1 de ago de 2013

What is a collective?

What is a collective?
Cezar Migliorin

When several cinema and audiovisual groups are named collectives, when Coca-Cola launches an internet campaign stimulating consumers to be part of the Coca-Cola Collective, when employees of the Ministry of Culture say they will give incentives to collectives, or when in public debates filmmakers and artists say they can no longer stand to talk about collectives, it is time to slow down a little and try to minimally outline what a collective is.

Sometimes we must begin with the obvious. A collective is more than one. Certainly, I believe that up to this point there is a consensus even though a lone subject can be many more. Putting it this way, however, other important variables remain. A collective is more than one and is open. This is the first characteristic that prevents us from treating collectives as a group, as something closed; it would be better to say that a collective is first a center of convergence for people and practices, but also for exchanges and mutations. That is, the collective is open and porous in relation to other collectives, groups and creative blocks - communities.
Such collective practice does not mean that a collective is created simply by everyone producing together: it is created because people share an intensity of greater exchanges among themselves than with the rest of society, with other subjects and practices and that, in a given moment, find themselves strained with one another. The collective thus is a formation not of a certain number of people of common ideals but of a block of interests, affects, dialogues, experiences to which a certain number of people adhere, reaffirming or transforming this same block. A collective does not form a unit, but is formed by radiating this intensity, a condenser, aggregator of subjects and ideas in constant approximations, distances, adhesions and unattachments. A collective is thus tenuously distinguishable by its members, its areas of performance and influence, its movements - a new film, a festival, an urban or political intervention - they are not done without the collective itself transforming and coming into contact with other centers of intensity. Certainly all creation is collective, when we create we are in dialogue; ever since the Greeks, the individual is only conceivable in relation to others. There is no blank page, starting with language and the page itself - collective inventions. All creation is a differentiation, an operation, of montage of what the world gives us. However, it is not with everything and with everyone that we establish the same level of interaction and exchange. In this sense, a collective is a field of privileged exchange, a concentration of encounters of distinct intensity.

We can still affirm that in terms of desire, investment, creation, a collective is always in a state of crisis as its members do not articulate themselves in function of an institutionalism, of a contract or a position in the production chain, but on account of an affinity that is realized in actions in varied times. A film, a screenplay, a work, an idea. The necessary heterogeneity and multiple velocities that constitute a collective thus determine the constant crisis. Keeping the intensity that crosses a collective depends on the possibility of supporting and promoting the co-habitation of distinct velocities, inconstant presences and dedications that are not measurable in money or time, as the trans-individual intensities guarantee the radiating force of the collective. For example, a subject or gesture that barely makes itself physically present can be decisive for maintaining the collective as intensity of connection with other collectives, forces and creations, allowing participation in networks that transcend them. The essential instability of a collective is established by non-measurable investments and experiences, and because of this a collective needs to co-exist with work regimens that are not ruled by the logic of measurement - be it temporal or economic. You worked less than I, you earned less than so-and-so, you did not fix the leak. Indeed, sometimes the maintenance of a collective is similar to that of a house. These accusations negate the collective not as “worked” or “earned”, but in the insistence of you - in regards to the leak, as Gilles Deleuze reminds us, all hydraulic systems depend on the fluidity of liquid and the walls of the pipes.[1]
Frequently a collective can have a leader or a subject who earns a lot of money or someone who is high profile in his or her area. This point outside of the curve is only established once it enters in a narrative that crosses the collective - financial success, the logic of celebrity - and comes to operate inside a hyper-meaning of this narrative inside the collective. The crises of collectives are frequently ways to incorporate external narratives - which also compose it - without these narratives standardizing the tension of the multiple that configures a collective. The crisis configures itself as a process of dismantling the hyper-significance of harsh narratives. The logic of success that is in everything and creates a hierarchy in a company, family, classroom becomes hyper-significant in a collective if it verticalizes and loses the intensity of connection. The crisis becomes a way of making the point outside of the curve resemble the leader that Pierre Clastres describes in his book Society Against the State. In a given tribe, the necessity for a chief was distinct. His incumbency was very clear: as all chiefs, he should speak for the tribe. Everyday at the same time, the chief would lie on his hammock and speak. However, no one listened to him. The children would play around him and the adults continued their tasks. If by chance one of these chiefs became an orator who people listened to and his words started to have meaning in the tribe, he would soon be substituted. Let us recall Elias Canetti’s hunting wolves cited by Deleuze:
In the changing constellation of the pack, in its dances and expeditions, he will again and again find himself at its edge. He may be in the center, and then, immediately afterwards, at the edge again; at the edge and then back in the center. When the pack forms a ring around the fire, each man will have neighbors to the right and left, but no one behind him; his back is naked and exposed to the wilderness.”
 (CANETTI, 1966 apud DELEUZE, 1987:37).
We recognize this as the schizo position, at the periphery, holding on by a hand or a foot...

As opposed to the paranoid position of the mass subject, with all the identifications of the individual with the group, the group with the leader, and the leader with the group; be securely embedded in the mass, get close to the center, never be at the edge except in the line of duty
” (DELEUZE, 1997a:38).

This seems to be the frequent challenge of collectives. When one leaves the curve, or becomes stray from the fold, strategies must be invented for personal force to return to the collective and the narrative of one to not overlap all. Each straight line, each strong narrative is achieved to be swiftly abandoned, to become a joke in the collective without needing to break the straight line. Here’s to success and money not abandoning us! Thus, when a collective dissolves there is no failure, unless the dissolution is for adhering to orders that escape the collective’s inventions, the dominant practices that will make their movement as impossible as the existence of single and associated individuals, simultaneously. Failure is the hyperbole of the straight line.
The collective can be formed by a series of individuals that, looking at the fire, at some centrality, bring the whole world with them on their backs. Unlike the pyramids, there is no accumulation of equal blocks that would lead to building something, but in the non-hierarchical encounter of worlds that we bring on our backs. And these are the worlds that are mediated in collectives. When filtering the worlds takes place in a harsh way that is exterior to the collectives, it loses meaning .
There is a pragmatic of collectives. They become effective in action, in the updates of the encounters that can take place in the most varied ways: works, films, seminaries, books, symbolic and economic inventions. When we highlight the procedural character of many works done by collectives, such a characteristic is not due to the fact that they are groups or producers that are forged only for executing a task, but the fact that there is, in these works, a part of the intensity of being together, with evident consequences for the aesthetic of the works. Work and life update themselves in works, fundamental in several senses, but never taken as the end of the collective. Being together, making, connecting, in this way the works are also contaminated by the force of the collective. A production company produces films. Within limits, a collective may or may not produce films, and if it produces them today it may not in the future. When the logic of collectives gains intensity, beyond pure connectivist or collectivist rhetoric, it seems to be exactly the moment in which artists, filmmakers and documentary filmmakers further explored the idea of work as a trigger of encounters, betting on an intensification of the community through filmic installations, site specific, spacialization of music, de-specification of the arts and invention of ways of occupying a space. Works are crossed by an investigation around organization between bodies and images, normally not ruled by a centrality - screenplay, author, artist.
Jacques Rancière (2003) vehemently criticizes a large part of contemporary visual art production that opts for relational devices and is treated as essentially political art. Rancière criticizes the lack of conflict and the emphatically consensual tendency of works that rely on a “being together” of the community and small rearrangements of the group. Thus, he will say that these works operate inside an ethical regime - that is, merely prolonging the ethos, the community’s ways of being, without compromising the organization of parts of the community, those that have the right to speaking and the sensitive.
Revolution, which remains like a backdrop to this criticism, effectively has no place. But it would be excessively reductive to disregard the micropolitical effects of works that do not operate by ample ruptures, but are accumulative and by putting together can, indeed, reach the limit of possible harmonies when one is in tension with what is real. For this, it is not enough to be together, but it is necessary to actualize contact: difference that meets difference. In this sense, a collective that forges itself between works and people with a arm stretched towards chaos - one other potential.
Like hydraulic systems, collectives exist crossed by fluidity and openness, available to new connections but at the same time depending on fixed points of convergence. Otherwise, dispersion impedes the configuration of a point of tension, of a radiator of intensity. This point of convergence may be a space, an environment in which subjects, ideas and dispersions (of all natures: sexual, hallucinogenic or depressive) meet the possibility of coexisting. The space frequently forms as catalyst and reason for maintaining the collective, even when nothing connects, even when networks are not made or little materializes.
The space of a collective is not an art studio or a business center, but it tends to contemplate economic, productive, creative and festive dimensions of the individuals that comprise it. Crossed by several orders and present in work configurations that are not pre-established, the space tends to be the point of convergence but at its interior the fluidity is also large: new walls appear, others fall; room changes, chairs move from one place to another, walls hold one image, then another, and the roof gains new contours to avoid excess heat. Even the space of convergence and consumption of food, coffee and drugs tends to be mobile, despite frequently being what most resists transformation. And, of course, in some place there is always a leak or dripping water, both with their beauty.
Finally, recent years have presented us with a type of mobilization around cinema and the audiovisual that brings singularities to the history of collectives. For technological, political, economic and subjective reasons, we have seen new production and consumption networks forming. These networks produced a lot for a little, uploaded films from every period, transformed public policies, multiplied film clubs and festivals, made the audiovisual very present in the most varied NGOs, schools and associations, invented criticism magazines, etc. This is not about valuing this process, but realizing that the notion of the collective reappears in an inalienable context of this configuration that crosses lives and these several socio-technical networks. I would say, then, that one of the characteristics of these networks is to establish the connection between collectives and that collectives appear as a micropolitical attempt at synchrony with network movements that transcend them and for which they are fundamental. The collective is a spot in the network and also a network itself. In building networks, condensed between multiple actors in an endless space, collectives appear as centers of concentrating ideas, people, creation, forces where new connections can leave to compose other networks.
A network is not by principle a value, but it is difficult to think of a cinema, an art or a communication is forged in a potent and democratic way and does not go through the expansion of these networks of people, technology, politics and creations. To be affected by a film, as viewer or producer, is to become a part of the world, of a community, of these social and technical networks. In this sense, there have always been collectives in the history of the arts, but they exist while they differentiate themselves in time, while they are engaged with what varies in the present and with the possibilities of creative, political and subjective updating that do not repeat themselves in time. Collectives exist in the acts that affirm the present, in operations that do not find answers in other places but in their own practices.

CANETTI, Elias. Masse et puissance. Paris : Gallimard, 1966.
CLASTRES Pierre. A sociedade contra o Estado. São Paulo: Francisco Alves, 1978.
DELEUZE, Gilles; GUATTARI, Félix. A Thousand Plateau: capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minesota, 1987 ( tr. Brian Massumi.)
RANCIÈRE, Jacques. Le destin des images. Paris: La Fabrique, 2003.
VIVEIROS DE CASTRO, Eduardo. Encontros. Rio de Janeiro: Azougue, 2008.

[1] About hydraulic systems, see “Tratado de nomadologia: a máquina de guerra” by DELEUZE and GUATTARI, 1997b.

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