joey-phinn

3

More than just a game, Simogo’s Year Walk is an enthralling, eldritch mix of Swedish Norse mythology and first-person iPhone gameplay that takes the player on a walk to remember.

Year walking, a Swedish tradition in the 19th century that one undertook at the stroke of midnight, meeting strange creatures along the way to the church, all to catch a glimpse through the fabric of the universe and into the future - to see if you would be wealthy, to see if you would live… to see if you would be loved.

This is the creepiest, most beautiful and most nonplussing puzzle game I have ever played. Go on an Årsgång and meet the Huldra, the Brook Horse, the Mylings, the Night Raven and the Church Grim in order to see or change your predestined fate.

Will the antibodies come for me? Am I a virus in the eye of the universe? This is a rift in the fabric of the very existence of everything. I can hear the heart of the universe beating. The heart beats stronger, but I will break it and see beyond everything.

6

Recreating mythologies [ 1 ] in Cinema 4D. I’m calling this Arbiter, as it was initially inspired by phone display booths. Mediation, mediator, the hum of electronic sheep, dreaming.

Starting to grasp a better sense of what I might want to do. Ambitious, but need to be careful not to be overly ambitious and fail to communicate anything at all in pursuit of spectacle.

Export objects to AE and play with virtual space, or construct everything - a weird ontographic world of objects - in C4D?

The Memetic Garden [ Myths, Memes, and the Construction of Contemporary Fantasy ]

My BAFA dissertation, the transcript copy. The real form of the work is printed on vellum paper, hand coptic binded, in a way where the design informs the writing.

DEFINING OBJECT

“Half submerged in Tokyo harbor, the spire is saturated with living things. It sprouts so far into the heavens that its upper reachers are shrouded in the rain haze. Some kind of muscular fiber makes up the main trunk, braided thick as the Tokyo Skytree, resembling bark but clearly with much higher tensile strength. It bears further study, as does the stability mechanism. The island-machine flutters delicately on flat fins the size of baseball fields, rising and falling, surfaces curling with wet sea grass on top and studded with barnacles below. Each pulse of the surf surges over the lip of the rear fin and washes straight through the marshy ecosystem.”

— Takeo Nomura, Robogenesis1

The bling of wind-chimes, a broken bike spoke, an empty china bowl: these are the things that litter our world unseen. We notice the objects in our surroundings insofar as we need them to function. Real, fictional, tangible or conceptual, there seems to be an unspoken consensus on the self-evident hierarchy of objects. One of these things is more important than the other.

Why does an object cease to be itself when it takes on “human” qualities? Perhaps we should ask why we rarely consider an object to have true qualities of its own beyond its human-related functions, the real qualities of a thing stripped to a nakedness that is “unreal, smooth and enclosed like a beautiful slippery object, withdrawn by its very extravagance from human use.”2 What makes an Object an Object, and is it possible to conceive of a truly alien, brave new world where squares exist equally amongst wire, a bit of old chewing gum or a singular pearl earring?

In her essay Sculpture in the Expanded Field, Rosalind Krauss argues that modernist sculpture remediates the extreme past and present through a “kind of sitelessness or homeless, an absolute loss of place”, a nomadic work-in-situ where sculpture becomes defined as “what is in the landscape that is not the landscape”. The sculpture-object has thereby become a combination of exclusions: the difference between the not-landscape and the not-architecture is the negative sum of the Sculpture, an ontological absence. Disappearance is the metamodernist aim of the game. The vanishing or flattening of the landscape also loosely relates to the aims of the relatively new genre of philosophy called speculative realism, which became a cohesive movement after the 2007 inaugural conference at Goldsmiths University and includes prominent thinkers such as Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman and Ian Hamilton Grant. This tentative coalition soon fragmented into smaller opposing variations called speculative materialism, object-oriented metaphysics, transcendental materialism and transcendental nihilism, but what remains is the first glimpse into an alien, anti-Kantian reality that has stepped on the shoulders of twentieth century continental thought-giants such as Heidegger, Derrida, Foucault and Deleuze to reach strange new breeding grounds of phenomenology, in which an Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative way to perceive the world - not just philosophically as abstract thought but also seeping into popular culture: the dark recesses of that specific type of memetic net art that is half code, half aesthetic. As French speculative philosopher and novelist Tristan Garcia notes: “a thing is nothing other than the difference between being-inside [l’être entré] and being-outside [l’être sorti]. Accordingly, the channel of being is never blocked. Inside a thing, a thing is never itself. A thing is not in itself, but outside itself. […] Things correspond to the circle indicating the gap, difference, and inadequacy between the entering arrow and the exiting arrow, and are inscribed or imprinted in the world.”3

If we take object oriented ontologist Graham Harman’s view that “intentional objects have a unified essential core surrounded by a swirling surface of accidents”, then we too, as subjects, are objects as real as the smooth sheen of the keyboard these words are being typed upon. Strip away our surface of swirling accidents - the chance of aesthetic genetics, the imprints of time, the inflection of our accents - and we remain perhaps not unchanged, but untransformed. Thing, Whole, Self. Objects are neither the sum of their qualities nor made up of some hidden essential element. There is something real, beyond even its eidetic qualities, that withdraws from perception. We know of it, but it seems impossible to know it.

“She saw nodes, not straight lines: that is, she saw events that sparkled in clusters rather than start and end points as such; not origins, but a set of continuously emerging relations, a cocoon-shaped web of interactions with denser regions.”4

Philosophers such as Garcia and Harman use various differing terminology (what constitutes the difference between confusing neologisms and inexpertly translated French?), but both argue that the essence of objecthood cannot be determined either through overmining - confusing the object as nothing more than whatever it transforms, touches or modifies - or undermining - believing that the Object is nothing more than the sum of its components, which, in scientific naturalism, is often viewed as self-evident. That is, everything can be reduced down to something essential, like an atom or particles of matter. What Harman asserts is that although an Object is created from constituent parts, it is a never-ending cycle of deconstruction that has no end - or, in other words, an infinite Object. It is only through this seemingly idealistic proposal that we can accordingly give credence to what video designer/digital media professor Ian Bogost calls an alien phenomenology, in which banal, useful and useless objects are equally interesting in of themselves, each thing existing in withdrawn spheres of isolation. What are their thoughts, philosophies, or morals? Can there be an (or many) ethics of the object?

“Speculative realism names not only speculative philosophy that takes existence to be separate from thought but also a philosophy claiming that things speculate and, furthermore, one that speculates about how things speculate. […] A speculum is a mirror, but not in the modern sense of the term as a device that reflects back the world as it really is, unimpeded and distorted. […] Only a rough sense: a representation, an imitation, a caricature, to use Harman’s word for it. The speculum of speculation is not a thin, flat plate of glass onto which a layer of molten aluminium has been vacuum-sprayed but a funhouse mirror made of hammered metal, whose distortions show us a pervasion of a unit’s sensibilities.”5

A speculating realism involves embracing all contortions, glitches, warping, malformation and messes. An Object is not merely made up of the vectors of perception that human beings and other things in this world (tacos, stones, potatoes) have imposed upon it, as the real Object forever shrinks from within, but these accidental qualities and perceptions are precisely the deformations we are interested in and need to account for if we wish to allude to the reality of the object. 

“The question is therefore: is it better to begin by thinking about our access, which will never have access to things, but only to our conditions of access, or to begin by thinking about things, which, if we do not want to cheat, obtains the thinghood in every possible mode of subjectivity?”6

Then is the alien Object what Garcia describes as a kind of void, outside itself, or what Harman depicts as real and sensual objects, veiled within the twinned ideologies of Husserl’s vibrant objects and Heidegger’s Tool-being?

HARMAN’S QUADRUPLE OBJECT

REAL OBJECTS: “Real objects withdraw from our access to them, in fully Heideggerian fashion. The metaphors of concealment, veiling, sheltering, harboring, and protecting are all relevant here. The real cats continue to do their work even as I sleep. These cats are not equivalent to my conception of them, and not even equivalent to their own self-conceptions; nor are they exhausted by their various modifications and perturbations of the objects they handle or damage during the night. The cats themselves exist at a level deeper than their effects on anything. Real objects are non-relational.”

SENSUAL OBJECTS: “We have immediate access to the sensual object from the moment we intent it, since that is all it takes for a sensual object to exist.”7

Take note, fellow confused brethren: both real and sensual objects exist and function as relation (fission and fusion) within one Object. It is not as simple as real objects being real, tangible things in the world (and what is the world but also a thing?) and sensual objects being fictional things created in the conscience. What Harman is referring to is his conception of the Quadruple Object, which consists of Real Object (RO), Real (eidetic) Qualities (RQ), Sensual Object (SO) and Sensual Qualities (SQ). Imagine you’re floating in a sensual ether and before you on the horizon is the Sun. Your immediate, sudden perceptions of the Sun - all that you see of its shifting sensual qualities, the accidents that decorate the Object without being an essential part of it, like its burning colour and radiating heat - makes up the Sensual Object. The Real Object exists beyond that, beyond even its real qualities (indispensable elements of the Object), which form it but do not inform it. Harman’s object oriented ontology revolves around the resulting Quadruple Object that is created, as well as its direct and indirect relations. “In short, all things equally exist, yet they do not exist equally.”8

“Can we imagine a speculative ethics? […] The answer to correlationism is not the rejection of any correlate but the acknowledgment of endless ones, all self-absorbed, obsessed by givenness rather than by turpitude.”9

The trouble comes not with just identifying the Object’s sensual and real objecthoods, but their relations to each other. Flatten the world into a “tiny ontology” (coined by Bogost) or “flat ontology” (coined by Harman) and it is still troubling to understand how objects truly relate or impose upon one another if they’re always withdrawn, never touching. Or even how we, as humans, can summon a strategy for understanding an Object as a dysmorphic caricature of itself, since we can never truly understand the real Object. Rather than rejecting correlationism (the term coined by Quentin Meillassoux to describe an anthropomorphic or human-centralised viewpoint on reality and the world, in which there can be no thought outside thought), it is about being receptive to the idea of existing infinite -relationisms in the world, be they the perceptions of the sky, a robot or the leather fabric of a vintage sofa, and ultimately returning to how we, as human-objects, can attempt to understand or at least imagine the mysterious relations between other objects in the ether.

“Maybe it’s worth running the risks associated with anthropomorphising (superstition, the divinization of nature, romanticism) because it, oddly enough, works against anthropocentrism: a chord is struck between person and thing, and I am no longer above or outside a nonhuman ‘environment.’”10

OBJECT RELATION

“I urge you to hold up the realities portrayed here to the mirror of fantasy. Things often seem clearer in the silver light of the extraordinary. Some call this magic.”

- Shatterday, Harlan Ellison, 1980

Finnish social scientist Karl-Erik Michelsen once said, “When factories were established in nineteenth century Finland, they were hidden behind trees and bushes. This way, the machine was placed hidden within the natural landscape-in the ‘garden’.”11 A garden is, however naturally articulated, cultivated by human hands: it is as “artificial” as a machine. Both are concept-objects on equal terms with each other with their own hidden vitalities and mysteries. They exist because of us, with us, and in spite of us. Somewhere inside, a world stirs, and recedes. As creators, what are our cultural and moral obligations towards these realities - and do we have a right to stake a claim over them? It is in our correlationist nature to classify things within a seemingly “natural” hierarchy. Can we conceive of an alien one?

What’s in a garden? When is a machine not a machine? Is it in that moment when a machine becomes constructed into the facsimile of a human - an automaton, or elevated by artificial intelligence to the status of an android?

“How do we as humans strive to understand the relationships between particular objects in the world, relations that go on without us, even if we may be their cause, subject, or beneficiary? How do we understand the green chile or the integrated circuit both as things left to themselves and as things interacting with others, us among them?”12

The contemporary Object is tessellated like a geometric hexagon, or perhaps something more like Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome. It is 2D and 3D, appears one way and then depicts itself as another. Formless, yet structured, it nevertheless retains its own agenda. Is it reasonable to declare that the way to approach the Quadruple Object within its equally alien landscape is not straight on but from side to side, from multiple perspectives - like Christopher Nolan’s recent film Interstellar, to construct an understandable and recognisable 3D space within a fifth dimension? The intention is not to create a spectacle but a point of departure, which is a necessarily distorted one. How can we encounter these ripples of distortion? 

“When separated from the various forms that might produce it, Nagel calls this encounter ‘the subjective character of experience.’ That character, he suggests, entails ‘what it is like to be that organism.’ For Nagel, the very idea of experience requires this ‘being-likeness,’ a feature that eludes observation even if its edges can be traced by examining physical properties. Because of this elusiveness (which OOO calls withdrawal), physical reductionism can never explain the experience of a being. […] As tiny ontology demands, the character of the experience of something is not identical to the characterization of that experience by something else.”13

We frequently argue the Object’s role within cultural, historical and aesthetic terms, but what of its coded namesake? The term Object Oriented Ontology is inherited from object oriented programming, a category of programming languages including Java, Python, C, C++ and the like that thread the invisible barriers in our virtual worlds. Invisible, because these are programming languages as opposed to web-based style sheet languages like CSS, HTML or Javascript. Like objects, the world of computers is one that is mysterious and intractable, even to the programmers who live and breathe it: after all, the role of the programmer is to instruct and translate commands to the computer through compilation or interpretation. What the computer thinks or writes in the cracks between its real language and something like the Java Virtual Machine is alien to us (even if it’s owned, ironically, by Oracle).

“…it seems that whichever part of the enumerable algorithm we happily choose to make present, whether the generated icons, the mathematical formalisations, the HTML or the Java syntax of C++ of which it is constituted, there is always something inaccessible about the algorithm which hides away from us when in action, as with anything else. To simplify the essence of the work even more, the algorithm cannot be located “as” presence but in action as an event.”14

One can simplify Harman’s Quadruple Object by imagining it inside the terms of a Programmable Object. Why are objects important at all in programming? Using the programming language Java as an example, think of the term programming as akin to constructing. Construct the world, or program your program, and you need to make models for that world. These models are objects that can be represented, which can vary from words to shapes to eggplants to universes. Of course, there’s the fundamental problem that there are many objects of one type. We may be individual beings, but nevertheless we all fall under the class of human. An Object is an instance of a particular Class. I am an individual instance of the class HumanBeing. What of qualities: my hair texture, my skin colour, my cultural background and particular accent? They are the properties or attributes of the Object, values stored in fields. One Class can have many Objects which contain the same Fields, but have different values: my hair is black, yours may be brown. Further, objects also have operations which can be invoked, called methods. It is a form of communication with the Object in order to make it do something, i.e. a relation. Methods then have parameters that dictate the information needed to execute the methods. Example: the method calls for a football to move. The parameters would include such information as, how far (distance)? Horizontally or vertically? Perhaps, even: who moves it?

Of course, OOO is more complex and nuanced than the mathematical rationality of object-oriented programming. But the underlying principle is the same. The programmer translates and receives data from the machine through creating models of the world (Objects, Classes, Fields, Methods). In other words, through the fabrication of reality, or through a simulated metaphor of what we know so that we can understand a distorted perception of it. It is an attempt to fabricate an object oriented ontology informed by their very object oriented programming roots. We can never truly know the Machine, or what the Machine thinks, but through allusion we can attempt to grasp and interpret the Machine’s own translation. (Perhaps, admittedly, it is only a translation of our own desires, but through the mediated cracks does some alien intention slip through?) 

Logically, it is then easy to agree with Bogost’s suggestion:

“What if we deployed metaphor itself as a way to grasp alien objects’ perceptions of one another. […] In metaphorism we recognize that our relationship to objects is not first person; we are always once removed. It is not the objects’ perceptions that we characterise metaphoristically but the perception itself, which recedes just as any other object does. In doing so, we release the relation from a reduction between other objects, flattening it down to the same ontological plane as human, gearshift, perception, or red-rosed wind.”15

The solution is to approach the Object obliquely - to perceive It without Becoming I. “Like Midas, transforming everything he touches into useless gold, we need to find ways of touching without touching, thinking without thinking directly. This is our movement. […] What if fictions were deployed between “I” and “It”? They could act as protecting barriers (rubber gloves for Midas) and as honeytraps, to catch “it”, lure it in.”16

Yet fictions, however alluring, still need to be deployed through coherent or incoherent narrative: traditionally through an author, a particularly correlationist viewpoint. (Ah, there can be no language without a speaker, no thought without a voice, no metaphor without a mind!) What becomes authentic, and how can we move from I to It if we consider Barthes’ deconstructionist view that “to restore to writing [ the world’s ] future, we must reverse its myth: the birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the Author”? The need, firstly, is to not define author as necessarily omniscient or godly, and the second starting point is to establish author as a term that can encompass anything from disembodied voice to autonomous camera viewpoints to projection mapping on a sculpture. In other words, to kill the ego of the author-subject and then return it to the world as a humbled object: an author does not create the narratives of the world, but supports and emphasises the underlying fictions, like metaphor-glue that joins the relational cracks between glistening, withdrawn objects.

“What if that “it” is still able to speak precisely as an author? The figure of the mask, the fiction of another persona is what would allow the possibility of a dead “I” that is both an author and an “it”. The unfolding in the connector to. The dead author speaking. [..] If it is possible to rupture the passage, it is only by articulating another that seems odd yet strangely jollier: the potential conceptual persona of the dead author with all the unpredictable gesticulation of a new acoustic mask. Even if there is no one speaking here, the generic utterance of this excessive character can still bring a singular force of enunciation from the grave.”17

To support this theory, we need only turn to the myths and trends of net art propagating from sites like Tumblr, where the Uncanny Object has taken prominence, and the role of the Author reduced through the reproduction of the original. Ironic neo-80’s trends like vaporwave and seapunk imitate digital media artists like Miao Xiaochun in creating alien 3D environments or objects that pulsate, distort and juxtapose: often in the square format of a lossy .GIF, which compresses the quality of the image in return for an eternal, looping moment. It is not that the creator is lost or vanished, as clearly there is still respect for individual blogs and dedicated followers of these oft-anonymous net-artists, but that the role of the creator takes backseat as ghostly conductor to the electric and fascinating objects of their creation. The Virtual Object rules with its own rules, favouring equally pastel and monotone, kitsch and minimalism, the translucent and the opaque. They seem to shift and gleam within a mysterious language of their own.

“The voice of the contributors is always allowed to pass through the artist’s editorial filter with its accents and substance intact”18

So forget the ethics of the creator: we must consider the qualities and relations of a creator resurrected into Object, released from the constraints of Subjecthood and flattened into the plains of a flat ontology, in which the author (subject-object) can exist equally with the narrative, landscape, context, projections or sculptures within the bracketed field.

JAVA CODE METAPHOR FOR OBJECT RELATION

public class SubjectObject —> Sensual Object
{

                 Fields: store integer variables —> Sensual Qualities;

                 Constructors: initialise the object —> Real Qualities;

                 Methods: make the object do something —> Object Relation/Vicarious Causation;

⁃                                           Parameters: the way to receive values when constructors and methods are called ≈ the Metaphor/ism used to relate Objects and Perception;

⁃                                           public SubjectObject(int perception): parameter names, FORMAL parameters ≈ Perceptions of Real Qualities inside the Object;

⁃                                           Private string add(string no1, string no2): parameter values, ACTUAL parameters ≈ Perceptions of Sensual Qualities inside the Object;

}

It is interesting to note here that the scope of a parameter is restricted to the body of the method or constructor that declares it, whereas the scope of a field is within the entire class (inside the { } bracketed area). In this way it may be possible to relate the scope of a parameter, which always is the result of an action, to Heidegger’s Zuhanden or Readiness-to-hand Tool-being, and think of the scope of multiple fields as elucidating the geography (or ontography) of the Object’s sensual qualities. In this context, an author-subject might exist as a ghostly field or sensual quality that does not make up or constitute the Object but through its presence, affects or relates to it. Further, I take a step back to point out the potential flaw in this metaphorical Java model: if an object is merely an instance of a class, then a class cannot constitute a Sensual Object but merely the consequences, effects or environment that allow multiple, similar objects to exist. In this case, a class header should instead be linked to Iain Hamilton Grant’s argument of object conditions, or perhaps called the sensual ether, and the true Object is actually constituted of the { } brackets.

 “Take any object whatsoever, on the Schellingian condition that it is not impossible in nature—a mountain, a phone, an idea, an animal, a hallucination— and ask what is involved in its existence. The conditions on which its existence depends do not belong to that object—they are not “its” conditions, but conditions that possibilize it. Since conditions exceed the object, they are equally the conditions involved in other existing objects, and that cannot therefore be specified as belonging to that object alone, nor as terminating in it. That is, the causes of mountain-formation are also causes of geogony, of ideation, of animals, of fever-dreams and of telecommunications. Were this not the case, then each set of objects would envelope its own, wholly separate universe.”19 (Iain Hamilton Grant, 43).

And lest we forget, it is not only the voice of the undead author-object that is important but also the voice of the Object itself. We should consistently remember and affirm the notion of the Autonomous Object of Intention, which can exist equally alongside the author-object or subject-object but is not necessarily implicated by or made Real by them. As Heidegger argues, “The jug is a thing as a vessel — it can hold something. To be sure, this container has to be made. But its being made by the potter in no way constitutes what is peculiar and proper to the jug insofar as it is qua jug. The jug is not a vessel because it was made; rather, the jug had to be made because it is this holding vessel.”20 Author does not equal Authorship. The Object may be organic, artificial, readymade or self-generated but it cannot be reduced to the intentions of any creator. It is the Object that acts, and is acted upon. Within the flat stage of objects, humans and sentient authors can co-exist, not as masters but as equals with intentionality.

If the garden acts as a vessel, the machine or object is lost within it as illusion: simultaneously itself and yet also part of its context, mirrored and reproduced until we can no longer have clear distinction between installation and sculpture, exterior and interior, object and context-object. The role of the author blurs into the object-schematic. Only when it becomes a tessellated mirror that both reveals and obscures us from view can we begin to understand the Object’s new role.

OBJECT AS REPRODUCTION

 “Machines had imitated life, and now life had returned the compliment. Patterns were repeated. A computer made of flesh, growing new capacity where it needed it, sending mycelia through the earth, sprouting elsewhere like mushrooms, fed by purple gardens.”

— Geoff Ryman, The Child Garden20

Factory reproductions, handcrafted vintage items, reproduced thoughts and historical artifacts are dipped in history: we attribute power, authority and desire to the Object due to its historical genealogy. Once culturally imbued, we argue the object is valuable because it has acquired historical significance. But what we really mean is that the object is entrenched in the properties of myth: unaccounted for events, the witness to secrets. It acquires a fictional mysteriousness that elevates its status to that of fantasy. We created and reproduced the myth and now the myth has taken on form and sentience, claimed its own birthright and reproduces and remediates us in turn. Take anthropologist Levi Strauss’ assertion that “objects are what matter. Only they carry the evidence through the centuries something really happened among human beings.”

We are born from the flesh of Prometheus, culturally inundated by our own fabricated mythology.

“We are patterns. Trapped inside other patterns.”21

Within the amniotic fluid of the neo-myth, what is the new role of the reproduced thing? Mythical objects within a culture of myths act like attributes - portals between reality and illusion. This is a complex, internalised system of biological mimicry in which consumption is creation. The myth consumes the object, the object mirrors the myth. “The copy is a reproduction - a media form in itself - referring both to itself and to its original, as part of an endless series of “aura-less” multiplications.”22

Objects have an innate, secret power and vitality that draws us to them (from subject to object, from object to object). The Object has the power to seduce, to enchant. It is not, therefore, surprising, that we who have always recognised ourselves as Subjects seek now to become Subject-Object, to increasingly oscillate towards an illusion of planes and lines, pixel-avatar identities, a world where refrigerators feel (“GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction”, Mark Leckey, 2010) and talking 3D-generated heads espouse nonsensical thoughts on love (“Us Dead Talk Love”, Ed Atkins). There is something touching about it, these virtual representations and imitations. They move us, and perhaps we move them.

No longer do we ask what is real, only what is meaningful.

Yet the Mimetic Object has been vilified through history for this very point: what is fake is not meaningful. A reproduction is not an authentic experience. A photograph is not a painting. Until technology reached the tipping point that birthed the strange culture of the Internet, where more often than not the original and the copy are one and the same down to the very last pixel. An unconscious biomimicry. And categories, too, are being consistently reinvented. Today, we are on a quest to fulfill a strategy of illusion, to construct our very own contemporary fantasies, our very own Wunderkammern. In an increasingly fictionalised universe, what is the role of the Object, and does it not hold true, tangible power even when it is not “real” or merely a “copy”?

“Can a simulacrum work as a discord and critique, a unique gesture that is able to address and converse with an object?”23

Of course, in terms of OOO and Harman’s sensual/real objects, there is no true discord or boundaries between “real” things and their reproduction, originals and fakes. Everything is real insofar as it is a thing - we are not so much concerned with realness as what is inherently meaningful, and where the translations of myth and the distortion of an object’s qualities takes the second degree of object - must it always be seen through the distorted lens of our own perception of the first, or can it be perceived in its own right as a meaningful vessel?

Thinking along the line of vessels, we could compare, in this regard, Roland Barthes’ Vernian ship with artist Lindsay Seers’ reproduced ship of mirrored fact/fiction. In Mythologies, Barthes describes the image of the ship in Jules Verne as a symbol for departure: and more interestingly, to relate to the ship positively “always means the joy of perfectly enclosing oneself, of having at hand the greatest possible number of objects, and having at one’s disposal an absolutely finite space. […] In this mythology of seafaring, there is only one means to exorcize the possessive nature of man on a ship; it is to eliminate the man and to leave the ship on its own. The ship then is no longer a box, a habitat, an object that is owned; it becomes a traveling eye, which comes close to the infinite; it constantly begets departures […] the boat which says ‘I’ and, freed from its concavity, can make man proceed from psychoanalysis of the cave to a genuine poetics of exploration.”24 Taking this quote out of context, it almost seems as if Barthes had already foreseen the revolution of the object, the ship that says I and charts its own path to uncanny waters.

“A black-hulled ship, HMS London, sat for ten years in the bay of Zanzibar as a depot for the anti-slave mission, and it is a partial replica of the hull of this ship which contains the Hayward installation, upturned as if to tip out all its dark secrets.”25 The ship is reclaiming its autonomy in both myth and object-hood, be it an infinite ship or a reproduction like that in the Hayward exhibition Mirror City, where fact and fiction seem to merge as the hull of the ship looms out of the darkened gallery space over you, or as you sit blindly in Seers’ installation, watching the doubled-vision projection on two seemingly spherical objects: one concave, one convex, sitting vertically and blinking, like secretly knowing, complicit imitations of one another.

“In the same way as fake gods are the fetish that must be broken by the iconoclast”, we previously destroyed the ‘fake’ as a reaffirmation of truth, and the death of false promises. Today, we have bent our ideologies 180 degrees and embrace the reproduction as a site for revolution. It defies authorship, claims autonomy and freedom above copyright. It exists in its own right as a cultural meme, inundated with the power of anonymity. The faceless Object today creates the myth and recreates us in its own image, creating alien, quadruple objects that wash up, beached on the shores of our nu-reality.

 “As labour is dematerialised and the division of labour in industrial production erodes, capital not only occupies the working hours during which products or goods (and its surplus value) are produced; it absorbs all of the worker’s time, as well as his or her existence, thoughts, and creative desires. Products or goods are produced not to be consumed, to be swallowed directly, but as a set of new modes of communication knowledge, languages, or even worlds.”26

FICTIONS, MYTH AND LITANIES

“Right from the start, the notion of myth seemed to me to explain these examples of the falsely obvious. At that time, I still used the word ‘myth’ in its traditional sense. But I was already certain of a fact from which I later tried to draw all the consequences: myth is a language.”27

New myths pop up in our cultural plaza everyday. They glisten, newly christened; they die quickly like flies, submerged by irrelevance. We call them memes - not quite the Darwinian meme, but nevertheless “a pure, transmutable idea, the dispersion of which can be boundless” - and along with them, new terminology like vaporwave, seapunk, normcore, witch house. A whole universe where a sly entry on Urban Dictionary can seal a word’s fate.

Beneath the navy-blue dashboard of Tumblr lurks a hundred other monikers, labels, newly minted neologisms. The wildly popular Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows documents and crystallises the undisclosed desires in your heart:

Lachesism, n. The desire to be struck by disaster-to survive a plane crash, to lose everything in a fire, to plunge over a waterfall-which would put a kink in the smooth arc of your life, and forge it into something hardened and flexible and sharp, not just a stiff prefabricated beam that barely covers the gap between one end of your life and the other.

Why is a fictional term so popular? Perhaps it strikes a chord: giving meaning and tangibility to some melancholic condition of contemporary youth culture. Perhaps it links to what the Japanese call mono no aware [ 物の哀れ ], or literally the pathos of things, which Wikipedia translates as “a term for the awareness of impermanence [ mujō ], or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.“ We could also associate this longing with hauntology, which was particularly well-received in the mid 2000s and included experimental music like that of Ghostbox Label and Burial. Editor-in-chief of literary magazine 3:AM Andrew Gallix writes that “as a reflection of the zeitgeist, hauntology is, above all, the product of a time which is seriously "out of joint”. There is a prevailing sense among hauntologists that culture has lost its momentum and that we are all stuck at the end of history” and that, above all, hauntology itself is “haunted by a nostalgia for all our lost futures.”28 Artist and technologist James Bridle, on the other hand, argues against the authenticity of the short-lived movement because “the problem with hauntology is that it deals with the problem of the future by going back to the past. And that is fine: but it will not save us.”29

Look also to movements like the New Sincerity, nu-Muzac/lounge/New Wave music genres, or recent exhibitions like Lone Tree at Marlborough Chelsea which observes that they have “seen lately a significant resurrection of Romanticism in contemporary art […] explore how notions of the spiritual and the magical alongside the sublime and the romantic, have once again, become important” and The New Romantics at Eyebeam which questions “ways in which contemporary artists using digital media engage the body, representations of nature, poetic irony, and expressions of individuality as originally expressed in 19th century Romanticism […] The artists in this exhibition expose an underlying thread of individual expression that extends beyond mere tech-fetishism.” As the Metamodernist manifesto observes, we are oscillating, bringing back nostalgia, sincerity, magic and illusion. Except perhaps now it is the illusion of disappearance, of a curious geometric flattening towards the horizon, towards banality, the glitch-kitsch, as a strategy for new meaning.

However blinkered, it is clear both myths and nostalgic trends continue to thrive on the internet, mutating into suspiciously ironic subcultures: transfat, transethnic, otherkin. I feel I’m other, I feel I’m Japanese, I sense, deep down, I’m a fictional character. Possibly two or three. I’m part wolf. A quarter fallen angel. Demi-sexual. There’s a satirical blog out there, somewhere, called Potato-kin, where someone is sarcastically the soul of a potato, in order to mock those who genuinely believe themselves to have been vegetables in their past life. The Mogai Archive lists about a hundred fictional genders, in which you can discover you’re actually gloomgender (definition: nonbinary/indifferent, mostly darkness, the new moon phase…) or, if we subscribe to Metamodernism, perhaps one can claim to be metagender (“to identify around or beyond a gender”). The discovery of such trends is partly troubling, partly amusing but perhaps also simply indicative of a moment in history in which people seem to have a particular penchant for fiction and the transformation of self - trans-human tendencies, maybe, or even hurtling towards the domain of the non-human. Why would anyone want to be a potato? Why not?

The modern Brahmin are scientists, the magician the Internet and the layman his own clergy by which he constructs his own individual ideology and curates it in the public arena, becoming a collective mythology. “What would be fascinating to pursue might be to rethink the designer’s role no longer as the sole creator and prude regulator of [ art ], and instead to understand [ art ] as an “interpretative act”, as media, and thus understand media in matter - only in this way will it matter.”30

There is also a new kind of myth, with an inheritance rooted not in the Author. It’s heir not to the throne of Barthian cultural signifiers but nestled somewhere amongst the deconstructed hierarchy of objects: consider not only the historical myths of beings, but the contemporary myths of our alien everyday. A daisy-chain of strange myths, propagating and consuming and relating to one another. Rather than a treatise of myth or mythology within the metaphysics of access, it is about the myth of things themselves. Not myths for us, but of us: the myth of every kind of perception and relation. The Myth of the Object. Autonomous, mysterious, unknowable, existing somewhere between its real and sensual qualities. As Bogost argues, “Objects float in a sensual ether. […] Objects try to make sense of each other through the qualities and logics they possess. When one object caricatures another, the first grasps the second in abstract, enough for the one to make some sense of the other given its own internal properties.  Caricature is a rendering that captures some aspects of something else at the cost of other aspects. The mechanism that facilitates this sort of alien phenomenology is […] a mechanism that welcomes distortion.” This distortion and act of caricaturing is precisely what creates myth - the exaggeration of reality, allusion, fabrication.

Myth is metaphor.

To be precise, a myth is constructed through perverted chains of metaphors, a system Bogost refers to as metaphorism, which “involves phenomenal daisy chains, built of speculations on speculations as we seep farther and farther into the weird relations between objects. The philosophical effort to bind such metaphors is nontrivial, amounting to a complex lattice of sensual object relations, each carrying an inherited yet weaker form of metaphor with which it renders its neighbor. […] The relationship between the first object and the second offers the clearest rendition, insofar as a metaphor is ever really clear. The next is rendered not in terms of the second object’s own impression of the third but as the second’s distorted understanding of its neighbor seen through the lens of the first. […] A metaphorism germane to its host becomes alien to the subsequent object it sequences, unable to pierce its veil and see the face of its experience.”32 It is exactly through this mediation between first, second and third generations of objects where perception becomes so distorted and opaque that we begin to construct myth, not unlike Barthes’ ideas around the first (signifier), second (sign) and third (signification) systems of language. The Object constructs myth, and perhaps it is our correlationist position to attempt to deconstruct or even reconstruct it.

“Truth to tell, the best weapon against myth is perhaps to mythify it in its turn, and to produce an artificial myth: and this reconstituted myth will in fact be a mythology. Since myth robs language of something, why not rob myth?”33

The practice of a revolutionary metaphorism is subtle, but considerably different from a literary metaphor, or a mythological allegory. We are not interested in just the poignant similes of poetry, the metaphors in fiction, or popular sayings in the English language, although all of these can and should be included on equal terms in this new ontology. Instead it is a practice of metaphorical carpentry, a term Bogost uses to refer to the actual, applied usage of metaphor to Object Oriented Ontology - our ontology of the world(s). In particular, he compacts the writings of Bruno Latour into Latour litanies that contain “the bestiaries of things”, and has, on his blog, even coded a “Latour Litanizer” that uses Wikipedia’s random page API to generate random lists. We should not belittle the importance of lists, or the randomness that amusing online programs like Facebook status generators (“What-Would-I-Say”) can provide. Through nonsense comes sense, through randomness order is formed. Word-play is not pointless but a useful tool as a starting point to strategise a tiny ontology.

“For we cannot understand what is real unless we understand what ‘what’ means, and we cannot understand what ‘what’ means without understanding what ‘means’ is, but we cannot hope to understand what ‘means’ is without understanding what ‘is’ means.”34

Consider, after all, in Bogost’s example of a word game: “…the mereological possibility space afforded by homography […] A Movie could be in a Letter (‘I just saw this strange movie about an incompetent, vinegar-loving bank robber’), which could be in an Atlas (as a bookmark), which could be in a Tornado, in a Dream, in a Woman, in a Marriage. Or Better, a Movie could be in the Universe, which could nevertheless also be in a letter (“I wouldn’t give up pickles for anything in the world”), in the Mail, in Time. […] Indeed, nutshellery isn’t a bad metaphor for tiny ontology - the condensation of multitudes into dense singularities”35

 Whitehead once said, “in the real world it is more important that a proposition be interesting than that it be true.”36 We should consider objects, relations and philosophies from a position where anything and everything can be regarded as equally important, if in varying degrees of interest (to us). Thus entering a brave, speculative world.

 “Is there a mythology of the mythologist?”37

THE MEMETIC OBJECT

 “By definition a meme can act as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.” - Andreea Radulescu

To speak of myths and to speak of objects is to dream of memes. To attempt to do a carpentry of metaphysics may seem ridiculous from the hallowed balconies of academic philosophy, and certainly even philosopher Ray Brassier, one of the original speculative realist “founders” as such, has scoffed at the very SR title and scathingly condemned the “stupidity” of the enthusiastic OOO blogosphere, where naive positivism and amateur thoughts supposedly fester. Does the internet only provide us with randomness, nonsense and daisy-chains of bullshit, or can we see it in a positive light - that we should celebrate philosophy’s opening access to all lovers of wisdom, enjoy the power of ceiling cats and even the amusing quality of stock photographs of women eating salads (alone)? This is not to say we should refute the rightful place of philosophy in books, journals and other such publications, or claim that enthusiastic teenagers on Tumblr are conducting serious artistic discourse in their renditions of old Mac computers juxtaposed against palm trees, CDs, and marble busts in a virtual grid landscape, but simply that we should open up the field of inquiry.

“In a world we trust as given in time and space, what time is it? Where am I? I keep getting to where she is, with my thoughts, to a place beyond subject and object.”38

Some would seek to say that Object Oriented Ontology or various branches of SR read more like dark science fiction, harnessing unholy panpsychic powers (proclaiming, perhaps, “we are minds in the world of minds!”) To this, I say: why not? Why not consider OOO within science fiction, or fiction in particular, merging fields of science, technology and politics? There is a reason the speculative realist movement, if we can proclaim so daringly that there is one, captures the aesthetic mind so enchantingly: it is a perfect and alien system for considering objects in their own right, with their own rights, in a world stunted by the age-old assumptions of viewer, subject and object. If we are all objects, then everything within the space of my peripheral vision suddenly takes on new meanings, dangerous perceptions and mysterious allure. In an age where logic abounds and sentimentality taboo, is it possible to reach a place where objects can be withdrawn and enchanting without turning into a bombastic spectacle? Can wonder attain mythical legitimacy?

In an incisive paper exploring “algorithmic allure” and object oriented ontology within aesthetic theory, MPhil/PhD student Robert Jackson declares that “allure occurs when objects are split from their qualities, establishing a tension between its non-relational execution and the way it has been described […] The only hope we and other objects have, is to have access to a set of present-at-hand aesthetic tools which allude to the inner depths of things and in turn expose new worlds. […] A realist study of aesthetics must take several more steps then Fried would ever envisage, and not just understand the hidden absorption between painting and beholder, or even between artwork to artwork in an executing exhibition, but also to the infinite depths of simple things executing themselves. […] For things to communicate in this post-Heideggerian ontology of sealed off objects, allure is the only method for objects to converse with each other’s caricatured hidden depths.”38

It is precisely this sort of allure that opens up the space for memes, or the act of meme-ing. If we’ve established (or at least proposed, lest one comes across as fanatically blinkered) that myths come from the filtered perceptions of daisy-chained metaphors, then the reason myth remains fascinating and enchanting despite being deconstructed again and again is that the deconstruction itself is only one plane of perception. The real, withdrawn Object and its allure is never exhausted, like the viral meme, which peaks and wanes and is constantly being deformed into new forms and resurrected into being. Reproduction is revolution in its own right through propagation, and therefore reproduction is also a daisy-chaining of event-things and metaphor-things that impress, as sensual qualities, upon the Real, echoing Harman’s principle of vicarious causation.

Hence, the Mimetic Object is also the Memetic Object: like a genome of sequences, the meme consists of an infinite myriad of constructed metaphors/qualities that allow us to glimpse a caricature of the RO. The memetic qualities can duplicate with ease but the Real Object is always itself: every time it transforms beyond the constrictions of its real qualities, it has become another withdrawn Object in its own right. An endless chain of duplications and metaphors that make up in themselves a sequence of myths (always distorted, sometimes parody). Graffiti the Žižekian signpost: welcome not to the desert, but the legion of the Real.

“Hegel was right to point out again and again that, when one talks, one always dwells in the universal—which means that, with its entry into language, the subject loses its roots in the concrete life-world. To put it in more pathetic terms, the moment I start to talk, I am no longer the sensually-concrete I, since I am caught into an impersonal mechanism which always makes me say something different from what I wanted to say—as the early Lacan liked to say, I am not speaking, I am being spoken by language. This is one of the ways to understand what Lacan called ‘symbolic castration’: the price the subject pays for its ‘transubstantiation’ from the agent of a direct animal vitality to the speaking subject whose identity is kept apart from the direct vitality of passions.”39

We’ve spoken extensively of objects but have no real word to describe the flat landscape or ether of relations in which they reside. I referred to the landscape as part of my ontology’s terminology as the context-object, but it is necessarily to adopt a new term that can encompass all the objects, relations, fictions and myth-ing of memes that occurs below the surface. I propose, therefore, Harman’s idea of the ontograph, or more precisely Bogost’s elaborated version 2.0 of a practice of ontography.

THE ONTOGRAPH

“From the perspective of metaphysics, ontography involves the revelation of object relationships without necessarily offering clarification or description of any kind. Like a medieval bestiary, ontography can take the form of a compendium, a record of things juxtaposed to demonstrate their overlap and imply interaction through collocation. […] Ontography is an aesthetic set theory, in which a particular configuration is celebrated merely on the basis of its existence.”40

As such, ontography is composed simultaneously of both mystification and demystification. If the ontograph is the bestiary, then the Quadruple Object is the homunculus - not a tiny man, per say, although a tiny man can certainly be an object - but incorporating the scientific definition of a scale model that illustrates the abstract characteristics or qualities of the Object and its fourfold polarities.

Models like an exploded-view diagram that clarifies the operations of a mechanical object to a human operator, for example, makes for a good aesthetic representation of an ontograph. As such, seemingly narcissistic or satirical trends in music/net-art genres like vaporwave and seapunk also serve the ontographic purpose through their juxtaposition of 3D models, flat images and seemingly random choice of objects in a flat world, sometimes animated, always mysterious - you are left asking yourself, did this aesthetic decision happen naturally or was it intentional? The line between glitch and purposeful rendering blurs and the semi-arranged objects gain both autonomy and alien beauty. Consider anything from propositional structures in literature like Derrida’s Glas, imaginary architecture in the Projects of Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin, diagram-proposals for exhibitions like for Dan Graham’s installation Time Delay Room, or art book-objects such as Lindsay Seers’ Nowhere less now (iamnowhere), which functions as half fiction, half editorial comments, sandwiched with dictionary definitions, images and photocopied pages.

Ontography is a nonsense term made up by writer M.R. James as a fictitious branch of professorship, and has since been re-claimed by Harman and Bogost to map the geography of objects. Online dictionary site Wordnik’s About page superimposes an illustration of Humpty Dumpty with the proclamation that words mean what we want them to mean. Their definition of ontography is as follows:

n. A description of beings, their nature and essence.

n. That division of geography which is concerned with the responses of organic beings to their physiographic surroundings or environment.

For our purposes, these definitions are quite appropriate - except for the use of the term “being” and “organic”, which presupposes living creatures as opposed to inorganic things. Our ontology includes every kind of thing - and not every kind of these things will be interesting to human perception or be worthy of ontographic study, but the underlying principles nevertheless grant us a new way of peering into the midst of the everyday. It is within this seemingly fictitious field of ontography that I believe the Memetic Object is worthy to be studied as a wholly original new specimen within a glass sea of specimens: the world of today is full of the new and contradictory, with virtual replicas fighting with the artificial components and the ethical value of bio-materials. Never has it been more exciting of a time to re-question the definition and role of the Object and to upgrade the lens of our microscope to one that levels out the playing field.

Thus the demand for reformation from within the aesthetic system: a transformation from the I (dead author) to the It (sublime autonomous object): both positive (addition through reproduction) and negative (the sculpture as combination of exclusion), planted and rooted within the Uncanny Garden as myth-memes/context-objects. We could call it a collection of ontographical Gardens within a Hortiscape; the truth is, we could call it anything. It is only through a proliferation of fictions that we begin to decipher and re-cipher the mythology of objects, and find our own place in an un-hierarchical world. Speak no longer of the uncanny valley, which dips and peaks, but perhaps, instead, the uncanny flatland.

“The true alien recedes interminably even as it surrounds us completely. […] Speculative realism really does require speculation: benighted meandering in an exotic world of utterly incomprehensible objects. […] Our job is to go where everyone has gone before, but where few have bothered to linger”41

 What comes out as 4D? Is it the subject, the object or the context-object? Or is it a sleekly transformative creature, glistening wet as it emerges from the husk, the ghost emerging from the shell? It is not utterly human or machine or even necessarily cyborg… its parts, made anew, are organic, having not been post-fabricated but constructed from our electric dreams, the accelerated devotion, belief and investment towards the Contemporary Fantasy.

NOTES

1          Robogenesis, Daniel H. Wilson, 265

2          Mythologies, Roland Barthes, 85

3          Form and Object, Tristan Garcia, 11

4          Nowhere Less Now, Lindsay Seers

5          Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost, 31

6          Form and Object, Tristan Garcia, 3

7          Definitions of real & sensual objects from Mike’s blog Avoiding the Void 

8          Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost

9          Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost, 78

10        Jane Bennett in Alien Phenomenology, 65

11        Karl-Erik Michelsen, as referenced in ADD Metaphysics, edited by Jenna Sutela

12        Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost, 29

13        Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost, 63

14        Algorithmic Allure, Robert Jackson, 148

15        Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost, 67

16        QGJCPLB, Weir, 5.

17        QGJCPLB, Angel, 36.

18        Nowhere Less Now, Lindsay Seers

19        The Speculative Turn, Iain Hamilton Grant, 43

20        The Child Garden, Geoff Ryman, 84

21        Takeo Nomura, character in Robogenesis, Daniel H. Wilson, 264

22        ADD Metaphysics, “Copying as a Media Form”, Ines Weizman

23        ADD Metaphysics, “Copying as a Media Form”, Ines Weizman, 101, 103

24        Mythologies, “The ‘Nautilus’ and the Drunken Boat”, Roland Barthes, 66

25        Nowhere Less Now, Lindsay Seers

26        The Space of the General: On Labor Beyond Materiality and Immateriality, Chukhrov

27        Mythologies, Roland Barthes, 11

28        Hauntology: A not-so-new critical manifestation, Andrew Gallix

29        Hauntological Futures, James Bridle

30        ADD Metaphysics, “Copying as a Media Form”, Ines Weizman

31        Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost

32        Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost, 81

33        Mythologies, Roland Barthes, 135

34        Speculative Realism, “Concepts and Objects,” Ray Brassier, 47

35        Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost, 58

36        Whitehead, quoted in Alien Phenomenology, 110

37        Mythologies, Roland Barthes, 12

38        Algorithmic Allure, Robert Jackson, 141

39        The Speculative Turn, “Is it Still Possible to be a Hegelian Today?”, Slavoj Zizek, 205

40        Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost, 38

41        Alien Phenomenology, Ian Bogost, 34

42        “Simulacra and Science Fiction”, Two Essays, Jean Baudrillard

43        Manifesto of the Committee to Abolish Outer Space, Sam Kriss, The New Inquiry

_________________________________________

SR ≈ SF

Speculative Realism is and can be a speculative Science Fiction. SR ≈ SF. We are already in an era where sci-fi no longer simply references the world of the classics: or worlds, to be precise. In Baudrillard’s words, there are three orders of simulacra:

(1) Natural, naturalistic simulacra: based on image, imitation, and counterfeiting. They are harmonious, optimistic, and aim at the reconstitution, or the ideal institution, of a nature in God’s image.

(2) Productive, productionist simulacra: based on energy and force, materialized by the machine and the entire system of production. Their aim is Promethean: world-wide application, continuous expansion, liberation of indeterminate energy (desire is part of the utopias belonging to this order of simulacra).

(3) Simulation simulacra: based on information, the model, cybernetic play. Their aim is maximum operationality, hyperreality, total control.

Baudrillard refers to the first order as corresponding to utopia, the second to classic SF and the third to an emerging domain where not only fiction, but theory is also changing. Because our contemporary universe has become so saturated by knowledge - we have conquered space and dominated the production of consumerism in all corners and cracks of the world that reality has become immanent and there is no longer any space for any kind of transcendentalism. Baudrillard proclaims the death of fiction and the dawning of the hyperreal: “Today it is the real which has become the pretext of the model in a world governed by the principle of simulation. And paradoxically, it is the real which has become our true utopia - but a utopia that is no longer a possibility, a utopia we can do no more than dream about, like a lost object […] A hallucination of the real, of the lived, of the everyday—but reconstituted, sometimes even unto its most disconcertingly unusual details, recreated like an animal park or a botanical garden, presented with transparent precision, but totally lacking substance, having been derealized and hyperrealized.”42

Baudrillard cites the works of Philip K. Dick and Ballard’s Crash as the first fictions to depict this condition of reversal, but this third order of sci-fi can also incorporate the novels of writers like critically acclaimed Haruki Murakami, whose Kafka-esque works illustrating alienation and loneliness in seemingly banal and yet stunning surreal realities are metaphorisms conducting the space between our withdrawn perceptions and the startling weirdness of everyday life.

It is a quiet reversal, a silent revolution. It is either that or the outright confrontation of our simulated hyperreality like in the form of Sam Kriss’ satirical (yet frighteningly serious) Manifesto of the Committee to Abolish Outer Space in The New Inquiry, which calls for the banning of the moon, the overthrowing of the sun, the absolute disestablishment of the named planets:

“We said earlier that for us to abolish something does not mean to destroy it. Once the cosmos was thought to be painted on the veil of the firmament, or to be some kind of divine metaphor, a flatness inscribed with thousands of meaningful stories. Since then it’s become outer space, a grotesque emptiness. Space is a site of desecration, an emptiness in which one moves, and moving into space means closing down any chances for Earth. C.A.O.S. is not interested in setting up limits. We want to create a future, not one of tin cans dodging rocks in a void, but a future for human life. To do this we must abolish outer space with all its death and idiocy, and return the cosmos to its proper domain, which is mythology, so that when we look up it will be in fear and wonder, and the knowledge that we live in a world that is not possible.”43

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