This project, by Aaron Koblin ( and also initially Celestial Mechanics ), embodies, perhaps, in the most accessible and poignant of manners, a major aspect of my thinking on humans, technology ( especially the internet ) and how we inter-relate across geographies, both interior, exterior and through temporal zones. This paradigm is much more prevalent in my mythopoeisthesizing fictional blog Pyrrhic Victories Against Urban Oncostrophy but facets of this philosophy have been touched on previously here, especially in my dialogue with Bejamin Phelan.
Welly welly welly, Urbanomic at the Tate Britain. Last night I attended The Real Thing, a night of events, sound installations, video works and a rather thought provoking panel discussion. I started the evening ambling through the Urbanomic Curatorial Intervention of Art in the Sublime in room 9 ( this room is my favourite space in London, for sometime it's housed one of my most cherished artists, the british romantic painter John Martin ) curiously reading the alternative interpretations of by Urbanomic associates ( Reza Negarestani, China Mieville, Robin Mackay and Eugene Thacker to name but a few ) interpretations and neo-readings of various romantic paintings, this experience was cerebrally stimulating. These re-readings of such established works, works of entrenched history and aesthetics, provided fresh contextualizations for the pieces within todays socio-politic economy, effectively shattering my projected reality of previous viewing experiences, Art and the Sublime re-thought through to The Real and the Sublime, the sublime being re-construed as an aesthetic gravity, pulling the viewer into 'complicity with anonymous materials'. I sensed destruction, re-imagining such contexts and realities felt eerie but none-the-less revelatory ( was this a glimpse of a speculative realism? ).
After this philosophical empyrean, I moved through doors adorned with various statements and permutations of 'the sun is good' on the glass ( visible from both sides ), the blinding sun, the spectacle of revelation seemed apt, the progression of these statements led from 'the sun is god' to 'the sun is evil' - the dualism, of ontological blackholes and blinding neo-realisms echoed my feelings/reactions towards the alternative speculative realist curation of the Art in the Sublime exhibition.
In the geographically transient space of the octagon were refreshments and Florian Hecker's new sound installation Speculative Solution. The piece explores the notion of 'hyperchaos' from Quentin Meillassoux's After Finitude( a book that proposed that natural laws are contingent, autonomous and subject to change, shift or stop ). The experience was immersive, lucid and certainly conveyed, or rather highlighted, our realities uncertain degrees, transience and liquidinous temporalities.
After an engaging, albeit brief, panel discussion titled The Real, Representation, and the 'In-Itself' with Urbanomic director Robin Mackay talking to Iain Hamilton Grant, , Mikko Canini and Amanda Beech about the nature, role and significance of speculative realist ( and also art's role in exploring such a notion ) philosophies was Beech's video work Sanity Assassin. I found this work to be violent, abrasive and intimidating, the raw amphetaminean rush of imagery, noise and text bombards the organ of the eye with such unrelenting intensity that I found myself in an uncomfortable limbo, between a tension of cerebral comprehension/contemplation and the more physical, instinctual reactions to the stimulus that drenched me.
The Real Thing certainly provided a platform, an opportunity for people to access, experience or explore a fleeting facet of speculative realism. Writers, thinkers, philosophers and academics have explored Speculative Realism for some years now, but retrospectively I cannot help but feel compelled by the unique power/effectiveness of art to convey such ideas and themes, the instantaneous effect, the vivid ontological impressions, especially from Amanda Beech's Sanity Assassin and Florian Heckers Speculative Solution were enthralling and powerful. It's wonderful to have experienced art working and exploring so effectively for Speculative Realism, hopefully this exciting and effective mode of enquiry continues.
Anyone who reads this blog frequently will be more than aware of my bibliophilic tendencies, I fiend for the book beautiful as much I lust for the mesmerizing content that it harbours. On a recent trip to London I, as usual, bought a few books. Corduroy Magazine ( sadly not the edition with Helena Christensen on the cover ), Fashion Insider UK to which I was a recent contributor to, the profoundly insightful, investigative and refreshingly in-depth Elephant Magazine along with the exhibition catalogue for Rude Britannia: British Comic Art ( one of the best exhibitions I've experienced for a long, long time - pandering to my various current interests of Alice in Wonderland and the absurd- but none the less a fantastic experience with a marvelous curation that orchestrated an aesthetic symphony from so many juxtaposing and varied pieces ). However the best publication I stumbled across was The Idler: Back to the Land, No 43. A gorgeous orange hardback with no book jacket and sumptuously thick creamy paper inside that has a lovely feel, typeset by Christian Brett of Bracket Press and edited by Tom Hodgkinson it includes essays by Simon Fairlie, Paul Kingsnorth and Harry Mount amongst others about politics, land, leisure and idling.
Over the past few weeks I have been fortunate enough to engage in a dialogue with contemporary mixed media artist Bejamin Phelan, below is the resulting text from our discussions.
NV - Here is a text concerning a new notion I’m exploring called Phenomenopoly, it’s the experience of having multiple perspectives.
Phenomenology is essentially a portmanteau of Phenomena, which is a derivative of the Greek term phainómenon meaning "that which appears" ( to appear pre-supposes perspective ) and logos ( to study ). Phenomenopoly replaces the logos with poly ( from the Ancient Greek πολύςpolus, meaning "many, much”).
I feel your work explodes phenomenopoly within technologies roles.
I hope you don't mind answering a few questions about your work and the subjects it explores.
BP - I would be happy to answer any questions, just enjoyed you breakdown of "California Gurls"! I haven't very well articulated my thoughts yet on phenomenology but here is some paraphrasing from my sketchbook. Looking forward to talking with you.
"I first think of phenomenon as vectors of influence exerted on a single point in space, like the illustrations of a special relativity bowling ball on a rubber grid, they combine and solidify in to an entity that exists so long as I look at it. Its this image of the implicit physics necessary to experience any object that shapes the development of technology and the self in its image. The first models of the unconscious, as overlapping spheres of influence, were accessible only after the mechanisms of magnetic fields were described. Looking and looking, under the influence of and object/entertainment, what information do I desire to see again and again; the pleasure of stimulating some corresponding internal symbol; the sensory titillation of presence and body awareness, or some larger pattern solidified by the act of observation."
NV - I found 'California Gurls' to have some curious connections, I don't often blog about pop stars though!
That's a wonderful analogy for the infinitely reflexive nature of phenomena, an almost voracious regression into an uber-strict Cartesian empiricalism ( if you know Descartes )..... The later part of that text really brings to mind your ball point pen pieces RGB 1 and RGB 2 from 2008. These pieces almost embody how many technologies operate within our lives, the effect, our capability to translate into the 'phenomena', into the illusion hinges solely on previous experience. It's only due to our experience of drawings, from birth onwards, can we 'see' or comprehend a consciously three dimensional subject within the paper and ink. This is perhaps true for language, to learn and understand codes ( linguistic or aesthetic ) enables the viewer/reader to immerse themselves within the code, within the illusion - however escapist this may sound it is not. Succumbing to a code, trapping consciousness with a set structure is not an emancipation. I feel this blinkering is not a new facet of life, it has always occurred, but due to the increasingly ubiquitous nature of technologies its almost omnipresent.
There's a wonderful monotype by William Blake titled "Newton". It shows Newton sat on a rock, gazing at a diagram he's drawing with a compass. Newton is so deep in concentration he is oblivious to the beautiful world around him. I often feel this image has more resonance 2010 than in 1795.
P.S. - Part of your statement of intent really reminded me of how language has evolved as a result of new modes of communications - like txt messages. - Ill expand on this later - I'm writing about it already but would like t finish the text I have so far.....
BP - The RGB drawings came out of automatic drawing experiments I started several years ago with a personal computer sculpting device that was unique in that it simulated the touch and viscosity of clay in virtual space, a spin-off from a company that developed virtual cadavers. The primary tool to build matter in its modeling void CG was a ball of volume that could be felt, dragged around and deposited together to make form. This to me was a primal human experience, making mud balls, made possible by a level of technology that surpassed the sensory threshold to the point of encapsulating all actions within its logic. Any object made within this space now has more value than those outside it by the nature of its coordinate codes, the universal formats defining the interchange and representation of virtual objects. The Janus face of advancing technology is that processes are based on unconscious desires played out in a marketplace of satisfaction, the end result is a topology blob that contains hermetic infinite knowledge of itself and nothing else. “In here we can do anything we want”, if that is possible then you cease to exist. I do think that you are right that construction of codes is not a recent activity at all; language is the first control system, the first viral symbol. I don’t want to spend time trying to remove all the agents that replicate inside me, there are more bacteria in the body than human cells by a power of ten. I am more interested in surrendering to the pleasure of control, having the functionality of my visual cortex hijacked by the pulsing lights on the face of a casino slot machine.
NV - Ben, that's fascinating. The parallel between the 'starting point' for the modeling program and a starting point of human creativity is poignant. The conclusion that the CG clay ball has more value due to the intrinsic codes ( both actually, technologically and metaphysically i.e. in the consciousness ) is interesting, however, as I feel your work highlights or at least questions, the additional value is strictly within a code, within a paradigm. Surely any additional value ( however intrinsic to the 'objects' phenomenological 'existence' ) is negated due the idea of it being trapped within the suspension of an illusion provided by codes?
One could argue that a tree ( for example ) is under the same predicament. In that it's existence, within ourselves, depends upon an understanding, a comprehension of previous data, a code. You don't know a tree is, in fact, a tree the first time you see one, however after experience and a code being built for comprehension a object on the horizon can, upon first glance be a tree if it aligns with the viewers code gained from previous experience.
However, this symmetry between the clay modeling program and the tree example is not perfect, there are striking similarities but one facet is different.
If a man lost his sight he would, somehow, either through smell or taste, be able to generate a new set of codes unique to his situation, and could continue to build his knowledge from experience ( sensory experience of everything but sight ). With the new technologies that flexibility is not available for each and every user singularly, in fact in essence many new technologies are just new generations of the previous code with a higher level of complexity - but the mechanisms of comprehension, the interface between user and content is, by comparison, static and rigid.
Your notion of surrendering to a strict technologically determined code is perhaps an interesting example, or rather an exaggerated study of something that is slowly happening to mankind. There is now 'scientific proof', or rather pretty conclusive studies, that children born into the Internet age develop slightly different cognition patterns than their parents.
Have you ever read Cyberpunk fiction like William Gibson, the idea of the Internet addict, the hacker relinquishing control to the matrix is an incredibly prophetic metaphor.....
BP - I have read a lot of cyber punk. Williams Gibson's novels and short stories were my favorite in high school. He has one short story in which a photo journalist on assignment to document old gas stations in the dessert, starts to hallucinate the atomic age "world of tomorrow", with flying cars and zeppelins moored to the top of mile high skyscrapers. The idea of "tuning in" to an aesthetic frequency and extrapolating the social perspective embedded in the old gas stations is kind of like the reading of a code system we were pointing out. I think of some part of the work I am doing as this kind of reverse artifact process, seeing and extrapolating the code of beliefs in mass produced objects into concentrated forms. I love looking at new technologies and the way they are designed, what is being preached by their packaging and what does it reveal about the actual people making them. I really like the websites where you can order these generic plastic boxes to fit your prototype technology into, the minimalist modular systems are like the aesthetics of aspiration to me. The positivity that surrounds new visual production technology is prettying fascinating, the plastics age - the computer graphics revolution. There was a flourishing of fiberglass forms and CG animations produced respectively by an enthusiasm for "limitless" possibility, but the limits are still exactly defined by the constraints of the technology.
When I think about the mind looking at the tree, I am definitely approaching it from the camp of evolutionary psychology. I am reminded of all the mammal, primate and extinct human ancestors that contributed to my ability to recognize what is on the horizon. Every successful interaction with a tree they had, which allowed them to continue surviving, shaped the structure I now am using to look at the tree. Which leads me to question, is my satisfaction looking at early computer generated fractal symmetries a vestigial evolutionary perception mechanism developed in response to pressures of navigating branch growth in trees? I guess I'm attracted again to the idea of a universal shared code, the 'universal' being the containment aspiration of the code, but in this case our shared physical perception mechanism is the technology. By building commercial systems that more perfectly emulate our senses and perceptual devices, like clay sculpting programs and 3D movies, we are granting the developers of those technologies deeper and deeper penetration into the mind at the mechanical level, leaving a hole open to slip anything in below cognition. The MSG flavoring additive was chemically developed to mimic the taste receptors of Umami, the taste sensation of savoriness that is biologically linked to the presence of protein in your mouth. Now it is used by the processed foods industries to simulate intense satisfaction. Recent developments in artificial flavoring have produced anti-taste suppressant chemicals capable of selectively blocking bitter or sweet. The neural plasticity of the mind that allows the bind man to regain perception can be locked down by the control of its underlying mechanisms through simulation.
I have been feeling like the blind man, trying to learn a new computer modeling program to paint on computer models. Im coming in at version 7 or something, so the interface has already evolved to fit the requests of generations of users. Trying to glean information off the maze of forums to get the software to work, you run into text that is totally impenetrable but very fascinating because of the community of users is excited about it and challenging themselves to follow every rule of the system. The story of technology though is like the secretion of layers and layers on top of its self. When I look at that story in science fiction, you have a society that is lacking the ability to question the fundamental systems shaping it, "Any fundamentally advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". You end up in a very dystopian place basically eating yourself, see The Time Machine or Logan's Run.
ps: Have you read the classic cyber punk novel Snow Crash by Neil Stevenson? His character eventually learns that fundamentalist Christians have re- discovered the first Sumerian language, which when spoken, as if in tongues, people everywhere understand and cannot disobey. The undiluted linguistic control technology that we now use the derivative form of.
NV - It’s interesting that you mention the notion of the "reverse artifact process, seeing and extrapolating the code of beliefs in mass produced objects into concentrated forms." This almost sums up some of the impressions your work puts upon the viewer, perhaps that's not worded as well as it could be. Your work really explores and fleshes out the aesthetic codes around scientific languages and technological developments whilst also exaggerating a codes strict structure of rigidity and inflexible nature with regards to a viewers autonomy - you either buy into the code, jettisoning a certain degree of autonomy in order to enjoy the endless arrangements of rules within the code or you don't and the experience, the illusion is never gained. I feel your work tip toes around this threshold and really exploits the nth degrees of both options.
It's intriguing that you mention the MSG flavouring. In many ways this example is typical trend of the modern worlds crutch on technology. The importance of the contained freedoms, the coded possibilities available by plugging in is so great that to not do so would render life experience less dynamic or engaging than those who do plug in.
It's interesting that you mention technology as being layer upon layer of progression. I often contemplate more abstracted philosophies or interpretations of the world in extremely organic or biological forms, I think it's absolutely correct to view technological progressions and shifts as living things. Even industry is organic, the aerial views of cities at night could almost be cells flowing through capillaries or bacterium expanding across a surface. It's worrying that this omnipresent, enveloping entity is so alive and vital and pulsing. Reminds me of a Reza Negarestani text 'The Corpse Bride" whereby Negarestani investigates an ancient method of torture that consisted of a human corpse being tied to another live human. Through rot, putrefaction and decay the two entities would become one. The ontological, phenomenological philosophical ruptures of the interior and exterior being obliterated ( for the living ) are explored in depth, I see the facets of life like social networking sites and wonder where we end and the living, breathing network beings/ends. I'm no Luddite, but I just contemplate these aspects of life. Our Nupta Contagioso ( marriage with the contagious - from Negarestani's text ) is with our own creation, the nucleation of such a situation may already be occurring.
P.S. Neil Stevenson is someone I've always intended to read but never got round to. I've read a few Gibson novels and watched the odd Cronenberg film.
BP - The corpse -bride idea is really grossing me out, and its combination with social networking is really visual as well, an image of a consumable identity being purchased at a cellular level. I think of technologies that mimic mental processes, even something as simple as a list of contacts in a cell phone, as a prosthetic device. I missed the generation of social net workers by just a few years, I wonder what its like to grow up with the structure of facebook in your mind as the ideal. I really don't use them at all, I am not attracted to that level of communication, I want my telepathy to be between bodies, not as a multitude of voices talking. Our networking technologies are shaped on cellular strategies, it makes sense to ask what part of our brains are outsourced. "Bio-mimicry" is the science of pulling useful techniques from observation of natural processes, but it only replaces nature only at the level of our perception, we are left with only the MSG equivalent but that can be thrilling in its amplification. The perfectly shaped molecule to slide into the receptor cite on our cell membrane, or the social online sensation of tribal identity saturating deep desires to earn status and be protected by the group.
The idea of encoding an object, and reading it for that matter, is one of the information technology biases I am interested in. What ratio of self to object to observer can be advertised in a piece so that it will function as art. In the recent videos I am trying to provide an art experience on the terms of telepresence, using stereo cameras to record the slow process of hand extruding foam forms. My perception is the distortion that gets in the way of the viewers art experience. In my work I am performing an act defined by seductive transformation, a genie in bottle. Technology is a theater of re-imagining identity on constructed terms. When Nasa scientists send a probe to mars, they themselves are going to mars. What I am doing is constructing systems that have limitless possibilities within clearly defined aesthetic operations, and then trying to close off that space and see what the feedback loop of infinite existence is like living in.
NV - Negarestani's corpse bride text is amazing. He's one of my favourite theorists.
Earlier I hinted that a passage of text in your statement of intent reminded me of the myriad of social networking networks that are populating cyber space, and subsequently our reality.
"I am easily blinded by the optimism embedded in a new process, as it first appears to be the universal solution. The euphoria quickly dissipates though, as it becomes clear that each new process also a regulating device. I believe that the techniques that promise Utopian solutions, through totally malleable mediums, simultaneously produce total control environments."
With regard to the corpse bride analogy the situation of technology today and its sprawling intrusiveness seems an apt comparison, or the analogy of bacteria growing into tissue, like how humans grow on the earth progressing along the veins of water or through the crevices of the land.... The question of dominance applies. There are major world wide debates about humans impact on the earths ecosystem, I think the same questions should be applied to our technological progressions, are they proliferating to such an omnipresent level that they are shaping the land that created them - metaphorically, metaphysically as well as industrially, psychologically, economically and....... physically? Biomimicism in the widest possible sense?
The feedback loop of infinite existence reminds me of two way mirrors, or video loops ( where by the video screen is in front of the lens ) and an infinite regression can be seen. At first the effect is disorienting but after a few seconds the formula, code and mechanism is comprehended and the experience looses it's novelty.
BP - I like Pierre Huyghe's mini stage light show, I saw it several years ago I think, or maybe have just stared at images of it. The "No Ghost, Just a Shell", I remember the idea was a anime character that gained legal independence of its own copyright, a very cyber punk idea, see William Gibson’s Idoru! I think it’s a good thing to explore the structures that existing in the pop-media-scape, and his work manipulates them into very sincere, poetic, and public journeys. I’m interested in artists like Bruce Nauman, who have produced work where technology is used to map out a relationship between themselves and public commercial mediums. His “manipulations” of florescent tubes and body based early video works made an impression on me. I am inspired by Beat artist Brion Gysin’s Dreammachine, a stroboscopic device that induces dream states. The concept that the visual work existed inside the viewers mind, and his failed attempts to commercialize it in America. Also, I really enjoy modern biomorphic sculptors, Henry Moore, Barbra Hepworth, and Noguchi, searchers obsessed with form and the power it has over them, who defined the aesthetics of an ideal future for the public and industry. Artists producing work I like; Roxy Payne, Roger Hiorns, and Ruby Sterling, using production and organic processes to solidify modernism residue. I think the core social technology to radically alter its own environment was television, and its a good predictor of things to come. The TV and its audience was first defined by its “goods” based production and consumption, then later by its display of lifestyle systems to populate its own ecology. The screen, to me, is the ideal technology. An array of red green and blue flickering dots relying on the brain to process and construct an approximation of experience, capable of delivering infinite variety. The end of the industrial / physical age was the dawn of television. Why travel when you can see the world from the comfort of your own home, or make anything that cannot be transported through its network? The future of the object is based on our heritage of the screen, rapid prototyping and “Fab-Labs” where virtual objects are printed one voxel ( volume-pixel) at a time. This is the “crystal interface”, by which all objects are constructed by a single process that is instantly comprehensible in its fractal uniformity. The scientists developing these technologies believe it will produce a new democracy of socially constructed objects, ending mass production. I tend to think that it will replace matter with the value of a shifting image, and by eliminating the distance between desire and possession, enclosing a feedback loop between the irrational unconscious and lived reality. Video feedback is something that I have been interested in for a long time. When I was 13, I would set up the family camcorder on top of a video projector borrowed from my father’s office and spend the evening “in the loop” doing shadow dances in that infinite feedback regression. I suppose those experiences greatly shaped my thinking about evolution of organic forms within simple systems. Steven Wolframs book, A New Kind of Science, and its images of cellular automata patterns on mollusk shells, led me to believe the diversity of nature relied on feedback systems as well. Later I was exposed to the cultural image of the Stoner putting the camera up to the TV screen and having this cosmic experience by the most domestic and dismissible means, which to me is very exciting role for science to play in culture. I am continuously inspired by executive desktop sculpture, objects that levitate or defy physics and perception in some other way, mass produced as decorative baubles and exhibited as distractions from office work. The science at their core is negated by a futuristic aesthetics of dismissal, physics reduced to the irrelevant novelty.
NV - Pierre Huyghe and Bruce Nauman both influenced my brief ( and now moribund ) artistic development and enormous amount back when I was an undergraduate. Both Huyghe's "No Ghost Just a Shell" and Gysins dream machine operate conceptually - pre-supposing that a piece executes and exists within the minds eye, within the consciousness. The pixels and documentations around AnnLee, are not as important as the codes, the systems she breaks through - due to Huyghe's and Parreno's creativity. Her meta-ascension from one set of paradigms to another is what gives her freedom - but this freedom is realized by the viewer understanding the codes and universe through which 'she' is emancipated. If you don't empathise, if you don't re-invent AnnLee as a person ( even before all the documentation is comprehended ) then the piece falls flat - but who would? Everyone has empathized with a fiction on a screen - very few people are around today who haven't learnt the code of realities and fictions. Engagement with this code/comprehension is taken for granted, but the understanding that transforms a cartoon into a reality is the same understanding that prevents wildlife documentary viewers to know that there are no tigers in their televisions! A malleable suspension of fiction comprehension is key to the concept in Huyghe's and Parreno's work forming. Nauman and Gysin's Dreammachine also spring to mind as works that ( Nauman has such a massive practice but many come to mind ) operate as experience from codes. I won't flesh out this facet of Nauman's work or Dreammachine, its the experience, the comprehension, the code reading that's important, not the materials or the craftsmanship used to create the works. It's interesting that you mention feedback systems within nature, this is something I've been exploring recently. Hive minds, Internet theory, collective consciousness are all interesting to me. Check out a slime mould called Physarum Polycephalum and an article about its humanistic intelligence and this article about the Internet behaving more like a brain than anything else. I feel due to our massive engagement with codes and a network of constant renewing data and feedback the most apt name for our society is meta-social, context and history is more important than the actualities. This is especially true in economics, that now is an autonomous meta-entity that everyone and no one can gage, quantify or control.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, it's been a great discussion.
The fantastic Urbanomic will be releasing more enthralling publications over the next year or so, for me the excitement is deafening, a feverish static is drowing me.
Nick Land, Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007
Nick Land's Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007 , a title I've been looking forward to for a temporial eternity, will contain a collection of Lands vital, violent and voraciously nihilisitc writings, charting his early re-enterpretations and cybergothicist contortions of various major thinkers and philosophers such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Kant and Bataille - the latter of course being the subject of his vibrant, raw and abrasively powerful work of legend, namely the exhilarating Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism. I have already ranted before ( here ) about my excitement and expectations for the book however below is perhaps the most appropriate text concerning the forthcoming Fanged Noumena, taken straight from the Urbanomic sites corner concerning Nick Land's Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007:
"Fanged Noumena brings together the writings of Nick Land for the first time. During the 1990s Land's unique philosophical work, variously described as 'rabid nihilism', 'mad black deleuzianism' and 'cybergothic', developed perhaps the only rigorous and culturally-engaged escape route out of the malaise of 'continental philosophy' - a route which was implacably blocked by the academy. However, Land's work has continued to exert an influence, both through the British 'speculative realist' philosophers who studied with him, and through the many cultural producers - artists, musicians, filmmakers, bloggers - who have been invigorated by his uncompromising and abrasive philosophical vision.
Beginning with Land's early radical rereadings of Heidegger, Nietzsche, Kant and Bataille, the volume then collects together the papers, talks and articles of the mid-90s - for long the subject of rumour and vague legend (including some work which has never previously appeared in print) - in which Land developed his futuristic theory-fiction of cybercapitalism gone amok; and ends with his enigmatic later writings in which Ballardian fictions, poetics, cryptography, anthropology, grammatology and the occult are smeared into unrecognisable hybrids.
Fanged Noumena will allow a perspective on the entire trajectory of this provocative and influential thinker's work, and will introduce his unique voice to a new generation of readers."
Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007
Introduction by Ray Brassier and Robin Mackay
Paperback 115x175mm, 500pp. Limited edition of 1000 numbered copies
ISBN 978-0-9553087-8-9 -
Reza Negarestani, The Mortiloquist
Reza Negarestani's second installment of his Blackening Trilogy, The Mortiloquist is due for release in 2011. The first part was the giddying and porocryptic Cyclonopedia : Complicity with Anonymous Materials, a text that I found so fresh and vitalistic it was absurd, I felt 14 again - but that is just the prose. Negarestani's real talent is for generating a cyclonic, frenzied, gyrating symmetry of metaphor and analogies. The sprawling, rotting putrefaction, the coagulating marriages of politics and metaphysics. Endless wormoid, inversions, an infinite writhing existence whereby realities are opposites and vectors swing violently and invert spasmodically across plains of myriad unquantifiables. The Mortiloquist looks to ( on some level ) expand panoramically on his quite effective feeding on the more grotesque aspects of forgotten history and ancient philosophical texts ( perhaps some mechanics will be not dissimilar to facets of his Corpse Bride: Thinking with Nigredo text, published in Collapse IV ) - this will, doubtless, yield a devastating impression but will merely be one of countless apparatus in his philosophical/theoretical/literary armoury. Negarestani's kaleidoscopic mythopoiesisthesizing and contortions of theory-fictions will be taken to stratospheric new realms of horror and enlightenment. Here is the blurb, again, from the Urbanomic site:
"A sequel to Cyclonopedia and the second installment in the Blackening trilogy, The Mortiloquistis a barbaric interpretation of the life and problems of Western philosophy.
Feasting on the theatrical resources of Greek tragedy, Jacobean revenge drama, grand guignol theater, the theater of cruelty, aktionism (especially Herman Nitsch's Fall of Jerusalem and Orgien Mysterien theater) and employing the dialogue-commentary of scholasticism, The Mortiloquist is a cross-breed of play and philosophy. In this textual mongrel, the life of Western philosophy is gutted out by outlanders and barbarically staged.
Taking place in an alternative history of the Greek Empire during a hypothetical siege of Athens, The Mortiloquist begins with a heated debate among three philosophers. Aristotle, Speusippus and Andronosos have refused to flee from the Academy. Oblivious to the commotion in the streets, they are arguing the impact of Speusippus' 'alien causality' on generation and corruption of ideas. As those who represent the philosophical militancy and political ethics of the Greek Empire, the philosophers are put into an ordeal of unspeakable cruelty at the hands of the barbarian invaders. They are forced into freshly gutted out carcasses of three oxen; the animals are then sewn up to trap the philosophers in a way that only their heads protrude.
Composed in the form of an inverse chiaroscuro, the stage consists of a tenebrous foreground and a luminous background. Three animal corpses lie in the foreground, from each carcass a chattering human head has protruded. Each act begins with monotonous De Sadesque depictions of barbarous savageries taking place in the stage background. Set against this chaotic but silent background, conversations between the three philosophers who are trapped in dead animals are audible and appear in the form of scholastic colloquies and theatrical dialogues.
In The Mortiloquist, each scene begins with a generation of a new entity from the putrefying animal carcasses. In line with Henry of Langenstein's unsettling remarks regarding the possibility of a dog being generated from the corpse of an ox or a horse, the oxen carcasses in which the philosophers have been trapped change to canine and fox corpses among other unheard-of creative forms. Ideas and philosophical debates are renewed and shifted according to the germinal power of putrefaction and the possibility of the infinite deformity of forms in decay. The history of philosophy is, barbarically and problematically, revealed to be a differential form of arborescent emptiness which is in the process of blackening its vitalistic twists - a tree of rot whose supernal branches stretch toward the One and whose roots reinvent their own tortuous earth.
A unique blend of horror, Beckettian drama, and classical philosophy as seen from the 'barbarian' outside, The Mortiloquist takes Negarestani's 'theory-fiction' to astonishing new depths."
Act I (Cruelty, or determination against an indeterminable background) Scene i: The Fall of Athens Scene ii: Outlanders in the Academia Scene iii: A philosophical torture
Act II (Life, or when death jabbers about itself) Scene i: Corpora viva Scene ii: Corpora cadavera Scene iii: Cadavera dicta
Act III (The Revenge of Socrates: transcendental dirt and thinking dung) Scene i: A ventriloquist humanism Scene ii: An animist necrologics Scene iii: A mimetic Inanimism
Act IV (To have done with the judgment of dog) Scene i: On the generation of a fox from a canine corpse Scene ii: On the corruption of ideal and generation of ideas Scene iii: On the generative No-One and brooding No-Thing
Act V (The Return of Mezentius) Scene i: Dubito ergo Scene ii: Cogito ergo Scene iii: Vivo ergo
François Laruelle, FROM DECISION TO HERESY: INTRODUCTION TO NON-PHILOSOPHY
The third release will be a collection of newly translated work from French thinker François Laruelle, unfortunately I am not familiar with Laruelles work, however I have faith in Urbanomic and expect this publication to be as important and powerful as other writers I've had the adventure of reading. Here is the blurb from the Urbanomic Site:
"This volume provides for the first time a collection of English translations of the writings of François Laruelle, one of the most important, but also least well-known, French philosophers working today.
For the past thirty years Laruelle has been setting out a rigorous theory for philosophy that offers a universal and abstract transcendental organon capable of conceiving the various philosophical accounts indifferent to their doctrines.
Laruelle has invented a totally new conceptual framework that transforms not only philosophical practice but even thought itself: In universalizing the theoretical conditions of philosophical theorising through his unique formal inventions, Laruelle develops a new form of thinking: one that initiates a transcendental and non-decisional theory for philosophical decision in a militant and heretical way.
This volume follows Laruelle's ambitious project of constructing this universal but non- systemic theory of philosophical decision. It is unquestionable that the technical rigour and heretical radicality of 'Non-Philosophy' will have a major impact on contemporary philosophy and future theoretical practices."
FROM DECISION TO HERESY: INTRODUCTION TO NON-PHILOSOPHY
Edited by Tobias Huber and Robin Mackay
Limited edition of 1000 numbered copies
Despite the fact that online forums are mostly realms of homogenizing interplay through positive re-inforcements and atomic pursuits of self promotion every once in a while genuinely wonderful ( literally ) discussions and dialogues emerge. One forum that offers more exceptions to the rule than most is the sleepy cyber corner of dissensus. Mr Teas Top 10 Badass Phenomena veered slightly off tangent and the topic of the Tsar Bomba was introduced to the discussion, a separate thread about nuclear testing was born and this is where I stumbled across Isao Hashimoto's poignant, beautiful and sobering video '1945-1998'. The video shows a map of the world displaying in a second/month time-lapse format the nuclear detonations ( every single one of the 2053 nucleat tests and attacks that occurred in this period of history ) and their geographical positions between 1945 and 1998. A metronomic bleep signifies the explosions and a key for the bombs country of origin is also shown, each countries explosion has a different tone and the passing of each month is also signified by a bleep. Unsurprisingly a call and response symphony is created by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. detonations throughout the cold war period of the 1970's.
1945-1998 by Isao Hashimoto ( 2003 )
Hashimoto's video reminded me of the ancient folk myth of Hitodama. Hitodama ( meaning human ( hito ) souls ( dama ) ) can, according to Japanese Folklore, often appear to be green or blue with long tails and appear next to the dying before floating off to the next life. When you consider the amount of lives that the bombs depicted in Hashimoto's piece are capable of taking, the number of souls the detonations could/have claim(ed), Hashimoto's subtle work acquires a gravity that emphasizes the sorry morbidity of so many nations pouring so much time, effort and resources into tools and technologies that's main purpose ( despite being politicized, and capitalized ) is essentially to take the lives and souls of other human beings. According to this he began the piece in 2003, with the aim of showing, in his own words, "the fear and folly of nuclear weapons". Hashimoto says: " I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world."
Hashimoto has produced an incredible example of how powerful and politically astute a work of contemporary art can be. Other Artist's like Santiago Sierra and Francis Alys ( who has has a vaguely disappointing exhibition showing at The Tate Modern ) create politically engaged works, both on conceptual levels and through more literal confrontations of social and economical issues, however I cannot remember the last time I experienced such a succinctly powerful and conceptually transparent piece as Hashimoto's '1945-1998', the piece is concise and unassuming, rather than forcing an analogy or metaphor for contemplation he literally re-represents a very sad history and a series of facts so uncomfortable they need nothing more than acknowledgement.
"Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin. Series: UCSF Mini Medical School for the Public."
An oblique leap from sugar coated pop and the various metaphors for starry eyed fandom and fantasy within various worlds to a rather bombastic, almost combative lecture in the sins of Fructose. Robert H. Lustig is so animated, so charismatic I genuinely feel he could be the next Michael Moore. I'm not sure that is a good thing. In this roaring tirade against the "poison" that is fructose and it's effects upon Americas health he cultivates an 'edge of your seat' urgency and exciting sensationalism. His points are well articulated, easy to digest ( please pardon the pun ) and very well founded however I feel the most important aspect of fructose's grip on our diets is not mentioned - perhaps because its the most slippery, intangible and unquantifiable aspect. Eating Culture ( or capitalism's shameful jettison of Eating Culture ) - I expect the areas of society that consume the most cheaply available and damaging products, that are high in fructose, are also those areas of society that do not have a strong meal-centric culture or enough time/capital to support the established food culture of previous generations. This debate would open up a whole heap of socio-economic political worms. Reminds me of Mark Fishers comments on health in his enthralling Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?( that reminded me of J G Ballard's Kingdom Come). More on this later.
Mark Fishers Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?Is the philosophers first book ( to my knowledge ) that outlines his views on this emerging political/philosophical paradigm. Fisher has commented on his blog, K-Punk, about Capitalist Realism for a long time and personally I think a book outlining the position of various modern day forms in relation to C.R. is long overdue and needed now, post-crunch, more than ever before ( the reason for this will be outlined later and is detailed wonderfully in the closing pages of the book ). The premise of the book is exploring the modern day disease of Capitalist Realisms infectious value attribution, bureaucratic epidemic and tangible evasiveness. The term was first used in the 50's and 60's referring to commodity art ( Pop Art ) and also for German Abstract painters like Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Wolf Vostell. Everything has a value, everything is something to be exchanged, bought in to and sold and measured.
Fisher explores a myriad of facets of this post modern disease, it's effects on public sectors like the N.H.S. and the rather crushing and paradoxical contortions it's applies to the education services. Fishers main ally in painting the multitude of wrong doings and perversions of Capitalist Realism is in fact an integral component of Capitalist Realism. This component is 'The Business Ontology'. Fishers remarks on this particular symptom had me almost laughing and certainly cringing, many members of my family work in various capacities in education and are involved with their corresponding unions whereas I work in a private sector for an enormous multi-media service provider. Business Ontologies have eroded the productivity away from both private and public sectors with alarming effects. Fisher is employed in the higher education sector and often describes circumstances of how The Business Ontology is at odds with or hindering 'the job' of teaching tomorrows bright young citizens, his exasperation is familiar and not dissimilar to so many despairing soliloquies I've nodded along to over supper. The Business Ontology is information ages obsession of quantifying all aspects of life, naturally it's most damaging to the public sectors where 'care', 'quality' and 'experience' matter most. The Business Ontologies of the public sectors often coincide with Kafkian/Orwellian modes of anxiety inducing monitoring and de-centralized hierarchies of evaluation, but more on these later.... Todays obsession with reducing life into ticks and crosses or ( perhaps more aptly considering the causation mechanics ) zeros and ones has reduced whole careers into 'dancing bears', dancing at the mercy of the zeros and ones. For example if a class of children finish a year on above average grades, the teacher of their next years class starts with the prospect of a disadvantage. Teachers are targeted ruthlessly today, but do not have the prospect of un-capped commissions like their highly targeted counter-parts in sales or recruitment sectors. A teacher has to show that his or her class achieve a certain amount of improvement from point at which they entered the year. So if a class of seven year old girls enter the academic year with a 'reading age' of a masters graduate their teacher would still need to achieve a whole years improvement in their reading age. Naturally this happens all the time across the UK, learning is not a linea progression and the leaps and bounds children make through education come at different times for different children. This blinkered targeting occurs in every facet and at every level of today's education systems, the problem would not be quite so chronic if the teachers failure to achieve targets did not result in endless evaluations and re-training, leading to more stress and time and work for people who are already wasting an inordinate amount of time of this Information Age Market Stalinism. This I.A.M.S. is not just infecting education, it's the reason why a hospital would rather operate on bunions as opposed to tumours ( the former having a faster turn around time and chance of 'full recovery' ): it's all so that targets can be hit and boxes ticked, for they are ultimately what decides the level of funding for next year. It's, of course, not strictly the targets that do the damage, it's their acute nature. A target, that can be measured and quantified, will always be simplistic and essentially incompatible with complex and unquantifiable aspects of life - these aspects are what makes the public sectors, people helping and working with people. Because of such an innate incompatibility the striving and achieving of these targets is contrary to the real intent of the public sectors, to hit the targets and to play by the systems rules one would have to actively work against the traditional moral and ethical strata of these established services. This is not an exaggeration, but the prevalence of 'the system', the I.A.M.S., is now our modern life, working against a system that actively destroys and throttles the efficiency and purpose from our work is now what we accept life is all about.
Another set of mechanisms that erodes and strangles in unison with the I.A.M.S. and various maladies mentioned above is Kafkian/Orwellian modes of decentralized hierarchy's and constant evaluation/indefinite post-ponement of punishment and resolution. Anyone who has been frustrated with a large corporations labyrinth of call centers will be familiar with these mechanisms, but the obstructions for people to acquire a service or buy a product are the least worrying effects. In the public sectors such as Education Fisher explains of how external assessment bodies such as the infamous O.F.S.T.E.D have drifted away from their established format of a large, intrusive and diligent inspection every four years to a format of out-sourcing the inspection to the teachers themselves, yearly, or termly self assessments, targets achieved and targets set, short term goals and long term goals now dominate the process of homogenizing the education service. For someone who has not experienced the blindingly absurdity of UK Capitalist Realism, and the New Labourian malaise of I.A.M.S. a school that evaluates and constantly renews its goals and processes may sound like an effective system. Unfortunately this is a county mile, along 20 zones and speed bumps and speed cameras, away from the reality. For the departments and teachers themselves this results in a daily auto-flagellation, it wouldn't be so disastrous if the targets and goals did not mutate and shift with such fickle predictability. The result is that the teachers are trapped under an anxiety inducing cloud of constant evaluation, constant punishment and criticism. The quick but thorough and consistent four yearly inspections have been exploded and atomized to a level of constant presence at every level, the entities within the system have to adhere to the sectors paradigm and as a result operate for the I.A.M.S. as opposed to utilizing it for helping them work. In effect the entities themselves revert to systemically autophagian components whilst dancing for the zeros and ones.
The various injuries incurred by the public sector through 1: the de-centralized/kafkian modes of evaluation and 2: contorting to conformity with the Business Ontology are only two examples of the areas that Fisher explores with regards to modern Britain's public services awkward trapping within Capitalist Realism. His methods of fleshing out and evaluating how almost every thread of modern Britain's fabric is writhing under Capitalist Realism are concise and profound. I have only hinted upon the few spheres of Capitalist Realist rot that Fishers book echoed from my own experience. The main impression left upon me after finishing Fishers Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? is the feeling that economic systems, political mechanics, our psyche, temporalities and ontologies have been exploded, atomized into isolated positions of helplessness, where Capitalist Realism can control and order solely propagate. Fisher provides hope that we can break free from such control, I feel too large a proportion is Putrefying and converted to the mechanisms of Capitalist Realism.
I intend to post further thoughts on the specifics of some of the other areas explored in Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? in the future, in the meantime please feel free to make your opinion known to me regarding my comments.