking of it more logic than it can give, thereby condemning oneself either to wring incoherence out of it or to thrust a forced coherence upon it. (Bourdieu 1990:80)"
My artistic practice is first of all an art of subjectivity : to mention a recent book by Jacob Glazier (Glazier, 2019) inspired by Guattari. It is art, politics and also ethnography in action. My practice has emerged from my contingent situation of unemployed migrants in a foreign country. Finland is a very rationalist and structured neo-corporative country with powerful and ubiquitous formative agencies that model the subjectivity of their citizens along all their life. A newcomer with an heterogeneous background can find himself sealed out because in excess (or in lack) to the "formation" provided by the efficiency of a "corporative" system regulated by a planning center. Just as a player, with an a-modal sensitivity, cannot find his place in the regularities of an over-organized team. This "stranger" can find himself or herself in the same position of the artist in the platonic city (Polis): pushed back into the invisible "khora" of the "unnamable" (Badiou, 1994). My "art of subjectivity" can be described as a desperate search for a "place" that the organized abstract system of the "city" could not provide for my "singularity". A search for a meaningful "ethico-aesthetic existential territory" to put it with Guattari (Guattari, 1995).
I arrived in Helsinki in 2011 and after many striving attempts to send CVs and to learn Finnish basic language I lost any hope of finding a job. I felt inside an apparatus that managed me as an anonymous number without caring of my past and my potentialities. Having nothing to lose I put a black balaclava on my face and I started performing unauthorized critical urban interventions on the edge of the Law; always dealing with puzzled police. ( https://gigibiagini.tumblr.com/ ). My black balaclava allowed me to join the "khoragraphic" global field of many other black balaclavas. After the financial crisis of 2008 a tide of counter-spectacle had invaded all the streets of the World. The idea of "Common" is not correct to describe this chaotic becoming that emerged for distribution of intensities and mimesis and not for rationality and logos; one should speak of "Heteron". "Their relations are distances; their movements are Brownian; their quantities are intensities, difference in intensity". (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). The Heteron is a post-human concept of politics and (non-)relational intra-action that has similarities with Agamben's "coming community", Blanchot's "negative community" and Bataille's "community of those who do not have a community" (Halberstam, 1995). Many artists follow a transcendent political ideology but for me was not a question of Right or Left (these Aristotelian categories) but a radical need of "becoming-animal" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987) in a "deterritorialized pack". These "becomings" are telluric transversals that do not follow a philo-genetic logic. I was just surfing in a flux of anarchic symbolic proliferation coordinated only by an emerging esthetic. This field of mythology, sense and sensations supported my research for meanings in a rationalist desert that could offer only exclusion, anonymity and indifference. I filled this void with the joy of the subversion.
Rising, falling, striving...against extinction.
My interventions were temporary re-appropriation of the city through events of disruptions. Philosopher Hakim Bey wrote an interesting book titled T.A.Z, Temporary Autonomous Zone (Wilson, 1991) that together with A Thousand Plateaus (Deleuze and Guattari,1987), Rhythmanalysis (Lefebvre, 2004), The Society of the Spectacle (Debord, 1994) and many other books provide an explanatory ground for the emerging of my practice of interventions; which nevertheless has also its own singular story and contingent logic. Basically, I needed to survive as an animal species on the edge of extinction. My interventions were moved by the natural "ethos" of an animal hunted by an abstract "apparatus of capture". I did not start my practice as a romantic search for outsider margins (that are still striated) but to carve temporary "lines of flight" in the removed flesh of the abstract platonic city (Polis). I wanted to feel a bodily intensity and change the rationalist game that was sealing me out.
After 2 or 3 years my strategy of surviving unfolded in an unexpected space of potentiality. I was able to enter a course of study to obtain a PhD in artistic research. Thanks to the Zeitgeist I obtained a 4-year grant from a Foundation (and some other smaller grants) and carried out various urban interventions in many cities around the world. I had found an unexpected existential meaning and an ethico-esthetic territory that was turning my "art of subjectivity" into a nomadic line of flight around the world. It was extraordinary to play with the animism of different "cities" and their different atmospheric archetypes. I was living a dream. I was like a subversive shaman. I could be a "free spirit" without knowing exclusion. I felt to live life with an unprecedented intensity and with no compromises. I was a "body without organs" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). However, after a few years I started feeling a growing resistance to my practice. In less than a decade my interventions became intolerable for the new Zeitgeist. Art and Academy have dismissed every frontal critique toward Capitalism and the social Order in general. The planetary antagonist wave, which was legitimizing my practice in the institutional discourse, has been re-absorbed by Trump's populism on one side and Davos' new order on the other. Now I was again in excess of the institutional norms and I was asked to moderate my practice and reduce my vitality. But I had seen too much "thauma" in my interventions to step back from the sacred. As Glazier also argues an ethico-aesthetic subjectivity which does not want to be simply subjugated, but wants to be actively subversive towards capitalist normativity (subjectivized), must be ready to pay an ethical price (Glazier, 2019). With my 10 years of experience I have been able to ascertain that Glazier's theory is correct. After my PhD I was exiled; again unemployed and alone. I fell into a passionate "black hole of resentment" (Guattari, 1995) because I was still in the situation of solitude and I had exhausted all my energies.
I am still a hunted "species" that tries to flee the extinction carried out by a systematic logic of rationalization and reduction. Not only is biodiversity shrinking but also the individuals of each species are reduced in size. This reduction also affects human animal expressivity. All around me are new signals of "political and normative correctness". My interventions are always ignored by the media and institutions that have embraced the rhetoric of extinction and posthumanism, but only to promote a logic of Corporate "greenwashing". I am surrounded by an existential desert that suffocates the voice of my interventions and my energy. I wanted to stop my practice but then I came with the idea of a clandestine journal to bypass the power-networks that control the public space of expressivity; to temporarily redefine what can be publicly seen and heard. The distribution of this clandestine journal is a new modulation of my practice of opening the coded space to an "event" of difference. It is a way of speaking "with one's own voice" (Fraser, 1990) that in this case is the voice of the generic "unnamable" (Badiou, 1994) that cannot find a place in a "specific set". Nevertheless, "my art of subjectivity" is in excess of any mediatic efficacy. It is a spiritual praxis of interventions that allows me to experiment with states of dynamic khora (subtracted to a Policed Polis) that put me in touch with the magic animism of an urban site. It is a reward in itself to participate in an Event of subversion able to "unconceal beings" (Heidegger, 1998) that manifest in the "receptacle" of a "becoming". This experience of "wonder" is foreclosed to functionaries of consensus.
Clandestine tactics: the Anartist as “graphic novel” character.
The Anartist, who is the character I invented–and who wears a black balaclava–is a sort of daemonic avatar who attracts me into the event of radical urban interventions. The Anartist creates critical play-grounds that disturb the organization of capitalist space-time implemented in the reproduction of habits, perceptions, gestures, actions, feelings, subjectivities, "institutions" etc. The Anartist engenders an untimely and unspacely event which, from a starting critique, opens the urban situation to an “infinite contestation”. The Anartist, who is also an artistic remodulation of an antagonist Black Bloc aesthetic and subjectivity, is already a performative “graphic novel character". This does not mean that a "character" does not have authentic political potential. It is not a grotesque parody, even if it also has humoristic features, but an intensification of a political mask; it is a bifurcation that regenerates the subversive force of the original “simulacrum” (there are no original essences). Furthermore, “fiction", as both Deleuze and Rancière would agree, is charged with subversive potential (Rancière, 2011). It allows a "de-actualization" of the subjectivity that is free from social conditioning and can reinvent itself. In other words fiction shatters the perceptible orders that anticipates the cognitive ground where people draw concepts, definitions and powers. The inclusion of fiction in my interventions creates an indefinite ambiguity between art, literature, theater, politics, graphic novel, which, as Sylvain Lazarus would put it, gives life to a “purely subjective” and “intimate” politics that has nothing to do with an “exterior object” (Lazarus, 2015). Furthermore, such a strategy increases the “dissensus” and “displacement” of the pre-defined “partition of the sensorium” as Rancière would add (Rancière, 2002). However, if we look beyond theory of politics and theory of art, which I have talked about at length in my dissertation and some other articles, it is desire and contingent heterogeneity that move any practice. As everybody knows theory and action, art and politics, and writing and experience cannot clearly overlap and this is also good news; otherwise nothing new that exceeds theory or writing could be created. There is something in action that escapes "signification"; it is an excessive “being there” in the midst of an Event and a fuzzy practice. Everything cannot be explained…The open cannot be closed, the continuum cannot be fully grasped by the discrete. Knowledge of doing and making is tacit (Johannessen, 1990). It subtracts itself to the power of language and the reproduction of epistemic “Power-Knowledge” (Foucault, 1980). An art practice like the one I do is also more radical than a practice of making directed to the useful such as the one of the artisan or designer. A political art practice is like advancing in the non-normative heterogeneous. It is also more complex than usual art practices coded in a system of references built by legitimate institutions and bureaucracies of art.
Flee and find a new medium: a media theory at the End of History.
I am not a recognised mainstream artist who is granted by money, notoriety and institutions. I also do not recognize the authority of the art system grounded on institutions financed by capitalism that promotes an art of propaganda for the 1%. Because of my condition of “minority” and "solitude", my interventions must always rise from the limiting power-relations in which I am always confined, stratified, and asymmetrically territorialized. “Flee and find your weapon” as Gilles Deleuze puts it. We could say that all history of art is to find new media (or new weapons) of expression to flee the code of the old media that become soon stratifying apparata of power-relations once they are institutionalized. A new medium invented out of the immediate needs is an uncoded “war machine”, a “smooth space”, a “tunnel” to escape (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). A new medium is a new fold of contemporary art that allows a new unfolding of expression, language, style. Some years ago I wrote a book that I published by myself, entitled “The becoming-wolf of Contemporary Art. Contemporary Art as a war machine”. In this self-published book I described the becoming of contemporary art as a resonating multiplicity of flights and captures. Each new line of flight escapes from the over-coding of an old medium and constitutes a new uncoded medium of expression that deterritorialises the old one. Then a deterritorialization is always a re-territorialization and re-coding of old media in an active rhizome of media; as also McLuhan would put it in different words (McLuhan, 1969). The media plane of becoming is in continuous metamorphosis with the proliferation of new media, new praxis, new styles and unpredictable re-codings that charge the field of possibilities with new "throw of dice". This relation between medium and expression is necessary because it is not possible to have an appearance without medium and each new medium is also an aesthetic "prosthetic extension" (McLuhan, 1969) of a potential new subjectivity and its new world. The medium channels the super-intense field of metamorphosis that can be felt by an artist at the level of an immanent, obscure feeling before it is expressed as a new "being" into a medium. The "new being" is an event of discontinuity in a super-continuum. The artist is procreative because it extracts a newborn being from the super-intense; in this sense the artist is a "becoming-woman". Intensities emerge as phenomena through a medium and its code of expression that captures and gives body to a molecular becomings of the super-intense. However, when a medium is too stratified, striated or saturated by power-relations and power-codes the intensities are obstructed and too slow for emerging as hot new from the super-intense. In this condition of “stratification” the super-intense field must find a new medium through a new art praxis to emerge as a force of metamorphosis. The medium is part of a complex plane of metamorphosis always changing. The artist, who is the “intense other” implicated in the "rhizome" and also a “messenger of the metamorphosis”, feels this pressure for a new medium of expression. Whatever comes out as “new” is under the spell of an immediate urge for a “new weapon”. The artist feels this violent necessity and this explains the anarchic proliferation of new media, new styles and new languages that transgress but also echoes the old media, styles and languages. Indeed, the field of metamorphosis is a field of echoes and resonances. The media-field is a crossover in becoming that bifurcates and returns on itself with new unpredictable potentialities. Difference and Repetition (Deleuze, 1995) is the cybernetic drive of becoming. The media rhizome is a "molarity" that re-doubles the super-intense (molecular) rhizome. Media “differentiate” and differen(c)iate” dividing in coded “apparata of capture” and “war machines” forming a new code in their disruptive appearing. This series of entangled "flights and captures" is repeated in the dynamic phases of each emerging medium. Because of its emerging molarity each new medium allows a "slowing down" of the fleeting intensities from the obscure super-intense field but, simultaneously, also allows the "acceleration" of new emerging expressions that makes the old ones inactive forces. In my opinion this dynamic becoming of "territorialization(s)", "deterritorialization(s)" and "reterritorialization(s)" of new media, new practices and new expressions is threaten by the emerging of a totalitarian techno-capitalist system that over-codes all other media of appearances. This totalitarian form of techno-capitalism turns every new appearance into a commodity. Even art practices and research become modulated disciplines of a system of recognition that tracks and enslaves everything that exists and puts it to its efficient service. Late Capitalism is a super-medium of capture that threatens to obstruct the access to the super-intense forever and to block in a cage the anarchist essence of nature and the real. Already Baudrillard (1981), following the pessimism of Debord and the late Kojeve was describing a commodified life at the End of History as a play of "simulations" in a homogeneous globalization. My solitary practice, framed in a commodified network of humans, information and non-human objects, is situated in the attempt to allow the becoming of art history to become again in a context of impossibility at the End of History and at the End of the World. In this sense my practice is not only Deleuzian but also a contradictory anti-Hegelian Hegelianism. For me an artist who does not know how to situate his practice in the History of Art and the History in large sense makes only "cheap art". This is my criterion of evaluation for an art practice. It is true that art is contingent heterogeneous practice but it must be supported even by a visionary theoretical spirit as Benedetto Croce would put it. An artist must have a strategy and tactics in front of its historical condition. It must be at the height of History. This total and almost divinatory vision seems to contradict what I have just written on the obscure and urgent need "to find a new weapon". This parallax and paradoxical tension is typical of art expression and art research. You cannot separate neatly planes of deep animal expressive need with sublime planes that incarnate the Spirit of History. Art is less and more than human at the same time. These two unstable and parallax planes must be sutured by creative writing in Art Research. Writing must zig-zagging between the "mole" of practice and the "owl" of the theoretical "seer" that, with an heretic interpretation of Hegel, I can say are both "becoming-animals".
Everything flees: alliances, obstacles and potentialities for alternative publishing.
In the contingent becoming of my praxis I happened to meet the visual artist Arja Reiman, who has elaborated my “public actions” in a "graphic novel style". From this collaboration has started the idea to make a light and cheap clandestine journal by printing an A2 and folding it into 4 pages. The clandestine journal presented in this article is still a possible prototype. It contains graphic novel images and also a short art research essay related to the experience of an intervention. It will be distributed by the Anartist in the public spaces as a performance-intervention. In this way, even the distribution of the journal that contains the graphic novel story will duplicate and resonate with the intervention narrated in the journal. I hope this hypermedia intervention-strategy will make my art and ideas better known to a large audience that does not yet know them. It also will provide a new medium and perception of being in the world. The graphic novel journal can become a story with two posters to hang on the wall. This variability of the use, that is ingrained in the idea of an origami-medium, is related to enfolding and unfolding possibilities. I have applied to get a grant for this project but if I should not succeed I can make a very limited number zero at my expenses and include a bank account number for a "mobile digital payment" at the end of the graphic novel intervention. It could be a small-investment experiment to generate fundraising to finance the journal without grants. The grant system is part of a disciplinary matrix of subjugation so much as galleries and museums. They are part of a normative system of reference to subjugate the artist in a bourgeois idea of art; which is not very compatible with the ethico-aesthetic trajectory of my "art of subjectivity" that is born as an immanent alternative. As everybody knows the system of "grants" cannot be neutral and in large part it is a tool of the process of cultural governance of the pool of Davos' corporations. "The Great Reseat" is not a conspiracy theory but I see it working in the financing of university research and the agenda of consensus it promotes. For art to hope to regain the lost autonomy and become a site of cultural resistance we should find an alternative also to the medium of financing; not only to the medium of publishing. Otherwise creativity is channeled in the direction that suits the Corporations . In order to get a grant you must follow Davos' guidelines and their imperative “order-words” that limit the dominion of expression to civilized “social skills”. You must write what they ask you to write if you want to get a result from your investment of time and energy. For example you must be “inclusive” but if you are "inclusive" or "included" the other does not exist anymore. The “other” is "other" because it cannot be included. It cannot be easy to relate with the other, it must be a non-relational relation (a parallax). Blanchot, influenced by Lacan, has written that the "other" is like "death", you never meet it but it is the source of every impossible disaster-creativity (Blanchot, 1980). This "void other" is also near to oriental philosophy and its "void of potentiality" but also to the "vacuum field" in fundamental physics. The "inclusive ideology" is part of a process of biopolitical subsumption into the incubator of the Davos Corporation. They have generated an institutional neo-language that reminds Orwell's Big Brother and produces a domesticated society without "will of power" that recalls the "Truman Show".
Hyperrealistic dystopia and graphic novel.
This graphic novel dimension can add a new polysemic element of resonance in my attempt to erase the separation between life and art into an oscillatory multiplicity in becoming: a "supple line of flight in variation" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). Apparently this move looks like an escape from real life towards the artifice of art but actually it intensifies the dystopia of my “critical playgrounds”; it adds intensity and chiaroscuro. In this "mock-up" on Ruukku I have still not decided the style of layout because I do not want to make it "cool" that is the required normative of the metropolitan "youngster hypster" with an emoticon face. I have just thrown the images randomly. I wish to generate an intensified esthetic flow that resists everyday life into the context of everyday life. I wish to resist to subsumption in the "cool", I know it is an impossible task; for now I just trust the "aleatory" style. Showing an immanent dystopia in the everyday is a weapon against a realized capitalist utopia. This derealization in the graphic novel allows me to actually show a virtuality of action and thinking that is separated from commodified life which, having become zoe-political, can no longer be considered individuated life but "bare life" in a "concentration camp”, as Agamben would put it (Agamben, 1998). Furthermore, Capitalist commodification and their apparatuses, that are everywhere, produces the appearance of depressive zombie spaces and zombie subjectivities of which the myriads of movies and digital TV series about zombies could be a symptom. But hyperreality is also full of capitalist vampires, ghosts, drones, holograms, mutants, morphing faces and cyborgs captured in a totalizing medium. And this turbo-capitalist situation of full commodification already brings with it an immanent “graphic novel” atmosphere. We breathe the "toxic gas" of a graphic novel delirium in a panoptical metaverse. Today, “graphic novel” is a form of hyperrealism because we live in a reality where the imaginary has collapsed into an Apocalyptic real, the ephemeral into the tragic of the End of the World, the utopian in the dystopian, the Cyberspace in the everyday space. These themes have been intensely explored by (Debord, 1994), Baudrillard (Baudrillard, 1981), Eco (Eco, 1990), Jameson (Jameson, 1991) , Fisher (Fisher, 2009) and many other thinkers in the past but they still affect our times with even more radical intensity.
Black Magic rites of possession.
For what concerns my example of "graphic novel clandestine press” I will show images elaborated by my last critical playground the “Court, of Human Rights.” Here the Court is a “tennis court” where two policemen play sadistically with a weak subject (a puppet with a tennis-ball head)…The puppet can represent a stranger, a soul, an exiled, an unnamable stranger…but also a voodoo puppet …) The text of the clandestine newspaper will be short, in a way academic, but with the lyric style of the art manifesto. Otherwise it loses the feature of artworks and does not fit with the “graphic novel” style. One must find a mediating language that is proper to the scope of a new medium and its use. The intervention “The Court, of Human Rights” is conceived, produced, installed and performed by the artists Gian Luigi Biagini and John Dunn but photographed and elaborated by the artist Arja Reiman. The “graphic novel clandestine press” is an idea by Gian Luigi Biagini but the Anartist assemblage, that is a singular but pluralist assemblage, is to start a becoming and enfolding encounters as potentialities. The subject of the doing becomes a desiring super-jective Event that acquires its animistic power into an “objectile” (Deleuze, 1992) in becoming. Each of my installation-performance is like the emerging of a temple for an inhuman divine-demonic presence. I need to detach a flow from the block of an inert everyday life to unleash the magic power of becoming. I need to generate an animistic flow with its own life that attracts and enfolds other participants to produce a collective sacred catalysis. I need to prepare the “clearing” (Heidegger, 1998) to host the immanentization of a “mysterious anima” that wants to manifest. It’s a rite of possession.
Anti-institutional, re-institutional, post-institutional critique.
My practice is a processual chasm between negative destituent (Agamben, 2013) and affirmative constituent (Hardt and Negri, 2005) folds. One could apply the idea of Kuba Szreder’s “productive withdrawal” to this attitude as it is expressed in his essay in "Active Withdrawals: life and death of institutional critique" (Szreder, 2016); even if I am not at ease with the definition of "art worker" because I do not recognise my practice in a marxist collectivist tradition. For me the strike is a "strike of sense" applied to the work that every day human-machine assemblages perpetuate in the urban space. But it is true that even the artists, curators, galleries, museums and art researchers are usually part of this mechanism of work. I try to hack this working machine pushing further the institutional subversion. This anti-institutional, re-institutional and post-institutional critique invades even art research as an institution. My practice inserts itself as a “counter-field” in the coded institutional rules of “artistic research”. It wants to force the instituted code to generate a re-institutional excess by a parallax tension with the instituted signifier. My ethic of research conceives art research as a “self-critical practice” as it has been described by Esa Kirkkopelto in his “Artistic Research as institutional practice" (Kirkkopelto, 2015). I see art research not as an architecture of rules but as an anarchitecture in becoming that bifurcates and generates new unpredictable branches of research. My practice tends to erase the borders between art, art research and life through a complex zig zag of superposed dimensions. For this anti-institutional attempt to overcome these separations some observers have noticed that my practice can be derived by Allan Kaprov's practice and his theoretical research in the "Essays on the blurring of art and life". This is due even to the fact that Kaprov used to call himself "un-artist" and I am using to call the avatar-subjectivity of my practice "Anartist". I think that Kaprov was directing his anti-institutional attitude directly to the identifying norms of the art system. Instead Anartist is a playful "crasis" between Anarchist and Artist. The clash of these two terms is ambiguous and Situationist (I am indebted with Debord): it can synthesise into an Anarchist Artist subjectivity that adds a political dimension to art but it can also put in question the pure terms "Anarchist" and "Artist" by a contamination that makes them unstable, oblique and undecidable. In this way it attacks the definitions of the system of art and the defined political normativity by two sides; in order to free the space of the unknown and its monster-potentiality. Every one of my gestures tries to turn the clarity of the master-signifier into an indented monster-signifier that cannot be pinned down in a closed form. This is also an anti-institutional attitude to the extreme. Anti-institutional practice as never concluded task, because the dimensions in play are always in excess and the danger to be subsumed by the power of the definition is always beyond the corner. The Anartist's attitude runs counter-current respect to an usual academic setting where accumulation of references and clear definitions seems to be a surplus of capitalization for the institutionalisation of the discipline; a sneaky effect of the power-knowledge circuit that appears even when a discipline is deemed to be interdisciplinary or anti-institutional. Nevertheless, this tension between an institutional center and a periphery in flight is part of a dialectic that is intrinsic to life. It reproduces the schizophrenic entanglement between disruptive and conservative forces of the metamorphosis. For this reason my art practice is not only political but also existential: it responds to uncoded needs for a surplus of life.
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