by Aryan Kaganof
Veracruz, painted by Jesus Sepulveda
Art operates like a symbolic appropriation of reality. The act of representing reality or mediating our relation with the world—through an object or product of symbolic art—reinforces the process of reification. Art is a representation that replaces reality. in this same way it is a form of mediation of social and inter-subjective relations. said mediation is produced through cognitive reason, which filters the modes of appreciation of reality. becoming familiar with reality, the subject internalizes it. this is an appropriation that occurs, straining reality through a utilitarian and functional sieve. the codes of the filter are the codes of instrumental rationality, which projects the expansion of the subject’s interiority over the world’s exteriority. this develops the cognitive mechanisms of appropriation, categorization, and control of the other—that which is always unknown and unfamiliar. these mechanisms are the product of fear of the outside. because of this, the projection of interiority upon the exterior world produces an expansive and colonizing zeal. this zeal in turn projects the ego over the other: the external world (nature), and the creatures that inhabit it (human beings, animals, plants, and the soil). the expansive projection of the “i” over nature accelerates the process of reification.
kant was enraptured by the majestic spectacle of nature. this emotion produced in him a kind of “mental agitation,” which he called “sublime.” but this emotion is also the living experience of the dread that is sublimated through art, the petrification of the natural spectacle of the world. when art is an institution or a mere object— symbolic and separated from life—it is converted into a symbol of the process of reification. sophisticated meta-art is nothing more than a symbol of the symbol, a reification of reification. this process sharpens the ideological mechanism of the reification of the subject itself, which, when commodified, alienates itself from reality and loses perspective.
to replace instrumental reason with aesthetic reason does not mean simply replacing the mechanisms of reification. reification in art exists because art symbolizes that which has been taken from life—the experience of beauty. art and life have been divided into two separate planes, without any real interconnection. this makes art an institution of the sublime, while life is the praxis of enslavement. art has been the pressure release valve of alienation. traditionally it has sheltered those values and energies distanced from life, permitting the maintenance throughout “history” of the illusion of humanity. the separation between art and reality has created a situation in which both planes of experience are lived as isolated spheres, without spirit or emotion. art becomes petrified in museums, in galleries, in salons and libraries, while existence continues to the rhythm of the minute hand that subjugates salaried work. there, beauty is suppressed, joy domesticated, pleasure enslaved, and peculiarity made uniform. art is the negative mirror of reality that compensates for the miseries of life with the illusion of liberty. to remove art from the sphere of the institution means living art in life and vice versa. it means destroying the alienation that implies the distinction between the artistic and intellectual, and the vulgar and manual. it means beautifying life and enlivening art, both as a unified and organic whole. it also means creating a humanity of artists, and humanizing the artists who already exist.
by David Roden
Charles Sheeler, Catastrophe No. 2, 1944
Here, one of my favourite critical theorists/philosophers Claire Colebrook talks about the role of art in thinking and imagining the end of the world. The bottom line, for her, is that only a certain idea of art as decoupled from our immediate practices and functions, that which always relates to other worlds, allows us to think or angst about the end of ours. And by extension, only a world that appropriates or colonizes other worlds can have art as a value. “The logic of art” is also one of colonization.
So post-apocalyptic dramas like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar are both about the fragility of a certain kind of humanity (humanity defined in terms of its intelligence, its ability to “master” worlds) an an implicit demand that this humanity should be preserved: “The more exposed, fragile, vulnerable and damaged this future is imagined to be, the more forceful the heroic narrative of salvation.”
The end of the world is the end of the human who does not merely exist “here and now.” but trades in objects and worlds and inscriptions that can be detached from their material origin while still being bound up with worlds. If there are no libraries, no geopolitics, no archives, no mathematics, there are no humans in this sense. Thus imagining a world without art is imagining the end of the world. “Only a world that has a sense of its specific end can demand that it not end” Tribes, cultures, languages, etc. can end, but the world that looks on these as worlds is “too big to fail”. This involves a concept of humanity so global that it implies the impossibility of its own outside precisely by imagining that outside.
Colebrook’s piece prompted me to revisit a piece on Philosophical Catastrophism I wrote earlier this year, focused on catastrophe in Ballard, Brassier and Cronenberg. This also considered the catastrophe as unthinkable limit. However, there are some significant differences. The dust bowls of Mad Max and Interstellar are perfectly representable and thinkable. Indeed, as Colebrook reminds us, they resemble the fragile, hand to mouth existence of much of contemporary humanity more than the sheltered urban world typically threatened in popular end of the world scenarios. The “unthinkability” of the catastrophes considered in Colebrook’s talk is expressed as a normative or ethical demand (they are that which must never be). Those of Crash, Nihil Unbound, Videodrome, and the Hyperapocalypse are all literally unthinkable or, more precisely, unrepresentable.
Ballard’s catastrophe is the ‘unique vehicle collision’ that would utterly transform our dreams and desires; thus transcending the novel’s patina of shattered machinery and ruptured, broken bodies. The thermonuclear war of the ‘Terminal Beach’ is the immense “historical and psychic zero” which generates sense by extirpating it. Its textual and ontological function is is to bind the decoupled moments of Ballard’s montage and of modernist time alike within its promiscuous absence. Whereas Colebrook’s apocalypses imagine worlds to subdue, Ballard’s event reproduces Being by promising to extirpate it.
Brassier’s evocation of cosmic collapse in Nihil Unbound is likewise an attempt to decouple thought from Being, to think a reality that could never belong to or relate to a world. Brassier replicates Laruelle’s detachment of the Real from Being or intentionality but without reinstating it in the form of a gnosis of a bare humanity or inner life.
Finally, Videodrome‘s viscid new flesh ramifies or plasticizes the barred subject of modernity beyond the point at which it or its erotic distance from the thing is sustainable. This “semantic apocalypse” is also a different kind of unworlding, if only because it forces us to redefine the globalizing human which forms the background to Colebrook’s reading of apocalyptic fiction. In a sense, this modernist subject is a myth that allows us to reclaim a modernity whose trajectory is fundamentally inhuman and asubjective.
watch the video below:
The article is taken from:
by Andy McGlashen
Wim Wenders is known primarily for his work as a film director, most notably Paris, Texas (1984) and Buena Vista Social Club (1999). He is also known for his photography and his images have been exhibited worldwide, more specifically his collection of Polaroids. Around 3,500 of his Polaroids survive (many had been given away immediately to the subjects in the photos), and the Photographers’ Gallery in London is currently exhibiting 200 of them in a collection titled “Instant Stories”.
As well as the Polaroids (which are grouped into themes) there is an 8-minute documentary that Wenders made in 1978, which he has updated for the exhibition by adding narration. In the film he is an “actor” on a road trip with a prototype Polaroid SX-70 Land camera which was given to him by Polaroid to test. It is an interesting little film in its own right, and Wenders explains the attraction of Polaroid being the “missing link” (although I’m not sure to what extent it is missing) between film photography and the instant gratification of digital.
He explains in his narration that Polaroids felt like a different act to photography and likened it to playing with a toy. This meant, he says, that taking pictures was playful and casual, and simply fun.
Looking at the images in the gallery isn’t the easiest thing to do. They are of course standard Polaroids – around 3″ x 2.5″ – and mounted in frames, and my short-sightedness meant I was often squinting at the pictures from a distance of about two inches!
The quality of the photos by today’s digitally airbrushed efforts (or even an amateur’s darkroom, I’m guessing) appears poor. They are often out of focus, or over- and under-exposed, or their colours are bleached, although a partial reason for this may be the passage of time and the quality of the original paper. I’m not sure anyone really expected the things to last 50 years or so.
However, they often had a magnetic quality. Even though I was not drawn into all of the compositions, there was a palpable sense that you were viewing something through Wim Wenders’ eyes at the time. These images are not altered, distorted or enhanced from the little film that popped out from the front of the Polaroid camera all those years ago, and it felt like stepping into a time machine.
Another aspect of the Polaroid is that it is undoubtedly the great-grandfather of the selfie. In today’s age of ubiquitous smartphones a selfie is something that is so instant we immediately see if something is a keeper (albeit we might not agree in future years if it’s committed to social media!) and throwaway others with a simple tap of the dustbin symbol. A Polaroid is also (almost) instant, but its cost meant that more often than not they were keepers and not consigned to a physical dustbin. I have never used a Polaroid and I can only guess at the sense of wonder and excitement as a picture crystallised before your very eyes.
This is a great little exhibition and, although in hindsight probably more of a celebration of the Polaroid SX-70 than the images of Wim Wenders per se, it was fascinating to learn about both subjects. If I learnt anything about the creative aspects on show, it is to embrace a photo for what it is, play with randomness, and ensure that photography stays fun.
You’ve likely heard the reason people never smile in very old photographs. Early photography could be an excruciatingly slow process. With exposure times of up to 15 minutes, portrait subjects found it impossible to hold a grin, which could easily slip into a pained grimace and ruin the picture. A few minutes represented marked improvement on the time it took to make the very first photograph, Nicéphore Niépce’s 1826 “heliograph.” Capturing the shapes of light and shadow outside his window, Niépce’s image “required an eight-hour exposure,” notes the Christian Science Monitor, “long enough that the sunlight reflects off both sides of the buildings.”
Niépce’s business and inventing partner is much more well-known: Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, who went on after Niépce’s death in 1833 to develop the Daguerreotype process, patenting it in 1839. That same year, the first selfie was born. And the year prior Daguerre himself took what most believe to be the very first photograph of a human, in a street scene of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris. The image shows us one of Daguerre’s early successful attempts at image-making, in which, writes NPR’s Robert Krulwich, “he exposed a chemically treated metal plate for ten minutes. Others were walking or riding in carriages down that busy street that day, but because they moved, they didn’t show up.”
Visible, however, in the lower left quadrant is a man standing with his hands behind his back, one leg perched on a platform. A closer look reveals the fuzzy outline of the person shining his boots. A much finer-grained analysis of the photograph shows what may be other, less distinct figures, including what looks like two women with a cart or pram, a child’s face in a window, and various other passersby. The photograph marks a historically important period in the development of the medium, one in which photography passed from curiosity to revolutionary technology for both artists and scientists.
first human photo
Although Daguerre had been working on a reliable method since the 1820s, it wasn’t until 1838, the Metropolitan Museum of Art explains, that his “continued experiments progressed to the point where he felt comfortable showing examples of the new medium to selected artists and scientists in the hope of lining up investors.” Photography’s most popular 19th century use—perhaps then as now—was as a means of capturing faces. But Daguerre’s earliest plates “were still life compositions of plaster casts after antique sculpture,” lending “the ‘aura’ of art to pictures made by mechanical means.” He also took photographs of shells and fossils, demonstrating the medium’s utility for scientific purposes.
If portraits were perhaps less interesting to Daguerre’s investors, they were essential to his successors and admirers. Candid shots of people moving about their daily lives as in this Paris street scene, however, proved next to impossible for several more decades. What was formerly believed to be the oldest such photograph, an 1848 image from Cincinnati, shows what appears to be two men standing at the edge of the Ohio River. It seems as though they’ve come to fetch water, but they must have been standing very still to have appeared so clearly. Photography seemed to stop time, freezing a static moment forever in physical form. Blurred images of people moving through the frame expose the illusion. Even in the stillest, stiffest of images, there is movement, an insight Eadweard Muybridge would make central to his experiments in motion photography just a few decades after Daguerre debuted his world-famous method.
by Steven Craig Hickman
Phenomenology, then, is an essential cognitive task of confronting the threat that things pose in their very being. … After phenomenology, we can only conclude that a great deal of philosophizing is not an abstract description or dispassionate accounting, but only an intellectual defense against the threatening intimacy of things.
– Timothy Morton, Realist Magic
Peter Schwenger in his book The Tears of Things comes very close to the same central insight upon which Graham Harman has built his entire metaphysical edifice. We discover that for the most part the everyday tools that we use: hammers, rakes, pens, computers, etc., remain inconspicuous; overlooked by those of us who use such tools; noticing them, if at all, as necessities that help us get on with our own work. Yet, the paradox of this situation is that there are moments when the tool threatens us, becomes an obstacle to our enterprising projects, and it is at such moments that we suddenly awaken from our metaphysical sleep and notice these objects in a strange new light: when the hammer iron head flies free of the wooden handle, or the computer suddenly freezes, the screen goes black, then sparking and sending out small frissions of stench and smoke from the flat box that encases it; at such moments we become defensive, threatened by the power of these material objects that we no longer control, that in fact are broken and exposed, beyond our ability to know just what they are.
We also become aware that the tool is part of a larger sphere: it does not exist in and of itself, but is applied to materials in concert with other tools to make something that may then be seen in its turn as “equipment for residency” in parallel to Le Corbusier’s famous pronouncement that “a house is a machine for living in.” The full network of equipment’s interrelated assignments and intentions makes up what the subject perceives as “world.” The dynamic of this world, at whatever level, is one of care – care of the subject’s being. The business of equipment, then, is not just to build an actual house but as much as possible, and in the broadest sense, to make the subject feel at home in the state of existing.1
Against this Heiddegerian world of comfort and care much of what we call modernist art incorporated the tools into their artistic charade in order to break our at homeness, to make us feel a more difficult strangeness and estrangement, to become Aliens in an Alien Land ( I play off Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land). Against the order of meaning and description OOO prides itself in making things strange again, allowing the Master Signifiers that once ruled the world to fall away into darkness, withdrawn and empty of significance, uncanny and paradoxical guests to a banquet of the Real that can no longer be controlled by humans or scientific discourse. Listen to a master of philosophical mythography, Graham Harman, as he turns a Ferris Wheel into a lesson on Objects and the levels of being, occasional causality, and the inhuman withdrawnness of substance:
The reader should pause and fix this image firmly in mind: a giant rotating wheel, carrying thousands of beings in a long arc ascending to the clouds and vanishing into the darkness of the earth. Let it spin dozens of times in your mind before we move on from this beautiful spectacle. Imagine the faint machinic whirr of its concealed engine, the creaking of its bolts, and the varied sounds emitted by the objects riding in its cars: from neighing horses to mournful woodwind ensembles. Imagine too the ominous mood in the vicinity as its cars plunge deep into the earth. Picture the wheel loaded with animals, bombs, and religious icons. Picture it creaking under the weight of its cargo and emitting a ghostly light as it spins along its colossal circuit. Imagine the artists and engineers of genius who designed such a thing. And consider the human culture that would arise nearby, with the wheel as its sacred point of reference.2
Timothy Morton in his new work reminds us that “the phenomenological approach requires a cycling, iterative style that examines things again and again, now with a little more detail here, then with a little more force there”.2 Harman does just that in his myth of the Wheel turning from light to dark to light again, a fabricated circle of machinic life that harbors the strangeness of existence itself, entities that cannot be charmed into eloquence accept as paradoxical creatures that inhabit the interstices of thought like fragments of a cyclic world. The great wheel rising and falling from the sky into the underbelly below the ground, the dramatic interplay of object and network, the countless entities circling into and out of our lives, some of them threatening and others ludicrous. The objects in the cars and those on the ground or in the chambers affect one another, coupling and uncoupling from countless relations— seducing, ignoring, ruining, or liberating each other. (Harman KL 69-72)
As Morton remarks “thinking objects is one of the most difficult yet necessary things thinking can do—trying to come close to them is the point, rather than retreating to the grounds of the grounds of the possibility of the possibility of asserting anything at all”. Are as Harman would have it objects affect us and in fact these objects turning on the Wheel of Relations – as he terms it, “generate new realities” (Harman, KL 76). At the end of this little myth of wheels within wheels, the churning ocean of being and becoming, Harman remarks that “no point in reality is merely a solid thing, and none is an ultimate concrete event unable to act as a component in further events. In this respect, the cosmos might be described as a vast series of interlocking ferris wheels” (Harman, KL 175-177).
This opening move leads me back to Timothy Morton and his new work where he tells us that to think this way about Objects all the way and all the way down as a series of interlocking machines is to begin to work out an object-oriented view of causality. “If things are intrinsically withdrawn, irreducible to their perception or relations or uses, they can only affect each other in a strange region out in front of them, a region of traces and footprints: the aesthetic dimension“. As he states it so eloquently in his introduction “Every aesthetic trace, every footprint of an object, sparkles with absence. Sensual things are elegies to the disappearance of objects.”
I am reminded of his work within literary criticism of which he is a master. In his excellent essay The Dark Ecology of Elegy in the Oxford Handook to Elegy he remarks:
Perhaps the future of ecological poetry is that it will cease to play with the idea of nature. Since ecology is, philosophically thinking how all beings are interconnected, in as deep a way as possible, the idea of nature, something ‘over there,’ the ultimate lost object … will not cut it. We will lose nature, but gain ecology. Ecological poetry must thus transcend the elegiac mode” (255). 4
And, yet, under the sign of the inhuman he brings us closer to the Sadean truth of the world. “What if ‘man’ was already a kind of ‘living sepulcher,’ an empty tomb, a ‘mere husk’ like the seeds of the rustling reeds? If is finally our intimacy with that which is the deepest and the darkest. Under these circumstances, elegy would perform the melancholy knowingness that we are machines” (269). It is in the darkness that ecology withdrawn within the inhuman begins to harbor that ecological thought of which Morton is the eloquent elegist:
Dark ecology chooses not to digest the phobic-disgusting object. Instead it decides to remain with it in all its meaningless inconsistency (Zizek 1992:35-9). Dark ecology is the ultimate reverse of deep ecology. The most ethical act is to love the other precisely in their artificiality, rather than seeking their naturalness and authenticity. Dark ecology refuses to digest plants and animals and humans into ideal forms. Cheering your self up too fast will only make things more depressing. ‘Linger long’ (Alastor: 1. 98) in the darkness of a dying world. (269)
As he reminds us in his new book “Doesn’t this tell us something about the aesthetic dimension, why philosophers have often found it to be a realm of evil? The aesthetic dimension is a place of illusions, yet they are real illusions. If you knew for sure that they were just illusions, then there would be no problem.” This is the realm of vicarious causation the place where the “aesthetic dimension floats in front of objects, like a group of disturbing clowns in an Expressionist painting or a piece of performance art whose boundaries are nowhere to be seen”. This aesthetic dimension was revived with Harman’s return to Aristotelian substantialist form, which forced him to revive the older occasional causation theories he termed vicarious causation because, as he remarks, it “requires no theology to support it. Any philosophy that makes an absolute distinction between substances and relations will inevitably become a theory of vicarious causation, since there will be no way for the substances to interact directly with one another” (Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (Kindle Locations 83-85). As Morton in his new work remarks on this:
I argue that causality is wholly an aesthetic phenomenon. Aesthetic events are not limited to interactions between humans or between humans and painted canvases or between humans and sentences in dramas. They happen when a saw bites into a fresh piece of plywood. They happen when a worm oozes out of some wet soil. They happen when a massive object emits gravity waves. When you make or study art you are not exploring some kind of candy on the surface of a machine. You are making or studying causality. The aesthetic dimension is the causal dimension. It still astonishes me to write this, and I wonder whether having read this book you will cease to be astonished or not.
Even though I come out of the traditions of Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Schelling, Hegel, Nietzsche, Bataille, Deleuze, Zizek and Land, and am definitely in the opposing insubstantialist stance within the philosophical spectrum, I still admire the power of this older formalism of substance. I have yet to finish this work by Timothy but have enjoyed the stimulation of its alternative traditions descending as they do from those Great Originals, Plato and Aristotle. And, even if I fit within their competitors loquacious if insubstantial or immanent tradition – that tributary river of another materialism (Epicurus and his epigones, who down the ages has spawned varying proposals concerning matter and the void) I still affirm those who hold to the flame of materialism no matter which path they follow.
Read online: Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality
1. Peter Schwenger. The Tears of Things. (University of Minnesota, 2006)
2. Harman, Graham (2010-11-26). Circus Philosophicus (Kindle Locations 27-34). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.
3. Timothy Morton. Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (Open Humanities Press An imprint of MPublishing, University of Michigan Library, ©2013)
4. The Oxford Handbook of The Elegy. Edited by Karen Weisman (Oxford University Press, 2010)
The article is taken from:
by Steven Craig Hickman
The point is that the relation, the subjective relation between an event and the world cannot be a direct relation.
-Alain Badiou: The Subject of Art
"Meraki" Acrylic on canvas, 50x40 cm BTW
One often wonders what truly is going on in Badiou’s mind as he prepares for his lectures. Reading the lecture I quoted above in the link I sit back in wonderment at the childlike simplicity of his statements, as if the audience before him were all ten year old kids and he the master was trying his best to lead them through the intricate yet simple realms of Alice’s Wonderland. His voice is charming and eloquent, decisive and pure, yet one is tempted to smile and realize that the Master has gone over this track too many times, that it is all too confident, too precise and mathematical for our taste. It’s as if he is trying to convince not the audience but himself of the simplicity of his system, to make sure that each and every aspect of its labored precision still fits the measure of his tempered mind. And, does it? Is this trifold world of being qua being, being-in-the-word, and the event truly locked down in such a methodical fashion as to allow for no critical injunctions?
Badiou like Zizek always begins and ends with the Subject as that point in the world where something new happens:
The point is that the relation, the subjective relation between an event and the world cannot be a direct relation. Why? Because an event disappears on one side, and on the other side we never have a relation with the totality of the world. So when I say that the subject is a relation between an event and the world we have to understand that as an indirect relation between something of the event and something of the world. The relation, finally, is between a trace and the body. I call trace ‘what subsists in the world when the event disappears.’ It’s something of the event, but not the event as such; it is the trace, a mark, a symptom. And on the other side, the support of the subject—the reality of the subject in the world—I call ‘a new body.’ So we can say that the subject is always a new relation between a trace and a body. It is the construction in a world, of a new body, and jurisdiction—the commitment of a trace; and the process of the relationship between the trace and the body is, properly, the new subject. (here)
When I saw that word ‘trace’ rise up in the above sentences I was reminded of another French philosopher, Jaques Derrida, for whom trace became a catch word. In the 1960s, Derrida used this word in two of his early books, namely “Writing and Difference” and “Of Grammatology”. Because the meaning of a sign is generated from the difference it has from other signs, especially the other half of its binary pairs, the sign itself contains a trace of what it does not mean. One cannot bring up the concepts of woman, normality, or speech without simultaneously evoking the concepts of man, abnormality, or writing. The trace is the nonmeaning that is inevitably brought to mind along with the meaning.” Is there a connection? I doubt it, only the connection in my own mind between two distinctly independent and intelligent philosophers that obviously with careful reading probably questioned each other to no end, yet read each other deeply and contentiously. Their thought converges and diverges on the concept of the event. I’d have to spend too much time to tease out the complexity of both philosophers conceptions to do that in a blog post so will end here. Read the above essay if you will for it lays down in a few words the basic architectural units of Badiou’s whole system of philosophy. One could do no better than read it and either follow it up with a deep reading of his major works Being and Event and The Logic of Worlds, or toss it into the trash and follow one’s own inclinations toward other climes. I leave that to the reader to choose. For me it is enough to realize that Badiou is someone you cannot pass over, but must confront with all the rigor that he brings to his own project. That there can be no direct relation between the event and the world to me seems to fit nicely into many of the strands of current philosophical speculation. This is a philosophy of movement, of happening, not of closure and stasis. The idea of indirect relation is processual in its dynamics, yet is also gathered into the net of mathematical precision as the intersection of relations defined as the movement between world and body, subject and its field of newness. Where does this take us? I’ll only leave you with one last tidbit from the lecture:
So the subject of art is not only the creation of a new process in its proper field, but it’s also a question of war and peace, because if we don’t find the new paradigm—the new subjective paradigm—the war will be endless. And if we want peace—real peace—we have to find the possibility that subjectivity is really in infinite creation, infinite development, and not in the terrible choice between one form of the power of death (experimentation of the limits of pleasure) and another form of the power of death (which is sacrifice for an idea, for an abstract idea). That is I think, the contemporary responsibility of artistic creation.
by Steven Craig Hickman
“Bacon’s bodies, heads, Figures are made of flesh, and what fascinates him are the invisible forces that model flesh or shake it. This is the relationship not of form and matter, but of materials and forces making these forces visible through their effects on the flesh.”
– Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation
The ripple of flesh, the slippery lushness just below the surface plane, the immanent materials and forces, the “violence of a sensation (and not of a representation), a static or potential violence, a violence of reaction and expression” (x), these are demarcations of a philosophy of life rather than death. Against the old religions, the monotheistic tribalism of the sky: the dark powers of hierarchy, of the One who beholds, who sees all, whose gaze orders everything into a system of justice and retribution: under the law that keeps everything bound to its harsh justice and stringent banishments; instead of this dead and deadening judgment that hands down decrees and punishments, enforces the legal inducements of final Heavens of the Immortals or Eternal Judgments in Lakes of Fire (for all who do not follow the dictates of this fierce power).
Against this harsh world Deleuze offers us the immanent law of rebellion, of force, of flows that churn within like so many coagulating sperm infested snakes that want to escape: the spasmodic, the serpentine liquidity, the “revelation of the body beneath the organism, which makes organisms and their elements crack or swell, imposes a spasm on them, and puts them into relation with forces sometimes with an inner force that arouses them, sometimes with external forces that traverse them, sometimes with the eternal force of an unchanging time. sometimes with the variable forces of a flowing time” (160).
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944. Oil and pastel on Sundeala board. Tate Britain, London
Egyptian painted figures float in an abstract space that is neither here nor there. The background is coolly blank. Everything is flattened into the foreground, an eternal present where serenely smiling pharaohs offer incense and spools of flax to the gods or drive their chariot wheels over fallen foes. Women strike tambourines, dance as the forces of the earth rise in their young lithe bodies. Hieroglyphics hang in midair, clusters of sharp pictograms of a rope, reed, bun, viper, owl, human leg, or mystic eye. “Can the Egyptian assemblage be taken as the point of departure for Western painting? It is an assemblage of bas-relief even more than of painting,” says Deleuze (122). The Bas-relief is the flat plane of the ontic, the place where eye and hand meet on the surface, the terraform that cleaves the haptic, the layers of movement no longer above or below but moving along the surface unhindered by the chains of chance or necessity.
“It is thus a geometry of the plane, of the line, and of essence that inspires Egyptian bas-relief; but it will also incorporate volume by covering the funerary cube with a pyramid;that is, by erecting a Figure that only reveals to us the unitary surface of isosceles triangles on clearly limited sides. It is not only man and the world that in this way receive their planar or linear essence; it is also the animal and the vegetal, the sphinx and the lotus, which arc raised to their perfect geometrical form, whose very mystery is the mystery of essence” (123).
In line with Lucretius, needing to make visible the forces below the threshold of things, Deleuze touches the heart of art in deformation, the elastic or plastic deformations that are productive of temporal fluctuations harboring the monstrous truth of being: “they are like the forces of the cosmos confronting an intergalactic traveler immobile in his capsule” (58). The transformation of form can be abstract or dynamic. But deformation is always bodily, and it is static, it happens at one place; it subordinates movement to force, but it also subordinates the abstract to the Figure (59). The deformation is obtained in the form at rest; and at the same time, the whole material environment, the structure, begins to stir: “walls twitch and slide, chairs bend or rear up a little, cloths curl like burning paper…. “(60). The aesthetics of forces inhabiting the geometry of flows and fluctuations that move discordantly up through the tongue in the moment of becoming visible, the “visibility of the scream (the open mouth as a shadowy abyss) and invisible forces, which are nothing other than the forces of the future” (61):
“When, like a wrestler, the visible body confronts the powers of the invisible, it gives them no other visibility than its own. It is within this visibility that the body actively struggles, affirming the possibility of triumphing, which was beyond its reach as long as these powers remained invisible, hidden in a spectacle that sapped our strength and diverted us. It is as if combat had now become possible. The struggle with the shadow is the only real struggle” (62).
This is the agon with duende – the force of the sublunar, the chills that spring forward out of the shadows in our moments between, makes one smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive. Folk music in general, especially flamenco, tends to embody an authenticity that comes from a people whose culture is enriched by diaspora and hardship; vox populi, the human condition of joys and sorrows. Lorca writes: “The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, ‘The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.’ Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation.”
He suggests, “everything that has black sounds in it, has duende. … This ‘mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains’ is, in sum, the spirit of the earth, the same duende that scorched the heart of Nietzsche, who searched in vain for its external forms on the Rialto Bridge and in the music of Bizet, without knowing that the duende he was pursuing had leaped straight from the Greek mysteries to the dancers of Cadiz or the beheaded, Dionysian scream of Silverio’s siguiriya.” … “The duende’s arrival always means a radical change in forms. It brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm.” …”All arts are capable of duende, but where it finds greatest range, naturally, is in music, dance, and spoken poetry, for these arts require a living body to interpret them, being forms that are born, die, and open their contours against an exact present” (Theory and Play of the Duende).
Head VI, 1949. 93.2 × 76.5 cm (36.7 × 30.1 in), Arts Council collection, Hayward Gallery, London
Or as Deleuze eloquently states it “Life screams at death, but death is no longer this all-too visible thing that makes us faint; it is this invisible force that life detects, flushes out, and makes visible through the scream. Death is judged from the point of view of life, and not the reverse, as we like to believe” (62). … There is the force of ‘banging time, through the allotropic variation of bodies, down to the tenth of a second,” which involves ”’formation; and then there is the force of eternal time, the eternity of time, through the uniting separating that reigns in the triptychs, a pure light. To render time sensible in itself is a task common to the painter, the musician, and sometimes the writer. It is a task beyond all measure or cadence” (64).
The famously filthy mess that was Bacon’s studio at Reece Mews – the piles and sticky avalanches of photos, books, clipped newsprint, booze-stained scribbles on the verge of becoming drawings, squished paint tubes and every imaginable ingredient of clutter that covered the horizontal and vertical surfaces, tables and walls, like some illegible compost in which, like molds or somewhat alien life-forms, his future pictures were brewing and his past ones decaying. This stuff was more than rubbish. It was an archive, admittedly a staggeringly disordered one. An archive of the deformations that arise out of the earth itself to grasp hold of our very thoughts, and scream… the painters visions of that moment of deformation that implodes and gives birth at the same time. Out of disorder order shapes us, moves through us, spasmodically, and with desperate disjunctive sounds of the duende…
“It is not I who attempts to escape from my body, it is the body that attempts to escape from itself by means of…. in short, a spasm: the body as plexus, and its effort or waiting for a spasm” (15).
“Time is no longer the chromatism of bodies; it has become a monochromatic eternity. An immense space-time unites all things, but only by introducing between them the distance of a Sahara, the centuries of an aeon: the triptych and its separated panels… There are nothing but triptychs in bacon: even the isolated paintings are, more or less visibly, composed like triptychs” (85).
An inversion of the ancient Christian formalism, Bacon’s triptychs remind us not so much of icons of some transcendent deity, but rather as the immanent movement of those strange forces that surface and withdraw, channel their rapprochement or negotiate between the triple aspects of being that is always and forever the faces of Time past, present, and future: the motion of a pendulum that carves and deforms us even as death awakens within us the flowers of life itself. “Like Lucretius’s simulacrum, …seem to him to cut across ages and temperaments, to come from afar, in order to fill every room or every brain” (91). These triple non-forms are the strokes of a cosmic catastrophe: “It is like the emergence of another world. For these marks, these traits, are irrational, involuntary, accidental, free, random. They are nonrepresentative, nonillustrative, nonnarrative. They are no longer either significant or signifiers: they are asignifying traits” (101).
The monstrous void opens inward revealing nothing less than the face of an abyss that cannot be described nor represented for it is the face of the inhuman other that for so long has been banished, exiled among its own dark thoughts, riven of its place within the fold, the flows of time’s dark prison. But the path to salvation is not easy. No. But are atheists allowed salvation? Is art a form of salvation? Are the paths of artistic expression forms of freedom? And, what of these paths? “Abstraction would be one of these paths, but it is a path that reduces the abyss or chaos (as well as the manual) to a minimum: it offers us an asceticism, a spiritual salvation. Through an intense spiritual effort, it raises itself above the figurative givens, but it also turns chaos into a simple stream we must cross in order to discover the abstract and signifying Forms” (103). The Second Path leads another way:
“A second path, often named abstract expressionism or art informed oilers an entirely different response, at the opposite extreme of abstraction. This time the abyss or chaos is deployed to the maximum. Somewhat like a map that is as large as the country, the diagram merges with the totality of the painting; the entire painting is diagrammatic” … In the unity of the catastrophe and the diagram, man discovers rhythm as matter and material. (104 – 107).
These diagrams offer recompense, only if we can differentiate between the triptych diagrams. But we can also date the diagram of a painter, because there is always a moment when the painter confronts it most directly. “The diagram is indeed a chaos, a catastrophe, but it is also a germ of order or rhythm. It is a violent chaos in relation to the figurative givens, but it is a germ of rhythm in relation to the new order of the painting” (102). As Bacon says, it “unlocks areas of sensation.” The diagram ends the preparatory work and begins the act of painting. There is no painter who has not had this experience of the chaos-germ, where he or she no longer sees anything and risks foundering: the collapse of visual coordinates. Ultimately this is a tale of facts, of the power of non-representational painting, the ardour of emergence and flow, the moment of facticity:
“…the forms may be figurative, and there may still be narrative relations between the characters – but all these connections disappear in favor of a ‘matter of fact’ or a properly pictorial (or sculptural) ligature, which no longer tells a story and no longer represents anything but its own movement, and which makes these apparently arbitrary elements coagulate in a single continuous flow” (160).
Gilles Deleuze. Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation. Continuum 2003
The article is taken from:
by Aryan Kaganof
It is worth reminding ourselves why many people think August Highland a great modern poet. The first thing to say is that without him it would have been impossible for the Metapoetics Theatre movement to cohere or become a public sensibility, a symptomatic art for the age. The details of his part in the Hyper-Literary Fiction movement, and the part he played in forming and feeding its views, have been accumulating over the years in which scholars and critics have looked back to San Diego in 1998-2003 as an optimum time of creation.
The moment of the Genre Splice is superluminal.
It arrives before it was sent.
Hyper-Literary Fiction is never on time.
It’s time is a perpetuum mobile of memories of what happens next.
Next-Gen Nanopoetics is Zarathustra’s eternal recurrence, vibrating fast enough for your ears to see it and slow enough for your eyes to hear it.
The prime characteristic of the Genre-Splicer is that he does not tell a story.
The Genre-Splicer creates an emptiness of literature. But this emptiness was already there. It merely needed to be filled. With Genre-Splices the sources of contemporary literature are exposed in their emptiness. What is expelled from the screen page is hysteria, ie. contemporary literature itself.
Hyper-Literary Fiction is never finished.
Genre-Splices always beg the question: when may we begin again?
Each of the Genre Splices August Highland makes is trying to say the whole thing, i.e. the same thing over and over again. It is as though they were all simply views of one object seen from different angles.
The closest Microlinear Storytelling gets to Once Upon A Time is Always Now.
The Hyper-Literary Fiction of value always invokes deja-vu.
Genre-Splicing is addictive.
In a way having one’s writings Genre-Spliced is like eating from the tree of knowledge. The knowledge acquired sets us new (ethical) problems; but contributes nothing to their solution.
Sometimes a Genre-Splice can be understood only if it is experienced at the right tempo. August Highland’s Hyper-Literary Fiction is all supposed to be read very fast.
Hyper-Literary Fiction gazes into abysses, which it should not veil from sight nor can conjure away.
The key to Genre-Splicing lies undoubtedly hidden somewhere in our complex sexual nature.
Hyper-Literary Fiction is ANNIHILATIVE!
The Metapoetics Theatre movement probably reached its most distilled meaning in August Highland’s own career, where the notion of “the hard textimage” did acquire an authoritative centrality, but nonetheless it most certainly offered many essential constituents fundamental to modern Genre-Splicing lore – the free line, “superpositioning”, crack, etc. One thing that can be said in his favour is that August Highland always went in pursuit of a redemptive kinesis.
Aryan Kaganof is an award-winning avant-garde filmmaker, writer and artist living in Gauteng. He is one half of South African Noise duo Virgins.
The article is taken from:
by Marcel Wesdorp
Prints of these digitally developed areas seem to be real photographs, uniquely named by their specific xyz co-ordinates. But at a second glance you are struck by an unknown reality that lies beyond. Some steps in this process lead to unsuspected and surprisingly catching images, each of them with a most sensitive and enigmatic touch, as may be seen in his PW series.
Apart from the purely software based techniques, the collection and modelling of existing satellite data and maps is a second intricate field of work of the artist. Here another elaborate few years were needed to complete the paper-printed black and white ‘Untitled World File’. Wesdorp’s fine imagination of scale and proportion makes you dazzle for this vacuum of time and space. The work originates from a real love history, only to be revealed to the viewer when taking time to see its dimensions.
x4207.44/y2809.41/z258.51 - 2011
x1288.20/y6028.21/z285.40 - 2010
x3435.26./y5201.54/z-9.14 - 2011
x7457.29/y9325.47/z226.42 - 2012
Out of Nothing
2007/2010 - 02:05 hour [fragment]
x86946.1/y55460.1-3838.8 - 2015/16
x52059.4/y2598.8-2161 - 2015
Untitled World - 2015
Untitled World-File - 2014/2015
MINE 'compiled world file' 2017
Born in Netherlands (1965) and graduated at Willem de Kooning Academy -Rotterdam and the advanced programme in photography at St. Joost Academy in Breda, Wesdorp creates computerized animations of landscapes.
Wesdorp’s work has been shown several times at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam (2007-2011), at Museum Belvedere, Heerenveen (2012), in Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012), Erasmus University, Rotterdam (2013) and with gallery Helder in the solo presentation at KunstRAI, Amsterdam (2015). Wesdorp continues to investigate new ways to show what lies beyond the surface.
by Armen Avanessian
I want to pursue the question of the new interest in materialism by way of an(apparent) detour, namely: with a view to determining from what direction, for what reasons, and via what signs this new interest is expressed. Because of the increasing lack of interest on the part of official academic institutions and their pitiful failure at hosting or producing new philosophy, it is now an expanded art field that gives impetus to various movements and transformations in theory. This expanded field includes not only artists and curators but also galleries, art institu-tions, art academies, art journals, and the theoreticians and critics whom they pub-lish. At times, it is this expanded field that enables individual theoreticians to con-tinue working at all. On the other hand, in view of the fundamental crisis of a con-temporary art scene that appears increasingly directionless, and that can betermed materialistic primarily in an economic sense, the new speculative realism(or in Quentin Meillassoux’s case, speculative materialism) has been stripped forbuzzwords. This process is well known, and has been undertaken in order to dis-guise extreme emptiness and disorientation in the art field (zombie-conceptual?pre-internet? post-digital?) with new concepts—this time from the subject areas of materialism, speculation, and ontology. In particular, one variant of speculativerealism has achieved rapid success in the art world, namely Graham Harman’sobject-oriented ontology. There are a couple of obvious reasons why artists andcurators have embraced this ontology so joyfully: Harman developed a pan-psychictheory largely by re-reading positions that were already established—and hencecomprehensible for the art business—such as Husserl’s phenomenology, Latour’snetwork theory, etc. And he endorses aesthetics (as prima philosophia, first philoso-phy), which is fundamentally and inherently “correlationist,” depending as it doesupon a perceptual dialectic of subject or object. Finally, there is the ontologicalenhancement or upgrading of the status of objects, an aspect of his thought that has certainly not slowed the economic materialism of the art world.
The fog is slowly lifting after several years of hype, and we now see positionsand demarcations more clearly. This relates first of all to the several kinds of new speculative materialism or realism. This occurs not least through the recent prominence of accelerationism, a political theory in which the influence of Deleuze and Guattari meets that of a new Promethean rationalism. With the lat-ter, the significance of analytical-philosophical and linguistic-philosophicalthought clearly enters the foreground. A positive side effect of this is the over-coming of a rather naive initial emphasis—it could also be termed somewhat sim-plistic public relations—namely, the assumption that a speculative turn would sim-ply overcome the linguistic turn; or that an uncritical, purely speculative and base-less ontology would or could now operate in place of critical epistemology or lan-guage philosophy. Such simple models maintain a common dichotomy of either language or matter (a misunderstanding that is no less widespread in poststruc-turalism itself). The second of these terms—matter—is at times excluded in thesemodels as impossible and at times is longingly invoked through aesthetics. In place of such unhelpful juxtapositions, there will hopefully be a greater material-istic reliance upon thought or language, not as opposite terms of a simple dichotomy but as recursive aspects of world and matter together: of language best understood from its material dynamics. This is also a linguistic-ontological pre-supposition for every (future) attempt at an understanding of art that is no longer aesthetic but rather poetic or perhaps poietic (meaning productive, in the sense of creating something genuinely new).
The other shift in the understanding of speculative materialism can be observed in the field of art (theory). Following the Speculative Realism Conference, organized by Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier and held in London in 2007, the initial reception in the art world was at times enthusiastic. This is attest-ed to by numerous anecdotes regarding object-oriented art students who are either arguing about or supposedly producing archifossiles (materials indicating tra-ces of phenomena anterior to the emergence of life), or trendy gallery owners try-ing to associate their artists with the appropriate theoreticians, the latter them-selves all too often readily acting as catalogue text writers for the art business at the same time that they banally lambast it as corrupt (instead of systematically pon-dering the material software and hardware of the art business); or the prominence of various positions of the new materialism at the last Documenta. In short, there have been a great many efforts that have led at the very least to successfully estab-lishing a new, young, fresh generation of artists in a global market between Basel and Miami who benefit from their association with speculative philosophies.
Old wine in a new bottle? Same old sculptures—this time 3-D printed? Yet more decorative paintings with some new industrial colors or maybe on synthetic materials? This is pretty much the impression one gathers when following somequite fruitless debates about post-internet art. Regardless of these discussions thehorizon or the potential of the digital revolution has until now hardly had a posi-tive impact upon ultimately decisive questions such as the economic terms of thedistribution forms of contemporary art (as long as one doesn’t count the flippingphenomenon or the importance of Instagram to gallery sales as a progressivedevelopment). By and large, everything appears to have remained pretty much asit was. Critics still invoke the critical potential of art objects and the impressionthey make upon bourgeois subjects when those works hang upon their walls, andart historians still mystify white cubes as aesthetic experience in a profitable way (to say nothing of the ever-increasing volume of money that is laundered by meansof contemporary art). That these practices continue to take place in relation tospeculative and materialistic ideas, to concepts that are opposed to every form of correlationalism, is a pity, and certainly helpful neither for art nor for philosophy.
In the longer term, I would hope that the real philosophical and art theoreti-cal potential of speculative realism or materialism might emerge more clearly, even if this were to have a threatening impact upon the business as usual aspect of contemporary art.1 Meanwhile, so-called critical art and its aesthetics does not combat the new spirit of capitalism (Boltanski and Chiapello), but by its nature con-tinues to propagate that spirit. An art truly informed by speculative materialism would on the contrary strive not only for a transformation on the discursive levelbut also for an acceleration of the existing platforms of the art system: the materi-al-economic forms of production of art and the paths for its distribution. This alsoapplies to the material power of images to transform our reality, a power that hasfortunately been dealt with recently in a more concise way by artists and theoreti-cians. Such images can also shape reality and can be integrated recursively in actu-ality, instead of merely reflecting it over and over again. Rather than an aesthetic-critical art that bears such an affinity with our modern capitalism, a materialisticart, in a sense that is poietic and speculative, would aim at a new art, no longer our contemporary art.
1. See, initially, Suhail Malik, “Reason to Destroy Contemporary Art,”Spike Art Quarterly 35(2013), pp. 128–34. On the question of other platforms for politics and new economics, see my project for this year’s Vienna gallery festival,Tomorrow Today (www.curatedby.at). Here I experiment with dif-ferent economic models for a postcapitalist and postcontemporary art.
—Translated from the German by Alan Paddle
Armen Avanessian is a philosopher and political theorist.
He is co-founder of the bilingual research platform Spekulative Poetik www.spekulative-poetik.de and of Bureau of Cultural Strategies (https://www.bureauforculturalstrategies.com).
His publications include Irony and the Logic of Modernity (De Gruyter, 2015),
Present Tense: A Poetics, with Anke Hennig (Bloomsbury, 2015);
Speculative Drawing, with Andreas Töpfer (Sternberg Press, 2014);
and the forthcoming titles Metanoia: A Speculative Ontology of Language, Thinking, and the Brain, with Anke Hennig (Bloomsbury, 2017);
Overwrite. Ethics of Knowledge – Poetics of Existence. Berlin: Sternberg Press 2017;
and Miamification (Sternberg Press 2017).
The essay is taken from: