Good afternoon and welcome to the convict courtyard for this presentation of FILIBUST, a talk-in talked in the open air. To filibuster is to talk something out. To filibuster is to talk for as long as it takes. To filibuster is be a long-winded pirate. To filibuster is to use speech as sabotage. If you have or will have wandered through this doorway you will see a screening of the recent filibuster busted by Texas senator Wendy Davis. We have synchronised the video “as live”, that is to say, Wendy began her filibuster at 11.18am, and now it is just after 3.30pm, which means she has been talking for a little over four hours, and still has eight and half hours to go until until midnight, at which point, the anti-abortion bill she is filibustering against will not be passed into law. The law will get passed. The filibuster will only delay it. And this is the existential charm of the filibuster, it goes on even in the face of its own futility. A gesture of great symbolic potency with marginal real effect: you can see why artists would be drawn to the filibuster as a form.
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At the 2011 Critical Animals symposium I gave an extemporaneous talk at the “The Gun Club” titled An Empiricist of Love, a speech that offered itself in a licensed venue to fellow drinkers in the ancient spirit of a symposium. This post-script composed two years later reflects on the somewhat bizarre alloy produced from a pentagon of influences: Plato’s Symposium, Stendhal’s On Love, Deleuze’s essay on Hume, a neuroscience text A General Theory of Love, and finally, a love poem I had written, Quickly retarded if, which although remaining unreferenced in the talk completely haunted and flushed its unfolding. Published in the Critical Animals 10 year anniversary publication Critical Animalia, created by Sophie Lamond, Tulleah Pearce, Beau Deurwaarder and Eleanor Zeichner.
Anyone willing to stand up in front of people and theorise about love from an empirical perspective is almost certainly suffering from a hefty dose of its woe and exhilaration. Such a person would find it impossible not to resonate with Stendhal’s stupendous attempts to establish a science of Love having just been shattered by it. For the over-heated love theorist, the objectively unconvincing metaphor of love as a process of crystallisation is irrelevant in comparison to the creative potency of the feeling articulating it. As Stendhal confessed: I am always afraid of having put down a sigh when I imagine myself to have recorded a truth.
In searching through my preparatory notes for the talk I found this stray sentence: You come armed with an exhilaration rather than an argument, and Love goes crystal with empiric delirium at mobile premium. On a panel before my talk Rebecca Giggs had observed that one should be suspicious of anyone who theorises with a capital letter on their key term. My willingness, therefore, to capitalise Love testified not only to the extent of my delirium and the suspect nature of my ideation, but also reflected a conscious sense of charlatanism: how can I have the arrogance to stand up and talk about this topic? Anybody who says they are an expert on Love is the wrong kind of charlatan. Above all, putting the capital L on love shows how Platonically intoxicated I was from reading the Symposium.
If you’re already love-drunk, then downing the Symposium makes for a sozzled swoon, a logic-defying binge that mixes all alcohols into a supreme cocktail without nausea or amnesia or oblivion. With each drunkard offering their sense of love’s praiseworthiness one after the other, the structure of the dialogue is to a sober reader a kind of competition for the praise that most accurately depicts Eros. However, correct drinking protocol is to recklessly down the text in one sitting and observe how the serial evocation of love’s attributes enters into the blood stream and accumulates into a superimposition that the inebriant experiences as cosmic-level forcefulness without ascribable limits.
Or so it must have seemed to my uninhibited drunkenness which stood and proclaimed that there should be in principle no prohibition on what the supreme movement of Love is capable of. Love, I said, has the capacity to create attachments and bonds and sensations that are the best sensations that can be created for our experience. I imagined this love-motion to be a peerless force that touches the very deepest point of human experience, and as such the most singular and personal of things, yet simultaneously the most universal and impersonal, because it arrives from elsewhere, burns through, goes to the edge and then exceeds. Your love is the thing most yours, yet you own nothing because you are nothing but Love’s media.
Whatever the overestimations here, my speech remained safely contained by its mysticism and the walls of The Gun Club, which is not something that could be said for the next drinking party. Post-Critical Animals, the eventless love-drunk stumbles into Martin Place with an air mattress and the co-incidence of a single word to support the conviction that the best way to commune with his muse in New York is to vicariously occupy Wall Street by occupying Sydney. This is how the unstoppable force of love’s narcissism crashes into the immovable object of political reality. How a camp organised on the loving principle of inclusivity is appropriated by a protest tourist who’s come to think about what he feels. Eros–boozed like this, of course he’s going to say that love is at the core of the political: I’ve come to think that love is at the centre of any real politics, and that true politics can never completely distinguish between nor absolutely align its commitment to others and its commitment to who it loves.
Needless to say, merely admitting that one is highly intoxicated is insufficient to assuage people’s reservations about the arrival of the iPsyche into the realm of political action. It’s hard to resist the easy pickings of privilege critique: this is nothing more than a fling with radical politics as catharsis for cultural schizophrenics. But if you don’t swing the hammer and sickle of privilege rage then it’s possible to observe that drunk people sometimes embarrass themselves in ways that articulate possible modulations in the zeitgeist. From the not-so-humble beginnings of a romantic narcissist re-emerges the conviction that the idea of political love has to be taken seriously again. Rimbaud: as we know, love needs re-inventing. When even hardcore members of the rebel alliance like Negri & Badiou are speaking in praise of love, insatiably lapped up by the theory boffins, surely something is in the air.
To begin the ambitious task of measuring the levels of these invisible yet politicised love emissions in our atmosphere, we will return to the talk at The Gun Club for a quick tour of delirious empiricism. The tour guide is Deleuze and the place is David Hume. Visiting Hume’s garden of empiricism, one has the impression of a fictive foreign, seen by other creatures, but also the presentiment that this world is already ours, and those creatures, ourselves.1 It’s a world in which you think with AND instead of thinking IS, instead of thinking for IS2: it is a world of exteriority, a world in which thought itself exists in a fundamental relationship with the Outside, a world in which the terms are veritable atoms and relations veritable external passages.3
Reading this, it becomes clear why in the talk I felt moved to caricature love’s motion with the image of Cupid’s arrow, a piercing affect resulting from an external passage. In Hume’s account of the world, everything is a relation, and a special type of relation for humans is causality: causality is a relation according to which I go beyond the given; I say more than what is given or giveable.4 To say more than what is given, one needs to infer and to believe, one needs to suppose some things to be true that cannot be known. This observation has the profound consequence of placing belief at the basis and origin of knowledge. It follows from there that the problem for human mentality is not simply that we are given to making errors, but much worse, that we bathe in delirium.5 In this place fiction and nature are wedded such that the illegitimate exercise of our belief-based delirium is incorrigible, inseparable from legitimate beliefs, and indispensable to their organisation. Fiction and delirium shift over to the side of human nature.6
Looking out across Hume’s philosophical vista, we understand why he feels that we are, and must be, slaves to our passions:
The passions have the effect of restricting the range of the mind, fixating it on privileged ideas and objects, for the basis of passion is not egotism but partiality, which is much worse. The problem is no longer how to limit egotisms and the corresponding natural rights but how to go beyond partialities, how to pass from a “limited sympathy” to an “extended generosity,” how to stretch passions and give them an extension they don’t have on their own. How can we invent artifices, how can we create institutions that force passions to go beyond their partialities and form moral, judicial, political sentiments (for example, the feeling of justice)?7
If we strikethrough justice and say love then we start to see the semi-conscious motivations of my own drunk attempts for an extended generosity via love theory. But even if the odd spokesperson here or there turns out to be an erotic charlatan, a mode of empiricism that proposes the problem in terms of the invention of artifices of generosity has a serious amount to contribute to the art of political love.
You come armed
with an exhilaration
rather than an argument,
and Love goes crystal
with empiric delirium
at mobile premium.