DRAFT: what follows can be reversed engineered through examination of previous posts: and well, post-engineered through posts to come:
Of Chronotopology: to be up- and post-dated.
To begin, a simple “image” will suffice. The spacing between two bridges over the same river: the older, heavy green iron, close to the water upstream; the other, modern concrete, three-times higher, downstream. A few details: a pedestrian can see one from the other. Boats of average weight and height pass beneath both. But only from the lower could one physically hear and see the extraordinary breaking up of ice in the spring. For centuries, the state was stripped of its forests, floated in massive log-rafts down the river to a mill just north of these twin crossings. The Kennebec River was one of the first to be revitalized after so much industrial and bark pollution – the salmon and the sardines are running again, along with colonialist re-enactments of the original occupation. In the state’s capital, Fort Kent has been renovated in honor of Benedict Arnold. The forests, however, have not been reclaimed and 90% of the state belongs still to the paper industry, the state’s level of poverty vies with that of Appalachia, the coast is almost entirely a gated community for the rich, for their vacation homes where the locals serve, clean, and mow, and Native Americans are confined to poverty on reservations; these social conditions are clear indicators of Maine’s status as a third world country. As a “kid,” a term my grandmother resented because in her “peasant” upbringing, a kid was a baby goat, I was taken in the spring to admire the enormous, three-story high machinery which clear-cut entire counties, filled inaccessible lakes with miles-long log-rafts pulled by air-lifted tug boats through lakes with names like Chesunkuk, only to stack the systematically branch-stripped, full-length trunks, 30-40 feet high, for miles along corporate-owned riverbanks, which, finally, were bulldozed into the river soon after the moment when, as a “kid”, waiting on the lower bridge, I saw and heard the yearly monumental event of the ice breaking. If it weren’t for the sounds of modern mechanical life, it could have been heard for miles.
I begin with a memoir not in honor of myself, but in honor of harsh and typical environmental disasters that in their local specificities go largely unknown, to the disenfranchised inhabitants of all such Maines, and to Gaston Bachelard, whose Poetics of Space demonstrates how such “phenomenal” events determine not a depth psychoanalytics, but one that extends from the body’s motor sensibilities outward, to the world. In that extension, there lies the concrete, imaginary possibility of an authorship that originates in the objective, articulated calamities of a spring thaw and the torrent of forests that follows. Bachelard in effect places the mind in the world, in relation to it, as an integral part of it, and attempted to think that reciprocity. The “kid” on the bridge, who himself is the transition between complex linguistic texts and dynamic, existential states, is both their witness and their product, and as he owes himself to those events, to those objective conditions which form and inform the transitivity of his consciousness, to those events is he responsible. It is in that space, temporally oriented and scaled, that a chronotopology lies – there lies the conditions of possibility for non-Euclidean imaginaries, and the possibilities of alternative socio-political existences to which they might, possibly, lead. This claim is not utopian; and it does not refuse, entirely, the very real possibility of a perpetual distopia – as history can so easily demonstrate, auto-genocide is our lot, by one means or another. Under the current global corporate regime, it is difficult to imagine any other consequence. However, both the world and its inhabitants have proved consistently resilient, and the horrifics of our time differ largely in scale, and such scale shifts have led to historical ruptures in human and ‘natural’, environmental terms. Against the threat that the destruction-scale has reached infinite extension, annihilation, a threat renewed in our recent, post-cold war era, being carried out metonymically with such methods as the seeding of the middle east with US nuclear wastes via dirty bombs, and underground arms sales, we require, today, not a reformist attitude, but a radical pragmatics. All “lesser-of-evil” strategies are doomed not just to failure, but to hand maiden status in their facilitation of the growth of insatiable capital controlled by the resurgent, neo-Social Darwinists. Radical challenge is more desperately necessary than ever, but because it has been successfully driven from the US national popular imaginary, and the gains of the social movements of the last 40 years all but eradicated, it is urgent that a new strategy be formulated.
Against this prognosis, chronotopology has little to offer, ahora, toward achieving radical change in fact; [i] however, as a radical, imaginary pragmatics, as a form of criticism, it is not merely a reactionary response to the deplorable conditions of life today. Its strategy is to diagnose a path toward radical change, and to imagine the possibilities of its existential accomplishment, by gathering together the elements of alternative epistemologies under the general heading put forth here: the scientific-aesthetic, in its twin forms of aesthetic-empiricism and the non-Euclidian imaginary, is, in rudimentary form, a multiplex epistemological force that attempts not a blind synthesis of opposites, nor some new form of intelligence ex nihilo, but simply an imagined alternative outcome for history, and offers up, in contradistinction to the utopia/distopia binary, the blank, imaginary slate of chronotopia. Chronotopia, deliberately blind to utopian fantasies, and with distopian realities as audiovisual guides and material conditions, attempt to parse the challenges of significant otherness, situated, oriented, inanimate, animate, organic, mechanical, technological, natural, cultural, biological, and all the possible hybrid variants of these ontological imaginaries. They attempt to take what already is, in distopian form, and outline concrete paths toward alternative, realizable near-futures, as a form of social science fiction with the following conditions. Otherness is not to be eliminated is some harmonistic orgy of humanistic agape; it is, as Haraway’s critico-corporal term implies, to be loved for its unnamable resistance to assimilation to any epistemological regime.[ii] Because pragmatics, no less than idealism, is inevitably driven toward subjectivity, to application “for its own sake,” it must be yoked to the objective epistemological otherness specific to it, that which is able to prevent its dissolve into that feckless absolutism. Only with such programmatically, strategically designed couplings will chronotopia escape subjectivation of objectivity, and, the objectivation of subjectivity. The task of social science fiction, to be social science, is to bring the gereralization of the scientific-aesthetic to its pragmatic knees, to humble it in the face of its own objectification in the concrete presence of the distopian real that reigns today. Chronotopia are those concretized imaginaries which determine effective epistemo-pragmatic couples.
This insistence on a hyphenated epistemology is an insistence that coalitional research programs, with well defined, non-capitalist, socio-political goals, be strategically formed among and between the segregated forces of knowledge production. If “man” as object was the invention of rationalist humanism, then “femaleman,” por ejemplo, as scientific-aesthetic subject must be the invention of a 21st century ethos. “Life” must become its own subject, in the sense sketched in the above paragraph, and to be elaborated, schematically, below. Though I have rejected the Kantian formulations of this dilemma, and acceded to a relativizing of spacetime immanence instead, it is on ethical and amoral grounds that I do so. These grounds are just that – grounds. To retrieve space and time from the realm of transcendent abstractions, to set them upon popular, material courses, and to give these courses alternative forms, directions, influences, objective and subjective contents, is to regroup around earlier and now quaint (though no less powerful) attempts such as Diet for a Small Planet, Small is Beautiful, Spaceship Earth, though I fear, a genuinely armed avant-garde may be necessary to challenge the resistance to such attempts, to be expected from today’s global-scale state militant imperialism. Such an armed avant-garde is, in effect, already at work virtually everywhere, except in the US. Nonviolence has never been possible, as an absolute state, because nonviolence often seeks to expose violence by provoking it through its very display of peaceful protest, and state violence rarely allows even a nonprovocative protest to procede nonviolently. Meanwhile, the ascendancy of terrorism to the global agenda has set humanity on its rhetorically “final” journey, toward some unimaginable ascendancy into a US paternalistic state of grace, which far more likely presages a collapse into social terror and instability, ruled by the corporatist elite, with power enough to last for centuries, or as long as resources hold out.[iii] It seems to me that we need to find a path to the “other side of,” beyond, this problematic. Such terms dictate a progressive geopolitics on the same scale as that of the military-industrial complex. That, indeed, is a utopian expectation. But it is an expectation that falls within the imaginary range of chronotopology, not as a whole, but, when taken piece by piece.
Chronotopic subjectivity as the production of non-subjective identity
I know of no other way than through conundrum, to put at least a minimal amount of flesh on these chronotopic bones. The epistemological task of chronotopology, relative to identity politics, is to orient objectivity in the very heart of subjectivity. And, claro, vice versa.
Chronotopic identity is achieved by means of a reversal, the same reversal examined below in the grammatical theory and practice, the genuine praxis, of Stein, in which meaning is a fourth order event derived from the epistemological series passing in reverse through “thinking” and “believing,” to the first order “feeling.” Language is intentionally debased, made the mere substratum upon which the audiovisual world acts in order to objectify subjectivity. It is this reversal that allies chronotopology more closely to logic and mathematics, epistemologically, than to linguistics in any form; for, logic and mathematics share the deep distrust of language that motivated Nietzsche’s ironic totalizing reevaluation, Roussel’s mechanistic approach to composition, Stein’s totalizing logical overhaul of grammar, Bahktin’s relativistic reaccentuation of heteroglossia, Bachelard’s non-Euclidean, projective scientific-poetic spirit,[iv] Derrida’s grammatology, and Cunningham’s Tayloristic production of an inscribing body. Despite the tradition that allies mathesis with idealism, often well substantiated, that alternative philosophical branch which adheres to application, while not succumbing to it, seeks to call forth the world as dynamic event with as little linguistic mediation as possible. In the words of perhaps the most eloquent of logicians:
Logicians and grammarians are alike in habitually talking about sentences. But we saw the difference. The logician talks of sentences only as a means of achieving generality along a dimension that he cannot sweep out by quantifying over objects. The truth predicate then preserves his contact with the world, where his heart is.[v]
Roussel’s Canterel, the artist-physician, model for Foucault’s physician-artist who invented one form of modern visuality, has accompanied me throughout my research. I have generalized this subjective force as the artist-logician. From the beginning, the aim of chronotopology and the scientific-aesthetic has been diagnostic, and in that sense, about “health” in the Nietzschean sense. Only through the illnesses of distopia may we arrive in one chronotopia or another, not because of some moral imperative, but because illness is the material condition of our ontology. For none are healthy in our collective, distopic present. Of course, illness is not a totalized state, and islets of health can be found throughout the great wasteland of modernity.
With the “kid” on the bridge, we saw that identity is co-produced between the events and orientations of witnessing and existing, and it is this complex ontology which produces the realism peculiar to chronotopology. There is no singular expression of this form of objectified subjectivity, unlike the humanist subjectivity that cohered in the late 19th and 20th century schools of psychoanalysis, only to codify the subject within the structural apparatus and “psychic” economies and linguistics of a Cartesian solipcism.[vi] Chronotopic identity can be understood linguistically only by means of its projected extensions through prepositional spacetime series, their combinatorial aptitudes, and their contamination of other parts of speech: the space series, for instance – “in,” “into,” “onto,” “among,” “between,” “through,” “with:” and the time series – “at,” “by,” “since,” “then,” “when,” “after,” “over,” “throughout,” “moreover,” etc.[vii] Language is the material field which suffers from the assaults of events that derive from nondiscursive, dynamic audiovisual fields. I use the corporal term, to suffer, both in its contemporary colloquial sense, but also in its ancient Greek sense of aisthemata – a term which refers to anything the senses “suffer,” and from which the term, aesthetics, derives. Language suffers the effects of corporality continuously, and in this suffering lies its ethical potential; ethics, as opposed to morals, derives its social force from differance, which at every moment applies a pressure to destabalize the linguistic tendency toward sameness and transparency. This is a fundamentally ethical process as, even if linguistic dominance can not be absolutely prohibited, it can at least, be continuously challenged, allowing significantly other languages to emerge, and sometimes even to prosper for a time.[viii]
But to return from these circumlocutions more formally to the problem of subjectivation/objectivation.
Language is an objective tensorial field. The three dimensional nodes of its two dimensional representation are verbal actions, and the class of prepositions, essentially verbalized nouns and particles, in the Anglophone context, have condensed (or synthesized) to the point of sublimation, what in previous linguistic eras, were more explicit, worn on the surface of language in the form of case endings like the Greek and Latin dative and genative cases which spun substantives in more dynamic and integrated temporal and spatial orientations, splicing together worldly and intersubjective arrays of relationality with a great variety of connectors. Such analytic languages possess a far greater and more explicit plasticity of relationality and order among the elements of grammar. [ix] The connective capacity of contemporary synthetic languages have devolved to adjectives, including gerunds, and a much narrower fleet of prepositions; the result is a greater passivity of the linguistic subject. In keeping with the strategy of chronotopolgy to begin with the distopian, material conditions of the present, this situation suggests two central problems.
- How might nonlinguistic subjectivity escape the linguistic domination of the subject?
- How might this same objectivity of language be deployed against linguistic subjectivity?
Chronotopological realism emerges from the answers to these questions, and with it, an identity capable of a floating center of gravity between the poles of subjectivity and objectivity, and capable of reversing the poles as made necessary by shifting frames of reference.[x] To see this we must first add the following double dilemma.
- Space is more objective than time in a culture dominated by visuality: time is subjective.
- Time is more objective than space in a culture dominated by aurality: space is subjective.
These propositions do not represent pure states, nor do cultures exist that fit these descriptions exactly; they represent ideal poles in thought only and allow us to speak of the differential ratios with which we experience space and time, sound and sight, seeing and saying, in varying contexts. Spectacle society is clearly, to a very large extent, though less than total, an audiovisual event. But every aspect of this event is mediated by the linguistic imaginary on the one hand, and by the geometric imaginary on the other. It would be a mistake to assume that sound and sight have equal affective impacts on all occasions, or that they are necessarily coordinated. If it is true that Euroamerican cultures are deeply predicated on a Euclidean imaginary, to the same extent that contemporary indoeuropean languages have sublimated space and time, (perhaps with the exception of German), then the geometric imaginary puts pressure on linguistic performance to conform to geometric, imaginary conditions, while the verb and prepositional matrices constrain the geometric imaginary within their socially mediated, linguistic conventions.
The first proposition accounts for the epistemological solutions we have encountered in the work of Stein; she uses spatiality, “landscape,” as the model for her “plays,” in which we expect a serialized, narratological action to dominate. In her efforts to eradicate the syncopation between the affective time of the actors, and affective time of the audience, to place them both simultaneously in the same spatio-temporal reference frame, space dominates and mediates the actor-audience identity in such a way as to make actor-time congruent with audience-time. It is not that time ceases to pass or to matter, but that a singular time is established as a single continuum flowing between both actors and audience; the time of the actors is the time of the audience, and so gives way to spatialized audiovisual events occurring independently in a landscape of actions.[xi] These events exist simultaneously, but are encountered consecutively, associatively, according to each audience member’s frame of reference, producing a spectra of plays with orders as various as the audience members, effectively subordinating the temporal seriality of narration to audience subjectivities.
Proposition one accounts for the epistemological solutions of Bahktin also, though, his analysis focuses more on the subjectivity of time than on the objectivity of space. Space falls away in his analysis, and one of the shortcomings of his work is his failure to tether space and time in the manner in which his own term, chronotope, demands. His Kantianism prevented him from following through with the Einsteinian consequences of his methodology. On the other hand, his profound concept of the ray-word discussed above[xii], is chronotopic in its allusion to the ray of light, while elevating visuality as a central theme in the analysis of heteroglossia. For Bahktin, narrative realism is determined by a historical poetics, both dialogic and heterglossic in a very structured way, reliant on time passing reciprocally between the “world in the work,” and “world outside the work.” Poesis is the process by which history negotiates the relationship between these two spheres.[xiii] Words are themselves hybrid actors, comprised in part of the “living rejoinder” contributed by a speaker/writer (chronotope A), and of the “alien” contribution of the “word already in the object,” (chronotope A’). This is best shown diagrammatically:
World in the work World outside the work
Chron. A Chron A’.
beginning ¬————— ends
ends ¬————— beginning
The arrows in this diagram are like the points in a spacetime graph; they appear as two dimensional, linear events, when in actually they represent a three dimensional process of the ray-word, conveyed thus:
[the following diagram makes no sense: more to come. importing to wordpress causes problems]
World in the Word[xiv] Word in the World
Word « alien-word
b b ý « same structure
object ≠ object
This second diagram makes explicit the latent complexities of dialogism that Bahktin fails to elaborate. Dialogism consists of several orders: between the first order word and the alien-word, the second order reciprocity between each of them and their respective objects, and the third order reciprocity between the world-in-the-word and the word-in-the-world. First and second order dialogism occur entirely within their respective chronotopes. Only in the third order dialogic event do they find reconciliation.
The first conclusion to be drawn from these schemata of realism is that the chronotopic dimension of the “world in the work” is not the same as the chronotopic dimension of the “world outside the work.” This is the same problem Stein resolved by means of “landscape” used as a structural form. Bahktin, on the other hand, is driven by what we might call a “narratological imperative.” Chronotope A does not equal chronotope A’ as it does in Stein’s literary and theatrical practices. Chronotope A must pass with a narrative, serial transition, through third order dialogism, to chronotope A’. Here Bahktin’s analysis forces him to invent the term, “creative chronotope,” in order to produce the reconciliation between the two chronotopic states as a third state governed by the ray-word’s hybrid orientations. Without elaboration, he simply says that “the exchange between work and life is governed by the creative chronotope.”[xv] But he never accounts for how it so governs. The second conclusion to be drawn is that through this second order chronotope, (product of third order dialogism), the difference between chronotopes A and A’ is resolved creatively by the reading subject. As the temporality of the world outside the work increases in distance from the world in the work, time is reaccentuated[xvi] by the relative shifts or heteroglossia inherent to the reader’s words and the reader’s world, and in that sense, subjectified.
The narratological imperative is made more explicit if we substitute the terms event and time in the first of the above diagrams:
[the following diagram makes no sense: more to come. importing to wordpress causes problems]
World in the work World outside the work
Event 1 Event 2
Time’ ≠ Time’’
T’ + T’’ = totality of all events
Events 1 and 2 occur in different times (and different spaces), have different durations, and are governed necessarily by different chronotopes. The totality of their spatio-temporal fields is the material given of the work: of its text, the world represented in the text, and of the relationship between author-creator and listener-reader. These dialogical relationships can be generalized as that between author-literature and author-culture. Bahktin describes this relationship as a “special semantic sphere” that is purely chronotopic, but exceeds the limits of his survey. Chronotopology begins with this insight, while at the same time pursuing another aspect of Bahktin’s project – to use re-accentuation as a method of translation out of literature and into other cultural forms. It is exactly this translation which requires that the “semantic sphere” be expanded to a more generalized, less semiocentric, audiovisual sphere.[xvii] More on this in a moment.
As a transition to the last example that is accounted for by proposition two above, we need once again turn to the juncture between Whitehead and Stein. Bahktin’s “creative chronotope,” and Whitehead’s concept of “prehension,” are remarkably similar, and yet offer an even more productive difference. Whitehead’s prehension establishes a corporeal, nonlinguistic process of intelligence which precedes language, accounting for Bahktin’s “alien word already in the object” by modeling the process of a single moment of Jamesian consciousness, in which the “vague” acquires at least a semblance of materiality. This juncture takes an interesting form. Thornton Wilder, while sailing to Europe, writes to Stein that he is reading Process and Reality, and has made a diagram of Whitehead’s concept of “prehension.” The following image, taken from one of Wilder’s notebooks, shows this diagram.[xviii]
Whitehead, as it were, takes a section (in architectural or medical terms) through a single present moment in the Jamesian stream of thought (consciousness), and isolates the discrete “experience” of Wilder’s diagram. “Prehension” is “one form of an occasion of EXPERIENCE” always preceded by other ANTECEDENT OCCASIONS, which are processed by RE-ENACTMENT, and are ANTICIPATIONS of OBJECTIVE IMMORTALITY, i.e., THE PAST. The passage from ANTECEDENT OCCASIONS to ANTICIPATIONS establishes the fundamental linear passage of time in relation to the stream of thought. Consciousness delivers the imminence of the future to the imminence of the past. Objectivity is governed by this process, and is thus dependent on the processes of subjectivation. At this point, the process is purely corporeal, and it would almost seem that there is no need of a rational subject. But not for long. The OBJECT of the PRESENT is, in fact, a pre-propositional invention of the subject, “provided by creativity.” As Wilder’s paraphrase has it: “The OBJECT, provided by creativity, is passive until creativity gives it this activating potentiality to START OFF this occasion.”
Exactly here do we find the similarity between Bahktin and Whitehead, as well as their differences. Though point one uses Jamesian language not found in Bahkin – “Conceptual feeling,” the language of the vague[xix] used throughout Principles of Psychology – the similarity between “creative chronotope” and “creative prehension” is obvious. And the vague and the “alien” may be construed as equivalents (and both as forms of significant otherness). In both cases, the process is similar: the subject supplies the object with the “novel” in Wilder’s diagram (MENTALIA), or with a dialogical synthesis to the potential dichotomy between the two sources of the ray-word in Bahktin’s terms. Whitehead’s term, RESHAPING, i.e., Self-formation, is equivalent to dialogical synthesis; and, his term, SWING, is equivalent to third order dialogism in general in that self-formation is accomplished by the chronotopic alternations between object in the world, and object in the subject. Crucial here, and establishing the difference between Whitehead and Bahktin, is the fact that prehension does not constitute signification, is not determined by the ray-word, and therefore is not a semiotic form of “thought,” though it is “thought” nonetheless. As we have seen in the case of Stein, propositional thought is a last order event, as Wilder’s point two convey’s: “Finally Propositions emerge concerning the present occasion.”
Whitehead’s prehension is the nonsemiotic process that forms the material basis of apprehension and comprehension.[xx] It is a subjective process which emphasizes the “feeling’ of time, which it then forwards to apprehension and comprehension to craft as propositions about FACTS, which, then take their immortal place among all such august members of the PAST. Before this happens, however, between the moment when prehension is operating, and before the articulation of propositions, during the phase of self-formation, the twin forces of language and geometry are already at work. Every prior antecedent occasion has already been shaped by this same process, and therefore has already been predetermined by post-prehensive propositions. And presto!, we’re back in the land of grammatology.[xxi] The point here is that at this very moment, the twin engines of linguistic and geometric conservatism are already at work, and thus both the creativity of prehension and the ray-word, are in danger of reinforcing the very dialogical conventions they had hoped to escape.
If nonlinguistic subjectivity is to escape the linguistic domination of the subject, it must at the very moment of prehension, at the very moment that third order dialogism attempts reconciliation of the ray-word’s dualism, deploy the aesthetic empiricist and non-Euclidean experiments of the chronotopic imaginary. The task of chronotopology, on the linguistic front, is to use the Derridean and Steinian insights as models for deploying the objectivity of language against linguistic subjectivity.
As this dissertation MUST come to an end, we must leave these speculative and diagnostic thoughts here, to be pursued in their own, still to be post-prehended near-future. But we still have to treat of proposition two above, and bring our focus around to an author working nondiscursively. To recall:
- Time is more objective than space in a culture dominated by aurality: space is subjective.
We turn then, briefly, and in order to conclude with at least a hint of nonlinguistic chronotopia, to the epistemological solutions of Bernie Lubell, whose work formed part of the parergon of this dissertation. The following image of Etiology of Innocence is a demonstration of proposition 2 in action. His work deliberately suppresses visuality using several methods that may include visualtiy, but distract it though machine movements, sounds, and hidden connectivity. Etiology separates the mechanical components of the work behinds walls, gives each machine a quirky, unstable seeming movement, constructs the machines so that to operate them emphasizes and exaggerates sound, and by adding horns to mechanisms (in this case, mechanical organs) that emit sounds that might be missed if not amplified. The plan drawing accompanying the installation photograph shows the overall structure of the work, and indicates the fragmentation of space from the participants’ frames of reference. Time is the dimension that regulates the experience of the work as participants must circulate among the machine components, and either literally become temporal operators, or temporal witnesses. Even the witnesses are active participants as they must collaborate with the sound elements to manifest them.
Lubell describes one aspect of this work in this way:
Etiology is the study of causes. It’s only common usage seems to be by the medical profession — as in the origins of a disease. The connection to medicine is appropriate to the origins of my piece and the suggestion that innocence is some sort of disease is intentional. Innocence is usually either shunned as unsophisticated or blindly embraced. it doesn’t need to be this way. The possibilities for innocence are much more complex. Looking back from the end of the machine age, my Etiology of Innocence reflects a nostalgia for a more innocent time when it seemed that simple mechanical models might explain everything–when the experts were generalists and the discovery of ultimate truths seemed to be just around the corner.
At the same time, I recognize that any quest for an ideal, like a “truth”, requires numerous little add-ons and fix-its to deliver a resemblance to the real. And all of these fix-its lead away fom that very idealism and innocence that was the stance necessary to begin. Ultimately, these add-ons and fix-its become a sort of Truth in themselves and are often considered to be the hallmark of sophistication. So simplicity is how you must start but… [xxii]
All of Lubell’s works are networked systems comprising language, machines, spacetime, and people, at the level of objectivity, and science, philosophy, psychology, and theater (art), at the level of subjectivity. These eight categories establish the two dimensional grid of Lubell’s taxonomy, from which a four dimensional array of epistemological hybrids emerges. His tragic-comic works[xxiii] usually conflate subjective personal and objective historical spacetimes, along four axes simultaneously: the subjective axes of his own encounters with etiology and innocence in this case, and the objective axis along which the reenactments, through the collaborative efforts of others, give life to the network. The third axis is the historical hybridization of the French 19th century science of Marey, with the 21st century art of Lubell. The last axis is that of the actual spacetime enactment of work in the gallery.
Etiology is a psychology machine that produces alternative subjects at the “heart” of the encounters between Lubell and his surrogate actants (the machines), on the one hand, and random encounters with museum subjects, on the other, as they negotiate the nodes within this four dimensional array. One actor is required to set the network in motion by “pumping” the heart, an action that synthesizes organic and mechanical models by setting the vegetal (latex) organ in motion by turning a crank, in order for others to witness and participate at other corporeal nodes of the network as they come to life. The heart operator is producer, and as the objectification of Lubell, is the machine’s empirical demiurgos, creating the action for others to imagine. Reciprocally, and with the same action, the actual Lubell is subjectivized as museum subject. Etiology is, then, an apparatus that produces objectivity at the heart of the subject, and subjectivity at the heart of the object. Were the event to stop here, the work would be as hierarchical and passive as television or cinema.[xxiv] But Etiology establishes the social necessity of others doing for the first operator, what he or she has done for them. The machine’s circuit requires that producers become consumers, and consumers, producers. Lubell’s work is itself, specifically an etiology machine that produces social subjectivity objectively, literally, as a “third” identity, the resultant of two vectors demanded by the network’s action – the alternations of subject and object, producer and consumer, self and other.
The aspect of aurality, the wheezing of the breathing machine and the rhythmic thumping of the heartbeat machine, the percussive sounds of the gears of the heart simulator, the clacking counterweight tower powering down as it spins the chart recorder, fixes one in this work in aural, subjective innocence. Sound orients us toward visual objects always anew, as sound, as opposed to music, is not necessarily codified. Sounds nevitably do become codified with repetition, and become signs like any other. But this is not their absolute condition, and they can, at least ephemerally, be deployed nondiscursively, as they are in Lubell’s Etiology, as the codified sounds of the heartbeat and breathing are dramatically recontextualized both in their relations to each other, and in the manner in which they are produced. It is this audiovisual complicity that allows Lubell to bring the temporal to the forefront, to distance both visuality and the expected geometries of space. The pneumatic hoses are perhaps the most important, aesthetic-empirical devise; they are literally three dimensional singularities, curving fractal dimensional lines, that carry operative force from the expansions and contractions of the heart, to animate the other events of the work. They literally connect components which remain hidden from each other, and establish a sublimated form of spatiality, not accessible to visuality.
Lubell’s theater of epistemology gives to all its collaborators the subjectivity of Canterel, the artist-logician, doctor, whose life is devoted to finding scientific-aesthetic solutions to social problems. Such a subjectivity must hybridize and leap across the well protected borders of disciplinary knowledges. It is exactly a kind of etiology of innocence, as Lubell describes it, one that possesses both a deeply embedded vector of simplicity, retrofit with myriad “fix-its” that adapt it to local conditions and circumstances. It insists that imagination and creation take place in the presence of existence, not in the mere presence, but with active engagement with its significant otherness.
The scientific-aesthetic sets itself apart from other scientific and aesthetic approaches by its chronotopic dimensioning and orienting of the problematics of realism it strategically establishes and transforms. The consequences of this approach are many. To cite but two in order to bracket its spectral extremes, first, its transformations are potentially infinite, though because it proceeds incrementally its chronotopic ranges inevitably appear far more limited then they are. Its transformations are transformations of partial objects, partial concepts, partial events that only asymptotically approach the imaginary final state of the many possible fabrics of spacetime. Though final states are never produced concretely, their imaginary virtuality has material effect on the trajectories that lead to them; paradoxically, such imaginary futures are the initial conditions for all possible transformations of the present, since the past has transformation-potential only as a re-imagined future. This problem can be seen in the conflict between “romantics” and “realists,” if these two sensibilities are generalized thus: The romantic is governed by the past, by memory of origins, the initial conditions of newness and firsts, by nostalgia. In contrast, the realist is governed by the future, whether conceived as distopic, utopic, or ahistoric, by expectations of what might be, of change and transformative conditions of what will and might be, but cannot be foreordained. The romantic cannot accept the present because the past has been lost; while the realist cannot accept it because the future has yet to arrive.
Chronotopology therefore necessitates a historiographic theory peculiar to its own laws of dimensioning and orienting that would produce histories of the future. All such histories carry very heavy political burdens. While strict adherence to the laws of “hind-sight” histories, as fascinating and rewarding as they often are, generates, in sum, offer negative political results because it never addresses the immediate conditions of the present, histories of the future, on the other hand, at least carry the potential of transforming immediate conditions in the direction of political freedoms. Of course there are no guarantees. There is nothing about either chronotopology or the scientific-aesthetic that protects it from leading to undesirable futures. It is this vulnerability that necessitates a carefully crafted theory to steer it effectively through the future’s unknown tensorial fields. In the spirit of these comments, then, the task of chronotopology is to bring about chronotopia realized in the present, however partially, by means of the strategies and tactics of the scientific-aesthetic imaginary in order to extend the present further and further into the pre-conceived and most desirable futures.
Second, it’s aesthetic-empirical tactics preclude a large range of characteristics that appeal to large segments of audiences and practitioners alike. It sets itself a mission often at odds with those practices of imagination in any medium because its strategies and tactics must assume forms alien to those which commonly dominate public perception. Transformation requires work rather than entertainment, for instance, thus desire for and pleasure taken in transformation must contend in an integrated-spectacle environment with the hall-of-mirrors effect – standardization of identity relative to a single dominant class and set of objects – which transformative practices set out to change. As the many species of identity politics have well demonstrated, the paths of all such attempts are strewn with extremely complicated and often unpredictable problematics, the imagined and attempted solutions to which also often lead directly to unexpected and unfortunately negative consequences.
Chronotopology will gain influence only if it is able to yoke specific radical pragmatics to their specific, complementary, epistemological others. Only then might chronotopia use such epistemo-pragmatic couples to effect the near-future.
[i] I have continually to resist autobiographical allusions because imagination is so deeply subjective. But I give in here to offer a personal historical reflection. My reticence to plunge into a tactical pragmatics is founded upon the Nietzschean genealogical premise of “beyond,” by definition only an imaginary state. It is impossible to insure a positive outcome for the most initially positive of intents. And vice versa. Thus one must rise to the metalevel, as poststructuralism has attempted to do. The backlash against its efforts has been devastating at worse, farcical at best, and resistance to it appears largely to have succeeded. In the same vein, the social movements of the 60’s and 70’s lost most of their most directed battles, and won those they never even attempted to fight (day care, organic food, ethics of play and leisure, alternative educations, etc.). And yet, the “hippie” has not been eradicated even if s/he exists only in caricature. It is as though those values await, in pupal form. some new awakening and transformation. Meanwhile the Direct Action Networks run amok in small numbers against the superpowers on occasional bases, making no inroads into the broad base of American socio-politics, expending truly vast and impressive organizational effort in a colossal waste of time. The Green Party, the only minimally effective alternative has and continues to implode from within. The status quo is maintained. In the background, the Professors for Peace listserve, and the Academics of Justice listserve, disseminate vast amounts of very important information, acting essentially like alternative AP’s or Reuters. But as with those news services, without editorial direction, the information rises in heaps to no avail. Perhaps the best models of social change are still unthinkable. Both because we are terrified by them, or simply cannot dredge them from the political unconscious. In this light, chronotopology exists only at an imaginary level, but one that is practical on small social scales, and has its Bachelardian hopes set on broader concrete effects in the future.
[ii] “Pay attention to the animals!” Haraway, 9-02ish, addressed to class of undergraduate students at UCSC, as part of introduction to a screening of Men In Black.
[iii] While I distrust those historical comparisons which collapse differences over spacetime, it is worth pointing out in order to undermine the overly-optimistic faith in contemporary government and modernity in general, that vast eras have been successfully devoted to the oppression of the greater part of the population by a handful of vicious rulers. Neo-liberalism today has this potential, nor is it anything new under the ozone hole. In order to legitimize this claim, or at least put it in good company, I know of no other source better than Simon Bolivar: “Only democracy, in my opinion, is conducive to absolute freedom. But was there ever a democratic government that succeeded in conjoining power, prosperity, and permanence? And on the contrary, have we not seen aristocracies and monarchies hold together grand and powerful empires that lasted for centuries and centuries?” “The Agnostura Address,” found in, El Liberator: Writings of Simon Bolivar, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 35. Bolivar’s address was written on February 15th, 1819. If Bolivar’s prognosis establishes the historical logic, then Israeli state Zionism established the tactical model for maintaining such a distopia in actual practice.
[iv] Stein’s transitive consciousness, Bachelard’s scientific-poetic spirit, and Bahktin’s chronotopic heteroglossia, in this view, stand as monuments not to the twentieth century, but to the 21st.
[v] Quine, The Philosophy of Logic, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univerity Press, 1970), [p. 35]
[vi] This codification has taken, for example, such forms as the return of the same, trauma, inescapable psychic mechanisms and complexes.
[vii] I allude here to Stein’s reworking of James’ raising of prepositions to the level of speech-act significance. And it should be recalled that this prepositional elevation implies that “vagueness” is a permanent condition of language, and in complete contradiction to the usual interpretation of this epistemological state, must be given full, positive force. It is exactly through vagueness that the body enters language, and establishes a permanent home for significant otherness. Such concrete “vagueness” goes some way toward insuring us against the hubris of rationalism.
[viii] The HipHop movement, in some versions at least, comes to mind.
[ix] It is this non-Euclidean complexity that requires a major overhaul of what might now be called the classical model of semiotics, which is limited by the two dimensional, Cartesian coordinate system of synchronic and diachronic axes. It is worth noting here that semiotics has been to the study of language what the Oedipus Complex has been to the study of the psyche. Against this, I assert that the linguistic dimension of chronotopology has already been established, in one form, by Stein. She stands out in this regard because of the systematic approach she took to the linguistic problems of spacetime. No other writer, writing in English, as come even close to her profound reconstruction of language along these lines. To enter her “texts” is to enter a chronotopia governed by her epistemological framework in the service of transitive consciousness. Her project, collected in the volume, How to Write, has its theoretical justification in the lecture one of, Lectures in America, where presents her historical analysis of the evolution of the epistemological vector of the English language. A careful reading of this text, in comparison with the other lectures, makes it clear that she sees her work as a condensation and an extention of this evolution, in the direction of the verb. Despite the widespread influence she has had, the influences has been restricted to the types of surface linguistic experimentalism common in 20th century poetic practice, already noted above. The depth of her epistemological invention of transitive consciousness, as analyzed above, have gone largely unrecognized.
[x] It is easy to forget the confusion caused by having to negotiate the variety of subject positions and their relations when learning the “grammatically correct” forms of pronoun-verb conjugations. These forms are deeply naturalized, and the slippages among them, which actually are quite common, remain invisible to consciousness. Yet, in the practice of circulating through the pronominal subject positions lies the germs of a more fluid subjectivity. It is this type of objective linguistic constraint that may be used to objectify the linguistically dominated subject.
[xi] There is much confusion about Stein’s concept of “continuous present,” which many authors erroneously interpret as a static present, as essentially, an elimination of history. Nothing could be further from the truth. History was extraordinarily important to Stein. Her philosophy of history is found in a little work entitled, On History, and her much more epistemologically elaborated, The Geographical History of America, analyzed in some detail above. The first lecture of Lectures in America, sets out the initial conditions of her historiography.
[xii] The “word is born in a dialogue as a living rejoinder within it; the word is shaped in dialogic interaction with an alien word that is already in the object. A word forms a concept of its own object in a dialogic way.” The Dialogic Imagination, p. 279.
[xiii] “Historical Poetics” is the subtitle of “Forms of the Chronotope in the Novel,” and, for Bahktin, is to literature what historical materialism is to political economy.
[xiv] It is impossible for me to resist the highly speculative observation: wor(l)d, in which “l” is the perhaps vestigal, dialogic intercession, the drawing of a line to represent a once primal sensation of the divide between language and world. At least it makes for good allegory.
[xv] See The Dialogic Imagination, p. 254.
[xvi] Bahktin defines reaccentuation as the change in the “background animating discourse,” and as the change in the “composition of heteroglossia.” Ibid. p. 420.
[xvii] I do no mean to suggest here that the audiovisual sphere is sufficient to account for all the complexities of corporiality. It could not. I ascribe to the Aristotle’s view that the body has as many as 15 senses, not only the five that have become enshrined in today’s biological models of the body. I intend the audiovisual sphere only as a first attempt at broadening chronotopology in the direction of a subjectivity extended beyond the dominant linguistic subject.
[xviii] Two comments are pertinent here. First, Wilder met Stein in Chicago in 1934, when he was her host during Stein’s lecture tour of the United States in 1934-35. They became very close, life long friends. Aware of Stein’s close friendship with the Whiteheads, and his influence on her. Wilder is reading Whitehead, probably at Stein suggestion, as a way to understand her work. Second, Wilder and James knew each other quite well, and Whitehead spent is latter academic days at Harvard. His work is deeply influenced by James’ concepts of psychology. Note the upper left hand corner of Wilder’s diagram labeled “OMMITTED.’ Point #2 reads: “The Selective action of Consciousness on DATA = which is EMPHASIS.” This is a central concern of James, and one which Stein develops throughout her work. Wilder’s diagram is found in the notebook he wrote at that time, labeled, “Ascania,” after the name of the ship that carried him to Europe on June 28, 1935, pages 148-149, in the Thronton Wilder Papers in the Binecke Library, at Yale. “The Merchant of Yonkers” notebook, Series II Writings, YCAL 74, folder 1985.
[xix] It is this “conceptual feeling” that James goes to great length to substantiate, and which is the source of emphasis, the “selective action of Consciousness on DATA. Point 2 of “OMITTED.” Stein begins with James’ concept of feeling, but gives it a more articulated, and non-dualist, and therefore, non-dialectical role.
[xx] These two terms, apprehension and comprehension represent two different propositional vectors as each derives from a different geometric object. While plane figures, circles, square, the 5 regular solids may be comprehended because they are closed figures, the conic sections, parabola and hyperbola can only be apprehended because they are open, infinitely extensive figures. They thus represent two quite distinct epistemological orientations. Whitehead is obviously quite aware of this, and seeks the prior epistemological moment on which both are based, thus shearing off their prefixes. The result is a privileging of time over space. As many authors have pointed out, including Peirce, Foucault, and Deleuze, the consequences of infinity and finiteness, and the models used to expound them, govern entire systems of thoughts and epochs. If Whitehead moves in the direction of prior conditions, chronotopology moves in the opposite direction, to set along side com- and ap-prehension, not to replace them, a form of post-prehension governed by the non-Euclidean imaginary.
[xxi] This is the moment to point out that the Derridean act of rejecting the law of noncontradiction, is an act of rejecting Euclideanism and scientific rationalism, at the same time. And it is this same sphere that Stein’s work had already generated laws for, which she applied in her voluminous linguistic applications.
[xxii] This remark needs a bit more context, as does the complexity of Etiology, and the best introduction to Lubell’s works is his own words. The first quote speaks of his work in general, and the second, specifically about Etiology.
I make interactive installations that focus on the intersection of science and the arts, but my work is adamantly low -tech. These installations use no computers or video or motors and are entirely powered by visitors to the show. As visitors work together to animate the mechanisms they create a theatre for themselves and each other. By requiring participation, touch and manipulation I get the audience to engage their bodies as well as their minds. As they play, participants tap into the vast reservoir of knowledge stored in each of their own bodies and they become active partners in constructing an understanding. The way that pieces move and feel and sound as you rock them, pedal, crank, press against and listen applies the kinesthetic comprehension’s of childhood to the tasks of philosophy.
Like Marey’s apparatus this is a simulation of the human heart. Cranking the mechanism on the outside pumps air from these organs to other chambers and at the same time winds this canvas belt. The belt with an appropriate loose end, continues into another chamber where it makes a heartbeat sound….
Very important to this piece is the way it requires assistance and partnership. You can’t see what you are making happen while you are cranking, you need to take turns with someone else cranking and looking so it takes two people to get the full experience which seems just right for a heart piece.
This piece evolved over an almost 4 year period. It began with my oversized version of a machine depicted in an 1875 engraving of one of Marey’s heart simulations which took several years to get working in a way I liked. Since that part (which is really only half a heart) was pumping air I decided to have it animate another half a heart which needed to be immersed in some fluid to control it’s expansion and it also needed a leak with controllable back pressure. The controllable leak became the gurgling mechanism. The furniture like quality of the various stands was an imitation of the style of 19th century lab equipment. But it also gives each element an essential presence.
The cranking mechanism has a flywheel to smooth its operation and it seemed natural to add a belt that could power something else. A heart beat sound was clearly needed. I modified the design of a piano key mechanism to get the right drum stroke. The membrane presented a problem. Synthetic and even natural drum skins had too hard and sharp a tone. Latex sounded fine but stretched like this would only last a couple of weeks. Urethane has similar properties to latex but I could not find thin enough sheets so I had to pour out my own. The drum sticks are activated by adjustable pins. Interestingly, real heart beat timing was too quick between the Lub and the Dub — I had to extend that interval to have my sound perceived as real.
All quotes are taken from the unpublished, “General Remarks About My Work and How I Work,” a talk given at the Bedford Gallery, Walnut Greek, California, on…..
[xxiii] “The kind of clarity and control I seem to gravitate towards is more like the dark interconnections of Kafka and Beckett.” Ibid.
[xxiv] The question is whether this hybrid subject disappears the moment it leaves the museum, crosses the garden at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and enters Sony Metreon to take in a screening of a film. It doesn’t matter what film. At stake is the now century plus old dilemma of passive/active reception. If the cinema is taken as a node in a larger spectacular system, then, its impacts can easily be modified and shaped endlessly by the continuous assault of the latter’s hallucinatory power. The critical subject may of course, potentially, escape its grip, in thought. But in fact, even the critical subject has pragmatically contributed, economically, intellectually, and historically, to its durability. Meanwhile, the uncritical subject is produced in the form the spectacle dictates. At this juncture of high/low, active/passive, or in the Gramci’s terms, of the the bourgeois elite vs. national popular, must be aimed the strategies of radical pragmatism. Cinema, placed in the full context of this dilemma, is one instance of a distopic node ready for chronotopic redirection.