The Forest is a Devil

"What poet will give us the metaphors of this new language?" Gaston Bachelard "And what next? Armaments piling up like an accumulating catastrophe, mass neurosis, nations like mad dogs. All this seems gratuitous, horrible, cosmic to such people, unaware of the causes. How can the bourgeois still pretend to be free, to find salvation individually? Only by sinking himself in still cruder illusions, by denying art, science, emotion, even ultimately life itself. Humanism, the creation of bourgeois culture, finally separates from it. Against the sky stands Capitalism without a rag to cover it, naked in its terror." Christopher Caudwell "My paintings are, in fact, a confrontation with … [Read more...]

The Unreturned Gaze

"In the Middle Ages visual communication was, for the masses, more important than writing. But Chartres Cathedral was not culturally inferior to the Imago mundi by Honorius of Autun. Cathedrals were the TV of their times, and the difference with our TV was that the directors of the medieval TV read good books, had a lot of imagination and worked for the public good." Umberto Eco "There is gold paint, but Rembrandt didn't use it to paint a golden helmet." Wittgenstein "Now fashion, as we know, is a language: through it, through the system of signs it sets up, no matter how fragile this may seem, our society—and not just that of women—exhibits, communicates its being, says what it … [Read more...]

The Tap on the Shoulder

"...Weiss writes of the meetings he must have with the dead, and his solidarity with those who already “only too obviously bear [their death] around with them, who are on the way to the ferryboat, to Acheron, who already hear Charon’s call and the plashing of his oars.” The process of writing which Weiss has recently planned, now that he is about to embark on his literary work Ästhetik des Widerstands (“Aesthetic of Resistance”), is the struggle against “the art of forgetting,” a struggle that is as much part of life as melancholy is of death, a struggle consisting in the constant transfer of recollection into written signs. Despite our fits of “absence” and “weakness,” writing is an attempt … [Read more...]

The Hidden Mythology

"And now bad Christians run about at the time of Carnival with masks and jests and other superstitions. Similarly witches use these revelries of the devil for their own advantage, and work their spells about the time of the New Year." Heinrich Krämer and Jakob Sprenger, Malleus Maleficarum "When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb." Robert Oppenheimer This year saw the death of Denis Johnson and Sam Shepard. I knew Sam personally, and Denis only very slightly. Both shared something that I think has gone out of … [Read more...]

The Past is not Safe

"This overlooks the fact that both commodity exchange and gift exchange are encoded. There is no transparency about gift exchange, whether it is viewed as a sequential chain or as a strategic set of acts by particular agents; in either case gift exchange needs to be decoded as a system of obligations. The effects of the two forms of encoding are quite different, however, with respect to their con- sequences for remembering and forgetting. The mode of encoding operative in gift exchange precipitates a form of cultural remembering; the mode of encoding operative in commodity exchange generates a form of cultural forgetting." Paul Connerton "If only we had a name for the new form, which is … [Read more...]

The Frail Athletes

"Mental health concerns not only health but also the socialization of the modern individual. It challenges the essential elements of individualist societies, like self-value, the opposition between responsibility and illness, the ability to succeed in life, the ability to educate one’s children, and so on. " Alain Ehrenberg "I shall light up the eyes of your enraptured wife, And give back to your son his strength and his color; I shall be for that frail athlete of life The oil that hardens a wrestler's muscles." Baudelaire (William Aggeler tr., The Spirit of Wine) "Some have had to do with the art of theatre, but finding it too arduous, chose to join the theatre. These are … [Read more...]

The Only Possible One

"‘The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness’, wrote Orwell in ‘Politics and the English Language’, and his words are as true today as they were in 1946. The Bank stresses the importance of what it’s saying—key, global, innovative, enlightened—but its words are hopelessly opaque. What is it really trying to say—or to hide?" Franco Moretti & Dominique Pestre "Bankspeak: The Language of World Bank Reports "Two souls dwell in the breast of every complete bourgeois: the soul of the entrepreneur and the soul of the respectable middle-class man . . . the spirit of enterprise is a synthesis of the greed of gold, the desire for adventure, the love of exploration . . . the … [Read more...]

Democratic Domination

"The spectacle's social function is the concrete manufacture of alienation...” Guy Debord "When in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, he boldly proclaimed that distribution according to need, rather than strict equality, would herald the crossing of “the narrow horizon of bourgeois right,” Marx meant what he implied: that equality was an extrapolation from the presuppositions of capitalism. He had said as much in The Holy Family, declaring that the idea of “‘equal possession’ is a political-economic one and therefore still an alienated expression.” Patricia Springborg ""The propertied class and the class of the proletariat present the same human self-estrangement. But the former … [Read more...]