Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Blackbird Braille: Winter (2)

Whoever recognises a threshold will not cross it. Leopardi records, as a trait of contemporary decomposition, that the viewer's interest in an artwork increases in line with the level of their attachment to the depicted object, and for this reason the typical remoteness of the objects in Romantic art necessarily repulse the 'interested' gaze. In identifying the advance of remote and alien objects through Romantic sensibility into everyday discourse, an event driven by the emergent need for 'connection' with an ever receding world, Leopardi also located an instance of abstract power's transformation of distinct cultural artefacts into representational structures.  He could not have known that the abstract would further integrate with perception and become the general condition for all familiarity. From a situation now wholly determined by intimacy with remote objects, consider for example the measures necessary to establish tolerance for synthetic fabrics against skin, we are destined to encounter the outer limit of Leopardi's foresight banally replicated everywhere. The commentator's source material is always extracted from the constellation of things just now falling into disrepair and never from those objects on the point of consolidation - the state of what decays is the necessary condition, and only evidence, for what emerges. Absence of foreknowledge is concretised within every cultural product, and is the particular shared content amongst a cluster of 1990's 'techno-thrillers' (Hackers, Enemy of the State and The Net) which half-presented nascent forms which still could not then be named  - mankind always sets itself only those problems that it cannot solve. Such thrillers, at a loss before the significance of their own content, were constrained to recirculate motifs from 70's paranoiac cinema and thus neglected to index the category of abstracted intimacy with objects, both imminent and occluded, like the faecal contamination of handsets, or bad contents such as Instagram's (already obsolete) puppy filter

Abstraction is rules behaving as things. Categorical refusal of the ulterior constitutes communism's great difficulty. Every other expansionist project has deployed a pragmatic separation between concealed and manifest objectives. Domination advances both towards and through street lighting and sport, knowledge and hygiene, culture and cuisine whilst also representing the tensions between repression and realisation as one of necessary cost, a precondition for material abundance, an unforeseen consequence. A theoretical distinction should be inserted here between the concepts of accumulation (the general impact upon present circumstances of a continuity within past commands) and accretion (the clogging, silting, furring, and sedimentation of the natural life cycle of social formations). The means by which social forms slow and decline through the process of accretion become the counterforce to plague-like tendencies in progressive expansion of 'successful' organisational principles. Every incremental gain in history is only realised in accord with more powerful private motives. Planning will only succeed where the ulterior drives the ostensible. Conspiracy is best served through the orchestration of wildly differing opinions to the same end but any putative 'unity of theory and practice' condemns itself to perpetually reset itself towards the horizon of shifting temporary part-objects and placeholders. Internally coherent ideologies confront 'the anarchy of the market' only at the most superficial level whilst relying on suppressed and unacknowledged structural compromises - the rule of the most vociferous is also that of the most covert. Atrocity is not an organisational principle nor an end in itself (barbarity is never sustained without pretext) and it is not achieved without also realising contradictory principles (at the least, structure and relations) which will quickly silt up its momentum. Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, communism's determined interrogation of the real, which it undertakes for the good of all, may only proceed from a presumption of its own content as already disclosed, a factor which thereby condemns it to fatally reproduce its practices as the sequalae of idealism. Communism is the Butch and Sundance of part-desire, frozen mid-air as it leaps from an eminence into 'his master's bosom.' 

Fate is only encountered through the desire to escape it. In circumstances otherwise organised by the stochastic mechanism of mass society, a mechanism that suggests, at least, a high probability of disappearance into another life, the minor characters of Build My Gallows High are nonetheless persuaded that the unexpected event of any two given individuals bumping into each other will be determined by a fatally skewed data set. It is their experience that the house always wins, either because the gambler inhabits 'a small world', or because he is given away by 'a big sign'. As an essential component of the gallows mechanism, fate hinges upon the recollection of a trick or lapse or accident. The 'small world' revolves on the tilted axis of Eros whilst the 'big sign' is just death's little joke - it had to be you. Fate is known by minor characters everywhere as a fixed deck, as a scripted ending, as an unwitting complicity. The condemned, if they are to live, are also impelled to surpass all potentiality. In Márai, those women who must ascend the scaffold thereby attain the gift of a definitive and aristocratic gaze that scorns equally the cause for which they die, and the cause which puts them to death. Fate is the only true framing of individuality, and at certain moments in history, or at least in myth, it becomes necessary to submit to the frame and permit the subject's outline to be contained within it. Only those persuaded not to make promises may live in the moment, and mindfulness is always avoidance of the contest with fate. The victory of the 'big sign' over Ozymandias depends upon the discovery of the pedestal's inscription before it has been erased by the same process that has already eroded the statue. Survival, like success, is a false outcome, a flawed depiction of beating the odds where the longer view has been relinquished. The small world of the gnarled oak, as a familiar object of the embattled soul, has no virtue but persistence as the last member of an otherwise extinct forest combined with the accidental presence of this particular passer-by prepared to recognise it; sooner rather than later, it too will disappear and travellers will look to other more resilient formations for their reference points, metaphors and exemplars. A store legally constrained to display a bilingual sign disguises its non-compliance by translating English injunctions into Welsh nonsense.

The boundary is also an incursion. The boundary is not an outline or edge, the outer limit of a named force, but an internal function like a gut or spine - it is a coiled tract about which institutions cohere; it is the bad regulator of all attributable processes. Bodies become distinct territories where they form around, not inside, their boundaries. This (and no other) bird's reproductive territory is an external projection of this (and no other) instance of song and plumage. The boundary should be depicted as a spiral, as a conduit. Dorothy Maguire stands midway on the other stair, the back stair, channel of servants; upstairs and downstairs she mutely carries messages between the distinct sites of trauma, repression and deferred anaclitic release which together constitute the inner workings, the collateral energy, of separated existence. Force expands in concentric loops from, and contracts in coils upon, its fixed axis - and within the axis again, a spiral. The axis is the boundary's own boundary in crisis, and must be re-captured constantly within its loops. The inescapability of the Conant Ashby theorem is demonstrated by Beer imagining the world as the perfection of its map. And yet, cyberneticists do not know self-hatred. The boundary does not desire constant return to its axis but an escape from itself - the spiral staircase is always the materialisation of somebody's failed effort to be somebody else. Measure the extent of a dizzying descent. The boundary is also selectively porous - as in Freud's reizschutz  - it does not devour but absorbs, and metabolises... it breaks down and digests. And only 'ghosts', those without the appropriate papers, may escape process. Ghosting is whatever has no nutritional value, or that which is unconstrained by the environment in which it manifests where the environment, despite its regulatory coils, is also constrained to register the ghost's presence. The ghost, as ghost, perturbs the system but is not itself perturbed. Ghosts appear across, rather than within, boundaries; they neither ascend nor descend; they are a skewed depiction of what is present, but are also accurate features on the map of non-permission.

Four objects seen in a pittura infamante

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