March 4, 2023 – Fuhrwerkswaage Kunstraum, Cologne, Germany


We live in the moment of cognitive capitalism in which the mental worker or cognitariat is sequestered alone in front of multiple screens, desktops and iPhones, swiping to the right and left and scrolling up and down as well as clicking a mouse. These swipes and clicks are recorded and collated to become what is referred to as Big Data. Big Data is then bought and sold to corporations, policing agencies, and governmental bodies to help track their subjects’ likes and dislikes creating, in the end, an algorithmic dividuality used to generate profit and surveillance. It also has a secondary effect of emphasizing certain patterns of choices which generate self-initiated digital feeds that reinforce attitudes and beliefs – in the end creating information silos that separate us. We are further isolated sensorially by the use of earbuds with which to listen to music and podcasts but which also disengages us from the outside world. A gaggle of politicians, well versed in the dispositifs of the new digital attention economy and social media, utilize these digital outcomes to further elaborate new forms of tribal warfare and extremism. As we all know, we are certainly in a very precarious moment. This condition is what Neidich calls dis-solidarity in contradistinction to solidarity, which has a long history of nurturing human bonds and comradery between individuals and workers as a form of emancipatory politics. According to Neidich, we are in a moment of degenerative solidarity.

The artwork DIS-SOLIDARITY uses the institutional structure of the Kunstverein to push back against this alienating condition. DIS-SOLIDARITY embraces and enhances the underlying institutional condition of the Kunstverein for supportive engagement, camaraderie and cohesion. A Kunstverein is constituted by a group of people or comrades who come together to support cultural institutions and dig deep into their own pockets to do so. This work elaborates new forms of togetherness to overcome the conditions of DIS-SOLIDARITY. It engages with their sense of companionship as a reaction against the reigning digital and algorithmic governance. Each member of the Kunstverein purchases one of the letters of the neon artwork and takes it home with them. Each letter has an individual backing and its own transformer. The process requires negotiation as it is probable that one letter or some letters will be preferred by more than one member. It requires kindness, generosity, and flexibility to agree upon the final outcome: the purchase of all letters. Each member takes one letter home and cares for it there until the time comes, to be decided by the group, to reconvene and assemble the work once again in their Kunstverein. It is this annual social engagement and form of togetherness that it generates that constitutes the real meaning of the work. —Warren Neidich, 2023

From the Society of the Spectacle to the Consciousness Industry

From the Society of the Spectacle to the Consciousness Industry

September 30 – October 10, 2022
Digital Art Festival Taipei 2022

Gallery Page

INTERVIEW: “Post-Truth Society and Activist Neuroaesthetics” by Hsiang-Yun Huang

The Brain Without Organs: An Aporia of Care

Installation view, Warren Neidich: The Brain Without Organs: The Aporia of Care, at Museum of Neon Art, California, 2022. Courtesy the Museum of Neon Art.

Warren Neidich:
The Brain Without Organs: An Aporia of Care

September 2022 by Anuradha Vikram


“In a neurological sense, humans are already biological machines, in that our thoughts and actions are powered by electrical synapses. These countless tiny surges travel through the vast crenulated landscape of the brain, transported by axons that act as conduits to move energy from one place to another. For Warren Neidich, who studied neurobiology before becoming a conceptual artist, the workings of the brain are an endless source of fascination. His exhibition at the Museum of Neon Art, The Brain Without Organs: An Aporia of Care, takes a radically deconstructive approach to the brain as a material organ and as an emblem of human intellect, the source of our unique evolutionary advantage.” – Anuradha Vikram

The Hybrid Dialectics

The Hybrid Dialectics

March 2022 interview by Erik Morse


“This interview between the writer and critic Erik Morse and the artist and theorist Warren Neidich took place over the course of two months in the fall/winter 2021–2022. The interview focuses on a body of work entitled the Hybrid Dialectics produced between 1997–2002 that served as bridge between his earlier performative reenactments and fictitious documents entitled, American History Reinvented, 1985–1993, and his more recent neon sculptures most notably the Pizzagate Neon, 2017–2021 and his A Proposition for an alt Parthenon Marbles Recoded: The Phantom as Other (2021–2022). Neidich’s project extends his interdisciplinary experiments carried out in the fields of cinema studies, structural film and apparatus theory which foregrounded cinematic devices and tools at the expense of the image. This forms the foundation of Neidich’s engagement with photographic medium as a form of politicized aesthetics embedded in a bidirectional embodied and extended cognition. His hybrid dialectics take off where artists like Michael Snow and Tony Conrad left off.” – Erik Morse

Galaxy Brain

Warren Neidich. A Proposition for an Alt-Parthenon Marbles Recoded: The Phantom as Other, 2021.

Galaxy Brain

June 21, 2021 by Erik Morse


“Neuroaesthetics’ persistent fascination with a Kurzweilian “post-everything” future tense results in an ambitious project: Attempting to thread the interdisciplinary needle between the determinism of neuroscience and the subjectivism of aesthetics, it risks the rebuke of both disciplines. Moreover, it must maintain a vigilant campaign of reconnaissance and decryption at the vanguards of both art and science, all the while resisting the accelerating rhythms of capital that undergird both.” – Erik Morse

A Proposition for an Alt-Parthenon Marbles Recoded: The Phantom as Other

Warren Neidich. A Proposition for an Alt-Parthenon Marbles Recoded: The Phantom as Other, 2021.

A Proposition for an Alt-Parthenon Marbles Recoded: The Phantom as Other

May 18 – August 21, 2021
Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz e.V.
Berlin, Germany

Gallery Page

In this diagram of a complex assemblage of AIs the psychic energy generated by the phantom limbs is the dominant input through the input layer which sculpts the efficiencies of the connections and synapses of the ANN. But in this case this input is modulated by another source of input from the combined choices made by individuals interacting with the entity through the use of VR-Brain Computer Headsets as well as Eye Tracking Software. Their attention to the various components of the entity also produces data that sculpts the ANN and is responsible for its changing patterns. You notice that some of the words and stringy like structures are black and others are becoming intense in time. That the organization of the Virtual sculpture is constantly changing. The structure is an emerging and generative structure created by the  combined psychic data emanating from the subjects interacting and making choices about what to pay attention to and  the immersive environment and the psychic energy of the phantoms. In the end the subjects are on the one hand looking at the self-reflexive entity they are together producing and the artwork makes visible and opaque the usually invisible and transparent quality of mindedness.

Warren Neidich on 'the Emancipatory Capacity of Art'

Photo: James Salomon

Warren Neidich on 'the Emancipatory Capacity of Art'

December 10, 2020 by Mark Segal


“I’m a wet conceptual artist because I want beauty and relevance to be a doorway to enter the work. I am also a 1970s Minimalist in many ways. I have tried to move their phenomenologically based work dependent on sensory experience to one that could be considered post-phenomenological and based on the conceptualizing brain. I engage with the past, but I’m trying to move the discussion in a different direction.” – Warren Neidich

Even with Museums Closed, Art Finds a Way Through Public Spaces

Lisa Auerbach's haiku at Ace Hotel | Courtesy of Ace Hotel DTLA

Even with Museums Closed, Art Finds a Way Through Public Spaces

November 10, 2020 by Jean Trinh


“Chief Curator Warren Neidich knew a theater marquee would be the perfect canvas for his text art project when he realized these venues weren’t being used during the pandemic. He contacted the Theatre at Ace Hotel and organized a curatorial team composed of Andrew Berardini, Rita Gonzalez and Joseph Mosconi. They brought together 10 artists for “5 – 7 – 5,” the name of which is a nod to the syllable structure of a haiku.” – Jean Trinh

The Neural Battlefield of Cognitive Capitalism

The Glossary of Cognitive Activism (For a Not So Distant Future) by Warren Neidich (Archive/Anagram) >>buy the book

The Neural Battlefield of Cognitive Capitalism

November 6, 2020 by Anders Dunker


“The 2019 second edition of The Glossary of Cognitive Activism (For a Not So Distant Future) is a companion to the three-volume anthology Neidich co-edited entitled The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism (2013–’17), a highly collaborative project that emerged out of a series of conferences in Los Angeles, Berlin, and London. Drawing upon the wellspring of critical terminologies featured in those books, as well as in his own work, Neidich’s Glossary can be enjoyed as a stand-alone text: a timely reference for the perplexed, a navigational tool in the post-truth era, a roadmap for creative radicals, a strategic chart of a mental war zone, and a program of cultural healing. As Neidich’s installations of proliferating mind-maps amply illustrate, at the center of the artist’s work is the connecting, tracing, and modifying of networks on different levels. The Glossary seems to be intended, first and foremost, as an instrument for reclaiming one’s mental life at a time when it is being hijacked in ever more sophisticated ways. The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism canvassed a wide range of the resultant problems, from attention deficit disorder and insomnia to more opaque forms of maladjustment, alienation, and panic — all the consequence of a new wave of infiltration and colonization of the mind and brain.” – Anders Dunker

The Abyss of Uncertainty

The Abyss of Uncertainty

October 28, 2020 by James Salomon


“Warren and I knew each other from another era, and I’ve been watching (from a safe distance) what he’s been up to lately. His Drive-By-Art exhibition project was a stroke of genius and ingenuity because it came at a time when many artists felt hopeless and irrelevant under the circumstances (feelings not limited to artists – ahem – by the way). It was a shot in the arm, a morale booster. He then smartly took the concept to LA.” – James Salomon

Bring on the Night

Warren Neidich’s “Cruise” (2019) projected onto Gerson Leiber's “The Human Condition” (2007).

Bring on the Night

September 2020 by James Salomon


“The Leiber Foundation Garden is a fantastic romantic reproduction of a simulated fantasy generated by an artificial reality based on infinite data points related to gardens making up its encrypted memory. It is not real even though we think it is and act as if it is so. We play at keeping the fantasy of its unreality unknown. One glitch however is unconcealed as an imperfect warped stump sitting alone with no time log in.” – Warren Neidich

Artists Are Essential Workers

Artists Are Essential Workers

September 23, 2020


“In his piece, Neidich utilizes the ready-made highway message board to shout out his provocative message to an artist community ravaged by the pandemic. Half of all museums and artist studios are on the brink of collapse. Can one say that artists are essential workers and art is an essential service especially at this moment of COVID-19?”

Artists Are Essential Workers

Artists Are Essential Workers

September 21, 2020


“In his piece, Neidich utilizes the ready-made highway message board to shout out his provocative message to an artist community ravaged by the pandemic. Half of all museums and artist studios are on the brink of collapse. Can one say that artists are essential workers and art is an essential service, especially at this moment of COVID-19?”

Pizzagate - From Rumor To Delusion

Pizzagate - From Rumor To Delusion

video clip for online catalogue


“We have now entered into a new era some have called the post-truth society characterized by a deluge of fictive mediated stories dubbed Fake News. One of these stories, Pizzagate concerns the conspiracy theory, circulated at the end of the Trump-Clinton presidential election, that accused Hillary Clinton and other members of her Democratic election committee of running a childhood sex ring in the basement of Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant. As preposterous as this is, many people believed it and the story went viral.” – Warren Neidich

Signs are Everywhere

Photos: Christina Catherine Martinez.
The author‘s car being cleaned at Kool Kat’s Kare Wash.

Signs are Everywhere

June 10, 2020 by Christina Catherine Martinez


“The drive to Venice from northeast LA took only twenty minutes—a rare thrill, edged with guilt. “This is where the elderly live, so you might not know that many of us,” architect Kulapat Yantrasast said, laughing, as I pulled up to his house for Kool Kat’s Kare Wash, a performance that offered attendees a free car wash (executed by assistants), a glass of white wine or Perrier, and an Ivy League–ish looking bumper sticker reading, “Proud Survivors: Homeschool University”—a cheeky nod to families with students homebound by Covid-19, though as a former homeschooler myself, I pasted it on my red 1997 Mazda Miata without irony. For being the go-to architect of such imposing LA art temples as the ICA, David Kordansky Gallery, and the now-shuttered Marciano Art Foundation, Yantrasast grokked the underlying pathos of such an encounter-hungry endeavor as Drive-By-Art. The performance was a low-key act of service that achieved the kind of causal connection rarely captured by the gravid connotations of cabalistic argot like relational aesthetics—but it was a sterling example of it.” – Christina Catherine Martinez


Interview: Warren Neidich

May 16, 2020 by Brainard Carey


AUDIO: See direct link for audio interview.
VIDEO (left): Interview with Brainard Carey on Drive-By-Art (November 2020).

A Drive-By Art Show Turns Lawns and Garages Into Galleries

Paintings by Darius Yektai. Photo: Bryan Derballa for The New York Times
Sabina Streeter in Sag Harbor. Photo: Bryan Derballa for The New York Times

A Drive-By Art Show Turns Lawns and Garages Into Galleries

May 11, 2020 by Stacey Stowe


“No one was supposed to get too close to each other over the weekend during a drive-by exhibition of works by 52 artists on the South Fork of Long Island — a dose of culture amid the sterile isolation imposed by the pandemic. But some people couldn’t help themselves.

“At least this one looks like art,” said one man, as he stepped out of a convertible BMW onto the driveway of a rustic home in Sag Harbor on Saturday. He and two others examined the paintings, a cheeky homage to old masters by Darius Yektai that were affixed to two-by-fours nailed to trees. “Not like the other stuff.”

“The other stuff” was on display on the lawns, porches, driveways and garage doors at properties from Hampton Bays to Montauk, some from prominent artists and others by those lesser known. On a windy, blue-skied weekend, most people drove but others came on foot or by bicycle for the show, “Drive-By-Art (Public Art in This Moment of Social Distancing).”” –

INTERVIEW: Kunstforum International

Warren Neidich: Aktivistische Neuroästhetik als künstlerische Praxis in der Post-Wahrheitsgesellschaft (Activist Neuroesthetics as Artistic Practice in the Post-Truth Society)

Bd. 267 - post-futuristisch. (Mai 2020) von Ann-Katrin Günzel
Vol. 267 - post-futuristic. (May 2020) by Ann-Katrin Günzel


“Im kognitiven Kapitalismus sind Gehirn und Geist die neuen Fabriken des 21. Jahrhunderts. Wir sind keine Fließbandarbeiter mehr, die Dinge herstellen, sondern mentale Arbeiter vor Bildschirmen, Kognitariate, mit der Welt an unseren Fingerspitzen, die Daten mit unseren Suchanfragen und Reaktionen in den sozialen Medien erstellen. Die Daten, die wir produzieren, werden nicht einfach zusammengestellt und analysiert, um unsere Einkaufstendenzen vorherzusagen, sondern aktiv verknüpft, um unsere Subjektivität zu gestalten, indem sie auf die Formbarkeit unseres Gehirns einwirken. Der Kognitive Kapitalismus ist aus dem italienischen Opera ismus und dem Post-Operaismus entstanden und ist in eine frühe und eine späte Phase unterteilt. Die frühe Phase ist von Prekarität, dem pausenlosen Arbeiten 24 / 7, der Verwertung, der Finanzialisierung von Kapital und Herdenverhalten, kommunikativem Kapitalismus und immaterieller oder performativer Arbeit geprägt. Die spätere Phase, in der wir uns heute befinden und die für mein Pizzagate Neon und das Video wichtig ist, subsumiert die frühere Phase, fügt aber eine zusätzliche Ebene hinzu. Der Fokus liegt nun auf dem materiellen Gehirn, insbesondere auf seinem neuronalen plastischen Potenzial, indem es die ihm innewohnende Wandelbarkeit normalisiert und dabei die neuronale Vielfalt in einer verschiedenartigen Population von Gehirnen und Köpfen homogenisiert.”  – Warren Neidich

ENGLISH: “In cognitive capitalism the brain and the mind are the new factories of the 21st century. We are no longer proletariats physically working on assembly lines making things but cognitariats using mental labor in front of screens with the world at our fingertips creating data with our searches and reactions on social media. The data we produce is not simply collated and analyzed to predict our shopping tendencies but actively engaged in shaping our subjectivities through acting on our brains malleability. Cognitive Capitalism emerges from Italian Operaismo and Post-Operaismo and is divided into an early phase and late phase. The early phase is characterized by precarity, working 24/7, valorization, the financialization of capital and herd behavior, communicative capitalism and immaterial or performative labor. The later stage, in which we find ourselves today and which is important for my Pizzagate neon and video, subsumes its earlier phase but adds an additional layer. Its focus of power is now concentrated on the material brain, especially its neural plastic potential, normalizing its inherent variability and in the process homogenizing the neural diversity across a diverse population of brains and minds.” – Warren Neidich

Noise and the Possibility of a Future

Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello (Venice Conservatory of Music)

Noise and the Possibility of a Future

NOVEMBER 21, 2019
AplusA Gallery

NOVEMBER 22, 2019
Venice Conservatory of Music

NOVEMBER 23, 2019
Zuecca Project Space

Gallery Page

A three-day event of performances, lectures and screenings

Zuecca Projects is happy to announce “Noise and the Possibility of a Future”, a four-day happening consisting of lectures, sound works, workshops and performances taking place at different locations in Venice, and focused on the cultural and political potentialities of noise.

Initiated in collaboration with Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto MarcelloAplusA Gallery and bruno, “Noise and the Possibility of a Future” celebrates and accompanies Warren Neidich´s solo exhibition “Rumor to Delusion” which is currently on view at the Zuecca Project Space as part of the La Biennale di Venezia.

Noise is prevalent in our postindustrial society, whether it be the cacophony of the factory, the war machine that inspired such Futurists as Luigi Russolo, the dissonance of the public space, or the loud music blaring over a loudspeaker in a mall. Noise gets a bad rap as something considered offensive and that needs to be controlled or mitigated. However, noise has another side more positive and emancipatory. These events stake a claim for noise as a liberating mode of production.

Noise and the Possibility of a Future

November 21-23, 2019
Venice Conservatory of Music
Venice, Italy

Untuning Three Black Steinway Pianos at Three Times During the Day

Video, 22:24
In “Untuning,” three piano tuners were asked to untune the same Steinway piano at the three times during the day to what they considered maximum entropy.


Video, 10:20
“Cruise” follows the journey of the cruise boat Rhapsody of the Seas through the Canal della Giudecca in Venice Italy accompanied by the speech that Greta Thunberg gave at the UN set to death metal.

Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion

Video, 19:19
"Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion" is an experimental documentary that describes our post-truth society through the Pizzagate fake news story.

Untuning Three Black Steinway Pianos at Three Times During the Day

Untuning Three Black Steinway Pianos at Three Times During the Day (2019)

Video, 22:24

In “Untuning,” three piano tuners were asked to untune the same Steinway piano at the three times during the day to what they considered maximum entropy. The soundtracks of the three videos were then mashed.

Noise and the Possibility of a Future

November 21-23, 2019
Venice Conservatory of Music
Venice, Italy

Untuning Three Black Steinway Pianos at Three Times During the Day

Video, 22:24
In “Untuning,” three piano tuners were asked to untune the same Steinway piano at the three times during the day to what they considered maximum entropy.


Video, 10:20
“Cruise” follows the journey of the cruise boat Rhapsody of the Seas through the Canal della Giudecca in Venice Italy accompanied by the speech that Greta Thunberg gave at the UN set to death metal.

Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion

Video, 19:19
"Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion" is an experimental documentary that describes our post-truth society through the Pizzagate fake news story.

COGNITIVE CAPITALISM: Neidich, Denny, Popescu, Harney, and Ndikung at the SFSIA Berlin

Simon Denny. Founders Board Game Display Prototype (Detail), 2017.

COGNITIVE CAPITALISM: Neidich, Denny, Popescu, Harney, and Ndikung at the SFSIA Berlin

August 2, 2019 by Niklas Egberts


Niklas Egberts: Let’s start by talking about the central topic of the summer school. What constitutes capitalism’s becoming cognitive? 

Warren Neidich: The mind and the brain are the new factories of the 21st century. We no longer work on assembly lines, producing things with our hands; instead, we work on various platforms on the Internet. There is a term for this new precarious class: it’s called the cognitariat. We are constantly producing data through searching and communicating online. That data, is crucially important to the way that feelings and emotions have become commoditized, all the while creating huge profits for the corporate elite.

The idea of cognitive capitalism is generated by the thought that the brain is not simply inside the skull but is also external to it, consisting of social, cultural, political and technological networks that are constantly evolving. These changing conditions in the world are recorded and activate changes in the mutable architecture of the brain – in a word, neuroplasticity.


Cruise (2019)

Video, 10:20

“Cruise” follows the journey of the cruise boat Rhapsody of the Seas through the Canal della Giudecca in Venice Italy accompanied by the speech that Greta Thunberg gave at the UN set to death metal music. The video finishes with a rolling list of environmental offenses caused by these ships.

password: hello

Noise and the Possibility of a Future

November 21-23, 2019
Venice Conservatory of Music
Venice, Italy

Untuning Three Black Steinway Pianos at Three Times During the Day

Video, 22:24
In “Untuning,” three piano tuners were asked to untune the same Steinway piano at the three times during the day to what they considered maximum entropy.


Video, 10:20
“Cruise” follows the journey of the cruise boat Rhapsody of the Seas through the Canal della Giudecca in Venice Italy accompanied by the speech that Greta Thunberg gave at the UN set to death metal.

Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion

Video, 19:19
"Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion" is an experimental documentary that describes our post-truth society through the Pizzagate fake news story.

Bellinis, sex and self-loathing: the diary of a party crasher at the Venice Biennale

Bellinis, sex and self-loathing: the diary of a party crasher at the Venice Biennale

June 17, 2019 by Christopher Taylor


“It’s my birthday. It’s not. It’s tomorrow, but I’m not going to let the opportunity to dine out on it pass me by. I drop in quickly at an installation to do with Carpenters workshop gallery at Ca’ D’Oro followed by an exquisite show at a popup of the legendary Colnaghi gallery. I also manage to take in a standout light installation by Warren Neidich at the Zuecca Project space Giudecca.” – Christopher Taylor

Historic Bauer Palladio Hotel Offers Prime Access To Venice's Newest Contemporary Art District

Rumor to Delusion at Zuecca Project Space. PAUL ALLEN/ANDFOTOGRAPHY.COM

Historic Bauer Palladio Hotel Offers Prime Access To Venice's Newest Contemporary Art District

May 25, 2019 by Joanne Shurvell


“Giudecca Island, a ten minute ride across the grand canal by public vaporetto, has had a strong association with contemporary art for a while so it’s no surprise that it has just officially launched itself as Venice’s newest art district. The Venice Biennale Arte has used spaces on the island since the 1980s. And before that, in 1976, Giudecca was the site of various performances by Marina Abramović.” – Joanne Shurvell

Twelve Essential Offsite Exhibitions Of The 2019 Venice Biennale

Rumor to Delusion at Zuecca Project Space. PAUL ALLEN/ANDFOTOGRAPHY.COM

Twelve Essential Offsite Exhibitions Of The 2019 Venice Biennale

May 19, 2019 by Joanne Shurvell


“Zuecca Projects on Guidecca island hosts American artist Warren Neidich’s solo exhibition Rumor to Delusion. The centerpiece of the show is a colorful neon display of words referencing the crazy “Pizzagate” fake news story of the 2016 Presidential campaign that accused Hillary Clinton and her staff of running a child sex slave ring out of the basement of the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington D.C.” – Joanne Shurvell

FAD Magazine Venice Biennale Top 10

FAD Magazine Venice Biennale Top 10

May 17, 2019 by Lee Sharrock


“Warren Neidich’s punchy installation ‘Rumor to Delusion’ at Zuecca Project Space leaves a huge impression with its sensory overload of a 3 dimensional neon sculpture reflected in a giant mirror, juxtaposed by a multi-screen news channel spouting various forms of ‘fake news’. Inspired by the Pizzagate conspiracy and the contemporary post-truth era, Neidich presents a complex web of fabricated stories and hacked emails, which tell a dark story behind the rainbow-coloured sculpture. Curated by Lauri Firstenberg and Antonia Alampi, Neidich’s astute exhibition examines the Trump malaise of fake news through the bizarre Pizzagate myth, which was a fabricated story leading to a witch-hunt of American high fliers such as Hillary Clinton and legendary art world figures including Marina Abramovic.” – Lee Sharrock

‘I Didn’t Want My Art to Come Out While I Was an Actress’: At the Venice Biennale, Rose McGowan Reflects on Her New Life as an Artist

Rose McGowan at “Rumor to Delusion.” Photo: Sarah Cascone.

‘I Didn’t Want My Art to Come Out While I Was an Actress’: At the Venice Biennale, Rose McGowan Reflects on Her New Life as an Artist

May 14, 2019 by Sarah Cascone


On Cognitive Capitalism

On Cognitive Capitalism: An Interview with Warren Neidich by Hans Ulrich Obrist

Printed in 2000 copies on the occasion of the exhibition "Rumor to Delusion" by Warren Neidich, curated by Lauri Firstenberg and Antonia Alampi.
58th Venice Biennale, Zuecca project space, Venice. May 10 – July 31, 2019


Following the 2018 Berlin edition of Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art (SFSIA), Hans Ulrich Obrist sat down with founder and director Warren Neidich to ask about cognitive capitalism, the overarching theme of the institute, and how it relates to his own expanded artistic practice. SFSIA is a nomadic, intensive summer academy (co-directed with Barry Schwabsky) with shifting programs in contemporary critical theory that stresses an interdisciplinary approach to the relationship between art and politics. SFSIA 2018 | Berlin, titled “Art and the Poetics of Praxis in Cognitive Capitalism,” built on the critical concerns of past programs—estrangement, individuation, and collectivity—in order to consider the performative power of poetry.

Hans Ulrich Obrist: As we are meeting in the context of the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art (SFSIA) which, as an artist and curator, you founded and have directed for the last four summers under the theme of ‘cognitive capitalism,’ I thought it would be interesting to start with the question: How would you define cognitive capitalism?

Warren S. Neidich: First of all, thank you for teaching this summer at SFSIA. I might start by mentioning that there’s already an excellent book on the subject by Yann Moulier-Boutang in which he lays the groundwork for understanding this term, and also, like yourself, Yann is a regularly returning faculty at SFSIA.1 In Cognitive Capitalism, Moulier-Boutang places the beginning of cognitive capitalism at around 1975 at a moment of profound crisis in the economy caused by the beginning of the cybernetic revolution. New technologies converged with social, political and cultural conditions to create new forms of accumulation and positive and negative externalities. Together these placed new pressures upon dead and living labor. A new form of non-linear, distributed machinic intelligence began to predominate and reconfigured the workplace and the workers’ role. Participatory workers were released from the assembly line and found themselves in front of a computer screen with access to a universe of knowledge at their fingertips.

Building on the earlier work of Romano Alquati, Raniero Panzieri, Mario Tronti and Tony Negri, a group of Italian political philosophers (Maurizio Lazzarato, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Christian Marazzi, Silvia Federici and many others) began publishing in the journal Classe Operaia. They were early in predicting the effect on society brought about by these newly evolving forms of work. They understood the cybernetic future way ahead of anybody else and they realised that the new information age would change the way that people worked and lived, and they called this “cognitive capitalism.” Performance and immaterial labor became the predominant forms of labor in what would become known as “early cognitive capitalism.” Emotions, affects and feelings, once outside the scope and concern of capitalism, formed cognitive capitalism’s central core, and now were able to be capitalized. Immaterial labor became essential components of subject and subjectivity.

At that time, cognitive capitalism consisted of five or six components, and if you went to any of the biennials last year it was almost like every artist was taking a different theme from the annals of early cognitive capitalism, illustrating it in their own specific way. Ideas such as precarity, valorization, the financialization of capital, immaterial labor, communicative capitalism and real subsumption formed the conceptual frameworks they emphasized.

HUO: Some people may not be familiar with these terms. Could you briefly describe them?

WSN: Sure. The first element would be precarity. Labor became precarious and this began to pose a threat to stability of income and lifestyle. So “precarity” is a word that you hear all the time. Life has become unstable. In former times, in the days of our parents, there was the idea that a stable work environment and a secure job occurred within the time frame of set hours. One was a “company man” or “company woman.” In today’s flexible economy, one is now a freelancer or free agent, especially in ‘creative culture’ where everyone is an artist of one kind or another, and working from home is becoming increasingly normal. Precarity also suggests that everybody is teleworking alone and isolated from direct contact with others. Instead they are working and waiting by their computers, or iPhones, awaiting the next tweet, Facebook post, or email informing them of their next job opportunity. Which, by the way, might mean “prosuming” with other designers online, chatting with other members of a think tank, or even searching data, which creates data that is later bought and sold. As a consequence there’s this kind of edginess, an unease, that we experience as we are linked by our iPhones as nodes in an immense communicative network which is also creating a lot of anxiety. This is the idea of precarity.

HUO: Precarity also means the end of all safety nets in a way – so people are worried.

WSN: Yes, people are worried and in a state of unease that permeates society as a whole. Also, there’s another definition of precarity that concerns a kind of struggle taking place in consciousness itself. That ‘real’ memory, the directly experienced memory of objects and activities performed in the material world, is being subsumed by virtual memory. In other words, the memories that we are engaged with in the virtuality of the simulacrum, as Baudrillard put it back in the 1980s, where the simulated world becomes the dominant context within which we experience the world and digital objects and relations from that world outcompete their real world counterparts for the synaptic spaces that constitute the neural architecture of the connectome, the elaborate matrix of neural connections of the brain. These simulated images are mechanically engineered images of attention, what Paul Virilio called ‘phatic images’, in other words more emphatic images. Accordingly, borrowing from the ideas of Gerald Edelman and Jean-Pierre Changeux, they act as powerful neural-plastic modulators and they outcompete so-called ‘real world’ relations. If, in fact, we can even consider anything real, for the brain’s neural space.

We’re spending more and more of our waking time on the internet and, as a result, a greater and greater proportion of our conscious time is being spent interacting with the constructed and engineered sensory data of the net. Now the images and sensations we experience are modified further by software agents creating image bubbles based on our past searches which, as a result, seem closer and more familiar. These images capture our attention more intensely. Attention has been shown to be very important for the production of memories. As a consequence our memories, the images we remember, are a kind of combination now. They’re a collage of both ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ memories and, to a certain extent, the virtual memories are more powerful. This is what I wrote in my book Blow Up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain back in 2003. I understood the crisis of the main character Thomas, at the end of the movie Blow Up, as a confusion occurring between these two forms of memory reconstituted in the mind’s eye (or working memory) and what Gilles Deleuze called the image of thought. As I explained, Thomas’ memory was precarious in that he could no longer determine the location and source of the memories he retrieved. He could no longer tell which memories were from the archive of his own photographic practice, especially those from the pictures he made of an affair between two lovers in a park which he enlarges (blows up) in the dark room and those generated from his own memories from his personal experiences and relations with the real and natural world, so-called ‘real’ memories. The fictive tennis match he plays and performs at the end of the movie represents a crisis of precarious memory and, as such, a form of induced schizophrenia. That is what creates the crisis of precarity.

The second aspect of cognitive capitalism is referred to as “24/7” and, of course, Jonathan Crary’s book 24/7 is a great resource for further reading. Whereas previously we had a workplace we went to everyday from 9 to 5 (whether it was a bureau or a factory) and then we would go home and enjoy our leisure time, today everything is work. We never stop working. As opposed to the previous model, which Marx called “formal subsumption,” this he called “real subsumption.” Everything that we do now is work. We go to a party and check our emails and see a friend’s Facebook post and we ‘like’ it or we don’t, and we post an image of the party on Instagram. We are constantly working. Our Facebook likes and Instagram posts are data that become part of the “big data” network, and this data helps to produce a singular data profile that is then used by corporations to invite us to like and dislike certain of their products. We are constantly working and we are working for free. We have made a Faustian pact, a kind of agreement with these companies – with Facebook, which gives us a lot of joy and pleasure, or Google, which makes us smarter because it gives us access to a shared, cooperative encyclopedia of knowledge at our fingertips. We have made that contract and so 24/7 is the second component of cognitive capitalism. In my upcoming book, The Glossary of Cognitive Activism, I have coined the term ‘neuro-subsumption’ and stress that in the future, as our brains are hooked up to the internet, there is a possibility that even our unconscious, and non-conscious (or implicit neural activity), will be monitored and coded. This will mean that every one of our thoughts will be transformed into data and end up circulating in the cloud.

The third component of cognitive capitalism is what is called the ‘valorisation economy,’ which is related both to precarity and these other things that we have been talking about because the valorisation economy substitutes valorisation for value. Value is still around, but it is subsumed. Through interventions in the social mind by advertising, public relations, rumor and fake news, a commodity gains added value. Corporations (and governments) are no longer selling the object – the car, or the material. They are selling the experience of the car. Imagine a commercial in which two beautiful people are driving down Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast of California, wind blowing in the woman’s hair. This incredible experience is communicated to the viewer like a movie. That’s all part of valorisation. A Nike shoe, which costs $17 to make in the Philippines, becomes £117 on the high street. This increase in value is added by its capacity to be valorized by the social hive mind – the importance of having celebrity basketball players wearing the shoe is an essential component of this story. This is the key to cognitive capitalism. The production of the object, of this shoe for instance, doesn’t end when it comes off the assembly line, but is constituted in the social mind and in the neural networks of the brain. This is the new form of work, or mental labor, in cognitive capitalism. The work is unpaid, but actually generates added value for the corporation selling the object. It is important to note that when I talk about the ‘brain,’ I’m not only talking about the thing inside your skull. I’m talking about the situated body as well, and I’m talking about everything in our world that we interact with. Neural plasticity and cultural plasticity are con-substantiated and evolve together. The sociological and semiotic conditions of the cultural milieu are all extended and externalized capacities of the brain, and one can say that if these capacities were intracranial instead of extracranial we would call them cognitive.

HUO: How does cognitive capitalism enter your artwork? How does it enter the practice of art in general? I was looking at your book, The Color of Politics, yesterday and it’s a kind of A-to-Z, an alphabet of your different neon works which connect internet phenomena and society. Some of them are platforms, like 4chan, while others are names of people, or protagonists, like Barack Obama. Others are basically neologisms. Can you talk a little bit about this?

WSN: To answer, I would like to continue this discussion about cognitive capitalism because my artwork is the contribution I have made to understanding it. First of all, I don’t consider writing, organizing and theorizing as separate from my art practice. As Deleuze stated, artworks create new sensations and my artwork takes its point of departure from that seminal idea. I understand my work in the context of what I refer to as a ‘wet’ conceptualism, as opposed to a ‘dry’ conceptualism. In ‘dry’ conceptual practices, such as the early work of Joseph Kosuth, the immaterial works of Robert Barry, or the works of Sol Lewitt, beauty is drained from the work of art in order to make it as purely disinterested and as cognitive as possible – to remove its capacity for emotion that played such an important role in Kant’s analysis of beauty in his “Critique of Aesthetic Judgement.” According to the ‘dry’ conceptualist position, beauty and emotion muddle the interpretation and experience of the concept of the work. Sol Lewitt famously stated that the idea is the most important aspect of the work, that all planning and decisions should be made beforehand, and execution is a perfunctory affair.

In ‘wet’ conceptualism, beauty is not considered a hindrance to the reception of the work of art as a theoretically-driven conceptual and cognitive construct. It is a door through which the visitor can enter the work. In fact, it accentuates it. All decisions are not made beforehand and production is an important part of the process of creation, including decisions made mid-stream. However, ‘wet’ conceptualism is also not concerned with essences or universality, but rather its singular capacity to be understood and appreciated by the multitude. However, ‘wet’ conceptualism is pertinent to our times in relation to cognitive capitalism because instead of being directed to the senses and perceptions, it is directed to the organic, living apparatuses of the neural-plastic brain. It has the capacity to transform and emancipate the cognitariat’s thought processes in the mind’s eye. In late-stage cognitive capitalism, ‘wet’ conceptual art produces changes in the intracranial and extracranial brain – redefinition put to work.

HUO: How so? Is this what you have meant by “activist neuroaesthetics”?

WSN: In 1996, I co-founded (with Nathalie Angles) the website www.artbrain.org and the The Journal of Neuroaesthetics in which I put forth the notion of an activist neuroaesthetics. Rather than a positivist, or empirical, neural aesthetics promoted by neuroscience which attempts to subsume artistic processes of creativity and exploration and substitute it with a scientific one, the activist understands that art has the capacity to deterritorialize neuroscience and challenges its authority as the only proper research methodology pertaining to the distribution of the sensible. It understands positivist neuroaesthetics as a tool of imperial neoliberal global capitalism in creating the perfect cognitive global consumer, or the perfect cognitariat, whose neural architecture is optimally molded for the quick and attuned work of the net. Artists, on the other hand, do the opposite by looking for opportunities to undermine this optimization, as well as by creating other neural logics that aspire to alternative forms of consciousness. Artistic labor is now concerned with mutating the conditions of the cultural habitus, or the extracranial brain, with concomitant effects upon the material intracranial brain. Finally, activist neuroaesthetics assumes that if we have the will and foresight, this could become a political call to arms. It suggests the possibility that brain sculpting might be an important tool for social and political transformation.

HUO: How does this relate to your teaching? Is it all part of one practice?

WSN: My work as an artist is not just about making art. Obviously it’s also about pedagogy and it’s also about writing. It’s surprising how many people don’t know about cognitive capitalism and so, in a way, one of my roles is as consciousness-raiser. In 2005, I started coming across the writings of Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Christian Marazzi, Maurizio Lazzarato and Toni Negri – authors concerned what was called “post-workerism” (which followed workerism in Italian literature). I realized that it could become a powerful instrument in understanding what I was trying to talk about in neuroaesthetics. I started getting involved in this discussion first by inviting Maurizio Lazzarato, Yann Moulier-Boutang and Paolo Virno to my conference at the Delft School of Design, “Trans-thinking the City,” followed by the book I co-authored with Deborah Hauptmann, Cognitive Architecture: From Biopolitics to Noo-politics. At that time, I was doing a doctoral program in Architectural Theory with Dr. Arie Graafland. I collapsed the idea of multi- and interdisciplinarity into the idea of trans-thinking, in which ‘inter’ and ‘multi’ became frames of mind and thought. These practices were interiorized as apparatuses emancipating forms of thinking. In other words, they had actually become part of the implementation of the way that we think. I realized that many of these authors were referring to the brain and cognition in a very general and metaphorical way. There was a specificity missing that I thought I could contribute as a way of broadening my own theoretical and discursive base which had began in the book Blow-up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain as well as modestly rendering their arguments even more important. They didn’t have a certain kind of knowledge that I had about neuroscience. Importantly, my knowledge was not akin to positivist and reductionist thinkers, but more attuned to the work of Francisco Varela which was anti-reductionist and emphasized the power of emergence. That is how my interest in bringing these themes together arose and led to the three volume work, The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism, and the [soon-to-be-released] Glossary of Cognitive Activism (For a Not so Distant Future). The Color of Politics contains an early rendition of the glossary linked to the words used to make the sculpture and is in fact the catalogue for the exhibition I made at the Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. It is a model for understanding the political crisis we are all involved in, and tries to define what that is and possibly offer some solutions.

HUO: I remember seeing pictures of your neon sculpture “The Statisticon Neon” that you made in Berlin. Could you explain this further?

WSN: The Color of Politics describes two works in neon that I presented at the Kunstverein am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. Downstairs in the lobby was the “Statisticon Neon”, and upstairs were three works that together connected the political conditions of McCarthyism to our moment of right wing populism today. “The Statisticon Neon” was in many ways a homage to Joseph Beuys’ work, “Das Kapital Raum 1970-1977”, which was originally shown in the German Pavilion in Venice in 1980, and today is on loan to Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie, the collection of which is partly on view at the Hamburger Bahnhof. I displayed my work on a collection of blackboards which echoed Beuys’ installation at the museum, where they are filled with handwritten cursive notes about art and capital. At the time of this work, the immanence of the information economy was so real as to be a source of inspiration for Beuys despite the fact that there was no public internet, social media platforms or big data. I superimposed my neon sculpture – which commented on many of the issues he was interested in, but did not live to see – over those blackboards, much like a technicolor film in contrast to Beuys’ work in black and white. Key to the work was the central position of the term “Statisticon” which refers to the future condition of extreme data in which the brain and mind are directly linked to, and controlled by, the Internet of Everything. As such, it points to the future of a surveillance economy.

The upper galleries showed how post-truth society and fake news (characterised by the conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate) were linked to McCarthyism. I had already begun to work on this question in Los Angeles in “Book Exchange: The Hollywood Blacklist” exhibited at the Printed Matter L.A. Book Fair in 2015, and, later, in my exhibition, The Palinopsic Field at LACE in 2016. Crucial to this story were my two works, “The Archive of False Accusations”, and “Double Jeopardy: The Afterimage Paintings”. In the “Archive of False Accusations”, press clippings reporting on what was known as the “Lavender Scare” were presented in four lavender neon-lit plexiglass vitrines. One of those vitrines exhibited press clippings relating to Donald Trump and Roy Cohn, an American lawyer best known for his role as chief council to Joseph McCarthy, who was also a mentor to Donald Trump. This vitrine plays an important role in relation to the second work, “Double Jeopardy: The Afterimage Paintings”, which consists of three neon sculptures which spell out the names of the German emigrants Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler and Lion Feuchtwanger, all of whom were later blacklisted in Hollywood as communists and, as such, were never granted a star on Hollywood Boulevard. The names were interspersed with four realistic paintings of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The paintings are empty stars except for the logo, signifying the different star categories such as live theater, motion pictures, radio or television. Spectators stare at the blinking red neon for 10 seconds, after which time they redirect their gaze to stare at the center of the star in the painting where the afterimage of the artist’s name appears. Thus, each participant rewrites the past and rectifies the injustices done to these artists by projecting their names, if only for seconds, on the adjacent star painting. Their actions modify history as it is known, and point to the power of the people to alter a mutable and becoming history.

HUO: How does Pizzagate fit in? Comet Ping Pong is a pizza parlour owned by James Alefantis, the former boyfriend of David Brock, and was basically the venue for this alleged conspiracy, but can you elaborate on your interest?

WSN: Pizzagate is a now debunked, one might even say preposterous, conspiracy theory that went viral towards the end of the 2016 presidential election. It was an event – a fictitious event, one might even say a rumor – disseminated on newsfeeds, chat threads and message boards including 4chan and Reddit, as well as Twitter. The theory proposed that Hillary Clinton and the people in her campaign were operating an international sex-trafficking ring out of the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlour in Washington D.C. The so-called proof of which resulted from the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager’s (John Podesta) personal emails.

HUO: Which is no different than what Edgar Morin already understood some years back. Edgar Morin, now in his nineties, is a French philosopher acquaintance of mine who wrote La Rumeur d’Orléans, concerning the rumor that in a women’s wear shop in Orleans the customers would actually disappear. They would go to the shop, try on a dress in the fitting room, and then disappear never to be seen again. This was actually a right-wing anti-semitic rumor in Orleans at the time targeted at the owners of this shop. As a consequence, their business was completely destroyed. It’s the precursor to Pizzagate.

WSN: Yes, propaganda and fake news have been around some time, but the Internet is provoking a much stronger reaction – and the rumor is related to the emergence of bottom-up, socially constructed truths.

HUO: Very sadly, with the current rise of antisemitism in France, it’s again also of great relevance in that regard, as Umberto Eco pointed out to me in my last conversation with him, but it’s interesting, in a way, that the Rumor of Orleans and Pizzagate are connected.

WSN: You are right. Rumor has taken on greater importance in cognitive capitalism and is related to what is referred to as valorisation and valorized economies. We live in this valorised world, and it’s very important. Truth is more about a story or a narrative that constitutes an arrangement of objects, things and the networks they create. Truth becomes an attribute of how viral the story is and how much attention it can attract. Truth is conditional on the distribution of data in the cloud. The “Pizzagate” sculpture is an attempt to talk about the network relations that are important in the production of these fake news stories.

Fake news is related to propaganda but in many ways it is different. Propaganda is a top-down phenomenon in which a sovereign agent constructs stories to engage the populace in a particular believable way with the aim to change their actions. Fake news is a bottom-up phenomenon which is the result of a welling up of stories concocted on real and fake social media pages which have begun to be believed. Their sheer massive distribution, as well as their emergent qualities, make them powerful modulators of public opinion. They colonize the attention of the populace by providing engaging content. The attention economy, and its economic capacity, is directly related to how many eyeballs it can induce to look at its content. The “Pizzagate Neon” takes this argument one step further as it talks about the power of these fake news stories to sculpt the neural plasticity of the brain through a neural-synaptic process. In the attention economy, where because in this surfeit of images and information that we’re exposed to it’s impossible to pay attention to everything, attention itself becomes a commodity. It becomes important for corporations and advertisers to capture our attention through various strategies like sensationalism, special graphics and editing techniques that make the information they want to convey more salient. “Clickbait”, which appears in the sculpture, is analogous to baiting a hook to catch a fish. You make the bait as attractive as you possibly can. Clickbait is similar, but it turns out that fake news is a much more powerful attractor and stimulator of attention than real news to instigate cognitariat clicking. Clickbait is also a powerful sculptor of memory. In her essay, “Attention, Economy and the Brain”, Tiziana Terranova speaks directly to this question, highlighting the impact of Internet usage on the cognitive architecture of a neuroplastic and mimetic social brain. My point is that all these different alt-right memes, different kinds of platforms, Kek, all of these different mechanisms of the new far right are the new apparatuses at play engaged in the attention economy and are actually changing the neural plasticity of the brain and forming new kinds of memories. That’s what this sculpture is about.

HUO: Of course, the actual story of Pizzagate is also part of the work. Edgar Welch, for example, entered the pizzeria with a gun believing the truth of that rumor. He, as well as the other protagonists, make an appearance in the work along with the internet wide phenomena, but also the art world enters the story. I was interested in seeing Louise Bourgeois’ name. I didn’t remember the connection between Louise Bourgeois and Pizzagate. Can you elaborate?

WSN: Thank you for bringing this up because one of the most important aspects of the sculpture and video I made called “Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion” is the story of how various artists and their work became of interest to the alt-right as examples to back up their fake news story, as well as, to impress on their base the lascivious nature of the Democratic candidates – as if the artworks were a valid reason for scorn. This story involved the art collection of Tony Podesta, the brother of John and a friend of James Alefantis, the guy who owns Comet Ping Pong. The work that he has in his collection is very sexually explicit, very edgy, and some of the work owned by Tony Podesta was hanging in Comet Ping Pong, especially the work of Arrington de Dionyso. John Podesta, as you know, was the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, so when they hacked John Podesta’s emails, and when this whole phenomenon of the Pizzagate rumor started, the reporters went to Comet Ping Pong where they coincidentally came upon what appeared to them as “weird” art – so here [in Bourgeois’ work] we have this story of childhood molestation and this very sexually explicit ‘weird’ art on the walls. This confluence created a story that went viral, and, all of a sudden, this rumor starts becoming “true” and believed. What also happened is that on alt-right news feeds there were all these stories about Tony Podesta and his weird art collection, and then, of course, the Marina Abramovic part of the story emerges out of this context. “Spirit Cooking”, a performance at Marina’s loft in New York City to thank her donors, mutated into a story concerning witchcraft. Of course, witchcraft is part of a larger feminist discourse and it is quite normal in the art world to discuss and represent such a story, but to the alt-right base it is blasphemy.

HUO: You must absolutely talk to Edgar Morin because Rumor of Orleans, a book from the early 70s, is uncanny in the similarities.

WSN: Thank you for letting me know. I will certainly get a copy.

HUO: So, what’s next? What’s happening in the studio right now?

WSN: Well, in the studio right now is a work about neurotic AI and I’m continuing my work from 2004 on the phantom limb syndrome. First, I’m creating phantom limb boxes that are based on devices that help to cure phantom limb pain. Sometimes, for example, when people have their arm amputated they develop pain, and there’s a kind of box called “the phantom limb box”, invented by the famous neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran which is a mirror box that helps cure it. What I’ve been making are Donald Judd-type minimalist sculptures that stand in as phantom limb boxes. In the gallery, I bring in amputees who actually have phantom limb pain and use the artwork to cure them. That’s one thing that I’ve been working on. It’s all about the eternal return.

HUO: That’s a more Nietzschean trope.

WSN: Yes, but at the same time I’m doing a lot of work on artificial neural networks, and it’s very complicated as to why I’m doing that. I’ve been going to old neon stores and it turns out they have been changing all of their signs from neon to LED. One kind of technology is being supplanted by another, a kind of  extinction of neon. Neon is being extinguished, so I’ve been going in and collecting these old neons and making artworks based on artificial neural networks. The found neon in each piece is creating what I call the “poetic artificial neural network”, so it’s not about optimization, it’s about thinking about a future AI, and trying to think of ways that this AI could be based on the poetic. Artificial neural networks are structured in specific ways. You have the input and you have the output, but you also have what is called the “intermediary zone” and the intermediary zone was originally based on the structure of the retina. Basically, early neural networks and artificial neural networks are based on real neurological and neurophysiological structures. They used the retina of the eye, for vision, as one of the early structures to simulate. In the retina you have the rods and the cones, which take in the light and transform the light into energy, and then you have a series of intermediary zones which are bipolar cells and amacrine cells and horizontal cells, and then finally you have the output to the brain through the ganglion cells. Those three layers are the layers of neural networks, and when you have more than one layer in the intermediated zone changing this energy into a form that is information, then you have what is called Deep Mind. This provides the basis for these new assemblages that I have been making from found neons.  All the neons contain a sausage, or, if you like, the smile of an emoji, and each is based on a version of the sexed body, and in this way they are a contemporary rendition of Marcel Duchamp’s “The Large Glass.” Importantly, the intermediary zone, in which the incoming information is being transformed into the output, is based on assemblages of different histories because the found neons used vary in age. Some are over 30-years-old, some are 20-years-old, some are 1-year-old. One was part of a sign for a sex shop and another was a sign for a food store, yet another came from an art project that an artist never picked up, so there are all these different kinds of stories that each one of the neons embodies that are contained in the neural network. Together they become a kind of poetic information system.

One of the other things that I am working on is a lecture called “2050: For What Will We Use Our Brains?” In this lecture I intend to map the effects of contemporary technology on the brain. Like the revolution that described the last half of the previous century, we to are faced with a technological acceleration which is putting pressure on what subjectivity can be. I am speaking about the neural-based economy which maps out the late stage of cognitive capitalism. First, the material brain, its structure and function, has become the model or template for the production of the new technologies we have already mentioned like pattern recognition, AI, artificial neural networks, brain computer interfaces and cortical implants. Secondly, the impetus for these new technologies is to outsource the functions of the intracranial brain to an assemblage of  externalized apparatuses that constitute an extracranial brain which has the ability to substitute for and surpass the human laborer. We already use GPS to find our way and recent research from Veronique Bohbot at McGill University, has suggested that constant use in older people may have damaging effects to the hippocampus. Just on the horizon are forms of artificial intelligence that will replace doctors, lawyers and accountants. The things that the human brain used to do, technology and machine-to-machine learning will do on our behalf and will do more effectively. The question is, what will we use our brains for? I’ve constructed a theory based on “the neuronal recycling hypothesis” of Stanislas Dehaene, who works in the Pasteur Institute in Paris. It posits that cultural inventions evolutionarily invade older brain circuits. In this case, it argues that the inferior temporal area of the temporal lobe of macaques share attributes with the human visual word-forming area, and that the invention of writing (after it became widely used), colonized that area of the brain and transformed it into its new use. I am arguing that the widespread use of telepathic technology will also put pressure on areas of the brain that maintain prerequisite structures that can be easily modified. At first, it will be technologically enhanced, but gradually it will become naturalized.

HUO: Research into mental images gets us pretty close to telepathy. I mean, if I can think of an image then we don’t need to go through a photograph anymore – you actually see that image, we have a telepathic relationship, a telepathic connection.

WSN: Right, but there are two important elements. At first, brain-computer interfaces required the electrode to be implanted in the brain which facilitated, after training, a paralyzed person’s ability to use his or her brainwaves to move a cursor on a computer screen, to control a robotic arm for feeding, or to control the movement of a wheelchair. Then, the technology advanced so that this type of control could be accomplished by projecting brain waves through a wireless Emotiv headset. Recently, the use of brain-computer interfaces has expanded. For instance, Neurable’s BCI headset for HTC Vive is being used for interfacing with virtual reality and playing competitive video games against another person wearing a similar device, as in the game Brain Arena, but it does not stop there. Linking up brain-computer interfaces to the Internet-of-things is already being experimented with such as with the brain-computer interface-based Smart Living Environmental Auto-Adjustment Control System. Gradually, if we believe Moore’s Law that computer processing capacity doubles exponentially each year, then we begin to understand that more and more of our technologies will become linked through brain-computer interfaces forming a system of integrated technologically enabled telepathic capacities. Just as we saw for writing, gradually there will occur a form of accumulation that I speculate could have neuromodulating capacity.

Returning to the neuronal recycling hypothesis, Dehaene states that writing and reading are only 5000 years old, its formal beginnings started with the invention of Sumerian writing tablets. However, molecular geneticists arguing in another context hypothesize that the changes necessary for the establishment of a reading module in the brain would take one million years. Placing a patient, or volunteer, inside of an MRI machine and having them read or write can provoke an area called the fusiform gyrus, so Dehaene asks: how is it possible that in 5000 years a material change in the brain such as this could take place? His response is his neuronal recycling hypothesis. Novel capacities like reading and writing may be acquired as long as they can find a suitable area in the brain to accommodate it, perhaps maybe even colonize it. The novel cultural function must locate an area whose function is similar and plastic enough to accommodate it. What I would like to suggest is that there must be suitable pressure provoked by an accumulation of cultural artifacts operating in the cultural milieu to select out from the population individuals who have a predisposition to reading signs. In any population there are a variety of individuals who have unusual capabilities. Some men and women have greater capacity to hit a tennis ball, for example. There is also an inherent variability in the processing of symbolic information in the area of the occipito-temporal gyrus or fusiform gyrus inherited from our simian forefathers. He argues that the area used by macaques, a type of monkey, to understand another primate’s facial expressions is appropriated in humans for reading and, if you compare the brain scans of people reading to the facial recognition area in primates, the areas that light up are indeed located very close to each other. What I am hypothesizing is that in the future, as telepathic technologies become more and more prevalent, there will come a time when their accumulated presence induces changes in the brain. Those changes may be gradual and linked to comparable changes in the cultural milieu induced by embedded technologies in the built environment or in virtual reality. As the brain is both intracranial matter as well as outsourced, extracranial tools and devices, the process will be a co-evolutionary one. Like with reading and writing, there will come a tipping point in which telepathy will colonize an area of the brain with the right number of innate capacities and induce it to record and process telepathic information without technological software and hardware – or just transform it, as we may already have telepathic capacity, as you said. These telepathic capacities will be engaged with and be made more powerful.

HUO: Which, of course, will make Rupert Sheldrake more relevant again.

WSN: {laughs} That would be something.


Hans Ulrich Obrist (b. 1968, Zurich, Switzerland) is Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, and Senior Artistic Advisor of The Shed in New York. Prior to this, he was the Curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since his first show World Soup (The Kitchen Show) in 1991, he has curated more than 300 shows.

Rumor to Delusion

Rumor to Delusion

10.05.2019 – 24.11.2019
Zuecca Project Space, Giudecca 33, 30133 Venice
58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Italy

Curatorial and Production Team: Lauri Firstenberg, Antonia Alampi, Sanaz Alesafar
Design Coordinator: Chiara Figone

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Gallery Page

American artist and theorist Warren Neidich will present his solo exhibition “Rumor to Delusion” at the Zuecca Project Space, to coincide with the opening of the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, in Venice, Italy. In a series of works on view, Neidich captures the entangled and psychedelic tale of the Pizzagate mythology in our post-truth moment.

Pizzagate was the fake news story that was circulated at the end of the 2016 presidential campaign which accused Hillary Clinton and her staff of running a child sex slave ring out of the basement of the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington D.C.

Many political scientists refer to our times as the post-truth moment because of the difficulty in discerning whether news stories reflect the truth or not. Neidich asks the question as to whether and to what degree sensationalized fictive news stories command our attention and collective behavior. Do they do so more intensely than factual ones? What role does art play in finding the answers?

These constitute the core issues at play in this exhibition dominated by the Pizzagate Neon, 2017, a monumental multicolored text-based neon sculpture suspended from the ceiling of the front chamber of the exhibition space. Its composition evokes both the iCloud and the connectome, a network-based model of the brain’s dynamic connection pattern.

The artist suggests that with the advent of artificial intelligence, big data and the attention economy, we have entered a later stage of the knowledge economy, in which the brain and mind represent the new sites of the administration of sovereign power. Neidich’s work is reminiscent of the text-based neon sculptures of Bruce Nauman and Mario Merz and pays homage to the politically inflected mind maps of Joseph Beuys and Mark Lombardi.

The sculpture will be accompanied by other works such as the experimental video entitled, Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion, 2019, recently premiered at Transmediale Berlin, and a performative sculpture, Scoring the Tweets, 2018, first exhibited at the Priska Pasquer Gallery, Cologne, Germany. Using Internet news streams and raw footage filmed at the Comet Ping Pong, the video acts as a soundtrack in dialogue with the sculpture. It collages the tale of Edgar Welch, who incensed by the fake news story, drove up from North Carolina, automatic rifle in hand, to free the children he thought were incarcerated there, with that of the exaggerated reaction on right-wing news feeds to the discovery of Marina Abramovic’s work Spirit Cooking, 1997, in the WikiLeaks emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. Scoring the Tweets, 2018, is a delicate sculpture consisting of four sets of graphic scores generated from one-hundred and ninety-four tweets made by Donald Trump commenting on fake news which were cut up and assembled upon scotch tape and then strung across microphone stands. During the opening days, as well as throughout the exhibition, musicians well versed in the techniques of improvisation will perform the scores.

Assembled together, these works begin to unravel the complex cultural, political and economic dynamics that define the mediated mass hysteria of American life today. During the opening of the exhibition, Neidich will also launch his book “Glossary of Cognitive Activism”, published by Archive Books. It will form the basis of soon to be announced series of performative lectures and talks taking place in the gallery as well as a multidisciplinary symposium on fake news.

With the kind support of Priska Pasquer Gallery, Cologne; Barbara Seiler Gallery, Zurich; Innovation Foundation, Los Angeles.
Sponsored by Kienbaum.

The Glossary of Cognitive Activism (for a not so distant future)

2019 Anagram/Archive Books

This glossary is meant to accompany the three-volume publication The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism Part 1, 2 and 3. It reflects the concerns contained in those volumes. It marks the beginning of a long-term process of creating a dictionary of terms with which to understand and eventually destabilize the complex ways through which a future Neural Capitalism will work in creating contemporary forms of neural subsumption.

On Cognitive Capitalism

Interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist

Rumor to Delusion

May 5 – November 24, 2019
Zuecca Project Space
La Biennale di Venezia, Italy

Scoring the Tweets

Rumor to Delusion
9.05.2019 – Opening performance
Zuecca Project Space
La Biennale di Venezia, Italy

Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion

Video, 19:19
"Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion" is an experimental documentary that describes our post-truth society through the Pizzagate fake news story.

Scoring the Tweets

Scoring the Tweets (2018)

Rumor to Delusion
9.05.2019 – Opening performance
Zuecca Project Space, Giudecca 33, 30133 Venice
58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Italy

First exhibited at PRISKA PASQUER (Köln, DE).

Gallery Page

On Cognitive Capitalism

Interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist

Rumor to Delusion

May 5 – November 24, 2019
Zuecca Project Space
La Biennale di Venezia, Italy

Scoring the Tweets

Rumor to Delusion
9.05.2019 – Opening performance
Zuecca Project Space
La Biennale di Venezia, Italy

Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion

Video, 19:19
"Pizzagate: From Rumor to Delusion" is an experimental documentary that describes our post-truth society through the Pizzagate fake news story.

Scoring the Tweets

Rumor to Delusion
9.05.2019 – Opening performance
Zuecca Project Space
La Biennale di Venezia, Italy

Scoring the Tweets

Köln, DE

Status: In Bewegung

Status: In Bewegung (Status: In Motion)

April 18, 2018 by Alexandra Wach


A Berlin Intensive at the Juncture of Theory, Praxis, and Art

Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art: A Berlin Intensive at the Juncture of Theory, Praxis, and Art

November 2017 by Jennifer Teets


“Founded by artist and theorist Warren Neidich, who serves as codirector with the art critic and poet Barry Schwabsky, and until recently, with Lisa Bechtold as program coordinator, the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art (SFSIA) is a Berlin-based, three-week-long art and philosophy intensive. It landed in the German capital in 2016 after a brief stint in 2015 in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, the resort town in the Alps where the European Graduate School (EGS) administers its master and doctoral programs in its Division of Philosophy, Art & Critical Thought. Schwabsky, who will lead next summer’s intensive under the tentative title of “Praxis and Poesis in Cognitive Capitalism,” described his desire to start a school as a response to a “crisis” across the sector wherein art academies are “controlled by administrators—not by faculty—an ever-expanding layer of bureaucrats who are removed from the real needs of students and the realities of teaching and research.” Schwabsky proceeded to team with Neidich, who he knew had simultaneously developed a desire for a retreat and would turn plans into action.” – Jennifer Teets

Color of Politics / The Statisticon Neon

Color of Politics + The Statisticon Neon

Color of Politics
April 28 – June 24, 2017

The Statisticon Neon
April 28 – August 19, 2017

Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz e.V.
Linienstraße 40 – Berlin, Germany

Gallery Page

In this blindfolded performance Warren Neidich explains his Statisticon Neon for the German-French TV show Arte. The STATISTICON is the central node at the heart of a complex network composed of multiple streams, including algorithmically derived smart and sustainable architecture and urban design; the internet of things, the Internet of Everything (IoE); neural capitalism and neural technology; processes of valorization—which include branding and public relations—neural consumerism and neural economics, and the technologies of affect integrated into various—primarily virtual—media.


The Statisticon Neon (2017) pays homage to Joseph Beuys monumental work Das Kapital Raum 1970-1977 originally shown in the German Pavillon in Venice in 1980 and today on loan to Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie as part of Erich Marx’s Beuys-Block. Neidich mounts his diagrammatic work in multicolored neon upon a non-formal arrangement of black boards that echo the original Beuys’ installation much as a technicolor film would a black and white. His neon looks at the relationship between art and society some forty years later taking into account the role of the internet and its effect on labor and capital.

The 21st century has been called the century of the brain and recently we have transitioned from Post-fordism to cognitive capitalism where the mind and brain are the new factories of the 21st century. While the internet was still an experimental paradigm at the time of Beuys’ work we now labor for free on Facebook, Instagram and Google producing data that creates individual data profiles, later sold to corporations and security firms. Today, formal subsumption of the labor of the proletariat has transitioned to real subsumption, in which our entire life is consumed by work, and we have become cognitariats. The Neon Statisticon links this development with the recent neurologic turn in which the action of capitalism is directed to the brains neural plasticity something, which Neidich has called neuropower or Neuromacht.

Color of Politics

Color like money and language has become deregulated. Color is no longer tethered to form and meaning and becomes a vehicle through which emancipated feelings, political intrigues and resistance to institutional normalization processes can become realized. Warren Neidich uses color to recoup the political conditions of creating meaning – summarized in the three part neon-painting Red, White, and Blue (2007).

In the Afterimage Paintings, (2016) red neon sculptures spell the names of German emigrants Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler and Lion Feuchtwanger all of which were later blacklisted in Hollywood as communists and thus never were granted a star on Hollywood Boulevard. Neidich remedies this by activating complementary colored afterimages that are then projected upon empty painted stars mimicking those found on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In the Archive of False Accusations (2016) vitrines illuminated by lavender neon light display found press clippings reporting on what has become known as The Lavender Scare – a less known facet of Joseph McCarthy’s witch-hunt to root out communist sympathizers.

In a second room a large three-dimensional cloudlike sculpture is installed: Pizzagate – named after the infamous conspiracy tale culminating in sniper Edgar Welch wanting to rescue the supposed sexually abused children he believed to held in the basement of Comet Ping PongPizzagate exposes the apparatuses and patterns of flow and connectivity that generate False News and define click bait as well as understanding that in cognitive capitalism the new site of governmentalization in the new attention economy is the brain’s neural plasticity, especially that found in the frontal cortex where attention and working memory are located. It also shows that the still virulent rumor based entirely on Fake News by now reaches well into the art world. If you want to find out how that works without fault you should try out Neidich’s most recent sculpture the small experimental setup Trump Cup (2017).


The Statisticon Neon (2017) ist eine Hommage an Joseph Beuys’ monumentales Werk Das Kapital Raum 1970-1977, das zuerst 1980 im Deutschen Pavillon in Venedig zu sehen war und sich heute als Leihgabe in der Neuen Nationalgalerie / Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin befindet. Neidich montiert sein diagrammatisches, von buntem Neonlicht gepägtes Werk auf eine zwanglose Anordnung schwarzer Tafeln, die eine Art Echo auf Beuys’ Installation sind und sich zu dieser vergleichbar einem Technicolor- zu einem Schwarzweissfilm verhalten. Das Neonlicht veranschaulicht die Beziehung zwischen Kunst und Gesellschaft rund vierzig Jahre nach Beuys’ Werk, insbesondere die Bedeutung des Internets und seine Auswirkungen auf Arbeit und Kapital.

Das 21. Jahrhundert ist als Jahrhundert des Gehirns bezeichnet worden, seid wir jüngst vom Postfordismus in den Kognitiven Kapitalismus übergegangen sind. Der Geist und das Gehirn sind die neuen Fabriken des 21.Jahrhunderts. Während das Internet zur Zeit von Beuys’ Werk noch ein begrenztes Experiment war, arbeiten wir heute unbezahlt für Facebook, Instagram und Google, indem die von uns produzierten Daten individuelle Datenproflle ergeben, die später an Unternehmen und Sicherheitsfirmen verkauft werden.

Heute hat sich die formale Subsumption der Arbeit des Proletariats in eine reale Subsumption transformiert, in der unser ganzes Leben von Arbeit konsumiert wird, und wir sind Kognitarier geworden. Das Statisticon Neon verbindet diese Entwicklung mit dem in letzter Zeit erfolgten neurologischen Turn, in dem die Aktivität des Kapitalismus die Neuroplastizität des Gehirns mit etwas verbunden wird, das Neidich neuropower oder Neuromacht genannt hat – ein Begriff, der direkt in die Ausstellung im 2. Stock weiterführt.

Color of Politics

Wie das Geld und die Sprache ist auch die Farbe dereguliert worden. Farbe ist nicht mehr mit Form und Bedeutung verknüpft und wird ein Vehikel, durch das emanzipierte Gefühle erzeugt, politische Intrigen initiiert, aber auch Widerstand gegen institutionelle Normalisierungsprozesse realisiert werden kann. Warren Neidich setzt Farbe ein, um die politischen Voraussetzungen, Bedeutung zu schaffen, wiederzugewinnen – zusammengefasst in dem dreiteiligen Neonbild Red, White, and Blue (2007).

Bei den Afterimage Paintings (2016) bilden rote Neonskulpturen die Buchstaben der Namen der deutschen Emigranten Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler und Lion Feuchtwanger, die alle später in Hollywood als Kommunisten auf der schwarzen Liste standen und denen deshalb nie einen Stern auf dem Hollywood Boulevard gewidmet wurde. Neidich berichtigt dies, indem er komplementär gefärbte Nachbilder erzeugt, die dann auf leere gemalte Sterne projiziert werden, Nachahmungen derjenigen auf dem Hollywood Walk of Fame. In dem Archive of False Accusations (2016) sind in Vitrinen von lavendelfarbenem Neonlicht beleuchtet. In ihnen liegen gefundene Zeitungsausschnitte, in denen von dem „Lavender Scare“ berichtet wird, einer weniger bekannten Facette in Joseph McCarthy’s Hexenjagd auf Sympathisanten des Kommunismus: Nicht-heterosexuelle Menschen (lesbisch, schwul, bisexuell oder transgender) verloren ihre Positionen im Regierungsapparat.

Der zweite Raum wird  von Neidichs neuester Skulptur Pizzagate beherrscht – eine große, dreidimensionale, wolkenartige Struktur, benannt nach der berüchtigten Verschwörungsgeschichte, die darin kulminiert, dass der Scharfschütze Edgar Welch die vermeintlich sexuell misshandelten Kinder retten will, von denen er glaubt, dass sie im Keller des Comet Ping Pong Pizza Restaurants gefangengehalten werden. Pizzagate stellt die Apparate und Muster der Ströme und der Anschlussmöglichkeiten heraus, die Fake News hervorbringen, die Köder definieren und auch das Verständnis, dass in der neuen Aufmerksamkeitsökonomie des Kognitiven Kapitalismus der neue Ort der Gouvernementalität die Neuroplastizität des Gehirns ist, vor allem derjenige im frontalen Cortex, wo die Aufmerksamkeit und das Arbeitsgedächnis angesiedelt sind. Es zeigt auch, dass die unablässigen ausschließlich auf Fake News basierenden Gerüchte mittlerweile weit in die Kunstwelt hineinreichen. Wer herausfinden möchte, wie einfach das funktioniert, sollte den kleinen experimentellen Aufbau in Neidichs jüngster Skulptur Trump Cup (2017) ausprobieren.

The Statisticon

The Search Drive, 2014. Video still. Courtesy of the artist

The Statisticon

September 23, 2020


Miami Practicas Contemporaneas, Bogotá, Colombia, presents ‘The Statisticon’, the first solo exhibition in Colombia of the American born conceptual artist Warren Neidich. Warren Neidich’s art practice is interdisciplinary and theoretically based. For this show he will present a large Neon diagram entitled ‘The Statisticon’, 2016, which maps out his theory of the Statisticon. The Statisticon is the perfect and seamless confluence of the conditions of massive data collection, the sculpting of the brains’ neural plasticity, smart and sustainable architecture and urban design, the processes of valorization created by communicative capitalism and the technologies of affect integrated into post-production and special effects found in film and virtual platforms. Art and shamanism play important roles in releasing the individual from these forms of contemporary domination. The diagram consumes the entire back of the gallery and its colorful display casts an ambient texture of red, white and yellow light upon the opposite wall. Neidich is performing a blind folded performance in front of it at various times during the exhibition elucidating its meaning from memory. In the front gallery his internationally acclaimed video The ‘Search Drive’, 2014, which has been screened at such places as the Zentrum fur Kunst and Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe German and The Centre of Photographie, Geneva, will be projected. In the video a secret agent hacks into the personal data of the artist using the same soft ware utilized by the National Security Agency to spy on Americans to create a data profile he calls a hack-ography rather then a biography. Spyware, the Dark web, Tor software, facial recognition software and drones are the protagonists of this contemporary thriller.

Artist Warren Neidich Talks New Exhibition, Cycles of Fear and Discrimination

Artist Warren Neidich Talks New Exhibition, Cycles of Fear and Discrimination

August 8, 2016 by Benjamin M. Adams


MERRY JANE: What is the relationship between art and neuroscience?

Warren Neidich: I began lecturing about Neuroaesthetics in 1996 at the School of Visual Arts in New York City at the invitation of the photographer Charles Traub. These initial lectures embodied the early stages of neuroaesthetics. They attempted to explore the same territories or spheres of knowledge as those of neurophysiology, cognitive neuroscience, and evolutionary cognitive neuroscience, but instead of utilizing scientific methodologies used artistic media, processes, histories, apparatuses, and interfaces. These approaches generated artistic facts rather than scientific facts. Importantly, neuroaesthetics is a non-reductive and non-cognitivist methodology which is not neuro-centric, that approach which tries to understand art through the laws of neurology, but cultural-centric.

The Palinopsic Field

The Palinopsic Field

June 15 – August 14, 2016
LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)
Los Angeles, CA (US)

Gallery Page

LACE presents Warren Neidich: The Palinopsic Field, an exhibition that revisits the Second Red Scare and the Lavender Scare, events following World War II in which Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee directed a witch hunt against many artists and writers suspected of having affiliations with the Communist Party, and many homosexuals who were deemed “sexually perverse.” Using painting, neon sculpture and installation, the project resurfaces this history and gives us a fresh outlook through which to view and understand this moment.

The Afterimage Paintings consists of red neon sculptures that spell out the names of blacklisted writers Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Ring Lardner Jr. and Alvah Bessie that incite an afterimage in the eyes of observers. Each sculpture is paired with an unfinished painting of empty stars that mimic those found on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The neon instigates a palinopsia, or afterimage in the beholder, who can shift their gaze and allow the imaginary image to fall in the empty space of the painted star. Nine out of ten of the original Hollywood Ten do not have stars on Hollywood Boulevard, and through this experience viewers can actively right this historical wrong.

The second work, The Archive of False Accusations, includes an installation of vitrines that highlight The Lavender Scare. Newspaper and magazine clippings, sourced at a variety of LGBT archives in and around Los Angeles, such as the Southern California Library and One National Gay and Lesbian Archives, are displayed and lit by neon lavender light. Outlandish headlines like Perverts in Government, 1950 Inquiry By Senate on Perverts Asked, 1950 and Vice Squads Sex Files Sealed Pending “ Hill” Investigation, 1950 expose the role of McCarthyism as it intervened to cleanse the government of homosexual employees.

Together, these two works highlight the injustices perpetrated against those that were considered different. Today, as we find ourselves amidst an election cycle one cannot help but draw connections between these events and the trending right wing attacks on immigrants, people of color, and the LGBT community today.


Warren Neidich: LACE 
in Artforum by Andy Campbell

Warren Neidich “The Palinopsic Field” Exhibition at LACE, Los Angeles
in purple ART by Hannah Bhuiya

Here’s Why the Lavender Scare Still Matters
in The Creator’s Project: Vice by Tanja M. Laden

NSA/USA: Sound as Prophecy - MANIFESTA 10, 2014

[su_vimeo url="https://vimeo.com/107127430" width="1600"]

How do you translate a text that is not a text? How do you perform a score that is not a score? (2013)

[su_vimeo url="https://vimeo.com/104779659" width="1600"]

Cello and Chair
Installation Detail

Burned-out Mubarak HQ

Boundary Conditions
Townhouse Gallery Plan with Noise Room
Graphic Score Detail
Graphic Score Detail
Graphic Score Detail
Graphic Score Detail
Graphic Score Detail

Part 1: Consensual Autonomies

They Can't Take This Away From We (2013)

Part 2: In the Mind's We


They Can't Take This Away From We (2013)

Part 1: Consensual Autonomies

Click the images below to play videos

Part 2: In the Mind's We

Click the images below to play videos


Data Murmur (2012)

[su_vimeo url="https://vimeo.com/48294959" width="1600"]

Video, 03:19

The notable Italian political philosopher Franco "Bifo" Berardi recites a random poem of HTML code twice. First on the left of the split screen the camera maintains its distance allowing the bard to enact the poem, his shock of silver hair melting into the backdrop of tree branches.

In The Mind's I (Nuwella) (2011)

[su_vimeo url="https://vimeo.com/51804912" width="1600"]

The Cacophony of Memory

The Cacophony of Memory

Earthling (2006)



Everyone can be an actor, as members of Big Brother can attest. Plucked from obscurity and with little training they take center stage to become themselves. Is Big Brother simply a reflection of televisual culture’s need to observe itself through the gaze of a mediated third person vantage point? In other words has Big Brother invented a new type of subjectivity that requires even its’ so called reality to be mediated and is the program an apparatus that allows our culture to reflect upon itself in new ways that match the current sociologic, political, economic, artistic, spiritual, and psychological conditions that embrace us? In Earthling, the notion of acting as genealogy is folded into a set of coevolving immaterial conditions to produce new forms of subjectivity. The photograph adorning the front page is itself a mark of certain conceits that reflect the local ecology of that particular magazine itself, whether fashion or news magazine, and the molar global discourse in which they operate. (In this way its connection to Pop Art is obvious.) That discourse is subject to both synchronous and diachronous relations. These images reflect historical conditions of how the body/face is positioned, adorned, imaged and imagined through time. It is the remnant of an acting scenario that is part of the photo shoot itself; many photographers direct their models and many politicians are rehearsed in front of cameras before addressing the public. The studio of the 19th century with its slow films and large cameras has given way to fast cameras, synchronized flashes, and digital technology. These conditions are reflected not only in the pictorial archive in a genealogy of body image and close-up facial poses but reflects in the way people actually look and act in the real world. These images then become collaged onto the living breathing actor, which inhabits the café where the pictures are taken.

In Earthling an improvisational relational paradigm constitutes the overall context in which the photographic action takes place.  The image archive as it is constituted outside the institutional network of say, for instance, libraries, exists on its own at newsstands, the back rooms of antique shops and the tables of cafés ready to be sampled. I collected newspapers and magazines for about a year keeping my eyes open for funny and ironic headlines, strange photographs and collages of image and text.  In collecting, I tried to find newspapers and magazines from as many countries as I could. Many times this required buying them in other cities that I was working in or being a tourist. After a while I began to visit cafes and ask people relaxing there if they would like to be an actor in my photographic and video work. (I asked individuals who were very different from those appearing on the cover or front page for instance in Newsweek/Paris I asked a woman if she would be the actor.)  Many said no but some said yes. When they agreed I measured the size of their eye or the distance between their eyes. Then I cut out the eye in the newspaper or magazine to match. This resulted in a perfect alignment between the optical axis of the actor and the newspaper, which became more like a mask.  The actor was then asked to wear the cover as a mask and improvise in a way that reflected his or her relation to the image that now covered his or her face. Sometimes direction was necessary at other times it was not. Given the opportunity these amateur actors became the faces that covered their face.  First, I took a photograph and then I made the video.

The photographic documentation of the performances in the cafes created a body of work called Earthling. The title refers to the way different forms of media were instrumental in producing new subjectivities in the context of evolving global identities.

Blind Man's Bluff (2002)

[su_vimeo url="https://vimeo.com/146786146" width="1600"]
Single Channel Video, 01:58

A performance of a dream sequence is projected upon a head in front of a movie screen. The action takes place in Los Angeles on Beverly Boulevard that is adjacent to a building with a mirror surface. The performance is videotaped in the reflection of this building sometimes cutting to the real street scene. The constructed narrative concerns a blind man walking down the street and his uncovering of the diabolic clown under the happy clown’s costume, a truth which only the blind man can know. Crippled vision becomes thereby a metaphor for the creative self who investigates alternative paradigms outside that of the institutional notion of visible truth. The flow of the video from the screen to the skull to that of the screen again concerns the notion of the mutated observer. That in fact the brain and the mind are sculpted more effectively by artificial stimuli.

The Mutated Observer, part 1

The Mutated Observer, part 1

California Museum of Photography, Riverside, California, 2001
Photography, Sculpture (Apparatuses), Installation, Dimensions Variable
This exhibition took place at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, as an intervention in the collection of early photographic and cinematic devices and photographs. It consisted of two parts: Postmodern Modernism and Hybrid Dialectics. Postmodern Modernism was an investigation of the early roots of modernism in photographs that concerned topics such as movement, psychic energy, the paranormal, and phrenology…

The mutated observer, part 1, installation at California Museum of Photography, Riverside, California
The mutated observer, part 1, installation at California Museum of Photography, Riverside, California

This exhibition took place at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, as an intervention in the collection of early photographic and cinematic devices and photographs. It consisted of two parts: Postmodern Modernism and Hybrid Dialectics. Postmodern Modernism was an investigation of the early roots of modernism in photographs that concerned topics such as movement, psychic energy, the paranormal, and phrenology. The works Writing Drawing Painting, Blanquis Cosmology and Conversation Maps were installed alongside compatible historic photographs.

Hybrid Dialectics was an installation in which the devices that I have been working with in the past 6 years were exhibited in vitrines alongside with the museum’s collections of historic photographic and cinematic devices. As such they spoke to the idea that the history of photography, cinema, and new media is a history that is conjoint with the history of the development of the eye, brain, and mind, and that all together they help constitute our idea of the world with which this history is recursively related to.

The mutated observer, part 1
The mutated observer, part 1

The mutated observer, part 1

This exhibition took place at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, as an intervention in the collection of early photographic and cinematic devices and photographs. It consisted of two parts: Postmodern Modernism and Hybrid Dialectics. Postmodern Modernism was an investigation of the early roots of modernism in photographs that concerned topics such as movement, psychic energy, the paranormal, and phrenology. The works Writing Drawing Painting, Blanquis Cosmology and Conversation Maps were installed alongside compatible historic photographs.

Hybrid Dialectics was an installation in which the devices that I have been working with in the past 6 years were exhibited in vitrines alongside with the museum’s collections of historic photographic and cinematic devices. As such they spoke to the idea that the history of photography, cinema, and new media is a history that is conjoint with the history of the development of the eye, brain, and mind, and that all together they help constitute our idea of the world with which this history is recursively related to.

The mutated observer, part 1, 2002, detail of hybrid dialectic device
The mutated observer, part 1, 2002, detail of hybrid dialectic device

This exhibition took place at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, as an intervention in the collection of early photographic and cinematic devices and photographs. It consisted of two parts: Postmodern Modernism and Hybrid Dialectics. Postmodern Modernism was an investigation of the early roots of modernism in photographs that concerned topics such as movement, psychic energy, the paranormal, and phrenology. The works Writing Drawing Painting, Blanquis Cosmology and Conversation Maps were installed alongside compatible historic photographs.

Hybrid Dialectics was an installation in which the devices that I have been working with in the past 6 years were exhibited in vitrines alongside with the museum’s collections of historic photographic and cinematic devices. As such they spoke to the idea that the history of photography, cinema, and new media is a history that is conjoint with the history of the development of the eye, brain, and mind, and that all together they help constitute our idea of the world with which this history is recursively related to.

The mutated observer, part 1
The mutated observer, part 1

This exhibition took place at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, as an intervention in the collection of early photographic and cinematic devices and photographs. It consisted of two parts: Postmodern Modernism and Hybrid Dialectics. Postmodern Modernism was an investigation of the early roots of modernism in photographs that concerned topics such as movement, psychic energy, the paranormal, and phrenology. The works Writing Drawing Painting, Blanquis Cosmology and Conversation Maps were installed alongside compatible historic photographs.

Hybrid Dialectics was an installation in which the devices that I have been working with in the past 6 years were exhibited in vitrines alongside with the museum’s collections of historic photographic and cinematic devices. As such they spoke to the idea that the history of photography, cinema, and new media is a history that is conjoint with the history of the development of the eye, brain, and mind, and that all together they help constitute our idea of the world with which this history is recursively related to.

Law of Loci (1998-99)

Law of Loci
Law of Loci
Law of Loci
Law of Loci
Law of Loci
Law of Loci
Law of Loci
Law of Loci
Law of Loci
Law of Loci
Law of Loci
First Love #5, B&W Print
Dock #8, B&W Print
Father, B&W Print
Shed #6, B&W Print
Shed #2, B&W Print
Back of the House #1, B&W Print
Back of the House #2, B&W Print

Selected Works 2012 (Private)

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Wrong Rainbow Paintings (2012)


Rainbow Brushes, Installation
Wrong Rainbow Paintings, 2012


11. Neidich, Wrong Rainbow Paintings, detail of table topjpg copy
Wrong Rainbow Paintings, 2012


albert bierstadt 1869 16.5 inches
Wrong Rainbow Paintings, 2012


albert bierstadt date unknown 16.625
Wrong Rainbow Paintings, 2012


thomas moran, 1900, 37 inches
Wrong Rainbow Paintings, 2012


Rainbow Brushes and performative pulls, acryl on paper, exhibition view, Belgrade Cultural Centre, 2008

Fields Of Consciousness: The Ghost In The Machine

Mark Gisbourne, Fields of Consciousness: The Ghost in the Machine
in Photography and Culture, Vol 5, Issue 1, March 2012, 53-76.


The contentious debate as to an aesthetic relationship between mind-mechanism-representation has not gone away, that is in spite of scientific researches in physiology and neurophysiology that have recently dressed matters up in terms of mapping the brain and a causal bio-chemistry. Yet given a recent return of somatic dominance there nonetheless still remains much to be said about the mental role of a creative culture in the living biochemistry of modern being. This is not to argue that nineteenth century Driesch-ian derived ideas of 'vitalism' and its legacy, can any longer offer a non-materialist hiding place for theories of mind and consciousness.(1) Theories of mind have largely been reduced today to two areas, namely the biological sciences and/or experimental cognitive psychology.(2) It is the discursive and interactive relationship between biological science and the different psychologies of consciousness, that for the most part frames the current debate. In areas of cognitive consciousness the emphasis is now firmly placed upon the 'embodied', that is to say in living conditions of 'being' that foments representation: to represent means quite literally an embodiment of signs that are brought to mind only in and through reflective consciousness as lived experience.(3) The subjective Cartesian formation of the mind-body question, and its many subsequent philosophical interpretations, has been increasingly side-lined somewhat ironically (given Descartes mechanistic view of the body), by an extension of materialist mechanisms (scanning machines), and the explications of neuroscience that accompanies their use.(4)

But how the brain works and the related questions born of how representation within consciousness takes place, remains a vexatious territory that is still fundamentally unresolved. It is clear that the representation of the world through sign and symbols is a given and everyday reality, but to what extent can it be said that consciousness and its physiological component can be altered by the sensory experiences of the world through the changing conditions of cultural representation? It leaves open the question whether consciousness is nothing more than an extension of structural physiology with a purely biological foundation (that is to say pre-determined by brain chemistry), or whether there is a spectral or non-definable hermetic substance that changes the conditions of consciousness through interactions with numerous sensory experiences in the world, something that shapes, sharpens, and thereafter alters the physiological arguments of pure mechanism? Put another way does the visual language experience of representation (I use the word 'language' advisedly) alter in any way the simple physiological processes of working consciousness? If it is the first question posed, this leaves aesthetics and discussions as to the aesthetics of consciousness in a perilous position. If the second the representational aspects of aesthetics remain open and in a continual state of change and development. And as an aside in simple historical terms this also questions as to whether there could ever be a fixed 'cultural canon' of those conventional but shifting representations through artistic experience, as either expressed or implied by continuous transformations of states of cultural consciousness.

In more conventional aesthetic terms it touches upon one of the oldest of philosophical-aesthetic concerns, namely whether different material forms of representation take on the appearance of change (merely as a sort of repetitive cultural and pictorial mutation), or conversely, that cultural change is a continuous and changing condition of appearance as those successive temporal representations take place.(5) In short in what ways does living culture alter and/or expand upon the aesthetic aspects of our consciousness? How do representations through perceived experiences in and of the world effect interaction between consciousness and the body? And, where do representations stand in regards to the return or 'eternal recurrence' of images and ideas that daily saturate our lived experience? The artist Warren Neidich has long been concerned with these contentious issues, and has also written a related book of essays which concentrated on these issues, emphasising different cultural effects on neural networks as they relate particularly to experiences of film and photography.(6) I intend in this essay for the most part to concentrate on Niedich's photographic and film/video-based work, incorporating aspects and use of his different performance-experience-experimental contents that consistently appear within what is a challenging and diverse body of art works.

It is quite clear that photography and film combines aspects of mind and mechanism. The camera has the status of a tool in terms of representation and visual language, a tool that has a use value that mediates representations through applications of mind as consciousness. But it is commensurate to argue that pictorial representation is a continuous visual language that sculpts and shapes our ongoing perception of the world. The bi-focal aspects of the mind and mechanism are grounded as a necessary form of mutuality that are ineluctably manifested within lived experience. Neidich's work in recent years has concentrated on two vital concerns. (7) The first I will discuss is a large and developing series of the artist's work he has called Blanqui's Cosmology (1997-2005), a work that investigates questions around issues of origin as regards the modern subject in photography, and specifically ideas as it relates to repetition and recurrence. He asks what are the meanings exposed (as simile) by repetition and recurrence? The second area of discussion will be Neidich's diverse series of conceptual works in different media that investigates the History of Consciousness (1996-2010). Their analogous relationship is self-evident as both the inside and outside (perception and perceived) of mind and mechanism, cosmological projections of consciousness (consciousness fused with mechanism) on the one hand, and the internal assimilations that forms a fluid creative state of sensory consciousness on the other. As applied to culture and the history of photography, mind and mechanism is always in a state of confrontation with resistance.(8) Among the myriad aspects of cultural objects and their conditions of experience in the world, the state of their resistance to any singular assimilation or interpretation is well established. It becomes the basis for arguing that the conditions of consciousness are shaped by any number of provisional interactions.

The role of the camera as mechanism in capturing the conditions of culture at a given moment is neither uniform or singular, but always subject to the prevailing provisional and historical states of consciousness. This is not to say that they cannot be mapped, but at best used only to define a transitional state of apparent reality at a given period of time. The role of resistance in culture and the objects of culture (born of 'intentionality' as origin) is encoded in such a way so as to make them take on the hidden visible of photography. It is not surprising therefore that the corollary of the 'negative' has been essential to the historical development of the photograph and of film, a mechanistic inversion that expresses itself through the obverse image.

The Artist Residency in the 21st Century: Experiments in Cultural Potentiality and Contamination

Cover of Lost Between the Extenisity-Intensivity Exchange

In the publication Lost Between the Extensivity-Intensivity Exchange published in 2008 by Onomatopee I brought forth the notion, through diagramatic and textual displays, that the inauguration of the 21st century could be described as a time of cultural torpor resulting from free floating anxiety, ambivalence, and wavering. The causes for this condition were many, but two stood out. First and foremost was the condition, suggested by the title, that of being lost in the ‘in-between zone’ of extensive and intensive labor and two evolving partially incommensurable world views, the local (tribal) and global (cosmopolitan) or the nation-state and the Earthling, merged. Superimposed upon this unstable frame of reference was, and still is, the disparity in epistemology encountered by the subject in the urban designed space of the city and its rural counterpart, although this difference is being quickly eroded away with the advent of fast connection internet and cheap hand-held browsing devices. Could the gridlock in the American Congress and David Cameron’s recent veto against the European Community be a result of this ensuing torpor, representing a clash between those of us who want to embrace a world view and those of us who want to recede into smaller more homogenous communities characteristic of the past? The question then needs to be reframed as: is this appropriate in today’s world that requires solutions to global issues like global warming, workers’ rights, and international terrorism? How, on one hand do we preserve local cultures and practices from global homogenization, while at the same time giving people all over the world the benefits of a global society like antibiotics, education for woman, and better sanitation – just to name a few. How do we soothe the needs of those who require familiarity and constancy with the requirements of those who want to move forward into cosmopolitanism or the idea of the ‘world citizen’?

Warren Neidich, Respekt, London, 100x 50 cm, Type C-print, 2005, (From: Earthling Series, 2004-2007)


It is to these conditions that I would like to direct this essay in the hope of finding a way out of this languor by creating a more productive rhetoric, a trans-thinking vocabulary that does not heed the restrictions of a language rooted either in the humanities or the sciences but a mixture of the two. By trans-thinking I want to address a state of mind that is free floating and unencumbered by contrived barriers constructed in thought itself. As will be argued shortly, we are moving out of a condition of strict neoliberalism; a ‘cognitive turn’ has taken place. Ideas around the brain and mind are playing more and more of a role in investment strategy and political policy. Anyone regularly reading the New York Times will be impressed by the frequency and range of articles concerning mind and brain recently published. In the month of December alone, eleven articles have been published. These articles have ranged from advice on how exercise benefits the brain, to a critique of the limits of neuroscience when researching works of art to a bevy of articles concerning traumatic injuries to the head in ice hockey and soccer.

With the advent of the Internet and the explosion of images created by new media, issues of attention have also become more and more important and with it, maladies like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) due to the lack of the ability to focus. In our attention economy, in order to be an adequate consumer, you need your skills of attention to be at their peak. Lack of or easily disrupted attention in the 21st century is a disability that needs to be treated, and the pharmaceutical companies have been all too happy to invent a pharmaceutical menagerie to do so. ADD as well as Depression, according to Franco Berardi, are part and parcel of a whole host of disabilities particular to our time. (1) “The other side of the new economy is naturally the use of psycho-stimulant or anti-depressive substances…How many, among new economy operators, survive without Prozac, Zoloft or even cocaine…When economic competition is the dominant psychological imperative of the social consortium, we can be positive that the condition for mass depression will be produced. This is in fact happening under our eyes.” (2) It is here upon this playing field that a new ethics must be formed and refusing a lexicon of humanism or science just won’t do. Furthermore, the idea of free market unencumbered by political restrictions and decisions is an idea that has no merit today, for cognitive capitalism is focused on the new territory of the mind and brain, specifically its decision-making processes which skews any reference to free choice which neo-liberalism requires. Consumer neuroscience itself is a wild card in the hand of neo-liberalism. (3)These issues would seem to be a far cry from any discussion of artist residencies. But artist residency programs are, in fact, the perfect site in which to explore a variety of arguments concerning notions of tribalism vs. cosmopolitanism; extensive and intensive labor; the representation of the other in a world of mass immigration and transnationalism; and free choice in neo-liberalism. By their very nature artist residency programs are forms of temporary settlements in a worldwide nomadic movement of peoples and ideas, and as a result, they embody notions of cultural contamination and semiocapitalism. ‘The rise of post-Fordist modes of production, which I will call Semiocapitalism, takes the mind, language and creativity as its primary tools for the production of value.’ (4) Just as Gilles Deleuze had to create a different language to redefine Michel Foucault’s ideas of ‘the disciplinary society’ with his term the ‘society of control’, today we need to redefine other concepts, such as the artist-in-residence, to make them relevant in contemporary discourse. (5)

Warren Neidich

Each epoch, driven by novel sets of immaterial social, political, psychological, and spiritual relations, must devise new linguistic modifications to capture the essences of these mutated cultural environments, so too must we understand that the artist-inresidence operates in a very different discursive field today than it did, say, in the late 19th century and early 20th century when patrons of the arts created the Corporation of Yaddo. In our moment of a network transnational society, other cultures with other languages and other ideas become essential to the production of a complex point-of-view that has the potential to produce complex brains. I want to show how the artist-inresidence might play a role in this, first by concentrating the cultural capital of the other and secondly by activating this ‘otherness’ with the marginal and dissociative apparatuses of aesthetic production. I want to invoke it as a place where the power of art might flex its muscle.

The essay is divided up into a number of sections. Section 1, entitled The building without a program or how the physical condition of the space of the residency might be mutated, sketches out the potential of the residency as a cultural modifier acting to release its innate plasticity, potentiality in reserve. Utilizing the idea invented by Deleuze of the ‘body without organs’ as a metaphor, the residency is likened to a body that is no longer subjected to the despotism of the a priori genetic plan and is released to express another side of itself. For instance, surrealism and its instigator Freudian psychoanalysis were understood as tools in the elaboration of a new organization of the cultural landscape in early modernism. As such, this essay outlines the ways in which it, through the rules of its practices, mutated the complex contingencies of the aesthetic-cultural landscape of its time. Thus, it elicited alternative reactions from the brain’s attention centers, creating, in response, elaborate changes in the materiality of the neurobiological substrate that might be registered as memory architectures. These restructurings and neural modulations are then shown to have resonance for a model of sculpting of the phantasmagoric relations of the phantom limb and its phenomena of remapping. This plasticity metaphor, in this case cultural plasticity, is also utilized to understand architecture as a malleable space in which the regulation of social and intellectual flows that determine a residency, could be unlocked to affect and mold the surrounding cultural landscape in which it is embedded, with the potential to produce novel circuits in the brain/mind complex that make sense of it. Section 2 Cultural Pluripotentiality and Neuroplasticity: Parallelactic Continuity and Discontinuity further develops this idea. Cultural pluripotentiality refers to the relation of the dominant culture to the minority cultures that orbit around and through it. Healthy cultures are continually in flux. Metaphorically speaking they are a multiplicity of instructional and informational resonances vibrating at different frequencies that are tethered together in time as a meshwork or network phenomena. The sum total of these significations gives rise to that culture’s identity and quality. Whether you are looking at the micro-cultural context of the tribe, clan or nation-state, or molar condition of the transnational empire, one cultural referendum usually predominates. This dominant culture controls the center of the network of relations and is thus involved in dominating that portion of the network’s activity, as all of its resonances eventually move through the center. At the margins this is less true. Although the dominant culture controls the character, principles and general intelligence of a particular tribe, nation state or transnational entity under moments of destabilization due to war, natural disasters, economic downfall or extreme paradigm shift, the network’s disposition might change. In this moment, the marginal culture might have the chance to express itself more intensely. For instance, these moments of destabilization might de-center the network making what was peripheral and marginal more central. I think this is what happened after Catherine David’s, Documenta X and Okwui Enwezor’s Documenta XI as together, one could argue, they were partly responsible for the cultural turn in art history. This process of destabilization and restabilization as something else is essential for the concept of cultural pluripotentiality as a form of cultural plasticity that constitutes a culture resiliency in times of change by allowing for the establishment of different intensities. In this moment of cognitive capitalism – delineated by immaterial labor and new forms of distributed general and machinic intelligence – the redistribution of the network’s capacity and the rearrangement of its immanent nodal identity is more important than ever. This cultural pluripotentiality is coupled to the conditions of the brain’s neural plasticity. As such, this cultural-neurobiologic plasticity complex, as I would like to call it, provides a mechanism for continued natural selection and survival.

Section 3, entitled Neurobiopolitics: The Mind’s Eye as a Place of Political and Social Contention, explores the notion of biopolitics of the mind. Biopower, as defined by Michel Foucault, constitutes the methods through which sovereignty constitutes docile and productive bodies and organizes life through the modulations of affect, for example, pleasure. (6) In cognitive capitalism, the brain and mind are the focus of sovereignty’s desire to normalize the subject’s gnostic potential in order to produce a ‘like minded’ people. This constitutes one of the conditions of neurobiopolitics. When neurobiopolitics focuses specifically on the neural plastic potential of the brain especially in the frontal lobes where it is most abundant, the term ‘neuropower’ is used. In tertiary economies it has been argued by the likes of Poalo Virno that the virtuouso performance leaves no trace. (7) It does not produce any material product. Through my project The Noologist’s Handbook (2008-2011), I argue that in late capitalism a trace is, in fact, left in the form of complex memory structures in the mind’s eye. Secondly I argue that this space of the mind’s eye is one of political contention and political determination. I then explain how a ‘residency without walls’ adapts to the rubric of the early 21st century and embraces this idea of the immaterialization of architecture as a mechanism by which to unhinge regimes of oppression that attempt to debilitate it as a cultural and neurobiological modifier. In Section 4, The Cultural Capitalism/Cognitive Capitalism Ratio and its Relation to Cerebral Complexity, I define my concept of the Cultural Capitalism / Cognitive Capitalism Ratio and tether it to cultural complexity. As opposed to the usual definition of cultural capitalism proposed by Pierre Bourdieu, in which cultural capital refers to those factors that include the cultural habits and dispositions inherited from the family and which are fundamentally important for a child’s success in school and therefore society, I put forth an alternative position in which cultural capital is seen as the degree to which artistic practices create other resistant possibilities for the mind by neural modulation. (8) I would like to expand Bourdieu’s position because it is not broad enough and does little to examine the emancipating aspects of cultural capital. I am extending it to include the idea that these same resources form the fundamental epistemological context that later inform the practices of those children that become artists and architects. This specialized knowledge becomes the fundamental platform though which they produce novel intellectual products and discourses, especially in the cognitive regime, to interact with those conditions of cognitive capitalism in order to mutate them. Beyond the definitions of cognitive capital currently circulating in the public’s eye as espoused by a group of Italian political philosophers such as Maurizio Lazzarato, Matteo Pasquinelli, Titziana Terranova and Christian Marrazzi, I would like to add the following: cognitive capitalism refers to a recent accentuation of an ongoing historical process in which the territory of the mind and brain is the focus of capital investment. Most importantly, cognitive capital organizes its apparatuses of power upon the brain’s neuroplasticity in the hope of producing a future passive and normalized human being. This, as we saw above, is called neuropower and will be elucidated later. I then proceed to explain what I call the ‘Cultural Capital/Cognitive Capital Ratio’, where a high ratio delineates an open society whilst a small value connotes a repressive one. In the following section called Further Elucidation of the Cultural Capital / Cognitive Capital Ratio and Neuromodulation, I investigate how this ratio could serve as indices for predicting how the neuroplasticity of the neural tissue is sculpted and modulated within specific political cultural environments. After a detailed discussion of neuroplasticity and its relation to epigenesis, I go on to discuss its link to cultural production. In this respect I tether this ratio to the concept of complexity both in culture and in the brain. The coupling of cultural complexity to what is referred to as degeneracy forms the final discussion in this section. Cultural complex environments that embrace high levels of cultural capital produce degenerate networks in the brain that give that brain a greater capacity to think creatively and improvisationally.


Comments On “Unstable Moments of Reconsideration, Reconsideration”

by: Warren Neidich
Published in: Reprise #1, Ed Mathieu Copeland, 2011, pps: 10-17.
Comments On “Unstable Moments of Reconsideration, Reconsideration”

“I am proposing the notion that we are here in the presence of something like a mutation in built space itself. My implication is that we ourselves, the human subjects who happen into this new space, have not kept pace with that evolution: there has been a mutation in the object unaccompanied as yet by any equivalent mutation in the subject. We do not yet possess the perceptual equipment to match this new hyperspace, as I will call it, in part because our perceptual habits were formed in that older kind of space I have called the space of high modernism…The newer architecture therefore - like other cultural products I have evoked in the proceeding remarks - stands as something like an imperative to grow new organs, to expand our sensorium”.

Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson.

The question that Jameson poses in the above quotation is the question I would like to take up in reference to the question of curating as an act of cross-generational reiteration. I would like to consider anew the impulse to re-enact the archive in the present moment of our event culture, where performance and labor are quickly becoming indistinguishable. I want to understand this in reference to ontogeny; as a culturally inflected development of the human organism. Finally I want to look at how destructive impulses, as they are utilized in art and curatorial practices, create new languages for those practices and, as a result, the imagination. The power of art will ultimately be understood as neuro-modulatory.


«The diagram is indeed a chaos, a catastrophe, but it is also a germ of order or rhythm. It is a violent chaos in relation to the figurative givens, but it is a germ of rhythm in relation to the new order of the painting. As Bacon says, it “unlocks areas of sensation”.»

Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, Gilles Deleuze

«The diagram or abstract machine is the map of relations between forces, a map of destiny, or intensity, which proceeds by primary non-localizable relation and at every moment passes through every point, or rather in every relation from one point to another.»

Foucault, Gilles Deleuze

What has happened since 1964, when Study for an Exhibition of Violence in Contemporary Art was first curated by Roland Penrose, and today in 2011 as it is ‘rendered’ again, first at the David Roberts Art Foundation, London and now reassembled again as Studies For a  Catalogue - A Study for an exhibition of Violence in Contemporary Art (Reprise 1964/2011) at Flat Time House, London? For one thing, the curator and many of the artists in the new publication have been born. Not an insignificant fact. A new generation of subjects has has been produced, no longer bound to the logics of modernism, but who have instead formed their habits of perception in the fluid, dynamic, non-linear, networked world of the post-modern, or whatever you want to call it. A new generation has emerged who have substituted the chart and the list, with its hierarchical structure, for the diagram, in which layers of intensity in flux are superimposed; whose perceptual habits, continuing with reference to Jameson’s above quote, have been reconfigured through active engagement and the event rather than passivity and stasis.

Plastic sociological, political, spiritual, economic and historical relations, as they interact with and are embodied by these novel cultural equivalences are spat out as architecture, painting, sculpture, installation and performance. In the end these changes affect the visual, auditory, haptic and kinesthetic topography of the cultural habitus, its distributions and, as a result, its subjectivities, especially the brains and minds, which operate inside them.

In this expanded field of distributed networks, time and space are reconfigured, reappraised and reconnected according to evolving, variable intensities, resulting in hubs and energy sinks that couple to our reflection and attention. These then produce the urgency alluded to by Jameson; changes that create the imperative to grow new organs of perception and provide the pressures, according to present day neuroscience, to sculpt the neurobiological substrate and architecture, giving it new potential to perceive and cognate the formally sublime space of post-modernism. How this might happen neurobiologically is beyond the scope of this essay, but for those interested I refer them to my recent essay «From Noopower to Neuropower: How Mind Becomes Matter» contained in the volume Cognitive Architecture: From Biopolitics to Noo-Politics, edited by myself and Deborah Hauptmann, 010 Press, Rotterdam, 2011.


Space, its topographies and topologies, holds inside itself real material conditions but also possibilities. In cultural terms its ability to be described at any time is a product of known and unknown factors that together contribute to its inherent pluri-potentiality. The word pluri-potentiality, as its roots imply, signifies many or several meanings or possibilities that still remain latent, awaiting the proper set of cultural circumstances in which to become real or instantiated. I am using this expression to delineate the conditions of space, both expressed and unexpressed, that are articulated by a particular context and that are coupled to similar but different relations existing inside the subject who operates in that space. The brain, by its virtue to adapt to constantly evolving habitats, is also pluri-potent and its power resides in its ability to change to fit the social, political, economic, historical and cultural conditions it is born into and in which it must operate.

The brain of humans, especially the outer shell called the cerebral cortex, contains an excess of pluri-potentiality at birth referred to as neuroplasticity. The brain has the potential, for instance, to learn any of the 6,700 languages presently existing on this earth, although each of us learns just a few. But the potential is there, especially for the child, to learn any of them. Concepts themselves are pluri-potent, responding to the mutating linguistic and cultural milieu over time, resulting in new surfaces presented to our understanding. Even the white cube, with its anonymity and starkness, holds infinite possibilities to become. Many artistic interventions have attacked its surface and attempted to destroy it in order to reconfigure it and, as a result, provide new surfaces, some of them rough and contorted, in order to make new statements about the condition of art and its container. Liz Larner’s, Corner Basher, 1988 performed at 303 Gallery in New York comes to mind.


The history of exhibitions is a history of the traces of that mind in a state of becoming. Is this, in fact, the story of A Study for an Exhibition of Violence in Contemporary Art, an exhibition that has been reconstituted at different times and in different spaces, continually shifting its presentation to fit its specific context? That history is reflected as cultural memory in relation to the facts of this roving nomadic exhibition: the ICA, David Roberts Art Foundation and Flat Time House present different discursive contexts and problematics through which the exhibition can be redefined. First, at the ICA, the exhibition was categorized into different frames of reference using panels, like one might do for a card catalogue in a library. Linearly distributed, they followed  the course of the ICA’ s interior architecture and they were each labeled, from one to thirty. One might have experienced this exhibition as one might read a book, page by page. As each page is turned, new content unveils itself to the eyes, body and mind, arranged as a narrative displaying different categories of violence and destruction.

For instance, Panel 1 concerns itself with introductory remarks and is illustrated by reproductions of Van Gogh’s Willows at Sunset, 1888, and Pablo Picasso’s Woman and Dead Child, 1937. (Few actual works of art were included in the original installation at the ICA, most were represented in photographic reproduction. These works of art illustrated the categories used. I will not recite the full list of works, as I am more interested in the arrangement of topics.) Panel 2 sets the stage for ‘Violence Observed: Nature’ which is divided into Panel 2, ‘Landscape’, and Panel 3, ‘Animals’. Panel 4 is the beginning of ‘Violence Observed: Human Behavior’ and is subcategorized into ‘Sex’ and ‘Sport’. The next panels continue this category: Panel 5, ‘War’, Panel 6, ‘Fighting’, ‘Murder’ and ‘Torture’, Panel 7, ‘Suicide’, ‘Hysteria’ and ‘Madness’, Panel 8, ‘Anguish’ and ‘Anger’ and Panel 9, ‘Birth’ and ‘Death’. At Panel 10 the exhibition takes another turn with ‘Violence Imagined: Symbolic Violence’. It is made up of ‘Religion’ and ‘Myth’ and continued in Panel 11 with more about myth. Panels 12, 13 and 14 follow with the categories of ‘Dreams’, ‘Sex’, ‘Obsessions’ and ‘Signs’. At Panel 15 another abrupt switch is made under the grand category ‘Creative Violence: New Styles- New Conceptions’. These panels read as a history of art in the twentieth century. Panel 15, ‘Colour: Fauves’, Panel 16, ‘Significant Distortion’, ‘Expressionism’, Panel 17, ‘Movement: Futurism’ and, ‘Optical’, and finally Panel 18 and 19, ‘Irrational: Surrealism’ and Panel 20, ‘Exuberance’. Panel 21 introduces another category ‘Violence as a Weapon’ with the subcategory ‘Anti-society’ followed by Panel 22, ‘Anti- Religion’, Panel 23, ‘Anti-Art Dada’, Panel 24, ‘Anti-War’, Panel 25, ‘Anarchy’, Panel 26, ‘Polemical’, and finally Panel 27 ‘Irony and Humour’. ‘Direct Expression’ is the final major heading and includes Panel 28, 29 and 30 under the subcategory, ‘Action’.

The works of art that are subsumed by these categories act as forms of proof for the suppositions provided by their respective panel headings. They are rigorously incarcerated by the discursive logistics of the overall plan that controls their spatial coordinates and restricts their pluri-potentiality. They are physically contained by their designated panel assignments, unable to jump beyond their physical and metaphysical confines into another category or to fill in at another location. Of course, each painting could be used to reference many different topics, but in this arrangement they are allowed just one. One is reminded here of the conditions of Michel Foucault’s term ‘disciplinary society’ in which architecture itself becomes biopolitical. The installation affects the minds that regard it, instituting hierarchies with which to form basic understandings.


My purpose here is not to recount the content of the catalogue of the exhibition, you can go online for that, but rather to make two important points that relate to my original conjecture. That, in fact, the mind formed inside modernism finds the post-modern space sublime. The corollary being that the mind formed in Post-Modernism is characterized by habits of perception and cognition that refer to alternate forms of neurobiological distributions which provide it with the ability to understand these sublime spaces. These alternative, materialized dispositions also have the potential to create new forms of cultural materialization. I am arguing that the brain/mind of Mathieu Copeland is, beyond its individual character, sculpted according to the logics of his generation. He is a standin for his generation, who share common neurobiological materializations in the form of  memories, coded and summated as the activity of millions of synaptic switchings. As such, he is an agent for the production of cultural forms that instantiate those generational proclivities, for example, the post-modern. I argue that his brain/mind is sculpted very differently than that of his predecessor, Roland Penrose, whose brain was sculpted in the space and time conditions of modernism; indeed, that the different epochal, culturally derived habits of perception and cognition lead to very different installation formats, produced for very different generational audiences accustomed to varying readings of space and time.

The mind of Roland Penrose that decided the order of the original content of the ICA exhibition and administered its design, was attempting to make sense of a bevy of existing original materials, randomly distributed over time and topics, that dealt in a haphazard fashion with the idea of destruction and violence in art. I quote from his preface from the show, “Violence is an elemental force which can not be neglected and the arts have traditionally claimed their share of the emotional excitement it provides. Martyrs, battles, catastrophes, murders and rapes have been the motif for colouring many masterpieces with blood. It flows as freely in the ritualism of Italian Primitives as in the realism of Goya, Gericault and Delacroix.» By using an outline or chapter heading form of classification he was hoping to produce a taxonomy, or natural history, of violence in art, to use an expression found in Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things, in hopes of removing the hitherto obfuscation that surrounded the topic. The cataloguing of forms of violent expression as they appear in the arts was the first impulse to arrange this information. It was followed by a second-order rearrangement, within the catalogue, with its different rules of formatting. (Don’t forget there were no InDesign programs at this time.) The secondorder rearrangement, or meta-arrangement, I would suggest is a second order cataloguing or re-cataloguing. This manifestation, as it existed formally as text choreographed and styled on printed page, was entombed in the ICA archive at the Tate in London until the curator plucked it from its shelf and gave it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The act of exhuming this content, buried deep and for so long, allows us to understand the power of this original, classical model for creativity; one that lit the way for the Enlightenment, but which now seems antiquated and anachronistic. Even within its hierarchical constraints, the possibility emerges for ‘Creative Violence’ to produce ‘New Styles - New Conceptions’. It is here that violence acts as a generative force, breaking up that which is known and understood into a thousand pieces, in order to be reassembled in a new construction of the known in order to create a new territory of the unknown. This is a continuous cyclical phenomenon. Violence, and its cohort destruction, punch holes in institutional logics in order to create new territories for the imagination to operate within. Are these methodologies of destruction a key to understanding the formal adaptations necessary to make the contents of the catalogue real again? Will violent curatorial methodologies be necessary to exhume the catalogue and re-enact it in a revitalized threedimensional space, inhabited not by dust particles and the faintest of light, but by living, breathing human beings rummaging through scopic regimes and haptic kinesthetic logistics of the 21st century? A public used to watching fast editing on Music Television Videos, reverse action replays on sports television, and distressed photographs that portray partial body parts with their need for assumptive pattern recognition. A new public and viewership privy to new forms of viewing, who witness the simulacra of the work deposited anew, almost sixty years later, in the pluri-potential white cube structure of the David Roberts Art Foundation.


But the story does not end here. For, as a witness of the exhibition installation downstairs at the David Roberts Art Foundation and a futuristic voyeur of the installation at Flat Time House, what becomes quite apparent is that the modulated context has pressured the installation to emerge as something quite different.

When one reviews the documentation from the David Roberts Art Foundation, what is evident is that the curator has thrown off his cloak as a disinterested observer attempting to clear away the detritus of unmeaning in order to rehabilitate a common understanding. Instead, following in the footsteps of the great Harald Szeemann, he has become an artist himself. Or, should I say, he has gone native. He has contaminated the original presentation at the ICA by reneging on its original cataloguing and refutes the linear, extensive, arboreal logic of his predecessor(s), instead reinstituting the logic of the salon as diagram or rhizome. Images are assembled as they might be on an i-photo library source page or, even better yet, a Final Cut Pro browser window displaying its clips.

At the David Roberts Art Foundation there was a nod to the original catalogue, but it was almost invisible, especially for those not privy to the original installation format. The topic headings were still there but were less obvious, not inscribing an entire panel but inserted into a stream of similarly processed information. Photocopies hung on the wall, one subdivision followed immediately by the next, blurring the boundaries between each. What was more apparent and attention grabbing were the incongruities created by the original works, borrowed from the David Roberts Collection and hung on the wall, which stuck out like gorgeous sore thumbs. Instead of flat photocopies these works were uncharacteristically large and either framed or resting on pedestals, causing the eye to change its course rather spastically. They made the whole installation unbalanced and odd. They broke up the original, ordered rhythms and created jumping-off points for the eye, which was averted from its normal path, as well as creating junctions for the dissemination of information between now coalescing information streams.

Take for instance the framed Lichtenstein work entitled Brushstroke, 1965, which butted against both Bridget Riley’s Fragment 1, 1965, on its left and a photocopy of Ben Shawn’s Sacco and Venzetti, 1931-1932, on its right. The Lichtenstein stretches from panel 20, ‘Exuberance’ where the work resides, all the way to Panel 17, ‘Optical’, where the Riley sustains itself, and finally connects the whole ‘inter-panel complex’ to Panel 21 where the Shawn lays waiting, ready to proclaim ‘Violence’. Of note is that the Bridget Riley was a substitution for ‘Disfigured Circle’, 1965, which was not in the collection, whilst Fragment 1, 1965, was. This kind of substitution occurred, according to Copeland, 10-15 times. Inter-panel complexes dot the surface of the wall. They are the essential entity that makes inter-panel readings and communications possible. They are the dispositifs of the exhibition and demand a post-modern reading, with its call for distributed information and networking rather than that which was originally allowed for under the strict rationality of high modernism. The display set up here was somewhat analogous to words and images displayed on computer screens with hypertext that allow the viewer to jump fields of attention from one webpage to another. Hubs of interest, where intense flows of information congregate and upon which the observers’ eyes rest in order to resample continuities based on personal biases rather then institutional prerogatives. This microdistribution of the sensible, the arrangement of the images in the gallery and the political conditions that this aesthetic presentation implies, has been mutated according to the logics of the information society with its web designs, computer games, internet and online  discussions. (I am not implying by this reference to technology that technology is the most important force for near-modulation. I am actually saying that the changing conditions of the neurobiological architecture give the mind new forms of mechanic intelligence with which to think and that, in fact, new technologies are the result of that imaginative thinking. New technologies are produced in order to give the mind a new means to reflect upon itself in order for it to understand the new evolving self-condition.) The installation of the works mimicked these conditions, giving them a renewed freshness, at the same time alluding to the revivified productive labor of the cultural worker whose mind has been selected by these new contingencies. The apparatus of the exhibition is the mimic of the conditions of the epistemological reframings caused by modulated neurobiological apparatus and architectures of the brain molded in the information age.


Space is defined not only by its material basis, its walls, windows and ceilings, but as well by the discussions that ensue about it. Buildings and the spaces they hold, as Patrick Schumacher has intoned, have become discursive events. As such, buildings become part of linguistic performances. In tertiary economies, according to Paolo Virno in The Grammar of the Multitude, in which performance and labor become indistinguishable, immaterial linguistic events that leave no traces are the new contingencies for the formation of capital. ‘Gossip networking sites’ like Facebook attest to this. I am arguing however that these new linguistic forms do have a material presence; that they inscribe messages of sorts upon the wet, mutable pluri-potentiality of the brains and minds of the audience, gathered to view the performance. (http://www.artbrain.org/) As we move towards Neo Global Cognitive Capitalism with new technologies at hand, like software agents and social network sites, like never before it is the mind and brain which constitute the new territory for dominating strategies of international capitalism. This power to inscribe upon the masses perceptual and cognitive habits is not new. Benjamin was hip to these possibilities and in his Work of Art essay he describes how works of art in the hands of the Third Reich were used to produce an ‘organic community’ (the German People or nation) as a work of art itself.

The exhibition, like the architecture, visual art and film mentioned above, is also a mirror to self-reflect upon the conditions of the changing relations of the epochal generationally sculpted neurobiological mindedness. This in itself provides for the potential for political expression. Most importantly, in the context of this text, the act of exhibition production is always in one way or another a political act.


“This is why this return of what is never simply itself. What returns is the movement through which something other is inscribed within the same, which, now no longer then the same, names what is always other than itself.” Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhauser.

The history of curating is a history of the reading of the mutating conditions of the culturally constructed zeitgeist as it is manifest in trends of artistic production. Artists are the selfdescribed agents of that. Curators reading artistic works in the way that critics read texts find emerging patterns in the plethora of artistic bricolage that clutters the zones of cultural production. They, as cultural workers, come to the cultural field with different forms of procedures, apparatus and discourses to read the ensuing mutations of that landscape. They use artists’ works as their palette, constructing a meta-language through which to  understand the new emerging patterns. (Patterns that, like ready-mades, can emerge from the noise of the uncommon, disordered and ensuing destruction of information itself.) They decode and disseminate those changes to the culture at large.

The recent resurgence of re-enactment as a conceptual tool, most readily illustrated by Marina Abramovic in her exhibition The Artist is Present, is now spilling over into the field of curating. Interest in historical ready-mades as a means to understand our own contemporary culture has sent artist and curator alike scurrying into the archive to mine the rich fertility of the past. Sometimes, as is the case here, to find original books and catalogues from which to build contemporary productions from memories of exhibitions as they are documented in words and pictures. The reasons for this interest are multitudinous. From the condition of the eternal return itself, to the need to reread works of the past with a contemporary perspective post 9/11 and internet, to the unveiling of the pluri-potential nature of these early works, which contain inside themselves multiple readings not yet interpreted and that require contemporary subjects who have, like Jameson intimated, grown new organs of perception to untangle them.

Education of the Eye (2009-2012)

Education of the Eye Part I

[aesop_document type="pdf" src="https://www.warrenneidich.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Education-of-the-Eye-Part-I.pdf"]



Education of the Eye Part II

[aesop_document type="pdf" src="https://www.warrenneidich.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Education-of-the-Eye-Part-II.pdf"]


Emancipating the Archive (2011)

Download work documentation as PDF (8.4 Mb)

Cognitive Architecture. From Bio-politics to Noo-politics

Edited by Deborah Hauptmann and Warren Neidich, published by 010 Publishers, Rotterdam.
Download table of contents and feature essay from Warren Neidich:

From Noopower to Neuropower: How Mind Becomes Matter (1.4 Mb)

Publishing details

Acceptable Differences

Acceptable Differences

January 2011
Belgrade Cultural Center, Belgrade
Curated by Maja Ciric

Catalog PDF

Lazar Trifunovic considered art to be a complex phenomenon wherein a lot of other complex phenomena fit in,2 but he pointed out that art, if it is to live with the times wherein it is created, must listen to its sounds, its problems and pains.3

If it is to be relevant in the 21st century, the gallery must simultaneously be an open network, a black box, a white cube, a temple, a laboratory and a situation. It must take on the form of a creative partnership between a curator and a producer, between an art object and the idea of art.4

In view of the fact that contemporary art is merely another niche within the framework of the overall intensive cultural production, especially within the surroundings of web 2.0, art criticism is addressed to a small number of insiders who, even when they really are interested in reading it, do not have too much time for doing so. If criticism has no market value and logic, its chances of finding its own space within the framework of cultural production lies in its being inscribed into curatorial practice.

If the purpose of practice is action itself,5 the kind of action that characterises curatorial practice is aimed at creating a context wherein worlds meet and where continual negotiation between various regimes of knowledge, between art and its public, is stimulated. The policy that I am advocating is not necessarily directed towards finding final solutions but rather towards stimulating dialogues and understandings inside the times wherein we act in combination with historical precedents, theoretical reflections and concrete processes.

Paul O’Neill speaks of the difference between a co-dependent and independent curator.6 According to him, it is not possible to be a curator without being dependent on institutions which one is in continual negotiation with. He stresses the dysfunctional aspect of this relationship, which is often unidirectional and emotionally destructive. Even though the majority of projects come into being through such cooperation, the independence of my being an agent is marked by my determination not to reproduce the system but to introduce a different perspective into institutional operations. An independent perspective is based on information and knowledge characteristic of transnational networks that I belong to, which specifically engage the methodology of curatorial practices. Pursuing this further, I try to ponder how the role of art is modifying the institutional socio-political paradigm.

Contemporary art, without utopian expectations, enables us to reread and reconsider the views of Lazar Trifunovic. My aim here was to stimulate the multiple ontologies of painting and conceptual art and to point out the outdatedness of an essentialist notion of art, reflected in the following view: art has never been so banal and so concrete as to make distinctions between certain political and economic systems – nor is it today.If social systems differ, do people differ as well? Are men/women different today merely because they live within the framework of different productive processes? Art has never counted on elements limited to the ‘national’, in the narrow sense of the term or upon specific socio-economic processes in the broader sense. Rather it has come into being as a product of the spirit, as a result of its conscience. Art has nothing in common with the outer, physical landscape and collective social relations. It only depends on the inner psychological landscape of the creator, on his/her personality.7

What we can conclude from these statements is that Trifunovic is arguing for essentialist things. As such his entire argument calls for the emancipation of the individual from his surroundings and strives for the production of an apolitical art. For art and curatorial practice based on poststructuralism, the discourse of the surroundings is essential. They are both the result of discursive production. Today, through reconstructing the cultural landscape, different formations are created. Post-structuralism is also important for Warren Neidich’s culturally inflected Becoming Brain model whereupon ideas like feminism, post-colonialism and queer theory play as important roles as science in generating knowledge and in sculpting neural networks and its counterpart contemplation.

The exhibition of Neidich is an intellectual horizon that complements the public sphere by revitalising and reinterpreting art history, activating experimentation and theoretical reflections, evaluating process, dialogue and participation. His works exhibited here, Education of the Eye (2010) and Rainbow Brushes (2008) understand art as an existentialist investment, a set of ideas, and redefine the relationship between form and the conceptual gesture, with a view to critically setting the system in motion.

Neidich’s gesture counts on power as the modifier of the neurobiological architecture, coupled to the machinic assemblage of the socio political economic cultural system at large set in motion by its surroundings and context, and uses memories in order to create a plan for future decisions and action.8 This approach enables him to shift away from a rigid and normative understanding of artistic practice, on the one hand, and from an essentialist one, on the other, and to review what Maurizio Lazzarato refers to as “noopolitics”,9 that the focus of power and the technology at its disposal is not the materiality of the body but its psychic life, especially its memory an attention.10 The self-portrait of the artist with a palette, created by Vasa Pomoricac and dating from 1932,11 as well as the overall context of the Lazar Trifunovic Award, have been repositioned, through form and performance, within the framework of a collective process of self-orientated individuals whose interests were joined in order to discover what painting and criticism presuppose today and how they can be relevant. Historical heritage is an integral part of contemporary experience, and the participation of ten contemporary artists and five experts in an experiment created new possibilities of critical engagement. Neidich has staged his historical dialectic dramaturgy at the Belgrade Cultural Center to illustrate a paradigm shift from previously known biopolitics to noo- power – information power: objects no longer change brains, It is information that changes them. Through this project, contemporary art makes it possible for us to create an awareness of differences that are conditioned by various forms of power acting in geopolitical, ideological, economic and scientific contexts. While science is finding similarities and consistencies, art is about creating difference and unleashing the pluripotentiality. One artist and one artwork has the potential to reset artistic parameters and change the history of art.

– Maja Ciric

On Visualized Vision In The Early Photographic Work Of Warren Neidich

On Visualized Vision in the Early Photographic Work of Warren Neidich

Volume 27 Issue 7/8 (December 2010) by Susanne Neubauer


ABSTRACT: This article contains an analysis of Warren Neidich’s early photographic work of 1997 until 2002. These works which are linked to the extensive theoretical production of the artists are contextualized with the concept of the dispositif and apparatus which was developed by Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and recently Maurizio Lazarrato. The article provides a close description of the parameters of four pivotal work groups of Neidich’s early practice, Brain Wash (1997), Double Vision (1997-2000), Short Reverse Shot (2001) and Law of Loci (1998-1999). These works were realized with the aid of low-tech devices stemming from neuro-ophthalmology, marking the interface between current neuro-philosophical discourses such as bio-politics, the plasticity of the brain, the apparatti of visual, i.e. analog and digital culture, and the philosophy of memory. It is suggested that Neidich, even though he intervenes and contributes importantly to these intermingling discourses in a broad manner, is particularly interested in the degraded and infirmed implementations of human vision in order to explore new sensations and habits of perception.

TEXT: When one reads about Warren Neidich’s early work of the 1990s, particularly about American History Reinvented,(1) most of the focus concerns an interpretation of the technical aspects of the production of his oeuvre through a media-philosophical scrim upon which an exploration of the cultural milieu is made possible. Foucault’s notion of Apparatus(2) and the dispositif, developed further by French film theorist Jean-Louis Baudry in the mid-seventies (Baudry, 1975), are relevant to any exploration of Neidich’s work.(3) Having imported optical devices, mainly from the realm of neuro-ophthalmology, for the production of his art works one can utilize these aforementioned theoretical concepts in order to understand his projects more concisely especially those produced and discussed in this paper between 1997 and 2003. The apparatus as a technical term hints at the practical elements of the “machines of seeing” of our “scopic regimes” (Jay, 1988: 3-27) such as photo, film and video camera, projectors as well as the projection space of a cinema (or lecture hall), and finds its counterpart in the idea of the dispositif which supplements – in a more general way – these two closely aligned concepts of structuralism and early structuralist film theory and a more recent counterpart in Maurizio Lazzarato’s media theoretical concept of Noo-politics. For him power establishes itself over the brains of the multitude from afar through the use of contemporary apparatti like the internet and particularly software agents which limit difference and create homogeny by administrating attention and memory (Lazzarato, 2003: 186).

However fascinating the mechanisms of seeing in modern times became when thinking of amateurish photo practice or visits to the movie theatre, the history of vision is above all a history of consumerism and paternalism one hand, and of eagerness for knowledge in the scientific domain on the other. Considering these complex interwoven territories, where vision (in the sense of perception) is subject to the power of knowledge, one can trace back in history its incredible power of infatuation, a danger that is embedded and reproduced more than ever in the digital image.

The idea of a ‘seduced vision’ through an analysis in time both backwards and forward as opposed to one that is simply linear and positivistic to produce, if you will, a-temporal machinic assemblages is inspiring. During the 19th century, scientific photography did not only bring to light until then unknown pictures such as Auguste-Adolphe Bertsch’s mites and other species which were unable to be seen with the naked eye or Josef Maria Eder and Eduard Valenta’s radiographs of animals. Fascination for micro-photography went so far that until the 1860s scientists still believed it possible to see more in a photographic detail when it was blown up. For instance, grains in the film emulsion became when blown-up proof of the existence sub-cellular particles and organelles. That was a tragic misinterpretation of the photographic ontology (Breidbach, 2002[1998]: 221-250). This also calls to mind the intricate investigations on Secondo Pias first photographic capturing of the Holy Shroud in 1898. Photography is, as it may seem, the medium per se to “search for something” (Geimer, 2002: 143-145) that is in flux in its state and hardly recognizable let alone visible.

That these misinterpretations were finally discussed tells one that vision and history cannot be understood separately from each other. Jonathan Crary’s Techniques of the Observer. On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (1990) is considered to be an important reference in the delineation of the evolutionary history of modern vision linking it, as it does, to the use and forms of diverse optical devices invented and used during the century of the Industrial Revolution. Crary made clear that an optical machine as primitive as it may look for us today was a device of wonder, fascination and fantasy then. Notwithstanding, it is striking enough that even simple devices such as the stereoscope, which can be tested in many museums of film history these days, are still appealing to us.(4) Stereoscopes, stroboscopes and zoetropes (and the photographic camera) – all pre-cinematic devices have not only been set up in amusement parks of the 19th and early 20th century (Maase, 1997), but were simultaneously used as objects to probe visual capacities such as “time-sense” and “space-sense” perception. Hugo Münsterberg, a German American pioneer in film theory and author of The Photoplay: A Psychological Study (1916), anticipated, as Giuliana Bruno in an extensive essay made strikingly clear, the “neuroaesthetic approach” (Bruno, 2009: 92) which has been developed by Neidich among others and which is being discussed widely in Anglosaxon and German art criticism since the turn of the 21st century.(5) Naming an example, Münsterberg investigated at Harvard Psychological Laboratory how film montage – motion – is able to affect emotion and empathy (Bruno, 2009: 102-103), i.e. in neuroaesthetic terms the shaping of the brain as it were.

This essay is not able to investigate how optical devices influence one’s brain structure in the sense of its changing neuro-physiological states from a scientific neuro-psychological point of view, nor does it explore the artistically less interesting phenomenon of evocating certain visual stimuli in order to surprise or manipulate the viewer as one can see it in works using mirrors or light for example. It shall trace back Neidich’s artistic interpretation of low-tech devices from neuro-ophthalmology such as the prism bar and Lancaster glass, which became adequate items with which to explore their possibilities as hybrid interfaces. These Hybrid Dialectics, as he calls them, are neither diagnostic devices used to determine abnormalities of the brain, nor are they meant to merely obtain particular artistic expressions, but a middle ground with which to “produce new kinds of images in the hope of enlisting in the viewer new sensations and habits of perception.”(6) In this context, the idea of the extended cognition plays a mediating role in Neidich’s thinking as there is the “plastic brain” (Clark, 2008: 68) which is subject to constantly altering states, for instance in the man made milieu in which a series of designed and engineered apparatti are embedded in analogue and digital culture in order to make scopic regimes immediately usable. By linking the history of vision to processes such as cinematic suture, Neidich’s interest lies interestingly enough less in extending the perceptual cognitive apparatus, but in discovering its degraded and infirmed margins.(7) It is the field of rupture and manipulation of the institutionality of visual culture that Neidich intervenes pushing forward the discussion on the idea of the “distribution of the sensible” (Rancière, 2006)(8) and the so-called “economy of attention”, the economic concept of the cyberspace and its urge to bind attention (Mandel and Van der Leun, 1996).(9) The focus of this essay lies therefore in this intriguing relationship between the exploration of a tool (the optical devices) as a metaphor for occidental cultural thinking and its literal use following self-conscious representational strategies. In this sense it can be seen that the exploration of technical and optical devices in the field of art practice is very often misleading viewer’s attention to the wrong site most notably when visual phenomena evoke first of all sensational pleasure. In the case of Warren Neidich’s early photographic pieces one can see how he oscillates between the techné of the artistic process and the realm of the artistic invention.

One of Warren Neidich’s first artworks is a video called Brain Wash from 1997. A man sits at a table and focuses on a rotating black and white striped drum. It’s a so-called “optokinetic drum”(10) which is used as a simple device for stimulation and assessment of optokinetic nystagmus, an involuntary eye movement, respectively. Brain Wash was Neidich’s first application of his Hybrid Dialectics and was closely aligned with the concept based on Marcel Duchamp’s idea of the objet trouvé by which the double-sided, hybrid character of a work of art as dependent on its authoritative context is made strikingly clear for the first time in art history. The camera/viewer observes the man staring at the drum and a close-up of the eyes shows the particular eye movement of the protagonist. This kind of subtle vibration of the eyeballs is followed by a cut away shot of the eyes of the man at a distance which now move rhythmically to and fro, left and right. In the next scene the viewer visualizes a 180 degree pan of the horizon which is made to shake and tilt. The purposeful shaking of the hand held camera in this sequence is a direct reference to the type of unstable frame that characterizes Lars von Trier’s aesthetics of Dogma. The notable linkage of the camera as apparatus connected to the apparatus of seeing was a nod to Duchamp’s Handmade Stereopticon Slide (c. 1918-1919) which fuses geometry, projection and perception paradigmatically showing the horizon of the sea and an octahedron. As Neidich pointed out, this particular sequence depicts the “eratic spaces of a world in transition.”(11) At the conclusion of the 180 degree camera pan movement there is a cut to the man again (revealing that it was apparently not he who was looking), followed by a close-up of the eyes again looking left and right, ending in a fade-out of the rotating optokinetic drum. The whole story is accompanied by a fast-paced sound track from the Japanese pop group Pizzicato Five.

Brainwash can be seen as sort of a comedy. Its narration is based on different filmic strategies such as the use of the linear arrangement of sequences at the beginning in which tracking shots, cutting in and away and the close-up are assembled together. This virtual movement is traditionally perceived as a stringent development of a simple time-space-relationship as can be observed in the early films of the Lumière brothers. The other strategy, the more elaborate one, is the shot reverse shot, a film technique that imitates throwing a glance at another person, often off-screen, in order to make clear to the spectator which protagonists are looking at each other. Simply said, each device which interrupts the traditional filmic eagerness to imitate human perception gives evidence to the factitiousness of the film. This happens in Brainwash in a quite tricky way when filmic conventions are broken up by juxtaposing sequences that give one the impression that they fit – nevertheless, they don’t. The piece is therefore even more of a caricature in the sense of E. H. Gombrich’s definition of identities that “do not depend on the imitation of individual features so much as on configurations of clues (…)” (Gombrich, 1986: 292). Similarly, Neidich does not seem to guide the perception of the viewer to clues just in order to communicate a content, but to the quite opposite, paradox direction. Having the optokinetic nystagmus caricatured by eyes moving is one such paradox for from a neuro-scientific point of view one has nothing to do with the other. This example displays how two divergent concepts collide. Even more obviously is the tilting shore as a sequence which depicts the internalised vision of the protagonist. Again, it is neither nor. As the camera moves around and stops at the body of the man, the sequence of the shore is a “double-vision” film convention, unclear of course who is who and who sees what. Nevertheless, this is Neidich’s manipulation of the cinematic gaze and – above all – his engagement in the philosophy of perception.

Brainwash can be considered a relevant example to introduce Warren Neidich’s medium comprehensive practice. His practice is shaped by a thorough knowledge of the physiognomy of the eye and the brain, the psychology of perception and the history of art. He uses optical devices as a starting point from which he explores his core questions. As one can understand in seeing Brainwash he uses low-tech devices and, as in this case, filmic (that is perceptional) conventions, in order to visualize what effects and shapes the brain, but also deceives the eye. The optokinetic drum in the beginning and the end of the video serves as a parenthesis. If Neidich would have executed this image as a painting, it could have been something such as Bridget Rileys’ Cataract 3 (1967) whose title, it is not without reason, is also a notion from ophthalmology. Strikingly, Riley’s and Neidich’s artistic expression is inspired by a negative connotation: the defect of vision. Working with the negative(12) Neidich reformulates what is considered a damage to or a loss in vision. Another series of work, his photographs Double Vision (1997-2000), among others, take up this idea and transfer it into a paradoxical but positive result. Double vision, or diplopia, is a dysfunction of one or both eyes, so to speak a misalignment of the eyes which results in seeing double. Interestingly enough the brain is able to correct and suppress the information of one eye because movement through space proves evolutionarily speaking difficult and even dangerous.

Double Vision, Louse Point (1997-1998) is a series of photographs that shows scenarios of bathing people at the beach of Louse Point on East Hampton, New York. The images are a reminder of the recreational gatherings of the well-known artists and writers Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Clement Greenberg and others in the 1950s. Neidich’s images obtain a touch of nostalgia by equilibrating the photographic colours, mainly by reducing magenta that gives the impression as if the photographs had been exposed to too much sun.(13) The images show an unusual element: translucent blue and red circles, reminding one of the strange phenomenona of orbs.(14) Unlike the opaque blobs on John Baldessari’s faces, Neidich’s spheres do not replace, mask or abstract, but float and shimmer translucently like extraordinary atmospheric phenomena – blue tinted lunar eclipses, red fireballs, but also the diaphanous coloured glass of a Claude’s glass. There is something mythical about them with their coronas, as they seem to move “spot lighting” the outer world like a light ray either ignoring people in the image or aiming directly at them. By being translucent, the coloured circular surface marks undoubtedly an area between the viewer and the scenery.

The phenomenon of double vision is not seen here as a misalignment but as a movement into visual depth towards the vanishing point. Being created by placing a Lancaster glass in front of the camera lens,(15) Neidich’s apparatus refers to the single point perspective construction as an expression of the outer world’s symbolic form in Erwin Panofky’s sense (Panofsky, 1991). However, there is also the artist’s other interest in visual perception in a more physiological way than Panofsky. One can argue, that Neidich’s photographic work also marks a spot as an area of afterimage, pointing out unknown areas of the science of neurology with a hint to “cognitive ergonomics” as he calls it (Neidich, 2003: 21). The phenomenon of afterimage can serve here as a metaphor of what can be seen in this image production, an amalgam of remembrance, inner perception in the shape of visualized visual traces of the brain cortex, and most of all the result of an artistic process to break up the mimetic function of photographic representation.

Warren Neidich makes ample use of optical devices in his early art works. Another work, Shot Reverse Shot is a series of performances, resulting in a video and a series of photographs. Again, he is not reformulating the traditional filmic strategy of the shot reverse shot, but uses the technique literally in order to obtain not only unknown visual experiences but also distinct viewing structures. The prism bar, which is held in front of the protagonist’s eyes, fans out perception revealingly in both ways. The object is a neurological and ophthalmological device to measure an eye’s deviation after a stroke or a trauma for the later surgical reconstruction of the misalignment and reconstitution of single vision. In Shot Reverse Shot it is used as a cadenced glass to look through, a window which is in itself the traditional metaphor of vision since the picture pane depictions by Leon Battista Alberti in De Pictura (1435) and Albrecht Dürer in Underweysung der Messung (1538). Exploring the situation of the two protagonists – viewers, one of them filming the scene – who look through the prism bar standing in front of each other and experiencing a refracted view, one is immediately reminded of another concept of perception which is Jacques Lacan’s often cited three diagrams from The Four Fundamental Concepts (1981). As Martin Jay pointed out, Lacan was very much inspired by his friend of the Surrealist magazine Minotaure, Roger Caillois, who introduced a dihedron to “clarify the relation between eye and gaze (…) in his 1935 essay on ‘Mimétisme et psychasthénie légendaire’” (Jay, 1993: 365). Lacan developed the idea of the screen (écran) which is the site of correlation between one’s eye looking at an object and the gaze (marked as “light”) looking back. It is intriguing to see that Lacan is using the metaphor of the camera to come to the second diagram(16) and to his understanding, that what “was looking at me at the level of the point of light, the point of light, the point at which everything that looks at me is situated.” (Lacan, 1981: 95 and Jay, 1998: 365).(17) In his concept the screen is the place of the subject who is not only “caught, manipulated, captured in the field of vision,” (Lacan, 1981: 92 and Jay, 1998: 364) but who also embodies the paradox of being in between light and the opaque simultaneously. With the screen concept the single focus of the God’s eye-view is clearly abandoned. Coming back to Neidich’s work Shot Reverse Shot one can trace back such concepts by understanding the prism bar as a place of interference. The viewing structure is antidromic, even equally administered between different protagonists who are all from mixed ethnical background. Each one embodies different historical conceptions using the analogue simple device of a prism bar or the digital video camera. One can even argue that the gaze of the protagonists, being documented on one side, experienced unmediated on the other, is a paradigm of an altering subjectivity in process by the aid of a prosthesis and a clue to the neo-liberal global world order governed by the WWW.(18) This would also sync up with Lacan’s notion of the screen as a place of mediation. Kaja Silverman commenting on this relationship proposed that Lacan’s screen is also subject to social and historical interpretations “by describing it as that culturally generated image or repertoire of images through which subjects are not constituted, but differentiated in relation to class, race, sexuality, age and nationality,” (Silverman, 1989: 75-76) an observation which also possesses validity in Neidich’s work.

Using the prism bar in a direct way such as in the Shot Reverse Shot project one can also observe that in its playful use it instigates the dissolution of personal space and boundaries that determine personal interactions. Even though vision is refracted, the process of seeing not only more but above all unconventionally is, as mentioned above, crucial and is very much related to Neidich’s neuro-biopolitical interests. Whereas Shot Reverse Shot can be seen as part of Neidich’s interactive projects the last photographic series being discussed in this paper is dedicated to photography as a medium of guarding the past (actually the present in its moment of capturing) for the future. It is also part of Neidich’s extensive explorations into the “History of Consciousness”.

Law of Loci was undertaken by Neidich in a short time span of approximately fifteen months in 2002-2003 when the artist visited his ill father’s home outside New York City regularly. The term describes the main mind memory aid of the Antique world delineated by Cicero in De Oratore. Cicero himself employed the method to memorize his speeches by walking mentally through the area of the Forum romanum. Simonides of Ceos, the legendary inventor cited by Cicero, found out that by using the spatial relationship of the imagination of a house one is able to recall things better. Instead of walking mentally through the space of the house he grew up in he instead physically wandered from room to room as well as outside revisiting spaces of his childhood and adolescence where things had happened to him. This physical component of the project became pivotal. By moving through his parents’ house and its environments the artist explored and questioned what is one of the core functions of photography: capturing traces of actuality. As Roland Barthes has showed so poignantly in Camera lucida (1981) the photograph occupies the place of remembrance and mourning. It is still striking that capturing images of beloved persons and places, the present of that particular moment is inscribed into the surface of the filmic material as soon as it is taken and is turned into the past the very moment. Neidich’s series of Law of Loci above all visualises this paradoxical nature of photography.

The photographs of Law of Loci were taken through a prism bar with positive-negative Polaroid film material. They depict a fragmentary vision of the house, selected views from its inside such as photographs hanging on a wall, curtains, and also Neidich’s father. They also show its close surrounding, a lake, a shack, tables and chairs in a garden, and trees. The pictures are sometimes blurred, often tilted, and black and white. Having used Polaroid film material the idea was to capture a snapshot instantly, finding a visual analogy of an experience that cannot be caught in a picture without undergoing essential transformations. As Thierry de Duve argues, the “snapshot is a theft; it steals life. Intended to signify natural movement, it only produces a petrified analogue of it. It shows an unperformed movement that refers to an impossible posture. The paradox is that in reality the movement has indeed been performed, while in the image the posture is frozen.” (De Duve, 1978: 114). Neidich’s way to produce these images was not only to move physically through space in order to find views which represented his remembrances of the house at that particular moment. He also had to move the prism bar in order to split up his own vision and receive an aesthetic expression which in some ways mimics early movement studies of the history of photography. Therefore, the effect of instant photography was not based on capturing the fluidity of life, but on seeing the effects of the prism movement in the moment when the images were taken. As de Duve argues, not only the image is frozen, but in Neidich’s case even movement is brought to a standstill. By using this unorthodox photographic practice Neidich found a way to match the physical world with an analogue of his mental vision of the non-depictable, arguing that memories are unable to be captured in a picture and can only be visualised by finding a metaphorical counterpart. Memory is considered non-representional, continual and performative, as Gerald Edelman and Giullo Tononi recently argued: “(…) memory in global mappings is not a store of fixed or coded attributes to be called up and assembled in a replicative fashion as in a computer. Instead, memory results from a process of continual recategorization (…) There is no prior set of determinant codes governing the categories of memory, only the previous population structure of the network, the state of the value systems, and the physical acts carried out at a given moment.” (Edelmann and Tononi, 2000: 97-99).

This understanding of a performative mutating memory could be also seen in relation to the German film theorist Siegfried Kracauer’s concept of the photographed object or person as a ghost. In the early essay “The Photograph” (1927) Kracauer describes how capturing a photograph of an actuality is gradually sliding into the far past and that there is always a drifting away of the past from the present. As German film theorist Heide Schlüpmann pointed out, Kracauer’s concept of photography in the interwar times was very much influenced by Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu where the French novelist delineates his encounter with a photograph of his grandmother (Schlüpmann, 1991: 115).(19) The image of the grandmother plays an equivalent crucial role in Kracauer’s essay because he had recognised a sort of estrangement in it (Schlüpmann, 1991: 116)(20). Kracauer sees a dichotomy between the photograph and the memory arguing that memory “encompasses neither the entire spatial appearance of a state of affairs nor its entire temporal course. Compared to photography, memory’s records are full of gaps,” therefore “memory images retain what is given only insofar as it has significance. Since what is significant is not reducible to either merely spatial or merely temporal terms, memory images are at odds with photographic representation.” (Kracauer, 1995[1927]: 50). Kracauer’s understanding of photography is not primarily based on the ontological concept of the analogue print with a reference to positivist science as can exemplarily be seen in Roland Barthes’ concept of the referent. He recognises different temporal states of a photograph and made clear that even though temporality is written into the process of registering an image, the photographic image does not conserve the depicted but rather destroys it. This can be seen in his extensive exploration of the photographs of different women such as his grandmother. Most importantly his research is based on a present evaluation of the photographic effect and in distance to the various pasts which are trapped in the photographs.

Neidich’s Law of Loci is not only an example of photographic imagery which is not able to preserve the past in a constant way, even less as a visualization of personal memories. His conceptual approach is based on pivotal theories of photography and the mnemosyne dealing with the idea of capturing the personal and the present which is in flux of being lost, becoming the past immediately. Admittedly, the process of production is insofar technical and a re-evaluation of photographically registered movement as it is based on the structure of the apparatus. And even though the images of Law of Loci recall Etienne-Jules Marey’s geometric chronophotographs or Eliot Eliofson’s photograph of Marcel Duchamp decending a staircase (21), Neidich’s process is less conducted towards an exploration of the physical conditions of light exposure and film speed. The so obviously registered movement is produced on a third spot, namely with the help of an optical device which is linked to the science of perception and, not to forget, the failure of human vision. Even though quintessentially analogue the pictures of Law of Loci have to be understood as unfathomably detached from the referential nature of its production. The question remains unanswered if an understanding of these works necessarily ask for a clarification of its production process, if one remembers the examples from the past when magnifying glasses made so far unknown worlds visible. Neidich’s early photography serves both ways, and its conceptual nature makes a deep understanding of the metaphorical meaning of the artist’s use of optical devices visible. However, despite the media-philosophical and the literal use of these objects, the photographic works also can be seen as a sort of enigmatic pictures that link the nature of these images not to the visible world, but to notions of the unreachable.


Barthes, R. (1981) Camera lucid: reflections on photography. New York: Hill and Wang.

Baudry, J.-L. (1975) ‘Le dispositif: approches métapsychologiques de l’impression de réalité’, Communications 23: 56-72.

Breidbach, O. (1998) ‘Der sichtbare Mikrokosmos. Zur Geschichte der Mikrofotografie im 19. Jahrhundert’, Fotogeschichte, Beiträge zur Geschichte und Ästhetik der Fotografie 68/69: 131-142; English reprinted in Breidbach, O. (2002) ‘Representation of the microcosm – The claim for objectivity in 19th century scientific microphotography’, Journal of the History of Biology 35: 221-250.

Breidbach O. and Clausberg K. (1999), Video ergo sum: Repräsentation nach innen und aussen zwischen Kunst- und Neurowissenschaften. Hamburg: Verlag Hans-Bredow-Institut.

Bruno, G. ‘Film, Aesthetics, Science: Hugo Münsterberg’s Laboratory of Moving Images’, Grey Room 36 (Summer 2009): 88-113.

Clausberg K. (1999) Neuronale Kunstgeschichte: Selbstdarstellung als Gestaltungsprinzip. Wien, et al.: Springer, 1999.

Clark, A. (2008) Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

De Duve, T. (1978) ‘Time Exposure and Snapshot: The Photograph as Paradox’, October 5: 113-125.

Dietz, S. (1989) American History Invented. New York: Aperture.

Foucault, M. (1980) Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other writings, 1972-1977, ed. and trans. C. Gordon. Brighton: Harvester Press.

Geimer, P. (2002) ‘Searching for Something. On Photographic Revelations’, in Iconoclash: beyond the image wars in science, religion and art, ed. Bruno Latour, Peter Weibel. Cambridge, Mass., et al.: MIT Press.

Gombrich, E. H. (1986[1960]) Art & Illusion. A study in the psychology of pictorial representation. London: Phaidon.

Jay, M. (1988) ‘Scopic Regime of Modernity’, in Vision and Visuality, ed. Hal Foster. Seattle: Bay Press.

Jay, M. (1993) Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kracauer, S., (1995 [1927]) ‘Photography’, in Kracauer, S. The mass ornament: Weimer essays, edited by Thomas Y. Levin. Massachussetts/London: Harward University Press.

Lacan, J. (1981[1964]) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Lazzarato, M. (2006) ‘Life and the Living in the Societies of Control,’ in Fuglsang, M. and Meier Sorensen, B. Deleuze and the Social. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006 page 186

Linke, D. B. (2001) Kunst und Gehirn : Die Eroberung des Unsichtbaren. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt-Taschenb.-Verlag.

Livingstone, M. (2002) Vision and art: the biology of seeing. New York, NY: Abrams.

Maase, K. (1997) Grenzenloses Vergnügen : der Aufstieg der Massenkultur 1850 – 1970. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag.

Maharaj, S. (2005-2007) ‘From the Afterlife to the Atmospherics reassessing our basic assumption’, in Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory 4, http://www.artbrain.org/from-the-afterlife-to-the-atmospherics-reassessing-our-basic-assumptions/ (accessed February 12, 2010).

Mandel, T. and Van der Leun, G. (1996), Rules of the Net. On-Line Operating Instructions for Human Beings. New York: Hyperion Books.

Neidich, W. (2003) Blow-up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain. New York: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers.

Neidich, W. (2008). Earthling, New York: Pointed Leaf Press.

Neidich, W., et al., (2009a) ‘Some cursory comments on the nature of my diagrammatic drawing’, in Warren Neidich: Lost Between the Extensivity/Intensivity Exchange. Eindhoven: Onomatopee.

Neidich, W., et al. (2009b) “The Neuro-Aesthetic Library”, in in Warren Neidich: Lost Between the Extensivity/Intensivity Exchange. Eindhoven: Onomatopee: 114-119.

Panofsky, E. (1991[1927]) Perspective as symbolic form; transl. Christopher S. Wood. New York: Zone Books; Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Rancière, J. (2006) The politics of aesthetics.:The distribution of the sensible, ed. and trans. Gabriel Rockhill. London; New York: Continuum.

Schlüpmann, H. (1991), ‘The Subject of Survival: On Kracauer’s Theory of Film’, New German Critique 54: 111-126.

Silverman, K. (1989) ‘Fassbinder and Lacan: A Reconsideration of Gaze, Look, and Image’, Camera obscura 7: 54-85.

Stafford, B. M. and Terpak, F. (2001) Devices of wonder : from the world in a box to images on a screen. Los Angeles, Calif.: Getty Publ..

Zeki S. (1999) Inner vision : an exploration of art and the brain. Oxford, et al.: Oxford University Press.

Susanne Neubauer is a freelance curator and art historian. She was curator at Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland, from 2002-2009 and is currently a PhD candidate of the University of Zurich. She is the author of numerous articles on contemporary art and the art of the 1970s. Her main interest is in the documentation and publication of ephemeral art, curatorial strategies and the reception of Latin American art in Europe. Her recent essays are on Ree Morton, Lygia Clark and Paul Thek.


[1] The work American History Invented from 1989 is a thoughtful use of different historical printing materials, camera lenses, and archival display methods. See (Dietz, 1989).

[2] “The apparatus is thus always linked to certain limits of knowledge that arise from it and, to an equal degree, condition it”. See Michel Foucault’s understanding of the apparatus which is of particular interest for Neidich: (Foucault, 1980: 194-196).

[3] As are the works of Michael Snow, Stan Brakhage and Jean-Luc Godard. Neidich’s interest lies above all in the unveiled processes of the cinematic production as can be seen in Snow’s Wavelength (CAN, 1967), Brakhage Prelude: Dog Star Man (USA, 1961) and Godard’s Le mépris (F, 1963).

[4] The contrary case, I would suggest, is a walkable camera obscura where the projected image, depending on the weather outside, is usually not very well visible – and for your habits a disappointing matter.

[5] Neidich began lecturing on Neuroaesthetics in 1995 at the School of Visual Arts New York. See on his take on neuroaesthetics and the concept of neural plasticity: Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory (www.artbrain.org; founded by Warren Neidich), (Neidich, 2009b: 114-119), (Livingstone, 2002), (Stafford and Terpak, 2001), (Linke, 2001), (Zeki, 1999), (Breidbach and Clausberg, 1999), (Clausberg, 1999).

[5] Email to the author, April 19, 2010.

[6] On the “intoxicated sight” see (Neidich, 2003).

[7] Neidich has referred several times to the work of Jacques Rancière, claiming that particularly in the mutation of the so-called “distribution of the sensible” the power of art can be found. Reformulated as “redistribution of the sensible” Neidich’s own theoretical writing links the concepts of power of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze to Maurizio Lazarrato’s concept of “noo-power.” On this discussion see (Neidich, 2009a).

[8] In the sense of Thomas Mandel and Gerade Van der Leun, “attention is the hard currency of cyberspace.” (Mandel and Van der Leun, 1996).

[9] I do not agree in seeing a zoetrope in this device as many other writers have referred to when explaining Brainwash, including the artist. A zoetrope is a precinematic device which is created by a round cylinder obtaining observation slits and a series of images such as a galloping horse which are attached in the inside. While looking at a turning zoetrope, one’s eyes focus on the image(s) inside which causes the effect of the illusion of a moving image. There is no eye movement in itself which distinguishes the core function of a zoetrope from a optokinetic drum.

[10] “At the heart of this video is the notion of the cataclysmic shift of the viewer of the late 19th century as he or she transitioned into the early 20th century. A viewer in which cinema not photography would produce the conditions of perception and cognition.” Email correspondence with the author, April 19, 2010.

[11] Stan Brakhage’s experimental film Prelude: Dog Star Man (USA, 1961) where he scratches analogous film material or uses distorting lenses in order to receive unknown imagery to the eye is another example.

[12] Photographs change their colors due to chemical instability of the photographic paper. Magenta and yellow is reduced when photographs receive too much light, cyan and yellow are more instable in darkness.

[13] Some people believe that orbs are paranormal balls of light on photographs or video film.

[14] Neidich’s sculptural and photographic works, also the Hybrid Dialectic Device, were shown in the exhibition “The Mutated Observer, part 1” at California Museum of Photography in 2001.

[15] On Lacan’s use of the camera as metaphor or an “imaginary apparatus” see (Silverman 1989: 72).

[16] In this passage Lacan offers an anecdote of a floating sardine can in water. Lacan explained that the can “was looking at me, all the same. It was looking at me at the level of the point of light, the point of light, the point at which everything that looks at me is situated – and I am not speaking metaphorically.” (Lacan, 1981: 95), cited after (Jay, 1998: 365).

[17] The exploration of this condition influenced Neidich’s later work, Earthling. See (Neidich, 2008).

[18] „I was in the room, or rather I was not yet in the room since she was not aware of my presence… Of myself… there was present only the witness, the observer with a hat and traveling coat, the stranger who does not belong to the house, the photographer who has called to take a photograph of places which one will never see again. The process that mechanically occurred in my eyes when I caught sight of my grandmother was indeed a photograph.” Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time. Swann’s Way, quoted by (Schlüpmann, 1991, 115).

[19] Schlüpmann argues that this photograph in the 1920s was retrospectively already part of film, as its concept represented “the repression of death, the continuation of life”. (Schlüpmann, 1991: 116).

[20] Reproduced in Life Magazine, Nr. 284, New York,

Education of the Eye, 2010


Education Berlin 01 copy
Education of the Eye, 2010. Performative intallation, variables dimensions


Education Berlin 3 copy
Education of the Eye, 2010. Partial installation, 8 of 10 palettes showing the variability


Education berlin 04 copy
Education of the Eye, 2010. Detail from studio installation in Berlin. Left image detail of color palette of artist No. 1. Rigth image detail of color palette of artist No. 2.  Note the very different colors and methodologies represented.


Education Dafen 07 copy
Education of the Eye, Da Fen, 2010. Digital C Print, 20 x 24 inches


Education dafen 06 copy
Education of the Eye, Da Fen, 2010. Digital Print. Mr. Wu's studio: Left Image, Hogarth's self portrait being copied. Rigth image, Mr. Wu's atelier.


Education Dafen 08 copy
Education of the Eye, De Fen, 2010. Digital Print, 20 x 24 inches


Education dafen 09 copy
Education of the Eye, Da Fen, 2010. Digital Print, 20 x 24 inches. Left image detail of color palette of Chinese artist No 1. Right image detail of color palette of Chinese artist No 2. Note the very different colors and methodologies represented.


Time Out New York | Book Exchange at Glenn Horowitz

Art day trips: Warren Neidich’s “Book Exchange” at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller

By: T.J. Carlin | Article Link

If you’re looking for some culture and an investigation of patriotism with your sun this holiday weekend, try artist Warren Neidich’s gorgeous show at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, a bookstore and gallery in East Hampton, New York. The central piece is a handsome steel bookshelf fashioned after a Constructivist aesthetic that houses all of the books Sarah Palin attempted to have banned from the Wasilla, Alaska, library. Whether or not these attempts at banning were successful is unknown; however, Neidich has enabled us to exert some control and rewrite history a bit in our own fashion: The participatory piece invites locals, over the course of the exhibition, to visit the bookstore bearing a red book and exchange it for one of the verboten. From 3 to 5pm today, there will be a book release for Neidich’s new artist’s book, The Sarah L. Palin Library of Censored Books. Fri, Sat, Mon 10am–5pm; Sun noon–4pm. Through Monday, July 5.

Reinventing History: Warren Neidich, Photography, Re-enactment, and Contemporary Event Culture

Visual Resources

Reinventing History: Warren Neidich, Photography, Re‐enactment, and Contemporary Event Culture

Volume 26 Number 2 (June 2010) by Kathy Kubicki


The role of the historian and the notion of what constitutes historical evidence have become more unstable in recent decades, particularly with digital imaging technology. In Warren Neidich’s project (and 1989 book) American History Reinvented, the photographer anticipated the myriad current art practices that engage with re-enactment, where artists restage past events to investigate current political and social condition. Rather than simply perpetuating a complacent nostalgia for the past, a re-enactment as an art project may have the potential to prompt a critical reevaluation of historical narratives. A consideration of additional, more recent, photography suggests how Neidich’s American History Reinvented can be understood as a precursor to the work of contemporary practitioners negotiating the territory of re- enactment, particularly the UK artists Jeremy Deller (b. 1966), who won the Turner Prize in 2004; Tom McCarthy (b. 1969) and Rod Dickinson (b. 1965) in their collaborative projects; and photographer Jim Naughten.

In 1989, Warren Neidich published his American History Reinvented, a vast project, using the medium of photography to engage in a discourse that goes further than the mere interpretation of history.12 Within Neidich’s many reconfigurations of history, a complex story is retold with layered and intricate methodologies, taking the viewer beyond memory, to uncharted territory where the line between truth and fiction becomes blurred. As Neidich’s philosophy is deeply rooted in cognitive science, he claims that the human brain is currently undergoing a phase of “cyborgisation,” due to immense and sudden changes in our media-centered technological environment. In his book Blow-up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain (D. A. P., 2003), Neidich proposes a model in which natural memory (those memories recorded through experience with the real world) and photographic memory (the production of memory constituted through the mind’s interaction with the plethora of mediated images found in books, advertising posters, in family albums, museums, billboards, and film) are in competition for neural space.13

Given Neidich’s emphasis on the formation of memories and their relationship to both authentic, lived experience and to photographic imagery, American History Reinvented can best be discussed in the context of theories of replay, sampling, and re-enactment, and as part of event culture and mass media. Neidich is playful in his reinterpretation of historical events in American history, and tests notions of truth within the history of photography, particularly within photojournalism. His reinventions go beyond the world of historical evidence, and into the realm of creative photography, where the notion of truth is subjected to the bizarre, surreal ambience of staged museum settings and the other institutional spaces that Neidich has critiqued. (See, for example, “Gallery,” p. 000: “Recoding American History, Roping off History,” 1986.) Neidich’s project crosses the line between documentary practice and conceptual art. As Pavel Büchler has argued:

A critical attitude towards older or concurrent (competing) modes of production is one of the most distinctive features of modern art. At its most radical, as for instance in 1960’s conceptual art, it was this systematic scrutiny of the traditions and conventions of modernist photography that brought to the fore the possibilities of integrating photography’s broader social functions, within art.14

Büchler puts forward the notion of “investigation” as the driving force behind this type of photography, and in this respect, Neidich’s practice corresponds to the work of Victor Burgin (b. 1941), David Hilliard (b. 1964), and Bernd (1931–2007) and Hilla Becher (b. 1934). A consideration of more recent photography suggests how Neidich’s American History Reinvented can be understood as a precursor to projects of contemporary practitioners negotiating the territory of re-enactment, particularly UK artists such as Jeremy Deller (b. 1966), who won the Turner Prize in 2004, Tom McCarthy (b. 1969) and Rod Dickinson (b. 1965) in their collaborative projects, and photographer Jim Naughten.

History and Re-Enactment, Then and Now

The role of the historian and the notion of what constitutes historical evidence have become more unstable in recent decades. The intervention of digital technology has revolutionized history-in-the-making, as well as the analysis and distribution of recordings of events. Neidich’s 1989 project interrogated these changes at the very beginning of this paradigm shift, highlighting the speedy, almost seamless, revolutionary changes within the culture of information technology. Simultaneously, Neidich’s work investigates issues of identity politics, and his method of exploration using historical evidence as a construction has only become more meaningful over time, and as the number of texts relating to these issues has increased.

Neidich’s project questions the supposedly harmless nostalgia offered by “living history” museums and re-enactments, revealing their one-dimensional view of events, and unmasking the information received in this context as inauthentic and fictional. It is the institutional context of the museum and the presumption of photography’s truthfulness that verifies the meanings attached to the reconstructed scenes. As one commentator has put it, “Neidich engages in an act of cynicism and originality…a fictional rectification of social roles that both pre- and postdates the famous Farm Security Administration Project that established the important role of the photographer in America’s social conscience.”15

Theorist of photography Vilém Flusser has claimed that the machine has dominated the postindustrial age, but specifically in the mode of what he calls “apparatus”: camera, computer, agencies of state, and market forces. Flusser insists that, “apparatuses were invented in order to function automatically, in other words independent of future human involvement. This is the intention with which they were created: that the human being would be ruled out.”16 What Flusser puts forward is the notion of the photographer as a “passive” interloper in the photographic experience, secondary to what is made possible by the technology at hand. The machine controls the processes, and even though the photographer makes a choice in relation to how the photograph is taken and processed, he or she is secondary to an outcome predetermined by the existing technologies. Neidich’s practice consistently and deliberately questions the apparatus as paradigm in his conceptual approach to reinterpretation, and in his groundbreaking project, he has self-consciously chosen handmade technologies in his interventions on prestructured historical events.

Neidich’s exploration of photography, history, and reinterpretation includes, for example, the juxtaposition of albumen prints with a set of photographs after retouching, printed at an amateur photo lab on RC paper, a cheap plasticized imitation of real paper (“Gallery,” p. 000: “Pseudo Event, Free Soil,” 1987–1988). The rationale for this choice is threefold: firstly, to draw attention to the importance of photographic materials and their symbolic function in the determination of photographic meaning. We are reminded that photographic history itself is not, as Beaumont Newhall suggests in his canonical chronicle of the medium, a linear progression of techniques, technologies, and creative potential.17 Secondly, the use of RC paper draws attention to the material distinctions between the handmade prints throughout the history of photography and the mass-reproduced machine prints of today. Finally, this decision binds these images, through their materiality, to other images that derive from library files in which one never has a chance to inspect the original archive or touch the original prints.

Later in Neidich’s ongoing project, he uses the giant Polaroid format in his appropriation and reshooting of the Associated Press propaganda photographs depicting Japanese Americans interned in relocation camps during World War II, fraudulentlymposed as happy and thriving individuals (“Gallery,” p. 000: “News from No-Place, Return of Loved Ones,” 1988–1989). These images operate alongside Neidich’s staged photos of African Americans inhabiting the life and roles of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie in America. In this section (“Pseudo Event: the Politics of Appropriation”), the staging of historical events and their subsequent manipulation and falsification calls attention to the well-documented instances of similar alterations in archives such as those manufactured by Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, who felt it necessary to manipulate their own national photographic record in the hopes of solidifying personal legacies.18

Viewing and reinterpreting these photographs requires a leap of faith on the part of the viewer, for in the context of the institutional archive, we are predisposed to believe unquestioningly what the photograph tells us. Neidich’s interventions reveal how the use of RC prints in archives becomes part of the inbuilt illusion of “authenticity,” as the resin-coated paper in this process is sealed by two polyethylene layers, making it impenetrable to liquids. Since no chemicals or water are absorbed into the paper base, the time needed for processing, washing, and drying is significantly reduced in comparison to fiber-based papers. Resin paper prints can be finished and dried within twenty to thirty minutes. Resin-coated papers have improved dimensional stability, and do not curl upon drying. And so, as we observe the quickening of time, photos made in haste, and the intervention of modern photographic processes, there is the emphasis on durability over fragility and on the distance from the original photographic processes.

Neidich’s photographs are typically taken onsite with a 4 × 5 camera and rephotographed with a 35 mm camera to make the doppelganger in an act of self-appropriation. This type of assemblage is found in many of the series that make up American History Reinvented, as falsification becomes the believable norm. Each series utilizes a different kind of camera, lens, and format.

For “Aerial Reconnaissance Photographs: The Battle of Chickamauga” (this event originally took place 19–20 September 1863), the artist hired a twin-engine plane to fly over a Civil War re-enactment at a historic battlefield outside Chattanooga, Tennessee, in order to photograph it from the air; he then processed the resulting images in the archaic tintype format (“Gallery,” p. 000: “The Battle of Chickamauga,” 1990–1991, and “Chickamauga Double Line-up,” 1990). Here Neidich re-enacts Félix Nadar’s legendary balloon journey above Paris in 1858, but he also produces a dialogue with Edward Steichen’s famous aerial photographs first delineated in Allan Sekula’s pivotal study “The Instrumental Image: Steichen at War.”19 Again, Neidich’s use of tintypes oppositionally foregrounds the contemporary modernization of information gathering, museum culture, and memory. For this series, Neidich used a 35 mm camera with three different lenses—wide-angle, normal, and telephoto—to make pictures of the re-enactments.

Neidich’s work also draws our attention to present-day staged news events. From George W. Bush’s triumphant landing on an aircraft carrier to the annual Academy Awards ceremonies, we are overwhelmed by what Daniel Boorstin referred to as “pseudo-events” in which make-believe events are created only to be documented and distributed through media circuits for profit.20 These are woven into the daily menu of disasters, scandals, and gossip to be distributed worldwide on twenty-four-hour news channels hungry for fresh stories to disseminate to a public riveted to television sets and computer screens. In this evolving cultural-visual landscape, the conditions of the truth of the image can vary enormously.

Contemporary Art Practice and Re-enactment

One can trace a genealogy for Neidich’s work in early experimental art photography, including that of the Surrealists, whose “staged” photographs provoke visual discord, questioning the relationship between representation and reality. Here, silent dramas enhance for the viewer the strangeness of unlikely juxtapositions, as in the staged montages of Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) and Eli Lotar (1905–1969). The “performed image” creates dissonance for the viewer, placing him or her in a separate, third space of observation, between reality and unreality. The questioning of what is real becomes a part of the viewer’s experience, but the scopophilic drive and desire to encounter the truth overrides and suspends the viewer’s disbelief.

As in Surrealism, Neidich’s camera acts as a scientific instrument that takes the place of the organ of sight in the detection of strange and reinvented realities. In Neidich’s framing and cropping, insertions, and playful rearrangements of reality, he offers up a hypertrophied real, where the viewer remains in a liminal state, between what has happened in the past and what changes have occurred in the re-enactment, and observes the actual physical interventions in the photographs that mediate between the two.

Neidich’s American History Reinvented looked forward perspicuously to myriad current art practices that engage with re-enactment, and in which artists restage events as investigations of current political and social conditions. Neidich’s work is also an examination of the problems of authentically performing the past. He analyzes re-enactment both as a cultural phenomenon and as a series of performances that aim to recreate past events accurately. Rather than simply perpetuating a complacent nostalgia for the past, a re-enactment as an art project may have the potential to prompt a critical reevaluation of historical narratives as singular isolated events.

Until recently, with the notable exception of Richard Schechner, there has been little written about the phenomena of the historical re-enactment.21 In the last two decades, however, studies on re-enactment produced within the fields of visual arts and performance studies have increased dramatically. Recently, scholars including Rebecca Schneider,22 Peggy Phelan,23 Baz Kershaw,24 and Mike Pearson and Michael Shanks,25 have been involved in a critical reevaluation of this field of investigation. A reexamination of Neidich’s photos within this discourse will contribute to scholarship in the field of performance studies regarding the role of repetition, mediatization, and disappearance in performance, while simultaneously examining the key problems of performing the past in postmodern culture, with particular focus on the emergent notion of authenticity or authentic experience.

Double-Take: Re-enactment in recent work

Jeremy Deller, the collaborators Tom McCarthy and Rod Dickinson, and Jim Naughten are influential and controversial UK-based artists experimenting in the area of event culture, and have all made re-enactment central to their oeuvre. By recreating on film the violent clash of the 18 June 1984 miners’ strike which took place in Orgreave, a small town near Rotherham in South Yorkshire, UK, on Sunday, 17 June 2001, the day before the seventeenth anniversary of the original strife, Deller offered a restaging of a political event that occurred during a period of immense change in UK politics under then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Artangel, the London-based public art commissioning agency, engaged Deller to film this re-enactment within an art context (Plates 1–2). This work has become pivotal in event culture, linked to art, and viewed in the cultural arena. What is striking is that Deller’s live re-enactment was so realistic that it is virtually impossible to differentiate the recreated action from footage of the original confrontation. Deller has taken a further step in the falsification of historical evidence, as his intention to create a “double take” was also linked with the need to reinstate some of the trauma of that event. He described the undertaking this way:

Despite unpleasant cold & wet weather (in stark contrast to the blazing heat of June 1984), our 800 re-enactors and extras threw themselves into their roles. Because of the weather, uniform/period clothing was not fully worn until Sunday morning. “Riot Policemen” square-bashed and were trained by Lancashire Constabulary instructors in the use of long and short shields, whilst the “bobbies” practiced forming a cordon and holding their ground against the expected “pushes” by the “miners”. The latter practiced advancing and running away in loose formation, looking unorganised although for the purposes of our re-enactment, being highly organised through a “command structure” not dissimilar to our “police”.26

In addition to re-enactors, miners who were present at the historical event also took part, as did 280 local people. For these participants, a feeling of déjà vu became part of the experience. For Deller, this sense of the uncanny was intentional, as the experience of cultural forgetting became one impetus to make this work. By moving the context of viewing this work from newsreel/documentary film to art museum, Deller has discovered a new audience and generation of viewers for the dissemination of this event. Deller develops his ideas within the tradition of the exploration of history and authenticity that Neidich set out in American History Reinvented.

Rod Dickinson & Tom McCarthy’s installation, titled Greenwich Degree Zero (2006), including film footage (57 seconds, black and white, 35 mm, silent), was the first collaboration between artist Dickinson and artist/novelist McCarthy (Plate 3). This is an exhibition that interrogated in detail the role of media and technology in the construction and reconstruction of public experience and memory.

The artists’ starting point is a strange late nineteenth-century event: on the afternoon of 15 February 1894, a French anarchist named Martial Bourdin (1868–1894) was killed when the bomb he was carrying detonated. The explosion took place on the slope beneath the Royal Observatory in London’s Greenwich Park, and it was generally assumed that his intention had been to blow up this building—the place from which all time throughout the British Empire and the world was measured, and a prime symbol of science—“the sacrosanct fetish of to-day,” as Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) wrote in The Secret Agent in 1907.27

Using the mechanisms of historical representation, Dickinson and McCarthy reimagine the event as a successful attack on the observatory. Employing a similar methodology to Neidich, they infiltrate and twist the media of Bourdin’s time: creating a film shot on a hand-cranked Victorian cinematic camera depicting the burning observatory, reprinting existing 1894 newspaper reports and anarchist literature edited to fit their version of events, as well as video interviews with contemporary explosives experts and political historians. The installation reports an event that did not quite happen, blurring the distinction between fact and fiction and relocating the genuine public outrage and hysteria about the threat of anarchist terror that prevailed in the 1890s in the ambiguous space of nonevent. Bourdin’s death brought on a plethora of speculative stories in both the mainstream and underground media. Rather than try to establish the “truth,” Dickinson and McCarthy use a form of repetition to reach back to the degree zero of time, mediation, and terror.28

Jim Naughten is a photographer who, as a child, was obsessed with his collection of toy soldiers, tanks, and all things military. He would build aircraft and hand paint in detail his toy soldiers. His family has strong military links: his grandfather was a “desert rat” who served with General Bernard Montgomery’s 8th Army. It is no surprise, then, that as a photographer in adulthood, he has chosen re-enactment as the theme of his photographic practice. Yet Naughten’s work is different in methodology and intention from Neidich’s, Deller’s, or Dickinson and McCarthy’s.

The subject matter for Naughten involves an investigation into what lies behind the strange phenomena of re-enactment culture, especially for the individuals who take part. Over two years in Kent, in the countryside of South East England, Naughten made a digital record of the various battle re-enactments. During this period, his topology includes some five thousand shots, edited down to form a book of portraits of the re-enactors. Naughten is astonished at the seriousness of the sitters, and the attention to detail of their costume, hair, and accessories (Plate 4). Their “look” perfectly recaptures that of wartime Germans and Britons. As one critic of Naughten’s work has proposed, “by standing outside his subjects, however close they may be to the fantasies of his childhood Naughten nonetheless sublimates his subjects by means of photographic technique…Jim Naughten’s Re-enactors maintain their mystery. Nothing of their real lives is revealed.”29

Naughten’s project adds a new dimension to the subject of truth and the role of photography in reinventing history. The sense of the uncanny is again at play here: Naughten’s perfect portraits pose interesting questions in relation to technological advances, as his flawless digital prints portray subjects whose passion compels them to mimic people from time past: a soldier, naval officer, or sergeant, and women who act as civilians on the sidelines. Under the guise of “living history,” these individuals are also able to live out a fantasy or nostalgia for the past that emanates from all other areas of its representation within the modern technologies of the movie, the television drama, and the museum. Naughten’s subjects are photographed with a plain white background, mimicking the straight photography of August Sander (1876–1964), or more recently the portraits of young bullfighters and mothers by Rineke Dijkstra (b. 1959).

Against this stark background, the viewer’s gaze lands on the expressions of Naughten’s subjects and on their pristine and perfect attire. In Sander’s case this photographic trope was used to represent a stereotype, and in Dijkstra’s case to critique the notion of the stereotype as well as the history of photography. In Naughten’s work, the subjects remain deeply rooted in their own fantasies, highlighted against the stark background. We have no real sense of the individual; his subjects are expressionless and bland, apart from their extraordinary uniform costumes and their obvious commitment to re-enactment as a way of life.


KATHY KUBICKI is senior lecturer in photography at the University for the Creative Arts, and Editor of the journal Photography and Culture. She has written widely on contemporary photography, film, video, and installation art, and her interview with French artist Daniel Buren (b. 1938) was recently published in Speaking of Art: Four Decades of Art in Conversation (Phaidon, 2010).

Excerpt Neuropower

Sculpting the Brain and I don’t mean like Rodin.

Part 1.

“…The most extensive modification to take place in human brain evolution - the disproportionate expansion of the cerebral cortex, and specifically of the prefrontal cortex - reflects the evolutionary adaptation to this intensive working memory processing demand imposed by symbol learning. So the very nature of symbolic reference, and its unusual cognitive demands when compared to non-symbolic forms of reference, is a selection force working on those neurological resources most critical to supporting it. In the context of a society heavily dependent on symbol use-as is any conceivable human society, but no nonhuman societies-brains would have been under intense selection to adapt to these needs. …This, then, is a case of selection pressure affecting the evolution of a biological substrate (the brain) and yet which is imposed, not by the physical environment, but ultimately from a purely semiotic realm.” (1)

“From the perspective of distributed cognition, this sort of individual learning is seen as the propagation of a particular sort of pattern through a community. Cultural practices assemble agencies into working assemblages and put the assemblages to work. Some of these assemblages may be entirely contained in an individual, and some may span several individuals and material artifacts.” (2)

Today more then ever it is culture that has replaced nature as the primary force of epigenesis. Epigenesis is defined as the means by which the unfolding of the genetically prescribed formation of the brain, is altered by its interaction with the environment. When one considers brain function in this context the term neural plasticity is used. Neural plasticity refers to the ability of the components of neurons, their axons, dendrites and synapses plus their extended forms as neural network systems, to be modified by experience. The neurobiologist Marcus Jacobson defined neural plasticity as a process through which the nervous system adjusts to changes in the internal and external milieu. Adjustments in the internal milieu can occur after brain injuries. For instance, a child is able to recover function of language production and reception after trauma or stroke to the left language hemisphere of the brain. The right hemisphere, not normally an active part of that system, is capable of being modified so as to assume these language functions with little deficit if the onset of left hemisphere dysfunction occurs at an early enough age. Adjustments can also be in response to changes in the external milieu. The heterochronous unfolding of the genetically determined neurobiological time table creates what are called critical periods of development in which certain regions and systems of the neurobiological substrate are extremely sensitive to the conditions of, for instance, the linguistic-cultural milieu, which predispose it to language acquisition during a particular time window. But the bigger question then becomes what language. The child’s brain has the potential to learn any of the 6,700 languages in the world. Which one is actually learned is dependent upon the close coupling of the childs brain-mind to his or her linguistic field. (3) As we will see in what follows it is this condition of neural plasticity that will be key in understanding the rapprochement of Rancière’s distribution of the sensible and its concomitant regulation of the pluripotentiality of the brain’s neural plasticity. I will argue that the “ institutional stabilization” of the distribution of sensibility, which is what policing that field is all about and defines the new conditions of power, fulfills the necessary conditions to restrict the potential heterogeneity implicit in the pluripotent character of the neurobiological substrate resulting in the production of a people. When we focus our attention on the microcultural context of the work place and understand it as a form of restricted distribution of sensibility, as a controlled space to perceive in action, we begin understand its historical effect on neuromodulation. (4)

As we advance historically from primary economies of extraction to those described as secondary, involved with manufacturing, to those involved in services defined as tertiary we also move through different assemblages of sensational fields. (5) When the conditions of the information economy predominate, as they do in Northern European countries and the United States, and the emergent forms of general intelligence that result are expressed as conditions of networked and distributed systems defined as intensive, the possibility for intensive neural sculpting is great. Let us look deeper into the reasons why.

Two conditions have implications for how we might understand the idea of general intelligence. In the Fragments on Machines, Marx understands the idea of general intelligence as a machine intelligence. In the transition from artisanship to mechanized production of the assembly line the unitary consciousness necessary for the crafting of the unique object is now linearly distributed throughout an assemblage of laborers who function in concert to produce the replicated object now reproduced ad infinitum. This is extensive labor as it produces a similar product over and over again. The laborer is simply a cog in the wheel of production and is subsumed by the machine as simply conscious linkages between the machine’s mechanical organs. “But once adopted into the production process of capital, the means of labor passes through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the machine, or rather, an automatic system of machinery (system of machinery: the automatic one is merely its most complete, most adequate form, and alone transforms machinery into a system), set in motion by an automaton, a moving power that moves itself; this automaton consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs, so that the workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages.” (6) Their labor is fetishized into a series of partial acts that together produce the object and the machine is what binds all their minds together diachronously and synchronously. Together, as a single entity, they produce similar objects as long as the machine functions correctly. However things can go wrong as comically dramatized in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, where, while working on an assembly line he becomes accidentally consumed by the machine. In the transition to a post-Fordist condition this assemblage of individuals and the architecture that reflects it breaks up and is dispersed horizontally, distributed across multiple times and spaces and the products that emerge are singular and unique. The reflective machine intelligence is therefore of a different kind; it is intensive. Today the general intelligence, the machines and apparatuses that bind people together and the social processes thus engendered are invisible, non-hierarchical and distributed, and the information they produce reflect the conditions of this production. Hence, the collectivity of the human intellect is ultimately also evident in the machine. Machines “are organs of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge objectified. The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it. To what degree the powers of social production have been produced, not only in the form of knowledge, but also as immediate organs of social practice, of the real life process.” (7) As we will see in the age of information and mass intellectuality it is,in fact information itself that sculpts neural plasticity. General intelligence here is is then defined as information produced by these mutating conditions of labor accessible to any population, which are also the new conditions of neuromodulation. These conditions of distributed information are powerful attractors that can act as powerful regulators of attention and memory and thus are sites of what Maurizio Lazzarato calls Noo-power. (8) This Noo-power is what forms the basis for Neuropower in which the brain’s neural plasticity and its pluripotentiality to become, are the sites of power’s interrogation. It is in this context that the sculpting of the neural plasticity, through assemblages of trajectories of attention, subsumed in the regulatory patterns of built space with its implicit temporality and representational and presentational rationality, can occur. Whereas Noo-power concerns people in the present, Neuropower concerns the production of people in the future.

In the conditions of intensive culture the representation of an object as something real is substituted by its branded value where what determines its nature are the stories that orbit around it and the complex conditions of its brand equity. The cereal in a box of cereal is not what creates its value but rather the way that the information on the box design excites a concomitant “considered” neural architecture sculpted over time by a complex assemblage of a previously designed context that the individual has experienced and into which the box is inserted. The cereal box is reinstalled ad infinitum into a system of recategorical memory that creates an active site for its infinite retrieval in the minds eye as both real and imaginary. Rather than linear equivalence that organized and delineated the ecology of objects in an artisan economy and began to dissolve in a Fordist one, what defines the post-Fordist landscape of cultural objects is a non-linear condition of value that is formulated by conditions of communicative labor as it functions along the distribution channels of media and hypermedia. As we will see shortly, general intelligence according to the model I would like to develop is a condition of the ratio between the apparatus of Cognitive Capital and Cultural Capital. Different cultural contexts allow different expressions of each which have implications for the production of a people or multiplicity. Cognitive Capital being defined as that “information distribution and production system” centered around knowledge and utilized by sovereignty and the conditions of the administration of normalcy which produces a system of homogenized thinking. Cultural Capital, was first designated by Pierre Bourdieu, but is used here in the context of the ways and means through which artists using their own materials, practices, histories, apparatuses, critiques, performances, spaces and non-spaces produce objects, non-objects and activities which, when assembled in the cultural landscape, mutate the conditions of that landscape and produce resistant paradigms. It is at the intersection of these mutating conditions expressed as a resultant cultural referendum, that the brain and mind are called out to by different attentional concoctions activating different attentional neurologic tool-boxes. Thus the relationship between Cognitive Capitalism and Cultural Capitalism has implications for how the brain itself will be formed and I would like to suggest its possibilities for thought. It is at the crossroads of competition and cooperation - between these two systems of abstract knowledge production - that the brain-mind is produced.

Part 2.

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or — more exactly — with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother? I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters — but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead …

Tobin Harshaw, Can ‘No’ Revive the Republicans, nytimes.com, 3/26/2010

But how is the development of brain and mind linked to the history of objects, abstract knowledge and to the production of the subject in the context of Neo-liberal capitalism with its emphasis on immaterial labor and knowledge industries? In order to formulate a theory of resistance one must address the conditions of this all-pervasive system. In what follows, I use ideas from The Theory of Neuronal Group Selection as formulated by Gerald Edelman as well as Neural Constructivism, formulated by Steven R. Quartz a1 and Terrence J. Sejnowski. (9) (10) (11) The basic question that these two theories ask is what are the determinants of neural development. Is it, as Neural Darwinism would suggest, an unfolding of a prescribed neurobiological process, in which a stochastic exuberant growth of neural elements is followed by a period of pruning and regression that through a Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest regime becomes sculpted by various environmental contingencies into a finely tuned sensorial-perceptual-cognitive machine? This theory has the benefit of parsimony and mimics in certain ways the concrete genetic and immunological systems already in place. Alternately, according to Neural Constructivism, instead of simply a regression of neural elements, development is rather “a progressive increase in the structures underlying representational complexity” and these changes depend on an “interaction with a structured environment to guide development.” (12) Furthermore “dendritic development fulfills important requirements for a non-stationary learning mechanism, suggesting how dendritic development under the influence of environmentally derived activity conforms to cognitive schemes for the construction of mental representations.” (13) My argument is that each theory provides a theoretical foundation for us to understand how nature or designed space, might play an important role in the production of the neural architecture to be used in thought.

As we saw above, while Neural Darwinism uses Darwinian paradigms of selection in the face of niche contingencies, Neural Constructivism recounts the ways and means by which age related cognitive improvements are the result of neural networks becoming increasingly inter-connected, functionally more specialized and sometimes progressively complex through the brain’s relationship with the stimulating conditions of complex representational matrices. In this way Neural Constructivism is more Bergsonian. (14, 15, 16)

For our purposes here, both theories and perhaps the two together operate well as a heuristic model as well as being compatible with a post-structural theoretical model I would like to elucidate. Cultural conditions are evolving and they produce veracity and verification. The subunits of culture may evolve together or separately and these bound and synchronized cultural conditions produce and sculpt conditions of mind and brain to which they become coupled. These assemblages or props are historically derived and are embedded in the distributions of sensibility as cognitive gestalts hybridized to planned trajectories of thought. Along with the sculpted internal cognitive loops to which they are coupled the cultural external circuit component completes the organic-inorganic assembled network. This is the building block of a complex field of such loops. When these loops are tethered together a hundred or thousand fold and as result of their proximity and overlap form assemblages, their dynamic and emergent intensive conditions begin to be realized.

It matters little whether one takes Neural Darwinism or Neural Constructivism as your model in the argument laid out here. For both in the end rely on the conditions of epigenesis, and in this case a cultural epigenesis, to produce or sculpt the neurobiological substrate into the neurobiological architecture – to change the skin of brain into the flesh of mind. “ Plastic human brains may nonetheless learn to factor the operation and information-bearing role of such external props and artifacts deep into their own problem-solvng routines, creating hybrid cognitive circuits that are themselves the physical mechanisms underlying specific problem-solving performnaces. We thus come to what is arguably the most radical contemporary take on the potential cognitive role of of nonbiological props and structures: the idea that, under certain conditions, such props and structures might count as proper parts of extended cognitive processes”

(Andy Clark, Supersizing the Mind, Oxford, 2008. Pg. 68).

As you will see I view Neural Selectionism as the dominating force early on and Neural Constructivism more important later, keeping in mind that Darwinian forces may still play a role. All agree that a phenomenon of excessive growth of neurons in the early years of life is characteristically followed by a reactionary depletion. What happens after that is an answer that Neural Constructivism attempts to answer. ( 18)

The Theory of Neuronal Group Selection, the hallmark of Neural Darwinism, is made up of three components. Simply stated there is the Primary Repertoire that is a product of Developmental Selection, the Secondary Repertoire that is produced by Experiential Selection and Re-entry which stabilizes and elaborates upon the Secondary Repertoire. I will cover Developmental and Experiential Selection now, leaving Re-entry for later.

This Primary Repertoire describes the condition of the initial variability of the anatomy of the brain at birth that is produced by a process called Developmental Selection. First it relates to the variation that results from the combination of the DNA contributed by the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg as two very diverse genetic heritages. Secondly it relates to the history of the species itself in its evolutionary journey and the conditions of the genes that reflect that history. Finally it is the result of events that take place during the pregnancy. For example the effects of smoking, drinking or cocaine use on the condition of the developing fetus’s brain are well known. The combined effect of these three processes is the production of the Neurobiologic Common from which the brain/mind emerges through its engagement with culture.

I would like to call attention to the Primary Repertoire as the site of what is referred to as neural biodiversity and what I would like to refer to as the Neurobiologic Common or Neurozoon. The Neurozoon embodies the full extent of the possibilities that a human brain can become and awaits the moment of its unfolding not as a natavist series of heterochronous events emblazoned in the codon of the genome but rather an unfolding or becoming in the context of a duet between itself as the inherent structural conditions and apparatic conditions of brain in the context of nature or as I am arguing today, designed culture. This Neurozoon emerges as a subset of the Zoe, which is then sampled to become the Neurobios. The Neurobios is the secondary repertoire.

"Biodiversity is a composite term used to embrace the variety of types, forms, spatial arrangements, processes, and interactions of biological systems at all scales and levels of organization from genes to species to ecosystems, along with the evolutionary history that led to their existence.” (19) Neural biodiversity by analogy is first of all a species-specific condition that delineates the specific a priori variability of neural elements, including their physical and chemical idiosyncrasies, and the neurobiological apparatus that allow for the neuroplastic potentiality to express itself. It is a condition of the evolutionary history of that species and contains thereinits complete history of the neurobiological adaptations it required in its ascendance as that species.

I would like to contend that Neuropower is in fact directed towards this neural biodiversity, attempting to limit its potential. In other words, just as global biodiversity is currently under siege by various factors affecting the conditions of global capitalism including, pollution, over-fishing and the encroachment of habitat, effecting as it does the diversity of flora and fauna, so too do other conditions of this same world system, those that strangle difference to produce a homogenization of the cultural field and limit epigenetic neural biodiversity. For instance it is feared that in a century half of the six thousand seven hundred languages which are now active on our earth will be deleted. Furthermore design culture affects not only the early depletions and pruning of neural arborizations like for instance a topiarist who clips the branches of thick bushes to produce wonderful fantastic shapes but also choreagraphs and guides the regrowth of the branches along prescribed pathways to produce specific shapes and forms. Neural Darwinsim would be the topiarist but Neural Constructivism would be the choreagrapher. Further on I will show how the homogenization of the cultural field by for instance the international style or franchise architecture, both conditions of the global economy, restricts variation and as a result produces a crisis of neural network diversification leading to a crisis of the imagination. Therefore Neuropower is not simply about past evolutionary history but of its history in the future.

The Secondary Repertoire is a result of epigenesis and neural plasticity during a process called Experiential Selection. The word repertoire is very often related to musical performance and designates the full scope of a performer’s abilities. In fact, Gerald Edelman, one of the founders of Neural Darwinism, is himself a musician as well. The obvious connection to new labor as a virtuoso performance and its association with a number of possible activities that link labor and politics and which have repercussions for the material of memory interests us here. (20) One could say that this term could also be used in a Neural Constructivist account. However instead of being the result of a regression and deletion of neural elements the secondary repertoire in this account is the product of a productive complexification and intensification. Epigenesis refers to the process by which the environment affects the patterns of stimulation and communication in the neurons and neural networks of the Primary Repertoire. Hebbian theory, which states that neurons that fire together wire together preferentially, is operative in the Primary Repertoire where spontaneous electrical activity stimulates genetically prescribed a priori networks. ( 21) In the Secondary Repertoire that electrical activity is joined by that which is generated by objects and object relations in the world both real and abstract and, in the case of our world, the conditions of information and its distribution as dynamic codes in the real-imaginary-virtual interface (RIVI). (22) In an intensive culture it is these dynamic codes that have become most important. Hebbian Dynamics and Neural Darwinism state that those neurons most intensely stimulated develop firing potentials that are selectively reinforcing where as those not as stimulated undergo a process termed apoptosis and die out or manage to form connections with networks that are favored. Consequently, in the battle for limited neural space the stimulated neurons and their networked condition replace those that have receded.

The development of ocular dominance columns of layer IV of the primary visual cortex is a case in point. Ocular dominance columns are anatomical structures that appear like columns in microscopic examination found in the visual cortex and are anatomically defined regions of input from one eye or the other. They contain a number of different cell types that utilize different strategies for the processing of visual information like simple, complex and hypercomplex cells which all share a common visual field. As a unit they are important in processing visual information and are driven by one eye or the other. In experiments by Hubel and Weisel, enucleation of one or the other eye created disruptions in the normal columnar structure with those neural elements coding for the non-enucleated eye displacing those cells formerly driven by the now enucleated eye. “As Antoni and Stryker note, two hypothesis regarding their development have been suggested. One, conforming to selectionism, emphasizes two phases in the right eye development: a period of exuberant growth followed by selective axonal pruning. The other, more constructivist, hypothesis emphasizes the general expansion of axon collaterals alongside selective pruning.” (23) This theory promotes neural development as a system which is said to be regressive and subtractive. Neural Constructivism interprets this Hebbian Mechanism as favorably exciting those neurons most apt to be stimulated, thus promoting their further development and producing increased synaptic numbers and dendritic spines. Where “representational features of the cortex are built from the dynamic interaction between neural growth mechanisms and environmentally derived neural activity…. and that this growth is a progressive increase in the representational properties of the cortex.” (24)

Again the mechanism is important to consider in order to understand the brain’s development, but for our purposes an immature neurobiological substrate in both cases is transformed into a more finely tuned environmentally and contextually driven machine. What then is the effect of living in a networked society with the internet, cell phones, face book and twitter? We are all spending more and more time in linked environments and these linked social anatomies are finding expression in the modifications of designed built space. The Alishan Tourist Routes of Reiser and Umemoto, Toyo Ito’s Taichung Metroploitan Opera House and The Island City Central Park Gringrin, and Zaha Hadid’s Hungerburg Funicular are cases in point. What then is the effect of these new spatial and temporal contingencies on experiential selection? What then of the perceptual and cognitive habits, which they elaborate? Although we have defined the Primary Repertoire and the Secondary Repertoire separately, they are part of the same overlapping and interdependent process. The genetic instructions continue to unfold throughout life, the critical period for language learning being a case in point, in the context of learning and this learning changes the conditions of the brain itself. Learning a language changes the conditions of interacting with the world and what becomes relevant to attention changes. What we pay attention to is key to what we learn and what neural networks will be activated and amplified.

Experiential Selection does not, like natural selection in evolution, occur as a result of differential reproduction, but rather differential amplification of certain neuronal populations. Those neurons, neural networks and distributed neural mappings that are most frequently and intensely stimulated by, for instance, advertised toys that appear and reappear in real and televised environments or movie stars whose images adorn multiple platforms synchronously on billboards, lap tops, movie screens and televisions, will develop more efficient firing patterns or become progressively more phase locked – synchronously tethered together – giving them selective advantage over those that are not. Let us examine this relationship more deeply.

Recently an image of a Pepsi Cola can occurred recurrently all over New York City on billboards of different sizes placed strategically for maximum visibility. The advert, not surprisingly, was effectively designed for maximum and rapid perception by both a pedestrian and auto driven public. (Traffic jams slow automobile traffic to a crawl.) The color and design of the advert interestingly used strategies first found in the pop paintings of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana. The advert was designed with a specific context in mind in which other products advertised and within the same visual milieu reverberated together producing a network of stimulation. In other words the advert itself and its relation to other similarly designed adverts in combination produced an intense effect upon the viewer. It is these individual forms and their combined effect in the network in which they are embedded that produces correlational learning resulting in temporal coincidence at pre and post-synaptic membranes in local and global cortical mappings that strengthen synapses in the brain. But this advert also occurred on multiple platforms distributed repeatedly on television screens, computer laptops throughout the planet simultaneously. In other words we, as members of the planet earth are stimulated by the same franchised sensations that know no national boundaries. These new contingencies provide the new affordances of the planetary urban environment, to use a Gibsonian term. Those neurons that code for these newly engineered affordances are coupled with these intense stimuli and are therefore more apt to be favored over other neurons and neuronal networks in future encounters with those stimuli. These conditions of Neoliberal Capitalism makes future encounters probable!

These stimuli can also be grouped together into larger ensembles of stimulation that are persistently aligned in the environment and thus are always coded together as a form of cultural mappings. Cultural mappings are intensive, delineated by a multiplicity of immanent social, historical, psychological, economic and psychic relations that are collaged together forming a superstructure though which they can produce understanding. Architecture and designed space, understood as both the physical conditions of built space and the immaterial virtual spaces of the internet, house and support these elaborate amalgamations tethering them to learned activity trajectories, whether they are in the form of walking or driving or surfing the web.

There is an ecological logic to the forms of immanent distributions that are produced. (25) Branded environments are one such example where through corporate agreements Nike Shoes, Post Grape Nuts, Hertz Rent Car, Airberlin, and Sony Music appear together in the commercial landscape of billboards and airline magazines. The Institutional Understanding and sovereignty for which it does its bidding is empowered by this network of cultural signifiers. What Paul Virilio had formerly referred to in the representational and extensive era as Phatic Signifiers today become Fields of Phatic Signifiers embedded in the intensive logics of emerging meaning produced by the new apparatus of global culture.


Each brand is made up of its brand equity and its externalities that together compete with other assemblages for the attention of the market place. (26) Brand equity is explicit; it is a real entity that can be quantified based on market studies, while externalities are implicit and in the process of becoming. They are ineffable and incalculable.

Externalities can under certain conditions become explicit. Vans shoes were originally just tennis shoes to be worn all day. Their appropriation by skate boarders and their resultant popularity could never have been imagined. It was a result of a burgeoning skate culture in Southern California that added to its explicit brand equity when later they were understood and advertised as skating shoes.

They are overlaid or superimposed or embedded in already existing networks of cultural signifiers and as such inflect upon diagrams of attentional flow. They form selective pressures, which are coupled to analogous selective pressures in the brain/mind. The conditions of cultural intensivity integrate dynamic flows of hierarchical distributions together with folded rhizomatic distributions of sensibility that these branded environments are instrumental in producing.

Already existing oscillatory potentials, important for the production of the dynamic environment of the brain, transmitting information throughout it, are piggy backed by dynamic gestalts and rhythms at play in the cultural environment and onto which branded equities are imbricated. It is these dynamic potentialities as they are phase locked in ensembles synchronously and diachronously that create intense branded networks. These stimulate networks in the brain/mind that first pay attention to them and then memorize them as a result of registering them preferentially, in the end having affects on the overall architecture of the brain/mind. In the competition for neural space during critical periods of development, neural networks selected for by these branded environments will out-compete those that are not selected for, which either wither away or are incorporated in other assemblages where they can continue to play a role and be stimulated.

Branded networks work directly and indirectly on the child’s mind, which is especially malleable. Directly through sophisticated marketing techniques in which advertisements specifically engineered with the child’s mind in mind are transmitted cross-culturally during Saturday morning cartoons. These specially designed advertisements are analogous to “babyese,” in which parents prolong and exaggerate certain key phonetic distinctions coupled to the child’s immature brain. The same is true of childhood advertisement. Bright colors, fantastic talking cartoon animals, speaking in “babyese,” which the child already knows from Saturday morning cartoon programs, create an indistinguishable set of signifiers in a child who is as yet unable to distinguish himself/herself from others. This is where the Society of Control really begins in the inside/outside of the child’s mind.

But there is another way that the conditions of capitalism are transmitted to the child and that is indirectly through the parents. As I mentioned in the introduction Neuropower is focused on the planning and attention capacities of the frontal lobe. Adults assist children in the routines of their daily life that are beyond the capabilities of their immature brain. At first through such activities as pointing adults are indispensible in the early process of object learning and then symbolic language formation. Later when these activities involve planned action, for instance, parents extend their children’s abilities by acting as and being agents of their frontal lobe. (27) They are there to help them plan beyond the hear and now. This coupling of adult and child is a necessary condition of the early neural sculpting of Neuropower. The parent is at the service of the institutional understanding, acting as its agent of neuromodulation. But perhaps in the future with more sophisticated computer interfaces and software agents the parent won t even be necessary as the following quote from Andy Clarks Mindware might suggest. “Imagine that you begin using the web at age 4. Dedicated software agents track and adapt to your emerging interests and random explorations. They then help direct your attention to new ideas, web pages and products. Over the next 70 years you and your software agents are locked in a complex dance of coevolutionary change and learning, each influencing and being influenced by, the other. In such a case, in a very real sense, the software entities look less like part of your problem-solving environment then part of you. The intelligent system that now confronts the wider world is biological-you-plus-the-software-agents. These external bundles of code are contributing rather like the various subpersonal cognitive functions active in your brain.” (28)

Bibliography and Notes.

1. Multilevel Selection and Language Evolution, Terrence Deacon in Bruce H. Weber and David J. Depew, eds., Evolution and Learning: The Baldwin Effect Reconsidered, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003)

2. Edwin Hutchins, Distributed Cognition, IEBS Distributed Cognition, page 5

3. Marcus Jacobson, Developmental Neurobiology, (New York: Plenum Press, 1991) page 26.

4. Alva Noe, Action in Perception, Bradford Book, MIT Press, 2004, page,1.

“ I argue that all perception is touch-touch like in this way: Perceptual experience acquires content thanks to our possession of bodily skills. What we perceive is determined by what we do…”

5. A.R. Luria, Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations, Harvard University Press, 1976

“It seems surprising that the science of psychology has avoided the idea that many mental processes are social and historical in origin, or that important manifestations of human consciousness have been directly shaped by the basic practices of human activity and the actual forms of culture.”

6. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundisse/ch13.htm-page 692) quoted in Gerald Raunig, A Few Fragments on Machines, http://transform.eipcp.net/transversal/1106/raunig/en)

7. Ibid., Raunig, 2005, page 3.

8. Maurizio Lazzarato, “Life and the Living in the Societies of Control,” in Martin Fuglsang and Bent Meier Sorensen, eds., Deleuze and the Social, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006) page 186.

9. Gerald Edelman, The Remembered Present, (New York: Basic Books Inc., 1989) 10. Jean-Pierre Changeux and Stanilslas Dehaene, “Neuronal Models of Cognitive Functions,” in Mark H. Johnson, ed., Brain Development and Cognition, (New York: Blackwell, 1993) pages 363-403.

11. Steven R. Quartz and Terrence J. Sejnowski, The Nerual Basisi of Cognitive Development: A Constructivist Manifesto, Brain Sciences 20(4) , 1997, page 6.

12. Ibid. Quartz and All, 1997, page 6.

13. Ibid. Quartz and All, 1997, page 6.

14. Creative Evolution, Henri Bergson, Dover, 1998, page 102.

“ Just so as regards the evolution of life and the circumstances through which it passes-with this difference, that evolution does not mark out a solitary route, that it takes directions without aiming at ends and that it remains inventive even in its adaptations.”

15. Ibid, Bergson, Dover, page 104.

“Evolution is not only a movement forward; in many cases we observe a marking-time, and still more often a deviation or turning back. It must be so, as we shall show further on , and the same causes that divide the evolution movement often cause life to be diverted from itself, hypnotized by the form it has just brought forth. Thence results an increasing diorder. No doubt there is progress, if progress means a continual advance in the general direction determined by a first impulsion; but this progress is accomplished only on the two or three great lines of evolution on which forms ever more and more complex, ever more and more high, appear; between these lines run a crowd of minor paths in which, on the contrary, deviations, arrests, and set-backs, are multiplied.”

16. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience, Francisco J. Varelan, Evan T. Thompson, MIT Press, 1991.

One must also remember the contribution of Francisco Varela’s ideas of Enactive Embodied Cognition based as it is on affordances, diversity and natural drift, which could well help us make the intuitive leap to better understand the means through which the mutating conditions of culture at the margins can become the center.

17. Andy Clark, Supersizing the Mind, Oxford, 2008, pg. 77

18. Ibid, Quartz and Sejnowski, 1997, pg. 36 The evidence we have examined demonstrates that the popular view of development as largely a regressive event must be reconsidered. We suggest that regressive events are simply the consequence of reduced neural specificity, as indicated by the counterevidence to Sperry's chemoaffinity hypothesis. Any theory, whether selectionist or constructivist, that rejects a strong view of neural specificity will thus need to posit regressive events. If cells do not bear nearly unique molecular addresses, then stochastic sampling mechanisms must be posited. These will by their very nature introduce some structure into a system that will later be eliminated. Neural constructivism allows these sampling mechanisms to be directed, but they are still stochastic. Structural elimination, or error-correction, are likewise required, but this does not mean that error-correcting processes are the only developmental mechanisms, or that developmental selection occurs only among intrinsically generated structures. Rather, selection is only one kind of process in a dynamic interaction between environmentally derived activity and the neural growth mechanisms that activity regulates.)

19. R.J. Scholes et al., “Toward a Global Biodiversity Observing System,” Science, Volume 321, page 1044.

20. Paolo Virno, The Grammar of the Multitude, page 70. In this idea of Neuropower the virtuoso performance does leave a materialist residue. Rather then a formed product it leaves memory traces which have the potential to mutate the conditions of the neurobiologic architecture.

21. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebbian_theory

Hebbian theory concerns how neurons might connect themselves to become engrams. Hebb's theories on the form and function of cell assemblies can be understood from the following:

"The general idea is an old one, that any two cells or systems of cells that are repeatedly active at the same time will tend to become 'associated', so that activity in one facilitates activity in the other."

"When one cell repeatedly assists in firing another, the axon of the first cell develops synaptic knobs (or enlarges them if they already exist) in contact with the soma of the second cell."

Gordon Allport posits additional ideas regarding cell assembly theory and its role in forming engrams, along the lines of the concept of auto-association, described as follows:

"If the inputs to a system cause the same pattern of activity to occur repeatedly, the set of active elements constituting that pattern will become increasingly strongly interassociated. That is, each element will tend to turn on every other element and (with negative weights) to turn off the elements that do not form part of the pattern. To put it another way, the pattern as a whole will become 'auto-associated'. We may call a learned (auto-associated) pattern an engram."

22. Wolf Singer, “Coherence as an Organizing Principle of Cortical Functions,” in Olaf Sporns and Giulio Tononi, eds., Selectionism and the Brain, (San Diego: Academic Press,1994) page 158. “The probability that neurons synchronize their responses both within a particular area and across areas should reflect some of the Gestalt criteria used for perceptual grouping… Individual cells must be able to change rapidly the partners with which they synchronize their responses if stimulus configurations change and require new associations…If more then one object is present in a scene, several distinct assemblies should form. Cells belonging to the same assembly should exhibit synchronous response episodes whereas no consistent temporal relations should exist between the discharges of neurons belonging to different assemblies.”

23. Ibid, Quartz and Sejnoazki, 1997, page 17

24. Ibid, Quartz and Sejnoazki, 1997, abstract

25. Giulio Tononi, “Reentry and Cortical Integration,” in Olaf Sporns and Giulo Tononi, eds., Selectionsim in the Brain, (San Diego: Academic Press 1994) page 129. “Two of the main tenets of this theory are that neurons act together in local collectives called neuronal groups and that they communicate with each other and correlate their activity by a process called reentry.”

26. I was first introduced to the idea of externalities and their relationship to Cognitive Capitalism in a lecture by Yann Moulier Boutang given at the conference I helped organize with Deborah Hauptmann called “The Mind in Architecture” at TU Delft School of Architecture in 2008. A related text will be published in Cognitive Architecture: From Biopolitics to Noo-power, 010 Press, 2010.

27. Bruce Wexler, Brain and Culture, page 108-9. “Given the prolonged postnatal physical maturation of these structures in human beings, lasting until or beyond puberty, it is not surprising that adults must provide these functions if they are to be present in the behavior of infants and children. Essentially, then, the frontal lobes of parents are functionally linked with the lower brain centers and the sensory, motor and association cortices of their infants and children. While the child’s frontal lobes are developing, the parents’ brains provide frontal lobe functions for the child.”

28. Andy Clark, Mindware, Oxford, 2001, pg. 115

Ein Porträt des Künstlers als Unbekannter

Dass zwanzig dokumentarische Fotografien, aufgenommen an völlig unterschiedlichen,Stationen der Moderne’, ein serielles Kunstwerk bilden können, ist nur dadurch möglich, daß jede von ihnen einen Eindringling zeigt - den Unbekannten Künstler. Auf jedem dieser Photos, die einen eingefrorenen Augenblick aus dem öffentlichen Leben bekannter Protagonisten und Mitglieder der Avantgarde und Neoavantgarde zeigen, hat er ein Gesicht durch sein eigenes ersetzt. Seine Selbstprojektion in eine Vergangenheit, die sich als fotografisch aufgezeichnete Geschichte präsentiert, beruht auf einem paradoxen Spiel zwischen der Aufdeckung seiner eigenen Identität und dem listigen Verbergen seiner künstlerischen ,Identität’. In diesem Werkkomplex oder eher Projekt ,Unknown Artist’ benutzt er sein Gesicht als bildlichen Nachweis seiner ,Identität’als Künstler und als Markenzeichen seiner künstlerischen ,Subjektivität’. Der Künstlername auf dem Werk ist jenes Parergon, das, wie Derrida sagt, sich weder äußerlich noch innerlich zum Werk verhält, sondern es wie ein passe-partout ,,einrahmt”. Indem er den Kult um den Namen des Künstlers und seine Signatur, die die Einmaligkeit des schöpferischen Duktus bezeugt, entmystifiziert, stellt er das Konzept der ‘künstlerischen Identität’und die darin verwobenen Begriffe Originalität, Authentizität und kreative Imagination in Frage. Diese Konzepte sind keine Erfindung einer modernistisch formulierten Kunst(geschichte), wie in unserer ,Post’-Moderne häufig behauptet wird, sondern sie sind als Konstruktionen tief verwurzelt in der Tradition des novum, die lange vor und nach dem Modernismus wirksam war. Im Kontext der klassischen Medien, insbesondere der Malerei, wo “die meisterhafte Faktur der Malerhand die bloße Materialität der malerischen Produktion vergeistigt, und wo die Hand zugleich zum Ersatz oder zur Zusammenfassung der identifizierenden Signatur wird (als Garantie der Authentizität), rechtfertigt sie den Tauschwert des Gemäldes und bewahrt seine Existenz als Ware.”

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Resistance is Futile/Resistance is Fertile 2020

Resistance is Futile/Resistance is Fertile 2020

What are the conditions for radical and/or revolutionary thought and praxis in the 2010s?
What do you fear from the coming decade?

Resistance is Futile/Resistance is Fertile 2020

Is Resistance Futile? In this moment of Neo Liberal Global Capitalism powerful corporate consortiums and NGOs constitute the instrumental logic of what is referred to these days as Cognitive Capitalism. I would like to expand the definition of Cognitive Capitalism beyond its capacity as the accumulation of assets related to the information economy as it pertains to intellectual rights, the production of soft and hardware for computer programs and surfing the net and its privatization and therefore its restriction of the intellectual commons. I would also like it to include all forms of enterprise that profit from the conditions of thought and its administration and would suggest that it is the future territory that capitalism will attempt to conquer or should I say colonize. Drug companies produce and will continue to make new and ever more powerful mind altering drugs some of which affect attention (Adderall) and memory (Phenserine). Co-opted post-production companies continue to create more and more powerful phatic images, as Paul Virilio has described them, with adobe photoshop and aftereffects that compete with each other for subjective attention and in total constitute fields of meta-attention on billboards, TV screens, computer and Video Walls that adorn designed space that most of us experience in the places we now live. Computer games and virtual simulation environments have proved effective in learning the real world skills used on the battlefield (See Military Simulation and Serious Games by Roger D. Smith, Model Benders Press, 2009.) More recently Neuro-imaging techniques have become an essential new form of marketing called Neuro Marketing and will continue to be so, where the patterns of neural excitation become registers for desire driven commodified decision-making processes used by product designers/makers and advertising firms alike. (Editorial, “A Manifesto for Neuromarketing Science,” Journal of Consumer Behavior, Volume, 7, Issue, 4-5, pages 263-271.) Finally through such official proclamations such as the Bologna Declaration, the university system itself more then ever is under siege as it is now administered to create curriculums that refine what knowledge can be taught and to what end. Together these form the new conditions of instrumental logic in the age of information. When furthermore this information is sculpted to concur with preexisting and learned conditions of brain and mind, for instance the way that synchronized dynamic functional connectivity elicits attention and as a result memory I refer to it as Cognitive Ergonomics. (Wolf Singer, Binding by Synchrony, 2007, Scholarpedia)

Cognitive Ergonomics is an insidious apparatus of Cognitive Capitalism and has global effect. (Here I mean both in the sense of Global Networks in the brain and Global Networks of the Empire.) Recently Neuroscience has been exploring the very decision making processes used in future determinations by focusing its attention of the workings of the frontal lobe. This has created a switch from its past interest in what was called bottom-up processing to what is known as top-down processing. Instead of organizing how sensations are organized into larger more abstract bundles and concepts the focus today is rather on abstract thinking itself that indirectly affects how sensations emanating from the world are routed in the circuits of the brain. (Engel, A.K. et al., “Dynamic Predictions: Oscillations and Synchrony in Top-Down Processing,” in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, October, 2001, page 704.) This as we will see is a condition of Neuropower to be explained a little later. Cognitive Ergonomics is now the conditions of advanced information societies in which the information produced is designed to silently and invisibly co-opt the energy distributions of the brain to affect thought itself. Neo-liberal Cognitive Capitalism directs its energies towards the production of information that in the end is cognitively ergonomic and thus with increasing effectiveness enters the hierarchical and non-hierarchical conditions of mindedness more efficiently. As such it creates the new conditions of the distribution of sensibility or should we call it the distribution of insensibility because the information networks themselves are sublime. No new laws need to be passed and less and less government is needed as the machinic intelligence of this constituted general intelligence does it all. Resistance is Futile as the Borg said.

But maybe Resistance is Fertile! Sure Artists and Art professionals are at times instrumentalized themselves by the power of neoliberal global capitalism and who is to blame them. In fact the system pushes artists to brand themselves in order to be constituted not as a human being but instead a calculated auratic impulse weightlessly distributed according the non-linear logics of the media networks. The fame machine reinvented and elaborated by Warhol, the global stardom of the art fair insinuated as one is in the international gossip networks of famous collectors in the VIP lounges of the Basel Art Fair, the chance to appear on the cover of global art and fashion magazines such as Artforum and Vanity Fair are incredibly intoxicating. As such the financial rewards can be great for a select few. Cognitive ergonomics and cognitive capitalism, as I am introducing the concept here, makes no distinctions between artist and non-artist. But the power of art in its most utopian sense is a powerful agent of change when understood and embraced by artists and the community that they constitute.

How might this be? We are all born with a pluripotential brain constituted as it is by a widely varying population of nervous elements, called neurons which is constituted by its axons, dendritic spines and synapses. These neurons and the connections they form differ from each other in the amount and type of energy as information that they can absorb and elaborate. The degree to which this energy effects neural efficiency at the synaptic junction will effect the sustainability of that connection or the network it constitutes and affects the degree to which for instance the dendritic spine(s), can survive, propagate and form alliances. The neuron with its axons and dendrites is a form of matter of the brain and that matter is transformed in different ways by, for instance, different spatial and temporal frameworks some of which culture plays a role in producing. (Quartz, S. & Sejnowski, T.J. (1997). The neural basis of cognitive development: A constructivist manifesto. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 20 (4): 537-596.)

Different cultural dispositions organize, for instance, the visual cultural field in such a way that different neurons and assemblages of neurons are differentially called out- to which has implications within limits for what forms of neural architectures can be produced. This is what since 1997 I have called the "Cultured Brain Model". The variation of the population of neurons, the degree to which they can be modified by either internal or external inputs and their resultant pattern of connectivity is referred to as its neural plasticity. It is towards this neural plasticity that the energies of sovereignty are directed. The sculpting of this neural plasticity or neural potential is the aim of the administration of the subject in the quest to form an obedient people. I call this "Neuropower" and understand this to be a recent manifestation of biopower coming as it does on the heals of such ideas such as the disciplinary society (Foucault), the society of control (Deleuze) and Noo-politics (Lazzarato). Extending them beyond their focus upon the administration of man in the present to that of the production of the future man or woman. It is also towards and upon that variation that cultural capital, here I mean in the sense of Bordieu, as a cultural/environmental modifier produces subjects whose Eye has been educated in very special other ways. Ways that if nurtured allow them to look at and make things that defy that which is constituted by the instrumental logic.

What effect might this have? Artists using their own histories, apparatus, processes, materials, logics produce works of art and non-art that populate the visual auditory and kinesthetic landscape and thereby mutate the conditions of the distribution of the sensible producing what I have referred to before as the Redistribution of the Sensible. This constitutes the flip side of Neuropower as artists create images static and dynamic that compete effectively for the minds attention and therefore have power to produce a population of neural connections that along side those already elicited by the powers of instrumentalization constitute the image of thought. They are in fact part of the history of the production of the subject. The ratiomatic relationship between the amount of cultural and cognitive capital affective at any particular moment and their concomitant power to produce a variety of epigenetically contrived neural architectures is the essence of the history of the thought image. What a difference it is to walk through a gridded city constituted as it does by a mathematical and preformed logic then that based on the conditions of a city built and designed according to the illogic’s of Situationism with its dérive, chance encounters and network of psycho-geography. What effect does living in such a city have on the growing child whose brain and mind are open and responsive during what are referred to as critical periods for learning? Do different forms of neural architecture emerge as a response to this wide variety of conditions that have the potential for different thoughts,that respond to different networks of attention and different immanent gestalts that move like the wind through distributions of sensibility. As such does this artist’s brain have the potential to create sublime objects, corrupted and abnormal forms of movement, unthinkable thoughts that are beyond the general intelligence of the police to monitor. That, like the scandal of Marcel Duchamp’s work of 1917, a urinal signed R. Mutt or the apathy experienced in the context of the first presentation of The Barcelona Pavillion, 1929, of Mies Van der Rohe, remain beyond the radar of the self-policing conditions of, in these cases, Modernism until the seismic shifts they created that originally presented themselves as rumbles became earthquakes in the realm of the sensible and produced mutations in the distribution of time and space. Earthquakes that I might add create what Carl Schmitt would describe as "States of Emergency". For the new State of Emergency in the eyes of the sovereignty are constituted by changes in the state of the normalizing distribution of sensibility and the apparatuses that tether that distribution together in order to produce a people who share a common Neuro-architectonics constituted by the experience of a controlled homogeneous world picture/cinema. The state of emergency concerns the future generation whose pluripotential brain with all its variability might be sculpted by very different conditions of the distribution brought about through the magic of the sublime object(s), idea(s), movement(s) produced by those who have cultural capital. This is the power of art! Because it is this State of Emergency that in fact elicits the State of Exception when government itself goes into a seizure that suspends itself. The history of art and political change can, therefore can be seen as a generational and epochal production of a succession of states of emergency and the response to them.


by: Warren Neidich
Published in: Atlántica Magazine of Art and Thought #48-49, 2009
Neuropower in Atlantica

DARE | Warren Neidich

Warren Neidich

2010 by Nicole Buesing and Heiko Klaas


“Did she do it or – or not? One of the 2008 American presidential campaign’s central controversies concerned a dubious list of forbidden books. John McCain’s vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, was supposed to have compiled the list in her capacity as former mayor of the small Alaskan city of Wassila. The aim of the compilation was allegedly to remove the listed titles from the local public library. Palin resolutely denied these accusations on several occasions. Her opponents, however, were not convinced. If the accusations were true, it would have been a clear case of censorship. If they weren’t true, then at least the existence of the hit list circulating the Web evidences a canon of disagreeable yet popular books – one that the conservative, evangelical American Right would love to have banished from public libraries.

Exactly this explosive constellation is the starting point for the procedural installation “Book Exchange,” which the artist Warren Neidich – born in 1958 in New York, now working and living in Berlin and Los Angeles – showed last summer at the Horowitz Gallery in East Hampton, on Long Island. East Hampton is not just a prime destination for recreation-seeking New Yorkers; ever since Jackson Pollock settled there, in the 1940s, it has been the artists’ and art-collectors’ colony on Long Island par excellence. Not a bad place to observe “Book Exchange” in real conditions.” – Nicole Buesing and Heiko Klaas

Highlights (2008-10)

Neuroaesthetics Conference (2005)

Warren Neidich Conference on Neuroaesthetics

Full texts published in the fourth issue of the Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory on artbrain.org

Conference Sessions

First Dialectic: Edges of the Envelope | Chair: Charlie Gere

Brian Massumi
Ready to Anticipate: Pre-emptive Perception and the Power of the Image

D.J. Culture and Sampling | Chair: Daniel Glaser, Mental Projections

Paul Miller, a.k.a. Dj Spooky, Rhythm Science

Kodwo Eshun
The Affective Logic of the Sound File in the Age of the Global Sound Archive

Drugs, Altered States of Consciousness and Cultural Production | Chair: Warren Neidich

Diedrich Diederichsen
The Heuristics of Psychedelic Enlightenment

Margarita Gluzberg
How to Get Beyong the Market - Transubjective Reality in the Salyia Divinorum Forest (Let the Crowds in)

Martina Wicklein
The Brain on Drugs

Curating the Neuro-Sensorial-Cognitive | Chair: Andrew Patrizio, Neuro-Curo

A Discussion with:
Chloe Vaitsou
Synaesthesia, a Neuroaesthetics Exhibition

Isabelle Moffat
This is Tomorrow: A case of Psychoneural Isomorphism

Art Praxis: Part 1 | Chair: Charlie Gere

Joseph Kosuth
Celebrating Contingency

John Armleder
Pertinent Works

Art Praxis: Part 2 | Chair: Scott Lash

Scott Lash
Introduction to Panel Art Praxis

Olafur Eliasson
Uncertainty of Colour Matching and Related Idea

Beau Lotto
The Postmodern Brain

Jules Davidoff
Colour Categories as Cultural Constructs

Israel Rosenfeld
The Question of Plasticity

Architecture and Architectonics | Chair: Deborah Hauptmann

Marcos Novak
Alloaesthetics and Neuroaesthetics: Travels through Phenomenology and Neurophysiology

Andreas Roepstorff
Functional Architectonics of the Brain: Co-evolving Structures of Meaning

Philippe Rahm
Inhalable Spaces

Neuroaesthetics: Process and Becoming

Introduction: Warren Neidich

Charles Wolfe
The Social Brain

Armen Avanessian
Aesthetical Theory, Scientific Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art: Contrasting Concepts and Perspectives in Art

Cultured Brain 1 | Chair: Johannes Menzel

Warren Neidich
Resistance is Futile

Cultured Brain 2 | Chair: Howard Caygill

Charlie Gere
Can Art go on without a Body?


Lucy Steeds
André Leroi-Gourhan: Neuroaesthetics?

Cultured Brain 3 | Introduction: Warren Neidich

Barbara Marie Stafford
Soma-Aesthetics, Constructing Interiority

Sarah Maharaj
From the Afterlife to the Atmospherics reassessing our basic assumptions

Body-Wall Maple Cottage (2005)

Body-Wall Maple Cottage


In this work a false wall made out of plywood wound its way around an abandoned cottage first blocking the staircase, then creating a false passageway that began at the original door and continued until the front wall of the house itself. This new space created a hybrid space in-between the original house and the new wall and thereby set up a dialectic between past and future with the spectator mediating between the two. The visitors were transformed into performance artists and actors and were made aware, by a small light, of a viewing device through which they were meant to look to see an enclosed domestic space reminiscent of the places of inspection so often used by Sherlock Holmes. The optical pathway for this inspection was a hole cut out of the eye of an old portrait painting that hung on the inside of this simulated do­mestic space. This opening in the painting was lined up on one hand with a hole in the wall itself and on the other with the viewer’s eyes. Together they created a machinic assemblage that was aligned with a mirror hung directly across the room which reflected the antique painting, mentioned above, and the eye of the viewer that through his or her participation was now part of. The viewer’s eye, as it looked through the painting from behind the wall, now became part of the paint­ing itself. The hidden passageway became an uncanny space in which the fragmented viewer through a transformational process of the experience of becoming an actor in this architectural scenario became a whole body again not as himself but as a painting with all the meanings pertaining to the nature of portraiture itself.

When You Look East You Are Already Looking West (2009-10)

Brainwash 2 (2009)

Silent: A State of Being (2004)