Sunday 23 November 2014

Dirty Yoga = Transcendental Nihilist

The second video in Transcendental Nihilist Series features Yoga in a dirty squat kitchen.

Conceptual Discussion for Transcendental Nihilist Video Series
“The true nihilists are the ones who oppose nihilism with their more and more faded positivities, the ones who are thus conspiring with all extant malice, and eventually with the destructive principle itself.” Theodor W. Adorno in Negative Dialectics[1]
If Adorno could meditate would he become a Transcendental Nihilist? Meditation atop a mountain or meditation atop a 6-lane highway? Stillness in Chaos becomes Extinction in Chaos. I empty my mind and meditate in scenes of our extinction, in an attempt to be a Transcendental Nihilist. Traditionally the three sounds of AUM represent form and shape; formless and shapelessness and neither form nor shapelessness.[2] This three pronged plug dissolving into the negative of negative and positive also symbolises Adorno's negative dialectics - there is negation, affirmation and something taking away from all of it. Nihilism refuses any religious or spiritual transcendence. However Ray Brassier introduces transcendence to nihilism by coding our thoughts as thoughts of extinction. So, my thoughts are not one with the universe but without (ie. extinction). I pursue Adorno’s true nihilism, the silent mantras fade in positivity over stasis and duration. The video series so far includes settings of a 6 lane highway, a dirty squat kitchen, cleared forest/pastures and a laundromat.
Adorno formulated negative dialectics as recourse to the paradox of a nihilist’s nothingness. Statements of reason are further opened by moving from a necessity of the whole to adding a statement with contingency, for example-instead of- ‘Human beings are a product of evolution (not creation)’ -Negative dialectics states- ‘Human beings are a product of evolution (but evolution is not there to create human beings).’ We simply have to make it an open rather than a closed process. Adorno’s problem with the ‘whole’ and ‘universal’ and ‘becoming’ nature of Hegelian Dialectics led him to formulate Negative Dialectics, an ‘un-whole,’ ‘retrospective’ unfolding of history.[3] Adorno’s ontological quest turns back on time and introduces contingency and subjectivity to how we got ‘here’. The video works between distinguishing and disappearing the moving and still forms, thereby symbolising the negative in the negative and positive space and opening a gateway beyond formalist reason of a ‘whole site.’ Whilst Adorno remained closed to transcendence (a form of religious idealism,) he does point to how it can come about, “People who sigh with relief when life shows some similarity to life, for once-when it is not, as Karl Krasus put it, kept going only for production’s and consumption’s sake – will eagerly and directly take this for a sign of transcendent presence.”

Ray Brassier, a contemporary social theorist and Nihilist, gets around the Nihilist refusal of transcendence by focusing on extinction. It is not a psychological death drive it is transcendental, because it is out of our human experience but it is also immanent – in how our extinction pervades our whole universe and thought.[4] Human thoughts stems not from being, but is driven from our extinction, “Thinking has interests that do not coincide with living.”[5] In the Transcendental Nihilist video series I modify my practice of meditation, emptying my mind, in order to connect with extinction not communion with the universe. The settings of the video series are ‘real world/immanent extinction’ – a pervasive apocalypse in the most boring sense of the real world.
Authentic culture directly resists commodification and punishes audiences for expecting to be entertained.”[6] This is another tip from Adorno on true Nihilism. The long duration, blurriness of the video series, Transcendental Nihilist and simple installation resists commodification, by resisting beauty, ease of manufacture and value added status. It also punishes audiences with its lack of visual clarity, duration and ‘boringness.’ The installed videos are consumed in an unsatisfactory/incomplete manner – the viewer could watch one or all for 2 -3 minutes with no sense of completion or satisfaction. The viewer’s thoughts are looking for aesthetic completion in order to fend off the pervasive extinction.
How do I signify the Transcendental Nihilist? The videos capture fading positivity by using a silent repetition of an idealist mantra; the setting, stasis and audio relay my fading positivity over a long (unconsumeable) duration, it culminates in my conspiring with the destructive principle itself, by meditating on Ray Brassier’s ‘thought is extinction.’ Noone could say if Adorno would agree with Brassier on Transcendental Nihilism, but my video series signifies a potential collaboration between the two. Using candor and callousness, identified graces of a nihilist,[7] the videos weave a blurry, fly-on-the-wall-with-nothing-going-on sense to guided meditations on the form of extinction.

[1] Theodor W. Adorno Negative Dialectics (New York: The Continuum 1973 Original 1966) pp135-145.
[2] Satyarth Prakāsh by Swāmi Dayānand Saraswati (1884) in “Aum The Origin of Life” by Srimad Bhagwadgeetamruta Geetyoga. Accessed Nov 3, 2014.; also in ‘Aum’ Wikipedia. Last modified Oct 25, 2014
[3] Theodor W. Adorno Negative Dialectics (New York: The Continuum 1973 Original 1966) pp35-45.
[4] Ray Brassier Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2007) xiii
[5] Ray Brassier Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2007) xi
[6] Theodor W. Adorno Negative Dialectics (New York: The Continuum 1973 Original 1966) p10
[7] Ibid p137

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