News | Category: Uncategorised

22 Jun 2020

We are disappointed to learn of a recent decision by UWE to close their undergraduate level philosophy courses after the current intake.

The philosophy department at the University of the West of England has a strong research and teaching profile and is extremely distinctive – it is one of the few in the UK to offer a wide range of teaching in continental philosophy, along with a strong interest in social and political philosophy, feminism, and ethics of technology.

This decision by the UWE executive is representative of a general trend toward dismantling the academic humanities, and making philosophy a subject that is unavailable at undergraduate level, with ramifications on postgraduate level study.

But in particular it threatens the eventual closure of a unique department which a group of dedicated staff—including long-time Urbanomic friend and author Iain Hamilton Grant—have devoted a great deal of energy and time nurturing, and which is irreplaceable. UWE’s depreciation of philosophy shows a disdain for the work of these staff, the students who have benefitted from their teaching, and those who could have done so in the future.

This is part of a now familiar process in UK universities to move toward the removal of philosophy from the curriculum. Something that should be a matter of concern for all who believe that philosophy has a role to play in contemporary society, that it should be available to those entering higher education, and that the research and teaching at UWE is exemplary of committed and engaged philosophical thinking.

To voice your support for the continuation of UWE Philosophy as a programme, and to register your disagreement with this decision, you can email:

Professor Steve West, Vice Chancellor of UWE: vicechancellor@uwe.ac.uk
Dr Marc Griffiths, Pro-Vice Chancellor & Executive Dean: Marc.Griffiths@uwe.ac.uk
Professor Amanda Coffey, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost: Amanda.Coffey@uwe.ac.uk

There is also a petition on change.org initiated by students at the department.
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http://www.uwephilosophy.org.uk

10 Nov 2019

Agnès Gayraud’s Dialectic of Pop is out now, and The Quietus has just published an interview with her on the book, the process of writing, and the book’s relationship with her musical alter ego La Féline, the release of whose new album Vie Future coincides with the publication of the book. Read the interview here.

23 May 2019

E-flux has published a tremendous text by Liam Gillick on the enduring power and relevance of Gilles Châtelet’s polemical To Live and Think Like Pigs: read it here.

23 May 2019

Arebyte Gallery in London open an Audint Unsound:Undead exhibition in London this Friday, featuring a number of installations and exhibits by the sonic research cell. The show runs until 15 June. More details here.

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19 Feb 2019

February’s e-flux journal features some excerpts from Kristen Alvanson’s forthcoming XYZT.

21 Nov 2018

As we say a final Excelsior! to Stan Lee, e-flux have just published Reza Negarestani and Keith Tilford’s superb Chronosis: Exordium, as part of their Wonderflux celebration of a decade of e-flux.

This stunning new pulp-philosophy synthesis of concept and comic comes in advance of an extended Kilford+Blades project to be published by Urbanomic in 2019.

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08 Oct 2018

Reza Negarestani will be giving a seminar as part of the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami’s art+research program for Fall 2018, ‘Disrobing the Human: Three Lesson in the Pre-history of Machine Intelligence’, exploring the questions of logic, intelligence, and the human addressed in his Intelligence and Spirit. The programme includes a public lecture on Thursday October 25 – see the website for details.

18 Sep 2018

We are delighted to announce that from October 2018, all Urbanomic and Urbanomic/Sequence Press books will be distributed worldwide by The MIT Press.

This is a great move for us: we’re excited to be under the same umbrella as great pioneering publishers such as Semiotext(e) and Zone Books, and to join other recent additions on MIT’s distribution list, including Strange Attractor Press, Goldsmiths Press, and Afterall.

For readers this will mean much greater availability of our titles, especially outside of Europe. You should see Urbanomic and Urbanomic/Sequence books in many more bookstores worldwide. Mail orders will be operated through MIT Press’s website.

For us it means being certain that books are being promoted by people who understand them, in the right places, and are getting to readers. It means letting go of some logistical and marketing aspects of the business so that we can spend time on the things we do best: editorial, design and production, working with authors, events and special projects, and making sure Urbanomic continues to scan new fields of thought and build new audiences.

Needless to say, this in no way alters Urbanomic’s cultural and intellectual outlook. We carefully select titles for their exploratory innovation and conceptual interconnections, and each title matters to us. With no one agenda or point of view, but sometimes wildly different positions and approaches across different publications, we will continue to try to provide a map of the tensions and faultlines that constitute the field of contemporary thought (and where possible, to exacerbate them).

The move does also mean that we say a regretful farewell to Central Books, who have been indispensable partners for Urbanomic since 2013. Central are highly recommended, their service has always been superb, and we’re sorry to leave them. However, consolidation of our distribution with Sequence Press in the US has meant that this move makes perfect sense for us now.

Since 2010 our relationship with Sequence Press has already enabled us to reach new audiences, to explore new fields of theory and practice, and to sustain and grow Urbanomic—it’s no exaggeration to say that, if it weren’t for Sequence, Urbanomic would not be where it is today. So we’re thrilled to be taking this next step together with them. Along with Urbanomic and our combined titles, Sequence Press’s own list of publications will also be available via MIT’s distribution network.

In the short term, this move means that, during the transition period over the next few months, there may be disruption in availability of Urbanomic titles through all channels. The web store here at urbanomic.com will be offline, and elsewhere our accounts with third party vendors will be transitioning. Please bear with us while the process is underway.

05 Sep 2018

'Collapse volume 5: The Copernican Imperative', published by Urbanomic

It is with great sorrow that we learn of the death of Damian Veal, who had worked with Urbanomic co-editing several volumes of Collapse. In particular, Damian was the chief editor and driving force behind The Copernican Imperative, a collection into which he put a superhuman amount of energy, and of which he remained rightly proud.

Damian’s companionship during our assembly of those volumes, and the high seriousness and low humour we shared in the process, often on the verge of sleep-deprived delirium, is memorable; as is his attention to detail, and the way he gleefully grasped the opportunity to subject some of the most prominent figures in their respective disciplines to intense scrutiny in the interviews he conducted. (Readers remarked that they learnt at least as much from his questions, sometimes several pages long, as from the responses.)

Damian was a talented, independent thinker with an impressive grasp of philosophy and science both historically and in their most recent developments. His ongoing research into questions of naturalism and philosophy of mind continually expanded and shifted its boundaries. With the sensitivity innate to his character, he had a feel for both the historical depth of a philosophical problem, its current significance, and the breadth of its connections to other matters; he would always unhesitatingly open up another Pandora’s box of nuance and complexity where others would have opted to set it aside.

Chronically scrupulous in his studies, yet unduly hesitant about the potential contribution he could make to academia and public debate, Damian was intensely vigilant and conscientious in everything he did. Hence (despite the continual entreaties of friends and colleagues) the regrettably few publications that appeared in his name, among which we are proud to count The Copernican Imperative, but which also included a groundbreaking volume of Angelaki on ‘Continental Philosophy and the Sciences’—one of several areas where he sought to correct and complicate a dogmatic image of the divide between supposed ‘schools of thought’.

In his personal life, for many years Damian had kept up a brave and tenacious struggle against the most crippling depression. He was always lucid, calm, and reflective, never self-pitying, in his confrontation with the condition. Indeed, his sober, unromanticised view of it could be a tonic to others, as I can attest. At times, in conversation, always very circumspectly, he would address the relation between depression and the discipline of philosophy, the broadest questions of meaning, life and death, intellectual distance, mind and body, pessimism and nihilism. In these heartfelt, searching conversations I felt myself drawn as close as possible to the intersection of the intimate sufferings of a human life and the collective endeavour of rational thought, and hence (arguably—and he would have argued, no doubt) to the core of philosophy ‘itself’.

Although Damian never wavered in his belief in science’s ability to shed light on even the most obscure mysteries of the universe, he also took seriously the human spirit’s vulnerability to the ensuing disenchantment of the world. But then, with him, discussions of the most dismal prospects would often effectively transform disillusionment back into active questioning and excitement at the possibilities of thought—qualities that reflected what was (with due apologies for the ‘vitalism’, Damian) most alive in him; the spark which, unjustly, he had to defend at every turn against the ferocity of an encroaching darkness.

The other side of Damian’s critical vigilance and his unwillingness to ‘let go’ of his own writings was that, over the years, he ended up playing a largely unvaunted role behind the scenes at Urbanomic and elsewhere, sometimes in an editorial capacity, but more importantly as one of the most earnest, knowledgeable, and probing interlocutors one could hope for. A unique character, formidably intelligent and well-read, vehement and sometimes prickly in philosophical argument, occasionally cantankerous but invariably ready for a laugh, in person Damian was a gentle, considerate and generous man held in the highest esteem not only as someone to think and work with, but as a friend. In both respects, he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family in their loss.

Robin Mackay

20 Jun 2018

SIMON-SELLARS-PRIMARY

Read Brendan Gillott’s superb review article on Simon Sellars’s Applied Ballardianism, genre, and theory-fiction, at Minor Literatures.

Applied Ballardianism is a work which grapples with and is submerged by […] fluidities, of genre, of subject, of person. Precisely in its pseudo-autobiographical qualities, it tries to live its insights and obsessions, to find exemplary failure in the blindnesses that accompany them.

[…] This is a book of critical epistemology, of questioning what it is we know, what it is we can know, about and through literary texts. The refracted fluorescence of our own critical passions and compulsions visits us outlandishly, like lights in the sky.

16 Jan 2017

Grieving is a bleak business. But how do you grieve for someone who made it his life’s work to face up to the bleakest realities and yet to recognise joy where it existed and to forge hope for the future? A writer who himself grieved the passing of cultural and political possibilities, portrayed an utterly dismaying world populated by malign forces that reached into the very soul, but used writing to understand them, to resist them, and to project new virtual futures?

I first met Mark Fisher at Warwick University in the 90s, where his overpowering enthusiasm and determination to ‘produce’ (not just ‘think about’! he would insist) within and across multiple cultural forms and disciplines—and to produce cyberpunk-style, using whatever came to hand, experimenting with high-tech, low-tech, or no-tech, without needing to seek approval from any institutional authority—was inspirational. Mark was instrumental in the formation of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, which quickly became an official nonentity (but a productive one). He submerged himself in its collective endeavours, which resulted in a body of work I still find immensely compelling and intriguing, culminating in the coining of the term ‘hyperstition’ (cultural processes which make themselves real (of which the CCRU was one (or several))), the creation of the occultural Numogram, and the revelation of a pantheon of numerically-coded demons. This masterpiece of pulp theology combines a gleeful comic-book grandiosity with a diligent mapping of the space of human affect and an understanding of the human psyche as a mere switching-station for warring demonic currents. All of which continued to work beneath Mark’s writings, I think: he saw the world in terms of abstract forces and Spinozan struggles, and sought to name (demonise?) the cybernetic complexes of affect and power from which the circuitry of so-called reality is constructed; his writings continued to be populated by Katak and Uttunul, among others, as well as new conceptual personae such as the ‘gray vampire’ and malign apparatuses such as ‘business ontology’.

Mark also relished CCRU’s enterprise of collaboration and collective production, keenly anticipating the emergence of ‘microcultures’ that would spring up in-between, unassignable and unattributable to any one author. This search for new modes of collectivity was something he never let go of.

Yet the CCRU work also unmistakably bore the imprint of Mark’s zeal for supercharging theory with pop culture. Refusing all received cultural hierarchy, he always championed the conceptual and formal achievements of pop music, comics, fiction, TV, and film, aiming both to map and contribute to what he described as ‘pulp modernism’.

Beneath all of this simmered his intense class-consciousness and sensitivity to the invisible barriers, insider codes, traps and tricks that protect high culture and academic thought from those not already endowed with cultural capital and bulletproof confidence. He was never embittered by these barriers, but made it his business to expose and diagnose them, and to openly share his own frustrations, minor triumphs, and defeats as he was dashed against them. And his refusal of the assumption that mass-consumed pop culture is necessarily of a lesser conceptual density was just as uncompromising.

As well as being fascinated by the expression of the collective unconscious in even the ‘lowest’ forms of entertainment, he celebrated the cultural achievements of those who came from outside the media establishment, had got in before its rules had been set down, or had autonomously nurtured their own microcultures, and were thus able to realise singular, subversive visions of modernity untroubled by culture cops and homogenizing ‘managerialism’. Ever more deeply captivated by the resonances of the oddball canon he had assembled since childhood, he delighted in propagating both its pulp modernist obscurities and its poptastic gems to others; many a cultural itinerary has been sent off in an unexpected direction by contact with Mark Fisher’s work.

While there is a sense in which, for Mark, everything was personal, since he always gained theoretical purchase by connecting theory to his own experience, he also relentlessly attacked the very notion of the ‘person’ or ‘individual’. For many years Mark wrote about his struggle with depression; but his question was never ‘What is wrong with me?’ but ‘What is wrong with the world that it should produce such a suffering, closed-off subject?’ This conviction that ‘mental health’ is not adequately addressed as a merely personal condition, nor as a purely medical issue, led him to challenge all quick fixes that aim merely to restore the social (consumer-worker) functionality of the ‘unwell’…and entailed frustrated encounters with exasperated ‘mental health professionals’ who got more than they bargained for.

He multiplied his burden by believing that he could only heal himself by reconfiguring the world, or at least by seeding a social collectivity capable, against all prevailing forces, of breaking out of the prison-house of capitalist subjectivity. That’s because he was for real, ‘theory’ was not a game for Mark. And he was right in his belief that personal affect is a tributary of social, cultural, class, and economic forces. He was also right in his unflagging faith in cultural production as a source of energising joy, insight, and understanding, and a vector for emancipation; and in his belief that writing and theorizing about culture need not mean ‘critical’ dessication, but can in fact transform and intensify its effects and propel them beyond mere aesthetics, unlocking their political charge—something he proved to readers time and time again.

At a distance of twenty years, for me the Warwick era is lost in a general blur of intensity (and people talking intensely about intensity). But one trivial episode reminds me of qualities I loved in Mark: Having unexpectedly had an abstract for a joint conference paper accepted, and following a lengthy train journey, Mark and I began writing our paper the morning before the conference (of course), and a state of panic swiftly morphed into a sleep-deprived, hysterical flow state. It was hugely enjoyable, because Mark was never happier than when swept up in working on something that seemed to be building itself, soliciting further input, coalescing into some unexpected entity before his eyes, suggesting new double-meanings, puns, unexpected connections between the abstract and the empirical, Marvel Comics-style names for as-yet unnamed forces, concepts for unrecognised processes. Then the self-doubt would disappear, the anxiety would dissipate (even if the paper had to be given in a few hours!) and he would be in his element: that outside element, something beyond the strictures of the personal, that fuels enthusiasm and enthralled fascination with what is being ‘channelled’.
The paper was delivered. It was messy, it was truculent, it was sarcastic, it was a bit punk. Everyone hated it. Nevertheless, relieved of our duties, we later slunk into the posh conference reception held in a grand Victorian museum, where high-flying postmodern academics chatted politely with local dignitaries. Immediately we both knew this was not ‘for us’, and there was mutual relief in realising we shared the feeling that we were not supposed to be there. For a short while before we ran away, we skulked around in corners giggling at the professors’ fruity voices, sarcastically clinking our champagne flutes, and cracking up at being served canapés from a tray—like street urchins who had sneaked themselves into a palace.

And to me, that was Mark: the accidental interloper at High Table, the punk in the museum. Even when his work was acclaimed and he was appointed to a ‘real job’ at Goldsmiths, I think he always feared he was an impostor, just one who had decoded the scam and learned how to ‘pass’. But whether or not you agreed with him, whether or not you shared his passion for John Foxx or Sapphire and Steel, whatever your opinion on the philosophical rigour of his Schwarzenegger/Kant mash-ups, he was as close to the real thing as it gets: always in earnest (sometimes dangerously unfiltered), always keen to share his excitement and to respond to engagement, synthetic and eclectic in his sources but obsessional in pursuing the themes that he knew mattered, modest in person but passionate, ambitious, and vehement in thought. It felt good to know that he had finally ‘made it’, that he fought through, unable and unwilling to adapt his work to the requirements of academic tedium. Following the publication of Capitalist Realism, it was heartening to see his unique style and aptitude for rendering ideas dynamic, accessible, and connected to pop culture finally break through and create its own audience.

The path from anger and sadness to collective joy has taken a terribly wrong turn here—we have lost someone who painstakingly sought to construct and communicate hope, for himself and for others. There are many who can attest to his innate passion for thinking and creating, his positive influence, and his unaffected, sincere, and generous character. Realising at this moment that I assumed he would always be there, it’s hugely painful to think that he is no longer among us.

06 Dec 2016

Unfortunately owing to delays in printing, Yuk Hui’s The Question Concerning Technology in China won’t be arriving until around 23 December. We will try to fulfil all orders immediately, and apologise for the delay. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered, it really does help us.

04 Dec 2016

Listen back here to Radio 3’s Hear and Now show from last night, the BBC’s first live binaural broadcast, featuring a programme of electronic music selected by Florian Hecker, and the première of his new commissioned piece Inspection—Maida Vale Project with libretto by Robin Mackay, featuring the BBC’s own EMS 5000 vocoder.

24 Nov 2016

We are pleased to share news of the publication of Formulations (Koenig Books [London]/Culturgest [Porto]/MMK [Frankfurt am Main]), a volume of essays on the work of Florian Hecker published to coincide with the opening, on 26 November, of the exhibition of the same name at MMK Frankfurt am Main, following its original version at Culturgest, Porto in Autumn 2015.

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This transdisciplinary volume brings together writers many of whom will be familiar to Urbanomic readers: contributions come from Diedrich Diederichsen, François J. Bonnet, Reza Negarestani, Michael Newman, Gabriel Catren, Fernando Zalamea, Éric Alliez, Robin Mackay, Ina Blom, Christopher Haworth, and Sarat Maharaj.

Editor Robin Mackay has also used Formulations as an opportunity to experimentally extend the editorial model developed in Collapse with a ‘gluing’ procedure inspired by Zalamea’s conceptual championing of mathematical local-global transfers, by the history of the cut-up, and by Hecker’s procedures of macro- and micro-sonic formulation and reformulation—creating an interference between texts that explicitly opens up each separate contribution to the global space of the book. As explained in the ‘Operating Instructions’:

The material presented as output was post-processed using a new implementation of content vector interpolation synthesis which allows samples at coarse resolution drawn from multiple source signals to be ‘glued’ into their counterparts at specified points (a form of bidirectional subset interpolation). Detected conformances between local semantic patterns are realised as supplementary semantic vectors, effectively constructing a higher-dimensional global surface across which initially disparate content vectors are seen to exhibit like behaviour. The resulting global projection, in turn, is used to modulate each of the local signals from which it has been synthesized. In this case the operation was carried out using the currently available deep neural network software implementation (‘editor’). […]

The technique originated in the protocols of early textual machines constructed during the 1960s and 70s, when it was discovered that the (then manual) cutting and gluing of source signals afforded otherwise unobtainable effects. Where these early stochastically-inclined experiments disregarded semantic constraints, however, our (arguably more conservative) approach factors them in at the interpolation stage, and uses a normalising heuristic global model as an initial filter for fragment selection.

With semantic sample conformance detection limited by the memory constraints and discriminatory threshold of the editing module, even repeated iterations rarely yield a ‘smooth’ result: the interpolations remain discernible, their perceptual effects ranging from a sometimes rewarding conspicuous splitting of semantic streams and conceptual themata to the incidence of unpleasant, abnormal, or jarring artefacts in otherwise sound concatenations of semantic units. Nevertheless the suggestive synthetic, perspectival, and even hallucinatory effects obtained here by means of subset interpolation are positive indications for the use of CVI synthesis in the assembly of diverse textual reformulations.

07 Sep 2016

FAVN

Robin Mackay

FAVN_Web_A4

FAVN
Florian Hecker
Libretto by Robin Mackay
5 October 2016
20:00

Großer Saal
Alte Oper
Opernplatz
60313 Frankfurt

more information and tickets here

19 Aug 2016

Sept-16-OFC-01
Drew Daniels reviews François J. Bonnet’s The Order of Sounds, together with Peter Szendy’s Phantom Limbs: On Musical Bodies, in the September issue of The Wire:

Operating at high theoretical altitude, in The Order of Sounds, François Bonnet sets himself a Herculean task: nothing less than the retheorisation of sound as such. […] what makes these books pulse is the rapidity with which new ideas are named into existence […] attest[ing] to the power of the well chosen example to incarnate and extend thought.

10 Jul 2016

Announcement

Robin Mackay

I’m pleased to announce that I have been appointed as Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths Department of Visual Cultures for three years. Very much welcome the opportunity to working with the staff and students of this excellent department, and looking forward to it!

29 Jun 2016

EUurb

Etienne Balibar on Brexit as inverse Grexit, in Libération: link to original article.

Brexit—The Anti-Grexit

A weak Athens was ostracised from within the frontiers of the European Union. There is every reason to believe that this process will be reversed for the British: the geometry of the European system will adapt itself to reintegrate them by the back door.

Although not at all seeking to minimise the dramatic character of the consequences that will follow the United Kingdom’s vote, both for the British and for Europe, I am struck by the way in which the headlines of the French and overseas press are presenting the situation: ‘After Brexit…’. With few exceptions, they all seem to take it as given that the divorce has taken place. But in reality, we are certainly entering into a turbulent phase whose outcome is not at all clear. It is this uncertainty that I would like to try and discuss and interpret here. As we know, comparison is not rational argument; yet how could we not recall at this moment that, in the recent history of European politics, the results of national and transnational referendums have never succeeded in being implemented? This was the case in 2005 and in 2008 for the ‘European Constitution’ and the Lisbon treaty—and even more so, even more obviously, in 2015 for the Memorandum of Understanding on Greece. The same will probably apply this time. The British ruling class, beyond the personal conflicts that have tactically divided them, are manoeuvring to avert disaster and to best negotiate the terms of the ‘exit’. Certain governments (with the French at the helm), as well as the Commission’s spokesman, continue to bluster (‘leave means leave’). But Germany doesn’t see it that way, and any unanimity between the European nations is only a facade.

Most likely, following a period of tension, whose outcome will be determined not so much by public opinion as by the fluctuations of the financial markets, we will end up with the fabrication of a new geometry of the ‘system’ of European states, in which lack of formal membership of the European Union will always be compensated for by other structures: the Eurozone, but also NATO, the border security system that will succeed Schengen, and a ‘free exchange zone’ that will be defined as a function of relations of economic forces. From this point of view, also, the comparison between Grexit and Brexit may prove instructive: the weakness of Greece, abandoned by all those who, logically, should have stood up for it and supported its claims, has led to a regime of internal exclusion; the relative strength of the United Kingdom (which can count on solid support in the EU) will doubtless lead to a yet more accentuated form of external inclusion. Does this mean that nothing will have really happened? Obviously not. Let’s briefly examine the ‘English side’ and the ‘European side’, before stating why they are not separable from each other, but represent two sides of the same coin.

It is obvious that the particular history of Great Britain, its imperial past, its social history consisting in brutal reversals, must be taken into account in order to explain the emergence of a hegemonic ‘anti-European’ feeling. The analyses that have been put forward show that this general feeling stems from extraordinarily diverse motives, divided by factors of class, generation, nationality, and ethnicity. Potentially, they are in contradiction with each other, and it is this contradiction which has been smoothed over by the discourse of ‘sovereignty’ manipulately used by the Brexit camp. One might ask how long it will be able to mask the fact that, in particular, the economic and social havoc of which a growing proportion of the ‘new poor’ of the UK will be the victims are due to the cumulative effects of neoliberal politics, which have not been imposed on the UK by the EU alone—on the contrary, since the Thatcher epoch, and through the period of New Labour, the EU has been one of the most active supporters of Europe as a whole. In itself, Brexit—however it plays out—will provide no corrective for this situation. Except, of course, if an alternative politics were to gain a majority. But in order for this to happen—and this is not the least paradox of the situation—it would have to find a counterpart on the continent, for the law of competition between ‘territories’ will be asserted ever more powerfully after Brexit.

Which brings us to the ‘European’ side. All specificities taken into account, none of the problems facing the United Kingdom are absent from the other European nations Which shows what truth there is in the ‘populist’ propaganda (‘neither right nor left’) which has now been unleashed throughout the EU, calling for referendums on the English model. Already, in 2005, Chancellor Schmidt observed that, without exception, consultations on the French and Dutch model had everywhere yielded negative results. The crisis of legitimacy, the return to nationalism, the tendency to project social and cultural malaise onto an ‘internal enemy’ targeted by xenophobic and islamophobic parties, have developed everywhere. The Greek crisis has been used by governments won over by social austerity to make public debt into a taxpayers’ phantasm. The refugee crisis has been conflated with questions of security. Clearly, what is manifesting itself in the UK as ‘separatism’ is happening everywhere in Europe, as a tendency toward the fragmentation of societies, the aggravation of their internal and external faultlines.
A better way to say this would be to say that we have crossed a threshold in the process of the disaggregation of the European edifice, not because of the British vote, but as a result of what it has revealed about the polarising tendencies in Europe as a whole, and about a political crisis which is also a moral crisis. Not only do we find ourselves, as I have written before, in an ‘interregnum’; we are seeing a destituting process which, at the moment, has no constituting counterpart.

Are we powerless, then? That is the question. In the short term, I am very pessimistic, because discourses of the ‘refoundation’ of Europe are in the hands of a political and technocratic class which has no interest in transforming the orientation that guarantees it the benevolence of occult power (that of financial markets), and has no wish to deeply reform the system of power from which it draws its monopoly of representation. And by way of consequence, the responsibility of challenging this political class is assumed by parties and ideologues who tend to destroy the links between European peoples (or more generally, those resident in Europe). A very long march will be necessary in order to come together and to clarify in the eyes of a majority of citizens, across borders, the close interdependence between shared sovereignty, transnational democracy, alter-globalization, the co-development of regions and nations, and translation between cultures. We have not reached that point, and time is running out…. Which is one more reason—if we believe in Europe—to tirelessly pursue an understanding of this situation.

23 Apr 2016

Upcoming Talks

Robin Mackay

I’ll be speaking at the École des Mines in Paris next week on ‘Alliances Expedient and Theoeretical Between Philosophy and Contemporary Art’ – details here [[addendum: for a more glamorous alternative catch Nick Srnicek at the Odeon]] – and will also give the keynote, on ‘Approaching the Contemporary Object’, at the Humanities and Beyond: Exploring the Frontiers of Disciplinarity conference at the University of York at the end of May – details here.

05 Apr 2016

We hope that you’re enjoying the new Urbanomic site—we are of course happy to receive any feedback. Huge thanks to Leaky Studio for their amazing work on the site (going way beyond the call of duty to please a difficult client!); and to Artur Tixiliski for his photographic work for the book pages—he did a perfect job of visually communicating our belief in and commitment to the book as a material form.

Building the site has meant something of a hiatus in terms of organising events and getting new publications out, but rest assured that will be remedied over the remainder of 2016 (after a brief pause for breath)—starting with the publication next month of François J. Bonnet’s The Order of Sounds. There are several other books, and also a new volume of Collapse on the way, more details to come soon.

It was obviously necessary to replace the old, very much outdated, site; but in doing so we wanted to make something that was more than a shop window, and gradually this developed into a ‘pathologically comprehensive’ approach, realisation of which took a lot longer than expected….

The new site has been carefully engineered and designed to allow readers to explore the rich interconnections between conceptual themes, contributors, publications, and events that Urbanomic has developed since Collapse I was published—almost 10 years ago now (celebrations in September!)

What’s happened since then is that our cohort of contributors has grown, many of them returning and contributing across different publications and events, a new and enthusiastic audience has grown with us, new conceptual spaces have developed, and we’ve continued to try and bring together people and ideas from very different disciplines and points of view.

But what’s always been paramount is that Urbanomic is not interested in stocking a cabinet of curiosities, creating a miscellany or a whimsical collection of eclectic materials; nor are we interested in advocating one single philosophical agenda or point of view. The aim has always been to produce and refine an ‘editorial machine’ that would operate to select heterogeneous materials with a view to operating new syntheses, overlaps, montages, connections that allow passage between these materials, stitching them together in new ways and activating new conceptual circuits—and that’s what we wanted to try and reflect on the site. (Another consequence of the development process has been to lead me to repeatedly return to and recalibrate the statement of what is at the core of Urbanomic’s work).

So, the site offers a comprehensive overview of existing work (complete with the excavation of some archive materials that have been lying dormant in the filing cabinet for years!—more of that to come); but more importantly it provides a platform where readers can navigate this material, creating their own path through it (tracking particular concepts through tags, looking at the work of particular contributors, following links between documents, events, books, and posts, and even chapters—yes, the site contains a page for every chapter of every book we’ve ever published…). And, of course, we’ve also made it easier for ourselves to regularly add new online content, so the site will hopefully become rather more of a live destination than the previous one (which was very much moribund if not entirely defunct). It’s a new way for us to extend further our commitment to transdisciplinary thinking, bringing together theorists and practitioners from many different fields, in search of new conceptual movements and montages.

Once again, we’re really happy to receive feedback and suggestions for the site, format and content-wise.

And I’d like to thank everyone who’s supported us over the years and enabled Urbanomic to survive. The construction of what I hope is a unique space of thinking is in no way separable from the emergence of a new audience, many of whom have in their turn become contributors to new publications and projects. This is what fuels the ‘editorial machine’ and keeps it running (although of course, like any desiring-machine it ‘only works when it breaks down’ 🙂 ). It’s your support that has allowed it to develop into something whose existence, although I did indeed vaguely imagine it back in 2006, is a constant source of amazement.

Finally many thanks to Sequence Press, whose support and collaboration has been absolutely crucial for Urbanomic since we began our partnership in 2011. Look out for announcement of some exciting new Urbanomic/Sequence titles coming up for 2016, too….

05 Apr 2016

Accélération, a new French-language collection on accelerationism, is out from PUF, no less, on 20 April—including contributions from the usual suspects, including Srnicek and Williams, Land, Brassier, Fisher, Avanessian, Negarestani, and also Laboria Cuboniks’ manifesto, plus a chapter on accelerated ecology from Yves Citton. Details here.

9782130736509_v100

27 Nov 2015

interaction-game.jpg
I will be teaching a course on complexity and computation at The New Centre from January 10 to March 27. The description and registration information can be found here.
Complexity and Computation:
An Introduction to Measures, Paradigms and Programs

DESCRIPTION
This seminar is an introduction to two widely popular yet often culturally misconstrued topics, complexity and computation. Why are social sciences no longer tenable without an extensive restructuring around theoretical and applied dimensions of these two subjects? Why is in the absence of a systematic engagement with the all-encompassing consequences implied by the findings and advances in computation and complexity sciences, philosophy’s regression to antediluvian platitudes inevitable? And at the same time, why should the vogue culture surrounding complexity and computation be approached with a critical vigilance and extreme caution? By presenting a survey of some of the key ideas in complexity sciences and computation which have direct implications for philosophical and political thinking, this seminar sets out to tackle and answer these questions.
The first module begins with one central question: What is meant by complexity? To answer this question, we will look at different measures of complexity, their strengths and weaknesses and how they deviate from or intersect with the commonsense concept of complexity. Subsequently, we will examine these measures in relation to two questions, ‘what is a complex structure’ and ‘what is a complex function’. This inquiry will lead us to a more fine-grained investigation of complexity in natural and socio-cultural phenomena. Complexity in the order of being and in the order of thought, dynamic systems, structural stability, statistical complexity, logical depth, hierarchies or dependency-relations, generative entrenchment, intrinsic emergence, mechanisms and functions are among the topics that will be discussed in the first module.
The second module focuses on the correlations between complexity and computation particularly in the context of computational complexity and classification of computational problems in relation to measures and hierarchies discussed in the first module. However, depending on how we answer the question of what we mean by computation, the notion of computational complexity can be approached differently. To this end, we will look into what Samson Abramsky calls the two puzzles of computation, ‘why do we compute?’ and ‘what do we compute?’. This will open a discussion on the distinctions between those paradigms of computation centered on the issue of computability and those concerning the fundamental problem of what computation is. In this respect, some of the most significant challenges to the Church-Turing thesis that underlies the current dominant paradigm of computation will be addressed. We will particularly concentrate on the recent paradigm shift in computer science toward understanding the fundamental duality of computation and the interactive nature of computing. To conclude this module, we will review the two major programs of computation established by the Church-Turing and the interactive paradigms, contrasting their capacities in engaging with the question of complexity and evaluating their scope of application. Some of the key terms covered in this module are hierarchy theorems, computational classes, intractability, computational cost, sequentiality, concurrency, algorithmic computing, interaction as computation, design vs. description and the strong informatics thesis.
Drawing on the discussions presented in the first and the second modules, the third module deals with complexity and computation in the domain of cognition, particularly in the context of the linguistic scaffolding of thinking and the computational picture of language. We will primary concentrate on how social / interpersonal interaction shapes the functional architecture of language and conceptual thinking. But the question is that what is exactly ‘social’ when we refer to social linguistic interaction. To answer this question, the social-interactive dimension of language will be introduced as a computational framework that is directly linked to the generation of semantic complexity and high-order cognitive abilities. The objective of this module is to determine what is exactly computational about social linguistic practices and how linguistic interaction generates complex cognitive abilities. To this end, we will expand on the role of computational dualities – introduced in the second module – in linguistic interaction. The point of entry to our discussion regarding the connections between computational dualities of interaction, language and cognition will be the concept of game. In line with the theme of this module, we will examine Wilfrid Sellars’s account of language as rule-governed games and Robert Brandom’s game of giving and asking for reasons in light of recent works in logic and computer science on interaction games, most notably, the works of Andreas Blass, Samson Abramsky and Jean-Yves Girard.

09 Nov 2015

The first part of my text on philosophy as a program is now online. The second part should be out next month:
http://www.e-flux.com/journal/what-is-philosophy-part-one-axioms-and-programs/
Also an expanded version of the essay on Turing and computational functionalism has been published in Matteo Pasquinelli’s Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and Its Traumas (Meson Press). The entire volume can be accessed here: http://meson.press/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/978-3-95796-066-5_Alleys_of_Your_Mind.pdf

23 Oct 2015

Call for Papers: On the History of Being after the Black Notebooks

Special Issue of the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology

Many philosophers experience difficulties when trying to follow Heidegger into the thought of The History of Beyng. Some of the main texts in which this thought is developed, written during the 1930s and 1940s, are rather difficult to follow. Adding insult to injury are Heidegger’s repeated statements that these thoughts are hardly communicable, and that only few will be able to understand the direction of this thought in its essence. Insofar as this thinking of the History of Beyng stands also for what Heidegger calls Another Thinking, our own, contemporary thinking seems inapt to follow these texts in the way that they develop their untimely nature. As Heidegger says, in opposition to Being and Time, for example, these texts are properly untimely. While it is easy enough to establish some cornerstones of the argument, and while, e.g., the Contributions to Philosophy themselves are quite clear in their critique of our contemporary age, to get a good understanding of these works as a whole seems a significant challenge, already reflected in the near impossibility to translate them faithfully. In the end, therefore, reading these works often requires a lot of trust in the path of thinking opened up by Heidegger, so that it remains possible for the reader to attempt the first steps from the early Question for the Meaning of Being to that of the Confrontation with the History of Philosophy. And yet, insofar as Heidegger’s later philosophy attempts to make our contemporary world questionworthy in an essential sense, it belongs to the most promising thought philosophy currently has to offer.

The main idea of this special issue is to explore the importance of the Schwarze Hefte (GA 94, 95, 96 & 97) as going far beyond their contribution to Heidegger’s political biography. While attention has up to now focused almost exclusively on the controversy concerning his alleged anti-Semitism, the ‘Black Notebooks’ also offer a lot of material opening up multifaceted views into the works of Heidegger from the 1930s, 1940s and beyond. And they do so from various different angles, amongst others by reflections on metaphysics, on politics as much as on the political situation of the time, on the main authors that he worked on during these years, on aesthetics, on his personal position in Germany, as well as on the works he had already published, etc. etc.

In other words, for anyone trying to understand, evaluate and transform Heidegger’s later thinking, these volumes offer immeasurable wealth. The question, then, is whether Heidegger, who has given us reasons to look for Nietzsche’s ‘real’ philosophy in his Nachlaß, left his own ‘real’ philosophy in this, his own Nachlaß?

Submission Instructions

This special issue of the JBSP will collect ca. six essays that make use of the ‘Black Notebooks’ in order to open up Heidegger’s later work in view of deepening the readers’ understanding of the question for the History of Beyng.

The volume is scheduled for publication in early 2017. Final deadline for submissions is the 1st of July 2016. Notifications of interest – in form of an abstract of ca. 500 words – are invited to arrive by the 31st of January 2016, in order to allow for a good balance of the discussion.

All essays submitted will be blind-double peer-reviewed. Essays that are positively reviewed, but do not fit into the special issue, will be considered, if the author so wishes, for later issues of the JBSP.

Submissions of interest and final copies should be submitted in .rtf, .doc or docx. file to u.haase@mmu.ac.uk. For any further questions, please write to the same address or direct yourself to the webpages of the British Society for Phenomenology (http://britishphenomenology.org.uk/) or the Publisher’s JBSP page (http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rbsp20/current).

Dr. Ullrich M. Haase DEA SFHEA

Editor of the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology
Head of Philosophy
Manchester Metropolitan University
Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences
Dept. of History, Politics and Philosophy
Geoffrey Manton Building
Rosamund Street West
Manchester M15 6LL
United Kingdom
Tel: 0044 (0)161 2473452
Fax: 0044 (0)161 2476769
Email: u.haase@mmu.ac.uk
Web: http://britishphenomenology.org.uk/
JBSP: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rbsp20/current
Office Hours (Manton 4.57): Thursdays from 13:00 to 14:00, Fridays from 12:30 to 14:00, or by arrangement.

“Before acting on this email or opening any attachments you should read the Manchester Metropolitan University’s email disclaimer available on the website http://www.mmu.ac.uk/emaildisclaimer”

21 Oct 2015

Announcing the final lectures in Fernando Zalamea's month-long seminar, Grothendieck and a Theory of Contemporary Transgression, hosted by the Graduate Program in Media Studies at Pratt Institute.

The seminar is organized around the work of Alexander Grothendieck, who was considered the greatest pure mathematician of the second half of the 20th century. Zalamea traces Grothendieck's revolutionary work in relation to the work of C.S. Peirce, Novalis and P. Valéry, theories of topoi and sheaves, networks, art and music, and guides it towards a generalized theory of transgression for mathematics, philosophy and contemporary culture.

Fernando Zalamea is a professor of Mathematics at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá. He is the author of several books, including Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics; Peirce's Logic of Continuity: A Mathematical and Conceptual Approach; Razón de la Frontera y Fronteras de la razón: Pensamiento de los límites en Peirce, Florenski, Marey, y limitantes de la expression en Lispector, Vieira da Silva, Tarkovski; América, una trama integral: Transversalidad, bordes y abismos en la cultura Americana, siglos xix y xx; and Ariadna y Penélope: Redes y mixturas en el mundo contemporáneo. He is also editor and translator of the Spanish edition of the works of Albert Lautman, Ensayos sobre la dialéctica, estructrura y unidad de las matemáticas modernas.

All events will be held at:

Pratt Institute, Manhattan Campus

144 West 14th Street, between 6th and 7th Ave.

Room 213

New York, NY 10011

Topos and a Gestural Space Theory
Lecture
Wednesday, October 21st
6:30 – 8:30pm

Motives and a Diagrammatic Synthesis Theory
Lecture
Thursday, October 22nd
6:30 – 8:30pm

Contemporary Transgression
Round Table
with Olivia Lucca Fraser, Fabien Giraud, Trent Knebel, Robin Mackay, Guerino Mazzola, Reza Negarestani and Christopher Vitale
Saturday, October 24th
6:00 – 9:00pm

For more information, or to contact the event organizers, visit:
https://zalameaseminarnyc.wordpress.com

20 Oct 2015

Performance of Florian Hecker piece A Script for Machine Synthesis, with libretto by Reza Negarestani, voice by Charlotte Rampling, Synthetic Voice by Rob Clark, perfume by Carlos Benaim and Frederic Malle — Paris, FIAC, 24 October at 1800.

19 Sep 2015

The criticism that consumption society deserves is that there are not enough things: we need more gadgets, and things and stuff, that we can box into other things, all this crap, a whole sexuality of gadgets. (more…)

14 May 2015

Urbanomic will be at Offprint London in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, 22-25 May – see you there!

06 May 2015


All of the CCRU writings congealed into one clot. A major event for readers intrigued by Fanged Noumena and the CCRU writings included in #Accelerate: Time Spiral Press have just published a comprehensive collection of CCRU output from 1997-2003, available as an e-book here.

16 Mar 2015

We are putting together a new catalogue and would like to invite readers to send photos of Urbanomic books in their natural environment. Email them to office@urbanomic.com.
Please no bookshelves this time though, unless they are exceptionally interesting bookshelves.

03 Mar 2015

A reminder that this event is happening tonight in London, with speakers Matthew Fuller, Adam Kleinman, Jay Owens, Benedict Singleton. The event will also be streamed live on youtube here.

25 Feb 2015

Neurolivestock certainly enjoy an existence more comfortable than serfs or millworkers, but they do not easily escape their destiny as the self-regulating raw material of a market as predictable and as homogeneous as a perfect gas, a matter counted in atoms of distress, stripped of all powers of negotiation, renting out their mental space, brain by brain.

– Gilles Châtelet, To Live and Think Like Pigs

You are invited to join us next Tuesday in London for a roundtable discussion convened by Urbanomic:

Tuesday 3 March 2015, 7-8.30 pm

at Thomas Dane Gallery,

3 Duke Street St. James's,

London SW1Y 6BN

Participants:

Robin Mackay, Director of Urbanomic, translator of To Live and Think Like Pigs

Jay Owens, researcher in social media at global strategic insight agency FACE

Benedict Singleton, design strategist

Adam Kleinman, writer and curator

Matthew Fuller, Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University of London

— in the context of the exhibition of JOHN GERRARD: FARM

In early 2014, following his denial of access by Google Inc., artist John Gerrard hired a helicopter and produced a detailed photographic survey of one the key physical sites of the internet – a Google data farm in Oklahoma. This survey was the starting point of his new work entitled Farm (Pryor Creek, Oklahoma), 2015.

The work features a simulated 'twin' of the squat building flanked by diesel generators and powerful cooling towers.

This new work is currently showing at Thomas Dane Gallery, London.

What dislocations of the subject, what disruptions of the process of individuation are administered by a global system of 'self-organization' piloted from blank, inaccessible facilities such as the one modelled in Farm? What new species of virtual subject is being reared in massive data centres whose processes operate well below the threshold of human perception?

Setting out from Gilles Châtelet's prescient dystopian tract To Live and Think Like Pigs, this discussion seeks to understand the relation between cognitive and spatial dislocation in the contemporary digital-cognitive control system,and the algorithmic channelling of desire that binds us to the invisible processing centres of a 'future neurocracy'; and to ask, in the wake of 'post-internet art': What does the Internet look like?

NB: Space is limited. Please email saskia[at]thomasdane.com to register for the event.

23 Feb 2015

FH_Poster_A5_02.jpg

26 February 2015 19:30 & 21:00
28 February 2015 16:00
1 March 2015 16:00
Teijin Auditorium, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Written and produced by Florian Hecker
A Script for Machine Synthesis by Reza Negarestani
Voice by Charlotte Rampling, recorded by Olivier Pasquet at IRCAM, Paris
Synthetic Voice designed by Rob Clark, Centre for Speech Technology Research, University
of Edinburgh

11 Feb 2015

yarncast-small.jpg
Have you listened to Yarncast, the series of podcasts from our The Ultimate Yarnwork project in Bergen? Artists, Architects, Philosophers, Strategists, Litigation Consultants, Crime Writers, Historians of Early Modernity, talk in depth about plots and plotting.

27 Jan 2015

In early 2014, following his denial of access by Google Inc., artist John Gerrard hired a helicopter and produced a detailed photographic survey of one the key physical sites of the internet – a Google data farm in Oklahoma. This survey was the starting point of his new work entitled Farm (Pryor Creek, Oklahoma), 2015. It features a simulated 'twin' of the squat building flanked by diesel generators and powerful cooling towers.
This new work will be showing alongside Solar Reserve (Tonopah, Nevada), 2014, at Thomas Dane Gallery, London, from February 7.
On March 3rd, Urbanomic present a roundtable discussion, Here Come the Cybercattle, at Thomas Dane Gallery.
More details on the show here.

Private View
John Gerrard: Farm
3 & 11 Duke Street St. James's, SW1
Friday 6 February
6:30-8:30 pm.

05 Jan 2015

Markov-frog.jpg
I will be presenting a talk along Florian Hecker, Guerino Mazzola and others at Midway Contemporary Art. The talk entitled …this I or we or it (the thing) which speaks… is centered around the links between analytic pragmatism, artificial intelligence and artificial speech particularly the research on hidden Markov models.
Thursday, February 12, 7pm
527 Second Avenue Southeast
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414

23 Dec 2014

PLEASE CAN I SEE YOUR ATTENTION FOR A BRIEF DISCUSS
Urbanomic Office Top Memes of 2014







1. #occupyebola
2. #bucketofspittle
3. #deadwhiteferrarienvy
4. #thesuitsaturbanomicpress
5. #accelerate
6. #speculativeautopsy
7. #Hasselhoffhasalwayshadanairoffuturality / #onehasresistedthetemptation / #RegiNegarestani
8. #objectivelycolonialist
9. #emancinav / #alternav
10. #neurolivestock
Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in Subtitling: Fabio Cunctator, Hitler is Told About the Rationalists in Berlin
Oscar for Most Thinkiest Thinkvid: Eilif Verney-Elliott, Speculative Realism, What is the Reality of a Sphere? (2013: Jason Wakefield, The Sublime)
Oscar for Best Fantasy Film in 17 three-hour Parts: The Neoreactionary Chronicles: 1. The Abyssal Dark Awakening Rises / 2. The Scouring of the Cathedral / 3. Enterprise Besieged / 4. Enter Gnon / 5. Age of Abyssal Blackdark / 6. Fracturing of the Thedes / 7. Catallactic Orcocaust / 8. Triumph of the Elvenvolk / 9. Foredoomed Aftermath of the NeverHinter Nigh Dawn of the Un-Now Future End / 10. The Statistical Hypertrophy of Hobbiton / 11. Populo and Crypton – The Final Comments Thread / 12. Hyperborean Gateway to Azathoth's Dude Ranch /13. Ultimate Exit – The Last Chapter / 14. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Templexigraphed Ebolistics / 15. Rout of the Goblamic Hordes / 16. Conspiracy of Trolls / 17. Fiscal Singularity (dir. Peter Jackson)

Vogue Model of the Year: Armen Avanessian
Collapse Watchword for 2015: The modern casino environment is no place for casual or shabby game protection philosophies. – Steve Forte, Collapse 8: Casino Real
GOING UP

Norms
Normativity
Norm Normenson

Drawing mincemeat backwards through a meatgrinder using a metallic skull condom
The NewCR&P
Watching Triangle again
Alex Williams and Nick Srin…Sirenic…the other one
Repeater
Laconically indicating police sirens in distance as argumentative gambit
Health Goth

Numogram Revivalist Cults
Netflix (Things Have Changed Since You Left)
GOING DOWN
Drone Thinkpieces
Speculation

Buddhastrapping Hipisterism
Cognitive turpitude and social vices
Pocket-size Collapse volumes
Stuff
Genetic Fallacies / AUFSlogic
Emailing Robin about Reza's contact details/whereabouts/existence
Folk Politics
SOUNDTRACKS
Lee Gamble – Koch
Ital Tek – Control
Aphex Twin – Syro
Russell Haswell – Conceptual Noise
DJ Benetti – Disco Caligula 6
Cut Hands – Festival of the Dead
Florian Hecker – Hinge
Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit
Serial Podcast
Mike Paradinas – Footwork Mix
African Boy – One Day I Went to Lidl

18 Dec 2014

We are delighted to announce the publication of Collapse Volume VIII: Casino Real.

Please visit our web store to purchase. A PDF preview of the editorial introduction to the volume is also available here.
Contributors: Sean Ashton and Nigel Cooke, Elie Ayache, Amanda Beech, Michel Bitbol, Jean Cavaillès, Milan Cirkovic, John M. Coates, Mark Gurnell and Zoltan Sarnyai, Steve Forte, GegenSichKollektiv, Nick Land, Jaspar Joseph-Lester, Sam Lewitt, Suhail Malik, Quentin Meillassoux, Jean-Luc Moulène, Anders Kristian Munk, Jon Roffe, Natasha Dow Schüll, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, David Walsh, Fernando Zalamea.
Collapse VIII examines a pervasive image of thought drawn from games of chance. In order to survey those practices in which intellectual resources are most acutely concentrated on the production and exploitation of risk, and to uncover the conceptual underpinnings of methods developed to extract value from contingency – in the casino, in the markets, in life – the volume brings together contributors who extend the philosophical thinking of contingency beyond the 'casino' model, gamblers whose experience gives them the authority to considerably refine our understanding of what it means to master chance, researchers who analyse the operation and experience of risk in diverse arenas, and artists whose work addresses both the desire to confront chance and the desire to tame it by bringing it to order.
Contents of Volume VIII are as follows:
– The volume opens with Jean Cavaillès's 1940 survey of the state of the art in probability theory in the first half of the twentieth century. Through a technical dissection of the core concepts of a nascent probability calculus, he extracts some fundamental problematics that act as a guiding thread throughout the volume.
– One of the most intriguing ways to encounter the disparity between idealised models and actual instances of games of chance is from the point of view of those who attempt to pry open the gap between the two. Game protection expert Steve Forte granted Collapse a very rare interview to discuss his career as a player and as a consultant at the world's top casinos. Detailing a choice selection of exploits, Forte gives us an insight both into the skill and dedication necessary to beat the house, and that called for on the other side of the table to detect scams.
– In 'Engineering Chance', Natasha Dow Schüll describes a casino environment where automation and player control seem to be almost total, and where the very desire to win has itself morphed into something new and disturbing. Her research into the world of machine gambling reveals an industry specialising in the engineering of 'the zone'–a state of continuous, immobile narcolepsy–a case study in what Deleuze called the 'control society'.
Jaspar Joseph-Lester's photo-essay focuses on the Wedding district of Berlin, remarkable for its concentration of small casinos, documenting the situation and formal characteristics of these deracinated spaces for zoned-out gamblers.
– In an interview with David Walsh, whose sports betting syndicate The Bank Roll is one of the most successful in the world, he affords us some insights into his own system and reflects upon his career and his latter day role as art collector and director of the underground 'unmuseum' MONA, emphasising the vicissitudes of chance in life, and how selection effects colour our perceptions of fortune, success, and failure.
– With an overview of statistical flood modelling, Anders Kristian Munk brings us into the heart of the contemporary manufacture of risk enabled by such models. Here risk models emerge as a particular form of science-fiction, wherein the 'fictitious' capacities of physical modelling are cultivated and activated by the application of the probability framework.
Nick Land addresses the ascendancy of risk as a mode of thinking, and its seismic historical effects, in a grand synthesis that 'transcendentalises' the notion of 'casino capitalism': the inherence of risk to modernity makes of capitalism the system for which, at the (immanent) limit, the casino has become the stake, fully unleashing the disruptive capacity of the pursuit of risk via its effective commodification and unveiling a horizon of existential risk.
– In 'The Greatest Gamble in History', Milan Cirkovic also meditates on existential risk, from the point of view not of terrestrial singularity but of extraterrestrial diaspora, examining the prospect of what might seem like a 'reckless gamble' on the part of a beleaguered species — namely, a decisive collective investment in extraplanetary migration: Do we may stand more chance of surviving to take another turn if we risk stepping out of the planetary 'cradle'?
– Understanding risktaking behaviour in terms of our evolutionary inheritance, John M. Coates, Mark Gurnell and Zoltan Sarnyai provide a scientific context for 'irrational exuberance' in which it becomes evident that the mechanisms that drive these 'violations of rational choice theory' may be functional and optimizing in risk situations. Their experimental data reveals correlations between biochemical shifts in the bodies of traders and their performance in the market, and they invoke a 'neuroeconomics' that would provide the link between economic events and brain processes.
– Yet one might wonder for how long humans will play any role at all, considering the supercession of traders by various species of algorithmic 'black boxes', and the rise of high frequency trading. This increasingly inhuman ecosystem, an environment in which 'technology redefines the risk landscape itself' and 'the earth itself becomes an impediment', is explored by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams in an examination of the relations between intelligence, speed, and accelerationism.
Sam Lewitt visits the Mahwah high-speed trading datacentre, a 'disappearing monument' to a globalised automated financial network of abstraction. Taking the measure of the almost total withdrawal of finance from representation, his text reflects on the accelerated abstraction of the value-form and the forces that are mustered to defend its remaining physical outposts.
– The mathematical instruments used to price derivatives–classically, the Black-Scholes-Merton formula–are underwritten by a model that ostensibly consists in assigning numerical probabilities to future events. The work of Elie Ayache, who has spent many years dealing first-hand with the complexities of the speculative options and futures markets, presents us with a new thinking of the market entirely outside the terms of probability and prediction. In our extensive interview Ayache not only avails us of his expert knowledge of derivatives pricing technology, but clarifies and extends his critique of Taleb's 'Black Swan' model, and gives the most in-depth account yet of his pursuit of a 'philosophy of the market'.
Jon Roffe's review of the overall movement of Ayache's thought reiterates its movement 'from depth to surface, or from thought to writing', setting out the axioms of an immanent 'philosophy of the market', and taking issue with the expulsion of CDOs from the 'generalised surface of the market' it posits.
Suhail Malik's 'Ontology of Finance' supplements Ayache's understanding of the fundamental logic of derivatives with Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler's account of capital as power, drawing Ayache's thinking into the domain of the political by reading price as the medium of political order. Turning from the intrinsic logic of the market to the shifts in global power dynamics implied by the sheer volume and financial magnitude of derivatives trading, Malik seeks to combine the philosophical understanding of the nature and logic of the derivatives market with an analysis of the novel mode of capitalist power it expresses.
Quentin Meillassoux makes a welcome return to the pages of Collapse, opening a sequence of contributions that relate to the role of chance in the work of art by contextualising his recent work on Mallarmé, The Number and the Siren, in terms of his general materialist orientation, and positioning Mallarmé's Coup de dés as a materialist gesture that presents a unique solution to the predicament of the artist following the crisis of the withdrawal of all divine warrant.
Sean Ashton's short story continues the Meillassouxian theme, recounting the strange fate of a man who decides to 'put his body in the service of a philosophical notion'. This weird tale, illustrated by Nigel Cooke, describes a singular experiment that wavers undecidably between philosophy, art, and performance.
– Proposing a more violent study in the activation of chance, GegenSichKollektiv address the demand that the work of art itself must involve a risk on the part of its audience. Drawing on the work of Ray Brassier, GegenSichKollektiv's diagnosis of the current predicament of 'noise' suggests that only a dialectical articulation of the sensory and the cognitive can draw noise out of its safety zone and bring back the possibility of true risk.
– Continuing this interrogation of the relation between art and contingency are two artists&#39 works that cut through the entire volume: Jean-Luc Moulène's edition, made especially for this volume, consisting of a series of interleaved images, and Amanda Beech's enactment of the order of coincidence in a montage sequence that continually interrupts the pages of the volume.
– Three different viewpoints on contingency and probability, in philosophy, in science, and in the market, close the volume. Fernando Zalamea reminds us that the concept of absolute chance was introduced into philosophy in the late nineteenth century by Charles Sanders Peirce, in the form of his 'tychism'. As Zalamea argues, this makes of Peirce&#39s philosophy an impressively complex and subtle instrument that particularly deserves to be revisited in the context of 'transmodernism'.
Michel Bitbol demonstrates how the most recent developments of quantum theory do not escape but only deepen its extension of probabilistic thinking, further developing a 'metacontextual predictive structure' that confirms the inseparability of detection instrument, milieu, and phenomena. Once we comprehend the structure of quantum theory in this metacontextual fashion, he argues, it becomes possible to understand the quantum theory as a 'generalised theory of probability' whose potential applications reach well beyond the sphere of physics.
– In Elie Ayache's closing text, 'A Formal Deduction of the Market', he adds further precision to his concept of the market. Utilising the recent work of Glenn Shafer and Vladimir Vovk, Ayache demonstrates how the probability formalism can be stripped of its relation to concepts of repetition, time, and propensity altogether, delivering on Cavaillès's presentiment that 'it is to a more profound reform of our ideas about the real that probability calculus invites us, a reform whose magnitude we should not underestimate'.

27 Nov 2014


To celebrate Collapse 8 finally going to press, we are offering copies of the ORIGINAL series of Collapse at an insane Black Friday price in our web store, from 00:00 GMT tomorrow.
We have been down into the Urbanomic cellar and are clearing the last remaining stock of the ORIGINAL printing of the previous volumes of Collapse. This is definitively your last ever chance to get hold of these limited editions. We have only a small number of copies of Collapse I, II, III, V, VI, and VII (not IV). We ALSO have a similarly limited number of copies of the first editions of Fanged Noumena and The Concept of Non-Photography.
Best of all, for this Friday only, for our Facebook and Twitter friends, all of these titles are available for only £5 each + shipping.
*note: these copies are sold as they are, from our last remaining stock. They may be any one of the following: unnumbered; marked; bent covers; cracked spine; missing insert (Collapse VII); cursed; radioactive. They are all readable! There are only limited numbers of each title, to be sold on a first come first served basis (no reservation in advance – please don't email!, sale begins 00:00 GMT on Friday 27 Nov).

27 Nov 2014


We're delighted to announce that the colossal (>1000 pages!) Collapse VIII: Casino Real has gone to press. You can read the editorial introduction here.
If all goes to plan, we expect to be able to get pre-orders to at least UK and EU customers in time for Christmas.
If you haven't reserved your copy yet, you can pre-order at our web store (remember it's a limited edition…!)

17 Nov 2014

For those on the other side of the pond … Sequence Press now has Gilles Châtelet's To Live and Think Like Pigs, Speculative Aesthetics, and Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon's New Clothes all in stock!

10 Nov 2014


Reminder: You are invited to a launch event for Speculative Aesthetics, this Wednesday, from 6pm at the Clore Gallery, Tate Britain. Discussion with some of the contributors to the book, and music/noise.
6pm DJ Starkton – sonic-cognitive abrasion set
6.45pm Introduction to Speculative Aesthetics, Discussion
7.30-8.30pm – DJ TT + drinks
All welcome, no booking required!
Speculative Aesthetics is now available in both paperback and e-book versions – More details here.

08 Nov 2014

More mind and philosophy

Reza Negarestani

Why does the determination of the meaning of the mind in terms of practices that organize its activities imply an expanded evolution of the mind? To rephrase the question, why does the understanding and realization of the mind in terms of its practical rather than formalist algorithmic decomposability not only not limits the evolution of the mind but also broadens the scope of its evolution and augmentation? Or, how does defining the mind as a practical object rather than an ideal object become the most consequential event in the history of the mind? Because practices whose elaboration count as fulfilling the activities of the mind can be collectively modified or upgraded, they are distinguished by their social manipulability and by their capacity to bootstrap complex abilities out of primitive abilities. This is what sets apart philosophy’s thesis regarding algorithmic practical decomposability of the mind from the algorithmic logical decomposability of the mind espoused by symbolic AI for which thought-parcels are ideal logical objects and hence, open to identical algorithmic iterations. While ‘identical’ iterations as associated with for example market algorithms relapse back into the unexceptionally prevelant domain of pattern-governed processes, rule-based practices even though they are at base pattern-governed on the other hand are able to proliferate and adapt to purposes that are not given in their underlying patterns. This is how the mind as a practical object is able to leap further in a manner that is neither deductive exhaustion based on the general schema of its current charactristics nor induction from its common features with the natural history of the cognitive mind.

The characterization of the mind as a practical object, rather than an ideal one, essentially amounts to the identification of the mind as a practical project with the possibility of social realization and augmentation, because the domain of practices is integratively social, whether these practices are associated with forming and articulating concepts or are linked to purposive action. The domain of practices possesses a commitment-laden dimension, it is open to social construction, revision and is capable of organizing collective configurations by individuating special practices.

[…]

The pragmatic functionalist understanding of the mind–itself a fruit of disturbing the equilibrium or the informational homogeneity between thought and thing–is a historical moment in the evolution of the mind. But evolution in what sense? In the sense that the pragmatic functionalist realization of the mind (the understanding of its meaning not as a given, but only the establishing of such meaning through and in the context of practices) coincides with the artificial realization of the mind (or the construction of its functional space by entirely different sets of realizers qua practices). For philosophy, the unity of both–that is the understanding of the meaning of the mind and its artificial realization–forms the project of self-realization through which the mind constitutes its own history and evolves in accordance with it. The history of the mind is a history that must liberate its own demands and purposes while at the same time take into consideration its natural history and respond to the constraints associated with its embodiment and organization.

The artificial–which is to say the mind realized by the artifactual–reintegrates into reality of the mind as that which has no absolute foundational nature but only histories and possibilities of multiple realization and reorientation. Its meaning cannot be traced back to an original foundation or an inherent nature, because it is constituted by those practices which determine it and are themselves susceptible to modification. Understanding the mind at the juncture between reality and appearances is tantamount to constructing it. The introspection of the mind into the condition of its possibility (what is the mind, and more importantly, why is the mind as an integrative and orientable constellation of certain activities possible at all?) is a register of an emancipative alienation and is the first spark for envisioning the mind outside of its natural or native habitat.

The gesture to treat the possibility of the mind as a question and a subject of inquiry rather than as a given is charged with an impulse to think and realize the mind through the artificial. This is because examining the possibility of the mind represents a pivotal moment. It creates a designated discontinuity and an externalization that allows questioning the possibility of the mind as a possibility whose realization depends on the fulfillment of certain conditions and the presence of certain sets or organization of realizers. This ultimately leads to a non-ineffable conception of the mind as a possibility that can be fulfilled by different desiderata than what already constitutes it.

A mind that is possible and whose possibility is open to scrutiny is a mind that is conditioned by certain functional components and organizations. This is nothing but a prototypical picture of the mind as an artificial edifice. Here the concept of the artificial does not stand against the natural as something man-made. Artificiality does not imply a breach of natural laws. Instead, the artificial suggests a propensity to adapt to new purposes that can be identified–following Sellars–by their causal reducibility combined with their logical irreducibility. It is the reducibility that does not posit the artificial outside of nature and it is the irreducibility that engenders a new regime of rules and ends whose effect resonates with what Kant calls autonomy.

Disassembling the possibility of the mind in terms of its givenness and reassembling it in functional terms signals the possibility of realizing the mind outside of the image of what it was supposed to be, outside of where it was supposed to be embedded, and divergent from the destination it was supposed or imagined to aim at.

08 Nov 2014

Why does the determination of the meaning of the mind in terms of practices that organize its activities imply an expanded evolution of the mind? To rephrase the question, why does the understanding and realization of the mind in terms of its practical rather than formalist algorithmic decomposability not only not limits the evolution of the mind but also broadens the scope of its evolution and augmentation? Or, how does defining the mind as a practical object rather than an ideal object become the most consequential event in the history of the mind? Because practices whose elaboration count as fulfilling the activities of the mind can be collectively modified or upgraded, they are distinguished by their social manipulability and by their capacity to bootstrap complex abilities out of primitive abilities. This is what sets apart philosophy’s thesis regarding algorithmic practical decomposability of the mind from the algorithmic logical decomposability of the mind espoused by symbolic AI for which thought-parcels are ideal logical objects and hence, open to identical algorithmic iterations. While ‘identical’ iterations as associated with for example market algorithms relapse back into the unexceptionally prevelant domain of pattern-governed processes, rule-based practices even though they are at base pattern-governed on the other hand are able to proliferate and adapt to purposes that are not given in their underlying patterns. This is how the mind as a practical object is able to leap further in a manner that is neither deductive exhaustion based on the general schema of its current charactristics nor induction from its common features with the natural history of the cognitive mind.
The characterization of the mind as a practical object, rather than an ideal one, essentially amounts to the identification of the mind as a practical project with the possibility of social realization and augmentation, because the domain of practices is integratively social, whether these practices are associated with forming and articulating concepts or are linked to purposive action. The domain of practices possesses a commitment-laden dimension, it is open to social construction, revision and is capable of organizing collective configurations by individuating special practices.
[…]
The pragmatic functionalist understanding of the mind–itself a fruit of disturbing the equilibrium or the informational homogeneity between thought and thing–is a historical moment in the evolution of the mind. But evolution in what sense? In the sense that the pragmatic functionalist realization of the mind (the understanding of its meaning not as a given, but only the establishing of such meaning through and in the context of practices) coincides with the artificial realization of the mind (or the construction of its functional space by entirely different sets of realizers qua practices). For philosophy, the unity of both–that is the understanding of the meaning of the mind and its artificial realization–forms the project of self-realization through which the mind constitutes its own history and evolves in accordance with it. The history of the mind is a history that must liberate its own demands and purposes while at the same time take into consideration its natural history and respond to the constraints associated with its embodiment and organization.
The artificial–which is to say the mind realized by the artifactual–reintegrates into reality of the mind as that which has no absolute foundational nature but only histories and possibilities of multiple realization and reorientation. Its meaning cannot be traced back to an original foundation or an inherent nature, because it is constituted by those practices which determine it and are themselves susceptible to modification. Understanding the mind at the juncture between reality and appearances is tantamount to constructing it. The introspection of the mind into the condition of its possibility (what is the mind, and more importantly, why is the mind as an integrative and orientable constellation of certain activities possible at all?) is a register of an emancipative alienation and is the first spark for envisioning the mind outside of its natural or native habitat.
The gesture to treat the possibility of the mind as a question and a subject of inquiry rather than as a given is charged with an impulse to think and realize the mind through the artificial. This is because examining the possibility of the mind represents a pivotal moment. It creates a designated discontinuity and an externalization that allows questioning the possibility of the mind as a possibility whose realization depends on the fulfillment of certain conditions and the presence of certain sets or organization of realizers. This ultimately leads to a non-ineffable conception of the mind as a possibility that can be fulfilled by different desiderata than what already constitutes it.
A mind that is possible and whose possibility is open to scrutiny is a mind that is conditioned by certain functional components and organizations. This is nothing but a prototypical picture of the mind as an artificial edifice. Here the concept of the artificial does not stand against the natural as something man-made. Artificiality does not imply a breach of natural laws. Instead, the artificial suggests a propensity to adapt to new purposes that can be identified–following Sellars–by their causal reducibility combined with their logical irreducibility. It is the reducibility that does not posit the artificial outside of nature and it is the irreducibility that engenders a new regime of rules and ends whose effect resonates with what Kant calls autonomy.
Disassembling the possibility of the mind in terms of its givenness and reassembling it in functional terms signals the possibility of realizing the mind outside of the image of what it was supposed to be, outside of where it was supposed to be embedded, and divergent from the destination it was supposed or imagined to aim at.

06 Nov 2014

We are delighted to announce that the long-awaited Collapse Volume VIII: Casino Real will be published on 15 December, and is now available for pre-order from our web store – for a limited time with free shipping. As well as an astonishing array of texts from philosophers, gamblers, casino security consultants, and more, the volume also includes meillasouxian short fiction, contributions from artists and designers, a recipe for extreme cognitive noise, and a beautiful edition of 10 prints by artist Jean-Luc Moulène (more details here). Your advance orders are much appreciated and help to support future projects! (Not to mention the fact that this volume of Collapse is, as always, a limited edition that is sure to sell out quickly).

05 Nov 2014

There has been a lot of #Accelerate-related action recently – here's a brief round-up:
– Bayern Radio recently broadcast a fantastic show on accelerationism, With Techno and Terminator against Capital, complete with music picked by editor Robin Mackay, including some CCRU productions.
– There is a forthcoming event, The Accelerationist Trial at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in December, scheduled to coincide with a forthcoming issue of Multitudes.
– Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, authors of the Accelerationist Manifesto, are Interviewed in Libération.
– Over at 3AM magazine Alex Galloway
discusses Accelerationism with Benjamin Noys, whose new book Malign Velocities expands and elaborates his critical take on the idea.
– The Dark Ecologies blog continues its excellent series of readings of #Accelerate with a post on Benedict Singleton's take on Cosmism.
– CCBLAB have an Interview with Editor Robin Mackay.
– A call for papers for a Prague workshop on education and acceleration.
– Lastly, and most intriguing of all, Vice have a story on Health Goth, a fashion movement which is apparently aligned with Accelerationism.

30 Oct 2014

Navigation bibliography

Reza Negarestani

Here is the promised reading list of key books and essays I used to work on the concept of navigation (you can find a general schema of it here). While this is by no means an exhaustive research list and the architecture of the concept is still embryonic, nevertheless this is a useful bibliography for anyone who is interested in navigation as a system of thinking and action that coheres analysis and synthesis, locality and globality and the perennial questions of philosophy, ‘what should we think?’ and ‘what should we do?’. All with the basic understanding that the concept of navigation is neither a metaphor, nor driving in a white ferrari, nor colonial maritime exploration, but a rule-governed and ramifying exploratory vector in the space of reasons and the space of freedoms (see Emancipation as Navigation).

Gilles Châtelet, The Stake of the Mobile: Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy (Les enjeux du mobile : mathématique, physique, philosophie).

Immanuel Kant, What does it mean to orientate oneself in thought?

Guerino Mazzola, The Topos of Music: Geometric Logic of Concepts, Theory, and Performance.

Lorenzo Magnani, Abductive Cognition: The Epistemological and Eco-Cognitive Dimensions of Hypothetical Reasoning.

Mark Wilson, Wandering Significance: An Essay on Conceptual Behaviour.

Fernando Zalamea, Peirce’s Continuum: A Methodological and Mathematical Approach.

Fernando Zalamea: América – una trama integral: transversalidad, bordes y abismos en la cultura americana.

Robert Brandom, Between Saying and Doing: Towards an Analytic Pragmatism.

Wilfrid Sellars, In the Space of Reasons: Selected Essays of Wilfrid Sellars.

Giuseppe Longo and Francis Bailly, Mathematics and the Natural Sciences: The Physical Singularity of Life.

Johanna Seibt, Cognitive Orientation as an Epistemic Adventure.

Johanna Seibt, Functions Between Reasons and Causes: On Picturing.

Jean-Yves Girard, Towards a geometry of interaction, Categories in Computer Science and Logic.

William Wimsatt, Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations to Reality.

William Lawvere, Conceptual Mathematics.

David Ellerman, A Theory of Adjoint Functors – with some Thoughts about their Philosophical Significance.

Rene Thom, To the Frontiers of Human Power: Games.

Nils Röller, Thinking with Instruments: The Example of Kant’s Compass.

Stephen C. Levinson, Space in Language and Cognition: Explorations in Cognitive Diversity.

Alain Berthoz, The Brain’s Sense of Movement.

29 Oct 2014

Here is the promised reading list of key books and essays I used to work on the concept of navigation (you can find a general schema of it here). While this is by no means an exhaustive research list and the architecture of the concept is still embryonic, nevertheless this is a useful bibliography for anyone who is interested in navigation as a system of thinking and action that coheres analysis and synthesis, locality and globality and the perennial questions of philosophy, ‘what should we think?’ and ‘what should we do?’. All with the basic understanding that the concept of navigation is neither a metaphor, nor driving in a white ferrari, nor colonial maritime exploration, but a rule-governed and ramifying exploratory vector in the space of reasons and the space of freedoms (see Emancipation as Navigation).
Gilles Châtelet, The Stake of the Mobile: Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy (Les enjeux du mobile : mathématique, physique, philosophie).
Immanuel Kant, What does it mean to orientate oneself in thought?
Guerino Mazzola, The Topos of Music: Geometric Logic of Concepts, Theory, and Performance.
Lorenzo Magnani, Abductive Cognition: The Epistemological and Eco-Cognitive Dimensions of Hypothetical Reasoning.
Mark Wilson, Wandering Significance: An Essay on Conceptual Behaviour.
Fernando Zalamea, Peirce’s Continuum: A Methodological and Mathematical Approach.
Fernando Zalamea: América – una trama integral: transversalidad, bordes y abismos en la cultura americana.
Robert Brandom, Between Saying and Doing: Towards an Analytic Pragmatism.
Wilfrid Sellars, In the Space of Reasons: Selected Essays of Wilfrid Sellars.
Giuseppe Longo and Francis Bailly, Mathematics and the Natural Sciences: The Physical Singularity of Life.
Johanna Seibt, Cognitive Orientation as an Epistemic Adventure.
Johanna Seibt, Functions Between Reasons and Causes: On Picturing.
Jean-Yves Girard, Towards a geometry of interaction, Categories in Computer Science and Logic.
William Wimsatt, Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations to Reality.
William Lawvere, Conceptual Mathematics.
David Ellerman, A Theory of Adjoint Functors – with some Thoughts about their Philosophical Significance.
Rene Thom, To the Frontiers of Human Power: Games.
Nils Röller, Thinking with Instruments: The Example of Kant’s Compass.
Stephen C. Levinson, Space in Language and Cognition: Explorations in Cognitive Diversity.
Alain Berthoz, The Brain’s Sense of Movement.

28 Oct 2014

An extract from my forthcoming essay What Philosophy Does to the Mind (Knowledge, History and the Mind) – to be published in Centers and Peripheries. In some way, this essay is the continuation of The Labor of the Inhuman:

***

Philosophy is archenemy of the obvious. Even though philosophy frequently falls in the trap of the obvious, it has the habit of always coming back to exact a revenge on what is obvious in a manner and the scale not dissimilar to the epic culmination of Jacobean revenge dramas. Unlike any other thought discipline known to man, philosophy never closes the circle of its revenge. It is characterized by its perpetual refusal to put any matter to rest. This absolute recalcitrance bespeaks of the corrosive blood that runs through the body of philosophy, which is that of the principle of deep skepticism: Knowledge must be suspicious of what it already knows. To know more is to believe less, the more we know the less should we believe in what we know. If the task of belief is to turn the accumulated knowledge into a regulative foundation and respectively, a matter of faith, then the progress of knowledge is by definition retroactively aborted. For how can one acquire new knowledge if the knowledge that has already been accumulated is treated as the locus of truth?
If the site of truth is in what has already taken place, then knowledge only exhibits the truth-preservation of classical qua logical rationality, and thus violates the first objective of knowledge, which is that ‘one knows because one does not know.’ But, ‘to know’ is to preserve and mitigate ignorance at the same time, a dual task whose logical structure is at odds with the monotonicity of truth-preservation embedded in classical logic.
The monotonic entailment of truth-preservation functions precisely by conserving ignorance in its very logic–it ignores the possibility of what it is ignorant of. This is the principle of conservation of ignorance without acknowledging it or what can be called the ‘deficit of ignorance-awareness’. The principle of conservation-without-acknowledgement is the functional model of an epistemically maimed mind; it is a mind that empowers itself by choosing to operate primarily on the basis of accumulated and well-stabilized information and in so doing, turning ‘what it knows’ into a blind spot against ‘what it doesn’t’. In such a scenario, further generation of knowledge equals further degeneration of the mind and its epistemic incapacitation. The pitfalls of knowledge become the maladies of the mind and the maladies of the mind become social disabilities in knowing what to think and what to do. No mind by itself has a defense mechanism against the ‘epistemic maiming’ inflicted by its own spatiotemporal approach to truth and information. It is for this reason that only deep skepticism, or at least the strategies that undergird it, can save the mind from its self-inflicted epistemic maiming.
From a navigational perspective, any account of truth that is situated in the past and reinforces the dogma of ‘knowing more equals trusting more in the truth of what we know’ suffers from a unipathic structure or navigational uniqueness. It is unipathic since in order to preserve truth, it must maximally stabilize the transit of truth values by ignoring any other possible path that might invalidate the preserved truth. Hence the mapping and approaching truth is determined in advance.
But the rule-governed game of navigation endorses no unique path and no map drawn in advance, not only is it multipathic but it also does not leave unchanged any address or path taken in the past itinerary. Its ramifying structure includes not only what ought to be navigated (the consequent content of the commitment), but also encompasses what has already been navigated (the antecedent commitments or the premises of the commitment as such). In other words, in the game of navigation, ramification is universal and it is this universality that keeps knowledge in the permanent state of agitation–a landscape with a shifting scenery or a transitory ontology upon which no foundation or navigational preconception can be imposed.
Whereas the unipathicity (i.e. the uniqueness of path) of truth-preservation is secured by ignoring possible or hypothetical navigational paths or transits, the principle of deep skepticism is equipped with a tentative rationalism required for deviating from the unipathic navigational approach so as to be able to activate and acknowledge the condition of ignorance and respectively mitigate it. This is the underlying logic of non-monotonic reasoning in which ramification of every qualitatively organized site of information into cascading paths creates a universal revisionary wave that perpetually reassess and alter any conclusion reached or information organized. Knowledge is not about centralizing the accumulated known but about qualitatively organizing information, navigating the space of concept, developing supple and revisable conceptual patchworks, updating and accessing through various modes the existing knowledge-bases without regarding them as immutable foundations. For knowledge, the crisis of foundations is an emancipative prospect.
According to the monotonic structure of unipathicity, which works from the viewpoint of epistemic entrenchment, the increase in the qualitatively organized information–in the form of premises or axioms–results in the increase in theorems (i.e. further establishment of the known). But the non-monotonic structure of navigation as a ramifying procedure does not permit such a symmetry between ‘to know’ and ‘the known’. This is but the navigational reformulation of deep skepticism in which ‘to know’ does not necessarily make any positive difference in ‘the known qua the accumulated knowledge’. Under the condition of non-monotonicity, addition of new premises fundamentally revises the old conclusions and does not bolster the epistemic entrenchment.
Deep skepticism accordingly is the sharpening of the defeasibility inherent to the non-monotonicity in the realm of the mind itself. It suggests that all insights of the mind into the inner workings of the world must be deflected or rendered defeasible by the insights of the mind into its own inner workings. While at the same time, it simultaneously proposes that all insights of the mind into its inner workings must be revised and deflected by the insights into the workings of the world which condition the workings of the mind.
To put it differently, deep skepticism builds orientational passages (or adjoint vectors) between the workings of mind and the workings of the world (M⇄W). The adjoint vectors or the adjunction symbolized by a left and a right arrow signify the broadening and integrative aspects of deep skepticism that at once deepens the scientific image of the world and leads to a more corrected and sophisticated manifest image of ourselves and establishes a stereoscopic coherence between them.
Deminishing the obvious qua the blind spot in all its forms is only possible by radically disturbing the equilibrium and breaking the symmetric relation between ‘knowing’ and ‘the already known’. The concomitant scrutinizing of the world by looking into the mind and inquiring into the mind by looking into the world constitute the navigational attitude of deep skepticism as adopted by philosophy. It is in this sense that deep skepticism, rather than being an impediment or refutation of knowledge, becomes a catalyst for the expansion of knowledge and the evolution of the mind; it perpetually set frees the game of navigation from its foundationalist commitments, blind spots, epistemic entrenchments and navigational pre-conceptions. For knowledge neither requires a foundation nor a positive differential relation between ‘knowing’ and ‘the known’ in order to expand its frontiers.
According to the skeptical current of philosophy, it is the truth of the acquired knowledge that occasions the blind spot against the truth of future of knowledge. The unipathic approach to truth establishes a model of mind as a self-reinforcing vicious circle blind to the progressive impoverishment of its own capacities. In reality, the more it knows the less it knows because the more of the new is nothing but the more of the same. Once the old or obtained knowledge is established as a regulative foundation–a matter of belief–all it produces is more of the same. It only reproduces itself qua foundation. It is the parochial loop of ‘the more we know the more should we trust in what we know’ that fuels the skeptical revenge of philosophy.
However, in order to inhibit the conversion of knowledge into belief and more importantly, in order to prevent the entrenchment of unipathicity, philosophy adopts two interconnected strategies. As we shall see, beneath the surface character of these strategies lies a different mode of adaptation to the reality of time as the chronic truth of philosophy:
(continue reading the excerpt)

(more…)

28 Oct 2014

Philosophy and the Mind

Reza Negarestani

An extract from my forthcoming essay What Philosophy Does to the Mind (Knowledge, History and the Mind) – to be published in Centers and Peripheries. In some way, this essay is the continuation of The Labor of the Inhuman:

***

Philosophy is archenemy of the obvious. Even though philosophy frequently falls in the trap of the obvious, it has the habit of always coming back to exact a revenge on what is obvious in a manner and the scale not dissimilar to the epic culmination of Jacobean revenge dramas. Unlike any other thought discipline known to man, philosophy never closes the circle of its revenge. It is characterized by its perpetual refusal to put any matter to rest. This absolute recalcitrance bespeaks of the corrosive blood that runs through the body of philosophy, which is that of the principle of deep skepticism: Knowledge must be suspicious of what it already knows. To know more is to believe less, the more we know the less should we believe in what we know. If the task of belief is to turn the accumulated knowledge into a regulative foundation and respectively, a matter of faith, then the progress of knowledge is by definition retroactively aborted. For how can one acquire new knowledge if the knowledge that has already been accumulated is treated as the locus of truth?

If the site of truth is in what has already taken place, then knowledge only exhibits the truth-preservation of classical qua logical rationality, and thus violates the first objective of knowledge, which is that ‘one knows because one does not know.’ But, ‘to know’ is to preserve and mitigate ignorance at the same time, a dual task whose logical structure is at odds with the monotonicity of truth-preservation embedded in classical logic.

The monotonic entailment of truth-preservation functions precisely by conserving ignorance in its very logic–it ignores the possibility of what it is ignorant of. This is the principle of conservation of ignorance without acknowledging it or what can be called the ‘deficit of ignorance-awareness’. The principle of conservation-without-acknowledgement is the functional model of an epistemically maimed mind; it is a mind that empowers itself by choosing to operate primarily on the basis of accumulated and well-stabilized information and in so doing, turning ‘what it knows’ into a blind spot against ‘what it doesn’t’. In such a scenario, further generation of knowledge equals further degeneration of the mind and its epistemic incapacitation. The pitfalls of knowledge become the maladies of the mind and the maladies of the mind become social disabilities in knowing what to think and what to do. No mind by itself has a defense mechanism against the ‘epistemic maiming’ inflicted by its own spatiotemporal approach to truth and information. It is for this reason that only deep skepticism, or at least the strategies that undergird it, can save the mind from its self-inflicted epistemic maiming.

From a navigational perspective, any account of truth that is situated in the past and reinforces the dogma of ‘knowing more equals trusting more in the truth of what we know’ suffers from a unipathic structure or navigational uniqueness. It is unipathic since in order to preserve truth, it must maximally stabilize the transit of truth values by ignoring any other possible path that might invalidate the preserved truth. Hence the mapping and approaching truth is determined in advance.

But the rule-governed game of navigation endorses no unique path and no map drawn in advance, not only is it multipathic but it also does not leave unchanged any address or path taken in the past itinerary. Its ramifying structure includes not only what ought to be navigated (the consequent content of the commitment), but also encompasses what has already been navigated (the antecedent commitments or the premises of the commitment as such). In other words, in the game of navigation, ramification is universal and it is this universality that keeps knowledge in the permanent state of agitation–a landscape with a shifting scenery or a transitory ontology upon which no foundation or navigational preconception can be imposed.

Whereas the unipathicity (i.e. the uniqueness of path) of truth-preservation is secured by ignoring possible or hypothetical navigational paths or transits, the principle of deep skepticism is equipped with a tentative rationalism required for deviating from the unipathic navigational approach so as to be able to activate and acknowledge the condition of ignorance and respectively mitigate it. This is the underlying logic of non-monotonic reasoning in which ramification of every qualitatively organized site of information into cascading paths creates a universal revisionary wave that perpetually reassess and alter any conclusion reached or information organized. Knowledge is not about centralizing the accumulated known but about qualitatively organizing information, navigating the space of concept, developing supple and revisable conceptual patchworks, updating and accessing through various modes the existing knowledge-bases without regarding them as immutable foundations. For knowledge, the crisis of foundations is an emancipative prospect.

According to the monotonic structure of unipathicity, which works from the viewpoint of epistemic entrenchment, the increase in the qualitatively organized information–in the form of premises or axioms–results in the increase in theorems (i.e. further establishment of the known). But the non-monotonic structure of navigation as a ramifying procedure does not permit such a symmetry between ‘to know’ and ‘the known’. This is but the navigational reformulation of deep skepticism in which ‘to know’ does not necessarily make any positive difference in ‘the known qua the accumulated knowledge’. Under the condition of non-monotonicity, addition of new premises fundamentally revises the old conclusions and does not bolster the epistemic entrenchment.

Deep skepticism accordingly is the sharpening of the defeasibility inherent to the non-monotonicity in the realm of the mind itself. It suggests that all insights of the mind into the inner workings of the world must be deflected or rendered defeasible by the insights of the mind into its own inner workings. While at the same time, it simultaneously proposes that all insights of the mind into its inner workings must be revised and deflected by the insights into the workings of the world which condition the workings of the mind.

To put it differently, deep skepticism builds orientational passages (or adjoint vectors) between the workings of mind and the workings of the world (M⇄W). The adjoint vectors or the adjunction symbolized by a left and a right arrow signify the broadening and integrative aspects of deep skepticism that at once deepens the scientific image of the world and leads to a more corrected and sophisticated manifest image of ourselves and establishes a stereoscopic coherence between them.

Deminishing the obvious qua the blind spot in all its forms is only possible by radically disturbing the equilibrium and breaking the symmetric relation between ‘knowing’ and ‘the already known’. The concomitant scrutinizing of the world by looking into the mind and inquiring into the mind by looking into the world constitute the navigational attitude of deep skepticism as adopted by philosophy. It is in this sense that deep skepticism, rather than being an impediment or refutation of knowledge, becomes a catalyst for the expansion of knowledge and the evolution of the mind; it perpetually set frees the game of navigation from its foundationalist commitments, blind spots, epistemic entrenchments and navigational pre-conceptions. For knowledge neither requires a foundation nor a positive differential relation between ‘knowing’ and ‘the known’ in order to expand its frontiers.

According to the skeptical current of philosophy, it is the truth of the acquired knowledge that occasions the blind spot against the truth of future of knowledge. The unipathic approach to truth establishes a model of mind as a self-reinforcing vicious circle blind to the progressive impoverishment of its own capacities. In reality, the more it knows the less it knows because the more of the new is nothing but the more of the same. Once the old or obtained knowledge is established as a regulative foundation–a matter of belief–all it produces is more of the same. It only reproduces itself qua foundation. It is the parochial loop of ‘the more we know the more should we trust in what we know’ that fuels the skeptical revenge of philosophy.

However, in order to inhibit the conversion of knowledge into belief and more importantly, in order to prevent the entrenchment of unipathicity, philosophy adopts two interconnected strategies. As we shall see, beneath the surface character of these strategies lies a different mode of adaptation to the reality of time as the chronic truth of philosophy:

(continue reading the excerpt)

21 Oct 2014


Après le récent entretien avec Alex Williams et Nick Srnicek dans Libération, les accélérationistes français (fraccélérationistes?) peuvent se réjouir … nous avons ici un certain nombre d'exemplaires de cette élégant brochure à tirage limitée Fission, produite par Forde et Wallriss avec la collaboration d'Urbanomic. Elle contient le texte essentiel de Nick Land, Fission (Meltdown) ainsi qu'un essai de Robin Mackay, 'Une expérience dans l&#39inhumanisme' sur l'histoire de Land et son travail à Warwick dans les ann&eacutees 90.

18 Oct 2014

Intelligence and Spirit

Reza Negarestani

This is a passage from my forthcoming work, Intelligence and Spirit. Written in the tradition of ethics of self-cultivation, particularly Seneca’s Epistulae morales, Intelligence and Spirit is an essay on the philosophical foundations of artificial general intelligence and the advent of social intelligence. It is developed through the works of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Pierce, Brandom and Sellars and emphasizes the significance of social intelligence as humanity’s summum bonum. Building on the social moral philosophy of New Confucianism specifically the late works of Mou Zongsan, the final sections focus on a synthetic integration between rationalism and social emancipation oriented toward a collective project of self-cultivation out of which a self-apprehending intelligence can be realized. A more condensed description would be the ethics of intelligence:

“Approximately one billion years ago, the first rudimentary forms of neuronal information processing began to develop, over five hundred million years ago, during the Cambrian period, the evolution of a more complex nervous system combined with advanced visual tracking systems set off the perception catastrophe leading to the organization of the nervous system as an “organ of alienation” capable of generating a designated mental discontinuity. Through this highly regulated mental discontinuity, the organism became able to differentiate regions of space, optimally distinguishing itself from its food and predators. By simultaneously gaining traction on the spatiotemporal continuity of the organism–in reality, a rupture in the continuity of space-time–and the spatio-temporal connectivity, the nervous system enabled the organism to recognize things other than itself, orienting it toward the problem of exploring and making sense of its environment.

With the beginning of neurulation and cephalization processes in the vertebrates, basic computational barriers such as control of combinatorial explosion, construction of models of choice, predictive calculations, simulation of movement and proactive adaptation at the level of the organism were one by one overcome. Eventually the neotenous brain brought the complexity of the nervous system to a new stage. Marked by maximal functional entrenchment, the magnitude of evolutionary diversification–in this case, the addition of extensive structural change–significantly diminished. Maximization of functional entrenchment and reduction in structural diversification of the neotenous brain yet did not constrain the amplification of cognitive processes, but rather forced them (particularly abstraction and simulation) to a new functional vista which is that of the social domain. The development of social cognitive technologies such as tool-use and language solved two of the most significant problems of computation, namely, qualitative compression and stabilization of information necessary for the communal establishment of knowledge and further augmentation and coordination of understanding and action. Qualitative organization and stabilization of information through the formation of concepts as communal components of knowledge transformed the cognitive possibility of knowledge into a social reality, and thus facilitated the acquisition and exploitation of higher levels of cognition otherwise inaccessible from a purely bio-evolutionary standpoint.

However, only less than five hundred years ago, we noticed that we are not living at the center of the universe, slightly more than three hundred years ago we discovered that the fabric of the universe obeys and is held together by physical laws. Only a century and a half ago, we learned we are not children of God and began to investigate its implications–even though to this date, still the religious view on the origin of species is widespread and is vehemently defended. However, just more than a century ago we began to “open up a new continent, that of History, to scientific knowledge”, realizing that not only history can be navigated as a continent of knowledge but also it is an integrating field in which all other forms of knowledge, theoretical and practical, can be fused and reinforce one another. What Louis Althusser hails as Marx’s monumental discovery in the history of human knowledge marks a new stage in the evolution of intelligence, which is that of social intelligence. It is a form of intelligence that liberates new demands and opportunities of ‘what to think’ and ‘what to do’ by sufficiently linking epistemic mediation and socio-political intervention, consolidating both as a functional organization necessary for the social realization of augmented cognition. By theoretically and practically engaging with the question of what it means to have a history, what it means to reorient, reconstitute and repurpose that history through the social’s present normative attitudes toward the past and the future, social intelligence turns into a force for which cognition registers as social re-engineering of the existing reality.

It is the possibility of fusion and implementation of all knowledge within the integrating field of history–spanning from the primitive forms of Spirit to its advanced social forms–that augurs a new form of intelligence for which knowledge must be translated into socio-historical intervention, and intervention as re-engineering the socio-historical reality must deepen the exploration of history, that is the recognition of the past and the integration toward the future.

The discovery of history as a new continent of knowledge where techno-scientific advancement, economy, politics, ethics and social struggle can integrate and reinforce one another is in effect the deepening of the reality of history both in terms of its recollective-retrospective and integrative-prospective dimensions. But deepening of the reality of history is nothing but repurposing and reconstituting it through understanding and intervention. The knowledge of history as a science, as trivial as it may sound, is a hegemonic impulse for on the one hand opening up the recollective-integrative dimensions of history and its social evolution to understanding in the broadest possible sense, and on the other hand intervening with the progression and reality of history by socially implementing this amplifying understanding with no swerve or falter. Failing this we can say that we are not creatures endowed with history and that, more gravely, we are still the denizens of benighted ages where history is a domain as opaque as the inaccessible sky whose ineffability is a source for oppression from the heavens and romanticism or mysticism on earth.

In other words, the knowledge of history as a science is essentially a self-reinforcing tendency toward having a history. But what does it mean to have a history other than reorienting and repurposing it toward future ends unseen by the past whose recognition should never be an impediment but merely a way to liberate the present from its past commitments, either by collectively revising or abandoning them. It is for this reason that Marx’s discovery transforms the pursuit of understanding and intervention, scientific knowledge and social implementation through history into a project where social emancipation and evolution of intelligence entangle, entering into an Odyssean dynamic of reinforcement and mutual diversification. Even though intelligence is natural, short of reorienting, repurposing and reengineering its natural history, it ceases to be intelligent. Yet it remains highly improbable that a robust conception of intelligence can reorient itself toward emancipation without looking into its natural history and working out its exigencies. But an intelligence that does not unfold its own demands which inevitably lead to re-engineering and revising its natural constitution, its multiple realization, is even more implausible. The history of intelligence commandeers its natural history by the history of its obligations and demands, for the history of intelligence is the history of reconstitutions of the natural constitution. The reconstitution of natural history does not violate natural laws but adapts them to new regimes of designed purposes.

Marx’s discovery only over a century ago toward the realization of social intelligence emphasizes the work to be done. Yet more importantly it signifies the truth of our age, that we are merely living in the pre-history of social intelligence. Those who moan and are bored with the pace at which intelligence in general and the self-expediting project of social intelligence in particular are evolving, should look elsewhere either in God or in opiate. The recognition of the hegemony of social intelligence is a collective and common task whose fulfillment is the only true drive toward freedom, both as purposive social freedom and the liberation of a self-apprehending intelligence. The ultimate task of humanity should be to make something better than itself, for what is better than us cultivates itself through our pursuit for the better. Liberate that which liberates itself from you, for anything else is the perpetuation of slavery.

The hegemony of the ultimate task by itself is the expansion of real alternatives and materializes as the maximization of freedom. It is the liberation of intelligence as the principle of summum bonum. It is against the reeking mist of other homebrewed philosophies and social prescriptions (the ardor for the ordinary, resignation, indetermination, anti-logos, neo-luddism, communitarian loacalism, liberal freedom, …) that the hegemony of social intelligence ought to be safeguarded. What is exactly an alternative to social intelligence if not veneration of cognitive turpitude and social vices.”

18 Oct 2014

This is a passage from my forthcoming work, Intelligence and Spirit. Written in the tradition of ethics of self-cultivation, particularly Seneca’s Epistulae morales, Intelligence and Spirit is an essay on the philosophical foundations of artificial general intelligence and the advent of social intelligence. It is developed through the works of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Pierce, Brandom and Sellars and emphasizes the significance of social intelligence as humanity’s summum bonum. Building on the social moral philosophy of New Confucianism specifically the late works of Mou Zongsan, the final sections focus on a synthetic integration between rationalism and social emancipation oriented toward a collective project of self-cultivation out of which a self-apprehending intelligence can be realized. A more condensed description would be the ethics of intelligence:
“Approximately one billion years ago, the first rudimentary forms of neuronal information processing began to develop, over five hundred years ago, during the Cambrian period, the evolution of a more complex nervous system combined with advanced visual tracking systems set off the perception catastrophe leading to the organization of the nervous system as an “organ of alienation” capable of generating a designated mental discontinuity. Through this highly regulated mental discontinuity, the organism became able to differentiate regions of space, optimally distinguishing itself from its food and predators. By simultaneously gaining traction on the spatiotemporal continuity of the organism–in reality, a rupture in the continuity of space-time–and the spatio-temporal connectivity, the nervous system enabled the organism to recognize things other than itself, orienting it toward the problem of exploring and making sense of its environment.
With the beginning of neurulation and cephalization processes in the vertebrates, basic computational barriers such as control of combinatorial explosion, construction of models of choice, predictive calculations, simulation of movement and proactive adaptation at the level of the organism were one by one overcome. Eventually the neotenous brain brought the complexity of the nervous system to a new stage. Marked by maximal functional entrenchment, the magnitude of evolutionary diversification–in this case, the addition of extensive structural change–significantly diminished. Maximization of functional entrenchment and reduction in structural diversification of the neotenous brain yet did not constrain the amplification of cognitive processes, but rather forced them (particularly abstraction and simulation) to a new functional vista which is that of the social domain. The development of social cognitive technologies such as tool-use and language solved two of the most significant problems of computation, namely, qualitative compression and stabilization of information necessary for the communal establishment of knowledge and further augmentation and coordination of understanding and action. Qualitative organization and stabilization of information through the formation of concepts as communal components of knowledge transformed the cognitive possibility of knowledge into a social reality, and thus facilitated the acquisition and exploitation of higher levels of cognition otherwise inaccessible from a purely bio-evolutionary standpoint.
However, only less than five hundred years ago, we noticed that we are not living at the center of the universe, slightly more than three hundred years ago we discovered that the fabric of the universe obeys and is held together by physical laws. Only a century and a half ago, we learned we are not children of God and began to investigate its implications–even though to this date, still the religious view on the origin of species is widespread and is vehemently defended. However, just more than a century ago we began to “open up a new continent, that of History, to scientific knowledge”, realizing that not only history can be navigated as a continent of knowledge but also it is an integrating field in which all other forms of knowledge, theoretical and practical, can be fused and reinforce one another. What Louis Althusser hails as Marx’s monumental discovery in the history of human knowledge marks a new stage in the evolution of intelligence, which is that of social intelligence. It is a form of intelligence that liberates new demands and opportunities of ‘what to think’ and ‘what to do’ by sufficiently linking epistemic mediation and socio-political intervention, consolidating both as a functional organization necessary for the social realization of augmented cognition. By theoretically and practically engaging with the question of what it means to have a history, what it means to reorient, reconstitute and repurpose that history through the social’s present normative attitudes toward the past and the future, social intelligence turns into a force for which cognition registers as social re-engineering of the existing reality.
It is the possibility of fusion and implementation of all knowledge within the integrating field of history–spanning from the primitive forms of Spirit to its advanced social forms–that augurs a new form of intelligence for which knowledge must be translated into socio-historical intervention, and intervention as re-engineering the socio-historical reality must deepen the exploration of history, that is the recognition of the past and the integration toward the future.
The discovery of history as a new continent of knowledge where techno-scientific advancement, economy, politics, ethics and social struggle can integrate and reinforce one another is in effect the deepening of the reality of history both in terms of its recollective-retrospective and integrative-prospective dimensions. But deepening of the reality of history is nothing but repurposing and reconstituting it through understanding and intervention. The knowledge of history as a science, as trivial as it may sound, is a hegemonic impulse for on the one hand opening up the recollective-integrative dimensions of history and its social evolution to understanding in the broadest possible sense, and on the other hand intervening with the progression and reality of history by socially implementing this amplifying understanding with no swerve or falter. Failing this we can say that we are not creatures endowed with history and that, more gravely, we are still the denizens of benighted ages where history is a domain as opaque as the inaccessible sky whose ineffability is a source for oppression from the heavens and romanticism or mysticism on earth.
In other words, the knowledge of history as a science is essentially a self-reinforcing tendency toward having a history. But what does it mean to have a history other than reorienting and repurposing it toward future ends unseen by the past whose recognition should never be an impediment but merely a way to liberate the present from its past commitments, either by collectively revising or abandoning them. It is for this reason that Marx’s discovery transforms the pursuit of understanding and intervention, scientific knowledge and social implementation through history into a project where social emancipation and evolution of intelligence entangle, entering into an Odyssean dynamic of reinforcement and mutual diversification. Even though intelligence is natural, short of reorienting, repurposing and reengineering its natural history, it ceases to be intelligent. Yet it remains highly improbable that a robust conception of intelligence can reorient itself toward emancipation without looking into its natural history and working out its exigencies. But an intelligence that does not unfold its own demands which inevitably lead to re-engineering and revising its natural constitution, its multiple realization, is even more implausible. The history of intelligence commandeers its natural history by the history of its obligations and demands, for the history of intelligence is the history of reconstitutions of the natural constitution. The reconstitution of natural history does not violate natural laws but adapts them to new regimes of designed purposes.
Marx’s discovery only over a century ago toward the realization of social intelligence emphasizes the work to be done. Yet more importantly it signifies the truth of our age, that we are merely living in the pre-history of social intelligence. Those who moan and are bored with the pace at which intelligence in general and the self-expediting project of social intelligence in particular are evolving, should look elsewhere either in God or in opiate. The recognition of the hegemony of social intelligence is a collective and common task whose fulfillment is the only true drive toward freedom, both as purposive social freedom and the liberation of a self-apprehending intelligence. The ultimate task of humanity should be to make something better than itself, for what is better than us cultivates itself through our pursuit for the better. Liberate that which liberates itself from you, for anything else is the perpetuation of slavery.
The hegemony of the ultimate task by itself is the expansion of real alternatives and materializes as the maximization of freedom. It is the liberation of intelligence as the principle of summum bonum. It is against the reeking mist of other homebrewed philosophies and social prescriptions (the ardor for the ordinary, resignation, indetermination, anti-logos, neo-luddism, communitarian loacalism, liberal freedom, …) that the hegemony of social intelligence ought to be safeguarded. What is exactly an alternative to social intelligence if not veneration of cognitive turpitude and social vices.”

06 Oct 2014

Hello world!

Reza Negarestani

It is a matter of patiently assisting this Thing from outside as it extracts us unilaterally from spontaneity and decision; in extirpating once and for all what we might call the original spontaneous philosophical illusion – that which consists in the philosopher’s belief – the ‘oldest prejudice’ (more…)

02 Oct 2014

Three new publications on their way, three launch events for November:

On Nov 7th we launch Peter Wolfendale's Object-Oriented Philosophy at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead. More details here.

On Nov 12th we move on to Tate Britain for the launch of Speculative Aesthetics. More details here.

And on Nov 20th, at Spike Island, Bristol, we launch Châtelet's To Live and Think Like Pigs where Robin Mackay will discuss how Châtelet's polemic stands in relation to the perspective of Accelerationisms past and present.More details here.

22 Sep 2014


Readers are reminded that Peter Wolfendale’s new book, Object-Oriented Ontology: The Noumenon’s New Clothes, is now available for pre-order via the Urbanomic website.

22 Sep 2014

We now have copies of Reza Negarestani's essay Torture Concrete for sale in our web store.

Negarestani's essay is published in conjunction with Jean-Luc Moulène's exhibition, Torture Concrete, September 7 – October 26, 2014 at Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York. The text emerged out of a number of conversations between the writer and artist around the theme of abstraction both as a multi-faceted project in the general domain of thought and as a specific process of artistic experimentation. Negarestani sharply asserts abstraction's origins as the dialectic between form (mathematics) and sensible matter (physics) and its otherwise flat interpretation in art history, and presents us with the redemptive possibilities for its enrichment and diversification through the lens of artistic practice.

Negarestani calls into question the 'self-reflexive history of art' as having embezzled this singular definition of abstraction, so that one can no longer link it to its constitutive gesture or procedural coherence, and locates Moulène's work safely at the outer-edges of this 'impoverished' history. He asserts that for Moulène, 'the task of art is rediscovered not in its ostensible autonomy but in its singular power to rearrange and destabilize the configurational relations between parameters of thought, parameters of imagination and material constraints which parameterize the cognitive edifice.'

Moulène seeks to define new objectives for art and to further revise its task using his own working paradigm of topology and dynamic systems. Within the artist's work – the work of systematization of experimentation and producing tools for thinking – Negarestani finds a reassuring pursuit in practice, that of the unearthing of a buried dialectic, and a worthy response to his problematic: 'We've all heard of abstraction, but no one has ever seen one.'

Both men work in search of a means of emancipation from a tortured position (as writer, artist, human). For Moulène, making a change to the body, a change from within, works alongside the notion of thought making a difference in the world. But in order for thought to do this, as Negarestani suggests, 'first it must make a difference in itself–this is where abstraction finds its true vocation.'

19 Sep 2014


Also forthcoming for 2014-15 are several more in the Redactions series, including the long-awaited Hydroplutonic Kernow, documentation of a 2010\’s Geotraumatic bus tour of Cornwall, and When Site Lost the Plot, a transdisciplinary investigation into the remains of the concept of site-specificity.

April 2015 sees publication of Suhail Malik\’s important new work on On The Necessity of Art\’s Exit From Contemporary Art.
And of course, before that, the long long awaited Collapse 8: Casino Real will finally be published (apologies for the delay but, as you can see, we haven\’t been shirking…).
Also we have copies of Reza Negarestani\’s Torture Concrete coming in next week…

19 Sep 2014


Last, but not least, of our new books, published with Sequence Press and scheduled for November publication, is Gilles Châtelet\’s magnificent polemic against neoliberalism, To Live and Think Like Pigs.
In this fiery tract, Châtelet combines the incandescent wrath of the betrayed comrade with the acute discrimination of the mathematician-physicist, scrutinizing the pseudoscientific alibis employed to naturalize \’market democracy\’, and the \’triple alliance\’ between politics, economics, and cybernetics.
Alain Badiou contributes a preface in which he examines how the \’fulminating abstraction\’ at work in this book provides a clue to the link between Châtelet\’s work as a philosopher of science and mathematics and his insistence upon connecting thought to the body and to the question \’What is it to Live?\’

19 Sep 2014


Second of our new publications arriving next month is Speculative Aesthetics, the first of our new Redactions series (see Publications).
Redaction is the process of preparing source material for publication, implying both recall, distillation, and a settling of accounts (Redigere – to bring back, reduce down, call in)
Urbanomic\’s Redactions reprocess live dialogues, rewriting, reconstructing and reassembling archives of past events.
The original participants are invited to revisit, rethink and refine their contributions, which are occasionally supplemented by additional resources to further extend the discussion – a montage of collective research in progress.
This first publication in the series documents and extends the Speculative Aesthetics roundtable, discussing the ramifications of speculative thought for aesthetics, this discussion ranges from contemporary art\’s relation to the aesthetic, to accelerationism and abstraction, logic and design.
The introduction to the book is available to read on the book details page.

19 Sep 2014


Our first new publication is Peter Wolfendale\’s tour de force, Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon\’s New Clothes.
Both a remarkably clear explication of the tenets of OOP and an acute critique of the movement\’s ramifications for philosophy today, Object-Oriented Philosophy is a major engagement with one of the most prevalent trends in recent philosophy. Moving beyond the hype, Peter Wolfendale considers its emergence in the light of the intertwined legacies of twentieth-century analytic and Continental traditions.
Ray Brassier contributes a postscript that faces the legacy of Speculative Realism and OOO head-on, conducting a \’Speculative Autopsy\’ on a movement that was, as Wolfendale states, \’dead on arrival\’.

19 Sep 2014


We are very excited to announce a number of new Urbanomic publications for 2014-15. Please click on the link above for our new catalogue, which features some great photos from Urbanomic readers of our books in various exotic locations from Bogota to Tokyo, Iceland to Aruba!
More details on each of the new titles to follow… if you can\’t wait, check out the Publications page.

09 Sep 2014

We are about to send out our trade catalogue with new titles for 2014-15. Once again we invite you to recommend bookstores worldwide where you would like to see Urbanomic titles in stock. Please email bookstores@urbanomic.com with your suggestions. Thanks!

09 Sep 2014

Kant&mirror.jpg
My text on Moulène, abstraction and embodied thought experiments is published by Sequence Press and can be ordered through their website.

04 Sep 2014

In response to many requests, we have been preparing all the previous volumes of Collapse into ebook format; they will be published progressively, beginning with Collapse 1: Numerical Materialism later this month.
In rereading Collapse 1 (2006) it occurred to us that the first piece Urbanomic published by Reza Negarestani, The Militarization of Peace: Absence of Terror or Terror of Absence? deserves to be widely reread today, so we have made this article available as a preview epub: Download here.

04 Sep 2014

This is the abstract of my forthcoming talk at A Culture Beyond Crisis workshop, organized by Goethe-Institut Los Angeles and The School of Critical Studies, CalArt.
Venue: October 25 at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, 5750 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 100, Los Angeles CA 90036, phone +1 323 525338, time: 10.30 am – 1:00pm

***


What Does It Mean to Think a Catastrophe
This presentation revolves around two lines of inquiry: What is precisely a catastrophe? And is every catastrophe a crisis?
By answering the first question, this presentation attempts to investigate the imports of a catastrophe for cognition. Following the works René Thom, Jean Petitot, Wolfgang Wildgen, Lorenzo Magnani and recent works in conceptualization of processes (see Johanna Seibt, Svend Østergaard, et al.), we propose that not only cognitive systems use catastrophes – induced or natural – to organize information and generate semantic opportunities through which they can evolve, but also cognition as such is a generative catastrophe par excellence. Once the concept of catastrophe is sufficiently elaborated, it is then possible to tackle the second question, namely, if a catastrophe is a cognitive opportunity and if cognition is a generative catastrophe that must always be kept in a fragile state of equilibrium, then should we treat socio-political crises as windows of opportunity for understanding and action? We shall argue that engaging this question in the absence of a detailed and critical differentiation between catastrophe and crisis, between different types of stability and instability results in two predominant pathologies in thinking and acting upon crises. At one extreme, the conflation will lead to a rampant affirmationist position for which every rupture in socio-cultural fabric is seen as an engine of change or a potential positive singularity (cf. the philosophy of right-accelerationism). At the other pole, short of an adequate approach to map the distinctions and connections between the two, socio-political resignation or fundamentalist conservatism become the principle attitudes. Every catastrophe or singularity is immediately staved off as a threat. Novel approaches to crises are discarded in favor of trifling local solutions or worse, the all-encompassing impotence of resignation: Let’s act in our immediate environment or let it be. As an alterative to these two extremes, this presentation aims at putting forward a third alternative built on a fine-grained map between catastrophe and crisis where the cognitive and critical opportunities, singularities and obstructions (or failures) fuse in order to delineate new affordances of action.

26 Aug 2014

JLM.jpg Jean-Luc Moulène
Torture Concrete

September 7 – October 26, 2014
Opening reception: Sunday, September 7, 6-8 PM
Miguel Abreu Gallery
88 Eldridge Street / 36 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
212.995.1774 , post@miguelabreugallery.com



“Anyone who does not recognize and embrace the formal cruelty of thought is not fit for the labor of abstraction. Anyone who is not suited to the labor of abstraction cannot liberate thought from its idleness and from its oppressive determination by its own present image i.e. what it is or what it is supposed to be. […]
The greatest merit of Moulène’s work is that he is perhaps the only living artist whose entire project is systematically devoted to changing the transformative dimension of thought by manipulating and disturbing the general configuration of its structure – that is, the relation between its tendencies and local instantiations. For him, the task of art is rediscovered not in its ostensible autonomy but in its singular power to rearrange and destabilize the configurational relations between parameters of thought, parameters of imagination and material constraints that structure and parameterize the cognitive edifice. It is this configurational instability that allows for the transition of thought to a new stage by widening its scope of synthesis (i.e. the differentiation and integration of thought). However, the evolving task of art can never be entirely approached from within art itself as a particular mode of thought, but only in the context of the general structure of thought that makes such a task possible and renders it consequential in terms of the role it plays for the transformation of thought. This is where, by approaching the task of art in terms of the self-transformative capacities and opportunities of thought – its propensity to systematically be cruel to itself, to violently rise above what determines it – Moulène makes two consequential moves: Firstly, he attempts to redefine the consequentiality of art in terms of what makes the task of art possible and legitimizes such a task within a much broader context. Secondly, by approaching the designated task of art by way of the general configuration that enables such a task (i.e. the positive destabilizing-stabilizing loop through which thought finds new answers to perennial questions of ‘what to think’ and ‘what to do’), Moulène seeks to outline new objectives for art and to revise its task.
The entire task of thought is to redefine its functional roles and cumulatively liberate itself from the grip of any external cause that determines it and any telos that limits its functional ascension. A local field of thought – be it art or philosophy – that does not reinvent its task in order to adapt to this general goal has no justification whatsoever for its existence. Just as biological evolution has no tolerance for the lack of functional adaptation, the functional evolution of thought has no patience for a mode of thought that refuses to rise to the status of the noetic structure that supports it. A specific mode of thought that does not raise itself to the general status of thought is obsolete and will be weeded out by the very thought that once enabled it.” (Torture Concrete: Jean-Luc Moulène and the protocol of abstraction)

08 Aug 2014

Let\’s make Urbanomic\’s 2014-15 catalogue look good. Send your photos to us at office@urbanomic.com. If your photo is used you get free copies of new 2014-15 publications! All resolutions considered!

01 Aug 2014

07 Jul 2014

The introduction to #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader is now available to read online here.

05 Jul 2014

Turing-manuscript.jpg
Here is the first part of my talk at Incredible Machines conference on Turing and the problem of computational description. I will also post my second presentation at the Berlin summer school (on functions, mechanisms and hierarchies).
For anyone who has not seen it yet, there is an excellent blog on the Berlin summer school covering the ongoing presentations and discussions.

***

The revolution is back
(Turing, functional realization and computational description)

I philosophically endorse computationalism and even more so I am an ardent proponent of functionalism. I think–and I am fully prepared to defend this controversial claim–that a philosopher cannot intellectually survive without endorsing functionalism, at least one of its many varieties (strongly normative [Hegel, Brandom], normative-materially constrained [Sellars] or strongly mechanistic [Bechtel]). To this extent, what I would like to briefly address is the significance of the functionalist account of the human mind, or more broadly speaking, the functionalist account of the rational agency. In this respect, I take side with Alan Turing’s response to Arguments from Various Disabilities (AVD) where he challenges the common forms of rejecting the possibility of the functional realization of the human mind in different substrates–for instance, in machines.
Machines cannot think, machines cannot have emotions, machines cannot be purposeful, they cannot be proactive and so forth: Turing enumerates these under what he calls arguments from various disabilities, it is sort of straw machine argument that is baseless and precarious. It is more a fruit of our psychological fears and residual theological approaches to the universe and ourselves than the result of sound arguments.
The mind-preservationist is a person who believes that the mind cannot be functionally realized and implemented in different substrates. He is a person who not only rejects the functionalist realization of the mind but also as a result yields to a form of vitalism or ineffability of the human mind. The mind-preservationist always attempts to see the machine’s capacities from the perspective of an endemic disability. But if what the mind-preservationist really dismisses is not the machine as such but is the functional realization of the mind implemented in the machine, then what he actually denies is not the machine per se but the mind itself. Or more accurately, what the mind-preservationist ends up rejecting is the possibility of mapping the mind’s functions, the possibility of modeling it, defining and objectifying it. In this sense, machine-denialism is simply an excuse for denying what the mind is and what it can be. Correspondingly, disavowing the pursuit of understanding the mind coincides with acting against the evolution of the mind, since from a pragmatic-functional viewpoint the understanding of the meaning of the mind is inseparable from how the mind can be defined, reconstructed and modified in different contexts. Therefore, if we lack the definition of the mind which is itself a map for its realization and objectification, then how can we so readily rule out the possibility of a machine furnished with a mind? The mind-preservationist, accordingly, has a double standard when it comes to recognizing the mind as both the measure and the object of his critique. He says the machine cannot engage in mental activities as if he possesses the map of the mind. However, if he does not know what constitutes activities of the mind, which is to say, if he does not possess the functional map of the mind, then he cannot approach the functional account of the mind (that is, a mind realized by a different set of realizers and implemented in an environment different from its natural-biological habitat) from the perspective of an intrinsic disability.
If you don’t know what the mind is then how can you claim the machine cannot possibly have a mind? With the understanding that the ‘what’ posed in this question is the very map of the mind’s functional realizability that can be implemented in machines. Here ‘what’ can be described functionally as those activities which define what the mind is. The mind is therefore described as a functional item, in terms of its capacities for mentation (i.e. engaging in mental activities). From a functionalist perspective, what makes a thing a thing is not what a thing is but what a thing does. In other words, the functional item is not independent of its activity.
The activities of the mind are indeed special in the sense that they are not ubiquitous. But as William Bechtel suggests it is not in spite of being comprised of mechanisms but in virtue of the right kind of mechanisms that the mind is special and its set of activities has distinctive characteristics.
For this reason, if the attack or the argument from the perspective of disabilities is adopted as a standard strategy toward machines or what Daniel Dennett calls “machine mentation” or if it is exercised as a pre-determined reaction to the possibility of the realization of the mind in different substrates, then it no longer enjoys a genuine critical attitude. Why? Because such a critical strategy then has implicitly subscribed itself to a preservationist view of the mind as something inherently foreclosed to mapping and (re)construction. The mind it safeguards has a special status because it is unique at the level of mapping and constructability. It cannot be constructed, because it cannot be fully mapped. It cannot be mapped because it cannot be defined. It cannot be defined because it is somewhere ineffable. If it is somewhere ineffable, then it is everywhere ineffable. Therefore, the singularity of the mind is the effect of its ineffability. If we buy into one ineffable thing and if that thing happens to be central to how we perceive the world, then we are also prepared to regard many other things in the universe as ineffable. Consequently, we have committed ourselves to full-blown mysticism.

(more…)

04 Jul 2014

The revolution is back

Reza Negarestani

Turing-manuscript.jpg

Here is the first part of my talk at Incredible Machines conference on Turing and the problem of computational description. I will also post my second presentation at the Berlin summer school (on functions, mechanisms and hierarchies).

For anyone who has not seen it yet, there is an excellent blog on the Berlin summer school covering the ongoing presentations and discussions.

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The revolution is back
(Turing, functional realization and computational description)

I philosophically endorse computationalism and even more so I am an ardent proponent of functionalism. I think–and I am fully prepared to defend this controversial claim–that a philosopher cannot intellectually survive without endorsing functionalism, at least one of its many varieties (strongly normative [Hegel, Brandom], normative-materially constrained [Sellars] or strongly mechanistic [Bechtel]). To this extent, what I would like to briefly address is the significance of the functionalist account of the human mind, or more broadly speaking, the functionalist account of the rational agency. In this respect, I take side with Alan Turing’s response to Arguments from Various Disabilities (AVD) where he challenges the common forms of rejecting the possibility of the functional realization of the human mind in different substrates–for instance, in machines.

Machines cannot think, machines cannot have emotions, machines cannot be purposeful, they cannot be proactive and so forth: Turing enumerates these under what he calls arguments from various disabilities, it is sort of straw machine argument that is baseless and precarious. It is more a fruit of our psychological fears and residual theological approaches to the universe and ourselves than the result of sound arguments.

The mind-preservationist is a person who believes that the mind cannot be functionally realized and implemented in different substrates. He is a person who not only rejects the functionalist realization of the mind but also as a result yields to a form of vitalism or ineffability of the human mind. The mind-preservationist always attempts to see the machine’s capacities from the perspective of an endemic disability. But if what the mind-preservationist really dismisses is not the machine as such but is the functional realization of the mind implemented in the machine, then what he actually denies is not the machine per se but the mind itself. Or more accurately, what the mind-preservationist ends up rejecting is the possibility of mapping the mind’s functions, the possibility of modeling it, defining and objectifying it. In this sense, machine-denialism is simply an excuse for denying what the mind is and what it can be. Correspondingly, disavowing the pursuit of understanding the mind coincides with acting against the evolution of the mind, since from a pragmatic-functional viewpoint the understanding of the meaning of the mind is inseparable from how the mind can be defined, reconstructed and modified in different contexts. Therefore, if we lack the definition of the mind which is itself a map for its realization and objectification, then how can we so readily rule out the possibility of a machine furnished with a mind? The mind-preservationist, accordingly, has a double standard when it comes to recognizing the mind as both the measure and the object of his critique. He says the machine cannot engage in mental activities as if he possesses the map of the mind. However, if he does not know what constitutes activities of the mind, which is to say, if he does not possess the functional map of the mind, then he cannot approach the functional account of the mind (that is, a mind realized by a different set of realizers and implemented in an environment different from its natural-biological habitat) from the perspective of an intrinsic disability.

If you don’t know what the mind is then how can you claim the machine cannot possibly have a mind? With the understanding that the ‘what’ posed in this question is the very map of the mind’s functional realizability that can be implemented in machines. Here ‘what’ can be described functionally as those activities which define what the mind is. The mind is therefore described as a functional item, in terms of its capacities for mentation (i.e. engaging in mental activities). From a functionalist perspective, what makes a thing a thing is not what a thing is but what a thing does. In other words, the functional item is not independent of its activity.

The activities of the mind are indeed special in the sense that they are not ubiquitous. But as William Bechtel suggests it is not in spite of being comprised of mechanisms but in virtue of the right kind of mechanisms that the mind is special and its set of activities has distinctive characteristics.

For this reason, if the attack or the argument from the perspective of disabilities is adopted as a standard strategy toward machines or what Daniel Dennett calls “machine mentation” or if it is exercised as a pre-determined reaction to the possibility of the realization of the mind in different substrates, then it no longer enjoys a genuine critical attitude. Why? Because such a critical strategy then has implicitly subscribed itself to a preservationist view of the mind as something inherently foreclosed to mapping and (re)construction. The mind it safeguards has a special status because it is unique at the level of mapping and constructability. It cannot be constructed, because it cannot be fully mapped. It cannot be mapped because it cannot be defined. It cannot be defined because it is somewhere ineffable. If it is somewhere ineffable, then it is everywhere ineffable. Therefore, the singularity of the mind is the effect of its ineffability. If we buy into one ineffable thing and if that thing happens to be central to how we perceive the world, then we are also prepared to regard many other things in the universe as ineffable. Consequently, we have committed ourselves to full-blown mysticism.

26 Jun 2014

I will be in Berlin for the first few sessions of the summer school (details here). My first talk will revolve around the following texts:
G. Chatelet, On a Little Phrase of Riemann’s…, trans. Robin Mackay (Available here:
http://blog.urbanomic.com/cyclon/Chatelet_local-global.pdf)
R. Negarestani, Where is the Concept? (Available here: http://blog.urbanomic.com/cyclon/Navigation-2013.pdf)

Below are the abstracts for my two presentations on July 1st:
Session one: The Matheme of the Universal
This presentation aims to introduce some of the recent advances in mathematics and concept-analysis through an accessible conceptual history shaped by philosophical questions surrounding topics such as particularity, universality, analysis, synthesis, orientation, quantity, quality and theory of extension. By answering these questions it would be possible to reinvent the dialectic between particularity and universality as the transition from the local to the global, therefore moving from a theory of universality to a theory of connections (Levi-Civita, Cartan, et al.) where stepwise local constructions can be coupled with a global orientation. While the transition to local-global connections resolves certain antagonisms between the local and the universal, it creates a productive space of tension through which the local can be explored beyond its immediate ambit. It is this exploratory vector that opens the local-global passage as a rule-based landscape of navigation.
Session two: Engineering through Navigation
Why are functions important, especially in the study of complex phenomena or hierarchical and multi-layered systems where complexity arises not because of the size or the number of components or processes involved but because of the particularity of the mode of organization that orchestrates the activities and operations of various structural and functional hierarchies? One answer to this question would be because any account of change – whether in the context of evolution or in the context of normative modification, intervention, rectification and reorganization – is ultimately the change in function. Even when we change the structure, we do that with the aim of inducing a change in function i.e. what a thing does and how it can be improved or replaced by a different set of activities. But the change of function is far from easy since we need to locate the exact function we are referring to within a much wider functional organization, within an environment and in accordance with existing structural constraints. What a complex system appears to be doing is hardly ever what it actually does. In order to implement a change in function, first we should identify what a system does, how it does it, how its functions are organized and how the activity in question is orchestrated through this complex organization. In other words, we must have the knowledge of ‘what a system does’ in order to change a function and alter a system’s or a phenomenon’s behavior. This presentation extends the ‘navigational paradigm’ to questions regarding construction and modification of complex systems through the lenses of mechanistic explanation and multi-level analysis of functional organization.
Date and location: July 1-12, 2014, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

13 May 2014

We have something of a backlog but all advance orders for #Accelerate should be sent out this week. Thanks for your patience. The e-book edition is coming as soon as we negotiate the hurdles erected by the itunes and Amazon monopolies.

02 May 2014

14 May @enclaveprojects: #Accelerate w/WORDS:@benedict @lemonbloodycola @deontologistics v-reza +NOISE:starkton @tomtrevatt frankiesolar

24 Apr 2014

Owing to technical hitches in printing, publication date for #Accelerate now May 8 – our apologies. Please feel free to comment wryly on irony of situation.

18 Mar 2014

in response to queries, yes there will be an ebook edn of #Accelerate published in parallel with print edn

02 Mar 2014

As part of an event organized by Glass Bead (Fabien Giraud, Jeremy Lecomte, Vincent Normand, Ida Soulard, Inigo Wilkins) and Composing Differences (curated by Virginie Bobin), Guerino Mazzola and I will be presenting talks on philosophy, mathematics, games and the paradigm of navigation. Here is my abstract (I will post Mazzola’s abstract later):
cognitive_demons.gif
What Philosophy Does to the Mind
By entering the game of truths – that is, making sense of what is true and making it true – and approaching it as a rule-based game of navigation, philosophy opens up a new evolutionary vista for the transformation of the mind. Within this evolutionary landscape, the mind is grasped as a set of activities or practices required to navigate and adapt to a terrain which lacks a given map and a given compass, a desert bereft of natural landmarks, with a perpetually shifting scenery and furnished with transitory mirages. The mind is forced to adapt to an environment where generic trajectories replace specific trajectories and where the consequences of making one move unfold as future ramifying paths that not only uproot the current position in the landscape but also fundamentally change the travel history and the address of the past itinerary. It is within this environment that philosophy instigates an epochal development of yet unexplored and obscure possibilities: By simulating the truth of the mind as a navigational horizon, philosophy sets out the conditions for the emancipation of the mind from its contingently posited settings and limits of constructability. Philosophy’s ancient program for exploring the mind becomes inseparable from the exploration of possibilities for reconstructing and realizing the mind by different realizers and for different purposes.
In liberating itself from its illusions of ineffability and irreproducible uniqueness, and by apprehending itself as an upgradable armamentarium of practices or abilities, the mind realizes itself as an expanding constructible edifice that effectuates a mind-only system. But this is a system that is no longer comprehensible within the traditional ambit of idealism, for it involves ‘mind’ not as a theoretical object but as a practical project of socio-historical wisdom or augmented general intelligence.
Throughout this presentation we shall lay out the minimal characteristics and procedures of the game of navigation by drawing on the works of Gilles Châtelet (the construction of a horizon), Guerino Mazzola (a dynamic theory of addresses) and Robert Brandom (the procedural system of commitments). We shall subsequently unpack the consequences of playing this game in terms of the transition from self-conception to self-transformation of the mind as outlined by the New Confucian philosophers Xiong Shili and Mou Zongsan.

Date: April 22nd, 7-9pm.
Location:
311 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002, USA
Sponsored by ART² and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

19 Feb 2014

Gyroscopic-Concept.jpg

I will be giving a number of presentations in Vancouver surrounding the navigational paradigm (as related to the ramifying structure of commitments, the non-classical portrait of the concept and the space of knowledge). Abstracts below:

(more…)

03 Feb 2014

functions_small.jpg

Function: Decomposition, Localization, Abstraction
Speakers: Ray Brassier, Reza Negarestani
Although principally associated with a thesis in the philosophy of mind, functionalism has wide-ranging ramifications. The concept of “functional role” or “functional organization” ties together a metaphysical problem about the basis of the distinction between matter and form, an epistemic problem about how to distinguish semantic content from physical information, and an engineering problem about the relation between structural and functional properties. This workshop will try to unravel the metaphysical, epistemic, and engineering aspects of functionalism by developing themes from the work of philosophers including William Bechtel, Robert Brandom, Wilfrid Sellars, and William Wimsatt.
Date and Time: March 25, 2014, 6:30pm
Location:
Wollman Hall, The New School
66 West 12th Street
New York, NY 10011
This is a free event and open to the public.
Seating is limited: You can order tickets via Eventbrite.

25 Jan 2014

This is a revised and extended version of a short piece I wrote a while ago for Mohammad Salemy’s project Encyclonospace Iranica. Salemy’s project is a reconceptualization of the modern model of knowledge as an encyclospace, or a dynamic universe for the qualitative organization of information and the proliferation and navigation of its knowledge-bases. This is of course a far too reductive description of Salemy’s project and its ambitions. A good place to start with Salemy’s project is its documentation website, and also here.

***

The text in PDF.
Navigate With Extreme Prejudice
(Definitions and Ramifications)

•  Traditionally, philosophy is an ascetic cognitive experimentation in abstract (general) intelligence. As an ascesis in cognition, it concerns with grasping the mind in terms of a diversifiable set of abilities or practices whose deployment counts as what the mind is and what it does: special doings that one must undertake in order to count as organizing the intellect and setting in motion the faculty of thinking. By abstracting the mind to a set of practices, philosophy experiments with possibilities occasioned by decomposing the behavior of the mind into special performances or practices. The opportunities brought about by this practical decomposability are numerous and are still largely unidentified. The schema of this functionalist abstraction has at least two immediate implications. One is that by decomposing the mind to a set of practices, philosophy is able to envision itself as a veritable environment for an augmented nous precisely in the sense of a systematic experiment in mind simulation. Therefore, the mind is conceived – less in the sense of what it is and more in the sense what it does and what it can do – beyond its immediate or hard constraints. In other words, philosophy simultaneously expands the scope of experimentation with the mind and the scope of what mind can be and what it can do. The other implication is that by decomposing the mind into a set of practices, philosophy progressively registers itself as the domain of practical wisdom rather than theoretical wisdom, where ‘mind as a theoretical object’ is replaced by ‘mind as a system of practices’. Already pregnant of pragmatic-functionalist and social-communal gestures, the practical decomposability of mind, accordingly, transforms philosophy into a domain of practical wisdom and by so doing, it allows the understanding and manipulation of the mind as a collective enterprise of robust social practices. Once mind is mapped on the level of social practices, manipulation of the social fabric in the sense of diversifying robust social practices, design of new social conducts and administration of social organizations leads to the constructive manipulation, or more precisely, practical abstraction of the mind as a collective horizon. Indeed, philosophy establishes a link between intelligence and modes of collectivization, in a way that liberation, organization and complexification of the latter implies new odysseys for the former, which is to say, intelligence and the evolution of the nous. In this way, philosophy presents the first collective model of general intelligence according to which ‘what intelligence is’ and ‘how it can be liberated’ are no longer exclusively sought in the workings of the mind as a strongly structurally-coupled entity. In other words, its embedding in materiality (i.e. embodiment) and natural design (i.e. optimization principles associated with natural evolution) are no longer adequate criteria for its identification and liberation. Instead the reality of intelligence (what it is and what it can be) is found in the strongly functional realm of ‘mind as a system of collective practices’ which, by virtue of the function’s autonomy with regard to conditions of its constitution, is capable of proliferating itself in new complex structures and organizations. It is the collective instantiation inherent to this model that provides intelligence with a certain plasticity that can be modified, distributed, facilitated, even expedited. To sum up, by concurrently treating the mind as a vector of extreme abstraction and abstracting the mind into a set of social practices and conducts, philosophy gesticulates toward a particular and not yet fully comprehended event in the modern epoch – as opposed to traditional forms – of intelligence: The self-realization of intelligence coincides and is implicitly linked with the self-realization of social collectivity. The single most significant historical objective is then postulated as the activation and elaboration of this link between the two aforementioned dimensions of self-realization as ultimately one unified project.

(more…)

25 Jan 2014

What is philosophy?

Reza Negarestani

This is a revised and extended version of a short piece I wrote a while ago for Mohammad Salemy’s project Encyclonospace Iranica. Salemy’s project is a reconceptualization of the modern model of knowledge as an encyclospace, or a dynamic universe for the qualitative organization of information and the proliferation and navigation of its knowledge-bases. This is of course a far too reductive description of Salemy’s project and its ambitions. A good place to start with Salemy’s project is its documentation website, and also here.


***

The text in PDF.

Navigate With Extreme Prejudice
(Definitions and Ramifications)

•  Traditionally, philosophy is an ascetic cognitive experimentation in abstract (general) intelligence. As an ascesis in cognition, it concerns with grasping the mind in terms of a diversifiable set of abilities or practices whose deployment counts as what the mind is and what it does: special doings that one must undertake in order to count as organizing the intellect and setting in motion the faculty of thinking. By abstracting the mind to a set of practices, philosophy experiments with possibilities occasioned by decomposing the behavior of the mind into special performances or practices. The opportunities brought about by this practical decomposability are numerous and are still largely unidentified. The schema of this functionalist abstraction has at least two immediate implications. One is that by decomposing the mind to a set of practices, philosophy is able to envision itself as a veritable environment for an augmented nous precisely in the sense of a systematic experiment in mind simulation. Therefore, the mind is conceived – less in the sense of what it is and more in the sense what it does and what it can do – beyond its immediate or hard constraints. In other words, philosophy simultaneously expands the scope of experimentation with the mind and the scope of what mind can be and what it can do. The other implication is that by decomposing the mind into a set of practices, philosophy progressively registers itself as the domain of practical wisdom rather than theoretical wisdom, where ‘mind as a theoretical object’ is replaced by ‘mind as a system of practices’. Already pregnant of pragmatic-functionalist and social-communal gestures, the practical decomposability of mind, accordingly, transforms philosophy into a domain of practical wisdom and by so doing, it allows the understanding and manipulation of the mind as a collective enterprise of robust social practices. Once mind is mapped on the level of social practices, manipulation of the social fabric in the sense of diversifying robust social practices, design of new social conducts and administration of social organizations leads to the constructive manipulation, or more precisely, practical abstraction of the mind as a collective horizon. Indeed, philosophy establishes a link between intelligence and modes of collectivization, in a way that liberation, organization and complexification of the latter implies new odysseys for the former, which is to say, intelligence and the evolution of the nous. In this way, philosophy presents the first collective model of general intelligence according to which ‘what intelligence is’ and ‘how it can be liberated’ are no longer exclusively sought in the workings of the mind as a strongly structurally-coupled entity. In other words, its embedding in materiality (i.e. embodiment) and natural design (i.e. optimization principles associated with natural evolution) are no longer adequate criteria for its identification and liberation. Instead the reality of intelligence (what it is and what it can be) is found in the strongly functional realm of ‘mind as a system of collective practices’ which, by virtue of the function’s autonomy with regard to conditions of its constitution, is capable of proliferating itself in new complex structures and organizations. It is the collective instantiation inherent to this model that provides intelligence with a certain plasticity that can be modified, distributed, facilitated, even expedited. To sum up, by concurrently treating the mind as a vector of extreme abstraction and abstracting the mind into a set of social practices and conducts, philosophy gesticulates toward a particular and not yet fully comprehended event in the modern epoch – as opposed to traditional forms – of intelligence: The self-realization of intelligence coincides and is implicitly linked with the self-realization of social collectivity. The single most significant historical objective is then postulated as the activation and elaboration of this link between the two aforementioned dimensions of self-realization as ultimately one unified project.

10 Jan 2014

Seneca
Two upcoming talks at Merve (Berlin) and Staedelschule (Frankfurt), abstracts and details below:

How Can You Make Me Better?

“Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can. Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Building on a now neglected tradition of philosophy as a discipline for forging questions whose sheer insinuative power does something irreversible to the mind, this discussion entertains the idea of posing a question so extreme it would not leave any room for a neutral attitude. Posed at the intersection of philosophy as an experiment in the ascesis of cognition and ethics as a design of conduct, the inciting and hypothetical dimensions of this question are concealed within the informal demand of an innocent query or solicitation: “How can you make me better?”
Being the central inquiry of a number of ancient programs of ethics such as Cynicism, Stoicism, Confucianism and more recently New Confucianism (Shili, Zongsan, Junyi, et al.), the solicitation for enhancement or the demand for the better is progressively unfolded as an instigation of a project of self-realization. By arguing that these ethical regimen theoretically and practically treat virtues and constructive relationships as functions and motivations as orientations, and in so doing they endow enhancing forms of conduct with a certain functional autonomy, we propose that ethics can be redefined as a functionalist program furnished with a canonical orientation. Closely associated with the philosophical foundations of artificial intelligence, this is functionalism in the sense of abstract realizability of the roles functions play in complex systems so that the multi-state function of a set of practices or abilities can be adequately abstracted for the purpose of re-adaptation in different and broader contexts. By virtue of their abstract realizability, functions enjoy a form of autonomy that enables their extraction and replication, autonomous redeployment in different contexts and autonomous remobilization toward new purposes. The neo-functionalist reimagining of ethics brings about the possibility of understanding the pursuit of the self for the better or self-realization as an autonomous project, in the sense of what functional autonomy is and what the integrating orientation of a project consists of. The project is accordingly construed as a functional organization possessing a global integrity that allows for its characterization as a canonical subjectivity, a constructible self that displays historic and social features of “essentially self-conscious creatures” (Brandom). It is this collaborative or open-source self as a project through which the better – as that which is other than the previous and the current state of the self or even human – commences its self-realization and its destiny. As rooted in a secular enterprise of improvement through engagement with a non-conservable account of the present adapted to the revisionary rather than redemptive forces of the future, ethics highlights the truth and practical dimensions of what intelligence is and how it can be liberated: Intelligence is defined as that which normatively believes what is good for it, it desires it, and committedly acts on how to maintain and enhance the good. To seal the gap between believing what is true and making it true, it devises functions capable of practically elaborating intentional states toward action and realization. Since functions are independent of conditions of constitution, constructing the functional link between intentional states and realization means that intelligence establishes itself as a project that continuously revises what it was supposed to be, it knows itself by disbelieving in its foundations, it attains freedom by reconstituting itself.
Monday, January 13, 2013 7pm
-Städelschule-
Dürerstr. 10, 60596 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Zongsan-Junyi
“Its [New Confucianism] primary purpose is individual and communal self-realization with a view toward Heaven” -Tu Weiming

The Labour of the Inhuman
Inhumanism is the extended practical elaboration of humanism; it is born out of a diligent commitment to the project of humanism. A universal wave that erases the self-portrait of man drawn in sand, inhumanism is a vector of revision, it relentlessly revises what it means to be human by removing its supposed evident characteristics and preserving certain invariances. At the same time, inhumanism registers itself as a demand for construction, to define what it means to be human by treating human as a manipulable and re-orientable hypothesis. Inhumanism is in concrete opposition to any theoretical paradigm that seeks to degrade humanity either in the face of its finitude or against the backdrop of the great outdoors. The force of inhumanism operates as a retroactive deterrence against anti-humanism by understanding humanity historically – in the broadest physico-biological and socio-economical sense of history – as an indispensable runway toward itself. But what is humanism, or precisely speaking, what specific commitment does ‘being human’ represent and how does the full practical elaboration of this commitment to humanity amount to inhumanism?
Sunday, January 12, 2013 7pm
MERVE Verlag, Crellestrasse 22, 10827 Berlin

24 Dec 2013

I will be traveling to Germany in January to give this talk along with presentations by Robin Mackay, Iain Hamilton Grant and others.
Frontiers of Manipulation
What are the limits and conditions of material manipulability? More importantly, is there a connection between the concept of the material and the function of manipulation in the sense that the latter decides the former? Drawing on some of the recent discussions in the field of engineering with regard to models, cross-level causal intervention, renormalization groups, morphogenetic analysis (the science of forms) and non-extendable explanatory and functional levels, this presentation aims at providing a concept of material organization beyond but reconcilable with the level of appearances. Whilst claiming that (1) material descriptions are blind to explanations and (2) only causal and functional explanations are capable of rendering the material intelligible and making material intervention possible, a robust concept of construction and manipulation cannot dispense with descriptive resources of appearances and macro-level domains. Once approached through local possibility spaces opened up by deep explanatory levels or the scientific image, the powers of abductive inference implicit in the manipulation conditionals at the level of ordinary descriptions enable a mode of construction that expands its frontiers from the top and from the bottom. This marks an encounter with the material that is neither quite speculative nor quite empirical while it is both abductive/non-monotonic and under real constraints.
Date: January 4, 2014
Time: 17.30 – 18.30
Location:
Fridericianum
Friedrichsplatz 18
D-34117 Kassel

18 Dec 2013

Some details on the contents of the long-awaited volume 8 of Collapse:
Collapse 8: Casino Real
Robin Mackay
Introduction
Amanda Beech
The Church The Bank The Art Gallery
Jean-Luc Moulène
Untitled
Jean Cavaillès
From Collective to Wager
Elie Ayache
A Formal Deduction of the Market
Quentin Meillassoux
Mallarmé's Materialist Divinization of the Hypothesis
Sean Ashton / Nigel Cooke
Mr Heggarty Goes Down
Steve Forte
Game Control (Interview)
Ilona Gaynor
Everything Ends in Chaos
Nick Land
Transcendental Risk
Milan Ćirković
The Greatest Gamble in History
Jaspar Joseph-Lester
A Guide to the Casino Architecture of Wedding
Fernando Zalamea
Peirce's Tychism: Absolute Contingency for our Transmodern World
Elie Ayache
From Trading Pit to Blank Swan (Interview)
Jon Roffe
From a Restricted to a General Pricing Surface
Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams
On Cunning Automata: Financial Acceleration at the Limits of the Dromological
Sam Lewitt
Notes from New Jersey
Natasha Schüll
Gambling in a Control Society
John Coates, Mark Gurnell, Zoltan Sarnyai
From Molecule to Market
David Walsh
The Professional Amateur (Interview)
Jonathan Nitzan & Shimshon Bichler
Systemic Fear (Interview)
Suhail Malik
The Ontology of Finance: Price, Power, and the Arkhé-Derivative
Michel Bitbol
Quantum Mechanics as Generalised Theory of Probabilities
GegensichKollectiv
CAUTION

13 Dec 2013

I will be joining the Accelerationism symposium in Berlin via Skype. Abstracts and other details regarding the symposium can be read here. And here is my abstract:

A View of Man from the Space of Reasons
Is humanism – understood as an elaborated commitment to humanity – about human? Once humanism is accessed via the front door of the Enlightenment, a minimal definition of human can be secured. Human is defined by its capacity to enter the space of reasons as a special domain of practices. The argument of this presentation is that the definition of humanity according to the space of reasons is a minimalist definition whose consequences are not immediately given, but it is a definition that bootstraps itself to staggering ramifications, indeed posing itself as what Rene Thom termed a ‘general catastrophe’. If there were ever a real crisis, it would be our inability to cope with collateral outcomes of committing to the real content of humanity as undergirded by the neurobiolgical import of human and the ability to enter the space of reasons. The trajectory of reason is that of a global catastrophe whose pointwise instances and stepwise courses do not harbor an observable effect or noticeable discontinuity. Reason, therefore, is simultaneously a medium of local stability that reinforces procedurality and a general catastrophe, a medium of discontinuity and anti-conservation that administers the discontinuous identity of reason to the anticipated image of man. Elaborating humanity according to the self-actualizing space of reasons establishes a discontinuity between man’s anticipation of himself (what he expects himself to become) and the image of man modified according to its functionally autonomous content. It is exactly this discontinuity that characterizes the view of human from the space of reasons as a general catastrophe set in motion by activating the content of humanity whose functional kernel is not just autonomous but also compulsive and transformative. The sufficient discernment of humanity which is at the core of the project of humanism is in reality the activation of the autonomous space of reasons. But since this space – qua the content of humanity – is functionally autonomous even though its genesis is historical, its activation implies the deactivation of historical anticipations of what man can be or become according to a fundamentally descriptive level. Building on Ray Brassier’s identification of reflective critique as ‘inherently conservative’ and recently Deneb Kozikoski’s examination of the deep isomorphy between the critique of modernity and the logic of capitalism, it will be argued that the view of human from the space of reasons forestalls the conservation of a definition or portrait of man as the basis of and a justification for a preservationist mode of conduct. Since both conservative humanism and conflationary anti-humanism fall back on this conserved definition or canonical portrait, in making the conservation of the content of humanity impossible the view from the space of reasons calls for a new interventionist ethics. This is ethics as a continuous labor or a project accustomed to the general catastrophe of reason, a design of conduct that does not resort to conservation in order to embark on construction.

07 Nov 2013

The outline of my talk at the Escape Velocities symposium on November 13:

The Human Centipede, A View From the Art World
Is it possible to understand the function of art within any consequential prescriptive or interventionist mode synchronous with the descriptive resources of the modern system of knowledge? In other words, does art have any import for a project of construction aimed at liberation of intelligence, illiberalization of freedom and collective enhancement? The positive answer to this question it will be argued hinges on a systematic extrication of the definition of art from the contemporary art world. Aimed at debunking the more ambitious claims of the art world with regard to speculative vistas and political vocations, this presentation involves an etiological scrutiny into premises of two international group art exhibitions, ‘Speculation On Anonymous Materials‘ and ‘and Materials and Money and Crisis‘. Underlining major tendencies of the art world in its search for contemporaneity and pertinence, these exhibitions accentuate the two faces of the same art world currency: longing for the outside and critical self-reflection. One through producing impersonal experience and diversification of the bijective space of affect into a myriad of relations and complicities, and the other through a politically sober introspection into the conditions under which its horizon has been integrated.
However both accelerative projection and decelerative reflection are retrofitted into a world of cognitive templates whose nebulizing function creates a cultural fog of conceptual conflation and practical impotency. It is through this operative fog that some of the more insidious mechanisms of neoliberal capitalism are directly plugged into the cognitive infrastructure under the guise of a world that appears determined to extend the plasticity of imagination and expand frontiers of action. But this is a world in which the financial closure of capitalism is cloned and grafted onto a cognitively maimed economy for accumulating false alternatives in the name of liberation of imagination and action. A suture of different overambitious vocations and driven by the wealth of waste it generates, the resulting beast is a prophetic vision of a tightly connected and controlled society with a single closed alimentary circuit, the human centipede. Those who scheme to infiltrate this world in order to militantly or cunningly liberate it from the inside are locked into the compactly segmented structure of the metameric organism. At once necessary for the growth yet expendable, every insider is a new addition to the iterated sequence of mouths and rectums through which the art world bootstraps itself – a miracle made possible by a simple but efficacious financial and cognitive algorithm. Dreams of acceleration or deceleration, speculative enthusiasm for the outside or critical self-reflection are revealed to be simply changes of frequency in the rate of the said iteration.
Time and Location:
November 13, 7pm
311 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002
T212 619 3356

30 Sep 2013

Pink_Cube.jpg
The third installment of my collaboration with Florian Hecker:
C.D.: A Script for Synthesis
C.D. – A Script for Synthesis is a sound piece, an experimental drama, and a model of abstraction, which recalls Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty as much as Beckett’s minimalist narratives and neo-imagist poetry. It is the climactic third chapter in the trilogy of text-sound pieces Hecker has created in collaboration with the philosopher and writer Reza Negarestani (following Chimerization, dOCUMENTA (13) and Hinge, Lumiar Cité, Lisbon; both 2012), who has written a libretto/script for the performance. The conceptual point of departure is a perceptual encounter with a pink ice cube, which is dramatized as a scene in which the linguistic chimeras of scent and sound descriptions are materialized through synthetic trophies, the scale and shape of auditory objects, a Greek chorus and theatrical props. C.D. – A Script for Synthesis is an experiment in putting synthetic emptiness back into synthetic thought.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Peter B. Lewis Theater, 1071 5th Ave
Saturday, November 9, 7:30 pm
For more information on how to obtain tickets see HERE.

11 Sep 2013

We are pleased to announce that Urbanomic titles are now distributed by Central Books. This is an exciting move forward for us, and we expect this new alliance to make Urbanomic and Urbanomic/Sequence titles more readily available through a variety of online outlets and in a real bookstore near you.

11 Aug 2013

‘What does it mean to cognitively adapt to a reason whose interests lie elsewhere?’ I will be talking on Inhumanism as a program for appropriating and radicalizing the revisionary tendency of modernity. Details below:
The Labour of the Inhuman
(augmented rationality and its cognitive technologies)

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
6PM
ICI Curatorial Hub
401 Broadway, Suite 1620
New York, NY 10013
RSVP at rsvp@curatorsintl.org with DARK TRAJECTORIES in the subject line.

26 Jul 2013

With the renowned Deleuze scholar Claire Colebrook’s latest very public expression of steadfast approval, so much for Professor Clark’s lies about ‘supposed’ members of the Avello Publishing Journal’s editorial board ‘asking to be removed’ from it and wishing to have ‘no further contact’ with its Editor-in-Chief!

14 Jul 2013

‘What matter who’s speaking?’, wrote Beckett, and he may well have a point. In fact, in our fast-paced, hyperconnected times matters of attribution are proving increasingly difficult to determine. Scholars in this area, including Julia Kristeva, Roland Barthes and William T. Fisher, have not been slow to unmask the bourgeois ideology underpinning our conceptions of authorial intention, and one doesn’t need a Ph.D. to appreciate the insurmountable paradoxes that can arise upon their unthinking application.

Indeed, from our postmodern Marxist vantage-point, it is hard to stifle a titter at what a Lanson or Sainte-Beuve might make of the following:

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

Let me begin with two personal stories.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

Let me begin with two personal narratives about my conception of God and how it relates philosophically to some of the principles of Isaac Newton, Frank Ramsey, Bertrand Russell and William James.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

It was one rainy day. I intended to be too early to go to UP for my afternoon Tuesday classes because I had to read my readings in the library.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

One morning I woke up too early to go to the UP, so I went instead to the library to read Ramsey’s ‘Probability and Partial Belief’ in The Foundations of Mathematics and other Logical Essays ed. R.B Braithwaite. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Trubner.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

Around 11:30 am, I felt my hunger so I decided to go to the Shopping Center to have my lunch.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

Around 11:30 am, I felt my hunger develop, thus I decided to go to the nearby Shopping Center to have my lunch.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

As I was walking along the aisle of the Shopping Center, a big white teaser in a bulletin board posted by a certain Catholic Student Organization in UP caught my attention. I read its contents.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

As I was walking along the aisle of the Shopping Center, a big white teaser on a bulletin board posted by a certain Catholic Student Organization in UP caught my attention. I read its contents.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

What were written were a big question printed in capital letters and some answers from the students. The teaser asks: “DO YOU BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER DEATH?”

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

quietly intrigued by what was displayed, as a big, theological question was printed in capital letters, next to some answers from Ph. D students. The teaser asked: “DO YOU BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER DEATH?”

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

I did not answer the question at hand, even though I already knew what would be my answer if asked (minding that I stayed from the seminary for four years, comes from a religious family and became a Religion Teacher).

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

I did not answer the question at hand, even though I already knew what would be my answer if asked, (considering that I stayed at a theological seminary for a period of four years; come from a religious family and eventually became a religious philosophy teacher myself).

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

I tried to detach myself and hold my religious prejudices into abeyance and glanced first at the answers of some students. One sarcastic answer really struck me. The student’s answer was written in Filipino and reads likes this: “NO. I don’t believe in such a thing because I did not yet experience how to die. Don’t worry, if I die, I will come back to you and let you know if there is really life after death.”

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

I tried to detach myself and hold my religious prejudices into silent abeyance and glanced first at the answers of some Ph. D students. One sarcastic answer really struck me. The student’s answer was written in Filipino and read like this: “NO. I don’t believe in such a thing because I did not yet experience how to die. Don’t worry, if I die, I will come back to you and let you know if there is really life after death.”

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

It made me really rethink about my automatic answer if I were to be asked the same question. After that, I took my lunch. Across the Shopping Center is the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, I decided to attend the Holy Mass. As I knelt down and pray, the answer of that student really perplexed my mind and stayed at the recesses of my heart.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

It made me really rethink about my automatic answer if I were to be asked the same question. After that, I took my lunch and thought about Ramsey’s psychological reading of subjective probability. Across the Shopping Center is the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, I decided to attend the Holy Mass. As I knelt down and prayed, the answer of that Ph. D student really perplexed my mind and stayed in the recesses of my heart.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

Here is another personal story. It was a very ordinary Monday morning. I surf the Internet to check my e-mail and see who was online. I saw an online classmate in my Social Political Philosophy Class.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

Here is another personal narrative. It was a very ordinary Monday morning in the library reading about Ramsey’s theory of probability as a branch of partial belief logic. I surfed the Internet to check my e-mail and see who was online to speak about Ramsey’s inconclusive argument. I saw an online classmate in my Social Political Philosophy Class.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

I messaged her and we had a pep talk about many topics. Suddenly, she asked me if I believe in God. I replied that I believe in God and she said to me that she is an agnostic.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

I messaged her and we had a pep talk about many topics including the importance of probability not only to logic but also to statistical and physical science. Suddenly, she asked me if I believe in God. I replied that I believe in God and she said to me that she is an agnostic like Bertrand Russell.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

She tried to ask me about my reasons in believing in God. I gave her some answers and she tried to argue with me. One argument that made me ponder was when she said that most people who do not believe in God are those people who are indeed learned and critical thinkers, that is, great philosophers at that. I don’t know if her argument is factual.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

She tried to ask me about my reasons in believing in God. I gave her some answers and she tried to argue with me. One argument that made me ponder was when she said that most people who do not believe in God are those people who are indeed learned and critical thinkers, that is, great philosophers at that. I don’t know if her argument is factual enough to avoid a purely verbal controversy..

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

Nonetheless, I tried to absorb the essence of the argument and it made me reflect on my own rationality in believing in God.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

Nonetheless, I tried to absorb the essence of the argument and it made me reflect on my own rationality in believing in God through the calculus of probabilities as a branch of pure mathematics.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

I suppose that it is still unclear to you about what position I really want to be highlighted. There are some grey areas that are not yet crystal clear to you.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

I suppose that it is still unclear to you about what position I really want to be highlighted. There might be some grey areas that are not yet crystal clear to you with regards to formulae and axioms.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

However I also suppose that you already got some grasps that it must have something to do about “believing in God.” To elucidate the issue that I am pursuing, let me draw it from the two above stories that I related to you.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

However I suppose that you already have some grasp that this article must have something to do with the symbolic calculus developed by Keynes and “believing in God.” To elucidate the issue that I am pursuing, let me draw it from the two above stories that I related to you.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

The first story forces me to examine if one have the right to believe in life after death or in God. The second story forces me to examine the rationality in believing in God. To put these into two intertwined questions: Do we have a right to believe in God? Are we rational in believing in God? To answer these connected questions is the endeavor of this opus.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

The first story forced me to examine if one has the right to believe in life after death or in God in terms of Ramsey’s ideas on partial belief. The second story forced me to examine the rationality in believing in God. To put these into two intertwined questions: Do we have an ethical right to believe in God? Are we mathematically rational in believing in God? To answer these connected questions is the endeavor of this opus.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

In order for me to do this, I will discuss first some concerns about evidentialism, which criticizes or even condemns such a belief in God, especially about religion. Then, I will try to criticize evidentialism adopting the attack of William James. Consequently, I can already give answers to the two questions posed above. Let us begin.

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

In order for me to do this, I will discuss first some concerns about evidentialism, which criticizes or even condemns such a belief in God, especially about religion. Then, I will try to criticize evidentialism adopting the attack of William James. Consequently, I can already give answers to the two questions posed above. Let us begin.

Franklin [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

The student’s sarcastic answer in the first story captures the notion of evidentialism. Evidentialism holds that one ought to believe only that for which one has sufficient evidence. To put it in William Clifford’s words, “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

Jason M. Austria [Mirror 2013-07-14]:

The Ph. D student’s sarcastic answer in my first narrative captures the notion of evidentialism. Evidentialism holds that one ought to believe only that for which one has sufficient evidence. To put it in William Clifford’s words, “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”i

(more…)

13 Jul 2013

After an eonic hiatus, I am back on this blog and will resume posting soon. A new age of productivity is finally in sight.
In the meantime: I will be in conversation with Ray Brassier and Suhail Malik around the themes of reason and enlightenment on July 20th. I am hopeful we will have the opportunity to focus on subjects such as freedom and alienation in relation to the project of new rationalism.
Blow Your Mind: On Freedom and Enlightenment
A conversation between Ray Brassier, Suhail Malik, and Reza Negarestani
Saturday, July 20, 2013
7 p.m.
88 Eldridge Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10002

03 Jul 2013

Collapse Vols I-IV as delivered to NY customer by @USPS #WeCare

27 Jun 2013

Alex Williams on Nick Land and Accelerationism at E-Flux #accelerate

12 Jun 2013

09 Jun 2013

Bloodied but unbowed, Dr Jason Wakefield’s inaugural Avello Publishing Journal Conference is set to take place tomorrow in an as-yet undisclosed location at the
University of Cambridge. The conference topic, ‘The History of Newton’s Philosophy’ (inaccurately reported in some quarters as ‘The History of Oxbridge Philosophy’), will surely be of interest to scholars across the broadest range of disciplines and adepts of ‘the Hunting of the Greene Lion’ alike.

Unfortunately, shameless censorship and wanton misrepresentation on the part of Philos-L moderator Professor Stephen Clark has left many with the mistaken impression that
Dr Wakefield is a pathetic, deluded fantasist whose claim to a Cambridge Philosophy doctorate is nothing but a figment of his own fevered imagination, mere contact with whom
will prove fatal to one’s professional reputation.

Luckily, the Conference’s dramatis personæ (accurate at the time of writing) will surely prove a standing refutation of any such charge. I for one am particularly looking forward to Dummett protégé Howard Marks’s lucid and compelling contribution, not to mention the enigmatic Jason Austria’s ethical interruption!

Conference Program

Key — Note Speech:

Paradigm Shift: Rethinking Communication for the 21st Century David Gunkel, University of Northern Illinois.

Introductory Panel Chair:

Philosophy & Physics at Oxford Howard Marks, University of Oxford, U.K

Session 1:

Philosopiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica Jason Wakefield, University of Cambridge, U.K.

Session 2:

Isaac Newton and the Architectural Models of the People of Solomon Tessa Morrison, University of Newcastle, Australia.

Session 3:

Isaac Newton and Solomon’s Temple: a Fifty Year Study Tessa Morrison, University of Newcastle, Australia.

Session 4:

Ethics of Belief Jason Austria, University of Phillipines Dilliman.

Round-Table Discussion:

Wittgenstein Wren Library Notes Jason Wakefield, University of Cambridge, U.K.

Concluding Debate: Closing Motion:

Arche — Writing: Derrida & Husserl Martin Hägglund, University of Yale, U.S.A.

© Avello Publishing, Cambridge, 2013.

[Mirror 2013-06-09]

24 May 2013

Send bookstores@urbanomic.com your suggestions for cool local independent bookstores worldwide who should stock Urbanomic/Sequence!

23 May 2013

Oresme-Galileo-Huygens.jpg
Via Finitude
A reconstruction of Nicole Oresme’s diagrams
Frequently characterized by historians as an early anticipation of Galilean epistemology and rationality’s total deracination of man and gods alike in the cosmos, Nicole Oresme’s diagrams of ‘extensivity of forms’ are simple epistemic devices developed in order to understand three classical problems: (1) The problem of variation (motion), (2) The problem of articulation of intelligibility (measurement), and (3) The problem of global integration of the variable and the intelligible (universality).
The aim of this lecture is to extract and formalize the constructive kernel of Oresme’s original diagrams, latitudo formarum, as a gesture toward a conception of knowledge capable of conditioning a sharp and irreversible noetic propulsion for the subject. We shall examine the constructive phases of this gesture in forming the schematic landscape of knowledge in terms of a number of consecutive operations: Initiating epistemic ratios of separation from nature, localizing different rational orientations born by the epistemic separation, organization of local orientations according to a global transport, determining the limit projected by the global transport, mobilizing local orientations toward the hypothetical limit, recalibrating the scope of navigation by way of reorganization of local orientations, renormalization of the global transport and reprojecting the limit.
As a conclusion, we shall argue that, following Oresme, the understanding of knowledge as a system of navigation destroys one of the enduring philosophical dogmas responsible for engendering both pseudo-rationalist myopia and quasi-mystical irrationalism, the thought of an essential bound in classical rationalism and the thought of after finitude as manifested in speculative materialism/realism: that is, the alleged incommensurability between finitude and unboundedness.
Date: May 28, 2013
Location: the Dean’s Boardroom, SSC 9420, on the 9th Floor of the Social Science Centre, London, Ontario.

17 Apr 2013

‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, so they say. But can we be so sure?

With not inconsiderable surprise, Sphaleotas has discovered that the Charles S. Peirce Foundation, a hitherto respectable organisation dedicated to supporting education and research related to the work of the founder of American pragmatism, has flagrantly plagiarised the 2013 Avello Publishing Journal Conference’s web page in its Charles S. Peirce International Centennial Congress 2014 publicity material.

One would have to be blind not to notice that, onwards of the section ‘III. SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: PANELS’, the Foundation brazenly cuts and pastes from Dr Wakefield’s Call for Papers, typographical errors and all.

It may seem harsh to some, but Sphaleotas feels duty bound to painstakingly enumerate these instances of theft on a line-by-line basis. Indeed, one wonders if this is simply the tip of a particularly lugubrious iceberg.

Jason Wakefield [Mirror 2013-04-17]:

SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: PANELS

Charles S. Peirce Foundation [Mirror 2013-04-17]:

III. SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: PANELS

Jason Wakefield [Mirror 2013-04-17]:

A. Panels are 90 minute, open format, sessions. Panel organizers are free to propose any format (including the format described above) that is appropriate to the objectives for their panel. There must be at least two contributors, and their contributions must be consistent with the general guidelines on number of submissions and with the length requirement stated below. All contributors must have confirmed their participation to the panel organizer before submission.

Charles S. Peirce Foundation [Mirror 2013-04-17]:

A. Panels are 90 minute, open format, sessions. Panel organizers are free to propose any format (including the format described above in §II.A) that is appropriate to the objectives for their panel. There must be at least two contributors, and their contributions must be consistent with the general guidelines on number of submissions (§I.D), and with the length requirement stated below. All contributors must have confirmed their participation to the panel organizer before submission.

Jason Wakefield [Mirror 2013-04-17]:

B. Length: Length of the papers will depend on the panel format, but may not exceed 3000 words. It is the responsibility of the panel organizer to ensure that all planned activities can be completed within 90 minutes. If your proposed format does not allow at least 30 minutes for discussion, please include a justification for this in your proposal.

Charles S. Peirce Foundation [Mirror 2013-04-17]:

B. Length: Length of the papers will depend on the panel format, but may not exceed 3000 words. It is the responsibility of the panel organizer to ensure that all planned activities can be completed within 90 minutes. If your proposed format does not allow at least 30 minutes for discussion, please include a justification for this in your proposal.

Jason Wakefield [Mirror 2013-04-17]:

C. Deadline: 3 April 2013. This is a firm deadline: no panel submissions will be accepted if they carry a time stamp later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on that date.

Charles S. Peirce Foundation [Mirror 2013-04-17]:

C. Deadline: 1 April 2013. This is a firm deadline: no panel submissions will be accepted if they carry a time stamp later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on that date.

(more…)

14 Apr 2013

MIT-event.jpg
Guerino Mazzola & Reza Negarestani \ Sonic Practice, Discourse and Auditory Experimentation

Location: act cube, Wiener Building (E15-001), 20 Ames Street, Cambridge, MA
Date: Thursday, May 9 (10am-12:30pm), free and open to the public
Index terms: Philosophy of Synthesis, Philosophy of Gesture, Category Theory, Mathematical Music, Performance Theory and Improvisation, Computer Musicology
Funded in part by the Council for the Arts at MIT.

11 Apr 2013

FIACS for cover FB 3.jpg
Exciting event from @00arika00 in Glasgow 18-21 Apr, with Ray Brassier among others – “a kind of festival or salon of experimental music, poetry, performance and discussions, variously concerned with notions of the performance of freedom.” Details

10 Apr 2013

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Ko::Labs 1997 w/ DJs Turbo (@kodenine)+Delta (@urbanomicdotcom) inc Delta/CCRU sub-bass materialist classic “Gray Matter”. On Soundcloud

08 Apr 2013

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Florian Hecker/Reza Negarestani – documentation+continuation+further chimerization of this major collaborative project, published by Primary Information – more details

18 Mar 2013

School-of-Athens.jpg
Structural symmetries and perspective variations of Raphael’s The School of Athens in Mazzola, et al. Rasterbild – Bildraster
I will be reading excerpts from The Mortiloquist (A Barbaric Interpretation of the Life and Problems of Western Philosophy) followed by a discussion on theory-fiction as philosophy’s simulation engine.
Thursday, March 28, 2013 – 6:00pm
UPenn, Kelly Writers House, 3805 Locust Walk Philadelphia, PA 19104

13 Mar 2013


Reza Negarestani will be reading from his eagerly-anticipated The Mortiloquist, and speaking about 'Theory-Fiction as Philosophy's Minecraft', at the University of Pennsylvania (Kelly Writers House, 3805 Locust Walk Philadelphia, PA 19104), on 28 March, at 1800 hrs. Link to Venue.

10 Mar 2013

There can be no sub-genre more intellectually exciting than the book review that sets the terms for future philosophical debate. One thinks immediately of Heidegger’s ‘Anmerkungen zu Karl Jaspers’ Psychologie der Weltanschauungen’ (1919), Chomsky’s ‘A Review of B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior’ (1959), Frege’s ‘Rezension von: Dr. E.G. Husserl, Philosophie der Arithmetik’ (1894), Ryle’s ‘Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit’ (1929), Russell’s ‘Review of A. Meinong, Untersuchungen zur Gegenstandstheorie und Psychologie’ (1905) or indeed Hamann’s 1784 ‘Metakritik über den Purismum der Vernunft’.

But where is the present-day equivalent of a Zur Judenfrage, a Briefe über die Kantische Philosophie, a Differenz des Fichteschen und Schellingschen Systems der Philosophie? Which philosopher has the audacity to reconfigure our very intellectual parameters? Look no further…

(more…)

06 Mar 2013


Over the course of the past few weeks, Jason Wakefield (left) has been on the receiving end of all manner of quite undeserved obloquy. Some say that his editorials and book reviews for the Avello Publishing Journal consist of a bewildering succession of non sequiturs. Others that his highfalutin high-theory allusions belie a cargo-cult like obliviousness to what actually constitutes rational argument and persuasion. Yet others, that his writing inexplicably crowbars in gratuitous, fawning references to the University of Cambridge and members of his journal’s editorial board at every turn, as if childishly basking in reflected glory. Some have even suggested Jason’s claim that he holds a Cambridge doctorate is a witting untruth.
Wrong, all wrong!
What, I ask you, do his detractors have in common? A trustafarian’s decadent disdain for entrepreneurial vision and sheer hard work, even where it is in the service of publishing world-class scholarship in continental philosophy from the likes of John Milbank or Catherine Malabou. Cowards to a man, do Jason’s detractors genuinely believe that editorial board members of the calibre of Professor Claire Colebrook, Professor Keith Ansell-Pearson, or indeed the aforementioned Professor Catherine Malabou would allow their names to be associated with the Avello Publishing Journal if Dr Wakefield’s work were anything other than exemplary? For that matter, would Oxford University Press have considered for an instant including Jason’s endorsement of Korsgaard’s The Constitution of Agency: Essays on Practical Reason and Moral Psychology in its marketing material if it did not have complete confidence in this young Cambridge scholar’s judgement?
With a sense of quiet self-confidence proper to his intellect – Dr Wakefield disarmingly describes his interests as ‘diverse, much like the interests of a polymath (πολυμαθής) such as Leonardo Da Vinchi or Gottfried Leibniz’ – Jason is surely an example to us all, but where his Facebook calumniators laugh hyena-like at Jason’s efforts in the guise of DJ Luga Ayd, pointing impertinently to his work for the Playboy Girls of Hawaiian Tropic ‘Beach Party Booby Bus’ Yum Yum Models Party on behalf of Funky Bubblers Entertainment (of which Jason is the proud CEO, and Avello Publishing a wholly-owned subsidiary), Wakefield may nonetheless rest content that his unique project is the future face of peer reviewed open-access philosophy publishing.

22 Feb 2013

Althusser meets Miami Vice during CIA Powerpoint presentation in the Mojave Desert.
Amanda Beech: Final Machine
p84 red soil & circle.jpg
Launch event, panel discussion tomorrow afternoon at Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry. Details here.
The book Final Machine, featuring a foreword by Robin Mackay, texts by Bridget Crone and Reza Negarestani, along with the full script of the work and a retrospective of Beech's previous works, is released on monday and is available for pre-order at our web store now.

14 Feb 2013

Felicitaciones to Fernando Zalamea, who has been awarded the Premio Nacional de Ensayo Siglo XXI for his essay Pasajes de Proteo: More here.

11 Feb 2013

Details of the forthcoming Collapse Volume 8: Here

25 Jan 2013

I will be talking at CUNY, the center for humanities on February 21, 6:30pm:
The Topos of the Earth:
Telescopic and stereoscopic visions of the abyss-in-one

Yoneda-Pinocchio.jpg
Yoneda construction of Pinocchio
‘What are the implications of locating the topos of the earth within a cosmological continuum’, ‘what does the local have in store for thought’, ‘what does it mean to be local or regional’, ‘where am I, where do I come from, in what direction do I proceed’, ‘how do systematic decisions and rational orientations with regard to local methods and exigencies shape the navigational dynamism of knowledge’, these questions constitute one of the most central aspects of the modern system of knowledge, namely, the problem of localization. It is by way of inferring the topoi of knowledge or locating sites through which the world can be thought and the space of the universal can be navigated that the germinal edifice of knowledge expands its frontiers. Whether as the space of the concept or the particular cosmological horizon that brings about the possibility of thought, the local outlines the navigational task of the philosopher with regard to analysis and synthesis, committing to worldly problems and speculating out of this world. Only through a systematic approach to the question of localization is it possible to embark upon a non-trivial philosophy of analysis and synthesis. Furthermore, a modern understanding of the local allows a more thorough examination of the valence of various epistemological tools and modes of inference as normative methodologies for the navigation of the space of the concept qua a local site.
Since the modern system of knowledge is understood as a multi-modal system of navigation endowed with universal orientation, the question of the topos or the site of the local is linked to the question of epistemology and knowledge both in its analytical and synthetic dimensions. It will be argued that the local – like the global – is not an a-priori given datum. Instead the determination of the local is a procedural task always threatened by the impotency of the generic perspective and the localist myopia of the particular. We shall argue that the task of localization needs to be understood as an oblique procedure that operates by means of certain ‘perspective operators’ and ‘epistemic mediators’. These perspective operators or navigational tools are able to interweave depth and surface, the generic and the vague (particular) and diagonally connect the diachronic to the synchronic (telescopic view), or cohere various depths such as the scientific and manifest images of the local (stereoscopic vision) so as to bring into focus the local and determine its relation to the open, the space of the Universal or the real. The dual task of ‘focalization’ and ‘depth-tracking’ of the local constitutes the panorama of what should be called a vertiginous enlightenment – i.e. inferring the horizon of the local from both generic-to-particular and vague-to-generic, universal-to-regional and regional-to-universal perspectives. The vertiginous enlightenment is but the reading of the local according to and within the abyss.
The aim of this lecture is to examine the problem of localization and its imports for a speculative cosmology and an ultramodern understanding of the system of knowledge through the theoretical appropriation of two pivotal concepts: (a) Homothetic variations of the local and (b) Yoneda addressing (built on the concept of Yoneda lemma in topos theory and category theory). These concepts assist us in studying the problem of localization in the wake of the vertiginous enlightenment and a new definition of the local: The local is now defined by its continuously unfolding ramified path structures and alternative addresses. That is to say, the local cannot be approached via any conception of given fixed coordinates. Since the local is not invariant under topos-inference, every act of localization finds the local site within a new set of coordinates because each telescopic and stereoscopic inspection into the topos of the local unlocks new addresses and brings to light contingent path structures, further distancing the local from its spurious roots that try to strictly demarcate it. Therefore, we can say that the local is defined not by its roots but by its ramified path structures into the open and its ever-changing alternative addresses which unravel as it is telescopically and stereoscopically determined and brought into focus. An understanding of the local via its alternative addresses and contingent sidetracks should be interpreted as a concept of non-ineffable depth through which the open, the universal or the real freely expresses itself in the local and the local ramifies into the open or gains traction upon the universal. It is this depthwise definition of the local that simultaneously diverges from Nietzschean-Heideggerian and Deleuze-Guattarian variants of a true-to-the-earth philosophy toward a geophilosophy as a local thought procedure whose topos is a true-to-the-universe earth.
Details: February 21, 2013, 6:30pm | The James Gallery

17 Jan 2013



Publication 25 February: Amanda Beech, Final Machine – with texts by Reza Negarestani, Bridget Crone, Robin Mackay.
A launch and discussion event for the book will be held at Lanchester Gallery Projects, Coventry, UK, on 23 February, 2-5pm.

14 Jan 2013

Join our e-mailing list for bulletins on Urbanomic publications and events: mail office@urbanomic.com with subject line 'subscribe'.

08 Jan 2013

dtoh.jpg
#nonphilosophy #nonstandardphilosophy Finally available: Urbanomic/Sequence Press's collection of philosophical essays and experimental texts by François Laruelle – from our online store and on Amazon.co.uk. All advance orders have been shipped (thanks for your patience).

05 Jan 2013

@pitchforkmedia Review of Florian Hecker and Reza Negarestani&#39s astonishing Chimerization project: Here

05 Jan 2013


In his recent article for Artforum, ‘Tedious Methods’, leading Brooklynite Jeff Nagy speaks to many of our concerns regarding Speculative Realism as but the mere ideological appendage of capitalist technoscience. Indeed, in this review of The Number and the Siren by Quentin Meillassoux, Mr Nagy has not shirked the gruelling labour of philosophical exegesis and, by means of a dense sequence of argument rarely seen in a trade paper (or indeed, outside of the more technically demanding elements of Frege’s œuvre), has irrefutably demonstrated the coterminous nature of ‘speculative realism’ and ‘financial speculation’ – where the new breed of charlatans, trailing an enthralled audience of shills that outnumbers even the throngs habitually met with at ‘fast poetry’ readings, would likely have been satisfied to draw conclusions from the mere fact that they share nine letters in common.
As sagely observed by Nagy, who did not enjoy math class at school, Meillassoux’s counting up of the words in Mallarmé’s poem falls far short of its purportedly innovative approach to the Riemann zeta function and arithmetic L-series: in fact it ‘is not so much mathematical as merely arithmetical, not so much a mathematization as an accounting’, and as such, therefore, given its cynical, abject relationship to the positive sciences and their political masters, a ‘sure bet’ and ‘infinite success’.
It would be wrong, however, to portray Nagy’s review-article as being somehow inaccessible to a philosophical lay readership, for he has been careful to leaven his critique with witheringly funny examples of where Speculative Realism’s objective, disinterested façade falls away, and we are all forced to conclude that it is all so much ‘money for old rope’.

17 Dec 2012

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Reissued editions of Collapse volumes 1-4 are now available, and all advance orders have been shipped.

06 Dec 2012

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Urbanomic is republishing all of the out-of-print Collapse volumes in a new Reissued Edition.
Volumes I – IV are now available for advance order at our online store, with volumes V, VI and VII to follow shortly.
Also now available for advance order are Fernando Zalamea\’s Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics and François Laruelle\s From Decision to Heresy.
We confidently expect delivery of all of these titles in time for advance orders to reach at least UK and European customers before Xmas (although we can\’t guarantee this, contingency being what it is).

23 Nov 2012

Here is brief and perfunctory summary of the overall trajectory of the recent NYC talk until the critique of ultra-normativity and an introduction to acceleration as an epistemico-performative vector (the first half of the talk as I recall). Ben Woodard at Speculative Heresy has already made an extensive post, so this is just to complement his:

The talk started within the context of an introduction to a disenthralled account of the modern system of knowledge. Then the idea that we need to understand acceleration’s penchant for metis, catastrophic rearrangement of parameters responsible for the behavior of the system, manipulative action, etc. within the modern system of knowledge and a terminalized trajectory of theoretical reason. If I remember correctly I suggested that when I frequently invoke references to the project of rationalism as the center of my emphasis, a couple of things need to be taken into account first: That for me a terminalized trajectory of reason does not have any necessity to coincide with that of the reasonable. Nor does my prejudice for the modern system of knowledge need to be understood within an analytical regime of knowledge. We are in a moment in history where we should prevent, at all costs, thought from becoming a vicious analytical attack dog that confuses its short leash with rational fidelity and precision. In fact, once we unbind the scope of the rationalism project and terminalize the transcendental asymptocity of knowledge, we realize that the ambition of rationalism is to sever the purported alliance between reason and human and to accelerate the dislocating and renegotiating power of the modern system of knowledge by which the human is humiliated at each and every turn.

Then I gave a summary of the structure of the talk. Rather than moving from one point to another in a sequential manner, we began to examine a number of seemingly dissociated thought pieces. These thought pieces were presented as the elements of my introduction to the modern system of knowledge and the possibility of a genuine project of inhumanism. The goal was to integrate these thought pieces into a coherent multi-frontal introduction throughout the talk:

1. Knowledge has an object but it asymptotically approaches its object via concepts. Understanding the so-called deep or universal ecology of the concept, that is, what is conception (both the conditioning of the concept by the concept-less space/exteriority and conceiving information into qualitatively well-organized spaces, i.e. global-to-local and local-to-global adjoints of conception), how does the theoretical reason approach the domain of the concept, what is the concept-space constituted of, how are concepts stabilized in a dynamic fashion, etc. To answer these questions, I talked about the ontology of the concept which coincides with the epistemology of it. We do not ask what the concept X looks like, or what it is (the classical ontological approach). Instead we ask how the concept X is conceived which basically leads us to another question, where is the concept X or where does the concept X subsist. To answer this question, we approached the concept as a locus (a local horizon) immersed within a generic medium (the extension of the concept that ramifies into the global structure of knowledge). So the ultimate question following Mazzola is ‘where is the topos of the concept?’ Again in order to tackle this question, we briefly examined how the topos of the concept is parametrized by its generic medium or concept-less space and how a topos-oriented analysis of the concept leads to what we call a ramified path structure: The concept can be identified (i.e. it can be conceived) via different alternative addresses or paths. This understanding of the concept and the process of conception leads to a new interpretation of knowledge as a navigation system of concept-spaces endowed with universal orientation (i.e. all global-local paths, structures, levels of organization and layers of the concept should be navigated, the eleventh commandment: “if it (navigation) is possible, then it is mandatory”). With all this, we started to talk about the local and global structures of the modern system of knowledge. So the first thought piece was to understand the valencies and imports of the modern system of knowledge through an examination of the genesis of the concept (via gestures through which the concept-less space condition the stability of the concept), its deep or universal ecology and how various modes of epistemic mediation and inference are identified by the overall methods or ways they navigate the global-local topology of the concept.

2. Mobilizing a trifurcating line of assault against (a) Land’s idea of machinic efficacy and a technological singularity or philosophy of inhumanism conditioned by this machinic efficacy (via Longo), (b) ultra-normative understanding of epistemology and variants of rigidified accounts of epistemic methodologies and processes of inference (Brandom and Brassier as possible examples); (c) axiomatic decelerationists or variants of classical Marxism that I charged with local myopia (I really didn’t talk about this third category that much as we were short on time. That was unfortunate!).

3. Explaining Oresmean accelerationism as a classical example of how manipulative epistemology, catastrophic change of the parameters responsible for the behavior of the system, designated action by way of focalized destabilizing disequilibrium (which creates spaces of reason through dialectical disequilibrium and disjunction), etc. produces a horizon of epistemic mediation and a new methodology for navigating the deep or universal ecology of the concept-space. (This we didn’t really talk about).

4. Understanding acceleration as a vector of epistemic mediation or global navigation of concept-spaces which is basically operates as an alternative to ultra-normative approaches to epistemology. A form of metisocratic production of knowledge and manipulative abductive inference.

5. Rediscovering inhumanism as not only conditioned by but also the veritable expression of the modern system of knowledge and the local-global navigation of its concept-spaces.

Land and machinic efficacy: We started to work on the genesis of the machinic efficacy by way of examining its deep roots in certain forms of metaphysics and revolutions in mathematics and logics, namely, Fregean logicism (derived from a Newtonian metaphysics of the absolute normativity) and Hilbertian formalism (derived from Laplacian classical determinism and his famous conjecture). Both of these constitute the foundations of the works of Shannon and Turing. We examined how digitalization is a form of classical determinism via the idea of approximation-perservation or digital rounding (a form of perturbation-preserving system) that makes the machine effective. Then we also discussed how the classical normativity — what preserves the so-called reasonable core of reason — as an absolute and super-ideal form of occurrence of the norm with regard to the variable or the locus of information (the concept) in the Fregean system does not change the variable according to a contingent trajectory but merely relocates it within a specific hence absolute space of norm over and over again. Then we moved to show what it means to be a digital machine and to be effective and mechanizable in that sense. This we did by way of three key objections:

1. Iteration fetishizes finitude and vice versa. The faster the iteration, the faster the machine. Showing that iteration loop is simply a form of determinism that is not able to unfold genuine epistemic encounters with different non-finite and contingent conceptions of time (it does not produce intelligibility from a contingent universe). The so-called deterritorializing speed of the machine is the outcome of its restricted ambit. Nothing is deterritorializing nor special about the speed of a digital machine insofar as it merely repeats the regularities of a finite conception of time. And that we have to seek alternatives for producing intelligibility not through computational iteration but by way of developing new conceptual frameworks for a non-iterative recursive theory. Finally, iteration constitutes the strongly metaphysical conceptual regime of computational algorithms. The new paradigm of the next machine should be furnished with epistemic encounters with interweavings and ramification of continuity and contingency (non-finite conceptions of time).

2. Discretization regime as the causal regime of computational algorithms. The regime of the discrete violates the first law of knowledge which is the conservation of information principle. The geodetic principles of the physical universe (namely, that of the continuum and Lagranian optimality) are sensitive to encoding. All information regarding geodetic continuities (the law of the least action) of the physical domain and symmetry breakings / extended criticalities of the biological domain are lost in discretization (following Longo). Also the discrete cannot approach the universal space or deep ecology of the concept insofar as the discrete does not use the information regarding the generic space which parametrizes information and the topos of the concept. The discrete (causal) and the iterative (conceptual) regimes of the computational dynamics are responsible for the machinic efficacy but this efficacy mutilates the intelligible and prevents genuine conditions for the mobilization of the inhumanist drive of knowledge, namely, encounters with different conceptions of time and space, normative improvisation, processing of information on the basis of the generic space that parametrizes them, contingent epistemic mediations and understanding of the landscape of knowledge as interweavings of continuity and contingency. All of these effectuate as irreversible renegotiations and dislocations of the human sphere. Capitalism investment on the so-called machinic efficacy and global digitalization, in this sense, is completely in line with its axiomatic preservation of the local ambit of thought and restricted knowledge generation (to degenerate the true scope of the global further and further).

Universe as a computer is a cheap metaphor at best, and at worst steps backward in the project of knowledge. The idea that the limits of computation (and accordingly, machinic efficacy) demarcate the limits of knowledge (and hence, a project of inhumanism conditioned by the modern system of knowledge) is the epitome of myopia.

3. If we understand the import of any epistemic vector as a response to two poles of not knowing (ignorance) and knowing not (falsity), we come across the third flaw of the computational algorithm and machinic efficacy. If ignorance is the drive of knowledge, we cannot use forms of producing intelligibility that don’t have any place for ignorance. Algorithms cannot work with falsity outside of an a-priori set of frameworks. Their operation in this regard is the little game of ‘I know you know that I know that you know ad infinitum‘. The algorithm can only present falsity (knowing not) according to given and ideal instances of truth-values. It does not give us the procedural proof of falsity. Nor can the algorithm operate with ignorance. You ask an algorithm ‘is X the case?’, if the answer is positive then Yes and if it is not then No but if it doesn’t know then it cannot remain silent, it has to yield an answer. The undecidability of Turing’s halting problem tells us that there is no algorithmic way to say ‘I am ignorant’ or ‘I don’t know’. Computational algorithms work with the truth-perservation kernel of classical logic. But the transcendental asymptocity of knowledge is simultaneously ignorance-perserving and ignorance-mitigating. In fact, ignorance-perservation is the warrant of the infinite task of reason, it maintains reason’s asymptotic trajectory. Because if there was a canonical truth already posited, the infinite task of reason would come to an end and its asymptotic trajectory would be disrupted (as in the case of mysticism). So this calls for new forms of reasoning and non-classical modes of inference and epistemic mediation which are capable of preserving as well as mitigating ignorance. Acceleration, abductive manipulation and epistemico-performative expriments are examples of these non-classical modes.

So in a nutshell, computational machines cannot embrace the global structure of knowledge and develop a navigation with universal orientation. Sophisticated computational methods like quantum computation, cellular automata can produce — or more precisely, simulate — contingencies, critical states, etc. but only according to their own highly modified and ideologically consolidated causal and conceptual regimes which have nothing to do with the physical universe and its principles of continuity and contingency. In this sense, computation does not render the universe intelligible, it produces a different form of intelligibility and even objectivity strictly corresponding to its own causal regime. With that said, I remember I said that the effectivity of computation should be defended as a useful approach on a local level: we do something that actually works, then the next iterative loop we do it better and again better, …. This is how we can refine our local procedures. But we should avoid blowing this out of proportion as something that has actually a global valence for thought or knowledge. Otherwise, we are simply cloning the image of the local onto the global.

The second line of assault focused on deficiencies of rigidified accounts of normativity and classical modes of epistemic mediation. The goal was to subsequently find an alternative, but having in mind that we absolutely need these standard and perhaps rigidified modes on the local level of navigation of the concept-space. Accelerative navigation of the concept-space (as a non-standard form of epistemic mediation) is more of a methodology that navigates the global ramifications of the concept-space and universally broadens the scope of knowledge beyond its local ambits. In order to do embark on this critique, we introduced acceleration as a particular form of gesture (cf. Chatelet), a designated action capable of introducing focalized violent instability and disequilibrium within a certain rate and through a certain synthetic procedure. Also at the same time, warning against metaphysically inflating the gestural constitution of acceleration as a mode of epistemic mediation into a vapid form of enactivism.

To be continued soon.

19 Oct 2012

Grotesque miscarriage of justice as politically-motivated sentence is handed down in the service of protecting the arcane rituals of a tiny, self-serving coterie of vain plutocrats:

16 Oct 2012

We are delighted to announce a very exciting forthcoming event in New York, a live performance by Florian Hecker and Reza Negarestani.
Further details here.

November 15, 2012, 7.30pm

Abrons\’ Playhouse, 466 Grand Street, New York

Urbanomic / Sequence Press in collaboration with Issue Project Room and Primary Information

Chimeras are integrated bodies that synthesize incompatible modalities, surpassing their respective particularities without fusing them, finding a common ground, or reducing one to the other. Chimerization, a recent work by Florian Hecker, uses psychoacoustics to compose such creatures from readings of a libretto penned by philosopher and novelist, Reza Negarestani.

Expanding on this work, Hecker and Negarestani come together in a live experiment – less a collaboration between philosophy and sound than a synthesis of the two. In this abstract performance, recalling Artaud\’s theatre of cruelty as much as Beckett\’s minimalist narratives, the \’players\’\’ respective fields will be chimerized, and their true guises revealed.

16 Oct 2012

I will be in New York City for two upcoming events on November 15 and 18. The first one, a live collaboration with Florian Hecker. More of an abstract performance aimed at creating a synesthesiac experience of philosophy than a traditional philosophy lecture, The Non-trivial Goat and the Cliffs of the Universal is a topological fable on the universalist philosophy of navigation and synthesis narrated in the style of Beckett. The first event also serves as an oblique introduction to the second event Abducting the Outside: Modernity and the Culture of Acceleration which will be a lecture focused on the possibility of a genuinely modern philosophy of the inhuman in the wake of an accelerated and disenthralled system of knowledge. The lecture is drawn on the works of Giuseppe Longo, Lorenzo Magnani, Gilles Chatelet and Alain Berthoz in cognitive sciences, mathematics especially the recent geometrical turn and physics accompanied with introductory commentaries on the exciting works of Gabriel Catren on anarchic constructivism and Benedict Singleton on metis intelligence.
Details and press release as follows:
Event 1: REZA NEGARESTANI & FLORIAN HECKER
The Non-Trivial Goat and the Cliffs of the Universal:
A Topological Fable on Navigation and Synthesis

Date: Thursday, November 15th, 2012
Time: 7:30 PM
Locations: Abrons Playhouse, 466 Grand Street, New York (at Pitt Street)
Chimeras are integrated bodies that synthesize incompatible modalities, surpassing their respective particularities without fusing them, finding a common ground, or reducing one to the other. Chimerization, a recent work by Florian Hecker, uses psychoacoustics to compose such creatures from readings of a libretto penned by philosopher and novelist, Reza Negarestani.
Expanding on this work, Hecker and Negarestani come together in a live experiment — less a collaboration between philosophy and sound than a synthesis of the two. In this abstract performance, recalling Artaud’s theatre of cruelty as much as Beckett’s minimalist narratives, the participating elements will be chimerized through their mutual immersion in the abyss of the universal, and thereby revealed, in turn, as nothing other than local guises of this abyssal continuum.
The performance opens (Part 1: Descent) with a theory-fiction-mathematics manifesto that introduces the dramatis personae and abruptly drops the goat of philosophy into the abyss. This prologue of a mangled philo-fiction or ‘philosophy on acid’ is followed (Part 2: Navigation) by a performative gluing of philosophy and sound in which the auditors become the goats, each completing the chimera according to their localization and navigation of the space. In the final movement (Part 3: Alienation) this personal experience of local synthesis is replaced by an estranging immersion into the impersonal experience of the global, synthetic environment as the intensifying, sonic chimerization moves beyond the sphere of the knowable.
An exercise in deregulation of the senses, this unique performance brings together two ambitious thinkers and practitioners in an experimental surgery that opens up their respective fields onto unexplored grounds.
Doors open at 7pm. Seating is limited, and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information please contact Sequence Press, located within:
Miguel Abreu Gallery
36 Orchard Street (between Canal & Hester), New York, NY 10002
Tel 212.995.1774 post@sequencepress.com
Issue Project Room’s Littoral Series is made possible, in part, through generous support from The Casement Fund, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Event 2:
Abducting the Outside: Modernity and The Culture of Acceleration
Sunday, November 18th, 7:30PM
Miguel Abreu Gallery, 36 Orchard Street, New York

10 Oct 2012

Gabriel Catren is interviewed at IFVERSO about an exciting new project with Reza Negarestani, to be published by Sequence/Urbanomic in 2014: link

01 Oct 2012


There was, I think, a conflict—perhaps a productive one—at the heart of this enormous multidisciplinary show, and it can be located exactly in the tension between those two words. On the one hand, many of the artworks and the stories they told circled around collective traumas: those of Nazi Germany and, much more recently, those of Afghanistan or the countries involved in the Arab Spring. Indeed, Christov-Bakargiev’s focus on what she calls “collapse and recovery” is so familiar from recent cultural theory that it is almost a cliché to speak of a traumatic temporality at the very core of all avant-garde artistic developments. But on the other hand, such psychoanalytic language here collides with the idiom of a new, object-oriented philosophy that wants to liberate us once and for all from anthropocentrism and consider instead what the catalogue calls the “inanimate makers of the world.” In fact, Christov-Bakargiev’s project is in many ways perfectly in tune with the approaches today discussed as “speculative realism,” with its ambition to rid our thinking of the obsession with that historically overemphasized relationship between a perceiving subject and a known object. Instead, the argument goes, we should look into other equally exciting and productive relationships in the world, consisting of so many human and nonhuman actors, or “actants,” as Bruno Latour would put it. Philosopher Graham Harman goes so far as to claim: “Atoms and molecules are actants, as are children, raindrops, bullet trains, politicians, and numerals. All entities are on exactly the same ontological footing.” One can go further still: To quote from an interview with Christov-Bakargiev, “The question is not whether we give dogs or strawberries permission to vote, but how a strawberry can assert its political intention.”
http://www.artforum.com/inprint/id=34514

09 Sep 2012

Michael Day asserts that “Cardinal Martini caused controversy in his final days after refusing artificial feeding, contravening church policy on end-of-life issues” (4 September). This oversimplifies Catholic teaching.

According to Pope John Paul II, the administration of food and water should be understood as part of “the normal care due to the sick” and thus as “in principle” obligatory. A later statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took a similar approach.

However, if a person is imminently dying, and if artificial feeding would neither extend life nor bring relief from symptoms, then it is not obligatory, as both these statements in effect recognised. Catholics are not obliged to receive care or treatment that has become genuinely futile, though their aim in refusing it should not be to hasten death.

Prof David Albert Jones
Director, The Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford

—— Letters to the Editor, The Independent, 2012-09-08. p. 40

27 Jun 2012

Latin American correspondent Pootle Escobar has drawn my attention to Professor Harman’s forthcoming appearances at conferences all entitled ‘The Secret Life of Objects’ in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Forteleza [sic].

25 Jun 2012


Critical Plant Studies: Philosophy, Literature, Culture
ISSN: 2213-0659
E-ISSN: 2213-0667
Series Editor:
Michael Marder (IKERBASQUE / The University of the Basque Country, Vitoria)
The goal of the Critical Plant Studies, a new book series at Rodopi Press, is to initiate an interdisciplinary dialogue, whereby philosophy and literature would learn from each other to think about, imagine, and describe, vegetal life with critical awareness, conceptual rigor, and ethical sensitivity. Literary works featuring plant imagery may be analyzed with reference to philosophical frameworks, while philosophical discussions of the meanings of vegetal life may be enriched and supported with the tools of literary criticism. Another dialogic dimension of the series entails a sustained engagement between Western and non-Western philosophies and religious traditions, representative of the human attitudes to plants. This “cross-pollination” of different fields of knowledge and experience will become possible thanks to the fundamental role plants play in human life, regardless of their backgrounding or neglect.
Ethically stated, the aim of the book series is to encourage an incremental shift of cultural attitudes from a purely instrumental to a respectful approach to vegetal beings. This is particularly important at the current time of the global environmental crisis, when massive de-forestation, seed patenting, and profit-driven agriculture threaten the very future of life on the planet. Not only will works included in the series shed light on the being of plants, but they will also assist us in critically thinking through the crucial issues and challenges of the contemporary world. Bioethics and genetic engineering, of which plants were the first examples; the role of spirituality and holism in the techno-scientific age; the reliance of our imagination and creativity on elements of the “natural” world; global food shortages and sustainable agricultural practices; the roots of our thinking and writing in other-than-human, vegetal processes, such as growth and decay, germination and branching out, fecundation and fruition—books included in Critical Plant Studies will, in one way or another, touch upon these and related themes central to the philosophy, literature, and culture of the twenty-first century.
Thus, we are looking to publish a mix of specialized manuscripts and introductory texts on the theory, literary criticism, and religious or aesthetic appreciation of plant life. Each title in the series will combine at least two of the disciplines listed above, with preference given to cutting-edge methodologies in comparative literature, comparative philosophy, comparative religious studies, etc., and trans-disciplinary approaches. Analyses of plant-related writings and artworks from any historical period and geographical area will be welcome.
Please, forward all queries and proposals to michael.marder@gmail.com
http://www.rodopi.nl/senj.asp?SerieId=PLANT

20 Apr 2012

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Here is the press release for the closing event of Yves Metller’s installation accompanied with a conversation on geophilosophy and art via video conference:

On April 26th, 8pm, Yves Mettler and Reza Negarestani will have a public conversation via video-conference at the Mus?�e cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne. The conversation will focus on how our most intimate corporeal and psychological constitutions have vertiginous proximities with the Earth’s cosmological history, and how we are bound through backdoor narratives and subtle complicities to the most liveless materials.

In addition, here you can find an excerpt of the text jointly written for the installation. Part a socio-culture satire, part a tabloid psychological thriller and part a geophilosophical self-help 101, the text “Arnex-1: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Asphalt” takes genre experimentations to new levels and reveals subtle webs of transfers and translations between art, the planet and a modern conception of geophilosophy whose topos of thought is a true-to-the-universe earth. The entire text will be available in the near future.

10 Apr 2012

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William Bennett, who previously worked with Urbanomic on The Real Thing at Tate Britain, has very generously donated a very desirable lot of signed CD and vinyl from his new Cut Hands project to Urbanomic. Proceeds of the auction will go to support Collapse. Ebay link here

10 Apr 2012

Freie Universität Berlin is hosting a series of Speculative Philosophy events over the next month, featuring all the original four \’Speculative Realists\’ (Robin Mackay will be responding to Meillassoux\’s presentation on 20 April): More Information.
And François Laruelle will be expanding upon his Concept of Non-Photography in a talk at Goldsmiths University of London on 10th May, also with Robin responding. The talk is entitled Photo-fiction: An Exercise in Non-Standard Aesthetics. More details.
Thursday 10th May 2012
2-4pm
Room: New Academic Building
LG01 Goldsmiths
New Cross London
For further info please contact Luciana Parisi l.parisi@gold.ac.uk/
inigowilkins@yahoo.com

06 Apr 2012

Two new event announcements:

(1) Quentin Meillassoux will be speaking in New York on Sunday May 6th, exploring the thesis of his new book The Number and the Siren, published by Urbanomic and Sequence Press.More details.

(2) Urbanomic are hosting a panel discussion as a part of The Penzance Convention on May 20th. Participants include John Gerrard, Esther Leslie, Allen Buckley and Shaun Lewin. More details.

03 Apr 2012

In continuation of the lecture series on universalism after Peirce and Kant and a modern conception of speculative thought, this Thursday and Saturday via video-conference:
Thursday, April 5 (11.00 – 14.00):
Seminar 6: The Continuous and the Contingent
– The labyrinth of the Universal and geometry of the Absolute (a summary on the synthetic environment of the Universal)
– Systematic navigation and inferring topoi of knowledge
Saturday, April 7:
Seminar 7: Accelerate Out of This World
– Mathesis of acceleration (Aristotle, Ibn al-Haytham, Oresme, Ch?�telet, Zalamea)
– Perception of acceleration, neurobiological underpinnings (Gould, Berthoz, Longo)
– Acceleration as a full-fledged epistemological program (Magnani)
– Culture of acceleration, an epistemological vanishing point
– Transmodern navigation and global synthesis of intensities
– The universe of “creativity without brake”
Transcription of the whole universalism series will be available at some point.
Address: PERFORMING ARTS FORUM
15, rue haute
02820 St Erme Outre et Ramecourt
France
janritsema@mac.com

21 Mar 2012


We are delighted to announce that Urbanomic and Sequence Press will publish Quentin Meillassoux's new book The Number and the Siren. The title will be published late April/Early May, and pre-ordering will be available on this site shortly.
A meticulous literary study, a detective story à la Edgar Allen Poe, a treasure-hunt worthy of an adventure novel – such is the register in which can be deciphered the hidden secrets of a poem like no other. Quentin Meillassoux, author of After Finitude, continues his philosophical interrogation of the concepts of chance, contingency, infinity and eternity through a concentrated study of Mallarmé's poem Un Coup de Dés, patiently deciphering its enigmatic meaning on the basis of a dazzlingly simple and lucid insight with regard to that 'unique Number that cannot be any other'.

Un Coup de Dés jamais n\’abolira le Hasard constitutes perhaps the most radical break in the history of modern poetry: the fractured lines spanning the double page, the typographical play borrowed from the poster form, the multiplication of interpolations disrupting reading. But the intrigue of this poem is still stranger, always resistant to full elucidation. We encounter a shipwreck, and a Master, himself almost submerged, who clasps in his hand the dice that, confronted by the furious waves, he hesitates to throw. The hero expects this throw, if it takes place, to be extraordinarily important: a Number said to be 'unique' and which 'cannot be any other'.

The decisive point of the investigation proposed by Meillassoux comes with a discovery, unsettling and yet as simple as a child's game. All the dimensions of the Number, understood progressively, articulate between them but one sole condition: that this Number should ultimately be delivered to us by a secret code, hidden in the Coup de dés like a key that finally unlocks every one of its poetic devices. Thus is also unveiled the meaning of that siren, emerging for a lightning-flash amongst the debris of the shipwreck: as the living heart of a drama that is still unfolding.

With this bold new interpretation of Mallarmé's work, The Number and the Siren offers brilliant insights into modernity, poetics, secularism and religion, and opens a new chapter in Meillassoux's philosophy of radical contingency.

09 Feb 2012

This is an announcement for the opening of Yves Mettler’s installation Drilling Rig from Arnex, 1929 originally made for the festival Les Urbaines and now moved to the Mus?�e Cantonal des Beaux-Arts where it has been meticulously deconstructed by the artist. Mettler’s installation dramatizes and magnifies subtle relations between cosmology, geological time and mobilization of capital on the planet. The installation will also be accompanied by a collaboration between Mettler and I that will gradually develop throughout the course of the exhibition:

On April 26th, a performance / lecture will be held by Yves Mettler and Reza Negarestani (via video-conference) as the closing event for their writing collaboration. Written as a serial publication since the beginning of Mettler’s installation, the text ‘Arnex-1: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Asphalt‘ unfolds a psychoanalytical dialogue between the analyst Rig and the mysterious Patient O. Over seven psychoanalytical sessions schematizing the seven circles of hell, the dialogue unravels an aetiological examination of the memory of geological time as the twisted sum of traumatic scars left by the cosmological shock and contingent mobilization of capital. Art’s meticulous attention to the surface (landscape) parallels psychoanalysis’ dedicated focus on superficial phenomena as a means of dramatically bringing into focus transversal dynamics of depths otherwise invisible to the keenest of eyes.

Opening date: Thursday, February 9, 2012, 6:30pm.
Address: Mus?�e cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Palais de Rumine, place de la Riponne 6

9=10-depliant.jpg

03 Feb 2012

Internet contingencies allowing, I will be giving a short talk via skype on Decay Modernism for SPECTRAL: Festival for Adventurous Music & Related Arts hosted by The Wire (Berlin, February 4, 17:00pm). Anyone who is in Berlin and interested in attending, can download the slides here: http://tinyurl.com/6lhj8pc

In his recent book Passages of Proteus written in 2011, Colombian mathematician Fernando Zalamea identifies the process of decay as an expression of a profound continuity in nature through which “creativity expands without brake”. The emphasis of this talk will be on a non-romantic conception of decay as a building process whose chemico-mathematical truth constitutes the very kernel of the dialectic of the abstract and the concrete in art and a formalism based not on obstruction (i.e. various modes of singularity such as the novel, the ideal and the sublime) but on acceleration, or ‘creativity without brake’. The underlying logic of decay is presented as a mode of synchronization or modernization of the living with and according to the dead. Far from moderating the tension between the living and the dead by embarking upon a speculative justice program (Meillassoux) or overcoming such tension through a quasi-mystic anti-modernist impulse, Decay Modernism brings about the possibility of thinking the dead outside of the culture of reconciliation and understanding culture as an epistemological vanishing point of different parallel orientations of nature for the modern subject.

Address and reservation information here.

26 Jan 2012

25 Dec 2011

Herman Philipse feels your pain.

1. Introduction

In this paper I attempt to substantiate the thesis that the core-beliefs of religions are irrational. These core-beliefs are the monotheist contention that there is one God or the polytheist opinion that there are a number of different gods. Outside mathematics, the word ‘irrational’ may signify two different things. Either it means that a sentient being is not endowed with reason, for instance if one speaks of ‘irrational animals’ such as slugs. Or it means that a belief or an action is contrary to reason, that is, unreasonable, utterly illogical, or absurd. I claim that all religious core-beliefs are irrational in this second sense. And of course, irrationality should be avoided.

It will be objected to my thesis that beliefs cannot be accused of being unreasonable unless they are situated within the province of reason. Could one not argue that religious beliefs are not located within this province because, as Pascal said, ‘the heart has reasons which reason does not grasp’? According to some religious authors, the domain of reason is somehow limited, and faith must be situated entirely, or in part, beyond the limits of human reason. I shall argue that even if faith transcends reason in this manner, the core-beliefs of religions are unreasonable.

(more…)

16 Nov 2011

Universal-Knowedge.jpg
If you are in Stockholm between 17 to 22 November, I will be talking over skype on limits and possibilities of speculative thought within a universalist framework.
Details below:
In this seminar Reza Negarestani will take a systematic approach to the modern landscape of thought where reason and speculation, earth and cosmos, regional and universal resources of thought intermingle and synthesize so as to deliver us ��� remorselessly ��� into the open. Beginning with a geocosmic reappropriation of Freud’s and Ferenczi’s theories of trauma and a universal reinstatement of Darwin’s evolutionary thesis characterized by Peirce as a major trajectory of speculative thought, Negarestani outlines a modern landscape of thought fully in accord with the revolutionary imports of Darwin’s assault on Aristotelian essentialism and Freud’s transcendental evacuation of human conscious experience. By navigating this modern landscape and highlighting its terrains and boundaries via figures such as Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Sandor Ferenczi, Wilhelm Reich, Charles Sanders Peirce, Fernando Zalamea, Lorenzo Magnani, Guerino Mazzola and Gabriel Catren, Negarestani develops an asymptotic thought of the open ��� a universalist mode of thought at last cut loose from the overgrown lineage of planetary myopias.
Dates and Times
17 Nov 10.00 ��� 13.30
Introduction to seminar and Reza Negarestani by M?�rten Sp?�ngberg

Reza Negarestani Seminar 1: The Map and the Compass
��� Outlining the modern landscape of thought (a schema)
��� Sketching a speculative philosophy for navigating the modern landscape (a scheme)
��� Introducing alternative speculative schemes

18 Nov 10.00 ��� 12.30

Reza Negarestani Seminar 2: The Pit and the Pendulum
��� Universal continuum and a modern conception of the Earth
��� Toward a geophilosophical realism, or a systematically focused universalist philosophy

19 Nov 10.00 ��� 12.30

Reza Negarestani Seminar 3: The Universal and the Regional
��� Universalizing tensions and syntheses of the modern landscape (a geocosmic deepening of trauma)
��� A traumatic rehabilitation of the terrestrial horizon of thought

21 Nov 10.00 ��� 12.30

Reza Negarestani Seminar 4: The Earthman and the Open (150 mins)
��� Traumatic syntheses and the open
��� A non-trivial conception of openness and its revolutionary import

22 Nov 10.00 ��� 13.00

Reza Negarestani Seminar 5: The Trans-and-Absolutely Modern Man (180 mins)
��� Logic of alternatives and developing the asymptotic thought of the open
��� Modern man, or the enforcer of openness
Closing discussion and final notes with M?�rten Sp?�ngberg

Location: University of Dance and Circus – DOCH
Brinellv?�gen 58, T-bana Tekniska H??gskolan
Stockholm, Sweden

Contact
Anders Jacobson, course assistant
anders.jacobson@doch.se

01 Nov 2011

We are pleased to announce that the entire contents of Collapse Volume II is now available online (here).
This groundbreaking volume from 2007 introduced the words \’Speculative Realism\’ into the lexicon, with the first published translation of work by Quentin Meillassoux (the essay \’Potentiality and Virtuality\’), Ray Brassier\’s commentary and critique of Meillassoux, and essays by Reza Negarestani and Graham Harman, along with fascinating interviews with theoretical cosmologist Roberto Trotta and Neurophilosopher Paul Churchland, and work by artist Kristen Alvanson and filmmakers Clémentine Duzer and Laura Gozlan.

14 Aug 2011

Race and Class

To begin with the first. In the Memoirs of Granville Sharp, lately published, there is an anecdote recorded of the young Prince Naimbanna, well worthy the attention of all unfledged sophists, and embryo politicians.

(more…)

15 Jul 2011

In order to get familiar with some of the fundamental concepts of category theory and Zalamea’s project, I have compiled a short list of recommended readings. While there are many monographs on category theory, I think the following titles are the most helpful for introductory and philosophical purposes:

1. Conceptual Mathematics: A First Introduction to Categories by William Lawvere (Lawvere’s book is exceptionally layman-friendly. I haven’t been aware of this title until recently. Thanks to Nick Srnicek for mentioning this book.)

2. Topoi: The Categorial Analysis of Logic by Robert Goldblatt (Goldblatt’s book contains some helpful introductory chapters. Thanks to Gabriel Catren for recommending this).

3. Tool and Object: A History and Philosophy of Category Theory by Ralf Kr??mer (An absolute essential for an in-depth analysis of the development and concepts of category theory.)

4. What is category theory? edited by Giandomenico Sica (A collection of both technical and relatively accessible essays. This title is particularly helpful for becoming familiar with broader perspectives and applications of category theory in physics, philosophy of science, etc.)

15 Jul 2011

James Murdoch paid £100,000 to meet Pope
By Jerome Taylor, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Friday, 15 July 2011

The Catholic Church has been criticised for accepting a six-figure donation from James Murdoch ahead of him being given a personal audience with Pope Benedict during last year’s papal visit. Mr Murdoch was among major donors who were invited to personally greet Pope Benedict after a special mass at Westminster Cathedral during the pontiff’s visit last September. It is believed that the Murdoch family paid a contribution towards the Papal visit of around £100,000.

The continuing scandal over phone hacking has placed religious institutions in a moral quandary. There have already been calls for the Church of England to divest its £3.8m shares in News Corp, a request which church leaders have so far resisted.

There is growing disquiet within the Catholic community over the Murdoch family’s close ties to the church in Britain, America and in Rome.

Although not a Catholic, James’s father Rupert was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory by the previous pontiff Pope John Paul II, one of the highest civilian honours the Vatican bestows on people. His wife at the time, Anna Torv, was a practising Catholic and the following year Mr Murdoch gave $10m to help build a cathedral in Los Angeles.

(more…)

14 Jul 2011

Versus Laboratory has announced a forthcoming lecture by Colombian mathematician and philosopher Fernando Zalamea to take place at Jan Van Eyck Academie on 29 September, 2011 (details here). While I highly encourage you to attend this seminar, I use this announcement as an opportunity to very briefly introduce Zalamea’s project in the context of a prologue to the future series of introductory posts I intend to write on Zalamea and his universalist project in mathematics and philosophy.

Zalamea.gif

Fernando Zalamea (Bogotà, 1959) belongs to a contemporary and transmodernist renaissance in which science, philosophy, and art enter new synthetic domains. The underlying thesis of Zalamea’s project is simple and can be described — albeit reductively — as follows:

Mathematics is able to map universality and bring the labyrinth of the universal continuum — in its different modalities, global-regional reflexivity, general openness and particular designations — into focus. And it is universality through which (a true-to-the-universe) knowledge can mediate the abyssality or depth of an absolutely open and reflexive universe:

Universality – Knowledge – Abyssality

The triadic commutation above systematically reveals the reflexive web of the universe (from the universe to the universe, or universe-for-itself) which can be traversed by trans-modal, trans-regional and synthetic-analytic passages. The web of the universal and open continuum, thus, illuminates the continuous and reflexive passage Universality Abyssality in terms of real alternatives (Universality / Abyssality). Here, real or true-to-the-universe alternatives should be understood as free transits, transformations, twists, syntheses and relations to the open which simultaneously factor in particularities of local fields and an unrestricted conception of globality inexhaustible by any collection of multitudes or regional horizons. The logic of (real) alternatives, accordingly, is concerned with free expressions of the Universal in all its global-local horizons and through various relational and modal webs. Reflexivity of the universe, therefore, should be thought in terms of free expressions of the Universal, or more accurately, in terms of alternative passages through which the universe traverses back-and-forth between global and local horizons. In other words, reflexivity is the modally and relationally unbound universe-for-itself.

Following the rich legacy of universalism represented by thinkers such as Ramon Llull, Novalis and Charles Sanders Peirce, Zalamea approaches the logic of real alternatives implicit to the triadic universal commutation by way of combinatorial (Llull), compositional (Novalis) and synthetic (Peirce) environments where fusion of modalities, gluing of local fields of knowledge and plastic interweaving of analytical poles can take place. The logic of real alternatives (or free expressions of the Universal) implicit to the abyssal self-reflexivity of the universe is naturally embedded in a true-to-the-universe synthetic landscape that can be systematically approached. This universally synthetic — which by definition means both analytical and synthetic — landscape, therefore, is the topos of (universal) knowledge that highlights and constitutes the reflexive passage Universality – Abyssality.[1] Every true-to-the-universe thought — that is, rational, Copernican and speculative — must pass and work through this synthetic environment, its relational and modal webs, its local filters or perspectives for decanting truth and free global-local dialectics that encompass all nature and culture. Without any prior and systematic observation of this universal synthetic environment, philosophy risks either regional myopias (analytical saturation, local rigidification, over-axiomatization …) or a sort of speculative universal incompetency arising from restricted and often whimsically polarized conceptions of universality (all is synthesis, no particularly exists, …).

Maps and compasses which are required for exploring this synthetic environment or universal web of transits (constituted of integration and differentiation, continuities and obstructions, exact and vague distributions of truth) have been available in the Protean realm of contemporary mathematics. Whilst sophisticated tools and constructs in category theory, sheaf logic (where the synthetic-analytic continuity reflects in sheaf-presheaf categories) and post-Grothendieckian mathematics are to some extent compatible with the aforementioned synthetic universal environment, their speculative valence is still concealed behind formalization and certain desiderata imposed by inter-relations between mathematical fields. As easy as it is to be repelled by the level of mathematical knowledge required to engage contemporary fields of mathematics, it is also easy to be lured and mislead by the exotic formalism of certain mathematical concepts and tools in these fields such as category theory. Resisting suturing philosophy to mathematics, Zalamea’s project highlights the speculative scope of contemporary mathematics not by glossing category theory with contemporary philosophy or finding philosophical equivalents of mathematical concepts in subtle ways but by conducting a creative surgery on contemporary mathematics itself: Rather than directly working with category theory, Zalamea immerses category theory and sheaf logic in the Peircean program of universal and creative mathematization by passing the arsenal of category theory through natural and diverse filters inherent to the Peircean universal and open continuum, intermediating intuitionistic logic and classical logic through sheaf logic,[2] loosening Kripke’s discrete modal logic through the modal geometry sketched in Peirce’s existential graphs, asymmetrization of category theory-set theory dialectics through Freyd’s generalizing allegories and Peirce’s universalizing mathematics of modal geometry, broadening various forms of global-local dialectics in terms of trans-modality of the continuum, compossibilization of different analytical poles in the plastic environment provided by the open continuum, reinscription of the universal continuity within and between incommensurable loci of analysis, …. Here there is no suturing, only recombination of mathematical grafts, transplantation of one field into another, partial gluing, systematic generalization, filtering, decanting, magnification, dilution, Peircean trisection and triplasty.

It is the synoptic, panoramic and systematic surveying of this synthetic landscape – or universal transit of the abyss — through various mathematical lenses that characterizes Zalamea’s project and endows an immensely rich dimension to his universalist thesis. It is not controversial then to distinguish Zalamea — whose body of works spans mathematics, philosophy and cultural criticism (art, architecture, literature, …) — as a post-Copernican heir to Llull, a new Peirce for contemporary logic and mathematics, and a transmodernist Lautman for philosophy in the 21st century.

[1] An alternate and absolutist version of this speculative passage is also presented by Gabriel Catren in his fascinating essay The Outland Empire: Prolegomena to Speculative Absolutism: ‘The speculative movement par excellence is in effect the subsumption of extrinsic transcendental critique within an immanent speculative self-reflection. The reflexive passage from a knowledge-in-itself (i.e. a theoretical procedure that does not reflect in its own transcendental conditions of possibility) to a knowledge-for-itself would thus constitute the immanent dialectic of speculative knowledge itself.’ This is something we will return to in future posts.

[2] Colombian mathematician Xavier Caicedo has also admirably worked on this front: see L??gica de los haces de estructuras.

07 Jul 2011

covers.jpg
���Collapse VII: Culinary Materialism��� has been published and is available now.
My contribution to the Venice Biennale 2011, entitled Rainbows and Rationalism, can be read in the main biennale catalogue, ILLUMInations.
The new Thackery T. Lambshead fiction collection exquisitely compiled and edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer is now available. My text in the volume is a short fiction written on a drawing provided by China Mi?�ville. Other contributors include China Mi?�ville, Mike Mignola, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Minister Faust, Jeffrey Ford and Lev Grossman among others.
I have also a short text in the new issue of MACBA’s magazine.
On the philosophical front, a couple of new essays on geophilosophical realism and the Copernican thought should be available soon in anthologies including the promising Realismus Jetzt!
If nothing unforeseeable happens, I will start a series of introductory posts on Fernando Zalamea’s mathematico-philosophical project on this blog (there will also be interspersed commentaries on Peirce, contemporary rationalism, Gabriel Catren, �Ķ). In the meantime, for those who are interested, the new volume of Collapse ���Culinary Materialism��� contains some brief introductory passages on Zalamea in the editorial introduction. Manabrata Guha’s multi-dimensional essay in the volume also builds on Zalamea���s work on Peirce.

02 Jul 2011

We are pleased to announce that Collapse VII: Culinary Materialism is now available.

Contributors to the volume include: AO&, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Gabriel Catren, John Cochran, Sean Day, Rick Dolphijn, FIELDCLUB, Michael A. Morris and John Gerrard, Carole Goodden, Iain Hamilton Grant, Manabrata Guha, Dorothée Legrand, Vanina Leschziner and Andrew Dakin, Dan and Nandita Mellamphy, Jeremy Millar, Eugene Thacker, Richard Wrangham, Fernando Zalamea.
There has never been a time when cookery was so high on the agenda of Western popular culture. And yet endlessly-multiplying TV shows, obsessive interest in the provenance of ingredients, and "radical" experiments in gastronomy, tell us little about the nature of the culinary.
Is it possible to develop the philosophical pertinence of the culinary without using philosophy as a support for this endlessly-expanding culture of gastronomy? How might cookery in the restricted sense connect to an extended philosophical sense of the culinary, in which synthesis, combination and experimentation take precedence over analysis, subtraction and axiomatisation?
Collapse VII: Culinary Materialism brings together work that explores, from many different perspectives, the multifaceted question of cookery and eating. In this volume, a range of contributors – philosophers, chefs, scientists, anthropologists, artists – explore the links between philosophy, chemistry, experimental practice and the culinary arts; chart the consequences of the contemporary return of cookery to scientific precision, in the rarefied world of haute cuisine as in the world of mass-manufactured confections; and explore the material, symbolic, and existential dimensions of food and its preparation. Along the way we discover that the question of a culinary materialism is bound up with some profound and enduring issues in the history of philosophy, and can also suggest new approaches to contemporary philosophical problems.

Contents of Volume VII are as follows:
– In The Chemical Paradigm, an interview with Iain Hamilton Grant, the philosopher discusses how chemistry can serve as a model for a renewed naturephilosophy that operates not simply through analysis but equally through synthesis. Developing a "chemophilosophical" point of view, he challenges the nomological model of knowledge and tests the limits of the culinary as metaphor and as principle for a thinking of nature.
Carol Goodden, who, with artist Gordon Matta-Clark founded the restaurant FOOD in New York in 1971, discusses with us the extent to which the FOOD project, and Matta-Clark's interest in disrupting and transforming structure, can be related to a more general concern with alchemical or culinary transformation, exemplified in early works such as his Agar pieces and "fried photographs". The interview is accompanied by an archive of Matta-Clark graphic works that exemplify his conception of "building materials as nature���s food": "build to feed the worms an organic eat-a-tecture".
– The "semi-nomadic collective" AO&'s practice offers an example of how the restricted practice of the culinary can provide a locus for the exploration of broader networks of production, communication and consumption. In our interview they describe their "perverse" endeavour to fully inhabit the problem of food production in contemporary society, through a painstaking "disclosure" that makes possible an enhanced perception or phenomenology of the act of cookery. AO&'s practice involves within the ambit of "food preparation" the personal sourcing and assembly of every ingredient, including cooking materials, the preparation of the site, and the forging of connections with a network of producers – thus they ask, Where is the Edge of the Pot?, preparing the way for a generalised culinarism.
– In his contribution to the volume, Manabrata Guha reports on recent efforts to "weaponize" the massively potent Bhut Jolokia chili pepper, observing that the military effort to harness its non-lethal power to incapacitate and disorient indicate a shift in strategy, a failed attempt to contend with a new "enemy of all". Examining the inadequacy of the state���s employment of the Bhut Jolokia as a means to enhance an ill-adapted military model, Guha turns to the traditional culinary usage of the chili to reveal more fundamental lessons for the transformation of the schema of battlespace and the rise of a new, vague and inherently synthetic, adversary.
Rick Dolphijn adopts another culinary approach to the contemporary "state of emergency", analysing how the changing alimentary regime of the military anticipated and accelerated the rise of biopolitical governance through continual intervention. According to Dolphijn, the militarization of the world���s diet and the territorialization implicit in dietary programs have resulted in the emergence of a new terrestrial dietary/military continuum whose synthetic elements are "terroristsoldiers".
– In Reason in the Roasting of Eggs, anthropologist Richard Wrangham deepens the notion that "cooking that makes us human", expanding on his thesis that the advent of cooked food is one of the major drivers behind the development of the human brain. Wrangham reveals how the human culture of cooking is a part of nature's chemical and physiological horizon; and for this reason, must be seen in the wider context of a culinary continuum that includes the contingencies that made possible the human as such.
– In Theorizing Cuisine from Medieval to Modern Times, examining the transition from medieval to modern epistemes of cookery, Vanina Leschziner and Andrew Dakin argue that prevailing gastrological norms (in particular, the separation of sweet from non-sweet) exist at an intersection of many influences, where sociological, institutional and epistemic conditions drive the exploration of alternative conceptual articulations of the "phase-space" of possibilities provided by chemical, physiological, nutritional, hedonic, and adaptive factors.
Sean Day introduces us to the fascinating world of synaesthetic cookery. Molecular Gastronomy has, famously, experimented with the integration of different senses (not only olfactory but visual and aural) into dishes. But the curious experiences of synaesthetes reported by Day move him to call for an expanded multi-sensory culinary practice that engages not only with the sciences that are able to analyse and synthesise its matter, but also more fully with the neuroscienctific research that could inform a more systematic approach to the interaction of different sensory modalities.
– In Whey to Go, artist collective FIELDCLUB offer an insight into the deranged machinations of capitalism's food laboratories, uncovering a plot that implicates humans, agriculturally-adapted animals and industrial processes in new culinary syntheses, as the "pig-function" is absorbed by the capitalist exigency to full exploitation of the earth.
– In Object Oriented Cookery, Chef John Cochran proposes a culinary practice that opens itself to non-human participants. Chefs, like philosophers, have "ontological commitments" determined by their praxis, and which distort the objects they work with. Cochran critiques the radical claims of contemporary food movements that claim to break out of normative models of cookery – Molecular Gastronomy and Slow Food – and asks what a "flat cookery" could be.
– Anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro examines the extreme point at which the culinary meets the symbolic, proposing that in cannibalism we discover a remarkable example of a developed and socially-functional perspectivism: "anthropophagy as anthropology". Refusing an account of cannibalistic "sacrifice" as divine expiation, Viveiros de Castro develops a rethinking of sacrifice by examining the ways in which the devouring of the enemy also amounts to an inhabiting of "the enemy's point of view" on the self.
Eugene Thacker, in Spiritual Meat, offers us another perspective on cannibalism, drawing out a parallel between Bataille's "religious horror", and the perplexing problem of thinking corporeal resurrection, as addressed by Athenagoras; discovering beyond the "dead life" and the "eaten life" – corpse and meat – an anonymous, unhuman "cooking" and a "desolate culinarism".
– In her contribution Ex-Nihilo: Forming a Body out of Nothing,, Doroth?�e Legrand introduces a move toward a deep (intra-subjective) phenomenology of consumption (in general) and eating disorders (in particular). As Legrand demonstrates, this relation between the diet and production is manifestly highlighted in anorexia, where "eating nothing" translates into a series of complex semiotic, phenomenological and cognitive procedures for the subject with regard to the production of identity; and a resistance against the anonymous dimensions of the self revealed in the act of eating.
John Gerrard and Michael A. Morris's Corn Bomb traces the implication of nitrogen in the industrial alimentary regime, and the way in which the "ingredients" for postwar human culture were prepared and "cooked" by war and petropolitics. This tangled story of military, agricultural and scientific developments, and their reterritorialisations of the earth, provide the backstory to Gerrard's realtime 3D portraits of desolate industrial facilities that act as batteries to fuel hungry cities.
Dan Mellamphy and Nandita Biswas Mellamphy develop a post-geophilosophical culinarism, rethinking "ecology" as an "ec[h]ology" wherein man is "translated back into nature", and the planet "feasts upon itself". Connecting the ourobouric or ovoid figure of such an autophagy to the Nietzschean will-to-power, they develop an ecology that peers into the al-chem, the black earth, as into a stomachos or "pit of blackness".
Fernando Zalamea pursues his mathematico-philosophical project committed to a de-rigidification of thought by providing "two trivial recipes" that dramatise the culinary dilemma of contemporary philosophy: Analytical Jelly and Transmodern Tatin.
– and the new "recipe" for philosophy offered by Gabriel Catren's On Philosophical Alchimery, Or Why All Chimeric Compositions are Philosophical Stones proposes that only a "consistent unheard of combination of heterogeneous ingredients" allows us to concoct a truly concrete "philosopher's stone".
The volume concludes with an Appendix compiled by the editors and including recipes from Darwin, Leibniz, Newton, and others.
Collapse VII: Culinary Materialism is also accompanied by Jeremy Millar's "Black Cake" – a print edition produced especially for this volume – based on a recipe passed on in a letter by Emily Dickinson.
Collapse VII: Culinary Materialism
July 2011
Eds. R. Negarestani, R. Mackay
631pp
Limited Edition 1000 Numbered Copies
ISBN 978-0-9553087-9-6
£12.99 – ADVANCE ORDERS £9.99

24 Jun 2011

Collapse editor Robin Mackay will be speaking at the AA School\’s FORMAT series, on Thursday 30 June in London: More information here.

13 Jun 2011

We are pleased to announce that Collapse VII: Culinary Materialism is now available for advance ordering, and will be published July 1st. A PDF preview of the editorial introduction to the volume is available here.
A launch event is planned, as a part of AO&'s residency with Outset in London. Editor Robin Mackay will discuss the new volume and the concept of culinary materialism, with Philipp Furtenbach of AO&, and Paul Chaney and Kenna Hernly of FIELDCLUB. Sunday 3rd July at 6.30pm, at Lincoln House, 33-34 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NN.

Contributors to the volume include: AO&, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Gabriel Catren, John Cochran, Sean Day, Rick Dolphijn, FIELDCLUB, Michael A. Morris and John Gerrard, Carole Goodden, Iain Hamilton Grant, Manabrata Guha, Dorothée Legrand, Vanina Leschziner and Andrew Dakin, Dan and Nandita Mellamphy, Jeremy Millar, Eugene Thacker, Richard Wrangham, Fernando Zalamea.
There has never been a time when cookery was so high on the agenda of Western popular culture. And yet endlessly-multiplying TV shows, obsessive interest in the provenance of ingredients, and "radical" experiments in gastronomy, tell us little about the nature of the culinary.
Is it possible to develop the philosophical pertinence of the culinary without using philosophy as a support for this endlessly-expanding culture of gastronomy? How might cookery in the restricted sense connect to an extended philosophical sense of the culinary, in which synthesis, combination and experimentation take precedence over analysis, subtraction and axiomatisation?
Collapse VII: Culinary Materialism brings together work that explores, from many different perspectives, the multifaceted question of cookery and eating. In this volume, a range of contributors – philosophers, chefs, scientists, anthropologists, artists – explore the links between philosophy, chemistry, experimental practice and the culinary arts; chart the consequences of the contemporary return of cookery to scientific precision, in the rarefied world of haute cuisine as in the world of mass-manufactured confections; and explore the material, symbolic, and existential dimensions of food and its preparation. Along the way we discover that the question of a culinary materialism is bound up with some profound and enduring issues in the history of philosophy, and can also suggest new approaches to contemporary philosophical problems.

Contents of Volume VII are as follows:
– In The Chemical Paradigm, an interview with Iain Hamilton Grant, the philosopher discusses how chemistry can serve as a model for a renewed naturephilosophy that operates not simply through analysis but equally through synthesis. Developing a "chemophilosophical" point of view, he challenges the nomological model of knowledge and tests the limits of the culinary as metaphor and as principle for a thinking of nature.
Carol Goodden, who, with artist Gordon Matta-Clark founded the restaurant FOOD in New York in 1971, discusses with us the extent to which the FOOD project, and Matta-Clark's interest in disrupting and transforming structure, can be related to a more general concern with alchemical or culinary transformation, exemplified in early works such as his Agar pieces and "fried photographs". The interview is accompanied by an archive of Matta-Clark graphic works that exemplify his conception of "building materials as nature���s food": "build to feed the worms an organic eat-a-tecture".
– The "semi-nomadic collective" AO&'s practice offers an example of how the restricted practice of the culinary can provide a locus for the exploration of broader networks of production, communication and consumption. In our interview they describe their "perverse" endeavour to fully inhabit the problem of food production in contemporary society, through a painstaking "disclosure" that makes possible an enhanced perception or phenomenology of the act of cookery. AO&'s practice involves within the ambit of "food preparation" the personal sourcing and assembly of every ingredient, including cooking materials, the preparation of the site, and the forging of connections with a network of producers – thus they ask, Where is the Edge of the Pot?, preparing the way for a generalised culinarism.
– In his contribution to the volume, Manabrata Guha reports on recent efforts to "weaponize" the massively potent Bhut Jolokia chili pepper, observing that the military effort to harness its non-lethal power to incapacitate and disorient indicate a shift in strategy, a failed attempt to contend with a new "enemy of all". Examining the inadequacy of the state���s employment of the Bhut Jolokia as a means to enhance an ill-adapted military model, Guha turns to the traditional culinary usage of the chili to reveal more fundamental lessons for the transformation of the schema of battlespace and the rise of a new, vague and inherently synthetic, adversary.
Rick Dolphijn adopts another culinary approach to the contemporary "state of emergency", analysing how the changing alimentary regime of the military anticipated and accelerated the rise of biopolitical governance through continual intervention. According to Dolphijn, the militarization of the world���s diet and the territorialization implicit in dietary programs have resulted in the emergence of a new terrestrial dietary/military continuum whose synthetic elements are "terroristsoldiers".
– In Reason in the Roasting of Eggs, anthropologist Richard Wrangham deepens the notion that "cooking that makes us human", expanding on his thesis that the advent of cooked food is one of the major drivers behind the development of the human brain. Wrangham reveals how the human culture of cooking is a part of nature's chemical and physiological horizon; and for this reason, must be seen in the wider context of a culinary continuum that includes the contingencies that made possible the human as such.
– In Theorizing Cuisine from Medieval to Modern Times, examining the transition from medieval to modern epistemes of cookery, Vanina Leschziner and Andrew Dakin argue that prevailing gastrological norms (in particular, the separation of sweet from non-sweet) exist at an intersection of many influences, where sociological, institutional and epistemic conditions drive the exploration of alternative conceptual articulations of the "phase-space" of possibilities provided by chemical, physiological, nutritional, hedonic, and adaptive factors.
Sean Day introduces us to the fascinating world of synaesthetic cookery. Molecular Gastronomy has, famously, experimented with the integration of different senses (not only olfactory but visual and aural) into dishes. But the curious experiences of synaesthetes reported by Day move him to call for an expanded multi-sensory culinary practice that engages not only with the sciences that are able to analyse and synthesise its matter, but also more fully with the neuroscienctific research that could inform a more systematic approach to the interaction of different sensory modalities.
– In Whey to Go, artist collective FIELDCLUB offer an insight into the deranged machinations of capitalism's food laboratories, uncovering a plot that implicates humans, agriculturally-adapted animals and industrial processes in new culinary syntheses, as the "pig-function" is absorbed by the capitalist exigency to full exploitation of the earth.
– In Object Oriented Cookery, Chef John Cochran proposes a culinary practice that opens itself to non-human participants. Chefs, like philosophers, have "ontological commitments" determined by their praxis, and which distort the objects they work with. Cochran critiques the radical claims of contemporary food movements that claim to break out of normative models of cookery – Molecular Gastronomy and Slow Food – and asks what a "flat cookery" could be.
– Anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro examines the extreme point at which the culinary meets the symbolic, proposing that in cannibalism we discover a remarkable example of a developed and socially-functional perspectivism: "anthropophagy as anthropology". Refusing an account of cannibalistic "sacrifice" as divine expiation, Viveiros de Castro develops a rethinking of sacrifice by examining the ways in which the devouring of the enemy also amounts to an inhabiting of "the enemy's point of view" on the self.
Eugene Thacker, in Spiritual Meat, offers us another perspective on cannibalism, drawing out a parallel between Bataille's "religious horror", and the perplexing problem of thinking corporeal resurrection, as addressed by Athenagoras; discovering beyond the "dead life" and the "eaten life" – corpse and meat – an anonymous, unhuman "cooking" and a "desolate culinarism".
– In her contribution Ex-Nihilo: Forming a Body out of Nothing,, Doroth?�e Legrand introduces a move toward a deep (intra-subjective) phenomenology of consumption (in general) and eating disorders (in particular). As Legrand demonstrates, this relation between the diet and production is manifestly highlighted in anorexia, where "eating nothing" translates into a series of complex semiotic, phenomenological and cognitive procedures for the subject with regard to the production of identity; and a resistance against the anonymous dimensions of the self revealed in the act of eating.
John Gerrard and Michael A. Morris's Corn Bomb traces the implication of nitrogen in the industrial alimentary regime, and the way in which the "ingredients" for postwar human culture were prepared and "cooked" by war and petropolitics. This tangled story of military, agricultural and scientific developments, and their reterritorialisations of the earth, provide the backstory to Gerrard's realtime 3D portraits of desolate industrial facilities that act as batteries to fuel hungry cities.
Dan Mellamphy and Nandita Biswas Mellamphy develop a post-geophilosophical culinarism, rethinking "ecology" as an "ec[h]ology" wherein man is "translated back into nature", and the planet "feasts upon itself". Connecting the ourobouric or ovoid figure of such an autophagy to the Nietzschean will-to-power, they develop an ecology that peers into the al-chem, the black earth, as into a stomachos or "pit of blackness".
Fernando Zalamea pursues his mathematico-philosophical project committed to a de-rigidification of thought by providing "two trivial recipes" that dramatise the culinary dilemma of contemporary philosophy: Analytical Jelly and Transmodern Tatin.
– and the new "recipe" for philosophy offered by Gabriel Catren's On Philosophical Alchimery, Or Why All Chimeric Compositions are Philosophical Stones proposes that only a "consistent unheard of combination of heterogeneous ingredients" allows us to concoct a truly concrete "philosopher's stone".
The volume concludes with an Appendix compiled by the editors and including recipes from Darwin, Leibniz, Newton, and others.
Collapse VII: Culinary Materialism is also accompanied by Jeremy Millar's "Black Cake" – a print edition produced especially for this volume – based on a recipe passed on in a letter by Emily Dickinson.
Please note: we have had to increase the price of this volume in order to cover costs – but advance orders can still take advantage of the old price.
US readers can purchase from Sequence Press.

Collapse VII: Culinary Materialism
July 2011
Eds. R. Negarestani, R. Mackay
631pp
Limited Edition 1000 Numbered Copies
ISBN 978-0-9553087-9-6
£12.99 – ADVANCE ORDERS £9.99

09 Jun 2011


Collapse VII: Culinary Materialism has gone to press, and the introduction by editors Robin Mackay and Reza Negarestani is available for PDF download here.

14 May 2011


Most of Urbanomic\’s publications are now available directly in the US through Sequence Press.
We\’d like to take this opportunity to thank readers in the US and elsewhere who have continued to order from Urbanomic over the years despite the extravagant shipping costs – Thanks for your support!

12 May 2011

Florian Hecker\’s Speculative Solution is here (on Editions Mego) … copies on sale in our store soon.
SpeculativeSolution2c_DSC5620-1.jpeg
SpeculativeSolution1_DSC5576-1.jpeg
Photography: Peter Derbsch
Cat. No.: eMEGO 118
Artist: Hecker
Title: Speculative Solution
Format: CD + Book
Barcode: 9120020387859
Release Date: May 23rd, 2011
Speculative Solution 1 32:00
Speculative Solution 2 2:57
Speculative Solution 2 2:55
Octave Chronics 19:10
Written and produced by Florian Hecker, March 2009 – November 2010
Book edited by Robin Mackay; featuring essays by Elie Ayache, Robin Mackay and Quentin Meillassoux.
Typesetting by Tina Frank, Elvira Stein
CD mastered by Rashad Becker

Editions Mego and Urbanomic are pleased to announce the release of Speculative Solution, a CD and book with contributions by Florian Hecker, Elie Ayache, Robin Mackay and Quentin Meillassoux.
Originally commissioned by Urbanomic and developed over the last year, this collaborative project brings together Hecker‘s sonic practice and psychoacoustic experimentation with philosopher Quentin Meillassoux\’s concept of ‘hyperchaos‘ – the absolute contingency of the laws of nature.
In an apparent departure from Hecker‘s previous release Acid in the Style of David Tudor (eMEGO 094, 2009), the four titles featured in Speculative Solution contain a series of micro-chronics and sequences of auditory contingencies, ranging from extreme stasis to the most dynamic intensities, crisp dramatisations of what Meillassoux calls in his text ‘extro-science worlds‘.
As Mackay states in his contribution to the book, Hecker‘s composition “participates in a circuit in which it, the accompanying texts, and diverse other objects, enter into a perpetual catalysis that must annihilate all priority, representation, reference, and even entity.”. Both “scripture and prescription”, Speculative Solution invites its users to integrate its sonic and textual components, as they enter into an accelerative cycle, becoming “truly ‘literalist‘ marks which have no reason to be as they are, and which could have been – and still could be, at every moment – otherwise”. With Speculative Solution Hecker proposes that the concepts of absolute contingency and hyperchaos offer a rigorous new alternative to the employment of chance and randomness in avant-garde composition.
It is recommended to listen to Speculative Solution on loudspeakers at high volume. Headphone use is not advised. Frequent recitation of the included texts is also indicated.
Speculative Solution is Hecker‘s 13th release with (Editions) Mego. It comes in an embossed, deluxe box with a bilingual (English / French) 160 page book and 5 metal balls (ø 3,969mm). Available only in this format.

05 Apr 2011

Laruelle\’s The Concept of Non-Photography has arrived – advance orders will be dispatched at the end of this week following the festivities in New York.

Readers in the US will be pleased to learn that the website and online store of Sequence Press will soon be ready to take orders for Collapse and other Urbanomic publications.

04 Apr 2011


Having sat in on many a Steve Goodman position paper, Sphaleotas wonders whether the VF 2.0’ll steering committee’s portrait of the CCRU as ‘psychedelic transhumanists’ might not be a case of one Aricept banana-smoothie too far.
[Update 2011-04-28]

Renowned creationist Steve Fuller has just been confirmed as a speaker – truly a ‘must-see’ for Texans and fans of Richard Seymour’s ‘Lenin’s Tomb’ blog!

03 Apr 2011

Just a reminder of the series of events this week in New York. Video of the events should be available soon after.
Tuesday April 5th, 7pm
Urbanomic/Sequence Press Launch, with Dexter Sinister
Wednesday April 6th, 7pm
François Laruelle and Non-Philosophy Symposium
Thursday April 7th, 7.30pm
François Laruelle – The Concept of Non-Photography
more details

27 Mar 2011

The Chapmans-Noumena

Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007
Nick Land
March 2011
Edited and with an Introduction by Ray Brassier and Robin Mackay

Level 1, or world-space, is an anthropomorphically scaled, predominantly vision-configured, massively multi-slotted reality system that is obsolescing very rapidly.
Garbage time is running out.
Can what is playing you make it to Level 2?



Fanged Noumena
assembles for the first time the writings of Nick Land, variously described as ���rabid nihilism���, ���accelerationism���, and ���cybergothic���. Wielding machinically-recombined versions of Deleuze and Guattari, Reich and Freud, in the company of fellow ���werewolves��� such as Nietzsche, Bataille, Artaud, Trakl and Cioran, to a cut-up soundtrack of Bladerunner, Terminator and Apocalypse Now, Land plotted a rigorously schizophrenic escape route out of academic philosophy.
���Land���s incisive assessment of the machinic reality of a schizo-capitalism currently in the process of penetrating and colonizing the innermost recesses of human subjectivity exposes the fatally anachronistic character of the metaphysical conception of human agency upon which ���revolutionary��� thought continues to rely. The anachronistic character of left voluntarism is nowhere more apparent than in its resort to a negative theology of perpetually deferred ���hope���, mordantly poring over its own reiterated depredation. Worse still is the complacent sanctimony of those ���critical��� theorists who concede that the prospect of revolutionary transformation is not only unattainable but undesirable (given its dangerously ���totalitarian��� propensities), but who remain content to pursue a career in critique, safely insulated from the risks of political praxis. The challenge of Land���s work cannot be circumvented by construing the moral dismay it (often deliberately) provokes as proof of its erroneous nature, or by exploiting the inadequacies in Land���s positive construction as an excuse to evade the corrosive critical implications of his thought. Nor can it be concluded that this alternative philosophical path cannot be further explored. [�Ķ] Everything in Land���s work that falls outside the parameters of disciplinary knowledge can and will be effectively dismissed by those who police the latter. In Bataille���s incisive formulation, ���the unknown [�Ķ] is not distinguished from nothingness by anything that discourse can announce���. Like his fellows of the ���inferior race���, what we retain of Land���s expeditions are diverse and scattered remnants, here constellated for the first time. These are also tools or weapons; arrows that deserve to be taken up again and sharpened further. The wound needs to be opened up once more, and if this volume infects a new generation, already enlivened by a new wave of thinkers who are partly engaging the re-emerging legacy of Nick Land���s work ��� it will have fulfilled its purpose.��� (Ray Brassier and Robin Mackay)
Land���s work is rife for misunderstanding, but this is essential since it forces us to recalibrate his weapons and to reevaluate our capacities as humans while we renavigate minefields at the outer frontiers of thought (and praxis). All in all, here is Nick Land as the patient zero of speculative thought in the 21st century.
More information here:
https://www.urbanomic.com/pub_fangednoumena.php

25 Mar 2011

SpecSol.jpg
Cat. No.: eMEGO 118
Artist: Hecker
Title: Speculative Solution
Format: CD + Book
Barcode: 9120020387859
Release Date: May 23rd, 2011
Speculative Solution 1 32:00
Speculative Solution 2 2:57
Speculative Solution 2 2:55
Octave Chronics 19:10
Written and produced by Florian Hecker, March 2009 – November 2010
Book edited by Robin Mackay; featuring essays by Elie Ayache, Robin Mackay and Quentin Meillassoux.
Typesetting by Tina Frank, Elvira Stein
CD mastered by Rashad Becker

Editions Mego and Urbanomic are pleased to announce the release of Speculative Solution, a CD and book with contributions by Florian Hecker, Elie Ayache, Robin Mackay and Quentin Meillassoux.
Originally commissioned by Urbanomic and developed over the last year, this collaborative project brings together Hecker‘s sonic practice and psychoacoustic experimentation with philosopher Quentin Meillassoux\’s concept of ‘hyperchaos‘ – the absolute contingency of the laws of nature.
In an apparent departure from Hecker‘s previous release Acid in the Style of David Tudor (eMEGO 094, 2009), the four titles featured in Speculative Solution contain a series of micro-chronics and sequences of auditory contingencies, ranging from extreme stasis to the most dynamic intensities, crisp dramatisations of what Meillassoux calls in his text ‘extro-science worlds‘.
As Mackay states in his contribution to the book, Hecker‘s composition “participates in a circuit in which it, the accompanying texts, and diverse other objects, enter into a perpetual catalysis that must annihilate all priority, representation, reference, and even entity.”. Both “scripture and prescription”, Speculative Solution invites its users to integrate its sonic and textual components, as they enter into an accelerative cycle, becoming “truly ‘literalist‘ marks which have no reason to be as they are, and which could have been – and still could be, at every moment – otherwise”. With Speculative Solution Hecker proposes that the concepts of absolute contingency and hyperchaos offer a rigorous new alternative to the employment of chance and randomness in avant-garde composition.
It is recommended to listen to Speculative Solution on loudspeakers at high volume. Headphone use is not advised. Frequent recitation of the included texts is also indicated.
Speculative Solution is Hecker‘s 13th release with (Editions) Mego. It comes in an embossed, deluxe box with a bilingual (English / French) 160 page book and 5 metal balls (ø 3,969mm). Available only in this format.

10 Mar 2011

Update on Fanged Noumena ETA : Friday 18th March. And that's a promise from the printer.
Meanwhile, Laruelle's The Concept of Non-Photography is next to press, and should be available at the beginning of April to coincide with a series of events with Laruelle in New York.

25 Feb 2011

The rationalist resonator

Reza Negarestani

Tuning Fork

[The tuning fork of speculation] has two prongs. One is the prong of reason; the other prong is a razor. The speculative artist or philosopher at the same time has a razor in one of his hands, and reason in the other. These two, reason and the razor, are essentially not interchangeable. The razor, by itself, is a romantic and blind tool. It cuts for the sake of being extreme. And reason itself does not have the tenacity or audacity to evacuate even the rational ground of itself. So, what it does, what this tuning fork does, it tunes speculation. The razor cuts for the extreme, it sheds possible grounds, future grounds and methodically cuts in different ways — not only restlessly carving out the regional from the universal but also transplanting universal into regional fields of thought. On the other hand, the other prong, the prong of reason, sheds light on the field of the surgery of this razor — it sharpens the blade while revealing new depths for the operation of the razor. Or it alternatively brings into focus what has already been cut. Now, the movement of these two prongs resonate with one another in such a way that they tune the field of speculation. A resonantly excited field of speculation is a continuum synthetically interwoven by vibrations of the prongs of the fork, the razor and reason. As a continuum, the synthetic field of speculation adds a new phantom prong to the fork. Whilst the two prongs of the fork are elastic, the third phantom prong is plastic — a resonant and plastic web of continuities between reason and the razor where all nodal points are interfused and welded together so thoroughly that the symmetry of reason and the razor collapses, their respective segregations are abolished and a new universal and generic expanse is brought forth. This universal expanse that represents the third, or more accurately, the plastic prong of the fork that is brought about by the synthesis of reason and the razor should be considered as the topos of speculation wherein thought approaches the local from the perspective of the absolute and a true-to-the-universe conception of globality. In short, the plastic prong thinks and approaches the local non-trivially through and according to the universal continuum which is absolute, open and plastic. At last, the two-pronged fork of speculation unbinds the alternative field of thought: the third prong through which asymmetries are unfolded in symmetries and the unreasonable becomes gradationally continuous to rationalism. (from The Medium of Contingency)

17 Feb 2011


The Medium of Contingency is now available.
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Also of note is Ivorypress\’s new book on the work of artist John Gerrard. Edited by Urbanomic director Robin Mackay, with texts by Mackay, Reza Negarestani, Yoani Sanchez and Ed Keller, the book provides a survey of Gerrard\’s work, focussing on the new Cuban School project currently showing at Ivorypress in Madrid. More details here.

And Robin is in conversation with artist Charles Avery in the first issue of a new journal Drawing Room confessions.

07 Feb 2011

The chariot of cyclones

E. Lang Auditorium
55 West 13th Street, 2nd Floor
The New School, NYC
March 11, 2011
10:00 am – 6:30 pm
RSVP here, more information regarding the symposium’s schedule here
PLENARY SPEAKER
Robin Mackay
PRESENTATIONS
Alisa Andrasek
Zach Blas
Melanie Doherty
Benjamin Bratton
Alexander Galloway
Perry Hall
Ed Keller
Kate Marshall
Nicola Masciandaro
Eugene Thacker
McKenzie Wark
Ben Woodard
Sponsored by Media Studies, The New School and Parsons the New School for Design

27 Jan 2011

13 Jan 2011

place-your-bets.jpg
On January 19th (6.30-8pm), in discussion with Elie Ayache, Robin Mackay, Matthew Poole, Miguel Abreu and New York based artist, Scott Lyall, I will give a short talk on contingency, philosophy and art via videolink. More details on the event can be found here:

NEW YORK TO LONDON AND BACK ��� The Medium of Contingency January 18 ��� February 19, 2011
The Directors of Thomas Dane are pleased to present a collaboration with New York gallerist Miguel Abreu and with Robin Mackay and Tobias Huber of Urbanomic. The latter is a unique organisation based in the UK, which aims to address crucial issues in contemporary philosophy and science in relation to contemporary art practice. The project at Thomas Dane Gallery takes the form of an exhibition, a public discussion, a film screening and a publication, over the course of a four-week period.
Exhibition Private View: Tuesday, 18 January, 6-8pm
Artists in the exhibition include Kristen Alvanson, Hans Bellmer, Liz Deschenes, Thomas Eggerer, Rachel Harrison, Gareth James, Alison Knowles, Sam Lewitt, Scott Lyall, R. H. Quaytman, Eileen Quinlan, Raha Raissnia, Jimmy Raskin, Blake Rayne, Pamela Rosenkranz, Pieter Schoolwerth, Amy Sillman, and Cheyney Thompson.
In association with Sutton Lane.
Discussion: The Medium of Contingency: Wednesday, January 19, 6.30-8 pm
The notion of ���contingency��� has become crucial both in contemporary philosophy, and, as the artists in this show suggest, in contemporary art. If thought and practice are to abandon the idealism of autonomy and acknowledge the networks they are a part of, the question becomes one of developing a thought and a practice that opens to contingency. The discussion will explore how works of art write contingency into the present; are in turn written by the contingency of their materials; and how these exchanges interact with the market.
Thomas Dane Gallery
First Floor
11 Duke Street
St James’s
London SW1Y 6BN
http://www.thomasdane.com/

17 Dec 2010

We regret to announce that the Nick Land collection Fanged Noumena will no longer be published in December, we now hope to have the volume available by the end of Jan 2011 – thanks for your patience and for those who have made advance orders. We expect Collapse VI to appear February-March 2011.
We are pleased to announce some more publications forthcoming in 2011. The first two titles are the fruit of an alliance between Urbanomic and Sequence Press, a new imprint from Miguel Abreu Gallery. Urbanomic are very pleased to be collaborating with Sequence to realise these important translations, and further, to develop a more effective US distribution programme for Collapse and other Urbanomic publications. Further details to follow in January.
François Laruelle From Decision to Heresy (April 2011). A collection of newly-translated writings from throughout Laruelle\’s career, which should be an excellent introduction to this increasingly influential thinker\’s work.
François Laruelle The Concept of Non-Photography (April 2011). Sequence and Urbanomic are proud to announce the publication of this text by Laruelle for the first time, in a bilingual edition. More details to follow.
Fernando Zalamea Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics (September 2011). Zalamea\’s book provides a comprehensive review and discussion of philosophical engagements with contemporary mathematics that fall outside the traditional subdiscipline of \’philosophy of mathematics\’.

17 Dec 2010

From 18 Jan – 19 Feb 2011, Thomas Dane Gallery presents a show entitled New York to London and Back, organized by Miguel Abreu and Urbanomic, in association with Sutton Lane. The show features work by Kristen Alvanson, Hans Bellmer, Liz Deschenes, Thomas Eggerer, Rachel Harrison, Gareth James, Alison Knowles, Sam Lewitt, Scott Lyall, R. H. Quaytman, Eileen Quinlan, Raha Raissnia, Jimmy Raskin, Blake Rayne, Pamela Rosenkranz, Pieter Schoolwerth, Amy Sillman, and Cheyney Thompson.

A public discussion event on January 19th 2011, 6.30-8pm, will explore how works of art write contingency into the present, and are in turn written by the contingency of their materials, and how these exchanges interact with other markets – between capitals, and subtracted from all prevision and possibility.

In an unprecedented overlapping of the contexts of philosophical, financial, and art worlds, the event will bring together in discussion Robin Mackay (director of Urbanomic), Reza Negarestani (author of Cyclonopedia, Elie Ayache (author of The Blank Swan), and Matthew Poole (freelance curator, writer, and director of The Centre for Curatorial Studies at The University of Essex).

A publication will follow in February 2011, co-produced by Urbanomic and Ridinghouse, comprising an edited transcript of the discussion and further interventions by artists participating in the show.

More details.

04 Dec 2010

Pest Rationalism

Reza Negarestani

health-department.jpg

through the human pipe dream …

Roger Ebert, the movie critic whose name I can barely even stand, in his typically bankrupt mocking tone lashes out at the remake of the movie Willard with a simple objection which efficiently debunks Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophical implications of becoming-rat in the movie Willard. Ebert objects to something obvious and trivial which Deleuze and Guattari refuse to acknowledge: Rats can’t be marshaled around, they are unpredictable, they are characterized by indiscriminate promiscuity and unbound contingency of the pest. Becoming-rat only happens in the fantasies of this Doctor Dolittle of pest control. You never know what a rat is going to do next, objects Ebert, not to mention a pack of rats. Rats’ ferocity in generating pestilential contingency is unsurpassable, it is as if nature has finally found a compact enforcer and representative who doesn’t mind being irreverent even to nature, betraying human’s desires and boring itself through the buttocks of God no matter how he positions himself. Rats are endowed with a militant verve for adaptability; they can adapt to any hierarchical order only to turn it to an apparatus of criminal complicity. If god evades all definitions and situates itself beyond all attributes of beings in the manner of the neo-Platonistic God, rats are still capable of sneaking behind him at night to penetrate him with painless efficiency. It is not the question of posture and sitting right, it is all a matter of surprise from behind. They can break into your air-conditioned bourgeoisie dreams by taking the pipes and romping around in the vents. If you build schizophrenic cities they adapt to the paranoid dimensions, if you secure a paranoid house they spread schizophrenically in every direction. They are only mobilized according to an absolute contingency which is marked by double betrayal; simultaneously working against the rectifying movement of social machines and betraying the fluid derangements of a formless nature by dwelling and adapting to hierarchical orders and dimensions when it is necessary. The question is how human desire can afford such treacherous contingency whose sole ambition whether in life or death is complicity or alliance through betrayal. The apex of this treachery to which human desire cannot latch unless within scenarios entailing the elimination of human — or in Willard’s case, ‘ripping human narcissism along with its economical desires and secret repressions into shreds’ – is the image of the sinking infested ship in the middle ages: After consuming the ship to its last morsel of food and the last sailor, rats leave the ship in a mass migration which always heralds the imminent sinking of the vessel. Sink your ship, burn your boats, eat your house, that’s the only way forward.

abondon-the-ship.jpg

In the second volume of their magnum opus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari claim that becoming-animal is an alliance, a contagious alliance which always registers itself as a pack. Human beings can never undergo becoming-animal without a fascination or desire for pack and multiplicity. Yet rats don’t advocate any alliance with human or its desires. Complicity of rats with fleas, hierarchical orders, humans, grains, bamboo cycles and ships is too promiscuous to be captured by desire, the ground of such complicities is too transient to be successfully accessed or traversed by humans through experience, consciousness, desire or fascination. So if becoming-rat does not start with Willard’s fascination with rats, then what is he becoming? Willard’s becoming rat is a re-oedipalization under disguise. Willard is preserving the legacy of the Oedipus Rex under the guise of the Rattus Rex. All he can desire is an affordable pack of rats which can be marshaled around, what he desires is what he can afford, it is a utilizable or manageable contingency, a becoming already restrained by Willard’s own rat image projected to his Oedipal environment and then reflected back to him in the form of a complying rat pack. Roger Ebert has apparently his own speculation for this process of re-oedipalization: in the 2003 remake of Willard, the new Willard who is played by Crispin Glover lives in a similar house as the old Willard, a portrait of Willard’s father hangs in the family room which is in fact the portrait of Bruce Davidson who played the original Willard. Ebert asks does that mean that this Willard is the son of the elder Willard and that his nagging horrible mother is the original Willard’s girlfriend who now has become a shrew just like her mother-in-law.

Willard’s story continues the themes and illusions of medieval rat folklores and can indeed be traced back to such stories which were extremely popular during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Among these legends, there is one story which is more well-known than others perhaps by the virtue of its enigmatic quality and implicit socio-political critique of the church’s incompetence and self-indulgent depravity during the times of pestilence and famine. The story is rooted in Latin, Greek and ultimately Israelite legends. It tells the story of a wicked German bishop named Hatto who lives in his tower. He is a rat only by anthropomorphic identification of rats, which means he is only a rat by his greed and indulgence in hoarding. Bishop Hatto is an avaricious man who has amassed a wealth ten times bigger than his life time, his farms are fertile, his granaries are full and his dinner table is overwhelmed with food. Once the town is struck by famine, the peasants come to him and beg for help. Perhaps afraid by the imminent riot in the town, he plots for a solution to get rid of the peasants who pester him like rats. He invites them to one of his granaries, seals the doors and sets the granary on fire to solve the problems of these rats once and for all. He then returns to his tower to eat his lavish dinner and sleep. Sometime after midnight, he is awakened from his sleep by an uncomfortable sound, which despite its low pitched subtlety is quite audible. It is like a subdued commotion he cannot make anything out of it: a vague verminous rattle wetting all dreams of humanity. Hatto slowly leaves his bed and looks out of the window, the sky is calm, there is no sign of storm but he notices a strangest phenomenon about which he does not have a slightest clue. The ground is moving toward him with a macabre un-easing music. There are rats which are coming forth from the burned granary. The end of the story is reminiscent of Willard, after devouring all traces of life on the horizontal plane, they climb the tower to seize the bishop with their tireless teeth.

David-Falconer.jpg
David Falconer, Vermin Death Star (2000-2002)

There have been at least three interpretations of this story, each has given rise to a particular strain of fiction or history constructed on a clandestine anthropomorphization of rats, each an anthropomorphic superstition about the surge of rats in this story — a covert solution to capture rats and ultimately solve their problem. These interpretations have in turn contributed to three political processes. The first one is the gothic story of the returning ghost supported by the monotheist belief in an immutable and indestructible soul in general and the vengeful return of these indestructible spirits to topple the tyrannical institution in particular. It is in conjunction with this interpretation that the increasing popularity of rat stories during the protestant riots against the church’s dominance makes sense. If the pestering ghost or poltergeist of gothic stories always appears with rats or at least accompanied by the sound of their claws within the walls, it is because such a gothic pact has been shaped by the belief that rats which devoured the bishop were indeed the ghosts of the unfortunate peasants burnt in the granary. Therefore, the first scenario is that of a religious or political reformation accompanied by a riot and hauntological insinuations. The animal is only a specter that reinscribes the vitality of human being in the form of an enduring spirit associated with the dead, or the pre-given and lingering trace of the living extended into the realm of the dead.

As a part of kitsch Marxism, the second interpretation does not suggest the return of the pestering peasant ghosts ironically appearing as angry rats determined to overthrow the tyrannical authority, instead it suggests a radical revolution by a faceless crowd of people. In other words, the second interpretation of Rat Tower story insists on a revolutionary dimension imbued with fierce class resistance and sweeping mass revolution. Here rats are again anthropomorphized by a type of resemblance, a link that associates the faceless revolting crowds with the ultimate vermin truth suggesting that vermin and especially rat packs are faceless. The second interpretation takes the rats in the story as the revolutionary mass rife with raw proletarian desire and armed with the collectivity of socio-political class struggle. The third interpretation is that of Deleuze and Guattari’s Willard which is that of becoming-rat: the faceless vermin pack swallows the human protagonist through a secret desire, a pact with the animal, a contamination by the multiplicity or the animal crowd which might be rats, the peasants or the numerous granaries which are the concrete manifestation of the bishop’s anthropomorphic animal desires. These three interpretations have sought to explain the reason for the surge of rats at night, link it to the death of peasants, the desires of the bishop, and his ultimate fate. In doing so, these three interpretations have shaped three anthropomorphic superstitions about rats which in turn have given rise to their respective socio-political processes. Human’s socio-political history, in this sense, is a collective superstition to misconstrue the contingent promiscuity of rats and their consistent rigor for complicity, that is to say, the ethics of the Pest. There is no doubt that like all other granaries of its time, the granary of bishop Hatto has had a thatched roof. Every true peasant and every diligent pest doctor knows that both black rats and brown rats reside in thatching of the roof, the cool temperature of the thatch satisfies the required temperature of rats. In addition, the thatch is a short-term nutrient resource for rats. It gives rats the opportunity to access the content of the granary and move from one granary to another. By inhibiting the thatch of the granary, they transform the verticality of the roof to an ultimate tactical vantage point from which they can dissipate the ferocity of the pack at night. The irony of humanity is that it only looks for rats either inside its food stock or at the bottom in the basement or the sewer, because it is convinced that the top has already been secured either by the sovereignty of god or the inferiority of the animal.

The only reason that fire in the granary did not exterminate rats was because they were somewhere between inside and outside, they had adapted to a vague verticality which demonstrated their complicity with the food hierarchy — a transient alliance ready to nullify itself in a favor of a new complicity with a new territory, a new alliance whose radical treachery is always ready to unfold. The difference between rats and humans sublimates in their ultimate relationship with their food resource: Whilst humans are burned alive inside their own food stock, the complicity of rats with the verticality of the roof gives them an opportunity to be signaled by the smoke and leave the food stock for good. Alerted by the smoke of the fire in the granary, rats break their alliance with the thatched roof of the food stock and migrate to a new zone of complicity. From here the fate of Bishop Hatto and Willard cannot be explained by those three socio-political rat superstitions anymore: rats which have migrated from the granary are moving to the closest territory, which this time happens to be occupied by humans. There is nothing personal in what happens to Bishop Hatto or Willard, the human protagonist is a temporary obstacle in the chain of complicities which rats undertake to unfold unheard-of epidemics. The human obstacle is as transient as promiscuous complicities of rats.

At the time of the great plague of London, rats had linked a major part of the city through the burrows they had dug in the connected thatched roofs through which they could disseminate plague and deliver it to every corner of the city with an inhuman efficiency. An accident caused by a fortunate negligence initiated a fire which soon spread across the city and ended the plague by making rats leave the food stocks and households of London. Only then the architects of the city found out the relationship between hoards of raging rats, the thatches, the fire and rare cases of mutilation by unstoppable hoards of rats. They redesigned the city with a new architecture in which structures had solid roofs and ceiling but they also had drains, sewers and secret ventilations. The frequently discussed rats’ bottom-up invasions, from sewer or basement to the surface which are reminiscent of libidinal surges against the ego only follow the initial vertical model of rats settlement as twists of the animal promiscuity in regard to architectural shifts. It seems that our socio-political and philosophical understanding of rats is still bound to the popular superstitions before the time of great plague of London; the animal is still a food for our mysticism. Because we still explain rats’ inherent contingency and impersonal complicities by such lame superstitions which are completely blind to the system of Pest’s causation: Rats inhabit the thatch of the granary as a result of their inherent multiplicity or packhood which is always pregnant with epidemic and mass-degenerating potentials. The next incident that happens is the fire inside the granary whose smoke alerts the roof inhabitants, rats reassemble the hoard for migration to the neighboring territory which in this case is that of human. Who even mentioned humans in the system of Pest’s causation as a primary or even a secondary cause?

There is an absurd mystical insistence to associate the epidemic ferocity of rats with the violent erosions of Bourgeoisie dimensions of society or even ridiculously going so far as to claim that rats represent the Asiatic Other or its specter which cannot be incorporated within the West other than by an inferiorization which sooner or later causes cataclysmic eruptions from the bottom. The problem with such observations is that they are incapable of grasping the Pest’s causation as a spontaneous model of complicity and radical promiscuity. The Orient has been ravaged by rats as much as the West; if the Orient maintains some sort of mastery over the West at the expense of rats, it is because it has always secretly expunged its body counts or has given rats attributes and powers reminiscent of pantheistic gods. Rats are as avid to gnaw at the foundations of Christianity as they are avid to brush their plague and urine soaked skin against Buddhism, pantheism or paganism. Rats eat everything including religion. All superstitions about rats have an anthropocentric tendency to explain rat’s pest causation by a human agency which is surreptitiously smuggled into the scenario, a greedy bishop, a crowd of peasants, a human settlement, an Oedipal bourgeois who is devoured by rats. But these are only contingently introduced to the story; they don’t have any intrinsic position with rats’ system of pest causation. There is nothing that guarantees their presence in the rats’ stories other than their contingent and ephemeral neighborhood with rats as well as rats’ plague-motivated promiscuity. Rats’ erratic mobility — understood as a precarious and contingent embracing of localities driven by the will of the open — dissipates differential intensities into the yawning extensity of space. Deleuze’s Willard conforms to human superstitions of the animal insofar as it imposes the necessity of human being — as a virtual or ideal determination or difference — on the katabatic opportunism of the animal-rats that goes beyond the power principle, but it is precisely the contingent promiscuity of rats which terminates the necessity of human beings and deprives the affect between the animal and human of its power to channel human desire as a participating determinant for becoming-rat.

For humans, reason is the ratio between the Intellect and Being; for rats, however, the reason is the plague-dissipating versatility between Being and the Outside which manifests as the ratio between the voracity of the jaw and the headless mobility of the tail. If rats are ideal carriers for dissipating epidemics through complicity, it is because for them the role of head is supplanted by that of the tail. Tail enables rats to acquire the power of sudden jumps which in turn mobilize the rats both vertically and horizontally, rats next to each other and rats atop each other. This spatial mobilization grants the pack an incredible contagious potency since rats are constantly contaminated by urine and defecation of those rats which jump on top of them. The line between the belly and the back or the inside and outside is dissolved with the diseased excretion of the animal. Rat tail in this sense is the warrant for the dissolution of the volumetric body into the gaseous plasticity of the epidemic. This type of reason between head and tail causes catastrophes of epic proportions when rats and xenopsylla cheopis enter into complicity with one another. Black rats which carry rat fleas both feed on and settle in grains, their burrowing movements in grains cause their hair to rub against grains and thoroughly contaminate them by the diseased urine and excrement. Feeding on the tainted grain acts as a catalyst since it increases the rate of infection among rats in a way that rats begin to die in massive numbers, a phenomenon known as rat die-off. The abrupt die-off results in migration of fleas to the surviving rats so that the number of fleas on each rat increases from about seven up to one hundred. This in turn causes a population explosion among fleas backed up by the failing immunity system of the animal which cannot tackle with the outsider any longer. The pest’s chain reaction culminates in the extinction of rats and the migration of fleas to the second favorable host which happens to be human. Rats unconditionally hold onto the ethics of complicity throughout their life and exercise the ascesis of Pest Rationalism in their death./November 2008

17 Oct 2010

More news, from INSTAL, of an ambitious and unpredictable experiment to be conducted with Glasgow Open School, Mattin and Ray Brassier at the festival in Glasgow in November:
EVACUATION OF THE GREAT LEARNING
A SET OF RADICAL, COLLECTIVE PERFORMANCES MATTIN, RAY BRASSIER, GLASGOW OPEN SCHOOL, AND YOU
A major 3.5hr performance, developed from collective workshops. Put something at stake! Get involved!
Who
Ray: The most interesting radical philosopher in Europe?
Mattin: The most provocative noise improviser around? “John Cage meets Dan Graham” – Andrea Fraser.
Glasgow Open School: A radical fringe to INSTAL 10?
PLUS: (loads of ?) people from workshops held in the run up to this event: may include you.
What
Radical, collective “performances” to close the festival, by Mattin, Ray and a loads of people from Glasgow, born from a collective investigation of noise and improvisation in social and political terms. “Performances” worked up by all the people from the workshops.
Here\’s how we\’re going to do it:
Take Part: Workshop Series
Ray and Mattin will ask some questions that we will try to answer together before, during and after INSTAL with Glasgow Open School, other artists at the festival and (we hope) you.
GOS are already thinking about this, but join in at any time (limited spaces, see below) and attend GOS���s regular meetings. See gdiycommunity.wordpress.com for details.
During INSTAL, there will be three workshops where the questions will be interrogated together with Mattin and Ray.
Want to take part? It only works if you come to all three workshops, plus Sunday night.
Limited space for the FREE workshops. Interested or want to find out more? Email info@arika.org.uk.
Watch: Collective Performances 1.
These workshops will lead to “performances” by the people involved: improvising with the “festival” as a concert; taking the most radical ideas of improvisation and noise, and applying them together to our social interaction.
The last hours of INSTAL will be handed to this group: the material conditions (time, space, facilities, audience…) are the instruments, from there anything can happen.
This may be the riskiest, most open and collective performance at any INSTAL. Totally self-organised by the group. A festival within a festival.
A Non-Festival?
Why
Mattin and three other artists did a similar kind of thing at our Kill Your Timid Notion festival: it was one of the most exciting performances we have ever put on. Naturally: we want to try and go further.
It\’s the most radical thing we can do: a major experiment with the ideas of experimental music, music festivals and how they re- late to our situation. A collective “performance” developed by you? And however unlikely and un-musical the outcome might seem, (and maybe the last hours of INSTAL will be almost un- recognisable as noise, or as improvisation as we hear it today), if we take the ideas of improvisation and noise seriously, then whatever we do will be radically, immanently and exactly that; it will be a noise concert, it will be improvisation, and it will be music.
Workshop Series
Thursday 11: 19:30 – 23:00
Saturday 13: 10:00 – 13:30
Sunday 14: 10:00 – 13:30
Interested in taking part? Email info@arika.org.uk to register your interest and find out more.

28 Sep 2010

A new version of Florian Hecker\’s Urbanomic commissioned piece Speculative Solution (see details here) will be performed at INSTAL in Glasgow, Friday 12 – Sunday 14th November 2010.
The event will also feature a discussion between Hecker, Urbanomic director Robin Mackay, and Catherine Christer Hennix, who is also performing at INSTAL.
Full details here.
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INSTAL 10
Braver Newer Musics
Friday 12, Saturday 13 & Sunday 14 November 2010
Tramway, Glasgow
Full programme online at www.arika.org.uk
Book on 0845 330 3501 or at www.tramway.org
Day Pass £10 – Festival Pass £25 – Early Bird £20 (book before Fri 15 Oct)
Music is about more than just music.
In fact, any radical music has always been provoked by something from outside: by non-musical ideas, ideas from and about our situation. And it only stays radical if it keeps saying something back to that situation, if it tries to change it1.
An experimental festival of experimental music, INSTAL 10 addresses itself to these and subsequent concerns.

16 Sep 2010

Our thanks to all who attended the event The Real Thing at Tate Britain.
We are pleased to report that the Real and the Sublime parallel labels created by Urbanomic and collaborators for the event have been adopted by the Tate curators and will remain in Room 9 up until Sunday November 14th.
For those who did not make it to the event, or who were unable to get a seat in the auditorium for the panel discussion, we expect Tate to post a podcast of the discussion on their site soon – check here for updates.
More documentation to come on our event page for The Real Thing soon.

16 Sep 2010

A new book Event, Stream, Object, published by MMK, Frankfurt, documents Florian Hecker\’s commission at MMK. Containing essays by Urbanomic director Robin Mackay, and TJ Demos.

The connections explored in Mackay\’s essay These Broken Impressions were introduced in a talk given at Chisenhale Gallery earlier this year and now available to download.

02 Sep 2010

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This is a last-minute reminder for tomorrow’s event at the Tate Britain, The Real Thing.
Also part of tomorrow’s event will be a curatorial intervention in which I have also been involved (in collaboration with China Mi?�ville, Robin Mackay, Eugene Thacker and others): The entire collection of paintings in Room 9 which is currently themed Art and the Sublime has been relabeled according to the philosophical paradigms of speculative / weird realism, transcendental nihilism and other emerging theoretical lines of inquiry.
Address: Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG

13 Aug 2010

Before I resume my normal activities, I would like to introduce two brilliant books released in 2010:
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First, Re-Imagining War in the 21st Century: From Clausewitz to Network-centric Warfare written by my co-author Manabrata Guha. I will post a review of the book soon on this blog. Second, The Blank Swan: The End of Probability by my friend Elie Ayache who has made a groundbreaking connection between metaphysics of contingency and the financial market. Both books develop their analyses against the dominantly ideological and perhaps even superstitious backdrops of their respective fields, military/security studies and finance. Whilst Guha remorselessly interrogates and batters the legacy of political reason and strategic thought in warfare, Ayache launches an elaborate assault on market-oriented ideologies and probabilistic philosophies.
Re-Imagining War in the 21st Century: From Clausewitz to Network-centric Warfare by Manabrata Guha
This book interrogates the philosophical backdrop of Clausewitzian notions of war, and asks whether modern, network-centric militaries can still be said to serve the ‘political’. In light of the emerging theories and doctrines of Network-Centric War (NCW), this book traces the philosophical backdrop against which the more common theorizations of war and its conduct take place. Tracing the historical and philosophical roots of modern war from the 17th Century through to the present day, this book reveals that far from paralyzing the project of re-problematisating war, the emergence of NCW affords us an opportunity to rethink war in new and philosophically challenging ways.
Table of Contents:
Introduction
Approaching the problematic of War; A Failure of Imagination: Network-centric Warfare���s Limit-Condition; An Outline of the Book
Chapter One: Prelude to Clausewitz
A Historico-Philosophical Background; Classical Military Theory ��� An Evolutionary Overview; A Kehr to the Non-Human ; Mind(ing) the Gap: Between Guibert and Jomini; Jomini���s Science of the Art of War; A Preliminary Assessment
Chapter Two: Clausewitz and the Architectonic of War
The Romance of Clausewitz; Clausewitz, Methodologizing�Ķ; Clausewitz, Theorizing�Ķ; Clausewitz, Strategizing�Ķ; (de)Constructing War, Absolute and Real�Ķ; The Mesh and the Net, architectonically speaking�Ķ; In Fortuna���s Camp; The Face of Chance; Strategizing Chance ; Clausewitz Q.E.D.
Chapter Three: Machining (Network-centric ) War
Behind the Network Paradise; Network-Centric Warfare: A Preliminary Overview; Semantic Implications of Network-centric Warfare; The Technologization of Discourse in the context of Network-centric Warfare; At the Edge of Chaos�Ķ; On Networks�Ķ; On Netwars�Ķ; Machinic War
Chapter Four: Theorizing War in the Age of Networks
A New Strategic Commons: A Wide-Angle View of NCW ; Two Orders of Strategy; First Order�Ķ; Second Order…; NCW:�Ķand here is the ���beef����Ķ; Inside/Outside the Clausewitzian Legacy
Chapter Five: Concept: War
In an Other theatre of War; Rhizomes: A Concept of Operations; Planes of Immanence: Becoming-Battlespace; Assemblages and Apparatuses of War; On War and War-Machines: Interrogating the Deleuze-Guattarian Thesis; Five Propositions of Concept-War: A Speculative Exercise; A Minoritarian Tactic: Thinking War Differently; Conclusion
Manabrata Guha is Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (International Strategic and Security Studies Programme), Bangalore, India.
The Blank Swan: The End of Probability by Elie Ayache
October 19th 1987 was a day of huge change for the global finance industry. On this day the stock market crashed, the Nobel Prize winning Black-Scholes formula failed and volatility smiles were born, and on this day Elie Ayache began his career, on the trading floor of the French Futures and Options Exchange.
Experts everywhere sought to find a model for this event, and ways to simulate it in order to avoid a recurrence in the future, but the one thing that struck Elie that day was the belief that what actually happened on 19th October 1987 is simply non reproducible outside 19th October 1987 ��� you cannot reduce it to a chain of causes and effects, or even to a random generator, that can then be reproduced or represented in a theoretical framework.
The Blank Swan is Elie���s highly original treatise on the financial markets ��� presenting a totally revolutionary rethinking of derivative pricing and technology. It is not a diatribe against Nassim Taleb���s The Black Swan, but criticises the whole background or framework of predictable and unpredictable events ��� white and black swans alike – , i.e. the very category of prediction.
In this revolutionary book, Elie redefines the components of the technology needed to price and trade derivatives. Most importantly, and drawing on a long tradition of philosophy of the event from Henri Bergson to Gilles Deleuze, to Alain Badiou, and on a recent brand of philosophy of contingency, embodied by the speculative materialism of Quentin Meillassoux, Elie redefines the market itself against the common perceptions of orthodox financial theory, general equilibrium theory and the sociology of finance.
(Table of contents here)

20 Jul 2010

Urbanomic presents Late at Tate: THE REAL THING
Friday September 3rd 2010 1800-2200 hrs
Tate Britain, London
Urbanomic presents performance, film and other interventions exploring the emerging philosophical paradigm of Speculative Realism and its impact on contemporary art practice.
Full details here.

03 Jun 2010

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Ever questioned the concept of ‘complicity with anonymous materials’ or wondered what the first footnote in cyclonopedia is about or what happened to the narrative of the first chapter that permeated throughout the footnotes, then this exhibition should give you some clues. The group show is curated by Swiss artist Pamela Rosenkranz who is at the artistic forefront of Speculative Realist philosophy. The show also includes an installation by American artist Kristen Alvanson entitled Objects 302 which gives a weirder dimension to cyclonopedia���s plot holes.
You can read the press release here:
���Anonymous Materials��� brings together artists who use very different approaches in their practices. But its presentation of their works draws attention to a particular form of complicity common to them, and unfolds its consequences for our understanding of art-production. As the title indicates, the exhibition focuses on the autonomy of those materials which constitute an elemental component in the process of creating art. The show therefore explores art as a material-driven process of production so as to raise the question: How does the autonomy or contingency of the artists��� material influence or interfere with the artwork itself? In examining the conditions of art production, the show emphasizes the dynamics and ambivalence of the concept of materiality in artistic production, rather than deconstructing the meaning of the artwork by thematizing its material substrate.
Neither does this examination of materiality entail a fashionable celebration of those aesthetic effects commonly associated with processual tropes of artistic production (the presentation of raw materials, open-endedness, and so on). It does not rely upon the unfinished status of an artwork as a form of process-oriented practice. It could be said that such artistic sensibilities only exacerbate or obfuscate the enigma of materiality, semantically supercharging materiality in a way that can only be grasped by an audience hungry for meaning. Therefore, these processual tropes reestablish the authority of a privileged sentience whose correlation with meaning is ultimately a complete dismissal of both independency and contingency of materials in art production. As opposed to this approach, the artists in this show were chosen because their practices involve clear decisions towards the problems mentioned. In tracking the traces of production in the artwork, this group show could even be understood as a critical response to a current tendency to be too ���sensitive��� to materials; a tendency that could further be defined as an eclectic approach to the visual reminiscence of conceptual art.
The title of the show is taken from Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani���s book Cyclonopedia: Complicities with Anonymous Materials. It refers ��� in an open manner ��� to the book���s take on the problem of ���inauthenticity��� whereby the subjective identity of the author is repeatedly overturned and undermined by the intervention of references, materials and narrative processes which enjoy autonomy and contingent complicities of their own. The show opens up, unfolds and reinvents this problematic embracing of materiality by evoking the randomness of functionality attributed to artists��� materials and allowing a multiplicity of relations between the artwork and its arbitrary context. Systematically blocking the tendency for a ���higher meaning��� to emerge, the show resolutely focuses on the active, contingent role of the material conditions of the artwork. The studio-like installation itself explores the process of creating art in its very contingent and disruptive character.
Curated by Pamela Rosenkranz
Contributions by Kristen Alvanson, Kim Seob Boninsegni, Pavel B?�chler, Ida Ekblad, Ulrik Heltoft, Marie Koelbaek lversen, Fabian Marti, Rachel Mason, Ketuta Alexi Meskhishvili, Lucy Pawlak, Martin Soto Climent, Mai-Thu Perret, Urs Zahn

“Anonymous Materials”, Opening 6 pmThursday / June 3rd/ 2010/ Binz39 /Sihlquai 133, 8005 Z?�rich/ Exhibition from 4th June – 4th July 2010 /Opening hours Thursday – Saturday, 2 – 6 pm, Address: http://tinyurl.com/24ltzht

01 Jun 2010

updated 24 June 2010: Sorry…all gone
A limited number of copies of the sold out Collapse IV: Concept Horror are available; these are unnumbered review/hors-commerce copies. First come first served!
Available in the store.

27 May 2010

Urbanomic urge all to sign the petition for an academic boycott of Middlesex University, after the bizarre and unprecedented suspension of several students and members of staff for protesting against the ill-considered and unjustified decision to close the philosophy department. Find the full facts and latest news here.

26 May 2010

Stop Management Idiocy: Middlesex Philosophy Must Be Saved
Sign the petition for an academic boycott of Middlesex University until such times as it restores its philosophy programme, here.

17 May 2010

A few friends responded to the accelerationism post, rightly objecting that Bataille’s general economy is not limited to solar economy or the Sun as its manifest image, and that Bataillean general economy is indeed about cosmic forces, energies and exteriorities. In order to clarify this, it would be best to gasp Bataille’s general economy in terms of its mechanisms and instigators of exteriorization.

This is true; Bataille’s general economy is not restricted to the Sun since Bataille identifies general economy with cosmic exteriorities under the heading of exorbitance (more in terms of pre-individual immeasurability of energy than the excess and the surplus).[1] But this is precisely the problem with Bataille’s general economy because cosmic exteriorities are not limited to exorbitance. Although Bataillean general economy claims to be an economy of cosmic climates, forces and contingencies, Bataille grasps the ecology of these cosmic climates through exorbitant energetic spaces which are commonly found among stellar models of energetic acceleration and expenditure.

It is this energetic invocation of exorbitance as the cosmic exteriority that is flawed; and this invocation is explicitly manifested in the life-dynamics of stellar bodies such as the Sun. This is because, first, exorbitance as an index of exteriority is neither energetically nor climatically an all-encompassing cosmic model of extinction or exteriority. Beyond the stellar domain, extinction cannot be grasped in terms of ‘exorbitant’ cosmic forces. Even the model of stellar death (the iron-trauma whereby heavy and decaying iron and nickel isotopes disrupt the stellar burning process) cannot be perceived within the model of general exorbitance. Second, because exorbitance is always – by virtue of its excess over the capacity of the interiorized horizon – a matter of unsuccessful binding. Again as argued in the previous post, this unsuccessful binding finds its true expression in the restricted economy of the interiorized horizon which in its fundamental inability to avoid the unilateralizing power of exorbitance has also no choice but to afford this exorbitant index of exteriority according to its economical terms of binding. In other words, exorbitance obliquely underpins and implements the economical regime of affordance which is characterized by its inherent parsimony, affordability-driven dynamism and strategic decisionality. And it is this economical regime of affordance that fundamentally trammels the speculative opportunities of thought in regard to exteriorities by enacting a restricted economy of binding that not only narrows the scope of the abyss but also actively and vigilantly restricts exteriority to a mode of binding that strictly corresponds to the economic terms of the interiorized horizon.

The restricted economy circuitously imposed by the exorbitant index reduces exteriority into that which must be afforded by all means and at all costs, yet since such means and economic terms are dictated by the correlation between the exteriority and the interiorized horizon, the regime of binding becomes inherently restricted and auto-positing. That is to say, only a mode of binding or a fashion of dying that corresponds to the economic terms of consumption and dissipation of the interiorized horizon (which mark the latter’s affordability toward the exteriority) is authorized, pursued and wished for. Any other mode of binding or alternative fashion of inflecting upon extinction is actively staved off and thwarted.

Instigated and supported by exorbitant indexes of exteriority, this spontaneous antimony against alternative modes of binding becomes the ultimate expression of any general economy or nihilist philosophy of extinction that indexes exteriority as an expression of exorbitance. Interestingly, it is the restricted image of exteriority as the exorbitant that generates analogous and parallel expressions of monistic binding – that is, pluralistically life-oriented yet monistic in relation to exteriority or extinction – in Bataille’s system of general economy and Freud’s theory of the death-drive. Whereas this simultaneously restricted and restricting model of binding surfaces in Bataille’s system as unsuccessful models of consumption with regard to the exorbitant exteriority (terrestrial life being one of such unsuccessful consumptive solutions), it manifests in Freud’s theory as an unsuccessful, or more accurately, traumatic form of binding of the exorbitant inundation (überschwemmung). In both cases, the unsuccessful binding ensued by the torrential ingression of the exorbitant registers itself as an externalizing incision or cut that dichotomously posits the exteriority as an energetically exorbitant externality against the interiorized horizon that it has given rise to. In other words, positing exteriority as an exorbitant index eventuates in an unsuccessful – that is to say, an economical – form of binding. This unsuccessful binding, in turn, effectuates itself as a specific form of cut or incision that sets the exorbitant exteriority against and outside of the interiorized horizon so that it can never be fully bound yet at the same time it must be afforded as an inexorably exorbitant truth. This incision or form of cut is directly the outcome of conceiving exteriority as an exorbitant index. Such cut or incising wound (trauma) generates a field of restricted economy wherein only a mode of binding that is able to afford the external exorbitance and therefore, capable of integrating the irresistible exorbitance of the exteriority within economic terms of the interiorized horizon is pursued and recognized as a proper response (or mode of binding) to the problem of the outside and the real. It is this exorbitant and external deployment of exteriority that – as it was argued – opens up, aggravates and enacts the monistic regime of binding by reinscribing exteriority within the affordable and hence deeply economical correlations of the interiorized horizon.

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Land’s insistence on both escalating and diffusive acceleration of (unsuccessful) consumptive solutions under the heading of techno-capitalism as well as Brassier’s more subtle emphasis on philosophy’s traumatic (unsuccessful) binding of the exorbitant truth of extinction, accordingly, conform to the restricted economy of exteriority as the exorbitant. Therefore, both Land and Brassier abide by a mode of binding that is determined by an exorbitant image of exteriority and manifests as an externalizing, or more accurately, splitting form of cut or incision whose effect is that of enacting exteriority as the exorbitant. Such an incision or cut subjects the mode of binding to the economic affordability of the interiorized horizon and its capacity. By capacity we do not mean the static or relatively variable degree of the interiorized horizon to hold and receive what is exterior to it. Capacity, in this context, can be defined as the tolerance in amplitude of the interiorized horizon which is necessary for maintaining an undisrupted continuity between the excess that gives rise to the interiorized horizon via the originary splitting incision (i.e. the Freudian conception of urtrauma or primal wound) and the excess that subsequently pulls back the interiorized horizon to its precursor exteriority. The latter is not essentially the ‘zero of interiority’ but rather a pull-back or inflection into an exorbitant index of exteriority.

Moreover, the function of the externalizing incision or the splitting form of trauma imparts a strategic disposition to binding of radical exteriority, and this by means of positing the exteriority external yet correlated – under the energetic index of the exorbitant – to the economical conservative regime of the interiorized horizon. When the unilateralizing power of the exteriority which cannot be averted by the organism couples with the exorbitant conception of exteriority, exteriority becomes a matter of emphatic affordability: Since it cannot be deflected, nor can it be successfully bound in its externality and exorbitance, then it must be economically afforded. This recalibration of exteriority as an exorbitant and external unobjectifiable immanence conditions an illusory state wherein ‘binding of exteriority’ is grasped, understood and even realized in terms of strategy or strategic thinking (in its Clausewitzian sense). Yet such strategic encounter with radical exteriority or the unilateralizing real is precisely the restricting mode of binding that totalizes the multiplicity of binding into only one – which is to say, affordable – mode of binding (the strategic one). Whilst for Land’s libidinal materialism, this strategic binding is fundamentally adopted in the accelerationist engagement with techno-capitalism, for Brassier this strategic thinking toward exteriority is subsumed within the still valorized (if not enchanted) figure of ‘philosophy’ and its traumatic binding of extinction qua an ‘exorbitant death’ (Brassier, 238). Here the domain of strategy is consolidated first by the exorbitant conception of exteriority that brings about – by means of an externalizing cut – an unsuccessful binding which is subjected to affordability; and second, through the effect of the monistic binding whereby other forms of binding which are indifferent to the economy of the interiorized horizon are actively and antagonistically staved off.

At this point, one can ask what are these alternative modes of binding if not ways by which the exteriority breaks and enters into the interiorized horizon on its own terms, generating its own fields of complicity, mobilizing its contingencies through the intricate topologies that it simultaneously occasions and degenerates; and all this in absolute indifference to the dominant regime of binding and terms of the interiorized horizon. Accordingly, alternative modes of binding suggest an insurmountable and ultimately detrimental asymmetry with the strategic, or more precisely, affordable mode of binding. Such asymmetry is the non-dialectical identity of exteriority tout court. In every restricted economy, the intrinsic proclivity of the strategic thinking or political reason is to seal itself against such asymmetry for even insinuations related to such purely tactical bindings are realized as anti-axiomatic fits of terror. In his forthcoming groundbreaking book Reimagining War in the 21st Century, Manabrata Guha painstakingly traces the pathology of this strategic thinking among both the so-called war theorists and contemporary philosophers. Guha argues that the unilaterally immanent conception of war is frequently subjected to this strategic thinking which is conveniently espoused by politics. He contends, however, that it is the tactical exteriority of war (beyond the power principle and beyond a philosophy of antagonism) that is indifferent to ‘the politics of this world’ (Hallward). Here, Guha’s tactical exteriority of war can be grasped in terms of alternative and therefore, asymmetrical modes of binding whereby radical exteriority enters on its own and unpacks innumerable modes of complicity and binding within but indifferent to the interiorized horizon. [2]

Strategic thinking has become such an indubitable politico-philosophical trope under whose influence neither politics nor philosophy has managed – to this date – (re-)imagine war in terms of its tactical exteriority. For this reason, both politics and philosophy have remained chained to a definition or imagination of war which is at once naively irreal and precariously antiquated. The politico-philosophical myopia of strategic thinking as Guha suggests is not only passively received as a pre-given decision by politicians, philosophers and military commanders alike but also is vigorously reenacted and defended in contemporary politico-philosophical analyses (see Hallward, et al.) to such an extent that non-restricted binding of exteriority is discussed in terms of something that must be warded off and appalled – for it brings a terror that does not pose a threat from the outside but instead radically corrupts and vitiates the very axioms of political reason and its philosophical supports. [3] Whether conducted under the heading of the ‘accelerationist embracing of techno-capitalism’ (Land) or ‘strategic thinking and action according to this world’ (Hallward) or ‘(military) transformation of future forces’ (Rumsfeld), strategic thinking is distinguished by its peculiarly restricted and restricting economy toward radical exteriority. And as Guha elaborates, it totalizes different vectors of thought and courses of action into a ‘strategic common’ that ultimately levels the differences between the aforementioned political or philosophical orientations.

The grand illusion of strategic thinking (or binding) is occasioned by the monistic regime of binding which itself is effectuated by the externalizing cut that sets the exorbitant image of exteriority against and outside of the interiorized horizon. In order to disperse the illusion of strategy and debilitate the monistic regime of binding, first the order of trauma whereby exteriority enters on its own terms and enacts the freedom of alternative or asymmetrical bindings must be rethought and its topology must be revitalized with a new calculus. This rethinking of trauma or exteriorizing binding can also be recapitulated as a question: How can new forms of thinking be tactically determined by different forms of cut or different calculi of trauma, since there are forms of cut that restrict the binding of exteriority and the ones that tactically expose thought and reroute it to radical exteriority that acts, penetrates and slashes on its own? Although the Freudian account of trauma is a monstrously ingenious speculation in the history of thought, its calculus of deployment and mobilization of exteriority – as it was argued – is susceptible to a form of conservative or restricted economy that is reinforced by the monistic regime of binding it gives rise to. Both Land’s conception of capitalism as a process that repeats and deepens the originary trauma into the exorbitant outside and Brassier’s nihilist binding of extinction through cosmological reinscription of Freud’s account of trauma are strongly attached to the vulnerable edifice of Freud’s account of trauma. Their ‘speculative opportunities’ are to an extent circumscribed by this attachment and by their model of binding according to which exteriority is always reinscribed as an exorbitant index. Here neither the anthropomorphic residues are purged nor are opportunities for positive projects unbound.

In order to break away from the ultimately economical understanding of cosmic forces / exteriorities in terms of exorbitance, we should search for and invest in new forms of binding or new configurations of trauma. Only once the trauma or the unilateralizing cut is remobilized inside the interiorized horizon, it can degenerate the axioms of interiority and its restricted economy. And only the acceleration of such internal cuts – characterized by their asymmetry to the strategic and monistic regime of binding – poses an anti-axiomatic threat against the interiority of the world-capital. Alex Williams’s call for modes of binding capable of ‘maintain[ing] the tension and complex topological relation between the two (organic/inorganic, exteriority and its interiorized horizons)’ correctly addresses the prerequisite for a purely tactical acceleration or asymmetrical mode(s) of binding. Such internal and topologically degenerate tensions cannot be generated by externalizing cuts or incisions which constitute Freud’s rudimentary account of trauma. Because a non-restricted index of exteriority breaks and enters on its own: Rather than exorbitantly sets itself against and outside of the interiorized horizon, it employs internalizing cuts to generate nested horizons of interiority which are asymptotic to its immanent outside-ness. Trauma, in this sense, is more than an incision or a wound; it characterizes a cutting process that generates interiorized spaces nested – or asymptotically within – the exteriority. Therefore, the function of the cut is more of boring through (tetrainein) the precursor exteriority rather than inflicting splitting or dividing cuts. The interiorized horizon (life, organization, organism, etc.) is, in this case, generated by the precursor exteriority cutting itself into a nested space. For this reason, exteriority is always diagonally posited against the interiorized horizon, yet in the same way, the interiorized horizon also finds an asymptotic relationship to the exteriority that has resected it.

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In this way, trauma – as it is understood asymmetrically and modally unbound – renders a topology of tension in which the exteriority is immanent more to the inside of the system (or the interiorized horizon) than to its outside. Accordingly, the traumatic cut nests cosmic exteriorities within bounded horizons as inassimilable (hence unilateralizing) yet convolutedly interiorized insiders. The understanding of such topology of trauma perhaps requires a shift from the concept of trauma as incision (Freud) to an understanding of trauma as envoiding and perforation (Ferenczi). Sandor Ferenczi understands trauma not as an incision that cuts the energetic horizon into an interiorized horizon (manifestations of life) and an originary bedrock of immeasurable exorbitance. For Ferenczi, trauma is a form of ‘alien transplantation’ (or the interiorization of the originary cut or wound) that does not restrict itself to the affordability of the interiorized horizon by directly and immediately positing its exteriority against the limited capacity of the system in conserving or dissipating energy. Instead, Ferenczi’s model explains trauma as a positive wave of radical exteriority that on its own cuts a problematically convoluted and nested horizon of interiorities. And this by means of turning the externalizing function of the splitting cut (Freud’s trauma) into the temporarily formative function of the ‘internalizing cut’ which creates intricate topologies of nestedness (continuous internal fissions) rather than externalizing incisions. Therefore, the alien transplant posits radical exteriority as a perpetual anti-axiomatic Insider for which life and all manifestations of interiority are but the topological asymptotes of its exteriority. In his The Clinical Diary, Final Contributions and letters to Freud, Ferenczi even claims that what we know as organic evolution is the inorganic mimicking its own nested topological mobilizations. In another occasion, he remarks that by becoming organic, the inorganic does not succumb to a passive or repressed state but becomes active again by finding a homeomorphic topological equivalence with the organic space itself. This is a far more consequential (and probably more insidious) than anything Freud has ever said about the return of the inorganic / the repressed. Also in Ferenczi’s model of the internalizing cut, radical exteriority is actively inside the interiorized horizon of life as an inassimilable but twisted mobilizing principle. In this scenario, the ideas of successful or unsuccessful binding of the originary trauma imposed by the exorbitant cosmic forces simply become irrelevant – relics of an antiquated strategic thinking.

Notes

[1] Not to mention that in the context of economy, energy is also a rather vague and questionable concept. See P. Mirowski, More Heat than Light: economics as social physics, physics as nature’s economics.

[2] In a similar argument, Nandita Biswas Mellamphy approaches the spontaneous eruption of non-strategic conception of war under the heading of ‘larval terrorist’: an autophagic subject driven by the force of nihil which has its own – i.e. asymmetrical to the traditional strategic subject – modes of destruction and creation.

[3] Here, of course, non-restricted is not a Bataillean concept that is connected to excess or the exorbitant image of exteriority in one way or another. Instead, this term suggests more than anything the plurality or the freedom of alternatives in complicity with and binding of exteriority. Yet this freedom by no means is an object of politics, for it bespeaks of the exteriority in bringing about such alternatives or fields of complicity not in terms of the interiorized horizon but on its own terms.

08 May 2010

Stop Management Idiocy: Middlesex Philosophy Must Be Saved
Patrons are reminded that, with the closure of each Philosophy department at the hands of garagistes, Malcolm Gladwell prospers and the preponderance of journalistic references to John Gray and Alain de Botton as ‘philosophers’ increases by twelve-and-three-quarters per cent.
In which connection, it is vital that you sign the petition ‘Save Middlesex Philosophy’. Remember: all that is necessary for the Power of Thinking without Thinking to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

03 May 2010

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On another note: If you are interested to know more about the geo-cosmic theory of trauma (which involves a geophilosophical reinscription of Freud’s and Ferenczi’s theories of trauma), visit Cornish mines with Robin Mackay and Iain Hamilton Grant among other philosophers, researchers and scientists, and delve deeper into the history of the Industrial Revolution (the most elaborate cosmic prank played on the human race) to uncover the hydroplutonic conspiracy, then sign up for this!

03 May 2010

For anyone who hasn���t noticed, Perverse Egalitarianism has planned for a reading group on Salomon Maimon���s Essay on Transcendental Philosophy. This is an extremely important work for those who are interested in Kant, Deleuze (especially Difference and Repetition and the philosophical foundations of calculus) and rationalism. I am hopeful that another reading group can be scheduled to cover Kerslake���s forthcoming book on Wronski and post-Kantian philosophy as well. I am sure this is going to spark some interesting discussions.

02 May 2010

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If the aim of Landian accelerationism is to fulfill ‘the repressed desire of capitalism for meltdown’ (Land), how can accelerationism detach itself from the embedded energetic model of dissipation inherent to conservative-dissipative, antiproductive-productive structures which are only capable of binding unilateral negativity or inflect upon death by means of an economical model of energetic dissipation or dying that they can afford? In other words, how can accelerationism bind exteriority or draw upon the so-called speculative opportunities of extinction in ways which are not already interiorized by conservative structures as economical ‘models for affording’ the exorbitant truth of exteriority? If accelerationism simply aims at accelerating the rate of dissipation, then its ‘speculative opportunities’ (Brassier) are limited to the most immediate source of exorbitant or traumatizing energy that the interiorized horizon has come into contact with. This is because in an interiorized horizon, the accelerative degradation of energy cannot bind or see anything beyond the very exorbitant index of energy (which means another interiorized horizon or ‘source’ of energy) whose model of dissipation has been at once partially repelled and economically adopted. Therefore, acceleration in this sense reinforces a restricted economical correlation which has never been more than a blockage against exteriority.

For the terrestrial sphere, this source or illusory exteriority is the sun. So, is accelerationism only capable of thinking exteriority and extinction in terms of a model of solar expenditure and thermonuclear decay (Bataille’s solar economy) or is it really capable of thinking extinction in terms of radical exteriority (i.e. ancestrality, deep space, material disintegration, asymptopia, …)? Is it possible to think of accelerationism in terms of alternative (i.e. plural and perhaps even multiversal) ways of binding exteriority? So far the Cartesian dilemma as the territory of philosophical thought has been about determining the course of life one should take, namely, the freedom of alternatives in life. But how can we shift the question to the radical freedom of having alternatives in binding exteriority and inflection upon death: instead of ‘what course in life shall I take?’ (Quod vitae sectabor iter) one should be able to ask ‘what way out shall I follow?’ (Quod exitaes sectabor iter)

The bastardized Cartesian speculation ‘What way out shall I follow?’ is meant to emphasize the freedom (in thought and action) of having plural or alternative options of binding exteriority or inflecting upon extinction. However, this question should be further corrected as it still seems to erroneously imply that the unilateralizing truth of the outside is dependent upon a subjective decision or desire.

The main focus of accelerationism should be shifted from the act of acceleration itself to ‘what is accelerated’, because if acceleration coincides with the dissipative or energetic economy of the organism, then it is simply a restricted project. Why? Because what is accelerated is the very economical form of binding which is determined by the exorbitant source of energy but is unsuccessfully adopted by the organism as an affordable yet traumatic consumptive solution that inscribes circuitous paths for dissipating into that exorbitant index of exteriority (whether it is the exorbitant truth of extinction or the sun). As Freud argues, dissipative regression into the exorbitant or traumatizing bedrock of the originary is numerically monistic and functionally exclusivist by nature. The conservative organism does not have any choice regarding binding or not binding the exorbitant source of energy since the binding is unilaterally imposed by the exorbitant index of exteriority. However, the way binding is effectuated corresponds to the conservative economy of the organism according to which the exorbitant index of exteriority must be afforded by the organism in order to circuitously transform the unbindable excess into conservable yet dissipative – at an accelerative rate – energetic spaces (umwegen). Accordingly, the exorbitant exteriority (extinction, sun, …) is inexorably bound but only in a way that is affordable by and for the organism. This is why the organism is inherently vulnerable to traumas: Traumatic binding of the exorbitant exteriority is not as much an ‘unsuccessful binding’ because it is energetically unbindable as it is unsuccessful because such an index of exorbitant energy should be economically afforded by the organism and correspond to the consumptive-dissipative rate dictated by the organic economy. Therefore, although the exorbitant index of exteriority is bound, this binding never naturally happens outside of the economical correlation with the organism.

The aim of all life is death but dying (binding death) happens only in a way that the interiorized expression of life can afford. This affordable way of dying registers itself as an economical correlation between the organism and the exorbitant index of exteriority. And it is this economical correlation that manifests itself as the dissipative rate of the organism. Since this economical binding or affordable correlation is energetically dissipative, it tends to generate new energetic spaces, that is to say, it moves toward emergentic processes and increasing complexification on semi-stable, local and transient levels. Landian accelerationism – especially by adhering to an escalated technocapitalism – seeks to intensify this dissipative rate that simultaneously coincides with an intelligenic complexification and the dissolution of organic conservatism on behalf of an exorbitant index of exteriority (viz. capitalism as an off-planet or planet-consuming event). However, as argued, the dissipative rate is energetically conceived as an economical (and hence, restricted) correlation; its existence is dictated by the exorbitant index of exteriority but its modi operandi are conditioned by the affordability of the interiorized horizon of the organism.

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Therefore, as Freud maintains in BPP, the organism binds the exorbitant index of exteriority only in a way that it can afford. Or in other words, the organism wishes to die only in one fashion, which is another way to say, it wishes to die only in one fashion because such a fashion captures the inevitability of death in terms of the economical capacity and energetic requirements of the organism. Any other way of dying or binding the exorbitant index of exteriority (that is to say, alternative ways of binding unilateral negativity or inflecting upon extinction) are vigilantly staved off because they pose a fundamental threat to the economical – rather than passive – correlation of the organism with death. Since it is the economical correlation with the exorbitant index of exteriority (sun, meltdown, etc.) that determines the courses of life for the organism, this correlation is regarded as an irreproachable and axiomatic foundation that must be safeguarded by any means possible. For this reason, we can say that even in its most self-dissolving or schizophrenically emancipative moments, the organism conforms to a conservatively monistic regime of returning to the precursor exteriority or binding death. Monistic not only because it is the one and only one way that the organism affords but also because it is a necrocratic way insofar as it actively precludes the possibility of other fashions or courses of binding exteriority and inflecting upon extinction.

In fact the history of philosophy has consistently remained an accomplice in promoting the social and political consequences of organic necrocracy by corroborating the monistic regime of binding exteriority as an axiomatic and untouchable foundation of earthly thought. As far as the politics of exteriority is concerned, philosophy has not gone further than relocating – rather than disposing of – the organic economical teleonomy. Even the most passionate proponents of nihilism (Nietzsche, Bataille, Land, et al.) hold that life is determined by an exteriority irreversibly outside of the interiorized horizon without questioning the restricted economy or the monistic regime of binding such exteriority. For them having or thinking a unilateral and exorbitant index of exteriority is sufficient to break away from the conservative ambits of the organism and infringe the confines of our interiorized horizon. But what is really at stake here is the way the exteriority is bound: Is it bound only in a way that the organism can afford (therefore, it conforms to an ultimately conservative economical correlation between the interiorized horizon and the exteriority) or is it emancipated from such restrictions by being able to alternate between modes of binding because it does not conform to an emphatic economical correlation any longer? For example, Ray Brassier maintains that speculative opportunities of philosophy can be unfolded simply through the traumatic binding of extinction. In claiming so, he conforms to the traditional limit of philosophy whose object of critique is the unilateralizing power of extinction (manifesting as the inevitability of death of both thought and matter) and not the economical correlation between the organic conservatism and the exorbitant truth of extinction which is presented as a restrictively monistic regime of binding exteriority and inflecting upon death. In other words, by holding that the cosmological reinscription of the death-drive (anterior-posteriority of extinction) is sufficient to unbind the speculative opportunities of philosophy qua the organon of extinction, Brassier fails to question the ultimate comfort zone of the organism. Since a fundamental question still lingers: To what extent can the traumatic or rudimentary binding of extinction situate itself outside of the economical correlation with death that the interiorized organism conservatively remains committed to because it is the very affordable (and hence unsuccessful) way of binding extinction?

It is not the unilateralizing power of extinction that demolishes the comfort zone of the interiorized horizon; for such comfort zone is punctured precisely by those plural and multiversal ways by which the exteriority of extinction can be alternatively bound in order to abolish the monistic and economical system of binding exteriority that restricts the speculative opportunities of binding extinction to terms and economic conditions of the organism or the interiorized horizon. In short, the speculative vistas of extinction are only unlocked when extinction can be bound or inflected upon in plural or alternative ways. Positing the exorbitant truth of extinction alone as the apotheosis of enlightenment does not fulfill the conditions for unbinding the speculative power of philosophy since the exorbitant truth of extinction has never been repelled by the conservative economy of the organism in the first place; instead the organism is forced to ‘economically afford’ and bind such a disjunctive truth by any means possible, that is to say, by its own energetic capacity and economic conditions. Therefore, the emphatic positing of extinction (viz. conceiving extinction as an exorbitant index of exteriority) is usually doomed to be trapped within the axiomatic restricted economy of the interiorized horizon according to which binding exteriority should only take place in the fashion the organism can afford. It can be argued that accentuating extinction without questioning the monistic regime of binding inherent to the organism is tantamount to abetting the organic necrocracy in warding off alternative ways of binding exteriority and thereby trammeling the speculative opportunities of thought.

As long as accelerationism works on behalf of an exorbitant index of exteriority or operates according to an energetic-dissipative model, it risks abiding by the monistic regime of binding whereby the unilateralizing excess of the exteriority must be economically afforded at all costs. Respectively being in conformity to the monistic regime of binding means all other possible ways of binding exteriority (viz. alternative ways of inflecting upon extinction and binding exteriority) which harbor the speculative power of exteriorization must be thwarted. If as Land suggests Capitalism is imbued with courses of life (complexity and emergence), it is because capitalism as a process that conforms to the monistic regime of binding finds its plural and alternative expression not in binding exteriority or extinction but the interiority of life that is energetically made possible by the economical correlation that the organism utilizes to energetico-dynamically afford the exorbitant index of exteriority. Capitalism is abhorrently inflated with life-styles and courses of life precisely because it abides by a monistic regime of death. If philosophy should indeed hunt the speculative opportunities of thought, then its ambition should be shifted from investing in alternative courses of life to searching for alternative ways in binding exteriority, for it is the freedom of having alternatives in the latter that turns thought into an asymptote of cosmic exteriorities.

Related post: Trauma and the Outside: 1000 forms of cut

28 Apr 2010

Some brutal news about the philosophy programme at Middlesex University: Despite the consistently excellent research produced in the subject, apparently the University executive has decided to close all Philosophy programmes: undergraduate, postgraduate and MPhil/PhD. According to inside sources, the Dean explained that the decision to terminate recruitment and close the programmes was “simply financial”; he acknowledged the excellent research reputation of Philosophy at Middlesex, but said that it made no “measurable” contribution to the University.
More here.

08 Apr 2010

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Black Coat Press are publishing a most welcome seven-volume series of translations of work by French SF pioneer J-H. Rosny (Collapse III). Information here. (thanks to Paul Wessels for the link)

06 Apr 2010



Documentation of the Urbanomic Studio residency project Secrets of Creation, which brought together artist Conrad Shawcross (Collapse V) and mathematician Matthew Watkins (Collapse I) – including full video footage of the Symposium which concluded the week – is now available on the Urbanomic Studio website.

29 Mar 2010

An illustrated essay by FIELDCLUB (Collapse VI), Whey to go: On the Hominid appropriation of the Pig Function appears in the latest issue of Antennae – Journal of Nature in Visual Culture.
The issue can be downloaded at: http://www.antennae.org.uk/.

11 Mar 2010

This goal [“to put the reader to work: to the work of hearing all the different meanings in what people say and write and to the work of deciphering meanings that are not at all evident on the face of things”] does not necessarily excuse all the obscurantism that Lacan indulges in and that Sokal and Bricmont justly point out. They seem to neglect, however, that what works in France—talking over the heads of one’s audience and seducing them into doing background reading on the authors and technical terms mentioned—does not work quite as well in the English-speaking world. Lacan could easily assume that his faithful seminar public—his audiences numbered up to 700 in the 1970s—would go to the library or the bookstore and “bone up” on at least some of his passing allusions. To spell out every glancing reference and elaborate at length on every analogy (scientific, mathematical, philosophical, linguistic, or whatever) would have put part of his audience off, leaving them with the feeling that they were being talked down to, infantilized—after all, a number of them were accomplished scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, and writers. The English-speaking lecture-going public does not, for the most part, operate in the same way, preferring to be spoon-fed rather than to be left to fill in the demonstration.

— Bruce Fink, Lacan to the Letter: Reading‘Écrits’ Closely (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), p. 130.

04 Mar 2010

We are very pleased to offer for sale in our store Our Sun, a book published by Mousse Publishing, Milan and the Istituto Svizzero di Roma in Venice to accompany Pamela Rosencranz\’s show of the same name. The book contains new accompanying texts by Reza Negarestani (Solar Inferno and the Earthbound Abyss) and Salvatore Lacagnina (The Courage of the Surface), as well as full colour photography documenting the show, reproduced on high quality paper stock.

14 Feb 2010

Jan Palmowski is a Disgrace: He Must Go
Concerned that this British Petroleum-sponsored coprophage stands set to inflict his chromosomally-enhanced agenda of ‘Gender and Sexuality’, ‘Global Politics, Identities, Cultures’, ‘Cities, Communities, Cultures’ and ‘Digital Cultures’ on King’s College, London, Sphaleotas urges readers to sign the petition before it’s too late.

05 Feb 2010

(Please email us if you identify any other errata)
Page 428: after “infinitesimal subversion against God”, the limit formula should be reza-correction.jpg – i.e. “the limit of delta p over delta a as delta a approaches delta p”, not “as delta a approaches 0”.

31 Jan 2010

Collapse Volume VI: Geo/Philosophy is here!
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Advance orders and subscription copies will be shipped immediately.

20 Jan 2010

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Arnolfini, Bristol will be hosting an event jointly launching the Janek Simon show The End of Geography and Collapse VI: Geo/philosophy, with a discussion between editor Robin Mackay and Janek Simon on Saturday 30th January, 3pm.

Robin Mackay will present Collapse Volume VI and speak on “geo/philosophy” at the Swiss Institute of Rome in Venice, accompanying the Pamela Rosencranz show Our Sun on Tuesday 2 March, 6.30pm.

Details of Falmouth launch event to follow.

20 Jan 2010

Our good friends Divus have stepped in to take Collapse VI to press; we hope to be shipping the volume at the beginning of February.

15 Jan 2010

Unfortunately we have just discovered that our usual printers for Collapse have gone into administration, which means further delays for Collapse 6. Our thanks to all those readers who have made advance orders, which will help us to make sure this volume gets out since Urbanomic are left out of pocket by these events … More news soon.

12 Jan 2010

Graham Harman writes

I was going to say “somehow I missed this,” but it looks as though LEVI JUST POSTED IT.

You can read it for yourself, but I’m in general agreement with the notion that a successful philosophical paradigm is one that creates plenty of work opportunities for other people. And I say this not only on the basis of practical observation, but for philosophical reasons. I’m fond of quoting Aristotle as saying that a substance is what supports different qualities at different times; it follows that something is more substantial the more it allows for non-dogmatic variation and distinct personal approaches, as long as the underlying style is the same.

Levi mentions phenomenology as a successful example. Phenomenology is out of fashion in today’s continental environment, I realize, but it had and continues to have a good run. It appealed to atheists as well as Catholics, Paris hipsters no less than German scholars, and was useful both for precise academic technicians and for freewheeling novelists.

Another example Levi didn’t mention, but with which he would surely agree, is Bruno Latour. The breadth of his impact is stunning. Almost any field can take something from Latour, at least in the humanities, and I’m generally in awe of the people who are found at Latour lectures and events: young, brilliant, working in just about any field, and also extremely gender-balanced. Actor-network-theory has snowballed well beyond Latour’s own use of it, and he has built a good-natured empire of thousands of followers. This was really brought home to me during the period when people were requesting my Prince of Networks manuscript via email. Among the many requests was one from a Department of Fishery Science.

My favorite sentence in Levi’s post is the last sentence of the following:

“The emerging phenomenologist could always contribute something new, if only in a small way, but it’s difficult to see how Badiou has created a democratic philosophy that opens new paths of research. What we instead get is dogmatic discipleship. This situation is aggravated by his celebration of axiomatics that forecloses novel paths of investigation. It’s impossible to imagine a Badiousian Lingis.”

And I also agree with this:

“The trajectory of the scientistic materialist strains of SR are pretty predictable. Here what we’re going to get are increasingly reactionary, epistemological (and superfluous) apologia to various branches of the sciences (in particular, neurology and quantum physics) that contribute little to these sciences (because they’re just doing epistemological grounding work) and that contribute even less to the various branches of the humanities. Not only is this variant of SR mostly a militant-boys-no-girls-allowed-in-our-club-house style of thought (you can thank Mel for this characterization)– the tone is pretty macho and insufferable –but the inevitable consequence of this trend is a scientistic celebration of the hard branches of the sciences that provides little in the way of the cultural sciences.”

The word “superfluous” is on target here– the sciences don’t need this. And I agree about the insufferable machismo of the tone much of the time. The culture that is growing up around that side of SR often has a nauseating sort of “tough guy” tone to it, as also mentioned yesterday in my reference to Mel Gibson’s “Passion.” But to some extent that problem is simply adopted from the culture of analytic philosophy more generally… A female friend of mine, a very talented philosopher initially in the analytic style, bailed out on one of the top analytic Ph.D. programs after a year despite doing just fine. Why? Because she was simply sickened by the let’s-tear-each-other-to-shreds-on-the-basketball-court-and-then-smoke-cigars intellectual lifestyle of that Department. There’s none of that around Latour, for instance (despite his love of cigars).

My sense is that those strains of SR will simply drift further and further from philosophy altogether toward outright (and superfluous) commentary on the sciences. Initially the interest in that quarter, for me at least, was the interesting balance struck between the hard sciences and recent French thought. But the balance has been rapidly disappearing, and it’s turning into plain old Science Wars thuggery, which is the main reason I won’t be reading Collapse as avidly as before.

Further examples of Professor Harman’s hard-hitting prose can be found in his forthcoming volume, Circus Philosophicus.

Collapse may be purchased online.

10 Jan 2010


About this Volume
Following Collapse V‘s inquiry into the legacy of Copernicus’ deposing of Earth from its central position in the cosmos, Collapse VI: Geo/philosophy poses the question: Is there nevertheless an enduring bond between philosophical thought and its terrestrial support, or conversely, is philosophy’s task to escape the planetary horizon?
Following early-modern geophilosophical experiments in utopia, geographies and cartographies real and imaginary have played a double role in philosophy, serving both as governing metaphor and as an ultimate grounding for philosophical thought.
Collapse VI: Geo/philosophy begins with the provisional premise that the Earth does not square elements of thought but rather rounds them up into a continuous spatial and geographical horizon. Geophilosophy is thus not necessarily the philosophy of the earth as a round object of thought but rather the philosophy of all that can be rounded as an (or the) earth. But in that case, what is the connection between the empirical earth, the contingent material support of human thinking, and the abstract ‘world’ that is the condition for a ‘whole’ of thought?
Urgent contemporary concerns introduce new dimensions to this problem: The complicity of Capitalism and Science concomitant with the nomadic remobilization of global Capital has caused mutations in the field of the territorial, shifting and scrambling the determinations that subtended modern conceptions of the nation-state and territorial formations. And scientific predictions presents us with the possibility of a planet contemplating itself without humans, or of an abyssal cosmos that abides without Earth – these are the vectors of relative and absolute deterritorialization which nourish the twenty-first century apocalyptic imagination. Obviously, no geophilosophy can remain oblivious to the unilateral nature of such un-earthing processes. Furthermore, the rise of so-called rogue states which sabotage their own territorial formation in order to militantly withstand the proliferation of global capitalism calls for an extensive renegotiation of geophilosophical concepts in regard to territorializing forces and the State. Can traditions of geophilosophical thought provide an analysis that escapes the often flawed, sentimental or cryptoreligious fashions in which popular discourse casts these catastrophic developments?
Collapse VI brings together philosophers, theorists, eco-critics, leading scientific experts in climate change, and artists whose work interrogates the link between philosophical thought, geography and cartography, in order to create a portrait of the present state of ‘planetary thought’.
Contents
ROBIN MACKAY
Editorial Introduction
NICOLA MASCIANDARO
Becoming Spice: Commentary as Geophilosophy
IAIN HAMILTON GRANT
Introduction to Schelling’s On the World Soul
F. W. J. SCHELLING
On the World Soul (Extract)
GREG MCINERNY, DREW PURVES, RICH WILLIAMS, STEPHEN EMMOTT
New Ecologies (Interview)
TIMOTHY MORTON
Thinking Ecology: The Mesh, the Strange Stranger and the Beautiful Soul
F I E L D C L U B
How Many Slugs Maketh the Man?
OWEN HATHERLEY
Fossils of Time Future: Bunkers and Buildings from the Atlantic Wall to the South Bank
EYAL WEIZMAN
Political Plastic (Interview)
ANGELA DETANICO AND RAFAEL LAIN
A Given Time / A Given Place
MANABRATA GUHA
Introduction to SIMADology: Polemos in the 21st Century
REZA NEGARESTANI
Undercover Softness: An Introduction to the Architecture and Politics of Decay
ROBIN MACKAY
Philosophers’ Islands
CHARLES AVERY
The Islanders: Epilogue
GILLES GRELET
Theory is Waiting
RENEÉ GREEN
Endless Dreams and Waters Between
buy online

09 Dec 2009

Not since the heady days of Semiotext(e) has a philosophical journal seemed so essential […]” – Jack Sargeant on Collapse, The Wire

Urbanomic is back not only as the spearhead of adventurous philosophical experiments but also as the publisher of art editions, philosophical monographs and avant-garde texts: Collapse vi and new publications.
Also on another front: The December issue of ‘Artforum International: Best of 2009’ has listed Cyclonopedia among eleven titles including The Invisible Committee���s The Coming Insurrection and Giorgio Agamben���s What Is an Apparatus?

17 Nov 2009

Cover-pre6.jpg
Further delays (completing extended interviews with very busy people!) have held up publication, but contents are finalized, and an announcement will be made here and on the e-mail list soon. We now anticipate publication in early December January 2010.

11 Sep 2009

As per tradition, Collapse VI‘s publication has been delayed – the probable publication date is now mid-November. Further news and contents of the volume to follow soon …

27 Jul 2009

Aristotle's brazen head

A sequel to Cyclonopedia and the second installment in the Blackening trilogy:
The Mortiloquist
A barbaric interpretation of the life and problems of Western philosophy.
Feasting on the theatrical resources of Greek tragedy, Jacobean revenge drama, grand guignol theater, the theater of cruelty, aktionism (especially Herman Nitsch���s the Fall of Jerusalem and Orgien Mysterien theater) and employing the dialogue-commentary of scholasticism, The Mortiloquist is a cross-breed of play and philosophy. In this textual mongrel, the life of Western philosophy is gutted out by outlanders and barbarically staged.
Taking place in an alternative history of the Greek Empire during a hypothetical siege of Athens, The Mortiloquist begins with a heated debate among three philosophers. Aristotle, Speusippus and Andronosos have refused to flee from the Academy. Oblivious to the commotion in the streets, they are arguing the impact of Speusippus’ ‘alien causality’ on generation and corruption of ideas. As those who represent the philosophical militancy and political ethics of the Greek Empire, the philosophers are put into an ordeal of unspeakable cruelty at the hands of the barbarian invaders. They are forced into freshly gutted out carcasses of three oxen; the animals are then sewn up to trap the philosophers in a way that only their heads protrude.
Composed in the form of an inverse chiaroscuro, the stage consists of a tenebrous foreground and a luminous background. Three animal corpses lay in the foreground, from each carcass a chattering human head has protruded. Each act begins with monotonous De Sadesque depictions of barbarous savageries taking place at the stage background. Set against this chaotic but silent background, conversations between the three philosophers who are trapped in dead animals are audible and appear in the form of scholastic colloquies and theatrical dialogues.
In The Mortiloquist, each scene begins with a generation of a new entity from the putrefying animal carcasses. In line with Henry of Langenstein’s unsettling remarks regarding the possibility of a dog being generated from the corpse of an ox or a horse, the oxen carcasses in which the philosophers have been trapped change to canine and fox corpses among other unheard-of creative forms. Ideas and philosophical debates are renewed and shifted according to the germinal power of putrefaction and the possibility of the infinite deformity of forms in decay. The history of philosophy is, barbarically and problematically, revealed to be a differential form of arborescent emptiness which is in the process of blackening its vitalistic twists ��� a tree of rot whose supernal branches stretch toward the One and whose roots reinvent their own tortuous earth.
[This is an ongoing project which I am gradually developing.]

17 Jul 2009

Apologies for my indulgence in casual blogging lately. I will be back with more substantial materials including some news regarding a sequel to Cyclonopedia, etc. However, in the meantime, I would like to draw your attention to some fascinating posts on the potential cross-links between some of the recent activities in philosophy and experimentations in literature, cinema and ludicosm (especially those of videogames).
Thanks to Levi Bryant for mentioning Ben Marcus whose world looks like a textual counterpart of this game. This reminds me to post something on the porous narrative formation of Cyclonopedia and the loosening of human characters into complicities with anonymous materials.

11 Jun 2009

Drawing a maze for thought

Reza Negarestani

In order to assure Dominic that there is no overnight war / conspiracy against Badiou, this post is – disappointingly – not about Badiou whose Number and Numbers I have passionately read and am still admiring. It is rather a short commentary on differences and similarities between Alex Williams and Ray Brassier’s identifications of asymptopia. However, before moving in that direction I would like to add a few ‘crude’ comments regarding the recent so-called Badiou war, a term so symptomatic of the thought-journalism common in blogsphere (and prevalent among us all). There is something paranoically puerile in accusing Alex of an attempted – yet failed – patricide against Badiou. People are twittering around and charge Alex with lack of argumentation, premature patricide and closing comment boxes whilst not only they are not really against comments culling and closure but also they themselves fail to pose any serious argument other than delivering pieces of thought-journalism combined with a few witty and safely friendly remarks to ensure the constancy of the readership flow in the future. Alex’s confrontational post suggests, more or less, the first reactions of a reader who has been disillusioned about the deficiencies of a particular philosophical system or a philosopher. Looking back into the history of philosophy (a branch which has been needlessly vilified), no emerged philosopher has ever tackled the position of an established philosopher by initially constructing an argumentative juggernaut. It always starts with a combination of anger, frustration and a brief theoretical hailstorm which is too short to be distinguished as an opposition. It is in the next steps and over a long period of time, that the reader or philosopher begins to tweak her position by either filling in the gaps herself or turning them into ballistic weapons against that particular philosophical system or philosopher. And I hope this will be the case with Alex who has disturbed the ubiquitous temptation of blogsphere for a cozy and friend-appeasing atmosphere which sometimes does not amount to anything other than our secret desires for pseudo-philosophical gossiping. As the last note, I am looking forward to Alex’s future writing projects which I am sure will be remorselessly challenging and provocatively rigorous. (Also thanks to Dominic for posting two original posts in response to Alex, very appreciated.)

***

In his recent post, Alex draws a connection between limitropism and the unbound eliminativism of the kind elaborated by Ray Brassier in Nihil Unbound. At first look, these two cannot be wedded, for the limitropic conception of zero suggests a dynamic process (a verging-on) wherein zero or non-belonging as such is never achieved. Yet Brassier’s eliminativism appears to be fully in opposition to this limitropic conception of zero which seems to be conjuring up a vague shadow of vitalism. Closer investigation of Brassier’s eliminativism, however, shows that limitropic convergence toward zero is indeed a vector of eliminativism which is always in the process of shedding belongings (desertifying) and abandoning commitments to any horizon of interiority (or what Alex calls eliminativist betrayal) in its reckless approach toward zero.

Brassier’s unbinding of the Churchlands’ eliminativism in Nihil Unbound is done through different stages encompassing intricate engagements with Badiou, Meillassoux, Deleuze, Heidegger, et al. However, the reinscription of eliminativism on a cosmic level which is the characteristics of his position can not be consummated unless he combines eliminativism with something that undoes all horizons of interiority (from organisms to earth to stars, galaxies and matter itself) and returns them back to the concept-less exteriority of space or the cosmic abyss. In other words, in his attempt to mobilize eliminativism concomitantly toward all-encompassing-ness and cosmic unbinding (all the way down), Brassier needs a conjectural model that can loosen every horizon of interiority (be it us or planets and stars). Such a model, accordingly, requires a conception of interiority that is determined directly from an exterior backdrop in a nested chain by which interiorized horizons can be loosened up in regard to each other. It is like a loosening function that traverses the interiority of human in regard to the organic interiority which itself is nested within the interiority of the earth as a consolidating medium for inorganic materials required for the emergence of life. This nested chain of interiorities enables the loosening function to continue to the solar economy (conditioned by the interiority of a star / sun) and then to the galactic interiority all the way to the interiority of matter itself. Therefore, this conjectural model which is responsible for the cosmic reinscription of the Brassierian eliminativism needs to simultaneously present an all-encompassing regression toward the precursor exteriority and a topology of nested interiorities whereby the regression or loosening can be effectuated and guaranteed. Only such a model can bring about the possibility of the cosmic unbinding of eliminativism or asymptopia.

This model surfaces in two locations of Nihil Unbound: one in the second half of ‘Thanatosis of Enlightenment’ and the other toward the end of the book in ‘The Trauma of Life’. In both cases, Brassier elects Freud’s energetic model of thanatropic regression for this mission which consists of the cosmic unbinding of eliminativism and abandoning commitment to any horizon of interiority, a process which goes so far that it even deserts matter itself. However, both episodes are ended abruptly to prevent the slippage of the book into the ambivalent yet interesting consequences brought about by the unbinding and cosmic reinscription of Freud’s theory of thanatropic regression.

In order to consummate the non-dialectical negativity of eliminativism as a cosmic event (asymptopia), Brassier uses a model that can deploy the eliminativist vector inside every horizon of interiority, desertifying them all the way to the exteriority of the cosmic abyss where even elementary conditions for materialization are considered as indexes of interiority which must be deserted. This elected model is the energetic model of thanatropic regression presented in Beyond the Pleasure Principle built upon Freud’s earlier theories of trauma as well as theories proposed by figures such as Rank, Ferenczi and Spielrein. However, Freud only observers and speculates on the thanatropic regression toward the precursor exteriority in organisms or the organic life in general. Therefore, what Freud distinguishes as thanatropic return to the precursor exteriority is only the energetic and compulsive return of the organism toward the inorganic exteriority which itself is another interiority (another lie) set against another exterior backdrop. For this reason, in order to consummate the non-dialectical negativity of eliminativism on a cosmic level through Freud’s model of thanatropic regression which only consists of a passage from organic into the inorganic, Brassier should reappropriate Freud’s theory of thanatropic regression which is essentially a theory of drive. To put it differently, in the pursuit of an unbound eliminativism, Brassier reinscribes (absolutizes?) Freud’s energetic model on a cosmic level. Yet insofar as the eliminativist appropriation of thanatropic regression casts humanism and matter aside in favour of an ever-expanding never-attainable exteriority, it also redeploys human life and matter (on all their organizational and illusive strata) as mediums for the nested intrusion of cosmic exteriority. And of course it is the latter that brings the possibility of complicity. In other words, the cosmic modification of Freud’s theory results in the transformation of the eliminativism into an economically, dynamically and topologically ambiguous process – a limitropic convergence upon zero, a loosening with no end. [1] Now why is that Brassier’s cosmic reappropriation of thanatropic regression gives Eliminativism a perverse and ambiguous underside which is fertile for the kind of politics of the Insider that Alex has in mind? And even more importantly, why is it that this cosmic reappropriation turns the unbound vector of eliminativism into a limitropic process that has insinuations of a dark vitalism wherein neither ontological differences nor materiality enact any privilege?

The reason lies in Freud’s own theory of drive(s) and the way the energetic model of thanatropic regression is constructed. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud reveals that thanatropic regression is always bound to two other panoramas or energetico-structural principles: one is the theory of umwege (the energetic maze or detour) whereby the interiority of life becomes an increasingly twisted inflection of exteriority as such; and the other is the necrocratic law of the organism (or any other horizon of interiority) whereby the organic interiority should only die in one and only one way. According to Freud, the economy of thanatropic regression for any given organism or horizon of interiority must ensure that all other ways of dissolution or dying must be staved off. [2]

If Brassier unbinds and cosmically reinscribes Freud’s theory of thanatropic regression in order to extend the eliminativist vector all the way to the cosmic exteriority, then he must also unbind the theory of umwege beyond the organic life or bios. Because as Freud has explicitly argued and as Brassier has implicitly indicated, the thanatropic regression or the vectorial move toward the precursor exteriority is inextricable from the increasing convolution of the umwege. Here the convolution of umwege or the increasing twist in the roundabout regression to the precursor exteriority must not be confused with the complexification of life as an opportunity for posthumanist scenarios, because it suggests the differential decomposition of all interiorities via nested deployment or intrusion of cosmic exteriority. After all, the emergence or determination of an index of interiority from a precursor exteriority does not mean the complete envelopment of that exteriority and its reintegration according to the laws of the interiorized horizon. There is always a part of enveloped exteriority that refuses to be assimilated within the index of interiority, thus extending the intrusion of the precursor exteriority into the emerged nested horizons of interiority.

In short if the thanatropic regression is extended beyond the organic life to an abysmally cosmic level, so are the twisted and hence limitropic involutions of the umwege. Just as the organic regression toward the inorganic exteriority reinscribes the limitropic dimension of the organic life as a twisted curve aiming at the inorganic, the eliminativist absolutization of extinction or the unbinding of the theory of thanatropic regression also re-enacts the cosmic reinscription of the umwege as an infinitely convoluted slant toward cosmic zero. On this level, roundabout / convoluted paths of umwege do not stand for animate or inanimate life (bios or physikos) anymore, but rather they exhibit a continuous limitropic process via the loosening of nested interiorities (deserting one interiority on behalf of another so as to draw the graph of the cosmic exteriority, the ultimate maze-path for the remobilization of thought).

[1] Thanks to Kevin for his brilliant post on the ambiguous energetic dynamism of drive as ‘loosening’.

[2] I will elaborate more on the necrocratic law of thanatropic regression and its restricting impacts on the identification of Capitalism in an essay I am completing for Umbr(a).

11 Jun 2009

In order to assure Dominic that there is no overnight war / conspiracy against Badiou, this post is ��� disappointingly ��� not about Badiou whose Number and Numbers I have passionately read and am still admiring. It is rather a short commentary on differences and similarities between Alex Williams and Ray Brassier’s identifications of asymptopia. However, before moving in that direction I would like to add a few ‘crude’ comments regarding the recent so-called Badiou war, a term so symptomatic of the thought-journalism common in blogsphere (and prevalent among us all). There is something paranoically puerile in accusing Alex of an attempted ��� yet failed ��� patricide against Badiou. People are twittering around and charge Alex with lack of argumentation, premature patricide and closing comment boxes whilst not only they are not really against comments culling and closure but also they themselves fail to pose any serious argument other than delivering pieces of thought-journalism combined with a few witty and safely friendly remarks to ensure the constancy of the readership flow in the future. Alex’s confrontational post suggests, more or less, the first reactions of a reader who has been disillusioned about the deficiencies of a particular philosophical system or a philosopher. Looking back into the history of philosophy (a branch which has been needlessly vilified), no emerged philosopher has ever tackled the position of an established philosopher by initially constructing an argumentative juggernaut. It always starts with a combination of anger, frustration and a brief theoretical hailstorm which is too short to be distinguished as an opposition. It is in the next steps and over a long period of time, that the reader or philosopher begins to tweak her position by either filling in the gaps herself or turning them into ballistic weapons against that particular philosophical system or philosopher. And I hope this will be the case with Alex who has disturbed the ubiquitous temptation of blogsphere for a cozy and friend-appeasing atmosphere which sometimes does not amount to anything other than our secret desires for pseudo-philosophical gossiping. As the last note, I am looking forward to Alex’s future writing projects which I am sure will be remorselessly challenging and provocatively rigorous. (Also thanks to Dominic for posting two original posts in response to Alex, very appreciated.)

***

In his recent post, Alex draws a connection between limitropism and the unbound eliminativism of the kind elaborated by Ray Brassier in Nihil Unbound. At first look, these two cannot be wedded, for the limitropic conception of zero suggests a dynamic process (a verging-on) wherein zero or non-belonging as such is never achieved. Yet Brassier’s eliminativism appears to be fully in opposition to this limitropic conception of zero which seems to be conjuring up a vague shadow of vitalism. Closer investigation of Brassier’s eliminativism, however, shows that limitropic convergence toward zero is indeed a vector of eliminativism which is always in the process of shedding belongings (desertifying) and abandoning commitments to any horizon of interiority (or what Alex calls eliminativist betrayal) in its reckless approach toward zero.
Brassier’s unbinding of the Churchlands’ eliminativism in Nihil Unbound is done through different stages encompassing intricate engagements with Badiou, Meillassoux, Deleuze, Heidegger, et al. However, the reinscription of eliminativism on a cosmic level which is the characteristics of his position can not be consummated unless he combines eliminativism with something that undoes all horizons of interiority (from organisms to earth to stars, galaxies and matter itself) and returns them back to the concept-less exteriority of space or the cosmic abyss. In other words, in his attempt to mobilize eliminativism concomitantly toward all-encompassing-ness and cosmic unbinding (all the way down), Brassier needs a conjectural model that can loosen every horizon of interiority (be it us or planets and stars). Such a model, accordingly, requires a conception of interiority that is determined directly from an exterior backdrop in a nested chain by which interiorized horizons can be loosened up in regard to each other. It is like a loosening function that traverses the interiority of human in regard to the organic interiority which itself is nested within the interiority of the earth as a consolidating medium for inorganic materials required for the emergence of life. This nested chain of interiorities enables the loosening function to continue to the solar economy (conditioned by the interiority of a star / sun) and then to the galactic interiority all the way to the interiority of matter itself. Therefore, this conjectural model which is responsible for the cosmic reinscription of the Brassierian eliminativism needs to simultaneously present an all-encompassing regression toward the precursor exteriority and a topology of nested interiorities whereby the regression or loosening can be effectuated and guaranteed. Only such a model can bring about the possibility of the cosmic unbinding of eliminativism or asymptopia.
This model surfaces in two locations of Nihil Unbound: one in the second half of ‘Thanatosis of Enlightenment’ and the other toward the end of the book in ‘The Trauma of Life’. In both cases, Brassier elects Freud’s energetic model of thanatropic regression for this mission which consists of the cosmic unbinding of eliminativism and abandoning commitment to any horizon of interiority, a process which goes so far that it even deserts matter itself. However, both episodes are ended abruptly to prevent the slippage of the book into the ambivalent yet interesting consequences brought about by the unbinding and cosmic reinscription of Freud’s theory of thanatropic regression.
In order to consummate the non-dialectical negativity of eliminativism as a cosmic event (asymptopia), Brassier uses a model that can deploy the eliminativist vector inside every horizon of interiority, desertifying them all the way to the exteriority of the cosmic abyss where even elementary conditions for materialization are considered as indexes of interiority which must be deserted. This elected model is the energetic model of thanatropic regression presented in Beyond the Pleasure Principle built upon Freud’s earlier theories of trauma as well as theories proposed by figures such as Rank, Ferenczi and Spielrein. However, Freud only observers and speculates on the thanatropic regression toward the precursor exteriority in organisms or the organic life in general. Therefore, what Freud distinguishes as thanatropic return to the precursor exteriority is only the energetic and compulsive return of the organism toward the inorganic exteriority which itself is another interiority (another lie) set against another exterior backdrop. For this reason, in order to consummate the non-dialectical negativity of eliminativism on a cosmic level through Freud’s model of thanatropic regression which only consists of a passage from organic into the inorganic, Brassier should reappropriate Freud’s theory of thanatropic regression which is essentially a theory of drive. To put it differently, in the pursuit of an unbound eliminativism, Brassier reinscribes (absolutizes?) Freud’s energetic model on a cosmic level. Yet insofar as the eliminativist appropriation of thanatropic regression casts humanism and matter aside in favour of an ever-expanding never-attainable exteriority, it also redeploys human life and matter (on all their organizational and illusive strata) as mediums for the nested intrusion of cosmic exteriority. And of course it is the latter that brings the possibility of complicity. In other words, the cosmic modification of Freud’s theory results in the transformation of the eliminativism into an economically, dynamically and topologically ambiguous process ��� a limitropic convergence upon zero, a loosening with no end. [1] Now why is that Brassier’s cosmic reappropriation of thanatropic regression gives Eliminativism a perverse and ambiguous underside which is fertile for the kind of politics of the Insider that Alex has in mind? And even more importantly, why is it that this cosmic reappropriation turns the unbound vector of eliminativism into a limitropic process that has insinuations of a dark vitalism wherein neither ontological differences nor materiality enact any privilege?
The reason lies in Freud’s own theory of drive(s) and the way the energetic model of thanatropic regression is constructed. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud reveals that thanatropic regression is always bound to two other panoramas or energetico-structural principles: one is the theory of umwege (the energetic maze or detour) whereby the interiority of life becomes an increasingly twisted inflection of exteriority as such; and the other is the necrocratic law of the organism (or any other horizon of interiority) whereby the organic interiority should only die in one and only one way. According to Freud, the economy of thanatropic regression for any given organism or horizon of interiority must ensure that all other ways of dissolution or dying must be staved off. [2]
If Brassier unbinds and cosmically reinscribes Freud’s theory of thanatropic regression in order to extend the eliminativist vector all the way to the cosmic exteriority, then he must also unbind the theory of umwege beyond the organic life or bios. Because as Freud has explicitly argued and as Brassier has implicitly indicated, the thanatropic regression or the vectorial move toward the precursor exteriority is inextricable from the increasing convolution of the umwege. Here the convolution of umwege or the increasing twist in the roundabout regression to the precursor exteriority must not be confused with the complexification of life as an opportunity for posthumanist scenarios, because it suggests the differential decomposition of all interiorities via nested deployment or intrusion of cosmic exteriority. After all, the emergence or determination of an index of interiority from a precursor exteriority does not mean the complete envelopment of that exteriority and its reintegration according to the laws of the interiorized horizon. There is always a part of enveloped exteriority that refuses to be assimilated within the index of interiority, thus extending the intrusion of the precursor exteriority into the emerged nested horizons of interiority.
In short if the thanatropic regression is extended beyond the organic life to an abysmally cosmic level, so are the twisted and hence limitropic involutions of the umwege. Just as the organic regression toward the inorganic exteriority reinscribes the limitropic dimension of the organic life as a twisted curve aiming at the inorganic, the eliminativist absolutization of extinction or the unbinding of the theory of thanatropic regression also re-enacts the cosmic reinscription of the umwege as an infinitely convoluted slant toward cosmic zero. On this level, roundabout / convoluted paths of umwege do not stand for animate or inanimate life (bios or physikos) anymore, but rather they exhibit a continuous limitropic process via the loosening of nested interiorities (deserting one interiority on behalf of another so as to draw the graph of the cosmic exteriority, the ultimate maze-path for the remobilization of thought).
[1] Thanks to Kevin for his brilliant post on the ambiguous energetic dynamism of drive as ‘loosening’.
[2] I will elaborate more on the necrocratic law of thanatropic regression and its restricting impacts on the identification of Capitalism in an essay I am completing for Umbr(a).

21 May 2009

Urbanomic has launched its artistic counterpart of Collapse Journal, a place for “a renegotiation of the relationship between philosophers and artists, on the model of an interrupted relay in which thinkers deploy their conceptual resources to articulate and extend artists’ work, and artists in turn develop and synthesise concepts through their practice; resulting in a productive and unpredictable cycle of research and development subordinated neither to the norms of academic thinking nor to the mainstream discourses of art criticism.”
Documents and transcripts of the past events (including one with Ray Brassier on Darwin) will be available soon on the Urbanomic Studio website. I am also contributing to the future events on ‘Rat-ionalism’ and ‘How to Kill Animals’.
Also, Palgrave Macmillan and the BABEL working group have recently announced their new journal, postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies. The journal has a non-traditional approach to medieval studies and philosophy which makes it an exciting publication for those who are interested to “bring the medieval and modern into productive critical relation(s)”. If you have proposals for articles or special themed volumes, you can contact Eileen A. Joy.

19 May 2009

With Florian Hecker and Sónia Matos, Collapse Editor Robin Mackay contributes a text to the programme for Hecker’s collaboration with Cerith Wyn Evans No night No day at Venice Biennale 2009 (more details).
Robin will also be speaking at Goldsmiths University London as part of the Visual Cultures Guest Lecture Series, on 11 June 5-7pm (more details).

29 Apr 2009

[As this post is longer than usual, I have also created a pdf of this text which you can download here.]

Since the review of Collapse iv, I have been reconsidering some of my initial thoughts regarding Quentin Meillassoux’s provocative essay Spectral Dilemma. After a few more reads, I started to tentatively question some of the aspects of Meillassoux’s spectral solution which is supposed to be coextensive with his speculative philosophy outlined in After Finitude. Some of these unsubstantiated strictures have been vaguely sketched out here. Now in order to highlight and streamline some of these – tentative – criticisms, I shall try to categorize some of these problems into purely conjectural charges against Meillassoux’s spectral solution. Perhaps in order to see that if the speculation of a speculative philosophy is truly uninhibited and venturesome, it is crucial to interrogate that philosophy with the same daring cruelty present at the core of each and every speculative thought. In other words, the determination of a speculative philosophy in taking risks and probing the abyssal must be put to trial with the most speculative charges in a manner reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition [1]:

The allegation of being a decisional philosopher and adherence to Aristotelian instrumentalism.

The imputation of speculating in the manner of a Lutheran theologist and bringing back the omniscient God in the guise of hyper-chaos.

The Illusionist controversy and resorting to specular trickery.

***

I.

Those who have read Meillassoux’s essay in Collapse iv know that spectral dilemma is presented as a speculative solution, a way out of the diametric morbidity of religion and atheism which paralyses and even mortifies the living and its world. Therefore, spectral dilemma is an ethical or even a political project which presents a speculative ethics of justice drawn upon the principles of hauntology and the necessity of contingency which drops the Principle of Sufficient Reason yet adopts the Principle of Non-contradiction. In this sense, spectral dilemma gives Meillassoux’s speculative philosophy an ethical front supposedly backed up by and in accordance with the necessity of contingency and hyper-chaos. Meillassoux begins his essay with questioning – via recourse to hauntology – if essential mourning for the spectres of terrible deaths (trapped within the diametric space of religion and atheism, hence caused by a God who has been emphatically affirmed or denounced) is possible? The first charge against Meillassoux’s spectrality, accordingly, is that his Spectral Dilemma restrains the speculative vector brought about by the necessity of contingency. Moreover, Meillassoux’s recourse to hauntology in order to formulate a solution for undermining the confines of religion and atheism obliges him to assume a decisional position which not only dampens the speculative drive mobilized by the absolute contingency but also makes his philosophy amicable to instrumental and neo-moralist regimes of ethics and politics. Even though in this case such regimes are severely mutated and explicitly dissociated from the gravity of their Idealist necessities, they still obstruct the speculative tempest unleashed by the absolute contingency of the cosmic abyss.

The first charge also summarizes part of the problems that I have with hauntology in general and then in particular, Meillassoux’s attempt to devise a speculative solution by inducing what he calls ‘essential mourning’ to the ‘divine inexistence’ harboured by the necessity of the contingency. Essential mourning, as Meillassoux proposes, is the ‘completion of mourning for essential spectres’. (Collapse iv, p. 262) Yet what are the ‘essential spectres’? They are ‘those of terrible deaths: premature deaths, odious deaths, the death of a child, the death of parents knowing their children are destined to the same end — and yet others. Natural or violent deaths, deaths which cannot be come to terms with either by those whom they befall, or by those who survive them.’ (ibid) Essential spectres are begotten by those terrible and unjust deaths which could not be mourned properly by either religion or atheism and hence, cannot leave the world of the living so as a result they simultaneously suffer and drive the world of the living into a despairing morbidity or ‘hopeless fear’. Accordingly, the essential spectres should be mourned (‘by the living’) properly, that is according to the divine inexistence as an alternative to the depressing dichotomy of religion and atheism which cannot appropriately address both the wanton evil and the indifferent negligence of God:

We call spectral dilemma the aporetic alternative of atheism and religion when confronted with the essential spectres. (Collapse iv, p. 265)

It is precisely in confronting this aporetic alternative with the essential spectres in order to mourn them properly that Meillassoux’s spectral dilemma as a speculative ethics of justice both instrumentalizes the speculative drive whose interests ‘do not coincide with those of living’ (Ray Brassier) and confines the dimensions unlocked by the contingency of natural laws. The latter restriction is the result of being implicitly restrained by the ontological domain. We have previously argued that mourning is concurrently determined by two inward and outward vectors, one fastened to the living and the other to the dead. In order to mourn for the dead, or more precisely, transform their negative vector of influence to a positive vector of subtraction capable of liberating them and hence contributing to our life (i.e. remaining so and as such), we must first ground the living as a necessary agency or state which despite its separation from the dead can be correlated to them. In other words, one cannot mourn for the dead if she is already dead, which is to say, mourning entails the intervention of the living as a necessity in order to make doing justice to the dead and correspondingly, the living possible. If the female protagonist of Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls is not able to mourn for the dead and as a result her life is disturbed by the haunting dead to the point of mortifying madness, it is not because she has not found a way of proper mourning yet but it is because, she herself is already dead. This brings us to a speculation whose terrifying vista can put an end to our vein and moral attempts to mourn for the essential spectres once and for all, and in the process save us from the maddening despair caused by a mourning which is cursed to be perpetually improper. We describe this terrifying vista that delivers us to a new dark age as follows: We cannot properly mourn not because mourning is tethered to polar axioms of religion and atheism whose alternatives must be found (Meillassoux) but because we are already dead – that is our life is a pure contingency not only in the future (hence our actual death) but also anterior to our very existence. If we are both anteriorly and posteriorly set on pure contingencies then we are as dead as those who have died or will die in terrible deaths. It is only in the ontological apartheid of the living that the dead can be taken as a negative agency which either must be expelled or instrumentally affirmed. If we assume that the ‘anterior posteriority’ (Brassier) renders us already dead, then we must come to terms with the pure contingency of our own life and the precarious position of the living itself. That the living is already dead and it is the attempt to ‘properly’ mourn for the essential spectres that denies the dead their independent nomos (with its respective justice) and ushers us toward a victimologic neurosis.

In line with the principles of mourning (that the dead must be mourned properly by the living), Meillassoux’s essential mourning surreptitiously reinscribes the necessity of the living. Yet the necessity of the living is the first thing that is abandoned by the absolute contingency (viz. the necessity of contingency). Therefore, in demanding and drawing upon an essential mourning, Meillassoux accedes to the decisional position that is inherent to mourning: The dead can be mourned because we are alive; our life and the conscious of being in life is the first guarantor for the possibility of mourning from which we must proceed to find a proper or essential mourn. Yet this insistence on aliveness or being conscious of being in life which is the first assumption and the necessary ground of mourning is precisely a philosophical decision which must be renegotiated. Even if this decision leads to a true justice to the dead and correspondingly brings about a non-morbid justice for the living, its burdening weight qua its ontological privilege encumbers the speculative drive which is supposed to be at the core of Meillassoux’s philosophy.

The surreptitious reinscription of the living qua mourning’s necessity from which Meillassoux’s spectral dilemma draws its so-called speculative solution strongly resembles an implicit decisional function inherent to hauntology. The essential spectrality of hauntology is not limited to the effectuation of a deadly negative influence over the living which must be mourned properly so as to make the living possible. Hauntology has also a hidden function which reinscribes the myth of the living at the expense of the dead. The negative influence of the dead over the living which must be mourned properly bespeaks of the living’s inherent instrumental correlation with the dead. The hauntology brings the dead back in terms of spectres so as to pit them against the living, that is to say, implicitly and albeit negatively reaffirms the necessity of the living. In other words, the spectre’s negative influence not only brings neurosis but also serves as an evidence – even though a miserable one – which is sufficient to ensure the living of its life. In confronting the essential spectres, one often comes to this conclusion: If I am disturbed by the returning ghosts and the lingering dead who haunt me in reality and in dreams, then I must be alive, for if I was dead too, then how could I be terrorized by the same? In this sense, the dead are instrumentalized as spectres so that the living can be negatively affirmed and grounded even through a neurosis which secretly contributes to human’s basic self-esteem. For this reason, hauntology can be posited as the politics of instrumentalizing the dead and the essential or proper mourning is its enforcer or what legitimately accentuates such politics.

Meillassoux’s essential spectrality restricts the operation of speculative justice, for it – contra Artaud – delimitates the presence of cruelty only in the death of those ‘who obstinately cast off their shroud to declare to the living, in spite of all evidence, that they still belong amongst them.’ (Collapse iv p. 262) This rigid delimitation of cruelty respectively restricts justice not really to the dead who are seemingly supposed to be liberated by essential mourning but to the living for which the spectre marks an instrumental correlation with death, their own death. If the essential spectrality of the hauntology surreptitiously testifies to the life of the living through a neurotic or negative bond, then doing an essential justice to the dead by this assumption that cruelty is only limited to those of terrible deaths also contributes to the living. In other words, a justice in terms of the law of the living is a justice to the dead but ultimately for the living. The dead in this sense is liveware (the instrument of the living). The reason for this undercover instrumentalism present in Spectral Dilemma is that the relation of justice to cruelty is one of a decisional collusion because the locus of cruelty is purely a decisional one. If as Artaud (and Deleuze in Difference and Repetition) suggests that cruelty is at base of every determination, then life as the first decisional determination (especially as accentuated in essential mourning) is itself an inexhaustible source of cruelty. It is in properly tackling with the cruelty of life qua its purely decisional determination that we can break apart from the instrumental approach in regard to the dead and bring about the cruel reign of a speculative ethics of justice. Only by a philosophy of cruelty that sheds a dramatic light on our equivocal inexistence (why is it that I am living while I am already dead?) and the precariousness of life’s ontological decision for and by the living can the cruelty of the speculative reunite with ethics.

In resorting to hauntological methods for mapping a way out of the despairing tyranny of religion and atheism, Meillassoux’s spectrality reduces into a speculative ethics of justice that is devoid of an ethics of speculation. The latter presupposes an irremediable cruelty in venturing thought beyond the comforts of the living whose putative life has been disturbed by the spectres of those who have unjustly died. In other words, spectral dilemma as an alternative to the haunting dichotomy of religion and atheism is not fully an index of a speculative thought any longer because its venturesome cruelty (i.e. speculative power) has been trammelled by an ontologically oriented ethics which implicitly privileges necessity of the living over its pure contingency. This is another way to say, that in attempting to wed the ethics of the dead (for the living) with the principle of absolute contingency (that which belongs to nothing and no one), Meillassoux’s spectral dilemma sacrifices the speculative front of his philosophy for the hackneyed ethical responsibility of the philosopher qua the living who is compulsively obsessed with doing justice to the dead on behalf of his living brethren. Yet such an act of justice for and to the dead is merely an implicit tactic to liberate the living (as acknowledged by Meillassoux himself) and return to its comforting but illusive domain once again. Therefore, the spectral dilemma as an ‘essential mourning’ assumes and privileges the ontological necessity of being entrenched in the relation between the speculative and the ethics (of justice). It is precisely for this reason that Meillassoux finds himself compelled to propose a solution for rescuing the world of the living from the haunting memory of the cruelty inflicted upon those who have died in terrible deaths by an indifferent or a tyrant God. However, we can only speak of such cruelty in death if we assume that life, ontologically speaking, is not itself cruelty or cruel but rather is inherently a ground or guarantor for justice. But if the absolute contingency of the cosmic abyss usurps everything even the necessity of life and the living, then how can we speak of doing justice to the dead because the spectre’s terrible death is as vacuous of the life of the living? Both the so-called terrible deaths of the lingering dead and the life of the living are the result of the absolute contingency of the cosmic abyss. Accordingly, the positions of both in regard to each other are flattened by the absolute contingency. It is this emphatic flattening between the terrible or cruel death of the spectre and the life of the living that prevents the act of justice qua spectral ethics as outlined by Meillassoux – that is justice (i.e. ‘essential mourning’) to the essential spectres (the subjects of terrible deaths) in the name of the life that they have been denied. Yet according to the absolute contingency, the dead have not been denied any life because such a life never existed as a necessity; it has been a mere contingency, that is to say, already-dead all along.

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Whether terrible or not, inflicted by a tyrant God or not, the death of the lingering dead is not external to the life of the living who is imagined as the presupposed harbinger of justice. Death as the effect of absolute contingency is internal to the life of the living as that which amputates the necessity of the living as the agency required for doing justice to the dead. In short, Meillassoux’s spectral justice is forced to crash from within precisely by the central core of his own philosophy that is necessity of contingency which remorselessly consumes anything remotely attached to the necessity of the living. This seems to suggest that Meillassoux is oblivious to the crushing power of the speculative front of his philosophy which is harboured by the absolute contingency. For if he weren’t, he was not interested in reconstructing a system of justice that adheres to an instrumental approach to the dead. This seems to insinuate yet another provisional problem for the entire project of speculative realism or at least speculative philosophers: The speculative drive is so uninhibited that it either intimidates or forces the speculative realist philosopher to resort to utopianist or neo-moralist politico-cultural formulas, or goes so far as to mandate a complete dismissal of socio-political consequences implicated in the impact of speculative singularities on socio-cultural or politico-economic fabrics. [2] It is as if the very figure of the philosopher (be it a speculative realist or an Idealist anti-realist) is urged to dam the speculative flood from within his/her own philosophy in the manner of what Freud attributes to the hidden mechanisms of repression over which even the ego has no control. It is in this sense that philosophers automatically tend to underestimate the monstrous cruelty of speculative drives of thought and readily forget the spontaneous and inaccessible repressive mechanisms of the living ‘which brood in the dark’ (Freud).

II.

In what is now suspected to be Protrepticus, the young Aristotle presents a seemingly rudimentary but structurally elaborate model for his future metaphysical system of ontology or the science of being qua being. This model is nothing but the feared punishment of the Etruscan pirates whose terror haunts the history of philosophy, a terror far more terrible than the fear of impalement which paralyzed the progression of the Muslim Ottoman hoard throughout Europe. Yet whereas the fear of impalement immobilized the Turkish hoard, the simultaneous physical and metaphysical horror of the Etruscan torture aroused philosophy and became an excuse for it to loiter throughout the recent portion of the history of humankind. The Etruscan torture has been described as chaining the living person to a rotting corpse, face to face and limb to limb until the living person perishes by the decay of the corpse. Only when the living person was blackened by putrefaction, the Etruscan robbers freed the living, now a corpse, from the chains. A metaphysical torture and a model for the intelligible ontology, Aristotle suggests that the relation between the body, the soul (psyche) and the intellect (nous) as the triad of his ontology can be explained as follows: ‘their bodies [those who have fallen into the hands of the Etruscans], the living with the dead, were bound so exactly as possible one against another: so our souls, tied together with our bodies as the living fixed upon the dead.’ (Cicero quoting Aristotle in Hortensius)

The soul qua living (or in Descartesian fashion, the mind) is chained to the body qua dead (instrumental matter). This is both the price and the punishment of serving the nous and bringing the universe back into unison with the intellect (the One, the Ideal, the necessity of qua being). Yet it is not only the living that is chained to the dead but also the dead (the body) is tethered to the living in accordance with the Greco-Roman motif of mirror (Dionysos’s mirror and the Orphic tradition associated with the Etruscan punishment). The dead is chained to the soul (viz. the vital meaning or the intermediary slave of the intellect) as an instrument. That is to say, in the same way that the living is chained to the corpse, the dead is chained to the living so that it can serve the living as an instrument. [3] The living or the soul, in this sense, animates the body qua dead through an instrumental correlation ordered by the nous (or the necessity of being). The necro-animist tyranny of ontology makes sure that the dead can only be captured through an instrumental bond with the living, an instrumental correlation whose purpose is reinscription of the necessity of the living and its givenness. This explains why the horror of the Etruscan torture became a source of motivation and an impetus for philosophy rather than a cause of akinesia and complete paralysis. For the Muslim Ottoman, the impalement threatened the solidity of the religious man from behind, hence the terror of a death through the penetration of religion and masculinity from behind, both of which were of utmost divinity for the Turkish man of the Ottoman era. Yet for the philosopher, the fate of being in the embrace of the dead, being intimate with them and then only finding freedom in decay was a sufficient motivation to completely turn around and distort the system of the Etruscan torture: It is not the body that is tethered to the dead, but it is the soul qua living that is chained to the body qua dead. That is to say, according to Aristotle, it is not the dead that is fastened to the living and sees itself as the animated dead, but it is the living that is tortured by being bound to the dead. The horror of being intimate with the dead can only be sedated by the chains extending to the soul on behalf of a Mezentius-like mad king called ontological necessity or an ontological privilege (the nous, the Ideal, the One, qua being, the vital necessity of the living). Therefore, in order to opiate those who have already fallen into the embrace of the dead – each and every one of us – and are blackening in the process, it is best to bring out chains and shackles so as to fetter us to the soul – Thus speculated the philosopher. To put it differently, if we are already fixed upon the dead, then the philosopher must fasten us upon the soul in an attempt to reduce the horror of perpetual intimacy with the dead into a torment which will only last for a while.

By the virtue of its ethico-philosophical attraction to essential mourning and building upon essential spectrality of hauntology, Meillassoux’s speculative solution in Spectral Dilemma abides by the speculative decision of the philosopher in establishing the reign of chains. But nothing weighs down the speculative vector of philosophy more than philosophy’s own chains. Meillassoux’s essential spectres who deserve a proper or essential mourning are strongly resonant of the poltergeists – ghosts who are identified by the clanking noises they make and which utterly disturb the peace of the mind for any living human who can hear them. As elaborately described by Lutheran pastors and theologists, the poltergeist is a ‘strange spectre’ (Grösseste Denkwürdigkeiten der Welt, E.W. Happel) who has been begotten by a terrible death and its clanking noise can banish one to the realm of madness. The terrible noise originates from the ‘dragging iron chains’ (ibid) to which the spectre is shackled and when it moves, voluntarily or involuntarily, causing a great rumbling noise that disturbs the living. To this extent, poltergeist can be posited as the logical consequence of the philosopher’s decisional ontological solution: Essential spectres or poltergeists are the dead who have now realized that they are chained to the putative living, yet contrary to the promise of the philosopher, the chains are not attached to the soul or anything by which they can be saved. The dead, in this case, is only chained to a specular apparition called the living, and for this reason, his chains are loose, making a terrible noise while burdening him greatly for no apparent reason. In short, the essential spectre or poltergeist is the dead who still insists on its attachment to the living via chains (the noetic enslavement) and demands the reestablishment of its bonds with something as solid as the ground or the necessity of the living. Or contrary to this scenario, the poltergeist refers to the disillusioned dead who has just realized that the chains have never been attached to anything and they are nothing but a temporary apparatus of torment, a painful temporary diversion from the perpetual horror of intimacy with the dead. The latter case suggests that the poltergeist is not seeking the renewal of his enslavement to the living but that he is demanding a freedom from the chains he once believed in and to which he was and is still attached.

In his painstaking study of spectral disturbances in early modern times, Wolfgang Neuber draws a brilliant connection between the reappearance of poltergeists or essential spectres and Lutheran doctrines aimed at overthrowing or undermining catholic theological doctrines. [4] Neuber suggests that the Lutheran resurrection of essential spectres or poltergeists is in line with the militant remobilization of Protestantism against the church and Catholicism. Luther does not really question the essential spectre itself but instead he cunningly takes the spectre as an ‘evident warning’ (Neuber, p. 8) so as to utilize its insinuations to re-enact the doctrine of justification yet abandon sacerdotal Catholic practices such as sacrificial masses and trade of indulgences. This as Neuber suggests gives Luther the opportunity to tweak the theological controversy that if God is responsible for every phenomenon, then he is also responsible for the appearance of evil or pestering spirits and spectres which can plunge the faithful into a mortifying gloom. The existence of spectres and poltergeists, accordingly, is not questioned or refuted. They are instead excommunicated by Lutherans – in a distinctly papal fashion – as demonic games or tricks so that God is exonerated from the accusation of driving its own servants into madness. The Reformist redefinition of disturbing spectres and ghosts as demonic frauds played by the devil does not vanquish or relinquish spectres, insofar as it merely attributes them to a higher order of terror in order to strengthen the position of the One qua the necessity of life and the guarantor principle of the living. Just as Luther does not question Christianity but rather reforms it on the vital ruins of Catholicism, he reforms the spectral order on the ghostly ruins by relocating it to the order of the demonic (of the devil). This relocation or redefinition escalates the disturbing tension of the spectral and its terror, since the problem of the spectre cannot be tackled in its own terms any longer, whilst now it also belongs to a higher order of terror i.e. the demonic. In addition, since the existence of the spectral has not been questioned, the incorporeality of the spectre and the materiality of the demonic produce a deranged mixture that only adds to the confusion and terror of the ghostly and the spectral. Meanwhile, in contrast to the Lutheran theologist who in the manner of a stoic philosopher can ignore the the ghost qua demonic through the act of faith or ‘farting in the face of devil’ (Luther), normal people were rendered completely unarmed against poltergeists and their new order of terror. [5]

In the manner of a Lutheran pastor, Meillassoux does not question the instrumental spectrality of essential spectres either but reinforces and protects it by correlating the essential spectres to the (dis-)order of hyper-chaos. The priority of the living, its ontological privilege and the instrumental definition of the dead – subsumed within ‘essential spectres’ and ‘essential mourning’ – are reaffirmed by Meillassoux in his attempt to wed the essential spectrality with the divine inexistence. The latter is implicated in hyper-chaos where necessity of contingency generates an unrepleteable rupture between laws of nature and the Principle of Sufficient Reason. It is the incommensurable marriage between the instrumental spectrality and absolute contingency that produces a great tension at the core of Meillassoux’s philosophy, threatening to implode its speculative core from within. This is because on the one hand, this great tension intensifies the ontological instrumentality of essential spectrality by leaving it unharmed and on the other hand, it induces the ontological privilege implicated in essential mourning to the absolute contingency. Yet we know that the latter cannot accord with the former, for it brings forth something akin to a Lutheran mixture of neo-moralist terror where the incorporeality (of the spectre) is conjoined with the materiality of demonic and its higher order of terror. In the same vein, the presupposed ontological privilege, instrumentality and noetic enslavement hidden in essential spectres return under a new rubric of terror, more powerful and more elusive than ever. Just as the Protestant poltergeist returns with a perplexing terror and begins to haunt the people of reformation (the Universal Priesthood) on the ruins of Catholicism, the noetic enslavement of the dead who is still chained to the illusive apparition of the ontological necessity (the spectre) is reestablished under a new heading in Meillassoux’s Spectral Dilemma.

As it was argued, the weight of the ontological privilege – implicated in essential mourning and its instrumental bond to the living – heavily slows downs and trammels the speculative drive in Meillassoux’s philosophy. This is not, however, the only danger that flaws Spectral Dilemma, for it also retards the speculative drive by a system of judicious knowledge which reinscribes the omniscient God under the heading of the hyper-chaos. As in the case of Luther who fails to properly address the problem of judgement when encountered with poltergeists, Meillassoux’s spectral dilemma falls short in questioning the judicious knowledge when it is confronted with essential spectres. Therefore, rather than interrogating the problem of judgement (knowledge) in spectrality, Meillassoux’s spectral dilemma accepts it as something given and not necessary to be questioned. In Spectral Dilemma, Meillassoux maintains that essential spectres are ‘those of terrible deaths’, ‘deaths which cannot be come to terms with either by those whom they befall, or those who survive them’. Accordingly, essential spectres are those who have fallen in cruel deaths, not deaths in cruel conditions but deaths whose terms cannot be resolved by either the living or the dead. Hence the cruelty of these deaths lies in unjustness of those terms which cannot resolve them, that is to say, terms which fail to justly address these deaths, namely of atheism and religion. But the question which arises here is according to which criteria of knowledge can we distinguish cruel or terrible deaths from non-cruel and non-terrible deaths so as to define essential spectres from the ordinary dead? Of course, if the latter category exists.

In religion, since God is aware of the conditions and the terms of death, cruelty of one death can be determined against another. God can either directly cause the emergence of a spectre based on the determination that its death has been cruel (as in the case of vengeful ghosts in Catholicism) or conversely, God can determine the righteous and salvation of a person, hence saving him and his soul from the devil’s manipulations (as in the case of Lutheran poltergeists). In both cases, it is the omniscience of God as the one who can determine the terms of and around death that is able to directly or indirectly cause an essential spectre. In Spectral Dilemma, however, it seems that any death can be a terrible death and the terms of every death are potentially cruel as long as they are trapped within the dichotomy of atheism and religion. It is true that this definition of terrible or cruel death as the requirement for appearance of essential spectres breaks away from God’s know-how omniscience, but it instead returns to a more fundamental aspect of God’s omniscience. This aspect of the divine’s omniscience that in Spectral Dilemma Meillassoux cannot escape from is the propositional knowledge of God according to which terribleness or base-cruelty is only found in death and in its terms. Among all species of knowledge, propositional knowledge (know that) is the most fundamental aspect of God’s omniscience. Whereas Meillassoux circumvents the easy obstacle of God’s know-how by stating that any death can be terrible or every death can be potentially a cruel death, he does not break free from the propositional knowledge or the fundamental aspect of God’s omniscience. This is because Spectral Dilemma does not question why cruelty or terribleness in terms of death should be taken as the focal point for the implementation of justice. Here essential or proper mourning represents the implementation of justice. To put it differently, Meillassoux abides by this presupposition that the starting point of a speculative justice should be focused on ‘those of terrible deaths’ based on this implicit presumption that the ultimate irresolvable manifests of cruelty or terrible-ness appear in one’s death (whether the actual death or in its terms) rather than life.

The assumption that the terrible irresolvability (viz. cruelty) which should be taken as a locus for the beginning of justice only happens in one’s death and according to terms of that death strongly conforms to the fundamental aspect of the omniscient God i.e. God’s propositional knowledge. It is a godly decision – i.e. in accordance with God’s omniscience – to first determine the locus of cruelty and then implement a complete system of justice in and after one’s death. If God only enacts his complete system of justice after death, it is because he propositionally knows that death is the completion of one’s life (teleological decision) and must be encompassed and set as an outset for the complete unravelling of his system of justice. Likewise, Meillassoux adheres to the propositional aspect of the omniscient God in that he decisionally and unilaterally presents one’s death in contrast to its former life as the locus of justice. This contrast and opposition is manifested in essential spectres from which the survivors can ostensibly be distinguished. This brings us back to this fundamental question, ‘why should cruelty be distinguished by the ontological difference between one’s life and one’s death?’ Because, after all, the ontological difference between life and death which essential spectres or poltergeists miss, envy or cannot come to terms with is an instrumental correlation between the dead and the living’s ontological privilege. The necessity of this ontological difference as the marker of cruelty or a signpost for the beginning of justice is fully abolished by the absolute contingency which is posited not only in future but also anterior to the emergence of life. That is to say, since the anteriority of absolute contingency renders us already dead, then cruelty or terrible-ness cannot be decisively found in one’s actual death or terms of death, because they have already been here. The omnipresent cruelty of life is not the result of the reversal of values or propositional knowledge which privileges life over death or makes life more significant than death; it is rather the immanent outcome of the collapse of life’s ontological necessity and the problematization of its determination qua difference-in-itself.

III.

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This part of optics, which is called catoptrics, teaches to make a mirror, which does not retain the images of objects, but reflects them in the air. Witelo has written about its composition […] Thus, should one prohibit cunning women to fool the eyes of men with this mirror, by making them believe they see ghosts raised from death, while they see the image of some hidden child or statue in the air outside the mirror? Because what is most certain is that, if a cylindrical mirror is placed inside a room closed from all sides, and if a mask, or a statue, or whatever else, is placed outside this room, so that there is a fissure in the window or in the door of this room, through which the rays from the mask penetrate [into the room] to the mirror, then the image of the mask, placed outside the room, will be observed inside the room hanging in the air, and, since the reflections from these mirrors are highly deformed and show a misshapen image of a beautiful thing, how hideous and terrible will the image seem of a mask prepared to arouse horror and consternation. (Jean Pena, from the introduction to De usu optices, the emphases are mine)

It has been suggested that the outbreak of the poltergeist epidemic in the sixteenth century was concomitant with the development of optics especially experiments with mirrors through perspectivist concepts and late scholastic analytical geometry. The philosophers now had the opportunity to put their visions (in regard to cosmos) to the test through optical techniques not practiced before. Yet the philosophical approaches of the majority of these philosophers and polymaths who were enthralled by the development of optics and new scientific visions were still bound to the dominant scholastic philosophical decisions of the Middle Ages. Consequently, their fascination and support for the burgeoning science were in many cases in line with their philosophical goals – that is scientifically projecting their still scholastically influenced philosophies into an ever expanding universe and in turn, anticipating the universal reflection of their philosophical projects as a specular alibi brought about by the science of the time. For the late scholastic and early Renaissance philosophers, the possibility of this specular alibi that could testify to the universality of their philosophical decisions had been brought about by optics as a new science of vision. However, this complicity with the scientific reflection (image) was significantly subjected to the imperfections of the perspectivist optics and the flaws in early optical models as well as the technological or methodical peculiarities of the time. As the result, the so-called scientific reflections of these philosophical projects (viz. specular alibis) were usually modally disproportionate to their original form and even in some cases, incompatible or inconsistent to their original philosophical hypotheses conceived prior to the scientific projection / reflection. This distortion of scientific reflections of scholastic philosophical projects was one of the major impetuses behind the rise of the pseudo-scientific branch known as ‘natural magic’ along with philosophy and science (Giovanni Battista Della Porta, John Dee, Athanasius Kircher, et al.)

Otherworldly apparitions such as poltergeists (rumpelgeist), wraiths and lemures where meticulously incorporated and categorized under the heading of (philo-)pseudoscientific Natural Magic. These apparitions were not only representing the distortion of the scientific reflections / images brought about by the complicity between scholastic philosophy and science, but also they themselves were the misshapen specular alibis of scholastic philosophy and theological doctrines generated by the application of heavily decisional systems into science. The radically treacherous nature of the latter is present even when it is restrained by analytical inadequacies and methodological flaws. In the wake of the spectre as a misshapen scientific witness for the scholastic marriage between ontology and theology, one can also ask if Meillassoux’s essential spectres and the theory of spectral dilemma are distorted illusionist apparitions generated by the application of implicit ontological privileges and the living’s noetic enslavement to the blackening ethos of contemporary science. The astrophysical unbinding of the image of the cosmos as a dark, contingent and catastrophically expanding universe which will eventually stop to support conditions for materialization gives a misshapen reflection of us qua the putative living. The discrepancy between such a cosmos and ontological necessity or a philosophy that still – even implicitly – insists on the determination of the dead against the living or vice versa produces a misshapen image of us wherein we are all potentially spectres. That is to say, we are instrumentally and neurotically living dead rather than already dead (i.e. freed from the chains of ontological necessity, noetic enslavement and the burden of any privilege that ontology brings with itself).

Notes

[1] This is a preliminary sketch of three interconnected charges which appear on this blog before being published elsewhere.

[2] These consequences or implications should not be confused with the possibility of having a political vector of (belonging to) speculative realism.

[3] On the instrumental definition of the body in Aristotle’s philosophy see, Abraham P. Bos, The Soul and its Instrumental Body: A Reinterpretation of Aristotle’s Philosophy of Living Nature (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003).

[4] See Wolfgang Neuber, ‘Poltergeist the Prequel: Aspects of Otherworldly Disturbances in Early Modern Times,’ in Spirits Unseen: The Representation of Subtle Bodies in Early Modern European Culture, eds. C. Gottler and W. Neuber (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2008).

[5] Gillian Bennett draws a connection between Reformist redefinition of ghosts as a higher order of terror and the rise of witch hunting. See Gillian Bennett, ‘Ghost and Witch in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’ in Folklore vol. 97, no. 1 (Taylor and Francis, 1986).

21 Apr 2009

The American magazine The Fifth Estate has published a short and kind review on Cyclonopedia by the anarcho-theorist Peter Lamborn Wilson (aka Hakim Bey) who has described the book as ‘partly genius, partly quite mad’, whilst concluding his review: ‘To sum up: a weirdly compelling read.’

Also for other readers who have not seen this already. It is an introduction to an early draft of Cyclonopedia (circa 2004) written by Nick Land. The introduction was not included in the final publication for a few reasons, one of them was to leave the book without a seat belt, making the dive more vertiginous.

There will be more discussions on the technical / philosophical aspects of the book in the next issue of Collapse. However, a few remarks before then:

In his review, Peter Lamborn Wilson has expressed doubt as whether the book is a treatise on Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the Nomadic War Machine or not. Since some other readers have also questioned this, it will be probably more helpful to say that the book develops a geophilosophical reinscription of energetic models of psychology, a conjectural philosophical line with monstrous interpolated singularities: Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling, Sabina Spielrein, Sandor Ferenczi and then culminating in Freud’s dazzling energetic model of the unconscious and nervous system and then to Reich and so on. It is in giving the energetic models of the psyche a geophilosophical twist that Cyclonopedia departs from Deleuze-Guattarian geophilosophy and consequently speculates on a different model of the war machine, earth, Capitalism, monotheism, the human and the cosmic.

Also as an additional note, Ben Woodard and Michael Austin have written two very intriguing posts in reply to ‘memento tabere’, one on the dark vitalist connotations of decay or what Robin called ‘pestilential vitalism’ in his note on the 2007 Goldsmiths event on the politics and architecture of decay, and the other piece a stimulating spectral challenge to the politics of decay (more discussions will follow soon!).

31 Mar 2009

Please join us on 19 April from 2pm – 8pm for “playing practice” – a curatorial, collaborative event at Urbanomic Studio in Falmouth and online at the Department of Reading wiki and Skype .
playing practice
Sunday, 19 April 2009
Start 2pm (BST) – finish 8pm (BST)
Skype (contact: soenkeha or magdalenatc)
www.reading.department.cc
Urbanomic Studio,
The Old Lemonade Factory,
Off Windsor Terrace,
Falmouth TR11 3EX
Cornwall, UK
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“playing practice” suggests a space where text becomes a matter of playing and playing a practice that allows for reading and writing to coincide. Sharing textual fragments as tools and toys, this collaborative session takes place at the Urbanomic Studio, Falmouth, and online with the use of Department of Reading wiki, Skype and Department of Reading internet system (DoRis). By proposing simple frameworks and rules with which to start this session, playing itself becomes a space of encounter, experimentation and intervention that you can join or leave at any time.
Of course, we can’t tell you how to play, since the aim of this session is to see what kind of play comes out of the activity. We wish, however, to suggest some introductory rules as the basis from which to start:

  • Bring your own toys, that is bring in quotations and excerpts on the subject of playing.
  • Share your toys by pasting your quotations to the Wiki of the Department of Reading. We will provide further instructions during the session.

We will also host an “offline” version of “playing practice” in the Urbanomic Studio. There will be repository of quotations to which you are welcome to add your own textual toys. We will use tools such as blue tack, magnets, papers, pens and scissors to create and display a physical version of the play.
To participate in the session join us on April 19 at the Department of Reading and on Skype, and/or at Urbanomic Studio, Falmouth, UK (bring your laptop, textual toys-printed out or digital, and whatever else you think you might need to play). See map for directions.
“playing practice” is part of the ongoing collaborative practice-led research project Virtual Networks Social Fabrics, initiated by Magda Tyzlik-Carver (New Models of Curating? at iRes) with Sönke Hallmann (Department of Reading) and Scott Rigby (Basekamp/Plausible Artworlds). The aim of this project is to consider models in which to share the knowledge and research gathered as a result of each of the projects: Plausible Artworlds, Department of Reading and New Models of Curating? as well as through the meetings in which these three projects come together.

28 Mar 2009

The edition of Collapse IV: Concept Horror is now sold out.
So as to ensure the continued availability of this volume for those unlucky enough to miss the print edition, we plan to publish an open-access electronic version of the volume in the near future.

28 Mar 2009

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Due for release mid-April, the new CD by Florian Hecker (See Collapse III), Acid in the Style of David Tudor features an essay-length sleevenote, ‘Climate of Bass Hunter’ by Collapse editor Robin Mackay.
See Editions Mego for more details.

21 Mar 2009

Motivated by a few current projects as well as some recent inspiring outputs from Nicola and Alex on the concept of decay and putrefaction, I was thinking about one of the main problems inherent to any politics or philosophy of decay. It is the problem of Time, or more precisely, the role of time in any politics or philosophy concerning the process or concept of decay as the calculus of its structure. What is the relation of decay or putrefaction to time? Is decay a narrative conception of time’s indifference to ontic differences or is it the experience of time as presence which in a Heideggerian fashion turns death into an infinitely deferred occurrence through Dasien‘s already-dying? What is exactly the role of time in decay, does this role reinscribe the correlationist appropriation of time through experience and presence or does it amount to an idealism which favors and privileges time over space? These are undoubtedly questions whose answers decide the very definition of decay. The understanding of time and its role in the process of decay is so pivotal that it can lead to different conceptions of decay. Decay as a romanticized concept, decay as a necrocratic fetish, decay as a differential form of emptiness, decay as an umwege (maze) toward base-matter and decay as an ontological fate are all decided by different understandings of time by itself and in regard to space.

My view on the role of time in decay is based on the idea of complicity between time and space. Through such complicity, the diachronicity of time and the exteriority of space are expressed by each other: While space is perforated by time’s emptiness or fundamental indifference, time’s contingency is formally and materially expressed by space’s unbound ferocity for assimilation (which according to Caillois is intrinsic to thanatropism that dissolves the ground of individuation). This is what distinguishes decay as an unwholesome participation between the most abominable of time (non-belonging and pure contingency) and the most degenerate of space (space’s tendency for infinite involutions which undermine any potential ground for the emergence of discrete entities). It is the complicity between the worst nightmares of space and time that brings about the possibility of putrefaction (even an infinite decay) as a differential form of irresolvable emptiness disguised as ideal objectivity with a generative twist. [1] (Think of Bosch’s hollow treeman, the Menger sponge, Nietzsche’s sponge, Bataille’s labyrinth, Deleuze and Guattari’s holey space and Parsani’s ( )hole complex!)

a hollow tree from hell

But what kind of complicity are we talking about? If time belongs to no one and is in absolute indifference to ontic differences (Ben Noys’s Azathothic materialism), then how can its worst nightmares participate with space? And even if despite such irresolvable incommensurability, time and space can indeed participate with each other, then how can this participation be conceived outside of the correlationist ambit?

Perhaps one hypothetical solution – merely presentable as a basis for further speculations – would entail the conception of at least two different times, one of which can bridge the exteriority or diachronicity of the absolute time to the exteriority of space. This intermediating time should be interconnected to the other conception of time (i.e. time as an absolute time which belongs to nothing and no one) as a manifest of the latter’s pure contingency. In other words, the intermediating conception of time should itself be a production of the absolute time’s pure contingency which suspends all natural laws, obstructs the operation of belonging and nullifies ontic differences. To put it differently, the second conception of time which intermediates between the diachronicity of the absolute time and the exteriority of space should itself be a symptomatic production of the absolute time’s pure contingency. Accordingly, the intermediating time does not suggest a dichotomous scission in time but a temporal and contingent conception of its absolute form. Only the vital temporality of this intermediating time can bring about the possibility of ontic difference in relation to appropriated regions (scales) of space, or the ground. The synthesis between time and space – necessary to support the ontic difference – requires the bifurcation of Time into two different but interconnected conceptions. Without such bifurication, absolute time and thanatropic space remain inherently unassociated and exterior to each other and cannot ground the conditions for the emergence of the ontic difference on any level. Perhaps, for the first time, the stoics realized the necessity of having different conceptions or readings of time in order to explain the vital syntheses of time and space. For similar reasons, Deleuze adapts and ingeniously tweaks the stoic model and comes up with two conceptions of time, the time of Aeon and the time of Chronos. The indefinite non-pulsed time of Aeon is inherently closed to the vital bodies; so there should be another conception or reading of time which can synthesize with the scales of space and support vital vibrations. The pulse time of chronos is this second conception of time which supports organic vitalities and provides Time with qualities which are compatible with the structure of corporeal beings.

If decay is the synthesis between the worst of time (non-belonging and contingency) and the worst of space (infinite involutions and ungrounding), then we try to explain the nature of this inherently incommensurable synthesis by a conjectural solution. As mentioned above, this solution requires the bifurcation of Time into (‘at least’) two different but interconnected times. After Deleuze but in contrast to his quasi-Heideggerian readings of time, these two conceptions are as follows:

1. The ungraspable and cosmic time which belongs to nothing and no one. It is the absolute time of pure contingencies which suspends all laws and eliminates all necessities.

2. The temporal conception of time which is time insofar as we experience it and therefore is characterized by ‘the access’ to its presence rather than its quiddity per se. But even more importantly the temporal conception of time supports the temporality of beings (our temporality) by providing the conditions for their emergence. These conditions are nothing but the contingencies of the cosmic and absolute time. The temporal conception of time brackets and foregrounds the contingencies of the absolute time in the form of conditions for the emergence of life (or the subject of temporality). Therefore, the temporal conception of time is an interiorized or bounded form of the absolute time, a ‘temporal set’ wherein contingencies are taken as conditions for the emergence and the continuation of existence (here continuation suggests the temporality of life). In other words, temporal time sets the contingencies of the absolute time as the ground for the determination of difference and ontic emergence through bracketing and interiorizing of pure contingencies. We call this temporal conception of time, the vital time or the time of determinations and productions. Constitutive to the ground of life, the vital time is accentuated in the organic realm through the compatibility of its interiorized and sequential structure with the sequential growth or the rhythmic difference of the organic interiority.

The vital time – the intermediary conception of time – emerges from the cosmic time of pure contingencies as ‘an interiorized set of contingencies’. As a temporal Set, the vital time interiorizes its elements which are contingencies. Since the function of this set is interiorization, it can intensively determine contingencies of the absolute time as conditions for the emergence of life, or necessities for ‘making of a difference’. In the process of interiorizing contingencies and realizing them as conditions, the vital time appropriates the exteriority of the cosmic time and turns it into an interiorized conception of time accessible by life and its manifests. Yet the cosmic time of non-belonging and pure contingencies can never be fully appropriated or assimilated (interiorized) by the vital time and its temporal conception. Why? Because the vital time is itself contingent upon the cosmic time as a temporal condition for the interiorization and bracketing of the absolute time’s contingencies and their realization as the necessary conditions required for the emergence of life. This means that since the vital time is itself a temporal condition qua contingency of the cosmic time, it cannot fully interiorize the exteriority of the absolute time qua pure contingencies. The vital time suggests only one contingency among pure contingencies of the absolute time; its fundamental functions are simultaneously supported and derailed by other contingencies. For this reason, the contingencies of the cosmic time are never fully reintegrated within the manifestations of life (viz. realized horizons of interiority) which are conditioned by the vital time. To put it differently, the vital time can be interiorized by beings as the necessary condition for their emergence because it is itself an interiorized conception of the cosmic time’s pure contingency.

Now, if the cosmic time can never be fully appropriated by and within the vital time, then the horizons of interiority inherent to manifests of life or ontic differences cannot assimilate and appropriate the contingencies of the cosmic time either. Consequently, the interiority of life is a host or a niche for the inassimilable contingencies of the cosmic time – contingencies that never completely turned into temporal conditions within the vital time. In conditioning the emergence of life, the vital time introduces nightmares of the cosmic time into the phenomena of life. The horizon of interiority inherent to the manifests of life becomes a chamber for the pure contingencies and non-belonging of the cosmic time. The cosmic time is deployed inside the vital time and correspondingly, inside the life or being that is conditioned by the vital time. This remobilization of the cosmic time’s exteriority and redeployment of its contingencies within the vital time and manifests of life posits a third conception of time. That is the conception of the cosmic time as an Insider; it is the Insider conception of the cosmic time that internalizes the incommensurability of time’s diachronicity with the exteriority of space within the manifests of life. The conception of the cosmic time as the Insider redefines the intermediary conception of the vital time as a ‘temporal agent’ which smuggles the contingencies and non-belonging of the cosmic time to life’s horizons of interiority. In other words, the Insider conception of the exterior (cosmic) time interiorizes the incommensurable tensions between cosmic contingencies within life and its manifests.

In the wake of the Insider conception of time, the termination of life does not exclusively mark the temporality of life qua its contingency because the very interiority of life (its difference and internal vitality) can unfold as the abyssal infinity of material and ontological contingencies. This unfolding of the cosmic time’s pure contingency through life and by life is expressed by decay as a dysteleologic process. In this sense, life is the medium for the incommensurable tensions between the contingencies of the cosmic time. And decay is the expression of these incommensurable tensions or contingencies along the infinite involutions of space – a complicity between time’s subtractive enmity to belonging and the enthusiasm of the space for dissolution of any ground for individuation, a participation between the cosmic time’s pure contingency and the infinite involutions of space from whose traps nothing can escape.

The process of putrefaction or decay accentuates the compulsion to return toward pure contingencies of the cosmic time through the third conception of time (i.e. the cosmic time as the Insider time). This ‘compulsion to return’ which is instigated by the Insider conception of time becomes a source of tension between the principles of the cosmic time (i.e. contingency and non-belonging) and temporal conditions or necessities of the vital time. These contingent and subtractive tensions are narrated by the degenerate qualities of space through the process of decay. [2] We can say that in decay space is perforated by time: Although time hollows out space, it is space that gives time a twist that abnegates the privilege of time over space and expresses the irrepressible contingencies of the absolute time through material and formal means.

Notes

[1] This generative twist is depicted by the medieval concept of the Tree of Rot: a “deformly deformly deformed” (Nicole Oresme) tree trunk which spews forth a cosmic range of both familiar and nameless creatures as a differential extension of its arborescent emptiness.

[2] Through this reciprocal synthesis between the dissolving thanatropism of space and pure contingency of time, these tensions are registered, or more accurately, expressed as discontinuities – perforations, fissures, cracks. The more the being insists on its horizon of interiority or the more the organic entity endures in and by means of the vital time, the more it is exposed to the tensive effects of the incommensurability between time’s contingencies which are expressed by involutions of space. In short, the more the living endures, the more it is perforated and riddled by discontinuities. It is only in decay that discontinuity is formally expressed and materially mobilized by the objectal continuity in the form of a structure overridden by fissures and holes which are held together by the object’s former self.

28 Feb 2009

Readers of Martin Schönfeld’s new translation of Kant’s ‘On Creation in the Infinite Extent of its Infinity in Both Space and Time’ in Collapse V will have spotted an editorial mistake that crops up in the very first paragraph: namely, that the second and third sentences of the text are two slightly different translations of the same sentence of the original. The first of these is Schönfeld’s own translation; the second is from Ian Johnston’s translation. The latter somehow found its way into the text after it was cited in editorial correspondence by way of suggesting that Einbildungskraft be rendered as ‘power of imagination’ (rather than ‘imagination’) and that Verstehen be rendered as ‘the understanding’ (rather than ‘the mind’). While the latter substitution was made, unfortunately the Johnston translation was also accidentally inserted, and we failed to catch this in the final proofs. We would like to extend our apologies to both Martin Schönfeld and our readers for this blunder. (The only other mistake the editors have come across is that the italics are missing on the first page of Martin Schönfeld’s own paper: apologies again, Martin!)

20 Feb 2009

Sphaleotas was shocked to read hurtful and wholly groundless insinuations of anti-Semitism levelled against a respected philosopher by a prominent television celebrity.
And yet, guided by the insight of thinkers as diverse as Pythagoras and Nietzsche, Chrysippus of Soli and Heraclitus of Ephesus, Gautama Buddha and Jules Henri Poincaré, is there not consolation to be had in the fact that, in a sense, we’ve all been here before?

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.
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.
dread-Mary.jpg dread-soldier.jpg
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.
haunted-pavilion.jpg
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.

dread-Mary.jpg dread-soldier.jpg

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.

haunted-pavilion.jpg

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

tree.gif
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

nigredo.jpg

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.

25 May 2007


Màlik Yimayama (not his real name) this month shocked and appalled the Greenwich scholarly community by not referring once to the “cybernetic paradigm” during the course of a three-hour position paper.
For this reason alone, Sphaleotas cannot sufficiently recommend the sureness and subtlety of this young scholar’s oeuvre, and therefore implores all readers to address the challenge it presents to their various research projects.

23 Apr 2007

For more information on the following seminars you can contact me at
incognitum.blog[AT]gmail.com
MACHINES ARE DIGGING: ON POROUS EARTH AND EMERGENCE
Cappadocian Complex
Goldsmiths, University of London
Department of Visual Cultures
Thursday 10 May 2007
Room: tba
UNDERCOVER SOFTNESS: POLITICS AND ARCHITECTURE OF DECAY
Decay and Softness
Goldsmiths, University of London
Center for Cultural Studies
Wednesday 9 May 2007
2-5pm, Room DTH109
To attend the seminar please contact Dr Luciana Parisi at l.parisi@gold.ac.uk

01 Mar 2007

Through its spatial and temporal approaches to God and Apocalypse, Islamic theology formulates a methodology for begetting a profoundly political tool which is capable of turning theology itself into heresy.

According to Islamic theology, although the Christian God is infinite and is posed as an outsider but its externality is not radical enough and is self-contradictory, for the gift of revelation or apocalypto cannot be given to Man if God is radically external to Man. A God radically and perpetually external to Man can never be revealed to Man either partially or fully, on the ontological or the epistemic plane. In short, radical externality exceeds affordance even if affordance is effectuated – on the levels of both possibility (posse) and actualization (est) – as an infinite capacity. Revelation is certainly the production of the outside but its epistemic infinity (revelation as the superiora of knowledge) is bound to the affordability of both its ends – the subject of generosity and the subject of receptivity. In Revelation, while the latter (Man?) cannot entirely liberate itself from capacity and merely shifts to a new capacity entailed by its ontological integrity, the former is only able to actualize its generosity by submitting to the capacity of the receiver. Otherwise, the infinity of the gift can only register itself in waste and ignorance of the other. This is why in terms of Revelation, outside is an environment rather than radical exteriority; it is an outside whose boundaries coincide – a continuum of different capacities.

Islamic theology, however, presents God as radically and unyieldingly external to Man. This externality can be approached as a technique which perforates theology, reinventing it as an epistemological tool for confronting a pure externality without reducing it to ontological possibilities or an object of Man’s openness – affordance. A thoroughly outside-oriented ethics without an anticipation of being communicated by Man, Islamic theology once again renders the Outside as the great abomination:

Once theology presents the Divine as the pure outside and the manifest refractory impossibility, the monotheistic God enters a crisis with cataclysmic proportions: its ontological possibilities are undermined and its unity can merely inflame its precarious relationship to many. When the radical outside (infinitely external) is posed in respect to the affordable outside (an outside with infinite potentials) as in the case of Islamic theology compared to other monotheistic strains, the affordable outside turns into an epistemic tool that certifies the innumerability of other infinities. Each of these infinities demonstrates their autonomous existence by a diagonal opposition to the present infinity. The result of applying such a technique to God is nothing but God turning into an ultimate heresy itself. Once a new set is extracted from a series of sets in a way that it can both include those sets and situates itself infinitely external to them – similar to Cantor’s diagonalization technique – or infinitely higher in dimension, it can produce infinite anomalies if its laws and qualities are applied to those constitutive sets. Not only can the infinitely external set spawn heresies as a constant Outsider but also it is posited for its constitutive sets (the subjects of its heresy) as an ultimate never-ending heresy.

Cantor’s diagonalization [1] is a method for unbinding radical outsides (more in terms of invoking rather than creating them). It indirectly propagates outsides by mapping the failure of a given infinity to contain elements of other infinities or outsides. Cantor’s method suggests that outside-engineering is exercised by building an external set which cannot be related to the existing set (even if it is an infinity itself) through a ‘one-to-one and onto’ (bijective) correspondence:

Let s be any set and let t be the power set of s. Now at this point, s maps into t and every x in s maps to the set containing x in t. But there is no bijection (injection / one-to-one + surjection / onto) mapping s onto t.

Suppose f is such a bijection and build a set w in a way that for every x in s, x is in w iff x is not in math1.gif. Now f maps s onto all of t, and w is a subset of t, so there is some x with math2.gif. Yet math3.gif iff math4.gif. Therefore, the correspondence is contradictory and cannot exist. The ontology of the existing set / infinity cannot contain other sets / infinities but at the same time is responsible for giving rise to them (their homecoming).

Diagonalization is a political tool for counteracting ontology and its existential opportunism.

Islamic Allah is posed to Christian God and other monotheistic manifestations of the Divine in the same vein; it exercises heresy on the Divine on behalf of the Outside and its refractory externality. In short, heresy as an outside-oriented praxis is always effectuated by re-positioning (re-mobilization and re-alignment). The new heretical set brings itself behind its subjects for the sake of both affirming and being infinitely external to them. Such a re-positioning results in being a heresy in itself and harvesting countless heretical possibilities from positions or alignments being held by other sets. This is why, all heresies adopt the notorious positioning of a tergo.

If God basks in his house, let us reconstruct it according to the laws of demons. (Collapse II)

[1] The controversies around Cantor’s method – on a statistical / probability level – deserve an exhaustive discussion.

01 Mar 2007

For more information on the following seminars you can contact me at
incognitum.blog[AT]gmail.com
MACHINES ARE DIGGING: ON POROUS EARTH AND EMERGENCE
Cappadocian Complex
Goldsmiths, University of London
Department of Visual Cultures
Thursday 10 May 2007
Room: tba
UNDERCOVER SOFTNESS: POLITICS AND ARCHITECTURE OF DECAY
Decay and Softness
Goldsmiths, University of London
Center for Cultural Studies
Wednesday 9 May 2007
2-5pm, Room DTH109
To attend the seminar please contact Dr Luciana Parisi at l.parisi@gold.ac.uk

15 Jan 2007

Inflection

The diagonal opposition of the minimum (Giordano Bruno’s fold-building which together with Nicholas Cusanus’s complicatio influenced Leibniz’s monadology) towards its environment (the afforded outside) that evades the logic of negativity at the same time that it defies submission and thus maintains constancy in opposition to its environment would not be indifference but inverse-difference to the environment. The minimum according to Bruno is not a world of the minimal but a world that registers itself in its surrounding as the minimum, or the maximum resistivity against what can economize it (or communicate with it according to the scale of the environing sphere or surrounding). The minimalist object is constantly prone to the maximalization of its environment as an outside ontologically existing only in what can be afforded by the object and what can afford the object. The minimum, however, undergoes building as a dissociation from its environment but not the outside by re-aligning its position as well as its ontological explicatio (development) to its environment instead of cutting from it or differentiating its minimum-ness from the all-encompassing measures (metron) of the environment. It is in the same way that Henri Michaux (Mr. Plume, Exorcisms and Night Moves) escapes the surrounding by building the minimum of the object or the universe (in the sense of Giordano Bruno’s the minimum) instead of directly overpowering the lines of gravity or through the line of escape, by undertaking the logic of the bullet, the projectile of infinite condensation and shells rather than perpetual dynamism.

If every object passes different types of forces, and generates its possibilities as well as actualization (posse / est) based on the affect space that these forces enmesh over and through it, modifying the type of forces and their designation would ensue a new reciprocation to the environment. The deployment of forces that define the totality, the context and the assemblage of the minimum, namely, what leads to an inflection or connection to the outside by inflexus, a point on a curve at which the tangent crosses the curve itself, creating a site of autonomous inwardness. Here, the twist or the inverse-difference from the affordability of the surrounding (the economical communication) is taken place by running the process of building through inflection, the event of endless inwardness, not interiorization. Inflection is an essential singularity near which, functions exhibit extreme behavior which neither manifests itself as a pole (polarity of functions or extremum) nor a removable singularity (contiguous to its primary function). The object of inflection is not of extremum (here or there, left or right, core or surface, forward or backward); it is external to the logic of coordinates, building a cavernous movement whose every turn is a point of return to the inside. Gravity (domination) is not at stake here because inflection deals with vectors of a curve which determinate the axes in oscillation around it, consequently, the object of inflection flees from weight (becomes weightless) not by escaping gravity through counterpoising it but becoming irrelevant to it. Inconclusively, inflection in the minimum realizes an autochthonic world where the formation of the building is from the place it is found or it originates, and vice versa. Cosmo-crafting itself according to an autonomous inwardness, the object as the building of inflection populates between dimensions (an inter-dimensional Xanadu) or it is without dimension, in either case, it is a self-contextual explosion along vortical bends. It existentially registers itself as an auto-event, installing the outside on the inside while closing inside upon the outside in an attempt to create a plenum external to its surrounding spatium. The self-context cosmology of inflection is the genetic element of an active object which cuts across the passivity of indifference and the reactionism of difference to generate an inverse-difference out of which outside is propagated infinitely and inwardly, creasing over and over – in the manner of wet-folding in origami – until producing a mass whose depth transforms to concrete thickness or concentrated fullness, a self-context which is not self-referential but autarkic by means of inflecting outside (reto-openness) rather than closure. The opposition of the minimum to the environment emerges from this retro-openness to the Outside, an outside that includes the surrounding (the environment) and what the environment cannot assimilate (the Outsider space), vorticity is the quality of this retro-openness and inward diffusion is its dynamism.

To this end, the process of bringing the materials together (orchestration) in the minimum is not of composition but is determined by squeezing, wrapping endlessly, creasing within and over creases, compressing into each other, shoving upward and downward, pressing out from the sides, staging all processes that bring together through the dynamics of forces risen between materials and masses, yield and stress, nonlinear elasticity and flow plasticity: an architectural forge-press.

19 Nov 2006

In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Gauttari���s notes on Islamic philosophers are insufficient and in many cases poorly and incorrectly ripped off from obsolete French translations of works written on Muslim philosophers, manipulated in the most liberal and avant-garde technique: adding your words to them and then quoting or paraphrasing them back as an overseas philosophical support to your philosophy: inverse-plagiarism.
Lovecraft on the other hand knows very well the ineffable charm of Arabic names or Near and Middle Eastern pronunciations. Although both Deleuze and Lovecraft have contributed to Lumpen Orientalism (borrowed from China Mi?�ville) as far as their reputations have allowed but on the other hand they have shown in a pragmatic way that Orientalism more than anything testifies to the inaccessibility of social, political and ethical bodies in Asia for Western tools of analysis and decision making. This inaccessibility that appears as a form of irrelevancy or asymmetry between the subject of the inquiry (the orient) and the western inquiry’s frame of reference always operates as a cunningly socio-cultural indifference, a form of hollow affirmation to Western approaches. In other words, the irrelevancy of the oriental manifests as a chimeric situation for Western configurations and modes of analysis. It is an affirmation rooted not in commonality but the lack thereof, an affirmation capable of taking shape in different guises without essentially committing to them as its principles. Far from being a token of radical dissociation or vengeful and victimologic negativity (the hallmark of a reactionary and bankrupt thought), the orientalist affirmation is committed to the production of superficially exotic off-beat and off-time entities and events which share (affirm) much with Western aspirations. It is through these superficial commonalities that orientalism preserves the sharp asymmetry or irrelevancy of the Orient. An example of this encounter and subversive cooperation has already been followed in Lovecraft���s linguistic distortion and its social influences.
If for the most part, encounters with the East continue to be Lumpen Orientalist, it is because in a twisted way Lumpen Orientalism is that chimeric landscape through which the East perpetually and actively remains evasive not in the sense of mystery but in sense of asymmetry — an asymmetry that does not succumb to the status of a mindless reactionary proponent of the East.
Now, in a visually mind-eating and tongue-binding way, the first self-proclaimed and registered Lumpen Orientalist.
Lumpen Orientalist
But more than satiating morbid interests in bizarre bazaars among archeological lurkers and people who try to sell you sentient junk relics and organic oddities I am looking forward to the Lumpen Orientalist���s photo-essay which interrogates the Deleuze problematic of Nomadism by rigorously delving into forgotten nomad fabrics and their blood-bond with the State.