Window display of bridal fashion store
with war figurines advancing on wedding dress in battle formation (multiple views)
Albert Einstein’s hypothesis of three imminent bombs—nuclear, information, population—is a motif that has woven its way insistently into Paul Virilio’s analysis of contemporary society and his war model of urban change. It is an astute conceptual choice for Virilio since it was in the twentieth century that the implications of light speed and the theory of relativity continually unfolded to reshape social relations from the local community level to that of global geopolitics, punctuated most resoundingly by the twin detonations of Little Boy and Fat Man in 1945, and those of the Twin Towers in 2001.
That said, the seductiveness of the bomb as motif proves problematic at times since Virilio himself weaves between the traditional understanding of a weapon and his true interest, which is the idea of bomb as metaphor for the accident that is located within the substance of any technology. Semantically fusing the weapon with the accident obscures those aspects of intent and agency required to instrumentalize properties of the latter for creating and detonating a bomb of the former type.
The relationship between war machines and accidents is complicated as the question of property enters the discussion, for in the post-Fordist regime we find that all types of information have been rendered to the property form. Here is the point at which Virilio's genetic bomb begins to develop—not because of the expressly militaristic imperative as before with the Manhattan Project and ARPAnet, but because of the profit potential that exists in owning the language of living things and creating flesh products based on that knowledge. This should not be understood as a recourse to dialectical materialism but rather as an exploration of how the trialectic relationship between weapon, accident and property form may suggest new lines of inquiry to the questions that Virilio poses.
Window display of bridal fashion store (detail)
Little Boy to Fat Man might also be understood as the consumption trajectory of Western sport masculinity, from the promising young athlete to the just past prime spectator of television. In this trajectory the dynamics of the libidinal yield to the stasis of the lipidinal as the nervous system accelerates faster than what is capable by mere flesh and bone. Dromology, of course, has its root in the Greek word dromos, for race or running, that most fundamental of sporting cultures. And whether we are discussing the Olympian sort with its citius, altius, fortius (…copiosus) or the commodified professional sort of capitalist accumulation, sporting cultures are at their core grounded in moving bodies which have been subject throughout their history to forces of acceleration. They might thus play a role in helping us understand a logic and politics of speed, how speed is created, how it is administered, and the accident that lies within.
Perhaps none of Virilio's many contributions to critical thought are so visceral as the detonation of this philosophical bomb of bombs. As such, they beg a visceral response. With that in mind, consider the following an attempt to catalogue an archaeology of the stereoscopic present—a present in which we simultaneously exist in the corporeality of the everyday with its sensuality, affect and duration, as well as the global real-time of the network in which light speed has telescoped all past and future into a persistent now. And if the notion of a catalogue seems far too linear for the age of networked optoelectronics, then instead consider the following a form of speed writing to match that accelerating shockwave which Virilio has exploded all around us.
Introduction to the forthcoming essay:
"La Bombe Philosophique: An Archaeology of the Stereoscopic Present (Or, Sporting Through the Shrapnel)"