n.e.w.s. is a collective online platform for the analysis and development of art-related activity, drawing upon contributions from around the globe, bringing together different voices, accents and outlooks from the North, East, West and South. | Read more..


Cutting Slack: paradoxes of slackerdom

Hello! I see that some slackers have been more than punctual in taking the initiative and getting this forum under way. Whereas some others, ahem, have waited for the sun to warm the earth before sallying forth. This is just as it should be, for it places us straightaway at the heart of the issues we are to address: the paradoxes of slackerdom.

Three questions are of supreme interest to me with respect to what I take to be our common concern in performing the everlasting Sunday:

- Why is authentic slacking different than mere laziness (if it is)? I choose that phrasing deliberately to underscore the ticklish distinction between the two: I feel it is somehow slacker-incompatible to identify an “authentic” as opposed to an inauthentic mode of slacking, just as it is absurd to suggest that describing laziness as “mere” does anything but upgrade it to some more interestingly corrosive status. Still, it strikes me as useful, even necessary to attempt to conceptualize slacking off as a specific way of being in the world – as opposed to indolence or idleness (and other agreeable states) on the one hand, and languor or what Christians call slothfulness on the other.

- This ontological speculation on slacking’s core definition begs the second question: slacking’s political ontology. By both slacking off from the imperative to work and, symmetrically, deliberately abstaining from leisure and other modes of consumerism, slackers embody a fascinating – and for the productivist majority, infuriating – performative double bind, akin to the famous “I am a liar” that had the Greeks stumped. Slackers don’t “just” slack off; they go at it full-tilt. Clearly, the studied and ostentatious practice of doing not much at all is all-consuming. But is it subversive? Does it have seditious potential within a regime of productivism? Can it obstruct the reifying logic of “creativity” and “artistic research projects” we hear so much about?

- To answer these questions in the affirmative is to imagine that slackers could come to constitute something of a political community, however slack. But, as Randall Szott has asked, are communities formed by slack not bound by slack, that is, entropic collapse under the weight of their own logic? Or can they, martial arts-style, lackadasically harness the surplus force of the productivist adversary? Are slackers, like hackers, more inclined to untie than to unite, as Ken Wark has argued? And if so, what is at the end of the slack line?


Data's Demon

I’m very much of two minds about the whole issue of “data-mining,” as Lev Manovich puts it – or “data-recovery” as others might say inasmuch as we have all contributed to that ever-expanding mother-lode – with which Renée Ridgway has invited us to engage in her recent, thought-igniting post. The sheer magnitude of data accumulation is positively diabolical – or at least demonic, to use a more genteel term for the hellish little fellow. Indeed, in a fascinating if somewhat sibylline passage in his deliciously premonitory novel, The Crying of Lot 49, written in the early 1960s, Thomas Pynchon imagines an ambivalent character whom I see as Data’s Demon.


What everybody knows: protocols of rumour

Exhibitions are all right for those of us who like that sort of thing, but like other artworldly activities, they’re pretty harmless. As art seems to have exhausted much of its potential, why not turn our art-critically honed tools to more corrosive phenomena – the kind that suit no one’s purpose, like that all-pervasive, horizontal network of open-source speech-acts of confident uncertainty known as rumour? If only because rumour can wreak more havoc in the public sphere in half an hour than art can in a century, is it not worth at least considering as a possible role model for an unauthored, viewer-free art that escapes itself?