[-empyre-] Lively, Capital

Michael Angelo Tata, PhD mtata at ipublishingllc.com
Tue Apr 28 10:43:44 EST 2009

Hey, Dav + Nick.  Great Haraway discussion.  Specifically, I appreciate Davin’s approach to exceptionalism, which to me is the notion that there is something grand and unique about the human species as it has presently evolved, some je ne sais quoi that even gets the hard-core Christians inventing rather thought-provoking solutions to the Darwin problem (“intelligent design.”).  

Here, I might take things off the track slightly toward evolution in general, my thoughts veering in two directions: (1) Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution, and (2) Lynn Margulis’ Dazzle Gradually (BTW—Margulis is Carl Sagan’s ex-wife, so there is some cosmic gossip or “history” here, too).  For thinkers like these two, the conundrum is the kind of mechanism that defines evolution proper, and how we deal with phenomena like “punctuated equilibrium,” the reproductive integrity of the species, “instinct” versus “consciousness,” and the possibilities of co-evolution, as well as “group selection” (that is, whether natural selection selected the gene, the individual, the species, or the multi-species assemblage as its functional unit).  Accounting for the creativity—Nick’s word—of evolution is always dicey, as there does appear to be something more in play than the simple competition among potential survivor species for limited niche resources.
Human Exceptionalism seems to have been dead for some time, yet its ghost, a powerful metanarrative with emotional underpinnings, does persist, as when a PETA activist argues that we have an obligation to aid lesser species.  Following Rorty, I agree: how could exceptionalism possibly have survived Darwin or Freud, with their dual challenges of human descent and the contingency of personality?  But as Davin has underscored, the problem is not so much where we situate the human species vis-à-vis Autralopithecus or Home Faber, or even where we place it among flora, fauna and the “Protoctists” (the new kingdom of prokaryotes invented by Margulis), but how we treat the members of the many societies which comprise our evolving species.  Whether we look to Locke or Marx for our theories about private property or the commodity, the fact remains that human society is fundamentally unequal, there being not only “exceptions” to the rule (Paris Hilton’s initial return from prison), but also exceptional opportunities which can only be accessed by bloodline, social stratum, or Hannah Arendt’s wonderful term, “the fact of birth.”  Is this inequality necessary, or might it be contingent?  Is it a hegemony obscuring its non-exceptionalness (the contingencies that brought it into existence)?  And what would equality even mean?  The art would be terrible, but might time return to us as time?  
As someone deathly allergic to dogs of all ilks, even those lovely hairless ones owners (companions?) are always so adept at producing just before a dinner party commences, I do cough slightly as I read her arguments about that supreme companion species, the canine, yet even I must admit that the encounter value of this or other “fellow traveler” creatures does challenge our separateness as a species.  Haraway’s simians are no companion species, and neither is OncoMouse (that fab rodent with the genetic capacity to produce the oncogene), or the cyborg, who reverses both friendship and symbiosis, refusing our companionship: what kinds of encounter value do these creatures provide?  And what is the value of encounter value, the “contact” of the “contact zone,” if we pull the postcolonial into our dialogue?  Margulis does a phenomenal job of analyzing the human being as nexus of symbiotic creatures, arguing that the dual genomes located in nucleus and mitochondrion are proof that, rather than being exceptional, humans are the product of primal bacterial symbioses, which themselves are the source of exceptionalism (their occurrence is the mystery at the heart of cellular life).  As such, it is our ethical duty to pay more attention to symbiosis in general—i.e., our role in the super-organism of the biosphere.
And then there’s the Drake Equation, that elegant mathematical stab at assessing how much intelligent life the cosmos might contain, as well as all those lurid accounts of alien encounters, so many of which are reproductive in nature.  If n = 0, then who knows: the exception might return in a secular fashion, it not being an Unmoved Mover who sets the human species in motion, but a particular set of exceptions (the rockiness of a planet, its distance from a solar center, the existence of larger outer planets to absorb asteroids and other space junk).  Off into the cosmos I go.   

Michael Angelo Tata, PhD  347.776.1931-USA


> Date: Mon, 27 Apr 2009 08:54:13 -0400
> From: davinheckman at gmail.com
> To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Beyonce/Burger King
> I have a problem with some of Haraway's arguments in When Species Meet
> (but I must confess, I am not finished reading it, so I am open to
> corrected).
> The main problem that I have with Haraway is that a denial of human
> exceptionalism is a two way street. On the one hand, it does offer
> plenty of great opportunities for other species, but if you look at
> the general trend in terms of global poverty, we have been quite
> finished with human exceptionalism for quite some time. The only
> "exceptional" persons are those with the resources to afford
> "exceptional" treatment. In fact, we have even deconstructed the
> "exceptionalism" of life itself--destroying the biosphere and many of
> the species that inhabit it. Some might argue that this is caused by
> the naive belief that cultural savages have that they were created
> special.... and that the rape of the world is caused, somehow, by
> backwards people. But the chief architects of the global financial
> markets and the giant companies that have the resources to exploit the
> world's strategic inequalities are not a bunch of religious kooks bent
> on some biblical mandate to subdue and dominate nature.... the power
> players in the world have MBAs from great universities, they have
> lobbyists in Washington, they hire the best PR firms to sell their
> agenda to the public. In they believe in anything resembling
> universal human rights, underpinned by some notion that humans are
> "exceptional".... I would be stunned. They certainly don't act that
> way.
> I don't imagine that Haraway would ever defend such behavior. I just
> think, in practical terms, at the very least, that human
> exceptionalism is still incredibly useful. It is so useful, in fact,
> that even people who deny it still benefit from its vestiges. They
> are nice people who enjoy their freedom and live around other nice
> people who enjoy their freedom, so they tend to imagine that
> "deregulation" to the point where we question even human rights will
> result in a flowering of freedom. If I hung around people who took
> spent their days running agility courses with their dogs and taking
> them to special doctors when they got sick--I suppose that I might
> think that all people were so benevolent. But most CHILDREN don't
> even have such companions.
> Not to be cranky.... but "encounter value" is not simply a positive
> thing. (I knew someone who had the unfortunate job of guarding
> detainees in Iraq. This was a pretty open-minded kid, who got along
> with lots of people, and was even actively opposed to discrimination.
> He came back with the belief that Iraqis were "like animals". This is
> another kind of encounter value.) I would not trust deregulation in
> this respect to produce necessarily positive results.
> Davin
> On Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 7:32 AM, Nicholas Ruiz III
> <editor at intertheory.org> wrote:
> > Good morning...Finding her way indeed...Haraway's "When Species Meet"
> > intersects right here:
> >
> > "What, however, if human labor turns out to be only part of the story of
> > lively capital?"
> >
> > Lively Capital? Not very profound once we've made the leap to understanding
> > that Capital is but a currency of the Code...but she biocapitalizes this for
> > us in an interesting way...please read on:
> >
> > "Of all philosophers, Marx understood relational sensuousness, and he
> > thought deeply about the metabolism between human beings and the rest of the
> > world enacted in living labor. As I read him, however, he was finally unable
> > to escape from the humanist teleology of that labor--the making of man
> > himself. In the end, no companion species, reciprocal inductions, or
> > multispecies epigenetics are his story. But what if the commodities of
> > interest to those who live within the regime of Lively Capital cannot be
> > understood within the categories of the natural and the social that Marx
> > came so close to reworking but was finally unable to do under the goad of
> > human exceptionalism?"
> >
> > So after use and exchange value, Haraway allows for 'encounter value,"
> > wherein the encounters of lively beings (dogs especially) materialize a
> > problematics of suspension for human exceptionalism, and theoretical
> > treatment of the "commerce and consciousness, evolution and bioengineering,
> > ethics and utilities that are all in play."
> >
> > For us, this month, it seems we are also passengers on such a journey,
> > wherein we are delineating biocapital's artistic impulses along the nerve
> > fibers of our humanly, if tragicomic, artfully financial, networks of time
> > and money.
> >
> > Might we, too, on -empyre-, need to escape from a distinctively 'humanist'
> > teleology of art and creativity, as it relates to our discussion of human
> > financial networks this month?
> >
> > Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
> > Editor, Kritikos
> > http://intertheory.org
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: "Michael Angelo Tata, PhD" <mtata at ipublishingllc.com>
> > To: Soft Skinned Space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> > Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 10:52:36 PM
> > Subject: [-empyre-] Beyonce/Burger King
> >
> > Joseph and/or Cynthia and/or tout le monde:
> >
> >
> >
> > What is at stake in the separation or de-conflation (de-flation?) of
> > consciousness, perception, reading and viewing?  Is there an edifice to be
> > built, a ground, a foundation to be laid?  Or are we being rhizomic, these
> > diverse strands and filaments creeping across a horizontal plane without
> > impacting one another’s biotic meanderings?  Is it the time for Husserlian
> > epoché, a bracketing and subtracting that leads to a basic yet transcendent
> > structure that can make sense of the mind’s organization?  Perhaps Donna
> > Haraway’s glance at canine consciousness in her The Companion Species
> > Manifesto might find a way into our discussion, especially as,
> > manifesto-wise, it supplements her remarks on cyborg consciousness
> > (non-Oedipal, and not so much based on viewing or reading as on conceiving:
> > sort of a perverse eidetics whose holism is the product of radical hybridity
> > and bio-technical disjunction).
> >
> >
> >
> > What happens when we perceive, rather than read, a letter of the alphabet,
> > as in the famous Erté images so important to Barthes?  When a language we
> > cannot speak registers only as gobbledygook (an audio-perceiving that is not
> > even a “listening” proper, like when I’m at the nail salon and the Uzbek
> > ladies carry on)?  I think of a friend who was kind enough to translate some
> > of my poetry into Arabic for publication in an Algiers journal, and how I
> > could not read it, yet perceived and loved what to me were squiggles and
> > wiggles—everything except for the expression “Burger King,” which was not
> > translatable, either linguistically or culturally, and transcended the
> > squiggle on multiple levels.  Now we must add Cazwell’s “I Seen Beyonce at
> > Burger King” to the soundtrack we’ve been developing.
> > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWZm9SfGgSU
> >
> >
> >
> > To read is first and foremost to perceive, as the physicality or material of
> > language enters the mind’s eye and the eye’s eye, where it will be
> > processed, mined for meaning, exchanged for semantic currency.  Perception
> > so often slides beneath reading, those forgotten moments of ingestion and
> > consumption whose very substance is a pre-condition for semantics, poetics,
> > prosody, the performative utterance, the constative description, even the
> > iffy decision to step onto the first rung of Wittgenstein’s ladder.
> >
> >
> >
> > And if these layers—perception, reading, cognition—are to remain separate,
> > and not rhizomically separate, but some other kind of “adverbially”
> > separate, then which metaphors are most relevant to the description of the
> > arrangement of these strata?  Pousse-café?  Terrine?  Some kind of textual
> > tectonics?  I think of specific gravity, sediment, even Husserl’s “sinking
> > down” (Phenom of ITC): but would these strata or layers interact in such a
> > fashion?  What I am attempting to characterize is the relation of these
> > zones, how they come together, or don’t (are they temporarily autonomous,
> > for example?): my interest is how they communicate, in the way that our room
> > might contain a “communicating door” facilitating action, interaction, the
> > productive passage across a membrane.
> >
> >
> >
> > I would also like to bring back this discussion about e-lit, e-jects and CNS
> > processing (“cognizing”) to Nick’s call for artistic engagement of
> > oligarchies and capital, especially as this might answer Nick Ruiz’s initial
> > problematics of a contemporary creativity borne of counterfeitism (fake
> > money, false investments, volatilizing capital).  My love of Warhol, which
> > put me into contact with Nick R in the first place, stems from my love of
> > his counter-revolutionary tendencies, the way he merges money with objet
> > glibly and gleefully, laying the groundwork for the further innovations of
> > artists like Koons, Levine and Sherman.  What could be more transgressive
> > than a “Celebrity Portrait” of the Shah of Iran?  For me, if artists cannot
> > honor Percy Shelley’s noble call to legislate the world unacknowledged, in
> > secret, and outside all gratitude, then they might as well go in the
> > opposite direction, and concoct million-dollar balloon animals or topiary
> > puppies worth the price of a small Polynesian island: there is honesty and
> > dignity in the crassness of these chrematistics, as we encounter not the
> > fake real of kitsch, but the real fakes of “Business Art” and high
> > capital.
> >
> >
> >
> > As for museums, I think of visiting the Louvre and being shocked by the size
> > of Mona Lisa (postage stamp), then being equally shocked by the size of the
> > Davids (freeway mural), then going for a Kir Royal along the Beaubourg and
> > watching Sonia Rykiel stroll on by, crazy as could be: shocking to me, but
> > not to the locals, to whom she was as ordinary as a Da Vinci.  The street,
> > my museum of museums.
> >
> >
> >
> > The Freudian layers beckon, especially now that Da Vinci has arrived and I’m
> > caught on his idea about the “sexual researches of children” as the birth of
> > empiricism.  How do we go from a perceptual-consciousness system largely
> > comprised of scarification and the repetition of trauma for reasons
> > exceeding those of mere pleasure to the tripartite hydraulics of an id, ego
> > and super-ego always trying to elude each other through the lexical moves of
> > constructing rebuses, consolidating images, transposing objects, and turning
> > repressed content into sublimated masterpieces?
> >
> >
> >
> > In a way, the id is the first bank, that little vault where we store what we
> > cannot bear to cognize or re-cognize and wait for it to accrue all the
> > interest we’ve already managed to forget about, unsure of how we will spend
> > it since, technically, we do not know it’s there, much like the “open
> > secret” theorized so vividly by Eve Sedgwick.  Speaking of whom, her recent
> > passing is a loss to all of us, and I dedicate the remainder of this
> > dialogue to her loving memory.
> >
> > *******************************************
> > Michael Angelo Tata, PhD  347.776.1931-USA
> > http://www.MichaelAngeloTata.com/
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >> Date: Sat, 18 Apr 2009 18:59:58 -0500
> >> From: jtabbi at gmail.com
> >> To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> >> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] The E-ject
> >>
> >> Yes, Michael, there are viewings that are also readings
> >> (metaphorically speaking?) and vice versa. And yes, Cynthia, there is
> >> thinking in images. But my impression is that these operations are all
> >> too readily conflated in current discourse - when what is needed
> >> rather are stern distinctions, kindof - lest the literary itself is
> >> lost in the faster, more powerful circulation (and also the
> >> 'push-pull') of visual/perceptual experience. And in discourse on the
> >> same.
> >>
> >> People flock to museums. We go there to see a collection of visual
> >> objects. A few of these objects, we hold in our minds, but not in the
> >> way a museum's holdings are possessed. Those curatorial possessions
> >> are commodities precisely because they cannot be memorized (and hence
> >> held in our thought). The objects in a museum also need to be
> >> perceived, sensed bodily, not only thought about.
> >>
> >> When we think in words, we hear, in our head - words. At least they
> >> sound to us something like the words we hear, or hear ourselves say.
> >> This happens also when reading. That is an important continuity I
> >> think, that brings the act of reading into the realm of thought, in a
> >> material way that is just not possible with images.
> >>
> >> This is the medial specificity of print: it stimulates thought by
> >> reducing perception, during the time of reading, to a minimum.
> >> (Concrete poems and examples of book art and the whole rematerialized
> >> context of e-writing are interesting precisely because they bring the
> >> forgotten material support for reading BACK into consciousness, but
> >> then we're again perceiving, not reading, not thinking with words.)
> >>
> >> Why insist on the distinction? Because the 'layering of meaning and
> >> perception' (Cynthia) is more interesting, more rich cognitively, when
> >> the layers are kept distinct and their different cognitive operations
> >> can be observed.
> >>
> >> "It is the ideas that stir, not the object itself" (Cynthia again).
> >> Right. And I agree totally about the impossibility of commodifying the
> >> meanings that attach to an art object. (The neolibs haven't figured
> >> out yet how to do that, or have they? have we?)
> >>
> >> But the path from stimulation to idea is very different, when reading
> >> or when viewing/sensing. The ideas in books are formed by words, and
> >> the ideas about objects are formulated, not in objects, but in words.
> >> At least, we need a verbal formulation if we want to communicate our
> >> ideas - to any person who speaks our language, or whose language we
> >> speak/read. Sure, you can communicate by an exchange of objects that
> >> can be as richly interpretable (in its own way) as a poem or a
> >> literary narrative, but again the meaning of the object will need to
> >> be cognized verbally, in ways that can only be 'about' the object (to
> >> use Davin's term, around and about but never within, as we are when
> >> reading.)
> >>
> >> That makes a kind of continuity possible, that again accounts for the
> >> medial specificity of books: when we read old books, in languages that
> >> have changed over time, we can make comparisons between the language
> >> we think in habitually and the language of, say, Chaucer or the
> >> Beowulf poet or Melville or Virginia Woolf. We can register the
> >> changes in style in the lifework of a contemporary writer. The words
> >> going through their heads, and getting somehow preserved on a screen
> >> or a page, have a different composition or pacing from our words, but
> >> there's still a basis of comparison. And a way, then, to feel the
> >> effects of history longer in duration than our own memory or the
> >> memory of our grandparents. (Again, we can observe different period
> >> styles or deviations therefrom in objects recovered or preserved from
> >> the past, but we would have to communicate these differences, and
> >> their meanings, in words. When reading, we don't have to switch levels
> >> in order to know something about what the work's creator was
> >> thinking.)
> >>
> >> The other reason to hold onto the distinction, is the different
> >> temporal durations of different levels of cognition - which aren't
> >> waved away by saying that a disciplined viewer of art can slow down
> >> the visual experience and in some sense "read" the object for
> >> ambiguities, tensions and so forth. Perception doesn't happen
> >> instantaneously. But relative to the time of sentence formation,
> >> perception is immediate.
> >>
> >> That kind of distinction, I expect, can be useful in devising a
> >> criticism consistent with the emergence of e-lit, where different
> >> modes (reading, imaging, coding, etc) are necessarily working all at
> >> once - but at different timeframes that need to be noted.
> >>
> >> "Aesthetics as the layering of perception, communication and
> >> consciousness?" (Michael)
> >>
> >> A kind of cognitive alternative to Freudian psychology?
> >>
> >> Precisely, but only if we keep the layers distinct. And work with
> >> distinctions that come to us from the sciences, with something of the
> >> same care and attentiveness that many of us (on this list, anyway) use
> >> when deploying terminological distinctions from classic authors in
> >> literary/cultural theory.
> >>
> >> Joseph
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> > Temporalities of “viewing” versus “reading” may not be identical, as the
> >> > time each activity requires can differ according to what exactly it is
> >> > which
> >> > must be consumed—which does not preclude the possibility of a viewing
> >> > that
> >> > is also a reading (for example, some of the scenes of Peter Greenaway’s
> >> > “Zoo”) or a reading that is also a viewing (for example, the Ian
> >> > Hamilton
> >> > Finlay poem).
> >> >
> >> >
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> empyre forum
> >> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> >> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> >
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> >
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