McKenzie Wark on Thu, 16 Mar 2000 12:50:47 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> What matters

"True love is love of death in the other
and the other in death."

If there's a key moment in the history of friendship's
media, it is Michel de Montaigne's book, The Essays. He
was, i think, the first writer to address himself to
his imagined, prospective, virtual readers, as friends.
As if they were friends, and eventually, as a new kind
of friends. Friends who may never meet, who may live
in different times, places, languages.

Montaigne wrote in memory of a dead friend, but created
a new kind of communication in the process. One not aimed
at writing on the basis of authority (spiritual or
secular). Merely on the basis of friendship. But friendship
is a paradoxical business. All kinds of love are, but 
perhaps friendship most especially. 

But the extraordinary thing is that while few friendships
are permanent, the practice itself is self-renewing. There's
an ethic in this, in friendship's capacity to seek the
asymptote of the moment rather than of eternity. 

If mass print was the vector along which Montaigne could
practice his virtual friendship, then if anything we have
too much opportunity to multiply its virtuality. And 
perhaps this just increases the turnover. Friends for
five minutes rather than five years.

We've all had that experience of the net -- the intense
exchange that abruptly starts -- and ends. But so what?
In the time space of a week none might exchange as many
messages as was possible in a year only two centuries
ago. The speed of particular friendships forming and
dissolving does not interrupt the timelessness of the
practice. It merely creates a more microscopic texture.

And is not friendship the whole basis of a certain kind
of democracy? Even when it fails, or moves on? A democracy
not of the mass organised aorund the broadcast vector,
but the mesh of changing alignments of particularities.

If it cuts across broadcasting, mediated friendship also
mitigates against hierarchy. Or at least hierarchy imposed
from without, by disciplinary machines. Friends arrange
their own mutable relations of the incomensurable.

Who needs manifestoes, declarations, resolutions, when one
has friends? Perhaps there are two avant gardes in European
culture: the one good at friendship and the other good at
bullying. The latter includes Andre Breton, Guy Debord --
but who belongs to the former? That's the thing about
friendship -- it is all about communication, but sometimes
with discretion.

Friendship is not very compatible with meglomania, paranoia.
Rousseau, unlike Montaigne, was a complete failure at
friendship. Rather friendship is invested in scepticism. Its
the desire to communicate inspite of its very impossibility.
It never survives the illusion of communion. Friends who
stay friends know they talk, or write, past each other.


"We no longer have roots, we have aerials."
 -- McKenzie Wark 

Nettime-bold mailing list