Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Through a field operative, audio of the seminar last week has come into my possession (unfortunately missing all of K-punk and the first half of K&K). I must say overall I was impressed by the high level of discourse from panelists and from questioners in the audience alike. The ratio of abuse to substantive critique was better than I'd thought; a large number of provocative lines of enquiry were broached. In many ways this is the kind of engagement a writer hopes for. So big up to organizers Jeremy Gilbert and Steve Goodman, to the participants, and to everybody who attended.

Of course there was plenty to disagree with. Surprisingly, rather than feeling exhausted with the debate, or feeling that it's been exhausted as a topic, I'm feeling energized. Listening to the talks and the questions and back-and-forth in between them, a lot of thoughts were stirred up at this end, some of them on the level of "are you nuts, man?!" or "that's JUST WRONG", but others more valuable because tending towards the levels of general contour and deep structure, and the central issue of what could be at stake in the existence (or non-existence) of a continuum and the project of trying to understand it.

Whatever the state of its vital signs at present (and I'm much more persuadable to the "it's dead, we're in a whole new era" argument than some imagine), the Nuum--as a lived historical reality and as a site of theorization--looks set to continue being an object of intensive study and passionate debate. It's an era that meant a lot to quite a lot of people; some of us are still sorting through those feelings and coming to new conclusions. So long as that doesn't detract from being alert to the possibilities of the present I don't see any harm in that and indeed see much to be gained.

In terms of the thoughts provoked by the seminar, some of these I hope to shape into open-ended meditations to be dropped at the other place, which I'll link to from here in due course. There's a temptation, naturally, to get stuck right into the business of poking holes in other people's poking of holes, but that will just result in a useless doily of intertext, won't it? There's also no point in doing that kind of thing in the absence of audio online or all the texts going up on people's blogs (so far there's just a couple) as it's only polite to link to things you're going to selectively quote from and wilfully misread, eh ;)

But mainly I just can't see the point of getting lost ever deeper in trees-not-wood. I'm also not much interested in "what's in, what's out" disputes. That was never what it was about. Honest! It's not a club, so no would-be members need feel denied admittance (to the point of wanting to bulldoze the building).
I liked the term Lisa Blanning brought up: "pattern recognition". That's primarily what nuum-ology is about. (Of course you can have pattern mis-recognition, and seeing patterns that aren't there at all).

To play a little on the word "recognition", that's a word that can refer to recognizing a claim, to notions of legitimacy or validation. But nuumology is not about recognizing heirs or safeguarding inheritances; it is much more like the way you can look at a child and recognize features from the parent. And that kind of feature-recognition gets fainter with the next generation, except that sometimes by genetic quirk the grandchild looks more like the grandparent than its mum or dad.
From a personal point of view, the emphasis I would put on it is much more to do with fondness than with legitimacy. Bassline made me smile, in part, because I could see the family resemblance. But each child is a creature in its own right, captivating and unique, with a personality all its own, mannerisms and gestures that seem to come out of nowhere.

So it's about recognizing patterns, and then perhaps finding a larger pattern in the patterns, and so on… Building ever upwards. In future I intend to direct my energy in that direction, because it's literally constructive.

To make a further painful pun, nuum-ology is also about "patent recognition". It's about trying to work out what emerging elements are really inventive and what are artful reworkings of earlier ideas. It's tracking the play of the emergent and the residual. See, the thing about the nuum is that it is neither a vanguard nor a tradition; it's both, simultaneously.