My essay for Virus (English edition, there’s also a French one):
THESES ON COMMUNICATION
“If you want obfuscation, you can count on me.”
- Thesis 1: There is no authentic communication other than the incommunicable.
Explanation: Communication does not consist of transmitting a message from one point to another after a preliminary identification of the sender, the recipient, and the technological conditions of the exchange. Any such preliminary identification resolves the riddle of communication before it is actually carried out, i.e. it presupposes the establishment of what is to be communicated and to whom. Authentic communication, however, has as its initial condition the inability to answer the questions of “who” and “what”, with the person and the meaning being precisely what will be determined during the course of the communication. It is in the moment of communication that people reveal themselves and meaning emerges; but that meaning reveals an enigma, and people reveal their masks (cf. Thesis 3). This reveals the incommunicable and those who are attempting to express it, to ex-communicate it from the medium itself and from the churches where ones/they seek, brutally, to re(as)semble.
Scholium: By authenticity, we understand—in Walter Benjamin’s sense—not a truth guaranteed by either tradition or the eternal, but rather something irregular: it is the “ounce of non-sense”, the “leap” into open air required when knowledge is no longer governed by the principle of identity. Authenticity, within the tradition of signification, unleashes an explosion of the origin whose effects are felt until late into the night.
- Thesis 2: By never communicating, the incommunicable always communicates.
Explanation: The incommunicable is neither object nor message, it is the uncommunicant, negative force, autonomized friction—which resists the communication within itself. It is the resistance of the matter—of the materials involved in the process of communication, in the technological platforms as well as in the aural, visual, and olfactory flows—but also the signifying of intentions. This resistance, however, communicates itself, it does not stop jostling, rattling around inside the optical fiber, haunting the superconductivity, distilling itself into absolute zeros to dissolve the empire of the One. And people constantly ex-communicate the incommunicable, whether they like it or not. Because if we spend most of our time not understanding each other, this misunderstanding soon becomes predicated on the certainty of knowing what the other does not understand. Getting rid of this certainty is the best path to the liberation of the incommunicable; left to itself, the incommunicable is no longer peripheral entropy, at the outer edge of meaning, but—lightning inversion, a wick of authenticity catching fire towards the barrel of words—a black center expelling the roots of the dictionary; raised up to the firmament of Ideas, the enigmatic matter plunders the capital of signs. To not understand each other is thus a way to test the incommunicable without shirking from it. For such is the gaping wound: to communicate, to communicate to death, non-stop, so that what cannot be communicated never appears in what we communicate.
- Thesis 3: The metaphor of the incommunicable is love.
Explanation: If passion takes the other for what they are not, love provides the what-is-not so that the other is restored to themselves. The incomprehension that prevents the other from being reduced to some parental trait—“you are just like your mother” (cf. Thesis 4)—also renders them unfamiliar enough for the union to persist, (s)ex-communicating bodies of unassignable genders.
Scholium: From Lacan’s metaphor of the incommunicable “s’aile amour”, to use his original French terms: “L’insu que sait de l’une-bévue s’aile à mourre.” His argument was that something must falter (“insu que sait” for “insuccès” or “unsuccess”) in the unconscious (“l’une-bévue” echoes the beginning of German word for unconscious, “Unbewusstsein”) for love (“s’aile à mourre” for “c’est l’amour” or “it is love”) to happen. Before love, the unconscious is what can be summed up as the endless repetition—of successful repetition, therefore terrible because it tends to expunge all differences—of a jouissance made for one: to enjoy one self, for whom the Other is only for oneself, is to be otherless, and to make the Other a simple inner story. But with love, the unconscious changes, it knows itself (whereas the unconscious before love can be defined as “a knowledge that does not know itself”) and such is the absolute knowledge: that the other whom I love is the distant one who bridges the abyss with the lightning of their arms.
- Thesis 4: Successful communication is hate.
Explanation 1: When the message gets through, the forest withers.
Explication 2: The message is a shell fired at defenseless Palestinian populations.
Explanation 3: A black person is being shot down (the racial fantasy).
- Thesis 5: Someone is ex-communicating from no one.
Explanation: Derived from the Latin “persona”, which initially designated a theatrical mask, and incorporating the Greek term “prosopon”, the concept of persona took on the meaning of “a role attributed to a mask”, a “type of character”. The person carried away in the moment of authentic communication cannot, however, be said to be playing a role, unless he or she loses the strength of the incommunicable. We might call this person: someone, somebody, in the sense of an undetermined person; but I do not seek to establish any prior ontology of the quelconque (whatever): my goal is to show how communication is itself the process by which someone can appear, and by which the person can lose their mask. We can say—we could say, after the fact—something like: no one spoke, and someone ex-communicated from no one.
- Thesis 6: Correspondence is a communication between two ex-communicated people.
Explanation: Far from leading to pure indeterminacy, authentic communication creates a form of community: with (co-,cum) a few others, when each one is closest to being no one anymore, when they are charged with a responsibility (-munity, munus). But the charge is electric, it takes place between two electrodes, establishing communication against the background of the abyss—of the incommunicable.
Scholium: Communication technologies—think of all the video-phone and online chat platforms—that support teleconferencing, distance education, and virtual “social” relationships, seek to produce a unique time composed of different spaces; correspondence, on the contrary, starts from the idea that temporalities are irremediably distinct, and creates a common space where times that have been lived in their irreducible singularity establish a venue where people can meet.
- Thesis 7: When correspondences multiply and occupy the same space that is saturated with heterogeneous temporality, a communism of distance arises.
Explanation: A communism of distance condenses disparate times into one space, the Commune and Black Lives Matter. This is as far from possible from the populism of Laclau and Mouffe, which renders demands equal based on a blind signifier: with communism of distance, the political signifier erupts from ambiguity.
- Thesis 8: The near is the target of the dominant communication technologies.
Explanation: Communication technologies are viral, they infuse all that is global—regardless of the content, disease or Monsanto—into every earthly entity, transforming the Earth into a self-centered globule. Geo is an anagram of ego. Only technologies that have been deviated from their geological targets by a cosmological current can make the communication of the incommunicable possible by preserving the distance, the inaccessible attractor of the ex-communicated people.
Alain Rey, Dictionnaire historique de la langue française
Walter Benjamin, ‘Short Shadows (II)’
Jacques Lacan, L’étourdit ; Séminaire XXIV : L’insu que sait de l’une-bévue s’aile à mourre