Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fatal Detail/Final Instruction

Little did I know that I would end up back where I begun. The final instruction for Part 1 is to create a "figure" using a small, seemingly insignificant but fatal detail of our accident--something that "sent" us this accident, something that spoke to us and spoke to the entire metaphysics of the accident. Since we are using the logic of electracy, we are using the logic of signifiers, resemblances, associations, "punctum" (even if it might not be emotional). . .something, if we want to use the term "subjective" (although it reveals the collective subject).

Object CAUSE of the desire. . .not the thing desired itself (ABSURD DETAIL--synthome). . a meaningless signifier that organizes the whole (ob)scene, which itself doesn’t mean ANYTHING.  ­The Fetish shows you the fatal (pre-destined) of the scene. . .we’ll know it through its fatality à something in the disaster that ‘sent me’ this accident. Cannot stop it—its irreparable. We’ve got to know what’s SENT TO US SO WE CAN ACT. (class notes)

Part of this instruction is that we want to abstract the forces at work in our accident rather than the things--this is another way to understand that we are looking for a relation (in the sense that Ulmer talked about the commodity not as a thing, but as a relationship). Thus, rather than looking at a particular scene (to use Baudrillardian terminology) of my accident--e.g. the drag line, the mountains, the coal slurry--and rather than trying to synthesize them, I tried to use my visual association and description to think about a particular image. At first, I thought maybe it would be int he drag line itself, since Ulmer claims that we need to learn to "speak to our machines," but the above pictures were also in a sense created by 'machines' (the coal cleaning machines).

If we recall one of my very first attempts at an image, I recognized that the second picture above looked to me like black lava--volcanic residue. Thus, I attempted to juxtapose this image over the mountains, making it seems as though the mountains were turned into a powerful volcanic/lava force (first figure above). If we are talking about describing the forces, we can understand the coal slurry force as volcanic (this is the power we harvest from it). The power of the volcano relates explicitly to Baudrillard's example of Pompeii, which is a key passage Ulmer cites on Routine for describing our accident as metaphysical:

"Pompeii: everything is metaphysical in this city [. . .] Neither monumentality nor beauty are essentail to Pompeii, only the fatal intimacy of things, the fascination of their instantaneity as well as as that of the perfect simulacrum of our own death" (Baudrillard 42).

Furthermore, the volcano relates explicitly to one of Virillio's photographs in his Museum of Accidents: Clark Air Force Base. This is one of photos I used in my presentation.

But finally, and most importantly, it relates to my particular accident.

As I sat and thought about these two photos above, I was thinking. . .what does that coal slurry look like? What other substance than coal does it look like? What is its texture, its color, its materiality? And then I had it (and I could only hope that I could connect these two things conceptually): OBSIDIAN

The materiality of obsidian also looks remarkably like coal as well as coal slurry:

 But it is smoother, it basically looks like washed and smoothed out coal. Obsidian also suggests a pun on Baudrillard's notion of "obscene" ("obsi(n)dian) a serendipitous (or perhaps fatal) detail. The coal slurry loses its "scene" within the mountains and becomes an obscene sludge lodged in the valley--an accident waiting to happen.

Also, on a personal level, when I was a kid I loved obsidian--it fascinated me, it seduced me, it was one of my favorite rocks. I remember I had a reproduction of an arrowhead made out of obsidian from the geology center just outside my hometown. I don't know what happened to it, but it was precious to me. . .i loved the smoothness of it--god how seductive. . .

Obsidian, according to Wikipedia is "is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth. Obsidian is commonly found within the margins of rhyolitic lava flows known as obsidian flows, where the chemical composition (high silica content) induces a high viscosity and polymerization degree of the lava. The inhibition of atomic diffusion through this highly viscous and polymerized lava explains the lack of crystal growth. Because of this lack of crystal structure, obsidian blade edges can reach almost molecular thinness, leading to its ancient use as projectile points and blades, and its modern use as surgical scalpel blades.[1][2]

Thus, obsidian connects with the "force" of the volcano that I found inherent in the lava-like substance of the coal slurry! I couldn't believe my luck! But, of course, it was not luck--it was fate. . .it was that "series of fatal throws" as Baudrillard puts it. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, obsidian is not just a precious and seductive object, but it was also something like a commodity/gift in other cultures (the gift-giving cultures). Wikipedia writes, 

"Native American people traded obsidian throughout the Americas. Each volcano and in some cases each volcanic eruption produces a distinguishable type of obsidian, making it possible for archaeologists to trace the origins of a particular artifact. Similar tracing techniques have allowed obsidian to be identified in Greece also as coming from Melos, Nisyros or Yiali, islands in the Aegean Sea. Obsidian cores and blades were traded great distances inland from the coast.[citation needed]" 
And is backed up: here

Obsidian was also used to make ancient tools and weapons--thus, a crucial rock for the production of Technics!

Obsidian, like coal slurry, is created by the accident--the detritus of the volcano (not the volcano itself). Coal slurry we do not think as a commodity, a way of exchange, but using electrate logic I have found a connection between the properties of coal slurry (although it is not always hard like obsidian) and an essential (and yet accidental) geographical substance.

The question is how do I turn this into a figure? I cannot exactly describe the figure in words--it is a material relation--a 'felt' relation rather than textual. We shall see what I can come up with soon enough. . .

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