Posted by: glue | December 17, 2008

Out of Shape Now

We may take an assignment from Agamben:  to articulate a new experience of time found within the dromosphere.  Even as our idea of history has changed, our model of time has remained within literate metaphysics.  Time in this metaphysics has been thought through two shapes (two ideas, eidos = shape). The Greek shape is  a circle.  The Christian shape is a line:  circularity and linearity.  Modern time is a secularized line.



We no longer have time for round trips or progress, when before and after, here and there, have collapsed into now. But what is this now? Agamben has one answer, alluding to Walter Benjamin’s Jetztzeit (now-time).  The shape of this moment derives from a tradition of emergency (as Benjamin put it):  an experience of the normal condition as a state of emergency.  Agamben locates his third model in the Gnostic time of interruption, figured as a broken line.  In this experience everything has already happened (the worst, the best, revolution, the resurrection).  Time stands still, and nothing may be expected from the future.  All that history has deprecated must be revisited.

Agamben recommends retrieval as the method for expressing the new experience of time (a grammatology of the archive).  He proposes two topics for further inquiry.  First is the tradition of Kairos (even a cairology), with its roots in metis.  In practice metic time breaks with the vulgar time of streaming instants, to recognize a moment of opportunity (an opening in time).  The conventional emblem of a weaver throwing the shuttle does disservice to kairos, since the moment may not be awaited with such certainty or rhythm.

The other topic Agamben proposes as the basis for a new time shape is pleasure.  “Yet for everyone there is an immediate and available experience on which a new concept of time could be founded.  This is an experience so essential to human beings that an ancient Western myth makes it humankind’s original home:  it is pleasure” (Agamben, Infancy  and History).  The time of pleasure is neither that of precise continuous time nor of eternity.  It is rather the time of history, Agamben, says, but a cairological history.

Instructions:  take up Agamben’s proposal from the side of shape.  The tradition offers three shapes (eidei):  circle, line, broken line.  What is a fourth shape, to be extracted from what experience, what practice, in what situation (event)?  What shape are you in, when you are having a good time?


  1. Trace

    There is no shape given in the intuition of time as inner experience (Kant). Since no shape is given (thus opening a history of time), we resort to a graphic analogy (the gramme). Here is the problematic of trace, according to Derrida. It is not a question of any one shape, a fourth graphic, for example, but the differance of time space. Thus we become aware of this other dimension, the undecidable trace working within any particular configuration of time space. This is the trace in the term “electracy.” Once this problematic is thematized, the practices associated with a new temporality become accessible to invention. How may we exercise differantial prudence?

    (From a grammatological point of view, this blog explores the [im]possibilities of trace ).

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