Nyheten om at filosofiavdelingen ved Middlesex University er truet med nedleggelse har blitt møtt med sinne og avsky fra et stort antall kjente intellektuelle fra hele verden. Blant disse finner vi Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, Etienne Ballibar, Jean-Luc Nancy, Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, Jacques Rancière, Stanley Cavell, Peter Sloterdijk og Axel Honneth så vel som 14 000 medlemmer av Facebook-gruppen Save Middlesex Philosophy. Saken tok i forrige uke en dramatisk vending ved at professorene Peter Osborne (som samarbeider nært med OCA i Oslo) og Peter Hallward ble suspendert sammen med fire studenter.
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Middlesex egen professor i fransk samtidsfilosofi, Éric Alliez, forfatter av en rekke viktige bøker som The Signature of the World. Or What is the Philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari?, London: Continuum, 2005, La Pensée-Matisse (med J.-Cl. Bonne) (Paris, Le Passage, 2005) og helt nylig essayet « Capitalism and Schizophrenia and Consensus. Of Relational Aesthetics »(Istanbul, Baglam Publishing 2010, også trykket i OCA-publikasjonen Verksted #9) har også reagert på en intens og noen vil si oppsiktsvekkende måte. Opprørt over utviklingen i saken gikk professor Alliez til Paven under hans «Grande Messe» i Porto og appellerte til ham for å bevare filosofiavdelingen ved Middlesex. Resultatet er en video med tittelen Suplica. Kunstkritikk har snakket med Alliez via e-post i helgen om situasjonen ved Middlesex og hans nå vekjente video (se under). Intervjuet ble gjennomført på engelsk og er trykket på originalspråket.
Peter Amdam: What is the background for the Suplica video that you posted on Youtube on May 16th? And to actually appeal to the Pope? How desperate do you experience the situation to be?
Éric Alliez: The background–or should we say the foreground to the Suplica? It is important to underline immediately the intra- and extra-philosophical world projection of the Middlesex Management’s decision to close the Department of Philosophy (and, de facto, the Centre for Research for Modern European Philosophy): 17 000 signatures to the petition (and 10 000 in a few days), protest letters from the most important philosophical associations all over the world, from universities, departments, research centres, school of arts, ongoing conferences, etc — and total solidarity to the Save Middlesex Philosophy campaign (with an extraordinarily active and creative occupation of the campus by the students) from the most important voices of our times (Badiou, Balibar, Nancy, Negri, Rancière and Zizek to Stanley Cavell, Peter Sloterdijk or Axel Honneth), without forgetting an absolute condemnation across the UK academic world. But all this unprecedented mobilization does not seem to sufficiently impress the Middlesex authorities and convince them to step back and to abandon their nihilist «project» and their new radical business plans. On the contrary! They have recently decided to suspend three professors and a group of students because of their participation in the occupation of the library! Visibly, the escalating cost of the national and international crash of the Middlesex brand (with 5 long minutes on BBC World News, innumerable articles on important blogs and newspapers) has escaped their notice. In truth, they seem to be protected against such a revelation by a formulation by the videoartist of the year, Ed Esche, who is performing the role of a Dean at Middlesex (see the hilarious http://www.cinestatic.com/infinitethought/), that «reputation is a good thing but can’t be measured». We are all working overtime to teach them the rules of the post-Fordist capitalism! But at this point, the collective, and somehow desperate, question became: What else, what more, Who else? My modest contribution has been to answer: Only the Pope can be this One, and for being this One, could save us, and for so many «reasons» that HE could and should listen to us in His infinite Goodness… I enumerate in the following the major arguments that have been developed between London and Porto during feverish nights and days, as they have been formulated, without hiding the perverse sophistication suddenly put to work. And I apologize for the Borgesian aspect of this list.
1. From the Management perspective, our sins are radical and infinite because they are philosophical and critical, and, consequently, can only be cancelled by an infinite and radical transcendent Power of forgiveness.
2. We are sharing with the Pope a kind of common post-Saussurean problem: On the side of the signifier for us, with the very unhappy locution of Middlesex (it does not seem a very serious academic location, and we had to ask the Vatican’s translator NOT to translate Middlesex by «meio do sesso», «sesso do meio» – or worse: «o meio do sesso»); on the side of the Pope, there is the depressing signified «paedophilia», unhappily associated with «illegal sex» (a painful pleonasm for the Church): this creates some kind of middle-sexual links encouraging mutual indulgence and compassion.
3. The Vatican is not the Pentagon, certainly, but it is nevertheless a State whose banner is exclusively Peace, and we do not want a military resolution of our Middlesex conflict — and we hope that the Pope will condemn the «suspension» of our brothers PeterS (new generic name of the Professors) + AliS (new generic name for the Students, since the first student to be suspended is an Iranian opponent called Ali, a double disgrace for the Middlesex Management, who is thus blocking in this elegant way the renewal of his VITAL British Visa student Card) as a kind of military escalation, knowing that the very name of «suspension» could invoke for Him (the Pope, not Ali) the worst episodes of the Inquisition justified in the name of Peter: two excellent points for us) — and we still promote a diplomatic issue (despite a very small minority of students who want to do some terrible things to Ed Esche [Dean] and Michael Driscoll [Vice-Chancelor], but we fight very hard against these demonic tendencies).
4. The Suplica is addressed to the Pope Benoît XVI, Who is not exactly an easy target compared to Jean-Paul II, notoriously a Pope “opened to contemporary philosophy” (as recently confirmed by the Researcher Priest Antoine Guggenheim, in Le Monde, 22.05.2010, p. 20): far from these mundane facilities, Our Pope Benoît XVI is a God-Man of History, which for Him is a theological Time-Space for the difficult emergence of a Pure Logic of Sense.
4a. Now, the German part of the Centre, precisely led by Peter Osborne in a post-Hegelian way, accepts this position as a real challenge for a post-conceptual thought — and we thought also that the Pope could be interested in this very notion of “post-conceptual” as developed by the Suspended Peter Osborne.
4b. Whilst the other Suspended Peter, Peter Hallward, is developing a Badiouan line of flight from the militant investigations on Saint-Paul developed by his Master, and we imagined that a dialogue with Alain the Platonician could interest the Augustinian Benoît — at the very beginning Peter Hallward (who was not yet suspended) was a bit reluctant, but he admitted quite immediately that the dialogue would have another tenue than the one mediatically improvised by Badiou with the Brownliner Finkielkraut (Peter Hallward has this kind of sovereign honesty — the most radical students love him… including the ones cultivating terribly perverse thoughts towards our Dean and Chancelor, after all in Heideggerian forests or, concerning the most extreme perverse students, in Baudrillardian electronic battle fields).
5. At this point, it was inevitably my turn: the Audience with the Pope could be the onto-theological crash test with regard to the famous Deleuzian sentence about Spinoza as the Christ of the Philosophers…
As you see, the philosophical naturel was threatening the very Suplica gesture. It was time to shoot it as soon as possible, in Porto, with a highly professional, experimental postcinema team (a Vertovian Portuguese man with a movie camera, a Mdx PhD assistant with superpowers for collective agency, a crowd control by students controlling a crowd of Extras and various disguised policemen and -women…) that could, on the one hand, remind me of my Supplicant duties, and, on the other hand, integrate the complexities of this theologico/philosophical ongoing debate within the montage…
PA: … the «montage» and the images seem to be conscious of a certain Situationist aesthetics?
EA: Absolutely, it has been an automatic collective in making evidence because, a minima, the Situationists had the goal of corrupting the value of the work/performance being diverted; in other words, of attacking cultural capital… And the Pope’s «grandes messes» are nowadays part of the cultural capital… with its antimodern (form of content)/postmodern (form of expression — that’s why we focused on the enormous screens and their electronic images, rather than zooming the Pope Himself, and we were close enough to do it!) conflagration. And this Antimodern/Postmodern configuration defines quite well the Middlesex offensive against Philosophy… The definitive montage we are still working on will increase this strident matter of fact…
PA: What prompts a distinguished philosopher like yourself to this kind of (media) activism?
EA: Because the «distinguished» Professor of Contemporary French Philosophy at Middlesex University comes after the May ‘68 break that substituted experimentation for interpretation as the contemporary necessity for a philosophy that has to assume and problematize its constitutive relationship to the present (Deleuze with Guattari…). And the Middlesex «story» shows that «to do philosophy» nowadays becomes a very precarious activity, one requiring a kind of activism that we’ll have more and more to assume as such — without falling into the corporatist trap of the defence of the profession by the «professionals of the profession» (to use Godard’s expression). To conclude, let me come back briefly to this question, and to the amazing World Mobilization to Save Middlesex Philosophy, which includes the most «academic» philosophical institutions. The closure of the Department of Philosophy, despite its very high «ranking» and «status», shows that the New Deal has been a kind of Transcendental Illusion in so far as it was supposed to offer security and bonus for excellence reserved to the «best», whilst the «common» departments and universities would be univocally submitted to the neoliberal law in all its rigour… The neoliberal truth of the New Deal is: Nous sommes tous des précaires! It gives Philosophy in its very mundane political existence (Philosophy in the City [Polis] is political philosophy) and critical «essence» some kind of new radical responsibility… The Suplica to the Pope enacts this absolute precarity and this new responsibility with regard to the Concrete Absolute incarnate in Philosophy…