Saturday, 13 May 2017

On the aphoristic form as it is subjected to digital imperatives

What shall be lost from wretchedness if it is to be forced to express itself eloquently? Just as the function of the memento mori refuses its own tendency to mere ornamentation so the aphorism must resist its preference for reducing difficulty to palatability. We discover, finally, that it is inappropriate to capture affliction as a succinct motto - inappropriate because the bon mot will always falsify content in the interest of circulation - the aphorism is a distant, and rehearsed, approximation of speaking directly. Let difficulty be difficult. Nor is the neat and gleaming form of sub-commodity jingles (whether synoptic, metonymic or distillatory), the meat and drink of unpaid commentators, an appropriate means for reflecting upon the fractured world which is, by definition, chronically incomplete. Let distress be distraught. The aphorism should not seek closure in itself, nor express some rhythmic satisfaction with what it is, separated, completed, contented. It should not communicate tortured content in pleasing form. Let suffering, suffer. The aphorism on wretchedness should communicate wretchedly, the aphorism on suffering should also suffer. Distortion of form has become the only viable approach to distorted contents which is not at the same time an expropriation. Hitherto, the reactionary aphorist has sought to encapsulate one thing, one content, within its commensurate form and to write up the convergence as if it were found in natural law. The measure to which the aphorism is a reactionary mode, is also the measure to which it excludes the mess of its contraries. Let loss, lose. In itself, the aesthetic instinct towards clarity succinctly expresses the protocols for order afflicting the authoritarian personality. Seeking out distinct outlines in objects, the reactionary is constantly thrown back on confronting only that which is, and for whatever reason, already clearly delineated. The short circuit into affectedness and narcissism is a constant danger in reactionary discourse where empathy for the object is reduced to a stylisation.  Let sincerity, after all, be sincere. When confronted with the guillotine, which reduces the imbecile aspirations of the bourgeois state to its core mechanism, the  reactionary draws his finger about his collar, 'A letter for me? Drop it in the basket, I'll read it later.' Decapitation extracts a literary riposte in the form of the aphorism, and for that reason, the aphorism has always been a tool of the aristos.  The aphoristic mode has only ever appeared as a displaced acknowledgement of immediate danger. For that reason, the reactionary (one whose elevated status is reduced to a political argument for what is already lost) cannot allow himself to directly express his shame at the disarray from which he emerges, but instead plans a defence against the growing jeopardy of his situation by adopting the form of arch distance. Traumatic separation from  the flow of speech, where it is not massified as quantified  content, is driven into the truncated form of niche aphorism, which gestures towards summing up all that precedes but also all eludes it. The aphorism makes a show of cutting itself from those utterances which came before its performance as 'first' utterance - a move that suggests an unacknowledgeable severance of the aphorist from his world. As a perpetual emigre of the ancien regime, not of the world but for it, the aphorist compulsively reassembles fragments of discourse, as parts of a never to be mended pocket watch; every well-tempered announcement captures its moment lightly. And in reciprocation, the world relinquishes the aphorist, heavily. Behind its mask, the reactionary aphorism is a displaced grimace of terror. The aphorist's affected unconcern in perfecting his trivial, and detached, judgements becomes a sort of net that he throws over substitute objects, against which he stages well-executed practical jokes and ambushes, whilst the thing itself, the thwarting and convoluted world, his parent, his place, eludes him. And each little trap that he sets is a misdirection, a distraction, from the trap of history that has severed him from his sense of ease in the world, whilst also supplying him with the ubiquity of his form - this radically truncated mode of thinking clutched at by the ex-ruling class, discourse's portable property, which may be practiced in any cramped garret that must be made the best of. Then, every aphorism evokes a guillotine set up in the market square as glimpsed from this drawing room (soon to be divided up into flats for the paying off of tax arrears.) And every aphorist, a tragic sensibility, permitted only a forlorn and impractical hand luggage, standing at the point of departure, is unable, but convincing himself unwilling, to bring into his last conversations the terror, the horror at leaving, so waving a handkerchief to those at the window, not quite catching their eye, and who anyway, might not, would probably not, could certainly not, tolerate his blubbing. Oh, boo-bloody-hoo, was the motto of the hour, on the cusp of digital going fully automated post-intimate. There was a moment (or was there?), before affect fell into line with memes, when some humans tried to tell what it was that was troubling them - then, they were overwhelmed by the volume of all that interchangeable and counterfeited confessional blow-back (a hundred million bottles washed upon the shore). Then, even the critique of conditions, for circulation's sake, cleaved to inexorable truncation. Then, suddenly, nothing could be said that was not also a strategy for extracting something in exchange. And then, the aphoristic became inseparable from the soundbite. And then, everything was memes. And then, all that mattered was no feelings, but only 'smarts'. For everyone. The desire for things to be what they are supposes a fort/da mode of command, a savage hearted eminence issuing notices of summons and dismissals from its cot to the furthest ends of the kingdom. Quite early in pursuit of its own project, creative self-expression lapses from sleight of hand to self-misdirection. The late aphorism cannot derive comfort from reactionary propositions. And in refusing the aesthetic of detached pleasure in distinct objects, where separation is typically expressed as a break from, or decomposition within, an earlier condition, the later aphorist must formally 'socialise' outlines as these function as indicator of an object's content. Where the reactionary aphorism collapses under the weight of its growing meaninglessness, the later aphorism appears. This, the later aphorism, is neither a summons nor a dismissal of fatal essences but expresses a compulsion to uncover hidden and multiplying contradictions. Let ugliness be ugly, even as it strives to the contrary. In passing on the opportunity to say one thing, and unable to prevent itself from saying two things instead, it cracks its own formal integrity. The later aphorism is always expressed as a broken form exposing the bones of at least two antagonistic principles - in saying two things, it suggests the crowding in of yet unwanted others. It eschews the ideal of resolving the difficulties between form and content by means of condensation but, militating against its own concision, suggests the viral, whatever proliferates, and the dispersed aggregation common to all things appearing within the commodity apparatus. Then, suffering should not be communicated if it is not also shown to be conditioned, at least in part, by hope for improvement. And wretchedness should not be communicated as a distant unitary principle but must be exposed as a terrifyingly frayed knot of otherwise unknowable but always multiplying afflictions. For it to find better expression, the later aphorism should overspill its formal presentation; the break in its rhythm becomes, and this is the joke in the form, 'precisely' the leverage point on the content of its object.