Friday, 16 December 2011

Militant enquiries, and the militant enquirest

An ‘investigator’, going by the name of Klute, is going through the possessions of a suicide called Jane McKenna (number four ninety-seven) in a municipal storage facility used for the unclaimed possessions of the dead, a predetermined period must elapse before the property is dispersed again amongst the living. The custodian of the facility says, ‘We don't keep unclaimed possessions in suicide cases more than a year.’ Klute says, ‘I thought there'd be more.’ There is not enough stuff, no conclusive traces of the one who is absent.

An agent of enquiry writes: ‘The tatty property we have accumulated survives us. I am asked to dispose of some of the deceased’s possessions. Amongst these I am to shred a number of documents. I find his factory social club membership card. It is dated 1971. The time of Klute. I keep it, for no reason. It seems that something of a life, now gone, might be momentarily summoned up through an object such as this. But later, the memory will lose its power, and the object will revert to insignificance, whether it is treasured or not.’
‘I keep thinking whilst I am watching Klute that there were no mobile phones to hold the individual in the net of whereabouts that is maintained by tracking digital transactions. And I think that there was also no DNA forensics then to identify the intruder’s sperm which the character Bree finds in her ripped underwear. 
‘Persons were less armoured then. We are more integrated now. 
‘The insignificant things that typically survive our death, our membership cards, our documents, have taken several interactive steps forward, and are now scoring multiple forensic traces of our existence upon the surfaces of society. 
‘And, at our death nobody will fill a burning funeral ship with all the heaps of those digital fragments currently associated with our continued presence. And yet that immense displaced heap, which would otherwise sink a ship, is immaterial, weightless. So it seems, our account will survive us.
In 1971 there was no DNA recognition technology, and no cell phone tracking – therefore, the last thirty six years of knowledge is characterised by progressive leaps in the techniques of pathology. And also by a non-progressive oscillation within what has been produced as the pathological. 

The film Klute shows instances of sudden vulnerability which occur whenever the individual passes beyond, what we might quaintly call, ‘radar contact’. It also shows the traumatic return of feeling generated between individuals wherever they are forced into overcoming the reassuring distancing effect of lives lived otherwise entirely in terms of that radar contact. Where mediating technology is subtracted from the scene, the characters must negotiate the uncanny proximity of others – and engage in difficult relations of a particularly visceral intimacy. 
‘Human feeling may only be set against a register of habitual and normalising dehumanisation.’ 
Klute suggests that if one is to return to life from a condition of mere thingness, then one must first pass through a condition of abject vulnerability... if one is to resist becoming a unit of desensitising process then one must first place one’s trust in another, and that hurts – certain dna evidence is estimated by the FBI to be in the order of 1 in 113 billion reliable, whilst a friends’ friendship is somewhat less predictable. 

But without this primal engagement, the condition of thingness continues to advance in the individual’s life. And it advances precisely so as to prevent the raw unpredictability associated with such vulnerability and engagement. Bree Daniels says, ‘what I would really like to do is be faceless and bodiless...and be...left alone.’
Analyst: How do you feel when you feel scared? 
Bree: Angry.
Analyst: How do you feel angry? What do you want to do? 
Bree: I want to...manipulate him.
Analyst: How?
Bree: In all the ways that I can manipulate people.
It is not just that we become passive like objects. And anyway, objects are not simply passive but function in our lives as blocks and impediments, as the concretised rationalisations of an other interest... objects always have directed force. Things are units within a process that is already in motion, they orchestrate an order, a will, upon those persons who appear within the scene always after it has been arranged. 

To become subject to process, to be reduced to a thing, is to move in accordance with the flow of things. 

Militancy is the deliberate introduction of a hostile element into the arrangement of a scene. The outcome of militant interventions is always unpredictable. 

And yet it is also to derive a client power from the general movement – abdicating volition to greater forces is compensated for in a becoming-force in relation to lesser objects. The killer character, Peter Cable tells Bree, ‘I've no idea what I'm going to do, and I'm so deeply puzzled.’ He is at the mercy of process, that which he undertakes is also channelled through him, its force comes from deep time – he is its vessel, its incarnation. He is an instrument of a greater force – but he also derives something from that; he feeds into it and thereby enjoys an erotic gain in the reduction of others to things. 

By contrast, Bree (predictably characterised as ‘a prostitute’ ) has somewhat returned from commodification and painfully woken up within recomposing relations of visceral intimacy. She responds, ‘I have no idea what's going to happen.’ She has stepped out of the predictable flow. But what difference does that make? The process, the flow of things that flood up against and reduce individual life has not been arrested. There are other prostitutes. Her relationship, as an individual, to the process has been transformed from her perspective. She has gained something outside of the flow, and yet also still remains trapped within it.
'As a spectator of the screen, the irony is not lost on me that the thingness of the film, which sets vulnerable live relations against lives dominated by process, itself has triumphed as a thing over the lives of those who made it. It has survived intact, and they have aged – Dorian Gray, re-reversed.' 
They too, these humans, even in their works set against death, have inescapably preserved the mediation by dead things of lived life – a mediation which renders existence uniform and thus subject to messages transmitted via mass-distributed celluloid images. 
The enquiry agent now reflects, ‘in order to resist thingness, of which I am perpetually so aware, my life-goal, the pursuit of not falling into line, has generally involved attuning myself to that which has not occurred in despite of the character of that which dominates. It has become necessary to subtract everything from everything so that I might discover a trace of something else. Therefore, it was inevitable I think that I should perpetually run up against, and be challenged by, what is most the case, what is the least different, what is unavoidably present, it being the generalised material basis generating individual individual awareness. 
‘In new behaviours of resistance are to be found enacted, the old relations of acquiescence.
‘Therefore, as in Poe’s Imp of the Perverse, it also seems that the entire project of my investigations has been taken up in the reencountering of that to which I am most averse – the objects of  other’s ambitions; the fragments of the world which most precisely resemble that which I have sought to leave behind. 
‘This crabbed comportment before what is profane to me has thus, perversely, energised all my searching – causing in me a compulsion to sweep everything else aside so as to re-play this fundamental connection between uniformity at the left wall, and the possibility for divergence from it at the right.’