Brian Massumi

Potential

Pt. 5

Rachel Whiteread, “Ghost,” 1990, National Gallery of Art.
Rachel Whiteread, “Ghost,” 1990, plaster on steel frame, 105 7/8 x 139 15/16 x 125" (269 x 355.5 x 317.5 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

A sure way to effectively limit the productive dynamism of potential is to cordon energy off into supposedly discrete, closed systems. Unfortunately, most readers (and some writers) view the poem as such a system. The reification of product ropes up and quantifies potential in the money shot of presence, ultimately limiting the surplus energy on tap: in other words, what you see is what there is. This is true of all finite, discontinuous objectivities, including the anthropomorphic-machine and its production of both pleasures and shame, including the production of ossified subject configurations of all types, the nature of which can only truly be defined after the subject has concretized into its own marketable ingress (that is, once the subject is stilled as superject). 

A system is defined by its operational closure. A structure is defined by its functional parameters. A process is in touch with a great outside. It is defined by its openness to that great outside: by how it dips into and captures the tendential potentials stirring there.  
— Brian Massumi, The Principle of Unrest: Activist Philosophy in the Expanded Field[1]

Foreclosure

Pt. 4

Reza Negarestani, “The Corpse Bride: Thinking with Nigredo.”
Reza Negarestani, “The Corpse Bride: Thinking with Nigredo.”

In order to negotiate the philosophically fraught relationship between body and soul, Cicero drew attention to a lost fragment from Aristotle in which the philosopher uses a singularly vile form of torture practiced by Estruscan pirates as an allegory for embodied life.  

This time we shall say: ‘Be the dandy of ambiguities. On pain of losing yourself, love only that which overturns your order.’ As for the pig, he wants to put everything definitively in its place, to reduce it to possible profit; he wants everything to be labelled and consumable.

— Alain Badiou, “What is it to Live?”
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