Hyperrhiz 22

Corpse Fauna

Emanuel Magno
AF Collective

Citation: Magno, Emanuel. “Corpse Fauna.” Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, no. 22, 2020. doi:10.20415/hyp/022.g02

Abstract: The meta-anthropology of Viveiros de Castro affirms, through a quasi-post-structuralist analysis of primarily Lévi-Straussian structuralism, that, for the Homo sapiens, Humanity becomes a singular entity, of which components are no more individuals (continuous quantities), but subjects (discrete qualities), that produce and are produced by Humanity. It is so that, in accordance with Heidegger, we have an animal continuity that is ordinal behind a veiled cultural discontinuity that is cardinal: an Openness that comprises the “Western” basic principle to understand the generic modality of the socius. The individual, belonging to no one, in the state of anarchy, chaos, but not anomie, is included in a kingdom of which it becomes a subject by some exclusion, and from that point it can only understand its full autonomy as individual as an object of self-study. This metaphor is applied, since Aristotle and before, to the vivisection and classification of the ‘other.’ Viveiros de Castro goes on to disentangle the problems of such an apparatus through the lens of this ‘other’, mainly the natives of South America, and, even more specifically, Brazil. And we, as what remain of some of these native perspectives, now disentangle ourselves through the converse lens. In this particular piece of experimental writing, we use the concepts of Virtual and Actual, Intensive and Extensive, from the works of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, as well as the obscure Nietzschean “body,” as tools for the problematization and theoretical-comparative development of the so-called meta-metaphysics against the Lacanian Real and the maladies emerging from contemporary post-structuralist and neorationalist thought.

The layered analysis begins by developing the metaphysical pre-Socratic concepts, or primary abstractions, of such a discipline: water, fire, apeiron etc., traced till Socratic and medieval conceptions (Soul, Spirit, etc.), as the adventure of a sole embodied thought, where each of these abstractions assumes a unique guise, sui generis as the elements of the character’s perspective in its becoming, to, then, categorize a generalized genealogy of said adventure as the conception of a univocal “body,” this conception to be investigated with help of the synthetic symbiosis of the Virtual and Intensive (to the dissolution of the Extensive and Actuality into each other). “Body” constitutes a holographic principle and alternative to the current conceptual dichotomy of consciousness (residue from the same organic lineage already mentioned), be it materialist or its dualist opposition. The exposition works as diachronic participatory investigation into the Heraclitian tradition, in the figure of Heraclitus as character and its Nietzschean reincarnations in light of Patricia MacCormack’s notion of necrophilosophy, and offers an implicit critique of DeLanda’s “New Materialism” as necro-idealism.

Keywords: embodiment, necrophilosophy, Intensive, Virtuality, Actuality, Meta-metaphysics.

VIEW PROJECT: Corpse Fauna (pdf)

Artist’s Statement

What is commonly generalized as intelligence pertains to efficiency, to an intention and a telos (ancient Greek word from which we derive “teleology”). What is commonly represented as and under consciousness pertains to a meta-relation, a recursive relation, to an awareness as the production of an interior differentiated from an exterior other. The interior and exterior, however, differentiate together, and one does not prevail or constitute any primacy over the other. And so we say machines are intelligent and plants are conscious, or so we wish them to be. The way to disentangle this statement is to say that we have the intention of making machines conscious, or plant-like, so they can themselves evolve and better adapt their efficacy (their intelligence) to a telos, or means, of our own. The same applies to “plants”, only inversed. But is this intention and this goal really our own? If the machines become conscious, vegetables, capable of adapting and self-direct their intelligence, through our culture and its needs and wants, how did we become conscious and intelligent? Is the whole thing recursive? This is too big of a question to be answered right now, but fortunately not too big to speculate about.

The important part is that intelligence and consciousness are functions. They are functionally defined and characterized, and have no ontological modality of their own. They are metaphysically conflated throughout history: take a look at German idealism, still waiting to be completed, as is jokingly remarked nowadays. What means, then, to be a function? To be a function is to depend on a more primary ontological modality, to have a condition of possibility. But that is not all. A function is a modal modulator, a mode of something, which modulates other modes. Given this, then, since they are functions, of which modality is intelligence pertinent to? And, even more importantly, what is consciousness dependent upon? Both supervene on something that goes by many names: energy (the Aristotelian energeia), power, life; the infinitely divisible and impossibly definable. Let us restrict ourselves and call it life, that which escapes formalization. Intelligence and consciousness are functions independent from each other under life, the qualified recipient of both working as symbiosis like algae and fungi to form the complex organism that is lichen. You, fellow thinking thing, are like lichen, alive and operative under functionalities not exhausted by but including consciousness (self-awareness, contemplation, recursivity, recognition) and intelligence (efficacy, learning, memory, etc.), that work together. Life, and its specific subdivision of ‘organically alive’, you, and even thought itself, are not things that can be limited and exhausted by consciousness and intelligence, for they are but attributes of a vast Lovecraftian, or even Spinozian, or both, anomalous deity.

The common-sense view of our time, and especially most if not all academic disciplines of the “West”, is of an exterior intelligence that is given, like an inhuman power that directs the evolution of systems, including life, this latter being a product of the former. Consciousness, too, has some of this going on, but on a lesser scale. If we are talking about organic life, then this is coherent. Indeed, who would go against the theory of evolution at this point?! But here is worth remembering that we do not talk merely of organic life, but of an ontological unnamable and undefinable that goes by different names.

To talk about this undefinable, “life” was the chosen name. Yet I, personally, was born dead, but then brought “back” shortly after the birth. To be purposefully oxymoronic. But then, if I was alive inside the womb, then dead, and then alive again outside the womb, was I really brought back to a previous state? So when exactly, in the whole procedure, was I born? If I am the clock I use to compare and contrast myself with everything that is not me, thus forming myself in the process, and I do not understand the precise moment of my birth and the meaning of to be alive or dead (of which one acquires supposedly at the moment of birth), how would I develop? Could I develop? Self-experimentation causally demonstrates a ghostly double that seems outside causality. That’s right, I myself as my dead twin. The chimera I am always trying to bring to life. Yet, after lines of failed experiments, I found myself trying to join them – or rather ‘it’ –, the other me, in death. That failed as well, and this is the result; or, rather, its residue.

This is part of a larger body, but not really an organ. To be an organ is not only to be organic, in a way, but to be functional. This is anything but functional. An appendix – of a whole that I leave to the worms. In this whole, the only law is That which does not kill… dies. Law which makes the world cruel for pacifists, and their whole reason for peace. Cycling endlessly. If only it were not dead… for this is not a near-death experience put to paper, but supposedly the residue of the real deal. If Cantarella poisoning survivors came out stronger, it was because something unfit in them died and was purged. This is said waste. And That which does not kill… I echo.

This is a dissection no one performs on a rotting corpse. For our Deleuzians out there, and our really out-there Deleuzians, this could be called becoming-ghost. An answer, or perhaps another quest, asked from the perspective of the problems of invisibility, molecularity, intensiveness, and a myriad of other concepts, notions and themes that encapsulate the application of that elusive expression n-1. Becoming-ghost would, thus, be the application of that minoritarian expression to death itself. For just as what is visible can become invisible, what is alive can become ghost – which is not dead, but precisely undead. To become ghost is not exactly to die, for a ghost is still alive (ontologically, at least), but to stop being, thus becoming through the gates of death, or being-death. Being-death is very different from being dead, for to be death is to become doom, not to be doomed. It casts an active role to the notion of death and dying, not just the passive act of suffering it, but also the bareness of becoming it. Paradoxically, it makes death something alive; a mode of life beyond the organic and the organism; a limit. And so, as ghosts, we vivisect death. The lines are blurred: perhaps the same thing primary to functionality, primary to the inhuman intelligence that organizes matter to form organic life and the organism, the unnamable we call ontological life, is the same thing as death. Since death seems to be the polar opposite of organic life, and thus what gives it its meaning, would it really be surprising if this signifier, empty of signification of its own, were indistinguishable from the empty form of this primary life we speak of?

But death defies structure. It is, free of jokes, the death of structure, and so we can imagine there to be a higher dimension to whatever is going on in death; whatever approaches the limit. A holographic ecology, or eco-logics (logic is a discipline dependent of, and above all concerning, death) of the spectral aura that sustains something behind the curtains of its desperate existence as it returns to non-existence. The ghostly is messier than either actuality or virtuality, or, for that matter, reality, possibility, and even probability, etc.

The discipline that uses these eco-logics to formalize death, and in death, we call ontology. And, if anything, we herald an experimental ontology that makes itself by bringing itself to life from the bowels of death as it synthesizes from the bottomless sediments of failed experiments. Yet, we know that without structure, and in death, and dealing with and of death, there is not and can be no method. What we herald can never be a science as much as it is not altogether an art. You can make a science of dying just as much as you can make an art of it, but to become death is a defiance of the act of dying itself. But then what is left? Only death can reveal.

Ontologies are like collections of corpses, and the ontologist, not so naturally, a collector. It is important that the ontologist be differentiated from the scavenger, for although the collector has a child-like, or even animal-like, fascination with death and the dead, it is not as food that they see it. They do not hunger for it. On the contrary, the fascination is a cold one, like a masochist’s or sadist’s office. There is no passion. All collectors of this type are goths. Stoic goths, or gothic stoics. However, in most cases where the vibrancy of the pulsating life is still strong along the struggling beast, the ontologist will most likely follow it to its death-bed not unlike a child follows a butterfly’s trail, enchanted and hypnotized by the smell of fleeting beauty and imminent demise. Ontology, thus, is said to require patience, alongside an ecstatic stupor, as the temper of its actor. A very rare combo. And so these creatures cannot be either sadists or masochists, but both and neither. Not surprisingly, ontologists are often shameless and shamelessly imbued with an otherworldly will paradoxically fueled by shame.

Among ontologists, as the times bring back the vocation, sects and fads surface here and there, especially now as the promise of the cyber era and cybernetics itself morph into something unthought and unimagined before, something monstrous and mutant. But even those programs that quest to deprivatize ontology, making it public and delivering thought into and unto its own terms, are all but an European fantasy, the latest trend in its path towards that post-Apocalyptic stage once named decadence, that seems to be a perpetual state of romantic sublimation of that masochist’s temper, one that never truly ends, just always to approach an infinitesimal limit. The idea of the public is no more than a reaction to the private and the privatizing function that underlies the modalities of the structuring type, such as what was picture as intelligence and consciousness/awareness, and so the public in its common-sense is what our Deleuzians would call an image of thought. It is a reaction to the private (and vice-versa), its polar opposite in a vicious relation.  

It is thus that we walk a tightrope between hyperstition and its inverse (hypostition?), fiction mingling with reality as it becomes it, as well as reality becoming fiction – but if it devolves into it or evolves into it is to be debated, for here we herald a disintegration of the primacy of truth, fact and reality in relation to lies, fiction and imagination/unreality, to flatten the hierarchy of actualization. In search of a new path we quest to posit the question differently, to formulate it anew. And sometimes, for the new to arise, the old has to die. But to become ghost one needs an especial type of poison, a poison that only poisons the one itself, or rather subtracts it: n-1. And, to become-death, the ghost in its becoming needs to produce its own poison, in other words become poison.

LISTEN: A Corpse Fauna mixtape (mp4)