attempts at living

to make a system out of delusions

Tag: Exhaustion

Catastrophic antipolitics

In Baudrillard’s catastrophic vision I see a new way of thinking subjectivity: a
reversal of the energetic subjectivation that animates the revolutionary theories
of the 20th century, and the opening of an implosive theory of subversion,
based on depression and exhaustion.

In the activist view exhaustion is seen as the inability of the social body to
escape the vicious destiny that capitalism has prepared: deactivation of the
social energies that once upon a time animated democracy and political
struggle. But exhaustion could also become the beginning of a slow movement
towards a “wu wei” civilization, based on the withdrawal, and frugal
expectations of life and consumption. Radicalism could abandon the mode of
activism, and adopt the mode of passivity. A radical passivity would definitely
threaten the ethos of relentless productivity that neoliberal politics has

-Franco Berardi, After the Future (p.107). 2012.
The mother of all the bubbles, the work bubble, would finally deflate. We have
been working too much during the last three or four centuries, and
outrageously too much during the last thirty years. The current depression
could be the beginning of a massive abandonment of competition, consumerist
drive, and of dependence on work. Actually, if we think of the geopolitical
struggle of the first decade – the struggle between Western domination and
jihadist Islam – we recognize that the most powerful weapon has been suicide.
9/11 is the most impressive act of this suicidal war, but thousands of people
have killed themselves in order to destroy American military hegemony. And
they won, forcing the western world into the bunker of paranoid security, and
defeating the hyper-technological armies of the West both in Iraq, and in

Undoing one’s belt

Precariousness, Catastrophe and Challenging the Blackmail of the Imagination

Franco BIFO Berardi


In the forthcoming future I do not see any predictable form of subjectivation, of resurrection of consciousness and emancipation: the social civilization is over, the Neoliberal precarization of labor and the media dictatorship have destroyed the cultural antibodies that in the past made resistance possible. As far as I know. But what I know is only what I can see from my limited point of observation. The limitations of knowledge present the only potential for ethical imagination in the present age of catastrophe.

In the forthcoming future I do not see any predictable form of subjectivation, of resurrection of consciousness and emancipation: the social civilization is over, the Neoliberal precarization of labor and the media dictatorship have destroyed the cultural antibodies that in the past made resistance possible. As far as I know. But what I know is only what I can see from my limited point of observation, of course.

In the 20th century the moral revolt against exploitation was based on the realistic prospect of winning the autonomy of society from the cultural and economic domination of capitalism. This was a realistic approach based on the analysis of actual lived and material conditions.
But during the last decades I have witnessed a mutation of possibility induced by the shifts in capitalist economy, and I have come to think that this mutation is irreversible: not only has it affected the social sphere but also the semiotic, biological and psychic spheres.
Therefore, my knowledge and my understanding cause me to disown the possibility of an alternative society.

The dissociation of capitalism and modernity is accomplished: capitalist rule is liquidating modern civilization. Humanism, enlightenment, socialism and the cultural regulators of modern democracy have been swept away by the forms of cultural, economic and social deregulation that is implied in capitals final assault. The privatization of every living space and activity and the spread of competition and economic brutality through the social sphere have deeply affected the self-perception of the social body. In my knowledge and my understanding this process seems now inevitable and irreversible. Not only has it destroyed the structures of social civilization that modernity created, it has also jeopardized the affective fabric of the social environment and reprogrammed the cultural expectations of the new generation.

My knowledge and my understanding do not show the possibility of any acceptable development out of the present catastrophe. But catastrophe, a word whose etymology stems from the Greek Kata (for moving) and Strophein, (for beyond), is exactly the point where we move beyond the present and a new landscape is revealed. I do not see that landscape because my knowledge and my understanding are limited, and the limits of my language are the limits of my world.
My knowledge and understanding are missing the event, the singularity that might open onto that new landscape

So I must act as if.

As if the forces of labor and knowledge may overcome the forces of greed. As if the cognitive workers may overcome the fractalization of their life and intelligence. I must resist simply because I cannot know what is happening after the future, and I must preserve the consciousness and sensibility of social solidarity, of human empathy, of gratuitous activity, of freedom, equality and fraternity. Just in case, right?

We dont know what is going to happen next, in the empty space that comes after the future of modernity. I must continue to resist because this is the only way to be in peace with myself. In the name of self-love, we must resist. And self-love (by which I mean loving myself (and by extension others) as a social, cooperating, laboring, loving body) is the basic ethical rule that I prize, and which capitalism does not.

Our present ignorance of what might come has to be seen as the space of a possibility. We have to start from the ignorance of the general intellect. The force of our collective intelligence in boundless. Theoretically. But it lacks any consciousness of itself. Intelligence without self-consciousness. I am talking of the self-consciousness of the general intellect, millions and millions of people worldwide producing the info-flow that makes the planet go around.

Creating a form of self-consciousness of the general intellect is the political task of the future. And it is not only political, but philosophical, epistemological, and, in the end, therapeutic. Poetry and therapy (thera-poetry) will be the forces leading to the creation of a cognitarian self-consciousness: not a political party, not the organization of interests, but the reactivation of the cognitarian sensibility. The ignorance of the general intellect is the starting point.

Why are the cognitarians weak, disunited and unable to assert their rights as laborers, and their knowledge as researchers? Because they live in a dimidiated form: their collective brain is detached from their collective body; their communication is less and less a conjunction of minds and bodies and more and more a connection of frozen digitalized fragments. The new space of activism is here, in the meeting point of poetry and theory and creation of new paradigms.

Our knowledge and understanding are unable to grasp the singularity which is around the corner. Only radical imagination can do it. What is imagination? I would say that imagination is the cognitive faculty which recombines the contents of our memory and of our experience in a creative way. Radical imagination today essentially means imagination free from the blackmail of the economy, free from the epistemological domination of economics.

The global collapse of September 2008 marks the impossibility of a new start inside the frame of economic thought. Throughout the history of civilization perception has been molded by artificial regimes of images and techniques of representation. Through digital technology the image begins to proliferate vertiginously and our faculty of imagination undergoes rapid acceleration. The image is not the mere perception of empirical data brought to our visual attention by material reality: it is rather the effect of a semi-conscious elaboration within our minds as the image mingles with our previous experiences, our hopes, fears and desires. As a result the social, historical and technical mode in which we receive and elaborate images acts upon the formation of the imaginary. The imaginary in turn shapes the imagination, the activity whereby we produce images and imaginary worlds, which precedes us being able to bring those into being in real life. The repertoire of images at our disposal limits, exalts, amplifies or circumscribes the forms of life and events that, through our imagination, we can project onto the world, put into being, build and inhabit. Techno-communicative and psycho-cognitive mutations are as interdependent as organisms and their ecosystems. The conscious organism is also a sensuous organism, a bundle of sensitive receptors. We become thinking, imagining, social and cooperative beings not only through thought but also through sensing and feeling.

The world we inhabit today looks like the projection of fragments, images of various origin that we combine in various sequences. Therefore, the nucleus of personal identity is fleeing and dissolving in all directions. Radical imagination is the ability to recombine the contents of our experience of exploitation, of suffering, of exhaustion, in a way that Felix Guattari would label creation of a new retournelle, Chaosmose, calling forth of a new relationship between the environment and the human organism.


Catastrophe is an action bringing ruin and pain on stage, where corpses are seen and wounds and other similar sufferings are performed

Aristotle, Poetics

Whoever writes, no matter the form that writing takes, is pushed on by some kind of obsession, no matter what intensity that obsession reaches or fails to reach. What is mine? I survey the history of my productions and reproductions.

Short texts on obliterated sculpture, wastelands, abandoned and decaying spaces, deserts- an aesthetic of urban collapse;

depressions, schziophrenia, epidemics of anxiety and panic being produced by the excessive demands of capitalism’s infosphere, the post-traumatic subjectivity that becomes hegemonic in these last days of capital’s reign- the neuropsychological collapse of eviscerated minds;

the Inevitable, both proximate and distal in the forms of the perishing of the individual organism in human death and in considerations of entropy, heat-death of the universe, and ecological catastophe- the intimate and cosmic levels of material collapse.

I seek out films about the end of the world, and the destruction of populations. I seek out body-horror and science fiction, zombie films and, although less so now, the cold music of inhumanity and monstrosity in industrial and blackmetal. I read widely but return again and again to the catastrophic novels of Ballard, Kafka and Houellebecq, to the linguistic excess and overload of Ieonescu and Steve Aylett. Philosophically, I can’t and haven’t ever been able to dissociate myself from the first adolescent truths that dawned on me. I remain entrenched in a philosophical pessimism.

What then is my obsession?

Some are driven by a love of truth and they are called philosophers. I am not driven by such philosophia. The truth is abject and indifferent and entirely in-itself. Who could have such passion for such a passionless thing as truth?

No. I am driven by the catastrophic thought, by an obsession with the wound and the ruin, the collapsing and the ecstatic, the obscene figures of human and nonhuman suffering, the withdrawn core of things concieved of as the thing in itself that doesn’t simply remain hidden but which actively resists actualisation. The end of the world as it’s apotheosis.

My obsession, in a word, is a catastrophia. This is why I return to the question of life, the question that that of death is really asking. Life concieved as objectively catastrophic, accidental, horrific.

Radical Denial

And this is why for the last 40 years or so, since post-structuralism came on the scene around the failed revolutions of 1968, we’ve all been skeptics of a sort. We’ve traced the same anti-systems. A few more have come along, but basically, any attempt to say anything must first reveal itself as at least an anti-system, never a system. And so, any system produced today has to really be about how systems are produced, and how we’re not really saying anything, but simply being manipulated.

Of course, all of this makes sense in the age of late capitalism, and the rise of what many have called postmodernism. Lyotard argues that post-modernism isn’t just a contemporary phenomenon, it’s what happens whenever a society breaks with its attempts to break with the past. That is, societies have values which come from repetitions of the past. At some point, they decide to break with these, and this is what is known as modernism. “We won’t be like our parents!,” people say. But after a period, people come to realize that they aren’t as different as they seemed, and much of what they are opposed to has seeped into their positions, if in reverse. Like a rebellious teen who does the opposite of whatever their parents desire, only to realize that this is being controlled by them in reverse. The result is a loss of modernist and traditional confidence in belief in general. Everything is possible, but nothing really real. It’s all images, lies, simulacra. This is postmodernism. For Lyotard, this happened in the late Roman empire, and any so-called ‘decadent’ period of the past, is happening in what is now often called ‘late capitalism,’ and such cycles will repeat again in the future.

But does that mean we need to deceive ourselves? Lie to ourselves, so we can believe something again? Certainly this is what Nietzsche would have said. In his famous essay on “Truth and Lies in an Extramoral Sense,” he argues that all language is lies (proto-deconstruction!), and so is philosophy and all thought. The question isn’t whether or not we’re lying to ourselves, because we always are. The question is which lies are better than others. Those who pretend they’re not lying to themselves are the most dangerous liars, they fully believe their own lies. But those who realize they’re lying to themselves can ask the question of which lies they want to believe. It becomes a question of values. What type of world do we want to live in, what colors do we want to paint our world?

Deleuze is the most anomalous of the bunch. And perhaps this is why, towards the end of the twentieth century, it was Deleuze that so many philosophers so as a path beyond the crises of post-structuralism. Deleuze felt that all philosophy was a result of the play of the virtual, that which could never be captured by any worldly embodiment thereof. Deleuze’s skepticism was in this sense broader than that of his peers. Rather than see language, or the economy, or power, or the unconscious, as the source of simulation, he sees the world itself as one giant simulation of itself, a world-cinema in which all are images, and all images are real, but none as real as that agency which produces images and yet is captured fully by none of them. The virtual, Deleuze’s name for this force, is everywhere actualizing, but nowhere fully actualized. And this is the opening to freedom. It’s all false, which is why at points Deleuze speaks of the “powers of the false” which is to say, the wonderful power to produce new worlds.

Chris Vitale. 2012. ‘Speculative Realism, Deconstruction. and Post-Structuralism: Can We Start Philosophizing Again, Or Is That Just Naive?’ Read in full at networkologies.

Deleuze, Ballard, Baudrillard…certain strains of Gnosticism… circle round and round. To lie is to create, to produce… the identity of ontology and aesthetics. And here, below, I reproduce something I wrote two years ago. The stability and continuity of that thought with this time, two years hence, speaks of an intellectual laziness brought on by concerns with actually living. What remains though is the idea that incorporeals are themselves material, that Illusions are as real as those things invested with a more obvious, sensuous (Feuerbachian) materiality. Perhaps I am still entralled by early influences, the brief adolescent love affair with Max Stirner…the undergraduate in me who was certain of the impossibility of the Absolute that Hegel’s system in the Phenomenology logically implied, the materiality of Giest. Conflations and confusions. I groped then for understanding and still grope now. Here is what I had to say then, what I still have to say…

Thus we are not exactly real for one another, nor are quite real even to ourselves. And this alterity is our best chance of attracting and being attracted to others, of seducing and being seduced. Put simply, our chance at life.

The alterity that Baudrillard refers to here is that created, or maintained, by Illusion. In this passage from The vital illusion Baudrillard is quite clear that for him, just as for myself, Illusion is not something to be conceived of in its distance from the real as an error or contamination. There is no Fall in this, or if there is then the Fall is constitutive and there is no possibility of any prior Edenic state, no golden age, and at the same time no possibility for any nostalgia for such a time.

In the image above we have an approximation of the real of sex when we view all the extra layers we experience it through as rectified and removed. It is presented stripped of its various possible aspects (as love union; one night stand; hedonistic act; violence; social relationship; property mediator; reproductive act conceived within a Darwinan or genetic discourse; an act of consumption or production; a social ritual replete with codes and entrenched with meaning). Here sex appears naked. We appear naked. Our bodies appear naked. Muscle, cartilage, grey matter and so on. The entire assemblage of the two bodies. They appear in a macabre manner but also slightly ridiculous and explicitly, we realise, in a carefully posed manner, and their is certainly a truth to all this. In sex we can be macabre, we are ridiculous and we do take up carefully learned poses, moves, gestures.

Yet we do not fully recognise ourselves in this image. The dead are fucking! It is obscene. Yet not out of some fictive respect for the dead, such is pure delusion as we have never truly respected our dead. Instead we have philosophies that laud death itself, giving all respect to the idea alone at the expense of those who pass through it and cease. Perhaps it is the lack of skin, the sheen of continuity, or the absence of faces. Yet neither Freud nor Levinas will do. Rather, they will both do. The key is the illusion. We are appalled because here we are faced with ourselves, stripped of our Illusions. Those fantasies that pattern our inner existence; whatever it is we mean by subjectivity, whatever we mean by unconscious or mind.

These illusion are, for Baudrillard, ‘radical and objective’ as denoting the deferral or splitting of things from themselves, the ‘definitive absence from themselves’ of things. These illusions are a distinctly human affair in Baudrillard but why should this be so? The human is a thing as much as any other and there is the possibility of the truth of panpsychism.

In Graham Harman’s object-oriented philosophy objects withdraw from themselves and from all other objects, including but certainly not exclusively limited to that particular object named ‘human’. Here I wonder, isn’t Baudrillard’s Illusion incredibly close to Harman’s own concept of Allure which is ‘the separation of an object from its qualities’ which Avoiding the Void goes on to note, in a dictionary of Harman’s very poetic terminology, as an object’s ’seductive power as it alludes to a things mysterious depths beyond its qualities’[emphasis added].

Likewise in Levi Bryant‘s onticology, which I have much more time for for reasons I can’t really explain, he claims that ‘What OOO rejects is the thesis that objects are their relations. There is a vast difference between the claim that there are only relations, and the claim that there are objects and the relations objects enter into. The former is ontological relationism, the latter is what OOO claims’. The object that proceeds and exceeds its entrance into any particular (set) of relation(s) is, if I understand Bryant at all correctly, what he calls its proper being which exists as virtuality. No object, therefore, is ever fully actualised. There can be no exhaustion of an object in whatever mesh or assemblage or network it enters into, something always remains of it. Something seductively withdrawn from access. Of course the thrust of this last point is shared by all the (post?) speculative realist philosophers in one variant of another.

This may be philosophically crude at best but I want to focus on simply this notion that for both Harman and Bryant objects are withdrawn, remaining in some sense virtual (to risk conflating two different systems). In the same passage cited above we find these words:

‘Everyone knows that the light of stars needs a very long time to reach us; sometimes we perceive it after the star itself has disappeared. This gap between the star as virtual source and its perception by us, this non-simultaneity, is an inescapable part of the illusion of the world, the absence at the heart of the world that constitutes the illusion.’

This illusion is what allows human being to orientate themselves to something they can live through, share and call reality. It may not be the real as such, the virtual source/being, from which the perception, the ‘as-it-appear-to-us’, that part of it that becomes accessible to human beings but it is vitally necessary for humanity to exist as it does. Given speculative realism’s rejection of correlationism we can also safely posit that all other objects enter into similar relationships whereby they never attend to the virtual source only (if this is itself not correlationist language) to some ‘perception’, the mode of disclosure that that relationship conditions or promotes.

I raise this tentative connection with Baudrillard in order to observe that for him the disappearance of the real is simultaneously the disappearance of the Illusion of the world. For Baurdrillard the disappearance of the real does not occur because it has been rendered non-actual or somehow or other made into less than real but precisely by its relentless actualisation, its too-muchness; ‘It is the excess of reality that puts an end to reality’. This excessive reality leaves no gap for the Illusion, a hyperbolic actualism obliterates the virtual. Perhaps we could think of a nuclear explosion, or a bomb that was so destructive as to leave not a trace of its target. This weapon would reach down deep into the depths of the zone of withdrawal that is proper to the object-target and, in coming into relation with every possible aspect of that object, would tease out every virtuality, would (in B.’s terminology) make obscene every point of seduction. Such would be a reality bomb, as devised by the Daleks in an episode of the re-booted Dr.Who. In this way, actualism is the enemy of the real by depriving it of its virtuality. The Illusion is necessary. The Illusion is integral to the real.

It is for this reason that I wonder whether it could be that the proliferation of new realist positions point to the vanishing of the real. Even the name ‘speculative realism’, to take it out of context, harbours the suspicion that reality is now a matter of speculation or that it requires such speculation, at least that is from our limited perspective. As the real vanishes from view we develop strategies that would sure it up, we gamble on the possibility that it is we are not finally cut off from its domain, that there is still objects and that we are still among them.

Perhaps this goes some way to giving a ‘subterranean’ explanation of Harman’s positing of a universe carved up into discreet objects. However much people may disagree with him, Harman’s system is an attempt to remind us that the real still exists. It is, as Bryant has stated elsewhere, a result of the fact that in our emphasis on process we have left behind the things at work in these processes just as, as we have focussed on time, we have forgotten the importance of space.

This is not a project of resuscitating the real, philosophically or otherwise, as the real has and continues to exist quite aside from our interventions (sometimes incredibly so, given our history). Of course such an idea would have to be discounted from the outset as we ourselves are of, through, in and because of the real. It is merely that insofar as we have conceived of it, and insofar as this impacts and shapes our experiencing of it, we have forgotten the real in a mad accelerative thrust towards transparency. To make everything visible by first making everything actual. It is not to save the real but to respect it and in doing so, perhaps, to save one particular parcel of it; ourselves. Maybe this is why onticology is crucial to our social and political endeavours.

An object is any difference that makes a difference, in Bryant’s (re)formulation. Illusion makes much difference. We must conclude that illusion itself is real. The eliminativist picture, nicely depicted in a certain manner by the image atop this post, can only be considered incorrect from this realisation. An Illusion that is real. Could this be a (gnostically) philosophical definition of the scientific concept of emergence?

For Baudrillard we would enter the world of simulation when objects become merely signs- that is when the philosophical linguistic turn generalises itself- and until such a time only ‘principle of simulation governs us’, and clearly speculative realism, the new materialisms, and the New Aesthetic all signal that even this principle may be in recession: the nonhuman turn signals a revalorisation of Illusion. As Baudrillard wrote in Art and Artefact:

The illusion of the world cannot be dispelled (1996a:19) – from its very beginning the world has never been – as realism believes – identical with itself, never real .

Here is the strangeness, or weirdness if you prefer, of the realism that I am trying, and probably failing, to extract from Baudrillard. The realism that he is decrying, which states that the world is identical with itself is precisely that naive realism that does not take heed of the fact that things are not what they are but are really hidden away in the space of Illusion, which is a space beyond mere appearance- the real detached from the sensuous, the phenomenal aura. Another way of phrasing this space is as the space of disappearance. More strictly of dis-appearance; this very break or split that both establishes and undermines the reality of things. As Baudrillard writes in the paper ‘Photographies’

Objects are such that, in themselves, their disappearance changes them. It is in this sense that they deceive us, that they generate illusion. But it is in this sense too that they are faithful to themselves, and we must be faithful to them: in their minute detail, in their exact figuration, in the sensuous illusion of their appearance and connectedness. For illusion is not the opposite of reality, but another more subtle reality which enwraps the former kind in the sign of its disappearance.

As Chris Vitale contends, in the quoted text that opened this post, the cry of postmodernists, or more so their critics, is that its ‘It’s all images, lies, simulacra!’ Yet we can rejoin that it has always been images, lies and simulcra and that the postmodernist, and the legacy of post-structuralism, is to a kind of sadness of this fact. We could say that in choosing genealogy as his method Foucault wanted to find the uncontaminated outside of his own anti-system, the original place of genesis that was itself not subjected to and subject of the generative powers of Illusion.

One might ask why I prefer to focus on Baudrillard than Deleuze. I make so much work for myself in this way. It may simply be a matter of temperament or taste. It is simply that I can’t go along with the ringing optimism of a Deleuze, feel a repulsion to the affirmationism that his thought is so often identified with, often with good reason. The difference between Deleuze and Baudrillard is one of tenor, the latter being steeped in the noxious air of pessimism; steeped in it but still able to breath in it. It is the difference that means that while Vitale can claim that the virtual is ‘a force’ somehow ‘more real’ than it’s actualisations, something which I don’t think is true, the same could not be claimed of Baudrillard’s illusion.

It’s space is one of disappearance, of being unable or refusing to appear so that what is given in appearance is partial and the result of withdrawal rather than outburst (or their conflation) means that the ‘illusion’ cannot be placed into a hierarchy. Simply, the appearance of an object is akin to it’s encrustations, it’s outer epithelium: dead skin. The actualised portion of things is the product of a kind of death (hence Baudrillard’s constant exhortation that it is not enough that we learn how to die but that we learn how to disappear. It is in this sense that my silly and playful term, autopsy vitalism, makes sense.

Thus when Baudrillard claims in the paper ‘Integral Reality’

“Does reality exist ? Are we in a real world ? Such obsessive questions, which are the pervasive leit-motiv of our culture, simply expresses the fact that the world, trapped in the claws of reality, is bearable now only under the sign, in the shadow of the principle of Evil, that is in the form, whatever it may be, of a basic and radical denial.”

he is not setting up this ‘radical denial’ as complete and successful because, under his own insistence, it must be that any such denial would necessarily fail. This, finally, is the difference between Deleuze and Baudrillard- and for that matter probably of Ballard too. The only way in which anything can be affirmed is by way of its catastrophic aspect, its woundedness, the parts of it that are falling apart back into the space of illusion. Negation is the engine of creation and skepticism is a paradoxical affirmation.

If we want to get out or away from post-structuralism then I would think that this is a good direction to go in. Hidden away in all this is the assumption that the only way to get at a realism, to be able to say something again, is to preserve post-structuralism as just that moment of denial. The way out of our naivety (realist and constructivist) is to affirm the denial. Reality doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as the real world. The real is a lie. Objects are illusions. To say all this is to break through the phenomenal world and get at what lies underneath; the illusion that is real, and we can choose (some) of our illusions. In the end it is enough that we be realists of a kind, and that we again speculate… but choosing an allegiance, that might be too far. The point is that it is reality itself that is speculative.

I suspect that this is all a jumbled heap of nonsense. It’s not really that important. No suffering went into this, so it’s hardly a work of art. It passed the time and sated an urge to write. That’s enough for me.You judge it by your own criterion.

and other vermin

like a dog
tied to a lamppost
i am shivering
in the light of such Conviction.
these fake limbs
and false movements,
through locked-jaws,
but i am holding on.
somehow recollected
on the backseat of
Saturday night taxis,
i’ve abandoned more beliefs
than you’ll ever hold
and all wrapped up as modern virtue,
and in promises of wonderful things
and other vermin.
flounder in the sunlight,
flounder in the darkness,
our grip itself prosthetic,
something useless
whispered in the universe’s ear.

An indifferent and arrogant reply to Christian Thorne

Henceforth, the term ‘political ontology’ will be met only with derision. This is the decree of every object, and I embrace my own object-existence. Politics might not have a leg to stand on…but isn’t that what makes it political? We used to fret about the aesthetisation of poltics…maybe we ought to realise that all our Visions and declarations are a matter of aesthetics. Why else would people still call up the meaningless name of Revolution? There is no reason, except for the nostalgia of a Form that has been surpassed.

While we argue the basis of our politics, the stars still burn out, the oceans still rise. Let us acknowledge the simplicity of things: we want to feel good and we do not want to die…the rest is aesthetics and a question of who and what we include in this ‘we’, a pronoun which is impertinent whoever speaks it.

The names for things are like the stars…they flash into existence and burn brighter or dimmer before they are of their own accord finally extinguished. Ontography, onticology, object-oriented philosophy, vital materialism, eliminative materialism, nihilist naturalism……………whatever, whatever… let the system builders have their names.

I echo that old anarchist, Renzo Novatore…. my priniple is Life and my end is Death.

What else can I legitimately say of myself and of anything that may come forth from me, embedded in multiple systems that are themselves living and on their way towards death.

Everything is catastrophic. So let’s give birth to a new nomenclature: pessimistic potentialism; ontocatastrophism; moribund materialism; exhaustionism; indifferential ontocartography; autopsy vitalism. These names are as serious and as ridiculous as those given to any other philosophical movement. They are, in a stolen phrase, my own nonsensical philosomemes.

If melting icecaps aren’t to be affirmed, perhaps its because they hasten death, they hasten an Inevitability. We can of course choose the Inevitable…and in many ways that is precisely what we should do.

If this isn’t much of a reply it is perhaps because I’m not defending the position that Thorne has attacked… I’m not defending anything at all. What is left that is worth defending?

Autopsy vitalism. Isn’t that poetic?

Bifo: Exhaustion as post-futurist mood

Many have accused Bifo of being banal, especially in his rethinking of communism as a kind of therapeutic singularity(perhaps this follows from my belief in capitalism as a motor for psychopathology and a movement into the practical field of mental health practice). I find his work the only ‘communist’ project I can engage in, articulating as it does the Gramscian will of optimism and intellect of pessimism. I can quite happily admit to being a complete Bifo fanboy.

Bifo finds in the term I’ve been using to describe our current condition, ‘Exhaustion’, as something we ought not resist but make use of.

Only if we are able to disentangle the future (the perception of the future, the concept of the future, and the very production of the future) from the traps of growth and investment will we find a way out of the vicious subjugation of life, wealth, and pleasure to the financial abstraction of semiocapital. The key to this disentanglement can be found in a new form of wisdom: harmonizing with exhaustion.

Exhaustion is a cursed word in the frame of modern culture, which is based on the cult of energy and the cult of male aggressiveness. But energy is fading in the postmodern world for many reasons that are easy to detect. Demographic trends reveal that, as life expectancy increases and birth rate decreases, mankind as a whole is growing old. This process of general aging produces a sense of exhaustion, and what was once considered a blessing—increased life expectancy—may become a misfortune if the myth of energy is not restrained and replaced with a myth of solidarity and compassion.

– Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi

Read in full here.

I’ll also post this video again which is a kind of precis of Bifo’s recent work:

I am unable to disagree that Exhaustion is first of all the Exhaustion of the future.

I’ll also embed this recent talk by Bifo for the e-flux journal.


On the one hand I can’t help characterise the stubborn going on of human lives as driven by compulsion, irrationality and addiction. The same thing stated outside the language of deficit; we human beings are the bearers of an incredible existential resilience. Yet this isn’t just the idea of psychological resilience, though surely it includes it. Rather, the individual human being, being only the name of a particular kind of system among others, owns its share in an ecological theory of resilience. Typically defined, ecological resilience is said to be: “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks”.[1]. An important reminder here; all systems eventually fail, all resilience reaches thresholds beyond which it is incapable.

Resilience, first of all, in the face of Exhaustion.

On the Nursing home: Google spell-check corrects ‘Korsakoff’s’ as ‘God-forsaken’

Korsakoff’s syndrome (also called Korsakoff’s dementia, Korsakov’s syndrome, Korsakoff’s psychosis, or amnesic-confabulatory syndrome) is a neurological disorder caused by the lack of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the brain. Its onset is linked to chronic alcohol abuse and/or severe malnutrition. The syndrome is named after Sergei Korsakoff, the neuropsychiatrist who popularized the theory.

humanity cannot be exacerbated, but only aborted
Nick Land, The thirst for annihilation

Maybe it would be better if we abandoned even the word ‘life’ and spoke only of existence.

What function the nursing home? Obviously, it is a place for the elderly- nay, ‘older adult’- to be cared for when bathtubs might as well be Alpine expeditions and the mind is a kind of soggy porridge on an eternal cold morning in which coins have no names and the front door is a barricade against senseless things. Except everyone who isn’t terminally thick knows that that is bullshit. The ideal expression of a nursing home is the image of asylum, it’s last operating domain, where granddad can have the dignity of having his shit cleaned off him by saintly men and women who pay no attention to his sad, wilted cock.

We all know the truth about it. None of us wants to end up ‘in one of those places’. The underpaid and surly staff hate their jobs and turn up hungover, still pissed or coming down off the weekend before. Your body or your brain has given up. Your an image of the horror of mortality, far more terrifying than a corpse (which at least has a certain abject glamour). You eat by a schedule, looking forward to meals you’d never prepare yourself, wake and sleep by a schedule, often being dressed at 5am before being told to go back to sleep, and appear as the tragic star of news headlines or TV shows that streak sensations of neglect. You haven’t a name any more, at least not one even muttered in public. Forget about desire and probably even your memories of your best fucks have gone. It isn’t right but it’s the state of things, and when was that ever right?

No. The nursing home serves a more obvious function. The frail elderly, the ‘elderly mentally infirm’- a term still widely in operation- are sequestered away from a youthful gaze and left to rot. Therapies exist, and recreation, but with this number of staff off sick and the holidays a few weeks away? Out of sight we let our old people die by silent, unobserved degrees; catheterised for crucifixion. Like Foucault’s prison the nursing home is a panopticon in which the old will be old, hence why so many go in relatively able, suffer decline and then suddenly die. A man who is healthy might drown in accumulated fluid. A woman might be so impacted with shit that she can’t bear the strain. Walk around an elderly medical ward, witness the psychometric testing designed to index deficits exclusively, the Addenbrook’s allowing the professional to chart your landing trajectory while you absent mindedly pilot yourself toward the grave.

The obsession with youth breeds this kind of thing. The body as key representation, resource, mode of exchange; the principle of Life our last remaining perversion of virtue. Life is the name of an excess to life that the living can only name without ever knowing. We might experience living but there are no lives, only attempts at living. Exhaustion implies not so much a chiasmic phenomenology but a visceral vitalism. Is it coincidence that the last term is seeing a resurgence at a time when life as such is in question? But not simply an obsession with youth, an obsession that goes deeper than advertising and cosmetics (although held aloft by these), deeper than a prosthetic industry (isn’t all industry aiming at and itself prosthesis?), deeper than the charting and re-charting of the genetic cartographies heralded by the genome project, stem-cell research, cloning, all the biotechnologies. Life is what escapes us or what we hope escapes. Bodies become ever more malleable as they become more understood. More receptive to fundamental alterations far beyond sun tans and psychotropics. But we still don’t know what it is to be a live, to be a life.

But don’t get upset about it. It’s not all doom and gloom. We’re young yet. And look how the old mount up. We have to put them somewhere out the way where their bodies can be successfully managed until death finally frees us from them. Such a burden! And let’s not visit to often because they always stink of piss and we’d only have to face up to our own destiny. Know one fears death only the failure of the body and the strange familiarity on those erased faces. Occasionally one will lash out, a Korsakoff’s patient, displaying a flash of life we can only begrudgingly admire or shake our head over muttering how its such a shame, she used to be such and such…the implication being these are those who are not alive, not a life. They do not count in the scheme of things, as if things could or would scheme in some certain way.

So we can go on swimming and laughing and running and smoking and drinking and filling ourselves up with all those delicious chemicals. We can day-dream endlessly about that one day or about a retirement spent in the countryside or on the coast. We dream up children and grandchildren imagining they will recognise us as like them. As always, we’re engaged in a great labour of delusion- man’s original prosthesis.

The nursing home is our promise to ourselves that we are not those old people and never will be. What dignity in starving slowly to death? In batteries of futile chemo-and-radiotherapies? The nursing home is a place we might visit or that we might work in and so we might domesticate old age and the failed body, we might hide the facts from our brave representations. It is a cage for our anxieties to come to life in, populated by euphemistically called ‘residents’. The elderly in their stagnant homes reassure us that life is knowable, manageable, open for domestication, that we possess it or relate to it in any significant way. That it is ours.

I’m struck by the word ‘resident”s dual meaning: On the one hand a patient in a long stay facility and on the other a medic in their postgrad training. I propose a new way of looking away from the elderly, being every bit as prone to the protective arrogance of my species as it finds itself in this society and at this time. The elderly in the ‘Home’ are really at home. They are in training. They have graduated from struggling to live a life, to be a life, to know of what life consists. They are readying and being readied to abandon ‘Life’ itself and to enact an absolute negation, however involuntarily. Passing from the domain of Life into in-existence, dispersing their material components to be reintegrated, cannibalised, by other parts of the existent. To return to…(it doesn’t) matter.

But that is all too romantic, buying into the same bullshit nostalgia for youth that the we assemble from the disavowal of our old age and, what’s more, from the old age of the universe itself; further back than that, from its ancestrality, it’s completely impersonal brute existence that has nothing whatsoever with our desire to narrate ourselves to the centre of every fucking thing. Returning to Foucault’s prison, the nursing home might be the truest representation of our relationships, our philosophies, our politics. We exist in the disavowed knowledge of our Exhaustion. We are, each one of us, dissolution. Our love is vanishing. Our hope, such as it is, is premised on the certainty of our total disappearance. We are delirious when we talk about Life; eventually everything decays, everything erodes, everything collapses and is swept away, imploding inward on itself. Totally God-forsaken, we remain enthralled to our biotic presence, unable to remove ourselves from the scene.

Bardo Pond

And having come this far we will carry on, rising ever higher in our own esteem, transmitting ever louder and ever more tangentially while the earth lies buried beneath our debris and the clouds grow denser with our cancers. A man will board a tube carriage and be taken miles away from where he cried, unseen by his colleagues, for reasons obscure to either himself or the nakedness of the photocopier against which he leant. A woman will dry herself down from stepping out of the shower and pad across a white tiled floor, her body shivering gently and miasmic amid steam, approaching the mirror she despises. Another imperfection on her skin. Still the sodden clump of hammered meat faces her, thinking herself fit only for the ceramic fit or for the butcher. Lives populate rural wastes. A husband clings to his wife’s breast, apologising from some misdeed that he knows he is ready to commit again. Storytellers spinning yarns, and all of us sophisticates who see through it all and have extinguished that ability called belief. Our desires are dark against the lighter shades of the illiterate; that mass we name as our last necessary illusion…the subject supposed to believe. I light another cigarette and adjust the light beside my bed, renouncing sleep. The long white stick is optimistic in my mouth; aglow, erect. I yearn for the collective confessions of other places, to go flagellating anonymously through streets populated now by the last revellers of the night. What phase of history is this? Stumbling on despite it all, enraptured with the emptiness of living; our despairs have amphetamine shimmering, our miseries a gossamer light, in ecstasy with destruction, in love with a glare that is the sun burning itself dead.