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eighteenth part, called “a way in XVIII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

The systematicity of language, on which its humanity depends, lies in the organisation of symbols. But other species produce symbols: again, they have a sexual function. Yes, I would even say some other species are symbols. And other species have languages that do not require the presence of another of their species to communicate, because of symbols.

Systematicity borne of symbolic representation relies on persevering in the illusion of human separation, through the separation of symbols, that we share with other species, from nature, material, from the elements, chief among which is the air; separating human symbols from breath, sound and means of physically producing them. Each symbol is complete. It doesn’t, as David Abram writes, require the breath or the voice or the air in which to mean something. Each symbol gives the impression of its autonomy, of its independence from the physics of its transmission. So it makes what we may call a metaphysical impression. It can only be organised as a language in a system because of this.

We can add that the system of language is also only analyzed because of the illusion. The line, we have been saying, of artifice. Where symbolic status is, as we know, exaggerated, through the thickening of the line that frees it from the action of its making. The stage.

It can therefore, the system of language, as system of systematicity, be analyzed to be an external object. Because it is. And an invention. And it can manifest from its depths its propensity to deconstruction. Or historical genealogy, such as Abram enacts, showing, through a somewhat exaggerated claim, it is with the Greeks of the 5th century BCE that language achieves autonomy, is freed from the voice. And from the need to be animated by being spoken in order to make sense, and, equally, at the same time, showing the insufficiency, a kind of systemic insufficiency, giving rise to the inexpressible. The Greek invention is vowels, added to Ancient Hebrew they make all the difference.

They carry the voice. And are by some to be seen as the flesh of the word, its impersonal affect, the very sound of breath passing through the consonants. Said on stage, revocalised from the page, consonants, according to this tradition, carry the thought or reason, while vowels convey emotion. With certain stresses, certain modes of exaggeration, an actor speaking from a script, or, I suppose on her own behalf, I have never tested it, perhaps because it is presumed, that is, her emotional investment is presumed, as soon as she speaks on her own behalf, and because of it, an actor can foreground affective or noematic qualities, phenomenalise them, as it were. Choosing either reason or feeling to foreground.

In order to make the system of language, breaking bits off it was necessary. And claiming for them an internal structuration on which they were sustained. As much letters as the division of signifier from signified, or sign from the event it names. Names then proliferate because each word names one. And within each one is another which it names. So that we may ask, where else have we seen such broken bits, each stating itself individually autonomous and simultaneously being replicated in every part?

Simultaneously, and not in succession, note, because the system to be one, like the network to be one, requires simultaneity. The simultaneity of its auto-differentiation, where, in space, each difference is a part of the same. Where, in space, each part is enumerable. Each part is able to be enumerated up to the very big numbers that lead us to invoke the inexpressible.

And, haven’t we, on the stage, which is a space, said that the subject drew on the mise en abîme, drawing from it subjective resources? These are, we recall, as much those of the I think I think as the it thinks it thinks. And we have said these are limitless as well.

Yes, I can see there is a kind of nonsense here, but how do we escape it? In other words, this writing takes part in the systematicity of language we have equated with being the basis for the human’s claim to uniqueness, and not the fact of language itself. And I’m not envisaging, for this writing, any sort of escape, from its lack of systematicity. Or its bad grammar. (As if not playing by the rules or not acknowledging them were enough. Or, as if ceasing to function was enough!)

What allows us not to fall into the depths? The stage door. Exiting via the foyer would be the social function.

If Blanchot is able to claim for literature an outside it’s because it has a stage door. The autist remains in the doorway. And the depressive continues to stare into the black and empty stage.

Theatre teaches us—just enough. Take just enough of those internal resources. Take just enough subject with you.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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seventh part, called “what is theatre? VII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

What is theatre?

It would seem that the two lines are opposed. The one on which what is represented, the object of representation, is severed from its representative—onstage. And the one that effects the apportioning of actions and events, personal actions, impersonal events. On this second line, the actor risks making an action.

Why making and not taking? Because the action is taken from her and put in play for other purposes than she intended? Or because in this context it is not true. The latter would imply true to her. Or him. And this lack of truth implies the presence of the first line. But is this really so serious?

It has the seriousness of the not serious. The seriousness of the game when we cannot figure out the rules. A ramifying seriousness, since the issue at stake for us gets tangled up in our efforts to untie it. To free it. An intense seriousness. And we are on our own with this mess, this entanglement, this, Augustine writes, bent and twisted knottiness. An entanglement in which we are entangled. Like the inert depressive. Whose every impulse to dig and relieve the pressure is thwarted by an equally intense aversion: I don’t want to! … yes, to the degree that suicidal thoughts take root.

Then, we’ve also addressed the possibility, the potential for the audience to be absent, for theatre to be without audience, by saying that whenever someone goes on, and makes a move onto the stage, wherever the stage is suggested, there it is—the second line. Onto it the highwire artist sets his foot. Or hers. I used this turn of phrase, however: I said in my encounter. Much as I might have said, of my acquaintance. And the silent question: What is my eligibility so to assert? The qualification in question is not my own. Rather it is in the presence of others that the risk is felt, the vulnerability, so that it takes courage to go on, doesn’t it?

Yes, but what about the absence of others? Of all other observers? What about when I am not there? In the room. At the beach. … And… Is it your sudden sense of being watched that arrests you in your tracks? That leads you to feel … you are going on stage? Performance anxiety, and so on.

Does anyone else need to be there for you to form this impression? And, yes, I would say that the anxiety of performance does come, but not as it is usually understood, as a fear of failure. It comes as a fear of… falling. And we can mention love here.

O god, I’m falling for him! Oh no, I’m falling for her! Every resistance seems further to entangle us in this mess. As we have said. Because falling in love, or falling into a black hole, we are overtaken. Even so far as to be overtaken at first sight. Or, at the first step. Then, the action made takes us. Is a wind blowing us into… And yes, we can refuse, but I’m saying we cannot deny. So that it is not the personal action we have taken overtaking us but the impersonal event the action makes, expressed in sight or step. … How many times have I reached the edge of the stage and said, I can’t go on?

The fear of artifice, isn’t it secondary? the fear we are fooling ourselves. It would be the work of the first line, splitting the work we are doing to represent love from the fact of being in love. And I would say that it is in recognition of the second place taken by the fear of playing false that theatre people tend to be the most not serious. Even about the most serious things, sexuality, for example. Identity! My father on his deathbed said to me: The problem with us is that we can never take anything seriously. And of course he meant it, seriously.

A person risks falling into the thrall of what they do. Of the action they make… just getting onto the stage, that decision, but then in every subsequent action, in every event. The thrall they fall into is that of the impersonal, what Deleuze calls affect. Depersonalised love crashes down on me and I want to weep or run.

Deleuze and Guattari say this in their last book together: to science belong percepts; to philosophy belong concepts; to art belong affects. Belong in the sense of expressing and creating. So art expresses and creates impersonal affects. These are not influences. They are aspects of what we might call inward life, inner experience, cut, sometimes painfully, by this second line we have been talking about. And who’s to say whether in that case they are true or false?

Care. Who cares? Haven’t we said that the things we put on stage are not themselves? That the walls, the curtains, hold meanings which in the everyday they did not when onstage, in a theatre?

It is therefore a strange work we do to insure the validity of the affect, which is the effect created onstage, is not simply representative, of the love we confess to, of the walking… The walking! How an actor walks says so much about that validity. Is she actually in her body? we might ask.

We might say, You’re doing something different with your feet… Just walk. The actor can’t. The significance of making each of the actions which together comprise walking is too clear. He stands out too clearly onstage for this appalling condition of not being able to walk.

So does that mean it’s not artifice we want? This goes to the nature of what we have so far been calling either the actions that are made or the events in which they are overtaken. Is this because as events, as impersonal, they cannot but be true? No, it’s not.

Don’t forget the line of artifice, of theatricality, overturning any truth, even that of the event. We have said, however, that the force of the event is here, and that doesn’t mean only of the event in its impersonal aspect.

What are the gestures we make on the stage? Are they ideas? No, no, no: they are affects freed, set free from personal entanglement, and as such must be true to themselves.

Is this so? Well… I would say that some paring down occurs: yes, some pruning, of the dense tangle of messy emotion. While preserving intensity. How?

We have just had taken from us that which we gave intensity for it being in the context of our interior lives. Isn’t its mess its essence? That is the decision we must make, in where we put the line of artifice. And how we use the line of the stage to underline what is shown. Events? …yes, but in a very subjective sense. In the sense that we say, it was only your impression that that truth led to that other one. Only your opinion. For me it didn’t work at all: I couldn’t believe in what happened because of … to be honest I was distracted by the walking. It was dishonest.

It would seem that the two lines oppose one another: the line of artifice and that of … let’s say, necessity. One undercutting and undoing the work the other is doing. Artifice making it all seem so … pointless. We already know what side theatre people are on, the one of saying, Don’t take it all so seriously! And then with their care about the details, the technical details, that otherwise do seem so pointless: how do I walk? What steps to take so that the affect that was personal is freed from me-ness to have the effect of any body walking, at least subjectively.

Note here is a subject talking to a subject and the strange coincidence of the two, which breaks with the imposition of the second line: the subjects splitting, one from the other. Now there is the one onstage, and the other, who is an actor, who acts the part we are interested in, of the affect or the event. So that we would sooner call it a subject than either of the two.

We can see it to be the case, the two lines seeming to be opposed, most clearly when we look at the things, the objects, in a theatre, on an empty stage. What is it going to take to convince us that that is a real door? Leaving by it?

No. Wait. What is being staged is the subject itself. Himself. Herself. It no longer matters: an impersonal, depersonalised subject.

This is perhaps why I like dance. Because Douglas Wright understood it better than anyone: the stage is overtaken as much by the set elements as by the movements of the dancers. And there is a complex ensemble here. An agency. Not a subject, or subjective state or viewpoint, being expressed, but an expressive subject.

And this is perhaps why, for all his brilliance, I don’t like the work of Michael Parmenter as much. Always a sentimentality, a sentimental attachment to personality, whether it’s the personality of the dancers or that of the choreographer. While Douglas sweeps all that away: yes, sometimes it is dark; but what you win is like Beckett’s affirmation, impossible. Fail again. Fail better.

In Slava’s Snow Show, in the interval, several clowns came down into the auditorium. Some went up, climbing up the boxes in the Civic Theatre, into the gallery. And they abducted audience members who weren’t out getting a drink, or doing what Badiou in his book pins his entire argument for the significance of theatre on, perversely, its social aspect: talking about what they are watching; sharing interim observations, before returning to have them either confirmed, and now confirmed socially, or confounded. A potential for social confoundment.

Anyway, the clowns came down into the stalls, some went up, and abducted individual audience members. Carrying them away by force. From those they were either sitting with or, if on their own, from their places in the audience. Ah, we might have said, Breaking down the fourth wall!

A clown with a woman over his shoulder. Her legs kicking in the air. Possibly terrified.

At the end of the interval, they were returned. And were unharmed. But the abduction added something to the conclusion of the show, something horrifying, as if they had not been returned at all. The stage exploded.

Magnesium flare audience blinders extreme upstage. Wind machines blowing the scenery and curtains and clowns across the stage. The deafening roar. ‘Snow’ streaming forth…

…as if bodies, not paper streamer snow, but white ash back out of the blazing pit of the blown wide open stage.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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sixth part, called “what is theatre? VI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

What is theatre?

What is it necessary to do now? What is it necessary to say? Two suicides come to mind. Why?

Neil Roberts’s and Mark Fisher’s. Neil Roberts wrote “we have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity,” drew a peace sign on the wall, and blew himself up in the toilets outside the Wanganui Computer Centre on the 18th November 1982. He was 22.

Mark Fisher taught at Goldsmiths. He was ten weeks from the end of a seminar called “Postcapitalist Desire” when he died. 13 January 2017. 48.

Fisher’s writings are voluminous. Of Roberts’s we have that one line. Police said of his body that they’d be picking up bits for weeks.

Then the infamous statement of Stockhausen on 9/11, that it was “the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos.” Next to it, he wrote, composers are nothing. 17 September 2001.

Why do I submit these to my timeline here? Because these are not performances. And perhaps this is what, despite everything, I want to affirm in them.

I was going to begin with Beckett. After asking what is it necessary to do, what is it necessary to say, I was going to say, we can’t go on. We go on.

Until of course we don’t. And this is what, in his way, Beckett was affirming too. The three other figures each go in quite another direction.

I don’t want to reduce the lamentable to the gestural. Make light, or exhort to action. Joshua Cohen, psychoanalyst and writer, says of a case of depressive inertia, the desire not to do anything, completely to stop, is not symptomatic.

Telling yourself to stop is not symptomatic of any other desire. The impasse to productivity has no other outcome, than, Beckett again, failing better. What is as impossible as imagining an alternative to capitalism is always that, not merely difficult.

From this point I was going to talk about the decision to step out onto the void that the line the stage draws under events is stuck to. You will recall Nietzsche’s Seiltänzer, whom Zarathustra bears on his body and buries as a friend. The wire artist. The risk and the necessity.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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day 320 – Ideonella Sakaiensis – day 382 – Underland

I have just finished Robert Macfarlane’s Underland, subtitled A Deep Time Journey. It ends with the image of a network. The chapter, ‘The Understorey,’ has already dealt with the wood wide web. So it’s not that kind of network. And in a way it is a social network. Although multimillion-dollar-earning and data-farming corporations have done their best to discredit the notion.

Macfarlane is at Onkalo, the deeptime repository for depleted uranium from nuclear power stations in Finland. There is a documentary, Into Eternity, about this burial site, that, as Macfarlane writes, exists to protect the future from the present. It too is as worth seeing as Underland is worth reading–for the excavation of the problem of living in a humanscaled time, a time scaled to human interests, self-interest, in the age of the Anthropocene. The problem that stuck with me from Into Eternity (available here) is that of communicating with whatever future beings come across the burial sites for uranium. Existing languages are unlikely to survive the millennia separating us from what comes after us.

Macfarlane’s book is an excavation of the problem of the Anthropocene, as it persists from the past into the present and will do so into the future, hence, A Deep Time Journey. Deep in the caverns of Onkalo, not as deep, Macfarlane writes, as he has ever ventured into the earth, but over a thousand feet into the bedrock, on a plastic panel attached to the wall of this ‘hiding place’ that is still under construction, he sees the print of a right hand … “left there at some point for the keeping of balance, for the taking of rest–or just for the making of a mark.” (418)* You can see that Macfarlane’s orientation, despite digging into the prehuman past and the posthuman future, remains humanist.

He writes, recapitulating scenes from earlier in the book, “I think of the black and red hand-prints left on the cave walls at Chauvet, of the red figures of the dancers with their outstretched arms, of the spray-can hand stencil on the catacomb wall in Paris, of Helen reaching a hand down to haul me out of the moulin. I think of the many people I have encountered in and through the underland who have been committed to shared human work rather than to retreat and isolation. Many of them have been mappers, really, of networks of mutual relation, endeavouring to stitch their thinking into unfamiliar scales of time and space, seeking not the scattered jewels of personal epiphany but rather to enlarge the possible means by which people might move and think together across the landscapes, in responsible knowledge of deep past, deep future and the inhuman earth.” (418)

… the scattered jewels of personal epiphany… immediately recalls me to my own efforts, in regard to stitching thought, in encounter with the problem of outside the human, or, what David Abram calls the more-than-human world, in his book, The Spell of the Sensuous, my own efforts, in their failure to make networks and to be able to maintain them except for the briefest of times… that enlarge the possible means by which people might move and think together … in responsible knowledge … and efforts made in mapping mutual relations in the absence of social and cultural institutional recognition that the most basic elemental relations are mutual–those in regard to the elements of warmth, light, air, and of earth, of the earth below our feet, our paws, where the fungal fingers find the roots of trees… The elemental refers here to Lingis’s notion of an elemental imperative that we worked through, with, in Minus Theatre, for the brief time it was in existence. (It would persist, persists notionally perhaps, but for my failure to provide the means for this persistence–

(were it not for the retreat and isolation I have bought into… and in the absence of institutional, cultural support mechanisms for this type of venture. Which is the type of venture Macfarlane records, is his own, but also that of the Paris underground, and… is that of many of the people he meets, stays with, journeys into the underland with, in the writing of his book.)

Then… a book. What is it? … or think about the publication I am currently courting for the writing I am doing outside of this website… Or ask yourself as I do, what can I do, what do I think? What do I think with what comes from the outside the human?

And I like that he calls them, these mappers of networks, those not seeking the scattered jewels of personal epiphany, but I cannot also help recalling Rilke, whom he cites, up in the karst of Northern Italy. Poetry. That effort to go down below the personal strata of experience into the bedrock of human experience… and passing through human experience to find the mutual relations that extend to and subtend all of life. All of living experience.

Benjamín Labatut’s book, which I have been reading alongside Underland, is called When We Cease to Understand the World. And as he mentions Heidegger I don’t think it such a stretch to interpret understand from the title as unterstehen. It is this understanding, this sense of undergoing the world, from its bedrock in the earth, and of supporting its living processes that is invoked in Lingis’s elemental imperative. So that ceasing to understand the world performs a counterpoint to the journey of Macfarlane’s book.

Ceasing to understand the world is what the characters in Labatut’s risk. It is their adventure. And it is so for the efforts they make, the lengths they go to, physically, psychologically, spiritually, to understand the world, but to understand it in that other sense of understanding with which we are more familiar than with Heidegger’s, or Lingis’s that he gets from Heidegger, that Heidegger’s effort was ever the tutelary effort for to de-familiarise. So as to start thinking. To start thinking and so form responsible knowledge. What else is philosophy for?

This familiar sense is understanding irresponsibly for Labatut, for his characters, a misunderstanding that doesn’t understand mutual relations of support and nourishment, that shits in its nest for the sake of Knowledge. For his characters it is mathematical understanding as the bedrock of science that reaches a point where it ceases to understand the world.

It is probably this book’s seriousness, where it abuts up against Macfarlane’s. Fritz Haber, the inventor, father of chemical warfare and of synthetic nitrogen production. The latter enabling the nourishment of an exploding population at the turn of the 20th century. The former enabling the destruction of thousands of men in the field–and animals–and anything that ventured into the released gasclouds–horses, mice, rabbits & men–in the most horrific of ways. Grothendieck’s retreat from the world when he recognises the deep horror at the heart of the heart of mathematical understanding. Heisenberg’s and Schrödinger’s negative epiphanies. Their discoveries coming at the expense of crises, of psychoses. And these all being of the nature of seeking the scattered jewels of personal epiphany only to find in them inordinate and impersonal destructive potential.

Then Macfarlane writes, citing Jebediah Purdy’s After Nature, that humanity does not change its course, science neither, we might say, unless the hand held out is burnt; but the burning is not enough. Humans have also to find something to love. Something to affirm in responsible understanding. (419) What is it?

Macfarlane seems to think humanity needs to love humanity once more–in its social mapping, its networks of responsible understanding.

He also writes: “What did the mountaineer-mystic W.H. Murray say after being released from years spent in German and Italian POW camps? Find beauty, be still.” (241)

*references to Robert Macfarlane, Underland: A Deep Time Journey, (London, UK: Hamish Hamilton, 2019)

to Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World, Trans. Adrian Nathan West, (London, UK: Pushkin Press, 2021)

These two NASA pictures show the blue dunes of Mars.

Macfarlane, in his marvelous book–his book of marvels, every chapter–Underland, is in Norway, speaking about the literature of the underland of the early 1800s, when it was believed, by one writer, whom I can’t help think of as capturing in this idea a common belief, in the imaginary of the time, that the earth was a series of concentric spheres, like Dante’s hell, but with the difference that by gaining entry there was under our feet a limitless earth, a limitless series of nested inner earths to exploit, to settle, to discover–in reverse order: to discover new lands, to settle them, and exploit the resources they provided.

Reading this, I couldn’t help thinking of the later science fiction that informs now our cosmology of the multiverse–limitless resources for there being, after every branch in time, another fully perfectly formed ripe universe, all hanging on the same cosmological tree, ready to pick or be picked–and before that the imaginary of the time: other worlds waiting for us to get there, with their opportunities for discovery, settlement and exploitation. Another reverse order of nested boxes of plenty.

So to situate in our time, that I can’t help thinking of tonight as the time of the unexplainable–because it refuses to impart to us its sense and has been set up as a posthuman or nonhuman imaginary. An abdication by it or by us–although it is by us–of human sense-making. Unexplainable. The course of events we now find ourselves locked into. So to situate what was this inner inner earth desire for an underland of riches as for us an outer outer world of … the blue dunes of Mars, of the mineral riches to be found of the moon, of all the astral opportunities on offer through our telescopes.

And worse: to be technologically delivered these riches. Contact with extraterrestrial intelligent to be the fulfillment of this technological delivery. And to deliver our salvation.

From the world’s problems.

When an earlier writer, Eiseley can say, unlike Liu in the The Dark Forest, where to be found is to fall prey to superior civilizations, a universe where to hide successfully is to survive, that Eiseley can say there is no chance of life at all elsewhere than earth given that the chances of it here are infinitesimal. And that despite the infinitesimal probability of life it has here occurred … and is by its own tenets of evolutionary development wiping itself out.

Although written a year almost exactly a year ago, Joseph Nechvatal’s piece, “From Viruses to Algorithms, We Are Always Under Threat,” on the Hyperallergic site, is the smartest I’ve read in dealing with our viral times. (April 19, 2020, here) This is my favourite paragraph:

Locked-down at home, hiding, you are under ever-increasing pressure to conform, to survey, and be surveyed. Probably you are not against this temporary necessity of surveillance and conformity, but these are the perfect conditions in which totalitarianism flourishes. It is ruinous for the creation of daring new art, and effects the shrinking of places that exhibit nonconformist acts of imaginative spontaneity. You may pour your aesthetic energies into your stay-at-home work, but algorithmic cultural calculus is an obstacle you must overcome to realize your aesthetic freedom. Pathetically, algorithm-driven popular culture that uses optimization-driven, actor-critic, neural network for deep learning emotion analysis (such as Apache MXNet, the deep learning framework in Amazon) puts your cultural choices to work even in your imposed quarantined space of leisure. Probably you have little access to art with which to inoculate yourself and think unpredictably with. You dwell in a viral copy culture of increasing cultural homogenization as Google tracks and guides your tastes.

— Joseph Nechvatal, Hyperallergic

It is my favourite for asking the question with what art to inoculate ourselves and with what to think unpredictably?

This inoculation of the virus is like the virus in the sense Nechvatal imagines it to be both medium and message: unpredictable thinking is that with which you inoculate yourself to think unpredictably with it. You inoculate yourself with a nonconformist act of imaginative spontaneity so as to be able to engage in a nonconformist act of imaginative spontaneity. This act is an art act. It is not a performative. Despite the resemblance between the viral (being both medium and message) and the performative there is a difference. It is an act.

Before considering how it works, how, you might say, art works, to stand against the copy format, so that, in face of contemporary art’s challenging stimulus, you enter into yourself and re-emerge with expanded capacities you never knew were there, as Nechvatal writes, I want to say what I disagree with in this piece, either because it is too predictable or because it compounds what Jarry writes of as the powers of the Disembraining Machine.

Andrew Murphie, in a nice essay, “Bicycling to the Limits of Being: Deleuze and Guattari’s machinic thought, Heidegger, and Alfred Jarry’s time travel,” has it that the Disembraining Machine provides the “full Heideggerian nightmare” by attempting to construct systems of total machinic enslavement. What Nechvatal calls totalitarianism.

Although Murphie associates the Disembraining Machine with contemporary cognitivist culture that is a contemporary embraining of the brain I see this cognitivism as itself symptomatic of a displacement of cognition onto the market-brain, the market insofar as it is site of speculation, thought, at as-close-to-the-speed-of-light as contemporary computation (the stakes in this computation being speed and power of computation, speed as power), with which cognitivism aligns itself, can manage. So as to be an active choice of disembraining to attain the advantages of the acceleration in rates of data calculation afforded by the machine. All the rest is infographics.

…aka propaganda… the subject in Nechvatal’s view remains the human. Only in the human world are the characteristics of algorithmic digital viruses transferable to the molecular variety. I want to pause here to consider what this means for the machinic that is Guattari’s invention, since in Guattari’s view machinism is not special to the human world but is a fact of the world outside the human. What takes the machine from human to more than human is its asignifying capacities, its nonperformance of communication, of the communication of meaning, its nonperformativity, but that it acts, its activity. This activity is against the machine of cognitivism–that is, the brain. Against the brain’s understanding as it is commonly understood. And with the brain, against the social network as being modeled on the brain, the brain a network, the three networks: psychic, social and that of the life of the planet, the living planet.

Guattari’s three ecologies and his machines are indifferent to the moralism, the anthropocentric moralism, in its understanding of the brain, the network and the world.

This is then where I depart from Nechvatal, since it is only in the all-too-human world, which valorises symbolic exchange, that the metaphor can be sustained of the computer virus and the molecular virus, of the one transposable–wilfully? poetically? artistically?–into or onto the other. Not only do I maintain that they are mutually irreducible, I find art to be a work of the outside the human. Not an inoculation. An exoculation.

Consider painting–Herzog’s homo spiritualis of Chauvet; never is, never has been homo sapiens: has never known anything–and how painting thinks–or to recapitulate the less common sense of understanding, how painting understands. What the hand of the painter has to undergo is becoming mineral. Because pigment is always at heart a matter of minerals.

In other words, this old art form, painting, is not the awakening of modern human awareness as Herzog in his Cave of Forgotten Dreams at first has it. It is the awakening of nonhuman awareness. Of a mineral thinking. Of what Deleuze calls anorganic life: life in the understanding of the outside the human. That is, the nonhuman.

And perhaps we can think of this as spiritual.

— from here

https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/16-06-2016/five-things-i-was-thinking-about-while-writing-mysterious-mysteries-of-the-aro-valley-an-essay-by-danyl-mclauchlan/

Tranquility and Ruin.* There is an aspect to Danyl McLaughlan’s book that is he has gone there so that you don’t have to. Like Louis Theroux, in the porn industry. But, like Louis Theroux, in porn, why would you want to?

That McLaughlan chooses to, makes me suspicious. Nowhere more so than in the hope industry of the effective altruists. Here’s the webpage: Using reason and evidence to do the most good. Not the webpage for the book but for the hope addicts who support this industry. Like the porn addicts who support that industry.

(Incidentally, hope addiction has been statistically verified to be the number one killer of spontaneous creative acts in the developed world. It is, as they say, a first world problem.)

What do I suspect McLaughlan of? is it naivety? No.

As D. pointed out to me, what hooks you in to McLaughlin’s studiedly plain prose (read: refuses to flatter itself with an intellectual posing pouch by refusing to fill (an intellectual) one) is that his own neuroses keep manifesting. He keeps breaking in to his narrative with his own indecision, depression, twisty fuckupedness. D. finds this, although it is more distasteful than charming, disarming. It makes me want to throw the book against the wall. No. I wanted to read about this evidence of the disembraining machine at work. The disembraining of cognition–using reason and evidence–at the hand of cognitivism (see above).

To cleanse my subjecto-aesthetico-political palate, I wanted to re-read Josh Cohen’s Not Working: Why We Have to Stop. The injunction held in Cohen’s title seems eminently more sensible, practicable, reasonable and self-evident than anything in Tranquility and Ruin. Just stop! What your body and mind are telling you in your breakdown is that you have to stop working. Or trying to work. Or trying to be useful. And above all don’t try and do any good: end your addiction to hope.

(This could also be Rob Doyle’s message in his novels … but they are about the addiction to hopelessness or nihilism that only affirms the addiction to hope: like giving up is part of the addiction, to smoking, for example.)

McLaughlin cannot imagine any alternative to capitalism. This is reasonable evidence that the full Heideggerian nightmare has already occurred: isomorphic with capitalism, cognitivism is the system of total machinic enslavement.

Not by coincidence do we find ourselves experimental subjects in the capital-concentration camp. (This is why I envy Antoine Volodine his “anarcho-fantasist post-exoticism” and it makes me think that in a way Murray Edmond may have been right when he said to me that he didn’t consider the last century to be the American but to be the Russian Century. We had just been talking about Ernie Abbott.)

*Anyl McLaughlin, Tranquility and Ruin, (Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press, 2021).

“Unlike other species, we have cosmological belief systems that give meaning to experience and to events like the death of a loved one.” said Professor Nicole Bovin on the oldest human burial found in Africa, here.

“your local shopping centre is actually an elaborate sound collage lampooning the cacophony of commerce”

— Ben Beaumont-Thomas, from here.

from here

https://aeon.co/videos/time-is-fundamental-space-is-emergent-why-physicists-are-rethinking-reality?

Lee Smolin on a universe of events: cf. Hanjo Berressem’s Gilles Deleuze’s Luminous Philosophy (companion volume = Félix Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Ecology) the light on the other side of the dark is the plane of immanence.

On feelings:

“I see it like this,” Benedikt said. Where other people had feelings–in their head, their heart, wherever–he had … He hesitated.

“Well?”

“Things.”

“Things?”

“Things wrapped up. Like little, dark, shapeless presents.”

“And you don’t want to unwrap them?”

“I wouldn’t know where to start.”

[this is a conversation, although a bizarre conversation, as the participants recognise, between a male and a female–both detectives]

— from Oliver Bottini, The Dance of Death, Trans. Jamie Bulloch, (London, UK: Maclehose Press, 2019), 179. The original work has the much more original title, Im Auftrag der Väter.

On the dance of death:

At night the dreams came, for years. … [he] would wake up sobbing and always told them the same dream–hundreds, thousands of men, his father among them, dancing in the rain in a clearing, very slowly as if they were hanging from threads, like puppets being operated in slow motion, and they appeared to laugh and be happy. But then in his dream [he] realised that the men and his father were “dancing” because they were being shot at, bullets peppering their bodies. They were crying, not laughing, and then he saw them die.

— Ibid., 274.

The Man

 (He did more than twenty portraits of the man.)

You could be the Pope and not be able to stop it.

“Anarcho-fantastic post-exoticism.” 

The Nativist Programme

first start with indigeneity. Move on with this as if it is a political programme. (Don’t worry. It will be.)

although truth be told, not a political programme so much as a function or output of ideological programming.

indigeneity itself will perform this function, since it can assume the character of an ideological+political progamme+that of a corrective, positively to discriminate itself from the function reserved to it. The it will come

so from the start we can say, indigeneity as method.

official institutional endorsement is essential. As it has been so will it be–recognising the indigenous at last.

This, then, finality–meaning we can say, finally recognition! Recognition for:

  1. the nativist identity–where it all starts
  2. its mode of address–language
  3. inferring from these, identity+linguistic subject, a set of values to be restored. Finally!
  4. feedback loop between items 1 & 3.

an organisation–adopting indigeneity methodically to euphemise for, to give oversight to oversights, and gross mistakes, translating them into a native idiom that is also nativist: mining a “deep vein of xenophobia and nativism” and “protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants.”

striking wordage on mass email app:

NEW AGE EMAIL MARKETING AT AGE OLD PRICING

Level up your email marketing game using our futurist technology at a one-time low fee.

No recurring fee and no success tax!

SKY’S THE LIMIT

– from here

R.I.P. Anita Lane 18 March 1960 – 28 April 2021

wow, the google search returns: Also known as: Dirty

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day 232 – 262 – on being meaningless & ‘a tissue for my eyes’

life during lockdown:

thanks Pavane!

The Assembly adopted draft resolution I, “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo‑Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”, by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Ukraine, United States), with 51 abstentions. – from here

note abstention of both Australia and New Zealand.

US maintains it is a freedom of speech issue.

note also that this is not fake but mirage news.

s: who knows what the new year will bring…

c: it will just make us more nuggetty.

thanks Mark!

A controlled population is a living population

what is the role of COVID-19? to discredit democracy

what is the role of Trump? to discredit democracy

Lohraw: In the future there will be infamy every 15 minutes.

via Ttekceb: And once this first ordeal is surmounted, the next will come along, like buses…

to be meaningless is easy as long as you keep your meaning secret

Talking with an old friend I realised:

a tissue for my eyes please

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfbN_wVDVcw

[Of course, to say to be meaningless is easy as long as you keep your meaning secret is completely disingenuous. Being meaningless is easy so long as secretly you believe that you are meaningful. Being meaningless is easy so long as secretly I believe that I am not. To believe you are meaningless is difficult. … We used to do this thing in Minus Theatre where all meaning is moved up onto the surface. The more meaningful the better. The more intensity of meaning the better. And the more depth of meaning the better. The idea is not for meaning to be lost, to lose or shed meaning from that which previously had meaning and was meaningful. The idea was not to pull meaning up by the roots, to root it out from wherever it sprang. The idea was, the idea is, that once put on the surface meaning can change. To keep it secret (hidden in the deep) or to keep it secretly (because of its depth) keeps meaning the same. So it can’t change. What is meaningful remains rooted in the soil where it grows. But it only seems to grow. What in fact is happening is that meaning has stuck. It remains rooted to the spot. It has only one fixed meaning, when this in fact is only a part of its meaning. A gesture of suicide, what does it mean? Does it mean the desire to rejoin the soil–of meaninglessness? Or is it threatening death to what is too full of meaning, has too much meaning? Suicide seems to be both the absolute statement of personal meaning at the same time as it is the absolute statement of personal meaninglessness. In Minus we would make the gesture and steal it for other purposes. A man tearing out his own hair would be getting his hair done. A woman shooting herself would have suicide as part of its meaning, it would be, in other words, acting. … Acting seems to be both the absolute statement of personal meaninglessness at the same time as it is the absolute statement of personal meaning. It is where the personal changes meaning. Online personal expression fixes meaning. No statement can be made that does not stick to the one who makes it. The selfie mask sticks to the face (…the face to the mask / the root to the plant…). It is not acting but a gesture that by being made is meaningful. And it is not theatre. Or rather it is the worst kind of theatre, the theatre of feelings that are no less meaningful for being manufactured, a factory for the sentimental, a productionline for kitsch, for a politicised engagement with the personal and for a personalised performance of the political. It means taking a stand. Against this: Minus Theatre. What if your meaningful statement was more mobile and less absolute? Your political standpoint–what if it allowed of other meanings? Your personal viewpoint–it is not enough to let there be other and opposite viewpoints from which it either differs or to which it is opposed: what if your personal viewpoint meant different things at different times and places and even the opposite then and there of what it means here and now? Meaning needs to be decomposed just enough for it to become mobile–neither full of meaning nor wholly without meaning. Communication, sympathy, empathy–these are not enough: for each statement, each gesture, each action and each suicide that it is meaningless participates in its meaning. We might say that its deconstruction is present in it, an ongoing part of it, allowing it to travel not only back and forth but in all directions, towards all sorts of unintended meanings and lacks of meaning. Aporetic and ephectic, Beckett writes.]

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day 45, 46, 47, 48, 49 a plethora of performative pamphleteers

If you’re anything like me which there is no reason to suppose to be the case you are being subjected to a plethora of performative pamphleteers.

You know which there is every reason to suppose the .ppt effect or the .pptx effect–not unlike the QR-code effect in being that of technology supposed to be dead and buried but now everywhere–: information presented as slides, landscape format documents, sometimes with graphic ’embellishment’–a colourfield brightening up the margin, a wavy line in orange, or other ornamental excrescence; and declarative statements in bullet points, usually passive but for that no less aggressive, paggro, as they say.

  • Bang: social distancing is to be observed
  • Bang: gloves are to be worn
  • Bang: hands are to be removed regularly and dipped in preserving fluid
  • Bang: this is the bullet point the point of the bullet pointy or hollow rubber and bouncy eyegouging and … just a warning. OR is it?

punctuation is to be used sparingly not to mess up the graphic effect

  • Bang

David Byrne used powerpoint as an artistic medium for his 2001 work called ENVISIONING EMOTIONAL EPISTEMOLOGICAL INFORMATION

it was not ironic. But prescient.

Although the product of an effect, what effect do they have, these informative presentations?

Is it, as David Byrne’s work suggests, an artistic one?

What do they do? They do not so much apply to a situation–say, for example, the return to work–aka the opening of the economy[!]–augured by NZ’s decreasing its level of alert–becoming less alert?–to the Level 2–as declare for one. And if that state of affairs did not exist before–as Level 2 did not for Level 3–they produce it.

In fact these patronising and pretentious powerpoint presentation style pamphlets or documents envisioning emotional epistemological information produce the states of affairs to which they apply.

They are therefore performative.

  • to put it into perspective, by Fabio Gironi (which I have helpfully reformatted to bulletpoints to aid informativability and so on):
  • It is obviously a medical science crisis, straining our current-best understanding of viral behavior.
  • It is a healthcare crisis, which should lead us to reconsider the political and economic attention we’ve so far given to our national healthcare systems, particularly for what it pertains to the care of the elderly.
  • It is an economic crisis, an unprecedented stop of the global productive machinery the effects of which nobody can completely predict, and once again questioning the sustainability of global capitalism.
  • It is a social crisis, highlighting the gaps that divide social classes in terms of access to healthcare and personal freedoms.
  • It is a psychological crisis, forcing millions of people worldwide to be locked in their houses and in their heads, shouldering the burden of a crippling anxiety about the future (or perhaps even fighting alone their own demons and pre-existing mental illnesses) as well as isolating children, for whom frequent social (and physical) interaction is a condition for a healthy development.
  • It is a technological crisis, demonstrating how many countries’ data communication infrastructure is far from ready to offer internet access to everyone, something that now as never before in history is being perceived as a basic need, on par with access to electricity and running water.
  • It is a logistical crisis, for both the spread of the virus and the consequent lockdown have highlighted the problems that accompany the constant movement of goods and people across the globe.
  • It is a political crisis (both at the national and at a global level) since the governments of most countries have proven unable to offer a convincing, effective, and unitary response to the crisis, almost invariably failing to quickly adopt containment measures, and since it is putting to a hard test political and economic international agreements, ill-equipped to truly face a global emergency.
  • It is a democratic crisis, since the current lockdown status quo raises questions about if and to what extent democratic countries have the right to curtail personal freedoms in the name of public health (or indeed if a democracy is at all able to deal with the problem), and since the state of forced captivity in which many are living is causing the emergence of selfish, illiberal and intolerant sentiments.
  • It is an educational crisis, for our school and university system was never designed around the remote delivery of knowledge, and both teachers and students are struggling to adapt to the constraints they have to deal with.
  • It is (the symptom of) an environmental crisis, where the emergence and spread of these new viral strains is facilitated by the unconstrained anthropic modification of animal environments. … there is essentially no domain of human activity that wasn’t (or will not be) touched by the consequence of this global viral outbreak.
  • [and just to be clear Fabio Gironi wrote these crisis-descriptions, I did not; he did not know how much more effectively they might be presented as bulletpoints, I did; although I did not go all the way and choose a slide format, landscape, that you might click through and so be thought to be engaging or activating the information herein presented; despite that neither your engagement nor your activation make any difference to the performance–it’s like participation in the old days. A pretence. Prescient.]

I have always thought sincerity to be the enemy of art. There is some distance between the humour of a great critic and the grim nit-picking sincerity of a minor one–and it resides in the grimness, the sincerity, the humourlessness. And this finding is backed up by Milan Kundera in Encounter. A friend contests the validity of works by a novelist who maintains his apolitical stance in the face of Communist occupation.

Hrabal is, the friend says, a collaborator. Kundera comes back at him: but his humour is the opposite of the regime which afflicts us, like a virus, with its grim certainties. Think of the pleasure a single one of his novels gives to people. (He published several under the regime; his apoliticism even though it could not be coopted to its cause was thought not to be a threat to it.) Think of the world without them!

So perhaps the threat to the sincere is the enjoyment people get from the insincere? And we must proceed here, as the great Raymond Ruyer says when approaching the notion consciousness is generalised over scales of self-survey rather than over species of animal including the human, with the greatest delicacy. Because comedy is sometimes sincerity at its worst, grimmest and most defensive. (NZ news is now dominated by comedian presenters.)

What then differentiates humour from humourlessness? What makes it decisive in the face of a regime like the Communist one?

Unfortunately we have the added complication of political correctness to deal with. But also the grimness and sincerity in the struggle to have identities recognised which fall outside the square, the straight, the white and the world as it is.

The millions who don’t fit in, as the brilliant Manifesto of Julian Rosefeldt has it. Remarkable for its humour. Brilliant also for dealing with artistic manifestos in this way, performatively, in a time when performativity itself is pursued with such grim seriousness. J.L. Austinesque.

But how to square this with the notion of the anaesthetic theatre–or music or painting or architecture–that does nothing to challenge existing values? That has a laugh.

Hence the delicacy.

Is every dystopia, when done right, quite apart from pushing out from the now to speculate on a worst possible scenario, not also very funny?

And is it not so because it does not take off from now but from a caricature arrive at the ridiculous?

And is it not not speculative–also such a grim category–but Rabelaisian? I seem to remember that Rabelais in English translation was placed in the same manger as that in which and from which English philosophy was swaddled and sprang. That is in that it was not better but already back in the seventeenth century, with Thomas Urquhart, already Pythonesque? or Jam-like in the age of Chris Morris? Possibly the one thing English philosophy ever had going for it. Until infected with the virus of analytical sincerity. Positivistically chaste, sober, correct and… grim.

Maori language is currently supported in the same spirit by public institutions in NZ. That is the support of Te Reo such as it is has a purism about it, a chastity, sobriety and correctness which have nothing to do with a language.

Humour is always on the side–language is–philosophy–and art are–of the mistake.

Preeminently, mistaken identity. The humour that is not one. The language that is not one. The philosophy that is not one. The art which is not. The ethics of an anti-ethics, of Vila-Matas‘s refusal! and Busi‘s No!

More prescience [bulletpointed for ease of understanding let it slipdown with the well-lubricated ease of a spoonful-of-honey, or if too phlegmy think of a greased pig slipping quickly between your legs, whoops!, before you knew it]:

  • Even before
    • social media,
    • dating apps,
    • smart devices and
    • highly personalized forms of media streaming,
  • one can think of the
    • modern,
    • Western,
    • affluent social subject
  • as a distinct center of
    • self-management, for whom
    • the rest of the world
    • – including others – appears as so much
    • data to be managed. [Claire Colebrook]

The question is how much of this inanity can one put up with? before saying no. Before announcing an antiethics. Before calling it quits. Before quitting it and calling it.

All this would have benefited from being in slides. Like those TED talks have. Like any pitch worth its pitch–or is that pith?–has. (And isn’t it strange that academics now do this, like tech-app-designer-webbed-fingered persons seeking confirmation and money from the so-called angels?)

I set up square white world not to be. (And was assisted by K. at Version, thanks K. You will note that K. too is taking the art route.)

I already knew irony not to be the sort of fancy trick it was claimed to be. It was again David Byrne whom I first heard say

  • no more irony

So how about sarcasm? as the lowest form of wit

how about it? and cliché as the lowest form of critique

  • now we have ironic sorts of currency, like
    • Bitcoin

Of course, on an industrial scale–and scaling is key–irony becomes cynicism–as long as someone’s doing well out of it.

Can one ever do anything as sincere as saying no?

I’d given K. (another K.) an early epic to read: on a visit to her room she said she had read it, and, handing it back she added

  • Do you really feel like that?
    • Is it really how you feel?

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day 44

I’m dreaming of a theatre. Another one. This one’s doing Howard Barker’s The Last Supper, so it’s called Theatre for Breakfast. But it could equally be called, as Barker called his own theatre, ‘theatre of infection.’

I have been writing that there’s only one thing worse than catastrophe, the avoidance of catastrophe.

The avoidance does not itself constitute the catastrophe. It performs the wrong reversal. It is not a question of Think how bad it could have been! but one of reversing the threat or inverting it: How good is it!

Today at the beach two young women stood at the edge of the sea, where it sank into the sand, and one of them threw her arms up in the air and sang out: I feel so free! then both acknowledged without the demands on their time of the social or work, they had been released. They were free.

It was a beautiful day. The beach pushed right against the horizon like a knife. (Which makes one think of another Barker play, The Wounded Knife.)

What would it take to puncture that blue? associated by some with death.

To be free of the demands of work and the social, How good is it!

It is not what we have avoided but that we have encountered.

Thank your gods. But Barker abjures us to rise to them. To become unforgivable. To rise to the occasion of delivering ourselves up to whatever it is. Even our own fiction.

A fiction is preferred. Preferable. And unforgivable.

Theatre for Breakfast performs bearpit style. A central circle where the audience hurls an actor or two, or in Barker’s case, many–he expressed hatred for the economies of writing for reduced (human) resources early on. Austerity of theatres or dances for one performer, or socalled performance art. Austerity avoiding catastrophe: imagine: no art!

But art, How good is it!

So the audience hurls the actors in onto a surface of sawdust or sand to soak up whatever bodily fluids come out of them–usually just spit. But what is unforgivable? And sweat, of course. They are sweating like slaves, and panting and eager like gladiators. And hot and well-greased. And blooded like prey. (Which is the name of a book by Herbert Blau, a friend, rest in peace, or do as you will, How good is it!)

Dirty. Will it make any sense, this time, you ask? having not seen Minus Theatre, or heard about it, and heard that it was better heard about than seen.

This is the strength of Barker: one of his first unforgivable acts–beyond unforgivable in NZ–to declare his theatre elitist. But not then to let the elite get away with it. And equally not let the culturally underprivileged or underprovided get away with it either. This is just the setup. Anyway, the elitism Barker is talking about isn’t privilege as such. It’s not about money. It’s about the elitism to which art makes its appeal–not as a beggar or chugger, charity case: but the intellectual elite to whom moral challenge is as essential as air; but this necessity is really everybody’s, says Barker, only not everyone will come to theatre because of the material setup.

But is it just the material setup? Isn’t it that theatre to many is by its nature inaccessible? Not lack of access–which funding bodies always want to be reassured is being provided–but aversion.

We can say all we like it’s a matter of education or being excluded because our stories are not the ones being told. But is it both? Or is it the former? necessitating an investigation into education. Or is it the latter? necessitating the re-education of those who might be doing the excluding.

The broader question is Who really wants to be morally challenged?

Isn’t this the last thing we want? Don’t we need art, theatre the way we need drugs, alcohol, to escape too much reality?

Can a taste for one’s values being thrown into a crucible or a bearpit be developed? Barker seems to think it can and that this is the necessity of theatre.

Then, aren’t we too used to having our values simply thrown away?

Or a more extreme way of saying this: aren’t we simply used to and don’t we more enjoy our degradation? … And isn’t this the similarity between art, theatre and drugs, alcohol supported by art-as-entertainment or escapism?

And for degradation we can easily swap in numbing or the more proper word anaesthetic.

I recall in one of the many filmic portraits of him one in which Oscar Wilde made the following essential distinction: some drink to forget; I, on the other hand, drink to prolong the moment.

pause

… good wine of necessity is wine no matter what its quality that acts to prolong the moment …

… in some cases so good it engenders states of clairvoyance …

Tonight we watch Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy with Daniel London’s eyebrows and Will Oldham’s legs (really, quite incongruously), Yo La Tengo’s understated score and an extraordinary song using the word congregation to mean something like popular will: we are sometimes with the congregation; sometimes it is against us. Watch out when the congregation is against us. [Please let me know if you know what, who done it.]

I want to make 100 movies in New Zealand where nothing happens.

It would take 100 to get the message across–to turn around the “cinema of unease” by which NZ cinema is and has been damned to be a thing without its shell twitching every time it’s poked with a sharpened stick.

Electrodes attached to it never able to relax in its skin.

Skin off salt rub.

100 movies in which nothing happens. A woman at the lip of the sea says I feel free. A cinema free of the congregation so free of the necessity to jab it with home truths and watch it jump.

This cinema would then be the opposite of Barker’s theatre. All it would say is chill out people! It’s OK! Stop trying so fucking hard!

Then I feel as though I am in a desert again among the deliberate acts of ugliness and abomination that compose our indigenous architectural landscapes, our relentless uneasy culture and its treasure trove of icons.

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day 39-43: what is political beauty?

On day 33 why is religion the thought that corresponds to the preceding virtues of good wine & food, good politics & sex, good art & conversation? Why is it not philosophy? When it is a matter of thought.

Because it is a question of practice.

Is philosophy not a practice? Well, I ask you: Is philosophy a practice?

Or is it eminently impractical? Do we not look for a practical philosophy in our popular intellectuals? Alain de Botton. Even Slavoj Žižek. Or Noam Chomsky. And Naomi Klein. And those whose star is sinking or has sunk. Susan Sontag. Edward Said–who gave to intellectuals a task in wider society. Michel Foucault–now seen as a prophet, to the undoing of his philosophy (we might say, exactly). Who else?

The Classics? Aristotle is still rolled out to examine unexamined lives and provide a happy medium. Plato is disenfranchised of his franchise in Socrates, who is rehabilitated as the sceptic he was not. Manqué, perhaps.

Do we not look for an application first then fit a name to it, later? And are those public intellectuals not most popular who come with an application already flagged? Waving their flag? Kings and Queens and Jacks and Knaves of philosophical territories whose craftmarks are emblems sewn in appliqué into the general motley. Or melee. Houses and lineages of refereed citation. Schools and academies of followers?

The undoing of philosophy is in authorship and authority. Religion has no such qualms. And note: in the Western tradition, we still leap a couple of thousand years to prefer the Greeks over the sainted pedagogues, Anselm or Aquinas, or John the Scot. Or earlier, Augustine in Algeria: Lord make me pure but not yet.

Even the apostates are passed over for the pagans. Or we want to see in rebellion the scientific spirit not the philosophical one. (Spirit in the Humanist construction is not suspicious.) Religious means only a discipline of thought … How funny when you think of it that our scientific spirit is pursued religiously, without, except in academic journals, attribution of names; while philosophy is all who said what. (Mirowski maps the ramifications of opening science with the spiritual can-opener.)

In places Voltaire did not reach or that Rousseau did either a respect for the nobility of a Natural thought unsullied by Culture (i.e. Enlightenment Humanism) still prevails, or one is celebrated for not having suffered the castration of an original philosophy from its root in religion. Buddhism, as we know well, becomes a useful household cleaner. Yoga is the recognition the body is the spirit from many thousands of immeasurable years ago (time immemorial) (although a matter of Western projection). So also projectively, Islam spawns radicalism (although a matter of a Western inspiration for Pankaj Mishra (here) going back to our first two figures).

Nonwestern religious thought is seen to be superior in the same Rousseauean sense that gave us the noble savage. Few of nobility have resulted. But many optative savages, whose minority belonging need only be attested to by the declarative, I identify as … a cannibal or an algorithm?

Philosophy, the Enlightenment legacy, the cogito, the churchy inheritance which held onto the split between mind and body, materialising it in the discourse of neurology, like a psychic vacuum cleaner, sucking aesthetics into the bag–neuroaesthetics–and relegating metaphysics to a cultish following and the gender-class-race politics of Dead White Men: what could be more a religious undertaking than eternal return? But then Communism is now metaphysics. And metaphysics is a matter for belief. And its childish suspension. Studies in mental health have shown it’s healthy to have something to believe.

Isn’t a religious experience one we seek out?

Isn’t a philosophical experience one of consolation? (Boethius imprisoned could ask, where is this famous consolation of philosophy?)

Isn’t a poetic experience one of whimsy? made of fancy bread?

And isn’t scientific experience one of the mundanity of existence? engaging a loss of innocence that everything is really as dull as it appears to be.

Until there is an unprecedented event …. “[The disease] can attack almost anything in the body with devastating consequences,” says cardiologist Harlan Krumholz of Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, who is leading multiple efforts to gather clinical data on COVID-19. “Its ferocity is breathtaking and humbling.”

Good politics, what might this be? Does the Center for Political Beauty have the answer? (It is interesting how different it looks unEnglished.) Is good politics not now more problematic than good religion? (K. sent me links to this and this. And I find all I want to say is that to hinge political beauty on the Holocaust is the aesthetic effect which has been sought for it under neoliberalism to the abdication of the power in politics and the commendation of the beauty in letting the market–including the art market–run it.)

… where is that breath of fresh air? that mind breath Ginsberg said was a poem, is it here or hereunder

Or is it that data turns consumption against itself?

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day 29, 30 & 31

I knew that the promise of this crisis, that it didn’t make any; least of all did it promise through the slippages entailed in the political management of the crisis any reevaluation of the principles by which that political management is in government informed.

What is meant here by political management is shutting down economies; what is meant by principles are those on which the business-as-usual of economies is based. Then by reevaluation is meant the power of a political will, of government, to change those principles on which the business-as-usual of economies is based.

At best what we have had over the period of economic shutdown–which can be taken quite literally in the lockdown of the public realm to the private and domestic realm–is a vague period. It has been one of not knowing how it will come out, of not knowing if any political strategy is going to work, and of not knowing, or of having inadequate knowledge, of what is really going on.

On one side we have felt the state flexing its muscles, sometimes behind the vanity screen of voluntary adherence to social rules, and out in the open, the enforcement of an almost arbitrary authoritarianism, then through the complicity of private agents jamming police lines dobbing other citizens in for breaches, Stasi-like. On the other side we have experienced what has felt almost like an over-reaction. Although to say so is to fistpump with the types of people whose opinions Trump mainlines, so we won’t be saying that.

The enigma continues in the prospect of many workplaces becoming filled once more, but by people doing very little; the businesses themselves propped up by subsidy and returning to work workers who will have little work to do. This has been, will have been, another of those embarrassing moments when that light negligee of economic dogma has shifted–showing, unsurprisingly, but nonetheless still shockingly, no body, nobody!, underneath.

Others have been a universal living wage having been coughed out to millions without any government whining about if you don’t work for it, just die, you just die! (As it happened this was what a Russian friend said to a Chinese friend, then both laughed and said: And we both had revolutions!) And if we take into account that the pretext for this coughing up is not say so bad as some global pandemics (but we won’t say that), then has it been too easily sidelined, the economic orthodoxy of neoliberalism? Has it given up without a fight? (The enemy COVID-19 is… evil evil evil, but hardly lifethreatening to the world economy! or globalism!)

But some of the explanation can be found in the price-mechanism of Hayek-inspired (who said so? Mirowski said so!) neoliberal thinking. That is, the machine is supposed to run independently of government actions, government being relegated to irrelevance, otherwise known as governance.

Then what happens? State governments shut down the mechanisms of the market, almost as if they no longer know what they are; almost as if they have forgotten that these levers and stop buttons used to have big signs on them saying use by political prerogative IN EMERGENCY ONLY!

The market is the market’s to shut down!

What to say about the promise–some commentators have evoked the work of Mark Fisher, who talks of the present as haunted by the possible futures which have never come to pass, and now never can. Why haunted? because of the hope, because of the promise … even if it’s simply one of a technological utopia. (I recall undergoing training at primary school in how to deal with all the leisure time I was going to have to endure as an adult, when technological progress was going to have, was supposed to have, coincided with enlightened social policy.) Now the future’s here and it’s hardly what we expected. … But then the future gets here again, with COVID-19, and it’s really not what we expected!

And again it returns, the future, bearing the φάρμακον, the pharmakon, that Greek gift–think Troy as well as Austerity–Derrida so well interprets.

And with the promises of returns to work looming, for me and some young people I know, as if this were the promise, I picked up Kundera’s book Encounter. It reminded me about the role of kitsch in hiding human cruelty.

And in view of the certitudes of work, as opposed to the enigmas we have suffered through, and suffered from, I read: “The existential enigma has disappeared behind political certitude, and certitudes don’t give a damn about enigmas. This is why, despite the wealth of their lived experiences, people emerge from a historic ordeal still just as stupid as they were when they went into it.”

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from David Berman to Wallfacers

In a very abstract frame today, I tried continuing with my writing and realised I would rather be talking to you. Whoever you are … wherever you are …

I have a lot of tabs (1, 2, 3 …) open I’ve been meaning to close once I wrote something about David Berman, David Cloud Berman I read in one of them. It was to be an RIP piece. Beside me I have the notes from when I heard he had suicided. They go like this:

this is coming

I’ll explain how

we’re all going to get through it

and “rebuild” society

Video after the jump

The last is from one of the links.

Then there is the line with the typo: The meaning of the world lies outside thw world. It’s from a Silver Jews album, the song ‘People.’

“Video after the jump” links to Berman’s blog, mentholmountains: arc of a boulder, which doesn’t link anywhere, but has links to writers, Thomas Bernhard, for example, and Robert Walser, and pictures and videos. It is not too dissimilar from squarewhiteworld.

An arrow directs on the kokuyo paper from the line “Video after the jump” to a reference to Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem. It reads:

Become a Wallfacer.

Humanity faces extermination, the extermination of a species of bug, coming from the stars, from the planet Trisolaris. It will take four light years to arrive. Meanwhile every human effort is directed towards defending itself, not the earth, but doing whatever it takes to defend itself.

400 years would seem to be sufficient time to prepare, however, the Trisolarans have sent an expeditionary force ahead to spy on human efforts and to limit them to what can be achieved from a current understanding of the fundamental laws of physics. The technology of Trisolaris far exceeds this limit, since the expeditionary force itself comprises AI supercomputers shrunk down to the size of subatomic particles, protons, quantumcomputers called Sophons. (The word for proton 质子 (zhì zǐ) is the same as the word for Sophon .) The lockdown on scientific research imposed by the Sophons is something that I was writing about in view of the comparable lockdown or limitation on paradigm shift, on fundamental advance, in the sciences–and more generally, in political economy–that is self-imposed in neoliberal institutional systems of governance where the pursuit of science is becoming the performance of science through representative means. (This source, considering the science of Three-Body misses the potential for critical diagnosis Liu’s fiction contains: note it contains info you might want to avoid if you intend to read the novels: it has the strangely phenomenological name, Exposing the structure of how we got our answers: Poetry in Physics.) (The diagnostic criticism implicit in Liu of the Sophonic lockdown as science fiction is explained by Philip Mirowski as the neoliberal fact of Open Science, ironically, at 56’57” in Hell is Truth Seen Too Late.) (I recommend reading Three-Body for its clinical diagnostic potential–and equally I recommend watching Mirowski, even if just for the part about Open Science.)

The Wallfacer project is undertaken by a humanity under threat of annihilation because of the lockdown on science imposed by the Sophons–which is described as being their ability to falsify experimental results from research in fundamental physics (note the Popperian line on falsification). The Trisolarans have a vulnerability: they communicate with each other through thought-reading, thought-hearing, thought-speaking. But they can’t read the thoughts of humans. Neither Sophons nor Trisolarans can see what is going on inside human minds. The notion of lying, of misrepresenting one’s true thoughts, of misrepresentation through speech and language is alien to these aliens–as is the notion therefore of representation. The Wallfacer project is to take advantage of this vulnerability. Wallfacers are selected to help save humanity through indirection and misdirection–through not representing their intentions. Besides the mental freedom to dream up plans and projects the use of which they need neither justify nor defend–in fact the Wallfacer project depends on their doing neither–they have all the world’s resources at their disposal to carry out their plans and projects.

They would be artists, poets, revolutionaries, for not having to answer to anyone for their freedoms, but for the fact that they are so and unquestioningly so resourced. Perhaps this is the link I wanted to make to David Berman: Become a Wallfacer.

The diagnostic import of the Wallfacer project can be seen when placed in relation to the lockdown on science. If, as I tend to think, neoliberal systems of institutional governance entail of the sciences a comparable lockdown–and we can see evidence of this in the shutting down of labs in the ‘hard’ sciences (those without direct application in technology and commercialisable IP) and see it also in the decrease in institutional support for intellectual labour, whether in fundamental theory in the sciences or in philosophy–then the Wallfacer project serves as critique of the view that it is to science, to scientists and to scientific research we must turn to find solutions to the problems facing life, to overcome the threat from earth.

Earth has this vulnerability: it doesn’t know we make it in our own image.

To overcome the threat from the earth, first undo the image we have made of it. The meaning of the world lies outside the world

[R.I.P. David C. Berman, 4 January 1967 – 7 August 2019]

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