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In the Place of Utopia

Affect and Transformative Ideas

Warwick Tie

Considerable socio-political change has re-configured the discursive space once occupied by ‘utopia’. Within the cultures of late capitalism and the organisational matrices of bio-political administration, that space is no longer animated by images of idealised states that are yet to come, or by a sense of simple failure in the production of those same states. Rather, it is overdetermined by a condition of differentiation in the representation of reality. The origins of that differentiation of representation appear to lie deep within the modernist project. In the Place of Utopia explores how that condition of representation might be animated anew by the discursive circuits through which modernity has come to operate, so as to enliven the ability of transformative ideas to lever change from within a range of organic crises current to the world system: the financialisation of global capitalism; the subsumption of worker subjectivities to the logic of capital; the broadening of the metabolic rift through industrial-capitalism. Central to this animation of transformative ideas is the relationship between language and the body.
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“There are two moments worthwhile in writing, the one where you start and the other when you throw it in the waste-paper basket”. So proposes Samuel Beckett. His insight begs the question, however, as to how anything would get written if we were to routinely throw away what had just been penned. Moreover, it raises a question as to how ideas might develop at all if, in their emergent states of confusion, their movement was not stabilised by their inscription upon a durable surface of some kind.

It was not from Beckett that I learned to consign my daily writing to the rubbish bin. Rather, the lesson had come to me from Picasso; or, at least, from the scraps of an urban myth which I heard about the way in which Picasso painted. According to the myth, Picasso would produce his master-pieces in a very short time; perhaps just a few hours. Behind that act of rapid production, however, lay several months of sketching various elements of the emergent piece. At some point in time, so the myth continued, that process of continual sketching would incite a sense that the compositional challenges of the painting could be grasped and that the time to paint was about to impress itself. Upon hearing the story, I began to wonder if Picasso’s practice might transfer to the world of written words; and to the discursive composition of ideas more particularly. And so began a new practice: early morning sun;...

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