Four Birds Mixed media on paper (Catheryn Austen)
Openness only comes in the imperceptible recesses of infection: A faceless love. (Reza Negarestani)
Michel Serres never fails to remind us of something simple and indispensable. It is that all relationships are founded upon noise. In the beginning, there is noise, not silence. Even the simplest words arrive much later; and, at any rate, our words are still noise. The din and clamor of the many is sometimes frightful; and Serres’ work can be singularly terrifying. But Serres’ reminder is highly rational, even a joyful reconsecration of science.
Serres delights in showing us old meanings of new words, and vice versa; but it particularly to this word, noise, and its French cognate, parasite, that he gives unique expressivity and sonorousness. One of the primary meanings of noise in his work is chaos: the pure multiplicity behind things, without any pre-existing order or organization. All our knowledge is an organization of unorganized noise; noise is being-in-itself. In this context noise can also mean static, a cross-signal or lawless irruption, witnessed in the chaotic permutations introduced by chance into a flow of information, perhaps even from another physical system entirely. Static can also mean stationary, the white noise which persists even in the stillness of non-existence: in this sense noise also stands for the ever-present background noise, the racket and din of human and inhuman machines, over which it is often necessary to speak loudly in order to make oneself heard. Noise means that no system is without turbulence for very long, that there is always chaos, multiplicity and deviation; in short, there is always a parasite, always background noise, always depth and darkness beyond order and disorder. No system is an island, without relations, above the sea; but there are islands of ordered relations upon an ocean of noise. The universe is turbulence, but — and this is the strange and subtle turn — the converse is not true: turbulence is not universal, but local. It is absolute and relative at once: the violent sea becomes calm, a top falls, an earthquake ends. Still there are always larger forces, larger closed systems tumbling into chaos. Every system is an image of a system free from turbulence, an abstract or virtual composition. But reality is always chaotic, always in minimal deviation from every possible model: everything is in motion; everything falls.
An infinite multiplicity of divergent forces in motion, turbulence as the inner being or struggle for a deeper order to become actual: we begin to get a picture of Serres’ trembling, self-organizing world. In many ways we are somewhere not far from Deleuze; the similarity in some ways is quite plain: they share an undying passion for creation (of concepts) and convergence (of disciplines); they both evoke “strange” or overlooked but profound continuities between the present and the past; finally, they share a deep-rooted curiousity for minor expressivities, for hidden multiplicities, and for indeterminacy.
Recently I have discovered a wonderful Iranian theorist named Reza Negarestani whose work ought be discussed more often. Negarestani continues the cryptogenesis of Deleuze and Guattari, and much like Michel Serres he is quite spontaneously poetic even at his most intensely personal. Like all of them he speaks an eccentric language, or maybe it is just an untimely language. At any rate, Negarestani studies a dizzying variety of subjects: “Subsurface Political Geography; Surface Globalization; Underground Facilities and Chthonic Militarization; Archeology as the Science of Military Education in 21st Century; Tora Bora and the Cappadocian Complex; Worm Factor; Middle Eastern Necropolises and Underground Nuclear Facilities; Petropolitics, Guerilla-states and Architecture of Holes; Videogame Rhetoric and Memory as the Models of Alien Incursion; Poromechanics of War.” (From his website.)
He also has written a number of articles which are available online at Cold Me . One of these that I particularly enjoyed was “A Good Meal,” where (among many other things) Negarestani writes that during Deleuze’s investigation of becoming-woman, he (Deleuze) misses out on the properly parasitic or viral moment in the process, that is to say: the moment of return where the process of becoming-animal, becoming-intense, becoming-imperceptible establishes a ground which it can use to turn against itself, and become affirmatively engaged in this strategic negation, the return to zero. Thus we should not follow lines of flight all the way to a “point of destruction” but rather just to a “mutating and compositional mess,” an “exhumed architecture.”
It’s a very interesting point, but I’m not sure he’s completely right. However, Negarestani may be able to legitimately get away with this, because he just asserts that Deleuze forgets this; that is, he doesn’t mention Guattari! His point is that Deleuze becomes anonymous in the process of becoming-animal, becoming-intense, becoming-imperceptible, but he does not become external, he does not travel to Poe’s “outer darkness.” Maybe, I’m unconvinced. At least in terms of A Thousand Plateaus, the concept of machinic assemblages (likely largely inspired by Guattari) is quite critical to D+G’s project. Also consider the importance in other sections (specifically to double-articulation, the formation of holey space, and individuation) of counter-evolutionary parasites. Deleuze himself certainly reaches the level of the necro-depth, the permutational inhuman abyss in his own fashion; and no doubt Guattari has reached it by another way with the machinic unconscious. And it is also no accident that these two concepts offer key handles for A Thousand Plateaus. They’re critical turning points in our understanding of the way we must strategically engage new experiments, in what way we must undertake new becomings. Is Negarestani really going beyond Deleuze and Guattari here, what is he really saying?
For Negarestani becoming-woman is also not just a model. Like Deleuze and Guattari he claims becoming-woman involves a return to the “fibroproliferative unground” that allows us to begin a project of strategic affirmation of any becoming whatsoever: becoming-woman, becoming-child, but also even other, stranger becomings: becomings-machine, becomings-molecular, becomings-cosmic. Even Deleuze points out, that becoming-woman is the first becoming, the depth and darkness from which all the others emerge. Similarly, Negarestani writes of the ‘Mother of Abominations,’ the horrific black origin of multiplicity and pestilence:
She is the blackening Mother who ruthlessly opens up (epidemic lines, contaminations, contagious machineries, alliances, etc.) … through a strategic epidemic which is nothing but the ungrounding depths of openness, openness as the plague. [Cata, Remarks on Depth and Darkness]
This depth and darkness figure largely in Negarestani’s work; his treatment connects up well with Deleuze’s discussion of a dark precursor of deterritorialization. The very establishment of a ground for the processes of becoming is already a precursor of its ‘ungrounding’ by the same forces, it’s laceration, its being sliced open. Negarestani’s concept of the unground is at least partly a weapon against the Heideggerean ground, it is not a form but “fibroproliferative,” it is used to turn the tide against the process of territorialization.
He offers an analysis of the ancient Persian Satanists in order to illustrate his idea of an unground. These Satanists discovered they had to think strategically about darkness. In order to truly affirm Satan, they needed to lure his wrath by strategically make themselves targets. In order to make good meals for Satan, they had to purify themselves, to become decoys. In short, you have to “take a quotidian and in the same degree extremely systematic and institutionalized life as your own life-style (living), [you] both physically and mentally attempt to be away from defilement.” Negarestani is quick to point out that these are not nihilist-Satanists, like their modern Western counterparts. Rather, by becoming good meals they release themselves to Satanic ecstasy; they summon Satan through Asiatic peace, through pure horror. It is only in this way that:
“[Y]ou strategically lure the life-Satan to tear you to shreds; in this case, the intensity of life-Satan you experience is unthinkable … you become an unground to all defilements, horrors, and darkness which life-satan pours into the systems and organizations. According to Yazidian, the Satan, always lands on those who live and we must live (in the most organizational aspect of this process) to affirm such a catastrophic intensity of upheaval. It’s war and we must think both strategically and pestilentially. Now, you see the irony of the food chain which traverses not only theism, but also liberal politics, and socio-political survivals, angelic wings, etc. Every yang you drop in your pocket means accumulating more excitation for the life-satan.” (Reza Negarestani, A Good Meal)
He turns a will to live into a will to catastrophe: Serres’ angels’ wings turn black, and solid-state liberal politics turn on themselves, begin to demand their own turbulent ungrounding. Negarestani is definitely no less militant than Deleuze or Guattari, maybe he is even a little more ‘inhuman,’ a little more difficult to affirm. But I think he reminds me most of Michel Serres, — but perhaps Negarestani is even a little further out in the penumbra, a little more terrifying, though certainly no less penetrating. Negarestani is diagramming the abyss, exploring how epidemics are triggered from death and decay, how plagues howl through positive milieus, infecting nocturnal spaces of affirmation.
Depth, this pandemonium of compositions, movements and chromatism, through which one performs the darkness. The hunger for discovery and finding something in and through depth, even a monstrosity, is a dramatic attempt to reach a grotesque sublimity; in depth, only blindness awaits. (Reza Negarestani, Cata-: Remarks on Depth and Darkness)
see the recent work by achille mbembe on waste and waste populations summarised at http://jhbwtc.blogspot.com/2009/07/variations-on-waste.html -this may resonate with negarestanis observations on abjection as a social strategy
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I just found this wonderful post and I’m struck by the similarities to my talk at the Negarestani symposium! Serres, noise…I even share your love of explodingdog and included an image in my slide presentation. Wild network-think!
Just in passing — this was actually written significantly before Cyclonopedia. I’d definitely be interested in discussing this further with you; and if you like I’d love to take a look at that deck, sounds pretty great!
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Reblogged this on noir realism and commented:
Joseph Weissman on Fractal Ontology has found Negarestani and I think it is and exciting piece… it’s good to see Reza’s work out there on the web again after much of the troubles he’s had along the way in his homeland….
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