On July 29, 2010, as part of Triple Canopy’s Sender, Carrier, Receiver project, I delivered the performative lecture “The Endpoint of All Gravity Is the Grave” with Nine Eglantine Yamamoto-Masson, at Program in Berlin. Click here for the audio recording of the lecture, a briefing on the activities of the International Necronautical Society‘s Berlin Inspectorate. In the lecture, Yamamoto-Masson and I dispute the INS’s claim that Berlin is the World Capital of Death and discuss attempts by its members—chief among them writer Tom McCarthy, artist Anthony Auerbach, and philosopher Simon Critchley—to surreptitiously recruit agents and take over major cultural landmarks. Click here to read the draft copy of our internal report (and see below for an excerpt), and click here for an audio file of covert INS recordings intercepted by Triple Canopy and prepared for the occasion.
Document Title: The Endpoint of All Gravity Is the Grave
Document Type: Triple Canopy brieﬁng on the INS Inspectorate Berlin
Authorized: Alexander Provan, Editor; Nine Eglantine Yamamoto-Masson, Ofﬁce of Special Projects
Authorisation Code: TC101377XRI
Circulation Parameters: draft copy of internal report, not for circulation or publication
Keywords: Berlin, aerial reconnaissance, crypt, monument, market, aesthetic pleasure, erasure, sacriﬁce
Delivered: 29 July, 2010 at Program, Invalidenstraße 115, Berlin
Welcome, and thank you for attending this presentation of Triple Canopyʼs brieﬁng on the activities of the International Necronautical Society. Please turn off all data-transmission devices, audio recorders, and cameras. And note that what follows is a draft copy of an internal report, and has not been approved for circulation, reception, or publication.
In summary: I will argue that we ﬁnd ourselves in a perilous situation: Each of us has been turned into a medium of transmission, doomed to convey no other message than that quality of our being—a condition that is not only generally accepted but, having in certain circles achieved an aesthetic aspect, relished. For certain prevalent and proﬁtable systems of exchange, such as art and ﬁnance, this situation is ideal. And yet it has also made us—especially those of us who consider ourselves to be producers and consumers of culture, and for whom ideas and trends are a common currency—vulnerable to the International Necronautical Society.
We will provide an explanation as best we can, through the presentation of intercepted INS documents and other intelligence. But be warned: Our knowledge of the INSʼs activities is fragmentary at best, and our understanding of its intentions, and even its tactics, is limited. What follows is a sketch, which I hope will be ﬁlled in as more intelligence is gathered in Berlin and elsewhere. If you have information to share, please approach us (discreetly) following the presentation.
In the winter of 2008, Triple Canopy invited the International Necronautical Society to present the aerial reconnaissance work that Anthony Auerbach, Chief of Propaganda (Archiving and Epistemological Critique), had been conducting in Berlin. Several of us had for some time been interested in the group, which poses as a semi-ﬁctitious avant-garde network, and were acquainted with its research into the ontological status of death as well as its public presentations, which take the form of interrogations of fashionable artists and intellectuals, brieﬁngs on the history of transmission and encryption, etc. General Secretary Tom McCarthy had recently published a critically acclaimed novel, Remainder, and, to be honest, while we didnʼt quite understand the INSʼs work, there was an aura around the group that we found appealing.
And so, on the evening of February 24, Auerbach and INS Head Philosopher Simon Critchley sat together behind a table in the back room of a Brooklyn bar called Freddyʼs. An audience of ﬁfty people—members of what you in Berlin refer to as “the creative industries”—were gathered. Auerbach and Critchley proceeded to introduce the INS. From there the details become hazy. None of the Triple Canopy editors in attendance can recall the speciﬁcs of the INS presentation. We have scant evidence that the brieﬁng even took place. And yet, while no full record of the event exists, the recollections of those who claim to have been in attendance suggest that Auerbach and Critchley said something like this:
Necronautical materialism insists that the dead do not come back (there are neither spirits nor revenants). Death is a type of space, which we intend to map, enter, colonise and, eventually, inhabit. The INS works to chart the space of death, to trace it in the fault lines that cross art, literature, philosophy; to tune in to its frequencies in the air; to pinpoint its irruptions in the urban fabric; and ultimately to construct a “craft.” The INSʼs central concerns are marking and erasure, transit and transmission, cryptography and death. The INS spreads itself as both ﬁction and actuality, often blurring the two. Working between the lines and in open view, the INS inhabits and appropriates a variety of art forms and cultural “moments,” from the defunct avant-gardes of the last century to the political, corporate and conspiratorial organisations they mimicked.
The audience listened intently, or confusedly, or absent-mindedly, or didnʼt listen at all, as Auerbach went on to describe his aerial reconnaissance work. We know this because, some months later, an anonymous source sent us a ﬁle with excerpts of a low-quality recording of portions the event. This is Auerbach speaking:
An aerial photograph is not a map—or is not yet a map. Aerial photography merely piles material at the threshold of knowledge…. Aerial surveying proper covers operations in unexplored and partly explored regions where maps do not already exist or where they are not to be relied on. It provides an almost inexhaustible store of information. That information—the photographic material—demands from each branch of knowledge a speciﬁc modus of interpretation.
[END AUDIO RECORDING]