hyphology

"hyphos is the tissue and the spider’s web"

Prefatory Notes on the Poverty of the Soul

“Let us never fear robbers nor murderers. Those are dangers from without, petty dangers. Let us fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices are the real murderers. The great dangers lie within ourselves. What matters it what threatens our head or our purse! Let us think only of that which threatens our soul.” – Victor Hugo

The word “soul” has been reprehensible for too long. The theologians that preach the salvation of the soul only end up strangling what little bit of soul we may have left. There is a soul, but it is fundamentally different than how we have thought about it until now. It must not be reduced to the mind or body: it is a third substance. An essentialist conception of the soul fails to recognize this important differentiation. What actually composes the soul is the question at the heart of these notes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Automobile Advertising

[This is an excerpt from Open Structuralism: An Answer to Derrida, a project that attempts to find a third position between structuralism and post-structuralism.]

There is a unique phenomenon that is particular to the advertising of automobiles. Commercials portray their product in motion. Cars drive through fields, deserts, mountains, and cities, which are all completely empty. Even in the cities, there is not a single car or person around. Trucks are magically loaded with heavy objects to show off their suspension, but there is no one doing the loading. Even the driver is often totally occulted. When the driver is revealed, it is usually a masked professional or only the hands. The question arises: why is the automobile always presented in isolated environments? What can a synchronic analysis tell us?

To really understand the commercial-structure, it must be isolated in time from any transformations that may have existed before it or will exist after it. As Barthes instructs the reader on the last page of Elements of Semiology, this method is infinitely favorable to one that accounts for the evolutionary development of the commercials. (This is also a condemnation of the trace.) So, one is left with a bundle of commercials that share the characteristics described above. A contrast exists between the product and its environment that resembles the figure-ground relation. The car is emphasized by being in an empty field; it draws the viewer’s attention like the eyes of the Mona Lisa. The absence of the driver is an invitation to imagination. (To invite the viewer to the dealership has become common practice. Buying a car is treated like a festival, which should remind the reader of the lyric from the Claude Channes song in La Chinoise (1968): revolution is not a banquet.) One can picture oneself steering the car through the vacant city streets. The commercial allows the viewer to test drive the car in the very best environments. Thus, a synchronic analysis can provide an answer to our question. It has revealed the viewer’s relation to the commercial to be part of the very sign-system established by that commercial, and has also explained the meaning of the isolated environment to be a tactic of emphasizing the product. The quality of this answer will now be weighed against that of an open structuralist analysis. Read the rest of this entry »

The Disavowalist Manifesto

We will never know how many discourses we inhabit at once. Words like “socio-political” must be uttered in an ironic sense because any notion of strict division between discursive spaces is a fiction. One must remember that a “hyphen is never enough to conceal protests, cries of anger or suffering, the noise of weapons, airplanes, and bombs.” Any and all distinctions are contingent, acting like hinges, where one component is not clearly distinguished from the other, but also necessary for the operation of the apparatus. It is not each discourse that produces meaning, as is commonly believed, but is actually that which produces a general meaninglessness. Above all else, the Disavowalist wants meaning. The only path to meaning is away from every black hole of signification. It is the disinterested wandering away from discourse that will be the coalescence of meaning: a complete refusal to avow; a disavowal.

This strategy is sometimes represented in the political realm as anarchism. Is not an-archy a complete disavowal of the State, hierarchy, gods, and masters? An-archists would certainly believe so. Yet it is this strategic disavowal that leads to the ultimate avowal of anarchism. So, it is a similar case with any discourse that introduces itself as a prefix. One finds affirmations and affinities everywhere in anarchism, dormant like razor blades in apples. However, it is not the positive, anarchist projects that adopt a stance of avowal in the sense that we are concerned with. A collective never hurt nor helped anyone. Implicit in the naked disavowal of arche is an impulse that can surface as crude naturalism or frigid utilitarianism or any disease you could imagine on your lunch break. The Disavowalist wants to disavow everything including her own position. The evening news is trite and every book has been read: the Disavowalist is fiending for new intensities.

The first step to making your own disavowal: determine the field! We are not here to vomit three critiques about the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Disavowal is a step away from what is to what is not. Some would call this metaphysics, but those people are not Disavowalists. We do not want to give you philosophy, political theory, self-help, or pornography. You already know where to find them; you already are them. We can only offer a constellation of images. These images will appear to form a coherent structure in an immanent matrix, but, like all constellations, each image is light-years away from the others. The question of structuration, that very event where the constellation becomes what it is, will be left open until the end, where one will rightly find the beginning.

Some philosophers have argued that our relation to the world is innately sexual. Either our bodies are always complicit in a sexualized energy of mechanico-biological connections, or sexuality underlies every thought and action as the genital property of power itself. What is overlooked far too often is that this sexuality always already entails production. The sexualized subject can only exist when it apprehends a sexualizing object. Therefore, sexuality is grafted on to the subject and this procedure has been naturalized throughout history. Yet at every moment, the subject is primarily asexual before encountering the means of sexual production. The desire to spread sexuality as much as the productive localities of sex itself is a discourse of avowal. One must be weary of the counter-attack that posits anti-sexuality or abstinence as solutions; this is not what we are interested in. The Disavowalist becomes becoming by closing his account at the economy of becoming-sexual.

How does one become a Disavowalist linguistically? It should already be clear that the No is a trap. The No is an avowal of the negative; it is inextricable from that which is Yes. We have no pledge or principle. A strong distaste resonates equally from culture and counter-culture. The Disavowalist distrusts language because it affirms being over becoming. Yet, as Cratylus had done, one cannot simply give up language. Even this marks a return to negation. The Disavowalist is a black body radiator in the vacuum of language.

The Disavowalist sometimes adopts a name, but only to disavow it in the end, to give it up, to die. Hamlet became Disavowalist in his indecision to kill Claudius. This allowed him to ponder his fate, despise country and capital, and scorn vanity. The decision brought complications. All at once, Hamlet enters bio-chemical, political, social, historical, literary, and militant discourses. He is forced into the conclusion of all avowals: the death of the subject. And so, Hamlet’s dying words solidify his predicament: he voices his opinion on a political election. Hamlet was a great Disavowalist, but Bukowski was greater. In Bukowski, one finds a critique of everything that is both clear and concise. Value-constellations of politics, sexuality, culture, art, etc. are dissolved to their most fundamental contradictions. Beneath it the reader finds a sincerity that is intentionally absent from all other writers. However, in the catacombs of Bukowski’s style, one is bound to realize his hedonism. It is an avowal of the beautiful that takes the form of Mahler, Lawrence, and the woman in 4E. Certainly, we must forgive Bukowski whatever joys he could find under the dirty covers of a rented motel room, but it was his disavowals that made him great, that inched him closer to the divine emptiness and the yawning spirit. We forgive Bukowski to read him again; we read Bukowski to not end up like him. However, Bukowski’s failures are not that far from another great Disavowalist. It is Bartleby’s mantra that could lead any Disavowalist to purified reflection, if such a thing existed: I would prefer not to. Is this not the goal we have been aiming at: to prefer not to do anything? Linguistically, Bartleby discovers a world of disavowal, but it is his practice that is lacking. In his radical disavowal, Bartleby forgets what he is still avowing: a particular spatial position. Bartleby engenders a critique of work and law that would not resurface until more than two hundred years later. He is also a reminder of what radical disavowal encompasses and where the Disavowalist needs to take caution. We do not want to be catatonic! Disavowal is an active becoming; any stasis is a negation of its principle.

Disavowal leads indirectly to a peripheral subjectivity. The subject is a foundational position, which is prior to objectifying apparatuses and discourses. To be clear, if such a thing is possible, we do not desire to reaffirm the classical role of the subject. Individual and pure values are inextricable from the discourses they inhabit. We seek a world beyond value. It is here, at this point of no return and constant return, that the subject becomes identifiable, but only as clearly as a corpse. The subject is not a goal or end; it is what remains after radical disavowal. The subject’s position in the world is always contingent. It involves a coming out (of the closet, of consciousness, etc.) to the Other and the world. One finds multiplicity only in a return to singularity. Radical subjectivity necessarily composes radical alterity. The radical subject is not absolutely present or coherent, but is merely a subject in-and-for-itself. Our goal is to disavow the Other in our-self in order to discover the Other as itself: “We can only remember that seduction lies in not reconciling with the Other and in salvaging the strangeness of the Other.” A disavowal need not lead to any particular configuration, but it is always already a becoming-subject in the face of alterity. The subject is only inherently valuable insofar as it is in relation to the Other. Yet the Other is already everywhere; it is discursively produced in a perverse space overflowing with contradictory values. The Other, in its relation to the subject, which is always already murdered by discourse, is a pure Other for-itself. The Other emerges on a plane of disavowal along with the subject. Disavowal is necessarily a movement: it meanders toward the Other and meaning. One must not remove oneself entirely as Bartleby does. What constitutes this movement is a new topic for each person. Disavowal is a violent conquest directed at parts of the map that do not exist. With every new horizon, one must be cautious of avowals that blossom everywhere like landmines.

Slogans for Walls and Wars:

Don’t Try

I Would Prefer Not To

RADICAL INDECISION

To Be Or Not

Lego La Nada A Nadie

I DECLARE NOTHING

Castrating-production in Baumbach

The psychology of castration has always been inextricable from the philosophy of presence. As soon as one is castrated, one can never return to how one was. It is a strict dichotomy between absolute presence and absolute absence mediated by the absolute fear of castration. Two recent films from Noah Baumbach hint at a new conception of castration as production rather than stasis: Greenberg (2010) and Margot at the Wedding (2007). The position of the castrato is configured by the castrato itself. This configuration must be reappropriated with every action. If not, the castrato returns to a pre-castrating position in which the subject-position of the phallus is taken up again. (Of course, this position is not limited to a certain gender.)

The inflexion point of the two films comes by way of anecdote. Greenberg and Margot do not drive, but they forcefully assert that they can if they so choosed. Greenberg cites the amount of deaths from autmobile collisions as his reason for not driving; Margot lives in the city and prefers public transit. The inability to drive is the symbol of castration. Yet this symbol is proliferated across all other social engagements in the film. The title characters constantly affirm their position as castratos by isolating themselves. The few times they do interact with others results in emotional violence. This form of existential angst is not absent from their sex lives either. In every aspect of the films, castrating-production is represented as the desire for absence.

The movies follow different trajectories at this point. Greenberg can only decide to end castrating-production when he is high on cocaine. The film has an open conclusion where the spectator is left wondering if Greenberg’s relationship would last. Margot, on the other hand, halts production in a fit of rage when she decides to drive. Her driving is careless, not respecting the lines or signs of the road-system; it has been a long time since she had been territorialized. To her childrens’ dismay, she drives on and eventually makes it to the bus stop where she decides at the last minute to depart with her son. Her relationship is reconciled and one is led to believe that she is no longer producing her own castration. So, every moment that castration is produced holds the implicit possibility of throwing a cog in the gears and ending production, for however long one sees fit.

Alterity and Architecture

Most revolutionary strategies notoriously lack concerns about metaphysics, but focus entirely on ethics and politics. This blind-spot has done more damage to theory than is currently realized. It is certain that freedom involves the unmediated exercise of subjectivity and that the opposite of free action necessarily involves the appropriation of subjectivity through coercion or blatant violence. The first task in formulating a plan of liberation is to recognize the threats against the lived body in everyday life. Prior to institutions and others, one finds that it is the environment itself that militates against the subject. This aggression materializes in the existence of the building.

On Entering Buildings

When walking up to the doors of a building, just before crossing the threshold, there is a perceptible nausea. This existential angst is a foreshadowing of the metaphysical violence that awaits a person beyond the doors of any interior. To understand this feeling as a type of awe before a great edifice would be a grave mistake. Similar illusions are accompanied with other events that appear as radical breaks in the flow of everyday life: falling in love when one is only falling into bondage, joining a particular manifestation of the class struggle when one is only renouncing their individuality (e.g. the ability to join), and so on. These cases should not be taken as absolutes, but only failures of these institutions at a particular moment. The building, however, offers no dialogue like a lover or revolutionary council might. Its overwhelming threat of absolute appropriation of the subject (triggering an ontological conversion from subject to object) is perpetual. As one enters a building they become a cog in the machinery of the edifice. The possible withers away as the person is thrown into a limited space of pre-determined actualities. The nausea of entering is never a joyful experience and is always a distress call from our subjectivity.

Buildings as art; art as buildings—this is the greatest lie of modernity. The nausea of entering is sometimes confused with an appreciation for art, greatness, or Beauty. The only accessible aesthetic qualities of a building are seen from the desk of the architect. This space beyond spaces is the true center of the structure; a center that is non-center. From his desk, the architect weaves the grand narrative of the building with paths that facilitate flows of desire and engineered methods of moving. Due to this, the architect is always already a metaphysician in cognito. The art or style of buildings is always beyond the perception of the subject; always too high, large, distant, or ambiguous. The essence always escapes the inhabitant because it reconfigures her, but is immediately obvious for the narrator of steel and glass, the person at the desk, the architect.

When a photon particle gets close to an atom there is a fundamental shift in its behavior. It ceases to be a particle and becomes a wave. The building attracts us like the photon particle to the atom and we undergo the same metaphysical transfiguration. Hallways, rooms, corridors—these structures mimic the electron shells of the atom. It is wrong to say that the subject exists because the room is always prior to his birth.

The building’s main function is to appropriate subjectivities to fulfill the plan of the architect. This planning is most egregious in spaces like business towers, schools, prisons, and clinics. It represents the first act of terrorism in civilization. Today, capital and authority control and maintain the means of construction. The violence of the building is indistinguishable from the violence of the State. To reclaim life one must begin with the lived body which is always already situated by coercive forces. This will require a terrorism against the building.

On Destroying Buildings

The strategy against buildings can be neither destructive nor constructive. To participate in either of these methods would be to reduce oneself to the universal dialectic instituted by architecture of building/non-building, inside/outside. Physically destroying the building is a speech act in the discourse of buildings. Therefore, the terrorism to be waged against the building is beyond the universal dialectic and its practice of violence. The new terrorism is not productive and nothing new must be formed or made. The revolutionary has a simple, but difficult, task: relearning how to traverse spaces. Since the building stands for the appropriation of subjectivities, the only mode of being against this appropriation is the exercise of subjectivity through space. This process finally puts an end to the nausea of the building, but must be constantly reaffirmed, recognized, and re-established. For all of history, spaces have determined subjectivity, but now the transcendence of this hierarchy must be realized through the subjective determination of space.

We will call the expression of subjectivity through/in/as space a subject-space. Subject-spaces are direct responses to the dual-colonization of space as concrete and liquid. Geographical and mental spaces encounter the unremitting conquest of desks, advertisements, chalkboards, highways, screens, restaurants, flowers, radios, and sewers. Concrete colonization is the physical dominance of the object on the subject, while liquid colonization is the extension of an object through a subject. Where will we find the subject-space? Only in resistances to spaces of liquid colonization. To revolt against the concrete would return the subject to the destructive/constructive dialectic of the building and only further ingrain her. Liquid spaces are ripe with the intensities of subjectivity and must be subverted. Reclaim space to reclaim your-self.

On the Aesthetics of Subject-Spaces

The spontaneous creation of subject-spaces requires new architectures that facilitate the free flows of desire through liquid spaces. This unique aesthetic must exist outside of presence, material, domination, and colonization. It will call for a new conception of the room and even the most functional of everyday living spaces will be transformed without remorse. Architecture will be liberated as an art and the grand narrative of the architect (supported by the capitalist and politician) will be obliterated. Picture a whole city of people wandering the landscape transforming spaces as they go: Fourier without the communal localization of the phalanx. Every subject-space is a small pool of imagination reaching toward infinity.

The Death of Sisyphus

Camus’ appropriation of the myth of Sisyphus is itself a myth. It determines certain conditions for meaning in an atmosphere in which the means of production are always-already at hand. The myth of the myth is that one is able to produce meaning merely by searching it out. The struggle of Sisyphus is the polar opposite of this profound un-struggle in which the event inherits its value. Derrida’s critique of the ends of man in Sartre is incredibly apt here since it is by murdering God that man himself takes on the position of God. Existentialism posits an alternative theology.

It is not “meaning” that man carves out of a meaningless existence, but an endless search for meaning that produces that very meaninglessness. The image of Sisyphus is entirely misleading in this regard. Despite an aversion to hero-worship and all manifestations of iconography, a more adequate myth can be found in King Midas. By desiring gold and only gold, everything becomes gold, thus destroying the very value that was sought after. In Midas’ desperate search for value, everything becomes valueless. It is here that one encounters the true nature of the boulder. It is not merely an obstacle for Sisyphus, an in-itself that represents a given meaning, but the very limits of the for-itself. This asymptotic border between the for-itself and in-itself leads to the only genuine existential position: despair and anxiety. The assumption of any transcendence beyond these categories leads back to the inconsistencies of theological existentialism.