Nonsense Lab
Bunker Archaeology

A Nonsense Lab Artist Con-fessional, Part One

"Thinking involves the microperceptions that are the virtual content of the not-yet out of which potential worlds are composed. Thinking exposes the overlappings of the actual and the virtual, their complex inadequation. Research-creation works at this in-between of immanence and actuality where multiplicities converge into affirmations. Creativity folds out of thought even as it proposes thought to itself. Thought is an untimely proposition."

          — Erin Manning, “Creative Propositions for Thought in Motion,” 2008

"See and be seen. Interpolate and interpellate. In a gesture of fragility and exhaustion, the Department of Biological Flow considers questions of tempo, intensity and ethics in public space and interrogates opportunities for movement in the contemporary vision machine."

          — advertisement for D S NFORMAT ON exhibition

 



D S NFORMAT ON
Threnody from the Vision Machine
-
Sean Smith and
Department of Biological Flow
2001-2046

 

1. Bunker Archaeology

Where does a process begin? When does it begin? How?

Is there a starting point? If so, one cannot be easily identified in this case. There is no neat and tidy cause and effect to this story, that much is certain, no neatly ordered program of experimentation. There is no hermetically-sealed laboratory of controlled thought from which hypothesized results emerge — though there is a white cube involved.

We are describing the smooth white cube of a university art gallery, uniquely marked by its inscription within the concrete white cylinder of an institutionalized exoskeleton. From a god’s eye perspective — which is to say when viewed from straight above, perpendicular to terra firma and flattened — it appears as a square inscribed within a circle — and are these two forms not irrevocably bound together within the precise numerics of royal science? Circle within square within circle, and so forth: centrepoints and radii and equidistant segments and entirely too rational tangents — the latter which get their name from the Latin tangere or touching. Circles and squares are precise only insofar as how they come into touch with one another.

- - -

A tangent: Humans cannot perceive “perfect” versus “imperfect” circles, nor can we create one of the former, materially, in the absence of technical assistance. We’re always on the move. Rather, we’ve extrapolated a concept of the circle from the morphogenetics of matter-flow as they concresce into semi-stable patterns of an apparently perfect roundness. We locate this concept in mathematics and then in our instruments, which return the favour by producing perfect circles in our thought.

But matter-flow isn’t perfect: it is turbulent and distorted and always decaying imperceptibly. Our circles, both those we perceive in “nature” and those we reproduce in embodied “social” forms, are always delightfully misshapen as their particles push one another in ways both predictable and unpredictable. This isn’t to say these circles are any less significant and powerful, save their inability to be god-like. Instead they make explicit that their power derives not from their ideal mathematical form-as-such, but rather because they participate in generating the future-past of a certain intensity.

Our perceptions and gestures can never quite reach the concept, but our circles are still precise insofar as how we come into touch with them — or insofar as we perceive the intensity of the approach.

- - -

Where were we then? Right, the map. This gallery and its institution aren’t just any square inscribed within any circle: the eye in the sky perceives its likeness in the form below, the narrow corridor that connects the concrete perimeter to the rest of the curriculum a sort of optic nerve that channels objects of information into and out of the enclosure, canals or conduits to this smooth gleaming white space and those processes given the label “art”.

Or change the channel, god-like. The eyeball sits spherically in its ocular socket and the surface can be sliced in so many ways. Perhaps the map is an orthogonal projection and one sits on the gray matter, looking out with that orientation we call “forward”. The god’s eye view stares directly through that which is rocklike and solid to find the liquid abyssal beyond.

In return, the critique of ocularcentrism shifts fluidly away from the iris (with its colour and aperture) and towards the retina (with its pattern and exposure). The latter is not only a primary locus of biometric identification but the threshold at which light information is converted to electricity, which is to say, converted to the network mode of circulation.

Subjecte 020063867, retinal scan, right eye: “Due to its unique and unchanging nature, the retina appears to be the most precise and reliable biometric. Advocates of retinal scanning have concluded it is so accurate that its error rate is estimated to be only one in a million.” (Wikipedia)

The blood vessels that give the biometric identifier its differentiating pattern trace branchlike back to the origin and scotoma of the optic nerve, portal to contingent authority and integrated spectacle. Punctum caecum ēlectricus. Perhaps the focal point of the gallery should be viewed from slightly off-centre, then, where the optic nerve would be located in this orthogonal perspective? Perhaps this is where the story will unfold and be told, with the blind spot as zone of political action.

Did I mention this space looks like a military bunker — or maybe a nuclear reactor?

This was my artlab for four days in January 2012. This is where the experiment took place.

.085 HE KEXIN

"From the singularity of 9/11 to the multiplicity of signs and their mutations that constituted the Beijing Olympic Games to the multitude that sought to contest a theretofore hegemonic truth. Two information bombs, one nuclear and one genetic, one primarily optic and the other primarily haptic. Where does the political take up from these new aesthetics? It is no longer simply a matter of tracing property forms and lines of ownership, nor a matter of developing a weapon to continue the political by other means. Can politics be resurrected in the liminality between the embodied everyday and the fractalization of space made possible by the camera and screen? If the contemporary condition of our grey ecology is marked by the finitude of extensive planetary space, the pollution of our lived distances by real-time transmission, and the temporary reprieve offered by the foldings and tremblings of the data-virtual, we can ask no less of a question today."

_____

Smith, S. (2009). La bombe philosophique: An archaeology of the stereoscopic present (or, sporting through the shrapnel). In P. Virilio, H. von Amelunxen & D. Burk (Eds.), Grey ecology (97-113). New York: Atropos Press.

.085 HE KEXIN

"From the singularity of 9/11 to the multiplicity of signs and their mutations that constituted the Beijing Olympic Games to the multitude that sought to contest a theretofore hegemonic truth. Two information bombs, one nuclear and one genetic, one primarily optic and the other primarily haptic. Where does the political take up from these new aesthetics? It is no longer simply a matter of tracing property forms and lines of ownership, nor a matter of developing a weapon to continue the political by other means. Can politics be resurrected in the liminality between the embodied everyday and the fractalization of space made possible by the camera and screen? If the contemporary condition of our grey ecology is marked by the finitude of extensive planetary space, the pollution of our lived distances by real-time transmission, and the temporary reprieve offered by the foldings and tremblings of the data-virtual, we can ask no less of a question today."

_____

Smith, S. (2009). La bombe philosophique: An archaeology of the stereoscopic present (or, sporting through the shrapnel). In P. Virilio, H. von Amelunxen & D. Burk (Eds.), Grey ecology (97-113). New York: Atropos Press.

The Facebook Polis

- - -

‎‎‎4. Each subject exists at a not-insignificant remove from equilibrium in the Facebook Polis. The addition of friends known and unknown; the multiplying of relations around a particular node or series of nodes — that is, the development of severals within a multiplicity, each with its own intensity; the steady release of new technologies or interfaces; all of these and more push the expression of the space and its myriad produced subjectivities to disequilibrium. The steady rhythm of signal modulation that is one’s wall (dermis) offers the illusion of an equilibrium or homeostasis to soothe what is otherwise the stress of the system.

-

5. Virilio’s stereoscopics of “here” and “now” are not so much spatiotemporal coordinates on or off the network, but rather qualities of relation(s) in changing modes of embodiment. This suggests they each provide differential modes for *breathing*, either artfully inspired or expired. The Facebook Polis offers one such potential “now” for breathing as a form of political action.

-

‎6. Today we are all “creators,” all able to see ourselves extended into the data networks of the ludic-synthetic. In other words, all complicit in the creation of a new mirror — a slightly kaleidoscopic mirror, mind you — but one that captivates us like Narcissus long beyond that mirror phase of childhood. Like the two-way sort used in clinical psychology, however, this new era of the interactive is at once mirror and screen, at once opportunity for enclosed self-contemplation and open performance. For we all know what lurks behind the silvering of this new mirror in the Facebook Polis and that is the gaze: sometimes manifest as benevolent glance and sometimes as cold, clinical, unblinking stare. Always performance.

Narcissus never suspected that Echo was swimming below the surface of the pool, but we know better.

-

7. This blur between mirror and screen is perhaps best understood in the language used to describe it: “one-way mirror”, “two-way mirror”, “one-way glass” and “two-way glass” are all used interchangeably, two sets of complete opposites in recombination to express the same concept. The fragmented subject only finds confusion in its attempts to articulate its relation to the interface; even with this 2x2 matrix the concept eludes us. Political action in the Facebook Polis must consider both the material element of this membrane between gesture and vision as well as its relative opacity in approaching the speed of light — the panoptic space is obsolesced by our very reflection.

_____

posted in no particular order, these aphorisms are the beginnings of a microbook-in-progress for Delere Press, a boutique e-book publishing venture by Jeremy Fernando and Yanyun Chen

#facebookpolis

The Facebook Polis

- - -

‎‎‎4. Each subject exists at a not-insignificant remove from equilibrium in the Facebook Polis. The addition of friends known and unknown; the multiplying of relations around a particular node or series of nodes — that is, the development of severals within a multiplicity, each with its own intensity; the steady release of new technologies or interfaces; all of these and more push the expression of the space and its myriad produced subjectivities to disequilibrium. The steady rhythm of signal modulation that is one’s wall (dermis) offers the illusion of an equilibrium or homeostasis to soothe what is otherwise the stress of the system.

-

5. Virilio’s stereoscopics of “here” and “now” are not so much spatiotemporal coordinates on or off the network, but rather qualities of relation(s) in changing modes of embodiment. This suggests they each provide differential modes for *breathing*, either artfully inspired or expired. The Facebook Polis offers one such potential “now” for breathing as a form of political action.

-

‎6. Today we are all “creators,” all able to see ourselves extended into the data networks of the ludic-synthetic. In other words, all complicit in the creation of a new mirror — a slightly kaleidoscopic mirror, mind you — but one that captivates us like Narcissus long beyond that mirror phase of childhood. Like the two-way sort used in clinical psychology, however, this new era of the interactive is at once mirror and screen, at once opportunity for enclosed self-contemplation and open performance. For we all know what lurks behind the silvering of this new mirror in the Facebook Polis and that is the gaze: sometimes manifest as benevolent glance and sometimes as cold, clinical, unblinking stare. Always performance.

Narcissus never suspected that Echo was swimming below the surface of the pool, but we know better.

-

7. This blur between mirror and screen is perhaps best understood in the language used to describe it: “one-way mirror”, “two-way mirror”, “one-way glass” and “two-way glass” are all used interchangeably, two sets of complete opposites in recombination to express the same concept. The fragmented subject only finds confusion in its attempts to articulate its relation to the interface; even with this 2x2 matrix the concept eludes us. Political action in the Facebook Polis must consider both the material element of this membrane between gesture and vision as well as its relative opacity in approaching the speed of light — the panoptic space is obsolesced by our very reflection.

_____

posted in no particular order, these aphorisms are the beginnings of a microbook-in-progress for Delere Press, a boutique e-book publishing venture by Jeremy Fernando and Yanyun Chen

#facebookpolis

Holey Space [espace troue]: the ‘third space’ of the machinic phylum (of matter-flow), inhabited by itinerant metallurgists, and by extension the ‘underground’ space that can connect with smooth space and be conjugated by striated space. Holey space is the subsoil space of ‘swiss cheese’ that bypasses both the ground [sol] of nomadic smooth space and the land [terre] of sedentary striated space. In this bypassing, holey space is suspect; for Gilles Deleuze, the mark of Cain is not the biblical mark of the soild, but a mark of the subsoil [sous-sol], since holey space is conceived of by surface dwellers as created by theft and betrayal.

Holey space has different relations to nomadic smooth and State striated space. Cave-dwelling, earth-boring tunnellers are only imperfecty controlled by the State, and often have allied with nomads and with peasants in revolts against centralized authority. Thus the machinic phylum explored in holey space connects with smooth space to form rhizomes, while it is conjugated (blocked) by State striation. The previously positive relation of holey and smooth space has turned around, however, now that States are able to create a smooth space of surveillance and global military interevention. Holey spaces have flourished for the only way to escape the spying eyes of State intelligence is to go underground: ‘Do not new smooth spaces, or holey spaces, arise as parries even in relation to the smooth space of a worldwide organization? Virilio invokes the beginnings of subterranean habitation in the “mineral layer”, which can take on very diverse values.

Such a turnaround has not gone unnoticed; led by the Bush Administration, global States now trumpet the danger of ‘rogue regimes’ that have taken their weapons-making capabilities underground where they cannot be detected by satellites and spy planes. North Korea in 2003 remains the prime example, but much of the premise upon which the Bush Administration built its case for the 2003 ‘pre-emptive’ assault on Iraq was the supposedly concealed nature of weapons laboratories and storage facilities. The post 9/11 Afghanistan war was also launched against the holey space of the so-called ‘Al Qaeda’ network, supposedly in possession of innumerable underground hideouts, indeed even elaborate bunkers (though these were discovered to be not nearly as luxurious as their reputations). The bunkers and tunnels of the American establishment are, of course, exempt from any suspicion.

Cyberspace and forest space may also be seen as holey spaces rather than as smooth spaces in that they provide protective cover for ‘underground’ operations. Guerrilla armies such as the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) use forests to great advantage, and indeed a long line of guerrilla forces in Latin American has used rain forests in this way. The armies of the State cannort array on it as on a battlefield, and the trees must be defoliated before air war can be successful. Cyberspace is filled with gaps and voids, black matter from which hackers (these may of course be in the service of States) launch coordinated attacks on sites and servers. A study of the paranoid tunneling in Cold War suburban backyards to create ‘fallout shelters’ would yield yet another aspect of the interrelations of smooth, striate, and holey space, as would the innumerable urban legends concerning sewers, subway tunnels, and the like.

- - -

Mark Bonta and John Protevi. Deleuze and Geophilosophy: A Guide and Glossary. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004.

Holey Space [espace troue]: the ‘third space’ of the machinic phylum (of matter-flow), inhabited by itinerant metallurgists, and by extension the ‘underground’ space that can connect with smooth space and be conjugated by striated space. Holey space is the subsoil space of ‘swiss cheese’ that bypasses both the ground [sol] of nomadic smooth space and the land [terre] of sedentary striated space. In this bypassing, holey space is suspect; for Gilles Deleuze, the mark of Cain is not the biblical mark of the soild, but a mark of the subsoil [sous-sol], since holey space is conceived of by surface dwellers as created by theft and betrayal.

Holey space has different relations to nomadic smooth and State striated space. Cave-dwelling, earth-boring tunnellers are only imperfecty controlled by the State, and often have allied with nomads and with peasants in revolts against centralized authority. Thus the machinic phylum explored in holey space connects with smooth space to form rhizomes, while it is conjugated (blocked) by State striation. The previously positive relation of holey and smooth space has turned around, however, now that States are able to create a smooth space of surveillance and global military interevention. Holey spaces have flourished for the only way to escape the spying eyes of State intelligence is to go underground: ‘Do not new smooth spaces, or holey spaces, arise as parries even in relation to the smooth space of a worldwide organization? Virilio invokes the beginnings of subterranean habitation in the “mineral layer”, which can take on very diverse values.

Such a turnaround has not gone unnoticed; led by the Bush Administration, global States now trumpet the danger of ‘rogue regimes’ that have taken their weapons-making capabilities underground where they cannot be detected by satellites and spy planes. North Korea in 2003 remains the prime example, but much of the premise upon which the Bush Administration built its case for the 2003 ‘pre-emptive’ assault on Iraq was the supposedly concealed nature of weapons laboratories and storage facilities. The post 9/11 Afghanistan war was also launched against the holey space of the so-called ‘Al Qaeda’ network, supposedly in possession of innumerable underground hideouts, indeed even elaborate bunkers (though these were discovered to be not nearly as luxurious as their reputations). The bunkers and tunnels of the American establishment are, of course, exempt from any suspicion.

Cyberspace and forest space may also be seen as holey spaces rather than as smooth spaces in that they provide protective cover for ‘underground’ operations. Guerrilla armies such as the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) use forests to great advantage, and indeed a long line of guerrilla forces in Latin American has used rain forests in this way. The armies of the State cannort array on it as on a battlefield, and the trees must be defoliated before air war can be successful. Cyberspace is filled with gaps and voids, black matter from which hackers (these may of course be in the service of States) launch coordinated attacks on sites and servers. A study of the paranoid tunneling in Cold War suburban backyards to create ‘fallout shelters’ would yield yet another aspect of the interrelations of smooth, striate, and holey space, as would the innumerable urban legends concerning sewers, subway tunnels, and the like.

- - -

Mark Bonta and John Protevi. Deleuze and Geophilosophy: A Guide and Glossary. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004.

THX 1138 FITNESS, Study No.1
September 26, 2011

- - -

DOCTOR FOUCAULT, DOCTOR VIRILIO: YOU ARE NEEDED IN EMERGENCY … STATS!!

- - -

- Foucauldian space of disciplinary enclosure overlaid on the remote television screen, the body-space quasi-doubled

- one is trained to know where the limits of the volume are located

- this training is reinforced by the uncanny portrayal of one’s body dematerializing upon challenging the boundaries of the enclosure

- this apparatus (luminescent diagram, psychoanalytics) has real effects in the control society: for a certain amount of time per day, the object of information may be located precisely within a 4’ x 4’ square

(one wonders about basketball and the principle of verticality?)

- hygiene becomes more explicitly spatialized

- registration and authentication of one’s identity begins the session (how are these different?)

- ambient voiceovers provide a normalizing aural context to the control

_____

An excerpt

Foucault located the disciplinary societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; they reach their height at the outset of the twentieth. They initiate the organization of vast spaces of enclosure. The individual never ceases passing from one closed environment to another, each having its own laws: first the family; then the school (“you are no longer in your family”); then the barracks (“you are no longer at school”); then the factory; from time to time the hospital; possibly the prison, the preeminent instance of the enclosed environment. It’s the prison that serves as the analogical model: at the sight of some laborers, the heroine of Rossellini’s Europa ‘51 could exclaim, “I thought I was seeing convicts.”

Foucault has brilliantly analyzed the ideal project of these environments of enclosure, particularly visible within the factory: to concentrate; to distribute in space; to order in time; to compose a productive force within the dimension of space-time whose effect will be greater than the sum of its component forces. But what Foucault recognized as well was the transience of this model: it succeeded that of the societies of sovereignty, the goal and functions of which were something quite different (to tax rather than to organize production, to rule on death rather than to administer life); the transition took place over time, and Napoleon seemed to effect the large-scale conversion from one society to the other. But in their turn the disciplines underwent a crisis to the benefit of new forces that were gradually instituted and which accelerated after World War II: a disciplinary society was what we already no longer were, what we had ceased to be.

We are in a generalized crisis in relation to all the environments of enclosure—prison, hospital, factory, school, family. The family is an “interior,” in crisis like all other interiors—scholarly, professional, etc. The administrations in charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons. But everyone knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods. It’s only a matter of administering their last rites and of keeping people employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at the door. These are the societies of control, which are in the process of replacing disciplinary societies. “Control” is the name Burroughs proposes as a term for the new monster, one that Foucault recognizes as our immediate future. Paul Virilio also is continually analyzing the ultrarapid forms of free-floating control that replaced the old disciplines operating in the time frame of a closed system. There is no need to invoke the extraordinary pharmaceutical productions, the molecular engineering, the genetic manipulations, although these are slated to enter the new process. There is no need to ask which is the toughest regime, for it’s within each of them that liberating and enslaving forces confront one another. For example, in the crisis of the hospital as environment of enclosure, neighborhood clinics, hospices, and day care could at first express new freedom, but they could participate as well in mechanisms of control that are equal to the harshest of confinements. There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons.

- - -

Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” October, Vol. 59. (Winter, 1992), pp. 3-7.