The following text was a talk given by Caz Wallace at the Deleuze Studies in Asia Conference on June 11, 2017 at the National University in Singapore.
DIVE WITH ME INTO THE MIDDLE.
The internet is a brain. It thinks, it feels. Our biological foundations have fused with internet(works) to compose what we know as life in a grand and intricate system of synapses and bytes. From meta data stolen by the government, to representations of what was once private life now offered up as public product, we exist as we exist in the virtual. This is both a radically new evolution of humanity and also a historically religious notion as the conception of human and self is indissoluble from a higher source.
The biological brain folded with the techno one- human notions of identity, self worth, agency, all of these values are TRANSMITTED WILLINGLY, JUDGED BY A POPULIST TOTALITARIAN REGIME AND FORCED BACK INTO THE MOUTH OF THE PSYCHE. Microcosmos of nerve cells and network infrastructure route consciousness as data to a macrocosmo with every thought, blink or breath.
What a beautiful baptism of being plugged in. Connected, identity dissolves. It’s not about the self but about the selfie, and the mirror, signifying, reflects group phantasy. As you scroll through Instagram, you flow through a subtle language crafted like quilt codes in the American Civil War. Propaganda is self propagated with social media and global e-commerce as the ultimate authority.
OUR VICE IS THE DEVICE
Since the industrial revolution, accelerated technological dependency slipped into a sci-fi fear of killer robots. Today, we must endure the paranoiac yet substantiated notion that there is nothing that is not surveilled. We are told our government can keep us safe if they always keep an eye out so we keep it in our pocket for them. The take over happened quietly, through updates and bigger screens. The positions of Edward Snowden and Anonymous present a powerful contemporary alternative to that of reactive nostalgia, veering from the lonesome dream of going off the grid to advocate the use of technology as an opening rather than a tool of subjugation.
USE WHAT YOU FEAR AGAINST WHAT YOU FEAR.
Now, I’m sure many don’t resent this new level of monitoring. There are practical applications for this technology but there’s no denying the severe necessity for exploring the issues that come with this shift. One finger clicks a button and a drone drops toilet paper at the front door. Another finger clicks a button and a drone drops a missile on innocent civilians. And as fast as new technology is developed for your ease and comfort, blazing trails of connectivity and information flows, so do the subservice measures of repression. The expansion of what is possible picks not one direction but seizes them all!
And now at this moment we have reached the AGE OF CRISES. Terrorism, capitalism, intensifying anxieties between the self and new modes of technology. The list flows like time. And most pressingly, the earth can sustain it no longer.
So I speak to you today in hopes of beginning a conversation about the tools for liberation that are accessible to not just those with hacker skills or philosophical pretensions but a machine for us all. And this task must come with a consideration of the question, why? Saintly illusions aside, the legitimacy of sustaining human life for as long as possible should be seriously considered. It’s a question that goes far beyond any affectations of political responsibility to enter into a completely unique existential and ethical task. And I believe we need more time than our earth has to give in order to properly consider this task.
Maybe humanity has lived its life. Maybe corporeality is out and whatever non biological, non natural resource dependent entities will maintain some type of existence beyond our human time. Or maybe they won’t. This is one face. And the only way we can confront this MIRROR/DEMON is to create more time. So if preservation of the carnal modes of being is a topic of interest for you, please stay with me still…
There was a madman named Felix Guattari who conducted experiments in a chateau in France named La Borde. I cannot tell you about how the paint peeled or how the floorboards creaked at night in that nineteenth century shack but let allow me set a scene:
Guattari and the movement of institutional psychotherapy sought to dramatically shift perspectives on schizophrenia. As a medical diagnosis, schizophrenia was a criminal sentence punished by complete and total invalidation. In La Borde, the ‘mad men’ walked the grounds freely performing plays, peeling potatoes and switching jobs with the staff. The fluidity and permeability of expectations and tasks might have produced the appearance of an incoherent topsy turvy universe to an outside observer, but there existed a painstakingly structured grid beneath it all. Visualize a great expanse in nature and then try to remember what the fibonacci sequence is.
La Borde was radical way of thinking and being and it strikes me as profoundly kind yet it also destructive, subversive and violent. And it is within this chaos that a possible tool for us was born.
To begin on transversality, I will take up an ending, from the last paragraph of Guattari’s essay on the subject:
It is my hypothesis that there is nothing inevitable about the bureaucratic self-mutilation of a subject group, or its unconscious resort to mechanisms that militate against its potential transversality. They depend, from the first moment, on an acceptance of the risk- which accompanies the emergence of any phenomenon of real meaning- of having to confront irrationality, death, and the otherness of the other.
So… the inability of transversality to exist, or the inability to create the situation in which transversality is a potential is not unattainable. This is of course different than to say, transversality is possible or even to say, transversality is not impossible. And if all of this seems funny it is because it is, in fact, comedy, by definition, through the irreducibility of nothing.
To confront irrationality, death, and the otherness of the other… for the project of transversality, this is where Guattari asks us, the group, to begin. The ability of transversality to exist, or the ability to create the situation in which transversality is a potential is not unattainable if you confront that which you cannot confront.
HA HA HA…
Transference, like a cowboy, lassos in meaning through interpretation. Within group therapy, transversality takes that libidinal tie between patient and doctor and essentially blows it up in an Antonioniesque explosion. It becomes an unconscious phenomena and the place for unconscious phenomena within the group. It is about meeting in the middle to annihilate the sides, erase the borders. Is it vacuums or volcanos?
Transversality resists description because it is always in flux, never static. I find it more valuable to think of it through the situation that it comes about in, like the way I’d quicker list the ingredients in a bouillabaisse than attempt to tell you its essence. So we consider the situation of its reality. This is called the coefficients of transversality. Like passionate lovers in heated embrace, in order for there to be transversality, transference requires a tension through relation. Guattari described it through porcupines cuddling or blinkers on a horse but why not spice it up a bit and think of it as an orgy. It’s a multiplicity of libidos, now isn’t it?
It’s the opposition of both verticality (or hierarchy) and also horizontality (or seriality), meant to “unsettle binary structure oppositions and help set the machine in motion.”
Meetings and slippages in boundaryless bodies and spaces. Meanings fluid… Strange and anonymous penetration
in a dark room… transversality it’s scary and exciting like that too. Something like a tongue slips into a rabbit hole and away we go!
A life form losing its natural habitat and the power of technology rising at a rate unchecked and of its own accord. A power growing in every direction, towards life and death and what lies before and after and in between.
By the end of Guattari’s life, environmental concerns took center stage. His concept of Ecosophy linked mental ecology, social ecology and environmental ecology in a way that does not hierarchize one over the other but does give a sense of empowerment, I believe, to mental life in regards to modifying the other two. Much like the indivisibility of water, one thought is not detached from the entirety of all other thoughts and nor does that thought stand outside of nature and society. All are informed as a totality. Know how to pull one thread and pull it and there you stand naked. And if bareskin is classic attire to this funky orgy party, what would it be like to take off your body with your clothes?
Theories of Post-Humanism, as through the work of Rosi Braidotti, presuppose a monastic and autopoietic nature of reality. All matter is intelligent and self organizing because it’s claimed, it is driven by informational codes, which both deploy their own bars of information and, and interact in multiple ways with the social, psychic and ecological environments (Guattari through Braidotti). So as we crank our neck to gaze longingly at the stars, wondering about little green men, what are we missing that’s around us?
WE HAVE FAILED– Failed to acknowledge that force, that non-biological life, as the self organizing structure of life itself. It is the entity it structures, and Braidotti calls her Zoe. From this neo-Spinozan perspective, life is comprised of bios (as the traditional biological life) and Zoe which Braidotti describes as
“Mindless vitality of Life carrying on independently and regardless of rational control.”
Up to this point in time, bios wasn’t just the center of life, it was the only life. I believe through
accelerated technology, the presence of Zoe is becoming more and more prominent. The decentering of bios has already begun. We live online, outside our corporeal case. It seems easier to fall in love with an online profile, mediated by miles and machines, that it is to fall face to face. And as much as we fight it, no matter how many cells we paralyze and freeze, bios breaks down. We grow old and die… the earth is doing the same.
And does Zoe die? I’m not so sure… In memory and memoriam forever producing… Zoe remains. Zoe is the future, future life.
The question I come to now is what is the relation between Zoe and transversality? If they are both distinctly autopoetic, WHAT IS THEIR RHYTHM? HOW DO THEY FLOW? Could it be that transversality is a mechanism of Zoe? Maybe not exclusively but inherently? And how to expand our knowledge on the subject? How can we use our understanding of transversality and its coefficients to work with Zoe toward a life affirming symbiosis between human and technology or even just humans and this terrifying thing that doesn’t exist and is certainly inevitable called [THE FUTURE]. And at this point, is there an advantage? Or do we actually need to rethink human’s place in the future? Is its a question of deserving? DO WE DESERVE?
Let’s go back for a moment to the group in Guattari’s transversality. The group is a mirror and the self is group subject. In contemporary social media lives, this idea is ever present. While there is the potential for a singularity and irreducibility within this subject position, we are also are witnessing new levels of anxiety and self censorship. New technology allows us to connect more ways and faster than ever before, and yes, this is a characteristic of transversality, however the subject remains strictly subjagated. The internet is a potential space where information flows freely however humans are ruled by it, not the other way around. An obvious example of this is social media culture in adolescents. New addictions, suicide, obesity, these dangers swirl in between nefarious videos and images abound…
It is not my intention to dwell on the uncertainties of our current predicament. There is great potential for the life affirming aspects of this altering relation between man and machine and its virtuality. As the internet is the space of group phantasy, growing increasingly unchecked by external relations. It’s where the dangerous part of the psyche lurks that but it’s also the space that cleaves- the space where discursive chains break from their meaning. It is completely and utterly creative and it is but a brief moment in evolution in which we have this opening to choose what we create. Our task now to create our own meaning of human and to craft tools which nurture and support this concept. If we fail, we lay more vulnerable to a horror and agony our animal has never known.
And while the doom in the air hangs I would like to go back to one idea that helped conceive transversality. That of the potential space of DW Winnicott. The baby desires milk and then the baby receives the breast. In this space without external reference the baby’s desire actually produces the milk from the breast. Desire produces. SO WHAT DO WE DESIRE? If our growing amalgamation of man and machine potentiates wide openings of transversality, can we use desire to produce a new life for us on the scale of all humanity and of the earth too? Or will it be one or the other?
Could it be the final task is to simply desire? To desire Zoe? To desire life?
And the political, economic, environmental, social movements etc, would they follow or fall off completely? The only way to know is not around these aspects of life but through them. Through technology.
And does Zoe desire this too?
None of this I can say, yet I stand in front of you today with desire. Desire to stimulate your desire. Desire that we all succumb to the desire of being human and the desire to be something other than. And my desire is not to postulate a theory but rather to evoke something in you. I do not ask if you care or if you want to live. These questions are outdated. Through a screen, from a memory or the skin on your nose, everything exists as Zoe. Suicide isn’t possible anymore. And yet here we find ourselves. On the brink of a total ecological collapse with technology advancing so much faster than we are that we can’t place ourselves in relation. Whatever will happen will happen before we know it.
And wherever humanity rests its head, whether it be a pillow or a loading dock or an infinite charging pad, there will be one aspect of existence that will always remain. It’s what desire desires.
And I hope thats pleasure.
And what a pleasure it has been to get to speak with you today.