acceleration, code, light, metaphysics, spirit

Notes towards a Metaphysics of Light

Alchemy-2012-07-13-11-34-38 (work in progress) Neil Nieuwoudt 2012

Every tool carries with it the spirit by which it has been created. (Heisenberg)

I would like to think light as the dynamic interval between events, as a kind of singular tension between time and space, determining in the last instance both the simultaneity of the event as well as the order of succession for chains of causal relations. Light as the luminous matrix of the substrate and the glare of its utter annihilation; as the divergence of the world and the immolation of empty time; as the only term which could bridge these mutually-incomprehensible infinities — the future, the cosmos. What is it to think the photon as ontological fundament, light-like intervals as the atomic relata of eventful worlds?

For phenomenology, consciousness is the “light” in which light itself becomes visible; so from the outset we must carefully distinguish between virtual and actual light, eventuation and ideation — differentiation or diffraction of null space and repetition or refraction of empty time. The phenomenological photon can be determined through a very precise axiom: light is the term which renders intervals of space and durations of time mutually comprehensible in absolute motion. How to think this pure life at the unreachable speed of the photon, asymptote of velocity itself?

Light, then, in both senses at once: information and data, mind and matter, event and subject. The momentary madness of the act; and the perpetual motion of the waves which erase its traces. Light, then, precisely as it emerges from or falls back into space and time. The decoding of illumination as it opens onto the future, time, the world. What is needed is a new prism, a transoptical machine for calculating the conditions for the crystalline explosion of luminous impulses. We have a rainbow series of colors organized by wavelength; but what is needed is pure white light,  differential mixture of all possible values of light, simultaneously resonating with every element of the series.

An event risks being misunderstood as an actual extraordinary point. On the one hand there there are nevertheless certainly extraordinary points which fail to become actual; but there are also certain (series of) lines which develop in singular ways that evade being identifiable with punctuation, with the syntax of history. Alien symbolic matrices, foreign ontological foundations; the event is the intrusion of another scale, leakily-abstracted inter- or infrastructure, a message from an unexpected outside or inside demanding a radically foreign coding and decoding system. A new language, a new subject; but also a de-languaging, a de-subjectivation, de-individuation; in this passage to the ontological limit, the individuated subject risks being compromised by alien memories. Becoming-everything, becoming-imperceptible: the event in this sense denotes a strategic methodology for suturing reality to its outside. The spirit of an evental metaphysics is a being ontologically ‘harassed’ — compelled to differentiate the world from itself without separation or subtraction, in a manner marked by secrecy, darkness and a kind of espionage on behalf of the radical outside.

Such an integrated nodal point-subject submits all too readily to certain utterly inhuman (animal, vegetal, cosmic) relationships to the inhuman; just as it cannot resist certain ‘voidic’ ontological vortexes which engulf the structuring matrix it adheres to.What is the structure of the subject or the world — these self-interrupting, simultaneously virtual, semiotic and biological vectors; these cosmos-machines at once psychic, social and physical? Is it not the case that assemblages become visible, comprehensible in the last instance, only by way of universal history, by way of the experimental mutations of the collective assemblages of enunciation which give rise to discourses and disciplines? The structure of the subject is luminous and territorial, an intensive and topologically indeterminate zone of proximities which has to be mapped anew in each instance. (Thus the paradoxical demand upon the analyst that she generate an effective cartography of a world which isn’t there, populated by people who don’t exist yet.) The structure of a world is irreducible and opaque, a matter of intensive transversality.

To have a world is always already to be madly on the run across it, hunted for simply existing, unless perhaps… –Unless perhaps one is a spirit, or a body of light; unless perhaps I am not this body; unless I am no longer the speaker which says “I”; unless perhaps I am not here at this very moment in this text as it is being written. –Light, glare is also disappearance, traversal to the limit of perceptibility; or subtraction via the intensive reduction or n-1, the erasure of all traces of the subjectile — so that it no longer matters whether one is or is not stuttering along the ego, parroting “I-I-I…”; since at least we have pushed language to an external edge, to its (e.g.) musical or animal limit; we have made failure impossible and succeeded, even (and perhaps especially) if we fall back into triangulation. –The mediation of fantasy, the commercial, bureaucratic, familial reductions of desire in psychoanalysis, reflect a generalized and even globally-extended process of subjectivation, integrated at all costs, however intolerable or mad, into local regimes of semiotic and virtual exchange.

The node already participates with the darkness that permeates the network; every node is a ‘terminal’ point, a vector between the system and the world and between the system and itself — at once the flow and its interruption, the channel and its subversion. This dual differentiation permits the network-system to exist as an irreducibly generative assemblage — which is to say, neither individual or collective (both of which collapse to an individuated matrix in the last instance.) The question of the exploit is therefore primary, the essential matter of worldic, evental and subjectile effectivity and generativity. Power, or voidic and plastic generativity, discovers an infinite deferral of its own origin in this productive assembly which establishes functional inter-relationships between one or several war machines. The generativity of the collective assemblage exceeds its effectivity, it becomes expressive of modalities of existence, when permitted to establish uncertain communications channels with alien machines (with potentially wildly divergent and even mutating universes of reference and value.) The molar subject — that ‘healthy’ consciousness or prepossessed self-awareness of innately-political beings, robust with respect to some permutability of external reality and its own substrate (in other words possessing a unity of identity and differentiation of self-representation and reflected image; the capacity for deception, secrecy, falsehood, “hollowness”) — this psychic effectivity of identity can perhaps be considered as an external agency, one which establishes a kind of universal exchange between various systems of meaning.

Light, or this labyrinth leading to the black heart of the death-drive; a parasite which interrupts the flow of unconscious desire, transcoding it into a series of signifying chains, muffling the articulation of fragmentary collective enunciations. Thought and language reach towards their others and outsides in order to escape syntagmatic isolation or pragmatic identifiability — towards music, silence; towards that infinite speed of thought which manages to discover a way outside the territory. We cannot “think” the disaster, the fragmentariness of the substrate, just as we cannot think our own deaths — at least, not without paying what is perhaps the most dangerous cost exacted by a thought: the risk of the collapse of ontological coordinates or foundations, of infection by mutant or even alien universes of reference. Thinking the disaster is impossible without this risk of breaking, halting, becoming-frozen; of a radical trauma beyond reintegration. A hideous arresting of individuation; a new silence, coldness, darkness: the break risks leaving us “beyond thinking and feeling” (optical nerves burned out, ear drums ruptured.) Perceptions themselves even risk becoming ‘infested’ by alien continuities. In short: we risk no longer being able to trust the ground, the weight of things. A strange coldness and indifference radiates from the paradox, the disaster, the break; it coincides with the invasion of an alter-subject which cannot be reintegrated. An enemy within which doesn’t coincide with another personality, but a radically independent and ontologically-disruptive line of free variation which depersonalizes and distorts perceptual semiologies.

Joshua Kirch, “Concentricity” (Interactive Light Sculpture Series)

assemblage, becoming, code, differentiation, disorder, escape, grammar, heresy, language, Nietzsche, structure, virus


Hypermediation. What is a statement? But the problem is already determining the singular projection of the statement onto life: both to identify the variously formed matters contained within it, with each of their constituent speeds and trajectories; but also the strata which capture and isolate (or ramify and merge) these intensities through one another. A statement is attached to productive networks which run throughout society; it is an auto-projection of the truth of society onto itself, which is perhaps to say the power of the false characteristic of a time.

Power induces, but also overflows and overdetermines the statement. The formations of power are composed of segmented, modular processes resembling and indeed modeled on the ‘rational ordered liberty’ which statements engender. The  statement surveys power itself as the structuring concept for philosophy, science and politics. Yet the productive networks negotiate the statement via a complex assemblage of enunciations in an asignifying and seamless process to which no subject may be attributed. The revolutionary potential of a statement can never be said to have been completely annihilated. Furthermore, this constituent impossibility of attribution which characterizes the statement can also be seen in the way it forms a projection of the social landscape as if from any position whatsoever — or from no position at all.
abstract machine, antiproduction, body, code, diagram, diagrammatics, flux, idea, language, model, ontology, parasite, process, symbol, text



It is impossible to conceive the assemblage of a scientific experiment apart from a field that generates plans and topological, mathematical, axiomatic and computational descriptions. But sign-machines can function equally well directly within material and social machines without the mediation of significant processes of subjectivation, something which has become more obvious each passing day. The fact that the common essence of semiotic machines and material or social machines proceeds from the same type of abstract machine is the decisive step we must take in order to found a political pragmatics on something other than good intentions.

Felix Guattari, L’Inconscient machinique: essais de schizo-analyse. Paris: Editions Recherche, 1979. p. 67.

That we underestimate machines is an understatement. Human language itself is a code which produces codes, hence an always already over-coded decoding — and the decoding processes, for their part, go as far as you like. Let us be cautious, then, and attempt to linger for a moment on the side of the symbolic. Every discourse, every instance of language, every explicit “saying” — is also implicitly a kind of abstract program. A program gives us in turn the language in which that program is expressed — and also in which completely new programs can be expressed. Finally, every text also contains an irreducible element of pure ontology, thereby encoding — between the lines — the very principles for organizing discourse itself. Whichever metaphor obscurely prefigures the communicative passage, tracing these interdependent “resemblances,” or “differential” networks of “abstract” models, (or even “ethico-spiritual” traces of traces) necessarily takes us on an adventure outside of the text — but mysteriously or ironically, always into other kinds of texts! This infinite indeterminacy — or antiproductive rupture — is the basis of a “parasitic” logic, the logic of interruption, inequality, a constitutive non-determination.

Hence, in addition to these four distinct but interwoven layers or aspects co-existing in even the shortest text — indeed in a single word — it seems we must also suppose some pre-logical flux of intensity, a matrix of differences, in which these varying aspects would themselves become locally codified and relatively grounded. A diagram needs a space in which to be built and materials from which to be constructed; ideas needs relational fields in which they realize themselves sensibly and and dramatize their “break” into reality to one another — how, why and where they fall to their death onto the depths of bodies — but even this as though organically or by divine judgment. Bodies break the recursive cycle of language through the intervention of a partial object (programmer-parasite.) The parasite, the cold body sucking the warmth, writes new programs, and in doing so inevitably scrambles the meanings of the old instructions. The parasite is ontological rupture or antiproduction, phenomenological transduction — its work, grounding relation, is itself grounded only by an act of invention, translation, dramatization. Grounded in metaphor, in a productive diagram, in an abstract machine. Or, in other words: the parasite, whose provisional ground or counter-network is the minimal subject of the abstract machine, guarantees the consistency of the abstract programs’ specific productive diagram simultaneously as (1) a single variation, which is also (2) a model for variations; yet this is model is at once a (3) variable language of models, as well as the (4) machinic meta-ontology pragmatically governing the organizational principles of languages themselves.

abstract machine, code, Cognition, diagram, difference, energy, entropy, identity, knowledge, learning, memory, problem, structure, Thought, unconscious, wittgenstein

On Learning


One way of approaching the difference between knowledge and learning (so profound in our opinion that, despite their entanglement, there can be postulated neither a material nor conceptual ground which could ever serve to unify them) is by considering that even while wholly disparate, they are not in the least opposed for that reason. To learn and to know are two divergent operations, contrapositive dynamisms, which are nevertheless always both active simultaneously, as the “cutting edges” or ungrounding machines of cognition. A thought is grounded not in abstract oppositions, but in concrete forces traversing real problematic fields.

Knowledge is classically represented as a heterogeneous assemblage — our minds are far too imperfect to clearly perceive the pure, homogeneous Truth — which is self-totalizing and self-regulated by an internal learning process, charged with traversing its own experiences (as they are represented and reactivated as memories of varying intensities.) In this sense, abstract oppositions emerge only as variables of these mixed compositions of energetic and entropic flows. This is the illusion of hyper-diagrammatism (implying a kind of super-diagram of “all” thought.) We must try and see that thought isn’t about models and copies, not about identity and ideology — but rather about lines along which interminglings are operative, as though “between” concrete and abstract flows of energy — food for words, money for sex, death for love, virtue for pain, and on and on…

What is produced in this process of establishing communication between incommensurable problematic fields — or learning — should certainly not be characterized as a pure memory, but rather a decentralized and a-subjective cognitive process. “Thought” is not the difference between learning and knowledge, but rather an abstract machine which underlies them while nevertheless separating them, almost as though by an absolute divergence. Learning fights dullness and emptiness with lightning and fire, mortally threatening the stasis and death of “serious knowledge,” which would otherwise totally consume the brave and fiery heart of discovery. So let’s stop asking what “knowledge” and “learning” mean in themselves (and trying to ‘deduce’ the ‘difference’ — and thereby, most likely, only serving to overcode it by an all-too-serious line of death); let’s rather ask: how do these operations work?
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abstract machine, assemblage, becoming, code, cosmos, diagram, God, intensity, language, molecular, segmentarity, semiotics, sign, subject, truth



“Regimes of signs are not based on language, and language alone does not constitute an abstract machine, whether structural or generative. The opposite is the case. It is language that is based on regimes of signs, and regimes of signs on abstract machines, diagrammatic functions and machinic assemblages that go beyond any system of semiology, linguistics or not. There is no universal propositional logic, nor is there grammaticality in itself, any more than there is signifiance for itself. “Behind” statements and semioticizations there are only machines, assemblages and movements of deterritorialization that cut across the stratification of the various systems and elude both the coordinates of language and of existence…

A Thousand Plateaus 148

The world is segmented, stratified, breaking or already broken-up: what happened, what is happening? What crosses over, releasing free, untamed intensities as it travels along the intermediary zones? What is it which is just now passing through — beyond, behind, between — these lines? How do these lines — and always bundles of lines, fibres — work? A question of codes, partitions, signal-sign networks: are these lines of forced motion (interpretation) or rather lines of free variation (experimentation)? “The mixed semiotic of signifiance and subjectification has an exceptional need to be protected from any intrusion from the outside.” (ATP 179) A single expressive substance precludes the development of nomadic machines — truth, God, the Earth, are not “allowed” to have an outside! Do we think we understand this “allowed”? What happened? But already in order to translate we must achieve an expressive unification, yet this by no means guarantees that the language we thus arrive at conveys a message: “You will never know what just happened, or you will always know what is going to happen…” (ATP 193)

All becoming are molecular — not objects or forms easily recognized from science, habit or experiences — and in this sense “unknowable,” at least from the outside. Are human beings the same way? Is there no relation of resemblance between the woman and becoming-woman, the child and becoming-child? “All we are saying is that these in-dissociable aspects of becoming-woman must first be understood as a function of something else: not imitating or assuming the female form, but emitting particles that enter the relation of movement and rest, or the zone of proximity, of a micro-femininity, in other words, that produce in us a molecular woman…” (ATP 275) The question is not about representing a woman, producing an accurate imitation of a particular molecular multiplicity — but of making something that has to do with that multiplicity enter into composition with the speeds of the image. In becoming we discover our own proximity to the molecular: “That is the essential point for us: you become-animal only if, by whatever means or elements, you emit corpuscles that enter the relation of movement and rest of the animal particles, or what amounts to the same thing, that enter the zone of proximity of the animal molecule.” (275)

Can we “make” the world a becoming? Only if we reduce ourselves to “one or several” abstract lines can we find our own proximities, our own zones of indiscernibility; that is, our own passageway to a becoming-everywhere, a becoming-everybody: “The Cosmos as an abstract machine, and each world as an assemblage effectuating it.” (ATP 280) Eliminate everything exceeding this moment; but don’t forget to include within the moment everything which it includes in its turn. We ourselves slip into the moment, which slips transparently into the impersonal, the indiscernible. “One is then like grass: one has made the world, everybody/everything, into a becoming, because one has made a necessarily communicating world, because one has suppressed in oneself everything that prevents us from slipping between things and growing in the midst of things… Saturate, eliminate, put everything in.” (ATP 280)

algorithm, apparatus of capture, authority, biopolitics, call for papers, code, control, cybernetics, desiring machines, einstein, ethics, humanity, language, media, metaphysics, technology

Thinking Cybernetics

(Matt Dixon)

Thinking Cybernetics:
Mapping the Intersections between Metaphysics, Technology, Biopolitics

(abstract for panel)

The purpose of this panel is to gather together ideas, perspectives, and questions from a diverse variety of thinkers and disciplines relating to the theory and practice of cybernetics. Our goal is to raise a series of critical questions concerning the intersection between biopolitics, metaphysics, and technology.

While each paper is devoted to a specific author or authors and is generally focused on a particular theme or aspect of cybernetics, all of us in some way are arguing for a larger transformation of philosophical, political, social, and technological categories. There are many urgent questions posed by cybernetics; and moreover, its development has so far tended to furnish many other fields of investigation with new tools for studying new problems. As St-Exupery wrote in 1939: “The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature, but plunges him more deeply into them.” What does philosophy have to tell us today about our relationship to technology? What does cybernetics imply for metaphysics, ethics and epistemology — or even for the future of writing?
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code, decode, encode, flusser, gaze, image, metacode, photography, significance, surface, textuality

Notes on Vilém Flusser’s Philosophy of Photography: Chapter 1, the Image

Goraczka, Tomasz Setowski

Images are significant surfaces. This means that images signify, as well as make comprehensible as an abstraction, “something ‘out there’.” Images are reduced from “four dimensions of space and time” to “two surface dimensions.” (8)

Imagination is this specific ability to abstract surfaces out of space and time and to project them back into space and time. Imagination is the precondition for producing and decoding images. “The ability to encode phenomena into two-dimensional symbols and to read these symbols.” (8)

The significance of images is on the surface. A single glance remains superficial and doesn’t reconstruct the abstracted dimensions. One has to “allow one’s gaze to wander over the surface feeling the way as one goes” in order to enhance and deepen the significance. The path the gaze follows is “complex” and formed by the “structure of the image” and the “observer’s intentions.” (8) This is called ‘scanning’ and reveals the significance of the image. Therefore, it is a kind of synthesis between the intention manifested in the image and the intention belonging to the observer.

Images are not ‘denotative’ (unambiguous) complexes of symbols (like numbers, for example) but ‘connotative’ (ambiguous) complexes of symbols. Images provide space for interpretation. The space reconstructed by scanning is the space of mutual significance. The gaze produces specific relations between elements of the image. Scanning is thus a kind of eternal return: the gaze “can return to an element of the image it has already seen, and ‘before’ can come ‘after: the time reconstructed by scanning is an eternal recurrence of the same process.” (9)
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