Thursday, August 19, 2010

Francis Bacon's Cartoon and the Messianic Resemblance

     In its original meaning, “cartoon” refers neither to Sunday comics nor Saturday morning animation; instead, a cartoon was, originally, a large drawing on scrap paper used as a design, of the same size, for a painting, fresco, mosaic, or tapestry. The cartoon, then, stands in a curious relation with the artwork as such, with any given, reified work. Neither sketch nor artwork, the cartoon finds itself lodged in the gap between imagination and reality, the potentiality and the actuality of a given work of art. Structurally, the cartoon is a pre-resemblance to an artwork, art’s latent ghost showing up not post-mortem, but before the work is even born. And following Benjamin’s lead, could one argue that the cartoon lives in the daydreaming world of Proust’s cult of similarities?

     Take Francis Bacon’s “Two Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer.” Not part of a series, this painting’s two studies reside entirely within it. On the right, Bacon places the figure of George Dyer, seated legs crossed and staring without eyes beyond the canvas. On the left, situated upon a plane of monochromatic black, a second figure of Dyer, this time naked, his opposite leg crossed yet staring beyond its own plane into that of the first Dyer and out into the void beyond the canvas itself. This second figure, pinned to its own void-like plane, is, properly, a cartoon. A bizarre cartoon, however. The painting’s layout – seated portrait study, hovering canvas with corresponding and emerging portrait – harkens to a long tradition of meta-paintings (ala Velázquez or Rembrandt). Yet, what Bacon gives us is not a portrait, but another study in the form of a cartoon. Where we expect another canvas to stare back at us like an endless self-reflective hall of mirrors, we find such extension instantly foreclosed with a pinned down scrap of a painting (which, one immediately sees, resembles and plays with Bacon’s style from the 1950’s – those fleshy figures composed against black backgrounds).
     What is the relation between this cartoon and the seemingly absent work of art? Is there, somewhere, a destroyed canvas with a naked Dyer resembling this cartoon? That this cartoon bears a relation stretching forward in time as if it were an as-yet-unrealized work is, given the title and dynamics of this work, difficult to support. Rather, we see a suspension of the traditional cartoon-artwork relationship. Instead of the cartoon serving as a latent painting whose potentiality is swallowed up in the final work, Bacon places the cartoon in relation to the painting itself as if the two were coeval. The two figures are, after all, the two “studies” for an as-yet-unrealized work (such a title is a typical gesture of Bacon’s). The cartoon, then, resembles the portrait, the portrait the cartoon, each locked in a discontinuous connectivity stretching from one plane to another.
     From this discontinuous connectivity arises something miraculous. As the stylistic clues the cartoon throws at us, what the cartoon itself resembles in the portrait (the more-or-less “realistic” Dyer) is the lived experience of a living being. Yet not just any old “experience.” As with Bacon’s work in the fifties (“Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X,” in particular; Figure 1, below) this cartoon constructs through indirection an image of pure sensorial experience. Yet where the “Study” used Eisenstein’s nurse (in Battleship Potemkin; see Figure 2, below) to refract how lived experience can be captured by some external force (how the experience of the body’s contortion in terror is constrained by a filmic image), the cartoon itself constructs a shimmering reflection of the lived experience of a living being’s simple, profound, and immanent flow – the body pulsing unknowably through veins, the flesh wincing unnoticeable underneath a gaze. Here the filter that illuminates experience is not an apparatus the living being experiences through (as with the nurse-pope), but a messianic sieve with which the living being’s experience is rendered visible.
     Just as Proust’s endless projections of similarities open upon a messianic world wherein living being can stand in relation with its own nature, Bacon’s cartoon bears the image of such a messianic being standing in resemblance to itself.

Figure 1: "Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X", 1953

                                  Figure 2: Still from Battleship Potemkin

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reading Gesture Part II: To the Lighthouse and Discursive Planes

     My last post’s example of the gesture in Dickens’s Oliver Twist raises another question about gestic reading: what, beyond content, is the consistency of the gesture? What “form,” in other words, is read in a gestic reading? This is clearly the point at which Oliver’s hypnagogia falls short in pointing towards a truly gestic reading: Oliver’s dream world is, simply, a matter of the novel’s content, not its form. While finding instances of the gesture’s messianic world are illuminating, they do not lead, in actuality, towards a hermeneutic of the gesture. Instead, the gesture can be, I hope, found in the non-diegetic passages between discourse levels within the prose of certain authors.
     Take Virginia Woolf and a random passage from To the Lighthouse: “No, she thought, putting together some of the pictures he had cut out – a refrigerator, a mowing machine, a gentleman in evening dress – children never forget. For this reason, it was so important what one said, and what one did, and it was a relief when they went to bed. For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself” (62). And so on . . .
     Now, conventional wisdom holds that Woolf’s style falls under the category of "internal monologue." I will not contest this convention. Instead I want to point to, as best I can with the limited typographical techniques available on Blogger, the enmeshment of discourse planes that constitutes Woolf’s gesture. The first word, “No,” clearly indicates a thought Mrs. Ramsay has, an actuality Woolf makes painfully clear (“she thought”). However, this first word introduces a discourse plane, one upon which Mrs. Ramsay’s more-or-less conscious thoughts will unfold. At first glance it is this plane of discourse upon which the list of paper cutouts belongs, as if Mrs. Ramsay were thinking “refrigerator, mowing machine, etc.” Another initial reading could be that the list belongs to the discursive plane of the narrator (who is first inserted into the text with “she thought”), such that the list is an objective, external list of the paper cutouts. Yet the text’s dashes foreclose both readings. Instead, the discursive plane of the list belongs to something between an “objective” exteriority and a “subjective” interiority; that is, the list belongs to a plane between Mrs. Ramsay and the world around her.
     And things get even more complicated from here. The phrase following the second dash (“and children never forget”) seemingly belongs to the plane of Mrs. Ramsay’s more-or-less conscious monologue. Yet, the manner of this phrase – its detached “universalism,” its all children do X – shifts the discourse into another plane whose “genre” can be called “middle-class domestic wisdom.” The phrase itself could have easily been cut from a domestic manual’s pages, much as James’s cutouts were cut from a catalog. And the passage continues along upon this ambiguous plane until the series comma (“, and . . .”) – the genre register is, until that comma, clearer with its instructive “one” pronouns. Yet this plane could very easily be attributed to Mrs. Ramsay’s conscious thought – and now I want to have my cake and eat it too. For the discursive plane introduced with “children never forget” belongs to both Mrs. Ramsay and the genre of domestic manuals. Here we see something like an apparatic capturing emerging from the text: Mrs. Ramsay’s thought’s capture by the apparatus of the domestic manual. Yet the only way this capture becomes visible in the text is through the intersection of two discursive planes registered by marks read non-diegetically (those dashes and pronouns). And this is, I think, Woolf’s point entirely: that we can, through her style, see Mrs. Ramsay’s capture by the various Victorian, domesticating apparatuses prevalent at the fin de siècle. What Woolf’s style reveals to the reader gestically is not Mrs. Ramsay as captured, but the actual processes of Mrs. Ramsay’s capture – of Mrs. Ramsay’s capture as such. Such a gestic style is not limited to Woolf and other Modernists (especially both Joyce, who makes explicate use of genre play, and Faulkner), but writers as seemingly disparate as Samuel Richardson (Clarissa) and Thomas Pynchon (Gravity’s Rainbow, Against the Day, and in particular, Inherent Vice).
     I must reiterate, the world of the apparatus and the world of messianic are, startlingly, closely related in that they occupy the “space” beside living beings. It is as if the messianic world and the bare life that apparatuses produce are two poles of the same “world,” a world a certain reading can bring into language.

Reading Gesture Part I: Benjamin and Dickens

     A couple of posts ago, I introduced a self-revolution in methodology, rejecting the underlying logic of deconstruction in favor of a type of reading based in an element I tentatively called the gesture. Yet the post left the consistency and means of ascertaining the gesture in a text unexplained. I did, fortunately, indicate that the gesture rests somewhere on the margins of a text – both inside and outside the text. The gesture could be, therefore, defined as a sort of textual membrane of a specific sort, one which produces a self-reflective resemblance.
     In “The Image of Proust,” Benjamin outlines, in one of his most lyrical passages, Proust’s “cult of similarity.” Proust’s similarities (resemblances) do not point towards a likeness of one thing to any other thing, but instead, towards “the deeper resemblance of the dream world in which everything that happens appears not identical but in a similar guise, opaquely similar one to another” (204). Here, the underlying context for Benjamin is his concept of the Messianic as a world wherein “Everything will be as it is now, just a little different” because of a “tiny displacement” occurring (and this is Agamben on Benjamin) at things’ “periphery, in the space of ease between everything and itself” (Coming Community 54). The messianic world in which everything is just as ours only with a tiny displacement between the thing and itself is the dream world of Proust’s cult of similarity. Importantly for any understanding of the gesture, things in this messianic dream world (which, crucially, is a state of absolute between-ness) appear as “images.” Through the Benjaminian/Proustian image appears “the world distorted in the state of resemblance, a world in which the true surrealist face of existence breaks through” (205). Benjamin continues (and I will just quote this amazing passage at length): “To this [Messianic] world belongs what happens in Proust, and the deliberate and fastidious way in which it appears. It is never isolated, rhetorical, or visionary; carefully heralded and securely supported, it bears a fragile, precarious reality: the image. It detaches itself from the structure of Proust’s sentences as that summer day at Balbec – old, immemorial, mummified – emerged from the lace curtain under Francoise’s hands.” m
     This detaching emergence is precisely what any reading of the gesture must address and bring into language. The gesture, a declension of the messianic image, belongs to both any given sentence and the “air” surrounding and supporting it within a world that simultaneously is and is not the text’s and, very powerfully, our own. Once again, this world that we, in reading gestically, share with the text, is a messianic world, a world of the resemblance of the thing to itself in a typology allowing the thing’s fulfillment in language. Through the gesture the thing as such both enters into language and emerges as a crystalline image of itself.
     Now for a concrete example. Benjamin’s Messianic world of resemblance bears a striking parallel to Dickens’s states of hypnagogia, of which his fiction is rife. An early (and particularly illuminating) example occurs midway through Oliver Twist. One evening at twilight, Oliver, lodged in middle-class privilege and comfort, sits reading in his “little room” overlooking the Maylie’s idyllic gardens and fields. Fatigued from his studies, Oliver passes into that “kind of sleep that steals upon us sometimes which, while it holds the body prisoner, does not free the mind from a sense of things about it,” and Oliver, in this state of bodily sleep, retains “a consciousness of all that is going on about [him], and even if [he] dreams, words which are really spoken, or sounds which really exist in the moment, accommodate themselves with surprising readiness to [his] visions” (281). Now, while we all can remember such moments of half-sleep (so often when we drift away from our reading, the text running on according to our own thoughts, the author’s cadence flowing underneath our own half-thought words), Oliver’s particular moment of hypnagogia is of a momentous occurrence. Dreaming that he is once again back in Fagin’s den of thieving children, Oliver overhears Fagin speaking to an as yet unrecognized man. Startled within his liminal rest, Oliver pushes himself into a more conscious state and, in a flash, recognizes both Fagin and his gothic accomplice: “It was but an instant, a glance, a flash before his eyes, and they were gone. But they had recognized him, and he them” (283). Out of his hypnagogia, Oliver recognizes the unrecognizable, the mysterious strage stranger’s resemblance only to himself. Such recognition, Dickens asserts, is possible only through the preparation of the liminal state of hypnagogia. Oliver, pushed to the threshold of sleep and consciousness, enters into the Messianic world of profound resemblances and glances, however momentarily, the gestic guise of his never before glimpsed brother.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Food Court Heterotopia: Spatially Reimagining Left Politics

     In preparing for my teaching assistant position at UCD, I recently read Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias,” a 1967 lecture posthumously published. This relatively early Foucault work concisely outlines the structure of a very real type of space: the heterotopia, essentially a kind of pastiche materialized in real space in which different spaces and times are juxtaposed for the ultimate purpose of creating an illusory-real space revealing how illusory our actually real spaces are. A near perfect example, one not that had yet to reach its zenith in Foucault’s lifetime: the American mega shopping mall.
     Typically, Foucault notes, while all cultures perhaps have heterotopias, the heterotopias themselves fall into two main types: those of crisis (the boarding school and the honeymoon suite , both places where sexuality is first realized for boys and young women, respectively) and those of deviance (prisons, rest homes, mental clinics). Okay, then what crisis or deviance does the mall respond to?
     Any stroll through a food court can, at some level, hint at what almost entirely marginalized and sublimated deviance the mall harbors in neat a semi-circular, white-lit smorgasbord. At most malls one can find Japanese, Indian, Mexican, Cajun, Chinese, Italian, and, if you are a truly “lucky” bourgeoisie, Thai food stalls. And for domestic pride, a MacDonald’s or Burger King (but never both in the small food court!). Here unfolds in cordoned-off compartments bearing too eerie a resemblance to Bentham’s Panopticon prison (a favorite paradigm of Foucault’s) all those ethnic identities (and what expresses an ethnic identity more than food, that most personal and communal a heritage?) in plain view for the leisurely consumer, each disparate culture (always so alien-like from our own) offered up to us for easy and inexpensive consumption. Each stall has its obligatory ethnic representative, each representative its requisite and appropriately accented English.
      What startles one most forcible, when detached just enough from this scene, is the absolute habitiualization of the entire space. No one thinks anything is deviant, any one food is anything other than what is common at a food court. And one would be, from a certain perspective, correct. Certainly, the Indian food isn’t properly representative of Indian food (of what region and style of “Indian”?). Instead, and this comment is, clearly, very banal for any “multi-culturally” adventurous dinner, each ethnic food is greatly “Americanized” by not only our food distribution networks, but our tolerance for culinary deviance: not too spicy and not too strange looking, please.
     What each food culture has undergone is, clearly, a process of acculturation requisite for belonging to the heterotopic space within the mall. And this is precisely Foucault’s point. Entrance into a heterotopia can occur only after “one has completed certain number of gestures” designed as “rites of purification.” To participate in the economic system of the mall, various marginalized cultures must purify themselves of certain culinary deviances (spicy strangeness).
     Yet, what is truly included in the overall heterotopia of the mall (the food court being a sort of heterotopia within a heterotopia)? Clearly one doesn’t see too many Japanese clothing outlets or, rarer still, a Spanish speaking sales person at the Gap. Here, one can see the slightly horrific resemblance between the food court and the Panopticon, the perfectly semi-circular layout of stalls and the circular organizations of Bentham’s cells, both so ordered to facilitate easy visual examination. No doubt the shopper is not ogling the Mexican worker selling burritos to make sure he isn’t plotting a prison break (as if the shopper were a panoptical security guard), but instead simply looking over the stalls to find what culinary exoticism he or she will indulge in. Yet the two gazes are, structurally speaking, nearly interchangeable. Both are gazes implicated in the same action of deviance’s containment. While the prison serves to localize criminals, the food court serves to localize within the whitewashed corridors of the American cathedral those cultures that otherwise would slip from visibility into the cracks and corners of our invisible, domestic third worlds.
     Such resemblance between gazes underscores the bipolar function of all heterotopias. According to Foucault, heterotopias operate between two poles: on the one hand “they perform the task of creating a space of illusion that reveals how all of real space is more illusory.” For the mall’s food court this means, brutally, look, these marginalized ethnicities are here, in the mall, being economically successful and represented; those domestic third worlds cannot be all that real. On the other hand, Foucault writes, heterotopias “have the function of forming another space, another real space, as perfect, meticulous, and well-arranged as ours is disordered, ill-conceived, and in a sketchy state.” The food court’s very real spatiality says, blatantly, there may exist a world were these cultures are even more marginalized then here, but at least in the mall we have a clean-cut, white-lit hall of nations from which we can experience all that each disparate culture has to offer.
     When viewed spatially, these ethnic and class disparities call more forcibly for a new conception of politics – a post-identity politics based upon one’s relation to dominant power. In her seminal 1997 essay “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: the Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” (another essay I read in preparation for TA’ing), Cathy Cohen calls for precisely such a reimagining of radical, left politics. Cohen, questioning the efficacy of the queer political movements in the late ‘90’s for their too limited (and often class-privilege blindness) power binary of heteronormative/queer, petitions for an entire reworking of the conception of political belonging: “Far too often movements revert to a position in which membership and joint political work are based upon a necessarily similar history of oppression – but this is too much like identity politics. Instead, I am suggesting that the process of movement-building be rooted not in our shared history or identity, but in our shared marginal relationship to dominant power which normalizes, legitimizes, and privileges” (458, emphasis added). What the heterotopia of the food court reveals to us spatially is the shared, seemingly abstract (but no less real) relation of each seemingly disparate ethnicity to the dominant power – the predominantly white, middle class shoppers and dinners. And this heterotopia can do more than reveal such a shared marginal relationship to dominant power; it can provide a concrete site for the fostering of shared political action (unionization, collective rent bargaining, voter registration drives, etc) among these otherwise disparate ethnic communities, subversive because the food court, like its ancestor the Panopticon, is laid out such that those in their little stalls and compartments cannot communicate, cannot unionize, cannot create a common political identity.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Human Nature Won't Work for Free

     The freshly minted Newsweek article “Take This Blog and Shove It!: When Utopian Ideals Crash into Human Nature – Sloth Triumphs” makes the general argument (clear even from its puerile, Capitalist vs. Communism title and its adman-like play on “Bolshevik”) that the downfall of the cultural democratic movement of Web 2.0 (the blogosphere and examples like Wikipedia as simple, economically objective and disinterested pursuits of a common formulation of collectivity and collective knowledge) boils down to a “far deeper and enduring truth about human nature.” Now, immediately upon reading this line my ‘hermeneutics of suspicion alarm’ sounded: Really, ‘human nature'? Sounds like more hypercapitalist snake oil. And that was before reading beyond the sentence’s colon “: most people simply won’t work for free.”
     This article hits the note of “human nature” pitch-perfectly. Human nature is, both in this article and in a hypercapitalist system, reducible to survival of a specific kind: economic survival that is prescribed entirely within a system (in the article, the hypercapitalist system of the internet) whose primary means of self-generation is the complete and absolute isolation of individuals into wealth-generating units. The article says, in essence, the People will blog and edit Wikipedia if it gets paid for the effort because it is in its nature. And that payment changes the entire game. After all, what makes “human nature” both human and natural (what delimits that which we can call “human,” that which belongs to “humanity” only through the exclusion of all other potentially “human” living beings) is the belonging to a specific, material, economic system; accordingly, to be human is, the article says, to be paid. This assertion should send up all sorts of red flags, like, were the monks who laboriously glossed not only the scriptures but also a vast canon of ancient thought not human because they did their work for “free”? Or, what I really have in mind: are academics who write critical texts about, say, hypercapitalism not human because they do so for “free,” relatively (the writing and critical work are part of belonging to academia; the actual act of writing and thinking critically is not, therefore, getting directly paid for in a free-market of “ideas,” like the blogosphere, but instead in an alternative economy whose genealogy stretches beyond both hypercapitalism and its burgeoning in Protestant and early-Capitalist ideologies like the Elect and the Individual).
     What was once a seemingly disinterested pastime (and these two terms themselves, which the camp of Web 2.0 defines itself with, are implicated in the same hypercapitalist system they appear to be absolutely independent of) has thus become another component in the hypercapitalist system. Through the discursive point (a sort of monad, to steal from Leibniz) of “human nature,” the article (and with it, hypercapitalism, because the article itself replays hypercapitalism’s violent expansion into another facet of living being and its incorporation of any other system, here Web 2.0, attempting independent self-constitution) shows how the living being of humans has become once again imbricated in a system that even at face value has no concern for the living beings it captures. Yet the People, so the logic must go, turn to the hypercapitalist system for its very survival in an act of seeming pleasure and preference. Then again, such is “human nature” to blog, but only for money.
     Why is it in people’s nature (because I am not denying that, in some terrifying way, we are inclined) to do so? Because they have been constrained and enmeshed in the hypercapitalist system irrevocably such that their seemingly most intimate desire (what Deleuze defines as desire of life, a desire immanent to itself) of their living being is, in the brutality of fact, constructed by that system. This is what it means to be captured by an apparatus, by a vast system of networks forming one large, ontologically destructive apparatus: that one’s most intimate desire is nothing more than the prescribed rules for “survival.” And the phrase "human nature" captures and reflects the entirety of the hypercapitalist paradigm, making living being’s capture crystalline in a violent brutality of fact (because seeing how we are captured in a system that cares absolutely nothing for us is infinitely horrific).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Trace and the Gesture: Towards a new Hermeneutics

     I have been thinking through what follows clumsily for some time, occasionally bringing it up in conversation. It concerns hermeneutics (methods of reading). The default hermeneutics in the academy (in particular, English and literature studies) is deconstructionism, which is, as I hope to prove, a negative, binary means of reading. In contrast to this negativity, I wish to propose a positivist hermeneutics that avoids the constitutive lack of any binary. Whereas deconstruction proceeds from the discovery of an author or text’s betraying accidental mark, my new positivist method proceeds from an author or text’s revealed gesture.
     First, however, the negativity of deconstruction must be laid bare. Certainly, Derrida claimed that deconstruction was, at heart, an affirmation, a joyous play with the infinite unfolding of a de-centered language. Contrasting such affirmation with the “saddened, negative, nostalgic, guilty, Rousseauistic side of the thinking of play,” Derrida positions deconstruction as the “joyous affirmation of the play of the world and of the innocence of becoming, the affirmation of a world of signs without fault, without truth, and without origin which is offered to an active interpretation” (“Structure, Sign, and Play” 292, Derrida’s emphasis). Such an affirmation is, Derrida claims, an attempt to move beyond anthropocentrism, which has “throughout the history of metaphysics . . . dreamed of full presence, the reassuring foundation, the origin and the end of play” – all centerings that deconstructionism has toppled through its revelation of the central hiatus of all language, its displaying language as the play of difference alone. Now, such a conception of language and our comportment towards such a language can, in truth, form a move away from anthropocentric thought. Hence, Tim Morton’s quite amazing extension of deconstruction’s infinite play of finite signs through difference to all (Spinozian?) “existence,” in what he calls the “interdependence theorem.” And I agree with much of Morton’s extension, at least on the surface. Where Derrida and deconstructionists see language (and thought) as the infinite play of finite signs, Morton sees categories like “species” as the infinite play of finite matter, such that all existence faces the threat of passing into a profound indistinction (of life/nonlife in RNA, species/non-species with DNA) – thereby washing thought clean of binaries.
     Yet, I find at the heart of deconstruction’s seemingly joyous play a central hiatus that initiates a recapitulation of anthropocentrism’s constitutive structure: binary or mechanic articulations. Let us look at how deconstructionist reading works. Deconstruction functions through the discovery of a text’s accidental mark, from which the deconstructionist can discern the paradigmatic composition of that text (seeing through it, perhaps, the historical epoch the text emerges out of [New Historicism] or the text’s belonging to an unnoticed philosophical genealogy [as Derrida does to Plato in Plato’s Pharmacy in order to show that Plato, too, was a deconstructionist]). That is, the author or text’s accidental mark – or “trace:” deconstruction is a “seminal adventure of the trace” (“Structure” 292) – betrays its own belonging to the historical set and thusly can be said to stand as an example of that set. Yet the text can only become an example (can make the set intelligible through its own exposure) through the process of betrayed exposure. Such a method is supported by a system of interdependence, a system without a transcendental signified grounding it wherein meaning becomes lost in the infinite play of differences. Now, a difference is always negative (A is not B), and these differences likewise take the form of those accidental marks or traces an author leaves behind like clues for the deconstructionist private eye (Sherlock Holmes is, perhaps, the first deconstructionist). These traces and differences are, specifically, exposed visions of “errors” which open a text to example-ness, to a text’s standing in for the set such that the set becomes knowable. Here we see the reemergence of a particular-general, general-particular logical binary (inductive/deductive model of thought), a binary deconstructionism thought it had overthrown. Rather than relegating such a model of thought to the trash bin of Western thought, deconstruction has unwittingly taken it as its constitutive mechanics, which play out infinitely at its core. Difference is, properly, a decision machine setting two “terms” (it doesn’t matter what they are) in opposition such that they can enter into an indistinction that the machine itself can decide upon, thereby generating not only meaning and distinction between the two terms, but the power and perpetuity of the machine itself. Deconstruction, therefore, did not revolutionize Western thought; instead, it revealed the central workings of a bankrupt machine and brought it to its apex.
     What I want to propose is, hopefully, the overthrow of this bankrupt model of reading. In place of the deconstructionist accidental mark, the betraying trace, I offer the “gesture.” The gesture is, constitutively, a positive “mark” within a text or an author’s oeuvre in that it suspends the particular-general, general-particular logic of inductive/deductive thought (it accordingly shares much with the paradigm’s structure). What the gesture does, precisely, is reveal positively the author or text’s model of thought, its Entvichlungsfahigkeit, the philosophical element, its capacity to be developed. That is, it reveal’s a text’s potentiality, its ability to be able to not be and accordingly generate meaning. Yet in so revealing the text’s potentiality, the gesture does not reduce itself to a mere error or difference; rather the gesture reveals a text’s model of thought as such: a model of thought as a gestic model of thought, which is not a set, but rather a singularity.
     What then is the consistency of the gesture and how does one read the gesture? The gesture reveals itself in various manners, but, perhaps, never through a single element in a text. The gesture will not become visible in a single word, phrase, sentence, paragraph of a text as does the trace. Rather it seemingly unfolds both inside and outside the text, in the space between reality and virtuality, actuality and potentiality. If it were to be found in a text it would, perhaps, be in the subtle shades of other writers in a text, say, how Agamben recapitulates late-Deleuze, or how Benjamin comports himself towards Saint Paul without referencing him. Reading gestures is like an “art of citing without citations,” as a certain philosopher says. The hermeneutic of the gesture belongs, therefore, to the tradition of typology – the reading of the Old Testament for events that become fulfilled by the Messiah: Adam’s prefiguring the Messiah is the paradigm of the gesture. Such a hermeneutic involves the cultivation of a text’s capacity to be developed, to become fulfilled absolutely through an allowance of the fruition of a text’s “crystal-pure elimination of the unsayable in language” (Benjamin, Briefe 127) The gesture and the reading of the gesture are, then, aimed at the resurrection of language from the false death of the ineffable, from all mystery, all lack.
     The reading of deconstructionism that brings its central hiatus, its genealogical belonging to Western thought’s mechanic articulations to light is not a negative, derisive reading; rather it is a reading that brings into language that which has been secreted away, concealed in mystery. In other words, a reading of gesture.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Zizek on Consumer Capitalism

Found this over at Tim Morton's Ecology without Nature. This video is amazing for so many reasons. Zizek gets to the heart of hypercapitalism (our global capitalist culture roughly beginning in the 1960's) and our current systemic bankruptcy. And it is a cartoon!