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Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 01:28 pm
The Unabomber's library

Visiting the Palais de Tokyo in Paris earlier this week, I saw an interesting group show called Chasing Napoleon. The theme was escape from society, the idea of living in self-sufficiency on the margins. There was quite a lot about the Unabomber. The centrepiece of the whole show is Robert Kusmirowski's recreation of the Unabomber's hut.



Kusmirowski also happens to have made an excellent recreation at The Barbican's Curve gallery of a World War II bunker -- really the best and most evocative use of The Curve I've seen in years; you can get lost in the musty rooms. In Paris, you couldn't go into his Unabomber hut, but another installation gave a glimpse of its contents: Dora Winter had put together a shelf of the books the Unabomber had at the time of his arrest. You can see a full list of the books here, but suffice to say the titles were pretty much what you'd expect an asocial, pessimistic misanthrope libertarian to be reading:

The Wasteland
The Decline of the West
Civilization and Its Discontents
The Outsider
The Basics of Rifle Shooting
To Purge This Land With Blood




I was also intrigued to see Toward a New Psychology of Women in there, as if Theo's outsiderdom had partly been sealed by his failure to understand the fair sex, or make himself attractive to them.



The reassembled library has become a bit of a meme in the art world -- we saw the Palestinian-American artist Emily Jacir, for instance, win a prize at the 2007 Venice Biennale for her recreation of assassinated Palestinian intellectual Wael Zuaiter's library, amongst other things, in her installation Material for a Film. I read in some art mag an essay rather critical of that piece, saying that just because Zuaiter had humanistic, pro-European books it didn't mean that he wasn't a Palestinian agent, or murderous, or a terrorist.



Just for fun I started image-googling the books I would have had in my own library at 9 Drummond Place, Edinburgh, at the age of 18. I came up with these before I got bored trying to find the cover of Biorhythms and The David Bowie Songbook. I think it's fairly clear, at least, that I'm not going to grow up to be the kind of person who sends bombs through the mail.

28CommentReplyFlag


(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC)

Momus, do you follow any of the speculative realism blogs? If so, do you have any sense that speculative realism is part of the "after postmodernism" that you have at times tried to pin down? In that it comes out of continental theory and yet rejects the relativity that has been central to postmodernism, while at the same time rejecting the naive realism of much of modernism. What say you?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)

Turning to the Speculative Heresy blog, I read:

"The apolitical nature of ontology, as the discourse on being, is a norm – one that is met in some instances, though not in others."

I have no interest in that sort of language at all, to be honest. I'm reminded of my trip to see Alain Badiou speak:

"And so we learned that "being" is "a multiplicity without degree, of purely mathematical determination", whereas "existence" is "the quality, degree or intensity of being". We also learned that "there is always one element in a multiplicity with a minimum degree of existence"."


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)

And a propos my general impatience with philosophy, one of the books I was trying to find to complete my teenage library shelf is the Penguin edition of Arthur Danto's Mysticism and Morality. I bought it because it had a lovely picture of a moss garden on the cover, and promised to talk about Zen. But I found it unremittingly, unreadably dull inside.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 02:18 pm (UTC)

The prose can be opaque and abstract, but not necessarily. Quentin Meillassoux, whose "After Finitude" kind of kicked off speculative realism, writes with admirable clarity. But surely as a fan of Derrida, you're not put off by a bit of difficult reading? Surely you're not one of these Anglo-Saxon types who won't read anything that's not bluff, no-nonsense prose? And yet if you are, Mark Fisher's quick summary might be worth a look:

http://www.frieze.com/comment/article/clearing_the_air1/


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)

Surely you're not one of these Anglo-Saxon types who won't read anything that's not bluff, no-nonsense prose?

You've just reminded me of two other volumes in my teenage library:


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 06:43 pm (UTC)

Mark Fisher's quick summary might be worth a look

It perfectly exemplifies my frustration with philosophy. I read that "At the core of Harman’s reading of Heidegger is his account of the ‘tool analysis’ in Being And Time (1927). When we are using a tool, Heidegger suggests, it cannot be at the forefront of our attention. If we are using a toothbrush, the toothbrush withdraws from visibility; as soon as we concentrate on the toothbrush as a toothbrush, as soon it becomes visible again, it ceases to be functional. It is only broken tools, or tools that are no longer doing their work, which can be made ‘present-at-hand’. So something is always missing from any ‘present-at-hand’ entity. Harman argues that this is true of all objects: every object has a hidden subterranean dimension that cannot be made present.

"One implication of the tool analysis, not appreciated by Heidegger or most of his followers, is a radical de-privileging of human subjectivity. The refusal to put the human mode of being – what Heidegger called ‘Dasein’ – at the heart of philosophy is another heretical move in Harman’s aberrant treatment of Heidegger."

How can a focus on the highly subjective mental act of taking a toothbrush for granted while we use it be "a radical de-privileging of human subjectivity"? No, don't answer that question, I know what'll happen. We'll be re-defining "using" and "being" and "subjectivity" until it all fits like a jigsaw and the words will start meaning different things to us than they do to other people. I'd rather play dungeons and dragons.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)

as soon as we concentrate on the toothbrush as a toothbrush, as soon it becomes visible again, it ceases to be functional

That's rubbish too. I can use a toothbrush and think about it qua toothbrush at one and the same time. Honestly, what junk! What a shaky, creaky scaffolding to build anything on!


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dekersaint.blogspot.com
dekersaint.blogspot.com
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
speculumomus

I have been to a few seminars run by Fisher, and keep up with his K-punk blog, and I also read you. The technical language is off putting if you don't understand it, but one would never claim that maths should use words because numbers are too confusing. I

I actually see a lot of similarities between you and K-punk, but maybe that is just because you are next to him on my rss feeds...


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
Re: speculumomus

I see a lot of similarities between me and Jonathan Meese.


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dekersaint.blogspot.com
dekersaint.blogspot.com
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
Re: speculumomus

out there, your friends, the squirrels.

you can't argue with that.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
Re: speculumomus

But don't forget that there is always one squirrel in each multiplicity with a minimum guaranteed degree of existence. I don't just say that in an anecdotal way. It follows of necessity. Can you tell me why? Anyone?


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jdcasten
J.D. Casten
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC)
Squirrels Are The Measure Of All Things

Perhaps subjective sentience is always indivisibly singular – and “one” object is always a projection of such singular sentience(s) (not that we can’t multitask – but I think a life, not a physical object, is “one”: we will forever be able to divide objects into smaller and smaller “atoms” and wider and wider contexts (relativity), but like Protagoras said, “Squirrels are the measure of all things.”

Isn't "oneness" as necessary for life itself as a diverse ecological context? Why... not?


ReplyThread Parent
jdcasten
J.D. Casten
Sun, Nov. 1st, 2009 02:49 am (UTC)
Chronos

This “speculative realism,” which opposes itself to “correlationism” (which I understand to be an anthropomorphication of objective reality—this seems akin to the “correspondence/coherence” dichotomy in epistemology as well)—this “speculative realism” seems to me to rely too heavily on “physics” for its examples, rather than biology. True there may be some continuum between physics and biology, but the “fact of foci” (re: self-organizing systems—that bodies are unified—that there may be something besides structure to life—that it’s not all about the machine-network) – the “fact of foci” suggest that, even if we should not anthropomorphise reality, how could we divorce it from foci which just MAY be dependent on something a-mechanical, something a-structural, in life. Such a “pre-life” (beyond pre-human) reality would be completely de-centered, utterly incomprehensible, and just possibly chaos.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)

Niggling about whether the example of a toothbrush works or not is really beside the point, as is the blustering about impenetrable language. The point is that speculative realism threatens to overturn the relativistic non-metaphysical worldview that has been prevalent in philosophy since Kant, and in society in general since postmodernism (and seems to be more or less your worldview as well). But it does so not by slipping back into modernism or scientism but by moving onto something else, a sort of "weird realism". If you can get past your prejudices about language and abstraction, you might find something interesting there, Momus.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)

Niggling about whether the example of a toothbrush works or not is really beside the point, as is the blustering about impenetrable language.

I'm happy about the brave new world stretching out beyond the impasse of relativism and all, but wishing or asserting don't make it so. If this proud dawn can only happen if people are persuaded by examples like the toothbrush -- and it seems that's the condition of its acceptance -- then it's hardly "niggling" or "blustering" to point out that these examples don't even begin to work. Of course, if we're just proposing "weird realism", why even try to persuade by supposedly-credible examples? Why not just say "It's weird, and doesn't work, but at least it's new!"


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jdcasten
J.D. Casten
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 08:58 pm (UTC)
Familiar Cats

Although a fan of Heidegger (esp. through Derrida), I think I agree with Momus: how many times do we need to recast clichés to break them into consciousness with obscure writing styles? (The broken tool thing also being a metaphor for Heidegger’s de-familiarizing style: as if we’re all sleepwalking until hit over the head with a club of the unfamiliar—Heidegger seems to believe “we’re” not really conscious simply because what is called “procedural” knowledge is not always verbally explicit: AS IF words are more conscious than actions—another prejudice of 20th century thinking).

Although sometimes guilty of the same, I (of course) prefer my “ultra contemporary” approach:

http://tr.im/styletaste


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mrobot
mrobot
Ben
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC)

heidegger blown to pieces in 2 sentences! congratulations momus


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC)

I had that same edition of Shardik. That book loomed large in my late childhood, although I can remember very little of it now.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)

Yes, it also left a pungent yet vague impression on me! I don't think I finished it, but I feel as if I wandered around quite a bit in its exotic fantasy landscapes, chasing that damned bear.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)

Although Dr. Kaczynski is by no means a peerless stylist, his short story "Ship of Fools" admirably articulates his position:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Fools_(story)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKh1mOeXfqE


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)

i have 'kites'!! or just the cover at least. i bought it at a thrift store, the insides were missing, but such a lovely cover!

been loving the posts again, maybe i can see them as 'gifts' knowing there will only be so many more. feels more intimate lately.

blaise


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skazat
skazat
Alex à Paris
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)

Looks wonderful. Tomorrow is free museum day, too!


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 11:28 pm (UTC)
speaking of

influential texts from youth: anyone ever have walter kaufman's primer on existentialism? i remember mulling over that one for some time. also, paramahansa yogananda's autobiography of a yogi, and suzuki roshi's zen mind, beginner's mind. oh, and mad magazine.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 31st, 2009 11:42 pm (UTC)
Re: speaking of

Oh, I certainly had Walter Kaufman's existentialism book. Didn't it have Sade's dialogue between a dying man and a priest in it?


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Nov. 2nd, 2009 04:06 am (UTC)
Re: speaking of

don't remember that part. at the time, i likely skipped over the transgressive stuff and went straight to wallowing in the void.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Nov. 1st, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC)
Re: speaking of

出てこない。


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Nov. 1st, 2009 09:49 am (UTC)

you might want to listen to robert harrisons recent show on the unabomber with jean-marie apostolidès who just wrote a book on the subject:

http://www.stanford.edu/dept/fren-ital/opinions/apostolides.html

entitled opinions is the best podcast out there, seriously!


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Nov. 1st, 2009 01:24 pm (UTC)

ルイス、出てくる?ほんとに。
11月ですよ。


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