10 essays
Compiled by Clemens Finkelstein

Confined to space, aware of its limits like never before, we are at a global juncture that is determined by a radicalized economy of time. Dilating and contracting through discrete operations of technological systems and communicational networks, spatial experience is either completely dulled (stay-at-home), taken from us (borders closed), or apportioned along a binary spectrum that enacts inherent violence. In Bogotá and Lima, the government determined that “women” may leave their home on even days and “men” on uneven days, legally forcing queer and trans identities to conform in public in order to survive. The reader assembles texts, comics, and soundscapes from the e-flux journal archive to read the individuating intensity of time from a multiplicity of angles.

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Yuk Hui
What Begins After the End of the Enlightenment?
Originally published in January 2019

On the other hand, we may understand Kissinger’s end-of-Enlightenment claim as marking the full realization of a single global axis of time in which all historical times converge into the synchronizing metric of European modernity. It is the moment of disorientation—a loss of direction as well as of the Orient in relation to the Occident. The unhappy consciousness of fascism and xenophobia arises from this inability to orient: as a response, it offers an easy identity politics and an aestheticized politics of technology. More broadly, such a disorientation can be seen as a desirable and necessary deterritorialization of contemporary capitalism, which facilitates accumulation beyond temporal and spatial constraints. War is the technique of disruption par excellence, vastly more effective than Uber and Airbnb.

Tristan Garcia
The Intense Life: An Ethical Ideal
Originally published in December 2017

Infused with an adverbial ideal of acting, feeling, and thinking modeled on the experience of an electric shock, the modern individual who struggles to escape gentrification is indeed no longer moved by what remains the same. They have lost their interest in fixed identities; what does not vary receives scant notice: an indefinitely repeated act, typical of the standardized world of work, seems intolerable to them. The very idea of eternity makes them yawn; marble leaves them cold. Everything that denies life and the musical variations that compose it breeds impatience: perfection and the absolute appear to them like an ontological flaw, an inability to become something else, the result of a serious intensity deficiency. The supreme objects of religious contemplation and wisdom strike them as extraordinarily flimsy. They love music for the changes, with repetition a taste of hell to come. Like Kierkegaard’s hero, they demand the possible or else they suffocate, and not only then; as soon as they are forced to recognize what they know, they gasp for air. What stays the same makes no difference to them. They need either less or more. They would rather change their mind even if the outcome is uncertain than stick to established certainties. Endlessly curious, they are ready to taste pain just as much as pleasure, as long as there is some change and movement, and the sound of being alive—melodious or dissonant—can be heard.

Planktons in the Sea: A Few Questions Regarding the Qualities of Time
Originally published in September 2011

To ask a human being to account for time is not very different from asking a floating fragment of plankton to account for the ocean. How does the plankton bank the ocean?

Bernard Stiegler and Irit Rogoff
Originally published in March 2010

This is a segment of conversation between the philosopher Bernard Stiegler and cultural theorist Irit Rogoff that took place on the occasion of Stiegler’s lecture series, “Pharmaconomics” at Goldsmiths in February, March 2010, as part of his current professorial fellowship. In this segment, we touch on a couple of Stiegler’s key terms in the development of his thought, such as “transindividuation,” “transmission,” and “long circuits.” In his three-volume work Technics and Time, Stiegler has argued that “technics” (a constellation of models and discourses converging on information systems, codes, prostheses, machines, etc.) constitute what “is most properly to be thought as the key philosophical question of our time.” As Andrés Vaccari states about Technics and Time:

Lamin Fofana
Originally published in February 2017

The bonds that new modes of resistance establish with previous historical sequences are scratching loose their very own world-disorganizing potential. Constituent history has never submitted to the tyranny of the textual. The sonic moves audiences-cum-comrades, fleshy things that, in feeling and moving communally, call up the specter of the common project. This is the surplus of their corporeal, anti-transactional transactions. Of their uprising against even minor miseries. Whether one is thinking of music, spoken word, coded patois, scratched records, effective and affective oration, glitching at mechanical interfaces, the multidimensions of performativity in and around sounds—the sonic has always been a most active field in bonds-making. A kind of goddammed Mississippi, seeded with tragedy and resilience, to the frigid Northeast of more buttoned-up organic intellectuals who prefer the tabloid and the blog. Approaching the vicinity of this fact—or perhaps the ways in which its incontrovertibility impinged in our catching-up thinking—led us to commission e-flux journal’s first “text” as track. Of course, “track” seems wanting as a name for the landscape that Lamin Fofana came back with. What we got, what we are still getting, as the thing unspools its textured strands, is our increasingly derelict Now, compressed and distilled, the good shards extracted from it, into a flexible terrain that flickers in and out of different configurations. At one moment, it is riot-space; at another, thinking-space; at yet another, chill-out-and-recharge-space; and at yet another, historical-space. At all times it is a delicate synthesis of multifarious strands and an enterprise in gauging dirt patches in this mad moment, in exposing little bits of hard ground on which our desires for another world, certainly for the end of this one, can continue to find traction.

Reza Negarestani
Keith Tilford
Chronosis: Exordium
Originally published in November 2018

A cosmic collaboration...

María Iñigo Clavo
Modernity vs. Epistemodiversity
Originally published in May 2016

It is a hallmark of postcolonial theory to question selective, self-flattering accounts of European modernity. Postcolonial theorists from both Europe and the rest of the world have illustrated how ideals of emancipation, equality, freedom, and scientific and industrial development were only possible through their opposites: colonial exploitation, inequality, slavery, torture, and suffering in the Global South. That’s why, during the 1990s, theorists felt it was necessary to insist that coloniality was the other face of modernity, the “dark side of the renaissance,” as Walter Mignolo famously put it.

Antke Engel
Queer Temporalities and the Chronopolitics of Transtemporal Drag
Originally published in October 2011

Life but how to live it—for years the name embellished the wall behind my bed: the place of love and desire, of fears and tears, of fatigue and regeneration. No question mark, thus no searching for sense, or meaning, or technologies. No comma, thus no singling out of some ontological given from the practices of sustaining, endangering, or losing it. Simply the pleasure and pain of engaging in social relations: of bitterly failing while jubilating, and cheering while messing it all up. It is the name of the Norwegian punk band that entered my life by chance when I turned up for a concert at the infamous Hamburg squat Rote Flora, and it was the first thing that came to mind when I heard about Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s new film project on punk archives and queer socialities.

Trevor Paglen
Fedorov’s Geographies of Time
Originally published in February 2018

Can we resurrect the people who have not been born yet, but who nevertheless died prematurely due to environmental devastation, hunger, racism, and inequality? Perhaps by learning from Fedorov to think about time as a landscape—one that we shape in the same way that we shape the earth’s surface—we can develop a framework for thinking some of our most urgent crises.

Andrei Platonov
Originally published in May 2018

After midnight, on the approach to Red Peregon station, the FD locomotive began to shout and weep. It sang in the winter darkness with the deep strength of its hot belly and then began to change to a gentle, weeping human breathing, addressing someone who was not replying. After falling briefly silent, the FD again complained into the air: human words could already be discerned in this signal, and whoever now heard them must have felt pressure on his own conscience because of the engine’s torment—helpless, heavy rolling stock hung on the maternal hook of her tender and the station’s approach signal was signaling red. The driver closed the last steam cutoff—the signal was still an obstinate red—and gave the three toots of a complete stop. He took out a red handkerchief and wiped his face, which the winter night’s wind was covering all the time with tears out of his eyes. The man’s vision had begun to weaken and his heart had become sensitive: the driver had lived some time in the world and travelled some distance over the earth. He did not curse into the darkness at the fools in the station, though he was going to have to take two thousand tons, from a standstill, up the incline, and the friction of the locomotive’s metal wheel rims would draw fire from the frozen rails.

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