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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Rhythms in Performance Philosophy

In April 11-13, there will be a conference on
Performance Philosophy. I'm in the programme. It will be on heterochrony and urges.

Urges shape the flesh, bend the flow of the elements and bring about states of affairs. The political biology of our bodies witnesses the layers of urges christalized in the folds concocted in the past. It is a tectonics. It acts as an ontological trigger: in it, the actual arises from the entrails of what is virtual, potential or merely possible.

Urges emerge always in pre-existing landscapes. Actualisation always meets the marks of what contingently happened in the past. The geological structure of contingency – as it is pointed out by Hamilton Grant in his analysis of Schelling’s Naturphilosophie – is such that whatever happens bends the board that future urges will shape. These folds are indeed carved by the events of the past - see Deleuze’s interpretation of the predicate as an event in his interpretation of Leibniz’s principle of reason. Indeed, Hamilton Grant’s also tries to approximate Leibniz’s sufficient reason to the (unthinged) furniture of nature in order to account for the standing of a ground. A ground is always a ground for further movement. Grounds are like floors, but floors are different. A floor is made of the left-overs of what took place before. Floors are the primary and ultimate archive of things past. And a floor is a starting point. But it is not an arché.

A floor has some resemblance to a skin. In order to consider the underlying tectonics of all events, I sketched, in a talk at the University of Madras, Chennai in early 2011, a tantric ontology. It looks at the populations that float under the groins of the skin of all events: desires, capacities, attractors, affordances, impulses and rhythms. Delanda talks about intensive time – the time that harbours a capacity to contaminate around itself. Spreading rhythms takes place in inorganic phenomena as well as in animal life, for instance in menstrual cycles of humans. The contagion of rhythm is called entrainement. If intensity is understood as the capacity to infect what is around, rhythms carry a rate of intensity. Organisms have the capacity to harbour different rhythms at the same time. And these rhythms can be disturbed, for example, by urges. Urges provoke heterochrony – the emergence of a different rhythm. In fact, there is a dimension of rhythm under all events. Actualization, either from the virtual or the potential, has a rhythm.

When philosophy is placed together with performance there is a potential for entrainement, for rhythm contagion. My presentation explores urges and heterochrony within the body. It looks at the plurality of rhythms that take place in philosophy – the rhythm of arguing, the rhythm of convincing, the rhythm of disolving questions, the rhythm of skirting around problems – and those rhythms of performing bodies. While I present, an initially independent process will take place in my body – the body of an urge – as a rhythm that will entrain my body and my varieties of philosophical attention.

Disaster, desire and the future

Nice small group to discuss Blanchot's L'Écriture du Désastre. Blanchot thinks of disaster in connection with whereabouts of thought and with death and passivity. He also talks about desire. We were talking about sidus and astrum, latin words for star. Desire leads to the first - desideratum, desiderio - while disaster point at the second. If the future is the repeated (as Deleuze considers in the third synthesis in D&R), desire and disasters occupy the future while never really lodging there. They are, in a sense, like messianity in Derrida, an opening for a future that doesn't go through. It is also like a drift, a deviation, a clinamen in the orbit of the stars who set up the calendar - always an astrography. Something that disturbs the course, there is something in a disaster and in a desire that is not in the astrography, not in the stars, not in the future, not in the calendar. (Think of the connection between the empty future and the idea of destiny in contrast with determination - a destiny always leaves blank pages.)

The future is constituted by what is there to be repeated. Forecast is always dealing in habituation - always dealing in what is expected. In that sense, the Messiah - or a disaster, or a desire - is not astrographed, not predicted. Surely, one could have the impression that a singular event is being predicted - something unique and unrepeated. But the emergence of something different is only possible within repetitions and therefore unique events could also be predicted from the rhythm of things. This can be understood in terms of the pupil in Wittgenstein's Investigations 185. The Mayan calendar is a product of an entrainement that takes no 2013 to follow 2012. The sequence of years coincided up till 2012, but then they diverge. Rhythms diverge like that. There is nothing in the past (in the répétition), that is in the passing of the years up till 2012, that forces the Mayan not to believe in the end of the calendar. Any rhythm that seems entrained could seem to have run amok while following the same underlying pattern that is different from the entrained one. Habits can therefore differ like that - both calendars are astrographies but they could diverge as to what is to be repeated - as to what repetitions fill up the future.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Intuitions and antennacide

"I realize that I might be missing my final chance by leaving the phone off the hook, now I only phone out for an ambulance, the firemen or the police [...]
I keep it off the hook. I am not the one for whom the bell tolls"
Charles Bukowski, Perfect Silence

Thinking of the common usage of the word "intuition" as a way to ditch certain receptions. In this usage, intuition is taken to be doubtful or disputable reception, due to its origin that cannot be traced to proper, dedicated sense organs. Its reliability is deemed low because it is not a product of a fixed receptor but rather a sensibility that is taken to be diffuse and producing signals that cannot be traced to well-reputed cognitive source. The epistemic contempt for intuition is part of a device to discard and put aside some receptors while favoring others - it is a chapter of the ongoing epistemicide, one that could be labeled antennacide. In fact, the plurality and unaccountability of antennas is part of what makes knowledge embedded in the world. Receptors abound, things need to react to what is around and to what affects whatever is around. Tarde is inspirational in opening the way to understand each thing in the world together with the societies it belongs - the rhythms it follows, the repetitions that makes it contract habits. Receptors are matrixes of difference and indifference (sensitivity to something, insensitivity to the rest) that were shaped by patters of habituation. They are not limited to the organs of sense, but rather there is a (paleo)political choice of receptors favored the existing organs of sense. Marx wrote in the Manuscripts: "The forming of the five senses is a labour of the entire history of the world down to the present." It is a labour that involved dismissing other receptors, and throwing all away under the name of "mere intuitions". (In this sense, the philosophical parlance that consider intellectual and sensitive intuition - Anschauung - is politically better if it is not accompanied by a catalog of senses associated to the standard sense organs.)

My recent trip to Mayan lands and contact with the way things are sensed through skin temperature, water flows, smells associated with rain, shapes of the hands and faces etc made me even more aware of this politics of sensorial reliability. Modernity has taken the path of relying on bare senses associated to organs as if nothing else could receive any other message. It is a reinforced blindness - and, of course, a production of a matrix of difference and indifference. Deleuze's theory of time built on repetition (in chapter 2 of D&R) makes me think of how these other sensors can be conceived. Deleuze takes memory to be constitutive of the second synthesis, the one associated with the past. While discussing the unconscious and its virtual objects, he insists that the past qua past is always pre-existing in a way that precludes the original, the archetypical item in a series of repetitions. These pure past object can be inscribed in the capacity, say, of a mouth to couple with a breast. There is no original breast to which the mouth was designed to be coupled with - say that of a mother. Rather, the material configuration of the mouth - that is, roughly, its folds - is what points towards the breast. The material constitution of each thing affords some couplings - and therefore some events - that are pure past if we take the past to be somehow virtual. The shapes of a mouth, a breast, or a knee afford different couplings because these couplings act like attractors. To look at the attractors of a material item - doubtless a study in its affordances - is a way to look at its previous rhythms, the ones that shaped its current form. It is some sort of evolutionary history where current affordances are symptoms of previous couplings - but also of mere affordances (the virtuality of the pure past). In any case, matter is shaped in a way that unravels its previous surroundings. It seems that everything that was once entrained can act as a receptor - the rhythms that crossed it left messages in it.

The politics of modern antennacide is also committed to the fixity in the number of receptors. Receptors abound, not only because the so called intuition can come from everywhere but also because new receptors are constantly being bred. (Incidentally, this is connected to my point with Fabi Borges in our forthcoming text in O-Zone: receptors are up for grabs, they are under dispute, a dispute that also involves the processes that end up forming new receptors.) If we think of the genesis of receptors, it becomes less clear whether there is substance to the distinction between symptoms and receptors. Clearly, the latter is more dynamical but this is no more than a difference in speed - it all depends how long is a "now", say. In any case, receptors are coming and going, they sometimes are almost elusive as they are available for too short to exhibit their reliability. Just like often intuitions are.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Rhythms, calendars and the future

Been discussing repetition in my class on Deleuze and Delanda. Deleuze argues that repetition constitutes time because it provokes a modification in whoever contemplates it - the contraction of a habit. All things contemplate and, as a result, all things acquire habits. It is the first passive synthesis of time: the present is configured by a vector of habits. He is then ready to introduce rhythms into process philosophy. Because things have habits, they are entrainable throughout. Entrainement requires preexisting habits. No new habit can be impressed on whoever has no rhythm, no habit, no responsiveness to previous repetitions - responsiveness meaning compressed repetitions. The future is unveiled as what is repeated, what is scheduled by habits, what is induced. There is no future without induction. There is no tomorrow without an calendar induction. Future disasters find spaces in empty slots in our scheme for the future, but they cannot constitute the future - disasters in the sense of Blanchot. The future is constituted by the expectations driven by habits - the expectations of Russell's chicken, of Rostand's rooster...

Calendar's are themselves products of induction. In fact, a calendar is a projection, an inductive hypothesis. (The Mayan calendar is perhaps simpler than others at least in the sense of simplicity associated to evidence - in Popper's terms, if a hypothesis needs less testing points to be falsified, it is simpler.) We project the future on the basis of previous projections that establish the future as a framework, so to speak. If this is so, the generalized suspicion of induction is meaningless. The alternative is to hold that the future is independent from any syntheses of time, independent of repetition, independent of any process. But can it be? Kant takes time to be an a priori form, a condition for experience - but how can it be that such a form is not achieved through some sort of transcendental synthesis? In fact, it makes sense to assume that a subject capable of experience is a subject who is entrained in some rhythm in a way that the scheme for a future (i.e., for instance, a calendar) is available. Deleuze's theory of time could be read as providing a transcendental account of time by showing what is needed for empirical judgement in terms of an underlying (larval) structure of the subject that places her in a rhythmic context. Here Deleuze uses also a Kantian strategy: exorcize the transcendent (time) by rehearsing a transcendental story. Incidentally, the general outcome concerning knowledge (of the future) is also Kantian: global doubts can only subsist if we don't consider whether it makes sense to conceive of a global doubter.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The mereology of rhythm

"Les formules sélon lesquelles "la chose nie ce qu'elle n'est pas" ou "se distingue de tout ce qu'elle n'est pas" sont de monstres logiques (le Tout de ce que n'est pas la chose) au service de l'identité." Deleuze, DR, 70.

Aharon Link suggests that we shall take reflections about capture instead of clausure, heterochrony, accelerationism, drift repetition and entrainement to be heading towards a rhythm-oriented ontology. If we take rhythm to underlie being and nothingness, we consider that irreversible time underlies the discussion about origins, wholes and emptiness. Silence, if complete, is a rhythm. The extensive continuum is a rhythm. The apeiron and Anaxagoras' assembled whole are rhythms. Also, mereological considerations would have to be rethought in terms of rhythm. For instance, maybe it will make no sense to make assumptions (that are at the service of identity, as Deleuze reminds us) concerning a whole such that we can consider the difference between such a whole and any thing. Any collection of rhythms is partial because rhythm tends to be junky - every rhythm is a part. There is no nothingness as an origin, no whole as an origin. Priority monism is then maybe discarded. Plus, rhythms are incorrigibly indexical: they enjoy nothing like a priority of the world expressed over the expressing monads that Leibniz seems to hold (contra Whitehead). Such priority is a form of monism in Leibniz.
Rhythms could be the ultimate way to vindicate Heraclitus remarks on what is still and what moves and his claim (DK B30) that the world is made of measures - and not a creation.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Gender and repetition

I spent the last 10 days of the year in Juchitan, Oaxaca, and its surroundings. It is some sort of queer capital of Latin America. But its queerness is inherited and popular, less than urban and post-industrial I went to many parties of the so-called muxes. Muxes are not really gay man, not really cross-dressers, not really transvestite, not really trans-women. With my co-author Luanna Barbosa we claim that sexual and gender identities form alphabets (like LGBTTTIGA...) that are incomensurable with each other. We call this thesis `Queer Babel`: muxes (or hijras in India etc) are not translatable to any other identity in the Westernized alphabet. Muxes are mostly not operated, they take little hormons, some of them cross-dress, typically they desire man (but not always). They are quite accepted by their families and community in general (their counterparts, nguiu's, women socially taken as men, mostly married to women, are traditionally less celebrated). They are treated as women and engage in what is taken as female jobs, mostly associated with the beauty services: make-up, hairdressing, clothing etc. The name muxe seems connected to mujer (muxer), just like nguiu' is connected to nguiu (man in dijaa zaa, the local language). I can't stop thinking about repetition and drifted repetition: gender is repetition, mostly in performance. Repetition brings difference.

Giuseppe Campuzano has this interesting idea that gender identity was brought to the Americas by the colonizer. He goes around with his transvestite museum with mostly elements of Pre-colombian Peru. It is interesting to think of the muxes in this light. Men or women, would ask the colonizer. They are but not quite... They are simulacra, simulations but then again, if the colonizer brought identity, he drawn the line between the original and the simulation. The muxes I got to know are entrained by women and find ways to follow the swing with their folds. Shall we look at the folds or shall we look at the rhythms? The folds, of course, bring in themselves no difference, they are indifferent - the white difference Deleuze talks about. They are like the whole
of Anaxagoras, an assemblage of things like a storehouse. On the other hand, it seems to me, bodies are made of rhythm.