Tim Morton, “They are here”
Talking Heads video “Crosseyed and painless” (dir. Toni Basil, featured the Elecric Boogaloos). Is the non-national anthem of global anxiety. The sound of the end of the world and beginning of history. The first moonwalk is here (not Michael Jackson). The Levinasian “il y-a”, environmental creepiness, but we don’t know what yet. The dancers are suspended in claustrophobic white space, in their world.
The initial moment, the beginning of the blues, the waiting room (David Lnch’s red room). Facts all come with points of view. Irony becomes the food of phenomenological sincerity. A car, covered with a sheet, a tool, an object, a rainbow as a sign of an existential threat, a rainbow connection between things. They are here. Carpocalypse now.
[ai: No way to keep up with Tim. I first wrote that “with Time,” then corrected myself. No way. Time or Tim.]
The melancholic uncanny of a world made of broken or uncared-for objects. Race, environment, things, all intertwined. What is happening with the world? How on earth does it stand with Being?
Eno. A broken record player. A broken nonhuman Manhattan.
Vidicon Video Camera Tube (in 1970s video cameras). How depth, complexity and manifold nonhuman folds of the assemblage view it. The vast dimension of Kant’s reason was teeming with things. The songs “facts,” quasi-thoughts, fact-fish. Composition of phosphor screen in a cathode ray tube. A record of accidents, impurities, abandoned object-cathexes. The Forbidden Gap, luminescence, the Forbidden Mechanism. The Forbidden City, they still exist, forbidden colors, fragile quantum magic. Not totally out of bounds, just hard to access. The gap is a neontic nothing, not the total absence of anything at all.
The death drive, a little life and death at the quantum level. DNA, in an RNA world. Is life just a small metaphysically dubious region of a much larger region? Dance between stability and instability. The death of a thing is its successful translation. Appearance is a trace of death, a thing. Form is the past. [ai: !! Whitehead all over here, Tim…]
A zombie that scoffs at the rigid boundary between death and life, an alien being, undermining [?] the temporal atomism that underlies [?] the metaphysics of presence. The always-already presence of an object. Aliens are in our midst. We are in their midst. Whose midst is it anyway?
In our U-Boat of Dasein in the ocean of sensual objects, we detect a coral reef of actual beings.
Facts are the shadows of things, their echo, nothing on the face of things. Facts are on the side of illusion because there are real things that they don’t touch.
The current emergency, of nonhuman beings, the existence and coexistence of things.
Anthropocene. 1790. When human history begins to intersect with geological time; carbon deposited in Antarctic ice. Correlationist origin. Basic anxiety of the loss of the world, a prologation of things, disappearance of a meaningful background, and thus of the foreground. The trouble with ecology: it brings everything too close. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. [cf. the blog post here on that]
Nihilism is a thicker layer of seaweed version of the island of doubt. I’m still waiting. Aperture, sense of opening. There is always already an entity, a being, an object, a specific unique being. The proximity of an alien abyss.
The car winks at me knowingly. Inside the beauty is the Thing. Ecological awareness is the uncanny nightmare charnel ground realm, where nothing is precisely real, and all the more real for that. We are always already caught in the shine of the headlights of the nonhuman. Suspended in the demonic interspace of things.
OOO gives us this worls, a spooky world plauged with beings who may not be alive, a world of always incomplete Turing test date. A claustrophobic world of slightly evil illusion. The mask worn by trickster objects as they put us down into a neo-animist universe of lies, traps.
The shifty ghostly meontic nothing of nothingness. The abyss is not behind things but in front of things, the abyss of causality, the aesthetic dimension.
What is called Nature is the reduction of things to their givenness for humans. They are here. Ecological awareness, always belated, finding yourself inside something, called Biosphere. An ocean of anxiety dancing around another ocean of anxiety. That car, a not-car, an ocean of color.
They are here. The car is still waiting.
Q & A:
Jane Bennett: What are you doing? Have you considered the effect of your anxiety making distribution machine? We Americans have just gone through Global War on Terror anxiety machine. The talk is a symptom of a larger infection. Why do these alien objects provoke anxiety rather than being familiars?
TM: The War on Terror was a way of covering up this anxiety that I’m talking about. Now people in America know what it’s like to be bombed. OMG there’s an Outside. That’s the anxiety. I’m talking about an unconditional basic anxiety, the sort of thing that comes into meditation. I’m selling my house right now, you have to evacuate it. Imagine a Third Worlder taking out a loan. The anxiety is connecting us, the feeling of coexisting. Inside the anxiety is the depression, the melancholia, the footprint of something else in your soul (Freud), which you now have experiential evidence that there are Others in your world. You’re living in the animist future. The anxiety is the feeling we all have as we’re exiting modernity. We have been modern (contra Latour). My world has dissolved, reality has appeared. But reality is a trickster. My job is to get people excited about evil.
Q: I’m not feeling anxious because I recognize the performative. What is the machine you’re made here, the rhythm word-mash machine, trying to do?
TM: It’s a homeopathic dose of the unconditional fear. Cynicism has been defeated by other beings. I can’t exit reality with escape velocity quickly enough. Scientists say “Can’t you see, numskull, that there is global warming.” My job is is to show a different belief about belief, as not something you hold onto very tightly. Instead of persuading people it’s real, I have to walk you through a phenomenologically equivalent inner-space experience to realize, OMG, there are other beings. I’m giving you a homeopathic dose; that’s the magic key. Allergy medicine.
Q: Slam poetry has expressed that anxiety…. TM: Art is a way to think when thinking is hard, a way to walk us through thinking that is difficult, a way to do philosophy by other means.
Q @ Talking HEads as a NYC band, and move out global from there. Discuss My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Other trajectories? [?] TM: There are already other beings there; it wasn’t pastiche but a warning sign: beep-beep other beings exist.
Q @ fiend and friends: objects can be fiends and friends, switching back & forth. I experienced you as a frightful friend…
Q @ the performative and rhythmic: a promo for OOO? I fear that OOO will be just a moment, just a school like Lacan, Deleuze, et al. How do you institutionalize it beyond a small set of hipster theory folks? I think the performative move might be part of it…
TM: There’s a performative dimension to communication, as Padmasambhava showed when he brought Buddhism to Tibet – a hit man, magician. How do we get millions of people to be as passionate about reality as we all are in this room?
JB: Not with anxiety.
TM: California is the capital of hesitancy in the world. Is this a conversation? I need it to be verified. In that situation you need a bit of miracle. OOO is deeply congruent with Buddhism (despite what the philosophical Buddhists say). Buddha-nature is an object. To get people to tune in to that we need to do magic, which is scary. Within logic you can find strange things that were discovered by, e.g., Kantor, the infinity of real numbers, are they weirdly discrete like these OOO objects. Is this infinity, and this and this?
Q: Fundamental lesson of Buddhism is that everything is interconencted. There are no objects…. TM: Yes, but there are mountains, and there are no mountains, and there are mountains. Otherwise you could commit murder. What I’m trying to say is not that it’s an illusion, but that it’s like an illusion. You can’t tell how far the illusion goes. This is a symptom of the realism, the suchness. I’ve become this Honolulu guy for OOO.
Q (R. Grusin): Homeopathic dose of anxiety – but that’s what our media has been doing since 9-11: a feedback loop in which we’re made anxious repeatedly… TM: That’s allopathic, not homeopathic… RG: The homeopathic part is when we reconnect with what’s onscreen [?]… TM: There’s a dialectical tension… RG: I’m with Jane in that I don’t think fear is the best way to go.
RG: I enjoyed the performance, but is it transferable? TM: There’s no metalanguage. Ecological awareness is that truth. My subject-position is interwoven into the things that I construct. I believe in following the form; we can’t go into complete anything-goes. First you make perfect rice-pudding, then you make it a little burned, because it’s tastier; my job is to make a slightly evil rice-pudding, ’cause I got tenure.