[-empyre-] Beyonce/Burger King

Michael Angelo Tata, PhD mtata at ipublishingllc.com
Wed Apr 22 12:52:36 EST 2009

Joseph and/or Cynthia and/or tout le monde:
What is at stake in the separation or de-conflation (de-flation?) of consciousness, perception, reading and viewing?  Is there an edifice to be built, a ground, a foundation to be laid?  Or are we being rhizomic, these diverse strands and filaments creeping across a horizontal plane without impacting one another’s biotic meanderings?  Is it the time for Husserlian epoché, a bracketing and subtracting that leads to a basic yet transcendent structure that can make sense of the mind’s organization?  Perhaps Donna Haraway’s glance at canine consciousness in her The Companion Species Manifesto might find a way into our discussion, especially as, manifesto-wise, it supplements her remarks on cyborg consciousness (non-Oedipal, and not so much based on viewing or reading as on conceiving: sort of a perverse eidetics whose holism is the product of radical hybridity and bio-technical disjunction).  
What happens when we perceive, rather than read, a letter of the alphabet, as in the famous Erté images so important to Barthes?  When a language we cannot speak registers only as gobbledygook (an audio-perceiving that is not even a “listening” proper, like when I’m at the nail salon and the Uzbek ladies carry on)?  I think of a friend who was kind enough to translate some of my poetry into Arabic for publication in an Algiers journal, and how I could not read it, yet perceived and loved what to me were squiggles and wiggles—everything except for the expression “Burger King,” which was not translatable, either linguistically or culturally, and transcended the squiggle on multiple levels.  Now we must add Cazwell’s “I Seen Beyonce at Burger King” to the soundtrack we’ve been developing.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWZm9SfGgSU  
To read is first and foremost to perceive, as the physicality or material of language enters the mind’s eye and the eye’s eye, where it will be processed, mined for meaning, exchanged for semantic currency.  Perception so often slides beneath reading, those forgotten moments of ingestion and consumption whose very substance is a pre-condition for semantics, poetics, prosody, the performative utterance, the constative description, even the iffy decision to step onto the first rung of Wittgenstein’s ladder.  
And if these layers—perception, reading, cognition—are to remain separate, and not rhizomically separate, but some other kind of “adverbially” separate, then which metaphors are most relevant to the description of the arrangement of these strata?  Pousse-café?  Terrine?  Some kind of textual tectonics?  I think of specific gravity, sediment, even Husserl’s “sinking down” (Phenom of ITC): but would these strata or layers interact in such a fashion?  What I am attempting to characterize is the relation of these zones, how they come together, or don’t (are they temporarily autonomous, for example?): my interest is how they communicate, in the way that our room might contain a “communicating door” facilitating action, interaction, the productive passage across a membrane.  
I would also like to bring back this discussion about e-lit, e-jects and CNS processing (“cognizing”) to Nick’s call for artistic engagement of oligarchies and capital, especially as this might answer Nick Ruiz’s initial problematics of a contemporary creativity borne of counterfeitism (fake money, false investments, volatilizing capital).  My love of Warhol, which put me into contact with Nick R in the first place, stems from my love of his counter-revolutionary tendencies, the way he merges money with objet glibly and gleefully, laying the groundwork for the further innovations of artists like Koons, Levine and Sherman.  What could be more transgressive than a “Celebrity Portrait” of the Shah of Iran?  For me, if artists cannot honor Percy Shelley’s noble call to legislate the world unacknowledged, in secret, and outside all gratitude, then they might as well go in the opposite direction, and concoct million-dollar balloon animals or topiary puppies worth the price of a small Polynesian island: there is honesty and dignity in the crassness of these chrematistics, as we encounter not the fake real of kitsch, but the real fakes of “Business Art” and high capital.           
As for museums, I think of visiting the Louvre and being shocked by the size of Mona Lisa (postage stamp), then being equally shocked by the size of the Davids (freeway mural), then going for a Kir Royal along the Beaubourg and watching Sonia Rykiel stroll on by, crazy as could be: shocking to me, but not to the locals, to whom she was as ordinary as a Da Vinci.  The street, my museum of museums.
The Freudian layers beckon, especially now that Da Vinci has arrived and I’m caught on his idea about the “sexual researches of children” as the birth of empiricism.  How do we go from a perceptual-consciousness system largely comprised of scarification and the repetition of trauma for reasons exceeding those of mere pleasure to the tripartite hydraulics of an id, ego and super-ego always trying to elude each other through the lexical moves of constructing rebuses, consolidating images, transposing objects, and turning repressed content into sublimated masterpieces?   
In a way, the id is the first bank, that little vault where we store what we cannot bear to cognize or re-cognize and wait for it to accrue all the interest we’ve already managed to forget about, unsure of how we will spend it since, technically, we do not know it’s there, much like the “open secret” theorized so vividly by Eve Sedgwick.  Speaking of whom, her recent passing is a loss to all of us, and I dedicate the remainder of this dialogue to her loving memory.   

Michael Angelo Tata, PhD  347.776.1931-USA


> Date: Sat, 18 Apr 2009 18:59:58 -0500
> From: jtabbi at gmail.com
> To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] The E-ject
> Yes, Michael, there are viewings that are also readings
> (metaphorically speaking?) and vice versa. And yes, Cynthia, there is
> thinking in images. But my impression is that these operations are all
> too readily conflated in current discourse - when what is needed
> rather are stern distinctions, kindof - lest the literary itself is
> lost in the faster, more powerful circulation (and also the
> 'push-pull') of visual/perceptual experience. And in discourse on the
> same.
> People flock to museums. We go there to see a collection of visual
> objects. A few of these objects, we hold in our minds, but not in the
> way a museum's holdings are possessed. Those curatorial possessions
> are commodities precisely because they cannot be memorized (and hence
> held in our thought). The objects in a museum also need to be
> perceived, sensed bodily, not only thought about.
> When we think in words, we hear, in our head - words. At least they
> sound to us something like the words we hear, or hear ourselves say.
> This happens also when reading. That is an important continuity I
> think, that brings the act of reading into the realm of thought, in a
> material way that is just not possible with images.
> This is the medial specificity of print: it stimulates thought by
> reducing perception, during the time of reading, to a minimum.
> (Concrete poems and examples of book art and the whole rematerialized
> context of e-writing are interesting precisely because they bring the
> forgotten material support for reading BACK into consciousness, but
> then we're again perceiving, not reading, not thinking with words.)
> Why insist on the distinction? Because the 'layering of meaning and
> perception' (Cynthia) is more interesting, more rich cognitively, when
> the layers are kept distinct and their different cognitive operations
> can be observed.
> "It is the ideas that stir, not the object itself" (Cynthia again).
> Right. And I agree totally about the impossibility of commodifying the
> meanings that attach to an art object. (The neolibs haven't figured
> out yet how to do that, or have they? have we?)
> But the path from stimulation to idea is very different, when reading
> or when viewing/sensing. The ideas in books are formed by words, and
> the ideas about objects are formulated, not in objects, but in words.
> At least, we need a verbal formulation if we want to communicate our
> ideas - to any person who speaks our language, or whose language we
> speak/read. Sure, you can communicate by an exchange of objects that
> can be as richly interpretable (in its own way) as a poem or a
> literary narrative, but again the meaning of the object will need to
> be cognized verbally, in ways that can only be 'about' the object (to
> use Davin's term, around and about but never within, as we are when
> reading.)
> That makes a kind of continuity possible, that again accounts for the
> medial specificity of books: when we read old books, in languages that
> have changed over time, we can make comparisons between the language
> we think in habitually and the language of, say, Chaucer or the
> Beowulf poet or Melville or Virginia Woolf. We can register the
> changes in style in the lifework of a contemporary writer. The words
> going through their heads, and getting somehow preserved on a screen
> or a page, have a different composition or pacing from our words, but
> there's still a basis of comparison. And a way, then, to feel the
> effects of history longer in duration than our own memory or the
> memory of our grandparents. (Again, we can observe different period
> styles or deviations therefrom in objects recovered or preserved from
> the past, but we would have to communicate these differences, and
> their meanings, in words. When reading, we don't have to switch levels
> in order to know something about what the work's creator was
> thinking.)
> The other reason to hold onto the distinction, is the different
> temporal durations of different levels of cognition - which aren't
> waved away by saying that a disciplined viewer of art can slow down
> the visual experience and in some sense "read" the object for
> ambiguities, tensions and so forth. Perception doesn't happen
> instantaneously. But relative to the time of sentence formation,
> perception is immediate.
> That kind of distinction, I expect, can be useful in devising a
> criticism consistent with the emergence of e-lit, where different
> modes (reading, imaging, coding, etc) are necessarily working all at
> once - but at different timeframes that need to be noted.
> "Aesthetics as the layering of perception, communication and
> consciousness?" (Michael)
> A kind of cognitive alternative to Freudian psychology?
> Precisely, but only if we keep the layers distinct. And work with
> distinctions that come to us from the sciences, with something of the
> same care and attentiveness that many of us (on this list, anyway) use
> when deploying terminological distinctions from classic authors in
> literary/cultural theory.
> Joseph
> > Temporalities of “viewing” versus “reading” may not be identical, as the
> > time each activity requires can differ according to what exactly it is which
> > must be consumed—which does not preclude the possibility of a viewing that
> > is also a reading (for example, some of the scenes of Peter Greenaway’s
> > “Zoo”) or a reading that is also a viewing (for example, the Ian Hamilton
> > Finlay poem).
> >
> >
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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