Monday, December 20, 2010

How Object-Oriented is Agamben? The Unsavable

      Gleamed from Saturday's red-eye flight back east, some fresh evidence of Agamben’s object-oriented tendencies: the “unsavable.” Concluding Nudities’s first essay, “Creation and Salvation,” Agamben defines the unsavable in a manner that coyly suspends it from all relationality: the “unsavable . . . is that in which creation and salvation, action and contemplation, operation and inoperativity persist in every moment and, without leaving any residue, in the same being (and the same nonbeing)” (8).  Now, the list of paired nouns Agamben claims inhere within the unsavable without defining it ontologically, are all, within Agamben’s technical dictionary, relational. Takae creation and salvation, the focus of this essay. Casting aside the frustratingly religious overtones of these two terms, both are grouped under the heading of praxis (2), creation as the angelic work of emergence, salvation as the prophetic work “which makes creation comprehensible” (3). As praxis, both terms function as relational forces producing objects: created being and redemptive being. Creation and salvation, while being distinct from each other, remain, “nevertheless inextricable” (4) because of “the extremely close and yet disjointed proceedings” of each. The function, therefore, through a “rhythm according to which creation precedes redemption but in reality follows it, as redemption follows creation but in truth precedes it.” This field of polar tensions hovers around the unsavable in such a manner that neither creation nor salvation collapse and correspond with it: “created being and the potentiality [i.e. redemptive being, the terms for which shift throughout the essay] enter into a threshold in which they can no longer be in any way distinguished from one another” (8).  This threshold is the unsavable – a sort of middle or between drawing creation and salvation into intense promiscuity with each other, while, it must be noted, they only appear to ontologically collapse into each.  And, crucially for an elucidation of Agamben’s object-oriented tendencies, this threshold-between is the site where “the ultimate figure of human and divine action appear” in “opaque splendor, which vertiginously distances itself from us like a star that will never return” (emphasis added).
            Once again, here appears something like the image, but in such a manner that calls explicate attention to its fundamentally withdrawn nature. Of course, the unsavable is not a real object per se, but the site wherein not only the praxes creation and salvation enter into promiscuity with each other, but created being and redemptive being as well. I want to hazard an OOO reading of the terms created being and redemptive beings by extending the implications of Agamben’s own definitions. Created being, as produced by creation, is a real object; redemptive being, as produced by salvation, is a sensual object insofar as it makes created being comprehensible. Therefore, the site wherein created being/real object and redemptive being/sensual object are placed in tension is the threshold “unsavable.” Now, to extend this model to include my previous comments on the image, the unsavable corresponds with the image in that it is that which makes created beings and redemptive beings apparent, while it itself remains inapparent in vertiginous opaqueness. Thus, the unsavable is a site who consistency is inapparent appearance – or, simply, an image. 
            So, what we have in “Creation and Salvation” are a cluster of terms mappable within an OOO framework: creation and salvation as relation or sensual praxis; creative being as real object; redemptive being as sensual object. But again, we are presented with a figure that seemingly exceeds this framework: the unsavable. I am consistently at a loss with what to do with such a figure, be it the unsavable or the image. I have, however, a hunch: it is something that exists within the middle of the tensions structuring Harman’s quadruple object; or, perhaps more specifically, the unsavable, the image, and some other figures (the signature, among others) are the “faces” of this structural middle. This middle or between I envision as a sort of membrane of inapparent appearance. But again, the faces of this middle, being inapparently apparent, are neither sensual objects nor real objects (although the middle itself may turn out to be a real object in the end).

No comments: