Catastrophe Praxis // There are certain things as if known in advance. “The world must end,” for example. “Death is inevitable,” “Nothing lasts forever,” & so on. Yet all of these are posed against a background of absolute nonknowledge: the meaning of “forever,” of “endlessness,” of “nothing,” of “death” even, & therefore of “life.” They are, in effect, figures of speech, if not metaphors: the constructed verism of the profoundly unknowable, lying somewhere upon the further shore of a present bounded by catastrophe. But catastrophe is a blackbox, in which the rationality of the knowable, the predictable, the modellable, breaks down.
Entropology // At the end of the second decade of the twentyfirst century, it has become de rigueur to speak not only of an Anthropocene but of a post-Anthropocene, whose template has been provided by that historical fissure in which the late industrial World Order was cracked open & prised apart by a rapid succession of wars, nuclear armament, the Marshall Plan, cyberneticisation & neoliberalism, exposing the vista of an ideal (because viewed from the perspective of monolithic power) tabula rasa – like a virgin resource just beyond the frontier, on the other side of History.
Teratologies // Washington, 25 August 2019. Scenario: A lunatic is in the White House. Like a slow-motion car crash, the US administration embarks on a catastrophic trade war with China, the systematic sabotaging of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, a series of proxy wars with Iran, & nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea. At the point of maximum tension, the President directs the Joint Chiefs of Staff to deploy atomic weapons against a hurricane tracking westward across the Caribbean & threatening landfall at the President’s golf resort in Florida. Were this a film, it could only be the worst type of science fiction & few would believe it. But what if it were real?
The Conceptualist Ends of Writing & the End of Conceptualism // Rotating once every seven hours, the spectral Cg-type astronomical object resembles, as the spacecraft approaches it, a dark kilometre-wide diamond-in-the-rough…
Under Erasure: Blackholes, Holographs & the Missing Letter // Tracing a nominal genealogy, from Robert Fludd’s “Et sic in infinitum,” to The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, to Finnegans Wake, to Georges Perec’s La Disparition & beyond, it’s possible to speak of a “poetics” of constitutive erasure that comes to generalize itself, not as a literary device, but as a textual condition—whose theoretical elaboration is paradigmatic of the so-called poststructuralist turn: exemplified in the section of Jacques Derrida’s De la grammatologie entitled “Writing Before the Letter” (1967) & the closely related essay “La différance” (1968).
‘Barbaric Peoples of the Earth’: The Avant-Garde & the Revolt Against Civilisation // Any art that co-operates with the prevailing ideological structure of power can be subsumed under an ‘aesthetics.’ On this principle, the association of the avant-garde throughout its history with a generalised anti-aesthetic bears within it broadly political connotations of economic and class antagonism, traceable to its origins in the militant revolutionary discourses of the nineteenth century across the political spectrum.
Alternative Three: Science Fiction in the Expanded Field // The abstraction of the “real” by way of the genres of fictional and scientific discourse, and its return in the contested, perturbative interval affected between them – one which, at the same time, threatens to envelope and subsume them both – acquires a particular historical focus at that moment when History itself is declared to be at an end.
6 Propositions on the Ends of Modernity // Having declared an end to History in its avowal to MAKE IT NEW, modernism “imagined itself to be beyond eschatology.” This is the argument Irmgard Emmelheinz puts forward in her essay on “Self-Destruction as Insurrection, or, How to Lift the Earth above All that has Died?” in which the Anthropocene acquires something of the status of a uniquely authentic insurrectional force in the wake of the discrediting of modernity & the institutional avantgarde, in both their political & aesthetic formulations.
2k18 / Re-evolutionary Abort // “When the revolution is still a long way off,” Guy Debord argues, in The Real Split in the International (1972), “the difficult task comes down increasingly to the practice of theory. When the revolution commences, its difficult task comes down increasingly to the theory of practice…” But if the capacity to transform knowledge into power rests upon the capacity to transform theory into praxis, according to standard dogma, what then is the foundation of revolutionary knowledge?
Writing the Impossible: Joyce, Realism & the Anthropocene // How do the implications of Joyce’s “revolution of the word” open new possibilities for experiment & resistance in the epoch of the Anthropocene? How does the Wake affect more than merely a “critique” of our posthuman condition & define a strategy for writing back against the Anthropocene via an active subversion of the industrial/capitalist sublime?
Realism’s Antipodes: Max Ernst, Bella Li, China Miéville // examines Bela Li’s Argosy, Max Ernst’s collage novels & China Miéville’s The Last Days of New Paris in relation to an ideology of realism in which the recuperation of avantgarde praxis stands in direct relation to its de-sublimation of an aesthetics of sur-realism. In Li and Miéville’s solicitation of Ernst’s texts, among others, there is a deep ambivalence between the economy of a return to the origin as avant-primitivism & its affordances as (fundamentalist) reaction, in which the antipodeanism of Li’s refiguring of Surrealism describes an exemplary movement.
Dispatches From The Event Horizon // Beguiled by the idea that a multiple-scenario universe means “alternative realities” that can simply be tuned into or out of as a matter of convenience, or as a solution to whatever local or global crisis they choose to evoke, the mutant children of Buckminster Fuller & Ayn Rand have in turn bequeathed social & ecological practices deeply at variance with their progressivist & emancipatory claims. In this uncanny region, between “Spaceship Earth” & Atlas Shrugged, there is no such thing as immaterial labour: every action is aggregated into the production of the Real.
Dark Matter, Black Transparency & the Aestheticisation of Politics // Reflecting on the photographs of bizarre humiliations & tortures inflicted on Iraqi prisoners by US military personnel at Abu Ghraib, Žižek made the salient observation that “the very positions & costumes of the prisoners suggests a theatrical staging, a kind of tableau vivant that brings to mind American performance art, ‘theatre of cruelty,’ the photos of Robert Mapplethorpe or the unnerving scenes in David Lynch’s films.” Above all, “recording the humiliations with a camera, with the perpetrators included in the picture, their faces stupidly smiling beside the twisted naked bodies of the prisoners, was an integral part of the process, in stark contrast to the secrecy of Saddam’s torturers.”
The Posthuman Abstract: AI, Dronology & “Becoming Alien” // Insofar as humanity dreams of life after death, the “drone” is the as-yet primitive technological image of that afterlife. It is the prototype of an ideal proxy by which the “human condition” transcends its worldly embodiment into a cosmic internet-of-things: a distributed architecture of autopoietic, kinetic agency. Thought that moves itself. Yet it is precisely for this reason that what calls itself post-human masks the return of an ever-more-apocalyptic Humanism, wherein the prestige of what is conserved as species-unique is equated with the prestige of species-transcendence: the (supposed) “uniquely human” capacity to manufacture universalities—artificial intelligence, cybernetic machines, synthetic DNA, etc. The capacity, in other words, to project, by way of abstraction, an all-too humanistic teleology upon the domain of evolution itself—and thus secure a future against human obsolescence.
manufacturing dissent: (the revenance of 1968) // “On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the “Mai ’68” Paris student uprising & “Pražské Jaro” (Prague Spring), it is more than just timely to consider the systematic appropriation & reinvention of the idea of dissent that has occurred in their wake, both within the corporate-state apparatus & the erstwhile fringe-phenomena of populist extremism.”
the ideology of the end of ideology: pontecorvo / godard / fassbinder // In 1968, at the height of a renewed political engagement in all areas of social life, Jean-Luc Godard stated: “There are two types of militant films, those we call ‘blackboard films’ and those known as Internationale films. The latter are the equivalent of chanting L’internationale during a demonstration, while the others prove certain theories that allow one to apply to reality what has been seen on screen” (La Gai savoir).
lumpenproletariat. writing attack / antisystem / subliterature // “The apocalyptic tone of ’80s underground art, film, writing – from prognostications of the coming police state to a refusal of commodity hypernormalisation – has all the poignancy today of a Cassandra Complex on permanent exhibit at any one of those bastions of State Culture, from the Tate Modern to MoMA to the Palais de Tokyo, that encircle the Western World’s collective consciousness like the mind-forged manacles of a “mythic postmodernism” in which “everything is permitted” because nothing unpermitted is in fact possible.”
Reactionary Sentimentalism 1: New York // “Few cities in the world exercise such inﬂuence over the mind as to manifest that rebellious spirit, that genius loci, through which the intellectual vitalism of a given epoch is channelled. These places, galvanized in their very substance by a vortex of subcultural electricity, possess by their names alone powers of conjuration. Yet such are the enervations of contemporary Culture Industry nihilism that beyond the “No Future” wrought by instant branding, there is only this mystique of the mind’s geography, laid out like the pilgrimage sites of a dead imagination – whose museumed “transcendence” instructs us as to what’s already lost in any struggle to invent our present condition if we allow it to be divorced from an act of sabotage of all that is thus Holy.”
Reactionary Sentimentalism 2: Berlin // “These are the opening notes of Wim Wenders’s ﬁrst treatment – “an attempted description of an indescribable ﬁlm” – for Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire; 1987), a ﬁlm that evokes Walter Benjamin’s angelus novus, or angel of history, as the supervising witness of our blind pursuit of an ever-elusive “ideal” future & the seeming futile wish to become one with it.”
Reactionary Sentimentalism 3: Prague // “During a 1978 PBS television fundraiser, The Night of the Empty Chairs, organized by Leonard Bernstein in support of Amnesty International, Patti Smith & guitarist Ivan Král performed a modiﬁed version of a statement by the imprisoned Czechoslovak underground rock band Plastic People of the Universe, entitled ‘One Hundred Points Revisited.'”
der amerikanische freund: petit/wenders/jarmusch // “A film without a cinema” is how Geoffrey Nowell-Smith described Radio On(1979), the debut feature by British director Chris Petit. Co-produced by Wim Wenders’s Road Movies production company, the film was heavily indebted to The Goalie’s Fear of the Penalty (1972) and Wenders’s “road movie” trilogy, Alice in the Cities (Alice in den Städten; 1974), The Wrong Move (Falsche Bewegung; 1975) and Kings of the Road (Im Lauf der Zeit; 1976), as well as Monte Hellman’s seminal Two-Lane Blacktop (1971).
emancipative disillusionment. subversion/ agitation/ transgression/ critique // “In Paul Cronin’s 2004 documentary, Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16, Vogel – whose work between the founding of Cinema 16 in 1947 and the publication of Film as Subversive Art in 1974 is central to much of the discussion of American underground cinema – spoke optimistically of what he described as the “accelerating worldwide trend toward a more liberated cinema, in which subjects and forms hitherto considered unthinkable or forbidden are boldly explored.”
cinema at the end of the world // “It’s 1973, the Apollo programme’s been on ice since last December. After Cernan & Schmitt, no more whitey on the moon. Science fiction just turned retro. On Earth, meanwhile, Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars have glammed it up for their final encore at the Hammersmith Odeon.”
The Imagined Present // “Ordinarily we tend to think of science as precisely that domain of ‘systematic and formulated knowledge’ (OED) from which fiction must be excluded.”
lugubrious complexity: braxton | sollers | smithson // “Recorded in February 1969 and released as a double album the following year, Chicago jazzman Anthony Braxton’s debut, For Alto, represented a landmark in the development of free jazz, distinguished by Braxton’s minimalist choice of unaccompanied alto sax with no studio overdubbing.”
Unamerican Fictions: All that’s Solid melts into Weird // “It is the month of June 1953. A new administration has just taken office, headed by former General Dwight E. Eisenhower and his second-in-command, ex-Congressman Richard M. Nixon. They have inherited a country, and a world, fraught with danger and menace, a world in which Uncle Sam’s dream of the American century seems to have gone sour.”
the betrayals of the avantgarde: karel teige’s cine-poetics and beyond // “Avantgardism has always been vested in ideological struggle, though in retrospect this struggle is frequently aestheticised or abstracted into a type of avantgarde metaphysics, in which “the new” circulates as a transcendental signifier of pure possibility detached from the real political character of its revolutionary rhetoric, its historical dimension circumscribed by isms: Cubism, Futurism, Cubo-Futurism, Constructivism, Suprematism, Dadaism, Surrealism, etc.”
Pornentropia: David Lynch / Marc Atkins / Christian Louboutin // “Film,” David Lynch says, “is really like voyeurism. You sit there in the safety of the theatre, and seeing is such a powerful thing…”
In Suspense of the Real: Cronenberg | Gilliam | Lynch // In his “Dialectics of the Fable” (2000), Alain Badiou discusses a series of films, Cube (1997), The Matrix (1999) and David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ (1999), as philosophical machines.
Film Noir & the Fatality of Genre // “Dietrich was the femme fatale. Hitler was an homme fatal. If there was a femme fatale there was also the German people who had the same fatality…”
Subversive Cinema: From Waters to Carax // Nur die perverse Phantasie kann uns noch retten… (Only the perverse imagination can save us) – “Goethe” / Hellmuth Costard, Besonders wertvoll (1968)
Die Young Leave a Beautiful Corpse (c): Jean-Michel Basquiat & the Art of (Dis)empowerment // when jean-michel basquiat died in 1988 at the age of twenty-seven he had only been painting professionally for seven years, yet the body of work that he left behind was prodigious.
cy twombly: fifty years of works on paper // despite the ongoing vogue in rehabilitating “avant-garde” and “experimental” artists within the institutions of art historical orthodoxy, one artist whose work has so far escaped systematic anthologisation is the post-war american painter cy twombly.
john kinsella’s poetics of distraction // around 1958, the american artist robert rauschenberg undertook—over a two-and-a-half year period—a canto-by-canto “illustration” of dante’s inferno.
still life with hypodermic: michael dransfield & the poetry of addiction // on good friday, 1973, at the age of twenty-four, michael dransfield, then the emerging young star of australian poetry, died after injecting himself with heroin.
new media poetics (review) // in the early days of hypermedia, literary theorists never tired of informing us of the liberating, subversive and downright revolutionary characteristics of the so-called new media.
romantic ecologies: john kinsella and the art of traumatic realism // in the title chapter of his recent book, the return of the real: the avant-garde at the end of the century, art critic hal foster introduces the term traumatic realism …
transversions of the contemporary (introduction to litteraria pragensia 11.22 , ‘contemporary poetics’) // from mallarmé, and continuing to the present time, the poetics of the “contemporary” has been entangled in controversy by those who stake claims to its foundational moments …
From Retrovirus to Hyptertext: The Technogeneses of the Wake // There is no genetics without ‘genetic drift’. The modern theory of mutations has clearly demonstrated that a code, which necessarily relates to a population, has an essential margin of decoding: not only does every code have supplements capable of free variation, but a single segment may be copied twice, the second copy left free for variation. In addition, fragments of code may be transferred from the cells of one species to another. (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus)
Language and the Cybernetic Mind // In the cybernetic view, everything in the world of experience is relational, and terms like mind, language and meaning are taken as fundamentally descriptive of the underlying structural dynamics by which our experience of the world is realized.
Phoenix ex Machina  / The “transverse communication” between the body without organs & its signifiers, suggests a kind of Wakean “grand continuum, overlorded by fate & interlarded with accidence”; what might also be regarded as a form of telepathy wherein the concepts of re-embodyment, metempsychosis, chance & intentionality intersect, so that it seems as if “Coming events cast their shadows before…”