Thursday, September 13, 2007

ritual in the dark



My landlord was a large genial man with a neatly shaved head. He wore a surprised expression as if surprised having ate Tweetie. His collection of pornographic supplements from the tabloid press* was second to none; they took the place of encyclopaedias in his lounge; or, one could suppose, from a previous period of the development of the middle class: holiday brochures. This lounge had a stilted sort of perfection like the "installations" in the Littlewoods cataloge. And maybe this exaggerated a sense of provisionality that followed from its function as something like a concierge's office. You were reminded of that programme where Paris Hilton pretends to be an air hostess.

My landlord liked to imagine this pornography wasn't merely staged, apparently ex nihilo but in some way documented another social world, and simply recorded living friezes of taut flesh.

Supposing commercialised sex now stands in for something like a Deleuzian line of escape, I mean ideologically not really -

- because all this is reproduced through the commodity system the detritus of former ideological regimes isn't erased -

- it stands in for this as drug abuse did, as petty crime did, as working class life did.

Pornography is probably another version of pastoral, as Michaux' books used to be (however involuntarily). If the metaphysics of pornography are, as Baudrillard said, what's interesting about it, this is because they are peculiar to this era, and can be understood as such.

[*the Sport for instance offers a quite eclectic apprenticeship not limited to sex lines, videos, rubber, dildos, spanish fly, inflatable men and women, articles for use per rectum; and contact details for depressed prison wives, perhaps, or those of truckers, or other men.]

21 comments:

dejan said...

i am sorry if you feel like i've been neglecting you but i've been swamped in work and a melodrama with love and terrorism, i will revert shortly with remarks on the several good posts you put up in the meantime. i wasn;t happy with the way you embarrassed yourself at dr.sinthome's by the way, that time you tried to sell him marxist eggs. the doctor is a resilient kitten, luke.

catmint said...

I embarrassed mysef eh?

I thought my comments were quite acute. You were right though about the appealing quality of Dr Sinthome's sniffyness. I think he took an immediate dislike to me too, but he has to have his hauteur agree with his sexuation charts or whatever.

The passage from Lucretius seemed a bit victorian nursery whimsical when I wrote it down - as a present of sorts for the Lacanian kitten - but I'm pretty sure I'm dead on with my analysis. & I couldn't not insult the Nazi lawyer Carl Schmitt.

I've read some of the recent parody center stuff at work, so w/o commenting - and it's good, as ever; at least it's funny. I don't want to bitch about Mme Chabert but all that's played out anyway, as far as I'm concerned.

catmint said...

... interestingly the #1 site for Henri Michaux pictures was also one of those that reviewed Patrick J Mullins' book. I sometimes have the impression that everything on the internet is written by thirty people or so.

catmint said...

"videos, rubber, dildos, spanish fly, inflatable men and women, articles for use per rectum"

I was going to write another paragraph about how walking round Amsterdam you get the impression that - if you wandered round this city for an infinite amount of time you would end up doing all this shit - also mushrooms and peyote - not so much in London, in Soho or Camden Town, which aren't so good for walking round

dejan said...

was going to write another paragraph about how walking round Amsterdam you get the impression that - if you wandered round this city for an infinite amount of time you would end up doing all this shit - also mushrooms and peyote - not so much in London, in Soho or Camden Town, which aren't so good for walking round

I wasn't at all taken in by London, it seemed like a dirtier and grittier version of the Netherlands. Soho is crap compared to the Red Light District, because as you say rightly you can't really feel safe to do all these transgressions. My biggest disappointment was the British Museum, where things are heaped on e on top of the other without any system - that little antiquities museum in Leiden is a masterpiece in comparison. I did like very much the ''working class districts'' I have no idea what their names are because I took a double decker in a drunken state of mind and just rode around, but I immediately felt normal while in the City it's an atmosphere akin to the Dutch '"Randstad'', the corporate City, bland, technotronic, distanced. What I did appreciate is a short visit to this university in Greenwich, where it seemed that a classic system of education is still followed and it's been my experience that that still produces brighter people. Holland is way too liberal in some respects, you're so free that you end up needing guidance.

BTW you never told me what you do for work?

Prince Myshkin said...

I think of the memorable line from the great Hungarian Communist satire 'A Tanu'[the Witness]:
"Sexuality is the opiate of the decadent West"!

catmint said...

what do I do? bureaucracy

I don't know if "the west" - I suppose the old EEC is especially decadent this way - in terms of having a lot of kinky sex - In Britain at least the weather isn't right for this, things are expensive - it's not such a promising location to want to stage Fellini's Satyricon - in real life.

What I think is original is that their is a valorisation of sex that conforms to the "abstract imperatives" of neoliberal ideology. What's valorised isn't receiving or giving pleasure but (imaginatively) reproducing capital.

Hence this valorisation of what was always considered tawdry.

cm said...

...should be: that there is

dejan said...

What's valorised isn't receiving or giving pleasure but (imaginatively) reproducing capital.

yes i believe the process of commodification involves a kind of a despiriting, desublimation, don't know what to call it, whereby the sex is hollowed out from within; it is not about gratification anymore, but an incessant stimulation. this lends itself perfectly to the philip k dickian system of capitalism as a cycle of drug abuse. but this leads to a complex discussion I think: does this imply that in abandoning the old, christian-based moral system, in acquiring the freedoms that 1968 was fighting for, we have been punished by God - essentially the implication of dr. Zizeks dekline of simbolik efikasy theory - or does it mean something else: that the situation enables a revamping of Marxism that would provide a new formula for truly liberated sexuality that is nevertheless in the function of community, communality, togetherness, solidarity. Opinions differ...

catmint said...

"the sex is hollowed out from within; it is not about gratification anymore, but an incessant stimulation. this lends itself perfectly to the philip k dickian system of capitalism as a cycle of drug abuse"

yeah, there's a few things to consider with commodification, which are trivial in life and death terms but important in terms of understanding how ideology works:

1. evacuation of content

2. routine falsification

3. double bind communication - something's valorised and prohibited at the same time

all these things seem to me the hallmarks of the market system but they're hardly ever discussed. Not really in the media which coincidentally does all these things, or in the business schools. But materialism dictates we ought to pay attention to these things, whether or not indict this civilisation in some small way.

"does this imply that in abandoning the old, christian-based moral system, in acquiring the freedoms that 1968 was fighting for, we have been punished by God"

from ordinary experience of life in England, & the books you would read, including those of Marx, you would be lead to assume that Capitalism itself did away with God, Religion, and Traditional Morality. Experience in other countries seems very contrary to this though. It probably depends on the size of big capital and its relation to the state, and its method of accumulation. I've been reading Nitzan & Bichler's book about regimes of "breadth" and "depth" accumulation, which is persuasive re these issues: countries outside the old industrial heartland being more subjected to the depth accumulation of big capital: stagflation, conflict, development of corporatism.

"the freedoms that 1968 was fighting for"

this is the thing, because its vague as to who was for what in this period. The point of this argument is that the idea of hip life, an idea that's still with us in an only slightly altered way, certainly needs to be critiqued. & as the precondition of all critique.

dejan said...

But materialism dictates we ought to pay attention to these things, whether or not indict this civilisation in some small way.

I'm not sure how you got to the inevitable conclusion that materialism dictates this? What dictates it for me is that life in such circumstances is becoming increasingly horrible; people don't care for each other, or care less and less.

Also one walks a thin line between critique and disciplinarianism because there is indeed, as dr. Zizek often stipulates, an injuction to enjoy, a disciplined kind of transgression, so a Marxist response that rallies for control and restraint would just fall into the same trap. It's really a mind-boggling issue.

The point of this argument is that the idea of hip life, an idea that's still with us in an only slightly altered way, certainly needs to be critiqued

well it's simple, the ideals that were proclaimed in 1968 apparently weren't what they seemed to be. a christian would say that's because they, too, were desublimated (uninspired by God. I personally don't know. I wonder if it's a problem that people have pluriform ways of experiencing pleasure, or that the call to pleasure is disciplinarian...

catmint said...

"because its vague as to who was for what"

...I mean the recuperation of those ideas that weren't necessarily bound up with a concrete political practice or a real material analysis, and which are reproducued now as if having retained a real if vague liberatory quality. They're more likely neutral or reactionary (as mere commodities, as mere ideologies) - a whole structurally vague alternative movement. The situation today has a residual post 60s politics provisionally subsisting alongside a free market system "becoming corporatist": Guantanamo & Dr Zizek books.

catmint said...

"a Marxist response that rallies for control and restraint"

I meant with my materialism comment that mainstream academics for instance as apparently committed to both materialism and celebrating this society ought not to tell themselves stories in order to fulfil the second commitment at the expense of the first. By extension if one is in favour of the perpetuation of capitalism and materialism one is not enjoined to avoid analysing the processes of capitalism.

catmint said...

"so a Marxist response that rallies for control and restraint would just fall into the same trap"

I mean materialism first: the important thing is having a concrete analysis whether or not this agrees with Marx or Marxism - everything should proceed from that, it seems to me

dejan said...

...I mean the recuperation of those ideas that weren't necessarily bound up with a concrete political practice or a real material analysis, and which are reproducued now as if having retained a real if vague liberatory quality.

i already wrote somewhere that capitalism won because of marxism, that is to say the marxist ideas of 1968 are now the functioning of communicative capitalism with its spectral ''liberation''. what bugs me is WHY this took place, and the best answer I have is Christian - because people tried to replace God with their own idols. However since I am only playfully Christian in that I believe in God as long as he saves my ass, I can't extend this thesis to any serious debate about society. But I think we could say that society needs something to believe in that is ''real'' as in ''flesh'' as opposed to spectral. Whether that will be the second Coming of Christ or Marx, I have no idea. But I do see on the horizon the coming of a serious crisis which I think will propel people to move their asses because it's getting pretty darn unbearable the way things are going.

catmint said...

"i already wrote somewhere that capitalism won because of marxism"

you're right, of course, that a whole series of projects for human liberation ended up commodified, recuperated, and often reproduced in a reactionary form. Naturally marxism isn't exempt from this. But I don't think its accurate to say it was marxism that was recuperated - not cos marxism's always "good" - things just didn't happen exactly this way. From what I understand France and Italy had a strong Communist party so there was a degree of influence of marxist ideas throughout society - through education, trades unions, newspapers, likewise in Eastern Europe the unofficial opposition was often de facto marxist. But Britain and America both had a non-marxist labour movement, broadly speaking. When you get to the hippy movement, the counterculture, I don't think you can really call these marxist. There's radical politics before marx and without marx.

But yeah, I agree about recuperation

catmint said...

"because people tried to replace God with their own idols"

again, I think this is right as a general impression of how capitalism works over the longer term: the transition from absolutism to liberalim, though as I said re Nitzan/Bichler we already know that there are other conditions that come into play. Mark K-Punk I think said that the recent development of China has shown that it's possible to have capitalism w/o democracy. The European experience turns out to not be generaliseable.

The recognition of the relation of capitalism with moral pluralism, understood as something dreadful, at least dates back to the rise of Fascism (probably earlier).

Pessoa started his book of disquietude:

"I was born in a time when the majority of young people had lost faith in God, for the same reason their elders had had it - without knowing why. And then, since the human spirit naturally tends towards judgements based on feeling instead of reason, most of these young people chose Humanity to replace God."

traxus4420 said...

this is, like all your posts, accurate and succinct.

the bit around 'exaggerated sense of provisionality' reminds me of ballard and k-punk's porno writings (how he 'reads' cronenberg's version of crash). mario perniola's book 'the sex appeal of the inorganic,' tossed around the blogosphere at one point or another, is like the apotheosis of this line of thought, where the affect of 'thing that feels' is achieved within an 'inorganic sentient world' by locating this kind of religious purity within the simulacrum. interesting too because he uses words like 'philosophy' and 'the arts' in place of simulacrum, though this is clearly what he's talking about. imagine an ascetic pornography and you're halfway there. it's ingenious - short-circuit desire by eliminating pleasure (eliminating the tired transgression/virtue divide), and then we all ascend into immediacy. there's also a great chapter on prog rock that i think you'd like.

traxus4420 said...

ok, here's a taste, from the end of the book (i have to):

"All the defenders of pleasure are more or less, openly or secretly, partially or entirely, enemies of sexuality, especially when it is not content with staying natural and organic, but conquers its autonomy and radicality in the neutral and infinite experience of the sex appeal of the inorganic."

"To be sure, one has to wonder that philosophy and the arts are no longer organic parts of contemporary society, that they no longer constitute a necessary element of its self-representation, to the point of being similar to a handicap, a disadvantage. However, it is more than legitimate to ask whether the time has not come to do away with all those spiritual-vitalistic metaphors that have led us to consider society as a living organism. In fact contemporary society has become inorganic, that is capable of being understood much more through the perverse effects of performances that take place in it than through the actions of projecting and programming subjects. The sexualization of philosophy and the arts is probably a perverse effect, that is an unforeseen and undesirable consequence provoked by the political irrelevance of these activities. But an even more perverse effect would be that through the sex appeal of the inorganic one would re-establish a live relation between them and society."

catmint said...

cheers

yeah, I am intrigued by these lines of enquiry. I haven't read Perniola - his book looks interesting. Perhaps a better place to start the critique of "hip life" would be with this genre itself. For one thing there would be more at stake. On the one hand it's related to popular movements: the workers movement, but at a different level punk or acid house. But also there's a recrudescence of a sort of elitism, ideas of "cool", a sort of posture, that I might, for want of other points of reference, try to relate yet again to the old pastoral genre. The objecion to this is that it's true! simulation has infested the empire!

I think K-Punk was the first "underground" or "unofficial" writer I read who appropriated Baudrillard's themes, or the themes to which you want to attach the name Baudrillard, without making a pigs breakfast of it. I was impressed at the time. Usually these things are drawn out by hint, allusion, imposure, as if the real analysis, the real dope, is at one degrees remove. Including, I suppose, in Baudrillard's work itself.

I'm still not sure about prog rock though.

catmint said...

there was this story about the Mulelists - apparently they had this thing about their leaders travelling at night in miniature aeroplanes - the underground's like this - a boring version of it