No-body, No Space, No Desire
Without the possibility of property ownership, the sense of desire becomes muted.
The elevator itself, as an objective figure, has no residence, even within a residence. It resides between the walls and between the floors. The last thing anybody wants to do is to spend any significant amount of time in an elevator, especially an elevator who loses its primary function of shuffling objects and agents vertically throughout the building. The elevator is latent non-space, in which no production can occur. It is a space that must be occupied at times by the flaneur-worker when delivering to apartment complexes.
Unlike the communist cigarette circle expounded by Mladen Dolar (2013), the elevator is constricting, muting, and intolerable space. Much like a cramped subway car, the sardine can of space hardly affords much building of a common sentiment, even though the elevator is the most common space in a building. Compression of bodies together does not necessitate an alliance based on proximate group-membership, but the event of compression may be a starting point for a discursive consciousness. The elevator is a means to an escape or an entrance, whereas the smoking communism of the spontaneous exchange of a cigarette circle outside of the space of labor where an enchantment overtakes the bodies through open exchange of words, experiences, cigarettes, and lights. Often even the awkward glance is reluctantly exchanged on the elevator, apart from courteousness of asking which floor the newcomer/"guest" is going to.
The elevator can be thought of as a floating cognition, all cognitions that occur within the elevator-space are in motion and are also technically floating through space. The elevator is no-body, but holds bodies suspended in space between floors. The falling body is hardly aware of its dynamic movement since the architecture of the elevator typically occludes the motion by means of its own artifice.
On the other hand, restricted movement in a compressed space can offer increased productivity. Stiegler reflects that his imprisonment led to his development as a philosopher because incarceration offered him the “gift of Time,” of which he was able to structure a strict reading habit (Bilmes, LARB, 2019). Perhaps reading on an elevator is as unconventional or inappropriate as is reading while walking in an urban zone, but that should not inhibit the spontaneous activity should it be called for, even as a performative or political act of spectacle/art-making.
Computational Neurosis //
Does the elevator have a brain? The cognition of electric objects may be significantly more computational than the organic human brain. Would the elevator speak if it had the chance to? Is the ability to have language the origin point of having volition? Does the elevator have agency of its own? What is the topographic space of desire? Do desires exist outside the frame of the individual? In a self-satiated auto-fulfilling system or environment there is hardly a need to incorporate foreign elements into the configuration to sustain/regulate a stability.
Jerome Feldman argues for a Neural Theory of Language, such that the formation, transmission, and relatability operate on the principles of neuronal circuits and systems that transcend cultural or linguistic arguments. The computational aspects of an elevator’s processes are single-layer and non-distributed, whereas human cognition has parallel processing of input data with rapid detection and filtering of sensorial qualities.
A desire can be invoked over a broad population, where suddenly it can be localized and procured made manifest. How is it that non-fungible tokens suddenly became worth having during the lockdown? Where a non-transmittable property, digital art, came to represent authentic and sole ownership, even though thousands of variations of the same figure were produced?
As Samo Tomsic formulates the question “what is this non-being,” in relation to being found in modern physics,and responds that it is “discourse, language, which has become radically de-psychologised, detached from its user; language in its absolute autonomy, which is here most openly actualised in mathematics.” The fact that language could be disembodied from the user, and further than it can be autonomous in-itself generates a question of ethics. This ethical complexity is summoned through language’s process of subject-hood making. All objects and subjects are sanctioned through language, or at the very least symbolic representations.
An object is not necessarily a non-being, since its ability for interactivity with a user suggests that is it more than solid or blank space. When navigating with a virtual map, the correlations between reality and the representation ground the body in the world and wire the brain with a suggested confidence at finding its destination. The elevator itself has a vertical map, that is coded to floor levels. The recognition of which floor it is currently on suggests a self-awareness. But would it be mad to grant the elevator a being-hood or state-hood with autonomous rights simply based on some form of computational self-coordination of itself?
Bilmes, Leonid. “Daring to Hope for the Improbable: On Bernard Stiegler’s ‘The Age of Disruption’,” Los Angeles Review of Books (November 07, 2019).
Dolar, Mladen. “The Smoking Communism,” 2013.
Dunietz, Jesse. “The Hidden Science of Elevators,” Popular Mechanics (September 2019)
Feldman, J.A. (2006). From Molecule to Metaphor: A Neural Theory of Language, MIT Press.
Tomsic, Samo. “Towards a New Transcendental Aesthetics?” in Psychoanalysis: Topological Perspectives - New Conceptions of Geometry and Space in Freud and Lacan, eds. Michael Friedman and Samo Tomsic,[transcript], 2016.