Friday, 29 August 2008

Meillassoux, innit.

I do intend to write something serious about After Finitude soon, but before that I'd like to point out this rather amusing little typo, best read in a Lahndahn accent...

' cannot think unreason - which is the equal and indifferent possibility of every eventuality - as merely relative to thought, since only by thinking it as an absolute can me de-absolutize every dogmatic thesis.'


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas

"But before bringing these introductory remarks to a close, I beg those who really have philosophy at heart - and their number is but small - if they shall find themselves convinced by the considerations following as well by those above, to exert themselves to preserve the expression idea its original signification, and to take care that it be not lost among those other expressions by which all sorts of representations are loosely designated - that the interests of science may not thereby suffer. We are in no want of words to denominate adequately every mode of representation,, without the necessity of encroaching upon terms which are proper to others. The following is a graduated list of them. The genus is representation in general (representatio). Under it stands representation with consciousness (perceptio). A perception which relates solely to the subject as a modification of its state, is a sensation (sensatio), an objective perception is a cognition (cognitio). A cognition is either a an intuition or a conception (intuitus vel conceptus). The former has an immediate relation to the object and is singular and individual; the latter has but a mediate relation, by means of a characteristic mark which may be common to several things. A conception is either empirical or pure. A pure conception, in so far as it has its origin in the understanding alone, and is not the conception of a pure sensuous image, is called notio. A conception formed from notions, which transcends the possibility of experience, is called an idea, or a conception of reason. To one who has accustomed himself to these distinctions, it must be quite intolerable to hear the representation of the colour red called an idea. It ought not even to be called a notion or conception of understanding."

-Kant, Immanuel Critique of Pure Reason, New York, Prometheus Books, p.197

"Finally, the most shameful moment came when computer science, marketing, design, and advertising, all the disciplines of communication, seized hold of the word concept itself and said: "This is our concern, we are the creative ones, we are the ideas men! We are the friends of the concept, we put it in our computers."

-Deleuze & Guattari, What is philosophy?, New York, Columbia University Press, p.10


What the hell is this?

If these were actually existing buildings, one could argue that they represented a certain kind of philanthropic gesture towards the indentured workers of dubai, considering the conditions that currently exist for them. If these projects had been through the admittedly swift, but capricious and ruthless process of having a building completed in Dubai then we could congratulate the designers for achieving, perhaps, the best-of-all-possible-projects.

But this is not a 'real' proposal. This is an academic, conceptual piece of design by students. This represents a sickening internalisation of ideology; if academic architecture has any value whatsoever, surely it is in its ability to suspend the normal functioning of the world in order to consider what-else-might-be, what else is possible, architecturally. In this case, the proposal gives itself with a logic of plausibility. There may be humour evident in the assumption of a fictionalised corporation, but the project is still presented as something that could exist in the real world. But of course, this projection of possible-reality always hides a suspension and in this case, what is suspended is the fact that there is no political will whatsoever to improve conditions for low paid workers in Dubai, despite the centralisation of power. So, bearing in mind that this proposal is thus entirely fantastical, the cynicism is mind-boggling.

"While this development is clearly not intended as social housing or a worker's paradise, it is committed to serving the worker's actual needs and aspires to ennoble their humble station. It could even be said, that the proposal dramatises the worker's true position at the centre of this emerging nomadic society. The development promises affordable and humane living conditions for the guest worker. At the same time, it is responsive to its surroundings and sustains property values. The strategy of an integrated separation is therefore a policy of invisible alliance."

Saturday, 23 August 2008

we are experiencing technical difficulties... is in the process of becoming a real website, so is no longer this blog. will remain as the blog from now on.


The new Caretaker record, 'Persistent Repetition of Phrases' is excellent, and certainly the best one yet. The fact that it has been released by another label (INSTALL) shows that the Caretaker project has brought V/Vm a level of respect and critical acclaim that he hasn't achieved before.

One of my biggest problems with the Caretaker has always been a lack of professionalism - the theory and intentions are of course excellent, but there has always been an excess of transparency in the technique and execution, meaning that often the music evokes less a condition of dyschronia and amnesia and more a condition of 'bitcrushia' and 'timestretchia'. This is obviously part of the V/Vm world - he is what we could describe as a 'punk' technologist, so the complaint of amateurishness is a obviously a little bit superfluous.

The new record certainly avoids many of the problems of previous Caretaker efforts. The 9 tracks are more considered, and really succeed in the effort to evoke the frustrations of faulty memory. Whereas previously tracks were often entire songs played back slowly and through some reverb filters, this record deals more maturely with sampling, building succinct tracks out of very small pieces of the source material, which then allows them to access that quality of repetition, both addictive and frustrating, that all good sampled music achieves. Concerning the title track, I am thoroughly convinced that I own the record from which the piano phrase comes from, but its identity has thus far remained, of course, tantalisingly out of my recollective reach.

Although the Caretaker has moved with this record more towards the logic of sampling, his work is actually best described as 'transcription', the re-writing of an existing piece, placing it into an alien context that necessarily doubles the act of listening, the original and its excessive (or occasionally reductive) new existence. The Caretaker has always utilised this effect - the occluded subject and the bodiless variation, always presented in a new arrangement or proportion. In 'Theoretically Pure...', there are certain pieces that have lost their body completely, consisting only of the accreted sonic amnesiac material.

Despite the Caretaker's excellence and uniqueness, the theme of memory-music is not exhausted by his work. The methodology of transfiguring music to create effects of memoricity has a long history, and the trope is amply represented by classical composers. For example, the parallels between the Caretaker and this piece, "Immortal Bach" by Knut Nystedt, which is a transcription of Bach's "Komm süßer Tod" ('Come, sweet Death'), are obvious, both sonically and conceptually. The Nysted piece simply repeats Bach's at altered tempos, but the richness of the effect is fantastic, the tonalities overlapping to give a suspended and complex harmonic pallette, and the phrases slowly drifting out of intelligibility, the language undoing itself.

p.s- upon further listening, I find 'Persistent...' to be rather reminiscent of certain Susumu Yokota works, make of that what you will.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

I can't go on reading, I'll go on reading...

“The giant of Ljubljana provides the best intellectual high since Anti-Oedipus.” So says the Village Voice about Zizek’s latest, In Defence of Lost Causes, which is almost enough to put one off reading for life (the blurb, that is, not necessarily Zizek). It’s a pretty bad example of theory as fashion accessory, getting you ‘high’ on your own intellectualism, making you feel good about yourself for reading an actual philosopher! It’s even stranger when the inside of the book is one of the most bloodthirsty efforts Zizek has yet written (no doubt under the influence of his ‘best-friend’ Badiou). Do we understand him to be fulfilling the role of the ideological provocateur? Isn’t he cute? He thinks we need to reconsider Stalinism!

Although, anecdotally, I’ve encountered a number of people who were shocked by how misanthropic his recent little Guardian interview was- they were genuinely angered by his nihilistic punnery and its intrusion into their gentle Saturday routine, so his gaucheness probably has some intellectual capital when transplanted into the public forum.

Zizek has always struck me as somewhat akin to an improvising philosopher, rather than a composer of philosophy. He has a certain number of concepts, which he deploys regularly in various different rhythmic permutations over a prolific number of books. The same metaphor appears used to highlight various different points in various different texts across various different years. It’s difficult to consider individual aspects of Zizek’s thought, as it often disappears when you look closely at it, leaving just his structure of dialectical antagonism and anti-intuition. I suppose that's what so much Lacan will do to you.

Anyway, the chapter on Mao has an interesting little passage, which exemplifies the most interesting aspect of the latest book, Zizek’s belated Beckettianism:

“If we analyse [the Cultural Revolution] as an Event, as an enactment of the eternal Idea of egalitarian justice, then […] its catastrophic failure and reversal into the recent capitalist transformation does not exhaust the real of the Cultural Revolution: the eternal Idea of the Cultural revolution survives its defeat in socio-historical reality, it continues to lead an underground spectral life of the ghosts of failed utopias which haunt the future generations, patiently awaiting their next resurrection.”

Zizek does make a convincing case for the historical failure of revolutions to be often locatable in the inability to remake the very core of society after the tumult, to fail to enact the negation of the negation, but in amongst the smorgasbord of philosophical references in the passage above, I worry about this combination of the necessarily-failed project, the Beckett-Derrida axis, and the Idealism, which he seems to get from Badiou. If we, as good materialists, hold to our understanding that there is no horizon of being, no messianic end-point, no ‘eternal Idea’, does that reduce justice to just one arbitrary course of behaviour amongst others? Is there an ethics that doesn’t require some kind of leap-of-faith, granting the ‘other’ properties and privileges that one knows are not actually present, or materially justified? Hmmm…


Out and about recently I found a little book, lying in the rain. I picked it up to find that it was "Death; A user's guide", which was unfortunately not a long lost work by George Perec, but the cosmic gesture was appreciated anyway.

Rob Hood - Detroit: One Circle

And a little more for good measure.

Wash your ears out.

After all that donking I felt that some 'proper' dance music was in order, so I've been listening to this. It's certainly at a tempo that you don't hear much anymore, which is a shame.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

That's Good That, Tony!

I've mentioned before that a childhood in Glasgow inevitably exposes one to the joys of Tartan Techno, so it's not entirely surprising that I quite enjoy the Blackout Crew's 'Put a Donk on It'. Simon Reynolds neglects to mention that the genre itself is known as 'Donk', and this is effectively the mainstream breakout. It must be said that compared to your average 'Scouse House', the production is of a rather high level, considering the typical example of this stuff involves a pitch-shifted female vocal, Darren bloody Styles and not much more.

The other thing that is rather strange about the video is the humour. The BC are sending themselves up here, the music is being presented for a London audience, it would seem, what with the suburban setting, the foregrounded Northern-ness, the 'donkilator' complete with oscilloscope and plastic horns on top and the totally untypical crowd (who seem to have been borrowed from Trash Fashion's 'It's a Rave Dave'). It's a clever move to be presented with such a dose of irony that the old hipster set can enjoy you guilt free. Good business sense, as long as you don't become the next Goldie Lookin' Chain.

In a more explicitly comic vein, here's an affectionate Glasgow version of the same idea;

ALSO - One thing that needs to be knocked on the head is that stupid argument that the anti-funk nature of all this music is somehow inherently white, a silly thing to say when you consider who were first making hard dance music, albeit teutonically influenced...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Krapp's Ghosts

By now, we should all know that the hauntological is concerned with the voice, and its inherent disembodiment. One’s voice is always uncanny, and never more so than when it is reproduced. Ghosts have always used the latest technology when communicating from beyond the grave – before the telephone became ubiquitous, séances were more likely to involve written correspondence. Proust, referring to the first time he speaks to his grandmother over the phone, writes;

‘I cried out, “Grandmother! Grandmother!,” and I wanted to kiss her; but all that I had beside me was her voice, a ghost as bodiless as the one that would perhaps come back and visit me when my grandmother was dead.’

Derrida notes the alienation, or specifically, the spectralisation of the subject as it is replicated through what he calls ‘tele-technological media’. We shouldn’t forget that photographs ‘steal the soul’, as well. The reproduction of the image or the sound of a subject are ubiquitous now, but always spectral, and these concerns we have with ‘the voice’ as an uncanny part of us serve to highlight problematic points of subjectivity, where the illusion of singularity cannot be maintained. Specifically, hauntology is, of course, the fact of being-as-ghost, being as not-present presence. Perhaps we can understand this as an effect that is generated by the friction of our material mortality against the un-dead drive.

This spectral encounter with the disembodied voice is expertly examined in Samuel Beckett’s 1958 play; ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’. The play has one character, Krapp, visiting his special place at some unspecified birthday towards the end of his life, designated as being in the future. Krapp is a splintered character, spread across numerous temporal locations, his physical presence before the audience accompanied by various recordings of his voice made at different stages of his life. He searches out these recordings from drawers full of labelled spools, he listens to them and engages in cross-temporal conversations, mocking and cursing his past self for his arrogance, his ambitions, and his hope in the power of art;

Krapp: Just been listening to that stupid bastard I took myself for thirty years ago, hard to believe I was ever as bad as that. Thank God that’s all done with anyway.

Some of the experiences described by the past Krapp are identifiable as actual events from Beckett’s life, and he uses them as vehicles to investigate the familiar tropes of memory and its uncontrollable nature. Krapp listens to himself describing his awaiting the death of his mother, and how the most vivid memory of the scene is the inconsequential black ball in the mouth of a small dog that he played with as the curtain was drawn in his mother’s death chamber. He also describes a revelatory episode upon a sea cliff, when he understood what the true direction of his art was to be. Old Krapp is disgusted by the fervour with which the past Krapp speaks here, and speeds past in search of something else, a moment of calm with a past lover, drifting upon a boat.

The hauntology of Krapp’s Last Tape is primarily a system of memory, dyschronia and nostalgia. When Krapp listens to his previous tapes we see him encountering two versions of the memory; the memory as recounted by his past self and that same memory as altered by the intervening time between the recording and the listening. Desperately engaging in a synthetic Proustian search, trying to voluntarily grasp at memory but finding it ever elusive, shifting and ghostly, dissipating in his grasp and mocking him interminably. The multiplicity of the voice, with directions that the recorded voice should be ‘strong, pompous, clearly Krapp’s at a much earlier time’ attests to the technological uncanny, as the audience sit listening along with an actor whose lips are motionless to the actor’s own disembodied voice. In amongst this out-of-joint-ness, Beckett tests the power and purpose of nostalgia. When Krapp recalls from amongst the bitterness a moment of love he is struck dumb, his ‘present’ voice is annulled;

-we drifted among the flags and stuck. The way they went down, sighing, before the stem! [Pause.] I lay down beside her with my face in her breasts and my hand on her. We lay there without moving. But under us all moved, and moved us, gently, up and down, and from side to side.
[Pause. Krapp’s lips move. No sound.]
Past midnight. Never knew such silence.

What is happening here as Krapp is silenced by himself, the voice that cannot but go on is momentarily struck dumb. This is such a rare occurance in Beckett that it’s worth trying to understand a little better. At first it seems that the only thing that can silence Krapp, that can break his incessant speech, spread across time and across his spectralised subjectivity is an encounter with the Other, represented by the figure of Love. This is Badiou’s reading: The encounter with Love permits access to the pure multiplicity of being, if only momentarily, freeing the subject from the ‘tortuous cogito’. This would be an example of what we could call a ‘Love Event’, the Beckettian subject freed from speech for a moment. This is tempting, but I’d like to hazard another, slightly different reading; Badiou doesn’t clarify at what temporal level this event occurs, is the silence itself the fidelity to a previous event, or is it the event itself as nominated through the act of a critical nostalgia? But is the dumbfounded silence that Krapp leaves himself in at the end of the play not a similar but opposite aporetic condition to the inability to stop speaking? For that moment Krapp encounters the realisation, by passing through nostalgia, by exhausting the memory, that the voice, the incessant voice doesn’t even belong to him anyway. By this I mean that his scouring of the past leads him to the understanding that the original tortuous aporia, ‘I can’t go on, I’ll go on’, of course involves the stability of the ‘I’. By engaging with his own ghosts, I think that Krapp is silenced by encountering the ghostly core of his own subjectivity; He is haunted by himself.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Sadness (part I)

It's a little embarrassing, but this video has everything a hauntologist could possibly want - ruins, archives, scholars, ghosts, melancholy, dust, french, panpipes...

Monday, 11 August 2008

Lovely Penguins

In response to Owen, I thought I'd point out one of my two favourite penguin covers (the other being Beckett's 'Malone Dies', black cover with grey type and a Giacometti skull drawing, of which I cannot find an image). Technically this one is a Pelican, but I think that's actually more appropriate to the discussion. The two main bits of information I can remember from 'Dying' are that a) only a very small proportion of people properly gain consciousness on the day that they actually die, and that b) generally the most physically distressing thing about dying is the difficulty in breathing that comes near the end.
Hooray for egalitarian educationalism!

BBC demands (I)

If I was part of the takeover of the BBC, I would ensure that Werner Herzog replaced David Attenborough as the human face of nature TV. We need more family programmes about the 'harmony of overwhelming and collective murder' on at six o'clock on a sunday afternoon.

The subject supposed to believe... a singular, excessively polite fish.