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October 9, 2017 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

utopia is now, today, this moment



When asked by his mokopuna to describe

the “future”,

Moana Jackson replied:

when we take our yesterdays and todays into all of our tomorrows.1


The health of the land could be known

by the clarity of the pool’s reflection


what did the showing was the land;

what did the looking was the self,

the I.


There is a boundary between the body and the world that stretches over as flesh. We knew that the I felt alienated from the body. We pretended otherwise.

“The core of utopia is the desire for being otherwise, individually and collectively, subjectively and objectively.”3

I think about this for three years.

I continue to think.

“The slogan which sums up the new condition is ‘no long term’”— time has been changed, emptied,

and “the idea that a person’s sense of self could be tied to that of a group is well-nigh incomprehensible.”5

How can we be otherwise when we’re surrounded by managers, stuck in a reproduction of the great End of History?6

What used to be is lost to the history of what we can see was. What used to be truth may not remain so; the horizon becomes hard to make out when standing at the edge.

“When society enters a phase of crisis or approaches collapse, we can glimpse the horizon of possibility. This horizon itself is hard to distinguish, and the territory that borders this horizon is hard to describe or to map.

The horizon of possibility can best be described [as] defining the unconscious.”7

“Fortunately, most Americans Kiwis, whatever their professed ideals, know from personal experience what community feels like. They are meaningfully connected to something smaller than the nation and larger than themselves.”8

Wake up. Work. Eat. Drink Coffee. Work. Eat. Drink Coffee. Work. Eat. Work. Sleep.

Always Facebook.

“The crisis is not economic, ecological, or political, the crisis is above all that of presence.9

Just remember — it’s different when

you’re passionate about what you do.

We have to be present to listen, Emily Beausoleil tells us.

Her “listening” is a three-part process:10

(1) reception, understanding

(2) resonance, feeling

(3) response, action

Social advantage insulates and amputates us from history. The powerful are unable to understand the world they have created.11

Listening is “an intimate response to not knowing,

we in society do not always have to speak

to fill the void up.”12

Ask yourself: Are you good at listening to yourself?

Answer: I’m learning.

“Augustine, even in his most dissolute and abandoned moments, is held by [Monica] in the deepest recesses of his agonies.

He is held by Monica and he is holding Monica.

This mediated and mediating mothering softens the trouble in the middle between Augustine’s hiddenness and his visible power.”13

I think Gillian Rose is trying to tell us that we can be both Monica and Augustine, at the same time.





“The aesthetic attitude is the spectator’s attitude… From the beginning, [it] undermines the possibility of a utopian perspective.”14

To see in this way is to see what already is and to examine it, seek its beauty, critique it, reflect it;

it is to be led by its rhythm.  

The screen shows us what we want to see:

“a sphere of the imaginary — in which one encloses oneself.”15

“The knowledge necessary for decision accordingly has a different mode: one which is not merely contemplative,

but rather one which goes with process,

which is actively and partisanly in league with the good which is working its way through.”16

Action requires more than aesthetics;

it creates rhythm.

It would be possible to counter the argument I have been developing about personal and political defiance by positing that such defiance is precisely what neoliberal capitalism expects from us.17

“Evil on this view has no independent reality.”18

I think of Mark Fisher, Francis Bacon, when I see my reflection.

“The disfigurement Rousseau speaks of is the deformation of human beings by society: with his nature divided, alienated from his own needs, subjected to the conformist dictates of society, in his need for recognition and with his sense of self-worth depended on the opinions of others, the social human being is artificial and disfigured.”19

Everything has been touched by co-optation. “Now the real is present only as a quotation — in fragments.”20

Even the “good” is included in this “everything”

I do nothing but seek the “good” in everything that has been co-opted. Ruth Levitas says this is step one. To her, it is archaeology.

“Archaeology undertakes excavations and reconstructions… based on a mixture of evidence, deduction, and imagination, representing as whole something of which only shards and fragments remain.”21

“Inside the bowels of the third industrial revolution — where industry 4.0 meets crowdsourcing, where digital request meet physical labour — lies the so-called ‘sharing economy.’”22

W.O.W. is a dystopian future: spaceships and hands in fingerless gloves huddled over fires in bins.23

We’re all still sinners, they’ll say — the human body is dirty compared to the out-of-worldness of The Future. Discourse and Fantasy.

In the opening transition between washing line and marae, banality makes itself beautiful.

sasha francis image 1 wow

Second Scene, W.O.W.. 2017.24




sasha francis image 2 wwwork


Wait, so, you’re not a robot?

“The avant-garde thematisation of nothingness and negativity is not a sign of its ‘nihilism’, or a protest against the ‘nullification’ of life under the conditions of industrial capitalism.  

They are simply signs of a new start —

of an artistic metanoia

that leads the artist from an interest in the external world to the autopoetic construction of his or her own self.”26

“The body takes on the form of the soul. The soul becomes the body. All things become heavenly.  Heaven becomes earthly, material. Modernism becomes absolute.

Since the death of God, of course, we can no longer believe that there is something like the soul that is distinguished from the body in the sense that it is made independent of the body and can be separated from it.27


sasha francis image 3 hyperreality





“A different concept of reality to the narrow and ossified one of the second half of the nineteenth century is thus overdue, a different one to that of the positivism to which the idea of process is alien.29


Cyborgs are the alien we didn’t expect,

and today, the “different”


is depicted as the living dead,



as skeletons, rather than zombies.30


“In a world of total design, the man himself has become a designed thing, a kind of museum object, a mummy, a publicly exhibited corpse.”31

“And anyway, for capital, the subject has become too cumbersome.”32

We are addicted to a particular discourse: we fold back in on ourselves — a delicate pleat, an eraser.

Charles Esche: “In culture, TINA has played a rather different role. The content of art has not had to adopt the TINA belief system in quite the same way as corporate CEOs, economists, and politicians.”33

Sasha: What do you think happened to the content of life?

C: Well, “while we in the art world would be foolish to throw our critical art away too lightly, artists and curators who feel committed to art as a means toward developing an alternative consciousness and value system have to contend with the fact that 25 years of critical art has produced little in the way of actual politics and economic change.”

S: Sometimes I wonder if for “critical theory” it may have even been longer…

C: Indeed it “might therefore be time to question,” rather than a time of answers.

“Indifference, instrumentalisation, reification, absurdity, artificiality, isolation, meaninglessness, impotence.”34

“‘Late modernity’, ‘postmodernity’, ‘risk society’, ‘Empire’, ‘multiculturalism’, ‘late capitalism’, ‘informal capitalism’, ‘Gaia’, ‘financial capitalism’.

There exists no way to categorically defend in the moment of writing the choice of name and, as such, analysis will remain haunted by an act of power whose presence eviscerates at the same rate at which the given designation sticks.”35






“The belief that competition and individualism are humanity’s defining features did not arise spontaneously. Though it has a long heritage, it was refined in the 20th century by the most powerful political narrative in circulation today: the story told by neoliberalism. This ideology continues to dominate our political and economic systems, and almost every aspect of our lives.”36

The pigeon is trapped in the library.

In utter desperation, it smashes itself into the roof above the bright rows of heavenly white desks in a final attempt to return to “the sky.”37

Its body drops limp through the air briefly from the impact.

At the sound, we all look up;

gasp, sigh;

return to our work.

“The pigeon is not the better bird.

The pigeon is the better bird.”38





“In order to make the concept of alienation fruitful once again, we must give a formal account of it.

Alienation is a relation of relationlessness.

Alienation does not indicate the absence of a relation but is itself a relation, if a deficient one.

Alienation is a failure to apprehend, and a halting of, the movement of appropriation.

Conversely, overcoming alienation does not mean returning to an undifferentiated state of oneness with oneself and the world; it too is a relation; a relation of appropriation.39

NOTE TO SELF: a relation of tempered, considered, reflexive, attentive appropriation.

“There is no turning away, or back; what we need is to see both forward and backward, to connect pasts and futures. We need multiple visions.”40

What do you want to do, to be? To achieve in life?

Answers to such questions are an act of closure, as if a levelling of the cost imposed by the question, a demanding in exchange;

the debt, paid.  

“The politics of art has to do less with its impact on the spectator than with the decisions that lead to its emergence in the first place.”41

In the precision of the demand for a particular in my future, you make tomorrow a little less hazy;

a sprinkle of sedimentation, an amputation.

Poverty is not “a lack.” It is “by definition

not having enough money,”42


but moralising arguments make us feel good.


Did you know that you cannot give a beneficiary a GIFT voucher without the SAME VALUE BEING DEDUCTED FROM THEIR BENEFIT?43


Remind yourself: love is unconditional.





“By leaving capitalism to function to its conclusion, it was appointed as its own grave-digger, and even its dialectic appeared to be self-sufficient, to be autarkical.”44

“Capital is value in motion.”45

in motion

from a-to-b-to-c.

from past to present to future.


the rhythm, the movement, the poetics.


Do you ever think about how there have been so many eyes that have done so much seeing?

If we say we want a society that helps each other,

then we need to do it.46





Committed to the community space at the Vogelmorn Bowling Club, someone suggested there should be a list of jobs that can be done by anyone to help out around here, like dusting the window ledges, taking the rubbish out —

everyone agrees47 —

because creating a community requires collectivity, shared renewal, ongoing labour.

It requires becoming to be.

“Society has no pre-given, unifying ground; it is found in the process of doing and learning how to continuously form our society on a day-to-day basis.”48

“What do we do when common has become resource and risk sharing?

collaborate has become sponsorship deals

transparency has become being controlled

open has become deluded

engaged has become working for free

self-organised has become entrepreneurial

imagination has become speculation

democratic has become crowd-pleasing

having a critical agenda has become having a trademark

solidarity has once again become charity

radical feminism has become red-washing

and collective has become an obstacle?”49


Y has become X

the symbolic has become the ‘real’


“What do we do under these conditions?”50


Remember: the journey of all the eyes before ‘me’.



There is nothing you can do — tomorrow

can only ever be delivered to us as




What’s the use pretending?

We need to go beyond discourse.51





“The now moment starts here

at the moment I pull up the shades

the sun is rising over Manhattan Wellington and with each passing minute my room gets brighter.”52





this moment




  1. Moana Jackson. Opening Keynote at Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change: Beyond Capitalism, Beyond Colonisation. Massey University. Auckland. September 6, 2017.
  2. Moana Jackson. Closing Keynote at Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change: Beyond Capitalism, Beyond Colonisation. Massey University. Auckland. September 8, 2017.
  3. Ruth Levitas. Utopia As Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society. 2014. xi.
  4. Mark Fischer. Capitalist Realism. 2009. 28.
  5. Harlon Dalton. “Failing to See” in White Privilege: Essential readings on the other side of racism. Ed. Paula S. Rothenberg. 2002. 15.
  6. Francis Fukuyama. The End of History. 1992.
  7. Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi. Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility. 2017. 28.
  8. Emphasis added (“Kiwi” added in place of “American”) in Dalton, 2002. 15.
  9. The Invisible Committee. To Our Friends. 2014. 11.
  10. Emily Beausoleil. “Hearing the Difference: Listening in Conditions of Inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand.” Forthcoming, 2017.
  11. Emily Beausoleil. “How to Listen” held as part of Spring Uprising 2017 at the Vogelmorn Bowling Club. Barbarian Productions. September 21, 2017.
  12. Eloise Sweetman. “Roll On, Roll On, Phenomena (Until You Are No More).” School of Missing Studies. Ed. Bik Van der Pol. 2017. 143.
  13. Gillian Rose. Paradiso. 2015. 27.
  14. Boris Groys. Going Public. 2010. 11.
  15. Byung-Chul Han. In The Swarm. Trans. Erik Butler. 2017. 22.
  16. Ernst Bloch. The Principle of Hope: Volume One. 1954. 198.
  17. Mari Ruti. Between Levinas and Lacan: Self, Other, Ethics. 2015. 140.
  18. Groys, 2010. 10.
  19. Rahel Jaeggi. Alienation. Trans. Frederick Neuhouser and Alan E. Smith. 2014. 7.
  20. Han. 64.
  21. Levitas. 155.
  22. Anxious to Make. “THE FUTURE OF WORK”. Ed. Liat Berdugo and Emily Martinez. 4.
  23. World of Wearable Arts (W.O.W.) 2017. Directed by Kip Chapman et al. Dress rehearsal, September 21. 2017.
  24. Cropped image from
  25. Still from Anxious to Make. “THE FUTURE OF WORK”. Ed. Liat Berdugo and Emily Martinez. 22.
  26. Groys, 2010. 17.
  27. Ibid. 27.
  28. Still from Keiichi Matsuda. Hyper-Reality. 2016.
  29. Emphasis added (underline and italics) in Jaeggi, 2014. 49.
  30. W.O.W. 2017.
  31. Groys, 2010. 31.
  32. Stefano Harney and Fred Moten. “Fantasy in the Hold: Logistics, or The Shipping” in The Undercommons. 87.
  33. All quotes by Charles Esche taken from Charles Esche, “How to Talk about Things That Have Gone Missing?” In School of Missing Studies. Ed. Bik Van der Pol. 2017. 15–16.
  34.  Jaeggi, 2014. 5.
  35. Warwick Tie. In the Place of Utopia: Affect and Transformative Ideas. 2014. 51–52.
  36. Quote taken from a screenshot image off of Instagram on my phone, then sent via e-mail to my laptop and transcribed from the email image into a Google document. Does the journey of the words change the nature of the words? From George Monbiot. Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. 2017.
  37. “The tree is really rooted in the sky.” Simone Weil as quoted in Rose, 2015. 62.
  38. Lines from the first open-mic poem read at Poetry in Motion. Author unknown. Wellington. November 2. 2016.
  39. Jaeggi, 2014. 1.
  40. Bik Van der Pol. “Do You See the Signal?” In School of Missing Studies. Ed. Bik Van der Pol. 2017. 52.
  41. Groys, 2010. 15.
  42. Metiria Turei. Speaking at The Welfare State panel discussion. September 26. 2017.
  43. Ibid.
  44. Bloch, 1954. 198.
  45. David Harvey. ICSI Public Lecture. 2017.
  46. Emphasis added. Quote from the Q&A Conversation, original author unknown, at The Welfare State panel discussion. September 26. 2017.
  47. Conversation at “The Commons Workshop” held as part of Spring Uprising 2017 at the Vogelmorn Bowling Club. Barbarian Productions. September 22. 2017.
  48. Van der Pol, 2017. 48.
  49. Anxious to make. WWWORK, 13:00–14:00min. Liat Berdugo and Emily Martinez.
  50. Ibid.
  51. Tie, 2014. 51.
  52. Jackie Wang. “2015 PEN World Voices Festival Opening Night: The Future is Now — Jackie Wang”. 2015.“Wellington” replaces “Manhattan”).

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