Notes From the Urban Intertidal: A Paraontological Leaning

Hopewell, Hannah
Douglas, Andrew
O'Connor, Maria
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Notes from the Urban Intertidal: A Paraontological Leaning is a creative-practice doctoral research project, that stages fictionalised encounters with aspects of urban landscapes in late-modernity—landscapes that evolve within market-ready modes of existence. Encounter itself is conditioned by a turning-away from normative trajectories of urban practices that assume ameliorative capacities with respect to consequences of developing urban territory and the human subject. This research thinks through substrata of ameliorative capacity, that endure as the captivation of urbanisation by market logistics. In seeking what is opaque or indifferent to everyday urban regimes of control, and with necessary amplification or radicalization, the project figures the concurrency (not distance) of an always already, and other-placedness, that shapes a practice this thesis names para-fictioning. Without binding itself to the logic of ‘sense-making’, the thesis develops relations of alongsideness, occasioning transpositions—into words-without-language—of unmitigated exposure to the real subsisting under capitalist exploitation. François Laruelle’s non-philosophy, or non-standard thought, is engaged as a method of bringing the real—pure immanence—into thought, whereby the real is never claimed, but is, rather, cloned. Across radicalised ordinariness, para-fictioning, as method, discovers instances of radical solitude, without identifying with modernity’s constitutively assumed ‘auto-alienation’. In doing so, the thesis encounters faint resonance with a disjunctive common. Para-fictioning, textual by-product of non-philosophical encounter, performs a critical spatial practice, relating environmental urbanism to ‘decolonised thought’. This relation tests disciplinary limits and attends-to an expanded awareness afforded by the generic. In this way, the research develops and practices an experimental ‘advantage’ in order to resist the will-to-modernity, along with a progressive evolving of critical reflexes, including those of the split-subject, founding it.

The thesis presentation is in two segments or plateaus I have titled Part One: Parafictioning and Part Two: Exergue. The first comprises a body (or bodies) of creative image-writing, poetic para-fictioning. This creative component ‘holds’ the thesis of the ‘thesis’. Research is undertaken in the enactments of para-fictioning, broadly writing-imaging practices that critically think a political assay of current crises in urban landscapes, urban design, urban form-making and urban economic practices. Para-fictioning constitutes the major research outcome. With Part One of the thesis, there are two major components, those of Para-Fictioning and two Appendices. In all there are four works presented, two in Para-fictioning, Turn/Horizontal/(City)/Stranger, and The Urban Intertidal II. Appendix A comprises Critical Delirium, while Appendix B comprises the earliest of the works undertaken during candidature, Photographics.This body of creative works is augmented by a critical exegesis comprising Part Two. The exegesis is structured in five chapters or moments. Chapter One, Nonplace-here, sets the project aims and structure. The second chapter, Encountering Encounter, engages key literature pertaining to the notions of encounter, the urban ‘everyday’, and situated knowledge as a scoping of a post-human or postanthropocentric urban present. The chapter argues that current conditioning of environmental design and its ameliorative capacities obscure agendas constitutively aligned to neoliberalism, that extend to the hegemonic production of market-ready subjectivities and the perpetuation of a ‘recovery’ drive constituted in design-led ‘betterment’. Lived experience itself is here foundationally reconsidered via the notion of non-philosophical encounter, a transforming that argues for a ‘coming under’ the everyday. Drawing from a diversity of philosophical and urban thinkers—Laruelle, Galloway, Merrifield, Wark, Fisher, Lefebvre—an experimental turn to variants of nonhumanness ‘bypasses’ binaries defining the real and unreal. This aims not to develop yet another positional ontology from which to think, but to evolve a technology to think-with and, thus, to write-with. Chapter Three, The Generic Matrix: Practicing (Non) Thought, sets out the methodological strategy to ‘think-with-write-with’ urban everyday landscapes immanently, as relations of alongsideness. Within an understanding of Laruelle’s notion of generic experience, the chapter elucidates on the demands of encounter, to be experienced as sense and senselessness. Within the strategic dimensions of the generic, tactics are developed, related to Laruellean cloning, as transposition of pre-linguistic substrata into technologies—or analogues—amenable to textual producing of parafictioning. The chapter figures, in a first iteration, terrains-beyond-landscapes—or non-grounds—by way of encountering tidal actions along waterfronts, evident as rising and falling ‘data’, composing urban-maritime edges. A second iteration instantiates terrains-beyond-faces, the generic human—or non-human—giving rise to discussion of an opaque and contingent generic, its affordances for ‘coming under’ the ordinary ‘everyday’. These figures—non-ground and non-human—imbricate posthuman ‘knowledge’, folding physical border spaces and living, not in-order-to designate forms of knowing in, for example, maps or even in ontological claims, but to identify resonances of non-unified persistence as abiding value, a sort of shape of the lived without activating modernity’s fidelities, supposed lived autonomies in knowing, valuing and feeling. Thinking practices of François Laruelle, Katerina Kolosova, Alexander Galloway, John Ó Maoilearca and others here develop the critical contexts.

Chapter Four, Para-fictioning: In Practice, discusses the creative works that have been developed during candidature, delineating their developments across the arc of the doctoral research. The four works are each discussed in detail, moving from the most recent, Turn/Horizontal/(City)/Stranger, to the initial creative practice in Photographics. These are bought into dialogue with concerns developed in Chapters Two and Three, concerning critical and creative practices that emerge in relation to (non)philosophy’s generic nonhumanness and nonplace. The research closes with a final brief chapter, Breathing, emphasising how fictioning as method participates in transformations of the category of truth.

Urban landscape , Non-philosophy , Posthuman , Parafictioning
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