by ALEXANDER R. GALLOWAY
Part II began the process of withdrawing from the standard model. Relying first on Deleuze and Marx, we saw the difficulties of actually existing digitality. With the infrastructure of the world understood as essentially digital and computational, a number of alternative logics and conditions become important, among them the irreversibility of relation and the generic determination of the material base.
Several areas remain to be explored. Because if the event and the prevent operate on being as apparently "political" forces, the one bent on transforming it internally and the other on rendering it determined and impersonal, the exact nature of these forces remains to be seen. Are the event and the prevent merely two different avatars for the political, or do they reveal the distinction between the political and the ethical? Such is the agenda of the last two chapters of the book, chapters 9 and 10.
Yet before addressing the political and the ethical in earnest, we turn to the art and science of the one. Aesthetics is a recurring theme in Laruelle's work. He has written two short books on photography and has several essays on art and related topics, including texts on color, light, seeing, drawing, dance, music, and technology.
Technology or science? And what of art? Laruelle's position on these \ different domains is not entirely intuitive. For example, he does not follow someone like Heidegger and reestablish a lineage from technology back to art, via the Greek concept of techne. Nor is he phobic of science following those skeptical of industrial modernity. Instead Laruelle is something of a purist about technology and science. He denigrates technology and elevates science, elevating it to such a degree that it becomes synonymous with non -standard philosophy overall.
The technology that surrounds us, from cars to computers to rocket ships, is all rather repulsive for Laruelle. Such technology provides little more than an avenue for transit or mediation in and out of things. From this perspective philosophy is the ultimate technology, because philosophy is the ultimate vehicle of transit, and philosophers the ultimate mailmen. Philosophy is all technology wrapped into one, for it is at once mirror, conveyance, energizer, and processor. By contrast, science is the realm of immanence and unilateral relation. Science is the realm of discovery, axiomatics, and theory. If philosophy were a science it would remain immanent to itself, never transiting anywhere, never synthesizing or reflecting on anything.
Philosophy would remain where it is, in the dark. But philosophy, always quick to demonstrate its illuminating potential, is never in the dark. "Our philosophers are children;' Laruelle reminds us. They are children "who are afraid of the Dark"
Alternations of light and dark are the fuel of philosophy. From Plato's cave to Paul de Man's "blindness and insight;' philosophers are forever transiting between shadow and illumination. Yet darkness itself is not the problem. The problem is alternation. The problem is not that philosophy is dark. The problem is that philosophy is not dark enough.
According to Laruelle we must jump further, not from light to dark but from dark to black, from the darkness of philosophy to the blackness of science. So forget your rocket ships and rocket cars. Leave behind the scaffolding of reflection and alternation. "Do not think technology first;' Laruelle commands. "Think science first'".
Science is, in this way, the least illuminating profession, because it surpasses mere darkness by way of a profound blackness. Never afraid of the dark, Laruelle's science begins from the posture of the black, communing with the agnostic darkness of the real.
But what is this darkness? What is this black universe of which Laruelle sings? Is black a color, and if so can we see it?
"Philosophy is thinking by way of a generalized 'black box'; it is the effort to fit black .'into light and to push it back to the rear of the caverns."
Alternations between black and white drive philosophy, but they have also long been the subject of art, from chiaroscuro in Caravaggio, to the shadows in Night of the Hunter (1955). Just as there is an art of light, there is also an art of dark. Just as art has forever pursued what Victorian critic Matthew Arnold called "sweetness and light;' it has also been corrupted by the gloomy gloaming of blackest black.
What are the great explorations of black in art? Chief among them would be the Malevich square, or Ad Reinhardt's black paintings, or the Rothko Chapel in Houston, or some of Stan Brakhage's films with their murky darkness, or Guy Debord's notorious "Howls for Sade" (1952), a film that uses its blackness as a kind of weapon. But is the black screen in Debord truly black? Is the Reinhardt canvas a black canvas?
All these heroic experiments are no more black than a bright summer day. As attempts to capture black they are abject failures, and all the worse for trying to be so avant-garde, so utterly modern. Such meditations on the color black are quickly revealed to be what they are, meditations. Black appears only in alternation with white, just as quietude is punctuated by noise, and immobile finitude by infinite mobility.
The black screen in "Howls for Sade" is not black, but a black box. The film offers us blackness, but only in as much as the blackness can withdraw from other things, in this case from whiteness or from the audible voice. These are all works of alternation, of oscillation into and out of the black. Thus they are properly labeled "reflections" on black even "howls" for black-because black never appears in these artworks, only the optical alternations of black-against-white, black-against-color, or black-against-sound.
Deleuze explains such phenomena near the end of his writings on cinema:
"The absence of image," the black screen or the white screen, have a decisive importance in contemporary cinema .... They no longer have a simple function of punctuation, as if they marked a change, but enter into a dialectical relation between the image and its absence, and assume a properly structural value .... Used in this way, the screen becomes the medium for variations: the black screen and the under-exposed image, the intense blackness which lets us guess at dark volumes in process of being constituted, or the black marked by a fixed or moving luminous point, and all the combinations of black and fire; the white screen and the over-exposed image, the milky image, or the snowy image whose dancing seeds are to take shape.
Reinhardt's paintings are the ultimate false lure. What appears at first glance to be black quickly shifts into a complex economy of micro shades of black, each with a different tone and luminosity. Richard Serra's drawings using black paint sticks-or some of Gerhard Richter's works-are similar in their reinvention of an entire color cosmos thriving both on the interior of black and as black relates to its own exterior.
There is thus nothing black about these works, just as there is little silence in that notorious John Cage composition 4'3]'' in which no notes are played. Instead, these works are works of division and alternation, of contrasted extremities, of absence appearing as presence and presence returning to absence. These are meditative works, reflective works, great metaphysical works, great philosophical works even. But at the same time, merely reflective, merely metaphysical, merely philosophical.
"Philosophers have divided up the undivided simplicity of the nothingness and the all;' Laruelle reminds us, "but human eyes have never divided up the unique night:' The universe is, for Laruelle, a night universe, and to look at the universe means to look into the darkness of the night. "Vision is foundational when it abandons perception and sees in-the-night:' In other words, vision is never vision when the lights are ablaze. Vision is only vision when it looks avidly into the pitch black of night. Likewise art will never be art until it ceases to represent and begins to look into the Stygian monochrome, that blackness that has yet to be exposed to any living light.
Is this all just another flavor of modern nihilism? Just another existentialism? Laruelle answers no: "The philosophical eye wants to see the nothing in man's eye rather than see nothing. The philosopher wants to look man's nothingness in the eye rather than be a nothingness of vision" -nothing in man's eye versus seeing nothing. Recall those horrible nothing worlds of the existentialists. The existentialist can see man as nothing; the existentialist might even be able to see the world as nothing. But he cannot yet see nothing as nothing.
Philosophers have long asked why there is something rather than nothing. For Aristotle the question was always: Why is there something rather than something else? For Nietzsche or Kierkegaard it was: Why is there nothing rather than something? But for Laruelle the question is poorly formed from the outset. For Laruelle the question might rather be, Why, in looking at nothing, do we still never see nothing? For as Parmenides said, nothing comes from nothing. "Man is this middle between night and nothing" writes Laruelle. Or rather, "less than this middle: nothing which is only nothing; night which is only night."
But still, what is this darkness, and where is the light? How does dark relate to black, and light to white?
What is a hermeneutic light? Of the many unresolved debates surrounding the work of Heidegger, the following question returns with some regularity: Is Heidegger's phenomenology ultimately a question of herme' neutics and interpretation, or is it ultimately a question of immanence and truth? Is Dase in forever questing after a Being that withdraws, or does it somehow achieve a primordial communion with the truth of Being? In other words, is Heidegger the philosopher of blackness or the philosopher of light?
Hermeneutics was an important topic for theory in the 196os. Hence it is not surprising that Heidegger, who was being rediscovered and rethought during that period, would often be framed in terms of hermeneutics. To be sure, the critical tradition handed down from post-structuralism leaves little room for modes of immanence and immediacy, modes that were marginalized as essentialist or otherwise unpleasant (often for good reason). Thus it would be easy to assimilate into the tradition of hermeneutics a figure like Heidegger, with his complicated withdrawal of Being. For where else would he fit?
Indeed it is common to categorize Heidegger there. But is it not also possible to show that Heidegger is a philosopher of immanence? Is it not also possible to show that he speaks as much to illumination as to withdrawal? That he speaks as much to the intuitive and proximate as to the detached and distanced?
For instance, consider his treatment of gelichtet, a word stemming from the noun for "light:' In the chapter on the "there" in Being and Time, Heidegger speaks of Dasein as lumen (one of two Latin words meaning "light") and defines Dasein in terms of the "clearing" (gelichtet) or "illumination" of Being:
When we talk in an ontically figurative way of the lumen naturale in man, we have in mind nothing other than the existential-ontological structure of this entity, that it is in such a way as to be its "there''. To say that it is 'illuminated' ["erleuchtet"] means that as Being-in-the-world it is cleared [gelichtet] in itself, not through any other entity, but in such a way that it is itself the clearing.
No one can deny the cryptological tendencies in Heidegger. No one can deny that, for Heidegger, Being likes to hide itself. But this is far outweighed by the fact that Dasein can indeed be experienced as an authentic disclosedness of Being, by the fact that phenomenology preaches-without irony or pathos-that one may strive "toward the things themselves" and actually arrive at them.
Recall that hermeneutics is the science of suspicion, the science of the insincere. But Heidegger, like Socrates before him, is the consummate philosopher of sincerity. The phenomenological subject is the one who has an authentic and sincere relationship with Being. Because of this, we should not be too quick to consign Heidegger to the history of hermeneutics. Hermes's natural habitat is teeming with deception; his economies are economies in the absence of trust. But Heidegger lives in a different world. His world is a world of authentic presence, of questing after truth.
Thus running in parallel to the Hermes-Heidegger, the Heidegger who touches on the tradition of interpretation and exchange in the face of the withdrawal of Being, there is also an Iris-Heidegger, the Heidegger who touches on the tradition of illumination and iridescence along the pathway of seeking. Heidegger's is not simply a Hermes narrative, but also an Iris arc.
When Heidegger evokes the lumen naturale of mankind he is making reference to one of two kinds of light. The light of mankind is a terrestrial light. When bodies with their anima (their vital force) are vigorous and alive, they are illuminated with the light of the lumen naturale. Lumen is the light of life, the light of this world, the light that sparkles from the eyes of consciousness.
But there is a second type of light. Being carries its own light that is not the light of man. This light is a cosmological light, a divine light, the light of the phenomena, light as grace, or, as Laruelle says, the kind of light that does not originate from a star.
So just as there are two Heideggers, there are also two lights. One light is the light of transparent bodies, clear and mobile. It is the light of this world, experienced through passage and illumination. The other light is the light of opaque bodies. It is the light of color, a holy light, experienced only through the dull emanation of things.
Dioptrics and catoptrics. If there exists a natural lightness, is there not also a natural darkness? And if there are two kinds of light are there not also two kinds of dark?
Such questions lie at the heart of Reza Negarestani's Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials, a hallucinatory mix of theory and fiction that views the Earth as a quasi-living, demonic creature, oil the blood in its veins. Oil petroleum is black, of course, in color if not also in its moral decrepitude. But oil is also light, because it is a transmutation of the light of the sun. Oil is the geological product of sunlight, first via photosynthesis into vegetable matter, and second via the decomposition of vegetable matter over time. In this sense, oil is, as Negarestani calls it, the "black corpse of the sun".
But before looking more closely at the two kinds of darkness, let us examine the two kinds of lightness a bit further. Negarestani writes about fog and light. He writes about the "mist mare:' But what is mist? He writes of Pazuzu, the wind, the dust enforcer. But what is dust?
Of course, dust and fog have certain obfuscatory qualities. They strangle the light and interfere with one's ability to see. But at the same time they have their own form of luminosity. Fog glows with a certain ambience. It transforms a space of absolute coordinates into a proximal zone governed by thresholds of intelligibility. (Fog is thus first and foremost a category of existence-there can be no ontological fog; that would be something else.) Fog is a dioptric phenomenon, even if ironically it acts to impede vision. It is a question of light passing through materials, and likewise a question of the light of mankind passing through (or being impeded from passing through) a proximal space. This means that fog is part of the luminaria. Fog gives off no light of its own, even if it has its own luminosity by virtue of filtering and passing along a light originating from elsewhere.
The term dioptric has been broached, and in order to continue it will be necessary to define this term in some detail, along with the related term catoptric. These two terms are part of the science of optics, and hence the being of light, but they describe the dealings of light in two very different ways.
Dioptrics refers to light when it is refracted, that is to say, when light passes through transparent materials such as glass or water. As a branch of optical science, dioptrics is concerned principally with lenses. Yet things not specifically conceived as lenses can also act as such. Some of the best examples are the tiny water droplets contained in clouds, spherical in shape, that allow light passing through them to refract twice, once as the light enters the droplet and again as it leaves. Prisms also offer a fine illustration of dioptric phenomena; like a water droplet, a prism splits light into color bands because different wavelengths of light refract differently. A dioptric device can therefore divide white light into colored light, just as it can merge colored light into white light again, given the right conditions.
Catoptrics refers to light when it is reflected, that is to say, when light bounces off objects in the world. Whereas dioptrics is concerned with lenses, catoptrics is concerned principally with mirrors. All sorts of objects can act as mirrors proper-polished glass or metal, the surface of water. But catoptrics also includes the duller quasi-mirror effects of plain objects, which reflect light and allow themselves to be visible to the eye. Just as the prism can produce what Goethe called "physical color;' there is also a color capacity in catoptric phenomena, because some objects reflect certain colors and absorb others (Goethe's "chemical color"). So if, in general, dioptric phenomena are the phenomena of prisms and lenses, catoptric phenomena are the phenomena of mirrors, screens, walls, and opaque surfaces.
In short, the former is a question of transparency, while the latter is a question of opacity. Dioptrics is a perspective (seeing through), while catoptrics is a speculum or aspect (reflecting, looking at).
Recall the god of so many aspects, so many epithets. He is Hermes, messenger to Zeus. And yet his counterpart Iris, messenger to Hera, has relatively few epithets; her business is that of shining through. In this way Hermes is the aspect god, the god of catoptrics, and Iris is the perspective goddiess, the goddess of dioptrics. The effects of refraction "remain within" 'a transparent physical object such as a glass lens, and hence are to be considered a phenomenon of immanence. By contrast the effects of reflection are to obscure the source object, to leverage the very opacity of the object for some other end, and hence they are to be considered a phenomenon of hermeneutics.
These same principles can be stated in different terms. Both dioptrics and catoptrics have a special relationship to depth; however, the distinction between the two could not be more stark. Reflection is semiotically deep, that is, it is deep in the domain of meaning, whereas refraction is experientially deep, that is, it is deep in the domain of subjective experience. Saying "semiotically deep" means that opaque reflection creates a depth model wherein two opposing layers, one manifest and one latent, work together to create meaning. This is the same depth model that exists in Freud or Marx. Saying "experientially deep" means that transparent refraction creates a depth model wherein a real sense of volumetric space is created and presented to a viewing subject. This is the same depth model that exists in Heidegger (or even in others like Kant). There are veils covering the soul, but there are also telescopes for viewing the heavens-the one is an aspect, the other a perspective.
Yet beyond exhibiting depth in two contrasting ways, catoptrics and dioptrics are also equally distinct in how they deal with flatness. Being semiotically deep, catoptric reflection is at the same time ontically flat. That is to say, reflection is manifest in two-dimensional surfaces and other flat things arranged in the world. The very existence of the reflected image is a flat existence.
Dioptric refraction, however, being experientially deep, is at the same time ontologically flat. That is to say, refraction is immanent to materials; there is no transcendent or metaphysical cause that operates across or after the being of the phenomenon. This is why whatever is immanent also must be flat. This variety of flatness is best understood as a flatness of identity, a selfsame quality vis-a-vis the being of the thing. Dioptric refraction, as iridescent immanence, "remains within" itself.
These claims, being somewhat abstract, should be explained a little further. We have asserted that dioptrics is experiential. What this means is that dioptrics is on the side of the subject. Dioptrics is always a question of crafting a clear or real subjective experience. This is why the concept of dioptric illumination is so closely associated with the modern period, why we refer to "the Enlightenment" -which the French ren der with even less subtlety as les Lumieres. But it is also why this same modern trajectory ends up at Kantianism, at romanticism, and eventually at Heidegger and phenomenology, because the question of subjective experience must always remain at the heart of the modern experience.
By contrast, we said previously that catoptrics is semiotic. What this means is that catoptrics is on the side of matter, on the side of the pharmakon. Catoptrics is always a question of meaning. Although subjects might be involved, the process is never primarily subjective. Rather the process is primarily a question of what Stiegler terms hypomnesis, the act of externalizing the subject-or to be more precise, the subject's memory - into material supports. This too is a modern trajectory, but it ends up at a different place: not in the illumination of the subject, but in the obscurantism of the culture industries, in spectacle, in ideology, and in the tradition of critique that terminates in structuralism and post-structuralism.
Jesuit mathematician Francois d'Aguilon, in two propositions from his early seventeenth-century opus on optics Opticorum Libri Sex, offers two additional points concerning the difference between dioptric transparency and catoptric opacity. The two points appear in propositions number 31 and 32 of book 1:
Proposition 31 - Lux [light] and color are the properties of an opaque body.
Proposition 32 - Lumen [illumination, luminosity) is the action of a transparent body.
The distinction between two kinds of light made by d'Aguilon is the same distinction made since ancient times: in Latin lux and lumen; in Greek phos (φως) and phoster (φοστερ); or in Hebrew or (אור) and maor (מאור).
Recall the echo that occurs between Genesis 1:3 and 1:14, when God creates light, and then creates it a second time (see Francisco de Holanda, Fiant luminaria in firmamento celi, the frontispiece of this chapter). The echo nicely captures the difference between the two kinds of light. The first time light comes into the world it comes as lux. This lux means light, but it is a special kind of light, the light of being, the light of God, a cosmological light. The second time light comes, it comes as lumen (or rather as luminaria, the things that show lumen). This lumen also means light, but only in a very specific way. Lumen means sun, moon, and stars-the bodies that give light in as much as they can shine through with the divine light.
Although the English language differentiates between light and luminosity, English often loses the subtlety between the two kinds of light. D'.Aguilon assigns the first term to opaque bodies, and thus, by association we may be certain that he speaks of catoptric phenomenon. The second he assigns to transparent bodies, and thus to dioptric phenomenon. In other words, lux is catoptric and lumen is dioptric.
There is a precedence here too. For just as the Renaissance preceded the Baroque, lux in Genesis 1:3 precedes lumen in Genesis 1:14, and catoptrics precedes dioptrics. Descartes would confirm this same sentiment in a 1638 letter written a few years after d'.Aguilon: "Light, that is, lux, is a movement or an action in the luminous body, and tends to cause some movement in transparent bodies, namely lumen. Thus lux is before lumen. (The firstness of Iris arrives, then, as a kind of counterintuitive miracle, scrapping all precedence, erasing diachrony for synchrony.)
In this way God, bearing the lux light of the cosmological fiat, is absolute in His opacity. God is the absolute source of light, but at the same tir:ne the one who is absolutely inaccessible. Opacity is the quality that we can assign to His being. Yet, the light of lumen-illumination, luminosity-is absolute in its transparency, as it travels through the actually existing world. Thus transparency is the quality that we can assign to His existing.
This is the second point that can be gained from d'.Aguilon's two propositions, that lumen or dioptrics is always an action of existence, an active motion of looking-throughness, while lux or catoptrics is always a fact of being (a property).
The black corpse of the sun. Now we are in a better position to consider the kinds of darkness and their relationship to the light. To summarize, illumination (lumen) refers to the action of transparent bodies in their luminosity and radiant iridescence. These bodies are the sun, the moon and stars, fire and mankind. Not white so much as bright. It is the light of life and consciousness. It is multiple, never singular. It is a perspective, and therefore allied with dioptrics and Iris.
By contrast, light (lux) refers to the property of an opaque body in its fact of being. This is the light of God, the light of being, a cosmological light, but also the light of daytime (as opposed to sunlight). It is an aspect, and therefore allied with catoptrics and Hermes. It is singular, never multiple. It is white only in so much as it is the whiteness of pure opacity. Lux is the plenum. It is the obscure. It is grace.
Now on to the darkness. Here too are two modalities, all the more different because of their near identity. Darkness may be gloom, murkiness, shadow, or shade. It may be dusk, night, or twilight. Bodies may be dark. One might speak of "dark" materials, in as much as they are asleep, unconsciousness, dead, or cold. Likewise, habit or cliche may be understood as a kind of darkness of experience, an inability to revivify the normal routine of living.
Hence the darkening, or obscuritas, described in Revelation 9:2-obscuratus est sol et aer de fumo putei, "The sun was darkened, and the air, by the smoke of the pit:' The sun is obscured by smoke, and hence the earthbound shadows of an obscuring darkness. As the sun and moon and stars are progressively snuffed out, they are obscurare. It is not yet a question of ontological darkness, but rather the darkness of the world. It is the nihil privativum discussed in Schopenhauer, the "privative nothing" that is dark by virtue of depriving the light.
But there is another kind of darkness, the tenebrae, the shadows of black being separated from the lux of heaven in Genesis (2, 4, 5, and 18). No longer simply dark, the question now is that of a profound blackness.
Such is the generic darkness of the abyss, the void and vacuum, the darkness of catastrophe and cataclysm. It is a cosmological blackness, the black of Satan, the black of absolute evil, the black of nonbeing. It is what Thacker describes as "cosmic pessimism . . . hermeticism of the abyss."
The shadows of black being are a hermeneutic blackness. Not simply a world gone dark, such blackness is a world without us. Not simply a question of dying or growing cold, such blackness means the leaving of being. In contrast to the "privative nothing" comes Schopenhauer's nihil negativum ("negative nothing"), nothing as absolute foreclosure. In this sense, the shadows of black being are not part of any ontology, but rather constitute an encryption or crypto-ontology. These are the shadows of the kruptos ( Κρούτσο), the hidden parts that form the inward nature of things.
And hence in Revelation, beyond the sun being obscured and made dark, there is also a secondary darkness. The kingdom of heaven is threatened secondarily by the blackness of the tenebrae, for ultimately factum est regnum eius tenebrosum, "His kingdom was full of darkness" (Revelation 16:10 ).
Return now to Negarestani and the petroleum that fuels contemporary society. Is this oil, as putrification, the product of lux or lumen? Is oil black or dark? As Negarestani writes, oil is "Hydrocarbon Corpse Juice:' Sun is captured in photosynthesis, then via decay is putrified into a liquid fossil form. So as sun juice, oil is the darkening of sunlight. Oil is thus literally dead; oil is death. And as transubstantiated sunlight, oil is lumen, or at least some product thereof.
But there is also a blackness to oil. "Oil is the Black Corpse of the Sun:' he writes. Now no longer simply solar, oil's tellurian core wells up, the insurgent enemy of solar capitalism. This is oil at its blackest. This is oil as the "Devil's Excrement:' oil as the conspirator-not as lux but as the tenebra or shadow of black being-who annihilates societies by "tear[ing] them apart slowly. And so, just as it was possible to speak of the shadows of black being as a crypto-ontology, Negarestani can speak of a crypto-ontology for oil. In such a crypto-ontology, oil is understood not simply as dark but as radical blackness, held in escrow by a cosmic pessimism, with its kruptos or hidden parts absolutely foreclosed to us, but also to being itself.
Blackness is a crypto-ontology absolutely foreclosed to being. Only through this final definition-black as kruptos foreclosed to being-can we begin to understand what Laruelle means by the black universe. Only by way of a withdrawal from the system of light and color can we begin to see the generic real of blackness.
Channel that great saint of radical blackness, Toussaint Louverture, and return to the Haitian Constitution of 1804, which stated that all citizens will be called black regardless of color. Such blanket totality of black, such cataclysm of human color, renders color invalid and denies the endless dynamics of black-as-white or white-as-black. Black is no longer the limit case, no longer the case of the slave, the poor, the indentured or debt-ridden worker. Black is the foundation of a new uchromia, a new color utopia rooted in the generic black universe.
"Our uchromia: to learn to think from the point of view of Black as what determines color in the last instance rather than what limits it."
As Laruelle would say, color always has a position. Color always has a stance. The color palette or the color spectrum provide a complex field of difference and alternation. The primary colors reside in their determining positions, while other colors compliment each other as contrasts. Hence the color posture: purple complimenting yellow, red complimenting green, the primary colors' posture vis-a-vis the palette, and ultimately the posture of color itself governing the continuum of light and dark, as colors take turns emerging into a luminous and supersaturated visibility, or receding into a sunless gloom.
Laruelle uses photography as a way to explain these never-ending quests into and out of things. "Platonism is perhaps born of the absence of a photo;' he writes, proposing a provocative anachronism. "From this we get the model and the copy, and their common derivative in the simulacrum. And Leibniz and Kant alike-the intelligible depth of the phenomenon as much as its trenchant distinction-find their possibility in this repression of photography."
According to Laruelle, photography has long been held captive, forced to choose between two unappetizing options,
philosophy on one hand (consciousness and reflection), psychoanalysis on the other (the unconscious and [automatic drives]) .... The photo is then neither a mode of philosophical reflection-even if there is plenty of photography integrated into philosophy-nor a mode of unconscious representation or a return of the repressed. Neither Being nor the Other; neither Consciousness nor the Unconscious, neither the present nor the repressed.
Photography is an ideal candidate for Laruelle's intervention, because photography requires that light penetrate an aperture and write itself on a sensitive surface, resulting in prints that, in turn, reflect light back to viewers. "Philosophy remains an optics;' he writes. "Transcendental no doubt, but specular: intuitiveness is its unavoidable structure. The eye is first an external empirical sense; then it is divided and doubled, the introduction of the other gaze constituting an a priori optical or specular field; then the gazes knot themselves together, form a chiasmus, and constitute a transcendental speculative field".
Which is precisely what Laruelle seeks to avoid. Using the language of optics invoked previously, Laruelle exhibits a unilateralized dioptrics, in that he rejects absolutely the reduplication and extension of the eye in favor of an immanent transparency of identity. But he simultaneously exhibits a unilateralized catoptrics, in that he assigns a pure opacity to the one, a pure density, a pure imperviousness.
"The multiplication of the eye into a recursive spiral does not suppress it;' he reminds us, "for the eye is the intuition that now gives the other eye; the gaze that opens upon the other gaze-such is the kernel of all transcendental aesthetics:' Is this not the great phenomenological gambit, that physiognomy is destiny, that our eyes and senses orient ourselves into a world, toward phenomena that orient and reveal themselves back to us?
The philosopher says, Humanity was endowed with the faculty of sight, so humanity must devote itself to seeing, and seeing well. But Laruelle says, The decision is never between looking and seeing or between listening and hearing. That is no decision at all. The true decision, the decision already made implicitly by philosophy, is to see and hear in the first place. We decide each time we open our eyes.
In other words, photography is always understood as color photography, black-and-white photography even, but never black photography proper. Rather than these other color photographies evident in phenomenology, psychoanalysis, or philosophy at large, Laruelle writes that we need photography (now recast as non-photography) as science photography or identity photography.
But what would "identity photography" mean? Identity photography is black photography. And thus identity photography is the only kind of photography that could inscribe the black universe. Laruelle calls such photography a "hyperphenomenology of the real"; it follows a logic of auto-impression, not expression. Not a cliche snapshot, but an immanent identity of the Real. "One does not photograph the World, the City, History;' Laruelle claims. One photographs "the identity (of) the real-in-the-last-instance:' In this sense, although color always carries itself in terms of a "posture" or "stance," black is immanent to itself and thus can only be an in-stance, an instance, or as Laruelle says, the last instance.
"Simplify color!" he cries. "See black, think white! See black rather than believe 'unconscious: And think white rather than believe 'conscious:" Don't see, be a seer. Stop seeing and start visioning. Be a visionary.
Watchers and lookers are the ones who see white, who see the thing that they know they will always see. But the one who sees black is the true clairvoyant. The black seer is the oracular prophet, what we call "a medium". And hence to understand media-and indeed to "do" media theory-is to start visioning purely in the black universe. Never to see visions, never to hallucinate (for that is what philosophers do), rather to see vision. This is what Laruelle means when he says that vision "abandons perception and sees-in-the-night." This is what he means when he deploys that thorny non-philosophical term of art "vision-in-One".
The blackness of the person. Laruelle's black is not simply a theory of the universe, but also a theory of the subject, what he calls the "human'' or the "person:' At the same time the black universe allows for a mystical justice that is irreducible to either Christian morality on the one hand or liberal ecumenicalism on the other. "All philosophical speculation is communication, and communication is always speculative;' he writes, in a re-articulation of the media principle from Thesis I. The media principle is so troublesome because it limits the discussion to one of two scenarios: either to speculate for or on behalf of the other, or to speculate for or about the self The subject is either reflective or introspective. The subject is either too nosy about others or too vain about itself. These are the two great maxims of philosophy: the first maxim, "to see for itself by seeing in the place of the other;' and the second maxim, the ancient law of"an-eye-for-an-eye." This is why metaphysics is described by Laruelle in terms of vengeance. Either "an eye for an eye;' the symmetrical, retributive justice of the Old Testament, or what he calls "Eye-for-the-Other, as hostage-of-the-Other-eye;' the universalization of liberal relativism where we promise to see for the other, or even, in our infinite wisdom, to step back and let the other try to see for itself. Either way, the eye is held hostage, vision is vengeance, and vengeance is ours.
Instead, the black universe allows for a mystical subject (capable of mystical justice) because it eliminates speculation. No more eye-for-an eye, and no more eye-for-the-other. No more exchange of looks, no more patriarchal gaze, and no more commerce in vision. Instead the black universe allows for an absolutely determined and unidirectional vision, a kind of visionary vision that looks without looking.
To be clear, Laruelle does not take the usual exit; he does not escape the quandary of self-other relations by singing the praises of a universalized multiplicity of voices. In fact he takes a different step, unexpected and rather unfashionable in today's progressive theory landscape. Laruelle pursues an absolutely determined and unidirectional vision, all and everywhere, destiny and determination from before the first to after the last instance.
To summarize before ending-there are two kinds of light, the tux with its purely opaque source and the luminaria that reflect tux into this profane world. And likewise there are two kinds of dark, the darkening ( obscuritas) of the luminaria as they sputter out and die, and the tenebrae themselves, the shadows of black being.
But all of this, from black to white and from dark to light, is still a part of the standard model. If black is merely the absence of white, and dark the absence of light, then we remain locked in a world of relation, reflection, continua, and convertibility, black-as-white and dark-as-light. Such is the philosophical decision in a nutshell, to decide to frame the world in terms of digital color.
Laruelle, by contrast, entreats us to withdraw from the system of color and enter into a purely radical and unilaterally black universe. This is a universe in which black is never defined in terms of light, nor ultimately exchangeable with or made visible by illumination. Just like in the introduction and the secret of Hermes that has never been divulged to any living human, the black of the universe has never been seen before by anyone. It is only through a kind of negative intuition that we dare to call it a color at all.
This is the condition of the Laruellean person, and ultimately the condition for a new kind of black justice: unilaterally determined by the real, but never by mundane reality; faithful to the conditions of a generic humanity, but never debased to the banal conditions of the world.
If you open your eyes partway you see white, but if you open them all the way you see black. Do not let the philosophers draw you out of the cavern and into the light, only to be dazzled by the first rays of the sun. But at the same time, do not douse the light and dig deeper into the abyss, in an attempt to spiral lower, darker, into your gloomy soul. Laruelle's human is one who opens its eyes in the night, not to look or speculate but to know.
We are this night. "The night is this human, the human who does not speculate about man. Who am I, me who is? I am neither this reason nor this way of thinking, neither this question nor this speculation. I am this night ..."
excerpt from the book: Laruelle (Against the Digital) by ALEXANDER R. GALLOWAY
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