Old caps from a reading… / Thanks to WP everything was inserted into the post out of order. Some are missing i think, thanks for nothing. [edited]
// En faisant du ménage dans de vieilles notes/fichiers/etc…
// Une partie d’une ITW de Mark Fisher de 2015.
“[…] There is this frenzied activity of promotion and of self-promotion— and Baudrillard was really a prophet of this— which I think is a final and decadent stage of capitalism and so I titled a chapter in Capitalist Realism, “All that’s solid melts into PR.”
I really liked that title…
Of course it’s a play on Marx and Engels but this seems to me what’s happening with the social media obsession and it’s something Baudrillard would have anticipated. If you listen to the radio or watch TV now, it seems they are endlessly promoting Twitter feeds rather than the other way around. Wasn’t the point of the social media feed to promote the radio or TV show? It’s sheer promotion for its own sake now and everything gets sucked into this vortex without any possible end. I use the word “frenzied” because it’s producing this constant sense of overwhelming urgency that there is no time to settle on anything— “there’s no time to read this book properly, there’s no time for me to listen to this record. Maybe I’ll be able to snatch a few fragments of it. What I want is a quick summary because I’m under pressure at all times from multiple platforms and even on those platforms my attention will be dispersed across multiple windows.” And this is not some strange or marginal condition for those straining themselves to the limit but becoming required of practically everybody. And the final deadly element is that this is not just some duty imposed on us by work or our employers but that this requirement has become libidinized as something we will enjoy. So I think along with Baudrillard, Burroughs is also a key prophet of the current moment. We are seeing addiction and compulsion— not the kind of lyrical addictions of heroin but precisely the Baudrillardian kind— addictions to the banal and the boring. I mean, is there anything more boring than being addicted to smartphones?!”
(The source article linked here is not “full”, but contains “redacted” words…)
“Some day the load we’re carrying with us may help someone. But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn’t use what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead. We went right on spitting in the graves of all the poor ones who died before us. We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, ‘We’re remembering’. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run. And some day we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steam-shovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up. Come on now, we’re going to go build a mirror-factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
/via someone some time ago.
“Through neglect, ignorance, or inability, the new intellectual Borgias cram hairballs down our throats and refuse us the convulsion that could make us well. They have forgotten, if they ever knew, the ancient knowledge that only by being truly sick can one regain health. Even beasts know when it is good and proper to throw up. Teach me how to be sick then, in the right time and place, so that I may again walk in the fields and with the wise and smiling dogs know enough to chew sweet grass.”
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity
// J’ai commencé à lire il y a pas si longtemps la récente traduction des essaies mais voulu repousser à un peu plus tard ma lecture…
via kavan.land — “a semantic and fictional archive designed out of a collection of data related to the British novelist Anna Kavan (1901–1968).”
Partial ‘reblog’ from everythingisnice (text & quotes by them / only the old pointless/boring pics are mine):
I had come back to investigate rumours of a mysterious impending emergency in this part of the world. But as soon as I got here she became an obsession, I could think only of her, felt I must she her immediately, nothing else mattered. Of course I knew it was utterly irrational. And so was my present uneasiness: no harm was likely to come to me in my own country; and yet I was becoming more and more anxious as I drove. (p. 6)
From the outset it is obvious that Ice is a novel about obsession but it rapidly becomes clear that it is overwhelmingly about illness. Our nameless narrator has returned to this country from business overseas and is involved with this brewing civil emergency but it is not clear what this is or what his role in it is. Government? Military? He is somehow an insider yet he seems to fear the police. It is a defining feature of the novel that the narrator is both victim and agent of authority.
It is unseasonably cold and the man at the petrol station warns him of ice as he sets off up the country lanes to visit the girl. Ethereal, blonde to the point of translucency, she is never named either. They knew each other when they were younger but she married another man:
This was past history. But the consequences of the traumatic experience were still evident in the insomnia and headaches from which I suffered. The drugs prescribed for me produced horrible dreams, in which she always appeared as a helpless victim, her fragile body broken and bruised. These dreams were not confined to sleep only, and a deplorable side effect was the way I had come to enjoy them. (p. 8-9)
So he is traumatised, hallucinating and addicted. The waking dream occurs again and again; it is always the same: she becomes trapped, entombed, in ice. “Motionless, she kept her eyes fixed on the walls moving slowly towards her, a glassy, glittering circle of solid ice, of which she was the centre.” (p. 7) Early on, the imagery recurs again and again – “Great ice-cliffs were closing in on all sides.” (p. 13); “The masses of dense foliage all round became prison walls, impassable circular green ice-walls, surging towards her.” (p. 19) – culminate in an extraordinarily intense evocation:
“Despairingly she looked all round. She was completely encircled by the tremendous ice walls, which were made fluid by explosions of blinding light, so that they moved and changed with a continuous liquid motion, advancing in torrents of ice, avalanches as big as oceans, flooding everywhere over the doomed world. Wherever she looked, she saw the same fearful encirclement, soaring battlements of ice, an over-hanging ring of frigid, fiery, colossal waves about to collapse upon her. Frozen by the deathly cold emanating from the ice, dazzled by the blaze of crystalline ice-light, she felt herself becoming part of the polar vision, her structure becoming one with the ice and snow. As her fate, she accepted the world of ice, shining, shimmering, dead; she resigned herself to the triumph of glaciers and the death of her world.” (p. 21)
In his introduction, Priest says: “To work as allegory there has to be an exactness that the reader can grasp. In Ice the symbols are elusive, mysterious, captivating. It ends as it begins, with nothing that is practical or concluded.” If it is not an allegory, perhaps Ice is simply a wound; a raw insight into Kavan’s illness.
In the commercial world at least, the failed promises of the AI Winter continue to haunt AI research, as the New York Times reported in 2005: “Computer scientists and software engineers avoided the term artificial intelligence for fear of being viewed as wild-eyed dreamers.”
« Let me tell you more about myself Anne. As you know I’m twelve and Boob is nine. We were both born in New York at Lenox Hill hospital but our parents are from other places. Mama is from Los Angeles and Daddy is from Chicago. They’ve taken us to both places on vacation. I don’t like Los Angeles or Chicago. They’re horrible places and I’m glad they’re burning down.
Mama was an English professor at New York University until they let her go last semester. She teaches aoth Century Literature when she teaches. Right now she’s trying to get another job at another school but isn’t having much luck. She also writes books and papers on what writers were really doing when they were trying to do something else, that’s the way she explains it. Students aren’t very good any more she says. `Darling they’re so dumb you want to pinch them to see if they’re asleep. But sweetie they’re so sweet too and they do try and they have so many problems you have to let them get away with murder sometimes.’
Mama says even when they read something they really don’t. She says it’s because TV erases their minds. But she and Daddy watch TV all the time. Daddy writes for TV. When she was still teaching I asked her if Daddy distracts her students. `Oh darling he writes good things they’d never watch anything like that nobody does’ she said. She misses going to work and I hope she gets to go to another college soon. Doesn’t look good so far, that’s what Mama says. »
Dans ces derniers temps, un malheureux fut amené devant nos tribunaux, dont le front était illustré d’un rare et singulier tatouage: Pas de chance! Il portait ainsi au-dessus de ses yeux l’étiquette de sa vie, comme un livre son titre, et l’interrogatoire prouve que ce bizarre écriteau était cruellement véridique.
Il est d’ailleurs facile de supposer qu’un homme aussi réellement solitaire, aussi profondément malheureux, et qui a pu souvent envisager tout le système social comme un paradoxe et une imposture, un homme qui, harcelé par une destinée sans pitié, répétait souvent que la société n’est qu’une cohue de misérables (c’est Griswold qui rapporte cela, aussi scandalisé qu’un homme qui peut penser la même chose, mais qui ne la dira jamais)
Parmi l’énumération nombreuse des droits de l’homme que la sagesse du XIXe siècle a recommencée si souvent et si complaisamment, deux assez importants ont été oubliés, qui sont le droit de se contredire et le droit de s’en aller. Mais la société regarde celui qui s’en va comme un insolent; elle châtierait volontiers certaines dépouilles funèbres, comme ce malheureux soldat, atteint de vampirisme, que la vue d’un cadavre exaspérait jusqu’à la fureur.—Et cependant, on peut dire que, sous la pression de certaines circonstances, après un sérieux examen de certaines incompatibilités, avec de fermes croyances à de certains dogmes et métempsycoses,—on peut dire, sans emphase et sans jeu de mots, que le suicide est parfois l’action la plus raisonnable de la vie.
Mais il arrivait parfois—on le dit, du moins,—que le poëte, se complaisant dans un caprice destructeur, rappelait brusquement ses amis à la terre par un cynisme affligeant et démolissait brutalement son œuvre de spiritualité. C’est d’ailleurs une chose à noter, qu’il était fort peu difficile dans le choix de ses auditeurs, et je crois que le lecteur trouvera sans peine dans l’histoire d’autres intelligences grandes et originales, pour qui toute compagnie était bonne. Certains esprits, solitaires au milieu de la foule, et qui se repaissent dans le monologue, n’ont que faire de la délicatesse en matière de public. C’est, en somme, une espèce de fraternité basée sur le mépris.
nous nous trouvons souvent sur le bord même du souvenir
elle, la toujours placide Ligeia, à l’extérieur si calme, était la proie la plus déchirée par les tumultueux vautours de la cruelle passion. Et je ne pouvais évaluer cette passion que par la miraculeuse expansion de ces yeux
J’étais devenu un esclave de l’opium, il me tenait dans ses liens,—et tous mes travaux et mes plans avaient pris la couleur de mes rêves.
[will perhaps be edited/completed later.]
This brings us back, then, to my initial question, and I think that there are three reasons that Children of Men is so contemporary.
Firstly, the film is dominated by the sense that the damage has been done. The catastrophe is neither waiting down the road, nor has it already happened. Rather, it is being lived through. There is no punctual moment of disaster; the world doesn’t end with a bang, it winks out, unravels, gradually falls apart. What caused the catastrophe to occur, who knows; its cause lies long in the past, so absolutely detached from the present as to seem like the caprice of a malign being: a negative miracle, a malediction which no penitence can ameliorate. Such a blight can only be eased by an intervention that can no more be anticipated than was the onset of the curse in the first place. Action is pointless; only senseless hope makes sense. Superstition and religion, the first resorts of the helpless, proliferate.
Secondly, Children of Men is a dystopia that is specific to late capitalism. This isn’t the familiar totalitarian scenario routinely trotted out in cinematic dystopias (see, for example, V for Vendetta, which, incidentally, compares badly with Children of Men on every point).
If, as Wendy Brown has so persuasively argued, neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism can be made compatible only at the level of dreamwork, then Children of Men renders this oneiric suturing as a nightmare. In Children of Men, public space is abandoned, given over to uncollected garbage and to stalking animals (one especially resonant scene takes place inside a derelict school, through which a deer runs). But, contrary to neo-liberal fantasy, there is no withering away of the State, only a stripping back of the State to its core military and police functions. In this world, as in ours, ultra-authoritarianism and Capital are by no means incompatible: internment camps and franchise coffee bars co-exist.
In P.D. James’ novel, democracy is suspended and the country is ruled over by a self-appointed Warden. Wisely, the film downplays all this. For all that we know, the Britain of the film could still be a democracy, and the authoritarian measures that are everywhere in place could have been implemented within a political structure that remains, notionally, democratic. The War on Terror has prepared us for such a development: the normalisation of crisis produces a situation in which the repealing of measures brought in to deal with an emergency becomes unimaginable (when will the war be over?) Democratic rights and freedoms (habeas corpus, free speech and assembly) are suspended while democracy is still proclaimed.
Children of Men extrapolates rather than exaggerates. At a certain point, realism flips over into delirium. Bad dream logic takes hold as you go through the gates of the Refugee Camp at Bexhill. You pass through buildings that were once public utilities into an indeterminate space – Hell as a Temporary Autonomous Zone – in which laws, both juridical and metaphysical, are suspended. A carnival of brutality is underway. By now, you are homo sacer so there’s no point complaining about the beatings. You could be anywhere, provided it’s a warzone: Yugoslavia in the 90s, Baghdad in the 00s, Palestine any time. Graffiti promises an intifada, but the odds are overwhelmingly stacked in favour of the State, which still packs the most powerful weapons.
The third reason that Children of Men works is because of its take on cultural crisis. It’s evident that the theme of sterility must be read metaphorically, as the displacement of another kind of anxiety. (If the sterility were to be taken literally, the film would be no more than a requiem for what Lee Edelman calls ‘reproductive futurism’, entirely in line with mainstream culture’s pathos of fertility.) For me, this anxiety cries out to be read in cultural terms, and the question the film poses is: how long can a culture persist without the new? What happens if the young are no longer capable of producing surprises?
Children of Men connects with the suspicion that the end has already come, the thought that it could well be the case that the future harbours only reiteration and repermutation. Could it be, that is to say, that there are no breaks, no ‘shocks of the new’ to come? Such anxieties tend to result in a bi-polar oscillation: the ‘weak messianic’ hope that there must be something new on the way lapses into the morose conviction that nothing new can ever happen. The focus shifts from the Next Big Thing to the last big thing – how long ago did it happen and just how big was it?
The key scene in which the cultural theme is explicitly broached comes when Clive Owen’s character, Theo, visits a friend Battersea power station, which is now some combination of government building and private collection. Cultural treasures – Michelangelo’s David, Picasso’s Geurnica, Pink Floyd’s inflatable pig – are preserved in a building that is itself a refurbished heritage artefact. This is our only gilmpse into the lives of the elite. The distinction between their life and that of the lower orders is marked, as ever, by differential access to enjoyment: they still eat their artfully presented cusisine in the shadow of the Old Masters. Theo, asks the question how all this can matter if there will be no-one to see it? The alibi can no longer be future generations, since there will be none. The response is nihilistic hedonism: ‘I try not to think about it’.
T.S. Eliot looms in the background of Children of Men, which, after all, inherits the theme of sterility from The Waste Land. The film’s closing epigraph ‘shantih shantih shantih’ has more to do with Eliot’s fragmentary pieces than the Upanishads’ peace. Perhaps it is possible to see the concerns of another Eliot – the Eliot of ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ – ciphered in Children of Man. It was in this essay that Eliot, in anticipation of Bloom, described the reciprocal relationship between the canonical and the new. The new defines itself in response to what is already established; at the same time, the established has to reconfigure itself in response to the new. Eliot’s claim was that the exhaustion of the future does not even leave us with the past. Tradition counts for nothing when it is no longer contested and modified. A culture that is merely preserved is no culture at all. The fate of Picasso’s Geurnica – once a howl of anguish and outrage against Fascist atrocities, now a wall-hanging – is exemplary. Like its Battersea hanging space in the film, the painting is accorded ‘iconic’ status only when it is deprived of any possible function or context.
A culture which takes place only in museums is already exhausted. A culture of commemoration is a cemetry. No cultural object can retain its power when there are no longer new eyes to see it.
(Found an old txt from 2010(?) in which i noted a few words by Cioran…)
J’aurais mené à bien un dixième de mes projets que je serais de loin l’auteur le plus fécond qui fut jamais. Pour mon malheur, ou pour mon bonheur, je me suis toujours beaucoup plus attaché au possible qu’à la réalité, et rien n’est plus étranger à ma nature que l’accomplissement. J’ai approfondi dans le moindre détail tout ce que je n’aurai jamais fait. Je suis allé jusqu’au bout du virtuel.
— Cioran, 1957
Parfois je sens au plus profond de moi des forces infinies. Hélas ! je ne sais à quoi les employer ; je ne crois à rien, et pour agir, il faut croire, croire, croire… Je me perds tous les jours, puisque je laisse mourrir le monde qui m’habite. Avec un orgueil de fou, sombrer pourtant dans l’indignité, dans une tristesse stérile, dans l’impuissance et le mutisme.
— Cioran, 1958