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This is Dito e Feito, a Teatro do Bairro Alto podcast where talking is a way of doing and vice-versa.
My name is Ana Bigotte Vieira. I curate speech at TBA. By speech we mean lectures, talks, publications, research and all such things, but also what shapes what we do, say and see and is not necessarily explicit. This episode is called Franco Bifo Berardi, Um Glossário Experimental [Franco Bifo Berardi, an Experimental Glossary], and it features philosopher Franco “Bifo” Berardi, who is also the founder of Radio Alice, the first free radio in Italy between 1976 and 78, whom we asked to put together a kind of glossary of terms he has been using quite often. We printed those terms, those words, sometimes in pairs or trios, on paper and placed them facing down on a table at the studio. Some we selected, some others were proposed after his lecture at TBA. Franco randomly picks the printed words up, reads them and explains them, thus assembling the said glossary. Every once in a while, there’s music. This episode is in English.
Algorithm. Well, algorithm has nothing to do with the word “rhythm”, but we can invent etymologies. We don’t care so much about etymology; we interpret the word in a free way. Just for the precision, algorithm is a word coming from the name of an Arab mathematician whose name was al-Khwarizmi. It seems that he is the creator of the theory from which we have induced the modern word “algorithm” that, as you know, means a mathematical succession that inscribes in itself the possibility of a physical development of the algorithm itself. But we don’t want to follow the etymological rule, and we invent the meaning of this word. In Greek, algos means “pain”, and “rhythm” as I already said is the relation between an organism and the surrounding environment. So the word “algorithm” seems to imply the suffering of the relation between our biological organism, our soul and our body [on the one hand], and the surrounding universe, which is more and more dominated by the mathematical rule [on the other hand]. Algorithm is a suffering rhythm imposed by the force, by the ferocity of the mathematical dictatorship of late capitalism.
1969, 77. I need three, four hours for the developing of these two strange words that are not words, but numbers. Numerology. I like numerology. Frankly speaking, all of my imagination is turning around some enigmatic figures, like 68. Well, 68 is a very strange figure. 68 is the year in which Stanley Kubrick shot one of the most important movies in the history of cinema. The title of the movie, as you remember, is 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is the core of that year. Some remember that during that year, in Rome, in Shanghai, in Paris, in San Francisco, in Prague and Mexico City, millions of students, of workers, were occupying the streets, and chanting slogans against imperialism and capitalism and so on, but I don’t care about that. I focus on the movie of Stanley Kubrick, because everything is contained in that movie. You remember the instant in which the captain of the starship, whose name I do not remember… Dave! The moment in which Dave looks at the automaton, the robot, the central brain of the starship, and staring in the eye of the automaton understands that something wrong is happening. Something wrong. So what can be done? The automaton is taking our life, is taking our starship, and it’s bringing this starship towards the nothingness, towards an unknown destiny that we do not want. So, Dave decides to do the most dramatic thing possible, but the only way to escape a dark destiny of destruction and death: Dave decides to disconnect the automaton. This is 68. 68 is the moment, the year, in which millions of intellectual workers of the world decide to disconnect the criminal automaton of capitalism. 68 is sort of [when] widespread expectation of freedom expands all over the world. But things turn in an unpredictable way, like every time history becomes interesting. After 68, workers and students march in the streets of the world against capitalism, but 77 is a sort of moment of subversion of the hope. Hope, the hope of equality and freedom, the hope of fulfilment of the modern promise, that hope disappears. And 77 is the moment in which, with a final insurrection, the intellectual workers, the precarious workers of the world shout that the future is over. The future is over. We still live in the moment that starts in 77. In Rome, in Bologna, in London, in many cities of the world, young people declare that capitalism has destroyed the future.
No Future (God Save the Queen) – Sex Pistols
To Fernando Ramalho I will say something about collapse. Collapse. Collapse. Well, a complicated organism as our body, or as the body of society, at a certain point can enter in a condition of overload—overload of blood, of money, of action, of work, of noise, of information—, and this kind of accumulation of stimulations can lead the organism to a collapse. Collapse. I like the sound of the word. Collapse is the moment in which the organism starts losing its integrity. It’s the beginning of the process of disintegration. Why do you hear the word “collapse” so often in our time? Maybe we don’t hear, but we feel the collapse in the air. Well, the reason is simple. The reason is that capitalism has produced an effect of self-replication, of viruses like the virus of financial accumulation, of work explosion, and so on. Capitalism is a sort of process of infinite replication of something that cannot be infinitely replicated, because it’s going to explode the organism itself. Think about Greta Thunberg speaking at the United Nations Organisation a few weeks ago. What did she say? She said, at a certain point, “People are dying, people are suffering, entire ecosystems are collapsing, and you only think about money, you only think and dream about the infinite economic growth”. You see, in the talk of Greta every element of the collapse is present. First, the reason of the present collapse is this kind of fairy tale, this kind of bad dream, which is the infinite growth, the infinite replication of the same, the same, the same. But the living organism of the planet, the living organisms of society cannot accept, cannot coexist with this kind of infinite replication. So, at a certain point, as Greta says, entire ecosystems are collapsing, are disintegrating, are losing consistency and are losing life. Because, you know, collapse is a beautiful thing when you hear the word in an ironic voice like mine, but in the end it leads to death.
Breathe. Suffocation. I discovered asthma in the year 2007. I was in the city of Bangkok. Never go to the city of Bangkok. I went there, it was summer, July. In the city it was raining and incredibly hot, humid, and I stopped breathing all of a sudden. I did not know what the problem was, but after six or seven days in the bed of the hotel room, I decided to go back. The doctor told me, “You are an asthmatic person”. I entered a new universe, a new metaphorical universe. I like metaphors. I like asthma as a metaphor, not as a physical reality. I like this metaphor, because it’s the best way to understand what’s happening to the planet, what’s happening to our society, what’s happening to everybody. You know, asthma is a wide spreading affection that is attacking more and more people, especially children, young people in the polluted cities of the world. First of all, suffocation is the physical effect of an excess of poisoning substances that float in the air that we breathe. But secondly and metaphorically, I would say that everything inside the capitalist society of our time is poison. Every flow of information, of air, of food, of language has a poisoning effect on our brain, on our body, on our affection. I discovered the metaphorical sense of asthma when I watched in the TV the images of the black man killed in the city of New York some years ago. That guy was an asthmatic person, and he was selling cigarettes in the street, which is illegal. The police wanted to arrest him. He reacted with a very quiet and peaceful reaction, but the police aggressed him. Eight policemen aggressed this guy whose name was Eric Garner. They pushed him on the sidewalk, and they obliged him to stay in a position that was intolerable for him. So Eric Garner said eight times, “I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath.” Then he died.
Air (from the play Hair)
Code. You know, there is a special relation between language and future. Code is one of those possible modulations of the relation between language and future. Once upon a time, the place that today is taken by code was taken by prophecy. What is a prophet? A prophet is someone who speaks the future, someone who speaks words that are predicting, that are foreseeing, that are in a sense announcing and calling the future. This is the prophet. But prophecy has changed its forms in the technological age, and has been mostly replaced by code. Code is the inscription of future inside language. Code is a linguistic tool, a system of symbols that are inscribing the future condition of the world inside their structure. Code is the inscription of future, and at the same time it acts as a form of prescription of the future. We are slowly shifting from the dimension of descriptive language to the dimension of prescriptive language. When enormous amounts of data are connected with intelligent automata, at that point, code grows a [crystal] ball to prescribe the future, to impose the forms of the future to the linguistic organisms, the human beings that are obliged to follow that kind of inscribed prophecy which is code. Can we escape code? That’s a good question. Unfortunately, I do not have an answer, because escaping code is the main enigma of our time.
To Amador Savater. Dear Amador, I try to answer one of your questions, and of course your questions are as always quite refined and difficult to elaborate, but I do what I can. You know, I am already answering the first of your words, which is utopia senile. You see, I’m trying, I’m old. Yes, I am an old guy, who’s trying to answer difficult questions. This is my answer in a sense, but I try to elaborate a little bit more. Utopia senile. Senility is a very wide and important trend of our time, because the average age of the human kind, especially in the northern hemisphere, is higher and higher. People are living longer. And also—thanks to God—children are less and less obliged to come into this world. So the resulting effect of these two different, but converging trends is the senescence of the human kind, the growing old of the human kind. The effect so far is not very good, because exhaustion is becoming the destiny of the planet and the destiny of the human kind. Capitalism has destroyed the physical resources of the planet and is destroying the nervous resources of the human brain. So all of a sudden the destiny of senescent people becomes the destiny of the majority of the human kind. Not only because one third of the northern hemisphere population is older than sixty-five years, but also because exhaustion is becoming the common lot of the majority of the human population. It looks like a really bad destiny, I know, but we should be able to transform this trend into a possibility. We should be able to transform the condition of exhaustion into a condition of slowness, of slowing down of the average rhythm of our life. We should be able to transform senescence into a condition of friendship in the relation with death. “Extinction” is a word that has recently entered the political lexicon of the movement. For the first time in human history, extinction becomes a realistic prospect for the future. We should be able to find the possibility of transforming it into a more relaxed relation with the passing of time.
[Exterminator! – William S. Burroughs]
The Colonel decides to make his own time and constructs a simple calendar consisting of ten months with 26 days in each month. The months have names like old Pullman cars where the Colonel had lived until his 18th year. Smell of soot and steam and iron and cigar smoke as the train jolts away into the past. The Colonel is jolted back to the NOW. The Colonel decides, on this mild grey day, to bring his time into present time. He looks at the objects on the breakfast table calculating the moves to clear it. He measures the distance of his chair to the table how to push chair back and stand up without hitting the table with his legs. He has discovered the simple and basic Discipline of DE. DO EASY. He becomes an assiduous student of DE. Cleaning the flat is a problem in logistics. He knows every paper every object and many of them now have names. Knives forks and spoons flash through his fingers and tinkle into drawers. He has perfected the art of “casting” sheets and blankets so they fall just so. Cigarette packages and crumpled papers land unerringly in the wastebasket as a Zen master can hit the target with his arrow in the dark. DE is a way of doing. DE simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest most relaxed way you can manage which is also the quickest and most efficient way as you will find as you advance in DE.
To Amador again. Cortesia. Courtesy. You know, the word “courtesy” enters the literary language when the European population, the European culture comes out of the Middle Age and enters the age of bourgeoisie and modernity. I would say that the word cortesia has a central place in civilisation—if I can use this word in a good way—, in the transformation for good of the modern society. Courtesy is the ability to empathically feel the persons you are dealing with, and is the ability to elaborate rituals of sensitisation to the relation. Courtesy is a strategy for humanising the animal instinct in the relation. Maybe Darwin was right when he said that in Nature and in human history—as human history is part of Nature in a sense—the strongest, the fittest always wins. Maybe Darwin was right. I don’t know. But the problem is that human beings have been able to create a dimension which is outside the jungle, which is outside the brutality of the natural relation among animals. I know Nature is cruel, is ferocious. But we are not only natural beings. That’s the point. Even if we claim the right to defend Nature, at the same time we know that we are not only natural beings. We are courteous, if I can say. We are beings who are able to feel the presence of the other as a linguistic pleasure. The problem is that the acceleration of the rhythm of communication, the acceleration of life and of linguistic exchange is destroying the possibility of courtesy. You know, when you are obliged to fight for life, when your time and your words are limited to the strict indispensable for survival, at that point the sensibility that makes possible courtesy in the relation with the other disappears. So we enter the age of Trumpism, which is based on an epidemics of discourtesy. This is the affection that is destroying human life in our time.
Spasm. Spasm is a medical expression that refers to the painful contraction of an organ of our body. Spasm is the effect of an acceleration of the rhythm of the muscle, of the brain, of the entire body. When you are obliged to run faster than your natural rhythm, at that point you are in danger of spasm. Maybe spasm is the word that may define our acceleration age. The age of the infinite acceleration of social and communicational rhythm enters a dimension of spasm, of painful increase of the rhythm of your sensitive body. The effect of spasm of course is that your sensitivity disappears, disintegrates, and in the end you grow unable to feel the presence of the body of the other. Can we come out from this dimensional spasm? According to Félix Guattari, we are in the age of the chaosmic spasm, a spasm that goes towards a possibility of chaosmosis—chaosmosis being the recreation of balance between the rhythm of the body and the rhythm of the surrounding infosphere. So the spasm is a condition that may lead to death, to extinction, or may lead to a new rhythm, to a new empathic relation with the universe.
I dedicate this answer to Mariana Pinho. Psychedelism. Acid communism. What is psychedelia? Psychedelia is the ability to transform the eidos, the shape of our brain, of our mind, of our soul, of our understanding to the changing forms of the universe. You see, psychedelia is not simply the effect of a pill, is not simply the effect of a drug that you can take to provoke changes in your nervous activity. It is obviously this, but it can be much more than this. It can be the condition for a new syntonization. Chaosmosis, would say Guattari. Particularly we can define psychedelia as a possibility of transformation of the social brain. The social brain is sick—that is absolutely clear. We are living in a sort of epidemics of discourtesy, a sort of epidemics of aggressive madness, an epidemics of fear, paranoia. It is not strange even to this kind of massive psychopathology. This is the effect of the acceleration of the exploitation of nervous energies. Human kind has been submitted to a sort of aggressive acceleration of the infosphere. We are obliged to receive, elaborate and reply with an increasing amount of nervous stimulations day-by-day. I say nervous stimulations and I mean information, because information is essentially nervous stimulation. You cannot understand the effect of an information if you do not refer to the nervous reaction of your body. We are bombed by millions of nervous stimulations that are continuously pushing our body to react, and this permanent electrocution in which we live is provoking a pathological effect on our brain. So what is communism in our age? Communism that we need is not a political regime of submission of live to a new order. It’s not a new order. It’s not a new order at all. It’s a new syntony. It’s a new syntonic relation between our brain, our social body and the possibility that is inscribed in the transformation of technology. The transformation of technology is a danger, but it’s also a possibility. But if we want to be able to tune in the possibility, we need a psychedelic act, we need a neuro-plastic move, we need a transformation of our brain—of our individual brain, and mostly of our social brain. Maybe psilocybin and lysergic acid can help in this transformation, but it’s not about pills. It’s pills and much more than pills. It is acid communism.
This is for André and Teodósio. Semiocapital. Wow. Obviously, when we enter the dimension of info-production, the process of creation of things, of production of value (and also the process of economic exchange) is more and more based on the circulation of semia, of signs, of information. Capitalism in the present age is essentially a semiological process of production. The convergence of the financial machine and of digital technology has lead our economy to a point of almost complete transformation of the process of production into a semiotic process. I know we still are producing cars and tables and physical things, but the production of cars is more and more turning into the processing of signs. Producing a car is more and more the result of a computerised process of elaboration and transmission of data, and at the end of mechanical manipulation of things. So capitalism is a semiotic system. That has clear consequences on the forms of labour. Labour becomes more and more an essentially nervous activity. What is work nowadays? For a large part of the global work force, labour is based on sitting in front of a desk, doing the same digital activity, but producing very different physical effects. Of course, I know very well that the large part of human kind is still working with the hands in the fields or the factories, but the global functioning of the global production is mediated by digital semiotic machines. The effect of this transformation on the human brain is an effect of exhaustion. Your brain is under stress; your brain is the subject of a new kind of exploitation. The process of emancipation from semiocapital has rules, has forms that are different from the rules and the forms of the old manual worker class. What are those rules? What are those forms of emancipation? That is the present problem of the movement everywhere in the world. Dealing with precarious work, dealing with intellectual semiotic, digital work implies the creation of totally new forms of organisation and struggle. We are looking for the new forms. We must go fast in this research, because semiocapital—implying the financial plundering—is destroying the world.
Senza un perché – Nada Malanima
Sensibility. Sensibility and sensitivity to be precise. Sensibility of course refers to our senses, but it is not like perception. Sensibility is a dimension of our understanding. If I am to define the concept of sensibility, I would say that sensibility is the faculty that makes possible the deciphering, the understanding of something that cannot be said in words. Sensible is the organism which is able to decipher signs that are not conveyed by symbols. Sensible is an organism which is able to detect non-verbal messages in the communicational behaviour of another organism. You know, sensibility is at stake in the present transformation of language, in the present transformation of communication, because the communication cycle in our time, in the age of digital technologies, is more and more transformed into connection and into [the] transfer of digital signs. How can a sensible organism distinguish the ambiguous meaning of a non-verbal sign in a digital environment? We humans have entered the kingdom of communications according to the rule of conjunction. Conjunctive bodies detect the meaning of messages, not because they recognise the formal structure of the messages itself, but because they are able to decipher the meaning in the fog of ambiguousness. Ambiguousness is the condition of our daily understanding. Sensibility is the ability to find the way in the fog of ambiguity. Maybe we are losing this ability. In that case, as human beings, we are going to be totally lost.
Dito e Feito is a Teatro do Bairro Alto podcast. Fisga Studio did the recording, Sara Morais the editing and Raw Forest the music. Follow TBA on social media and at teatrodobairroalto.pt.