From the streets…

From correspondents K & C

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My Desiring-Machines

I typically don’t participate in the world of architecture, but the focus on D&G piques my attention:

Performing Architecture – Saturday, October 13 – Call for Papers
Princeton University, School of Architecture, Betts Auditorium

Performing Architecture is a one-day graduate symposium, bringing together emergent discourses in architecture and performance in order to identify shared critical methods and to devise new territories for practice.

In their book A Thousand Plateaus, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari put forward a philosophical provocation that continues to be an important starting point for contemporary cultural production: we do not yet know what a body is because we do not yet know what a body can do. Performance art, which focuses on unleashing the body against restraints, and architecture which contains, programs, and even disciplines the body, are the two fields in which the philosophical question is made most keenly present. In their intersection, a…

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Beyond being just good advice, I think this speaks to what we’re trying to do both with our group and here on the blog: to create, engage, and practice. The point of contributing to this site is experimentation, right? This month-long gap between our meetings — not to mention the time I’m spending confined to a cubicle — is getting to me so I thought I’d throw this out there and see if it piques anyone’s attention.

Object-Oriented Philosophy

Mar 11, 2009 5:49 AM
philosophy : architecture
by doctorzamalek

And here’s another analogy I often have in mind… that philosophical work should be a bit like an architectural career.

To begin with, here’s the recipe for failure and autistic arrogance in philosophy:

“I have some great ideas. They’re not perfect yet, so I won’t publish them. Everything I read is worse than my own ideas. I will not lower myself to the level of publishing imperfect ideas. I am too conscientious to be as sloppy as others.”

This is a great way to take 12 years or forever on a Ph.D., and ultimately quit, all while telling yourself that no one else is really up to your level.

NO!!!!!! Do not go down that path.

Think like an architect. An architect has to build. To build, you have to take the opportunities that come to you. Yes, you may…

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“I would prefer not to”

I had one of those moments last night where my literary stars seemed to align, or at least cross-reference each other. While reading “Rites of Passage: The Politics and Poetics of Public Space”, a collection of essays, I came across an in-depth discussion of Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener in Mark Kingwell’s essay “Masters of Chancery: The Gift of Public Space”. As we know, Bartleby is referenced in Agamben’s “The Coming Community” in the chapter titled “Bartleby”. But it is a brief reference, one that Keith had to expound upon during our discussion for those of us in the group who are less well-read, myself included. Having yet to read the original Melville work, Bartleby remains an intriguing, yet enigmatic, character.

In Kingwell’s piece, Bartleby is described as a paragon that subsequent authors, following Melville, have employed for their own varying thought pieces. He mentions the Agamben passage as one of several Bartlebys– the “mystical-anarchist Bartleby”, as opposed to Slavoj Žižek’s “ruthless-authoritarian Bartleby” or Elizabeth Harwick’s “exhausted-anti-consumer Bartleby”. Kingwell himself presents Bartleby in opposition to the flâneur, the romanticized hero of the nineteenth century: “In his speeding up to a standstill, he is already a much more disturbing and baffling figure than the flâneur, whose strolling leisure can all too easily be assimilated and commodified in the form of the mall-bound shopper. In his refusal of all motion, Bartleby is, instead, a new figure altogether, a singular instance of the anti-flâneur. He rejects the demands of the world of work, Wall Street’s logic, but not in favor of the world of leisure; both realms are, for him, impossible” (11).

Kingwell notes that Bartleby’s actions are not deliberately political–he is no revolutionary figure. Yet, in Agamben’s terms, Bartleby is “the extreme image of [an] angel” whose “‘perfect act of writing’ becomes a ‘pure act’ of ever potentially not-writing”. According to Kingwell, Bartleby’s “action outlines a figure of purity, a violent gesture free of determinant content” (14-15). And yet, Barteby’s actions, translated into a normative role, appear to lead only toward anti-political nihilism. By opting out of both bourgeois-capitalism and “the ironies of public space structured by consumption”, Bartleby chooses to loiter “because he has nowhere else to go…He prefers not to move on. He prefers not to be reasonable. His preferences, so far from being moves or claims in a larger game of justification and negotiation, stand as insults, undigested remainders. Result: confinement, starvation, death” (14). Should Bartleby’s actions guide our actions? If so, how? I, for one, don’t want to die.

The fact that Bartleby is a not only a multi-dimensional paragon but perhaps the only, or perhaps most fitting, literary reference for certain paragons of modern life strikes me as odd (or maybe Melville was just that good?). Likewise, like all canonical literary characters, Bartleby is paradoxically highly contextualized within a particular time and place, but also is in many ways timelessly modern, a character who remains relevant as long as the fight against Wall Street continues, as it certainly does to this day.

Bartleby the Scrivener was read aloud during the Occupy Wall Street protests: http://bigthink.com/book-think/melville-irony-and-occupy-wall-street

Henry Miller’s “superinfantility”

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Reading from Tropic of Capricorn this morning, I came across a line that speaks to Agamben’s account of ‘whatever’, especially as Mark described it in his post on stem cells: “I want to go exactly contrary to the normal line of development, pass into a superinfantile realm of being which will be absolutely crazy and chaotic but not crazy and chaotic as the world about me…I want to break through this enlarged world and stand again on the frontier of an unknown world which will throw this pale, unilateral world into shadow” (145). Part of our last discussion addressed this state of overflowing potentiality, and we asked ourselves whether or not this was in fact a ‘return’ to a previous state or, rather, a mad embrace of the impulse/capacity to become something new. I’m inclined to say that, for Miller at least, time is decidely scattered and anything but linear, so this movement toward superinfantility should be understood as outside linear time, as occuring purely in the realm of becoming, or duration for the good Deleuze-readers. There is no going back, no returning, only a constant involution. For Miller later writes that “the first glimpse, the first realization, of the bright new world came through my meeting…the first mystic I had ever encountered who also knew how to keep his feet on the ground” (146-148).

Stem Cells al Giorgio

I had a thought today: is whatever analogous to stem cells?  Is whatever being, for example, being that has not yet been determined to be either common or proper, contingent or necessary…is it being that is capable of being either, or both?  Limbo seems to work this way.  It is a state before life, before we set off down the road to either salvation or perdition, just as stem cells have not yet set off down the road to being blood cells or muscle cells or (awesomest of all) neural cells…

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White Board for Agamben I

Here is the white board from the discussion on the first half of The Coming Community.  Also, Amy, Shannon, and Sush are on blog content this time.  The rest of us are on (constructive!) comment duty…Of course anyone is welcome to post in whatever way they are moved to.

Dim Stockings

In case you were wondering about the “special impression of synchrony and dissonance” in the Dim Stockings advert A mentions, a short clip of it is here:

I find A’s analysis (of stocking adverts, and much to this point in CC) to be less convincing, and more of a reflection of his personal thoughts than anything else. I look forward to our discussion, and perhaps the remainder of the book, as to date I’m unimpressed and (my own failing, I’m sure) find tedious the coquettish insistence on writing in ways nearly unintelligible. Maybe I just don’t read enough postmodern theory. I don’t know if I should blame the author, the translators (who actually WRITES like this?), or again, my own mental inabilities. That said, at the end of this chapter it heated up a bit and maybe the pieces laid out thus far will become the foundation for something. Enough of my whining for now.