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INFLeXions No. 2- Rhythmic Nexus: the Felt Togetherness of Movement and Thought

Extensive Continuum Towards a rhythmic anarchitecture by Luciana Parisi & Steve Goodman
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1. Introduction

The fluidification of the Euclidean spatial matrix has resulted in the implementation of topological models of spatiality, the temporal continuity between shapes and places. In particular, as recently argued, algorithmic architecture stops time from being spatialized into successive segments, opening static forms to temporal variations derived from open programming . [1] Here the geometrical point is no longer a fixed position on a uni-directional line, but an algorithmic calculus demarcating a curvature between points, a spatio-temporal deformation that cannot be observed but only experienced. For instance, open programming explains how computation needs to be completed by experience, adding unpredictable variations to the algorithmic calculus. An open programming therefore here defines how the calculation of possibilities is always already incomplete or to be completed by biophysical experience, intended as sensorimotor perception or embodied perception. This algorithmic point is, borrowing from Bernard Cache, an inflection of linear time and geometric space. Generative architecture, despite being criticised for its exclusive focus on unbuilt forms, has, it is argued, introduced real time into design. [2] In particular, such time has been associated to an experience of duration resonating with Henri Bergson's critique of the scientific, geometric and the intellectual distortion of time. Such temporality is not only deployed by the evolutionary character of algorithmic patterns, composing new forms out of the interaction with pre-programmed instructions, but is also complicated by audio-visual and sensori-motor interactive feedbacks adding new, un-programmed temporalities to data-based information.

Such interactive interfaces give priority to autopoietic or self-organizing software as always already instigated by the always already oriented perceptual temporality of the user/participant. This is what makes soft architecture liquid or smooth: self- organizing spatialities involving programming information and participatory sensory motor action. It is here, however, that we sense a metaphysical problem, which subordinates imperceptible novelty to perceptible actions, through an emphasis on lived duration and physical orientations in space-time.

Human perception, as particularly conceived by theorists such as Mark Hansen, remains a centre of receptive activity for algorithmic patterns, enacting the construction of space. [3] Space in other words is here a vacuum that needs to be occupied by individuals in order to exist. By rejecting the Euclidean postulates of absolute space, the latter becomes the results of living activities. [4] Hence, interactivity is limited to merely adding algorithmic spatio-temporalities to those of the human body, whose durational perceptions act to select and order the random generation of information. This selection constitutes the space of flows as the corporeal actualization of indeterminate potential, the perceptive experience of continuity as opposed to the discontinuous arrangement of mathematical calculation.

In this paper we question such anthropocentrism of interactivity, which pervades recent conceptions of digital architecture. We ask instead, what if the user is any actual entity whatever among the other components of an ecology, and therefore that novelty does not necessarily involve the activity of a human participant. Specifically, we wonder about the perpetual neglect to deal with the weirdness of mathematics, the potential of nameable, yet undefinable, infinitesimal, numbers to generate prehensive novelty. We wonder here about what algorithmic information theorist Gregory Chaitin terms 'sensual mathematics': a dynamics of numbering in which conceptual feelings are immediately active before becoming cognized. [5]

We argue that the need for a user to actively intervene to synthesize continuity, is predicated on a metaphysic of continuity over discontinuity whereby lived experience is added via subjective temporalities to the digital pre-programmed space in order to explain novelty. Instead, we sidestep the problem of ontologizing either the continuous or the discontinuous, the analog or the digital, hinting at, via Alfred N.Whitehead's notion of the 'extensive continuum', a kind of rhythmic anarchitecture of cyclic discontinuity, or as Leibniz might say, an ecology of nonconscious counting, in which flow is continuously split, cut and broken, while simultaneously the atomic virtually congeals. Such a conception allows room for abstract potentialities, such as computational entities, to produce real affectivities in the form of contagious algorithms perceived nonsensuously.

For us, it is not sufficient to say that novelty is added by either the user or the route through the digital (which, it has been argued, reduces experience to probabilities). [6] Instead, we wish to speculate about a rhythmic anarchitecture which would arise as a nexus of incalculable computabilities, begging the question of how we can talk about the fuzzy dimension immanent to the digital, such as in Chaitin's sensual mathematics of Omega, where Omega is a real number between 0 and 1, which he defines as the engine of uncompressable randomness.

We conclude by questioning the way in which an investigation of such randomness is core to both the operation of a pre-emptive power and the reconstitution of an ethicoaesthetic paradigm. We suggest that architectural topologies serve already as a mode of pre-emptive power, which we term topological control. Instead of the continuity of becoming (the smoothening space of flows) which is the objective of topological control, we suggest that a rhythmic anarchitecture may begin to express the becoming of continuity, as an ethico-aesthetic response.

2. The Extensive continuum

In contrast to a continuity of becoming, the space of flow where the unity of events lies in an underlying continual temporal invariant, a lived duration, Whitehead's notion of the extensive continuum undoes the split between space and time. It expresses a general scheme of relatedness between actual entities in an actual world. More than that, Whitehead insists that the extensive continuum is above all a potential for actual relatedness. The continuum gives potential, while the actual is atomic or quantic by nature. The continuum only exists in the spatio-temporal gaps between actual occasions, but it is what unifies the occasions in one common world. The actual entity breaks up the continuum realizing the eternal object, or particular potential that it selects. This breaking up, atomization or quantization, forces the eternal object into the space-time of the actual occasion - in this process, actuality becomes what is merely potential.

The continuum as general potentiality 'is the bundle of possibilities, mutually consistent or alternative, provided by the multiplicity of eternal objects' (Whitehead: 102). The extensive continuum 'is that first determination of order - that is, of real potentiality, arising out of the general character of the world . . . .it does not involve shapes, dimensions, or measurability; these are additional determinations of real potentiality arising from our cosmic epoch.' (Whitehead: 103)

Arguing both against a continual flow of becoming, governed by un-spatialized pure time, and against the locality of space-time, Whitehead's extensive continuum, draws on quantum physics to point to vibratory potentials gelling a multiplicity of coexistent space-times: here there is a simultaneity of actual occasions, which are able to detour into one another by selecting potentials or eternal objects. It is in such a potential resonance of one quantum region with another, that an encounter between distinct actual entities occurs. Via the concept of the extensive continuum, Whitehead helps us to access an achronological nexus outside the space-time split. The problem of Euclidean space is not just that it lacks time, that it has been split from time; by just adding time via temporal perception in digital modelling, topological architecture only continues to ignore the nonconscious calculations of quantum rhythms, the break-flow that allows the becoming of continuity and the production of novelty.

3. Rhythmic Anarchitecture

The becoming of continuity we call rhythmic anarchitecture, where anarchitecture denotes a method of composition, which feeds off the vibratory tension between contrasting occasions. A rhythmic anarchitecture is amodal and atemporal. Rhythm proper, cannot be perceived purely via the 5 senses but is crucially transensory or even nonsensuous. Rhythmic anarchitecture is concerned with the virtuality of quantum vibration. It is necessary here to go beyond the quantification of vibration in physics into primary frequencies. For us, it is rhythm as potential relation, which is key. If rhythm defines the discontinuous vibrations of matter, then we must also ontologically prioritize the in-between of oscillation, the vibration of vibration, the virtuality of the tremble. The rhythmic potential that is an eternal object, cannot be reduced to its phenomenological corporeality. The vibratory resonance between actual occasions in their own regions of space-time occurs through the rhythmic potential of eternal objects, which enables the participation of one entity in another. The rhythmic potential of an eternal object exceeds the actual occasion into which it ingresses. To become, an actual entity must be out of phase with itself.

This vibratory nexus of the extensive continuum exceeds and precedes the distinction between subject and object and constitutes a virtual mesh of relations, which enables the becoming of experience, the continuity of discontinuity. Such a rhythmic anarchitecture can be clarified via an investigation of theories of rhythmanalysis and their limits.[7]

The rhythmic anarchitecture offered via Whitehead's concept of the extensive continuum takes us beyond the deadlock of opposing a metaphysic of discontinuity and continuity, for example the critique of Bergson by Gaston Bachelard in developing a rhythmanalytic ontology. In The Dialectic of Duration, Bachelard's project is to pursue the paradox of a discontinuous Bergsonism: 'to arithmetise Bergsonian duration' (Bachelard: 28-29). While for Bergson, the instant represents an illusionary, spatialized view of time, Bachelard wants to prioritize the instant as pure event in a hierarchy of instants. Bachelard argues that in defining duration as a continuous succession of qualitatively different states, Bergson tends to erode the singularity of instants - they merely fade or melt into one another. Again, while for Bergson time is visibly continuous, for Bachelard, the microscopic or quantum, i.e. invisible, domain of divergences, discontinuities, and vibrations concealed by the surface appearance. Yet Bergson is thinking of vibration in a very different manner. In Matter & Memory, he factores in molecular vibration as that which provides continuous movement to that which appears as static or discrete objects. As Bergson notes, matter 'resolves itself into numberless vibrations, all linked together in uninterrupted continuity, all bound up with each other, and traveling in every direction like shivers through an immense body.' (Bergson: 208). Once vibrations with frequencies in excess of human perception are acknowledged, Bergson must insist on multiple rhythms of duration to assure that quality retains priority over quantity. Yet, it is exactly these numberless vibrations, which Bachelard wishes to arithmeticize. However, this will prove a crucial point of divergence between Bachelard's philosophy of rhythm and the rhythmic anarchitecture proposed here. Bachelard's reliance on dialectics, to re-animate a continuity broken by instants, seems to reduce the power of his philosophy of rhythm, relying as it does, on polarisation over relation.

For us, Whitehead's extensive continuum moves beyond the Bergson and Bachelard deadlock because it accounts for the continual potential relations between discontinuous actual occasions. Rhythmic anarchitecture accounts for a vibratory nexus of actual occasions and tentatively initiates an ethico-aesthetic field of experimentation against the backdrop of a pre-emptive topology of control.

4. Topological control

The extensive continuum conceptualised here is a battlefield in an asymmetrical war of imperception, of nonconscious calculations, nonsensuous prehensions and conceptual feelings, between what we call topological control and rhythmic anarchitecture.

The emergence of a topological aesthetics, we argue, cannot be thought in isolation from the construction of a neo-stratum of power, whose modalities of control operate directly on imperceptual activities. A new stratum of topological control directly inciting mental, physical, and affective activities is deployed by ubiquitous clusters of adaptive software enabling the installation of smoothening platforms of pre-emption, a distributed ecology of allure - where allure describes the attractional power generated by contrasting eternal objects or virtual worlds selected by actual occasions. This pre-emptive power operates through the contagious activity of futurity in the present, of potential space-times serving as attractors to actual occasions. For example, artificial agency of markets that install lures to feeling, thereby pre-empting a desire yet to come. Such pre-emptive strikes, instead of blocking or slowing a novel future from happening, speed up the production of novelty via the digital modelling of immersive brand environments that smoothly and continuously submerge consumers.

Topological control works to design precisely such ecologies of potential by digitally calculating what was thought to be uncalculable, i.e. novelty, by adding random variations. Digital design is empowered by the capacities of calculating randomness producing the blob architectures of imprecise curvature. Generative topo-modeling calculates where and when an event could be and could have been. It is continuously in a state of deciding the unpredictable arrangement of distinct blocs of space-time, their mutation and recombination, betting beyond the lived spatio-temporalities of here and now, (the sensory-motor selective activation of generative information). In a sense, topological modeling does not succeed without releasing a speculative calculus of abstract yet completely real blocs of space-time, designing simultaneous unlived occasions of experience, or as Whitehead defines it, the extensive continuum. It is precisely such calculation of infinitesimal variations that has increasingly become an expression of a topological power, where the production of novelty becomes a priority of control. This is not just an illusion of ideology, but produces real effects. For instance, one expression of this we call ergonomic control, whereby physical and cognitive activities are pre-emptively modulated via the engineering of random algorithms into the morphology of blobjects. Yet, we are not suggesting to resist topological control via the reintroduction of a Euclidean architectural order.

From the standpoint of the extensive continuum, digital modelling implies more than the mere quantifications of the continual temporalities of experience, i.e. is more than mere probabilities. We wish to suggest that digital modelling is implicated in an ethico-aesthetic of anarchitecture, or architecture ex situ.

The contagious rhythmic transmission of algorithms constitutes for us a sensual mathematics as a direct expression of the abstract, a felt thought or nonsensuous perception of the abstract. While Bergson opposes pure intuition to mathematical calculation as an intellectual distortion, we suggest that digitality is not just a quantification of a lived experience, but rather is the manifestation of computable yet incalculable (incompressible, infinitesimal, random) actual occasions. It is in the process of calculation that algorithmic entities select potential objects to become part of their concrescent becomings. Computational processes are then an expression of algorithmic or symbolic capacities to affect by means of mathematical contagion, as well as being a tool for the design of physical environment that will be constructed, enacted or completed by the inhabitant/participant.

Here, we have used Whitehead's conception of the extensive continuum to challenge a notion of the space of flows that has become itself a prototype for the optimization of control. We have argued that the extensive continuum enables a conception prior to the split between space-time, which accounts for the rhythm of invention enveloping continuity and discontinuity, the analog and the digital. There is a surplus value of the digital code that allows artificial entities to express novelty without the intervention of a human agent.

We would like to conclude by offering some paths for future research via some open propositions:

Algorithms are contagious.

Algorithms produce a novel movement of thought via lures to conceptual feeling.

Rhythms are algorithms in so far as they are relations of numerical
instructions for the distribution of events in space and time.

A rhythmic anarchitecture is expressed by spatio-temporal anomalies.

A spatio-temporal anomaly entails the evacuation of here and now.


[1] See for instance Terzdis, 57.

[2] See for instance, Lynn.

[3] See Hansen, 10-15.

[4] Lefebvre's idea of lived space in particular has been adopted by interactive media artists to point at the irregularities of spatial relations through gaming and playing for instance, as opposed to the programmed or mathematical spatial coordinates. See Lefebvre.

[5] See Chaitin, 57.

[6] The critique against the algorithmic reduction of the variabilities of organic movement to sets of probabilities - unable to express the veritability of change - can be found in many approaches to interactive digital media. See for instance Hansen, 42-50.

[7] Rhythmanalysis constitutes a number of philosophical attempts to take rhythm as more than an object of study, transforming it into a mode of analysis.

References Bachelard, Gaston, The Dialectic of Duration, trans. Mary McAllester Jones (Manchester: Clinamen Press, 2000).

Bergson, Henri, Matter & Memory trans. N.M.Paul and W.S.Palmer (Cambridge:
MIT Press, 1991; 1896).
Chaitin, Gregory. MetaMaths. The Quest for Omega (London: Atlantic Books, 2006).

Hansen, Mark. New Philosophy for New Media (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006).
Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space, trans. D. Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Basil
Blackwell, 1991).

Lynn, Greg. Folding in Architecture (Architectural Design Profile) (Academy Press:

Revised edition 2004).
Terzdis, Costa. Algorithmic Architecture (Princeton, Princeton Architectural Press:

Whitehead, Alfred N., Process & Reality (New York: Macmillan, 1979).

  INFLeXions No. 2 (Jan. 2009)
Rhythmic Nexus: the Felt Togetherness of Movement and Thought

edited by S. Portonova

Editorial: The Complexity of Collabor(el)ations
Stamatia Portanova

Trilogie Stroboscopique + Lilith
Antonin De Bemels

The Speculative Generalization of the Function: A Key to Whitehead
James Bradley

Propositions for the Verge: William Forsythe's Choreographic Objects
Erin Manning

Extensive Continuum: Towards a Rhythmic Anarchitecture
Steve Goodman & Luciana Parisi

Feeling Feelings: the Work of Russell Dumas through Whitehead's Process and Reality
Philipa Rothfield

Against Full Frontal
Alanna Thain

edited by N. Prévost and B. Scliar Mancini
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The Red Line
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Research-Creation Collaboration*
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Occasional Experiences Series (excerpts)*
Gerardo Cibelli

Spatial Vibration: string-based instrumen, study II, 2008*
Olafur Eliasson

Hand's Door*
Michel Groisman

Louise Lecavalier

Otto Oscar Hernández Ruiz

Bending Back In a Field of Experience*
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How I learned to stop loving and worry about Dubai*
Charles Stankievech

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