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🔗 Mini book review: “Guattari/Kogawa”, organized by Anderson Santos

Writing this review in English due to the international appeal of this book, even though it was printed in Portuguese.

This book collects a series of interviews of French psychoanalyst Felix Guattari conducted by Japanese artist and researcher Tetsuo Kogawa.

“Tetsuo is a really very influential figure in underground radio art and media-art theory, with over 30 years of collaboration and connection with some of the most influential artists and thinkers of that period, worldwide (He’s published over 30 books, had a series of interviews with Felix Guttari, has known and collaborated with pioneers of experimental music in Japan from the 50’s on (big guns like Yasanao Tone and Takehisa Kosugi and so on…)).

He’s perhaps best known internationally as the founding father of the micro-fm boom in Japan in the 80’s. Inspired by the Marxist ‘Autonomia’ movement and their pirate radio stations in 1970’s Italy, Kogawa set up Radio Home Run as a resistance to the commodification of subculture; theorising, practically enabeling and kick starting a Japanese boom which saw thousands of tiny radio stations set up and run, by and for communities across the country. They became a space for polymorphous chaos, a kind of chaos found through difference and ‘order through fluctuations’.”

Arika on Tetsuo Kogawa

This book collects those interviews and add texts by Guattari, Kogawa, and the Brazilian organizers, who were in direct contact with Kogawa while working on this collection.

I found the discussion of the various movements of free/pirate radio in the late 70s and early 80s especially interesting: Autonomia in Italy, free radio in France and mini-FMs in Japan. The parallels with the rise of the free software movements were apparent to me, and in fact, the timelines match (the GNU Manifesto dates from 1983) and in more recent writings Kogawa and the organizers do allude to free software. It was a stark realization to me to finally notice how the lore of the free software movement was (and to the extent that it still exists, still is) propagated entirely in a vacuum, without any real context of the surrounding free culture movements of the time. Seeing Guattari and Kogawa discuss the free radio movements, and their similarities and differences in each country, it is clear to me now how the free software movement was a product of its time — both its genesis in the US in the early 80s and its later boom in Latin America in the early 2000s, with the main event, FISL, happening in Porto Alegre, the same city that hosted the first editions of the World Social Forum featuring the likes of Noam Chomsky, Lula and José Saramago.

Another interesting observation comes from Guattari discussing how the free radio movement in France was a way for the various regions (and their languages!) to break away from “parisian imperialism” — having lived in different parts of Brazil, I have personally observed these phenomena of domestic cultural imperialism for a long time, and how they present themselves, by design, as being mostly invisible.

Kogawa’s more recent discussion of “social autism” relating to media is also insightful: he discussed the collective catharsis of the mini-FM movement as a therapeutic way to break away from the social autism of mass media by scaling it down, and how the ultra downscaling to the individual scale of personal smartphones has led to another kind of social autism, more lethargic and legitimized on a global scale.

Finally, it was impressive to see Guattari discuss back in 1980 how micropolitics — in the form of what we today understand as identity politics, for example — had the potential to produce large-scale political change. Time and again I marvel at how philosophers look at the world with a clarity that makes it seem like they’re reading the future decades in advance. I got the same feeling from reading Bauman.


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