The manner in which media have been reporting on the current Covid-19 epidemic has been unique, insofar as the new crisis quickly focused the western media-scape on this one single story in a very short span of time. This effect is highly unusual & differs from the standard tempo & manner of reporting & can yield some unique insights. This essay will attempt to situate the Covid-19 pandemic within a general “entropology,” showing how the crisis is being spun in the months following the first reports, & will focus on the manner in which the event of the disease has become, in Louis Armand’s lexicon, “entroped” within contemporary information networks – entropement will be shown to consist in the framing of a “dissipative” object-signifier within a network of parasitic relations.[1]

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There are certain things as if known in advance. “The world must end,” for example. “Death is inevitable,” “Nothing lasts forever,” & so on. Yet all of these are posed against a background of absolute nonknowledge: the meaning of “forever,” of “endlessness,” of “nothing,” of “death” even, & therefore of “life.” They are, in effect, figures of speech, if not metaphors: the constructed verism of the profoundly unknowable, lying somewhere upon the further shore of a present bounded by catastrophe. But catastrophe is a blackbox, in which the rationality of the knowable, the predictable, the modellable, breaks down. What good is it to confront ecological collapse armed with a survivalist handbook if the climate patterns that have defined the very idea of a biosphere cease to exist? What use is an immunological corporate-state enterprise when the accelerated form, force & frequency of viral pandemics reduces its system of control to an epistemological precariat? And what type of theoretical fictions do we inhabit when we pretend that catastrophe itself will permit of a transitional phase of human social re-becoming? That, in short, it will behave as nothing more than a dialectical “figure,” beholden somehow to the rules of a critical discourse infatuated with the idea of its own futurity? At a time when the language of “revolution” has undergone an almost complete rehabilitation, the thought that travels abroad under its name nevertheless does so in the pay of a radical conservatism: from the conservation of the planet, to the conservation of the human, to the conservation of a culture of consumption, capital & of course crisis (for though the world is ending, the spectacle of its end has never been more productive – for conservation is nothing if not a mode of perpetuated ending, of an ending-in-abeyance or in-abyss). Yet none of this violates in any way the fundamental logic of these discourses, which have secretly known this all along & which exist, in fact, to conserve this secret: not the secret of any thing, or a conspiracy among things & kept from the “world,” but the knowledge assiduously kept from itself – its “unknown-known” – that it itself, broadly speaking the discourse of humanism (including all the forms of anti- & post-humanism), isn’t the consciousness of this catastrophism, but the contrary.

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Difficult Times

The Work of Art as Open Process

Although terms such as “postmodern” & postpost modern or “an open work of art” have been with us for a while, & theorists & the public have been comfortable at using them for a couple of decades, their adequate comprehension requires us to return to a patient examination of the essential core of the problem represented by the very possibility of such a work of art. We should consequently ask what can it really be? What is truly a contemporary, or an “open” work of art in process? Then, we would like to pose a question such as: how is this old analytical theme related to that of the role of the artist in difficult, dark or any other sort of times, indeed?

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Cybergothic; Or, The Walls Are Closing In

Darkness had no effect upon my fancy, & a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty & strength, had become food for the worm. Now I was led to examine the cause & progress of this decay & forced to spend days & nights in vaults & charnel-houses.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Let me tell you a modern horror story. Horror is about invasion: something from the outside coming in, or something from within trying to get out: a stranger in the home, a virus in the body, an alien bursting through the chest, a thousand-year-old curse growing leaves out of the basement. In my tale, the internet swallowed us like a flood, nested itself like a parasite under our ribcage, & something’s creeping behind our walls. Around the turn of the millennium, notably in Mark Fisher’s Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism & Cybernetic Theory-Fiction, appears the idea of the cyberspace as a gothic territory.[1] The gothic deals with a most primal invasion, a most upsetting boundary disruption – life is ventriloquized into undead profanity, & death walks on earth disguised as ghosts, vampires, & monsters. The problem of the cybergothic is doctor Frankenstein’s dilemma: technology, allowed to wield organic life as its tool creates a prosthetic hyper-nature. In Fisher’s horrific tale, the cyberspace made the undead out of us – the internet lives in our bodies, manipulating our nervous systems to its rhythm. We dance to its macabre tune. We are like marionettes on its string, pulled into the carnival of ventriloquized emotions & epistemic micro-wars. The cyberspace is where it is no longer possible to distinguish between the internal lives of men & machines, where, as in a scene from The Golem, humans are blown around from one place to another like scraps of paper, moved by invisible cybernetic winds that hack our perceptual channels, all the while we think that we are enjoying ‘freedom,’ ‘personal expression’ or ‘community.’[2] The uncanny terror of it is not that inhuman creatures are alive just like us, as it is with vampires or zombies, but that we are as dead as our machines. It is no longer possible to tell where agency, intention, & desire come from. The cyberspace is Dr. Frankenstein & we are its monster.

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A colloquium on panic, alarm, protest & social plague-pathologies in the resurrection of the myth of the benevolent corporate-state & the theoretic manufacture of a “new communist” species-solidarity as the subject of renascent post-history. Yet the ongoing “health crisis,” like a mirror held up to the Anthropocene, has not only put the architectures of social power under an epochal strain: it has suspended the very idea of the last instance, the very logic of appeal, & the romance of the social contract. Humanity’s self-proclaimed right to exist has had its last shreds of mystique reduced to a procurement problem. Political theatre has become a theatre of the plague: inertia, perversity, irrationalism, grotesque displays of hope & apocalyptic abandon, all laid side-by-side on the same metaphorical pyre. A controlled hysteria has given way to the hysteria of control. If the virus threatens to enact a revolution, it’s because every revolution is already an inside job. The plague is not an alien force that arrived from elsewhere: it was always already here. If the tremor of its mutations has delivered a shock to social response-mechanisms, this is because they themselves were the convulsive product of a viral corporate-state apparatus: their paroxysms have merely provided an affective arena for an ever-enlarging spectacle of enforced austerity, precarisation & enclosure. This alien-within, having infected the tissues of the social body, now instantiates a quarantine-politics of temporal dislocation – the virus that must be “lived with” in the open-ended present so as to be permitted the promise of a future “cure.” How does pandemic time interrelate within the current xenocapitalist imaginary & how will it extrapolate in the future war over the New Normal? What are the modes of negentropic mutation that will turn the present eco-cultural malaise into the next ideological commodity growth concept? And what means can be evolved to sabotage it?

Continue reading “M’AIDEZ! MAYDAY!”