Monday, October 15, 2012

Dumb as individuals, intelligent as a collective...

As promised in the previous post I am coming back to Insect Media by Jussi Parikka. Discovered on twitter under the planning stage of a hauntological sound project , the book feels like a revelation - media as contractions of forces into resonating milieus! I can actually visualise twitter users cutting into information flowing through the smooth digital space and dropping the chunks of it on the timeline. As I am going to record on tape- the process physically demonstrating the workings of disjunctive synthesis or taking sonic events out of the continuum of the room tone - the results of whatever it is going to be will get a linear presentation, the process itself replicating the original recording or inscription of traumatic energies, to borrow from psychoanalysis, in the body of the house, haunting it whenever a play-back is activated.

An insect is a creature close to becomings through its metamorphotic mode of existence.There is a separate chapter on that: Metamorphosis, Intensity, and Devouring Space, where metamorphosis is called a concept of temporality par excellence in which variation becomes a defining and primary feature of "identity".
The book follows the line of the German insect ethologist Jakob von Uexkull with the main idea of intelligence inherent in all nature, developed by Deleuze, and I recommend revisiting some of Deleuzian terminology before reading it. I still have some trouble with it and personally feel more affinity with Nick Land/ Reza Negarestani kind of imagery of incision or breach -communication as violation of individuality or infliction of a wound , opening it to the community of senseless waste. I read opening up to surroundings and bringing close to becoming other or the virtual, or unmediated state that renders everything senseless, it's like re-absorption into the flux or clouds no longer looking like bears in the totality of the skies.

Relationality of insect life and collective intelligence they display have attracted interest in swarms as mode of non-hierarchical organisation with behaviour close to that of complex systems, based on emergency and self-organisation. In Swarming: a Strange emotion Parikka refers to Eugene Thacker: " As Thacker suggests, the emergent societies of swarms reside ontologically between the binaries of life and death. Hence, the biophilosophy of the twenty-first century should contextualize itself on such forms of the headless animality of insect societies or the new intensive meaning in states bordering life- the lifelike death of zombies." Further on, "..such a biophilosophy also suggests a new way of understanding materiality not based on a substance or a form but as a temporal variation of affective assemblages."

Leaving both phenomenology and cognition behind, the book opens up to perception and duration of non-human living beings, duration as capacity to experience a succession of intensities without distinguishing between the previous and the present feeling or state. Humans feel separate from the world through the awareness of the self, thus the need to conceptualize and measure time. The moments of experience of beauty throw us back into the temporal flow ,turning the space filled with objects into temporal space of intensities. Insects are always there, tuned to the melodics and counterpoints of the environment they constantly interprete for optimal navigation and adaptation, and their capacity to create and inhabit spaces together with creative collectivity and relationality of their life is something required of a contemporary artist today, no longer a maker of beautiful objects, but a producer of knowledge, often in a collaborative effort, and initiator of change, entering daily activities and introducing new patterns that give people back their agency and sense of community.

About the author:

Jussi Parikka is reader in media theory and history at Anglia Ruskin University and director of the Cultures of the Digital Economy Research Institute. The author of Digital contagions: A Media Archeology of Computer Viruses and coeditor of The Spam Book and Media Archeology.

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