[-empyre-] Meillassoux / Harman

Simon Biggs simon at littlepig.org.uk
Wed Jun 27 17:59:37 EST 2012

Hi Ian

Maybe I'm a little old, but 10 to 15 years seems, in terms of human thought, extremely recent. I have read some OOO texts though, during that short period of time. I've also had a little time to digest Kosuth's work, since it was made forty odd years ago. In retrospect his chairs might seem a simplistic reading of semiotics but I'd argue there is more to them than that. They're not just about signs and signifiers but also mediality, sociality and the performative. In the 1960's not many artists were addressing those issues.

I'm not sure what you are trying to suggest about popularity, or the value of a lack of it. Seems to me that OOO is popular - even fashionable, like the new aesthetic. I can also see links in OOO to Latour, although more so to Heidegger. Perhaps it is a non-phenomenologist's take on Heidegger? Whatever, it isn't fuzzy. Are things that simple? Can we assume there is some kind of residual and irreducible thinginess in things? A toaster can be an octopus - and whatever it might be, from moment to moment, it is rarely a toaster.



On 27 Jun 2012, at 00:34, Ian Bogost wrote:

> On Jun 26, 2012, at 3:01 AM, Simon Biggs wrote:
>> But Kosuth's chair engaged the simulacra - it addressed conventional notions of the real as not sustainable. Kosuth's chair is an equivocal chair, a fuzzy chair, all types of chair - and never a chair. It's a conundrum, and that was the point.
> Kosuth's One and Three Chairs is about language, about semiotics. Like everything else has been, for so long. The fact that there are chairs, and there are photographs, and there are words—this is what interests me. The fact that conceptual artists can play pranks on the rich benefactors of museums and galleries is not very interesting to me. It's too bad, because when enacted, One and Three Chairs actually DOES begin to draw our attention to things in an appealing way. But not because the real is unsustainable. Rather, because the real is, well, real.
>> I admit I've not read much about OOO and am yet to be convinced it is worth the effort. I've never been an early adopter - prefer to see the bugs ironed out of things, at least for one cycle, before buying the gizmo in question (and I'm mean with my money, so most often I never buy).
> Harman has been writing under the shingle "object-oriented philosophy" since 1999. His first systematic take, the book Tool-Being, was published in 2002. That's a decade ago. Countless other books and articles on and peripheral to OOO have been published in the intervening time. Like it or not, his work and that of others has had an impact on many fields, even if particularly in recent years. 
> If you aren't interested, fine. If you don't want to do the work, fine. But own up to it. Otherwise, it is too tempting to conclude that you wish only to adopt the ideas that prove popular, that become fungible among the same communities for the same purposes.
>> My initial apprehension of OOO is that it doesn't seek to address the ontology of things as things but their relationships with one another.
> This is precisely the opposite of the main contention of OOO, which holds that something is always left over in things, not used up in their relations. It also addresses, in various and sometimes conflicting ways among its proponents, how things can possibly relate given this basic fact.  
>> The downside of OOO though is that it doesn't seem very fuzzy. I like fuzzy things. They are soft. I also don't like black boxes - and OOO, by its nature, will create black boxes (which brings us back to Plato - damn!).
> OOO rejects the idealism of Plato (it's more like Aristotle, another tragically unpopular figure)—you won't find universal forms in OOO, nor even universal properties, or what Whitehead sometimes calls eternal objects. You're right though that OOO embraces the black box, just as Heidegger and Latour do, in different ways.
> In any case, I think we've really hit on what's really going on here. OOO is threatening to many popular theories of art, culture, identity, politics, and so forth because it holds that a toaster is not an octopus. Somehow, we got so turned around in the last half-century, that we decided that a toaster not being an octopus is oppressive and dangerous. This is a fascinating lesson for me and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. I'll have to consider it further.
> Ian
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Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk http://www.littlepig.org.uk/ @SimonBiggsUK skype: simonbiggsuk

s.biggs at ed.ac.uk Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh
http://www.eca.ac.uk/circle/ http://www.elmcip.net/ http://www.movingtargets.co.uk/

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