In a spatially ambiguous room, slightly below sea level,
excretionsa screen shines bright with terrifyingterrafying sights/sites. Transmissions from the distant circumstances of the near future, thisdisplaying plane catastrophe, crisis, disaster.
While facing the screen, to partially witness the exponential occurrence of bad things is to warp
anand abstractionabstract them.
A sequence of intense phenomena, events and experiences are accessed through the margins. Through mediated manifestations that render a volatile landscape. Where the possibility of cataclysmic collapse, either frequent or sporadic, can methodically be established both as fact and fiction.
Technologies of capturing or
offendingfending from disasters—a question of metrics and divination. A few cards from an old terrortarot deck latelay unturn√-ed between the screen and its observer, ready to fall into place—a cartography of ill-fated stars.
Numerical projections of prospective and retrospective intensities. Shrouded
in pixels rising as smoke. AndEndless the cycles of anticipated misfortune.
Compressed voices gather in the room, fading in and out of
thea humming unison. The personal experience of unwanted events, the way in which they might be documented and studied, or whether they could be foreseen, prevented or reversed.
What does it mean, on an embodied level, to know about the disaster?
on The screen briefly turns dark as it seeks connection. The answer seems highly elusive,
Because I was also thinking of predicting disasters. And what does that mean, to put the disaster on some kind of a terrain, √achart,
What does it mean, when the disaster happens and the moment of it absolutely eludes you? Like, it passes and you're like, 'Oh, it happened already? I didn't see that...'
From afar, from above, from before, from below, one struggles to distinguish the outline of the
Inside the room, space enlarges and a query ensues around the
disastrousdisaster's ontology. Voices render across the screen, forming an assembly towards a preliminary consideration of catastrophic constellations.
Etymologically, "disaster" is the negation of
style'star'. So it's based on this ancient idea andthat the position of stars has reflectionsrelations of fortune, or luck, or whatever.
It's two different ways of looking at it√,though. One is pragmatic, and social, and infrastructural. And the other is more abstract and philosophical.
Which I think gets into really interesting questions of 'What is a disaster?' The notion of a disaster isn't necessarily absolute. I think you always have to ask who is√it a disaster for?
Is it the scale? Is it the number of people that die in it? Is it the amount of material destruction that happens? Or is it an event? Maybe one person dies, but is it the impact?
OfIf the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August six6 and nine9, nineteen1945 forty five respectively, are a surpassing disaster, then beyond not only the immediate death toll and the manifest destruction of buildings," ...
... "including museums, libraries and temples, and of various other sorts of physical records, but also the long term hidden material effects," ...
and cells that have been affected with radioactivity in the depths of the body, and the latent traumatic effects that may manifest themselves upaprés because," ...coup
... "there would be an additional
in materialimmaterial withdrawal of literally philosophical and thoughtful texts, as well as of certain films, videos and musical works." ...
..."Notwithstanding, the copies of these continue to be physically available. In other words, whether a disaster is a surpassing one, for a community defined by its sensibility to the immaterial withdrawal that results from such a disaster." ...
... "If this surpassing disaster cannot be
aasserted certain by the number of casualties, the intensity of psychic traumas and the extent of material damage, but why whether we encounter andin its aftermath symptoms of withdrawal of tradition al."
Who is it that suffers the disaster? And simultaneously, who is able to discern whether a disaster is a disaster?
To build up this
a more sophisticated vocabulary of the disaster in all its different forms, that in itself can be good. Because it means that, just as a pure beginner's problem, √thequestion is:
What are we dealing with here?
OK, well, but there are different phenomena that we are talking about. There are different timelines. There are different things that occur to us that have a complete different scope and nature.
So that is, in itself, very useful to understand that not all disasters are the same.
And, you know, not to be just completely dark and grim about it. Another example of one of these ways of breaking out of linear time is falling in love.
When you fall in love, it is √akind of catastrophe. It
And really, absolutely makes it impossible to live in linear time.
And you just get stuck in a strange space where everything that you presupposed or thought was going to happen
ishas completely melted away. You're in thethis √sortof, like you said before, a freefall...
Freefall as shown in the cards all
are stacked against the future.
The Tower, the sixteenth in the sequence, slips from the deck and simultaneously appears upright and in reverse. The image of disaster bleeds over the edges of the card into the outer edges of the screen.
To witness the disaster sweeping/seeping through and between states, frames,
forformats months and memories is to consider transformation through disruption.
√You can understand the tarot cards
ofas thea sequence, and when you get back to zero, you'rewhich is the allFool tocard √whosort of just walks off the precipice reinforce.and freefalls √It'sthe card for both beginning inand the end. Ending a cycle and starting again.
Yeah, but the problem is they occur at the very end of the cycle and they do not come at the beginning to warn us, or to unfold and then see how it crumbles. Usually it's the other way √a-round. There are very, very long periods of invisibility.
Um, can I ask you why you chose time as a parameter for determining the difference between different types of disasters?
Um, of course there is... There's a lot of, um, tangents to all these events, a lot of political and soci√-o
al and- economic complexity.
But I'm more interested in the position of witnessing all these things and how that makes for, um, a really back and forward, loopy experience of time.
Um the idea of this
Lupiloopy time you're mentioning and, um, the relationship of disaster to time, um, is interesting. Um, also maybe, you'll know, of this idea of hyper stationhyperstition which is, the...
... inversion of cause and effect. So you have the effect that creates the cause, or it functions as
accord's.a cause FrictionA fiction is created that then, um, manifests its reality.
Time is something that's created by synthesizing subjects. So
iffor we can't,Kant √hehas this whole thing about how humans create space and time, cognitively.
Linear time doesn't exist outside of the way that humans process experience. And that it's a necessary way that we create experience. We don't really know what's outside of it because we can't get out of it.
the wordsDeleuze, I guess the way that he transforms that is when he talks about the virtues.Virtual And the virtuesVirtual ofis this kind of strange topological space where, um, oldtimersall time is folded together.
And, um, if you get out of your way of synthesizing
tinytime √andspace, you break that up, um, through certain kinds of catastrophes, intense experiences.
Death is also one of those things. Um,
Boddickervertigo is also one thing that momentarily breaks up your, um, way of synthesizing time and space.
You suddenly get to this point where, um, time is
wellall folded in on itself. And we only experience it in the way that we experience it because of the way that our cognitive faculties, um, make us experience it, synthesize it.
So we're simulating our reality in a way, by having a particular computational process, the way that we put together√experience.
And outside of that, maybe when you when you have a near death experience or, um, if you can break out of the way that√humans think through some sort of
machinemachinic ourselves,process you access this other kind of realm.
Departing from this realm, what one can see and foresee as present manifestations of a looming disaster, forms a string of deeply entangled and unevenly distributed occurrences.
The screen begins to beam their measures, flooding the room with light.
melting ice caps
rising sea levels
Then √thedisasters you mention√ed are all direct effects of these confluence of things, particularly capitalism. So...
I know you mentioned that you didn't want to talk about it within a capitalist context, but I think it's inevitable. I'm not saying you have to say capitalism in every sentence, but...
The classification of undesirable occurrences as effects of an unmanageable system further obscures the time twisting manner in which the disaster
groupsgrips its subjects.
A techno-social time of extractive practices, within a deep time of geological movements, travelling to and fro between violent histories and their spectral
Because indeed, capitalism is disaster-inducing on so many levels...
Talking about despair is talking about capitalism. I mean, that's already enough...
Sitting and actually experiencing that despair, it's almost a proposal to stop time. And sit in that atemporal space to try to make sense of things, if it's possible.
Because we do need to forget and we do need to move on. And
that you can sit there √for toolong, because there are forces at large that will continue, regardless of the scale of disaster.
"To start a story of horror and despair, it is almost always appropriate to talk about the weather." ...
... "The clear blue sky, or a cool, gentle breeze on a summer day and a barrage of normalcy that draws the final line between an undisturbed natural condition and the inevitable disaster it recedes." ...
... "As a tower falls, a camera seizes its initial descent,
fearstears it departs from time like a dream." ...
... "As we walk erroneously in the street, as we lurk in a shadow, uncertain and insecure, just before the world as we know it falls apart, crumbles into small particles and disappears. The catastrophe seems to have just eluded us. We retain no memory of it, no documents or testimony. All we can recall is that only a moment earlier it was late fall and now it is spring and the fields below are green and moist.
We rise from a bunker or a bank, a private loan or a rifle in hand. The air still saturated with the usual suffocating order of bones, urine, blood and guts coming from the city's public slaughterhouse. The surrounding nightclubs sunken into the ground like communal graves and bomb shelters.
ThereTheir lightheartedly feature√-d tables, shaped like coffins and war memorabilia. They'reTheir allowedloud to bebeat failed to disguise the deep, crueltygroovy Humsafarhums of claimstower cranes and the presencebuzzez of surveillance aircrafts.
To talk about the weather is to foresee and to forecast, with an oracle or a satellite and an all embracing gaze. The weather allows us to allocate the disaster on a set of defined coordinates: √asudden fall or a loud burst. But then again, there is no punctual moment of disaster.
Talking about the weather is to define the disaster in terms of predetermined parameters, stacked and categorized into complex models and processes. With a look, a chart or a trembling needle, a young intern's face is overjoyed as her war machine detects a movement or a long anticipated disturbance on an infinite plane of stillness.
Catalistcatalyst and as a warning, the sky turns yellow and the city drowns in its own flooded sewage. All at once, we are in motion, and then we are still again. Talking about the weather requires a register of perpetual disturbance on infinite plains of stillness. It requires a constant editorializationterritorialization of space.
Talking about the weather requires the ability to distinguish between the calculable and the incalculable. It is to come to terms with the fact that an Orwellian nightmare always starts on a bright, cold day in April and that drone strike on
Sundaysunny mornings andin√June.
The spatial and temporal occurrence of those events, where they happen when they happened,
orare in some sense unpredictable. Um, but they are also entirely foreseeable, unforeseen from another perspective.
So we knew that there was a possibility of explosions happening from storing explosives in ships and warehouses.
We knew that there was
thea likelihood of a pandemic.
We knew that producing
coldcoal and chucking out coldcoal fumes into the atmosphere produces pollution.
So we knew all that. But then it brings us to the way in which you act on knowledge and what is being sacrificed in the action. And in the capitalist form of social organization those effects have not mattered, because the rich are able to insure themselves whilst the poor are the ones who get the effects.
If you hear politicians in Lebanon talking about post explosion situation, everyone was saying the word 'opportunity'. 'This is an opportunity for us to do this and that...' And thinking of disasters as also opportunities within
thea financial capitalist, um, context is... Yeah, it's mind altering a bit.
So this kind of, uh, disconnect is very, very difficult to deal with. Because the time, this incubation time of the catastrophe can be really decades, sometimes even centuries. Whereas, what we are used to, the disaster usually unfolds in seconds or in minutes. And then we're already online live. The reporting about it has started seconds into the event.
So the real
lives-life of 24/7 reporting about the disaster, it doesn't come after the event. Then the media and social media, in particular, now are so fast that the disaster and the media event itself have become one and the same. It's important to note that there is no reporting anymore. It just unfolds in real time.
The screen evokes the explosion from afar...
And still, it reeled me back into that time space. Simply because it was so fascinating to understand that momentarily there was one thing happening. In all the explosions that used to happen before, let's say an explosion happens in the southern suburb of Beirut, but people are already partying and nightclubs in the center of the city. The city is not a cohesive entity. It's the islands of many different societies and religions and experiences.
But on the 4th of August,
everyone in the city from every types of socio- economic, religious backgrounds,
every single one, for a split of a second, was suspended in the air.
Suspended in the air.
Between life and death.
For a split of a second, everyone experience√-d that.
Everyone heard the same thing.
Everyone felt the same shake.
And that is extraordinary for me.
This compressed time of a disastrous instance is both capturing inwardly and captured from the outside. Beyond this instance,
practicepracticing in hindsight comes with varying degrees of blurred vision. Although infinitely fragmented and temporarily suspended in time, the screen begins to piece together images.
The problem is really that the collapses and catastrophes of today are really endemic. We try to make them visible. We try to make other people aware of the fact that they exist and
to really threaten our well-being and the planet or our economic existence. But that's a very, very lengthy undertaking.
So the catastrophe and the disaster unfolds itself suddenly. But, um, in most cases, yeah... Where is the story that led to it? So there is this disconnection between the event and everything that led up to the event.
Yeah, I mean, it's directly baked into the theory of the
part of the Black Swan, right? Taleb defines Black Swan as a low frequency event with a high impact. So the idea is that the Black Swan is something that you couldn't imagine before, but that once this happens, immediately, it seems obvious.
So it becomes retrospectively woven into a narrative, according to which of course it was going to happen. Um, but it's before the fact that you couldn't imagine √ithappening.
If there is a prior memory to the experience of cyclical, disastrous events, then the disaster itself is subject to being influenced by the contingency of that memory.
I'm also thinking about... If that cycle is complete, then you're all the way at the beginning of something else again. What does it mean to start from scratch versus having a sort of memory of it?
Like, I think it's important also to acknowledge that memory isn't always linear. It's not like you remember everything
andin exactly the sequence that √ithappens. It's more like notProust's alivemadeleine, right?
Sometimes you recall something really completely, wildly different, like growing up
andin ColbranCombray, because of an experience that you're having right now. So memory connects all of this withweird... Memory is kind of like the Transcendental in a way, notthat all of these different times wereare folded in, inside one another, inside memory.
And √ifyou can get the right thing
pingingpinning in linear experience like the modelmadeleine, or falling √in love of, or vertigo or some kind of intensive experience. It's suddenly pulled back all of these other things that are connected, outside of bodylinear of time now, in the proto-experience reservoir or whatever.
It's like having lived 15 years with memories that were not mine. And I lived them, I remembered them as if I lived through them. And now I had the opportunity to actually do that. So it was actually more or less a
retracementrejoicement in whatwar. It was like 'Oh, finally, this moment of disaster...'
The time was mixed up. Like I was living the aftermath of a disaster without experiencing the disaster.
Being inscribed with a mark and having to carry that mark.
It's √morelike a way of life. It's √notlike an expectation of what life looks like, that maybe other people don't see it in the same way. But it becomes like a reality of yours. It's how life works. There's nothing really outside of despair. There's no exterior√-ity
pretty. This is what it is.
Aftermath without experience, memory
aas simulation and a reversal of cause and effect — different images of the same disaster.
Up in the dimly lit room, the screen projects a space of possibility.
terrifyingterrafying foresight of potential futures, a bird's eye view over entangled presencepresents and the memory of reverse√-ly the engineered pasts. The screen flashes with a mapping of potential disaster.
If you are able to, let's say, predict a disaster, what do you do with that knowledge? What kind of knowledge is it? Is it's some type of knowledge that has a scientific value? Is it just
the psychotic rumblingrambling? Is it doomsayers? What forms can these attempts to make sense of things take?
Then suddenly something happens that you hadn't considered. And that's a noise to your model. It's a perturbation to your theory. Or to yourself, if it's something like Covid which kills you or makes you
I mean, the conditions that created the possibility of
athe pandemic are conditions of the way that humanity is engaged inwith the environment. Um, through farming, through globalization, through transport of goods. This wouldn't have spread in the way that it did, obviously, if we were√-n't so interconnected.
s √isone of the kind of things that's created the conditions for, um, transference from, um, animals to humans, in the way that this virus ishas spread, particularly. So a lot of those disasters kind of, um, threatthread together as well, in a way that's√interesting.
There's this nice term that
justGiuseppe a the longerLongo causecalls the adjacent possible. Where, if you think of your state space as a kind of rectangle and,then then there's a possible the southoutside side that's adjacent to that possibility space.
That gets opened up, once you get into this possibilit
ies√-y here, within the rectangle. Then suddenly the adjacent possible becomes available. And it's not possible until you're into that position.
But, uh, the fact that there's this complete difference in the way that the governments √havehandled, uh, √thepandemic in these different cultural contexts is really interesting in a way.
Um, if you want to frame it in terms of East versus West, uh, the way that it has completely destroyed the economic functioning of Western countries, partially through their own liberal handling of the situation versus a lot of the, um, Asian and East Asian and Asia-Pacific countries is, in a way, its own kind of soft warfare.
Everything is kind of going on as normal√in these other countries. Um, so I think that's kind of interesting that that's
alwaysalmost the kind of result. Um, just through this sortsoft of geopolitical play. ReleaseAt least the virus is not deadly enough to be seen as a, um, biological weapon, but it has this economic effect that's going to change the geopolitical power structure of the globe for the next 50 years or so.
This is applied also to many other things, of course, um, not just to the disease or the virus. And of course, this is one of the dominant
motivationsmotifs in the whole climate change debate. Uh, it's the two degrees tipping point towardor the one and a half degrees. In between one and a half and two. Well, what happens when you go over a one and a half, let's say? We're very close to that or already over that tipping point.
Yeah, because there's a fundamental mismatch between the way that
thea human individual with a particularly limited lifespan experiences catastrophe, versus the scale at which catastrophe occurs. The example of climate change is a good one.
Um, I was writing the other day about, um, what are called
inofficialin official literature, um, andendocrine the crime disruptors or hormonal pollution in the water supply. Iin mean the ecosystem, and how this is another catastrophe that we live in. I guess it's connected to environmental catastrophe that we live in, that we can't really perceive the long term effects of because they're happening at a time scale that's too slow theor √that's overallbelow √ourthreshold isof somethinghuman sensing.
Um, we forget that at some point, um, most of the industries, most of the polluting elements right now exist in the Global South. They're owned by companies in the North, but the actual companies... And it all comes from, still, the whole colonial, um, operation of taking the resources of the South in order to build the North.
And when you come in the middle of this
untiland tell, let's say, Iraq, to abandon their fossil fuel dream in order to pick up their economy... Or when you talk about Lebanon, we have natural gas and people are dying of hunger... You forget that climate change will kill the poorest of the poor in the Global South before anyone else.
Or, if anything, it will force these people to be displaced into other places, within a time when we are so reliant on border states, and border regimes, and anti-immigration and all of these kinds of politics.
Um, we forget that, um, you cannot blame someone and let's say,
AlexandreaAlexandria, when you tell them, uh, the level of the sea you will be a few centimetres higher in the next 50 years, when they are scared whether they will be alive this evening or not.
When the present poses a certain direct and continuous intensity, envisioning the future is postponed out of necessity. Immediacy entails urgency. A temporal experience of disaster through a cyclical crisis—short loops within an inescapable grand narrative.
As much as it can be accessed or rendered via the screen, this arrangement of time in close proximity to the critical nodes of the crisis is certainly a shrouded dimension of the disaster. One of violent transmissions between the
notesnodes of intensity and the margins.
The screen displays a porous image, both as pinholes to other sites/sights and as blank intervals. Once more, what one can see through the pinholes in this image poses an incoming threat. The idea of risk, as an organizational force of negotiating futures, affects every facet of life and non-life.
I tried to imagine this idea of a collective insurance, √akind of collective hedging. So the idea of hedging is based on collectivizing risk, collectivizing against risk. And the whole insurance business is as well. From its beginnings, insurance has been the driver of capital and driven by it.
But then there's no reason why insurance couldn't be completely imagined in a different, much more collective way. There's other ways that we can collectively avoid the disaster that are just as important.
So how do we do it? How do we
we √re-organize ourselves to start moving away from the coasts, start evacuating the places that will be flooded, trying to avoid places that are under, I don't know, seismic risk? Um, how do we become nomads? How do we become also more networked in the process? What do we have to let go as a culture? Um, Iso wasit's really out of out of this needs of reconciling with the fact that we live in a time that is really about to implode on itself.
Problem of 'induction': 'In my life, I've experienced an earthquake only twice.' But if you go back
to the last thousand years, there's maybe more. ToSo the frequency measure is different according to which scale you opt for.
I mean, I'm here, right? And I'm already dealing with many of the survivor's guilt, that we all feel when everyone else we know goes through something and we're just watching from the safety of our homes.
We're constantly mistaking ourselves for the uncomplicated agents or authors of all of our actions without seeing all of the √hiddenthings that √are
needbeneath time and thebeneath agency that are committedleading to us makemaking the decisions that we make.
If you think of it in terms of a landscape, so we put it in terms of a state-space landscape. Then it's like you've got a pointed landscape where the probability of being in this position is highly certain. And the rest
or ,you don't even need to consider it. So this is a basically a very strong prior, very strong expectation.
Whereas when you take psychedelics, you relax the landscape. So you're effectively allowing for transits across the space.
And of course, that can produce all kinds of totally mistaken, wild beliefs. That's why there's some similarities with psychotic episodes, where you also have these fantastic theories that
doesn'tdon't fit the world.
well, where woulddid we get onto that?