Saturday, 18 July 2015

Now recruiting: let a second, third, fourth archivist now approach this task of minor reordering

One night, fifty men swam away from God - Corso

There were never 50 of us and there never will be. We were always deliberately few and enamoured of the hidden. But still, we have made a mess of things. More driven than driving, it would not be unreasonable to describe our project as a dog's dinner, or why not a befouled nest? The fouling is a result of the endless tracing over of the same set of 'no way out' problematics, which in turn are indicative of the immediate dead-ends we chose to inhabit. This was not enough to cause us to give up. Our project has continued to accumulate discourse as over-tracing and duplication but, unless we have missed it, it has failed to effect an exit through the entry point that we might once have expected. 

Second amongst the conundrums that we have set, and reset ourselves, is this question: what is the proper response of those who first encounter the conclusion of our activity at the beginning of their's? If they find themselves in broad sympathy, but are still not immediately persuaded to abandon their position, then what? Who is it that begins at the end of another's project, and how to they proceed? 

One thing seems certain, 'live' encounters with our arguments are intolerable. It is not feasible for others to read or engage with us whilst we are, so to speak, still in the room; whilst we are still, so to speak, adding further ordure to the grand dung-heap of our efforts. Then, another approach is required, an approach which does not treat our project as living, as present to those approaching but which has become completely lost from the world. This genealogical encounter would treat us as if we were but distant antecedents of the investigators' present. For them to get on with their task of exhumation and re-categorisation we must have already departed the stage and, to all effects and purposes, should be classified as already dead. 

But what is it, this foul and collapsed hovel, that the hypothetical team of archeologists, forensic scientists, archivists and reconstruction artists are supposed to investigate? They will find in our amassing of speech content an abject poverty of contact. The struggle was always to effectively articulate what we were saying - but we could never quite separate the message from the noise. Not only did we have to supply our arguments to the world, we also had to construct the context in which such arguments would make any kind of sense. That was always going to be an unachievable objective, a suicidal gamble on the possibility of engagement. For others to really encounter us, they would have to approach us 'historically' - ours was one of those projects of the human community that are intolerable in the present. There was never anything to say to us in he moment, and we become comprehensible only from a distance.

Our upsets have passed beneath the threshold where discourse may usefully assign them a significance. We cannot reasonably expect that the pea-scale of our troubles will be carried within the freight haulage infrastructure of politics. And whilst we continue in our efforts at ideologically reframing our disquiet within established political categories, even if this may prove functional in the energy transfers of externalisation, we remain secretly unconvinced of our ability to speak what we feel the urgent pressure to say. Our inarticulacy precisely tracks the presence of something beneath it, triggering it. However, the nature of whatever this leviathan-like movement might be remains elusive, obscure and troubling. We also suspect that the attenuation in our speech is recently transformed into a chronic and exponential condition which threatens an eventual signal extinction. For this reason and perhaps others, the project of giving utterance to that which blocks the possibility of utterance is consistently forced to give yet further ground before the block's project of actively denying its articulation. As a result, we are losing contact with what is producing us.

This is not to make a claim for the importance of our work. Like the content of most archives, our texts are, for the most part, of low quality. But anyway, the object of the genealogist is not to grade the quality of an argument but to situate what it says about the set of relations in which it appears. The problem is set elsewhere than as 'worth', and is similar to Corso's question of orientation: how to situate small group jargon and its syntactic conventions beyond the group's own confines? Then, we are looking for genealogists to sympathetically work through our vast archive of failed utterances and firstly find out what they are about, and how they 'fit in' within a more general schema. After this, we hope that they would be able to make something new from them. Do we dare also hope that they'd refashion from the muck of our infirmities a golem for their own project?

To be sure, what we propose is a peculiar task - and not suited to a professional historian. The ideal candidates will have already experienced a, perhaps unarticulated or even unacknowledged, dissatisfaction with the discursive conventions of left-activism and with the parameters of 'class analysis' in the form of repressive consciousness. Such persons would be looking to sympathetically draw out the implications of this disquiet whilst also refusing the temptation of that rightward drift which is integral to so many other's 'political maturation.' It is possible that this task will suit those of a 'certain age' or perhaps someone undergoing a lengthy convalescence, or enduring the sort of exile that induced Auerbach to write Mimesis. Be that as it may, if the prospect of excavating dull and dusty racks of past texts excites you, then please, by all means, apply within. 

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