Sasha Puchalski

Literature for Nonhumans


ISSUE 62 | DOUBLES | MAR 2016

 

I

 

Introduction: Portraiture in the Visual and Literary Arts

The history of literature is an exceptional one. From the space in between even the barest of book covers and jackets, readers find themselves becoming sensitive to, and taking pleasure in texts structured around representations of life. In the finest experiences of reading, literature's imagined, entextualized subjects and ideas are remembered, even cherished, as if they were met incarnate. The most substantial power that literature holds over readers is in the dimension of its manipulation of time: assuaged of the restlessness which we possess when left with and as ourselves, people otherwise unable to sit still for even 5 minutes without checking their phones will remain silent and focused, on a couch or in a bed, reading for hours. Literature's representations of life and circumstance can expand our receptivity to information and to difference very much because of the nature of this type of textual processing: the medium has a unique capacity to generate experiences of knowledge by binding information to time’s transpiration through relational, emotionally explicit navigations. In the moments when we find ourselves submitting to this time, when we find ourselves choosing literature, freedom looks very simply like attention paid to everything 'other' to us; indeed the only place ‘we’ have in a piece of literature is our being embedded somewhere in the substance of our emotional investment in it.

But at what level of alterity does processing representations of life become unenjoyable, or feel like work? In what conditions of knowledge production does literature lose its immersive pleasure? Literature as a mechanism for storytelling finds its most epitomical manifestation in the genre of portraiture, the distillation of narrative's capacity and intent. Narrative and portraiture operate according to the same logic; in narrative, a sequence or constellation of events, which accomplish a coherency, is presented, while in portraiture, through the coherency of a portrayed subject, an open-ended sequence or constellation of events are implied. As a genre of literature, portraiture generates a single subject and then implies that subject's various rationalities. These two factors become sufficient to 'story', because they elucidate an entire sensorium and a perceptual world. Each portrait implies that which narrative would, by definition, explicitly include: other subjects, and the grounds or materials that mediate their involvements. In portraiture though, we meet a subject who stands alone, to the exclusion of anything else that would represent an equal constitution. Integral to this genre of portraiture is an implicit mechanism of framing the 'face', or, interpretable circumstance of a body. In the most audacious of efforts to extract this implied sensorium from the architecture of the singular subject, some portraiture will even go so far as to detail physiological characteristics as if they were conscious expressions. In this sense, the framing and foregrounding devices integral to visual art have informed literature's possibilities, and the systems by which it, as an art form, produces knowledge, and notions or probabilities of subjectivity.

Visual Portraiture

In the visual arts, traditional portraiture functions by setting the epitomically expressive plane of the human body, the face, in opposition to a background. In fact, historically, portraiture in the visual arts has probably managed a depreciation of the other regions of a body, in relation to the face. The genre of portraiture in visual arts has thus come to be known more so by its normative subject and less so by its unique brand of structural arrangement. Despite this domination of literal 'face' in visual portraiture, and the emergent phenomenology of how to locate 'subject' thus, there are examples of visual art that operate via the mechanism of portraiture's background-foreground framing, more so than by a reliance upon normative subject. Perhaps one of the most interesting examples of a piece of visual art that is demonstrative of portraiture without being dependent on a (present) human subject, or 'face' is The Mill by the 17th-century painter, Rembrandt Van Rijn. Because of its inclusion of water, hill, and a building structure (all for which, typically understood ‘consciousness’ is unavailable), some might argue that the painting constitutes a landscape, but landscape paintings, historically, display more uniform balance between background and foreground, and do not focalize the precarious relationality that The Mill's iconism does.

When depicting a landscape scene, a painter must sit for hours on end, in one location. Inevitably, they become excruciatingly aware of, and simultaneously repressive of, the minor changes in the environmental and atmospheric conditions (changes in light, the wind's effect on matter, the ephemeral arrivals of those who self-mobilize: birds, humans, etc). In this sense, despite the impression that landscapes impart of indiscriminate inclusion, the painter, by dint of their endured witnessing, must be selective and even curatorial in this genre of painting that is regularly viewed as one of realistic reproduction. In The Mill, Van Rijn centers the mill in the painting's frame as having, in a brief window of time, fallen into the light of the sun, which is absent and out of frame. In this case, the portrait effects out from the relationship between what is apparent and what is implied. An event is captured, but what is implied: the sun, or Rembrandt? Obviously both. He sees a cause external to himself give the mill a special, ephemeral animacy, and in so doing, establishes a trinity between himself, the mill, and the fact of the light, there, upon it, however briefly; from the relations of this trinity, we sense the raw substrate of piety.

It is not sufficient to say that Rembrandt's reverence for the temporally bound conditions that manifest subjecthood produced in him the impulse to paint. Why not that the inflection of transience, integral to material and the forces that act on material, is itself an autonomous reverence, something available, experiential, beyond a ‘human’ recognition or appreciation? The full answer to the question of the actual availability of this piety is, of course, unknowable, and this aspect of indefinites also gives volume to the painting’s implication of the divine. Indeed, The Mill has a nearly religious iconism. Rembrandt's specific orchestration of The Mill offers an epistemology for framing subjects in a way that shows their contingency on temporality, their ‘being-event’1; in this case, event is the sun's making-itself-present in that moment, the leniency of the clouds, the exact coordinate of the mill in space, and finally light's "fall", onto, nearly even for, the mill. This fleeting, inexplicable illumination of one zone of space reminds us of more deliberate framings of coherent entities, and initiates The Mill as a classical portrait of a nonhuman subject. Only permissible because of the way that light itself frames certain objects at different times (essentially, the way it gives 'face' to a moment in, or of, time), The Mill is an improbable, but emphatic subject of portraiture.

Other examples of complicated visual portraiture imply their own epistemologies on what subjects and events might be recognized, much like the The Mill and its implication of a terrestrial divinity. Painting in the 16th-century, Giuseppe Arcimboldo created portraits of quasi-human busts assembled entirely by different matter, nevertheless familiar to those faces and their consciousnesses: fruits, fish, or birds, and objects of domesticity such as cups, plates and bowls. Performance artist Nao Bustamente's work Deathbed (2010) contextualizes faciality and self-presentation in relation to the circumstance of death. A thread can be drawn between the death-face and the faces we present to the public, on the grounds of its curation, of its being manipulated to greet something more or less indifferent to it; our genetic, incidental faces are adorned in ultimately incompetent ways in order that they signify our deliberate selves. Even the (social) circumstance of coming-to-terms with death becomes inflected by this presentational deathbed, a zone claimed in which both the dead and the living take part in an experimentation of how to manifest the identity we’d envisioned for ourselves in life. Finally, Erik Mark Sandberg's portraits of cartoonish youth, in palettes of neons and candy, are unified by the addition of veils of hair that thinly cover both faces and torsos, as if creating a class of youth who were always inflected by this unavoidable screen of body hair. The hair is neither genderable nor stylized, but merely existent. What happens to the face of youth, our index of beauty, of freedom, and spirit? Sandberg’s portraits ask: what dignities are we constantly forsaking as we encounter the faces of others? Where do these disruptions to the integrity of others lead us? When does representation, or its failure, or its refusal, count?


Works by Rembrandt, Arcimboldo, Bustamente and Sandberg.

So in visual arts, the most engaging portrait is that subject who is known via their implication, but whose implication does not categorically disrupt their own focalization. In literary arts then, this principle should stand: how the literary subject is plural, or resists plurality, how they are affected, or resist affectation, how they are constituted, by what choices, by what fates, is what will make them interesting, or novel, or familiar, or pathetic as figures.

Literary Portraiture

There are occasional examples of literary portraiture that depart from classical representations of named, realistic, human subjects. The book Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino, transgresses the typical depiction of normative human subjectivity by fabricating a narrative circumstance in which human interaction and recollection can be generative of immensities: of hospitable, immersive city-space portraits. Imagined architectural and logistical upheavals, as well as new physical habitats, become consequences of conversation, even despite (or perhaps, because of) the mutual unintelligibility of the languages used by the book’s two characters, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. Another example of non-normative literary portraits are the vignettes presented by Daniil Kharms in Today I Wrote Nothing. These short, often humorous tales, don't depict specific individuals as much as they offer mini portraits of human relationality, and the improbability of grace. They reflect on the human in society, his system of values and ways of making contact, specifically implying that these social performances are determined (in part) by the ways in which humans have been represented, and, have self-represented, in texts. Khams' work voraciously depicts these distillations of the perpetual infelicity of articulation and maddening humor of human interaction as general caricature portraits. Through this excess, Kharms presents a series of prose pieces, dialogues and poems that are critical of literature's self-seriousness, exposing it as a lineage of non-critical depictions of humanity as a whole, and as aspirational toward an aesthetic often dependent on an evasion of a unifying human stupidity.

But the sparseness of these examples of portraits in which human subjectivity is de-centered or complicated means that literature has to reassess its utility in this contemporary moment, lest it merely approximate another mass referential form of entertainment, and lose its ability to generate perspectives of subjectivity, as opposed to simply represent types already culturally sanctioned. In order to know its utility, literature must approach itself self-referentially, as a technology that uniquely manipulates the relationship between time and interiority for its readers. In literature, time is measured at the discretion of what transpires materially and emotionally. Elected exposure to these types of measurements affects the permeability of the filter we possess that mediates an interior and an exterior. One has to ask: if the history of literary portraiture is defined by its representation of human subjects, reified by visual arts sterilization of portraiture as to be about those human subject's faces, then, what is the utility of portraiture (and, at the limit, even narrative literature) in the future? Will it fail to incorporate the nonhuman (as a subject, or as a question)? Will it become evident as a creation of humans, designed specifically to serve some assemblage of egos: of the species in relation to the rest of the world, and of the author in relation to other men? Or will it evolve to incorporate new subjects as a necessary acknowledgement of the significance of literature's ability (as a popular medium and as a technology for the production of knowledge) to comment on, and affect, the political issues of our era surrounding the resource of time, and its corollary problem, our individual investments in, or divestments from, the needs of a full social ecology?

The task of incorporating subjects-not-human in literature is, in other words, a task of accounting for the other centers of desire and consciousness present within these full social ecologies. Yet the issue of the impossibility of assuming another’s perspective, and the violence involved in trying to represent it, is paramount. If the gesture of acknowledgement carries an immeasurable significance, but the feasibility of reaching a point of empathic understanding is itself impossible, where should literature start? At what scale? Which nonhumans? Animals, plant-life, regions, ecologic consciousnesses?

In this sense, literature must take on the task also of rethinking centrality, of settings, spaces, regions. In starting at this level, literature for nonhumans can engage with the fact of the historiographical characterization of regions, those domains which invariably contain us humans, and all we commodify or relegate to backgrounds. In other words, if that which we think about subjects and bodies is also influenced by what we happen to think about spaces and conceptualize about regions, we must also do work at these infrastructural levels, in order to confront the erasures and hierarchies of history’s subjectivities. Literature for Nonhumans by Gabriel Gudding is a text that attempts this kind of disassembly of the historiographical written as history, through new portraitures.

0: Literature for Nonhumans: River Epistemology


Illinois wetlands

In the prologue of Gabriel Gudding's poetic, historiographical literary portrait of the Midwest region and the state of Illinois, Gudding draws upon the phenomenology of rivers, driven by the fact that prior to European settlement, three-fourths of the state of Illinois was wetlands. Currently, only about 3% of the state is considered wetland (Literature for Nonhumans, 5).

In the phenomenology of the river, the primary quality of both a contiguous movement and the movement of an immense contiguity, disassembles an Otherwise-phenomenology: that things are separate, easily namable, or fixed, and that time can be abstracted from the activity of matter and force. The structure of Gudding's prologue emulates this dual contiguity; the dynamic fact of movement as a consequence of omnipresent force, and the non-differentiability of matter, tied and synergized by this force, is represented in the first paragraph of his text:

The plan ets are old co l ore d platforms, almost porches.
We anch or on one, st abled in a harbor of hemic l umber,
self-alien, in spattered everything, our br easts dispensing
yards, the ejacu late landing in ballots. Our blisters become
dirigibles. Bodily splatter everywhere. A world is worlding.
We are hinged
 

 

 

 

 
on a we ather of the palus trine 2.(1)

In the very first line of text, words are spatially parsed in ignorance of their common grammatical boundary. In as much, Gudding's first elective parameter is this gesture of de-itemization of content: words are distributed into separate locations in space but each center is still contingent upon each other center for meaning-making, or specifically, for understanding. Meaning is inflected by a disruptive spacing, but calling it a separation would be false. The separation has no effect on meaning's ultimate legibility. The spacing only complicates the sterility of meaning's regular reliance on sovereign forms, by altering the time in which it is accessed. In this case, semiosis is only possible after moving through the text, more as a whole, by slowing.

In the river’s frenetic contiguous matter and contiguous movements, it manages almost every stage of assembly or disassembly, simultaneously. If this flux and interdependence is its ethos, what can be extracted or packaged or possessed without leaving some of its significance behind, undermining the logic through which it was meant to be abstracted in the first place?

Transitioning away from the poetic representation of the river's ethos in this introductory stream of letters on a page, Gudding reflects on the extraction of material from rivers as a project of itemization, and the initial tactical maneuver for the establishment of this region-in-portrait, Illinois and the Midwest. He decides to portray this specific region in order to elucidate its historical materialization (really, its materialization), by foregrounding the forgotten or concealed facts of land, water and nonhumans’ transformation over the course of settlement. In our society, production and distribution of commodity require dismemberment. In the case of the river, the cycle of dismemberment and re-integration can occur without an intersection with human will: water absorbed from the surfaces of rivers, oceans, and lakes, coalesces, and bits of falling rain land on, and are absorbed into the river's mass embroidering it, microbially, chemically. But when these waters are intercepted by the wills and demands of human society, what is taken from them (both in material and equilibrium) can never be returned, nor can the effects of this manipulation be fully understood. The process of extraction, and the dismemberment of the extracted is what enables the development of industrial society, and is the mechanical aspect of the story of colonization, settlement, industrialization and objectification of this and many other regions of the earth.

The river - its burying and blunder; its bruised eels, blended petals, its partial bells, native mudsmell organ of lull, fungal and lone. How most corn, weather, cow comes at us in pieces. River, becoming one from many (raindrops). (1)

But extraction is not a comprehensive narrative through which to understand the emergence of regions-of-commerce, centered around human’s values and actions. Allegiant to the phenomenology of the river, and the nature of our planet as vastly wet, or 'blue', Gudding resolves to also show us what becomes of that which is extracted and purposed; he shows us too that, as value depreciates, discarded, abject material will always come to rest, in large or small part, in these bodies of water.

For Gudding, the forgotten story of the Midwest is the story of the itemization and evaluation of nonhumans. And no matter how you frame the story, no matter which subjects you give life or priority to within it, it invariably begins, and ends, with a river. All stories of life begin and end with the silent receptivity and excesses of bodies of water.

an immense babbling reservoir of urines, planetary quantities of salt, mineral, the sluff of mountains, glinting eggs, sinking bags of organism, hill bottoms, dead children, ions, and over it lolls the solar ovum banging through a park, the south trees of a park, and there it goes getting onto a boat under a river.

thanks for the Sea, that big Russian melodrama, beaten vault of fishes, battered waterquilt of horse muscle that you electrify the doily of the genome and filter life through the moms. (4)

These bodies of water are the ideal receptacles for human's productions because they are the sort that can make disappearance seem possible on our planet, when in fact virtually nothing is lost from our biosphere. The more that disappearance (as a general circumstance) seems possible, the more that an active forgetting or ignorance feels permissible. Gudding draws an arc through and beyond the individuation portion of the life cycle of 'things' or ‘resources’, reminding us that, in the final occurring stages of the societal processing of these items:

"The river is where your shit goes,” and is an "extensor and apparatus of your asshole." (3)

Understood in a global context, the regional and industrial development of places like ‘Illinois’ occurs in direct proportion to the de-subjectification (objectification) of the natural world, the first consequence of colonization. The first sections of Mariarosa Dallacosta's book Our Mother Ocean describe humans’ evolving relationship to the ocean and other bodies of water. Prior to industrialization, concepts of the sea emerged from that which we did not know, and therefore from that which we felt, developing into myths and feelings of reverence. Increasingly, as technologies developed to make passages across these bodies more manageable, and to make extractions from them increasingly easier and safer, the oceans of our planet lost their mystery, and the reverence with which we encountered them was displaced. Our sensitivity to the extraordinary force and humbling inhospitality of the sea was supplanted by a sensitivity to and dependency on, the technologies that enabled us to better turn the multiplicity of delicate ecosystems within the sea into resources for our species.

Gudding's prologue forces a difficult position. It is not enough to theorize humans' imperialistic relationship to nature as one dominated by extraction, itemization and displacement because it is never enough to regret what has already been lost or destroyed. Individually and collectively, we act as revolving doors, driven by the momentum of habit. We purchase and consume dismembered bodies and abstracted material as resource commodity, and then return produced waste back into the biosphere, pretending that it can disappear, or be absorbed. As a society, we are complicit in the rhetoric and action of 'waste-managements', which uses hypothetical spaces, absent of human habitation (i.e. nuclear detonation fields in the U.S. Southwest) and receptive entities (i.e. the rivers and oceans) as if they were vacant, massive containers, meant to unaffectedly absorb the excess of materials we no longer require, or those which have come to inconvenience us.

1: A Midwest Portrait's Two Centers: the Human and the Nonhuman/Ecological

What is missing in the collective narrative of the Midwestern region’s development? To what extent have the subjectivities of nonhuman individuals and masses been ignored, to what extent have they been denied even the gesture of a representation that is bound to fail? The arrangement of Literature for Nonhumans as a text sets out a framework for how humans might take on the task of approaching the concept of ‘region’, independent of a human definition. Within the book’s table of contents, one finds some standard descriptions, and then a few terms that are most probably unfamiliar: Jeremiad, Amnicola, and Ecomium. The first of these, Jeremiad, references the bible chapter Jeremiah and its adjacent text Lamentations, and describes a listing of grievances and lamentations in prose form. By calling into question the lack of representation or centering of the nonhuman in literature and in history, as well as framing the question as one which must include a movement through lamentation, Gudding imparts that the conflict of this portrayal of the Midwestern region is one of the discordant logos of these two centers placed in opposition (the progress oriented human and the nonhuman), and the competing mechanisms of production that arise out of their possible sensibilities: logistics (material production and generation of capital) on the one hand, and lamentation (experiential production of knowledge and care from exposures to diverse material and subjectivity) on the other.

These two perspectives arise from two different sets of outstanding values: in the historiographical construction of the ‘Midwest’ as a region, the human conceives of itself and its needs as central figures, and what results is that logistics becomes the primary carrying ethos, that force and flow necessary to serve his individuated requirements, those which are ordained by his preferred social cradle. But if the conceptualization of this, or any other ‘region’ allows that the human see it more so as a living network of consciousnesses in which the nonhuman and the human are contiguous, then lamentation will not only have a valued place within his evaluative experience, to remediated this opposition, but it will interrupt the swift and mindless manipulation of lives and materials that is the logistical management of supply chains upon which humans rely. Historically, greater and greater amounts of extractions within the Midwest show that the affirmed vision of the region is centered around human needs and urges, driven by logistics. The development of a variety of paradigmatic material and relational technologies over the past 250 or so years has contributed to this framework, approaching land from a socio-political ethic grounded in anthropocentric evaluation.

Privatization: (relational technology)

Having established the outstanding relational logos of melding and inseparability that permeated the Midwest region prior to settlement (the Midwest at that time being a series of ecological networks that were in perpetual negotiations with the wetlands’ principle property and action: cohesion and solvency) Gudding begins to define the various characters and processes of this regional, historical portrait. From river, Gudding shifts onward to detail the itemized matter that is pulled from it, and that the river inevitably receives, to the kindred sea and all uncontainable liquidity3, and then finally on to land, as we have come to know it. He frames named lands, or the technology of territorialization, as a (human) language-based technology, which enables this processing and itemization. For Gudding, the drama of the Midwestern region's unification, and the intrigue of its coherency, all emerge from this original partitioning of land, from ownership, and extraction, both of which presuppose commodification.

In the history of human civilization, state and national borders have been created along rivers. Privatization makes sovereign control possible, and territories are then subject to the determinations of the laws drafted interiorly. From this appropriation of ‘river’ itself, as ‘border’, we’ve learned to carry privatization on down into our very self-definitions: we dwell within private spaces, everything we accumulate within them becoming private possessions, by default. We decorate within our private borders, we outfit and groom our bodies, we curate our rooms, lockers, phone wallpapers, lawns and yards, projecting ourselves into the spaces we occupy frequently, or that we pay for. In so doing, we betray an immense need for something to look out on, and to control, and the gesture is such that our attempts at individuation radiate outward and exceed our physical occupation of space, reverberating immaterially in parts of the social sphere. Take the case of privation of land for example: only when grass is privatized by a series of economic negotiations or mechanical delineations, does it become nominalized as a 'lawn', or ‘yard’: the grass becomes subordinated to the parameter projected onto it. Otherwise, when we wander upon an expanse of grass, we’d call it just that, 'grass'. It is beyond these phenomenological peculiarities that Gudding asks us to reconsider developed land:

“What is an Illinois? Illinois is...an astonishing need for lawns." (4)

By centering this relational technology of privatization as one formulated for a multitude of physical conveniences (those enabling the colonization of spaces large and small), Gudding outlines how settlement, and waves of technological development within the settlements co-occurred, and are, in a sense, synonymous with an immense project of modification of the land itself, of the forests, rivers, and of nonhumans.

"In 1900 the flow of the Chicago River was reversed and a 28-mile canal was dug to pull the lake's water down into the Des Plaines and the Illinois." (18)

This decision to mechanically reverse the flow of the Chicago river contributed to Illinois’ transition from a wetland into land upon which settlements could be constructed, and mass agricultural economies developed. From this pivotal event and era, Gudding provides a history of the proliferation of technologies that further enabled this hyper-control of land, and this alteration of its rhythms (to which, nonhuman life was already deeply sensitized). The advent of these technologies begat the formation of economies, and these economies functioned by forecasting futurity, most insistently, as a space and time in which certain products and experiences would come to be available for individual human consumption, exploration, and possession. But these economies built on promise and futurity, of course, end up articulating the blueprints for further modification and development of land.

Entertainment Technologies and Technologies of Convenience Gudding presents a laundry list of the dated arrivals of more minor technologies, almost as if they were birthdates, relentlessly coming into existence, implying their non-contestability. The primary, critical relational developments (most significantly, privatization) proliferate the likelihood of others that work in similar ways. As time progresses within this paragraph's minor history, we see that the invention of technologies used to modify land, enabled the development of an entertainment infrastructure, of institutionalized medicine practices, of travel technology (predicting the consumption of space and culture), and of specialized professions and fabricated objects, or, the advent of design economies.

And not for us. The steel plow 1837 John Deere, Grand Detour, Illinois, barbed wire 1874 Joseph Farwell Glidden, Dekalb. Illinois, the Union Stockyards & Transit Co 1865, its railway-butchery a progenitor of Fordism and the Konzentrationslager, 1st open heart surgery Daniel Hale Williams 10 July 1858...1st softball game 1887, 1st blood bank Cook County Hospital 1937, 1st Pullman Sleeping Car...the 1st car radio...the 1st Ferris wheel, allowing one to traverse inconsequentially in place, as an oscilloscope, in a rhythm of purposefully induced fear and assuagement, 1st Mcdonalds…1955...1st vertical storage of corn, prior to which it was stored in trenches, rotting quickly...1st electrical dishwasher 1889, Mrs. Josephine Garls...1st globally successful modified seed Lester Pfister 1935...by 1940, 44 states and 30 countries were planting Pfister corn. (5)

Agricultural technologies have a significant presence in this paragraph, and it is notable because they precondition viable centers of industry, providing food and security to growing populations. Barbed wire, for instance, allowed for nonhumans’ actions to be confined, their physicality to be on call for milking, for slaughter, or for capital exchange. Railways, most popularly envisioned as sites of slow, romanticized travel across our vast continent, are more regularly used to transport ‘livestock’ and mass freight around the country, creeping at an unchanging pace in frozen or scalding temperatures, all while the new settlers sleep soundly. And at last, so that even in the waking hours, the settlers or their progeny can turn their minds from the continual and expanding pillaging of the forests, and rivers, this forced reproduction of cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, fish, petunias, and soy, this implementation of immigrant lives and marginalized peoples as nothing but bodies for work, we invented new entertainments, and the means to have frequent access to them. We invented new sports and games to watch, played by ‘able-bodied’ men, and we invented ‘amusement’ parks, filled with thousands of pounds of twisted and forged metals, painted in the bright colors of poisons, and bugs and leaves. Is it a coincidence that the first softball game was developed in the wake of the creation of the Union Stockyards transit company, where expedited freighting capabilities made it possible and lucrative to, at higher rates than ever before, possess and sell living bodies? Is it coincidence that the iconism of individuals (Western celebrity culture) rose while the iconism of those we increasingly saw as the same (deification of animals, plants, natural bodies) fell behind a veil? We should ask ourselves, if Illinois is: "progenitor of modern slaughterhouse and concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO)” (20) how else might have, say, entertainment technologies evolved, if factories of death were neither ubiquitous, nor concealed?

The easy answer is that an entertainment society and a necropolitical4 society go hand-in-hand. Thrills are, by definition, ephemeral experiences, departing as quickly as they come. In this way, they naturally create a demand for access to subsequent experiences of entertainment whose supply does not diminish. As long as human life relies upon the abduction and mechanized death of marginalized human and nonhuman lives, human society also requires an entertainment society whose ephemera (dystopia films, Youtubes, Vines and videos that self-destruct, monthly health magazines, candies, sexual temptations, froyo’s cute toppings, en vogue pop songs) absolutely saturate our lives and fields of attention.

But these specific material technologies need blessing, they need underlying belief frameworks in which they can be nested, and from which, their justification is continual. Gudding does not only describe material technologies, as above, but also the institutional and ideological machines or technologies that further enabled the development of material technology, which itself further enabled the manipulation of land, and all of its subsequent itemizations and sterilizations. Two of the ideological technologies he discusses recurrently are furniture, or outfittings for proliferated interiors (controlled and privatized domestic spaces), and Christianity, the ethos and phenomenology which, in some of its forms, legitimizes time spent within these privatized, microcosmic domestic worlds that refer to an ultimate sphere of human affairs, and that it be prioritized over experiences occurring in non-privatized, unsettled and therefore, unsettling, spaces.

Furniture: (somatic relational technology)

an unparalled immensity of furnitures made in Chicago and arrayed across the wetlands Illinois, drained for the placement of chair leg and planar surface...Housecleaning, removal of biofilms and the arrangement of carryable and slideable objects about the home. (6)

Furniture is, of course, a material technology. Furniture is fashioned from wood, or metal, plastic, or wicker. It is made more comfortable by fluffs of cotton or synthetic materials. It is made visually compelling by the patterns, textures, dyes, and decorations of its textiles. But furniture also has an ideological dimension, since its predominant domain is within the home, or within other similar privatized spaces. Furniture like chairs and couches, allow us exposure to extended visual, textual or discursive information in relatively sterilized, controlled contexts, and flat surfaces like tables or dressers or shelves enable us have easy access to specialized objects which we purpose in a multitude of ways. Furniture functions like a minor architecture, manipulating social experience by enabling time and attention to be spent inside of sterilized and curated spaces. Sometimes, furniture is available in public spaces, like parks or libraries. But predominantly, it functions as a comfortable place to rest our bodies, allowing us to then curate our environments, such that our attention can target those things we select, and avoid those things we preemptively deny or reject. By transforming the land of Illinois, its trees into felled trees, into logs, into lumber, into 2x4s, into handsome tables and chairs, we give ourselves the ability to cherish and aestheticize the 'nature' that was nevertheless ravaged, and rendered powerless, and also, the ability to construct and occupy aesthetically validated places from which to develop forms of knowledge that often stem from the visual or conceptual movements that we ourselves ordain.

Gudding compels us to confront furniture as minor architectures which dictate our physical movement and kinesthetic aesthetics, day in and day out. Perhaps better than asking ourselves what we have the energy to do, personally, politically, socially, etc. on any given day, we might ask ourselves what our tables and chairs will give us permission to do, and not do. What our cars and homes and appliances give us direction to do, and not do in a day. By focusing on the proliferation of furnishings for the home and for interior, controlled and sterilized spaces, Gudding draws a connection between our desires for somatic comfort and kinesthetic ease-of-movement, and the proliferated growth of industrial and capitalistic cultural development in the Midwestern region over the past 250 years.

Christianity: (spiritual relational technology)

A church is a machine that pulls corn out of fields. It is a closed structure in which indifference to want extraction is brought about by positing another world that is nondestroyable, engendering in its believers the conviction they will inherit another earthlet once this one is sucked through the hills. (7)

Christianity, a correlate of ecological devastation, posits a temporally unbounded metaphysical haven, exclusive to humans, giving believers little reason to tend or maintain a physical world here, a teleological suspension of the ecological." (19)

The possibility of one's life gaining spiritually generative or judicially imposed purpose and the comfort of having access to the resources of a community is the reason people align themselves with particular religions or cultural or national systems. In this way, Christian or nationalistic or regionalistic praxes can also be understood in terms of their historical function as arbiters of industrial development and settlement upon the land of a region. Christianity's promise of another world necessarily meant the disavowal of primary relationship or responsibility to every aspect of this material one. This rationalization away from a sustainable ecological futurity incentivized development and more immediate and tangible (monetary) investments as humans individuated themselves from their environment and one another in order to capitalize on entrepreneurial futurities.

But between the cultivation of a humanity sensitive to imagined paradises, on one hand, and the inevitable physical confinements that result from an often unconscious pursuit of somatic comfort, on the other, Gudding still does not want us to localize this ravaging as being specific to the past alone, as an invariable psycho-social addiction to these narratives and materials. He wants to remind us of the most significant technology of human existence, the one that allows us to see abstractions and ordinances already in that which we encounter materially. He wants us to understand that language is our first, our primary, technology, purposed to disincentivize caring about Othered life, because it is the technology that defers others experiences by enabling us to represent them.

Language: (logistical relational technology – diffusing difference)

The ‘Search’ Forum

In the next section, Table of Contents, Gudding presents what appear to be search terms and questions asked about Illinois and the Illinois river, possibly online. The gesture is as if someone living in the area of the Midwest were trying to discover more about the nature of their geographical region, but was deciding to do so via information and technological navigation as opposed to empirical observation or material exposure. Here, we are witness to the framework by which distant land and space are encountered: through language and data’s meditational capacity. So often beholden to this medium of knowledge production, we are reminded that the way we ask questions, and which questions, already betrays assumptions about what answers are possible or permissible.

Asking as a means of producing knowledge always works along the terminologies and within the arrangements of units that are searchable to begin with. This derivative information is always based in frameworks of understanding that are as far as possible from that of the special tangibility of the searched. Within Table of Contents, Gudding proposes that someone has searched for the weight of the (Illinois) river in tons. But to what organism could this exact or approximated figure of Illinois river’s weight in tons matter?

The Illinois river -- is it finite? Dimensions of Illinois, square footage. Hiparchus. Comets falling on. Variations in radiation. Number of elms. Number of wedding rings found in. Number of meteorites striking within. Spinal column: their number and kind; number of hibernal vertebrates on the Illinois; those of quadruped, those of biped (bird, primate). Steamboats, nostalgia for. Positive effects of nostalgia: conservation, cherishment. Negative effects of nostalgia: delusion, denial in face of dire change. Modern barge traffic...The Illinois River its weight in tons….Ubiquity, its pervasiveness; the role of rivers in the making of the notion of ubiquity. (8-9)

This list of searches is meant to detail the vast array of questions that have been asked about Illinois, and to focalize their possible motivations. These kinds of queries are driven by desires to access the empirical (Steamboats), the epistemological (“The Illinois river -- is it finite?”), and the fantastical or romantic or nostalgic (“number of wedding rings found in”). The ubiquity of the internet, and its being the most reliable and popular forum in which to project these inquiries must be taken into account, as its architecture and code complete a feedback circuit, influencing what kinds of knowledge are sought out, which are not, and how.

Information and internet culture currently exists as a non-resistant plane of exposure, representing material objects and their relations, in texts and images. The ubiquity of entry-points to the web at any given moment in time deserves a consideration on the nature, and symbolic significance of greetings, and of the formalities of encounters, with both other subjects, and with information. Our lives are so regularly mediated by the frameworks of technological devices, that we hardly have the need or opportunity to greet much of anything anymore; increasingly, we learn via abstracted information, and far less often, by experiencing the natures of diverse material entities, or by negotiating co-presences. This specific experience of learning, knowing, and encountering is intensified by the propensity toward naming, and the coining of new terms, which can be used by various sub-cultures to claim knowledge without direct exposure. The proliferation of names and naming comes, in part, from the same mechanism that seeks to abstract and archive information about material things: our aversion to the true nature of our contiguity and dependence on these other bodies, our aversion to the impossibility of individuation.

Greetings and Salutations

Sensitive to the permissibility and anonymity of information-culture and the material technologies which support and reify its prescience, Gudding recontextualizes ubiquitous cultural instruments (for example, brand name cars) by inserting them, however ironically, into a greeting function, most commonly reserved for interactions between incorporeal people:

Greetings, their function (diffusion of difference). Greetings to your overlarge vehicles. Yr Buick. Yr Pathfinder. Etc, etc. Yr named of ships named of, yr mountains, yr crisp nonadventures, yr adoption of the quiet named of. (10)

A greeting is both a formality and a methodology of welcoming. It is an acknowledgment of a subject, and also, the precondition for that subject to describe their state. In the case of these instruments, commodities, and infrastructures, we have lost the ability to inquire as to their essences, both because of the ubiquity of their materiality, and because of their 'being-in-demand', or their being desirable commodities. In as much, Gudding's inclusion of "greetings" to supermarkets, cars, and other mechanisms that define modern life and impose themselves directly and indirectly into this full regional ecology of the Midwest, provides an opportunity to inquire as to the full effects of our familiarization and fraternization with these instruments and technologies, and our acceptance of them as pure utilities.

By faming these coveted, ‘utile’ objects and experiences within a salutatory framework, Gudding manages to depict a certain permission afforded to instruments, especially man-made ones, as if their invention was, in perpetuity, justification for their continued existence. In the example of cars above, Gudding coyly proffers to them a greeting or a salutation, on behalf of their users, for whom, acknowledgement of their own technological dependencies seems to slip their mind. Their ubiquity is a sufficient answer as to their purpose, and precludes the question of their legitimacy, most especially on the level of individual inquiry.

Specialized Language

Gudding now incorporates a series of manual texts through which the legalities and rationalities of "resource extraction" are expressed. Once again we see the extent to which language itself functions as a technology to generate distance between actions, and the possible interpretations of those actions. Where greeting (the formality of it, the generality of it) is meant to act in an equalizing way, providing a brief moment for one authenticity to meet another authenticity, jargon acts in the opposite way, creating an indexical force field around each word that requires associative work to decipher. The development of specialized language, allows us to avoid the possibility of being confronted by life other than human, and to evade the great task of figuring out how to recognize or understand the desires of an animal consciousness who does not use our preferred code of language, or of a nonhuman that does not bear an expressional ‘face’ similar to our own.

Animal Torture' does not include any death, harm or injury caused to any animal by any of the following activities. any alteration or destruction of any animal by any person for any legitimate purpose including but not limited to: castration, culling, declawing, defanging, ear cropping, euthanaesia, gelding, grooming, neutering, polling, shearing, shoeing, slaughtering, spaying, tail docking, and vivisection. (18)

Much in the same way that development of material technology like tractors, barbed wire, watches, and cars, mobilizes further general developments of the Midwest (or any industrial center serving the projected essentials for the human species’ growth), so too does the development and deployment of new jargons and specialist languages mobilize and legitimize the extraction, itemization, and controlling of living centers of consciousness, both human and nonhuman, within these environments.

Having up until this point established the development of the region around Illinois as a history of extraction, privatization and itemization, and the instantiation of a 'nature' permissive of metastatic geneses of all sorts of technologies, entertainments, mediations, and both material and immaterial architectures, Gudding asks:

"What Is An Illinois?”

Illinois is a class of sub-apocalypse characterized by…notable absence of non-human animal, instrumentalization of othered life. (16)

Illinois is an agro-theistic paracosm 5, and an ecological paracosm. (12-26)

It is easy to approach regionality along the lines of what it has to offer us. What can we experience commercially, culturally, when we travel to Illinois, that is not possible in, say, New England? But to Gudding, we must begin to think of region not so much of how cultural particularities distinguish one region from another, but more so along the lines of how these regions function as machines, and types. States and socio-geographical regions are cultural-industrial machines that manipulate the contiguity of the land of the region by processing parts of it into items, producing psychological and physiological effects in us which change our ability to remain aware of this particular systematicity, and what wills it conceals or displaces.

By asking “What is an Illinois?”, Gudding makes clear that he sees the Midwest as a series of reproducing operations, functioning much in the same as many other Western metropolises. The centering of human culture gives the metropolis an inflection, and a type of characterization. The logistical flows which then serve human demands almost gain a subjectivity, a naturalization. In this process, the unignorable 'flow' of logistics de-subjectivizes whatever this operation seeks to profit upon, that is, the unclassifiable ecological networks that are never fully confined within, or obedient of, the territories we have coined, and the characterizations we share and commodify as experiences.

In the aftermath of these technologies expansions6, it can be said that logistics, that force which enables the characterization of lands as complicit in ‘offering’ their ‘resource’, won out over lamentation, that lucidity about the nature of nonhuman life and network, as natural sites of pedagogy7 in which the relational technologies I’ve outlined above suddenly become defunct or insufficient. This is precisely why Gudding includes lamentation as an integral component of his text: if one is to truly confront colonizing human’s ignorance of their global and personal violences over nonhuman, and, inseparably, dehumanized subjects 8, a genuine confrontation first necessitates lamentation, that is, the perpetual recognition of personal responsibility 9, no matter how small.

From all these hypothesis, from our lawns, to our supermarkets, to the ways in which our cars are named after those names we’ve given to mountains and planets and rugged individualisms, from the advent of homogenized and fetishistic entertainment cultures, from barbed wire, to Google search, Gudding posits that Illinois and the Midwest constructed and continues to develop, an agro-theistic paracosm, materially constructed and arranged via these abstract relational and logistical technologies.

In order to identify the mechanism that enables these extractions, possessions, displacements, pollutions and objectifications to be naturalized for us, Gudding raises those sensibilities which we hardly confront to the fore, those of aesthetic and somatic desires. For Gudding, the pinnacle of regional development as a cultural technology for the generation of capital and experiences of appeasement, is enslavement, slaughter and dismemberment. Both animal agriculture and the objectification of bodies within human society are relational technologies of commodification, dismemberment, and both physical and spiritual slaughter. It is on these grounds (of aesthetics and somatic expectations) that we must search in order to understand our aversion to the representation of, and more importantly lamentation for, nonhuman and dehumanized bodies and subjectivities, in both art and society.

 

II

 

2: The Mechanism of the Agro-Theistic Paracosm is the Slaughterhouse:

Literature's Ability to Disrupt this Ubiquitous Cultural Machine Lies in Its Possibility of Lamentation

At this moment, Gudding chooses to bring the architecture of his own text to the fore, that is, he calls into focus the unique epistemologies present within and available from literature as a distinctive art form. Like his initial foray into the epistemology generated in and by the river, significant to consider since these rivers were themselves necessary to control and harness in order to make colonization possible, Gudding explicitly foregrounds the types of forms literary works can take, in order to describe their unavoidable production, not only of information, but more significantly, of frameworks in which to think and by which to guide interactions.

Gudding titles the section of the book in which he talks directly about the slaughterhouse as Jeremiad, a long list of laments in prose form. This lament is the first section in the book that includes a large number of citations and synergic observations about the region’s development. By embedding these facts, statistics, and analytic information within a textual event-space cohered around lamentation, Gudding makes clear his view that the Jeremiad (the lament) must precede any attempt at representation or portrait, as a means of elucidating whether or not the portrait is itself something significant to, or addressed toward, its subject. This regulation of portraiture through lamentation also acknowledges that the gesture of representation is just that, a gesture, insufficient, and yet, even so, functions a means to bring ourselves nearer to another perceptual center.

For a subject of portraiture this immense, multiplex, and unknowable (the mass networks of nonhuman consciousnesses that confederate ‘Midwest’), any approach to environmentalism and the question of land and nonhuman exploitation first requires an emotional internalization of those subjects and networks’ self-articulated states, on the basis of what can be known, and not assumptions. Explicitly, Jeremiad is a lament, but implicitly, its inclusion is an argument that the lament is a necessary component in a redefinition of portraiture. Lament is integral to the portrayal of this kind of (ecological) subject. In this view, an evolved literature will be rife with productive lamentation.

There can be no pastoral as long as there is a slaughterhouse. It is in the basement of all oppressions. It's at the ignored forefront of every assertion and definition as to what "nature" is. The front and back of every face is conjoined by the foyers of slaughterhouses. When you consume the muscles of animals your anus is a tunnel to the slaughterhouse. The beginning of wilderness is the end of wilderness as long as there is a slaughterhouse. (27)

Illinois a ceaseless displacement of animals in a debt structure…Churches are anesthesia machines. (20)

Agri-Business, Global Hunger, Global Health

Chicago Proper was founded on Christmas Day 1865, the opening day of the Union Stock Yard & Transit company, when a wood-burning locomotive finished pulling a world toward its 15 cars and their 887 cattle. 19 years after the stockyards open, one fifth of Chicago's workers are employed by the meatpacking industry. Between 1865 and 1900, around 400 million animals were killed in the packing plants of Chicago. (32-3)

Consecrated in 1865 as Union Stock Yard & Transit Company, and mobilized by the advent of the national railway system, the regional institution of the slaughterhouse expedited a massive settling in and around Illinois. But Gudding identifies that the product and method of the slaughterhouse are also proxies for the general validation of a more expansive agenda of resource extraction from ecologies. The presence of the slaughterhouse as an infrastructure and as a figurative mechanism that naturalizes the marring of land and nonhuman and human bodies must be confronted: it exists because of a closed system of logic. Gudding asks us: are we ready to lose this architecture physically, but also, as a metaphor?

Half of the worlds water supply is used in the raising of animals for slaughter. 80% of the world's soy crop and 40% of corn harvest are fed to animals. These figures are directly related to the global population of one billion malnourished human beings. 80 to 90 percent of the grain that is fed to nonhumans cannot be digested by animals and is left in their manure. (31)

4/5ths of all the antibiotics produced worldwide are fed to animals raised for slaughter. Agriculture industry is responsible for 73% of Illinois river and stream impairments. (20)

Jeremiad is as much a lament for nonhumans as it is for ourselves, regarding the ways in which we have been spoon-fed a narrative about how we might respond to climate insustainability or food security. The linch-pin is that these responses must evolve along state-sanctioned logic: we’re taught to recycle, purchase Priuses, and accumulating more wealth so that we can reinvest it in apartment buildings or homes that are LED certified. We are subject to a state-created narrative of urgency regarding climate change and environmental pollutions of all kinds, and yet, we cannot manage much in the way of response because we have not taken on the problems10 as having equal significance in our personal lives, as they are significantly broadly.

Slaughterhouse and ‘Blood’

In many ways, dictionary definitions of words function similarly to portraits: the vocabulary chosen to describe a term is very specific, maximizing understanding while minimizing the possibility of the other, descriptive words interrupting the transference of meaning. Over the centuries, what representations of ‘blood’ has humanity created? What portraits of blood are the drivers of its significance as a lexical symbol? Blood very much functions as a metaphorical liaison for the concepts of death and mortality. Only rarely does it function as a primary signifier of, or sensitization to, the significance of life autonomous of this corollary: life’s end. It is figured as a natural signifier of death and trauma, because, blood letting can be fatal. But in many cases, death is dry, bloodless, and trauma occurs in other manners, microscopically, or in other physiological systems.

Environmentally, we are without a corollary to the symbol of blood: trauma is occurring within the atmosphere and elsewhere, but we are unable to comprehend the death of ecosystems because of an outstanding inability to understand how to witness nonhumans’ subjectivites or corporealities. We have long been aware that we are trapping ourselves and other life in a sphere of insulation and fumes, and yet it is not until years past the initial epoch of industrialization, that we begin to take note of water levels rising or the mass extinctions of species. Within human society, the trauma and violence effected by wealth, privilege and income inequalities, manifesting in selfish behaviors in the best case scenarios, and as murderous violence, in the worst, are still defected because of the distance at which they occur from most non-targeted peoples. But still, since we look for blood, since blood is so concealed and monitored, and since personal responsibility is attenuated by the legalities of life-taking, we defer the reality of our culture of mechanized death, and the militancy of our ignorance.

Is it possible that this significance of blood, proliferated by its use in media to both refer and defer our dramatic conceptualizations of death and life, now precipitates death mechanically, because semiotically, we have become naturalized to the main index assigned to it? The dramatization of death, which the symbol of ‘blood’ enables, works to distract us (via its embeddedness in broad genres and palettes of entertainment, and simulations) of the most brutal aspect of it as a circumstance: its indiscretion. And yet, there is little circulation of ‘blood’ in popular culture as a sign which indexes a thriving body, an affirmative precarity worth defending, and all those things that a thriving body might be or feel. What if we were to lose this, the symbol of blood as being an actual or projected consequence of death? Might it be possible that this familiar concept of blood has historically precipitated more death, by sensitizing us to a necropolitical society’s regime of dismemberment and material ‘use’ as necessary and ‘natural’ cultural processes?

The slaughterhouse poses a double bind for the symbol of blood: we think we have control over the lives of animals and nonhumans, as if they were the ideal and original property. The fact of their life being 'theirs', with or without blood, is unavailable to us, and so the fact of its letting, its pouring in thousands of tons (in the case of nonhuman animals), is what results from our emphatic denial of the significance of their thriving, or their diverse possible arrivals at joy. And even so, we do not expose ourselves to this blood, nor would we be allowed to, if we desired to witness it. What is the weight of the river of blood from all slaughterhouses in all history, from genocides to wars to plantations to factory farms and animal slaughterhouses? The contemporary or cultural definition of the slaughterhouse is not merely what happens within its walls, but also, where it is situated, specifically, far away from mass civic centers. If the quantity of blood expunged from living creatures on an hourly basis were visible to majority of people living in our society, what might register? What might we then feel if it were possible to see, smell, gaze upon, listen to, and touch the absolute desiccation of marginalized human and nonhuman life?

On the other hand, blood as a signifier of life, or, the thriving body, is denied cultural space, because its original producer is the regularly menstruating fertile female body. On television commercials, menstrual blood is so abject that it is represented as blue transparent liquid instead. Blood could gain a cultural figuration as significant of menses, of a fertile body, and as a corollary of birth, prior to its being a corollary to death. In this view, it is an antecedent to reproduction for reproduction’s sake, without the end of producing life that would otherwise become commodity or consumers or laborers. But in actuality, the reproductivity of the female, or the mother, has been used to give rise both to a work force and consumer base for capitalism and extractive cultures; in as much, her necessary role of care giver (in direct opposition to physical executioner, where blood gains its other significance), is robbed of its immense capacity to produce knowledge and phenomenologies of relationality that don’t instrumentalize death-making as an avenue to capital, or to the powers that evolve out of demonstrations of physical sovereignty over other life.

Control of Reproduction

Animal agriculture and the slaughterhouse function as the main engine for the disruptive forces of privatization, extraction, itemization, and objectification, because they work by controlling the means of reproduction for animal bodies, and indeed, many, many other nonhumans, from trees to soy to coffee and cocoa plants. Wherever the process of reproduction is itself institutionally controlled, you will also find the management and homogenized processing of those reproduced bodies. In Western society and elsewhere, property laws are able to be applied to other living bodies, and to the spaces in which they live. It might do us well to identify the original locus of enslaved bodies. The original form of enslavement of female and animal bodies in particular arises from this differentiation of the ‘value’ of bodies, which itself arose out of the difference in their forms and capacities. In fact, all outstanding differentiation in society is probably reinforced by these original differentiations, those that were significant to reproductive survival in local cultures: that human female bodies were essential to control for human reproduction, and that (female) animal bodies were essential to control for the reproduction of their respective species, since humans have always depended on their capacity to generate, or be used as, resource.

In this contemporary moment, we are still ailing, in all senses, from a dependency upon ownership of life; legal battles between different seed companies, for example, or between state and governmental health regulation organizations and individual agricultural businesses robs the public of the ability to even formulate the question of whether or not controlling the means of reproduction of other life is personally, socially, politically, or environmentally justifiable or dangerous. Within human society, the inability for women to make decisions around their desire or lack thereof to bear a child is contiguous with this mechanized production of life as commodity in farm-animal agriculture. Whether for women, nonhumans, or minorities in white-supremacist America, the subordination is related (and requires a unified front of response): no local centers of subjectivity ought to have bodily sovereignty that exceeds the sovereignty that the state, that law, and that the market need to have in order to determine how its work and economized citizenry will act. This is especially true for those bodies that society relies upon most heavily: woman, animal, immigrant and minority bodies.

Animal farming is the most large-scale, institutionalized control of female reproduction, sex, and bodies-in-general that has ever existed. An entire slaughterhouse is founded each morning on the clitoris of every girl...and the piglet just sees another farmer balancing the world's thermostat on the end of his dick. (28-29)

But this mechanized reproduction is, of course, just a means to an end, the same end that befell the river in the settlement of the Midwest: itemization, and its affective counterpart, excitation. It is not the reproductive capacity that is valued, only the products of reproduction, and only when they are able to be translated into figures of capital. This conception of bodies as items, as resources (processed into geometric cuts, quality grades, and conceptual products) even prior to their being manipulated, or killed is no other than a method of objectification.

The objectifications that mobilize agri-business and terrestrial colonization function by the same underlying principle which mechanizes the exploitation of female bodies, and of bodies as resources of (their) sexual potentiality, in human culture. When Gudding says "an entire slaughterhouse is founded each morning on the clitoris of every girl" he points to the relationship between sexuality (insinuated by his mentioning ‘clitoris’) and the reproduction of normative femininity by both female and male gendered bodies. This reification of ‘sexuality’ and the binary gender dichotomy enables a huge portion of our market economy to flourish via genital determination of ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ bodies. Later, these femininized and masculinized consciousness are additionally subjected to respective narratives of maintenance, upkeep, and performativity.

Hygiene products, make-up and maintenance products, distinguishably feminine clothing, fragrances, boutique undergarments, and domestic commodities like candles and other mollifying adornments rely upon the female consumers investment in improving herself and her official domains. The ultimate goal of this manufactured femininity is to create a subject who understands herself as physically modifiable, in need of purification, and, as a responsible agent in her own societal valuation, as a kind of internalized itemization of oneself. In this sense, modern, globalized femininity relies upon the presence of a cultural, and internalized slaughterhouse. Media and societal commentaries and discourses force the feminine subject to feel responsible, and coerce her to earn and spend capital on self-improvements and presentational minutia, but (critically) without making her feel that the ascent toward this femininity is too steep to attempt: the performance of self-objectification, the internalized gaze of (e)valuation which slaughters and dismembers itself, must have social payoffs, lest disenfranchisement be seen as inevitable or even virtuous.

A side effect of this target femininity is the erasure of difference on both local and global scales, within and on the peripheries of Western cultural domains. The Tiqqun collective’s diagnostic text Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl describes this target manifestation of ideal femininity as a platonic form, a “Young-Girl”; the consumptions of commodity, and of actual or envisioned self-imagery creates an omnipresent and amoebic market based around the approximation of this ‘Young-Girl’ for cis-gendered heteronormative women, the possession or consumption of her by heteronormative men, and the involuntary submission to her by non-binary identifying peoples. The payoff for labor is the being or having the Young-Girl(friend), the possibility of regeneration beyond the familiar is the Young-Girl(next-store), beyond the monogamous awaits the Young-Girl(mistress), and even beyond the sexual, there is the Young-Girl(child).

The Young-Girl works to propagate a terrorism of entertainment. (Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl 109)

The Young-Girl considers her ass a sufficient foundation for her sentiment of incommunicable singularity. (51)

Returning to agri-business, in the thantopolitical society which mobilizes reproduction for death-making, for commodity consumption, male animal bodies too are altered, neutralized and homogenized, so that their ability to be marketed as consumable product is easier and more lucrative:

Castration, the surgical removal of the two testicles, is a routine management practice for male piglets destined for slaughter. From 2 to 8 weeks old. The testicles produce sperm and the male hormone, testosterone. Pork from boars, or uncastrated male piglets at slaughter weights may have an odor during cooking that is very offensive to many people. (Literature for Nonhumans, 95)

Modern capitalism sanctions the manipulation of human and female nonhuman animal bodies for profit, from fashion advertisements portraying the female body as commodity, distilled into a value equivalent to her capacity to seduce, to the ubiquity and general fetishization of food products that contain dairy or eggs (products from female reproductive organs), or both. It also sanctions the "feminization" of male bodies for profit, demonstrated within this routine procedure to castrate male pigs because their product, their flesh, is identifiably distinct from that of female pigs. Despite this distinction having a specific purpose for the pigs’ inter-relations, there is a general manipulation, and in this case ‘purification’, of male animal bodies for the end of ‘Seamless’ human consumption. These types of treatment are commonplace: in the case of male chicks, millions are ground up daily, never more than a few days old, merely because of their not-being-female. To the managers of an egg production business, not being female of course means not having capacity to (re)produce the commodity of eggs. But outside this logistical perspective, is this not the perfect example of the sickness of the machine of the slaughterhouse and of a thantopolitical society which mechanizes life, death and ordains social roles? That an entire 50% of a species population would ideally never come into existence at all?

Agri-Business and Racism

What befalls nonhumans affects what befalls humans. People of color are subject to the ceaseless comodification of their lives within Western civilization, and their cultural appropriation is another form of dismemberment and objectification. From the sexualization of othered ethnicities and bodies, to the appropriation of styles and objects which indexically refer to these marginalized bodies and cultures, to the near ubiquitous preferences for immigrant and minority lives to bear the burden of most manual labor, all subordination of subjectivities and living autonomous centers occur in the same mechanism as the slaughterhouse. Material or metaphorical, to take life or limb away from someone, to turn it into commodity, or on account of hate, is slaughter. In this sense, the colonization of minority bodies, the extraction of their cultural markers, and the colonization and gentrification of the domains and lands in which these peoples live, are contiguous with the colonization of land and peoples that was the main objective of the westward expansion across the Northern hemisphere, and for pockets of colonization in the Global south.

When speaking of the need for a ‘literature of nonhumans’, to remind us of the wills of the subjects we have all but turned into pure commodities, we also severely need literature from, or an epistemology of, female-identifying humans (the Bechedel test ingeniously shows this), as do we need space in literary arts for the voices of marginalized and oppressed peoples of color, subject to both quiet and brutal erasures, as do we need literature from those experiencing disability. The single common narrative between them would be a living existence ceaselessly subject to projections of value by popular society and mass media, such that disempowerment is their unavoidable baseline.

3: Which Societal Narrative Makes The Slaughterhouse Necessary?

Logistical Projections and Market Forecasts

To return to the Midwest: within the ecological and agro-theistic paracosm of Illinois there is an economic system equivalent in some ways, to the forces of movement and melding that occurs in the river. Logistics is a conceptual space and temporal urgency through which discourses of efficiency and optimization around the supply chain of goods will hold top priority. Logistical flow of supply chain products and commodities will always discharge from the agro-theistic paracosm that is (an) ‘Illinois’, because the praxis set by Christianity defines a value relation between its posed world of redemption and this material one, which, in its chaos and immensity, devolves and muddles all attempted systems of valuation. This deferral of our very contiguity with all life and matter serves the individuated human subject most of all. The natural evolution of this praxis set by Christianity, the disavowal of certain material existences and perspectives, is also the general program of capitalism, which disavows the needs, desires and affects of others, while simultaneously using laboring bodies in order to generate surplus capital that the market will ceaselessly absorb, and from which investors can benefit.

Justification for development (of the slaughterhouse, and of technological innovation of all kinds) stems from the argument that the growing global population needs materials of sustenance, which are needed as well for the maintenance of domestic spaces and the well being of those that inhabit them. Often, the translation of this justification for growth and expansion into individuals’ minds does not incorporate the fact that one of the main additional drivers of development of industry is immense monetary profit for an incredibly small number of individuals. Agribusiness is no different, even though its product is food, something invariably ‘of value’. Large corporations design, patent, and sell different strains of seeds, dominating the field for major global crops. The marketing of these products though is queued into a discourse designed to drive profits higher, to abstract the seed away from its long history of a thing more primary than capital, and to disorient us as to the wide implications of its modification. Agribusiness does not think of the seed as a unit of nourishment, but rather as a unit of capital, and as a technology.

Agribusiness does not deal in the embryon, neural or zygotic, but in idea, product, patent. The seed then as an entity: juridical, legislative, in the guise of the germinal. The seed an agent: medical, economical, in the guise of the nutritional. Fantas: a type of imaginary seed. If this object, the seed, is perceived first as commodity rather than an immediate potentiate of food, then it is a fantas. (21-22)

This situation of minor ecosystems of life being conceived of as products for futurity, as separable items, and of organisms coming to be know by their species’ applications in human culture, or by their individual or en masse value in capital is the assumption necessary for the agro-theistic paracosm to remain productive and efficient.

On the issue of regional and global hunger, the most prescient question is that surrounding GMO foods. The argument for GMOs is that they have and will continue to save lives by ensuring food stability, by ensuring that global crops are grown from hybridized, hardy seeds. The argument against GMOs is that these modified seeds have saved hardly any lives, and instead, have enabled a 32% increase in worldwide meat consumption by allowing for more reliable production of crops to then be fed to animal livestock (32), not to mention that they’ve enabled the CEO's of seed businesses to claim inordinate wealth. And on top of the concerns about food production vs. food distribution, there are the concerns regarding the possible health implications which can’t fully be ascertained at this stage of GMOs development.

New cheap grain was fed to nonhumans for meat instead of to humans... (23)

The hog cannot metabolize about 80% of the energy in the corn grain. (31)

Between 1865 and 1900, around 400 million animals were killed in the packing plants of Chicago. The sun a clutter of photographs. Chicago: first municipal black hole for nonhumans. Taught the world to see the nonhuman through the telescope of meat. (33-34)

Any heartfelt attempt to understand the ignorance toward the general inefficacy of this demand for meat and resources taken from the land, must recall that, as much as Illinois is a necropolitical center of industrialization, it is also an arbitrage of domesticity. Part of its history is the production of interior infrastructures for use in private space, in which to dwell, in which to decorate, and in which to magnify our identifications. At the same time, this decorum ushers in a set of somatic, physical dispositions which further require this simplification and processing of diverse subjects into homogenized products, that the home can store, and that the inhabitant can use at their discretion. Contained within the placidity of the domestic, consumers can pretend as though their consumptions, aesthetical tastes and interpersonal performances, from sexuality, to professional relations, to gustatory preferences or traditions, have minimal social, political or environmental reverberation.

4: Economies of Collective Proprioception

The Aestheticization of Experiences of Individual Ease, and Our Somatic Dispositions

It would be enough at this point, for Gudding to make an argument that global meat consumption is unsustainable, because the vast majority of plant crops are given to agricultural animals instead of people, and that people in the West consume far more meat than those in developing countries. Though he implies this reality at every turn, his project is not intended to be an argument as much as a sensitization, because it is not theory or analysis a priori, it is literature. It is a recalibration to the negotiations and exposures that remain possible between one another, that change our affects, and that literature uniquely enables. The facts Gudding lays out are uncontestable: these animals can hardly digest the crops they are fed, and the yield of consumable food product from their bodies is far less than if the crops were given directly to humans. But for Gudding, such an argument would be intractable, and let off individuals11 far too easily.

Instead, Gudding introduces a framework by which to extend economic analyses of currently unsustainable and damaging commodity markets to include and account for the general instability of this project of extraction, objectification, itemization, and 'waste'-production. He suggests that humans' settlements, and developments (industrially and technologically) are driven by a collectively developed desire to experience somatic comfort and a general ease of movement, both physically and aesthetically, so long as this ease of movement does not negatively affect production, or the acquisition of financial or other capital.

Proprioception is defined as the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body, and strength of effort being employed in movement. Gudding’s attempt to implicate the somatic expectations of individual bodies is a way of drawing the bar which delineates where and what participation in sustainability looks like, underneath the feet of the individual, and specifically, privileged individuals in Western nations, at every moment in time. It is not enough to ask that people congregate and ask elsewhere (‘To Whom It May Concern’) that society function differently around climate change and sustainability, since for Gudding, asking those in power does little to coordinate affirmative responses around these issues; emoting our way through them, such that we take on all possible reparations as personal burdens (for which we ourselves are responsible, even if they interrupt our aesthetical expectations) does.

Our somatic expectations are probably the most significant dimension of desires, and yet we hardly take the time to understand them in relation to, or as consequences of, outstanding cultural imperatives, or our other values and aesthetics. Yet it is these expectations that are the basis of and justification for, all industry:

All industries are expressly, not incidentally, somatic, Each of these industries tries to entrain and control bodily habit, and their activities are functions of how we expect and wish our bodies to feel. e.g.: thermal regulation: fur-trading 1670. The wish to extend the use of eyesight past sundown drove the harvest of trees and the hunting of whales. We might consider that cars are the means by which we carry conditioned air from building to building. (48-50)

Which markets, developed within a society, bear more or less to the possibilities of sustainabilities of all kinds? Gudding's work mandates a more comprehensive model of economic development, specifically, one that incorporates this driving force of somatic expectation, and the produced aesthetical standards, those of our 'collective proprioceptions'. He calls this model 'ecological economics'.

Ecological Economics

There is, after all, no category of goods or behavior, economic or otherwise that is not, in some way connected with the satisfaction of bodily sensation. Affective labor is a key dimension of economic analysis. Markers of economic development are not limited to GDP and economic growth, but extend to whether political and economic conditions increase or decrease "substantial freedoms" and human dignity. The wish here is for the advent of the view that economics and politics are the study of the enrichment and impoverishment of sentient life12. (44-46)

We have seen in recent years the advent of Object-Oriented Ontology, a reactionary philosophical movement that insists on classifying the sentient being, as just another object. Significantly, this movement arrives at precisely the moment when feminist economics and veganic thought are trying to bring the bodily sovereignty of the subaltern to the forefront of economics, ecology, social justice, and ethics. (47)

"In short, the formerly heterodox, and now entirely orthodox, focus on economic history as a struggle to control the means of production doesn't get at the real economy: the struggle is more precisely to control the means by which our bodies are consciously and unconsciously provided certain feelings. (48)

Satisfaction Of Somatic Desires and Aversions

Today's economy serves a systematized, and nearly unconscious, valuation of muscular ease relative to bodily movement, and the felt, if non-conscious, bodily expectation of ease arising from that relation. An array of vehicles is used, fitted with interior furnitures (small doors, dashboards, seats, buttons, lights, rails, handles, levers, knobs, dials, mirrors, windows, accelerators, motion meters) to augment the movement of the body horizontally (train, automobile, bicyclic motion, boat) and vertically (elevator, air travel, escalator, stairwell). So widespread is this new culture of vehicular engagement that we can reasonably speak of a wish for a supranational union of ease. Furniture's effect on one's expectation of bodily and relaxational ease is mostly non-conscious yet it is precisely the phenomenon that drives this industry. Any argument to determine whether we evaluate the exchange-value of furniture through its aesthetic rather than kinesthetic dimensions misses the point that both satisfy bodily expectation: aesthetic satisfaction is merely a subtler form of pleasure than postural ease. (49)

In other words, (increasing) ease of movement, and implicitly situating that ease-of-movement and kinesthetic efficiency are an obligation and a right of occupation (of professional circumstances), is parallel and integral to the history and trajectory of industrial development.

What ways we put our muscles into action or inaction apportions even roads and the number of beds on the world, and changes also clouds. (65)

The primary technological aspect of these interior architectures is how they induce conditions of bodily expectation, essentially physical dispositions, which inevitably saturate our aesthetic dimensions and instruct the possibilities of (social) performativity and (industrial and social) productivity. As we then come to evaluate objects or experiences as greater or lesser aesthetic pleasures, and as we demand certain aesthetic actualizations accordingly, these unexamined physical dispositions, immediately subsumed into consumer-cultures intentional myriad of stylized genres, come to drive all of our decisions. Gudding speaks of these ways in which our bodies take on, mirror, and expect the minor architectures of furniture and other modern conveniences, in terms of their being dispositions. They are structural dis-positions of original kinesthetic possibilities, which would otherwise put us into motion, and into contact with one another, and that allow us to inflect upon and improvise with spatial and epistemological peripheries.

These ergonomically induced dispositions themselves join an otherwise larger economy of impassivity, indifference, and even aversion concerning the impediments constituted by water trees nonhuman animals, etc., meaning in a sense that this economy of dispositions actuated by furniture is confederated with an even larger system of indifference toward both landscape and animal. This systematic indifference is evident in the general ubiquity of the body parts of animals exploded and frozen everywhere throughout our world - supermarkets, homes, restaurants, even on highways, jets and trains. (50)

The systematic indifference activated by these minor architectures and the domains to which they draw us, is evident, too, in the general legality of violating or murdering minority and marginalized bodies in this and other countries. This systematic indifference is evident, too, in the global deprivation of bodily sovereignty for women over their reproductive capacity, and over their innate corporeal diversities, which becomes obvious when we look at the instantiation of a normalizing birth control and the regime of thin, white Western femininity. This systematic indifference is evident, too, in the global meeting of misogynists who nevertheless want to legalize the rape of the women they so abhor, when they represent their full reproductive capacity and discretion. This systematic indifference is evident too, in suppressing any possible line of thought that might question, say, the probability of human exploitation precipitating the cups of coffee business professionals consume daily in order to provide incentives toward productivity or complicity within their workplaces. The effects of the tastes and aestheticizations which enable these dispositions are varied, but they are all related by the ignorance and apathy generated by a pacified citizenry into a 'supranational union of ease.

Gudding analyzes the development of a culture that affirms experience via exposure to abstractions of information, and immaterial presentation of fabricated constituencies of things, as opposed to an experiencing that is linked with movement, and the use of the body as a multi-modal investigative apparatus. In commercial consumer culture, using one’s body as a multi-modal investigative and communicative apparatus is to approach a weaponization of oneself against the ethos of logistics, because it increases the probability of encountering other bodies in the same way, as multi-modal, and therefore, harder to evaluate or insert into a labor or market economy of some kind.

What aspects of somatic or aesthetic expectation precipitate this hierarchy of preferred experiences, this prioritization of information over material bodies and their intersections? Brian Massumi’s book, Ontopower argues that it is a culture of preemption. Post-9/11, preemption emerged as a strategic ontological maneuver which uses preventative (pro)action to avoid the possibility of other less preferential actions coming to pass, and also to produce frameworks which then reify and regenerate rationales of these specified non-preferences more widely in society. The increasingly apparent historical prioritization of certain sensory experiences over others, or certain physical appearances, or races or species over others, work its way into aesthetic articulations and paradigms within literature and other art. These aesthetic categories then work preemptively to draw us further from exposures, which we then physically and emotionally begin wanting to avoid, because they’ve become de-valued.

Representations, and art that is representational of bodies, allows members of society to simulate coming into contact with things without having to experience any of the infelicities of those interactions. We have Tindr and Okcupid, to experience romantic or sexual excitement far in excess of our actual investment in kinesthetically performing or improvising our sexuality. In the past, we had Tamagotchis, giga-representations of pets (and sometimes, their poop) so that we might project our natural expressions of affection and concern for other beings, without any inconvenience whatsoever. In art, we have abstract expressionism, formalism and minimalism, which give power to a theoretical and conceptual austerity that is not without its own demographic: historically, white male artists. Socially, we have roles which enable arrangements of ease for ourselves; for example, we have mothers (through-fathers), or other individuals that patriarchal and other classist and racists societies have conditioned to quietly clean our messes, and we have immigrants and minorities who will grow the world’s food, so that those in developed nations can consume in abundant quantities that might not be palatable or possible if one were to think about the brutality of the food’s production. And within, visual culture, whether media representations of idealized forms, or artistic representations of and implications of subjecthood, imageic representations of life have come to codify where we perceive and how we structure 'significant' life.

This somatic economy of preemption and entertainment through a virtual, visual, and information based culture necessitates what Gudding defines as an ‘agnotologic economy’:

The animal industrial system functions as the epitome of what Robert Proctor might call an Agnotologic Economy - one that works by actively inducing an ignorance in both consumers and producers. Our dominant and supranational economy at present is based on the denial of the many expectations of other species, the farming of nonhuman animals, to gain mouth-pleasure. Animal-industrial complex is the most dominant economy, in terms of planetary ecology, in the history of human commerce. It is the single most impactful driver of global climate change since the advent of the Holocene. (51)

5: Hypothetical Beings and Regimes of Faciality

And so, along with the question of how to destabilize or deconstruct somatic dispositions, we must begin also with the question of aesthetics and of the obligations of art, and specifically, the form that affords Gudding his own identification: literature. Suffusion of the public sphere with representations of life, and imagery and products that prioritize individualistic needs and desires creates an unlikelihood of encountering Other as alterior subject, but, rather, as an increasingly hypothetical being. For Gudding, both human and nonhumans are increasingly encountered as hypothetical beings.

A hypothetical being is one that we can see exists but whose existence is insufficient in itself to merit full inclusion in our attentional space, insufficient because it does not have an interesting mind. And it does not have an interesting mind because it stands in the way of our wants. Instead of recognizing the impoverishment of our own chauvinism, we would rather fill the entire world with hypothetical beings who are outright mindless, dull, and barely present. (53-55)

Returning to the model of the slaughterhouse, representations of subjecthood in visual art and in commercial media dismember life, and enforce a frame of censured expressivity over it, which often changes sovereign subjects into compliant and possessable objects. Within commercials and ads, and on the street or the train as people watch one another, we seek beauty emptily, with abandon, and most voraciously in the faciality of female humans, which is by far the easiest faciality to consume, and supposedly the most exciting for minimal effort. The impulse is unclear, because the consumption of young female faciality does not mean the sexualization of each and every one of the people we turn into hypothetical beings, but if we understand the impulse through Massumi's framework of preemption, we do it so that we can avoid and desensitize ourselves to the more difficult recognition of a sometimes incoherent 'beauty' in the face of the aged, in the experience of the laborer, of the subjugated body encountered as a representation of an entire race, or of the nonhuman face. Additionally, it affords us the reprieve from confrontations with supra-faciality, the planes on which we encounter the collective affects of superorganisms or of ecological networks.

To remind us of this regime of faciality, Gudding presents a description of the dependency on visual cues as a form of dictation over our actions; what is permissible for beauty to be acknowledged, and for care to emerge, and what is not. What or who is valued and who is not. And it is here we are thus made aware of the divergence of ethical implications between, visual (arts and) portraiture and literary (arts and) portraiture.

Faciality, Sexuality, and Viable Subjecthoods

Face-scanning is a methodology of analysis on which our personal relationships and evaluations of social status depend; how could nonhuman subjects, necessarily deserving of their own beauty autonomous of anthropocentric rubrics, have still to contend, with the tyranny of the human face, with the tyranny of faciality itself? By what representations might they be affirmed?

Small things of the human body have for us colossal algebra: furrows in the lips, skin around the eyes, pigmentation of the cornea, translucence of the hair, smells of the torso and throat, thickness of the adipose tissues, the depths of the muscles, shapes of and on the skull, sounds made by the body, and the way a body creates meaning in its movements and via marks made by its hands. These minute differences determine which of these beings are for us merely hypothetical and which are friends and family and lovers. And though it is an algebra that has nothing to do with the worth of others as beings with bodily and mental sovereignty, we allow ourselves to be ruddered by flecks of skin and color, such that the ridiculous clutter of small forces arrayed across even the image of a human face or a human body is irresistible to us. (55-56)

That the template of the facial is a primary standard of beauty of a subject makes visual portraiture an art genre productive of a tyrannizing aesthetic, outside of its own domain; it contributes to a general production of apathy about and around the expressions of nonhumans, and also, robs affectation in the superorganism of its reality, since, in the case of humans encountering the superorganism, there is no faciality to interpret. Our attention is only geared toward the hypothetical beings, or sometimes merely even a possible or imaginary hypothetical being, who we desire to become real, or actual:

The heat of a border is predicated on a conspiracy of access to the sexuality of other beings. (102)

The main reason for the displacement and ignorance of expressionality from the face of the nonhuman, or from the body of the nonhuman is derivative of how the instantiation of naturalized societal and personal borders (between organisms or between ‘face’ and ‘body’) are translated into a series of priorities which end up being articulations of the ways in which we expect to be served. For example, if heterosexual identifying people project that, beyond the border that exists between the binary gender categories of male and female there is an associated, possible access to the sexuality of some other being, then that becomes the most 'hot' border, giving it a primary position in one's attentional space. This foregrounding allows for the possibility of the border’s transgression to become explicit and so the question of the access to the sexuality of that being also becomes an explicit preoccupation. It follows that, since sexual relationships between humans and nonhumans are non-viable biologically, and taboo, or ‘non-normative’, the border existent between these beings, from the human’s perspective is comparatively cold, and in as much, there is less general incentive to acknowledge the faciality, whatever it may mean, of that creature.

The Zombie

According to Gudding, within popular cultural narratives, two significant aesthetizations have taken place in the past 20 or so years, and these have bearings on the facialities that we seek and those that we deject, because they manipulate the feelings of fear and the experiences of time that define our subjectivites. In cinema and entertainment culture, we have aestheticized apocalypse and dystopia, sensitizing ourselves to the character and abhorrent faciality of the zombie. The zombie, or a "parody of the carnivorous human" (62), represents the inevitability of an exacerbated dystopic circumstance, as the logical extension of our inability to curb environmental damages and geopolitical destabilizations. This popularization is predictive of a 'coming-to-terms' with the broad effects of an indifference toward giving recognition to nonhuman and superorganismal centers of consciousness, or the inevitable emergence of their own markers of need, as their environments fail. Contemporary media culture is rife with evidence that humans bear a general apathy toward them (based upon our representation of their complicity in their own death and dismemberment, which is absolutely projected) and pathy toward narratives of destruction and literal and unavoidable warfare and scarcity. On some level though, we understand the unsustainability of the general circumstances implied within these representations, as Gudding notes:

You have to ask: how is it that zombies are so thoroughly pedestrian? (62)

Mathematicized Time:

Abstracted from Being a Necessary Consequence of Material Interactions

The other significant use of technologies and popular narrative toward generating an occupying paradigm of reality and value is the development of the cultural narrative surrounding the 'scarcity' of time. At the book’s close, Gudding purposefully returns to a focus on rivers and their unique epistemology around time. Contemporarily, time is seen as a mathematiczed abstraction, not as a relative experience, altered and measured by how bodies and matter come into contact. It is Gudding's perspective that a literature of functional portraiture, unafraid of interrogating the historiographical construction of bodily and aesthetic hierarchies, essentially, a literature permissive of lamentation and praise, saves this type of time, the experiencing of time that is, inextricably, exposure to different bodies, matter, and improvisations of communication. For Gudding, the visual arts, organized around portraiture, photography, and conceptual figurations, will not easily resensitize us to the pleasures of prolonged, non-sexual, non-(biologically)reproductive contact (nonhuman contact) because human faciality is often times the medium’s token. Literature, and this kind of portraiture, on the other hand, is inclusive of the time of the nonhuman and of ecologies, because it is not commodifiable, and therefore not befitting inside narratives of scarcity.

Gudding embeds another minor portrait, in this case, of timepieces, in order to demonstrate that the denigration of materially bound time into a mere, overarching narrative of scarcity emerged as the materiality of the timepiece was continually diminished. This diminution of the timepiece as a body only contributed to a general inability for humans to prefer activities which measure time by unpredictable contacts or exposures.

Also okay praise that we now see the wrist as an obvious place mount a timepiece on the body. But in 1610 Galileo invented a brass helmet he called a "celatone," essentially a large clock, a masklike bucket into which a person would insert his head to the chin, apportioned with various holes, for the purpose of telling time by enabling the wearer easily to align her sight, via built in transept....Which means that the first body-mounted clock was a helmet. (82)

From the moment when time became bound to money through labor, how could experiences of time that have more to do with whatever is gained experientially from exposure be prioritized over those having to do with what is gained financially from labor? The first time piece was a helmet. As timepiece technologies advanced, they developed into convenient and fashionable adornments, like the pocket watch or wristwatch, and finally into a digitized, synchronized abstract representation of numbers, immaterially embedded, ubiquitously, in other pieces of more powerful technology.

Moving from the history of time keeping as related to the perspective of a body, through negotiations with heterological bodies, to the movement of small pieces of metal in watches, and finally to the digital and synchronized representations of time we find currently on our phones or computers, Gudding draws a line back to rivers as vitally significant to our comprehension of time. The river resists the mathematization of time. It cannot be divided, and cannot be named as a materiality that is distinct from time because it bears diverse forces, life, and regions into being and into relations. The river (and liquidity) is the origin of all eros, and it is the literal and figurative model through which representation must pay its dues.

Amnicola. ("dwelling by a river") The contemporary mathematization of time has supplanted somewhat time as the metaphysical river of events that results from the mix of regret, desire, lamentation, the need for reparation and redemption. Space is the formal possibility of being affected by exterior objects and time is the clarification of space by loss and decay. (75)

The river is a visibly contiguous entity whose matter always also insinuates time, and the inseparability of one instance from any other, because of this material contiguity of its water and of its actions. Within it, all materials are subject to the forces of its movement, and all materials are reprieved by the way it, as a medium, also acts as this forces' buffer. In terms of social ecologies, the capacity for this experiencing of events that Gudding speaks of, occurring with inflections of "regret, desire, lamentation, the need for redemption and reparation" (essentially, the emotional experiences that generate wisdom from unanticipated exposures), is dependent upon space and object being experienced within an approach to time that is not driven by its scarcity, nor by an ethos that is results in its mathematization or its alignment with capital.

What is lost, perhaps most tragically in this disavowal of river, of land, and of ecology and nonhuman, from literature and elsewhere, is the aspect of their entities which offer the possibility of measurements of time that are themselves inseparable from material intersections. In this reality's measurement, time can never become scarce. Through the representations of land, and ecologies, or regions, and of nonhumans, similar to that which Gudding provides, time can be redeemed through the sensitization to it as resource to and vessel of, diverse lived experience. This writing takes on the task of implying temporalities for interaction that are directly opposed to representations of futurity which require an abstraction of time's passage from material happenings. Resisting this abstraction and the preemptive tactics that exist against the encountering of certain bodies, Gudding offers a praising of timepieces as bodies, redeeming even them of their instrumentalization in technological violences or regimes.

6: Conclusion

Visual and gustatory consumption of bodies needs the slaughterhouse as a global infrastructure and a figurative, cultural mechanism. Visual culture also proxies as a type of immortalization of subjects, and of the ways in which they are significant to the affairs of the anthropos. This effect of visual documentation, coupled with the sensitization in popular and corporate mass media to representations of death legitimize the dominance of human's death-driven social infrastructures (over those experiential infrastructures of nonhumans’), and the sovereign beauty of human faciality (over nonhumans’).

Lamentation must be possible and explicit in art and its paradigms. Literature must offer a redemption of time in our otherwise preemptive society, so that lamentation can occur at all, for each other's experiences, whether they be those of a nonhuman or those of an ecology. Apathy is the enemy of this possibility, as it is driven by immobilizing narratives of time's scarcity, especially proliferated in the cultures, discourses and practices of privileged whites in the west, who find it easiest to capitalize through their time. Visual media can generate this apathy because, in its default modes, it is designed to serve our somatic and aesthetical expectations, which, consequentially, drive humans further toward disavowals of centers of consciousness that are not those of humans.


1 Being and Event, Alain Badiou.

2 Palustrine: a non-tidal wetland

3 Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche, Luce Irigaray.

4 “Necropolitics”, Achille Mbembe.

5 Paracosm: a prolonged fantasy world

6 (privatization, furniture, metaphysical ideologies of identification, and language)

7 “Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation”, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

8 REPARATIONS CAN BE PAID, STARTING WITH YOU (WHITE WESTERNERS).

9 REPARATIONS CAN BE PAID, STARTING WITH YOU (WHITE WESTERNERS).

10 Global hunger, immigrant and minority exploitations, animal enslavement, environmental and climate insustainability.

11 Especially privileged Westerners, for whom food is experienced more as an undulation between individual pleasures and social and political stances than as the means of survival.

12 My complication would be that economics and politics should study how markets inflect on organisms to, firstly, guarantee access to, and reify that certain communicative codes and channels are prioritized over others, and between certain beings, and how this is necessarily, then, also the study of the enrichment and impoverishment of sentient life.

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