Folding the Politics of Touch

Curator's Note

At the outset of Patricia Domínguez’s video, Madre Drone (2019-2020), a massive, militarized robot confronts a diminutive female drone whose green lasered fingers caress the robot “trapped in my right side” for activation of “the left.”[1]  This same electrifying green emanates later from the drone’s fingers to enliven the fur of a dead burnt fox and to fondle a colorful one-eyed toucan blinded by the same flames of deforestation.  The heroic feminist gesture evoked by Domínguez folds nature back into the specter of a prior life of a vibrant Bolivian rain forest now burnt and singed by capitalist greed.   Domínguez then recombines shots of the resilient toucan with cosmological representations of the ocular wounds of 460 Santiago protesters assaulted by the pellets, bullets, and teargas of fascist Chilean police.  In assemblages from Bolivia and Chile, nature and its ecofeminist protectors ride the power of Madre Drone to strike back through a montage of fictionalized electrotouch and haunting footage of burning forests and searing protests. 

Toward the video’s end, hundreds of protesters combine their laser pointers to return their green gaze back at a surveilling militarized drone.  Madre Drone thereby carries the spirit of those blinded birds and wounded protesters “to activate a new way of seeing, one that matters, one that will permit us to experience the future.”[2]  In a fitting transformation of deadening technology, the Drone Mother’s laser eyes cede in conclusion to the experience of the leaky fluids of tears pouring down her face, whose affect folds the politics of activism back into the charge of communal embrace.

I turn to Madre Drone in the Epilogue of Technics Improvised: Activating Touch in Global Media Art (Minnesota, 2022) to foreground the digital fold within the dynamics of the politics of touch.  Here time folds continually, not in the utopian fervor of the eternal return but in the political urgency of exploring fractal openness to the messy certain uncertainty of the eco/bio/technics of the future.  As Jean-Luc Nancy exhorts his readers in the face of the bio/eco global wars that continue to besiege us, “we are talking about ‘technology’ itself, but about a technology that of itself raises the necessity of appropriating its sense against the appropriative logic of capital, and against the sovereign logic of war,”[3] and, now I add, against the corrosive fabric of the Anthropocene.

Political improvisation toward a certain uncertain futurity serves as the performative apparatus not only of the demonstrators of Chile but also of the explosion of the global artistic interventions that I consider throughout Technics Improvised and its conceptual predecessor, Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds (Minnesota, 2008).  The ecotechnics of Karrabing Film Collective and John Akomfrah, so important to Technics Improvised, could be said to elongate Keith Piper’s and Chris Marker’s earlier digital essays and installations on colonial violence and war on which I reflect in Digital Baroque.  These urgent artistic projects are shaped by what I term in Digital Baroque as a weighty archeological shift from projection to fold that is performed, if not wholly embodied, by the digital condition.  These folds expand infinitely in all directions rather than definitively in the shape of a cone, line, or sight that culminates in a single, utopian point or sovereign subjectivity.  This concept of the digital fold turns around the paradoxical inscription of novel procedures of accumulation, divergence, and fractal simultaneity in past paradigms of projection, dialectics, and philosophical teleology.  What’s key is the socio-cultural shift identified by Gilles Deleuze as characteristic of his concept of the fold that ultimately departs from that of Leibniz.  Reflecting the electrifying simultaneity of Madre Drone’s juxtapositions, rendered so forcefully by the digital platform, the folds of Deleuze diverge from the convergence of point of view to juxtapose “the in-between” or “the fold-of-two” that make any resultant series diverge.  Such divergence constitutes for Deleuze the very promise, if not the penultimate politics, of artistic expression: “each series tells a story: not different points of view on the same story, like the different points of view on the town we find in Leibniz, but completely distinct stories that unfold simultaneously . . . absolutely divergent.”[4]  At stake are the energizing incompossibilities that transform the harsh realities of divergence into the positive shared fables of futurities: uncertain, in difference.      

In Technics Improvised, I lean heavily on Jean-Luc Nancy’s figural translation of the incompossibilities of the digital fold into his response to the technological impasse of the Anthropocene.  Nancy stages the expansion of what he calls écotechnie to activate the spacings of touch and the proximities of folds that constitute the energetic improvisations of technology.  As performed by Madre Drone, the parameters of écotechnie touch, shake, and disturb predetermined assumptions about the convergence, culture, capital, geography, and violence of technology and its relation to art and philosophy.  “It is a matter of worldliness as a proliferation of ‘identity’ without end and without model – and perhaps it is even a matter of ‘technology’ as techné of a new horizon of unheard-of-identities.”[5] At issue is not the artistic replication of a sovereign utopian future predetermined by the performativities of capital’s progress, but rather, the touching vulnerabilities of the uncertain horizons awaiting the electrifying folds of incompossible artistic and political redress.


[2] Verena Andermatt Conley, Ecopolitics: The Environment in Poststructuralist Thought (Routledge, 1997), 98.

[3] Jean-Luc Nancy, “War, Law, Sovereignty – Techné,” in Rethinking Technologies, ed. Verena Andermatt Conley, (Minnesota, 1993), 56.

[4] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (Columbia, 1994), 123.

[5] Nancy, War, Law, Sovereignty – Techné,” 58.

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