just left myself
Hell, I couldn’t wait
to get away.
There’s still a smear
across the mirror
but it won’t
reflect on me
The graffitist goes up to a wall. He makes a mark. We could say that he makes it to register his presence, to intervene in the space of another in order to strike against it with his declaration, “I am here.” But we would be wrong to say this. Insofar as his declaration is a mark, it is inevitably structured by the moment after its making that even now infects the time of its making, the future moment that makes of its making nothing else than a past, a past that reads, “I was here.” [. . .] Thus even at the time the marker strikes, he strikes in a tense that is over; entering the scene as a criminal, he understands that the mark he makes can only take the form of a clue. He delivers his mark over to a future that will be carried on without his presence, and in so doing his mark cuts his presence away from himself, dividing it from within into a before and an after.
I think art works best in people’s memories. For me, it’s not just the act of going to see it on the wall. I’m not saying it’s bad to do that, although very often it can be disappointing, you know? But in the memory, with all the things you’ve heard about it, all the stories, art becomes this great, rich, flexible thing.
All dualisms, all theories of the immortality of the soul or of the spirit, as well as all monisms, spiritualist or materialist, dialectical or vulgar, are the unique theme of a metaphysics whose entire history was compelled to strive toward the reduction of the trace. The subordination of the trace to the full presence summed up in the logos, the humbling of writing beneath a speech dreaming its plenitude, such are the gestures required by an onto-theology determining the archaeological and eschatological meaning of being as presence, as parousia, as life without difference: another name for death, historical metonymy where God’s name holds death in check.
[A]n author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.
The tsimtsum does not occur in the Zohar. It originates in other old treatises, but became truly significant only with Luria. It is an amazing conception. The tsimtsum ushers in the cosmic drama. But this drama is no longer, as in older systems, an emanation or projection, in which God steps out of Himself, communicates or reveals Himself. On the contrary, it is a withdrawal into Himself. Instead of turning outward, He contracts His essence, which becomes more and more hidden. Without the tsimtsum there would be no cosmic process, for it is God’s withdrawal into Himself that first creates a pneumatic, primordial space—which the Kabbalists called tehiru—and makes possible the existence of something other than God and His pure essence. The Kabbalists do not say so directly, but it is implicit in their symbolism that this withdrawal of the divine essence into itself is a primordial exile, or self-banishment.
In this way is revealed the whole being of writing: a text consists of multiple writings, issuing from several cultures and entering into dialogue with each other, into parody, into contestation; but there is one place where this multiplicity is collected, united, and this place is not the author, as we have hitherto said it was, but the reader: the reader is the very space in which are inscribed, without any being lost, all the citations a writing consists of; the unity of a text is not in its origin, it is in its destination; but this destination can no longer be personal: the reader is a man without history, without biography, without psychology; he is only that someone who holds gathered into a single field all the paths of which the text is constituted. This is why it is absurd to hear the new writing condemned in the name of a humanism which hypocritically appoints itself the champion of the reader’s rights. The reader has never been the concern of classical criticism; for it, there is no other man in literature but the one who writes. We are now beginning to be the dupes no longer of such antiphrases, by which our society proudly champions precisely what it dismisses, ignores, smothers or destroys; we know that to restore to writing its future, we must reverse its myth: the birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the Author.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
Above all, artists are men who wish to become inhuman.
They painstakingly search for traces of inhumanity, traces which are nowhere encountered in nature.
Such traces are the truth, and beyond them we know no reality.
Intrinsic to the image is the effort to lure the look, to deceive it, rather than simply to mimic reality. Indeed, ancient optics was preoccupied with the question of how the eye can be fooled [. . .] Likewise, Plato’s discussions of visual art are often interpreted in terms of the relations of reality, ideas and representation, but much of the art he was talking about had this specific function of trying to fool the viewer. Not to represent well, but to fool. The tension is not between the image and reality but between the look of the other and the painter. What he paints is there to attract the other, but to attract the other away from him.
1. It was the particular feel of him that made me want to go back: everything that is said is said underneath, where, if it does matter, to acknowledge it is to let on to your embarrassment. That I love you makes me want to run and hide.
2. It is not the story I know or the story you tell me that matters; it is what I already know, what I don’t want to hear you say. Let it exist this way, concealed, let me always be embarrassed, knowing that you know that I know but pretend not to know.
Only the subject—the human subject, the subject of the desire that is the essence of man—is not, unlike the animal, entirely caught up in this imaginary capture. He maps himself in it. How? In so far as he isolates the function of the screen and plays with it. Man, in effect, knows how to play with the mask as that beyond which there is the gaze. The screen is here the locus of mediation.
When the photographers come, it’s like looking into a mirror.
Does she look like someone who didn’t have to look like Marilyn Monroe? Even after she’d become the most famous woman of her time, she would decide to leave “Marilyn” at home and show up at parties, or meet friends in bars, looking so different that people she knew did not recognize her until she said something with that unmistakable voice—and strangers didn’t recognize her at all.
The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects “unfamiliar,” to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important.
At the beginning of the movie,
they know they have to find each other.
But they ride off
in opposite directions.
Shorn of speech, incapable of standing upright, hesitating over the objects of its interest, not able to calculate its advantages, not sensitive to common reason, the child is eminently the human because its distress heralds and promises things possible. Its initial delay in humanity, which makes it the hostage of the adult community, is also what manifests to this community the lack of humanity it is suffering from, and which calls on it to become more human. [. . . T]he adult can pretend to full humanity in his or her turn, and to the effective realization of mind as consciousness, knowledge and will. That it always remains for the adult to free himself or herself from the obscure savageness of childhood by bringing about its promise—that is precisely the condition of humankind. [. . .] I do not like this haste. What it hurries, and crushes, is what after the fact I find I have always tried, under diverse headings—work, figural, heterogeneity, dissensus, event, thing—to reserve: the unharmonizable.
How then can one begin to describe the inside of Laura, where the child-mind lived in the midst of the familiar relics of the baby-mind, like a Fascist in Rome?
A bevy of experiments in recent years suggest that the conscious mind is like a monkey riding a tiger of subconscious decisions and actions in progress, frantically making up stories about being in control.
Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders what the part that isn’t thinking isn’t thinking of.
A dictionary begins when it no longer gives the meaning of words, but their tasks. Thus formless is not only an adjective having a given meaning, but a term that serves to bring things down in the world, generally requiring that each thing have its form. What it designates has no rights in any sense and gets itself squashed everywhere, like a spider or an earthworm. In fact, for academic men to be happy, the universe would have to take shape. All of philosophy has no other goal: it is a matter of giving a frock coat to what is, a mathematical frock coat. On the other hand, affirming that the universe resembles nothing and is only formless amounts to saying that the universe is something like a spider or spit.
Kant covertly considered art to be a servant. Art becomes human in the instant in which it terminates this service. Its humanity is incompatible with any ideology of service to humankind. It is loyal to humanity only through inhumanity toward it.
The Dadaist considers it necessary to come out against art, because he has seen through its fraud as a moral safety valve. Perhaps this militant attitude is a last gesture of inculcated honesty, perhaps it merely amuses the Dadaist, perhaps it means nothing at all. But in any case, art [. . .] regarded from a serious point of view, is a large-scale swindle. [. . . T]he most absurd idolatry of all sorts of divinities is beaten into the child in order that the grown man and taxpayer should automatically fall on his knees when, in the interest of the state or some smaller gang of thieves, he receives the order to worship some “great spirit.” [. . .] Culture can be designated solemnly and with complete naivety as the national spirit become form, but also it can be characterized as a compensatory phenomenon, an obeisance to an invisible judge, as veronal for the conscience.
Thus did the Sex Pistols end the world, or anyway their own. The followup news was dissolution, murder, suicide—and though in each case the facts were formally logged in the relevant civil and criminal courts, who can tell if the events took place in the realm where people actually live more than in the symbolic realm of the pop milieu? As a double, the nihilist holds the negationist’s dope; usually they rent the same rooms, and sometimes they pay the same bills. Usually the coroner—be it fan, epigone, critic, or best friend—cannot tell the difference by looking at the corpse. The Sex Pistols were a scam, a bid for success through scandal, for “cash from chaos,” as one of Malcolm MacLaren’s slogans had it; they were also a carefully constructed proof that the whole of received hegemonic propositions about the way the world was supposed to work comprised a fraud so complete and venal that it demanded to be destroyed beyond the powers of memory to recall its existence. In those ashes anything would be possible, and permitted: the most profound love, the most casual crime.
Gains’ routine was stealing overcoats out of restaurants, and he was perfectly adapted to his work. The American upper-middle-class citizen is a composite of negatives. He is largely delineated by what he is not. Gains went further. He was not merely negative. He was positively invisible; a vague respectable presence. There is a certain kind of ghost that can only materialize with the aid of a sheet or other piece of cloth to give it outline. Gains was like that. He materialized in someone else’s overcoat.
There’s a few ghost stories, the one that fucked me up when I was little. “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You, My Lad.” Something can betray how sinister it is even at a distance. Something weird happens with M. R. James [. . .] even though it’s in writing, there’ll be a moment, when the person meets the ghost, where you can’t quite believe what you’ve read, you go cold, just for those few lines when you glimpse the ghost for a second, or he describes the ghost face. It’s like you’re not reading any more. In that moment it burns a memory into you that isn’t yours. He says something like, “there’s nothing worse for a human being than to see a face where it doesn’t belong.” But if you’re little, and you’ve got an imagination which is always messing you up and darking you out, things like that are almost comforting to read. Also, there is nothing worse than not recognizing someone you know, someone close, family, seeing a look in them that just isn’t them. I was once in a lock-in in a pub and the regulars there and some mates started telling these fucked up ghost stories from real life, maybe that had happened to them, and I swear if you heard them. One girl told me the scariest thing I ever heard. Some of these stories would stop a few words earlier than seemed right, they don’t play out like a film, they’re too simple, too everyday, slight, those stories ring true and I never forgot them. Sometimes maybe you see ghosts on the underground with an empty Costcutters plastic bag, nowhere to go. They are smaller, about 70% smaller than a normal person, smaller than they were in life.
Your bed is adrift,
it’s come loose from the floor,
the dead float up like dreams
I push them back with my arm like an oar.
But your face is alive
like a nickel cartoon,
shown on the wall
to light up the room.
What I would like to find is an improvisation that is not descriptive of the performer, but is descriptive of what happens, and which is characterized by an absence of intention. It is at the point of spontaneity that the performer is most apt to have recourse to his memory. He is not apt to make a discovery spontaneously. I want to find ways of discovering something you don’t know at the time that you improvise [. . .] The first way is to play an instrument over which you have no control, or less control than usual. The next way is to divide empty time into rooms, you could say.
In an age like ours, when people are assaulted daily by the most monstrous things without being able to keep account of their impressions, aesthetic production becomes a prescribed course. But all living art will be irrational, primitive, and complex; it will speak a secret language and leave behind documents not of edification but of paradox.
It was when I realized that I could make mistakes that I decided I was really onto something.
[E]very technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards.
But the lens, carried on by photography, (and academic painters) remains dominant, eventually to become film and television. The gap widens, Cubism being the first style of painting to suggest a new way of representing the world far removed from the lens’ veracity. [. . .] Movies are now everywhere—the most vivid depiction of reality possible, it was thought. This is the period when modern art suffers its most serious attacks, especially from the great tyrants—Hitler, Stalin, Mao—who all demand lens-based pictures and use them to consolidate their power. It is also the period of the world’s bloodiest conflicts, way beyond anything previously known. Are these things connected?
Since Courbet, it’s been believed that painting is addressed to the retina. That was everyone’s error. The retinal shudder! Before, painting had other functions: it could be religious, philosophical, moral. [. . .] our whole century is completely retinal, except for the surrealists, who tried to go outside it somewhat. And still, they didn’t go so far! [. . .] It has to change; it hasn’t always been like this.
If the birds rushed to the surface on which Zeuxis had deposited his dabs of color, taking the picture for edible grapes, let us observe that the success of such an undertaking does not imply in the least that the grapes were admirably reproduced, like those we can see in the basket held by Caravaggio’s Bacchus in the Uffizi. If the grapes had been painted in this way, it is not very likely that the birds would have been deceived, for why should the birds see grapes portrayed with such extraordinary verisimilitude? There would have to be something more reduced, something closer to the sign, in something representing grapes for the birds. But the opposite example of Parrhasios makes it clear that if one wishes to deceive a man, what one presents to him is the painting of a veil, that is to say, something that incites him to ask what is behind it.
Behind the colors in the pictures is the canvas. Behind the canvas there is a wall, behind the wall there is . . . etc. Visible things always hide other visible things. But a visible image hides nothing.
Within the deeper history of image-making, psychedelia is yet another manifestation of those anti-academic strategies that arise in the seventeenth century concurrent with the rise of the academies. They manifest themselves first in the Rococo, then reappear periodically in Pre-Raphaelite, Art Nouveau, Pop, Populuxe, Psychedelic, Las Vegas, and Wild Style graffiti incarnations—all of which are characterized by visual maneuvers that have been permanently out of academic fashion for nearly three hundred years, and show no signs of becoming otherwise (dealing as they do with extravagant permissions, rather than reductive disciplines and institutional prohibitions). All of these styles flourish and survive in opposition to everything that academic Western civilization is about, and so, not surprisingly, they all manifest a conscious orientalism whose focus shifts radically from generation to generation. Most hark back to pre-Renaissance strategies of patterning and elaboration—to that Venetian moment before East and West diverged.
Imagine an aesthetic (if the word has not become too depreciated) based entirely (completely, radically, in every sense of the word) on the pleasure of the consumer, whoever he may be, to whatever class, whatever group he may belong, without respect to cultures or languages: the consequences would be huge, perhaps even harrowing (Brecht has sketched such an aesthetic of pleasure; of all his proposals, this is the one most frequently forgotten).
this love will all blow over.
for leaving the parade.
Is there a place
in this city
to always feel this way?
And you, forgotten, your memories ravaged by all the consternations of two hemispheres, stranded in the Red Cellars of Pali-Kao, without music and without geography, no longer setting out for the hacienda where the roots think of the child and where the wine is finished off with fables from an old almanac. That’s all over. You’ll never see the hacienda. It doesn’t exist. The hacienda must be built.
The house of fiction has in short not one window, but a million—a number of possible windows not to be reckoned, rather; every one of which has been pierced, or is still pierceable, in its vast front, by the need of the individual vision and by the pressure of the individual will. These apertures, of dissimilar shape and size, hang so, all together, over the human scene that we might have expected of them a greater sameness of report than we find. They are but windows at the best, mere holes in a dead wall, disconnected, perched aloft; they are not hinged doors opening straight upon life. But they have this mark of their own that at each of them stands a figure with a pair of eyes, or at least with a field-glass, which forms, again and again, for observation, a unique instrument, insuring to the person making use of it an impression distinct from every other. [. . .] The spreading field, the human scene, is the “choice of subject”; the pierced aperture, either broad or balconied or split-like and low-browed, is the “literary form”; but they are, singly or together, as nothing without the posted presence of the watcher—without, in other words, the consciousness of the artist.
A story is not like a road to follow . . . it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.
[I]f I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.
Lights that flash in the evening
through a hole in the drapes
I’ll be home when I’m sleeping
I can’t hardly wait
What seems almost impossible is to speak always of the specter, to speak to the specter, to speak with it, therefore especially to make or to let a spirit speak. And the thing seems even more difficult for a reader, an expert, a professor, an interpreter, in short, for what Marcellus calls a “scholar.” Perhaps for a spectator in general. [. . .] As theoreticians or witnesses, spectators, observers, and intellectuals, scholars believe that looking is sufficient. Therefore, they are not always in the most competent position to do what is necessary: speak to the specter. [. . .] A traditional scholar does not believe in ghosts—nor in all that could be called the virtual space of spectrality. There has never been a scholar who does not believe in the sharp distinction between the real and the unreal, the actual and the inactual, the living and the non-living, being and non-being (“to be or not to be,” in the conventional reading), in the opposition between what is present and what is not, for example in the form of objectivity. Beyond this opposition, there is, for the scholar, only the hypothesis of a school of thought, theatrical fiction, literature, and speculation.
Nature is a Haunted House—but Art—a House that tries to be haunted.