`The Articulation of Protest': A Lecture by Alberto Toscano

Published 2012/09/17

From William Bunge’s Fitzgerald: Geography of a Revolution (1971)

Norsk versjon


As the second lecture in the series

`The Articulation of Protest´
A Programme on Some of the Logistics
of Information and Social Activism Today

Friday, 21 September 2012 / 19:00
Live audio streaming

Office for Contemporary Art Norway 
Nedre Gate 7 
0551 Oslo, Norway l

OCA welcomes social theorist and philosopher Alberto Toscano on Friday 21 September at 19:00, with a lecture dedicated to the rift between logistics, on the one hand, and protest, dissent and intervention, on the other. In his paper, Toscano will analyse how the current focus on the politics of logistics and the insistence on invisible circulation might be undermining or sidelining the art of protest.

Invisibility, connectivity, the immaterial and the systemic, all associated to modern economic life, pose persistent problems that are even more urgent in times of depression. It is normally in these times when the interruption of the flow of goods and people makes the system and its mechanics visible. But, as Harun Farocki’s investigations into the language of war and marketing show, images of the symbols of power and resistance are often made not to be seen. Perhaps because of this, much recent artistic work that seeks to unsettle consensual perceptions of our world has been profoundly preoccupied by logistics – by the mutation of maritime space into a the space of containers, by the creation of virtual theatres of war, by the innervation of lived experience by abstract matrices of information and finance… However, is this almost ubiquitous focus on the logistical taking us away from the art of protest? Should we trust its suggestion that the only strategies we have left are blockage, interruption and sabotage, and no longer proposals for change? 

Alberto Toscano has written on militancy, egalitarianism, religious thought and social protest, in order to explore ‘the point at which theology (or religious practice and conviction) and social protest intersect’. His 2010 book Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea addresses a poverty of analysis and imagination resulting from the wish to remain within a closed theoretical horizon, in which, adopting the words of Margaret Thatcher, ‘there is no alternative’. In response, Toscano proposes a sociological critique that ‘can function as a potent antidote to the role of the concept of fanaticism as a kind of negative talisman, a tool for exorcism’, shifting the understanding of fanatical movements ‘beyond the merely ideational level, to that of social groups, interests, discourses, as well as their patterns of communication, and their specific intensities and patterns of emergence’.

The Articulation of Protest’ is a programme of two lectures that looks into strategies that have emerged in recent times through actions and communication, and in dialogue or confrontation with existing legislation, with the aim to secure free circulation of information and knowledge in the face of the state's or capital's attempts to control and to commodify them. In doing so, they explore individual and collective initiatives and other strategic choices, and discuss them in relation to a history of critical organisation, of free speech and activism.

The Swedish historian Rasmus Fleisher opened the programme on 14 September with a lecture about current developments and polemics within ‘social media’ and the reality of a social engagement within these channels.

Alberto Toscano
Alberto Toscano is a social theorist, philosopher and a lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. Toscano is the author of Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea (2010) and The Theatre of Production: Philosophy and Individuation Between Kant and Deleuze (2006). He has translated into English several works by Alain Badiou, such as Logics of Worlds (2009), The Century (2007) and Handbook of Inaesthetics (2005), and is co-editor of Alain Badiou’s Theoretical Writings (2004) and On Beckett (2003). He has co-translated and prefaced Éric Alliez’s The Signature of the World (2004) and Antonio Negri’s Political Descartes (2007). He has published several articles on contemporary philosophy, ontology and social theory. He sits on the editorial board of the journal Historical Materialism, and edits the Italian List for Seagull Books. He is currently completing a book on representations of contemporary capital, titled Cartographies of the Absolute (with Jeff Kinkle).

For more information on the programme, please contact OCA’s press officer Maria Moseng