(At)Tempting Extreme: Approxi/Mating X-Topia

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Seminar 33 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Mashrur HOSSAIN, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh
This paper critically intervenes in contemporary extreme culture with a view to understanding if it offers any u-topian vision. For Bataille, “the extreme limit of the ‘possible’ is that point where [human] advances so far that one cannot conceive of the possibility of going further” (39). Addressing questions of ethics and excess, the paper offers a combined reading of Bloch’s ‘Not-Yet-Become’ and Bataille’s ‘general economy’ of expenditure to approximate what ‘extreme’ becomes. It wonders if extreme culture provides moments of and spaces for escaping the ‘already-in’ and reaching the ‘what-may-become.’ A research in progress for years, the paper moves through four phases. The first section traces the changing conceptualization and praxis of extreme, from disgusting to popular, from sin to virtue (Biskind). The second and third sections offer critical reading of ‘extreme film’ (from Saw and Antichrist to Squirmfest and A Serbian Film) and ‘extreme music’ (from Speed Metal and Noise to Goregrind) to analyze how extreme culture pushes human sensory and cognitive limitations to incredible, often excruciating, fringes which results in the extension of human senses and expansion of human horizons. The discussion involves ethical and ethnicity readings: it questions if the transgression of sanity, possibility, and tolerance excites criminality, and examines what the prevalence of extreme culture in the Global North has to do with technocracy and hyperconsumerism. The fourth section inquires if extreme culture approximates X-topia, a virtual/imaginary socio-temporal phenomenon that can be approximated by crazy overreachers but never reached as, like infinity which cannot be reduced to the idea of infinity (Levinas), X-topia is both the infinite (referring to the mathematical etymology of x) and ‘u-topia’ (i.e. not-place). The paper wonders if the re-organization of sensory perceptions effectuated by technology-spiked extreme culture opens up space for re-thinking the appropriation of human senses for good.