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Cosmogenic Acceleration: Futurity and Ethics


Learn the aesthetic error of submitting everything to a law: leveling the local event produces boredom and ugliness, a world without landscapes, books without pages, deserts. Take everything away and you will not see. To see space demands time, do not kill time. Avoid the symmetrical error of being satisfied with fragments.
—Michel Serres

In Post-Cinematic Affect, Steven Shaviro defines accelerationist aesthetics in two ways. First, he points to the “‘disruption,’ or the radical ‘break,’ without any positive content, which is all that remains for Jameson of the Utopian gesture today.” More optimistically, he emphasizes the need to think futurity and speed in new ways when he states that what we have here and now is not enough, and is vulnerable to capitalism’s voracious appetite for assimilation. Through the exhaustion of the now we can play with what’s left, the future-now. Time is problematized, collapsed, and enfolded, as it always has been in any discussion of the post-. This article will explore the ways futurity, time, and acceleration can constitute a demand for the next that outruns capital’s consumption of the now. It attends to the critical ethical components of this irreversible time in order to avoid the tendency of accelerationism to become just one more speed politics that furthers capitalism’s replacement compulsion, its techniques for devastating all to come.

One of the crucial ethical elements Shaviro emphasizes in his discussion of affect is that affect has no lack or opposite—all is affect. The posthuman vocabulary of break, fracture, and rupture is therefore no less affective for its empty contents. Indeed, this is its most insidious quality; as Shaviro puts it, “the prison has no outside.” Accelerationism seems to have been misapplied to velocity and capitalist replacement culture, but Shaviro—following Guattari and Deleuze’s use of the concept of time via speed as a qualitative (and mediative) duration—frames acceleration as an always variable intensity. True, replacement is the lure par excellence of contemporary culture’s denial of attention. Yet speed has time. Replacement culture denies time by suturing together random flashes of cultural membranes, without allowing time as durational consistency to make creative connections between those montage gaps. In these conditions, art becomes vacuous hope in an alchemical aesthetic coagulation in space.

The important question is: What is the qualitative difference between a nihilistic reading of accelerationism as saturation without refined intensity, and an accelerationist aesthetic that does not equate speed with the too-fast replacements of capitalism, instead seeing intensity in all movement, and thus all movement as acceleration (even multi-directional)? Serres urges: “Do not seek to know how to look at a landscape,” yet he dismisses any post-compulsion to say there is thus no landscape, or only a fragmentary one. He emphasizes that intensity without perceptibility and velocity without atrophy may make aesthetic experience difficult, but it is all the more real for being so—and thus all the more ethical. Guattari similarly states,

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