Table of Contents



The Affectivist Manifesto:

Artistic Critique for the 21st Century

-Toward the New Body:

Marcelo Expósito’s “Entre Sueños

Recapturing Subversion:

Twenty Twisted Rules for the Culture Game



01-Network Maps, Energy Diagrams:

Structure and Agency in the Global System

02-Do-It-Yourself Geopolitics:

Global Protest and Artistic Process

03-The Potential Personality:

Trans-Subjectivity in the Society of Control



04-Coded Utopia:

Makrolab or the Art of Transition

05-Extradisciplinary Investigations:

Toward A New Critique of Institutions

06-Differential Geography:

Research and Rhythm in Artistic Representation

07-The Speculative Performance:

Art’s Financial Futures

08-50 Ways to Leave Your Lover:

Exit Strategies from Liberal Empire

09-The Absent Rival:

Radical Art in a Political Vacuum



10-Remember the Present:

Representations of Crisis in Argentina

11-Continental Drift:

From Geopolitics to Geopoetics

12-Articulating the Cracks in the Worlds of Power:

Interview w/16 Beaver

13-Invisible States:

Europe in the Age of Capital Failure

14-Disconnecting the Dots of the Research Triangle:

Flexibilization, Corporatization and Militarization of the Creative Industries

15-One World, One Dream:

China at the Risk of New Subjectivities



16-Adam Curtis: Alarm-Clock Films

Cultural Critique in the 21st Century

17-Future Map:

Or How the Cyborgs Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Surveillance

18-Filming the World Laboratory:

Cybernetic History in Das Netz

19-Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Cartographies

or, the Pathic Core at the Heart of Cybernetic


Activist Media Tomorrow



Decipher the Future



18 Responses to “Book”

  1. francesca Says:

    Dear Brian Holmes,
    I was the body at the Continental Drift conference who questioned your interpretation of “overcoding”. It’s gotten me thinking, and I wanted to present my argument again, that you might tell me if there’s something I’m missing:

    D&G on overcoding:
    “Following the Marxist description: a State apparatus is erected upon the primitive agricultural communities, which already have lineal-territorial codes; but it overcodes them, submitting them to the power of a despotic emperor, the sole and transcendent public-property owner, the master of the surplus or the stock, the organizer of large-scale works (surplus labor), the source of public functions and bureaucracy. This is the paradigm of the bond, the knot. Such is the regime of signs of the State: overcoding, or the Signifier. It is a system of machinic enslavement: the first ‘megamachine’ in the strict sense, to use Mumford’s term.” (Milles Plateaus, 427-428)

    Capitalism, on the other hand, “marks a mutation in worldwide or ecumenical organizations, which now take on a consistency of their own: the worldwide axiomatic, instead of resulting from heterogeneous social formations and their relations, for the most part distributes these formations, determines their relations, while organizing an international division of labor… If it is true that we are not using the word axiomatic as a simple metaphor, we must review what distinguishes an axiomatic from all manner of codes, overcodings, and recodings: the axiomatic deals directly with purely functional elements and relations whose nature is not specified, and which are immediately realized in highly varied domains simultaneously; codes, on the other hand, are relative to those domains and express specific relations between qualified elements that cannot be subsumed by a higher formal unity (overcoding) except by transcendence and in an indirect fashion. The immanent axiomatic finds in the domains it moves through so many models, termed models of realization.” (454)

    This seems pertinent to your argument in your discussion of overcoding because, while overcoding indeed seems to be presented as something that one might “throw off” or “escape” relatively successfully, (“The overcoding of the archaic State itself makes possible and gives rise to new flows that escape from it.” (449)), the axiomatic involves a different sort of struggle, with different sorts of obstacles and successes, but importantly, something that is not so easily extricable from that-which-is-not the axiomatic (“Capitalism is indeed an axiomatic, because it has no laws but immanent ones.” (463)) whereas codes seem to be distinguishable from overcodes.

    If your interpretation diverges from this reading of overcoding/axiomatic, I’d be interested to hear it.

    All the best,

    ===>>> Hello Francesca!

    Thanks for writing back, this is really interesting. Also it’s better to write for this kind of debate, I personally cannot do it orally with the precision that it really needs. So, sorry for the lousy answer from the body in NYC!

    In my understanding of A Thousand Plateaus the axiomatic is something like “capitalism itself,” a system of flows arising from a pure decoding, whose complete set of functions can never be exhaustively described (analogous in that to Gödel’s incompleteness proof). Capitalism always appears in a specific configuration of functions – a specific regulation or dynamic of forces, a striated social relation of humans and machines, forming a stratum. Each stratum is composed of working models that are only realized and only knowable in its concrete pattern of operation. If you look at pp. 141-44 of A Thousand Plateaus, there they describe the diagrammatic functioning of the abstract machine as that which “escapes” the axiomatic of capital. Something like a free coding, producing rhizomatic forms just like Deleuze and Guattari did in their book. That might be what really interests you. But I didn’t get to that in my presentation, which was about overcoding. For this, the most relevant chapter in A Thousand Plateaus is definitely the one you quote, “The Apparatus of Capture,” although you also have to look at the way it unfolds on the semiotic level.

    What’s at stake in overcoding is basically the state. Not just the archaic state, but the whole progression that Lewis Mumford describes as the “myth of the machine”: from the Pharaonic state of ancient Egypt, to the Sun-King of 17th century France, to Hitler and Stalin and finally to the postwar American computerized state, all versions of what Mumford calls the “megamachine.” In the linguistic sense, overcoding sets up the binary opposition between signifier and signified. But above all, it is the name for “phenomena of centering, unification, totalization, integration, hierarchization, and finalization” (41). In short, we are talking aout structuralization. This interests me urgently because that’s what I see the American imperial society doing with such great success since WWII. In particular, cybernetics very clearly corresponds to this definition of overcoding.

    Now, this brings us to the site of one of the complex arguments you always find in A Thousand Plateaus. They relate overcoding specifically to the archaic state, and then to describe the social order in modern times they distinguish between “machinic enslavement” and “social subjection.” Here’s the definition of the two concepts: “There is enslavement when human beings themselves are constituent pieces of a machine that they compose among themselves and with other things (animals, tools), under the control and direction of a higher unity. But there is subjection when the higher unity constitutes the human as a subject linked to a now-exterior object, which can be an animal, a tool, or even a machine” (456-57). Cybernetics, and the concommittant automation of factories, seems to mark the point where the process of subjection to a machine returns to a full-fledged condition of machinic enslavement (“it could be said that a small amount of subjectification took us away from machinic enslavement, but a large amount brings us back to it,” 458). Similarly, the modern, decoded states of the capitalist axiomatic “have a kind of transspatiotemporal unity with the archaic state.” “The modern states of the third age do indeed restore the most absolute of empires, a new ‘megamachine’ “… (459-60).

    OK, in all that, the concept of “overcoding” does not come back. Instead they discuss the present social condition as a complex relation of machinic enslavement and subjection to the exterior machine. But in Guattari’s work, which is really what interests me here, the word “overcoding” does come back, constantly. Check out the book that Suely Rolnik just published, Molecular Revolution in Brazil, which has the advantage of giving you an impression of how Guattari actually talked, during the very years when he was writing the Schizoanalytic Cartographies. For him, overcoding and modeling are roughly synonymous or at least linked together as two sides of a single operation. And I think that the more imperial the situation gets, the more you have an overcoding with transcendant signifiers that bring a set of symbolic coordinates into play. It’s the consumer side of the paradigm, the socialization and reterritorialization of capitalism. As you might recall, Raymond Williams in an excellent essay called advertising “The Magic System.” The archaic element is there. But it is also there in presidential speech. What has happened since WWII, as cybernetics increasingly became a complex language-machine, is the attempt to extend this overcoding to the entire world invested by the decoded flows of capital. Bush’s administration marks a new high-point of this attempt. Guattari’s “meta-modelization,” in the Schizoanalytic Cartographies, is about escaping the overcoding, subjection and machinic enslavement that we encounter under the contemporary cybernetic system of transnational state capital, with its always-incipient form of reterritorialization and capture of flows, namely, empire.

    That’s roughly the way I understand it. Now that it may be clearer, feel free to toss back and forth some more ideas, ask more questions, propose a completely different understanding, whatever you like.

    best, Brian

  2. PUBLISERT « litterært supplement Says:

    […] Holmes pågående bokprosjekt Continental Drift, som kan leses på, inneholder flere kapitler om kartlegging. Holmes har […]

  3. Recapturing Subversion « Continental Drift Says:

    […] table of contents here […]

  4. 99, our 68 » Om du är intresserad av denna blogg… Says:

    […] boken Escape the Overcode: Activist art in the control society. Om man surfar runt lite utifrån innehållsförteckningen ser man att de teman som avhandlas här (och på även finns med i boken – […]

  5. Jorge Says:


    I live in Chile and want to obtain the book

    –When it is printed I will include a link!!! Till then you can rad it all right here, this is the full book….

    all the best, BH

  6. Nieuw boek van Brian Holmes « DATAPANIK Says:

    […] Criticus en activist Brian Holmes werkt momenteel aan zijn nieuwe boek Escape the overcode. […]

  7. Online Publication: Escape the Overcode « Maakbaarheid in de Grote Stad Says:

    […] Escape the Overcode: Activist art in the Control Society is part of the open-ended research project conducted by Brian Holmes. The book comprises four major sections. The articles range from the underlying technoscientific principles of cybernetics, to cognitive psychology and complexity theory. […]

  8. This book could be yours: « Continental Drift Says:

    […] […]

  9. This book could be yours: - machine quotidienne Says:

    […] […]

  10. Cartografías de la emancipación « Continental Drift Says:

    […] unas conclusiones del proyecto se han reunido en un libro de ensayos, disponible gratuitamente en mi página web. Lo que quiero hacer ahora es describir el proyecto, indicar sus cuadros de cuestionamiento, y […]

  11. Society of Contemporary Art Historians | The Artistic Device Says:

    […] and 27th in Eindhoven, “The Artistic Device,” a seminar with Brian Holmes, author of Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society (Van Abbemuseum, Half Letter […]

  12. Symposium ‘The Artistic Device’ Says:

    […] heeft ook een blog waar interessant tekstmateriaal te lezen […]

  13. Brian Holmes: Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society (2009) at Monoskop/log Says:

    […] View online (HTML articles) Comment (0) […]

  14. 家作坊 HomeShop » Blog Archive » Happy Friends reading club Says:

    […] a text by “The Affectivist Manifesto”, by American-born theorist, writer and translator Brian Holmes. As it is quite brief, the text is simply included in the message body below. The meeting will take […]

  15. Sniffing Squid 00 « «HOW TO PLAY BIG SCIENCE» Says:

    […] the space of signs that leave behind a frozen neon blaze, igniting the midnight superhighway of drifting codes and signifiers, dead languages and hard sentient machine […]

  16. Sniffing Squid 00-01 « «HOW TO PLAY BIG SCIENCE» Says:

    […] the space of signs that leave behind a frozen neon blaze, igniting the midnight superhighway of drifting codes and signifiers, dead languages and hard sentient machine […]

  17. Organized Networks / In Praise of Concept Production: Formats, Schools and Non-Representational Media Studies Says:

    […] the formation of neoliberal governance, see Brian Holmes, ‘Adam Curtis: Alarm Clock Films’, in Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society, Eindhoven and Zagreb: Van Abbemuseum Public Research / WHW, 2009, pp. 284-303. […]

  18. A Counter-History of the California Ideology | Deterritorial Investigations Unit Says:

    […] 2Brian Holmes “Filming the World Laboratory” Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society […]

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