News | Year: 2008

21 Nov 2008
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In line with the recent calls for a speculative realist politics / economics and also in order to momentarily abandon the tradition of writing witless pedantic posts, I am starting to compile a list of movies and books (mostly fiction) which can be used in possible future discussions such as this one. Although, these titles – in their entirety – might not essentially project the philosophy of speculative realism, they can be associated to variations of speculative realist scenarios. The list can also be used for any offshoot projects regarding post-apocalyptic scenarios, Xenoeconomics, Cthulhoid ethics and non-subjective models of complicity. Anyone is more than welcome to add to this list with a few lines (if possible) explaining the reason why it should be added.

Movies (in no particular order):

* Carnival of Souls (escaping from the specter not by mourning or submission to the priority of the living over the dead but by becoming disillusioned about the assumed position of the living in regard to its necessity: that living is already-dead, weird vs. hauntology)
* John Carpenter’s The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness
* Michael Haneke’s Wolfzeit

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* Russian Necrorealist science-fiction esp. Yevgeny Yufit’s speculative evolution trilogy in which human evolution is explained by the blindest and the most vacuous inorganic complicities (Bipedalism, Silver Heads and Killed by Lightening)

Some of the titles from the French cinematic movement stupidly dubbed New French Extremity:

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* Bruno Dumont’s After-human trilogy (L’humanité, Twentynine Palms, Flanders): the concept of after-human contra the pseudo-vitalistic posthuman, death of desire, complete eradication of behavioral ration, non-existentialist recourse to the void.
* Leos Carax’s Pola X (connecting Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle and its speculative moves regarding the awakening of the inorganic through organic representation to Melville’s post-apocalyptic story Pierre: or The Ambiguities)
* Marina de Van’s In my Skin (inevitable unbinding of destrudo caused by external capitalist / consumerist meltdown).

Fiction:

* Thomas Ligotti esp. The Shadow at the Bottom of the World and Crampton
* H.P. Lovecraft
* Thomas Bernhard
* Michel Houellebecq
* Pierre Guyotat (check Schoolboy Error’s posts on Guyotat)
* Some of the post-apocalyptic fictions of the Bizarro movement: ex. Extinction Journals by Jeremy Robert Johnson.

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17 Nov 2008

For those who happen to be in London on November 26. Geoff Manaugh of the amazing BLDGBLOG together with Antoine Bousquet of Birkbeck College will present a public lecture on ‘Feral Cities‘. Manaugh’s lecture will be an analysis on ‘cities gone wild’; I encourage people who are interested in BLDGBLOG and Manaugh’s fascinating researches regarding architecture, science fiction and geopolytics to attend this lecture. Manaugh will also discuss his topics through references to J. G. Ballard and Cyclonopedia.

30 Oct 2008

The peer-reviewed journal Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary is now accepting proposals for a themed issue on Black Metal to be published in the fall of 2012. Nicola Masciandaro and I will edit this issue collectively. The Call for Papers is available as a printable PDF and in the body of this post as an html. We decided to compose a rather explicative cfp to pave the road for more ideas and speculations regarding Black Metal.
[Personal note:] One of the dominant trends in music commentary is to mercifully absolve the musical subject from its blemishes, defects and problems. In this fashionable approach, hip hop music, for example, is purified from the hustler lifestyle which sometimes accompanies it. In a similar way, there is a tendency to rescue zeuhl at all costs from some of its ties with orchestral hegemonies. I have noticed this absolving / purifying tendency even in some of the best musical analyses I have come across (Ray Brassier’s essay on noise is one example). I personally think this absolving approach misconstrues Black Metal which actually draws its power from the speculative opportunities of the problematic.

(more…)

28 Oct 2008

Lately, I have been following this excellent blog. I especially recommend the new posts on xenoeconomic and anti-haunt. For now, a few perfunctory remarks on the haunt since this blog has posted a few related texts in the past. This is also a provisional response to this call. And finally it includes some thoughts on Meillassoux’s essay in Collapse IV, Spectral Dilemma. There is no need to say that this is far from complete or even satisfactory because its mere purpose is to stir some thoughts.

It seems that the problem of hauntology is inherent to any ontological system built on the primacy of intelligibility of being, persistence (continuation of being as such) and above all the possibility of determination of being in terms of being and only being. The influence of the specter over the living (the haunt) and the supposedly necessary negative binding of the specter by the living (mourning) suggest a process of negative binding of belonging qua dead whereby the living / being can determine itself and correlate itself to an ideality of some sort (the intelligibility, the possibility of determination of being qua being, the One, vitalism, etc.) To put it differently, only by binding the dead as a negative agency can the living establish its myth of inherent persistence, intelligibility and difference or determination as such. As argued in Collapse IV (The Corpse Bride) and else where, the binding of belonging qua dead, or more accurately, the influence of the haunting specter is necessary in order to transform the nomos of the dead into the nous of the living. The haunt demarcates the extensive or outward bond between the living and the dead. We know that such a bond extending outwardly from the living to the dead and from the dead back to the living suggests a contingent realm since it is established outside of the (supposed) ideal necessity of the living. We also know that ‘determination of being as such’ must unilateralize its distinction (or living as a difference in itself) both intensively and extensively, in regard to itself as an ideal possibility (qua being) and in regard to the undetermined qua the realm of the dead. It is the necessity of the latter (i.e. the determination of being against the undetermined or that which does not belong to the living) that makes hauntology inherent to the possibility of determination of being as such. In other words, determination of being / the living can only ground its ideal status by instrumentalizing the contingent bond with belonging qua dead. This instrumental binding of the dead (explicated by Aristotle for the first time) is comprised of the two fundamental aspects of hauntology:

First, it is the haunt or the negative binding of contingency. It imports the dead as a belonging or negative agency capable of supporting the intensive determination of the living (living as a difference in itself) independent of the contingent outside or the realm of the dead. To put it succinctly, contingency of the outside is bound negatively so as to support the positive necessity of the living according to its own terms i.e. determination of the living as such. The haunt allows the contingent indeterminate (or the dead) to return to and influence the living only as a negative or subtractive support. Why? Because this machinery of subtraction is capable of conserving an inner part in the form of an ideal necessity (being qua being) by instrumentalizing the negation or subtraction of belonging. In fact, whenever negation or subtractive employment of non-belonging (i.e. the universal principle of negativity) is factored in as an extensive (outward) vector, it can be indexed by an ideal necessity from within (i.e. intensive grounding of a precarious ideal). In ontological systems, this ideal is usually vitalism, difference in itself, the One or the nous. [1]

The second elemental aspect of hauntology is mourning. Mourning correlates the implicit affirmation of the possibility of ‘the living as a difference in itself’ with the explicit ‘declaration of the haunt as a negative agency’. This correlation is at the same time a utilitarian bond between the living and the dead and a pre-established correlation as in correlationism (Meillassoux). As a utilitarian bond between the dead and the living, the act of mourning puts the dead into the service of the living so as to get rid of the vengeful dead (subtracting belonging qua dead) and rescue the intensive determination of the living. The rescuing mission of mourning makes the living independent of the dead (i.e. it supports the unilateral distinction of being as an ontological necessity). The utilitarian bond that mourning establishes subtracts the dead only to conserve an inner part or a remainder qua living. On the other hand, mourning is posited on a supposedly inherent interrelation between the living and the dead wherein neither the dead nor the living can act or be faced independently. That means the dead and the living are always taken as a wedded couple for which the determination of one always rests upon the givenness of the other. Mourning emphatically reinscribes the givenness of correlation (between the living and the dead, the contingent outside qua undetermined and the determinable necessity of being / the living). What is mourned is not the specter of the lingering dead but the correlation of the living with the dead constructed on the presumption that the contingency of the outside or the indeterminable realm of the dead can be accessed by the living. Mourning is the correlationism between a self-posited ontological necessity (the living) and the contingency of the outside (the world of the dead as that which does not belong to the living), between X and not-X. For this reason, I think Quentin Meillassoux’s speculative solution to the “spectral dilemma” of atheism and religion which proposes an “essential mourning” (in accordance with the thesis of divine inexistence) is heavily reliant on a twisted form of correlationism. This of course, by no means, can serve as evidence that Meillassoux’s ethico-political move in Spectral Dilemma is doomed to fall into the trap of correlationism. It rather attests to the vulnerability of hauntology and its innately non-speculative solutions restrained by the correlationist nature of the haunt and mourning.

Hanutology, to this extent, firstly adheres to a shady vitalism in which the binding of the dead and its influence as a negative agency implicitly contributes to the intensive determination of being qua ideal (i.e. being in terms of itself or the intelligible). Hauntology, at least subtractively, supports the possibility of determination of being as such (the living as a difference in itself). The problem is not only that for hauntology, the living or ontological necessity as an Ideal is always given but that vitalism of the living can also employ hauntological solutions or the politics of the haunt to negatively underpin its so-called intensive necessity, proving itself to be alive. Ironically, hauntology is the speculative solution of vitalism for withstanding the absolute contingency of the void qua non-belonging. Through hauntology, vitalism is able to establish an instrumental affect with belonging qua dead. The haunt (or the traumatic influence of the dead over the living) is an inevitable consequence of such an instrumental affect determined by the vitalistic ideal. If hauntology is so decisive in determination of vitalism, then no wonder why hauntology offers speculative means of survival to the more resilient forms of capitalism hidden behind shady doctrines of vitalism.

In addition to its clandestine alliance with vitalism, hauntology is essentially constructed on a correlationist assumption that there is a given interrelation between the dead and the living, the contingency of the outside and the ontological necessity subsumed with being or the living. By means of such correlation, the dead and the living can affect each other, access each other’s realms so that the nomos of the dead be utilized on behalf of the nous of the living. The resolving capacity of mourning in rescuing the living from the haunting memory of the dead (as proposed by Meillassoux) is precisely the result of the correlationist nature of mourning which can capture the dead and the living in regard to each other.

Now that hauntology seems to be a surreptitious enforcer of vitalism and an acolyte of correlationism, then how can we rescue Meillassoux’s speculative solution in Spectral Dilemma?

One possible solution requires a sabotage against determination of being as such (difference in itself subsumed within being or the living). This solution can force the vitalistic implications of hauntology to shatter in a way that the correlationist foundation of hauntology begins to falter. Such solution entails a resurgence of the void within the ontological principle as a constitutional primacy. In my contribution to Collapse IV, I argued that in order for being to establish an intensive zone of determination for itself, first of all, it must affirm the primacy of the void qua the principle of non-belonging. Without such intensive determination, the living cannot distinguish itself against the dead and won’t be able to secure an ideal ontological necessity for its positioning. Yet securing such an intensive zone for the effectuation of being qua being (being in remaining in terms of being and only being) is not possible without affirming the void in its simultaneous primacy and exteriority. This means that the explicit determination of being as such (the vitalistic doctrine of the living as a difference in itself) is implicitly determined by the void (or the principle of non-belonging). It is the necessary intervention of the void that makes the living possible but only at the cost of becoming already-dead. The internalization of the void or the principle of non-belonging is required to shed belongings so as to reclaim the living by and according to itself. This necessity precedes the ontological necessity of the living. The necessity of void’s intervention renders the living already-dead, for the living (X) is not extensively determined by that which does not belong to it (not-X) but by the very principle of non-belonging that allows such negation, that is to say, the void as that for which mobilization of belonging in any form is impossible. It is this direct encounter with the radical exteriority of the void (radical since such exteriority belongs to no one) that continues the legacy of the already-dead under the heading of the living. The already-dead suggests a twist from a vitalist correlation between the living and its ideal necessity toward a problematic intimacy between the living and the void. The intimacy with the void guarantees the establishment of an intensive zone required for hosting the ideal necessity of the living. This is another way to say, that the intimacy with the void is prerequisite for the vitalistic correlation between the living and its ideal necessity and that the latter is problematically founded on internalization of the void. Accordingly, in conforming to its vitalistic intention, determination of being as such twists back to its problematic intimacy with the void qua the principle of non-belonging. Therefore, a solution for saving Meillassoux’s spectral thesis can be found in problematizing the intensive correlation between the living and its given ontological necessity by factoring in the internal intimacy of the living with the void. This means that the living is the condition of a new problem – that is the living as already-dead. Such problematization of the living nullifies the hauntological correlation between the dead and the living by supplanting the latter with the already-dead. Only once the living is counted or exposed as already-dead can the correlation between the dead and the living be dispossessed of its instrumental capacity. The nature of such correlation we argued implicitly contributes to the vitalism of the living and the givenness of its ontological status (the Ideal).

The living qua already-dead is a problematic agency since its correlation with its ideal necessity (being qua being, the intellect or intensive vitalism) only demonstrates the twist inherent to the intimacy with the void as a principle necessity. It is by bringing about the speculative possibilities of the living as already-dead or unbinding the twisted intimacy of the living with the void that hauntology can be twisted into a non-correlationist and anti-vitalist solution or genre. In hauntology, the given correlation between the living and the dead turns the nomos of the dead to the nous of the living; for capitalism, however, it is the contingency of the outside that is subtractively transformed to the intensive necessity of capitalism so as to both extend capitalism to an afforded outside and affirm the existence of capitalism as a necessity. Yet by twisting the intensive correlation of the living with its ideal necessity toward a problematic intimacy with the void and explicating the living under the heading of the already-dead, it is possible to truly foray into the realm of the speculative.

To conclude: The unraveling of the problem of determination of being as such (posed by Deleuze in Difference and Repetition and to some extent in The Logic of Sense) can only gain a true speculative capacity once we factor in the implicit determination of being by the principle of non-belonging qua the void. This speculative move can be recapitulated as ex-plicating the living as the already-dead. Faced with the already-dead, hauntology cannot pit the dead against the living in a vitalistic fashion anymore. Since from this point, the dead and the living (qua already-dead) only bespeak of different modes in mobilizing or employing the principle of non-belonging, that is to say, they only suggest two instances of intimacy with the void as a non-ideatable exteriority.

It was digressively discussed on this blog, that the already-dead is not hauntological but weird. The contact between the dead and the already-dead does not belong to the spectral affects of hauntology but to the speculative territories of the weird. This can be exemplified in the incommensurability between the ghost stories of M.R. James and the fiction of Thomas Ligotti, or between the seemingly sinister hauntology of The Ring and the already-dead universe of The Carnival of Souls where the weird is ensued by pitting the dead against the already-dead. So in order to bring Meillassoux’s thesis back to the speculative track, first his hauntological solution must be rigorously reformulated with a non-vitalistic determination of the living and outside of a correlationist framework. This can constitute tweaking Meillassoux’s mourning solution which is inevitably hauntological and consequently built on an extraneously ideal situation (the possibility of determination of living) with Brassier à la Ligotti’s nihilism of the living qua already-dead.

[1] The fact that negation is mostly effectuated extensively (rather than intensively) makes negative resistance a very delicate matter, because it can instrumentally contribute to or affirm determination of a pre-established ideal. Contra Zizek’s reckless negationalism (zombified negativity), negation must be extricated from its instrumental extensity whereby the contingency of the outside is subtractively put into service on behalf of an intensive affirmation of an ideal necessity. The consequence of such an approach to negation as NeoPlatonists have demonstrated is the reslaving of negativity by the principle of an implicit affirmation. For this reason, the emancipation of negation from the yoke of its implicitly affirmationist impetus requires a problematical recourse to the void qua the principle of non-belonging. Such emancipation, therefore, entails the deflection of negation from an outward (extensive) orientation to an inward and intensive internalization (Ray has obviously much to say about this).

20 Sep 2008

This is for anyone who is interested in resurrecting the commentary genre of philosophy and animating it with contemporary thought: Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary
(I hope there will be an issue on Deleuze and commentary philosophy too. The pre-history of differential calculus and Deleuze���s Spinozist ethics can easily be traced back to late scholastic works of mathematics and medicine as well as early Renaissance esoteric materials which have mostly been written in commentary form.)
I will also try to put a part of my commentary paper on Deleuze and the Scholastic concept of decay (written for Goldsmiths) here on this blog.

01 Jul 2008

CYCLONOPEDIA

Reza Negarestani

Cyclonopedia

Cyclonopedia will be published soon by re.press. For more information about the book check the re.press website.

23 Jun 2008

There is either an infinite amount of death in this universe … or infinite dreams of life.
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Herk Harvey���s 1962 movie Carnival of Souls is certainly among the weirdest movies of cinema but strangely enough its weirdness is disquietingly elusive. The film starts with a title screen whose graphical power is reminiscent of Saul Bass���s title sequence for Psycho where the horizontal splitting motions across the word psycho herald an ominous turn even in terms of Hitchcock���s overtly exaggerative style. If psycho, by definition, already denotes a deepening fracture then what are these miniature seismic lines which break the word into moving fault lines? Do they simply reiterate the definition of psycho and abide by the reductive definition of psychosis as split personality? Or they are the indication of internal schisms and that there is something deeply wrong with the psychosis of the psycho?
In contrast to the somehow flashy title sequence of Psycho, the title of Carnival of Soul is static despite its seemingly dynamic and wavy expression. The words in the title have crept in from the corner of the screen, spread out and grown in size from the last to the first; so that only one word dominates the screen: Souls. The title of Harvey���s movie is a grimace of the already-dead. The ripples of the words signify a lively animation or vitality of some sort, but surely not of the living. For these are the undulations of inert plasticity of wraiths, specters, shades, souls and spirits. Even the frozen ripples of the word carnival ��� its superficial waves of liveliness ��� have failed to express themselves; they are inferior and behind the lifeless plasticity of souls.
Carnival of Souls begins with a car accident the sole survivor of which is Mary Henry, a young organist played by Candace Hilligoss. Miraculously the only survivor among her friends who all instantly died in the accident, Mary has developed a cold and emotionless life which has overshadowed her musical talent. After the accident, Mary decides to move to Salt Lake City and takes a new job as a church organist ��� a symbolical move suggesting an escape to religion in order to evade the trauma within. Upon her arrival she notices a deserted pavilion that invitingly beckons to her; she also encounters a deformed apparition of a man who sinisterly appears to her as her own reflection. Her life in the new place is accompanied by increasing moments of terror as her reflection is replaced by the image of the ghoulish man. At times she herself becomes invisible and inaudible to people. She succeeds to avoid these dreadful moments either through religion or by immersing herself in the new job; yet she only gains transient moments of salvation before succumbing again to the state of sheer terror. In a famous scene, Mary ��� possessed not by trauma but the horror prolonged by her survival ��� undergoes a drastic metamorphosis. While playing the organ, she falls into a trance similar to a catatonic seizure. Once she resumes playing, her music suddenly changes from religious to a demonic melody to which Mary sensuously sways. The sequence is overwhelmed with sensuous references mixed with lengthening shadows in the church. As she falls deeper into trance, she sees a crowd of dead people or ghouls emerging from the water and dancing to her malevolent music on the deserted pavilion���s ballroom. They move toward her while she is transfixed by the sight, her fingers spasm as she reaches the climax of horror overlapped by her previous carnal desires. After the trance, she is confronted with ghouls more often. Her plan to escape the city is thwarted once she realizes that passengers on the bus are all dead people. She is drawn to the haunted pavilion for the last time, where the ghouls chase her down and surround her. People cannot explain Mary���s mysterious disappearance as her footprints end abruptly in the sand and don���t lead anywhere. We see, in the final scene, that the car in which Mary was riding is dredged up from the water. Mary���s lifeless body is in the car next to her friend; she has been dead all along. Nothing has been a dream (Mary���s or anyone else���s), for death has been dreaming of itself all the while.
In Carnival of souls, we begin to see all manifestations of the weird and the haunt after the accident. The crowd of ghouls, the haunting reflections of the living as the dead, the metamorphosis, the derailment of desires toward something demonic, weird sensuality and the beckoning night are all repercussions of Mary���s survival. The climatic horror throughout the movie could not be culminated if Mary didn���t survive. Only through survival and insistence in life ��� even involuntarily ��� Mary is exposed to horror of the trauma that is survival out of death. Yet what makes these horrors weird is neither the persisting ghouls nor the beckoning haunted place but the hauntological nature of survival. Survival is the intensive death that belongs to no one and the living is the already-dead. If all horrors (including Mary���s trauma) in Carnival of Souls, more than being plainly haunted are weird, it is because their victim or host ��� the living human ��� is already-dead.
The horrors of Carnival of Souls are divided into two categories characterized by their modes of culmination and reference points:
First category includes the horrors immanent to the living being, to the subject of survival, the human or in this case Mary. Throughout the movie we see the manifests of such horror in the forms of lurking cadavers and reflections of dead things fixed upon the living being. Mary���s reflection is a corpse, her voice is the dead silence of souls and her desires belong to something rotten, the ghoul. These are horrors which prey upon the living being and are culminated on the traumatic experience of survival. Mary���s survival (as a living being) enables her to see the horror qua illusion, experiencing this horror under the heading of trauma. In this sense, the first category is the horror for and of someone. It is horror qua illusion, for first it can illusively be experienced and second it is constructed upon the illusion of survival in the form of a trauma. The horror for and of someone is culminated according to the degeneration of survival or the decay of the surviving subject; the closer the subject of survival comes to its precarious position, the more it is seized by trauma, the more it is exposed to horrors which are outside its domain. The supposed necessity of survival can only communicate with the outside contingently, that is to say, X in its ontological necessity can not live (extend beyond itself) other than by submitting to the contingency entailed by not-X or that which is outside X. For the living being, the contingency imposed upon the self-preserving necessity of survival shapes the first category of horror: I exist but I cannot live without that which does not belong to me. My necessity is undermined by the contingency of the outside (not-X), such is the horror that is ensued by the nature of my miraculous survival.
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If the horror for and of someone is contingently correlated to survival, then its deployment is also extensive in regard to the surviving subject. The direction of this horror is from the contingent outside to the supposed necessity of survival, namely, the inside. The extensive or outward deployment of X according to not-X is the horror that illusively belongs to someone qua the living being; its vector of perpetuation is the price that survival should contingently pay. Yet this belonging is only effectuated as a subtractive (negative) correlation that registers itself as a trauma, for every moment of living or contingent openness to the outside envenoms and bites at the survival of the living being. The existential horror of being is but a survivalist remedy once we realize that to live is to not-to-be. The first category of horror in Carnival of Souls manifests as ghouls and the dead reflections which haunt Mary���s survival from the beginning to the end, they are coming from the outside but are fastened to Mary���s insistence on survival (escape from the haunters of without).
The second category of horror in the Carnival of Souls is sharply contrasted with the first, that is the horror belonging to someone and is ensued by survival. The true horror is generated not by survival���s precarious position in regard to the outside but by its radical inaptitude to posit its own necessity from within. The second horror is the precariousness of survival in positing its necessity, even in a subtractive (negative) correlation with the contingent outside or the exterior haunt. If the necessity of survival has never been established, then the correlation between the assumed ontological necessity of the living being and the contingency of the outside falters. The medium of trauma, accordingly, breaks apart and is replaced with a new horror. It is the faltering of such correlation and the collapse of such medium (or at least the illusion of it) that makes the horrors of trauma and of the contingent outside twisted and above all weird. Once trauma loses its point of reference and cannot be ��� by any means ��� reconciled with either its victim or its origin, it turns into a weird horror, a horror that itself is a ghost but is not hauntological. It cannot convey the horror of ghosts. If survival narrates the farce of the already-dead, then survival is essentially hauntological. Estranged by humans or living beings whose survival and vitality is the source of the haunt, the horrors of outside and terrors of trauma are rendered weird.
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There is nothing stranger than to be estranged from the haunt of the outside while you yourself are already a ghost. The function of survival is to make the living estranged from the world while the living is that to which the rest of the universe is estranged. Mary���s moments of dread while she finds herself inaudible and invisible (haunting) to the rest of the world reminds us of Lovecraft���s Outsider who in a ghastly terror finds itself the source of alienage for the petrified audience. For Mary whose survival is the very source of the haunt and she herself is already-dead, ghosts of the outside cannot be correlated to the vitality of the living and hence cannot establish their haunting enclave or enact their ghostly laws (which should be distinguished from those of the living). The inability of the horror-engorged contingency of the outside in demarcating its boundary in regard to the living whose ontological necessity has never been posited gives a new direction to the influx of horror in the universe: ghosts heave forth from the supposed living ��� that is from the inside rather than outside. The living being is the Styx by which dead things are carried and eventually dumped into the universe, the outside. Since the living is already dead and survival is the intensive binding of death, ghosts of the outside fail to become the source of the haunt for the living; instead they become elusively weird.
Confronted by the already-dead, the horror of the Outside does not haunt or belong to someone qua the living because the living itself is already-dead, or more exactly, it belongs to no one. In Carnival of Souls, the second category of horror is the horror of the living as the already-dead or survival as the source of the haunt. It detaches ghosts of the outside or horrors of contingency from their assumed hauntological horizon (with reference to the supposed living). Ghosts and dead things separated from their hauntological purview ��� by the virtue of their correlation with a living who is already-dead and haunting ��� then assume a new position ��� the weird as the twilight of specters. The second horror is that of a hauntological chain that leads nowhere, ghosts of the outside that cannot belong to or haunt the living, and a living being whose survival belongs to the intensive death or the already-dead qua the living, and for that reason it belongs to No One.
The second horror is the retrogression of the haunt where ghosts retreat from the outside to the inside and from the living to no one. Retrogression of the haunt unifies ghosts with nothing, not even the dead; it brings forth a simultaneously haunted and haunting Nothing, that is the weird. The retreat of ghosts to two weird influences:
1. The living and survival become inextricable from the haunting and the haunt, and therefore, become weird. Human, in this sense, is unimaginably weird.
2. Ghosts of the outside lose their haunting capacity in regard to the living (viz. the already-dead), their hauntological horror is replaced by the weird.
It is the twist from hauntology of the outside (the lurking ghouls) to the hauntology of the inside (the already-dead living) that makes the ultimate weird.
Between the two deaths and two ghostly crowds ��� survival (or the intensive death) and perishing of life or death ��� the former is favored over the latter; for after all, death is too promiscuous to be loved.

23 Jun 2008

There is either an infinite amount of death in this universe … or infinite dreams of life.

souls.jpg

Herk Harvey’s 1962 movie Carnival of Souls is certainly among the weirdest movies of cinema but strangely enough its weirdness is disquietingly elusive. The film starts with a title screen whose graphical power is reminiscent of Saul Bass’s title sequence for Psycho where the horizontal splitting motions across the word psycho herald an ominous turn even in terms of Hitchcock’s overtly exaggerative style. If psycho, by definition, already denotes a deepening fracture then what are these miniature seismic lines which break the word into moving fault lines? Do they simply reiterate the definition of psycho and abide by the reductive definition of psychosis as split personality? Or they are the indication of internal schisms and that there is something deeply wrong with the psychosis of the psycho?

In contrast to the somehow flashy title sequence of Psycho, the title of Carnival of Soul is static despite its seemingly dynamic and wavy expression. The words in the title have crept in from the corner of the screen, spread out and grown in size from the last to the first; so that only one word dominates the screen: Souls. The title of Harvey’s movie is a grimace of the already-dead. The ripples of the words signify a lively animation or vitality of some sort, but surely not of the living. For these are the undulations of inert plasticity of wraiths, specters, shades, souls and spirits. Even the frozen ripples of the word carnival – its superficial waves of liveliness – have failed to express themselves; they are inferior and behind the lifeless plasticity of souls.

Carnival of Souls begins with a car accident the sole survivor of which is Mary Henry, a young organist played by Candace Hilligoss. Miraculously the only survivor among her friends who all instantly died in the accident, Mary has developed a cold and emotionless life which has overshadowed her musical talent. After the accident, Mary decides to move to Salt Lake City and takes a new job as a church organist – a symbolical move suggesting an escape to religion in order to evade the trauma within. Upon her arrival she notices a deserted pavilion that invitingly beckons to her; she also encounters a deformed apparition of a man who sinisterly appears to her as her own reflection. Her life in the new place is accompanied by increasing moments of terror as her reflection is replaced by the image of the ghoulish man. At times she herself becomes invisible and inaudible to people. She succeeds to avoid these dreadful moments either through religion or by immersing herself in the new job; yet she only gains transient moments of salvation before succumbing again to the state of sheer terror. In a famous scene, Mary – possessed not by trauma but the horror prolonged by her survival – undergoes a drastic metamorphosis. While playing the organ, she falls into a trance similar to a catatonic seizure. Once she resumes playing, her music suddenly changes from religious to a demonic melody to which Mary sensuously sways. The sequence is overwhelmed with sensuous references mixed with lengthening shadows in the church. As she falls deeper into trance, she sees a crowd of dead people or ghouls emerging from the water and dancing to her malevolent music on the deserted pavilion’s ballroom. They move toward her while she is transfixed by the sight, her fingers spasm as she reaches the climax of horror overlapped by her previous carnal desires. After the trance, she is confronted with ghouls more often. Her plan to escape the city is thwarted once she realizes that passengers on the bus are all dead people. She is drawn to the haunted pavilion for the last time, where the ghouls chase her down and surround her. People cannot explain Mary’s mysterious disappearance as her footprints end abruptly in the sand and don’t lead anywhere. We see, in the final scene, that the car in which Mary was riding is dredged up from the water. Mary’s lifeless body is in the car next to her friend; she has been dead all along. Nothing has been a dream (Mary’s or anyone else’s), for death has been dreaming of itself all the while.

In Carnival of souls, we begin to see all manifestations of the weird and the haunt after the accident. The crowd of ghouls, the haunting reflections of the living as the dead, the metamorphosis, the derailment of desires toward something demonic, weird sensuality and the beckoning night are all repercussions of Mary’s survival. The climatic horror throughout the movie could not be culminated if Mary didn’t survive. Only through survival and insistence in life – even involuntarily – Mary is exposed to horror of the trauma that is survival out of death. Yet what makes these horrors weird is neither the persisting ghouls nor the beckoning haunted place but the hauntological nature of survival. Survival is the intensive death that belongs to no one and the living is the already-dead. If all horrors (including Mary’s trauma) in Carnival of Souls, more than being plainly haunted are weird, it is because their victim or host – the living human – is already-dead.

The horrors of Carnival of Souls are divided into two categories characterized by their modes of culmination and reference points:

First category includes the horrors immanent to the living being, to the subject of survival, the human or in this case Mary. Throughout the movie we see the manifests of such horror in the forms of lurking cadavers and reflections of dead things fixed upon the living being. Mary’s reflection is a corpse, her voice is the dead silence of souls and her desires belong to something rotten, the ghoul. These are horrors which prey upon the living being and are culminated on the traumatic experience of survival. Mary’s survival (as a living being) enables her to see the horror qua illusion, experiencing this horror under the heading of trauma. In this sense, the first category is the horror for and of someone. It is horror qua illusion, for first it can illusively be experienced and second it is constructed upon the illusion of survival in the form of a trauma. The horror for and of someone is culminated according to the degeneration of survival or the decay of the surviving subject; the closer the subject of survival comes to its precarious position, the more it is seized by trauma, the more it is exposed to horrors which are outside its domain. The supposed necessity of survival can only communicate with the outside contingently, that is to say, X in its ontological necessity can not live (extend beyond itself) other than by submitting to the contingency entailed by not-X or that which is outside X. For the living being, the contingency imposed upon the self-preserving necessity of survival shapes the first category of horror: I exist but I cannot live without that which does not belong to me. My necessity is undermined by the contingency of the outside (not-X), such is the horror that is ensued by the nature of my miraculous survival.

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If the horror for and of someone is contingently correlated to survival, then its deployment is also extensive in regard to the surviving subject. The direction of this horror is from the contingent outside to the supposed necessity of survival, namely, the inside. The extensive or outward deployment of X according to not-X is the horror that illusively belongs to someone qua the living being; its vector of perpetuation is the price that survival should contingently pay. Yet this belonging is only effectuated as a subtractive (negative) correlation that registers itself as a trauma, for every moment of living or contingent openness to the outside envenoms and bites at the survival of the living being. The existential horror of being is but a survivalist remedy once we realize that to live is to not-to-be. The first category of horror in Carnival of Souls manifests as ghouls and the dead reflections which haunt Mary’s survival from the beginning to the end, they are coming from the outside but are fastened to Mary’s insistence on survival (escape from the haunters of without).

The second category of horror in the Carnival of Souls is sharply contrasted with the first, that is the horror belonging to someone and is ensued by survival. The true horror is generated not by survival’s precarious position in regard to the outside but by its radical inaptitude to posit its own necessity from within. The second horror is the precariousness of survival in positing its necessity, even in a subtractive (negative) correlation with the contingent outside or the exterior haunt. If the necessity of survival has never been established, then the correlation between the assumed ontological necessity of the living being and the contingency of the outside falters. The medium of trauma, accordingly, breaks apart and is replaced with a new horror. It is the faltering of such correlation and the collapse of such medium (or at least the illusion of it) that makes the horrors of trauma and of the contingent outside twisted and above all weird. Once trauma loses its point of reference and cannot be – by any means – reconciled with either its victim or its origin, it turns into a weird horror, a horror that itself is a ghost but is not hauntological. It cannot convey the horror of ghosts. If survival narrates the farce of the already-dead, then survival is essentially hauntological. Estranged by humans or living beings whose survival and vitality is the source of the haunt, the horrors of outside and terrors of trauma are rendered weird.

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There is nothing stranger than to be estranged from the haunt of the outside while you yourself are already a ghost. The function of survival is to make the living estranged from the world while the living is that to which the rest of the universe is estranged. Mary’s moments of dread while she finds herself inaudible and invisible (haunting) to the rest of the world reminds us of Lovecraft’s Outsider who in a ghastly terror finds itself the source of alienage for the petrified audience. For Mary whose survival is the very source of the haunt and she herself is already-dead, ghosts of the outside cannot be correlated to the vitality of the living and hence cannot establish their haunting enclave or enact their ghostly laws (which should be distinguished from those of the living). The inability of the horror-engorged contingency of the outside in demarcating its boundary in regard to the living whose ontological necessity has never been posited gives a new direction to the influx of horror in the universe: ghosts heave forth from the supposed living – that is from the inside rather than outside. The living being is the Styx by which dead things are carried and eventually dumped into the universe, the outside. Since the living is already dead and survival is the intensive binding of death, ghosts of the outside fail to become the source of the haunt for the living; instead they become elusively weird.

Confronted by the already-dead, the horror of the Outside does not haunt or belong to someone qua the living because the living itself is already-dead, or more exactly, it belongs to no one. In Carnival of Souls, the second category of horror is the horror of the living as the already-dead or survival as the source of the haunt. It detaches ghosts of the outside or horrors of contingency from their assumed hauntological horizon (with reference to the supposed living). Ghosts and dead things separated from their hauntological purview – by the virtue of their correlation with a living who is already-dead and haunting – then assume a new position – the weird as the twilight of specters. The second horror is that of a hauntological chain that leads nowhere, ghosts of the outside that cannot belong to or haunt the living, and a living being whose survival belongs to the intensive death or the already-dead qua the living, and for that reason it belongs to No One.

The second horror is the retrogression of the haunt where ghosts retreat from the outside to the inside and from the living to no one. Retrogression of the haunt unifies ghosts with nothing, not even the dead; it brings forth a simultaneously haunted and haunting Nothing, that is the weird. The retreat of ghosts to two weird influences:

1. The living and survival become inextricable from the haunting and the haunt, and therefore, become weird. Human, in this sense, is unimaginably weird.
2. Ghosts of the outside lose their haunting capacity in regard to the living (viz. the already-dead), their hauntological horror is replaced by the weird.

It is the twist from hauntology of the outside (the lurking ghouls) to the hauntology of the inside (the already-dead living) that makes the ultimate weird.

Between the two deaths and two ghostly crowds – survival (or the intensive death) and perishing of life or death – the former is favored over the latter; for after all, death is too promiscuous to be loved.

13 Jun 2008

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Arbor Deformia, Kristen Alvanson, Collapse IV

Collapse Volume IV // Ed. R. Mackay, D. Veal // May 2008 // 406pp // Limited Edition 1000 copies // ISBN 978-0-9553087-3-4 // £9.99

At a time when the malady of book fetishism seems to have been cured finally (thanks to the modification of the publishing industry according to market sensibility), Collapse has endowed us with the frenzy of fetishism once again. From its cover that easily takes the fingerprint of its reader as a token of fetishistic intimacy to its hand-stamped number to its dimension to its meticulous typesetting and its publication logo, Collapse is saturated with subtleties which can only be spotted by a mind inflicted with fetishism. For readers, receiving Collapse is usually accompanied with the suspense of anticipation and thrill of the unpredictable. Even for the contributors, the arrival of Collapse comes with perspiration and heartbeat, as the contributor hastily flips through the pages to discover the hidden connections between the other contributions with his/her own.

After three volumes with diverse yet connected topics, the fourth volume Concept-Horror was published as a culmination of the previous volumes. Wars, famines, natural disasters and the inevitable fates of the body such as survival and death have given us this illusion that ‘thinking horror’ [1] is an undemanding task requiring no effort other than surrendering to sensation. Ironically nothing has been more disastrous for thinking horror than the overabundance of vacuous cruelties or absurd maladies; for it is relatively easy to mimic a battlefield, a bodily decomposition in a text, image or music. If horror is already everywhere, or in other words, if horror has already been culminated, thinking horror can easily turn into a case study, counting its countless manifestations. Yet it seems that with all the indulgence in horror via different mediums, humans have gained more self-estimation and adopted less hazardous courses for survival, immersed more within the illusion of a cosmos without horror. There is something profoundly wrong and terrible with humans (this might be indeed a compliment), for despite all these horrors, humans have proved that they are able to survive – at least as far as they themselves remember – with a parasitic tenacity and in complete indifference to cosmic horrors. It is as if humans have given a twist to the horror of the universe in a way that through their insistence on survival, economical openness and illusive intelligibility, they have become the very personification of cosmic horror and alienage.

Doubtless, in regard to thinking horror, the present situation is highly discouraging. The nature of survival in all its forms includes a process of openness toward the outside which is predominantly bound to the affordability of the subject of survival in regard to its outside. Yet this outside to which the surviving subject opens itself up is merely an environment whose outsideness is inherently affordable for the principles of survival associated with that subject. Therefore, there is a mutual affordability between the surviving subject and the outside to which the subject opens itself up. The openness of the surviving subject to its outside is marked by its closure – that is the law of affordability associated with survival. The openness of humans toward horrors is inevitably an economical venture for mining that which is affordable. It is in this sense that for thinking horror, first, the so-called daring openness of humans toward the outside must be disenchanted, stripped from its fraudulent heroic role. Second, the affordable outside (the accessible human environment) must be disenchanted in regard to humans by being debunked through the positioning of the radical exteriority, the cosmic outside. Third, the simultaneous disenchantment of the surviving subject to the outside and vice versa must take place on the ground of pure indifference, or else horror is oedipalized, recycled as a fuel for survival and reduced to a matter of sensibility. The most extraordinary quality of Collapse: Concept-Horror is its speculative engagement with these three phases of thinking horror. Armed with a maligned rigor and an unprecedented verve for an all-embracing investigation of horror, Collapse Volume IV is a must for everyone not only obsessed with horror but also with philosophy, art and ethics. In a Lovecraftian sense, reading Collapse is like acquiring a trophy from the Other Side:

George Sieg‘s Infinite Regress into Self-Referential Horror: Sieg’s essay at the beginning of Collapse IV has been poised to conduct a pre-emptive strike on the discourse of victimhood which has horribly distorted such concepts and domains like the other, the outside, us and them which are shared both by horror genre and socio-political discourses. Through presenting Houellebecq’s study of Lovecraft’s racism, Seig shows how Lovecraft’s fervor for Aryanism can be traced back to a more twisted and darker source: the emergence of the Zoroastrian germ-cell of monotheism which is pregnant with a strange xenophobia for which the inside and the outside have been displaced. For a xenophobia whose loci of attention have turned inside out, not only racism but also a good willed openness leads to irresolvable problems and unforeseen consequences. Seig finds the true manifest of such inside-out racism (or conversely, openness toward the outside) in the concept of Druj which according to the Zoroastrians is the Mother of Abominations, an avatar of cosmic unlocalizability and the main protagonist of Vendidad (The Book of Anti-Demon Laws) – a true precursor for Lovecraftian fiction. The inside-out xenology of Sieg’s investigation also reads as an intriguingly aberrant re-examination of eso-tericism.

Eugene Thacker‘s Nine Disputations on Theology and Horror: In his erudite essay, Thacker traces the genealogy of a certain strain of horror genre to theological discourses regarding resurrection and afterlife. The horror of the Slime, the Blob or that nameless Thing is the horror that leaks from the fissure or the gap between the living being (to live) and Life itself. It is from such a crack and sharp disjuncture between Life and the living being that the teratological legion of horror genre crawls in. The post-mortem afterlife of theology, Thacker shows, is a recoded form of this fissure which is a spawning zone for certain monstrosities – things which convey the horror of a life without the living being. At first sight, the horror of Thing might be the horror of a fiend without face, without form and without matter, but it is certainly not the only horror that it insinuates. The Thing exposes the externality of life to the living being. For the subject of survival, life itself is an exteriority, an impossible which can only be afforded and rendered possible at the cost of perishing in horror and a teratological holocaust in the realm of the living being. Life, therefore, becomes the very equal of Lovecraft’s cosmic alienage. Thacker’s essay is a startling biohorror odyssey into the depth of theology and its metaphysics.

China Miéville‘s M.R.James and the Quantum Vampire: In his ingenious contribution to Collapse: Concept-Horror, Miéville briefly exposes the fantastic and weird conceptual resources of his fictions which are entangled together in an utterly philosophic way. If this is just a fragment of the mechanisms, undercurrents and subterranean resources that Miéville nourishes his fiction with, then what is the rest? And how weird are they? More than anything, Miéville’s essay confirms that pulp is not only a host for the weird and horror but also for philosophical thought; and he himself as a ‘champion of pulp’ [2] is also a weird philosopher (and a philosopher of the weird), just as a horror writer who can be a god.[3] This strongly echoes Graham Harman’s bold defense of continental horror and science fiction to which we will return later. In the Quantum Vampire, Miéville performs an autopsy on the ultimate diagrammatic model of the weird+hauntology, the Skulltopus. Despite its concreteness, Skulltopus refuses to be literal, for it is the production of ‘haptic flirtation’ between two objects, a skull and cephalopodic tentacles, a quantum contact without the possibility of merger. Miéville’s haptic model, in this sense, can be a prototype for a weird metaphysics of objects.

James Trafford‘s The Shadow of a Puppet-Dance: In his massive treatise Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity, the German neurophilosopher Thomas Metzinger proposes that we are and have never been in direct and immediate epistemic contact with ourselves. Or simply, self is not but an illusion, ‘no one’s illusion’. Basing his essay on Metzinger’s theory, Trafford argues how the nemonymous horror of Ligotti’s fiction foresees the catastrophic consequences of Metzinger’s philosophy. Horror of Ligotti’s fiction, Trafford rightly suggests, is a horror dissipated by neither us nor them but ‘no one’, its source is the void and its mechanism is nemocentric (nemo-: no one). If self is merely the content of an ongoing and dynamic process i.e. the process of transparent self-modeling, then since childhood, ‘I’ have been a persistent illusion designed by the system as a functional module in order to regulate its interaction with the environment and facilitate the affording of the ‘outside’. And even further, this environment or affordable outside, is merely a fabricated scheme (a mirroring illusion) by which the system can represent itself in the environment and mirror it back to itself, and thereby, conjuring an alibi or illusive cognitive verification for the existence of its Self. Trafford incisively concludes that Ligotti’s fiction, in fact, takes its power as well as narrative formation from the ‘oneiric aphasia’ predestined by this ‘cognitive protectionism’ and ‘organic enslavement’ of the system. However, one question remains that neither Metzinger nor Ligotti have fully elucidated yet: exactly how this dynamic process of self-modeling has internally been generated over the course of evolution and how is this process correlated with the evolution of survival ex nihilo?

Thomas Ligotti‘s Thinking Horror: A pillar for the venture that Collapse IV has embarked upon, Ligotti’s article is perhaps the coldest and fastest journey to the void. Illustrated by the portraits of dead monkeys, Ligotti’s text is an annotated post-mortem family photo-album dedicated to a bedtime story called human race. Ligotti’s first and foremost thesis, similar to Ray Brassier’s argument in Nihil Unbound, is that horror and thinking are the same thing. To think is to irrevocably plunge in horror and evaporate. The entire survivalist conspiracy of human race, Ligotti states, has been involved with devising schemes to dodge and temporarily escape the brutal consequences of enlightenment, an enlightenment which only emancipates on behalf of the void. For this reason, such enlightenment is comparable to the Cthulhu cult’s ‘holocaust of freedom’, where luminosity is inseparable from extinction. As Robin Mackay suggests in the introduction to Collapse IV, the first survivalist objection to Ligotti’s all-embracing pessimism is that writing itself and the laborious tasks involved in publication (even if all is done with no secret joy whatsoever) are distractions and in contradiction to such pessimism. I absolutely agree that writing on nihil or ranting about uncompromising pessimism ‘forces the reader to secrete something of the poison that is buried within them’, yet I am not fully convinced that this ‘invocation of demons’ through the act of writing is sufficient to tackle the survivalist or even a more pessimistic (albeit problematic) objection: this openness to bleak subjects through the act of writing cannot be entirely absolved from its survivalist impetus, for as we stated earlier, once openness is conceived as ‘being open to’ which in this case is ‘writing about will-to-extinction’, it operates as an implicit but devoted agent of survival. Openness for us – even if it is toward will-to-extinction – only amounts to survival because it is only a matter of our affordability; in other words, our openness is grounded on our survival and is regulated by what is at stake for the subject of survival rather than the target of openness. To this extent, the survivalist objection might indeed project a more fundamental pessimism, perhaps on the nature of pessimism itself. If all doors seem already closed, then we should also look into the nature of survival and see if it really brings with itself a purely survivalist and vitalistic impetus or something exterior to its ontological intention.[4]

Quentin Meillassoux‘s Spectral Dilemma: Meillassoux has shown four times in Collapse that he is unquestionably among the most imaginative yet rigorous philosophers of today: first with his essay on time and hyper-chaos, second by his brilliant reconstruction of Deleuze’s text (which is among the best texts I have read on Deleuze), third with his reference to Captain Haddock in the Adventures of Tintin to explain the problem of correlationism, and finally for the forth time, by bringing his previous philosophic texts together in the form of an implicit ghost story with a Lovecraftian twist. Spectral Dilemma is set as an ethical development of the necessity of contingency. What are the consequences of rejecting the Principle of Sufficient Reason and instead embracing the absolute contingency of the laws of nature? Can the necessity of contingency be employed as an ethical resource, or more accurately, can the cosmic dread implicated by absolute contingency be reconciled with ethics, or even further, constitute its infinite resource so that ethics be posited in terms of the cosmic? Meillassoux examines these lines of inquiry by posing a new question: how can we bridge atheism and theism without submitting to either of them? Or is it possible to have a third type of engagement, a third mode of encounter with god and his dead corpse? His answer like his philosophy which shines forth from the most unexpected openings of thought is creatively novel. Meillassoux argues that this atheo-religious dilemma is essentially spectral, that is to say, it is a specter whose memory haunts us and requires a proper mourning in order for us to maintain an ethical rather than morbid living. If the question of the Divine is necessarily spectral because it has begotten by terrible deaths – either as victims of God’s extreme cruelty or God’s own death – then we must devise a space of mourning which can simultaneously conform to these two terrible deaths. Meillassoux then moves on and takes the thesis of divine inexistence through the law of absolute contingency or unbound chaos according to which despite the inexistence of the Divine, God may exist in future. Unfortunately, the essay ends too abruptly, and leaves us with many questions as if it is a speculative prelude to further investigation and a massive thesis. But this should not dishearten any reader, for after all, when it comes to horror stories, one should anticipate the return of horror, the law of sinusoidal returns.

Benjamin Noys‘s Horror Temporis: Iain Grant in his work on Schelling remarks that as Time grows and expands, the role of things in it become progressively more insignificant. In his essay for Collapse IV, Noys claims that ‘the worst’ or ‘the most abominable’ in Lovecraft’s fiction is the yawning gap (khaos) of Time. It is not only because Time is saturated with vampiristic qualities in regard to things in it but also because Time is a blind god who does not even heed calls and cries of its own monsters and offspring. The unspeakable monstrosity of the Ones who threaten humanity is generated perhaps by a trauma induced by the pure indifference of Time to its offspring and natural laws. But since this trauma cannot be resolved by recourse to its origin as a result of itself being uprooted by the abyss of Time, it has no other way than being senselessly wrought upon others, or as in Lovecraft’s fiction, upon humanity. Noys rightly attributes to Time, a vortical structure which is repeated throughout Lovecraft’s stories as stygian gulfs, foaming gaps, black pits and rotting holes. Chaos of Time, Noys sinisterly elaborates, is in fact the blind genesis, a vortex from which the great Old Ones tumble upward and to which humanity is sucked in. This ascent and descent, however, are both the orphans of an absolute Time, begotten by its indifference to the necessity of natural laws.

Iain Hamilton Grant‘s Being and Slime: Iain Grant’s essay is my most favorite of all; refined, fresh, deft and beyond everything, it oozes a scholarly philosophy without any constraint. The title of Grant’s essay insinuates a deviation from Heidegger’s Being and Time, but even more cleverly, an alternative retrospection for Badiou’s Being and Event and his thesis (which is mathematics = ontology). Those who have read Grant’s work On an Artificial Earth: Philosophies of Nature After Schelling know that the section 3.3 of the book, Organics as Antiphysics: Fichte contra Oken, argues how the notorious Naturphilosophen Lorenz Oken, by drawing upon a ‘mathematics endowed with substance’, develops a system which can generate complex multiplicities which are not only formal (matheme-oriented) but also substantial (substance-infused matheme). Grant’s essay in Collapse is a full-fledged development of the aforementioned chapter. What happens when the substance is mobilized by mathematical ideas, or even more importantly, matheme is invested with substance? If substance invests matheme, then, its germinal ground overlaps and becomes one with the generative ground of mathematics, zero. For Oken, this substantial zero is Ur-Slime (a thesis which makes Grant’s essay a perfect choice for this issue on Concept-Horror). Oken’s philosophy is essentially constructed on polarity (+ -); polarity is the first force in the universe which enables slime to have the ability of differentiation or generative introspection. It is the introspection of zero or slime or realization according to polarity that brings about the possibility of numbers or the manifold of particulars. This strikes me as a Schellingian god, a pure contraction or no-thing. Only out of the horror of problematical intimacy with the void, this god unfolds and creates the contingency of nature or the explicatio of universe. The contingency of nature (the explicatio) is grounded on the necessity of complicatio or God-contraction. Yet the grounding of nature’s explicatio (contingency) and the manifold of particulars on the necessity of complicatio is indeed an act of ‘ungrounding’, for the God as contraction is the problematical binding of the void in its intensive no-thingness. Against theo-tyranny in which the act of grounding (i.e. the grounding of nature on the consolidated body of god) is the stratification of universe as layers of an already sealed god, the grounding that Schelling expounds on is the very act of ungrounding: the founding of contingency of nature on the necessity of no-thing or generative zero. Only once zero comes to terms with its own no-thingness or basal horror, the explication of nature becomes possible and diversity of particulars comes into being.

Graham Harman‘s On the Horror of Phenomenology: Lovecraft and Husserl: Beginning with mounting a vehement attack against the insipid and unimaginative dimensions of today’s academic philosophy, Graham Harman offers us an adventurous alternative for contemporary philosophy. With feisty prose that reminds us of restless travelers and adventurers of the last century, Harman lays out the foundations of his weird and speculative realism. The philosophic resources of weird realism are continental horror and science fiction. If Harman’s reading of Heidegger is rogue and heretical, it is because for him, the role of Hölderlin for Heidegger has been substituted with that of Lovecraft. In his essay, Harman exposes the pulpy and weird body of phenomenology by suggesting that the weird and objects, like wyrd sisters always come hand in hand. First, Harman sets Lovecraft’s stories free from a Kantian reading by showing that the elusive abominations of Lovecraft’s fiction are not noumenal but phenomenal, and even worse part of our world. In demonstrating the non-Kantian nature of these loathing monstrosities, Harman conducts a sabotage against a Kantian reading of Lovecraft rather than adhering to a purely anti-Kantian front: the phenomenal and secured land of the finite, the last front of experience and consciousness, has already been taken over by weird finite things or phenomenal abominations. However, these objects or phenomenal abominations exude an excess of properties, an inner inexhaustible infinity which refuses to be accessed. This is, in a twisted way, equal to the diagonalization of the Kantian healthy finite with the excessively phenomenal (in)finite, the inner infinite life of objects. This excessive or extra-phenomenal finite is a source of pure malignancy and inexhaustible foulness against which Kantian ocean, the noumenal, is a puerile redundancy. In the second phase, Harman shows how this excess (of properties) or ineffability of objects lies at the base of Husserl’s phenomenology. The effect of objects of Harman’s weird realism is both of vertigo and horror, akin to Tilford’s objects whose skins slough off in a vertigo of diabolic particles and aimless electrons which never settle.

Collapse Volume IV is also a visual pilgrimage of the underworld: from the materialist fairy-tale of Rafani to the cartoonism of Eye-care by Jake and Dinos Chapman to Oleg Kulik‘s dead monkeys album to slime-vortices of Todosch to Steven Shearer‘s impersonal horrographic poems to Keith Tilford‘s weird objects and the infinite deformity of those things in the jars photographed by Kristen Alvanson, everything has been deployed throughout the book, in such a way, not to give a sense of distraction or relief but to highlight its fiendish qualities and make anomalous pacts with the texts. Robin Mackay and Damian Veal have curated and refined a book which is a tour de horreur.

[1] Also the title of Thomas Ligotti’s contribution to Collapse IV.

[2] From R. Mackay’s introduction, p. 9.

[3] In John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, after bringing the Old Ones (Them) to our world, the pulp-horror writer Sutter Cane reappears to the insurance detective John Trent and says: ‘I am god now’. Trent (Sam Neill) opposes by saying: ‘God cannot be a hack horror writer’.

[4] For more details on survival as the implicit enforcer of the void see: The Corpse Bride: Thinking with Nigredo, Collapse vol. iv, Concept-Horror.

02 Jun 2008
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This is a revised version of the paper I wrote for the Weird symposium at Goldsmiths (December, 2007); the paper was included in the pamphlet Benjamin Noys compiled for the event. Like my contribution for Collapse: Concept-Horror, it deals with the logic of subtraction and ontology, but here the focus shifts from vitalism and decay to the inherent inaccessibility and consequently unintelligibility of objects. The subtractive logic of ontology dictates a universal destiny for objects which becomes the source of ‘weirdness’ for the universe. Ontology in the light of the logic of subtraction renders objects irrevocably weird in that objects perpetually evade us and recede to utter unintelligibility. Robin Mackay hinted at this in the introduction to Collapse iv by drawing a comparison between my work and that of Graham Harman.

* * *

The weird is the destiny of all objects; it bespeaks of the fate of objects in that by conforming to their ontological constitution or immanent intension, objects relay and enforce the intention of that which is radically exterior to them. The weird is universal destiny as twist.

The question of the weird cannot be immediately subsumed under the question of sense or experience; accordingly, it cannot be captured by statements and phrases such as ‘I think this is weird’, ‘feeling weird’, ‘I love weird things’, etc. The weird is not a matter of experience and sensation, for if it were then it would be a mere by-product of the relation of temporality and synchronicity to sense and the conditional; and hence reducible to a status of the monstrous or grotesque whose complete domestication has been afforded from the outset. Now, if the weird is primarily perpetuated exterior to sense and regardless of our access, then, is being inaccessible sufficient for being weird? Is the resistance to sense and experience, or in other words, diachronic disjunction with the synchronicity inherent to the transcendental enough to insinuate the weird? In being – in contrast to temporality – abysmally inaccessible, the object X does indeed confound whatever transcendental apparatus (consciousness, mystical intuition, sense, experience) has been designated to access it. In this case, the weird emerges out of the incompatibility between the futile attempts at access and the immanent inaccessibility or disjunctive resistance of the object X. By attempting to latch on to the inaccessible, the subject of access only becomes allergic to its own existence and the ultimate transcendental task imparted to it. It is in making sense out of X, that sense or consciousness becomes a dead weight, a corpse-like burden pressing on its own chest. Yet if weirdness relies upon the incommensurability between the inaccessibility or the refractory realm of the object and the subject of access, then the weird is indexed by the fatigue of sense, or in other words, it merely articulates a trauma. This incompatibility between inaccessibility of X and the subject or the apparatus of access is inexorable and so is the trauma. However, even if this trauma cannot be undone under any condition – and hence is unconditional and independent of any relation other than the inexistence of the relation as such (i.e. radical incommensurability) – it still feeds upon the subject of the access or sense.

Whether as the image or the subtle register of this incommensurability, the weird only endures as long as sense – involuntarily or not – insists upon its intelligibility, or as long as the subject of access maintains its existence. Once sense separates from its presumed intelligibility, or the subject of access fully deteriorates, then the weird withdraws. Such seizure of intelligibility or determination of access does not need to happen on the basic or elementary material level, for as Houellebecq (The Elementary Particles), Juan Rulfo (Pedro Paramo) and Lovecraft (Cthulhu mythos) have envisioned, the inaccessible, already dead or aimless objects, particles and stars can haunt the space without any correlation, influence, relation, warmth of collectivity, individuation or any consolidating narrative whatsoever. Dead things can indeed roam in the tenebrous vastness of the universe or even lurch on chthonic superficialities of the earth long after the destruction of intelligibility, sense or the subject of access. Yet as Lovecraft insinuates, this vacuous horror does not obstruct the weird; it reinforces it. Even if all apparatuses of access are eradicated and all manifests of intelligibility cease to exist, the weird persists. As long as something (anything) endures and remains by, for or within itself, the weird is perpetuated autonomously and without any objective. This brings us to three speculations:

The blind cosmos grinds aimlessly on from nothing to something and from something back to nothing again, neither heeding nor knowing the wishes or existence of the minds that flicker for a second now and then in the darkness. (The Silver Key)

The conjecture of the littered universe: The weird diagrammed by Lovecraft is that of a universe which, even though it has been denuded to its bare and unresponsive objects, cannot help but be weird. The universe is – non-metaphorically – a heap of rubbish and garbage whose objects merely remain amid their own detritus and waste, in unintelligible promiscuity with each other. The objects exude weirdness just by remaining so and as such and without any affinity or common border whatsoever with anything outside – that is, they roam aimlessly and litter the universe. If just by remaining so and as such (viz. being something, anything), independent of any correlation or affinity, the weird ensues, then weirdness is immanent to the destiny of all objects, the fate of being something. Given that the weird emanates even when the object is sealed from the outside, then what is this destiny that not only includes all objects but also guarantees the perpetuation of the weird? Such all-inclusive destiny, first and foremost, should be irrespective of the object’s properties, attributes and belongings. For this reason this destiny should be posited under the rubric of subtraction which presupposes the shedding of belongings or points of access in order to bring the possibility of remaining in itself or being something. Remaining-in-itself (being aimless) is only possible by the removal of all properties (aphaeresis) and the mobilization of non-belonging (subtraction). To this extent, the destiny (werde) that simultaneously amounts to or develops into the refractory closure of the objects and their autonomous weirdness is the fate of all objects, the primary and basic prerequisite of being something – that is remaining so and as such. Yet to speak of to remain so and as such is not possible without taking into account the priority and the primacy of subtraction. If, as Lovecraft emphasizes, the weird endures long after the demise of the subject of access, in its own unrecognizable enclosure, then the source of this weirdness has something to do with remaining of the object as such, or more accurately, with remaining as an object or remaining as something. To remain (i.e. the object’s remaining so and as such), however, both implicitly and explicitly suggests subtraction. Explicitly, because an object cannot remain in itself, or more accurately, cannot withdraw from correlation, unless all its belonging and properties by which access or correlation is anticipated are taken away, removed and subtracted. What can be explicated or developed from the object is that which should be subtracted so that the object can remain in itself, uncorrelated and weird. Implicitly, because in order to embody itself as something against the annihilative vector of subtraction (nothing) that removes all properties, the remaining must and is only able to perpetuate itself in remaining less. Therefore, in an ontological twist, in order to remain in themselves, the objects of this littered universe have to presume an internal vector of subtraction by which inaccessibility and non-correlatability (viz. remaining so and as such) is only possible by remaining less. This is the intensive or implicit vector of subtraction which overlaps with the possibility of remaining in itself and is posited as its ontological guarantor.

The intensive vector of subtraction or remaining less – inherent to the aimless or blind universe perforated by objects which resist correlation – attests to the radical subversion embedded in the destiny of all objects. This radical subversion or the source of weirdness can be grasped in terms of ontological intension / intention (the destiny of objects) and the perforation of such intension (subversion of that destiny): The weird or littered universe can only effectuate itself once the object roams aimlessly. This aimless or unresponsive object bespeaks of objects in themselves and is uncorrelatable. Yet, in turn, the weird as autonomous senselessness or resistance to correlation attests to the irreducible destiny of all objects; that they can only be enclosed in themselves by remaining so and as such. But why do we call the intensive idea of ontology that is remaining so and as such, destiny (wyrd)? Because remaining so and as such as the universal destiny of objects and the source of weirdness not only guarantees the inaccessibility of objects (hence making the universe littered with unintelligibility) but also obliges the objects to remain in order to be in themselves and evade access. In other words, the intensive idea of ontology dictates that in order for objects to remain in themselves and defy access, they need to shed their belongings. For objects, the continuation of their survival (as an unintelligible) is only possible by employing the vector of subtraction as an ontological guarantor. To remain is to affirm the possibility of surviving subtraction, whose annihilative power is effectuated by the removal of all belongings and properties, and hence the mobilization of non-belonging or Nothing. For this reason, remaining per se compels the object to be something – as that which remains after subtraction – in order to be in itself and remain non-correlated, namely, unintelligible. The universal destiny of objects entails that in order for the object to litter the world with their unintelligibility or inaccessibility and render the universe weird, they must first be something and mobilize the ontological vector of remaining.

… the ripples that told of the writhing of worms beneath. (What the moon brings)

The conjecture of problematic intension / intention: Prima facie, this being something of the non-correlated object signals the triumph of vitalism over nothing through a subtle trickery – short-circuiting Nothing by becoming nothing outside.[1] However, something, too, can only be something if it remains. To remain and to be something are immanently inseparable. This is where to be something or to remain as the destiny of the object in itself and the guarantee of a littered aimless universe is subverted from within. For remaining at any instance is not possible until the two vectors of Nothing from within and from without are unconditionally affirmed and complied with: (1) the mobilization of non-belonging by which attributes, properties, belongings and nodes of correlation are removed and subtracted (2) the interiorization of Nothing whereby remaining and its perpetuation (remaining in itself) is not possible other than in remaining less or intensive diminution. By approximating the interiorized Nothing, the remaining can continue to remain less, or in other words, remain in itself.

It is through remaining in themselves (or remaining so and as such) that objects can break apart from the correlation or the subject of access and withdraw to their unintelligible enclosure, rendering the universe irrevocably weird: particles, objects and stars roaming aimlessly in an stygian emptiness. It is the weirdness of ‘something’ as an ontological tenacity or a survivalist insistence on remaining that ultimately points to the horror of something: in order to be something, there is no other way than remaining for and within itself, or more accurately, sinking into unintelligibility. The point of being is being unintelligible since remaining as the ontological medium of something is not possible unless belongings and attributes through which access is made possible are shed. To put it differently, if something has to employ remaining as its ontological medium, it must also exteriorize extraneous belongings in order to remain in itself; this is necessitated by the logic of subtraction. Being something is equal to withdrawal from belongings or points of access by which the object can be correlated to its outside and rendered intelligible. More accurately, remaining in being is subtractively correlated to the shedding of belongings. Unintelligibility of objects is immanent to this subtractive correlation. The subtractive logic of ontology requires that objects offer an uncompromising resistance toward access and being is put to the test by its perpetual evasion of intelligibility. For this reason, although it is ontology that renders objects unintelligible, it is the weird that takes the ontological destiny of objects to its cosmic level: to litter the universe with unintelligibility is the very point of ontology. The intimacy of the weird with nihilism is not a straightforward one; it is not a token of mere absurdity of the universe, it is a bond as twist. The entire panorama of the weird infers a twisted intimacy between something and nothing.

Something can endure in nothing only through yielding to the unintelligibility which is entailed by remaining in itself, hence withdrawal from any potential node of correlation or subject of access. Survival is not possible other than by becoming obstinately unintelligible. Therefore, remaining so and as such, with its implicit vitalistic ethos, is the destiny of all objects but at the same time it is also the veneration of unintelligibility on all levels. Vitalism can only bolster the idea of ontology by sundering the correlation of ontology with any ideal whatsoever, be it sense, intelligibility or the Ones already there. This is enough to render the universe littered with objects weird but it is not weird enough; for even the aimless objects in and by themselves are weird because their destiny to be something cannot be established except by the emphatic intervention of Nothing from the inside. To resist correlation – perpetuating itself through subtraction or shedding attributes, properties and belongings – the object must withdraw and remain to and in itself. To remain or survive subtraction is the destiny of all objects but to remain in itself (required for rendering correlation obsolete) is indeed equal to persistence in remaining and insistence on survival. For this reason the weird, as a universe cluttered with enclosed and uncorrelatable objects which only contribute to unintelligibility, is tethered to a seemingly vitalistic intension inherent to remaining per se: remaining by and within itself separated from all that is extraneous (reliquum esse) is impossible other than by persistence in remaining (superesse) i.e. by surviving subtraction. To put it differently, in order to remain in itself and thus resist correlation and contribute to the weirdness immanent to the littered universe, the object has to position itself in respect to subtraction. Only by eventuating itself through subtraction, can the object remain within in itself, separated from all that is extraneous i.e. nodes of correlation and points of access. Only by being subtractively correlated to its belongings, can the object defy access. This extension of the object to nothing constitutes the explicit vector of subtraction as previously elaborated. Subtraction is necessary in order to resist correlation, hence contributing to the unintelligibility of the littered universe or emanating the weird. However, once subjected to subtraction, the object cannot remain enclosed within itself other than by continuing to remain – that is, in insisting upon survival. This ‘continuation in remaining’ or ‘insistence on survival’ is the inevitable ontological intention / intension inherent to the object for emanating the weird by resisting correlation and access. In short, ‘persistence in remaining’ or ‘continuing to remain’ is the ontological intension of ‘remaining by and within itself’ which is the guarantee of uncorrelatablity. To this extent, the weird adds a strong survivalist or immanently ontological dimension to objects.

However, this ontological intention – explicable in terms of persistence in remaining or survival – cannot establish itself other than by submitting to the intention of that which is radically exterior to it. Surviving subtraction or remaining is only possible by interiorizing another vector of subtraction or Nothing whereby to continue to remain (survive) is equal to remaining less (i.e. approximating Nothing).[2] Thus in a weird twist, as the ontological intension inherent to ‘the object remaining within itself’, survival or ‘persistence in remaining’ cannot maintain itself unless it unconditionally conforms to the intention of Nothing. In other words, the object emanates the weird by remaining in itself, that is to say, persists in remaining under the explicit vector of subtraction; but by doing so, it becomes the puppet of that which is radically exterior to its intention i.e. Nothing. Thus the weird is propagated from within and without the object, in a chain of unintelligible puppetry in which no intention and hence no puppet or puppeteer can be established unless by channeling the intension of nothing. To this extent, the weird is not the cancellation of puppetry in its explicit hierarchy and implicit chaos, for puppetry in all its forms is the cosmic consequence of nothing in acting upon itself in order to bring about the possibility of something, and in the survival of something which channels the intention of nothing. Puppetry is the realization of the ethics of the weird: in conformity to my intention, I enforce the radically exterior intention of nothing.

In conformity to its own intension, something can only be something if it simultaneously prioritizes and interiorizes the intention of Nothing – that is, the implicit vector of subtraction. The basic intention of something is remaining in itself. Yet remaining as the ontological intention of something is always remaining less as the result of its subtractive correlation with belongings. Remaining less, that is to say, remaining per se cannot be guaranteed and maintained unless the priority of nothing is affirmed. Because the continuity of remaining which is eventuated as lessening or diminution can only perpetuate and rectify itself according to nothing or an exterior zero – that is Nothing as that to which nothing can belong or as the indubitable limit of lessening. ‘Something in itself’ litters the empty blackness with objects which are something qua unintelligibility and thereby emanates the weird as a cosmic reality. Yet nothing, seeping through the intension of something, renders the weird – intrinsically and necessarily – problematic. For this reason, radicality of the weird is manifested in its problematic intension: something can only litter the emptiness without succumbing to correlation and intelligibility – that is, the weird can only be emanated by some thing, if that thing remains by and within itself. Only through an utter compliance to nothing – both implicitly and explicitly – can something remain in itself, or more accurately, remain less. The remainder at any instance must correspond to another vector of subtraction whose direction coincides with the direction of remaining. Here the weird as the destiny of all objects falls back upon another destiny (werde) – the problematic intension.

By remaining in itself, enclosed from nodes of access or abiding to its own intention, the littering object emanates the weird. Yet this intension cannot be established other than by approximating nothing or interiorizing the vector of subtraction whereby ‘remaining in itself’ (as the intention of something) is ‘remaining less’ (the intention of nothing). Therefore, the intention (intension) of the weird becomes entirely problematic by channeling the intension of nothing. Once again, the radicality of the weird is guaranteed by the sheer problematic-ness of the intention inherent to its source of emanation – the aimless, enclosed, inaccessible object. Ultimately, the weird feeds on the power of the insolubly problematic. The persisting vitalist destiny of the weird is undermined by the intervention of nothing that is required for such a destiny to establish itself. Correspondingly, the weird is delivered to the problematic that perforates something on behalf of nothing as well as establishing something to convey nothing. The ontological intension of something is alive and vigorous only in so far as it animates the problematic that bores through it. Neither the weird nor the destiny of all objects can be invested outside the radically problematic. It is in fact the weird that is nourished by this problematic-ness; exposing the twist between the ontological intention and the intention of nothing (as radical exteriority) to its fullest extent.

To this extent, the weird can be addressed as two overlapping destinies, counted as two weirds:

1. The weird emanated by the littered universe: uncorrelatable and inaccessible objects cluttering the emptiness so aimlessly that they cannot be recognized as anything other than holes, bugs and shifting porosities in the blackness of the universe. This is the weird entailed by the objects remaining in themselves; acceding to a causality whereby the withdrawal of objects to themselves exudes the weird. Through this weirdness necessitated by such causation, everything inconsistently happens for whatever reason and nothing can consistently ever happen. For, breaking apart from the correlation and resisting access – hence constituting such causality – objects must remain by, for and within themselves. Once every object remains in itself or withdraws to something qua and as unintelligibility, then the universe and whatever happens in it (or even if nothing ever happens in it) is rendered weird. This is the weird connected to the destiny of objects (weird as werde). According to this weird, ex nihilo infers the vacuity of ontology in an absurd competition with the superficial nothingness of the universe.

2. The weird of the pre-emptive problematic: in order to conform to their destiny and basic requisition, and in order to render the correlation obsolete or to be radically unsympathetic toward access, objects must withdraw to and remain in themselves. Even if ‘the object remaining within itself’ is effectuated as nothing outside, it indeed denotes surviving a subtraction whereby nodes of access and correlation are removed and taken away (extension to nothing). However, this survival from the subtracting vector is only attainable by interiorizing another vector of subtraction. This means that in order to withdraw to and remain in itself, the object must abide by its ontological intension which is remaining so and as such. We already noted that on the one hand, remaining so and as such corresponds to the continuation of subtraction as what guarantees the cancelation of all nodes of correlation or access. On the other hand, remaining so and as such as the ontological intension of something cannot invest itself outside of remaining less or intensive diminution. In short, remaining is always remaining less. The remainder cannot continue to remain in itself unless it approximates nothing by which it can remain less, thus reinforcing the subtraction. For this reason, the ontological intention of objects in themselves cannot be enacted other than by the emphatic intervention of Nothing. This is another way to say that by abiding to their intention for remaining in themselves, the objects are puppetized by the intention of nothing. Nothing vermicularly looms out of the intended and makes it problematic. The universe is infinitely weirder when we know, that even the gimmick of ex nihilo is the perforation of something with nothing, not the other way around.

In this regard, the second weird is the subversion of the destiny of all objects: in abiding by their own inaccessible fate that is remaining so and as such, the objects bring about the intervention of nothing – that is, the destiny necessitated by radical exteriority. The weird as the destiny of objects displays its problematic constitution and thereby bolsters its irreconcilable disjunction with the grotesque, fantastic or even uncanny. The second weird is the weird as the porous, the perforation caused by the worms which squirm and thus enforce the logic of the void within something. The perforation, the weirdness, depends less on the resistance of something than the wiggling of the worms. Or more precisely, the problematic intention is more on the side of the inevitable intrusion of nothing rather than the resistance of something.

The conjecture of the horror that cannot be culminated: If the weird is the destiny of objects and objects only need to remain by and within themselves to emanate the weird, then what genre of horror can effectively channel the weird? By genre, we mean the causalities or the ways – transcendental or immanent – through which horror unfolds itself or is unfolded. In this sense, we can temporarily ignore the definition of horror. Regardless of the medium (fiction, cinema, videogames, …), there are four modi operandi whereby the horror is exposed or imposed. These four alternatives – albeit reductively and fuzzily connected to each other – can be enumerated as follows:

(1) The apotheosis of revelation as related to an intelligible truth, that is to say, the exposition of the truth associated to an intelligible force or entity. We call this the horror of intelligibility: Lord works in mysterious ways.

(2) The revelation of unintelligible nothing, or in other words, the blind void which will be exposed as the autophagic truth underlying everything. This is the horror of unintelligibility whose imposition is the exposition of the first one’s fatuity and annulment: Rabid Nihilism

(3) The impossibility of revelation or the impossibility of any truth at all – be it unintelligible void or intelligible something. Revelation in itself is indeterminable because neither the imposition of nothing nor the exposition of something can be determined – the horror of indeterminability (sequelism and video games)

(4) The imposition or exposition of something (anything) – be it a truth or not, temporarily or abysmally – is only possible by the intervention of something radically exterior to it. Solely by abiding to its ontological intention (remaining so and as such), something passes on the intension of nothing in the form of the problematic. This is the horror that seeps through only by remaining so and such, because to survive or to be is to remain problematic. We call this the horror of problematic intension which, with utter subtlety, blurs the boundaries between the first, the second and the third horror genres.

As argued previously, the fourth genre or the horror of the problematic intension is the genre of horror that transmits the weird. In this genre, nothing needs to be exposed or imposed because that which endures or remains is by itself weird. The horror of problematic intension essentially cannot be brought to any culmination but it does not entail the interruption of the ongoing climax either. In this sense, the survival horror genre conveys such a horror associated with the weird: in the lexicon of the videogame, the horror is neither the anticipation of the ‘boss’ at the end of the game, nor of his absence; nor is it the supernatural, or the growing hordes of undead armies; nor the uncanny ambience; it is the very definition of survival that is pregnant with the problematic from the beginning.[3]

Endnotes

[1] This ontological circumvention can be explained in terms of subtraction / negation: Ontology evades nothing by utilizing it in the form of the negative which is required for the operation of subtraction; since subtraction, at least explicitly, is able to employ nothing as an ontological resource in that subtraction is the mobilization of the negative along two vectors in order to simultaneously implicate both the removal of belongings and conservation of a remainder. The extensive vector of subtraction negates or takes away belongings to bring about the possibility of preservation and conservation i.e. remaining. This way subtraction customizes nothing as an opportunity by which the intensive idea of ontology (viz. remaining as such) can be correlated with the inevitable shedding of belongings or mobilization of nothing.

[2] To provide a further clarification on how the continuation of the remaining or remaining in itself is only possible in remaining less – subtractive extension and diminutive intention – subtraction can be mathematically albeit schematically demonstrated. Assuming there are two geometrical magnitudes of A and B where A > B as the ideal ground of the procedure and a guarantee for its continuation (iterative subtraction). The procedure starts by subtracting the greatest multiple of the smaller magnitude B (henceforth mB) from the greater multiples of the greater magnitude A: AmB = R. The result of the subtraction as hitherto a conserved part is the remainder R which is less than the smaller magnitude B (R < B). Since the remainder R is less than the smaller magnitude B, the procedure is continued by subtracting the greatest multiple of the remainder R (henceforth nR) from the smaller magnitude B: BnR = r’. The result of the subtraction is again a remainder but it is less than the previous remainder (r’ < R). Therefore, persistence or continuation in remaining viz. to remain can only be perpetuated through rs smaller than R. Even if r does not become equal to zero, in order to remain less and continue to remain, it must conform to the priority of zero or no-thing as that which is already there.

[3] In the lexicon of the video game, the AI-based entity (the enemy) which the player has to defeat or be defeated by in order to progress in the game or finish the game is called boss. Therefore, boss in video games is usually equal to the points required for changing the level of the game or concluding it.

12 May 2008

Since moving from United States to the Middle East, Kristen Alvanson has built a body of work which has developed ��� almost spontaneously ��� into an interconnected project entitled Cosmic Drapery.
Alvanson���s Cosmic Drapery Project has gradually gathered under the rubric of the Middle Eastern drapery, or to be precise, the Middle East itself as a manifest drapery: how is it possible to capture the enigma of the Middle East with all its explicit state formations and implicit nomadic folds through its textile history?��� or as Alvanson puts it, ���the unfolding of the enigma of the Middle East through its drapery.��� If the Middle East in its different formations is full of explicit organizations, implicit folds, sutures of heterogeneous establishments, surreptitious alliances or folds of oppositions, miniature twists and creases which evade relevant socio-political approaches, then drapery is a medium for diagramming the Middle East in its explicit and implicit dynamisms. In this sense, Alvanson���s artistic project suggests a re-nomadization of the Middle East through fabrics and their omnipresent pleats.
Still from Kristen Alvanson���s animation ninefold
Still from Kristen Alvanson���s animation for Cosmic Drapery Project – ninefold (2008)
Comprised of three main categories (1) fabric studies / manifest draperies, (2) drawings / diagrams and (3) animation studies, the Cosmic Drapery Project currently includes five series, nomadic fabric chadors, spell chadors, flags, abjad-9 drawings and ninefold animations. The first three series are works with fabrics which themselves are divided into different sub-series based on their structures, colors, or forms of installations. Drawings and animations diagrammatically or dynamically elaborate the structures of the fabric works according to their social, political, religious and occult formations. This focus on schizophrenic orders and intricate categories can also be seen in Alvanson���s recent visual-essay for Collapse: Concept���Horror, in which she proposes that in order to tackle with deformities of nature (monsters), there should be a model or taxonomic medium which can bind all deformities without being exhausted. Rather than rectifying itself in the direction of hosting existing monsters or deformities, such a taxonomic model should precede monsters in generating deformities or anomalies. A fitting taxonomic model for monsters, Alvanson argues, must be built by a self-sufficient generative structure capable of producing deformities by which future contingents can be affirmed and hosted. For this reason, this aspect of Alvanson���s work can be artistically recapitulated in the light of her fabric orders, hierarchies of folds and drapery which capture the monstrosity of the Middle East in generating unheard-of formations.
Still from Kristen Alvanson���s animation ninefold
Still from Kristen Alvanson���s animation for Cosmic Drapery Project – ninefold (2008)
The question of diagramming or taxonomic medium (model), for Alvanson, is not a search for finding a way to draw upon potential or actual resources of Now, for its true ambition is to develop a medium to cover the future contingents. Rather than being confined to potentialities-actualities of Now, Alvanson���s artistic persuasion is the exploration of things which are currently inexistent because they belong to deeply subterranean formations (i.e. they are elusively resistant to our current actualities or even potentialities). In other words, these subterranean formations (secret folds) are not accessible by actualities or potentialities of our existing establishments because they belong to the inner logic of their components and constituting elements. For example, in Alvanson���s nomadic fabric chadors, the state fabric (of the black veil) is sutured to nomadic fabrics in order to generate new formations. These formations are developed by anomalous folds between the state and nomadic fabrics and insinuating yet unknown or inexistent alliances or oppositions between the state and the nomad���s art.
In Alvanson���s nomadic fabric chadors, spontaneous formations, folds or configurations between these fabrics diagrammatically ��� albeit implicitly ��� suggest different structures generated by anomalous connections between the state and nomadic entities. As deeply subterranean structures, these formations are unfolded by the remobilization of the state and nomadic entities in regard to each other. Despite their persistent socio-political insinuations, the majority of these formations between the state and nomadic entities do not have any corresponding counterpart in the existing actual (or potential) socio-political formations of the contemporary world. Therefore, Alvanson���s manifest drapery suggests creative formations between the state and the nomadic which are either deemed as inexistent according to actual / potential socio-political establishments of the contemporary world, or irrelevant according to the existing world���s status quo. If the implicit socio-political formations of Alvanson���s nomadic fabric chadors do not have a corresponding equivalent among actually registered social or political structures, they are not in line with what is called relevant or responsible art. If such implicit and subterranean formations cannot be accessed through our existing structures, either through analogy or recourse to the existing socio-political establishments as points of reference, then what we have here is a persistent irrelevancy which is deeply political. Yet in order to be radically political, this irrelevancy must first constitute a line of resistance toward the cultural, social or political actualities / potentialities of our world. It is this irrelevancy or subterranean (inexistent) relevancy which forms a resistance toward establishments of the current world order and hence becomes political. Since for Alvanson creating this line of resistance ��� embodied as irrelevancy to the current order of actualities ��� is a matter of artistic creativity, then the political is only generated through the artistic, not the other way around.
Rather than dwarfing art by drawing upon existing socio-political resources or established formations, Alvanson���s art questions the legitimacy of existing orders in revealing the grounds on which they have erected or from which they have emerged. This is why the resistance of the Middle East toward all globally appropriate socio-political models or establishments as an obscure formation with a subversive irrelevancy has become an artistic idea for Alvanson���s cosmic drapery project.

A nomadic fabric chador, Pewter

A nomadic fabric chador from Alvanson’s Cosmic Drapery Project – Pewter (2008)
Similar to her differentially assembled teratologic model Arbor Deformia in Collapse IV, Alvanson���s cosmic drapery project is not supposed to remain chained to the actual or potential formations or deformations (monstrosities) of the world, but to subvert them with currently inexistent formations. Having in mind that inexistent is in this case is that which cannot be afforded by or correlated with the actual or potential formations of the world we live in. Examining Alvanson���s Cosmic Drapery Project in light of her essay on monstrous taxonomies rather than taxonomies for fitting monsters opens up an entirely new dimension in regard to her art where the idea of responsible or political art is undermined in an utterly subtle and creative manner. This subversion and counteraction against relevant art and appropriate politics is carried out on behalf of a radical and speculative creativity which is the medium of the politics of resistance.
If contemporary responsible art has assumed that the artist should emphasize on relevancy of art in regard to sociopolitical and cultural formations, then art today has never been more irresponsible. A sufficient example is the image of an artist who in persuasion of relevant and responsible art attempts to envelope current and existing affairs in his art; but in doing so he debases the art by turning it into the subject of socio-political or cultural affordability of foreign events and environments. Under the politico-economically charged anthropomorphic assumption that anything can be reduced to a sensible phenomena or material and consequently can be afforded regardless of its inner logic, contemporary (responsible) art has become an obnoxiously humanitarian field in which every affair or event can indeed be a theme for an art exhibition, incorporated with art and be relevant. This is firstly, a complete failure to grasp the autonomously creative ethos of art as that which vitiates relevancy or the supposed relationship-dependent world of events and phenomena which has been constructed upon the existing potentialities and actualities of our world. Secondly, the idea of a responsible or relevant art has a purely moralistic consequence in regard to producing a generation of artists and viewers for whom art needs to be relevant in order to safeguard their position in regard to an ever expanding universe and an unfolding world of events which fundamentally exceed the capacity of our existing models or mediums of inquiry. In short, the idea of relevant art is the idea of correlating the status quo human with the contingent and alien world out there through reprogramming art with a bankrupt and already disintegrated socio-cultural system. It needs a lot of inhuman indifference or intense sympathy for sappiness to ignore the tragicomic status of the contemporary relevant / responsible art (such as this) where artistic creation is always the matter of making a bad mixture between folly and marketable sensibility, but always with different ratios: an artist responsibly heeds the latest exhibition call on War, Terror or the Middle East (having in mind that they are not that different) by presenting a machine gun from WWII or pulling a condom over a fake or defunct bullet. In line with the principles of responsible art which dictate that the artist should be up to date with current global affairs and project them in the art, another artist makes art with a relevant theme while he has never been exposed to the Middle East other than through his appropriate media or perhaps through the immigrant Middle-Eastern cabbie.
Kristen Alvanson’s first Tehran exhibition ‘nonad’ opens on May 23; it features nomadic fabric chadors, abjad-9 drawings and an animation study from her Cosmic Drapery Project. For more details on the show and her Cosmic Drapery Project check here.