Simon O’Sullivan, “TBD”
My talk will address the performance of fictions. In particular I will be interested in how such practices (of what I call fictioning) can open up other worlds from within this one and how this might constitute a ‘counter-strategy’ against todays post-truth and post-fact political terrain. I will also introduce my wider collaborative research project (carried out with David Burrows) on mythopoesis/myth-science/mythotechnesis, attending to a historical sequencing between these but also, more importantly, to the idea of temporal loops operating between different pasts, presents and futures. My own collaborative art practice Plastique Fantastique (again, with Burrows, alongside Alex Marzeta and Vanessa Page), will be offered up as a further case study of this fictioning function.
Nancy Gillespie, ““The Lying Truth and Science Fiction of Jacques Lacan”
In two interviews near the end of his life and work Lacan discusses science fiction. In one he states that “the only true, serious science worth keeping up to date with is science fiction.” For Lacan, science fiction can contain, and even highlight, the hole in knowledge that science seeks to fill or veil through its process of “question begging.” This hole is something he is also trying to highlight. As he explains in the other interview, “[n]o one in the world can […] speak about science fiction, saying anything sensible and intelligent about it. Except, perhaps, to capture it with my rings of string that enclose only a hole.” For Lacan highlighting or illuminating the hole in knowledge concerns the paradox of reaching the real—on the one hand impossible, but on the other hand necessary in the process of analysis. In a short text written around the same time, Lacan approaches this paradox with his concept of the “lying truth.” He returns to his earlier invention of ‘the pass’—the testimony of the analyst of his or her own process of analysis in which the approach to the real is discussed. Lacan realizes that this testimony can only be a lying truth because once we give meaning to the real, it is part of the imaginary and the symbolic; it is a lying truth, but perhaps a necessary form of “bullshit.” My presentation will discuss how this concept of the lying truth, and fabulations of science fiction, may create a different discourse or a new use of the signifier that can both bring new insights and highlight the hole in knowledge.
Otto von Busch, “Vital Vogue”
In 1940, the psychoanalyst, political theorist, biologist, and pioneer of body therapies Wilhelm Reich taught at The New School. His course “Character Formation: Biological and Sociological Aspects” introduced students to the outlines of Reich’s theories of psychosomatic dynamics, and how the psyche is caught between the bioelectrical energies of the body and social currents, between freedom and fear, sexuality and fascism. Reich’s focus on embodiment and cognition, material agency and the vibrancy of energy and matter, the ecologies of vital affect and the social desires of fascism, have come to echo throughout our times. It was also during his time teaching at The New School Reich started experimenting more seriously with his recently discovered energy with properties that could charge organic matter, the energy he famously called “orgone.” Today, Reich’s ideas can also bring new light to the vital dynamics of fashion, help shift perspectives to see fashion as an energy sparkling with life, a form of biosocial flourishing, a living force animating desires, a boost of orgone, or more precisely: a vital vogue.
Eldritch Priest, “Thinking inside the box”
I’ve always wondered if animals get earworms. I suppose it’s possible. But it seems unlikely. Then again, we’re animals and we get earworms. Yet, this doesn’t mean that your cat knows what it’s like to have a song stuck in its head. But supposing it were possible, how would you even know? I only know that you have an earworm because you tell me that you do. Or at the very least, I can infer that you have an earworm by your behaviour, by the way you absentmindedly hum parts of a song to yourself or distractedly sing the repeating ditty out loud. (Although, if you’re humming or actually singing a tune, then strictly speaking it’s no longer in your head.) But can your cat tell you that it has an earworm? And if it can’t (which I don’t actually think it can), then can it show you? And if what it shows you is a form of behaviour does this, like your humming, effectively dementalize the event and thus turn the earworm into a beetle, a beetle that is not in a box but “in your head”? Now imagine that the beetle is not a bug but a fact, or better yet, the truth. In this case, we’ve got another problem besides the status of that bug in your head. Although in some sense this problem is a product of just another language game that with the right set of moves can show the fly out of the bottle. But in another sense, it’s more acute than that, for the game of truth is now being played on a field of attention in which distraction has become a legitimate play that makes it difficult not to state facts and proofs but to arrest lies and corral falsehoods. In this paper I want to draw on Wittgenstein’s still serviceable concept of language games and his weathered yet still highly functional argument about the impossibility of a private language, to propose a type of therapy for how to think in a world where the powers of the false have already fixed the game. This means, among other things, that I will talk of songs getting stuck in your head, of talking gorillas, and of beating a dead beetle.
A film by Merritt Symes. Based on a story by Dominic Pettman.
This short film traces the origin of what is so often mistaken to be “our” thoughts, back to the beginning of the cosmos, and up to and including the overheated, mass-mediated mental climate changes of the present.
Sanem Güvenç-Salgırli, “How to Familiar-ize Theory-Making?”
Its life began for the second time in the muddy cosset of the Grand Union Canal and bit by bit, tentacle by tentacle, it started to compose itself. It plucked eyes off fishes and made them its own; broke their ribs and used them as legs. It made ears out of styrofoam cups, gloves out of coca cola cans, hair out of plastic bags, and hat out of halved footballs. It fought other monsters. It experimented with having feet out of coils and upgrading itself with body parts of mice. It met the person who threw itself to the canal, and did not care. Such has been the life of The Familiar, China Miéville’s abject monster, a tribute to Frankenstein in the lives and times of the posthuman; and this talk is a rejoinder. It’s composed of a series of speculative fragments formulated as responses to the found-discarded texts that I encounter and gather until the time of the workshop. The talk has no predefined telos as such (other than its designated destination), and dwelling in the void and the unknown it experiments with making theory with castaway material. It tries to concoct another brew for how theory and fiction could be infused together, but neither by fictionalizing theory nor by presenting theory in its fictional form. Instead, thinking with/through multiplicity of practices that could be associated with making, it makes theory.
Ania Malinowska, “Roboeneutics. A Method Against Imagery (Exhibit 1: Exorcise!)”
Our moment of cohabitation with technologies is marked by the necessity to xeno-reform. Patricia Reeds (2017) speaks of it in terms of “deontologization”: the radical “estrangement from what is” (where “what is” stands for the human model of imagining and designing reality). Laboria Cubonics express it with an appeal for “alienation” – the departure from the concepts of the natural in the human for unveiling and embracing human inherent technological (machinic) provenance / structuring (in the name of technoviromental veracity). Flipping LC’s appeal to “Alienate!” with affirmative “Exorcise!,” I wish to extend (if not complete) the imperative to deontologize with the necessity for evicting the human model from our thinking about technology. Specifically, I appeal for withdrawing the concepts of the human (and human concepts) from conceptualizing the machine, also in terms of how it has been localized into human awareness. By means of a method I tentatively call roboneutics (a coinage of robotics + hermeneutics), I wish to revisit the human colonization of materiality as exemplified by the history of naturalizing and eventually policing technology (from the machine to AI). I use the robot figure to study “the mutual contamination between concepts and actualization” (Reeds 2017), showing human imagining and dexterity as the corruption of the machine’s physical and cosmological conditioning. This first exhibit of what I hope to become a continued rehearsal of the roboneutic approach will explore the metaphor of anthropocentric possession and possessionism (to use de Certeau’s terms) to signalize the structures of our cohabitation with technology. It will also briefly outline roboneutics and its premises (against imagery) to xeno-reform the “500-year quest to make machines human.
Ed Keller, “TBD”
Mandy-Suzanne Wong, “Ayuka and the Useless Speculation”
The endeavor of fiction, says Shaviro, is “to work through the weirdest and most extreme ramifications of [counterintuitive] scenarios,” “to unsettle and singularize these results, and to provide us with unrepeatable histories” of the improbable and impossible. Fabulated stories “extend beyond cognition,” he says, “connecting how and what we know to how we feel, and to how we might act: to what is it like?” So if the aim of the conference is to tarry with the inutility of thought, I would offer an ungeneralizable account of singular ramifications of a particular useless speculation. I would do this by telling you a story. An improbable fiction of my own fabulation. A story of how it might feel to know that a scientific hypothesis is powerful enough to bring hope to the whole world but at the same time utterly useless. It seems to me that a hypothesis or “speculative extrapolation” is useless when, for whatever reason, it cannot serve as an “agent of truth”; when it has no practical utility beyond the speculative exercise; and when its very character as an idea is so farfetched as to seem wildly excessive, an almost painfully ridiculous expenditure of time and energy. But if this hypothesis were your own, how would it feel to know that as far-reaching as your speculations are, they can’t go anywhere? If you were the subject of this hypothesis, if the idea’s only possible foundation was what might be happening in your body (or not), how would it feel to learn of the idea’s existence, knowing it could do nothing to help you? How would those who thought they knew you react when a random scientist’s wild idea suggests that they never knew you? And what would all this do to the idea itself, to its speculative momentum—the willful and unconscious, emotional, imaginative, and instinctive compulsion that is thinking? Telling you a fiction of a sixty-year-old fisherwoman who might represent the next phase of terrestrial evolution won’t lead to any “new lines of inquiry.” Of what use is it, then? None whatsoever. Except to share the gratuitous and, to me, necessary joy of making stuff up.
Marc Couroux, “The Maryanne House”
The Maryanne House is an occult mental construct, a model named after Maryanne Amacher, esteemed phonomagus, in honour of her psychoacoustic experiments. Peregrinating through its rooms is tantamount to walking through your neuro-musical system, the brain vectors which collude to organize the human perception of music. Lamina Dyre, my guide through this psychedelic Victorian mansion, once described its modus operandi as a quantum game of questions, in which the decoding of the room’s message produces the percept. The manifestation of this house-incorporation was first noticed in so-called hypermusiac patients with particularly enlarged auditory cortices and cerebella, some of whom had also been diagnosed with Williams Syndrome. This time, the music filling the house is none other than the extra_musical, a series of wild piano improvisations generated by extreme physical gestures, named after the term extramusical, first employed by 19th century concert music critics to denote—and thereby condemn and seek to expunge—the discursive framework within which a supposedly abstract work of music actually concretizes. The extramusical is that which unsettles the musical ear, while constituting it at the same time. And so, this will be a story of strangely configured bodies struggling to break through, re-enter a system of abstraction that had expelled their illicit, excessive physicality by recoding it as virtuosic signal.