BEYOND MIND Call for Contributions to Symbolism, an Interdisciplinary Journal of Critical Aesthetics
Call for Contributions to Symbolism, an interdisciplinary journal of Critical Aesthetics
In Franz Kafka’s 1915 story ‘Before the Law’, the proverbial ‘man from the country’ finds himself before the door of the Law, which, as he learns later, has been erected especially for him. Nothing, not the door, not the doorkeeper prevent the man from passing through the door of the Law and entering the state of lawful existence. The door is open, however, it is open onto nothing. The Law prescribes nothing. There is no guidance, no suggestion, no direction, no protection. The Law is vacuous, but vacuous especially for the man from the country. The inherent disorientation is given to him in person.
Such a semantic and existentialdisorientation is the common human reaction to paradox and tautology, both of which short-circuit meaning and embroil the logic of signification. Instead of branching onto avenues of concrete or metaphorical meaning, purposeful allusions, or accidental semantic repercussions – and, in this sense, acting as a connective tissue – the semantic operation here performs a U-turn; it folds in on itself. Despite the fact that paradox and tautology can be seen as the antithesis of symbolism – primarily because symbolism ‘gathers’ heterogeneity over time, across geological strata, fields of human endeavour, shapes, forms, and systems of communication – both are highly productive in reticular and fractal ways. Suffice it to look at the philosophical tautology of Parmenides’s kind, which suggests that ‘being is’; the practice of the koan, which collapses dualistic thinking by way of incompatible propositions (‘the Eastern hill keeps running on the water’); classical logical paradoxes in which the operative logic is sabotaged by its own means (Hempel’s paradox; Euathlus’s sophism); literary portrayals of idiocy in which the question of all questions thwarts the protagonist’s actions but remains forever beyond reach (as in Dostoyevsky’s Myshkin); recursive strategies in conceptual art (Song; Zhang); absurdist dramatic texts in which protagonists record empty time in order to mark the emptiness of the time they are recording (Beckett’s Krapp); pigment-based ascensions to iterative consciousness (Malevich; Rothko); or, paradoxical games in which the means become the ends and vice versa (Fluxus).
In all these examples, the existence-apprehending processes occur via unexpected, even unproductive itineraries, in vacant but nevertheless enunciative codes, in futile, yet calibrating performances, and in a temporality that is the cumulative time’s ‘other’. Invariably, they perform one of two operations: they catapult the mind into the realm of the extra-linguistic, the para-logical, and the meta-experiential, or, they transfigure it through a series of reticular iterations. Although ‘beyond mind’ can be understood to refer to Russian futurism and the practice of linguistic indeterminacy – zaum – this issue is not concerned with zaum specifically. Its aim is to provide a cross-disciplinary cartography of contradictory, infinitely regressive, fractal, iterative, continually self-differential, ‘dead-end’ processes of meaning-production whose shapes, directions, and velocities operate across numerous ‘folds’. To borrow from Leibniz, as many theorists have done (Merleau-Ponty; Deleuze and Guatarri; Marks), the fold is not only the matter it is also the grammar of the universe (1953). It is simultaneously a movement, a shape, a temporality, and a geometry that brings different and distant planes and surfaces together in momentary and non-unificatory ways; either via a mathematical or philosophical method (e.g. paradoxical articulation), or via para-linguistic, extra-categorial aesthetic ruminations on the unknown unknowns.
Proposals might address but are not limited to the following topics:
- Iteration in philosophical writing (e.g. Nishida)
- Recursive narrative techniques (e.g. Barth’s Moebius strip-like frame stories)
- Hyperbolic/fractal patterns in art (e.g. Islamic geometry)
- Japanese paradoxical design that substitutes means for ends (e.g. giant toilet roles affixed to the head to facilitate the wiping of a runny nose)
- Lethal alimentary practices (e.g. fugu, the poisonous fish)
- Repetition in comedy (e.g. flat jokes that suddenly become funny the 15th time they are told)
- The phenomenology of perplexion: being taken aback, dazed, stupefied
- Perplexing indeterminacy and vocal expression: hesitation, stutter, stammer
- Klots kashes (in Yiddish, a klots kashe is a serious question that subverts the very purpose of the debate. In an architectural situation, this might be: What do we need doors and widows for? Can’t we enter and exit through the wall?)
- Idiocy in literature and film (e.g. Faulkner; Wordsworth; von Trier)
- Paradoxical/tautological dramaturgies (e.g. Kharms; Ionesco; Wallace)
- Constitutive repetition in myth (e.g.Prometheus; Tantalus; Sisyphus)
- Empiricism and Literalness
- Tautology and the critique of representation in conceptual art
- Subitism and gradualism in Buddhist meditation practices
- The phenomenology of dissipation in trance practices
- Stasis in dance, music, and performance
- All forms of delirium
Please send 500 word proposals for 7000-8000 word articles with the subject heading ‘Beyond Mind’ and a 300 w bio to Natasha Lushetich: firstname.lastname@example.org by October 20th 2016.