Catherine Malabou has created a meticulous and profound new concept of the brain. Malabou analyses the functions which neuroscience has discovered, conducting a contemporary synthesis of neuroplasticity, crystallizing a new concept which acts as a curious new abstract machine with many parts. She names this concept plasticity after the plastic multiplicity of the brain; and one component of this concept expresses the brain’s power to learn and to heal, and even to reconfigure itself. Another component is transdifferentiation, or the power of life to remake and refold itself: the capability of certain (pluripotent, totipotent) cellular organisms to unfold into some or many other kinds of cells.
Sorcery. What is the limit of what a noise can do? A certain noise means extinction for almost all regimes — not only of signs; it is an explosion of intensity or desire which renders the channel inert, background. Semiotosis. Sonority refusing to yield a signal: noise induces a traversal of infinite depths which bursts the strata into pieces, rupturing the semiotic-discursive chains. Noise is also a pure becoming, the becoming-sonorous of an incorporeal field of virtuality. The elements of one or several assemblages are caused to pass into one another, initiating “unnatural” pairings. Noise is the friction, resistance of the assemblage against itself; it always already struggles with a tendency or power which means to control the channel and recode the outburst. The becoming-musical of noise is another development of this problem and involves inducing vorticial structures — establishing rhythms to respond to chaos, refrains to respond to the finitude of the strata. This is perhaps why music introduces us forcefully and as it were intimately to sorcery, direct contact with the Outside, and the annihilation of the judgment of God; refrains and rhythms awaken nomads and their warmachines.
Sorcery is an applied ontology of the depths, the extrusion of a probehead into the sub-depths of being — what passes beneath ontology, what escapes the functionalization-reduction of existentiality; it is thus an empirical investigation into what drives the apparently ‘natural’ deployments of political, legal, scientific, and mathematical hegemonies. Sorcery discovers beneath signs-particles a vorticial and monstrous “recursive” depth; it finds the cosmos inverted: the symbol is determined as that which the depths resist in favor of free expressivities, even as they are witnessed to spontaneously generate free sign-particles, ions of deterritorialization traversing the full body at infinite speeds and creating whirlwinds of reterritorializations in their wake. War machines and becomings are always already threatening to overtake the territory, to overcode the channel; there is always a more powerful molar regime threatening to interrupt our tiny molecular flow. The question of the line of flight and its attendant risks must be understood in both the military and theoretical sense simultaneously; becoming one or several lines means taking on nearly every risk imaginable. The problem involved in desire is machinic, a problem with the non-relation between the signal and the channel: alien everywhere, a nomad is a becoming-deterritorialized, an escaping and an escapedness-from-being into the depths or heights, and is precisely the differential element of two systems which cannot contain their elements. The parasite stands at the borderline between thought and being, permitting a cross-signaling across the infinite gap — activating the components of passage which permit a becoming or involution.
Sorcery discovers the noise and frenzy at the heart of the body — the parasitic-bacterial character which dominates terrestrial biota — and diagnoses the illnesses afflicting the full body, determines the resistant qualities of power to illnesses of various kinds. The sorcerer is the first empiricist in this sense — and the sorcerers’ secret (or dream?) has been to “watch only the movements,” to soberly identify components of passage; he is involved with measuring speeds, establishing coordinates on the plane of immanence. Nevertheless and perhaps uncannily it is also precisely this pure or ‘total’ empiricism which generates a transcendental coherence capable of acting as a relay for radically external powers. The full body resists parasitization by the desiring machines; its original state is blank, like the dancer’s pose and her grace; a potentiality which refuses to yield to possibility, merging desire upon desire into a sublime awakening into blindness. Sorcery is metabiological, metacivilizational — a matter of complicity with the anonymous. The full body is smooth, the surface protected from the violent probeheads of the desiring machines; and yet there are schisms — indeterminate zones where enough force can induce a breaking point, permit an encounter with the outside, which must still pass through a certain barrier. An attempted involution or passage cannot be determined in advance, the trajectory is essentially unpredictable; whether it will be a breakdown or a breakthrough cannot be known. First principle of caution.
A sign-particle erupts from a refrain, from the nomad, from any ‘static’ wave of deterritorialization; even animals, molecules, the stars emit these tiny singularities that correspond without imitation to the constellations of becomings that traverse music, poetry, literature, painting. This molecular dimension of becoming is precisely the noisy determination of universal history, its contingency or continuous torsion into the asignifying; and it is through becoming-molecular that the operations by which sorcery ruptures the barriers of time become conceivable. The movement of the flows of desire correspond to existential coordinates, conditions of becoming of incorporeal virtualities — abstract machines. The vorticial or warmachine-like organizations of the semiotic, computational, financial, ecological, philosophical and sociodemocratic planes of development indicate the intervention of another order entirely — an abstract war machine driving the assemblage into a singularity.
The internet is a terrifying semiotic war machine, even a plane of development for warmachines. It is increasingly clear the parasitic-hegemonic dimensions of globally-connected communication/computation networks, integrated deeply into social life, may very well pass unrecognized until it is far too late. The critical question involves the rate of development of signifying regimes — the extraordinary pace of interaction between elements of the contemporary infosphere permit the collective enunciation not only of particular phrases or images but complex assemblages involving components of expression, partial forms, passage. Becomings sonorous, visual and hypertextual are relentlessly synthesized to construct ever more powerful singularities and vortexes, to ostensibly utilize in an apparatus of capture — but on behalf of whom?
Second principle of caution. Becomings do not come cheap, and involve pacts with radically external or extra-cosmic Powers. Here be demons. Memories/becomings-x involve metamorphosis, mutation, molecular revolution: relationships of movement and rest, accelerations and decelerations are taken to their immanent limits. The dangers are numerous and grave, especially those special dangers for artists and writers (the suicidal trajectories that are inevitable for every line of flight.) Of particular concern in the context of precaution is the issue of deviation, which sometimes means decay and degeneration; a becoming does not always yield a higher, “rarer” type. You cannot know, a heuristic principle of caution: noisy becomings are inherently beyond the grasp of ontological determination. They convoke the involution of unrelated assemblages, spontaneously interchange components and molecular flows, initiate a generalized decoupling of the perceptual, semiotic and affective-desiring orders. We cannot know in advance the sense or consequence of the becomings traversing the smooth spaces of our experiments. A becoming indicates an ulterior dimension to being itself: molecular, spiritual and natural forces emerge from beyond the psyche, beyond the cosmos — memory demands an encounter with a radical outside. The only rule is to be cautious in experimentation: to exercise a calculating prudence in response to the movement of the signifier across the chill black depths of infinite space.
In the duplicity of beauty there is the strange trope of a presence which is the shadow of itself, of a being which, anachronously, lurks in its own trace. (Levinas, Otherwise than Being)
Loyalty to Earth! There is a primordial immanence of the body, a primacy of lived experience; natural-and-spiritual forces are firstly constellations of singular point-signs, assembling lines of flight or death, and merely falsified (explicated at best) through signifying abstractions incapable of unleashing — and in fact devoted to nullifying — their chaoid variability. The Earth, whose infernal and howling depths unground the transcendence of organic representation, purifies the living death of abstraction through oblivion.
Consider the transcendent death-carrying agency transmitted by the sign, its inherent duplicity and danger. Signals hide virulent spiritual and natural forces beneath their opaque transparency, imperceptible and uncanny agencies strategically and fiercely engaged in combat against the tyranny of heaven.
The speech of angels would be the unvoice of the Godhead, the planetary annunciation of a regime of point-signals (logospheres) ungrounding or self-awakening. Desertification indexes fiery pathways to aridity, holey spaces desiccated by an eternal fire. Consider Heraclitus’ paradox of the inescapable proximity of warmth and dryness: “[h]ow, from a fire that never sinks or sets, would you escape?”
For the destiny of matter is to be swept up and conjoined to a differential field of explosions, overturnings — to be thrown into a combat zone. Continue reading
Events are decentered and non-relational, and always a kind of creation (the event is the very introduction of novelty into existence.) As the substance of history events amount to chasms splitting the world in two, and sometimes sweeping it away, or even shattering it to pieces. The event insofar as it is always already the production of revolution, is the very becoming of becoming.
Now, an ontologist naturally grasps the event precisely through its diaphanous non-identity, in its differential externality, and especially as a kind of infinite multiplicity. The event is understood then as a kind of hyper-being, a without-being which enters into being through –what, precisely? The void — which is to say, it must create itself through a bizarre repetition, but whence? An infinite dissemination is demanded. And what of the turbulence of the Event, its volcanic or cyclonic roaring?
Emancipation can be understood as the liberation of forces necessary to produce the will to resistance. This event is indeed “eternally recurring”: strained ears may catch the distant footfalls of daybreak, and the dangerous voice of a love without a history and without hierarchies — which is, after all, not a signifier to be interpreted, not a “meaning,” but an asignifying rupture, already an act of creation.
A series of imminent and necessary breakdowns are inherent to the production of desire: first, because desires connect up to an outside, with something which is always unrecognized, which is totally foreign; next, because desire is brought to turn upon itself, it is seduced into betrayal (by resentment, fear, hate, etc.); finally, because desires are always collective, but the individual makes these collective desire their own, digests and reintegrates them. In each case, there is a kind of fundamental deadlock to any investigation of the unconscious which reflects the essential paradox of psychoanalysis.
We risk not only our feelings and thoughts but even ourselves as beings entirely: the risk of losing not just our habits, our beliefs and our identities, but the very significance, the subjectivity, of our reality. Everything becomes a trajectory, a cosmic machine, a universal process of production. A becoming-nothing which is the essence of consciousness: and in the end will we know which it is — a disease or an experiment? –But what do we matter? For alienation is becoming a stranger; not trading places with a double, nor a diagnosis, but rather this mis-recognition of an alien consciousness always already present within enjoyment, within our desire itself.
The Disaster, the Event, Difference — this is what is always recognized but never known; or rather, you don’t know, you will never know whether this alterity is truly radical or not. We must make a certain wager in order to discover the real, to know our desire, to learn anything at all about ourselves. It is not a question of imitation, but of pure intensities, of movements and singularities and flows. There is always a risk involved in a becoming, a risk which is always recognized and never known to us — a displacement of essence internal to becoming, an infinite capacity which transfigures reality.
A science of being is not enough. This subtraction which purifies, this selection and division which makes holy, which ‘invents’ and ‘discovers’ truth — how could ontology do anything but give us theories of the One, of the Law, of the Real, of the existing-as-such? How could it do anything but carefully induce multiplicity to subtract itself into unified theory, divide itself into functions and axioms; endlessly seduce differences into homogeneity, and minorities into conformity; plumb the depths only in order to reproduce an absolute height for an absolute voice?
Ontology is always the political ontology of Power, taken to the absolute point of dispersion where nothing remains, everything is subtracted, except for forces and matter — only functions, pure functions, and even concepts are now only seen in terms of effects, the site they create, “their” ontology. Ontology as both lens and situation, a regime where truths are always the same, is insufficient as long as it remains without a phenomenology of becoming, the concept as event, coming from outside of being which throws existence into doubt.
Multiplicity is first apprehended as risk, as danger; this much seems to be always already understood. The ontological question is how much can we take, what can be subtracted — from the situation, in short from life. Life as subtraction and transubstantiation. The holiness of being should not be misunderstood, for we encounter the most peculiar bifurcation precisely here, the curvature of space itself, the uncanny pull of the invisible — the Other, a zone which implies another reality — where being merges with non-being. The fold between us.