“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

We Are Only Just Getting Started

One commenter (see below) worries that because of an essay she or he read online, which said that SR/OOO is dead, we are dead. She or he asked me to respond, and I feel inspired to, so:

1. Saying something is true doesn't make it true.

I don't know whether the commenter is a scholar or not, but in Humanities world, as everywhere else, you can try to get what you want by turning your feeling or your order into a third person statement.

It's tricky if your statement is too transparent, in other words if it's not difficult to see the person having an emotion inside it.

2. The statement is more than outweighed by the welter of emails I get every day from high school students all over the shop, and artists in India, Brazil, Norway, Australia, Russia (and on and on and on) asking to clarify points relating to my school of thought, or asking for me to collaborate on something related to OOO. I'm not counting the scholars who are constantly writing with various kinds of message. “Scholars” here means undergraduates, graduates, and people with Ph.D.s (employed or not).

I'm sure this is also true for Harman and Bogost, not to mention the loads of other scholars in other SR domains.

2.a. Example: I'm opening Olafur Eliasson's big exhibition in Stockholm in a few weeks' time. He is very into OOO.

b. Björk. (Hello mate!)

3. You can sort of tell when something isn't working in scholarship world when people stop publishing your stuff. This is particularly acute if the publisher is a trade press that actually makes products that you buy in a lot of stores.

Verso want me to publish my next book with them.

Put that together with the previous sentence.

4. If you study the group dynamics of the statement “x is finished!” you will notice that the intensity with which it is said is an index of its untruth. The clue is in the title of the essay, which calls us “that thing that happened after poststructuralism.”

It's like commenters on the Hysterical Puffington Post saying “Yawn.” When someone says “I'm bored” it means “I'm stimulated and I want you to get rid of the stimulating thing.” “I'm bored” means “I'm critical.” If OOO was gone there would be no need to try to kill it off.

It's like when someone says “I don't think about my ex-boyfriend at all any more.” But you just did, in that sentence. And you made us think about him too. So you multiplied your problem.

That is not the most skillful tactic. More skillful would be to examine your mind state--why this passion about something? What is really driving it? And why the need to make self thwarting gestures in public?

5. This particular scholar has been saying this kind of thing for quite some time. At least three years I think. He wrote a sort of “You're either with us or against us” piece that said (paraphrase) “You can be a feminist and anti-racist etc., or you can be into speculative realism.” That didn't work (see the third sentence of point (3)), so I guess now he is trying this.

Unfortunately some people don't like it when you individuate, and murderous envy is a human response to individuation. Why envy something that is actually dead?


cgerrish said...

You're saying "dead" like it's a bad thing. Viruses prove that you can be dead and still be viral.

cgerrish said...

By the way, here's a nice podcast from the guys at Radiolab on giant viruses. The bit that baffles those who think about evolution as a progression toward more complex forms of life, is that these giant viruses started as bacteria and simplified over time to become giant viruses. They "evolved" into viruses. Life evolved into death.


Anonymous said...

I would add to the previous comment that expanding the notion of what constitutes life or "alive" must be imaged more broadly such that viruses or RNA are not exceptions. Got into a big discussion at Derrida 3 over this point in conjunction with Barad's work and now I am happy to see Morton's take on OOO getting into what spooky might mean as opposed to others who can only manage a bit of a gawking stare. Rather than say OOO is dead, I say it is love with non-material things. Rumours of OOO's demise are greatly extrapolated as the nuomon or some other regressive reduction and this sort of "Elvis is dead" thing will only make OO more accessible and broaden its appeal. I would say OOO is dead when it ends up commodified as a t-shirt but OOO seems to have insulated itself from this possibility by embracing it.

D. E.M. said...

TOOOmbstones are so dope.
I never think about them, nor about my ex-boyfriend

Ted Geier said...

Haters gonna hate.