Saturday, December 21, 2013

Literature as unbuilt architecture -- courtesy Cesar Aira

‎"She dreamed of the building on top of which she was sleeping... as it was now, that is, under construction.

"The difference (between dreams and reality) in this case was reflected in the architecture, which is, in itself, a reciprocal mirroring of what has already been built and what will be built eventually. The all-important bridge between the two reflections was provided by a third term: the unbuilt.

"The architectural key to the built / unbuilt opposition, which analogies fail to capture, is the flight of time toward space. And dreaming is that flight....
Except in fables, people sleep in houses. Even if the houses haven't yet been built. And therein, perhaps lies the origin, the original cell, of the sedentary life. While habits, whether sedentary or nomadic, are made of time, dreams are time-free. Dreams are pure space, the species arrayed in eternity. That exclusivity is what makes architecture an art.

‎"The Australians...postulate a primal builder, whose work they presume only to interpret... beyond verification.. A time of sleeping.

"These intellectual dandies, these spinsters, these curious Aborigines make sure their eyes are closed while events take place, which allows them to see places as records of events.

"...geography as simple as it is effective: the point and the line... represented by the halt and the journey."

-Cesar Aira, from Ghosts

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Alt + Ouch

Consumptive estrangement
Fire the pool up
The land outside Safeway
Awesome
Lossless logic
Various levels of undress
Fat lip
To transfer or muddle
I am that platform
Carnivalesque over-accounting
Susceptible
Operants thrown out
In order to flee


Friday, November 29, 2013

I’ve come to the end of my slope

Swallowed up in space
I cling to the debris of reason
drowned in its murmur
naked on the shore

Alien artifacts
relics of future rupture
sorry histories of perceptions
of cyclical catastrophe
ransacking the museum for possible weapons
castaway
on an inclined plane


© Vidy-L, Jean-Luc Marchina

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Notebook of nine syllables

for Standard Schaefer

or Alt title (also for Stan Douglas)
If-Stan-Is-Stan
The new unhyphenated
‎Alt country‎















"...the body being a communism
of nerves and gimmicks"

Even Sisyphus is movin' on up
Autodidaction on demand
Certificate program to kill

We count cards
Quoting proust
Staffing museum
Alsos and still-have-yous

May the best church win
Said the rabbi's phone
Converting to wine
Now that the skin has been revealed

No, nothing, said Proust
‎Agriculture is overrated
planning unequal to
abandon
markets forcefed
and hoisted by yards (by petards)
by x or y axis

By blogpost she said
‎vision with danger
I stopped looking
Telepathic waxwings
Luscious fleshlike weeds
I tend toward blonde
lions of yestercheer
Ordure all announced
Now don't go all‎ jed clampitt on me
Ouch said the little guy camper
Take care that she does
This pixel
Motion sickens the non-
human in him
Big bear and his bracelets
this pixel was made
for you and me

‎(written last sunday flying home from NC - with Standard's notebook in hand.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Horse Omnibus

   - seems to be about militarism and praxis?  there should be the smell of orange in the air.

Lost in the circular
order of the coif
I marched into autonomy
all the way down
without name, no history
no reason, no law
all arms, no letters
Guilty of the practical
of the three legged stool
‎Feeling without smell
largely by bleeding

If I am vampiric
or lucid‎ In gotham
I propose land to the left
‎next to the left-right-left
Did I mishear
I meant anti-anthropomorphic
Juke or cut
Surgeons of the general order
Lock of my hair
blocking vision
Sick cosmic joke
to insert the bit
about bitter pills
about the valorisation of valor
Fatalism por favor
Here's a cube of flesh
for the dogs



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

96 Tears

Staking coverage, I'll take the sites without the cites please.

I'll take question mark and the mysterians. Bottomless ductwork. Upside down cake.

I'll take a potato chip and eat it.

I'll take manhattan, gotham city.

I'll stake.







Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ideas Have Consequences - Adam Curtis

Quotations from Adam Curtis's interview with Hans Ulricht Obrist in e-flux.

"How ideas have led us to this position in ways that those who had the ideas didn't really intend."

"[Proust is] part of the problem, which is that obsession with your own experience... What ... happens with Proust is you get the rise of the one voice, the inner voice, which dominates literature today."

"Inner feelings are everything."

"We're living in a conservative age, and it produces cowardly art..."

"...part of the individualism of our age is not just a reflection of the rise of consumer capitalism. I also think it was part of a very conscious political project after the second world war that deliberately tried to push people away from becoming collective." 

"...my working theory is that we live in a managerial age, which doesn’t want to look to the future. It just wants to manage the present. A lot of art has become a way of looking back at the last sixty years of the modernist project, which we feel has failed. It’s almost like a lost world, and we are cataloging it, quoting it, reconfiguring it, filing it away into sliding drawers as though we were bureaucrats with no idea what any of it means. They’ve got nothing to say about it except that they know it didn’t work. It’s not moving onwards—we’re just like academic archaeologists. It’s terribly, terribly conservative and static, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe in a reactionary, conservative age, that’s what art finds itself doing. The problem is that it pretends to be experimental and forward-looking."

"I think the way forward is somehow to make it emotional, to rediscover the idea of transcending yourself and joining together with other people....  I think the mood of the moment has to do with a sense that if you’re going to the woods on your own, it’s scary, and you feel weak. But if you go with your friends, it’s fun. A lot of politics hasn’t understood this."

"...I believe that ideas have consequences. And why I like people like Weber is because they are challenging what I see as that crude left-wing vulgar Marxism that says that everything happens because of economic forces within society.... I’ve never believed that. Of course, economic forces have a great effect on us. But actually, people’s ideas have enormous consequences...." 


"I have this theory that you can take very complicated ideas, which are at the root of our present world, simplify them, make them entertaining and funny, yet still keep the essence of what they’re saying. That’s the fundamental thing I believe in. And I loathe the opposite view that you can’t do this without being complicated and obscure and talking as though to only a small, elite group. So I would read someone like Max Weber and think to myself, well, actually, that’s similar to a funny story I found last week about targets and hospitals. I can put the two together."

"I want everyone to have champagne. I want everyone to enjoy the clever things that people do. What I loathe are those who try and keep them secret, and use them as a way of proving that they’re clever."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Separating Nietzsche’s Tongue From His Cheek

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The problem is perhaps how to embrace the incommensurable, i.e., without keeping accounts.

In Debt – The First 5000 Years, David Graeber describes a baseline communism as a component underlying much human activity (if only we would be more aware of this and openly celebrate it!), at home, with friends, even within the most profit-driven corporations. That is, when I’m at my day job, with my co-workers, I don’t keep accounts of how much B owes me & vice versa – e.g., I loaned him a pencil last week, and I helped him out in a pinch... but B is not going to become my debt peon for this.  There is an element of “from each according to her abilities to each according to her needs” that goes on.  Other metaphors used for this involve carrying ones own weight – not for oneself but for the “team” or (ugh) “for the good of the order.”

In this light, the assertion that “communism knows no debt” shouldn’t astonish us. It’s just outside of the rules of exchange -- refusing to keep accounts, which in an ethnographic context makes sense, that is, as a descriptor of behavior but not necessarily an ideal.

Graeber has an intriguing discussion of Nietzsche’s historical argument in Genealogy of Morals (in Debt starting at ~page 78), in brief that N accepts and runs with Adam Smith’s presumptions about human nature, about humans as calculating machines.  Per Graeber, Nietzsche & Smith anticipate “Levi-Strauss’s famous argument that language is the ‘exchange of words.’”

Graeber “think[s] Nietzsche helps us... to understand the concept of redemption. Niezsche’s account of “primeval times” might be absurd, but his description of Christianity – of how a sense of debt is transformed into an abiding sense of guilt, and guilt to self-loathing, and self-loathing to self-torture – all of this does ring very true.”

Graeber has a very telling footnote where he suggests that Deleuze was naive to accept N’s historical argument, which was really just an “imaginative exercise.”

I think G is being way too nice to Nietzsche here, even if this reading of N does help G’s argument.  And even if G is right, the smokescreen and cynicism of such an exercise – and the fact that it has duped generations of readers – can’t be easily forgiven (or maybe I should say "forgotten," to avoid the redemptive).  In any case, this is one of my favorite passages in Graeber's book. I find myself revisiting it.

“…for Nietzsche, starting from Adam Smith’s assumptions about human nature means we must necessarily end up with something very much along the lines of primordial-debt theory. On the one hand, it is because of our feeling of debt to the ancestors that we obey the ancestral laws: this is why we feel that the community has the right to react “like an angry creditor” and punish us for our transgressions if we break them.…"

"There is also every reason to believe that Nietzsche knew the premise was insane; in fact, that this was the entire point. What Nietzsche is doing here is starting out from the standard, common-sense assumptions about the nature of human beings prevalent in his day (and to a large extent, still prevalent)-that we are rational calculating machines, that commercial self-interest comes before society, that “society” itself is just a way of putting a kind of temporary lid on the resulting conflict. That is, he is starting out from ordinary bourgeois assumptions and driving them to a place where they can only shock a bourgeois audience.

It’s a worthy game and no one has ever played it better; but it’s a game played entirely within the boundaries of bourgeois thought. It has nothing to say to anything that lies beyond that. The best response to anyone who wants to take seriously Nietzsche’s fantasies about savage hunters chopping pieces off each other’s bodies for failure to remit are the words of an actual hunter-gatherer – an Inuit from Greenland made famous in the Danish writer Peter Freuchen’s Book of the Eskimo. Freuchen tells how one day, after coming home hungry from an unsuccessful walrus-hunting expedition, he found one of the successful hunters dropping off several hundred pounds of meat. He thanked him profusely. The man objected indignantly:
“Up in our country we are human! “ said the hunter. “And since we are human we help each other. We don’t like to hear anybody say thanks for that. What I get today you may get tomorrow. Up here we say that by gifts one makes slaves and by whips one makes dogs.”
The last line is something of an anthropological classic, and similar statements about the refusal to calculate credits and debits can be found through the anthropological literature on egalitarian hunting societies. Rather than seeing himself as human because he could make economic calculations, the hunter insisted that being truly human meant refusing to make such calculations, refusing to measure or remember who had given what to whom, for the precise reason that doing so would inevitably create a world where we began “comparing power with power, measuring, calculating” and reducing each other to slaves or dogs through debt.”


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Winky – An Affective Map

-for Spike

“...affect is primary, non-conscious, asubjective or presubjective, unqualified and intensive; while emotion is derivative, conscious, qualified and meaningful, a 'content' that can be attributed to an already constituted subject.” -Brian Massumi


Clobbered by names
What belongs to & resonates space
The very 'real' interior action
the way we accept physical limits
so-called virgin siblings
that precede the actual

We can only fill in the blank
invest in hesitation
aswim in false judgment
condensed feeling
to celebrate what emotion captures

Territory is too religious
characterization
in other words
a mere trace
the self-bullying extreme
record of what ravaged

Trapped in our own belonging
how we own and are owned
how we hate and love
how we cringe at the sharp blade

How doubled
obligation
exceeds its traverse
how immeasurable
intensity cooks


Saturday, July 13, 2013

No Optical Significance


Income payments
To figure deduction
Misplaced cash

You smell the sulphur
In the ear as on the page
They almost rhyme

The great outdoors
The body at each instant
Troubadours

Etymological river runs
Words but no music
All dignity

Sentiments and found philosophy
Questionable credit card activity
Whatever edge they might once have possessed

Sad penguins
Vivid loyalty
Cognitive maps

Down to the last trace
Parents will be sacrificed
Out of sheer boredom

We barked like dogs
Like sweating blankety-blanks but worse
Sanctified by the executive

Monopoly privilege
Glories of a long reign
Because of isotopes

Because of insolvency

Monday, July 8, 2013

Work Man


"Violence in art as a mirror reflecting the bleakest version of humanity..."
   -Amanda Manitach

Every selection, every decision is a little violence.  The artist who cut off his right hand to display it in a self portrait. The end of the hand in contemporary painting. Disclaimer: it was a kind of multiple self portrait. A phantom limb.

Do not think you're like me
Not very much alike
I did it for the money
whispered sotto voce
one has to play the game to win
He closed his eyes
ran his prosthetic hand over his face

It's my book
The whole world is a coincidence
I'm sorry my phone wrote this
The whole world is a coincidence
Maybe that is what freedom is

Suffering accumulates said my phone and that's a fact
The greater the suffering the smaller the coincidence
In the hurricane we find communion
Strange vindictive creature, said Dr. Smith

Dear Will Robinson
Dear Robinson Crusoe

Until a poem begins to exist
Hannah Arendt's existential couplet
symptoms hold me till I slump or peak
till words exceed
that old fool analysis

Broken letter in my hands
like a life raft
face value or smile
to perform enjoyment
misery conceals my exploit

Thank you very much

No longer enough
Humiliation
is an enhancement
a feature not a flaw
feels my need
to feel invested
This I submit
steps twice
my wager dismembered
the river
after history left me

Machetes
my layer mask
the effects of cold cash
Global warmth
Bermuda triangle or
Arctic circle
Will pay for good time

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Disinterested Interests


In the end the principle of my choice really will be my own feeling of painful or not- painful, of pain and pleasure. There is Hume’s famous aphorism which says: If I am given the choice between cutting my little finger and the death of someone else, even if I am forced to cut my little finger, nothing can force me to think that cutting my little finger is preferable to the death of someone else.

So, these are irreducible choices which are non-transferable in relation to the subject. This principle of an irreducible, non-transferable, atomistic individual choice which is unconditionally referred to the subject himself is what is called interest. 

   -M. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, 272.


In fact, what links individuals in civil society is not maximum profit from exchange, it is a series of what could be called “disinterested interests.” What will this be? Well, Ferguson says, what links individuals to each other in civil society is instinct, sentiment, and sympathy, it is the impulses of benevolence individuals feel for each other, but is also the loathing of others, repugnance for the misfortune of individuals, but possibly the pleasure taken in the misfortune of others with whom one will break. This, then, is the first difference between the bonds that bring economic subjects together and those that bring together individuals belonging to civil society: there is a distinct set of non-egoist interests, a distinct interplay of non-egoist, disinterested interests which is much wider than egoism itself.  
   -ibid, 302.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Courtesy Leaps (or the leap of courtesy)


Comrades - I write to ask Stalin to decide
There is no correct answer
What I really want is good imperialism
Kindness - that's the shit

Paris spleen
Fidelity at cost
Please remind me to mind myself
On Monday democracy looks lost

My fortune cookie said charm is severe
Tuesday's undoing
It sails into the blinds
to quell the noxious fumes

-------------
Greek splankhnon (from the same PIE root as spleen) was a word for the principal internal organs, which also were felt in ancient times to be the seat of various emotions. Greek poets, from Aeschylus down, regarded the bowels as the seat of the more violent passions such as anger and love, but by the Hebrews they were seen as the seat of tender affections, especially kindness, benevolence, and compassion. Splankhnon was used in Septuagint to translate a Hebrew word, and from thence early Bibles in English rendered it in its literal sense as bowels, which thus acquired in English a secondary meaning of "pity, compassion" (late 14c.). But in later editions the word often was translated as heart. Bowel movement is attested by 1874.




Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reckless with Details


not for publication
windthrow events
due to condemnation
opportunities to achieve other directives
to harvest
catastrophic events
all trace of passivity
schizophrenics know they exist
our paradise
status as commodity
stock at the stage of fabrication
considerable chunks
intercourse with Barbarians
the odious name of the Manichees
safety & solidity of regal power
admiration of Byzantine riches

in the original
in the modern appellations of Perigord
in a single day
in the waves
in the naked and disorderly crowd of Africans & Moors
in the splendor & rapidity of their victorious career
in the clouds
in the pity for the man
in the purple
in the ferociousness of manners
in the public esteem
in the property of the father
in the foaming waves
in war
in the general desolation

gratitude of the penitents
immense space
in the eyes of the Chinese
great measure
attack of the bridge
oblivion
in the enjoyment of peace
the active memory of the eradication
his job
in the face of the complexity
the Platonic Socrates
on point of lance
just sitting there with a prisoner

in a strange part of the ship
childhood
even private unhappiness
footholds
its more optimistic cast
among all the noise
our recluse
their savior
your last Great Dictator
no intention to form others
the power to exclude
data points
so many customers
in such a foreclosure
entire families
to debt slavery

Friday, June 21, 2013

Castaway



I am swallowed up in space
I cling to the debris of reason
drowned in its murmuring
naked on the shore

Alien artifacts
relics of future rupture
sorry histories of perceptions
of cyclical catastrophe
ransacking the museum for possible weapons
precipitation on an inclined plane
I’ve come to the end of my slope

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Medium of Contingency & Soft Dogma


From the upcoming AU discussion -- with enhancements regarding openness (which, per Negarastani, domesticates -- it's merely a form of soft dogma!?) vs. closure (which turns itself into a good meal). 

  "Why has the concept of contingency taken on a marked importance both in contemporary philosophy and in contemporary art practice? And if this simultaneity derives from parallel problems met with in the two different fields, what are their common roots?

  At its simplest 'contingency' refers to the attempt to think events that take place but need not take place: events that could be, or could have been, otherwise. Why does such an apparently simple concept lead us into a rich new vein of speculative thought?"  (R Mackay)

The Medium of Contingency was published by Urbanomic in 2011 around an art exhibition and discussion that occurred at the Thomas Dane Gallery in London. The exhibition was organized by Miguel Abreu Gallery and Urbanomic.

TMC includes four short talks and a discussion that engages political economics, philosophy and artistic production.  Video here.
 
____

I find Negarestani's notion of closure particularly provocative. Emphasis added below.

Complicity exhibits this necessary shift from the inhibitive role of commonalities to the role of closure as a focused engagement with contingency, its intrusions, twists and suspensions. Whilst openness domesticates the thought of contingency through affordable states of interaction, commonalities and other forms of soft dogma, closure, on the other hand, turns itself into a 'good meal' or a 'genuine prey' for the real expression of contingency and its unrestricted play: the more closed a work, the more radically it is subjected to the interventions of its contingent materials, the wider it is broadened and butchered opened to the outside. Therefore, we can say that closure realises openness in its radical sense: not as openness toward the possibility of contingencies from the outside, but as a 'being opened' by the contingent materials that form the work. This is why complicity is a twisted form of embracing contingency, because it has an inverse mechanism: through closure, complicity seeks to twist the soft dogma of 'openness toward contingent materials' into a 'being-opened by contingent materials'.
...
Complicity reformulates the rigorous closure of the work as a narrative plot where contingent events unfold, where unpredictable twists take shape and where the work becomes the subject of experimentation of its own materials. It is essential for the artist to see the artistic production as a conspiracy of contingent influences; as the work proceeds toward completion and coherency, the plot thickens. In this conspiracy, the plot twist is that so-called 'creative openness' turns out to have been a distraction all along: the closure of the work is the only way to participate with and uncover the conspiracy of contingent materials, by luring the forces of contingency to play their weirdest games, and in doing so, to reveal themselves. To this end, when it comes to the thought of contingency, the artist must recognise herself as the conspiracy theorist of her materials. But we must first realise that the work of contingency is neither horrific nor suspenseful; it is subtly twisted. In thinking the conspiracy of contingent materials, one can think of a continuum where everyday superficiality, horror, reason, comedy, suspense and seamless uneventfulness are all fuzzy gradients of the same contingent universe that might be brought in and out of focus without respect to any necessity whatsoever.

____
Introduction by Robin Mackay. Reza Negarestani: Contingency and Complicity.  Elie Ayache: In the Middle of the Event.  Matthew Poole: Art, Human Capital & The Medium of Contingency.

MORE Selected text from Robin Mackay's introduction:

"...contingency cannot be thought through neo-romantic concepts of openness, chance, and process: it demands instead a special sort of discipline. As Reza Negarestani argues ...this practice must dissolve certain cliches that have crystallised around the artistic engagement with contingency.  We always risk relapsing onto models that fail before contingency: models that return us to the metaphysics of chance and calculation; or which re-affirm the privilege of meaning-making over material contingencies. Negarestani... asks what sort of rigorous conceptual preparation is necessary in order to make one's work - or oneself - a 'good meal' for these anonymous [contingent] materials.

"Ayache argues that we must rethink our image of the market by understanding that, in practice, traders do not calculate price on the basis of probabilistic tools, but directly and effectively wnte price as the contingent reality of the market, now. The market is therefore not a set of probabilities, but the very medium of contingency.  ... Its events are effective without prevision or reason."

Ayache compares the act of writing options contracts with literary creation, as a material inscription of difference directly in the real, creating a future that is in principle unforeseeable.

These [artistic] works [can be] written in the hope and knowledge that the interaction of their anticipations will create in the now the reality of an exchange of art and thought. They can thus be considered, in Ayache's words, 'technologies of the future [ ... ] but only insofar as we wish that the difference they will make in the future may make a difference today'.

... Ayache's characterization of the market as the site of radical contingency will also be read alongside another claim: that contemporary art's coming to terms with its own implication in various forms of exchange can be read as a synecdoche for fundamental sociopolitical changes wrought by neo-liberal capitalism.  It is within this process of adjustment that Matthew Poole's work locates the figure of the curator.

Liberal economics enabled us, as an article of faith, to distinguish between our inalienable, sovereign self, and our 'labour capital', that part of ourselves exposed to the contingencies of the market, to trading and speculation. In neo-liberal capital, the distinction is being eroded, as the changing nature of work sees the performance of the self entirely integrated into Capitalist production - the notion of 'human capital', the monetization of social networks, the obligation to 'curate' and present the self, and the 'experience economy'. Submitted to exchange value, human 'assets' have now become subject to speculation and trading, so that the once sovereign values of self, experience and memory become subject to the contingencies of the market."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dale Yarger's Differend


    -from an old notebook of Dale's, probably early 70s



I don’t believe in Buddha
I don’t believe in Jesus
I don’t believe in freedom
I don’t believe in lies
I believe in electricity
I believe in fear
I believe in death
I believe in falsehood
I believe in ambiguity
I believe in chance
I don’t believe in nature
I don’t believe in cities
I don’t believe in love
I believe in dancing
I don’t believe in work
I believe in games
I don’t believe in myself
I don’t believe in fiction
I don’t believe in life
I don’t believe in truth
I don’t believe in poetry
I don’t believe in art
I don’t believe in sin
I don’t believe in purity
I don’t believe in sport
I don’t believe in action
I don’t believe in fun
I don’t believe in success
I don’t believe in fame
I believe in a greater intelligence than myself
I don’t believe in sympathy
I don’t believe in health
I don’t like food but
I like Coca-Cola
I don’t like drugs but
I like to smoke
I don’t believe in tobacco
I don’t believe in ethics
I don’t believe in justice
I don’t believe in god
I don’t believe in the violent
I don’t believe in worship
I don’t believe in beauty
I don’t’ believe in fate
I don’t believe in science
I don’t believe in logic
I don’t put much faith in illogic
I don’t take to dogma
I don’t deny reactionaries
I don’t like to think
I don’t like to solve problems
I have never made anything worthwhile
I have never denied my hope
I have never tried to commit suicide
I have never made myself laugh
I always end up close to where I began
I get confused often
I feel like homemade shit
I can’t always laugh
I can’t always desecrate
I can’t always escape
I can’t always win
I can’t always lose
I can’t always see straight
I can’t always concentrate
I can count on sleep
I can count on dreams
I can count on disease
I like being sick.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Blind Carbon

“The burning space between one letter and the next...” -Jabes
 
Opposing thumbs
not the facts
a feeling of if
a feeling of why
an interstice whose art is to work
as relations are
to the wrong facts

I mean formal dynamics
against speech
Man O War who sired 379 foils
heart attack at 30
This is where I
white out of
betweens (love
the crispy crackers)
I never vomit but
swallow chalk
to eject the defined
negative
lyric extreme

Flesh in dreams
inadequate to convict
said snoozefest
subject and object
medicated with
bifurcating hooks
Let us ghost that hammock
and spread acres of fat
a valley's loins
officer, did you take my hat?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ecopoetics - Alt Tracks - Toward Stengers

Track 2 – An alternate world

I want to talk about Isabelle Stengers' notion of an ecology of practices as a tool for thinking and what the implications of this might be for what poetry and poetics can become, that is, for those who write and read and listen to it.

An ecology of practices, as a tool for thinking, is performative. It attempts to address itself to practitioners of a field. “To dream along with” – “in a mode that is not critical, which [does] not remind [practitioners]… of limits inherent to their activity.”

An ecology of practices addresses how practices relate to each other (though clearly they can only partially relate). There are no practices that can be independent of environment.

Practitioners want their work to cohere. Coherence is not necessarily logical, but rather it is eco-logical. Something coheres in relation to its environment.

What poem or book of poems isn’t an attempt to cohere -- to foster its own force.

“An ecology of practices does not have any ambition to describe practices 'as they are’…. It aims at the construction of new… possibilities for them to be present or, in other words, to connect. It thus does not approach practices as they are… but as they may become.”

Stengers argues that: “… practices must not be defended as if they are weak. The problem for each practice is how to foster its own force, to make present what causes practitioners to think and feel and act.”

According to Stengers, “...tools for thinking are… the ones that address and actualize [the] power of the situation, that make it a matter of concern, in other words, make us think and not recognize.  …recognition would lead to the question-- why should we take practices seriously [e.g., poetics/poetry] as we know very well that they are in the process of being destroyed by Capitalism?  …The ecology of practices is a non-neutral tool as it entails the decisions never to accept Capitalist destruction as freeing the ground for anything but Capitalism itself.”

The challenge is to think: "par le milieu" (with the milieu) which implies becoming through the middle (without grounding definitions or an ideal horizon—in other words, unmapped) and with the surroundings. No theory gives you the power to disentangle something from its particular surroundings.

The ecology of practices as a tool for thinking must be immanent – so to the extent that it’s a critique, it’s an immanent critique. It wants to contrast rather than oppose. In fact it wants to find the stubborn facts and (ala Whitehead) to convert oppositions into contrasts.

An ecology of practices wants to affirm the positive value of attachment – which is what obligates practitioners. So it asks how it is that one belongs, and how that belonging obligates you.  Attachments are what you have and hold, &/or what has you or holds you. I think of belonging as what owns you, or what holds or infects you – at the same time that you own, or hold or infect it.

All attachments that build obligations are in some sense affiliations or involvements with other entities (not just human ones).

Obligation may be created from a practitioner’s attachment to a particular definition or concept of what poetry &/or poetics can be or become.  This is a polite way of saying that we have attachments to ‘esthetic’ style, the manner of how something is done, and/or ideology.  

Stengers says: Attachments are what cause us to think.  It’s probably not just pencil and paper, or keyboard and screen that makes us think, but also how I’m infected – with matters of concern.

 “Attachments matter and the way that they matter becomes apparent when you do not take them into account…  As Latour beautifully showed in Pandora’s Hope, attachment and autonomy rather go together. Attachments are what cause people… to feel and think, to be able or to become able.  The problem… may be that some of us… confuse attachments with universal obligations… and feel free... to judge, deconstruct or disqualify what appears to them as illusions or folkloric beliefs and claims.” (EOP, 191)

A first step in an ecology of poetic practice might be to situate the relevance and limits of poetic practice without engaging in destructive critique. In other words, where are the “borders” with other practices and what questions matter – what questions make us think rather than re-cognize?

Stengers is focused on the constructive, on becoming or how things change, rather than the destructive or the deconstructive.

“You never construct in general, [but] always in relation with … a matter of concern.”  She doesn't want to construct a general theory, she wants to make proposals to provoke thought but always within a field of practice. That is the immanent part of the critique to remain "within the very field of practices that it is seeking to change.” Thus, she won’t accept claims that separate themselves from the actual practice, the actual becoming.

Constructivism is non-foundationist. That is, truth is a construction – so there is no primacy of truth. She’s against either-or propositions. It’s not the chicken or the egg, that’s a false choice; it is not a choice between objects being prior to relations or vice versa.  As Shaviro suggests: “What’s really real can be actual entities and actual occasions—not just the former.” (Shaviro, The Actual Volcano, 284).

Stengers argues for the minor stage (or minor literature) and against the major – because the “major” always appeals to Truth (with a capital ‘T’ – which by history’s lights must lead directly to freedom, as in: “the truth will set you free”). The minor resists this traditional form of “enlightenment” – i.e., this appeal to truth.

Working from examples in the sciences, Stengers is against universalization (i.e., against any world view or model) that would deny the validity of other theories and practices outside its own practice/discipline. Universalization usually denies the validity of all other theories.

She sees innovative scientific propositions as (in part) making fiction – & if the fiction is accepted, it modifies the scientific reality – in a sense it makes history.  David Graeber says somewhere – consistent with Latour probably – that if you convince enough people that you are king of France, you are king of France.

Track 4 – Must Be Some Way Outta Here

Stengers is very much with Latour & Whitehead & the Speculative Realists against the bifurcation of the world into two realms: the human (or culture) versus nature. One way to think about this is as a denial of the distinction between how we conventionally think about subject and object. They are, in fact, hopelessly intertwined.

Regarding OOO’s emphasis on “object”, one could argue for a similarly flat subject-oriented ontology based on Whitehead’s notion that all objects are also subjects, they have a mental pole, even if it’s relatively dormant.  Here’s Shaviro again: “If ontological equality means anything, it means that all entities in the universe, without exception, are sentient or experiential. In other words, where OOO claims that everything is an object, Whitehead rather claims that everything is a subject: “apart from the experiences of subjects there is nothing, nothing, nothing, bare nothingness” (PR 167). (PT, #1086)

The notion of Ecology of Practices is in synch with Tim Morton’s definition of ecopoetics as co-existence.  In fact, Stengers’ Introductory notes on an Ecology of Practices were written in response to Brian Massumi’s proposition that “a political ecology would be a social technology of belonging, assuming coexistence and co-becoming as the habitat of practices.” [Note that I don’t believe that the term ‘social technology of belonging’ is trying to conjure some argument for Facebook.  It can perhaps be understood as an application of belonging for practical use.]

In a political context, for example, Stengers argues for co-existence with the black bloc.  Their “so-called violence is nothing compared to that of the cops.”  She says that what matters “is not to demand a unifying principle which would be stronger than the divergence, but to learn how to work together not in spite of but through the divergence.” (CP interview)

Divergent poetics can be explained by singular modes of decision. Per Shaviro: “What keeps entities distinct from one another, despite their continual interpenetration, is precisely their disparate manners, or their singular modes of decision and selection. Novelty arises, not from some pre-existing reserve, but from an act of positive decision.” (Shaviro TAV, 287)

Morton argues that: “intimacy is what we need in ecological awareness, not feeling like we're part of something bigger...”  If ecopoetics is intimate co-existence with other entities, then I assume Morton would say that such intimacy forms a new entity, or else there would have to be a feeling of being part of something bigger.

Morton emphasizes the poem as an object, an autonomous entity that forces us to coexist with it, if & when we read it.  He studiously avoids talk of the present, which he explains away via the interactions of objects.

“...To write poetry is to force the reader [emphasis added] to coexist with fragile phrases, fragile ink, fragile paper: to experience the many physical levels of a poem's architecture... sheer co-existence... This coexistence happens not in some eternal now, or in a now-point, however expansive or constrained. The 'nowness' of a poem, its spaciousness, is the disquieting asymmetry between appearance and essence, past and future.” (Morton, ODOP, 222)

For Morton, it comes down to the rift within objects, their inconsistency with themselves.  This is the only way something new appears.  He wants to define away any “nowness” through the friction between essence and appearance.  For Morton, the presence of a habitat is like a presumed nature that implies a metaphysically "present" boundary, a bifurcation which he wants to reject. “OOO is precisely against metaphysics of presence.  Boundaries called ‘present’ or ‘nature’ are always totally arbitrary and metaphysical.”  (EWN, 4-23-12)

For Stengers, I don’t think co-existence is an event that happens at a “now-point.”  It is an assumption (see Massumi’s proposition above) of what is needed (along with co-becoming) for there to be a habitat of practices.

Co-existence is about sharing an interstice with others.  For Stengers, there is no habitat without co-existence and vice versa. It isn’t clear to me that her notion of a habitat is static or metaphysically bounded.

For Morton, the past is appearance, the future is essence.  We live in the era of sticky hyperobjects (objects massively distributed in time and space, e.g., global warming).  Like Levinas’s ethical turn, there’s no going back once we look into the face of The Hyperobject.

I’m leery of Morton’s attachment to essence, and to his insistence that there is no ecology of the present, no poetics of the present, which perhaps jibes with Buddhist emptiness or nothingness.  Somewhere Stengers says that “what the poets call presence is infection.”  I think there are actual occasions, not just actual entities; there are occasions or events that happen in “our” presence, that infect actual entities of all kinds.

Track 5 – The Bridge

What does a less anthropocentric poetics look like? Is it a poetry of affinities, a celebration of the democracy of all objects, along the lines of: “Sorry, Tree.”  What would a poetry look like that would not privilege (the human realm nor) its own language?

If poetics (as Donato Mancini suggests) is criticism at the site of writing, then I want it to be immanent critique, a critique that makes us think rather than recognize, that induces us to become other than who we are.

For poets and artists, the compulsion (or goal) might be: how to produce objects or poems that cohere in their own ways – that have lives of their own.  But this isn’t what activates thinking.

Looking at disputes within contemporary poetics – formal innovation typically trumps expression (though in book sales that’s probably the obverse).

For me, the notion of a poet’s obligation implies a real tension between ethics and aesthetics. Esthetic conscience and ideology seem more relevant to ethics since they stress how complicit we necessarily are, trapped in the circuits of Capital. I want to celebrate aesthetic contact with the outside, without losing sight of how easy it is to turn theory into a conquest.  I want to be able to read and write like a loser, not just for victory.

If one takes aesthetics as “a primordial form of relation and interaction,” in effect a first philosophy, then the obligation may be to struggle – to relate and interact, that is, to connect. And not just to words – but to all objects/entities that one meets in the world.

The quandary is how to convert oppositions into contrasts, how to find, as Shaviro suggests, “an aesthetic place for ethics; an immanent place for transcendence.”