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

Friday, January 18, 2013

Karen Pinkus at Rice on Climate Change

By popular demand. These are the raw data. I think I got almost everything but it's rather telegraphic.

Karen's talk was called “Fuel = Hope?”


1783 Palace of Versailles
Montgolfiers on the launch pad
“Montgolfier gas” 
>> hydrogen
dream of generating energy from nothing, very long standing
Guy Negre, air cars
Victorian clocks, breaks, guns: must compress air by force
image of free floating balloon << dirty difficult labor of extractive industries
labor of auto industries: paradigm of wages and unions, surveillance and living conditions
to call on air as a fuel is to move outside of the carbon present to a utopian fantasy
mutlicultural and yet patriotic labor forces
not in the struggle against capital but in its very dedication to nature
future fuels are perpetually deferred
strengthens relation of carbon and economy
view that ethics and power are antithetical
marketers who try to reconcile them only strengthen the distinction
VW brochure for clean diesel
“so will you forfeit power in exchange for doing good?”
answer no suggests power and ethics are indeed incompatible

Bouchere automaton of gold lions for the Kahn spouting wine, and so on
angel playing the trumpet
hiding a man underneath the contraption

Antonioni Red Desert: on environmental devastation
protagonist awoken by an ambient sound
son is asleep yet robot appears to have started on its own

perpetual motion machines must also be wound up
Vauconson

fuel
to distinguish fuels from energy systems
fuel as pure flowing potentiality -- why they may be hope

transition of fuel to energy hard to represent: rays, etc
(candle flame Nagarjuna)
potentiality implies power and yet simultaneously describes a state prior to use of power
potential and kinetic energy (physics)
but let us put aside this for now

energeia: Aristotle << argon (act, deed); enactment
all matter has energeia, the activity tending towards its entelechy
the sheer potential is dynamis (before it’s on its way to telos)

>> much later as motive force or power

1842 Britannica: energy as a term of greek origin as “power virtue or efficacy of a thing”
1899: six pages long entry in Britannica
is it legitimate to speak of energy prior to 1800
Bruno Latour might say no

“fuel” is much older than “energy”
OE << French fule, Old French foal (a bundle of firewood)
focalia: the right to demand material for making fire (Latin law)
focalis: pertaining to the hearth << focus (hearth)

contrast pyros and ignis

Hestia, Vesta; focus, focalia >> fuel

Hestia an ambiguous goddess rarely depicted save as woman holding a staff

wes, to dwell or stay (Indo-European root); Heidegger
hearth as space of protection of oikos

1800s--fuel expands to the bundles of firewood

<< homes heated by wood gathered in forests or charcoal

air distinct from fuel; it does not emit heat
does not qualify as a Marxian raw material
Capital 1. Marx not concerned with fuel, not a term he uses
no significance for human labor power in factory
machines: motor mechanism, transmission, tool
either generates its own mode of power (steam, caloric, electromagnetic)
or << already existing natural force (wind, water)

engine more reliable because you don’t have to rely on stream or other conditions
“a system of machinery ... constitutes a huge automaton whenever it is driven by a self-acting prime mover” (Marx)
may require aid of workmen for some movements (mule carriage etc)
that would be such a great song title

as a literary scholar what does this have to do with poetics
or figures

Macherey, French 1966
uncannily one of his central texts was the novel Pinkus is thinking about, in debt to Robinson Crusoe
recommended to Emile
appreciated by boys in French 3rd republic
Jules Verne, Mysterious Island (1874)

exemplary for this method
explicit ideology of conquest of nature, harnessing of fuels as energy
also always colonialist (as Macherey notes)
for thinking the limits of criticism

slave, ape etc can transfer fuels from waiting to use almost immediately
all texts contain some kind of mystery or decollage between what author thinks he’s doing and what the text is really doing
we should return to texts such as Macherey to remind ourselves why we read in certain ways though we have internalized this

would such an astute critic be comfortable with repeating the book’s own structure
the real decollage of the novel lies beyond the plot or askew from it
in another theme: mobilis in mobile (man as a subject in a mobile universe)
coal >> electricity in Verne’s time
prediction of efficient coal machines in Australia and America
“without coal no more machines”

Cyrus Smith: in the future there will come a clean free form of fuel, water broken down by electricity will replace coal
“water is the coal of the future”
nothing about the energetic force required to make water into a fuel
a true rupture in the text, interrupted by barking of dog and ape

only one passage in the large portfolio of energy forms in the novel

but what if mobilis in mobile stands as a mode of reading
novels are all about the future in the present
deferral of water as a future fuel if we read Verne as mobile subjects
anxiety that all fuels may be used up and discovered
but the form of mobilis in mobile used in reading
fiction rather than science as the ideal way to discuss the conquest of nature = the nature of fuels
mobilis in mobile will have to persist
this is the pressure point of the novel
contradiction that Macherey encourages us to find

Agamben via Heidegger on dynamis and energeia
latter term should not be confused with energy
rather these concern being, the human capacity to do something
what does it mean to have a faculty 
to be able to...
to be able to pass or not pass into action
Aristotle: dynamis maintains itself in relation to its own privation or nonbeing
a thing is said to be potential if when it is realized there is nothing in potential
the property of adynamia belongs to all dynamis for Agamben
so one could decide NOT to manufacture or use a fuel
dynamis has to do with being

potentiality to not-be that belongs to potentiality
thus when the potentiality passes fully into actuality
dynamis preserves itself as such in energeia
bringing wholly into the act as such

Derrida complicates any neat distinction between these terms
a “new era” in which we can’t distinguish between the virtual and the real (potentiality and actuality)
virtuality is inscribed in structure of event produced
affects time and space of image
everything that connects us to the actuality
doesn’t mention climate change or Anthropocene
yet it’s important to keep his words in mind for us

a kernel of hope in Agamben
not that we will find an alternative
nor that we will find a way to capture and store carbon
nor for a green revolution
or individual behavior in conservation of energy
conservation as the weak reform ensuring expenditure like the Factory Acts in Marx’s time

thus not fuels are consumed in energy
potentiality conserves itself IN actuality
potentiality survives actuality
and gives itself to itself
salvation analogy >> fuels? physical world? or remains in world of being?

if no power over that which is not being
fuels can only wait for us to not use them... !

Q&A
Anne. How potentiality is connected not to conservation but to the maximum capacity of human growth
this potential has already been used in terms of how we construct these terms
>> conservation discourse as a step back from the idea of usable reserves but also a minority discourse
potentiality <> usable-ness
AND: fuel >> energy as a literary method. Algeria movement of postcolonial France and Algeria. Can you comment? 

Karen: Allan Stoekl. Question of maximum capacity. We don’t have a crisis of a lack of energy, we have plenty of energy and should expend it massively. 
we need to expend even MORE energy...
things like “reserves” and “conservation” are undone by this book
shows how that is inscribed in logic that got us into the problem we are in now

fuel as figure and energy as discourse (in Lyotardian terms)
fuel might disrupt discourse

At what point does the fuel-energy loop begin?

me: Nagarjuna and al-Ghazzali (and OOO); occasionalism and magic

Foucault 1978
Western philosophy as machine that should just function like capital, we shouldn’t or mustn’t or can’t think outside of the West, or we should just allow China and India to “develop”--thinking otherwise would be orientalism

actuality as inert and dead (Dominic)
Dominic: electricity? as a system of energy?
Karen: it has to be fueled! 

Joe: contemporary artists trying to turn energy back into fuel
Karen: fictional fuels, fuels that don’t work out

alchemy
coal and oil
base material and only after refining they become noble? when they are consumed?
turning energy back into fuel: reverse transmutation, a fear that a lot of early modern alchemists had

q on “the risk of ontologizing fuel”
objects enfueled (as against one of Bestand, we have it available)
A: I worry about reifying fuel, what am I not seeing about it...
I don’t have an answer to that
That is part of the process I’m going through
“the good thing before ‘bad’ energy”

Derek: perpetual motion machine
fantasy of being outside of thermodynamic time
narratives of deep time; fossil fuels lie under earth and then spent in an instant
how do those two fantasies relate to the conservation discourse
A: a text that you read that never has a beginning or an end (just development in my sense)
Dipesh: temporality in the sense of geological time
temporality of subsurface maybe doesn’t correspond very well to human narratives and literary texts
any attempts to narrativize deep time are flawed and fail to acknowledge the incredible difference between the realms
the idea of adequation through narrative is hard to believe

there is an encyclopedic quality of fuel: lots of different types; if you have a watermill why do you need a windmill?

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