Archive for the ‘body’ Category

Nothing left to confess

June 30, 2008

Given the mass of evidence, there is no plausible hypothesis but reality. Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime

The following is a story about the change in the role of the Body in forming Identity, providing Privacy and knowing the Truth, from the Spanish Inquisition to Minority Report – two time-symbols of body-reference. This is also the story of a rare footnote – one that stands apart in a book that owns it: footnote#3, p. 170, in Paul Virilio’s Speed and Politics.

Paul Virilio

“In the Middle Ages, the question is put to a body under torture, one that “knows the truth” and must let it escape in spite of himself”.

The truth [of a person] is embedded in the body.

“In the 19th century, torture is abolished but not out of humanitarianism, but because they realized that any act (every human movement) leaves external traces, an involuntary stamp. From then on, they scientifically make proofs talk“.

The truth [of a person] is manifested in the body‘s deeds, an involuntary stamp.

“From identical sets of material proofs they could draw different coherent discourses, each canceling the other out, by simply changing the order of elements”.

You stay quiet, Mister, while these two gentlemen, the prosecutor and the defender, tell your story. We’ll see which version of the truth will win. Anyway, your story is no longer relevant.

“We could imagine that the gaps and hazards inherent in the ordering of materials should disappear, since with computers they could make the accusing discourse perfectly coherent”.

… and by that, removing any competing versions of Truth. With the amount of parallel, simultaneous reports about any given event, syndicated and correlated from a mass of individuals, Reality becomes a statistically unified version of truth, Reality, as told by the machine, or as Baudrillard [probably] calls it: the Automatic Writing of Reality.

“At that point, they could do totally without the confession of the accused, who would be less informed about his own crime than the computer, and who, no longer being the one who knows “the truth”, would have nothing left to confess”.

Once Reality is told by the machine (as it is the case in Minority Report), another step forward is taken: Truth is no longer built out of the Past, but is rather an illusion projected into the Future. The computer is using statistics to build patterns of possible behavior out of a single, and somehow correlated event. When that happens, it will suffice to think Murder to be immediately arrested by the Reality Police.

Given the mass of evidence to the contrary, there is no solution but illusion. Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime

A fantasy to hide our flesh

July 22, 2007

This post is about eating Knowledge and the creation of the first System. It discusses the moment in history in which man created the first, provisory sign, and that other moment which came right after.

Provisory Sign

“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed”, Genesis, 2, 25.

[6 verses later]

“she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;

One minute before, one minute after, and in between – the moment of revelation, produced through a method that even Hume couldn’t have but approved – and here they are, Adam & Eve, digesting the naked, shameful truth – the body.

Their eyes wide open, Adam and Eve realize that this truth is too painful to watch, maybe too banal, for sure too concrete. And so they create, on the spot, in the same verse, in the same time capsule – the first sign.

and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

This first sign, however, was too fragile. The fig leaves were sensible to the blowing winds, to brusque movements, and so most of the time they were failing to hide the flesh, to cover up on the naked truth. The sign was too unstable, the referent being visible here and there.

Borrowing from Lyotard (The Postmodern Explained: Correspondence, 1982-1985), this instability of the sign evoked fear and trembling: the exposure of the referent and the failure to fixate the referencing sign, which is the other, creates a problem of identity. If the other’s identity is not fixed, neither is mine. It is the ability to rapidly identify and decipher the meaning of the sign – not its referent, which should be hidden for good – but the meaning arising from its contextual, structural entourage – that assists in the creation of self-consciousness, and of identity. The more rapid and stable this process of exchanging and recognizing signs is, the more stable are the effects of realism, the more solid is the Fantasy of the Real.

Surprisingly, this floating point of identity bothered God and made him react by providing Adam & Eve with some practical knowledge, that is – how to design and fabricate stable signs.

“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them”.

No, God didn’t provide us humans with light, or fire; nor did he provide us with arrows or scrolls. The only practical thing God has provided us with was the Fashion System, Le Système de la mode, an empire of signs: a fantasy to hide our flesh.

stop the fashion system, february, 1990

Franco Moschino, Stop the fashion system, february, 1990