Happiness by The Bad Vibes Club

A lecture with sampled sound clips from the 1998 Todd Solondz film 'Happiness', written and performed by Matt Breen and Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau of The Bad Vibes Club, originally presented as part of 'You Can't Win Them All', a radio project by Jenny Moore, 2014.

The Minor Sixth by The Bad Vibes Club

Lecture with sampled music written and performed by Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau of The Bad Vibes Club. First given at the ICA as part of 'Realisms and Object Orientations: Art, Politics and the Philosophy of Tristan Garcia', 2014

The Political Implications of Flatness

Yesterday I presented at Realisms and Object Orientations: Art, Politics and the Philosophy of Tristan Garcia at the ICA.

I was speaking about the pre-ideological affective states that might orientate a thinker towards thinking certain thoughts. I was trying to burrow into the the reasons as to why certain ideas are fashionable, or seem relevant at certain times and to certain people. Why is ontology currently the most on trend area of philosophical study after 200 years of neglect? And why are so many humans with a seemingly natural investment in the concept of the subject, so fascinated by the possibility of seeing the world in terms of objects?

The talk went well, thanks to those who came. I'll post a version of it online soon.

But for now I wanted to address some of the political discussions that took place yesterday - or at least, began to take place. We were lucky enough to have Tristan Garcia speaking at the symposium. I did three days of seminars with Tristan in New York in April and I'm halfway through reading his systematic philosophical work, Form and Object.

Form and Object is an interesting piece of object orientated philosophy because a flat ontology is the basis of Garcia's system of thought, rather than its goal. The book is split into two parts: Form, laying out the formal ontology of what Garcia calls things, and Object, which is Garcia's metaphysics applied to various subjects including but not limited to ageing, death, genders, animals, and representations. Garcia's ontology is 'poor' and 'weak', 'depressed' even, with a thing defined as needing only the minimal determination necessary to ensure its existence. Within his ontology there can be no interaction, no complexity, no unity, no distinction between real and unreal. But this formal system is, he says, useless when confronted with objects. Once you are in the realm of objects, for example in the physical universe in which humans operate, then you are no longer in the domain of ontology but of metaphysics. Garcia defines metaphysics as a process of ordering - deciding what matters - and with metaphysics you are able to comprehend objects within objects, complexity, interaction, time, change, the difference between true and false, etc. etc. Garcia's ontology is flat in order that he might build his metaphysics on level ground.

In his lecture yesterday he laid out the political foundations for his project. I'm not sure if this is something he has developed in response to the wider political critique of Speculative Realism  and Object Oriented Ontology, but it was nice to hear politics explicitly addressed. Garcia spoke about his use of the word liberal when describing ontology. He clarified that liberal ontology is the existing ontology of liberalism. His ontology is what he calls 'ultra-liberalism' - using ultra in the original Greek sense of 'beyond'. This could be seen as a kind of accelerationist ontology, a race to the bottom, to reify everything to a something. The substantial difference between accelerationism and Garcia's project, I think, is that for Garcia, ontology doesn't have a singularity at which collapse might occur. There is nothing beneath the bottom of being. Indetermination does not count as an ontological determination, however liberal you are with your definition of a thing, and therefore, there is no trapdoor, no exit plan, there is no escape from being. This goes along with an understanding of liberalism/modernity/capitalism/whatever that is very similar to Latour's understanding of The Moderns. For Garcia, capitalism makes everything equally a thing in order to make things equivalent (i.e., in order to make them tradeable), but it uses this ontology to tricksily justify a metaphysics that makes certain things and ideas, e.g. the idea of possession (of oneself, and of property), into transcendent ideals, more-than-things in Garcia's terms . It does this through the ontological determination of unity - that something is the same thing over time - and through the in-itself (or the compact as Garcia terms it) - the idea that certain things have possession of themselves and full access to themselves. (It doesn't really matter whether you're thinking of humans as transcendent subjects or non-humans as objects that fully and authentically inhabit themselves, the important thing is that it contradicts the liberal ontology of equality.) The point is that the ontology of liberalism claims flatness (equality) but also maintains economic and political ideologies (metaphysics) that give more importance/existence to certain ideas/things than to others, the notion of private property being just one obvious example.

He then went on to criticise the effectiveness of critique, which for Garcia (I'm paraphrasing hugely here), just keeps on pointing out things which cannot be reified by capitalism and which capitalism then (rightly, in Garcia's view) inevitably reifies - much to the shock of the critics but not to the shock of the capitalists (just for clarity, I'm kind of personifying capitalists and capitalism here, but I don't think that capitalism is consciously enacted by a group of people that see themselves as capitalists). Critique in Garcia's view, is just a way of keeping the process moving.

The political struggle, Garcia implies, is not located in halting reification or finding sanctuary from capitalism in something that cannot be turned into a thing, but in confronting the metaphysics of capitalism, and to do this, we need to find a plane of being from which to operate. A place where nothing can be reified (because it is already a thing), and nothing can be alienated (because no thing is in full possession of itself). This is Garcia's ultra-liberal ontology.

(And thanks here to Iain MacKenzie for his wonderful reading of Garcia in terms of possession.)

So the important question must be this: what are the metaphysics/ideologies implied by this ultra-liberal ontology?

This is trickier. We don't know yet, I guess. That's the short version. The metaphysics are in the process of being built through thought and writing and reading and discourse. That's why it's exciting. If you've ever read Timothy Morton or Donna Harroway you can see its implications for ecology, but elsewhere in the political sphere its not so obvious. In fact, its implications are quite ambiguous.

For me, it's not clear how an ultra-liberal ontology is much different from a liberal ontology in terms of how it might be used by capitalism, i.e., if capitalism claims a liberal ontology of equality as its base, but then also utilises a metaphysics of inequality in its practice, why couldn't it use this new, ultra-liberal ontology from which to build its contradictory metaphysics?

An ultra liberal ontology could also be seen as simply a critque of a liberal ontology - 'you haven't gone far enough'. And pointing out the contradictions inherent in capitalism (even if it is in the rather novel area of ontology and metaphysics) is Marx, and what is Marx if not the critiquing capitalist par excellence? (If you know what I mean.)

One possibility I'm interested in discussing is that the ontology that is most accurate (and I do believe that a hyper-flat ontology of Garcia's kind really is an accurate description of being) might not necessarily lead to a politics that we want, and if so, what do we do then? (Clue: the answer is not turn back to the transcendent subject.)

The ARKA group in conversation at Zabludowicz Collection

The ARKA group talk about their exhibition 'On Between' at Zabludowicz Collection.
They accompanied their talk with a selection of videos and images which can be found at the links below (not in order)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL1ZJQ4Je…&feature=youtu.be - guy dressed as tiger playing with inflatables
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulL6A3Satis - Furry fox on a dragon
www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKGtb_HFkS8 - A messy girl vid Ben sent me ages ago
www.youtube.com/watch?v=biiIsj6q3…tch?v=biiIsj6q3Bs - oh but this is the best one (the silvery mud)
ashortdescriptionofmypoo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/….html - an image dump of 'Milk Bags' on my blog
ashortdescriptionofmypoo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/….html - Blog I wrote in 2012 with pictures of wrapped things
ashortdescriptionofmypoo.blogspot.co.uk/2013/….html - Blog about a visit I made to Ireland to reserach abandoned housing developments. Lots of images at the end
ashortdescriptionofmypoo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/….html - Philip Guston drawings that I think about a lot
docs.google.com/file/d/0B3j21ywWR…BOUtZOUlIWkk/edit - A lecture I update every now and again (this is the first version), called "Acceptable Blocakges", has lots of pictures of found sculptures.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySeVBDvmvFc - v weird vid of 3d models sinking in mud
www.mediafire.com/watch/wvnb66yo8a…ets+the+Girl.wmv - vid of 3d models being eaten by giant worm and digested
www.youtube.com/watch?v=YG5qDeWHN…1843473A8&index=3 - A few things from Mark Leckey's 'New Medievalism' list on youtube

Communal Juicing: In Conversation

Last month me and Eva Rowson chatted about my exhibition and performance Communal Juicing at Space in Between.

Some people came to watch us talk and there were some good questions and comments from people.

Then we went to the pub and then we went to Franco Manca and ate a pizza. It was a satisfying evening. On the way to the talk me and Ben (the other person in the ARKA group) ate champagne Magnum ice creams because we felt tired and I'd really recommend that as a little pick me up if you're feeling low.

Communal Juicing

Performance with kale, celery apple, ginger and lemon juice, (2014)

Performed by Katie Braden, Daniel Oliver, Jessica Schouela & Omega 8006 Masticating Juicer And Nutrition Centre

Camera by Tim Bowditch
Sound by Sarah Bayliss

Commissioned by Art Licks Weekend/Space in Between
Thanks to Space in Between,

Somatic Practice

Somatic Practice, performance for broadcast with Eleanor Sikorski, 2014.

Commissioned by Rose Lejeune with Field Broadcast at Wirksworth Festival.


HD video, flat screen television, amplifier, speakers, media player, aggregate, sandbags, copper coins, HDMI cable, Lucozade bottle

Commissioned by Rose Lejeune for Wirksworth Festival, 2014.


The Affective Qualities of Dismissing Subjectivity

From, 'After Hegel: An Interview with Robert Pippin'

'This kind of critique of human subjectivity is essentially the result of those Paul Ricouer called the “masters of suspicion”: Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. These are the first to suggest that the domain of conscious intention, decision, and judgment is merely an appearance, while the true determinates of what we take ourselves to be consciously determining are actually inaccessible to consciousness. The domain of our conscious attentiveness is a kind of illusion, a pretension to run the show of our own lives, whereas it is actually some manifestation of the relation between the mode of production and the relations of production in a given society, or the will to power, or the unconscious. What poststructuralism did, which is essentially a post-Heideggerian phenomenon, is intensify the skepticism about the possibility of running any show, by destabilizing the attempt to identify these so-called true forces of determination—the unconscious, the will to power, economic relations of class, and so on. Such an intense skepticism that we could ever come to any determination about those latent forces leaves one in a of condition of complete indeterminacy—a “floating signifier.”

The central response from the Hegelian tradition we have been discussing is that the conclusion of utter indeterminacy points immediately to its own practical unintelligibility. In other words, suppose you are convinced that human subjectivity, in this somewhat crude sense of “running the show,” is an illusion. What would it be to properly acknowledge this fact, in one’s life, from the first-person point of view? Are you supposed to wait around indefinitely, to see what your indeterminate forces do? There’s some enormous overcorrection in the history of Western thought since roughly Marx and Nietzsche, in which all sorts of babies are being thrown out with all kinds of bath water'

MS Paint Drawings

Bourbon, MSpaint, 2014

Keys, MSpaint, 2014

Pret Wrap, MSpaint, 2014

Printer, MSpaint, 2014

MS Paint Drawings

Grayson Perry, MSPaint, 2014

Microsoft Object, MSPaint, 2014

 Nicholas Serota, MSPaint, 2014

 Sinkhole, MSPaint, 2014

Your Penis Covered in Blood, MSPaint, 2014

Blackberry, MS Paint, 2014

Semen, MS Paint, 2014

Jacques Lacan, MS Paint, 2014

Student, MS Paint, 2014

Table, MS Paint, 2014

Waiting for Elmo, MS Paint, 2014

David Lynch, MSPaint, 2014

Agent Cooper, MS Paint, 2014

Laura Palmer, MS Paint, 2014

Black Hole/Singularity, MS Paint, 2014

Wittgenstein, MS Paint, 2014

Canoe, MS Paint, 2014

Objected Success

Objected Success, clay and glaze, 2014

A ceramic re-enactment of Success Object, pen on paper, 2014

I'm Here. You're Here. Let's Discourse!

I'm Here. You're Here. Let's Discourse! by Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau

Performance installation with script, crisp dough, crisps, chairs, trestles and toilet roll, 2014.
Performed by Daniel Oliver at Open School East, London in May 2014.
Camera by Tim Bowditch


NY #8: Ambient Notes #13: Reza Negarestani, 'What Philosophy Does to the Mind?' at e-flux

-The plastic foldable chairs have very soft, bendy back supports and you can't really lean into them. You have to sort of hover, exerting only gentle pressure.

-I'm suburnt from walking the length of Manhattan yesterday. One side of my face is pink, verging on red. I feel like people are looking at me going, 'Who let that pink guy in here?'

-There are three introductions to the talk.

-Also, we thought it would be nice to walk over Williamsburg Bridge to get here, but now I am sweaty and the room is warm and I'm not cooling down.

-Negarestani is wearing a lapel mic but it must be hidden behind his collar because it sounds like he is underwater.

-There's a heavyset middle aged guy in front of me with slicked back hair and what for some reason I'm thinking of as a "sports jacket" even though I don't know what that is. He leans hard back in his bendy chair and puts his arm round the back of the chair next to him.

-Negarestani says, 'What it means to take something as true and what it means to make something true.'

-Negarestani says something about philosophy driving a wedge between mind and the world, but I'm not sure if he is talking historically, and if so, when was the mind ever fully in the world. When was the body ever fully in the world? Come to think of it, when was the world ever fully the world? (Though I'm not disagreeing that the task of philosophy is to find knowledge through alienation, I'm just querying the idea that alienation is unique to mind/humans/subjects whatever, and that it "happened" at some point in history.)

-Guy in the "sports jacket" has taken off his "sports jacket" to reveal a tan turtle neck.

-Negarestani breaks off from reading his paper, looks up at the audience, says, 'This is important', then carries on reading his paper.

-Negarestani says, 'What should we do to count as something?'

-Negarestani says, 'Mind has a history.'

-Negarestani says, 'True to the game' and some young guys behind me snigger and say, 'Yeah' in a fake deep voice.

-OK, hold on I think I have an idea of what he's saying - I think he is saying that to have a mind is to conceive of the mind as artificial or able to create artefacts, and that this conception of mind is historical, rather than natural.

-And this understanding sees mind as a project (historical) not an object (natural).

-Negarestani concludes and people start to rustle. He drinks from his glass of water and says, 'Part 2'. The rustling stops.

-Negarestani says, 'Knowledge should be suspicious of what it already knows.' 'To know is to preserve and mitigate ignorance.'

-Not many people taking notes. I'm wondering how you'd get through a lecture like this without having something else to do.

-Negarestani says, 'What knowledge needs to get rid of is the idea of uniqueness - the uniqueness of the world, the uniqueness of the mind.'

-The air conditioner comes on which is noisy but doesn't do much. The room is ever so slightly cooler, but perhaps a little damper.

-A bell goes off somewhere in the building and Negarestani looks up at the door and then continues.

-OK, another thing I'm getting - deep scepticism is central to this conception of knowledge/mind because you can only know the mind by looking at the world, and only understand the world by looking at the mind but actually by the time I wrote that I wasn't sure why.

-Negarestani says, 'Part three. Strategy one.'

-It's weird to conceive of a historical/historicised mind in such a detailed manner and then throw in the term, 'genuine freedom' as though it doesn't need explaining.

-Negarestani says something about dialectical materialism, fatalism and techno-singularity all maintaining an impoverished idea of history.

-Negarestani says something derogatory about Marxism and the guy in the "sport jacket"/turtle neck laughs and looks around.

-This impoverished version of history is unipathic, which I guess means it can only see one line from the past extending into the future.

-Nick Land (techno-capital-singularity) and Quentin Meillasoux (erm, dunno - some messianism maybe? Didn't hear him properly...) both make this mistake about what history is.

-Negarestani says, 'Real change is always a disruption or an eruption.'

-Negarestani says, 'Philosophy has a solution for this' but I didn't hear the problem.

-Negarestani says, 'A history that sees itself as one moment inevitably following another is not a history but a nature.'

-When listening to something I don't fully understand, I flip between finding it hard to follow and hearing it as a series of tautologies. Like, somehow is seems at once too complex to make sense, and too obvious to have meaning.

-Someone gets someone a glass of water, then someone offers someone a banana, then someone opens a window, then someone from the front row gets up and leaves the room.

-Someone asks a question and suddenly they are speaking about free jazz.

-Negarestani says, 'Rational compulsion', 'Rigorous psychosis.'

-And then like three questions later, someone else is asking about free jazz. Is this a thing in American philosophy lectures?

-A few questions later the second free jazz guy brings out a tape player and starts playing a weird slowed down sample, maybe recorded from the lecture itself. It seems kind of disrespectful considering we just sat through his jazz question.

-At the end of long lectures with extended Q & A sessions I feel a horror at the power and mutability of language.

-The last question is about Marxism and I'm worried that the questioner is going to be "that Marxist guy" and we're going to be here for ever.

-Some people have left, a few people are leaning over in their chairs, much of the audience have their coats and/or bags in their laps, one person has their face in their hands.

NY #7: Ethics and Aesthetics

I'm in New York with two other Open School East Associates to take part in a conference called Composing Differences at MOMA PS1.

Before we left for New York, we asked a few practitioners to share some material with us that we might be able to draw on for our presentation at the conference. Dexter Sinister sent us some bulletins from The Serving Library.
I just read Why Bother by Angie Keefer, it had a promising start about mistaking convergence for meaning, and then it mentioned Wittgenstein and I was hooked.

I love reading about Wittgenstein. I've read two biographies - one about his family (his brother was the most famous one armed pianist that ever lived), and one focusing on his infamous meeting with Karl Popper (where Wittgenstein apparently "brandished" a poker at the Viennese philosopher of science). I've also read Correction by Thomas Bernhard in which a Wittgenstein-esque philosopher builds a perfectly conical house for his sister before killing himself. And Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson in which an unnamed narrator experiences a literal version of the problem of solipsism.

As for his philosophy... I own both the Tractacus and Philosophical Investigations, but I bought them a long time ago before I had the necessary patience and understanding to fully engage with them. I get the general vibe of each book (they are almost totally contradictory as to what is the vital quality of language), but I don't know the text.

In Why Bother, Keefer describes the process of reading Wittgenstein and understanding why you would be interested in reading Wittgenstein. And she does an amazing job.


One section of the essay really struck me, and it's where she mentions A Lecture on Ethics, given by Wittgenstein in 1929.

Last year I listened to a lecture by Timothy Morton and he mentioned something about aesthetics being central to ethics. I liked the idea but I couldn't work out why. I googled the phrase and not much came up - or at least the stuff that came up didn't seem to be about the same idea that I understood when I heard Morton speaking.

It turns out that Wittgenstein understood me perfectly. Here is Angie Keefer explaining the main argument of A Lecture on Ethics.

'In the trivial sense, a word like ‘good’ accords with a pre-determined standard. i.e. Something is ‘good’ if it meets a quantifiable mark. Think of a good athlete or a good chess player or a good canoe. We know how to tell good from bad in each case because we have certain agreed upon metrics. That’s relative good. That’s the trivial sense. This trivial sense is, in turn, the basis of a metaphor we use to say something is good in the ethical sense. e.g. When I say, “Wittgenstein is a good person,” my meaning is conveyed because we understand ‘good’ in the relative sense and can draw on that sense of goodness as a metaphor for something that can’t be measured—an absolute good, a good “beyond” facts.

One way to detect whether a word is being used in the trivial or in the ethical sense is to try replacing it with other terms. If I say a canoe is good, and I mean the canoe is sea-worthy and will hold three people without
sinking, that is a defensible use of the word ‘good’. But if I say Wittgenstein is good, I can’t replace ‘good’ in the same way, with a standard measure. I have to rely on ethical arguments to substantiate my description. I am not dealing in facts. My meaning is ultimately indefensible.

In the first case—the canoe—I’ve made a logical proposition. It involves facts that can be vetted.

In the second case, I’ve issued an aesthetic statement. It can’t be verified.'

And then, Keefer carries on with Wittgenstein's words,

'Ethics, so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can be no science.

What it says does not add to our knowledge in any sense.

But it is a document of a tendency in the human mind which I personally cannot help respecting deeply and I would not for my life ridicule it.'

Then, back to Keefer,

'The most meaningful (absolute) form eludes meaningful (relative) articulation, but the process of attempting
articulation is, itself, the practice of giving form to ethics. And that is what artists do.'

NY #6: A House of Cards and A Naked Singularity

I'm staying with a friend in New York, and when we get back to her apartment at a reasonable time, we tend to watch a few episodes of House of Cards, a Netflix series starring Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, a ruthless and vengeful Democrat politician who will stop at nothing etc. etc.

I'd heard a while back that the show had been produced by Netflix using data that told them their subscribers' favourite writers, actors, storylines, moral themes, etc. The real story isn't quite as good, but it's got a similar vibe. David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, The Social Network) had been recruited to write the first two episodes, and Kevin Spacey was committed to taking the starring role. Netflix outbid every other American TV company for the rights to air the series, and using analysis of the data they collect from their subscribers, were confident enough to commission two series straight off, without the need for a pilot. Kevin Spacey hadn't been a main character in a TV series since the late 80s, and David Fincher had never written for a major TV series, but Netflix know their data, and the first two series were immensely popular, with a third series on its way.

In the three or four episodes I've seen, Kevin Spacey has ruined about five careers, driven a guy to suicide, had an affair with a journalist and then killed that journalist by pushing her under a subway train. New characters appear constantly, seemingly just so they can be pulled into Spacey's giant tractor beam of shit to have their careers ruined/lives ended. It's relentless entertainment and it doesn't care how it entertains.

I haven't watched many episodes, but as far as I can tell, it has a very basic plot point upon which all this other action can be generated, 'Will Frank Underwood get away with it?'

Much like the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, the answer to this question must stay just out of sight for the series to make sense and keep people watching.


I've been thinking about black holes. Gravitational singularity is the point inside a black hole where matter becomes infinitely dense and all rules of spacetime cease to make sense. It is beyond, and behind, the event horizon which is the point of no return - no light beyond the event horizon can reach an observer outside of the black hole.

The event horizon hides singularity from outside observers. Singularity has to be hidden from us, and this is as much a moral imperative as it is an observation of physics.

Basically, if we can see what's inside a black hole, then we might see something that renders unstable every practical implication of our current physics.

'If singularities can be observed from the rest of spacetime, causality may break down, and physics may lose its predictive power. The issue cannot be avoided, since according to the Penrose-Hawking singularity theorems, singularities are inevitable in physically reasonable situations. Still, in the absence of naked singularities, the universe is deterministic — it is possible to predict the entire evolution of the universe [...], knowing only its condition at a certain moment of time [...]. Failure of the cosmic censorship hypothesis leads to the failure of determinism'

The Wikipedia article goes on to explain that the hypothesis is not formal, i.e., there's no maths involved yet, it's just that most physicists feel that they shouldn't ever be allowed to observe a singularity.

This fearsome possibility, a black hole without an event horizon, is called a naked singularity. A naked singularity would make it possible to observe the collapse of matter to an infinite density, ruining the predictive powers of physics forever.


Before I came to New York I read (devoured might be a better word) the book A Naked Singularity by Sergio de la Pava.

The book was self published by de la Pava in 2008, and then after an enthusiastic response, it was taken up by Chicago University Press and eventually the publishers of Stieg Larsson in 2013. It won the PEN prize for debut fiction and de la Pava has been hailed as the new Dickens/Joyce/Pynchon/David Foster Wallace.

I loved reading the book, but I was cynical of my own enjoyment. It was like it had been focus grouped to appeal to me circa two years ago. For a while, all the books I read were by Giant American Post-modernists - Pynchon, Don DeLillo and particularly David Foster Wallace. I've read everything DFW wrote that has been published, including a not very good essay on hip hop, and a pathetic posthumous collection of essays and fragments that reminded me of those albums 2Pac is still releasing.

The book has everything that I already enjoy reading - a flowing, first person narrative, absurdist humour with magical realist tendencies, essayistic digressions into art, philosophy and pop culture, and a long story about a man shitting his pants.

The book is mostly about the main character, Casi - a public defender working in Manhattan and living in Brooklyn - being a human in the world, but the storyline presented by the book is about Casi taking part in a scheme to rob some drug dealers. The lacuna at the heart of the story is firstly whether or not Casi will go through with the robbery, and then after he does, whether or not he'll get caught.

Like all the best art, you don't find out the answer to that last question. The possibilities of the book spill out infinitely beyond the last page, leaving the reader distraught at not knowing the thing they can't really want to know.