Posted by: Johan Normark | October 10, 2014

Temporality, assemblages, and Black Swans

Abstract proposal for a TAG session in Manchester:

An assemblage is co-constituted with its time and space. In Manuel DeLanda’s perspective, an assemblage emerges from a formless, topological, and symmetrical virtual continuum. Intensive processes break this symmetry and discontinuous actual forms emerge. Because of Graham Harman’s object-oriented critique of process and external relations, Levi Bryant has relocated the virtual within the actual. All processes and relations occur within assemblages, not between them. To Bryant, time is the duration a machinic assemblage needs to produce the parts it consists of. Still, Bryant follows the Bergsonian-Deleuzean tradition where past and present are merged into a creative flow. Future is ignored.

Tristan Garcia suggests an order of intensity of presence. The past is always moving away from presence but there is an order of this past. The past is relatively present and the future has only absence. Future is not ordered but it is a fixed point of reference. To Garcia the present comes first, followed by the past which has less degree of presence. Last comes the future which has maximal absence. As the past of an assemblage grows it becomes richer in determination which for archaeological contexts means that origins are open but later trajectories follows the constraints and entanglements set up by the assemblage itself. Its predicted future becomes increasingly narrower until the assemblage ceases to work. This end is often an unexpected Black Swan event to the assemblage itself whereas archaeologists, in hindsight, insert a narrative behind the demise. One such narrative fallacy is the Maya collapse.


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