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Response to Latour I, Crisis, Production and Closed Communication

Katelynn Dunn

Divergent Mediums (Isolation and Closed Communication Channels),NYC. April 2020.

‘Culture detaches itself from the unity of the society of myth ‘when the power of unification disappears from the life of man and when opposites lose their living relation and interaction and acquire autonomy.’ [1]

Isolation continues every day. It is hard to say when it unofficially started. During this time, people are focused on reflecting, taking it easy and self-care. People use the word ‘mundane’ quite often.

Concerning production and the environment there is a positive overall from a global perspective, and that is what Bruno Latour discusses in the article, “What protective measures can you think of, so we don’t go back to the pre-crisis production model?” He says covid-19 is resocialising us in this moment while globalisation and capitalism wane, and we should use it to get ‘away from production as the overriding principle of our relationship to the world.’ [2] Within this experience, the world has been granted eyes to see that we have the ability to change and quickly. Production has halted throughout the globe due to the requirements of our governments. Movement has been blocked, borders closed everywhere, and we are all left to look to state leaders to make decisions about what to do after we slow the expanse of the new and mutating coronavirus. While we wait, we wonder what we should do without or what we could change to make the re-start for a new world a better place. Where are we going?

More question and reflection – ‘What are some suspended activities that you would like to see not coming back? Describe why this activity seems to you to be noxious/superfluous/dangerous/incoherent and how its disappearance/putting on hold/substitution might render other activities that you prefer easier/more coherent.’ [3] I am not sure I have the insight to say what we can do without yet. Feeling so close to the pandemic currently and being within the gears of the machine moving it makes it difficult to fully understand the implications. It feels like being in an already moving and working world of its own. The ‘coronavirus system’ is our life now, and we only function within it. Its power has shifted our attention and moved our pieces. We are required to adapt to it, to work with it and to govern it. Feelings of monotony, lack of freedom, lack of control, confinement, these are the feelings and words that come to mind. It is not right. Leisure is fine. Heaviness is not. We are without so much at this moment that there are more paths to thinking of things that we do need, especially from a non-materialistic point of view.

You feel the ebb of production in the environment, and it is not necessarily for the better. This is referring to the environment of ideas and its power, not of material production. It is important to be productive in our communication forming connection. It could be developed from having face to face or in person exchanges taking place. If this isn’t the case, it could be just as effective to have digital communication taking place, and then it is the activity between meeting that is most important for connection. One of the issues from this crisis is a decrease in the quality of communication, from a creative standpoint. Currently, we hear and see the same phrases repeated over and over due to absence of overall information available. We receive most information from media outlets as these are one of the main sources of communication while we are distanced from one another. It is mind-numbing and propagandist. We have more creative possibilities in a system with hyper connectivity and communication, because there are more channels to consciousness.

Creating is situational. Art is situational. It is most captivating when it happens in orbit, cyclically, and sequentially. Each movement feeds on the one before, or the ones around it, and it continuously changes. It requires a setting for us to deem it relevant, and to stir us into questioning our existence or to take action. The artist forms the structure of their own creative atmosphere. In the current moment, this structure is changing via the virus, and we must find ways to maintain our agency to have control of our art and of our own future. This becomes more difficult in an environment with less information due to reduced overall movement, and most notably in an environment with a dramatically sensed drop in movement. Stopping or interfering with movement is completely averse to decision making power of all people. In our world, movement, or activity between people, is equivalent to power and provides force needed to progress. It also provides the agency to see by allowing for different positions in society and therefore perspectives. ‘If we’re so oppressed, it’s because our movement’s being restricted.’ [4] People may have more time to concentrate on skills of a craft. However, the authority of art will not be felt as strongly. How do we avoid becoming spectators, and blind ones, when movement is blocked?

Hyper activity and communication in the globalized world is one that breeds significantly faster connections. This means there is more available information which creates more differentiated connections, language associations and diversity in the world. This leads to a deeply complex and unique evolution of rare ideas. This system proves creativity and is the artist’s world. While it leads to greater ‘pollution’ in the environment of ideas, which could be seen as a negative, the system with less communication and less information means less possibility (i.e. production) for people to contribute to building the world as they see it. It puts the power of thinking, idealizing, and constructing reality in the hands of those who have greater concentrated power, which will be fewer people. Social systems are flattened. This creates more equality and less conflict. However, it also decreases complexity between ideas and the overall need to question existence. To see the larger picture, and to have the ability to make a new system, one must have the connections to see, to have vision. With less production and activity, our vision is minimized, obstructed and reduced comparatively.

For artists and critics, what I believe will be the difficult aspect of this problem we are attempting to solve and system we are attempting to restructure is the current notion attached to creativity. To create is to produce, so to be creative is to be productive. To move away from production means to move away from creativity or inventiveness. How will we value art in the new world if we detach creativity from capitalism? Could we have a system of creativity within a non-capitalistic society? Why shouldn’t we value complexity of ideas? What could be a new definition of creative? Will quality of art improve with less people producing? Where will the force to create originate in the future?

Katelynn Dunn is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice is based on understanding philosophies of experience and image, patterns in society and the human psyche, artist process, power structures and systems and language.
[1] Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black & Red, 1983), 180.
[2] Bruno Latour, “What protective measures can you think of, so we don’t go back to the pre-crisis production model?,” AOC Media, March 29, 2020, les-gestes-barrieres-contre-le-retour-a-la-production-davant-crise/.
[3] Bruno Latour, “What protective measures can you think of, so we don’t go back to the pre-crisis production model?,” AOC Media, March 29, 2020, les-gestes-barrieres-contre-le-retour-a-la-production-davant-crise/.
[4] Gilles Deleuze, “Mediators,” in Negotiations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 121-134.
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