Friday, January 28, 2011

Tar Story

Natural Pine Tar Pitch

The disaster is an inheritance, a (mis)trust fund supplied through tradition.  Event (Ereignis) refers to this received decision, what is given as gift, a duty to be paid by receiver.  In the event of the Cabot Koppers site in Gainesville, the activity resulting in pollution began in 1911, and the pitch pine tar was used to treat utility poles.  "Pine tar is a byproduct formed as the result of distilling pine wood at high temperatures, forcing it to decompose. Once the wood breaks down, it results in the formation of charcoal and a gum-like substance, tar. When the tar is further distilled, oils are removed from it, creating the byproduct pine tar pitch." The history of this product goes back six centuries, with the original use being the treatment of ship hulls.  Pine tar is an important link in the story of invention tracked in episode seven ("The Long Chain") of Connections (James Burke), and is a good example of technics, referring to the autonomous, interdependent ontologies of technology and humans.  The original source of pine tar (Scandinavian forests) used by the British and other European fleets was cut off due to war, replaced by the colonies as primary supplier, primarily the Southern states.  The evolution of inventions, passing through a series of accidents, mistakes, chance connections traced by Burke passes on from pine tar through coal tar eventually on to plastics.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Unknown Quantity

Deepwater Horizon

Paul Virilio's Museum of the Accident constitutes the Target for Routine's second CATTt.  The immediate passage between the seminar inventing an Internet Concept (Routine) and the present project to invent a fatal strategy is the condition of surprise.  "Turning around the threat of the unexpected in this way, surprise becomes a subject for research and major risks a subject for exposure and for exhibition, within the framework of instantaneous telecommunications" (Virilio, Unknown Quantity, "Foreword").  In Routine we used as a point of departure for an image concept the conductive logic of the joke form, with its power to register exact cultural locations of expectations and their violation.  Now this system is extended into strategy as a mode of thought.  An initial statement of our Target, then, (that is, of the problem addressed by our project), comes from Virilio:  
If, in fact, invention is just a way of seeing, of grasping accidents as signs, as opportunities, it is high time to open up our galleries to the impromptu, to that “indirect production” of science and the techno-sciences that is the disaster, the (industrial or other) catastrophe. If, according to Aristotle, “the accident reveals the substance,” the invention of the substance is also the invention of the “accident.” Seen this way, the shipwreck is indeed the “futuristic” invention of the ship, the air crash the invention of the supersonic plane, and the Chernobyl meltdown, the invention of the nuclear power station.
Instruction:  The accident (+ policies) you select as the Target for fatal strategy is framed as a "sign."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Metaphysical Disaster

Baudrillard says of Pompeii, that "everything is metaphysical in this city."
The tactile presence of these ruins is magnificent for the psyche, with their suspense, their twisting shadows, their sheer matter-of-factness.  A conjunction of the banality of a promenade and the immanence of another time, another moment, unique, that of catastrophe. . . . Few places leave such an impression of worrisome uncanniness (it is no surprise that Jansen and Freud set the psychic action of Gradiva there).  Here one feels all the heat of death, rendered all the more vivid by the fossilized and fugitive signs of daily life (FS, 42).
Perhaps a sign of the timeliness of our inquiry into the metaphysics of accident is the recent collapse of the ruins of Pompeii, the second death of which philosophers speak (since we are learning the semiotics of immanence)?