The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

July 21, 2007


This is the view from my desk which is neither in Paris nor the Black
Forest; it faces nothing but bleak development, projects, urban wasteland
scheduled for drastic over-development, still opposed by Develop Don't
Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) in what is increasingly appearing to be a losing
battle. How can one expect literature from such blight, nature pushed out
to the limit, pigeons with missing toes resulting from frostbite, squir-
rels huddled in backyards along with jays and almost invisible mourning
doves? Everything protects itself; humans are the dominant species and
everything, including other humans, is prey.

So don't can't expect literature, only theory crippled by screams and auto
accidents; you can't expect proper grammar and spelling - those literary
matters - in the face of screeching cars and sirens.

Uselessness of Monoculture

I will call 'monoculture' anything before the advent of the Internet - in
particular artworks, literature, theater, dance, etc. etc. This culture is
characterized by the singular; even when dispersive anatomies are present,
they are always in opposition or subtext to traditional thought. The mono-
lith is always present and accounted-for. The monolith is either station-
ary or process- movement- oriented, always static or dynamic; its elements
cohere, separate, are born to die, to be reborn again. This is the culture
of the traditional university but it is also urban culture, street-corner
culture; it is the culture of history and historiography, of the encyclo-
pedia and the expert and think-tank. Monoculture resolves, whether towards
resolution or irresolution; it is possessed by narratological impulse, by
development and the compass. Monoculture is not necessarily unary; there
is multiplicity and the nomadic, beneath the stars, within it. Monoculture
blinds us to the world; it is the World that is all the case. It is the
culture of gas, liquid, solid, electrostatics, electrodynamics, special
and general relativity; it is the substance of quantum mechanics insofar
as action may be defined as action or verification at a distance. In sum,
it is our sum, our summation, our accountancy of the world and of our-
selves, and it is useless, as the result of an Internet that is neither
singular nor plural, neither present nor absent, neither coherent nor dis-
persed; I will call 'Internet' what has corrupted monoculture, tended
towards its demise. I am not implying that 'Internet' in fact or fiction
signifies anything, that the name means; it may, in fact or fiction, be
characterized imprecisely by insigification, spews, abjections, blurs,
avatars, nothing at all.

For the change that has come about within and without the tangled skein,
holarchy of networkings, is of the plasma or swarm; it is Wolfram's
science, not Hertz's. Thinking through social sites, collaborative facting
and fictioning, wikipediatry, avatars of avatars, bots and phishing, what
comes clear is lack of clarity, lack of clarity's epistemology. This is a
fundamental transform to the extent that anything is fundamental at this
point; it sweeps away, for example, plots and allegories, bureaucracies
and governments, minds and bodies. Think of pre-Internet novels - novels
of modernism or post-modernism, of constructed and conceptual weavings, of
characters or lack of them. And television, theater, cinema, follow suit;
one is locked into farther time, father time, to diegesis, to an unravel-
ing that characterizes experimental film as well. Neither film nor paint-
ing are linear, but both participate in a locking-down of perspective, no
matter what openings, contusions, are on the horizon.

Lacan, Gardner, even Bateson presaged multiplicities; in Wolfram the swarm
is simultaneously organized and disorganized. Lacan never went far enough;
there was that reliance on language, no matter how shifted. It comes down
to this: When I read a novel, I don't recognize myself, the 'times,' any-
thing. When I watch a show on television, there are actors, people, or
animated actors. They're moving through familiar antiquated monolithic
space, proscenium or deep space - it makes no difference; there's always a
perspective. Perspective invades novels, stories, the world of monolithic
writing - on the other hand, try assigning a vanishing-point to MySpace or
even Facebook. Even Second Life, which tends towards classical perspec-
tive, falls apart on the edges where the simulacrum of physics is turned,
churned upside-down. One doesn't recognize (oneself or others) in Second
Life because recognition is already a problem; everything moves within the
aegis of Bell's theorem.

Consider photographic apparatus: begin with camera obscura, that one-to-
one allegory of the real - through Daguerre, view cameras, stationary then
moving then Edgerton. Cameras dissolve into swarming components; now com-
ponents themselves disappear as cameras transform into light-sensitive
holarchies, networked or independent, under whose or what control? The
image ends up everywhere and nowhere at all; no longer is it allegory -
which has long since disappeared - but the stuttering of the fragment
which no longer is in need of suture or extension. You can watch family
trauma, physical and mental abuse, on the morning talk shows, but whose
families? whose abuse? whose perspective? It doesn't need to end up on
YouTube; YouTube provides its own violence, its own parameters of liter-
ally unfathomable streams. Videos are removed if found, if from copy-
righted material; everything gets through, leaks. But leaks from nothing -
the culture, non-monolithic, Internetted, leaks without transmitters,
receivers, leaks without channels, or leaks from traditional channels,
only to be churned back, lost in brackish protocol.

Code, programs, codes, protocols, reference one another, are increasingly
open-sourceless; scratch the surface and no one's there, nor beneath the
surface - all those dead-ending projects on SourceForge ending up maybe
somewhere else, maybe vaporware, the languor of the name. Languages embed
languages; soon they'll be without physical foundation for all intents and
purposes, perfectly floating signifiers shattering against subroutines and
useful or useless misuses. (The world doesn't end either with a bang or
with a whimper; there is no world to end.)

This confusion is on the ground as well - in some places, Harry Potter
really is a witch; children suffer as a result. It doesn't take electron-
ics; it takes nothing more than extinctions, overpopulation, global cli-
mate change, weapon distribution, religious fanaticisms, starvation,
desertification - the unsupportive world. Radiations swirl around the
farthest villages; there are unheard broadcasts, music, news, exhortations
to the perfect religious life, promises of vacated paradises. These places
or spaces are the future of the novel; language dissolves without signifi-
ers, without that place where the sememe holds, however tenuously. It's
here that home is found, in the bombing of the home, categorization of
flora and fauna, ethnic cleansing. Online real explosions transform into
hacking, thousands, millions, of MySpace friends, hundreds of millions of
blogs, billions of Wikipedia pages hardly ever under contestation. Yes,
it's all true. Yes, none of it is.

Monolithic culture prepared the battlefield inhabited only by the wounded.
Monolithic culture developed the technology of multiplicity and the plasma
- a multiplicity of multiplicities, never stationary enough for analysis,
never moving enough for a coherent dynamics to emerge. It's a memory to an
extent, to the extent that memory is encapsulated in fast-forward media
already forgetting what was loosened in the habitus.

This is all electronic, all colonial, all nanobot, this isn't your fath-
er's monoculture, your mother's multiplicity, your father's multiplicity,
your mother's monoculture. Capital seeps everywhere as do heat and water;
island nations are disappearing in the Pacific, Atlantic not far behind.
Think of this as the anxiety of diminishing power; surely, not only is the
world out of control, but control is as well. What happens to feedback in
chaotic domains? One likes to think fecundity, fractal, but in the real this
holds only so long before 'things' bottom out in rust and tumors.
Monoculture is always waiting in the wings; as networks decay and data-
bases turn useless, big iron will descend upon the world. But this is far in
the future, a future so defined that no one will see it, no one will inhabit
it. Instead of now, we are pre-sent, always in a state of arrival; there are
endless tracks, monorails, they go nowhere, sink in dust, desiccation.

This is all electronic, and as technology miniaturizes, improves, perhaps
these skeins will continue, sheathed, to exist, transmit, transform, no
matter what. Then the scenario simply holds longer. Consider: There are no
species. There is no real life, no organic life, no artificial life, no
patented life, no constructed life. There is network life and one hopes
that the remnants of wilderness (which are not to be deconstructed) remain
that way, that enclaves succeed where management hasn't. Consider: There
are no persons; there are couplings, situations which grow increasingly
small and temporary, imminent decisions. Consider: Immanence has disap-
peared, if it were every anything more than mythos; it's replaced by the
Facebook contact, as enunciations are replaced and replicated by 'What I
am doing now.' Consider the usual: We are all audience; none of us are
watching; we are all watching; there is no 'we.' It's the latter Lacan has
missed; there is nothing to talk about. These essays themselves are thin
sheaves, interspersions; they carry the dim light of the dusk into the
dusk. 'Beyond' means absolutely nothing; time is indicated only by the
stoppage of death. What is a store if not a mouse-click or twitch? What is
a body if not blown to pieces by a car-bomb? On a certain undefined level,
these are identical. Perhaps an economic level. Perhaps in the poetics of

To be in pain, slaughtered, wounded, is two-fold, interior, exterior. The
former stops everything; it is unthinkable, unbearable. It is always other
even when ourselves. The color of time disappears without witness. But
exterior - this requires transmission, a receiver, political economy, some
means of noise control. The receiver must be receptive, must orient itself
towards the message; otherwise the message remains noise, death. The
receiver must have space place for reception, a moment off the network
which in the very real, idiotic inert real, may be what has brought her to
this moment. But the receiver is already dissolving and a hundred-thousand
new novels are being born, and they are not novels, nor histories, but
software biographies perhaps. Rather than monoculture, monolith, let us
say multlathe, uncontrolled or multiply-controlled lathes refashioning,
refiguring, configuring, what we are reading that was once literature.
There is great exhilaration, great promise; multilathing, in its bypassing
any and all absolutes, is always in process of permanent deconstruction.
Think of the school essay, modified, bought, sold, dated, outdated, online
and offline, assembled, reassembled, spell-checked, recreated, plagiar-
ized, written on demand, printed on demand, behind wikipediatry, related
to class, gender, sex, race, nation, religion, handedness, all or none.
Think of the essay reader, the recipient, following through with programs
designed to weed out the copy which is always already a copy, hacking his
way through the sememe looking for miscreants, passing results to and from
university and institutional databases, listening softly to the YouTube
song, exchange of draft letter on Gmail, or just listening to Ipod Itunes
with her Ii. The whole world is steganographic, embedded, uninterpretable,
piecemeal, exchanged.

So for better or worse monoculture is dead; it grew on foreign soil, is in 
the process of recession. To what? To the corners of vulnerable data-bases 
and technologies, conservationists, those disappearing from the present. 
The future were there, pre-sent, and it's why novels and paintings and 
just about anything before 1985, say - _not_ 1968 - is inconceivably 
quaint, something for school credit, nothing more. We need an ethnography 
of our own pasts presented as disappearing cultures or archaeologies 
written in the unreadable, spoken in the unspeakable; it is here that our 
bodies once reproduced and never reproduced in the continuing acceleration 
of images - of someone or other or no one at all.

(I'm not good enough; I'm not smart enough: You may think this is tempora- 
ry or not-me, not-I, that this is elsewhere, of an other, an other genera- 
tion, place space, time, time before death. This is not the bicylist who 
was injured on the corner of Fifth and Bergen three days ago, but this is 
her/our interior, her/our political economy, what comes about in the midst 
of architecture and physics. I want to talk about the pleasure of novel- 
reading, Harry Potter and other accelerants, and their fan- and enclave- 
existence. I want to talk about radiations and dusts and their dispersions 
and what they carry from prions to nanogarbage to pollutions to sex to 
early deaths from bullets and asthma. I want to talk about mash, I want to 
perform djay vjay Vday vdday. I want to be you or someone. Rimbaud knew he 
was splitting up. The last of the obscene has passed, the obscene is al- 
ways passing: the ob-hack fractured and visible. The last of the discourse 

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