[Writing Under the Influence] EPISODE L: United States

The term “latency” signifies temporal delay as well as something that exists but is not manifest. The former is a diachronic effect; the latter a synchronic one. In both cases, what is addressed is the effect of something that escapes the perceived present. That’s what phase-shifts and spiritualism have in common.

Aevi’s drawing suggests that the mind is composed of many minds. If so, one mind must serve as an object to another. This idea relativizes the mind-body dichotomy via scale. The problem between the mind and the body depends on the unity of the mind on one hand, and the unity of the body on the other. But the opposition between two units on the macro-scale is relativized if each given unit is itself decomposed into multiple units on the micro-scale. Though it may not completely cancel out the binary, the multiplicity of mind does lessen its prominence by foregrounding latent differences on a scale beneath it.

This kind of relativization through scale is the diametrically opposite of the so-called “Independence Day effect,” the well-known convention exploited in many Hollywood SF movies: whenever aliens attack the Earth, the earthlings become one. In this case, the differences within the planet are bracketed by a unity on a larger scale, established by an Other who regards all of us as one. The alien thus serves as a mirroring device to set the scale of “us” as its negative, the non-alien.

This also happens to be the operating principle of the US: if there is an internal problem, wage a war with an alien enemy and the country becomes united once again. No enemy, no US. It is instructive that in the American movie Independence Day, the united Earthlings are still led by the President of the United States of America.

The relativization of scale could therefore be triggered by eliminating the Other which established the standard scale of difference in the first place. Which is to say that the collapse of unity can be achieved through an exterior route. But there is also an interior route to the fall of given unity which takes recourse to the nature of desire.

Although people may appear to desire a certain state, what desire is really after is a certain contrast of states: the switch between one state and another. Not fame or love per se, but the experience of moving from the state of not having something to having something. This is shown in the fact that once achieved, all states tend to be naturalized, a ground one quickly gets used to and thereby forgets. When desire is thought of as an issue of state, it becomes difficult to understand why successful and famous and seemingly happy people often find themselves miserable. But as an issue of contrast, it makes sense, as there is no fixed measure of success or fame to be achieved.

A state is a totality—every state is totalitarian in one way or another. So the move from one state to another is a transition from one totality to another. It could be likened to phase transition—it may take a while for the water to boil, but once it is boiling, it is boiling. The borders to cross are like boiling points and melting points.

People tend to get used to a given state/totality with such ease. Everything turns into nature. Once a state is reached, the process of getting there is quickly forgotten. Stimulus is therefore found in the process of moving from one totality to another. That is why addiction only escalates. Influence becomes naturalized and difficult to acknowledge.

Mindfulness confounds the mind as a single state when the mind is not a single state but a change of states. It is only possible to be mindful in a new state: mindfulness is a tourist mentality. Mindfulness as a whole only exists in the view from outside which reduces the multiplicity of mind to one fullness—it is the alien’s point of view that becomes internalized. Which is to say that the mind requires an alien mind (that of the Other) to be mindful of itself. A mind needs to be reminded.

It is not an expansion of a unitary state, but a contrast between multiple states that is desired. The United States is a strange unit in this sense, for it retains the multiplicity at the basis of its unity. But the United States of America often forgets, fantasizing about alien attacks that ultimately would turn the whole earth into the US. When this happens, the moment the alien is successfully defeated would signal the end of unity for the US.

This is true not only for humans but for all organisms. For how can the metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a cocoon to a butterfly be understood without considering the desire in the whole process? Or what about the 7 years that cicadas spend underground only to come overground and live for 7 short days. We can think of it as a form of life-long teasing. The various forms of sexual acts may serve as metaphors. Life, as sex, is about the contrast of states and the stimulus of going from one to the other. The erotics of metamorphosis.

In other words, metamorphosis of organisms occurs because the organism is bored. Boredom is the state of being stuck in a state. A lack of stimulus. To live is to move, and to move is to change states. All organisms move to prevent dying from boredom. Being bored is a matter of life and death. No contrast, no life.

If inorganic objects are seen as being lively it is because they also change from one state to another. Anthropomorphism is predicated on metamorphosis. Thinking about objects that change may be unusual since objects are usually defined by their fixation in one place and time (state).  But even objects change states if they are bored enough.

The biggest contrast of all is death. Death is the other side of life that establishes life as a unit. The image of the afterlife and God, something that transcends life and is beyond it, is necessary to conceive of life as one totality. In this sense, God is no different from ghosts (lesson of Christianity: God = Holy Ghost). Even without taking recourse to religion, the notion of life as unity is always established by what lies beyond life. This means that death in the future establishes the fullness of life in the present. Future possibility proactively (preemptively) influences the present—it establishes what the present is.

The essence of the occult is an interest in this other side of life. While science tries to bring everything on the other side into the side of life (which is, in terms of basic mechanism, impossible, for the very idea of life is defined by this beyond), occult science strictly retains the division but tries to understand the workings of the other side from this side.

Influence always comes from the other (no matter on what scale). It is the workings of the beyond which establishes the side of us. When something on one scale influences another thing on another scale, a common scale is thereby set. One cannot self-influence. That would be like trying to surprise oneself. It doesn’t really work because surprise is an effect of contrast, and contrast can only be introduced by the other—or more accurately speaking, contrast is the other. The other is always a surprise.

The lesson of Christianity: God = Holy Trinity—therefore a multiplicity, a unit composed of multiple subunits (mind as a multiplicity of minds), like the United States. It is a solution to the state of boredom: it makes things interesting since there is contrast within the perceived singular totality. Internal multiplicity/contrast introduces latent movement. It keeps things lively. These things not only surprise each other but also surprise us as we view them from the outside. We are surprised because as alien viewers we establish our own unity in relation to this beyond. Hence, we experience ourselves going through a parallel contrast of states as an audience. It’s very much like watching a movie. The stimulus of surprises, and therefore the surprise of the other.

Death is the ultimate contrast, but it can also be seen as one extremity in a varying spectrum of contrasts. The latter view turns death into a problem of degree and not of kind. This is why the ending of things always feels like little deaths. The closure of an event/act is conditioned on such, artificial deaths (extreme contrasts). La petite mort, as they say—not pleasurable as a state (if it lasts too long it quickly becomes torture) but as an intense contrast of states. Organisms live for petite mort. And a good orgasm is always surprising.

Latency is the minimal other. It is the othering of self, the self removed in time (diachronically) or manifestation (synchronically). No Collective’s House Music (A): And the Rest of You was a piece about latency: the self as a ghost generated and revealed through delay (electronics) and subliminal reflection (mirrors in total darkness). The “rest of you” not only surprises you but also frightens you for fear is the feeling of wanting to preserve the same totality/unity as now. It is a conservative attitude towards a stimulus. A way to survive but perhaps not to live (well).

Done Idea: a music piece where every sound the instrumentalist plays is delayed for X minutes. The first X minutes is therefore only gestures, the second X minutes is only sound.

Technology serves to bring out the rest of you. To act is to transform yourself—to establish the rest of you which usually lurks in latency. The fact that our performances are presented as “work” conveys a sense of totality/unity despite the contrasts within. At the same time, the fact that this totality/unity involves contrasts within it conveys a sense of totality/unity composed of independent sub-totalities (units)—which is to say, a system. What distinguishes an artwork from other works is that its ultimate goal is not its own perpetuation like almost every other form of systems: artworks are systems with built-in deaths.

The contrasts employed in our works were shifts of state, but also shifts of scale. The transition from one scale to the other is always like a small death. That is why we tended to forget what we made. The rest of you retains thoughts that we have rendered latent in passing from one state/scale/phase to another. Work is something that remains in the past that can be retrieved in another perceived present.