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Faith in Infrastructure Hilary Koob-Sassen
An Errorist Manifesto
Presented at the Serpentine Gallery
London, October 18, 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am an Errorist.
I announce my error. In exchange I ask for liberty- to practice being in time.
Being-in-time-terror has a suitably slow-rolling and tepid name:
Global Warming, Finance Crisis.
Such tepid names are dangerous, but us Errorists, we are Syntactical Elaborationists
here to give it a new name.
Durability is traction on change.
Durability is a measure of how closely the momentum of a structure’s change navigates the actual contours of reality as they unfold- in the ever-passing-mo- A genome undergoing natural selection is like a phrase constantly trying to name reality more accurately. ‘Adaptation’ is the successful inclusion of experiences into that range of reality to which a lineage of creatures can respond.
With the accumulation of shit, the artificial residues of life create evolutionary feedback ¹, favoring the development of a materialism. Materialism’s creature builds structures, and then adapts to them. Eventually the creature comes to fit so perfectly to the built structure, that its success relies less upon the genetic evolution of its own body than upon the material elaboration of these built external organs.
Elaboration moves along when structures subside from direct experience to a position of foundational relevance. The aqueducts have disappeared- we have faith in subterranean pipes. Upon this faith we buy a house. Upon this faith we live in New Orleans. An evil experience is the same for the living and the built: the floods were outside of that range of reality to which the structure could respond. The levee breaks and no hidden capacity reveals itself: no preternatural burst of adrenaline allows the slipping deer to spring to a foothold, no particularly well-fashioned piece of levee exceeds its nominal strength and endures. No response. These two syntaxes- genetic and materialist- must name reality faster than it changes. Otherwise, reality deletes them.
The Elaborative Trajectory from economies to organs is Paracultural- it advances across the lifetimes of many cultures, in the same way that evolution advances across the lifetimes of many creatures. Life builds and climbs its paracultural ladder up and out, Life seeks a divinely realistic structural solution to the constraints inherent in this scale of reality. Life seeks the exit of the cave- to pierce the scalar pellicle and deposit itself outside- naked and quivering and blind and alone- on a new landscape of possible formations.
These attempts are almost certain to fail. And yet, the five instances of success- the five instances of a culture of one scale successfully attaining the next- these are the 5 major punctuations of biological history. In the original big mineral mud puddle (between the mountains) a culture of replicating molecules arranged itself into the first virus. The rampant protein trading of a virus culture finally formalized its capital city into the first ever bacteria and today virus can’t really live outside a city. Amidst the heightened diverse exertions of a culture of bacteria- orgiastically plunging in and out of each other- the origination of single cells with organelles. After not so many millennia of refining and specializing economy in a place, a culture of single-cells managed to carve their place into a body and become the first multi-cellular organism. Each of these opened up a new terrain for life, a new scale of biological complexity.
Cultures of all scales follow a historical template to a predictable outcome. Once a foundational traction on time is established, Life scrambles to pile up an ascent to traction on scale. Life tries to leap from the pile- before the changes brought about by the pile-up conspire to bring the pile down. The further the elaborating culture structure or evolving body cantilevers-out from a foundational capacity, the more susceptible to foundational change it becomes. The power of high elaboration lies in its ability to abstract- in its capacity to attend to non-foundational things, precisely because it has placed so much faith in its foundation. For a highly elaborated culture structure there are only three responses to a collapsing faith in foundation: anticipatory reversion to rudimentary form, death in abstract splendor – or - an attempt to exit the cave and be the birth of the next scale. To hold that fruiting endpoint present to the mind. Present to the highest abstract power of culture. Present perhaps, to the arts.
Before “Organific Economics 101” and “How to be Paracultural”, It is extremely important / for me to refresh / my errorist credential/ and for you to sharpen your criticality to an axe-murdering edge. I long for that chop, for I am in no way convinced of what I propose, tho very committed to proposing it.
For- Proposal is to culture what mutation is to creature: Often dull, rarely harmful, and every now and then it is just what we need: The fancy curved beak to suck the nectar… out of the flower…better.
So, how do we become Paracultural?
How do we take on the trajectory of life, consciously as our own?
I propose an exit from the Latin mass of biology. I propose this curvaceously updated old god Life. We need a new word game and a direct relationship with the godmaths.
We must not confuse development and origination. To say a nation develops is to imply that a highly perfected map of a final fruiting structure exists within that nation- that it merely awaits the set of experiences- a mother- which would allow it to unfurl its perfection.
In actual fact, the main work at hand is to find out what- if anything- could be astutely considered analogous to DNA- to its syntactical structure and to its meaning.
I will tell you what I think- almost definitely wrong:
No structure song is complex enough to be sung into world body, except,
that standard human system of organs. In that garden 4 billion cells sing in schizophrenic unity- a single human consciousness. That system is the only song complex enough for us each to sing it together. The translational diversity of our minds. The universal sameness of our bodies.
But definitely and for sure embryonic development is not evolution. It is a highly refined process-product of evolution. And again, no guide to where we stand. Furthermore, evolution is over- its time frame is so slow that it is no use to us. We are agents of extinction, but not of evolution. Far beyond all else, we are agents of elaboration. We are practicing and building a world body around ourselves. The first body of that scale. We are a scalar leap in complexity from the cell culture that built the first body. And yet, that is our closest analogy.
We must embrace the messy process of becoming, of first origination! and forget all ideas that the world is a fully evolved thing in some stage of embryonic development.
Instead let us say, “The nation state system is like a proto-organ in so far as it is a universally inclusive structure. As the organs of a body are universal to its cells.”
We must be rigorous in our science and also in our poetry.
We must be pious and poetic scientists, performing exegesis on the analogy map of the experiences of other scales of culture. We must seek to be like the five cultures that pushed their art across the threshold between the built and the alive.
Humanity stands inside a framework of its own creation. We have sung this paracultural ladder into existence. From a spore: from a way to navigate reality and endure; planting, irrigation, harvest unchanging. To a bridge: a materialism, which supports the procession of humanity forward through time and changing hegemonic formulations. And now we have come to a more open place where things shake and start to break. We put our faith in multiplication of a new kind of structure: the web, the market and the bubbles. The bubbles, which are like an unsatisfied hunger. The bubbles, which long to be cathedrals- to be proper investment vehicles. In elaborating global economies, we evoke world organs. How do we sing them into structure?
Bailing-out banks, sandbagging levees and subsidising ethanol must be characterized as “thrashing about”- an attempt to surmount an evil experience by rampantly generating small proposals- in the hopes of developing a response. We must move from pushing sugar into over-loaded liver and set out to formalize some lovely kidneys- solar seas and roiling greens. We must be Organific Economists- seeking-out new systems in the Pattern of the Plans; advancing the trajectory onward from economies into organs.
For example, the web is a global- but not universal- economy of information. It evokes a world organ of meaning: the super-nucleus of a rampant design democracy. A spherical digital google cathedral earth map mosaic- flipped outside-in. Inside, 8 billion humans' incarnations are surveying the entirety of what could be. The overlapped transparencies of all humanity’s dreams. So difference is detectable, tho majority creates a denser line. Our syntax octopus of proposals and our pattern of the plans replaces the lack of plan plan and the invisible hand. With a higher resolution name. High resolution in the sense of high informational density, and in the sense of inspiring resolve to act. That is the organ / which our unfinished web economy/ seeks to be. It is natural, but not inevitable.
Organific Economics Equation 101 allows us to assess the GLD:
The durability of a creature or a culture—or indeed the durability of all of Life itself––the horsepower of its traction on change—the speed with which it advances into future experience—Life’s durability is a function of the efficiency of its experiential metabolism and the domain of its activity.
Life’s metabolism: Its capacity to translate an experience into a foundation for further experience. How quickly and how absorbently- to how many of its constituents. To how much of itself can Life present the opportunity to know an experience, develop a structural response, and then move that structure on down into the faith zone.
X Times X –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Life’s Domain: The breadth and depth of matter to which and with which Life can develop a response. How realistic is Life’s picture of reality and how realistic is its materialism. Can we sculpt atoms, molecules, life forms, planets….just about. Our over-cantilevered bridge cannot support a response to the warming waters below. It cannot frame the sky as organs. It suffers an unjustified faith in infrastructure.
We must hope that we cannot design the world organs themselves- we must pray that they will be too complex. We can only build a structure to support them, and leave the sky open, for their growth-explosion. We can transform our bridge into a trellis- a Rankgitter- a growth grid. We can switch from procession through TIME to an inhabitation of the M.T.I.E. The economies of preparation for the next scale. The Multiple Transnational Infrastructure Economies. We can cease to progress, and shift to preparation for ascent.
With our ancient extracted, refined and recombined modernista materialismus we can build the structures that will support the new materialism. The materialism of a garden of organs on earth, which will be lush if we provide it good handholds for ascent. We must be furious builders of structures, which scream NO to progress as such. That are steady machinegun perfection tempered steel bridges that are forever, that Life can get to know like bones and grow around. Life seeks to mount the built trellis, to climb up and out into the cosmos. It seeks to climb the square god of culture and manifest the next round god of life.
Life seeks to bring all of itself into itself--into its experiential metabolism. Life seeks the Mental Jordan genius who is starving in a desert. Life screams for her to help it explosively reorganize the moon. The moon- that ancient image of the exit of the cave. Life longs to devastate its simplicity with rampant green complexity. To unleash its viral hordes onto the helpless dust of Venus. To suck the iron out of Saturn. If we are to be Paracultural, that is the holy war we must take up. Sneaky Life launched its attack in a province of the cosmos. Sneakily it worked a space between the atoms and the planets. And now through We- so super fancy- a frilly life fractal complexity- We must dance out on the palate of the desert, We must dance the lack of life into complexity. We must finally conquer this damned shifting stone, which threatens to chuck life off like a clinging skin, to rub it off on the sun. We must conquer the world for life and claim its next domain!
Hilary Koob-Sassen, 2008
Notes : ¹ F. John Odling-Smee, Laland, Feldman; “Niche Construction”, Princeton University Press, 2003