Search results for "gap "

Surface

Author: joe

Wednesday, 24 November, 2010 - 23:51

- on the excess in the image-world.

... there is an absolute gulf between Heidegger's readiness-to-hand and presence-at-hand. No real passage between them is possible, since the tool as a brutal subterranean energy and as a shining, tangible surface are utterly incommensurable ... it should be clear that every entity is ready-to-hand ... in the primary sense of "in the act of being", of unleashing itself upon the environment ... All of reality ... lies in a state of "metabolism" between the unchecked fury of tool-beings and the alluring facades through which we alone encounter them. (The Theory of Objects in Heidegger and Whitehead)
 
I always find myself deployed amidst a specific geography of objects, each of them withdrawing from view into a dark primal integrity that neither our theories nor our practices can ever exhaust. (A Fresh Look at Zuhandenheit)
 
If an object is always a vast surplus beyond its relations of the moment, it has to be asked how those as-yet unexpressed qualities are stored up for the future ... I am convinced that objects far exceed their interactions with other objects, and the question is what this excess is, and where it is. (The Revival of Metaphysics in Continental Philosophy)
 
Towards Speculative Realism by Graham Harman

I'm not attempting (or competent, not being a philosopher) to address the what and where of the excess of Harman's objects. I'm initially interested in Harman's way of characterising the presence of objects, and how different it is to Heidegger's attitude to Vorhandenheit. Where the latter denigrates the coming-to-presence of things in the world (as Harman notes, through the insistent epithet, 'mere'), the latter is always keen to celebrate it. Surfaces shine, sparkle and glitter; they are volatile, luminous, phosphorescent, radiant, resonant, dazzling; with faces, haloes, auras. This is not to say that he is less complimentary towards the withdrawing, strife-filled unleashing of the ready-to-hand, volcanic, turbulent, violent, primal tool-beings as they surge and thrust into the world.

Indeed this rich and exuberant world-surface constantly coming into action and awareness - the sensuous menagerie of the equally-footed animate and inanimate entities that jostle and strew the ground of the universe - seems to me to be just as excess-bearing as the long withdrawing surplus borne by the irreducible and unreachable inner core of real objects. That image world is right there, burning incessantly, coming about its business, hurtling out of the future rather than left over from the inertia of the past.

So I wonder then, what if we took the same steps with Harman's take on the "Heideggerian drama of revealed and concealed" as we took with Goffman's front and back personae: what the revealed hides is not a concealed substance, but its absence. Can we remove the 'effects' part of 'surface-effects', since there is now no causal agent hidden from view? Can the performance of the image be what facilitates the existence of the executant reality?

I realise of course that I'm veering away from Harman's specific arguments here, toward either Husserl's magical intentional objects which bleed sensual qualities without decohering, or toward re-instating a Kantian a priori apparatus which provides the form for the world's inhabitants to take up. But I'm not equipped to argue these points. Rather I just want to dispel hidden realities which betray their appearances, or illusory facades which belie some more authentic realm. Perhaps it is the same impulse which makes me recoil from the psychoanalytical requirement of a furniture of the mind - an unconscious which structures the conscious without permitting access to it. I don't want to bridge the abyss: I want to obviate the need for the bridge by unconjuring the abyss - closing the gap.

Thus I'm willing to concede I'm master of nothing, just as long as I can also say that friends who may turn out to be backstabbing machinators and sophists made themselves so not out of an inevitable and inscrutable essence, but because of the actions and interactions that they and I perform and enact - hence leaving the door open for such outcomes to be inverted: should we present alternative images, then we should unfold alternative executions in the world.

Categories: Graham Harman, Martin Heidegger, vorhandenheit, zuhandenheit, presence-at-hand, readiness-to-hand, surface, image, executant, world, being, gap,
Comments: 5

Dramaturgy

Author: joe

Tuesday, 23 November, 2010 - 23:51

- on the absence of inner realities.

While we could retain the common-sense notion that fostered appearances can be discredited by a discrepant reality, - there is often no reason for claiming that the facts discrepant with the fostered impression are any more the real reality than is the fostered reality they have the power of embarrassing. A cynical view of everyday performances can be as one-sided as the one that is sponsored by the performer. For many sociological issues it may not even be necessary to decide which is the more real, the fostered impression or the one the performer attempts to prevent the audience from receiving. The crucial sociological consideration, for this report, at least, is merely that impressions fostered in everyday performances are subject to disruption. We will want to know what kind of impression of reality can shatter the fostered impression of reality, and what reality really is can be left to other students. We will want to ask, "What are the ways in which a given impression can be discredited?" and this is not quite the same as asking, "What are the ways in which the given impression is false?"
 
I would like, finally, to add that the matters which the audience leaves alone because of their awe of the performer are likely to be the matters about which he would feel shame were a disclosure to occur. As Riezler has suggested, we have, then, a basic social coin, with awe on one side and shame on the other. The audience senses secret mysteries and powers behind the performance, and the performer senses that his chief secrets are petty ones. As countless folk tales and initiation rites show, often the real secret behind the mystery is that there really is no mystery; the real problem is to prevent the audience from learning this too.
 
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman

Goffman's front and back regions and their associated performances are standard fare in the kinds of intro-to-cultural-studies units I've taught on, especially in relation to online participatory media, where it has been a popular way of understanding the liberating and playful 'face-work' that disembodied, pseudo-anonymous spaces afford. The front persona acts out roles based on scripts determined by the performative imperatives in play at any given moment - the particular stage being occupied, the nature of the audience present, the props and paraphernalia to hand, the superset of expectations and conventions which are mobilised by the narrative genre at work and the attendant sense of destination that such stories always demand. The 'front' persona is what we think it is - it is transparently a role, immediate in its ability or otherwise to convince us of its sincerity.

The back region is always more problematic. it is very tempting to ascribe to the 'back' region a hidden authenticity - the real actor behind the role, the performer behind the performance. If the front region is determined by the external pressures of peers, observers and the wider world, as well as the internal pressures exerted by self-consciousness and confidence, personal desires and aspirations, fears of failure and hopes of acceptance, then surely the back region is what is concealed by the performance: the inner drives and originating sources of such desires, fears and hopes - the real person behind the appearance. Common wisdom fears that excessive and injudicious self-exposure will reveal more of oneself than was intended or might be desirable or safe, precisely because areas of the back persona will escape through cracks in an out-of-control performance - corpsing.

I had gone along with this interpretation of Goffman's analysis, teaching undergraduates about the front persona and it's conformance to social norms, versus the back persona and its association with a more authentic, hidden self - until one of my colleagues demanded to know why I was so sure this back persona should necessarily be 'the real me', and even whether Goffman intended that we should understand it so. Why would I assume that 'back' were synonymous with 'real'? Go back to the text, the script.

The analysis of back regions focusses for the most part, (frustratingly for the essay-writing or lecture-planning skim-reader looking for a quote about online identities) on teams. The teams go front-stage together in their workplaces, sanatoria, suburbs and homes; they also go back-stage together where the anti-front actions play themselves out - informality, swearing, solidarity, irritability being a few of the symptoms Goffman lists. But back-stage is still stage: the actor has merely turned his back on one proscenium arch to face another audience. The back is just another front: the business of complying with scripts continues just the same. We may ask, where is the back region to this new front-that-was-back? Is there an end to the infinite regress, when the actor leaves and finds himself alone? Goffman himself notes the dilemma:

"it must be allowed that one can become so habituated to one's front region activity and front region character that it may be necessary to handle one's relaxation from it as a performance. One may feel obliged, when backstage, to act out of character in a familiar fashion and this can come to be more of a pose than the performance for which it was meant to provide a relaxation."

He seems to imply, here, that habit makes the back region a performance in itself, but I wonder if his aside - that the question of "what reality really is can be left to other students" - is not a hint that those other students might be chasing a hall of mirrors. The performances are - as the dramaturgical analogy implies - acts, and as such, they enact; they make real. Perhaps they do not reveal or conceal hidden depths, so much as they compensate for the absence of such essences, and in so doing produce what is now, newly real. There is no inner core which ever-withdraws from display and revelation. There is only a performer; there is no actor; and therefore - no gap.

Categories: Erving Goffman, dramaturgy, performance, identity, gap, front, back, persona,
Comments: 0

Kills Titus

Author: joe

Thursday, 04 November, 2010 - 23:10

- on the passion of exile.

Lastly, myself unkindly banished,
The gates shut on me, and turn'd weeping out,
To beg relief among Rome's enemies;
Who drown'd their enmity in my true tears,
And op'd their arms to embrace me as a friend.
I am the turned-forth, be it known to you,
That have preserv'd her welfare in my blood
And from her bosom took the enemy's point,
Sheathing the steel in my advent'rous body.
 
Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

Titus Andronicus is a bloody story: Saturninus' sons rape and mutilate Lavinia, Titus' daughter - she haunts the play with a mute horror. In turn the felons are murdered and served up to their parents, baked in a pie. Even as the grisly knowledge that they have consumed their own children penetrates them, Titus, who has just stabbed his daughter Lavinia in the heart in order to dispel the shame brought on them by the rape, then kills Tamora, the wife of Saturninus, who in turn kills Titus, whereupon Lucius kills Saturninus, the final act of regicide. This is not to mention the hand-loppings, the son-killings, the bone-grindings, the child-dealings - even the black and bloody fly-swattings.

Perhaps in this wild and thirsty Rome, Lucius' exile among the Goths was a welcome relief. The banished self is turned out and weeps, divided from its place of belonging; he fears the wrath of the hostile outside; and yet the enemy that is the world does not single out a vulnerable soul with malice or hatred; nor is the lonely wanderer met with a cold hand of indifference; rather the face of the stranger softens with mutual tears, the antagonist's arms open in an embrace, friendship is proffered. The former home is now seditious, the agent of displacement, expulsion, estrangement; and yet the outcast carries his origins' welfare in his blood, his hearth in his heart. The fugitive wins over the exterior wilderness for the territory of his motherland - with empathy rather than might. The threat of the foreign, against the quick of the familiar, is tranformed by the refugee's bond with his new host. The separation from the homestead is not a disastrous splitting of a weak stem from the root, but the start of a turning-forth, safeguarding the source, incorporating the weapons the world turns towards home, blunting the blade: the adventures of a body between its horizon and its source.

Categories: William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, exile, empathy, vengeance, enemy, death, body, horizon, home, origin, gap,
Comments: 0

Mind the gap

Author: joe

Tuesday, 26 October, 2010 - 23:36

- on resisting closure.

Why drag in ... lines from a poet? Because, again, of the gap! In the gap between the saying and what slips away there is a sense of sadness, a feeling of mourning... In the gap there is always a reminder that asks not to be forgotten. The shadow of the unsaid haunts our saying... The difference lingers with its own terrible and relentless insistence, which, like an outgoing tide, sucks our words back into the fullness of being. To write down soul, then, is to attend to the mourning in our knowing for what our words leave behind.
 
The Wounded Researcher by Robert Romanyshyn

As I've noted here before, I attended a masterclass with Robert Romanyshyn, and in the course of two days he changed my mind about psychoanalysis - I had tended to see it as magic, conjury, or at best, 'thinking aloud', rather than a powerful way of translating the mysterious subterranean existence of individuals into self-knowledge. Maybe I'm not all the way there yet, since I still have discomfort with 'furniture of the mind'. Perhaps it is the same kind of discomfort a scientist has with ether or deities - unpalatable candidates to explain what is inscrutable but nevertheless already there. But anyway I'm digressing.

The inadequacy of language; the difficulty of grasping experience; the abysses over which we easily skip to escape confronting the dead ends of fear, death, incomprehension, finitude. The impossible capture of life in language seems to be a self-evident denial of the 'linguistic turn' - that 'there is nothing outside the text'. Far from being inadequate to contain experience, language is the universe in which experience unfolds. In this latter tradition, the galaxy of signifiers is a world of infinite play in which final determination of meaning is always postponed; thus language offers infinite freedom - every possibility left open, closure resisted, finitude escaped...

ah! But there is the clue - that language is everything, and that language is not enough, these are perhaps both symptoms of a deeper phenomenon: the gap, the lack of closure, the expectation of an end that is not there. A longing for endings created by endlessness. Since we reach endings all the time, and yet we continue.

Categories: Robert Romanyshyn, language, finitude, mourning, gap, closure, linguistic turn, phenomenology,
Comments: 0