Monday, 23 April 2012

Self-Assertion of an English Garden (After-Life Topoi of Nazi Desire) Chapter 5

1.     Il faut cultiver notre jardin   
2.     Pêcheurs de lune
3.     Iterability of the Nazi State (Economy of Genocide)
4.     Growth (and Form/Morphe)
5.     Decay
6.     Pompes Funèbres
6.1.  Type (Model, Example, Tupos)
6.2.  Usus Tyrannus (Interlude)
6.3.  The Ageing of a Note
7.      Critique of Beginnings
8.      Demonology of Defeat 

5.      Decay

The defeatist object

Why is there annihilation and not just decay?  Why is there decay and not just annihilation?
Axiom of conditions: The one grand narrative never to die is the grand narrative of decay, what Adorno calls the logic of decay, (die Logik des Zerfalls), decline, and entropy.  Any Badiouist ‘event’ or ‘progress’ (he only assumes such events) is to be seen under the ‘condition’ of the conditions – decay.  These events are like the flaring up of embers in a dying yet undying fire.

In the summer of 20…  I began to think about aesthetics (that sounds like much more than it was – how could one ever think about the aesthetic, when the aesthetic is the form of one’s thoughts, of the Real/reality, of all that which appears?) but via detours in a very roundabout way (never to be found out or followed again) I arrived at this conclusion: “The aesthetic arises where the resistance of the pre-aesthetic amorphous object crumbles, breaks apart, decays.  Where the object becomes defeatist – there it starts to become aesthetic.” (yellow stage notebook)  Did not the Renaissance masters advise their pupils to study the stains on the walls, to examine the shadows – improvising compositions from the negligible and the amorphous?  One Renaissance painter boasted that he evolved his sacred paintings from the pattern of spittle and vomit.  Such a master, if he were to have seen vomit on an art book (as in Polanski’s film Carnage) – would have just painted the vomit on the page.  Chaos theory has its roots in decay.  Somehow the intuition that art comes only when “a moment of life has grown old” (Guy Debord) shows that art (like philosophy) is by nature a décadence.   It always arrives too late.  Art cannot come ‘in the beginning’ despite Heidegger. “The greatness of art begins to appear only at the dusk of life.” (Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, Detroit, 2005, §188)  
This thought became irrevocably associated with another idée fixe, that the theory of what is real tends to evolve into an aesthetic, as the groundless ground of philosophy – thus evicting ontology from this ground alias void.  Quite simply, ontology does not permit the thought of decay or the distortion/alteration of being in the direction of the aesthetic.  In Badiouist-Heideggerian terms, it is not possible to submit the thought of the aesthetic to the thought of being (or circle of being which is: being sending thought to and from being to itself; being bouncing off being).
If everything is art (appearance, semblance) – then the only theory (philosophy) of reality is aesthetics.  To be real, one must seize matters in modus aestheticus.

June 20... : “Die Literatur hat immer etwas unzeitgemäßes, anachronistisches an sich.  Vielleicht weil in der Sprache am besten gefasst werden kann, was schon verendet ist – abgestorbene Gefühle, vergangenes Glück, verlorene Jahre, abgelegte Ideen oder aufgegebene Posten.  So wie Sie schreiben in Die Pfirsichtöter, man berausche sich vielmehr an der Erzählung des Mahls als an dem Mahl selbst.  Andererseits, kann die Sprache das Giftpotential der Wirklichkeit nachträglich steigern – wie Sie von O. berichten: “Er hatte gehört, daß jemand an einem Wort gestorben sei, und als er “mein Pfirsichbaum” sagte, krümmte er seinen Rücken.” (Alfred Kolleritsch, Die Pfirsichtöter)”
(“Literature always has something anachronistic, untimely about it.  Perhaps because in language what one can best express is what has already ceased – extinguished feelings, lost years, discarded ideas or deserted posts.  As you write in The Peach Killers, one intoxicates oneself more on the story of a feast than the feast itself.  On the other hand, language can retroactively elevate/heighten the toxic potential of reality – as you report of O. – “He had heard that someone had died from a word, and as he said “my peach tree” he arched his back.” (The Peach Killers).”)

Balzac advised pragmatically – a novel should be set just beyond recent memory – yet still within living memory, approximately 60 years ago. Afterlife drama is eternal and ever present – hence excluded from this limitation.

Heidegger expressly confirms the impossible cohabitation of the aesthetic – deformation/decay of the object – and being.  It shimmers through his commentary on the mystical verse of Angelus Silesius “Ohne Warum” (The Rose is without Why).  The original verse sees the mystical rose “blooming, because (weil) it blooms (…)” (“blühet, weil sie blühet (…)”) leading Heidegger to use it as an allegory of Being and Dasein needing no other reason (Grund) but itself and its own duration. (The German word weil means both - because and a duration, a while.)  But could one imagine the verse radiating this pathos of Being if it were changed to say “Die Ros ist ohn warum, sie verblühet, weil sie verblühet,/ Sie acht’ nicht ihrer selbst, fragt nicht ob man sie siehet.”? (“The rose is without why, it withers, when it withers,/ It pays no attention to itself, asks not if one sees it.”)  If one substitutes blooming for its natural opposite – withering – neither the 17th century mystic Silesius nor Heidegger would have used this image of the rose as a mystical symbol of the immortal soul alias Being.  Even in his prosaic explanation of the mystic’s poem, Heidegger cannot bring himself to speak of anything but “blooming”: “Obviously the rose here stands as an example for all blooming things, for all plants and all growth. (…) Everyday experience speaks for the necessity of the grounds of growth and blooming.” (Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, (Der Satz vom Grund) Indiana University Press, 1991, p. 36)  If blooming and growth are perpetual, never abating – where and when then is ‘finitude’?  Withering is certainly greater than blooming – because it contains it as its prior state.  Withering is the entelechic completion of blooming – just as blooming is its precondition.  The rose blooms it withering and withers its blooming.
Besides, even if the rose does not ask why it blooms, it might conceivably ask why it withers.

As usual Heidegger turns to the Greeks for ready assurances – Being (Sein) for the Greeks means “constancy” (Ständigkeit) – rank, standing-in-itself (Das In-sich-stehen) as coming into being in the sense of standing (Stand).  If this constancy which is also a rank or standing is not constantly surpassed, then decay settles in.  This means – decay can never belong to being, it is impossible for ontology to conceive the decay of being – thus being (Sein) can never become aesthetic.  “Denn auch dann, wenn ein Zeitalter sich noch bemüht, das überkommene Niveau and die Ranghöhe seines Daseins nur zu halten, sinkt schon das Niveau.” (“Even if an epoch attempts merely to preserve the niveau/level and rank its Dasein has inherited, the niveau/level already sinks.”, Martin Heidegger, Einführung in die Metaphysik, Tübingen, 1998, p. 48)  Being trickles out of beings – or into beings.  Whatever has been caught in the trajectory of decay is automatically no longer Being - and cannot be Being again.  “Das Seiende wird nur dadurch im Schein seiner Ständigkeit gehalten, dass es zum “Gegenstand” für die endlose und wechselvolle Betriebsamkeit gemacht wird.”  (“Whatever constancy (Ständigkeit – a synonym for Being sm) such ephemeral beings exhibit – it is only that – a semblance, held in place by it serving as the “object” for endless diverse activity.”, ibid.) 

Could this “object” be something like, border on a defeatist one?

Almost the same thought reappears in the text “Nietzsches Wort “Gott ist tot””, published nine years later in 1943.  With the essential difference – in the 1935 seminar Einführung in die Metaphysik there is no mention of power or will to power – the “inherited niveau” is an objective given, separate from any actions either to achieve or sustain it.  It can only be sustained – not even augmented – if the ‘epoch’ “creatively surpasses” its level constantly.  This ‘creative surpassing’ becomes in the Nietzsche text – an act of will to power and the augmenting of power.  If power is not persistently expanded, it too like the “niveau”, now called “the power-step” (Machtstufe) immediately begins to sink.  But in the second text Heidegger involves the will – lifted from his interpretation of Nietzsche’s “will to power” – to designate the active part in the aggregation of power.  In the first text “niveau” or “rank” can be regarded as an objective measure or criterion of excellence or some sort of superiority – without giving it a name or means to attain it.  The “power-step” or “power escalation” driven by the will to power contains within it both the substance (power) of the escalation and the activity (will), which promotes it.  But the tempo is direr than in the earlier text – the sheer “holding of breath” (Innehalten) in the escalation of power, the mere remaining/stopping on a given power-step is already the beginning of the sinking of power. 
Schon das bloße Innehalten in der Machtsteigerung, schon das bloße Stehenbleiben auf einer Machtstufe ist der Beginn des Sinkens der Macht.” (Martin Heidegger, “Nietzsches Wort “Gott ist tot””, Holzwege, Frankfurt, 1977, pp. 234-235)
One cannot but associate this ‘Faustian’ mechanism outlined in Heidegger’s text with the ‘power-step’ Nazi Germany found itself occupying at that conjuncture – the post-Stalingrad debacle.  Hence the “unthought” (inner fear) of the object of will to power (no longer just the “creative surpassing” of the “niveau”) is quite simply defeat.  These urgent goading warnings dotted around Heidegger’s texts – are quasi acts of looking over the shoulder at the pursuing enemy whose power and will to more power are growing – and digging the spurs more viciously and futilely into the flanks of a panting sinking Reich-nag.  It is all very well to preach the continuous “overpowering” of the will to power of itself – but how will one ever know if those acts of the will wanting itself and its will to power, meaning always ‘more power’ (so close to the formulae of capital – capital is always ‘more capital’ or death alias crash) are truly acts of the will to power or mere ‘semblance’ – sheer diversion, an empty flurry of activity unleashed by the imperceptible but unstoppable “sinking of power”.  The objects of this deluded activity would certainly qualify as “defeatist objects”.  
Actions and concepts have a treacherous doppelgänger-nature.  For instance Heidegger’s “Immergleiche” (always the same) is related to an industrial “und so weiter”  (and so forth) of the mass production power blocs of America and Russia (the ‘enemy’ in other words) and hence negative, reprehensible.  But in connection to Being – one of its unfailing virtues is once again “Das Immergleiche” – close in spirit to Nietzsche’s “eternal return”.
Sein ist im Gegenhalt zum Schein das bleibende Vorbild, das Immergleiche.” (“Being as opposed to Appearance is the enduring model, the always-the-same.”, Einführung in die Metaphysik, ibid., p. 154)
But “Das Immergleiche” is also intimately complicit in “Auswegslosigkeit” – having no way out.  Greek thought saw the repetitiveness of human existence and as a consequence its ‘exit-lessness’ with great clarity.  The myths of Sisyphus, Tantalus – both myths describe travesties of action, being always the same, endlessly repeating and futile.  The punishment inflicted upon Prometheus involves both the punisher – the eagle – and Prometheus in a similarly repetitive self-renewing torture.  The eagle feeds everyday on Prometheus’ liver, which grows back every night.  And in the garden where we planted the mythological fig tree and grape vine – each year the brown figs ripen on the tree, the black grapes hang in many clusters from the vine and each year the emissaries of futility – the blackbirds and the wasps – devour or mutilate the fruits.
Exit-lessness is not in a place, but in the nature of action – no matter what place.  That is why such action is like fate.

‘The Good Life’
Is the ‘good life’ (bios politikos) in the polis or res publica envisioned by the Greeks and Romans itself subject to decay?  Certainly its aim and function were not only to evade decay but to be the source of immortality.  “For the polis was for the Greeks, as the res publica was for the Romans, first of all their guarantee against the futility of individual life, the space protected against this futility and reserved for relative permanence, if not immortality, of mortals.” (Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Chicago, 1998, p.56)

By definition the ‘good life’ is a ‘second life’ beyond and above the sheer necessities of the repetitive cycles of physical life.  All that takes place in the household or oikos, the private sphere where even law can barely penetrate.  In a kind of symmetry – the tiresome necessities of life are excluded from the polis, but the organ of the polis – law – is prohibited from interfering in this harsh realm of necessity.
The ‘good life’ to be good must be beyond that repetitive, reproductive life where paradoxically decay is situated, located, originates.  Hence the ‘good life’ is also ‘more than life’.  The ‘good life’ only occurs in the ‘public realm’ where one can gratefully leave all the pressing despotic concerns of the household behind and engage in free intercourse with equals.  The household is only another term for the life of the body and its necessities.  Thus politics, even biopolitics still carries around with it this anachronistic glamour of a life transcending sheer necessity (self-preservation, survival), although the modern state at least since Hobbes is expressly concerned with that alone, the management or governance of the ‘first life’.  The modern state is the oikos on the grand scale – the economy is the first category of governance, entailing the preservation of the reproductive facilities of human society.  Politics in the era of the Grand Oikos of the State represents a double loss of the ‘second life’ – the second or good life, ‘the political’ disappears into the management of the first life – the life of the body in the household, inheriting all the tyrannical structures of the household ruled by the head of the household – the family tyrant.  Oikos swallows all of life.  ‘Equality’ of oikos approximates what Carl Schmitt calls “equality of stock”.

False Messiah

Adorno  in Minima Moralia
mourns the loss of “das richtige Leben” (the right life), which has disappeared – one hardly remembers the phrase.  Now is the time of “das falsche Leben” (the false life).  The redeemer of the ‘false life’ is the ‘false Messiah’.  But is perhaps that third sort of life “damaged life” (das beschädigte Leben) – the miniscule trace of the “right life” in “false life” - deemed impossible?  The damage done to life is the difference between the two.

Even in metamorphosis something stays the same – when Gregor Samsa changed in his bed into a “giant vermin” – most of his feelings, reflexes, fears, speculations and relations to others stayed the same.  His tragedy – his physical metamorphosis transformed his place in the perceptions and situation of others, his function and meaning for family, servants, friends, his boss and strangers; his extrinsic finality changed radically.  For himself, he was almost the same, his intrinsic finality un-metamorphosed.   

 Benjamin speaks of history as decomposition in “World and Time” –
 “1. World and time. In the revelation of the divine, the world – the theatre of history – is subjected to a great process of decomposition, while time – the life of him who represents it – is subjected to a great process of fulfilment.  The end of the world: the destruction and liberation of a (dramatic) representation.”(Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, 1913-1926, Harvard, 2002, p. 226)

Growth is fashioning, plasticity, metamorphosis but no less decay – change in the ‘opposite’ direction – in a sense there is no difference between them.  Elements, particles are fused, fashioned to new entities in growth – or new entities of decay in disintegration.  And at any point of growth or decay its opposite is also at work.  Living is also dying and vice versa.  In decay the flesh, appearance recedes – as Goethe says of age or the ageing process: it is a step-wise retreat from appearing (“stufenweises Zurücktreten aus der Erscheinung” cited in Arendt, ibid. p. 51) – towards the ultimate disappearance in death.  But in this retreat or receding from view one sees what the thing itself, when it was whole, covered up.  Thus, as Adorno observes, decay is a source of enlightenment or knowledge for the subject insofar as its subjecthood is itself in the throes of an epoch of the decay of the individual.
Im Zeitalter seines Zerfalls trägt die Erfahrung des Individuums von sich und dem was ihm widerfährt, nochmals zu einer Erkenntnis bei, die von ihm bloß verdeckt war, solange es als herrschende Kategorie ungebrochen positiv sich auslegte.” (“In the epoch of its decay, the experience of the individual of itself and of whatever happens to it, contributes again to a knowledge, that was hidden from and by itself, as long as it, as a hegemonic category, construed itself positively and unbroken.”, Theodor W. Adorno, “Zueignung” (Dedication) Minima Moralia, Frankfurt, 1980, , p. 11)

The very fragility of the subject, its being ‘damaged’ by the overwhelming forces of historical and social process, but no longer so unquestionably allied with them – frees it from the stifling identification with these same processes.  The subject recedes from these processes and regains its ‘negative’ experiences of this same epochal decay.  The “right life” has been swept away – what remains is only the “false life”; at some indefinite unfixed/wavering point Adorno’s “Das Ganze ist das Unwahre” (The Whole is the Untruth) and Hegel’s “Das Ganze ist das Wahre” (The Whole is the Truth) meet up.  Although Hegel makes this optimistic judgement in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit – to which Adorno’s Minima Moralia is in a sense a melancholy reply – this “whole” to which Hegel refers is split through and through upon itself.  As if the “truth” were only a mask for the subject or consciousness, to keep its infinitely centrifugal particles from irretrievably flying apart into oblivion.  The most extreme attention in Hegel is always concentrated not on what is but on what is disappearing.  

The Extraction of the ‘Lapis Philosophallus’ (Artaud)

In a recent critique of Badiou, Jean-Clet Martin notes, following Kant, that space itself is inseparable from an aesthetic – and Badiou’s mathematical ontology cannot account for deformation. “On peut parier sur des multiplicités beaucoup plus folles comme nous le montrera la topologie de Riemann, esthétique en ce que l’espace se soumet de la déformation, (l’espace avec Kant se montre lui-même inséparable d’une esthétique).” (“One can put a wager on multiplicities far crazier than what Riemann’s topology can show us, aesthetic, in the way that space submits to a deformation, (space itself with Kant shows itself inseparable from an aesthetic).” (“L’arène de Badiou”, in “”, 4th May 2011, online)

Perhaps though Badiou’s ontology can malgré lui illuminate a ‘defeatist object’ of the kind I chanced to see in the subterranean cavern-studio of the performance artist Franko B.

Somewhere, in James Joyce’s Ulysses, is a figure called “the collector of foreskins” associated with the prophet Elijah, patron of circumcision.  God himself is sometimes known as the “collector of prepuces” – at least in the anti-Catholic propaganda of the Protestant Church.  Locke and Voltaire also satirize the Catholic Church’s alleged “veneration of the foreskin of Christ”.  Derrida, with his acute interest in phalluses and circumcision, calls attention to this Joycean “collector” in Ulysse gramophone - the “collector of foreskins” is named Moses.  After having gleaned this reference from a book by Gideon Ofrat entitled The Jewish Derrida (Syracuse, 2001, p. 21) I was immediately reminded of the special jar I saw on the shelf of Franko B’s atelier – located deep underground, in the East End of London, where in the used-up air, the poor might have been renting their squalid quarters in Marx’s days, in the sub-sub-sub cellar of the citadel of Toynbee in Whitechapel.  Arts Council England is the present-day landlord of these catacombs.  Franko B, like Kafka’s Titorelli, is a “trusted man of the Court”.
Franko B’s jar houses his collection of used condoms.  He picked them up from the floor of a sex club where he had been working.  One can safely assume that all of these relics were carrying some micro-particle of the HIV virus.  Franko B is the collector of another kind of foreskin.  But beyond its sheer physical microbiological properties could one not see some Badiouist structures or topologies in and of this jar?  The jar, resembling some of Beuys’ homely glass preserves filled with antediluvian unidentifiable white glycerolesque objects floating in a ‘dead sea’ brine, is first of all a boundary – enclosing a homogenous but fractal structure approximating bat guano or expectorated phlegm.  Is that jar not like the state (model, allegory) – the ontology of the same (all male remnants) – the invisible culture being bred of HIV virus and semen, the part of the indiscernible – possible intervention of the event (the contamination or disease)?   Frank B like Badiou is an axiomist – a man of the state.  The jar is his objectified axiom of the sexual count-as-one.   He has gathered the uncounted identical repetitive homosexual acts in the one space of the club and transferred them to the one space of the jar.  

The condom is the singleton (anti-state), yet a component of the state – included but not a member.  It is in no relation to the state (the jar) but included in the situation - not belonging.  Each condom is a subset of positive and negative: with its detritus of sperm filling, the contours of the anonymous penis, which inhabited it briefly – it is the positive; the microbiological relics, topological imprints of the anus/mouth where it was presumably inserted – is the negative.  The condom is the “errancy of the excess” – represented by the sub-multiple state of the situation but not presented – not named in the situation or state of situation – thus not existent for the state.  Each condom is a negative measure – that of excess (desire) – or it “designates the measureless difference, and especially quantitative difference, or difference of power between the state of the situation (+) and the situation (+).  However, in a certain sense, it also designates the difference between being (in situation) and the event (+) (ultra-one).  Excess turns out to be errant and unassignable.” (Alain Badiou, Being and Event, London/New York, 2007, p. 507)  

Or is William Burroughs the better ‘ontologist’ for this case:
“One assumes a “beingness” where past crimes highlighted the direction of a “havingness”. (William Burroughs, Nova Express, (originally published in The Soft Machine, Nova Express and The Wild Boys: Three Novels, Black Cat Book, 1980), PDF, online p. 72) 

Ontology deteriorates into a forensic cul-de-sac – under the condition of absolute unreliability of evidence and witnesses. 


The Degraded Object (Kantor)

Today I return to Tadeusz Kantor’s book of theatre manifestos impatiently ‘brutally’ – perhaps somewhat in the manner Derrida describes in The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume I “I reopen Introduction to Metaphysics rather violently, guided by what matters to us at the moment, (…)” (Chicago, 2009), PDF, online, p. 263)  - to a place I had marked (but for another reason – a mentioning of Kaprow) – not to find something expected as Derrida did when he re-consulted Heidegger’s “relaunch” of the question “what is man?” – but perhaps a matter not completely estranged from this question.  I read, that Kantor understands his “emballage” (wrapping) in the context of what he identifies as “degraded objects”.  They are objects wrenched from life or use on the border or suspended between “eternity and garbage”.  Those “degraded objects” are themselves more precisely named as “poor realities of the lowest rank” – these lowest realities alone are his first elements of the work of art.  They correspond most closely to ‘matter’ in a fluid state: “MATTER which is freed from abiding by the laws of construction; which is always fluid; which is infinite; which negates the concept of form; which is FORMLESS, INFORMELLE; which is discovered in the EXPLOSIONS OF THE FOUR ELEMENTS,
which is transformed by TIME,
DESTRUCTION, and COINCIDENCE.” (Tadeusz Kantor, “Reality of the Lowest Rank” (1980) in A Journey Through Other Spaces, Essays and Manifestos, 1944-1990, Berkeley/Los Angeles/London, 1993, p. 117)     
The wave of the “informel” which was then sweeping through the art world confirmed the “discovery” he had made “ten years earlier in 1944 during a time of genocide” – which must have been most palpable for him, made/rendered visible in his native Poland.  This time convinced him of the “need to
ART AND THE WORK OF ART.” (ibid. p. 118)

The object in 1944 in theatre ceases to be a prop.  It exists on an “equal footing with the actor.  (The object) WAS THE ACTOR!
The OBJECT-ACTOR!” (“Object 1944”, ibid., p. 72)  Just as the emballage, itself a reality of lowest rank – at its purest or zero level – the black sack covering all of the actors and ‘stage’ (a destroyed room) – is simply:
 “A huge, black “emballage”
(…) the final and radical
tool of complete
extermination.” (“The Zero Theatre”, ibid.,  p. 70)

Seen in the light of Kantor’s “discoveries” made in the “time of genocide” – he insists on the year 1944 as part of this discovery – the extermination camp in all of its manifestations and gradations together with its most intimate original product – the will-less spiritless Thing-Human (Actor), the human torn out of the everyday with its non-human objects, becoming that object-human (as waste) called a Muselmann – is an aesthetic reality of the West.  Aesthetic means here – the decaying re-forming of the world or the re-forming of the decaying world.  When one views the camp as the theatre of the Muselmann (Object-Actor) and at the same time its production site – this is not to say it is an intended (desired) production.  It is neither an action of the personnel nor the inmates of the camp – it is a transcendent invisible surplus, a (theatre) production of the camp in itself – the camp as ‘automatic’ subject acting for and of itself.  

The condition or state of the “Muselmann” is where absolute obedience (Kadavergehorsam – the obedience of the corpse) and absolute resistance touch or meet.  Inert matter, in the tradition of the medieval Christian monastic orders is the model of perfect obedience – the ideal to which the member of the order (monk or nun) must aspire/fulfil.  Simone Weil traces this model of obedience (not just to the divine but to any superior) – to “antiquity” and Paul for whom Christ is the first teacher of this obedience by his example on the cross.  “Cela est d’une évidence lumineuse si, comme l’Antiquité, on regards la passivité de la matière inerte comme la perfection de l’obéissance à Dieu, et la beauté du monde comme l’éclat de la parfaite obéissance.
[“There is a luminous evidence, that, like in antiquity, one considers the passivity of the inert matter to be like the perfection of the obedience to God, and the beauty of the world as the dazzling effect of that perfect obedience.”  (Simone Weil, L’Enracinement, Gallimard, 1949, pp. 377-378)]
Body and the wood (nails) from which it hangs become indistinguishable.  Or in the sense of Christ’s teaching of perfect submission or will-less submission to God – his quasi-inert body is the ‘fruit’ of that tree.  If one regards this ‘fruit’ as precursor of the body of the martyr-tyrant of the type Benjamin explores in his study of baroque drama – then it is also the same ‘fruit’ cited by Nietzsche as the one ripening best in the ‘time of corruption’.  In the times of corruption the tyrant “fruit of fruits” hangs on the “tree of the people” – which only exists, writes Nietzsche, for the sake of this fruit.

The other “antiquity” to which Weil refers is exemplified in the vision of Francis of Assisi – who compared the most perfect obedience (perfecta et summa obedientia) towards one’s superior with the reactions or absence of reactions of a dead, spiritless body (corpus mortuum, corpus exanime).  Such obedience is passionately depicted by Catherine of Siena to the nuns of Perugia – as a “sweet obedience” which comes of killing the will, and the more dead it is, the quicker and lighter is the step of this obedience – bringing it in the shortest time to a union of love with the “eternal groom” – and the enjoyment of the “smells and the fruit” of the immortal – whilst still in the mortal shell.  In a more sombre tone Ignatius of Loyola wrote this imperative into the constitution of the Jesuit order of 1558 – whence it wandered into German as “Kadavergehorsam”.  The Jesuit must allow himself to be guided by providence through his superior as if he were a dead body (ac si cadaver essent) – but also as if he were an object, a thing, a crutch – a cane for an old man to use as a support how and when he chooses.   (This monastic tradition of the will-lessness of the corpse as a model of perfect obedience might be a source of Agamben’s fascination with the Muselmann, his “Franciscan ontology” (Chiesa)  - a figure he appropriates as a physical allegory of the mystical void – the most extreme death of will, still this side of eternity.)
Weil sees the ‘perfect obedience’ in a continuity with the original “Fall” from obedience for which man must eternally repent – the means of his repentance, his punishment, are work and death.  As a chastisement they are also the very instruments of the supreme good – submitting to them places the disobedient mortal within this supreme good – obedience to God.  

Through one’s perfect obedience one deadens one’s will, becoming like inert matter, just as in one’s labour - living labour turns itself through pain of work into the object or dead labour.  “Physical labour is a daily death.” (Weil)
The process of living as also one of dying (Being-towards-death) is the gradual transformation “d’un être fait de chair frémissant et de pensée, d’un être qui désire et hait, espère et craint, veut et ne veut pas, en un petit tas de matière inerte.” (“(…) of a being made of simmering flesh and thought, a being who desires and hates, hopes and fears, wants and wants not, into a little pile of inert matter.”)
Although the act of deadening the will is only complete, final in death itself – the agreement/consent/decision to undergo this transformation is itself for humans “l’acte suprême de totale obéissance.  C’est pourquoi saint Paul dit du Christ lui-même, au sujet de la Passion, “ce qu’il souffert lui a enseigné l’obéissance et l’a rendu parfait.” ”
(“(…) the supreme act of total obedience.  That is why saint Paul said of Christ himself, on the subject of the Passion, “what he suffered taught him obedience and made it perfect.”” (Weil, ibid.) )

The suspended state between organic and inorganic or rather dynamic and inert/passive matter is the emblem of absolute obedience.  (Isn’t dead organic matter still organic?  So the death drive is not really the tendency towards the inorganic, but only the inert.)  Is that not also pure being – because everything remains with itself – eludes the temporal – all that pulls it away from itself like will or desire (conatus) – is also the dimension of the temporal, of becoming.  Being-towards-death (Sein zum Tode) falls back into itself – rather than away – into inert matter as absolute obedience.  It is an auto-collapse of matter into matter – being into being – this self-sufficiency is the same as will-lessness or desire-lessness of matter.  If matter does not want anything – it cannot be said to need anything.  Everything that leads matter back to itself is being, everything that leads matter away from itself is spirit.  

In the manifesto “The Theatre of Death” Kantor examines “Craig’s postulate” – the renewal of theatre through the elimination of the actor, replacing him with the marionette.  The marionette undermines theatre of the conventional sort – the theatre of actors.  It becomes somewhat more and less than ‘art’.  An actor-theatre is ‘only’ human – no matter which content or effects are used – the inhuman, totemic, the fetish, the supernatural elude a theatre of actors.  Sculpture in the ‘actorless theatre’ has both something of the marionette and the defeatist (degraded) object.  It is on an equal footing with the actor who never appears, the actor-to-come.
(Celan in The Meridian – refers to art – as a species of marionette.  He is paraphrasing Büchner in Danton’s Death – where the theme of art as a marionette or an automaton mingles with the characters’ historical epochal abandonment – their will-less submission to the forces of the puppeteer history –, which has condemned them in its drama to the guillotine death.  At their moment of death they say: “Marionettes, that’s what we are, pulled by strings in the hands of unknown powers, nothing by ourselves, nothing!” (cited in Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign Volume I, ibid., p. 252)

The marionette is an accessory of the magician and belongs to the practices of charlatans, fairground booths.  It acts as a trap, distraction, illusion – still a theatre, which is founded on the marionette – approaches art more than the ‘natural’ human theatre of the actor.  The marionette is richly endowed with what the actor must work hard to achieve – it is from the start a “manifestation of “reality of the lowest order” – a ‘poor’ or ‘degraded’ object.  It is empty and void – “a message of death” and a “model for the actor”, the mimesis of death.  The marionette is not a trompe-l’œil, a life-like gilded surrogate for the human (like E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Olimpia, still an imitation of a human female) – the human actor must become marionette-like, a degraded object, or perish.  A paradox of the comedian?  Gordon Craig and Kleist were against actors, for marionettes.
Imitation and Deceptive Similarity, which serves the conjuror in setting his Traps and fooling the viewer, the use of “unsophisticated” means, evading the concepts of aesthetics, the abuse and fraudulent deception of Appearances (…)
Its appearance (the mannequin) complies with my ever-deepening conviction that it is possible to express life in art only through the absence of life, through an appeal to Death, through Appearances, through Emptiness and the lack of a Message.” (Kantor, “The Theatre of Death”, ibid., p. 112)

The dark night of suburbia is a degraded location.

As a Catholic, Kantor’s model for all poor realities of the lowest rank etc – the theatre of death – is the cross with the human worm, the crucified one hanging from it – the body of Christ nailed to the cross is the archetype of the marionette – the conjuror’s distraction – a few days later – the body has vanished – the tomb is empty (the void, absence) - the worm is resurrected, becomes a god or returns to his god status, becomes again the puppeteer.  


Sein und Schein

1.  The Apparition

The English village has its shocking sights.  At first I thought the curtains in the side upstairs window of the widow’s house were all twisted and half torn down.  She is the widow of the man in the blue baseball cap and long blue coat who walked his black dog at night and whom we mocked because we thought he has spying on us – officially, either that or simply Mephisto.  (He used to let himself be regularly dropped off at the curb from a dark blue BMW just in front of our house.  We never believed in his death either.)  But it was not a curtain.  My eyes suddenly recognized a ‘Gestalt’ in the yellowing shroud-like waves and undulations of ‘cloth’ (the colour of old soap and lime scale).
The upstairs window on the side of the semi-detached brick house was completely filled with a window size marble figure of Christ in his diverse draperies – all solid.   He was the god of the windows – a true apparition because first of all he mimicked a wrecked curtain so well.  His expression was of such intense live suffering and despair – the whole of the widow’s story was in that upstairs window.  The features of the Window God bore some idealized resemblance to the man in the blue coat.  It was as if he wanted to jump out of the window.  The arms of the figure stretched from one side of the window frame to the other – so that the window frame was the horizontal of that imaginary cross.  Being elevated to the height of the second floor window situated the figure more realistically on a phantom cross – that might have been the height of a crucifixion – although probably still too low.  It was an English size village crucifixion – like in the paintings of Stanley Spencer.  He was the god of the window and of throwing yourself out of the window.  The house looks otherwise unoccupied – a ‘for sale’ sign on the rear window of an Audi parked in the drive.  Perhaps only ‘he’ lives there now. 

2.  The Jesus Window and the Laughing Forest

The Jesus window was open at the top – as if he were gasping for air.  When I looked through the window of the front room  - I half expected to see the widow sitting at the table – or to see the room in its usual vacant twilight.  But the room wasn’t vacant.  Sitting at the table staring back at me was Jesus himself – a young man with beady frightening eyes and grey streaked hair combed back off a wide forehead – but whose face looked unearthly wan (or just recently removed from the earth) and whose outlines melted into shadows of grisaille. Has he taken over the widow’s place – did he put his effigy in the window?  He seemed oddly alive, airborne – life floating on air – too light for a small mournful widow’s retreat.  Has he come to collect?
Omen:  I thought of the word ‘grisaille’ to describe the shadowy appearance of the strange ‘foreign’ face in the widow’s parlour (not an English face) some days after having seen the second apparition.  Quite by chance, shortly after having thought of this word – I read a passage from Hegel’s Rechtsphilosophie quoted in Kojève’s Introduction to the Reading of Hegel as the best explanation of Hegel’s concept of Er-innerung (memory).  The word grisaille comes twice in this passage!  “When philosophy paints its grisaille, a concrete-form of life has [already] grown old; and it does not permit itself to be rejuvenated by [a] grisaille, only known-or-understood (erkennen):—the owl of Minerva begins its flight only at the coming of dusk.” (Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, Ithaca, 1980, p. 163)  What better proof of the verisimilitude of the apparition or of Hegel?  As if the whole scene or double scene of the effigy in the window and its companion in the widow’s parlour were a quasi-rebus, a cryptogram, an allegory of this famous passage from the Rechtsphilosophie.  The concrete-form of life grown old, never again to be rejuvenated, only known?  Was the face in the dusky parlour a humanized owl of Minerva?           

3.  End of the Jesus Window

The vision of the window is gone.  As if it had never been.  Only a kind of monochrome cream pillar – fabric like – remains to mark where passion had flared.   Unusually, a big overhead light lit up the parlour last night.  No one was in the room.  The human fox – this is the best approximation of the facial features of the ‘visitor’ – was sighted no more.  Like one of those Chinese foxes Borges describes in The Book of Imaginary Beings – he took over the persona of the old widow, placed his talisman in the window.  He brought big earth with him.  His foxhole. 


A new discount store called “Buyology” reflects the religion of selling alias buying and implies the age of biopolitics at the same time. 
“Buyology” is then a melancholy science/religion because in one’s secret heart – one never feels that there is a fair price – nor that any price could compensate for the diminishing of oneself whether as a seller by transferring one’s property (substance) to the other for mere money, bare money.  Nor as a buyer for whom any price, no matter how low, will never compensate for the unfair exchange of immortal money for mortal decaying goods – whose rottenness is only a matter of time, usually quite short.    
(In chapter 12 of The Beast and the Sovereign, Derrida repeatedly uses the phrase when examining Agamben’s theses – ‘I or we will or will not put our money on that’ – one wonders what that is in French or is that just the translator’s idiom?)

Buyology is not just a religion, it is also a science of buying – akin to ‘scientology’, demonstrating Derrida’s postulate from “Faith and Knowledge” – that contemporary religion is always immediately ‘tele-technoscience’ – the repeatability of the procedure and the ‘belief’ in its results (credit) being the foundation of religion, science and buying.       
“To take note of this is to give oneself the means of understanding why, in principle, today, there is no incompatibility, in the said “return of the religious,” between the “fundamentalisms,” the “integrisms” or their “politics” and, on the other hand, rationality, which is to say, the tele-techno-capitalistico-scientific fiduciarity, in all of its mediatic and globalizing dimensions.” (Jacques Derrida, “Faith and Knowledge: The Two Sources of “Religion” at the Limits of Reason Alone, Acts of Religion, New York, 2010, p. 81)  But unlike the innate suitability expounded by Max Weber between the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism – the ménage of religion, science and capitalism ‘today’ is plagued by great discomfiture – in particular of a ‘phallic’ nature.  The “resurgence of religion” is itself a “swelling” dependent on the might of the adversary (capitalist techno-science) against which its phallic swelling spontaneously arises but with the rhythm and tempo of the capitalist machine.  Derrida is concerned to find the la source éternelle for both logic or what used to be called with Weber “occidental rationality” and religion or holiness; it is his caput Nili quœrere
He discovers this in the “colossal automaticity of the erection” - its reflex character is then “machinal” – the prime operator of the fertility machine, “(…) that speaks of force, life-force, fertility, growth, augmentation, and above all swelling, in the spontaneity of erection or of pregnancy.”  The erection is both spontaneous and a machine-like reflex, so “enough to account for (logon didonai) – counting on and calculating the incalculable (…)”(ibid., p. 84).  But it is not truly the physical penis he is considering in its erection – it is the fetishized phallus, separated or lifted from the penis, paraded around in processions and in other cult practices.  Here it becomes a kind of dead priapic thing – a marionette.  A fetish of the fetish.  “Matrix, once again, of a cult or of a culture of the generalized fetish, of an unlimited fetishism, of a fetishizing adoration of the Thing itself.” (ibid.)  If the phallus though in its fetishized otherness is a Thing itself – could it not also become a degraded, defeatist object – share the fate of any other thing/automaton?  Fall to pieces, break apart, become worthless, good for nothing?  Such is the lot of Olimpia, in Hoffmann’s tale “The Sandman” for example, ‘daughter’ of the Italian physics professor Spalanzani; he presents her to society, where his student Nathanael is seduced by her machinal charms – believing the beautiful life-like automaton were flesh and blood.
When he calls at the home of her ‘father’ the diabolical professor with the intention of proposing marriage, the sight of her eyes lying around on the ground drives him to fatal madness.
The execution machine in Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony”, succumbs to its own ‘autoimmunity’ – and its officer-caretaker throws himself onto the ‘pyre’ of the imploding mechanism – like a widow in India submitting to the rite of the sati.  Not to forget some more recent factual examples of the nemesis of technological hubris – the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, Tschnernobyl, the nuclear disaster of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the sinking of the Titanic, any banal power cut etc.  How can one think Derrida’s terms of automaticity, calculability (of incalculability), iterability, indemnification and especially the generic ‘faith’ feeding (fuelling) both religion and science in light of the collapse of all that – and what sort of ‘phallic-effect’ would that entail?   
The “colossal automaticity of the erection” was certainly not the rule in old Greek comedy.  If the phallus is a thing or object – what would be the defeated, degraded thing-object-phallus but the limp one, unable or unwilling to perform?  Such was the usual appearance of the Greek comic stage phallus. 
The satyr in the satyr play wore the “ithyphallic breeches” on stage and in depictions on vases, but the usual appearance of the ever-present stage phallus of comic actors was limp and dangling.  Sometimes it was shown on Attic vases looped up with a cord - a kynodesme.   Was the limp phallus of the comic actor, a ‘negative fetish’, - the defeatist object of comedy – to complement the hubris (object) of tragedy?  A notable exception to the rule of the dangling penis of comedy is represented on a vase called the “Getty Birds”.  One sees two birdmen belonging to a domesticated chicken species, winged and beaked, facing one another with distinctive ithyphallic attributes.  Between them is an aulos player acting as a referee.  As their portrayal with erect phalluses is an anomaly – many theories have been proposed to account for it.  Oliver Taplin identifies the bird-men as the “Logoi” in Aristophanes’ play The Clouds – two philosophical discourses fighting with one another like cocks.  This solution is still very tenuous – because he doubts that “ (…) anyone could find sufficient reason for the Logoi to have been ithyphallic.” (Oliver Taplin, Comic Angels and Other Approaches to Greek Drama Through Vase-Painting, Oxford, 1994 p. 103)  Perhaps the Logoi though have become fused with the boorish old peasant Strepsiades who enrols in Socrates’ “think-boutique” to find out how he can evade his creditors.  Socrates gives him the assignment to meditate under a blanket.  But instead of allowing his thoughts to arise, Strepsiades starts masturbating.

Another scholar of this period and its artefacts, E. Csapo – traces the erection of the figures to the erotic status of cockfights in ancient Greece where “sexual assertion primed by garlic, turns out to be central.” (ibid. p. 102)  But he does not dispute that the figures are Aristophanes’ Logoi.  Considering that Socrates is the main object of ridicule in Aristophanes’ play, a perhaps more ominous nexus between The Clouds and the figure of the cock is the semi-last sentence of Socrates to his friends, which puzzled Nietzsche so greatly – don’t forget to sacrifice a cock in the temple of Asclepius.  Here this association verges upon the sacred or sacrificial, but in a blasphemous way – the ithyphallic cock representing the ‘personified’ combative Logos reverts to a sacrificial cock.  Socrates requests that this sacrifice be made for him after he has drunk the hemlock cup, implying this will have been the drug, which has cured him of the illness of life.  He converted his departure into something enviable – spreading rumours about the joys of Hades so as to move his disciples to follow him to those shores.  Socrates was not a sacrificial animal of the polis, a substitute was needed in his stead.  Socrates saw his death as a cure.  The means were insignificant – the whole ceremony of state – trial, imprisonment and execution – was drained of its pathos.  Socrates’ mind if not his body was not so easily fooled by the ciarlatano  - life. 

The limp phallus of Attic comedy has progressed to a higher level of spirit or self-consciousness, to speak in Hegelian terms, than the priapic/ithyphallic of the fertility cult – upon which Derrida grounds his arguments for the infallibility of the virile holiness machine in “Faith and Knowledge”.  Basing his judgement on a study of theatrical scenes painted on a large sample of South Italian vases, Taplin concludes:  “There must be well over 300 phalluses on the vases to date, and of these either one or none is erect. (…) This is, I believe, a clear indication that the phallus of Old comedy is not some sort of vestige of a fertility ritual, but a gender-signal in keeping with the essential grossness and indecency of the genre.”(ibid.)  Comedy was the form in which the gods lost their immunity, their holiness.  For Derrida swelling or swollenness is especially holy.  Comedy is the unswelling of myth, the antithesis of holiness, it is the anti-myth.  Comedy inverts the world of tragedy – as in the scene from the paratragic comedy of Antigone on the “S. Agata ‘Antigone’” found at S. Agata dei Goti some time before 1828.  Although quite cryptic, one assumes it depicts - an actor wearing a whole-head bearded old man mask, who has half-disguised himself as Antigone.  The rest of his costume is a long gown (krokotos) sheer enough to reveal a stage phallus dangling underneath. ‘She’ seems to have been caught by a guard rather before than after the act of performing the forbidden funeral rites for Polyneikes.  The moment captured on the vase is when the comic Antigone (who perhaps must be persuaded to perform the sacred rites) is brought before Creon, in the one hand the funeral vessel (hydria) and in the other the female mask – not yet properly shaven for the part.

Roadside Demons
Location: Nippon-Mexico

They had to climb over the walls of weed-infested gardens to lay their traps.  He was good at climbing – he threw down the ropes for the others.  She had to go to the other end of the city to catch a train to the Cat Temple.  He had told her to meet him there whether it rained or not.  Their mascot, a three-legged cat who had lost her hind leg in a legendary fight with a water rat, was the cat deity in residence.  The hunters had bussed in reinforcements from the golf club.  Instead of normal tattoos, their flesh is embossed with golf clubs and golf irons.  She wasn’t allowed to carry an umbrella – that would frighten off the cat hunter.  They had to lure him in close enough for a whisper – at least in ‘ear clipping distance’.  If she felt like backing out, she could always be a tyro-courier for the wolf-man again.  There could never be enough level ones.  No, she said, I had my share of getting stuck in smelly elevators.  At least I get fresh air on the cat run.  If she saw anyone wearing a fur coat on the train – she should get off one station before the last stop and wait at the gas station near the car wash area.  If she felt lonely or queasy (she had said queasy not him), she could sit underneath the street lamp – but keep her head down and face out of the light.  She shouldn’t look up even if passers-by walk right next to her so that they almost step on her feet.  These would only be apparitions sent by the hunter demons – eight legged dog-walking demons who lay the excremental eggs and sperm of new demons in the carcasses of rotting fruit.  No normal human would walk unprotected around the gas station.  She hadn’t wanted to listen to his instructions – she didn’t answer the phone – the gnawing ringing could have only been him.  She knew he would know she was there and was defying him.  But for how long?  She would have to appear at the Cat Temple – it was not just his demand – the rules of the society were very strict.  On the other hand – as a member of the Cat Temple Order she is immune at least to some of the temptations of the apparitions.  Eventually a car will come to pick her up.  All went according to plan.  She saw a man with a fur coat but just in time – he was sitting behind a heap of luggage, mostly hatboxes.  She got off the train and found the low wall in front of the car wash.  But someone was already sitting underneath the street lamp.  A blond woman wearing a fur hat.  But now it was too late.  There weren’t even taxis at that hour.  She sat next to the fur-hatted woman, not quite sure if it were a roadside demon or not.  She didn’t want to look too closely – but somehow she sensed that there was more than a passing resemblance between herself and the person sitting on her designated rendezvous seat.  Behind her the big vertical yellow brushes of the automatic car wash started to rotate.  She saw neither a car nor a person in the dim haze of the burglar lights. 

Will to Forget 

Is capitalism driven by a will to forget?  Does capitalism have a memory at all?  Wallerstein’s ‘big idea’ of capitalism as a “structure in crisis” is a pleonasm.  It is always in crisis – that is its constitutive principle.  He might mean – its crisis is now permanent.  But this is neither true nor false.  Nor is it a case which if not true now might eventually become true.  A structure like capitalism is quite similar to the former British Empire (whence capitalism in its definitive form was hatched) – the sun never sets on its crisis.  Somewhere in its vast realm it is always in crisis – as a natural condition of its prosperity elsewhere.  The crisis of the banks turned into the crisis of the cuts.  Capitalism relies on another quasi-anthropological law of human society – the misfortune (crisis) of my neighbour/competitor is my profit.  

As in art (perhaps) crisis is an indispensable elixir for capitalism.  In the words of Reb Nachman of Bretzlav – ascend in order to descend, descend in order to ascend.  Everyone has his own Eden painted on his face.

But this is only logical – as everything in capitalism is art or turns to art – or revolution.  Beuys will have foreseen this long ago when he said ‘everyone is an artist’.  Michael Fried’s notorious “Art and Objecthood” means simply (vulgarly) art of/and the commodity fetish.  For Virno the new ‘creative’ worker is a ‘virtuoso’ – someone whose product is the sheer exercising of his acquired or innate skills – mostly ‘communicative’ – for an audience.  This is his work-performance – his product is born and dies in its performance.  Political economy returns to Jean-Baptiste Say’s “immaterial product”.  The worker-performer par excellence is the salesman.  The communicative nature of work is selling.  A techno-columnist in the techno magazine Wired praises PowerPoint as performance art, the birth of a new art form and at the same time the techno-democratic empowering of freedom of speech.  But is selling – abstract labour?  Is abstract labour – art?   


Pecunia perennis

Money is an event, which is so old, no one knows when it realised itself as an event.  Money is very old and has no age.  Badiou says the same of philosophy.  Following his ‘master’ Althusser he speaks in “Creative Repetition” of philosophia perennis.  Are money and philosophy intimately related?  At least it seems so for Badiou – only recently though has philosophy’s thinking become “worthy” of Capital.  So philosophy has a history after all – the history of Capital?  And yet, Badiou, echoing Heidegger, declares the end of the history of philosophy, proposing, “(…) a violent forgetting of the history of philosophy, thus a violent forgetting of every historical assemblage of the forgetting of being.” (Alain Badiou, “The (Re)Turn of Philosophy Itself” in Conditions, Continuum, 2008, p.5)
It is a truism and a trivial thought:  money stays money, even though the commodities and the currencies come and go, money as money never changes.  Is money special in this never changing?   Whole civilizations and empires founded on some sort of revenue expressed in money and coins have vanished – Phoenicia, Babylonia, ancient Egypt, Carthage, ancient Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Avars, the Italian city-states, etc  - but money has outlived them all.  Sic transit gloria mundi.  (Voltaire’s Candide could still be plausibly shanghaied by the King of the Bulgars into fighting in a war against the King of the Avars.)
Is this an example of parousia in the platonic sense of the immanence of the eternal form (presence of the idea) in the singular thing – which in turn partakes of the Idea?  Money is a pure form of the ontology/metaphysics of presence - it continuously represents itself in every singular unit of itself.  It has the unchangeability, the constancy Heidegger endlessly reiterates as the attributes of being.
For Christian theology parousia is the alleged second coming of Christ – but a second meaning of the Greek word refers to a person’s property, substance in the material sense, inheritance and money.  The word for being – ousia – is habitually associated in ancient Greek with property and money.  Christianity followed suit.
The seeming eternity and immutability of money, eternal youth as opposed to eternal decay, is associated in the Greek language with the highest most divine certainties, for Plato it is the idea, for Christianity the second coming.
Like money the Christian messiah comes and goes, but is always there and will inevitably return.  Redemption is a transcendental form of circulation.  Money is also like the Eucharist – the embodied abstraction. When consumed (exchanged) in the ritual the particular disk-shaped wafer (the coin) becomes the ‘general equivalent’, the universal body of Christ (transubstantiation).   Hoc est enim corpus meum.  Although the second coming is still to come – a property of Christ, his property, his corpus, or ousia is already present in each wafer eaten in the Eucharist – circulating through the alimentary canals of the community of faithful (the ‘communicants’) and so forming an immediate parousia in the Now.  This ‘cum’ is in turn being-with (Mitsein) the ousia of Christ whilst receiving it (the presence of Christ) and so forth.
In Phaidon – beauty is described as that in a thing, which is part of the idea of beauty.  It is this presence of the idea in the thing which determines its being.  No one today can invent money, nor tomorrow, money will never progress nor regress.  Money unlike the value form has no age, as counting has no age.  Capital has an age – but within its age it is as timeless as money.  The credit crisis of today is no different than the credit crisis of 1857 about which Marx wrote.  Economists like fortunetellers are always wary of years ending in the number seven. Are entities, which cannot be dated events?  If they are not – is their attribute of being, less or more than events that have dates and calendars attached to them?  For Badiou the years 1789, 1793, 1917, 1968 etc.  An idea in the platonic sense would not be an event – because it was always present and is always present.  Is and was are indistinguishable for an idea.  The future for the idea does not exist – because the present has no point from which to conceive a time beyond it.  Money is so old that one cannot really imagine a time without it; hence it is more Platonic than historical, - atemporal, universal and not an event.

Animal Money

A: Money is that which distinguishes man from animals.  Even a Darwinist would have to agree.
B: That’s right.  What would animal-without-world money look like?
‘Did you ever seen a dog exchange a bone with another dog?’


Mimesis trap – anti-mimesis too.

Nietzsche doesn’t mind.  Of course these are notes, fragments unpublished in his lifetime – but he anticipated that only in this fashion could one really ‘know’ him or his ‘terrible’ thoughts.  Only by seeing them as they erupt – in their ‘raw’ state – when they are practically long overdue, do they exhibit their real power.  Anything else is the “Tartüfferie der Wissenschaftlichkeit” (Tartufferie of scientificity).  The true origins of a thought are disguised behind “false arrangements of deduction and dialectic” – they are as such faked arguments, “false scientificity” – a bad mimesis.  The interpretation of such tartufferies will always be the uncovering of the trace of the hidden ‘un-method’ of their thought.  On the other hand, “Die tiefsten und unerschöpflichsten Bücher werden wohl immer etwas von dem aphoristischen und plötzlichen Charakter von Pascals Pensées haben.  Die treibenden Kräfte und Wertschätzungen sind lange unter der Oberfläche; was hervorkommt ist Wirkung.” [“The deepest and most inexhaustible books will always have something of the aphoristic and sudden character of Pascal’s Pensées.  The driving forces and estimations of value have been under the surface for a long time; what comes into view is effect.”
(“Tartüfferie der Wissenschaftlichkeit” in Friedrich Nietzsche, Posthumous Writings of the Eighties, Volume 6, Werke in Sechs Bänden, edited by Karl Schlechta, München-Wien, 1980, p. 448)]

In another note from the eighties Nietzsche abruptly switches from questions of Greek tragedy to capitalists, the stock market and the casino.  The moves of his thought:  the tragic human – anointed (berufene) teacher of humans – then – education should not have the average giftedness in ethos and intellect as its norm – but only those tragic natures.  This leads to a mock seriousness, an absurd pragmatism of the social-moral sphere: “Hier liegt die Lösung der socialen Frage.  Der reiche oder begabte Egoist ist ein Kranker und dem Mitleiden preisgegeben.” [“Here lies the solution to the social question.  The rich or gifted egoist is ill and abandoned to pity.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente, München, 1988, KSA 7, p. 121)]  But it is not just the rich or gifted egoist who is ill – the next jump in thought is a sort of apocalyptic vision of capitalism – the coming accursedness of the depots of wealth themselves.  “Ich sehe ungeheure Conglomerate an Stelle der vereinzelten Capitalisten treten.  Ich sehe die Börse dem Fluche verfallen, dem jetzt die Spielbanken gefallen sind.” (“I see monstrous conglomerates stepping into the place of single capitalists.  I see the stock market falling under a curse, under which now the casinos have fallen.”, ibid.) 
(The Jordanian government might think itself still under the curse of the casino – in the midst of the scandal known as “Casinogate” – the revelation of an illegal project to construct a ‘super-casino’ in the area of the Dead Sea.  1.4 billion dollars is the agreed penalty for breaking even an illegal contract.  Although legal and illegal are very diffuse terms under any circumstance.  One wonders how they thought they could hide a casino – even at the Dead Sea.)

Where is mimesis, even metamorphosis in this progression – either of thought or its object?  Without quoting Nietzsche directly (although a citation hovers nearby) – Derrida turns Nietzsche’s aperçu about the ‘tartufferie of scientificity’ itself into a postulate/law of his own ‘science’, the science of signs and writings.  The suddenness of writing, the lapse in discourse, becomes a new “rationality of logos” – the caesura, the principle of discontinuity.  It becomes difficult to distinguish though between the fake and the true discontinuity – because every writing is aphoristic, says Derrida.  Here he demonstrates how one can ruin an idea by absolutizing it  – by pressing it into the service of the continuous discontinuity of a legalistic presentation of the universal - (analogous perhaps to what Goethe meant when he said to Eckermann – ‘individuals have to be ruined again’).  The absolute aphorism is now burdened with the responsibility for that birth of the new logos (law) of rationality out of the spirit of the aphorism.  The caesura in writing (between words, books) becomes a limit – it limits and fixes the meaning.  Surprise and abruptness is worn away in meaning.  But the aphoristic in Nietzsche’s sense is not just a new way logos fixes meaning in the discontinuity of thought – it is essentially and willingly unfinished – and as such can have no fixed ‘meaning’.

But even in the petrified/hypostatised form to which Derrida consigns the thought of the aphoristic – writing becomes a composition of ‘jumps’ – under the premise that nature abhors jumps.  So whatever writing is – it is decidedly not nature.  And if it is not nature – then how can it be mimesis? (see Derrida, “Edmond Jabès and the Question of the Book”, in Writing and Difference, London and New York, 2005, p.87)

Another break in the continuity of mimesis – not in the representation of nature in writing, but of one art by another: the relationship between music and poetry or rather the impossibility of this relationship.  Otherwise how could it be that the worst music can still be the ‘Dionysian world-ground’, a status denied even the most sublime poetry?  Or vice versa, the worst poetry can represent the cold Apollonian semblance for the most exquisite of music.  The single bad tone, the single bad image is already respectively Dionysian or Apollonian.
All of these un-relations contradict the view that the world is founded on mimesis.  How does music imitate poetry or the other way around? These unequal (disproportionate) relations between art forms are inherent in art – not outside of it.  But not just in art.  It is an anti-mimetic impulse in mimesis itself – memorably expressed by Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust I, when he comments (in an aside) that after drinking the witch’s potion – Faust will see Helena in every woman.  Right after this scene in the witch’s kitchen, Faust will, in the next scene, meet Gretchen, promptly falling in love with the first female he sees.  “Seeing Helena in every woman” is an anti-mimetic, quasi-generic urge.  What one sees is not the ‘woman’ but a phantom Helena – a deceiving image.  Or mimesis in this case relies upon the phantom inserting/insinuating itself between what one sees – which one never really sees at all – and the desire of something else.  If states of bliss (jouissance) presuppose the seeing of a phantom superimposed on the ‘real’, how can mimesis or ‘true’ imitation be a principle of anything in life or art? 

Mimesis or realism is based on chimeras, hallucinations, artifice.  Baudelaire recognizes this mechanism of deception even in the ‘true’ representation in landscape painting: “L’air joue un si grand rôle dans la théorie de la couleur que, si un paysagiste peignait les feuilles des arbres telles qu’il les voit, il obtiendrait un ton faux; attendu qu’il y a un espace d’air bien moindre entre le spectateur et le tableau qu’entre le spectateur et la nature.
Les mensonges sont continuellement nécessaires, même pour arriver au trompe-l’œil.
[“Air plays such a grand role in the theory of colour, that if a landscape artist paints the leaves of the trees as he sees them, he will obtain a false tone; because the airspace between the spectator and the painting is much less than that between the spectator and nature. 
Lies are continuously necessary, even to achieve a trompe-l’œil.”
(Charles Baudelaire, “De La Couleur” in “Salon de 1846”, œuvres complètes, Seuil, 1968, p. 231)]
Isn’t the lie in the word ‘trompe-l’œil’ itself?  To fool the eye?
Still every good poet is always a ‘realist’.  Poetry is that which is most real, because it is only completely true in another world.
The world about us is a “hieroglyphic dictionary”.  [“La Poésie est ce qu’il y a de plus réel, c’est ce qui n’est complètement vrai que dans un autre monde.
Ce monde-ci, dictionnaire hiéroglyphique.”, Baudelaire, “Puisque réalisme il y a”, ibid., p. 448]   

For Nietzsche though, those phantoms and chimera, the necessary lies, are not just a question of representation in a work of art, although works of art in themselves belong to the highest order of ‘hallucination’ (Wahngebilde).  The phantom images are more ‘originary’ – they belong to the “deception mechanism” (Trugmechanismus) of the will.  The interceding delusion is generated by the will itself – it exists not for its ‘mimetic’ potency – but only as a seducer of the will.  The hallucinatory character of reality incites the will to its restless ‘Faustian’ activity – there can be no ‘pure’ mimesis.  The ‘smile on the face of nature’ lures the individual to existence (Dasein).  “ “Sieht Helena in jedem Weibe” die Gier zum Dasein verbirgt das Unschöne.” (“ “See Helena in every woman” the greed for Dasein hides the unlovely.” Nachgelassene Fragmente, 7[27], ibid p. 144.)

But the highest pleasure of the will…  is in the Dionysian tragedy – not in the mere contemplation of beauty as in any Greek statue.  For only in tragedy does the spectator witness the “terror-face of Dasein” (das Schreckensgesicht des Daseins), whose ecstatic stimuli incite to continued life. (ibid., p. 145)  Nietzsche sees all art as demanding of the spectator (if not of the creator) this quality of ‘being outside of oneself ’ or ekstasis.  This ekstasis elevates the spectator into an enchanted state of dramatic terror – the foundations of his being begin to shake, the individual no longer seems inextinguishable.  The individual enters into “strange being” (in fremdes Sein einkehren).   This is the special privilege of art or rather of Dionysian tragedy – that it lifts the individual out of his familiar ground – transferring him to a sphere of enchantment.  This departing from oneself is an aesthetic experience.  The actor would be the spectator’s model for this ‘loss’ of self – embodying in himself and his mask the ‘strange being’ into which he has entered.  Self and ‘strange being’ share in the actor a single location. Ekstasis for Nietzsche is an extraordinary condition induced by art, especially Dionysian drama – Heidegger’s notion of ek-stasis means Dasein’s ground experience in general, prior to any sort of aesthetic transfigurations – is one of being outside of itself – this is the supposed ontological zero position.  How then does one distinguish an aesthetic ‘ekstasis’ from the ordinary given ‘ek-stasis’ of DaseinDasein’s always already being-outside-of-itself – in particular in Mitsein?  In this sense – Dasein would have forfeited any aesthetic ‘ekstasis’ as a peculiar heightened state of the will – or perhaps Heidegger has implicitly dissolved aesthetics into ontology – art into being – through the apriori ek-stasis of being.  Ek-stasis though cannot be both a ground position of Dasein and that potentiality of the will, which drives it beyond itself to self-perpetuating activity.  Just as in the failed distinction in Sein und Zeit between the proper (eigentlich) and the improper (uneigentlich) whereby the improper becomes the proper in Mitsein – Heidegger ‘uses up’ all potential transformations of Dasein in his initial delineation of its static/ek-static construction.  

Besides doesn’t Hegel’s idea of Entfremdung go beyond both Nietzsche and Heidegger in the ‘eccentricity’, the ‘anti-mimetic’ mode of the subject – its being only ‘outside of itself’ in its opposite?  Hegel too universalized the aesthetic effect of tragedy into the very form of the subject’s necessary self-abandonment.  Spirit is not contained within the subject but always the precarious ever-moving unity of the subject’s estrangement from self within the outer world.  In one of hundreds of expressions of this thought in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, he writes: “Nothing has a spirit grounded and indwelling within itself but is external to itself in something alien. — The equilibrium of the whole is neither the unity persisting at one with itself nor is it its reassurance in its having returned into itself.  Rather, it rests on the alienation of opposites.  The whole therefore is, as is each individual moment, a self-alienated reality.” (G.W.F Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, translated by Terry Pinkard, 2008, online, p. 440) [“Nichts hat einen in ihm selbst gegründeten und inwohnenden Geist, sondern ist außer sich in einem fremden, - das Gleichgewicht des Ganzen nicht die bei sich selbst bleibende Einheit und ihre in sich zurückgekehrte Beruhigung, sondern beruht auf der Entfremdung des Entgegengesetzten.  Das Ganze ist daher, wie jedes einzelne Moment, eine sich entfremdete Realität;(...)”
G.W.F. Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes, Werke in zwanzig Bänden, 3, Frankfurt, 1976, p. 361;]  One sees how Hegel rejects any Heideggeresque idea of ‘indwelling’ of spirit in any kind of ‘being’ (state, blood, people, movement, etc) or vice versa – and the world of spirit is never a singular being-in-the-world, but at the least, a being in multiple opposing worlds.

Ekstasis, in Nietzsche’s sense, defeats mimesis.  The spectator through the medium of the actor abandons his singular identity, to lose himself in the ‘terror-face’ of drama.  Nietzsche was preoccupied at the time with the rudiments of his own drama based on the legend of Empedocles’ death – according to which he threw himself into the flames of Mount Aetna – a gruesome parable for self-immolation in drama.  Drama stands for life.  Dionysian tragedy is itself the cult of the god Dionysus – the rending of Dionysus’ body to pieces is at the heart of the mysteries.  The spectator or participant in these mysteries ‘imitates’ Dionysus’ physical dismemberment – by exiting himself in the tragedy.
“Bad music” can be the ground of abandoning self just as much (if not more) than “great music” – the one no less than the other represents the world-ground for the will.  “Bad music” is equivalent to “seeing Helena in every woman”- nothing is too low, profane or inferior for the will for it to be seduced to existence.  The propensity for hallucination – the general life-deception - is necessary (a condition) for the restless continuity of the will.  ‘Fake-Helena’, the one Faust sees in every woman, is the quintessence of falsehood, the ‘spontaneity of the lie’, consumed by the will in all of its manifestations – including will to power.  This immortal imperishable spontaneously arising falsehood as the impetus of will is implied in the last line of Faust II, spoken by the Chorus Mysticus – “the eternal-feminine pulls us beyond.” (“Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan.”)  But in the sublunary world, – where “everything mortal (transient) is just a parable” - what then is mimesis? 

False Sunrise

The false sunrise in the night sky.  The tinted light from behind the last houses.  An illusion caused by the white cover of clouds, smoke from the lazy fires, some street lights, held down by the wet fog, so it stays low as if ready to burst or pounce.  And in that false sunrise I step out onto the dripping winter balcony and smell freshly cut hay.
The ‘sunrise’ light doesn’t exist – except from my distance.  When we pass that piece of sky on our night walk – it’s as colourless or colourful as any part of the night sky.  The phenomenon of places inviting or mysterious or unusual – even if not inviting – works only at a distance.  This is their distance beauty.  Others are ‘beauty-less’ at a distance, captivating only at close range.  But then irrevocably so.

This is not a difference of geography or topography – between city and countryside, garden and desert or some other sort of no-man’s land – but between eye and inner eye (imagination, mood, memory): what one sees from a distance and what one sees up close.  Where is or what is then ‘the place’?  Certainly all and none of that.  Is it then the ‘absence of place’, the non-place, the phantasmagorical one that forever eludes you, which is the place?

What do the Kabbalists mean when they say Shechina is in the world and at the same time one is in exile from Shechina and feels an insatiable longing (Benkshaft) for Shechina?  Is Shechina itself an exile in the world?


A writer on weeds – loved to roam about ruined abbeys and castles covered by ground elder, the ancient Roman cure for gout, marking forgotten gardens and habitations.  The positive expression of the conquering plant.  The better English literature is the musings of gardeners about their gardens – like those of Beth Chatto or of Bowles, a gardener from a more ‘genteel’ age.  They exhibit a precision, which has no place in any other part of British life.  Although Bowles lived until 1959 – most of his books about his garden in the various seasons were published at the beginning of the First World War. For many of the British of that generation and later – that was when time, in other words, the future of empire – stopped – but one only found that out for sure later.
The appeal of the garden in autumn is the scent of dying leaves – especially mulberry, smelling like fresh plums or silkworm boxes and strawberry leaves, smelling like I don’t know what, strawberries?  The pleasures of a connoisseur – where knowledge is essential for truly experiencing pleasure.  Although one can enjoy a smell without knowing how it is produced – just as one can operate a machine without knowing why or how it works.

The walnut tree next-door sheds it leaves on our side of the hedge – the crushed up leaves smell of oranges.  The leaves of the black currant bush have the full biting aroma of the berry – long after the berry has been harvested.  A finite number of ethereal oils supply the fragrance for plants of widely differing types.   Only in the plant world can one experience sweet smelling death.  Some smells arise only under certain weather conditions.  Frost.  Or late windless sunsets.  Late as in season of year.  Horace also wrote of the smell of dying strawberry leaves – Bacon as well.  The Augustan pose.  Power when faded is less grasping – almost elegant.  The fading of one form into the next is an endless source of scenes, seeming metamorphoses and fleeting mimicries –the blossoms of geranium pratense shed onto the riverbank look like blue melting snow.  The Japanese koto song in the theatre of the red snow roof – the dream of a bird.


Last Night (Faust Colony)

I had intense fears of the collective force, the mob garden.  It was a night of roaming packs and a few detached persons.  A gaunt blond young man, light-footed, very small rucksack was heckled by fat youths. 
He:  You?  You?  Then turning into the drive of the first house at the end of the escape route between the gardens – he put out a long finger but only pressed an air-bell.  Then sound of gravel as he moves off.  Probably one of the missing.  Walking into the night as if he had destinations other than night.
The plants have such a perfume – the smell of their excrements. I thought we were slightly poisoned by their excessive showy growth. Flowers are disfigured, says Bataille; at the centre of even the most beautiful rose, hidden by the corolla, are its hairy genitals.  Plants and animals are not just friends of one another.  Nietzsche betrays a rather sentimental idea of the “function of nature” when he declares – “The plant is the beautiful world of the animal…”.  After the walk through the night of plant fumes we could hardly sleep and had to urinate hugely.  What is the meaning of that sentence overheard long ago: “The garden is killing him.”?  As if they or it were an assassin with a ‘long breath’, an interloper with a murderous will.  Or some ingenious enemy who arranges for you to be the possessor of a chunk of land, relying on the innate drive for beautiful surroundings – the garden and its resident lemures do the rest.  The drive is insatiable, the enemy always more powerful – weather, pests, diseases, one’s own strength to conceive a plan which outstrips by far the strength to fulfil it.  A good line of Balzac fits this state of being:
Ici-bas, rien n’est complet que le malheur.” (La Peau de Chagrin) – typically, in a passage about a gambler wiped clean by one of those hideous Parisian daytime gambling joints.
I: You can’t win.
L: It’s a fool’s game.
I: Now you tell me, when I’m hooked.

Why shouldn’t plants want to kill humans?  Hence for some it is more satisfying to create deserts.  The raked gravel gardens – the dry garden of the Buddhist monks must be inspired by a certain mistrust of greenery.  The beauty of the plant belongs to its survival apparatus – it is the condition of its being allowed to dominate gardens and gardeners.  It would be meaningless in a world without human taste and judgement.  Colour, smell, etc. would be mere camouflage or fear inducers in predators.  Or to stun by the impressive architecture of their blooms. Thus we return to the war between gardens and humans.  But the truth of plants has its dwelling in the darkness/bowels of the earth, downwards in the roots, wallowing in their favourite element – manure and all manner of rottenness – their appearance wrinkled, crooked and trailing whiskers like shrivelled crones, a visible material allegory of Heidegger’s ‘originary’ Being – the ‘ontological mandrake root’.  Or are the roots of plants rather the model for the ‘Mothers’ in Faust II?
The root or base of the plant, as Bataille observes, has something of the ‘baseness’ traditionally attributed to evil. (Bataille, The Language of Flowers


The garden pulls you to it with terrible Antaeus arms of beauty and decay.  I went for a stroll under its shady branches, after the heat of the day, and saw a lovely sight I started wanting to improve – blue grey rue tumbled onto grass, above it pointillistic red sedum heads, the darker burnt sienna reds of a heuchera pagoda and assorted foliage from geraniums, all somewhat smothered in long grass in the front.  I pulled out a few blades and discovered a pocket of minuscule white eyeballs – Hoffmannesque cavities brimming with some horrid creature’s eggs.  In the midst of gouging these out, I uncover some embryonic pudding of slime and cells - I wrap it in moss and throw it into the bucket, which I have by this time placed next to my excavations.  The eyeballs match the image of a death head or skeleton created by a partially eaten white umbrella mushroom in the front garden underneath a mutabilis rose bush.  I rearrange the rue over the bald hole, but the lovely sight now has its indelible blemish in my mind. 

Cioran and the Neoteny of the Unborn

Just remembered Cioran – a writer from an older, nobler east, more aristocratic in Nietzsche’s sense of the “vornehmer Mensch”, a master of the forgotten art of the self-abuse of the other: “(…) the numberless moments when I was not: the non-born.” (E.M. Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born, London, 1993, p. 5)  What is the neoteny of the unborn?  I found a sort of an answer – “Toy dogs often display an extreme level of neoteny, resembling not just infant, but foetal wolves.”  A picture of a red longhaired arched creature (its back a perfect lotus - like a Chinese lady’s bound foot) with a tiny muzzle face, black button eyes and snout accompanies this thrilling information. 

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