Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Thursday, April 5, 2012


My piece for the UK art zine Jotta, which arrived, so beautifully produced and wrapped, this morning.

Tim Morton

Like its predecessors, excellence, interdisciplinarity, and sustainability, impact is now a word of which administrators are overly fond. Like these other words, impact appears to be a transparent gel of indeterminate chemistry. The gel sits on my bathroom shelf and every time I need to impress someone, I tousle my hair with impact. The gel may also be used as a poor substitute for coarse cut marmalade though. There's nothing quite like reading the morning news on my iPad with my teeth coated with a sticky layer of impact. Moving further back in my mouth, I recall how my wisdom teeth did it to my jawbone.

In short, the bureaucratic use of impact is just another way to say: “We have no idea what you're doing, and you must keep doing it, only better. To wit, you are hereby required to use impact at least three times in your grant proposal.”

Excellence was postmodern styling mousse, sharply perfumed yet curiously flavorless and disconcertingly soft when placed between meringues. Excellence was individualistic and iridescent. Pimp my excellence. Interdisciplinarity was far more collective, like a brown paper parcel that consisted of smaller brown paper parcels ad infinitum. Interdisciplinarity was Californian: it had something to do with groups of people coming together to do something or other. At a stretch it could mean turning 180 degrees and reading a book on the shelf opposite the one you normally look at, or in those far off days, surfing the “internet.”

Sustainability was where things got a little bit ecological. You are smoking a cigarette, but is that sustainable? You are staring horrified into the mirror, seeing only a tattered clown who never truly loved, but how do you sustain this vision? Sustainability was, if I recall, where the rubber met the road. “Where the rubber meets the road” was itself where the rubber made significant contact with the road, or should we now say impact.

Yes we should. Impact is what a football does when it really hurts you. Impact is that fist coming down on the table in the unforgettable Government ad of the 1980s: “Think BIKE!” Impact doesn't care about sustainability, or excellence. Interdisciplinarity is for wimps. Knowledge should be like Doctor Johnson's boot the moment it made contact with the stone, refuting Berkeley with a loud click. Impact is the first punk bureaucratic term and we should cherish its arrival. I don't think.

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