Monday, January 29, 2007

Dancing the Virtual

Dancing the Virtual

It's time to send in your call for participation! See below and please pass on...
It will be great to see you again!
PS you can also access it at

Call for Participation


“what emanates from the body and what emanates from the

architectural surround intermixes” Arakawa&Gins

Part 2 of Technologies of Lived Abstraction a 4-part event

sponsored by The Sense Lab (Erin Manning, Concordia University ) and the Workshop in Radical Empiricism (Brian Massumi, Université de Montréal)

August 24-27, 2007

at the Society for Arts and Technology, Montréal

“In the skin itself,” wrote William James, “there is a vague form of projection into a third dimension.” Conversely, in the third dimension there is an echo of the skin. The body is not what is inside the skin. The body is what emerges at the intersection where what is inside the skin reaches out to meet its environmental return. The body is what makes a life of a moving in-between.

This event will be dedicated to a collective exploration of the dynamic cross-genesis of the body and its constructed environment. The environment will be taken to include not only the architectural surround but also technological and cultural extensions of it. This cross-genesis involves not only the reciprocal reach-and-return of skin and space, but also extends to other modes of perception (proprioception, hearing, vision, smell). For Bergson as for theorists of “embodied cognition,” the relation between perception in all its modes and action is also one of reciprocal reach-and-return. This wider cross-genesis, of action and perception, in turn opens onto thought. Every perception: already a thinking in action. Every act: a thought in germ. The premise of this event is that there is generative nexus between action, perception and conception which can be modulated from the environmental side. In constructing our environment we are not only housing the body, we are building modes of embodied experience and thought. We are refitting the body for new forms of life: cross-dressing its self-expressive potentials. The event is conceived as a collaborative exploration of this extended nexus, zeroing in on the formative moment at which action, perception, and conception constructively (e)merge together and diverge.

“our agenda should be to short-circuit action, perception and construction” Lars Spuybroek

This is not a conference. There will be no prepared communications. It is a “research-creation” event organized along the lines of a structured improvisation. We would like to challenge the dichotomy between creation and thought/research by establishing a working environment in which the emphasis will be placed on the ways in which creative research reinvents collaboration and on the new modes of thought and action this makes possible. This project proposes to create such a platform of experimentation – where the body is actively produced through technologically mediated environment – in order to foster the future potential of research-creation. What we propose is to ask how movements of thought can engender creative tools that further the production of culture. New forms of collaboration are here not simply locales for experimentation: they are matrices of cultural becoming. Experimentation will function as much at this collective level as at the conceptual level, and on both levels technically. The aim of the event is produce a platform for speculative pragmatism where what begins technically as a movement is immediately a movement of thought. Participants are invited to propose pragmatic “platforms of relation” that can be experimented with during the event.

“our bodies penetrate the sofas upon which we sit, and the sofa penetrates the body” Boccioni

Come couch with us

Invited Participants: Toni Dove, Independent artist, New York

Greg Lynn, University of California-Los Angeles / FORM Architectural Office (to be confirmed)


Send us a (max. 1 page) response to our call outlining how you can envisage contributing by April 1 2007. Participation is restricted to a total of 40 people (including students, researchers, artists, dancers, architects, writers, programmers, etc). A reading package will be sent to all participants in advance. If you would like to propose a platform of relation, please attach a second page describing it.

Send proposals to

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I posted this originally on my own blog, but I thought it might be interesting for people here. So here is my review of Manuel DeLanda's new book A New Philosophy of Society:

Manuel DeLanda has long been one of the most interesting (indeed, provocative) thinkers to work with Gilles Deleuze’s ideas — and to not just repeat Deleuze’s vocabulary and slogans, or apply them to a close reading of some work or artifact, but actually to rethink those ideas, and to rethink questions of history, society, and physical science with the help of those ideas. DeLanda’s latest book is quite refreshingly short and lucid, although it (rather immodestly) purports to offer nothing less than A New Philosophy of Society. (I should probably also cite the subtitle: “Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity”).

I find the book (like all of DeLanda’s work) extremely useful and thought-provoking, although my overall reaction is quite mixed. DeLanda actually does two different things in this volume. In the first two chapters, he argues, on philosophical grounds, for what he calls Assemblage Theory. The term “assemblage,” and the ideas behind it, are drawn largely from Deleuze, and Deleuze and Guattari; though DeLanda does not merely repeat Deleuze, but reformulates his arguments (and terminology) in some very crucial ways.

The remaining three chapters of A New Philosophy of Society are more empirical; with the help of theorists ranging from Erving Goffman to Fernand Braudel, DeLanda draws on the principles developed in the first two chapters in order to give a schematic account of how societies work on several levels, from that of the individual person (and even the sub-personal) and the “networks” in which he/she is directly involved, up to the larger aggregates which are “organizations and governments” on the one hand, and “cities and nations” on the other.

I like DeLanda’s basic argument: which is to insist on the exteriority of relations. Traditionally, positivist, atomistic thought has pretty much denied the importance of relations between entities: the entities themselves are the absolutes, and all relations between them are merely accidental. Thus neoclassical economics adopts a “methodological individualism” according to which “all that matters are rational decisions made by individual persons in isolation from one another” (4). On the other hand, what DeLanda calls the “organismic metaphor” (8) asserts that entities are entirely defined by the totality to which they belong, entirely constituted by their relations: “the basic concept in this theory is what we may call relations of interiority: the component parts are constituted by the very relations they have to other parts in the whole” (9). Hegelian thought is the most powerful example of this tendency, thought Saussurean linguistics and the “structuralism” influenced by it could also be mentioned.

Now, the partisans of both these views usually claim that the two opposed positions are the only possible ones: there are no alternatives. Partisans of methodological individualism simply deny the existence of units larger (or smaller, for that matter) than that of the “individual” (or at most, the patriarchal nuclear family): they see such formations as being metaphysical abstractions with no objective validity. Hence Margaret Thatcher’s notorious statement: “There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals and families.” Of course such “methodological individualism” is absurd, since it is contradicted by everything in our minute-to-minute and day-by-day experience. We are never as isolated as methodological individualism assumes, and we probably couldn’t survive for very long if we were. The very fact that we use language, that we use tools and techniques that we didn’t invent from scratch ourselves, let alone that we use money and engage in acts of exchange, belies the thesis. It’s a curious paradox that the most rabid partisans of methodological individualism tend to be free-market economists and rational-choice political scientists and sociologists, since their entire logic depends upon denying the very factors that make their arguments possible in the first place. But if you press the more intelligent methodological individualists, they will admit that their presuppositions are, indeed, “methodological” rather than ontological, that they represent a kind of abstraction, and that such a methodology, and such an abstraction, are necessary in order to avoid getting stuck in top-down, totalizing theories (their aversion to which is often justified with citations from Karl Popper, Isaiah Berlin, or Friedrich Hayek on the dangers of totalitarianism).

But on the other side of the divide, Hegelians and other proponents of the “organismic metaphor” are just as insistent that their systematic (or “dialectical”) ways of doing things are the only alternatives to the absurdities of atomistic reductionism. I can’t tell you how many arguments I’ve had with Marxists, Zizekians, and others over the years, who insist that my Deleuze-inspired objections to the very notion of totalization, or to the idea that events occur only through a dialectic of negativity (usually up to and including the “negation of the negation”), is untenable: they claim that, to reject these “relations of interiority” is ipso facto to lapse into the absurdities of positivism and atomistic reductionism. The same is true for partisans of various sorts of systems theory (all the way from followers of Niklas Luhmann, to devotees of the Lacanian Symbolic order), who tell me that I cannot escape their system, because anything I say against it already presupposes it, and is already positioned somewhere within it. (Hardcore deconstructionists, despite their denial of the very possibility of totalization or a coherent system, are nonetheless also in this camp: as they argue — just like Lacanians — that one can never escape the presuppositions and aporias of Language. Deconstruction is entirely a theory of relations of interiority, even though it recognizes that such relations are never completed but always still in process).

What DeLanda says — which is indeed what Deleuze said before him — is that we need not accept either term of this binary (nor need we be stuck in the aporia of shuttling endlessly between them). What Deleuze and DeLanda offer instead is not the golden mean of a “Third Way,” but rather a move that is oblique to the very terms of the opposition. What does it mean to affirm the exteriority of relations? As DeLanda explains it, an entity is never fully defined by its relations; it is always possible to detach an entity from one particular set of relations, and insert it instead in a different set of relations, with different other entities. For every entity has certain “properties” that are not defined by the set of relations it finds itself in at a given moment; rather than being merely an empty signifier, the entity can take these properties with it, as it were, when it moves from one context (or one set of relations) to another. At the same time, an entity is never devoid of (some sort of) relations: the world is a plenum, indeed it is over-full, and solipsism or atomistic isolation is impossible.

Put differently, no entity can be absolutely isolated, because it is always involved in multiple relations of one sort or another, and these relations affect the entity, cause it to change. But this is not to say that the entity is entirely determined by these relations. On the one hand, the entity has an existence apart from these particular relations, and apart from the other “terms” of the relation (i.e. apart from the other entities with which it is in relation) precisely insofar as it is something that is able to affect, and to be affected by, other entities or other somethings. On the other hand, what the entity is is not just a function of its present relations, but of a whole history of relations which have affected it — or of “aleatory encounters” (as Althusser might say) with other entities, over the span (temporal and spatial) of its existence.

DeLanda distinguishes between the properties of an entity (which are what it takes with it to another context) and the capacities of that same entity (its potential to affect, and to be affected by, other entities). “These capacities do depend on a component’s properties but cannot be reduced to them since they involve reference to the properties of other interacting entities” (11). An entity’s capacities are as real as its properties; but we cannot deduce the capacities from the properties; nor can we know (entirely) what these capacities are, aside from how they come into play in particular cases, in particular relations, in particular interactions with other particular entities.

What this means is that entites of various sorts and scales — persons, but also (to use DeLanda’s own list) networks, organizations, governments, cities, nations — are all entirely real. (DeLanda resists putting “society” in this list, because he fears that such a term implies the logical topmost point of a hierarchy, a category that includes everything. He insists that entities always come in “populations” — taking the term in the sense it is used in “population genetics” — so that there can never be one, all-integrating topmost entity. Though I take his point, I also see no objection, on his own principles, to talking about societies in the same way we talk about any other level of entities. More on that in a moment).

To say that both individuals and wider social formations (and narrower, sub-personal formations as well) are real, is to be committed to what DeLanda calls “ontological realism.” This is in opposition both to the neoclassical economists who only recognize the reality of the individual, and think that anything of broader (logical or social) scope is just a linguistic fiction; and to the Hegelians (and Hegelian Marxists, and perhaps Durkheimian sociologists as well) for whom only the social is real, and the individual is regarded as a linguistic or ideological fiction. This means also to think entities non-essentialistically (every entity is historically contingent: its existence and its properties cannot be inferred, let alone be deduced logically; for the entity exists only as an effect of processes over time which could have gone otherwise). And further, it is to recognize that all entities (not just living things, but everything) are mortal — they have dates of coming-into-existence and passing-out-of-existence, they are not platonic forms but occupy a finite and bounded stretch of time and space).

To my mind, this overall ontological argument is what is important about DeLanda’s work, rather than the particular way he constructs a theory of “assemblages” — using terms from Deleuze and Guattari, but altering and simplifying them when necessary — in order to meet the requirements of his ontology. I think that other formulations that meet these requirements are possible — and indeed, that some alternative formulations are preferable. In particular, I would point to Whitehead’s metaphysics, which I think is better (more useful, more capacious, more cognizant of change, and more open to possibilities) than DeLanda’s. Whitehead also theorizes the externality, and non-totalizability of relations: his “actual entities,” or “actual occasions,” are stubbornly “atomic,” while at the same time relating to, and influenced or affected by, other entities. Whitehead insists, both that no entity can be what it is in isolation from all other entities, and that no entity is entirely determined by these other entities: this margin of indetermination, which is the “freedom” of the individual entity, but it is better described as a contingent “decision” than as a set of “properties.” Also, Whitehead distinguishes between these “actual entities” and what he calls “societies,” or aggregations of entities that possess spatial extent and temporal duration (whereas the actual entities themselves in a certain sense produce temporality and spaciality, rather than being located within them).

The distinction between “actual entities “and “societies” would seem to violate DeLanda’s dictum of a “flat ontology” (all entities at all scales have the same degrees of reality and sorts of properties) — though the “flat ontology” does apply for whatever we encounter in lived experience, since everything of this sort is a “society.” This seeming violation of the principle of flat ontology is something for which Whitehead has often been criticized. But what he gains by posing his ontology in this way is, among other things, that he is able to talk about change in a way that DeLanda is incapable of, and that he doesn’t need to share DeLanda’s phobia about extending his ontological realism to “society” itself. For DeLanda, saying that relations are external rather than internal means renouncing any sort of holism; Whitehead, however, is able to cheerfully embrace holism while at the same time posing the “whole” in such a way that it is irreducible to closure or totalization or full internal determination. For Whitehead’s actual entities are themselves events; whereas, for DeLanda, as much as he wants to proclaim the importance of (contingent) event over (fixed and closed) structure, events are still things that ‘happen to’ entities, rather than entities themselves. (For Whitehead, the things to which events happen are “societies” — which at the same time are composed of nothing more than these events, and the “routes of occasions” that link them together).

Note for further elaboration: a lot of this has to do with the way that DeLanda, through Deleuze, is ultimately channelling Spinoza, to whom the language of capacities to affect and be affected is originally due; and also Hume — again via Deleuze’s reading — in order to account for how the individual person exists as an “emergent property” of the assemblage of a quantity of impressions, ideas, and chains of association. Now, Whitehead writes a lot about Spinoza and particularly Hume, recognizing their importance but also their limitations, which have to do with the fact that neither of them think sufficiently in terms of events. Spinoza fails to think the event because of his absolute monism; Hume, because of his denial of “causal efficacy”, and development of a theory of mind entirely in terms of “presentational immediacy.” Where Deleuze uneasily juxtaposes Spinoza and Hume with Bergson, and DeLanda entirely ignores the Bergsonian side of Deleuze in favor of the Spinozian side, Whitehead is the one thinker who actually does — much better than Deleuze — integrate (using this term in the mathematical sense) Spinozian and Bergsonian imperatives. This needs to be explained further, in conjunction with Whitehead’s aphorism that “there is a becoming of continuity, but no continuity of becoming” (Process and Reality 35).

A lot more needs to be said about Whitehead — indeed, this is what I am hoping to write about in the months to come (for several talks that I have promised to give, and essays that I have promised to contribute to various anthologies). Hopefully my tentative formulation here of what he is doing, and how he both coheres with, and differs from, DeLanda, is not too cryptic.

The fact that DeLanda doesn’t say enough about, or give the right space in his theory for, becoming and events (which I think, would require more of a Whiteheadian language and approach than he is willing to adopt) leads to the other problems I have with his work. There’s a sense in which DeLanda adopts an overly cut-and-dried schematicism (dare I even say scholasticism?). Every phenomenon he discusses is classified in terms of its material and expressive components, its potentials for territorialization and deterritorialization, and so on and so forth. It’s quite disappointing, after DeLanda announces the openness that comes from rejecting the organicist internality of relations, that everything fits so neatly into these little boxes. Of course, this is always the problem with schematicim (going bck to Kant); but DeLanda seems inordinately and disappointingly reductive in the way that he schematizes. Deleuze is a big schematizer himself, of course; and it is important in certain instances to emphasize his schematicism, against those who see him (for good or for ill) as an undisciplined philosophical wildman. But on the other hand, there is a certain delicious poetic quality to Deleuze, and this is something that his acolytes all too often miss; this poeticism is entirely lacking in DeLanda.

The further result of DeLanda’s schematicism, and his inability to think about becoming, is that his actual discussion of society, in the later chapters of A New Philosophy of Society, is disappointingly bland, and entirely devoid of any consideration of such things as power, domination, inequality, or the production, appropriation, and distribution of a social surplus (I use this latter formulation to encompass both Bataille and Marx). He simply dissolves such things into a general description of aggregations of various sorts; he mentions negotiations and disputes between groups over the allocation of resources, but ignores the fundamental dissymmetry (and thereby, the antagonism) that are crucial factors in all such disputes. And he simply leaves out of his account the ways that Deleuze and Guattari, and Foucault as well, are deeply concerned with these issues. Marxists and Zizekians would probably argue that DeLanda’s omissions in this regard are an inevitable consequence of his pluralism and non-totalism. But it seems to me, again, that DeLanda’s (often expressed) hostility to Marxist formulations is not an inevitable consequence of his ontology; and that adopting this ontology (or better, the Whiteheadian version of it that I have tried to point to here) actually has significant advantages for Marxist theory, as well as for much else. All this is something I can only assert for the moment — a lot of my effort these days is devoted to working it out. So stay tuned. In the meantime, and to summarize, I think that DeLanda’s book is enormously valuable for the way it works out, and states so clearly, its ontological argument — even if DeLanda’s more concrete development from his premises is enormously disappointing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Moving toward Housing the Body

Hi everyone! We are working toward the call for participation for Housing the Body, Dressing the Environment. We would like to encourage all of you to come up with techniques/platforms for relation to propose by February first (with your call for participation). Let's reactivate the blog! Tell us where you're at...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Sunday notes (on the experience of thought and its termini)

A research-creation event (thinking about thought) is never an innocent, innocuous process and does not culminate in any safe recognition of a world of unchallenged forms and meanings to be attributed to the disturbing vagueness of emerging ideas. In other words, an event is an experience of unexpected violence, a virtuality (or an idea) crossing the body with an imperceptible speed and torturing it with its irresistible expressive urge.
But, as Gilles Deleuze put it, what does having an idea mean? And what is its relation with thought? In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze defined the idea as the differential of thought, an intensive coagulation in the continuous unfolding of the thinking body, a body-mind event. In this sense, you can never define or appropriate an idea, because with its vague intensity it will always be in another time and another place, not-yet here, and already somewhere else: ungraspable. Navigating your body while you stay still, freezing your movements while you walk or run or dance, ideas come from who knows where and do not aim towards any pre-determined point, their infinity and instantaneity going beyond the clear coordinates of intellectual orientation. It is not ‘I’ who thinks but, quoting Deleuze, “another thinks in me.” Forces think in me. Travelling at the speed of thought, ideas escape the subject and its consciousness, while dissolving into an in-corporeal and in-essential realm, pure virtualities to be experienced, symbolically actualised and expressed not without much suffering but also with an immense joy.
Violently, the idea discloses its Dionysian value (of obscurity and distinctness), not merely as a lack of method or an impossibility of application from the part of the thinking body, but as a difficulty which belongs to thought in itself. Not a difficulty to orient, express or perfect one’s own thoughts, but the tremendous difficulty ‘to think’ something, which Artaud knew very well. Deleuze described this difficulty as a violent compulsion to think which, passing all sorts of bifurcations, spreads from the nerves and arrives at thought. The compelling idea is sensed, before being conceived, as an instant, an interval arousing and constraining involuntary thought: everything starts from sensibility. The appearance of ideas therefore has the contingent (not necessary) aspect of an encounter whose object can only be sensed. This object is not a quality yet but a sign (the being of the sensible, that by which the given is given), an imperceptible sign non-recognisable through the empirical exercise of the senses, but only sensible through the transcendental exercise of sensibility, a metaphysical sensibility at its nth power. As such, the sign takes sensibility before its own limit, breaking the empirical faculties (sensibility, and also memory and thought) and carrying with it a stream of perplexity, the positing of a problem. States of difference in itself carry the faculties to their limit, creating qualities in the sensible, but also engendering a transcendental exercise of sensibility. Empirical sensibility can only grasp intensity when mediated by the qualities it engenders, while transcendental sensibility apprehends it immediately in the encounter. Before the problem-encounter and its ‘sensing’, each faculty becomes transcendental, i.e. an exercise of superior empiricism, a transcendental exercise which does not imply convergence (the common sense of the faculties leading to the recognition of an object) but discord.

Not all faculties can reach this point of dissolution, and at the same time we might discover that new faculties can always emerge. But what about language, and its relation to the unspeakable?

The encounter with the imperceptible, or unthinkable, or unspeakable, is a transcendent aleatory point where differentials of thought are enveloped. It is in this way that a thought becomes a passion. Brought before its own limit by an encounter (idea), the transcendental exercise of thought implies thus the capacity to grasp that which can only be thought (not through intelligible thinking), i.e. the unthinkable: thought evanescently disappearing or acquiring an absolute perfection. Thinking is not innate but must be engendered in thought, in order to create that which does not exist yet. It has to become able to risk, to think its own collapse, fracture, powerlessness, but also its greatest power. It is the thought without an image which Deleuze sensed in the writings of Artaud:
acephalism in thought
amnesia in memory
aphasia in language
agnosia in sensibility

As James argued, differential quotients (as substitutes for a completed curve) can also become conscious: more or less vague ideas can become thus objects of conscious knowledge, absent parts of the world becoming perceptual objects always implicitly saying more, always postulating a reality elsewhere. Very often, our knowledge is only virtual, in transit, and our experience is more of variations of rate and direction, more of transitions and tendencies, of ideas and concepts, than of accomplished perceptions. For Henri Bergson, the experience of transition is the experience of time, and therefore the main question for the philosopher is: ‘how can time appear to a consciousness that wants to see it but without measuring it, to grasp it without stopping it and without freezing it into positions?’ In other words, how can the idea be thought without freezing the very process of thinking in itself?

The idea of positions, as starting and arrival points of the cognitive process, is replaced by James with the concept of the ‘terminus’, a point of attraction for perception, thought and movement, a virtual object which the subjects ‘has in mind’ (idea) from the start, but which reveals itself as endpoint (or object) only retrospectively, while becoming the point of origin of a new initiation: termination is always in process. Virtually (or conceptually) experienced, the terminus attracts the body (for example gravity, or the micro-termini of breath), but is only known when movement has stopped and the body (as subject) is able to position it (as an object), i.e. when we go from the molecular to the molar scale of movement and thought, and the action has been fulfilled (in Whitehead’s words, ‘satisfied’). A terminus therefore is a limit, a point of bifurcation (or of inflection) between the molecular (where it actively works as an attractor) and the molar (where it is cognitively appropriated by the subject). Ideas are termini of thought.

But the initiation of movement by a point of attraction never occurs in a state of total balance: the movement is always already there, and the appearance of a new attractor (idea) pushes the body to enter a new wave or to go into a different orbit. In the same way, the end (perceived terminus) of thought is never really a blockage or a frozen point, but always carries with it a new invitation, a forward address to think. The transitionality of the movement of thought (the arrow’s flight) is therefore never stable but always on the edge of new potential openings, deviations, transformations: the internal limits (possible endpoints) of a thinking body (like an arrow) are never fixed and pre-determined but in continuous variation, endowed with a mutating materiality which makes them imperceptibly and continuously move: if, as argued by Bernard Cache, the Earth moves, then the arrow will never aim towards the same target, but will be constantly re-adjusting its flight.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

parasitical confession

The parasite glides on the tongues of theoreticians, philosophers and dancer/artists. Some are marked as students, a rhythmed space on the canvas of transition, perhaps? Some are invited senior guests with a discourse (pragmatic and otherwise) exfoliating in the virtual. Some are both and/or neither. The parasite is an effective chameleon hiding in the crevices of these organs for years. It is rarely alone. No one suspects it/they would dare move through the wet moisture of a thought or forge an unspoken relation with bodily resources (even virtual ones!).

A parasite may mutate into a viral load that slides through the skin of thought and say very little. These viruses are neither alive nor dead, but awaken to the memory of the movement of thought. This is neither a poetic nor a metaphorical gesture. To represent viruses as a metaphor of movement is to misunderstand its relation to the flesh and bodies without organs. The viruses infect through a transition in relation. They cannot become without the touch of translation. The viruses reach a terminus once the RNA has decoded and re-encoded DNA, replicating themselves. Or they perish once the concept has reached satisfaction. This movement dances without the knower knowing. If the knower knew the dance there would be no more dance.

The viruses lives for and with the dance. They recycle into the parasite. The singular merges with the multiple. The abstract dances with the concrete. The concrete dances with the abstract. The dance, then, is polyrhythmic. This parasite moves with the dance, unbeknownst to the most seasoned dancers. It is a pragmatic dance, and an everyday occurrence for the parasite that is also the dancer. It is the being of the parasite dancing, not the parasite being that moves the relation of dancer/parasite. This flow of movement is imperceptible—but do you feel its weight and force?

Termini, Arrivals and Outcomes (and real work)

When you go through U.S. customs and immigration in Vancouver (when you're not even going to the U.S.), the question of arrival becomes a strange one. Arrival here seems premature, to arrive before departure, to have in fact pre-empted it, even replaced the experience in total. Stranger still, you are asked to evaluate the customer service afterwards. This is in order, I assume, to see if the customer service outcomes were arrived at (they were – everyone was very pleasant and professional). What does it mean, however, when your only real sense of arrival at the U.S., experience of the U.S., is the satisfactory fulfilment of customer service (maybe this is something Australians just can't understand)?

Or, when flying to Sydney from Montréal, each new arrival at an airport just seems to take you to a new departure or transit lounge. There only seems to be something like Blanchot's non-arrival of arrival made quite literal and simple (as Christine described it to me during speed dating, or was that the arrival of non-arrival?). I never really feel I arrive, not even at Sydney airport (even when I declare my can of maple syrup bought for me by Pierre at the markets .... only after my bag has been x-rayed, the final clearance of thresholds, do we all feel that everything has been satisfactorily pre-empted). Even Sydney airport seems a place of blank transition, another place from which to immediately depart. Finally home, it is true, I feel I have arrived. So of course, I immediately go to work.

The relation between arrival, departure and transition was something that came up for me time and time again during Dancing the Virtual - in different guises: arriving in a new (and wonderful) city; discussing the terminus (and for me, misunderstanding it – I know I was not alone but I felt I misunderstood it in the best possible way); wondering if the workshop would get there in the end, that is, whether we really would "dance the virtual" (and I think we did – even if I myself did it clumsily). If there was a dance of abstractions at Dancing the Virtual, it was perhaps one between arrival (terminus), departure (forward address) and transition (microgestures, infralanguage, or "simply" activating relation in movement).

How appropriate then to be reminded of the fragility of this dance. We can in fact be thankful for the reminder. Here I refer not to flying around the world, but to the idea expressed shortly after the event, from outside of it, that it would better for people to be doing "real work", presumably focussing on pre-determined outcomes, rather than on transitional processes. It is as if the latter – not safely pre-empted – had to be reduced to "just fun" (they were fun of course), without purpose, without direction – experiences that would never arrive at anything important.

Of course, the case is the opposite (and not just because I know for a fact that the postgrads I am involved with would have loved to have had this experience, and not only because all the postgraduates I spoke to at Dancing the Virtual were thinking so deeply and so sensitively).

Perhaps at airports at the moment pre-emption makes sense (or at least we know why it is happening). But do we want our every action, every thought to be pre-empted (even when this is entirely unncessary and in fact unproductive), to be tied to defined outcomes, put to "real work", drawn away from creative research, inventive thought, the kind of thought that pays attention to transition, that moves with it, that is moved by it? I wonder, as one so often focused on outcomes myself, whether to focus too much on outcomes is never to be able to arrive.

This is perhaps a technical question. If so, it is a question full of irony, particularly when it comes to the technics of outcomes and pre-emption. Outcomes and pre-emption attempt (futilely but with a kind of sad passion) to float between real abstraction (the kind that bridges and assembles experience) and actual events. Outcomes and pre-emption try not to touch either real abstraction or actual events. In fact they actively avoid both. This is why they never arrive, or at least only arrive "blankly", and endure only as dessication. For their posture is frozen - it contains no microgestures, no potential for preacceleration (or it is a posture that denies it might be engaged with such things). As such, the technics of pre-emption and outcomes can never go through the necessary transitions in order to arrive, or even simply to live, without twisting the whole process towards a frozen posture, a sad passion. This is a technics that is afraid to dance the virtual, the actual, or anywhere in-between. And, it is a technics that wants to round us up, like so many wayward cattle, towards outcomes, and away from transitional experience.

There are, fortunately, other technical forms of expression, with their own rigour and precision. These would include the simple but (for me) beautiful movement exercises, or the (technical) direction to "create a movement of thought", the extreme discipline of calligraphy, of tango, of coding the remix, of being able to think with the transitions with clarity. These direct us towards experience (as Susan said in one of our pods, we had to begin to move at the beginning, to move immediately into the the transitions, before even thinking of the "outcome", to continue to feel our way through the transitions). And, obviously, it is only by experiencing transition that we arrive. This is the arrival not of Blanchot, or at least not with his accent, but of James, for whom the terminus is absolute in the sense that there is no ambiguity about having arrived somewhere in experience (even if the sense of the transitional experiences involved is to some extent retroactive, in the remix).

It is an arrival that seemed simple enough perhaps for James in his walk to the Memorial Hall, but is today sometimes harder to feel. So for allowing us to re-invent some of the subtleties in this sense of arrival in Dancing the Virtual, I remain extremely grateful. And if it is true that we have to go back to our "real work", as of course we do, this does not mean, I think, that we have to abandon the dance. It always was our real work.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

At least we scrub!

Don't worry Erin, over-security as exemplified by the department has always generated another big stupidity : self-destruction. At least, you won't be part of that disciplinary explosion. You're exfoliation is safe and their bad skin will remain for the rest of their life. At least we scrub (and smell good)!


Today I was told that by stimulating the creation of Dancing the Virtual and by encouraging the students to read together I was "distracting the students from doing their real work." I was told that while "we would all like to have reading groups" there simply was no time in the academy for these kinds of ventures. I fought with everything I had to protect those who have made exfoliation not only a way of learning, but also a way of living. Institutions (in my experience) are about consolidation. Consolidation for the instution is inscribed within a moral framework of "doing" where doing involves ascribing to what is perceived to be the very real limits of the discipline. Dancing the virtual was an experiment in resisting discipline even while acknowledging the very real need for constraint. Constraint and discipline are not the same thing. Constraint creates an opening for improvisation. Discipline holds you to a representation of that which has already been done. Teaching and learning go hand in hand for me. If teaching is to discipline I will not teach. I am proud of the students who have taken this provocation seriously. At the same time I am deeply sad and angry that this initiative is considered worthy of punishment. I am writing this not only because of what Dancing the Virtual set out to do regarding this tenacity toward discipline (and thoughtlessness) but because when I thought I would drown this afternoon I felt the effects of the event and it strengthened my resolve.


Joao & Ronald moving towards the interval
temporal and spatial disjunctions

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

calligraphy dancing



Pastness and forward address

I wake up this morning feeling exquisitely nourished. I thought I would be exhausted (that may still come!) but instead I feel a richness of experience coursing through me. Thank you for creating this event with us.

For months, the event lived within a shifting actual occasion, alternatively composed of the brian-erin pod, the erin-nadine pod, the nadine-marie-evelyne-alanna-nasrin-ronald-troy-celine pod, the all-of-us-at-the-sense-lab pod, the at-the-table-at-Erin-and-Brian's-pod, the reading-group-pod, the alexandre-karmen pod, the freida-karmen-harry-erik-antoine-sense-lab-topological-media-lab-workshop-in-radical-empiricism pod, all pods regrouping regularly, finding new points of attraction (and dissension), working to conceptualize an event that could create a movement of thought.

In February we became affected (literally - you were contagious) by you, each one of you, your names, your interests, your virtuality (yes, we checked up on you in any way we could, spending hours surfing the internet, getting way-layed regularly on Steve's blog) and we began to conceive this movement of thought with you. But virtuality demands consistency to be experienced as such, and the consistency you brought (I think of chocolate cake batter) was more delicious than we could have imagined (and we have good imaginations). These come to mind in my desire to regenerate the present:

Jose, Alanna, Nadine, Ronald dancing the new version of Twister last night (Troy got this one on camera!); Nadine on the old (and better) Twister trying to convince herself that her legs were a meter long; looking across the room during the last speed dating and seeing Alexander and Jose on the inflatable mattress in the tent intensely engaged in conversation; experiencing Tagny and Troy in relational movement body to body (Tagny's eyes were closed and Troy was smiling!); getting wrapped up in Christine's exquisite elastic with Joao becoming Erin's hair; podding with Joao and Jose telling us about becoming-sunset; listening (enraptured) to Steve (Shaviro) talking about Whitehead and explaining abstraction; remembering (again) the becoming-airplane of the child and the wonderful example about love Jose so generously shared with us (and loving the conversation always happening twice - theory should always happen in repeat-mode); delighting in a conversation with Steve (Goodman) about exfoliation and dj-ing where the dj becomes-sound in the convergence of the milieu (the milieu of the synchronicity of the records, the milieu as environment-body); revelling in Susan's exquisite intensity as she furrowed her eyebrows and exclaimed "but I want flesh!"; feeling enriched by the generous and warm and brilliant presence of Sher (impossible to forget Sher's half-smile, a warm look she carries with her always, it seems); loving Stamatia's infinite intensity (and even her capacity for self-deprecation which allows me to re-tell how wonderful I think she is); wondering still about how Andrew manages to navigate the cusp of virtuality and actuality that seems to me to make him otherworldly, infinitely intense and infinitely becoming-child - I think he knows about the plane of immanence; remembering a great conversation with Derek about weather and parachutes and loving that we have a geographer amongst us who donates ripped maps. And I haven't even mentioned the wisdom of Joao, the enthusiasm and intensity of Alexandra, the infinite openness of Philipa (who knows so much and yet stays so open to learning), the rigor of all the students (who have impressed us beyond words), the quiet and very intense magnetism of Brian (and for those of you who got closer, his extraordinary sense of humour), the warmth of Xin Wei and his ability to encapsulate always generously, Harry's smile, Erik's capacity to work the example, Paul's enthusiasm (even though he was documenting the whole time), Michael's great comment about cinema and the dark precursor in the last regroup, Jaime's willingness to share and learn, Alexander's joy, Ronald's intensity, Nadine's real-ness, Celine's courage, Marie-Evelyne's gaze, Alanna's smile, Nasrin's laugh, Tagny and Jhave's blog (and there is so much more to say about them both separately and together), Antoine's dance (behind Sher!), Elinor's curiosity and enthusiasm, Ken's infinite capacity to become-child(especially when he is tracing c's with his body), Tom's amazing capacity to translate (and not only literally), Heidi's heidiness (generous, serious, funny, knowledgeable), Chris's capacity to become-multiple (but can be become-one?).
Thank you. Let's not let the dust settle.

Brian actualises

Here's Brian actualising (or perhaps virtualising, or both). There are some more low light pics at my flickr site.

Monday, May 15, 2006

moving thought in the departure lounge

hotel abri de voyageur was a noisy place. when i could not sleep i read bob dylan's chronicles. in it he describes the music producer daniel lanois as a 'walking concept'. here, waiting for the plane, in that transitional terminal (not quite terminus), i have a sense of continuing to walk, perhaps polyrhythmically, with the affective resonance of concepts (the moving walkways help). looking forward to future participation in the processual promise of what Guattari calls an 'ecology of the virtual', sustained by multiple refrains.

hope the potluck is fun

what it was like

I'm posting this during the José Gil session. José is speaking with such clarity about Deleuze - about differentiation, identity and series in which identity is the maintenance and development of the singularity of an ongoing differentation. He is also talking about the dark precursor - perhaps this afternoon is the dark precursor for next year, or perhaps we shall have to wait until, like the dark passage before the lightning, it strikes nearby. The fur is still on the rostra, and people have folded themselve onto these and the inflated bed at the centre of the space. They look a little tired but interested still - there is much to bring into new series, new forms of living, of working). There is a string of lights "falling up" the steps of one of the rostra, and the tent still stands. Tom, Erin and Brian are translating José faithfully, although José's French is so clear even I can understand. In fact, we are getting a wonderful commentary along the way from them, in a slightly divergent collection of series (four series). How do we understand this discussion with regard to our new found relationality in movement (which I'm sure is really Erin turning everyone into tango enthusiasts), and the dance DVDs we have just seen (I had never seen that Paxton video from the 1960s - still the divergence and flow shocks), or the interview with Cunningham (for me the point is that Cunningham always seeks a structure to enliven the series, to proliferate them, but that this is a structure which sometimes perhaps seems to leave behind aim, perhaps even terminus if this is taken as a kind of aim through transitional relations - where are these left, and what would it mean to take Cunningham's giving of his aims, his termini, to the open world, its rich ecologies of divergent series, which after all are not quite the same as walking to the Memorial Hall?). Perhaps it is only with the terminus (and it seems to me that Cunningham multiplies termini, brings them forward) that we are freed into new ecologies, moving towards what José has called (as Erin says beautifully) the "dust of micro-vibration". Heidi's mobile (cell) rings with a very beautiful tone - perhaps this is the first sign of what follows the dust of micro-vibration. The discussion continues, but it is perhaps important to allow this dust some time to collect ...

"How do we make what makes us?" Stengers

Greetings from the nomadic pod (Jamie and Elizabeth),

As we orbited the inside of DTV as a nomadic pod, we attempted to become "topological equivalents" of DTV participants to come: that is, people who have done the readings for the event, who are wholly interested in the event and in participating in its creation with great anticipation, but who have not had direct experience of the event.

As a nomadic pod, we have thought and acted experimentally about makings of "us" ... and how makings of "us" exist in relation to strangers. We have been thinking and acting exprimentally with how "we" of the current DTV exist in relation to unknowable DTV participants yet to come ... how "our" forward address constructs both a "we" and "strangers."

Our nomadic transmissions from outside/inside DTV "back" to DTV are an attempt "to communicate in some kind of divergence" ---not too much divergence, and not too little. We attempt "a new kind of communication that holds together the differences and different intensities." Jose Gil

We have attempted to think/act experimentally about translating DTV "to" "strangers":
"...instead of uniting ... a transduction of energy, between two intensities, one belonging to one series, another to another series." Jose Gil

MAYA LIN (architect, artist):

Though I have become more aware of my shared cultural identity through my work, I also am aware of the feeling of always not quite being from either place (China, the United States). And this feeling of isolation or remoteness has also been an influence on my work. I sometimes think that the works I have made, especially the more emotional ones, were done by a distanced observer. I remain somewhat emotionally detached in order to make works that evoke so much emotion in others.

More from Friday Night at the TML

Some of the experiments from that evening anticipated many of the movements of thought that have emerged, prematurely, and transduced from this weekend. As well, these experiments, such as the movement/fire and the bright reflective form with the lights move us forward to "Housing the Body" and the "Society of Molecules."

Friday Night at the Topological Media Lab

Thanks to Xin Wei, Harry, and the other members of the Topological Media Lab for the Friday night 'tour' of Concordia and Hexagram's Black BOx experimental space.

a few questions that might constitute a contigent core

silent sensing

we gather to think about thought: what is experience? pure perception?
direct recognition? affective tonality? an actual occasion?

these are words discursively defined within a metaphysical milieu
they are reflective of specific core resonances in western thought
mind is embodied
in both matter and time

spatially extensive, temporally experential

how is it i see you
how is it i hear you
who is it who hears
who is it who sees

can words describe what goes on within the body beyond thought?

before words
before thought
before feeling
before analysis
is there anything?

is there truth that exists outside or more-than sense?
is everything data?

phenomenology traverses a line of history emerging from pre-history
in the first apprehension of space, the calculus computed by the
membrane of a cell
develops denotations and connotations about the direction of that
which is external-other

the task of interpretive faculties is always to track paths, assign
meaning, generate symbolic meaning and references

emotionally subjective experiential questions like:
when will i die? who am i?
or socially-contextual queries such as:
how should i be?

are replaced by ruminations over the fundamental quanta of consciousness:
is self emergent at the moment of awareness?
what is the pure gesture? how is mind immanent in matter?

Sunday, May 14, 2006


ter minus

known knower

movement of thought 0.0000

movement of thought 0.000


movement of thought 0.00


movement of thought 0.0

movement of thought 0


Concept Capsule

Greetings from the Nomadic Pod:

We invite you to collaborate with the Nomadic Pod during Monday's lunch break at DTV.
We are offering a "concept capsule" from outside/inside DTV.
The concept capsule consists of the following movements:
1) go outside during lunch for 15 minutes and put your experiences of being "inside" DTV into relation with those "strangers" who are not moving with you at the moment.
2) during that time, create a "postcard" (addressed forward to future participants in future DTV's) that releases (passes on in a non-representional mode) experiences and sensations of DTV.
3) post it to the blog.

Saturday's movement

Photos From Dancing the Virtual

Between May 13th and 15th an intensive event happened : Dancing the Virtual wich was an experience for exchange, relation and so much more...

Have a look



From the firts pods

From Relational Mouvement I


From Relational Mouvement II

From the seconds pods


From our Conceptual Speed Dating

From our regroup talk

From a mouvement experimentation

From Relational Mouvement III

From the caligraphic pods