Friday, September 21, 2007

Specificity of the Virtual-Actual Dialectic in the Instance of a 'Colour'

At once physical and experiential, therefore unrepeatable, spectral colour as conjuncture proposes an infinity other than the 16,581, 535 colours of hexadecimal. Modulations too intense for capture. This is its actuality, ie. to call it 'insubstantial' is incorrect. The analogy with infinitessimals: there will always be another hue between this one and that one, to be achieved by casting this shadow from that surface under this light source under these conditions of refraction. As in the tones of sunset, any tone is always on the brink of becoming another. So far so physis.

This colour – magenta spray under cars at a Sydney crossroads in the rain under sodium arc lamps 20.09.07 around 9.00pm – is unrepeatably specific and actual. The attempt to capture it will a) reduce it to mathematical identity but b) demonstrate that such capture is inevitably poorer which c) can lead to new colours, new techniques

This is notably the case with black, which is 'not a colour', 'the absence of colour', but which, like evil, is an absolute that never achieves purity, the purity of actual existence. Black has the specific quality of being only ever virtual. Like silence, black is physiologically impossible (Cage, Goethe). [Brecht speaks of 'the strain of being evil'].

Our attempts at black are magical: formulated from the remains of fire in charcoal and lampblack. The alternative, especially in film and electronic imaging, has been to achieve maximum contrast, that is to use the wisdom of colour combinations to persuade us that the greys of the screen are blacks. If black is always unreachable as ideal absence, these formal allocations of blackness to greys are equally virtual, an expression of the destiny of certain tones in systems reliant on projected or backlit images, cathode ray tubes: Becoming black.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Duty of Care

Carol Gilligan makes the argument that a feminist ethics is peculiarly and particularly an ethics of care. There is some parallel with Levinas' ethics of the face-to-face encounter with the other, in which the incompleteness of the Ego is demonstrated to it. What became apparent in discussions of indigenous ethics, or the ethical problem posed by indigeneiry – its particular claim to 'culture' or 'identity;' in ways unavailable to westerners – is the extraordinary generosity, noted by Barry Barclay among others, of indigenous people with their knowledge, their depth of knowledge, and their time, in every sense of that word. In this instance, the instance of the danger of ventriloquism, of speaking as if from the position of the Other and on behalf of the other, a demand peculiar to the media, where acess to both the technological basis for recording and editing, and more particularly of transmission, is in the hands of the coloniser, in the case of ventriloquism based in an ethic of care, something peculiar about the ethic of care becomes clearer.

The duty of care can only be exercised in the presence of an Other who gives themselves openly for care, like the weeping child (as everyone knows, you cannot comfort a child who refuses to be comforted).

This is the pojnt of Kant's delimitation of the cosmopolitan ethic of hosptality: that we must not treat the stranger as an enemy unless they come in the guise of an enemy.

Care extends to pariahs like the torturers of Abu Ghraib if and only if they offer themselves to care.

(They alone can judge whether their prisoners came to them as enemeies or as strangers)

Saturday, September 8, 2007


Under conditions of 'the abyss of total freedom' among the datastreams we used to use for meaning-making, what of representation?

It has moved from depiction to data-gathering. Scientific and socio-technical apparatus collects such m,assive quantities of data, the significance of the individual datum shrivels to insignificance. Swamped by statistical likelihood and trends, the datum itself is without significance, without meaning, meaningless. Picturing remains, but lives a sad afterlife. Its ideological function today is to try to persuade us that it is possible to picture experience, and that experience matters

The irony is that it does: experience matters to the extent that it is the residual real omitted from the circulation of data. This residue is that element of embodied life that escapes regimes of health, fitness, education and programmed entertainment. Its poverty is precisely that it is embodied, in an era in which each body is rigourously demarcated as the boundary of the personal, so that the best we can hope for is the interpersonal, never the social.

It is the social that forms the true boundary of a system which comprises the binary of data and experience: information and embodiment are two sides of a single coin. The real relations between people today appear to them in the fantastic guise of a relation between data systems and irreducibly individual experience.

It remains to make apparaent the lost relations of the real. At first this art will take the form of tragedy, the tragedy of coincidence – though that is an oxymoron. Coincidence because causality can oly reduce the social to conspiracy; tragedy because conspiracy and coincidence alike are experienced as fate.

How might realism re-emerge as intimation (making intimate) of the social, without presenting it as something already fated? How reverse the trend, apparent since the end of privacy in the era of cookie technology, towards the publication of intimacies? How to imbue the intimate with pubicness?