Friday, 21 February 2014

Spectres of the rooms: an invocation that is irrelevantly contemporary with street battles in Ukraine and Venezuela (raw version)

In Journey To Ixtlan, Carlos Casteneda sees a strangely rippling phenomenon in the distant mountains... he cannot make it out and as he fixes his gaze upon it, his perplexity grows into a sort of portal to the uncanny, a vertiginous pathway to all that is not expected. In his excitement, he changes his position and thus alters his perspective... and the distant rippling rock formation is transformed into a cloth hanging from a nearby cactus. Such are the ways of magical seeing - and perceptual error is its way in.  

The outputs of magic are desultory, disillusioning - it turns out there is only ever some rudimentary mechanism, denuded of suggestion and rightly seen from a corrective angle. But then, it is only where evaluatory emphasis is placed on the ‘outcomes’ of belief, credulity, ritual that their efficacy falls below reasonable standards of predictivity. If magical input (ritual, incantation, spell) is considered in its own right without reference to external effect, then it demonstrably works. Thus magic is revealed not as a failed science but only becomes operative as a register, as a manner, of subjectivity. 

Where science proceeds by exclusion of extraneous terms, magic introduces yet further levels of subjective engagement. Where science proceeds via the heuristic of Occam’s razor, magic is beholden to the principle of plenitude. It is not that magic’s approach to its object is false (in comparison to the approach of science) but that the object (access to subjectivity via derangement of the senses) is not the object of science.  

‘Truth is a moment of falsehood,’ thus Debord turns Hegel on his head, except that Hegel never said that falsehood is a moment of truth. But in magic, that is to say, for the subject qua Subject (as it flickers and ripples under pressure from an environment which prevents its coming into being) falsehood and error are the ways into its own otherwise unexplored, even non-existent, levels. Magic, which is the conjuring up of a rich profusion of paths in and against the universe’s bottom-line mechanics, is still the preferred mode, the most appropriate manner for the subject to summon itself, flourishing, as a perversely unequivalent entity.

A  perceptual error similar to Casteneda’s brings me to these reflections... I had heard a radio announcer refer to some music by Berlioz called The spectres of the rooms. I immediately intuited the stuff of this music without even having heard it, and commenced upon a chain of associations from the title alone. Of course, this mondegreen was soon corrected but its results (which are manifested as variable tone and texture) persist. This text is one such persistence, even though the accidental scaffolding of magical misperception has fallen from it. It seems then that, as we are driven by the plenitude principle, we are compelled to conjure every permutation in the sequence of the false until... until what? Until we turn for home? Until we take the right path? Perhaps that is not the way it works.

It is likely that the ‘truth’ was not what we wanted in the first place. Our gaze passes over the truth and discards it, even though it is clearly visible, inserted into the early permutations of the sequence of our attempts. There is a wilful perversity which refuses the truth, and can be characterised as the struggle against ideological consistency - the component of ideology which triggers the subject’s malcontentment (the subject is nothing but assertive falsehood) is its demonstrable truth. The subject discovers that the world is not wrong - how then should its rebellion be legitimised? 

Every day we move the pieces in our rooms, rearranging their components and index the change in their positions to our affective capacities. We ask ourselves, might we not manifest ourselves other than as we must be, if only we moved the occasional table and its vase of tulips closer to the window? Might we not achieve a greater presence here, if the books were arranged alphabetically? If the pictures were reframed and hung a little higher? If the walls were given another shade, and the window’s curtains replaced by blinds? 

Might we gain a march on our spectrality if we moved the rug a little to the left, the sofas against the other wall? And the question of tasked, ambient and accented light, what is most favourable to our project? But we find the rooms play against us. They move the pieces back to the old positions, their correct positions - the places where they must be. 

There is here, a malign feng shui of return that is moving against us, an intervention of the revenant.  The rooms we have inherited as the space to be inhabited are imbued with their own corrective will. We are caught in the rooms’ game. We change everything around and then, as we pass through the internal doors, and circulate from room to room, we find what we expected, that everything is returned to as it was - the game begins again. Might we not add cushions, change the ornaments on the mantelpiece? Before what has spilled out, we ask, might we not declutter, box it all away

Subjective revolt is predicated on, as it is embedded within, the consistency which excludes the possibility of subjectivity (i.e. in the spaces where science has extinguished magic). This is as true within marxist influenced theory as it is more generally in social production. The process of desubjectification is indicated by the commodity form’s extending ever deeper into social formations. For example, by means of divination, and ritual calculation, the journal Endnotes appears upon the very location where something sorcerous should be. The convergence of long standing subjective critiques of the SI, of anarchism, of the ultraleft, with more recent critiques and departures (e.g. from Theorie Communiste) should indicate a powerful hex. But then, if this is so, how is the dullness of Endnotes to be understood? Or, rather, why does something so substantial offer no sustenance, being devoid of all vitamins and minerals? 

The conservation of consistent argument, or true statements, excludes (by necessity) ‘error’ but it is in error, i.e. the departure from consistency where communism as its familiar and ‘the human community’ in general, is located. Just as most scientific experiments are actually not experiments but illustrative demonstrations of principles, so marxist discourse is overwhelmingly preoccupied with reiterating statements which demonstrate their conformity to marxist precepts. We might, upon the occasion of not reading Endnotes, ask ourselves, how, in the consideration of the total transformation of human society, can it be that this body of work fails to express even a fragment of what it must be, the revolutionary subject?

There is, in marxism, an overdeveloped, self-selecting (and thus self-reductive) tendency to desubjectification which parallels (or more likely, feeds into) the processes of political economy. This tendential pressure is towards the sorting of all things to aggregates and then reducing all aggregates to their abstract equivalents. The troublesome perversity of everyday sorcerers and druids, of mountebanks and charlatans, what with their concretising errors, and their world-fixing anti-abstractions, are all equally expelled from both productive process and ideological realm. 

Where marxism begins as a generalised and total critique of alienation, it ends ideologically as a set of plausible rationalisations for the necessity of its own-brand abstraction - its means for ring fencing the objective ‘gains’ of history. By definition, this is a false-false engagement (the wrong way to be in error) with an unquantifiable and inconsistent future (and this, when communism is anyway a mode of organising that is entirely concerned with the present’s relation to the past. So it is written: until the entire past is brought into the present in a historical apocatastasis.

Fine, that is the science, but where is the magic (you get the soup, they get the marrow)? The subject appears via the demand that it must make of the world, and the nature of this demand (being the result of historical wounding) concerns the structured denial of its past appearances. The welfare state permits the subject abject anti-subject survival in set aside reservations for ‘play’ and ‘poetry’. Its demand is therefore wounded, and thus humiliating - the proletarian demand must diverge from the marxist formulation of it (because it and not marxism accesses the deep hoodoo of the subject’s waywardness). The demand is always, and must be, ridiculous

The demand is is not directed towards what is to be achieved, nor to what is to be ‘overcome’. If it is antagonistic, it is looking back to past wrongs. It is not progressivist, it is not future-orientated. It seeks only to release past accumulations of constraints on its freedom to manifest. It is a genie in a bottle. It seeks to reintroduce itself, in an act of retroactive emergence, into the smoothly consistent processes of which it is a result. There is, in its discourse, a gradual decay of abstract terms, an introduction of inappropriate and incongruous registers; a recourse to association, metaphor and magical thinking. The aggregate is transformed into a heap (disrupted by plenitude, by the willy nilly addition of extraneous objects). Then, let me be your little egret. To stalk your water’s edge. Let me. 

Let me be your little egret. Paper cut-out Yosser. Let me be it, that most two dimensional of birds. Let me be one. Let me alone, little egret, in your reedy bed. And by that me, I mean, I hope you aren’t thinking, I mean, the one recording, in a notebook, a spotter’s demand, on the landing slope that declines through the water’s edge. And I hope you never thought that I meant to direct my demand at you, who I know could not countenance it. Then, refer it upstairs, and be quick now. Let’s hear from the top man himself. And I hope you don’t think by demand, by the words let me, I mean politely to request or pray or supplicate. Be assured, this is a true demand; transformative not transitional - enforced by flying picket. Let me be it, and to hell with you. This is nothing short of a violent assertion of something gone wrong. Something wrong, long before any demand was ever formulated. And isn’t inconsistency a demand for what must not be? Then, let me. Why, you ask, the little egret? By power of accident, introjection, and by empathic association. But also, as I have already told you. From side on, I am white, flattened white against the mudflats, but when I turn to face you. Because, I am a bird and have no face. When I turn towards you, I vanish. Like a cloth, like a mountain, I vanish from your visual field. 

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