Laruelle often talks about the black universe and that philosophy is not dark enough. But what is black? Is black a colour and if so, can we see it?
Reza Negarestani has provided a mix of theory and fiction in his book Cyclonopedia, where he portrays the earth as a quasi living creature in whose veins oil circulates. Oil has a black colour, of course, but it is also light, insofar as it is a transmutation of sunlight. Oil is the geological product of sunlight, produced firstly by photosynthesis and secondly by the decomposition of vegetable matter in time. In this sense, according to Negarestani, oil is the black carcass of the sun.
Alexander Galloway, in his book Laruelle. Against the Digital, Alexander Galloway dealt in detail with the question of the black universe. Just as there are two kinds of light, so there are two kinds of darkness. Fog and dust have darkening qualities, they strangle the light and they interfere with the capacity to see. At the same time they have their own form of brightness. The fog glows with a certain spatiality. It transforms a space with absolute coordinates into a proximal zone governed by thresholds of intelligence. Fog is a dioptric phenomenon, even if it obstructs vision. It is about how light scatters through the material, i.e. the fog is part of a lighting fixture, although it does not emit light itself, even though it has its own brightness due to the filtering and transmission of light.
Diotropics refers to the light when it is refracted by a transparent material such as glass or water. As part of the optical sciences, diotropy deals with prisms and lenses. A diotropic instrument can split white light into coloured light, while under certain conditions coloured light can be converted back into white light.
Catoptrics refers to light when it is reflected. (1) While diotropics deals with lenses, catoptrics deals with mirrors, screens and opaque surfaces. There is also a certain capacity for color in catoptrics because some objects reflect certain colors and absorb other colors. To make a long story short, diotropy poses the problem of transparency, and catoptrics the problem of opacity. The former includes the perspective (looking through), while the latter includes an aspect or the mirror (reflecting, looking at).
According to Alexander Galloway, both optical sciences have a relationship to depth. While reflection is semiotically deep, i.e., it takes up the question of meaning, refraction is empirically deep, i.e., in terms of subjective experience. Semiotic Deepness means that opaque reflection creates a model of depth in which two opposing levels, one manifest and one latent, work together to produce meaning. Freud and some Marxisms work in this way. Empirical Deepness means that transparent refraction creates a depth model in which a volumetric space is created that is presented to a looking project. Galloway suspects this model in Kant and Heidegger.
The two optical sciences also differ on the question of flatness. Reflection is ontically flat in that it manifests itself in two-dimensional surfaces, while refraction is ontologically flat. Letzetre is immanent to her material; there is no metaphysical or transcendental reason operating behind the phenomenon. What is immanent must also be flat. The refraction always remains in itself.
Dioptric refers to the subject in so far as a real or clear experience comes into play, whereby her illuminations refer on the one hand to the Enlightenment, on the other hand to Romanticism up to Heidegger and phenomenology. Catoptrics with its reference to meaning is on the side of the pharmacist. Although subjects may be involved, the process here is primarily never subjective, rather the subject is externalized. For Galloway, this process ends in the culture industry, the spectacle, in ideology, but also in critical procedures of structuralism.
Illumination refers to the actions of transparent bodies in their luminosity, the sun, the moon, humanity – bodies that are less white than bright/bright. It is the light of life and consciousness. It is a perspective, connected with the dioptric and the iris.
In contrast, the light (lux) refers to the properties of an opaque body in relation to its being. It is the light of God, the light of being, a cosmological light connected with the catoptric and Hermes. It is singular and never multiple. It is white only insofar as its white is pure opacity.
So what does this mean for the darkness? Darkness may be gloomy or shady. Think of the dust or the night or the twilight. Bodies can be dark. Material may be dark as if it were asleep, unconscious or cold. The sun is darkened by smoke. We are not talking about an ontological darkness, but about the darkness of the world. But there is another darkness, the tenebrae, the shadows of black, which have been separated from the light (lux) of the sky in its formation.
Galloway explores two kinds of light – the lux as a purely opaque source and the lumen as the action of the transparent body. And there are two kinds of darkness – the darkening and the shadow of a black being. But all this – from black to white and from dark to light – still remains within the standard model of philosophy. If black is mainly the absence of white, dark the absence of light, then we remain trapped in a world of relations, reflections, continuities and convertibilities. Black as white and white as light.
Galloway is not only interested in darkness, but asks for a profound blackness. This is the generic darkness of the abyss, the emptiness and vacuum, the darkness of catastrophe and cataclysm. It is a cosmological blackness, the black of Satan, the black of the absolutely devilish, the black of not-being. We are not asking whether the world is going dark, but the blackness refers to a world without us. It is not a question of dying or cooling off, but of the disappearance of being, i.e. of absolute closure; in this sense, the shadows of black are not part of an ontology, but rather constitute a crypto-ontology.
Crypts are places of seclusion. In his book Dark Deleuze, Andrew Culp introduces the crypt as a conspiracy driven by negativity. The task is to use the negation to say “no” to those who tell us that we have to accept the world as it is. The decisive step is Deleuze’s non-dialectical negation, the difference that operates as a distance between two exclusive paths. One should not replace angelic messages with mysterious ones.
Only in relation to the black as kruptos, which is closed to being, can one understand what Laruelle understands by the black universe. Only by subtracting from the system of light and color can one see the generic reality of blackness: there is a transition from the color black, which one can see, to black as a non-color, which one cannot see, and even more, a transition to a nothingness-to-see, which one can in turn see. The black is the non-color, the non-existence of a non-universe that precedes the possibility of the universe. According to Laruelle, this idea of the black is a cosmological principle. Black is constitutive for thinking and its limits. Separated from the world of which we have a human, all-too-human image, and from the earth on whose surface we live, there is an indifferent, opaque, black universe. The black that precedes the light is the substance of the universe, that which fled from the world before the world was born into the world. But we are always tempted to think of the universe as something that is out there, the factory of the universe that you can see and feel, or a color, a purely phenomenological blackness. In contrast, the black in the non-universe is to be thought of as something that was not temporally before the universe, nor will it come in a kind of cataclysm. It’s always there, but you can’t see it, even though you see it. The black stands for radical infinity or nothingness, preferably subtraction, and has always been ultra-black.
Galloway refers at this point to the 1804 Constitution of Haiti, which states that regardless of their skin color, all are called citizen black. This pure blackness, such a cataclysm of human colour, overrides colour and negates the endless dynamic of black as white or white as black. Black no longer refers to the limiting case, no longer refers to slavery, to the poor or the indebted worker. Black, Galloway argues, is the condition for a new Uchromia, a new utopia of color based on the generic black universe.
“Our Uchromia: learning to think from a black perspective is what ultimately determines rather than limits color” (Laruelle). Color always has a position, an attitude. The spectrum of colors contains a complex field of differences; the primary colors keep their determining positions, while other colors keep their determining positions.
The position of colour governs the continuum of light and darkness, in so far as colour leads to a luminous, supersaturated visibility or disappears in the sunless darkness.
With the help of photography, Laruelle wants to intervene in so far as the light penetrates through an opening and writes itself on a surface, on photographs that reflect black light for the viewer. Laruelle pleads for a unilateralized dioptric in that he rejects the reduplication and extension of the eye and demands an immanent identity or transparency. But at the same time he pleads for a unilateralized catoptric in so far as he demands a pure opacity with respect to the One, a pure density, a pure opacity.
The philosophers say that humanity must always refer to seeing, while Laruelle says that the choice is never between looking and seeing. The real decision would be to see in the first instance – we decide every time we open our eyes.
Photography has always been understood as color, even black and white photography, but never as black photography. Only in this can the black universe be inscribed. Laruelle calls this the “hyperphenomenology of the real”, which follows a logic of auto-impression, not expression. Not a clichéd snapshot, but the immanent identity of the real.
Laruelle: Simplifies color, sees black and thinks white. See black rather than believing the unconscious. See white rather than believing the consciousness. Do not see, become a seer. Stop seeing and become visionaries. The gawpers and sensation seekers see white, they only see the things they always see. Those who see black are the true psychics. The black seer is the true mastermind, he is a medium, and in this respect the media theory must think the black universe.
Laruelle writes that all philosophical speculation is aimed at communication, and communication is always speculative. Deleuze/Guattari write: “We do not lack communication, on the contrary: we have too much of it … we lack resistance to the present.” You agree with Laruelle: meaning, more and more meaning! Information, more and more information, that is the mantra of hermeneutic-logical difference, which incessantly mixes the terms truth and communication, the real and information. In this “self-inscribed world”, Laruelle says in unison with the dark Deleuze, the last secret must indeed still be uncovered and communicated, everything that has not yet been said is only there to be said. For Laruelle, the communicative decision is even more insidious than the philosophical decision: “It is one thing to say that everything that exists has a sufficient reason, but it is another thing to demand that everything that exists for any reason should be communicated. If the philosophical decision is a variant of the principle of sufficient reason, then the communicative decision adds absolute communicability as an insidious aperçu. It is capital with its excessiveness and the politics of its states that pursue the goal of perfect communication and pure transparency and yet can only come close to it infinitesimally, and this explains the paranoid-depressive tendency of this age that begins to cover everything like an unbearable trail of slime.
Conventional media theory always relates the discussion on the question of the subject to two scenarios: either speculation in relation to the Other or in relation to oneself. Either a liberal relativism in the name of the Other or the eye-by-eye of the Old Testament. Instead, the black universe allows a mystical subject to whom all speculation is alien. It demands an absolutely determined and unidirectional vision, to which even the postmodern multitude of voices is alien. Laruelle suggests that we subtract ourselves from the system of colour and enter a radical and unilateral black universe. In this universe, black is never defined in the terms of light, it is not interchangeable with anything and cannot be made visible by illumination. The black universe has never been seen by anyone until today. There is only a negative intuition, so we finally dare to call it the ultimate colour. This also characterizes the new policy of the Black Bloc.
It is about a new form of black justice, which is unilaterally determined by the real, but never by a worldly reality. If you open your eyes just a little bit, you will see white, but if you open them completely, you will see black.
We are this night.
When Michel Foucault writes that I see myself in the mirror where I am not, in an unreal space that opens up virtually behind the surface, whereby the mirror also keeps me in a space that is completely real while I see myself in the mirror, and that even connects me with my surroundings, which at the same time are again unreal because I only perceive them through the mirror, then today (in Foucault-speech) the computer turns out to be a kind of (invisible) electronic mirror (between at least two computers), where the utopia of virtual space - I see myself where I am not, namely as a text or as a video image - and the heterotopia of real space - the computer and my environment exist in reality while I type some nonsense - form a sometimes compulsive and painful connection. The mirror image is an artificial product, a generation, its use a narcissistic, sometimes even painful self-dramatization, for example when John Cocteau in the film "The Blood of the Poet" goes through the mirror without destroying it, or one thinks of the distorting or burning mirrors - in any case, there are countless montage or In any case, there are countless montage and photomontage techniques, 3D simulations, scientific debates and discourses about the status of the observer à la Einstein or John von Neumann that question the status of self-knowledge and world knowledge through (mirror) reflection. On the other hand, consumers or media users demand that the medium, no matter what is communicated, should function as a non-distorting mirror that provides a framework and should not distort messages, a mirror that is, however, invisible or hidden behind its own reflection. Images are produced by inversely placed mirror images, some closeness is created despite the distance, optical effects are transformed into electrical and electromagnetic effects and then transformed back again, reflection disappears into the invisible. It is about the struggle with the code. Mirror images can show how in a mirror cabinet a person dissolves through the quantity of virtual images. The real object is reflected in the mirror image as in the virtual object, which in turn surrounds and reflects the real object. The image that emerges is both a current and a virtual image. This is what Foucault wanted to say with Deleuze: to be an apparition of the mirrored and this apparition is double. The mirror image is virtual in relation to the actual thing it captures, but at the same time the thing in the mirror is actual, which leaves a simple virtuality of the thing and displaces it from the image. Why is this so? The physical theory of appearance says the following: First of all, all bodies that are not self-radiating are mirrors, the most perfect body being the one that does not absorb radiation but rejects it. The mirror is "invisible" because of its intransparency. Apparently the mirror only shines in doubling the appearance of other bodies. Lucretius makes the distinction between imago and simulacrum from this, but this doubling is for physics only a change in the direction of the radiation. In the mirror one sees the appearances only in a different direction. What is appearance, image? Differentiation of things, which are presented in two ways, reflection, which makes up the surface of the bodies, and absorption, which comes from the depth. Encounter of radiation and force are the projection of a gaze. The knowledge of the phenomena should reflect them faithfully, as an effort of the body to deny its power of absorption, i.e. to become like the mirror, i.e. to reflect things as clearly as they are. Purely reflective surface. At the same time, the visual space opened up in the mirror is a mirror image pervaded by illusions, at least in relation to the body. A sensual unity is presented in the gaze, but thwarted by the mirror image, namely the successive and simultaneous unity of the body. The mirror thus provokes the transcendental unity as a problem, which I think because it thwarts the sensual unity, but which opens up space for objective illusions, the factual indistinguishability of virtual and actual image in the mirror image, whereby they are de jure distinguished. The reflection of the cow in the water is an effect of the appearance of the cow in the meadow. On the one hand, I can consider the cow on the meadow as an appearance, on the other hand, its reflection in the water as a mirror image of the same, whose representation in the medium in my imagination can in turn be transformed into all kinds of things, image, illusion, etc. The mirror image stands out from the reflection, i.e. what lay before the image becomes the model in the image, i.e. the view as reflection becomes blurred. We are in the medium, medium here functions (apparently) as non-distorting Mirror, which, through its frame, stages a somehow significant selection with regard to what is mirrored. In order for optical phenomena to be recognizable as reflections, the mirror body has to come into view so that one can assume that the reflected phenomenon is the effect of an optical cause that can be shifted into another phenomenon, such as light reflection of things. Reflections and echoes increase the sight and sound of phenomena, extend the range and dispersion of the messages, which must constantly suggest the new, economically they must produce it to keep the uncertainty and fear awake. Curiosity does not want to achieve the new that it greets. Uncertainty is to be kept in the tension gradient and solved. Digital sectional images, computer (CT) or nuclear magnetic resonance tomography cut the bodies painlessly, with the computer extrapolating synthetic images based on a quantity of data into which the body is technologically translated.