Archive

Georges Bataille

Markus D. Dubber, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto, has invited me to participate in a workshop on “apologies” that he is organizing to be held in fall 2017. He tells me that it is “partly inspired by a recent report in which EGALE [Canadian Human Rights Trust] called on the Canadian government to apologize for ‘Canada’s History of LGBTQ2SI Persecution.'”

Here is the abstract of the paper that I have proposed to present at the workshop.

“On Queer Forgiveness”

John Paul Ricco

Following “On Forgiveness,” the translated and edited version of Jacques Derrida’s response to a series of questions put to him by the French intellectual journal Le Monde des débats in 1999, my paper argues that the concept and act of forgiveness is essentially queer. Derrida persuasively argued that true forgiveness consists in forgiving the unforgivable. Which means that the logic of forgiveness is structured as a relation to the impossible, to that which is without code, norm or end. It is in excess of any measure or finality. An ethics of apology, in which the State seeks forgiveness for its violence and persecution of its lesbian, bisexual, gay, queer, transgendered, two-spirited and questioning citizens, therefore requires forms of queer forgiveness that exceed the judicial logic of reconciliation. For if queers forgive the State of its violence and negligence, do they not also and at the same time abdicate the future possibility of acting in ways that the State would deem unforgivable? Say in the face of future injustice and in the name of justice yet to be had? Or perhaps in terms of erotic and indeed unconditional pornographic excess that re-conceptualizes sovereignty as unmistakably queer. In both cases: as that which transcends norm and law through a notion of sovereignty that we inherit from Georges Bataille. In other words: is the queer acceptance of the State’s confessed guilt also a normalizing of the queer within a stated-based juridical-theological discourse of rights? Must we not remain vigilant in our attention to the ways in which reconciliation is its own form of normalization? In doing so, we need to affirm the limits of the common, and of the ways in which while language itself is shared it is so, only as the very enunciation of separation. Alterity, non-identification, the unintelligible—in a word: queer—restlessly resides at the heart of apology and forgiveness. By returning to my theory of a disappeared aesthetics of erasure and the ways in which such aesthetics attests to the indelible absence of those who—unforgivably—have been disappeared and are no longer here to receive an apology and to forgive, I argue that this is one way to conceive the ethical scene of forgiveness.

My research and writing this year has been primarily focused on completing a draft manuscript of my book, The Outside Not Beyond. This work has been aided tremendously by a 12-month research and study leave, of which I was at the midway point at the beginning of the year, and by a 12-month faculty research fellowship at the Jackman Humanities Institute (University of Toronto) that began this past July. The project also received very generous support beginning this year from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC, the national granting agency in Canada), which will provide funding over the next four years for research, assistants, travel, symposia, etc.

So over the past year I have had the time, solitude and resources to read and write and make significant progress on my projects. I have found my office at the JHI to be a particularly conducive place to work, and I really value the time I have had over the past 18 months, un-interrupted from teaching and university service duties, to focus on my own work and to remain with questions for extended periods of time.

Having submitted a book proposal to the University of Chicago Press in December of last year, by June of this year I finally received two Readers’ Reports, both of which very much endorsed the project and provided valuable feedback. I then turned my official response to these reports into an occasion to write what amounted to a second proposal: 11-pages that further expanded on the first, and represented the project in its current state of development. I found this to be an extremely productive task, one that really enabled me to flesh out both the major and minor scales and dimensions of the project. I walked away from the experience even more an advocate of “the second project outline.”

Topics and themes that have been pursuing in my research this past year include: the relation between poetry and prayer; anonymity and the neutral; edging and drawing; collective afterlives; ethics, politics and aesthetics of the common; drive, pleasure, and slippage; and measure and measurelessness.

The course of my research and reading this year, began with Georges Bataille’s major writings and publications, and then moved to Foucault’s lectures on governmentality and biopolitics; Dardot and Laval’s extension and elaboration of Foucault’s project, in their indispensable book, The New World Order: On Neoliberal Society; Derrida’s final seminar on the beast and the sovereign and his reading of Robinson Crusoe alongside Heidegger’s seminar The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics; and Michael Naas’s beautiful reading of Derrida’s seminar in his book,  The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments. I’ve also returned to the political writings of Maurice Blanchot, as well as some of his late-work, in particular The Step Not Beyond, along with Christopher Fynsk’s fantastic book, Last Steps: Maurice Blanchot’s Exilic Writing.

Other books that came out this year that I very much enjoyed, and that have remained with me, include: David Graeber’s book on bureaucracy, The Utopia of Rules; Kristin Ross’s Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune; Elizabeth Kolbert’s, The Sixth Extinction; and McFadden and Al-Khalili’s Life on the Edge: The Coming Age of Quantum Biology. This last title is its own frontline education on one of the most exciting new fields of scientific research.

While writing, “The Art of the Consummate Cruise and the Essential Risk of the Common,” a paper for a panel on sexual risk and barebacking for the American Studies Association conference (Toronto, October 2015), I also returned to the work of William Haver—which remains the most inexhaustible source of inspiration and insight—as well that of Leo Bersani, Tim Dean. I have been in conversation with editors of an online journal, and hope that this paper will be published very soon.

I also continue to try to make fiction and poetry a regular part of my reading list. Books that particularly stood out this year are: Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life; Nell Zink’s Mislaid; Michel Houellebecq’s Submission; and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.

Publications this year included: “The Separated Gesture: Partaking in the Inoperative Praxis of the Already-Unmade,” in the collection Nancy and the Political (Edinburgh University Press); my conversation with Jean-Luc Nancy, “The Existence of the World is Always Unexpected,” in Art and the Anthropocene (Open Humanities Press); my essay, “Drool: liquid fore-speech of the fore-scene,” in the online journal World Picture; and my essay, “Parasol, Setas, Parasite, Peasant,” in, Could, Should, Would, a monograph on architect J. Mayer H. (Hatje Cantz).

The first review of my book, The Decision Between Us, appeared in the January issue of Art in America (by Christa Noel Robbins); and that has since been followed by equally sympathetic, insightful and enthusiastic reviews in Critical Inquiry (by Tom McDonough), New Formations (by Jacques Khalip), and in Parallax (by Matthew Ellison and Tom Hastings).

As part of a conference seminar on Bataille that I co-organized with Etienne Turpin for the American Comparative Literature Association conference (Seattle), I presented a new paper titled, “A solvent for ‘poetry’s sticky temptation.'” It was a first attempt to consider the relation between poetry and prayer as it can be fashioned through a reading of Bataille’s A-Theological Summa. A keynote lecture at a conference on aesthetics and ethics at The Royal College of Art in London, gave me an opportunity to return to and to expand upon my paper, “The Commerce of Anonymity” which is on the art of mourning, and artist Shaan Syed’s “The Andrew Project.” An invitation to present some of the my current research at the Comparative Literature Emerging Research Lecture Series, here at the U of T this past fall, was yet another opportunity to further expand and develop the “Anonymity” paper into what I now feel is pretty much a completed chapter for the new book. Finally, last spring at Poetic Research Bureau in L.A. I read from and discussed my book, The Decision Between Us, along with readings by Etienne Turpin and Nadrin Hemada from collections that they have recently edited on the library and the prison, respectively.

Currently, I am preparing two keynote lectures in March 2016, one for the annual Comparative Literature conference, here at the University of Toronto, and the other for “Aisthesis & The Common: Reconfiguring the Public Sphere,” at McGill University. Also in March, I have been invited to speak at the Society for Philosophy and Culture at McMaster University.

Research travel this year included time in NYC in February in order to visit the National 9-11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero; and to Sicily in late-August to attend a week-long seminar on “sex and philosophy” taught by Jean-Luc Nancy.

This was also the year when I revived my performance art practice. It had been close to 7 years since I last presented my work and I have been wanting to return to performance for some time now. Since the late-summer I have been in conversation with Johannes Zits, and along with him and three other artists we have been developing a new work together. Many details will be posted here in the months to come, but for now I can say that at the end of January 2016 I will be part of a five-person, 6-hour durational performance at Katzman Contemporary, here in Toronto; and in February, I will be participating in a five-day workshop with artist Doris Uhlich, on dance, sound, and the naked body. All of this work is deeply connected to my thinking and writing on the peri-performative; naked image and naked sharing; exposure, risk, touch and trust. I am really excited to be able to translate this work into various forms of performance.

I will end this post by saying how grateful I am for those of you who have subscribed to this blog, and who take the time to be its readers. Happy New Year 2016!

Published in the latest issue of the online, open-access journal World Picture, on the theme of abandon. You can read and download my essay and the others in the volume, here: World Picture 10: Abandon

I am re-reading some of Maurice Blanchot’s essays on Marx, Marxism and communism; partly prompted by Derrida’s own reading of these texts in Specters of Marx, but also as part of my ongoing thinking about the work of Georges Bataille and the forms of sociality and being-together that find their structure in what I refer to as “the intimacy of the outside.”

At the very end of “Slow Obsequies” (Friendship), Blanchot’s review essay of Henri Lefebvre’s La Somme et la reste (1959), M.B. says something about “measurelessness” that immediately brought me back to a blog post of mine from last summer, around the question of fraternity in and for Derrida and Nancy, prompted by my engaging with some recent work by my friend Philip Armstrong. Specifically, my having taken issue with Derrida’s inability (in his book Rogues) to understand how Nancy can argue that the incommensurable is the only measure that we share in common.

For Blanchot, philosophy’s claim of the end, including the end of philosophy (as by Lefebvre, but so many others in France in the 1950s), is always a claim for a measureless end. As he goes on to say, it is through this claim that philosophy reintroduces “the exigency in it for a new measure beyond all measure. In this way, measurelessness [his emphasis] would be the last word of a philosophy ready to be silent but still continuing to say to us: Measurelessness is the measure of all philosophical wisdom.”

What is all the more remarkable however, is that as I might want to rush back with this in order to further indict Derrida, Blanchot’s very last sentence, quoted above, carries a footnote which reads: “It must be said here, even in a very brief note, that in his writings Jacques Derrida poses the question of the ‘end of philosophy’ in a new—different (posing it without exposing it)—way.” This in and around 1959!

Derrida was of course completely aware of this text, especially at the time that he was writing about Nancy in Rogues (2003), a book that follows Specters by ten years (1993). So it is curious that Derrida does not draw upon this passage from Blanchot on the measureless, when he grapples with this concept in his reading of—and friendship with–Nancy. Is the measureless what Derrida will refer to (in Specters) as the “undeconstructible”? And as I tried to suggest awhile back, is Nancy’s assertion of this measurelessness (or incommensurabilty) as that which we share in common, the way in which we might say that he deconstructs deconstruction AND radically re-thinks friendship?For as Blanchot asserts in the quoted passage above, measurelessness is the measure of all philosophical wisdom, but it may also be the wisdom that is experienced as friendship.

Scapegoat: Architecture Landscape Political Economy 05 Excess

Editorial Preview:
Ours is unquestionably a time of excess. While currencies and commodities continue to circulate, reifying segregation and inequality throughout the global political economy, excess leaks out in all directions, sometimes fostering movements of resistance, other times permitting improvisational opportunism among often neglected actors, and still at other moments irrevocably damaging ecologies and environments which we humans precariously but ruthlessly inhabit. The pleasures and perils of excess cross divisions of class, race, gender and sexuality, while also reinforcing aspects of these and other identities.

Can we design for, or among, the excesses of contemporary culture? How do practices of architecture and landscape architecture, as well as adjacent practices of art, curation, philosophy, and typography, suggest ways to amplify, capture, or redirect excess?

In EXCESS-Scapegoat’s sixth issue-we explore the productive, resistant, and imperiling aspects of excess as an attempt to advance our project of emboldening theoretical and historical modes of inquiry, scholarly research, and design practice. It is a vast conceptual terrain, but one that offers many compelling perspectives.

Contributors to EXCESS include: Ariella AZOULAY, Georges BATAILLE, Jean BAUDRILLARD, Alex BERCEANU, Diana BERESFORD-KROEGER, James BRIDLE, Melissa CATE CHRIST, Tings CHAK, Steven CHODORIWSKY, Vicki DASILVA, Heather DAVIS, Sara DEAN, Amanda DE LISIO, Seth DENIZEN, EMIL, ÉPOPÉE, FALA ATELIER, Valeria FEDERIGHI, Natasha GINWALA, HEBBEL AM UFER, Lisa HIRMER, Gary HUSTWIT, David HUTAMA, Kate HUTCHENS, Jennifer JACQUET, Martti KALLIALA, Prachi KAMDAR, Stuart KENDALL, Chris KRAUS, Abidin KUSNO, Emily KUTIL, Clint LANGEVIN, Justin LANGLOIS, Sam LEACH, Stanisław LEM, Sylvère LOTRINGER, Filipe MAGALHAES, Danielle MCDONNOUGH, Meredith MILLER, Srimoyee MITRA, Jeffrey MONAGHAN, Jon PACK, Keith PEIFFER, Rich PELL, pHgH, Rick PRELINGER, Thomas PROVOST, raumlaborberlin, John Paul RICCO, Erin SCHNEIDER, Ana Luisa SOARES, Scott SØRLI, Raphael SPERRY, Anna-Sophie SPRINGER, Antonio STOPPANI, Maria TAYLOR, Eugene THACKER, Kika THORNE, Emily VANDERPOL, Kevin WALBY, Eyal WEIZMAN, Jason YOUNG, Vivian ZIHERL, and Joanna ZYLINSKA.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: