[-empyre-] some thoughts on complicity

Gerry Coulter gcoulter at ubishops.ca
Sun Jan 10 03:29:15 EST 2010

re Simon's point about metaphysics being put to bed:

If metaphysics has been put to bed then we are indeed in the hyperreal.

But there are two sides to metaphysics -- the side that seeks to control the world -- the realm of the "Good", and the other side, less mentioned, that deals in doubles, and shadows -- the realm of Evil. That Evil side hasn't gone to bed at all -- only in the dreams of the Platonic tradition [and other (neo) fascists].

From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Simon Biggs [s.biggs at eca.ac.uk]
Sent: January 9, 2010 6:23 AM
To: soft_skinned_space; Gregory Ulmer
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] some thoughts on complicity

Deleuze’s view does contain within it aspects of dualism, as Gregory has observed. Latour and Ihde offer potential ways out of this, with network theory and expanded concepts of agency, respectively. This allows the individual to be seen as part of a larger discrete but deeply interconnected system. Deleuze was sort of there too, with the concept of the rhizome – but his affection for Bergson ensured difficulty in moving beyond certain 19th and 20th century paradigms. When Foucault said that Deleuze would come to be seen as the key philosopher of the 20th century he probably meant to damn him with faint praise, knowing that by then people would be more concerned with 21st century thought.

I will await the barbs of the Deleuzians...

The nature/culture debate becomes muted within a framework where agency can be seen as arising from anywhere, or nowhere (which is to say from diffuse and difficult to identify origins), and anything can be an actor on the stage. Metaphysics is arguably put to bed. Within this context we can understand experience as not only mediated throughout but our very being as an outcome of this process of mediation. There is no self distinct from the other, with some mysterious differentiating force at work. A complex interweaving of agency that is not limited to a physical or mental construct and without intent or will gives rise to a state we call being. To a large extent this is a process of representation and we are all part of that network of interactions. We mediate and are mediated. In short, everyone is always complicit.

Sorry – that sounds like metaphysics again ;)



Simon Biggs

Research Professor
edinburgh college of art
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments
CIRCLE research group

simon at littlepig.org.uk<UrlBlockedError.aspx>
AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk

From: Gregory Ulmer <glue at ufl.edu<UrlBlockedError.aspx>>
Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au<UrlBlockedError.aspx>>
Date: Fri, 8 Jan 2010 18:04:02 -0500
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au<UrlBlockedError.aspx>>, Gregory Ulmer <glue at ufl.edu<UrlBlockedError.aspx>>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] some thoughts on complicity

Johanna Drucker wrote:
> I just don't want anyone to be excused from it.... I mean, it's like
> not an opt-out category....
Right, but the desire to opt-out, and the intuition that one ought to
disown complicity, is inherent in almost every metaphysics (the wisdom
traditions of every civilization, every apparatus expresses a feeling of
distaste for the world of experience, of embodiment itself).  Plato's
account of metempsychosis, his dualist ontology sublated into
Christianity is familiar.  This feeling achieved its clearest statement
in Western philosophy in Descartes (as I don't have to tell you):  the
cogito.  It is the fundamental philosophical problem of transcendence:
what is the relation of humans with the natural world?  There is none,
Descartes was understood to have said.   That is, Human Being is outside
of, and dominant over, material nature.  Modern philosophy has attempted
to refute that account, but the worldview persists in our contemporary
conduct.  Deleuze&Guattari's insistence on "immanence," and Deleuze's
admiration for Spinoza as "prince of philosophers," is due to the
latter's equation of God with Nature (Deus sive Natura).  The model of
being as "complicity" (as tainted) proposes that life is best lived as a
quick roundtrip (the quicker the better):  the best is never to have
been born; and second-best is  to die soon.  Modern, secularized
concerns about complicity retain an aura of these transcendental systems
(Sufi poet Rumi:  life is a tavern, and I am waiting to go home with the
one who brought me).
   Apologies for the shorthand.
To place "complicity" in this context clarifies to some extent why
ecology as politics and ethics meets so much resistance in practice:  to
think ecologically requires admission of complicity.  The motto of the
EmerAgency is "problems B us."

thanks for this conversation.
Greg Ulmer
> Johanna
> On Jan 8, 2010, at 11:38 AM, Gerry Coulter wrote:
>> Given the current state of the globalizing system of promotion --
>> no, I dont think complicit can be thought of without carrying a
>> perjorative connotation. It is precisley the perjorative connations
>> enveloping complicity that have made this discussion so interesting
>> so far ... especially inasmuch as they have been avoided
>> you wish to avoid binaries but speak of original sin?
>> hmmmmm
>> ________________________________________
>> From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au<UrlBlockedError.aspx> [empyre-
>> bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au<UrlBlockedError.aspx>] On Behalf Of Johanna Drucker
>> [drucker at gseis.ucla.edu<UrlBlockedError.aspx>]
>> Sent: January 8, 2010 1:04 PM
>> To: soft_skinned_space
>> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] some thoughts on complicity
>> I wonder if it is possible to keep complicit from carrying a
>> pejorative connotation? I meant for it to be a description, not a
>> judgment, that exposes the inevitable condition of participation in
>> cultural conditions as the place from which we each think, work,
>> write, live. I'm not a religious person, but in a way, this is
>> equivalent to acknowledging a form of original sin in cultural terms
>> -- that we are all always part of the conditions we survey. Does that
>> make sense? I'm trying to avoid binarisms that might spring up by
>> putting complicit on one side of a value judgement, that's all.
>> Johanna
>> _______________________________________________
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*Gregory L. Ulmer*
 University of Florida

empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au<UrlBlockedError.aspx>

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

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