C.O.P.S. Class notes: Audience as wind-up monkey 08/27/11

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I’m taking classes at the Conceptual Oregon Performance School this summer and I’m a huge nerd, so I’m taking notes.  TBA has been happening and things, so these are late.  This was the last proper class, the following week was a group critique.

Here are my notes from class, links that are related and the best parts of the readings:

Class notes: (Note—as points of Debord’s work was shown as slides, the salient points are included here as space allows, with a link back to the entire piece online. There were also a lot of in-class discussion quotes worth adding here, sadly I didn’t note who said what.)

  • “Well, with the day I’ve been having it will be interesting. About performance and audience, and civics, and spectacle, and media, and me being awkward.”
    -Opening slide in class, from C.O.P.S. professor Micheal Reinsch’s Facebook.
  • Wafaa Bilal
  • Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle
    • “The spectacle originates in the loss of the unity of the world, and the gigantic expansion of the modern spectacle expresses the totality of this loss: the abstraction of all specific labor and the general abstraction of the entirety of production are perfectly rendered in the spectacle, whose mode of being concrete is precisely abstraction. In the spectacle, one part of the world represents itself to the world and is superior to it. The spectacle is nothing more than the common language of this separation. What binds the spectators together is no more than an irreversible relation at the very center which maintains their isolation. The spectacle reunites the separate, but reunites it as separate.”
  • Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent
    • “QUESTION: When we talk about manufacturing of consent, whose consent is being manufactured?
      CHOMSKY: To start with, there are two different groups, we can get into more detail, but at the first level of approximation, there’s two targets for propaganda. One is what’s sometimes called the political class. There’s maybe twenty percent of the population which is relatively educated, more or less articulate, plays some kind of role in decision-making. They’re supposed to sort of participate in social life — either as managers, or cultural managers like teachers and writers and so on. They’re supposed to vote, they’re supposed to play some role in the way economic and political and cultural life goes on. Now their consent is crucial. So that’s one group that has to be deeply indoctrinated. Then there’s maybe eighty percent of the population whose main function is to follow orders and not think, and not to pay attention to anything — and they’re the ones who usually pay the costs.”
    • “A ruling or elite class dominates at the level of ideas, thus undermining any consciousness of change.”
      “The video shows Chomsky’s guiding belief to be that a decent society should maximize human need for creative work — not treat people as cogs in a machine so that the power elite can maintain control, continue private ownership of public resources and increase profits — all the while managing media content (while preserving the myth of a free press).”
      “17) Chomsky argues that people need to work to develop independent minds — maybe in part by forming COMMUNITY action groups with others with parallel interests and values, not in isolation, which is where the present system tends to keep people.”
      Key Points in “Manufacturing Consent”
  • Flash Mob robs 7-11
  • What is a flash mob?
  • BART Jams Cell Phone Service to Shut Down Protests
  • “The spectacle is the existing order’s uninterrupted discourse about itself, its laudatory monologue. . . If the social needs of the epoch in which such techniques are developed can only be satisfied through their mediation, if the administration of this society and all contact among men can no longer take place except through the intermediary of this power of instantaneous communication, it is because this “communication” is essentially unilateral. The concentration of “communication” is thus an accumulation, in the hands of the existing system’s administration, of the means which allow it to carry on this particular administration. . .” Debord, Society of the Spectacle(point 24)
  • “Exchange value could arise only as an agent of use value, but its victory by means of its own weapons created the conditions for its autonomous domination. Mobilizing all human use and establishing a monopoly over its satisfaction, exchange value has ended up by directing use. The process of exchange became identified with all possible use and reduced use to the mercy of exchange. Exchange value is the condottiere of use value who ends up waging the war for himself.” Debord, Society of the Spectacle (point 46)
  • “The tendency of use value to fall, this constant of capitalist economy, develops a new form of privation within increased survival: the new privation is not far removed from the old penury since it requires most men to participate as wage workers in the endless pursuit of its attainment, and since everyone knows he must submit or die. The reality of this blackmail accounts for the general acceptance of the illusion at the heart of the consumption of modern commodities: use in its most impoverished form (food and lodging) today exists only to the extent that it is imprisoned in the illusory wealth of increased survival. The real consumer becomes a consumer of illusions. The commodity is this factually real illusion, and the spectacle is its general manifestation.” Debord, Society of the Spectacle (point 47)
  • “In the inverted reality of the spectacle, use value (which was implicitly contained in exchange value) must now be explicitly proclaimed precisely because its factual reality is eroded by the overdeveloped commodity economy and because counterfeit life requires a pseudo-justification.” Debord, Society of the Spectacle (point 48)
  • Rirkrit Tiravanija, Untitled 1992 (Free)
    • The idea of power, art having power, an access to power?
  • Is there something intrinsic in the making of art that is accessible?
  • The inherent hostility of performance.
    • Look at me/experience me [The Who: Listening to You]
    • Internet disperses power?
      • How then can artists redefine power/control?
    • Commodity is people’s information, not created by powers necessarily in control (emperor’s new clothes).
    • Zine culture as an earlier version of this information/creation dispersal
    • “Given optimism, you can create something viral.”
    • Powers in control allowing appearance of freedom?*
    • Is it now easier to get and harder to hold attention?
  • Do the 80% feel like they don’t have access?
    • Do they care?
  • “At the end of the day, no piece of art has changed my mind about anything . . . philanthropy changes people’s lives.”
  • “[Art is] important, but doesn’t do anything.”
  • “[Art] is the safest place to be a dissenter.”
  • “People really selectively give a fuck.”
  • “There has to be an accumulative effect.”
  • Late capitalism
    • “What we must now ask ourselves is whether it is not precisely this semi-autonomy of the cultural sphere which has been destroyed by the logic of late capitalism. Yet to argue that culture is today no longer endowed with the relative autonomy it once enjoyed as one level among others in earlier moments of capitalism (let alone in pre-capitalist societies) is not necessarily to imply its disappearance or extinction. Quite the contrary; we must go on to affirm that the dissolution of an autonomous sphere of culture is rather to be imagined in terms of an explosion: a prodigious expansion of culture throughout the social realm, to the point at which everything in our social life – from economic value and state power to practices and to the very structure of the psyche itself – can be said to have become “cultural” in some original and yet untheorised sense. This proposition is, however, substantively quite consistent with the previous diagnosis of a society of the image or the simulacrum and a transformation of the “real” into so many pseudo-events.” Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.
  • Anonymous
    • Necessary anomalies [similar points noted previously here with a *]
      • You need an “other”
  • Does audience give and define power/agency? (Power/agency being value assigned)
    • Power is etymologically rooted in potential.
  • Every other career is rooted in the development of capital.
    • Other people don’t worry about it,
      • Artists worry about it.
  • Any time you create something with no capital value, is it a perversion of the system?
  • Does jealousy relate to legitimacy?
    • Does someone investing in your work equal legitimacy? How?
    • Not to judge for or against once money is involved.
      • Money-based capital is a measurable value.
  • Homo Aestheticus
    • The ability to label art because of leisure.
    • An increase in artistic careers in post-industrial society.
  • “As someone who makes art, you have to acknowledge your own hypocrisy.”
  • Use the modes of production to critique the modes of production.
  • “Fucker money”
    • To take money from fuckers, yet not yourself become a fucker.


  • Watch Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media

2 Thoughts to “C.O.P.S. Class notes: Audience as wind-up monkey 08/27/11”

  1. Kate Rafter

    I got down some of the remarks from this class.

    Re: Marxian Concept of Capital Accumulation, and post-Marxist theory:
    “our political system absorbs a [compelling] act of critical thinking and regurgitates it for its own purposes.” (Did Carney say that?) See instances of industry repurposing the social message of flash mobs for advertising.

    Re: Zine culture as an earlier version of this information/creation dispersal:
    Michael Reinsch talked about how Xerox was a huge deal in dissemination of information. It made anyone, with access to a machine, an independent press. Comparable to the access to free online publishing/social media. Which gets back to “the Internet disperses power.”

    Re: social media and “appearance of freedom”:
    These days Google search, Facebook newsfeed are curated/tailored to fit you. That’s media control.

    Re: Capital value:
    “Capital is the ability to influence.”
    “Capital is access?”

  2. Awesome grabs!

    I almost want to learn shorthand before next summer. Too much good, snappy dialogue.

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