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

Friday, August 29, 2014

But the Holometer Will Not Prove Theism

...like one of the scientists on the project implies in the article.

It will simply show that where causality happens is illusionlike.

That means that there is not simple solid nothing or simple solid something. The thing we've been holding on to for thousands of years (as he puts it) is not theism but the metaphysics of presence.



"A Noise that is Intrinsic to Space-Time"

That's the kind of phrase I like to hear in my head all the time.

But even better, look at where it comes from.

Which kind of means spacetime is an illusion liquid, which I kinda said it was in Realist Magic.

(He said show-offingly.)




We Are All Nazis

"Sentences, thoughts, spoons and the Internet etc, and works of art are determined by their context, a structure of meaning, whether we call it discourse, ideology or the structure of the trace, etc. They mean nothing outside of that."

If you think Heidegger said that, you usually say, "Ooh, that proves it. Thinking that way is already tantamount to Nazism."

If someone else says it, without acknowledging they are retweeting Heidegger, they are a cool kid.

Discuss.





Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thank You Andrei Burke

He nails it and mentions me too! And I totally own those badges and recommend you get one too.

This is like dark ecology but in far less paragraphs with words you can understand!

Autotuning

Please stop doing it chaps! Maybe I sound like an old fuddy duddy? But come on!

The most powerful vocalists on the planet don't use it, or very sparingly. There is an excellent reason why.

If you respect the voice as an entity in its own right, why not let it be what it is?

It's not the human-machine interface at all that bothers me. There should be more!

It's the fact that the machine part is actually a human in disguise.

Autotune basically locks you in to some human's concept of sound--Bach's to be precise (equal temperament), now hardwired into every blasted piece of readily available synth software out there, unless you are very lucky. This concept makes everything turn into sepia. And you are just retweeting some 18th century organist's mind. If you want colors, you have to not do that.

Obviously your actual physical voice doesn't work according to some 18th century guy's concept.

Here is a list of alive people who don't need to use that crude auto tune, ever ever. Cos they know how to sing! And what voice is.

Björk
Liz Fraser
John (my mate from the erstwhile Moke)

Surely there are more but these are my bests.

The best vocals make you think all my concepts are erupting.

Actually here is Moke, with my favorite song of theirs, co-written by my brother Charlie. There is a tiny use of auto-tune, in one spot, but not to make him integrate with the mechanized structure of a horrific wrongness. Also, the lyrics, wow. “Ship of sound...” “[M]y money is slow and my mask is a mirror for delivering the devil down...scuse me while I'm thinking of something more insulting/These are the dreams of the pale in power..."




Coral Reef

The philosopher forges ahead in the darkness.
He thinks the darkness is the bottom of this midnight ocean.
He pilots through an uncertain future.
He never thought to look down.

Above him the fish are playing,
High above in the twilight water
Hoping fish, loving fish, fearful fish
Logic fish, asserting fish, wishing fish

They never had the power to swim down to
The depths of his lonely U-Boat.

On the surface of the water, the ocean of reason swells
Cold and secure from the depth
Someone else is looking down through a glass scope,
They will never find the fish
Let alone the U-Boat

The sub sends out its lonely PING
And receives pings back
The pings only mean something inside the sub
Outside there are things, depthless things

But if the philosopher were to use the submersible
And dare to drop below where he thought the ocean ended
The submersible with three O shaped windows

It and he, by bionic extension,
Would discover, at the very bottom of the ocean
A sparkling coral reef of actual things,
Bioluminescent

In the coral reef, the philosopher is already lying,
Blinking, looking up at this hallucinated image of
Himself descending in a submersible

In the submersible, the philosopher has believed
So much that this thing here is himself
That when he gets to the bottom
He doesn't see that he's already there

Among the coral, the lantern fish
The hot vents. All the other things
Like computers, the Prime Minister
And the Arctic are also down here

Wondering when someone might see them
And not be deluded by the idea that
Reality can be grasped.

This Is Where One Gets One's Kleenex Out

Our buddha heart contains certain qualities, which we could call our true buddha genes. We all possess these particular buddha genes. Isn’t it strange to say that the mind has genes? But it turns out to be true. These buddha genes have two characteristics: They are able to see through and not be afraid of the reality of the phenomenal world. Second, these genes also contain gentleness; they are ever so loving, which goes beyond just being kind. They are extremely tender and absolutely free from any form of aggression. They are so soft and kind.    --Chögyam Trungpa

A Darker Ecology

Henry Warwick you have f'd up sound madly on your new album, to which I am just listening!

It's like early Tangerine Dream, before they went a bit wrong in the early 80s. Phaedra and Rubycon not to mention Journey through a Burning Brain and so forth. Atem. Alpha Centauri. Before they started to mean something and use FM synthesis. Otherworldly, spectral--dark ecology indeed...

Weirdly all kinds of musicians now making things to do with Dark Ecology, and some film makers. I hope I can do the album somehow.

Where Are We? 3

Thank you chillout lounge at Land of Oz. I think it was there I had this flash that “nature,” technology and humans were not separate but intertwined, but not in a way that made everything a human construct.

I was going to name the intro to Ecology without Nature “Lines Written a Few Miles above Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” which is a Wordsworth joke, and a reference to where this rave was, called Universe. Right in Wales.

Universe, in Wales. Land of Oz, in Heaven. The graffito outside the entrance was

THE CAVE OF DESIRE

Ever so sadly the shiny product police bricked all that over years ago...

The proto-Orb looping “Sueno Latino” plus Sasha DJ-ing at 4am as the sun rose, I think that's slightly what started it...

Where Are We? 2

...what happened in that VIP lounge, that was not a VIP lounge since punks had renamed it chill out room?

...how did I even get up there, up those narrow little stairs?

The simple answer is the one me and Alan give when asked about what happened on Mount Kailash when we went there:

I don't know...

Where Are We?

As I'm talking on this in Glasgow in a couple of weeks I'm thinking about it. This is about right as one of many soundtracks for hyperobjects. I remember being up in the VIP lounge at Land of Oz when Alex Patterson and Jimmy Cauty were looping “Sueno Latino” underneath these ambient environmental sounds. 1989. Then it turned into these guys.

“Sueno Latino” being the bestest piece of house music, maybe ever. Very very melty. Like you want to melt into the carpet. Hyperbliss.

One of the best bits of this tune is that they have used Grace Jones's “Slave to the Rhythm.” Really really well. Madly I have the EP still. Hopefully my mum sends it in a nice package this very week! So much vinyl in London...still...

The title is from an episode of Blake's 7 which has the eponymous brain ruling Ultraworld in a pulsating sort of a way.

Meditation, punk, house. For me they are all virtually the same thing. Obviously one isn't talking simply about calming the mind, but about the mad performance art punk thing called awareness.




Riveting

It's like watching video of the Borg vs McEnroe Wimbledon Final of 1980. I saw the match live but then watching it on video was somehow even more amazing, because you knew what happened, yet you let yourself enjoy the ride.

This is so true of my mate Graham's book Heidegger Explained, which I'm teaching today. The sentences jump right off the page. Philosophers are living breathing humanoid beings who perform and play and compete and admire and form bonds and so forth. Marburg is a place with houses and streets.

Oh and you understand Heidegger by PAGE 2...then the fun begins...

Causality Is Aesthetic

I know I keep going on and on about it but this one is quite special. Thank you Cliff!

Why is it happening? Because what a thing is is in contradiction with how it appears, but in such a way that it is none other than how it appears ...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

High Frequency

Tone. High frequency tone. Autocorrect turned that into "high frequency time" in a recent post.

That was also true! But the smell of pine is like a high frequency tone...



Sonic Acts

These are the people who have invited me to the far north. Amazing, right?

Disobedient Objects

At the V&A. Doesn't it look nice? And isn't disobedience sort of hard-wired into objects?

That's an interesting title. It could be some objects that don't obey humans. Or a hypothesis that all objects are disobedient...nice one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Even Though I'm Supposed to Know This: Oh God No

This piece of news.

Lovely Art Thing 2

It seems as if I can still be involved at the Serpentine in week 3 of October!



Lovely Art Thing

Haim Steinbach let me watch the restricted (because of copyright things and consent things) video of our talk at the Menil.

Oh I wish you could see it. When I'm in dialogue I'm not all shouty like I am when I do lectures. I seem to like to push people in lectures.

Also we came up with some very touching funny and insightful things.

And he's sent me a drawing!



Jón Gnarr Your Wish Came True

We do have a reader for the Hyperobjects audiobook!

Not that reader, but maybe that's a good thing.

We both thought it might on balance be Morgan Freeman, for not-his sterling work reading a sorority letter on YouTube.



What Theory Classes Are Too Often Like

Hey! Every day will be like a road trip! With your dad! To school! So how about those rainbow suspenders, huh? Dad- - 
Pretty cool way to keep your pants up, eh? - 
Dad! 
I see these kids now with "jive" printed on their shirts.
Now, I can teach you how you're supposed to say "jive." 
Dad! Please just drive the car, Dad.
I'm watching the road, sweetie.
"You jive turkey!" See? You got to sass it.
"Quit jivin' me, turkey!" You got to sass it.
A turkey is a bad person.
KFSL- Fossil 103.
Classic hits from ABBA to Zeppelin, comma, Led.
Tell him! 
Uh, Mr.Simpson, sir? Can you please change the radio station? 
But this is Grand Funk Railroad.
You guys back there know Grand Funk, right? Nobody knows the band Grand Funk? The wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drum work of Don Brewer? Oh, man! For more information on Grand Funk consult your school library.
When I listen to a really good song I start nodding my head, like I'm saying "Yes!" to every beat.
"Yes! Yes! Yes! This rocks!" And then sometimes I switch it up, like- "No! No! No! Don't stop a-rockin'!" Dad, please.
You're embarrassing us.
No, I'm not.
I'm teaching you about rock music.
Now, Grand Funk Railroad paved the way for Jefferson Airplane which cleared the way for Jefferson Starship. The stage was now set for The Alan Parsons Project which I believe was some sort of hovercraft.  --- The Simpsons, Season 7, episode 21 (“‘Homerpalooza”)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Norway and Russia! Norway and Russia!

And far far north to boot! In October! I imagine that the aurora may be in evidence. Please please pretty please with sugar on top.

In Kirkenes. And Nikel (a little bit south south east) in Russia.

What I mean is, I'm giving two talks at a Sonic Acts conference called (wait for it wait for it) Dark Ecology. 

How could I not go!?

The talk has a nice title too and it's thanks to Douglas Kahn, as is my favorite new headshot. Doug is a really really awesome chap and a really really astute writer on sound. He recently taught me that the eardrum vibrates 100th of the width of an atom of hydrogen when it hears the quietest sound it can hear. For reals!!

The title is

“Human Thought at Earth Magnitude”

My New Graduate Theory Class

In general, theory (Greek, theoria) is a cognitive state suffused with some kind of affect (emotion). Theory is a questioning attitude towards reality and towards pregiven thoughts (assumptions). It is also a feeling of wonderment. Philosophy's basic affect is wonderment (Plato, Theaetetus).

Then there is “theory.” Which is what we mostly know from English Lit. and Comp. Lit. classes.

“Theory” is really a very small bandwidth of continental philosophy (i.e. not analytic, mostly English and USA) that literature scholars have latched onto since about 1950.

Quite often, because of this selectiveness, and because of the forgetting that selections were made by someone somewhere; and because of disciplinary chauvinism: “theory” (which is not singular at all, really) has often proclaimed that it is bigger than, or beyond, or above, or more radical than, philosophy.

Not true! That's a bit narcissistic if you think about it. Precisely because they work in big, powerful departments (mostly, at least compared with other humanities ones), English scholars should get out more…

Also, this splendid isolation has led to a not so great syndrome: the use of “theorists” as candy sprinkles on an essay.

In this class, we shall study a much broader bandwidth of philosophy to find out about aesthetics, which are the basis of all theory.


We will be taking the approach of a committed scholar, rather than the overview approach. Not an ism a week, then.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Glasgow lecture

September 19 at University of Strathclyde for a conference called The End of Place as We Know It

"...and I Feel Fine?"

!



Hyper 2

I also really like how the (phasing?) rhodes is playing two bars' worth of almost random sequences of one single note, quantized (to 16th notes naturally). In tandem with the metallic toms that sound like Indian drumming. Brilliant. Like Zakir Hussain!

Where else did one find the weird neural pathway to the term hyperobject? : ) 

Victorian Socialist Goth OOO

Yes. This should put paid to the silly idea that OOO is about being a bourgeois pig or whatever. I'm an anarchist pig anyway (!) but this wonderful book about Ruskin and Morris and gothic should convince you. What Lars Spuybroek says about the procedural rhetoric of gothic, the way it refuses a substance/accidents binary, and the way it leans towards the socialist thoughts of those two guys should do the trick.

Morris is condemned in some purist Marxist circles for being kitsch. Awesome! Bring on the kitsch!

Just look at what Ruskin says in a book called (wow) The Ethics of the Dust:

Things are not either alive, or wholly dead.

Inbox

Wow there's a lot of cool things in my mail this morning. Must be the start of term...



Haim Steinbach!!!!

I'm almost done with my essay on him for a major retrospective book about his work. What an awesome chap too.

If you don't know his work please find out about it now. It's really super duper about nonhuman beings, without being didactic or dogmatic.

I will never think about shelves or shelving in a superficial way again!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's the Mushroom Burial Suit!

You train mushrooms to like to eat you.

Hyper

“Closed...or open?”



1995 was a very good year for me. I traveled to Boulder and met these very high level Buddhist freaks.

They are so funny! And out of control! And totally accurate and brilliant. And the mountains and the smell of pine like a very high frequency time.


I remember when I first saw Boulder below me on US-36 as it rose over that hill. It was like...


(radiant gap)...



I also remember being around these intense Vajrayana students, every moment was like something I can't quite describe. Real, vivid, yet illusion-like. Impersonal--no that's not quite it, a-personal, yet transpersonal, deeply touching, erotic, yet melancholic, yet very very funny. With this mad energy. Mind meld. Total identity-erasing joy. Yet intelligent. Yet not intellectual. Outrageous.



And I was still spinning with my friend Alan who was the main instigator of this Buddhist weirdness. (Hi Alan!)



And going to raves and clubs. Imagine my luck: I got to experience the acid/techno eruption three times as it went west from London to Boulder...I got to be in 1988 until 1996 at least!



So this kind of music and what it's like to feel Buddhism are deeply intertwined for me.



If you ever wondered what it's like to receive mind transmission or do Vajrayana practices, now you don't have to, thanks to this carefully selected genius magnificence...from 1995. I had just gotten into Beaumont Hannant too thanks to my little brother, while still in NYC. And her second album had just come out. So imagine my reaction when...and now consider the object-orientation of those little pieces of cutlery...(btw "cutlery" in a lyric, excellent!).

And as your ego resists those things, and relaxes, and resists again, and relaxes again, it's just like that, like a fan being flipped back and forth: closed...or open?






mOOOminland



One of the greatest things about having small children is:

On the other side of the lamp someone had dug herself a cozy hole, someone who lay looking up at the serene winter sky and whistling very softly to herself.

“What song is that?” asked Moomintroll.

“It's a song of myself,” someone answered from the pit. “A song of Too-Ticky, who built a snow lantern, but the refrain is wholly about other things.”

“I see,” said Moomintroll, and seated himself in the snow.

“No, you don't,” replied Too-Ticky genially and rose up enough to show her red-and-white sweater.

“Because the refrain is about the things one can't understand. I'm thinking about the aurora borealis. You can't tell if it really does exist or if it just looks like existing. All things are so very uncertain, and that's exactly what makes me feel reassured.”

She lay down in the snow again and continued looking up at the sky. It was quite black by now.

Moomintroll put up his nose and looked at the sparkling northern lights that probably no Moomin before him had ever seen. They were white and blue and a little green, and they draped the sky in long, fluttering curtains.

“I think it exists,” he said.

Too-Ticky did not reply.

--Tove Jansson

I think perhaps this is one of the greatest things I ever read.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Perfecto

Deckard's apartment on heavy rotation for 12 hours. Because a Blade Runner a day keeps the doctor away.


Prenatal Human vs. Mother's Body

This makes it quite clear (thanks Cliff!).

In other words, wombs are not teleological and neither are zygotes and neonates in those wombs.

Death to teleology!

My uncle did all this incredible research on the placenta. It turns out there's a retrovirus called ERV-3 that sits in your DNA. It probably codes for immunosuppressive properties of the placental barrier.

In other words you are reading this sentence because a virus in your mom's genes caused her not to abort you spontaneously.

There's a full discussion of it in The Ecological Thought. This is the kind of thing that gets into my work a lot.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Xmal Deutschland

Loved them when I first heard them. Which was here, on this sadly dead chap's show (below; sorry for the ad). Anja's vocals with the diminished fourths and so on. Many harmonics, making for a dark, fleshy sound, the bristling.


It's Not Warming, It's Dying

Thank you to Milton I ❤️ NY Glaser. Cliff, once again I thank you too.





Terrible Pests

Here's some sentences I like from this Natal piece:

Judy Natal and I, and everyone who think this way are terrible pests. We bring a plague called ecological awareness.
That's not because we are out to destroy. We are just having a bad allergic reaction to the present. Which has been going on for 10 000 years.

Is This My Favorite Sentence?

Progress means: humanity emerges from its spellbound state no longer under the spell of progress as well, itself nature, by becoming aware of its own indigenousness to nature and by halting the mastery over nature through which nature continues its mastery.   Theodor Adorno

I think I've been (not) figuring it out since I first read it in the early nineties.

I'm reminded of it this morning as it closes my piece on photographer Judy Natal for a major exhibition of her work.

If you don't know Judy's stuff then you should google images it now.

Project

Much?

The Dark Side of the Thing

Greg Garrard asked me to write an essay on deconstruction and ecology for the new Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism. So I did, filtering it through OOO (I can't help it!). People have found it before I did! You can find goodly chunks of it on the dreaded amazon.

I'll reiterate here what I announced at the start of the Wellek Lectures:

Until the major anthologies start including ecological criticism, I shan't be using them in my classes.

Ecological Toys with Bristles

Thingworld! Because of looking after my lovely small humanoids I couldn't make it to Beijing for the opening of this, but I finally got the book, wow. Zhang Ga, you did an amazing job.

The book has a nice essay (I think) by me in it called “Ecological Toys with Bristles.”

And two essays by Graham: a new one on the thing in itself and a reprint of his 1999 talk that first used the phrase object-oriented philosophy. Nice one.

OOO is going everywhere in art right now.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What's Up, Ukraine?

For the umpteenth day in a row, you are the second highest clicker on my blog.

Bother and Blast It

One of the great things about doing talks people like is that other people ask you to do more talks! And there's nothing better than a discussion rather than a talk. And within that, nothing better than a discussion with creators.

So very sadly I can't do the conversation with these artists to whose show I had been invited. It's because I'm doing mega things in Glasgow and at the Wordsworth Museum around that time.

Agnieszka Kurant (looks vvg).

Charles Long (hi Charles!).

It's 1989 Anthem Time

All right. After all that, it's about time we had a little bit of Lisa Stansfield. The original anthem, I feel. At least that's how it seemed at Shoom and Land of Oz, last time I checked--which was in 1989...

Where's my Land of Oz ID card? Somewhere still on me I think...or in me...This was where I first heard what then became the Orb as they were spinning Sueno Latino and ambient sounds in the VIP lounge. And Aphex Twin. Spinning bits of sandpaper, in the little booth downstairs from that. Not the main room though. This was there. Some kind of laser tunnel was involved.

One now has the unfortunately too late impulse to take Robin Williams to Land of Oz. Shoot, should've thought of that at the time.






Agrilogistical Fatalism

One rationalization [of the depression epidemic] is fatalism: I need not act because there's nothing I can do. False.”

The caste system, if you think about it, is agrilogistical fatalism. You know your place in the highly stratified social body. 

And cynical-reason pop Foucault, a la Jared Curtis: “Our place in society has been allotted to us before we were born.”

How different is this cool cynicism from Hindu fundamentalism? 


Tubes

“The worst part of depression is that it narrows the field of vision into a very small tube so they can't see the options.”   Adam Kaplin, Johns Hopkins


This is utterly matter of fact and accurate. It's not even a metaphor. 

Maximum tube compression as far as I've been concerned: five minutes into the future and five minutes into the past. 

You need time to write...you also need a feeling of (expansive) time...

The human being finds it hard to survive if their temporality is restricted to a diameter of ten minutes.

Again, there is an ecological resonance here: agrilogistics compresses temporality to diameters that are dangerous to lifeforms, including humans.

PS: Wow: 

Each year, 34,000 people commit suicide, about twice as many deaths as caused by homicide -- about one death per 15 minutes. By 2030, depression will outpace cancer, stroke, war and accidents as the world's leading cause of disability and death, according to the the World Health Organization.   Huffington Post


Thinking that you or they can snap out of it is addiction speak, akin to what Gregory Bateson calls the “heroic” style of alcoholism. I can master myself. 


The trouble is, of course, that this thought is itself depression

Dark Ecology and Depression

The beginnings of ecological awareness, after guilt and shame, have to do with depression, of being  de-pressed by the overwhelming presence of processes and entities that one can't shake off.

The idea that one could shake them off is the basis of the depression.

The depression is, in effect, a symptom of agrilogistics, itself a depressive drive to eliminate contradiction, with its consequent absurd and violent demarcation of Nature and (human) culture. (The very term culture comes from agriculture, lest we forget.)

Depression in a box, viral agrilogistical depression, now global.

The whole point is to fight one's way back from the brink (literally species-cidal and suicidal) towards the comedy. Towards accepting the irreducible rift between what a thing is and how it appears, allowing it to manifest.

Oh Robin

When you are funny, it means that you allow the irreducible gap between what you are and who you think you are to manifest, without tampering with it.

When you are successfully funny it means you allow people to see you being that, living that gap, on stage.

You are radically accepting your finitude.

Depression is an autoimmune disorder of the intellect against its poor phenomenological host being, little you.

Comedic depression is when the depression says, There must be something more than this. I am not a finite being. 

Often it manifests as a desire to be regarded as a “serious” actor, by which is meant one whose irreducible gap is sealed or invisible or papered over.

The intellect, like the white blood cells, can't bear mortality and finitude. It wants you to live forever. It will eliminate every contradiction in its path to carry out this (absurd, impossible, destructive) mission.

The “logical” conclusion to this path is the elimination of the host, suicide. It's like going into anaphylactic shock.

Agricultural logistics that now dominates earth is this depression mind, manifesting in global space. Objectively eliminating the finitude and anomalies that actually allow it to happen, the poor voles and “weeds.”

Naturally, I have used my own experience and thoughts to put these ideas together.

Death March

1. If this were happening in any other country we'd be calling it genocide and ordering air strikes, UN peacekeepers and trials at the Hague.

2. This is so beautifully made. Wordsworth couldn't have done better than the quiet, intelligent, strong, loving, deeply involved, walking narrator.

3. The Weather Channel. Wow. The best documentary I've seen in ages and it's from the Weather Channel. But then again, weather doesn't know about boundaries between states, as global warming language keeps saying. And this is a case of using the weather as a political tool: weaponized weather. It's perfect that this is from them.


Monday, August 11, 2014

TITAN

Hypergeometric models by Jol Thomson, influenced by my work...

At Musea d'Arte Contemporanea, Villa Croce, alongside Tomas Saraceno...


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Megabooks

I have the worst pile of books-to-read ever. So having finished most of these 28 essays, I thought I'd plow through them.

Ten this week, more to go!

Way more...

It's very nice. First you get to find out other people's ideas after all this time of furious writing. Then you see some of your ideas are shared by others. This is particularly nice with Dark Ecology, or with any book--you often feel like you are out on a limb.

Friday, August 8, 2014

We Need More Liams

Good for Liam Heneghan.

When interviewed I also said that I was sure that Liam wasn't teaching these sorts of books because they were simplistic. Rather, he's teaching them because unlike self-censored “adult” literature, they contain all kinds of ecological awareness. That kind of awareness translates into sentimental kitsch in most “adult” eyes.

Yet in an ecological age, when there is no one proper scale from which to examine or judge things, all art falls into the uncanny valley of kitsch...as I'm arguing in Dark Ecology. 

Pluto

Doing a book about Pluto for North Atlantic Books. It's extraordinary, what I've read so far.

We were all asked to fill out a questionnaire about what we'd like and expect to see on Pluto. It was fascinating how one's mind swayed from one's inner emotional responses to outer speculations on the planet itself.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Translation Translation

Someone speaks. The speech vibrates a packet of crisps (as I still prefer to say).

Behind a soundproofed window, an algorithm translates the packet's translation of the speech back into (intelligible) speech.

A very elegant--and nicely mundane, yet extraordinary--demonstration of how how causality is aesthetic.

Speaking, making-vibrate, causing excitement in an electronic lens, analyzing each frame like sorting the laundry, making the analysis sound.

It's the window that interests me. It puts an inviolable aesthetic frame around the packet and the voice.

It's very similar to what happens in your actual ear. A pressure wave activates a tiny cell, the only plant cell in your body. This cell's vibration is translated into electrochemical signals interpreted by your brain. The process of hearing is also a double translation. Technically, this is called transduction.

There need to be one or two other entities involved. Yet the translated translation isn't that different from what actually happened. It's not Beethoven's last string quartet or Sueno Latino.

Which is what OOO likes to say about causality.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Outside the Work: Marina Zurkow

So colossal and performative--and immersing--and involving of me--was this extraordinary work at Rice in the Spring term, and so pressing have been these 28 essays and lectures and books and stuff, that I've only just gotten enough perspective to be able to write a little bit about it here.

With any luck we will be making a book or even books about it, with amazing pictures, video, and essays (and other accounts) to preserve this necessarily fragile work of performance art.

Food and eating as performance, which of course it is. A meal, don't we eat them all the time? And don't we eat the rest of the planet, while we do that? And so isn't a meal a synecdoche (and more than that) for everything that we do (wrongly) to other beings on Earth?

What if the meal was compromised in some way?

What if its deliciousness or the camaraderie of dining-with were shadowed by something (or some things) that were ethically or politically distasteful, not to mention disgusting?

And what if you could, in a strange impossible yet amazingly do-able way, taste this very distaste, in the very food you were eating?

What if a meal were not just a singular event, but a gathering together of multiple times and places? Isn't this always the case, since we eat beings who evolved over billions of years? And crystals? And water?

What if you could somehow taste all this--“outside the work” of the meal?

Outside the work is a literal translation of hors d'oeuvres, and here is the brilliant quilting point that Zurkow puts pressure on in this piece, a gastronomic feast and tasting of deep time, as we all liked to put it, and still do.

One entered a space illuminated like the Arctic. Cold too: a space whose air conditioning, even for Texas, was particularly refrigerant (and so globally-warming).

An Arctic whose whiteness was replicated with styrofoam table decorations. Gigantic ones.

In this space, a huge long banquet table, reminiscent of those Renaissance displays of absolute power that still haunt us and which we still repeat.

At the table, invited guests, sitting in a cubic fishbowl since the building was made of glass. The “unlucky” not-invited ones could press their noses against the window and look in wondering what they were missing.

An uncomfortable space then, if you think there is no class.

And indeed if you think that there is no class distinction between humans and nonhumans.

For instance, at a certain moment you were forced to dig for fish in a gigantic ugly ball of salt, bringing up Melanie Klein-like male fantasies of macerating the mother's body. And when you dug it out, it was kind of ugly and nasty and salty, yet delicious.

You drank algae--because you can, because there are technological devices that can make it possible. You poured it into a test-tube and toasted the evening.

You drilled for metaphorical oil (alcohol) in a metaphorical well (amazing dessert).

You ate off beautiful soft plastic place settings, decorated beautifully and informatively with ecological and geological thoughts, like poems. Plastic place settings. Plastic. Beautiful plastic.

With perfect (dis)taste our host, the artist, toasted and described and led us through the meal, performing the cynical reason that an Oxford don at high table performs, not knowing or caring very much which medieval ceremony one is having to act out at this or that point--and not quite caring whether it's medieval or medievalist--and, in your drunken haze you wonder whether the medievals knew or cared either. Just going through the motions.

With an extra twist of lemony self-congratulation, as in a banquet at the UN or at some international meeting on “climate change.” Here we all were. We cared.

Trapped in a fishbowl of hypocrisy, seeing yourself trapped in the fishbowl, seeing how seeing yourself trapped was also a symptom of begin trapped, and on and on. The awareness-of-hypocrisy fish being eating by the cynicism fish, being eaten by a higher-level hypocrisy fish. A giddying struggle to transcend, thwarted at every turn, yet still you kept trying to rise above it all.

Isn't that the trouble with being human?

“The vicissitudes of this life are like drowning in a glass pond” (Trungpa Rinpoche).

And, confusingly and wonderfully, not entirely disgusting, not entirely delicious, not entirely cynical or hypocritical. Weirdly and dizzyingly uncertain at every turn and at every level. It made you laugh and it made you cry. I mean, we were sitting in the Arctic watching the destroyed world, and eating it. And reflecting on that. And on and on.

Ballet-like servers who brought out dishes but never returned them. A huge pile of dirty detritus, plates, cutlery, stacked up, never to be withdrawn. Outside the work. Seeing how things are produced. Seeing the wiring, what gets hidden in upscale restaurants.

But not totally constructivist. The food is still delicious (or is it?). The performativity is warm, non-confrontational. You can't laugh knowingly about seeing how it's all done.

The next day everyone had an opinion about what had happened. This was a symptom that none of us had a clue. It truly gapped my mind.

Several months later, I'm just beginning to be able to write about it. And now I understand, having written this post, that it wasn't just logistics that prevented me.

This was a conceptual work that was truly nonconceptual. A squared circle. Wow.