In order to gain a more complete sense of ongoingness, this section focuses on differentiating between it and similar terms. Although an objective comparison of these as abstract terms is a stretch, particularly as not every definition can be considered in its entirety, and certain terms can’t be mentioned altogether,11 – Some terms I’ve not managed to fit in this section include: homeostasis, hysteresis, steadiness, evolution, inertia, élan vital... it’s at least worth outlining an authorial intention. What follows is predominantly an argument of perceived semantics. Many of the following terms are inextricably linked, yet operate slightly differently to each other, which is one contributor to their continued use. Ongoingness lends itself to certain terms, and uses others as tactics. This is louse as microscopic way in.
Stubbornness seems to be a quality in which no change is accepted, so although through being stubborn an ongoing is achieved, a not-shifting-no-matter-what, it lacks the nimbleness that ongoingness operates with – an ability to accept and embrace minor changes throughout. The stubborn stays put, or goes in a single chosen direction. Persistence and perseverance seem similar to each other – in both there is a will to continue despite challenges that are faced, a continuing through confrontation, a pushing, with perseverance perhaps requiring more active mental strength.22 – “Perseverance, n. A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.” Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, 1911), p.250 It is this ‘despite of’ that separates these terms from ongoingness, which can operate through an embrace of intersections with challenges, and proceeds in all directions - acknowledging that, after an interaction, all sides come away altered. Related are words such as resoluteness and steadfastness once again imply an unwavering aspect, a ploughing through, a closedness that doesn’t seem to be willing to engage with multiple networks.
The word most-defined through dialectics is resistance, which is employed as the oppositional to a norm, a difference, or a change - it is categorized in its oppositionality. Resistance is often a necessary condition, one that might lead to some form of emancipation, or proceeds ideologically even without this as real potential. Ongoingness only uses this oppositional approach in part. It is in general a re-thinking in terms of a working with or through rather than against, in order to escape separatist thought that can prove destructive,33 – Primarily in relation to ecological destruction, or anthropocentric thinking. See thorax though the choice of what the with is might imply an exclusionary, resistant aspect. There are close ties with resilience, which is somewhere between resistance and the previous words, in that it is a continued resistance through multiple challenges, and a quick recovery from them.44 – Both resilience and resistance have specific meanings in relation to ecology, relating to a how a community or ecosystem responds and recovers from a perturbation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_resilience (Accessed 11 June 2019) The understanding of multiples suggests an anticipation of a continued struggle, that another will come once the former is dealt with. This anticipatory element links to ongoingness, which also might act in expectation, shift registers, but once again it is not necessarily an oppositional that makes it do so. Instead there are possibilities of expectancy, an excitement brought upon by a generative aspect of working across.
The notion of working against multiple, recurrent, continued, evolving challenges is one that relates to maintenance; a term Marina Vishmidt initially describes as a form of “reproduction”, which is seen as diminutive in relation to production – “making sure this object or entity or relation is enabled to continue existing over time, despite time’s ravages on its existence and persistence.”55 – Vishmidt, Marina. ‘Management and Maintenance’ in Look at Hazards, Look at Losses, edited by Anthony Iles, Danny Hayward, and Marina Vishmidt (Mute, 2017), p.12 However, Vishmidt later shifts maintenance, in comparison with management, to a notion of resistance rather than reproduction. In ecological terms, the “uncontrollable eventualities of ecological damage” provide a context of alienation that cannot be managed away, but instead forces a reliance on maintenance: “planetarity refigures management as maintenance in and of (the conditions for) resistance, once the known quantities of ‘resources’ comprising management's field of action can no longer be counted on, while maintenance, with its dogged orientation to survival can emerge as a creative encounter with the truly eco-systemic unknown, necessitating newer (or older) co-operative social forms.”66 – Ibid, p.21 It is this dogged orientation to survival that enables maintenance to re/think, to provide creative potential through an alienation,77 – This shift following alienation can challenge the configuration of power, but Vishmidt argues that this is not in the form of ‘care’, as the reconfiguration of power as care is a kind of ‘reproductive realism’, which “appears to affirm the invisible labour of maintenance and survival, but for decisively conservative ends. In its crude dissociation of maintenance and resistance, it ends up with management. This entails the suppression of any disruption or discomfort as an unjustified exercise of power and privilege – those who want to resist are pitted against those who just want to persist, as if these were not implicated.” Ibid, p.27. Vishmidt argues that what is really necessary for a proper re-evaluation of maintenance and management is a displacement of agency from human subjects to technical objects “as part of a larger transvaluation of abjected forms of labour” Ibid, p.28 - a re-assessing of “the means-ends relationships of capitalist techno-science that are driving towards ecosystemic annihilation” that rejects “the social relationships that perpetuate their mythologised versions as simple realism.” Ibid, p.28 one that will perhaps facilitate an ongoing through and despite of increasing ecological instability. Maintenance here is a political actor for and of ongoingness.
The initial, disavowed, definition of maintenance in relation to reproduction is consistent with preservation; the holding of something in its original or current state, whose ongoing is limited to its singularity, though the efforts to preserve might scatter elsewhere.88 – As labour, to take one example.
A different type of scattering could be through neologism, see leg 2 The stillness of the preservation, whilst all else continues around it, is one form of ongoing, but against a much larger tide of ongoingness; it is an attempt to become constant. Yet the nature of the constant is in itself a networked idea, as exemplified by the 2019 actioning of the redefinition of the kilogram. The definition has shifted from a standard set by a physical prototype kilogram, Le Grand K - “a cylinder of platinum-iridium alloy housed under nested bell jars in a vault at the BIPM in Paris”,99 – https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2018/11/17/the-kilogram-and-three-other-metric-units-are-about-to-be-revamped (Accessed 11 June 2019) in part due to an unexplained drifting in mass of the six official copies of the kilogram compared to the initial prototype.1010 – Implying a drift in Le Grand K itself - Ibid. The kilogram is now defined in relation to the Planck constant, h, and is determined on a Kibble Balance. The resulting definition means that the kilogram is in relation to the metre and the second, a web of realised abstractions relying on each other. Even the constants, those assumed unflinching continuants, only continue through their relations, and are therefore close to modes of ongoingness. When an oppositional is needed - as measuring against the standards of a constant might imply - a necessary entry is made into the complexities of the measuring network.
fig.4 a whole lot slower (Kibble Balance). Arieh Frosh, 2019
Originally published in Le Grand K, Royal College of Art, 2019
Originally published in Le Grand K, Royal College of Art, 2019
Closer to the unveiled resisting potential of maintenance is that of regeneration, which is a quality shared across living creatures and ecosystems1111 – See Karen Barad ‘TransMaterialities’, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2015), p.403 - a renewal or restoration of what has once been, often what has been damaged. In Karen Barad’s discussion of regeneration, particularly in relation to Galvinism and the growth of limbs initiated by outside electrical sources, regeneration is seen not only as a reconstruction, but also an establishing of “what never was but might have been”; an opening up of possibilities, with the potential promise of a whole regenerative politics, one that has the potential to “empower and galvanise the disenfranchised”.1212 – Ibid, p.411 A politics that underlies monstrosity or the monstrous: “The promise of monsters is a regenerative politics, an invitation to explore new ways of being in touch, new forms of becoming, new possibilities for kinship, alliance, and change.”1313 – Ibid, p.410 Monstering provides an elsewhere, a rendering of productive combinatorial possibilities, an offering of other semiotic prospects.1414 – Donna Haraway creates a quadrant based on A.J. Greimas’ semiotic square, with sections ‘Real Space: Earth’, ‘Out Space: The Extraterrestrial’, ‘Inner Space: The Biomedical Body’, and ‘Virtual Space: SF’ that are journeyed through in order to “show in each quadrant, and in the passage through the machine that generates them, metamorphoses and boundary shifts that give grounds for a scholarship and politics of hope in truly monstrous times.” Donna Haraway, ‘The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others’ in Cultural Studies, eds. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula A. Treichler (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 295-337 (quoted pp.305-306) The monstrous and its regenerative undercurrents are methods of ongoing that construct their own alternative routes as they develop, though they might do so through a breaking down or a destruction prior to a building up, a temporary non-existence (to return/arrive in altered and strengthened forms). This is one tactic of ongoingness: an embrace of a momentary stoppage, but one that falls within an ever-increasing movement that ir/regularly builds elsewhere.
It is the possibility for stoppage that marks ongoingness as distinct from its close ally continuousness; ongoing from continuing and the continuous, although their proximity has allowed some interchange of use throughout these writings. This is the realm of ‘quanta’: “the discretization of physical observables”1515 – Karen Barad, ‘TransMaterialities’, p.395 in which physical quantities which were assumed to be continuous by classical physics are quantized or made discrete.1616 – “The quantum of the electromagnetic field is a photon — a quantum of light. And electrons are understood to be the quanta of an electron field.” Karen Barad, ‘TransMaterialities’ p.395 Continuous is the antithesis of discrete; the minor units that form a larger substance do not exist in a connected state of continuousness but remain their smallest discrete, even indeterminate, form. There is no such disjuncture with ongoingness and quantizing, and, as regeneration hints at, at times there is even an embrace or an employment of it.
A further preference for ongoingness is a trick of sound – the long ‘on’ and ‘o’ sounds giving it a rolling feel, a greater sense of longevity and malleability compared to continuousness, which slithers in its carrying-on; a decision based on affect. Finally, the suffix -ness is necessary in its standard use to denote a state or condition – and can even point to an awareness – that ongoingness can be an ongoing state of ongoing.