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‘Night Gives Birth to Day’ as the ‘Conquest of Imperfection’

De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), a residential workshop co-organized in 2019 by Hou Hanru and Evelyne Jouanno, with Dalida María Benfield and Christopher Bratton, viewed art as a necessary, critical and independent counterpoint to the reality and philosophy of accelerated technological development.

The workshop occurred in the context of the Center’s annual research residency, entitled Commonplaces and Entanglements, after Édouard Glissant’s phrase. We examined the interrelation of technics, humans and “nature,” and explored the emergence of “cosmopolitics” and “cosmotechnics” philosophies as a necessary dialogue – with presentations by Bernard Stiegler and Yuk Hui – and reconciliation between the planet and techne in the context of the “Anthropocene” and beyond. We also investigated the transformations and future of our understandings of life beyond the planet, with Troy Therrien, as well rural and exurban space, including the question of the avant-garde. We end with a beginning, an actualizing of what is already felt, an articulation of the shift in our understanding of where we find ourselves or more urgently, where we might go. In “’Night Gives Birth to Day’ as the ‘Conquest of Imperfection’,” the text he presented on the occasion of De Rerum Natura, philosopher Bernard Stiegler theorizes the end of the Anthropocene and the processes through which new forms are emerging. Key to these are the role of artist and philosopher, who together are tasked as the gardeners of new “biospheric localities,” grown from the humus of ideas and creolized from, after Glissant, “the excited commotion of diversity.”

The best way to realize your dreams is to wake up.

—Paul Valéry

What will the twenty-first century have been at the beginning of the twenty-second century, for those who will still be living in the biosphere – which itself became a technosphere during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (also known as the Anthropocene era)? Such is the question raised by the most recent IPCC reports, as well as by Antonio Guterres’s comments on 24 January 2019 at the World Economic Forum in Davos. For the moment, what we already know is that the twenty-first century is:

Appearing on Earth more than three billion years ago, life became more complex in becoming cellular, then multicellular, thereby constituting living bodies – plants and animals – composed of internal organs themselves multicellular, to which Jean- Baptiste Lamarck gave the name ‘organisms’. And then, three million years ago, exorganisms appeared, that is, organisms capable of forming, with their endosomatic organs, and in particular with their hands and their brain, exosomatic organs.

What I call ‘exorganisms’ are what are more commonly called ‘human beings’, because for them, exosomatic organs are more important than endosomatic organs. For example: in the way that Stephen Hawking was someone who turned his disabled and incapacitated condition into a thought of physics and thus of movement, or that Homer was a blind man who allowed us to see, or Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles (and here we should refer to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane and to their relationship to heroin, but I won’t do that now), while Django Reinhardt, with his paralysed fingers, reinvented how to play the guitar, Robert Wyatt wrote and played Rock Bottom in his wheelchair, and Joë Bousquet poetized by becoming the quasi-cause of his own wound – as we learn from Gilles Deleuze.

These singularities are ways of giving form to exosomatization as ‘modelling’ and ‘shaping’ that is scholarly, noetic, artistic: exceptional and incomparable, incalculable and inexhaustible. That these ways are inexhaustible means that they nourish what I call the spiritual necromass, or the noetic humus, from forest spirits and the cult of the dead to databases, via the Library of Alexandria, today lost, and the Royal Libraries that were founded throughout Europe, and via the Museums, first in Athens, becoming in the Republic of Letters cabinets of curiosities, all this leading to the Louvre as the national museum, and to its emancipatory ideal as dreamed by Diderot and Louis-Sébastien Mercier.


What is a work [oeuvre]? It is what opens up [ouvre] in exosomatization – which becomes the new law of evolution, as Lotka showed in 1945, and remains there as a fundamental component of the spiritual necromass-cum-noetic humus through the work of study – a path through which the entropic becoming brought to light by thermodynamics is reversed, or rather, forms a loop, that is, a recursivity, itself inscribed in a complex tangle of loops [1].

Alfred J. Lotka, from The Law of Evolution as a Maximal Principle.

This entanglement of loops can temporarily form into a neganthropic locality. This is what was already done by life, as Erwin Schrödinger showed, but in another mode life doing so, precisely, in the endosomatic mode – whereas a neganthropic locality is what diverts the arrow of time by deferring it and différantiating it, and at the same time pharmacologically accelerating it, at the risk, in the Anthropocene, of provoking an irreversible collapse.


A work, inasmuch as it fundamentally and irreducibly stems from exosomatization:

Hence we need to take care of the works bequeathed to us, in order to increase their différance through what Derrida called their dissemination, and so as to reduce their inevitable toxicity: works, being essentially exosomatic, are in fact and essentially pharmaka.

Works can be:


What is a work of art? It is what appears around thirty thousand years ago, of which Lascaux is a more recent instance (dating from seventeen thousand years ago), hence more than ten thousand years after the first known works of art, and which in Georges Bataille finds the spectator who will write Lascaux or The Birth of Art starting from this shock:

[A]t one point night gave birth to day and the daylight we find at Lascaux illumines the morning of our immediate species. It is the man who dwelt in this cave of whom for the first time and with certainty we may finally say: he produced works of art; he is of our sort [2].

No doubt one could object that today, we should go back to Chauvet, where there are works painted thirty-five thousand years ago, in order to find this dawn [point du jour] born from night. But this is of little importance: if it is true that the one whom Bataille calls Homo ludens makes exosomatization into art (and the question this raises is of knowing if what Donald Winnicott described as the transitional space between mother and child also appears at this stage of exosomatization), this nascent art, by this making, marks the emergence of those who, having made possible the experience of a clear evidence of art, we can call ‘us’ (can say: ‘we who begin there’), exorganisms belonging to the human race because they recognize themselves in it. If, therefore, this premise is true, then we must conclude that art has a very specific responsibility in the face of the transhumanist fable of what has come to be known as the ‘Singularity’.


The work of art opens the era of what, after Aristotle, we should call the noetic soul, even if we can thus no longer conceive noeticity quite like Aristotle – since, in the way we are conceiving the work of art, it belongs to the pursuit of exosomatization that began three million years earlier, an age that in this way would still have been pre-noetic. But whether pre-noetic or noetic (like Homo ludens in Bataille’s sense), the work is a technical exteriorization, and it arises from this primordial technicity: it opens only at this price. And it is not only the work of art that is technical: noesis in general is equally so, and in totality – but this is what, with Plato, nascent philosophy rejects, and this rejection, which is philosophy’s very foundation, will last all the way to Marx (who himself swings between two positions).

To achieve what Nietzsche will call the ‘transvaluation of all values’ is to overcome this rejection, by performatively taking, with Nietzsche (who entrusts this task to philosophical art and to artistic philosophy), a step beyond Nietzsche, a step that would be a dance step, but one that risks being a danse macabre: this risk is the yardstick of what is entailed by the work of art in the twenty-first century. In what follows, and in passing through Joseph Beuys, I will try to show that the philosopher and the artist today have the responsibility and the task of together becoming the gardeners of biospheric locality, which they must think and care about [panser] at all scales of locality, such that they hybridize and creolize it, according to the analysis of Édouard Glissant, where this implies a task of political economy of a completely new kind, which is also a poetic economy, and where the challenge of art is no more and no less than to reinvent work – which in turn implies the need to reinvent money, and this is what we learn from Joseph Beuys in What is Money? [3].

Conceived as such a care [soin] in biospheric locality concatenated at various creolized scales, and in the test and ordeal of what Achille Mbembe calls the ‘becoming black’ (or ‘black becoming’: in French, devenir nègre) of what, from the biosphere, has become a technosphere, conceived in such a way, as a care of this kind, every work is always – and in the twenty-first century more than ever – a bandage or a dressing [pansement] that can always become infected: it must regularly be changed, which, in a trivial sense, means that it is not possible in the fifteenth century to produce work like that in the Chauvet cave, nor in the nineteenth century is it possible to do so like Leonardo da Vinci, nor in the twentieth century is it possible to think like Marx, nor in the twenty-first century to repeat Duchamp or Beuys, even though it is necessary to produce with them insofar as they are dead and preserved in their works, which thus constitute what I call tertiary retentions. This is so, despite the fact that, as Glissant says, everything begins with repetition, and that for this, it is necessary to conserve the dressing [pansement] that has been changed by metabolizing it in and through what I will describe as a noetic humus.


Every work is technical, as I said, but it is less than three centuries since the emergence of ‘technology’ in the sense referred to by Heidegger as ‘modern technology’ [4], and from which arose what he also called Gestell, that is, the cybernetic and atomic age of technology. We ourselves now refer to the age of modern technology as the Anthropocene era. And, along with the IPCC and numerous other key observers of and actors in the Anthropocene era, including the Secretary- General of the United Nations, and after Günther Anders, but also after Vladimir Vernadsky, Alfred Lotka and Arnold Toynbee, we ask ourselves: is the Anthropocene era the end-age?

The end is what always presents itself like Janus:

Becoming urban, and this is a pharmacological becoming, life’s end in the sense of its goal becomes technical, and, as urbanity, forms noetic localities, and the claim today is that these are becoming ‘smart cities’. But there are all kinds of noetic localities, and on all kinds of scales, including, as I have already mentioned, the scale of the biosphere itself.

In pre-noesis, as in noesis, the unfinished character of life is no longer manifested simply or fundamentally through the specific and evolutionary reproduction of the organs characteristic of what we call a species, but through the différant reproduction of works, even mechanical works, in the sense that Heidegger gives to this word by looking at Van Gogh’s Shoes, then by reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus, but also in the sense that Ignace Meyerson gives to this word in Les fonctions psychologiques et le œuvres.


What happens when today’s most powerful designers, producers and operators (GAFAM, or a large majority of them) claim that contemporary exosomatic organogenesis will soon be reaching perfection, and thus the so-called Singularity – confiscating, spoiling and obliterating in advance, as if to leave it inaudible, invisible and insensible, the essential question of singularity with which Deleuze objected to the ‘thought systems’ of the universal, and which Heidegger tried to find in Da-sein, leading him to later posit that in the era of Gestell, this Da-sein is no longer the first question? What has happened is that exosomatization has reached an eschatological limit, which leads to the claim that the process of exosomatization is finished, and no longer needs what was called ‘man’, which I prefer to call, after Socrates, dialogical noesis (which is also to say, dia-noetic noesis, that is, always already divided and thus unfinished), and, after Aristotle, the noetic soul (as a type of mobility, says Aristotle – vegetative and sensitive souls designating other types of mobility, mobility in general being in his ontology the desire of the first immobile mover).

When Masaki Fujihata presents his Conquest of Imperfection, he attests that what is at stake, here, is the quasi-causal necessity of exosomatic contingency, unthought and untreated by philosophy, and this is why the works of Fujihata should be understood together with Deleuze’s consideration of Joë Bousquet, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Malcolm Lowry and Alice in Wonderland on the basis of the noetic humus of the Stoics, whom it is a question of reading for ourselves, that is, of humidifying for ourselves; and by treating and taking care of oneself with one’s tears, saliva, one’s psychosomatic moods that are always ready to become infected – the Stoics being themselves the first thinkers and treaters of such dressings and treatments, that in French we call pansements.


Can we read Joseph Beuys’s open letter, ‘By presenting this, I no longer belong to art’, with the anartist Marcel Duchamp, and vice versa? If yes, why and how? If no, why not, and what to do now? What to do with what Fujihata tells us about imperfection as conquest? To read Duchamp with Beuys and vice versa would be to begin by remembering that when Duchamp stops painting, he reflects on the proletarianization of production in all its forms, that is, the proletarianization of production as exosomatization in all its forms, whereas it is by thinking and treating (or taking care of) art starting from a reconsideration of work that Beuys opens the question of social sculpture, and does so by way of Epimetheus [5].

As for what happens to these questions in the twenty-first century, I maintain, together with a group whose aim is to form a noetic internation [6], that we must completely rethink global economy as the struggle against entropy and consequently as the reconstruction of localities, and we must do so in order to enter the Neganthropocene era [7], whereas the Anthropocene era seems to have led to the exospheric and exorbitant age of exosomatic evolution, which for this reason does indeed seem to constitute a terminal stage, including in the sense of the IPCC, but which is also a kind of endosomatization of the exosomatic (in the form, for instance, of neurotechnology).

I maintain with this group that, in the Anthropocene era, and in order to leave it, art and philosophy must reconsider, from the exosomatic standpoint, the questions:

Life in general is the sculpture of the living, but also of the dead and as a necromass (Vernadsky shows that the biomass feeds on the necromass with the help of the sun), as well as cellular death (see La sculpture du vivant, by Jean Claude Ameisen, and also La vie la mort, by Jacques Derrida, and Biodeconstruction, by Francesco Vitale). But here we must open the question of gene therapies and restriction enzymes inasmuch as they indeed enable ‘sculpting’ rather than gardening.


With all this, and with the artists of ‘artificial life’, such as Stelarc, Eduardo Kac and his bio art (about which we can wonder, however, what he’s playing at), with Orlan, and with many others, questions are raised ‘ahead of the curve’ on the state of scientific art, and this requires a much deeper investigation of the question of the relationship between art, science, technology and economics, and their co- responsibilities. For this, we should reread Beuys, which in no way means to parrot him, that is, to repeat him in a sterile and stereotypical fashion (to take up a Beuysian posture of a ‘Beuysian artist’, which could only be ridiculous), but to critique him in the Kantian sense, as well as in the Goethian sense.

What Volker Harlan says in the introduction to Beuys’s What is Art? is important: the question that Beuys raises is firstly that of exercise, which must ultimately lead to social sculpture [9]. What Beuys claims above all is that noesis is artistic, and that all noetic exorganisms (together constituting what he calls the social organism) are artists in potential, which is equally to say, philosophers in potential. All are sculptors, which is true in the sense that the gardener sculpts the living by pruning what they have planted in a soil that is plasticized, loosened, enriched, as humus that must be metabolized in multiple ways, from the best to the worst, and in the sense that education, as conceived by Noel Fitzpatrick and Glenn Loughran at the Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media, Dublin Institute of Technology, takes care of and treats noetic life insofar as it is pharmacological.


I would now like to return to The Conquest of Imperfection – which announces a task, an injunction or a commitment that also seems to present itself as a retrospective gaze projecting a future remaining yet to come, and does so by inscribing it into ineluctably entropic becoming, but as a bifurcation that we must, after Bailly, Longo and Montévil, consider as anti-entropic. I would like to return to Fujihata’s question, but by now quickly reading (in a very introductory way) Introduction à la Poétique du divers and of relation, by Edouard Glissant – on the basis of which I will open up some considerations after and with Achille Mbembe’s Critique de la raison nègre.

Why invoke these works in order to take a step beyond Beuys’s social sculpture and the gardening for which it calls? First of all, to draw attention to two questions that I and the Geneva 2020 group believe to be highly aporetic and characteristic of the real and fundamental challenges of the Anthropocene era, and of the effective possibilities, albeit very improbable (incalculable, and stemming from a will), of leaving the Anthropocene along a path leading towards the Neganthropocene. These two challenges are:

It is a question, however, of knowing if this creolization remains in effect today, and if it is still possible when the technologies of the ‘data economy’ generate the ‘becoming black’ that Mbembe tries to think and treat, and that Yves Citton also investigates with Fred Moten and his thought of the ‘undercommons’ [10].


Before turning to this all too brief reading, let’s recap. Art is what affirms the end of the world in exosomatization – this end having two faces. Exosomatization is the conquest of imperfection such that the exosomatic organs that are works, and that arise from noetic dreams in the sense made thinkable (and ‘care-able’ – pansable) by Valéry and by Miyazaki – always end up revealing their irreducible nightmarish potentialities.

The worst is the perfection promised by the new slave traders.

The best is what provides the opportunity for sculpting and gardening exercises through which it is possible to develop a contributory economy that struggles against entropy in its three dimensions, and therefore against anthropy, which is the program of the Contributory Learning Territory launched three years ago in the northern suburbs of Paris [11].

Such a struggle necessarily involves a re-evaluation of locality and of its relations with instruments, which, by opening it and deterritorializing it, can both creolize it and hybridize it, to cross-breed it, ‘le métisser’ in the strict sense of Glissant – by imposing on it from outside a logic that empties it of meaning or that on the contrary gives rise to new effective singularities, such as Charlie Parker’s genius. These are the stakes of Glissant’s Poétique du divers, but I don’t think that it brings them to the level that I would now like to introduce in order to read it with Mbembe, and vice versa – to read Mbembe with Glissant, and all this, with Beuys and against Beuys, right up against Beuys, whose understanding of Epimetheus remains too superficial.


Glissant speaks from the Caribbean Sea, which he distinguishes from the Mediterranean by positing that the latter, in relation to the Caribbean, is ‘concentrated’. By contrast, the Caribbean is an open sea,

a sea that diffracts […] and that carries the excited commotion [émoi] of diversity’ [12].

Diversity: this is the key word, opposed here (p. 15) to the Mediterranean, which inclines ‘towards a thought of the One and of unity’ (p. 14). Is it enough, however, to give such weight to geographical location? Of course not: just as without certain types of boat, maps, compasses, and many other things, the Caribbean would not have been open to diffraction, so too, without its own boats (there were not yet any compasses), without its maps, more rudimentary than those of 1492, and especially without the alphabetical reticulation on the basis of which the Greek colonies would be settled while in Judea the society of the One Book would be formed, along with a considerable and utterly transformational power of grammatization (see Vernant and Auroux), without all of that, the Mediterranean would itself never have inclined towards ‘a thought of the One and of unity’. (We should note in passing that diffraction is the metaphor that Leroi-Gourhan uses to describe how what he calls ‘technical tendencies’ are realized by projecting themselves through the ‘interior milieus’ of ‘ethnic cells’, which diffracts them into a vast diversity of technical facts constituting a technical milieu.)

Creolization occurs in the Caribbean as a real intertwining and fusing ‘of cultural elements from absolutely diverse backgrounds’, in such a way that it engenders ‘something absolutely unpredictable’. This creolization occurs in Neo-America in such a way that

slavery, oppression and dispossession, [all these] crimes bring to reality a genuine conversion of ‘being’ [13].

This conversion, however, is not limited to the Caribbean and Neo-America: it ‘operates throughout the whole world’ [14]. This is so because ‘the cultures of the world [are] brought into contact in an absolutely devastating way’. It should be noted:

These are the pharmacological technologies typical of a certain age of exosomatization, and they constitute the context of creolization described here as a global process, while the pharmacological technology that characterized the becoming-One of the Mediterranean under the influence in Greece of the sophists, and in Judea of the scribes, became the issue at stake in Plato’s Academy, in Aristotle’s Lyceum and Mouseion, in the Synagogue as a place for forming and training a hermeneutic community, then, a little later, at the library that Alexander, Aristotle’s pupil, made possible with the Ptolemies in the city that would bear his name.

Glissant emphasizes that mediatic fusion – or, more broadly, medial fusion (if we take up Augustin Berque’s term) – is the bearer of conflicts and clashes, but also brings with it ‘advances in consciousness and hope’: I would therefore say that it is ‘pharmacological’. But despite this, Glissant does not thematize this double dimension, which I consider essential.

On the basis of these reflections on the roots of creolization, he distinguishes ‘three kinds of peoples’ (p. 16) of Neo-America – firstly, the Amerindian peoples, exterminated, then secondly, peoples such as

the migrant peoples of Europe […] arriving with their songs, their family traditions, their tool, the image of their god, and so on; [thirdly] the Africans, who arrive stripped of everything […], even of their language [15],

since in slave ships and on plantations, ‘people who spoke the same language were never put together’. Glissant then advances the concept that seems to me to be the most singular and most powerful in his analysis of creolization as he thinks it starting both from Creole speech and the matrix of jazz: the migrant coming from Africa, having been stripped of everything, ‘recomposes from traces a language and arts that could be said to be valid for all’. Such an assertion is obviously audacious, and one cannot help but think of Derrida’s analysis of Fichte’s Address to the German Nation, where Fichte posits that some Germans are not real Germans and that some non-Germans are at bottom more German than they are… I nevertheless share Glissant’s thesis, to which I add another, one that is complementary, but equally essential. This is what I will develop now, by way of conclusion.


Deprived of all that these Germans had, whether they were original or adopted in Fichte’s sense, the African of Neo-America, thus stripped,

did something unpredictable based only on the power of his memory, that is, only on thoughts of the trace that remained to him; he composed, on the one hand, Creole languages, and, on the other hand, forms of art valid for all, such as, for example, the music of jazz that is reconstructed with the help of adopted instruments, but on the basis of a trace of fundamental African rhythms [16].

That jazz has been an art form valid for all is something to which I can personally attest: for years, the only thing that I really wanted to do with my life was listen to jazz, recorded or live. I discussed this at some length in The Age of Disruption. And I also talked about a period of incarceration when, stripped, as are all prisoners, if not quite in the way that slaves are (I kept my language), the only thing that was left to me was my memory, to which were added these ‘spiritual instruments’ that are books, and that, by a grace that was not divine but philosophical (that of the attention given to me by Gérard Granel), I was able to practise, that is, to read, just as I was able to write thanks to the school where I had learned to do it twenty years earlier, of which still-fresh traces remained, and which I tried to make the most of.

My reason for drawing attention to these points is not that I am trying to conjure certain ‘romantic’ features of my life, but because, in prison, deprived of the jazz that had then come precisely to occupy the centre of my life, I underwent a conversion, and I did so by experiencing the locality by default of the cell where I had to keep on living. This led me to reflect intensely on what constitutes a noetic memory, and on what had affected me so much about jazz – among many other questions.

As for jazz, I dwelt on the ‘blue note’, which according to some is not a note, and which I believe jazz has caused to circulate around the world by combining it, on the one hand, with African rhythms reconceived through drums, that is, the set of drums and cymbals constituting what is called a drum kit, and, on the other hand, with recording inasmuch as it replaced writing that had led Western music to a sublime point of development – the many discoveries of which Charles Mingus and a few others (for example, Duke Ellington) were able to adopt.

These remarks on jazz – and we should never forget the degree to which the Adorno of 1944–1947 could neither hear nor understand it, discussing Benny Goodman when he should have heard Charlie Parker – are not presented here as an aside: they are the heart of the subject of creolization inasmuch as it can occur for better or for worse, as it extends throughout the whole world under the control of the culture industries, marketing, and now, ‘social networks’. This is why, when Glissant posits that

the thought of the trace seems to me to be a new dimension of what must be opposed in the current situation of the world, in what I call the thought of systems and systems of thought [17].

I suggest we deepen his thesis by considering the trace at one and the same time as:

I no longer have time to specify what, in Glissant’s view, is the fundamental meaning of the difference between creolization and métissage (miscegenation, cross-breeding, cross-pollination) – because I prefer to finish by taking up his observations with Achille Mbembe. Let’s just say that metissage can be an object of calculation, whereas creolization frees the incalculable, the unpredictable, the improbable, pure alterity, that is, absolute singularity. And here, I want to emphasize that what results from this is what Glissant describes as micro-climates and macro-climates (see p. 19), that is, localities, which with Sara Baranzoni and Paolo Vignola we can call performative.

It is important to note, here, to finish with Glissant, that:


Achille Mbembe takes up Glissant’s 1996 analysis, but also, in a way, returns to it by overturning from the point of view that imposes itself on him in 2013. What creolization promises inasmuch as it is not cross-breeding, métissage (nor hybridization understood in this calculated sense, such as the production of hybrid corn) turns out, in the twenty-first century – in Critique de la raison nègre – to be a becoming-black, a devenir-nègre where the issue is the extension of the stripping [dépouillement] that had struck the slaves coming from Africa (but also from India, as Mbembe and Glissant recall, and from many other countries, before this became the plantation system that can be seen as the matrix of modern capitalism) to all the forms of despoiling that purely computational capitalism, totally unbound from any compromise with the ‘world of work’, imposes on the biosphere-cum-technosphere by disruptively accelerating the Anthropocene – which is thus rushing headlong towards the abyss.

And here, Mbembe refers to the reparation that must, for example, give constant care to the world starting from what I believe to be what I called, at the beginning of this lecture, the noetic humus:

The durability of the world depends on our capacity to reanimate beings and things that seem lifeless […].

The world will not survive unless humanity devotes itself to the task of sustaining what can be called the reservoirs of life [18].

These reservoirs presuppose giving value to what Glissant, quoted by Mbembe, calls silt:

environment in the midst of which humanity also had to find space for work and rest – an environment that needed protection and repair. […] And this double labor of transformation and regeneration was part of a cosmological assembly […]. Sharing the world with other beings was the ultimate debt. And it was, above all, the key to the survival of both humans and nonhumans. […] [H]umans and nonhumans were silt for one another [19].

Glissant also saw silt as a residue deposited along the banks of rivers, in the midst of archipelagos, in the depths of oceans, along valleys and at the feet of cliffs – everywhere, and especially in those arid and deserted places where, through an unexpected reversal, fertilizer gave birth to new forms of life, work, and language [20].

I read these lines bearing in mind what Glissant says about the unexpectedness of creolization, what Beuys says about social sculpture, and what Fujihata says about the conquest of imperfection – where silt is precisely the accumulation of those traces that begin with exosomatization three million years ago, an exosomatization that has now become a reticulated data industry operating at two thirds of the speed of light, disintegrating the localities that are home to creolizations of all kinds (languages, arts, ways of life, cities, mathematics, sciences, philosophy, law), and which must again be made to serve always idiomatic noesis, just as Charlie Parker made the radio and the recording industry serve music.

Thanks to my friends who are musicians, poets, visual artists, architects – thanks to Masaki Fujihata, and as a co-responsibility claimed by a philosopher addressing himself to artists in order to work on the most urgent task: to rebuild the economy (political as well as libidinal).

This text was delivered on the occasion of De Rerum Natura (On the Order of Things), the Center for Arts, Design, and Social Research residency, Spoleto, Italy, July 2019. It is published by permission of the author, granted in 2019. Translated by Daniel Ross.

‘Night Gives Birth to Day’ as the ‘Conquest of Imperfection’ is part of Urgent Pedagogies Issue#5: Pluraversality



Alfred J. Lotka, “The Law of Evolution as a Maximal Principle,” Human Biology 17 (1945), pp. 167–94.


Georges Bataille, Prehistoric Painting: Lascaux, or The Birth of Art, trans. Austryn Wainhouse (Geneva: Skira, 1955), p. 11.


Joseph Beuys, What is Money? A Discussion,” with Johann Philipp von Bethmann, Hans Binswanger, Werner Ehrlicher and Rainer Willert, trans. Isabelle Boccon-Gibod (Forest Row: Clairview, 2010).


Translator’s note: See, for example, Martin Heidegger, On Time and Being, trans. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), p. 7.


See Joseph Beuys, in Beuys, Enzo Cucchi, Anselm Kiefer and Jannis Kounellis, Ein Gespräch (Zurich: Parkett, 1986).




See Bernard Stiegler, The Neganthropocene, trans. Daniel Ross (London: Open Humanities Press, 2018).


Jean-Pierre Changeux, Neuronal Man: The Biology of Mind, trans. Laurence Garey (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), ch. 6.


Volker Harlan, ‘How This Discussion Came About’, in Joseph Beuys, What is Art? (West Hoathly: Clairview, 2004).


Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (New York: Autonomedia, 2013).




Édouard Glissant, Introduction à une poétique du divers (Montreal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1995), p. 14.


Ibid., p. 15




Ibid., p. 16


Ibid., p. 17



Bernard Stiegler

(1952-2020) was a philosopher and director of IRI at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, a Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmith College in London, and a Professor at the University of Technology of Compiègne, where he taught philosophy. Before taking up the post at the Pompidou Center, he was Program Director at the International College of Philosophy, Deputy Director General of the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, then Director General at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). Stiegler published widely on philosophy, technology, digitization, capitalism, and consumer culture. Among his writings, his three volumes of  La Technique et Le Temps (English Translation: Technics and Time), Acting Out, translated by David Barison, Daniel Ross, and Patrick Crogan (Stanford University Press, 2009), two volumes of De La Misère Symbolique, three volumes of Mécréance et Discrédit  and two volumes of  Constituer l’Europe  are particularly well known. He was a CAD+SR Faculty Fellow in 2019.


Fujihata, Masaki, and Jeffrey Shaw. The Conquest of Imperfection: New Realities Created with Images and Media. The Center for Contemporary Graphic Art and Tyler Graphic Archives Collection, 2006.

“Dialogue: Achille Mbembe and Bernard Stiegler,” June 2019. Access at

Institute for Research and Innovation (IRI), Centre Pompidou.

Territoire Apprenant Contributif, IRI.

Digital Studies Network, IRI.

Yuk Hui, “In Memory of Bernard Stiegler.” Access at

Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time 1: The Fault of Epimetheus. Richard Beardsworth and George Collins, trans. Stanford University Press, 1998. Access at

Caribbean Philosophical Association.

Christopher Bratton, Dalida María Benfield

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