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Enrique Vila-Matas, Pierre Huyghe, Ai Weiwei and I at Kassel, Documentas 12-13

“I’d been fascinated at the beginning of the seventies by some questions that had been put to Alain Robbe-Grillet, which made him writhe against theories like an upside-down cat: “Let’s say I’m old-fashioned. For me, all that counts are the works of art.”

“The works of art! These days such ingenuousness would trigger laughter. At Documenta 13, separating work and theory would have been seen as very old-fashioned, because there, according to all the information I had, you saw a great many works under the ambiguous umbrella of innovation presented as theory and vice versa. It was the triumphant and now almost definitive reign of the marriage between practice and theory, to such an extent that if ou casually came across a rather classical-looking piece, you’d soon discover it was nothing more than theory camouflaged as a work. Or a work camouflaged as theory.

“Was there any artist at Kassel with sufficient courage to just hang a painting on the wall, a straighforward painting? I imagined the great peals of laughter that would ring out if it occurred to some poor brave devil to hang a canvas on a wall in the Fridericianum. It seemed nobody there wanted to be regarded as terribly old-fashioned, so there was no way of seeing painting anywhere.”

– Enrique Vila-Matas, The Illogic of Kassel, p. 69

Untilled, characters who appear in Enrique Vila-Matas’s novel, by Pierre Huyghe at Documenta 13

Strangely, I happened to be involved in the Documenta 12 Magazine Project through <<empyre>> soft_skinned_space, a listserv onto which I have foisted my sometimes welcome, mostly unwelcome, and usually ignored observations, reflections and scribblage.

The following I wrote into the listserv under the subject heading of “Fugue” – which is interesting in so far as I have in front of me a volume by Sergio Pitol with a foreword by Enrique Vila-Matas, the writer of the foregoing on Documenta 13, entitled The Art of Flight. The English translator of this work, George Henson, apologises, that “already in the title” he has failed, because the Spanish fuga translates as both fugue and flight and in the original Spanish, the book is called El arte de la fuga. The Art of Fugue. Indirectly, for Documenta 12, I wrote:

Dear Empyreans,

the following I pursued for my own interest: I apologise if there’s nothing in it.

Roger Beurgel [artistic director of Documenta 12. It was Roger Beurgel’s “provocation”, on the question, Is Modernity our Antiquity? that led the discussion, here] in quotes:

“It is fairly obvious that modernity, or modernity’s fate, exerts a profound influence on contemporary artists.”

How is modernity tied to its fate that, either the thing itself or the myth, exerts a pull – as if equally and interchangeably? And if there isn’t anything in itself there? Only the mythic Fate, then isn’t this a description of tragedy? Is a degree of that influence to do with the desire not just to reinstaurate the determinism or fatalism of modernity on its certain path but to redeem it?

“Part of that attraction may stem from the fact that no one really knows if modernity is dead or alive.”

Which suggests exactly the spectral/corp(u)s/e mode modernity was so good at advancing: and pomo was so good at extracting – half-life apparitions and death-drive amortisations.

“It seems to be in ruins after the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century (the very same catastrophes to which it somehow gave rise).”

Surely, that ‘somehow’, tenuously holding on, like spectral rider to ghoulish horse, confirms that the modernity described here is in the grand European tragic style – or pomo pastiche thereof. The taste for setting such great store by aesthetics (however deeply internally politicised or outwardly conceptual and dematerialised), that ‘totalitarian catastrophes’ ensue from them, is modernist at the fascist end of the spectrum.

“It seems utterly compromised by the brutally partial application of its universal demands (liberté, égalité, fraternité) or by the simple fact that modernity and coloniality went, and probably still go, hand in hand.”

As a colonial antipode – foot in hand, sometimes in mouth – I’ve thought a little about colonialism’s place in respect of modernity. My view, from NZ, of modernity is only historically, not ‘utterly,’ ‘compromised’ by the cultural marginalisation that goes hand-in-hand with modernity’s centralist concerns. But this issue brings us round to whether modernity has a political armature in praxis, a Realpolitik, such that it could be ‘brutally partial’ in the application of demands that are by no means ‘universal’ nor endemic to modernity, as an era (or a constellation, an infirmament, of historically informed assumptions and happenstance).

The secular nation-state, to my mind, better expresses the political ideas and ideals of the modern era, and of modernity, than the Colonial Empire. The failure of the former – in its current crisis or decadence – offers perhaps a clearer index to the vivacity or morbidity of a political modernity.

“Still, people’s imaginations are full of modernity’s visions and forms (and I mean not only Bauhaus but also arch-modernist mind-sets transformed into contemporary catchwords like “identity” or “culture”).”

There is something about this ‘transformation’ (of ‘arch-modernist mindsets’) that merits discussion. I think it was Brett, forgive me if I’m wrong, who said that postmodernism is built on the foundations of modernism. Christine has poked a little, deservedly, at the idea of Hegelian synthesis, in the n-state. In both views there inheres the idea of transformation – a redemption even of modernist assumptions. I think this archaeological impulse, this restorative ‘moral’ and critical project – such, indeed, that the question heading this discussion can be asked – may be promoted by precisely the kind of spectacular mise-en-scene we see in Roger Beurgel’s statement on modernity.

“In short, it seems that we are both outside and inside modernity, both repelled by its deadly violence and seduced by its most immodest aspiration or potential: that there might, after all, be a common planetary horizon for all the living and the dead.”

Pa Ubu: “Hornstrumpet! We shall not have succeeded in demolishing everything unless we demolish the ruins as well. But the only way I can see of doing that is to use them to put up a lot of fine, well-designed buildings.”

Finally, a brief word regarding the n-state, an idea with its own fascination; and I’d like to know more about its provenance; since, as well as zipping up a certain bodybag – synthetic teeth mesh – it also iterates management/bureaucratic themes of ‘technological progress and infrastructural improvements’. (By way of contrast, inspired by a Polish grandmother on a European train, ’82, I chanced on the related idea of ‘n-set’ – a play on ‘NZ’ and also an acronym. The grandmother said that all her countrymen were doing in those days was watching satellite TV and making babies – “like Africa!” she said.

(N-SET became a script-scenario dealing with a covert (insurgence) operation starting in Poland to postmodernise via media’s softsell immersion the East and West and foment political revolution: to postmediatise consciousness. N-SET stands for ‘non-specified enemy territory’ – carrying forward its scenario through random acts of state-sponsored terror, according to the view that the civilian population as a whole is the only object on which a postmodern war can be waged.)

Simon Taylor

Fairytale, 1,001 chairs, Ai Weiwei, at Documenta 12

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Sydney Hermant & Dan Bejar & Carey Mercer

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passing the threshold of the middle class: capitalism’s unhaltable rise and culture’s unstoppable fall

culture now reaches lower and higher than ever before. Academic critical effort is continually levelled at annexing more and more of what was previously low culture, and klo culture, reaching lower and lower to capitalise at higher and higher societal echelons. In this sense it mirrors, or is instigated in its sense of pursuit by, mainline capitalist culture. Once we accept that the middle is disappearing with the eradication of social democracy and the middle class, the classic bourgeois being relegated to historic artifact, it’s possible to see that culture – as in the industry, aided and abbetted by fashion – is following in a way that fashion really shouldn’t if its destiny really were as promised, as hoped for, to fill the vacuum left by the former left avant-garde. Which shows nothing but that things can always get worse. And that with identitarian difference insisting that there be no longer highs nor lows but just difference – subsisting as a remainder of social justice – if a vacuum appear it is the mediocrity will rush to fill it, expanding as it arrives in order to hide the fact of the extinction of culture’s former enemy, who, with the exhaustion of the former proletariat, are now predated upon, the middle, the lukewarm God once vomited out. It turns out capitalism resembles God in this. Obvious really. And the values crisis we are happy to accept others saying we suffer now is no more than symptomatic of what is slipping from our grasp, we the middle class who rose and rose and rose, having our party in the total war that followed parts one through the series and living armageddon every day. Because the crisis in contemporary values is no more than a crisis in bourgeois values, the way for which was being prepared culturally over one hundred years ago. Meanwhile shit and trash, waste and anomie is celebrated with thousand dollar bottles of champagne, and the high and low meet as under and over on a circular bed surrounded by media mirrors in the cultural arena.

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another time, perhaps

What is consciousness but language? asks Gilles Deleuze, in a work concerned with another question, What is language?

Language is a sign-signal system, according to Deleuze, which wouldn’t mean very much until we remember that signs are assemblages. They are independent networks of disparate entities, which work under the sign of being and being elements. Signs are constructed. The work that they do is signalling.

Signs signal in series. But does language have this sense of continuity and flow, of ceaseless series, sign-signal to sign-signal, because the passage from sign to signal occurs within time, in the present, or is it language which precedes this sense of time?

The problem I am adducing to is the following:

The mephistophelian character, Andreas Corelli, in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s very enjoyable book, The Angel’s Game, has this to say about what fables teach us:

They teach us that human beings learn and absorb ideas and concepts through narrative, through stories, not through lessons or theoretical speeches. This is what any of the great religious texts teach us. They’re all tales about characters who must confront life and overcome obstacles, figures setting off on a journey of spiritual enrichment through exploits and revelations. All holy books are, above all, great stories whose plots deal with the basic aspects of human nature, setting them within a particular moral context and a particular framework of supernatural dogmas.

Zafón, Carlos Ruiz, The Angel’s Game, trans. Lucia Graves, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2009, p. 192

Stories give the natural impression of passing from one thing to the next. They make it appear natural for God to have created mud and from mud formed Eve and her sister. Narration naturalises what fables do, which is fabulate. But isn’t the most fabulous idea that human beings have absorbed through stories the concept on which narrative and language itself relies, rests and lies: time? And isn’t consciousness part of the fabric of this story, this history?

What happens if the link is broken between sign and signal? What happens where there is no next or and then? where the link, the nature of which was always a fabrication, is denaturalised?

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a description of aion – comment welcome

 

What follows is not representative of Deleuze’s aion. It is my reading and the flaws in it are also mine.

Aion is a pure surface in contact with the outside. It has no immemorial or historic depth to it. Pure surface, it is opposed to chronological time, or chronos.

Chronos allows metaphors, such as depth – the depths of history or memory – and those spatial metaphors derived from geometry and mechanics – a linear, circular time, the wheel of time and the time of mechanical causation, acceleration and dynamic action and reaction. Chronos is metrical, the time of measure and mathematical judgement. Chronos is figurative, can be represented in linguistic and mathematical codes and symbolic registers. Finally, chronos represents time and is what we normally talk about in dealing with representations of time.

The necessity for another understanding of time, aion, comes from the intuition that the present is unrepresentable. However, aion does not connote the present. Aion is in contact with this present, its surface pressed to it.

The problem, therefore, addressed by the concept of aion as a schema of time is the special status of the present. The past may be knowable and the future unknowable but the present can only be a subject of incomplete representation. It is never quite there, never entirely there. It never fully expresses itself – in figural or figurative terms, in symbolic or material registers – and must remain open both to the fully realised past and to the as yet unrealised future.

Aion is not just another word for the present, it regards the present as the outside and it is in regard to the present that it arises as problem and fact. The outside, then, consists of you and I in an unquantifiable present, a present, that is, unquantifiable by or according to chronos. The outside is everything that is in this present moment. It is possessed of all the forces that are brought to bear at a singular point in time which itself is unqualifiable, unable to be given a place or position except in relation, and a present which is literally and exactly incapable of taking place. Place comes, or the place the present left a moment ago, comes after, from a knowable and representable past, from a realised time, chronos. Place is a quantifiable dimension of time and belongs to chronos.

The reason to talk as if forces were taking control and overrunning the present is to point to that of which we are all too aware in subjective experience: that we plug in the past, the realised, the quantified, knowledge, identity and material and symbolic entities to what exists for us in the present moment. We extract forces from things and subjects only in so far as the present, our present, is invested in them, interest, the interest of forces soon to be annihilated, in a moment. We feel affects from objects and others only in so far as they are capable of taking place in a present traversed by forces. These forces occupy the outside, they are the outside into which we are plugged and into which we plug what is affectless, inert, anorganic and lifeless. The world as represented somehow achieves and gets to this present, this outside, which cannot be represented.

Aion provides the point of achievement and getting to whereby the world is then accessible to measure and quantity, to scientific and mathematical intelligibility. The movement whereby the world crosses from the future to arrive in the past is through an outside. This movement is absolute rather than able to be relativised according to fixed points. It is the movement of the present and a passage over and against aion’s pure surface. The word ‘pure’ is meant to reinforce the dimensionlessness of the surface not to impose or import an hierarchy or morality.

If the present is absolute movement, the play of a multiplicity of forces, then aion is pure surface. Aion gives a temporal record of an absolute movement without coordinates.

Relative movement occurs with coordinates; points are already in play, in position. By permitting the taking place of the present, its occupation by the forces of the outside, plugging in, aion shows that both movement and points must be created. Chronos will be the sort of time in which points and movement are coordinated but is not the sort of time necessary for their creation because chronos cannot get near enough to the present that is unrepresentable. But then aion is like the membrane the need for representation would interpose between chronos and this outside present.

In fact, the relation works the other way around: aion gives rise to chronos through its contact with all that can be said to be. Since the existence of both the past and present may be refuted but that of the present is irrefutable.

Movement must be created. Aion is the edge or skin of this creation as it presses against the outside. On its surface – which is why it is never pure in the sense of importing or having an hierarchy or morality imposed upon it – the relative points of singular movements, the lived moments of singular durations are made and appear. Aion embodies the play of infinitesimals on its surface; which means aion embodies all movement as that between and among differences in intensity, giving rise to the singularities that chronos takes and represents along physical and no longer absolute registers.

Aion because it is a pure surface in contact with the forces of the outside and the absolute present and because it skins or covers the process of a universal creation in terms of all movement itself moves outward. It is like a tsunami advancing irresistably against which we stand for a moment and into which we disappear. It is also like a seam or fold extending the length of time and reaching to the depths of space and carrying all of time and space along with it.

This description of aion was included at the end of a short email exchange with Justin B. Rye. I had initially sent Justin the briefest of notes saying that he’d left Deleuze’s aion out of A Guide To SF Chronophysics , where it might not belong, but the possibility it could – the epithet ‘science fiction’ is not altogether misplaced in application to Deleuze’s writing – and that its inclusion might upset some or all of the laws said to apply to temporal schema (or “chronophysics”) in even their fictional deployment was prompt enough for a note. Justin responded with

I’d never heard of Deleuze’s aion.  Googling for it, it looks like the
usual kind of timewasting wordgames churned out by professional
obfuscationists.  Can you suggest some reason anybody with a
functioning brain should take it seriously?  What, for instance, are
the real-world phenomena that it claims to provide a better
explanation for than alternative approaches?

His last email to me provided a running commentary – through-written – on the preceding description of aion which remains entirely and uniformly consistent with this response.”This is such overwritten nonsense it might as well be a hymn to Hulmu,” he interjects at his wittiest. He offers to fetch me a straitjacket and ends writing, “I’m sorry, the only thing it’s much like is a load of old toss.” Strangely, his sign-off throughout our correspondence was

JBR
Ankh kak! (Ancient Egyptian blessing)

Perhaps what he says is true.

But I am interested in hearing your reaction.

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seeing Barney’s wonderful one-man show …Him last night …

…made me want to write a play again. Is this wrong?

I get the feeling something is being left unsaid.

And listening to This Mortal Coil today (“Holocaust”) gave me an inkling of what it is,

and where there is space in the market.

Send me ideas, donations, commissions.

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this is worth hearing. Listen: Galway Kinnell reads “The Dead Shall Be Raised Incorruptible” …

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the dark energy of entanglement and dark matter

the material continua, the threads and the strings that make up the universe are darkly and irregularly entangled.,

at the beginning, the entanglement was so extreme as to confine time and space to a point, a singularity.

in the first fraction of incipient time the irregularity of this singular entanglement gave and matter burst out from it, still entangled, dragging knots of substances and energies, energetic knots, knots that were and are darkly energetic, in multiple directions in a chaotic and far from regular explosion.

the almost conceivable order and self-consistency of the primary point broke . The force of the blast never can be equalled that was able to sunder entanglement, destroy its order, its one, and create multiple chaos.

lines, strands and threads, snagged and snapped and joined others they were not matched with and at every new entanglement, an energetic sink, a slowing down of the outward whorl, a dark counterpoint, minor in its way, but enough to explain the remarkable darkness of causation.

at the beginning, for a fraction of an instant, in the first seed of time, there was a mere irregularity and chaos of entanglement. The detonation was never a disentanglement but a forceful tearing apart as the singular order gave way.

strings and continua loosed in that instant abraded on others, ran over and through them, even when they did not get caught, leaving lower level snags and knots spinning into a greater and greater infinity but slowing down because of them.

the darkness of tangled continua choked the acceleration of a tangled matter.

spin and wobble, crazy movement – the crazed music of the entanglement, with its still and distantly entrained harmonies trailing out in disjoint chords, with never a unison, lonely notes sounding now on this side of things now light years distant.

the dark force of the primitive entanglement surrendered to the destruction of creation, a destruction never total and unable to be totalled, since from it follow an endless ramifying series of further entrainments and tanglings. This creation continues, weaving at random dark knots that bear the legacy of their genesis in a dark heap of tangled matter, no substance but this matting and dread.

and this slowing down as entrainments stall the quanta with frictions remembered, enacted instantaneously, at infinite distance, mixtures of times and matters, catachronic, asymmetrical, as if entanglement were the ongoing fact of a universal and differential iteration.

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The Cemetery of Principle

the cemetery of principle0101.avi from Simon Taylor on Vimeo.

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remembering Margaret Mahy, 21 March 1936 – 23 July 2012, taught us how to fly

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