Crash Communities
by Wolfgang Staehle, Giselle Ehrefried, Daryll Erentzen & Ricardo Dominguez
The Thing--perhaps the first artists' online BBS--began in New York in 1991. It initally operated out of a basement, then quickly reduplicated itself as a node in Cologne and other European cities. Since the beginning, invention and collaboration have been its engine--and community-as question has always been a thread in the flow.

"..the community of those who do not have a community."
--Georges Bataille

"There is hope--but not for us."

Community is in ruins, a disaster that has been abandoned, and a nostalgia for an affirmation from the Other who is no longer the same. We now flow under the drift of an unbound community of accidents and absence. The digital drive of this drift is that of a society wherein "nobody is entitled not to belong to my absence of community" (Bataille). During the 1930s Bataille attempted a deconstruction of the communal drives that arose out of fascism, communism, capitalism, and nationalism. He took part in two communities, Contre-Attaque (a direct-action group that called for a "completely and totally aggressive revolution" against all forms of state, which he co-founded with Andre Breton in 1935), and the Acephale Society (a secret gathering of intellectuals that sought to link myth, sacrifice, a critique of fascism, and the invention of a new type of anti-community in 1936). They opened the question of the 'not' as a process of bringing forth a "negative community"--what Maurice Blanchot called the "unavowable community."

The electronic re-sifts this 'not' of the unavowable community as a process of gatherings within an impossible space whose substance as dialogue, or interaction, or erotic transference, becomes community only as an after-effect, a gesture that only occurs outside of the ecstatic communion of a group or an event. "Crash communities" as social collaborations are emerging and are enframed within the disjuction of rapid technological exchange and insufficiency. These crash communities are machinic-ecologies of fluctuations linked by download temporalities, new codes, redundant data, obsolecent programs, micro-exchange systems and terminal speeds.

Electronic velocities rupture and maintain this community-effect as rituals of chaos that disperse crisis-loops as gathering nodes. These nodes are shared affirmations of the unworking of systems or organizations that fail to represent the trajectories of the dissapearance of communities, incarnate or digital. Instead new subjectivities flow in the circuts of spaces that spasm, puncture, and refold material culture into a common presence of digital worlds under construction. The construction of an electronic elsewhere reopens fundamental questions of being and becoming, of identity and place, of information and understanding, placing them all in a state of crisis and mutation.

Crash communities are liminal sites, in-between states that hollow out the pan-capitalist bunkers of global command-and-control on a macro scale. Witness the Zapatistas use of "netwar" to push the dialogue for a radical democracy in Mexico, and our everyday notions of personal interconnection, such as the use of e-mail during work hours for private communications. The crash of both foundations, the State and the personal, is now allowing the emergence of invention as our predominant cultural drive: To remake and rebuild out of the scraps of the industrial age something which as yet has no name.

The virtual community is an empty sign that always points to something beyond itself: Crisis-nodes of becoming. The danger is that these crisis nodes will not take the gamble of inventing the impossible, but will simply (re)configure the liminal as a new form endocolonization, the recombinant State, wherein the body-as-information becomes the body as-genetic-code. Reinstalling the same old programs in a different box or within the same old bunkers of being, when the vertigo of the crash seems too much. So many run backwards into the known when all that is solid melts into the air--into mysticism, aesthetics, power, economics, and desire. Instead of attempting to articulate the possible polyspatial democracies of access that counter the command-and-control of informatic-hierarchies. Crash communities should unbind institutional flows as accidental sites of exchange and blockage.

At this brief moment in time, we who have no community beyond shared lines of flight have a chance to make uncanny spaces: They will not be utopias, nor the end of the world--but new forms of unavowable communities.

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Issue 3