Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's after the end of the World, don't you know that Yet?

Some quotes on stagnation cultural, political and technical, and the normality of the post-apocalyptic: in the absence of a response to K-Punk, I Cite and as an addenda to my earlier response to Poetix;

Prophesising catastrophe is incredibly banal. The more original move is to assume that it has already occured
Jean Baudrillard, The Gulf War did not Take Place (1991)

After the apothesis of technical culture, the trumpet of the ideology of technical retreat is being sounded. Indeed, we are now witnessing a systematic curtailment of technical civilisation and the curtailment of inventions. All this is taking place at a time when the current economic crisis has narrowed the limits of practical possibilities of capitalist technology and when modern engineers confront not Le Corbusier's dream of 'an era of great works' but only very limited tasks. In 1931 Max Leon Girard approached the Belgian king with a request to prohibit all new inventions. In our country the director of the Vitrovice steelworks calls fro a complete moratorium on all technology. And our own Karel Capek publishes books full of pessimism for our civilisation. Already, for a number of years the development of industry that produces vital necessities for the broad masses has been slowing: and now it is to be shut down altogether
Karel Teige, The Minimum Dwelling (1932)

When one looks at the emptiness of current art, the only question is how such a machine can continue to function in the absence of any new energy, in an atmosphere of critical disillusionment and commercial frenzy, and with all the players compeltely indifferent? If it can continue, how long will this illusionism last? A hundred years, two hundred? This society is like a vessel whose edges move ever wider apart, and in which the water never comes to the boil
Baudrillard, Fragments vol III, (1990-5)

If the natural utilisation of productive reaources is impeded by the property system, the increase in technical devices, in speed, and in the sources of energy will press for an unnatural utilisation, and this is found in war...Mankind, which is in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicising art.
Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility (1936)

Addenda: picking up on K-Punk's 'Chinese brands' question, of the inability of this advancing power to innovate, invent and seduce in the manner in which the USA or Germany could in their own period of massive accumulation (''half of China's patents come from foreign companies'): there is a school of thought that China is somehow able to arrest the apocalyptic course, which I tend to be totally unconvinced by: it might be able to commission from Arup an entire sustainable city, but it'll be entirely superfluous set against the amount of entirely unsustainable ones built at the same time. K-Punk has said elsewhere that China is a replication of 19th century English conditions on a massive scale, which sounds more likely- its scrambling for Africa being another example of first time as tragedy, second time as farce.


Blogger Luka said...

where did you get that photo of the semi-submerged shopping trolleys? thats just of stratford high road, a river that leads to three mills.

12:25 am  
Blogger Dejan said...

i saw parallels between k-punk and baudrillard as well, but I believe the hauntology provides an articulation that baudrillard didn't have... or am i overestimating its contribution here, what do you think?

1:43 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Noe missing Thames wasteland are you Luka...? The shopping trolleys are from the Derelict London site, which I'm sure you're familiar with; I'd been walking around the Woolwich stretch of river the day before and marvelling at the amount of trolleys on the riverbank, so was glad to find a pic: impressed you could recognise such a minute stretch of river!

On the Baudrillard question- yes, I think there's something else in hauntology that there isn't in his work, something potentially politically reconstitutive: and I imagine he'd find it all hopelessly passeist. It's more a Benjaminian than Baudrillardian move, but I thought the similarities were curious nonetheless.

5:13 pm  
Blogger Dejan said...

Please explain the politically reconstitutive part, not digging yet

6:08 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Well, in the sense that Carl might use it, i.e that it involves a reinvestment in things like public space, collective action and so forth that have been expunged by pomo and Thatcherite capital, (a certain kind of) (god i sound like Derrida already) Hauntology could be said to be (potentially) politically reconstitutive (this is why it's Benjaminian, Theses on the Philosophy of History as THE hauntological text- the revolutionaries shooting at the clocks, the angel of history blown back by its detritus but wanting to put it back together, etc etc)

This is in the project from the start (if we date its start as Specters of Marx, which strikes me as sensible, we have both the first use of the term, the discussion of the ghost haunting Europe AND the call for a New International (although this has been conspicuous by its absence, ho ho) so the link between this sense of mourning and melancholia and a political reconstitution is very much part of any hauntological 'project'.)

None of this appears in Baudrillard. Like Ballard he would regard it all as hopelessly in hock to a past project that simply can't be restarted (HOWEVER his refusal to fall in with the usual petit bourgeois mock-left cowardice over the banlieue riots suggests he might have a few surprises in this area).

8:47 pm  
Blogger Dejan said...

you know what I just heard ''kode 9'' and ''burial'' having fixed my sound card and at least judging by the sound of this music, I think there is nothing of the sort in hauntology (now I understand retrospectively what Karl meant) but maybe when I read this article by Marx I will become more optimistic

11:42 pm  
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The Blogocalypse Carnival is coming to Mostly Harmless April 1. Submissions due March 31. Sorry for the short notice.

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