There was only one thing that I didn’t like. In the very back of the garage, near the canisters, I could see something silvery. That hadn’t been there before. Well, all right, so there was something silvery, we couldn’t go back now just because of that! I mean it didn’t shine in any special way, just a little bit & in a calm, even a gentle way. I got up, brushed myself off, & looked around. There were the trucks on the lot, just like new. Even newer than they had been the last time I was here. And the gasoline truck, the poor bastard was rusted through & ready to fall apart. I didn’t like the looks of that tire. Its shadow wasn’t right. The sun was at our backs, yet its shadow was stretching towards us. Well, all right, it was far enough away from us. It seemed OK, we could get on with our work. But what was the silvery thing shining back there? Was it just my imagination? Now, the thing to do would be to light up, sit down quietly & think it through – what’s the silver stuff above the canisters… why is the tire’s shadow like that? The Vulture Burbridge told me something about the shadows, that they were weird but harmless. Something happens here with the shadows. But what about that silver stuff? It looks just like a cobweb. What sort of spider could have left it behind? I had never seen any bugs in the Zone.
– Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic
What is the schema of the spider? The schema of the spider is its web, & its web is the way it occupies space & time.… [T]ake the concept of a spider; the concept of a spider will include all of its anatomical parts & even the physiological functions of the spider. Thus one will encounter that funny sort of organ with which the spider makes its web. But can you deduce from it what we can now call the spatio-temporal being, & the correspondence of the web with the concept of a spider, which is to say with the spider as organism. It’s very curious because it varies enormously according to the species of spider. There are cases of very extraordinary spiders that, when you mutilate one of their legs, which is nevertheless not used for fabrication, make abnormal webs in relation to their own species, they make a pathological web. What happened? As if a disturbance in space & time corresponded to the mutilation.
– Gilles Deleuze, ‘The Schema & Synthesis,’ Lectures on Kant
Alienness – & the alienation that results from a confrontation with alienness – is the genesis of novelty & change. Wherever one encounters the alien, a mutation or a transformation is not far behind. And yet, because alienness involves an aspect of unknowability & unpredictability – an erasure of the familiar & the homely – it is also one of the things in the world which makes us most afraid. We fear the different & the strange, yet we require these things in order to evolve. This makes for a paradoxical affective relationship with the notions of otherness & difference that alienness encompasses – a bizarre & complex orientation unifying dread & desire. Already there is a kind of geometrical confusion in this: desire drives you forwards, while dread forces you back. As Mark Fisher writes in The Weird & The Eerie, it’s not a simple case of ‘enjoy[ing] what scares us.’ Rather, ‘it has… to do with a fascination for the outside, for that which lies beyond standard perception, cognition & experience,’ an affect that involves terror & distress, but isn’t wholly described by them. Fisher’s invocation of ‘the outside’ immediately brings into play the prefix ‘xeno-,’ a denotation nominating what follows it as foreign or alien – an ‘outsider,’ someone or something that arrives from the outside. Continue reading “ALIEN RHYTHMS”