Leper Creativity Report

14Mar11

First off I must admit to being a bit perplexed by the ‘Reza doesn’t exist’ thing – it was a side joke or comical current of the conference and is one of the silliest things to focus on…it was a small aesthetic choice of Robin’s piece for instance which did not in any way overshadow the interesting discussing of deep-time individuation (of a sort) via Freud’s geo-traumatics and Haeckle’s evolutionary theories.

While ostensibly being ‘about’ Cyclonopedia the symposium addressed several themes which have been getting attention in sr/sr-related circles and beyond. One stand-out theme was the relation of humans to non-human entities and forces. Two of the talks (Juan Azulay’s and Alisa Andrasek’s) took this inhumanness-humanness relation to the arts with the former creating a self-enclosed self regulating biosphere (Vivarium) and the latter doing work that uses complex mathematical models to mimic natural processes to then apply them to architectural design (biothing).

Saying too much seems silly as all the talks are online here and the visuals are needed for the two art-related talks. Besides Alex, Nicola, and Eugene’s panel I was particularly struck by (besides the two aforementioned talks) Zach Blas’ talk on queerness. Part of this is a matter of biography as I majored in women’s studies (one of the few fields I could do continental philosophy at my university) and hadn’t thought extensively about queer theory for some time. What was interesting was that most of the problems (and the texts mentioned) had been ones central to work I had done (Lee Edelman, Judith Jack Halberstam, Judith Butler, Elizabeth Grosz).

In many ways the frustration of a kind of Deleuzian exhaustion seems to have remained over the years as has the sticky problem of materiality (remember the notorious ‘what about the body judy?) and Reza’s work seems to diagonally adress issues in queer theory – the problem of a real yet politically open sense of materiality both more philosophical and yet more applicable. Tim Morton’s Queer Ecologies is clearly one of the central works involved.

As these developments are nascent I don’t have too much to say other than to suggest reading Michael O’Rourke’s pieces available here.

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9 Responses to “Leper Creativity Report”

  1. I don’t think Mackey’s remarks should be rejected out of hand. I am not suggesting that Reza is a fiction or that he doesn’t exist, but that this uncertainty is an important part of his project. Consider the way the novel opens with Kristen going to the Middle East only to find that her email companion fails to materialize. Over at Hyperstition, out of which Reza’s project materialized (and CCRU as well), they discuss the project of making a fiction real and the actually existing a fiction. Finally, we get Robin’s comments at the conference. In my view, it’s important to ask what theoretical and critical function this indiscernibility of reality and fiction are serving in Reza’s work.

    I’d be interested in reading more as to just why you believe Reza’s work is of such philosophical and political importance. You’ve made a lot of remarks as to how it overcomes a sort of tired Deleuzianism, but I haven’t seen anything as to just how this is so. Again, I’m not suggesting that this isn’t the case. Rather, I find that I have an exceedingly difficult time understanding what Reza is claiming in both Cyclonopedia and in his other published writings. I suspect part of this is that I just have no familiarity with Nick Land whatsoever, and only limited familiarity with Bataille, both of whom are key figures for Reza. We need something like a “Negerastani for Dummies” which clearly outlines his project and the stakes of that project. In his Speculative Turn piece, for example, is he really proposing a form of emancipation that would be the end and extinction of the human? That seems to be the claim. Or have I just completely misread him?

    • 2 Ben Woodard

      Levi,

      Obviously theres a bit of fun going on with Robin and Reza being a work of fiction via the history of the ccru and hyperstition. A large part of the importance of the fictive is also connected to the central issue of Reza’s piece in the Speculative Turn which I think you have misread. Reza is not proposing emancipation that would end in extinction but that extinction is inevitable and a serous political problem is how that negativity is employed by speculative thought and capital. Reza is critical of both Ray and Land because for them negativity is too exorbitant – too exteriorize in such a way that it merely serves capitalism and other conservative systems.

      This is why Reza ends with the void and the figure of the insider – that is it is important to discover the ways in which the outside is already inside as a means towards redirecting ones eventual unbinding in a way antithetical to the systematization of the negative. In this sense fictions are important as a weaponization or gloss on the interiorized outside. Furthermore, as Reza’s On the Revolutionary Earth expresses, he is trying to construct a materialism which is a universalism, that can account for thought and geophysics (for instance) with the same model – that these differences relate and are complicitious in ways alien to much of contemporary philosophy.
      In this sense Reza’s work is a kind of negative Deleuzo-Guattarianism in which non-dialectical negativity (from an absolute outside) does the intensive work of generation without the capture of thought guaranteeing positivity or conceptual production.

      Maybe I could do a negarestani gloss (a follow up to my 10min intro in london) but that will take some slow rereading.

      • Hi Ben,

        This is helpful, though I’m still not convinced by your reading of the ST piece. I worked through it three times while editing the collection and strongly got the sense that he wasn’t merely claiming that extinction is a political problem (strongly agreed), but that he was also claiming that responses trying to prevent extinction are inherently conservativism in nature and that we must envision a beyond to the living and human (the title is, of course, “Drafts of the Inhuman”). I am not saying any of this as as a criticism, but just expressing my genuine bewilderment at the project and what it is doing. I’m unclear as to what the politics of slime is, what is supposed to be made of geotrauma, and how specifically it is responding to capitalism or how it constitutes a political intervention. I’ve searched the internet extensively for detailed discussions of Reza’s writing and thought, but I’ve only been able to find remarks about how brilliant Cyclonopedia is (without discussions as to how and why) and discussions that seem to assume his concepts without elaborating them or explaining them. A gloss on Reza would be much appreciated and is, I believe, necessary if this discourse isn’t to remain a gnomic secret language whose referents and targets are thoroughly opaque. Again, I offer this not as a critique, but just an expression of my bewilderment. Why, for example, was the symposium called Leper Creativity? There was no write up on the conference or why this titke was chosen.

      • 4 Ben Woodard

        I don’t think the inhuman is about prevention of the outside but a way of critiquing how the outside is used to shore up conservative apparatuses such as capital. Its the of an inhuman compliance with an actual outside as opposed to a positing of one. I don’t think you can read inhuman as merely end of the human in reza’s work. If there is a passage that you think disputes this let’s talk about it. I have to cut this short as im at work.

  2. I forgot to add that I wrote a bit about what Reza might be up to following Doherty’s analysis here:

    http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/luhmann-on-systems/

    I’d also be interested in hearing what we’re to make of Negerastani’s forays into numerology in Cyclonopedia. If you dig into CCRU you’ll discover that numerology played a key role through Nick Land. You can read up on this here:

    http://energyflashbysimonreynolds.blogspot.com/2009/11/renegade-academia-cybernetic-culture.html

    CCRU played a key role in the development, I believe, of Hyperstition and Reza’s project. The cybernetic connection is interesting as well. What does it mean to think of social and political questions cybernetically, and what implications does cybernetics have for social and political praxis? It seems to me that these were the sorts of questions that Sadie Plant and Nick Land were raising and that it accounts, in part, for the strange flavor of much of their work. Negerastani’s work could be seen as continuing this lineage.

  3. Ben,

    This is a great place to start. I didn’t mention anything about the outside in my comments, so I’m completely mystified as to what you’re talking about and what this complicity might refer to. What is this all about and how is it complicit with capitalism? I think these are terms that must be defined and elaborated, not simply thrown around in discussion as self-evident. I say this as someone who’s genuinely trying to understand what’s going on here and not arrive at the conclusion that this isn’t simply a playful literary thing-object of a dadaesque variety.

  4. I am just completely clueless here. I’ve read you for a couple years now and a fair amount of Reza and I’ll be damned if I can say what the project is or make heads or tails of it. It’s something I’d like to understand as people seem excited.

  5. 8 Ben Woodard

    Levi,

    I dont think I have the time to fully flush out what capitalism means for Reza – but in the essay the economic models addressed are Land’s and Bataille’s notions of economy. Economies are models that code and manipulate material processes of life – capitalism exacerbates and confuses living organisms relationships to the non-living (both substances and forces). Metaphysically Reza’s work is a void energetics meaning that voids are the driving force in terms of becoming, immanence, etc – an energetics manifested in various patterns and twists which appear as an altered form of individuation. The outside works as a kind of degraded or warped absolute that generates everything in a mode of generation that is patterened and therefore at least partially accessible to human thought weird as it is.

    Ill have to think about this more and pull some passages from cyclonopedia.

  6. Thank you kind sir for this helpful summary.


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