Aphoristic Practice and Improper Human-ness

October 11th, 2010

The bond between logos and mythos. – That which is chiasmic is defined by the character ‘X’, signifying a crossing of thought, a togetherness of being apart with preponderance for a paradoxical unity of oppositions. ‘X’ delves into the relationality imparted by separation – the inherent irony, or illogic of separation…
The short essay is published here.

Who is the Avant-Garde Spectator?

March 9th, 2010

In his book ‘Secret Publicity’ Sven Lütticken outlines an account of artistic and intellectual movements to the (desired) forging of a new or radicalized public sphere in relation to the ‘marginal’ or intimate events and appearances of counter-strategies. The avant-garde dream of effecting actual socio-political change through the art-life paradigm is the central point of debate in his thought, especially considering that many contemporary art practices are contingent on an ethos of re-enactment of sorts, of such ideals, forms and modes of distribution located within avant-garde tactics. Lütticken firstly reinvigorates the term ‘publicity’, which has now becomes synonymous with advertising or PR, to it’s original connotation, which is what we would now name ‘public-ness’. He calls on this double significance of the term to address both the public sphere and the media driven apparatuses in becoming ‘visible’ within said sphere. Historically speaking, the efforts of Bataille (and, often, the surrealist project) are of particular focus, in his going underground, forming of secret societies and obscure publications – in the words of Lütticken, Bataille used “secrecy as a weapon rather than a retreat”. Further, Bataille grew spitefully critical towards the Surrealists in their inability to actually ’surrealize’ (and perhaps ’sacralize’) an increasingly consumerist and rational public sphere. What Secret Publicity investigates and questions, in the most general way, is the operativeness of the marginal, semi-private activities, images and discourses and their affect (or not) on what Lütticken names the creation of ‘counter-publics’.

What is left hanging in the discussion is the situation of the spectator within an avant-gardist aesthetic strategy. If the avant-garde’s desire is to tangibly infiltrate the sphere of the lived, and effect change therein (and not the bubble of an art-world) what is the presumption as to the plight or potentiality of the spectator? Does the inability of the avant-gardist project to effect real, social change outside the discipline of art and intellectual circles, (to a large extent), point to an inherently flawed depiction (or under-evaluation) of the spectator herself? Lütticken, does argue that, to some degree, the avant-gardist project completely succeeded, in the sense of infiltrating the real-life spectacular society, where contemporary art is no longer so easily distinguishable from fashion, pop-media and the like – artists often use such every-day modes of disseminating their work outside of a conventional gallery structure – this is already old news. The ‘success’, of the avant-garde, in this sense, is, of course, a cynically perverted one. The large question begets the artist as to what sort of assumptions one places on her prospective audience or spectator? Could this form of relationship with a presumed and largely, imaginary spectator constitute an ethical seat of the authorial act, the authorial gesture.

Rancière’s ‘Emancipated Spectator’ (the full length book, and not merely the Artforum article), which argues to a large degree from the perspective of the ‘Ignorant Schoolmaster’, and Jacotot’s ‘experimental pedagogy’, obviously has a lot to offer to this trajectory of discussion, but I’ll have to save that for a later date once that text is properly digested. Nonetheless, there is a strong Kantian bond in the perception of the spectator – one taken up by Hannah Arendt in her ‘Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy’, that could be mentioned here, that re-examines the ‘activity’ of the spectator and spectating. Kant takes up the old philosophical debate: If the actors are acting how are they able to perceive what is it they are doing? How can they perceive of their own affect when they cannot observe themselves? This is a simplified paraphrasing, but it’s hopefully sufficient to get the point across. Kant’s position on the matter, is purely in the court of the spectator:

“The general viewpoint or standpoint is occupied, rather, by the spectator, who is a “world citizen” or, rather, a “world spectator.” It is he who decides, by having an idea of the whole, whether, in any single, particular event, progress is being made.” – Arendt 1992: 58


“…in Kant the common distinction or antagonism between theory and practice in political matters is the distinction between spectator and the actor, and to our surprise we saw that the spectator had precedence: what counted in the French Revolution, what made it a world-historical event, a phenomenon not to be forgotten, were not the deeds and misdeeds of the actors but the opinions, the enthusiastic approbation, of spectators, of persons who themselves were not involved.” – Arendt 1992: 65

Arendt’s interest in pursuing the Kantian spectator is towards the development of a concept of freedom contingent on the faculty of thought that occurs in the formation of judgement – an argument that presupposes a ‘sensus communis’ (a fundamental plurality, a common ‘sense’), a judgement which ‘…weighs the possible judgments of an imagined Other…”.

I realize that these are very unfinished thoughts (typing while thinking so to speak), and with so much discussion placed on the spectator, one cannot of course forget to mention the co-dependent relationship between both actors and spectators – there must be indeed something to spectate in order to activate the possibility for judgement and communicability that creates a community of sense. Nonetheless a point of departure for more in depth reflection to come. But one that starts to pull me in the direction of seeking a perception of the spectator, outside of the ‘normalized’ futility of the ‘culture of critique’, as a wholly contingent, and often neglected, character in the theatre of appearances, a figure that must be imagined and accounted for in any authorial gesture.

Hospitality of Incapacity

March 2nd, 2010

The horror of potentiality is the ongoing encounter with ones own lack, one’s privation of faculty, in the face of a temporal expanse. It is that uncanny, impotential twin, the foreign and ostensibly imaginary figure that is often neglected in favour of an unceasing capacity to-act, endless actualization, endless production. How are we to engage in meaningful dialogue with our intrinsic foreign double? How can we engage the existence of potentiality in it’s Janus faced embodiment, the double faced Roman deity of both beginnings and endings? A mode of being “two-in-one” is the state described by Hannah Arendt when offering a reflection on solitude. Solitude, for Arendt, is not the condition of loneliness, isolation or boredom often associated with the term, but rather a being together with oneself, a silent “dialogue of myself with myself”. Thinking is the corresponding activity of this dialogic-solitude, which Aristotle even went so far as to declare it as proof of a specifically human quality. The non-thinking being is painted as not human (what the ancient Greeks called barbarian), it cannot relate outside itself, for thinking always involves a displacement of one’s own position, a division of the self. A thinking subject, a human subject, a subject that can negotiate its powerful incapacity, who can, in the words of Bartelby the Scrivener, “prefer not to”, exist in potentiality, for they actively contemplate the relation between their capacity to-act and their incapacity not-to-act. By engaging the capacity of incapacity in dialogic-thought, potentiality is not something that ‘grinds-to-a-halt’ when actualized (as in the case with a generic understanding of potentiality, when we say that a “child has the potential to know” or grow tall, for once the child is tall, there is no more potentiality for growth), it is a form of potentiality that ‘gives itself to itself’, that ‘preserves itself’ in actuality and perpetuates its very existence.

The hospitality with which one must welcome one’s incapacity is, above all, an interruption of the capable self. The foreign self, the impotential self, operates as an involuntary guest who takes up permanent residence, and to whom an open door must be extended for potentiality to exist. In unconditional hospitality, that is a hospitality with no invitation, with no condition to adapt to the rules of the host, the guest/host dynamic finds itself in an inverse power arrangement than that found in conditional hospitality, where the host dictates order and holds court. Through this hierarchical inversion, where the guest becomes a host and a host becomes a guest, a type of conceptual violence emerges, in that we only come to enter our own selves from outside: “… the master of the house is at home, but nonetheless he comes to enter his home through the guest—who comes from outside. The master thus enters from the inside as if he came from the outside. He enters his home thanks to the visitor, by the grace of the visitor”. With the unconditional hosting of our incapacity, which interrupts our capacity to-act, we arrive at the existence of potentiality, a frightening relation wherein the capable ‘host-self’ generously abnegates authority to the incapable ‘guest-self’. In the wilful renouncing of authority on the part of the ‘host-self’, the possibility looms, of course, in foregoing its singular autonomy. What opens up, however, with the unconditional hosting of our impotential guest, is a forging of a co-autonomous potentiality, a dialogic autonomy, a veritable ‘selves’-rule principle.

Paradox of the “Agon”

March 2nd, 2010

If the Agon, was a instituted site of contestation, struggle and/or conflict, be it either theatre or politics for the Ancients, how does such a mode of instituted visibility play out within a Rancierian framework of what constitutes politics proper? It is my gut feeling (hopefully a more detailed, referenced posting to come), that the institutionalization of ‘agon’ is not compatible within the sphere of politics outlined by Ranciere (and Agamben for that matter). The mode of contestation, proper, is precisely occupying the realm of the invisible, the not-yet-appearance of the political, since in order to have participated within an instituted ‘Agon’ one would already operated under the presupposition of the ‘counted’. The Real situation of the ‘Agon’ is inoperative invisibility, is the site par excellence that needs that is yet-to-be delineated…in the Actual mode of operativity it remains unseen. The task of politics as such, is the reinstate the equality of ‘Agon’, of contestation within the order of the ‘police’ (see previous posting), but it seems to me that the ‘Agon’ the space where one would possess the clout of counting as speech-from-a-party, is precisely the terrain that must be continually excavated, not something that is already-actualized, albeit, always existent, simply not yet counted or rendered as counting as a qualifyable ’speech-act’. The struggle itself, occur not within the Agon per se, but rather, carving out a space in which Agon can be understood as legitimately appearing.

Equality and Potentiality

March 2nd, 2010

Equality is the contingent force operating under the philosophy of Ranciere, likewise, so is Potentiality under Agamben…here is a brief paragraph linking the two, situating Rancierian equality as a mode of potentiality…

In the existence of potentiality outlined by Agamben, (the liminal terrain between the capacity to actualize and the capacity not-to actualize), there is a fundamental equality between the states of acting and non-acting. This notion of equality is at the core of politics outlined by Rancière in Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy (1998). Here we can trace a parallel between different terms employed by each thinker which point in a similar direction: for Agamben the term ‘indistinction’ can be tied to Rancière’s ‘equality’ for it is as-of-yet undifferentiated; whereas his inequality can be tied to Agamben’s ‘distinction-making’, since it is the instantiation of difference, of the partitioning of roles, places and bodies. Rancière sets up his description of a radicalized notion of equality, by firstly outlining the plight symptomatic of any social order: “The foundation of politics is not in fact more a matter of convention than of nature: it is the lack of foundation, the sheer contingency of any social order. Politics exists simply because no social order is based on nature, no divine law regulates human society.” After pointing out the “sheer contingency” upon which any social order rests, Rancière goes on to say: “Before the logos [an argument of reason] that deals with the useful and the harmful, there is the logos that orders and bestows the right to order. But this initial logos is tainted with a primary contradiction. There is order in society because some people command and others obey, but in order to obey an order at least two things are required: you must understand the order and you must understand that you must obey it. And to do that, you must already be the equal of the person who is ordering you. It is this equality that gnaws away at any natural order. Doubtless inferiors obey 99 percent of the time; it remains that the social order is reduced thereby to its ultimate contingency. In the final analysis, inequality is only possible through equality.”

The foundational ‘equality’ that Rancière addresses of in his conception of politics, speaks to the indistinctive zone insofar are those who ‘obey’ must have the equal capacity of understanding what to obey and that they should obey; they have the capacity to “recognise” power (aesthesis) “but not […] to possess it (hexis)” Every social order rests on this elementary potentiality of equality, every system of power and hierarchy rests on this fundamental indistinction before the operations of actualization take over and parcel out roles, delineate bodies and map out places. The equal capacity presupposed by any social system is that of an aesthetic order, for it is precisely the equal capacity to perceive and recognise the distribution of inequality, of power, vis-à-vis the inequality in the possession of power. The unpossess-ability of aesthetics is where the shared equality of comprehension is manifest, in the appearance of that which cannot be apprehended. The domain of aesthetics is where one can recapture the existence of potentiality and release it from its restricted twinning with perpetual actualization.

Like Agamben, Rancière sets up an ‘exclusive/inclusive’ paradigm of sorts, in his outlining of social structures, describing two distinct categories, the ‘police’ and ‘politics’ which imply one another in their referentiality. Rancière uses the term ‘police’ (in a non-pejorative fashion) to delineate, “… the set of procedures whereby the aggregation and consent of collectivities is achieved, the organization of powers, the distribution of places and roles, and the systems of distribution and legitimizing this distribution.” Politics, for Rancière is, rather, “antagonistic to policing: whatever breaks with the tangible configuration whereby parties and parts or lack of them are defined by a presupposition that, by definition, has no place in that configuration – that of the part of those who have no part.” The ‘police’ is the actualized domain of social operativeness, as the collection of institutions and conventions that carve out the partitioning of places, peoples and roles, inscribing inequality and distinctions amongst its constituent parts. Politics, on the other hand, is wholly unactualized, it is the existence of potentiality reasserting itself, reappropriating the indistinction of equality at the contingent core of social structuration.

Beginnings and (hopefully) Becomings…

February 17th, 2010

In brief, what I want to discuss for the upcoming thesis:

The Greek word “Agon” denotes both a place of assembly (a space of contest – often in the theatre) and conflict, it is a mode of the appearance of struggle, which implicates its very notion in an aesthetic order. Typically, what is understood as constituting the sphere of “politics” are the sets of institutions, organizations of power and the “distribution of places and roles, and the systems of distribution” – which Rancière proposes to rename, in a non-pejorative fashion, ‘the police’. What he postulates as ‘politics’, rather, is the activity “antagonistic to policing: [as] whatever breaks with the tangible configuration whereby parties and parts or lack of them are defined by a presupposition that, by definition, has no place in that configuration.” Modes of contestation proper to politics, as such, cannot occur within a preconfigured, preordained space, for such a notion presupposes ‘recognized’ actors and roles that are already acknowledged as ‘parties’ (those possessing the capacity of ‘understandable’ speech). The Agon, as such, if it is to be understood as within the realm of politics, is an appearance of an aesthetic sphere that is forever becoming, continually re-drawing lines of demarcation, roles, names, operations and modes of speech / communicative acts.

The making visible of Agon, hinges on the realm of the invisible, uncounted, un-placed and non-situated. But, following up on Agamben’s analysis of ‘exceptionality’, one cannot simply polarize the counted and the uncounted, the ‘police’ and politics, for the two domains pass through one another (Agamben calls this ‘di-polarities’). Rather what is necessary is to examine the ‘modes of indistinction’ that accommodate such a ‘passing through’. Such a conceptual configuration of ‘politics’ and ‘exclusion’ reposition the ethics of the author who seeks to engage in the ‘political’ realm; whose task is not merely to make visible the invisible, but rather to allude to the more complicated, nameless terrain, that constitutes the indifference between inside and outside.

Nietzsche’s “virtù” ethics will spur on the discussion surrounding the ethics of the authorial, in close attention to Bonnie Honig’s account of a “virtue / virtù” political ethics that perpetuate modes of contest and unsettlement. Arendt’s reading of Kant, in particular her notes on the Kantian spectator will also factor in since any discussion of an aesthetic appearance must include reference to the one who has the capacity to experience.


June 27th, 2008

From Paralogic Rhetoric: A Theory of Communicative Interaction by Thomas Kent

“…paralogy seeks to subsume logic. As the etymological origin of the term suggests, paralogy means beyond logic in that it accounts for the attribute of language-in-use that defies reduction to a codifiable process or to a system of logical relations.” p. 3

“Another way to understand Lyotard’s formulation of paralogy…is to view paralogy as a version of anti-logic. Closely related to Derridean deconstruction, antilogic is an interrogative technique that operates by drawing attention to a suppressed opposition in an argument.As G.B. Kerferd describes the technique, antilogic works by proceeding from a given logos, say the position adopted by an opponent, to the establishment of a contrary or contradictory logos in such a way that the opponent must either accept both logoi, or at least abandon his first position. Because antilogic works through negation – it offers no positive alternative to an assertion but simply employs the elements already present in someone else’s argument – antilogic, like deconstruction, posits no claim or argument that someone can refute.”

“In a sense, antilogic actually gives life to logic, for antilogic reveals the aporias and the suppressed oppositions that structure and animate every logical argument.”

“…paralogy lives beyond logic; paralogy describes the unpredictable moves we make when we employ a logical construct – a system of marks and noises, for example – in order to generate utterances. [...] paralogy cannot be reduced to an epistemological framework that may be employed to predict the efficacy of utterances. The most we can avow in a reductive way about paralogy is that paralogy is corresponds to guesswork. When we communicate we make guesses about the meaning of others’ utterances, and we, in turn, guess about the interpretations that others will give our utterances. This guesswork is paralogical in nature because no logical framework, process, or system can predict in advance the efficacy of our guesses.” p.5

Random Terms/Thoughts for Expansion

June 24th, 2008

Interruption as Transformation
Organization of the Subject
Non-Human Laughter
Sociality of the Uncanny
Drive to Comfort
Ethics of keeping difference open
Relationality through Separation (Coming together through Spacing)
Radical de-realization
Singular and Individual

Distraction & Alterity

June 24th, 2008

Would a process of self-distraction open the door towards alterity? The capacity to ‘distract’ oneself outside of self-isolation towards ’self-exolation’ – a relational self as indicated in Nancy’s reformulation of the Being as Singular Plural “…the plural touching of the singular origin.” (Nancy, Being Singular Plural, 1996, Stanford Press, p.14). Is Distraction a tool towards the Being with Nancy describes?


June 24th, 2008

This term came to me the other day within the context of a discussion on allegory and uncanniness. The prefix “Un” denotes not a space of negation, but rather a space of partiality – neither not there, nor there but rather both there and not there. Unthereness is a both – and condition – an oscillatory continuum between the local and the dis-local.

Could not an ‘Unthereness’, or for that matter, and unhereness describe our state of being in communicative activity? Obviously the state of the Wi-Fi cafe for one could describe the type of sociality taking place – assembly in a local environment in order to communicate dis-locally (being there to be elsewhere). Clearly this needs some more thought and elaboration, but one cannot deny the significance of that little prefix “Un” and it’s both-and virtuality – as Samuel Weber suggests – like a stage, a localization which is not contained.