March 2012

in the wake of everything that has happened, David Byrne’s “Get It Away”


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a statement on the Simulacrum & the Sensorium, of all things, inspired by & two unrelated sources gleaned from the discussion this month in <> soft_skinned_space

Brian Holmes’s “Three proposals for a real democracy – Information-Sharing to a Different Tune” [here]

Michel Bauwens’s “Scope, not scale: What do medieval monks, Cuban socialists and Wikipedia have in common?” [here]

The following was solicited by Johannes Birringer’s (of Alien Nation [here])question, a question in turn prompted by previous correspondence through the listserv but I hope worth presenting out of context:

Can you speak more about how this sensorium is politically effective to counterbalance the very symptoms of simulacrum hype (affective intensities of the commodity fetishisms and market imperatives to sell ourselves out)?

… a short speculative role play. It won’t be to
everybody’s tastes, for which I apologise in advance.

The Simulacrum can strike terror into our hearts, an original terror, in which some say the actions of terrorists insist, from which they emanate, as if playing out the drama of postlatecapitalism or the American way of life, arising from an inner tension. The Simulacrum is a monolithic trick, a symbolic joke or the joke of the Symbolic itself, being its Being, universal, irreversible, incurable, inescapable, but also immovable, unplayable, apolitical and yet somehow representational, implicated in representation for the multiplication beyond measure of its superfices, the extension beyond limit of its singular surface.

It offers the terrifying prospect of never again coming up against the real and remaining forever immobile in its circular logic. All action is futile and both resistance and resilience and indeed every participation becomes a mere accommodation and imbrication. To act is complicity. Folded into its surface we are then stretched out, all our good intentions betrayed, all secrets out like lights.

By contrast to this actionable futility the Sensorium offers the prospect of passive productivity: it provides a place to watch the Simulacrum from, in either isolation or alienation, floating, now unable to act. And yet embodying – by bodily affection, through the senses – an essential power, to desire, which we are reminded in so far as it is productive is a political act. There is a paradox here, but it has more to do with the relation between the Sensorium and the Simulacrum than the former alone.

This relation involves the putting into movement or play of what happens in place in the Sensorium when it hits the Simulacrum. Desire and act start to drift and for what they lose in emplacement they gain from playability, from being able to be reconfigured, transfigured – an interactivity and a compossibility. Sensorial capital is made pure data: it is put into play.

The eternity of the Simulacrum; the temporisation of the Sensorium; the depth as intensive spatium of the Sensorium; the pure surface extent of the Simulacrum; the organisation in depth of the Sensorium, its anatomy; and the inorganic fetishisation and inhumanity of the Simulacrum, its anatomisation. Organic, anorganic. Capitalist, capital: the capitalist experiences even as spectacle the speed and interconnectivity of markets. She experiences it as it registers on a surface which is the Simulacrum or the death drive.

The Sensorium connects or synthesises and organises and produces and what it is and what it produces is over time consumable. It wants. It gathers up the little objects of love and constitutes its partial subjects. It participates by participating in itself. It is able to act in networks.

The Sensorium is where what takes place takes place, the focus of a spectacle as much as of the Netopticon. But it is the Simulacrum which facilitates the sliding of this amateur theatrics, the migration of place by setting networks sliding where no point de capiton or place to hook is. Hooked in, you might say, we are set to slide, to join a universal elision.

How move the immovable which only ends up moving us? Because if the Simulacrum is the death drive it is also the spectacle of history. In which we participate passively in sympathy and actively in the desire which constitutes nothing less than the will to inscribe ourselves into history.

The question is wrong. How does the flow produced at the level of the Sensorium enter or alter the Simulacrum?

Production in the Sensorium is not recorded in or on the Simulacrum in the same way that it is produced. The relation is one of inscribability, recording of the Sensorium onto the Simulacrum. This amounts to an accommodation, of the former to the latter, but it is also an inscription of power.

Therefore it is to the Simulacrum that we look for the registration of the Sensorium in terms of political effect, the results of the political acts of the Sensorium, its political effectiveness and effectuality. Registration is the political act, the effect whereby protocols are no sooner written than they are performed.

luz es tiempo
network critical
theatrum philosophicum

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“The true poet, he said, should abandon the coffeehouse and take the part of ‘the sharpshooters, the lonesome cowboys… the spat-upon supermarket shoppers in their massive individual collective disjunctives’ – the cunning, the lonely, the unnoticed and despised”

– from Natasha Wimmer’s “Afterword,” to Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, trans. Natasha Wimmer, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2009, p. 579

for five days we swam at the beach, read in the shade on the porch in hammocks that hung from nails and gave way little by little until our backsides touched the floor, drank beer, and took long walks around a part of La Loma where there were lots of cliffs, and also locked fishermen’s huts, there on the edge of the woods by the beach, which a thief could have broken into with an expedient kick to one of the walls, a kick that we were sure would knock a hole or make the whole thing collapse.

The fragility of those shacks, though this only occurs to me now, gave me a funny feeling more than once, not of precariousness or poverty but of obscure tenderness and foreboding…

– Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives, trans. Natasha Wimmer, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2009, p. 424

the same thing happened to them that almost always happens to the best Latin American writers or the best of the writers born in the fifties: the trinity of youth, love, and death was revealed to them, like an epiphany.

– Ibid., p. 468

In a brief moment of lucidity, I was sure that we’d all gone crazy. But then that moment of lucidity was displaced by a supersecond of superlucidity (if I can put it that way), in which I realised that this scene was the logical outcome of our ridiculous lives. It wasn’t a punishment but a new wrinkle. It gave us a glimpse of ourselves in our common humanity. It wasn’t proof of our idle guilt but a sign or our miraculous and pointless innocence. But that’s not it. That’s not it. We were still and they were in motion and the sand on the beach was moving, not because of the wind but because of what they were doing and what we were doing, which was nothing, which was watching, and all of that together was the wrinkle, the moment of superlucidity. Then, nothing. My memory has always been mediocre, no better than a reporter needs to do his job. Iñaki attacked the other guy, the other guy attacked Iñaki, I realised they might go on like this for hours, until the swords were heavy in their hands, I got out a cigarette, I didn’t have a light, I looked in all my pockets, I got up and went over to Quima, only to learn that she’d quit a long time ago, a year or an eternity. For a moment I considered going to ask Piña for a light, but that seemed excessive. I sat next to Quima and watched the duelers. They were moving in circles but they were slowing down. I also got the impression that they were talking to each other, but the sound of waves drowned out their voices. I said to Quima that I thought it was all a farce. You’re absolutely wrong, she answered. Then she said that she thought it was very romantic. Strange woman, that Quima. I wanted a cigarette more than before. In the distance, Piña was sitting in the sand like us now, and a trail of cobalt blue smoke issued from his lips. I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and went over to him, going the long way around, to keep out of range of the duelers. A woman was watching us from the hill. She was leaning on the hood of a car and shading her eyes with her hands. I thought she was looking at the sea, but then I realised that she was watching us, of course.

Piña offered me his lighter without a word. I looked at his face: he was crying.

– Ibid., p. 454-455

luz es tiempo

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He wahine, he whenua, e ngaro ai te tangata – or – What with one thing and another


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what if Adam Curtis is right? [here] that the failure of the Left has more to do with the Right stealing all its best ideas than with anything intrinsically wrong with the Left itself. The Right showed that those ideas could work. Look at the success of the network! And of course the victim mentality of the Left bears witness to this. But then the Left didn’t fail, it lost. It lost the Revolution.

perhaps it has taken until now to realise this. Now in the new life political action appears to have we are in fact seeing the residues of a counter-revolution, the fallout from the Right’s decision to backtrack on and relinquish the good ideas it stole – from freedom, self-determination, fair competition, democracy to neoliberalism, market-led social policy, monopolistic trade, corpocratic control: the clampdown on the network that was the Counter-Revolution.

We never knew we had it so good until then! Now no wonder there is protest.

network critical



network critical: immanent effects

Albert-László Barabási has written two beautiful books dealing with network theory. It is in the second, however, that what was only latent in the first becomes clear. It is brought out in three ways: in this book Barabási shows that he is a writer; Bursts deals with network effects in time; and where the real world application of network theory worked by way of analogy in Linked, in the second, and under the auspices of time, it is the real world that takes over.

My question is: at the very time that we are most connected, why is it that we are most isolated?

It is as if they are part of the same problematic, as if the network connecting us itself provided the anatomy for our isolation, as for our connection.

It is also as if the very time were part of the problematic and the question had as much to do with its realism – its adequacy to reality – as the reality of what is purported and what purports to be current, present, relevant, even critical: the current “crisis.”

We are caught in a movement between Barabási’s two books. From the analogical real world application of network theory to the immanence of communicating networks in a real world in time. Moreover, the intensification of this critical moment, of this moment of crisis – the intensification of the crisis, then – could itself be a network effect, in Barabási’s words, a burst. That is, the fact of there being power-nodes operating in a spatialised network produces a concatenatory effect in time. Time is not indifferent, but broken or cut by moments of crisis: bursts of intensity, self-intensifying and self-exacerbating according to network effects.

The very time, however, is it one of crisis or continuity? How to judge, when the space-time network is so resilient, has been engineered to be so resilient, as to withstand, continue and even thrive in times of crisis!

The crisis of these very times may be prolonged indefinitely, exactly continuous with and in continuity with the network.

network critical

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on αὐτοκρατία: offered in the spirit of recession:

In “The Spirit of Recession” Paul Chan invokes three cycles:

  1. the ineluctability of the cycle of history – a war, a banking crisis, or scandal, a recession, repeated from father to son, Bush by Bush
  2. the ineluctability of the cycle of domination – whereby disarmament is a high calling (note already a religious-pacifist tone)
  3. the ineluctability of the cycle of the self – the most mysterious, since it is the subject of a domination, in a circular or voluntary relation with its dominated object

He brings in two disciplines or orders:

  1. the practice of religion
  2. the practice of art

Both in a practical sense rely on repetition.

The parallels between the two are well-known: it is in regard to the first, that, while also linking it with the sacrament of exchange in capitalism, Paul Chan says, I am a liar, I have no problem being a liar; he gives the context of labelling himself a Christian while in Iraq in order better and more fully to engage with Iraqis. While art practice he describes in eschatalogical, religious terms: as about being about last things, like the last thing in the service, the recessional, when the church is blessed for authority having left it. There is a beautiful role reversal at work here.

What strikes me as strange, however, as given the lie to, or the true paradox of his speech, is that he explicitly says there is no magic, when spirit or magic is clearly the issue. A perennial magical domination of the spirit.

It is a power immanent to and exercised in religious work as much as artistic work in so far as both involve, convolve, revolve, these three cycles, even when from below, in terms of their hypostasization, their iteration at a deeper, hidden level. Albeit in plain sight, as Paul Chan says.

These practices are rites – good works, work itself, right? (“Jesus,” he says, “and so much more!”) repeated, undertaken in a spirit of humility, modesty, recession, even, as suggested, yet for that very reason vulnerable to having already been coopted, to having already been made complicit, and to precisely conspiratorially and magically supporting the cycles of repetition: of history, of power, of identity.

To practice deceit in the name of a higher truth: magic, but also politics, art, the priesthoods.

There is a shape of thought, there is a gesture of thought, which is sheer mime. It is a copy. Being a copy it precedes what it resembles.


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good advice and lots of it

National Scandal

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Mark Fisher of k-punk on SOCIAL IMAGINATION amongst other essential things, like the intensification of neoliberalism in extremis

National Scandal

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Paul Chan: decoupling life from the living decoupling the expansion of productivity from the producers it is not natural it is not even human it is religious


God lives on in the sacrament of exchange relations

the nature of spirit: music torture at Guantanamo Bay

power recedes – a church without authority is blessed indeed

the spirit is a bone, …

eschatalogical art – art of the recessional: it is about last things and a hymn:

it is the last thing in the service

I think conflict is good

to make tension

but the work of disarming is incredibly tense

tenser than the other kind, I think

we’re swimming in the heat of a religiosity which infuses everything

5 site-specific productions of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in two locations in New Orleans … what is my belief in theatre? It wasn’t theatre. It was Beckett. … Godot was on every corner of the streets of New Orleans.

the sense of being impotently dragged along in its wake

is no reason to see it as natural, right?

that it’s just the way it is – that’s myth

that’s mythic thinking, right?

it’s natural

it’s just the way that it is

there’s a sense that Beckett is an abstract cold playwright

but they’re not

they’re in fact some of the most concrete things you’ll ever see

put in the right place

and New Orleans was the right place

[Sontag in Sarajevo]


because everyone knew what it meant to wait

and to shoot the shit while you were waiting,

it made more sense than sense

the repeating of those events

there’s nothing conspiratorial

I mean they’re in plain sight.

there’s no conspiracy

it’s just the longing to

dominate and in

the dominating

preserving the self

the self of domination

makes the repeat?

its religious practice?

the circularity of mythic


the perennial self of domination

it’s no magic

that’s what it means

so how do you disarm

this cycle?

how do you survive without dominating?

because you think that only through domination can you survive

is that it?


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