Plutonics: A Journal of Non-Standard Theoryis an open-access, sporadically published journal of contemporary theory. Coming from the geological term “plutonic” (which is, in turn, derived from the Roman God of the underworld, Pluto), meaning igneous rocks formed from deep geologic trauma and left to cool for thousands of years, often with traces of rare and weird metals, Plutonics aims to publish cutting edge theory that has no place within the ‘academy.’ With no real guiding thread but the Weird, we accept submissions from all disciplines (see more information) and actively encourage mixtures of philosophy, ‘hard’ science, poetry, visual arts, and other less-than standard forms of thought.
While there have been 12 published volumes of Plutonics, they have, sadly, been lost since The Event and although we are working on reconstructing them, this most recent run was started at the numeracilogically significant 13th volume. If you have any details regarding the existence of previous volumes, please contact us immediately.
Our review board is made up of geo-physicalists, philosophers, anorganic semoticians, structural bi0logists, and authors of the Weird and strange. When necessary, we commune with the ghosts of thinkers past to ask for guidance.
Following the general theme, or rather lack thereof, the journal accepts all types of submissions ranging from hard-nosed philosophic ramblings, to poetic musings on what it’s like to live without a spine. For those wanting concrete suggestions of what to submit, here is what one former editor suggested:
‘Serious’ engagement with the CCRU
Deleuzian Beat Poetry
Dolorous meditations on the anthropocene
First-person accounts of philosophical epiphanies
Visual depictions of your communion with the Outside
Meldings of Deleuze and Guattari with contemporary astro-physics
UPS: Probably this documentary will be regarded as a total highlight of scientific motion graphics animation for some time to come. As of now, BBC Four was still screening it in 2019, a basic item in their science arsenal (already feeling infected by the militaristic jargon used throughout the production – but i will stop here with that).
Vibrational: Finally a documentary that takes into account the fact that all all molecular parts of the cell (not mentioning the atomic lattices) are under constant vibrational trepidation. Once could build on this vibrational metaphysics at work here at this biochemical molecular level and this movie makes it very clear for the first time. Especially the scenes with the star molecule (a bit too rash hailing it as symbol of the 21st c while it is so mid 20th c!) DNA. In the nucleus scene the details of the DNA helix are phenomenally alive, humming somehow under perpetual quivering. Most DNA up to this 2012 feature is depicted as forever static, chains of billiard balls rotating but never vibrating. Older 3D rederings introduce this assembly line movement and then always rotate along an invisible axis. This time the movement is basically incessant and blurry – showing how impossible it is to actually catch DNA at rest and make it visible for human eyes. This touch of realism makes the whole documentary one of my favorites.
Enough to think that all this prolific activity is going on all the time down there, and that the molecular recyclers, the membrane trafficking, the rotating mitochondrial rechargers or the busy rybosomal reading in and out activity is going all at this very moment, in all creatures and in all cells on this planet.
Most CGI work on biochemical processes is so much a question of promoting biochemical products, an outcome of pharma or big pharma pipelines trying to promote their products. I find it always welcome when a documentary does not function as a simplistic add-on illustration of a pharmaceutical add-on no matter how essential and life saving it actually is. At the same time it is always illuminating to see how such imagery makes the unseen seen and on what type of libraries or imagology it draws on.
The new cellular realism entails various accounts about its own artifice – the ways in which it is slowing down time or processes in order to make them visible, perceptible or even HD. One such process was the movement of cellular carrier (molecular machinery) across long immense scaffolding that spans the whole cytoplasm and support its internal architecture. Movement of 60 steps or so per second was slowed down to human level – at the same time the actual movement itself at normal (normal at the cell level) is blurry, another vibrational process that does transforms the step by step Sisyphus into some Flash – superhero speed.
Somehow these documentaries are the fallout of the molecular revolution which I think is bringing not only the star molecule DNA into the limelight but precisely cellular mechanism and the cell as such as well as the complexity of metabolic pathways that are not always traceble via genes (science of epigenetics or metabolomics).
A few notes on the wonderful work of Tory Miles. According to his website which I encourage you to check, it is his the first show he ever worked on. One more time we realize how important and valuable is the work of an artist (matte painter-concept art-environment art) for the illustration, understanding and making visible the invisible, hidden and out – of – this world landscapes. Goes without saying the role played by motion graphics and gaming. THE HIDDEN LIFE OF THE CELL could be seen as just gamification of biological processes and it still would brake boundaries in scientific illustration and imagining the invisible.
Also big pro for the fact that there has been a big con in choosing(no anthropocentrism intended) simplicity over complexity. Cells are just one direction while viruses and other simple parts went basic. Prions (misfolded proteins) or viruses do not suffer from their simplicity. They infect prosper on the back of growing complexity elsewhere or this is how I understand it. There is no shame in going half dead half alive as viruses manage to stay. You can be at this boundary zone when you are not too simple or not too complex and use this shapeshifting potential. The documentary makes this amply clear.
What he also makes clear from his website is the symbiotic relationship with speculative fiction and speculative biology and SF via other productions, influences and works. I found some on his page some proposals for the Protomolecule presented for the Syfy Channel success series EXPANSE (based on a series of novels by James S. A. Corey). Altough final concept art was done by Canadian studio North Front, it is revelatory in this sense. Would be an interesting exercise to tease out the reciprocal influences of developing the ‘protomolecule’ and the actual epidemiological account of the infection of a cell by an adenovirus featured in The Hidden Life of the Cell. The protomolecule is both cell-generating, viral and of extra terrestrial origins as the fandom wiki explains:
The Protomolecule was created by extra-terrestrials around two billion years in the past, and launched as a one of the Bracewell probe swarm at a trajectories towards the stars harbouring planetary systems having conditions for the emergence and evolution of some molecular replication mechanism. Such replicators could be any powered by energy from chemical bonds, such as life based on carbon, silicon or other elements, and also by any kind of photons also or even radioactivity.
There is direct reference to phage (viral) mechanisms of the protomolecule replicator so there is some inherent virality to the both of them.
Also in relationship with the cellular CGI structures is mentioned the 2007 SF cult movie Sunshine by Danny Boyle. It is both a cosmic horror movie and one that has transformed the mission of reigniting the sun into something else akin to an initiation tale of solar burnout and cvasi-solar cult (also mentioned in recent The Lighthouse hit).
The cellar nucleus has the same dimensions and presence of a galactic core – at the same time is both clarifies how this sort of nucleus-centrism in the BBC documentary coincides neatly with our heliocentric image of a dying sun or a some star at the brink of going nova.
Not to mention the whole general alien aesthetics of this world, indeed we need more documentaries like this. There is the sense of incredible spaciousness, that makes the improbability of it all the more poignant. Everything bumping into each other, everything self organizing and still there is an incredible avalanche of timed effects, shapes and chemical bonds that shape them shape all actions in a bizarre orchestration of larger and larger assemblages. It is outer space and it is not. It is a sort of liquidity and viscous becoming that bathes everything into something almost oceanic and abyssal.
This inner and outer drift is what is the hardest to catch aesthetically I guess, the fact that nothing is really under the control of the central unit – the nucleus even if so much aimed at its inner data base. There is a lot of stuff getting in and out, but also a lot of parts, outside of the cell and inside of the cell that somehow manage to collude and act out outside of direct influence or control. There is no end to the alien realms out there even if most of it is CGI – the most incredible inflamationthing being how one can almost completely bypass new imaging flourescence techniques that are wonderful in themselves. These make at least at larger scale of bacterial and inter-cellular level things more vivid than ever.
Epidemiology & militarism
Throughout the features the cold war neo-Darwinian slang lies heavy. Yes, this is life when infections happen. Yes, we always seem to lack the proper metaphors, the nonhuman turn makes itself least sensible at these invisible, apperceptive levels, but it is most funny and frustrating how unavoidable and pervasive war – and war of all against all gets center stage. Not all scientist in the documentary proffer this dramatic mode of heightened description, but there is most certainly a kind of almost normal happen stance creepy ego shooter battle cry, almost making sure that every anti-body lock-on or surrounding every viral particle is a mine, a weapon, an attack, a deathly struggle. Everything seems to revolve around sacrifice and selfishness.
The pionering work done in immunology by Élie Metchnikoff and others is supported by a vision that had the organism as a living, inner/outer refashioning relation, of innate learning capacities and constantly developing system while in contact with the exterior. His discovery of intra-cellular digestion in flatworm paved the way to discovering phagocytosis, the fact that certain blood cells are actively destroying bacteria won him the Nobel Prize. Even if absent his shadows looms large. His fundamental breakthrough of inflammation as a boundary interaction and a directed action against host invasion by pathogens features large in this documentary. Metchnikoff was a Darwinist and atheist and also an early supporter of the larger role of the microbiome/holobiont and believer in the virtues of probiotics (Bulgarian yogurt) in prolonging life and preventing aging.
Also expect a lot of DNA centrism hailing, as mentioned above. Expect a restricted view focused just the human genome project (or any other species genome), never taking into account the non-human genes and microbial cellular assemblages that we have learned to appreciate only relatively recently.
As usual only the mitochondrial endosymbiosis powerhouse account escapes this war logic as well as the fact that almost all the pieces coexisted and co-evolved since the dawn of time. This ultimately brings home the realization that we are not witnessing just power blocks or absolute contraries at work but also complementary forces, tensions and divergences.
Yes, there is more gripping action and attention when there is talk of war, of conflicts of permanent arms race or egotistic units vying for supremacy. Still there is other ways of avoiding banality, bored viewers or easy simplification. So i wish they would have gotten more inspiration from indie games (not only graphically) but also conceptually, rather than the usual strategy war games.
Other big lack is the CRISPR-Cas9 system (revolution?) and its implications for the evolution of viral or bacterial interactions and evolutionary origins.
Steven Ellison has been a long time admirer of Japanese extreme directors Takashi Miike, Shinya Tsukamoto and Takeshi Kitano, as well as lots of anime such as Cowboy Bepop, Evangelion, Dragon Ball, that he openly mentions in his interviews. But instead of mentioning Tokyo Gore Police of Meatball Machine Kodoku one should go see it without any list of references or any direct references.
Probably one of the most over the top, original, gory, splattery significant movies of the early 21st century. It abounds in the resplendent hideous and the manically scatological, lavishes in all things festering, pustulant, always brimming on the ecstatic, experimental and transformative also due to its music video affiliations. There were mass walkouts at its release at Sundance festival. It has been all too easy to hail it as the ‘grossest movie ever made’. It is definitely a superb example of WEIRD AESTHETICS and slime dynamics nowadays and it is relentless. It definitely does not settle into the old sublime/beautiful binome, but ventures into the territory of new aesthetic categories such as the icky or the ‘zany’ explored by Sianne Ngai in her seminal text (Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting 2015). This is also an afro-body horror that makes clear what are the stakes here – full hybridization, exploding all the codes of racial science and white fear, those panic buttons of asepsis and so-called ‘miscegenation’ that did seek to actively separate, contain, incarcerate and experiment upon non-white bodies.
It also makes clear there can allow for incredible pockets of abstractness even in the midst of all things squishy, oozing, overwhelming thingness, overripe wetware imagery. There are dozens of scenes that are filled with incredible tenderness, nonhuman, and inhuman eroticism, beauty and exuberance for the unruliness of matter and information, the normality and mundanity of the strange and at the same time does not cease to take one by surprise, to be completely unpredictable. A relentless channel surfing seems to transect the whole movie and tap into the virality of pay-per-view ads, broadcasting enormities and deformities, diving into an attention ecology modulated by the appetite for mindless violence and remorseless voyeurism.
An increasing portion of current media abounds in the biohazardous, the panic-stricken, horrifying, the untouchable, impure, the dirty, repulsive or what was even considered previously as evolutionary blasphemic and maladaptive – here cherished in its most unruly and in your face forms. It also draws on avant-garde Berlin Dada photomontage artists such as Hannah Höch(see her Knife Dada through the Beer-Belly of the Weimar Republic 1919 for example) seeking to upend and agglutinate existing dichotomies and gender roles.
There is no way one can summarize this movie and this is its best proof of not bowing to matters of taste, plotline narrative rule or formal rigeur. There are incredible collage animations as well as tableaux vivants – real outer world (exo biological?) ecosystems, mutant dioramas and curious and explorative human -non human relationships. Meanwhile, all the body fluids run their course.
On TV or in a bedroom reality welcomes the bubonic, the chronic carrier state of patient zero becomes the rule. There is no quarantine for the realness of constant touch, smear, sporulation. The epidemic is somehow a state of matter, it is as it is, nothing can hide it, disinfect it or banish it to the pathological. There is always a sort of teratogenesis as world-building going on. There are interdimensional furries stoners on a couch, there are alien jungles with anal flesh flowers and sentient sphincters.
Openings are important in KUSO and lead to revisiting what we have considered a final story – the evo-devo metanarrative of why we bipedal vertebrates are here, why we have an up and down or a clear separation btw the excretory and all the plurivocal portals of bodies that have multiple backs and unknown forwards, not just an up mouth and a down mouth.
Cast: Iesha Coston, Oumi Zumi, Zack Fox, The Buttress (Bethany Schmitt), Tim Heidecker, Hannibal Buress, Regan Farquhar, Shane Carpenter, David Firth
Here’s what IMDB has: “Events unfold after a devastating earthquake in Los Angeles.” Events indeed. The movie is broken up into three segments. The biggest segment, “Mr. Quiggle,” is the story of couple Kenneth and Missy, who have their active love life interrupted by Missy’s secret shame. Also, Manuel is scared of breasts, so he enlists the help of Dr. Clinton (George Clinton); his treatment involves singing into Dr. Clinton’s butthole and…I won’t spoil it for you. Further also, The Buttress and her alien buddies deal with her situation of being impregnated by a crazy stalker guy.