Autonomia: Broadcasting Beyond the Code


Drawing on Baudrillard, Berardi maintains that A/Traverso, Radio Alice, and other creative groups of Autonomia deployed a strategy of symbolic disorder – a strategy that the French philosopher has described as a Pataphysical science of “imaginary solutions” characterized by the formulation of nonsensical and tautological arguments, the lack of demand, even of a rational subject of enunciation. Such strategy was clearly articulated in a text titled “False information may produce real events,” published by A/Traverso in 1976…:

…Acting like a mirror, Radio Alice is language beyond the mirror. It has built a space in which the subject does not recognize himself as in a mirror, as restored truth, as fixed reproduction, but as the practice of an existence in becoming. And language is one of the levels whereby life is transformed. It is not enough to denounce power’s lies, it is also necessary to denounce and break power’s truth. When power says the truth and pretends it is natural, we must denounce what is inhuman and absurd in this order of reality that the order of discourse reproduces, reflects, and consolidates. Unveiling the delirious nature of power. It is necessary to take the place of (self-validating) power and speaking with its voice. Emitting signs with the voice and tone of power. False signs.1


Gray are the coats of the cops who have imprisoned comrade Bifo, gray are their instruments of death. Gray is the prison where he has been locked up, gray are the bedroom communities, gray are the streets in the business district. Obtuse is the constable who holds in his hand the hoods of his colleagues who rummage through the comrade’s effects, obtuse are the police who for three months recorded the phone calls, obtuse is the television. Dangerous are the organs of repression, dangerous because of the latest submachine gun model, dangerous is the judge who arrests first then looks for proof. Dangerous are the roads and squares infested with the angels of death of a system always more minoritarian, dangerous are the factories and the shipyards, dangerous to decide whether or not to let a child see the light of day.

…But let them say it clearly: It is dada that terrorizes the gray, the obtuse, the dangerous.2


I had the chance today to see inside the corporate offices of the local headquarters of a national fast food chain, and I think these two quotes provide a proper counterpoint to our post-Fordist, immaterial labor/cognitive-electronic control system that we’re ensnared in – in my mind, at least. The air of the offices was thick with boredom, repetition .. The adversary of the Autonomists, though it is functionally the same one that we are discussing today (albeit one that was in the major shift to neoliberalism), took on a far more militarized stance – as opposed the perpetually prevelant molecularized ‘soft power’ control and modeling that we face in our general, everyday life – their ruminations on the “gray, obtuse, and dangerous” reflect the environment of these office complexes quite well. Gray is the overwhelming color: the carpetted floors, the hallways, the row after row of cubicles are in this color, with the only variety coming in the onslaught of corporate logos and inspirational posters. Obtuse is the circular logic of tasks, the feigned pleasantries, the replacement of social interaction with ‘office politics.’ The fact that everywhere one was confronted with laminated signs reminding us that the stairwell is the “cheapest gym there is” speaks to the dangers arising from the destructive tendencies inherent in the sedentary life of the cubicle worker. And as dangerous too, following the obtuse, is the sense of dissatisfaction and even depression that comes with lack of a proper social. The corporation’s cure could be found on flyers distributed around the office: “Feeling lonely, bored, or lost? Call a meeting!”

Maybe a little Dada, a little Pataphysics, a little nonsense and absurdity is what we need, something to both shatter the glass cage of boredom and depression and to scramble or evade the codes of the system that is generating both of these things at our collective expense.

1Marco Deseriis “Irony and Politics of Composition in the Philosophy of Franco “Bifo” Berardi

2A/Traverso “Radio Alice – Free Radio” in Sylvere Lotringer, Christian Marazzi (ed.) Autonomia: Post-Political Politics Semiotext(e), 2007, pgs. 130-134

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4 Responses to Autonomia: Broadcasting Beyond the Code

  1. dmfant says:

    hard to imagine that such a moment/act would have very wide/deep reverberations, my experience is that by and large people prefer the hellish limbo they know how to operate in (even while bitching/chattering about it endlessly, tho never directly in planning meetings) to a move into the unknown, have you known sustainable exceptions to this ‘rule’?

    • edmundberger says:

      No, I don’t believe that a sort of pataphysical/dada-esque action would have much impact in the long run either, but I also don’t think that every action must have ongoing reverberations. There is something to be said of Bey’s temporary autonomous zones, forming and dissolving ahead of capitalism – as long as such things resist the temptation to become like the Carnival of the Middle Ages, a church-sanctioned ‘release valve’ for underclass discontent. Experiment modes of thought and art could also count as encounters with alterity, that fatal sensation that is all too absent in our media-saturated world.

      But yes, what of practicality? It is true that by and large the general post-Fordist cognitari (and those of us stuck in the peripheral Fordism of the uneven labor planes) would have little interest in engaging in Jarry-esque ‘beyond’-thinking or subjecting themselves to something like the Cabaret Voltaire. While I’m thinking primarily of these art movements as filtered through their appropriations by militants (May of ’68, Autonomia, etc), both Jarry and the original Dadaists were bizarre manifestations of a politically-charged anarchic spirit that assaulted their time and place relentlessly. Greil Marcus describes dada as a deep seated discontent with the situation of one’s era, a discontent so powerful that one grinds their teeth down to points, and exploding outward, discontent turning into a gleeful negation that transgresses the boundaries,norms, and mores of art,politics, and everyday life. I can’t point to any clear ‘sustainable’ example of the impact of this outside the “culture sphere” (a debatable term in itself), but I know quite a few people who have been permanently altered by these kinds of experiences. Not a platform for macropolitics then, but an element that can work on the micropolitical level.

      • dmfant says:

        as you work your way through these issues I would be interested in hearing more detail about these alterations and how they play out in the to and fro of life, especially work life, my own experience is that truly alternative views/orientations/voices aren’t exactly welcome.

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