CfP: The global unconscious: art, technology, science

Inscriptions, a journal of contemporary thinking on art, philosophy, and psycho-analysis, invites contributions to our upcoming issue on the global unconscious. We are looking for well-crafted and skilfully written scholarly essays and art projects (images, videos, presentations) that engage our mandate and the theme of this issue.

Sigmund Freud’s unconscious is still a debated concept. From flat-out rejections to head-on acceptance and use in scholarly and therapeutic practice the unconscious has become the very lynchpin of the validity of psycho-analysis. It has been subject to debate from its inception with Freud’s lecture to the Psychiatric and Neurologic Association in Vienna in 1896 when Freud’s elder collegues referred to his findings as constituting a “scientific fairy tale.” In his lecture Freud put forward his infamous “seduction theory,” according to which female patients suffered from actual or psychic recollections of their fathers seducing them. It was the repression of these alleged experiences that laid the foundation of the unconscious, and when the scientific community rejected the theory of seduction how would it be possible for Freud to defend his idea of the unconscious?

And yet, that is precisely what he did. Already the next year Freud admitted that he no longer trusted the veracity of his patients’ claims and their ability to distinguish reality from fantasy. However, the answer to his conondrum was not far away. At a meeting with Ernest Jones at the Bellevue Restaurant in Vienna in 1895, one year prior to the Vienna conference, Freud had declared that he had found out how to unlock the secrets of dreams. The solution to Freud’s situation was to acknowledge that his patients’ experiences of seduction were expressions of the unconscious. While accepting their stories as sincere, this enabled Freud to continue his analysis, albeit on a different level. It was no longer a matter of protecting these young women from physically abusive fathers, but of trying to decipher their dream-works.

The unconscious has played a key part in the unfolding drama of psycho-analysis. The split between Freud and his pupil Carl Gustav Jung was to some extent grounded in a difference with regard to how they approached the unconscious. While Freud claimed for psycho-analysis the ability to uncover feelings, memories and desires that exist beyond our conscious awareness, Jung wanted to expand the notion to include archetypical, or inherited, elements. With the migration of psycho-analysis first to America and then to claim for itself a global reach the ruptures in the unconscious were no longer containable at a personal and local level: we are now under the spell of a global unconscious. The most powerful refutation of the unconscious arrived with the scientific demand for verification: since theories of the unconscious are as of yet not empirically falsifiable they cannot be considered properties of science, and therefore not admissible to scientific enquiry, it is claimed. What is at stake, finally, is the scientific status of psycho-analysis itself.

For the upcoming issue of Inscriptions we seek papers that contextualise the unconscious in the domains of art, technology and science. Key questions that are relevant include:

  • How are artworks and their meaning shaped by our unconscious?
  • How are unconscious elements given expression in art and technology?
  • In what ways does it make sense to speak of a global unconscious in art, technology and science?

Submission instructions

  • Deadline for proposals: 15 September 2018
  • Deadline for full manuscripts: 15 October 2018

Academic essays should be 3,000 to 4,500 words. We also seek scholarship in the form of interviews, reviews, short interventions, disputations and rebuffals, and in these cases we are open to shorter texts. Inscriptions adheres to the Chicago Manual of Style (footnotes and bibliography). For other instructions, please see our website. We encourage potential authors to submit proposals for review prior to their writing/submitting entire full-length manuscripts. Include title, proposal (150 words), short biography, and institutional affiliation in your preliminary submission. All academic submissions will undergo double-blind peer review.

We also accept proposal for art projects (images, videos, presentation, etc.) to be curated by our external Guest Editor (TBA).

Submit proposals and art projects through our online platform at https://inscriptions.tankebanen.no/ by 15 September 2018.

New book with free download: rock philosophy

Very happy to announce that my latest book – rock philosophy: meditations on art and desire – is out on Vernon Press. It was written largely in Belgrade and Gdynia two years ago, and after some very favourable reviews it has now finally been made available to the general public. The theme of the book is art’s relation to philosophy and reason; it is an attempt to connect reason with desire and the arts to show how creativity can bring us closer to the truth.

The artistic quest for freedom stands in stark contrast to philosophy’s call to subordinate art to reason and tradition. The struggle between them has culminated in artistic attempts to subsume philosophical matters within the domain of art. One central question is what the consequences will be of a final dissolution of the boundary between the two domains: will all that remains of the artwork be an abstract howl of the rock – our rock, the planet – itself?

The book comes complete with a Manifesto to Rock Philosophy. That manifesto and the book’s Introduction can be downloaded for free from the publisher’s website. Philosophy books generally stand at some distance to the mainstream, and prices tend to reflect that fact. However, by ordering directly from the publisher you receive a 24% discount (that’s almost a quarter of the retail price) if you use the code CFC159723D56 on checkout. Find it on https://vernonpress.com/book/494. It is also available from Amazon.

If you like the book and would like to review it there is a page for it on Goodreads where any and all comments are received with thanks.

rock philosophy cover image
rock philosophy cover image

Kissinger, 95, on AI: wisdom is overwhelmed

Our new world order is one in which “information threatens to overwhelm wisdom”: Henry Kissinger has certainly made his mark on our contemporary world, having advised Nixon and masterminded the end of the Cold War. Now Kissinger’s concern is Artificial Intelligence. In an article in The Atlantic Kissinger makes some remarks about a potential divergence between hyperactivity in the social media and art:

Inundated via social media with the opinions of multitudes, users are diverted from introspection; in truth many technophiles use the internet to avoid the solitude they dread. All of these pressures weaken the fortitude required to develop and sustain convictions that can be implemented only by traveling a lonely road, which is the essence of creativity.

In the end, as a man of Kissinger’s wit and intelligence would, he cannot accept a simple adoption of the term Artificial Intelligence. It could be a misnomer, he says, because while

these machines can solve complex, seemingly abstract problems that had previously yielded only to human cognition[,] what they do uniquely is not thinking as heretofore conceived and experienced. Rather, it is unprecedented memorization and computation. Because of its inherent superiority in these fields, AI is likely to win any game assigned to it. But for our purposes as humans, the games are not only about winning; they are about thinking. By treating a mathematical process as if it were a thought process, and either trying to mimic that process ourselves or merely accepting the results, we are in danger of losing the capacity that has been the essence of human cognition.

A statesman, a scientist, a thinker: Henry Kissinger.

Editorial on Schirmacher

Our first edition of Inscriptions is out. The issue is chiefly concerned with the technophilosophy of Wolfgang Schirmacher. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

In the philosophy of Wolfgang Schirmacher the term medium should be taken quite literally. His is first and foremost a philosophy of the modern mass media and it should be approached as an attempt to understand how a host of novel communicative technologies work in our lives. His notion of Homo generator conceptualises our engagement with a wealth of contemporary channels of communication. To Schirmacher Homo generator is a figure who allows the media to generate entire life worlds, and in this precise sense it is a logic that conforms to Žižek’s idea of interpassivity: our relatively passive complicity in mass mediation allows the mediated world to actively conjure truth, being and an ethical stance in our place. In a word our world and our ethical being is outsourced: we find anchorage in mediated images and it is no longer required of us that we shoulder our being-in-the-world ourselves, as this is a work taken over and actively regenerated by our mediatised figure.

If there is any remnant of Plato in phenomenology after Heidegger it is as a form of consolation. While Plato absorbed the defeat of his city with a call to elevate the philosophers to governors of the state on the grounds that it was the current rulers’ inability to see the truth that had led to Athen’s loss, Schirmacher extends Heidegger’s logic of care to philosophy itself. It is no longer required that the philosopher shoulder the burden of political governance, since the figure of the governor in either case is mediatised and thus returns to us as an image in the media. The philosopher can relax and meditate: we can remain calm and take up a truly Epicurean attitude. Life is there to be lived and finding a way to live a life that is pleasing is part of our constitution in the world.

Inscriptions needs subscribers to our print edition. Please ask your university library to order a subscription from our website, or consider subscribing yourself. Happy reading!

 

Wolfgang Schirmacher on Ereignis

Professor Wolfgang Schirmacher (New School for Social Research, European Graduate School) will be coming to the 2018 Ereignis Seminar in scenic Lofoten, Norway, in October to speak on the event. Will you come?

Ereignis Retreat 2018

Mike Figgis, yoga, coaching: nine days of true freedom and the art of living at an exceptional resort in scenic Norway 20 to 28 October. Sign up at https://ereignis.tankebanen.no/

When the family historian leaves: Per Edfeldt (1939-2018)

We all have to go in the end. Nevertheless when someone close to us departs it leaves a gap and a trace. Who was this person who left us last night?

Our family historian, Per Edfeldt (1939-2018), was also, and more importantly, a local historian, with a string of short, accessible books on record, including A Short Local History of Moss for School Use (publ. 1978; a widely read introduction to local history, drawing a vast canvas, and yet accessible and a fun read), Moss Labour Party: 75/100 Years (publ. 1980 and 2005; dedicated to an organisation close to his heart), Joys of Skiing: Moss Ski Club through 75 Years (publ. 2003), the celebrated Historical Events in Moss of 1814 (publ. 2004; an account of the way Moss made its mark on the country’s struggle for independence: it was in Per’s home town that the then-Norwegian king, Christian Fredrik, signed an accord with the invading Swedish forces, effectively abdicating and leaving Norway under Swedish jurisdiction: however, as Per noted, Christian Fredrik also made sure that Norway retained its constitution and some independence to our newly formed national assembly), and lastly A Source of Joy: Moss Labour Choir through 110 Years (publ. 2005).

As the list indicates, Per had many and varied interests. In addition to being a deputy principal at a local school, he became a member of the local government in the 1970s, and held many posts for voluntary organisations in the realms of sports, culture and history. He was crucial in shaping our present image of this town. In the 1980s and 1990s he chaired the committee that organised the writing of the important three volume history of Moss authored by noted historian Nils Johan Ringdal.

In 2003 Per received the Municipal Prize for Culture, and in 2006 the cherished Mossiana Prize.

When we last met he informed that he hadn’t stopped writing historical accounts. However, he had resorted to authoring the texts that are inscribed onto the plaques that we find on certain walls of prominent buildings in this town!

Most important for those who were close to Per is it that he was our family historian. His father was one of three brothers born to an immigrant from Sweden, an engineer with special skills in making and operating the kinds of machinery necessary to run the glass factory that had been opened in Moss. His father became a dedicated politician for the Labour party, and Per followed in his father’s tracks.

How do we know about our Swedish roots, the way the family spread out through the Scandinavian peninsula, and how voluntary work and professional interests converge to shape our present image of ourselves?

A large part of the answer can be found in Per’s legacy: his writing, his practice, his personality.

Go in peace.