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Here’s to my sweet Satan


Published and edited by Peter Eramian for the exhibition

Here’s to my sweet Satan Volks, Nicosia, Cyprus November 2016

First Edition Nicosia, Cyprus, 2016 Limited edition 150 copies ISBN 978-9963-7482-2-8 Designed by Nico Stephou


Three Truths and a Lie (or Four Attempts at Constructing Meaning) Marina Kassianidou


~1~ Hello. How are you? I hope you don’t mind me addressing you directly. I don’t know who you are, obviously. But there is a “you” reading this, of that I can be sure. Have you ever played two truths and a lie? It is a get-to-know-you game. Each player states two truths and a lie about themselves. Everyone else must determine which statement is false, presumably by paying attention to tone and facial expressions, by considering the viability of the events stated, and by guessing. Admittedly, I have only played this game once, many years ago. We were a small group of people—four or five—and the best player was Ben. While everyone else offered simple one-sentence statements, Ben narrated long, detailed, and convoluted stories about himself. In addition, they were all more or less true. Rather than telling us two true stories and a false one, he told us three true stories. He simply changed one minor detail in one of the stories to make it false. It wasn’t really false of course. Just inaccurate.


~2~ Meanwhile, as I am telling you this, a spacecraft is floating in interstellar space carrying with it a golden disk. The disk contains an encoded collection of images and sounds from earth, a collection selected by a committee that included an astronomer, an astrophysicist, a fiction writer, a science writer, a journalist, and an artist. As it turns out, the astronomer eventually married the fiction writer, after first divorcing the artist. In about 40,000 years—in 42016—the spacecraft will approach Gliese 445, a dwarf star in the Camelopardalis constellation. As it is unlikely that this tiny star can support life, the golden disk will have to keep travelling without its contents having been seen or heard. It may take millions of years before the disk reaches a star inhabited by living creatures. By that time, the people on the committee that selected the data will be gone. The star we currently live on may no longer be able to support life. At that point, the golden disk will be carrying traces of a long lost civilization, traces of what could be a fictional story that the audience-to-come will have to piece together and somehow make sense of. No corroboration ever. They will simply have to believe.


~3~ One of the sounds on the golden disk is the sound a chimpanzee made after hurling a stone at a tree. The chimpanzee first sat some meters away from the tree, with his back towards it. He stared into space, as if concentrating on something, and rocked his body back and forth for several seconds. Suddenly, he turned towards the tree, hurled a stone at it, emitted a loud cry, and ran away. I know this because scientists have filmed the incident using hidden spy cameras. They believe that stone hurling is some kind of ritual and that the trees hold special significance for the chimpanzees. I wonder if the chimpanzee would behave in the same way if he knew that someone was watching. Presumably his action is not meant for any audience, least of all an extraterrestrial audience that does not yet exist. I wonder what that audience will think of the cry. The chimpanzee’s private cry reminds me of a song whose most famous line was taken from a letter written by the songwriter’s brother. I cannot remember to whom the letter was addressed. Neither can I remember if this song is included on the golden disk. Perhaps one day, millions of years from now, that line from the letter will blast through space.


~4~ You might be wondering how the extraterrestrial future audience will access the data on the golden disk. The instructions are etched on the disk’s cover. They are not instructions per se but rather diagrams and symbols. They show how the disk can be played using a needle and a cartridge stored inside the spacecraft. They also show the correct starting position, the time it should take for one rotation of the disk, and the time it should take to play one side. The diagrams look more like a mystical drawing or a conceptual art piece. It is unclear whether the future viewers/listeners will be able to decipher them correctly. What if they misunderstand? What if they play the disk backwards? Will that lead to the uncovering of different meanings? Has the committee—intentionally or unintentionally—encoded hidden messages in the data? Or, might the data carry its own immanent stories, stories that lie dormant, waiting for the right circumstances before they can unfold? Will the future audience compose another story about us? Of course, all these are just speculations. They are contingent on the disk coming across its audience, bringing that audience into existence. All I can tell you for certain at this point is that a golden disk, with potentially incoherent data stored on it, is floating through space, searching for an audience that does not yet exist, drifting, hoping, anticipating.


I am finished. It is your turn now.


There is no work of art that does not call on a people who does not yet exist. Gilles Deleuze, “What is the Creative Act?”

I


Murmurs of Earth Christopher Rey Pérez


“Do you hear that, honey?” he drawled, grinning & leaning forward. “That’s Europe. That’s the first people who had enough to eat.” —Alan Lomax, as quoted in Murmurs of Earth You load sixteen tons, what do you get Another day older & deeper in debt —Merle Travis, Sixteen Tons Closed circuit; the precariat & debt. Contingency/ The mechanics of articulation reify the historical processes by which the precariat instantiates its very own articulation. Eight quatrains compose Merle Travis’ Sixteen Tons while both perfect & slant rhymes cycle through them. Opening & closing refrains also punctuate the song. The compositional structure irrespective of the popular’s contrivances echoes the enjoining rhythm of debt for which the lyric, across centuries, has only ever offered inflection as a form of repayment. When a mine is plumbed for resources solely that which predates humankind acquires value. Stellar explosions & geology: the story of a golem raped in the anthropocene. The wealth of capital Hernán Cortés found in Tenochtitlan begins with gold, yes, but it finds its zenith in slavery & debt culture. I owe my soul to the company store, Travis sings. The transatlantic slave trade as catalyst of the global-colonial matrix along with its injunction to labor, after a series of Anglo-appropriations, finds its mechanics in Travis’ single that would become a gold album. It is theorized that human music first imitated nature (the wind’s sound, the ocean’s rhythm, hunting calls, mating cries & their entreaties). Even so, its role in, & development by, conquest can’t be contested. Complicity/ In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) awards a gold record to albums that sell over 500,000 copies, a platinum record to those that sell over 1,000,000, & a diamond record to those that reach above 10,000,000 copies sold. It’s 1977 & EMI declines Carl Sagan’s request to include The Beatles Here Comes the Sun on the Voyager Golden Record. Unsurprisingly, capital curates its own consortia & the Copernican Revolution had already uncovered the symbolic comedy in Freudian displacement so right now a hubristic solar epicenter is not flying through space. Worse, an indelible imprint of capital during the age of mechanical reproduction just shyly prior to the digital turn. Retrograde, retroactive, retrospective. A record somewhere


beyond the Milky Way. To acknowledge that we are indebted to those who curated the Voyager Golden Record, with its sounds, songs, messages, diagrams, & photographs, is to ask that they too acknowledge that one day someone will profit from this debt. *** Every time that architectural composition turns up somewhere other than in monuments, whether it is in physiognomy, costume, magic or painting, the predominant taste for authority, whether human or divine, can be inferred. —Georges Bataille, Architecture Imitation comes naturally to human beings from childhood (...) so does the universal pleasure in imitations. —Aristotle, Poetics Closed circuit; architecture & the image. Contingency/ It is suggested that chimpanzees throwing stones at select trees in West Africa (Republic of Guinea, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire) may be either engaging in territorialization or ritualizing the sacred. The polarity of these two activities strikes me as an allegory for architecture. Installing a camera promises a veridical eye for science here too but less sure is the interpretative frame. A primeval voice calls out: But we want to allocate space to sci-fi. To return to the problem of authority, then, & to think contrapuntally about evil’s Manichean undergirding, two scenes: ramī al-jamarāt, the Stoning of the Devil, at Mecca during Hajj, & the apes’ distress at the appearance of the Black Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. [Note: Richard Strauss’ Thus Spake Zarathustra, structured by nine sections, two of which are Das Grablied (The Song of the Grave) & Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science & Learning) that set the soundtrack for the scene. Note: Either mine or mausoleum, stone gets cleared out, either thrown or piled. Note: the word “load” is of Germanic origin, meaning journey or way—you load sixteen tons & what do you get? Territory, a voice intimates.] Complicity/ As a perfect metaphor for the metanarrative of progress, the stairway to heaven. As an imperfect metonym for civilization, a mishap pile of stones. Via small perturbation, egregious deviation, theft, invention, lapse, mistake, & revolt, mimesis offers an


architecture for the simian, the hominin, & the alien. The architects working on the Voyager Golden Record determined that if sentient life were to find this record, the language of science, as a universal language, the universe’s language, would be our most interpretable song. Therefore diagrams, equations, & images. Ann Druryan’s brainwaves reconstructing her thoughts on the history of Earth, human social organization, predicaments (here, & only here, war & poverty though abstracted as cartography), & what it is like to fall in love. In Richard Feynman’s seminal lectures on physics he asks what is required of the imagination to see beauty in diagrams. Because I take pleasure in speculation, what if transparency is not the epistemic basis for intelligibility among alien life forms? What if, like the Venus flytrap, a tactile gnosis based on the surface guides the inner depths of subjectivity? The touch of the city, including its prisons, for instance, as well as pastoral objects & their qualms. Would the lyric snap shut, interpellated by its prey? *** Under the charm of the Dionysian not only is the union between man & man reaffirmed, but nature which has become estranged, hostile, or subjugated celebrates once more her reconciliation with her prodigal son, man. —Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy I sing because I live with Satan. —Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven Closed circuit; music & the vocable. Contingency/ The suspicion of language finds its ready tinder in the Fall & therefore a deeper, more radical skepticism of meaning predates the scientific skepticism of the Enlightenment (& Carl Sagan). Backmasked: the vocable. Not side A & side B, the neoliberal feint toward alterity, but the thin shadow entrenched within, working internally to undo the contingencies gnarled into the desire for evocation. So, I invite energy’s ordinances to which Bataille attributes evil in order to learn by heart the poetry the serpent would render possible. The fruit of knowledge, insofar it inhabited an image, was too poor & without lyric. As a more revolutionary locus of enunciation, there have been other formulations: drag, vernacular, painting, laughter, mysticism, indigeneity, & now, & perhaps most encompassing, the precariat. In West Africa, chimpanzees forewarn with “a long-distance pant-hoot vocalization.”


Complicity/ The issue of nudity & the self-censuring in which NASA & the U.S. Government partook by illustrating the body via diagram is atoned by the inclusion of music on the Golden Voyager Record. Both philosopher & poet find the musical analogy in drunkenness. Master drunk, eater of hashish, Baudelaire opens “Les Fluers du Mal” with the notorious poem “To the Reader,” a poem also once censured for indecency. I can’t help but fancy the curatorial politics that might’ve resulted from including this poem on the Voyager. A close reading of the last line admits not only of man’s hypocritical nature, & here man as man, as gender-identifying man—one has only to refer to how Adam treats Eve for her civil disobedience for an example, or to think of the Baudelairean figure of the lesbian as a counterpoint—but also of the double, the copy, the Other. How then, in space, will our record of civilization utter & thus make audible its own imitation of recording? One possibility: The father plate is oxidized, & plated again. The resulting plate, when separated from the father, becomes a metal duplicate of the acetate, with grooves again. This plate is called the mother plate & can be played on a turntable to check for errors in mastering or plating. Like acetates, mothers & fathers also come in one-sided pairs. *** Modern design wants the apocalypse now, the apocalypse that unveils things, strips them of their ornament, & causes them to be seen as they truly are. —Boris Groys, The Obligation to Self-Design When I say “from where” (both as location & as starting point) I am assuming that knowledge is not something produced from a postmodern non-place. On the contrary, knowledge is always geo-historically & geo-politically located across the epistemic colonial difference. —Walter Mignolo, The Idea of Latin America Closed-circuit; the curatorial role & difference. Contingency/ On the Voyager, somewhere lost in space, I think about the absence of literature in the narrow but still useful sense. By default, the camera & the record remain a great distance from Earth & narrative. A face is not a subject whether smiling or not. Whence the New Man, a superman. Not the Other within the architecture of the ethnographic


gaze. Belonging to a latinate economy (per aspera ad astra) as both location & starting point, the curatorial role must problematize decision too. I would’ve turned to a Borgesian configuration of time & space, if given the opportunity. Borges understood infinity & the imaginary as entirely outside empire & more horrifically located within the concept of paginal fidelity. Between The Library of Babel & The Circular Ruins, language & memory find their coordinates. To be rooted in a geography. To turn the page on history. Complicity/ Through the lens of ethnomusicology, the socius on Earth. Her masters quick to obviate any reading of race. Quick to push experience through the filter of “H”istory. Ironically, the Voyager Golden Record is gilded. We must begin with the charge that Jimmy Carter (the Camp David Accords, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, etc.) will address futurity. Under the dictatorship of the image, the friendly face of imperialism backmasked. Jalal Toufic was keen to note that the apocalypse’s primary sense (“to uncover”) is “occulted by its secondary meaning:” “the surpassing disaster.” Benjamin was keen too. For what is an alien if not an angel? Its occultation begins with image 90 of the Taj Mahal by David Carroll. In order to put “our best foot forward,” in order to distance from evil & its ambiguity, Carl Sagan’s team excluded representations of religion, war, ruin, & famine from our time capsule—but the Taj Mahal is part mosque, part mausoleum too. The angel & its corpse secretly hurtle through space.

II


Remnants Also Enjoy Their Trip To The Surface Evagoras Vanezis


TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S Pick Up A Rock And Throw It Against The Walls Of Dogmatisms Painted In Camouflage; Let Out A Scream; Run The Refracted Return Of Your Voice Will Ensure For Others That We Are Animals Afraid Of The Echo Of The Universe The Dread You Will Feel Will Disappear Once You Align Yourself With The Orbits Of Your Ecstasy [Ecstasy Is The Embrace Of Generic Murmur Created By The Decolonising Waves Of Images Screaming That You Too Can Be A Being Of Instantaneous Magnificence, “Floating In Your Bikini Down The River Of Abundance”.1 You Will Soon Find Out That Abundance Has A Rhythmic Quality That Will Come Over You And Destroy The Concept Of Haste; You Are Running Free] PROLOGUE Communication Is An Act With A Poor Ring To It [Expressions Of Frustrated Thoughts Often Reek Of The Pride Of Feigned Ignorance] Worship The Machinations Of Hashtags Maybe Form An Alliance With Them That Can Alleviate The Dread Of Our Desire To Vanish Become An Object For Sedimented Gazes, Depositing Your Value Into Our Collective Plan For Unaffordable Death Entertain For Society The Convenient Illusion Of Retrograde Movement [Do Not Reduce Yourself To Usefulness] The Presentation Of This Illusion Will Unfold At A Leisurely Pace Of Your Choosing And You Will Never Get Another Day Older NOTES UNHhhh ep 12: “Money part 2” with Trixie Mattel & Katya Zamolodchikova, https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX6J6Sn4bEM 1

III


Mm Emiddio Vasquez Hadjilyra


Voltaire’s seminal short story Micromegas (1752), aside from being one of the first science fiction stories that postulated interstellar travel and outer space forms of life, is also arguably the first short story that problematizes the notion of allometry on different orders of magnitude. If we allow for a generalized concept of space and its corresponding metrics (or dimensions) to be more than spatial determinations then, much earlier than Edwin’s Abbott’s Flatland (1884), Voltaire’s Micromegas can claim the subtitle: ‘A Romance of Many Dimensions’. Voluntarily or not, within it Voltaire highlights the tension that local metrics produce when applied incommensurably at a universal scale. Named after its protagonist, Micromegas is the fictional name of an interstellar explorer whose philosophical quests brought him to our solar system to visit Saturn and Earth. His name, a plural conflation of distant metric prefixes (micro- at a factor of 0.000001, mega- at a factor 1,000,000) resulting into a product 1; his habitat, a planet orbiting star Sirius1 that is approximately 24,000 times larger than planet Earth; hence, his stature, 24,000 geometrical paces of 5 feet2 each, which is tantamount to 8 leagues, which is to say that if Micromegas were to lay back on the ground we would need 8 hours to walk across his side. And yet, despite his size, Voltaire alludes to manmade sculpture and asserts that Micromegas’ body proportions are adequate; that he preserves isometry. Micromegas is knowledgeable in several fields: in mathematics he had ‘solved 50 propositions of Euclid –18 more than Blaise Pascal’ and he even wrote a book on biology in which he argued that different species are in fact made of the same material substance. Because his materialist view deviated from what the spiritual leader of his planet preached, his writings were condemned and ultimately banned.3 Ostracized from court for his scientific findings Micromegas decides to travel across galaxies and study other species. During his stop on Saturn, after overcoming the difference of magnitude with Saturnians, he befriends the secretary of the Academy of Saturn. In one of their conversations, so the story goes, Micromegas confesses to the secretary that his journeys made it clear ‘that nature is full of variety’. In an attempt to contribute to the conversation the secretary uses romantic metaphors and similes to describe nature only to be shut down instantly by Micromegas response: ‘Nature is like nature. Why do 1 At the time this is written, NASA’s Voyager 2 mission is at a distance of 16,820,324,865 km from Earth. The scientific community seems to agree that by the time it reaches Sirius, and given that we survive artificial intelligence, the human species would have already mutated into another kind. 2 The foot as a measuring unit - in all its variation - has been a true universal invention. But as empires change, so do the metrics used by royal sciences. So, at different periods, the ‘natural’ foot became imperial (i.e. Greek foot replaced by Roman foot), nationalized (i.e. Italian piede), sacralized (St. Paul’s foot), modernized, royalized (royal foot or pied de roi) legally treated (Treaty of the Meter, 1866) and internationalized (Weights and Measure Act,1963). 3

Much like Voltaire himself.


you seek for comparison?’ to which the secretary responds: ‘To please you.’ Instead of being pleased by transcendent comparisons, Micromegas asks for facts about the Saturnians’ subjective experience of nature. He is interested in their specificity: the number of their senses, the number of years of life expectancy, the number of primary colors perceived and how many different modes of existence Saturnians can enumerate. Micromegas is interested in what was immanent to their globe so that he could relate them to his own. Their differences appear unbridgeable. Even before they reach Earth the paradox in Micromegas epistemology is evident. In an attempt to interrogate the factual character of subjective experience on Saturn, Micromegas rejects the domain of similes for that of enumeration. It may not appear so, but some sort of metric is at stake in both cases. The former exists at the level of imaginatio by presupposing a shared lived experience upon which the simile is used to link the descriptor to its descriptum, whereas the latter exists at the level of ratio by assuming a scalar system upon which number is used to infer what the subjective character of experience would have been at different scales. In other words, because Micromegas assumes experience to be isometric he opts out for metrics that can be objectively agreed upon even after transformations. That has always been the subsumptive function - and danger, for that matter - of metrics. Riding on a meteorite, Micromegas and the Saturnian finally reach Earth. Its significantly smaller scale leads the secretary to proclaim that our planet is uninhabited. He justifies his claim by referring to the chaotic character of nature on our planet: the total absence of “straight lines”.4 They examine various islands (continents) and “lakes” (one of which we call the Mediterranean Sea) until they distinguish Earth’s largest specimen of life: a humpback whale. How did that first recognition of life on Earth take place? Not surprisingly, in a contingent manner. In an accident, the Saturnian’s diamond necklace breaks and in an attempt to pick up its pieces the diamond magnifies what he could not see earlier: this is a moment of transvaluation. What could not have been revealed through external metrics becomes evident through internalized value. Value becomes a new free variable, independent of orders of magnitude. Hence, in Micromegas, life, matter and their valuation provide the middle ground that will make comparison and philosophical discourse possible. The recognition of life on Earth triggers further examination with their microscopes of different types of whales, until Micromegas picks up what would later be identified Or better, of a Euclidean metric. Here, the secretary effectively equates civilization with the formal intervention it has on nature to which Micromegas responds: “Everything here seems irregular, you say; but you judge by the standards of Saturn and Jupiter. Have I not told you that in the course of my travels I have always found variety?” 4


as a ship carrying some philosophers who were returning from an exploration of the North Pole. From an allometric point of view, this is the story’s critical moment: a rare moment in literature of actual self-similarity in which the extraterrestrial philosophers encounter earthbound ones, both during their respective explorations. Through out the story, incommensurability repeatedly upsets metricality, and Voltaire masterfully accommodates those differences through imaginative literary maneuvers. What remains unchallenged up until this moment is the intrinsic metrics assigned to our system of value, and in Voltaire’s attempt to bridge order of magnitudes he ends up assuming that system. This slip off suggests something much more interesting: life, as value, becomes visible under the spectrum of value assigned. In other words, the variability of metrics makes comparison between localities possible. This is not however the path that Voltaire takes, hence, the disappointment in the remaining part of the story. To summarize its ending: the group of philosophers engages in a philosophical discussion that results into a series of name-droppings and quasi-theological platitudes that simply affirm the very philosophical discourse in dispute. To humble the high esteem that humans have of their own kind Micromegas promises them a book intended to solve the point of everything. The book turned out to be a blank slate.


IV


Per aspera ad astra


Profile for Peter Eramian

Here's to my sweet Satan, November 2016  

Texts by Marina Kassianidou, Christopher Rey Pérez, Evagoras Vanezis, Emiddio Vasquez. Edited by Peter Eramian. Designed by Nico Stephou....

Here's to my sweet Satan, November 2016  

Texts by Marina Kassianidou, Christopher Rey Pérez, Evagoras Vanezis, Emiddio Vasquez. Edited by Peter Eramian. Designed by Nico Stephou....

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