October 2014

IMG_7708All theory takes place within an ecology of debates, theoretical frameworks, and concepts to which it responds and engages; as well as the historical situation, social system, institutions, etc., in which it is articulated.  Yet while theory is always embedded in a set of relations in which it emerges, theoretical machines are peculiar sorts of machines in that they also exceed all relations within which they arise.  This is the power of writing as a material machine, as a type of object.  While functioning as a mnemonic machine, writing is nonetheless a strange sort of memory machine.  It is a machine that forgets its origins of inscription– or, more prudently, that always harbors the power of forgetting origins –erasing contexts and circumstances of inscription.  Unlike voice which issues from mouth and is therefore embedded in a interlocutory circumstance– though increasingly this is changing with recording technologies –writing always harbors the power of forgetting the site of its inscription.  Writing, of course, is the material substrate of theory.

The written therefore is that which wanders in and out of social ecologies and that always threatens to break from the site where it was produced.  Writing therefore is an instance of what I have elsewhere (Onto-Cartography) called a “rogue object”.  Like rogue planets that aren’t fixed within any particular solar system but which wander throughout galaxies, writings wander throughout various social assemblages without ever being fixed in one assemblage.  We can read the Epic of Gilgamesh today and that reading can produce effects in us, though they will certainly be different than the effects this text produced in its site of inscription.  There is thus something incalculable in all writing that can never be tamed or controlled, for writing perpetually falls into different ecologies, resonating with those ecologies in ways that we never expected.  The Illiad becomes a commentary on the American South in the hands of the Coen brothers.  Spinoza’s Ethics and Tractatus become tools of Marxist and Feminist criticism.  Like the planet Melancholia in Lars von Trier’s film by the same name, writing, as a rogue object, harbors the power of being a destroyer of worlds.  Like the Dead Sea Scrolls, a writing can lay dormant, in a vegetative state, only to suddenly appear in the world once again, producing incalculable aleatory affects that could not have been anticipated.  Writing is like the cane toad introduced into a foreign ecosystem, transforming that ecology in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Here are the course requirements for the Anarchy of Objects I Symposium:

The seminar will be composed of four 2.5 hour sessions. Each session will be composed of both lecture over the material and general discussion. This seminar aims to be a symposium in the fullest sense of the word. Although the general concepts and arguments of The Democracy of Objects will be discussed and outlined, the book will not be treated as a closed text embodying a set of theses to be dogmatically transmitted to participants. Accordingly—and in line with the theses of flat ontology –there will be no students in this symposium, but rather only programmers, carpenters, builders, poets (in the Greek sense of poesis), and philosophers. The Democracy of Objects will therefore be approached virtually as an open site that could be actualized in a variety of ways, not as a set of fixed claims to be conveyed, but as a site of problems and questions which may or may not be well posed, but which nonetheless pose occasions for thought, the genesis or production of concepts, the development of sequences of argument, and, above all, the invention of new forms of practice. The Democracy of Objects will thus be treated as a machine, and our aim will be to approach that machine as engineers, programmers, designers, and builders. We will seek to determine what the machine does, whether it does it well, whether it has been well engineered, how it might improved, what other machines might be made to serve similar ends, and to find ways that we might put the machine to work. Programmers, carpenters, builders, poets, and philosophers are encouraged to bring their critiques to the table, to outline ways in which problems and questions can be better posed, to engage in archeological and genealogical analysis of the regimes of attraction that generate these problems, questions, and solutions (and whether they are well formed), and to put concepts to work in their own practices whether they are political, artistic, spiritual, scientific, amorous, and so on. Programmers, carpenters, builders, poets, and philosophers (including myself) will write four mini-essays of 500 – 1000 words for each session in relation to the programmer’s chosen research focus. This will be presented online on Friday of each week by being posted on Google Classrooms for everyone to read and comment upon, providing some preliminary threads for collaborative or anarchic group discussion, engineering, and invention. It is hoped that programmers will use these mini-essays as opportunities and preparations for the production of their own philosophical, artistic, existential, and political machines. In turn, programmers, engineers, poets, philosophers, builders, and carpenters will give each other feedback, providing input on how to improve and refine the machines that have been produced for the purpose of engagement with the world, the production of art, political transformation, and new lines of speculative thought.

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