All entries for Friday 12 May 2006

May 12, 2006

Review: Naked Punch (versus Collapse) – first thoughts

Follow-up to Review: COLLAPSE – Journal of Philosophical Research and Development from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

3.50 is a good price for a small collection of essays. Naked Punch is the bargain that I struck this morning, and I think it is a worthy and profitable one, with several important topics covered by the likes of Wim Wenders and Keith Ansell Pearson. It did, however, force me to consider again the motivations behind a similar but very different publication: COLLAPSE And more significantly, the relation between philosophy, writing and art. Here are my first thoughts, having only read the introduction.

Naked Punch started life as a vehicle of intellectual hope; as a belief in the possibility of a field of open discourse, where disciplinary boundaries are no longer a bar…

This seems a little too vague. Is it perhaps a border–zone between entrenched disciplines? – a site of trade, adventure or even colonization? It is, we are told, a "brave new discourse on philosophy & art" – yes, so an interface between disciplines that have in some way each lost themselves: artistic craft having been surpassed by electronics, becomes "conceptual"; philosophy having lost ground to science, becomes "aesthetic". In either case the familiar 'disruptive technology dissipation' business model is applied, with the old decaying enterprise establishing, begrudgingly, a parallel business in order to explore foreign territories and new markets – mutant limbs that can easily be severed if the experiment goes wrong. A brief examination of the content reveals little of the "art" partner in the equation – there are many more 'blocks of sensation' than one would find in a conventional philosophical journal, however, they are all just so heavilly overcoded and filtered by a conceptual–linguistic machine. It is, as so often, an engagement in which philosophy allows in a little sensation, a little experience, rather than sensation itself necessitating the conceptual.

Art is missing, but why do we need it? My conjecture is this (following, I think, Deleuze and Guattari):

  1. That events are organized; this is to say, their repetition and differentiation is controlled by filters of selection.
  2. That some of these filters privelige speed and scope of judgement over care and novelty. These filters render the fine detail of events redundant (in the cybernetic sense), so as to cover more ground more quickly. Concepts are such filters.
  3. However there is always a side–effect of speed: a loss of feeling (subtle detail).
  4. On the contrary, there are filters that amplify detail by taking a set of events and promoting their re–occurrence, emphasing different aspects of the events with each repetition. Artists create such filters. The effect of art is deceleration, or perhaps carefully controlled speed. Art may then prevent the dissociation from the world that is inherent in conceptual activity.

Is art then the medicine that philosophy sometimes needs? Perhaps. Or maybe it is a drug to be abused, sensation always inevitably overcoded with the conceptual.

Further on in the introduction, the editors raise a question familiar to anyone seeking to write an escape from the conceptual overcoding that is philosophy:

Two years on, we are still undecided as to whether to call this printed space a 'magazine' or a 'journal'; and we urge you to treat it directly as neither.

I remember having such a discussion with the editors of COLLAPSE which I think was a conscious effort to attack the division, although I suspect that it never really mattered, for a very interesting reason. The distinction between the two formats/genres is explained by Naked Punch:

  • Magazine: "glossy lust for entertainment";
  • Journal: "strictly expository journal".

The editors signal that they are in fact looking to produce something else. But what? Perhaps it would help if they consider that any point on the magizine/journal continuum is still only a mode of the consolidation of a territory, or its controlled expansion. We pick up a magazine when the serious business has been done. Imagine the philosopher as [s]he relaxes at home. They never have TVs. So instead perhaps they pick up a lightweight publication? But what? Radical Philosophy? Cosmopolitan? Rubber Weekly? Whatever, it serves its function delivering light relief in between the more severe work (punishment) of writing those journal articles.

Is there a vector other than the magazine/journal continuum? I think COLLAPSE was and probably still is creating this alternative.

What is a 'collapse'? It is an infolding of layers, a concentratory dispositif. A collapse is not yet settled, but moving in a definite direction. Niether teleological nor teleonomical, but still directional. It is an 'open discourse' of the kind that the editors of Naked Punch seek. And as such it is more exhilerating than representation and expansionist exegesis. Great writing is so often generated by a collapse. For example, Seven Pillars of Wisdom documents the collapse of miltitary models, imperialism and an Oxford academic over a vast and hard territory. It is not the habit of a creature embedded in a well balanced ecosystem, but rather the desperate opportunism of a wider ranging scavenger. Having found carrion, it leaps at the kill, reorders its entire existence and mode of operation in adaption to its find. Writing from the collapse, from its forced migration, creates minor literatures. The question is, what publishing format is appropriate for such writing?

Let us anticipate the publication of the new COLLAPSE