Saturday, February 29, 2020

Inhuman and Insignificant Pt 2: Truth 24fps

Godard wasn't wrong when he described cinema as Truth 24 times a second; except he was looking in the wrong place

The Real remains impossible because it is beyond Symbolic (or Imaginary). But it occurs exactly as Lacan predicted: in the micro-seconds between frames where Virilio spies picnolepsia, ie when the subject is absent, that is precisely when the Real can enter.

Film/video are privileged not because of their indexicality but because of the constitutive lacunae that enable apparent movement

Motion (as telos) is limitless, and is Real as a consequence. The Real can only enter a world of objects (the Symbolic as it exists historically in the 20th/21st centuries) in the absence of objecthood.

Inhuman and Insignificant Cinema: absence and the Real

'to deliver human speech from the lie that it is already human'(Minima Moralia p.102)

The joy of photography/cinematography is their inhumanity

As natural artifice and artificial nature, photography excludes the human from anything but selection.

It is not in any sense a 'language'. The remnant that appears linguistic is only the secondary choice of using the photo, as in an advert. Its function in news is precisely to persuade that no choice was involved, and that it has been an inhuman witness.

The question of 'significance' (Minima 142) needs to be attended to in terms not available to Adorno in the 1940s: the sign, and the contest over whether existents are already signs – of what makes them appear, and by appearing makes them appear significant, ie that they appear as existent, that they exist 'for' – perhaps for us, perhaps for each other (as in camouflage) or as evidence – of history or evolution, or God. Each relies on signifying, becoming a sign-for, and on the distinction between the whatever that appears and its appearance, between the substrate of pre-significant matter and the signifier. As the chora somehow pre-dates the signified, sign-ready Symbolic ego, so there is a pre-significant material process, but even that is only to the extent that its appearance as phenomenon makes it possible to signify, and under the rule that it is only by appearing and thus becoming capable of signifying that the possibility of a pre-significant / extra-significant existence becomes possible.

What film tries so hard to record is not the appearance of things as an achieved presentation (things as they are) but the process of their appearing. What slips under the procession of images is their inhuman vulnerability to nuance and process, forming and diffusing like the clouds over Monument Valley – which in turn de-monumentalise the geology, whose appearance appears under this light as a moment in a longer history of evolution and erosion, loosening in a third stage the definitenesss of the colonial wars played out in Ford's narratives. The cinematic sign exceeds ,as it precedes, the administration of Hollywood that seeks to contain it as a circumscribed entertainment and, perhaps, an unambiguous ideology. Thus the failure of realism/naturalism is precisely where it holds the greatest promise.

Sunday, February 23, 2020


Neo-Darwinism saw Man as pinnacle of a tree-like structure of evolution. Post-Darwinist evolution gets rid of the idea of the pinnacle, and instead sees the ecology as the triumph of complexity. Anthropocene anti-Darwinism returns to the pinnacle model to tell us that the whole of evolution has culminated, as pinnacle, in the engine of its own destruction: the human species. Post-anti-Darwinism proposes therefore that, if climate change and pollution are human effects, humans can change them but only once the distinction of humans from the ecology ends, and therewith the distinction between the ascent model and the ecological complexity model. Undoing the distinctions human-natural and human technological, as well as the natural-technological distinction these two imply, is thus a fundamentally aesthetic as well as politically fundamental task.

Saturday, February 22, 2020


The meteorologists predicted today's weather yesterday, with reasonable accuracy, and with a respectable degree of probability.

But predictions of longer and more devastating fire seasons may be a) incorrect (the further ahead the future, the more determinants there are in play, and the less assurance that predictions will be accurate; prediction becomes statistical -- rather than the accuracy of predicting a cool change around 4.00pm). Similarly the larger the scale, the more abstract the forces: not the causality of a weather system approaching from the SE at 5..00pm but combinations of dipole, el Ninõ, ocean surface temperatures . . . Counting in anthropogenic forces including carbon and greenhouse gases, water extraction etc no longer clearly causal, opening the field for doubt.

In a previous note I worked with truth's antonyms as lies, fictions and fantasies, using the distinction that lies and fictions are not believed but truths and fantasies are. Now we need to address doubt. and to distinguish it from systematic (Cartesian) doubt

Systematic doubt, historically the basis for the Western critical tradition, has been a tool for critical theory versus scientism and common sense. But today it is embraced in the new tactics of populist neo-nationalism (with which neo-liberalism clothes itself in the era of its triumph, which is also the era of the crisis of US hegemony. Every nation positions itself urgently to make the most of the rise of China (and beyond that of India, and somewhere down the line of Turkey) as well as in relation to its reluctant and often rebellious citizenry (and of course against its traditional foes, indigenous and migrant). Preliminary distinctions:

DOUBT 1 is a fortified, strategic position that refuses truth by characterising it as merely one belief among many in the 'marketplace of ideas' - ie a pro-position that all truths are equal.

DOUBT 2 is a critical move in the process of argument, a transitional stage, a recognition of the fundamentally antagonistic relation between truths. Any truth asserts itself as the only one.This is also the case with highly specific truths (it will rain at 4.00pm tomorrow; it is raining now), where the particular stands over against the universal. Doubt 2, critical doubt, asserts the irreducible difference between truths.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Dominant Ideology

Environmentalism, the dominant ideology” is itself an ideological statement.

The top ten companies in the Fortune Global 500 for 2019 include six oil companies, two automotive, the Chinese national energy grid and Walmart. All are carbon dependent. They range between 0.5 and 0.27 trillion dollars of earnings in 2019.

The leaders of the USA and China, the largest (almost 25% of the global economy) and second largest (15.5%) economies, are not environmentalists. Nor is the leader of India, the fastest growing economy and about to achieve the largest population, with GDP of 10.5 trillion and growth rate around 7.5%.

An ideology is 'dominant' only when it is embraced by those who dominate. Neither politically nor economically can environmentalism be shown to belong to those who dominate the world today.

The source is Rupert Darwall, described as an 'opinion contributor'to The Hill , picked up via Apple's News app. They might consider what they think constitutes "news"

Return to blogging

When I was leaving the UK, Gareth Stanton observed that this once live site had become moribund. The fact is that I was writing stuff - notably Anecdotal Evicence - and didn't need a place to put thoughts while I had a clear project.

Now as I move to a new job I find I have little time to write substantial pieces, so it's back to these short thoughts, components towards the next big project on aesthetic politics