Monday, July 30, 2007


Forgive me if the new usage 'transduction' appears to me an artefact of the attempt to appreciate change, and the problematic relation between universal and particular, without dialectics. Indeed most neologisms emerge from this refusal. The excuse for a new word is that it describes a new phenomenon. A new word does not create a new phenomenon: this was the Whorff-Sapir hypothesis, underpinning the utopian apolitical project of politically correct language. For good or ill the Western way is committed to distinction, and to the principle of Ockham's razor. Concepts should not be proliferated needlessly. What is required is not new terms but the redefinition of old ones. A new concept that cannot be named with the existing lexicon needs to name a new phenomenon or admit to inarticulacy. The curious condition of the English language in the age of its fragmentation is a wonderful moment when changing usage and articulation with global speech opens immense vistas without the needf to abandon the fluency which our bastard tongue already permits.

Transient Media 3

The stroy of how, in the era of biopolitics, the database unconscious frees the contingency of the embodied, present crowd for an ecology of action, is half the story. It only points towards the issue of transience in its temporal guise, not as migration and as counter-cosmopolis. The missing move can only emerge from situating migration in a continuum, with indigeneiry and settler culture, a move which already implies further situating among the other paradigms of the contemporary mediascape.

As ever, to analyse even a smal phenomenon in detail requires an address to the situational systems that bring it to being. The reward is that the small phenomenon transforms what you might think of the systemic scale of mediation. It is the Warty Bliggins thesis: sometimes everything, the stars above and quantum foam below, exist only to bring this fledgling to the edge of the ocean of air.

To give credit where it's due, Badiou's injunction to Keep Going is a minimum beneath which Nothing functions at its nihilist work. The difference would appear to be that, for him, truth lies in the past.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Item 1: Kant's insistence on nations as the bulding blocks of cosmpolis, as critiqued by Habermas, who envisages a cosmopolis grounded not in political units but in Law
Item 2: Hegel's account of the national spirits as components of the world spirit, critiqued by Adorno, who proposes an aesthetic and cultural philosophy as a dialectical alternative

In the pursuit of an understanding beyond Anderson's 'imagined community', to seek out a more complex accomodation of law and aesthetics. The issue is already addressed, albeit in the specific to the point of obliquity, in debates over intellectual property.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ghost Dog

It is no longer possible to live a Homeric life.

This statement needs immediate qualification: from Ulysses and The Cantos to O Brother Where Art Thou, the Odyssey talks to modern life. What is not available to us Europeans is the Iliad. The word 'warrior appears in writings of Edgar Heap of Birds and Jummy Durham. First People have claims to the heroic which colonisers do not.

In Jim Jarmusch's film Ghost Dog the central character tries to live a Homeric life in contemporary New Jersey, and is as doomed as Achilles as a result. But his death is only a death. It is not, like the deaths of Achlles and hector, glorious. It is only a death among others.

The absurd effort to live by the samourai way has its own honour. What is most attractive about the film is that Jarmusch, in Homer's place, is unable to describe the glory without irony.

Observe the parallel positions of Ghost Dog, an African American mob murderer seeking the authenticity of the Way, and Jarmusch as auteur seeking an authenticity in his ironic telling: the trope of carrier pigeons as a refusal of contemporary communication, in a film you can watch in all the usual formats.

What we have lost sicne Homer is not presence. It is the authenticity of communication. Socrates was right to this extent: Homer stood in the ranks, bloodied and cruel. Many have stood in the same place, biut have not told us in the language of Homer. Most have been reporters, and wrote in the language of cliché. Homer had the luck of writing in an age when clichés could draw on a common speech which drew on telling nin all its dimensions: lexicon, syntax, metrics, narration. It is this mediation that Ghost Dog cannot access: his incommunicative milieu underlined by linguistic difference.

Authenticity demands not eye-witnessing but a worthy medium. Ghost Dog is a great movie because it reaches towards that state of a medium capable of heroism, only to recognise – with due modesty – that it is incapable of achieving it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Transient Media 2

Structured by its exclusions, the database unconscious is shaped in the material micro-realities of physical sensory existence, in actions where ethical decisions can be performed, and in the present.

Resistance is now accomodated into control. Productivity – in the form of mass participatpry creativity – is the dynamo of Web 2.0's commercial come-back from the dot bomb of the early years of this century. Meaninglessness is no longer the fiefdom of the avant garde, but lies at the heart of contemporary consumerism. Nonetheless, a minor adjustment makes the statement mmensely important for transient media. Where Mary-Ann Doane takes the contingent as equivalent to randomness, we need to redefine it as contingent upon – the result of past ecologies, to be sure, but implying that future states of the human ecology are in turn contingent upon what we do now.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sixteen Theses

Sixteen theses on meteorological art on the occasion of the remarkable exhibition The Weather Project curated by Jacqueline Bosscher, Maria Miranda & Norie Neumark, 4 July to 3 August, UTS Gallery Sydney. If you can't make Sydney, try the net art component.

Gagadju Dreaming

To walk the billabongs and woodlands up to the scoured rocks at Anbangbang, with their paintings tens of thousands of years in the making and restoring; to see there the three rock pillars where the lightning man has his home; and to see the stone platform where he consumated his illicit love with the woman who would become the rainbow serpent; and to swim in the pool that has become her home; and to do these things in the plain light of day. To walk, arms loose at sides, in the warmth and to smell the patchwork fires clearing the ground brush in the early day – is to walk in the landscape of Eden. Into this ancient world arrived the first woman from the island in the north west forty thousand years ago. The world of Anbangbang grew here because she and all of our ancestors needed it so perfectly.

What depths of memory would creationists rob us of?


The age of the art experience is over. What was once a direct address to the soul today is a way of addressing the statistical aggregate. The blockbuster art exhibit is more significant for its turnstile figures than for the soul-changing moment when art speaks to viewer. New media art matters to the extent it speaks to crowds, and its reality is measurable in the modification of behaviours at the scale of populations.

If (as Stiegler seems to say) personal memory has been replaced by databases, the new unconscious is networked. No longer the tragic history of individual desire and loss, the new social unconscious is the creation of aggregate habit and statistical likelihoods. At its heart is a new void, and the capacities of any new art are dependent on this lack.

Transient Media

Transient media – which are physically mobile or which confront physically mobile audiences, or both – are remarkable for their incompletion. There is no meeting. And if there is no meeting – as there is in cinema for example – there is no Gestell. Here enframing concerns precisely the lack of an event: the oblique trajectory of sender and receiver through mutually incompatible space-times.

Lens Flare

Used first to emulate photographic apparatus, the lens flare filter, one of the first added to Photoshop, implied a fictional act of photography even in non-representational images. In a matter of months, it became a hallmark of digital graphics. Far from suggesting the presence of a 'real' camera, the repurposed lens flare plug-in emphasised digitality, and simultaneously produced illusions of depth in 2D images. The latter accidental discovery reorganises a temporal signature ('a camera was present') as a spatial one. Such migrations are the bread and butter of the microhistory of media.