Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Simenon: Deconstruction, Exposure, and… Boom!

October 4, 2008

“The only method I used was to obey no method at all”.

[Deconstruction:] Gifted with a strange ability to deconstruct the unseen, the “non-event”, the “on-going” banality of a daily life, [Exposure:] and to expose those tiny particles which make life so miserable, [Boom:] and then to throw in an extra element, a routine-breaker, that blows it all up, leaving behind a mutilated reality, incapable of restoring its previously false state – is Simenon.

Baudrillard must have deplored the stories of this great author, who tirelessly (365 stories, one for each day of the year, organized in 25 volumes) tore the illusion which is reality, leaving us in a void.

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

“When I become death” according to Levinas

July 3, 2007

Emmanuel Levinas’ La Mort et Le Temps (English translation in God, Death and Time) opens with a reading of Heidegger´s Sein und Zeit, a reading that evolves around the themes of the carnival, the essence of time, the nature of death, the type of questions to which answers are not the right answer, and finally – literature as a masking process (rather than a revealing one).

[But maybe I’m wrong. It could well be that Levinas says nothing of the above themes, and that it is my own philosophical delusions, the consequences of my posts here on Foucault, Lyotard, Barthes, Deleuze, and Burroughs.]

Emmanuel Levinas

The Carnival.

The carnival represents the absolute assimilation of a human being with the role assigned to him/her by the system. Yet by this assimilation the human being ceases to be a human being, for being a human is to continuously question “Being”, i.e. to be a critical being towards Being, constantly reassessing the possibilities of an always changing existence. This is when Levinas uses the term ek-sistence – existing from the outside (and it is also where the two reasons of the first Emmanuel – K. – are fully present).

The critical spectator stands behind the curtain, looking inside the theater, considering her options on stage. This cannot be done while on stage, while wearing the mask of the carnival.

And yet. “Behind the curtain there is nothing to see… nor beneath it”, says Deleuze, following Foucault. The critical being is therefore not to be imagined out of stage; s/he is not to be imagined as a passive spectator. Rather, the critical being is assimilated into the system’s role, while continuously challenging that role. Indeed, says Deleuze, behind the curtain there is nothing to see, “but it was all the more important each time to describe the curtain”. So we are in the carnival, but we don’t play wholeheartedly. We’re aware of the play, and we improvise whenever we see fit.

The Question.

The question of being is a question to which answers are not the right answer, the first trait of Being, being the mark of that Question. Barthes maintains that those questions of Being can only live within Literature, but he also maintains that Literature is a carnivalesque mask. The only way to cope with these contradictions is to follow Foucault’s advise: “We have to move beyond the outside-inside alternative; we have to be at the frontiers. Criticism indeed consists of analyzing and reflecting upon limits.” (What is Enlightenment).

Cain: marked by the Question of Abel’s death – a bookmark on Cain’s Time axis.

Time.

Time, explains Levinas, is the Other. The infinite time is the antipode of the finite human, the Other remaining necessarily out of our reach. Time, therefore, represents all possible Otherness.

Time is the Other. What a strange sentence. The Rhizome of the nomadic others is a Rhizome of Time Capsules.

Ich und Du.

The Other, through his facial movements conveys a message to the spectator, who is consequently responsible for processing the message, and of providing an answer. We can therefore say that Communication creates responsibility which, in turn, creates individuality: “I” is responsible for this and that person, because there are communication links between us.

We’ll see next that communication is a mask; like literature it does not reveal [things from behind the curtain], but rather conceals [the true essence of being]. Facial movements are answers. But Being is being a Question.

What does the nomadic Rhizome mask? What does Time mask? Is Time the Curtain?

As for Death.

When I become death

As for Death – death needs time for what it kills to grow in. Death needs the Other, just like “I” needs it. But why does Death need Time?

Think of Death as a bookmark, engraving a point on our time axis. This point, says Levinas, opens a gate to a communication-free world – the end of exchanging answers. Finally, we, the dead, can realize our human potential of being a pure question. The cover story of our life, the Literature told by our face, by our facial movements is finally completed. The End.

When we become death, death is the seed from which we grow – the seed of the pure Question.

The Cyberpunk Paradox

May 31, 2007

It was not until Ecko has made his tribute to language that I finally understood what I used to call the Cyberpunk Paradox – that self-mutilation by cyberpunks incorporating electronically networked devices into their bodies. As cyberpunks revolt against Control in its digitally networked form, staying off the grid would appear to be a much more reasonable tactic than becoming part of it, let alone if this act requires any sort of self-mutilation.

(An excellent short explanation/definition of cyberpunk can be found here. The first characteristic is titled “Negative Impact of technology on humanity”).

I can think of two possible solutions to this paradox, the first being related to the Jujitsu of culture jammers:

cyberwars05.jpg

“Jujitsu is the art of using the weight of the enemy against itself,” explains Filmmaker Craig Baldwin. “With corporations, sometimes the only way to beat them is not by brute force, but by symbolic agility” (citation taken from Culture Jamming 2.0). Personally, I’m not thrilled by this answer.

The second possible answer is what stands behind Ecko’s tribute to language: “I give myself up to language, anon, in a gift economy”. This total and unconditional [gift] surrender echoes Abraham’s binding of Isaac, echoes, I suppose, the symbolic sacrifice of Jesus. Ecko goes even further by cutting out his I and becoming anon, his sacrifice being a total gift through this erasure.

cyberpunk-shootout-23.jpg

Cyberpunk Shootout 23, mitx maraude

Whoever witnesses those sacrifices, those surrenders and give ups, feels that by this act a great defying essence is created, the System becoming seriously threatened. I cannot put this process into words as it’s illogical. My admiration for the courage and determination of those intuitively illogically logicals who give themselves up to the System.

The Gaze of the Sign

April 24, 2007

(This post follows Gater’s role in Body/Language: Barthes-Foucault vs. Gater’s Taboo)

“The signs exist insofar as they are recognized, i.e. insofar as they are repeated”.

Through this simple definition Barthes introduces the concept of the other (used as a technique in the philosophical discourses of the past [the Greek friend, see D&G]; used as an existential condition in Buber, Barthes and others).

We’re all signs. Think about concepts. Each concept has a never ending trail of other concepts, and behind each concept there’s a human – that human who gave life to the concept in the first place; that human who revived the concept after it has long been forgotten. With every word we pronounce, and every sign we digest, it’s the history of humanity mashed between our teeth.

We’re all signs, and hence our existence is dependent on recognition and repetition – repeated recognition by other signs.

If God is the first Word and words are signs, then God needs repeated recognition just the same. This can probably explains why we, the other signs, have been originally created, and in his own image.

Sometimes, we like to create our own recognition signs – we can then play and replay them again and again – an endlessly repeating loop of recognition.

“I like to do it with my friends; sometimes we videotape it, then we watch it…”.

This is a cry for meaning – a desperate need for recognition. For whatever reason, a new sign is created for this purpose: a videotape in which the original sign is captured. Then, the original sign plays and replays the secondary sign, the videotape, gaining through this repetition the so wanted existential recognition.

But then, something else happens. While watching the secondary sign affirming our existence, we do it again. This time, the original sign is the one affirming and recognizing the existence of the secondary sign.

This is the potlatch: one affirms our existence and we reaffirm back his/her own existence, in a looped process that can potentially persist for a while. The more this process continues, the more respectful and ‘full of life’ the two signs become.

Only, the inhuman sign not only cannot become ‘more full of life’, but it is found to have very strange effects, when used as an affirming sign: the potlatch is canceled!

Here’s an example: you’re giving your friend a present. Your friend is very happy. She then wants to repay you for making her happy and so she gives you back a present: only, it is the same present you gave her in the first place. Evidently, this will not make you happy, for by that act, your friend has canceled your act. It is a canceling exchange, because it’s an echo.

Whatever echoes, mirrors, cannot be considered as an existential affirmation and recognition. Whatever echoes cannot be used as a potlatch, for the echo cancels the potlatch. Gater’s video should be seen as a cry for a meaningful existence. But the inhuman videotape gives no salvation: it’s a static dancing.

There’s no replacement for the human gaze.

The Gaze of the Sign

Body/Language: Barthes-Foucault vs. Gater’s Taboo

April 16, 2007

Body/Language

Remixed by Methods & Black Squares 

 

Click to play:

[Barthes]
Parler, et à plus forte raison discourir, ce n’est pas communiquer, comme on le répète trop souvent, c’est assujettir.

[Foucault]
À ce lieu là, dès que j’ai les yeux ouverts, je ne peux plus échapper.

[Barthes]
La langue, comme performance de tous langages, n’est ni réactionnaire ni progressiste, elle est tout simplement fasciste.

[Gater]
We do it every weekend,
I like to do it with my friends
Sometimes we videotape it,
Then we watch it and do it again.

[Barthes]
Fasciste

Fasciste

Les signes n’existent que pour autant qu’ils sont reconnus, c’est-à-dire pour autant qu’ils se répètent.

Qu’ils se répètent.

[Foucault]
Mon corps topie impitoyable.

[Barthes]
Malheureusement le langage humain est sans extérieur, c’est un huis clos.

Répète!

[Gater]
Some people don’t understand what we do,
They say its Saturday they go to the club,
They say it’s no fun, but we don’t care,
We sit here and we do it.

We do it every weekend,
I like to do it with my friends,
Sometimes we videotape it,
Then we watch it and do it again.

[Barthes]
Répète!

En chaque signe dort ce monstre, un stéréotype. Je ne puis jamais parler qu’en ramassant, en quelque sorte, ce qui traîne dans la langue.

En chaque signe dort ce monstre, un stéréotype.

En chaque signe dort ce monstre, un stéréotype.

[Foucault]
Tous les matins, même présence, même blessure. Sous mes yeux se dessine une inévitable image qu’impose le miroir, visage maigre, épaules voûtées, regard myope, plus de cheveux, vraiment pas beau.

[Gater]
Some people don’t understand what we do…

[Barthes]
Répète!

[Foucault]
Mon corps c’est le lieu sans recours auquel je suis condamné.

[Barthes]
C’est un huis clos.

Fasciste.

[And see The Gaze of the Sign – a follow up on Gater’s role in this remix]

Questions to which answers are not the right answer

April 7, 2007

In an interview titled “Les Choses signifient-elles quelque chose?” (1962) Barthes gave, en passant, an interesting definition of literature as the art of presenting questions, not answers, nor solutions.

These literary questions, says Barthes, are powerful, disturbing and long-lasting. More importantly, it is only literature that can ask this kind of long-lasting questions. Kafka and Balzac, adds Barthes, have become canonic because they have left us with such long-lasting and disturbing questions.

Rephrasing Barthes: Literature produces and presents questions to which answers are not the right answer.

roland_barthes.jpg

We’re habituated to input-output production lines: question-in, answer-out; problem-in, solution-out. But some questions and some problems are simply different. So what is the “right answer” to those long-lasting literary questions? How should we refer to them?

Probably, living the question, in each and every Time Capsule, is what we should do?

I think that these informal observations can be used to clarify the way a group of French philosophers, such as Lyotard, Foucault, Deleuze and, of course, Barthes, understand the relation between literature and philosophy. After all, what has been described so far is commonly perceived as the realm of Philosophy, and yet Barthes ignores Philosophy altogether, charging Literature with the burden of asking those questions, insisting that it is the only place where such questions can (be asked? live? survive?).

My feeling is that western philosophers have never considered philosophy as the art of presenting long-lasting questions. Rather they have used questions as a pretext, an excuse, a platform for their… answers, for their irrefutable ontological or epistemological solutions, constructs and architectures.

In fact, it is western philosophers who have tried, along centuries, to kill, eradicate and annihilate those disturbing questions. Too often they have resurrected some murdered questions but only to try and kill those poor bastards once more. The dead body of metaphysics is an example. So the Problem of Philosophy, if by philosophy we mean those long-lasting questions, is that Philosophy refuses to die!

Lyotard et al. think that indeed some questions must die – but that their execution should be carried out by Science, not Philosophy. Other questions, on the other hand, must live – that was the role of Philosophy – to give birth and a living place for this kind of questions – but Philosophy has fallen from grace.

Long-lasting questions live now only in Literature.

(and see also Lyotard: against input-output philosophy)

Burroughs’ Death needs Time

March 8, 2007

William S. Burroughs

“Death needs Time for what it kills to grow in”, William S. Burroughs, Dead City Radio, Ah Pook.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about this phrase “death needs time for what it kills to grow in” trying to figure it out. Interpretation-wise, this is a dangerous game, as Burroughs is known for using cut & paste techniques, trying to destroy any rational thought. And yet, from a modern perspective, the potential randomness behind the order of the words shouldn’t and even must not persuade us in the futility of giving it a sense. After all, that’s exactly what life is – random events to which we try to give some meaning.

Time

There are several possible viewpoints about Time: Time as a continuity and unity; Time as a collection of independent Time Capsules, a label aggregating all those capsules together.

Time as a continuity and unity allows for better Control – there’s time to order things in Space. It may also lead to either an indifferent position in the spirit of what has been will be again, or to a satisfied one, in the spirit of the problem is solved; there’s nothing more that can be done.

Time as a fragment of Time, as an endless recursive fractal, is what I read in Foucault’s Modernism, which prefers seeing Time in its particularity, in its decomposition. A Time Capsule: just born, already dead.

The Time Capsule

What’s inside the Time Capsule?

Everything, I suppose. I’m thinking of any Time Capsule as a cosmic Monad where the fight takes place, where a human tries to redefine… Space. Modernism tries to redefine Space within a single, ephemeral, insignificant, derisory Time Capsule. And Space is us. And so Deleuze can righteously call Foucault “the historian of the present”, for there’s an Entire Life inside the Time Capsule.

Or am I wrong? Maybe it’s not Life inside the Time Capsule, but rather…

Death?

See my previous post on the death of Baudrillard, where I quote Deleuze from his lecture on Leibniz and the nature of the Monad (I’m rephrasing [remixing] everything):

To be born is to start dying.
To live is to be dying.
To die is to complete living.
And so to die is to complete to be dying.

Again:

Birth=to start dying;
Life=to be dying;
Death=to finish being dying.

Our mission here, in this Space, is to die.

But, wait! Beware! all this happens inside a single Time Capsule. Don’t get depressed – you’ll be restarting the whole process of dying in just about a moment.

Death needs Time for what it kills to grow in. Death grows inside the Time Capsule. The Time Capsule is the container of Life. Death grows in Life.