Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cthonic Index Focal Point Gallery in Southend right next to London. I wrote something for Sophie Sleigh Johnson, whose exhibition this is, so you will see it in the book that goes with it. You will see immediately the reason why I got involved...the temporality of the show includes Mesopotamia...

"Shooting a Lion Is Bad, But What's Worse Is the Anthropomorphicization [sic]"

First of all, Mr. BBC Broadcasting House commenter, we can't help anthropomorphizing.

Second of all, wow.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Let's Abolish the Teaching of Handwriting"

Many are thinking of getting rid of it or have made steps towards that goal. Their reason: we don't do much of it.

There are all sorts of reasons why not to get rid of it, of course. The thick region between writing and drawing, for example, learning one is learning the other, the hand-eye coordination, the joy of moving a tiny stylus around, and on and on.

But let's just consider the logic.

We titrate even less than we write by hand: so let's get rid of chemistry.

We differentiate very infrequently in "the real world": so let's get rid of math.

More to the point: we use calculators all the time, so let's get rid of math.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mass Media, You Are Missing Something

Zimmerman was charged with murdering Trayvon Martin and was exonerated. If he had been charged with manslaughter he would now be in jail. The DA who just charged Tensing with murdering DuBose is known to have not the best (shall we say) ideas about race, and Tensing risks being exonerated.

Media excited that someone has been charged with murder after so many cops have been let off have missed something huge.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Environmental Studies at Rice

Hey are you thinking of doing an undergraduate degree anywhere? If you come here you can study Environmental Studies--we just set it up. It's a humanities and science combo and of course I'm teaching part of the humanities (and social sciences) aspect.

I'm really looking forward to it. Dominic Boyer, my friend from anthropology (we just finished a book, stay tuned!) and Albert Pope (architecture) and myself are team teaching the 101 type of class. We're teaching a third each. I'm taking the middle part. My part is going to be about how the humanities interfaces with all this ecology stuff. I thought up some nice exercises!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Speculative Realism in the Humanities: My Essay in the LA Review of Books

“UNLESS YOU’VE been hiding under a rock, you know that saying things about rocks is now something humanists are allowing themselves to do with increasing frequency. After 60 or so years of talking about how you can’t talk (directly) about reality, only about how to access (or indeed how to access how to access) reality, humanities scholars are talking about rocks, and not just (human) representations of rocks either. Indeed, you might find some of them talking about rocks’ representations of humans.” --read on

Monday, July 27, 2015

CFP for graduate conference my place


You email

I'm helping the students organize this. Should be excellent with excellent food and drink and an amazing keynote.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

...and for My Next Trick

“Consider the case of milk. Greeks enjoy their fresh milk, produced locally and delivered quickly. But Dutch and other European milk producers would like to increase sales by having their milk, transported over long distances and far less fresh, appear to be just as fresh as the local product. In 2014 the troika forced Greece to drop the label “fresh” on its truly fresh milk and extend allowable shelf life. Now it is demanding the removal of the five-day shelf-life rule for pasteurized milk altogether. Under these conditions, large-scale producers believe they can trounce Greece’s small-scale producers.” --Joseph Stiglitz

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Queer Green Sex Toys: Another Dark Ecology Snip

...that's the title of an essay I'm writing for a religion journal, haha--but it's also part of my argument in Dark Ecology:

“In a sense, all toys are sex toys to the extent that they enable links between beings and between a being. The threatening corniness of James Cameron’s Avatar reaches a peak in the living devices that connect the Navi to the biospheric Internet, as when they plug their tails into the skulls of flying lizards. Is it anything other than needless to point out the eroticism? The erotic wiring together of beings suggests the wiring between a being: the ultimate gnosis in Avatar would be to plug the tail into oneself . . . In The Joy there is an excess of links between a being over links between different beings. Is it too ungrammatical to say between the same being? Between the being that is oneself, even between thinking and itself. Although cloning is chronologically prior to sex, perhaps sex is logically prior to cloning. We consider here certainly not a heteronormative sex, but sex for its own sake whose prototype is denigrated as narcissistic. Buddhist Tantra provides a template: ultimate reality is seen as emptiness (the radical inaccessibility of things) in sexual union with appearance (their shimmering givenness), different but the same.”

Friday, July 24, 2015

Now You Can Read My Dialogue with Björk

Thanks to Ashleigh Kane at Dazed and Confused magazine. We both decided it would be awesome to share the emails.

When you read them, you get to see sentences that intertwine a bit like tendrils, putting out little experimental shoots. It was incredibly easy to work together, because I think we're both attuners rather than demagogues.

What I mean by “attuners” is like what Heidegger says when he argues that listening is the basis of rhetoric. Listening, “quietness” is also the basis of music. Writing is a mode of reading. Improvisation is kinda like reading too, more than just splurging out any old thing, out of yourself and yourself alone. You are attending to the others playing with you.

Unafraid of making mistakes and being vulnerable in front of others.

Maybe the key word to sum all that up is wonderment, which is the basic philosophical tuning (Plato, Theaetetus) and, to me, the basic flavor of Björk's art.

Exploring the Excluded Middle zone between categorical statements and just doodling. Between saying a lemon pie is a lemon pie, and saying a lemon pie is the Pope. I think that's great because Björk likes to explore Excluded Middle zones in her writing too. She likes to show you the wiring under the board of an emotion, sort of like how Kristeva talks about the semiotic versus the thetic. I feel x versus Every day I walk towards the edge and throw little things off like car parts, bottles and cutlery...I imagine what my body would sound like, slammin against those rocks, and when it lands will my eyes be closed or open?

And erring on the lemon pie = Pope side of the equation, hahaha. It also doesn't hurt that we have the same whimsical slightly out-of-control sense of humor.

Two introverts growing little shoots in the undergrowth of wonderment...and preserving them for others. The more I think about it the more I think that was a really really good idea.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Another Dark Ecological Amuse-Bouche

Anatomy of ecognosis. Ecological awareness is like a chocolate with concentric layers. In the spirit of René Wellek I have mapped these layers in an absurdly New Critical way like some kind of cross between a Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master and Northrop Frye. Like Donna Haraway, I believe in the affective power of old-fashioned kitschy theory objects like the Greimasian logic square she dusts off. I’m calling ecological awareness a chocolate in part to provoke the standard reactions: chocolate, sugar, addiction, bad! And to blend that chocolate with ecology (saintly, good, just) in a perverse way.

Each descending layer of the chocolate is a more accurate attunement to the basic anxiety inherent in sentient attunement to things, itself a symptom of the inner inconsistency that marks existence (and coexistence). Machination ruins Earth and its lifeforms, yet it supplies the equipment necessary for human seeing at geotemporal scales sufficient for ecological awareness. We reach for the chocolate because we already attune to the anxiety provoked by this ironic loop of revealing. Something is wrong; our normal machinations (mental and physical) are interrupted or disturbed. We need a piece of chocolate. This is special chocolate, however, that doesn’t block anxiety. The basic mode of ecological awareness is anxiety, the feeling that things have lost their seemingly original significance, the feeling that something creepy is happening, close to home. Through anxiety reason itself begins to glimpse what indigenous—that is, pre-agricultural—societies have known all along: that humans coexist with a host of nonhumans. For reason itself reveals itself to be at least a little bit nonhuman. In turn, reason discovers global warming, the miasma for which humans are responsible. Through reason we find ourselves not floating blissfully in outer space, but caught like Jonah in the whale of a gigantic object, the biosphere. Such an object is not reducible to its members, nor its members to it; it is a set whose members are not strictly coterminous with itself.

How to Play Bass

...courtesy of Jeff Berlin.

Say "I'm not happy with the Anthropos of the Anthropocene" One More Time: More Dark Ecology

Fourthly, some of us are anxious that Anthropocene is hubristic, elevating the human species by assuming it has godlike powers to shape the planet. This is, on the face of it, infuriating—unfortunately not all humanists feel infuriated, trained as they are to suspect anything with “human” in it (in particular the Greek for man) and anything that seems like upstart straightforwardness, like using “we” in a lecture just because you think it might draw people together (wait a minute). But consider how it would sound as a rather eyebrow-raising defense. Say I caused a car accident that killed your parents and your best friend. In court, I argue that it would be hubristic to blame myself. It wasn't really me, it was my right arm, it was the bad part of my personality, it was my car. Eyebrow-raising, and perfectly isomorphic with one mode of reactionary global warming denial: how dare we assume that much power over Nature! Now imagine that I represent the human species in a court in which many lifeforms are deciding who caused global warming. Imagine the “hubris” defense: “It would be hubristic of me to take full responsibility—after all, it's mostly the fault of this bad aspect of me, it was just an accident, I wouldn't have done it if I'd been riding a bike rather then using an engine…”

The fact that humans really have become a geophysical force on a planetary scale doesn't seem to prevent the anxious spirits from accusing the term of hubris. Quibbling over terminology is a sad symptom of the extremes to which correlationism has been taken. Upwardly reducing things to effects of history or discourse or whatever has resulted in a fixation on labels, so that using Anthropocene means you haven't done the right kind of reducing. But what if you are not in the upward reduction business? Scientists would be perfectly happy to call the era Eustacia or Ramen, as long as we agreed it meant humans became a geological force on a planetary scale. Don't like the word Anthropocene? Fine. Don't like the idea that humans are a geophysical force? Not so fine. But the two are confused in critiques of “the anthropos of the Anthropocene.” Consider that the term deploys the concept species as something unconscious, never totally explicit. No one decided in 1790 to wreck the planet by emitting carbon dioxide and related gases. Moreover, what is called human is more like a clump or assemblage of things that are not strictly humans—without human DNA for instance—and things that are—things that do have human DNA. Humans did it, not jellyfish and not computers. But humans did it with the aid of beings that they treated as prostheses: nonhumans such as engines, factories, cows, and computers—let alone viral ideas about agricultural logistics living rent-free in minds. The reduction of lifeforms to prosthesis and the machination of agricultural logistics is hubristic, and tragedy (from which the term hubris derives) is at least the initial mode of ecological awareness. But this doesn't mean we are arrogant to think so.

Marx Brothers Upside Down: Another Dark Ecology Snip

But what if appearance were inextricable from essence? If such an entwining were thinkable, one could reverse the joke often cited by Slavoj Žižek. Žižek likes to point out how existing or being—or whatever that is—is strangely supplementary to appearing. The Marx Brothers joke serves well to point this out: Chicolini may look like an idiot and act like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you—he really is an idiot. But what if it were also possible to make the joke upside down? Chicolini may actually be an idiot, but don’t let that fool you—he looks like an idiot and acts like an idiot. If you think that is funny—and that the reversal is funny—you might be ready to allow for appearing to be looped with being in the way dark ecology wants it to be.

Why Aren't You Here Doing This?

Namely, at the Whitechapel Gallery (great gallery) looking at the Hollow Earth by Emilija Škarnulytė and Tanya Busse. It's got the Arctic, it's got drills, it's got crystals. It's got ecological violence. It's got the absence of propaganda. In short, it's got dark ecology. And it's incredibly beautifully made. Lapidary is a word that comes to mind. Geological. What on earth else could one wish for?