Archive for the ‘knowledge’ Category

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


Words, jamais portés

May 15, 2007

When Barthes learned about the death of his friend’s loved one, he spontaneously set down to write some words of compassion. Going through his memories, his feelings, he tried to figure out which words could be helpful in the current context. Finally, he realized that whatever he felt, whatever he thought, could be and should be said in one, simple word: Condolences.

Only that writing this single word was practically impossible: his friend would certainly think him for a cold heart man, seeing his deed as an act of obligation. He might even get offended. No, “Condolences” was out of question.

Many other words appeared then, each fighting for a place on that white paper. It was then that Barthes realized his second problem: those easy coming words were too obvious, too banal, too used; a bourgeois schmaltz.


And so he kept wandering further away from that simple, single and accurate word that had it all, in a search for some rarities – words jamais portés, at least not in this specific context consisting of Barthes, his friend and the deceased.

That, says Barthes, is the essence of Literature. Unlike what is commonly perceived, Literature does not reveal, disclose or illuminate the ineffable, that substance which no words can describe. Literature hides, erases, masks, distracts and deviates from what originally could have been said in a simple, single word.

And see also The Worst of Authors.

Knowledge Absolute

May 12, 2007

“I want to understand everything,” said Miro. “I want to know everything and put it all together to see what it means.”

“Excellent project,” said Jane. “It will look very good on your résumé”.

Speaker for the Dead, OSC