[-empyre-] Week 2? What is Dystopia, Really?

Eric Charlton echarlton at allegheny.edu
Sat May 23 02:05:36 AEST 2020

As I have been working towards making time to write a response to this
conversation, I was struck by the irony of finding time to keep up on a
conversation about trying to figure out how to slow down. The sort of
absurdity loop that is often a catalyst for my work, and this conversation
has touched on. It is difficult for me to express the value and to validate
slowness. I understand it viscerally, but the lexicon of the efficiency
economy does not seem to lend itself to equating slowness and success. I
would include other passive actions such as listening and considerate
reaction as undervalued as well. As much as I want to suggest a wholesale
denial of the economy of efficiency, to commit to that act as an individual
is unhelpful communally, and if it were to happen on a larger scale, far
too violent and destructive for me to imagine fully. Also, this economy of
efficiency is not all bad. It has been implemented without consideration,
or, more optimistically, the results that manifest from implementation lead
to unexpected inequality and violence. From this point, I want to address
Alex’s questions, and dip my toe into the area of profane illuminations,
which may be a solid foundation for a strange system of a slow-topia.

Any progress, concerning the ideas we are putting forth, has to be, in
part, founded on the idea of empowering those absorbed by the black box of
this system without choice. Social media as a whole feels like a place
where that promise was made and poorly executed. What was promoted as a
place for anyone to share themselves, has been shifted into a bizzarro
reflection of society where outrage is currency. Perhaps, we can transform
the current state of our interactions with social media. How can social
media move from a cacophony of the individual into a unified voice?
Moreover, how can that unified voice genuinely represent the unique
strengths of each individual? This is one of the segments of a strange
system where a lot of potential energy seems to just burst into entropy. Or
any sort of communal use, such as the famous example of how Facebook was
used during the Arab Spring, is isolated, patched, updated out or adapted,
and weaponized against future similar uses.

As for progress from the funnel cloud, the only thing I can think of is
learning to make things with the dust so we can divert or co-opt the power
of the tornadic forward plunge. I feel like combining this desire with your
other question, Alex may be a way to find a path in a direction that we may
find collectively beneficial. The question then is, how can slow-topias
empower the subsumed individuals to discover a communal method of movement
from the destructive storm of perpetual growth efficiency economy?

The call for small and slow, reminded me of Timothy Morton’s idea of
subscendence, in short, the disruption of the idea that the whole is
greater than the sum of its parts and insertion of the idea that the parts
are more complex, not necessarily greater, than the whole. In conjunction
with the questions posed, this idea offers a glimmer of hope that each
individual who takes part in the system, has at the very least, the
potential to incite a powerful shift in ideals. Additionally, through the
principle of subscendence those who have access must crack open the black
boxes to see the intricacies of the parts, and disseminate the information
for others to explore.

One method of subscendent manipulation that would have extraordinary
consequences is to shift how words are defined. By reconfiguring the
concept of success to include the notion of more passive actions, the
slowness would creep into the collective consciousness. While it would be a
long process, the idea of changing the mentality of the efficiency economy
overnight seems antithetical to the ideals of slowness. I suppose, with
this example, the slow-topia becomes a sort of manifesto of considerate
action for change.

Alex, I enjoy your ending on a hopeful note, and I would like to do the
same. Yesterday, I was alerted to NASA’s discovery of evidence pointing
towards the existence of ‘exotic physics,’ or an explanation outside the
standard model. This was, of course, blown out of proportion and touted as
the discovery of a parallel universe where time runs backward, but later
other sources reeled in the story a bit. My understanding of this
phenomenon is cursory at best, neutrinos coming from where they shouldn’t.
Still, it does give me a sense of peace in the cosmic neutrality of the
multiverse, the embrace of the vast, uncontrollable uncaring arms of the
silent chaos of it all. While this is tangential from the conversation, I
do find it that this sort of reminder of the vastness of the unknown
unknowns helps me grasp the importance of slowing down.

On Wed, May 20, 2020 at 12:07 PM Alex Young <info at worldshaving.info> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Craig and Eric, I think this discussion is pulling in some interesting
> directions. However, sadly, the demands of the day are pulling me away...
> So, I just wanted to propose a few questions that are hopefully not too
> pontifical?
> Without getting too circular, I wonder if by making strange the
> strangeness of an inherited infrastructure—lurking somewhere behind a
> dazzle of appearances—that props up an insulated reality of ‘blackbboxed
> platform capitalism’ we are not explicitly speaking of empowering those
> that are alien or lost in subsumption to it?
> Whether by design or some manner of monstrous unwitting kludge it would be
> difficult to discount the idea that there is some form of intent verging on
> teleology that has shaped the networks in question, even if the vehicle of
> that intent is beyond individual reason as something more memetic and
> acephalous. What is a teleology if not a succession of acts of further and
> further estrangement? In moving myopically forward, there is a left behind.
> How might we simultaneously resist the breakneck speed of present systems
> (toward slow _topias) and manifest an urgent realization of equitability
> for all who have been cast off, neglected, buried, villainized, etc. both
> human and other-than-human? How do we move—each and all—collectively onward
> after a prolonged funnel cloud-like rampage of moving forward?
> While the shadows cast by those powerful entities driving toward unending
> growth blanket us with an apparent paucity of options: an end or exit is
> ultimately inevitable… but on whose terms?  Today, I awoke to a glimmer of
> ‘hope’ upon seeing a friend had shared a link to Out of the Woods
> Collective’s new publication *Hope Against Hope *was immediately drawn to
> their notion of ‘disaster communism’—as outlined in its synopsis: “the
> collective power to transform our future political horizons from the ruins
> and establish a climate future based in common life.”
> Fodder for coming ruderal _topia(s), I am sure.
> -Alex
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Eric D. Charlton, MFA
Instructor and 3D Technical Specialist

Allegheny College
Department of Art
520 N. Main St.
Meadville, PA 16335

Pronouns: he/him/his
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