The trans-and-absolutely modern man is no longer the master or the victim of his traumas; he is a deepening vector of synthesis between regional traumas – i.e. traumas associated with his cerebral horizon, his house, the system, the territory, the earth and the universe that is free from his temporal necessity. [B]rought into focus by innumerable traumas that constitute its subjectivity or regional focalization in the world , the modern man must be understood in terms of its synthetic valence simultaneously corresponding and well-beyond its regional traumatic tensions, indeed as a designated zone of universal synthesis characterized by its non-trivial relation to the open.
(Globe of Revolution: An Afterthought on Geophilosophical Realism)

Arnex-1: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Asphalt

a gutter psychological thriller


On April 26th 2012, 8pm Geneva time, at the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, a performance / lecture will be held by Yves Mettler and Reza Negarestani (via video-conference) as the closing event for their writing collaboration.

Written as a serial publication for Yves Mettler's installation, the text 'Arnex-1: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Asphalt' – penned in the fashion of tabloid thrillers – unfolds a psychoanalytical dialogue between the analyst The Rig and the mysterious Patient O. Over seven psychoanalytical sessions schematizing the seven interconnected circles of hell, the dialogue unravels an aetiological examination of the memory of geological time as the twisted sum of traumatic scars left by the cosmological shock and contingent mobilization of capital. Art's meticulous attention to the surface (landscape) parallels psychoanalysis' dedicated focus on superficial phenomena as a means of dramatically bringing into focus transversal dynamics of depths otherwise invisible to the keenest of eyes.

Six of the seven Sessions have been released and published at the museum. The last three sessions suggest a dramatic change of the situation typical of tabloids and gutter psychological thrillers surrounded by gossip columns, junk food news, astrological self-help and riddled with sensationalist shock-driven twists and turns. The analyst Rig finds itself in a much less stable position than previously assumed, and it seems as if he requires a whole different treatment than was initially expected...

Here are Session IV, Session V and Session VI, and we are looking forward to seeing you after the release of the final session.

Session IV: A Glimpse of the Terrestrial Unconscious

The Rig: When were you born?

Patient O: [No answer.]

The Rig: Talk to me.

Patient O: [Silent. Oddly relaxed. Blank.]

The Rig: [Silent.]

Patient O: [Mumbles faintly.] How long have I been dead?

The Rig: [No Answer.]

Patient O: [A prominent grimace – glaciated and insinuating – is etched on its face that has taken the sky-blue pallor of an anemic patient. The monotony of the face is only accentuated by hysterical chattering of the patient who is now passively falling into a monologue of purposeless catatonic hypergibberish]: “Catatonics are so easy to possess.” Tell me doctor, have you ever heard of iron overload; do you know what it does to the brain? Terrestrially speaking, iron programs the brain’s energy metabolism through a number of electron transfer reactions. In layman’s terms, it tweaks the rate of degeneration of neurotransmitters by which the brain prunes connections between neurons and changes its neuroplasticity to regenerate itself, to adapt to new environments, to change its rate of learning and develop complex cognitive functions so it can, down the line, reflect on life and nature, to cope with a traumatic shock, to tackle the force of a trauma in childhood … as you know, children with a lack of iron, get traumatized much easier, an abused child with low level of iron is, as you might say, a classic case of the future. In a nutshell, it’s called a trace element for a reason; you are supposed to follow its footprints behind every allegedly autonomous individual, every free will, every act of resistance, every will to power, every will to occupy and every will to perceive … like an infinitesimal phantom of a vast cosmic web of complicities whose imperceptible motions and transits are too entangled, too subtle to be seen without a proper strategy to trap them first and then bring them from the outer dark to light. High ratio of membrane to cytoplasm, high rate of oxidative metabolism, low rate of tissue damage repair all make the brain so vulnerable to oxidation damages and reactionary effects of iron. Once iron escapes its biological sequestration cycle – a temporary organic forced labor camp for inorganic outsiders – it mobilizes even more iron by recruiting additional iron from the ubiquitous intracellular protein Ferritin. The cascade of iron release suffocates the organism in its own fumes. Before you realize it, iron can scramble the brain’s poor antioxidant defense system. You can’t assimilate it, you can’t sweat it or eject it, your relation to your food is now more inconclusive than ever. This is what iron overload does, it accelerates the degeneration rate of neurotransmitters through oxidation and triggers what can be called neuron deficit. The brain starts to spend more neuronal connections than actually generating them. The neuron deficit puts the brain in an irreversible degenerative process that eats away at the surface by scratching off cognitive faculties and shutting down thought and the so-called reflection aptitude, unveiling the gummy mass once called the seat of the world. As the brain fails to keep up with its accelerated neuroplasticity – by now a degenerative disease beyond repair – the organic bulk is reduced to its inorganic hardware whose integrity is only a matter of organic opinion. It is ironic, isn’t it? Capital acceleration is simply a metaphor for cognitive meltdown. Just like in every trauma, in the trauma of iron overload, the contrast with the past begins to fade. The organism is slowly assimilated from the inside-out by an ancestral nutrient that was never fully assimilated or successfully reintegrated within the dietary cycle of the organism. Rather than the ancestral coming back to haunt the organism, the ancestral food cancels out the contrast of the organism with itself from within. Humanity is exposed as a chemistry prank played by the bottom of the cosmic food chain. But you shouldn’t blame humanity for falling for this monkeyshine; the earth surely plays a more substantial role in the culinary farce: As massive stars reach the end of their once excessive life cycles, they enter a sequence of stellar fusion known as alpha process in which helium is converted to heavy elements. This very brief sequence that only lasts for hours signifies the completion of nucleosynthesis processes which mark the inception of chemistry proper and the collapse of stars as chemical furnaces. After consuming all the carbon in its core, the star begins to burn oxygen producing magnesium and neon which are in turn burnt in the star’s fury of senseless production that leaves nothing behind in its wake other than silicon. Once silicon starts to burn and produce further elementary isotopes, the star begins to decay from the inside, producing in its core heavy isotopes of metal like nickel, iron and zinc which consume energy without releasing any. Heavy metal isotopes are spewed forth as both the star’s matricidal chemical offspring and its post-mortem relics. The giant star falls into a rapid auto-degenerative sequence in which far from avoiding falling prey to its own food, the self-sufficient productivity of the star sets in motion the curse of the food chain and claims the star as its first victim. Stellar productivity – long adapted as the ne plus ultra of otherworldly sublime for human imagination and the bona fide model of capitalist productivity on the planet – turns out to be a little more than an unchecked eating disorder, indeed a local compulsion to preserve the matrio-energetic integrity of the system at the expense of restricting syntheses whose contingency sooner or later counter the manifest image of productivity associated with chemical potencies. At the end of the process, a collapsing core consisting of the notorious iron-56 is formed that mortifies the star, its weight brings down the stellar mass in less than a day. As the star collapses, outer layers of the dead star explode into space, showering everything in the vicinity with metal-rich asteroids which continue to decay – even after the death of the star – into more stable isotopes of iron, making of the iron relic the materialized personification of stellar death par excellence. The profusion of metal in the Sun and the solar system and consequently in the Earth points to the abundance of foreign – rather than heliotopically indigenous – cosmic iron isotopes during the formation of the Sun and the solar system. The iron wealth of the Sun does not mark out the Sun as the center of all wealth, but strips the young hegemon of its glorified position by drawing an explicit connection between its belated stellar birth and the death of its long-lived and more colossal predecessors of which only iron relics have remained, and been inherited by the Sun. Now, follow the trace of iron as a vector of chemical exteriorization and the relic of stellar death in the proto-planetary aggregate, amidst originary iron-water interactions. Iron overturns the supposed chemical hierarchy of nature in which the light hydrogen must travel upward outside of the earthly sphere and back to its celestial origins. In the proto-planetary aggregate, originary iron-water interaction produced compounds of iron which mobilized hydrogen in a 'wrong direction' into the proto-planetary body rather than outside of it. But you see these terrestrially synthesized iron-hydrogen compounds are not stable in deep pressure and heat so, iron travels down to the core and hydrogen stays at the outer core, captured under inner layers of the lower mantle where it is highly pressurized. Now this topologically nested and misplaced hydrogen keeps breeding these subsurface oceanids, ubiquitous compounds called hydridic fluids which possess a hydrogen with a powerful negative ion that can attach to an extended array of elements from the group 1 to group 16 of the periodic table of the chemical elements. All mining metals form fluid compounds with this negative hydrogen whose pressurized form provides it with an excellent plutonic mobility through the body of the planet. Hydridic fluids tend to degenerate when they come into contact with underground waters, releasing the metal that had previously been attached to hydrogen in the vicinity of water. In this fashion, metal ores begin to deposit in the mantle contingently perforated, carved out and nested by the high-pressurized plutonic fluid, like seeds of seduction soliciting bids from future life on the planet – economical, social, cultural, military, industrial bids one after another. At the other end of iron-water spectrum, heavy iron compounds sink into the proto-planetary aggregate forming a massive iron core as the immanent core of the planet. The moderate gravitational pull of the iron core allows for the polymorphic existence of water on the planet in three phases of gas, liquid and ice, a prerequisite for the emergence of life whilst the core's churning motion generates an atmospheric shield that prevents water from evaporating into open space and filters solar electromagnetic radiation. The latter filtering process is responsible for simultaneously ensuring the evolution of life by protecting organisms from damaging wave-lengths of the sunlight and assisting plants to arrest the energy of the sun within plants and ultimately, trapped in fossil fuels. Just as you think iron is at last contained in the bowels of the earth even if the underworld and heavens are still obliquely under its influence, surface life begins to incorporate iron as its essential micronutrient, circuitously feeding off of stellar death. First as a catalyst triggering extensive biological alterations by increasing photosynthetic capacities of phytoplanktons and other primeval aquatic organisms, then as an enzyme essential for energetic balance of growth in plants using the inorganic substrate for biosynthesis via anaerobic respiration, subsequently as an agent adjusting the photosynthetic electron flow, energetic metabolism and maintaining the production of chlorophyll – without ever being assimilated within its structure – in plants of the surface biosophere, iron modifies levels of nutrient consumption, energy conservation and photosynthetic productivity, instigating biological and morphological alterations associated with subtle changes of these levels. Whilst from a plutonic perspective, iron assists plants to capture the energy of the dying sun and by inciting the necrosis of plants, it traps that energy in plants to be transformed under epochal heat and pressure to fossil fuels, from a surface perspective, by maintaining the production of chlorophyll and increasing the productivity of photosynthesis, iron escalates the release of oxygen waste from plants, transforming the surface biosphere into an oxygen haven for more environmentally differentiated organisms. The airhead cult of vitamin O starts to grow. By playing the role of the most versatile vehicle for trafficking oxygen required for mitochondrial production of ATP – the molecular unit of currency – for aerobic organisms, iron fabricates the image of organic integrity through the market of intracellular energy exchange known as metabolism. The superficial along with inner and outer contents of the planet are all impregnated by the metal which by now walks in the open like a business with endless affairs and public relations. Wiggling as an invisible thread that in the most subtle counterintuitive manner holds the planet’s outline, skin and guts together, iron blurs the hypothetical image of the planet as an integral horizon. The integral image of the earth as a life-giving, protective and nutritious sphere frays into the open. The true image of the earth is that of a local vagueness or a topological neighborhood – an actual mark surrounded by fuzzy deformation points and swarms of contingent possibilia – in a chemical continuum. What you call life is just a perplexed smiley grimace inattentively pasted on to the ferric face of stellar death. Take surface biosphere and the blue sky for instance, visible over-aesthetized extensions of stellar death as the manifest core of the planet that delude us with promises of clarity and integrity. Just as all good narratives have a twist, the chemical narrative of stellar death has one as well, it’s called terrestrial life. Have you looked into the sun lately? I know you have; what a waste! You don’t get it, do you? If you can’t stare into it, it doesn’t make it important or sublime, it’s a just a worn-out organic trick that the star plays on you. Call it the Sun or the sublime, it is merely a blind spot for thought. Follow the iron thread out of the Sun’s house of tricks … Now you can say the history of petroleum as the food of modern civilization finds a surreptitious micro-protagonist that unravels the curse of the ancestral food through the terrestrial (geological, biological, social, economical, cultural, political) sphere. But even beyond that, the history of terrestrial evolution and the advent of complex nervous systems find themselves accomplice in silently expanding the legacy of stellar death and in doing so, circumventing the paradigm of stellar sublime. At last, here it is, life as the grand unified theory of iron intoxication.
You might say I am far too fixated on iron but it’s only a matter of chemical slippage specific to this planet. It is just an avatar to keep the business expanding. We could just as well meet under another one, 118 and more to come.

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Session V: A Hypnoid Earth

Patient O: [Fallen into an energetic stupor as if smitten by an untimely glaciation that has spared no life whatsoever. Although the hypnotic regress – identified by Freud as an artificial hysteria designated with the task of providing partial access to the trauma or the source of tension – is wearing off, there is still no sign of vitality, merely scanty traces of mobility feigned by the attraction of not yet dead parts to dematerialized dead components and into nothingness. Either artificially induced or accidentally triggered by an irrelevant word or a simple catalyst question, the hypnotic state has simulated the patient’s mind at the time of faltering, in the absence of mechanisms of inhibition and defense and away from the influence of the terrestrial ego. Rather than moving the patient back to the moment of the first tension, the hypnotic time travel has now opened up a space wherein the last vestiges or hopes of such an encounter – a token of reaching the bottom or exhausting depths of trauma – have been thoroughly and effectively expunged. a muffled sound at a distance can be heard: "no, no, it won’t work, maybe hemodialysis. We gotta get him to the dialysis room. … what? yes, that brown blood is ok. Go for 500."]

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Session VI: In the Cabinet of Doctor O

Doctor O: On a scale from 0 to 9, how clear do you see me? If you can’t speak, just blink your eyes.

The Rig: [starts blinking but passes out after the third time before again waking up with a sharp metallic taste on his tongue that extends from his tongue to the back of his mouth, down to someplace in his body he cannot fathom. It is as if the tongue is finally giving away the cover of something foul and forgotten deep inside of him.]

The Rig: [in a debilitated tone typical of a person regaining consciousness] Wh... am I? How long have I been here?

Doctor O: We had to put you on iron supplements. Iron deficiency made you severely anemic but we are still looking into the reason behind your collapse and hallucinations. We had to go with the parenteral solution, the oral didn’t work. We usually use CosmoFerr 250 in similar situations. It rarely causes severe complications but we did test it on you first and believe me there was no way to iron you up so quickly. No allergic reaction. I am sure you are feeling better now. It is most likely that your recent irritability and nightmares have something to do with your chronic iron deficiency. My colleagues sent me the results; it seems that your iron deficiency might be something genetic. If that’s the case, there are ways to ameliorate your condition and respectively, reduce your anxiety, treat your insomnia and get rid of some of the nightmares, but you should know that these things don’t just simply go away. We can only hope for suppressing it with supplements for as long as your body cooperates.

The Rig: What happens next?

Doctor O: We allow a few more weeks for iron to run its course. As for me and my capacity as your psychiatrist, I think my job ends here. One of my colleagues who is a hematologist will replace me and take charge of your case. You will be under her supervision from now on. After that a neurosurgeon will conduct a few tests, most probably a basic EEG first. Nothing to worry about. Right now, the ward is packed with soldiers back from the Middle East, I don’t know if it is some kind of mass hysteria or collective PTSD, they all claim that they now belong to an oil god or something like that. Quite bizarre. In the past we had shell shock and soldiers regressing to the primal evolutionary state of locomotion like confused fishes learning how to crawl on land and now, it’s an oil god sending its errand boys to the surface to collect the bills. Yes, that’s what life really is, ‘paying the bills’. Now you see I have to sort out my priorities here.

The Rig: What about my regular diet?

Doctor O: This depends on your hematologist’s opinion, but I think you can still eat all that oily stuff but maybe combined with other supplements this time.

The Rig: What if the hallucinations or the nightmares of endlessly falling into the earth come back? I don’t know how much longer I can preserve the integrity of the surface, before all these cracks, fissures and holes begin to unite and swallow the ground whole, and I begin to perpetually fall.

Doctor O: Unfortunately, nothing I can do. Nutritional complications can induce hallucinations, and if not treated in time, they can lead to delusions and outlandish behavioral patterns. In that regard, there is hardly any difference between a planet ODed on iron, a civilization’s socio-cultural patterns moulded by its daily ration of petroleum boosters or a man’s brain drenched in zinc. My doctorly advice, don’t underestimate powers of chemistry. “You are what you eat.”

The Rig: I don’t know, the hallucinations are so vivid, you have seen them, all the voices, images, new feelings and sounds, the violent shaking, the rash and the vertigo that came with them. Like snapshots cut up in haste, sketching a vast palpitating space made of these loose connections between irrelevant places and actions, it’s hardly making sense but nevertheless, it occupies the entire horizon. It’s all so present, so real.

Doctor O: I assure you, the problem with you is not your brain, it’s your food.

The Rig: So I guess that’s it …

Doctor O: Don’t tell anyone in the ward I suggested this to you, but you may want to see an orthomolecular medicine man. It’s a nutrition doctor. That would be the first solution; you will be on nutrition watch for a while before you can get to the bottom of the chemical conspiracy. A good diet makes a difference, even though you can’t eat your way to God or in this case, to the bottom of your problem. The second solution would be to start self-analyzing, might not be as effective but certainly enlightening and much cheaper.

To be continued with final Session VII...
Arnex-1: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Asphalt © Negarestani, Mettler,  2012

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© Nora Rupp, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne

Eliminative Culinarism