Thursday, 7 November 2013

Have a care: Endnotes 3 and the resplendent quetzal


 The tale is born from the image, not from any thesis which I want to demonstrate and the image is developed in a story according to its own internal logic. The story takes on meanings, or rather, around the image extends a network of meanings that are always a little uncertain...
Italo Calvino
This is not going to work is it? That’s obvious from the beginning. But the alternative is even less palatable, a considered and reflective, (nuanced even) reading... and to what purpose? All that I pour out upon these pages cutting from my own flesh, has no more than five readers, and perhaps many hundreds less. For that reason alone, there is no sufficient justification for my absorbing the journal endnotes and then reflecting and then rereading it before writing my considered response. 
Some of us will not get round to reading Ulysses, Tristram Shandy, Remembrance of Things Past, or the sacred 3 volumes of Capital. Some of us will not even get round to finishing Dark Side of the Moon so it is not surprising that we will also not read endnotes 3. But shouldn’t we make the time? Isn’t endnotes 3 current? Isn’t it something living and vital and important - a throbbing cuboid of inky scratches and gristly pages? Let’s face it, the endnotes thing is now the only English language ultraleft publication in the world, and it lurches forth from a milieu that has shrunk to an ectoplasmic level of presence. Nothing live attaches itself to it, there is no flocking, no convergence, no point of intensity, no critical mass, no quickening, no upsurge, no exceptionality, no polarisation, no crucial intervention, no difference that makes a difference, and no relevance. What there is, is a rearranging of the cutlery... For the very reason of this lull, are we not obliged, as if committed by fate, to carve out an oxbow lake from the meanders of our lives and pour our own flows into its lifeblood that is coagulating there? 

Get away with you. And not at all. There is a point where one simply does not need the role of lonely reader. No, wait again, it is much more complicated than that - there are cultic objects with which one can spend a lifetime, which one can turn over in one’s hands, and thereby know and also not know them. I observe, merely and cavalierly, that it is not obvious that endnotes 3 is one such object. 

Certainly, I am not interested here in, once again, reiterating my sense of profound disappointment at how endnotes has not even come close to engaging with what it is to be a human in this moment and also to refuse what it is (and also fail in that refusal). Whilst I am still at a loss before the self-imposed limitations of its project, its sublated life registers, the work of what Camatte calls repressive consciousness, and the continued political structuring of its thought (by which it marvels romantically at the role of ‘partisan’... Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,/through the graves the wind is blowing) I am not upset about it any more. And no longer do I vomit out of pure sadness. I’m over that. Really.

And yet, before we go too far, it cannot be denied that endnotes 3 has caused some excitement. For us, I mean, for those who we cannot call we, or us - for those of us who do not know who we are. We band of readers. And non-readers. I do not know what excitement endnotes 3 causes others but it might be relevant, at least to ourselves, the us that is no us at all, to begin with our, or rather my, immediate responses, simply because that living thing, the vital instant, the throb, the flesh, the register of immediacy, is precisely the stuff with which endnotes is structurally constrained from recording - I do not know whether we have time to discuss the nature of that constraint (i.e. i. the self-enforcing of external expectations; ii. the elimination of writing as record and its translation into a writing heuristic as corrective, as overwriting; iii. the political representation of ‘action’ as the source of communism) but we do have time to talk about what is immediate. There is always time for that. 

What is immediate? I didn’t see that question coming. And now it has caught me out. So, I’m just making this up as I go along.  So, I have to come up with an easy get out, maybe draw a door on a wall, to escape. So, then I will be allowed to get back on track with the other stuff (it crosses my mind that I might make a distinction between the ‘other stuff’ and immediacy). 

So, my real guess is that the immediate can be roughly understood as those things that appear. Its the appearing of the things that is immediate. The thing and the process embodied in, or suggested by, the thing. And, of course, we can’t forget the event of appearing or making appear before the one who is registering the thing’s appearance. If I walk into a spider’s web and I pass my hand uneasily over my face, that is immediacy. 

So, the publishing of endnotes 3 is immediate because endnotes 3 is a thing and it has appeared before the us that is not an us. We pass our hands uneasily across our faces. This immediacy is vague because we know that after some lapse of time, it will cease to appear and will thereby be transformed, merely and perhaps dearly, into part of that furniture comprising all the things which are not appearing now (but which did appear once upon a time). 

Except of course, there are times when a thing re-appears at a later moment because of some change in the faculties of reception, where a necessary piece of the world, just like that, falls into place and invites the thing to stage its comeback tour. Or, according to the principle of wrong time/wrong place, it might be made to appear before some other unintended presence that summons it up from the depths, causing it to fall into the hands of those who had not found it before, thereby revealing its true audience, long after it had appeared wrongly before its false audience - if you would be so kind, let Nietzsche please perform that particular example and nobody complicate it with mentions of Pierre Menard. 

Endnotes 3 is immediate to us (provisos extant), it has appeared before us and we must record that moment because, all too soon, our attention will surely be snagged elsewhere, and no doubt upon some other febrile whatnot, and we shall undoubtedly forget endnotes 3 forever. We are not the world, that is true. Therefore whether we forget it or not butters no parsnips. Then, ought we not recalibrate the framing of our world to include its algorithms as our own? Ought we be so bold?

To side-step that one for a moment, certainly, so, or rather maybe, the real question pertains to whether endnotes 3 will have made sufficient impression upon the General Will that it shall thenceforth continue to resonate, like a primeval sonata, within the conditions of  generalised apperception, as such ringing worms itself towards its true and social object. I just slipped that in at the end there, like a fold of paper under a table leg, to hold the sentence up. I don’t know what it means and if I did, I might  be obliged to have to reconsider holding a sentence up like that - so, I refrain from revision. 

But you might say, and on a good day I might agree, that it is not important what endnotes 3 looks like, or what first impressions it makes (which renders my efforts even more superfluous) but how a serious reading by the proper authorities will translate endnotes’ arguments into real and living, and righteous partisanship. And that is the point isn’t it, really, this business of serious reading and analysing and writing? I mean, its what those who belong to the party of the General Will, do isn’t it? But what is it? 

The General Will and Its object, the true social content, is clearly distinct from the mere will of all, I do know that. But then the trouble starts... because when you say communising praxis, I say instrumentalising rationality - shall we call the whole thing off? What I mean is, I know where the sublating mode of taxonomic ordering leads: the village has to be destroyed in order that it may be saved. Platonov has already adequately demonstrated that this doubled act of first making categorically distinct and then making categorically reintegrated (at a higher level ) is the hystericising how of communisation - it is incarnated as fanatics citing ideals as justification for acts of barbarism. 

I know post-rousseauians, jacobins and other marxists make that distinction and conflation between their categories and that they think it pretty saucy hot.  So, eye-distracting pretty baubles are not the proper sort of object for the General Will. Serious analysis sets its gaze above the hubbub as if firing its hypothetical shots over the gathered imagined heads. It draws a curtain, shuts the door, it needs to exclude the extraneous to discern the essence... theory implies a conscious tinkering with the perceptual-cognitive apparatus so as to better filter which ‘shocks’ are registered as significant and which are not.  Anyway, Eisler also never wrote, ‘When you are composing and you open the window, remember that the noise of the street is not mere noise, but is made by man.’ 

I have not opened the window for many months but I did hear, and I do not say this is true, that there are some ‘acolytes’ who are prepared to possess copies of endnotes 3 purely, and merely sheerly, to make appear its surface appearance before their significant acquaintances, behaving as if such appearing would confer an equivalent status to that bestowed elsewhere by the display of a bird of paradise tail feather (now begins my cetology drum solo, please feel not obliged to read it: Zulus wore turaco feathers; West Africans displayed the red flight feather from Bannerman’s Turaco Tauraco bannermani; in northern Pakistan, people wear the plumes of the Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus; in Borneo the tail-feathers of the largest hornbills are used; in New Guinea the feathers of the birds of paradise and cassowaries are used; in New Caledonia, Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus feathers were used; Polynesians used the plumes of the Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda; Rulers in Hawaii made capes out of now-extinct drepanid finches and the Hawaiian Mamo Drepanis pacifica; in North America the feathers of the Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus were used but also Red-headed Woodpecker Melanerpes erythrocephalus, Callipepla quails, hummingbirds and the red head-plumes of Acorn Woodpeckers M. formicivorus; in Central America, the  Resplendent Quetzal Pharomacrus mocinno were woven; Moctezuma wore trochilid feathers, interspersed with tiny platelets of gold; in South America, cotingas, hummingbirds, toucans and parrots, e.g. the Hyacinth Macaw Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus were used; the Emperors of Brazil used the Channel-billed Toucan Ramphastos vitellinus and Guianan Cock-of-the-rock Rupicola rupicola.Three white plumes of the Ostrich Struthio camelus have been the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales since the fourteenth century. Cavliers wore ostrich feathers in the hats of the seventeenth-century and Jimi Hendrix wore a peacock-feather waistcoat).

Then the appearance of a thing in the midst of a set of relations confers certain nuances in the status of those included within that relation; specifically, nuances of gaze and nuances of possession. So, what is involvement in a context like that? Now, that is a question which I cannot motivate myself to think about as I’ve already reached my answer, not much. However, if intense and substantialised responses can be considered to be a record of living activity, then both endnotes 3 itself and those who consume it like butterscotch sucking popinjays, seem unable to access that register of life, which (for example, and provisos securely in place) the licensed fool, Russell Brand appears to draw upon. If even a recuperated representation of revolution more accurately engages what it might be to invert the given relation between dead labour and live activity, of what it is to throw off the dead hand and be alive, than the authentic discourse of communisation, then there is something washed up and on the ropes about this way of going about, or doing, one’s business in the woods

So, it must be, that this appearance lark really concerns the capacity to engage a looked-for mode of reception and thereby stimulate an expected mode of response. That is to say, the theory of communism must take as its object live activity, living existence, and not simply the conditioning factors of the present scheme of reproduction. What prevents endnotes 3 (and I haven’t read it, so I don’t know but I will ask the question anyway) from being alive? Is theoretical reticence the feedback effect of writing as if before the conservative discursive expectations of an implied readership - what we might call the mutual castration rite of marxist scholarship? What is endnotes 3 meant to connect to? What is this subject body, whose eyes and hands are meant to embrace endnotes as if it were its own? What and who is it talking to?

Otherwise, and at a loss, we must now turn to this week’s watchword, care. You know that Banksy painting in which a french maid seems to be about to sweep the detritus of the streets under a carpet... lets begin with it as our central image and then try to imagine endnotes 3 without the corrections, say in its first draft. What is writing with the mess left in? What is the material of living thought? No, how is the dross, the spoils, the boney pile, the gob pile, the bing, the batch or the pit heap, the slag of it all, to be discerned from the pure ore? What is filtering what? What is excluding what? 

Because, lets be clear about this, endnotes 3 is very careful. It’s very neat and it’s very tidy, and you have to ask yourself what the underlying mechanisms are that cause it to be so. Hold on, wait a minute... its clear what is going on here. The tissue thin and frankly paranoiac allegation that you were about to make is that an overriding fastidious narcissistic superego, in thrall to an unrestrained death drive, is fashioning an aesthetic of disappearance from the microcosmic copy-editing at the heart of endnotes 3 so as to further the domination of lived existence by the dead... the implication being that endnotes 3 is nothing but an exercise in alphabetically rearranging paper clips in the guise of marxist theory. You would be quite unjustified in making this allegation because in reality, the editors of endnotes 3 are merely and sincerely attempting to filter out extraneous theoretical noise in order to present, in readable form, a clear argument.

You mistake me sir, and even if I am no stranger to cod-freudianism, I swear that that particular association had not occurred to me. Let us strike it from the record, forget it forever, and make friends again. I am much more concerned about what carefulness, as illustrated in the group editing of collective thinking, does to the outcome of that thinking, I mean politically. When you remove the extraneous noise of the street, you are making a decision not just about what you consider important but also (via Pete and Dud) what you think others should find important - ought not the accidental and erroneous be included? 

By not including workings out, and not presenting the process, the endnotes editors recapitulate the very epitomisation of mystifying, verisimilitudinous (from verisimilitude), violent, ventriloquial virtuosity (via Leonard Sachs). My polite suggestion is that perhaps, in the rationalising socialist realist aesthetic of exclusion, too much of the tangible is left out and too many  constraints, signifying principles as truth value, are left in. 

The life-world is the domain of error, the site of the process of what may be learned - and so, it is both unfair and inhuman (and a little bit uncaring) to attempt to present the world as nothing but the abstracted pure ore of constraints, actions, partisans, legacies and purposes, without also leaving a space for the complications and the veritable mess of learning which is inherent to the lived moment. We can imagine the space set aside for mess either by the drawing of a ‘here be dragons’ boundary, or perhaps by introducing features of paradox. 

If we are to define humans, then let us proclaim boldly that a human is a creature that is in need of error. It is through living in error, after all, that abreaction is possible. The human needs to live as error which is their proper orientation towards the Mecca of received constraints. The earth humans do not live in accord with but in relation to the rules which govern them. Of course, that is not to say that endnotes 3 must loosen its corsetry  altogether (it has the more pressing problem of how it is to finally leave behind the heritage of its leninist voluntarism - nobody forgets that ‘communisation’ originates as a leninist modality) and thereby transform itself into a slag heap, but still it has to depart from its socialist-minimalism and engage other registers. 

If endnotes 3’s editorial procedures have left nothing to chance, then this only causes it, perhaps paradoxically, to appear somewhat under-prepared, naive even. Therefore, whilst it might seem to fly in the face of the basic principles of communication theory to call for the reassociation of a maximalist aesthetic with communist ideas, that is what I am calling for. But then, in mitigation, I have already found that it is not the message content that is most significant but the living character of the reception that it elicits - at least that is the theory of the McGuffin. The social circulation of relations as trophallaxis, even if the tangible content is in error, is closer to what human social relations must be than the attempt to communicate communist ideals. 

It is true, of course, that a maximalist inclusion and arrangement of appurtenances (as exemplified currently in the discourse of that licensed fool) does not necessarily say more of the world than a socialist-minimalist aesthetic but it does at least have the virtue of explicitly referring to the relation between rules of arrangement and the profusion of life; at least it begins from an assumption of complexity, tolerance and the inclusion (and thus not minimalist exclusion) of the different. Maximalism is oriented as an empathetic prioritising, by means of its technique of inclusivity (we are talking here of arrangements, assemblages, heaps, aggregates) towards the living. It seeks to serve as a record of the live moment, even if it is not more an expression of that moment than any other set of expressive constraints. 

Even so, this expansively empathic and inclusive demeanour, this zestful embrace of flourishing, are the sort of socialised components that are almost entirely missing from obsessive compulsive marxism and other so-called revolutionary control freakery. Whilst also acknowledging the racist subroutines of minimalism, we can perceive how maximalism, conceived as the hosting of appurtenances, is at least in sympathy with pre-capitalist aesthetic registers where instrumentalising rationalisation has not seeped into the ground water of imagination and where the register of the demonstrative remains active.  

In other other words, one requirement for human presence is to enunciate as error at different recursive levels, that is, such presence lies in the capacity to appear more fully as a set of marks inscribed wrongly upon the constraints of existence. Anyway, lets bury the hatchet and admit that endnotes 3 must be getting something right, as its appearance has precipitated, and from a sworn enemy, this effluvia from my responder apparatus. 

As to the adequacy of my lived engagement with the contents of endnotes 3, I admit that I am no great shakes. I acknowledge that I too have not been able to stir up a sufficiently egged pudding - my efforts also do not manifest in enough worlds, at enough densities and speeds, and in enough hues and textures. After all, I am not maximal enough. Then all that remains is to count up the scores: if endnotes 3 have used the word struggle 41 times in the editorial alone, what is it that I have used to decorate this bower? 

I have referenced 6 books, listed 15 latin bird names, played a made-up word game 7 times, deployed 18 puns and allusions, cracked 4 bad jokes, tinkered with narrative thrice, had two goes at neologising, lapsed 13ishly into malapropism, alluded once to many pop songs, cloaked theory in the tenth most ludicrous cloak of feathers, listed hundreds of dead objects, , . But, alas, it is not enough. I know it is not yet the quetzal, and still less is it resplendent

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