Editor’s Note: This piece, written by several authors, oscillates between plural and singular voices, with the intended effect of collaging three perspectives together in a unified décollage.
“I’ll never forget the time I went to Dimes Cafe at 4 am for an after party in 2015. Max Brand was there, and I was trying to speak German with him.” —Eric Schmid
“Châtelet’s scathing polemic opens at the end of the 70s, when the liberatory dreams of ‘68 are beginning to putrefy, providing fertile ground for a new breed of self-deluding ‘nomads’ and voguish ‘gardeners of the creative’. Gulled by a ‘realism’ that reassures them that political struggle is for anachronistic losers, their allegiances began to slide inexorably toward the ‘revolutionary’ forces of the market’s invisible hand, and they join the celebrants of a new order governed by boredom, impotence, and envy. Combining the incandescent wrath of the betrayed comrade with the acute discrimination of the mathematician, Châtelet scrutinizes the pseudoscientific alibis employed to naturalize ‘market democracy’. As he acerbically recounts, ‘chaos’, ‘emergence’, and the veneration of cybernetics and networks merely impart a futuristic sheen to Hobbesian ‘political arithmetic’ and nineteenth-century ‘social physics’—a tradition that places the atomised individual at the center of its apolitical fairy-tales while stringently ignoring the creative political process of individuation.” —Robin Mackay, “A Martial Art of Metaphor: Two Interviews with Gilles Châtelet”
Is it necessary to come from a voguish ‘self-deluded nomadic overclass’ to make contemporary art? Picabia was an aristocrat. Duchamp was bourgeois, but had an inheritance, while working odd jobs, gambling or playing chess. Smithson criticized Duchamp for being the figure of the “priest-aristocrat.” Duchamp did not repudiate his wealth in his work though. But what about the recent false repudiation of the bourgeoisie’s Law, i.e. the ideas and values, which act as social symbols of decadence and wealth? What about the social decorum which is needed to preserve the values of the voguish ‘self-deluded nomadic overclass’ (hereafter SDNO)? For example, a curator could be seen as a genius to Italian collectors because they enact the social decorum necessary for the microsociality of the art world, as they were conditioned by those norms and values from the get go. But when artwork becomes a false repudiation of these values in favor of (what has been recently called) hermeticism, is this not a pseudo-hermetic false enclosure reifying SDNO values through the system-conscious social support behind the work’s purported non-instrumentality/enclosure? Doesn’t the non-instrumentalized or non-instrumentalizable here become instrumental? Does not the false repudiation of these values in favor of an ostensible freedom of the artist become a Stoic libertarianism based on the mercenary’s privileging of his opportunity over ideals? Jean-Luc Nancy criticizes the self-enclosure of Christianity, which provided the Exit of Religion from itself in the form of self-transcendence. Is not this individualistic freedom just isomorphic to the liberal subject founded upon Christian self-transcendence? The right to believe what one wants holds, but as Marx says, does not the alienation from the mystical here jam itself back into the private sphere, after the separation of Church and State, since the secular public sphere separates the two? Should we not be explicit about socio-economic privilege and moreover the present form of this separation between private and public spheres? Or, more complexly, do SDNO insiders co-opt workerist artists into their game because these artists enact bodily/social austerity and legitimize the myth of the American Dream through their Protestant Work Ethic in favor of the insiders’ libertarian individualism? Does not the recent trend of self-enclosure enact the division between private and public while dissimulating their covert libertine, libidinal excesses? Instead of working hard (and the “right” to do so) in the public sphere, and playing hard (and the “right” to do so) in the private sphere, should we not dismantle the construct of libertarian professionalism and its right to an artistic self-enclosure in solipsistic artwork, once again founded not upon liberatory values, but SDNO values which bolster the image of the artwork’s solipsism? In order to create a true universalism of the local and global – of the private and public, even – should we not be transparent about our experiences within the site/locale of the libidinal subject (the currency of affects) in the ideal/intuitionistic (merely mentally constructed or societally constructed) foreground, which stands as a front for a real mathematical universe and a synthetic navigation of the foreground and background, i.e. by way of a topos above such a site?
Contemporary Art, more broadly, today
The specific context of art in Germany in the 80s and 90s was deliberately anti-commercial and supported by independently wealthy artists, gallerists and patrons. This context was initiated after the economic boom of predominantly male painters of the previous generation. Painting was a dirty word in the 90s and artists fortified an alternative space that was continually evading its own canonization. In America, at the same time, artists and gallerists contextualized themselves within this European tradition of kunst, leading to cross-hybridizations between the continents. (Note: in order to be truly rigorous, this tradition of the alternative art space can be pre-dated to Christopher D’Arcangelo and Peter Nadin decades before, but this was still enmeshed within the Conceptual Art experiments.) (Further note: It goes without saying that American Fine Arts started in 1986. It has been institutionalized by Bard CCS and is common knowledge to any “theory bro art student.”) In the Lower East Side, Alleged Gallery began and years to follow, Reena Spaulings was founded. On Orchard, Orchard Gallery would begin shortly after. Then Miguel Abreu was founded. All of this anti-commercial work was tied to the theoretical advancements of the earlier importation of structuralist and post-structuralist theories (from France) by Ivy League literature departments (but to be precise, we should include Johns Hopkins where Derrida caused an outrage during the seminal structuralism conference). This artistic context specifically embedded the University Discourse within the discursive space of the gallery system. Years later, October would canonize this context back into academia, fortifying the private sector as a space of theoretical practice. Many artists from the 80s and 90s would take prestigious positions at German kunstakademie-s. This co-option provided an institutional power structure for the aforementioned previously excluded artists who had had to run experimental project spaces in the past. Undergrads would then flock to Europe for the alternative equivalent of the American MFA, which created a specific context for students who were dis-empowered to mobilize themselves within the network. The unfortunate aftermath was a younger generation of anti-institutional artists within the very institution: these artists learned to simultaneously critique the power structure while covertly assimilating power through developing new formalisms of painting and sculpture, for example, while mimicking the social praxis of the Meisters. The apparatus for the link between the conceptual structuration of the work AND the market already existed. Artnews reported first about Zombie Formalism and then a decade or more later Zombie Figuration.
We will now list 6 positions today that are due to this nexus between the University Discourse and the market:
1) The creation of work that is intentionally amateur and conventional with extreme specificity in terms of reference points. This work is only legitimated by the assimilation of social power within the alternative project space context. Outsiders making the same work would not have the context for acceptance because of social elitism.
2) Project spaces which deliberately present themselves as anti-institutional, but through a bait and switch disguise their eventual presentation of institutional artists once they have solidified their previously nascent context. Alternative art world consensus informs the direction of such spaces.
3) The exhibition of work that creates a hermeneutic halting problem, i.e. the comprehension of the work is deferred through the specificity of generic signifiers and obfuscation. This work also relies on the consensus of the artist network for its acceptance.
4) The creation of work which fetishizes Otherness as a form of dérive and detour to circumvent the art world consensus. Outsiderness as style. Aestheticization of camp/kitsch/neurodivergent alterity.
5) The expanded field of arte povera, specifically the use of consumerist excesses and contemporary media as material. There is an optimism in such everydayness of the work for a general audience. But ultimately the purpose of such work is to castigate the SDNO supporting culture, while simultaneously providing a micro-community for liberation and unity of the nomadic artistic elite. Here there is either a Gnostic bent or a deliberately anti-normative provocation involved directly in the work. This provides a space for communal structures within the alternative art world context. The use of high and low could exemplify an intuitionistic system of art as a topos or art as a category, with varying functors in an a priori fibration specifying varying a posteriori interpretations. The hermeneutics of multivalent perspectives are threaded through a univalent foundation. This position potentially supports worldly Mind or Intellect.
6) The extinction of the world as presupposition. And, the use of contemporary media as an allegory for such extinction, i.e. youth culture as virus. This position also lambasts the SDNO, but it does not present any alternative space or community for liberation in the here-and-now as well as for the future. The only hope is to live with this unfortunate presupposition. Political expediency is the rule. The formalization of the nihilism of individualism is the presupposition and basis for the artwork. This position ostensibly formalizes the overclass as a means of criticizing the SDNO, but ends up only supporting the individual in the end game. All of these positions are not mutually exclusive.
The agony and the ecstasy
“I will never forget my studio visit with Chris Lew from the Whitney where I asked him to buy me a bodega egg sandwich, and he said he didn’t have any money so I asked him to get me a coffee for a dollar, and I had to beg him to give me money, and he handed me 75 cents in change.” —Eric Schmid
“The common thread [in Dimes Square] is the re-territorialization of libidinal flows that results in the Despotic Signifier.” —Guido Gamboa of Pentiments
My friend Lauren Burns-Coady once confided in me that she was worried she was a “substrate.” I think what she meant was that the whole Chinatown/LES hipster subjectivity is a simulacrum. Desire is modulated through the flows of “libidinal economy,” which according to Klossowski/Lyotard have their origin at the source of “voluptuous emotion” or pulsions. These pulsions become commodified and objectified into empty signifiers which float without referent and become simulacrums of the real. Desire is triangulated through automatons adopting the body-armor of these signifiers, say an Eckhaus Latta/Gauntlett Cheng top or a Telfar bag or casually being able to namedrop “Reena Spaulings” or knowing that the afterparty is at Emma Peel Room tonight. The rollercoaster ride of volatile emotions becomes the fundament of the Real. The agony and the ecstasy. Going out till 4AM and doing bumps at some rooftop party, while your friend hooks up with someone. Being a columnist, so to speak, for everyone’s sex life. The nightlife as “networking job fair” to assimilate clout, cachet or cultural capital, depending if you want a “cheesy payout” now or if you are looking to accrue “annual interest” on your principal. Paul (from bible) did a hilarious deconstruction of the following image (popularized by Sean Monahan), but I just wanted to share the image to give you a sense of the “empty signifiers”:
I think libidinal economy is directly tied to needed validation/recognition from others. The actualization of the machinic unconscious in the form of intersubjective relations wherein which, instead of that of the structuralist approach of say, Lacanian registration within the Symbolic Order, the subject is instead unmoored into a liquid flow which permeates everything: namely, the flows of emotion or pulsion congeal into either pure subjectivism or an objectified materialization of such affects expressed in a fungible commodity (exchange-value). This alienation is inherently tied to the fetishism of the commodity and how the various modalities of communicating are tied to political machinations amounting to nothing but a relativistic subjective rhetoric instrumentalized in a capitalist hyper-present attention economy through the circulation of images and affects, which accumulate into cultural memes and/or locally as subterranean psychic fraternal orders of friends, families and acquaintances. Pierre Klossowski has some of the best writing on this general subject:
In the world of industrial manufacturing, what’s attractive is no longer what appears naturally to be for free, but the price put on what is naturally for free; a voluptuous emotion (non-communicated or incommunicable) is first of all indifferent, and has no value, in the sense that each person can experience it freely. Now, as soon as someone, while still able to experience it, cannot procure the means of immediately doing so, it becomes less indifferent and begins to gain value. If it is unique in its way—and if only a limited number of individuals will be able to experience it in its uniqueness—then either it is not appraisable at all, or the desire to experience it will ensure it the highest possible price. Such is the commodification of voluptuous emotion (Klossowski, 23).
What distinguishes Europe from America is what Matt Voor dubbed “hypebeastism”, where Americans are thirsty to appear on some LES column (run by say Nate Freeman, Kaitlin Phillips or Spike), the word suggesting the very same etymology as “Supreme hypebeasts”. In Europe you have Kunstmusik (e.g. Dieter Roth’s Verlag) and Kunst Geschichte, so there is far more respect for elders. In America, if you want to be relevant you need to be some sort of niche internet micro-celebrity. My own relation to the LES scene is very complicated and I prefer to observe and command from afar. My own project is to eventually disengage from any discourse surrounding such a social fabric and pursue a neo-rationalist program, but for the time being the only way to be critical is from “within” as they say. At first I was quite interested in the legacies of Cologne and then of American Fine Arts, Reena Spaulings and then Real Fine Arts and Bed-Stuy Love Affair. But now what’s economized is a deliberately anti-intellectual climate with young cutthroat neo-liberal galleries. Ben Morgan-Cleveland supposedly said that Triest is the new Real Fine Arts. But Triest is directly engaged with showing artists who have more cultural acceptance within European apparatuses (Georgia Gardner Gray, Emanuel Rossetti, Robert Bittenbender, Karin Sander, David Ostrowski) alongside newer American artists with less cultural power (Joe Speier, Jake Shore, Laszlo Horvath). This European metric for acceptance is directly tied to curators with an education within the traditional European art academy and therefore, with art history and purported taste. Although it is quite flattering to suggest that Triest has now become the dominant alternative art discourse (since I have had 2 shows there), I remain very cautious about and even skeptical of the industry of culture in general after postmodernism. As Tim Pierson has explained, in modernist times, you had the dominant discourse of say, Freud, or Greenberg, but today (after postmodernism) there has been such a splintering and proliferation of varying cultures and subcultures that everyone ends up vying for everyone else’s attention. There is no one true discourse to rule them all. I would provisionally diagnose the cultural situation in America as one trenchantly dictated by the influence of varying influencers vying for people’s attention on Instagram and Twitter, influencers who all the while relish the ‘enjoyer’ lifestyle of decadent bourgeois living. Yet even to name it this way is to fall into the trap of a “kitsch Marxism” which Reza Negarestani warns us of in his essay “Labor of the Inhuman”: such a political program defines itself in reaction to an en masse totality, pigeonholing itself into mere “kneejerk reactionism”.
Ostensibly, affect is the primary motor of experience, and the fundamental description of the monadic subject is through pulsion/emotion/affect/libido. Subjectivities are constituted from a priori desires which have already been rendered sterile from their original emotionalist charge, have already become empty floating signifiers from which the LES/Chinatown automaton constitutes their identity (e.g. a Balenciaga jacket or a Gauntlett Cheng dress). There still may be the possibility of queer/transgender/POC liberation through the temporary automonous zone of the nightclub. But after the criticisms of Gilles Châtelet, is Studio 54 really possible as a space of freedom in our societies of control? In our nihilist current climate, angelicism01 settles in opportunely to wage its war/criticisms, hypocrisy abounds from the decadent trust fund kids such as Y person behind a local Downtown newspaper, and the egoism of such pundits like Joshua Citarella or Dean Kissick or talk around NFTs continues to gestate in place. But I would argue that angelicism01 and co. are oblivious to the historical trajectory running in the alternative art world, say of Lomex artists continuing the legacies of Cady Noland or Galerie Buchholz or Neo-Dada or Martin Wong. Moreover, the technical enframement of “legacy” and “alternative worlds” in this genealogy is inherently minor in a Deleuzian sense (think of the work of the artist’s artist Michael Krebber) but also “regulated” (by 2nd order mechanisms of collectors and institutional support), and is directly oppositional to the Landian accelerationism that can be found lurking in angelicism01 and co., which at worst may veer toward cryptofascism.
The only major criticisms there might be of this “alternative art world” is towards its modus operandi of self-reflexive critique, which may be overly nostalgic. The case of refined vigor par excellence of such an alternative art world (depending on an (auto)foundation) would be Reena Spaulings, where they have continued the anonymous “it girl” coming-of-age story, but “always already” self-reflexively critiqued, e.g. aware of today’s mechanisms of microcelebrity. Here, the vibe of Juliana Huxtable or K8 Hardy still harkens back to the universalist utopia of past social experiments (Le Jardin, Studio 54, China Chalet), albeit still entirely within the affect-driven world of “libidinal economy.” But is there a possibility for a collective project of reason outside of “libidinal economy”?
“[…]I tried not to make it the nth refutation of liberal theory. It had to function by using a series of disciplined metaphors which work like an Archimedes’ lever with a very rapid destructive effect, in the tradition of the burlesque attacks of Rabelais and Swift. I wanted to write a book that made the reader irritated, itchy, pissed off. The Turbo-Bécassines and Cyber-Gideons that I describe really exist. You want proof? Someone said to me that they hated the book because when they were reading it, they felt they were a Turbo-Bécassine. So I try to identify all the tics of what I call the average man, a statistical and cybernetic degradation of the Anglo-Saxons’ ‘ordinary man’. Because in the name of the average man, all disinterested activity is caricatured, and commanded to be pragmatic. It’s a total perversion of the notion of democracy. To struggle against that is to participate in Félix Guattari’s ‘mental ecology’.” —Gilles Châtelet, To Live and Think Like Pigs
To follow libidinal economy to its terminus is to concede to Land’s libidinal materialism, parametrized by micro-states according to IQ scores, which Châtelet foresaw in the statistical “average man.” We think libidinal materialism is evil. The Downtown New York playground is comprised of a self-deluded nomadic overclass elite (SDNO) which must be regulated and marionetted by technocrats and the intelligentsia. Historical mechanisms of sorting and judging the merit of one’s work are assigned to the rote privilege of having and inhabiting insider knowledge. The recent infiltration of the art world by the alt-right showcases an attempt by disaffected liberals to seize the means of contextualization by already having an alternative means of production, namely crypto and NFTs. The online mobilization by the ‘crypto-alt-right’ (Angelicism01, Milady, crypto-christians, trad alt-lit writers) wages an oblique cybernetic war on historically revolutionary practices – the temporary autonomous zone of visionaries within Disco, House, Techno, Acid, Jungle, Conceptual Art, Juke, Le Jardin, Paradise Garage, The Warehouse, Studio 54. The attempt to infiltrate a previously regulated SDNO by the ‘crypto-alt-right’ is the attempt to weaponize libidinal economy and to create a stratified hegemony on libido by basement dwellers and their acolytes. To groom the youth and stratify social space with the aim of delighting themselves in un-kosher meats. Some cultic prayer sounding like “there is no future because of extinction; memorialize youthful angels for time immemorial; young angels are dead idols; canceled people are angels; Dasha, Dasha, Dasha.” It is the attempt to short-circuit and bypass any hopes of a meritocracy for pure hedonism and brutalist NRx realism. Yarvin, the neoreactionary blogger, proselytizes about Dark Elves and hobbits. Identitarian workerists are ostensibly attempting to infiltrate the SDNO with Dark Elf spies such as the Red Scare entertainers. The nexus between traditionalism and hedonism. Tribalist sex castes of Salò. The political expediency of such a nexus between ‘trad christian’ and libidinal nihilism stages a consequentialist ethics on absolute moral grounds, as opposed to inertial frames of references contingent upon possibilities or possible worlds, the latter agenda being rule-governed and admitting world-dependent norms. Essentially, consequentialist versus deontological ethics. “Absolute relativization” versus “relative absolutization(s)”, as Will Fraser writes in his foreword to my Prolegomenon:
In such a hyperliberal, hyper-relativist world as negatively constrains us now, it seems to me that Eric Schmid’s Prolegomenon to a Treatise offers an attempt to think a kind of sublation of complex relativism into a philosophy of the Absolute via a synthetic amalgam of mathematical and geometrical theories, ultimately advocating for what I see as a kind of mathematical aesthesis. His purported system would, as I see it, against ongoing theoretical production of absolute relativization dressed anew in the cultural fashion of the moment, try to thematize and conceive of relative absolutization(s) in the manner of Zalamean or Châteletian transits and akin to Fernando Zalamea’s and Rodriguez Magda’s notions of transmodernism. De-ontologized idealities side-stepping overt dogmatic idealism, and rationalist realism avoiding libidinal nihilism or what Alain Badiou terms democratic materialism, Schmid’s method seeks to decant philosophy of its baggage on both sides in order to nimbly walk the crooked tightrope which contemporary truth so complexly renders (Schmid, 15).
On the SDNO as third-order sociocybernetic system, and the need to “build new houses”
“After the concept of social equilibrium was strongly criticized, social equilibrium theorists searched for acceptable alternatives to equilibrium that might be less vulnerable to criticism. They turned to concepts such as moving equilibrium, homeostasis, and “steady state.” Moving equilibrium is the term for a series of successive equilibrium states within a given system. The theory is that even though the system may not return to its original equilibrium state, it may still achieve a new, or moving equilibrium. Homeostasis is a term denoting balance or health in an open system. The concept was originally developed for biological systems (organisms), but was applied in sociology by Talcott Parsons and others. The notion here is that the system maintains a set of interrelated variables (such as blood pressure and body temperature) within given parameters. An external change that upsets this balance in one variable (for example, body temperature) would make changes in the other variables in order to restore this balance (and thus the health) of the system. ” —Kenneth D. Bailey, “General Systems Theory” (2005)
“In any study of evolutionary ecology, food relations appear as one of the most important aspects of the system of animate nature. There is quite obviously much more to living communities than the raw dictum “eat or be eaten,” but in order to understand the higher intricacies of any ecological system, it is most easy to start from this crudely simple point of view.” —G.E. Hutchinson (1959)
“It is not by means of a metaphor that a banking or stock market transaction, a claim, a coupon, a credit, is able to arouse people who are not necessarily bankers . . . There are socioeconomic ‘complexes’ that are also veritable complexes of the unconscious, and that communicate a voluptuous wave from the top to the bottom of their hierarchy . . . For it is a matter of flows, stock, of breaks in and fluctuations of flows; desire is present wherever something flows and runs, carrying along with it interested subjects – but also drunken or slumbering subjects – toward lethal destinations. Hence the goal of schizoanalysis: to analyze the specific nature of the libidinal investments in the economic and political spheres, and thereby to show how, in the subject that desires, desire can be made to desire its own repression.” —Deleuze and Guattari (1977: 105)
“[I]n a sense, it is the bank that controls the whole system and the investment of Desire.” —Deleuze and Guattari (1977: 230)
“Living systems are units of interactions; they exist in an ambience. From a purely biological point of view they cannot be understood independently of that part of the ambience with which they interact: the niche; nor can the niche be defined independently of the living system that specifies it.” —Humberto Maturana (1970: 9)
The Bank previously termed the SDNO controls the system of desire. The broad system of desire is an economy which attempts to control itself. To understand the flows of desire, we must understand the individual agents which compose the system, and on this level we are referring to ecology. These actors within this system are taxonomized for convenience into discrete clades or classes; our study then becomes one of taking stock of the flows of these taxonomized actors in competition for resources, and the nature of their libidinal investments. What can be seen in the management of these types within our frame is the goal towards control, or economization: of making discrete entities out of a continuous ecology (oikos, house; oikonomia, household management). The Price equation and Fisher equation have been used in ecology to partition change in diversity indices into direct and indirect processes, to neatly separate change caused by directly acting forces from change that arises indirectly from an altered frame of reference. The direct forces and the frame of reference are abstractions of the biologists’ components of natural selection and transmission.
Niklas Luhmann, the systems theorist, refers to the creation of new states within a ‘marked’ (i.e. demarcated) system by the system itself as ‘autopoiesis.’ This sort of analogy is closer to the possible conditions of such a social system which ultimately aims for self-control. Autopoiesis is concerned with this idea of negative feedback loops, specifically: how does something maintain itself in less than favorable conditions. But rather than stabilize itself at a steady state, positive feedback is relevant to an autopoietic system by virtue not of its proclivity to market capitalism but closer to a debt-based economy: the constant pulsions of observing oneself being observed, and of observing the dawning of a cultural stasis fueled by observance. Capitalism, the bank, these flows: rather than adjusting itself to stay the same, the system takes in energy and transforms into something else in a positive feedback loop, consuming energy and producing transformation which is stochastic and uncontrollable. Culture is a type of production: the cybernetic theory of culture is required because cybernetics is observing this production of culture. But we are not here to drag out a limp evolutionary framework and map it onto these cultural dynamics.
If we are to ostensibly understand this as a system of desire, our analysis of its fundamental operation will have to take on some form of second-order sociocybernetics, which Bailey defines as the “practice of an external observer who observes the system observing itself.” This second-order analysis was taken on by sociologists, but it has its origins in dynamical systems theory in ecological and economic systems, accounting for increasingly shifting, unsteady equilibria. However, this order of analysis falls flat of the observed system of the SDNO. In actuality, we are here dealing with a third-order socio-cybernetics: the group observes itself, we observe this group observing itself, and the group observes us observing it observing itself. Our object, then, requires an understanding of our particular perspective on the object via a guiding, framing theory.
Grothendieck pursued “building new houses,” that is, framing theories and methods for others to use; in this way, we here are seeking to frame theories and methods of analysis for others to use in order to imagine something better – to build new houses.
People have to exist as social beings and therefore, by way of society, feel compelled to address issues in terms of the social/political/cultural significance. I have a problem with people regurgitating French theory at a party in order to gain clout with an art world society of aesthetes. What I am possibly suggesting is that there is another world divorced from this topicality where people can rigorously consider issues of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of mathematics in a systematic way honoring the history of philosophy, i.e. the philosophical tradition. I don’t think it is wrong to be elitist in terms of calling out certain popular names as mere social signifiers to demonstrate initiation within the art world caste system. I think that it is more honest and transparent to pursue ideas related to the architectonics of being and technics and to seriously consider the limits of formalizable language. People who wish to remain within the constraints of social and political theory and, moreover, judge the merit of a philosophical tradition or figure in terms of their political affiliation or biography, demonstrate a shallow interpretation of the project of philosophy. I really believe that philosophy should be the project of engaging with ideas at the highest level of abstraction. I feel compelled to distinguish myself from a class of aesthetes because I feel contempt for libidinal economy, specifically the high-falutin exchange-value (of libidinal pulsion/emotion) within existing social systems such as the culture industry/art world which orchestrates a social fabric vapidly while being completely complicit in the SDNO economy (like eating your cake and having it too, i.e. in the extreme case, performatively articulating the ideals of political and social philosophy while remaining untrustworthy as a person or dubious in terms of moral character.)
Inner monologue from the POV of an insecure aesthete who has to copy other people’s work:
I’m so small. They are better than me. I hate myself. I better steal their ideas before they get it out to the public. I think girls like me for my good looks. But man, do I hate myself. I could never really make a substantial work. All my work amounts to mere aestheticizations. I don’t know how to be rigorous. I don’t even know how to read a Heidegger book. That sounds awfully hard. Maybe I should look at this art blog. Yeah that looks pretty cool. I can just copy that in my work!
Case Study: techno musician
“So, that’s why, in particular, jungle became important and at that point it was almost as if techno became the enemy because of its 4/4 rigidity and its lack of syncopation and polyrhythm. You know, there’s a certain amount of caricature in that: you could say that those two factions who were fighting over Virtual Futures were also fighting over a model of music: druidic trance techno on the one hand, as a kind of representative of the great monorhythmic priesthood of metric regularity for the purposes of transcendence, and jungle on the other hand as this kind of weird multitemporal hybrid entity dedicated to picking apart the body and disrupting it with polyrhythm and with bass. So, there was that kind of ideological level to it, as well. As in all these things, you can’t overstate the importance of Mark [Fisher]’s polemical character in this—that played a big role—when Mark became an advocate of something, true to the spirit of musical tribalism, he was inevitably fiercely against something else. And I think Nick [Land] also had and still has this belief if you can produce a schism, then you should. So there were perhaps a lot of cartoonish ideological divides being drawn with this hardline partisanship for jungle, it became emblematic beyond just the music.
But I think what’s interesting is that this kind of idea of the experiential, the idea of blackness and hybridity, the idea of virtualisation, this whole complex around the experience of music that is on what Steve [Goodman] calls the ‘hyperdub continuum’, i.e. polyrhythmic bass-heavy music which is, in a sense, a part of the evolution of an engineered system, a collective evolution of effective technologies for mobilising the body.
That’s all part of the discourse today, right? There’s a lot of writing and thinking about that now. As I said, CCRU were doing Afrofuturism back in ’96!”
—Robin Mackay, “Towards a Transcendental Deduction of Jungle (Interview) (Part 1)”
The capitalist virus possesses the node of white techno musician/automaton and institutes a fraternal order of the image-object. The white techno musician automaton is activated by its desire for psychic domination, existing within the cybernetic-PR-blogosphere system, the flesh-cum-image. This system has an attractor around the teleology of success/limelight, i.e. the opportunity of playing Boiler Room. Edgy ugly men constitute the cabal of tastemakers as they ascend the airspace for tours in Europe and as their networked flesh attains gratification in the delight of un-kosher meats/sex. The destination of fame nourishes the automaton with ungodly power. The libidinal currency of the fashionable image within the attention economy engenders the second-order desiring-production of the ugly man’s flesh. The nomadic techno elite institute a collectivized fraternal order (local gatekeepers) upon social space (e.g. the DIY techno show in random city). The ethics of the automaton is rooted in an ontological warfare of identity. Identity politics is transformed into advertising sales and branding (insert Fact Magazine techno label). The co-option of Black techno in the post-industrial soundscapes (white underground techno) becomes a simulation of the real. The ostensibly novel soundscapes of dance music are transmuted into the veneer of a fashionable (albeit rasterized) image upon the ugly man’s flesh. This ungodly power of the fashionable image welds a body-armor to the automaton and engenders desire (and fear) within his audience. Psychic domination. But this image is ultimately finite and contrived. After Cambridge Analytica, big data scientists have weaponized identity politics into a State-controlled biopolitics. The novelty of the “new” is no different than right-wing policing or control of middle-class dupes by way of these very advancements of aestheticized cultural production (fashionable techno). The “new” can be statistically correlated to the Facebook accounts of a liberal-socialist-elite-hive-mind (Facebook likes), which become fodder for alt-right strategists (e.g. Steve Bannon) and in the final analysis, become the very bread-and-butter of feedbacked State control. Matrices of data become weaponized to win elections. Amazon targets the obsolescent bohemia with its portfolio of data from Alexa/Echo/Amazon Music.
We have demarcated 7 positions, which are not mutually exclusive, in today’s libidinal climate:
1. The Rat – a terminally online basement dweller who ideologically outsmarts sociality through indoctrinating a following into believing they are the emperor (but with new clothes).
2. The Rat-Man – a chimera between the neoliberal performativity of pre-determined social reflexes and their disposition of ratness. Imports cachet between the social realms of neoliberal social decorum and terminally online indoctrinated acolytes.
3. The Peacock – the social elitist who does not like to show their talent and associates with the Raven, the puppet-master. Terminally unconcerned except under exceptional circumstances.
4. The Leech – the scenester who is a user, a parasite, completely pre-determined by social machination.
5. The Raven – the cunning puppet-master. Typically a legend in their own right.
6. The Bald Eagle – the intellectual elitist who has a rational program in the spirit of Spinoza, Leibniz and Descartes.
7. The Rooster – the fool who escapes such a matrix of positions/camps.
The period of repair
“In the Kabbalah they speak of the Ein Sof—meaning the “infinite” or “without end”—when the limitless Divine Being created the universe by withdrawing from it. Rabbi Isaac Luria believed that in God’s absence there was also presence; the vacuum that God had left was also lined with God, in the way that water clings to the edges of a bowl. Inside this vacuum, there came the first emanations of divine light, the sephirot that make up the material world. These divine emanations took on many forms, including letters and words and language. Flowing outwards, the sephirot began to overwhelm the great vessel of the universe, to the point that it exploded, showering fragments everywhere, white-hot fragments that were now coated with both God and the language the sephirot had imparted. What followed was a period of repair, a period that Luria called tikkun. Tikkun is never-ending, you see, we are living through it now. Only after all of the glinting splinters of sephirot have been archived and rearranged—only after we have put language back together, piece by piece—will the tarrying messiah come and only then will tikkun end. Only then will we say goodbye to Dimes Square.” —Will Harrison, “Escape from Dimes Square”
Sure. A period of repair.
In the summer of 2020 we drank at the edges of Manhattan Island. The city was opening up but metaphysically it was closed to us. We would go to the construction sites by the East River where they were hacking up greenspace to lay the groundwork for residential developments. People set up speakers at night and there were a hundred semi-lit faces that otherwise wouldn’t mingle. Or we would be by the dumpsters behind the Whitney Museum, where New Jerseyites pulled up in their muscle cars and the cheap plastic encasings of the speakers rattled at the hand of party mixes. There were bridge and tunnel 40-somethings sharing blunts with girls in high school. Something had sort of snapped. People were beefing and fucking. People were Tindering insanely. The libidinal cup raneth over. But this was all good. Prejudices were melting. My Friends were linking with Your Friends in a way that maybe before they wouldn’t. The pre-COVID social iceage had thawed and things were dumb and viscous.
All the while, police cars would creep on the periphery, not totally sure when to bust; it was the George Floyd summer. COVID had just ended (or had just begun in a way) and this was the Treat: a summer of incessant social hacking, of all sorts of nonsensical group configurations. It’s arguable the vibe really shifted back then, but people would like to have you think it shifted during June of 2021. It doesn’t really matter. The vibe is always shifting now, probably because we have an unprecedented taxonomy of vibes to work with after a 2017-2019 period of vibe-poverty, save for rudimentary good and bad ones, vis-à-vis Peli Grietzer.
Summer 2021 there was the instantiation of a center, so we drank at the center. People were ready to partake in familiar hedonist goals. This was fun and also dark. More happened every night. Friend groups narrowed; more money was spent; people were doing readings. This did seem closer to a New York cultural reboot in an official sense. The one that prompted mainstream media interest. The infrastructure was taken out of the box and slowly assembled. There were center narratives and then off-center narratives but everything congealed. There was a period of time, say from June to late July, when a lot of people from LA were flying to the city, mostly for readings. They came with eyes ready to screenshot everything. They came to all the readings, they got into all the photographs, and then they left with a gift bag of clout. Thus was the designation of the LA and New York City scenes respectively: one being the kind of registrar of the other. LA became the alibi for the libidinal denaturing of the other; travelers found themselves in the protein folds of Dimes Square’s crannies and became, at once, bound and loosened.
And now we’re here. The date of this publication marks months of people writing about what it’s like and what it means for there to be an extant Dimes Square as if reporting an alien settlement whose dome reflects what culture we thought we had properly jagged and askew. For us, that’s just more of the same shit. As a concept, though, what the Square serves to do is provide the axis for personality types, like what Eric Schmid has mapped out. The Square goes beyond Dimes: it extends through geographies. We could go as far as to say through time, through theory and philosophy. Perhaps the concern is not so much the Square but the Center from which the Square reverberates outwards. Every time a new article is published about Downtown, it reinforces the Center. Weirdly enough, what’s needed to explode and polarize the Center is something like the coming hulu show The Come Up, which offers typologies of Downtown youths that parallel Eric’s.
Considering this background, one can begin to gather how a certain creative frustration has sublimated into a currency exchange of endless criticism. What we have with the recent work of ideological critic personality / discourse aggregators like the Ion Pack, Angelicism, Mike Crumplar, and Dean Kissick too, is a kind of concentrated paradigm of shared ideas, biases, and aesthetic quandaries registered through differentiated affects upon which one can project oneself. The dispersal of substacks has imbued a universalism on the cast of characters and locations pertinent to these New York scene conversations, making the local seem vaguely global and even allegorical. Yet, despite the ostensible multiplicity of positions, there is something that feels anti-dialectical about whatever discourse that springs from the circulation of commentary. Perhaps it is a problem with the kind of custodial end result that these entities, even Angelicism’s scatological authorship, have proffered over the past year or so despite an anarchic performativity that has attracted readership. In lieu of what could be labeled a vacuum in the production of the arts, or otherwise a tectonic shift in where that production is located and how its products manifest, there is undeniably the wrangling of the means of criticism. Critics on the loose. A mangled Spy vs. Spy. Where is the Artist during all of this? It’s dubious.
Perhaps the ‘mid-ness’ of culture pre-pandemic and the conditions of libidinal scarcity has helped sharpen a surplus of attitudes in the present, skirting a more familiar, pre-pandemic production of intellectual goods. The warped romanticism of our era implores us to desire again, to yearn for a quite classical notion of capital ‘B’ Beauty, but perhaps we don’t want to do that anymore, or at least not on the terms a reading of the poetics of the past may ask us to. We don’t need to look to the past for shards of the divine; we don’t need the divine. We need not say goodbye to the axis of Dimes Square but rather for our own representations manifested on its terms to say farewell to us. Wave to the shore.
Induction vs. Deduction: Axiomatic Method
“It would be decidedly more worthwhile to advise people to read Desanti, Badiou, Pètrella, Vatin or Rancière” —Gilles Châtelet, “A Martial Art of Metaphor: Two Interviews with Gilles Châtelet”
“Every day, to earn my daily bread I go to the market where lies are bought. Hopefully I take up my place among the sellers.”—Bertolt Brecht, Poems 1913-1956
Is there still an Outside? Should we pursue a complete abandonment of the art world power structure or is such a position undecidable with regards to navigation and commitments? Can anything be decided without some compromise and political pragmatism? Is it necessary or is it contingent to assume a position within the alternative art world when confronted with radicality? Is radicality only tenable as a position from the inside and moreover, is it an authentic praxis based on committed necessity or an expedient praxis based on haphazard contingency? Can radicality only be situated outside of a given normative power structure or is that a myopic mysticism of the Real? Should political pragmatism and outsider art be reconciled? Can one only enact radicality from within the art world power structure through a trojan horse? Is the market economy governed by what Robin Mackay terms “the ‘triple alliance’ between politics, economics, and cybernetics”? How rampant and trenchant is the global nomadic overclass elite? And does the decadent bourgeois overclass ideology trickle down into the masses? Does such a top-down dissemination cause the provinces to become resentful and therefore tend towards a conservative reactionary coup? Should we not enact reform from above the elite rather than from below the elite? Don’t post-hoc observations confirm a hypothesis through statistical correlation? Rather, shouldn’t we pursue a pre-hoc pure mathematical axiomatic method which subsumes physics, economics, biology, etc? In other words, Induction vs Deduction. “Consumer Electronics – Co-opted.” Does not pure mathematics provide a methodology and toolkit by which the elite can be enlightened to enact a universalist program of the transcendental subject? Should we not act as double agents within this elite, not to enact violence to the Other – after all, Levinas tells us about ethics as first philosophy – but rather to found a universalist cognitive subject upon mathematics as first philosophy? The libidinal subject is based upon affect and leads to decadent frivolous excessiveness, which, once again, was once liberatory in the temporary autonomous zones of Studio 54, but Châtelet criticizes such a utopia and diagnoses its demise. Doesn’t “obstinate subjectivity” – as Jason Loebs calls it – rely upon an auto-foundation on hyper-subjective vulgar base materialism? Is the ‘affective’ only a front to enact the hyper-rationalist program of neo-pragmatism, transcendental computationalism and structural realism? Is it necessary to preserve the hyper-emotional in a duality with the hyper-rational? An Apollonian and Dionysian duality? To at once recognize that the empirico-libidinal actual presupposes the rationalist virtual and that it is necessary to maintain their bind in accessing the Real, instead of splitting them, which Laruelle condemns in ‘the Decision’? Doesn’t the split of the empirical (libidinal economy, libidinal materialism, libidinal nihilism) from the rational result in an insufficiency of its access to the Real? Is the unilateral duality (the conjoinment of the actual and virtual, the ontic and ontological, etc.) our only hope of saving us from ourselves, from the world and society through the heretical project of true Gnosis? Libmat AND its alibis –> Kantian/Hegelian synthetic universalism. “Tom & Jerry – Say Goodbye ‘Broke My Heart’” AND “Drexciya – Anti Vapour Waves” –> “Hecker – Inspection II” (Still, perhaps the ineffability of the Real is a metaphysical construct, which we should instead navigate on the epistemic grounds of functionalism.) Or instead, to reprise what we say earlier, “should we not be transparent about our experiences within the site/locale of the libidinal subject (the currency of affects) in the ideal/intuitionistic (merely mentally constructed or societally constructed) foreground, which stands as a front for a real mathematical universe and a synthetic navigation of the foreground and background, i.e. by way of a topos above such a site?” Perhaps this would be the true rationalist methodological effectivity of the futural “gardeners of the creative.”
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Foto: Sylvia John