A Letter to...
Stewart Brand

Issue no3
June - July 2022
Make Friends Not Art

In A Letter to... a person from the art world is invited to write a letter to a person, a group, fictive or not, living or not, to ask attention for a subject of his or her interest. In this letter Anselm Franke writes Stewart Brand, editor of the famous The Whole Earth Catalog. Franke recently curated an exhibition to this influential book.

There are a couple of things I would like to share with you, a few loose thoughts that have been buzzing around my brain since I started working on this exhibition, trying to situate the ‘anthropocene’ momentum and current ‘planetary paradigm’ within a specific history, relating a universal image to the particular history of California – and this of course involves you. For many months, Diedrich Diederichsen and I have kept ourselves rather busy thinking through the ramifications of the photo of the Blue Planet as a paradigm and historical icon. It’s a universal icon, the ultimate perhaps, because there is no bigger framework for all of life, including ours. This photo taken from beyond the planet paradoxically tells us that there is no beyond. The planetary framework is the ultimate framework; it says: this trancends partial interests, this concerns us all. You asked NASA to release this image, convinced it would ‘bend’ human consciousness. We were wondering: What has become of the promise of this image to unite, to close the circle in a new consensus for survival, a new embrace of our planetary state of being?

I have two working narratives to share which helped shape our thinking. One is that the image of Earth seen from space closes the frontier – the European colonial and modern frontier which previously had come to a terrestrial limit in California. Here it turns around and folds inward, it opens new territory in the mind, in psychology, in the immaterial, the virtual. This story is part of a grand transformation, which really starts when computers are given the ability to calculate dynamic processes, so-called circular-causal effects, particularly at the nexus of the integration of man and machine. It starts with cybernetics, which sparks an exorcism of the transcendental subject, the Cartesian subject. The counterculture and LSD seem to give universal credibility to the cybernetic neo-animism of a world composed of patterns of information flow. Posthumanism begins, and with it a process of immanentization, of inscription into the planetary interior and its milieus. Instead of separating categories and guarding boundaries, the new historical era will break down these borders and instead see epic visions of connectedness, and learn how to conform to them.


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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 3 — 2022