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

Thursday, February 25, 2016

No More Isms

It's one thing Björk and I were trying to get across with our project. It could be sort of summed up like this:

Stop pimping your ism. Stop figuring out how to position yourself just right with regard to how one comes across to other humans (style). This is a game played in consumer space that began (interesting) at the start of mega fossil fuel emissions. The top level of the game is a self-reflexive play mode (the ism part, hence consumer-ism), and this top level ended up Pac-Manning the levels below. The spiritualization of experience as the ultimate consumer product missed a spot, namely how experience itself isn't just you and isn't just human. Start relating to nonhumans instead. You're already a bagful of them.

Michael Marder and Anaïs Tondeur, This Is For You

In this beautiful book, Michael Marder and Anaïs Tondeur reflect deeply on the hyperobject that is the nuclear radiation from Chernobyl through the device of the herbarium, miniature ecosystems that botanists used in the Victorian period. Under the fragile traveling glass of paper and pixels, Marder and Tondeur host tendrils of prose and cellulose. It’s a stroke of genius to have miniaturized something so vast and demonic—we don’t even know how to dream any of this yet (it’s called ecological awareness), and as Marder observes here, just upgrading our aesthetics to cope with the trauma of this awareness is a key unfinished project.”

Timothy Morton, Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English, Rice University – author of Realist Magic

The Chernobyl Herbarium

By my friend Michael Marder and Anaïs Tondeur. You can download it. Very beautiful, and for that very reason it was really easy for me for endorse it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Keep Spinning This

It mixes so very well and yes, it's my favorite band...result. Captures what it was like to hear it for the first time. Junkie XL kinda plays in these regions, no?


Where We're Recording Résistances

It turns out that when Ronny James Dio took over from Ozzy in Sabbath, they recorded Heaven and Hell in Studios Ferber, which is where we're going to be recording this movie (!) where we talk about Lyotard. We being Ta-Nehisi Coates, Catherine Malabou, Jean-Luc Nancy, Gyatri Spivak, me, Daniel Birnbaum, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Federico Campagna and others.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Graham Harman Got a Job in LA

Congratulations friend! Actually I've known for a while but I was waiting until I got the online go-ahead.

Built space is such an amazingly fruitful place for exploring OOO issues.

With OOO skyscrapers in the works etc I suggest you take up camping for a few years if you're not too keen. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Humankind 8: Misanthropocentrism

OOO actually sorts out Marx and makes Marxism work without the religious retweets that have been stymying it in practice!

Wow I just figured that out for real. And, this subscendence idea is incredibly empowering and helpful. And my seven year old son can understand it! I'm sure a four year old could, actually.

And, and: check this out. I came up with it today and I think now that it's the default state of any anthropocentrism whatsoever:

MISANTHROPOCENTRISM

Check that out for a nice new word.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Humankind 7: "Humankind" (video)

I found a nice video of a talk I gave earlier this year (May) at UC Santa Barbara, what a great place. It's quite a nice talk and it gives you some kind of clue about some of the things I've been thinking about for this book project. Best part of the day: when a faraway friend phoned me...unfortunately my phone was set to silent so I didn't hear it...




Timothy Morton, "Humankind" from Environmental Humanities Center on Vimeo.

Autocorrect Autoimmunity: Order Gone Wild

Any object can be examined by testing it to see at what point it stops being itself and starts being something else. It's an OOO way of reading a poem, for instance. Try as hard as you can to turn “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” into Macbeth. How many steps do you need? At what point is it totally ambiguous whether you're looking at a distorted version of “Twinkle” or at a distorted version of Macbeth?

Just like an optometrist, I take ambiguity to be a symptom of some kind of accuracy. Once you get down to the level of “is it number one or number two” (where the optometrist is rotating two very slightly different prescriptions, but so subtle you can hardly tell), you are finding out something accurate about how you see.

Autocorrect operates in the same region. Autocorrect changes what you type to match some other word, of which your typing is taken to be a distortion.

Now this becomes trouble when you are good enough at writing to want to distort some words, and autocorrect keeps pulling your word back into the gravity well of expected spellings.

And this gravity well keeps getting stronger and stronger. At some point, it becomes impossible to type what you want to type, and autocorrect stops being autocorrect. Autocorrect itself has been distorted into something it isn't: a mashup app that just distorts what you write, without rhyme or reason--in the name of reason!

Take note Autocorrect designers: autocorrect is about to exit its usefulness region for some frequent users. Perhaps soon all users will be affected. Imagine autocorrect tweaked to the point where someone who can't spell at all can write a decent letter, but you, who can spell quite a lot, end up with complete gibberish.

I'm saying this because the newest versions of Google and Word is as aggressive as my iPhone now is. I can't type Derrida's word différance normally (left to write, in a couple of seconds). I need to go back and re-enter the e-acute and the /a/. If I treat the word as a vector (i.e. normally again, as part of a sentence with a certain spatial and temporal direction, left to right and then to now), I actually can't type it, because it keeps turning back into difference. 

Autocorrect has now made it impossible to distinguish between speech and writing--which was the precise point of Derrida's deliberate misspelling, to create a word that looked one way and sounded another, with an unpronounceable difference between them.

Autocorrect is logocentrism in action, pulling words into a shape determined by some strange attractor of correctness outside the sentence.

Autocorrect is ruining the ability to write. In order to facilitate the ability to write. Autoimmunity anyone? The very attempt to produce smooth functioning has made writing incredibly unsmooth and vorhanden. Why, just last year I was able to type différance with ease. Jesus, that last time I tried to paste it, and simply hitting the space bar caused it to “correct” into difference. 

What can we conclude? Well at least we can conclude that language really isn't and can't be logocentric, just as Derrida argued. It only works if it's shifty and fluid and capable of being broken and rearranged.

Also, it's like that joke about the totalitarian country. I tell you that because of censorship, I'll write to you in blue ink if I'm under surveillance, being persecuted, etc. I write you a lovely positive letter in black ink. The last sentence reads “Everything is wonderful; the only problem is, I can't find any blue ink.”

I now have to use all kinds of manual tricks to turn the black ink into deconstructive blue ink. Despite the fact that language is a blue-inky kind of a deal. Such is the state of autocorrect.

Friday, February 19, 2016

We We'd Up

When I was starting to do a lot of hyperobjects lectures, there was a respondent, I can't remember his name exactly, but he was at a university that is kinda famous for being a particularly WW1-type of a place. (Aka seething with envy energy.)

And I remember him saying, with a flourish as if this was a clincher as to my badness, “Who is the we in Morton's discourse?”

Well, in normal-ish world, we is a pretty useful pronoun. We all use it knowing (see, I just did it) that it's interpellative. You can identify with it or not.

But all pronouns are this way. What's better about “one” or “I” or “you” or some awkward attempt to circumvent awkwardness by trying not to use pronouns at all? And wouldn't that also be interpellative?

How come cynical reason got so stuck on trying to be so pure? And how come this has become such an easy way to cause complex and necessary thought (for instance in the feminist prose of this book I'm reporting on right now) to get really scarily jammed up so it can hardly say anything?

How come we spend all this time fighting our near thought neighbors? I've heard it called the narcissism of small differences and maybe this is correct.

Luckily for “you” and “me” (I think) the respondent didn't kill me. He made me feel a bit like crying, for maybe five minutes.

I'm going to keep saying we. And I encourage you or us or one or the reader to do the same.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I Better Wear My Best Wig

Here's the lineup for next week's Résistances film sessions in Paris:

- Etel Adnan
- Etienne Balibar
- Federico Campagna
- Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Patricia Falguières
- Peter Galison
- Boris Groys
- Jennifer Jacquet
- Maurizio Lazzarato
- Catherine Malabou
- Timothy Morton
- Jean-Luc Nancy
- Elizabeth Povinelli
- Paul Preciado
- Gayatri Spivak
- Dorothea von Hantelmann

No, It's Not in Fact Called a Blurb

You write a blurb. A blurb is a book description. I puff your book with an endorsement.

Oh My God, Michelle

You see, this is why I'm going to miss you when you are no longer in the White House. Look at that photo as well. Like Tara--that's the mudra of fearlessness, and Tara is the deity who helps you out when you have extreme fear, which is for sure part of mental illness. 

Look at Michelle. That gesture, it's like the most extreme, intense, nonviolent NO I ever saw. Anti-neurosis weapon.

I knew it. Michelle is a manifestation of Green Tara.


SPACE

















Sunday, February 14, 2016

Subscendence 2011

I was tidying up some files and I came across some notes on holism that made me think gosh, I was on this set theoretical thing about OOO from a while back. Behold:

the parts are not necessarily lesser than the whole but exist in some both/and synergistic fashion…

and then I go on to make a note about my and Bohm’s opposition to mechanical holisms:

[David Bohm] states this quite early on [in Wholeness and the Implicate Order]. In fact his reasoning is identical with mine on that (holism is a form of mechanism).

Humankind 6

Ahhh, that's better. I'm on such a good rhythm with this book that when for some reason I don't fulfill my daily writing task, I have this sensation of discomfort until I've done it. It's not a lot of writing but doing it is really significant, psychologically speaking.

I couldn't write my four pages on Friday, because I was listening to two really interesting lectures, one by one of my Ph.D. students, Sophia Hsu, the other by my esteemed Romanticist colleague Alexander Regier. After that I was kinda distracted, in a good way, and I'm also firing up my new computer, and that was taking rather a lot of my mind on Friday. So I waited until today.

The latest is that I have a nice little logic square going of different possible views on Marx and the nonhuman. It's fun to sketch it out, and I don't think it's ever been done before, so I give some reasons why we haven't yet been able to see the big picture. It has to do with the fact that while you may consciously hold that the issue isn't important, even in that case the unconscious importance is intense.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

LIGO Subtlety

I simply can't get over the beautiful simplicity of the experiment that discovered gravity waves. The shift in the length of the beams was miniscule. Look (New York Times):

This difference is so small that even the minuscule motion in the position of each mirror at the end of each tunnel because of quantum mechanical vibrations of the atoms in the mirror could have overwhelmed the signal. But scientists were able to resort to the most modern techniques in quantum optics to overcome this.

Chronoplasm

I invented a nice word about two months ago for the spacetime liquid, assuming there are gravity waves:

CHRONOPLASM

As in, gravity waves are made of chronoplasm. QSO LENS (the Vilnius show) was all about this you know.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What Is LIGO?

It's a place or places in the USA where they've invented a really beautiful simple experiment for gravity wave detection. It's so easy to understand yet so so deep.

Very roughly there are two parallel mirrors and two laser beams measuring the distance between them. When you eliminate all the "noise" eg seismic activity from data about their movements, and they're still not exactly aligned, there are gravity waves.

The point being that they're rippling through everything right now, if they're real. Because the Big Bang released one heck of a gravitational ripple.

Intuitively there must be gravity waves because we already see how spacetime can be warped to become a lens, for example. If it's that floppy then you can wave it like a sheet.

Have you ever been under a parachute where people rippled it? They used to do it at this club called Whirlygig in London. In like 1989. The dj was called Monkey Pilot :)

Like Gravity Waves? Thursday will be very important for you

...tune to what's happening in DC, where LIGO scientists are expected to make an announcement...

I'm beyond excited actually.

Don't Do It

Thanks to my daughter I've learned about a fantastically oppressive pedagogical technique that's become popular in our ever-more-ratcheted-up workaholic control society. Hilariously, it's called the DO-NOW. 

The first step in a great lesson is a “Do Now”– a short activity that you have written on the board or that is waiting for students as they enter.  It often starts working before you do.  While you are greeting students at the door, or finding that stack of copies, or erasing the mark-ups you made to your overhead from the last lesson, students should already be busy, via the Do Now with scholarly work that prepares them to succeed. In fact, students entering your room should never have to ask themselves, “What am I supposed to be doing?” That much should go without saying. The habits of a good classroom should answer, “You should be doing the Do Now, because we always start with the Do Now.”


Hey I have an even better idea. Start the kids working while they're eating their cereal with me! Tweet them a puzzle that their cereal bowls yell at them in the voice of their favorite Disney character from out the tiny speakers in their IOT china.

Because now can be defined arbitrarily. And hesitation and “what am I doing?” have nothing to do with teaching. Or learning. You should always know what you're doing. Otherwise you're a loser. Gotta keep on keeping on!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Morton Talks to Artists, Gets Smarter

My buddy Paul Johnson wanted a word that would do for phenomenological "sincerity" or "ingenuousness," so I made one up for him, and I liked it so much I'm gonna use it myself:

SATURATION

It's that quality of always being shrinkwrapped in one's style (not just the clothes obviously!). Like for instance, the attempt to not anthropomorphize is a classic human response to thinking about other lifeforms.

Larry David and John Cleese have built entire careers showing how the escalating attempt to transcend oneself and thereby double down on oneself is intrinsically funny, like someone trying to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Everything you do is saturated with you-ness in the expanded sense. My idea of who I am is a tiny inaccurate sliver. The phenomenological insight that you know me better than I do has now been taken up in neuroscience.

Paul's work is about exploring this saturation too--he calls it supersubjectivity. In a way it's actually hyposubjectivity in my terms: there are more style-parts of you than you.

Style subscends my ego, saturating Tim Morton phenomena.

The artists last night were so good too. One of them convinced me that temporal parts also subscend wholes too. Humankind is a comin!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stuck in Glue? Try This





Nasturtiums

Why do I love them? They are just so so beautiful. They were everywhere in Cali and it's even easier to grow them down here on the Texas coast.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Term "Anthropocene"

You can download it here. There's a whole lot more on this in Dark Ecology too.

Jittery

It's almost like this:

"Anything but grasping the conch. Any moment other than the obvious one at which humans started burning loads of fossil fuels!"

There's some kind of weird Oedipal logic to this. Like no one wants to say the big bad obvious thing.

Like we quite happily say "capitalism" and we quite happily say when it started. Despite the very accurate Braudelian shading of that concept and that start date. Like we admit there's loads of capitalisms, then there's big bad official capitalism, "since 1784" as they say below certain store names. (Marx says the steam engine, etc. Word.)

And there are terms for saying it started earlier or never started. Such as Whiggish history.

Just for a mo I thought we were all about to get seriously into working with science and scientists. But somehow the old school managed to get its correlationist paws on stuff and it's back to endlessly fuzzing and namechecking concepts and people (and not lifeforms) before we say anything at all, which we'd rather not. Heaven forbid we do our job. Better to talk amongst ourselves. Safer. My mistake...

Friday, February 5, 2016

Why Not 1784?

Why are some humanists so very concerned not to date the Anthropocene when the atmospheric and geology people proposed dating it?

For instance, one suggested date is the beginnings of a certain phase of European colonialism, which some put at about 1610. (Which I don't particularly understand in any case, but that's another conversation.)

But this isn't about what's the most big bad nasty thing that humans did to other humans (and there are plenty of other candidates). And of course, those actions did something to nonhumans--creating monocultures, moving nonhumans around Earth either deliberately or accidentally (breadfruit, squirrels).

I'm going to say something now, and some of you are going to think this means I don't care about postcolonial theory or worse.

That's not enough. That doesn't significantly change Earth's crust. Stratigraphy is the science of defining layers in Earth's crust.

And certainly this is not about when some humans started planning or imagining bad things. Francis Bacon's violent language about mining, or something like that. Again, if you want to look for the first “bad ecological thing planned” you might need to go a way further back than that. What about medieval fantasies about the spice islands, which in the end generated the East India Company? Roman, or Greek, or Babylonian colonial propaganda? What about Platonic nihilism? Or reductionism of any kind? Or domestication of animals?

If we go on like that, we are only going to end up with the Fall version 2.0.

So we'd still be on a mission from agricultural-age religion, which might be a problem in itself. This has to do with “Something went wrong in our being, something exactly there and then, and this something is a twist in the fabric of things, a twist often called evil.” We're talking about hyperobjects. We're talking about massively distributed physical stuff here, which can't be pinned down. Evil corporations? We summon them into being and buy their stuff. Americans? Everyone wants air conditioning. Colonial expansion? Agricultural logistics are all about that and those logistics didn't just emerge in Mesopotamia, suspiciously the very region where the Garden of Eden is located.

The trouble, in part, is that for ever we humanists have been treating imagining and planning as on a par with doing and acting. (Oh dear, now you think I have an “unquestioned binary” between imagining and doing or whatever. I've read Of Grammatology and I consider myself a Derridean, very much so. We're in a different sort of domain here, where I'm simply saying that imagining that what I'm doing right now is sucking a lollipop doesn't account for the fact that I'm typing a sentence. I'm pretty sure my old office mate Jacques would in fact agree. He's not a nominalist. And even a nominalist would probably agree.)

It's because of the default correlationist mode we've all accepted for two hundred years, which often ends up in a gravity well where we are quibbling about labels. It's very very hard for us to see this, but Anthropocene isn't a label exactly like that. It's not in the domain of “We [the human subject, human history, human economic relations, human will, human Dasein...] get to decide what counts as real, and these decisions are of course political, so we should first and foremost decide what counts as real according to our particular politics.”

Can you see how this might be said in a mode that's part of the problem? And that it will end up with arguing about exactly the most politically progressive record store label, for the millionth time? Rather than, say, mentioning polar bears?

And thus that there's a politics of trying to fantasize about jumping to a level where you can see and analyze everyone else's politics? It's called cynical reason and it's designed to exclude polar bears.

In the bigger picture, the scientific date isn't about finding fault with (a particular group of) humans for human-on-human violence (which is real and part of the picture) and human-on-nonhuman violent ideas or plans (which is of course also part of the picture).

This is about depositing layers of carbon compounds in Earth's crust. To do that in such a way as to create a powerful stratigraphic signal, you need to be mining coal with steam engines.

Could we just listen to that, for a moment? Could we just reflect as to why we are surprised/shocked/outraged, and whether that might be a little bit our problem or maybe even a lot our problem?

It's as bad as global warming denial I'm so sorry to say. It has the same discursive format. Something doesn't fit our world so we deem it unreal or evil, badly intended, part of a conspiracy.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Paris Talk on Monday

It's for this, Façonner l'Avenir. At the École des Arts Déco.

Am I Being Seduced by a Not Necessarily Human Sexuality Vortex

...or am I just trying to interpret this song?

This song is about interpreting songs. Sounds so innocent when you put it that way, no?

I just love how this is a narrative, a special kind called noir, where the narrator is paranoid that she or he is half creating (at least) what is happening. Narratives can't say everything all at once, which tells you about how you can't access all of a thing all at once.

The full ambiguity of the aesthetic experience on display here. Which is how OOO objects appear in general, so you have been warned :)


Adrián Villar Rojas

While I was in Stockholm last year I saw his work, and about ten minutes after falling in love with it I heard that he was a big fan of my stuff. Go figure! He does all kinds of amazing things, ecological things, and this is one of them.


After All These Years

BBC, you really do need not to pronounce names in ways that resemble the following:

“Hello, my name's Barrack O'Bama, proprietor of O'Bama's Turf Cutting. And this is my friend, Shed McNeill.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Britain, the Texas of Europe

1. Slightly isolated part of a continent.
2. Used to be someone else's.
3. Oil.
4. Weird blend of politeness and coerciveness. (Texans even more polite--yes that's right--shock horror.)
5. Ornery defiance.
6. Rather resolutely right wing.
7. Believing weird stuff (eg austerity).
8. Everything referred back to simulated state identity. British strawberries, Texan boots, cowboys, the monarchy...rodeos...
9. Always thinking about separating from Europe.
10. Would hate to be described in terms of something else in a phrase such as "Britain, the Texas of Europe."
11. Would be better as part of Mexico/France.

Keep going folks!

12. Mega wealth discrepancies.
13. Surprisingly broken infrastructure.
14. Tax and the lack thereof.
15. Punishment formats and beliefs.

Take it from a Brit who lives in Texas.

Where the analogy falls apart:
Food. Despite what it says about itself Britain is not Texas in that regard. This is where my stomach lucks out.

Irrational and Violent

Imagine if you're from Maine and you move to California. Imagine that for some reason welfare/benefits are different in CA -- which in some cases they are.

Imagine there's a CA rule that you can only get the benefits you got in Maine, at the Maine dollar amount.

Imagine how that couldn't even be suggested, because of the rules that govern a federation such as the USA.

Now consider that the Conservative Party of Britain is proposing only giving benefits at the amount an "immigrant" (aka someone from somewhere else in Europe) could expect from their state of origin.

Imagine you are an intrinsically brilliant person from say Lithuania who can speak three languages fluently.

Imagine how this proposal makes you feel.

Britain, the Texas of Europe, busy sawing itself off the tree that allows it to think of itself as somewhat high up and covered in leaves.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Michael Marder on Censorship

Michael Marder with a very powerful piece on censorship in Israel. Loyalty oaths may eventually be involved.

I remember in Colorado where all employees of CU had to sign a loyalty oath. Luckily I didn't have to, there was a loophole for foreigners, which I was at that point. The thing being, you weren't allowed to be a communist and employed by the state.

You Can Entangle Temporal Parts

...as well as entangling two things that are spatially separated!

A particle will behave according to its state in the future. And not because of some underlying system to which the entanglement of temporal parts can be reduced.

If that isn't beginning to convince you that time is in the aesthetic dimension I don't know what is.

Cliff!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Petroleum Manga

A wonderful review of a wonderful book by wonderful dark ecological Marina Zurkow. I put something in about plexiglass chairs.

Those petroleum manga are amazing because everything from sex toys to cellophane is made of something fossil fuelly.

Blankets and Manifestos and Björk and Kara Thompson

At first Björk and I were thinking of making her manifesto with me into a flag, and then a blanket, rather than printed on paper. Like maybe black velvet-like with blue and green thread. We liked the blanket idea because you could wrap it around yourself all cozy like and sensuous and you wouldn't be able to see all of it all at once (OOO!). Also, Björk thought that the collision of ancient and modern tech (blankets with email looking like email) would be awesome and I agreed.

So we got pretty keen on this blanket idea, and at once we started this blankie-off where we exchanged many many wordless emails with paintings and images of people with blankets. I sent Linus and Moomintroll and Björk sent Leonora Carrington, and it went on for some time hahaha...She won :)

Maybe one day...For now, here's Kara Thompson, who used to study at my previous job in California, with a great piece about blankets. So cool for me and Björk that she talks about them as media!