What Is The Contemporary? — Time Studies Group #01
I hope this newsletter finds your in a good mood. Last letter I invited you to join me in a new time studies group that will be starting close to the next new moon. Although the new moon is tomorrow (Jan 21/Resonant 12) I think it is also good to have a day of the week to our ritual of gathering. My suggestion for this one and for the next ones is the first Wednesday after the new moon. So we will meet next Wednesday, January 25/Resonant 16 7-9pm CEST
Here I share with you the link of the event and the text from Giorgio Agamben already mentioned – the original version in a transcript for study purposes and also a highlighted and commented version. I also recorded a 30min video reading the text, if you want company to read, since our gathering will be focused on discuss together the main ideas. A summary of the main ideas is available together with this message.
The group will meet once every month or moon to discuss topics related to time and temporality, including the cultural and historical contexts that shape our understanding of time, the ways that technology has impacted our relationship with time, and the role of time in shaping our personal and collective experiences.
In the time studies group, we will be exploring also the various ways that natural and cyclical time shape our lives and our understanding of the world, and how we can attune ourselves to these rhythms and patterns in order to live more harmoniously with the natural world and with each other.
A good reminder, initiatives like this one takes time and effort, so consider to contribute with a donation on the event link if you can.
See you there!
I recommend to read the full text – the original or highlighted version – by yourself or with me on the video I recorded as part of our study session. But down below also a summary of the main ideas of the text:
Being contemporary means having a special relationship with one's own time. It means being connected to your time but also being able to keep a distance from it and not completely fitting in. Those who perfectly fit in with their time and follow all of its rules are not considered contemporary because they are not able to see and understand their time clearly.
It means being connected to your time but also being able to keep a distance from it and not completely fitting in. In the poem, the poet's contemporariness is described as the task of connecting and understanding their time, even if it is difficult and may lead to suffering. The poet must look closely at their time and try to understand it, even if it is broken and difficult to comprehend. The poet's contemporariness is also described as being a part of the fracture or break in their time, both contributing to it and being affected by it.
Being contemporary means being able to see and understand the darkness or obscurity of one's own time. This means not being blinded by the lights or distractions of the present and being able to look closely at the shadows and deeper issues at play. The contemporary person is interested in and engaged with the darkness of their time, and sees it as something that directly affects them. Seeing the darkness of one's own time requires an active effort and a special ability to neutralize the distracting lights and focus on the underlying issues.
But also means being able to see the light that is striving to reach us but is unable to due to the distance between us. To be contemporary is a courageous act because it requires being able to look closely at the darkness of one's own time and see the light within it, even though it is far away and may never fully reach us. The present is always distant and we are always at the point of fracture in time, but being contemporary allows us to recognize the urgency of this distance and the light that is constantly striving to reach us. It also allows us to see the present as both too soon and too late, and already and not yet.
Fashion serves as an example (of many) of the special experience of time that is contemporariness. It is defined as the introduction of a discontinuity that divides time according to relevance or irrelevance, being in fashion or no longer being in fashion. The "now" of fashion is ungraspable and always anticipates itself, making it always too late. Being in fashion includes a small part of what lies outside of it, a shade of being out of fashion. Additionally, fashion establishes a relationship with the past and future, citing and reviving past styles.
Contemporariness inscribes itself in the present by marking it as archaic. The contemporary is someone who perceives the indices and signatures of the archaic in the most modern and recent. The origin is not only situated in a chronological past, but it is contemporary with historical becoming and continues to operate within it. The proximity to the origin is more present in the present than in the past. The present is nothing other than the unlived element in everything that is lived. Being contemporary means returning to a present where we have never been.
The main idea of "What is the Contemporary?" is that those who think about contemporariness have to split it up into several times, introducing an essential dishomogeneity into time. By introducing a caesura and discontinuity into time, the contemporary creates a special relationship between different times. The contemporary is not only the one who perceives the darkness of the present, but also the one who transforms and puts it in relation with other times by reading history in unforeseen ways. They cite history according to an exigency that they cannot not respond to. Michel Foucault and Walter Benjamin have the same idea that their investigations of the past are only the shadow cast by their theoretical interrogation of the present. It is on our ability to respond to this exigency and to this shadow, to be contemporaries not only of our century and the "now," but also of its figures in the texts and documents of the past, that the success or failure of also our Time Studies Group depends.
We are the time travelers we've been waiting for.
experimenting with other temporalities
– Writen for the new moon of January 21, 2023 / NS1.35 Resonant 12.