Lecture Drucken

Benedict Singleton

The Long Con / The Straw Astronaut

9:00-17:00Haus der Kulturen der WeltJohn-Foster-Dulles-Allee 1010557 Berlin
Session one: The Long Con (9:00-12:00)

Design inevitably entails an engagement with the logic of the plot, and this session will investigate what this abrupt and unlikely claim might mean. Even the most cursory consideration shows 'plot' to be a strange term, unusually rich. It can refer to an architectural site, as in the ground-plot of a building, as well as a workshop drawing or analytic chart; it also indexes a sequence of fictional events strung into a narrative, and, simultaneously, the subversive scheme of an unseen director, orchestrating events from somewhere in the shadowy wings of the world, from whence the plot twist arrives...

We will begin with a tour of the secret passageways that connect and integrate these differing senses of 'plot'. From this departure point, we'll draw on film, forensics and finance to elaborate the concept, and sketch out the peculiar dynamics that animate it: the fascination a plot exerts when we stumble onto it; the form ambition takes when it plots rather than plans; the odd and unnerving fellowship of the detective who reconstructs the plot with the criminal who constructs it, who must learn to think alike; and the tendency of plots to escalate, seemingly of their own accord, from a hustle - casual, improvised, opportune - into the long con of the morning's title.

Session two: The Straw Astronaut (14:00-17:00)

Space exploration and settlement recast perennial philosophical and political questions as engineering problems. In the early years of this century, the provenance of life, the nature of intelligence, the relationship of humans to the future and the structure of functional societies, amongst other familiar themes, find themselves addressed most directly not by work in the arts and humanities but by programmes of space research - where the artificial production and maintenance of social dynamics, collaborations with increasingly autonomous machines, and the synthetic creation of entire living ecosystems are all under active investigation.

This session, which continues the project begun in Maximum Jailbreak, will outline some of the features and implications of this actually-existing accelerationism. Articulated as a twisted retelling of the Kubrick-Clarke production 2001 in which the monolith is a fugitive and distributed structure glimpsed in the contours it lends to a certain kinds of thought, talk and action, we'll contextualise present developments into a history of links between technical ingenuity, frontier exploration and the cultivation of intelligence. The iconic 20th century figure of the astronaut served as a way to present the results of enormously abstract political, economic and technological systems as a celebration of 'the human', but in the 21st century the problem is abruptly posed: if we are what we do, and this is what we're doing, then what the hell are we?