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(on) the Ground*

Notes about Presentations & Presenters:

Henry C.K. Liu  Hakan Topal
Reading and discussion -- Neoliberal Urbanism Marty Lucas
Andy Bichlbaum Jeff Halper (Video)
Coalition of Groups Resisting Columbia University Scott Berzofsky, Dane Nester, Nicholas Wisniewski
Neil Smith Brian Holmes






Henry C.K. Liu

Dubai, Workers

The Case Against Market Fundamentalism 

This is a talk on how market forces are destorying the world.

Henry C.K. Liu is an independent commentator on culture, economics and politics. He was born in Hong Kong and educated at Harvard University in architecture and urban design. Liu developed an interest in economics and international relations while working as a professor at UCLA, Harvard and Columbia University on interdisciplinary work on urban and regional development. Liu is currently the chairperson of a New York-based private investment group and a contributor to Asia Times Online. He is a Visiting Professor of Global Development in the Department of Economics in the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
The term "dollar hegemony" was coined by Liu in an extensively quoted April 2002 article: US Dollar Hegemony has to go in Asia Times Online to describe how he sees the dollar, a fiat currency since 1971 that yet continues to play the role of the major reserve currency distorts global trade and finance. Liu is a critic of the United States and the policies of its government and also a critic of central banking. Liu calls for the use of sovereign credit in lieu of foreign capital for financing domestic development in developing countries. In a series of articles titled The Abduction of Modernity, Liu has developed his idea that modernity is not synonymous with Westernization. Liu's critics contend that he turns a blind eye to the failings of China compared to his critique of the United States. Others observe that Liu's criticism is focused on US policies that are disconnected to values and ideology set out by the Constitution, and not on US values as such. Liu has also been vocal in his critique of Chinese economic policy, particular on China's excessive dependence of export, developmental imbalances that result in severe income disparity and environmental neglect. Liu is openly unsympathetic to Western liberal criticism of China that he considers as cultural imperialism in disguise.
In February 2006, in a series of articles in Asia Times On Line, Liu proposes the establishement of an international cartel for labor to be known as Organization of Labor-Intensive Exporting Countries (OLEC) to restore balance of market power between capital and labor in the globalized economy


Reading and discussion -- Neoliberal Urbanism: Cities And the Rule of Markets

Williamsburg, Gentrification Walk

Please download here
Neoliberal Urbanism: Cities And the Rule of Markets
By: Neil Brenner, Jamie Peck, Nik Theodore


Andy Bichlbaum

Yes Men / Exxon

Andy, who is one of the Yes Men will be available to speak about the work they did in New Orleans and their general thoughts about the efficacy and development of their tactics and strategies of repurposing the media apparatus to bring attention to important issues.


Coalition of Groups

Coalition of Groups Fighting Columbia Gentrification of Harlem

Details forthcoming

Claire Pentecost

Spain, Almeria Intensive agriculture in plastic greenhouses by the sea,

How the growing environmental /climate change/water preciousness/ food consciousness is effecting urban organizing
Claire Pentecost is an artist and writer, engaging a variety of media to interrogate the imaginative and institutional structures that organize divisions of knowledge. Having spent years tinkering in a conceptual laboratory for ideas about the natural and the artificial, her recent projects concentrate on industrial and bioengineered agriculture, the alternatives and the trade regimes that force one over the other. She is currently work-shopping a beta phase of VisibleFood: an open content database and website exposing the hidden costs of the global corporate system that produces our food. Pentecost is Associate Professor in the Photography Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she teaches photography, drawing, critical theory and interdisciplinary seminars.


Neil Smith

Dubai, Construction Site

Mega Gentrification
In the last years, we have been witnessing an extreme intensification of investment and speculation in property. This has of course lead to wide scale construction and development proposals in all parts of the globe. At the heart and fringe of nearly each of these developments, one can find the inherent contradictions of this process referred to as globalization. Here one finds the losers of the equation as well. The people who are forced out, not given a choice or a voice, evacuated, or simply played out of the game. In this game, each specific city or zone of redevelopment, appears as a kind of experiment to broaden and extend the vocabulary of neoliberalism. And it is in this extension, this apparent experimentation that today's resistance runs into some corners. As we struggle with our vocabulary, the facts continue to be created on the ground. How to name and describe these processes today? Can we imagine a short list of terms which could help us construct a map of current processes being enacted upon urban centers globally? If terms like gentrification and uneven development are insufficient, might we need to invent new terms? Or may it just be a question of dusting off some old books, revisiting and rethinking some older insights.

Neil Smith was trained as a geographer and his research explores the broad intersection between space, nature, social theory and history. He teaches in urban anthropology, cultural anthropology and environmental anthropology, and directs the Center for Place Culture and Politics. His environmental work is largely theoretical, focusing on questions of the production of nature. His urban interests include long term research on gentrification, including empirical work in North America and Europe and a series of theoretical papers emphasizing the importance of patterns of investment and disinvestment in the the real estate market. He also writes more broadly on New York City, focusing especially on the "revanchist city" which has filled the vacuum left in the wake of liberal urban theory.

His interests in social theory include political economy and marxism and lie behind his theoretical work on uneven development. From the global to the local scales, he argues, our spatial worlds are constructed and reconstructed as expressions of social relations and especially as expressions of capitalist social relations. Uneven development is in many way the hallmark of capitalism. More recently he has been studying the "geography of the American Century," trying to understand the ways in which global economic development in the twentieth century -- up to and including so-called globalization -- represent specific expressions of US power and responses to it. This has also led to considerable research on the construction of geographical scale. He co-edits Society and Space and sits on numerous editorial boards including Social Text and Capitalism, Nature, Socialism.


Hakan Topal

Possibility of Justice and Justification of Artistic Production

City is an exciting place for new comers; both artists and researchers often take cities as objects of study. Not surprisingly, one of the main themes of last two Istanbul Biennials was the city itself. As an attempt to escape from habitual touristic gaze, curators and artists vigorously looked for alternative ways to present their works and “activate” new locations within different neighborhoods, sought to communicate with “local” communities and produced new in-situ projects.
In certain ways, urban condition can be understood in terms of flows. In this rather chaotic site, flow of bodies, flow of capital and flow of desire exceptionally merges together, creates new possibilities for productive activities, especially artistic ones. As pseudo-natives of Istanbul, we (Xurban_collective) did various projects considering the city as a ground of constant catastrophes and we try to dig possibilities of refusal within impossible conditions, specifically in Anatolia.
For the 9th Istanbul Biennial we selected somewhat different route. In short, we proposed to transfer garbage from the brothel/whore-house to a European museum as a contribution to unified Europe.
Quote from proposal;

“Whore House (Kerhane/Genelev) signifies an official (as approved by the state) domain of prostitution where bodies are controlled by a gate to restrict and moderate the intersections of various flows; flow of desire and the flow of capital. The boundary of the brothels is strictly defined, the houses are color-coded, policemen guard the entrance and workers are subjected to regular medical examination. Thanks to the ultra-conservative social codes, temporary intimate (ie. like husband-wife) relationship between Muslim men and the sex worker is a hypocritical one.
If sex is the ultimate product of the brothel, fluids are the leftover of that transaction. The xurban proposition incorporates, in various media, the garbage collected from Istanbul’s official brothels at Karaköy (which will be carefully packaged in haz-mat drums), the imitation crystal chandeliers that are produced around the same district and the notion and elements of ablution for purification of the body and the soul. The technological assemblage of the mentioned components and layers is planned to integrate data flow from selected activities in virtual and real space, and the whole process will be carefully documented and exhibited online as well.
Simply put, xurban plans to transfer, across national (but expected-to-be invisible) borders, a set of residuum and ideas of contamination and ‘disease’, together with the suggestion of their spiritual antidote, as a genuine cultural contribution to the wisdom of unified Europe…”

(For full text please visit to:
During the presentation, Hakan Topal will talk about issues related with containment, transference, contamination and the failure of Xurban_collective’s project proposal. We will also discuss ethical responsibilities with respect to justification of artistic production.

Hakan Topal (imam) is a media artist and scholar at the New School for Social Research. He is one of the founding members of xurban_collective, together with Guven Incirligolu(pope). His current interests are issues in contemporary artistic production, urban sociology, social theory, extraction of valuable metals and some geeky stuff.


Marty Lucas

Cyber-Urbanism in Southern African

This will be a short sketch of what urban development and communications culture look like in Blantyre, the commercial capital
of Malawi. Malawi is a small Southern African nation with a post-colonial economy where 90% of the population are subsistance farmers that is at the same time entering the information age through the penetration of advanced communications technologies such as the cell phone and the internet.  NGOs, large corporate interests both global and regional, and of course foreign governments, all have their hands in. This is an effort to examine some of the tectonics of one small part of this particular continent as the forces of ‘globalization’ impact a region characterized by extreme poverty and rapid urbanization.

Some material that will be dealt with in the discussion can be found at:

Also useful:

MARTIN LUCAS is a videomaker and media educator.  From his first film, Tighten Your Belts, Bite the Bullet, a look at New York City’s fiscal crisis screened at the 1980 New York Film Festival, to more recent work such as Subway Outside, an exploration of where New Yorkers find culture, made with Dutch artist Jeanne Van Heeswijk, and Paco Ignacio Taibo: Urban Activist made with Fred Barney Taylor, Martin’s work speaks to an abiding interest in the urban and its relations of culture and communication. Martin teaches in the Film and Media Studies Department at Hunter College, City University of New York. He recently spent time in Malawi, working to develop a video production unit with Story Workshop, a media production group that focuses on issues of HIV/AIDS education, gender violence, and food security.
His website is


Jeff Halper (Video)

Occupied Palestine, Bethlehem Wall

Good Architecture
Interview with Jeff Halper -Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions

Good Architecture is the Ironic title of this encounter with Anthropologist Jeff Halper, coordinator of The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) , as he was giving a political tour of Jerusalem in 2006 for a group of artists and activists. The video also includes an interview with Halper as he elaborates on the role of architecture and planing as a military device to maintain the occupation and expand it. 

What is the Matrix of Control? 
It is a system of control designed
1. to allow Israel to control every aspect of Palestinian life in the Occupied Territories, while
2. lowering Israel's military profile in order to give the impression to the outside that what Palestinians refer to as "occupation" is merely proper administration, and that Israel has a "duty" to defend itself and the status quo, yet
3. creating enough space for a dependent Palestinian mini-state that will relieve Israel of the Palestinian population while
4. deflecting, through the use of "administrative" image and bureaucratic mechanisms, international opposition and thus to maintain control indefinitely and, in the final analysis,
5. to force the Palestinians' to despair of ever achieving a viable and truly sovereign state and to accept any settlement offered by Israeli. ("Time is on our side" is, as Sharon has often said, a cornerstone of Israeli policy.)
to read the full article click here
to view the video
In Search of  Just Peace in Israel-Palestine: A View from the Ground.
2006 Sabeel Conference, Kansas City USA
please go here
Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and a Professor of Anthropology at Ben Gurion University. He has lived in Israel since 1973.


Scott Berzofsky, Dane Nester, Nicholas Wisniewski

East Baltimore, The Three Ecologies

How can our artistic, activist and research-based practices respond to the overwhelming urgency of the present moment, to the sweeping “double movement” of neoliberal globalization?

We are now living in a period of unprecedented geopolitical transformation: By 2050 the world’s population is expected to peak at 10 billion (the current population is 6.6 billion). For the first time in history, the majority of people on the planet will live in cities. Three quarters of all future world population growth will take place in the emerging megacities of the global South, where there is virtually no planning or infrastructure in place to accommodate these new residents or provide them with services. Consider the prospect of a “planet of slums” in relation to the recent warnings of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which claim that unless we significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (80% by 2050) and therefore largely free ourselves of carbon emitting technologies, the planet will be unable to avoid some of the worst consequences of global warming, including sea levels rising enough to submerge island nations, the elimination of one-quarter or more of the world’s species, widespread famine in places like Africa and more intense hurricanes. The potential danger of these circumstances is escalated by the violent partitions and enforced inequalities of what Naomi Klein has recently termed “disaster apartheid.” As Klein suggests, the situations we witness in post-Katrina New Orleans, the West Bank or US-occupied Iraq are not exceptions to the norm, but rather present themselves as windows into a near-future terminal condition of neoliberal globalization. A world in which spatial politics have been reduced to Green Zones of privilege and security, Red Zones of poverty and despair and the militarized borders that keep them apart.
Can we shift scales of analysis and recognize the impact of neoliberal policies and uneven geographical development within our own cities? How are local struggles for affordable housing, environmental justice and the “right to the city” related to the larger concerns described above? How can experiments and interventions at the local level contribute to a global movement of resistance to neoliberalism and the invention of alternatives?

Over the last year we have been working on an ongoing site-specific project in east Baltimore based on converting a vacant lot into a sustainable urban farm and social space. We are squatting the land and collaborating with residents to produce a space that responds to our collective needs and desires. We are interested in generating a process of small-scale urban planning which is participatory and dialogical. During the first season we produced a variety of vegetables that were distributed for free within the neighborhood. The project has been informed by Felix Guattari’s concept of “ecosophy,” discussed in his short book, “The Three Ecologies,” published in 1989. In it, Guattari argues that in order to respond to the challenges we face today we must develop a new ethico-political articulation that integrates the three ecological registers—the environment, social relations, and human subjectivity. Our project is a modest attempt to put this concept into practice.


Brian Holmes

Alphaville, Lemmy Caution

Escape the Overcode: Guattari's Schizoanalytic Cartographies, or the Pathic Core at the Heart of Cybernetics
( Excerpt )
Deleuze insisted that you have to seek out the problems to which concepts respond, if you want to understand their meaning and potential. These problems present themselves in the immediacy of social life – in aesthetics, therapeutics, politics, technics, etc. – but also at more abstract levels of articulation. In this text I will analyze cybernetics as a problem to which A Thousand Plateaus, and later, Cartographies schizoanalytiques, offer responses. In particular, I’ll examine Guattari’s attempt to create a “metamodelization” of the ways people join experimental assemblages in order to escape the behavioral patterning of cybernetic systems.
Cybernetics should be understood as the most broadly applied social science of the postwar period. This is due to its origins. Like information theory, cybernetics springs directly from electrical engineering. However, its scope is much wider, it is a system theory, with links to Bertalanffy, Luhmann, etc. Cyberneticists create models of feedback relations between the heterogeneous elements of a system. Yet because they are engineers they use these models to build technical systems, within which human beings will have a limited range of options. In this way, they construct the parameters within which the elements of complex systems evolve over time; and thus they try to realize the normative idea of homeostasis which in their eyes is the defining characteristic of a stable, predictable, useful system. The classic figure here is the engineer Jay Wright Forrester, the inventor of the Whirlwind computer, the key figure in the early development of Cold War defense systems, and subsequently the theorist of Industrial Dynamics and Urban Dynamics (computerized techniques for modeling the interactions of psychological, technical, logistical and economic factors in an industry or even a city).

Guattari, who was more directly involved with the applications of the human sciences than Deleuze, was particularly aware of the ways that behavior is patterned and environments are constructed. His lifelong preoccupation with delirious machinism clearly has literary and artistic roots in the French avant-garde tradition (Roussel, Duchamp, Tinguely) and is clearly posed against the normative universals of Freudian psychoanalysis and Lacanian structuralism; but it is also an attempt to respond to the construction of homeostatic environments and the patterning of behavior within them. The key concept here is “overcoding.”
Overcoding is defined in A Thousand Plateaus as the expression of the capitalist axiomatic, resulting in “phenomena of centering, unification, totalization, integration, hierarchization and finalization.” But far from being just a linguistic phenomenon, overcoding works through the built environment, which must be conceived as inseparable from its many language machines (billboards, speakers, televisions, computers, etc.). The desire to formulate collective enunciations through participation in deterritorializing flows is an attempt to speak another kind of language, and more than a language. It’s here that Guattari rejoins Deleuze: in the engagement with experimental literatures and their geopolitical deliriums, expressed in the books they wrote together. In their assemblage, resistance to the sociological problem of cybernetic behavior-patterning rejoins the deeper philosophical problem of resistance to cognitive science paradigms, or what Jean-Pierre Dupuy has called “the mechanization of the mind,” emerging from cybernetics and information theory – and present in the linguistic structuralism of Levi-Strauss and his followers (including Lacan). However, Guattari in particular would always insist that semiotics extends beyond language, to embrace all signifying systems, whether visual, affective, gestural, volumetric, musical, etc. Thus his call for the creation of truly complex machines, simultaneously aesthetic and logical, pathic and rhizomatic: paradoxical vehicles of an embodied attempt to escape the overcode.

Now, how could that be done? Again we must refer to cybernetics. The bugbear of early cybernetic engineers was positive feedback. It was conceived as a danger for homeostasis; and any correctly designed cybernetic system had to have damping mechanisms, to keep excessive feedback from causing the system to oscillate out of control. However, what Heinz von Foerster dubbed “second-order” cybernetics was interested precisely in positive feedback, and thence, in the passage of critical thresholds and the event of phase-changes. The Anti-Oedipus can be conceived as an experiment with the subversive effects of positive feedback, in the form of an excess of self-catalyzing desire (probably inspired more by Tinguely’s self-destroying machines than by any philosophical or scientific source). A Thousand Plateaus, on the other hand, consciously partakes – though on its own highly idiosyncratic terms – in a larger, counter-cultural shift toward second-order cybernetics, a shift which is signaled in the very title of the book by the reference to Bateson (a transitional figure between the two periods of cybernetic theory). Shortly after the publication of A Thousand Plateaus, Guattari became aware of the sociological effects of Bertalanffy’s system theory via its applications in so-called “family therapy” (also decisively influenced by Bateson). Around the same time he was powerfully affected by the work of Stengers and Prigogine, who established the paradigm of chaos theory in physics, and formalized the scientific concept of phase-changes. From the early 1980s, Guattari’s theoretical and experimental practice articulates a deliberate opposition to the environmental overcoding imposed by the models of first-order cybernetics.
Guattari’s Cartographies schizoanalytiques remains practically unread in the English-speaking world, due to its linguistic and theoretical difficulty. It is a work of “metamodelization.” In other words, it is an attempt to invent a diagrammatic matrix that can indicate the ways different models are put to work in existential and social worlds. It is based on four coordinates or “functors”: existential Territories, which appear in the form of cutouts; Universes of reference, which appear as constellations; energetic Flows, which appear as complexions; and Phyla of abstract machines, which appear as rhizomes (T, U, F, ?). The interrelations of these four functors map out a self-overcoming system oriented toward the event of the phase-change, in which Guattari sees the possibility of collective speech. What’s being sought is the capacity, not only to describe, but above all, to experiment with a process of becoming. And this is what has made the schizoanalytic cartographies such important tools for the experimental assemblages of artistic practice.

The beauty of Guattari’s metamodelization is that, unlike the models of cybernetics or cognitivism, it leaves ample room for a pathic core of endo-referential subjectivity. This subjectivity is grounded in its own intensities; but its actual cutouts of territory are linked to the virtuality of artistic constellations via the continual echo in embodied consciousness of refrains, or “blocks of content,” which have the effect of deterritorializing the experience of an existential territory. What the metamodelization aims to reveal, however, is the movement from the content of this subjective, enunciative field into the expression of objective social process, from which concrete enunciations emerge. Thus it places the pathic or a-signifying nuclei of subjectivity into relation with the actual flows of techno-energetic-discursive assemblages, themselves continually destabilized by the virtualities introduced through the rhizomatic development of abstract phyla. At stake here is the overcoming of the divide between what C.P. Snow famously referred to as the “two cultures,” art and science, subjectivity and objectivity – not through the reduction of the former to the latter, as in contemporary cognitive science, but instead through the dynamic interaction of fundamentally heterogeneous realities, whose interplay orients the unfolding of individual and social existence.
Guattari considered that every model should be abandoned when it no longer produces anything of vital interest – including his own metamodelization. In that spirit I will ask two questions. The first is, what in Guattari’s metamodels (if anything) can still resist the veritable rise to power, since the mid-1990s, of the prolongations of second-order cybernetics, which have now been codified, particularly in managerial and financial circles, as “complexity theory”? But a second, perhaps more important question is: how has the original goal of cybernetics (instrumental mastery over the dynamic interactions of a complex system) been further developed by contemporary cognitive science, and what kinds of built environments are now coming down the governmental and corporate pipe? Does the pathic core of Guattari’s schizoanalytic cartography offer any clues as to how such built-and-informationalized models could be subverted or subsumed? Or should his metamodelization be cast aside, as no longer useful for the problems of the present?

Brian Holmes is a writer, activist and translator, born in San Francisco, did a Ph.D. in Romance Languages at the UC Berkeley, now lives in Paris and is endlessly curious about the world. He has worked with activist art groups such as Ne Pas Plier and Bureau d'Etudes, participated in the counter-globalization movements and written essays on aesthetics and politics, the theory of contemporary capitalism and artist/activist cartography. His writing has been published in Hieroglyphs of the Future (Zagreb: Arkzin/WHW, 2002) and Unleashing the Collective Phantoms (New York: Autonomedia, 2007), as well as the journals Multitudes, Springerin, Brumaria, the listserve Nettime, various magazines, tracts, websites, exhibition catalogues, etc. He is currently working on a new book, to be entitled Escape the Overcode: Artistic Interventions in an Unstable World.

Raw materials at:

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*ground as the contradiction and tragic failure of capitalism right now:
--ground rent, for everything that concerns housing
--ground to the bone, for flexible labor
--ground as the earth itself, overheating and poisoned
--ground zero wherever a bomb goes off and people die