All those books that surround me every day allow me to feel near to myself—to what I was, to that reader who kept growing, changing, adding layers—and to the information and ideas they contain. Or that they only suggest. Or that they only hyperlink: many of my books are planets orbiting around thinkers, writers, and historical figures I don’t know firsthand, but that are friends of friends, involuntary accomplices, shifting pieces in a complex system of potential knowledge.
Among the many things on my list of events to speak at in 2020 was Luma Days, which is a kind of annual arts-community-philosophy shindig in Arles, southern France. Of course, the prospect of actually going in person went the way of almost all long distance travel this year—but Maria Finders and her team have made an admirable job of shunting a lot of their output into online channels, and pivoting the theme of the year somewhat; it was already about infrastructural uncertainties, but that ended up with a pandemic twist, just like pretty much everything else has done.
Absent the possibility of travelling and talking in person, the Luma folk had me write and present a short piece (titled “Nine Notions of the Metasystemic”) via Zoom, before Maria picked my brains in an interview about the piece and much more besides. Here’s the summary text from the website:
Throughout this conversation [Paul] offers us his comprehensive view of the neoliberal infrastructure within its own complex geography in the post-Covid world. He questions technological evolution and the connivance of platforms enabling the infrastructure to lock in and perpetuate existing hierarchies, as opposed to protocols. He also addresses the topic of socioeconomic change, and the role of artists and thinkers in this process, as well as their limits.
Sounds like the sort of thing I’d say, doesn’t it? I recall it being a hot afternoon here in Malmö… and I also recall realising that the somewhat synoptic thing I wrote/presented could be taken as a sort of preliminary survey for the work I want to spend the next decade or so doing. Other than that, in truth, I don’t recall a lot. Many pixels have been spilled, by far better writers and thinkers than I, on the topic of the Covidean timewarp… so I’ll spare any extra philosophising on that front, other than to note that late July feels like aeons ago, even as it also feels like I haven’t really gotten much done since. Selah—that feeling would be more uncomfortable were it not so familiar.
Anyway, point being: the video is up. (It may have been up for a while? I know it wasn’t up a month ago.) It’s not embeddable, I’m afraid—inconvenient, perhaps, but Luma is an independent arts organisation trying to do its thing outside of the usual circuits of capitalist exploitation, and so keeping their IP away from the Stacks is an understandable instinct, not least coz it means they actually get some click-through and engagement on their own site. So please do pop on over there and spend an hour in the company of my overheated brain as it was a little more than four months prior to time of writing… and if you want to pop back and tell me whether I made any sense, well, please do.
(I haven’t watched it back myself yet, so I’m kinda gambling against my own tendency to garble, here. I seem to recall they sent me a transcript, so I might look into tidying that up and seeing if they’re OK with me putting it up somewhere.)
There’s no escape from dumb-ass hot takes about The Fewtch, even in DuoLingo:
On the bright side, I’m on a 225-day streak, and apparently I’ve learned 2,000 words… which makes it all the more embarrassing that I still stumble over unexpected sentences in real-world transactions as simple as buying a coffee. Ah, well. Practice, practice, practice…
Some days you just can’t traction on any damned thing, and this was one of those days. Taking some comfort from the knowledge that there used to be a lot of days like that, and now they’re pretty rare.
Definitely struggling with the encroaching dark of winter, though… and the Swedish style of HVAC seems to be a dermatological hazard to me, making me feel itchy and grubby. I’ll start on the vitamins earlier next year, I guess.