Monday, September 28, 2009

Proof that Rickels Was Right?

It seems that Larry Rickels was right: the explosion of horror films has something to do with preparing the audience for surviving future traumatic experiences.

How else should we understand the Saw VI blood drive video above?
It's really great to see this because I think it lends some authority to Rickels' Winnicottian reading of the slasher/horror genre. If I understood him correctly, Rickels sees the popularity of horror movies as a group therapeutic experience. This group therapeutic experience relies on the impinging onto the viewers' psyches traumatic experiences. The reason for its popularity, he seems to be saying, is that the cumulative effect of these traumatic experiences better prepare the viewer. This gets echoed in the formulae of the films in this genre: those who survive in these slasher films tend to be understood as those that are deserving of the future.

Not that we're saying that people should delight in the torture of others, nor that there is any virtue in putting society on alert at all times. Rickels' reading of this phenomenon is gripping for me though, as it helps me to think about an area that I generally tend to ignore.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mike Shapiro Day 1

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Mike Shapiro taught a course entitled GEOPOLITICS IN CINEMA. This class attempts a rethinking of the planetary impact of media such as cinema as a challenge to political thought.

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

This class is going to bounce between his two most recent books.

What is the significance of Kant for me? He changed the grammar:
  • Heidegger put it from "What is the thing?" to, "What is man?" Then it became, "How is man?"
  • Nietzsche says, "Which one from the multiplicity?"
  • The Kantian experience is a narrative structure, "What are the conditions for the experience of the thing?"
  • Political Science, as a discipline, is in a pre-Kantian slumber.
My often asked-for methodology is in the introduction to my new book:
  • Poeisis as method - beyond reproducing the setting and how it feels in order to illuminate the politics of urban space. A refractive interference between philosophy and literature. Interference understood in Deleuze's Cinema 2. I am offering a poetics of the city. Politics has been so involved in the State that it has lost attention on the City.
  • Dickens' writings had in some ways interfered with Shapiro's newest book and reappears throughout it. Eisenstein wrote about Dickens saying he developed montage because of Dickens.
The Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) Carl Franklin

Almost all black crime novels are concerned with property. They were property and now...

Le Corps Cinematographiques bodies in film; Blacks in Virginia were considered real estate because it was easier for purposes of the tax code and presented less problems in the cases of inheritance.

Here we have Black-White encounters in a historical shift from being property to managing property

Bodies tell us the normative discourse in cities; we see this also in Lyotard's discussion of the referant and the referand.

Robert Altman, like the director of Fog of War, takes away the privilege of the body by never utilizing a master shot.

The ontology of encounters requires staging; the cross-cutting nature of film also lends itself to our understanding. To what extent can we write a script such that there is room for self-fashioning?

A crisis of intention is found in the city; Georg Simmel's "The Metropolis and Mental Life" - Simmel is unable to account for the micropolitics of the city, however.

Kant's thinking was much more radical than what he intended. Deleuze calls it the Attendant when discussing Francis Bacon.

Social History of the Machine Gun shows that soldiers were at first hesitant to use them because their bodies weren't involved enough.

We can't really talk about "the society" because we are more fractals, we're primarily in enclaves.

For tomorrow we discuss the Hegel Chapter, The End of Violence, and Benjamin.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jacques Rancière Day 1

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Jacques Rancière taught a class entitled: POLITICS OF AESTHETICS wherein we discuss the relationship between what is allowed to be seen and the dominant political regime.

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

My usual way of working is to talk for an hour and then we take questions, of course, if you have questions, ask, but perhaps it is better formulated the next session.

Today I wish to phrase some issues by implementing two images (promotional posters for Chelovek's Kino Apparatom):

Why these? A lot of what I want to say is, here an idea of cinema and art practice in general.

They say nothing about what's in the film but it does tell us about art.
  1. The spatial relations suggest something about what is going on - the copy kino (movement) relates man and apparatus in the design here. Man in general to be involved in the Soviet revolution; and also this particular man, the cinematographer, capturing the movement of Mankind.
  2. It is not an illustration of the problem - this isn't the problem of art & politics being illustrated - there is no message at all, this is produced at the end of the silent film era. The letters in the posters are visual forms in movement with the bodies. Only parts of the bodies are dancing, a fragmented body - a Modern dancer, an emphasis on the modernity with no form of constraint. Here is the mingling of the mechanical and human body fragments.
Were we to schematize:
  • man and machine, the man with the camera in shadow also looks like he is at the machine gun; the presence of skyscrapers suggest a brighter future movement up into the new life promised by the Soviet revolution.
  • The lady is not even in the film, she represents Art - this is a film with no message, visual fragments, these posters.
These present us with a new sensorium of how cinema will work, a new way of writing, how machines will operate, and the gestures of how the Soviet system will be.

There is the precision of the machine eye, a new body whose body is separated so as to be more energetic.

A new space where image and reality collapse - no difference because the new sensorium of life, these posters reveal this to us.

No more use of horizon to suggest 3-d, a world defined by movement of equality where there is no difference between low and high, between means and ends or the practice of any worker and entertainment. A world dominated by movement is a world of equality.

These posters produce the order of the sensible - the sayable, the do-able, a configuration of the capacity of beings in the world. These posters include themselves and the world that they would coordinate, both their place in the world and create the atmosphere through which they must be perceived.

What is meant by aesthetics?
  • Aesthetics doesn't define art or its theory, or the philosophy of art.
  • Aesthetics is the sensible texture, the frame through which the artist is able to practice; weaving the sensible texture and so allows us to understand how to coordinate it.
  • This is the same in politics.
My main point is this:
  • the positing of politics as practice of governing and art as the practice of object making - how do we judge these?
  • Before we ask the usual question about art's commitment to a politics, we must understand that in order for politics to exist, those that struggle for power must exist and they must represent themselves and generate a sensibility that can be understood.
  • Politics entails new ways of visibility.
  • This is also true of art: for art to exist, all practices and their objects must already exist and must be subsumed under the concept of "Art" not "the arts" of historical record.
The liberal arts were practiced by free people (the aristocracy); astronomy, geometry, etc. were practiced in Ancient Greece by those who didn't have to work.
  • To name "Art" supposes a dissolution of the distinctions between these class-based distinctions
  • The existence of "Art" is possible in a new distribution of the sensible; the new relationships between occupation and their subjects.
  • Art became possible after the collapse of the distinction form Free Men; between fine art and mechanical art, Art and Law... the distinction used to only be historical painting (High) and landscapes (Low).
The Classical world used artworks to show the illustrious nature of the royalty. At the inception of the museum (18th century), there was a revolution wherein Art was taken from the Royalty's homes and made publicly visible.
  • Aesthetics is the new regime between technical skills, modes of thinking, and modes of feeling.
  • If we think in these terms, this is a question of revolution. (emphasis added)
  • The common world that is being weaved by the artist and the common world that is being worked on in modern democratic practices -
  • these are the construction of a community through an aesthetic regime.
What I'd like to do is go backward (analyzing the possibility of these aesthetic changes) and then go forward; how is it possible to have these constructions, what is the destiny of these?

The constitution of the very idea of an aesthetic experience and the link to politics.

I'd like to look at historical moments when there were these shifts in the aesthetics and examine the logic of their paradigms.
  1. Let's look at the constitution of the aesthetic experience as an experience;
  2. second, let's look at what equality within art means and what the political potentiality of art might be. Art does the politics of its kind. These posters show us that all the different artists necessary for a film to exist exist simultaneously.
  3. My third point will be to show montage as an idea of politics; the formulation of critical art - art forms that ask us to think about and propose discussion between common people and politics
  4. My fourth point will be to reframe the contemporary moment, the so-called anti-aesthetic movement.
These posters don't want to be images, but expressions of what is (or will be).
  • They were not meant to be advertisements for the film, nor an image of "It's a movie without words"
  • These posters were the climax of the visual and the Revolution - both of which were about to collapse
  • These posters are without desire because desire suggests a distance, we should not see her as a woman (and so an object of desire), she is only energy, these posters are about movement and [the vital] energy [of the Revolutionary spirit] (my additions are bracketed)
There is a rupture with a certain state of art is what we notice in the Kant and Schiller readings. These create a universe of questions and evidences that we are still dealing with today. A new relation to Beauty, sensibility as a faculty is introduced.

Kant, Part 1, Section 2
The satisfaction which determines the judgement of taste is disinterested

They focus on the idea of the palace, not as it appears and have two negative statements:
"I do not desire it," and "this is not what should be desired," the point is that we know that there are two kinds of hierarchy: what is agreeable from the elite and from the common people.
  • There was this idea of two kinds of humanity, those of needs and those of culturedness
  • Voltaire said that this was a physical difference, they did not have the same eyes, the same ears, etc. and so the two groups could not mutually sense
Thus in Section 2 we have:
  • extrinsic judgement - it is vanity, something to gape at
  • hierarchical judgement (art practice) - does it suit the function and obey the rules of Art and architecture?
  • Kant dismisses the idea of the body being attached to the capacity to feel,
  • thus the aesthetic is disjointed from perception of the perfection of execution.
Section 16
The judgement of taste, by which an object is declared to be beautiful under the condition of a definite concept, is not pure

What is Beauty was decided when there was no concept; we must disconnect the object from a kind of knowledge in order for it to be thought of as beautiful.

Decorative art, for Kant, is beauty; but, abstraction is pure Beauty because there was no conception.

In the 18th century dance was art if it told a story; but Kant introduces a break from insisting that there must be not be judgement of an object as an object of desire or of knowledge, we must judge only its form. So, I decide as the character of anyone and everyone.

There is this new idea of a new universality which overcomes the particularities of the former universalism. This is what disinterestedness means.

Bourdieu lampoons this in his book Distinction, this disinterestedness is a mark of social distinction, only those who can afford these items can judge them.

Kant would say to Bourdieu, "okay, but it happens all the time that the common people say, 'it is beautiful,' it doesn't matter what objects they think are beautiful.
  • It's true the social order is twofold hierarchy with two kinds of humanity where the rich train to refine their pleasures;
  • but in 1790 we are proposing freedom over repression.
  • How will we organize? It can't simply be by overturning the former hierarchy - it must be a new form of relationships and ways of living."
This is what Kant is trying to achieve in his call to universalism.

Section 60
Of the method of Taste

The argument is a new society needs not only laws of restraint but also common sense.
  • It supposes a common sense, that anybody to feel for anybody and that anybody can communicate with anybody these feelings.
  • The break is with the distribution of the sensible such that anybody can feel and communicate - if we get away from knowledge and means to ends - we can participate universally.
  • The problem is, how do we overcome this tendency?
If we pursue this line of thinking, if Bourdieu is interested in the taste of the common man, then how do we understand this t-shirt that announces, "I marvel at the sunset" from Campement Urbain?

Rancière has written about Campement Urbain's project I & US here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nuclear Holocaust - Whether We Like it or Not

I'm reading some rather grim reports today. Maybe it's because I'm listening to Sunn O)))'s new album Monoliths and Dimensions. But I can't help be feel a certain need to predict, based on the information cobbled between these two articles and the readings from Michael Hardt and Judith Butler, that there will be a world government-type entity within the next 100 years. That there would be such a government, in itself is not grim for me. What I find grim is that there might not be one - because there might not be the need (given the inadequate human population) for any kind of State at all.

I started reading Wired's wonderful blog, Danger Room, and came across this teaser article from this month's issue Inside the Apocalyptic Soviet Doomsday Machine.

The above article tells us a bit about Dead Hand, technically it's called Perimeter, a zombie nuclear retaliation machine developed by the Soviet Union to destroy the United States after the U.S. has attacked. How will the zombie system know when to strike? Hopefully none of that fails; they keep upgrading the system so hopefully it's overcome the limits of 1984's computing technology and it's not being run on an Apple IIe or something.

Then, from the discussion below the above article I was pointed toward Daniel Ellsberg's article at Truthdig "A Hundred Holocausts: An Insider’s Window Into U.S. Nuclear Policy"

From Ellsbueg's article I noted several interesting lines that reminded me of the discussion we'd been having in Judith Butler's class. Specifically I'm thinking of the question she shares with Arendt, what kind of Law can we have when immorality is the morality of the land? What kind of crime can we charge Eichmann with when there is no legal precedent for the new kind of person that marks our contemporary moment?

To be sure, Americans, and U.S. Air Force planners in particular, were the only people in the world who believed that they had won a war by bombing, and, particularly in Japan, by bombing civilians. In World War II and for years afterward, there were only two air forces in the world, the British and American, that could so much as hope to do that.
Ellsberg's pointing to a problem that reminds me of Arendt's questions about Eichmann and genocide in her Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship:
How can you think, and even more important in our context, how can you judge without holding on to preconceived standards, norms, and general rules under which the particular cases and instances can be subsumed? Or to put it differently, what happens to the human faculty of judgement when it is faced with occurrences that spell the breakdown of all customary standards and hence are unprecedented in the sense that they are not foreseen in the general rules, not even as exceptions from such rules? (26)
Although the idea that the US Air Force might decide that not only is it acceptable to implement and enact on plans to destroy civillian non-combatants as a key to victory is not immediately related to the Arendt questions above (I mean, if we're already accepting that war is a solution to problems why not), the following statements by Ellsberg that proceed from his thinking do begin to resonate with Arendt and her Eichmann project.
I knew personally many of the American planners, though apparently—from the fatality chart—not quite as well as I had thought. What was frightening was precisely that I knew they were not evil, in any ordinary, or extraordinary, sense. They were ordinary Americans, capable, conscientious and patriotic. I was sure they were not different, surely not worse, than the people in Russia who were doing the same work, or the people who would sit at the same desks in later U.S. administrations. I liked most of the planners and analysts I knew. Not only the physicists at RAND who designed bombs and the economists who speculated on strategy (like me), but the colonels who worked on these very plans, whom I consulted with during the workday and drank beer with in the evenings.
That chart set me the problem, which I have worked on for nearly half a century, of understanding my fellow humans—us, I don’t separate myself—in the light of this real potential for self-destruction of our species and of most others. Looking not only at the last eight years but at the steady failure in the two decades since the ending of the Cold War to reverse course or to eliminate this potential, it is hard for me to avoid concluding that this potential is more likely than not to be realized in the long run.
The chart to which he refers above is the chart that he will be handing to the President that states that at a minimum 325 million people would be killed in the USSR and China were the U.S. to enact general nuclear war in 1961. But he recognized that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were not including the collateral deaths that would have to be included due to nuclear fall out. The reply from the Joint Chiefs of Staff was 600 million dead. One hundred Holocausts within six months in the northern hemisphere. But that was back when we had the less powerful nuclear war heads of 1961, and so few!

As we can see from the recent scholarship on the unaccounted-for fires that accompany nuclear blasts, we can expect all life to be destroyed within about 60 square miles of the blast itself. From Whole World on Fire (Cornell, 2004)
Average air temperatures in the areas on fire after the attack would be well above the boiling point of water, winds generated by the fire would be hurricane force, and the fire would burn everywhere at this intensity for three to six hours. Even after the fire burned out, street pavement would be so hot that even tracked vehicles could not pass over it for days, and buried unburned material from collapsed buildings could burst into flames if exposed to air even weeks after the fire.
Those who sought shelter in basements of strongly constructed buildings could be poisoned by carbon monoxide seeping in or killed by the oven-like conditions. Those who sought to escape through the streets would be incinerated by the hurricane-force winds laden with firebrands and flames. Even those who could find shelter in lower-level subbasements of massive buildings would likely die of eventual heat prostration, poisoning from fire-generated gases or lack of water. The fire would eliminate all life in the fire zone [40-65 square miles is not unreasonable to expect]. (35-36)
To help you understand what 60 square miles looks like, here's a map of the city of Atlanta. Everything within the the Perimeter (the ring that marks I-285) will be on fire and producing hurricane-force winds for three to six hours. That means you can probably include all the suburbs on fire within the first day, especially in tree-city.

View Larger Map
all of this on fire.
Let's juxtapose some quotes from Ellsberg and Arendt:
"What was frightening was precisely that I knew they were not evil, in any ordinary, or extraordinary, sense. They were ordinary Americans, capable, conscientious and patriotic." Ellsberg
"The indictment implied not only that he [Eichmann] had acted on purpose, which he did not deny, but out of base motives and in full knowledge of the criminal nature of his deeds. As for the base motives, he was perfectly sure that he was not what he called an innerer Schweinehund, a dirty bastard in the depths of his heart; and as for his conscience, he remembered perfectly well that he would have had a bad conscience only if he had not done what he had been ordered to do....Their case rested on the assumption that the defendant, like all 'normal persons,' must have been aware of the criminal nature of his acts, and Eichmann was indeed normal insofar as he was 'no exception within the Nazi regime.' However, under the conditions of the Third Reich only 'exceptions' could be expected to react 'normally.' This simple truth of the matter created a dilemma for the judges which they could neither resolve nor escape."
Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 25-6.
I just can't help but feel that Arendt's consideration of the anomaly of Eichmann must be extended to the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. I think that the world, whenever possible, will seek out a central authority and I believe the nuclear crisis will bring that central authority to power. The world will cry out for it, assuming that the majority of the world's life were to survive this crisis.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Judith Butler Day 6

NOTE TO FACEBOOK VIEWERS: to view any of the clips you'll need to visit the actual blog. Scroll to the bottom and click "View Original Post"

Judith Butler taught a class entitled ETHICS AND POLITICS AFTER THE SUBJECT. The first half of the classes were focused on Hannah Arendt: performativity, politics, political theory (sovereignty, zionism), "Questions of Judgement."

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

Precarious Life (2005)
I wrote Frames of War (2009) because I felt that I had left hanging the question of life. I want a different idea of ontology and sociality; something less idealistic than Arendt's plurality.
  • How could a person exercise judgement in thorough constraint? If you think critique is based on locality, then living under totalizing conditions would seem to suggest no way of critique - Arendt sought to find a way out of this
  • Is plurality compatible with these notions of judgement? Something more than normativity is at work here - modes of cohabitation seems to be a lens through which to see more.
  • Plurality is an unchosen way of life; nonetheless, there are obligations to the social, cohabitation is a given.
What is this givenness, this physis, naturalness? Perhaps aligned left Heidegger's thrownness
  • "Men must actualize their sheer passive givenness of life..." "in order to make it articulate in the face of suffering, this givenness - calling forward our being." The Human Condition
I'm overwriting this to fill it out and to bring it closer to my thought.
  • It seems to me we are up against others we never chose, vice versa; this produces a range of emotion
  • Arendt says we must work in concert, but how does this free acting in concert depend on the unfreedom of cohabitation, with those we never chose nor choose?
One way out would be in active mediation; but I'm not prepared to do that.
  • There is a constitutive unfreedom that defines us. The earth belongs to us all.
  • If you agree you can't choose with whom to share the earth, you can choose more localized cohabitations, we might employ Heidegger's distinction between earth and world.
Read Arendt's first thirty pages of her book On Revolution
  • It's peculiar: she distinguishes between power and violence
  • Arendt's singular thatness, perhaps in Responsibility and Judgement
  • the Copenhagen lecture - she talks about "persona"
Under situations where there is no open media, where war dead are not able to be knowable the task is to find the "thisness" of these lives. The "sounding" in the Copenhagen lecture is maybe not the same as speaking.

There are agnostic tensions in relationality, we would have to think about other living organisms.
  • Plurality would have to be also thought as a material interdependence such that exposure and hunger are problematic
  • These are not pursued by Arendt
  • She makes a distinction between public and private that seems to facilitate this noninclusion, thus it's difficult to think politically and materially interdependent
Enter Precarious Life, though it might not be robust.
  • It's one thing to apprehend the precariousness of the other, but then we must apply this to material conditions
  • A bodily ontology would rethink exposure, social belonging, work, interdependence, etc.
  • We must resist giving over to Liberal notions of identity and assume interbeing
  • To be a body is to be exposed to being crafted, it emerges in a set of relations and exposed to the configurations of these relations
Arendt does offer some account of unchosen sociality but she lacks a more adequate social ontology.
  • The inhibition of freedom as the condition of freedom
  • The body's barrier to the Other and the world is at the skin, we are always exposed to the world
  • In order to exist as desiring beings we must address the conditions of bodily interdependency - Arendt rules this out as being in the private sphere
Precariousness is a word used to describe the vex of this interdependency. It's used by those in the antiglobalization movement, it organizes around conditions of life that are primarily concerned with livability and not calling to identity. It gives us a different notion of dominance and violent conflict.

When a shared position of precariousness is not reciprocated, those populations can become losable, this is what happens in war.
  • Durability is fought for in this unequal distribution of precarity and
  • the precarity of life among "the enemy" is a call used to shore-up and insist upon the impermeability of the group
Can one choose against precarity? It would seem this actually heightens the precarity of the whole

The dispossession of being, as we are unable to choose with whom we cohabitate is the condition necessary for us to act in precarity

My own position doesn't tell us how to punish the war criminal or how to respond to Israel-Palestine; this does, however, give us ways of thinking about war and conflict that inform us of who loses in these conflicts - we both do.


We adjourn briefly and then reconvene with Giorgio Agamben and Judith Butler in conversation

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Larry Rickels Day 6

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Larry Rickels taught a course entitled SCHAUER SCENES IN PSYCHOANALYSIS AND FILM. This course explored the genealogy of the "psycho" (and Psycho effect) in mediatic-analytic sessions.

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

Romero says that the Tales of Hoffmann was a primary influence on Night of the Living Dead.

The Winnicott psychology of adolescence is one that is always passing; it seems we can relate. This transience is related to the barrier of psychosis, this is perhaps how we can understand the Freddie Krueger experiment.

Lacan changed his views, but they were within the field of Freud's. Winnicott refers to the maternal phallus, thus one gets around the gap of loss.

Freud wrote about the fetish after the War, thus his second phase. He brings two examples that don't have anything to do with sexuality:
  • the two sons, they both know and did not know that their father was dead - an oscillation between knowing and not knowing the loss of the object of desire.
  • An oscillation between neurosis and psychosis; for the first time locating neurosis within psychosis itself.
  • This disassociation can also be seen in Benjamin's notion of "gadget love"
An imaginative way of living and an ambivalent relationship to the mother can be seen in Winnicott's patient who continues saying she can't feel sorry for the dead. It turns out her mother left her jewelery that she won't wear because she as a rule doesn't wear jewelery.

Both Michael Myers and Freddie Krueger have this moment after killing where they cock their heads to the side and look at the dead as if in that animal startle response
  • With Myers we are in the early field of hunting where he doesn't know what to do with the bodies. He experiments with one body but hides the others so that another predator can't track him
  • Winnicott refers to this as room for absence, this shift between mourning and melancholia. Freud, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, writes about his grandson playing fort/da: it's a game that teaches a child to deal with the absence of the mother, it's about control. This is how the death wish first arises, the child wants the mother to be gone, a goner.
  • Until the child can collect memories, there is no room for the mother, thus room for absence. The break in continuity for the child, when the mother is not there, is an impingement such that the child, in reaction, develops a false self, a masked, compliant self.
Winnicott works with regression analysis to relive these moments. A lot of what he has to say deals with timing.
  • Out of the gap emerges the impossibility of the absence.
  • Playing is an interweaving which prepares us for the socius.
  • Sublimation is placed at the heart of creative and scientific activity because it brackets-out sexuality and so is an alternative to repression in Freud's terms.
  • The avoidance of repression is an ongoing race against loss of "energy" that gets devoted to repression.
Freud, in his essay on Leonardo DaVinci sees that at the end, his journal is more and more a record of how much he pays his assistant.

Dressed to Kill Brian DiPalma's contribution to the "Psycho Effect"

Freud says that what Schreber loses in his recovery phase is his wealth of sublimations. Whereas our melancholia might lead to our withdrawal such that we don't leave the bed, in Schreber the withdrawal is extreme.

Winnicottian reading of the end of Halloween
"The individual exists by not being found"

The drive to know: seemingly instant desire within humans. How this is afforded, according to Freud, is directly related to sublimation. This cataloging activity is like a foreign body ... this is an attempt to delay the impingement.
  • The intellect seeks to protect the psyche, it may even go out and meet offenses so as to collect them and prepare the psyche
  • How does not knowing emerge? Winnicott calls it the gap of consciousness, a form of not knowing that Winnicott wants to re-emerge in the course of regression therapy
In Halloween we had to hear Laurie's breathing, like Winnicott's patient that talks about watching the still bird breathing. It is an affirmation of vital life from which the psyche can develop anew.
  • Thus the breathing and staring at the houses might be read as not a threat of violence from Myers but the survivor is still breathing! An affirmation of the vital life and while we might have a future encounter, we also can trust that survival is not contingent upon killing and that survival is possible.
  • Something changed in the genre of slasher films with the closing sequence of Halloween and this is what motivates Rickels' reading.
The Sandman E.T.A. Hoffmann (1816)

  • Freud reads the problem of Nathaniel as being the witness to the primal scene and thus brings the Sandman into being.
  • Lacan says it is his failure to incorporate his father into the world of objects.
  • At three different times Nathaniel tries to realize romance and each time the Sandman arrives, a threat of castration.
Another read would focus on the details of the comparison between the father and the Devilish work he does (working on the human body)
  • Here we see this story as exemplary of the serial killer
  • It builds with the reception of the Sandman early on
  • The story of the Sandman isn't traumatic but rather the mother's "melancholic face"

On such evenings as these my mother was very melancholy, and immediately the clock struck nine she would say: 'Now, children, to bed - to bed! The Sandman's coming, I can see.' And indeed on each occasion I used to hear something with a heavy, slow step come thudding up the stairs. That I thought must be the Sandman. (1)

From my father's silence and my mother's melancholy face I perceived one evening that the Sandman was coming. I, therefore, feigned great weariness, left the room before nine o'clock, and hid myself in a corner close to the door.(2)
  • She is unable to contain what she feels when the Sandman comes and this is what Nathaniel is reading on her face.
Like so many serial killers, we have the sense that the body that is killed is the body that is controlled, contained, and for sexual reasons.
  • The mangling of Olympia leads to him revisiting that primal scene between the two fathers working on that alchemical project.
  • Nathaniel is someone that has failed to transition from the Oedipal phase and cannot deal with the castration (the replacing of one object for another)
  • Unheimlich is that which cannot be contained, unhousedness. Uncanny works on aesthetic registers, but here it is misleading in a wider view.
Derrida's problem of autoimmunity seems to be relevant to understanding Nightmare on Elm Street.

It's interesting to think reflect on the Freddie genesis story: the film is set in the early 1980s and we are told that the parents of the children being terrorized had actually murdered Freddie. It's noteworthy that the children are being punished for their parents' transgressions against the State during the 60s and 70s. That is, the parents, in becoming vigilantes, had transgressed the sovereignty of the State. During the climate of the Reagan and Bush 80s we can see that the State would not be tolerating these outbreaks of autonomous political action.
  • We see in Freddie vs. Jason that drugs have been developed so that children can sleep without dreaming, which drains Freddie's life force
  • So, Freddie hires Jason to remind children to be afraid of Freddie
  • Thus Freddie is defined as a trauma that has to be recharged every once in a while in order to be successful
  • Nancy is the only one that can drain Freddie of this, she can protect against this impingement
  • In the absence of the "Psycho Effect" Freddie is only demonic - a quality perhaps shared by The Ring and Saw today
With the advent of Scream we have the possibility of mourning as seen in the third installment.

The door literally opens to suggest the possibility of another installation in the series, but we are not afraid because the possibility of overcoming what we've seen has been achieved.

Giorgio Agamben Evening Lecture

Giorgio Agamben gave an evening lecture dealing with the etymology and ramifications of the term uficium, which becomes today our concept of "the Office" as in, "the Office of President."

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

First, why Law and then ontology. Why? Because these are the only fields Foucault did not work within. Second, because I want to know what is politics?

Recently I've been focusing on liturgy (liturgia). Ontology is filosofia prima.

What does it mean to act politically? Liturgy and Law both come from the same word. It's root means to work for the people. The history of the term coincides with the translation of the term.

First translations of liturgia were in reference to the cultic practices of the priests and the clergy.

This is the summary of the genealogy of liturgy; it's set in Germany in the 1920s - a time of movements and eschewing the "School" Freud didn't call it the psychoanalytic School, but the Movement.

We look to Casel and see that Liturgical mystery is not representation but an expression of the Mystery
  • Sacraments realize (enact?) what they mean, is a sign; but,
  • the particularity of the sacrament is that it realizes what it means
This particularity is the praxis of liturgia:
  • Opus operatum - work that will produce actions
  • Opus operandi - work of a moral entity
This distinction above arose in asking if a baptism would be illegitimate if the priest, while performing the sacrament, was thinking about raping a girl that was being raped.
  • They decided, Yes: the baptism would be legitimate.
  • the only circumstance in which it would not be legitimate would be if the priest were joking
The irony: the doctrine which grounded the priestly actions would be found in a discussion of opus operandi and opus operata of the Devil.
  • As the Devil's actions are in the service of God's Will, so the opus of the priest regardless of intent or inner state
  • The praxes of the priests became their ufici, their offices.
Heidegger: the locus of the transformation of ontology occurred in the 3rd century by Christians who were doing so in the conversations around the nature of the sacraments.
  • Heidegger saw that the term analogia, living and being, was what the Greeks employed, but the Christians translated the term as essentia
As soon as Pius XI is inaugurated (?) in 1922 (at the same time as Mussolini) he (Pius XI) changes the language of Christ the King.
  • This language (that the Kingdom of Christ will be at the end of time) is picked up by the fascists of Italy as well as in the Spanish Civil War
There was a strict link between liturgy and the avant-garde: the overcoming of the avant-garde and the Dadaists are all to be understood as liturgical gestures. Perhaps all performances today must be seen as such.

What is the nature of this liturgical mystery? The answer can only be politica.

This liturgical move has made an indelible mark on Modern ethics and politics.

I am deeply involved in the archaeology of the office.

Pseudo-Dionysus originated the term hierarchy, it meant the "heavenly power" and so he is the founder of the heavenly bureaucracy.

Effectus does not mean effect in the Modern sense; it originates from the word, originally efficio which means to realize. It is both being and action.

Judith Butler: Thank you, Giorgio. I wonder, what is the role of repetition in liturgy; because it seems that repetition is necessary for its efficacy.

Agamben: Christ only had to sacrifice once, Jews frequently. Of course, the Church has to repeat it. Within liturgia there is a contradiction that there is this need.
  • Each time a political element is added, so is added a political element
  • Augustine says that uficium is not an ethical issue because it is dependent upon one's position
  • We can't understand Protestantism if we don't understand that Luther was a monk and not a priest.

Judith Butler Day 5

NOTE TO FACEBOOK VIEWERS: to view any of the clips you'll need to visit the actual blog. Scroll to the bottom and click "View Original Post"

Judith Butler taught a class entitled ETHICS AND POLITICS AFTER THE SUBJECT. The first half of the classes were focused on Hannah Arendt: performativity, politics, political theory (sovereignty, zionism), "Questions of Judgement."

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

The first half of this class we discuss binationalism and Israel; the second half we discuss transgender and psychoanalysis things.

Why does she work on both of these issues?
  • modes of address, how we are called, what are the names by which we are interpellated - "Am I that name?" a reference to Sojourner Truth, Fanon asks, "Am I a [white] man?"
  • My son just calls me JB and I'm fine with whatever, which is lame, I guess.
  • It is from the basis of my Jewish education I came to be vocally critical of Israel, which got me called a lot of names.
  • This chills intellectual inquiry.
  • I feel my work has been concerned with implicit and explicit censorship - Hannah Arendt was called a lot of names
  • There are questions of fracturous co-habitation and community, which is part of the thinking in transgender thinking.
There is always in Israel the question of impingement, the border is part of the territory and exposed to the nonterritory and so it is an ethical question of alterity. We think of Levinas' face, but he explicitly said the Palestinians do not have a face. I know, it's a problem that we must deal with when thinking with Levinas.
  • What would it mean to take this Levinasian idea, to take it to a place even he was unwilling to go? (we are referred to Jonathon N. Boyarin)
  • Benjamin seems to have an idea of the messianic (youtube) that is not progressive and is sporadic and ...(temporary?)
  • Scholem separates from Arendt and Benjamin by claiming that Messianism is progressive and based on an ancient claim that this is situated in time. See Raluca Eddon
  • The Question of Zion, Jacqueline Rose - she blames Messianism stating the catastrophe of Israel is recreated so as to establish this Messianic narrative; but, she fails to account for the different forms of Messianism.
It's hard to say there is a religious movement in Arendt; at least, she would deny it. Gershom Scholem sent Arendt a letter after Eichmann in Jerusalem. They had worked together. He called her heartless. Primo Levi was also called heartless in 1982.
  • Arendt is said to have no love for the Jewish people, to which she replied, "No, I have no love for nations, I love persons."
  • Physis and not nomos (social order) - to say, "I am not a Jew," is to say, "I am a Man," is to talk about phusis, the natural order. It is a given and something to be thankful for.
  • To understand her position we have to understand what she is doing with the nation-state: they inevitably create exiles and refugees for those that are not part of the nation
  • A nation for Jews of Jews is problematic for Arendt because its similarities to Nazism. In her mind, when you base a state on a homogeneous population it is problematic because this leads to another Holocaust.
  • This critique does not come from only outside of Israel (how subversive!) we can look to Idith Zertal (although mainly in French) and Adi Ophir
In Arendt's "Zionism Reconsidered" she terms it absurd that Israel be installed by superpowers that must inevitably, constantly, reinforce their interest and to not federate will inexorably lead to problems with their neighbors in the region.
  • she becomes concerned with the stateless in the late-40s early 50s; perhaps this is due to her own forced exile.
  • we are recommended to read Edward Said's "Freud and the Non-European"
  • By focusing on the problematic of the diaspora, Said takes up the idea of the political diaspora
  • Arendt does call for home and belonging, but these can never be the basis of a polity b/c a plurality cannot have one part that is exemplary of the whole.
  • To have a polity is to accept the unchosen stranger, perhaps an echo of Levinas
Seems to me, when thinkers are interested in sovereignty, as today, what Schmidt and Agamben call for does describe some of what's going on.
  • Federated binationalism seems to be an experiment in critiquing sovereignty and perhaps federations resemble/result in smaller forms of self-determinism.
  • Statelessness is a condition where there is an extreme distribution of power among a few
  • This is not a metaphysical state, but metaphysics is under siege
Butler is very enthusiastic about Eyal Weizman, who sees the problem as an architectural one
She also recommends the film Arna's Children:

Note to Self: Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" as a non-linguistic action which demonstrates how we might live adjacently?


Who counts as real or who has recognizable gender? This is a question that shows ontology changes the way in which we recognize the world.
  • it's an Hegelian problem of recognition
  • Whose lives are mournable? grew from this. There is an unequal distribution of grieve-ability and this is largely dependent upon the dominant framing among the media.
  • Antigone's claim was that she wanted to bury her brother in public.
  • Plato wanted to ban poets because the public would grieve voluptuously, they would fatten on grief.
To decide to become transman is not necessarily rooted in terms of repudiating one's gender, that there might be something positive in doing this issue has largely been ignored.
  • Here Butler tells us a great story about attending an GLBT poetry slam in San Francisco during which one poet, who was working towards becoming male from female, recited a poem that ended with the lines "fuck the DSM-IV, and fuck you, Judith Butler." This has been told before, apparently.
  • The poet rejected "Butler" (the interpellation) for being a representation of gender non-fixity, which does not meet her needs for being understood as a fixed-gender person.
  • It is an unfortunate problem to have to address one that we no longer wish to address because it is often necessary to tell that person - we have this need to live within a name.
  • We might think of Kate Borstein as a closet Deleuzean, where the transformation never ends, which brings her closer to my thinking.
  • Can we think of transexuality without reinforcing sociological/psychological categories in our call for recognition?
Note to Self: ways this might relate to 荀子 Xunzi's "Proper Naming"

We're recommended to read Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia"
  • Mourning - where loss is accepted
  • Melancholia - where loss is not allowed. Self-laceration is a way of preserving the other in our bodies. We are angry at the lost and strike-out at them, now housed in ourselves. This is the basis of Freud's idea of the superego.
Freud's way out of this bind is to say that there is a rage against the lost object;
  • what would it take to disengage this formation?
  • we must forget and let go of that other
What happens if we think of this as a cultural strategy?
  • At a cultural level, where there are those that can't be mourned, we get a culturally-induced melancholia
  • such that we don't have the vocabulary to describe the loss we have.
What is lost for transgendered people is the ability to be articulated because we are in a transphobic culture.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Larry Rickles, Day 5

NOTE TO FACEBOOK VIEWERS: to view any of the clips you'll need to visit the actual blog. Scroll to the bottom and click "View Original Post"

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

Larry Rickels taught a course entitled SCHAUER SCENES IN PSYCHOANALYSIS AND FILM. This course explored the genealogy of the "psycho" (and Psycho effect) in mediatic-analytic sessions.

Winnicott was quite aware of Lacan; in one of his chapters he makes reference to the mirror stage, however aptly, the one thing that he would add as a correction would be that Lacan puts the mirror stage first, before the mother's face.

What could this mean?

1) we have the example of a patient that couldn't start her morning until she "put on her face" as an exaggeration of what is normal - trying to get the mirror to notice her. She had to be her own mother. From here he starts talking about Francis Bacon, "in looking at faces... he seems to be trying to get noticed..." See Chapter 9 of Playing and Reality: "Mirror Role of Mother and Family in Child Development" (153-4)
  • Mass media is like a relay, a mass therapy or group therapy where we are able to revisit the good enough mother and father
  • What distinguishes Winnicott from other psychoanalysts was his stressing of the environment and its possible use in therapeutic settings.
All the people we read today are trying to understand what Freud first noticed that we vacillate between identifying projecting

See Viktor Tausk's On the Origin of the 'Influencing Machine' in Schizophrenia (1933)
or perhaps Benjamin's two essays, "On Some Motifs in Baudelaire" (from Illuminations) or his "Origin of German Tragic Drama"

2) the transitional object. Differentiating as the new terrain of the pre-Oedipal phase; he tries to increase the legibility of these first two years of human development. This is a study of illusion as this is a phase of between-ness.

Returning to William Wilson (Poe)
He refers to himself as someone that is privileged due to his lineage; he grows up unchecked (he's the master of the household). He is sent off to school where he continues to seek out something that would contain him and immediately he describes a doubling, meeting his doppelganger.
  • He goes to play a prank on his double (11) and does a double-take because at first he sees nothing. He has this corporeal experience of iciness and horror and then goes on to describe an inability to contain the experience.
  • We can look to Winnicott's case of the child George who drew a "nothing" which Winnicott interpreted as George drawing his death, a child who has everything available but nothing there, no one to receive it.
  • The double in William Wilson is so close that it is like a mask, a low-volume echo, a sound effect that we hear in the film Halloween. In the relationship to the double is not simply descent: undermining oneself in the doubling. As Wilson moves from environment to environment, he does develop (cheating, lying) and somehow coming into contact with the outer world, he is developing psychotically.
  • The double (16) has issued an order to stop doing wrong, now the double has interfered in an amorous design. Freud's Uncanny says that there will be an interruption or threat of castration.
  • In averting his eyes he has to look at the large mirror (19) and he sees his context as the voice that has been muffled to this point has become louder, (I could have fancied that I myself was speaking..." (20)
Halloween, John Carpenter (1978)
How will this work with the beginning and ending of Carpenter's Halloween? We look to that moment in Texas Chainsaw Massacre where she's being cut-up by the camera and while this is happening there is that terrible laugh track from the cannibal family, this moment of (s)laughter.
  • The camera itself is a chainsaw and the projector is the site of both destruction and reconstruction. It's in passing through destruction that these relics of us that survive we can have a sense of self. This is the internal logic in both Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM). They begin in TCM at the mirror stage, going to the neighbor's house, this uncanny place and they are CHAINed to what they SAW; survival is tenuous.
  • Everything begins to change with the advent of Carpenter's Halloween because we are allowed to remove the mask. Michael Myers as a figure of violence and his relationship to Laurie - there is a question of adolescence here. The film begins with an unlikely event: a six-year-old taking a knife. (Fast forward to ~ 3:30):

In this film we will have a survival that is not stuck on the killing (unlike in TCM) or survival-through-killing (unlike in Night of the Living Dead); this is the first incident of survival that can be thought of as therapeutic.

In Halloween we're looking at the revalorization of survival. Let's mark that in Texas Chainsaw Massacre what is murderous is the inclusion of humans as something to be consumed. There is a barrier, a failure to distinguish between human and animal as well as a motif of mirror-reversal-world. This is noted in Hegel's Spirit of History - that the animal kingdom is able to strike back. The Evil Eye comes from the hunting scenario where the animal's dying look would curse the hunter - haunting is this look isn't it?

The notion of the reverse world can be seen in Germany, among numerous other places, where you poke your head through a wooden screen to reveal the pig is cooking you rather than you cooking the pig:

The shift from being hunters to keeping animals creates problems of food and death: we spare the animals life and so their lives are at our disposal. In killing an animal a totemic ritual began, where the community had to come together and, in a sense, reintroduce the animal into the community

Interesting to note that at the time of the advent of the large Chicago slaughterhouses we also have the first records of serial killers.
  • We can't get around the problem of food and death - it's related to the family, identification is phantasmatic cannibalization of the mother: we share an identity with what we eat.
  • There is a delicate balancing act between the animals and humans such that we don't destroy one another.
With the cargo cult the white man became vengeful spirits that withheld the means of communication with the dead. They established a date when the dead, who make cargo, would return and in order for this to happen the had to destroy all their things. They are thus creating an uberviolence to deal with the dead.

There is an ambiguity in how the film ends; it does begin the epidemic of slasher films.
  • the scanning of the rooms at the beginning of the film has a hunter quality that is different from the scanning of empty homes at the end of the film.
  • There is not, perhaps, the looking forward to future violence, but that we walk away from this traum
Stations of Laurie's Survival
In the course of the struggle at the end we see stations of her survival:
  • will she be like Sally, at the end of TCM, paralyzed on the couch? He's not dead yet. Since he is unkillable, doesn't it relieve survival from having to kill to survive?
  • We have the next station where Michael is slashing through the door (a la Psycho), she inherits the knife.
  • The psychiatrist joins in the fray, perfectly fine with his patient being a demon figure that we can only hope to kill.
  • At this moment she unmasks him. This changes everything because we can no longer be in his POV - her survival wouldn't be possible were we to continue in his mask.
  • We can't help but notice her breathing - we're no longer at his disposal as his container, we now have room for Laurie in the film.
"Struggling Through the Doldrums"
In Winnicott's "Struggling Through the Doldrums" he argues that because of the atomic bomb we can no longer have a world war and so we can no longer justify military discipline.
  • This ushers in adolescence and the Teen Age because whatever adolescent psychology is, it is group or mass psychology.
  • Within the teen group the identified member (members of deviance) are essential to adolescence containing itself and group adhesion.
  • Groups are adhered through the most inconsequential lines: a makeshift operation and it's at its strongest when one figure, mascot, forces the environment to react and thus the group reinforces itself in being attacked.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Symposium: Judith Butler and Giorgio Agamben

Judith Butler and Giorgio Agamben combined a session of their classes to discuss ideas about THE PROBLEM OF THE SUBJECT AND ACTION.

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

Judith Butler (JB): We're going to jump from topic to topic

Giorgio Agamben (GA): this peculiar liturgy of the trial. connect the office of Eichmann - who spoke Officialese - see the film The Specialist (trailer at the link). He presents himself as just a man of the law, there is the counterpart in the film (the prosecutor). The problem became the bureaucracy.

JB: Arendt refers to the trial as a spectacle, would this correspond to liturgy

GA: ...It's embarrassing to see the inability of the Law here: the calls for papers, this call to the bureaucracy.

JB: The mystery of the Law, its administrative tragedy in its ridiculousness, is there a legitimate Law and an illegitimate Law? Or do they both participate in liturgy?

GA: There is this book The Mystery of the Process (???). The truth of the Law is the process. The normativity is not the essence, the process itself is the truth of Law. To distinguish in the process might, after Schmidt, be legality and legitimacy. This is hypothetical, the Nazi laws were legal but not legitimate. Today this is not easy to do, Arendt takes a position outside Law, from a moral position.

JB: I'm wondering if we could talk about Kafka for a minute. The way you're discussing Law suggests there is no grounding outside of jurisprudence, no moral call. Perhaps we could talk of a Kafkan law?

GA: But there is no House of Law, it shifts, sometimes it's in the laundry room...

JB: But there is a resonance between what you are saying, that Law is only maintained due to a faith in the liturgical process.

GA: Kafka's process shows what he thinks. Law is a process, it is never clear if he's been accused. Law is something in which man's subjectivity gets involved. It is K that goes to the House of Judgement, the Priest tells him the Law wants nothing from him. The novel starts with calumny, from the Latin calumnia, the Roman process would put the accused on a list, thus the falsely accused was a great problem. Those that are found guilty of calumnia are branded with the letter "K" on their foreheads (read this discussion!). Each man calumniates himself, thus K goes to the House of Law.

JB: Doesn't one's name falsely name and carry an ineffable guilt from another time? In The Illuminations Arendt writes about the transmission, a sickness of transmission - there is no chain of command in the trial, there are these exoteric ways in which Law is transmitted. K carries him in ways that we cannot trace. Is there a difference in Jewish Law and liturgical Law? Is there more than one model of the transmission of the Law?

GA: Benjamin says that ours is a transmission that has nothing more to transmit. We are this moment now: we have a transmission but it has nothing to tell us.

JB: Are there many?

GA: There are many, yes. In Kafka the Law rebels against itself so that the stories of the Talmud are vying for transmission of the Law.

JB: Is Justice recoverable or is it lost?

GA: Law is the door of Justice, when we study Law but don't apply it we enter the House of Law.

Tim Giman-Sevcik (PhD student): Do we accept the death penalty?

GA: I do not support any form of punishment at all. I recognize that people will be punished, but how can we be pro-Punishment?

JB: I do not support capital punishment and I think this would be true for Eichmann. Maybe one has to work with these passions, for seeing destruction, and sober-up from this intoxicated destructiveness that exists. This is a Nietzschean problem.
  • Naming should be subjected to the same liabilities of any other transmission
GA: Happiness is beyond naming.


JB: I do believe we need accountability, but how to use the juridical as the primary organ for sensing aggrievements and that suffering can somehow be equated to a punishment against the guilty. Perhaps there is no subject which can be found guilty for certain crimes. Perhaps some kinds of happiness that courts can't give us.
  • If we were to base our politics on the sovereign decider, we would have a Schmidtian disaster.
(Micah asks Agamben about his thoughts on The Coming Insurrection)

GA: The Coming Insurrection was written by friends of mine and it is difficult to talk about. We should be concerned that now every political action outside of Parliament is equated with terrorism.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Judith Butler Evening Lecture

Judith Butler gave an evening lecture that I think was entitled HOW TO KEEP COMPANY WITH ONESELF.

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

Thinking itself depends on politics and ethics in Arendt's philosophy, thus we understand her charge against Eichmann.
  • Is this a naive claim or that she has a highly normative way of thinking?
  • She thought the trial failed to try the man or the crime, that it was a pretense for the founding of the nation of Israel
  • His was a failure to critique positive law and that his not-thinking when he thought he was thinking was a failure because he failed to recognize that thinking necessarily implicates us in a plurality and in sociality.
She was doubly upset that Eichmann stated he lived by the Kantian categorical imperative and thus he had to obey the laws that were in place (even if it meant obeying laws and orders to commit genocide).
  • Were Eichmann to have reformulated the categorical imperative such that it required everyone to serve the Führer, Arendt's rejoineder to Eichmann would still be: every man is a legislator upon acting
  • She thought that the trial failed to recognize that a new kind of person had come to be: what kind of person can this be in a world where we no longer think?
  • Eichmann was not a sadist, not a murderer, but only following the rules.
Does thinking imply cohabitation? Is it the plurality that judges, not an individual in isolation?
  • His crime was against the plurality and so the plurality judges him.
  • The meaning of plurality is unclear here but acts as an antidote to nationalism. The plurality, by definition, cannot know or fit within the nation.
  • It is the use of "we" in the final judgement of Eichmann (in the Epilogue), that pronoun ("we") does the work of realizing the aspirations of those that would seek an alternative to the dangers of nationalism.
Arendt invokes a "we" that judges Eichmann, the "we" serves as slippery ground on which we find no firm ground, but also a pronomial expression of hope.
  • She obeys no law in sentencing Eichmann to death, she calls for law that is not seeking precedent as we must oppose bad laws when bad laws are the laws of the land
  • When she speaks she is not speaking for those the Nazis tried to destroy and also not as a judge but as a call for differentiation
  • She references to forms of plurality: the self and the broader sociality
Responsibility is the act of thinking and thinking is an activity that we do in our germinal form of plurality - by splitting into 2 from 1.
  • The self that thinks is folded over and dyadic and maintains the last trace of company
  • I find myself populated precisely when I am isolated: conscience and consciousness are the relationship to itself
  • This split is the precondition for thinking to occur.
We can commit crimes that lead us to want to break-up with ourselves - this solitary dialogue is contained within ourselves; but is there a connection between the self?
  • What Arendt seems to be providing is a philosophical anthropology which features a nonvisible dialogue between the self and then to the plurality of mankind
  • This dialogue has a performative dimension, action is never a single action but a concerted action
  • What follows if one fails to follow this thinking (plurality)? The result is that they cannot speak.
Again we ask, what kind of speech act is this in sentencing Eichmann to death?

Thinking is keeping company with oneself and it reconstitutes the self over and again.
Acting is keeping company with others and this reconstitutes the plurality over and again.
  • The "I" is constituted or brought forth by language, itself a social action.
  • It seems that solitary thinking presupposes the relating to others and action requires responding with others
  • Thinking itself seems to presuppose that we will be acting with others
Can you have sovereignty when there is a plurality?

Freedom is not the exercise of the individual, but acting in concert and belonging. Rights do not belong to an individual but humans as social animals.

Thinking is an individual's acting, how do we resolve this tension?

A crime against humanity is not a crime against an individual and an individual is also not solely responsible for crimes against humanity.

La Bienale di Venezia Workshop

Some of us made a one-day trip to Venice, Italy to view the 53rd Bienale. In order for that to be acceptable we had to write up a review of something we saw that spoke to us about Wolfgang Schirmacher's concept Artificial Life. Here's mine:

glänzt ist für den Augenblick geboren,
Das Aechte bleibt der Nachwelt unverloren.

What dazzles, for the moment spends its spirit;
What's genuine, shall posterity inherit.
– Goethe1 Faust. Vorspiel auf dem Theater

Jorge Otero-Pailos' The Ethics of Dust: Doge's Palace, included in the 53rd Bienale di Venezia on view at the Arsenale, is not much to look at. A large sheet, it hangs in a crepuscular room. Composed of latex which has been developed to remove the pollution that has accumulated on the Doge's but without removing the patina that accompanies the aging of the building. As part of a larger work, Otero-Pailos seeks to illuminate, “how pollution has changed our understanding of architecture from something stable, solid, perhaps even timeless to something unstable, fragile, and temporary.”2 Located at the intersection of monumentality and ecology, The Ethics of Dust provides an uncanny facade, a literal doubling of the Doge's palace wall. But this is no longer a building defined by its integrity: as a load-bearing object, or this-wall-not-that-wall-over-there, this ephemeral skin of the Doge's wall is also the exhaust from that bus in 1963, those dust motes from 1992, the multiplicity of multiplicity as Deleuze and Guattari might have said. Otero-Pailos' piece might be best understood as a love letter from the future:

What does it mean to love somebody? It is always to seize that person in a mass, extract him or her... then to find that person's own packs, the multiplicities he or she encloses within himself or herself which may be of an entirely different nature. To join them to mine, to make them penetrate mine, and for me to penetrate the other person's.... Every love is an exercise in depersonalization on a body without organs yet to be formed....3

This depersonalization is precisely at the heart of The Ethics of Dust, as it begs the viewer to consider life beyond simply intentionality and to consider the constellational nature of life and its production. In depersonalizing The Ethics of Dust allows for an expanded sense of not only ethics but perhaps also how we are to understand the human being, a concern that is shared by the media theorist Wolfgang Schirmacher whose ideas on artificial life (1990) allow us to consider Otero-Pailos' piece in a productive manner.
If The Ethics of Dust ought to be thought of as a love letter from the future, perhaps it is a letter from what Schirmacher calls homo generator, the characteristic humans being today that have learned to operate within artificial life, “Artificial life embraces the art of living unique to humans in giving birth to the unexpected (Arendt's natality) and releasing the event of death (Heidegger's mortality).”4 This artificial life distinguishes itself from the familiar dichotomy of Real/fake in a Nietzschean move to affirmation of humanity's place in the world as originator of all values, all concepts, and a Heideggerian concern for understanding and working through the enframing of our world that is the handmaiden of technology:
Determined by a self-generating activity, we have to reformulate what it means to be human.... Humans are alone and fully responsible for artificial life which is the only life for us. This responsibility is ethical and, therefore, never fulfilled through intentional control.5

Both artificial life and The Ethics of Dust are largely concerned with overcoming the (familiar) perennial question of intentionality. The Ethics of Dust has been composed not simply to demonstrate Otero-Pailos' abilities to preserve monuments (although in this sense his work is a success), nor has this been created to once more remind the art-viewing public that pollution exists, but to reinvigorate our understanding of ourselves in relation to ourselves. Pollution exists, yes, but it exists in a manner not unlike our unconsciousness exists: an enormous complex of productive interactions that heavily influence our lives and whose ubiquitous presence and influence largely goes unnoticed. As Otero-Pailos states, “what I'm trying to do is to reclaim a place for the unintentional within human aesthetic creativity. That is what I see in pollution: the possibility of an unintentional aesthetic human production.”6
The possibility of an unintentional aesthetic human production, as Otero-Pailos has pointed out, thus far has been largely described in unproductive manners; this is something both he and Schirmacher address. Otero-Pailos' analysis of this unproductive discussion of unintentional aesthetics is similar to Schirmacher's in that both move away from discussions of beauty and nature as entities that rest on romantic ideas about the sublime. Schirmacher states that the artist is one who, “seeks fulfillment as fulfillment — no other, only fulfillment of itself (albeit in the identity of difference of self and otherness). Culture as art of self-fulfillment is autopoetics, its emergence and its feedback are one and the same.”7 In discussing autopoetics we see that The Ethics of Dust is an affirmation of this feedback process and also an affirmation of all those processes which exist that we have yet to understand – and affirmation of living itself.
In a time when, as Slavoj Zizek has pointed out, it is easier for most people to imagine the world being destroyed by giant asteroids or catastrophic weather patterns, The Ethics of Dust is a joyful celebration of generation and generations. Because the piece itself is a document written by our forebears in the ink of unintended consequences of seemingly minor decisions – decisions that the viewer simply cannot be privy to. Nor perhaps can the viewer appreciate the piece without being reminded of Rilke's Archaic Torso of Apollo. In coming into contact with this shape (the result of cleaning the Doge's wall), as unintelligible to us as Rilke's lump of rock without the Idea (in this moment of pollution, in Rilke's time it was the vision of the godly) the viewer can be forgiven for softly reciting, “for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.”8 Then, as now, the change being called for is overcoming the nihilism in the face of the absence of some Grand Narrative that would resolve what was dissolved into that latex.
1 Faust Eine Tragödie. Tübingen. (1808). Vorspiel auf dem Theater (l. 41)Project Gutenberg.
2 Goldstein, Andrew. "The Ethics of Dust: An Interview with Venice Bienale Artist Jorge Otero-Pailos." Art We Love. August 5, 2009.
3 Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Schizophrenia and Capitalism. Translated by Brian Massumi.
2 vols. Vol. 2. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. 35.
4 Schirmacher, Wolfgang. "Homo Generator: Media and Postmodern Technology." In Culture on the Brink: Ideologies of
Technology, edited by Gretchen Bender and Timothy Duckrey. New York: Bay Press, 1994.
5Schirmacher, Wolfgang. "Cloning Humans with Media: Impermanence and Imperceptible Perfection." Poeisis, no. 2 (2000).
6Goldstein, 2009.
7 Schirmacher, Wolfgang. "Art(ificial) Perception: Nietzsche and Culture after Nihilism." Poeisis, no. 1 (1999).
8From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell New York: Modern Library. 1995.