3: New Research/ In betweenness / The Gentle Breath.

Currently, I am researching the breath. It wasn’t intentional, not really! I didn’t get the funding I needed, so, in an effort to keep things simple, I took everything back to the basics. ’Breath Wind into Me, Chapter 1′ (Walker, 2019), is an exploration of Luce Irigaray’s and Leonard Skof’s notion that we are living in the ‘Age of Breath’ (Ch:14, 2013). Beginning with Merleau Ponty’s concept of an ‘immense exterior lung’ (1992: 167), my intention is to find an alternative approach to rethink the past and confront uncomfortable truths using mixed-media to expand on Laura Mark’s use of the word haptic to describe images that you can touch or be touched by (2014).

The concept of the haptic breath emerges out of a Deleuzian inspired model of intensities where affect is a disruptive energy that escapes the restrictions of mind, reason, and cognition. Brian Massumi’s most recent formulation of immanence describes correlated waves of affect within collective or ‘depersonalised’ systems. Here, the notion of a gap opens up between cognition and affect, existing as an in-between state of either potential or foreclosure. It is the in-between space where breath can be held, contained or released, the place of hope or despair. It is also the place of intention. To grasp it though requires listening, a shared listening.

Bachelard writes the “breath…is…the premier phenomenon of the silence of being,” that is, there is “the silence that breathes” (p.193). In the silence, we attend to ourselves, to each other and to the inside and outside of the self. In our attentiveness, we receive ourselves and each other. Self-affection is based on our inchoate receptivity to the needs of oneself and thereafter the other, it is a critical engagement with the idea of an ethical becoming. Our affective capacity defines the body in action. Deleuze suggests it is impossible to know ahead of time “the affects one is capable of” (Deleuze, 1988b, p. 125), but if we are practised and alert to our breath, our patterns of breathing, and the breath of the other, we can start to forge a knowing, a practical wisdom and a sense of a different kind of future.

Catherine Malabou, in her essay Post-Trauma, Towards a New Definition? (2012: 227-239), deconstructs Žižek’s critique of Freudian and Lacanian ontologies of trauma. Through the concept of ‘plasticity’ as an active embodiment, she bridges neuroscience and psychoanalysis to reframe an understanding of trauma. For Malabou, ‘becoming’ is a radical metamorphosis, the fabrication of a new form, person or a way of being in the world. She reformulates the Freudian notion of plasticity as ‘a new kind of exposure of the nervous system to danger and, consequently, a new definition of what ‘event,’ ‘suffering,’ and ‘wound’ mean” (2013: 28). As she writes: ‘With plasticity, we are not facing a pre-given difference, but a process of metamorphosis’ (2008).

Returning to the idea of ’staying with the trouble’ (2016), Donna Haraway suggests a commitment to ‘living and dying with response-ability in unexpected company of creating a new future based on fiction. Such living and dying have the best chance of cultivating conditions for ongoingness’ (38). Quoting ethnographer Thomas van Dooren, she places mourning as intrinsic to cultivating response-ability. ‘Outside the dubious privileges of human exceptionalism, thinking people must learn to grieve-with’ (ibid) because we are all part of this undoing. ‘Without sustained remembrance, we cannot learn to live with ghosts and so cannot think’ (39).

More recently, in ‘Fiction as Method’ (Ed. Jon K Shaw & Theo Reeves-Evision, 2017) there is the suggestion that fiction can create spaces to let in the future, the ‘abstract-outside,’ where the potential for a new beginning exists, beyond the loop of trauma and the history with which we are so burdened. But it is not to ignore the past, on the contrary, it is to explore new methods to side step the weight, the heaviness of the past staying with the trouble rather than be-coming the trouble. In 2012, artist, Ian Alan Paul set up the ‘Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History,’ a fictional institute that explores the premise of—‘what if’ and ‘as if’—the latter creating a utopian space where change has already occurred. As the artist declares; ‘The point isn’t to trick people, it’s to increase that moment of wonder that hopefully leads to the question of what’s possible.’ Through the work, Paul is also pointing to the place of no sense, where common sense has disappeared and a reapplication of sense is needed to reassert the order of things. A sense-ability (the ability to sense and therefore feel)—important for an alternative future. It is a different way of being in the world. One that requires an embrace of what is real and what is not and the ability to navigate the space between the two. We need to take care, for as Kathleen Stewart eloquently expresses:

A world can whisper from a half-lived sensibility. It can demand collective attunement and a more adequate description of how things make sense. It can fall apart, become something else, leaving its marks, scoring refrains on bodies of all kinds – atmospheres, landscapes, expectations, institutions, states of acclimation or endurance or pleasure or being stuck or moving on. (Stewart, 2010)

Links: Val Plumood’s moving essay on being attacked by a crocodile.

https://www.utne.com/arts/being-prey

Workshop:

https://www.thecityartsdoctors.com/archetypal-constellations.html

 

2: Hauntology/ The Haunted Breath

In Spectres of Marx, Derrida considers the conflict between presence and absence, inside and outside. He argues that the true logic of uncanniness is a phantom-logic, a necessity of learning to live with ghosts, phantoms, and spirits, because ‘there is no Dasein without the uncanniness, without the strange familiarity [Unheimlichkeit] of some specter’ (1994: 125). It is a state of being that is to be always and everywhere haunted by ghosts, phantoms or spirits: the “visibility of the invisible” (125). Spectral logic is the presence related to the otherness of the self or the self that is found within the other. In honour of Barthes, he writes: “Ghosts: the concept of the other in the same, the punctum in the studium, the completely other, dead, living in me” (Derrida, 2003: 42). This ghostly punctum is linked to the voice of the other, it is the “accompaniment, the song, the accord” (2003: 43).

Spectrality— the anachronistic spectre, outside of time and place— exists between life and death, absence and presence, as Derrida writes “a trace always referring to another whose eyes can never be met” (1995: 84). Searching for the spectral is a way to navigate the evasiveness of trauma, a method of entering the space of dissociation as a witness rather than one subsumed by memory. The spectral for Derrida arises from the concept of a future absence, as he writes: “To haunt does not mean to be present, and it is necessary to introduce haunting into the very construction of a concept. Of every concept, beginning with the concepts of being and time” (1994: 13). This notion of “hauntology,” a pun on “ontology” links being and presence. Through the figure of the ghost, the past and present are indistinguishable. Embodied in the spectral the past is brought to life.

So, hauntology is the uncanny seeking restitution, an application of which is a necessity in the search for subjectivity to accommodate the multiplicities of voices and temporalities required to place meaning on traumatic experience. The ghost: “the double (and its various manifestations such as mirror images, déjà vu, doppelgangers, out of body experiences, etc.)” (Rahimi, 2015: 3), neither claims to be nor is experienced as a replica or a representation of the self as Freud posits, but rather the “ghost disturbs by producing an uncanny version of the other” (3). This notion of haunting suggests the idea of an externalisation of the haunted interior and creates the potential for a narrative to exist outside of the body as an alternative to negotiate not only individual trauma but also intergenerational and collective trauma.

2012-07-16 15.26.53-1 copy 2Part II
I’ve been revisiting old journal entries seeking recorded memories and dreams to trace the past, the journey of a haunted breath. Anniversaries do that. I remember once waking from a dream to the sound of my house breathing, a heart beat pulsating around me. It was just after my mother’s death. I wondered if it was her, whether she had swallowed me up in her death, or I was remembering a time before I was born.
I am reminded of Merleau-Ponty’s immense exterior lung.

Sleep arrives when a certain voluntary attitude suddenly receives from outside the very confirmation that it was expecting. I breathe slowly and deeply to call forth sleep, and suddenly, one might say my mouth communicates with some immense external lung that calls my breath forth and forces it back. A certain respiratory rhythm, desired by me just a moment ago, becomes my very being (MP, PP 256).

Journal Entry, August 2006.

2012-07-16 15.31.08 copy
I dreamed of you last night Mom, I dreamed I held you again. Wrapped you up in my arms, and pulled you to me weeping, kissing you. Your cancerous body was no longer swollen and potent with toxins, you were tiny and frail. A young girl in an old near death women’s body. Fin said I had to go and call your sisters, I had to leave you and I didn’t want to, but I felt compelled by duty. Cath was furiously shouting the telephone number at me. The place, the street everywhere was busy and frenetic, then silence. Something happened and I leaned out of the telephone kiosk and looked into your room in shock. You were mummified in a cardboard casket, a yellow-clad chest rising from the cardboard,  your head framed by a biscuit tin. I kept on asking, what’s going on, what’s happened, I don’t understand! And as I looked over at you, I saw life and a breath and I kissed your face and it was still warm, I asked you over and over what is going on and you replied, I don’t know darling, my face is blue with the cold.

It happened so quickly – one day you were there smiling and the next you were gone and I was sitting alongside your cold, dead body.

In dreams, I become you, the coldness and weight of your dead body resting in the undergrowth of the world’s accumulated pain and sorrow. You press down on my chest and I absorb it – as I absorbed all of your weight in life. I slow down my breath, my heart and drift above myself far from the weight of your arms, I am the morphine, the endless ache of your lost life, your neglected feelings, your swallowed emotions. In those moments I really believe I could die. I could die and never come back, never have to deal with anything ever again. Never again to deal with the siblings, their money issues, the ranting and raving, the bills, the clients, the struggle to make art, the organization, the difficulties of life. I could die now and be forgiven, for it is your hand pressed down on my chest, pressed down on my heart – and I wait and wait – and realize I am waiting for you, I am waiting for you to give me permission to breathe, to live to expand into life, I am waiting for you to connect to, to hold me. My birth your death, they are the same. I think I cried out to you – an animal heart-wrenching wail from the child within and the arms that eventually held me were the arms that had pressed the very breath from me. You are gone, dead, you are ashes in a casket on a funeral director’s table waiting for us to claim you and scatter you with the ashes of Dad. Scatter you to the wind, and the hills and the green grass of your past.
I miss you

This morning I looked for my reflection in the train windows as it pulled away. I glance down at my cold feet on the hard ground, my feet are cold! I peer out at someone trying to catch my eye – then I must exist. Surely if I am seen I am here, if I can see myself reflected…

There is a membrane that keeps me separate from the rest of the world, it does not encase me – it encases everything I look at, everything I see, it wraps its voluminous entity around all that walks, talks and breathes before me. It is human of nature, meaning it has the texture or fabric of a lung but it also contains the sun, the sea, the sky the trees and all living creatures. It does not contain buildings, or trains, signposts or books, my cats, my home or my boyfriend.

I peer in and press against it constantly, but I am afraid I will puncture it, destroy it or bend it to my will. So very carefully I place my hands against it and push gently, manipulate maybe a little, just a little to know I am here, I do exist, I can exist without you.

Inhale and exhale.

1: Falling / September 11th

Anna Walker

I thought I’d make a couple of entries in preparation for presenting to you all next week. Today is September 11 and no matter how much healing and work I do to lay the ghosts to rest, this day continues to bring outpourings of grief. (Indeed, it is a probably a good thing I am not presenting today). When I started PhD research, my intention was to look at trauma in someone else’s body, not mine. But early on in the research, it became apparent that I couldn’t avoid my body, my memories, my relationship to the past. Auto-ethnography was a way to give voice to the ghosts that spoke through me, an exploration of the interstitial space, a deconstruction of in-betweenness.

I have been revisiting the ghosts a lot over the past month, delving into PhD research for a conference at the University of Hertfordshire last month, Aalborg in Denmark a couple of weeks ago and one to come this weekend in Northampton. As I write, I wonder at the need for yet another remembering. Is this a deeper layer of trauma at play? Am I acting out Freud’s repetitive cycle to forget another layer? How important is this reenactment through writing to the larger scheme of what is unfolding around us?

The presentation this weekend is particularly challenging. I’m talking about the towers falling. I’ve included the text, which I will be attempting to read without tearing up.

There is a violence at play through the words, a matter of factness that is both shocking and traumatic. 9/11 changed me 18-years ago, and the world changed in response to the attack. In Perception Attack: Brief on War Time, Massumi writes about remembering 9/11:

Memory and perception share the moment, entering into immediate proximity, while remaining strangers. Their disjointed immediacy syncopates the instant from within. We do not see now what we can never have seen, even as we watched: the enormity of the event.

Maybe it is about making friends with the strangers.

Falling [Slide]
A one-ton beam dropped from a height of 1312ft will fall for 9-seconds and hit the ground at around 200mph. It will expend a noise, vibration and heat twice the energy of a stick of dynamite. How long does a body take to fall? What noise does it make when it hits the ground? In the nights that followed 9/11 these were the questions I asked, wanting to know whether the falling people died before they hit the ground or died on impact, whether they saw the ground looming up towards them or closed their eyes. Their stories flowed through New York in the days after the towers fell. Most of the falling jumped alone, although eyewitnesses talked of a couple that had held hands as they fell. One woman was reported, in a final act of modesty to hold down her skirt. Yet others tried to make parachutes out of curtains or tablecloths, only to have them wrenched from their grip by the force of their descent. The fall took about ten seconds at 125mph varying according to the body position, those that fell headfirst as if in a dive, fell at 200mph. [Slide]

When they hit the pavement below, their bodies were not so much broken as decimated. Unofficial estimates put the number of jumpers at around 200, but it is impossible to say because their bodies were indistinguishable from any others after the collapse of the Towers. The first jumper is recorded plunging from the North Tower’s 149th window of the 93rd floor on the north face of the building at 8.51am, 3-minutes after it was hit by the first hijacked plane. At times the fallers were separated by an interval of just a second. At one point 9 people fell in 6-seconds from 5 adjacent windows, at another, 13 people fell in 2-minutes. The last jumper fell just as the North Tower collapsed 102 minutes after the building had been hit. [Slide]

A witness watching from the South Tower’s 78th floor as people started to fall from ‘the hole’ the aircraft had ripped in the North Tower, told reporters that it looked like the falling were disorientated and blinded by smoke, they would just walk to the edge and fall out. Another witness watched with stunned colleagues unable to comprehend the falling as human. For those down below, the bodies landed with sickening, and explosive thuds. A fire fighter reported she felt like she was intruding on a sacrament as the bodies fell. ‘They were choosing to die and I was watching them and shouldn’t have been. So me and another guy turned away and looked at a wall and we could still hear them hit’ (Schulman, 2011). [Slide]

https://vimeo.com/354474318
PW Anna

Future Ghosts and Biosemiotic Chronotopes

alienandrogyne

 

Stephanie Moran

I’m going to speak about some ideas informing my current eco-sci-fi project in development, alien holobiontology, and some of the recent projects it develops out of, in a nonlinear way.

This is research in progress, I’m still thinking it through. This is a collection of thoughts about and reflections in response to Bubandt’s Future Ghosts, through the lenses of [cultural] Biosemiotics and Bakhtin’s Literary Criticism concept of the Chronotope, or fictional space-time, put together as a kind of narrative, in relation to my current and future practice.

 

Biosemiotics

the study of signs, of communication and of information in living organisms. Its main challenge is to naturalize biological meaning and information by building on the belief that signs are fundamental, constitutive components of the living world.” Journal of Biosemiotics

Biosemiotics are like signs between organisms (literally, communication); but also signs encoded in DNA and activated through interactions in environments, eg. the fact we develop legs before we need them indicates we, mostly, intend to / will walk; more abstractly, things like the rate at which different species perceive time is a form of biological information.

From a Biosemiotic perspective, human cultural production is also a form of biosemiotics; it encodes signs, communication and information, and is an expression of relationships. This works the other way too, cultural production as biosemiotics affect our perceptions of the world, and what we give attention to.

Cultural Biosemiotician Wendy Wheeler proposes that the essence or ‘soul’ of individuals is produced through a biosemiotic history that is “both a memory in the service of the present, and also, like evolutionary history, an open process” combining habit, adaptation and “creative responses to chance… the future is semiotically open and we must be careful how we act.” (Wheeler, 2016, p.214)

I’m thinking about how to make what I call mytho-biosemiotic readings of, and interventions into, the future, science-fictionally.

[Sci-fi happens in the future, out of the present.]

For me, Anthropologist Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think embodies a form of mytho-biosemiotics, or a biosemiotic imaginary.

Kohn shows the complexity and unconventionality of actually lived semiotic relations via an ethnographic text about relationships between humans and nonhumans in Ecuador. Kohn wants to complicate, complexify, expand semiotics, to show it in all the nuance of its lived interspecies experiences, rather than thinking it as it is when flattened into a theory, a set of rules. But we don’t have to go all the way to the Upper Amazon to think about the complexity of human-nonhuman relationships.

We communicate with animals all the time in complicated ways – we negotiate with spiders, bees, butterflies, moths, squirrels; we communicate with our pet dogs, rabbits, gerbils, snakes, via what Kohn calls ‘trans-species pidgin’. Kohn suggests relationships based not on difference or similarity, but on productive in-difference or confusion (p100).

An anthropology beyond the human is in large part about learning to appreciate how the human is also a product of that which lies beyond human contexts.” (p15)

How do forests think? In Kohn, they think mytho-biosemiotically, through the employment of multispecies enchantment and animism. As he says:

the kind of thinking that thinks its way through the lives of people… who engage intimately with the forest’s living beings in ways that amplify life’s distinctive logics. Those living beings enchant and animate the forest.” (p224)

He doesn’t attempt to access to the actual thoughts of the forest, but to think the ways it affects, impacts, transforms the thoughts of those living in and passing through it.

One of my first experiments with mytho-biosemiotics is my @alien_ontology avatar, on Instagram and Twitter – hybrid beings, part human, part freshwater pearl mussel, part digital-technological. My definition of ‘alien’ come from Ian Bogost’s alien phenomenology: very simply, as “anything, and everything, to everything else”.

I use information gathered from scientific papers about the sensory perceptions, behaviours and environments of freshwater pearl mussels. I substitute ‘entity’ for ‘freshwater pearl mussel’ in the text: on Instagram this is hashtags, on Twitter full sentences. I abstract images through photoshop filters. Abstraction preserves the alienness, the sense of a perspective onto something unknowable, while attempting to reveal a sense of entities and represent their biosemiotic relationships.

aliennecessity

Geosemiotics

Nils Bubandt’s Alien geologist from the future finds evidence of humans long after they’re extinct. For him, the present proceeds from the future, because of the dependence of co-species’ survival on what we do now. (Bubandt, p135)

This question about the dependence of co-species’ survival on what we do now is crucial. For me, this is contingent on our capacity to see beyond human perspectives. On the other side of Bubandt’s ghosts of the present from the future, what about apparitions of the future in the now? And what would a co-species future look like? Or what could it look like, science-fictionally?

We can read the future, or a range of potential futures, through the Earth’s past and present, in the landscape, in Geological time. I’m thinking this as a non-Geologist, from literary, anthropological and artistic perspectives. As a way to think about nonhuman time, or what von Uexkull calls the perception time of different species in his influential book, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, from a bioscientific and biosemiotic viewpoint (Uexkull, 2010). Geological time and biosemiotic time is long durational time, evolutionary time; it can make jumps or leaps abductively.

Geological time, as in Claude Levi-Strauss, is stratified and nonlinear, with different times all existing in the same place, contiguously. This is analogous to a biosemiotics of perception time, where the different perception times of various organisms sharing the same environment overlap with each other, in connecting or disconnected experience worlds occupying the same space but at different speeds.

Geological strata and landscapes are texts; landscapes are stories that we have largely forgotten how to read, living in cities. Or that we read differently, depending on our perspectives.

signs are not mere objects of thought or language, but rather are vital entities comprising a web of signification that is continuous from outcrops to reasoning about outcrops. Such an action of signs constitutes a geosemiosis that leads geological investigators on a fruitful course of hypothesis generation.” (Baker, 1999)

Geosemiotics is usually defined as placement of signs and discourses and actions in the material world (Scollon & Scollon, 2003, Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World); ‘geosemiotics’ combines geography with semiotics, after Scollon & Scollon 2003. But I am taking this from an earlier coinage of the term for Geology, by Geologist Prof. Victor Baker, in his 1999 paper Geosemiosis.

 

Back Loops and Panarchy

As Bubandt says, Anthropocene landscapes of death and extinction are, however, also inhabited by emergent and unexpected constellations of life, nonlife, and afterlife. (p137)

This connects to Stephanie Wakefield’s writing around resilience infrastructures in Miami [elevated roadways and water pumps] and New York: “resiliency designs work by managing and adapting to changing conditions of catastrophe… Rather than promising the future, these resilience measures function to ward the future off

She discusses the reinvention of what it means to be human and to live, dwell, on the Earth; the climate and conditions of living are irrevocably changing, as things always change, and it is a case of adaptation and transition; slow but fast – too slow to see it changing but also potentially fast, and, more importantly, changing at irregular pace – in “nonlinear and erratic pulses” that are unpredictable and not evenly distributed around the planet. The interactions between melting glaciers, sea level rise, mass extinction, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, and rising levels of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

She describes ways in which species are adapting to new conditions, with rising temperatures enabling the spread of mangrove trees further north, alligators in Florida’s residential areas and waterways, and pythons (ex-pets) thriving in the Everglades: “Nature is experimenting too, and we create our worlds in the worlds it creates, and vice versa.”

Back Loop

 

Wakefield discusses this in the context of C.S. Holling’s back loop – part of the adaptive cycle resilience ecologists use to describe the four phases of life of all natural systems. This consists of “a “front loop” of early rapid “growth,” leading to a “persistence” or “stability” phase dominated by a few species and characterized by rigidity and the capture of earlier energies. Those “stable” states are not permanent. Gradual or sharp disturbance can cause systems to slip into a “back loop,” marked by a “release” phase where energies and elements previously captured in conservation phases are set free, unexpected new combinations emerge, and wild, exuberant experimentation becomes the modus operandi. … the back loop is the phase of life in which individual organisms or small groups of individual organisms interact across previously unbridgeable divides and in doing create something fundamentally original. In contrast to life in the regimes we are leaving behind, where innovation was stifled and influence limited to a few actors with the greatest power—the stability “trap”—in the back loop beings and things are released and open to new potentials.”

 

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[hypertext]

My Skullcracker Suite SF ballet responds to this, in a science-fictionalised version of a research project that took place between Oxfordshire and British Columbia, imagining it happening in a future where many of the places I visited were now underwater and people had been genetically modified with genes and microorganisms of other species to give them some shared characteristics – hugely influenced also by Donna Haraway’s Children of Compost.

I’m interested in extending this, using sci-fi’s speculative modeling approach to imaginatively inhabit interspecies perception and the ways their experience-worlds, or umwelts, overlap and change and impact each other, considering the bigger picture, as in C. S. Holling’s Panarchy theory.

Panarchy is a conceptual model that describes the ways in which complex systems of people and nature are dynamically organized and structured across scales of space and time. It describes nested adaptive cycles. “A panarchy is a nested set of adaptive cycles operating at discrete ranges of scale…” This means that there are discontinuities between, and therefore compartmentalisations of effects, across scales; although also, cross-scale linkages exist (eg. Related to [body] mass or population variability of smaller-scale species)

Resilience theories such as C. S. Hollings’ are often used in terms of managing eco-systems, from an anthropocentric perspective, to “create and maintain prosperous social, economic, and ecological systems”, and discussions of “free ecosystem services such as clean water and air, food production, fuel” – although this is possibly to do with audiences and paper purposes, and may be the most effective way to push for change (but also points towards charging for the clean-up of those ‘services’ in future). But we have an opportunity to change things, to change the ways we think and live, to change our future, rather than continuing with a dysfunctional green capitalism.

 

Panarchy

Future Ghosts

Wendy Wheeler’s cultural biosemiotic text Expecting the Earth looks at teleological causes in biosemiotics, and their future orientation. She looks at time biosemiotically: pasts proceed from the future

These teleological causes, or the biological teleological imperative – [teleology as in purpose, or ends] that is, living things have purpose built into them. Biologically, arguably, we do not only inhabit the present or only remember the past. We develop legs before we need to use them, or understand what they are.

When Bubandt talks about the sci-fi-ness of the Anthropocene, it is science-fictional because it deals with an idea of future history – a layer of future geological history we are creating, and a retrospective reading of the present in which humans have become geological sediments or ghosts…

 Science fiction is a genre situated in the future. The SF novum, after Ernst Bloch’s novum, is “formed not by the past but by the future”; for Darko Suvin, the sf novum should form the central imaginary novelty, and “must be immanent, scientifically apprehendable, and validated by cognitive logic” (Csicsery-Ronay, p47); it is totalizing, for the text, and structured as a thought experiment: “imaginary models of radical transformations… [are] initiated by ‘fictive novums’

Teleological purpose “belongs to the system of forms in environments of which human animals are historical manifestations… Thus are habits set… by time and place. They are an effect of constraints which evolutionary time, and all its manifestations as place or umwelt, have placed upon all the semiotic possibilities.” (Wheeler, p209)

Narrative is a human cultural form that often relies on teleological purposes and causes, in its narrative drive; wanting to get to the end, the denouement or revelation. Working out the answer, the use of abductive reasoning or ‘intuition’, and the enduring attraction of detective novels.

Wheeler describes metaphor as an ‘imaginative leap’, in the same way as semiotician Peirce’s abduction; she discusses Philosopher Paul Ricoeur’s definition of metaphor (in The Metaphorical Process) which “involves a processual movement… from feeling to meaning.” (p230) After Ricoeur, Wheeler sees metaphor as possessing a “holistic grasp on some inadequacy in normal meaning (or function… biosemiotically) which it creatively repairs, or shifts, so that new meanings (functions) also then become adjacently possible”

Human cultural activities seem to abstract and intensify biosemiotic forms, in a kind of biosemiotic reflexivity or meta-biosemiotics. Pierce calls semiotics ‘habits about habits’, and there is a sort of danger in this level of abstraction from reality. As Wheeler says, “Extremely rigid habits are… what we call addictions, while Gregory Bateson repeatedly argues that addiction to behaviours and meanings that have failed, is not a good sign as far as evolutionary longevity is concerned.”

 

Alien Holobiontology

How to tell a nonhuman story? How to produce sci-fi by animals?

What might be communicated to us, biosemiotically, by future ghosts?

I am working on producing a mythobiosemiotic text, using writing, AR / VR, coding, and algorithms. Alien Holobiontology is an experimental eco-sci-fi digital novel that explores the use of technologies for imaginatively inhabiting other species’ sensory perceptions, and ways in which digital platforms may be repurposed for these ends; or, conversely, how platforms can be inhabited and repurposed for post-anthropocentric activism by multispecies algorithmic hybrids.

Holobionts are assemblages of symbiotic, multispecies entities (Haraway, 2016; Margulis & Fester, 1991). I want the novel to be structured as a networked holobiont, each species as chapters of sorts, inhabiting interlinked experience-worlds.

The first potential chapter is an interspecies Twitter bot, using what we are calling Independent Ontological Research software developed with Etic Lab. It’s live but still in development, using scientific research in trying to become (currently) a bat. It researches for the larger PhD project.

Next steps may include using these avatars to comment on Brexit and immigration debates, to participate in newspaper comments feeds and attempt to gain access to justice through emerging e-justice platforms.

Alien Holobiontology is being collaboratively produced with Etic Lab, a socially engaged research partnership of scientists, technologists and artists; it also aims to collaborate with multiple species of organisms and microorganisms, ecologists and, speculatively, Marine Biologists.

The project aims to imaginatively inhabit multiple species’ perceptions and biosemiotic relationships, their subjective realities, and to reimagine ecosystems through fictions created in text and coding, and as algorithmic, animated and augmented reality entities. It is working very broadly with the form of the SF novel, and speculative fiction.

Which brings us to the Chronotope, or the space-time of novels.

 

Bakhtin’s Chronotope

The chronotope is defined by Russian Literary critic and semiotician Mikhail Bakhtin as “the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed in literature.” He emphasizes time over space (because of the novels he is analyzing, which tend to privilege events in time over space). He mentions different kinds of psycho-social times.

As Bakhtin says, temporal relationships have largely been studied “in isolation from the spatial relationships indissolubly tied up with them.” (p258)

Chronotope literally means “time space”, referencing Einstein’s space-time, in his Theory of Relativity, although used “almost as a metaphor” for literary criticism.

For Bakhtin, the Chronotope is genre-defining, and time is primary.

For Kant, space and time are transcendental, but for Bakhtin, following Einstein’s theory of relativity, they are immanent, and literarily constitutive.

 

Relativity of Time

Einstein’s theory of relativity, dislodging Newtonian absolute time: “time only existed when a measurement was being made, and those measurements varied according to the relative motion of the two objects involved.

“With the special theory of relativity of 1905 Einstein calculated how time in one reference system moving away at a constant velocity appears to slow down when viewed from another system at rest relative to it, and in his general theory of relativity of 1916 he extended the theory to that of the time change of accelerated bodies. Since every bit of matter in the universe generates a gravitational force and since gravity is equivalent to acceleration, he concluded that ‘every reference body has its own particular time.’ From Culture of Time and Space, p19

[if you had tiny [quantum] clocks on your eyelids and your toes, they would record tinily different time]

Bakhtin’s Adventure-time occurs in abstract expanse of space, in an ‘abstract-alien world’; distance and proximity (meetings, partings, pursuit, guarding, searching, abduction) within generic backdrop spaces (seascapes, cities, countries) – action of the novel is not in any way connected with the specificity of the place.

Much popular contemporary narrative, from mainstream film to collective social media narratives, take place in adventure-time: globalized, homogenous; place as a backdrop for our individualized stories.

The disconnect of metropolitan living often views landscapes as generic empty background spaces, where any action that takes place is that of human agents, and all time is human time.

Novels present specific umwelts, or experience-worlds, and access to different perceptions, but these are usually only human ones. [there are exceptions, eg. Stapledon’s Sirius].

As Wendy Wheeler says, “If expectation involves the expectation of living relation, with all that implies of reaching out towards understanding, of thoughtful reading, and of the time of interpretation, then we humans, ourselves, have ceased to adapt well to these other and antecedent things which we no longer read sufficiently thoroughly or abide with.” (Wheeler, p219)

How to begin to inhabit other species’ experience-worlds?

 

Perception Time

Uexkull calls the rate at which different species experience time perception time. Humans perceive time at one-eighteenth of a second. things that happen too quickly or slowly for human perception can be captured and seen by us through slow motion of time-lapse cinematography respectively, extending or compressing time.

Nonhuman time could occupy Science-fiction’s future-oriented chronotope, in place of its tropes of future history and time travel; as the space-time of an alternate universe alternative [perception] time

“[for] fish, which live on fast-moving prey, all processes of motion appear more slowly in their environment, as in slow motion.” “the fighting fish does not recognize its own image when it is shown to him eighteen times a second; it must be shown at least thirty times a second.” (p71)

[Fish perceive at around one thirtieth of a second]

Similarly, but inversely, “the perception time of a snail takes place at a speed of between three and four moments a second… processes of motion take place much more quickly in a snail’s world than they do in our own. Even the snail’s movements do not seem slower to it than ours do to us.” (p72)

Trees don’t need to move – they are part of a massive communications systems; things come to them; experience the world in completely different perception space-time. Maybe like the super-intelligent uploaded minds in Charles Stross’s Accelerando – no interest in moving around. Accessing complex information systems via roots and branches, leaves.

“Bats determine the size, location, density, and movement of prey such as fruit flies 100 feet away in a pitch-black cave by use of sonar, emitting through their mouths and nostrils ultrasound vibrating at frequencies of some 100,000 cycles per second, about five times what we can hear.” (p23)

“Dolphins echolocate in the water by making click sounds, and humpback whales sing to each other… [Blue whales’] communications are time-delayed because of water… They may experience time in an extended way compared to our sense of time, even as their native ocean-imaging abilities likely far surpass our own.” (p23-24)

 

Interspecies Disco

Interspecies_Background

A ritual to summon a future being, a community to come. Channeling future ghosts as symbiont or interspecies avatars, using algorithmically-generated scripts for crow and (partially) octoGANN, to try and bypass our incapacity to imagine beyond human perspectives.

I’m thinking about a future-oriented chapter for the Holobiontology project, and how that might work. Assemblage-times are something I’d like to develop with this – different times for different beings. And thinking about DNA expression models, both hypothetical and using real expression data from single cells. Future ghosts exist in the present biosemiotically like DNA:

“DNA is not a blueprint for a whole organism; it is something more like a set of possibilities that are also biological and psychical ‘expectations’ in the form of potential affordances.” (Wheeler, p209)

 

Conclusion

So, to sum up. I’m developing frameworks for modeling possible futures and responses to ecological crisis, from more than human perspectives. There is an opportunity to change the way we live and act in the world. If we are imaginatively unprepared, or can’t think beyond managing ecosystems to continue our access to the ‘services’ they provide us, the future of our relationships to ecosystems and resources are much more likely to become corporately managed and owned ones that are destructive to anything that doesn’t advance corporate interests. I’m working on developing speculative, mytho-biosemiotic fictions that imagine future ghosts as multispecies ones. I want to infuse narratives with the sense of the richness of biodiversity and of the deep, geological time of the worlds through which they pass, expanding on the multispecies’ environmental-psychological spaces in which time happens, differently.

 

Why On Earth – the felt sense of home

 

                                                  Olivia Kemp – Planted at the brink – 2016 (detail)

 

I was at a workshop recently which focused on the ‘felt sense’ of connection with another in relationship – I feel you where you are – I feel me in relationship with you.

When asked how I was feeling by a partner, the image arose of a house in which the doors flapped open and closed as though the spirits of the house had become alarmed, panicked, not sure how and where to hide, how to adjust to this new level of engagement and enquiry. I was ‘in a flap’ and I could feel it.

 

____________________________

 

I am not currently engaged in a specific area of artistic research. But there is a sense I feel that intrigues me, and that I can feel humming away within me when I work creatively, when I dream. There are hidden expansions waiting to arise and take shape – shapes within sending out messages of themselves. There is a minuteness wanting to return to itself and be seen in depth. Coalescence and expansion riding a wave into …

… where I can’t tell … not-secrets I have yet to touch and uncover … But I can sense something. Something that feels right, not quite. The dance that mesmerises and captivates both awakens me and sends me into reverie, dream, sleep.

 

“I hear you call my name, and it feels like … home” (Madonna)

 

I’ve been feeling this word home a lot over the recent past – home. I can feel my longing for it whenever I journey. When I go deep. When I struggle. When I play. It beckons and it promises. I am on my way there, I know, just as I am on my way back here. I never really left and yet I must continue going forwards. Entering both into and away from. The motion that longs to welcome me just as I long to forget all else.

Home, the stable and secure environment we build around us. Home, the ever-in-motion change-ness of reality. Home, the relational web in which we are oriented and through which we connect.

so perfect crop

I have the feeling that I do what I do, all as part of this quest for home. And in my falling, flying, finding and losing, in all my encounters missed and met, I am in the rediscovering journey of where and how I feel myself to be at home, wherein I would like, one day and always, to welcome you.

With all this in mind I have captured some quotes. In that echo chamber kind of way, I have found myself wishing merely to reinforce my position. But also, it has helped me to think and serves to both sharpen and broaden my vision, and there’s the beauty of research. So I’d like to thank you A.R.E. because even thoughts need a home to send off from, and come back to.

 

When I relive dynamically the road that “climbed” the hill, I am quite sure that the road itself had muscles, or rather, counter muscles. In my room in Paris, it is a good exercise for me to think of the road in this way. As I write this page, I feel freed of my duty to take a walk: I am sure of having gone out of my house.

Gaston Bachelard: The Poetics of Space (1957)

 

As I stood in contemplation of the garden of the wonders of space, I had the feeling that I was looking into the ultimate depths, the most secret regions of my own being; and I smiled, because it had never occurred to me that I could be so pure, so great, so fair! My heart burst into singing with the song of grace of the universe. All these constellations are yours, they exist in you; outside your love they have no reality! How terrible the world seems to those who do not know themselves! When you felt so alone and abandoned in the presence of the sea, imagine what solitude the waters must have felt in the night, or the night’s own solitude in a universe without end!

Oscar Milosz, Amorous Initiation (1910)

 

 

you who crop.jpg

 

Plato – Symposium, part five: Socrates’ speech and Diotima

“Marvel not,” she said, “if you believe that love is of the immortal, as we have several times acknowledged; for here again, and on the same principle too, the mortal nature is seeking as far as is possible to be everlasting and immortal: and this is only to be attained by generation, because generation always leaves behind a new existence in the place of the old.”

 

THINKING ABOUT HOME: AN OPENING FOR DISCOVERY IN PHILOSOPHICAL PRACTICE – James A. Tuedio

According to Young, this “process of sedimentation” through which our physical surroundings become “home” actually functions to produce a “materialization of identity” through a practice of “endowing things with living meaning” (149). Creative preservation is the practice of “renewing” our investment in the meaning of things. Though it functions in support of our “longing” for a “settled, safe, affirmative, and bounded identity,” creative preservation also serves to inspire a dynamic cultivation of identity, which in turn contributes to promoting an affirmative yet “fluid and shifting” context for living. “Activities of preservation give some enclosing fabric to this ever-changing subject by knitting together today and yesterday, integrating new events and relationships into the narrative of a life, the biography of a person, a family, a people”

                                                           __________________________

Dominant meta narratives of home and identity often drop a serious weight on our life, and a great deal of frustration and turbulence results from ill-considered attempts to find our way home in life or to preserve our integrity in the face of life’s complexities.

 

 

Mark Burrows (2018)

As the days grow cold, I watch the geese

as they heed the lure of warmer shores;

as they pass over and by, reminding me of

what I also know of the long call home.

 

 

mother and father crop.jpg

 

In learning to identify and contact bodily sensations we begin to fathom our instinctual reptilian roots. In themselves instincts are merely reactions, however when these reactions are integrated and expanded by our mammalian feeling brain and our human cognitive abilities in an organised fashion we experience the fullness of our evolutionary heritage.

It is important to understand that the more primitive portions of our brains are not exclusively survival oriented, just as our modern brain is not exclusively cognitive. They carry vital information about who we are. The instincts not only tell us when to fight, run or freeze, they tell us that we belong here. The sense that – I am I – is instinctual. Our mammalian brains broaden that sense to – We are We – that we belong here together. Our human brains add a sense of reflection and connection beyond the material world.

Without a clear connection to our instincts and feelings we cannot feel our connection and sense of belonging to this earth, to a family or anything else. Herein lie the roots of trauma. Disconnection from our felt sense of belonging leaves our emotions floundering in a vacuum of loneliness. It leaves our rational minds to create fantasies based on disconnection rather than connection. These fantasies tell us to compete, make war, distrust one another, and undermine our natural respect for life.

If we do not sense our connection with all things then it is easier to destroy or ignore these things. Human beings are naturally cooperative and loving. We enjoy working together. However without fully integrated brains we cannot know this about ourselves. In the process of healing trauma we integrate our triune brains. The transformation that occurs when we do this fulfils our evolutionary destiny. We become completely human animals capable of the totality of our natural abilities. We are fierce warriors, gentle nurturers and everything in between.

Peter Levine – Waking the Tiger (1997)

 

always beginning crop

 

 

Find Michael Ratbone’s contribution below through the link
Why On Earth

Starting points or how would it be to film the world-life as Clarice Lispector writes? 

In this post I am going to gather a few ideas on my artistic research.

This artistic research project, performed through filming and visual research practices, aims to develop an understanding of the affective potential of immersive multichannel moving-image installations based on moving images generated through ‘filming with the body’. This research stems from attempting to translate the unclassifiable narratives of Clarice Lispector into art installations; Hèléne Cixous has described Lispector’s work as ‘writing with the body’ which allows a “be(com)ing human”. 

Through a multidisciplinary approach, and drawing on affect theory, feminist thinking and artistic research, this project will explore how ‘the touching image’ –connected to the notion of ‘haptic visuality’ developed by film feminist theorist Laura Marks- displayed in immersive moving-image installations touch spectators, in other words, how images that touch might be able to touch. 

This research stems from encountering the attractive, unclassifiable and challenging narratives of the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector (1920- 1977). Her work insists on the extraordinary within the everyday and challenges binary categories: self-other, language- silence, human-animal…

Project Proposal with Abstract_Belen Cerezo ICI

Clarice Lispector, Selected Chronicles, (translation 1991)

Feminist thinker Hélène Cixous has defined the writing method of Lispector as “writing with the body”, which operates beyond rationality, which allows to explore the unknown and enables the readers to become human. Also, importantly, for Cixous the work Lispector supposes an affirmation of life.

If “readers can find themselves in the reading of Clarice Lispector’s narratives” (Cixous, 1990), how could my works do the same?

Helene Cixous, Reading with Clarice Lispector, Univ of Minnesota Press, 1990.

Additional material: this is the only video interview of hers.

Pop Pulpo Octopus – as a symbol of artistic research

pulpo-pop-octupus

The Octopus as an example of the process of ‘palpar’, its tentacles feeling the way, the body adapting to the environment, slipping through cracks, moving between obstacles. An adaptable body able to correspond to its environment, slipping through boundaries to explore new territories.  An animal which in Catalan, Spanish and English slips through different sounds, from pop to octupus, as a reflection of process.

Process as a process of slippage, moving between territories, where the activity takes place on a table. Where papers, references, photographs move and establish dialogues, overlapping, obscuring, or creating strange details, snippets perceived through gaps of layered sheets. This process of making so often slips through the net, removed from the exhibition space, pared down, but as in a sketchbook or on the ambiance of a studio it is perhaps this magma of ideas that is where the excitement lives.  In Iceberg Z46, an exhibition project I developed with Jordi Fulla we visited the studios of 30 painters, seeking to understand their process and to bring into view some of the many activities that go on in the studio and inform the paintings, even though they might not be visible in the final work. A process of documentation but also of correspondence, with elements taken from each studio being placed in correspondence and communication with pieces from other studios, linked according to themes rather than authorship. An exhibition conceived as a journey of discovery but also of making the invisible visible.

Iceberg-Z46-intro.jpg

Iceberg Z46 – Galeria Trama