Viral Complexities: Art’s Infective Fissures? -

Hello Blogosphere… I have been abscent for quite some time but now I am back with a horribly erratic and often unfollowable peice of writing. A small essay trying to build a metaphorical understanding for how Art of all kinds (but particularly visual) has a virus like quality. I attempted to create a concept that was useful when trying to imagine our refined cultural practices as not overly valued financially but closer to a biological autonomous event. I am not sure I succeeded and this is a bad essay for sure… read with caution.

Abstract: One has been thinking about artistic events and methods that are potentially ant-capitalist. Throughout the past two decades global culture has been accumulating and translating large changes in culture. Changes that have been driven by a surge in the use of new technology, science’s increased understanding of biology, and societies restless creative growth. This essay describes these changes in the aesthetics of one event. The visual event one labels as an Infective Fissure, an encounter with the radical potentials of the virus we commonly refer to as art. Having tried to both accurately explain this in current visual culture, and philosophically explore this event’s intellectual points of origin. The text features interpretations of the work of Philippe Parreno, Peirre Huyghe, and Joseph Nechvatal (among others). Combining with the writings of: Victor Burgin, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Rancière, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Nick Land, and Hito Steyrel to offer an exploration of an event that one for-sees in many of our artistic experiences today, tomorrow, and the day after. Infective Fissures are events that demand even more aesthetic reflection?

 

Key words: Infective Fissures, Events, Aesthetics, Politics, Techno-capital,

 

Cybernetics, Virology, and Art. (word count: 5515)

 

Viral Complexities: Art’s Old Medicine.

In the description of his personal project the video loop, ‘Virtual Amplification’ (2011). Edgor Kraft has written down an interesting sentence, ‘Each new mouse click takes us away from an answer and question just as each following step of developments of the media environment and virtualisation moves us further from the understanding of what is an authentic realityi.’ Such a sentence incubates and galvanizes contemporary thinking around new forms in art’s production and consumption. Kraft’s work immediately illustrates what one wants to articulate. One finds that the circular narrative of this video loop evokes the symmetry/asymmetry, inside/outside, of life. Post-web 1.0 an internet that was also referred to as an ‘information portal’, an environment that one could only read from. However we are now interacting with a newer version and are awaiting it’s next evolution. Art has been affected by these movement’s and we have witnessed large amounts of creativity. That use new digital media in the world of data, software, and networked communication. In the middle of all this is the potential for a unique event. A development which brings together technology and biology to invite new ways of thinking about the future of art? This writing seeks to outline, define, and persuade the reader of the importance of these new radically viral aesthetics.

In the essay ‘Recycled Electrons’ George Boole, an academic and logician, recollects his first encounter with the internetii. He says that, ‘the globe’s time and space had been instantly redrawn’ and that, ‘it’s trunk/branch/twig structure is an underlying framework that has become part of our very mode of thought’. If this is true then one believes new media art is virally complex precisely because it now serves as an ‘underlying framework’ for critical insight on arts place within capitalism. Another way of articulating this is that NMA is for today’s ‘art world’ what Karl Marx saw as the Proletariat (the workers), the first and only class. Suggesting a naive reality whereby new media artists have spawned a revolution, and the means of production the ownership of markets and wealth. Is as the internet should compel, equally redistributed amongst a community. Staying with the Marxist terminology in addition to Kraft’s and Boole’s word’s, the viral impact of media can be practically explored. Just observe the fact that in 2008 the online community Anonymous in reaction to the treatment of Wikileaks, disrupted and nullified the stalwarts of capital. MarsterCard, Visa, and Paypal, where stopped in their tracks by a community influenced by the

 

Evental Aesthetics: Aesthetic Inquiries 4, ISSN: 2167-1931. Submission (2017)

 

 

behaviour of online creativity and it’s circulating images. A fetishism dormant in the movements of a memeiii?

 

The Visual Meme’s (ideas, styles, or behaviours shared within a culture) on the website 4Chan, shows how an image can become a virus, mutating so quickly, that it gave birth to an entirely new culture and community. To understand the relevancy of this to art one could choose to see these changes as what the artist and media theorist Victor Burgin, saw as an ‘absence of presence’. Writing under the same title he explores changes fuelled by postmodernism and conceptual art. Burgin, whilst referencing Michel Foucault’s metaphor of fetishism as ‘capillary action’, and describing Freud’s articulation of fetishism as Disavowal (which is a splitting between knowledge and belief)iv. Seemingly embodied in the then art establishments very relation to history. Yet finding this splitting is very rewarding and should demand that those that are concerned with the openness of art. Need only turn and see new forms of media that have an unequivocal anti-capitalist metabolism. Even Foucault’s metaphorical use of ‘capillary’ lends itself to media art’s virus like body. If you are still doubting the accuracy of the viral narrative one is considering, and how Burgin’s ‘absence of presence’ is relevant.

 

Then look at recent events at the Barbican in London, one exhibition in partnership with Google: ‘Digital Revolution’ (2014). Claiming to be a comprehensive account of digital art: Google’s corporate presence (DevArt) spawned a critical counter exhibition ‘Hack The Art World’ which was a completely digital online exhibition originally geofenced (only available in that location) to the Barbican. It resembled for the art critic Jonathan Jones an exhibition in Paris in 1863, the ‘Salon des Refuses’, showing art rejected by the official Salon. So are these exhibitions and artists demonstrating yet another form of disavowal? Maybe, but the lead artist of the group behind the show Jan Vantomme made a very valid point. When he stated that tech giants should help start legitimising digital artists by buying and collecting their work. The way the art in this show was used directly to illustrate this point should be seen in an extremely positive light. The demand of these artists was legitimate and positioned so as not to detract from the work of the institution. Or from the artists in the physical exhibition, instead it did something more important. It shows that resistance need not be completely dismissive or demand full blown opposition. So another angle, perspective, point of view is necessary to decipher a way in which we can harness these aforementioned antagonisms – the material question is one of dissemination. Like the notion of the meme a one cell thick lining of the capillary, art can now be micro-circulated.

Trapped in a world terraformed by our technology and it’s numerical dominance in data or information. A global conversation contaminated by the axis of encryption/decryption, either infection or defection? One way of framing these issues is brilliantly elaborated in an essay by writer Lori Wike. Wike brings together the thoughts of Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes on absence, presence, and temporality. In doing so interrogates the link between an image and a word – however it seems that it is actually Barthes words in this text that are more befitting to our contemporary digital creativity, ‘the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentiallyv‘. This statement by Barthes can be witnessed in the blossoming of digital affects, animation, and image manipulation due to computers. Today we unconsciously time travel through a multi dimensional sphere of representations, every single one of them manipulated. A process which is already pre-destined to increase – artists and cultural bodies need not fear these changes. Especially if like Derrida they embrace the affective enthusiasm of their parasitology, their ‘virus being many thingsvi‘.The benefit’s of being prone to infection are like a real immune system, art will develop new forms of isotope ones with an iterability, such precursory examples can be seen in recent projects.

 

‘No Ghost Just a Shell’ (1999) the reanimation of a Japanese anime character by Philippe Parreno and Peirre Huyghe. ‘Low Animal Spirits’ (2014), at Banner Repeater, London. A collaboration resulting in a live algorithmic score derived from the loss of the referent (presence) in both economy and language. Thirdly, ‘Dark Velocity’ (2014) which underlines the main topic that warrants the complex metaphor of this text. Brilliantly summarising, ‘The invariability of contemporary art’s commodity form makes object-ownership hold crucial levering power in the field thereby overshadowing the potential for financial diversificationvii‘. One views the separation between knowledge and belief in psychoanalysis, firmly rooted in the modernist questions of ‘why?’, and ‘how?’. As not entirely outdated in deciphering the above dilemma, the aforementioned overshadowing of diversification, has in this author’s opinion culminated in but one option. Media art and philosophy now have the unenviable task of articulating ‘what?’ and ‘when?’, as questions which will most strongly influence current and future culture. So staying with the letter V as the root linguistic pathogen we can glimpse yet more relations, associations, and paths to discuss. Moreover, art’s complexities will grow with strains and concept’s found in: virtuality, vitalism, and plasticity. Conceptually attaching themselves to the current ‘discipline’ of art’s newest media?

 

‘Discipline is no longer imposed on the body through the formal action of the law – it is printed in the collective brain through the dissemination of techno-linguistic interfaces, inducing a cognitive mutationviii.’

 

What exactly is this mutated cognition, and how does one come to fully appreciate it? Well the first step would be to suggest an event where the mutation is self evident. This would initially be found in a single movement specifically the aesthetic change within cultures of visual production. A transformation from the dominance of montage or collage into the current process of appropriation. This is the physical structure one observes as supporting the notion explored in this text that is the struggle to think through images as viruses, not viral images, but the virus that is an image. Exploring this positive pixel plague there are several artists and thinkers today that have been measuring this idea in a variety of interesting and sometimes semi-conscious ways. But, before referencing these creators one wants to detail the visual experience derived from ‘viral complexities’, and why philosophically speaking they are medicinal for artistic cultures. Earlier, one briefly touched upon some intriguing ideas: ‘absence of presence’, ‘parasitology’, and ‘micro-circulation’. Here Burgin and Derrida present a cloudy aesthetic which could be misconstrued as being contradictory, oppositional, or negative? On the one hand an absence, on the other the more ambiguous presence. In Seeing Sense Burgin solicites a consultation with Sigmund Freud to understand the origin of ‘visual thinking’, and through cigar smoke affirms its biologically older than words. In ‘The Ego and the Id’ Freud suggests that after observing Varendonck’s study of preconscious fantasies, that thinking in pictures is only a very incomplete ‘becoming conscious’, resulting in his question, ‘how we make something that is repressed (pre)conscious would be answered as followsix’. Of course Freud’s answer is ‘analysis’ and is concerned with reaching into the depths of his patient during therapy. However, for the sake of detailing this therapeutic imagitus, Art’s newest infection is not to be found prior to consciousness, rather it is located in its absence? Its possibility?

‘ambition and eroticism here is economically achieved through a pair of substitutions-a ‘v’ for an ‘n’. and a ‘t’ for an ‘r’ – which tacks the manifest verbal text onto its pre-text in the pre-conscious. By this device, the verbal fragment faces onto both manifest and latent contents of the image.x

This pre-textual birth of the virus is visible in the progressive ending of a recent social stigma; AIDS, ‘adding infinite dimensions’ is a nod to the value of experiencing a virus’s transmission. Here one implies that infection, the infectious mysteries of the image have never been nefarious. Simply wishing to allude to this blood disease’s past culture, its stigma, and how it could be both positive, liberating, and negative. Regarding the intentions of this text one does see a precedent in the overly aggressive homophobic reactions to Gay people contained within certain cultures of yesteryear. This word play alludes to this aggressiveness in the socio-visual prejudice against a body with a virus. Instead one catches a glimpse of the contemporary site of the aesthetic experience increasingly contaminating artistic creation today. Therefore, when seeking to make ‘heads or tails’ of the experience of erotic ambitions, Victor Burgin’s text details just how complex the connection between a picture and a plague really is – yet, Burgin only lifts the lid off the sample tube. In the quotation above a section throws doubt toward the notion that images are viruses; how exactly do finite humans breed such a thing, the grandest of infections named art?

Secondly, how is it that one is still grasping for fragments of language when the substitution of v for n (virus for noumena?) provides fuel for an alternative economic achievement? Artists, is it not infuriating? You are all trapped travelling psychoanalytically backwards in a pipette injecting linguistic interpretations onto a surface before consciousness. This dilutes the evidence and the current argument! Technology and it’s material territories behave virally, and art is the virus the object we can encounter. Here is one’s conclusion although the aesthetic experience one is describing has to be better described, and more critical evidence offered up to the reader. Let us look at some art where you can see the virus under its microscope. From the early 1900’s Hiroshi Kawano under the influence of the German thinker Max Bense1 created ‘Digital Mondrians’(1964), followed by Andy Warhol using an Amiga 2000 to digitise his soup cans onto floppy disks (1980’s), and recently the

  • One of the originators for the idea that beauty may be measured scientifically

virus called art has manifested inside the Petri dish where E. coli is the paint for Dr. T. Ryan Gregory2. Experiences with these works are all well and good, but to fully appreciate the event: an encounter with any image and its intrusive politicised ontology, will request the human subject to be comfortable with both being possessed and possessing.

 

Such an ideal would be welcomed if even attainable? Let us focus on ‘possessing’ because that is what images do and are constantly being subjected to … imagine the words of a wealthy collector or informed curator, ‘I’m in possession of an original Mondrian’, and ‘this painting possesses such and such a quality’ are both defunct utterances. Why? Because remember this discussion is exploring the event created by the very real material reality of the visual virus. Hosting the potentials of such an experiential artistic encounter, and its increasingly pertinent presence in the dispersion of new technologies in Art makes one contemplate what kind of laboratories or weather best transmits this pathogenic phenomenon? Today, encountering art as a virus has almost entirely become computational the repercussions of this are difficult to understand. Yet whilst recently reading one of Jacques Rancière’s books this great thinker adds more depth to a seemingly parasitic reality. Disagreeing with Walter Benjamin’s thesis that the mechanical arts of photography and film gave members of the public, the Masses visibility. Rancière demands that through what he calls the Aesthetic Regime of Art there exists a revolutionary kernel inscribed into Aesthetics.

 

‘This programme is literary before being scientific: it shifts the focus from great names and events to the life of the anonymous; it finds symptoms of an epoch, a society, or a civilization in the minute details of ordinary life.xi

 

For so many people ordinary life is programmed in such a way that there is a real threat that art will become auto-immunised, and the experiences available lost behind some unhelpful capitalist protectionism. If one cares about the infectious qualities of new images then referring back to the insights of the exhibition ‘Dark Velocity’ (2014) enables the question: what exactly nullifies the potential for ‘owner-less objects’, and ‘financial diversification’ innate within this primordial power of the artistic virus? How does the artist who sees the aforementioned potentials think through, and resist

the frequent habit of Capitalism to bleach, erase, and develop new anti-art antivirals? The biggest threat to art, its pathogens, and culture is that monetary habits continue to destroy free association and chain libidinal and sexual inhibition to profitability – a kind of, ‘you can have desire, but only through a screen!’ like attitude? Completely shattering the capacity for appreciating there has never been the right to copy, rather it is appropriate to appropriate; do not let the screen take from you! You take from it! Correct? Opting for passive consumption over infection does not bode well, one has to respond to this event, ‘The seductive force of simulation transformed physical forms into vanishing images, submitted visual art to viral spreading,xii’ Perhaps, Post-modernism’s empowerment of surfaces traps the above process on the screen, so eventually the visual event one seeks to detail is deprived of autonomous animation, and its transmission is terminated?

 

Wait, really, how to stop this termination? First, by naming the event under consideration, and protecting it with a clearer definition. Infective Fissures are events that allow for both the artist and the audience to gain a full appreciation of the relations innate to the possessive, or that what possesses? This includes the best articulation of this erotically ambitious economy, ‘When a hypercathexis of the process of thinking takes place, thoughts are actually perceived – as if they come from without and are consequently held to be true.xiii’ But, again does this psychoanalytical obsessiveness, a patient’s hypercathexis, an over investment in an object not present us with the need to libidinously battle against the conservative exclusionary economy. The industry that promotes a possessive obsessive ownership and deletes a sexy creative subjectivity? Therefore when thinking about Infective Fissures it is this synthesis of truth, a synthetic truth, that re-enacts potentials for a new biopolitical understanding of aesthetic experience in these new cybernetic techno-capital spaces. These events are somewhat unpredictable because of the omnipresent systems that violently enforce object ownership. By unpredictable one means that an Infective Fissure has a great potential to disrupt the market dictatorship, and offers very promising future transmutations. However, at the moment these events are too easily uncontaminated. The fate of ‘No Ghost Just A Shell’ (1999) is the best example of the need for communities involved in artistic creation to acquire temporal understanding. If a new way of sharing the rich wealth of possibilities is to appear, it wont be an aggressive territorialization?

‘The legal document which transfers Annlee’s copyright to a foundation That belongs solely to her is, in effect, her death warrant. Paradoxically, it Also gives her her freedom since “The acquisition of ANNLEE is part of an artistic project that consists in liberating a fictional character from the realm of representation.” “Give me liberty and give me death” could be her epitaph. …xiv

In a brilliant review of the exhibition when it visited San Francisco writer Marcia Tanner imbues the Anime character with yet more independence. Completely agreeing with the eulogy; even the art object itself desires death? The demise of an ‘objective dominance’ in the field runs in synchronisation with a whole new generation of image consumption. It is unavoidable the changes wrought by digital technology and an increase in the speed of information have combined to challenge hegemonies. That is why an Infective Fissure is an event, offering a hypercathexical deterritorialization. Always expanding a territory; the virus travels body to body, but it is important to state this does not imply ownership just the expansion of space. Sadly, Peirre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno’s exhibition was an event which ultimately succumbed to the white blood cells of capital’s infrastructure. Initially the project would be fearsomely exemplar of the event one seeks. The purchase of Annlee and her exploitation by other artists was not driven by capital, but by creative contamination. The 428 dollars used to purchase her took into consideration the level of visual detail in her characteristics; the cheapness of the digital file matching the blankness of this material canvas.

 

This is as Tanner writes an exquisite corpse, the shared distribution of unformed matter. Resulting in the creation of identity and value is shared throughout the community’s territory. Unfortunately, this fissure, this event failed and the point of infection was blocked. Institutions and collectors moved in and bought the whole exhibition. At that time Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist saw this as a unique precedent, artists operating against market logic, disseminating/archiving information, and immortalising an undead thing. A communal sign one associates with the kind of solidarity necessary for a mutually possessive event. One in which technology, cognition, and emotion form a macro-biological wonder. Obrist question was this, ‘How can a community constitute itself on the basis of the same sign, identifiable to all, yet peculiar to each person? The first part of the question is good, and useful to understanding Infective Fissures, although penultimately what is ‘peculiar’ to the individual just encourages privatisation in an over confident individualism. Therefore more screens are erected, curtailing growth, and owning – Une mauvaise idée. Okay, if this is a process which destroys this aesthetic event then how is it possible to safeguard it from capitulation? The best way of reading this dilemma arises in a mixture of sources:

 

‘Whatever ultramodernity places under the dominion of signs postmodernity Subverts with virus. As culture migrates into partial-machines (lacking an autonomous reproductive system) semiotics subsides into virotechnics. 001010101101110010110101010100110010001000101010111010000101 01100101001010001100100111001000100000000010011111100010010010101 010100001000010101001111110010010001000110100100010100101011110001 010010000100 0111 … Yes No Yes No Yes Yes No longer what does it mean? but how does it spread?xv

 

‘… ultimately ends up creating a culture stretched between bulimia, steroid overdose, and personal bankruptcy. This perspective—one of more traditional Cultural Studies—views image spam as an instrument of coercive persuasion as well as of insidious seduction, and leads to the oblivious pleasures of surrendering to both.xvi

 

The most radical aspect of the failed Infective Fissure, ‘No Ghost Just A Shell’ (1999-2003) was brought up when Olbrist and Perrano interviewed Jean Claude Ameisen, an immunologist. Ameisen asks, ‘Can something live without death being present?’ a question which really takes the event under scrutiny into confrontation with its postmodern locality. Above, the rouge British thinker Nick Land is first to offer one’s discussion room to find its way. Moreover, the movement of the sign into virotechnics is of the up most importance for this discussion. So, after the stream of binary code Land points us again to the social question: how to transmit, avoid quarantine, and support artistic contamination? The nuances of this question coalesce with media artist, and thinker Hito Steyrel’s words. One translates her aptly named book ‘The Wretched Of The Screen’ (2012) as perhaps the best source to see the problems Infective Fissures encounter as and when they happen. One wonders if she would agree? That even Land’s ‘Hypervirus’ a super addictive art form yet to materialise has to somehow defeat this wretched screen.

 

Speaking about this with a Deluezian accent one becomes aware that instead of enabling the deterritorialization of this event. The screen behaves as a divisive surface inviting a politics of consumption and evaluation, rather than perception. If we delve deeper into Steyrel and Land’s texts we see the problem with more clarity. Currently the artwork and the surfaces it is presented on are still presented as objects in markets. So, artists if they wish to live in a genuinely emancipated society that can regularly experience Infective Fissures. They have to find ways of exercising their agency and assimilating persuasion and seduction outside of ownership. This involves a narrative that has to meander its way around the dehumanising forces of currency internal to postmodernity. Rancière’s notion of revolutionary aesthetics is useful in generating resistance against what Steyrel brilliantly describes: current changes in visual culture. Particularly haunting notions include the ‘poor image’, and the potential for the virus to be mere spam of the earth. Steyrel also has disdain for the sanitising screen, ‘TV has become a medium inextricably linked to the parading and ridiculing of lower classes.xvii’. Polluting the screen with ever more powerful strains of art is her call.

 

One individual that is undoubtedly answering this demand is the American artist Joseph Nechvatal. In a two year period (1991-1993) he pioneered a unique practice that resulted in the creation of an extremely original way of making art. Nechvatal uses his own vocabulary to explain his art. Viractualism is a specific exploration of the interfaces between the technological and the biological. This thinking is strewn throughout this artist’s defining work. In his (2015) exhibition bOdy pandemOnium: Immersion into Noise works on display manipulate these new possibilities and showcases all the revolutionary force of new aesthetics. The reason Nechvatal’s work and Viractualism could be the definitive example of what an Infective Fissure actually resembles. Certain essential qualities are obviously present: 1) the works are collaboratively made with at least one other person. 2) The exhibition features a method that actively embraces the degradation of the image and its information.

Nevertheless, maintaining a critical analysis one has to confess that there is something still missing from this art, that makes me suggest Nechvatal as the artist who next to Philipe Perrano and Peirre Huyghe is thus-far been the closest to realising the event one has attempted to describe. One is sceptical because if you look at Nechvatal’s ‘Viral Venture’ (2011), and his painterly ‘Alife’ method (surely one of the best fusions of programming, animation, virtual reality, and biological simulation?), at no point is the audience/perceiver of this work invited in to participate in the act of creation. One deeply agrees with Nechvatal’s articulation of his creations, ‘art and the history of technology are often marked by ruptures, and most histories overlook moments where “deep fusion” occurs’ and ‘This is important because it represents the seminal function that occurs between the wild real-time and the captured/protected.xix’. Yet, until the audience transforms from passive consumer to active participant, and is invited as co-author into the moment of creation. This event will remain marginal meaning one has been thinking through an event of the near future. A future where more and more people are free to engage with art because the world has accepted universal income in response to the continued debilitating qualities of grossly unequal financial ideologies.

Infective Fissures may be happening now in the creative practices of the younger generations, the teens that are so accustomed to lightning fast communication will welcome market diversification. For this progression to happen the current impetus has to be on stressing the importance of the virus itself? What one desires to stress is that the current phenomena so visible is that ‘appropriation’ is an undead replication of non living things. Resulting in the necessity of fully promoting just how radical this change could be? If one needs even more intellectual evidence? More deconstruction of the concepts at stake then one points you to Jacques Derrida’s idea of a dissimulated contamination, and William S. Burroughs’s ‘The Electronic Revolution’ (1970), both suffice to deepen the profile of the virus and the event which enables its encounter. As Burrough’s explains quoting a scientist by the name of Mr. Wilson Smith.

 

‘Viruses are obligatory cellular parasites and are thus wholly dependant upon the integrity of the cellular systems they parasitize for their survival in an active state. It is something of a paradox that many viruses ultimately destroy the cells in which they are living…xx

 

It is not that paradoxical anymore! The destruction at the cellular level took place in the relentless march of science and its technologies. Whereas it is a shame that it was not the coin instead of the cell? Joining these two realisations together creates an Infective Fissure; if, and only if humans embrace certain facts. Hidden inside our creative economy is a need not to repress sexuality, and at the same time master it?

Because the very same forces involved in successful reproduction are both controlling and liberating. Humorously the initials of one’s theoretical event combine to suggest a type of artistic infertility treatment? But, this is overdoing it and far from being unrealistic Infective Fissures are events that are not only set to increase. Moreover, as more and more of us become radically unhappy with a revolting pictorial reality again portrayed by Steyrel, ‘According to the pictures dispersed via image spam, humanity consists of scantily dressed degree-holders with jolly smiles enhanced by orth-odontic braces.xxi’. People will continue to succumb to the market’s overly monopolising malware. Unless the event called an I.F and those experiencing it cultivates a more confident relation to what Derrida acknowledged as παρασιτος (Parasitos), or always eating at the table of anotherxxii. Next to behaviour Nick Land clearly observed in the computational schizo-creation, called hypervirus, ‘yes yes no yes no nomadically abstracting its processes from specific media (DNA, words, symbolic models, bit-sequences), and operantly re-engineering itself… ROM is melted into recursive experimentationxxiii.’ If this clear structural evidence in support of Infective Fissures is not algorithmically acceptable, then putting it simply: the browser will close, and the event will be thrown in the trash bin of theory. Hopefully after reading this PET scan of an essay you also wish to experience an I.F, and come to agree with one’s belief. It is not that art should be like a virus, the understanding rests in appreciating it exists as a virus. Please, brace yourself for your next infection? Seek it out, share, and rejoice in the free contamination?3


  • I wanted to add sentences about Stuxnetthe weaponised computer virus that shut down Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010. It is unavoidable, that we play with words: ‘Politically we need this virus lest we be just rendered useless fearing power and just stuck on a nuclear net! The work of Hannah Perry, her recent exhibition ‘Viruses Worth Spreading’ at Arsenal Contemporary, in New York could also if it had slightly more collaborative distribution, and less commercial aspects serve as an example of an Infective Fissure.
  • Edgor Kraft, Virtual Amplification, Personal Project, Video Loop, 01:20, (2011) <https://vimeo.com/23609366&gt; [accessed 26th October 2014]
  • Rod Stoneman, Seeing Is Believing: The Politics Of The Visual – Recycled Electrons, Black Dog Publishing, London, p.169, (2013)
  • Brian Knappenberger, We Are Legion: The Story Of Hacktivist’s, Documentary Film, Luminant Films, (2012)
  • Victor Burgin, The Absence Of Presence, 1965 to 1972 – When Attitudes Became Form, Kettle’s Yard Gallery, Cambridge, & Edinbrugh, p.17-24, (1984) [Art In Theory 1900 – 2000: An Anthology Of Changing Ideas, Blackwell Publishing, USA, p.1071, (2003)]

 

  • Lori Wike,   Photographs And Signatures: Absence, Presence, and Temporality In Barthes And

Derrida, In[]visible Culture: An Electronic Journal For Visual Studies, Rochester.edu, (2000) <http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/issue3/wike.htm>%5Baccessed 2nd November 2014]

 

volatility/> [accessed 2nd November 2014]

viiiFranco Berardi (Bifo), Proliferating Futures, Vol 1 #4, Winter/Spring (1996) [Proud To Be Flesh:, Mute Publishing/Autonomedia, London/New York, p.41, (2009)

 

  • Sigmund Freud, The Ego And The Id,The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIX (1923-1925): The Ego and the Id and Other Works, 1-66.

 

  • ( 1923 Das Ich Und Das Es,Leipzig, Vienna and Zurich: Internationaler Psycho-analytischer Verlag. Pp. 77.)
  • Victor Burgin, The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity; Seeing Sense,Macmillan, (1986) pg60- 61
  • Jacques Rancière, trans. Gabriel Rockhill,The Politics of The Aesthetics: The Distribution of TheSensible, Continuum, New York (2004) pg32
  • Hito Steyrel, The Wretched of the Screen,E-flux Journal, Sternberg Press, Berlin, (2012) pg.10
  • Viro de Graphe-Matician, On Jacques Derrida’s Parasitology,February 8, (2011) <https://virographematics.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/parasite-auto-immunity-jacques-derrida/>%5Baccessed 10th August 2017]
  • Marcia Tanner, Requiem for a Mail Order Bride (Review of Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno’s‘No Ghost Just a Shell’ San Francisco Museum of Modern Art December 14, 2002) Stretcher, Online Magazine, <http://www.stretcher.org/features/no_ghost_just_a_shell/&gt;{Accessed 12/08/2017}
  • Nick Land. Ed, Robin Mackay & Ray Brassier, Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007; Hypervirus, Urbanomic, Sequence Press, London/New York (2012), pg383
  • Hito Steyrel, The Wretched of the Screen, pg162.
  • William S. Burroughs, The Electronic Revolution,Ubuclassics, (2005), originally published by Expanded Media Editions (1970)
  • Hito Steyrel, The Wretched of the Screen, pg162.
  • Land. Pg 386

Dubbing with Derrida

 

 

Dubbing With Derrida:

An underview of a Unique and Great French Philosopher

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[Je regrette que ce ne soit pas écrit en Français.]

 

The following is an attempt to provide an overview of one of my favourite philosophers and even with his renowned status as a university professor and the creation of his own way of doing philosophy Jacques Derrida and ‘Deconstructionism’ remain under-appreciated. Admittedly this may be the possibility of an impossibility: we may not be able to appreciate him enough; that is it may be humanely impossible to give Derrida enough appreciation. It is absurd to even raise the question, but why is it important to appreciate the achievements of this man? To answer this is simple. Jacques Derrida belongs to a group of thinkers gathered together under the tag of post-structuralism but for me he remains the most successful thinker at gaining acceptance in the highest level of a major public institution yet undermining its stability and in doing so democratised an industry and business that often excludes paths and practices of thought, reading, writing, and communication that are considered incomplete but still hide a logic just as certain as those that are streamlined into mainstream education as a commodity form.

The following is a humble attempt to be a good reader of Derrida and re-read some of his texts so as to deepen my understanding of the viral meaning his Deconstruction harnesses and hones.

 

Speech and Phenomena” (1973) La Voix et le Phinomene

 

There are interesting perspective on language involving a medieval notion of language; a trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The thoughts of a man named Ibn Khaldûn characterising language as a technical habit related to an art or craft malaka sintfiyya. The theories of language arising from German distinctions such as Frege’s Sinn (sense), and Husserl’s Bedeutung (meaning) lead to a Charles Morris’s idea of another trivium: syntax, semantics, and pragmatics; which is in need of a separate consideration. Then Wittgenstein is chosen of Austin because he sits closer to a continental tradition and how in the Tractatus Wittgenstein runs up against the hegemony of knowledge; the hegemony that me and Derrida constantly complain against because of it’s crippling conditionalities (knowledge produces a reality bound purely by conditions that it alone generates). Phenomenology sits in a certain narrative of thinking that stems all the way back to Plato and then through Descartes and Kant arrived at its father Edmund Husserl. This philosophy then is one which is comfortable striving for the production of knowledge. Against this are different ways of thinking that reveal the truth of understanding. Derrida shows clearly how phenomenology may be read as successful in its aims of suspending the ‘natural attitude’ so as to assist in a truer understanding of our experience of a given phenomena.

‘Husserl will radicalise the necessary privilege of the phoné which is implied by the whole history of metaphysics, and exploit all its resources with the greatest critical refinement. For it is not in the sonorous substance or in the physical voice, in the body of speech in the world, that he will recognise an original affinity with the logos in general, but in the voice phenomenologically taken, speech in its transcendental flesh, in the breath, the intentional animation that transforms the body of the word into flesh, makes of the Korper a Leib, a geistige Leiblichkeit. The phenomenological voice would be this spiritual flesh that continues to speak and be present to itself—to hear itself—in the absence of the world. Of course, what one accords to the voice is accorded to the language of words, a language constituted of unities—which one might have believed irreducible, which cannot be broken down—joining the signified concept to the signifying “phonic complex.” Despite the vigilance of the description, a perhaps naive treatment of the concept of “word” has doubtless left unresolved the tension of the two major motifs in phenomenology: the purity of formalism and the radicality of intuitionism.’(D. 16)

Here we have a lot of things to unpack and offer a small explanation (I apologise to those who are acquainted with both Derrida and Husserl) so as to re-inforce my own small understanding of these European thoughts. I ponder, is it enough to say that the purity of formalism and a radical intuition can be connected and associated with Kant and Plato’s theories of ideas (the distinction between synthetic and analytical judgements are found uniform in our intuition, and ideas are mathematical forms). The spiritual flesh is seen as dependent on the unity of words and this indeed presents a linguistic continuum. Husserl’s theory of language as it is found in the second part of his Logical Investigations states that an ‘“empty thought” needs a sign as an “Intuitive Support”’ and ‘all thought is carried on by way of certain “acts” which occur in a context of expressive discourse’(Husserl, LI, II. 667… in Petr Urban’s The Relationship Between Thought and Language in Husserl’s Philosophy, Czech Institute of Philosophy). But, we also discover Derrida’s point of contention with Husserl when we observe that this German master saw both the sign and meaning as unified however the use of the word sign Zeichen can either be expressive Ausdruck or indicative Anzeichen. This seems like a small difference but from two different perspectives there is much to discuss and take from the position of Husserl ‘there is the possibility of a sign that signifies nothing; that has no meaning Beudeutung. Contrasting with Derrida where there is no sign without the signified. I will have to take a step back from the assumption that I know my everyday usage of language and also suspend judgement on various phenomena. I will read this book properly because one suspects this text along with On the Origins of Geometry to be essential in understanding the wider situation of the birth of Deconstruction and what questions this philosophy was born amongst. This leaves me to share two of the more important statements or benchmarks ever marked into the long history of thinking; and especially thinking about language.

 

  “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, dariiber muss man schweigen” (“What we cannot speak about we must consign to silence”).    

  Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Philosophicus

 

II reste alors a parler, a faire resonner la voix dans les couloirs pour suppliéer l’éclat de la presence” (‘It remains, then, for us to speak, to make our voices resonate throughout the corridors in order to make up for the breakup of presence”)

– Jacques Derrida,

 

 

Of Grammatology (1976) De la grammatologie

 

I am reading from the text translated by the awesome Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak an Indian philosopher of great Great GREAT inspiration. For her never ending belief in education and the necessity of using language to fight for more equality and openness in our systemic structures of education and learning. Let’s begin with one of the great descriptions of Derrida’s philosophy, ‘Deconstruction seems to offer a way

out of the closure of knowledge. By inaugurating the open-ended indefiniteness of textuality—by thus “placing in the abyss” (mettre en abîme), as the French expression would literally have it—it shows us the lure of the abyss as freedom. The fall into the abyss of deconstruction inspires us with as much pleasure as fear. We are intoxicated with the prospect of never hitting bottom.’((Derrida, lxxvii)).

 

“If the nonphonetic moment menaces the history and the life of the spirit as self-presence in the breath, it is because it menaces substantiality, that other metaphysical name of presence and of ousia. First in the form of the substantive. Nonphonetic writing breaks the noun apart. It describes relations and not appellations. The noun and the word, those unities of breath and concept, are effaced within pure writing. In that regard, Leibniz is as disturbing as the Chinese in Europe: “This situation, the analytic notation of representations in hieroglyphic script, which seduced Leibniz to the point of wrongly preferring this script to the alphabetic, rather contradicts the fundamental exigency of language in general, namely the noun. . . . All difference [Abweichung] in analysis would produce another formation of the written substantive.”((Derrida, 27))

 

This re-production is interesting and I wonder how close it is to Delueze’s metaphysical understanding of the necessity of production. Although, like every text authored by Derrida this book is complex and explores many separate writers and thoughts it is useful in a summary to simplify; and so in this spirit I will take my lead from Wikipedia and split this text into two components parts, yet also add a third: the famous ‘Exergue’. The first two parts are comprised of Derrida’s study of the linguistic thoughts of two fellow French giants Ferdinand de Saussure and Jean Jacques Rousseau. Analysing Saussure’s idea of the ‘sign’ stating the claim that written symbols are not inferior to the phonetic sounds and matter of factly the privileging of speech that has been a constant since the beginning of philosophy is a fallacy according to Derrida; as he shows this opposition is an opposition held within language itself and therefore can not be overcome only embraced, only deconstructed.

The analysis of Rosseau’s thoughts on language is interesting. Pursuing a logic of supplementation Derrida analyses a chain of such events in Rosseau’s literary body. This analysis of the chain of supplementations has a psychoanalytic flavour beginning with the absence of a mother and moving through a presence and absence and then the priority of an absent presence written by Rosseau. One which is deeply haunting not just in how Derrida describes it but also in what interpretive difficulties it traces and marks for us today; and indeed the process is one which a person may readily identify with.

 

‘In his eyes it will remain the model of vice and perversion. Affecting oneself by another presence, one corrupts oneself [makes oneself other] by oneself [on s’altère soi-même]. Rousseau neither wishes to think nor can think that this alteration does not simply happen to the self, that it is the self’s very origin. He must consider it a contingent evil coming from without to affect the integrity of the subject. But he cannot give up what immediately restores to him the other desired presence; no more than one can give up language. This is why, in this respect as well, as he says in the Dialogues [Pléiade, vol. 1] , “to the end of his life he will remain an aged child.”(154)

 

As I am writing I am also reading the pdf copy of this text and it is not a preference the presence of an abundance of digital texts may indeed be turning me into an aged child. I would much prefer the actual book yet Rosseau is shown to be one of those that privilege speech. Remember Derrida supposedly does not mean to critique these thinkers and so I think he has more than a little respect and admiration for Rosseau; and I follow suite, Rosseau’s source for his study on language, a Duclos, provides a startling account of the liberty and therein the collective properties of “spoken” language and the political attacks that take place against language by way of alterations and shortenings. Duclos or Rosseau state, ‘The language is the property of the people. Each derives its unity from the other. For if language has a body and a system, they inhere in the people assembled and “bodily” united: “It is a people in a body that makes a language…. A people is thus the absolute master of the spoken language, and it is an empire they possess unawares.’(170) But, what of the written does it remain un-mastered, free, and unpossessable?

These difficulties are re-stated by Rosseau in terms of the voice and words pre-forming music, ‘If music awakens in song, if it is initially uttered, vociferated, it is because, like all speech, it is born in passion.That is to say in the transgression of need by desire and the awakening of pity by imagination.’(196) Pity interests me here; in Eastern culture, in Japan the Buddhists have a unique reading of the noun. Pity is read as mercy: Jihi 慈悲 has the radicals for happiness and sadness residing above the kanji for mind/spirit/heart. This Japanese noun would be well suited to Derrida’s method of working through the inner logic and contradictions of textual reality. What Japanese texts would enable a working through these signs of pity and mercy?

It is very clear, that many more readings of this book will have to be done for me to fully understand Derrida’s reading of Rosseau’s supplement and interval and this distinctly French exploration of language. Rosseau’s text are shown to contain much interesting reasoning on the state of linguistic change in his day and a discussion of a necessary relation of the child to the sign by way of non-relation; the sign is but it isn’t because unlike adults children do not immediately have a self relation from which to relate to a given meaningful phenomena such as a sign. Before I part ways with this book let’s look at this famous Exergue. Our looking at this description of ‘logocentrism’ benefits from the assistance of Gabriel Rezende’s work on this section of the Book. Rezende nicely describes this centrism and does so in an ambitious project of writing that emphasises the political aspect of Derrida’s work. Correctly stating the three problems that Derrida is dealing with: 1) our thoughts on writing are geared towards an ahistorical concept of phonetic writing, 2) Metaphysics is always bound to a logos, and 3)because of the later it can be stated that humans are nothing more than a teleology of sciences.

Rezende expresses why this part of Derrida’s book is so important and perhaps summarises why Derrida remains widely loved and deeply relevant to today and the future yet to come. It is Derrida’s respectful readings of the three big German H’s (Husserl, Hegel, and Heidegger) that culminates in the very real idea that a cultural teleology is present in the works of these major philosophers and results in logocentrism or the voice that speaks closest to the truth. In Deconstructing this Derrida helps us understand an absent cultural teleology one in which hidden truths are made manifest by the very grammars of writing.

 

Writing and Difference,(1978) L’écriture et la différence

 

A preface is a beautiful thing and in this book it is a translator’s. I am always taken a back at how a written object of respect and repute often comes with an introductory mask one that I often find just as rewarding. This preface does not disappoint I encounter: Epekeina tes ousias the Platonic term for the beyond of being, the shared interest in the difference between Sinn/sense and the senses; between Sein/être and Seindes/étant; the “ontological double genitive,” i.e., the necessary fluctuation of the subjective and objective cases in order to speak of Being, which always means the Being of beings and the beings of Being. Nietzsche gifts us voluntarism (the doctrine of the will) passed down to us from Latin voluntas our volition and funnelled through French vouloir implying even more of a wanting; and Edmund Hussserl’s distinction/opposition between hylé and morphé (matter and form). All of this and more is contained in Alan Bass’s short introduction.

 

Derrida begins his work on a note of anxiety one that is about language and in language itself. Discussing a kind of somnambulism (sleepwalking) situated between a structuralist ideal and the history of ideas; a schism within a force, ‘Form fascinates when one no longer has the force to understand force from within itself. That is, to create’(Derrida, 1978, 3). Here we find ourselves on the outside if we wish to be a creator? Thus soliciting a solicitation (check the Latin etymology), how writing and difference are intertwined. In Derrida’s intro we learn that there is an Art for Immanuel Kant and a Rousseau that is a hidden thing that does its work in secret, yet we can still understand that our imagination is what initiates such a process. We read of drastic yet true procedures, ‘One must be separated from oneself in order to be reunited with the blind origin of the work in its darkness’(D,7) and again this outside also applies to the purity of the literary morphé.

The pure book naturally turns towards this Eastern edge of this absence which, beyond or within prodigiousness of all wealth, is its first and proper content. The pure book, the book itself, by virtue of what is most irreplaceable within it, must be the book “about nothing” that Flaubert dreamed of-a grey, negative dream, the origin of the total Book that haunted other imaginations.’(D. 9)

Derrida could be giving a description of many of his own books and I can not help with my own personal connections to Asia; also long to return to the Eastern edge. This haunting of other imaginations is important it has a connection and relation to the production of truth and Husserl’s innessential (Unwesen). This we are told is dictated by an essence and happens under the rubric of sedimentation. Then a tussle between Flaubert and Nietzsche comes after Derrida’s own stylish eidetic translation, ‘the things for which we do not have enough forms are already phantoms of energy, “ideas” larger then the plasticity of style’(D.34) relishing in the natural lack of language; how it can never quite incomprehensibly structure and has to remain somewhat other to itself. A discussion on Foucault’s reading of Descartes’s nisi me forte comparem nescio quibus insanis…‘Unless perhaps I were to liken myself to a madman’(Descartes. First Meditation) associates this inoculation performed on behalf of philosophy by Descartes against madness is also a question of the sign. Derrida likens the Cartesian split to the presence of an obvious and then a latent language; intimately embroiled in questions surrounding knowledge as a historical construct and the attribution of meaning inherited from master Foucault.

Derrida’s own special Hegelianism rises when he starts discussing the juxtaposition of the Silent (the mad) and reason (the ordered mad) and how escaping reason is impossible unless you embrace its abstractions and its power to disturb. This Entzweiung, a dissociation that Foucault enacts; apparently ancient Greek logos did not have a contrary in comparison to classical reason (D.64). I am not certain what this implies the time of the ancient Greeks was so long ago yet perhaps this comment is a comparison between the pursuit of an Arche by the pre-socratics and the ideas against contradiction formulated by Aristotle and then developed by the Rationalists. Either way Writing and Difference offers questions that for me question writing over difference; that is the book offers an opportunity an invitation to write about writing. Which Derrida was overtly interested in privileging: the inscription over the act of speaking. The relationship between the younger French master and the older German master is fascinating and a relationship which I will be heavily invested in exploring in the coming years. This relation comes to the foreground when Derrida describes a Violence hidden in the history of Metaphysics. The need to determine one’s being in relation to Being.

Writing then is a very unique thing and deeply mysterious, the power of the pen endures in an age of instability. The power of our writing tools (I am eager to explore the power of the brush) remains because they are essential we need them to cut into reality and engineer new lines and sequences. Before, one finishes this the first brief reading and before this text ends with a commentary on the historical and the economical. One last reference to the great German master Husserl is necessary; Derrida cites some giddy German starting with the word Urtatsache (nonempirical factuality) and then moving onto two of Husserl’s sentences, ‘der intentionale Urgrund für meine Welt’, and ‘die Urtatsache, der ich standhalten muss’. After this, some beautiful reflections of what distinguishes a child or beginner philosophical baby from an authentic lover of wisdom. Derrida writes that the child will when first encountering a ghostly corner with an absence of light haunted by solipsism, relativism, and psychologism be naturally daunted; but we are told that, ‘The true philosopher will prefer, instead of fleeing from these ghosts, to illuminate the dark corner. Derrida, don’t pretend that you weren’t an infantile thinker once upon a Parisian dawn.   

‘This vigilance is a violence chosen as the least violence by a philosophy which takes history, that is, finitude, seriously; a philosophy aware of itself as historical in each of its aspects (in a sense which tolerates neither finite totality, nor positive infinity), and aware of itself, as Levinas says in another sense, as economy. But again, an economy which in being history, can be at home neither in the finite totality which Levinas calls the Same nor in the positive presence of the Infinite.’(D.146)

 

[There are so many books written by Derrida that are worth reviewing and so I will post a ‘Dubbing with Derrida: Part II’ at some point – Merci pour la lecture, mais j’ai maintenant besoin de revenir à l’étude japonaise]

Revolution From the khōra: Power From the Outside

Khora
_

(Paul Harrison)

Throughout history there is a reoccurring pattern when it comes to revolution. If you observe the specific contexts of the revolutions that have taken place in many countries: Britain, France, Haiti, Russia, and China. Did they all happen because of an external influence? And, to what extent is this a component part of the revolution? Of the very idea of revolution? This is the line of questioning this essay will explore. Discussing the idea that successful revolution is dependent on a power that comes from outside the location of its eventual happening. This idea will be shown to be present or situated in these exemplary instances of undeniable revolutions: 1) The French revolution, 2) the Russian revolution, 3) The Chinese cultural revolution.

Next to these historical examples one is aware of one’s reasons behind writing with this perspective or with this postulation on the causal movements of revolution. The main reason for adopting such a stance is the importance of a famous fact in what many people believe to be the first work of political philosophy. Although there are other contenders for the title of first political treatise Plato’s Republic is often cited as the first. It consists of a conversation that encompasses what the ideal state might look like and the importance of justice to such an ideal, yet the fact that is more important for this discussion is the location, the specific place that this dialogue conspired. It happened outside of the city a place called the χώρα [Khōra] a notion that was important to Plato because he considered it to be a location where the forms used to reside.[ Plato. Timaeus (48e4)] Jacques Derrida helps us remember it in more recent thought of its importance. It certainly is political but what does it explicitly have to do with revolution?

In Derrida’s short essay named after this Greek location he starts by describing the myth which emanates from Plato’s orientation; Derrida describes the Khōra, ‘it oscillates between the two types of oscillation: the double exclusive (neither/nor) and the participation (both this and that).’[ Jacques Derrida, ‘Khōra’ in On the Name, Edited by Dutoit, T. Stanford University Press, Stanford California. 91 ] Such an oscillation or frequency fits the force one observes as the causal logic of revolution. The force transforms into a common noun “revolution” which is the culmination of a fluctuation in a form of logic.

The change found between exclusivity and participation is why one interprets the Khōra as a causal force because it implies a feeling of uncertain action like that of invasion, or an influx in immigration, and a conflict. This uncertainty is present in the ambiguity of the noun ‘revolution’ and what exactly it means. Furthermore, this doubt as to what is done in the name of revolution is resolved or completed in its success. An alternative to this expression is that within the site of potential revolution there is then a need of a referent but such a thing Derrida helps show is deeply abstract and one argues that this particular abstraction is a necessity.

‘Deprived of a real referent, that which in fact resembles a proper name finds itself also called an X which has as its property (as its physis and as its dynamis, Plato’s text will say) that it has nothing as its own and that it remains unformed, formless(amorphon). This very singular impropriety, which precisely is nothing, is just what Khōra must, if you like, keep; it is just what must be kept for it, what we must keep
for it.’[ Ibid. 97]

Yet, reading Derrida could suggest an opposite direction that we have to maintain the outside as formless and this would contradict my argument. This quote could be read from the perspective of a citizenry seen as keeping revolution indeterminate and external, but one would maintain that if this lack remains it is suggestive of an alternative cause: that the lack was not transformed into a name, an event (revolution).
So, let us test this idea and look to history beginning in France and some sources that hint at this movement away from the resemblance of a name, an X, to an actual name and suggest an accurate interpretation of this process named revolution. Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville discussed the 1789 revolution that changed the entire reality of Europe.[ Alexis De Tocqueville. The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution, edited by Jon Elster, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. ] Tocqueville’s discussions of the changes that transformed the ancien regime (the old order) including: how the French revolution was a political revolution but with the distinctly religious character, territorial disputes giving way to principles, and the destruction of feudal and aristocratic institutions.

Again, the way Tocqueville writes supports the opposite notion of revolution the one that says it was a unique phenomena that originated in one country and then spread elsewhere. However, one does not agree with this because it does not reflect deeply enough on the religious aspect of this revolution. Religion for the French revolution was the Khōra; a power that was on the outside, in what sense can one claim this? The evidence for this perspective is that the then king Louis XIV who under the influence of Cardinal Mazarin embodied absolute rule. This means that kings where to believed to have a devine right implying that they were backed by the authority of God a power that was to also be responsible for the revolutionary thoughts of Karl Marx.[ Karl Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ [1845] in: Early Writings, London: Penguin 1975. ] Yet, the royalty of France of this time also contributes even more to our discussion. The way king Louis XIV exercised his absolutism demonstrates power’s necessary movement from the outside to the inside. This is explicitly made obvious by the fact that this king prioritised military expansion at the expense of higher taxes on citizens – unanimously cited as the cause of the revolution.

Reading this we see power exercised expansively into space outside the country in military acts and expansion. This inevitably results in the country’s citizens adopting a line of thinking an equation that Sieyes articulated, ‘subtract the privileged order and the nation would not be something less, but something more.’[ Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, ‘Qu’est-ce que le tiers-état? / What is the Third Estate?’ in Essay on Privileges, (January 1789). 96] Of course this power often manifests in incredibly violent ways and the French revolution is infamous for the ‘reign of terror’ and the mass executions by guillotine. Here we should take a moment to consider the difficulties we face when viewing the power that fuels revolutions because it seems to contain key signs or symptoms: abuse of military might and paranoia towards the outside coupled with the ambiguity of deciphering the difference between criminals and those who place faith in laws. Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobin’s behaved in such a way that enacted both symptoms but although their revolution was a success this did not save them from their fate. They fell victim to the very violence they wielded against their enemies; perceived both internally and externally power resulted in a short lived governance.

‘Wisdom, as much as power, presided over the creation of the universe…
If the revolutionary government is not seconded by the energy, enlightenment,
patriotism, and benevolence of all the people’s representatives, how can it have
the strength to respond proportionately to the efforts of Europe who are
attacking it, and to all the enemies of liberty pressing in on it from all sides?’[ Maximilien Robespierre. “On the Principles of Revolutionary Government.” In Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, edited and by Jean Ducange, translated by John Howe, introduction by Slavoj Zizek. London: Verso, 2007.]

In the case of Russia Vladimir Lenin offers more evidence for one’s scepticism toward the idea that the power bringing about radical change is generated internally by alluding to sham socialists and their petit-bourgeois utopia.[ Vladimir Lenin. State and Revolution, introduction by Todd Chretien. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014. 61.] How the ideology of the state being above classes betrays the working class. So, in Lenin’s discussion of the Russian revolution we can observe that he deemed the French revolutions of 1848 and 1871 to be a betrayal, the proletariat sell their birthright for a mess of porridge, and how the destruction of the state is a prerequisite for the formation of Marx’s the ‘workers dictatorship’ a main step towards human emancipation.[ Ibid, 63. ] We also learn of the struggles of the two quintessential rebel rouser’s so influential for Lenin and the Russian revolution; Marx and Engels came out and back into hiding, adding their firebrand journalism to revolutions in Germany and Europe (1848), yet these revolutions all failed because the fight for power came from within the same country and were all easily defeated. Lenin’s thoughts on Marx clarify the Khōra.

Marx never expected the communist revolution to take place in Russia. The manifesto he wrote with Friedrich Engels foresaw revolution taking place in more economically developed countries. The noun ‘Communist’ was the abstract necessity that Derrida described as a name and simultaneously an X because to be a communist one has to desire communities sharing the commons (both this and that, and neither nor. Remembering Derrida’s distinction). In the Russian revolution Lenin attempted to use Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat in other words ‘a vanguard party’ to do away with the rule of the Tsar and bring about socialism.[ Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” In The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 469-500. London: Norton & Company, 1978. 479-500.] The 1917 October Revolution in Saint Petersburg was led by Lenin and the Bolsheviks and here we have movements associated with conflict (WW1, and exile in Lenin’s case) a desire for change that when forced to travel via way of exclusion seeks an inclusive tradition.

Mao Tse-Tsung wrote extensively about how he perceived a revolutionary tradition dating back to the people of the han dynasty. Mao claims, ‘the Chinese never submit to tyrannical rule but invariably use revolutionary means to overthrow or change it.’[ Mao Tse-Tsung, ‘The Chinese Revolution and The Chinese Communist Party’ in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tsung, Volume I,[https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_23.html] ] Whilst writing about his nation Mao is rightly brimming with pride and the sentences carry this feeling unabashedly and this may hide the simultaneous exaggeration that also resides within any writing of a political leader. In this case the aim of Mao was to clearly describe how it was the Chinese people’s great struggle that was the sole creator of what was to become the Peoples Republic of China and of course this is true to some extent but there is more than a little evidence that Mao and his revolutionaries had help from a power outside China.

Japan and its invading armies constitute this external force. The second ‘Sino-Japanese war’ (1937-1945) resulted in Japan committing some of the worst war crimes on record – an estimated two to three hundred thousand people where massacred and raped as Japanese forces captured the then Chinese capital of Nanjing. Here we have a dark example of this external power influencing a revolution because there is evidence that strongly suggests chairman Mao the leader of the Communist party of China saw this event as the reason for his successful revolution. Journalist Richard McGregor cites this confession. This quote demonstrates that Mao the instigator and figurehead of the cultural revolution consciously referenced the force that allowed him and his comrades to move from guerilla warfare and toward defeating the nationalists and to attain control over the country.

‘[A] meeting with a Japanese Socialist party leader, Mao perversely thanked Japan for invading China, because the turmoil created by the Imperial Army had enabled the CCP to come to power. “We would still be in the mountains and not be able to watch Peking Opera in Beijing,” he said. “It was exactly because the Imperial Japanese Army took up more than half of China that there was no way out for the Chinese people. So we woke up and started armed struggle, established many anti-Japanese bases, and created conditions for the War of Liberation. The Japanese monopolistic capitalists and warlords did a ‘good thing’ to us. If a ‘thank you’ is needed, I would actually like to thank the Japanese warlords.”[ Richard McGregor, The Long Read: Could Trump’s Blundering Lead to War Between China and Japan? The Guardian Online, Thu 17 Aug 2017 06.00 BST, [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/17/could-trumps-blundering-lead-to-war-between-china-and-japan] ]

Adding to this example we can acknowledge that the use of ‘comfort women’ by the Japanese highlights the importance of feminist narratives in the future of revolution. The oppression of women and the fight for gender equality is one of the more important revolutionary battles happening today; perhaps the power that will make this gender revolution a success is a change in the role of the female as a mother, giving birth may change due to external influence of technology.[ Shulamith Firestone. The Dialectic of Sex: The case for feminist revolution, Bantam Books, USA, 1970] Such changes will first manifest in the societal and cultural entities of the biggest countries.

China is currently the worlds biggest economy and global power this is because like America it is expanding its military but after its revolution the state that emerged became more self aware of its own character and culture.[ China is well known for the control of its population and its inward looking nature but also due to its philosophy Confucianism it places a much greater emphasis on the importance of the family as a structure. ] So, rather than expanding imperially via military strength China exercised control over its population building control within its own lands. This is why McGregor uses the metaphor of Thucydides Trap because he sees that the rising power of China as too much of a threat to America for there not to be war between these two great nations.[ Ibid, McGregor. ] However, the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war when Sparta attacked Athens is another example because this metaphor is politically applicable to many instances of conflict throughout history and its symptom is an arms/weapons race. Such a race, does it not demonstrate power coming from the outside? Yes, it is one example but staying with China the country offers more evidence it has in the last decade hosted some of the biggest workers unions in the world (unsurprising because one fifth of humanity is Chinese). Comprising of millions of members and are often farmers or rural workers – they are so big and well organised that the government is forced to communicate.

This takes us back to that truly revolutionary conversation that took place outside the city. A site to situate the power from the outside that generates the impetus for a change that even an ancient aristocrat like Plato saw as necessarily tied to the use of justice. But, in terms of revolution the use of justice is a power that first manifests in a place between legality and criminality, a place, a topos that we understand as the χώρα [Khōra]?

‘When you want a deposit to be kept safely.
You mean when money is not wanted, but allowed to lie?
Precisely. That is to say, justice is useful when money is useless?
That is the inference. And when you want to keep a pruning-hook safe, then justice is useful to the individual and to the state; but when you want to use it, then the art of the vine-dresser?’[ Plato, The Republic, Book II. ]

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Bibliography

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De Tocqueville, Alexis. (2011), The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution, edited by Jon Elster, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Derrida, J. (1993), ‘Khōra’ in ‘On the Name, Edited by Dutoit, T. Stanford University Press, Stanford California.
Shulamith Firestone. (1970), The Dialectic of Sex: The case for feminist revolution, Bantam Books, USA.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. (1978), “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” In: The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 469-500. London: Norton & Company.
McGregor, R. The Long Read: Could Trump’s Blundering Lead to War Between China and Japan? The Guardian Online, Thu 17 Aug 2017 06.00 BST, [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/17/could-trumps-blundering-lead-to-war-between-china-and-japan]
Plato. The Republic
_____ Timaeus,
Robespierre, Maximilien. (2007), “On the Principles of Revolutionary Government.” In Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, edited and by Jean Ducange, translated by John Howe, introduction by Slavoj Zizek. London: Verso.
Sieyès, Emmanuel Joseph. (2003), “What is the Third Estate?” In: Political Writings, edited and translated by Michael Sonenscher, 92-162. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Art = The Black Hole For Knowledge

When perceiving interpretations and accounts of the world and it’s western society you will notice a few things, firstly science and physics are continuously shaping our views of this world. Whether we are observing the newest discovery in subatomic particles or attempting to decipher a new theoretical notion in quantum processes and calculations which physicists have developed. This at times often can be held as a fantastically brilliant art form as it does share similarities with art if you look at the narratives: a physicist proposes an equation, an idea then tests this in the experiment. Does the artist not take their idea proposes a matter of subject moving on to a very prolonged period of experimentation, in this angle of shared characteristics between art and science good gallery and exhibition space become like the laboratory, with which one achieves a certain greatness. Unfortunately this prodigious-ness falls short as both practices or fields of behaviour are currently failing our species. Why is this the case? One reason suffices to explain, both art and science are chained to the mast of the sinking ship that is known as knowledge. Do not be confused with this, as what is suggested here can be simplified in a very simple question. The question (which is extremely relevant to the relevancy of both subjects) is, as a human being what would you prefer to have when living experiencing your life, knowledge or understanding?

Now immediately many people may start to say ‘what’s the difference, are they so different?’ at first glance they are similar you can believe that knowledge is generated through understanding. However what one will propose here is that today we desperately need the above processes to develop and leave us with understanding, knowledge needs to be dethroned (or even destroyed?) – simply because it has become overtly possessive like the pimp that beats his whore. Putting it much more softly, if you know you will avoid the option for the helpful understanding. Within this suggestion one does hope to also show how art rather than science is naturally in the business of developing understanding, rather than science which has a long history of knowing. It is not the fault of scientists that their area of expertise carries this great weight and damaging characteristic as looking at their process of experimentation you see it is destructive; when using a hydrogen collider or ‘Atom Smasher’ they smash, break, and collide matter to get a waveform to analyse and use as data. This appears to be an experiment only the physicists are invited to partake in however that is not the case because every single one of us carries atom smashers on our bodies. Every time we blink we have been smashing photons to build a picture to understand our world. The difference being is that one has to use the language of mathematics to challenge the factual.

The other, or art, is not completely roped to numbers it remains and has been an experimentation with more mobility. The major retort to this suggestion will be one of being accused of operating within just a semantic, word game, metaphysically wish fulfilling co-ordinate to overcome these possible dismissals we will be taking a journey on the next shuttle or rocket into the universality. That is unknowing, on the way we will take our knowledge and see it absorbed in the hole of art. Art this fantastic black hole when it happens when you encounter a great work of art, you are invited to develop your understanding of it’s subject, the art arises from facts but is sitting on top true art has always been secretly driven by understanding it’s constructed by it shaped by it. Where as modern science is historically understood to have grown up on the highway from Scientia (Knowledge) through René Descartes’s X/Y Co-ordinates, to Isaac Newton’s scientific method, and arriving at quantum physics and mechanics. Again we should ask incisive questions to unravel the scenario we are exploring, let us start with the narrative of the similar and the different; regarding knowledge and understanding, in doing art in a world of science or equation. In a recent discussion with fellow artist Pavel Büchler, Hester Reeve shows her wonderment at the thinker Hannah Arendt’s comment on art, the conversation is under the title Doing Art Now.

‘I am struck by Arendt’s claims that art works are ‘thought-things’ first; they arrive into the world from the human capacity for thought, but this doesn’t stop them also being object-things. It’s this combination which is extraordinary about art.'(i)’ This extraordinary quality is what makes art the ideal breading ground for one’s understanding but what helped design this complex numinous un-edited space between thoughts and objects? Before we arrive at artists that are exemplar black circles that help swallow some knowledge to develop the above question let’s take a short detour with some philosophers, our destination is the space station of Aesthetics where Immanuel Kant and Jacques Derrida are waiting patiently. Fascinated to be in outer space they both made great steps in the ‘how art breads understanding’ Kant critiqued judgement on his fantastic path, his reaction to Newton’s new bread of science which at that time caused a major havoc, bringing into question the idea of God’s dominance. As it showed that the cosmos functioned within mathematical laws that could be created by a man. Kant’s great achievement was to turn this break in perception and show that even if with this new knowledge there was room for the knowledge that had thus far ruled over human endeavour. It is honourable that this thinker created his own set of laws to match the laws set by maths; thankfully Kant’s struggle to bridge the gap between empirical and rational views on art. Did not reaffirm the dominance of numerical physical fact instead his distinctions such as the ‘antimony of taste‘ (ii) and that of the ‘parergon’ (Greek for incidental or by-work), kept discussion open and full of subjectivity. Therefore we should be grateful to Kant because the open unique experience one can have with art whether it be associated with that of the sublime, the beautiful, the unsettling and the calming. Was protected through a Kantian distinction between inside and outside, which we will soon see is still very important in today’s habitat of the overwrought processes of knowing.

All knowledge we have today creates the type of lasting blindness you get from gawping at the sun. This blood red immobility is in contrary and in ignorance to that of an understanding in artwork; working on, in, and from a work of art both as a creator or viewer happens to create potentials. Such as those tied to the difficulty of developing a concise understanding; think about the notion that you can never know what an artwork is really about without speaking to it’s creator, whilst the artist’s work reaches it’s potential when it’s spectator or audience develops a response to it. Here we have a reality that is threatened by data and information, if you approach art and the work of an artist thinking you know their work and it’s meaning you distort the chance scenario. It is now in this current historical context that there is a chance to view the task of art differently. As an opportunity to get rid of your knowledge, another way of saying this is that to arrive at the real or actual value of art, one has to become aware that as a phenomenon art is innocently blind. Here the French philosopher Jacques Derrida offers us an opportunity, a reconstruction of an earlier deconstruction. In 1990 Derrida was the curator of an exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, Memories Of The Blind, it opened with the painting The Origin Of Drawing (1791) which we will be an ideal example of the marvellous movement away from knowing and toward an understanding. It is precisely in this image you see Derrida’s attempt to highlight the lines between inside and outside. (iii) Highlighting the behaviour of object/thought relationships that are to be found in this confrontation with a sight from antiquity; Butades is frozen in time, her hand is busy tracing the shadow of her lover as she is facing separation from him for a reason unknowable to us. Although faced with this aesthetic it would be extremely common to understand or interpret that: a) the two are lovers, b) Batudes outlining of the shadow points to that which is exterior, the event that is still to take place or the future that is still to come, an epic frame for our situation today. Subordination to knowledge is not helping anyone it is doing the opposite hindering our attempts to arrive at a better purpose for each other’s life, a greater presence outside of cold fact.

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Joseph-Benoît Suvée’s, Butades, The Origin Of Drawing, (1791).

Meanwhile Derrida is finding it hard to decide on if he should start to explain how this image also illustrates some of Plato’s core concept’s, but before he can decide he is accosted by another German bloke. Friedrich Nietzsche hobbles towards them apprehending Kant, ‘Plato is the name for a disease! Why would you ruin and ridicule this great example of human tragedy in it’s most needed form?’. Let’s not, as it seems that one of the most historically accepted renditions of the root of most art is that it is to be found either born out of or smearing itself in the muck of that which is tragic. For is it not tragedy or tragic what we are discussing? This deceit which is the toxic state of our knowing, what would a world look like if art and science where built without architecture that allowed for knowledge? Before we arrive at the black hole we shall play a word game to pass the time with one of the major paradigm shifts in the 20 century, the discovery of Antimatter. In this angle we have adopted a position that is anti – matter, this is in opposition to those matters often banded around, counted as being an adequate platform for knowledge not understanding. It is understood therefore there may be a super-massive Black Hole at the centre of every galaxy in the Universe, it is also thought that Black Holes created through the death of a star, create Antimatter. Thus this shadowy realm that physically exists next to, behind, or accompanying everything that one may observe. Is a new way that a being could arrive at a better reading of this Butades’s painting.

What one is trying to articulate and bring together is that understanding has the same positive properties to those found in the behaviour and event of this particular revolution in physics. Within this space in time there is yet more evidence of the strange embroiled relationship between science and art. In 1941 the ideas of the physicists Richard Feynmen and Ernst Stueckelberg collided, an idea that an anti-particle could travel backwards in time was released (iv). When asked why he did not publish his idea in a more prestigious journal, Stueckelberg said something like this: ‘because it was a time of war, it was impossible to find an artist for the diagrams.’, many would have been enlisted! Maybe, Ernst ‘as artist’ drew the diagrams himself? This suggestion however likely or false if it where true demonstrates the shared material of uncertainty that artists and scientists have been moulding, casting, and thoroughly falling through. Thus the level of uncertainty generated by an event like the devastation reaped by the atomic bomb landing on Nagasaki, has stayed with humanity the complete loss of life left a deep black shadow. One that forecasts a world continuously delineated by opportunities to sell products of knowing. It was with the knowledge that by dropping a nuclear weapon it would assert such devastation on the other, on the enemy that it would cripple them to the point of submission to imperial power. It actually had an effect of the aftershock of an earthquake, it highlighted the extent to which our species operate and function under a wider structure of a heavy evergreen knowledge.

It is in this manner that a reality whereby knowledge not science has a lot to answer for if it results in this kind of forgone shadow, as having this privileged position being able to look back in time. You may well adopt the logic that this had to happen or that it would have happened eventually. If this is so then it is not preposterous (as art has to happen) to propose that art creates a shadow of it’s own allowing not for the zero energy of knowledge but for the bottomless pit of understanding, the negative state of electrons on an invisible ladder of all unconscious quantum (v). This (how much?) attitude is all mortally and morbidly enlightening as on this spacecraft to art as passengers we begin to doubt questioning when we will arrive at the centre of the galaxy? It is a long journey and knowledge weighs heavy on the passengers, especially on those philosophers. As respite they all fall into a dream, whilst snoozing they land on a long and windy yellow brick road where all three thinkers are hoping to be awarded with a watch, diploma, and medal. These will have to wait as we have finally arrived at today’s black hole The Wizard Of Oz Experiment (2011) by the German artist Dennis Neuschaefer-Rube, is an example of this chance to banish knowledge. For this author it shows this by denying or manipulating the usual role of numbers and facts; because of it’s inherent process of re-using visual information, in a non-linear manner; a characteristic that is seen strewn throughout most of our creative efforts. With this video installation you do not know what the material is until that external experience. Then given the information that this work comprises of a screening of the original Wizard Of Oz film, side by side five thousand eight hundred and twenty nine times. All of this becomes irrelevant when confronted with the experience of viewing the work with a type of presentiment. This knowledge you have can be taken from you if you understand that when you start to look. With a preconceived idea of the contents of this work then the art itself distorts and destroys this, replacing it with an understanding that did not exist before you had the encounter. Looking at this work you can not actually observe any of the detail of the original material of the film. Another way of describing this anti-material behaviour of art is the simple understanding we have arrived at through quantum mechanics, particularly those destructive forces found when matter collides with it’s counter part (vi).

MonitoringDennis-Neuschaefer-Rube-THE-WIZARD-OF-OZ-EXPERIMENT

Dennis Neuschaefer-Rube, The Wizard Of Oz Experiment, film still from film installation, 2011.


i. Pavel Büchler & Hester Reeve, Labour Work Action: Transmission Annual: Doing Art Now, Ed. Michael Corris, Jasper Joseph-Lester, Sharon Kivland, P15, Artwords Press, 2013.
ii. Andrew Ward, Kant The Three Critiques, P.211, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2006.
iii. Jeff Collins, Bill Mayblin, Introducing Derrida, Ed. Richard Appignanesi, P.140-145, Totem Books, 2005.
iv. Frank Close, Antimatter, Oxford University Press, p102, 2009.
v. Ibid,  p43.
vi. Jim Al-Khalili, Quantum A Guide For The Perplexed: Antimatter, Phoenix, London, p164-165, 2012.