Posts Tagged ‘Deleuze’
Have always found Kundera’s line ‘the unbearable lightness of being’ a very beautiful and accurate description of the general mess we find our selves in.
Feel the same about Deleuze’s notion that we’re all living on our own desert island, as something that ‘precedes beginning itself’, each moment constantly being completely new:
Those people who come to the island indeed occupy and populate it; but in reality, were they sufficiently separate, sufficiently creative, they would would give the island only a dynamic image of itself, a consciousness of the movement which produced the island, such that through them the island would in the end become conscious of itself as deserted and unpeopled. The island would be only the dream of humans, and humans, the pure consciousness of the island.
For this to be the case, there is again but one condition: humans would have to reduce themselves to the movement that brings them to the island, the movement which prolongs and takes up the élan that produced the island.
…In the ideal beginning anew there is something that precedes beginning itself, that takes it up to deepen it and delay it in the passage of time. The deserted island is the material of this something immemorial, this something most profound. (Deleuze ‘Desert Islands’)
As the enigmatic Leos Carax said at the end of a recent interview about his very amazing, and sort of disturbing ‘Merde’ (part of a trilogy about Tokyo, about a hazard wreaking man who lives in the sewer): ‘I travel, I read, I write, I have other lives,” he says. “But when I have a camera I know that’s my country, my island.”
Watched 45 minutes of the 570 minute film-montage that just came out by Alexander Kluge (prolific director and erstwhile legal adviser to Adorno). The whole thing comes in three Dvd’s with an essay booklet (as part of a new series of filmeditions by Suhrkamp (all praise to them)). It is an incredible tour de force, and reminiscent in some ways of his films; highly intellectualistic, with a vast range of intertextual reference to mainly high culture (opera, art, music, theatre, literature). It is a completion of a project conceived, but never completed by Sergej Eisenstein in 1929 (who discussed his ideas with James Joyce, although as Dietmar Dath points out; this was a typical case in which ‘the state of the material, is more interesting than the discussion of the subject[ive agents]’. I.e. they did not have much to say to one another (in person). (Same goes (according to (apocryphal?) anecdotal legacy) for Joyce and Proust, Joyce and Gertrude Stein, Joyce and Hemingway)).
In hour two of the 9.5 hour film, Kluge speaks with novelist Dietmar Dath (who recently published (also with Suhrkamp) the massive, wildly experimental/speculative/futuristic novel Die Abschaffung der Arten). Kluge’s style does not really allow for the use of the word ‘interview’. He is anything but the typical ‘invisible’ interviewer. Kluge asks his questions like an excited child who wants to tell his own story of what happened, yet at the same time can’t wait tot hear the missing bits from his friend. In fact, he formulates few actual questions, since they always come at the end of long introductory sequences, before the end of which, Dath has often interrupted him. Kluge’s interview style is like a mini-crystallization of his filming technique. The man pushes and probes in all directions at once, with an encyclopaedic intellectual fervour (although (interestingly enough for a ‘Marxist’) nearly exclusively referencing High Culture, or (to appropriate Charles Bernstein’s phrase) Official Culture Culture). Unlike some other interviewees in this film (the much younger) Dietmar Dath is a good match for Kluge. Continually, impatiently nodding and mumbling in agreement with his interlocutor, Dath immediately retorts to the proddings with incisive comments or extended monologues.
Both men have a capacity to make associative connections, while still retaining a coherent story. The overall effect is the creation of a sort of dialogical assemblage in which meditations, extrapolations, and theoretical speculations are exchanged at varying speeds, from pensive to infinite.
Some (paraphrased) excerpts from the conversation, which is initiated and branches out from Marx’s question:
“Wenn das Geld denken konnte, wie wurde es sich erklaren?..Kann das Kapital “Ich” sagen?”
Dath: ‘for Joyce (wo)man always already carries all possible experience in him (her), while for Eisenstein freedom is able to grow as the rules of the game are increased. The more parameters, the more space within which to play.’
‘The novel [Ulysses] departs from [Leopold] Bloom and says: ‘it is by departing from Bloom that I understand this day as universal’. Eisenstein departs from the day: ‘departing from the day, I understand my subject as universal.’
Eisenstein’s idea of film as hypertext (me: similar to Walter Benjamin’s Passagenwerken)
Instead of reflection (representation) perhaps we should speak of ‘coordination’, a coordination of action; so that the relation between speech and action is geared towards what we want to do, bring about.
Modernity is for me that time in which suddenly there is space for this question: “what is it that I want?“
It is for this reason that I like the hammer/sickle symbol: the sickle means: I stand in direct relation with nature (I need to stay alive and therefore maintain this homeostatic relation to my environment). The hammer, however, means that I can start processing [labouring] my labour, enjoying the fruits of my labour.
The Mormons justify their need for a book outside of the Bible as follows: picture the Bible on a table, pierced by a nail. In this state, it can be turned all around. A second book (nail) is therefore necessary to keep it steady, i.e. to be able to derive one consistent meaning/message from it…The parallel of this with Marx is: the first nail is Marx/Engels, and for a long time the second nail was the Russians, i.e. Marxism-Leninism. In recent times, this second nail has been extracted and the book is turning freely again. And I think this is a good thing. There are, by now, so many different Marxisms. There is Moishe Postone, who says Marxism is centrally, a critique of industrialization; there is Wolfgang Pohrt who says, on the contrary, it is a philosophy of use-value that hopes that industry can realize certain goals for us (which we have to make happen politically); then there is Mark Lebowitz, who misses the perspective of the actual labour. In any case, Marx is once again being turned in many different directions. And wouldn’t it be nice, if through this re-pluralization of Marxisms, Marxism would become obsolete.
Kluge: ‘Because something completely different happens, namely, the actual movement/change of society.
Dath: The problem is that Marx also offered the ‘devil’s perspective on theology’ so to say. Not the way he wished money/capital would work, but Das Capital nevertheless also contains within it a description of how it simply does work, and what it is capable of.
Das Capital was written from the perspective of capital. And what no one has yet done, and I thought Benjamin would have been able to do well, was rewrite the book from the perspective of the labour force.
Marx and the old Greeks, key words: Epicurus, the Stoics, the sceptics, and finally the Sophists
Rosa Luxembourg “Man muss der Mehreit folgen, auch wenn sie irrt.’: we learn from the grand movements towards which our faulty nature inevitably steers us. A faulty praxis from which we can learn is more valuable than a faultless theory from which nothing remains to be learned.
‘Die Geschichte aller toten Geschlechter liegt wie ein Alp auf den Hirnen der Lebenden.’
Wallace Stevens: ‘What is communism: an instrument for human attentiveness.’
Kluge: ‘Marx said of himself I am not a Marxist, probably because he found the phrase distracting. ‘
Dath: I think it is helpful to think in terms of Pound’s persona (me: similar to Deleuze’s philosophical conceptual personae). One imagines an historical piece that one is playing; in th way that French revolutionaries were ‘Romans’. Marxists are necessary in that moment when there is more than one socialism. In the same way that Darwin is not necessary for there to be biology, so capital will not suddenly ‘disappear ‘ without Marxism. What is necessary is an intensive attentiveness to this process.’
In general relativity there is the idea that where there is mass, spacetime becomes curved. This means that we see light from a star as originating from somewhere else than it actually does. We can ask the question is this principle can’t also be aplied to the Soviet Union: “we want immediately, that which we can only arrive at through historical processes”. They saw the star on the horizon and thought they were already there.
Kluge: When I love someone else, there is more presence of life for both of us. We need new words, new praxis, new habits, a love-politics.
Norman Mailer: Love is not a goal, it is a reward.
Linked love is better than piled love (rhizomatic vs. arborescent).
Dath: I think the world is much less Wagnerian than Shakesperean. Shakspeare is much more fun, so to say.
Kluge: How would you describe love in Shakespeare?
Dath: Don’t ask me to describe love in Shakespeare, that is much too personal/intimate for me. I would rather tell you about a love scene of my own…: One goes to his workplace and gets to know someone. And this workplace was initially only thought of as a place of passing through. But one starts to fall in love with this person and suddenly a completely new decision arises: either I stay and make this transitional place a permanent one, in order to stabilize this love. Or, I can leave this place, in order to stabilize this love; since only then I can find out if this love will only hold if I am at that workplace, or if it is strong enough to function from.
Am reading a theory book with a staggeringly diverse frame of reference. One reason I think I have always felt attracted to that style of writing is that you get to enjoy thinking about authors/topics you otherwise wouldn’t realistically have the time to read. There is also the perverse satisfaction of having the feeling that everything is being taken in, that a topic has been completely milked with nothing left to say about it (desperately suppressing the knowledge that there will always remain one more book to be written). Sort of a temporary antidote to the secret desire to read everything. The tracing of a transversal line through the whole encyclopedia of knowledge.
One author who is a master at this is the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. Not surprising that he won the Sigmund Freud Prize for the style of his academic prose (2005), and two other prizes for his essayistic writing. His Sphären (a ‘morphological’ history of humanity) is a monumental philosophical work (spanning around 2500 pages) that includes references to just about any (sub-)discipline, religion, individual-of-interest you can think of. Including pictures on just about every third page. But apart from winning prizes, Sloterdijk’s style has also been criticized for being too convoluted and not suitable as academic register. Sjoerd van Tuinen uses most of the introduction to his short but very lucidly written monograph on Sloterdijk to introduce just this aspect of the philosopher’s work.
We are dealing with a synthetic-associative thinker who – in his at times megalomanic work – attempts to offer the reader insight into the most unlikely connections. His texts demand very undogmatic readers who are prepared to embrace a dynamic interpretation of the distinction between form and content, and allow themselves to be carried away by the current of an incomparable discourse that vacillates between theology and literature, psychoanalysis and politics, mythology and science, ingenious abstraction and banal jokes. (Sloterdijk: binnenste buiten denken, p. 13; my translation)
The above description could apply (if not quite as neatly) to the writing of Deleuze (an important inspiration for Sloterdijk), especially his books written in collaboration with Guattari (and then mainly Milles plateaux).
At the other end of that extreme there are the writers of spare, succinct prose, who use hardly any footnotes and get straight to the core of their argument. From recent reading, I’m thinking of Quentin Meillassoux in particular. Where Deleuze & Guattari might add notes as a means of legitimated digression and have endless bibliographies, Meillassoux’s recent Apres l’finitude (140 pages) has a mere two-page bibliography and only employs footnotes where strictly necessary.
Badiou doesn’t use footnotes at all because he reckons if they really want to know, people will look things up for themselves (think I remember that from somewhere in the introduction to (the translation of) Deleuze: clameur de l’etre. Now there’s an affirmative/Bruce-Lee-reading-attitude I can sympathize with. Especially since Google). His style – similarly to much Continental philosophy – is very important to the content, but unlike the flair, exuberance, or convolution of his (recent) contemporaries, Badiou writes in a sober and analytic tone. Badiou does not use irony, association, or wit, to stimulate a reader’s thinking; his syntax, for example, serves the very different purpose of being as unambiguous as possible, and to indicate the hierarchical importance of the parts of a sentence (cf. introduction Being and event).