Saturday, 18 March 2017

Fragments of night (1)

Sedentary existence is also a journey. We only learn how far we have unravelled in crossing the distance back to what we once were. The inherent ability of every fraying life to return to an earlier position is strictly limited to an unknown number. Our habit of resilience, the will to elasticity, eventually must give out, at which point we cannot sustain any longer the claim on our past identity. A day will come when we find ourselves both too far out and too burdened down, and although we will remember the path back, it will be too arduous for us to take. On that day, the perpetual coming apart that, combined with the miraculous wakening back in our own bed, comprised every self's unique history, begins a new phase and takes over as our defining principle. Every alteration in our circumstance, from this point onwards, is decisively and irrevocably fixed as the fated platform for the next departure. From that day, every attempted return will arrive back only at the principle of there being no chance of return. A life, which previously had known both vagabondage and returning home, expenditure and recompense, is now all lived in its taking leave.

Friday, 12 August 2016

What Judas did as a content overflowing the vessel of what Ham did

It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal. 

Traditional society is conservative in the sense that it seeks to conserve its institutions over many generations. It is not conservative in the sense that it is less 'tolerant' of transgression than the Enlightenment state.  Traditional society is not tolerant at all, it does not reproduce around the principle of 'tolerance', and yet the abominations that it cultivates, all that may be contained and processed as 'man' in the reveries of God, far exceeds what the modern state recognises as human conduct. As a product of traditional society, Judas extended the logic of the Prodigal Son to the point of snapping the elastic tensions and rivalries generated by the paternalistic relations which routinely structure the small group form endemic to extra-state and para-state life-worlds. All that may be spoken and all that may be heard (the sum total of what God countenances) within the constraints of the small group is personified by the Prodigal Son, who remains eternally of the same dimensions as Ham son of Noah, an 'all' that is destroyed by Judas who stands at the historical threshold to state jurisdiction. It is Judas who introduces state dimensions into para-state small group relations. The exceptionality of Judas is not to be found in the scale of his vengeful behaviour towards that distant descendent of Shem, a scale that is of a common and fatalistic type, but in the compatibility of his intervention with state process. His betrayal 'takes things too far' in what can be understood at one level as the ordinary testing of boundaries which is the traditional role of the subordinate male. However, it also disintegrates the possibility of small group autonomy by exposing its contents to the scrutiny of external authority. Judas separates himself from mere prodigality by escalating his complaint into an abstract form: an invocation, or 'calling upon' the agency of the state. In later eras, the form of denunciation itself will develop further, its vengeful character replaced by the logics of propriety and appropriate ordering. But even at this early stage, Judas successfully introduces into the vendetta-scale conflicts of his milieu, a distinctly other register of social force, and thereby effects (without his intending it) the obliteration of his own life-world. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Back feeding

Historicist arguments for the conversion of past trauma into a pre-condition for progressive social transformation (the 'good' war, or the proletarianisation of newly colonised populations) always feels like betrayal.  History, under these terms, is then a matter of willing submission to, and identification with, the objective forces that have colonised the autonomy of past events. Retroactive omelette/eggs rationalisations may be presented as a 'project' only where commodity formations have already extended into, and thus polluted, everyday personal life events. Only those who have been personally damaged, may historicise. For these, 'progress' is demonstrated, in line with their metabolisation of domination's rationale, via a calculation of the historical usefulness of past sufferings. Traumas are fed back, like a regressing raw material, into the production of those 'rights' enjoyed in the present. Sequelae of the proposition, who controls the past, controls the present are realised in sentimentalist invocations of the agency of the heroic people; thus, 'people fought and died in the war for you,' is never anything but a mechanism of control operating within present relations in the place of 'useless' mourning for past losses. Where it is encountered, this manner of conflating different orders of agency (individual 'sacrifice' with state military strategy) is ordinarily merely enervating, but where it solidifies into a political position, 'The Long March', 'the Great Patriotic War,' it becomes dangerously transformed into a disciplinary attractor of otherwise unspeakable impulses. These inchoate, historically activated, tendencies, cathected towards some or other flag of convenience, are also then regimented, and set in motion - as correctives applied to unpatriotic inclinations. 

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Those, who having crossed into the terrain which withdraws from the approach of conventional traffic, and who having survived to traverse its capricious pathways, are the ones that may go on to encounter, at some point in their journey, an interior space known as the Room. This is a trap disguised as a destination. The room utilises the travellers' presence as a trigger for the mechanism of an encounter with what they most desire. It supplies the asked-for object and loops the traveller back to the constraints of their being - they find themselves expelled from the forbidden zone.

And yet, if the Room's trap is successfully negotiated another, but exterior, space may also be found. This locus amoenus, 'the quietist place in the world', is an open garden, a point of permission at the heart of the forbidden zone, that travellers must resolutely refuse to enter. What is the place, beyond the wall, that you would not wish to defile with your presence, and that you would forbid yourself to even know about? What is this defenceless and innocent place, friend, weary traveller that you would most desire to belong, that allows your approach, but that you would also thereby corrupt by your belonging?

That you are drawn there, I do not refute.  And I know that against your will, you are destined to appear at its gate. It is the one place necessary to your being. But you are torn. You may enter it, you may exert your will and go there. You may make your home and find your peace. But you are also aware that you must deny yourself entry for the very reason that you may freely go there, for the reason that it is at your mercy. For its sake, you must forbear, and not go on. At the gate, you must give up on and suspend your arrival.

What is it like, this place before which your blasted, clifftop being, your cramped, deformed habit, your contorted, afflicted comportment arrives and desires above all to enter? What is it like, this peaceful garden beyond the door, beyond the wall, to which you have dragged the coffin of your identity? What is it like, the place, the moment, at the threshold of which you are driven to rend and tear at your clothing? Consider it now, the suspended, the self-denied, maddeningly nearby place, the garden of your shrinking approach. Is it not where you cannot not belong but at the entrance to which you must, to preserve its integrity, abolish yourself?

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The argument against the positive claims of left-accelerationism should focus on its having made a virtue out of surrendering that life-world wherein the stable door must be shut after the horse has bolted.

Friday, 21 August 2015

'The house is gone'

In the period of real domination, the concentration of workers into the  battery-like interiors of mass produced residences was achieved by applying the principle of a command infrastructure developed within factories, barracks, asylums, storage depots. But in the satellite towns of the metropolis, it is now the relatively wealthy who occupy 'prohibitively' priced, space-efficient apartments made available as the city's surplus populations are expelled towards an absolute periphery of satellite redundancy and separation. Executive flats are repackaged workers' tenements, decorated with pseudo-balconies, 'architectural' cladding and fluorescent motifs to disguise the optimising principle behind what are otherwise nothing but city-scaled 'container facilities'. Even so, the subjective condition of 'functionalised' occupancy continues to prolong its earlier habit of defending a (now much reduced) private interior, the status of which is simultaneously eroded and undermined by the architecture. The factory-farmed occupant must, by conscious effort and practiced habit, screen out the results of the building's processes which collect and concentrate both the noise and gaze of rival neighbours, who are equally suspended, pecking at each other's eyes, in a communal state of remote proximity. When the poor were hemmed-in on all sides by disciplinarian city planning, the profusion of luxuries which filled the space afforded by the wealthy served their revolutionary purpose as orientation points for a life to be lived entirely otherwise - the wholesale demolition of the 'workers' quarter' was then entirely comprehensible if it was to be undertaken in accord with a migration across town towards the leafier districts. But the abolition of the qualitative separation between rich and poor, the reduction of all dwelling to that of the optimisation of containment, leaves little of the world, and that the remains of earlier epochs, which may be considered worth the effort of expropriation. The space available for living is now so objectively degraded, both emptied of, and hostile to, any plausible social content, that the practice of 'occupation' has itself become obsolete. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

To live: keep our teeth nice and clean

Staff wear No-Face masks during working hours at a service company on July 14, 2015 in Handan, Hebei Province of China. As a service company, its staff must smile to customers everyday. On 'No-Face Day', the staff wore No-Face masks to reduce pressure and relax themselves. No-Face is a silent masked creature who has no facial expressions in the Japanese animated fantasy film 'Spirited Away'.The Independent 16/07/2015
Where efficiency of function is institutionalised as the predominant ideal, resistant formations take up positions in defence of the irreducible complexities of character. Wherever the process of governance veers from populist conventions to the reductionist discourse of technocracy, cultural practice tends to break off its direct engagement with politics and recapitulates the ambivalences of characterisation - at such moments, the world's medusa-like effect may only be scrutinised as a reflection in the facial expressions of those subject to its glare. Kurosawa's Ikiru conforms to this common predisposition by emphasising the study of character in circumstances that are distinguished by a further political shift towards the opaque and remote. The character, Watanabe retreats from the increasing anonymity of the administration within which he works as a functionary towards constructing a representative suffering face upon which the incomprehensible movements of power are reflected as the play of affective response. His 'journey' takes his character from integrated impassivity to authentic emotional redemption. The existentialist rite of the self-separating individual freeing itself from bureaucratic dehumanisation is presented almost uncritically - but Ikiru is saved from its own message by the complexity and ambiguity around the potential utility of the individual qua hero. Even so, where the contradiction inherent within the extreme discrepancy of scale between social force and the face of the one who has been forced is then taken up subjectively, an argument for the autonomy of affect emerges, and as a correlative of this, the rudimentary critique of the utilitarian is also advanced. The danger of sentimentalism and the counter-simplifications of narratives where character is set in opposition to reductive process, lies in its capacity for the elicitation of affect. Where the plight of the character is represented as nothing but a trigger for responses in those consuming it, the potential revolt of the individual is already contained. If the governmental ideal of power via technique provokes compensatory investments in non-compliant personality traits and capricious individuals, then the codes of these eccentricities may be manufactured in commodity versions. Despite this, character, and portraiture, as understood within the contradiction it sets in motion against the momentum of social planning, is still a struggle against the function of psychology (and in particular the psychologisation of the masses) as the science of manipulation and depoliticisation. This does not alter the extreme limit offered by any face may offer to the encroachment of process, and which cannot extricate itself from its reactionary form. The utilisation of the appeal of the face, either in advertisements or as sentimentalist totalitarian propaganda, signals the potential for the cultivation and harvesting of affect and the triggers of affect which, when implemented, also appear ideologically as individually releasing, expressive, subjective. The face ceaselessly performs the reductionist rite of 'revolt into conformity.' The resultant oscillation within the modes of power between the tendency towards bureaucracy (facelessness) and populism (the nation's 'true face') is seemingly eternal ('socialism with a human face', 'the iron face in the velvet mask' - the 'Iraqi' shoe applied to the dictator's image)... each eliciting the critique of the other: 'how tempting it is to let yourself get caught, to lull yourself into it, to latch onto a face.' The antiquity of the problem of the expressive face in bonded relation with impassive power is demonstrated by the ancients' recourse to the mask - but the mask itself has become expressive, a commodified face-like motif for circulation through the markets for gestures of rebellion. The modern post-mask, which is not a mask as such, must approach the problem of the post-face: the sincere non-faces of service industry training videos, and the selfie-pout conventions of social media. If power is to be evaded, concealment may no longer enact the strategy for display by other means, where a submerged agency moves its intimate self beneath a self-remoting surface, but must move towards a genuine disappearance and non-engagement. The idealist slogan, 'beneath the burqa, the atheist' still relies upon the already factored mechanisms of the 'tell' and the reveal (activating recuperated tropes of individual desire and 'authentic' individuality)... and the atheism of the buried face is no doubt insufficient, but still the potential clandestinity of a character that does not turn its face towards the camera, that refuses to be represented and cultivated for its capacity to register affect, is now almost too uncertain a prospect to mention.