Monday, March 6, 2017, 7pm, The Navigation Principle: Planetary


The ancient art of navigation is a contemporary condition. Maybe it is our contemporary popular culture. What, ultimately, are today’s conditions and consequences of navigation? The talk will propose to enter that question through the notion of the planetary as an attempt to enounce the navigation principle. The term planetary provides some sort of a working tool and curatorial methodology to learn to understand more precisely the art of navigation as an inescapable condition to think with: It takes place while driving with the car’s GPS. Or while operating the endless image of a computer-game. We navigate while surfing across digital platforms using earth-energy. It takes place on ‘left-to-die-boats’ across the Central Mediterranean Sea in life-danger. As well as on the Lac Léman in class privilege. These navigations operate through lived experiences in non-linear time, as a network of practices crossing borders, as forms of embodiment or the inscription of the feminine, on unstable grounds and liquidity towards spatial disorientation, or through the entanglement of knowledge and non-knowledge. The talk takes place in conversation with the CCC Curatorial Seminar at HEAD Genève asking ‘what is navigation?’. In that seminar, we develop a vocabulary through text-activation, thought-movements, listening, image-processing and thinking in different languages. Its objective is to process and share a political/social/queer/sonic consciousness of ‘navigation’ as a possibility for learning to live the layered complexity of the contemporary world.

Talk by Doreen Mende at HEAD – Genève, Boulevard Helvétique 9, 1205 Geneva, seminar room CCC, salle 27, 2nd floor


000 Towards the initial commitment

I am working on a train of thought, entitled Crossing and Falling, across asymmetrical movements for elaborating on the ‘initial commitment’ that took me towards the idea of navigation. The ‘initial commitment’ departs from a particular sequence in Harun Farocki’s Parallel II, where the skater crosses the threshold between the Demo Area and the Library, after which he soon will fall into a hole. The notion of ‘initial commitment’ is borrowed from Reza Negarestani’s text Navigate Against Extreme Prejudice (Definitions and Ramifications). The essay’s title might play with ‘terminate with prejudice’, a phrase used to express the brutality of an employer to fire someone, as if Negarestani would fire philosophy from its secured seat in the comfort zone of history without giving philosophy entirely up. It’s at the edge. It’s philosophy and not philosophy. A philosophy under erasure which makes it compelling for me to engage with that text as a ‘pilot’ to that blog. The ‘initial commitment’ operates on concrete grounds, e.g., the skater in the computer-game who crosses and falls that demands next steps, or ‘other entitlements. It operates like a gift which cannot be refused, that means, a gift before any form of politeness. It needs to be followed up further. With commitment, though. And this is the challenge.

“For as soon as a commitment is made, its ramifications – whether as other commitments or other entitlements – grow exponentially. The ramified path structure that an initial commitment opens up is wholly asymmetrical to that commitment. If the navigation of ramified paths always involves decision-making, it does not mean that the initial decision, its conditions and assertional content are preserved throughout the course of navigation.”  – Navigate With Extreme Prejudice (Definitions and Ramifications) Encyclonospace Iranica (Vancouver: Access, dadabase, 2013), 3.

11 Revisions.

Why The Navigation Principle (NP)

The Navigation Principle (NP) is a writing platform, conceptual diary and working journal on art, (geo-)politics, vocabularies and spatialities.

The principle of navigation states that our mode of thinking continuously moves between knowing and not-knowing in a spatial composite made of layers such as life, academia, technologies, the art of making and political/social struggle. Writing, therefore, in that sense is like living in the 21st century: never disciplined to one box or one layer, to one language or one tone, to one geography or culture, to one film or one book, to one place or the other. Living in the 21st century means being mediated by and via a screen that poses the profound question of positioning in relation to situated knowledge and a permanently split body-existence. If Serge Daney declared in 1976/77 that “The true place of the filmmaker is in the AND” between Ici et AilleursHere and Elsewhere then in 2016, the Here and the Elsewhere have been collapsed into each other. There is no AND anymore. There is no camera that captures the Elsewhere. If there is a camera then it arrives Here as data. There is no document from the Elsewhere. If there is a document then it is not an evidence of the past. Unmanned. Dronological. Machinic. Permanent. Immanent. Implicated. That condition projects us into a new kind of spatiality. How can we understand that mode of moving in several spatialities at the same time, politically? How can we read such a mode of being in a geo-graphic scene and sense, i.e.,  being written into the planet as if the body is a writing instrument. Not as a fixed inscription but a navigational ongoing process. Already writing in this wordpress template here, which only works in online-mode, is a topolitical writing. I will explain the ‘topolitical’ in a text-to-come published here. Writing, in that sense, may take place in visual, political, sonic, exhibitionary or spatial form. There are many more forms of writing. The NP as a working journal emerged from the urgency to operate inside of a semi-public space for articulating ideas inside of everyday institutional work-obligations at an art academy, pressuring deadlines, the will to write with a certain pressure to write thoughts. The conceptual diary is another term for it, but highlights the necessity to write from a particular moment with the inscription of the feminine. The writing platform will offer space for collecting thoughts for text or writing commissions that I am delaying and delaying. Under the imaginary permanent never sleeping gaze of algorithms, I hope, it will support the ‘initial commitment’ that it takes to process thought.

This is a particular NP, conceived by Doreen Mende. It brings together the admiration for differing ways of thinking such of Reza Negarestani, Gayatri Spivak and Hélène Cixous, as well as Benjamin Bretton, Emily Apter, Sylvain Lazarus (an impossible constellation of voices)… In that line, my comrades at the Harun Farocki Institut in Berlin are part of that thought process too. Furthermore, the work with students – all women – in my Curatorial seminar 2016/17 at CCC Master of HEAD in Geneva are interlocutors here as well. I wish that the NP will also re-inaugurate the means to continue to work visually towards navigated forms of images, or navigated forms of optic operations in the future.