Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Capitalism is ephemeral

"A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down."
Marry Poppins.

The idea of autopoiesis emerged in a certain political and spiritual climate; namely the first socialist government democratically elected in the world. Varela speaks explicitly of this in the preface to the second edition of his book with Maturana, "De Maquinas y Seres Vivos." The word originated from the greek poeisis, the same root as poetry, and was suggested by a chilean friend of them who was working on an essay about El Quijote. On those days there was the courage of thinking otherwise. 

In the same way, we have to understand Malevich's paintings as part of a historical moment. This is precisely Groys thesis in "The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond." For him, Stalinism is the logical continuation of a conception of art that sees the rational creation of a new humanity as the goal of art. To paraphrase Marx, every hitherto art had represented reality; the task of the avant-garde artist is to change it.

However, all that's history. 

Capitalism imposed itself in Chile almost 40 years ago and we seem to have lost the ability of thinking outside it. This is most certainly visible in Chile, but also
true for rest of the world.

Capitalism imposed itself in Chile by means of violence: raping, killing, disappearances. The destruction of a country's dream by means of violence. Every man for himself and the State against them all.

Capitalism reproduces itself by means of violence. Violence is its natural and most faithful ally. 

But we seem not to realise. 

What brings us to the epigraph of this entry: "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." As long as we think that what we live is somehow necessary, we accept it. For the ones in the rich part of the world, the petty material things that consumerist society offers is the sugar in the spoon. For the poor ones, the illusion that someday, if they work hard and think positively, they will be able to buy those same petty material things that the rich people has. 

Last century, politics opened the space for artistic and scientific experimentation. I quoted Varela and Malevich as two examples. Today, there is no politics proper any more. It's time for art and science to open the space for new ways of political experimentation. In particular, to show that as every historical phenomena, capitalism will disappear; that capitalism, too, is ephemeral.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


In spanish, the word sense -- sentido -- designates both: direction and meaning. For example, in Parra's poem Soliloquio del Individuo, we read in the last line of the poem: Pero no: la vida no tiene sentido. This can be translated as "But no: life has no meaning," as well as "But no: life has no direction."

Life, insofar as it ends, creates meaning. A gradient of glucose is for a cell an environment where in one side there is life and in the other there is death. In this way, a basic kind of logic appears in the world. In one side, p, on the other, no-p.

Science has tried to understand meaning in terms of logic, in terms of logos. The discourse, the voice, that speaks reason.

Wittgenstein is an exemplary case. His understanding of the world as everything that is the case, and the case as the existence of atomic facts, in the final stance is build as the solid foundation where to ground living. For the question in him is always how to live a proper life.

The attempt is in itself madness. The madness of a world in war, of Europe eating herself raw and naked. As such, condemned to fail.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Aristophanes' birds

One can read in Aristophanes' birds that the lark was born before all other creatures, indeed before the Earth. Its father died of sickness, but since the Earth did not exist then, he remained unburied for five days. The bird then decided, for lack of a better place, to bury its father in its own head.

Marx, a few millennia later, will write: "The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living." It is not known if Marx makes a direct reference to Aristophanes or whether it's an invention of his own. In any case, the conclusion is clear: we are historical beings who inherited not only the genes of all dead generations but also their traditions, their world.

This perspective of the past as living in our brains implies, at the same time, an understanding of the future where we continue weighing in the brains of those who will come. I picture something like this when I read Wittgenstein insistence in living sub especie aeternitatis.:
The work of art is the object seen sub specie aeternitatis; and the good life is the world seen sub specie aeternitatis. This is the connection between art and ethics.
To finalise today, I  want to remember Jorge Teiller, the poet I read endlessly during my teenager nights in Santiago. His poetry talks about a world in the middle of a forgotten forest, about the secrets that the night belies in its darkness, about that day when we will find each other again, and there will be summer, for she and I. He died, alcoholic, in 1996. I remember his photo in the University Bookshop, in La Alameda, nearby my dad's office. My father saying another poet died while looking at the books. Few years later, the bookshop was closed, my dad stopped working, I moved to another country. Teillier wrote  his poetic: Poetry, or the place where I truly dwell. For him -- maybe for everyone -- the poem is something written by other in me. Borges says something similar somewhere; the history of literature without proper names. The corpse of our forefathers weighting in our brains, like nightmares, like dreams. Another poet died that April day of 1996, in a small town near the coast in Chile. But something remains. Teillier finished his poetics making echo of Paul Eluard's saying: Every caress every trust survives.  I agree. The full poem reads:  

I said it to you for the clouds
I said it to you for the tree of the sea
For each wave for the birds in the leaves
For the pebbles of sound
For familiar hands

For the eye that becomes landscape or face
And sleep returns it the heaven of its colour
For all that night drank
For the network of roads
For the open window for a bare forehead
I said it to you for your thoughts for your words

Every caress every trust survives.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The accidental, the ungrounded, the erotic, the violent and the funny

"And if he succeeded in that, nothing would be gained." 
-- Kafka

Movement, as Borges told us while revisiting Zeno's paradox, is impossible. But even if we could move, that would amount to nothing.

Eppur si muove.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


In the introduction of his book on Freud, Ricoeur speaks of the man who would take upon the elaboration of a comprehensive theory of language. After negating that such a task can be accomplished by only one man, he enumerates the characteristics of this "modern Leibniz": "an accomplished mathematician, a universal exegete, a critic versed in several arts, and a good psychoanalyst." One should add, I think, a skilled programmer and an imaginative neurologist.

By way of words, a new reality appears in the world. As Aristophanes wrote,  "words give wings to the mind and make a man soar to heaven." Interpreting the symbols on the sky, a smile in the face of the beloved person, the meaning of an artwork; life is this constant interpretation. But an interpretation of a creative nature. By naming, Adam makes nature part and parcel of his own world. He creates it in the moment of discovering it. He invents it. 

To wit, invention carries the sense not only of something made for the first time, but also of something unveiled, uncovered. Literally, something “come upon". From the latin verb venire, to come, and the prefix in, into.  The logical supposition is that in order to be discovered, something invented -- something “new” -- must have been, in a sense, already there. To invent is to come upon something that has always been there (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:9).

However, that could have not come. We could have not find it. There always were urinaries, but only after Duchamp there is a Fountain. There were always photons in the world, but there was no light till living beings developed eyes -- and the biological know-how to use them.

The future remains open.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

W. B. Yeats, at the end of his poem Among School Children asks
O chestnut tree, great rooted bloosomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
The answer is that we cannot. There is no clear cut division between the dancer and the dance; the dancer is the dance inasmuch as the dance is the dancer. Being is always a doing.

In the same way, the ontological question -- "Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? -- cannot be simply answered by picking one individual feature. The three is what makes the three to be a three.

And as such we are thrown towards the problem of language. We struggle with language. We are in a struggle with language, as Wittgenstein says. When we talk, the words we use kill what we want to express. Words fall short with respect to what is looked for.

To speak about living beings is also to speak about language. The continuity of mind and life tells us that. Or yet to paraphrase Wittgenstein again, each of the sentences we say is trying to say the whole thing, the same thing over and over again.

Views of one object from different angles.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Life — is?

I don't want to question what life is, I am more interested in interrogating the ontology one needs to put forward in order to say that life is or not. What kind of being is the being that living beings are. 

What kind of being has life, and consequently -- since for me the living being is the foundational being -- what kind of being has everything that exists.  

In this sense then, one could talk of an ontology associated to living beings. This ontology, however limited to a particular subjectivity -- namely the subjectivity of the living -- is nevertheless all encompassing for humans since we always remain living beings. 

This is what I pretend to study in what it follows.