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Sylvère Lotringer

Sylvère Lotringer, general editor of Semiotext(e), lives in New York and Baja, California. He is the author of Overexposed: Perverting Perversions (Semiotext(e), 2007).

Titles by This Author

with a new introduction by Sylvere Lotringer and Paul Virilio

In June 2007, Paul Virilio and Sylvère Lotringer met in La Rochelle, France to reconsider the premises they had developed twenty-five years before in their frighteningly prescient classic, Pure War. Pure War described the invisible war waged by technology against humanity, and the lack of any real distinction since World War II between war and peace. Speaking with Lotringer in 1982, Virilio noted the "accidents" that inevitably arise with every technological development: from car crashes to nuclear spillage, to the extermination of space and the derealization of time wrought by instant communication.

In this new and updated edition, Virilio and Lotringer consider how the omnipresent threat of the "accident"—both military and economic—has escalated. With the fall of the Soviet bloc, the balance of power between East and West based on nuclear deterrence has given way to a more diffuse multi-polar nuclear threat. Moreover, as the speed of communication has increased exponentially, "local" accidents—like the collapse of the Asian markets in the late 1980s—escalate, with the speed of contagion, into global events instantaneously. "Globalization," Virilio argues, is the planet's ultimate accident.

Perverting Perversions

with a new introduction by the author and an additional chapter

Do you ever get aroused by your patient's fantasies? Do you discover through them something about your own sexuality?
—About my sexuality?
You are exposed to a lot of fantasies.
—Oh yes. Quite frankly, I think it has a satiation effect on me. I've been a sex researcher for ten years, and sometimes I get fed up with it, you know. I talk to people about sex all day long, and it does get to be a drag.

—from Overexposed

sylvere_lotringer1.jpgThe most perverse perversions are not always those one would expect. Originally conceived as an American update to Foucault's History of Sexuality, Overexposed is even more outrageous and thought-provoking today than it was twenty years ago when first published by a commercial publisher. By a strange reversal, rather than being punished, deviant desire now is administrated in specialized clinics under medical supervision. Sexual excess is being turned into a "boredom therapy" claiming to rid patients of their own desires by forcing them to indulge them past the point of satiety. But are perversions still perverse when they are vindicated unconditionally? At once clinical, bewildering, and deeply poignant, Overexposed shows how science can pervert itself by identifying too closely with its object. This insider's exposition of controversial cognitive behavioral methods (carried out with instruments straight out of A Clockwork Orange—penile transducer? pupillometer?) is a hallucinatory document on the manner in which our postmodern society exposes sexuality to the point of overexposure—in order to exterminate it.

There is a catastrophe within contemporary art. What I call the "optically correct" is at stake. The vision machine and the motor have triggered it, but the visual arts haven't learned from it. Instead, they've masked this failure with commercial success. This "accident" is provoking a reversal of values. In my view, this is positive: the accident reveals something important we would not otherwise know how to perceive.
—Paul Virilio, The Accident of Art

Urbanist and technological theorist Paul Virilio trained as a painter, studying under Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Bazaine and de Stael. In The Accident of Art, his third extended conversation with Sylvère Lotringer, Virilio addresses the situation of art within technological society for the first time. This book completes a collaborative trilogy the two began in 1982 with Pure War and continued with Crepuscular Dawn, their 2002 work on architecture and biotechnology.

In The Accident of Art, Virilio and Lotringer argue that a direct relation exists between war trauma and art. Why has art failed to reinvent itself in the face of technology, unlike performing art? Why has art simply retreated into painting, or surrendered to digital technology? Accidents, Virilio claims, can free us from speed's inertia. As technological catastrophes, accidents are inventions in their own right.

The accident is a new form of warfare. It is replacing revolution and war. Sarajevo triggered the First World War. New York is what Sarajevo was. September 11th opened Pandora's box. The first war of globalization will be the global accident, the total accident, including the accident of science. And it is on the way.

In 1968, Virilio abandoned his work in oblique architecture, believing that time had replaced space as the most important point of reflection because of the dominance of speed.

We were basically on the verge of converting space time into space speed... Speed facilitates the decoding of the human genome, and the possibility of another humanity: a humanity which is no longer extra-territorial, but extra-human.

Crespuscular Dawn expands Virilio's vision of the implosion of physical time and space, onto the micro-level of bioengineering and biotechnology. In this cat-and-mouse dialogue between Sylvere Lotringer and Paul Virilio, Lotringer pushes Virilio to uncover the historical foundations of his biotech theories. Citing various medical experiments conducted during World War II, Lotringer asks whether biotechnology isn't the heir to eugenics and the "science for racial improvement" that the Nazis enthusiastically embraced. Will the endocolonizataion of the body come to replace the colonization of one's own population by the military?

Both biographical and thematic, the book explores the development of Virilio's investigation of space (architecture, urbanism) and time (speed and simultanaeity) that would ultimately lay the foundation for his theories on biotechnology and his startling declaration that after the colonization of space begins the colonization of the body.

Titles by This Editor

The Event, The Book

I think “schizo-culture” here is being used rather in a special sense. Not referring to clinical schizophrenia, but to the fact that the culture is divided up into all sorts of classes and groups, etc., and that some of the old lines are breaking down. And that this is a healthy sign.
—William Burroughs, from Schizo-Culture

The legendary 1975 “Schizo-Culture” conference, conceived by the early Semiotext(e) collective, began as an attempt to introduce the then-unknown radical philosophies of post-’68 France to the American avant-garde. The event featured a series of seminal papers, from Deleuze’s first presentation of the concept of the “rhizome” to Foucault’s introduction of his History of Sexuality project. The conference was equally important on a political level, and brought together a diverse group of activists, thinkers, patients, and ex-cons in order to address the challenge of penal and psychiatric institutions. The combination proved to be explosive, but amid the fighting and confusion “Schizo-Culture” revealed deep ruptures in left politics, French thought, and American culture.

The “Schizo-Culture” issue of the Semiotext(e) journal came three years later. Designed by a group of artists and filmmakers including Kathryn Bigelow and Denise Green, it documented the chaotic creativity of an emerging downtown New York scene, and offered interviews with artists, theorists, writers, and No Wave and pre-punk musicians together with new texts from Deleuze, Foucault, R. D. Laing, and other conference participants.

This slip-cased edition includes The Book: 1978, a facsimile reproduction of the original Schizo-Culture publication; and The Event: 1975, a previously unpublished and comprehensive record of the conference that set it all off. It assembles many previously unpublished texts, including a detailed selection of interviews reconstructing the events, and features Félix Guattari, William Burroughs, Kathy Acker, Michel Foucault, Sylvère Lotringer, Guy Hocquenghem, Gilles Deleuze, John Rajchman, Robert Wilson, Joel Kovel, Jack Smith, Jean-Fran?ois Lyotard, Ti-Grace Atkinson, Fran?ois Peraldi, and John Cage.

I like to stand with one leg on each side of the wall. Maybe this is a schizophrenic position, but none other seems to me real enough.
—Heiner Mueller, The German Issue

The German Issue (1982) was originally conceived as a follow-up to Semiotext(e)'s Autonomia/Italy issue, published two years earlier. Although ideological terrorism was still a major issue in Germany, what ultimately emerged from these pages was an investigation of two outlaw cities, Berlin and New York, which embodied all the tensions and contradictions of the world at the time. The German Issue is the Tale of Two Cities, then, with each city separated from its own country by an invisible wall of suspicion or even hatred. It is also the complex evocation of the rebelling youth—squatters, punks, artists and radicals, theorists and ex-terrorists—who gathered all their energy and creativity in order to outlive a hostile environment.

Like a time capsule, The German Issue brings together all the major "issues" that were being debated on both sides of the Atlantic—which eventually found their abrupt resolution in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It involved the most important voices of the period—from writers and filmmakers to anthropologists, activists and poets, terrorists and philosophers: Joseph Beuys, Michel Foucault, Christo, Christa Wolf, Walter Abish, Alexander Kluge, Paul Virilio, Ulrilke Meinhof, William Burroughs, Jean Baudrillard, Hans Magnus Enzenberger, Maurice Blanchot, Hans Jürgen Syberberg, Heidegger, André Gorz, Helke Sander. Opening with Christo's "Wrapping Up of Germany" and the celebrated dialogue between East German dramaturge Heiner Müller and Sylvère Lotringer on the Wall ("Mauer"), since published in many languages, The German Issue offers a first-hand account of the Western world on the threshold of a major global mutation. It also embodies at its best Semiotext(e)'s tenacious effort to establish a creative bridge between art and intellect, culture and politics, Europe and America.

Foreign Agents series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)

Texts and Interviews 1977–1985

This new edition of Soft Subversions expands, reorganizes, and develops the original 1996 publication, offering a carefully organized arrangement of essays, interviews, and short texts that present a fuller scope to Guattari's thinking from 1977 to 1985. This period encompasses what Guattari himself called the "Winter Years" of the early 1980s—the imprisonment of Italian radicals, the disillusion with the socialists in power, the backlash against post-'68 thinking, the spread of environmental catastrophe, and the establishment of a postmodernist ideology aimed at adaptation rather than change—a period with discernible echoes twenty years later.

Following Semiotext(e)'s release last season of the new, expanded edition of Chaosophy: Texts and Interviews 1972–1977, this collection offers some new exciting forays in schizo-analysis, and makes Guattari's central ideas and concepts fully available in the format that had been best suited to Guattari's temperament: the guerrilla-styled intervention of the short essay and interactive dialogue. This edition includes such previously unpublished, substantive texts as "The Schizoanalyses," "Institutional Intervention," "Postmodern Deadlock and Post-Media Transition," "New Spaces of Liberty for Minoritarian Desire," and "Minority and Terrorism," along with interviews and essays on a range of topics including adolescence and Italy, dream analysis and schizo-analysis, as well as invaluable autobiographical documents such as "I Am an Idea-Thief" and "So What."

Foreign Agents series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)

Texts and Interviews 1972–1977

Chaosophy is an introduction to Félix Guattari's groundbreaking theories of "schizo-analysis": a process meant to replace Freudian interpretation with a more pragmatic, experimental, and collective approach rooted in reality. Unlike Freud, who utilized neuroses as his working model, Guattari adopted the model of schizophrenia—which he believed to be an extreme mental state induced by the capitalist system itself, and one that enforces neurosis as a way of maintaining normality. Guattari's post-Marxist vision of capitalism provides a new definition not only of mental illness, but also of the micropolitical means for its subversion.

Chaosophy includes Guattari's writings and interviews on the cinema (such as "Cinema Fou" and "The Poor Man's Couch"), a group of texts on his collaborative work with Gilles Deleuze (including the appendix to the second edition of Anti-Oedipus, not available in the English edition), and his texts on homosexuality (including his "Letter to the Tribunal" addressing the French government's censorship of the special gay issue of Recherches he edited, which earned him a fine for publishing "a detailed exposition of depravity and sexual deviations… the libidinous exhibition of a minority of perverts"). This expanded edition features a new introduction by François Dosse (author of a new biography of Guattari and Gilles Deleuze), along with a range of added essays—including "The Plane of Consistency," "Machinic Propositions," "Gangs in New York," and "Three Billion Perverts on the Stand"—nearly doubling the contents of the original edition.

Post-Political Politics

with a new introduction by Sylvère Lotringer, "In the Shadow of the Red Brigades"

Most of the writers who contributed to the issue were locked up at the time in Italian jails.... I was trying to draw the attention of the American Left, which still believed in Eurocommunism, to the fate of Autonomia. The survival of the last politically creative movement in the West was at stake, but no one in the United States seemed to realize that, or be willing to listen. Put together as events in Italy were unfolding, the Autonomia issue—which has no equivalent in Italy, or anywhere for that matter—arrived too late, but it remains an energizing account of a movement that disappeared without bearing a trace, but with a big future still ahead of it.
—Sylvère Lotringer

autonomia1.jpgSemiotext(e) is reissuing in book form its legendary magazine issue Autonomia: Post-Political Politics, originally published in New York in 1980. Edited by Sylvère Lotringer and Christian Marazzi with the direct participation of the main leaders and theorists of the Autonomist movement (including Antonio Negri, Mario Tronti, Franco Piperno, Oreste Scalzone, Paolo Virno, Sergio Bologna, and Franco Berardi), this volume is the only first-hand document and contemporaneous analysis that exists of the most innovative post-'68 radical movement in the West. The movement itself was broken when Autonomia members were falsely accused of (and prosecuted for) being the intellectual masterminds of the Red Brigades; but even after the end of Autonomia, this book remains a crucial testimony of the way this creative, futuristic, neo-anarchistic, postideological, and nonrepresentative political movement of young workers and intellectuals anticipated issues that are now confronting us in the wake of Empire. In the next two years, Semiotext(e) will publish eight books by such Italian "Post-Fordist" intellectuals as Antonio Negri, Christian Marazzi, Paolo Virno, and Bifo, as they update the theories of Autonomia for the new century.

foucault1.jpgIn 1784, the German newspaper Berlinische Monatsschrift asked its audience to reply to the question "What is Enlightenment?" Immanuel Kant took the opportunity to investigate the purported truths and assumptions of his age. Two hundred years later, Michel Foucault wrote a response to Kant's initial essay, positioning Kant as the initiator of the discourse and critique of modernity. The Politics of Truth takes this initial encounter between Foucault and Kant, as a framework for its selection of unpublished essays and transcripts of lectures Foucault gave in America and France between 1978 and 1984, the year of his death. Ranging from reflections on the Enlightenment and revolution to a consideration of the Frankfurt School, this collection offers insight into the topics preoccupying Foucault as he worked on what would be his last body of published work, the three-volume History of Sexuality. It also offers what is in a sense the most "American" moment of Foucault's thinking, for it was in America that he realized the necessity of tying his own thought to that of the Frankfurt School.

A Definitive History of Five or Six Years on the Lower East Side

In February 1991, the artist David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) and the philosopher Sylvère Lotringer met in a borrowed East Village apartment to conduct a long-awaited dialogue on Wojnarowicz's work. Wojnarowicz was then at the peak of his notoriety as the fiercest antagonist of morals crusader Senator Jesse Helms—a notoriety that Wojnarowicz alternately embraced and rejected. Already suffering the last stages of AIDS, David saw his dialogue with Lotringer as a chance to set the record straight on his aspirations, his personal history, and his political views. The two arranged to have this three-hour dialogue video-recorded by a mutual friend, the artist Marion Scemama.

Lotringer held on to the tape for a long time. After Wojnarowicz's death the following year, he found the transcript enormously moving, yet somehow incomplete. David was trying, often with heartbreaking eloquence, to define not just his career but its position in time. The subject was huge, and transcended the actual dialogue. Lotringer then spent the next several years gathering additional commentary on Wojnarowicz's life and work from those who knew him best—the friends with whom he collaborated.

Lotringer solicited personal testimony from Wojnarowicz's friends and other artists, including Mike Bildo, Steve Brown, Julia Scher, Richard Kern, Carlo McCormick, Ben Neill, Kiki Smith, Nan Goldin, Marguerite van Cook, and others. What emerges from these masterfully-conducted interviews is a surprising insight into something art history knows, but systematically hides: the collaborative nature of the work of any "great artist." All these respondents had, at one time, made performances, movies, sculptures, photographs, and other collaborative works with Wojnarowicz. In this sense, Wojnarowicz appears not only as a great originator, but as a great synthesizer.

Manifestos, Interviews, Essays

The images from Abu Ghraib are as murderous for America as those of the World Trade Center in flames. The whole West is contained in the burst of sadistic laughter of the American soldiers, as it is behind the construction of the Israeli wall. This is where the truth of these images lies. Truth, but not veracity. As virtual as the war itself, their specific violence adds to the specific violence of the war.

In The Conspiracy of Art, Baudrillard questions the privilege attached to art by its practitioners. Art has lost all desire for illusion: feeding back endlessly into itself, it has turned its own vanishment into an art unto itself. Far from lamenting the "end of art," Baudrillard celebrates art's new function within the process of insider-trading. Spiraling from aesthetic nullity to commercial frenzy, art has become transaesthetic, like society as a whole.

Conceived and edited by life-long Baudrillard collaborator Sylvère Lotringer, The Conspiracy of Art presents Baudrillard's writings on art in a complicitous dance with politics, economics, and media. Culminating with "War Porn," a scathing analysis of the spectacular images from Abu Ghraib prison as a new genre of reality TV, the book folds back on itself to question the very nature of radical thought.

May '68 in France expressed a fundamental version of freedom: not freedom to succeed, but freedom to revolt. Political revolutions ultimately betray revolt because they cease to question themselves. Revolt, as I understand it -- psychic revolt, analytic revolt, artistic revolt -- refers to a permanent state of questioning, of transformations, an endless probing of appearances.In this book, Julia Kristeva extends the definition of revolt beyond politics per se. Kristeva sees revolt as a state of permanent questioning and transformation, of change that characterizes psychic life and, in the best cases, art. For her, revolt is not simply about rejection and destruction -- it is a necessary process of renewal and regeneration.

A Semiotext(e) Reader

Compiled in 2001 to commemorate the passing of an era, Hatred of Capitalism brings together highlights of Semiotext(e)'s most beloved and prescient works. Semiotext(e)'s three-decade history mirrors the history of American thought. Founded by French theorist and critic Sylvere Lotringer as a scholarly journal in 1974, Semiotext(e) quickly took on the mission of melding French theory with the American art world and punk underground. Its Foreign Agents, Native Agents, Active Agents and Double Agents imprints have brought together thinkers and writers as diverse as Gilles Deleuze, Assata Shakur, Bob Flanagan, Paul Virillio, Kate Millet, Jean Baudrillard, Michelle Tea, William S. Burroughs, Eileen Myles, Ulrike Meinhof, and Fanny Howe. In Hatred of Capitalism, editors Kraus and Lotringer bring these people together in the same volume for the first time.