Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Grin without a Cat

"When a living being ceases to exist, does all that it has been cease to exist as well? How to integrate the memory, the experience, the presence of the dpearted, amongst those still here, the living? When it comes to cells, the usual idea used to be that when a cell died, nothing remained of it. It was here before; now it isn't, end of story. But the collective doesn't behave in the same fashion when a cell dies as when a cell hasn't died. there is a presence, a memory, of the dead. The collective acts differently because certain members died in its environment. The Cheshire cat is a metaphor for the fact that after the death of a cell something very surprising can persist, not at all what you might expect. Alice is very surprised not by her memory of a smile that has disappeared, but by what remains of a cat that has disappeared, a grin without a cat."

Jean Claude Ameisen

Monday, May 21, 2007

In the philosophy of history

Historiography is the writing of the writing of history. Contemporary historiography is the writing of history in the present. How can history, supposedly a measure of things past, unfold in the present? First admit that history is always mediated by the present - historical writing is a translation. There are no originals. There is no code. But nonetheless things do happen. And they happen in specific circumstances and specific places - in bedrooms, in streets, across the ocean, in aeroplanes, in cinemas, on tv. Things happen all the time. In order to become historical their happening must be contingent and witnessed.

This is not a history of the situation but of the event. Situations can be engineered - they can occur on their own. They do not need witnesses. Situations may then also be contained. But an event is always in excess of itself. It involves elements that cannot be named or quantified or represented, perhaps because of their exposure to the multitude. Events need witnesses. the only event that needs no witness is a miracle. Events rely on interception and a slight delay in recognition. Their significance is difficult to discern.

So we have a history of situations, that is also a history of events, and an event unto itself.

1) Things Happen.
2) These are addressed, as in on an envelope, because they have witnesses.
3) They are re-presented and exposed.
4) Things Happen.

The loop is never perfect but at each cycle goes out of sync. The durations are imprecise because there are too many extenuating circumstances. Circumstances are always extenuating.

A philosophy of history is necessarily linked to a philosophy of time. Because perception is key, history has a delay. Instant history is anathema to historical knowledge. The news is not history. There is then a sense of presentation about this model. It has to reach back and grasp the past in the present, preserve its historicity, but also admit the colours of its pallette.

The subject of historiography is not precisely a subject. Agency is bestowed. Visibility is no guarantor of history. Historiography is a methodology that lets in elements of the past and the future as well as the glinting perspectives that catch on the sides of this paradigm in its transition from action to address. Time is a subjective construct that dilates and expands, with no respect for the calendar or the clock. Knowing temporality is subjective means acknowledging the subject's own context and admitting the presence of formats. Even in their subjective relativity, time and history are constituted by formats.

Where does word play or play in general stand in this model of historiography? Play would be dysfunctional without work. Reactionary? Yes. To play with something, like language especially, you need to know how language works. Same with images. So this model of historiography encompasses play as one modus operandi.

The problem of the subject remains, but after play is admitted into the fray this is softened by the possibilities of dispersal.
In its duplicity, double meaning, the subject-subject is the maker and the product, the consumer and the producer. Subject - party to or confined by. Border markings across unsigned lines.

Maybe the present is not synonymous with the now, it stretches forwards and backwards. The open present lets in aliens. Things happen, but do we know why? Space is maintained as a certain coefficient or constant - ie the elements are for the most part localised (context) and situated in or respond to specific conditions. This is despite the generation of non-locatable forces (event). Is the differentiation of situations and events a question of timing?

The subject is a character. The character is a coalition of acts. Not all subjects are characters, but because they share characteristics they can move through each other. Characters can be fictional and non fictional but they are constituted by actions. The subject is content-based. Is this too dualistic? Dualism is the enemy of this model because in the process of turning hstory into the philosophy of history, all potentialies and possibilities briefly rise up. So: the perception of time is non-verifiable, but occurences are nonetheless reliant upon specific, externally imposed formats of temporality for their dissemination.

History is a state of production and consumption. It has to take care of the process of its dissemination. Historiography is the means by which the productive/distributive aspects of history may be addressed. The address offers up a subject, which brings with it a frame, a series of locatable elements that are juxtaposed with the absolute non-locatibility of the event's shrapnel. In these conjunctions we begin to live.

Garden of Harmonious Interest

The lake takes up the most space. There's a bridge on the other side and some reeds around the edges. The sky is faded.
Most of the colour has been bleached by the sun from someone's window. Except for the red on the temple roof mirrored in the water below. I can't see anyone here. Corners have been cut and smoothed out. I can't remember the names of the trees anymore.