immedia

in his image

                                                                            
listen to the deep
	along the lines of
the face and darkness.

a spark, a sink
	among the eggshells

outside it all was broken into pieces

and I said, the darkness is not total
	the chaos is not     fatal
		or even original

although, what did Brian think?
	it is genetic	his favourite
drink     his Boy George hat but
      he was skinny  a grenadine
a double, sinking in his beer like pisschrist,
shotglass   wobbles to the bottom of the pint.

bi   drunk and on her single bed he was having
  a threesome with Tracey he came out and said
    with Tracey and a friend, punk girlfriend 
      and he had to stop to take timeout
        he said, two punks and a goth
            he had come they had not
              because of his one lung
          use his inhaler have a cigarette
            then go back in again   because
              he said he liked to watch,


Depth-charge, depth-charger Brian says
   he said it so it rhymes with plays
     it's not a competition to see if he could
       break the record he set on 
   the last time dole day, Thursday's dole day
           of how many he could drink
             and more than once 
           he comes home to the flat bashed in
             and spent the rent and 
               Tracey fixed him up, and he 
                 liked women 

but he said,
    he was sad and had     one lung:

     how many can you 
       and can you afford to


    the shot glass sinks to the bottom
                of the pint glass

       it goes it goes wobbly then goes
                             clink

softly too,

	afterwards, after Brian's bashed in for
		   what he says it rhymes with lays
               to the men at the bar 
        and jokes that pieces are always
      falling off him always are and they
    say fucking queer and Tony pulls him away

		he was deaf in one ear.

		  too soft to hear.

I left him in the mall at Cashel Street
          it was the eighties '83
  badges clinking on his blazer the satin
    lapels stained with dribbles or semen
      always are     I saw him
                with his one leg
                  and crooked smile
                    walk a crooked mile

to see a sad friend that he had who
                topped herself
  so he says it rhymes with stays
    and a man    about a dog
    and a man    about a pea, Miranda said
      who shrinks down to the size
        of suicide
          and is dead         who
                    gets inside your head
            inserts himself in your ear
                              who
                                is bent
who means it always did and stays there

down deeper than a vacuum cleaner
  deeper down than vomit vomit that
    they cannot clear
      a human vacuum cleaner

Tracey now is picking at the carpet
  pinching fluff between her fingers
    finding coins 
      and applecores 
        behind the sofa
          the flat
            came down in a demo
              don't look for it
         I read the cantos in the turret
       but that is not where it began

I began as we all do and I did not become
 insufficient   brothers sisters brothers
                  take my arms

take me outside no I'm not like we all do 
                going to be sick take
                  my hair    need
                    something from me

along these lines and on the fourth day
                    he found inspiration
                      it came to him
                        as it was on
           the first day of creation and
                          God said
                            Order up!

He thought 
        I do think the birds sing to me
                      piu piu piu piu
                        like owls the
                          ringneck doves
                              and a bird
        sang Speak speak speak speak
                            as he passed

            casting shadows on the deep
         and as it was 
            as it was what he was thinking
      at the time I think at the time
            the present
   passed over like clouds casting
                    shadows on the deep

                    why write when I can
                    speak     ? why work
                    when I can sleep   ?

so he dreamt he was a famous star
  playing in a famous scene and
    at the bar a minor bird called out
      Mister where have you been?

he dreamt he was Julie Andrews
  skiing with her groom
    on the mountains of the moon

dreamt of sweeping wide and wider still
  round the corners of a frozen hill
    a snow-carpeted hill
     he dreamt he was in Switzerland

He dreamt of sitting in the window
  with a garden view and his love
    who was a woman who
      He stood up in and
        saw into his soul

and   how many   needed nothing

and he dreamt so he dreamt 
   of the groom and the vacuum
     of the scene and the actor
       of the pea in his ear
         of the man and the beer

         of steps being taken
       suspicions he was faking

how many thoughts are dreams    ?
  and how many dreams are
    how many dreams    are there

as if dreams are our mother
  when she married memories
    after sleeping with chaos

he dreamt of an eternal cafe table
  and of waiting on it
    when God said Order up!
      but he was unable

how many dreams are memories
  and how many thoughts are
    how many thoughts    are there?

his mother in the bath
  her pubes all tangled in the water
    a tattered butterfly 
     who he said to he thought
       it's worth it
         I think so too 
          and waited to

each shall be given
    the deserving and the non
      the believing and the non

god's gift    he said   as an actor
you're not    too soft  
                  for the extractor

Tracey was a human vacuum cleaner
      no, not that way
Is the light on   ?
  Have the right steps been taken
    is the vomit clear?
      is there a man in your ear?
        a man here and   he says
         it rhymes with pays
           no, not that way

suspicions he was faking 
          were mistaken
he did not awaken   god's gift

from the lucky and the un
forsaken and un
  from father son and holy one
      will be taken   God's gift
       he was not and from a man
        in your rear depth-
         charging your beer
          the fizz
           holy un
 from the gearshift she sat on
 to Brian with his hat on
   Louie frothing at the mouth
          one is 
            not enough

from the fizz of creation this
  one man is not      this man
    was my brother    he was
      in arms     taken
        in his image  as was
          God's gift  in his

from mother and daughter
  to mother-daughter too
    to unmother daughter
      my daughter
        how deep is
           the water is it
      
in his image    god's gift
            too    ?








[11 March 2023]

...
anciency
hommangerie
immedia
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τραῦμα
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point to point
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swweesaience
textasies
thigein & conatus
X

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thanks, nom du pear on twttr

Gramsci's famous motto, "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will," 
was taken from Romain Rolland who had taken it from 
Jacob Burckhardt's description of the Greeks
--which Nietzsche read to his friends at Sorrento in 1876.









as perhaps a note on this post

Ἀκαδήμεια
detraque
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speculatively, to see what would happen.

the title of this post is from John Ash’s poem, “Second Prose for Roy Fisher,” page 54 in the volume, The Branching Stairs, published by Carcanet, Manchester, UK, although, England, might be more appropriate, in 1984, and refers to a “missile thrown without anger: speculatively, to see what would happen,” but I was struck by the line because of something that is present in many of Ash’s poems, suspension.

The volume, Disbelief, had a poem in it about suspension bridges. It could not but help recall when talking of suspending bridges on hightension wires suspending disbelief. Belief… disbelief… is one of the things, the human things, Bergson writes of as being elastic, as having plasticity, I have in mind…

…belief of a spiritual nature… …the belief required by convention in order to be upheld (for example, that of a fiat currency for it to retain its value)… …disbelief that anything really bad is going to happen… …the disbelief that anything really bad is going to happen that is really a disbelief in death… …belief and disbelief in the process of trauma, subject to traumatic processes…

Fear transmutes into phobia when it obsessively repeats itself, coding its dread and loathing in a symbolism that may in fact make it more difficult to face real threats.

Catherine Keller says this in view of the tehomophobia of the psalmist who invokes an angry god to smite the people’s enemies. She brings up the tradition of theomachy, struggle with or amongst a god or gods. More than this, she brings up the disappointment at god’s uselessness when confronting enemies of the people, whether these be other people or spiritual or material forces. What these constitute in view of tehomophobia is a fear of chaos, of the chaos that comes to disrupt any given order. It becomes phobic, tehomophobia, when it obsessively repeats itself, or is obsessively repeated, by coding its dread and loathing in a symbolism. This symbolism is not a coating, is not symbolic in the sense of not being real. It is, instead of not real, kryptonite to reality or rather antimatter to the matter at hand. It denies the reality its reality. It does not coat reality with symbols. It displaces reality without replacing it. It displaces it nowhere.

…and the displacement of reality nowhere effected by the encoding of dread and loathing into a more or less pervasive symbolism for me brings up this line of Ash’s addressing what speculatively means, to see what would happen. It does so because threats that are made more difficult to face are threats at hand. They belong to the present so the question becomes is it a nowhere of the displacement of reality or is it a nowhen?

to see what would happen, speculatively. In my last post I had an issue with Rebecca Solnit’s vision of social transformation as a kind of edifice of ideas. In it, Solnit said there were walls and towers. It was a kind of architecture. (I made a play on the arche of architecture, its coming first that an anarchy would be against… but not refuse…) Change happened so that those who were outside the walls might wake up and woke find themselves included, included in the inclusivity of a transforming, expanding social architecture. I said I find this scary. I still find it scary. Horrible to be walled in.

I would rather be anywhere else than in an expanding inclusivity identifying itself as a transforming distending social edifice. Than eaten up by it (Leviathan?) I would rather be nowhere.

I ask, Leviathan? because the symbolism Keller is concerned with as a coding of a fear gone phobic belongs to Leviathan. Leviathan is tehomic. Feminine. Oceanic. Fluid. Chaotic. And ungrounding.

תְּהוֹם, tehom, ungrounds. Tehom unoriginates origin. And it does so from biblical genesis.

והארץ היתה תהו
ובהו וחשך על־פני
תהום ורוח אלהים
מרחפת על־פני
המים׃

[emphasis added, from here]

terra autem erat inanis et vacua et tenebrae super faciem abyssi et spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas

And the earth was waste and without form; and it was dark on the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God was moving on the face of the waters

…from formlessness, anarchy, comes formation. Keller’s book, The Face of the Deep, counters the tehomophobia encoding a fear of formlessness, of the deep, of the womb, that gives the formula to genesis of a creatio ex nihilo, with a creatio ex profundis. It’s a big job. It’s big because, Keller says, from the creatio ex nihilo, from this arche, comes what else but creation. And what other kind of creation can there be ex nihilo than one that has a single origin from which it progressively extends in a line. It is the point at which linear time starts. And it figures that point each time, for each time there is linear time. Or, that point is the figure of the start of any time considered to be a line, a line of progressive improvement in standards of living, of scientific progress, of technological accomplishment, for example, and a line toward the end, toward any end, whether it reach it or not. So out of nothing grounds all teleology.

Keller argues for a creation from the deep ungrounding all teleology, making the architecture break open, and bringing on new acts of creation, in some cases stalling progress, stopping growth, exploding in an ongoing explosion, of human and all things, elsewhere … or elsewhen.

…and this again is the speculatively, to see what would happen. When is it? then? now?

… not now but suspended …

[and just like that I went out to get some lunch]

Happening now ex nihilo apart from extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, like after the Big Bang, like that but happening now, it is said we are hastening, accelerating towards first anthropocide, suicide on the scale of all human things and then anthropogenic biocide, killing off if not all then most living things… but if then when?

Science is for, enables us to attend with extreme sensitivity, the extreme sensitivity of its instruments, to initial conditions, so that we can say we are moving ever faster towards a significant extinction event or horizon. It is drawing us on, yes, perhaps, but more important than this is the point at which we find ourselves, are found to be, by instruments of measurement, now, in the now. We are somehow fixed here and this fixing is entailed in, presupposes a timeline we are on. The timeline is both of human scale and at the scale of a geological movement, of geological time, and so called anthropocene.

What has happened to speculatively, to see what would happen? This is no time to see what would happen. This is no time for experimentation. It is no time for experimentation not because time is running out but because time is the timeline established by instrumental sensitivity to existing conditions as initiating an inevitable chain of cause and effect, to end in disaster or apocalypse… some version of the disclosure that the closure of time entails.

We know then, now, that something is going to happen along the way. It will be revealed that is. The end will be revealed. But we cannot act otherwise than in the knowledge of what we know. We cannot above all see what happens.

When is there time to?

When is the time to see what happens but in another sort of time?

Speculatively does not mean being displaced from this timeline onto another timeline. It is not possible to replace, unless we are multiverse-believing, one ex nihilo timeline by another. Multiverse-believing, perhaps we can refuse this one and opt for a leap. Such a leap would however come to land and would not be suspended and indeterminate, between being a wave and a point for example. It would have to come to a terminus. It would therefore also start from nothing. It could not from the unoriginating origin of formlessness.

I mean, even if the concept formed from the formlessness preceding it, the prevenient formlessness of the deep, a kind of Big Time, Biggodaddytime, there might be room for other times contesting it but as concept it would not could not be an indeterminate time, neither would it nor could it be both form and formless.

In the Kabbalistic tradition there is a room set aside for such things, the zimsum. God in this tradition is preceded by ein sof. It is not a matter of a preceding state of affairs and one following it that a time cannot be suspended, speculatively, to see what happens. The happening has to be construed a certain way. All I am really saying is that the dominant construction of temporal matters in our time is linear.

Ex nihilo linearity dominates. It is repeated obsessively. Repeated obsessively, timeline-likeness has been coded in a symbolism more or less pervasive, since this is how it is represented.

The timeline in accelerating has become unalterable. The faster we go, the more difficult to break forward momentum. And the greater the accusations in resisting it that we are trying to turn the clocks back, not speculatively but fantasisingly.

…and yet we know we can’t keep up. We know we can’t keep up. We know we can’t do nothing. We know we can’t do anything that’s going to make enough of a difference and time is running out.

Solnit’s answer is that differences are being made. It’s just that we don’t see them at the individual level. It’s only at the level of a million that the differences being made are visible. Then we who thought ourselves outside the walls will find we are inside the walls.

Solnit counts herself among those who have made a difference in making what was previously invisible visible. The previously invisible injustice comes into sight, and, she says, resistance to this structural expansion has most often made recourse to justice. Using the law does not make injustice invisible again. There is it seems a compulsion at work, a dominology.

…speculatively, to see what would happen. The appeal is in the sense of the speculation not having a stake in what is going to happen. It is also in the sense the speculation has no control. Sight itself has no claim, since it’s not for sight or for the sight or for the over-sight. I can imagine surprise.

It doesn’t matter what kind of act it is. It’s a light thing. It has no longer to do with making visible or invisible however. Does it then matter at all?

Well, yes it does. Something, some human thing, has been lifted up to the surface from the deep. It has arisen not like a tower, a wall, a pulpit, concept or moral principle. And if it has been heavy this human thing has gained from being on the surface a share of lightness. And the lightness that has been superadded has enabled it to move once there. I should say, once here. You might ask, can it move in time? No in one sense. Yes in another. Since its happening is only as much as to see what would.

Better to describe it then as a falling object. But one coming from a profound height to which has been added gravity while from it has been subtracted weight. The time it occupies is not measurable but the vacuum caused by an intake of breath.

...
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On the resignation of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: towards a politics of change

[this article is available to read in personal document format, in black on white, here]

Prime Minister Ardern resigned. Although it deals with what has been said about her time in office and her exit from it, the article that follows is neither valedictory nor a critique. I wanted to deal with what has not been said. I think her resignation speaks for itself but to get to what that is I think we have to go through the most obvious reason for it, the public animus towards her that has led to death threats, threats of physical and sexual violence. I do think gender politics are at work here however the article starts not from the political context but from the antipolitical.

I take this term from The End of the End of History, 2021, a book answering to Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of the end of history when, with the fall of the Soviet bloc, there no longer seemed to be any opposition to capitalist western democracy in its global political reach. History had made it the winner, on the day, at least, because The End of the End is about historical and political forces that have made it appear this no longer to be the case. One of these new forces is antipolitical.

My use of this book comes from its urgency and cogency. With the qualifications that I make below, it is the best, although for the worse, diagnosis, of what I understand of this historical political moment. It is so for its diagnosis of antipolitics. Its urgency belongs to the problem of antipolitics for politics and I see this problem and part of its solution, that I deal with in the final part of the article, as being played out in Ardern’s prime ministership and in the event her resignation.

The End of the End of History states the problem of politics in stark terms: the antipolitics of what are global anti-government movements, in New Zealand particularly in the wake of COVID, and the equally global populism after Berlusconi in Italy, Trump in the USA, Bolsanaro in Brazil, and others, OR political leadership and the organisation the political realm requires. The writers define the political as the conflictual itself and describe any effort to avoid conflict, for example in the intersection, the intersectionality, of leftist programmes of reform, as being part of the problem. In addition, as well as efforts at change that attempt to avoid the political apparatus and its institutions, thinking them incorrigibly corrupted and compromised, included in antipolitics are leaderless popular movements, like Occupy. Political leadership and political organisation are requirements for meaningful political change.

The authors of The End of the End of History, Hochuli, Hoare and Cunliffe, make one more requirement visible, the support of the proletariat. Without the support of the working class, the precariat, all those engaged in the gig economy, the Left is an exercise in pointlessness. They accuse the Left of abandoning the proletariat and its interests. This, they make clear, insofar as populist leaders mobilise and capture anti-government sentiment, goes a long way to explaining the global reach of populism.

The global proletariat has united over the cause of—what else but?liberty. The abandonment by the Left of its own traditions of taking its support from the proletariat also in large part explains the failure of extra-governmental popular movements like the Colour Revolutions, starting with the Arab Spring, in carrying through with the promise of political change. The status quo or worse returns after it not because it does not have the people behind it but for the inability of an anti-political movement to imagine a politics to come after it. As Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Žižek has said, It’s not the revolution that I’m interested in, it’s the day after the revolution and what happens the day after I worry about. Liberty turns out as political irrelevance: it turns out as liberty from politics and from even the possibility of political liberation.

The End of the End of History‘s greatest virtue is the description of antipolitics, that and the definition of politics as conflict, the flight from either politics or conflict turning up as antipolitics. The appeal of fascism joins in antipolitics with the cry of freedom and the appeal to a politics in despite of politics, like Trump’s call to drain the swamp. In New Zealand this antipolitics reached apotheosis with the 2022 occupation of parliament grounds, where the messaging went Left and Right, with Freedom and MAGA placards and the backing of Destiny Church, and somewhere uncharted but unmistakably anti-government with the anti-colonial sentiment of Māori, white supremacism mixing it up with indigeneity.

The occupation was ostensibly to protest lockdowns and mandatory vaccination. As such, the fervour of its antipolitics ought to have died down to the usual smouldering resentment of the alienated, disenfanchised and quite literally dispossessed in the case of Māori. Without cohering into a political programme, it has if anything become more nuggety and metastasised as a strain of antipolitical thought directly in conflict with established political institutions. Or rather it is the entire political apparatus and its institutions that now placed in the context of antipolitics is seen as a singular blob, as no-longer living and intransigent, many-tentacled but dead, a Thing.

One of its tentacles is institutional colonialism. One is empty intellectualism and self-serving academicism and cultural elitism. Another is the Professional Managerial or Middle Class. Another is the arbitrary biopolitical controls of enforced vaccination. Another is the Man who is a woman who is Woke who tells us what to do.

Since each infects the others, all are hateful. For example, government is itself seen to be a colonial institution and the wokeness of the Prime Minister who is a woman is not a sign of moral superiority but of political domination. All are hateful and all is one. Furthermore, as a dead Thing, the Establishment cannot change or be changed. It must—what else?—be hated on, since what this verdict does is leave to antipolitics no political recourse, no recourse to the existing political apparatus and its institutions. Like the Colour Revolutions, a change of regime, as is likely in the next New Zealand election, is sure to lead to the same or something worse.

Where The End of the End of History has a blindspot is where the real impasse is. Antipolitics as a politics that excludes political change, whether for the sake of ruling out conflict or for the reason it cannot by its nature imagine an alternative, exists to hide the fact that neoliberalism is also a politics that excludes the power, the strictly political power, of change. Neoliberalism, by excluding its own political potential, excludes even its possibility.

There is no alternative. Within this purview, of the diagnosis of antipolitics being symptomatic of neoliberalism, seeking support in the proletariat is stonecold cynicism: it is the cancer asking support of its metastases. The winner of the next New Zealand election will do this.

For abrogating that power neoliberalism is a politics without power. Neoliberalism occurs in multiple initiatives practically in all areas of human affairs, from economics to science, cultural management to therapy. Those initiatives are to transfer master slave relations onto a network of governance and interconnected cliency. They are driven, what the economic historian Philip Mirowski calls the Neoliberal Thought Collective is driven, by a fear of totalitarianism along with the insight that the open market, for being a collector and distributor of brain-power, also offers the best to-hand protection against it, against communisation and against fascism. In practice what this has meant is that power is evolved to the technical apparatus running the global financial market. In action what it means is the dark fears around the development of AI and humans becoming both mirror-struck by their own technical accomplishment, as well as politically and economically enslaved by it.

Human conflict is settled by the technical apparatus where the Thought Collective of Neoliberalism, since its thought to avert totalitarianism and the repeat of the catastrophes of the 20th century, is determined to hide and bury human agency. The truth of this is double. The Collective seeks to see it done as well as to hide the fact that it is doing it.

Human actions and agency, at all levels, from science and the workings of reason, to welfare and education, to monetary controls and financial products themselves, are then financialised in order to be put at the disposal of the technical apparatus running the global financial market as far as possible. Here human decisions can be taken out of human hands. Thinking that neoliberalism has failed, national programmes to roll back globalisation, do not restore human agency. Neither do they restore the political.

A small but significant part of this evolution of the human to the technical, of the human conflict that defines the political to the interconnectedness of marketplaces, can be seen in the success, during the last two years of worldwide pandemic achieved of migrating services, again at all levels, education, participation in decision-making, meetings of scientists and of friends, to digitality. The idealism media are witness to with AI, for and against, is reflected in the passage to digitality, as if it had come to save us and by preying on our emotional lives destroy us. This is also seen in academics’ favouring of a post-humanism, the non-human or the more than human. Meanwhile the Superman has arrived and is living in Unreal Engine.

There is also enormous vanity and idealism around the intersecting political interests centred on the ecological movement that want change, appeals to feeling, demagoguery and an old definition of politics revised by intersectionality to be inclusive and non-conflictual. So that it is not really a politics at all. The reason for this is not so much a blindness to what has happened to politics as an antipolitical distrust of a political realm that can effect change, a distrust that is symptomatic and that speaks the truth for the diagnosis of neoliberalism.

Even if the book doesn’t link neoliberalism and antipolitics as I have done, this is The End of the End of History‘s verdict. The question it raises is, once antipolitics is taken into account, and politics is seen to require organisation, political leadership and is understood to be the conflictual itself, not what is to be done but what can be done anymore that can be called politics?

The definition of the conflictual being of politics throws up the background, that is antipolitics, and the attempt by political interests to assuage it, answer it, is one that continually gets caught up in it. I would say it cannot get free of it, as if politics had been usurped by a double that is its negation. The third requirement, if there is hope, it lies with the proletariat, then makes sense. There is more heat, more energy, more conflict and more money, as media organisations are aware and try to capture it, in antipolitics. The path to where the money is at is paved with resentment and it is here that the best intentions lead.

The End of the End of History wants to tell us what is to be done but I think it states the problem more powerfully than it gives the solution. The solution it gives is, like George Orwell wrote, If there is hope, it lies in the proles. The proles in my view are the living symptoms of political neoliberalism. Neither they, because of antipolitics, nor the political apparatus and its institutions, because of neoliberalism, can be captured and mobilised to effect change.

Political change has to come from politics. How can there be politics on top of antipolitics? That, in the second part of this article, is what I want to address.

What struck me first was the metaphor Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern used to announce her stepping down from office: the tank is empty. Others, on only the strength of the news of her resignation, usually accompanied by the soundbite, went directly to her personal life. She must be exhausted. She has had to deal with an earthquake, a massacre, a pandemic and its economic fallout.

The personal fallout is intense on the public figure at the best of times. At the worst it’s almost unthinkable. Then, because politically, as traditionally defined, she, unlike Johnson, has been unchallenged, there is the political fallout of antipolitics. There that conflict has been hottest, where the media have often led, of the death threats, pornographic and misogynist insults, and to repeat Žižek on her behalf, With supporters like these who needs detractors?

Her supporters have not meant to insult but to express their Kiwi familiarity by using the first name while with a male automatically they would use the surname. So, introducing nuance into the valedictory outpouring of opinion, Key’s resignation was compared by one supporter with Jacinda’s. The similarity was that both resignations were timely. In order to protect the brand, Labour like National earlier had given a push. What the brand was being protected from, because without their support the brand would suffer, was the potential of corporate interests to be looking elsewhere, on the basis, indicating that her personal political star had fallen, of the antipolitical storm.

That this storm, although media tried to peddle it to a global audience, was local occurred to some. They wrote that New Zealand had been the envy of the world. Prime Minister Ardern, despite the efforts of media to supplant her locally with sports’ stars, was a star of the world stage. The world’s press, apart from Fox, were largely in agreement with this.

Politics, political commentary, for trying to appeal to a mass audience and to capture its heat, energy, popularity, tends to fall back into antipolitics. Politics, neoliberalism, and its negative, antipolitics, can however be said to characterise the division in opinion, and the divisiveness with which the Rt. Hon. Ardern has been labelled. One side goes to her political legacy, while the other is either loudly or softly cynical.

Her legacy will stand. It will be stronger for her not having led her government to defeat. This is where cynicism creeps in, rather than face defeat, she ran. Or she was pushed.

The pro-political side of the team goes back to her achievements. The less pro, to the many obstacles she faced. The anti says that she achieved nothing, and as I’ve tried to say, given we are under neoliberalism, there’s truth to this. She came in on a platform of change, particularly social change and nothing changed.

The pro allows itself to be swept up by her personal qualities as these were published to the world, her kindness, as well as her statesmanlike endurance under fire. In the eyes of the pro-political, her kindness becomes a political act. Through it she procures political change ruffling the Angry online Birds’ feathers as little as possible. It’s the most sensible of middle ways.

For the anti-political, her kindness is a liability, her smile a taunt. Her retreat from politics is evidence she was never cut out for it. Her hugging of Muslim women after the Christchurch shooting was proof of a mindless pusillanimity. The image, replayed on the big screen in Times Square, proves the world is taking refuge in emotionalism. Mawkish sentimentality, it is further proof of the feminisation, a dangerous feminisation, of a sphere defined by conflict, the political. Again she was not, she is not cut out for it.

That smile is like daggers into the heart of a certain pro-political type. This type sees the whole act, seeing through the whole act, to the reality. It is a publicity stunt, PR. Politics cannot now be distinguished from antipolitics.

The type allows she knows what she’s doing. She’s smart. They sit with the antipolitical as well, since they consider her smile to be her hanging on to power by her teeth.

When it came to the resignation, they didn’t change their mind. They said, You did nothing. Get out! Unlike the extremist from the other side, the anti-political, they didn’t say, We’ll shoot or rape you.

What this pro-political type intended by saying, You did nothing, is, You did nothing in political terms. No listing of her political achievements will dissuade them. Politics is for them free from window-dressing, and the Rt. Hon. Ardern was simply a mannequin. She was dressed up in the shop window, for the Instagram, to sell this season’s fashion in corporatist apologism.

At one end of the continuum of the cynical, although it might not go as far as using the neoliberalism word, she was a front for the interests of private corporations that constitutes the Party line. The attitude is softer, only just, of those who see in her a mascot, and softer altogether of those who say, Can you blame her? For them, the party line is the family, private life and the freedom to have one that holding public office takes away.

Sometimes people take the nearest to hand, the opinions of their friends, their families, their self-regard. Whether on the side of the anti- or pro-political, that neither altogether coincides with being anti-government, is rather anti big government or governmentality, nor matches, but rather tends to cut through these lines, Left or Right, they react out of reflex. They say, You know, Neve, her 4 year-old, could also have been targeted, and Clarke. He’s stood by her. He’s been amazing. I say, Good for her!

In the contemporary context, taking what is nearest to hand includes online interlocutors and these include virtually everybody who has an opinion, whether journalist or bot, critic or fanatic. Anybody who potentially has an influence is near at hand. Lovers the same as strangers are in the positions of intimacy granted by our personal devices.

A lot has been made of how we edit them. We should not, for example, listen to Russian bots. However convincing their brand of propaganda may be, our friends and well-meaning strangers will warn us off. Not a lot has been made however of how inclusive this circle of influence is. We are intimate with the textual services of hundreds, of thousands and virtually of billions (4.74 billion in 2022, Kepios).

The resignation caused an online cull, in my limited view of what was happening online. By the day after 19 January 2023 profile pictures were being swapped out for postage stamp presskit photos of the Rt. Hon. On the Thursday itself, challenges were put up, by that side I’ve called the pro-political, demanding that followers and friends who are anti out themselves. They meant anti the PM, but they also meant to call out those responsible for the resignation.

The strategy was to out themselves as being sad at Prime Minister Ardern’s resignation, gutted that it had come to this, and to see who responded, who was for, who against, who were the haters, the misogynist and resentful. By their misogyny and resentment, amounting to the same thing, would they be known. Once known, they would be cut from the circle of intimacy, unfollowed, unfriended.

Once named, they would be hated on, shat on, sworn at. It seemed like it wasn’t sadness driving this cull but anger at a portion of the local population who were blamed. Her accessibility, her Kiwi accessibility, become a liability, it was to blame for having made the PM a prisoner of her press. Subject to threats of physical and sexual violence, it had forced her out. The tank was empty to deal with it and, the cynical response came back, to deal with her bad press.

The cynical, as I’ve said, need not be anti. They might simply hold their political standards to be higher, but, all down the line, the pro-political line that tends to be leftist, the higher-ups were calling those below them stupid. The haters, the anti, were stupid and did not deserve her. The pro, that type I talked about before, called those who loved her stupid.

The Left finds it hard to acknowledge antipolitics. This is a large part of its ineffectuality today, that it cannot acknowledge either its own as being antipolitics or that the very group it needs to be politically effective and to effect change is today antipolitical. The Left finds it hard to acknowledge its own antipolitics because it tends to neoliberalism, while the Right’s tendency is to antipolitics.

The Left’s difficulty in acknowledging the antipolitics of the working class, and Labour in New Zealand Aotearoa has its roots in the labour movement, that is due to a sense of betrayal, a betrayal that has played out over the decades since 1984 and repeated itself over the shorter timescale of Ardern’s tenure as prime minister, is itself due to two factors. One of them is simple. It links to kindness and the idea of a new kind of leadership to hold up against counter-examples, like Trump, throughout the world.

The simple reason is that Labour sees itself as a benefactor to the poor and downtrodden, the disenfranchised, disenchanted, dispossessed, the working class in short. It doesn’t represent in the conflictual realm of politics them but is their advocate, and this also provides the reason for there being a sense of betrayal, accelerated during the Ardern government. The Rt. Hon. Ardern came to power on a moral mission not a political one.

Politically, what needed to be addressed was neoliberalism and the way it needed to be addressed was and is by taking antipolitics into consideration. This moralism has been part of Labour’s political appeal. However it is felt politically to have failed locally, however Prime Minister Ardern is felt politically to have failed locally, globally she is an example and can be held up against other world leaders for her personal example.

I have already touched on the more complicated reason for the Left being ill-equipped to deal with antipolitics. Labour in NZ has failed to consider or to imagine that politically it represents neoliberalism. There is the historical circumstance of an earlier political formation, liberalism, identified with the Left. But also there is the pressing problem of the present: the political courage to undertake economic change.

Mark Blythe, critic of austerity, co-author of Angrynomics, makes the point that, during the COVID pandemic, the political courage to undertake economic change showed itself as it rarely has done. Even though at the macro level the wheels kept turning, governments, through city-wide and nation-wide lockdowns, turned local economies off. This courage was not however lauded but vilified, as populist antipolitical movements are testament. It was called authoritarian, to set us on the road to totalitarianism.

We have then the fear that inspired neoliberalism and its answer to it, free markets. We also have the Left’s inability to shift itself out of its moral rut, which acknowledging antipolitics would entail. This includes its own antipolitics, dividing the Left, that is the result of neoliberalism.

Left antipolitics like any antipolitics is against politics because it considers it essentially corrupt, so displacing politics onto the market to settle conflict. In the void left, instead of politics, there is morality. There is kindness, doing good, benevolence and advocacy for those labouring underneath but no political representation of them.

The representation the working class, the proletariat, precariat, gig workers, get is moral. It consists in advocacy for rights and whatever economic measures the system can afford. The system itself cannot afford to change, so there is no political courage.

In its way, the Right has taken a similar turn and replaced politics with morality. This stands to reason when we understand neoliberalism is about and came about to settle political conflict, outside of politics, through economic means. The difference between Right and Left is that the Right has no qualms about using the energy of antipolitics to drive its own ends. At least, dissent is present in the GOP but legal recourse is made before political recourse to deal with conflict.

Turning this theme on its head, it could be said that the political system itself or, as some have said already, democracy is incapable of surviving under neoliberalism. The political realm, or democracy, is redundant. All that is needed is economies and the controls that are immanent to them and that by no means should be put upon them. To do so, from either Left or Right, is political overstepping, a step on the path of the authoritarianism that Ardern was accused of by Fox News and that Trump was accused of also, that in fact any leader is who threatens the gentle organism conceived by the Neoliberal Thought Collective.

Sometimes we want to repeat what we want to believe is true. Before the public autopsies of her political leadership that have occurred since the Rt. Hon. Ardern’s resignation, an exhaustive list of her government’s achievements while in office circulated for a short time on Facebook. It came up in answer to critics who, sensing a change of mood, felt it safe to come out and say whatever was near at hand that they had on their minds.

Dating from and covering the 4 years before March 2022, it was a long list: letting fees banned, mental health initiatives implemented in schools, rent increases limited to once a year, zero fees for the first year of study at university, re-institution of apprenticeships, Healthy Homes Guarantee instituted, lifting of restriction and legalisation of abortion, minimum wage increases, as well as benefits’ increases, annually, more state houses built than any government since 1975, UK free trade deal signed, referenda on marijuana and euthanasia laws, veto on new drilling contracts, Carbon Neutral Act put in force, removal of many welfare sanctions, decades’ highest investment in rail, health and education, ban on property purchases by non-residents, Family Tax Credit raised, bright-line property tax raised (concerning the time between purchase and sale), free lunches and free sanitary products in schools, school fees banned, child poverty reduced, gun law reform, highest ever investment in conservation, sick leave doubled, enrollment to vote on election day enabled, parental leave extended, new public holiday, overseas political donation banned, conversion therapy banned, regional development fund instituted, increased investment in public transport, Ministry of Disabled People established, ACC special claims reinstated, hardship grants doubled, investment in infrastructure increased, all while dealing on a daily basis with a global pandemic. Paul Taylor is credited for the list. I shared it from Patrick Waller.

It may be said that the list is of whatever measures the system can afford, that it does not address underlying inequality and the unfairness of the system. It may be said that, rather than representing the needs and wishes of society at large or of those the system discriminates against, it is a list of measures in advocacy, and that it uses the law and legislature as a form of advocacy. This is what the National Party, in its already stated intention to roll back some of these measures, would probably believe and have the electorate believe, that it is Woke advocacy making bad use of the legal and political apparatus. All this may be said, but it is not nothing.

Perhaps if the achievements of the government with Ardern leading it were widely promulgated the mood would change back. Those against her would change their minds. The cynical might say, You’d be wasting your breath.

You’d be wasting your breath, wasting airtime, wasting money. Time and money are wasted thinking the facts speak for themselves or making an appeal to reason. Saying, Look at all she did, and look at what she did for you, you who are not a part of the power elite, saying these things would only heighten the resentment.

She did nothing. Window dressing. The inequalities are if anything now worse than they were before. The cynic will agree, anti- and pro-political meeting at this impasse that is an impasse of the political itself.

Where anti-political and pro meet is at a place that neither reason nor science can touch. It is at emotion. Emotion drives the sense of curtailed freedoms. Emotion drives the anarchic nihilism of leaderless popular movements that are categorically incapable of imagining a political alternative once they have destroyed the existing political structure. They are anti politics and yet there are no alternatives to the conflictual apart from the use of force, the use of police and army, to reinstate what was, but worse.

The question here has been, can there be a politics on top of antipolitics? Given its requirements, how can there be? If however we place the conflict in emotion we can ask, What is the emotion capable of leadership?

It is not pity, it’s conviction. The belief that the COVID vaccines were an attempt by the government at mass sterilisation may be absurd but it is belief. Antipolitics is most often invoked as being a loss of faith in the political system. The question is then how to be believed?

When Jacinda Ardern resigned what struck me was the metaphor, an irony now considering the tank is overflowing, Auckland floods and people have lost their lives and, in view of his measly response, a petition has been raised to oust the mayor. Kindness and pity, conviction in the political act being absent, whatever it might be, in response to this calamity or the ongoing catastrophe of ecological breakdown, would be welcome now. Jacinda has however resigned.

What struck me next about the resignation and that I wanted to avoid was attributing a cause. Some, I’ve said, grabbed what was close at hand. Some, I’ve said, took comfort in repeating either what others had said, finding emotional solidarity that way or in repeating what it was they wanted to believe, either the list of achievements, the legacy of leadership or its absence and insignificance. It held the emotional appeal of its moralism but it was all puff.

Even if you believed it was nothing really, you believed something and gave your reasons. You believed she was getting out and would leave her legacy. You believed she was getting out before she was voted out or because she was pushed.

I considered privately she had been pushed, pushed by those inside the party, not the government. The Labour Party leadership had lost faith in her brand. They no longer believed.

I looked beyond the soundbite and its emotional appeal, the excitement of whatever emotion you felt hearing and seeing her choke up. I think it came as a surprise. I think she was telling the truth. She had not told Neve because four-year olds are like small public address systems.

This is not the conviction I was talking about earlier as being the emotion of leadership but the ability to convince of a conviction. The decision to resign came both out of the blue and from deep personal conviction. Making reasons for it, explaining and mansplaining it, takes away its freedom. Binding it to psychological and political motivations, it does away with it being an act of free will and does away with the conviction behind it, a free political act.

In the act of leaving power, the Rt. Hon. Ardern showed me what being in power might be if to be in power was to act freely and out of deep personal conviction. Both are necessary. Both are necessary for a politics on top of antipolitics, that takes it into consideration as the negative double of neoliberalism. Imagine what defines politics to be the free act based on deep personal conviction. Imagine this to define the political act. Imagine if there were no other political act than the one defined like this and there was no compromise.

A free political act is unconstrained by expectation, by the expectation that seems to be there instantaneously online. The act of a free will announces itself out of the blue. It is a political act for coming from deep personal conviction into the political realm of the conflictual, where, whatever emotionalism may be attributed to it after the fact, it is an event.

Since the claims of the antipolitical are not illegitimate, since its anger is not misplaced, the will to political change has first to go through antipolitics. It has first to take the leap and see in it no obstacle and no obstacle in the political institutions and apparatus where that change, most of all economic change, can be effected. Human agency can only be won back in governing human affairs by human political agents.

Power cannot belong to politics when all that governments can do is either to address themselves to a collective loss of faith in the political or to the technical apparatus that power has evolved to running world financial markets. Fears of AI taking over are like the return of the repressed fear that AI already has. The political act, politics if it is to be defined by the free will and courage to act based on deep personal conviction, can only ever have a human agency.

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in between time

Bastarda takes us on another musical journey, this time delving into Hasidic Nigunim. These mystical Jewish songs, almost always sung without lyrics, originated in the Hasidic revival movement of the 18th century and often drew from local music patterns and traditions. Ecstatic dancing and singing of nigunim was a way for the Hasidim to enter “the chamber of God”. Drawing mainly from the legacy of the Modzitz dynasty, as well as from the collection of Hasidic songs discovered by the musicologist Moshe Bieregowski, Bastarda brings out the beauty of Jewish melodies, filtering them through its unique and mature artistic language. The non-verbal nature of the Hasidic songs allows for free improvisation and a more personal form of expression, while their internal narrative force is just as inspiring. Without the use of words, they tell stories of joy and sorrow, of life lived in its full sensual spectrum, therefore embodying the essence of Hasidism, which always fluctuated between waiting for the end of the world and a joyful, almost ecstatic affirmation of life.

The mystical Hasidic compositions create a space in which the musicians move with ease, elegance, understanding and tenderness, creating cutting-edge, outstanding work of great power and beauty. [emphasis added to see below]

I was on z/s/f uckerbook the other day, using someone else to explain something to myself.

The post was about Martin Hägglund, presumably in relation to his book,

This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom, which I hadn’t read, in relation to time. It was like, I think Hägglund is right, time is all we’ve got and it’s how we use time that gives value to our lives…

and I was like, but it’s the inbetween time that matters, time out of time.

I was thinking about the stammer in time, the processing pause, of for example being about to fall down a flight of steps and seeing one’s life flash before one’s eyes… when time speeds up or stops altogether, when we are not acting but subject to time… and I was thinking about cinematic time. So I said something about that and had in mind also what I’d written another time about how cinematic metaphors predominate in descriptions of time since the rollout of the technical means to replay the unrepeatable, to record and repeat chunks of time, recognisable as those chunks and no others for the repetition (the mystery of the shot) of chaotic and natural movement in them. The passage of a cloud in the background is just that cloud on just that day at just that time that the foreground action was being registered technically. It’s just that we’re used to this now so we don’t spend our time marvelling at the art of time but look to where the action is at…

and this Hägglund thing seemed to be talking about where the action is at and not the art of time at all.

I had a look at the book online and I thought, Hägglund’s time is cinematic time.

Hägglund is like a movie director directing a movie towards his authentic vision.

…in explanation, I should add that the use of time seen to have value was that where the time is truly one’s own, and genuine, authentic.

I’d also commented maybe there maybe somewhere else, in view of a time of one’s own, that it wasn’t Bergson or Heidegger worrying at me, but Lou Reed, You made me forget myself … Perfect Day.

and just checking on the lyric just now I’m reminded of those lyrics that get me every time I hear that song and that follow,

I thought I was someone else

Someone good

 

which is not so unlike Hägglund’s finding of moral betterment and authenticity in a better use of time, although, I was like, doesn’t this mean time off, or in between times, not clock time is genuine, alive & free? Free time that is not useful time, can it be ‘used’ or used up? and,

Hägglund’s time is cinematic time.

Hägglund is like a movie director directing a movie towards his authentic vision.

time that is truly one’s own and authentic, well, when is time truly one’s own? and isn’t that other sort of time when we really get it, get time? when the ego is free? and when the time is free of the ego? and when the time is free?

anyway, what I wanted to say is that the quote above gets the kind of time I’m talking about that is not cinematic time, not Hägglund’s time that is there to use, to make one’s own, to be authentic in, or to project oneself into…

the context of the above quote is everything. It’s about music.

Now, when does music occur?

in particular, the music of Bastarda? The name comes from viola bastarda. It means highly virtuosic and extemporaneous musical composition.

virtuosic has links to virtual, meaning, as I understand it, dipping or diving into the time that is not expressible in cinematic metaphors but may actually be the time of cinema because cinema is an art of time

the quote in question goes, …”embodying the essence of Hasidism, which always fluctuated between waiting for the end of the world and a joyful, almost ecstatic affirmation of life.”

always fluctuating between waiting for the end of the world and a joyful, almost ecstatic affirmation of life seems to me the best description of a time that cannot be used up, that is useless and excessive, subject to

ecstatic

experience

where ecstatic is like what Lou Reed sings

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I SPOKE THUS

I spoke. It was the end of the second world war.

Thus I spoke.

                Let the lesson not begin.

                Let the lesson continue from the camps.

Let the counting begin, let the milling begin, let the

great rendering down of the fat of the,

of the survivors continue, in the joy of the showers,

continue, of the victims, set out the moulds, there

at the outset was hope, hope was the outset, let the
 
making of soap and hope survive, and survive hope,

survive hope. 


                Let this not be the lesson,

                            that hat der Herder gesagt,

in the hundred-yard stare in the silence in the fat

silence, in this light and thinness of bones

in the skin, in this fat hope founded

found no hope in hope. You see, I spoke, 

I spoke without raising my eyes

from the wall, and the wall and the wall and the fence,

were not taken dancing or music or love or death even

but hope, sagt der Herder, was dead, death, led to death.


Silence in that science, science of fat and hope,

where the thinness of soap, grausam,

grey gruesome things washing grey grey water

survive hope, thin gruel drips from the lips,


the lips, too, thin, giving order to the order:

start the lesson. At the end of the lesson

will be a test. You will pass the test,

you will sit down and pass it, and go on, you

will be the lesson and the test and the start

and the end. 

                You will text the test, you will

write the test, you will like the test.


I spoke to the rest. I made my request, saying

           who shall I praise? and what hands upraise?

these are the tools, these are the teeth, and this is the

        truth, this is the truth we shall not forget and lest

    we forget it shall not be told, it shall not be told 

what hands are these and what they have made. Forgive said the old

old poet old Ez. I talked to the rest, duly, burble burble they


said, so, burble burble said old Ez. And this was the test.


Let the lesson not begin but let the pall be lifted,


    let the appalling not be shrouded or muffled

or clouded

    one more moment by silence, let voices replace

the violence, and the violins play in silence, 

            lest the truth not be forgotten

                may another beautiful saying not

                    be spoken and no more be

                        begotten. What hands

                            upraise...?


I spoke to the grey where the rest were standing

    understanding not because of manners

may no more various things, vari-coloured, mottled

    mixed be glorified,


Down tools, I said. Now, now you are free. The human

    wall was grey and left the pink before the

        bulldozer.


Understanding the wall, it rose in a wave, in a

    fuck off sort of wave, waved me away


mixed together arms, legs, faeces though no more

faeces were left, no guts spilled because none were

neither nor hair either, bones in the thinness, in the thinnest

of soils, the soil that is like air


and the lesson went on into the air. Who shall I praise?

    no human you


        buried


because that is the truth. Gather then in the future of soils

    in the future of ills, the test is that too. 


Together you have waved me away. I spoke then to praise

    the silence

                and that you understood because it was

                    your skin I spoke of


                        no longer mixed or various

                            but unseeable


in the many pointed night, in the night nothing like

unanimous.


but there see you had raised 

       whatever you like to call it the measure of a

        farm or camp where the humans are in exile, yes



there above the mess or yes more or less measuring the 

rest


    as if measuring the distance, with faces like sieves,


 the thickness of a skin, still the silence couldn't get through


and you knew,


knew it in the shadows where shadows of living, 

            lived lives gathered 

                together        gone


                    like a lividness 

                        rubbed back to health


and coming back to yourself with a fuckoff sort of wave


what are these shadows I still see on my skin?


they are so various and fleeting, I must be overheating


water the earth


I spoke thus I spoke to the crust rolling, to the whole

    hurtling through space and 

        thus speaking in this place

            lost your trust. Disgrace


followed me. Until I saw, though I could easily


have missed it, that I might


                               turn and stare


turn to where I'd come from down all the long

years


and take its poor hand or the paw it offered me



        to lead me back to whom as if home.









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24 December 2022
for Christmas 2022

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avant what? :: revisiting the avant-garde

In its embrace of modern art we see the positivity of a society, its embrace of progress, towards radical transformation, towards freeing all that is good, vital and creative. This is the soil in which it grows and the opposite of any notion of financial growth, of economic vitality, of entrepreneurial creativity; the opposite of technological progress, the popular embrace of art at its most progressive, of art that is most out-there, shows a society wanting to liberate itself from the grip of mercantilism, and from its enslavement under the capitalist exploitation of labour: the popularity of the avant-garde is a sign that it is the avant-garde. In its embrace is a sign of change and a sign of the embrace of social change.

— this occurred to me on re-reading an earlier post with excerpts from Antoni Tàpies’s Fragments for an Autobiography.

…of course it’s as difficult to find art that is opposed to entrepreneurialism, that opposes financial gain and commercial success, as it is to discover its popularity in broader society.

Enrique Vila-Matas wrote a book about the search for art so opposed, The Illogic of Kassel. I stole some bits of it and posted them here.

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CATDOGDUCK presents: Can you see?

watch the video

buy the album

here

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ancestory

ancestors were onto something
or on something

one way
cul de sac

unrolling or creeping
the surprise of mistaken
identity

rude not to notice or
to kill them again

who took
who gave their lives
who furnished nation
who in a thankless nation

someone’s darling
served a cold dish

did not deserve
horror mainly
 dig them up now see
 who’s horrified

whose disease
 we surpass
  whose disease is

if you could only open up
your mouth not talk
in bird sounds

and visiting me again, is it a
surprise I cannot reconstruct
the agony ate you up

you follow me now. Beasts

of religion or
what is
belief no hope no agony
 
 must be the right word
  and contest life
   over death on.

Conscious is over your shoulder
not standing.

It lies about
where you are, cloud
 in the upper atmosphere
  unrolls, creeping 
   things are the impulses
    you have and hold and
     have
      hold, You strike out

in dreams.
alone. play your many pipes
	play and dance and sing
       in birdsong if it has to be 
you
     did not kill
                       or stole
	
	are not a man
planted your seed not
 in the carcase
	your sin in the hill.



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“you are only the living face of those who have gone before”
— 20 August 2022
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22 August 2022

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the significance of dissolving sugar: or, the earth has lost its centre

The image appears in Bergson’s Creative Evolution of mixing sugar and water. In some readings it is either a lump or a spoonful of sugar. The quantity is unimportant. What is important, Bergson says, is that I must wait until the sugar melts.

“This little fact is big with meaning”, he writes.

Deleuze takes up the image as shorthand for its big meaning: the time it takes for the sugar to dissolve. Now, this duration cannot be measured as it transpires. Only when the time has expired can it be.

Neither can this time be, Bergson writes, protracted or contracted. It is, he says, an absolute: on elapsing, it will have been the duration required in order for the process to complete itself, in order for the sugar to have dissolved. On the basis of its necessity, the actual elements, water, sugar, glass, Bergson says, are abstractions. Time is not here the variable, it is the a priori and a posteriori condition for the process to take place.

Nor can this be said to be contingent on the will of the observer or contingent on observation: the time it takes will always be the time it takes. I can attend to or not attend to the passage of time. It will have the the same quality, and its quality will not be that of a quantity: its duration will not be its measurable duration; two instances of dissolving sugar in water even if measurably identical in duration will occupy a duration that, lived, is absolutely different each time. It is then of a different quality and is an individual, unique, incapable of replication and irreducibly singular, such that Bergson writes it is in the manner of a consciousness.

It can be said that consciousness has for Bergson the qualities of irreducible and radical difference, and a uniqueness of interiority, a subjectivity that is singular and individual, because of the time it takes to pass through, because of its duration, not that the sugar dissolving in water is conscious or participates in the subjectivity of an observer or by participating in an inner experience of time that is consciousness. Consciousness is what it is because of its duration and it is from the qualities of an individual duration that the individual receives its qualities, not the other way around.

Duration can be said to be the source of difference, and this is what Bergson’s Creative Evolution is about: duration as being where creativity originates.

The difficulty reading Bergson today I believe comes from having lost or covered duration. Our inner experience of time has been replaced by screen-time, the digital involves images that are always moving whether or not movement is depicted, or cinematic time. Movement itself it not the key. The temporality movement occupies is.

The time it takes for sugar to dissolve in water: on screen, this time is no different each time footage of sugar dissolving in water is shown; the time it takes is no different each time it is watched. We may be different but, again, this duration does not gain its qualities of irreducible and unrepeatable singularity from us, either in our paying conscious attention or in our inattention to it.

The other way around: we have covered or lost in duration the source of the individuality of consciousness, its creative source, and that of our own individuation.

Consciousness comes from time. This notion of time, or duration, is unscientific, anti-scientific even; but then I wonder how much science owes to the technology that gives us our primary experience of time, that technology concerned with the moving image?

Emmanuel Carrère, as a finalist for the Gregor von Rezzori prize, gave an address in Florence in 2014. In it he considers the difference between fictional and historical characters, those drawn from life and those made up, for example as ideal types. Doing so he describes well what distinguishes the ones who lived, in this case Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate:

These two men, Jesus and Pilate, weren’t mythological figures, gods or heroes, living in a fantasy world where everything is possible because nothing is real. They were a colonial officer and a local visionary: men like you and me, who had specific faces, wore specific clothes, and talked with specific voices. Their meeting didn’t take place like things we imagine, in one of an infinitely variable number of ways, but the way all things happen on earth, that is, in one specific way that excludes all others. We know next to nothing about this specific way, this unique way, that had the privilege of passing from the virtual to the real. Yet it happened.

— “Resemblance,” translated by John Lambert in 97,196 Words: Essays. It handles really I suppose of what makes the unique individual unique. Yet it is called “Resemblance.” I would say that in the singular quality of duration it is not identity that is at issue, or that identity is so only in so far as it is resemblance. Duration has rather to do with difference than identity, Deleuze would say, difference in itself, whereas identity goes towards the same.

The event of sugar dissolving in water or Christ appearing before Pilate: I am more struck here by Carrère’s statement that this is the way all things happen on earth, in one specific way that excludes all others; and of course I am also struck by his coincidental and parallel statement that we know next to nothing about what way this was, which excluded all others, that had the privilege of passing from the virtual to the real, that is, of occurring. Bergson, and Deleuze from him, says the virtual is no less real. Bergson’s duration depends on it. This passing is, for both, from the virtual to the actual. Only the event in actuality, actualised, can be measured; quantity, number, for Bergson, presupposes the setting out of one thing and another in space, not the qualitative difference that is in duration.

That quantity, number, setting out for example images one after another, belongs to space, and not time as Bergson understands it, tells us why he held cinematic time to have no relation to understanding absolute time, duration. He rejected early cinema in much the same way Freud did, and for similar reasons: it is all just chases. Although there is something Freudian in this.

For Bergson, it was all merely motor-sensory, without a memory or spiritual, or artistic, component. He liked it for the study of biological processes and thought it outside of enabling to be seen natural processes that are ordinarily invisible to be trivial. Yet, in his cinema books, Deleuze takes him to the cinema for its philosophical importance.

There is an intermediate point to be made here. Bergson’s and Freud’s rejection of film for being trivial is based on subject matter and genre, and the first subject matter, from the first commercial screening made in Paris in 1895, developed into genre was not either the chase or highly kinetic, motor-sensory, movement-based moving image sequence we are used to thinking of, in for example L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat

On the approach of the train the audience is said to have rushed for the exits. The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station was only the year following the Lumière brothers’ first commercial showing of a programme of short films. What grabbed the attention of the audience at the earlier screening was not the chase elements, or the thrill of speed and movement.

It was, the leaves on the trees are moving. It was, the dust from breaking the wall billows in a cloud. It was the smoke, steam, spray from waves and the waves themselves in all their chaos that were appreciated. From this appreciation grew the Wave Film. (Support for the notion that the Wave Film was the first genre can be found here: Jordan Schonig’s doctoral thesis, “Cinema’s Motion Forms,” 2017, p. 62.)

This too is a little fact with a big meaning. I deal with some of the implications in my moving image lectures (6, 7, 8, 9, 10). I would love to think that these have an afterlife.

I opened The Needle’s Eye, Fanny Howe, by chance on this passage:

Babette Mangolte, the French filmmaker, wrote that now, with digital image, and “no shutter reprieve, no back and forth between forty-eighth of a second dark followed by one forty-eighth of a second of projective image, with no repetitive pattern as regular as your own heartbeat, you are unable to establish and construct an experiential sense of time passing.”

— 2016, p. 86.

This goes to the question of what enables us to establish and construct an experiential sense of time passing. Where do we hear the heartbeat of time? With Deleuze, I would answer that in cinema we do, whether it is digital or not. The movement in the image is the issue because this movement has a distinct duration, and, replayed, it has the same duration.

Should it surprise us that the individual clip is the same individual each time it is played? The significance of the Wave Film is that it did surprise. That what in nature was unique and unrepeatable could be repeated on screen captivated audiences of early cinema.

We should also bear in mind the reach of cinema from its beginnings. Within in a few years almost every country in the world had seen cinema and in many places cinema was in production. This accounts for major advances in cinema being able to take place outside of the traditional centres of culture. For example the first feature film was made in Australia, The Story of the Kelly Gang, and released in 1906.

Film was, considering the forces of production mobilised, considering its global mobility, what might be called a first (world-)war-machine. The means of production circulated as rapidly as the films made. What was spreading, what spread so rapidly, was not simply a new form of representation, medium, a new art form or a new from of entertainment, production and consumption, and it was not simply a new way to represent movement and time, but was a new regularisation or gave a new norm to time and to the experience of observed movement, and therefore scientific knowledge.

What might happen from this point is attention might suddenly cut between topics. We see this in modernist literature, in parataxis. It is strange that accounts of modernist poetry treat this as if the juxtaposition of dissimilar topics in a newspaper or their coincidence with the commodity-form might explain it. It is strange, because what distinguishes cinema is the ability to jump between spaces, to be anywhere and at any time in the next cut, as long as it is the next, and then the one after that, as long as it is in the temporal sequence of the moving image, and along its duration.

In cinema and screen time over all, the time element specific to it is strengthened at the expense of its spatial element; and this spatial element includes historical succession, just as Bergson suggests that number and quantity follow on from a setting out that has less to do with time than with space. The time element of cinema and screen becomes rigid and for that reason replayable, no matter the chaos of movement in the shot or the distance in space or space-time a single cut leaps over: for example, the millions of years between the bone being thrown into the air in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the spaceship it cuts to.

Deleuze is right to think about screentime in terms of duration, in Bergson’s terms. But this leads to the greater problem he addresses in Cinema 2. This problem is the loss of belief in the earth. The problem is also stated by Deleuze this way: the earth has lost its centre. It has not because of loss of belief. Both statements belong to the problem of duration as the source of that creativity, its origin, that the earth is.

How still to tackle this problem? How, when our own creative origin has been lost or covered over in the inner experience of time by screentime? I would suggest… doing nothing.

I would suggest passing through screentime. I would suggest making images adequate to pass through. We cannot restore a centre to the earth or an experience that has become alien to us. That is belief in the earth.

We must not try. We must not must. We pause, stop working, pass through …

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