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<eyebeam><blast> localization

My name is Brian Homes, I've been invited as one of the so-called hosts
of this forum, and I'd like to give a little try at localizing myself,
since that was proposed in the preliminary discussions and seems to me
to be a good proposal. This might additionally give some modest ideas
about what a post-national identity can be, since I have permanently
left my home country (USA) and yet do not believe that an unsituated
'cosmopolitan' existence amid a 'virtual' community is particularly
interesting or rewarding. So here we go:

The room is overflowing with paper: piles of faxes, novels, catalogues,
dictionaries, notes, disks, pencil stubs lost under printouts and
letters. A window looks out over the rooftops and trees of a Parisian
suburb. After ten years of traveling through books and across the planet
I came to France to finish a thesis and stayed. Became a translator.
Slipped into the art world. Took a long break from the Pacific ocean,
San Francisco fog and American propaganda. Like a bifurcation in time.

Cultures don't live in the same time. You reach into another culture
from your own place in the present, through things, practices, feelings,
and words. Slowly you follow them back, as though remembering places you
never were, emotions and events refracted in what you touch, hear, share
with those around you. Two lives slowly form: the world you left,
unforgettable, immemorial, no longer fully real, and the world you live
in, bottomless, still unplumbed, opening up in all directions.

It's a time of political passion in France today. People are talking
about collective questions, the res publica. The entire complex of
social problems stemming from deindustrialization is coming to a head,
while the new round of world-wide technological and organizational
change, crystallized in the constitution of a neoliberal Europe, touches
everyone in their daily habits, their work, their relations, their
values, their sensorium. Since the railway workers' strike of December
1995 (which mobilized huge amounts of non-unionized citizens in support
of one of the few still-unionized sectors), the economic changes have
come to be felt as a threat to democracy, and above all to equality, the
central value of the left and the reason for its attachment to the
public-service functions of the state. After the demonstrations by the
unemployed over the recent Christmas holidays, one could read the
following viewpoint, set in boldface type in a weekly TV magazine:
"France is getting richer. What passes for an economic crisis is in fact
a readjustment of the structures of domination in society." This kind of
perception has begun to awaken the long and powerful history of cultural
resistance to the purely economic governance of human relations.
Political life has become incomparably more interesting in this country
over the last two years. Cultural life as well.

To discover another culture is to reinvent your own, to reinvent
yourself. It is less a question of identity than of collaboration and
effective solidarity. This is what I now see as always having been the
left alternative to possessive individualism, which is the
cultural-psychological foundation of capitalism. But this left
alternative itself has to be reinvented. In the globalized world of
electronic communication, the networks of solidarity have to become
vast, as vast as the networks of normalization and control, while
remaining attached to some socially located practice where invention can
meet embodied history. My primary affiliations are here in Paris, with a
group of activist graphic artists called Ne Pas Plier (Do Not Bend), and
with a seminar at the School of Fine Arts organized by a culture critic
named Jean-Francois Chevrier.  Last year we spent looking for
explanations of the world's social and cultural transformations since
the globalization process began in the seventies (some of the results
are in the book produced for the 1997 Documenta: Poetics-Politics). This
year we've all begun working on little things, reality-oriented artistic
projects in specific places, in an attempt both to grasp specific
conditions of everyday embodied existence and to discover possible
transitions from the situated and the local to the abstract and the
global. How can the Internet be used to strengthen and expand
politically oriented cultural collaborations, with their necessary
inscription in located and embodied day-to-day existence? Can localized
artistic and political practices have a different kind of life on the
net, and if so, how? That's what I aim to find out from this forum, and
all my questions and interventions will have that aim behind them.

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