I’ve mentioned before how fascinated I am with the pop-culture zombie; I think this show is the next logical step as the undead become more and more mainstream. This is a polished re-presentation of what has now become essentially the standard zombie-mythos, steeped in the emergence of disease, humans becoming nothing but the vessels of some virus or bacteria which thinks of nothing more than it’s own propagation. What’s amazing in all of this is the way that life is portrayed as evil, that it is unable to curb itself to the point of it’s own collapse at the hand of it’s own parasitic drives. Life is evil because it is excessive, because Nature cannot be domesticated, because it is ultimately unpredictable. How far we’ve come from the undead as a figure of demonic possession, beings that were simply Evil. Now, evil needs a reason and that reason is unsustainability.
Tag Archives: hauntology
There’s a great article in the New York Times on the Large Hadron Collider, and the possibility that it is sabotaging itself from the future. A sample:
A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.
Where we’re going we don’t need grandfathers.
Something else of interest to those of us interested in Meillassoux and speculative materialism is this:
Another of Dr. Nielsen’s projects is an effort to show how the universe as we know it, with all its apparent regularity, could arise from pure randomness, a subject he calls “random dynamics.”
- All things exist in relation to other things. There is no thing that exists in isolation.
- There is no isolation because no thing is complete, but is historical. This means that even if a thing never relations to any other thing, it will at least relate to other instances of itself (past or future selves).
- If no being is ever complete then ontology as the study of Being qua static presence is useless as static presence is impossible. We will hereby discard ontology in favour of hauntology, that is, the study of spectral being, becoming and unbecoming, the raveling and unraveling of beings across time.
- Since all things are incomplete (historical) beings, their relations must themselves be incomplete because they too are historical, that is, always coming to be and passing away. It follows that if a thing is always changing due to time, then that things relations are themselves constantly changing as the thing takes up new relations and no longer relates to other things. Partial objects have fleeting relations.
- If hauntology is first philosophy then there are two starting points for metaphysics: either we begin with coming to be or we begin with passing away. I am not yet sure what difference this makes and so will begin with the latter, passing away.
- All beings are in mourning. What do we mean by mourning? Mourning is the other side to haunting. It is essentially the residue of a relation which is carried on by a thing with more existence. Nothing is impossible. This should be taken literally, nothingness itself is impossible; things always persist through relations, across history (across time). Haunting/Mourning, a persistence beyond existence. Any relation between entities of unequal existence can be said to be a relation of haunting/mourning (depending on which perspective is taken).
- But what is mourning? What is it to mourn or be mourned?
- When a relation passes away, fading out, it does not simply dissolve. There is a process whereby the network of relations is altered by the newfound gap. I catch myself thinking another that isn’t there, not any more. We catch ourselves relating (in this case thinking, feeling) the gap. The network must be reformed anew.
- “My double is wandering through the networks…” (Jean Baudrillard. Impossible Exchange, Verso, 2001:15). Not exactly “double,” though you do persist. We should say rather, “Pieces of me cling throughout the networks.”
- I am covered in these pieces of history. They stick to me and try as I might I cannot shake them off.
- These pieces of history define me in some way. These pieces of you become pieces of me. These pieces of me become pieces of you.
- I am always mourning because I am always in relation to the past. History forces itself on me, on everything. Everything is always mourning. Sometimes it’s simply more pronounced. Sometimes I mourn even more.
Richard Long sculpts time itself by walking through nature. Simple activity in nature as minimalist art, the aesthetics of intention. This makes me wonder whether we could consider all activity as some form of art, the art of geology, the art of living, the art of…
Besides the art of walking, he also creates simple sculptures along his journeys using natural materials to give identity to place, like the ruins of a lost civilization.
- What does it mean for a human being to be connected? When is one wired and where does this wiring go? Is the wiring visible like a marionette, or are we all wireless now? Am I connected? Of course I am, but to what? Is it to you or to…
- On my relation to my relations. As object, I remains distinct from those other objects around me. But I am not entirely distinct, as I am not simply an isolated atom, but am defined by the complex relations I build, maintain, and destroy. The family members I don’t speak to or foods I avoid are a part of me, just as my significant other or favourite songs are. There is no “at bottom” when describing myself, because I am more than myself, I am outside of myself.
- What then, if anything, am I? I am animal, of this I am fairly certain. I am mobile, desiring, creative flesh and bone. I have been told I am rational (of this I am always doubtful). I am a thing which thinks (though often doesn’t). I am real, this I accept. I am, but am not reducible to my relations. The same goes for my character. For I am also a history, and a trajectory.
- I am not my static presence, but a past and a future as well.
- My past is perhaps unknowable, as my past selves are themselves defined not in terms of isolated character traits or unchanging substance, but by their relations, both to other things, as well as to the relations of those things, and those things, and and and.
- I am a history in matter, a formation in the rock. I am a tender history in rust. I am an outgrowth in reality; a smudge on the windshield. I am a violent outburst of sight and sound. I am tired.
- How is history even possible?
- It gets crowded in here with all these memories (lies). For the amount that I write and think about memory, about haunting and the residue of relations, you’d think I had more of them. All my writing about memory is really about forgetting. (This is perhaps the thinker at his most candid, take note.) I forget everything. The vast majority of life forgotten: days, months, years, feelings, thoughts, homes. I would not survive without pockets of lists. My archive is continually destroyed by the washing machine. What would Freud say? (Don’t even get me started.)
- I am a force, a drive, a movement. I surge forward, in search of food, drink, this, that. I am empty, please fill me. Please, fill me.
- I am always to come, that is to say, I am not yet ready, but always in preparation. I am not yet, and yet…
I’m excited about this one, and since it too is in the public domain, I thought I would share it. I will likely be watching this tonight:
There have been three films based on the book I Am Legend (1954), this one starring Vincent Price being the first, followed by The Omega Man (1971) starring Charlton Heston, and I Am Legend (2007) starring Will Smith (which is the only one I have seen up until now). What I find interesting about this series is that through combining the mythos of the vampire and the zombie, this may be the first instance in popular culture where vampirism and/or zombification is a disease or virus, rather than being seen as magical or other-wordly in some way. This is actually one of the important themes for my book, the relation between magic and biology in Vitalism, but also in how we view the death drive. I am also interested in the relation between Vitalism and the idea of “mutations,” and how these connect to post-humanism and/or anti-humanism.
Also significant for my current writing is the idea of the apocalypse, in the case of the I Am Legend book and film off-shoots as well as many zombie films inspired by it, the idea of a biological apocalypse and the relation it has to the common Christian apocalypse.
I will be watching this film this evening. Please join me and we can discuss it (maybe!). The copyright has expired on it, so I am posting it below. Here’s the Wikipedia page for the movie. Note: It stars Bela Lugosi as a voodoo master named Murder(!) and so can’t possibly be bad! Enjoy!
PS: Click through to watch it on YouTube with a dimmer.
Wow talk about “undead labour,” huh? Creating the undead to work in a sugar mill? You’d think a voodoo master named Murder would aim higher than that. Maybe it was all part of a plan? As we all learned from The Simpsons, “First you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women.”
I did love that scene when Madeleine sees Murder’s gaze in the glass of wine and says “I see death.” Nice.
This is rather premature, but I wanted you guys to know that I’ve been asked to expand my essay on Lacano-Zizekian Death Drive and Vitalism into a book, tentatively titled simply Death Drive. I’ve been outlining and outlining, and it looks like it’s going to be six chapters plus an introduction, though one of the chapters may be broken in two depending on how it goes (it looks to be the longest chapter by far, and so may benefit from being broken up). So it looks like I’ll be writing even more on the death drive here than I thought, since that is now two essays, and a book on the subject (though there will be much crossover, I’m sure).
Again, this is pretty far off since so little is even written yet, but with posting being so light here lately I thought I would fill you guys in. Here’s a brief blurb on the thrust of the book:
In Death Drive, Michael Austin boldly claims that psychoanalysis provides the ultimate philosophy of life, connecting it with Hollywood’s undead.
This means I can also look forward to more frequent zombie nightmares as I write this (two nights in a row and counting)!
PS: I’m also still working on a piece on Derrida that is somewhat related to all of this since it’s on Archive Fever, I’ll keep you all posted on that as well.
As I have said numerous times before, I disagree with what Zizek calls the “naive” reading of Freud’s death drive. I am not proposing some radical re-reading of Freud, rather, I agree with the Lacano-Zizekian reading which has existed for some time and is quite nicely summed up in the following quote:
“On the philosophico-ontological level, this is what Lacan is aiming at when he emphasizes the difference between the Freudian death drive and the so-called “nirvana principle” according to which every life system tends toward the lowest level of tension, ultimately toward death: “nothingness” (the void, being deprived of all substance) and the lowest level of energy paradoxically no longer coincide, that is, it is “cheaper” (it costs the system less energy) to persist in “something” than to dwell in “nothing,” at the lowest level of tension, or in the void, the dissolution of all order. It is this distance that sustains the death drive: far from being the same as the nirvana principle (the striving toward the dissolution of all life tension, the longing for the return to original nothingness), the death drive is the tension which persists and insists beyond and against the nirvana principle. In other words, far from being opposed to the pleasure principle, the nirvana principle is its highest and most radical expression. In this precise sense, the death drive stands for its exact opposite, for the dimension of the “undead,” of a spectral life which insists beyond (biological) death.” (The Puppet and the Dwarf, 93)
As I have two projects this summer that are essentially examinations of the Lacano-Zizekian death drive (one on popular culture, and one in terms of vitalism), this is probably not the last I will be speaking of this over the next couple of moths.
“Nonhuman species obey only the law of vitality, but humanity in its distinctive features is through and through necrocratic.” — Robert Pogue Harrison, The Dominion of the Dead
One of my favourite scenes from one of my favourite films (Dead Man, directed by Jim Jarmusch). See also Kevin’s post on finding a dead fawn to see another way to mourn.