Fillip 19 — Spring 2014

Scripting Misperformance, Misperforming Scripts
Byron Peters and Jacob Wick

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. 
The troublemakers. The round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. —Apple Inc. (1997)1

The recuperation of rebellious traits within the logic of late capitalism is neither unconventional nor new. That Apple should celebrate “the troublemakers,” those who would ostensibly undermine corporations such as itself, is of course no surprise: in a crude Sun Tzu-esque logic, any system seeking to perpetuate itself might continually encourage its own destruction. As Jean-François Lyotard has written, such a regulatory, normative entity “can and must encourage such movement to the extent it combats its own entropy; the novelty of an unexpected ‘move’...can supply the system with that increased performativity it forever demands and consumes.”2 The trend of harnessing the renegade spirit toward a space for creativity and controlled subversion runs deep in cultures of innovation and entrepreneurship.3 But the sanctioning of random and disjunct behaviour possesses something outside the mere romanticization of the individual creative act that fuels the ideology of creative capitalism. In this scenario, we also see the encouragement of rebellion, the “crazy enough,” within systems of control that allow such systems to reduce the possibility of unexpected action, thereby ensuring their ultimate survival. In the logic of resilience, the unexpected is scripted into the structure of hegemonic control: expect the unexpected.

Where have we heard this general sentiment before? One might think of the function of the carnival in sovereign societies as a sort of release valve for a repressed populace, with the aim of neutralizing the effect on the individual of a repressive apparatus.4 More recently, sanctioned mass actions serve as a counterbalance to decentralized power in disciplinary societies. In “Postscript on the Societies of Control” (1992), Gilles Deleuze describes this phenomenon in terms of industrial production: “the factory constituted individuals as a single body to the double advantage of the boss who surveyed each element within the mass and the unions who mobilized a mass resistance.”5 Here even unions (“the rebels”) become implicated when control requires the amassing of fragmented socialities.

Describing a more contemporary harnessing of the unexpected, Deleuze continues: “the corporation constantly presents the brashest rivalry as a healthy form of emulation, an excellent motivation force.”6 We see this shift from “mobilization” to “motivation” as a progressive reduction of the unexpected by first centralized, then decentralized, now distributed apparatuses.7 For any system of control, the unexpected presents a threat; as these systems have matured, the containment of this threat has moved from public spectacle to private incentive. The security of a distributed system of control depends on the willing participation of its subjects: Apple’s “rebels” are well suited to a thoroughly gamified8 sense of possibility whereby the production of possibility itself is co-produced between sanctioned virtual and material spaces.

More broadly, Sven Lütticken has written of the rapid solidification, from the mid twentieth century onwards, of abstract thought into “operational concepts,”9 concrete units of exchange that gain currency through the programmatic reproduction of “commodified pseudo-symbols.”10 Untethered from objecthood, the operational concept is allowed to float freely as “the practically indifferent bearers of transcendental corporate ideas.”11 Here operational concepts become the basic units of exchange in late capitalism as abstracted language and material, serving primarily to reproduce themselves. In the form of brand names, currency, or even—as Lütticken argues—certain forms of art, these units operate much like a graphic interface of a computer program (as in branding, architectural embellishment, etc.), serving to obfuscate the machinations of the program itself, including any data “input” by the programmer or “interactive” user.

Lütticken’s theorization of the operational concept complements Alexander Galloway’s description of “protocol.” The operational concept is an abstract set of instructions (be they technical, creative, or both) that carry real value across the transcendental corporate vista of late capitalism; the protocol, meanwhile, is an abstract set of instructions that standardizes and negotiates chaotic behaviour, human and otherwise, into the hierarchical structures that form the top-down skyline of this vista.12 For Galloway, protocol is “synonymous with possibility”;13 for Lütticken, the operational concept is “our horizon.”14 The operational concept and protocol are not synonymous, but are deeply imbricated in one another: the former as the unit of exchange in control societies, the latter as the unit of management.

At the core of both operational concept and protocol are circuits and language, human or computer, which regulate a field of possible action. In this article, we will be referring to this medium as a “script,” a term that both alludes to the prescriptive nature of such language and also travels easily between aesthetics and technology. We are primarily concerned with the scripting of randomness-as-intervention in aesthetic practice, a strategy that ultimately serves to safeguard, rather than undermine, structures of control. For algorithmic systems—be they financial markets or cloud platforms—chance often plays the role of the internalization of crisis within neoliberal capitalism. Indeed, within particular models—trends within artistic production, data architecture, and national security—we argue that such internal disruption is increasingly welcomed, produced, and instrumentalized while decreasing the agency of the actors involved. In this line of thought, if certain systems of control embrace misperformance to maintain their status quo, the scene is continuously set anew for resistance to pre-scripted social forms.

A Certain Well-framed “Tacet”

Chance-based operations appear as a compositional strategy in the Western art canon roughly coterminous with the advent of control society, which Deleuze and Galloway place around the end of World War II.15 Principal in this canon is the figure of John Cage, who utilized a variety of chance operations, most often the I Ching, in scoring his compositions. Chance-based operations—utilizing the I Ching, phone numbers, star atlases, etc.—have appeared in innumerous performance works since the advent of serial compositional techniques in the early twentieth century.16 In these “scripted misperformances,” a compositional strategy located outside of the person of the composer/artist source is brought in to disrupt or intervene in the conventional ordering of a specific composition, at their most humble, or society, at their most brash. We will argue here that these scripted misperformances, which package chaotic or unpredictable action within known or predictable forms, occur parallel with, rather than counter to, distributed systems of control in late-capitalist society.

Emblematic in Cage’s oeuvre is his silent composition. In this composition, performed first by virtuoso pianist David Tudor in 1952, the performer is asked to tacet, or be silent, for three separate movements; how to differentiate the three movements is not discussed.17 Importantly, the score dictates that “the title of this work is the total length in minutes and seconds of its performance.”18 The composition is thus based in the body of the performer and not an outside chance operation. Further, the composition undoes itself each time it is performed, abandoning its previous title, the total time in minutes and seconds of its previous performance, for a new one, the total time in minutes and seconds of its current performance. In this composition, although the score never changes, its script does, based on the ultimately unanticipated decisions of its embodied performer.

When Tudor sat at a piano in a concert hall in Woodstock, New York, to perform the composition, he sat for three periods of 33˝, 2´40˝, and 1´20˝, for a total of 4´33˝. With the pianist onstage sitting silently, the audience was left to its own devices, expected by Cage to create an aesthetic experience for themselves by listening to the ambient sound of the room—an expectation that the audience, notably, was not aware of. The audience was faced with what we would term an “unexpected-unexpected”: an instance of chaotic experience that could not have been previously prepared for or guarded against. In this unexpected-unexpected, the operational concept “concert,” whereby the genius of the composer is delivered via the virtuosity of the performer to a passive audience, and its attendant protocol of “concert-going,” a hierarchical ordering of composer-performer-audience, was frozen, albeit temporarily. The audience, confronted with their implicit and unacknowledged participation in a repressive apparatus, was scandalized within a yet-unknown duration.

The effect of the original performance bears striking similarity to what Giorgio Agamben refers to as “a gag in the proper meaning of the term, indicating first of all something that could be put in your mouth to hinder speech, as well as in the sense of the actor’s improvisation meant to compensate a loss of memory or an inability to speak.”19 For Agamben, the capacity of human gesture, “the sphere of pure means,” appears in the gag as “a gigantic loss in memory, as an incurable speech defect.”20 Following ancient Roman philosopher Marcus Terentius Varro, Agamben posits that action consists not only of acting (agere) and making (facere), but also of carrying or carrying on (gerere). This third category of action, which Agamben inscribes as “the gesture,” “breaks with the false alternatives between ends and means that paralyzes morality and presents instead means that, as such, evade the orbit of mediality without becoming, for this reason, ends.”21 In the gag, the sudden and unexpected forgetting of the script—the annulment of both the actor’s acting and the playwright’s making—causes that which supports or carries the acting/making, namely the being-in-the-script of the actor and audience, to appear. In the case of the performance of Cage’s as-yet-unnamed silent composition in 1952, the silencing of the virtuoso David Tudor for an unanticipated duration within the formal constraints of the musical performance made these constraints appear in themselves, exposing the being-in-the-script of Tudor, Cage, and the audience, and opening “the sphere of ethos”—the preconditions for the undoing of repressive scripts.22

An unexpected-unexpected does not strike twice, however. Tudor’s performance, 4´33˝, has become synonymous with Cage’s silent composition; indeed, the two are nearly indistinguishable. In these reperformances of 4´33˝, the insertion of the “unexpected” into an eminently anticipated format serves not to make apparent or resist, but rather to reinforce those forms of elitism and hierarchies of access already extant within the protocol of musical performance.23 For Yvonne Rainer, the silence of 4´33˝ merely allows the prevailing order to continue as usual; here performative silence operates as the presentation but also re-enforcement of patriarchal order. Following Julia Kristeva, Rainer states that the gagging of the signifying subject causes “modifications of discourse [to] become untenable.”24 While initially Tudor’s silence might have been itself a “modification” ironically allowed by the absence of directed sound, the reperformances create a system of well-framed unexpectedness, or, in other words: pre-scripted faux-chaos, which basks in the conditions in which it is embedded.

Not only does the silencing-of-voices-as-composition follow the hierarchical logic of classical performance, but the very fact that these performances invariably present themselves as interventions forecloses on more rigorous “modifications of discourse.” As a room becomes saturated in floating signifiers, controlled by an overarching rule of silence, it begins to resemble a repressive social arena whereby signifiers without anchor may inherently follow dominant logics of power.25 Moreover, while the hierarchies between performers and audience members may be nodded to, the event itself demonstrates centralized auratic power (even on YouTube) through the spectacular framing of the event.26 For us, the ongoing reperformances of Tudor’s 4´33˝ as “radical” practice serve as an exemplary model of what we are referring to as scripted misperformance, or the inclusion of disruptive or entropic attributes into a normative, regulatory script.

Scripted Misperformance: Netflix

[Chaos Monkey] comes from the idea of unleashing a wild monkey with a weapon in your data center (or cloud region) to randomly shoot down instances and chew through cables—all the while we continue serving our customers without interruption.

—Yury Izrailevsky and Ariel Tseitlin (Netflix)

For Netflix—which stores its data on Amazon Web Services, the world’s biggest cloud storage provider, or the “Walmart of the Web”27—the expectation of the unexpected, or the deployment of chance operations, might not operate in relation to a Cagean strategy of egolessness or death of the author28 (unless, of course, if one considers the transfer of labour from subject to algorithm as an authorial disappearance). Here, randomness-as-intervention finds a different function from that of stimulating creativity outside of centralized production: it is instrumentalized precisely to ensure the continuation of the very structures it threatens. Moreover, this logic of requiring internal disruption might not require humans to perform chaos or silence after all, at least when the goal is resilience.

In July 2012, Netflix open sourced29 its “Chaos Monkey”30 software designed “to randomly kill instances and services.”31 This Chaos Monkey is a virtual entity that traverses Netflix’s expansive cloud networks with the purpose of silencing random virtual servers on a daily basis. By performing this seemingly contradictory function, Chaos Monkey tests the flexibility and endurance of Netflix and suggests ways for its engineers to ensure Netflix’s ultimate stability. As Netflix engineer Cory Bennett and executive Ariel Tseitlin describe, “the best defense against major unexpected failures is to fail often. By frequently causing failures, we force our services to be built in a way that is more resilient.”32 The “failures” that Netflix has in mind are not necessarily minor bruises and scrapes, either; Chaos Monkey is one part of the broader “Simian Army” framework that also includes entities such as “Chaos Gorilla,” which “simulates an outage of an entire Amazon availability zone.”33 We do wonder what social, environmental, or economic disruption Chaos Gorilla might quietly predict, what unimaginable horror Netflix’s servers must withstand in order for those with computer access to continue watching House of Cards.34 Regardless of the nature of Netflix’s imagined apocalypse, it has designed a protocol that internalizes its own destruction in order to avoid that destruction.35

The algorithms of Chaos Monkey purge continuously and without discrimination; for it to function properly, risk must be distributed equally among stored data. Here randomness (or for Cage and his contemporaries, “chance operations”) presents a scenario without the mess of human subjectivity. But in the physical workplace, those employees who have designed the interconnections between newly destroyed data, which fail to provide resilient options, could find their jobs at risk. Perhaps, unlike its popular image in the blogosphere, Chaos Monkey is not a cleverly removed, non-human process, but rather an employee roster-cleansing, embedded in a scenario of imminent disaster. This raises a broad question for the notion of productivity and labour conditions in general: Are “good” employees those who work efficiently in states of constant collapse? More generally, this example speaks to the logic of productivity within neoliberal capitalism: crisis and instability are not only internalized, but pre-enacted. We see this as an algorithmically enhanced model of creative destruction:36 the establishment of greater vulnerabilities (to be capitalized upon) progresses alongside ever-evolving needs for new models of security.

But Netflix is perhaps better known for its scripts not premised on non-human actions, such as its “recommendations” algorithm,37 or for scripting new shows based off of viewers’ statistics.38 Here our use of “script” finds an additional connotation: the matching of personal and fictional narratives with social-algorithmic patterns in the production of media content itself. In these recommendations algorithms (reminiscent of personalization within Facebook’s newsfeed, or the so-called “filter bubble”39), the denial of access to confusion presents itself as a colonization of the imagination through discrete and visible limits. Here the operational concept “Netflix” works hand in hand with a delimitation of the possible by the “Simian Army” protocol to produce a resilient subject.


In the penultimate section of his 2007 book Brave New War, titled “Rethinking Security,” military theorist John Robb pins the survival of the “global system”—distributed control society—on its ability to “dynamically mitigate and dampen system shocks” via a system of “Dynamic Decentralized Resilience.”40 Robb advises that security apparatuses decentralize and focus on “ecosystems” and “sustainability,” focusing not on an overarching security superstructure but rather on local, transparent, open-source systems.41 By focusing on openness, transparency, and local concerns, security apparatuses increasingly become naturalized within the everyday existence of the locality they protect. Indeed, Robb writes, by “building resilience into the fabric of our daily life, our response to these threats will organically emerge in what seems like an effortless way.”42 Here the hope is to sustain the “global system” through the production, via consensus, of a resilient citizenry that will maintain the system through any unexpected event.

In a short commentary titled “Resisting Resilience,” published in Radical Philosophy (April 2013), Mark Neocleous also writes of a general transition from security to resilience. He briefly traces the impact of this term on the concept of security, noting, for example, that The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (2002), published following 9/11, only mentions “resilience” once, whereas the National Strategy for Homeland Security (2007) is “obsessed with the idea of resilience.”43 Regarding the latter document, Neocleous notes the connection between resilience of structural concerns and interpersonal, individual, and “community” application: resilience is planned not only for “the system as a whole” but also for “the American spirit,” with the aim to “disrupt the enemy’s plans and diminish the impact of future disasters through measures that enhance the resilience of our economy and critical infrastructure before an incident occurs.”44 Moreover, documents such as the UK’s National Security Strategy (2008) emphasize “human and social resilience” and “community resilience.”45 Regarding the implications of the personalizing of resilience in relation to broader socioeconomic structures, Neocleous is worth quoting at length:

Good subjects will “survive and thrive in any situation,” they will “achieve balance” across the several insecure and part-time jobs they have, “overcome life’s hurdles” such as facing retirement without a pension to speak of, and just “bounce back” from whatever life throws, whether it be cuts to benefits, wage freezes or global economic meltdown. Neoliberal citizenship is nothing if not a training in resilience as the new technology of the self: a training to withstand whatever crisis capital undergoes and whatever political measures the state carries out to save it.46

Resilience, then, becomes the protocol of neoliberal citizenship, a means for capital to maintain hegemonic control across political, environmental, economic, and personal crises. In the manner of a crowd-sourced biopower,47 resilience applies not only to software, as has been discussed in regards to Chaos Monkey or Simian Army, but also to the self. Resilience justifies and makes immanent—even benign—a securitization of the self. The resilient citizen not only internalizes the security apparatus, but views it as desirable, welcoming chaos and precarity into his or her life as necessary and inevitable. In other words, the danger of resilience is not merely a making-sustainable of the status quo, but an often unspoken internal process of pre-enacted self-destruction toward preparedness, a sort of Simian Army–within.

Misperforming Scripts

Resilient citizenship “demands that we accommodate ourselves to capital and the state, and the secure future of both, rather than resist them.”48 Understood as a securitization of the self, resilience is thus predicated on consensus, the tacit agreement among a public that the rules of participation in that public should be regularized and reproduced toward a general freedom for that public.49 This Habermasian view of consensus has been problematized as “outmoded and suspect” since the early ’80s, if not earlier, by Lyotard (whose focus on dissensus has recently and famously been picked up by Jacques Rancière).50 In “Co-autonomous Ethics and the Production of Misunderstanding,” Patricia Reed, drawing on the work of Rancière and of Simon Critchley, locates art’s political efficacy in its ability to confound consensus. Reed celebrates a “relational experience of other sensorial orders as an agency of perception”—a recognition on the audience’s part of their position within a regime of the sensible that this feeling is other than. In this way, art might work to unravel the “naturalized chain of understanding that buttresses consensual regimes of perceptibility” by producing a situation in which it may be recognized as such.51 For us, what Reed terms “the production of misunderstanding” arises from misperforming scripts, or executing regulatory codes in ways that gag the operational concepts they support. 

Laurel Ptak’s Wages for Facebook (2013) serves as one example. A reworking of 1970s Marxist-feminist discourse toward highlighting the invisible, reproductive labour performed by Facebook’s one billion users worldwide, Wages could be seen as a redeclaration of social media in economic terms, whereby the social network explicitly becomes voluntary affective work. Even within the mere phrase “Wages for Facebook,” an operational concept is baffled into showing its constituent parts: the reproductive labour responsible for the constant remaking of societal image and structure as maintained centrally and decentrally through hierarchical means. Like Wages for Housework (or some declarations of it, particularly that of Silvia Federici52), Wages makes a demand that is simultaneously tangible (everyone understands the concept of “wage”) and unmeetable, due to the expansiveness of the exploitative system being addressed. Further, Wages floats as a series of events and ideas, without requiring the desire to embed itself into the logic encapsulated in misperformance. There is no Facebook group or page for Wages for Facebook, through which it would acquire scripted value for itself and Facebook. Galloway has stated, “Protocol is a circuit, not a sentence.”53 Wages presents itself more as a series of sentences, with the hopes and patience for a different logic of circuit from a less-encapsulated position.

In settings where participation is thoroughly encouraged within distributed networks, the edges of productive activity are increasingly blurred; here the misperformance within Wages also demonstrates the consensually accepted paradox of wages and conceptions of productivity. In the 1970s, the call to wage housework (and caregiving itself) already questioned whether there was any definable perimeter to “productive” work. Similarly, to wage Facebook could imply a broad questioning of labour in general: it might demand wages for all “prosumerist” (simultaneously “productive” and consumerist)54 activities: vacationing, going to the cinema, tweeting (workers would be paid per word, we assume), using ATMs, etc. Here, once misperformance forgets (or, gags) the repressive script and exposes its contradictions, it could expand outward as a sort of “pure means,” setting the scene for the possibility of life without dependence on the sheen of operational concepts. Rather than being deployed as an intervention, misperformance can call into confusion the script itself and suspend its tendency to appropriate “the troublemakers.”

Other misperformances (briefly described here as thought experiments) could involve the positing of regulatory scripts in inappropriate registers, such as Danh Vo’s naming project, Vo Vosasco Rasmussen (2002–), where the artist marries and divorces people in order to add their names to his own; Cassie Thornton’s Richard Serra Debt Tour (2012), during which the artist gained sanctioned tour guide status at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and delivered tours describing Serra’s drawings as phenomenological infographics and charts of debt; or Monte Masi’s Residency on My Back (2013), which employed the standard script of the global arts residency circuit to ludicrous ends.55 These undertakings do not utilize a uniform methodology, nor do they produce identical effects. If there is a through line between these projects, it may be their focus on the support, on the carrying or carrying on (literally, in the case of Masi) through an irreconcilable reframing of structures. In other words, the script is replaced with a separate, contradictory narrative or set of demands.

More broadly, and outside of the particular scripts of art,56 one could also think of mass mobilizations that carry seemingly impossible criteria or operate without central goals: these are formations that range from the opening stages of the Occupy movement, to Los Indignados in Spain, to long-standing networks of queer intentional communities in rural areas of the southern and central United States. Each particular misperformance of neoliberal scripts yields the possibility of new forms of being-together in contrast to protocological norms and formerly naturalized chains of understanding.

The lack of common identifying features within these examples of misperformance may be more of a strength than a weakness. Writing thirty years ago, Lyotard stressed that “dissension...must be emphasized” over consensus-based forms of legitimation.57 As the support of resilience, consensus carries within it the kernel of terror, of “dehumanizing [humanity] in order to rehumanize it at a different level of normative capacity” in order to maintain the efficiency of the system.58 The dissension Lyotard writes of, though, may not necessarily have to do with the act of dissent, nor with the making of dissenting objects or images, but rather with a method of legitimation that emphasizes reasoning based on similarities that imply neither sameness in kind nor in function. This method of legitimation, which Lyotard terms “legitimation by paralogy,” would only be possible in a situation where all actors are aware of the language game—what we have been referring to as “script” and what Agamben refers to as “the being-in-language of human beings”—they are participating in and all of the possible moves it affords them.59 If, as Agamben suggests, we are inextricable from our language, and if, as we have been suggesting, this language has been contaminated by invasive, regulatory scripts that serve to depreciate human agency, we must do everything in our power to see ourselves in language in order to determine whose language we are in. Doing so will not be a process of establishing newly normative scripts, arrangements of like-things aimed toward like-goals. The implication of Apple’s use of “the crazy” at the beginning of this text is such that there is a vast, opportunistic divide between those who can be appropriated and those who cannot. We should have the patience to be organized enough to be rigorously irreconcilable together.

  1. In 1997, Apple Inc. launched its “Think Different” advertising campaign. Its inaugural advertisement, “Here’s to the Crazy Ones,” features a twenty-five-second montage of figures, each given approximately two seconds each, including Albert Einstein, Isadora Duncan, Martin Luther King Jr., Alfred Hitchcock, Muhammad Ali, and Jerry Seinfeld. In his introduction to the ad campaign, originally to a select group of Apple employees and stockholders, now available on YouTube, Steve Jobs compares the ad campaign to Nike’s contemporaneous ad campaign “honouring legendary athletes.” He also mentions that the purpose of the ad campaign would not be to sell Apple products based on their specific workings, but rather on their ethos. “This ad campaign,” Jobs gushes, “touches on the very soul of our company.” “Steve Jobs Introduces Think Different—Apple Special Event Excerpt (1997),” YouTube video, 6:55, posted by EverySteveJobsVideo, December 21, 2012,
  2. Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 15.
  3. See, for example, Fred Turner, “Burning Man at Google: A Cultural Infrastructure for New Media Production,” New Media & Society 11, no. 1–2 (April 2009), 145–66.
  4. Of course this “release valve” is a significant component of sports, entertainment, video games, etc. More specifically, we are referring to cathartic rituals somewhat like those described in popular fiction, such as in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” (1948) or even the film The Purge (2013).
  5. Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” October, no. 59 (Winter 1992), 4–5.
  6. Ibid., 5.
  7. For more on the periodization of sovereign, disciplinary, and control societies and the transition from “decentralized” to “distributed” networks, see Alexander Galloway, Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), 20–27.
  8. For more on “gamification”, see, for example, “Fun Is the Future: Mastering Gamification”, YouTube video, 59:21, posted by GoogleTechTalks, November 1, 2010,; Michael Venables, “Ben Bertoli’s ClassRealm Is Gamifying the Classroom,” Wired, May 7, 2012,; or even Mark J. Nelson, “Soviet and American Precursors to the Gamification of Work” (paper, MindTrek Conference, Tampere, Finland, October 3–5, 2012).
  9. For Lütticken, the operational concept appears at the historical intersection of conceptual art and information technology. Conceptual art, represented by the figure of Sol LeWitt, has abstracted the object into a dematerialized, reproducible set of instructions; information technology has abstracted currency into algorithms. In their abstraction, however, neither a LeWitt work nor the dollar loses its value. Quite the opposite, in fact. They become, Lütticken writes, “the ultimate commodity.” Sven Lütticken, “Attending to Abstract Things,” New Left Review, no. 54 (November/December 2008), 119.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Galloway, Protocol, 3, 6–13, and 243–44. In pages 6–11, Galloway points out the role of Internet Protocol (IP) in allotting packets of information floating along horizontal networks into the vertical structure of the Domain Name System (DNS).
  13. Ibid., 244.
  14. Lütticken, “Attending to Abstract Things,” 119.
  15. Twelve-tone composition, wherein the tonal content of a musical composition is dictated by a strict numerical set of twelve tonal relations, rather than by traditional Western harmonic standards, was developed by Arnold Schoenberg between 1907 and 1909. This set the scene for later musical avant-gardes, from the rigorous seriality of Milton Babbitt to the work of John Cage and his contemporaries, that emerged after the two World Wars. For more on Schoenberg and twelve-tone composition, see Robert P. Morgan, Twentieth-Century Music: A History of Musical Style in Modern Europe and America (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), 62–88.
  16. See Marc G. Jensen, “John Cage, Chance Operations, and the Chaos Game: Cage and the ‘I Ching,’” Musical Times, no. 1907 (Summer 2009), 97–102; and Konrad Boehmer and Ian Pepper, “Chance as Ideology,” October, no. 82 (Autumn 1997), 62–76.
  17. A version of this score is publicly available online through the New York Public Library. See “Manuscript Excerpt: 4:33,” John Cage Unbound: A Living Archive,
  18. Ibid. (first image).
  19. Giorgio Agamben, Means without End: Notes on Politics, trans. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 57. Emphasis in the original.
  20. Ibid., 60.
  21. Ibid., 57.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Yvonne Rainer, “Looking Myself in the Mouth,” October, no. 17 (Summer 1981), 69.
  24. Ibid.
  25. For more on this logic, but in the context of 1960s women’s liberation and radical feminist collectives, see Jo Freeman, “The Tyranny of Structurelessness,” Berkeley Journal of Sociology, no. 17 (1972–73).
  26. The search term “4’33”” turns up sixteen million videos on YouTube. We are thinking specifically here of a reperformance of 4’33” by the BBC Orchestra, originally aired on BBC Four and currently available on YouTube: “John Cage – 4’33”,” YouTube video, 9:23, posted by Peop Hoofd, October 1, 2010,
  27. “Amazon: The Walmart of the Web,” Economist, October 1, 2011.
  28. Rainer also juxtaposes Cage and Roland Barthes in “Looking Myself in the Mouth,” 66–67.
  29. Cory Bennett and Ariel Tseitlin, “Chaos Monkey Released into the Wild,” The Netflix Tech Blog, July 30, 2012,
  30. The open-source tools can be found at
  31. John Ciancutti, “5 Lessons We’ve Learned Using AWS,” The Netflix Tech Blog, December 16, 2010,
  32. Bennett and Tseitlin, “Chaos Monkey Released into the Wild.”
  33. Yury Izrailevsky and Ariel Tseitlin, “The Netflix Simian Army,” The Netflix Tech Blog, July 19, 2011,
  34. Arguably, the Internet itself was designed in its early forms to survive nuclear warfare. As Galloway states: “the Net was designed as a solution to the vulnerability of the military’s centralized system of command and control during the 1950s and beyond.” Galloway, Protocol, 3.
  35. This is not to say that technological networks can themselves be immune from ruination. But rather than chaos being the result of the anarchical forms of distributed networks, it is increasingly internalized. The destruction that results from resilience resembles ruination primarily as a form of creative destruction, whereby the “old” replaces the “new” within scripts of accumulation. Marx initially posited creative destruction as vernichtung, or “creative annihilation,” a central contradiction that would inevitably lead to ruination. But as these forces became a sort of triumph of entrepreneurial worldviews by thinkers such as Joseph Schumpeter and built into the security apparatus in the form of resilience, the contradiction continued as an engine of the status quo of progress. See David Harvey, “Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, no. 610 (March 2007), 22–44; Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2010); and Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (rough draft), trans. Martin Nicolaus (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993).
  36. See David Harvey, “Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction” and Matthew Buckingham and David Harvey, “Tracing Creative Destruction,” Fillip, no. 18 (Spring 2013), 103–11.
  37. For example, see Tom Vanderbilt, “The Science behind the Netflix Algorithms that Decide What You’ll Watch Next,” Wired, August 7, 2013,
  38. For example, see David Carr, “Giving Viewers What They Want,” New York Times, February 24, 2013,
  39. For more on newsfeeds, Facebook, and the “filter bubble”, see, for example, Bernard Stiegler, “The Most Precious Good in the Era of Social Technologies,” Mercedes Bunz, “As You Like It: Critique in the Era of an Affirmative Discourse,” and Korinna Patelis, “Political Economy and Monopoly Abstractions: What Social Media Demand,” in Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives, ed. Geert Lovink and Miriam Rasch (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2013).
  40. John Robb, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2007), 164.
  41. Ibid., 164–83.
  42. Ibid., 183.
  43. Mark Neocleous, “Resisting Resilience,” Radical Philosophy, no. 178 (March/April 2013),
  44. National Security Council, National Strategy for Homeland Security, Washington DC, October 2007, i, 25–31, 42, and 47.
  45. Cabinet Office, The National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom: Security in an Interdependent World, HMSO, London, 2008, 8, 9, 26, 41–45, and 55.
  46. Neocleous, “Resisting Resilience.”
  47. For analyses of biopower, see Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1, The Will to Knowledge (London: Penguin, 1998) and The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979 (London: Picador, 2010).
  48. Neocleous, “Resisting Resilience.”
  49. This assessment of Habermasian consensus borrows heavily from Lyotard’s. See The Postmodern Condition, 60–66, 72, and 73.
  50. See, for example, Jonathan McKenzie and Craig Stalbaum, “Manufacturing Consensus: Goldman, Kropotkin, and the Order of an Anarchist Canon,” in Feminist Interpretations of Emma Goldman, ed. Penny A. Weiss and Loretta Kensinger (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2006).
  51. Patricia Reed, “Co-autonomous Ethics and the Production of Misunderstanding,” Fillip, no. 16 (2012), 30–33.
  52. See Silvia Federici, “Wages against Housework” (Bristol: Power of Women Collective and Falling Wall Press, 1975). For an assessment of Wages for Housework in a contemporary context, see Dayna Tortorici, “More Smiles? More Money,” n+1, Fall 2013, 189–200.
  53. Galloway, Protocol, 53.
  54. See George Ritzer and Nathan Jurgenson, “Production, Consumption, Prosumption: The Nature of Capitalism in the Age of the Digital Prosumer,” Journal of Consumer Culture 10, no. 13 (2010).
  55. Of Vo Vosasco Rasmussen (2002–), Vo has mentioned that “it is good to exercise the bureaucracy,” suggesting perhaps that concentrating on protocol might help us see through it (see “Danh Vo in Conversation with Bartholomew Ryan,” YouTube video, 74:04, posted by Walker Art Center, March 30, 2012, Thornton led three Richard Serra Debt Tours during Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which ran from October 15, 2011, to January 16, 2012. During the tour, Thornton also passed out debt-oriented exhibition maps and asked the group to visualize and reflect on the form of their own debt. Masi’s Residency on My Back asked applying artists to describe their goals for their residency and pay a residency fee; applications were judged by Bay Area curator and critic Glen Helfand, among others. Artists chosen for the residency were carried on Masi’s back until they felt they had met their residency goals.
  56. For a droll assessment of social-regulatory aspects of the art world, see Pablo Helguera, Art Scenes: The Social Scripts of the Art World (New York: Jorge Pinto Books, 2012).
  57. Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, 61.
  58. Ibid., 63–66.
  59. Ibid., 66, and Agamben, Means without End, 58. “Paralogy” is a term borrowed from biological sciences that infers a biological or morphological similarity without implying homology or similarity of function. Lyotard posits paralogy, rather than analogy, as the goal of discussion, whereby all actors in a given conversation would see as the goal of that conversation not agreement on a particular subject or idea, but rather a mutual awareness of the heterogeneity of rules at play in that discussion.
About the Authors

Byron Peters is an artist, organizer, and writer who lives in London. He works in the Vancouver-based organizations Coupe and the Lower Mainland Painting Co. (LMPC).

Jacob Wick is an artist, writer, and improviser who lives in Los Angeles. In 2013, he coordinated Germantown City Hall, an installation of civic space in a disused structure in the Germantown neighbourhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Germantown City Hall was a collaboration with Information Department and the Think Tank that has yet to be named, and was commissioned by the 2013 Hidden City Festival with generous support from the Andy Warhol Foundation. What We Want Is Free: Critical Exchange in Recent Art (2014), of which Wick is an associate editor, is published by SUNY Press.

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