Complicity with Anonymous Media
Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) and its paranoid military-scientific worlds of technology, sexuality and hallucination became one inspirational figure for a whole wave of media theory. What could we do with Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia (2008) then, which seems to include some similar stylistic elements, of transdisciplinary writing that wanders across rats and soil, petrol(ology) and archaeology to understand Middle-East? From Pynchon’s WWII Europe, to Negarestani’s Middle-East, politics of petrol.
The archaeological method of Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia represents a theory-fiction alternative for media archaeology too. What if we employ the same hallucinatory, inspiring way of investigating the subterranean, the secret, the ground that is not defined by stability but dynamic flux of sediments alive, burrowed by rats, worms and archaeologists? We can call this investigation new materialist because it believes in agency of matter, and multiplicity of things both organic and non-organic. What does this multiplicity mean? It means a microworld that unravels when you zoom close: close enough, and the skin is not a unity, but porous folding, layered, and filled with bacteria. The soil is not stable, but a constantly slowly pulsating topology, with its own affordances, and indeed, again, bacteria and other forms of life. Same applies to everything, even metal, or as Deleuze and Guattari would say, especially to metal. In their metallurgical thinking, it is the body without organs, here better understood through the idea of what flows through everything – metallurgical cosmology. This is why they insist on the relatedness of machinic phylum and metal – and why they say that everything is a machine (not because it would be modelled on any already existing machine or technology!)
“Even the waters, the grasses and varieties of wood, the animals are populated by salts or mineral elements. Not everything is metal, but metal is everywhere.” (DG)
In Cyclonopedia, the character Parsani calls the approach to the subterranean “bacterial archaeology” – an archaeology that starts from the non-human agents and microscopic attraction points within matter. And the matter extends to politics, society, and power:
“Bacterial Archeology. It is imperative for Parsani, in his approach to the Middle East, to make clear that everything related to the Middle East emerges, moves, diffuses, escalates and engenders itself through and out of the holey Hezar’to (A Thousand Insides; the Persian word for labyrinth) and the Petrologies of Bacterial Archeology.’”
The earth moves, and hums.
The methodology is that of exhuming, which both archaeologists and rats share.
“If archeologists, cultists, worms and crawling entities almost always undertake an act of exhumation (surfaces, tombs, cosmic comers, dreams, etc.), it is because exhumation is equal to ungrounding, incapacitating surfaces ability to operate according to topologies of the whole, or on a mereotopological level. In exhumation, the distribution of surfaces is thoroughly undermined and the movements associated with them are derailed; the edge no longer belongs to the periphery, anterior surfaces come after all other surfaces, layers of strata are displaced and perforated, peripheries and the last protecting surfaces become the very conductors of invasion. Exhumation is defined as a collapse and trauma introduced to the solid part by vermiculate activities; it is the body of solidity replaced by the full body of trauma. As in disinterment — scarring the hot and cold surfaces of a grave — exhumation proliferates surfaces through each other. Exhumation transmutes architectures into excessive scarring processes, fibroses of tissues, membranes and surfaces of the solid body.”
Just for speculative reasons, let’s use the same logic of thought to our technological excavations and use this as inspiration to think of the exhuming we do with media cultural topics – or machines themselves. One cannot help relating this to the epistemology and hallucinatory methods of Microresearch Lab, where the processes of soil and nature already technological are excavated in order to proliferate new surfaces – like the skin of the machine, that does not stop at the visible surface (interface/cover). It is topological, and folds in to a multiple surfaces, some inside, some abstract, some irrational.
In terms of animality, Cyclonopedia talks about rats as one agency of exhuming, parallel to archaeologists. How about then: Rats as archaeologists, or rats as media theorists? Such animals work less as metaphors than as vectors to think through the non-human force of analysis. To actually end up somewhere else than with more human focused vocabulary of cultural theory and methodology.
Furthermore, can we even extract ideas for archaeological politics – a politics for the military-industrial complex in the age of advanced science and technology?
“Parsani claims that ‘archeology, with it’s ingrained understanding of Hidden Writing, will dominate the politics of future and will be the military science of twenty-first century’.”