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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pastoral Noir

This sounds good!

And in a more fantastical approach, Tessa Farmer reverses the hunter/hunted paradigm. Using natural materials such as insect and crustacean carcasses, bones and plant roots, Farmer’s fantastical hanging diorama “The Terror (After Machen),” depicts armies of bees ridden by tiny skeleton fairies, and swarms of ants, butterflies and beetles attacking birds including a majestic peregrine falcon.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

"You Shouldn't Vote for a Woman"

"...because that would be sexist. It shouldn't matter who delivers the message."


At some point I may tell you what I think of this middlebrow parody of third-wave feminism, constantly touted in a "you better not think otherwise or else" sort of a superego way--in a year in which the opposition seems particularly hell bent on outdoing its usual wish to transmogrify women into vessels who should be ashamed--which sounds exactly like eighteenth-century Enlightenment patriarchy.

Liquid Crystal OOO object that withdraws when you try to grasp it? And that can merge sensually with other objects?

The perfect analogy, human-scaled of course, is a liquid.

I find it beyond stunning that there is a school of thought or two out there that swears we are into solids and that solids are bad and liquids are good. Of course entities merge.

"Do not touch ontologically" doesn't mean "are separated by empirically measurable hard edges."

Come on Professor Alaimo! You say transcorporeal, I'll say spectral, it's the same. And Professor Lunning! OOO objects have all the abjection added back in. They don't behave like normalized patriarchal subjects at all. You say abject, I'll also say abject. Also spectral.

I guess I'm still sore from when this guy on this feminism panel told me I didn't like body fluids and because I used lists of nouns I was a Nazi. (He did use that term.) I guess he used lists of nouns too: shit, sperm, blood. You are a Nazi if you use nouns? And nouns are about solid things that can't merge?


Dark Ecology Is Now Available on Amazon

Awesome. And if you go to Columbia's site, you can get it at a 30% discount. Use the coupon code CUP30.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"Haunted Houses": My Sci-Arc Lecture (video)

This really was one of the best best best things, and it was just a week after another of the best best best things, which was the Résistances filming in Black Sabbath's studio in Paris on a fake Strindberg set with semi naked people and people in chroma key body suits, I am not kidding.

Thank you to all my new Sci-Arc friends, you are the best. Truly.

Warning: may contain traces of Björk :)

Friday, March 18, 2016

The OOO Logic Square: A Map of Different Ontologies

I say this a lot in lectures and in classes but I'm not sure I've ever said it on my blog, and as I've been proofreading, I've come across quite a good statement of it. So here goes:

[I]t is possible to think essentialism differently, and indeed that this has already been tried, but rapidly deleted by cynical reason. To do so, I shall make a distinction between essentialism and the metaphysics of presence. Essentialism will here mean that there are real things, despite my thinking them or not. What is not necessary is that this reality be constantly present, underneath or behind appearances, or in Kantian terms—that is within dominant Anthropocentric humanist paradigms sponsored by Heidegger, Lacan and Foucault— in front of appearances insofar as my Dasein or my subjecthood or my discourse makes it real. This will enable me to draw up a logic square in which four positions, three well established (and of those three, two very well established indeed), and one almost entirely ignored, are possible. These positions are: (1) Essentialism plus metaphysics of presence; (2) Non-essentialism plus metaphysics of presence; (3) Non-essentialism minus metaphysics of presence and (4) (the road less traveled), Essentialism minus metaphysics of presence.

At Position (1) we have Essentialism plus metaphysics of presence. Nature, for instance, is essentialist and constantly present, occupying Position (1). So is reality according to an eliminative materialist: there is a reality which consists of atoms or other tiny things which are more real than medium sized things, by dint of the fact that they are constantly present, if only for a time, while humans and spoons are just epiphenomena. We’ll see that eliminative materialism is thus a reactive position within modernity, which is better exemplified by Position (2).

Position (1) is also exemplified by traditional Aristotelian and Platonic ontology, and also by some forms of Pre-Socratic thought such as Democritean atomism, or Thales’ notion that water underlay everything. Any form of reductionism occupies position (1). Crude Position (1) assertions are the sorts of thing that Aristotle blew up, things such as Anaximander’s idea of the apeiron or Heraclitus’ idea of fire as the most real thing that underlay the others. In many cases contemporary materialisms map uncannily well onto Pre-Socratic ideas, such that instead of Anaximander we have the physicist David Bohm and his idea of an underlying “implicate order” that transcends time and space; instead of Anaxagoras we have Arthur Eddington (and so on) and his interpretation of quantum theory, that everything is made of the mind, and so on. Yet Aristotle himself also obviously occupies Position (1), with his assertion that morphē is more real than anything else and that this is the substance that underlies accidents such as color.

At position (2) we have Non-essentialism plus metaphysics of presence. Position (2) thought considers the enemy to be essentialism, but neglects to address the metaphysics of presence. In this position we find some forms of new materialism and also correlationism. Nietzschean theories of becoming, which substitute a flux for static being, occupy Position (2). So here we have Elizabeth Grosz and Deleuze. There is no essence, but there is a flux that is more real than any instance of the flux, such as a milk bottle or a tiger. Correlationism also occupies Position (2), for two reasons. First, there is usually an unthinking acceptance of some default ontology, such as Aristotelian substance–accidents theory (Kant accepted this), or Newtonian spacetime, or atomism. Then there is also the meta- physics of a constantly present subject that subtends and makes real the things in themselves—the subject opens the refrigerator, if you like, to see if the light is on. Or in Heideggerian thought, Dasein enframes or opens the world. This is not the phenomenal subject, me with my clothes and my habitual patterns and my hairdo—but rather the transcendental one, the giant invisible ocean of reason floating somewhere behind my head. This inaccessible subject is more real than the phenomenal me, and I do not coincide with it. In this sense, correlationism from Kant to Heidegger does allow one kind of being to be weirdly essentialist: the (human) subject. Thus Dasein is not strictly subject to the metaphysics of presence. Still, Dasein in its copyright control of being—and German Dasein as the best kind of Dasein—exhibits some of the troubling features of the metaphysics of presence.

The journey from pre-modernity to modernity was the journey from Position (1) to Position (2). In light of Hume, and Kant’s grounding of Hume, Position (1) assertions—including even atomism, strictly—begin to look like uncritically held factoids. Position (2) is disturbing because it admits a certain amount of nothingness into the conversation. Consider the reaction to Kant called “psychologism.” Psychologism holds that logical assertions are percolations of brains. Thus logic is a set of rules for how healthy brains operate. Aside from the infinite regress of a brain determining whether a brain is healthy, we have the infinite regress of the idea “All concepts are brain percolations” being itself a brain percolation, on its own terms. Psychologism (John Stuart Mill and others) thus tries to wipe out the nothingness that is the most interesting aspect of what Kant unleashed. This is why Husserl is interesting—he reestablishes the Kantian gap by arguing that thoughts have a logical form that is independent of thinking. Thoughts are like fish in the ocean, or vi- ruses—or signs.

Materialism tries to elide nothingness. Ditto Hegel, this attempt to wipe out nothingness, the irreducible gap between phenomenon and thing, which I can’t locate in phenomenal spacetime. For Hegel, since I can think the phenomenon–thing gap, there is no gap. Thus there is a metaphysically present substrate of phenomena—there are no things except insofar as they are subsumed by Spirit or the Absolute. Rather than substrate, perhaps it would be better to call it a superstrate. While Position (1) favors reductionism, Position (2) favors the kind of upward reduction that Graham Harman has christened “overmining” (see Harman, 7–18). Thus despite its supposedly progressive or courageous assault on essences, Position (2) thinking tends simply to be a “new and improved” version of Position (1), substituting a Heraclitean Nature, where every- thing is fluid, for a reified Nature, in which everything is just real if it is natural. In Position (1) a tree is a tree, while in Position (2) a tree is a moment in the flow of becoming, or some kind of intra-active process, or an instant of tree-discourse, or a thing whose reality is posited by an absolute subject. There is no essential tree, but my tree-discourse, or Dasein, or History (capital H) or the relations of production or the subject make the tree real. A tree is a refrigerator and I have to open it to see whether the light is on inside. I “realize” it, and this realization is more real than the tree.

Position (2) is ironically the position from which I deny the validity of French feminism and ecofeminism, although many contemporary materialist feminists occupy Position (2). This is because for Position (2), French feminism is bad essentialism. Karen Barad’s thinking fits in Position (2) because it uses Niels Bohr, who applies Kantian correlationism to quantum theory as the architect of the Standard Model, for which measurement is more real than measured things—measurement at the quantum scale meaning “interaction with other quanta.” Bohr argued that it made no sense to make assertions about what exists at the quantum level—in effect he made Position (1) statements about things smaller than 10 to the minus 17 cm illegal. It’s not quite Protagoras, but perhaps it is something like a posthuman Protagoras: not that man is the measure of all things, but that measurement is the measure of all things.

At Position (2), the solid seeming islands of Position (1) start to melt and dissolve. So Position (2) mistakenly thinks that melting and dissolving are more real aspects of things than non-melting and non-dissolving. In a way, Position (2) just is modernity trying to wash off whatever factoids it imagines lurking in the pre-modern view, in the same way that you wash your hands maniacally once you have escaped from the shtetl to New Jersey—you wash your hands, thus making you susceptible to a virus you have been coexisting with forever, polio. The attempt to have a clean body and a clean mind becomes a magnet for more virulent strains of virus, and viral code. We’ll return to this theme.

Then we have Position (3), which is Non-essentialism minus the meta- physics of presence. At least here you are refraining from saying anything at all, since you hold that what comes out of your mouth will end up being ontotheology. Position (3) is deconstruction, and it has the virtue of refraining from harm. And of course it’s my continuing lineage. But it has the vice of allowing scientism (and other toxic forms of metaphysics) to continue unchecked, by abstaining from saying anything about reality.

Which leaves us with Position (4), which is weird essentialism, or Essentialism minus the metaphysics of presence. Existing means not being constantly present, as in deconstruction, where the process of meaning making is subject to différance and so on. Yet unlike deconstruction, I can say that things do exist, yet they exist insofar as they are shot through with nothingness. In a sense, Position (2) puts the nothingness of modernity in the wrong place—it believes that nothingness means there are no things as such, only processes or discourses or History or Geist and so on. Position (3) puts nothingness at the core of meaning, which is promising, since now at any rate I have decided that I can’t make a definitive pronouncement—I have done a judo move on my modernity tendency to want to achieve perfect geostationary orbit outside of reality, my satellite cameras positioned to capture everything. But Position (4) goes further. Position (4) puts the nothingness at the core of things—toothbrushes, lizards, smears of protein and bubbles.

There are things, says Position (4), but I can’t specify in advance what they are, so they are strange strangers, irreducibly uncanny. Since I can’t put them in advance into a box called life or non-life, for instance, what appears is a kind of spectral playground, a sort of charnel ground possibility space in which all kinds of necessarily partial objects float around. There is no top thing, such as History or God or the subject, and there is no bottom thing, such as matter, and there is no middle thing, such as environment or world. Since there are no top, bottom or middle things, there is no whole of which things are all components. Thus things are necessarily partial. There is another sense in which they are partial, which is that things are fragile—more on this in a moment. Position (4) is the position advocated in object-oriented ontology (OOO), and it is also resonant with some positions within French feminism and ecofeminism.

There are things, but they don’t come with a handy little dotted line that says “Cut Here” to separate the essence from the appearance. Yet the appearance is not the essence. So there is a weird essence that is and is not its appearance. A thing is strangely physical and semiotic at the same time. Thus weird essentialism is fully up to speed with Kant, for whom a raindrop is a raindrop, not a gumdrop (alas), but for whom the raindroppy phenomena I feel as wet droplets on my head, or even raindrop-ideas I can think about, are not the raindrop itself. Yet we have also decided that I am not the referee of realness, the adjudicator who gets allowed into the realness equivalent of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To do so would be to fall into Position (2), since for (2) there is an underlying metaphysics of presence, a presence that resides in the adjudicator. In a way, Position (2) is desperately trying to contain the explosion of things in the Anthropocene—fossils, evolution, geological time, biosphere, climate, capital, lifeforms without species or genus. It is trying to contain this explosion by restricting realness to some kind of magical adjudicator, or to some kind of underlying flux. Position (4) is not reactive against modernity.

I cannot assert that there just are things and that these things are truly constantly there, like Position (1). Lubricated by Position (3), I can instead say that there are things, and yet there is no top thing, no reality adjudicator. Another way of saying this is that every entity has what Heidegger calls Dasein, which means that an entity does not occupy time or space, but rather “times” and “spaces” in such a way that it is weirdly strung out, as in the case of a tiny yet visible tuning fork in a state of quantum coherence, both vibrating and not vibrating at the same time. The fork is both here and not here at once—it is not metaphysically present, since it is “breathing,” yet it is not just a processual blob that only looks like a tuning fork to me or to History: it is its own weird little vortex, its own weird little loop, a weirdly essentialist thing whose realness is precisely its trickster-like ability to be here and not here at the very same time.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thank You Olafur Eliasson: Nothingness Is Not Nothingness at All

Here's the bit, from the same essay, that Olafur Eliasson is using for his exhibition:

Fear of nothingness is fear of a certain physicality, a physicality whose phenomena I cannot predictably demarcate from its reality in advance. Thus we might hypothesize that this physicality has the quality of given- ness—it is just “there,” yet not in a way I can grasp conceptually. Rather, it forms the necessarily disturbing substrate of my phenomenal experi- ence, disturbing precisely because it is not “just stuff,” just some kind of neutral stage set on which I strut and fret my hour. I experience such a givenness as a distortion of my phenomenal world (Marion 37–40). Something is wrong, out of joint, glimpsed out of the corner of my eye, a slight flickering. There seems to be some correlation between this idea, which is housed in phenomenological theology, and the Buddhist Prajna- paramita Sutra’s notion of emptiness: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”3 Eliminative materialism and idealisms appear to have little trou- ble with the first formula (“form is emptiness”). It is the second one, “emptiness is form,” that gives them trouble.

This trouble is ironically also common to the experiential etiology of a Buddhist meditator. As Chögyam Trungpa puts it, “form comes back” (Trungpa 189). Reductionism and elimination make one feel clever, but what happens when the meditator drops her fixation on feeling clever? Or consider the frequently repeated slogan of the Soto Zen master Dōgen: “first there are mountains, then there are no mountains, then there are mountains.” Is it not the case that what appropriations of Buddhism within eliminative psychology ward off is precisely the third statement? What on earth could it mean?

Nothingness is not nothing at all, so it is physical, but not in the sense of constant presence. Nothingness is disturbing. It is there, in a mind- independent sense; it is part of what is given. But I cannot see it directly. There is a weird crack in my world. Perhaps there is only one crack—the one between subject and non-subject: this is how Kantians (and others including Heidegger) police the gap, by putting some kind of copyright control on it. Or perhaps there are as many gaps as there are things, and relations between things. This is what object-oriented ontology has begun to think about the phenomenon–thing gap.

Beauty Minus Essentialism Is a Pathway to OOO

From the same essay:

What happens when you take the boron rods out of the nuclear reac- tor of beauty, the rods that restrict beauty mode (German Stimmung) to the human subject? Recall that there is no good reason not to, since Kan- tian beauty just is an object-like entity insofar as it is not-me. I discover in my experiential space evidence for the wrongness of solipsism, and this evidence is called beauty. The beauty of the thing is ungraspable, yet it is somehow “there,” yet not metaphysically there, since I can’t cut a piece out of the thing and say that this is its beauty. Beauty is a quantum, a thing that I can’t slice up, yet it isn’t an atom (a-tomos, “uncuttable”) since it refuses to be a little metaphysically present ball of something. Instead, beauty is a weird coherence between me and a thing that isn’t me, avail- able in me as an object-like entity that again isn’t me, and I can taste it and feel it, but I can’t totally grasp it. This is the same thing as saying that the beauty mode is sad: beauty has a melancholy flavor to it, because of the ungraspability, and this flavor just is an object-like entity, the foot- print of something in me. The necessarily horrible or disgusting proxim- ity of a thing is a condition of possibility for beauty, then, but beauty is a kind of allergy medicine, a sort of vaccine that consists of this disgusting thing in a loop: “Oh happy living things! No tongue / Their beauty might declare,” which is to say, the water snakes in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are unspeakably horrible, or unspeakably beautiful, at the same time (Coleridge, part 4, lines 283–284).

Why OOO and Cixous' Fur Coat Come in for It

I was just proofreading when I came across this:

A weird thing is a strange loop, what some of us call “an object.” Thus it is looked down on by the constructivist spokespeople of anti-art, which is also an anti-products movement—the dominant mode of high art since the inception of the Anthropocene. The idea is to create the ultimate anti- product, because, in the words of one sound artist, “I love listening to noise music because I can’t remember any of it.” On this view, good art is a kind of spinach, rather formless and nasty, and good for you. Heavens no, not the sugary pop objects, not the sparkly things made of beauty and sadness—keep them away! Better to make a disgusting thing that turns everyone off instantly, or write a manifesto about how making things always ends with a sellout. You can see why people have trouble with OOO, calling it a version of commodity fetishism, and you can see why people have trouble with Cixous’ fur coat. And with the radical nonutil- ity of Kantian beauty.

Aw Someone Was Really Nice about My Avatar Essay

In “Avatar, Ecology, Thought,” Timothy Morton offers a dense analysis — the best I’ve come across to date — of James Cameron’s blockbuster film of “planetary awareness,” reading it against the grain of “normative embeddedness ideology.” As a product of cutting-edge technoscience, Avatar in fact suggests the insurmountable ontological barrier between human rationality and the world of nature, thus undermining its own apparent ideological allegiances. --Veronica Hollinger, “Curious-Anxious Late Environmentalism,” Los Angeles Review of Books

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I Love the Small Print

In the UK--correct me if I'm wrong--there is a legal definition of “not being in possession of yourself“ aka “not being a person.”

That's the fun thing--someone such as a lawyer needs to define, using some empirical signal, something supposedly transcendental like person, something lawyers argue and argue about regarding say chimps in zoos.

The following says so much about how we still regard being a (human) person as (paradoxically) the property of a subject (at the very least, this is an infinite regress and of course, it's absolutely ecological violence enshrined in law); and s a mind in a body with some kind of unmentionable interface between them whose operation remains obscure.

Check it out: if you have taken more than 5 hits of acid, you are not in possession of yourself and cannot testify in court. 

(I think it's five, possibly three: someone help me out please.)

The really funny thing is, there is an implicit acceptance here that vague bundles of things can exist: otherwise the Sorites logic would apply. One hit--still a person? Yes. Two hits? Yes. Three hits? Yes. You can keep adding hits to the person and the same logic will apply.

Monday, March 14, 2016

SCI-Arc Is California, the Good Bit

...the playfully serious colorful salt crystal mist soft slightly but not too disturbing surf music thing crossed with the light and therefore awesomely better than English irony thing. Rather than the seriously playful trying to get the dream right cynical reason thing. The latter being why curiously hippies from off the street were very disconcerting to that scene at Berkeley when I gave a lecture there last year. I'm with the hippies off the street, and so is OOO.

Brexit: Correxit for Breakfast

English breakfast of course. Which is also American breakfast. Which is also...

Do It, England: Make My Ex-Pat Day

"Do it, England," as Claudius says in Hamlet. Actually it's more like I almost want you to do it, just to learn a thing or two about the last two hundred years of world history.

I'm talking about the fantastically ugly-sounding Brexit--almost as ugly as what will happen. For those of us living elsewhere, it's like, wow.

Please realize that your "presence on the world stage" is already--well let's just say it's more like Rosencrantz than Hamlet.

Roughly it will be equivalent to something like the presence of California, without the everything, despite what gets said all the time in Pravda, I mean on the BBC. They even have a sense of irony, and it's kind of ironic that you can't detect it...

The trouble with winning all those wars is, there's a not great side effect--one ends up thinking one is right. And right means the kind of thing that resulted in being on the losing side of all those revolutions.

And you do know the only reason this is happening, right? It's because of some Tory leader guy's power mode pertaining to his own party.

Go right ahead. We'll bring popcorn.

To my actual UK friends: sorry for this Schadenfreude-ish tone. I'm just hoping that someone will copy and paste some of this in various places.

Friday, March 11, 2016

I Was Interviewed for Archinect

...and it went so great.

"The Deep Shuddering of Temporality"

...that's how I like my eggs, and they are always like that on a plane for some reason. No not really, the reason I'm posting this is because the artist Karen Kramer has ever so nicely quoted me to that effect in an interview about her film The Eye that Articulates Belongs on Land, which has in part to do with Fukushima. I would love to see it. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

An Open Letter to Whoever

I can't win. I'll acknowledge that up front. If I'd tried to say something different, I would've been savaged for that too. What's funny is, I had written my talk quite deliberately and consciously with a view to this “I can't win” fact. So I'm not going to address the finer points of your incisive critique.

Although I will say, I haven't actually studied the field you accuse me of appropriating without citation. Funnily enough I'm just about to start and the first book I ever got in that field just arrived yesterday (paging Sting, "synchronic-ity, synchronic-ity..."). All that stuff really did come out of my own head. I'm so happy to find out that others have been thinking the same way. It makes me feel less lonely, which is an occupational hazard.

And I will say that, if you actually read my stuff, you'd find so much was explicitly and directly talking about what you care about, which I care about too.

You say I should quit for some more deserving scholar to take my place. You need to know that for every one of me, there's 1000 scholars indifferent or hostile to your view who would kill for my job. So how do you think that's going to work out?

You are so welcome to fight me in front of everyone, to my face. Please do it! But it won't be possible to do online, especially not now that I'm only just getting used to a social medium that most everyone else knows how to handle.

I remember being you when I was 24. I remember how incredible it felt to savage older scholars, thinking I was striking a blow for socialism, whereas through repeated practice, I was in fact becoming a neoliberal war-of-all-against-all solidarity-negating employee-in-training. I was quite brilliant at it. I'd read their piece the night before, identify a vulnerable sentence (every piece has one), and go for it. I was the James Bond of theory. I saw grown men reduced to tears. I'll do it to you if you want, except I gave it up for Lent. In 1995.

Not a single one of those people--all megastar type scholars visiting this amazing seminar on the body at NYU--have ever gotten in touch with me. I wonder why, to the extent that I don't.

In my experience, academia is a World War 1 kind of a domain, and I do my best to avoid all that trench warfare. Which is why I'm never going to reply to your comment directly, ever. I practice nonaggression. Guilt and shame are nothing to do with pleasure and sexuality, they drastically impede the fact that we should be demanding more pleasure.

You're not speaking up for what you think you are speaking up for. You are retweeting Puritan rubbernecking of evil.

Now I look back on it, I had so much more in common with every scholar with whom I found fault than with some guy who's about to decorate the Arctic with oil pipes. It's the narcissism of small differences. We're much more comfortable attacking people close to us, which is too bad really, when you think about the Koch Brothers and Donald Trump.

It's called solidarity, which is why I'm writing a book for Verso.

This is turning into a scary trend, you know. 20-something scholars armed with social media beating up on the older people intellectually and politically closest to them. I guess you're never too young for the Oedipus complex. Have you been reading enough Deleuze and Guattari? Thank goodness I didn't have Facebook when I was 24.

I blame neoliberalism, I really do. Everyone has been set against everyone else. Just read Bifo's new book, which talks about how France Telecom turned into Orange. It's quite amazing, the suicides that resulted from the competition, the mass suicides.

And what you don't realize is, and perhaps can't realize is, I'm tim morton, little tim, the guy who works this persona called Tim Morton's arms and legs. When you attack this cartoon, feeling all brave, a real person gets incredibly hurt, a person who suffers from major depression and needs all kinds of prosthetic devices to remain alive. Which would be awesome for frogs and first peoples, because I think I have something to share that could help.

But I can't help right now, because I'm curled up in a ball trying not to die.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

OOO and the American Election

Very interesting piece by Lakoff in the Huffington Post today, me having read Lakoff for all kinds of things since forever. He explains that Republican voters often want a father figure. The father is there to lay down the rules. If you don't follow them, you get punished.

There is a simple, mechanical, linear causality happening here.

And this, he explains, is one reason why people don't want to accept global warming, which demands systemic causal explanations that aren't direct and linear. You have to think quite a lot, he argues, to accept this kind of causality.

Otherwise known, thanks Graham Harman, as vicarious causation, when you take it to an extreme, such that things can't touch each other ontologically at all.

You just can't have mechanical causality in OOO. Thank heavens it's not that real, actually. Otherwise we'd all be sunk.

Nothingness Is Not Nothing at All: Olafur Eliasson

Olafur and I have some kind of band going, I write the lyrics, or maybe I'm the DJ, and he does the dancing, or is it the art.

So he's got this show in Shanghai, and it's called (after a phrase I wrote) Nothingness Is Not Nothing at All. Here are some materials about it. And here's the Long Museum's piece on it.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Black Sabbath on Résistances

Ronnie James Dio comments on the shenanigans at the studio where he recorded this song, recently overtaken by a bunch of artists, curators, film directors and actors at the behest of Hans Ulrich Obrist, Asad Raza, Daniel Birnbaum. Heaven knows what happened in that room. But it was in Paris and it was amazing, and I'll be chewing over it “again and again” as the man says.

Humankind 9: Flashes

I made myself write yesterday. I mean, I just made myself. I sat in the cafe and just wrote until I was done. I needed to take frequent breaks between sentences, paragraphs, pages.

Then I had a very nice evening, and this resulted in a flash, which inspired me to write a few more pages. Intellectually, strictly speaking, that was the main bit.

But the really integrative part came this morning, after I woke up. I realized I've been exploring this particular issue (which has to do with partial objects) since about 1993. I gave a paper about something to do with Blake, one of my very first conferences in the USA--maybe it was the very first one at which I gave an actual paper. I was so nervous. Jesus. I remember a kind professor from Georgetown getting me a cup of coffee before I went into the room. It went down okay, in the sense that none of the asuras in my realm tried to kill me.

But today, that part of my mind swam up to the surface and said hi to the Humankind Verso part of my mind, and what a lovely meeting it was. It turns out that by swerving from writing strictly about food and diet like I was doing at first, I was able to find some ideas that actually help to flesh out (you can't avoid potential food puns when you even think about food) the older work, while the older work is incredibly synergistic with the new stuff.

The poor young scholar has something left to say to the older more comfortable and successful scholar. And the successful scholar was carrying the flames of the younger guy like carefully held lit matches, wherever he went, apparently. It's that kind of feeling.

It's also emotionally moving for me because I've literally moved, physically, five times, and lived for ages in the places to which I've moved. In other words, I haven't just moved to a base then fanned out and returned. I've had five bases. That's really different and let me tell you, if you haven't ever done it, it involves an enormous amount of grief. There's a reason why moving is right up there in the stressors chart. It sounds so fun--and feeling bad about it sounds so trivial or temporary--but wow. Just read John Clare if you're in doubt. That guy was relocated because of industrial agriculture and ended up in a lunatic asylum.

And that has ended up with me blanking and blacking out, almost like an alcoholic, a lot of different parts of my life. I didn't even let myself explore them. Until about a few days before I went to Paris last week, when I got on Facebook--yes I'm one of a vanishingly small number of people with online access who wasn't on it. It's totally overwhelming. I'm a totally naive neophyte newbie and I'm loving it. It's like someone injured in a war waking up in a bed to find that he does in fact have prosthetic legs and can walk. Much to my surprise, and thanks to computers, I'm bionic.

Really, if it weren't for all these prostheses such as computers and stomach bacteria and therapists, I'd be gone. It's gotten quite serious about three times. I'd have gone about ten years ago. And then again about six years ago. And then again about three years ago.

Also, this whole thing teaches me--typical me; I sort out of my intellectual life first, then everything falls into place. One of my Vajrayana friends at Oxford was impressed by my spontaneous upaya around how to write a dissertation, how to sort of trick yourself into doing it. That kind of mojo slowly seeps into my life over the years. Slowly. Bear with me.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Discipline 3

Okay. So I did all the interview, half the essay and some of one talk. Now I just need to do some of the other talk. And I'm good. Come on Tim. Encore un effort.

Discipline 2

An interview with Archinect magazine. What a pleasure it always is to do an interview. It's such an amazing lab for thinking.

CSPA Issue on Hyperobjects

There's going to be a special issue of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts Quarterly on hyperobjects, so I guess we need to stay tuned for the cfp.

Okay, Discipline 1

All right, phew. I've written three pages of my public lecture for SCI-Arc in LA next week. It's called “Haunted Houses.”

You Are Always in the Truth

Extreme Discipline

Okay, so pretty much today, I need to write four things. One is an essay for the Venice Biennale. I need to complete an interview. And I need to write two lectures. Think I can do it?

I think I can make a huge effort towards doing all of them, and perhaps even complete two of them. One for definite.

I'm going to need to treat this writing project as I treat laundry folding, and let me tell you, I'm an expert laundry folder. Really. I'm awesome at it. I can fold a family of four's laundry, easy peasy, very quickly, without crying, and I can put it all away in the right places, again without weeping. This is the precise skill set you need to be a productive writer.

National Health

Prog plus English whimsy subdivided by Canterbury and pushed through a Gong drum matrix. I wish I could find “Shining Water” on YouTube. But you know, this is super duper. A taste of the almost-socialist-ness of the mid-70s carried in fragile music into the later 70s. And one has to love those vocals. Dead in tune for a kickoff, really powerfully projected.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The View from Platform Pi, or, I've Got Nothing to Lose against the Relentless Superego

...and in particular, the mode in which the relentlessness manifests is utterly joyless. All you need to do is help people smile, and you've dissolved a slew of that.

When will it stop, this mildew-like addictive cynical reason patriarchal Puritan rubbernecking-of-evil disguised as progressive whateverness? Massively enabled and amplified by internet speed and accessibility?

Like, in the absence of the internet, you had to just kinda wait for someone's book to come out, and you might not know all the books, and you tended to rethink stuff while you waited. Now you don't have to wait or hesitate, and you get to broadcast without needing to be vetted by a publisher. So you have to up the ante.

I've just been reading a blog (no comments allowed) by someone who has pre-blocked me from Twitter, before we've even had a chance to have issues with one another. Most people, like Irigaray and Björk, don't treat me like that, but whatever.

It's much, much worse than the Salem witch trials. In that situation, at least you had to see the person first and then shout “Witch!” In this one, you can just look down a list of names and pre-try and pre-execute them, without needing to lift a finger.

The mode of execution. It's called no-platforming. You won't, for instance, allow a pro-feminist activist or gay rights politician to speak at your place because they aren't quite right...or maybe talk about them, or read them. It's the narcissism of small differences.

Me and Dipesh Chakrabarty, for example, have been banned from a few postcolonial theory journals, for saying the word species. I met Gayatri Spivak last weekend and we got on like a house on fire, and she really dug my deconstructy OOO, and she said she kinda regretted how she'd phrased her postcolonial theory book. That's so awesome you know, being ready to be wrong. It's one reason why I really like the people I like.

No-platform me now if you haven't already, because I'm going to say something now. When you phenomenologically reduce some ---- theory (of which I'm a bit of an exponent, I'm not gonna spell it out), aka subtract the ideas and just look at the attitude with which the ideas are held, you will find something like the Old Testament implacable god, the phallogocentric bit being the bit where my being is a totally blank slate for formatting according to carefully vetted specifications. Oh, and the bit where everyone else's but the elect's opinion is wrong in advance, and the holders of those opinions to be non-platformed.

It has to do, sadly and in part, with unconsciously retweeting the style of the first exponent of ----- theory. (I could tell you some stories but whatever. Just realize that whenever this scholar is in the room, everyone else needs to be seen as less intelligent and as wrong.)

A lot of what passes for theory is just retweeting some guy's attitude in order to look good. I remember when I used to teach literary theory exactly like my teacher, Terry Eagleton. I was still trying to get the A.

I'm not convinced there are any discursive criteria that will satisfy the elect in this case, because apparently saying “Oh, sorry, I made a mistake, help me fix it” is also disallowed in advance.

You're reading this, if you've been influenced by this style, and thinking I'm some kind of Allan Bloom. What happened? Some X-ers fought and fought against the graybeards to get feminist theory on the books. Now feminist theory teachers fear their students, as my friend Iris van der Tuin likes to observe, egged on by some X-ers who clearly didn't smoke enough pot or do enough Es in the early 90s. Or something. It's gotta be something. Like, how anti-fun the 80s Tories were--they just didn't get into acid in the 60s, is all. :)

And if you did ingest the disco biscuits, how come you forgot about that vibe?

You know, the similarity with Trump is that that guy can't laugh either. He can dish it out but he can't take it. So I think in the end, this academic phase is finite, despite how the superego is made of id and is thus like a relentless dog with a bone. Because it's a joyless dog.

Neoliberalism Attitude Adjustment aka Suicidal Ideation Training Camp

Wow I could've sworn therapy was about talking quietly in a safe space about feelings. Until I met the most demonic exponent of the not-quite-right cognitive-behavioral therapy, yesterday at ------------.

I've advanced training in handling oneself in intense situations--it's called 7 years of group psychoanalysis, try it sometime haha--but even I was cringing.

When pressed by said exponent--"Hey! Are you paying attention?" I said "Yeah, I'm just choosing to lower my gaze because of the intensity in this room." Didn't go down well.

Apparently one's own emotions are fine. It's other people's that are the problem. Ain't life a pest?

Exponent practically snapped fingers at me. Exponent did drop one edge of a piece of paper on the table, somehow creating the sound of a hand slapping that table.

And leaned across it, and touched people, and got up and walked around. Even the other staff person in the room was too terrified to talk.

None of those are cool in a therapy situation.

But to deliver such things with normotic raised voice and super high pitched loud fake laugh after every sentence and the red jacket from the dwarf in Twin Peaks.

And talking in the most condescending and infantilizing way.

That's called positive outcomes I guess? Exponent couldn't even handle my quietness.

In the corridor I suggested using polysyllables. I don't recall the response but it was delivered very fast, with a fake laugh, and a flighty-or-fighty enraged retreat at speed. All I did was say a sentence, about syllables, quietly and with some kind of non-critical stance.

This is all way, way beyond the threshold of affirmative sufficient to send Adorno into cardiac arrest.

Relative x was tearing up and I was singing "Is There Life on Mars" in my head just to deal. And I'm a grownup. A trained one.

There's an implicit message in any case in CBT that emotions are bad and must be deleted, in the last instance. Exponent called it being (shout and fake laugh) "FREE!"

And who doesn't like freedom?

Asked to describe what emotion Example A in Not Great Condescending Explanation 1 was feeling, relative x said "Well, shades of grey 3.453223..."

At which exponent yelled "Black, or white?"

Answer: black. All emotions are black. Transparent is best. Example C, Well-Adjusted Person, didn't appear to be having an emotion, according to exponent.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Voter Suppression Tactics

Really invidious primary stuff happening at my voting place today. A fake sign on the door saying “Democrat Voting Day Only” which makes it look like Democratic voters can’t vote. And folded signs on the tables saying “Republican” as if you won’t find your name on there if you are a registered Democrat.

Ecology without Nature in Danish

It's going to be! I just found out from Harvard. That means my stuff will fairly shortly be in French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Polish--and I think some others, the trouble is, the lists of who is doing what are all over the place; maybe I'll compile one again.