edge archiving.

cosmic frontiers
August 23, 2010, 9:56 pm
Filed under: edges of history, edges of television

JFK’s edge-imaginary was premised on “the frontier” – an edge which, inevitably, maintains capital as an un-crossable horizon.  Rhetorically, Kennedy’s speeches are a prolific source of edges.  After his nomination at the DNC in 1960, Kennedy famously imagined “today” as “the edge of a New Frontier – the frontier of the 1960s, the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats.” He continued,

“The New Frontier is here whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink from that new frontier, to look at the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric… But I believe that the times require imagination and courage and perseverance. I’m asking each of you to be pioneers toward that New Frontier.”

The “frontier” is an edge which complies with a totality – and, if the sixties is a history to be read as a “new frontier,” in Kennedy’s words, the “edge” represents ‘history’ with a counter-frontier: a mode of understanding historicity, but as a means of crossing out of frontierism, imperialism, globalization.  In his rhetoric, “charting,” “solving,” “conquering,” and “answering” are modes of edge-crossing — yet this crossing is a form of reproduction, homogenization.  That this agenda of capital comes from Kennedy is unexceptional, certainly, but this is a precise juxtaposition of the “edge” and the “frontier.”

The space race of Kennedy’s “frontier” offers a historical edge to the sixties imaginary, in which the edge of the future becomes an edge of cosmic space. As in Richard Brautigan’s last chapter of A Confederate General From Big Sur, the oceanic is the last world edge – from which “this book,” as Brautigan writes, explodes at the speed of light, in “165,000 endings per second” – from which a cosmic imaginary is projected as the space of future possibility, or, a “planetary turn.” To Kennedy’s cosmic imaginary – where, he later stated, “the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier” – Brautigan’s explosive conclusion represents a counter-frontier, or, an edge of the counterculture.

To the cosmic “new frontier,” there is also the “last frontier” — another version of projecting the sea onto space with visions of western expansion.  In the Star Trek imaginary, earth has become completely westernized — space, however, is the site of earth’s history of westernization repeated.  This is a post-civil rights imaginary, in which race becomes alien, a different iteration of other.