Come Together: Wrap-Up
Chicago-based artist, writer, and organizer
Author of the novels Arcadia and The Monsters of Templeton
New York-based artist and writer
Editor at Autonomedia and lecturer at the University of Essex, United Kingdom
Thoroughly impressed by the breadth of reference introduced in the last three sessions, I struggle to synthesize it at all. The key concepts I tried to introduce were: constituting community; dreaming of community; and the scale of community. We took these ideas in a wild variety of directions, and I have to really offer my thanks to Lauren, Pablo, and Stevphen for their generosity of engagement, thinking, and writing. While I’m at it, thanks also go to Michael, Maria, and the rest of the Guggenheim team for their invitation, framing, and support. I hope we can continue the conversation.
In the live chat, several commenters pointed to the limitation of the entire premise and rhetoric of “community.” While it seems awkward to conclude the Forum by problematizing its premise, I hope our drift through a diverse range of ideas treated the premise critically and also constructively. This concern with the vague and uncertain aspects of community reminds me of a text from a few years ago by Colectivo Situaciones, the brilliant Argentine collective oriented around extra-disciplinary and extra-institutional research in the service of social movements. In their epilogue to Raúl Zibechi’s book Dispersing Power, they write, “Community, then, deserves new attention, not as an eccentric¬ity of the past that resists dying, but as a dynamic of both common production and common association with overwhelming political relevance, although it is as plagued with ambivalence as it is vital. Thinking about community means conceiving its real dynamic: mov¬ing, clearly, but also detaining and metastasizing.”
Towards the end of the live chat, Dan S. Wang, an artist from Madison, Wisconsin, asked the simple question “How are communities different from or related to networks?” The theme of online sociality recurred throughout the week, from the Guggenheim’s initial prompt to the live chat, to Lauren’s vivid image of the Internet as “a vast fishing net that has scooped up all we little fish” from session three. While my short answer to Wang’s question was “I think that networks are forms and communities are affective—much less formal,” I would add that the network tends to be centered on the individual (every person has a network-shaped universe organized around their own connection points), while community is usefully ambiguous in its formlessness. The Internet, which is both blamed for social fragmentation and praised for social connectivity, tends to be concomitant with the network form for obvious technical reasons. And while there is undoubtedly a freedom that comes with being able to connect socially with anyone, there is also a responsibility to transverse the network and politicize that connectivity when solidarity is needed. The sticking point is that solidarity works best with a bond that goes deeper than the connection points allowed by the network’s form. This reintroduces the necessity of community as an emotional terrain that also harbors power with, as Colectivo Situaciones articulated it, “overwhelming political relevance.”
As we draw this inquiry into the nature of the aspiration that is community to a close, Colectivo Situaciones’s emphasis on movement offers a useful way to engage with the ambiguities that result from the term’s external imposition (as opposed to its use in the context of common cultural practices or other shared terrain). A moving target, community is not a form to grab onto, as it is often in the process of dispersal. But it signals an association that we desperately need, both to celebrate our commonality, and to articulate our common struggles.
Come together now!
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