12.30.2010

Affect is Knowledge

Just for the goof, today, read the entire world from the perspective of affective resonance. Put aside normative structures, put aside the so-called literal meanings of words and look, actually look at what's happening. There is an elaborate invisible architecture, an invisible calculus of affective collision.

12.23.2010

Living in the Mooded World

We — or, perhaps, I — spend considerable time trying to read my body, my mood, and how best to adjust this or that. I shift my diet, my sleep, my booze, my recreation — all in an effort to "feel good."

Now, I go about all this — and, I believe, we all go about this — as if our bodies, and our moods, were distinct from the environment. That is, we view ourselves as contained and containable entities — more or less static machines that need adjustment.

But I've recently become more and more interested — and more and more aware — of the inclination of the world, both visible and invisible.

A brilliant friend of mine, Allison Holt, spent time with shamans in Java learning and mapping their metaphysics. And they operate within a world that has planes of energy, in which events persist in an almost spatial sense, as something to be reckoned — just as we, here, reckon our own bodies.

William Burroughs, too, spoke often of possession, of the winds of madness, delirium, malevolence, excitation that operate in this world.

And so I want to suggest a different architecture of thinking the relationship between body and world — a world that is always already mooded, that has its own inclinations and demands and that weighs upon us, quite literally, in multiple ways all the time. These can be as obvious as the cold of Minnesota vs. the dampness of San Francisco. But they can be as mysterious and elusive as an invisible tide of angst or an eddy of excitement.

As we — as I — tend to my body and mood, rather then trying to adjust it, we should be trying to configure it to best navigate, best negotiate, best "go with" the prevailing — and latent — mooded winds. This is to say, our bodies are always already fundamentally — ontologically — enmeshed with the environment.

And so we need not to be reading our bodies per se. We need to be reading the interaction of our bodies with the world. This means that adjustment of diet, of sleep, of recreation is more or less constant as circumstances shift, as environmental conditions shift.

We are mooded bodies moving amongst mooded bodies, visible and invisible. We are mooded bodies that are always going with a mooded earth, mooded trees, mooded streets, mooded people, with mooded spectres of all kinds. The world is a plenum of moods, infinitely dense, perfectly dense with itself, with affective resonances.

Tending to self is not a matter of tending to a body-machine. Tending to self is a matter of tending to a body-world-machine, to a complex of interactions, many of which remain mysterious and magical.

12.22.2010

We Live in Multiple Times

I've been struck recently by how we live — all of us, everyday — in multiple times at once. The now is always a multiplicity, a series of intersecting nodes that never quite coalesce: the now is a network of varying speeds and various times.

In his Cinema books, Deleuze notes that a filmic image always enjoys multiple times. The example he uses is a man walking a dog through along a river, through the mountains. He asks us to note all the different times occupying the frame at the same time: river time, mountain time, dog time, man time, the time of the frame itself.

I am now seeing this multiplicity of temporalities, of speeds and durations, co-existing in me. I feel the continuation of high school loves — that incredible pathos — winding through me, right now, and projecting itself into the future, into possible worlds. I feel tastes for certain foods — things I loved at one point — burbling now and again and with each craving I am existing then and now. I see the things that make up my life — my son's drawing, art I've acquired recently, art I've acquired ages ago and each item is a time, not just its time but my time, a time of me, of my becoming. Now take all the objects that surround me — the pens and scribbled notes, the bowls with their chips, the forks with their bends, the stored food I once craved: each is a time of my becoming, a duration of my becoming that is absolutely distinct and yet harmonizing, impossibly, awkwardly, with these other times, these other durations.

Yes, we endure — as Bergson notes — and this endurance is a network of durations.

Think now about cyclical knowledge such as the zodiac. What a strange temporality! What a strange kind of knowledge! The cycles are so vast, too vast for one lifetime to truly comprehend. And so the very nature of such grand cyclical knowledge is premised on collective knowing that is temporally rather than spatially distributed. And this calendar, which was forged across time, inflects the present as we consult it, learn from it.

Suddenly, I see the great teem of durations, of temporalities, everywhere I look: the stains and nicks and potholes, the dents and rusts, the gleams and polishes, the wear and tear, the tears and cries and giggles: they are all their own durations existing alongside each other.

And this great swarm of times flourishes within us. Or, rather, this great swarm is our becoming.

Bergson tells us that memory is not reflection. We are our memory — it's how we know how to tie our shoes, throw a ball, drive a car; how we know what we like to eat, what we like to do. Memory is not a warehouse of images. Memory is the name for this great swarm of times that carry each of us along, that is our respective becoming.

12.12.2010

The Power of Place


I, for one, constantly underestimate the power of place. Despite my rigorous proclamations about the materiality of life, I instinctively imagine myself as somehow floating above it: when I change environments, I imagine I'm not changing.

But we are fundamentally enmeshed with our place, with where we find ourselves. And these places are deeply enmeshed with us. Space is not a neutral background on which we lay our chairs, rugs, bodies, lives. Space — place — is not the stage upon which our lives play. Space is part of the play, and an integral part at that.

As a perhaps odd aside on that, this is one reason I really love the Pirates of the Caribbean films: with each new film, a piece of the presumed background becomes an active player in the action — the boat is alive, the water is alive. Which is to say, the action doesn't take place on the ship or on the water; it takes place with the ship, with the water.

I was recently in the town I grew up in. I realized that while there I avoid certain places, those places where so much of my youth happened. This time, I went to what I consider the epicenter of said activity. Just approaching it, my body began to hum, my heart beat. I sat in the spot I'd sat a thousand times — a spot where kisses and drinks and drugs and loves long gone all took place.

And all of a sudden, I found myself davening — rocking back and forth as if in Jewish prayer — and soon tears were rolling down my face. And you might say that it's the memories that were the cause. But what is a memory? Where is a memory? I'll tell you: my memories are not solely in my head. They are in this place, part of this place.

And now I find myself moving, leaving a neighborhood I've lived in for over 19 years. I walk those streets I once roamed so freely and they quite literally transform my 41 year old, bald self into a 25 year old jewfroed wonder boy. And now that I'm leaving, I am overwhelmed, as if breaking out of a cocoon — only, instead of a butterfly, I'll just be a bald 41 year old hebe living alone in the middle of nowhere.

But what's surprising is that I am constantly surprised by the penetrating depth, the profound resonance, of the emotion I feel. I mean, of course I should be emotional about it. After all, we live with space, with place — and it lives with us. And yet.

To move is not just to transform one's environment; it is, necessarily, to transform oneself. But we have no ritual to mark this transformation; we talk about it in terms of getting good rent, a cool view. the hassles of moving a couch.

But we tend not to talk about the mourning, and all that that entails.

11.27.2010

Parenting, Pleasure, and Adulthood: Revealing a Life (Well) Lived



What is the task of the parent? Surely, it's to keep the critters alive — fed, clothed, sheltered, educated (although that can mean many things and take many forms), loved (this, too, can take many forms). But is that all? And what do these things even mean?

Parenting today — at least the parenting of predominantly white upper middle class San Franciscans — seems to involve sheltering children from the nuance, subtlety, pain and pleasures of adulthood. We are asked to shield our children — we don't curse, we don't cry, we don't kiss, we don't yell, we don't ignore by reading a book, we don't go out too often, we don't, we don't, we don't....

Parenting has become a thoroughly masochistic endeavor, a martyrdom. I have close friends, dying before my eyes as their jobs suck their life blood, who feel obliged to continue in their misery so they can keep their kids in their middle class homes, in their middle class schools, wearing brand new Baby Gap, and eating organic bananas.

Our kids assume — they assume! — that we will play with them, more or less non-stop. We'll sword fight and wrestle, play with Legos and stuffies, go to the park, the pool, the zoo, play chase and tickle. All the time!

I feel guilty for wanting to take the time to write, to read, to think, to fuck, to drink, to love, to frolic, to sleep, to relax.

And what kind of kids are we breeding? Self-entitled shitheads.

I want to suggest that good parenting is not shielding a child from adulthood — from its pains and pleasures — but is showing a child a life in motion, a life lived with zeal, with passion, a life ripe with nuance and negotiation, with lively thought and secrets that will only be revealed when they are older.

Am I suggesting we weep all the time in front of our children? That we fuck in front of them? Of course not. But not because they're our children per se but because that's just downright rude.

I want my kid to see me interact with other adults, see us discuss Godard and Burroughs and laugh maniacally at things my kid could not possibly understand. I want him to hear me curse and know that that's what grown ups do: they speak emphatically! I want my kid to see a life well lived — and, barring that, at least a life lived.

This may sound easy but I am up against powerful forces that would have it otherwise. Forces that tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I should hide my adulthood: the boy should see me work and play with him and little else. He feels entitled to that. All other adults in his life treat him like that. So when I tell him I am going to write for a bit, he feels neglected and I feel like a dick. For wanting to write!

And so I tell you this: When I tell my kid, sternly, to go play on his own so I can write, so I can read, so I can think; when I go out at night to drink and flirt and fuck; when I pour myself a cocktail as I cook and tell him to be quiet while my friend and I discuss Nietzsche: this is not my lack of love. On the contrary, it is nothing less than my supreme, profound love — a love that often makes me weep, right in front of him so he can see that life remains a place of passion.

9.24.2010

J Geils Band, Guy Debord, and the Ambivalence of Today

Watch the video > (embedding disabled, sorry)

I was driving in my car the other when the J Geils Band song, Centerfold, came on. It's a song I know, that I grew up on. But, this time, I noticed how complex and tragic a song it is.

The story of the song, as you probably know if you're over 38, is that the narrator had a crush on a girl in high school. Years later, unexpectedly, he sees her nude in a magazine.

The song has a celebratory feel to it as if he finally got what he wanted. But the lyrics tell a very different story. The chorus alone, a chorus I knew well, beautifully articulates his anxiety:

My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is the centerfold


He had this bitter sweet memory of youthful love, adoelscent lust, neither of which were consummated.

Slipped me notes under the desk
While I was thinkin' about her dress
I was shy I turned away
Before she caught my eye

I was shakin' in my shoes
Whenever she flashed those baby-blues
Something had a hold on me
When angel passed close by

Indeed, despite his lack of consummation, "the memory of my angel could never cause me pain."

But now this sweet memory has been sold, made part of the Spectacle, a commodity, no longer this private, personal longing but a public display bereft of the same affective resonance, available to all. Ergo, his blood runs cold. Despite the rah-rah mood of the song, the lyric is chilling. "The pages from my mind are stripped."

He's understanding and tries to summon the power to overcome this intrusion of the Spectacle into his individual memory:

It's okay I understand
This ain't no never-never land
I hope that when this issue's gone
I'll see you when your clothes are on

Take you car, Yes we will
We'll take your car and drive it
We'll take it to a motel room
And take 'em off in private

And yet just as the mood of the song suggests, there is a profound ambivalence:

A part of me has just been ripped
The pages from my mind are stripped
Oh no, I can't deny it
Oh yea, I guess I gotta buy it!

I find this an oddly apt expression of the contemporary moment (at least for those of us over 38) — our memories have become so much fodder for the Spectacle, Bob Dylan in a Google ad, John Lennon's Instant Karma selling Chase — Chase! Of all things! —, our girlfriends of old splayed in the pages of Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube.

But it's not all bad. After all, Angel is the centerfold! Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na.

Cinema of the Event: On Marc Lafia's "The Revolution of Everyday Life"

revolution of everyday life from keren weinberg on Vimeo.



Great interview with Lafia by MUBI >


Cinema is no longer monumental. Despite the best efforts of Hollywood, making a film no longer demands millions of dollars, booms, grips, lights, and cameras. We don’t need theaters. We don’t need studios. All we need is a mobile phone. Cinema has become everyday.

Marc Lafia has taken to making films that embrace the everyday cinema machine. He has an idea; puts together a cast (he has started working with the same actors); and films on the streets of New York with digital cameras. In his latest, The Revolution of Everyday Life, he gives HD Flip video cameras to the cast and has them film themselves alone.

For Lafia, this process is not an inexpensive way to make a so-called indie film with its quirky characters and narratives of redemption. This is not mumblecore. Nor is it The Blair Witch Project or Mean Streets For Lafia, the everyday tools of cinema breed an emergent cinema, a cinema of the event, in which the very act of recording creates something new.

The camera in this digital age — and in the hands of Lafia — is not a means of mediating an encounter. On the contrary, the camera forges the encounter. The camera here is not as much a recording device per se as it is what Burroughs and Gysin call the Third Mind — an active perceptive engine that functions between and amongst all participants, that thrives in the very event of seeing and being seen.

Throughout The Revolution of Everyday Life, we encounter scenes — or, better, we encounter encounters — that have only come into being because the camera was present. We see sense emerging. We see faces and people and love and the social emerge not just in front of the camera but with the camera. In the exquisite scenes of the women alone recording themselves — scenes that are private, exhuming, creative, peculiar — we come to understand that the camera is a presence, a kind of face that grasps and inspires. The recording event — which, in this digital world, is a playback event, as well — does not just record: it creates events.

The Revolution of Everyday Life reckons the very nature, the possibility, of this cinematic event. Look at the achingly gorgeous scene of Lizzie alone with her camera, filming herself in the mirror. There is a breathtaking intimacy here, an intimacy that would be impossible without the camera, that could never happen without the act of recording. The film then cuts to Tjasa standing on the street, a dildo strapped to her skirt, haranguing passers by.

The film seems, then, to move from the private to the public. But this distinction is false. After all, the so-called private scene of Lizzie is not just a recording but a broadcasting, her room and tears and body on display. In fact, rather than reifying a public-private dichotomy, The Revolution of Everyday Life works to erase it. The boundary that would keep our private and public worlds distinct has been superseded by the pervasive cinema engine.

The distinction the film draws is not between public and private but between demanding to be seen and allowing oneself to be seen. On the one hand, there’s Tjasa who imagines herself a radical fomenting change through situationist performances. Tjasa demands to be seen, screeching into the camera just as she screeches at others, to no one and everyone. Meanwhile, Lizzie, her lover, avoids the spotlight but finds a much more intimate relationship with the camera and with being seen. In a gesture of infinite generosity, she allows herself to be seen.

This is not simply a dichotomy of real events vs. recorded events, the street vs. the bedroom the public vs. the private. Both events are recorded; both events are image, are cinema. No, in these two modes we get postures of standing towards perception, postures of being seen. We get an ethics (mercifully bereft of judgment).

But The Revolution of Everyday Life is not about the cinema event. It is a cinema event. The process of making the film and the film are so thoroughly intertwined it is often difficult to distinguish one from the other. But not through reflexivity — we don’t see booms entering the frame. Rather, we encounter a film in the process of making itself, characters in the process of making themselves to a point where we’re not even sure if they are characters. They exist in a state of person-becoming, character-becoming, actor-becoming just as the film flourishes in the space of cinema-becoming. Events are at once real and not, recorded and live simultaneously.

The Revolution of Everyday Life hence breaks down the rigid lines that separate creation from playback, writing from reading, and finally subject from object. The pervasive cinema engine, the everyday cinema engine, not only rewrites cinema: it rewrites the private and the social, the very manner in which we present and are presented to the world.

In the contemporary world of pervasive cinema, we present ourselves as something to be seen, something always already seen, always already being seen. And yet we do so without evacuating our individuality. We are turned inside out, splayed, but not eviscerated. On the contrary, we are multiplied, extended, disseminated, and proliferated.

And this, alas, foments the revolution of everyday life. The title is taken from the English translation of Raoul Vaneigem’s great situationist treatise by the same title. The revolution, then, is not Tjasa’s ranting against capitalism. Nor is it her all-too-familiar spectacles of S&M. The revolution of everyday life is the proliferation of cinema within and through the everyday.

If we live in a society of the spectacle, this everyday cinema engine decenters image production, proliferates centers, shatters the hegemony of the corporation’s will to quantity and uniformity. This pervasiveness of cinema — this ability to create, distribute, and screen on demand — fundamentally shifts flows of communication, introducing radical new possibilities of constituting the social. Images no longer solely flow downhill or in a straight linear line. They are no longer solely created by vast corporations and streamed into our houses. Images now flow every which way — up, down, sideways, diagonally — disrupting the painful banality of narrative, character and cliché.

As cinema takes up the everyday, it infuses life and is in turn infused. Engaging this everyday cinema engine, Lafia gives us a living cinema, a live cinema, a cinema that is always (and already) in the process of making itself, a cinema replete with affect, with the impossible complexity of the human: a cinema that is revolutionary.

9.11.2010

The Palpability of the New Digital

The desktop computer, the laptop computer: so clumsy, they replicated the all too familiar viewing screens of tv and film.

The new computing platform is tactile. It gleams; it buzzes and beeps, pulsates and rings. It begs to be touched, gently fingered as if requesting a massage — and we gladly oblige. It is mobile, compact, and perhaps most notably, alive.

The web was — is — the promise of the archive: all information, all media, at one's disposal. And while it enjoys a certain intelligence, and while it is always growing, it is not alive in the same sense that mobile computing is.

Oh, that ding of a new email, the strum of a new text, the accompanying buzz — it is all so deliciously erotic. The mobile is a literal physical appendage, constantly searching the waves, bringing in information just as eyes and noses do.

In The Medium is the Massage, Marshall McLuhan says that technology is an extension of the human body — the wheel, an extension of the foot; the book, an extension of the eye. The mobile is an extension, too, but not of any one sense per se. It extends human perception into the ether. Now, we are able to hear calls across impossible distances and see things half way around the planet right now.

If desktop computing is always there and later (and before), mobile computing is always here and now. With mobile, computers have become flesh.

8.25.2010

Some Thoughts on Complexity

I want to say that complexity is an emergent — and, as such, unfixed — multiplicity that is not a chaos. Complexity is always on the cusp of order.

The univocal cannot be complex. However, one note or one tone that endured just so and reverberated just so might be complex in that it forges multiplicity in its singular wake.

As necessarily a multiplicity, complexity entails a quantification — not one voice but many voices.

But this "many" is not really a more as much as it's a differentiation (or is it differenciation? Tell me, all you mathematicians).

Complexity is a quality — the quality of multiple trajectories that don't unify or stay fixed and yet is not a chaos.

Complexity is not complicated. Nor is it convoluted.

This post, however, may be.

8.16.2010

What is it about television?

My thinking about television is very un-TV-like — I think about it rarely, explosively, but not clearly. My thinking about TV is a Hollywood blockbuster movie: lots of fireworks without much payoff.

It's as if, due to its proximity, I can't get TV in view. It skirts my field of vision but remains, nagging, in my periphery.

So this is what I've been thinking of late. There are three main characteristics of the medium, each with sub-sets or modes of inflection: Duration, Repetition, Intimacy.

Duration: A television program, perhaps due to its intimacy, has the ability to endure. Because it's in our house where we have sustenance and because the cost is near nil, a TV program can stay on continuously. Movies, needless to say, do not have this option.

Visual art, of course, endures continuously. But TV and a painting repeat in very different ways, in very different rhythms, shifting the terms of their respective endurance.

To sound less, well, philosophical about it: a TV show can be on the air for a long freaking time. And this endurance affords it a series of opportunities and begins to blur the line separating duration from repetition and intimacy.

Escalation: A TV show can escalate — escalate chaos, intensity, time, characters — and it can do so infinitely. A movie has 2, 4, 12 hours at best. A TV show can never end. It can just keep ramping up — or down, for that matter — approaching its own dissolution but never getting there. There is a more, a quantitative quality, that's part of TV that's not in other media. Weeds approaches this technique, this possibility of the medium: How deep can the Botwin family get? How far out? Is it infinite? What sets its limit? Our attention? Its ability to hold our attention?

Complexification: Perhaps a sub-set of escalation, complexification is a TV show's ability to multiply relations. This can be a more but it can be an internal more, a splitting of the one into multiple parts, one relation into many. Think of Tony and Carmilla's relationship or Tony and Dr. Melfi's — it gets more and more complex over time.

Intimacy: Enmeshed in our lives, holding court amidst the kitchen and toilet, the couch and din of life, TV sprawls alongside us, moving with us. TV is deeply wound up with the economy of our mental health — it's how we relax, how we get excited, how we share time. TV is not a special event. It is domesticated, through and through. And this builds profound relationships between viewer and viewed: People gathered for the final episode of MASH, and wept.

Repetition: Everything repeats — everything vital, that is. A painting repeats: it keeps offering itself to us in an infinite series of uncannily fresh experiences. But TV has the ability to repeat differently, to put its entire self into the fray, to do and undo itself over and over again — like a lava lamp, only with more factors and colors in the mix.

One aspect of TV's ability to repeat is its opportunity for banality. Take Seinfeld. The show never escalates, no relations become more complex. It relishes its repetition of the everyday. (Needless to say, "banality" here is not a pejorative but a descriptor.)

Now consider The Twilight Zone. There is no continuity. Each episode is discrete. And yet, obviously, it's not. It is territorial, after all — it is a zone, a place. Only it's an odd kind of place, a place of perpetual transition, an in-between, a twilight. It's a temporal zone. Which is a way of describing repetition.

Intimacy: TV has an unbelievable power to forge intimate bonds between viewer and viewed. It can be drug-like: must see TV, as if it were crack or heroin. TV is not only in our lives. It is usually the focal point, quite literally, of our space.

And yet I still can't get the damn thing in view.

8.14.2010

Modes of Habitation

I moved recently. And I had a long time friend over who commented on that fact that it seemed like every other apartment I've ever had — and he's seen at least eight different places I've lived.

Now, there is nothing particularly novel about this observation. We've all noticed it in ourselved and our friends, especially as we get older (obviously). A friend moves and he immediately replicates his old space.

We could say there's the same stuff, more or less — same couch, same table, same art. But that's not always the case. In my new place, everything is new. And yet it is still very much my space.

No, it's not that there's the same stuff, it's that there's a common distribution of mood — the same distribution of stuff, a common way of organizing chaos and order. We all have our unique thresholds for visual and aural disorder. It's not simply being clean or not, ordered or not. We each enjoy a distinctive signature of visual noise, an elaborate algorithm: pristine here, scraps there, piles, scattershot papers, stacks, a calculus of dust and dishes and noise and smell.

Don't underestimate smell.

And then there's light. We replicate the play of darkness and light, how the sun shines, how we light the space.

And I love this. I love that we each make sense of space in our own way and that this way forges a niche in the becoming of the world. Just as ants make their kinds of homes, moles theirs, birds theirs and so on, so do we each, individually, make this organization of the world, at least in the limited space we call home.

7.18.2010

Some Thoughts on Love



This something that I've been working out and, at the end of said working out, is seems achingly, embarrassingly obvious. But I'll proffer it nonetheless. Here it goes:

Love is an abiding attraction to another point of view.

Now, I wanted to say that love is an attraction to another point of view that you want to be around a lot. But that's one version of love, namely, lust. Lust can be for another person but you can lust for a book, work of art, film. When I first saw Sarah Sze's installation sculpture at SF MOMA, "Things Fall Apart," I was in lust, going to the museum everyday just to be near it, take it in, enjoy it. I would giggle at all its moves: I was attracted to its point of view, to the way it distributes the world.

Because love abides, the object need not be close. There are people I love, things I love, that I not only rarely see but rarely want to see. I appreciate how these people, or these things, go. But that doesn't mean I want to be near them. Just as there are things I sometimes want to be around that I don't love, things whose point of view I don't appreciate — I just want to touch a piece of them, their shiny surface, their glimmer.

Love is an abiding attraction to another point of view.

One thing I really like about this formulation is that love is not about unity but difference: I love another point of view, one that is not my own. And yet I am attracted to it. This point of view, then, is not utterly different; it is not alien. It resonates with how I go, fits with my network but without becoming the same as me.

This formulation also removes love from a pure abstraction. It makes love practical, a matter of harmonies and convergences. And yet it does not rely on some radical materialism. On the contrary, this formulation is situated at the juncture of the visible and the invisible, outside the dichotomy that would keep body and spirit apart.

Love is an abiding how that resonates with a different particular how. What I like about this formulation is that it makes love a mode of going with rather than a unification. It's not that love makes me whole. It's that love makes me resonate like this.

7.10.2010

"A Serious Man": Job - God = Kafka

Watch this (can't embed): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGRrnRvMpTU


A quick though on the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man, a film that slayed me, evacuated me, left me shaking.

They took the story of Job but eliminated the back story — Job, a man of faith, becomes the object of a wager between God and Satan. That back story gives reason to the madness Job endures. Take away God and what are you left with? A shit storm.

But more than a shit storm per se we're left with something more horrifying, more horrible than a world that is as senseless as it is brutal. We're left with the brutality of an invisible, unapproachable, and incomprehensible sense.

What makes "A Serious Man" so brutal is that our poor non-hero, Larry Gopnik, finds himself at the mercy of terms that make no sense to him but seem to make sense to everyone else. He is mired in a discourse that determines him and his role and yet he has no access to these terms. Not only can he not change these terms, he doesn't even know what the terms are. Every move he makes to make sense is thwarted as insane, ludicrous, unacceptable.

He is thoroughly outside the discourse — and yet there is no outside. Hence, the horror: there is no escape, no alternate set of terms, nowhere to run. All we have is the Jolly Roger.

And this — this lack of an outside coupled with no access to an inside — is the horror of Kafka. It is not just the horror of a world without God to make sense. It is worse: it is a life without God that nevertheless does have a sense — a rigorous, hegemonic, over-determinative sense. Only you have no access to it and are offered neither respite nor escape.

7.03.2010

Postures and Gestures

Rather than beings and behaviors, these things that act and these things that do, I proffer this: postures and gestures.

A posture is a way of standing towards things. A gesture is a way of operating with things.

We stand towards things, and we operate with things.

A posture is akin to a state, only a temporal state. A gesture is a type of action — type, yes, but a type of action.

To be affirmative is to have a posture of standing towards the world with generosity and enthusiasm. To be ironic is to gesture the lack of veracity of expression — which can be either affirmative or negative or both affirmative and negative.

A posture — affirmative, negative, disdainful, joyful — can entail certain gestures — the affirmational tends towards the welcoming, elicitive greeting. But that relationship is by no means disease/symptom, truth and derivative: each inflects the other. Postures and gestures are not strictly parallel modes.

By assuming these anything but absolute figures, we avoid the being/attribute dichotomy, as if there were first bodies and then the thing that happen to them. A posture is not a being but a way of being, a perspective, a pov on the scene. A gesture, meanwhile, is any of the number of ways of doing this or that: reversing, exaggerating, downplaying, cutting and pasting.

Together, they begin to proffer an ontology in and of motion, events, time.

The Affect of Knowing

My 6 year old is a know-it-all. He has mastered the art of the declarative claim. "Dad," he'll say, "some planes can go 1000, or 24, fast." Needless to say, such claims are insane. Some are not: "Scorpion pinchers are not long enough to bite through motorcycle clothing."

It's a tone, yes, but it's also the structure of the claim — a thing, its action, a number. Sometimes, the three elements are of a type; as often, they are not. No matter. It's the affect that counts.

And this is what interests me. We learn how to make claims to knowledge as much as we learn facts per se. Learning is a matter of taking on a posture, inhabiting a pose, of making the right gestures. We learn the affect of knowing.

6.13.2010

Kierkegaard's Contemporaneity

Kierkegaard's Contemporaneity from Daniel Coffeen on Vimeo.



Kierkegaard claims that Christendom reads the Gospels all wrong — it's as if everyone skipped to the end, found out Jesus was in fact God, and then read what it has to say. But, for Kierkegaard, what makes Christianity what it is is that you don't know that Jesus is God — you believe it, or don't.

When reading the Gospels, Kierkegaard tells us that we must be contemporary with the text, contemporary with Jesus and the disciplines. From that perspective, the text is insane and the demand even more so: believe that a singular, historical man is the eternal God. Nuts.

And, for Kierkegaard, this critique turns on hermeneutic posture: how do you stand towards a text and the demands it makes?

Everyone's so darn wise

I find myself out and about more these days. And this makes me privy to more snippets of random conversation, to more group interactions (not as a participant, mind you — I remain anathema to the social body), to the prevailing pyschosexual dynamics of San Francisco.

Beyond the obvious micropolitics that prevail between so-called friends — it is unseemly when witnessed at a remove — and, yes, I am aware of my misanthropy — there is something else that stands out: everyone is so fucking wise. No, not actually wise. But everyone seems to come equipped with beliefs, quotes, and cliches that justify their respective existences.

We live amidst a culture of popular wisdom that professes a certain kind of certainty, a relentless self-justification. It is the culture of Oprah and Dr. Phil, of book after book — some more snide than others, books that claim to really understand men, women, sex, love, life. All this information, all these claims, seek to calm and justify people's lives.

But what happened to a different kind of wisdom? Think of Socrates: his wisdom comes from his lack of certainty. The only thing he knows is that he knows nothing. While no doubt being an incredible nudge, Socrates proffered a profound humility, a willingness to question (ad nauseum, but still).

Or Nietzsche: his wisdom demands self-alienation. He may write about why he is so wise, why he is so clever, why he writes such good books but his self-justification is not based in platitudes about the way of men and women. His self-justification is radically particular. And leaves him an alien — it leaves him not justified to the world.

There seems such little taste for the risks of alienation. Everything — personal and public wisdom — seems to steer people towards justifying their roles in the world. No doubt, this is the way of capitalism, its infinite speed: fold alienation back into the spectacle before it even arises. Keep 'em happy — and if you can't keep 'em happy, keep 'em self-justified.

5.30.2010

Some thoughts on affect



This is a little ponderous but bear with me, please....

One thing that is so frustrating about popular media is that it assumes affect to be caused — and always in a one-to-one ratio: something bad happens, you're sad; something good happens, you're happy. But that's just not how affect works, at least not most of the time.

Start by picturing something happening — you fall down, get a smooch, watch a movie — and your reaction.

Think about the duration of that reaction — do you just feel that way for a minute? 10 minutes? Two days? A week?

Now think of all the things that happen to you in the course of a day, a week, a year, your life — and the duration of all those reactions. Suddenly, you are inundated, cut through, with a near infinite number of affective states intermingling in an impossible calculus.

Our emotional and affective lives are not discrete units; they are networked and play in and with and through each other. So when something happens — you get that smooch — it's rarely just one thing you feel. It's an infinitely knotted complex of things you feel, some of which are tied to things and events that have little to do with said smooch. Some may very well have to do with what you ate, whether you need to pee, how well you slept last night.

But of course this is all assuming that affect is caused. Which it isn't. Because if it were caused, what would be your affective state before and between the causes? Are we naturally devoid of affect and then shit happens and we start experiencing emotions? I saw my kid come out and I gotta tell you: we're emotional from the get go.

This is to say that affective states are constitutive of what and who we are. We are always and already affected and affective.

Now, affect is complex because it is at once intimately tied up with events and things — every thing and every event has some affect — and independent of those things. Sometimes, an affective state seems to completely unhinge itself from an event so all you're left with is that state. Waking up from a dream and feeling calm, anxious, joyous without knowing why makes this clear.

We experience the world. We are always already experiencing the world. And we are always already experiencing the world as part of the world. As I said, we are always already affected and affective.

Affect, then, is not caused. Affect happens. It is not outside of us; nor is it really inside of us. It is us. It is how we experience the world.

For Spinoza, the degree of an individual's power is his ability to be affected. This fundamentally shifts the very architecture of individuality and experience; we are, and we are powerful, precisely in as much as we experience the world — and are affected (and how we experience the world and are affected; this is not a quantitative assertion).

So back to media for a moment. One reason I love Cassavetes' films so much is they are the infinite complexity of affective becoming. Nothing is one-to-one; it's always many to many with a series of tangents and parallels. This is respectful. This understands human becoming and its complexity. And this — this understanding, this embracing of complexity — is not just refreshing: it's revolutionary.

5.23.2010

My fetish jealousy


This may sound terrible but there are times when I'm walking through the sordid San Francisco streets and I find myself jealous of the drunk and the junky. There they are with their stash or their bottle and all is good in the world. When they run out, they know just what to do. What a life.

I have the same jealousy of fetishists. They know exactly what they want, exactly what will sate them. Me, I am overwhelmed by the choices, the vast selection. I see women on the street and I can imagine myself, more or less, with all of them. And this stymies me, leaves me immobilized and wanting. Meanwhile, the guy who digs smoking chicks with tiny boobs knows just what his night will entail.

I want to be possessed.

5.22.2010

The Real Image



The dominant view in Hollywood of the image — besides that the image sells and sells well — is that the image can attempt to convey the real. Movies are going to more and more elaborate measures not to extend the image into our lives but to extend the represented in the image into our lives. The surround sound, the 3D — it's meant to bring us closer to the experience of flying, being crushed, hurtling through space.

The mythology, as presented in studio brands — most conspicuously, perhaps, by Disney —, is that film brings you the world and fantasy is made real.

But this of course reveals a fundamental disdain of the image. It rests on the assumption that the image is in and of itself not real; it's a derivative of the real, a pointer, a stand in, a substitute.

The image is real — not because it represents something well but because it is an event in and of itself. An image is part of the fabric of experience, of perception. An image is a body — not because it approaches veracity but because it is its own mode of being in the world.

An image happens — right there, before our eyes. We experience it. Of course this experience enjoys a relationship to the thing represented in the image. But this relationship is not one of original and derivative, of real and copy. It's a relationship of two things, more or less related, playing in and on and with and through each other.

Now, to be fair, all that Hollywood high tech goofy ass nonsense is sometimes really cool and could be really, really cool. If only the technology were not deployed to represent but to create beautiful, live, real experiences unto themselves.

For instance, I'm watching Godard's A Woman is a Woman the other day. Throughout the film, Godard plays with image and sound — music starts, stops, street noise starts and stops, visual and sound do not match (or, rather, they match in odd ways). All this, amongst other things, makes of the image, of the film, an event happening right there on the screen, in the act of watching. It insists on itself as an event; it is not story telling or representing. It is happening.

Well, now take all that Hollywood pyrotechnics and give them to Godard. Or, rather, don't. But give it to someone who makes images, who respects images, give an image maker all those resources and let's see what they cook up. Let's watch them make life, not a story about life. Let's watch them make images.

Email is Phatic

It recently occurred to me, for no particular reason, that today more people write, on a more frequent basis, than before. Of course, I know nothing of history so I made that up. In any case, the accuracy of the claim is not important.

What's important is that people are writing to each other, and often. Suddenly, I saw this exquisitely, impossibly vast network of conversations — between new friends, old friends, co-workers, co-workers forging new modes of conversing, parents, old girlfriends and boyfriends, new flirtatious possibilities, acquaintances from here and there.

And, what's so mind blowingly amazing, is that this network exists for each one of us, alone — our "sent" and "in" boxes trace more than just a lot of conversations. It traces an enormous multiplicity of modes of conversing — differing rhythms, tones, moods, grammars.

I love the different ways different people wind themselves into language and onto their computers and into an email. The little flourishes — ellipses, m-dashes, undulating punctuation or a lack therefore — the speeds, the diverse senses of protocol. Sometimes, we can hear someone so clearly through an email — hear them making the words, forming thoughts, their breathy deliveries, their gutturals, the way a smile inflects a word, emphatics, pauses, tics.

It's not that emails express us. Or, rather, it is to say that how and what we email necessarily expresses us, even if that expression is discontinuous. Sometimes, you find yourself surprised by someone's email manner. Are they really so curt? Or are you reading the way someone not used to writing trying to wind himself into words? I love what reading someone's email for the first time tells me about that person: it is symptomatic of an entire relationship to language and expression in general.

In any case, we hear email. Email is auditory. But it's more than just that we hear the words (as we can say that of all written language). It's that email correspondence has much of the formal structure of a conversation. Email, like face to face conversing, can be quite fast and hence tends to be actively engaging. In emails, we write questions, reference things written — or said — earlier. We refer to imminent events. For the most part, we don't provide a litany of stories or facts as we once did in paper mail.

And yet email is written. Of course it is. Which means we see it, not hear it. And it means it enjoys the incredibly odd temporality of writing. For instance, if you're standing in front of me, or on the phone, and say, "Hi," it's more than likely that I'll say "Hi" back within a second or three. But in email I may respond in an hour, a day, a week, or more.

Now take this rhythm of this one email — you say hi,I say hi back stretched over days — and see all the different rhythms of all your email conversations. We each hold multiple conversations at the same time, each at its own speed.

Email doesn't just mark time, it is of time. The paper letter, on the other hand, marks a discrete point in time. An email letter is a moment within a continuous exchange, always and already. To write an email is not to monologue but to engage and be engaged, simultaneously.

We don't write truly declarative emails because email is fundamentally between. Its structure, like a conversation, is akin to standing directly in front of someone: the lines of communication are open, all the time, even if unused.

Email is formally phatic. It is the perpetual "um" of the electronic hum. Email, in its very structure, keeps lines of communication open — the lines are open as long as electricity flows. If I have your email address — or could ascertain it —, there is an open channel between us.

Sure, one could say that's true of paper mail. After all, can't I just write to you if I know your address? Well, yes, I can write to you but it is not as easy to write with you. To write an email is always already to write with.

5.16.2010

A Quick Thought on The Sufficiency of Language

Artists, musicians, dancers, mystics have an inclination to return to the insufficiency of language. Words, we are to understand, fall short — they can't possibly express the infinite complexity of the world, of truth, of experience.

But that is to assume that language is a vehicle of designation and not a body of performance.

Language — like music, like the human body, like paint — is something to be reckoned, something to move with. The writer must learn the possibilities, must develop the skills to put words — and language — to work, to have them entice and twinkle, provoke and titillate, to have words be an active force resonating in and through and amongst bodies and ideas and emotions and things and moods.

Words are gestures, just as moon walking is a gesture. They operate in, on, and with the world.

What's tricky about words — as distinct from paint and dance and sound — is that words have a more intimate relationship with concepts. But rather than this making words insufficient, it is precisely what makes words sufficient. Words at once name and do, think and act, designate and perform.

The operator of words must have mad skillz to operate this complex engine. Don't blame the words for their insufficiency. Blame the writer.

5.08.2010

Things Teach: An Excerpt from "Reading the Way of Things"

A thing teaches.

A tulip offers a way of standing in the world, on one’s own without being excessively stern.

Grass instructs us how to be a network of individuals.

Certain tequilas — usually blanco — have taught me the way of difference, offering multiplicity without unity while teaching that sun and leather and grass and heat can play well together in the mouth. The different tastes do not cohere into a common cause, as bourbon often does. Each flavor maintains its local integrity while nonetheless working with the others. Every sip is not only astounding. Every sip is an education.

Here’s a list of things Uni — raw sea urchin gonads — has taught me:

1. All is becoming.

2. The most discrete domains house infinite variation.

3. Limits need be neither hard nor fast.

4. Embrace ambiguity.

5. Self-possession comes through flexibility.

6. Experience is everything—life is a how, not a what.

7. The skank of life is often delicious.

8. Be discerning—a life well vetted is a life well lived.

9. Eat the world.

10. Let the world eat you.


To the keen reader, everything offers its own science, its own knowledge. A thing is a pedagogy. The world brims with different ways of going, different ways of making sense of the world, different ways of going. We don’t just heed human ways.

In fact, perhaps we need inhuman ways to teach us fundamentally different ways of going. We need the saguaro cactus to teach us to go slowly, boldly, in the sun just as we need the oak to teach us how to be majestic and generous. We need the flow of the river to teach us speed and cooperation with the land. We need clouds to learn to drift softly; cats for their relentless attentiveness; dogs for their loyalty; the wind for its vigor and swirl. Everything is a possibility. And even if we don’t go like this or that — like a cat, like a cloud, like a river — we can take pieces of these becomings, we can come to know the world more intimately, we can be stretched and folded and extended. We can learn to go, and to go interestingly, to go curiously, to go delightfully: to go well

5.02.2010

The State of Things, as I see it: Notes on Capitalism as Virus



These were notes from a talk I gave on capitalism. For some reason, I am publishing them now.....


By capitalism, I am not referring to an economic system, as if financial models are something we can pick and choose. This, in fact, is one of capitalism’s techniques of hiding itself: it propagates the lie that it is an option, something we choose rather than something we are.

When I say capitalism, I am referring to a complex economy of desire, inter-personal politics, and capital. As an economist knows, the ebb and tide of markets have as much to do with the irrational laws of human behavior as they do with the supposed laws of markets. I work in branding and this is what we do, what we are hired to do: to navigate the economies of desire for capital.

If you’re having a problem w/ my word choice, I ask to put that aside for the moment and listen to what I have to say,

What I want to suggest is that capitalism is a virus that infected the human host long ago and has at once mutated and caused mutations in its human host to the point where it is very difficult to distinguish virus from host. And that this virus has mutated quite rapidly over the last 200 years and seems to be accelerating replication at an ever-increasing rate.

Why a virus? Because, like a virus, it seeks solely its own replication: it is not just a call for “more” but a call for more of the same, more of me. As such, it is a virus of quantity that, in order to replicate more effectively, seeks the eradication of qualitative states of being, affective experiences.

And, as a virus, capitalism will exterminate its host — viruses are not smart that way. As William Burroughs says, any quantitative system will eventually annihilate itself as it exhausts its environment.

Speed and replication: these are the dominant behaviors of capitalism.

The present economy moves at incredible speeds and is accelerating. The human body, the host, slows things down. In particular, the human propensity for pleasure slows things down. Humans are desiring machines: we enjoy the world. We seek pleasure. And pleasure is slow.

And so we are witnessing the extermination of the human body and, specifically, if its will to pleasure. Let’s look at our lives:

-First, the virus seeks to own time. Be at work, everyday, by 9:00. Leave, if you’re lucky, by 5, 6, 7. The work week is getting longer thanks in large part to technologic mutations and always-on micro computing. The majority of your waking time is accounted for — and accounted for being productive, for producing more capital.

-Of course, there will be no fucking at work. In fact, it’s against the law: there are elaborate rules and regulations and training sessions to ensure that not only don’t we fuck, but that we don’t even discuss fucking — or even look at each other with the desire to fuck. Why? Because fucking is pleasure and pleasure is slow and unproductive.

-While at work, we are not allowed any privacy. Work spaces are now, for the most part, open. No chance to sneak a wank — or even pick your nose, exercise, stretch, no chance to enjoy private indulgences. Even bathrooms are rarely private: we piss and shit in front of each other. There will be not space, no time, for private pleasures.

-We sit all day at work in front of a screen. We no longer need bodies that can lift and haul and operate; the information economy wants a brain to do the computing that computers cannot. The body gets in the way.

-We eat at our desks. And what do we eat? Wraps from Wendy’s: fat and processed corn and soy to ensure we are never feeling healthy. Why? Because a healthy body wants to fuck.

-When we get home, things are no better. Both husband and wife must work now: more more more more. So both are exhausted and dehydrated from their day. The kids are wiped out from being abused at school — made to sit in chairs and memorize nonsense. It is not a pleasant scene.

-So we pop Valium and Xanax and Ambien to sleep. Which makes us groggy and stupid and dehydrated.

-So we wake up — gotta wake up good and early and get the kid to school and yourself to work — completely exhausted. Enter: Coffee and the Starfucks conspiracy. Why is there a Starbucks on every corner in downtown America? Because capitalism demands we work and we are so fucking tired so we neeeeeed caffeine.

-Only we don’t really drink caffeine; we drink Lattes Grandes: high powered coffee dumped in a vat of antibiotic soaked milk fat. Which makes us sicker.

-The rise of coffee shop culture in America is not the rise of leisure and pleasure: it’s the spread of capitalism. Coffee shops in this country are places to work, laptops out and ready.

-And so we have become an increasingly impotent society. Which is the goal. But we still gotta breed — cloning is not up and running yet — so we have to take a pill. Doesn’t it bother anyone that there are ads for impotence all the fucking time? The signs are not subtle.

-Schools have been taken over as well: adolescence and youthful desire must be turned towards quantitative production. So high school students don’t fuck: they join after school programs so they can get into college.

-Once in college, they are recruited, No more taking acid, reading Nietzsche, and having orgies. Now it’s Adderall and internships. The majority of college students major in business.

-Acid has been eliminated. What else do I need to say?

-Of course, we can’t just eliminate pleasure. And so capitalism substitutes consumption: we consume, relentlessly. This drives the will to more: produce more, consume more, on and on and on. There is no delectation, just consumption.

-This virus is aggressively mining its host. The first thing it needs is not fossil fuel but human vitality — as in the matrix, it needs our energy production. The environmental movement is, for the most part, part of the capitalist engine that keeps our eyes on fuel rather than humanity itself. We create green cars. Green cars! That’s insane! There’s no such thing. You know what a green car is? It’s called your feet.

-Is there a cure? Is there resistance? Capitalism is very good at infecting resistant bodies incredibly quickly. It folds whatever emerges back into what Guy Debord calls the society of the spectacle. John Lennon’s Instant Karma sells a bank; Vincent Gallo sells Vodka. No sooner does resistance emerge than it is turned towards quantitative production and consumption.

All is lost. Head to the hills. Find the scraps of land still left, set up camp, and fuck and fuck and suck and read and draw and fuck some more because the end is neigh, dearies. There is no cure.

4.12.2010

Bad Lieutenant: Ferrara's Keitel vs. Herzog's Cage

Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutentant is one of my favorite films of all time. It is mythic, epic, all Keitel wrestling his demons, his sins. That is what the film gives us: a reckoning. Keitel knows he's a sinner and in decline. The film is Catholic, a tale of sin and redemption. To wit >>

I love Herzog and was, to say the least, surprised that he was the one to direct a remake — if we can call it that — and with Nicolas Cage. Odd. And what we get is a very different take on extreme behavior, on drugs and consumption. Rather than sin, we get excess and madness. This is Herzog's world where everything goes to the limit and beyond.

Herzog's film is a mess. And this, alas, is what makes it enjoyable — when it is enjoyable. The film careens, much like its titular bad lieutenant. And, amidst this wired, stoned meander there are some truly surprising and hilarious moments. When he holds a gun to two old ladies in a nursing home — his gun is enormous, an on running gag — and tells them that he should fucking kill them because they are everything that's wrong with America, he is not the insane one. In fact, it's one of his most lucid moments. And hence a truly complex scene.



And the film, admirably, never falls into a pat answer for what drives this character. He does not have a heart of gold. But he is not just a selfish asshole. He's mad, much like the film.

The fact is, Ferrara's film is a masterpiece — a nearly perfect film, if there is such a thing. And Herzog's is a mess. But, in this mess, there is something strange and beautiful.

Tequila, My Love, My Lifeline, My Teacher

For the spirit I sing of is a life giver, a life affirmer. Unlike all other booze, tequila is a natural upper: it makes you high, not sloppy down. With tequila, you don’t feel drunk; you feel, yes, high. Really. So be careful. A long time bourbon drinker, I began to find the weight of whisky too much for my increasingly fatigued frame. And so I reached for a lighter elixir and found it in the strange, heady brew of the agave…

Read the full article on Thought Catalog >>

4.07.2010

Secreting Being Seen: On the Glandular Production of Jennifer Locke




The work is physiological, muscular. There she is, dressed in latex and jumping rope for 30 minutes. There she is, letting loose the sweat and piss from her suit. And now there she is, naked, pouring water over her head. Another time, it’s glue that forms a second skin. There she is — or there they are — wrestling on the mat, flailing, breathing hard. There she is, branding some guy. Meanwhile, images and sounds — mics are often placed within the heart of the event, amplifying the aural intensity of the exertion — are exuded along with the sweat.

The mechanics of technology seem to fit seamlessly with the mechanics of the body. The camera, as Marshall McLuhan argues, is an extension of the body, a prosthetic of a sort. But in this case, it’s as if Locke, with all her physical prowess, is so virile that she’s developed this incredible appendage, like a super hero: a camera that can project her.

There is indeed something distinctly machinic about Locke’s work. Look at her there: she’s drawing blood from one arm and injecting it into the other. She makes technology — syringe, video — continuous with the mechanics of the body. Her work enjoys the temperature of the machine — cold as steel and scorching hot from churning. Her performances — and her images — are not emotional. There are no words; there is no dramaturgy, no acting, no histrionics. She does not dabble in human affect but in human mechanics.

This is not to say her work is not affective. It is. But this affect is not the affect of sentiment per se. A lot of art is splendidly rich in sentiment (without being sentimental). Indeed, most art does precisely this: it arranges affective experience without falling into sentimentality. I think of John Cassavetes’ films which drip affect yet rarely, if ever, succumb to emotional cliché. He rocks us with the power of affect.

Locke is not such an artist. Her work does not explore or deploy the gamut of human emotions. Even her punk sentiment — there is a clear creep-you-outness — is devoid of punk romance. For all the grotesquerie, this is not flipping off the bloody queen.

Locke’s performance is visceral but it is not a spectacle of viscerality. She will not allow a voyeurism that keeps seeing off stage, the viewer shrouded in the safety of darkness. This is not theater. Locke’s work performs the very viscerality of vision as she folds the act of seeing into the body of the work.

She doesn’t do this by forging a network that the viewer completes, à la Yoko Ono. She doesn’t do this by distorting vision, à la Olafur Eliasson. She does something much stranger. She takes up the act of her being seen and splays it, sprays it, along with sweat. Locke works vision itself through the techno-physiologic mechanics of the body, a body that doesn’t as much project images as it does secrete them.

Her image production is glandular. Which is to say, the images that emerge are not solely a muscular endeavor, a summoning of bodily strength that emanates via her prowess. Her body absorbs our gaze, filters it, then plays it back at us. Locke creates a living machine that takes in, takes up, the act of being seen, runs it through its endocrinologic system, and then secretes it. In her hands, the camera is not just a muscle or ocular prosthetic; it is a gland that processes the world. Yes, camera as gland: a potent, delicate magical box that takes up the world and, miraculously, secretes it anew, inflecting the whole (think: adrenaline.)

Her camera-gland takes up the viewer’s viewing of the scene — the seen of the scene — making it part of the performance, a marbling engine that entwines our gaze with her flesh. The camera does not mediate our experience; our seeing is constitutive of the performance. We see seeing. The projection of images — the seeing of this event — is continuous with the bodily mechanics of both performer and performance. We don’t just see Locke and her co-performers sweat; we see them secrete images. We see them secrete the act of being seen.

It’s as if her camera-gland has taken up the viewers’ eyes, taken up the very event of seeing, done what it is glands do, then secreted this viewing along with her other secretions — her sweat and blood and breath. The seeing of this event is digested, run through the mill of the body’s dynamics, and then regurgitated, sweated, bled back into the viewer’s eyes. As image secretions get in our eye, it makes us see — not just the bleed of life but the seeing of the bleed of life.


See some for yourself >>

4.04.2010

A Less Bloody Ethics: On True Blood

This is what True Blood is about: the impossible calculus of human relations. The show does not offer a fixed moral stance; there is no right and wrong. There, are, however, clear limits of decency: pure vampirism is frowned upon.

Read the full article at Thought Catalog >>

3.24.2010

On Michel Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles



I love Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles — it's smart and hilarious and downright nasty. And I love the way Houellebecq deploys a vision throughout all his writing, a vision of the contemporary moment, how we got here and where we're going.

But what's so impressive to me about The Elementary Particles is the way Houellebecq moves so readily between the historical, the cultural, the biological, the chemical, the species, and the absolutely singular way of a character. Houellebecq's vision is vast and complex and sure. To wit:

"Bruno, however, found himself in a less auspicious position. While dominance and brutality are commonplace in the animal kingdom, among higher primates, notably the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), weaker animals suffer acts of gratuitous cruelty."

And then:

"From a moral standpoint, 1970 was marked by a substantial increase in the consumption of the erotic, despite the intervention of vigilant censors....Bare breasts spread quickly across the beaches of the Riviera. In a few short months, the number of sex shops in Paris leapt from three to forty-five.// In September, Michel started the quatrieme and took German as his second language. It was in German class that he met Annabelle."

This is not a pyramid, a hierarchy. It's not as though the characters are stand-ins for the forces of nature or history; the characters are not examples per se. Rather, it's that we can't possibly separate the historical, the biologic, and the human: they are what make up this life. Humans are neither the realization of these forces nor agents capable of resistance. They go as they go, amidst the great teem of history and nature which itself is made up of an infinity of singular moments.

Hence, the elementary particles of the title.

3.23.2010

Television on _The Wire_

And the wire winds right into our homes –– the wire is television, that great, misunderstood medium. And once there, it opens up, flowers, extends itself. Most television programs take precise aim, delivering a particular product to a particular demographic. The shows are pat; the jokes and drama and characters canned. But not The Wire. The Wire , once inside the house, expands rather than contracts.....

read more at Thought Catalog >>

2.24.2010

On Chatroulette




Here are some things I wrote to accompany images made by Marc Lafia.

In Chatroullete.com we discovered a new kind of social interaction and identity that is simultaneously a new kind of filmmaking. It is a proliferation of exquisite — and boring and grotesque and...and…and… — moments. This is film making on the go, a collaborative enterprise of narrative shreds that will never add up to anything but this. And is the more glorious and beautiful and hilarious for it.

This is a moment just before the Spectacle and its idiot agents — the news, the government — turn an unmediated encounter into a transaction of fear and money.

Old concepts still define our social network behavior. We want to know where our interlocutors live, how old they are, their gender, education, their likes and dislikes. As McLuhan writes, we cling to the horse and buggy even as the railway pounds by.

The advent of a site and experience such as Chatroullete.com begins to introduce new architectures of the social encounter, encounters no longer tethered by the familiar anchors of place, class, clique, place in the sexual hierarchy, or financial transaction.

This is the network moving so fast that is has sloughed its old skin and its capitalist baggage, leaving us exposed and naked with our desires: What do you want from others?

The moment — because it is a moment and not a narrative — untethers us from the old networks of nation, class, job, psychographic associations. This is the encounter not mediated by capital or the same old metaphors of identity. There is no meta-explanation.

This is at once a collective and an isolated moment, a private experience within the collective network. This is a society of individual moments, a network of fragmented selves that nonetheless are not fragmented.

This is not bottom-up. This is inbetween — inbetween the ads and banners, inbetween the demands of capital, inbetween you and me.

This the dawning of the new flaneur making his way through the digital landscape, traversing the only frontier left him, in search of whatever may come.

What can happen here? A moment of tenderness, curiosity, horror, banality, breast, connection, erection, discovery, fear, loathing, indifference, disgust, knowledge. This is the human and posthuman all at once.

This is the pure put on, the shopping of identities and encounters freed from the tyranny of the Spectacle.

This is x-ray vision, seeing through the walls of houses and apartments, across borders and oceans, breaking down the borders of the bourgeois. This is your living room turned inside out.

This is the moment — no narrative, no explanation, no extension, no mediation. It is dangerous, silly, boring, outrageous, and beautiful.

It is just this.