infaltables_3 : on representational affairs

(apologies for long excerpts: entire text can be found here)

.. an attempt to render the air breathable again is contained in the following farce suggested by P. Sloterdijk:

… He imagined that the U.S. Air Force should have added to its military paraphernalia an “inflatable Parliament” which could be parachuted at the rear of the front, just after the liberating forces of the Good had defeated the forces of Evil. On hitting the ground, this parliament would unfold and be inflated just like your rescue dingy is supposed to do when you fall in the water. Ready to enter and take your seat, your finger still red from the indelible ink that proves you have exerted your voting duty, Instant Democracy would thus be delivered! The lesson of this simile is easy to draw. To imagine a parliament without its material set of complex instruments, “air-condition” pumps, local ecological requirements, material infrastructure, and long held habits is as ludicrous as to try to parachute such an inflatable parliament into the middle of Iraq. By contrast, probing an object-oriented democracy is to research what are the material conditions that may render the air breathable again….

This excerpt comes from the introduction B.Latour has published so far for the catalogue of Making Things Public (further refered to as MTP) an experiment on democrcy through the adaption of the technical term of ‘object-oriented’:

Each object may also offer new ways of achieving closure without having to agree on much else. In other words, matters in dispute – taken as so many issues – bound all of us in ways that map out a public space profoundly different from what is usually recognized under the label of “the political.”

If not missunderstanding this project (MTP) can be looked at as an experimental attempt to change conceptions of science as defining our grasps of facts, thus wrongly achieved objectivity. In this profound sense and the impact scientific understanding nowadays has it logically influences perception of cultural, political, .. in any aspects. It concerns the presentations created as representations coming into crisis …

We are asking from representation something it cannot possibly give, namely representation without any re-presentation, without any provisional assertions, without any imperfect proof, without any opaque layers of translations, transmissions, betrayals, without any complicated machinery of assembly, delegation, proof, argumentation, negotiation, and conclusion.

In this attempt of MTP – as object-oriented conception – to find a new approach in ‘presenting the representation technology of parlimentary life’ there is no purpose to ridicule the European way, but it reaches out to undertake the effort to produce ‘voices and connections among people’.

… getting together might not be such a universal desire after all! No matter how wide you stretch it, the political horizon might be too small to encompass the whole Earth. Not only because parliaments are too tiny, not only because a parliament of parliaments would require the use of many different machineries now dispersed among different gatherings, but because the very idea of a political assembly might not be shareable in the end. The urge for political representation might be so much of a Western obsession that other people might object to being thus mobilized or called for. And this objection too has to be registered in our show.

If you read the UNESCO literature, it seems that the whole world aspires to become one under the aegis of democracy, transparent representation, and the rule of law. But what if every time this inflatable parliament was being dropped in, many other voices were raised: “No Politics Please!”, “No representation!”, “Not with you”, “No democracy, thanks”, “Would you please stay as far away as possible”, “Leave us alone”, “I’d rather not”, “I prefer my king?”. [I.Stengers] What if the disagreements were not the sort of issues that divide people in the normal state of things, but were bearing instead on the very way to assemble at all? What if we had to imagine not an assembly of assemblies, not even an assembly of ways of assembling, but an assembly of ways of dissembling? Would not that be a call for disassembling instead?

And yet this is just what happens when you begin to listen to other voices. Not because they are exotic, far fetched, archaic, irrational, but because they too claim that making things public might be a much more protracted affair than entering into the realm of politics – even widely enlarged. Under the thin veneer of “democracy for all” will soon appear another crisis of representation, one much wider and deeper because it will strike at the heart of what it is to represent at all.

I would like to link at this point to the recent post on PASSION (and belonging) on, as it touches the same subject.

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