Gordillo // Opaque zones of Empire

“The fact that NSA-whistleblower Edward Snowden was able to leave Hong Kong despite the planetary surveillance apparatus devoted to capturing him confronts us with the problem I explore in this essay: those opaque spaces that the panoptic regime cannot see (or see clearly) because of the textured, volumetric, non-representational multiplicity of the global terrain.”  (Gastón Gordillo)

Gastón Gordillo’s fascinating essay on the ‘Opaque Zones of Empire‘ focuses on ‘those spaces that are politically within Empire yet, at the same time, beyond its reach’; on spaces, then, that are not seen by the panoptic regime. Building on and developing the concept of terrain articulated by Stuart Elden in his 2010 article, ‘Land, Terrain, Territory’, Gordillo presents an account of terrain as multiplicity, heterogeneity, three-dimensionality and volume – a site which enfolds opacity and thereby ‘evades political capture’. Stitching together Alain Badiou’s work on the pure multiplicity of being, Eyal Weizman’s analyses of the ‘political plastic’ of terrain and the claims made for the agentive materiality of the non-human (here, the site and topography) by the thinkers of speculative realism (Bryant, Harman et al), Gordillo’s essay opens up a fascinating space for the discussion of ‘the countless outsides of a world without outside’.