Interview by Zoran Roško
(This interview was originally published in the Croatian journal QUORUM)
Zoran Roško: Mr Shaviro, the subtitle of your book Doom Patrols is "a theoretical fiction about postmodernism." What is your general attitude toward that invisible continent of time called postmodernism? Is it maybe just another great narrative, great slogan, ideology, late capitalism's shock absorber, just one arbitrary cultural mode among many others...? Is our life (or your life in the USA) really postmodern, or is it maybe just an exciting possibility to think, write and talk about? Or something else altogether?
Steven Shaviro: After overusing the word "postmodernism" in Doom Patrols, I have tried to stop using it entirely in what I am writing now (Stranded in the Jungle). This is mostly because the word has come to mean too many different things; everyone has their own definition, and the word has been stretched so broadly in the last few years. I still think, though, that what I wrote in Doom Patrols remains valid. If the word has any use, it is not to designate a particular style of writing or philosophy, but a social/political/economic situation that we all are in. A situation of global brand names, multinational corporations affecting every area of life, and the use of relatively new, and increasingly ubiquitous electronic, digital technologies (not to mention bio-technologies, which are also digital since they are based in DNA)--all of this all the more so now that we are living in a post-Communist, post-Cold War era.
Zoran Roško: It seems that you object to the typical pomo leitmotif concerning the importance of language and language games. What are the limits of that idea? And, related to that, it seems that you dislike the Lacanian approach. Why?
Steven Shaviro: Of course language is an important part of what makes us human. But I think it is an exaggeration to say that everything is language, everything is textuality, etc. That is why I don't accept the idea of some overarching "Symbolic Order" as the Lacanians do (as far as I can tell; in Lacan and followers of Lacan like Žižek, I find what they say about the impossible Real far more interesting than what they say about the Symbolic or the Imaginary). Instead, I would want to emphasize the multitude of different "language games" (Wittgenstein): language works in all sorts of different ways, it is involved in many different forms of life, and it is involved in all sorts of different ways with other, non-linguistic factors (bodies, emotions, architectures and other organizations of space, images, sounds, etc). So I am not opposed to talking about language games, understanding that Wittgenstein says they are always not just linguistic, but also involve forms of life; I find this sort of formulation, or for that matter Foucault's notion of the materiality of multiple discourses, more to the point than theories that exalt the power of the Signifier.
Zoran Roško: Does pomo consist in negotiating various discoursive strategies, are signifiers really so important? Why would it be that FREE play of signifiers is preferable if such a play is always regressive,i.e. purely theoretical. Isn't the idea of infinite play of signifiers an indicator of just the opposite - that that play isn't important at all, because all the important decisions and choices are, by it's immanent logic, being "made" somewhere else (so po-mo would be just a big cover for all the important stuff behind the scene of language)? "Our" emotions, joys, pains, decisions, fascinations, tastes are always already some kind of performances, so the MEANINGS of the performance X may be infinitely multiple but that doesn't undo the "finite" singularity (mystery) of that performance. Is the deferral of the meaning (and identity) of that X identical to the defferal of performativity of that X? Why should that performance be dependable on the identity of X in the first place: if the X is the same thing with or without its identity, why is it so important to deconstruct its identity? Isn't a pomo just some kind of secondary narcissism, a compulsive ego-trip, a paranoic rapture (ego's fear that it doesn't exist is returning in the inverted form, as a joy in nonidentity)? Is pomo just another narcissistic illusion? Is there anything BEYOND ego?
Steven Shaviro: There are lots of issues being raised here, I cannot answer them all. I would go on from what I said above about why I don't find it useful to focus on signifiers--there are probably better ways to talk about constraints vs the infinitude of potential play, than one that is focused on signifiers. Following from that, I could agree with what you are suggesting, translating it into the idea that presence/absence of identity is less important than concretely grasping the multitide of performances. As for ego and narcissism, I am inclined to say that one never gets totally BEYOND ego, it is always there, but by the same token one is never ENTIRELY narcissistic, there is always otherness too, the ego is never total--which for me suggests yet again that the best response might be to learn how to talk in a different register altogether, than one that asks whether there is a self, whether the self gets "deconstructed" or not, etc. It may well be that there are other dimensions of "postmodern" experience that it is more interesting to address.
Zoran Roško: I'm very interested for that "different registers" and differnet formats of experience ( exemplified in transpersonal ideas of Ken Wilber and Stanislav Grof for example). Although the postmodenists are supposedly open to ontological multiplicity it seems that they are open ONLY to multiplicities that are rationally accountable (so the paradox is the only liminal tool for them), and very UNRESPONSIVE toward the "altered" (non-reductive, non-united) states of consciousness--understanding here that these states are not only the other "discourses" (even in a foucauldian way, like you said) but the completely other registers (levels) and formats of being (Peter Koslowski said that pomo is a "mysticism without mystics"). For example, Žižek is arrogantly designating all this different reality markup languages "obscurantism", although, as I see it, he is actually preparing a ground for a mystic play of life (and it's his blind spot, I think). But it seems that these new cyber-postmodernists are much more open to gnostic/shamanistic aspects of "multiplicity". You have that text about LSD, so how "relevant" that altered states (from shamanistic to mystical and "paranormal") are for you? Do you find any appeal in the New Age excitement with new levels of being and with human mutations and transhumanism. Are we evolving/mutating into anything (new)?
Steven Shaviro: I have a somewhat nuanced and skeptical answer to this question. Yes, I am interested in other, "altered" states or levels of being, but at the same time I am suspicious of attempts to give these other states some sort of objectified reality. The chapter I wrote in Stranded in the Jungle about LSD exemplifies this. I wanted to describe the affective experience involved, but without making any transcendent or metaphysical claims for that experience. This was in deliberate opposition to the way that psychedelic intellectuals from Timothy Leary to Terence McKenna have tried to use their experiences with mind-expanding drugs as the grounds for all sorts of cosmic theories. So I am equally opposed to those people who would inflate these limit-experiences (with drugs, sex, mysticism, dying, etc), and those who would simply dismiss them. Actually I think this attitude is not just "postmodern"; it goes back to Georges Bataille, who insisted on an "inner experience" that was its own sole authority, and yet that "expiated itself", disavowed its own authority. When we "translate" these experiences into discursive meanings, we thereby falsify them; the problem is to preserve the experiences without appropriating them into such meanings.
Zoran Roško: You also have that text about the aliens? What's your interest in them? What can they not tell us that may be interesting, are they showing by not showing? Are they blinding us with light (one character in The X-Files said - "what is hidden in the light")?
Steven Shaviro: In my chapter on alien abductions, I wanted, again, to get at some sort of affective core of the experiences as they have been reported, without either saying that "I want to believe" in the truth of the experiences (as Mulder wants to), nor just skeptically debunking them (because, even granted that they didn't "really" happen, the sense of lostness, of dislocation, of something that might be called "alienation" except that there is no wholeness to be alienated from---all that still remains.
Zoran Roško: Reading Wall's text about Agamben (in Radical Passivity) it crossed my mind that the alien abduction experience may be understood as a satire on Agamben's idea of the "coming being" who "enters language and whose 'transcendence' is its complete absorption, without residue, in language"(161), and of "experience that 'remains' when all experience has been expropriated... the experience of expropriation itself." Is the alien abduction experience inverted truth of this pretty theoretical idea? Is a "coming community" in practice realized in the alien abductions? Are the aliens the nemesis of our linguistic hubris? In other words, we may conclude that all experience with aliens is a reflex of our pure linguistic nature ( of our "originary dependence on language", of the "reality of discourse" as our one and only reality) or we may conclude JUST THE OPPOSITE, that all our experience with ( and in ) language is just a reflex of the pure ( mysterious, alien, performative) experience, i.e. that the language itself is a certain particular experience, not that what remains after all experience has been expropriated. Our ordinary, linguistically-based, life is not that what remains after everything is expropriated from us, but maybe the alien abduction experience is much closer to it. So, do we want that kind of alienation from ourselves and from our experience? Maybe the "absolute absorption in language" ends like like a zombie-experience. Maybe we've become language-zombies because we've blinded ourselves to the spectrum of other registers of experience and have fixated ourselves to one particular, linguistically constituted experience - which appears to be "absolute" and "autonomous" because of our fixation to it and not vice versa. It seems to me that nothing practically changes if we substitute the word language with the word pure ( or even mystical or magical) experience. So how can we know that it is really pure language and not something else that REMAINS after all experience has been expropriated from us? Isn't then the "language" just an arbitrary category to fill that ELSE with - equally satisfying as the categories Tao, Ground, Love, Void, or Pure Experience? Are we just changing the words that stand for something that we do not know whot it is, and how can we tell that we are linguistic beings and NOT, for example, angelic beings, godlike beings, or aliens themselves?
Steven Shaviro: Hmm. I don't quite know how to respond to this fascinating hypothesis (or alternative between hypotheses). I will try to answer indirectly by referring you to another strange and brilliant American writer, the poet Jack Spicer (1926-1966). Do you know his works in Croatia? Spicer was a poet in San Francisco who basically drank himself to death at the age of 40. His last words, supposedly, were; "My vocabulary did this to me." Spicer wrote a number of long sequence-poems composed of multiple short parts. He insisted that his poetry was not self-expression; but rather, that his poetry was "dictated" to him by alien beings or forces. It is hard to know exactly how literally he meant this; he traced the idea of poetry as "dictation" back through Yeats and Blake to notions of poetic inspiration among the ancient Greeks. He said that there were "messages" in his poetry, but that he did not know what they were, and that in any case the messages were totally alien and did not really concern us. The important thing for the poet was to somehow channel this otherness, even though he would never be able to appropriate that otherness to himself. Now, from most 20th century points of view--and specifically from Heideggerian and Lacanian points of view--one would say that this otherness that was the source of poetry for Spicer was somehow language itself. But Spicer, who was trained academically as a linguist, specifically denies this-he says that the otherness that invades his mind and uses it to write poetry is NOT language--that language is part of his selfhood, just like his memories, his ideas and prejudices, and so on--the radical otherness that dictates poetry to the poet is forced to make use of language, just as it is forced to make use of the poet's memories and desires and prejudices, etc-but that ultimately this inhuman, alien force is as foreign to any linguistic order as it is foreign to any sense of selfhood. I hope this is making some sort of sense to you; I don't feel like I've stated things clearly enough, and I doubt I will be able to until I make myself sit down and really write about Spicer.
Zoran Roško: Can you shortly summarise the po-mo legacy, what is still alive in the "classic" works of Lyotard, Baudrillard, Deleuze, Lacan, Foucault...? May we say that something like the post-postmodernism is on the horizon?
Steven Shaviro: I am not sure how to answer this question (though it is a good question). Personally, I feel that I have learned a lot from these postmodern thinkers, and for that very reason I do not tend to read them much any more. Most of these people are now dead (all except for Baudrillard and Derrida) and I have assimilated them sufficiently that they do not seem 'new' to me any more. I have not really come across anything of similar weight among younger, more recent generations of philosophers (except perhaps for Agamben)--this may just be my limitation, that I have not encountered the right texts. But for the most part what has inspired my more recently have been novels, films, music, etc, more than theoretical writing. I would say also, that even now as we enter the 21st century, we are still under the domination of 19th century thought. Most of contemporary, 'postmodern' thought still refers back to the great 19th century thinkers: Nietzsche and Darwin above all. (Perhaps also to Marx and Freud--Freud's major works, I know, come from the first few decades of the 20th century, but his background and formation are still very much 19th century--but Marx and Freud are more the wellsprings of modernism than of postmodernism).
Zoran Roško: On your web-site we may find some information concerning your taste in fiction. In a way you are assocciated with the avant-pop sesibility. Is that just your private idiosincratic taste, or you can recommend those authors to the wider audiences, for example even in Croatia?
Steven Shaviro: I don't always know how well the American fiction writers whom I like the best right now will travel in international contexts. The people who coined the term 'avant-pop' are my friends, and I like many of their works, but I think the term is more a marketing concept than an actual movement. I would say that, in the United States today, I don't find many of the writers who are more conservative aesthetically to be very interesting. But there are a lot of ways to be innovative, I don't think there is any unity among the writers I am interested in in this sense.
Zoran Roško: Are there any authors in the USA that share your views, or resemble your style, are you alone?
Steven Shaviro: My aesthetic perspectives are not shared with, say, the major US intellectual journals, but I do not feel isolated, because I have lots of friends or people I share aesthetic affinities with, even if they don't publish in these major journals.
Zoran Roško: In croatian you cannot have non-gendered assertions, so when you say "I took a knife", it is either he or she that is speaking. So, what is the gender of the narrator in the "Kathy Acker" text (Doom Patrols)?
Steven Shaviro: Actually I cannot give you a definitive answer to this from the point of view of how best to translate the text, because I quite deliberately took refuge in the fact that in English the first and second persons are not gender-marked, only the third person singular is. You could say equally well that the speaker is male (to the extent that the text is autobiographical--I do not claim to be doing Cixousian écriture feminine or anything like that), and female (to the extent that the text is build around quotations from Acker which are themselves paraphrases, translations, or deliberate rewritings and mistranslations, of quotations from texts by Laure).
Zoran Roško: My first reading of the "Kathy Acker" text was rather naive (it was my first encounter with Doom Patrols, without reading the introduction first). I thought that YOU were ACTUAL lover of Kathy Acker, and that possibility seemed exciting and sort of sad to me (considering what happened to "two of you guys" and Kathy herself). Only on the second thought, and especially after the conversation with Goran, the translator (who translated the text, to my surprise, as she-gendered) I recognized the undecidabilty of what is going on. Mybe I was just projecting myself into the text too much (in a way I "recognized" myself in a story, in an old fashioned reader's way). Now, what is that telling us? Who is that "being" in me that is doing an "identification", and unconciously wanting it? Just my ego? Kaja Silverman is talking about "idealization from a distance" and about constitutive role of identification with an (idealized) image for the making of ourselves and for the enjoyment. Mark Pesce said that giving a meaning to something is a MAGICAL act - so, can we find any magical-voyeuristic power in anything without that notorius being aka "ego" ( be it an illusion or not)? Maybe an ego is not so bad an invention after all! Maybe an ego is just the last stand of magic (and magical terror, of course) in a nonmagical age! In that case, question is - Who or What in us, or through us, is needing that magic, and for whose agenda is that magic lobbying for? Shuld we pay attention to what is that "being" telling us, should we belive our desires, or is it just something that we have to "overcome" and surpass with "better", cleverer reading of ourselves? Besides, have you ever met Kathy?
Steven Shaviro: I will start answering this question backwards--yes, I knew Kathy Acker pretty well. She was an extraordinary person, I think, as well as a great writer; somebody who meant a lot to me and who taught me a lot. There is a chapter in Stranded in the Jungle which is my personal response to her death. The chapter which bears Acker's name in Doom Patrols is "autobiographical" in the sense that I am talking on some level about my own emotions; but I am also trying to channel these emotions through Acker's texts and the texts that she was already channelling and transforming. Which, I would say, is my way of projecting myself into the text--not (I hope) by idealizing and appropriating the text to my own ego-needs, but rather, to the contrary, by trying to discover what it is in "my own" inner experience that is already in a real sense impersonal or transpersonal. I'd even say that this is what is most uncanny and powerful about those moments which we classify as "aesthetic": that, far from reflecting us back to ourselves, they make us realize how much of ourselves really isn't our own, how much otherness already pervades us.
Zoran Roško: In connection with that set of problems, I'd like to say something more. In any process of identification it seems that I'm becoming myself after I recognize "myself" in the Other, so that we can say that I, as an ego or identity, am coming to myself via the Other - mediated by that Other ( and by It's immanent technology of transmission). Other is not a mirror to myself ( that would presuppose that "I" exist before the Other and distinguished from It - on this side of the mirror), instead, this looping with Other is a medium of tele-presencing of myself, of arriving to myself through the distance. Because of that, I'm some kind of a media celebrity to myself, recognizing myself as being watched by the (mediated/glamourized) "truth" that I find in the Other - I am paranoically addicted to attention coming to me from that truth ( even if it is a scar-truth). Very well then, I am not an identity , but I am this performative ( magical?) process of watching my watchedness ( Flieger wrote abot that), process of identification with something in the Other ( and also, of finding resonances, sychronicities and sympathies between the two who are watching each other). Very well, I am not THE gazer ( the only one with the identity) who is DOING this identification, I am not on this side of the ( speculative) mirror, I am Alice who lives in both worlds at the same time, but question remains - how can I recognize/construct the distinction between myself and the Other in the first place? And I think that that remains a mystery ( that is the Lacanian Real that also can be mystic's Transcendental Self), i.e. mystery who we REALLY are remains. In a meantime, we nevertheless may say that what I am doing is watching/experiencing myself like I'm watching a movie, or some celebrity - I'm looking at myself like if I'm some celebrity. And that may be called the glamour of identity. So I need the Other, because in relation to It I can become, not an ego but a movie to myself, I can be a movie ( with all that vanity and glamour of being myself, but not necessarily - it can be some indie movie also, where that glamour is not so exaggerated ). If I am the identification, not the identity, what is changed then? Well, I am a movie, not a director. Movie is happening to me, so the whole movie is me (I am sprayed all around): I am not in a room, the whole room is me. And a whole room is a celebrity.
Steven Shaviro: As with some of the other questions, I am not sure I can answer this directly but I think it does relate to what is most obscure in my own work. I think that I am divided between thinking about a certain play of otherness in intimacy (which is what I was trying to talk about in response to some of your previous questions), and at the same time I am thinking and writing about the play of "postmodern" culture, which is a sphere in which, as your question implies, there really isn't any intimacy in the traditional sense, because it is all celebrity and aura (cf Andy Warhol and Bret Easton Ellis).
Zoran Roško: Are you familiar with the work of such "radical" thinkers as Hakim Bey, John Zerzan, Robert Cheatham ( from Perforations), Critical Art Ensemble, Avital Ronell, Robert Anton Wilson, Terence McKenna? Are there any authors that you think we MUST read ( besides Thomas Carl Wall, who is really wonderful )?
Steven Shaviro: Tom Wall is a friend of mine, his work is great, and I am glad that you know about it and like it. Otherwise, I have read most of the people you mention, with varying degrees of interest and enjoyment, but none of them have really affected or influenced me very strongly. I find Terence McKenna vastly entertaining, but I do not take his intellectual assertions very seriously. I don't know if there are any MUST-READS that I can name. The novels by younger (i.e. under the age of 40) English-language novelists that have delighted me the most in the last few years are Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis and Slaughtermatic by Steve Aylett (I have no idea if either of these are known in Croatia).
Zoran Roško: I'm just reding Aylett's novel and I hope that the readers of Quorum shall have an opportunity to read some translations very soon. And concerning Bret, our publishers just succeeded in giving us translation of American Psycho. In the future issues of Quorum we'll introduce some of the avant-pop crew (Leyner, Curtis White, Pell, Franzen, Powers, D. Foster Wallace, Eurudice, Doug Rice, Erickson, S. Wright, D. Webb, Dara, Saunders, Kalfus, Jaffe, Vizenor, Olsen, Amerika, including the far-east "equivalents" like Can Xue and Yoko Tawada, I hope). Ben Marcus was absolute surprise to me, Rikki Ducornet and William Vollmann are miracles. Janet Kauffman's The Body in Four Parts, and Dodie Bellamy's The Letters of Mina Harker are totally strange, etc, etc... I mean, there are really LOT of young American fiction writers (maybe 20 - 30) working today who are really, really GREAT, and far more exciting than the classical Americam pomo foundation (with Pynchon, Barth, Barthelme, Coover, Gass, Gaddis, Federman, Sukenick, Sorrentino, McElroy, DeLillo, etc.). Do you agree that we may (or even should) be very happy with the contemporary American "alternative" fiction - probably the best in the world? I mean, you really HAVE supplys if you want to spend your life reading exclusively good and strange books.
Steven Shaviro: Yes, I more or less like most of the writiers you mention on this list (though not all of them are under 30, some are rather older). I have specifically written about Doug Rice, Dodie Bellamy, and Mark Amerika--and these three writers, each in his/her own way, do mean a great deal to me. I am glad that some of them will be appearing in future issues of Quorum. I would note, though, how poorly known many of these writers are in their own country-in the United States Wallace has succeeded in getting pretty well noticed, and Vollman and Erickson and Powers and Leyner have had a certain degree of notice, but the others on your list are unfortnuately still very much unknown or have only a small cult following. Let me add a few additional names to the list: Lynne Tillman, Lydia Davis, Kevin Killian, Matthew Stadler, Rebecca Brown, Stacy Levine, Laurie Weeks.
Zoran Roško: Your first wife was from Zagreb. Tell us something about your private life (and background, if you like), and your perception of Croatia.
Steven Shaviro: Again, I don't quite know how to answer this. I was married for several years to a woman from Zagreb (we remain friends, but we separated quite some time ago). I never got to visit Zagreb with her because this was all around the time of the war. Thus I have some second-hand knowledge about culture and politics in Croatia, and other parts of the former Yugoslavia, but that is all. I have read some contemporary Croatian literature in translation, and seen a number of films, but mostly, I fear, by people who have left the country. I won't say much about my private life, since most of what I could say would either bore you or embarrass myself (or perhaps both).
Zoran Roško: You've been cyber-addict, what are your cyber-doses now, when the heroic era of the cyber-frontier turned out to be just another parcel of our ordinary virtual lives?
Steven Shaviro: Yes, I think that being online is no longer a novelty for me; it has become just another taken-for-granted part of my life. The Web is where I first check when I am doing research or looking for information; it has become pretty much routine. Now that I have a fast connection that is always on, I even do things like checking the definition of a word in an online dictionary, because it seems less effort than getting out of my chair to take the print dictionary off the shelf. On the other hand, I don't spend as much time in MOOs or chat spaces as I once did; I think I got burned out on the intensity of it all. To live an active online social life takes up a lot of time as well as being emotionally draining. So usually I go to a cafe instead.
Zoran Roško: What is hot in the Seattle (alternative) cultural mileu now? And is there anything cool in the USA academic world?
Steven Shaviro: Seattle had its moment of glory in the early 1990s with Nirvana and other bands; I don't think there is any local scene that is "hot" or "cool" or potentially influential like that now. The city and its surroundings have radically changed in the last couple of years, because of Microsoft, Amazon.com, Real.com, and all the other software and Internet companies. This basically means that the number of arrogant rich people has increased, to the detriment of everyone else and of the city in general. In academia, I don't really know what the trends are now, I more or less deliberately try to avoid contact with academic writing because I don't want it to affect or influence my own writing.
Zoran Roško: What are your experiences with the academic establishment and publishers, since you must have been some kind of freak to many of them (or not so)?
Steven Shaviro: In fact, I have had bad experiences with academic publishers--ones who ended up not publishing my books--but I prefer not to name names. I welcomed the opportunity to have my last completed book, Doom Patrols, published by a non-academic press [Serpent's Tail]. But this is mostly because I am actively trying to write in a less academic prose style, and address a less academic audience.
Zoran Roško: Are you paranoic about anything? Are you a paranoia-fan (in Pynchonland-style, or in the context of Jodi Dean's and Jerry Aline Flieger's texts about paranoia - if you've read them).
Steven Shaviro: Personally, I am not very paranoid. I am inclined to think that you don't need to invoke conspiracies to explain the vast quantity of stupidity, oppression, and injustice in the world; "business as usual" and the everyday functioning of corporations and bureaucracies is enough to account for it all. I've looked at Dean's and Flieger's books; I would agree that they are pointing to something that does have a real presence in contemporary popular culture, just because the pace and magnitude of technological change, combined with the power of elites, gives reasons why the idea of conspiracy is so prevalent in so many minds. I enjoy The X-Files, but I was a bigger fan of Chris Carter's other TV show, Millennium (I don't know whether this showed in Croatia; it only played in the US for 3 seasons, never got good ratings, and was then cancelled). Millennium was a little different than The X-Files, because its main trope was not conspiracy-theory paranoia, but a kind of religious mania and metaphysical anxiety. As for Pynchon: his most recent, and I believe, greatest book, Mason & Dixon, pretty much renounces the paranoia of Gravity's Rainbow.
Zoran Roško: In Croatia we've had only The X-Files on tv. If you are not paranoic enough, maybe that's so because you are information-hysteric too much ( I'm just kidding ).What reviews, magazines and journals are you reading and like the most? Have you discovered some new exciting web-sites or e-journals lately. Are you a victim of the information overload yet, or, in other terms, are you capable to download the Silence?
Steven Shaviro: I wonder whether information overload and The Silence aren't really the same thing-the excess of too much, and the subtlety of almost-nothing (since when all is silent you find yourself hearing the silence itself) might be the two interconnecting moebius-strip sides of the same thing.
Zoran Roško: Have you jumped to any "conclusions" considering net-art, digital art, tele-art, hypertextual fiction (and the theory behind it, for example Roy Ascott's)? Do you consider it as the NEW BIG THING ?
Steven Shaviro: I'd say we should always beware of the NEW BIG THING, which is usually just an effect of marketing. Or, to put the same idea differently, in a "postmodern" age where everything new is instantly commodified, where continual "innovation" is itself the way the system of control reproduces itself and thereby remains the same, that maybe the strategy to adopt is not one of being the next big thing, but of flying under the radar as it were, of moving so stealthily and so close to the ground that you don't get noticed.
Zoran Roško: In your texts, you are writing about My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Bjork, Prince etc and in this conversation you said that you are finding more inspiration in music than in theory, at least lately. In "Spasm" the Krokers said that "music rules today as a dominant ideogram of power.. [ that it is ] a real ruling labaratory of the age of sacrificial power... the key code of the postmodern body as a war machine" and that "sampler technology is the forward mechanism of late capitalist culture". But Kodwo Eshun said that new music is the laboratory for the creation of NEW EMOTIONS for which there is no language yet (he means it positively). What is your opinion - are we just slaves to the rhythm (of cyborg money) or are we at last getting tuned to the real rhythm of "history" (whatever it's acid house of being turns out to be)?
Steven Shaviro: It should be evident that I am on the side of Eshun, not on that of the Krokers. I don't think that the Krokers' politics are wrong, exactly; many of their warnings are indeed relevant, and I have no utopian delusions that the current cyber-euphoria is a movement of true liberation. Still, I don't think that is ALL there is to the story. Counter to Adorno and the Krokers, it isn't JUST alienation and cynical ruses of power: though these are never absent, they also aren't the full story. I do think that music (probably music is the privileged case today, but the same is possible in other cultural forms) is grasping, and concretely bringing into being, new emotions or new modes of being. Though I do not think this is "the real rhythm of 'history'"; there is no finality to it, it is rather just the continual creation of newness out of repetition (here I am channelling Deleuze channelling Bergson and Nietzsche).
Zoran Roško: Some authors are emphasizing the religious/spiritual/gnostic aspect of (new) technologies ( tech-gnosis). Are you religious in any way? What will you be doing after you die?
Steven Shaviro: I quite admired Eric Davis' book Techgnosis, which deals thoroughly and intelligently with all this. But I have to say that I myself don't have any sort of religious or spiritual longings that I am aware of. All that leaves me unmoved. I don't think I will be anywhere, or be doing anything, after I die.
Zoran Roško: I think that Baudrillard and you are the most exciting pomo theorists that I know, and, trying to find some parallel and opposition between two of you, I'm inclined to say that you are for the end of pomo just what Baudrillard was for it's beginning: alibi. You guys have made pomo - it's first, coital coming (to life), and it's second, postcoital coming (to death) - ontologically glamorous so that pomo looked like it's a natural born celebrity right at the spot (of its birth/death). So it seems that B. discovered an "ecstasy of communication" and that you discovered something like the postecstasy of noncommunication, i.e. postcoital tele-orgasm (excitement, or even sense, comes to us arbitrarily, randomly, madly, parasiticaly, just when we think that it is all gone and that there is nothing more to remember, pretend about or belive to). "Meaning" or willingness to live has nothing to do with the structure of that living. "Meaning" is digital (independent of the life to which it transfers the meaning) and demonic (outside of the interiority that is it's medium): meaning of life is a DIGITAL DEMON. We are ruled not by the spell of analog magic (layed bare and disenchanted by pomo deconstructions), but by the spell of digital magic - by the spell of joy that is alien to us, that comes from without. Meaning is here not to comfort us and save/deliver us but to devour us.Because of that, your glamour is more dark, indie, carnal, fetishistic, scatological, bizzare and emotional, in one word - deadly: joy doesn't come dramatically, it comes like death, fatally, not to reward you or to flatter you, but to stop you and to punctuate you with destiny, to make you digital - made of ones of life and zeroes of its meaning. While B introduced puritanic, bright angels of ontological dadaism and dandysm (with some nostalgic shades), you've delivered us to angels of elctronic ontological disturbance (with lot of futuristic and post-apocalyptic extravaganza). Besides, I think that you help us to us recognize (since the life is a medium without a message) that pomo is ultimately about the perverted emotionality of being (what is the emotion if not the medium without a message): drag-queen of emotion turned into paradoxical thought. So, I think that pomo helped us to develop not an idea but the particular sensibility of life. So, pomo turns realities into virtualities, emotions into thoughts and by laying it bare shows us the next challenge: why are emotions so perversely powerful, why we can't live with or without them. Good old/new question. Is this crap?
Steven Shaviro: Thank you, it is very flattering to be read and re-written in this way. I cannot say you are right or wrong, since this is the way you are transforming my words just as I have transformed the words of others; which I think is a process that cannot be controlled beforehand, and that never stops.