Gean Moreno: Survivors of the strange hallucination that was called the End of History, we seem to be speaking again, and brazenly, of the Outside—an outside to the existing socioeconomic arrangement, an outside to existing forms of everyday life, an outside to the authority of institutionalized discourse. It is in relation to the reassertion of this figure or trope of the Outside that I read your contribution to Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation, and in particular your introduction of the concept of xenocommunication, a kind of laying down of lines of exchange with the alien. What is as interesting as the notion of xenocommunication itself is that its possibility generates an administrative race for portal control. Someone has to patrol the points of contact. And the winners of the race have generally been gruesome power-forms, like the Church or the Party dictatorship. In what you write, I sense the latent proposal that at this moment there is no credible border patrol that regulates contact with the Outside. And this makes our moment one of possibility, of being done with these portals altogether.
McKenzie Wark: It may be because, while a third generation atheist, I come from a Protestant culture. We don’t take kindly to authorities who claim to have been granted exclusive rights by the other to be its representatives, be they God-botherers or Lacanians.
My part of the Excommunication book, co-written with Alex Galloway and Eugene Thacker, is indeed about xenocommunication, in the double sense of communication with what is strange and also a sort of hospitality toward what is alien. I wanted to propose, speculatively, that communication seems to flourish under a sort of enabling condition inherent to xenocommunication—communication with what, in a sense, isn’t there or can’t be there. But rather than St. Paul, I wanted to follow the path of the heretics and dissenters who refused to abide by authorized channels of xenocommunication, let alone police them, as Paul did—comparable to NSA of xenocommunication. So I sketched a little counter-history to the Judeo-Christian controllers of the portals to xenocommunication. This counter-history included the heretical sects such as the Babelites, and modern descendants of the heretics such as Charles Fourier, Raoul Vaneigem, and François Laruelle.
Laruelle, incidentally, could be read in a strikingly Protestant fashion. There’s nothing to be done to earn Grace. Xenocommunication is all in one direction. The other may indeed communicate to us, after a fashion, but there’s no reciprocity, no exchange. Or you could read it via Epicurus and Lucretius: sure, the Gods exist, but they hardly notice we exist. This idea may be more liberating than the notion that God is dead, which only cleared the space for Man to take His place as the correlate of Nature. Perhaps we are better off constructing the space of thought around the notion that the One is unilateral, that there’s no exchange, and hence nobody can be the agent with exclusive rights.
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