Do You Believe In Love?

I caught bits of The Wedding Singer tonight on the television. Plot described on IMDB.com as:

“Robbie, the singer and Julia, the waitress are both engaged to be married but to the wrong people. Fortune intervenes to help them discover each other.”

I was struck by the scene where Julia (Drew Barrymore) is speaking to the mirror and Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) is in the street below. Julia is imagining herself as Julia Hart, Robbie only sees Julia’s happiness and interprets it as an expression of her happiness regarding the planned impending wedding to Glenn Guglia. It made me think of Shakespeare’s tragedies. First obvious connection is to the famous scene in Romeo and Juliet involving the balcony (“Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo?”), instead in this scene we have Julia hailing her mirror image as the future Julia Guglia or Julia Hart. It is a crucial scene because, even though it is a romantic comedy so it must end happily, it is a precarious moment. Julia is juggling two futures of herself, or rather two future selves, to figure out who she wants to become. It is this relation between chance, futurity, and identity that I think is very interesting in The Wedding Singer.

Firstly: chance. Shakespeare uses three methods to complicate the lives of the heroes and heroines of his tragedies:

1) Shakespeare occasionally represents abnormal conditions of mind: insanity, somnambulism, hallucinations–
2) Shakespeare also introduces the supernatural: ghosts and witches who have supernatural knowledge–
3) Shakespeare, in most of the tragedies, allows “chance” in some form to influence some of the action–

The tragedies that are the most relevant for my purposes are Othello and Romeo and Juliet. In Othello there are three characters that drive the play: Othello, Desdomona and Iago. My favourite Shakespearean character of all time is Iago, not because he is a scheming bastard, but because he is a classic example of how the ‘slave’ can invert the power relationship and take advantage of his ‘master’.

There are two uses of the Shakespearean concept of tragedy that could be drawn on. The second one isn’t really relevant, but the first and third are kind of interesting. From a Marxist point of view the alleged motivation for Julia’s engagement to the wanker Glenn (ahhh!) — economic security — as the foundation of a loving relationship is in reality being a mystified relation to the real conditions of the relationship (Glenn is exploitative and uses women for enabled masturbation) . This is a bit weak, I know, but it is really the third one I am interested in.

The event of Shakespearean tragedy deploying chance (the accident/accidental) as the catalyst for tragedy can be conceptualised thus. There is a disjunctive synthesis that maintains the proximity of at least two series while keeping them separated, the haunting resonance between the series serves as the essential element of tragedy. Examples of the third method of producing tragic circumstances in Shakespeare’s plays include: when Romeo never received Friar Lawrence’s letter, when Juliet didn’t wake up a minute sooner, or when Desdemona lost her handkerchief at exactly the fatal moment. Remember, if you will, Baz Luhrmann’s flimic depiction of Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo finds his love Juliet apparently dead he commits suicide by cop. Juliet was not dead. Romeo’s actions were mistaken because they were premised on the occasion of an accidental situation.

An accident is defined here in terms of the future as failure of expectation (or the extrapolation of the present, which, ontologically, is the superposition of moment upon the next to produce a serial form). In the end, the accident of life and love tears the lovers apart. In the scene from The Wedding Singer with Julia speaking to mirror and Robbie in the street below there is a similar role played by chance. What I find intriguing is that this basic premise of the tragedy is played with in the final scene where the accident is replaced with providence (or ‘fortune’ as the imdb.com describes the plot). There is a counter-actualisation that produces a conjunctive synthesis of two series: Julia and Robbie. It is chance that deals the ‘accidental’ lovers a happy blow (Robbie gets to sing his wonderful song to Julia on the plane).

However, what is the nature of these two ‘series’? Here it is useful to think of ‘chance’ in two ways: the first in terms of a calculus of risk expressed as an expectation, as in ‘take a chance’, and it is essentially a tool in the political economy of actualisation; and the second is the cosmic role/roll of The Gambler‘s dice — here fate becomes the motor for the centripedal acceleration of the present around a singularity, the speed of the present when the dice fall is breathless, the realisation of such a fate can take a lifetime…

In the film there is a constant interplay in the film between subject positions correlating to recogniseable identities and the dyamic lived experience that such a discursive violence attempts to capture. One example is Linda’s description of Robbie as ‘not a rock star, but just a wedding singer’. Another example is Julia’s mother describing Glenn as ‘rich, handsome and successful’ (or something like that).

Perhaps it is useful to turn to one of my dead French mates. ‘Phantistical’ notions, which apply to phantasms and simulacra, Deleuze writes,”are distinguished from the categories of representation in several ways. First, they are conditions of real experience, and not of possible experience. […] Second, these types preside over completely distinct irreducible and incompatible distributions: the nomadic distributions carriedout by the phantastical notions as opposed to the sedentary distributions of the categories” (D&R 285).

The phantistical dimension of such individuals is elided for the sake for the discursive categorisation of a sedentary distribution in the form of an implicit or explicit expectation. For example, Glenn is everything you would want because of the future extrapolated from the current present is a representation of all the possibilities that are desired by a correlative to a stereotypical ‘yuppie’ (or ‘bourgie’;) lifestyle. Robbie, on the other hand, is not everything that a ‘material girl’, such as Linda, wants. This is recognised by Robbie when he thinks that Julia is such a girl as demonstrated by his failed attempt to get a ‘real’ job ‘making money’ and become a ‘material girl’.

Love, then, according to The Wedding Singer, is the opposite of the futurity or calculus of expectation premised on the possible experience of the sedentary distributions of categories. Or, according to The Wedding Singer, love is the conjunctive synthesis of two series defined by the nomadic distribution of the phantistical.

Sidenote, “Do You Believe In Love?” is a song by Huey Lewis and the News from The Wedding Singer Soundtrack. I love Huey Lewis. Does anyone know what sort of people like Huey Lewis in the 1980s? I bet they were total lameos! Hurrah!

18 People

I went over to my old flat in Camperdown earlier to turn the fridge off and empty it out as the appliance rental people are coming to pick it up tomorrow. In this contemporary age of modern durable appliances the sight of an empty fridge feels incredible barren. An affect of pure neglect. All that is left in the flat are lots of loose papers littering the floor between boxes of random stuff that I need to sort through to figure out what to keep or not. Amongst the junk and letters from banks and other institutions were objects and glimpses of memory-triggering flotsam. A photo, 2 little trinkets, a pencil, a CD, a plate set, a certain brand of laundry detergent, half a bag of ice, an indentation in the carpet where a chair once resided and so on…

The other times I have set up new abodes in Sydney have been periods of great excitement. The first time was when I moved over from Perth and it was a big adventure. The other time was when I was moving with Sam and I was in love. Now I am moving in a period of sadness and there is little excitement at all. For a brief time recently I was happy with someone again, and I think what made me happy more than anything else was remembering again what it was like to be happy with someone.

I tried to remember all those who have come to my flat. I can only think of 18 people. I am not including friends of non-friends (non-friend is a friend of a friend, their friends do not get included) and random tradespeople and the like. Is this a low figure? 18? I was in the flat for about 15 months and 2 of those months were spent overseas with about another 6 weeks in total of other travelling. I think it is a low figure. I never had a party and I normally met people in Newtown for a drink or dinner or something. I think I must be a recluse. However, the number of people is not really important, is it?

I was filled with a profound sadness when I realised that my flat in Camperdown was the closest thing I have had to a home since leaving home. Wave after wave of memories emerged and I was struck by just how many happy memories that little, oddly designed flat can invoke in me. I felt like the robot kid at the end of AI who gets to have one more day with his mother, except I knew I would never relive those memories again and could only take the smallest of pleasures by being haunted by them. Sitting here in front of the computer, listening to music, and writing this makes me want to play all those songs I share with old friends, new friends, non-friends, lovers, loved ones, and loves lost. Play the songs so loud that it is inconsiderate to my neighbours. So loud that it drowns everything out except for the song and all I can think is the song and the memories which it invokes. I want to be set up in front of a firing squad of songs that pull the trigger of memories in me…

But now I have the greatest love of my life to contend with — my thesis. I am so going to drill this fucking thing. It has to go toe to toe in a dance with an angry and sad Glen. Why am I angry and sad? Because after tonight, right now, I have the bitter memory of remembering all that I have given up for it and to be able to do it. I have forgot to Forget.

If my thesis wasn’t a work of love that I lived with everyday, then I would hate it.

Genuine polemics approach a book as lovingly as a cannibal spices a baby

The Critic’s Technique in Thirteen Theses

By Walter Benjamin.

I. The critic is the strategist in the literary battle.

II. He who cannot take sides should keep silent.

III. The critic has nothing in common with the interpreter of past cultural epochs.

IV. Criticism must talk the language of artists. For the terms of the cenacle are slogans. And only in slogans is the battle-cry heard.

V. “Objectivity” must always be sacrificed to partisanship, if the cause fought for merits this.

VI. Criticism is a moral question. If Goethe misjudged Holderlin and Kleist, Beethoven and Jean Paul, his morality and not his artistic discernment was at fault.

VII. For the critic his colleagues are the higher authority. Not the public. Still less posterity.

VIII. Posterity forgets or acclaims. Only the critic judges in face of the author.

IX. Polemics mean to destroy a book in a few of its sentences. The less it has been studies the better. Only he who can destroy can criticize.

X. Genuine polemics approach a book as lovingly as a cannibal spices a baby.

XI. Artistic enthusiasm is alien to the critic. In his hand the artwork is the shining sword in the battle of the minds.

XII. The art of the critic in a nutshell: to coin slogans without betraying ideas. The slogans of an inadequate criticism peddle ideas to fashion.

XIII. The public must always be proved wrong, yet always feel represented by the critic.

Musing on a Philosophy Conference

So I attended the Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy 2005 conference at UNSW last week. I got to meet some of the superstars of the philosophy world and was lucky enough to hear some good papers that pushed my thinking.

Sandy, Mel and Mark (yes, I am a good looking bloke, lol!) were there at various times over the three days. Mark put in the hard yards during the plenaries being a ‘mike runner’ for question time.

UPDATE: Sandy discusses Wendy Brown’s talk here. Mel has a number of posts: one on Brett Neilson’s paper on precariousness, one on Ros Dipose’s paper on responsibility to the other, and one on Bernasconi’s talk on ‘Perpetual Peace and Total War’. I am pretty sure she has more to come.

Two photos I took here.

Some of the ideas that I found interesting:

1) Tim Rayner‘s paper on the “Multitude in Power: Power, Poverty and Revolution”. Tim is co-editor of the Contretemps online philosophy journal and I had seen him previously speak at an event hosted by the Russelian Society. What got me thinking during his presentation is his account of Negri’s discussion of poverty in Negri’s long essayKairos, Alma Venus, Multitudo found in Time For Revolution (which I have discussed previously on my blog, but only focusing on the first essay “The Constitution of Time”). I had just been thinking about the role of the poor in the mass-automobilisation of entire populations in the US through the emergence of the jalopy (which has a genealogical link to the hot rod). In this line of argument, the poor effected the conditions for the automobilisation of the masses by creating a car from other car parts. What is let loose across the social is biopolitical, in fact, it is a biopolitical revolution that I would suggest is on par with the mass uptake of the contraceptive pill. (However, the similarity ends very quickly as to think of sexual reproduction as a form of poverty without introducing some qualifications is to open yourself up to serious critique!) What Negri offers is an account of the ‘pure accident’ or ‘virtual structure’ of the sort of creation, resistance and appropriation that so interested the previous generation of researchers and theorists of youth subcultures. In short, the motor for biopolitical production can be found in the ‘ontological scandal’ and innate creativity of the poor.

2) Sean Bowden‘s paper on “Deleuze and Leibniz: The Question of “World” and the Politics of Being” was interesting for his discussion of jurisprudence and monadic perspective. Bowden’s paper was one of many papers to draw on Deleuze’s discussion of jurisprudence with regards to human rights in the L’Ab?c?daire de Gilles Deleuze with Claire Parnet. I found this interesting cause of the paper Mek Gregg and I wrote together and also in relation to Agamben’s argument re a state of exception. Bowden was suggesting that Deleuze’s example of the smoker and taxi driver in the context of creative responses to problems (in this case smoking in taxis) demonstrates the creative dimension of jurisprudence. He framed the event of creation in terms of two singularities (smoking situation and non-smoking situation) being mediated by a third (legal order?). I asked a question about what happens when one singularity in the antagonism is subsumed or occupied by those who are meant to represent the third singularity. This is the case of what is happening in Guantanamo Bay when the sovereignty of the US State is both an antagonist (in relation to the unlawful combatant) and the mediator of the event through the actualisation of particular parts of the legal milieu (in this case the Geneva Convention)

I left the first day early and arrived late for the second day (missed a couple of sessions!). Thursday had some solid papers but I did not really engage properly with them.

3) I enjoyed Eugene Holland‘s keynote. He was asked some tricky questions regarding the way he staked out the difference between science and philosophy in the work of Deleuze and Guattari. The central difference is that philosophy has a plane of immanence while science has a plane of reference. I liked it goes it gells with the way I think about my critical practice as not necessarily coming up with the right answers (plane of reference) but asking whether or not the questions being asked is in fact the right question (plane of immanence). I later asked him a question about the way he was drawing on d&g to set up the philosophy::science binary in relation to Badiou’s claim that what he does in philosophy is a science.

4) I didn’t really understand Judith Butler‘s keynote. I had not read the Benjamin essay to which she referred. Plus I kind of switched off when she started talking about ‘divine violence’. Her talk wasn’t for me.

I missed the first session on the last day, which was annoying because I missed Charles Stivale’s paper. I did say hello to him and he knew who I was I think. That was a bit exciting.

5) Wendy Brown’s keynote was interesting in some respects. She talked about how contemporary theorists concede that capital is the final limit and power, which means that the ‘political’ as an autonomous site of contestation is a result and the turn to micropolitics is a response to the subsumption of the political. She discussed sovereignty which was very interesting. I didn’t quite understand her reading of Negri and Hardt’s conception of Empire as being a ‘politicisation of global capital’ or, rather, that they believe that capital is already ‘political’. Their conception of the sovereignty of Empire was problematic for her conception of sovereignty. In N&H’s distributive model of sovereignty — where there is a tension between multitplicities and the overcoding, sovereign ‘one’, which is not embodied in any singular object or person, but is itself a singularity that organise the entire globe — disturbed her model of sovereignty as an autonomous, as ‘he who decides’. The act of decision itself determines sovereignty, not anything else. Agamben uses the same model of sovereignty in his thesis regarding the state of exception. Likewise, Badiou’s ‘militant’ is determined by he who decides the truth of an event and has a militant fidelity to that truth (but not necessarily to the decision itself). (I find it alarming that Agamben can use Badiou’s conception of the event and the decision (derived from his reading of Spinoza as argued by Laerke) to describe the role of dictators who herald state of exceptions within totalitarian regimes, while Badiou romantically talks about the militant as resistant agitator. Badiou’s becoming-majoritarian needs to be interrogated.)

6) The final non-plenary session I attended was possibly the most interesting. It was something of a pseudo-book launch for the forthcoming edited collection of essays Virtual Mathematics: The Logic of Difference. (They also held a mini-conference on the 20th of June.) The line up for the panel:

–Arkady Plotnitsky, Professor of English and Director of the Theory and Cultural Studies Program at Purdue University (Indiana, USA).
–Jean-Michel Salanskis, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris-X (Nanterre, France).
–Daniel W. Smith, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Purdue University (Indiana, USA).

I was excited to hear Dan Smith speak after reading his excellent essay comparing Deleuze’s ‘problematic’ method of philosophy and use of mathematics to Badiou’s ‘axiomatic’ version in the Peter Hallward edited collection on Badiou Think Again. Eugene Holland asked a very interesting question about capitalist axiomatics in Anti-Oedipus.

Arkady gave the most entertaining presentation at the conference and I found his discussion of the ‘manifold’ very educational. He argued that the ‘smooth’ space of d&g is exactly the Riemann manifold of localised fields of ‘striated’ linear/Cartesian space-time. The manifold is not a space within which these fields emerge, rather the manifold is an assemblage of such fields. Movement within smooth space is from one field to another and from what I gathered Arkady was arguing this does not involve the transformation of the striations of already existing fields.

Jean-Michel reminded me of Larry David as he portrays himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm. (Larry David is co-creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm can be understood as an ‘adult’ Seinfeld. The episode with Crazy Eye Killer is a classic!) Jean-Michel’s paper was entirely constructed around what he wouldn’t say because he did not have enough time. He would say something like “I would like to talk about mathematics and philosophy, but I do not have the time. If I had the time I would make three points. These three points are…” In other words, he would make his points under the guise of not having enough time to make any points. What an awesome conference paper presentation tactic!!! He finished with an anecdote from who I think was an old friend, teacher and colleague — Jean-Francois Lyotard. He said that Lyotard once told him that there were two modes of ontology in philosophy that drew on different sources as if they were romances (very French! lol!). The first is an ontology which drew on mathematics, but since the 1960s philosophy had turned to poetry and developed a poetic ontology. I thought this was a very telling point.

singular complementarity

Even when it is a sodden winter’s day everything is bright when you meet someone you want to meet again. And when you do meet again, or even, perhaps, during the first meeting, every gesture or movement is another microphysical meeting of sorts. A meeting of inifite meetings. I wanted to keep having such meetings. Every gesture is another surface that collapses and folds again at the speed of sensation. The folds have the violence of being hard and sharp, but what makes the meeting of meetings soft are infinite number of folds. The infinite number of folds between you and the person of and in the meeting rounds the sharp corners to make lesser corners that are rounded again, until they are no longer sharp edges and become a singular infinite surface of infinite folds. Within the meeting of meetings I am enveloped by the folds.

So you get to know this person, but it is not so much a person. The person is a number of different surfaces which you continually meet and fold. Within certain intimate proximities of surfaces a formation of folds will unfold and the surface is laid bare or opened up to be mapped onto another surface with yours. Each gesture or movement is a meeting between two infinitely folded surfaces and forms other complementary folds infinite in number. The joy of discovering such complementary zones of intimate proximity that can form infinite folds is the only desire.

There is a gamble in the meeting-gesture. This, of course, is the danger.

There are folds that are so worn and habitualised they become creases that scar the surface and will never be sufficiently folded in any other way again. They are the dead areas of the surface and within such proximities there is only darkness. Even if such dark areas are already infinitely folded they operate as blunt surfaces or jaggard formations of folds. These surfaces can become weaponised gestures that are weilded when the soft comfort of complementary folding becomes the acrimony of the crease. Each gesture ceases to be a meeting and becomes an attack of weaponised surfaces. The brightness of midday is eclipised by the shadows that form at dusk. In the end, the surfaces can be so dark even the attacks become empty and instead it simply becomes the meeting of shadows. However, here and now nothing is final.

Joy can only be reclaimed by a gesture, a meeting that forms complementary folds at the speed of sensation. If all one ever brings are weaponised surfaces that are blunt and jaggard and which carry the expectation of an anxious folding to be wrought upon and by the Other so as to render a complementarity, then joy is short lived. Eventually all that is left is a blunt and jaggard surface.