Friday, June 27, 2008

The Instant Labyrinth

Nancy talks about the ostranenie of the photograph, how it captures the familiar and strays into strangeness ("Nous Autres," in The Ground of the Image, pp. 100-107). At length:

Such is the straying and secret I am of the photo. Thus it does not say, "I is an other"; rather, it proffers the wholly other "I am" whose text consists in "we others." It remains to be asked whether there is ever any I am that is not laden in the depths of it-self with innumerable we-others: but that is perhaps exactly what the photograph charges itself with uncovering, with suggesting. Each "subject" in the photo refers tacitly, obstinately, to all the others, to this prodigious universe of photos in(to) which we all take ourselves and one another, at some time or another, this colossal and labyrinthine phototeque in whose depths there stalks–like a Minotaur–the monster, the monstration, and the prodigious image of our strangeness. The encounter is always monstrous, or monstrating, ostensive and threatening, invasive and evasive in the same moment, straying in its capture, released in being grasped. This is not a dialectic, or else it is the point–the seed or grain–of madness that vibrates at the heart of every dialectic, the labyrinth that disturbs its progress and throws it off course.

This grain, or this labyrinth, is called a body. A photograph is a rubbing or rubbing away of a body. We others, as others, are bodies. When we meet one another, we are bodies. We are in each case the brother or the sister of the Minotaur's human body, and it is this body's blood that flows through the beast's head. The bodiless, for its part, is the same, the self-same, hidden behind its body, the dimensionless point of spirit, the empty reference of a formal "I think." But what makes the photograph possible (and what once made people believe that it could capture spirits in its gelatin) is that in the photo it is a question of the body: it is the body that grasps, and it is the body that is grasped and released. It is the body, its thin surface, that is detached and removed by the film. This is the physics and the chemistry of the instant, the force of gravity of the click, this curvature of space and this impalpable lightness of a vision that precipitates and coagulates into a thickness of skin, a density of touch. The contact and the tact of the photographic click detaches a new body each time, an instantaneous body, unstable and fixed in its instability, as a loving or a suffering body, desiring or fearing, which is surprised and overtaken by pleasure or pain. We others, we difficult bodies, delicate bodies and exposed skins obscured by their own clarity, bodies gently pressed and released by another body, by its eye, its finger, its uncertain thought of being and appearing, which suddenly comes to take its place in us (others), as in the cavernous recesses in which it will carry on its rumination.

(pp. 106-107)

In the following paragraph why does Deleuze put "passage" in quotation marks?

The extreme mobility of the phantasm and its capacity for "passage" have often been stressed. It is a little like the Epicurean envelopes and emanations which travel in the atmosphere with agility. Two fundamental traits are tied to this capacity. First, the phantasm covers the distance between psychic systems with ease, going from consciousness to the unconscious and vice versa, from the nocturnal to the diurnal dream, from the inner to the outer and conversely, as if it itself belonged to a surface dominating and articulating both the unconscious and the conscious, or to a line connecting and arranging the inner and the outer over two sides. Second, the phantasm returns easily to its own origin and, as an "originary phantasm," it integrates effortlessly the origin of the phantasm (that is, a question, the origin of birth, of sexuality, of the difference of the sexes, or of death. . .). This is because it is inseparable from a displacement, an unfolding, and a development within which it carries along its own origin. Our early problem, "where does the phantasm begin, properly speaking?" already implies another problem: "where does the phantasm go, in what direction does it carry its beginning?" Nothing is finalized like the phantasm; nothing finalizes itself to such an extent.

(Logic of Sense, p. 217, my bold)

The instant labyrinth passes in the direction of adventure, in the direction of agility. To be a witness to its passage would I have to be haunted? Growing comfortable with transcendence would be an indulgence were it not for this sense of haunted/haunting, this sense of whispers.

Perhaps for the Epicurean the simulacrum represents the ultimate adventure, a greater challenge than suffering itself. However it should be doubted, by which I mean it should not be doubted perforce but with the sense of responsibility or commitment we should bring to our shoulds, to the extent we can do so prior to the constitution of any should. To live amid superstitions is to force the mind to suffer. Is force real? Possibly what compels us to dwell amid simulacra is the force of our own doubt. On the other hand "dwell" may be a poor choice of words. Do we exactly pass among simulacra? Such a passage would not be an Epicurean notion but an adventure. I'd like to believe that talking about how such a doubt exists would be an adventure, but I rather sense that you may feel as if you've talked doubt to death. Maybe instead of adventure we should speak of sidestepping, as if nobody had already made an adventure out of the detour. All of our conversations may be haunted that way too.

Agility is more real to me than Unconscious Thought or its Conscious Thought, more real than either the body rubbed away or the body I am left to inhabit, and impressively more real than any zone of difference between the two. Am I left then with a fantastic that can't "pass"? Why should I feel dismay that the instant labyrinth would be a passing thing, or a kaleideation of passing? What's its passing to me? What's its haunt?

Allow me a doubt about the instant. Perhaps the instant means no more than a copula, a bringing together of two affairs, two detours. I feel it necessary to decouple the instant labyrinth from the labyrinth of the straight line. Perhaps any affair is a celebration of the aleatory, but as I've noted before, celebrants of the aleatory are often uncomfortable with the aleatory encounter. It's as if we needed the copula to enable the affair as affair, and perhaps we only recognize the aleatory as it is carried on alongside; its birth would then be in the copula–the beginnings of a paradox I reckon, but perhaps one that we can happily set aside for just a moment, content to simply take note of a discomfort. Do we meet the instant Minotaur in profile? Is the instant labyrinth properly traversed?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:26 PM.


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