Letter B

h+corp  were invited to write a series of ‘slow responses’ to COBRA. Below is the second instalment.


No.2 on Cobra. No. 2 because I want to talk about that thing which is the state. Last night I read about the suicide of Guantanamo attorney Andy P. Hart, federal public defender. He’s leaving behind an eleven year old daughter.

Trail of (the) suicide(d)

Dr. David Kelly  (UK Government whistleblower) – SUICIDE

Sean Hoare    (News of the World whistleblower) – SUICIDE

Garry Webb  („Iran Contra“ investigat. journalist) – SUICIDE

Aaron Schwartz (cyberactivist) – SUICIDE

Phillip Marshall (9.11 investigative author) – SUICIDE

Mark Lombardi  (artist investigating money flows) – SUICIDE

What you see here is a list of deaths which have officially been deemed suicides. What they all have in common is that the persons, in one way or another, were involved with the most intimate pursuits of the state. This selection is small yet delicious, comprising only a small number of those who rushed through my mind whilst contemplating the issue. It appears to me as if those who occupy themselves with the strategic kernels of the power structure loose their nerve and kill themselves

leaving behind sons, daughters, families as well as their unsanswered questions into the structures they were investigating. Could we construct a phenomenology of the state by contriving a map of those suicides happening at its fringes- A pluridimensional cartography of metadata connecting art, science, politics, technology and journalism: how would it look like ?

Let me return to my list: Is the information on their suicides plausible? Resolute voices and dignified posture cluster as op-ed pieces around the news-items which are burrying the death in surrogate certainty. They discount all speculation deviating from the officially accredited explanation as the product of paranoid delusion. The mannerly media-consumer concords with such forbidding voice (a voice he is intimately familiar with because it is his own forbidding voice) – because the government he knows holds no possible motive in perpetrating disdainful acts. Films, documentaries, tailored suits, and spectacular office complexes have taught him and his elders to admire this entity decades ago. Meanwhile the suicides will confirm to him what he had already fathomed: that the very act of opposition to this thing itself is most intimately amalgamated to an ailing and sickly spirit; that opposition is compulsive and of the domain of pathology.  He will consequently guard the appropriate distance from it – unconsciously yet all the more resolutely. Why investigate? Why diverge? Could we conclude any advocacy from these mechanisms and formulate a presumption about the nature of the state?

Perhaps that what we’re calling the state is a type of polarizing energy setting examples and creating zones of fragmentation and ambiguity which organize, attract or repulse information and allegiances; perhaps that state-action (if we were to advice an organizational principle for the PR of government agents)need always be construed according to the principle of plausible deniability- that non-space where information is neither affirmed nor denied: Because this ambiguity serves well its function in confirming to all who know that they know what they know. The state is that information which ensures the daily conduct of affairs and need not be proven because it is self-evident for a part of society sufficiently numerous to stabilize reality. Its strongest foundation is the collective will to narcosis of the masses. Opposition to that information therefore is what needs to clarify itself, be eloquent, explicit and in detail. The detainer of myth and commonplace need not be specific.

What lesson for an artistic response to Cobra? What lessons for a political project of art and design? Art as a political project naturally confers its ambigousness and thereby plausible deniability onto the information space of oppositional politics. Art as the ultimate domain of freedom must help politics to think closer to the fringes of reality and acceptable discourse again-  it energizes political opposition where the latter has previously become toothless in a modus operandi of cautious critique; it lends its flamboyance where opposition has been rendered limp and confidenceless by the penetrating gaze of the inquisitional tribunal of power.

That’s why from today on my speech is pure fiction…

Art is the last remaining space of freedom and its future is grand because its social function is the commodification and reinsertion as capital of broken hearts and shattered spirits and today the viral exuberant sprawl of urban creative expression renders evident the therapeutic necessity of artistic practice and everyone who came into our white cubes could feel that there was air to breath much more than in skies soiled with black helicopters, tracking signals, and aluminum dust and that we managed to corrupt all the sons and daughters of those sitting in the control rooms of democracy until they found nothing short of ridicule in their fathers’ bent backs and petty projects of global reach and that when finally and in the end they were raiding the premises they found only black splattered walls with cryptic narratives and unreadable signifiers undefinable yet so dense they broke the spell with which reality was taken hostage and that’s a response to Cobra and that’s my response to Cobra.


© COBRA RES 2013

One comment

  1. psh

    Check out ‘White-Out; The CIA, Drugs and the Press’ published by Verso. Gary Webb is (in)famous for his article “Dark Alliances” which detailed the CIA’s importation of cocaine to South Central LA. Also the documentary ‘American Drug War; the Great White Hope’ is excellent.

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