A Non-Conclusion

11:00-11:15 Introduction to the project
1. What is the project about?
•    How do we respond to the crisis condition we’re in, as well as the events and developments it is manifesting through?
•    How do we approach these events experientially rather than mentally and rationally?
•    What kind of relations and ways of being do we want to initiate?
2. Who is involved and how?
3. What have we done this summer?
4. Where are we at the moment and where are we heading?
5. What are the main themes we’ve been working with so far?
•    Human awareness and perception – what are its limits and how can we move them?
•    Hypersensitivity, responsiveness – what happens to us if we sensitise ourselves to what happens around us instead of blocking it or alienating ourselves from it? How do we sense into the effects we create with our own actions?
•    (Inter)connectivity – what happens to others also happens to us (it’s the same thing)
•    How do we live together with other beings and things?
•    Affect and materiality – how do we encounter and respond to things we don’t know? How do we go beyond functionality and user-value? How do we meet things “as they are”, from their point of view rather than ours? > post-humanism
•    Alienation, otherness and foreignness
•    Weakness and non-colonization
•    Hospitality

11:15-11:40 Hospitality
1. You can begin from where you are at the moment.
2. Notice the degree to which you are a guest, or a visitor, in this space. The foreignness may manifest in various ways – notice what they are.
3. Move around the space as a guest. How do you feel? How does your gaze move, how do things and people appear to you?
4. You can look for a spot where you feel the most foreign, or where your guest-ness manifests itself strongly.
5. Gradually, begin to shift you orientation from that of a guest to that of a host, or a native – one who is at home in this space and identifies it as his or her own. Can you find a way to welcome or invite yourself into this space?
6. See how your way of moving or seeing things and beings changes. Where and how do you wish to be? How do you relate to others if no-one here is a guest?
7. Look at other people. Is there something in them that feels foreign to you? Is there a way for you to welcome it into the space?
8. Now you can share your experiences and observations.

11:40-12:00 Discussion
Why do we work on hospitality?
1. Crisis. There are many things happening around us, and to us, at the moment, which feel unwelcome or foreign to us, such as perpetual violence, destruction, the disappearance of species and life forms, the depletion of resources, etc. We are violent towards each other, and also towards ourselves. The situation produces fear, resistance and alienation. How would our way of relating towards these things change if we tried to welcome or integrate them?
2. Inalienability. Violence emerges from alienation, fear and hostility. What happens to us if we move away from alienation, towards inalienability?
3. Conditional and unconditional hospitality (Derrida)

12:00-12:10 Structure
1. Introducing the structure of the day: lunch, workshop, discussion
2. Introducing the structure of the following days

12:10-13:00 Lunch

13:00-14:30 Seeing is Receiving
In this exercise, we will explore the ways in which we see things, and how our way of seeing affects the way we perceive, receive and respond to them. Even if I will only be talking about sight, you can include and work with the other senses as well. Seeing something fully involves the whole body and affects our being on various levels.
We will concentrate on two main ways of seeing – you could think of them as two different gazes. The first one is a gaze that sees everything at once, without categorizing that which it sees. It is an all-inclusive, deconcentrated gaze. The second gaze is a devoted gaze: it sees only one thing at a time, but is devoted to seeing and receiving it fully. It looks deeper and deeper into that which it encounters.

Part 1: Intro/Mapping
1. Choose a spot that feels inviting to you at the moment. Look into the horizon.
2. Begin turning around to either direction. As you turn around slowly, notice what kind of objects and things appear in you field of vision. You can consider this as an initial mapping of the surroundings.
3. When you’ve arrived at your original location, turn around again. This time, try to see that which you excluded or did not notice the first time around.

Part 2: Seeing everything – an all-inclusive gaze
1. Map out the borders of your field of vision. You can use your hands as a tool: locate them at the edges of the field and move them slightly backwards so that you can no longer see them. Do the same with the upper and lower edges of the field.
2. Once you have a sense of the full width and height of your field of vision, try to see and include everything in it equally, so that nothing pops out or becomes more important than the rest. You can allow the contours of things dissolve, so that they begin to merge with each other. You do not need to distinguish between gestalt and background.
3. Once you have a sense of this way of seeing, you can turn around again. Notice how your perception of the environment has changed.
4. Gradually, you can let go of the exercise.

Part 3: Zooming in – a devoted gaze
1. Choose a single focus in your nearby surroundings. It can be anything.
2. Begin to zoom in on it. You can go physically closer and closer to it, if that helps. Try to become aware of every single detail, and include them all.
3. Once you feel like you’ve seen it all, look closer. See if you can go even deeper.
4. Begin to distance yourself from the thing you are perceiving. As you zoom out, you can become aware of the context the thing is embedded in, and the relations and networks it is a part of. You can perceive it from different angles and perspectives and see if its appearance changes.

Part 4: Shifting the gaze
1. Now, your task is to move in the surroundings on your own. You can shift between these two modes of perception and see what kind of movement this shift produces.

14:30-16:00 Including the (non)human in us

Part 1: The human
1. Pair up with someone.
2. Sit or stand facing each other.
3. Decide which one is the host, and which one is the guest.
4. The task of the host is to receive or include the other as fully as possible. The guest can focus on being received or included.
5. The host can see to what degree she/he is able to include the other, and whether there are things that feel difficult to include fully.
6. Change roles.
7. Both can let go of the roles and see what emerges. Notice how your being-with the other is affected by the exercise. If one needs to, one can change position in relation to the other.

Part 2: The nonhuman
1. Go for a walk in the surroundings (limited).
2. Find a being or a thing that feels foreign to you.
3. Position yourself next to it or facing it.
4. See how and to what degree can you receive or include it.
5. See how your being is affected by it.
6. When you move away from the being, see how your movement or way of being is still affected by the inclusion. Can you keep the other with you as you move?
7. You can stay with one single being the whole time. If you feel that the process of inclusion has come to an end or that nothing new emerges anymore, you may move from one being to another.
8. When I ring the bells, you may return to the place where we started. But keeping the beings still with you. When everyone has arrived we may let go of the exercise.

A Non-Conclusion

Mapping

(Updating the) Project Description

The BodyBuilding Project is a shared inquiry into the sensibilities, subjectivities and relational capacities we, as interdependent beings, might beneficially develop in response to the planetary urgencies we currently face. It encourages us to reimagine the propensities currently identified as “human”, and to begin building bodies capable of prefiguring life beyond our collapsing horizons.

This paragraph is the conceptual layout. At the moment, it is extremely dense: it attempts to describe both the aim and context of the project in a few short sentences. Originally, the description was much longer and more detailed: it described the manifold crisis condition we are in, as well as our relation towards it. Also, it focused on the somewhat pompous idea of us being able (or at least willing) to develop ways of imagining a future for us as a species, and to propose ways of getting there.

In the current version, the crisis condition is already taken for granted, as if it was something everyone was familiar with; also, the idea of us launching ourselves towards a possible future has been dropped. The emphasis is on the reimagination and reevaluation of the human, which seems to be at the core of the project. It is fundamentally a speculative project, and thus remains continuously on the move, on the verge of the possible. The open speculation enables the integration of various, possibly contradictory elements and attitudes into one whole, which seems to be important for us; even if we share the same values, our approaches and ways of relating to both the project and the questions it is addressing are different from each other.

The project consists of a perennial artistic research process and a series of public events created collaboratively by a growing body of artists, theorists and practitioners. Our aim is to develop a series of embodied practices that can be sustained both individually and collectively and transmitted in a variety of ways.

This paragraph is very practical and concrete, which makes it both necessary and enjoyable. The concrecy can manifest in various ways, and develop along the way.

We are currently taking part in a group exhibition at HIAP Gallery Augusta on Suomenlinna Island. The exhibition, titled Excavations, opened on June 12 and will continue until the end of August. Our participation manifests mainly in the form of weekly practice sessions and discussions, as well as intensive workshops and events.

This paragraph represents the local aspect of the project – it describes the events that are happening right now.

Mapping

Practice Session July 30th: A Day of Terraforming

Maybe hospitality could be described as a more or less dualistic proposition in which the act of being hospitable is a a way to bridge the two separate worlds.

I’m proposing two exercises which examine this notion of hospitality from two different perspectives.

One focusing on fossil-fuels and the so-called anonymous materials trough ideas of Hermes Trismegistus and traditional cosmologies, and the other on the so-called inhuman apparatuses trough Karen Barad and her ideas of agential-realism and intra-action.

1.

As above, so below. The maxim of the Hermetists puts human to the centre point of it’s world axis; between manifest Substance (earth) below and transcendent stations (heaven) above it. Rooted as part of the earthly, and still capable of traversing or transcending the cosmological, the task of human consciousness is to redeem nature and restore the spiritual significance of every elemental being surrounding us. For the the Hermetists human bears within him the intuitive knowledge archetypical meanings and meaningful culture or authentic traditions bring this to the forefront of consciousness and to everyday life.  Is hospitality, as it is framed here, an act of playing out and reenforcing the the structures of a hierarchy?

So, to restore the world in it’s transcendent significance, human has to restore these manifestations of spiritual archetypes (the architypical meanings): the woodness of wood, the copperness of copper, and perhaps the fossil-fuelness of fossil fuels. The inverse: a process of uniformation, (using things as anonymous material simply to fullfill a human desires) loses the sacred potential of any material (or elemental being) and makes it less than what it actually is. This is why modernity and the scientific world view of random evolution appears violent to traditional cosmologies.

In his book Cyclonopedia: Complicity With Anonymous Materials, Reza Negarestani describes fossil-fuels as: the hydrocarbon corpse juice, rotting sun, black corpse of sun, totality of rot and devils shit. It’s clear that the hydrocarbons represent something which instead of being a direct manifestation of spiritual principles of the divine, originate from below (or from somewhere outside this vertical cosmogram?).

Benjamin Bratton on A paper for Leper Creativity symposium on Reza Negaristani’s Cyclonopedia:

”Earth, the rendering of organic life on the surface of its crust into subterranean mineral fossil fuels is a core vascular labor. As oil, plastic is life re-recycled. So that the plasticity of plastic – the real compression-deformation effect of oil as the ultimate fate of the living thing – long predates the physical possibility of its composition by animals (humans) as the chemicals we call “plastics.”  That futurity is ancient. This transmutation from some things and toward other things, the recycling churn of geotrauma and geodesign, translates the situated flux of planetary molecular recombinancy into the generic assemblages we recognize as cities, civilizations, languages, and discursive registers of authority and knowledge.”

 

Now again following the Hermetists:

What if the archetypical meaning of fossil-fuels is uniformation?

What if uniformation (perhaps described as an ancient plasticity, or a frictional spin between two slabs moving the same way but with radically different time-scales) is actually the ultimate fate of the living thing?

How can we restore the significance (or a language) for a our hospitality (or complicity) with these anonymous materials (everything reshaped by fossil-fuels in one way or another) in human eyes?

EXERCISE 1: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (a mash-up of one of mine and a one of Bruno Latour)

Look around the room… Consider how much anonymous material there is in there? Open or move around one of these objects; examine the assemblies inside or around it. Perhaps many of the parts of which the object is made are anonymous as well. How many humans, or how many skilful expert workers would immediately materialise around each of these objects if it would be remade right here? How far back in time, away in space, should we retrace our steps to follow all those silent entities? Return each of these entities to step one; imagine a time when each was disinterested and going its own ways without being bent, enrolled, enlisted, folded in any of the others’ plot.

How many different points in time do you get? How many different timescales? Try to feel the friction of all these different speeds being present in this moment? How does this make you think of hospitality?

Could this be something we might call uniformation? If so, could you anyhow restore the manifestations of this spiritual archetype(s)? Could the action of restoring this be an act of hospitality?

2.

The human and the non-human come to be as separate trough inhuman apparatuses which are the condition of possibility of ‘humans’ and ‘non-humans’, not merely as ideational concepts, but in their materiality. Things don’t necessarily exist as separate before the cut, rather, ‘objects’ emerge through particular intra-actions.

Karen Barard’s theory of agential realism claims that we are not outside observers of the world. Neither are we simply located at particular places in the world; rather, we are part of the world in its ongoing intra-activity, part of the world-body space in its dynamic structuration.

Barad is a theoretical quantum physicist (and feminist), and to understand her approach it’s perhaps good to know that in quantum physics atomic and subatomic scales objects and energy are believed to behave and interact extremely differently than is usually seen in daily life. Everyday objects such as LED-lights as well as transistors, microprocessors and semiconductors, which are used in computers, smartphones and solar panels for example, are applications of this theory in which things can have wave-like and particle like behaviour simultaneously, in which some physical quantities can change probabilistically, and in which the status of the observer can cause a certain phenomena to occur (or not), for example.

From this perspective the idea of hospitality (Barad talks about responsibility) might be a bit different. ”Cuts are agentially enacted not by willful individuals but by the larger material arrangement of which “we” are a “part.” The cuts that we participate in enacting matter. We are responsible for the cuts that we help to enact because by doing that we are an agential part of the material becoming of the universe. Indeed, ethics cannot be about responding to the other as if the other is the radical outside to the self.

Responsibility, (and so also hospitality) is an act which is not exclusive right, obligation, or dominion of humans. Agency is “doing” or “being” in its intra-activity. Intra-actions iteratively reconfigure what is possible and what is impossible, possibilities do not sit still. Hospitality is participation. Hospitality is about changing possibilities of change entailed in reconfiguring material-discursive apparatuses of bodily production, including the boundary articulations and exclusions that are marked by those practices in the enactment of a causal structure. Hospitality is about constant change, a discursive and performative act of what is possible and what is not.

EXERCISE 2: The Object-Apparatus-Phenomena-Observer situation

Look around you, try to find objects which you find important. Important specially in defining you as a human. How a specific agential cut(s) make you to be what you believe being a human is.

Then, being with these ’significant others’, observe how they are in constant motion, how they change all the time. How does this feel, can you accept it? How does this change you? Does this have anything to do with hospitality?

After taught:

These two approaches lay out different ways to think about hospitality. One which is more human-centric but which trough this experiment of contradicting itself creates a backdoor to see it simultaneously as both materialistic and idealistic when the act of being hospitable perhaps becomes mediation between these two. And the other questions the very possibility of independent human agency and frames the question of hospitality as a performance in which the possibilities of change/ becoming are discursively defined and in which the act of making the cuts to form the separate entities of the discussion is maybe where hospitality happens.

Everything is connected to everything as reflections of the divine. or nothing is connected to everything but everything is connected to something.

 

Movie tips:

Safe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_(1995_film)

Bio-Dome

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bio-Dome

Begotten

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begotten

Practice Session July 30th: A Day of Terraforming