The Future Papers, Part Two: Garin Dowd

The second part in a short selection of transcriptions of talks from the recent series on ‘The Future’ at the David Roberts Art Foundation. Here’s Garin Dowd’s paper from the final night, seamlessly drifiting from Beckett to Ballard, Deleuze to Daney.

3. ‘Replay: conducts of time x 4 (interstitial pedagogies)’
Garin Dowd

I borrow the idea of conducts of time from Eric Alliez. Conducts would refer to behaviours – and suggest an ethology – but also to channels. Conducts of time are also ‘gaits’ of time, postures of time in movement; equally they might inhere in the pas au-delà, the step which is also a pas – a not, in Jacques Derrida’s formulation (via Blanchot). Conducts of time may give rise to systole or diastole, to condensations and saturations, as in running on the spot, and to disseminations. It may produce reifications and consolidations, or it may liberate blocs of becoming.

The action of Samuel Beckett’s play Krapp’s Last Tape is famously set, according to the stage directions, on ‘a late evening in the future’. While it is anecdotally recorded that the motivation behind this direction was Beckett’s concern that, without such a prompt, what would be required of the audience is the performance of the retrospective science fiction to permit tape recorders to exist prior to their invention (the aged Krapp listens to a recording of himself aged 39, while the play was first staged in 1958), there seems to be much more at play than simply a peculiar concession to verisimilitude. Nonetheless the precession, at once announced and elided by Krapp’s Last Tape, of this particular archival technology, reminds one also that it is the cataloguer of the famous precession of simulacra, Jean Baudrillard, who tells us much, inadvertently, about Beckett’s concerns in this play. In La Gauche Divine we read that ‘le rêve d’une conductibilité absolue [de l’information] ne peut etre qu’excrémentiel’: the dream of an absolute conductibility [of information] can only be excremental. The dream of an absolute conductibility of information is also the predicament or the opportunity of the protagonist in Krapp’s Last Tape. How to phrase; how to gather; how to memorialise ‘eschatologically’ (his last tape) and/or scatalogically (his ‘unattainable laxation’): these issues trouble Krapp, and trouble him in a way which is, in Derrida’s sense, archival. In this respect the play reminds us of what Derrida identifies as the archive’s relationship to the future: ‘the technical structure of the archiving archive also determines the structure of the archivable content even in its very coming into existence and in its relationship to the future’. So on our particular late evening in the future, the future now or round about now, I want to introduce 4 conducts of time.


Conduct 1: Shelter

This exhibition does not come from an empty place. There is only the plenum of the story which names the event, ‘Sculpture of the Space Age’, and which does not describe it. The idea of the exhibition provides a frame for Ballard to fill it up with what Zadie Smith, in a recent essay, identifies as plot, characters and as she puts it ‘weirdness’. The weirdness of Ballard is of course mere perversion: mere perversion in its strict and spare Freudian definition, namely deviation from a goal and the exploration of such deviations. Deviations induce, inter alia, delay, detour and dalliance. A recent film which owes much to Ballard’s imagination, and in particular to Concrete Island, Ursula Meier’s Home (2008) emphasises this aspect, which can be said to describe, on one level, the thematic concerns and, on another, the style of Ballard’s writing. In Home (not to be confused with the BBC Ballard adaptation of the same title) the world as networked by modern transport had produced its own moment of seizure, or nullifying arresting excess: a motorway had been built and abandoned. As Meier’s account puts it: ‘An empty four-lane highway stretches out as far as the eye can see across the peaceful and deserted countryside. Built several years ago, it has since then been left in disuse. On the very edge of the weed-ridden asphalt, a mere few feet away from the guard rails, sits a totally isolated house with its small garden. The house harbours a family’.

This motorway had, in Giorgio Agamben’s terms, maintained its potential, which he defines, following Aristotle, as its potential not to be. The Aristotelian definition of potentiality means that potentiality embraces the possibility of not-being, of not to be. This is the potentiality that cannot pass into actuality. The passing over into actuality only occurs when the potential not-to-be is left behind. In Home the little patch or plot of utopia (and in the strict sense this is atopia – without place, placelessness) of the house which the family never moved out of and which waited, then saw the cars never came, and so who waited some more, until finally they hear the imminent opening announced on the radio. In the end the potentiality is cancelled out and the cars arrive.

Conduct 2: interstitial pedagogy

This current exhibition at the David Roberts Art Foundation – Sculpture of the Space Age – is the product of a curatorial imagination coupled with what I want to call an ‘interstitial pedagogy’. I wish to name it interstitial for a number of reasons. The exhibition is conjured into being by the curator, and the artists whose work is on display here, out of the inviting and invented ‘interstice’ in Ballard’s story, and it is in part determined by the logic of what if? The interstice causes the ‘what ifs’ to proliferate, and in doing so they are true to the spirit of Ballard. Ballard’s work after all produces divergences at the thresholds of passage into dubious consistencies, dubious shelters, and even one might venture, dubious homes and abodes. This story is one of those which invites the term – used by Will Self writing recently in The Guardian of Ballard – luminous. This gives light of a special sort, here found by the curator to dwell even in its occluded non-part – the fictional exhibition. Being a collection of works which retrospectively aspire to the what ifs of this past fictional exhibition, they take place in an imagined absent content or repository – a repository, a curatorial endeavour which Ballard omitted to give us, even in fictive terms. Thus we are in this precarious, provoked now; we are compromised now by this provocation. This exhibition is a deviation, a perverting of the course of the story which left only what it announces as an exhibition as a smoothed-over elision. Which precisely allows that exhibition not to be, which leaves it as potential in the strict Aristotelian sense identified by Agamben. The crossing of the threshold which marks the emptying out of the ‘not’ is of course not the object of the attack of this exhibition, because these works and this work of curatorial arrangement seem to insist that the exhibition be a showing of the continued hollowing out – despite any putative actualisation – of the now, by virtue of a multifaceted undoing: once in the imagined spacing in the Ballard story (which gives the exhibition), then in the curatorial imaginary, then in the works convened in their own singularity (their own ‘whatever’, as Agamben might himself put it), then in the scrutiny and in the ‘suture-futuring’  – I propose this hideous amalgam of Badiou and Ballard – of these interventions.


Conduct 3: YouTube

The Sculpture of the Space Age exhibition is a retrospective science fiction. An event on a theme such as this evening’s, indeed the whole double event of the exhibition and these supplements, has the curious but wonderful effect of reviving other pasts, other possible worlds, other potentials, and it can make the past press forward in compelling, unprepared-for and unheard-of ways. It can make one feel giddy at both the inaccurate and off-target futurologies of ‘Theory’, as when I read Jean-François Lyotard (writing in 1979), or re-read him prompted by the theme of this evening: ‘It is reasonable to suppose that the proliferation of information-processing machines is having, and will continue to have, as much of an effect on the circulation of learning as did advancements in human circulation (transportation systems) and later, the circulation of sounds and visual images (the media)’. Of course Lyotard would go on to curate the exhibition Les immateriaux, which to an extent posited ways of resisting the onslaught of the information society by keeping at work the inoperativity of its potential community. Against frayage and balayage (breaching and scanning), he would later propose the figure of passage (in The Inhuman), the movement beyond and against the mnemotechnical supplement (as Derrida calls it in Archive Fever) of our media complex. Lyotard’s attempt was what the French film critic Serge Daney had already, in another remarkable forecast in 1975 and 1976, named a new pedagogy of perception, a new pedagogy of the image, in the work of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièlle Huillet and Jean-Luc Godard. Through what he presents as a praxis of the cinematographic image, in the shape of Godard’s ‘interstitial method’ and Straub/Huillet’s disjunctive syntheses of ‘unreconciled’ sound and image components, Daney’s attempts to provide a systematic statement regarding a pedagogy of the image intersect with and enrich Deleuze’s emerging cine-philosophy of the time. Daney’s three ages of cinema are in effect three functions of the image: an encyclopedia of the world (disintegrated into scraps and fragments); a pedagogy of perception; and a professional formation of the eye. In Deleuze and Guattari’s What is Philosophy? these become the encyclopedia of the world (post-Kantian), pedagogy and commercial professional formation.

Which brings me finally to conduct of time number four and to what the people of this earth call YouTube. On Wednesday I saw the future. And its name was Thierry Henry.

Conduct 4: variation

In sport rules are, in Brian Massumi’s analysis, instances of ‘ex post facto captures that take precedence’. Sport evolves in response to forces of variation asserting themselves, and rules respond to such assertions by means of ‘usurpation’. A new unheard of variation in play emerges which is usurped in the future by an ex post facto capture. In Henry’s comments after FIFA rejected the Irish FA’s appeal for a replay, he argues that television replay and slow-motion replay in particular enable the exaggeration of his intention and distend the time-frame in which, he insists, he was merely intuitively operating. I would want to add that it is more crucially YouTube which multiplies viewership and replayability.


In football every tackle and every instance of ball control is an exercise in awareness and a manipulation of boundaries and limits. For a rare moment in the France-Ireland World Cup qualifying play-off, the ball seemed to stop and fix to Henry, right on the end-line, with his palm perpendicular to the turf; with a palm which became a fence; with a palm which became a manifest boundary and blocked the exit of the ball from the grid, simultaneously blocking the exit of France from the competition. In so doing, however, he merely draws attention to the underlying condition of all play. The ball, Massumi argues, has a certain autonomy: it depends upon the continuum of potential which it doubles, and is nothing without this continuum; yet through the doubling it asserts itself as what he calls a ‘part-subject’: ‘The part-subject catalyses the play as a whole but is not itself a whole. It attracts and arrays the players, defining their effective role in the game and defining the overall state of the game, at any given moment, by the potential movement of the players with respect to it. The ball moves the players. The player is the object of the ball’. As a player he must exploit fault-lines. FIFA just had not yet had reason to consider the miniscule opening for enormous potential in the play of part-object (le main de dieu) and part-subject (ball) at a limit whose play the governing body simply could not see, except now, when it is too late.


So, to conclude with a few more words on the notion of replaying, and of replaying that which did not occur. Krapp’s Last Tape is concerned, as is Proust’s Recherche, with involuntary memory. By contrast to Proust, here involuntary memory has been deprived of its asynthetic force, and has been yoked – by means of a mnemotechnical supplement – into the domain of the actual, of the current and perhaps of the conductible.  For Deleuze the virtual decribes the assemblage of singularities/events, irreducible to the status of merely ‘what happens’. Thus the virtual consists not only of Leibnizian possible worlds but of possible+incompossible worlds. This is what Deleuze means when he says that the virtual is not the same as the possible. The virtual is actualised in creation, while the possible is constrained by preordained limitation. The first allows multiplicity while the second is conditioned in advance by the One. If we take ‘virtual’ to mean possible+incompossible we are in the realm of the disjunctive synthesis, thus back in the virtual as virtual (and hence real, following Deleuze). The virtual (compossible+incompossible) is neutralised in advance by having already converged with the tape recording. Krapp has a prosthetic facility to conjoin the things separated by the abyss of time. His prosthesis – the tape recordings and player combined – is a time-saving device in this respect (the archive puts in reserve, it saves and stockpiles against the future), not an instrument of passage, wherein time is spent, time spends and is spending. Thus it is correct, as several commentators have done, to speak of Krapp as an anti-Proust. Krapp can be said, following the coinage of Derrida – to be ‘teleprogrammed’.

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