McKenzie Wark on Thu, 16 Mar 2000 18:03:13 +0100 (CET)

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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

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

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

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

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 

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