Mass, weight, dimension, consistency, fragments

By Antek Walczak (Bernadette Corporation)


The mass, public, multitude, the people, crowds, crowded, a mob, a throng, politics, democracy, fascism, communism, revolution, the social, pop culture, cities, manipulation, servility, control societies, habits, customs, norms, the international proletariat, class, caste, ghetto, history.

Guattari’s terminology ("Have you seen the War?" Chimères No. 23, 1994) included “the homogenization of subjectivity” or “the lamination of the means of producing subjectivity, a more and more functional rapport between individuals and their objectives of revenue or prestige.” He also spoke desperately/hopefully about “a recomposition of subjectivity, productions of existence which tend towards heterogenization.”

Thoughts about the mass produce fear on all sides. From the teacher in her first year of work trying to handle a class of forty students, to the politician planning an election campaign, to the hermit shut in a small apartment trying to find some peace and solitude.

Obviously, the very notion of the mass is one that has a history and usage lending it a certain inevitability and weight. It already presupposes a distance of analysis, a distance to one’s own experience of it.

The mass can be a group of bodies doing the same thing, an alienated experience of a common idea and desire such as losing weight, being sexy, being popular and liked, or it can be experienced as something that feels controlled, destined for control.

When I am standing with 20,000 people in a street to protest a war with banners and slogans, I feel that number of 20,000 people as a norm that says “this is how we act in a democracy.” The presence of this norm is hammered in my skull, and stays there long after the crowd has dispersed.

Perhaps there needn’t be such an opposition between individual experience and mass experience. Perhaps the two are constantly intertwined. Perhaps an experience of the mass is a frontier in each individual, the outside that exists within, piercing the armor of thoughts about ourselves and who we are. Our selves as a catalyst or enzyme which, if ever isolated on its own, becomes inert and inactive.

Building “weapons of mass self-destruction” – methods for the mass to destroy and reconstitute itself, dissolve and distort the images which are meant to represent it. By mass, I mean that artificial construction which most all of us participate in while shopping, raising families, moving about in cities, voting, receiving and providing information, etc. The point is not to believe that we can escape the mass and be autonomous individuals, for both terms are fictitious constructions of slavery or liberty. The important thing is that we position ourselves as beings who constantly fluctuate between the two states, and to learn to inhabit our “robot-ness” with as much play and strength as we would like to inhabit our individuality. For this reason alone, it might be interesting to learn about programming.