July 2009

… the phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner. Even though public collections may be less objectionable socially and more useful academically than private collections, the objects get their due only in the latter. I do know that the time is running out for the type that I am discussing here and have been representing before you a bit ex officio. But, as Hegel put it, only when it is dark does the owl of Minerva begin its flight. Only in extinction is the collector comprehended.

– Walter Benjamin. “Unpacking My Library.” In Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968: 67.

Moving pictures are evanescent by nature; in Nigeria, they have a particularly lurching, fragile existence. Nollywood films have little supporting material culture around them, and so when the electricity goes off, there is not much to look at. Still they shape the national imagination, building their empire in people’s heads.

Jonathan Haynes. “Nollywood in Lagos, Lagos in Nollywood Films.” Africa Today 54, no. 2 (2007): 131-50.

Property and possessions belong to the tactical sphere. Collectors are people with a tactical instinct; their experience teaches them that when they capture a strange city, the smallest antique shop can be a fortress, the most remote stationery a key position. How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!

– Walter Benjamin. “Unpacking My Library.” In Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968: 63.

The collage is the provisional syntax of creative synthesis, a mass syntax. The collage is the assembly of simultaneity, a general totem…. Technology is achieving such sophistication that it starts to require the year zero of a NEW BARBARISM to unblock its pores. Society is ever more rich, life is ever more poor. . . . Today’s models of consumption are the models of production 40 years ago … This is the time of PRODUSUMERISM. The student is for the university what the worker is for the factory. The student is the information worker. Students in the [political and ideological] superstructure are still copying the old models of struggle of worker in the [economic] base. [This is the time of] PRODUSUMERISM. The world of consumption is superseded by the world of information, where the decisive battle will take place. NEW BARBARISM: an open field for the new models of the information war. The elites, especially the academic ones, are rotten with stupidity: every new [produsumer] barbarian knows more than them. It is not necessary to wait until everyone owns a motor car for the new culture to be born. Ownership is for the world of things, culture is for the world of signs. The artist is the language designer, even if — and especially if — they’re marginalised. This is the [time of the] artistic guerrilla…. Collective joy is the final vindication: intimacy in deep harmony. Beyond ciphers. And against the [tyranny of the] $$.

– Décio Pignatari, Contracomunicação, p. 27, quoted in Richard Barbrook. The Class of the New. London: OpenMute, 2006, p. 76.

[The] … function of entrepreneurs is to reform or revolutionise the pattern of production by exploiting an invention or, more generally, an untried technological possibility by producing a new commodity or producing an old one in a new way, by opening up a new source of materials or a new outlet for products, by reorganising an industry and so on. . . . To undertake such new things is difficult and constitutes a distinct economic function, first, because they lie outside of the routine tasks which everybody understands and, secondly, because the environment resists in many ways that vary, according to the social conditions, from simple refusal to finance or to buy a new thing, to physical attack on the man who tries to produce it. To act with confidence beyond the range of familiar beacons and to overcome that resistance requires aptitudes that are present in only a small fraction of the population and that define the entrepreneurial type as well as the entrepreneurial function. This function does not essentially consist in either inventing anything or otherwise creating the conditions which the enterprise exploits. It consists in getting things done.

– Jospeh Schumpter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, p. 132, quoted in Richard Barbrook. The Class of the New. London: OpenMute, 2006, p. 66.

To be able to play the games of culture with … playful seriousness … a seriousness without the ‘spirit of seriousness’, one has to belong to the ranks of those who have been able, not necessarily to make their whole existence a sort of children’s game, as artists do, but at least to maintain for a long time, sometimes a whole lifetime, a child’s relation to the world…. An aesthetic disposition, a generalized capacity to neutralize ordinary urgencies and to bracket off practical ends, a durable inclination and attitude for practice without a practical function, can only be constituted within an experience of the world freed from urgency and through the practice of activities which are an end in themselves, such as scholastic exercises or the contemplation of works of art. In other words, it presupposes the distance from the world … which is the basis of the bourgeois experience of the world.

– Pierre Bourdieu. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste [1979]. Richard Nice, trans. Harvard University Press, 1984: 54.

Cheap tape recorders, old televisions, blurred videos that are the copy of a copy of a copy—these are the material distortions endemic to the reproduction of media goods in situations of poverty and illegality, and they shape the ways these media take on cultural value and act on individuals and groups. The dialectic of technological breakdown and repair imposes its own cultural experience of modernity, an alternative speeding up and stasis, and a world where gaps in space and time are continually annihilated and reinforced.

Brian Larkin. “Degraded Images, Distorted Sounds: Nigerian Video and the Infrastructure of Piracy.” Public Culture 16, no. 2 (2004): 310.

Technology, especially the media, often provides the conduit for our experience of being ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ history. The materiality of media creates the physical details and the quotidian sensory uses through which these experiences are formed…. In postcolonial societies, such as India or Nigeria, this sense is intensified due to the powerful link between technology and colonial rule, where modern technology was part of a civilizing mission of colonial power.

Brian Larkin. “Degraded Images, Distorted Sounds: Nigerian Video and the Infrastructure of Piracy.” Public Culture 16, no. 2 (2004): 303.