Preliminary Notes From The Conference on The Unstable and [de] Mutable Boundaries Between Meteorological Atrocities and Human Political Economies with Bodies-as-Subjects Coming Into Being As They Are

by on Oct.29, 2012

In New York City everything is quiet and we are locked in our downtown apartments with candles and books and nothing to do but wait for something to happen, and hope it doesn’t. Like countless barricaded thinkers before us, yesterday evening, as we prepared for the storm, Seth Oelbaum, Stephanie Berger, and I held a relentless and exhausting conference on The Unstable and [de] Mutable Boundaries Between Meteorological Atrocities and Human Political Economies with Bodies-as-Subjects Coming Into Being As They Are.

Following Seth’s opening address and a reading from D&G’s Rhizome, I presented my position on Logs: The Diminished but not Diluted Potentatalities of Rhizomatic Laws and Other Deleuizan “Things,” a talk inspired by the large tree directly in the path of several windows in the apartment where we stayed last night (we’ve since moved slightly more inland). The crux of the argument centered around concepts of romanticism and body-performativity versus the actual fallibility of human bodies as, at a crisis-point, non-performative entities. Guest panelist Joyelle McSweeney commented, “Oh think of me as that branch,” which was posited as having the potential to come through the living room window.

The whole point of the rhizome is a sort of megaconsciousness of natural form; this is how weather comes to acquire subjectivity. What’s particularly frightening about the weather as having subjectivity is that it has consciousness without emotion; a storm is a sociopath, totally unconcerned with the consciousnesses of the subjects it attacks. As was mentioned in the panel on Weathery Cinematic Structures of Where The Heart Is, or, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Country Music, survival in the face of a disaster seems mediated primarily by the those same catchwords of the contemporary literary conversation: melodrama, and sincerity.

Because we happen to be, as we are, two girls and a boy holed up in wait for a disaster, because Stephanie is shopping online for dresses and Seth is writing and I am checking the weather obsessively, as though knowledge of a flood might stop it (it won’t), we can’t help making the Melancholia metaphor on an almost hourly basis, wherein I am, bizarrely and unexpectedly, Charlotte Gainsbourg rather than Kirsten Dunst. A lot has been said about the film, its relevance, and its overdetermination of events. But the crisis, distant and baroque as it might seem, is a real crisis; a crisis of bodies. Actual bodies which speak and are subject to the whims of a thing as heartless as weather, at the moment between when everything is fine and everything is not, reach a point at which they can no longer perform.

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