Monday, April 28, 2008

Howla Back Y'all.

The NY Times Reports on March 19, 2008:

I. Enter the Creature on the Page, possessed of Human Doubt

["BOZEMAN, Mont. — The long, lonely howl of a wolf shatters the early morning stillness. But is it real? Beginning this June, it might be hard to tell, even for the wolves."]

II. Enter the Recording Registry (or, the positing of the tool)
["One of the most famous sounds in nature is going digital. Under a research project at the University of Montana in Missoula, scientists are betting that the famous call-and-response among wolves can be used to count and keep track of the animals."]
III. Enter the Apparatus of Capture
["Tricked by technology, scientists say, wolves will answer what amounts to a roll call triggered by a remotely placed speaker-recorder system called Howlbox. Howlbox howls, and the wolves howl back. Spectrogram technology then allows analysis that the human ear could never achieve — how many wolves have responded, and which wolves they are."]
IV. Enter the Regulatory Morphology: Citizenry
[“With audio software, we’ll be able to identify each wolf on a different frequency, so we can count wolves individually, kind of like a fingerprint,” said David Ausband, a research associate at the University of Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, where Howlbox was developed."]Photobucket

One of the most misconceived sounds in nature is getting recorded. Under a posthuman census commission at the University of Montana in Missoula, scientists are wagering that the notoriously vocal utterances among wolves can be exchanged via audio-metric alteration technologies, for a useful adaptation that will allow wolves to be regulated like the substratum of citizens.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Problem with Field Recording.

Deleuze & Guattari famously contest the singularity of man's species-clinging (to dead objects) by conceiving the breast and mouth as machines that are capable of both directing and cutting off the flow of immanence in the form of lactose, for differing regulatory purposes of production that are never simply or exclusively either reproductive or destructive of a subject, or its reified things, but which rather record and edit the entirety of life productive activity:

It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. What a mistake to have ever said the id. Everywhere it is machines—real ones, not figurative ones: machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections. An organ-machine is plugged into an energy-source-machine: the one produces a flow that the other interrupts. The breast is a machine that produces milk, and the mouth a machine coupled to it (Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, pg.1).
The totality of mechanistic relations as a matrix of productive relations requires necessary subdivisions for their productive functions to register on the surface of consciousness, but these divisions are dividends of a perspective that has no grounding in the immediate nature of the machines it proposes, they are the playback returns of a recording and editing process engineered by a subject without substance, the fabricated memories (Gm. Erinnerung) and plug-ins of a schizoid man's (and we are now eerily traversing the 21st Century…) interface, who fears the invasion of his individuality and the imposition of immanence (Gedachtnis) in the form two constitutive grumbles: that of his undead food, and that of his unfed digestive tract. This is the everyman of the self-conscious subject who sees the logo-less machinery of the animal as a type of predation and threat that a real animal could never conceive of or act on, even as the Alaskan Grizzly swallows the Grizzly Man, who has only called the clan his brethren to avert the radical truth of their thingless difference, and his reduction to the organic zero he would become if bears truly were his kin. Likewise, and following Freud, if the mother’s breast were merely an object of the reproductive process, it would not have the capacity to install in man the trauma of the oceanic feeling, the being in the world "like water in the interior of water," that undoubtedly agitates centuries of religious practice, the wondrous fondling of a long-inherited luxury items that appears as an apparition in the palm of one’s hand, and the iconoclastic demolition of the eighteenth through twentieth-century revolutions that circulate as emergent hauntologies (Jacques Derrida,Specters of Marx) throughout human history, perpetually destroying humanity’s stable image of itself; the bastard counter-editing of the dominant species’ patriarchive (JD, Archive Fever,pg.14) by its daughters and its orphans. The self-conscious man is a paranoid, empty body, arranging organs outside himself, accumulating the instincts he perceives in other animals, which are only instincts that the jealousy of his instinctless artifice (to invoke the speculative-historical developments of eighteenth-century discourse) can decipher with desire, which is of course, encoding. This paranoia though, is a shortsightedness that supposes man’s dissolution would reduce him to one of his things, either not recognizing or being proprietarily obsessed—enslaved—by the living objects of his accumulation, that his immanence would never permit him to be prey to beasts in the way that his subjectivity mandates, even if he were defecating on the street, sniffing crotch in a dog park, and being devoured by the wolves waiting at the garbage disposal.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Lamb & The Host

A Word on the Diverse Perfection of the Animal Figure

The broad discursive workings of both global political-economy and phylogenetic nomenclature consider the human and animal, via figuration, to be metonymic particulars on which the totality of their systems, and productive and technical phenomena at large, are founded. This is the sort of narrow limitation of understanding that Bataille targets when enacting his “Copernican” shift, from a restricted (a calculating, yielding, and anti-entropic) economy—to a general economy, which circulates only waste and luxury. The illustrious presence of animal figures in Bataille’s work can be attributed to a deep understanding of the general use of the animal figure particularly; the animal is the object of figuration par excellence. Writing on the movement of excess energy in the biosphere, and on the most general form of economic circulation, the largest and most abstract systems engaging the human, Bataille flatters the figural capacity of several animals: “ The calf and the ox merely add a richer and more familiar illustration of this great movement” (Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share, pg.28). Animal figures typically punctuate the domains of excess, ultimate abstraction, and motions towards the beyond of human thinking in Bataille’s oeuvre, specifically as the frontier of religious activity and as the horizon of economic activity, which as libidinal discourses of desire, are fundamental to the Hegelian notion of human consciousness, and the constitution of the human species. Throughout Bataille’s political-economic catalog, the animal figure is given the consistent role of marking the threshold between the particular and the general, between self-consciousness and total—animal—consciousness.

The wealth of this particular figure is due to its immensity as a presence that straddles both planes of this threshold, the material and immaterial: the animal lends a tangibility to human memory (mnesis), as a biological fact to be encountered daily in the form of fodder, companionship, and competition, but also as the tropic basis of our species history; it is the material tabulate of a human fable. The intuitive difference and sameness of the animal to the human veils the contingent semiosis of its figuration in the holy vestiges of a symbol, made possible by the omnipresence of profane animal bodies, and carcasses, in modern life. It the veiling of figuration’s metaphoric distance from the world that allows these images to mediate social reality as ideology, which is why the dominative binary of eighteenth-century emergent discourse is so generally intuitive that any reiteration of its terms "bothered by" the violence of species against species is considered at best laughable, and at worst pathologically weak--a connotational immasculinity is often the reduction of a transpecies pathos in debates. The human with a transpeciesist conscience, and thus an animal consciousness, must be simply misanthropic, issuing excuses for what is the compassionate party’s own deficient ability to survive in the Hobbesean fight club of modern society. It should be obvious how quickly these arguments operate by lapsing into a mania of degrading the bothered human to an anti-human and non-human, misanthropic, level. This mania too readily reveals its own fear of an immanent death by perceiving of an ethical inclusion as a threat to its dietary, and ontological, individuation.

At the same time, the truth of animal existence is strictly fabulous, a truth of only mystical portent and poetic fabrication; it is as barred to the grasp of human consciousness as is the omniscient ineffability of a god. What coalesces in the apprehended body of an animal then, is the palpable presence of a valueless divinity, in addition to pettier positive valuations of the animal body as thing in restricted human economies. Maintaining the recollective importance of eighteenth-century emergent discourse to this matter, the figure of the animal amounts historically to a corporeal reduction of the sublime generality of ideas concerning human existence: the animal is both the limit and affirmation of men, curiously like a god, curiously like tools of production or automata-in-itself, and even more curiously after LaMettrie and Bataille—like the unconscious shadow regions of a human being unknown to itself—of human potential yet unrealized, a human becoming-inhuman, becoming-animal—becoming x . Likewise, the animal figure is, by Durkheim’s analysis and from a philosophical-anthropological perspective, both sacred and profane—like a dead human or sacrificial victim:

…since it is endowed with such inhuman demands, it must indeed be assumed that in leaving the body it animated, it shed all human feeling This explains the metamorphosis that turns yesterday’s relative into a dreaded enemy […] The impure are no less forbidden than the pure, and they, too, are taken out of circulation, meaning that they are also sacred (Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, pg.208, pg.305).

It would seem that the profundity and reverent urgency with which Bataille constructs his animals is based on an understanding of the animal as the perfectly radical conundrum of figuration itself: the signed animal is, in its simultaneous materiality and mystique, the locus of a very real and seamlessly intuitive semiotic operation (which is perhaps the basis of the intuitive violence we allow our species to reap on it); an operation which Donna Haraway has observed as being akin to the ‘material semioticity’ of the Christ figure in Catholic sacramental consciousness; “an indelible understanding that the sign is the thing-in-itself.” This may explain the persistence of the animal in Bataille’s larger narrative of general economy, theology, and their technical coordinates, and also the reason that his narratives typically boil down to a stumped cognizance at an abyss marked by the face of an animal, hence his fascination with the theriocephalous of the Gnostic gospel. The animal figure has the greatest capacity for semiotic malleability as both a distant phylogenic and divine ancestor of humanity, with the added material advantage of being experienced within all the momentary facets of the human being’s expenditure of desire-driven energy; the animally seems to chemically bond materialism and idealism, being both the foundational thing in a restricted (self-conscious) libidinal economy, and the sacrificially dissolved object of general economic and religious-desire.

The “animal urge” exists colloquially, although perversely, in the language of human tendencies, and in myriad “instinctual” drives: those of coitus and appetite, biological consumption and reproduction, towards war and “primitive” religious communion, in addition to being experienced in actual human encounters with animals in the world—domesticated animals or anatomical specimens beheld as use or exchange values in human economies, and wild animals beheld as exotic tokens of nature, threats, and models for species-instructional caveats against the general economic impulse of waste, the uselessly expended energy that animals seem not to calculate in their failure to compost or clothe themselves with carcasses. The latter is symbolized most viscerally in the literally vomitous stage of canine hunger, which LaMettrie compares to human bulimia, a pathology that interestingly takes instantaneous control of the inevitable entropy of evolution by directing its own destruction, before being objectively treated as a disorder for biomedical regulatory purposes. Additionally the encounter of Derrida’s cat in L'Animal que donc je suis, is conveniently both immanently wild and domesticated, a pet that threatens his naked humanity with shame.

The animal, who is simply not human, is a diversely functional figure, which is to say that it has an infinite and functional literary use value, while being in actuality forever imperceptible to the prison house of human consciousness. This animal is a figure of perfection: what it approaches in the world is its own conjectural apparition, and vice versa. Its daily existence in the flesh allows it to function as a figure in a way that gods cannot; a common mammalian anatomy and the palpability of animal encounters obscure both the politics of figuring and the elusive, divine nature of an animal’s truth. The animal functions like the risen Christ, dead to and ascended from the world, but walking about bearing a stab wound that anyone can pet. The symbolist “familiarity” with which this sign functions, presents an equal amount of danger and possibility for the political stakes of animal-human relations. More generally, as a figure whose silent presence in reality must veil its own figuration, the animal holds particular relevance to the postmodern political subject seeking to avoid the brunt of a violent power issued by given (e.g. socially “familiar”) hierarchical nominalizations, as well as those seeking to mobilize a utopian power incapable of being recuperated by aged and rigid patterns of domination. The animal in its utter silence does not speak the language of power, and cannot be spoken to by it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Heavenly Bodies II

" The Promethean power of industry (cosmic, technical, and human) could be encompassed in a single productivist metaphysic in which the concept of energy, united with matter, was the basis of all reality and the source of all productive power--a materialist idealism, or as I prefer to call it, transcendental materialism. The language of labor power was more than a new way of representing work: it was a totalizing framework that subordinated all social activities to production, raising the human project of labor to a universal attribute of nature" --Rabinach, The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and The Origins of Modernity.

" The basis of irreligious criticism is this: man makes religion; religion does not make man. Religion is indeed man's self-consciousness and self-awareness so long as he had not found himself or has lost himself again. But man is not an abstract being, squatting outside the world. Man is the human world, the state, society. This state, society, produce religion which is an inverted world consciousness, because they are an inverted world. Religions is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its general basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human being inasmuch as the human being possesses no true reality. The struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, the embryonic criticism of this vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chain, not in order that man shall bear the chain without caprice or consolation but so that he shall cast off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man so that he will think, act and fashion his reality as a man who has lost his illusions and regained his reason; so that he will revolve about himself as his own true sun. Religion is only the illusory sun about which man revolves so long as he does not revolve about himself.

It is the task of history, therefore, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, is to unmask human self-alienation in its secular form now that it has been unmasked in its sacred form. Thus the criticism of heaven is transformed into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics."

--Karl Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: Introduction