Saturday, March 19, 2011

‘But what shall we dream of when everything becomes visible?’

[...]Virilio was asked: ‘But what shall we dream of when everything becomes visible?’ To which he replied: ‘We’ll dream of being blind’[...]
...from Simon Sellars' sharply insightful essay on the 'paracinema' of Roger Corman. Of Corman's X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes, Sellars writes:
[...]X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, with its portrayal of Dr James Xavier, who experiments on his own eyes with a super-powerful X-ray serum. The ‘X-effect’ is exponential as Xavier begins to see through more and more layers of reality: right through his eyelids and beyond, then through walls and buildings.
[...]His observations become increasingly deranged: ‘I see the city as if it were unborn … Limbs without flesh, girders without stone, signs hanging without supports, wires dipping and swaying without poles … flesh dissolved in an acid of light: a city of the dead’.
[...]he has begun to see through the final layers of reality and into the heart of the universe. Recoiling in horror, Xavier addresses [a] preacher: ‘I’ve come to tell you what I see. There are great darknesses, and beyond the darkness, a light that glows. And in the centre of the universe: the eye that sees us all.’
X's eyesight strikes me as a very salient metaphor for the way the world disappears into the mesh, as outlined in Timothy Morton's Hyperobjects lectures (123). If you are unfamiliar, this quick series of videos makes for a wonderful introduction to this new idea of things.

In X: The Man, the living content of the world is dissolved by Xavier's acidic vision—this 'X-effect'—and all that is left to see is the inorganic, that skeleton of things: the mesh of hyperobjects.

With this new ontology, things withdraw, dissolve and become strange strangers, the dark ecology that reveals a hidden weirdness, and redeems objects as realistic (objects are real, rather than ideal). Consideration of the mesh decrypts, and reveals another parsing of the question asked of Virilio—the initial reading was 'when there is no longer anything new to see, to discover, what will appear in our dreams, the realm of the imagined'? But this new reading asks, 'what more imagination are we imbued with once we can see the everything mesh (that every thing of withdrawn, Gaussian hyperobjects)'? We will dream of being blind, we will be blind, we are blind, because there is no longer any world to see. 

As commenter robin said on my last post, "Since all matter is made of tiny not-even-quite-particles suspended in an enormous void, it could be said that all matter, all the universe in fact, is a void. From only very tiny—inconsequential really—irregularities do we build our reality."

(Might this new consideration of an inconsequential 'reality'-as-in-world allow for a fresh antiworld about which to make and interpret art?)

Returning to the X-effect metaphor, in the mesh we have a figurative seeing, of course. There isn't any way to actually see the mesh because, without world it has no foreground, it has no background, no longer an image, no longer aesthetic ("after all, a landscape is a type of painting, not reality" as Morton notes). It becomes of us as we become of it, that viscous everything surface. All that is solid does not melt into air, as it has been said—it melts into a Gaussian molasses. A blob world. The sticky cobweb ultrastructure of Einstein's relativistic spacetime. Spatially local neighbors are revealed to be non-local, and we discover that we have strange new neighbors locally, only not spatially. With the aesthetic disguise of world tattered away by the new tools of evolution, relativity, quantum theory, and this ecological ontology of the world after the modernisms.

As Morton remarks in Hyperobjects, nonlocality has been demonstrated in the laboratory with the Bell experiments. With this realisation, we can attempt to be liberated from another metaphor—that found in DC Comics' 'dark-alien-entity', Superman's rival, the spacefascist from the planet Apokolips, Darkseid's "Omega Sanction, that traps the organism in a series of alternate realities, each worse than the previous one."

With this object-oriented ontology that bares so much similarity to a Buddhist cosmology, cogently revealing the truth of interconnectedness, can we finally start living reality as more sympathetic creatures? No longer is the superiority of the human placed at the center of the world, as the world is everywhere equally entangled in the mesh. It is all goo, after all. And not the ecophagic grey goo of hypercapitalism, whereby all that is solid melts into possible value, desired for the sake of desiring. Capitalizing each and every thing, imbuing with value until the very last atom is consumed. Not the cold apocalypse of entropy, but the empty apocalypse of total consumption. Darkseid's Apokolips:

Not a grey goo, but a goo that is as colorful and endless (that is, non-finite) as Spinoza's everything-God.

We are then allowed to posit a cosmology that is ultimately intimate, as everything isn't just completely related, but also in strange ways never separate. In terms, we become one with whatever it was we were attempting to express in the concept of God. Better yet we can learn that we always were.

It is true that 99% of human DNA is chimpanzee, and it is also true that 35% of human DNA is daffodil. This isn't bad math, the chimp and the daffodil are similarly similar. It adds up because strangely, the sum of all life is less than the sum of it's parts, because it can't be individuated. This is why there is no single species that can definitely be said to be where humanity began. Life is an object, a blob that is long-through-time. Nothing, especially life, is ever separate. By way of the microscrope we can be transported back in time, as if struck by Darkseid's Omega Sanction beams, where we see that all life on Earth is descended from self-replicating crystals: RNA. RNA was the Omega Sanction's death-that-is-life. RNA isn't quite life, but at some point it became it, and was always going to become it. This moment was the autopoiesis of the Life object, when RNA self-configured the unit of the organic living: DNA.

Of what shall we dream? Well, what is 'we' anymore, now that things are not separate? Of what, indeed, does everything dream? This object-oriented ontology of the mesh is wildly anti-nihilistic, asserting the total existence of things, against nihilism's belief/anti-belief in nothingness. In the X-effect nihilism sees,
a ‘dystopia’ in which ‘every last pocket of opacity has been seared away, leaving a vitreous desert of universal transparency,’
while object-oriented ontology sees crystalline, ultimate intimacy, dreaming infinitely.

Friday, March 11, 2011


[...]A digital sampler executes its task several thousand times a second. Nowadays about 48,000 is quite standardSample too infrequently and you get aliasing—the sound becomes jagged in various ways.[...] — Timothy Morton
Digital music is perforated. Made of bytes suspended in a void of silence.

Actress — Maze (Long Version) — Splazsh (2010) Werk Discs

Or, as a Sierpensky's sponge:

A surface, without volume.

All music, any sound, after becoming digital, is broken into a hollowed fiction. Not an unreal fiction. But a fiction that is true. A pointillist virtuality, when in it's analog state it was continuous. A sine wave was a curve. But digitally it is a relationship between an on-state and an off-state. No longer curved, stripped of it's dimension, the sum of binary differences in the interminable void.

As Ecology Without Nature says,

[...]Digital sound technology has given rise to confusion. My uncle, for instance, got into an argument with me about CDs. Now he's a very smart guy who just retired as as biochemistry professor at the University of London. But for the life of him he couldn't figure out how a CD player, or even a CD, could tell in advance whether the sample was an oboe sound or a cello sound. “How does it know?”[...]
Of course, the CD player doesn't know because it is mindless. The delusion of the music is arranged in perception. The falsehood of a conspiracy of clicks.

If this is true of digital music, what other digital media is it true of? Video? Images? A film from a projector is 50% darkness, the space between the flicker. The off-state related to the on-state: the arrangement of colored grain burnt into the film.

Is this true of our digital identities (c.f. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs)? Aren't we similarly perforated into bytes? And as such, aren't all relations broken and atomized: the on-state suspended in the ether of the off? What happens if and when, at the logical conclusion of the digital identity, identity becomes only virtual? Where is the mind when the person is a surface without volume?

Or might the situation be different?

[...]This is one reason why some people still swear by vinyl that's been recorded using analog techniques. They prefer the sound of the analog medium to the non-sound of the perforations. Many of us however have grown accustomed to what is in effect a kind of sonic pointillism in which each bit of sound is precisely regular.[...]
Perhaps the difference between the analog and the virtual is not so drastic? Not because the digital isn't hollow, but because the analog is also hollow. Is the real without volume, just as the virtual? Zooming in, as in JLIAT's videos, to the level of the atomic, we find this is indeed the case. Density is also the arrangement of distance between an on-state (matter, particles) and an off-state (space, void, nothing). And not just density, but also heat. In fact, these distances are all essential in atomic energy.

Most things, just like digital music, are also mostly nothing. Most things are mostly no thing, but instead a kind of hyperdynamic oscillation. Phasing between being (on) and nothing (off).

Mostly silence.