Monday, April 27, 2009

The Future of Commentary: Podcast

The Future of Commentary: A Roundtable with David Greetham, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Avital Ronell, and Jesús Rodríguez Velasco

April 10, 2009, CUNY Graduate Center, New York City

Moderator: Nicola Masciandaro

Click the peacock for podcast, or right click to download.


Sunday, April 26, 2009


e luce sí, che per lo suo splendore

SPECTACULAR INTIMACY, or, the brightness of light becoming itself. Splendor is not a quality, but the condition of the overcoming of quality. It is not something seen, but the visible approach of the place where seeing becomes the seen.[i] "In this state of absorbed contemplation there is no longer question of holding an object: the vision is continuous so that seeing and seen are one thing; object and act of vision have become identical; of all that until then filled the eye no memory remains. . . . the vision floods the eyes with light, but it is not a light showing some other object, the light is itself the vision."[ii] Syntactically, the line temporalizes splendor, traces the becoming substantial of the relation between seeing and seen as a time delay within their distinction. Suspended in this light-filled air, can I say what splendor is? Luckily Dante, being one who breathes love back into philology (the exhale of his taking note when love inspires), is here to help.[iii] Commenting on the descent of divine power as sight (In lei discende la virtù divina / sì come face in angelo, che 'l vede), he explains splendor via Avicenna as not only reflected light, but the visible/visual becoming of a thing toward the virtue shining on it.[iv] Seeing is not simply splendor's external measuring tool, but the very efficiency of its cause. To see someone's splendor, to experience how she shines, is to witness her becoming like what she sees and thus belong by parallel process to her being. Splendor is the ideal form of seeing as participation, the term of beauty's neither-subjective-nor-objective being in the eye of the beholder, the self-forgetful love-seeing or ocular "erotic anamnesis . . . that transports the object not toward another thing or another place, but toward its own taking place—toward the Idea."[v] So the sigh returns in the lady's splendor to its own very cause.[vi] So is splendor what speaks the being of love: "Non per aver a sé di bene aquisto, / ch'esser no può, ma perché suo splendore / potesse, risplendendo, dir 'Subsisto,' . . . / s'aperse in nuovi amor l'etterno amore" (Paradiso 29.13-8).[vii] [N]

[i] Cf. "The sensual thing itself has a unified and basically ineffable effect on us, one that cannot be reduced to any list of traits. But if such a listing of traits does not sever a thing from its quality, there may be another way for this to happen. . . . The separation between a sensual object and its quality can be termed 'allure.' This term pinpoints the bewitching emotional effect that often accompanies this event for humans, and also suggests the related term 'allusion,' since allure merely alludes to the object without making it its inner life directly present" (Graham Harman, "On Vicarious Causation," Collapse 2 [2007]: 198-9).

[ii] Plotinus, Enneads, 6.7.35-6

[iii] "I' mi son un che, quando / Amor mi spira, noto, e a quell modo / ch'e' ditta dentro vo significando" (Purgatorio 24.52-4) [I am one who, when Love inspires me, takes note, and goes setting it forth after the fashion which he dictates within me]. Signification itself is a work of love, semiosis an amorous occasionalism.

[iv] "Ove è da sapere che discender la virtude d'una cosa in altra non è altro che ridurre quella in sua similitudine; sì come ne li agenti naturali vedemo manifestamente che, discendendo la loro virtù ne le pazienti cose, recano quelle a loro similitudine tanto quanto possibili sono a venire. Onde vedemo lo sole che, discendendo lo raggio suo qua giù, reduce le cose a sua similitudine di lume, quanto esse per loro disposizione possono da la [sua] virtude lume ricevere. Così dico che Dio questo amore a sua similitudine reduce, quanto esso è possibile a lui assimigliarsi. E ponsi la qualitade de la reduzione, dicendo: Sì come face in angelo che 'l vede. Ove ancora è da sapere che lo primo agente, cioè Dio, pinge la sua virtù in cose per modo di diritto raggio, e in cose per modo di splendore reverberato; onde ne le Intelligenze raggia la divina luce sanza mezzo, ne l'altre si ripercuote da queste Intelligenze prima illuminate. Ma però che qui è fatta menzione di luce e di splendore, a perfetto intendimento mostrerò differenza di questi vocabuli, secondo che Avicenna sente. Dico che l'usanza de' filosofi è di chiamare 'luce' lo lume, in quanto esso è nel suo fontale principio; di chiamare 'raggio', in quanto esso è per lo mezzo, dal principio al primo corpo dove si termina; di chiamare 'splendore', in quanto esso è in altra parte alluminata ripercosso. Dico adunque che la divina virtù sanza mezzo questo amore tragge a sua similitudine" (Convivio 3.14, <> [Here we must observe that the descent of virtue from one thing into another is nothing but the causing of the latter to take on the likeness of the former; just as in natural agents we clearly see that when their virtue descends into things that are receptive, they cause those things to take on their likeness to the extent that they are capable of attaining to it. Thus we see that the Sun, as its rays descend here below, causes things to take on the likeness of its light to the extent that by their disposition they are capable of receiving light from its virtue. So I say that God causes this love to take on his own likeness to the extent that it is possible for it to resemble him. And the nature of that causation is indicated by saying As it does into an angel that sees him. Here we must further know that the first agent, namely God, instills his power into things by means of direct radiance or by means of reflected light. Thus the divine light rays forth into the Intelligences without mediation, and is reflected into the other things by these Intelligences which are first illuminated. But since light and reflected light have been mentioned here, I will, in order to be perfectly clear, clarify the difference between these terms according to the opinion of Avicenna. I say that it is customary for philosophers to call luminosity light as it exists in its original source, to call it radiance as it exists in the medium between its source and the first body which it strikes, and to call it reflected light as it is reflected into another place that becomes illuminated (trans. Richard Lansing,>)].

[v] Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 2.

[vi] "ché 'n sue belezze son cose vedute / che li occhi li color dov'ella luce / ne Mandan messi al cor pien di desiri, / che prendon aire e diventan sospiri" (Convivio 3) [Her pure soul, which receives from him this salvation, For in her beauties are things seen that the eyes of those in whom she shines send messages to the heart full of desires that take air and become sighs].

[vii] "Not for gain of good unto Himself, which cannot be, but that His splendor might, in resplendence, say, 'Subsisto' . . . the Eternal Love opened into new loves."

Friday, April 17, 2009

More Sphere

vede una donna, che riceve honore

TRANSCRIBING SECRETS, the present tense of
vede produces the presence of what it sees. So the sonetto insists throughout on its present, on the being-without-beginning-and-without-end of its when (quando). Nothing happens—everything is happening: the sigh's circling beyond and back from the sphere to the heart it exits, the lady's shining upon and receiving from those who see her splendor, the sorrowing heart's hearing whom it causes to speak . . . Every event traces a flowing beyond and a returning back. All things circulate themselves, producing time from a somewhere beyond the sphere. "If . . . the Soul withdrew, sinking itself again into its primal unity, Time would disappear: the origin of Time . . . is to be traced to the first stir of the Soul's tendency towards the production of the sensible Universe (Plotinus, Enneads, 3.7.12). The sigh's seeing a lady turns the heart that shares its light to the movement of this first stir, to the scene of the first look of love. Here we record the ocular origin point of cosmos (janua coeli, oculus mundi), the fact that it is happening, not in a static place, but in an ecstatic erotic stir that remains visible in our looking, in the spontaneous giving-receiving of seeing which miraculously exceeds by staying within itself: "the very cause of the universe . . . is also carried outside of himself . . . He is . . . beguiled by goodness, by love, and by yearning and is enticed away from his transcendent dwelling place and comes to abide within all things, and he does so by virtue of his supernatural and ecstatic capacity to remain, nevertheless, within himself" (Pseudo-Dionysius, Divine Names, 4.13).[i] Love at first sight is only the reseeing of original vision. "The process of perception runs parallel to the process of creation, and the reversing of the process of perception without obliterating consciousness amounts to realising the nothingness of the universe as a separate entity" (Discourses II.98). As if love is a seeing that receives itself in surplus from the seen, as if the widest sphere is the eye.

[i] Pseudo-Dionysius, The Complete Works, trans. Colm Luibheid and Paul Rorem (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), 82.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Anti-Cosmosis (abstract)

photograph from Passages

I pick up the guitar play until I found a riff that makes me either shudder in fear, cry with pain, tremble with anger and I will play that riff many times over. . . I will destroy cosmos and return to freedom!—Donn of Teutoburg Forest

I do not believe in Satan, nor in God. Those two fuck-ups can't exist, not in my way of thinking.—Shaamatae of Arckanum

I don’t want to be where I am, or anywhere for that matter.—Malefic of Xasthur

Aritualistic exegetical worship of black metal as anti-cosmic, with special devotion to: Teutoburg Forest, Nightbringer, Tenebrae in Perpetuum, Xasthur, Weapon, Portal, Menace Ruine, Andramelech, Arckanum, Blut aus Nord, Benighted, Avsolutized, Avichi, Averse Sefira, Absonus Noctis, Black Seas of Infinity. Following a sequence of songs that form an algorithm for the dissolution of all that exists, my commentary will deploy interpretation impossibly, to hasten the happening of what it seeks to understand: frashokereti, apocatastasis, mahapralaya . . .

Black metal frequently claims for itself some kind of radically final agency, a production or bringing about of an ultimate end, however perfectly or imperfectly that end is defined. At the same time black metal takes habitation in its own futility and refuses the possibility of a vital or telic relation to the ultimate end, which by definition absolutely exceeds instrumentality. Black metal is progressively anti-instrumental and anti-prophetically apocalyptic. Its end is nigh, yet its relation to this end, rather than opening the space of the epochal present or Now, is itself a nothing or void. The home of anti-cosmic black metal is a dwelling without earth, the nomadic place of pure cave that is paradoxically found by burrowing into specific sites as unhomes. In other words, the space of anti-cosmic black metal is the temporal form of the inverse of Aristotle’s definition of place as a non-portable vessel. The time of black metal is a portable non-vessel. Summoning the inevitable and banishing its own summoning, anti-cosmic black metal enjoys within the secrecy of subtle unlocatable enclosures the profound pleasure of unconfessable relations to what exceeds relation. Anti-cosmic black metal is a minimalist high-powered specular hermeneutic microscope wherein the totality of the universe finally becomes barely visible, seeable for what it really is: an infinitesimal anchorite.

But is this true? Does is it work? Is anti-cosmic black metal actually achieving its impossible end? My commentary is a document preventing every answer to these questions except yes, the supplemental charter of the ultimate end, a death-certificate at once heralding, authenticating, and actualizing the dissolution of all. Employing the power of commentary to fatally scatter and disrupt the proper functioning of texts, I aim to exegetically evacuate black metal’s tomb, to perform an evaporative emptying of its every remnant and remainder. For anti-cosmic black metal is indeed impeded and handicapped, theoretically and practically, by many telic flaws, above all its relation to the end as something, and even worse, something that contains the possibility of its own pathetic continuation (chaos). This misbehavior cries out for schooling, demands a corrective beating by the fact that nothing is part of everything and when everything disappears so does nothing. Opening black metal to the reality of its most totalizing intuitions and desires, “Anti-Cosmosis” will exalt and educate its anti-cosmic dimension, anoint it with itself in a mysterious way that will elevate its virtue, transforming it from an adjectival vestibule into an absolutely exteriorized inner sanctum. Producing non-existence, “Anti-Cosmosis” will feed its reader an endlessly iterable recipe for unspeakable exposure to the immanence of what remains when everything is taken away.