All posts by sPur

ex post facto ex ante

Ah, coffee. The espresso maker hisses at me and I’m glad to interrupt my reverie. A friend once remarked that coffee could be the foundation of an ontology. He never followed up. Neither did I. But what was I thinking about? Right, I was imagining how the heated air spilling from a vent onto my kitchen floor sounds like a thousand whispers, the furtive clamour of a people who speak only in rumors, a pure language of noise. But it strikes me now, thinking again about this sibilous din of plosives and continuants, that whispers pulse and surge in exactly the way that paperweights don’t. Whispered rumors are more like flames. They’re seemingly nothing, flickering in and out of existence, yet burning nevertheless. No wonder Bachelard thought that fire could be psychoanalyzed (or rather, that “our convictions about fire” could). And it’s ironic how this thought of fire and the unconscious is chilling, so chilling that I get a shiver down my spine, which some call “frisson.”ezgif.com-resize

Some also call frission a “skin orgasm.” But the latter hasn’t stuck. Maybe because it’s just too accurate and we’re not prepared to think about orgasmic events taking place outside of those activities it pleases us to call sexual. Better to use the alien “frission,” I suppose. Its “pleasant tingling feeling” or “emotional thrill” doesn’t make us think what an orgasm makes us think. Which ideally is nothing. But this is a little ironic given that “thinking off” has become a new form of sex and because a skin orgasm is itself a kind of thought—thought incarnate, a thinking in the skin. And it moves. A shiver crawls down my spine, spreads across my arms, climbs up my neck, and pushes through my scalp. Sometimes it even pulses. Like an orgasm. A shiver down my spine has a rhythm. Like a song stuck in my head. The expression, I mean. But I suppose the thought, too. The stuck song, that is. I guess thinking in general has a rhythm. Woolf, thought so. “I am writing to a rhythm and not to a plot,” she wrote. But she must have thought this, too. I’ve also tried to think a rhythm:

Now we are safe … Now you trail away … Now you lag … Now they have all gone … Now the cock crows like a spurt of hard, red water in the white tide … Now we must drop our toys … Now they suck their pens … They wag their tails; they flick their tails; they move through the air in flocks, now this way, now that way, moving all together, now dividing, now coming together … Now the terror is beginning … Now I cannot sink … Now grass & trees … Now the tide sinks … Now my body thaws … Now we are off … Now I hang suspended without attachments. We are nowhere.”

I filched these bits from The Waves for Ludic Dreaming. The former is festooned with all types of nows that Woolf makes exotic. The latter’s nows, however, are not at all exotic. They’re completely ordinary. In fact, they’re infra-ordinary. Mine are endotic nows, the kind that Perec would find exceptionally unexceptional. Either way it still seems that where there are rhythms there are no wrong words. Bucket. But that isn’t hugely insightful, especially because my nows are just an abstraction of Woolf’s. Which is to say an abstraction of the rhythm of The Waves. Which is curious because The Waves is itself an abstraction of the rhythm of the waves. Which is even more curious since the waves—the spumey and spindrifty kind—are abstractions of tidal and atmospheric fluctuations. Rhythm it seems is abstraction all the way down. And strangely concrete, too, for the paradoxical reason that rhythm is the consistency we abstract from a world of continuous change. It’s why we hear “tick tock,” not “tick tick.” And it’s why a sequence of follicular erections is a shiver, not a pinch. But then there’s that song stuck in my head. It doesn’t tick tock. And it doesn’t shiver either. It doesn’t even really begin or end. Its comings are as unnoticed as its goings, which is to say that it doesn’t really go anywhere. It also doesn’t really do anything. But isn’t all thought nothing? “Thoughts are ephemeral, they evaporate in the moment they occur, unless they are given action and material form. Wishes and intentions, the same. Meaningless, unless they impel you to one choice or another, some deed or course of action, however insignificant.” This is a thought Ann Leckie had. Well, it’s a thought that the character Justice of Toren’s ancillary One Esk Nineteen had in Leckie’s sci-fi novel Ancillary Justice. A thought is nothing unless an effect can be deduced from its being had—”however insignificant.” A song stuck in my head must be even less than nothing, then, because its being had again suggests its being had the first time amounted to nothing. That is unless the mere fact that a thought about a song follows a previous thought about the same song “quasi-causes” the condition of “being stuck.” But if this is so then it’s only so ex post facto. And this would make “being stuck” an event that can only be extracted and expressed from a series of listening-like thoughts about the same song. In other words, “being stuck” can never be presented, can never be now. Like a law or a rule. Which is probably why it’s so difficult to shake the feeling that thought without deed or course of action is still causally efficacious. For instance, that my thoughts of white noise and rumors led to thoughts of flames and psychoanalysis, which in turn gave rise to the idea of a chilling fire, shivers down my back, and songs stuck in my head obviously substantiates a causal sequence. But there’s nothing about this sequence to suggest that it develops according to any rule or law, strict or non-strict. The mere exhibition of causal efficacy is enough to promote the semblance of a law. And a semblance of law is good enough for a corrigible mind. Honestly, who wouldn’t be seduced by the truth-value of “if not ‘p’ then no ‘q’”? It’s a counterfactual truth, but a truth nevertheless. Which is why life understood backwards (Kierkegaard) is always true. Which means that lived forwards life is never true. Which is not to say that it’s false but simply exempt from having to be true. Or obliged to deal with facts, for that matter since facts are a matter of understanding. Sounds great. But without the air of truth life chokes on its sheer happenstance. Which is to say that understanding breathes life into life by sparing it from actually being lived. But then again, who has ever not lived who has understood? Understanding is a kind of living. It’s life lived ex post facto ex ante—after the fact in anticipation. What else could it be? Call this living “knowing,” or better yet, call it make believe. Either way what’s lived as understanding is an abstraction. Like a melody. Which is kind of a lie, or, as Bachelard says, a “temporal perfidy”: “While it promised us development, it keeps us firmly within a state. It takes us back to its beginning and in doing so, gives us the impression that we ought to have predicted where it was going.” I suppose this means that knowing what one’s doing is a perfidy of sorts. What is knowing but a way of keeping oneself in a state of certainty, a state of suspended experimentation that brings one back to statements of fact which give the impression that what one thinks makes sense? So had I known what I was doing when I wrote this, what I was thinking about when I started plotting out one idea after the other, I should have given myself the impression that what I was doing made sense. But here I am, at the end of it, neither firmly in a state nor clearly at the beginning, and I can tell you with absolute uncertainty that this did not make any sense.

—Priest

Tuning Speculation IV: Detuning Speculation

tsiv_poster

PROGRAMME

 
While recent strains of speculative thought suggest an inevitable rendezvous with excess, total bullshit and failure, something is lacking. Indeed, to the extent that these speculations bank on the articulation of an elaborate metaphysics, a planetary politics, or even the conviction that nonsense always makes sense, they belong to a restricted economy that makes thought servile to the production of knowledge rather than the sovereign of its own expenditure. That is, if late capitalism has taught us anything, it is that any intelligent or useful insight can be instantly coded, co-opted, and commodified according to the seemingly inexhaustible rhythms of exchange. In this respect, any compact with useless ideas, failed ambitions and outright prevarication is as much a salutary development as an exit.

Like the three previous meetings that “tuned” speculation to its more experimental moods, this conference continues to question the (in)utility of speculative thought. Yet, if it’s the case that even something as seemingly unprofitable as dreaming may not be entirely sovereign, then perhaps it’s time to de-tune speculation. Focusing on the resonances between creativity, the unintelligible, and the dubious sovereignty of sheer expenditure this fourth instalment aims to explore the ways in which nonsense, hyperstition, opacity, stupidity and imaginary solutions are capable of generating creative and destructive alternatives to measured and logical thinking. This focus is especially warranted given contemporary culture’s increasingly voracious appetite for an integral transparency (characteristic of both control modalities and rationalist endeavours) that seeks to instrumentalize art, wantonly levelling its native capacities for ambiguity and inscrutability in the process.

2011 World Telekinesis Competition

Communiqué:

It has come to our attention that The Occulture’s splinter group, “violænce magique institutée,” is said not to have won the 2011 World Telekinesis Competition hosted and staged by the Pacific Northwest posse Noxious Sector.

In our omniscience this is absolutely preposterous and impossible given that our victory was un accomplissement futuro.
Until such time as we will have won the 2011 World Telekinesis Competition violænce magique institutée contests the counterfactuality of this decision.
cecchetto   *pas possible*
couroux   true
Priest   ‘rong

Tuning Speculation (NYC) ‘Maginary Magnitudes and Sonic Refractions

TSPEC NYCposter

FRIDAY, 1 APRIL 1 2016
9:00 AM — 18:00 PM

New York University
Performance Studies Studio
721 BROADWAY
6th Floor, room 612

This one-day symposium approaches such things as sound writing, auditory apophenia and “exploding head syndrome” as critical techniques of existence that dramatize the conditional gap between what a life “is” and what it “could be.” In other words, when taken as speculatively pragmatic ways of being rather than simply impassive fantasies, these techniques can be understood to articulate imaginary magnitudes that refuse not only a single scale of relation but a single relation of scale. In this respect, the ludic urge that informs the sense of sound’s being written, (mis)heard, and hallucinated links itself to activities that are more intensive then they are extensive, more expressive and contingent than substantive and determinate. This engagement with what might be called the abstractions of scale is particularly important in a time when capitalism is beginning to draw surplus value from our cognitive and affective faculties, and as new media technologies extend their reach into increasingly imperceptible and seemingly unthinkable domains. Accordingly, the presenters in this symposium employ their own speculative-pragmatic techniques in order to both interrogate the occult economies of abstraction and to advance forms of critical enquiry that scale between conditional and factual modes of being.

PROGRAM

PRESENTERS

Clown Torture

the occulture

This is the last sentence of the story that I said I would tell you, but it’s out of place. This is the next sentence of that story, tho since it follows the last sentence it should be the first sentence of the next story, unless “last” in this sentence means “previous,” which would make this the next sentence of this story. This is a demonstration of a sentence demonstrating its capacity to demonstrate its capacity to demonstrate. This sentence is already bored of itself and it’s only the fourth sentence of a four-sentence story. This sentence is only here to make the previous sentence tell a lie.

TUNING SPECULATION II—PANEL 3—OLSZANOWSKI, BARRETT & VERTOLLI!

Magdalena Olszanowski (Concordia University, Communication Studies)—The 2012 Quebec Student Strike: the rhythmanalysis of protest as a plurality of resistances.

G. Douglas Barrett (Independent, New York)—“‘IDEAS MATTER’: Žižek Sings Pussy Riot”

Michael Vertolli (Carleton University, Institute of Cognitive Science)—Lexical Re-coding Through Phonetic Invariance; or, a mAPP for Asymmetric Communication

The Occultural Panel @ Tuning Speculation II

Mssrs. Cecchetto, Couroux & Priest’s phononeiric propensities for your audio-visual pleasure.

DC—The Sound of Both Ears Oozing (missive from an auralneiric sludge-mind)

MC—Psycho(tic)Acoustics: Five Psychoalchemical Pathological Propagational Vectors

eP—Absolute Ventriloquy (or, Earing the Senses)