Excepted from an interview with AK Press:
* Tell me a little bit about Minor Compositions – how did it come into being, and why?
Minor Compositions is a research – theorizing – publishing project that is located, at the moment, within the London metropolitan basin of collective intelligence. Its main aim is to bring together, develop, and mutate forms of autonomist thought and practice, avant-garde aesthetics, and an everyday approach to politics. To take up a useful distinction made by Alan Toner, this is to see not from a position of ‘producer consciousness’ (“we’re a publisher, we make books”) but rather from a position of protagonist consciousness (“we make books because it is part of participating in social movement and struggle”). So the production of a text is not something that is thought in isolation but how it connects and develops moments of thinking collectively. This draws a good deal of inspiration from the autonomist notion of militant research and workers’ inquiry, expanding it beyond inquiry into particular bounded workplaces into a more general investigation of cultural labor, social reproduction, and the relationship between antagonistic energies and attempts to govern them.
As for how and why it came into being, that is a bit like asking why the chicken crossed the road. It was there, which is to say that there was seen to be some particular questions that could be usefully explored through such an approach. In the past ten years, or even longer (forty or fifty years) there has been increased interest in radical politics as cultural politics. Here one can see that the aspects of the anti-globalization movement that were focused on most were its cultural politics, the theatricality or the playfulness of demonstrations. Similarly, and very much connected to this, there has been a rise of interest in political art, or ‘activist art’ within the museum and gallery world. It is problematic that this interest in art and politics often neglects questions of political economy. Cultural politics becomes substituted for all forms of politics. But to raise the specter of political economy is not a call to return to some sort of reductive Marxism that sees cultural struggles as adjuncts to the ‘real struggles’ around labor. And it’s through the autonomist notion of class composition, looking at the relation between the building of social movement potential to radically transform the world and the continual effort to turn these energies into new modes of capitalist production and governance, that this question can be opened and re-thought in a different, and hopefully more useful manner.
* And it’s an imprint of Autonomedia, is that right? Or a separate project?
Spinoza tells us there is only one substance, namely god or nature. From this we can logically conclude that Autonomedia and Minor Compositions are indeed part of a unified fabric of being, along with puppy dogs, your mother’s pool cue, and the entirety of the 1986 Mets. That, however, does not adequately describe the particular relation between different modes of becoming involved. The evaluation of compositional modes is one of history and time, which of course do not exist. It is as when Rimbaud says that “I is an other”: Minor Compositions is both a part of Autonomedia and a becoming-other compositional mixture of Autonomedia that is not totally of it, that is the other to the self that is Autonomedia.
* Wasn’t that just a bunch of gobbledlygook? What do you mean that by that? How does it practically work?
Perhaps. How does it work? Simply, by breaking down, like all forms of desiring machines. But that’s probably not what you mean. So let’s say more practically that within the realm of autonomous media production there are zones of autonomy within the larger framework of imaginal production. These are points and processes of conjunction where Autonomedia is less a centralized location, but rather where different forces collaborate in ways that would not be possible without that framework. And if you look over the history of what Autonomedia has published you will see these kinds of collaborations and joint projects taking place under the proper name ‘umbrella’ of Autonomedia, from joint projects during the 90s with Black & Red, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, and the Info.Interactivist project (coordinated with Interactivist and ABC No Rio). More recent joint projects include that collaborations that led to the DATA Browser series, the Shut Them Down! Book with the Dissent! Network, and the Proud to Be Flesh anthology that compiles the best of Mute Magazine. This is part of the shift from publisher as producer to publisher as assemblage, as one node in a larger process of composition.
* The first thing I thought of when I heard the imprint’s title was Deleuze and Guattari’s book on Kafka, the subtitle of which is “Towards a Minor Literature.” Knowing a little bit about the books you’re publishing in the imprint, I’m guessing that there’s some resonance here?
Yes, there certainly is a good deal of degree of resonance there. But as Zafer Aracagök recently explored in his Desonance (2009), every resonance is also contains a form uncontrolled dissonance existing, even if only potentially, within the series of relations or connections it expresses. Having said that, the approach to questions of language, literature and expression that Deleuze & Guattari formulate here, one not based on developing one’s own language or form of representation, but working through and transforming existing forms, making them strange to themselves, is quite useful for thinking through these questions. The particular conjunction of the minor and class composition, or perhaps composition more generally (as Bifo has suggested), was particularly inspired by the work of Nick Thoburn, who wrote a lovely book called Deleuze, Marx, and Politics.
The notion of the minor figures much more broadly in Deleuze and Guattari’s work, underpinning an approach to politics not based on attempting to seize and control apparatuses of power, but working beneath and below them through forms of creative subtraction from domination. But these are ideas that obviously go much beyond Deleuze and Guattari’s work and have a good deal of resonance with what in autonomist politics is worked through with the notion of exodus. So it’s important to not see the moment where these notions are attached to a proper name(s) as being the moment of invention, or the only moment of creative thought. It’s the same question posed by those who have ‘gone to croatan,’ by escaped slaves and maroon communities, or the forms of linguistic evasion practiced by gypsies, criminals, and other marginalized or oppressed communities develop. Another aspect of the project is to connect how these things are theorized in philosophy and social theory with the radical histories and practices that express similar positions, although often without using the same language.