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On Paul Virilio

September 26, 2018 Leave a comment

Paul Virilio (1932-2018) passed away recently in September. We wrote a short piece with Ryan Bishop about him – Blitzkrieg Baby.

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Atrocity Media

July 30, 2011 3 comments

Reading J.G.Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) as media theory in a similar manner in which Thomas Pynchon was such an influence to German media theory, and William Burroughs to cyber theory; with Ballard, the exhibition of the mediatic convergence of the inner and outer landscapes in the becoming flesh and spinal of our built environment, and the fabricated artefacts becoming the catalyzer for so much of what we considered “internal” – psychosis, perversions, and other feelings that constitute the everyday. Ballard is wonderful as an archaeologist of the architectures of fragmented bodies that he investigates through a science-media link, both tools of analysis: partial objects, intense focai of desire, parts in massive patterns of data. J.G.Ballard does big data. He establishes the link from media to science as the future source of sexual perversions, and at the centre of the collection of texts lies a world of research based on experiments and statistics. Optimum wound profiles, scientifically measured statistics of the body in arousal, leg positions.

Data – “Why I want to Fuck Ronald Reagan”:

Experimental Test Situation of “Reagan in a series of simulated auto-crashes”: one form of optimization again, this time as therapy:

“Subjects were required to construct the optimum auto-disaster victim by placing a replica of Reagan’s head on the retouched  photographs of crash fatalities. In 82 percent of cases massive rear-end collisions were selected with a preference for expressed faecal matter and rectal haemorrhages. Further tests were conducted to the define the optimum model-year. These indicate that a three-year model lapse with child victims provide the maximum audience excitation (confirmed by manufacturer’s studies of the optimum auto-disaster.)”

With Ballard, the crash is of course one way of providing material for the imagination of new sexual perversions – part of social change. His way of mapping the psycho-sexual drives of perversions/desires as part of the political landscape is ingenious, and is as powerful as a Deleuze-Guattarian schizoanalytic mapping. Such mappings do not look for the signifying anchor point, but the productive processuality of where psychosis might stand – as a relay across various regimes of reality.

As a link between power and sexual fantasies, more experiments and data from Ballard:

 “Incidence of orgasms in fantasies of sexual intercourse with Ronald Reagan. Patients were provided with assembly kit photographs of sexual partners during intercourse. In each case Reagan’s face was superimposed upon the original partner. Vaginal intercourse,with ‘Reagan’ proved uniformly disappointing, producing orgasm in 2 percent of subjects. Axillary, buccal, navel, aural and orbital modes produced proximal erections. The preferred mode of entry overwhelmingly proved to be the rectal. After a preliminary course in anatomy it was found that caecum and transverse colon also provided excellent sites for excitation. In an extreme 12 percept of cases, the simulated anus of post-colostamy surgery generated spontaneous orgasm in 98 percent of penetrations. Multiple-track cine-films were constructed of ‘Reagan’ in intercourse during (a) campaign speeches, (b) rear-end auto-collisions with one and three-year-old model changes, (c) with rear-exhaust assemblies, (d) with Vietnamese child-atrocity victims.”

The perverse worlds Ballard paints from Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe to J.F.K and Reagan are mediated by the media technological worlds of cinematic expression. The cinema-landscape-desire –folding is itself a cartography of 20th century in a fashion that is insightful in its link to science and military.

The outside-inside linking as a methodology to investigate such cartographies of power and desire are now however faced with the question that Ballard already flirts with. How about this inside/outside in the age of post-phenomenological bodies, were desires circulate as part of architectures of computing, data, and chip architectures? A lot of the recent theoretical waves, such as thinking through affect (I am reminded especially of Shaviro’s Post-cinematic Affect) point towards such directions, but what if we insist on even more media-specific methodologies? Where do we go to map architectures of the non-visible, code and hardware, electromagnetic fields and signal processing? The Weber-Fechner law as a guide in our mapping of the changes in mediatic sensory intensities.

For more on Ballard in the context of media theory, read Matteo Pasquinelli’s Animal Spirits.

Super-Cambridge

June 20, 2009 2 comments

It’s not the first time I have made the reference to J.G.Ballard while talking about Cambridge (UK). It somehow just seems to share the similar psycho-pathologies of middle-class that Ballard is continuously on about; all the innocent looking fronts, civilized habits, closed communities, and so on. Cambridge is the academic Disneyland that attracts tourists to marvel the 800 years of history of knowledge production — the sublime Western heritage of closed institutions, privileged few and the close link of money with information.

 
In this context, its only natural that the tourist bus ride that I took to accompany my mother and cousins during their visit turned out to be nothing less than the poor-man’s roller coaster ride through Cambridge with head-phones on tuned into a discourse of indoctrination to the marvels of not Cambridge-the-town, but Cambridge-the University. The narrative voice tells the tale of Cambridge, and its one University (hence, forgetting the Other one off the map, Anglia Ruskin that is), and basically framing the whole narrative and the mobile tour around that single theme. The mobility of the bus from the other end of Cambridge to the other is stagnated by the immobility of the discourse. Through a continuous rhetoric of “we” it weaves a success story of a very boring kind, lacking almost any kind of interesting self-reflexive touch (although recognizing e.g. the long term exclusion of women).
 
Naturally this kind of occupation of Cambridge could be seen through ideas of the “creative cities” á la Richard Florida, a clusterization of brains that Cambridge represents. Yet, this creative city is very much branded by a corporatisation of the area also known as Silicon Fen, not by for example an arts led agenda. And then its about the past. In academic humanities, for example, its still the very old-fashioned and hence prestigious disciplines in which the University excels with its Grand Old Men. In terms of the wider “creative industries”, incidentally, even Wikipedia explains the possible reasons for the attractiveness of the Silicon Fen as: “Another explanation is that Cambridge has the academic pre-eminence of Cambridge University, a high standard of living available in the county, good transport links, and a relatively low incidence of social problems such as crime and hard drug use.”
 
Sounds like the setting for a Ballard novel? Is this the novel he should have written next, Super-Cambridge? I have already imagined various juicy plots involving some darker rooms at King’s College, weird sexual rituals, inexplicable violence, the libidinal released from the security of private schools and superior education.
Categories: Ballard, Cambridge