Friday, 6 September 2019

Constant tightening of conditions of study in universities.

Some thoughts on the present state of affairs in universities, Finland.

I have mentioned every now and then when as faculty I’ve partaken in discussions that involve a concern about the length of time of study, that I have some fundamental notions and objections to the present policies, on ethical and political grounds. Present policies being based on tightening the conditions of studies and narrowing their scope, seemingly to serve the tighter demands of time. Given from above, governmental and university management. So here a list of my objections:

Firstly, I find it nauseatingly hypocritical to express worry about the state of mental health of students and use funds and create positions for counseling, and not lift a finger about the cause: stressful conditions of study. It is perfectly understandable that students become anxious when their right of study is restricted – less time, less choice of subjects, less autonomy to compile the degree and the studies the way one wants – but demand of perfection and good grades and competitiveness is steadily augmented. Time of studies used to be a time of freedom – now it is an anxious time to make yourself or lose your chance. Our higher education system is built to drive people crazy.

Secondly, tightening the conditions of study relies on and produces social inequality. Only people who already have resources, mainly financial but also the kind of cultural and networking relations purchased by existing and established social positions (again overridingly also financial) can dedicate themselves wholly to their studies as required. Or, if they have really good existing resources, they can even ignore the restrictions and exert that freedom that is becoming an endangered species. Spelling it out: only people whose parents have the money to finance their studies can afford and are welcome to higher education.

A specific case of this is that as the background resources and working conditions of higher education become tighter and tighter, the students will form a more and more homogeneous group. This in a time when professions, skills, fields of activity and production shift and change form in record time, so that instead it ought to be the rule that the body of students is more and more heterogenous, since some would have just finished their secondary education while some would have had three different careers already – some would be following one path only and some would desperately need to add new dimensions to their abilities. This again implies that more and more people will just fall in the category of total losers, with no official chances of seeking to develop themselves. The system demands that one should be in the position to make the right choice immediately after basic education – or have the resources to change interest, not as a necessity but just as a personal whim.

Restricted time of study, which is married to restricted right of amount of studies and scope of studies also means that we produce cheaper intellectual labor for the global industry. We produce people with limited skills and scopes and perspectives, people who are used to compete each other and not support each other – people who can be easily exploited, maybe even more easily than at present, when so many work for free just with the hope of maybe gaining a real position. People who cannot state their own terms and look elsewhere for opportunities, since their skills are limited and their chances likewise.

 To conclude – though one could elaborate easily – I find it utterly destructive to teach people in any subject at any level of education, but especially at the higher, to just shut up and obey the rules. To not have extensive interest in anything, only in getting the credits and degrees and diplomas, and the job, and getting it done. We stand at the verge of an ecological and social apocalypse. What we should be educating is people who do not accept that there are no alternatives, that there is only one way and truth and what the authorities state ought to be the limit of what they even dream of. We should be educating people for whom it is not about a career and getting rich and famous at any cost, but about people and the earth and the world and finding ways of doing things differently – not fucking “innovations” to be marketed and sold, not even cute little green innovations, but real alternative ways of living and subsisting and resisting and producing the world, with the world.

Dixit but I don’t think this can save my soul.


Thursday, 26 July 2018

The Pillow Book and The Space of Cultural Production

Taina Rajanti
MUST5 July 2013 – July 2018

 I wrote this essay half way as a presentation for a MUST5 conference in Hongkong in 2013 - and finished it this summer of 2018. I am including a screenshot of one of the slides of the presentation, since the presentation and the drafting of it became part of an artwork exchange with Santtu Kivimäki, who plaited it all into a work of hers. See our online discussion Invitations.

“The Pillow Book” was written in Heian Japan by a gentlewoman in the court of Empress Teishi, who was the High Consort between 990 – 1000a.d. The gentlewoman wrote it presumably on a bundle of precious paper given to the Empress in 994, and the book was “probably completed in the first years of the eleventh century”. The author’s family name was Kiyohara, and “tradition has it” that her personal name was Nagiko. The Book she wrote under the name “Sei Shonagon”, where Sei can be conceived as an alternative reading for the name Kiyo, and Shonagon the name of a bureaucratic post, translated as “Junior Councellor”. (The Pillow Book, the cover and introduction)

The book tells about Sei Shonagon’s life at the court, but it is not a diary or an autobiography. She writes lists of all kinds of things: infuriating things, disgusting things, delightful things, things that should be small, things that make your heart beat fast. She also lists rivers, villages, topics for poetry, horses, ox-drivers, temples, games, tales, buddhas… but these are no exhaustive or systematic lists, instead they seem to reflect her moods and tastes, as do everything else in the Book.  She records incidents and anecdotes from her life and of the court – often to show off her good taste, intellect, wit and learning, especially concerning poetry. In fact later commentary and critique often claims this to be a serious fault of the book, since there is no red thread of a plot or even an autobiography. She also depicts scenes to discuss how lovers or temple-goers or officials should or should not behave. These scenes may or may not refer to actual experiences. She paints vivid images especially of people’s clothing, describing painstakingly and to the detail the costumes and their fabric and colors. She makes constant reference to poetry and tales, either quoting or ingeniously paraphrasing something. She always casts her own mood and feeling over, however small an entry might be (two things that imitate: yawns and children) – and the book is bathed in the feeling of “okashi” – delightful, charming, amusing – a word that is repeated to the extent that the English translator feels it has to be varied not to cause rejection by a modern Western reader.

What is the Pillow Book? It is, as stated, not a diary or an autobiography. It is not a handbook for ladies at court or about general genteel etiquette. It definitely is not a novel, a romantic tale either of pure fantasy or drawing from real life. Its striking characteristic is to be “an extraordinary jumble”, as the translator says. She also warns us that any feeling of familiarity and intimacy is a mere illusion, since Sei Shonagon (Kiyohara Nagiko) lived in a world “we do not know”. Yet reading the book I could not shake off a feeling of familiarity – definitely not with the customs and values described, but precisely with the puzzling jumble of the format, down to the assumed alias.

Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book would be/is a perfect example of a present-day digital online diary, or rather postings under a profile within an online board or platform – say Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. It would be perfectly reasonable to find a jumble of lists of things one likes/ does not like (name 10 books that come to your mind; which way do you think toilet-paper should hang; what is your totem animal, which country should you live in?) amidst anecdotes, shared stories, personal moods, and opinions about customs, weather, times of year, festivals, clothing, poetry. Oh yes, the poetry – we litter our statuses and posts with references and links to popular songs and classic music, news videos and cuts from movies. And we ornate it all with images, taken by us with our smart phones or found online. And we definitely want to show off our wit, good taste, intellect and learning, to our intimate circles and the world at large.

Then there is the alias, the avatar, the username. Allegedly based on the person’s own name and position in life, not really giving the true identity away, nor yet completely covering it. In fact, as with online board profiles, so with Sei Shonagon: who is she really? Do we know – do we really know for sure? As an author Sei Shonagon arouses the issue of authenticity, indeed the issue of what is an author.

“The author” is much less an individual human being who has produced a text than a function within a specific kind of discourse of literature, is the answer given by Michel Foucault in his article titled precisely “What is an Author”. To be more precise, “the author” is a characteristic of the existence, circulation and functioning of the discourse. (MFA 148) The author’s name allows to create coherence and homogeneity within the “work” – in fact, it allows to construct the “work”, what to include and what to exclude. (MFA 145 – 147)

Foucault cites the Church Father Saint Jerome who defined what we need to identify an author and the work of an author: 1) constant level of value, i.e. the different writings must have the same literary quality and worth; 2) conceptual coherence so that the reader can always be sure in what sense a specific concept or perspective is meant; 3) stylistic unity, this being very much tied to the constant value of the writing; and 4) the texts must be historically placed, in the sense that the author cannot discuss things that happened after his/her death. (MFA 151)

Even modern literary criticism, according to Foucault, sees the author as a principle of coherence and homogeneity: the author as a historical person and through his biography serves to explain events and developments in the work (places the texts historically, as required by Saint Jerome). The author is the principle of a certain unity of writing, so that differences within disparate writings can be explained through a progress and development of the author, or external influences experienced by the author, be they personal or contextual. The author is the point where potential contradictions in the text can be resolved and incompatible elements are tied together. And finally, as with Saint Jerome, also for modernists the author is a source of coherence of expression and style. (MFA 151) Thus the author, says Foucault, is an ideological product (a discursive product) marking “the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning” (MFA 159).

We can see how Sei Shonagon flows beyond the space and boundaries defined by “the author”. Her work is composed of texts of different value and style, mere lists like Horrid filthy things– Slugs. The tip of the broom used to sweep a shabby wooden floor. The bowls in the Privy Chamber.; moods like It is lovely to see, on a day when the snow lies thick– or Women without prospect-; descriptions of life and persons at the court like When Her Majesty was mourning for the previous Regent. Sometimes an entry begins as a list but turns into an anecdote, or a more evolved pondering of one item, disturbing the conceptual coherence. And as the translator explains, even if the peculiarities of Japanese language make possible the use of nuances one cannot translate to English, on the other hand in Japanese the use of verbs does not necessarily involve markers that tell if the writer is speaking in past tense, or if she is speaking in passive sense or as herself. “Is it I, or you, or we, or perhaps she, who is experiencing this?” Historical placement seems to hang on the contextual markers in the text, not on the person of the author. Thus, instead of dating from a time and experience completely removed from ours, Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book is a work taking place in the context of the contemporary disappearance or death of “the author”.

Foucault states he has no interest in the death or disappearance of the author as such. What he is interested is what can emerge when this unifying discursive product fails to create an order, and true to himself he takes this to spatial metaphors: he is interested in in “a space into which the writing subject constantly disappears”, in locating “the space left empty by the author’s disappearance”. (MFA, beginning and end; my italics) What is the space where The Pillow Book takes place, the space of the author’s disappearance?

In another famous article Foucault has indeed defined that our epoch is no more an epoch of history (which focused on the subject and its authenticity), but an epoch of space. And for our epoch the issue about space is not about the site and placement, nor yet about extension any more. We conceive space inherently as “relations between sites” – relations of proximity (or distance), storage, circulation, marking, and classification of human beings. (MFH, 1 – 2) Now initially I had the idea of combining these two articles and questions, and to consider the “heterotopy” as the space into which the author keeps disappearing. But heterotopias are maybe still too much “nurtured by the hidden presence of the sacred” as Foucault says, meaning they still refer to specific given oppositions and to concrete fixed places. Foucault defines as the principles for studying and understanding heterotopias for instance that heterotopias are linked to “slices of time” (MFH 6 – 7) and presuppose a system of entrance and borders, “opening and closing” (MFH 7); even if heterotopias may juxtapose in a single real place several spaces that are mutually incompatible (MFH 6). Heterotopias seem still linked to the disciplinary society that operates through differentiation, instead of the society of control where the main issue is “how to govern the many as many”, how to control but not destroy the “mobility, flexibility and perpetual differentiation of the multitude” (Hardt & Negri, 22 – 30; 344). And while the author starts to disappear all through modernity and therefore also within disciplinary practices, I would place this disappearance in the heart of the present society of control.

For is the babbling social media and incessant life publishing under the guise of avatars not properly a phenomenon of our present age? Which of course is not merely seeing enormous multiplication of collective production, expressed through such fundamental concepts as “general intellect” or “multitude”, but as a counterpart to and simultaneously the foundation of the multitude, also a rise of “the singular” (Negri). Singularities defined by Giorgio Agamben as “whatever” beings (quodlibet) – beings that are not defined by any one property (to be red, French, Muslim, small, gentle, limping…), but which are not “whatever” in the sense that it would not matter what they are. These “whatever” beings are precisely and simply what they are, and desired as such (Agamben 17 – 18).

This is not a singularity that sets one apart, except momentaneously, at the level of event. As Maurizio Lazzarato states of the monad: it is simultaneously singular and multiplicity, containing all the relations that constitute the world of which it is part.  “The monad is itself a society, a public space”. (Lazzarato, 29) As for Sei Shonagon, so for a singularity, identity and authorship is a play where the multiplicity of the singularity itself is put to work. Who created a meme? Who cares? As Michel Serres once noted in passing, we really have no ontologically “private” property: everything we own and are thus made of is mass-produced (though we make it private again by murder and pollution, but that is another story) (Serres, 33). Clothes, tools, mementoes, books, language, culture… singularity is a singular event within the inherent multiplicity, a momentuous constellation. 

The writing subject disappears into the space of production of the singular multitude. Which has no one place, not even a heterotopia. Sei Shonagon seems to be employed precisely as we are: constantly producing cultural value and consequently wealth out of every little detail of her life. Just like biopower covers the entire life instead of differentiated moments of it in differentiated ways, so has production of value extended to cover the entire sphere of life. Spaces of work and production are no longer distinguishable from spaces of consumption and leisure. (Hardt & Negri, 357 - 358) We produce value while we consume. We produce value in all the spaces of our lives.

Remuneration of our constant production of value is another story, as are the necessary struggles and conflicts and resistances connected to it, always local, never fixed, and as is the significance of the author as a brand or an element of the brand. The discursive product of the author falls into the omnipresent and fluctuating space of cultural production. What concerns me here is the claim made in passing by the painstaking translator of Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book: beware of feeling familiarity or intimacy with the book as it stems from a world we do not know. I think just the opposite is the case: finally, because of the form of the book, which we do share, through the shared yet singular lives we have, we can feel the familiarity, even the intimacy, just as we instinctively know already, without warnings, that the familiarity and intimacy may be a trick of our reading. We’re not bothered by the momentaneity and proliferation of meanings, it is after all the basis of our own existence as cultural beings and producers. We can happily announce ourselves and “friends” and “followers” of Sei Shonagon and (presumably) her Pillow Book.


Agamben, Giorgio: Tuleva yhteisö (La communità che viene/ The Coming Community). Gaudeamus. Tampere 1995. 

Foucault, Michel: Of Other Spaces. Utopias and Heterotopias. (MFH) Originally published in 1967, English translation e.g. in Diacritics 16/1986. I am using an online version from Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité October, 1984; “Des Espace Autres,” Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec

Foucault, Michel: What is an Author? (MFA) In Textual Strategies. Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism. Ed. Josue V. Harari. Methuen & Co.Ltd 1979

Hardt, Michael & Negri Antonio: Empire. Harvard University Press. Cambridge Massachusetts/ London, England 2000.

Lazzarato, Maurizio: Les révolutions du capitalisme. Les Empêcheurs de penser en ronde. 2002.

Negri, Antonio: Approximations towards an ontological definition of the multitude. 2002 Generation Online

Shonagon, Sei: The Pillow Book. Translated with Notes by Meredith McKinney. Penguin Classics 2006

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Destiny’s Fool

Since this text never came out elsewhere I'm putting it here - it was part of Reposaari course 2017, my talk in written form. The theme of the course was "Destiny", and there was a variety of takes on it, by both teachers and students. We did a google doc collection of the texts, but as the students wished it would not be published, it wasn't.

In his essay Fate and Character(Charakter und Schiksal) Walter Benjamin associates fate with guilt, misfortune and tragedy. There is a common error, claims Benjamin, to see fate related to religion, the misfortunes it inflicts as a punishment for a guilt, a moral offence against gods. Thus fate would be a moral valuation of a human being. But consider, says Benjamin: fate has no relation to innocence or good fortune and happiness. Happiness indeed has no relation to fate, it is a liberation from fate. What then is the sphere where only misfortune and guilt are meaningful, and which dissolves when innocence and happiness are encountered? Not religion but the order of law (which is not to be confused with the order of justice). “Fate shows itself, therefore, in the view of life, as condemned, as having, at bottom, first been condemned and then become guilty.” Law condemns to guilt, and passing the judgement the judge dictates fate. 

Fate is life seen as inherently guilty. “Fate is the guilt context of the living.” For Benjamin it is not “the man” (the human being) that has a fate and that resides in a guilt context, but the human being’s life, in its natural condition. The human being as mere life. Tragedy in Benjamin’s thinking is not simply the misfortune that has struck the condemned life. Tragedy happens when the human being, still under the power of its mere life, its guilt context, its condemned state and misfortunes, nevertheless becomes aware of having been betrayed by its gods. The tragic hero is dumb and cannot shed its fate (rebel against the gods that have tricked him), but its genius and its sublimity is in knowing it has been tricked.

Instead, for Benjamin character is associated with comedy. Like fate, character is connected to the natural condition of the human being, its life.  And like fate, in reality character or character traits have nothing to do with moral valuation of a human being. The protagonist of a comedy is often more or less a scoundrel says Benjamin – but its actions do not raise moral condemnation, they raise amusement. What attracts the audience are not the actions of the hero as such, but the actions insofar as they reflect the hero’s character. And they illuminate its character “like a sun, in the brilliance of its single trait”. Comedy sets out a “crass” image of the character, simplifying and simultaneously individualizing the hero, setting it free. “The vision of character, on the other hand, is liberating in all its forms: it is linked to freedom”. The character of the comic figure is not about depicting an inescapable destiny, it is a “beacon”, a light that makes visible the freedom of the character’s actions. The comic character outdoes all tricks and plots set against it.

Benjamin makes an interesting note about time, saying that “the guilt context (i.e. fate) is temporal in a totally inauthentic way”. The time of fate is not autonomous, it is parasitic and dependent on another (higher, less natural) life. It is different from the time of redemption, music, or of truth, says Benjamin. Fate is not of the order of truth – it is again of the order of deception, a pitfall, a snare where also the time is caught. Benjamin doesn’t directly refer to the time of comedy or character, but one can infer from the context that since comedy has an “affinity to logic”, in Benjamin’s terms this means that it also has an affinity to redemption and truth (about music I could not say since Benjamin rarely mentions music in his writings). The time of comedy, and of character, is thus authentic and therefore linked to freedom.  
The comic hero is nobody’s fool. In comedy time is flexible. Time forms unexpected lacunae and makes unexplained leaps. Time waits: no matter how urgent the issue, there is always time to bandy words and weave hare-brained plots, break into a song and a dance and recite obnoxious poetry. And while the story may unfold in one direction, the storylines can be reversed and remedied, returned to where it all started from. In comedy time moves divergently. 

Time is the tragic hero’s enemy. Time in tragedy is linear and irreversible, unstoppable, limited and always runs out. The tragic hero is destiny’s fool.

Walter Benjamin: Fate and Character, in Walter Benjamin: Reflectionspp 124 - 131. Penguin Random House 1984

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

On Fun

Should what we researchers and artists in a university context do - research, art, artistic research, teaching and studying – be fun? Can it be fun? Should it be fun in the sense that one enjoys what one does, and does what one enjoys? And even more, can it be fun in the sense of being humorous and funny? When we want to be serious, professional and ambitious about what we do?

In his The Birth of Tragedy Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that the Greeks invented tragedy when they were young, strong and brave: “a pessimism of strength? An intellectual inclination for what in existence is hard, dreadful, evil, problematic, emerging from what is healthy, from overflowing well being, from living existence to the full?” (Nietzsche, 1886 foreword) And then moved over to comedy in their old age and weakness which makes Greek comedy to be about “(t)he instantaneous, the witty, the foolish, the capricious—these are its loftiest divinities … it is the serenity of the slave, who has no idea how to take responsibility for anything difficult, how to strive for anything great, how to value anything in the past or future higher than the present.” (Nietzsche, Chapter 11) In sum: tragedy is for the young and strong, the old and weak can only take fun. Tragedy is grand and noble, comedy is common and lazy. Serious and fun are in an inherent contradiction and will not mix.

Allow me to turn to a source seriously considering what it means to live with an inherent contradiction that by necessity is mixed in continuation. In reference to the Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft and its institution of ‘sorting’ students into four famous Houses (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slytherin) according to fundamental characteristics of the students (see The Harry Potter Lexicon: Hogwarts Houses), Alanna Bennet wrote on those “complex” persons who will not easily fit into just one House in her article 17 Signs You're A True Ravenpuff listing things like:

“1. Your brain is always fighting between the earnest and the critical.
2. As a result, other people sometimes have a hard time telling when you're being earnest vs. when you're being sarcastic or wry.
6. Blending the highbrow with the lowbrow is your jam — it's just automatically what your brain does.
7. You're constantly torn between voicing your opinion and not stepping on anyone else's toes.
10.You can't help but jump in on debates.
11. It frustrates you when people aren't willing to debate pros and cons.
12. And when people aren't willing to traverse through the nuances of every situation.
13. But you have a hard time letting go of a debate until people understand.
15. You have a rock solid work ethic, but only for the things you're really passionate about. This can become a pain in the ass while in required classes.
16. Finding a career/path you're genuinely passionate about was of upmost importance to you because you knew how much energy one you weren't into would drain you.
17. You're constantly contradicting yourself, your opinions, and rethinking your place in the world.” (Bennet)

Now the last items might be seen to refer to weakness and laziness, being prepared to exert effort only on things one enjoys or choosing a career path that would not drain one’s energy. But I take this to be more if one could paraphrase Nietzsche, of a kind of “laziness of strength” – since the listed characteristics also imply a will to commit to and a passion for the kind of tasks one really cares for. A true Ravenpuff seems to be driven to do what they enjoy and enjoy what they do, but not to avoid effort or refuse being serious, to the contrary. Added qualities include being constantly strung between seriousness and irony; again not in order to avoid getting to the bottom of serious issues but precisely to consider the ins and outs of every issue to the point of driving everybody else to desperation.

Can something be a joke and serious? I’ll take up some space to insert a work/ presentation/ discussion of mine on “The Geometry of the Multitude”, which faithfully followed classic Euclidean format of how to prove a theorem = claim:

Clearly this is a joke – since “reductio ad absurdum” does not exactly function the way I’m using it. It is meant to prove a statement by showing that if it is not accepted this will lead to absurdity (or disprove a statement by showing it leads to absurdity). Absurdity, also, does not mean simply funny but having to accept simultaneously two facts that cancel each other. I’m using a serious format and serious terms but in a humorous way. Nevertheless, I’m quite serious about the statement I’m making: the paradigmatic space of multitude is a wormhole. The specifications for wormholes come from mathematical theories on wormholes, but my definition derives from social theory: “Instead of the dichotomy of the known place and unknown surrounding world, my argument is that the global postfordist society is characterized by wormholes, possibilities of jumping from one reality to another. It is made up of the space of unknown punctured by sudden familiar spaces, networks of interaction and action that are not constructed on geographical proximity.” (Rajanti, 79) Even more to the point with regard to ‘fun’, part of my definition implies that these wormholes will elude traditional empirical research methods. We cannot understand this new paradigmatic space by looking at the ‘end-products’: buildings and the spaces between them. The focus and thus the methods must follow those everyday practices that leave no visible traces yet form the reality, give voice to the silent and unexpressed. The research and the discourse must make way for people to change their mind-sets, not just add information or evidence. (Rajanti, 82 – 83) And, as Bennet’s 4. sign states: “You find yourself very attracted to fandom, where dedication and overthinking are both welcomed and encouraged. (Bennet)”

In fact, what’s in a joke? Let us turn to Paolo Virno’s short but poignant essay on Wit and Innovation. Where Freud seems to agree with the youthful Nietzsche that sense of humor is a sign of thrifty psychic economy (and possibly covering up for something that needs hiding), Virno, as the title suggests, connects wit to humankind’s ability to creativity and change. Virno does depart from a confessedly narrow definition of creativity: “the forms of verbal thought that allow for change in one's behaviour in an emergency situation”. This not to restrict creativity in the verbal sphere or arts, but to refrain from a tautological definition where creativity is a general human property that explains human nature.

For Virno wit is “the diagram of creative action”, meaning creative action in miniature form. Wit is tightly connected to “praxis in the public sphere”, to practical reason (fronesis) i.e. the virtue of action itself, not its end-product. The eminent function of wit is to “exhibit the transformability of all linguistic games”. Wit is first of all connected to the praxis of “how to apply a rule to a particular case”; and wit demonstrates that every application of a rule contains already its exception. Wit is the meticulous application of a rule ending in a paradox or absurdity.

Wit also consists of an argumentative fallacy – contained in the application of a rule. And in fact, wit makes visible the point where the fallacy ceases to be a fallacy, where it can no longer be considered a mere mistake, but where it reveals something that was not previously visible. “It follows that only under these circumstances and in these conditions the ‘fallacy’ becomes an indispensable source of innovation.” (Virno)

Can it be all fun? Can one only do what one enjoys and can everything be a joke? But of course not. Not because of necessary recourse to ethics of guilt and retribution, because of any fundamental need for the ennobling function of human suffering. Merely because if you never try to follow a rule and/or apply it, if you do not know a rule, you cannot run into its exception. You cannot be tickled by confronting one fact with another that does not fit unless you have an idea of those facts. You cannot make rules crumble by using them if they’re not part of your praxis.

Indeed, one might point out to youthful Nietzsche that age may not only bring weakness and sloth, but a reserve of rules and facts unavoidably clashing, that will strongly lean towards the witty. Nietzsche after all is his own contradiction in adjecto, his writings becoming all the more unrelentingly and brutally witty towards the end - and even if you insist Ecce Homo to be the product of a deranged mind (I don’t), nobody has ever claimed that for Zarathustra or The Will to Power. Thus the not lofty ending to this essay reads: even if we cannot only have fun, of course doing what we do must be fun, hopefully also to others than ourselves. If we don’t enjoy it and if we are not tickled by it, why the heck would anybody else be bothered about it? Remember, for Virno wit is inherently connected to praxis not in private but in public sphere.


Alanna Bennet: 17 Signs You're A True Ravenpuff

The Harry Potter Lexicon: Hogwarts Houses

Friedrich Nietzsche: The Birth of Tragedy, online source

Taina Rajanti: Wormholes as a new spatial paradigm: Social Production of Space in Postfordist Society and the Art of Studying it. Sociologisk Årbok 2008

Paolo Virno: Wit and Innovation.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Tourist

I have the feeling there is a short thriller-like story with this title. Where the tourist obviously turns out to be something more menacing than previously thought.

In fact, “the tourist” is a negative figure. This short lecture asks, why?

The tourist is a paradox. It goes in search of an authentic experience or goal, but its[1] very arrival and presence transforms whatever it touches into a performance of the authentic. Inherently the tourist can never reach its goal.

The tourist travels and is defined by its journeying. But all journeying people are not tourists. Nomads are not tourists, they are fundamentally on the move, the movement is defining and primary. The tourist departs, to return. The nomad does not depart or return. Nor are conquerors or settlers tourists, they depart but their return is complementary.

The goal of the tourist journey is a hallowed goal (though never reached). In fact, pilgrims are the first tourists. They depart to visit a holy and renowned place and return with a prestigious experience and emblems as proofs of their journey.

The pilgrim is a noble figure, but already subject to criticism and popular ridicule. And when the pilgrimages secularize and the amount of pilgrims grow, we finally have our paradoxal, menacing and vulgar figure of the tourist. The tourist is not an individual, but a mass. It is menacing and it is vulgar precisely because it is mass-scale. The tourist evokes the same horrors as the mob, but in the comical register. Everything that the tourist touches becomes ridiculous and a little trite, because its touch robs everything of its local, particular, individual, specific, unique characteristics.

The tourist is all that we resent in the ordinary: everybody does it, except I who am unique.

Short intervention written for Words & Spaces Studio "Scholart" 28.4.2017

[1] I will use this neutral term to avoid messy use of more inclusive references.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Le Città nascoste 3,14

Le città nascoste 3,14

Otaniemi è una città che risulta urbana solo dall’ interno. Fuori sembra una collezione di edifici di mattoni rossi sparsi tra gli alberi e cespuglie. Soltanto dentro le case si trovano spazi pubblici, folle e movimento, incontri aleatori, luoghi memorabili e le loro dèi. Gli abitanti di Otaniemi da maggior parte non vivono li, ma altrove. Otaniemi per loro en uno spazio di passato, di ricordi e sogni, paure ed amori; oppure una presenza temporanea, una parte della loro vita che non ha niente a fare con realtà quotidiana. Per questa non cambia mai nulla, anche se si construiscono altre case di mattoni rossi. Qualunque che volesse una dimora diversa, semplicemente va via, portando soltanto i ricordi con se.

Hidden cities 3,14

Otaniemi is a city that is urban only at the interior. Without it looks like a collection of red brick buildings dispersed among trees and bushes. Only inside the houses can you find public spaces, crowds and movement, random encounters, memorable places and their gods. Most of the inhabitants of Otaniemi don’t live in the city, but somewhere else. For them Otaniemi is a space of the past, of memories and dreams, fears and loves; or a transitory presence, a part of their lives that has nothing to do with everyday reality. Because of this nothing ever changes, even if more red brick buildings are constructed. Anybody who wants a different dwelling simply goes away, taking with them only the memories.

Kätketyt kaupungit 3,14

Otaniemi on kaupunki joka on urbaani vain sisätiloissa. Ulkoapäin se näyttää punatiilisten talojen kokoelmalta, joka on siroteltu puiden ja pensaiden keskelle. Vain talojen sisällä on julkisia tiloja, ihmisjoukkoja ja liikettä, satunnaisia kohtaamisia, ikimuistoisia paikkoja ja niiden jumalia. Otaniemen asukkaista suurin osa ei asu Otaniemessä, vaan muualla. Otaniemi on heille menneisyyden tila, muistojen ja unelmien, pelkojen ja rakkauksien tila; tai tilapäinen olotila, osa heidän elämäänsä jolla ei ole mitään tekemistä jokapäiväisen todellisuuden kanssa. Tämän vuoksi mikään ei koskaan muutu, vaikka rakennettaisiin uusia punatiilisiä taloja. Se joka haluaa muunlaisen asuinpaikan yksinkertaisesti lähtee tiehensä, vieden mukanaan vain muistonsa.