Posted by: glue | June 12, 2009

The Uncanny Coming of Subject Avatar

The scholar I became approaches Kafka less directly now (as opposed to then, in Spain, 1965).

Although the term Magic Realism spread around the world and found an especially receptive cultural climate in Latin America, another term for the new mode — Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) — introduced by Gustav Hartlaub for an exhibition mounted in 1925 — became the preferred phrase in Germany (Guenther, 34).  As with Magic Realism, New Objectivity or New Sobriety involved an approach to things — not so much raw material “objects,” the translators point out, but Sache, thing as fact or as fallen under a category or classification.  Here is the chief relevance to the focus on a categorial (metaphysical) image.  Things in their categories have become uncanny in the epochal transition from literacy to electracy. “The goal of this post-World War I art was a new definition of the object, clinically dissected, coldly accentuated, microscopically delineated.  Over-exposed, isolated, rendered from an uncustomary angle, the familiar became unusual, endowed with an Unheimlichkeit (uncanniness) which elicited fear and wonder.  The juxtaposition of ‘magic’ and ‘realism’ reflected far more the monstrous and marvelous Unheimlichkeit within human beings and inherent in their modern technological surroundings of which both Freud and de Chirico wrote” (36).

This “wrestling with the uncanny in the real” expresses a new sense of space and time that Anthony Vidler has called “warped space” (space measured to include subjectivity).  In the context of the electrate apparatus, the uncanniness of objects is a symptom of a shift not only in technology and institutional practices but also of identity experience:  “spirit” (the ghost-in-me of psyche) is moving again, from the confines of the individual body into the produced environment of object and image (what Scott Bukatman calls “terminal identity”).

On the Set of Nightmares

On the Set of Nightmares

The name of the experience that is an intuition of the emerging electrate subject is the uncanny.  It is the opening of avatar. That Franz Kafka is associated with this German context makes a direct link from the problematic of the object to learning how to map a chora (image category).  The link is Deleuze and Guattari’s study of Kafka and their reading of his “new sobriety” as a “cartography.”

The Castle brings about another sort of progress by breaking away from that which was too spatial in The Trial in order to bring out what was already there but still too covered up by spatial figures: the series becomes intensive, the journey reveals itself as an intensity, the map is a map of intensities, and the moving frontiers are themselves thresholds (blocks of intensity).  The whole first chapter of The Castle works in this mode, from threshold to threshold, from low intensities to high ones and vice versa, part of a cartography that is certainly not interior or subjective but that has  definitely ceased to be spatial.  The low intensity of the bent head, the high intensity of the head that straightens and the sound that takes flight, a passage from one scene to another by thresholds:  a language that has become intense makes its contents take flight in place on this new map (Deleuze and Guattari, 1986:  78).

The artist works neither subjectively nor objectively in the established sense of these terms, but “machinically”:  As a “bachelor machine,” gathering an assemblage, forming connections, not as “impressions” or “expressions” of a “self” but as a vehicle or channel for a group, a collective, a community.  The egents of the EmerAgency learn to map intensities in this way, in an attunement that is categorial (combining the personal and the collective).  Is it possible for a collective subject to have an epiphany? The methods include the juxtaposition or superimposition of “blocks” (rather than “memories”), especially of a childhood block operating simultaneously in adult conduct (an updating of “transference”).  “Memory yells ‘Father! Mother!’ but the childhood block is elsewhere, in the highest intensities that the child constructs with his sisters, his pal, his projects and his toys, and all the nonparental figures through which he deterritorializes his parents every chance he gets” (79).  Such blocks help overcome impasses paralyzing or fixating adult conduct and set desire moving again along a line of flight, a pathic dimension of intensities.  The lesson of this theory is that an egent is a “minor consultant,” channeling the very dimension of discourse in which values are circulated among the parties to a group subject.

What Lies, Beneath

What Lies, Beneath

Here is a rationale for figure, with Kafka mediating and providing the alignment, attuning my decision in Spain with the Superfund disaster in Gainesville.

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