Intensionality (for Jean-Luc Nancy)

On Performing the University of Disaster, Part Four

Those in the spy game know that the situation is anything but binary. It is never so simple as Good Guys versus Bad Guys, East versus West, or Christianity versus Islam. There is a whole panoply of actors involved in any particular crisis, and the successful spy needs to be familiar with them all: governments and corporations and celebrities and madmen, each with agendas that more or less align with the others.

Of course there are other spies as well, whose relations and alliances multiply and decay as the tides of contingency wash through and back again. There seems to be a unique valence to any thread of relation, and it is in the spy network that these multiple valences are most in flux. It is a precarious thing to be in relation with other spies, any one of whom might be willing to help you or kill you, kind of, sometimes.

James Bond is never taken by surprise when a co-conspirator of his turns out to be working for one of the other sides. He simply knows, as if it was scripted, and all of a sudden flips into action — bashing an intruder in the mouth, leaving a perpetrator bound and gagged, or suggesting that uniquely hostile and aggressive sex only a flashing hatred for the other can produce.

But the Spy doesn't know: these codes and overcodes can be tricky things. How does he parse any particular message received from Agent 99? Does Homo Generator (or any of his henchmen) come into question? Blohard or Elektra King, Dr. No or Octopussy? Whom to trust?

Can he trust the Colonel?

Binary Relation

Brian Holmes is familiar with these reversals of power. Though not of the university, he knows of disaster. But of course the university is not a simple binary either, there being many colours on the spectrum of pedagogy bound by inside and out. It is somewhat like his relationship to space: he maps existential territories as if seen from above by some flying bird or drone, but works resolutely at the ground level so that colourful spectrums of possibility may emerge in between. He, too, flips into action.

What about time? Can we locate the temporal on a spectrum as well? Perhaps not a spectrum, but rather a folding. Holmes points out that the eye in the sky is only able to see so clearly and readily if all the subjects it surveys are synchronized to its atomic clock. In fact all cybernetic systems are crucially dependent upon different concepts of time: circular time, linear time, just in time — each variably folding into the other to accomplish a particular end. There is a moment in which these different concepts meet, however, when one does not know which system constitutes the particular moment. It is the tangent, or the touching of the eventedness of time.

Overcode Blur

What is the next wave that Kondratieff forecasts for us? Clearly it is to finally collapse the partition allowing us to maintain an illusory binary between organic and technical-prosthetic. The endocolonization of the human body by capital moves inexorably toward its tipping point. But we witness a reversal in that the healthy disciplined body has run through the mills of assembly line and network economy to become the sickly lipidinal and libidinal motor of the contemporary age.

This only partly describes the coming wave of capital expansion, however. Any movement to colonize the body on a planetary scale — which, to be sure, will become manifest with a variety of technologies and modes of coercion — must be accompanied by a parallel movement to colonize relation. Capital needs to insinuate itself into every conversation so that the singular body may be more fully laid bare for corporate invasion. Only through the spectacular SPECTRE of desire and death can life become so profitable — and for profits to be maximized both production and consumption must be priced by the valences of the network, or what we call relation.

Thus while we see the antagonism of the labouring body move from the musculo-skeletal to the central nervous system to the micro-memory coding modules of DNA, in the parallel movement to colonize relation we must similarly code the spectrum of in-between located in the trans-subjective. And here is where we locate the one binary that is irreducible, for relation as understood by capital expansion today is distilled via systems analysis and statistical method to the ones and zeroes of the machine. Embodied poiesis is always already compromised by the digital form, while synchronicity exists as the tangential touching that tracks these skins in relation.

Build the machine to kill the machine, if you so desire. (But did you remember to kill that machine?)

Desiring Machine

For Bond, memory is a series of flickring images of Aston Martins or Alfa Romeos or whatever vehicular object vectoral capital is sponsoring that day. (He does not remember if Fiat was part of said flickr stream.) The Fordist dream of Detroit and America™ meets the spectacular relic of its imperial predecessor, manifest in the sexy phallogocentrism of MI6. For the Spy, on the other hand, memory possesses a different consideration of movement and speed. Rhythm and tempo are more readily apparent, the eye more in balance with the sense perceived by the rest of the body.

Just then a stranger bumps into him in a crowded room, a slip of paper is pressed into his palm. It reads:

I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember, we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst? (46.112226, 7.930622.)

Courtesy of Google

The Spy finds himself in a chance(?) rendezvous with a top strategist from the University of Disaster, as the two meet simultaneously at the bottom of the hill for the arduous trek to the briefing room. This man is the embodiment of the technopolitical trajectory envisioned by Virilio: transportation, transmission, transplantation. Deep in his heart this man understands alterity: he understands the massive machinic apparatus of medico-capital and the subtle modulations of code that keep him alive. The double agent thus finds himself walking with the agent, doubled.

This man does not communicate his alterity to the Spy. In fact, the two barely speak at all: the young agent translates to French poorly, and his Philosophy is even worse, while the older agent performs an emergent calculus that economizes every breath not for the trivial matter of chatter, but rather for the art of locomotion itself. He refuses the bond of the motorized chariot that would surely transport in regal fashion one with so many stars and stripes invisibly inscribed to his uniform lapel. He will not allow himself to be imprisoned by his own body.

(In basic training for any secret agent about to enter the field of potential, the first lesson one learns is that such traps are everywhere to be found. The question is where. The question is when.)

Each individual's walk becomes a labour as they trundle forth on their Sisyphean quest. For one it is simply to persevere, while for the other it is to slow down and renegotiate relation. Both processes unfold as pain. But while time is experienced differentially by each man, simultaneity has now become a synchronicity: the two communicate in Philosophy after all. It is a coded form, no doubt, with not a solitary word having been spoken.

If I understand anything of your thought, sir, it is born of that flesh relation and the tension of non-touch between our bodies turned inward to kindle a fire.

Courtesy of Ryan King

Trusting his instincts, the Spy writes a report to the Colonel. He takes the standard Field Operations form provided by the Agency, flips it over, and writes on the smooth open expanse that is the back of the page. He writes intensively — for how can one remember thirst otherwise? He invests his whole body into his writing so that perhaps she, too, will understand a coded Philosophy with not a solitary word having been spoken.

(thanks to all those who helped reprogram toronto version 2.0 and make it even more cryptic)

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6 responses to Intensionality (for Jean-Luc Nancy)

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  1. sportsBabel » gesture∞gesture says:

    [...] not necessarily imply a synchronicity. Speaking must thus be considered an emergent process towards the possibility of a tangential moment, or a touching of sorts. It is in this possibility of the tangent that simultaneity may become [...]

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    [...] both sides. It has you playing several sides: an agent is always playing this secret tango with governments and corporations and celebrities and madmen. Bond has had his share of violence and betrayal, of heartbreak and duplicity. Playing for Mother [...]

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