February 2024

the yobbism of the given

The tenets of civilisation are now being written by the authors of the gravest barbarity. Times have changed since Walter Benjamin’s day.

I’m informed I’m up to 1,990 posts and 298 pages. My father before he died said, Life is too short to read square white world.

Space is a social construct within the many, many, many dimensions of time. The notion offers no consolation to people who cannot negotiate the space they’re in, like animals, in the words of the title of Gilles Châtelet’s book–To Live and Think Like Pigs: The Incitement of Envy and Boredom in Market Democracies.

Justin Clemens reviewing my doctoral thesis lauded the concept of minoritarian conventionalism. I had a very specific context when I came up with the idea, a group formed around my practice, Minus Theatre.

We can choose the conventions we follow so long as we limit the number of people included in the subject, we. If we do not we are bound to follow the conventions of the space and spaces we inhabit, the same for any other animal in its habitat.

The point is elective rather than selective. It’s out of habit that we say the sun will rise, and rise in the West; the beginning of science fiction: the sun rose in the East.

Deleuze follows the line of Spinoza, Hume and Nietzsche, on his own and then with Guattari. This line is not of good sense and public morality and not, according to the conventions, determined to be natural and belong to human nature, we have no choice but to accept, of common sense.

I have left Bergson out but he can be placed anywhere in relation to the other points on the line, which are, a body’s powers of action are in relation to its power to be affected (Spinoza), custom is to the social as habit is to the individual: both may be chosen (Hume), and the social is the sum result of the choice of those forces that would affirm it in its values and that only return through the individual’s re-affirmation of them, that is, as resentment (Nietzsche). All three concern the basis of freedom that Bergson leaves undefined because it is in indetermination.

Music, the answer is music. “He had the great courage to place his knowledge and energy at the service of a cause that could never be won in a single lifetime, at any price. Fighting doggedly in a western world traumatised by guilt at having allowed the genocide of the Jews to happen, while having redeemed itself on the cheap at the cost of denial and blindness in relation to the Palestinians, Said managed to maintain his positions without ever ceding an inch of his territory to the anti-Semitism he abhorred to the same degree.”

Dominique Eddé is writing about Edward Said. Said and Daniel Barenboim together founded the Divan Orchestra, now known as the West-Eastern, its website here.

Friends, Said and Barenboim, the website tells us, together “realised the urgent need for an alternative way to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The most recent post on Divan’s website, an opinion piece by Barenboim, is dated 16 October 2023. Today’s date is 23 February 2024.

As at 21 February 2024, Al Jazeera reports a death toll of 29,708 Palestinians and 1,139 since 7 October 2023 in Israel. Of the first number, it reports 12,300 were children and 8,400 women.

Common sense and good sense are like night and day, which does not mean there is not a twilight, an horizon between them, a morning light and a growing gloom. On 31 October 2023 Le Monde featured an opinion piece by Dominique Eddé, author of Edward Said: His Thought as a Novel.

She writes there, “it is time for each and every one of us to make a huge effort if we do not want barbarism to triumph at our gates.” She echoes Walter Benjamin, who, according to his friend, Gershom Scholem, held that were three things Zionism must abandon, its racism and “racist ideology” and its “‘blood experience’ arguments.” (source)

… “a cause”, writes Benjamin, “becomes violent, in the precise sense of the word, when it enters into moral relations.” The source cited above links to that for this statement and also provides a gloss on Benjamin’s essay in which the statement occurs, “Zur Kritik der Gewalt.”

Benjamin’s word for violence, Gewalt, is defined as state-violence. State-violence when it enters into the moral relations of a cause becomes yobbism, we might say.

Is there any state and any state-violence that has not currently entered into the moral relations of a cause? How, when the given is yobbism, take up a cause against this cause?

Victor Double said to me, Thank you for your help, Mr Taylor. My help consisted of contacting AT (Auckland Transport) on his behalf, as an AT agent, about which I could say more, since I work at a public library, to ask that his AT Gold Card be credited with the price of his ferry ticket, approximately NZ$30 from downtown Auckland.

Since the Gold Card allows the holder free travel on public transport if used before 9am, he had he felt been wrongly charged. He’d caught the 9am ferry which boarded at five minutes to, he explained; he didn’t usually travel with his poodle; and there were a lot of people, tourists, to board.

He gave his name, asked to confirm his identity, and, asked for his date of birth, he hesitated before giving the year, 1939. He was, he said, afraid that made him 85.

Were they going to refund him? A query would be raised, for review and, pending that, no definite answer.

I was aware, I told him, that even catching the ferry five minutes before nine you could be zapped. Thank you for your help, Mr Taylor, once the transaction was complete, said Mr Double, and left with his straw hat and his poodle.

Why burn books when you can burn libraries? Burning Al-Kalima library in Gaza is not an isolated event. Since October 7 at least 14 other libraries have been either completely destroyed or badly damaged by the Israel Defense Forces, enough to confirm the burning of libraries as an objective.

The list given by Literary Hub includes,

Gaza University Library, on October 9

IBBY Children in Crisis Library (destroyed by air-strike once before in 2014)

Diana Tamari Sabbagh Library (also used as a shelter for people), on November 25

Al-Israa University Library

the National Museum (looted and then demolished), on January 18

the Central Archives of Gaza

the Great Omari Mosque and library (housing one of the most significant collections of rare books in Palestine)

An earlier article lists librarians and archivists killed. Justine Profane, a guest (her name recalling Walter Benjamin’s “Theologico-Political Fragment”), comments:

“Barbarous cancer is idiots like you. Change your avatar you specious racist as you seem to have a problem with Jewish lives and this is all you can muster. You accuse us of barbarism but yet here we are as you parade around sounding more and more like David Duke and sending money for the slaughter. The Leni Riefenstahl Arts Council applauds you. You also never answered my question earlier: How long have you hated women? Here’s another questions: You think a beta like you could handle a loud mouthed real woman, especially a Jewish woman like me?

“Sit down, you misogynistic troll.

“Your hatred is on your and your support for it is the ugly reflection in the mirror. Not mine and not on me.”

Edward Said Library (Beit Lahia) has also been destroyed. (source: Librarians and Archivists with Palestine) David Lloyd writes on the conference and workshop which took place in Ramallah, “Walter Benjamin in Palestine: On the Place and Non-Place of Radical Thought,” in December 2015:

“To emphasize the contradiction between intellectual study and a commitment to practice, or between the privilege of the foreign scholar and the burdens of the Palestinian living under occupation, seemed almost too easy, a form of hasty thinking, even. Those of us who had committed to engage in these workshops, unsure even whether we would be allowed by Israeli authorities to enter Palestine, despite the workshop’s focus on a major and self-consciously Jewish intellectual, had chosen to participate in study under a state of occupation. We came there from diverse and incommensurate histories and motivations. We were philosophers by training, artists, film-makers, historians and theorists, activists and translators, and sometimes several of those at once. … Above all, we had committed not to a mere intellectual exercise but to the furtherance of a principle, which is that the intellectual life of the occupied and oppressed is not a luxury, but a fundamental expression of the possibility of living in common.”

“The attempt to destroy Palestinian intellectual life is as unstinting as the uprooting and burning of the ancient olive trees of the Holy Land, some 800,000 of which have been destroyed in the course of Israel’s occupation.”

I am at the end of this post and I have not yet said what I came here to say (as usual). And as usual, I have let others speak. In the end it was easier to let them speak, like the crime novelist Oliver Bottini, who says of his character Louise Boní, “For years she’d been pleased she no longer belonged to a community of whatever sort…”

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>>>…|||>>>|>?… Pop, Geekdom & MAFS

in an interview with Simon Denny, Quinn Slobodian identifies 2 of what Denny calls sub-art worlds, of people “programming at big cultural institutions, and museums especially, rather than galleries”:

  1. “culturally engaged art plugging directly into marginalised identities and oppressed groups”…
  2. another genre which “delves into the intersection of libertarian thought collectives and technologically enabled forms of subjectivity”…

the question I have is, Is that where the money is? or, Is that where the heat, energy is?

…at least, I don’t think it can be claimed that it is where the heart is.

… >>>where is the heart?

Both Denny and Slobodian address the issue of their own work being taken as an endorsement of their subject, the intersection of libertarian thought collectives and technologically enabled forms of subjectivity. In Denny’s case this went as far as Peter Thiel buying work featuring Peter Thiel, in Slobodian to his book Crack-Up Capitalism being adopted in libertarian circles. Perhaps this says more about technologically enabled subjectivities than it does about libertarian thought collectives, subjectivities that would in the first case be fluid than the thought collectives were in the second sticky.

… |||> is this the only option for as Slobodian says “white guys like us”? or otherwise should “white guys like us” accept it as their lot and have their hearts at and be at home in the intersection of libertarian thought collectives and technologically enabled subjectivities?

… >|>and what about the critical attitude that it is assumed art-critically that they have towards their subject?

Is it a question like Hal Foster says about Pop of taking a relatively “uninflected” view of its subject and of this being, this somewhat masculinist objectivity being, a kind of camp take on the sentimental histrionics surrounding, for instance, the Futurist project–which stoked the masculinist assumptions of the post-war avant-garde and the pretensions of serious art, pretensions that Pop would pop?

Or is it more simply in the playing out of these assumptions that this “uninflected” view and attitude of neutrality and position even of objectivity towards its subject consists? Nothing left to pop now but these assumptions …

after-Pop, like an appendix to Camp, surviving, that no longer has an evolutionary purpose so that the attitude it inspired no longer remembers it was Camp?

? … do “white guys like us” have nothing more at stake than being identified with the libertarian host on which their art or writing is parasitic? (particularly when the host seems to like the attention, like sharks enjoying that of remoras).

Foster in the big book Pop!, 2010, talks about, starting in the mid-50s, Pop giving space for the little revelations, the trivial epiphanies of commodity culture and mass-produced objects. It plays off its seriousness with sexiness and humour. A sexy humour is perhaps the essence of Camp, the lie that tells the truth speaking to the fluidity of sexual identity while not-so-much to that of technologically enabled subjectivities and being completely out of sorts with the sticky territories of libertarian think-tanky type thinking.

…> then, isn’t this whole discussion super geeky? shouldn’t “white guys like us” be amended to geeks like us?

|||>… riding on the back of that question: doesn’t technologically enabled subjectivity name the geek? and isn’t it as a result of same technologically enablement, by way of a sort of contagion, by tech vectors, that geekdom spreads out and makes claims for its own seriousness, defending its precariousness, its constitutive fluidity, its flakeyness with a politicised morality that has many similarities with antipolitical libertarianism? staking out a similar sticky territory? … this is one that Naomi Klein will call the Mirror World in Doppelganger, 2023.

…| the trivial, the mass-produced thing, the anti-art and pro-commercial-culture and at-once anti-commercial-culture (generally where the heat has been, generated from the friction between assent to Capitalism-as-it-is-perceived and dissent from it) deserves serious attention = Pop. Serious Attention is what is reserved for Things to be Valued (and priced accordingly). Serious Attention is a reflective surface, a Mirror Stage (surmounting the Void), in which those who pay it are reflected. It’s not really play. … and it’s no longer Pop because it has no bodies, protests its sex but is not sexual or sexy, except as technologically enabled. Funny.

Serious Attention is what participants (or contestants) in Married At First Sight Australia give to the task of ranking the partners’ photos of the other participants (or contestants) in order of “how attractive they are” to them. The men, at least, go about it geekily. They get seriously wound up in the assessment process. Series 2024 has no gay couples, so it’s all men ranking women, women ranking men; and then placing their own newly married partner(-contestant)’s photo according to how they rank against the others.

As a rule the male party goes first. He sets the photos of all the other newly married women in order of most to least attractive to him. He might say things like, she’s my type, which might mean the type he’d pick out and try to pick up in a bar for a prospective sexual partner, but he tends to go no deeper than looks. He ranks all the photos. Once all of them are stuck in the order he’s happy with (and when the ranking is complete, he may make amendments, stroking his chin…) on the wall in a row, he picks up the photo of his new wife.

His eyes dart from her photo to the photos of the other wives on the wall. By now he may be so caught up in his task that he forgets his new wife is there. Then he ranks her. Music builds. This is the denouement.

His new wife takes his Serious Attention, his geeky application to the task, to be honesty.

She is suitably upset at her ranking of third-equal to say, I don’t know if there’s any coming back from this … She is despite herself or because of herself upset. And he either realises or does not.

He does not know why she’s upset. He defends his ranking. His heart is beating fast now in defensive confusion.

M. said watching the show that the men show moral piggishness.

When the wives come to the task they invariably rank their new husbands at the top. To them their new husbands are more attractive than all the others. So, who’s being dishonest?

Is anybody?

Do the wives show more emotional intelligence? Or is it out of consideration for their new husbands’ lack of it that they rank them top? And even in this condescension, taking consideration of their husbands’ feelings, are they not showing more emotional intelligence than the men?

MAFS reserves its statement on the issue for the following night’s episode, when the men we’d been led to think are players, who have “girlfriends on the outside” (of the game), or did when they ought not to have, when they were applying for inclusion in the “experiment” of having an arranged marriage on TV, get to do the task.

The players, the cads, the lying and dishonest men, who may have had girlfriends when the experiment began or who may still, rank their own new wives top. Then they preen.

They show emotional smarts. But is it honest?

The player-husbands, who may be playing at being husbands, are essentially playing the game better than the honest but morally piggish ones. But are they doing the experiment properly?

… there is room (surmounting the Void) for reflexivity for both husbands and wives. Both equally could be calculating. HOWEVER…

the new wives by no means go about the ranking-by-attraction task the same way.

For the men there is a critical space that opens up, giving room for reflexivity whether any occurs or not, a distance, allowing them both to stand back from the task as from the object of their task as much as from the object of their attraction. The women here are objects like the the intersection of libertarian thought collectives and technologically enabled forms of subjectivity was the subject of artistic representation named by Slobodian.

Slobodian asks Denny:

When you’re making works, are you attracted first by the aesthetic of something, and then you find the ideology inside of it? Or are you out looking for an ideology and what that might look like aesthetically?

Denny answers first one way then the other. His practice seems to deal with mirror-effects between what it looks like and what it is that it is trying to hide it is.

The most salient question seems to be, Where do you stand on this?

should it be clear? should it be implicit? should it be disavowed (as a redundant or recidivist question and one anyway that has no bearing on the realities of the day when the name of the game is to win it)? should it be deliberately or strategically muddied?

and, what about when the muddying is already strategically clear, deliberate as well as implicit and disavowed in the subject or object? as with Finance Minister Nicola Willis’s “Address to the NZ Economics Forum,” 15 Feb. 2024, the full text of which is here.

It could be repeated word for word with only an inflection here and there to show it is a fresh skin on a dead carcass.

Still,

the risk would be run of repeating it at all.

[cited interview “Fantasy Exit,” Simon Denny and Quinn Slobodian, Art News, Futures special issue No200, Summer 2023, pp. 85-91]

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the types of moving image, from surface detail – a quote, quoted for its eventual use in the series about cinematic time, that starts with “Enduring Dreams”

So, make your mind up. Real space view with potential scariness, or some screen; gentle feel-good, wistful comedy, razor-sharp witterage, outright slapstick hilarity, engrossing human drama, historical epic, educational documentary, ambient meanderance, pure art appreciation, porn, horror, sport or news?

[for what I am referring to in the title of this post, the most recent post on cinematic time includes links to the section which began the series, “Enduring Dreams.” Note also that the series is lacking an introduction, a compression tank to prepare the dear reader for the abruption and going-on-a-bit of the first section, the note on cinematic time. Best, Simon

[P.S. if you have any suggestions about the series or, about how it might begin, as to what the introduction might look like, I would be delighted to hear from you.]

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