Strange Strangers


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The environment looks like not a very successful upgrade of the old-fash- ioned term nature. Oxford University Press, Since the Interde- pendence Theorem is only possible to state in language, and since it describes language itself, the Theorem recursively falls prey to its own premises. Implication 4 asserts that we cannot rigorously differentiate between one species and another. Yet in order for Axiom Two to be valid, we must be able to distinguish one species from another!

A dinosaur, a bird: And yet a dinosaur is not a bird. Axiom 2 is in still more trouble. Consider a candle and its flame. If there were no difference between the candle and its flame, then the flame could not arise, distinct from the candle. But if the candle is indeed different from the flame, then there is no way the flame can arise from it! The very terms of Axiom 2 have shrunk. They are themselves subject to Axiom 2! Think of a car: Where is the car-ness in these components? I am adapting a Buddhist argument about emptiness. Garfield Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, , 4, 44, —, —1, , —1, — We have reduced Axiom 1 to bareness, by using Axiom 1 itself!

Human beings are made up of arms, legs, heads, brains, and so on. So are birds, duck-billed platypuses, and sharks. These organs are made up of cells.

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So are plants, fungi, amoebae and bacteria. These cells contain organelles. These organelles are modified bacteria such as mitochondria and chloroplasts. They themselves contain DNA. DNA has no species flavour; moreover it has no intrinsic flavour at all. In bacteria there exist plasmids that are like pieces of viral code. Plasmids resemble parasites within the bacterial host, but at this level, the host—parasite duality becomes impracticable. It becomes impossible to tell which being is a parasite, and which a host.

Dawkins, Extended Phenotype, —23, See Slavoj Zizek, Organs without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences New York and London: Bloxam, and Robin A. There is less substance: Yet we have bodies with arms, legs, and so on, and we see all kinds of life forms floating and scuttling around, as if they were independent. The Interdependence Theorem does not reduce everything to sameness. The way things appear is like an illusion or magical display. They exist, but not that much. The strange stranger is not only strange, but strangely so. They could be us.

Strange Strangers Our encounter with other beings — and with our being as other — is strange strangeness. And with this we should drop the disastrous term animal. Gil Anidjar London and New York: Routledge, , — Consider The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants, a beautifully illustrated text readily available online. Plant scientists now model plant growth using software like this. I can only conclude that I, a supposedly sentient life form, am also subject to these rules.

Strange strangers are uncanny in the precise Freudian sense that they are familiar and strange simultaneously. Indeed, their familiarity is strange, and their strangeness is familiar. Strange strangers are unique, utterly singular. They cannot be thought as part of a series such as species or genus without violence.

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Yet their uniqueness is not such that they are utterly independent. They are composites of other strange strangers. We share their DNA, their cell structure, subroutines in the software of their brains. They are absolutely unique and so capable of forming a collective of life forms, rather than a community. Community is a holistic concept that is greater than the sum of its parts. Yet because of strange strangeness, this choosing cannot be a totalizing grip, or final pinning down.

These are the precise coordinates of the global warming crisis. Funny how we can imagine the end of the world as we know it, but not so well the end of capitalism. The discourse of community cannot help us to jump across this open historical moment into the future, because it is intrinsically conservative, if not reactionary, if not, at times, fascist. Community implies a boundary between inside and outside, which implies inclusion and exclusion: The antagonistic energy of the community is pasted onto the scapegoat, who is then sent outside the community to purge it of its contradictions.

Col- lectivity posits that the antagonisms are directly a feature of coexistence as such. Thus these antagonisms have to do with an inadequate politics of collectivity itself, which must henceforth be revised to address the antagonism. The two models are deeply asymmetrical. It is not that collectivity embraces more life forms: If we are to achieve a radical ecological politics, then we must acknowledge the difficulty of the strange stranger. We are faced with an apparent paradox: Further implications What conclusions can we draw?

There is no nature, never was, never will be. Thus no phenomenology is truly grounded in reality. Science and capitalism have ensured that we are now directly responsible for what we used to see outside ourselves as Nature, if only in the negative.

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It is now the task of philosophy and politics to catch up with, and I hope surpass, this state of affairs. Kregel Publications, , I develop this in Ecology without Nature: Heideggerian environmentalism fails at a fundamental level. We are faced with a Romantic irony in which we cannot rid ourselves of our conscious implication in the interconnected Universe. Our minds, in short, are part of the interdependence. And yet, and at the very same time, there is not nothing at all. The Interdependence Theorem is not nominalism, let alone nihilism.

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Directed by Elisa Amoruso. Five women arrive in Italy from different countries in search of love, work, freedom. When we talk about life forms, we're talking about strange strangers. The ecological thought imagines a multitude of entangled strange.

For Heidegger, Being lets things be. Poetry gives us unique access to this letting-be quality of Being. Cue a thousand environmental maxims, poems, attitudes. But what do we let be? When letting-be becomes a political question, the Being really hits the fan. Do we let Exxon be? Do we let global warming be? Do we let the Sixth Mass Extinction Event for which we ourselves are responsible be? The Interdependence Theorem means that Nature becomes historical, and therefore political.

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June 16, at In large part this is because you see that the world of consumerism is an evil world. Death and the mesh go together in another sense, too, because natural selection implies extinction. Help Center Find new research papers in: The mesh has no central position that privileges any one form of being over others, and thereby erases definitive interior and exterior boundaries of beings. Authoritarian organicism gains its power by naturaliz- ing difference.

Letting be therefore becomes a tacit choice to maintain the status quo. There are Heideggerians who seriously suggest this. Interventions into the substance of reality are seen as inevitably failed attempts to not let be. The ideological language of immersion in the lifeworld — profoundly environmentalist language, derived from Heidegger — is Mass. Harvard University Press, , —9. In particular, this is because ideas come bundled with attitudes.

While the language of embeddedness insists that we are up close and personal with reality, the attitude it codes for is cosy, vicarious, aesthetic distance. Imagine Heidegger in a hide: Here is a Buddhist lama writing what I hold to be the definitive passage on the affinity between contemplativeness and violence. The lama is recounting the words of a visitor from the city of Birmingham to his monastery in southern Scotland.

The visitor was a little hesitant to do any actual meditation: I feel very meditative walking through the woods and listening to the sharp, subtle sounds of animals jumping forth, and I can shoot at them. I feel I am doing something worthwhile at See Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being: Or Beyond Essence, tr. Duquesne University Press, , I can bring back venison, cook it, and feed my family.

I feel good about that. What a fantastic sight! In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge through the far-spreading and ever-uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrates the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field.

This equipment is pervaded by uncomplain- ing anxiety as to the certainty of bread, the wordless joy of having once more withstood want, the trembling before the impending childbed and shivering at the surrounding menace of death. This is a criterion that I am happy not Shambhala, , 35— Harper and Row, 15—87 33—4. Heideggerianism, the quintessence of the contemplative ecophenomenological mode in which a lot of Nature-speak now addresses us, is marked by a trace of violence, an unspeakable violence towards the world it so lovingly appears to reveal to us.

The very worn insides of the peasant shoes about which Heidegger rhapsodizes so beautifully in his essay on the origin of the work of art are made from leather, which is animal skin. Contempla- tion here appears deep but not genuinely disturbing: Substitute a gas chamber or Hiroshima human shadow, or a simple pair of Nikes, for the shoes, and this supposed contemplativeness becomes unnerving.

You can imagine committing a murder in a beautiful, mindful, Heideggerian way. We cannot ignore this rhetorical mode, and not just because there are many adaptations of it. In order to get over Heidegger, we have to go underneath him. Ecology is about intimacy. Instead of insisting on being part of something bigger, ecological thinking leads to a different framework: Thus organicism is no longer a workable mode of aesthetics and politics.

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Organicism believes that form can fit content like an invisible glove, leaving no trace. Organic form is greater than the sum of its parts. Most environmental- isms — including systems theories — are organicist. World fits mind and mind fits world, as William Wordsworth asserted. In the margins of his copy of the poem where Wordsworth laid this out, William Blake wrote: Yet en- vironmentalism as currently formulated tries to transcend the contingency of desire, claiming that its desires if any are natural. Organicism partakes of environmentalist chastity. Organicism is a performance of no-performance.

Doubleday, , Organicism articulates desire as erasure, erasure- desire. The curtain rises on a pregiven holistic world. But interdependence is not organic: Sphex wasps paralyze crickets to feed to their young. If you move a paralyzed cricket away from in front of the burrow that the Sphex wasp who paralyzed her is inspecting for the presence of grubs , the wasp will redo the same behaviour, moving the cricket back meaninglessly to the entrance of the hole, without dragging her in.

Nature looks natural because it keeps going, and going, and going … like the undead.

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And because we keep on looking away, keeping our distance, framing it, sizing it up. Blake heard the voice of authority in organicism. Authoritarian organicism gains its power by naturaliz- ing difference. It is established by exclusion, and then by the exclusion of exclusion. We must rediscover what has been excluded from the book of Nature. Ecology must unthink ecologo- centrism. Such unstable definitions extend to the digital world. The computer virus, and its primary vectors bots and spam, are ineradicable parts of the internet and the virtual reality it underwrites.

The physical exertion and material resource expenditure necessitated in maintaining the internet and the servers on which it is housed are belied by the apparent immateriality of digital objects, the objecthood of which is itself a problematic and paradoxical concept. Interface design recapitulates the process; where, at one point, a material fetishisation characterised aspects of digital interface structuring, echoing the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, consider, for example, the blunt, woodenness of the iPad bookshelf, presently interface is increasingly based around gestural or performative aspects of human behaviour and refinements of digitally generated symbolic schemes, e.

Badrillaudian evolutions of internet buttons referencing earlier digital buttons as non-material touchstones. Mapping the inflection points of such shifts from one set of referential origin points to others is the primary concern of this project. Housing the exhibition entirely in a material environment, the iPad, creates a discrete geography that in many ways surpasses the intimacy between viewer and artwork in material spaces.

The exhibition for iPad and tablet technology, Strange Strangers, curated by Lou Cantor brings together the work of 12 artists working across a variety of media. Strange Strangers seeks to interrogate logics of arrangement, focus and display as manifested in traditional, material exhibitions. The digital formatting of the exhibition and the mechanisms of display and interaction embrace new modalities of aesthetic experience, untethering the geographical conception of the art space from its traditional appurtenances.

Though, in some ways, liberating, such decoupling of historical dynamics brings with it a new set of anxieties and problematics. In the work, a disembodied trunk liberally paints a canvas. Olaf Bruening 's image depicts a small model for a future large-scale metal sculpture.

The interpretation of the object is inscribed with various forms of privileged knowledge and the systems of association brought to the work by viewers. An image of a hand opening or closing—depending on the positioning of the tablet device—to present the viewer with a SIM card. The sculpture is dotted with foam earplugs which confer an uncanny organicity to the work, particularly as rendered on a digital screen, the resolute materiality of the piece is, at once, undermined and reinforced. It consists of an image of a bottle of water with organic material collected inside.

The dialogue of concealment and disclosure assumes a second order of significance as the work is, itself, displayed on a glass screen. The work consists of six towels from Hilton hotels sculpted into the shape of swans. The work considers how the proportions and relations among sovereign states, and the populations within these states, become distorted as a result. As often happens with jokes, much had been condensed into a single gesture.