Time, ladies and gentlemen! Time for the taking of a toast and tea, with illustrations from Nippon Or: Is the director … ? pt. 2

– Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), The Great Wave at Kanagawa, from series 36 Views of Mount Fuji, 1823–1829

What do we know about the virtual? It comes to Deleuze via Bergson. It belongs to the third time of the synthesis. It belongs to the future and yet it is the past. It is the being of the past. It may be called the way the past bears on the present producing the future, or bears the present forward on a wave into the future.

– Katsushika Hokusai, Choshi in the Simosa province

In Deleuze, however, understanding the virtual as the ontological past involves thinking about time differently. He presents this different idea of time in four paradoxes: 1) the contemporaneity of the past and the present, without which no present could pass; i.e. it could not pass without sharing its past-ness with its present-ness; 2) the coexistence of all of the past with a present, since every present passes, not just this one; so the past coexists in its entirety with any present; 3) the preexistence of the past: for the present to come along at all, it has to have a ground in time; while it may be represented as a past present, the general, pure, ontological, transcendental past, or the past which has never happened, is the ground on which the past singular to a given present exists and can be represented, and without which it cannot be; 4) the past coexists with itself, to an infinite degree, as an infinity of degrees of past-ness and present-ness, which are in the Bergsonian context degrees of contraction and relaxation, the present being the infinite coexisting past at its most contracted degree.

– Katsushika Hokusai, Whaling off Goto

This conception of time is beautiful but also counter-intuitive. It seems to go against both the linear and cyclical notions of time which have the virtue of at least being encountered in experience. But, and I think this is the point, the experience by which time is linear or cyclical, or even that by which we know it to be curved, is part of a structure for which it does not itself provide the ground. Three structures which come to mind are: the structure of consciousness, ungrounded by the unconscious, the structure of Nature, ungrounded by evolution, the structure of knowledge, ungrounded by critique. These ‘ungroundings’ also present the conditions of possibility for that which they unground: the unconscious somehow gives rise to consciousness, evolution generates Nature, with its perceived cycles, and critique reveals a limit against which knowledge can be defined.

– coasters by Yuko Shimizu

It is as if they always required this other in order to function properly. Knowledge alway needed a limit so that it could be called knowledge and now we can say, But of course knowledge is defined against its limit and by its limit. It is the job of scientists to push the limit!

– Katsushika Hokusai, Carp Leaping Up A Cascade

Where to, if there is always a limit? Or, better, in what form? Because the unknowable still remains, we can only know what is so far unknown. So far: thereby invoking a conception of history, one that is linear, materialist, and only really reaches back to the Enlightenment, 300 or so materialist, linear, years – of progress … with a major faultline running through it: its own limit. Time.

– Yuko Shimizu, Revenge of the Geisha

Time is relative. To what? To POV, but not to POV absolutely. For time to be relative it needs to have specified at least two points, which, then are only relative to each other, two POVs at points in space. The proposition of relativity is an attempt at critique which is given in full view of the absolute. Nothing is hidden but that which was anyway in plain view: that time is not the absolute. Time is relative in so far as it has physical qualities, which disqualify it from absolute-ness, but in no way condemn it to contingency or relativity in some kind of absolute form. The truth of relativity is then that it is relative, i.e. structural.

– Yuko Shimizu, Drowned in The Sea of Polka Dots

Levi Bryant describes very well how ontological time works to ground structure: …”it is only by positing that the past is preserved in the present as a feature of being itself that we are able to explain how synchrony can function in the unfolding diachrony of the actual.” [Levi Bryant, “Politics of the Virtual,” in Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 9, Palgrave, 2004, pp. 333-348, p. 339] You can hear a concession to linearity, the ‘diachrony of the actual,’ but of the linear in which the nonlinear functions, the ‘synchronic’ and the structural. What allows the diachrony that we experience as linear time, socalled, is that other feature of the being of time, of what time is, a transcendental past, synchronic, preserved in the present, which therefore provides an ontological ground for structuralism.

– Katsushika Hokusai, Tea-house at Koishikawa, the morning after a snowfall

The point is worth labouring because it is difficult, ought to raise questions and has far-reaching implications: there is a different conception of time; the past is preserved in the present; the structure whereby an object has virtual and actual parts comes from this idea of time.

– Yuko Shimizu, The Big Wave