Posts Tagged ‘deleuze and guattari’

Imaginary Landscape

April 7, 2014

Lowndes Square

Lowndes Square was one of several projects designed by George Basevi, the architect son of a London merchant of the same name; he trained under Sir John Soane and his early work includes the St. Thomas’ Church in Stockport as well as Belgrave Square – also in London – which took sixteen years to complete. Basevi was similarly responsible for designing the Founder’s Building at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, but died before it was completed (with Charles Robert Cockerell – who designed the Ashmolean – stepping in to finish the job). Lowndes Square is, so I read, a twist on what was typical of Belgravia. Whilst it features the white stucco grand terraces beloved, then at least, by the likes of Cubbitt and the Hardwick unlike Belgrave Square’s houses – which the aforementioned assisted in designing – Basevi kept tighter control on Lowndes and enforced uniformity by being its only designer (perhaps by pulling planning strings with his cousin Benjamin Disraeli?). Today it is occupied by oligarchs. Roman Abramovich owns a property there worth an estimated £150 million, but I saw that in the Daily Mail so who knows.

Rich Bastards

The Jumeirah Carlton Tower, a 5 star hotel that describes itself as ‘the essence of Knightsbridge’ and ‘a beacon of British style and sophistication’ sits just behind Lowndes Square and is, I think, the site where Susan Maitland is hurled to her death by what might be called a ‘global weather event’, whereby the speed of the wind increases exponentially until much of the Earth – with perhaps the exception of the far extremities, already windswept in their own icy way – is reduced to powdered stone. There is nothing left of the structures that we have built. Donald, her former husband, who had returned back to his apartment in the complex via armoured personnel carrier could do nothing but stare; he ‘saw her for an instant, catapulted through the updraught rising from the street, bounce off the roof of the Embassy building and then spin away like a smashed doll into the maze of rooftops beyond.’

In the strictest sense, which I would imagine to be anathema to Deleuze and Guattari were they still alive, Susan’s death is not a line of flight. I mean it is in a literal sense, in that she flies out of the window and bounces off of the roof of the Pakistan Embassy (or High Commission as it is listed today), but in a looser sense it still qualifies, in the context that ligne de fuite can cover ‘not only the act of fleeing or eluding but also flowing, leaking, and disappearing into the distance’…note the avoidance of the rest of that quote and its disavowal of flying. Susan is obviously disappearing in to the distance, reflecting Donald’s collapsing support network – which he had assumed no longer mattered, hence his planned departure for London Airport at the opening of the book – but she is also fleeing. Her death is an escape from complicity in the destruction that follows.

1 H P

The apartment building Donald steps in to, prior to finding Susan semi-hiding out, is in reality an expensive hotel in Knightsbridge, but whilst reading of the gradual destruction of the Capital all I could picture was One Hyde Park, its empty corridors and expansive, shiny floor space (possessed but uninhabited, private security guards stalked by the ghosts of venture capital and secretly executed hedge-fund managers) a proxy for the abandonment of any semblance of interest in the ever-increasing gulf between owners and owned. It has always been thus; at least it isn’t a future of skies filled with nothing but buildings turned to dust. Oh. Excuse me. Donald’s remaining friends in military intelligence, either before or after Susan’s death (I forget which), have to enter a similar complex by blasting through an underground garage, the only point of entry, a security precaution designed by – I think – a man named Marshall as a way of keeping out undesirables. Later, much later, a similar entrance is required to allow access to a gigantic reinforced concrete pyramid, poorly anchored, eventually destroyed, but again designed solely as an insulated system. No connection between multiplicities, no transformations just exteriorities and people staring out at exteriority.

There are three potential walking routes from my house to the University where I work. Two of them converge at this point, with one initially tracing a line along the Hull Road which heads east out the city before snaking up Greendykes to the main vehicular access point to the campus, and the other following the school route past St.Leonards (via a cut-through I mentioned here) and then a shortcut between hospital buildings at The Retreat, the mental health centre established by William Tuke (his confectionery associate, Joseph Rowntree, is buried on the fringes of the grounds). The former route I use infrequently, and more often as a return route if I am accompanied by colleagues who live off the east road. The route includes the nunnery my house backs on to – soon to be redeveloped as student flats – and a number of new-build flats already partially occupied by students. The buildings have been given suitably-York names to remind people of a rough geography of the North, what we might call landscape-factoring structures; there is Bolton (after the castle), Helmsley (after the market town and castle) and Rievalux (after the abbey). These are names referring to other examples of the built environment, allied to buildings not really faintly similar to their namesakes. No bother. Further up the road, there is another set of student flats called The Boulevard. It has a security gate at the front, private security personnel inside, and an architecture that reaffirms the prevalence of flat pack thoughtlessness in design.

‘By the time I came to England at the age of sixteen I’d seen a great variety of landscapes. I think the English landscape was the only landscape I’d come across which didn’t mean anything, particularly the urban landscape. England seemed to be very dull, because I’d been brought up at a much lower latitude — the same latitude as the places which are my real spiritual home as I sometimes think: Los Angeles and Casablanca. I’m sure this is something one perceives — I mean the angle of light, density of light. I’m always much happier in the south — Spain, Greece — than I am anywhere else. The English one, oddly enough, didn’t mean anything. I didn’t like it, it seemed odd. England was a place that was totally exhausted.’

The point where the two routes meet – linked to earlier on Googlemaps – is a small road that has no real access for vehicles except as a drop off point. Until recently Googlemaps had this road listed as the main route in to the University. I attempt to highlight the mistake, owing to my cartographical OCD, but Google offered no feature whereby mistakes could be reported. Seemed odd, or potentially demonstrated Google’s control over the ways in which we interpret territory, or our understanding of the spaces we move through. Perhaps not as extreme as the case last year where Costa Rica was invaded by Nicaragua based on Googlemap inaccuracies over borders. Google’s spokesperson suggested that ‘by no means should they [the maps] be used as a reference to decide military actions between two countries’. Good to know. On the new Googlemaps, which appears to remove the old left hand info bar in favour of presenting a full page map with the old information embedded in the image itself, even the unofficial footpath through the trees to the back of the Biology block is included. There is something about this that makes me feel slightly grubby, the idea that this shortcut carved out by dog walkers, occasional student walkers and cyclists, is now codified by Google. Here, the creation of the path, what Lefebvre might term the representational space of walkers, is captured and made representative space, the preserve of the planners, and no longer lived in the same way. A reterritorialization on behalf of quasi-accuracy.

The third route to/from work heads from my house towards the school but diverges at this point. This is one of several entrances to Walmgate Stray, an area that is also known as Low Moor and is, as far as I’m aware, common land. Last year cattle were a frequent sight on the Stray, and made negotiating a route home slightly trickier. As with the east road route, I am more likely to take this route on my way back from work, rather than on the way there, with the exception of last week when low fog in the morning made the route an obvious choice based exclusively on ‘eerie atmosphere’. The route from work involves crossing the Stray partially on a paved path (where a colleague nearly ran me over on their bike several years ago as we headed to the Fulford Arms pub; again, this was in thick fog) before heading north under the usually heavy arms of trees, the mental hospital playing fields on the right behind a high wall, and the currently fallow allotments on the left, behind a low fence. The route between these two zones climbs gently to a peak which seems to be the highest point for 30 miles. From the top of the hill you can see the White Horse at Kilburn.

Roulston Scar

Last Easter, with snow still on the ground, I walked out to the White Horse along Roulston Scar (accompanied by my wife, and Stokes and Vicky who were visiting; they had brought homemade crème eggs which were the stickiest thing I have ever eaten). The snow was peppered by dog shit, which detracted somewhat from the view across the Vale. Eyes down, not up. You had to pass the gliding club to get out to The Horse. From the viewpoint around about the horses head it was possible to see the Minster through ‘powerful binoculars’. The scar was appropriately windswept, largely barren, but well walked as evidenced by the number of families in the tea room back at the car park. It was also, I learnt afterwards, one of the key sites in the Scottish War for Independence; the location of the Battle of Old Byland, where Edward II was defeated in 1322. The horse itself was carved on to the hill at the request of Thomas Taylor, a local who had seen the Uffington Horse in 1857 and wanted something similar for his village (or so writes Morris Marples in the 40s). None of that Neolithic symbolism for them.

Lamel Hill

The hill I walk across on my way home has something much older underneath it. The University, around July last year, set up a series of walks and talks around the area and fixed info points to walls from which I learnt about some of this. The walks/talks themselves were cancelled due to inclement weather (rain rather than fog). There is a hint of older structures and uses near the high wall, with a series of undulations and mounds that are clearly man made, but then I’m no archaeologist (or, for that matter, much of anything else). More information here I believe.

The hill was used during the Civil War. As the highest point in the area, cannons were positioned to fire in to the walls at Walmgate Bar, which still bears the marks of prolonged attack during the Siege of York. The gun platform was set up in 1644. Prior to that there was a windmill there. Before that, according to excavations done at the site, it was an Anglian cemetery, the 38 inhumations found there facing East-West. My route off the hill takes me back along the path of the birds at midnight. The spectaculars of history – by which I mean that all of history, by codifying its events and its ‘important people’, becomes spectacular regardless of representational accuracy – and the mundane nature of my walk, beneath the flight of a cannonball, interlink. I am, temporally-speaking, unable to escape the territory.

‘In the centre of Times Square a giant saguaro cactus raised its thirty-foot arms into the overheated air, an imposing sentinel guarding the entrance to a desert nature reserve. Clumps of sagebrush hung from the rusting neon signs, as if the whole of Manhattan had been transformed into a set for the ultimate western. Prickly pear flourished in the second-floor windows of banks and finance houses, yucca and mesquite shaded the doorways of airline offices and travel agents.’

Drowned

————————————————————————

Works consulted, in no particular order, include:

Lefebvre, H. 1991. The Production of Space. Wiley-Blackwell.
Marples, M. 1949. White Horses and Other Hill Figures. Sutton Publishing.
Deleuze, G and Guatarri, F.1980. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Vol. 2. Trans. Brian Massumi. Continuum Press.
Ballard, J.G. 1962. The Wind From Nowhere. Penguin Books
Ballard, J.G. 1962. The Drowned World. Berkley Books
Ballard, J.G. 1975. Interview with James Goddard. Available here

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The Quarterly Report

February 15, 2012


PhD update Winter/Spring 2012:

The initial reason this blog was created a few years back was to catalogue what I had been up to in terms of my PhD, but that clearly fell by the wayside in favour of random bits of music and discussions about memory. That’s not really that off topic. Still, I felt that now I am around 18 months in to my PhD (I started in 2009, yes, but was part time for the first year so it only counted as six months – I am temporally confused) I should perhaps write a little something about where I am with it all. Today, I’m going to focus largely on the idea of ‘resistance’, and will expand in later weeks to look at identity (a chapter which I have already written), spatiality (a chapter which I am currently writing) and technology (a chapter which I have not started). I haven’t really begun to discuss resistance in the thesis yet, as it is my final empirical chapter where I hope to link hauntology in to ongoing practices in the wider avant-garde, but I am also considering submitting a paper to conferences based on new (old) forms of resistance, so I’m treating this as a warm up.

The caveat here is that, as ever, it is a work in transition. There is nothing set in stone in terms of the outcome of the research I am doing as I am attempting to offer an emic approach and see how categories and discussions emerge from the swirl rather than imposing my own misunderstanding – this is largely impossible, but I muddle onward.

So originally the title of my thesis was a bit from Hamlet, via Derrida – ‘The Time Is Out Of Joint: Space, Place and Sonic Hauntology’. I thought that sounded cool. However, I have nwo turned it in to something that better reflects the broader themes of the research; although hauntology is being used as a case study, I think what I am trying to explore is the way in which the avant-garde develops its own forms of resistance to predominant cultural forms, and whether or not there is any kind of tangible response to the collapse and reterritorialization of capitalism. Big. The title is now something like ‘The Contemporary Avant-Garde: Identity, Spatiality, Technology and Resistance’, which I think sounds leaner despite being more verbose. Not sure how this works, but it does. Also avoids the Derrida, which is turning out to provide as many insular arguments between audiences as the subcultural theory I’m seeking to avoid…

Speaking of subcultural theory, I’ve been attempting to work out a way to reconfigure the useful parts and throw away the trash, of which there is much. The original raison d’être of subcultural study at the CCCS was the highlighting of marginalised groups, with a definite bias towards The Left (recognisable as it was back then) and I think the move towards the neo-tribalism as forwarded by Andy Bennett, while offering an interesting take on the heterogeny of what are ostensibly becoming virtualized communities, is akin to what Jameson calls ‘the cultural logic of late capitalism’; in this case ‘late’ means ‘dead’. Capitalism is the revenant in this equation – simultaneously the threat of destruction and the salvation from it. How do you attack something like that, which offers via the proliferation of cultural types no in-road for insurgency. Look at the choices, and we can move from place to place without attachment. Neo-tribalism is a boon to capitalism, in the sense that it presents myriad opportunities for branding, re-branding, for cultural co-option (often with the complicity of ‘counter-culture’), with the results being sold to the same people over and over again. This fluidity, while indicative of wider trends in technological dispersal, offers not more freedom but less; as Bauman suggested, the dwindling of the public in favour of increasingly commercialised private space – virtual or non-virtual – traps people in a much more insidious loop of imaginary want fulfilled through consumption and the complete inability to fight. Paralysed by choice. As Lyotard discussed; in critiquing a thing, you become ensnared by it¹. This is the case for Bennett and the application of Maffesoli I think, but there are still nuggets of gold in the shit in terms of Thornton’s tentative discussion on the changing nature of recording technologies and localized time/space events, and Hebdige’s expansion of hegemony in terms of (what was then) a fracturing working class. It’s never as simple as class versus identity creation.

The difficulty here is the alternative. The hegemonic structures suggested first by Hall and then expanded upon by Hebdige in relation specifically to subcultural style are still present, but are now fed by an increasingly complex structure of interrelated technologies and networks. How is this pulled apart and analysed? Can such structures ever offer a means of riposte? This is, I suppose one of the central struggles – one approach is to look to Deleuze. The idea of the contemporary avant-garde could perhaps be conceptualized in relation to the rhizome.

 “A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance.”

This chimes with the notion of relationships to imaginary pasts and unfulfilled futures I think. I should say that rhizomes and neo-tribes are not the same, if the lack of tangibility or rootedness is an issue. Neo-tribes suggest semi-stable cultural entities where the membership is mobile – like viruses moving from host to host. There is still structure there and that structure allows for the subjugation of specific practices and artefacts in to the larger whole of capitalism where they can be repackaged and offered up as ‘new’ again. The final stage in this process is where a fluidic membership moves between different sites of ownership (but I think we’re straying in to discussions of ‘originality’ here, so I will stop immediately). Ultimate commercialisation.

Here is some attempt at describing the rhizome. Think of it in terms of cultural organisation in whatever stage of modernity we might currently be passing through. First up, there is the connectivity of any point to any point. Second up it is composed of numerous dimensions, meaning it is neither one or many (brain churn). Third: its operation through variation, conquest and offshoots – as in botany – instead of simply via reproduction. Number four: it pertains to a modifiable map, infinite  entrances and exits are produced. It is the map rather than the representation. Fifthly, it is acephalous and lastly, it is not amenable to any structural or generative model (Buchanan 2007). Baffling. Numerous possibilities. No tracing. Produce a diagram. There is a David Tudor version later on…

The reason the rhizome is of particular interest is because of its relationship with structures. It has structure, but operates on its own internal logic, improvises (always crucial in avant-garde practice) and throws up new shoots at random – though these are connected to the horizontal world beneath if we use the botanical distinctions for the sake of a certain level of stability. The exciting thing here is that there is no possibility of the rhizomatic culture, movements, whatever you want to call them, being subsumed by capitalism; the lack of origin point, or clearly demarcated conclusion, make this impossible. Capitalism still operates under a fairly simplistic economic logic, regardless of what you think of its pros or cons, and spreads its mutated arms in new directions grasping at innovative technologies to further itself (an aside: I lectured on Social Media and Informatics last week, and presented some of what I’d been looking at albeit in a stupidly remedial way – they were Masters students so big mistake – and I think I came across as little more than some English eccentric who is interested in men making music by pitch shifting the sound of forks. The main application of new technologies in the room was not, as I am using it, to look at new forms of organisation and resistance, but to create more effective ways of trawling the net to target advertising at users) and the continuous engagement with theoretical debate and ahistoricism makes hauntology and the wider avant-garde able to resist this symbiotic feeding that so many others have entered in to. Tiny Mix Tapes offered an example of this spread in to ‘all-realms’ in their review of Paul McCartney’s latest offering. Bloody Starbucks.

So if the rhizome is a way of looking, structurally, at the organisational aspects of cultural practice in this socio-technological epoch, what about the act(s) of resistance. Here, I think that the notion of ligne de fuite may be of use, though jumbled up a bit. Without delving too deeply in to the philosophy of multiplicities, the notion of action based around the leaking and melting of territories, and perhaps their eventual reconstruction elsewhere, is quite appealing, a sort of guerilla attack. Am not sure. Hernandez suggests that ‘the development of the processes of mediatization, migration and commodification which characterise globalized modernity produce a considerable intensification of deterritorialization, understood as a proliferation of translocalized cultural experiences’ which I think I broadly agree with, but I also see this as an opportunity for deterritorialization to be used as a positive force. Deterritorialization as praxis maybe. Please fit Messiaen and birdsong in at this stage. Rhetorical request. Perhaps it is in fact more to do with reterritorialization, or the act of detournement as resistance.

The question here is how/why resistance is approached or codified, and whether or not it is being done consciously – are artists, critics and audiences developing this method of attack liminally, or is it something more overt that is masquerading as the mysterious revenant. More clearly defined, and firmly a part of the avant-garde in terms of his approach to the de-localisation and reconfiguration of sound, is the approach of Matthew Herbert. His talk at Netaudio last year offered up 17 crises for The Left in terms of musical practice – the culmination of which was how modern music served only The Right; think Beyonce performing for Gaddafi. How do you go about changing things? Is some confusing theoretical approach of any use if the goal is to transform understandings of culture in the 21st century?

Derek Bailey was offered as an alternative to the standard mode of commercialisation – his improvised pieces for guitar were an ever-present, existing in one moment and gone the next. The recorded version was never the same, the only version is the one that happened and you missed it.

Bauman’s work on the collapse of the public, as we touched upon towards the beginning, is echoed in Auge’s work on non-places, the commercialised space that is seen as public but is in fact a transitionary arena between sites of consumption; these spaces (airports, shopping malls) are eternally unnerving – see Ballard’s Kingdom Come for a further elaboration – as they are effectively designed to draw us in, but keep us from staying. Move on, nothing to see here. Oh look, an Apple reseller opened over the way.

Can this interpretation of space be used to make a political statement? I thought about this in relation not to the specific non-place that Auge develops, but rather the historical spaces that non-places increasingly destroy in the process of being built. Luton built a shopping centre over the top of a number of older streets, and reminders hover about, not just in the memories of anyone born before the 1970s, but in the spaces I briefly occupied in the past – the Dislocation Festival in the Old Shop. This also brought to mind Janek Schaefer and Chris Watson’s collaboration on Vacant Space, which offers a kind of deterritorialized exploration of the world of the empty – inherently creepy as these are spaces that are supposed to be filled, but again it depends on your outlook on what these spaces are supposed to provide as to how they are meant to be occupied: occupied in the sense of an invading force.

It’s all about the place as you can probably tell…but that’s the exciting part isn’t it – taking a rhizomatic approach where things coalesce and descend out of sight as and when;

This is how it should be done: lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times.³

I Have Been Listening To:

Hanne Hukkelberg – Featherbrain

Ernest Gonzales – Natural Traits

Oren Ambarchi – Audience of One

Windy and Carl – We Will Always Be

Matt Elliott – The Broken Man

That is all for now. Another report in due course. I will come back and see what I can do with this stream of consciousness another day, when my head is not so fuzzed with sleep and vague concerns for the future.

____________________________________

¹Lyotard, J(1988) “Beyond Representation”, in The Lyotard Reader, ed. Andrew Benjamin, Oxford: Basil Blackwell

² Buchanan, I. (2007). Deleuze and the Internet. Australian Humanities Review No. 43

³Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 2004 edition, p. 161

First man on the scene by Ralph Dorey

September 20, 2011

Over the next few months, a guest writer will be offering they’re interpretation of a question I set back before the summer – what do you believe in. First up is Ralph Dorey, who can also be found here and here (or on the right hand links)

First man on the scene:
Therearelimitstowhatweknow,obviously,therearetheknownknowns,
thentheunknownunknowns,
thentheknownunknownsandfinallytheretherearetheunknownknownssssssssssssssssss.

Interviewer: Clearly then, and this is actually a subject on which I’m sure we’d all like to hear a little more, clearly then, there is an actual point of division[1],  between that which we know and the other side of this?

First man on the scene: correct! That is the mark at which we start to think about belief.

Interviewer: Tell us something about belief please, where it goes, what it does?

First man on the scene: Imagine two mountain tops, two peaks each like that of Paramount film studios. These are like words or signs in a sentence, we understand what they mean, they are built up on all the information below them, built up and up and up getting more succinct, narrower and narrower and clearer and clearer until they get to the top; these are our words. In terms of these word mountains belief is dissolved in the space that spans them, or rather a facet of belief is present in that which spans them. Consider Joyce, say, the Oxen of the Sun, we know that the borrowed literary styles which make up that chapter of Ulysses are themselves built upon a foundation of language, of the development of history and language, of the larger context of the book, of the narrative within the book, the operation of the book. However even with all of the knowledge available to us now, contextual and meta-contextual traced forward and back we still do not exhaust the thing known as Oxen of The Sun. Something is left behind in terms of comprehension that is picked up by our understanding.[2]

Interviewer: Something private?

First man on the scene: Yes! And something private from all. It is a negative space, it is the negative space between those mountain tops but that spaces is fuzzy with clouds and trees and bears and snow. We can’t tell what shape it is really, how deep it goes, whether its far away in front of us or some phantasmagoric reflection from a completely unexpected  bearing. That space is uncertain and fluid and yet it defines the mountains and gives form to the things we know.

Interviewer: that space is belief?

First man on the scene: No[3]. Well, in part yes, the space between rationalities is belief. But it is not a hard edged object, it is slippery like wet concrete between your toes, it pools up from where you didn’t believe there was a gap[4]. It is a complicated mathematical shape, like that one that looks like a bong. It is all surface. All over. Which is perhaps why it is impenetrable.

Interviewer: so is belief more or less than this shape? Which contains the other?

First man on the scene: Belief is the means by which we deal with that is on the other side of the known, or rather it is at the edges of the known. That space is like the Zuhandenheit, it resists utterly its own being looked at, poof its gone! However it is very much there, touching effecting and colouring. The fact that we are unable to easily cut it out from the herd does not deny it was there, it simply only exists in that context. There’s that scientific principle that says that by observing the phenomena we are already changing the phenomena, well that seem so obvious to me![5]

Interviewer: please talk about language and art[6]

First man on the scene: I’m hungry! I’m really hungry, I’m going to eat this[7]. Ok?

Interviewer: fine.

First man on the scene: Ok, great. Right. Done. The thing about language is that it’s involved in a reign of tyranny[8] over that shape I was talking about earlier. Language destroys everything, it just tears things down and runs up its own flag, builds a fucking Subway, and an O’Neils and plans everything out like grids. Like something awful like Milton Keynes or Welwyn Garden City[9]. The problem is it dumps this system down that is fiendishly effective, it’s really quick and useful. Like a perfect commodity. In that pretty soon we have no comprehension of how we live prior to it. But actually it’s constructing a massive block between us and this other thing, a big cinematic scene-painters background[10]. Anyway, that’s not the worst of it

Interviewer: really?

First man on the scene: no! The worst thing is we lose the ability to function out side of the streets of the town centre. We can make choices but they are totally limited by and too our vocabulary. When we think we’re engaging with the world we are actually just engaging with all this other stuff and then we are also unable to comprehend the stuff out side of all of that logistics.

Interviewer: this is all sounding rather familiar…

First man on the scene: well yes sure. And that’s fine[11]. Its a fairly old way of thinking now, and that’s fine. The reason I want to talk about it though is in terms of art, like lets talk about this films thats playing on that tv, I know its on mute but we can just deal with it in terms of the imagery, or rather our perception of and experience of that imagery, that visual imagery.

Interviewer: its a good film, I think I’ve seen it before, is that Charles Dance[12]?

First Man on The Scene: I think it’s Robert Duval[13], maybe, not sure, that’s a big hat he’s wearing! Anyway, what I want to say is that our perception of things like art has become infested with the future. We engage with this thing but we now can’t help tracking forward in time to our relaying of our experience to someone, not even a specific someone, but it has become part of our machinery of experience. We examine something by wondering “what can I say about this?”. However, this is really limiting our ability to engage in the moment at all, which in the part was something art was able to make us do.

Interviewer: Let me read this note that you have just passed to me “I thought Brecht did away with all that! Confront the oppressive reality! And that’s why we have films that are entirely concerns with the forth wall, it is not theatre at all it is just post-its on your fridge![14] Like a modern comedy or something! What do you have to say about that?”

First man on the scene: Well Modernism as a whole did move to get rid of that sort of Body-Snatcher Enchantment, that loss of self[15] and submission. Well, its more accurate to say that the manner in which the big bangs of Modernism have now been assimilated in the establishment has made the story one of engagement with the “oppressive reality”, as you called it, rather than a submission to it[16]. However, that’s not really what happened, because Modernism often (and not always, and this is mostly because of the way it has been assimilated, re-written to make all kind of things fit under one slogan, and that in itself is a perfect example of the violent tyranny of language but I digress too far within these curved brackets I now call my home) made politics an appeal to the real, forget history, sever the line, let us deal with truth. However that truth was never ever pure, it was nowhere near, it was always someone’s truth, someone’s voice of authority, the scientist’s truth frequently[17], but others too. This truth was always built on all kinds of politics itself, all kinds of inter relations, all agreement of units of measure, what to exclude, what to keep[18], secret meetings and secret mediations. The whole thing was totally fucking corrupt almost at birth, in part as it was transformed into another part of the progression, another commodity, another rococo ceramic raccoon in a fez.

Interviewer: the wheels are starting to fall off again aren’t they?

First man on the scene: maybe, I’m getting hungry again[19] but there’s none of that left. I’ll just carry on. I think the film is about to finish, Ed Harris has taken his hat off so this must be  the final moral resolution of the story. Right, yes, anyway. Rococo Raccoon. The false engagement with concrete truth which Modernism presented to the world actually knocked our ability to engage pretty hard when it was all pulled back into the canon a couple hundred meters down the road.[20] We’ve got into this thing with art of taking it to pieces that we can stick a word on top of while we are looking at it, we’ve got into a habit of only really engaging with every forth lump which happens to be able to form a word. Just as the observer messing up what he observes[21], we are like the slow court secretary ignoring exhibits b and c while he writes up exhibit a. We built up a house on a foundation we then debunked and now we’re left with nowhere to live! So we’re just going round describing things, I guess this comes from the fact that all we can be sure about is that we think we saw it, so that’s all we’re logging in our brains! Anyway, this has awful results in art because it has become like pitching an awful movie, the actual content[22] hardly matters at all, all that matters is that you can say you did it, and that other people can say they saw it. The easier to describe the better!

Interviewer: I actually only came by to watch this film about the man in the big hat, so I’d like to start wrapping this interview up now if you don’t mind, can we bring it back to finish on the subject of belief, somewhere around the 5800 word mark would be good, that seems committed and thoughtful without being sad and eager.

First man on the scene: Ok, um, belief. Right, what I’m trying to say is that part of this thing which we access through belief, this shape on the other side of comprehension, but still within understanding, is being lost. We can’t nail it down so we can’t get credit for making it very easily in a society that feels it can’t get credit for having noticed it! We still want empirical facts even though we’ve been talking for about 40 years now about how there aren’t any that aren’t tinged with all sorts of prejudices and axe-grinding inflections. So that dumb experience of something, that shape that one can only believe in, is getting really lost and we’re back at some hyper-comodified hypo-sensitive works which are effectively a page filled with tiny numbers which refer to footnotes somewhere else! It’s obviously naive to ask for more naivety, and I don’t that’s actually what I’m after. The space between the mountains requires unstable instruments of destructive, generative and organic power to be used. Fractals can appear as a plane and then be examined but in being so they cease to be fractal[23]. You have to ride up alongside and take into account your own movement, your own growth, your own becoming. It is a fiction and incomprehensible. When we act in response to something we should remember that our action is a creative rather than enveloping one.

Ralph Dorey 23rd August 2011


[1] There is not an “actual point of division” where belief begins, as clearly a level of belief is required in all knowledge. What is perhaps being described here is a point beyond what can be reasoned, however this remains unclear at this time, 15th August 2011.

[2] Jonathan MacCalmont’s post on the publication of Cyclonopedia by Reza Negarestani could be of use here. http://ruthlessculture.com/2011/04/01/cyclonopedia-2008-by-reza-negarestani-madnesstheorytruthnonsense/ accessed Sunday 31st July 2011. However I think the form of MacCalmont’s response at times stunts its capacity to fully negotiate the terrain it is examining. Cyclonopedia operates in a manner which fluctuates between the interpretable and the comprehensive, meaning that to approach this text by means of dissection will be thwarted at points by threads and lumps which reacted, collapse and disapear under such instruments.The manner of reading such a text should be protean as that of its making where hermeneutic analysis is a sub-division of the approach along with methods of divination and extraction. MacCalmont is indeed correct in his allusions to Foucault however, as such a text as Cyclonopedia not only sends to the surface the unrealiable voice of the writer but also, through its fracture, celebrates the unreliable reader. Our interpretations are just as broken and just as likely to crawl across the pages as those of Negarestani, it is required that we stray.

[3] This space itself is not belief but, being on the other side of readily confirmable and reasoned knowledge belief is required to deal with it. Throughout this text the term belief will refer to the manner in which we manoeuvre around things which empirical knowledge is not able to pin down, within the solution of belief is another semi-dissolved material which we-shall call doctrine, and clumsily label as “belief which is prescribed fully formed to us by another and less subject to change by our own experience without permission from this other”. This is essentially “remote belief” in that it transplants experience of these unknowns onto another perception rather than our own.

[4] It is a fractures network of process and the intangible. The unknown creatures in the shadows eating things and playing drums.

[5] There is nothing particularly wrong with stomping your big feet through the marshland when you try to look at the wading birds and neither is there much wrong with buzzing the villagers rooftops with your helicopter as you attempt to film them. In fact I would argue that is by far preferable to examine the state of your subject’s being which consists of their reaction to you. You can then speculate with extremely visible personal prejudice about what might be happening, what should be happening and what is at risk of happening both there and anywhere else in the world at that time and leave your findings in whatever manner and whatever fashion you see fit. Sneaking about and then laying things out neatly is simply attempting to cover up your own failed understanding (which paradoxically is a perfectly rational manner and fashion to approach the project if you so choose) and we will be judging you just as we judge your actions and your findings.

Consider also this;

“When scientists use their instruments to try and pin down a subatomic phenomenon, their intrusion transforms it. ‘The quantum void is the opposite of nothingness: far from being passive or inert, it contains in a dimension of potential all possible particles.‘ Scientific perception actualises a virtual particle. It changes the mode of reality of its ‘object’, bringing into being one of the states the quantum phenomenon holds in virtuality” Massumi, B. A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari Cambridge Massachusetts: The MIT PRESS, 1992.

[6] I wrote this before, it should go here:

[Fade up to:]

man kneading bread on a board, dark tanned hands on white dough containing seeds and flakes of barley. when the man pulls the bread toward him the board slides too so that when he pushes it forward again it sometimes bangs against the tiles at the back of the kitchen counter.

[Voice over, female, late teens:]

Philosophy, in its longing to rationalise, formalise, define, delimit, to terminate enigma and uncertainty, to co-operate wholeheartedly with the police, is nihilistic in the ultimate sense that is strives for the immobile perfection of death. But creativity cannot be brought to an end that is compatible with power, for unless life is extinguished, control must inevitably break down. We posses art lest we perish of the truth.

[Man stops kneading bread, fade to black:]

[Sounds of wind and birds. Cut to close up of spout of kettle. Voice over continues:]

The words make the man. One cannot see through them to the character underneath; there is no underneath. Or, to return to the metaphor, one cannot chop down the trees to find the wood; the trees are the wood.

[Kettle boils and whistles. a hand enters shot to flip the whistle from the spout. Fade to black:]

[7] “One temptation s to try and ingest all of reality into a system of thought, to eat it all to, to penetrate and possess it. This is what Hegel and the Marquis de Sade have in common: the desire to assimilate all reality to the subject through the power and the Concept […] The other option is to let things happen, to letter matter matter […] this is, for us, the essence of poetry […]of trying (and failing) to speak about the thing itself and not just about ideas about the thing[…]. In a sense, and this is the point that Blanchot makes so powerfully, all art and literature is divided between these two temptations: either to extinguish matter and elevate it into form or to let matter matter by making form as formless as possible. The INS delivers itself solidly to the second temptation: to let matter matter, to let form touch absence, ellipsis and debris. Like Flaubert at the end of The Temptation of St. Antony, who says he wants to, ‘…flow like water, vibrate like sound, gleam like light, to curl myself up into every shape, to penetrate each atom, to get down to the depth of matter – to be matter’” The International Necronautical Society “Tate Declaration of Inauthenticityin Nicolas Bourriard, Ed., Altermodern London: Tate Publishing. 2009.

“Every object populating the world encounters millions of other objects at any given moment, each responding to it in its own way, none of them ever fully sounding its depths. […] Whereas Heideggerians hold that the usefulness of objects for humans precedes their independent reality, it is clearly the reverse. The point of the tool-analysis is that reality always runs deeper than any objectification. […] The substance of a thing, whatever it is, must precede its functional form, since the thing is never exhausted by all that does, and since it can support several useages at the same time. […] if we define it along the lines of the tool-analysis, a substance is simply the unknown reality of a thing that resists being exhausted by any perceptions of it or relations with it. […] Any relation forms a kind of new reality which could represent a kind of inscrutable substance viewed indifferent ways by numerous other realities.” Harman, Graham “The Revival of Metaphysics in Continental Philosophy”  in Towards Speculative Realism Essays and Lectures. Winchester: Zero Books. 2010.

Matter is always partially unknowable, or at least untraceable, unpronounceable and inexplicable. Matter is the stuff from which the creative act is wrought and is indeed the creative act. Like the lower part of Hemmingway’s iceberg it remains hidden but its weight, its bulk and its process are inseparable from the actions of the upper part, the visible part, and from the ocean in which we bob, the craft in which we shall run aground upon it and the fish which must circumnavigate it to nibble our toes. The INS would hold that the failure to know the iceberg is what art is about and this is at least partially what I believe. Graham Harman would propose that the iceberg is more than our experience of it combined with that of all those birds and protons and fallen satellite parts which engage with it and I am loathed to disagree with this either. I would add though that failure is not the ends but part of the means and really by the by. The point is not to (fail to) map all terrain for future travellers but to cut a path, whether old or new engages with this terrain and let this be found along with your notes on what you saw and thought and thought you saw while you were there. Success is death, infinity and nothing. Failure is the arrival at somewhere else entirely.

[8] Some quotes by Maurice Blanchot and Jacques Lacan should really go here, but it doesn’t really seem appropriate so you the reader should find your own.

[9] Welwyn Garden City is a binary flickering of certainty and uncertainty, speed up slow down, pull round the corner and suddenly all systems seem to flutter at the edges. So sure that I was moving the right way, in correct manner; and now the oversoften supportarch has been pulled from me and my crib and I could be driving on the pavement with the girls or walking in a fountain, must stop and evaluate (though nagging thought that this is the worst thing to do, hold up cars and people, to be unsure and dither) all; Bloqbusters; Cozta, inch forward, righturn arrowright pullpull out and over and stärtergøen.

[10] It is not too far or crass a leap to now look to Nick Land’s proposition that “the third world as a whole is the product of a successful – although piecemeal and largely unconscious – ‘bantustan’ policy on the part of the global Kapital metropolis”. The important comparison being that the establishment of language is such that it already contains a colaring process that will pre-empt all attempts to circumvent it from with its own structure. Returning again to Land “Any attempt by political forces in the Third World to resolve the problems of the neo-colonial integration on the basis of national sovereignty is as naive as would be any attempt of black South Africans if the opted for a ‘bantustan’ solution to their particular politico-economic dilemma”. Land, Nick “Kant, Capital and The Prohibition of Incest” in Robin Mackay & Ray Brassier Eds., Nick Land Fanged Noumena Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 Falmouth: Urbanomic 2011.

Language’s map covers the ground to all horizons a way under it will not be found simply by more travelling. It can however be broken, cracked, purchase acquired and its very substance made visible as was an aim of Modernist literature itself.

[11] I’m dredging up these old armatures because the lumps which they initially dealt with has also bobbed up from the bottom of the river again, albeit in a slightly grown and mutated form. As I am writing this violence is blooming across London and other urban areas throughout the country and this violence has focused most prominently on acquisition of commodities. It is in the light of fires at furniture stores and the faces people with armfuls of electrical equipment and Tesco-Value rice that a cultural of acquisition is most strongly illuminated. Riots and looting seem to push acquisition to a point of extreme abstraction, but really we were already there. The streets are not full of naked people stealing clothes and I assume that most stealing food are not starving, in fact I doubt many walking off with televisions do not already posses one (though perhaps not as good) already. An 11 year old boy who was caught with a £50 rubbish bin has made the news frequently as the youngest (so far) to be prosecuted. We must wonder if he still would have been carrying this object 20 minutes later, or whether it would have found itself amongst the thousand of articles littering the streets, bait for the wonderful legal invention of “theft by finding”? The point in the looting seems to be about the taking, not the having. Taking is a dimensionless space between the hard edges of the future and the past, and it is exactly what our Capitalist society is driven by, the need for the unattainable, the crossed out thing between what you want and what you have. People are stealing luxury articles, and we could be forgiven for citing their high value for this, but remember than in a situation such as this, the depreciation of value is huge, (these items could not be any hotter!) and who would buy anything in the midst of a looting spree? No, the situation is itself more abstract, it’s the surpass value, the cultural value, the unreal value of points that count here. Like the shopping zombies in Romero’s Dawn of The Dead people are performing an action that is really no less or more meaningless than it was before. The site of value in society has been on the unapproachable point of acquisition, to get the new thing, that transition from the object of desire to the deterioration badge of shame (the past), this has been the goal, so when an opportunity to achieve this goal over and over again, with hundreds of others at your side as appeared, quite a lot have been unable to resist. The emptiness of this action (there is nothing in that gap) is perhaps a cause of the event’s frenzy and the capacity for people to transgress accepted rules of behaviour. Acquisition is empty, and therefor it is unreal. It is like a dream where you (repeatedly) reach out for the object and never seem to actually touch it, yet this absence is what we are focused on when we buy and re-buy and upgrade and renew. Everything else retreats into the background, the marker of the future acquisition and the record of the past acquisition have faded. We can see how the currency transference of money (acquired through the sale of labour) to simple labour (lift, thrown, reach, grab, run) could be a relatively minor detail.

[12] Charles Dance is always your father.

[13] The Lionised ideal of the cowboy, old for all time, never young (same as Clint) and always knowing the land (unwavering in that knowledge, Duvall does not play men who are public questioning themselves, Tom Hagen was a born a Lawyer, that’s why the Corleones adopted him in the first place) always meeting a tragic end which is so dusty and Romantic. The first Lonesome Dove movie, then as if Augustus had never died he pulls himself out from his grave to return in Broken Trail. Duvall is the cowboy, pulled up from the gutter year after year, older, drunker, syphilitically noseless and walking like a stiff crab. We see his next stumble of America’s self-flagelation as the old (but not so old) man at the end of The Road, there will surely be more and more, just a squinting eyeball and moustache on a bed of sand in Nevada inexplicably tying a hackamore.

[14] I could have had a nightmare in which, as I tried to leave my house I was endlessly pulling post-its off the fridge with reminders of things to do and all I could do was keep trying to hold these things, putting them on the back of my hand and then up my arm and on my head covering my entire body with shopping lists and plumbers phone-numbers and my entire life passed in it’s own ante-chamber as I lay trapped on the linoleum like a yellow yeti.

[15] Is it loss of self, is that what Modernism is (now, as it stands, as we re-configure the past through our very looking at it)? Is it the opposite? I really don’t know, but I’m inclined to lean toward the answer that it is neither and more a denial of Idealism, an engagement with the animal now (then) and tower built with a hard lines and poetry and an implied Nietzchean Perspectivism. Robert Smithson’s work was and is a churning, haunting gnashing hybrid of the one and the universal, of the local and the distant and bound up charnel rags of petty and international events and the smashed carcass of the man who mainly made them. Think about Renée Green‘s reassembled narrative on Smithson, “Screen A: He was born in 1936. Her mother was born in 1934. Often when you read about his work you can’t escape the importance of his death:” Renée Green, Partially Buried. Version B: Reading Script (1999) (Adapted from Partially Buried. Version A: Reading Script, 1996); in Renée Green: Shadows and Signals (Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 2000) 65-72; (reprinted in October, no. 80 Spring 1997) 29-56; reprinted in Lisa Le Feuvre Ed., Failure. London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2010.

However something important that Modernism stood for was the striving to be righteous without being fascist, to be triumphant, without being prescriptive, simply defending the earth. This is the germ within the grand narratives which themselves fell but this germ goes back to our primeval metaphysic, “how can we do well? How can we be righteous?”. History has written that Modernism’s dream was to find the way and tell all about it, colonies terrain and minds and get it solved, PROGRESS, ONWARD, but when we look we see a lot of individuals tugged by the threads of their time but really turning away from them. The grand narratives are the preserve of the narrators at their mistaken understanding of the timeless, they are clumsy tools, monoliths which could not even accommodate the disturbances they themselves brought about let along the swirling mass that spun the coordinates around them. To be timeless is to be in continual renewal, the only thing that lives on is that germ, “I must do it right”.

[16] But this isn’t the case at all, the errands that we are sent on by the hyper-textual (the so-almost-contemporaneous references) do not take us the real at all, just a another shop in the same shopping centre. I saw some court evidence, the bag of meaningless objects had a label on it with writing that looked like this: “Exhibit F. Notes: “the references are almost exclusively to other cultural simulacra, not the feel of the seats in the cinema or the weather today”

[17]“Why should we be cowed by scientists’ descriptions of their activity and accomplishments; they and their patrons have stakes in throwing sand in our eyes. They tell parables about objectivity and scientific method to students in the first years of their initiation, but no practitioner of the high scientific arts would be caught dead acting on the textbook versions…Feminists don’t need a doctrine of objectivity that promises transcendence, a story that loses track of its mediations just where someone might be held responsible for something, and unlimited instrumental power. We don’t want a theory of innocent powers to represent the world, where language and bodies both fall into the bliss of organic symbiosis. We also don’t want to theorize the world, much less act within it, in terms of Global Systems, but we do need an earth-wide network of connections, including the ability partially to translate knowledge among very different – and very power-differentiated – communities.” Haraway, Donna “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective” in Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn 1988), pp. 575-599. College Park, Maryland: Feminist Studies Inc. 1988.

[18] “If science is based not on ideas but on practice, if it is located not outside but inside the transparent chamber of the air pump, and it it takes place within the private space of the experimental community, how does it reach ‘everywhere’?[…] The Answer is it never becomes universal – not, at least, in the epistemologists’ terms! Its network is extended and stabilized.” Latour, Bruno, We Have Never Been Modern,  pp. 24 Harlow: Pearson Education. 1991.

[19]Abstract vacuum, what is missing? Drive, will. I Hunger. I Hunger. I hunger.

[20] It is not art that is dangerous here, rather the normalising effect of assimilation which has become what art is all about. The arrival of artist’s studios in an area marks the beginning of the end for local residents (though not all property owners) through gentrification (patronising, self-fulfilling engagements with the community / public art works being some of its strongest weapons for destroying said community) and the construction of a second-social-strata which will strangle and replace what is present. Similarly, art assimilates and neuters concepts which it encounters by reducing them to straw dogs in its own games (it just eats). The Fine Arts are on one level driven entirely by commerce, which sometimes takes the form of monetary capital (the selling of work’s, the commissioning of new works) or an alternative capital such as sociapolitical power (the strategic use of more bankable, more established artists to raise the profile of a project for example) or indeed entire armatures established for the purposes of raising the value of this market (temporary events, print media, spectacles of all kinds). The artist’s stock market is based entirely on commerce even when none is changing hands, with all involved seeking to raise their own “worth” through successful manipulation of events. This is not to say, that good art, good people and good things are not possible! However, the primary drive of events is the levering up of value, whether by skill, artistry, deception or good will. When it comes to new ideas which on the surface appear to disrupt this they are simply brought into the art discourse of an aestheticism of both form and concepts. It just eats. It never changes.

Also see this:

“I am very dubious that art (or maybe I mean artists?) should play a part in these schemes, what gets called regeneration is very often gentrification thinly veiled. The participatory nature of many art projects seems to imply consent from those taking part in the agenda of the scheme as a whole. Art operating in this arena can be seen as providing a cultural rubber stamp for what is simply a land grab on the part of private developers.” Robin Bale in internet debate The Regeneration Olympics http://www.axisweb.org/dlForum.aspx?ESSAYID=18059 accessed 23rd August 2011.

[21] Oh Clever Hans, the cold reading horse who no-one could fail to believe in made clear our inability to distance ourselves, to produce even the most modest of pure fact-nugget.

[22] not content like “content/expression” or even like Susan Sontag’s content in Against Interpretation (though close) but more like the filling of a pie.

[23] Just as the darkness and space of the Navidson House’s labyrinth ( see Mark Z. Danielewski’s 2000 novel House of Leaves) can be lit and photographed only to be instantly obliterated by this act of recording through illumination and framing. Not to mention the obliteration of all sense data other than (an approximate representation of) the visual.


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