There is perhaps no better way to start thinking about images than with the idea of the Thought-Image, a concept attributed to Francois Laruelle in a chapter of Tétralogos (2018). This book, a book about affects and dreams, sets out to claim that a newImage of Thought is flowering in our minds that is reflective or indicative of developments in the fields of Quantum Physicsand Process Ontology over the last century; a shift from Being to Becoming (Prigogine, 1980).
“Standard non-philosophy brings about another experience of thought. The real is no longer made of objects, autonomous terms or terms in-themselves, and furthermore not made of elementary microobjects (signifiers, partial objects). It is the end of specular realism and modern micro-fetishism that wrongly believes to have been done with it. The new model of the real is a quantum type: it is ultimately constituted by asymmetrical or strange dualities, continuous on one side, discontinues on the other, like unilateral quanta.” – Laruelle, 2018: 152
The notion of an Image of Thought implies that we underpin our understanding of the reality around us with intuitive models. Even the sentence – a reality around them – presupposes a particular take on metaphysics, one that gestures to the notion of discrete subjects in space.
To elaborate, the kind of models one has of “science”, like the structure of an atom, or the order of the cosmos, act as a blueprint for everything else. Without us realizing, a particular model of subatomic physics can seep its way into a subject’s understanding of the social, or of themselves. The way a subject experiences themselves is transformed by these Images of Thought. Laruelle’s work seems to imply that at the core of our experience of reality and of ourselves, is an Image that has been installed. The Image sits there like a prism, refracting and combining light, the Image is the lens that can be focused and tuned.
A common example of this can be found with the critique of Newtonian Thinking, which has been a relatively common discourse for a long time, especially since this turn towards the real asQuanta (Zohar, 2022: 15). In this particular critique, it is suggested that to view the universe as clockwork (see Figure 1.3), as Newton (supposedly) had done, pushes the subject towards experiencing the ebb and flow of the universe as overly deterministic, mechanical, rigid, and uniform in its pulse (Laruelle, 2018: 50). The claim here is not necessarily that to think the universe in one way makes it so, like, literally, but there are grounds to claim that how one imagines the universe, as a model, interferes with how one perceives it, just as a prism interferes with light. This is something of importance to understanding the situation we are in regarding Capitalism and the problem of hegemony.
A basic example of how the Quantum Theory affected sociology would be that of the atom and its structure (see Figures 1.1, 1.4). In a moment where one believes the atom to be either material, solid, or discrete (a solitary unit; self-contained), one may also assume that humans or celestial bodies are somehow the same; solid and discrete. The old atomic model of indivisible building blocks tempts someone towards experiencing a society as something composed of the same indivisible, discrete units, thus forming the traditional model of the social: there are individual social units that stack together to make collective units. In their unitary nature, all of these parts are disconnected, resulting in an experience of ourselves as not simultaneously individual and collective, but somehow lurching back and forth between the two. As a model, this old way of seeing the social is unintuitive, or constituted by the paradox of “a thing cannot be two different things at once”. Minimalism and Quantum theory intersect around the argument that the fundamental nature of reality must be, contrary to popular belief, of “stunning simplicity” (Turok & Steinhardt, 2008: 86), and indeed, the resolution between individual and collective can be simple.
THE EAR AS THE NEGATIVE
There are idioms that allude to this preference, such as: “I won’t believe it ‘til I see it.”, “Don’t believe what you hear”. Is there a greater sin than beginning a sentence with “I heard…”. Found within this discourse of Derrida and the Ear is a kind of aphorism set out originally by Nietzsche in Thus Spake Zarathustra, that seems to summarize much of this in a poetic way:
“Must one first batter their ears, that they may learn to hear with their eyes?”[...] It is insinuated that the ear is the means to escape this visual encirclement – we are taught to only use our eyes, then our eyes are flooded with representations, enclosing us in a reality that is more distant than ever from any sense of the real. The importance of the role of music in this situation can be articulated quite elegantly by referring to one of Brian Schroeder’s interpretations of Nietzsche’s “The Listening Eye”:
– Nietszche, 2016: 52
“Music, it appears, best approximates the unchanging channel of eternal recurrence, the ceaseless differentiating flows of existence, whos terror lies in its refusal to be reduced to an image.” – Schroeder, 2001: 194
Music terrorizes the rational, therefore it terrorizes the hegemony of the Image. Insofar as it relates to the symbolic order, music is the ultimate negative art (Mas, 2023). The ear is the negative organ and therefore listening is the negative faculty of understanding, and minimalism is the negative music. If hyperreality and Patriarchy are matters of hegemonic positivism that are poetically summarized in Nietzsche’s aphorism, anti-hegemonic or post-hegemonic negativism would be poetically summarized as an inversion of Nietzsche: Must one gouge out their eyes, that they learn to see with their ears?
WE LOVE RADIO CONTROL
In the film “Do the Right Thing”, there is a radio station called We Love Radio, hosted by Samuel L. Jackson’s character, who, rather than sitting high up in a radio tower, chooses to sit in the front window of the building, watching out over the neighborhood, talking to them directly into the live-on-air microphone. This sounds like a good move, to come out of the tower, to be on the ground with the people, but there is something sinister lurking there. In general, what is implied by the film’s use of We Love Radio is that the local microcosm where the film is set is demarcated by the presence of this radio broadcast, or the presence of his voice. The film is not set in one block, but rather a rhizomatic mess of various streets, unified by nothing other than a proximity to this broadcast signal – the universe of the film is defined by who Samuel L. Jackson can see, and who can hear his voice. The signal broadcasted seems to play the role of binding together a social group; it defines the field.
It is therefore not just a control room in the sense of being the place where content is controlled, or what news is shared or what things are discussed, but it literally defines who is on theinside (Gilbert, 1999: 59). Samuel L’s voice is framed as a kind of mind control beam, coupled with his gaze, literally watching over everything, overseeing everything – We Love Radio uses utterance and music to manipulate and control the social group being bound by the signal. It is uncanny that the frequency of the radio is 108 FM, as 108 is a magic number of Hindu spirituality, which perfectly gestures at the overlap between New Age and Neoliberalism. This is quite the high-definition tracing of some of the ideas within critical theory regarding control systems and power, and it places music and the voice as the key to neoliberal control systems. This staging of the voice as central to modern technologies of power can be braided into aforementioned work from Derrida and the symbolic order.
CATCH THEM DREAMING
If the visual perceptual machinery is based on error-correction, comparison and prediction, when you close your eyes and dream it is likely that you are using the same projection system without any error-correction, so your visual experience could just run wild, gradually veering into insane stories as the brain constantly tries to make sense of this snowballing random visual imagery that has no error-correct system or any means to intervene with its chaotic unfolding. This is perhaps what Deleuze was referring to in their description of the dream as a series of anamorphoses (Deleuze, 1989: 56), where light sensations are wildly misconstrued and turned into familiar forms. Perhaps it is because of this that we forget dreams when we wake up, because consciousness is flooded with error-correcting data that just obliterates the hallucinations, immediately rendering a new visual field that is so different to the hallucinatory one, that one cannot rationally or positively reverse-engineer what was going on. While there may be something to learn from dreams in how they are produced, the contention of schizoanalysis is clear, that there is nothing to be gleaned from the Imagery itself, which is a representation of something we are disconnected from.
By arguing that the dreamworld or the experience of dreams was a fertile site of the novel, we seem to have forgotten that we dream in Images. Whatever it is that we experience when dreaming, it is likely generated by the same systems that generate our internally experienced, auto-corrective model of visual perception; it is created with the same biases. Admittedly this does open up an interesting discussion, because ultimately we are arguing that our dreams are generated within us, not as representations, but as misinterpreted noise that is error-uncorrected. It means that there is no reason to care about the Images that leap forward; it is no surprise that a subject who has lived for 25 years as a human has enough lingering trace images lying around their mind to auto-generate lucid moments, but the content its is no different to what an A.I might produce if its model-bank were your memories all converted to .mp4 files.
Émilie Carrière (2023: 33) rightfully said that even if Tucker Carlson is not an A.I, he might as well be as it is all derivative, sneering garbage that just reiterates the same predictable stories, converting every day’s news into another repeat of the same predictable rhetoric. The majority of what we are overexposed to could be A.I generated, it is for this reason that so many “artists” jobs can be taken by A.I (Carrière, 2023: 21). We could easily mistake A.I reality for reality itself, although, if there is a real, whatever trace we get from it has been violated by hegemony long before it reaches us within the pre-conscious gap (Cichosz, 2014: 57). Hegemony can intercept and alter the experience of the real as the real is reproduced analogically by everything in the chain. Hegemony is also installed internally within both our perceptive faculties and our cognitive and symbolic faculties, like a filter. In the same sense, by the time the dream means something to us, it has been violated by Capital.
Dreaming, rather than a realm outside of Capital, starts to look like a realm entirely made up of desire as capital. A dream would be a creature born of and rising out of the same waters that have become septic and stagnant in the absence of the radically novel. This realization may have come a lot earlier if we properly interrogated the notion of recombination. “Retromania” refers to the cultural trend of reproducing old styles in place of new ones, where consumer tastes are tuned towards reproductions of retro, instead of something new (Reynolds, 2010: 273). This idea of retromania reflects the same loss of imagination that the work of Fisher, Adorno and Cichosz highlights as it suggests that cultural evolution and novel experiments receded in favor of nostalgia and retro. Where Fisher argues that we no longer move towards the future, Reynolds argues that we do not see the future because we have turned inwards towards ourselves as part of this obsession with the last 40 years of cultural history. It is therefore commonplace to hear a critique of modern popular music culture as being obsessed with recombination.
AND SOCIAL CONTAGIONS
We have been presenting this narrative as a demonstration of this dream-ontology, where at no point is it ever clear what we currently are, or what we are currently doing – we are too in it, to know. Only once something passes by and fades into history do we get enough of a perspective on it, from enough distance, to see it more clearly. Looking back through the past, we see our ideas as if we are on Apollo 17, getting that first glimpse of what we were apparently on all along.
Only now that Lumbung has departed from Documentato become its own life, do we see what Lumbung was a year ago. Only now we have started working alongside Lumbung Press do we realize what our involvement in Lumbung Radio was (in the sense of what it had the potential to become). Never in the moment of experience is it clear, it is only determinable in retrospect. This is precisely what Deleuze & Guattari had written about dreaming, where again they implied that forms only becomeformalized after they cease to exist. The form of something is at most the historical record; it is the past reified; it is dead residue; it is the apple fallen from the tree. Reality and dreams are not so distant; they are similar in feeling, and both deeply affect us.
In this way, we cannot know what will become of this, we cannot know what Lumbung or Becoming will be by the time the next Documenta comes and we attempt to visit the park inKassel again, knowing full well that, five years prior, we were arriving there as children, as trash queens from the village, with no idea what we were doing, just a lot of ideas about dreams, and a lot of dreams about ideas. We had to accept that it is no longer very clear what is a dream and what is real as the insomniac-dreaming machine of Capital blurs those once clear lines. The dream was once something that dwells in us, but at some point, in some moments, we inhabit the dream, and there is this complex layering of subject in the real, dreamer in the dream, subject in the dream, dreamer in the real.