on the difficulty of freeing oneself from the network by Stephen Brockbank

1…. sometimes one happens to spend an evening with friends and over a third or fourth glass of Chablis, the talk turns to one particular subject and object. One evening we were sitting in the Cote, at dinner with friends who live in a close behind St Peter’s church and in the long conversation someone mentioned Network Society by Manual Castells. Anyway the idea of the book touched us all in that conversation making us begin to make certain reflections that would haunt me at least during the decades after the meal, as if the meal was a prolonged analytical session, part systems analysis and part psychoanalysis. At the time I had been a systems analyst for many years and I was spending days every week in meetings, usually sitting in glass walled offices, sometimes in front of whiteboards, working over the ideas and usually useless concepts that people produce, which I was supposed to document and turn into useful systems. We were talking of people being equivalent nodes in a network, the connections being information flows between nodes. The many lines of our always political lives […] ((I was drinking a shot or two of perfect Polish vodka in crystal shot glasses, accompanied by espresso in white porcelain cups, by this time ) (As i write this I am looking at a 7 by 5 print which is the sole record of the event, espresso cups, shot glasses and us looking at the camera smiling)). In this moment we decided our only uniqueness lies in our genetic code. A subjects uniqueness exists solely in their genetic code, the rest is rented, we are borrowers, inheritors of place and status. (Like my name for there are many people with the same name who are alive, dead and not yet born. We have a responsibility to not ruin our good name for these others who will inherit it.) A writer knows that in one of their overlong books, for example Larva by Julian Rios, or Edward Upwards The Spiral Ascent, there is a sentence, a single line [coda] that contains his soul: and most of the rest could be discarded. Equally Taylor knows that in his Garden or in Idut there is a single string of musical code that contains his soul, just as in Idut there is a moment that is Jimmy Lyon’s genetic code in sound. Is it the same for Agnes Martin who might know that in her painting Modal 49 there is a single line that really contains her, she knows this, but without knowing where on this network of lines it may be found. And no critic, no reader nor listener will ever find it.

2…. The moment when historical situations, liberalism, the jaded ontology of happiness, have led us to imagine we understand this code, this indescribable code which is life and the knowledge of life that exists on this small insignificant planet. There is little doubt that these were the most extraordinary moments for those who understand these things. But the delusion of understanding is always passing, in another evening with friends I will learn that Micheal may be seriously ill, that others around the table are suffering from the existential dread of aging. These things do not disappear because of their describable nature, actually it dies because of the effects of genetic code. There are many forms of code that obscure our understanding of our souls: the initial one is the religious ideologies that pervade our societies, built and imposed on us by others and then their are the ones we construct for ourselves. The first scarcely needs documenting as the problem it describes has pervaded the history of humanity over the past few centuries – Giorgo Agamben summed it up well with the formula Bare Life + Auschwitz + Community + Language + Spectacle. In our new era of denialism and regression and according to which only a selected few mass murders are identified as real, no more than smoke issuing from the offices and libraries of sectarian historians – for them at least talk of genetics would seem to be a mere driftwork. So yes let’s think rather of the code that has brought us to this pass, it is our codified spirit, there is no other. This is known because its all we have that is unique, our names, our sectarian identities are not unique after all. But here we are in the second decade of this millennium and having reached this time when age and entropy is catching up with me, i know you don’t want this this this. This is, contrary to what you imagine, not a prison, it is not a set of chains, rather its the maximum freedom allowed to us poor humans. So decades later we are in my friends apartment an hour or so after leaving the Cote just across the square, opening the window and watching the waiters take the tables inside. I lean out. I can hear the summer storm approaching, lightening in the distant western sky. I am wondering, distracted between these two events as if i can relive those moments from my now distant past when I was travelling along the road to Montepulcino. We were passing another hilltown, Montelcino I think, the one with the most beautiful square in the universe, such a perfect construction, which when we had been there before had, of all things, had an Italian language version of Romeo and Juliet (even here there was no escape from Shakespeare, She laughed in the summer heat) we watched an hour of the performance before leaving to find something to drink. In the car we passed over the rise into the valley, round the bend with a steep drop to the valley floor and then a long straight downwards. Driving down, all the lights on, towards the summer storm miles away at the other end of the valley. To the left a stony cliff, a row of cypress trees on the roadside flashing by. Later, there is a row of old Oak trees. We stopped at the isolated cafe at the end of row. It was midsummer, and hot in a way that English people can scarcely understand, no matter how much they may love the heat, we Northerners tend to expire in the hot wind. To cool ourselves we drank lemonade with ice, enjoying the cooling effect for a few moments. We ate some food, drank some local wine. From behind the trees lightening lit up the darkening countryside. More flashes, more thunder then rain, rain […] We retreated into the cafe and chatted to the woman behind the bar using what we could of our poor Italian. It was still raining when we drove off towards the house we were staying in. When we got there I went upstairs and opened the bedroom window and leant out into the cool air. In the moonlight I could see rabbits moving in the garden. She told me to come to bed, I closed the mesh blinds. Afterwards I lay in the dark, her hot arm folded heavily across my body. The voices of the absent genetic codes telling me about their lives, which wasn’t like mine because they had no need to justify anything, no modes of thought analyzing things. And then as they left me I fell asleep, or was it the other way round ? I fell asleep and so they left me.

3…. And so here we are, years later looking out at the Cote, the same woman is looking at me with some affection I think, looking out at the sky above the city. Coffee is being made in the kitchen. The night had become rather beautiful, the numbers of photons falling along Lucretean curves from the stars, fewer than the lights of city. The alarms of the cars sang out a midsummer song. Here i was remembering the storm from thirty years ago. I remembered that moment from decades before because memories being temporal and marginal things pass as quickly as the rain drops in a summer climate. Though I knew she would remember things differently speaking of the food the children ate in the cafe, perhaps that was why She was smiling seriously at me, and I imagine I looked happily at her, and went to sit down beside her. A moment passed.

4…. From another window we could see more of the city, the city spread out across the valley, a significant portion of the human population of this world. Perhaps I could hear the sound of the traffic, of late night workers. And I thought that this vast vista was the liberty that the code, the DNA refused me with its constraints, its wide range determinism. And I know that I cannot document this determinism. And yet I know that the person reading this, perhaps not a friend but someone who might have been once, to them it might seem like a privilege (such an unfortunate concept). So know that I hold onto to my delusions, as you must, because it is impossible to imagine that this thing of uniqueness could be anything else than this genetic code. But since this code is unreadable though it is manipulable, instead I am writing these words down, a different more plagiarisable code which you may do whatever you like with, paragraphs, sentences, phrases and words, we suspect its in all the code….