Archive for April 30th, 2019

Spectral figure

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

To engage this spectral figure will require us to open ourselves to the effects of certain traits which I want to gather together under one word. And that word – whose introduction here will no doubt be troublesome to many – is “magic.” Something on the order of magic – unreal, phantasmic, hallucinatory, perhaps even diabolical – is released in these works. (As I see it, the term “magic” would ultimately refer to any psychic operation that would appear to reduce or eliminate the distinction between, for example, an ego and an other. Such an operation would, in effect, fall outside of any order of representation; it would, in a word, be unrepresentable. I realize that such an operation, if pursued, may require that we rethink certain principles fundamental to psychoanalysis, to our understanding of the subject in general.) Consequences notwithstanding, I must insist on employing the word if only because, in reconsidering the effects produced by Graham’s set-ups, I now better understand the significance of a remark made seventeen years ago by a professor of mine. Commenting on my work – an installation of mirrors titled Loci – he offered only this on-the-spot assessment: “It’s magic.” Without doubt, this judgment – “it’s magic” – left its mark, becoming for me, in time, something of a leitmotif. So, tonight, the word magic – think of it as a password or passkey – will, I trust, assist us in going a little further into these excessive and most redundant devices. Given my predilection, my fancy for the word, for all that overflows and exceeds the phenomenality of its sense, I will say that an event like Present Continuous Past(s) “presents” nothing less than an extravagant set of surface effects, a generalized simulacrum of presentation on which all movement, all transaction – yours and mine – are inscribed. You and I are, thus, one of its effects, an inscribed function if you like, part of the machinery of a complex sleight of hand production that is capable of proceeding – quite miraculously I assure you – without us. These events, if we can still call them events, repeat themselves. As soon as they are up and running, they divide and multiply themselves. They auto-partition themselves – and, at once, discount themselves as events.

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Indeed, as Pelzer astutely points out: “the video works consist of so many variations on partition,” that is, so many counter-points to a modernist orthodoxy which, she goes on to explain, has come to base its authority on a “unitary conception of space.” Now if you recall, I mentioned earlier a text by Jeff Wall, Dan Graham’s Kammerspiel, where, in speaking critically of the glass house (the Philip Johnson House in New Canaan, Connecticut), he resorts to what he refers to as its theoretical occupant. But why, in the middle of his analysis, must he rely on such a construct? Why, when it comes to a question of the house, must he invent something? Well you see, but I could be wrong on this, I doubt whether Wall has ever visited the house; he has never experienced, has never given himself – first hand – an experience of the house. Hence, a bit of speculation was called for, out of which arose, as if from the dead, his theoretical subject, his vampire – which, of course, is not a subject at all. Let us, instead, call it a figure, a figure of the imagination or the Imaginary, but – and I hope I have made this clear – a figure whose affects, insofar as we can experience them today through certain technologies of reproduction, are nevertheless real. Further on in Dan Graham’s Kammerspiel, Wall introduces such an affect, what he calls a coup d’oeil (a glance). This blow (a nocturnal coup de grace or finishing stroke) irrupts from the mirror — and, as you all know, the vampire’s image, his imago elides reflection since what is reflected, what is returned to it, is its own nothingness.