The following pages contain an ongoing series of notes relatively recently uncovered. We believe them to be research musings and quotations of some kind, likely of a Plenaen Archivist.
I’ve transcribed them, but only given minimal thought to formatting. I’ve bolded or circled some of the more tantalizing bits.
In all honesty, it’s quite dense - so I’m not sure I would recommend reading all of it. That being said, there is a wealth of excellent information here that will help further contextualize the documents you have just made your way through.
I’ve tracked down most of the source material the notes seem to be drawing from as well. We only have some of it in our collections at UNX, but if you prefer to go straight to the source I encourage you to look for some of those volumes yourself. Every one that I have picked up has been worthwhile.
Two core principles are Latour’s New Climatic Regime and Zizek’s Zero Hour.
Wittgenstein Plays Chess with Marcel Duchamp – Amit Dutta
“one does not realize something because it is always before ones eyes”
Our memory serves to allow us a comparison of an object to the personal past of such an item. Truth is easy to understand if you do away with preconceptions about where it is supposed to lie.
“Architecture, as philosophy, is actually more of a kind of work on oneself. On one’s own conception. On the way one sees things, and what one demands of them.”
Was really about perceptions of reality, ways of seeing the world, and truth.
Folding Beijing – Hao Jingfang
Nice character introduction at the beginning, introducing motivations and traits. Music is power… once again. First hooks you into the story, then doubles back and gives the setup.
“I’ll just stick to unemployment. I’m sure you understand the concept,” Lao Ge continued. “As the cost of labor goes up and the cost of machinery goes down, at some point, it’ll be cheaper to use machines than people. With the increase in productivity, the GDP goes up, but so does unemployment. What do you do? Enact policies to protect the workers? Better welfare? The more you try to protect workers, the more you increase the cost of labor and make it less attractive for employers to hire people. If you go outside the city now to the industrial districts, there’s almost no one working in those factories. It’s the same thing with farming. Large commercial farms contain thousands and thousands of acres of land, and everything is automated so there’s no need for people. This kind of automation is absolutely necessary if you want to grow your economy—that was how we caught up to Europe and America, remember? Scaling! The problem is: Now you’ve gotten the people off the land and out of the factories, what are you going to do with them? In Europe, they went with the path of forcefully reducing everyone’s working hours and thus increasing employment opportunities. But this saps the vitality of the economy, you understand?
“The best way is to reduce the time a certain portion of the population spends living, and then find ways to keep them busy. Do you get it? Right, shove them into the night. There’s another advantage to this approach: The effects of inflation almost can’t be felt at the bottom of the social pyramid. Those who can get loans and afford the interest spend all the money you print. The GDP goes up, but the cost of basic necessities does not. And most of the people won’t even be aware of it.”
He felt that he had approached some aspect of truth, and perhaps that was why he could catch a glimpse of the outline of fate. But the outline was too distant, too cold, too out of reach. He didn’t know what was the point of knowing the truth. If he could see some things clearly but was still powerless to change them, what good did that do? In his case, he couldn’t even see clearly. Fate was like a cloud that momentarily took on some recognizable shape, and by the time he tried to get a closer look, the shape was gone. He knew that he was nothing more than a figure. He was but an ordinary person, one out of 51,280,000 others just like him. And if they didn’t need that much precision and spoke of only 50 million, he was but a rounding error, the same as if he had never existed.
Down To Earth – Bruno Latour
The main proposition is that a large segment of the ruling class (read: elites) have decided that it was pointless to act as though history were going to continue to move toward a common horizon. For reasons of increasing inequalities, deregulation, climate change etc – we are no longer moving towards a world in which all humans could prosper equally. This class has stopped purporting to lead us, and instead is sheltering themselves, repudiating the concept of a common world we can share. To resist this loss Latour calls us to LAND somewhere and ORIENT ourselves towards the ways in which both the affects and the stakes of public life shall be redefined – to come down to earth if you will.
Great Operating Statement: “As the author lacks any authority in political science, he can only offer his readers the opportunity do disprove this hypothesis and look for better ones”
The withdrawal from the paris climate accords proved that the climate question is at the heart of all geopolitical issues today, and that it is tied to questions of injustice and inequality directly.
COP21 showed that there is not enough of earth to sustain the modernization and globalization plans of all member countries. Begging the question, do we recalibrate or look for an escape route?
The typically definition of migrant or refugee as one from the outside is growing ever closer to those on the inside who are equally left behind by their countries and governments. We are facing an ordeal common to all of finding oneself deprived of land (earth).
To reassure migrants and come together we must carry out two complementary movements that the ordeal of modernization has made contradictory: attaching oneself to a particular patch of soil /and/ having access to the global world on the other. It is said one has to choose between the two, but current history may bring this apparent contradiction to an end.
Look into Donna Haraway’s Worlding - Kathleen Stewart (2012) provides a definition of worlding referring to the "affective nature" of the world in which "non-human agency" comprising of "forms, rhythms and refrains" (for example)reach a point of "expressivity" for an individual and develop a sense of "legibility". Through this process a particular 'world' emerges for the individual through their engagement with a number of interrelated phenomena. Anderson and Harrison expand on worlding further: "...the term 'world' does not refer to an extant thing but rather the context or background against which particular things show up and take on significance: a mobile but more or less stable ensemble of practices, involvements, relations, capacities, tendencies and affordances." (https://newmaterialism.eu/almanac/w/worlding.html)
Read more about Haraway’s Terrapolis - It is clear when Haraway is sketching out her version of worlding that she is keen to separate her use of the term from that of Heidegger's: "Finished once and for all with Kantian globalizing cosmopolitics and grumpy human-exceptionalist Heideggerian worlding, Terrapolis is a mongrel word composted with a mycorrhiza of Greek and Latin rootlets and their symbionts" (Haraway, 2016, p. 11). Worlding for Haraway manifests itself in the SF sense: "a risky game of worlding and storying; it is staying with the trouble." (Haraway, 2016, p. 13). (https://newmaterialism.eu/almanac/w/worlding.html)
The shift from a local to a global viewpoint ought to mean multiplying viewpoints, registering a greater number of varieties, taking into account a larger number of beings, cultures, phenomena, organisms, and people. Yet what has happened is the opposite – the ubiquitization of entirely provincial viewpoints, products, cultures, etc – and the unrelenting application of these across the world.
The large issue is that those who oppose modernization or globalization are instantly labeled archaic or obscurantist, deemed by the elites to have illegitimate positions.
“In the end, what counts is not knowing whether you are for or against globalization, for or against the local; all that counts is understanding whether you are managing to register, to maintain, to cherish a maximum number of alternative ways of belonging to the world.” – I feel that in a way, if one subscribes to this, the hegemonic natures of globalization as singular applicable viewpoint oriented in contrast to the provincials (populists?) will fall by default.
This text follows a convention according to which the lower-case term “earth” corresponds to the traditional framework of human activity (human beings in nature), while the upper-case “Earth” indicates a power to act in which we begin to recognize, even if it has not been fully instituted, something like a political entity.
The “Othering” of populations is perhaps the most dangerous affect of the elites ignorance of the New Climatic Regime. The elites have taken seriously that their dominance was threatened and have decided to dismantle the ideology of a planet shared by all.
“The elites have been so thoroughly convinced that there would be no future life for everyone that they have decided to get rid of all the burdens of solidarity as fast as possible – hence deregulation; they have decided that a sort of gilded fortress would have to be built for those who would be able to make it through – hence the explosion of inequalities; and they have decided that, to conceal the crass selfishness of such a flight out of the shared world, they would have to reject absolutely the threat at the origin of this headlong flight – hence the denial of climate change.”
“This hypothesis would make it possible to explain how globalization-plus has become globalization-minus. Whereas until the 1990s one could (provided that one profited from it) associate the horizon of modernization with the notions of progress, emancipation, wealth, comfort, even luxury, and above all rationality, the rage to deregulate, the explosion of inequalities, the abandonment of solidarities have gradually associated that horizon with the notion of an arbitrary decision out of nowhere in favor of the sole profit of the few. The best of worlds has become the worst.”
^ all this action on the part of the ‘elites’ is not entirely conscious, but at some level at least whether the intentions were there or not have little bearing on the effects of the actions. Subconsciously it is undeniable that the awareness was there, and it is (sadly) understandably natural/predictable to act within ones self-interest.
As a defense of the populists (trump base), these people have been coldly betrayed by those who have given up the idea of actually pursuing the modernization of the planet with everyone because they knew such a task was impossible. Before accusing these people of no longer believing in anything, one must understand the effect that such a betrayal has on one’s ability to trust. It has largely been abandoned by the wayside.
Knowledge and truth do not exist in a vacuum. Facts remain robust only when they are supported by a common culture, by institutions that can be trusted, by a more or less decent public life. By extension then, we can assume the possibility of a reorganization of our core truths based upon societal shift. It would be possible to wipe away our notions of territorialism and find a new truth not under capitalism or simply more harmoniously with other terrestrials.
Read about Post-Truth Politics
The local-minus is no longer the same Local. It is a retrospective invention consisting of the leftovers of modernization, but nevertheless it attracts as powerfully as globalization (plus or minus). Because of this gap and stalemate the modernization front no longer exists. The shared horizon is gone, and with it the organizing arrow of history that it supported for so long.
“It is as if the expression modern world had become an oxymoron. Either it is modern, but has no world under its feet, or else it is a true world, but will not be modernizable. We have reached the end of a certain historical arc.”
It is at this juncture we find ourselves today. We are too disoriented to array the positions along the axis that went from the old to the new, from the local to the global, and we are incapable of naming what the third attractor is or describing it in such a way that allows us to reorganize our society in pursuit of it. (it is something in the realm of climate – posit: terrestrialism)
“Trumpian politics is not “post-truth,” it is post-politics – that is, literally, a politics with no object, since it rejects the world that it claims to inhabit. The choice is mad, but it is comprehensible. The united states saw the obstacle and simply refused to proceed, like a horse refusing to jump – at least for the time being.”
“The terrifying impression that politics has been emptied of its substance, that it is not engaged with anything at all, that it no longer has any meaning or direction, that it has become literally powerless as well as senseless, has no cause other than this gradual revelation: neither the global nor the local has any lasting material existence.”
Terrestrial as a political actor is representative of the way in which the earth is now participating in history. It is no longer an object to be possessed, it is fighting back and concerning itself with our operations.
This concept of the Terrestrial has been crossed consistently by the green parties already, seeking to orient public life towards this third axis. An in some sense they have succeeded, it is impossible to think of any material object that has not taken on an ecological dimension – even if it is willingly ignored. Ruefully they are often put in opposition to modernization, and therefore have their political wings clipped from the outset. But at the same time they propose things too novel for the right, and so are left in a weird middle ground that can’t be supported by either half.
Look into Anthony Giddens: Beyond Left and Right, the future of radical politics
“By what miracle could this operation of reorientation take place in a world where all the efforts to “escape from the left/right opposition” or “go beyond the division” or “look for a third way” have failed? For a simple reason that is bound up with the very notion of orientation. Despite the appearances, what counts in politics are not attitudes, but the form and weight of the world to which these attitudes have the function of reacting. Politics has always been oriented toward objects, stakes, situations, material entities, bodies, landscapes, places. What are called the values to be defended are always responses to the challenges of a territory that it must be possible to describe. This is in effect the decisive discovery of political ecology: it is an object-oriented politics. Change the territories and you will also change the attitudes. “
The modern/terrestrial vector is proposed as a credible and desirable alternative to the left/right dichotomy that remains so acute.
So then how do we get there? How do those who feel abandoned by the historical betrayal of upper/ruling classes and are clamoring for the security of a protected and familiar space begin to shift away from that sense of belonging? This impulse is only labeled as reactionary in contrast in the headlong flight towards modernization – if we stop fleeing then the desire for attachment must be redefined. Whereas in the local sense it means closing oneself off, in the terrestrial sense it must mean being situated but opening oneself up.
Consequently the other half must be convinced how little globalization-minus relates to access to the Globe and the world. Despite being bound to the earth and to land, the Terrestrial is also a way of worlding, in that it aligns with no borders and transcends all identities.
In this sense it solves the issue of place, the earth that globalization would require simply does not exist, yet the local perspective is much too restrictive. “There is no Earth corresponding to the infinite horizon of the Global, but at the same time the Local is much too narrow, too shrunken, to accommodate the multiplicity of beings belonging to the terrestrial world.” This is why the orientation of Local and Global along a single trajectory has been wrong from the beginning.
The crucial choice had to do with two directions of politics: “One that defines social questions in a restrictive manner, and another that defines the stakes of survival without introducing a priori differences between humans and non-humans. The choice to be made is between a narrow definition of the social ties making up a society, and a wider definition of associations that make up what have been called collectives.”
Critical to understand that global/local does not correspond with left/right. And the question of positivity or negativity is largely (neutral, irrelevant, incalculable?) on the larger scales in pursuit of modernization. But what world exactly, this progress would end up resulting in, was never explicitly understood – and the horizon of progress became a vague utopia as Earth failed to give it substance.
There is a difference between social/economically defined classes and territorially defined classes. Those defined by territories have much more agency to advocate for their own sake. With an increasingly online economy and workforce these powers of the proletariat to organize are being crippled. Latour argues that class struggles depend on a geo-logic. A revitalization of Marxists materialist analysis by obliging us to reopen the social question while intensifying it through new geopolitics.
“We need to be able to count on the full power of the sciences, but without the ideology of “nature” that has been attached to that power. We have to be materialist and rational, but we have to shift these qualities onto the right grounds.”
“The Globe grasps all things form far away, as if they were external to the social world and completely indifferent to human concerns. The Terrestrial grasps the same structures from up close, as internal to the collectivities and sensitive to human actions, to which they react swiftly” The fallacy of the Globe is represented in the Galilean conception of the universe, in that one can from the vantage point of earth perceive the planet as a falling body amongst other falling bodies translates to the necessity of having the vantage point of the universe to perceive what is happening on the planet. “The fact that one can gain access to remote sites from the earth becomes the duty to gain access to the earth from remote sites. Such a conclusion is in no way obligatory.” But it is how ‘rational’ ‘sciences’ have come to be defined. The inevitable consequence: we have begun to see less and less of what is happening on Earth.
“It is this brutal division that was to give consistency, as it were, to the illusion of the Global as the horizon of modernity. From this point on it was necessary, even if one stayed in place, to shift one’s position virtually, bag and baggage, away from subjective and sensitive positions toward exclusively objective positions, finally freed of all sensitivity – or rather of sentimentality.” It is from this vantage point that one can say earth has always varied and that it will outlast humans, making it possible to take the New Climatic Regime as an unimportant oscillation. The Terrestrial does not allow this kind of detachment.”
It is easily to fall into an understanding of nature as passive, writing off earth’s agency as a subjective illusions written onto an indifferent entity. But, how much of this is also manufactured by our worldview? Since the 17th century nature has existed in the collective consciousness largely as a factor in production, a resource, a statistical risk – it was impossible to figure the natural entities as agents or actors. Nature-as-universe had so fully obscured nature-as-process that those who were acting upon these resources were left devoid of words or concepts to describe the inevitable reactions.
As a simple example of the relational shift: “If the composition of the air we breathe depends on living beings, the atmosphere is no longer simply the environment in which living beings are located and in which they evolve; it is, in part, a result of their actions. In other words, there are not organisms on one side and an environment on the other, but a coproduction by both. Agencies are redistributed.”
Latour’s ideas come into an interesting relationship with Cixin Liu’s Dark Forest Theory the foundations of which are thus:
- All life desires to stay alive.
- There is no way to know if other lifeforms can or will destroy you if given a chance.
- Lacking assurances, the safest option for any species is to annihilate other life forms before they have a chance to do the same.
The options for survival then, are to remain secretive or acquire technology to the level such that one could immediately destroy any threat revealed to them. While the Terrestrial is clearly not in strict adherence to the ‘turtling’ strategy as described in the novels, the preoccupation of the Terrestrial with the ‘Critical Zone’ does preclude the latter option. “[The Critical Zone] is the point of departure and also the point of return for all the sciences that matter to us.”
Latour posits we must switch from a system of production to a system of engendering. The system of engendering brings into confrontation agents, actors, animate beings that all have distinct capacities for reacting. It does not proceed from the same conception of materiality as the system of production, it does not have the same epistemology, and it does not lead to the same form of politics. It is not interested in producing goods on the basis of resources, but in engendering terrestrials – all terrestrials. It is based on the idea of cultivating attachments, operations that are more difficult because animate beings are not limited by frontiers and are constantly overlapping, embedding themselves within one another.
Shift from identity of an object to an object as a system of connections. Prehensile things latch on to others and want to be understood. The focus is on establishing relationships rather than the production of goods, the object created is less important than the set of relationships.
The withdrawal of the u.s. from the climate accords was tantamount to an invasion or occupation of all other signatory countries – if not with troops, then with co2 which we retained all rights to produce. It is a new expression of a right to dominate in the name of a modernized lebensraum.
The issue with anthropocentrism is the assumption that there is a center, either man or nature, between which we supposedly have to choose. The statement “we are earthbound, we are terrestrials amid terrestrials” does not lead to the same politics as saying “we are humans in nature” or even “we are all animals anyway”.
Partially it avoids the trap of thinking harmony with nature is possible. This is not the aim, rather than seeking agreement between all actors, we are learning of our dependencies as well as theirs on ours.
With the shift from production to engendering comes more allies in our fight. While humans may be alone in system and Earth focused on production, we are not alone in an Earth centered around living. The other Terrestrials may then be considered potential allies in our struggles against injustice.
“Fighting to join one or another utopia, the Global or the Local, does not have the same clarifying effects as fighting to land on Earth!”
“It makes no sense to force the beings animating the struggling territories that constitute the Terrestrial back inside national, regional, ethnic, or identitary boundaries; nor does it make sense to try to withdraw from these territorial struggles so as to “move to the global level” and grasp the Earth “as a whole.” The subversion of scales and of temporal and spatial frontiers defines the Terrestrial. This power acts everywhere at once, but it is not unifying. It is political, yes; but it is not statist. It is, literally, atmospheric.”
Generate Alternative Descriptions – First Step We must first take inventory, have a period of surveying, before any true recalibration can be made.
Like a Thief in Broad Daylight – Slavoj Zizek
The State of Things --
“… The function of philosophy is to corrupt the youth, to alienate them from the predominant ideologico-political order, to sow radical doubts and enable them to think autonomously. The young undergo the educational process in order to be integrated into the hegemonic social order, which is why their education plays a pivotal role in the reproduction of the ruling ideology.”
“Techno scientific progress is perceived as a temptation that can lead us into ‘going too far’ - entering the forbidden territory of biogenetic manipulations and so on, and thus endangering the very core of our humanity.”
“We live in an extraordinary era in which there is no tradition on which we can base our identity, no frame of meaningful universe which might enable us to lead a life beyond hedonist reproduction. Today’s nihilism – the reign of cynical opportunism accompanied by permanent anxiety – legitimizes itself as the liberation from the old constraints.” The freedom our society has to do whatever we please engenders itself as an obligation to constantly change. I’m not sure I totally agree, but if you couple this nihilistic freedom with the nihilism faced by the despondent nihilism of societal collapse… well maybe.
An example perhaps of the Terrestrial paradigm; local authorities often prove to be more sensitive to global issues than higher state authorities. RE: local mayors honoring commitments of climate action despite Trump’s cancellation of the same regulations.
“Capitalism is openly disintegrating and changing into something else. We do not perceive this ongoing transformation because of our deep immersion in ideology.”
Three events marking the three stages of the communist movement, separated by 50 years each: Marx’s Capital outlined the theoretical foundations of the Communist revolution, the October Revolution was the first successful attempt to overthrow a bourgeois state and build a new social and economic order, while the Shanghai Commune stands for the most radical attempt to realize the most daring aspect of the Communist vision, the abolition of state power and the imposition of direct people’s power, organized as a network of local communes
The new communists are, as in Guattari’s Communists Like Us, precisely “like us” – that is, ordinary academic cultural leftists. Ideologically pure but actively weak. The target audience is wrong.
“To really change things, one should accept that nothing can really be changed within the existing system…. When only constant self-revolutionizing can maintain the system (consumerism etc), those who refuse to change anything are effectively the agents of true change: a change to the very principle of change.”
The Big Other (the symbolic substance, the domain of unwritten customs and wisdoms best expressed in the stupidity of proverbs). – I feel like this is getting at something shared but I’m not quite sure how to put it into words. I think it’s kind of like a Marxist version of the recalibration Latour is calling for: “Leaders like Lenin and Mao succeeded (for some time, at least) because they invented new proverbs, which means that they imposed new customs that regulated daily lives.”
The paradox of our predicament is that the two tendencies of against global capitalism – resistance and self-disintegration – seem to move at different levels and do not meet. Plus ideologically the movement is being undercut by the most ‘progressive’ mega capitalists like Musk and Zuckerberg are the ones who are spearheading the conversation of post-capitalism, as if it is being appropriated by capitalism itself. Gates at least realizes that if we are to survive we must institute regulatory forces that do not belong to the market, because the market by nature is too selfish to fight for the planet.
… yeah guys… capitalism is defined by capitalist relations of production, not by the type of state power… That being said, it still does matter who controls the state power.
“Classical Marxism and the ideology of neo-liberalism both tend to reduce the state to a secondary mechanism that obeys the needs of the reproduction of capital; they both thereby underestimate the active role played by state apparatuses in economic processes.”
The precariat is our new form of proletariat. The problem with refugees is that in a sense they are both below and above the proletariat. They are striving with all their being to become the proletariat, but in that way are also embodying an ambition and will to achieve that is often missing from the true proletariat – strangers who had been left behind by their own country.
Connection to the worlding in Folding Beijing: “Today’s explosion of economic productivity confronts us with the ultimate case of this [80/20] rule: the coming global economy trends towards a state in which only 20% of the workforce can do all the necessary jobs, so that 80% of the people are basically irrelevant and of no use.” Is not such a system itself irrelevant?
The welfare state has collapsed to such an extent that we call these human rights “benefits”. Unbelievable. We have to look at the ‘benefits package’ at our workplace to see what the company is gracious enough to give their workforce in terms of basic health and survival. Our generation sees these as privileges instead of the half of the social contract that the government is meant to uphold.
“Parties like Die Linke represent the interests of their working-class constituency… this automatically puts them within the confines of the existing system, and their goal is therefore not authentic emancipation.”
The debt/credit form of fictitious capital is also directly intertwined with the education topic in a productive-technocratic sense of getting ready for the competitive job market. A student goes into debt to pay for their education, and this debt is repaid through self-commodification.
“Bourgeois society generally obliterates castes and other hierarchies, equalizing all individuals as market subjects divided only by class difference; but today’s late capitalism, with its spontaneous ideology, endeavors to obliterate the class division itself by way of proclaiming us all ‘self-entrepreneurs’” – the difference being only in the quantity of money we borrow.
Ayn Rand (I know, I know) – “When money ceases to become the means by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of other men. Blood, whips, and guns or dollars.”
On credit/debt economies: “Insofar as its distribution money is no longer grounded in the process of valorization (workers being paid for their labor etc), it begins to function as a direct means of domination. In other words, money is used as a means of political power, as a way to exert this power and control its subjects. Furthermore, although some theorists claim that we thereby move beyond relations of commodity exchange and exploitation-through-valorization, one should insist that valorization via the circulation of capital remains the ultimate goal of the entire process of economic reproduction.” – The problem with fictitious capital is not that it is outside of valorization, but that it is parasitic on the fiction of a valorization to come.
Zizek mentions Tri-Solaris (Cixin Liu) as an analogy for the unpredictability our own planet is hurtling towards.
Aligning with Latour – “… we humans can no longer rely on the Earth as a reservoir ready to absorb the consequences of our productive activity. We must acknowledge that we lice on a Spaceship Earth, and be responsible and accountable for its condition… A new way to relate to our environs is necessary once we realize this: we must become modest agents collaborating with our environment, permamently negotiating a tolerable level of stability.”
Capitalism is precluded from acting against this crisis because the very nature of the risk involved fundamentally opposes a market solution.
In anticipation of vast climatic change, we must be prepared to live in a more plastic and nomadic way. If great populations are displaced, national sovereignty will have to be radically redefined and new levels of global cooperation invented.
“Our unfreedom is most dangerous when it is experienced as the very medium of our freedom – what can be more free than the incessant flow of communications that allows every individual to popularize their opinions and form virtual communities at their own free will?”
Vagaries of power --
We Have Never Been Modern – Bruno Latour
1.5 – What does it mean to be a modern?
The Moderns, as Latour defines them, are always existent in contrast with the Ancients. In much a similar way to the Global/Local dichotomy – this conflict has been stretched along the axis of time’s ‘irreversible arrow’. But now the Ancients win almost as much as the Moderns.
“The hypothesis of this essay is that the word ‘modern’ designates two sets of entirely different practices which must remain distinct if they are to remain effective, but have recently begun to be confused. The first set of practices, by ‘translation’, creates mixtures between entirely new types of beings, hybrids of nature and culture. The second, by ‘purification’, creates two entirely distinct ontological zones: that of human beings on the one hand; that of nonhumans on the other.”
“What link is there between the work of translation or mediation and that of purification? This is the question on which I should like to shed light. My hypothesis – which remains too crude – is that the second has made the first possible: the more we forbid ourselves to conceive of hybrids, the more possible their interbreeding becomes – such is the paradox of the moderns, which the exceptional situation in which we find ourselves today allows us finally to grasp.”
Modernity for latour is the whole enlightenment project - the sciences especially are so entangled with culture, politics, etc even though they took the position that they should be separate. We don’t have control over this hybridity because we refuse to have the language to understand them.
“The second question has to do with premoderns, with the other types of cultures. My hypothesis – is that by devoting themselves to conceiving of hybrids, the other cultures have excluded their proliferation. It is this disparity that would explain the Great Divide between Them – all other cultures – and Us – the westerners – and would make it possible finally to solve the insoluble problem of relativism. The third question has to do with the current crisis: if modernity were so effective in its dual task of separation and proliferation, why would it weaken itself today by preventing us from being truly modern? Hence the final question, which is also the most difficult one: if we have stopped being modern, if we can no longer separate the work of proliferation from the work of purification, what are we going to become? Can we aspire to Enlightenment without modernity? My hypothesis – is that we are going to have to slow down, reorient and regulate the proliferation of monsters by representing their existence officially. Will a different democracy become necessary? A democracy extended to things?”
2.1 – The Modern Constitution
The divide between the sciences and politics has been so well drawn up that the separation is viewed as a double ontological distinction. In reference to the translation/purification split of the Moderns, once one reestablishes the common understanding that organizes the separation of natural and political powers, one ceases to be modern.
The Constitution believes in the total separation of humans and nonhumans, but simultaneously cancels out this separation. This has made the moderns invincible? I need clarification here…
2.14 – We have never been modern
Okay but this statement seems contradictory to my previous interpretations: “Either I defend the work of purification – and I myself serve as a purifier and a vigilant guardian of the Constitution – or else I study both the work of mediation and that of purification – but I then cease to be wholly modern.”
The postmoderns reject all empirical work as illusory and deceptively scientistic. They feel that they follow the moderns, but by doing so operate under the moderns assumptions of classification of time/eras. They have tagged the slogan ‘no future’ onto the modern slogan of ‘no past’ – so then what remains? Disconnected instants and groundless denunciations.
“A nonmodern (or amodern) is anyone who takes simultaneously into account the moderns’ Constitution and the populations of hybrids that that Constitution rejects and allows to proliferate.” I’m really struggling with conceptualizing all these ontological dualities…
3.2 – What is a quasi-object?
It appears to me that a quasi-object exists as a deconstruction of the dualism between nature and society. Latour writes: “quasi-objects are in between and below the two poles, at the very place around which dualism and dialectics had turned endlessly without being able to come to terms with them. Quasi-objects are much more social, much more fabricated, much more collective than the ‘hard’ parts of nature, but they are in no way the arbitrary receptacles of a full-fledged society.”
Quasi-object is much more specific than a hyper-object, only referring to a kind of middle ground which consists of qualities that are inherent to the object and a set of qualities attached to it by social relationships. Specific to the dualism of nature and society.
5.1 – The impossible modernization
“Modernizing, although it destroyed the near-totality of cultures and natures by force and bloodshed, had a clear objective. Modernizing finally made it possible to distinguish between the laws of external nature and the conventions of society.”
5.2 – Final Examinations
It seems as if Latour is advocating for the preservation of the modern ideals of progress and production, but the subtraction of over generalization and categorization that have until now accompanied them.
“To retain the production of a nature and of a society that allow changes in size through the creation of an external truth and a subject of law, but without neglecting the co-production of sciences and societies. The amalgam consists in using the premodern categories to conceptualize the hybrids, while retaining the moderns final outcome of the work of purification – that is, an external Nature distinct from subject.” – External Nature? Really?
5.3 – Humanism Redistributed
“Modern humanists are reductionist because they seek to attribute action to a small number of powers, leaving the rest of the world with nothing but simple mute forces. It is true that by redistributing the action among all these mediators, we lose the reduce form of humanity, but we gain another form, which has to be called irreducible. The human is in the delegation itself, in the pass, in the sending, in the continuous exchange of forms.”
5.4 – The nonmodern constitution
First Guarantee: the non-separability of quasi-objects, quasi-subjects. Every concept, institution, or practice which interferes with the continuous deployment of collectives and their experimentation with hybrids will be deemed immoral.
Second Guarantee: All concepts, institutions, and practices that interfere with the progressive objectification of Nature – incorporation into a black box – and simultaneously the subjectivization of Society – freedom of manoeuvre – will be deemed immoral. Without this second guarantee, the networks liberated by the first would keep their wild and uncontrollable character.
Third Guarantee: we can combine associations freely without ever confronting the choice between archaism and modernization, the local and the global, the cultural and the universal, the natural and the social. Afterwards, every call to revolution, epistemological break, Copernican upheaval, claim that practices have become outdated forever – will be deemed immoral. (I’m not sure I agree with this last bit, is it a rejection of the power to alter course?) - basically more so saying that we cannot undergo another complete rejection of what came before
Fourth Guarantee: the production of hybrids, by becoming explicit and collective, becomes the object of an enlarged democracy that regulates or slows down its cadence.
5.5 – The Parliament of Things
“When we amend the Constitution, we continue to believe in the sciences, but instead of taking in their objectivity, their truth, their coldness, their extraterritoriality – qualities they have never had, except after the arbitrary withdrawal of epistemology – we retain what has always been most interesting about them: their daring, their experimentation, their uncertainty, their crazy ability to reconstitute the social bond.”
“Natures are present, but with their representatives, scientists who speak in their name. Societies are present, but with the objects that have been serving as their ballast from time immemorial. Let one of the representatives talk, for instance, about the ozone hole, another represent the Monsanto chemical industry, a third the workers of the same chemical industry, another the voters of New Hampshire, a fifth the meteorology of the polar regions; let still another speak in the name of the State; what does it matter, so long as they are all talking about the same thing, about a quasi-object they have all created, the object-discourse-nature-society whose new properties astound us all and whose network extends from my refrigerator to the Antarctic by way of chemistry, law, the state, the economy, and satellites. The imbroglios and networks that had no place now have the whole place to themselves. They are the ones that have to be represented; it is around them that the Parliament of Things gathers henceforth.”
“Half of our politics is constructed in science and technology. The other half of Nature is constructed in societies. Let us patch the two back together, and the political task can begin again.”
Latour writes “is it asking too little simply to ratify in public what is already happening?” And answers that no, the official representation is effective rather than opting for more revolutionary programmes of action. I feel as though his stance on that has changed over the years? In Down to Earth it feels as though he is certainly advocating for a revolutionary recalibration.
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
An excerpt from the notebook of Isaac Sachs:
- Exposition: the workings of the actual past + the virtual past may be illustrated by an event well known to collective history such as the sinking of the Titanic. The disaster as it actually occurred descends into obscurity as its eyewitnesses die off, documents perish + the wreck of the ship dissolves in its Atlantic grave. Yet a virtual sinking of the titanic, created from reworked memories, papers, hearsay, fiction – in short, belief – grows ever ‘truer’. The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming + ever more problematic to access + reconstruct: in contrast, the virtual past is malleable, ever-brightening + ever more difficult to circumvent/expose as fraudulent.
- The present presses the virtual past into its own service, to lend credence to its mythologies + legitimacy to the imposition of will. Power seeks + is the right to ‘landscape’ the virtual past. (He who pays the historian calls the tune.)
- Symmetry demands an actual + virtual future too. We imagine how next week, next year, or 2225 will shape up – a virtual future, constructed by wishes, prophecies + daydreams. This virtual future may influence the actual future, as in a self-fulfilling prophecy, but the actual future will eclipse our virtual one as surely as tomorrow eclipses today. Like Utopia, the actual future + the actual past exist only in the hazy distance, where they are no good to anyone.
- Q: Is there a meaningful distinction between one simulacrum of smoke, mirrors + shadows – the actual past – from another such simulacrum – the actual future?
- One model of time: an infinite matryoshka doll of painted moments, each ‘shell’ (the present) encased inside a nest of ‘shells’ (previous presents) I call the actual past but which we perceive as the virtual past. The doll of ‘now’ likewise encases a nest of presents yet to be, which I call the actual future but which we perceive as the virtual future.
I regret not taking notes as I was reading this, but some reflections to follow.
One, the narrative structure which resembles the description of time above is quite attractive to me. I particularly align with the ways in which certain artefacts tie these stories together – less enamored with the ideas that the character’s souls are tied, or that they are reincarnations etc.
As we all move through the world we both receive and leave behind artefacts which have a much greater history than our own conscious experience. These objects carry varying levels of meaning on personal/emotional levels and societal/cultural scales. Throughout our lives it is as if we are dropping a breadcrumb trail towards identifying our existence, who we truly are. The trail is not a trail to a destination as such, but a line of puzzle pieces that once one has reach the last can perhaps be put together to form a picture. This picture is incomplete, but illustrative. What is missing from it? Is it the actual personal contact with the individual/entity that it describes? Even with deep, meaningful, and prolonged interaction there is no guarantee that there is true understanding from one entity to another. So what do we do with our incomplete pictures of the world?
The so-to-speak breadcrumb trails crisscross, mix, and tangle as certain piece overlap with others – acquire meaning from different sources, all on their own path, as they pick up and put down the pieces of other’s stories.
Union as a fabricated revolutionary organization is exceeding elegant. “… its raisons d’etre are not to foment revolution. First it attracts social malcontents like Xi-Li and keeps them where Unanimity can watch them; second, it provides Nea so Copros with the enemy required by any hierarchical state for social cohesion.”
Piranesi – Susanna Clarke
Again, I did not take notes while reading, but some reflections to follow.
The way in which this story unfolds and reveals information to us is quite remarkable. The character, as a sort of new-born brain-washed level of intelligence is highly experienced in his perception of reality but clueless as to ours. What we as readers can understand from simplistic descriptions or allegories, Piranesi is clueless about. As he slowly regains his prior conscious, more about the real world and his current situation is slowly revealed. Despite his return to ‘our’ world at the end, part of him and his epistemology is deeply attached to the House. He has learned to perceive the world through the meanings and teachings the House has within its walls. The statues symbolize certain emotions, characteristics, personalities, situations etc – and it is with these that he identifies, and uses to create meaning of the world around him.
Visualization and Cognition – Bruno Latour
Explanations of modern scientific culture / human cognition: “It seems to me that the most powerful explanations, that is those that generate the most out of the least, are the ones that take writing and imaging craftmanship into account. They are both material and mundane, since they are so practical, so modest, so pervasive, so close to the hands and the eyes that they escape attention. Each of them deflates grandiose schemes and conceptual dichotomies and replaces them by simple modifications in the way in which groups of people argue with one another using paper, signs, prints and diagrams.”
“Instruments, for instance, were of various types, ages, and degrees of sophistication. Some were pieces of furniture, others filled large rooms, employed many technicians and took many weeks to run. But their end! result, no matter the field, was always a small window through which one could! read a very few signs from a rather poor repertoire (diagrams, blots, bands, columns). All these inscriptions, as I called them, were combinable, superimposable and could, with only a minimum of cleaning up, be integrated as figures in the text of the articles people were writing. Many of the intellectual feats I was asked to admire could be rephrased as soon as this activity of paper writing and! inscription became the focus for analysis.”
It is in science as it is in war, politics, law, and many other situations: that (or whom) which comes out victorious is the one who is able to muster the largest number of well aligned and faithful allies. We must then look at the ways in which someone convinces others to take up a statement, pass it on, make it more of a fact – a practice which is inextricably tied to visualization.
“Fiction —even the wildest or the most sacred— and things of nature —even the lowliest— have a meeting ground, a common place, because they all benefit! from the same “optical consistency”. Not only can you displace cities, landscapes, or natives and go back and forth to and from them along avenues through space, but you can also reach saints, gods, heavens, palaces, or dreams with the same two-way avenues and look at them through the same “windowpane” on the same two-dimensional surface. The two ways become a four-lane freeway! Impossible palaces can be drawn realistically, but it is also possible to draw possible objects as if they were utopian ones.”
Worldview is understood in the sense of a metaphor, that it is both how a culture sees the world, and makes it visible. A new visual culture redefines what it is to see, and what there is to see.
“What is so important in the images and in the inscriptions scientists and engineers are busy obtaining, drawing, inspecting, calculating and discussing? It is, first of all, the unique advantage they give in the rhetorical or polemical situation. “You doubt of what I say? I’ll show you.” And, without moving more than a few inches, I unfold in front of your eyes figures, diagrams, plates, texts, silhouettes, and then and there present things that are far away and with which some sort of two-way connection has now been established.”
Scientists looking at nature, economies, stars, organs do not see anything – rather they begin seeing once they stop looking at the object and begin studying the consistent representations of those objects. Such conclusions feel somewhat linguistic in nature. In so far as we understand the world through our ability to communicate about our perceptions, without verbal descriptors a concept may as well not exist – and interestingly this also applies in certain ways to visual representations. If we cannot find a way to represent a concept or object pictorially which communicates the essence of the thing we are trying to express, we may as well not have perceived it in the first place.
Advantages of working with paper-space (representation) rather than the Object itself:
- Inscriptions are mobile, they can spread and be disseminated in ways the Object cannot.
- When moved, inscriptions are immutable.
- They are made flat, perceptible, all is revealed. Nothing is hiding from a certain perspective or in a shadow etc.
- The scale may be modified at will, without change in their internal proportions. This allows for cross comparisons as well as aids in perception.
- They can be reproduced and spread at little cost, so that all the instants of time and all the places in space can be gathered in another time and place.
- The inscriptions can be reshuffled and recombined – promoting connections in the mind between those with the same ‘optical consistency’.
- They may be superimposed. Taking 4 and 6 together, inscriptions of totally different origins and scales may be compared to understand structure, pattern, theory, and abstraction.
- Inscriptions may become part of written text, and it is this collaboration that is truly fruitful.
- The two-dimensional character of inscriptions allows them to merge with geometry. They may be measured and studied as representations of the original which allow for surplus-value gained from their capitalization.
These advantages should never be isolated from each other, and always taken in conjunction with the mobilization process they accelerate and summarize.
“Realms of reality that seem far apart (mechanics, economics, marketing, scientific organization of work) are inches apart, once flattened out onto the same surface. The accumulation of drawings in an optically consistent space is, once again, the “universal exchanger” that allows work to be planned, dispatched, realized, and responsibility to be attributed.”
“The problem is that these entities could not exist at all without the construction of long networks in which numerous faithful records circulate in both directions, records which are, in turn, summarized and displayed to convince. A “state”, a “corporation”, a “culture”, an “economy” are the result of a punctualization process that obtains a few indicators out of many traces. In order to exist these entities have to be summed up somewhere. Far from being the key to the understanding of science and technology, these entities are the very things a new understanding of science and technology should explain. The large scale actors to which sociologists of science are keen to attach “interests” are immaterial in practice as long as precise mechanisms to explain their origin or extraction and their changes of scale have not been proposed.”
“Among the interesting immutable mobiles there is one that has received both too little and too much attention: money. The anthropology of money is as complicated and entangled as that of writing, but one thing is clear. As soon as money starts to circulate through different cultures, it develops a few clearcut characteristics: it is mobile (once in small pieces), it is immutable (once in metal), it is countable (once it is coined), combinable, and can circulate from the things valued to the center that evaluates and back. Money has received too much attention because it has been thought of as something special, deeply inserted in the infrastructure of economies, whereas it is just one of the many immutable mobiles necessary if one place is to exercise power over many other places far apart in space and time.”
“The history of money is thus seized by the same trend as all the other immutable mobiles; any innovations that can accelerate money to enlarge its power of mobilization are kept: checks, endorsement, paper money, electronic money. This trend is not due to the development of capitalism. “Capitalism” is, on the contrary, an empty word as long as precise material instruments are not proposed to explain any capitalization at all, be it of specimens, books, information or money.”
“Thus, capitalism is not to be used to explain the evolution of science and technology. It seems to me that it should be quite the contrary. Once science and technology are rephrased in terms of immutable mobiles it might be possible to explain economic capitalism, as another process of mobilization. What indicates this are the many weaknesses of money; money is a nice immutable mobile that circulates from one point to another but it carries very little with it. If the name of the game is to accumulate enough allies in one place to modify the belief and behavior of all the others, money is a poor resource as long as it is isolated. It becomes useful when it is combined with all the other inscription devices; then, the different points of the world become really transported in a manageable form to a single place which then becomes a center. Just as with Eisenstein’s printing press, which is one factor that allows all the others to merge with one another, what counts is not the capitalization of money, but the capitalization of all compatible inscriptions.”
“More precisely we should be able to explain, with the concept and empirical knowledge of these centers of calculation, how insignificant people working only with papers and signs become the most powerful of all. Papers and signs are incredibly weak and fragile. This is why explaining anything with them seemed so ludicrous at first. La Pérouse’s map is not the Pacific, anymore than Watt’s drawings and patents are the engines, or the bankers’ exchange rates are the economies, or the theorems of topology are “the real world”. This is precisely the paradox. By working on papers alone, on fragile inscriptions which are immensely less than the things from which they are extracted, it is still possible to dominate all things, and all people. What is insignificant for all other cultures becomes the most significant, the only significant aspect of reality. The weakest, by manipulating inscriptions of all sorts obsessively and exclusively, become the strongest. This is the view of power we get at by following this theme of visualization and cognition in all its consequences.”
Exhalation – Ted Chiang
The Merchant and the Alchemists Gate
Really interesting take on time travel/temporal relations. The sides of the gate exists in different periods, and one may interact with either, but events seem to be set in place regardless of one’s conscious actions – because those same decisions have already been made. “Do you now understand why I say the future and the past are the same? We cannot change either, but we can know both more fully.”
“Coincidence and intention are two sides of a tapestry, my lord. You may find one more agreeable to look at, but you cannot say one is true and the other is false.”
“Nothing erases the past. There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness. That is all, but that is enough.”
A fascinating epistemological exercise, the character reveals or deduces ‘truths’ about their world through a dissection of their own brain. Viewing the consciousness from ‘Sirius’ as Latour would say, has allowed him to investigate his surroundings in a way not possible from the Terrestrial.
Quite oddly morbid and existential… relating in some way to our current climate crisis I feel. The character contributes by his very existence to the end of the world, as does everyone. “With every movement of my body, I contribute to the equalization of pressure in our universe. With every thought that I have, I hasten the arrival of that fatal equilibrium.”
Entropy will kill us all… and it is utterly inevitable. But, is the climate crisis equally so? “One sect dedicated itself to the goal of reversing the equalization of pressure and found many adherents. The mechanicians among them constructed an engine that took air from our atmosphere and forced it into a smaller volume, a process they called compression. Their engine restored air to the pressure it originally had in the reservoir, and these Reversalists excitedly announced that it would form the basis of a new kind of filling station, one that would – with each lung it refilled – revitalize not only individuals but the universe itself. Alas, closer examination of the engine revealed its fatal flaw. The engine itself was powered by air from the reservoir, and for every lungful of air that it produced, the engine consumed not just a lungful but slightly more. It did not reverse the process of equalization but, like everything else in the world, exacerbated it.”
The piece is structured in such a way that the reader assumes themselves in the role of an explorer finding a written record of a previous civilization – an interesting way to modulate the relationship between author and viewer.
What’s Expected of Us
“My message to you is this: pretend that you have free will. It’s essential that you behave as if your decisions matter, even though you know they don’t. The reality isn’t important; what’s important is your belief, and believing the lie is the only way to avoid a waking coma. Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has.”
The Lifecycle of Software Objects
Interesting take on early stages of sentient AI’s. Not sure its extremely related or helpful.
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling
A fantastic reflection on truth and how we formulate our histories, narratives, and own self image - displayed through the device of a search engine which interfaces with constantly recording cameras.
Referring to the semi-fictional narrative spliced into the piece about pre-literate civilizations and how they operate and conceive of their own histories and truths: “...many of the specific details I’ve inscribed are invented. The actual events were more complicated and less dramatic, as actual events always are, so I have taken liberties to make a better narrative. I’ve told a story in order to make a case for the truth. I recognize the contradiction here.”
The Three Body Problem – Liu Cixin
DARK FOREST THEORY
Living in the End Times – Slavoj Zizek
“In today’s post-political democracy, the traditional bipolarity between a social-democratic center-left and a conservative center-right is gradually being replaced by a new bipolarity between politics and post-politics: the technocratic-liberal multiculturalist-tolerant part of post-political administration and its rightist-populist counterpart of passionate political struggle – no wonder that the old centrist opponents are often compelled to join forces against the common enemy.”
“The underlying premise of the present book is a simple one: the global capitalist system is approaching an apocalyptic zero-point. Its “four riders of the apocalypse” are comprised by the ecological crisis, the consequences of the biogenetic revolution, imbalances within the system itself (intellectual property, struggles over vital resources), and the explosive growth of social divisions and exclusions.”
“One can discern the same five figures (of grief) in the way our social consciousness attempts to deal with the forthcoming apocalypse. The first reaction is one of ideological denial: there is no fundamental disorder; the second is exemplified by explosions of anger at the injustices of the new world order; the third involves attempts at bargaining; when the bargaining fails, depression and withdrawal set in; finally, after passing through this zero-point, the subject no longer perceives the situation as a threat, but as the chance of a new beginning.”
The path forwards of emancipatory enthusiasm can only be followed when the traumatic truth is fully lived, not only accepted in a disengaged way. As Marx wrote: “The actual burden must be made even more burdensome by creating an awareness of it. The humiliation must be increased by making it public… the people must be put in terror of themselves in order to give them courage.”
Denial: The Liberal Utopia
What does the Big Other really mean?
From Bargaining: The Big Other is considered by Lacan to be the network of symbolic relations. In other words, it is immaterial or symbolic substance inherent in labor and societal conditions which cannot be appropriated in the same way material or objective substances can.
“Ideology is not constituted by abstract propositions in themselves, rather, ideology is itself this very texture of the lifeworld which “schematizes” the propositions, rendering them “livable”.”
The ideology is the pattern of belief not the position itself.
“When we are shown scenes of starving children in Africa, with a call for us to do something to help them, the underlying ideological message is something like: “don’t think, don’t politicize, forget about the true causes of their poverty, just act, contribute money, so that you will not have to think!”
A good take on the tolerance problem: “why are so many problems of today perceived as problems of intolerance, rather than as problems of inequality, exploitation, or injustice? Why is the proposed remedy tolerance, rather than emancipation, political struggle, or even armed struggle?”
Zizek comes to understanding/agreement with Levy, a hardline liberal free-market proponent, with overly simplified reductions of both their viewpoints. Liberal tolerance and communist collectives can be one and the same if viewed from an ideological level… “this sense of mutual understanding was proof that we were both knee-deep in ideology: “ideology” is precisely such a reduction to the simplified essence that conveniently forgets the background noise which provides the density of its actual meaning. Such an erasure of the background noise is the very core of utopian dreaming.”
For liberalism, at least in its radical form, the wish to submit people to an ethical ideal held to be universal is the mother of all crimes. It accounts to the brutal imposition of one’s own view onto others, the cause of civil disorder. Therefore politics should be thoroughly purged of moral ideals and rendered ‘realistic’ – taking people as they are, counting on their true nature, not on moral exhortations.
I was unfamiliar with Kant’s take on governmental organization. It seems to make sense to me, but is decidedly pessimistic/realist – or rather, I think there SHOULD be a different answer, even if there isn’t one in a practical sense. Yet regardless, we have not achieved what he is writing about, so perhaps I shouldn’t judge: “Given a multitude of rational beings requiring universal laws for their preservation, but each of whom is secretly inclined to exempt himself from them, to establish a constitution in such a way that, although their private intentions conflict, they check each other, with the result that their public conduct is the same as if they had no such intentions.” It would be interesting to conceptualize this version of a Constitution with Latour’s version. But later even Zizek rebukes Kant’s view, saying (I think correctly) that such a society only works with the presupposition that the subjects are exclusively, as Kant says, A Race of Devils. Perhaps it is precisely our uncertainty as humans which makes organization so difficult…
“An anti-ideological and anti-utopian stance is inscribed into the very core of the liberal vision: liberalism conceives itself as a ‘politics of the lesser evil’ its ambition is to bring about the ‘least-worst society possible,’ thus preventing a greater evil since it considers any attempt to directly impose a positive good as the ultimate source of all evil.”
In potlatch, on the contrary (contrary to traditional instantaneous market exchange), the time elapsed between my giving a gift and the other side returning it to me creates a social link which lasts (for a time at least): we are all linked together by bonds of debt. From this standpoint, money can be defined as the means which enables us to have contacts with others without entering into proper relations with them.”
“Western secular law not only promotes laws that are different from those of religious legal systems, it also relies on a different formal mode of how subjects relate to legal regulations. This is what is missed in the simple reduction of the gap that separates liberal universalism from particular substantial ethnic identities to a gap between two particularities (liberal universalism is an illusion, a mask concealing its own particularity which it imposes onto others as universal): the universalism of a Western liberal society does not reside in the fact that its values (human rights, etc.) are universal in the sense of holding for all cultures, but in a much more radical sense, for individuals relate to themselves as universal, they participate in the universal dimension directly, bypassing their particular social position. The problem with particular laws for particular ethnic of religious groups is that not all people experience themselves as belonging to a particular ethnic or religious community – so that aside from people belonging to such groups, there should be ‘universal’ individuals who just belong to the realm of state law. Apart from apples, pears, and grapes there should be a place for fruit as such.”
“If we formulate the problem in these terms (basically, that the monocultural hegemony utilizes the fantasy that multiculturalism is the hegemony, so that reflexively the speech act which declares multiculturalism the hegemony is in fact the hegemonic position), the alternative appears as follows: either ‘true’ multiculturalism, or else drop the universal claim as such. Both solutions are wrong, for the simple reason that they are not different at all, but ultimately coincide: ‘true’ multiculturalism would be the utopia of a neutral universal legal frame enabling each particular culture to assert its identity. The thing to do is to change the entire field, introducing a totally different Universal, that of an antagonistic struggle which, rather than taking place between particular communities, splits each community from within, so that the ‘trans-cultural’ link between communities is one of a shared struggle.” I.E. IT’S JUST CLASS STRUGGLE AGAIN PEOPLE – JESUS HE SPEANT A LONG ASS TIME TRYING TO MAKE THAT POINT
Bargaining – The return of the critique of political economy
Alain Badiou describes three ways in which a radical emancipatory revolution could fail:
- Direct defeat of course, simply crushed physically or ideologically by the enemy
- Defeat in victory itself: the movement triumphs over the enemy, but only by taking over the latter’s main agenda (making concessions, etc)
- Defeat by virtue of the void: in triumph the movement realizes that it is unable to impose a truly alternative social order, that any revolution is never more than a between-two-States. Then the descent into nihilism, the void, and destructive terror
Badiou then proposes subtraction rather than purification: rather than taking power, one maintains distance and establishes spaces subtracted from the State. This comes from Baiou’s views on Marx’s ‘objective agent’ which he believes to be gone: “throughout the previous century it was supposed that the politics of emancipation was not a pure idea, a will, a prescription, but was inscribed, almost programmed, in and by historical and social reality. A consequence of this conviction is that this objective agent has to be transformed into a subjective power, that this social entity has to become a subjective actor.”
“Badiou dismisses every History that goes beyond a particular World as an ideological fiction, and one should not miss the implication of his thesis that there is no general theory of History: it amounts to no less than the full abandonment of Marxist historical materialism. The irony here is that, while ‘creative’ Marxists of the twentieth century advocated historical materialism without dialectical materialism, Badiou aims for a dialectical materialism (or materialist dialectics) without historical materialism. There is no place in Badiou’s theoretical edifice for historical materialism, which is neither an imaginary narrative of History nor a positive science of history as a domain of being (social reality), but the science of the real of history as well as the critique of political economy as the science of the real of capitalism.”
Dialectics, as a method of analysis, takes into account the interconnectedness of nature, the contradictions and state of continuous change inherent in it, and the process by which natural quantitative change leads to qualitative change. Simply put, dialectics holds that all things are in a constant state of change, that this continual change is a result of interactions and conflicts, and that many small hidden changes add up until the thing in question has been qualitatively transformed into something different. The process by which water is transformed into steam, by heating it until it passes the boiling point, illustrates the concept of dialectics at work.
Materialism is the Marxist conception of nature as it exists without any supernatural or mystical dimension. Materialism holds that objective reality exists independent of human consciousness and that matter is primary.
Dialectical materialism shows that people’s thoughts, characters and actions are shaped by the conditions in the world around them, the material world. When people look at the world through the lens of dialectical materialism they can see the logical development of beliefs and thoughts, actions and events, and even human history as a whole.
Historical materialism extends the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of society and its history. Historical materialism recognizes that history and society develop based on material, economic conditions. Therefore all development, that of ideas and that of institutions, is based on conflicts and interactions in the material world. (https://www.workers.org/dialectical-historical-materialism/)
“One should always bear in mind that, for a true Marxist, ‘classes’ are not categories of positive social reality, parts of the social body, but categories of the real of a political struggle which cuts across the entire social body, preventing its ‘totalization.’ True, there is no outside to capitalism today, but this should not be used to hide the fact that capitalism itself is ‘antagonistic’ relying on contradictory measures to remain viable – and these immanent antagonisms open up the space for radical action.”
Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment foregrounds an ideological ‘distortion’ which functions as a kind of historical transcendental a priori of capitalist societies. They cut this link by tracing the source of reification and alienation back to ‘instrumental reason,’ the will to technological domination/manipulation which functions as a kind of a priori of the whole of human history, but no longer rooted in any concrete historical formations. The over-arching totality is thus no longer that of capitalism, or commodity production: capitalism itself becomes one of the manifestations of ‘instrumental reason’ (the will to domination).
Moishe Postone: “It seems to me that the central issue for Marx is not only that labor is being exploited – labor is exploited in all societies, other than maybe those of hunter-gatherers – but, rather, that the exploitation of labor is effected by structures that labor itself constitutes. So, for example, if you get rid of aristocrats in a peasant-based society, it’s conceivable that the peasants could own their own plots of land and live off of them. However, if you get rid of the capitalists, you are not getting rid of capital. Social domination will continue to exist in that society until the structures that constitute capital are gotten rid of.”
Exchange value should equal labor value, the paradox is that labor-power as a commodity produces more value than it is worth.
“Imagine a totally “outsourced” company – Nike, say, which not only outsources its material production (to Indonesian or Central American contractors), the distribution of its products, and its marketing strategy and publicity campaigns, but also the design work itself to some selected top designer agency, and, on top of all that, borrows money from a bank. Nike will thus be ‘nothing in itself’ – nothing but the pure brand mark ‘Nike,’ the empty Master-Signifier which connotes the cultural experience pertaining to a certain life-style.”
I very much like the reframing of “universal basic income” to a “citizens rent.” Landlords receive rent for their tenants using their property (regardless to what extent they take advantage of them), Bill Gates receives rent for enabling people to participate in global networking (also regardless of the extent of usage), and the work force (citizens) should be paid a rent for belonging to a state and allowing it to make use of their labor.
Philippe Van Parijs is perhaps the biggest proponent of a basic income, citing that it could perhaps usher in a society beyond traditional capitalism and socialism that would be feasible, just, and free. “In today’s society, one cannot really choose to stay at home in order to raise children or to start a business – such freedom would be feasible only if, as a form of income redistribution, a society were to tax the ‘scarce’ commodity of well-paid jobs. But Parijs’ idea is that the dynamic of capitalism can be combined with Rawls’s notion of a just society as one that maximizes the least advantaged individual’s ‘real freedom,’ the freedom to choose what one prefers. In short, the only possible moral justification for capitalism would lie in its productivity being harnessed to provide the highest sustainable basic income.”
This is a real potential ‘Third Way’ of leveraging the very profit seeking process which sustains capitalism to provide for the poor. In contrast to other socialist utopias, working or not working is a true choice, adding that freedom to the capitalist society of free choice as a genuine option. “If there is exploitation in such a society, it lies not so much in the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists as in the exploitation of the productive strata of both capitalists and workers by the non-workers: those who receive the rent are not the parasites at the top of the social scale, but those at the bottom. Furthermore, the minimum income would increase workers’ negotiating power, since they would be able to refuse any job offer they considered outrageous or unacceptable; moreover it would support consumption and thus help the economy to thrive.”
The realities of the semi-socialism we have in many ‘progressive’ European states is approaching its limits. “Although our societies prosper through the (re)distribution of wealth generated by the creative minority, both political poles deny this fact: the left denies it because, if it were to admit it, it would have to accept that the left itself lives off the exploitation of the rich and successful; the right denies it because, if it didn’t, it would have to accept that it is really part of the social-democratic left.”
However, this support is reversed as soon as a financial crisis is realized. Then the ‘creative titans of industry’ must be bailed out by the ordinary taxpayers. “Sloterdijk would do better to recall his own earlier point that it is capitalism itself which, in its very core, is driven by a perverted eros, by a lack of which becomes ever deeper the more it is satisfied? Therein resides the supergo core of capitalism: the more profit you amass, the more you need.” Regardless of the motivations of hyper-philanthropists like Carnegie or Gates, their donation of accumulated wealth for the public good is a self-negating action: it destroys the reproductive trend of capital – elevating those who do it based on their merits of stepping outside the system. “this is the logical endpoint of capitalist circulation, necessary from a strictly economic standpoint, since it allows the capitalist system to postpone its crisis. It re-establishes balance – a king of redistribution of wealth to the truly needy – without falling into a fateful trap, namely the destructive logic of resentment and enforced statist redistribution of wealth which can only end in generalized misery… This paradox signals a sad predicament of ours: contemporary capitalism cannot reproduce itself on its own. It needs extra-economic injections of charity to sustain the cycle of social reproduction.”
The role of strikes has significantly changed from our classic understanding – workers no longer strike to get better wages or working conditions because they understood their own indispensability, but rather now that they are able to be replaced by machines, they strike primarily not against the owners but rather to raise general public conscience about the predicament they are in. “This is the possibility not taken into account by Marx: the very process of the rise of the “general intellect” and of the marginalization of physical labor measured by time, instead of undermining capitalism by way of rendering capitalist exploitation meaningless, can be used to render workers more impotent and defenseless, using their potential uselessness itself as a threat against them.”
Adorno and Horkheimer understood in Dialectic of Enlightenment that domination over nature necessitates class domination. This does not mean that we have to accept the necessity of social domination, rather we should accept and recalibrate the “primacy of the objective” (Adorno) in that the way to rid ourselves of our masters is not for humankind to become a collective master over nature, but to recognize that the very notion of the Master is false – and stop that imposition on nature.
The Architectural Parallax
“… my dream of a house composed only of secondary spaces and places of passage – stairs, corridors, toilets, store-rooms, kitchen – with no living room or bedroom.” – could be an interesting project…
The interesting philosophical bit regarding the idea of a Parallax is that the observed difference when shifting perspective is not simply ‘subjective’ thanks to the fact of it existing ‘out there’ and being viewed from different angles, it is rather that subject and object are inherently ‘mediated,’ so that an ‘epistemological’ shift in the subject’s point of view always reflects an ‘ontological’ shift in the object itself.
“The parallax gap is thus not just a matter of shifting perspective; things get interesting when we notice that the gap is inscribed into the ‘real’ building itself – as if the building, in its very material existence, bears the imprint of different and mutually exclusive perspectives. When we succeed in identifying a parallax gap in a building, the gap between the two perspectives thus opens up a place for a third, virtual building. In this way, we can also define the creative moment of architecture: it concerns not merely or primarily the actual building, but the virtual space of new possibilities opened up by the actual building. Furthermore, the parallax gap in architecture means that the spatial disposition of a building cannot be understood without reference to the temporal dimension: the parallax gap is the inscription of our changing temporal experience when we approach and enter a building. It is a little bit like a cubist painting, presenting the same object from different perspectives, condensing into the same spatial surface a temporal extension. Through the parallax gap in the object itself, ‘time becomes space.’” – So, in a sense, what I’m hoping to do with my drawings is to illustrate that parallax gap that is inherent in three dimensions in such a way that it is also communicative in two.
“What, again, we should add here is that modernist functionalist austerity is always reflexive; it also communicates meaning: the “functionality of a high modernist building is the message the building emanates. It is not simply that it is functional, it declares itself as being such, but with the irony that this declaration can often be at the expense of the building’s real functionality: modernist buildings designed without superfluous ornament and simply to fulfill their function end up by precisely not fulfilling their declared functions – the people who live in them often feel constrained and uneasy. It is the excessive, non-functional elements of a building which make it actually “functional,” that is, livable.”
“Suffice it to recall the “New Urbanism,” with its return to small family houses in small towns, with front porches, recreating the cozy atmosphere of the local community - clearly, this is a case of architecture as ideology at its purest, providing an imaginary (although “real” in the sense of materialized in the actual disposition of houses) solution to a real social deadlock which has nothing to do with architecture and everything to do with late capitalist dynamics.”
“The hypothesis, furthermore, is that today’s gigantic performance and arts complexes, arguably the paragon of contemporary architecture, effectively try to impose themselves as architectural zer-institutions: their conflictual meanings (entertainment and high art, the profane and the sacred, the exclusive and the popular) cancel each other out, resulting in the presence of meaning as such, as opposed to non-meanning - their meaning is to have meaning, to be islands of meaning in the flow of our meaningless daily existence.” - well, kind of. I think many firms which build such buildings intentionally attempt to divert private money into the creation of public space… I believe there to be a clear difference between contradiction and subversion, although it may reside primarily in motivation rather than affect.
Interesting connection to House of Leaves… Zizek writes regarding the continuity between inside and outside: “The incommensurability between outside and inside is a transcendental a priori - in our most elementary phenomenological experience the reality we see through a window is always minimally spectral, not as fully real as the closed space we are in… this is also why, when we enter the closed space of a house, we are often surprised: the inside volume seems larger than the outside frame, as if the house were larger from the inside than from the outside” ….spoooky….
It really is all about framing, and the perspectives from which we view things - which architecture exemplifies on a daily basis. “... conversely, democracy may appear sublime, when viewed from an authoritaria or totalitarian regime… [Tschumi’s New Acropolis Museum] relies on a similar effect, on reaching the third floor, one sees through a wide window frame the “thing itself” (ding an sich I presume?) the Parthenon - the fact of its being viewed through the frame, and not directly, only enhances its sublime appearance.”
What this indicates to us is that in the division between inside and outside we obsess over, there is always the excess of a third space which gets lost. Zizek here argues with the tone of Reyner Banham or the early machinists like Rogers and Piano etc - we should glorify the in-between space existing inside the walls, of services and infrastructure. I find this a bit limited. Of course it is a valid approach, but I think the spatial implications of a thick membrane are the more interesting parts, or perhaps there’s something a bit more metaphysical to draw out of this conclusion.
Zeara Polo writes, somewhat in response to the famous Marx quote (“All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned…”) that the a new mode of delimitation is necessary - bubbles and foams, like what Sloderdijk writes in his Spheres trilogy - “Globalization has propelled a set of spatial typologies primarily determined by the capacity to conduct flow. Architects have tried to engage with this borderless space, the “space of flows,” by dissolving the envelope as an obstacle to flow and spatial continuity and presenting an image of the world as a chaotically flowing magma. However a new picture is emerging in the form of bubbles and information technology, economic foams, containers of a liquid reality.” Afterwards, Polo goes on to claim that the envelope is the last bastion of architectural expression - which I think is an inadequate view or representation of the agency of the field (or its just defeatist I suppose).
“Zaera Polo’s starting point is what one is tempted to call “Neocapitalist Deleuzianism” . Deleuze and Guattari proposed a certain conceptual network - the opposition between the molecular and the molar, production and representation, difference and identity, the nomadic multitute and the hierarchical order, etc. - within which one pole is the generative force and the other its shadowy representation: the multitude is productive, and is as such reflected in a distorted way in the theater of representation. To put it in a brutally simplified way, the problem is: how does this network relate to capitalism? There are two opposing answers. Deleuze and Guattari’s own is a Marxist one: even if capitalism is a force of “de-territorialization,” unleashing the productivity of the multitude, this productivity remains constrained within the confines of a new “re-territorialization,” that of the capitalist framework of profit which encloses the entire process; only in communism can the nomadic productivity of the multitude be fully unleashed. The opposite answer is then given by advocates of the post-68 “new spirit of capitalism”: for them, it is Marxism itself which remains caught in the totalizing-representational logic of the Party-State as the unitary agent regulating social life, and it is capitalism which is today the only effective force of nomadic molecular productivity. Paradoxically, one should admit that there is more truth in the second answer: although Deleuze and Guattari are right in conceiving the capitalist framework as an obstacle to fully released productivity, they here make the same mistake as did Marx himself, ignoring how the obstacle is (like the Lacanian objet a) a positive condition of what it enframes, so that, by abolishing it, we paradoxically lose the very productivity it was obstructing. “
“So how does the anti-elitist architecture of performance-arts venues fit these coordinates? Its attempt to overcome elitist exclusivity fails, since it reproduces the paradoxes of upper-class liberal openness - its falsity, and failure to achieve its goal, is the falsity and limitation of our tolerant liberal capitalism.” - the effective political message of these buildings is democratic exclusivity (much like the realities of liberal economic systems): they create an egalitarian open space, but access to this space is invisibly filtered and privately controlled.
Hal Foster: “Jameson used the vast atrium of the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles designed by John Portman as a symptom of a new kind of architectural Sublime: a sort of hyper-space that deranges the human sensorium. Jameson took this spatial delirium as a particular instance of a general incapacity to comprehend the late capitalist universe, to map it cognitively. Strangely, what Jameson offered as a critique of postmodern culture many architects (Frank Gehry foremost among them) have taken as a paragon: the creation of extravagant spaces that work to overwhelm the subject, a neo-Baroque Sublime dedicated to the glory of the Corporation (which is the Church of our age). It is as if these architects designed not in contestation of the “cultural logic of late capitalism” but according to its specifications.”
“Koolhaas was right to reject what he dismissively calls architecture’s “fundamental moralism” and to doubt the possibility of any directly “critical” architectural practice - however, our point is not that architecture should somehow be “critical,” but that it cannot not reflect and interact with social and ideological antagonisms: the more it tries to be pure and purely aesthetic and/or functional, the more it reproduces these antagonisms.”
“Recall William Butler Yeat’s well-known lines: “I have spread my dreams under your feet / Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” Since they refer also to architecture, the warning to architects is: when making your plans, tread softly because you tread on the dreams of the people who will live within and gaze upon your buildings.”
Signal Image Architecture – John May
Foreword – Bruno Latour
“Images are no longer a record of anything; they are the provisional translation and a possible rendering of data that could take any other shape.”
“When, in my own writing (i.e. visualization and cognition), I have pointed out that a lot of scientific referential work could be summarized as a search for the oxymoron of “immutable and combinable mobiles,” I was trying to describe activities that encountered a lot of trouble in succeeding at this contradictory task. I was thinking of the immense work necessary to bring birds from the Galapagos to the Science Museum in London, as if brought across long distances in time and space while remaining “intact”… But what May’s book makes me realize is that the contradiction between immutability, combinability, and mobility has been solved to such an extraordinary degree that time and space have shifted location, moved above our head, and are now falling back on us – hence the incredible metaphor of “the Cloud.”
“This is a pathographic manifesto: a techno-political diagnosis of architecture after imaging. Neither a history nor a general theory of architectural images, it builds up a philosophical description of architecture’s contemporary technical consciousness, and its deepening immersion in the culture of electronic images that has swallowed all of life.”
“In this mood, we confront the technical collapse of historical consciousness in the design fields, rehearsing a project aimed at clarifying the status of computational images, so that we may eventually fashion a politics commensurate with our lived realities. Our primal scene throughout is Bruno Latour’s “new climatic regime”: a political condition belonging to ideas and ways of life that find their genesis in the tension between the inexorable force of neoliberal globalization and the psychosocial weight of the Anthropocene – twinned abysses that the language of modernity is hopelessly unequipped to navigate.”
“Unlike historical time, which was always concerned with relating the present and future to a past recorded on orthographic surfaces (let us call this form of ortho-recording representation), real time continuously relates the present to all possible futures at once - or at least to as many futures as can be counted and computed faster than the speed of perception (let us call this form of electro-recording presentation)”
“The always present experiencing of all calculably possible futures (let us call this the state of management) is a very different imaginative framework from the orthographic imagination, whose mediatechnics demanded that it use a record of past experiences to contemplate the future (this was the state of history)”
Axiom 1 - There are no ways of thinking that remain isolated from technical activity, no ideas or dreams or fears or desires insulated from the characteristics of a given technological age. The notion that thoughts exist apart from their technical formation is one of the most pervasive fallacies of modern life. Thinking is a process of recording and storage that in every instance involves an instrument and a surface - which together form a technical organ known as a medium.
Axiom 2 - nothing technical is ever merely technical
Axiom 3 - the specific conception of time embedded in a technical system is inseparable from the forms of thought and imagination that system makes possible or impossible. Technics contain models of time which resonate with lived life. The structural pace with which any given technical system records and retrieves thought and action is inseparable from the ways of life it makes possible or impossible. The speed of the medium is decisive for the psychosocial realities it makes possible or impossible.
“What is an image in our time? It is at once our field of experimentation and our field of politics. It is the technical format in which experimental lives - lives consciously lived differently than our own - might one day find not only their form but also, we hope, their political expression within a new statistical literacy capable of navigating the conditions of telematic culture.”
Time in Fashion – Caroline Evans & Alessandra Vaccari
“Instead of considering time in the conventional sense as a sequence of past, present and future, the book proposes three alternative ways to think about the relationships of time and fashion: industrial time, antilinear time and uchronic time. The first concerns the seasonal nature of Western fashion as an industry that has impacted on workers and wearers alike. The second gives us a way of looking at fashion design as a ceaseless process of quotation, reconstruction and recombination of motifs, in which nostalgia and revivals play their part. The third construes fashion’s ‘imaginary’, with its capacity for fantasy and mythmaking, as a form of alternative history that asks ‘what if?’ Scrambling time, it rewrites fashion history as a kind of fiction. The term uchronia is a nineteenth-century neologism derived from the word ‘utopia’, replacing place ( topos ) with time ( chronos ). It usually refers to an idealized or semi-fictional view of the past. In this book, the term is used as a way to investigate the stories that fashion tells about its past and its imagined future. Through these analytically distinct categories, the book investigates the relative and multiple natures of fashion time. But although the categories are used to structure the book into three discrete sections, in reality they often overlap. To give just one example, vintage fashion may entail both antilinear and uchronic time: antilinear, because it brings past fashion to life through revivalism and recycling; uchronic, as it creatively reinvents the motifs of the past in the present.”
Jetztzeit and the Tiger’s Leap – Walter Benjamin (77)
Benjamin opens Thesis XIV by claiming that history consists not of ‘empty time’ but of ‘time filled by the presence of the now’. He thus distinguished between the idea of ‘now- time’ and the present. In Thesis XV he goes on to argue against traditional histories which follow chronological narratives and explain causes and effects. At the end of his essay, he proposes that the past can only be accessed through brief flashes in the present, creating a ‘constellation’ of moments from both the present and the past.
This juxtaposition is a kind of montage, and in fact Benjamin’s written metaphors were often strikingly visual, like the metaphor of the tiger’s leap that he uses here to describe fashion. As he says, fashion has a flair for the topical (which can also be translated as a sense of the actual present) so that when it leaps over the recent past to seize imagery from the distant past, it will inexorably find a historical image that is meaningful in the present. This juxtaposition, or constellation, of images of past and present is what elsewhere he called ‘dialectical images’, and the concept is suggested without being named as such in his final sentence, where he writes that the tiger’s leap ‘in the open air of history is the dialectical one’.
“History is the subject of a structure whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time filled by, the presence of the now [ Jetztzeit ]. Thus, to Robespierre ancient Rome was a past charged with the time of the now which he blasted out of the continuum of history. The French Revolution viewed itself as Rome reincarnate. It evoked ancient Rome the way fashion evokes costumes of the past. Fashion has a flair for the topical, no matter where it stirs in the thickets of long ago; it is a tiger’s leap into the past. This jump, however, takes place in an arena where the ruling class gives the commands. The same leap in the open air of history is the dialectical one, which is how Marx understood the revolution.”
The Architecture of Neoliberalism
Koolhaas, OMA, and CCTV - Spencer
Urbanism, Ross Exo Adams writes, produces a “new order of life founded on the normalization and management of human behavior.” “These conditions of reproduction now extend to the organization and distribution of knowledge and information – laterally dispersed as well as hierarchically orchestrated – upon whose exchange the modern corporation depends. Mentalities of cooperation, social exchange and interaction are, through the order of the urban, to be elicited and maintained as the new conditions of labour.”
“That the state should have a role within neoliberalism – principally that of legislating for and legitimating the conditions of the ‘free market’ – is, of course, by no means unique to China. It is the state form – that of the single party – and the powers of governance it has inhereited from the era of Mao, that defines its special character. The apparatus of the parts has been retained but redirected towards managerial rather than political objectives. As Hui observes of the party’s depoliticization: ‘in contemporary china the space for political debate has largely been eliminated. The party is no longer an organization with specific political values but a mechanism of power.’ This depoliticization process he continues, ‘has had two key characteristics: firstly, the de-theorization of the ideological sphere; secondly, making economic reform the sole focus of party work.’”
Aihwa Ong theorizes neoliberalism as “a new relationship between government and knowledge through which governing activities are recast as nonpolitical and nonideological problems that need technical solutions.”
Risk Design – Jonathan Massey
“By reshaping salient risk imaginaries, the building mediated significant changes in the City’s spatial form, economy, and governance. The Gherkin’s development established a new cluster of branded high-rise office towers that expanded economic activity in London’s financial district by changing its physical and urban character. Its planning and design provided a framework for revisions to planning regulations that favored the interests of landowners, developers, and multinational financial services firms over those of heritage conservationists—
changes linked to a restructuring of governance that diminished the autonomy of the City Corporation, the City’s distinctive and traditionally insular government. The design and construction of 30 St. Mary Axe are a smaller-scale instance of what Arindam Dutta calls “metaengineering”: the design of entire economies through intertwined architectural, urban, and policy intervention.”
Sunvault – Phoebe Wagner, Bronte Wieland
Boston Hearth Project – T.X. Watson
Nice initial framing as an application essay, draws audience into the story before the real narrative begins, sets the scene for why it is being told.
Central figure is a self-supporting living building with closed interior ecosystems. These mechanisms allow for the cooptation of the building and the narrative to unfold as it does. Not quite building as character, but a bit more than setting.
Speechless Love – Yilun Fan
Interesting take on post-climatic collapse landscape. Self sufficient hovercraft that resulted from a lack of power and organization amongst human civilization to escape into the stars. Therefore they split the atmosphere (critical zone) into three sections, and divided them by class. Upper, middle, and lower have their own bands of altitude, and individuals can only communicate via radio anyway.
The Head of Us, Notes Toward an Oral History - Sam Miller
Brilliant Oral History format, but interesting choice to introduce it after a couple entries. I suppose the first entry was a better hook? I stand by my choice to begin the collection with a format introduction though.
I appreciate the slight misdirection under the guise of media-coverup that allows this to potentially occur in the world we share.
Capitalism and Democracy- the odd couple - Martin Wolf
In its latest annual report, Freedom House states that “a total of 67 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties in 2016, compared with 36 that registered gains. This marked the 11th consecutive year in which declines outnumbered improvements.”
The financial crises that destroyed globalisation in the 1930s and damaged it after 2008 led to poverty, insecurity and anger. Such feelings are not conducive to the trust necessary for a healthy democracy. At the very least, democracy requires confidence that winners will not use their temporary power to destroy the losers. If trust disappears, politics becomes poisonous.
The link is not just empirical. Democracy and capitalism rest on an ideal of equality: everybody may share in political decision-making and do the best they can in the market. These freedoms were revolutionary not that long ago. Yet deep conflicts also exist. Democratic politics depends on solidarity; capitalists do not care about nationality. Democracy is local; capitalism is essentially global. Democratic politics is founded on the equality of citizens; capitalism cares little about the distribution of riches. Democracy says all citizens have a voice; capitalism gives the rich by far the loudest. Electorates desire some economic security; capitalism is prone to boom and bust.
Deep Timescales of our Most Urgent Crises - Cristina Parreno Alonso
This pandemic calls for humans to start thinking and acting according to much larger timescales to encompass the ecological and geological resources we draw from. It is a call to expand the human temporal sensibilities that are so essential to developing the frameworks, the infrastructures, and the governance strategies capable of acting at the deep timescales of our most urgent crises.
The coronavirus pandemic has powerfully demonstrated that time-awareness instigates action. Immersed in an urgent sense of total endangerment, humans’ time-perceptual system is well qualified not only to understand but also to mentally inhabit the timescales at which this crisis operates. Our time-genes can resonate with this crisis tempo: “We act now, or we die now.”
Climate change, on the other hand, dwells within timescales that are not naturally accessible to the human intellect, and this is precisely what incapacitates us to mobilize and take immediate radical action. Humans’ natural time-perceptual system is not attuned to the temporal scales of “We act now, or the consequences will last for millennia.”
By forcing upon us new ways of experiencing time, while providing a new vantage point “to see the life we lived,” the coronavirus crisis is estranging us from the limited time frames under which we have been relating to the environment. The potential here is a sort of awakening produced by new expanded time-sensibilities where our accustomed time frames are reflected back to us as dysfunctional. Surprisingly, a new and deadly planetary pathogen could be revealing in its wake several deeply entrenched human time-perceptual pathologies.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE / ETERNAL PRESENT
The future has become an overall societal goal. Always obsessed with what is coming next, we have been operating under the false impression that we can foresee and fully control the future. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown many of us into a state of disorientation, laden with uncertainties. Unable to foresee an end to this pandemic, while harboring a strong feeling that the near future will be drastically different from the present, we experience a constriction of time. With a past that is no longer familiar and a day-to-day experience that does not include the future, our time horizons become shorter, to the point where the present is all there is.
PAST OF NO-RETURN
Coined by philosopher Glenn Albrecht in 2005, solastalgia describes a form of existential distress caused by environmental change. Albrecht described it as “the homesickness you have when you are still at home.” The experience of solastalgia—usually related to more localized events such as volcanic eruptions, drought, or destructive mining techniques—has become more extensive during the coronavirus pandemic. Confined to the boundaries of our own homes, we come to realize that what we initially thought was an exceptional state might indefinitely change reality as we have known it. We are then invaded by the paradoxical feeling of being homesick while sick of being at home.
We live in an age where time has become the scarcest resource of all. We try to save as much of it as possible, and we feel there is never enough of it. In Michael Ende’s novel Momo: Or the Curious Story About the Time Thieves and the Child Who Returned the People’s Stolen Time, the Men in Grey steal the time (hour-lilies) from the humans’ hearts, making people terribly sick and the city sterile, devoid of all things considered to be time-wasting, such as joy, art, and love. Professor Hora saves humans from this pathological condition by stopping time. In a frozen world where no one can move, only Momo is granted one hour-lily to sneak into the Timesaving Bank and release all the frozen hour-lilies, which, by flying back to the hearts of the people, restore humans’ sense of time and love for the things that really matter in life. Just as in Momo, the coronavirus crisis has generated a sense that time has stopped. But (for those of us fortunate enough to be able to keep our jobs while in quarantine), the long period of tedious frozen time during this pandemic has been, simultaneously, one fresh hour-lily to be spent on those things that cannot be rushed. Many have taken time to reconnect with family—weekly phone calls to relatives have turned into daily video-chat sessions; with friends—even those who had not seen each other for a long time have mutually granted generous doses of time; and with the community—we have witnessed beautiful acts of generosity that have made many of us believe in humanity again.
History, the tool most commonly used to account for time, is usually presented as a series of accumulated facts that are written down to assert a rectilinear unity of time. The current crisis is challenging this assertion. In 1875, German embryologist Ernst Haeckel coined the term heterochrony to describe deviations in the “traditional time” of the body. In Modernism and Time Machines, author Charles M. Tung explained how “Heterochrony reveals that our corporeal present is not the culmination of a progressive and uniform linear time.” The notion of heterochrony suggests the co-existence of multiple and irregular time-trajectories that converge into poly-temporal assemblages. It suggests that the heterogeneous present is not a point in time, but instead is the intersection of a multiplicity of variably deep and diverse timelines.
Hunkered down in our own homes during this pandemic, many of us have turned to art to overcome a downhearted sense of isolation. Art unlocks the heterochrony that enables us to travel in time and space in search of connectedness. Through literature, for instance, we come into contact with people in distant cultures and eras who lived through similar events. Works like Lloyd and Dorothy Moote’s The Great Plague, John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza, or Boccaccio’s Decameron transport us to other remote times and bring us close to the lives and stories of people who experienced the plague that afflicted London in 1664, those who suffered the 1919 flu pandemic, or those who lived in Italy around 1348, when quarantines were deployed for the first time. The grievous sense of separation produced during this pandemic makes us especially receptive to what literature has to offer, to those deep feelings of connectedness across cultures and generations.
Other forms of art—including poetry, theater, music, ballet, and opera (some of them in their digital versions)—have in their own ways brought us closer to others. On Easter Sunday, the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli live-streamed a concert from an empty Duomo Cathedral in Milan. Witnessing this event on the screens of our devices, some of us experienced one of the most powerful experiences of connectedness while being alone at home. The sound of his marvelous voice and the image of his fragile yet powerful human figure standing alone, framed by the magnificent architecture of the Duomo, produced in many of us a deep feeling of being connected to the world. The screens of the 28 million people who saw the concert that day alternated between views of the Duomo and heartbreaking images of some of the most beautiful cities completely deserted and devoid of life. All of the people missing from the streets of those cities were instead right there, with Andrea Bocelli, listening to “Music for Hope,” being together in being alone.
Art during this pandemic has triggered in some the experiential realization that we all come into this world alone, that we leave this world alone, and that it is precisely in that aloneness that we are deeply connected across time zones and centuries. The coronavirus pandemic has induced an absolute rupture in traditional time. It has incited us to connect across time and space, to experience time as multidirectional and our body as poly-temporal.
The Bureau of Linguistical Reality—a participatory artwork focused on creating new language to better understand the new realities emerging out of climate change—defines shadowtime as “a parallel timescale that follows one around throughout the day-to-day experience of regular time.” Shadowtime—used to describe a new temporal experience induced by anthropocenic events—is developing new forms of expression during the coronavirus pandemic. During this crisis, we experience shadowtime when short-term personal fears co-exist with deep existential planetary concerns; when those universal concerns turn our plans for life into obsolete and unimportant endeavors; when our perception of the planet’s temporal scale radically expands as we come to realize that viruses have populated the planet for over 1.5 billion years; and when simultaneously, the scale of the Earth is dwarfed in light of the rapid speed at which a newly discovered pathogen has reached every single corner of the planet.
Shadowtime enlarges the frame of human experience by deepening the segment of historical time that we occupy. In shadowtime, the present is not a point in a time-trajectory, but rather it is a moment at which vastly different deep and shallow time-trajectories intersect. The experience of shadowtime connects us with a plurality of heterogeneous pasts and with the deep future of our planet. In shadowtime, we begin to acquire time-consciousness and we start to integrate our human actions with the planetary timescales at which they really operate.
Definition: A parallel timescale that follows one around throughout day to day experience of regular time. Shadowtime manifests as a feeling of living in two distinctly different temporal scales simultaneously, or acute consciousness of the possibility that the near future will be drastically different than the present.
One might experience shadowtime while focused on goal oriented conversations, tasks and planning for life as we have known it—(college, career or occupational ambitions). During such moments there is a creeping sense of concerns that would make all said planning obsolete or seem unimportant, i.e. the collapse of the Larson B Ice Shelf that will accelerate sea level rise. Shadowtime may also occur when one is preparing a meal for their child and suddenly realizes that an endemic flower that had evolved over 42.7 million years has gone extinct within their child’s lifetime.
Shadowtime is not exclusively a negative experiences demonstrated with epoquietude. It can make one reflect quietly on the tricksterish desire and escapism lying behind apocalyptic vision, as well as catalyzing an embrace of the unknown and a counteraction to anthropocentric hubris. While one may feel that shadowtime follows them always, the sudden experience of the presence of shadowtime amid day to day activities is often extremely disorienting.
Usage: Kane was intently working on his presentation which was due the next morning, but as he looked up and saw the moon it occurred to him that the moon had been rising and setting for 4.5 billion years, moving ever further away, he felt shadowtime for the rest of the evening.
READ MORE ABOUT HETEROCHRONY AND SHADOW TIME Could also kind of tie in with the reading louis shared about traveling around the world from your room
Bureau of Linguistical Reality - Heidi Quante and Alicia Escott
A participatory and evolving artwork which is creating new language as an innovative way to better understand our rapidly changing world due to manmade climate change and other Anthropocenic events. The vision of the artwork is to provide new words to express what people are feeling and experiencing as our world changes as climate change accelerates.
Definition: While media often depicts the apocalypse as a sudden and dramatic event, the Ennuipocalypse, or Slowpocalypse (slang) offers the concept of a doomsday that occurs at an excruciatingly slow day to day time scale. Slow Ennuipocalypse, may occur in a geologic blink of an eye, but for the Homo Sapiens in urban/suburban settings who are often disconnected from the natural cycles— it is painfully boring.
As a result of the perceived slow pace of the apocalypse or Slow Ennuipocalypse those who live through it feel a compulsion to distract themselves with ever faster technology, media and economic systems— all of which feed back into a disconnect from the pace of the natural systems we need to survive.
Definition: Using new technologies to tackle environmental symptoms and byproducts caused by other (possibly older) technologies, which will in turn eventually produce their own unintended by-products and problems— for which newer technologies will then need to be produced. Teuchnikskreis is characterized by a sense of being stuck in a vicious cycle or spiral, thinking technology will be the solution to the problems created by technology.
Pre-trau.mat.ic. stress dis.or.der
Definition: A condition in which a researcher experiences symptoms of trauma as they learn more about the future as it pertains to climate change and watch the world around them not making necessary precautions. Similar to Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder but preceding the actual trauma. Characterized by disturbance of sleep, constant vivid worry and dulled responses to others and to the outside day to day world and/or seemingly comparative short term responsibilities such as: paying rent on time, attending children’s soccer games or appropriate attention to a retirement portfolio.
Definition: A relationship with, or interpretation of the world that is relational, and not object based. The Atmorelational Looks at the space or relationship between things as the primary point of focus.
This idea offers that it is impossible to determine the exact beginning of a thing or its precise end and that there is a fluid porousness between where the body/self ends and another begins. The term The Atmorelational can be used in place of the term Nature. IE “let the atmorelational take its course”.
The Atmorelational was influenced by the ideas conceptualized by the work of Caribbean poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant.
Inert Colleconnaissance Syndrome
Definition: Inert colleconnaissance syndrome is a collective understanding marked by a fear of action and a desire not to upset the system or paradigm. The syndrome is applied to societies rather than the individual exclusively and is marked by a collective knowledge or understanding and concern over a problem or injustice paired with gross collective inaction. The syndrome is frequently applied in discussions of climate change.
Definition: An antidote to crushing anxieties over the deteriorating state of the world, epoquetude is the reassuring awareness that while humanity may succeed in destroying itself, the Earth will certainly survive us, as it has survived many other cataclysms; and that, in the endless chambers of time, the lives of individual species, vast civilizations, and even entire worlds are merely brief notes in an inconceivable symphony, each sounding its distinct voice and then fading out, so that the music may continue
INSIDE - A lecture-performance by Bruno Latour
With the image of the globe we lose the representational capacity to describe where we actually live - the miniscule membrane of a ‘critical zone’ on top of the planet. A few kilometers up, a few down. It is critical in three ways, critical for life, critical in the sense that its fragile, and critical because it is extremely difficult to know. It is completely heterogenous.
Why is it important to engage with scientists, artists, and architects to discover new ways of representing the place we live? The imagination of the globe was the only way to extract ourselves from the local. Now, after being removed in the name of modernization, we are wanting to go back to our localized identities after realizing that globalization is an impossible farce. An alternative visualization is the ONLY way to establish the third attractor.
Trump has proved that you can claim to protect the local and be totally globalized (probably possible as a function of neoliberalism right?) - which basically constitutes a ‘fourth’ attractor. So to land at the third, we have to basically do the exact opposite to get to where we should be.
This is why being outside, seeing earth from space, as well as being inside, being present in earth and all its processes, both have political consequences. Inside is less being enclosed, more so being entangled.
STET - Sarah Gailey
Fantastic example of unique online formatting of narrative. Document with interactive notes, editor comments, links between text, etc. Story unfolds in the comments on an article, between the editor and the author.
Aporetic Propositions on Citizen, Artist, Participation, and the Claim of Design - Michael Stone Richards
This is great precedent/inspiration for the Plenaes Manifesto
- Unless “we” fall into a state of exception we are all citizens and any and all ethical or political responsibilities befall us qua citizens.
- There is no political or ethical responsibility that the artist or designer qua artist or designer has that the citizen does not first possess qua citizen, and we cannot design citizenship, we can only sustain a fragile culture of citizenship.
- When Beuys wrote that Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler – We are all artists – this was in part a statement about radical democratic potentiality, akin to Simone Weil: We are all capable of creative action. What pre-empts or interrupts the flowering of such action remains the question of questions that no traditional idea of art or design can comprehend methodologically or epistemologically.
- Participation is existence. Its opposite is alienation. If so, why so much talk of participation? What impedes participation? To speak of participation here is first to draw upon the etymological sense of participation, namely, to have a share or a part in something; but participation is also a movement – intentional, affectively expressive – by which we grasp possibilities and meanings always a part from the locus of movement; above all, participation is world-building practice. Here participation reveals an important feature of our existence, namely, that human existence is always existence or movement in a world beyond bare life, beyond, that is, the Cave. We should more properly speak of an event of participation between partners in the community of being, that is also the City, and as such a phenomenon of shared and complex creation. The restriction of movement is the restriction of existence itself, and this is the basis of being able to say that participation is existence. If though what is also intended is political participation, as must be the case, and all participation is conflict, it should be realized à la Hegel, as Charles Taylor put it succinctly, that “the aspiration to total and complete participation is rigorously impossible,” and would only serve to magnify the conflict inherent in all human activity. Markus Miessen has made much of this Hegelian insight in his meta-thinking on design. What kind of participation and in what kind of community of affect or shared interests are questions that might point to an emerging conception of the artist / designer as thinker / interrogator in need of new institutional expressions.
- It is thus ethically required that any restriction of movement, any pre-emption of shared movement that would impede or restrict the modes of existence of any human existence seeking the community of being, the City, should be challenged.
- But is it as artists or designers, that is, in the name of the artist or the designer that the ethical and then political challenge should be made?
- First, what the great Harvard, French scholar Paul Bénichou first called the sacralization of the artist / writer, namely, the idea that the artist qua artist had a special calling or vocation, that is, a secularized but still priestly role, is not something that can any longer be taken seriously. Strictly speaking, it was not first and foremost a Romantic idea. It was an idea born of the French Revolution but it expired with Late Romanticism and was critically buried with the various New Art Histories and Cultural Historicisms of the post-1968 generation of critical theorists.
- And what if design, the pre-critical idea of design as solution to problems of efficacious structure, is part-and-parcel of the problem? Is there a competence unique to designers that entitles a generalization to the level of practice as the Marx of the “Theses on Feuerbach” understood practice, that is, as the dynamic totality of embodied social relations? As Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley put it in their recent critical history of design, Are we Human? Notes on an Archeology of Design (Lars Müller, 2016):
The nineteenth-century dream of “total design” has been realized. The famous slogan of the 1907 Deutscher Werkbund “from the sofa to city planning,” updated in 1952 with Ernesto Rogers’s “from the spoon to the city,” now seems far too modest when the patterns of atoms are being carefully arranged and colossal artifacts, like communication nets, encircle the planet. Designers have become role models in the worlds of science, business, politics, innovation, art, and education but paradoxically they have been left behind by their own concept. They remain within the same limited range of design products and do not participate fully in the expanded world of design. Ironically, this frees them up to invent new concepts of design.
Ironically, that is, the expanded world of design would free up designers to leave behind the lazy emphasis upon products, making things, stuff, and designing places for stuff to occupy. Colomina and Wigley quote Lina Bo Bardi as saying that “The grand attempt to make industrial design a motor for renewing society as a whole has failed – an appalling indictment of the perversity of the system.”
- Design in the expanded field, let us call it – why not! – does not have its pedagogy and is emerging without designers or institutional base in design schools. It is not merely 3-D replicators that will soon make definitively redundant traditional ideas of the skill of making, so, too, will the emergence of self-organizing, self-replicating auto-poietic systems. The question of what participation, an event of participation between partners in the community of being, will then mean will have a new urgency.
- Again, to quote Colomina and Wigley:
Designers are always understood as solving a problem. Artists, intellectuals, and writers are expected to ask questions, to make us hesitate, to see our world and ourselves differently for a moment, and therefore to think. Why not design as a way of asking questions? Why not design that produces thought-provoking hesitations in the routines of everyday life rather than simply servicing those routines? Why not design that encourages us to think? Design as an urgent call to reflect on what we and our companion species have become? Design as a shifting of timescales
At the very least such an expanded conception of design as interrogation would not only jettison the concern with stuff, it would expand its thinking into a care beyond the human – our companion species with which we also participate – and become part of a critical activity of biopolitical thought and the non-alienating activity alone worthy of being called participation.
Protocols For The Phase Transition: Towards New Alliances - A.S.T.
AST proposes a new set of protocols for use under a system of engendering. These protocols forge new relationships across borders, cultures, and species. Also good manifesto inspiration.
Protocol 001_We are already synthetic. Adaptation is our only way through.
Protocol 002_Territory is now a process. It is not a fixed state.
Protocol 003_Navigation is not typological but topological. Navigation is recursive positioning.
Protocol 004_Multi-scalar fluency is essential.
Protocol 005_Time is not fixed. Time is plastic.
We evolved to comprehend time at a particular scale where it maintains a persistent linearity, one event following another. We appear to be witnesses as well as agents of causality. But our timelines extend now beyond experience; our timelines are geological. Fuel made from long dead life compressed for millions of years has been consistently burning for two-hundred years, affecting a global system ten-thousand years into the future.
We did not evolve to experience this temporality, yet it looms as an existential threat, as real as any ancient predator bounding at us through the dark. Time is creeping up on us, hunting us; we are predator and we are prey. Time will eat us whole if given half a chance.
Our commitments in time tend to be bound by our perceptions of it. We can recognize our limits and act on what we know rather than the limits of our experience; we adapt to navigate and affect temporality’s indeterminacy, enabling our commitments to act as murmurations extending across time. And as we recognize our perceptual limits, we expand the temporal commitments we have the capacity to make.
We must speak from various time frames depending on what subject and/or time period we are speaking from or to. Time is a pliable medium through which alternate futures can emerge. We can and must commit to temporalities outside experience. Additionally, we are now in a period of deep time urgency.
Protocol 006_Risk mitigation is constitutive of existence.
Protocol 007_Alien translation is what we need art to be.
Protocol 008_We are alliances or we are nothing.
Alliances operating at the scale of the biosphere are essential to address the challenges and crises in our midst. At the same time, the biggest shifts are catalyzed at the granular scale—they are accessed through pattern shifts of mundane behaviors that rewrite imaginations, both individual and collective, and vibrate into deep time. Alliances embody the rewired coalitions that reconfigure territories and societies within transformation. They can counter entrenched power by finding mutual aims and constructing webs of connection from contamination, mutation, the indeterminate space of precarity.
Whether born from spontaneity or strategy, new alliances are the responsive agents of this condition. They are the dynamic technology for mediating difference, the unclassifiable, the chaos, the fallout; they can flip crises into essential transformation.
SOURCES AND INFLUENCES:
Sara Ahmed, Benjamin Bratton, Ray Brassier, Luiza Crosman, Laboria Cuboniks, Keller Easterling, Arturo Escobar, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Macarena Gómez-Barris, Donna Haraway, N.Katherine Hayles, Helen Hester, May Adadol Ingawanij, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Suhail Malik, Walter D. Mignolo, Reza Negarestani, Bahar Noorizadeh, Patricia Reed, Kim Stanley Robinson, Nick Srnicek, Anna Tsing, Jeff VanderMeer, Neal White, Sylvia Wynter, Kathrine Yousef, amongst others.
Helen Hester On Xeno-solidarity And The Collective Struggle For Free Time
“We could include modernity’s conception of nature as an (infinite) resource to be a part of this legacy of universalism as well. Given this history, it is not surprising that any attempt to reassert the political utility of the universal has proved controversial; the dominant trend has been toward critiquing false universals rather than attempting to reassert the universal for emancipatory ends.”
“... without a universalism from below, the left will lack the requisite conceptual resources for confronting capitalism, ecological crisis, or complex, embedded structures of oppression. That is to say, if we are invested in countering both capitalism’s differentiating and universalizing tendencies, we need to be able to give an account of the universal—to intercede within debates about its operations and constitution. Otherwise, we will face “a debilitating disjuncture between the thing we seek to depose and the strategies we advance to depose it.””
“Care is too multifaceted to position as an absolute moral good or an unquestionable ethical norm, and it’s not always helpful to set it up as a perpetual obligation which is utterly resistant to change. It cannot be theorized in the abstract, but needs to be understood in terms of specific forms of situated, embodied practice. We should seek not simply to revalue care—to accept it, and fight for its recognition—but should also be open to redistributing and, under the right circumstances, refusing and reducing it. Negotiating between these responses requires attentiveness to the actual forms of care we’re discussing and addressing—distinguishing between those caring activities we pursue for ourselves, each other, and our communities, versus those we undertake in the interests of capital. This is a hugely complex task, but one that we cannot shy away from if we want all forms of work to be included within our efforts at emancipatory transformation. “
“Amongst the figures who have exerted a shaping influence on my thinking in recent years has been Hortense J. Spillers, Leith Mullings, Kim TallBear, María Lugones, and Xhercis Mendez. Their writings deftly explore the ways in which biological and social reproduction can be seen to be entangled with the imposition of particular working arrangements, property relations, and ways of knowing. Mullings, for example, is very acute when it comes to navigating the complexities of the uneven distribution of “the family.” It has been both a site of refuge and a site of control; barriers to the formation or cultural recognition of nuclear family units have provoked the emergence of rich and nourishing alternative forms of kin network, but these alternatives have also been tethered to conditions of violence, oppression, and compulsion. Her work is helpful in ensuring that, even as we look to these examples of non-nuclear reproductive units for inspiration—that is, as the basis of possible future models or as a denaturalizing force—we do not fall into the trap of uncritically romanticizing them, or severing them from the conditions of their emergence. “
138,462 Carbon Pyramids - Karen Pinkus, Hans Baumann
“Could a Keynesian “pyramid scheme” establish a “viable planetarity” by re-orienting the forces of global labor to address the climate crisis? With a dose of irony, the design inquiry of building 138,462 Carbon Pyramids imagines what it would mean—for labor, economies, and landscapes—to translate an abstract figure into a real carbon management solution.” - Off the cuff seems to be a pretty funny conjecture...
“To be clear, Keynes’ advocacy for central government spending is not precisely intended to improve working conditions or to facilitate social mobility. In The General Theory, at least, employment is an end in itself. Full employment leads to social stability, social stability facilitates the smooth functioning of capitalist markets leading to wealth accumulation, and this in turn spurs consumerism. Consumerism creates jobs, thereby stabilizing the market and allowing this cycle to continue. Without certain guarantees, workers might strike or withdraw from the labor market altogether. “After all,” as Robert Lekachman in his Age of Keynes wrote, “the marginal product of unemployed men is zero. If the community puts the unemployed to work at totally useless jobs, such as the leaf-raking and ditch-digging which were the derided activities under the WPA in New Deal America, their marginal product will still be zero. But the income from this fruitless labor will be expended on food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and recreation.” Keynes’ obsession with mass employment is, therefore, not a means of empowering the working class, nor does it represent a revolution in the modes of production or in the politics of labor. We agree with those scholars who emphasize that Keynesian economics were crucially developed to bolster Western capitalism against the “disruptive” power of the working class as represented by the rise of the Soviet Union.”
“If we regard these 138,462 pyramids as a sort of public earthwork or land art intervention (and we do), we might realize that a biomass pyramid bears a striking similarity to a compost heap or landfill. Imagine 138,462 pyramids decomposing: innumerable microorganisms and trillions of invertebrates digesting the structure over the course of years or decades, generating a complex and unintended array of metabolic processes. Perhaps these structures would self-ignite from the heat of their own rot or collapse, destroying nearby settlements. Or perhaps they could generate energy through the methane emitted from their decay. And if the entropic qualities of these pyramids proved undesirable, we could explore the possibility of transforming them into a more durable material. Biomass itself is 44 percent carbon and so—through a process of thermal decomposition known as pyrolysis—our 138,462 pyramids could be rendered down into 60,932 pyramids of a pure, black charcoal. This decay-resistant material—often called “biochar”—would potentially add hundreds or thousands of years to the lifespan of our structures as carbon sinks.”
Worldbuilding Forever: Bold Ideas For Our Collective Futures - Ryan Madson
A great editorial on the importance of world-building. Reference for presentation material regarding the importance of such practices.
“Enter worldbuilding, which encompasses an interdisciplinary toolkit of methods ranging from storytelling to design fictions, from extrapolations of social and political theory to imagining future scenarios for testing policies, products, and tech. Many of today’s most pressing problems require rigorous contextual frameworks and visionary solutions, which worldbuilding methods are uniquely suited to provide.”
“Miyazaki continues: “The idea that nature is always gentle and will give birth to something like the Toxic Jungle in order to restore an environment polluted by humans is a total lie. I believe that the idea that we should cling to such a saccharine worldview is a big problem.[…] The question then becomes, what is hope? And the conclusion I’d have to venture is that hope involves struggling along with people who are important to you. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I think this is what it means to be alive.””
“Worldbuilding is perhaps most profoundly instrumental as a tool to create collective visions, designs, or strategies for addressing the future of our planet. Diverse teams of creator-participants can assimilate contributions from a broad range of disciplines and genres including architecture and urban planning but also the sciences, information technology and programming, science fiction, gaming, industrial design, critical theory, and more.”
“A truly collaborative approach to worldbuilding might yield unexpected results. Contradictions and complexities inherent in co-creation could more accurately reflect the imperfect and lived-in world(s) of the present moment. Through the prism of pluralism, internal inconsistencies and information gaps become assets rather than flaws—contradiction as an opportunity for reflection and reconciliation. A richly conceived social milieu for a future metropolis, for example, should be expected to accommodate vastly different sub-cultures and group identities, political and religious views, aesthetic preferences, and so forth. Collaborative worldbuilding thus encourages difference, tolerance, and dialectical exchange.”
“Worldbuilding allows participants to speculate about future scenarios and alternative worlds of varying scales and scope—cities, regions, nations, continents, political and economic systems, environmental conditions, outer space, extraterrestrial worlds, and others yet to be imagined. Sarkis’ research into world-making at planetary and territorial scales provides readers with numerous precedents that point to new possibilities. “Worldmaking is different today,” concludes Sarkis. “The crucial challenge that stands before us is no longer the incomprehensibility of the scale, but rather the inhumanity of the global and how we need to imagine it otherwise, to question the boundaries that still divide it, and to reduce its pervasive inequalities.[...] Our optimism no longer needs to envision futuristic scenarios; it needs to intervene critically upon the futures that are being deployed in the present.”
While there seems to be clear criticism of all these utopian, aspirational, and grand architectural projects in saying that why is a practical discipline such as architecture trying to tackle problems which are clearly political in nature - I feel that architecture as a discipline is uniquely suited to doing so. Futures need to be represented in order to be communicated. We organize our societies through the built environment. It is a discipline which has evolved into an amalgamation of many others, or rather we must master the art of being conversational in all aspects of building and the contexts they are in. While we may not be qualified to create a bulleted action plan with the requisite steps - this aspect of broad knowledge I feel does uniquely qualify us to dream and design on such scales.
Fluxopia: On Life In The Metabolic City - Luke Jones
“If the ambition of metabolism is to re-stabilize the relationship between the city and its geo-biophysical hinterland, it will necessarily do so according to a particular pattern. The self-awareness of the post-Anthropocene city will be maintained by fluxometrics, and will reproduce the specific structures and qualities of that technique. Metabolism connects the world above with that below through a double translation. First, familiar objects are subsumed into an impersonal landscape of chemical fluxes. Then these flows are subdivided and re-apportioned to the human processes which caused them—as “environmental impacts.” The incompatibility of these systems of knowledge—the field of flows versus the discrete catalog of objects—make occasional breakdowns in the system of environmental value to some extent unavoidable. The flexibility of metabolism as a concept is what bridges from the inside of human culture to the planetary exterior and then back again.”
“The naturalistic analogy, as applied to human processes, thus produces an ambiguous relationship to nature itself. As a definition of processes through chemical flux, applied universally to man-made and non-human activities, the idea of metabolism in a sense abolishes the qualitative distinction between one and the other. What remains, rather, between the human and nonhuman, the biosphere and the technosphere, is a necessary but purely dogmatic separation between two equivalent fields. This separation is at the most fundamental level the “reality” of the metabolism itself, what allows it to capture information.”
“As environmental indices become an increasingly embedded corrective to patterns of human design and production, it becomes important to identify the forms and techniques by which such systems are produced and maintained. In a world of ubiquitous environmental indexing or carbon calculation, our shared reality becomes the fluxometrics of human processes. The more we internalize, in the design of our cities, a calculus of environmental impact as a social or technical good, the more we become the citizens of fluxopia. In visualizing our shared metabolism at decisive scales and locations, the objectivity of the original signal possessed is lost by degrees. We can become aware of our own impact only through first making it thoroughly unrecognizable; the world transformed so it can ultimately remain more or less itself. It is this slow, recursive self-correction whose signature we may expect to read again and again in the developing structures of planetary self-awareness.”
Here - Richard McGuire
A wonderful collage of time, narrative, and character. The blending of ‘important’ and ‘mundane’ events is perfect. The window pane strategy for depicting the same place in multiple times is also fascinating, and quite effective.
The allusion to the future is also quite prescient, and allows us to think about the world while being grounded in a single place. Having such a solid foundation lends more room and flexibility for one to contemplate the wildly different times and situations.
Narrative themes from different times are collaged together to collate specific responses or emotions, and to illustrate mini-narrative sequences. Also occasionally uses the windowpane method to collage a sequence of events happening very close together i.e. movement.
The book wraps itself up in the narrative (kind of) by using a future ‘reconstruction and visualization program’ to explain the story of the place across time.
Just such a wonderful balance of highlighting and celebrating our everyday lives while also letting the mind wander to critical questions of society and future…
Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin - Donna Haraway
“I think the issues about naming relevant to the Anthropocene, Plantationocene, or Capitalocene have to do with scale, rate/speed, synchronicity, and complexity. The constant question when considering systemic phenomena has to be, when do changes in degree become changes in kind, and what are the effects of bioculturally, biotechnically, biopolitically, historically situated people (not Man) relative to, and combined with, the effects of other species assemblages and other biotic/abiotic forces?”
“Anna Tsing in a recent paper called “Feral Biologies” suggests that the inflection point between the Holocene and the Anthropocene might be the wiping out of most of the refugia from which diverse species assemblages (with or without people) can be reconstituted after major events (like desertification, or clear cutting, or, or, ...).”
“My purpose is to make “kin” mean something other/more than entities tied by ancestry or genealogy. The gently defamiliarizing move might seem for a while to be just a mistake, but then (with luck) appear as correct all along. Kin-making is making persons, not necessarily as individuals or as humans. I was moved in college by Shakespeare’s punning between kin and kind—the kindest were not necessarily kin as family; making kin and making kind (as category, care, relatives without ties by birth, lateral relatives, lots of other echoes) stretch the imagination and can change the story.”
A Fictional Planetarium - Bruno Latour
“I am starting from the premise that what I have called the New Climatic Regime organizes all political affiliations. The climate question is not one aspect of politics among others, but that which defines the political order from beginning to end, forcing all of us to redefine the older questions of social justice along with those of identity, subsistence, and attachment to place. In recent years we have shifted from questions of ecology — nature remaining outside the social order — to questions of existential subsistence on threatened territories. Nature is no longer outside us but under our feet, and it shakes
“Climate mutation means that the question of the land on which we all stand has come back into focus, hence the general political disorientation, especially for the left, which did not expect to have to talk again of “people” and “soil” — questions mostly abandoned to the right.”
Bruno Latour also acknowledges that it is impossible to tackle this sort of problem head on, and so instead turns to fiction.
“In what follows, a territory is considered not as a chunk of space but as all the entities, no matter how remote, that allow a particular agent to subsist. I will start from the assumption that the present disorientation is due to the fabulous increase in the lack of fit between the two sets of constraints: we inhabit as citizens a land that is not the one we could subsist on, hence the increased feeling of homelessness, a feeling that is transforming the former ecological questions into a new set of more urgent and more tragic political struggles.”
A nice way of talking about earth overshoot day: it measures the moment in any given year when humans have eaten up their natural capital and start accumulating debt against the earth.
The paradox with all globalized countries is that they all occupy far greater territories than their national boundaries on a map. There is no correspondence whatsoever between the shape of a nationstate and the widely distributed sources of wealth its citizens benefit from. “Globalization is simultaneously that toward which we should all strive to be progressing, and a totally skewed utopian domain where time and space have been colonized to the point of rendering it uninhabitable and paralyzing any reaction to the threat everyone clearly sees coming.”
“The planet TERRESTRIAL is at once that toward which it seems all progressive political movements are heading, and yet that which is terribly difficult to define. Paradoxically, the main attractor does not seem to be so attractive! And yet, using the same principle I have used to describe the other planets, it seems to offer, finally, a solution to the homelessness detected as the source of our general disorientation: it overlays the strange shape of territories (remember that a territory of any living form is defined as that which allows this life form to subsist) atop territory understood as that which free agents can decide on their own.”
“The key element is the realization that what all life forms have in common is the making up of their own laws. They don’t obey rules made elsewhere. The crucial discovery is that life forms don’t reside in space and time, but that time and space are the result of their own entanglement. So, although reconciling the realm of necessity with that of freedom is a waste of time, connecting free agents with other free agents opens up completely different styles of association and allows the building up of different societies. The TERRESTRIAL is the same planetary body as the ANTHROPOCENE, but where the politicization of nature might finally take over.”
Beyond the Breakdown: Three Meditations on a Possible Aftermath - Franco Berardi
“I’m going to say something about three distinct subjects. One: the end of human history, which is clearly unfolding before our eyes. Two: the ongoing emancipation from capitalism, and/or the imminent danger of techno-totalitarianism. Three: the return of death (at last) to the scene of philosophical discourse, after its long modern denial, and the revitalization of the body as dissipation.”
Overly dramatic, but I get it - “The year 2020 should be seen as the year when human history dissolved—not because human beings disappear from planet Earth, but because planet Earth, tired of their arrogance, launched a micro-campaign to destroy their Will zur Macht.”
“Therefore, the agent of evolution is no longer the conscious, aggressive, and strong-willed human being—but molecular matter, micro-flows of uncontrollable critters who invade the space of production, and the space of discourse, replacing History with Her-story, the time in which teleological Reason is replaced by Sensibility and sensuous chaotic becoming.” Okay, maybe worthwhile including in one of the narratives. Microlevel agents and actors, perhaps they are the hyperobject of atc II?
Thought, art, and politics are no longer to be seen as projects of totalization (Totalizierung, in Hegel’s sense), but as processes of proliferation without totality.
After forty years of neoliberal acceleration, the race of financial capitalism has suddenly ground to a halt. One, two, three months of global lockdown, a long interruption of the production process and of the global circulation of people and goods, a long period of seclusion, the tragedy of the pandemic … all of this is going to break capitalist dynamics in a way that may be irremediable, irreversible. The powers that manage global capital at the political and financial level are desperately trying to save the economy, injecting enormous amounts of money into it. Billions, billions of billions … figures, numbers that now tend to mean: zero.
All of a sudden money means nothing, or very little.
Why are you giving money to a dead body? Can you revive the body of the global economy by injecting money into it? You can’t. The point is that both the supply side and the demand side are immune to money stimulus, because the slump is not happening for financial reasons (like in 2008), but because of the collapse of bodies, and bodies have nothing to do with financial stimulus.
We are passing the threshold that leads beyond the cycle of labor–money–consumption.
When, one day, the body comes out from the confinement of quarantine, the problem will not be rebalancing the relation between time, work, and money, rebalancing debt and repayment. The European Union has been fractured and weakened by its obsession with debt and balance, but people are dying, hospitals are running out of ventilators, and doctors are overwhelmed by fatigue, anxiety, and fear of infection. Right now this cannot be changed by money, because money is not the problem. The problem is: What are our concrete needs? What is useful for human life, for collectivity, for therapy?
Use value, long expelled from the field of the economics, is back, and the useful is now king.
So money is impotent now. Only social solidarity and scientific intelligence are alive, and they can become politically powerful. This is why I think that at the end of the global quarantine, we won’t go back to normal. Normal will never come back. What will happen in the aftermath has not yet been determined, and is not predictable.
We face two political alternatives: either a techno-totalitarian system that will relaunch the capitalist economy by means of violence, or the liberation of human activity from capitalist abstraction and the creation of a molecular society based on usefulness.
“The third point I would like to reflect on is the return of mortality as the defining feature of human life. Capitalism has been a fantastic attempt to overcome death. Accumulation is the Ersatz that replaces death with the abstraction of value, the artificial continuity of life in the marketplace.”
Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet - Anna Tsing
Monsters point us towards life’s symbiotic entanglement across bodies, while ghosts help us read life’s enmeshment in landscapes.
The primary condition of the anthropocene is suffering from the ills of other species, for humans and nonhumans alike. It is both a matter of empathy as well as material interdependence.
“The seductive simplifications of industrial production threaten to render us blind to monstrosity in all its forms by covering over both lively and destructive connections. They bury once vibrant rivers under urban concrete and obscure increasing inequalities beneath discourses of freedom and personal responsibility… Such curiosity also means working against singular notions of modernity. How can we repurpose the tools of modernity against the terrors of progress to make visible the other worlds it has ignored and damaged? Living in a time of planetary catastrophe thus begins with a practice at once humble and difficult: noticing the world around us.”
“Are there alternatives to heroism/botulism? Le Guin’s essay suggests carrier bags as another way to tell a story. Collecting offers stories with more complex acts of temporality, she argues; instead of a hero single-handedly making the future, there are entanglements and losses of many kinds”
“... In this spirit, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet is itself entangled. The volume seeks to draw out, rather than to simplify or banish, monsters and ghosts. It juxtaposes many genres to show how varied storytelling styles might inform each other both in learning about our challenged planet and in forging strategies for living with others in the yet-to-come.”
Good way of relating the structure of my entire project
Ursula K Le Guin
“In Romantic Things Mary Jacobus writes, “The regulated speech of poetry may be as close as we can get to such things - to the stilled voice of the inanimate object or insentient standing of trees.”
Poetry is the human language that can try to say what a tree or a rock or a river is, that is, to speak humanly for it, in both senses of the word “for”. A poem can do so by relating the quality of an individual human relationship to a thing, a rock or river or tree, or simply by describing the thing as truthfully as possible.”
“It is in encounters among orchids, insects, and scientists that we find openings for an ecology of interspecies intimacies and subtle propositions. What is at stake in this involutionary approach is a theory of ecological relationality that takes seriously organisms’ practices, their inventions, and experiments crafting interspecies lives and worlds. This is an ecology inspired by a feminist ethic of ‘response-ability’ … in which questions of species difference are always conjugated with attentions to affect, entanglement, and rupture; an affective ecology in whichcreativity and curiosity characterize the experimentalforms of life of all kinds of practitioners,not only the humans.”- Hutsak and Myers
In Orson Scott Cards’ Speaker for the Dead a boy responsible for exterminating other species in a techno-utopian war effort has grown into a man and now must take up responsibility for collecting the stories of those left behind. In many ways this is similar to what some species of orchid perform, by immortalizing resemblances to female species of bee that have long gone extinct.
Harraway proposes hybridized science-art-activisms for grappling with the ecological crisis - it is this symbiosis with fact and art that allows for the most successful raise in collective awareness. It engenders connections through space, species, and time.
“Infecting each other and anyone who comes into contact with their fibrous critters, the thousands of crafters crochet psychological, material, and social attachments to biological reefs in the oceans, but not by practicing marine field biology, or by diving among the reefs, or by making some other direct contact. Rather, the crafters stitch “intimacy without proximity” a presence without disturbing the critters that animate the project, but with the power to confront the exterminationist, trashy, greedy practices of global industrial economies and cultures.”
“The imagined autonomy of the individual was tied to the autonomy of the species. Each species was thought to rise or fall on its own merits, that is, through the fitness of the individuals it produced. Individuals were just one kind of self-contained unit that could be summed up or divided like building blocks, from genes to populations to species - and sometimes even to nations, religions or civilizations.
Today, the autonomy of all these units has come under question, and each question works to undermine the edifice built from the segregation of each from each.”
Basically all the essays here, and much of the other reading on ecological issues I’ve been doing, is all leading towards the same direction. Something of a flat ontology where we all acknowledge, respect, and care for the other occupants of this planet. It is about realizing the entanglements and celebrating them instead of claiming individuality.
We currently see collective behavior in one of two ways, either as a sort of genetically coded program that seeks out certain collective goals or that it is managed by a sort of superorganism that drives the relations between individuals. “We need to develop new language and sets of metaphors that avoid both of these alternatives and instead describe collective behavior as a tangle of overlapping connections that is constantly being created, without any locus of control.
Damn this is a good essay. Hard to summarize or coherently reflect on.
Turns out that the stable amount of oxygen in the atmosphere that allows for so much life and diversity today was created by an apocalyptic biological event 2 billion years ago.
We are, as all life is, energy consuming beings (non entropic? Kind of.) but life in certain systems has evolved to recycle as much energy as possible - almost always in biodiverse ecosystems as opposed to the monoculture cities and farms we as a species cultivate.
Geostories - Design Earth (Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy)
“Those who refuse to listen to dragons are probably doomed to spend their lives acting out the nightmare of politicians. We like to think we live in daylight, but half the world is always dark; and fantasy, like poetry, speaks the language of the night.” - Ursula K. Le Guin.
Read the narratives
Artificial Light - Keith Mitnick
“The notion that interpretation gets in the way of our experience of things is an odd, yet recurring, one expressed in many discussions of architecture. It presumes that we could perceive things without, in one way or another, trying to make sense of them and that objects have characteristics independent of our perception of them. Nevertheless the idea of immediacy remains popular among those who would have us stop thinking so much and just let things be as they are, as if to imply that everything occurs directly, without our participation, according to some underlying natural pattern.
But ideology always tries to disguise itself as the outcome of natural and pragmatic forces, and it uses architecture to stage the deception. Given that there are many opposing beliefs vying for naturalness at the same time, we are invariably confronted by the need for multiple natures, which presents a problem, because nature needs to be defined as a single, all encompassing entity or else it ceases to play the role that ideology requires of it. Nevertheless our experience of the world is rife with gaps between competing belief systems and their presumed correspondence to, or identification with, the different ways that sensory experience is constructed and represented.
In many discussions about architecture, sensation is assumed to be direct, and therefore more real than interpretation. Recent critical (or so-called post-critical) trends have called for a refocusing upon architecture’s role as a producer of affects, both as a source of its directness and as a means of discursively screening-out other factors - social, political, economic - that have traditionally defined the discipline. On one hand is an argument about the nature of sensory factors in the creation of “meaningful” experiences and on the other is a desire to shift architectural dialogue and production away from a perceived preoccupation with meaning.
As is the case with all forms of visual culture, the medium is, to a large extent, the message. The way we experience the world is the result of how we represent it. Our terms and standards for normalcy and eccentricity, complicity, and deviance, are each determined by the very instruments which which they are recorded and the resulting documents through which they are presented and made sense of.
The Fish of Lijiang - Chen Qiufan
A story lamenting productivity and burnout, also an interesting interpretation of contemporary tourism culture. By bringing in issues of time control they begin to confront bigger issues of labor, life, society.
“Is this how you get better? Without any physical therapy, medication, special diet, yoga, yin-yang dynamics, or any other kind of professional care? Is this the meaning of the slogan plastered all over the rehabilitation center: "Healthy Minds, Happy Bodies"?”
“Someone made another discovery: the aging of the mind was intimately connected with the sense of the passage of time. By manipulating certain receptors in the pineal gland, it was possible to slow down one's sense of time, to dilate it. The body of a person receiving time sense dilation therapy remains in the normal stream of time, but his mind experiences time a hundred, a thousand times slower than the rest of us.”
“Time sense compression is wonderful for improving productivity and GDP. But there are many side effects. The mismatch between subjective time and physical time causes metabolic problems that accumulate into severe symptoms.
The conglomerates that invested in the technology created the rehabilitation centers in China and lobbied to change the labor laws to institutionalize the idea of "rehabilitation" so as to hide the truth.
They discovered that those suffering from the side effects of time sense dilation and those suffering from the side effects of time sense compression can help each other, be each other's cure.”
The World as an Architectural Project - Hashim Sarkis
Corbu X Saint-Exupery is maybe the best collab this world has ever seen
Architecture aims… “To understand the spatial, technological, and social processes that are shaping the planet, in order to define types and scales of architectural intervention that can challenge the ways in which globalization takes place.”
“...what for us is more influential is the simultaneous development, during the enlightenment, of the concepts of aesthetic autonomy and of cosmopolitanism. The separation of the aesthetic realm from other aspects of social life opens spaces of discussion testing hypotheses about modes of perceiving and being that are independent, for the first time, of naturalistic or cosmotheological ideas of predetermined order.” - I read this as voicing support for a different kind of autonomy than the one we are acting against. Specifically Aesthetic autonomy can be liberating I suppose - but isn’t that just a fiction? Severing ties from reality? But the new aesthetics are no less entangled.
Two symmetrical questions structure every example in this book: What does architecture do for the world? And What does the world do for architecture? The generalized answers are: To spatialize and visualize contrasting conceptions of the world. And To help know and question the existing conditions of the world.
“This corpus of projects does not depend on conceiving of and implementing a single global spatial logic or on operating at vast transcontinental scales. The world can be addressed by means that range from designing a building typology to conceiving of new methods of cartographic projection, from defining wearable devices to developing urban models, from constructing ephemeral interventions to producing visual narratives. Through all these means, design is oriented toward the act of building but also, importantly, to intellectual production.”
“In this sense architecture’s engagement with the global does not simply seek to transform existing conditions, but also to know them. For the architectural criticism of modernity, one of the most problematic consequences of architecture’s participation in the generating and influencing of larger systems (be they political or environmental, or be they urban, territorial, or global) is the loss of architecture’s function as an instrument of knowledge. Architecture is often instrumentalized for fixing or organizing a specific aspect of the totalities rather than a way to understand and question them. Common among most of the projects in this book is an intended reaction to this loss and a parallel interest in using architecture as a cognitive tool, either by defining spatial devices or by using design to investigate, analyse and understand world phenomena.” - The second great contribution of architecture to the world is to add to its knowledge.
Paradoxically one may have to be elevated off earth, to understand the totality, before being able to come back down, and land on terra.
In continuing to project possible organizations and conceptions of the planet, architects and urbanists constantly reflected upon the repercussions of diverse aesthetic, social, and political currents, and upon the impact of possible uses of technological and scientific advances. “Through these projects, we detect a constant interrogation of the ultimate possibilities, roles, and limits of architecture and urbanism vis-a-vis society. In this sense, rather than indulging in the megalomaniacal cliche of the modern architect-qua-demiurge, this book adopts a position of disciplinary self-reflexivity, in which metageographic and holistic considerations test the limits of ethical and aesthetic positions. Taking architecture to its most ambitious extreme becomes, then, the most demanding form of interrogation. It stretches architectural thinking. Confronting these limits should, no doubt, inform a critique of the methods of intervening in the world our discipline has endorsed.”
Fifty Wishes for the next Fifty Worlds
“No matter how much architects aspire to being atemporal or aspatial, to suspend their time and context, their works are always bound bythe moment they are trying to escape. After all, the exercise of imagining alternative worlds through architecture entails delegating to design the role of a time machine, a time machine of its time. As in navarro baldeweg’s Gates, the memory of the city and the city’s future are outcomes of a single operation.”
“The production of the world constitutes the horizon of every architectural action”
“Our optimism no longer needs to envision futuristic scenarios; it needs to intervene critically upon the futures that are being deployed in the present.”
- Architecture must embrace pluralistic and constructionist logics, building internal consistencies to rehearse different forms of life without fully mapping them out in relation to external social configurations, creating new worlds which suggest new models of shared life.
- Architecture must adopt a non-anthropocentric vantage point which accepts a multiplicity of intelligences; animal, natural, technological, artificial.
- Architecture must strive towards equity, which means along the way it must make up for its past transgressions before the next era can be entered.
- Architecture must accept indeterminability, instability, and uncertainty and turn towards analyzing and imagining their temporal and spatial complexities.
“Architecture no longer works in a teleological fashion toward a single spatial horizon, nor toward the emergence of future conditions determined by spatial relations settled in our present. In the next fifty worlds, architecture will need to manipulate variegated forms of temporality: the almost geological consequences of some of our actions; the fast-paced, cyclical relations between production, consumption, and waste; the short life span of most of our buildings; the stabilized time of memory and preservation; the unstable, sometimes ephemeral, character of our present; the potentiality of our future.”
Architecture as Measure - Neyran Turan / NEMESTUDIO
“In an era when humans are described as geological agents, architecture is a measure both to assess and to act upon the world. That’s why this book is called Architecture as Measure. I intend to invoke the two complementary definitions of the term “measure”. Measuring something means both to ascertain its degree by using an instrument, and also to scrutinize, to consider with pause and inner focus. Climate change requires architecture to be even more architectural by expounding its specific role in the world. I belong to that group of architects who are eager to search for radical and experimental ways to redefine architecture’s capacity to engage with the world through the critical and rigorous redefinition of its disciplinary specificities, and who all believe that shaking the discipline and the world compels us to not be afraid of slowing down and focusing inward, for the most robust outward influence.” - almost real good plenaes material until that last sentence. It is too urgent for us to look inward any longer!
Do project background, advisors, process, how it differs from their work
explain what I’d kind of like their input on
- ideation process for these kinds of projects
- make sure I’m tackling the right ideas, litmus check that its pointed and relevant
- source suggestions based on current reading list
- project precedent examples of other narrative architectures
- making sure that text/visual are working together well
- recommendations on further readings, ideally less westernized?
- the attitude is somewhat against autonomy, that architecture is inextricably intertwined with the larger systemic forces
Discuss initial work, thoughts on narrative setup as the next step, how to start really writing
share drive folder
Set up next meeting
Good luck on lecture!
invite hilary to talk about her thesis
contact horizonte to guest edit online issue
audio, some voices, some just background ‘archival footage’
needs to be anchored by some critique of the tools I’m using
drawing needs to consist of robust references, not just pretty illustration of the fiction - use it as a tool and driver. could either be collaged in, or redrawn.
maybe fictional institutions are better than real ones - departing from the real ones, but fictional names - strengthens critique
storyboard of narrative
there has to be a clear architectural affect that allows the fiction to happen - 12 ideal cities, superstudio
provide a historical reference for the architecture so it becomes less of a design project, more about the narrative
scope of events helps understand scope of drawing and fiction
notes are the notes of an archivist, part of the collective
archeologist, librarian, commandante marcos, instead of curator - so they have a more defined role
the book of imaginary beings - borges
maybe I become an interstitial character between me and curator/librarian
use narrative visual diagram to guide the whole narrative as like an analysis documents
museum of catastrophe, theme park of cliamte
question the image of futurism that we have
if you’re going primal, go fully geometric
first drawing could benefit from a section, see deeper down, show extraction(!), always include earth
can also go back in history with the project, write references to semi-fictional characters (perhaps children etc of real figures)
Philippe Descola - lectures or short papers
a section could be notes/quotes from different books
non reformist reform
more descriptive etc in the narratives
edit letter of introduction to address critiques of architecture more directly, architecture as tool for action
find numberical way or system to designate cycles
feels like it could be written today, but should have an added sense of urgency
The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq
the fuck you email needs more explanation becuase it is kind of the precipice of the whole story
make it more clear that they know, bring more ideology - make it more sharp or give a bit more empathy
kind of the point of the thesis is translation of issues from depressive to hysteric timescales
octavia butler xenogenesis
more rage in act 3
other text that is just descriptions of spaces, balancing act between text and image
present storyboard, basic outlines of the narrative structures, zooming around a map or web, maybe use the drawing as a background and the narrative bits on top - really direct the conversation as well, ask questions about what is relevant
the simple iconic nature of the drawing should be present in the writing as well
“What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence”
Where is the architecture in the manifesto, if we define archcitecture as the way we construct EVERYTHING
architecture as the excuse to engage with EVERYTHING
the thesis is about the setting, plenaes is a reaction to a particular setting, maybe an inevitablwe one, but a holistic setting that arises from design and human construction - i.e. architecture
a little more emphasis on the acceptance of everyone into the group, call for solutions or action belongs to everyone because it effects everyone
THE PROJECT belongs to architecture
what happens if you change all references of art to architectures
you can’t run away from the responsibility of architecture
maybe more of a collage, or use the modified images as posters in the big drawings
there’s an urgency to hand work, maybe use that to benefit
format is too stiff, literally manufacture everything, desk contents should be designed and edited as well, table could be a map, forensic approach could be more highlighted in the traces that the subject leaves
invent new media types for video purposes
when grabbing a document my voice comes in as if its reading it
bring in more political references to the gallery spaces
embed everything that needs to be said in the image
zoom out into another of the archive, maybe an aetellier for making
hide the plenaes stamp in places, also in icon images
act 3 should be dirtier, looks with more life
name the rooms
make doors reflective of geometries in the images, but also floor and lights etc, could even be the shape of the entire room
old botanical drawings to act 3
act 3 tone down color, up contrast
need to have descriptions of the archive since it is so important now, give the space more distinctive character as well
copy small model of the room itself into the room
find a way to incorporate meeting notes with advisors into the actual document
subtitles would be good, consider just uploading to youtube for that reason
some kind of tape player to signal voice?
more change of scale and change of material to highlight drawings - espescially when relevant to the audio
ya just more variation, also modify book covers and paper types and stuff
when speaking about architecture make sure that
add effects to my voice
packing > panning > zooming (two different table scales, one more close up)
make it really into a facsimiled of a table for miro, pngs of pens and stuff etc
get a cardboard box
use a different angle in the room to highlight the desk, mostly just for the video
need to make the percieved time of plenaes less clear in the video
make antechamber to use as workspace for archivist
change color of earth, burn to contrast more
network drawing doesn’t have depth, it reads flat and flattens the rest of the drawing
lighten depths of cave
different kinds of farmland and stuff inside the gardens, more trees emphasizing allees
things that take care of the farmland, flying drones or somethin idk
platonic rooms stronger
insert easel for images or paste them to the wall, don’t have to be hung
tiles would be circles, everything would emphasize the shape
heterochrony needs more depth, make it read less flat
extend moulding to opening, fix where vertical meets horizontal
make text bigger in narrative diagram, make it dirtier, scribbled notes
text should stay as a book to respect the artifact
video on tv, drawings on wall, book on reading pult,
leave table empty at end
add pages instead of taking them away, layer them into a border shapes, shadow looks kind of cartoonish
or maybe its just not necessary, distributing script could work especially if you frame it as an artifact
obciously physical is kind of better
website page to share monaastic progress
transition from perspective to plan, kinda like warping?
all same color pallette or different?
frame breaks? - show drawing example
cloud iron or pyramid?
appropriate references to existing institutions
as you pan upwards the drawing could show different instances of time
should print process
albrecht durer hatching
because its a model there can be multiple different perspectives into a certain environment
use the 3d to benefit - can clip different views of the drawing
color pallette emphasizes environmental situations
colored light source on colored material
bump up spotlights
paint color in the hallways to reference the next
could hang them not square
blur containers? - if static it implies not functioning, which could be good
push pipes forward, give more depth
pipe section should show groove
more space between street and pipes
clouds could move down, inhabit space between towers
debris in street - accentuate ideas of how long it has been uninhabited
brighten up middle to imply lights
tick marks, some kind of unit
koolhass thesis transplanting berlin wall to london at the AA
“why is this thing I’m doing useful and provocative for a thesis” - against autonomy
get a sense of people you’re pushing back against
send matt big other excerpt - or just make comments better and share document
WHAT WAS THAT WORD? - AGENDA
probably mostly about we have never been modern
anna tsing? for next time
don’t let it get too vague
like the horseshoe crab relationship with the bird, or the parrots in exhalation can sort of permeate the work
rather than being explicitly said
use biological examples from arts of living in a damaged world as background permeation of the narratives, when you
catch a glimpse of them they haunt you with a kind of richness
posthuman glossary - turn into a diagram
develop a methodology for smaller drawings
paper is moving towards obsolescence but as a projection system
layer in sketches / process work of the drawings
if plenaes does a platonic object it needs a way of undoing itself
multiplicity is desired within a constrained set
moldings can also indicate time, sequence, emphasis, etc - look into historic details
cubicle in first room, pillow or stool in third - emphasize workspace and tools and environment reflective of design
in the video clue people in to the altered images more directly, maybe in comparison with real? or highlight change
orbital ellipses for timeline, or polycentric or higgs boson like?
updates - three stories, kinds of drawings, other advisors, narative interaction, routine, motivations, process for the next few weeks
questions - initial setting ideas and anarrative setups, thoughts on incorporation into book, expierence with drawing style
experience with what I’m reading, better do address themes individually or sort of all together?,
did you ever look into spaces for thesis?
- should the school renumerate advisors? or how do we reciprocate?
- recommends mushroom at the end of the world
- should add some reflection time
want to start laying out the book, can you share whatever other examples you have around?
how to format reading notes into something useful for the final?
would you like me to share reading notes document with you?
share exhibition thoughts, two ways of interaction - text>image image>text (html text story/feral atlas)
also move the meeting that conflicts with the exchange session?
deescription can open up some sets of interesting conflicts with the image through combination or interaction
text could be sound
the great derangement
artefact can be animate, part of the worlds
danny dawling - slowdown, we build our perceptions through moments, but the acceleration is the most interesting part
ask ML to send some images from the terra forma book
keith mitnik - artificial light
alexandria quartet lawrence durrell
pattern is good, pattern and layering - the centralized figures are a strong statement
children taking their own lives due to climate
what is immediately conjured by the audience, how to destabilize that suggestions
contrast and contradictions can be ok and productive
send the introductory recording out before the recording
make it abundantly clear at the end how this is meant to be seen, what should be talked about, how it relates to architectures
format differentiation for plenaes material
final presentation is A TRAILER
this is intented to be something that puzzels and opens questions
section cut through the machinery rather than in front of it
baseboard much taller
no trim in the interior corners
image frames need more work
planting to be raised
look at stewart gardner museum
nix the legs
people at top of pyramid
crowd denser towards the capital
commentary on the ordinary is important in the gallery images
landscape feels like its about to drown the buildings
fossils somewhat indistinct
one person looks kinda blobby
shrink dot scales
three completely at war responses to the circle
pandemic as throughline - maybe
John Wiswell’s “The Tentacle and You” and “Open House on Haunted Hill.”
tie the stories together with artifacts found from an old progressive artist collective
recap work - readings, notes, outlines
recap changes - framing as archival documents (removing literal authorship, project in a project reflected in actual book), fictional institutions - easier critique but potentially less precise settings, notions of time and ordering of the narratives, update on exhibition/presentation thoughts, collections of works rather than single story (insp stand on zanzibar, house of leaves) - reflects on how I’m structuring characters, perspectives, modes etc
ask about writing tips, software, structure, time, etc - most time spent on this I think
how do I come up with names?
run the world descriptions past her, litmus test
schedule next meeting, probably in two weeks? more immediate focus on drawings now
just accept sucking
working non-linearly is good, start where you are drawn to
controlled and replicable conditions
there is a christoph voice that is peaking through often
still working too much in the intellectual realm - need to deal more with the visualization and concrete reality
add news report to act 1, maybe bank report, craigslist kind of thing (looking for roommate), mortgage gone
act 3 might have a criminal dossier or surveilance records,
motivation for sending the documents is the discovery of new information changing the perspective
the intent is critical for plenaes membership
archivists are an underground force in face of the truth index
between 2 and 3 in act 2 for a more specific reference to truth index
choose certain documents to create a blackout poem from
archivist position of following a sixth sense - we think this is interesting but we don’t quite know why
strategise exhibition plan
think reflexively about the timeline, 50yrs back > 50 yrs forward
bruno latour essay in drive - how representation changes the way we think
May, John. Signal, Image, Architecture. New York: Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, 2019.
couple reading notes with visual notes
bring representational precedent about exhibitions and aspirant work
exhibition sketches to be website diagrams? just like frameworked in illustrator or something?
budgets just being for printing I guess... not sure how to tally that up
physical book and digital book would probably take slightly different approaches for me, how to reconcile? (i.e. fold outs)
how do I turn my reading notes into something worthwhile for the book?
is it fine to not really have diagrams etc? was thinking of zooming into the big drawings for the sake of the digital book, and splitting them up on pages
for the presentation, what is the idea behind the ‘visual overview’ or ‘visual description’ - is it necessary to diagram them out?
mapping this out could be helpful, visualize the set of relationships
the stack benjamin bratton
just assosciating text with with visual can really help, what expressives the things you’re writing
maybe the notes are just a layout thing, like a sidebar from the main text instead of just an endnotes
for wednesday, scripts tightened and solidified, make visualizations, specificity is key
recap changes, narratives drawing sketches
talk about the visual notetaking strategies
some characters have more primarily visual modes of conveying information
move narratives outlines to miro
have a kind of codex of individual parts
look at drawings of dantes inferno
flesh out characters, what each node represents, maybe overlay in a different color the purpose
hito steyerl style of overlapping text and image
detail some more visual aspects of conveyance mode that fit the characters
using architectural methodologies to convey the issues within each of these acts
for the midterm find ways to be graphically accessible
I could use file structure to present this thing as well
ask how she made the processed images - would be really helpful for my process
use narrative map for mid review presentation, highlight critical or more developed pieces
give big picture of what the collections are, get into the specificity of how its happening
use transitions to come back to the big question
think about a balance between clean and concise curation and an overwhelming amount of content
photoshop actions to process images quickly, and grasshopper script for glitches
maybe put desks in the galleries and model them like you present the physical table in the video
foreground is good, bring into other galleries
push to be on top of inviting guests
use presentation to clue into and encourage zooming in
entryway workspaces to galleries, could have the shaped entries
opening up drawing leading into digital version
antechamber is the same room, but the door and accoutrements change for each act
explore layout for presentation method review, layer in stills from the video
messy overlay of piles of pages and stuff on miro <<
curate subtitles - scrolling? full manifesto text
look at government documents for formatting inspo
maybe there’s a tag on pages that says it belongs to unx
maybe can give menial tasks away
hand gif would demonstrate the interaction well
mapping of these worlds?
watch bruno latour lectures where he’s talking in front of maps
Design earth - precedent
listen to elia zenghelis gsd lecture
could the website or presentation also become part of the overarching fiction/narratives
maybe the subtitles stay on screen somehow
maybe the subtitle pages should be scanned
zoom desk camera into the documents that I’m holding
don’t need to zoom back into the table
maybe the desk is the same in every place
select some quotes and turn them into little vignette images, maybe with the auxiliary images
maybe letterhead isn’t quite right because it solidifies plenaes as an organization
the world bank and international monetary fund used structural adjustment programs to systematically coerce socialist/communist countries to enter the global free market
I am glad you have made it this far. Should you be interested in further material, I have taken the liberty of selecting some for you here. Much was lost after the singularity, and I must confess that our archive only contains a selection of the works listed here. Regardless, should you be interested, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I will help you source them to the best of my ability.
I have reason to believe these works may have directly influenced Plenaes, (a number were even read by the archivist themself!) or perhaps, the authors were members themselves... I think by reading them, you will uncover many, many references to vital ideas throughout the preceeding documents.
Allen, Laura, Pearson, Luke (ed.). Drawing Futures. London: UCL Press, 2016.
Aureli, Pier Vittorio. The Project of Autonomy: Politics and Architecture within and against Capitalism. New York: Buell Center/FORuM Project, 2013.
Awan, Nishat, Tatjana Schneider, and Jeremy Till. Spatial Agency: Other Ways of Doing Architecture. Abingdon, Oxon England: Routledge, 2011.
Bahro, Rudolf. Avoiding Social and Ecological Disaster: the Politics of World Transformation. Bath, England: Gateway Books, 1994.
Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths Selected Stories & Other Writings. New York: New Directions, 2007.
Borges, Jorge Luis. The Book of Imaginary Beings. México, D.F, 1987.
Brunner, John. Stand on Zanzibar. Mechanicsburg, PA: SFBC Science Fiction, 2004.
Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Sower. Random House Inc, 2019.
Calvino, Italo. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller. London: Vintage, 2015.
Clarke, Susanna. Piranesi. S.l.: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021.
Colomina, Beatriz and Wigley, Mark. Are we Human? Notes on an Archeology of Design. Lars Müller, 2016.
Danielewski, Mark Z. House of Leaves. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.
Feireiss, Lukas and Robert Klanten (ed.). Utopia Forever: Visions of Architecture and Urbanism. Gestalten, Berlin. pp.166-69.
Freiere, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Penguin Education, 1972.
Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man. London: Penguin, 1992.
Garcia, Cruz, and Nathalie Frankowski. Narrative Architecture: a Kynical Manifesto. Rotterdam: nai010 publishers, 2020.
Ghosn, Rania, and El Hadi Jazairy. Geostories: Another Architecture for the Environment. New York ; Barcelona: ACTAR, 2019.
Invisible, Committee. The Coming Insurrection. Cambridge (Mass): The MIT Press, n.d.
Jingfang, Hao. Folding Beijing. Translated by Ken Liu. Uncanny Magazine, 2015.
Latour, Bruno. Facing Gaia. Polity Press, 2017.
Latour, Bruno. We Have Never Been Modern. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education, 2000.
Latour, Bruno, Porter, Catherine. Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime. Cambridge: Polity, 2019.
Lightman, Alan P. Einstein’s Dreams. New York: Vintage Contempories, 2004.
Liu, Cixin. Remembrance of Earths Past. Head of Zeus, 2018.
MacLeod, Ken. Divisions. New York, N.Y: Orb, 2009.
May, John. Signal, Image, Architecture. New York: Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, 2019.
Miller, Sam J. The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History. Uncanny Magazine, 2015.
Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas. London: Sceptre, 2004.
Mitnick, Keith. Artificial Light: a Narrative Inquiry into the Nature of Abstraction, Immediacy, and Other Architectural Fictions. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.
Morton, Timothy. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
Murphy, Douglas. Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture. London: Verso, 2016.
Newitz, Annalee. Autonomous. New York: Tor, 2018.
Newitz, Annalee. Four Lost Cities. W.W. Norton & Company, 2021.
Older, Malka. Infomocracy: the Centenal Cycle Bk. 1. New York: Tor, 2016.
Sarkis, Hashim. Barrio, Roi Salgueiro. Kozlowski, Gabriel. World As An Architectural Project. S.l.: Mit Press, 2020.
Schaik, Marinus Jan Hendrikus van, and Máčel Otakar. Exit Utopia: Architectural Provocations 1956-76. Munich: Prestel, 2005.
Spencer, Douglas. The Architecture of Neoliberalism: How Contemporary Architecture Became an Instrument of Control and Compliance. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.
Tafuri, Manfredo. Architecture and Utopia Design and Capitalist Development. Cambridge, Mass. u.a: MIT Press, 1977.
Tsing, Anna et al. “The More-Than-Human Anthropocene.” Feral Atlas. Stanford University Press, January 1, 1970. https://feralatlas.org/.
Tsing, Anna. The Mushroom at the End of the World: on the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.
Tsing, Anna. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts of the Anthropocene. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
Turan, Neyran. Architecture as Measure. New York: Actar D Inc, 2019.
Wigley, Mark. Prosthetic Theory: “The Disciplining of Architecture”. Assemblage 16 (1991) pp.7-29.
Wolf, Martin. Capitalism and Democracy - The Odd Couple. Financial Times. September 19 2017.
Zarlenga, Stephen. The Lost Science of Money: the Mythology of Money, the Story of Power. Valatie, NY: American Monetary Institute, 2002.
Žižek Slavoj. Living in the End Times. London: Verso, 2018.
Žižek Slavoj. Like a Thief in Broad Daylight: Power in the Era of Post-Human Capitalism. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2019.