Cyclonopedia – Artforum International: Best of 2009

‘An American artist, Kristen Alvanson – out of curiosity or simply boredom, it’s not clear – travels to Istanbul to meet a mysterious online contact. The contact never turns up. However, Kristen, as she relates in her jour­nal, does find a manuscript called Cyclonopedia, which in turn purports to be based on the disturbing and dis­ordered notes of an Iranian archaeologist who disappeared while researching a very eccentric theory about oil’s role in history. So begins Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (published by Melbourne’s re.press), a nihilistic but fanciful tour de force of meta-­fiction. Kristen, in addition to being a character, is the creator of the book’s magnificent cover; she is credited on the title page beneath Reza Negarestani, who is the book’s author – and also the author of the manuscript Kristen finds. In this welter of attributions, of course, it becomes doubtful whether Negarestani really wrote the book at all, but whoever the author is, he or she has a profound knowledge of, or a profound imagination about, Middle Eastern archaeology and Islamic mythol­ogy, to say nothing of contemporary petropolitics.

Apocalyptic visions and solar catastrophes have been making their way into my own work, so Cyclonopedia feels especially resonant to me, but its urgency isn’t just personal. The text strips away its own layers to reach a bedrock of premonotheistic symbols and tropes subverting, as it goes, common understandings of “East” and “West” and the relation of these ideas to each other. Creating its own lexis via a Deleuzian philosophical constructivism, building a quasi-scientific machine with madly beautiful illustrations, Cyclonopedia is marked by a peculiar theoretical style. It discovers hid­den paths to a kind of chthonic knowledge; from its speculative abyss issues a horrific “philosophy of oil.” Gazing into this confounding complexity of groundless grounds thrilled my new awareness.’ Pamela Rosenkranz, Artforum International: Best of 2009 (December, 2009)

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