Planet: Reconnect

Interview with the writer Alain Damasio, philosopher of the "living beings", at a time when it is essential to be with each other!

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Meetings in the flesh have become even more important today as links are digitised and emptied of their physical dimensions. (…) We need these events.

 

Stimulating, intelligent, prospective! 

Les Furtifs, Alain Damasio’s latest book, that encourages commitment and action by proposing an exciting range of modes of collective resistance. The living, attention to the living, is at the heart of his universe. What is being alive Alain Damasio?

It’s being capable of differences. Capable of escaping from the habitus, routines and repetitions we are woven into. Above all, it is capable of metabolising what is not us, what passes through us, nourishes, deforms, attacks. To meet others, encounters, the source of an intimate transformation and in turn to restore its strength. To be alive is to rediscover our animal ancestry, to inhabit the bonds and places that make us, to seek a form of intensity and amplitude in our perceptions and actions. It is the opposite of fear and the search for comfort.

You are close to the philosopher Baptiste Morizot, whose work revolves around the living; how do your works, your experiences, your exchanges influence each other? Alain Damasio

Baptiste played a decisive role in my understanding of the living, he opened me up to an “ethopolitical” vision of relationships with the living that is often cruelly lacking in today’s ecology. To stop living as master and possessor of nature, yes, everyone says so – but just as much to stop believing oneself to be its protector! I was a prisoner of the most classical paradigms of the human/animal split, he sewed me back up to the fabric of ecosystems, intellectually – but also by what he is, by what he does, and notably the art of tracking. As for me, I must undoubtedly bring him something – since he responded to my friendship, but I have much more to learn from him than he has from me!

Meetings in the flesh have become even more important today as links are digitised and emptied of their physical dimensions. They attempt this crossbreeding between demanding thought and art, activism and reading of the times. They are attuned to urban and political issues, knowing the extent to which technology structures us, emancipates us and traps us at the same time. It’s very difficult to judge what it produces or changes for the public, but for those who participate, it’s a matrix of tracks and of long food. We need these events.

What importance do you attach to associations and NGOs that take care of the living?

I find that people write and talk a lot, me first. This public discourse is precious when it is free and because it is free. But it can never be enough. You don’t change the world by being satisfied with heated debates and conferences. Yes, it does help, build, awaken. In the same way that a radio drama or a concert “alters” our perceptions in a strong sense and helps us to become a little larger-minded and more sensitive. But the struggle and field associations are the ones that will really impact our practices, change the balance of power, turn around concrete situations. Not just through words, as here, in this interview!

The question of fall or collapsology raises the question of a path towards the extinction of living beings. You are in a less anxiety-provoking and more optimistic posture, asking the question of what can make us even more alive: making us living beings! What do you think of the theories that inevitably announce the death of the living?

We act as if the living were something fragile, a small thing to protect when nothing is more powerful. Human beings are very arrogant to believe that they control these powers. At worst, they reduce them, they extinguish a few flames without being able to touch the inferno, which is as much made up of fungi, bacteria, algae, protozoa… as it is of plants and animals. Of course, many species disappear, sometimes entire biotopes, ecocides have been observed, but life itself cannot become extinct, even if the whole of humanity were to destroy each other in a nuclear war. The question is much more: how can we encourage the deployment of living things; how can we make free evolution possible? How can we regain this vitality within us in a technocene that dematerializes touch, sight, hearing, action, thought, art… ?”

In a dystopian society of generalised surveillance, which relies heavily on visual control, you make the bet – in Les Furtifs – that sound is a mode of dissidence, of resistance, but also of creation and emancipation. Les Furtifs slips into the blind spots of human vision, their signature is a sound vibration: thrill. What is a living sound? What is your thrill?   

A living sound is a sound that doesn’t exhaust itself, that remains perpetually in motion, that mutates while holding at the end of its vibrations a world, a world that we feel expanding, contracting, continuing. It is an animal whose flesh is made of air. My thrill? Spontaneously, I would say the voice of my daughters. That adult lost fusion between timbre and pure emotion. In music, it is a piece by the Bauhaus group called “Bela lugosi’s dead”. Nine minutes of crackling floor and telluric bass, each cracking sound boosts everything…it’s prodigious! It was an inspiration for the furtive thrill – le frisson furtif.

The question is much more: how can we encourage the deployment of living things; how can we make free evolution possible? How can we regain this vitality within us in a technocene that dematerializes touch, sight, hearing, action, thought, art… ?”

Sound and multimedia director Floriane Pochon has imagined sound creations based on your universe, notably Les Furtifs. How do you articulate literary and sound work together?

With Floriane, we created the sound universe of Les Furtifs even before I was able to write it. She relied on the character sheets, the notebooks, what I was telling her. There was only one chapter when we started. She wrote the book before me with her sounds, as if it existed before being letters and lines. For me, literature and sound creation exploit the same rhythmic material, the same sense of duration and flow, metabolise the same potentialities of a raw sound by articulating them. Simply put, I have 16 vowels and 18 consonants, 34 phonemes in all, while she has the whole universe to speak but with a much more difficult syntax to master.

Graphic designer and typographer Esther Szac designed a writing system for Les Furtifs. What is the meaning of this work on typography, which is an integral part of the narrative? 

We are dying under the anxiogenic imaginations and lethal practices of the time (…) To be alive is to seek a form of intensity and amplitude in our perceptions and actions. It is the opposite of fear and search for comfort.

Damasio, Alain. Les Furtifs. Editions La Volte, 2019. 704 p.








It’s simply to recall and use the evidence that the lettrists in poetry – an Apollinaire or a Mallarmé – understood and that advertisers and the brands they serve also understand perfectly, namely that words are optical beings, capable of conveying sensations through their shape, size, the very sculpture of their letters, and that a diacritical sign such as an umlaut provides a visual emotion and plays on the speed of a reading. It is to conceive writing as an art of the brain, but also as a sound and visual art, here graphic, by the layout, the management of spaces, by the play of masses, the deformation of a letter, in short the mutation imposed on very seen forms, overly seen, a J whose missing point will secretly make one feel mourning. It is also to affirm in hollow: the book form is far from having said its last word. Writing also means thinking about the page, the typography, the art of black and white.






How do you view the forums of ideas that bet that thinking is a celebration and art and activism an answer to the challenges of our time?

Meetings in the flesh have become even more important today as links are digitised and emptied of their physical dimensions. They attempt this crossbreeding between demanding thought and art, activism and reading of the times. They are attuned to urban and political issues, knowing the extent to which technology structures us, emancipates us and traps us at the same time. It’s very difficult to judge what it produces or changes for the public, but for those who participate, it’s a matrix of tracks and of long food. We need these events.

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