Alan Sondheim on Sat, 3 Jan 2015 18:16:25 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Invisibility


Invisibility is the problem of our time, but there are so many!
Most of our collapsing phenomenologies center on attention
economies, acceleration, dromodology; these are epistemological
problems, what might be examined, what should be examined, and
the process of examination itself. But invisibility is more
perverse; it is an issue of ontology, of disappearance, from
within and without, a problem which not only robs us of our
situation, our habitus, but also invades the discourse of the
body and the self. It can be a sudden transformation, occurring
at the edge of the possible, the refugee, the unmanned migrant
ship floundering and heading for unknown shores; it may also be
a slow and almost imperceptible withdrawal from being, to the
extent that being exists as instrumental. Age is one index of
invisibility, and this I experience: whatever I do increasingly
makes no difference whatsoever, as long as it is with the bounds
of the law. Making a difference, making a distinction, is
fundamentally a communal and social act; when it no longer
matters, helplessness ensues - not the helplessness of a lack of
knowledge or tools (but that too), but the helplessness of the
collapse of speech acts or being. The aging body is a refugee
body, and what might have passed for wisdom is no longer given
an audience, but is transformed into some thing swept aside
within another register altogether. All of this occurs within a
rigidity of etiquette which is not acknowledged, but which
creates an iron and exclusionary ontology. Too many people I
know, for a variety of reasons (political, age, class, religion
or lack of it) feel marooned, a marooning which answers to no
shore, no boundary. The issue is one of consequences, which at
one point in our social evolutions might have been the concern
of cause and effect, but now operates within the regime of
effacement (what I have to say is of no consequence, because I
am not speaking - a Lyotardian differend which operates across
innumerable strata within broken models of being and the world).
Engagement is not a projection, not what 'makes us human'; it
is, of course, a skein, and one now driven by fast- forward
feedback, ranging from high-speed stock manipulation to high
speed online text-and-image feeds that leave no time for
reflection, but, more importantly, no need for reflection as
well. The horizon of all of this is the fracturing of steering
problems which dissolve in rhetoric and shifting positions; the
problems, however, remain and increase in urgency. Behind them
is an increasingly devastated planet with extinctions and
population out of control, existing within the immediacy of the
digital and its potential for internal transformation (a change
of pixel for pixel, for example), for epistemological slide. ...
For all of these reasons, these flows, invisibility tends
towards pharmacology and depression, towards despair and
violence, towards the inerrancy of fundamental religion and a
rigidity of logics and taxonomies between believers and non-
believers. It is easy to conclude from all of this that 'we are
all invisible' or some such, but in fact, the presence of belief
and violence point elsewhere, towards a sweeping-aside of the
ephemeral and the harnessing of the digital for a strict
rhetoric of communications. For those of us who can neither
ascribe to this, nor participate (by virtue of the problematic
'essences' of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion,
nationality, etc. etc. (all these categories left over from an
age of classical modernism and post-colonialism)), nothing is
left, and this nothingness leads nowhere to enlightenment, but
to those invisibilities which are always hammered into position
by others, but which always resist positionality as well; this
is the state of marooning, defined by the receding of that
instrumental past which at one point, close by, has seemed to be
heritage, but in fact was a social construct - the social
construct of time which, fast-forward, takes no time at all. It
is not that this too shall pass, but that this too has always
already passed, and where once the I-(pod) might have been,
there shall no longer be absence, but an absence of absence,
mute, ontological, nowhere and everywhere at all. There is no
answer because there is no time, and no evolution of our, or any
other species; there is only the time of slow cessation, on this
and other worlds, and the endpoint of invisibility is this -
that one is invisible because there is nothing to be seen. This
is no longer brilliant weather, but fabrication bending under
the weight of its own collapse, as popular culture demonstrates
over and over again, and we all succumb to its charms, just as
news, here in Providence, flails out with the slogan 'news you
can trust,' and advertisements hawk replacements and necessities
with the slogan 'just for you.' No one drives these, no one
receives them; events as well are marooned always already some-
where else, to someone else, to the displacement of populations,
from nothing to nothing. (Of course there is the trope that
'this essay, too, is invisible,' but how would one know, and
where is one? And immediately that one can see tendency towards
that absolutism that also participates in the annihilation of
the world, as if that were not an occurrence. What is foregone,
is foregone by virtue of invisibility; what is present, is
unaccountable, uncountable, and unaccounted-for. Such are the
shoals of ontology, such is the unseen, within and without the

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