[-empyre-] Mass Marketism
Michael Angelo Tata, PhD
mtata at ipublishingllc.com
Fri Apr 3 11:47:14 EST 2009
Such a great discussion thus far!
Jeff’s modification of the Obama/Pepsi mantra-slogan does call attention to the fact that, economically, the US government’s decision to take on debt and “toxic assets” will have a long-lasting effect that will structure nascent psyches for years to come. It is hard to imagine what Generation Z will be, if they will lose access to the wonderful affectlessness and diffidence of Gen X, along with the optimistic attachment to cords and wires of Gen Y, with its multifold screenic identities. Who will this new capital produce? More importantly: will Walker Evans rise from the grave to photograph it?
Davin is absolutely right to usher in a discussion of the fetish, especially as this nexus of thingness resonates within Lacanian analysis, a grand post-legomena to de Saussure’s observations regarding significational arbitrariness. For Lacan, another of the junk bond salesmen driving Paglia crazy (perhaps the worst, since he has impacted so much gender jingoism and has perhaps the worst imitators anywhere), the fetish is the objet a, that little slice, segment or nugget of the other that we (mostly men) set up as an idol. I can approach it only obliquely through the to-and-fro movement of my split subjectivity rubbing up against its surfaces, glistening as they are, and I live under the thrall of its un-reality.
Being only a fragment of a larger object/Signified, the objet a, and hence the fetish in general, whether that fetish is a pin-up or Dow Jones diode, enters language as a representation that will mobilize my desire and get me to exude. In the Lacanian system, language is representative—yet what it represents is representation itself in the move from first to second signifier and metonymically beyond. As such, the signifier pulls me into its game, representing me to other signifiers and making me a differend along the way. Here, all that matters is difference—although, of course, the field of differences is presided over by a master signifier which is the ultimate seat of meaning. Consequently, love can only be an impossible tangle, as the wonderful nonsense of his Encore seminar makes clear.
In other words, for Lacan, there are most certainly objects, some of which break open to become fetishes, but the arbitrariness of the sign dictates that an impassable and untheorizable bar separates signifier from signified (actually, none of the bars within Lacan’s mathemes can be theorized: they are merely there as brute impasse unable to enter the game of representation). Objects occur as fetishes and other supports of desire, leading me to conclude that, in Lacan, it is the object itself which is undertheorized, and demands a closer look within this perspective of representing-representation.
Enter Warhol—and all of G.H.’s concerns about the fate of the art object within a larger market which imbues value upon objects in general. For me, Warhol raises the problem of superficiality in an acute form, and it is for this reason I am drawn to him. Yes, “clubism” and “fame-ism,” but always the chance that the superficial might reverse itself to produce depth. For example, the fact that Warhol wanted to title one of his books of celeb portraits “Social Disease,” or that he takes the time to document the wastings of youth in movies like The Chelsea Girls. At points in the Diaries, he is even trapped by superficiality, unable to get to a depth he comes to crave.
Superficiality is also Davin’s concern, as this attitude toward the surface becomes one of the risks of post-structuralist enquiry. The problem seems to be figuring out what work language can do in the Saussure-Lacan aftermath—and what work that old fetish money can do in the wake of the recent Wall Street collapse. I know that, for Wittgenstein, and for theorists of the performative utterance as well (like Austin), language does intersect the world to get things done, pointing to the fact that language must do more than merely represent or remain constative (even if it can only represent representation). As far as W is concerned, it is the Tractatus which risks solipsism, not the Philosophical Investigations: clearly, language is both material and matrix, but there has to be a way out.
And then there’s J.S.G. Boggs: so the spectre of counterfeitism is alive within this discussion. Baudelaire and Derrida would be pleased. It calls to mind Joseph’s remark about networks on autopilot.
Lastly—and back to the fetish—any thoughts on Freudian anality? For Freud, money is fecal matter; in a way, it is the infant’s first gift—leading me back to Derrida and the gift of death, that general oblativity structuring exchange in general.
Michael Angelo Tata, PhD 347.776.1931-USA
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