On: Heat / Breathing Fire / Cleanliness / Unmastery / Programmability

Invitations while reading include:
Paying attention to feelings.
Imagine yourself as a material or element and pay attention to state changes that happen by reading the texts.
Consider the stakes of instability when something instable comes up.
Notice what perspectives are present and missing.

On: Heat

"Let me briefly illustrate what I mean by material transformation, with heat as a guide for thinking through the colonial, the racial and capital as deeply—materially—implicated. The warming of the planet is caused by the excess emission and accumulation of greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide—which raises the temperature of the troposphere, the lower layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. Five things that we know are relevant to how excess accounts for climate change: (a) that temperature is a measure of heat; (b) that heat is the transfer of internal kinetic energy; (c) that the total energy in a system, such as the cosmos, remains constant; (d) that the expenditure of a certain form of energy is basically its transformation into another form of energy; and (e) that matter and energy are equivalent."

Denise Ferreira Da Silva in On Heat, Canadian Art

M Archive: After the End of the World

"if you treat it like a small and fragile light, vulnerable to wind and whatever, easily extinguished by the weight of our steps, then everything becomes a dance. you have to release the heaviness in your body and get gentle with darkness on the move. those were her second instructions to the candle calisthenics class. the first instruction was hush. they met in the woods at first, and later in basements. and no one knew they were walking around all day with their mantras. breathing is burning and burning is beautiful. they were learning to move as if the world was hot and melting. which it was. but this was no hot yoga trend. they recruited each other silently, new initiates follow- ing students to meetings of their own free will. not knowing that a cinnamon could only be perceived when she wanted to be perceived. and so each initiate chose and was chosen. they were using candles to train with, but their real object was air, life, light, they were learning what heat and impermanence had been trying to teach our species since the first woman made friction into light to watch her sleeping selves. they remembered each other through burns and breath training and no one left, so the contingent only grew. and they grew to know each other so silently that the partial movement of an eyelid, less than a blink, could lead them all in changing directions. they grew so quiet and so gentle they could hear each other’s ancestors saying, left here baby not right. whole groups of them could move in stealth. and so the second and third goals were achieved. both in service to the first. develop the capacity to live underground, as close to the core of the earth as necessary. learn to move above ground and return undetected."

"they became heated. more volatile. inside. and while everyone thought of global warming as an external phenomenon, it was happening on the same timeline within. the people on the planet were stars burning out. which explains the general urgency, most of the cancer, and the importance of the transubstantiative impact of dreams. something can turn to anything if you get it hot enough. we watched as the water in their bodies turned to steam."

"what we wanted was to want to. not to have to do anything. and the problem was we forgot after all these years of force what wanting was. want was not getting, nor was it having. wanting was not needing. wanting was not having to have or needing not to need. it was not. and there was a wideness in wanting that didn’t quite fold in on itself. it deepened and rose up and radiated out and touched softly to itself with warm warning."

Gumbs, Alexis Pauline (2018), Archive of Fire: Rate of Change, in M Archive: After the End of the World, Duke University Press: 95-97.

Digital Rubbish

"Outmoded commodities are fossilized forms that may—through their inert persistence—ultimately unsettle notions of progress and thereby force a reevaluation of the material present.26 While commodities might guide us to a space of speculative promise, the vestiges of these promises are all around us. These fossils persist in the present even as the assumed progress of history renders them obsolete. Within and through these forms, more complex narratives accumulate, which describe technologies not only as they promise to be but also as they materialize, function, and fall apart. In this Benjamin-inspired natural history method, such an approach to fossilized commodities becomes a way to circumvent “naturalized” histories, which typically assume that technological progress is automatic and inexorable or even a “natural” event, on par with evolution. Histories of technological forms are often narrated through the logic of “onward and upward,” of crude early devices eventually surpassed by more sophisticated solutions. But rather than examine technology as an inevitable tale of evolution, I take up the notion that these fossil forms are instead evidence of more complex and contingent material events. This natural history method, then, signals a distinct approach to materiality—not just as raw stuff, but, rather, as materiality effects.
Electronic fossils are in many ways indicative of the economies and ecologies of transience that course through these technologies. Electronics are not only “matter,” unfolding through minerals, chemicals, bodies, soil, water, environments, and temporalities. They also provide traces of the economic, cultural, and political contexts in which they circulate. To begin to develop a more material account of these dematerialized technologies requires accounting for the multiple registers of what constitutes materiality—not as the raw matter of unproductive nature made productive, nor even as “second nature,” but as a complex set of material processes and relations."

Gabrys, Jennifer (2013). Digital rubbish: A natural history of electronics, University of Michigan Press, Chicago: 7

Unthinking Mastery

"This always inquisitive, always revising, always expansive “we” is as hopeful as it is necessary for survival. In the midst of global climate change, of vanishing rain forests and melting polar ice caps, of “natural” disasters across the globe, our masterful practices are perversely plowing the soils of our extinction. Mastery in this sense is a diagnosis of a certain form of human living that is—as Unthinking Mastery has sought to pressure— woven tightly into the fabric of our worldviews. Rather than to live by seeking out forms of mastery to correct damages done, or as though we have reached a palliative stage as a species, I am driven by a utopian hopefulness in the activities of unfolding mastery in all its aspects. To survive mastery, we must begin to deconstruct our own movements (intellectual, activist, corporeal) that remain entangled with the violent erasures of other lives, and of things we declare insensate. Survival depends on new forms of living together, gathered in collectives that promise to astonish us.
When we open ourselves to the ways that texts can teach us, what we begin to learn is our own undoing. If it is no longer au courant to claim as intellectuals our “mastery” over our disciplines (and I’m not sure that it is not), this change of language does not undo the drive to think of ourselves as the active subjects of reading and the texts we read as the inanimate objects that confirm our declarative knowledge. To distance ourselves from mastery is, first, an act of reframing our relations to all things, regardless of whether in the moment we bestow them with something currently called “life.” From this point of departure, directionality becomes infinite and failure a process we might begin to meet with pedagogical delight."

Singh, Julietta (2017), Unthinking Mastery: Dehumanism and Decolonial Entanglements, Duke University Press: 173 - 175.

Silicon Valley of Dreams

"This postindustrial, post-smokestack, campus-like suburban planning made it easy for developers and industry owners to claim that the electronics sector was “clean” and “pollution free.” The clean image of the electronics industry was touted by executives, politicians, and newspapers everywhere. Harold Singer, an official of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, once stated, “the horizon above San Jose is unmarred by smokestacks, and people here are proud of that. They have worked hard at making the valley a base of the computerelectronics industry and an unpolluted place to live.” As recently as the year 2000, the Smithsonian Magazine described the “clean rooms” where microchips are made as “the most fanatically clean, most thoroughly sanitized places on the planet,” where “one could eat one’s oatmeal off the floor.” The highly toxic wafers from which microchips are cut are viewed by industry promoters as “pristine,” and the chemical-laden water that washes semiconductor components in the electronics “fab” plants is described as “pure.”65 Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton rubbed shoulders with CEOs in Silicon Valley in the 1990s, publicly proclaiming that the high-tech industry “will move America forward to a stronger economy, a cleaner environment and technological leadership.” These accounts leave the uninformed reader with the impression that high-tech firms are the paragon of hygiene and safety, sanitation and environmental responsibility."

"Whether from depletion or pollution, Santa Clara County industries seem always to have been intent on maintaining a dependence upon — and a lack of respect for — water, land, immigrants, and people of color. Environmental racism in the Valley meant not only that people of color were being exposed to toxics and pollutants at home and work, but also that this process was part and parcel of a broader context of general ecological degradation in the region. European contact, the missions, mining, farming and canning, and computer/electronics production each brought the promise of economic prosperity and new social liberties springing forth from the bountiful wealth of natural resources that only California could offer. But in each case, economic gains were concentrated among a few while poverty and immiseration were shared among the many; racial and ethnic cleavages reemerged and deepened; and the integrity of the natural environment suffered as yet untold assaults."

David Naguib Pellow and Lisa Sun-Hee Park. The Silicon Valley of Dreams: Environmental Injustice, Immigrant Workers, and the High-tech Global Economy, 2002: 72 & 84

Software or the Persistance of Visual Knowledge

"The problem with Manovich’s notion of transcoding is that it focuses on static data and treats computation as a mere translation. Programmability does not only mean that images are manipulable in new ways but also that one’s computer constantly acts in ways beyond one’s control. To see software as merely “transcoding” erases the computation necessary for computers to run. The computer’s duplicitous reading does not merely translate or transcode code into text/image/sound or vice versa; its reading—which conflates reading and writing (for a computer, to read is to write elsewhere)—also partakes in other invisible readings."

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge, January 2005, Grey Room 18(4): 46.

From Being Material: Standing Rock: Selma Moment for the Environmental Justice Movement

"We’re choking on hate and nobody seems to care. —Attorney Angela Bibens
Was this project about “energy independence” or hate and profits? Standing Rock Reservation is the homeland of the Hunkpapa Oceti. If you close your eyes, you can remember the fifty million buffalo the single largest migratory herd in the world. The pounding of their hooves would vibrate the Earth and make the grass grow. There were once two hundred and fifty species of native grass. Today the buffalo are gone, replaced by twenty-eight million cattle, who require grain, water, and hay. Many of the fields are now of a single GMO crop, full of so many pesticides that the monarch butterflies are being wiped out. In my memory, that old world remains.
The health of Mnisose has been taken for granted. Dammed in the Pick Sloan Dam projects, each project increases contamination and reduces her health. Today, Mnisose is the seventh most polluted river in the country. Agricultural runoff and now fracking have contaminated the river. During our time at Standing Rock, my sister and I went fishing. She caught a gar -a giant pre-historic fish— only to find it covered with tumors.
In January 2015 saltwater contamination from a massive pipeline spill reached Mnisose. The belief that “dilution is the solution to pollution” has long been discarded by public health and environmental professionals. Not in North Dakota though. In the baffling way of state and federal agencies, North Dakota’s Health Director David Glatt did not expect harm to wildlife or drinking water supplies because the water was diluted. Blacktail Creek and the Little Muddy River were contaminated by nearly three million gallons of saltwater with elevated levels of toxic chloride."

Winona LaDuke, Standing Rock: Selma Moment for the Environmental Justice Movement, illustrated by Sarah LittleRedfeather: 121 - 122.