Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Legacy intervew

 A short interview that will appear in Legacy magazine.

1. Black Metal and theory - that seems to be an adventurous enterprise. How come this project all about?

The project began with a desire to experience and intensify the mutual blackening of metal and theory, an impossible and inevitable annihilative process that is already happening, not only in the obvious phenomenal sense that metal is thought and thought is metal, but in the ‘esoteric’ sense that music and philosophy have the same end: the psychic decapitation of the individual subject. Black Metal, being at once the most intellectual and most anti-intellectual of musical forms, the intensest mode of headbanging, is a natural path to this end. As to what this mutual blackening is I do not definitively know. And if I did, I do not think it would be worth desiring. So you are exactly right, an “adventurous enterprise” in the original sense of ad-venture: deliberately exposing oneself to the hazards of what happens.

2. What has the response to your first symposium in Brooklyn, New York City last December been like?

There have been many responses, positive and negative, from instant loving recognition to pure idiotic anger. But as everyone knows, the truth divides. Black Metal ist Krieg. Like the famous appearance of God in human form that it negatively loves and positively hates, Black Metal brings “not peace but a sword.” Likewise, if everyone liked or disliked Black Metal Theory, it would be a serious failure. However I would not be too disappointed if everyone ignored it.

3. Some followers of black metal would argue that theory should step off such an uncompromising musical style. What do you answer to such argumentation?

I answer that those persons, by the very fact of their argumentation, inhabit an important and profoundly traditional theoretical position vis-à-vis the limits of discourse. I also call attention to the distinction between the false silence of not-speaking and the deeper silence that is the sound of language’s death. Truly significant criticism of Black Metal Theory emerges from persons who do not speak against it. I hope the thoughts and words of Hideous Gnosis give them joy.

4. Your book "Hideous Gnosis" shows a first way in getting more engaged with the background topics of black metal. Although it seemingly appeals to a select few. Is that perception correct?

Possibly. The book is not written or planned with any kind of audience or market in mind. Nor is it designed to explain black metal or to translate it into the topical, though of course it does address many well-known black metal topics. Rather it is the collective product of persons who are “engaged in the background topics of black metal” from several different perspectives. If Hideous Gnosis appeals to a select few, that is probably because formally it is neither metal journalism nor academic scholarship as typically practiced. It would have been extremely difficult to find a press in either area that would publish it.

5. There is quite some movement in metal studies, so what do you think is the contribution black metal theory could bring in?

The primary contribution of Black Metal Theory to metal studies is to creatively disfigure the current relations or boundaries between metal and its study. As to whether this will really prove to be a contribution to the field of metal studies who knows. Thus far it seems that the project lives more in the company of philosophy and the theoretical humanities than in other disciplines where metal scholarship goes on, like musicology or sociology. But what is a ‘contribution’ anyway? The word always reminds of manorial dues, or tithes, as if there were some big beautiful castle or church off in the near distance that all our labor is building and beautifying. That is a kind of instrumentality that I listen to black metal refusing and would prefer its theoretic possession to do the same.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Glossator 3

volume 2


J. H. Prynne

Carsten Madsen

Louis Bury

Barbara Clayton

Daniel C. Remein

Kristen Alvanson, Nicola Masciandaro
& Scott Wilson

Monday, September 06, 2010

Unknowing Animals (abstract)

(submitted for: Animals and Humans in the Culture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, The Twenty-Second Barnard Medieval and Renaissance Conference, December 4, 2010, Barnard College, NYC)

“Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is”
—Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

“The concept of Life . . . has the structure of negative theology”
—Eugene Thacker, After Life

In the Book of Privy Counsel, a work of contemplative instruction by the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, animal consciousness performs the somewhat surprising task of exemplifying the essential, factical faculty of mystical work, the ability to experience, not only what, but that one is: “For I holde him to lewyd and to boistous that kan not thenk and fele that himself is, not what himself is bot that hymself is. For this is pleynli proprid to the lewdist kow or to the moste unresonable beest (yif it might be seide, as it may not, that one were lewder or more unresonable then another) for to fele the owne propre beyng. Moche more than it is proprid to man, the whiche is singulerly endowid whith reson aboven alle other beestes, for to thenk and for to fele his owne propre being.” The example is all the more striking given the Cloud-author’s explicit understanding of this contemplative capacity as definitive of the very process, the ontic task of specifically human being: “For this is the werk . . . in the whiche man schuld have contynowed yif he never had synned, and to the whiche worching man was maad, and alle thing for man, to help him and forther him therto, and by the whiche a man schal be reparailed agein.” While maintaining an official distinction between human and animal, the example performatively throws the animal/human boundary into a significant, profound, and I think very purposive confusion, rendering the difference between human and animal an object of apophatic unknowing. That which all animals can feel is termed as unavailable to the ‘lewd’ humans who are implicitly ranked at once below and within a category of the animal that excludes them by not admitting of difference. This problematizing of the animal/human boundary is registered at the rhetorical level, wherein speaking of the animal necessitates a conspicuously literal instance of what Michael Sells, in characterizing apophatic discourse, calls the language of unsaying: “yif It might be seide, as it may not . . .”
I propose to take the Cloud-author’s significant aside about animal consciousness as an index of deeper affiliations between animals and apophasis, affiliations that are traceable across several points of medieval culture and contemporary discourse: Augustine’s understanding of animals as site of theological wonder, Pseudo-Dionysius’s concept of superlative life,[1] neoplatonic panpsychism and Ibn Arabi’s theory of bewilderment (hayra),[2] Giorgio Agamben’s explication of the mystical structure of Heidegger’s definition of the animal as poor in world,[3] David Williams’s reading of medieval monstrosity as a deformed discourse that apophatically kept open the “question of the adequacy of the intellectual concept of the thing in relation to its ontological reality,” Bataille’s definition of animality as “immediacy or immanence,” on which Jill Marsden comments: “This animality, of which we are a part yet from which we strive to distinguish ourselves, hovers at the edge of consciousness, extending its glimmer into a night of unknowing”—to name a few. In pursuing what might thus be called the apophatic animals of medieval and modern texts, I am above all interested in the interplay and phenomenal intersections between, on the one hand, the human experience of the animal as site and object for its own unknowing, and on the other, human openness towards understanding animal being and consciousness as itself grounded in unknowing. Understanding this interplay will entail analyzing the relationship between the various modes and moods of unknowing (questioning, wonder, aporia, abandonment, etc) and the what/that distinction so fundamental to ontology. In addition to explicating the conceptual function of the animal within the Cloud-author’s work, and the tradition of negative theology more generally, I hope my paper will also contribute towards understanding unknowing as an essential category for thinking life across all forms of being, as well as articulating the function of the animal as apophatic object, the deus absconditus of contemporary critical discourse.[4]       

[1] “The transcendentally originating Life is the cause of all life, produces it, brings it to completion, gives it specific form. When we speak in praise of it our words must be drawn from all of life, for we have to remember that it teems with every kind of life. It may be contemplated and praised amid every manifestation of life, for it lacks nothing, or, rather, it is overflowing with life” (Pseudo-Dionysius, Divine Names).
[2] “The whole world is intelligent, living, and speaking—in respect of the unveiling that breaks the customary views of people. . . . They stop with what their eyesight gives to them, while we consider the situation differently” (Ibn Arabi, Meccan Revalations).
[3] “The animal is at once open and not open-or, better, it is neither one nor the other: it is open in a nondisconcealment that, on the one hand, captivates and dislocates it in its disinhibitor with unmatched vehemence, and, on the other, does not in any way disconceal as a being that thing that holds it so taken and absorbed. Heidegger seems here to oscillate between two opposite poles, which in some ways recall the paradoxes of mystical knowledge-or, rather, nonknowledge. On the one hand, captivation is a more spellbinding and intense openness than any kind of human knowledge; on the other, insofar as it is not capable of disconcealing its own disinhibitor, it is closed in a total opacity. Animal captivation and the openness of the world thus seem related to one another as are negative and positive theology, and their relationship is as ambiguous as the one which simultaneously opposes and binds in a secret complicity the dark night of the mystic and the clarity of rational knowledge” (Giorgio Agamben, The Open.)
[4] This paper will build upon some current and recent work: an article and book-in-progress on the Cloud of Unknowing, “The Sorrow of Being,” Qui Parle 19 (2010), and “Labor, Language, and Laughter: Aesop and the Apophatic Human” in Fragments for a History of a Vanishing Humanism, eds. Eileen A. Joy, Betsy McCormick, and Myra J. Seaman (Ohio University Press, forthcoming 2010).

On the Love of Commentary (in Love and Online) -- CFP

Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary (Fall 2011)
Volume Editors: Nicola Masciandaro & Scott Wilson

Love must be reinvented . . . but also quite simply defended.
                                                                                    —Alain Badiou, The Meaning of Sarkozy

Every person is free to pursue thought and experiences, however sublime and exquisite, that are his by special insight, on the meaning of the Bridegroom’s ointments.
—Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Song of Songs

What it is thus the Other’s job [the locus of speech] to provide – and, indeed, it is what he does not have, since he too lacks being – is what is called love, but it is also hate and ignorance.
                                                                            —Jacques Lacan, Écrits

Taste and see (Psalm 34:8). Taste refers to the affectus of love; see refers to the intellect’s cogitation and mediation. Therefore one ought first to surge up in the movement of love before intellectually pondering . . . For this is the general rule in mystical theology: one ought to have practice before theory.
                                                      —Hugh of Balma, The Roads to Zion Mourn

What is there to say, except that we have invented the reality of a virtual space that will allow us to interact long-distance and no matter what the distance from our neighbour? Will we, in the near future, have to love our non-neighbour as ourselves?
           —Paul Virilio, Open Sky

[A]ll the causes that engender and increase friendship have joined together in this friendship, from which we must conclude that not simply love but most perfect love is what I ought to have, and do have, for it. . . . This commentary shall be that bread made with barley by which thousands shall be satiated, and my baskets shall be full to overflowing with it.
             —Dante, Convivio

I-love-you has no usages. Like a child’s word, it enters into no social constraint; it can be a sublime, solemn, trivial word, it can be an erotic, pornographic word. It is a socially irresponsible word.
                                                                             —Roland Barthes, Lover’s Discourse                                                                          
O marvel! A garden amidst fires, i.e. manifold sciences which, strange to say, are not consumed by the flames of love in his breast. The reason is, that these sciences are produced by the fires of seeking and longing, and therefore, like the salamander, are not destroyed by them.
                                           —Ibn Arabi,  Tarjuman al-ashwaq [The Interpreter of Desires]

As these citations attest, there are significant points of contact between commentary and love, particularly according to the premodern commentary traditions that acknowledged and practiced commentary as a form of contemplative love. But unlike the opening kiss of the Song of Songs, these points of contact have received little direct attention or acknowledgement, neither theoretically, with respect to the study of commentary (or love), nor practically, with respect to how the production of commentary is generally approached and valued. The work of writing commentary may be a ‘labor of love’, but the inflection of this commonplace (on labor) often betrays a lack of eros, or at least its displacement into private/privative regions elsewhere than commentary itself. Commentary—as obsession, compulsion, veneration, disclosure, interpretation, appropriation, contemplation, devotion, critique—has a way of attesting to love in a manner that displaces love from itself, sapping it of immanence. As a genre, commentary is not sexy. Its seductions seem to lead elsewhere than direct pleasure in or exercise of the love that drives it. This elided eros of commentary, generally visible across the medieval/modern divide as “the loss of commentary and the gloss as creative forms” (Agamben), becomes newly significant in the context of the present multiform return to commentary, diagnosed by Gumbrecht as an inevitable result of the “vision of the empty chip . . . a veritable horror vacui.”

Commentary has never been cooler, not because of its authoritative reincarnations in contemporary theory (however important these are as indices of commentary’s ongoing seductive inventional potentiality), but because of the accelerating technical horizons for its practice, hitherto always supplementary, in relation to discourse (political, juridical, academic, critical and so on) that forms the modern basis of the social bond. Commentary is not the same as discourse, rather the former is a continual elaboration and un-working of the latter. As the invitation to participate in the beta version of openmargin, an application for the iPad eReader, puts it: “Connect thoughtfully: When you read a book, the words can inspire new, original thoughts in your mind. These thoughts are never heard, because they have no place to go. But from now on, the blank space around the text is public domain. When you write thoughts in this openmargin, they become real traces in the book, left for other readers to find. Together with these like-minds, you can start a dialogue. Exchange ideas, challenge the status quo and maybe start a small revolution. The margin has always been the place where change started from. So start reading and speak up.” Yet whatever the dreams currently being offloaded onto commentary’s ever-widening gyres, the expanding archipelagic mega-glosses of networked ‘global’ cultures—dreams at once of touching the void and changing the world—the loves and desires of commentary itself remain undisclosed, even stifled in its very proliferation, like the safely cordoned off comment-box itself. Whence this themed volume of Glossator, which aims to ‘put the love back’ into commentary, one way or another, practically and theoretically. For it the editors invite the following kinds of contributions:

1)      commentaries on the subject of love, on texts and other objects concerning love
2)      loving commentaries, commentaries that are in love
3)      articles and essays addressing the relations between love and commentary, theorizing one as the other, etc.
4)      commentaries on the triangular relation between love, discourse (the social bond) and commentary
5)      hybrids of the above         

Please send abstracts of 300-400 words to the editors ( by October 1st. Deadline schedule:

15 June 2011: Submissions due to the editors
15 July 2011: Submissions returned to authors with comments
15 August 2011: Revised submissions due to editors
September 2011: Publication, online and print.