[-empyre-] Les oiseaux et les choses

Cinzia Cremona cinziacremona at googlemail.com
Fri May 1 12:45:04 EST 2009

So much to catch up with.

Michael Angelo, you fly very high! But you started from ground level. I like
personal accounting of this kind. Gifts, friends and strangers in an ebb and
flow of exchanges, with 'I' and 'my' responsibilities at the centre.

I was trying to get over a sense of black and white that underlines the
conversation. True, amoebalike capitalism ... but the critique of capitalism
can be equally amoebalike. What is outside capitalism? Is it something good?
Are we sure? How do we know?

Capitalism is the trendy grand narrative - the common enemy that unites all
the good people. And here come multiplicity and singularity: I am not only a
good person. Friendship is never only friendship (where are the boundaries
anyway?). Capitalism is not only bad, but it is the narrative that covers up
all other narratives. Capitalism never excluded thoughtfulness, friendship,
generosity. The alternatives are there. We are giving them more space,
consciously, beside giving some thoughts to money matters. Good! But not
outside. Having said that, Davin described the function of recognition that
narratives perform for a group so clearly. In this sense, I feel compelled
by a narrative of relativism and acceptance, more than by a narrative of
critique of capitalism. I am also painfully aware of my ignorance. I do not
know what capitalism is! Can you confidently say you do? I fear
that narratives with this 'unifying' function are little more
than convenient generalisations - or perhaps that's what they become after
prolonged use.

Poetry, friendship, art, communication, thoughtfulness, philosophy, desire,
gifts, pleasure ... and things! Shiny, precious, useful, old, beautiful
things, without which we could not interact very much (Latour beckons louder
than Lacan!). I am reconnected with my computer in order to be reconnected
with you. The question I often ask myself in my exchanges is What am I
offering? What kind of relationships do I instantiate? What kind of economy
do I promote with my behaviour?

A biomolecular relationship with a ruse, spirochetes, and contretemps as
networking ... Fascinating!

That is all for today, but I do look forward to more, hopefully
constructive, discourse.

In friendship,


> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2009 19:22:33 -0700
> From: "Michael Angelo Tata, PhD" <mtata at ipublishingllc.com>
> Subject: [-empyre-] Les Choses
> To: Soft Skinned Space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Message-ID: <BLU143-W172B8F7B42AC618A4E91B0A2770 at phx.gbl>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
> You are making me consider my own history as giver and receiver of gifts,
> as it is only through personal dynamics and the everyday exchange or
> interrupted exchange of circulating tokens that the gift proper makes any
> sense: otherwise, it is only an abstraction winking at the ontic.  Sadly, I
> do not hear the voice of God commanding me to sacrifice the one I love
> beyond all love, so I may never know the pleasures of ethical
> transcendence?and since the pleasure of ethics proper (?duty?) eludes me, it
> is not clear which direction my sense of oblativity will take in or out of
> this discussion.  But I do know that there are things I have amassed, and
> lost, and disseminated, and dis-egg-inated, to use your poetic and marvelous
> formulation; and like the Proustian narrator who makes a monsterpiece of
> memory, I, too, can give and take time, I can lose it, and then discover it
> in the saturation of a biscuit, in the unevenness of a corner of pavement,
> even in the cosmic folds of a fuchsia
> gown whose furrows mimic the space-time geodesic and cause me to question
> the gravity which keeps bodies in the loops containing them.
> The strangest gift I ever received: The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy
> Tales, given to me by a schizophrenic neighbor in my NYC flat at a Christmas
> party at which she was the mystery guest.
> The best gift my husband ever bestowed upon me: Swarovski crystal Dolce and
> Gabbana rosary beads, from the Caesar?s Palace shops, Las Vegas.
> The worst gift my husband ever gave me: a white and green argyle tennis
> sweater from Andy?s Cheapies, NYC, which I wore to be polite, and then got
> photographed with Quentin Crisp out in public at an impromptu lunch at
> Chelsea Square, my specular atrocity for all the world to see.
> Quirkiest childhood gift(s): whatever my Mom could cull together from the
> local gas station convenience store on Christmas Eve (a copy of GQ,
> lemon-lime tic-tacs, a lottery ticket).
> Sweetest gift my Mom gave to me: a stainless steel whistler teapot, mailed
> form Connecticut to Palm Springs, and received by me after a return flight
> from Miami, when I ached for NYC and found all these grains of sands about
> me an embodiment of torture.
> Suspension of the ethical: masquerading as a friend to take his SATs for
> him, all for the pleasures of carnality.
> A duty beyond all duty: do I give a lobe of my liver to an alcoholic
> sister-in-law who might need it?
> Refusal: not giving sperm to a desperate friend in need of children,
> presumably bearing  names culled from dirty French novels.
> Most thoughtful gift: an envelope glutted with Burger King discount
> coupons, from a ?slow? cousin several IQ points away from being committed,
> yet with a heart of gold.
> A gift that fell flat: flying a friend to Sydney, only to have him break
> down sobbing by the waters of Darling Harbor because a certain scent of the
> waves brought back memories of his dead surfer brother, whose presence would
> not leave him for the duration of our stay.
> The gift I never give: alms, since I do not feel that social obligation
> that is such a source of ambivalence and maladjustment for Baudelaire (?Beat
> Up the Poor,? ?Counterfeit Money,? ?The Eyes of the Poor?).
> The gift I give instead: compliments (?You look great in your new trackie,
> Ren?e!?), as these seem more genuine to me than the exchange of coins for
> guiltlessness and exoneration.
> The gift I could never use: a yearly JCPenney gift certificate from Dad,
> the implication being that it was immoral for me to shop elsewhere.
> Useless gift: mother-of-pearl caviar spoons, useless because I never got
> around to buying Ossetra or Sevruga, although at the time I wrote for
> Petrossian Caviar.
> Alright?this litany has gone on long enough, and most likely displays my
> indebtedness to objects in general, as counterpoint to ephemera, as
> ephemeral things stopping time for just an instant, one pure instant of
> uncanniness leaping out of time only to return me to its ferric core with a
> thud.
> Now to address your very salient points, especially as these connect up
> gifting with amiti?, with just enough treachery and sabotage thrown in to
> make friendship the most marvelous and unnatural gift the world has ever
> known?or is yet to know, depending on our attitude toward humanism (Has it
> ever truly come to pass?  Have we surpassed it?  Can we engage it without
> hubris or condescension: that is, can we engage humans as humans, openness
> as openness?).  I will follow your numbers chronologically, taking a stroll
> down the flagstones you have thoughtfully laid out before me.  That I must
> wait a week to hear your eloquent response pains me, but when your words
> materialize, they will be a true gift indeed, so I will wait, suspended
> between a concrete now and a concretizing then which beckons to me from a
> distance across time and across the pond: the gift often involves
> suspension, deferral, the delicious agony of a privation without which the
> gift might become entirely superfluo
> us and forgettable before it even has the time to be remembered.  As
> Deleuze says, there is no sadism or masochism without suspension: might the
> gift partake of this economy of pleasure and pain?  Regardless:
> 1.  The amoebalike capacity of capital and capitalism is absolutely fatal,
> making it expert at absorbing and putting to use even the critique of
> capital, unlike standard totalitarian systems, such as those analyzed by
> Arendt, which quash critique and render it a ?purge-able? offense with no
> use-value outside of expulsion to a systemic outside.  Is capitalism
> total?  Totalitarian?  Can money be Mao?  As for Madoff and the trope of
> friendship, there is also the issue of seduction, something central to
> Kierkegaard?s epistemology (his identification of Socrates and Jesus as the
> great seducers, his little tale of ?The Seducer?s Diary,? etc.).  Capital is
> seductive, and I imagine the friendship or ?alliance? of Madoff involved the
> seductions of wealth, power, and a connection with someone guru-like?an
> ?industry leader,? celebrity investor, socialite.  Someone with the ?Royal
> Touch??a contemporary Henry IV battling scrofula.
> 2.  Yes?whether we are inside or outside capitalism, the question remains:
> why does our position matter so urgently?  Is there an outside to capital,
> an escape hatch, a golden parachute?  Going off-grid is one answer, but what
> would be the value of being contra-modern?  I agree with Rimbaud: ?Il faut
> ?tre absolument moderne??  And I agree with absinthe: choose your
> wahnbildungsarbeit wisely.
> 3.  Mais oui: the transvaluation of value, the translation of value into
> worth, the worthiness of that transitioning, value as investment?cathexis as
> the ideal model for value, and overvalue (that overinvestment and
> overvaluation characterizing the love object).
> 4.  Both semen and eggs point to vitalism, to that rash desire of the germ
> cell to take its meiotic harvest and replicate: almost a viral impulse
> causing me to ponder the symbiotic theories of Lynn Margulis (specifically,
> the spirochete remnants she believes are stashed in mitotic eukaryote
> cells?Dazzle Gradually).  Is it time to pull Bergson into our
> discussion?  Bergson or Mary Shelley: either will do, since both grapple
> with that mystical energy which gets things going, perhaps too much.
> 5.  What a fantastic D&G quote: thank you for that.  Yes, the split
> subject, the CSO, even the Freudian ego (how funny?I spelled it ?ago? just a
> second ago)?quite the crowd, quite the cacophony, quite the fronde.  Does
> the self betray the self?  Lacan?s slashed ?S?, which I cannot help but read
> as dollar sign (USD), does indicate that, fundamentally, the self is
> scissiparous, divided, multiple: that poor infant gazing helplessly at the
> total image it can only approach as asymptote due to the ?neoteny? Lacan
> believes to be a part of human parturition is betrayed by its
> uncoordination, by its discord, by the reflecting surface, even by the
> photon making that surface shimmer and return an imago.  Fort/da is also a
> response to betrayal, as is Cornelius Castoriadis? dual constructions of a
> ?good breast? and a ?bad breast? that the infans erects in order to make
> sense of the oscillations of milk and milklessness that define its diurnal
> rhythm.  In friendship, betrayal intersects be
> trayal.  And yet there is hope: herein lies the paradox at the core of
> intersubjectivity: that these sliced up entities consumed by lack are not
> lackluster at all when it comes to the vibrant sharing of sensation,
> reflection, perception without which all would be solipsism and onanism.
> As for credit and debit, we as artists and writers and ?unacknowledged
> legislators of the world? (Percy Shelley is HLOL, yet charming in his
> earnestness) create cultural capital and intellectual investment that pay
> off within the history of consciousness, so I am thinking we accumulate at
> the same time that our peregrinations, videos and poems cost that ultimate
> commodity, time, which we spend with prodigality and abandon, or else we are
> not artists or poets at all, but faceless drones wandering aimlessly through
> a Mark Kostabi painting or down a Martin Margiela runway.
> So much for now.  This chat has been dreamy and, to be honest,
> timely.  Looking forward to your response, and the gift of communication
> (the moment you and that computer screen are re-united).
> *******************************************
> Michael Angelo Tata, PhD  347.776.1931-USA
> http://www.MichaelAngeloTata.com/
> Date: Sat, 18 Apr 2009 11:44:29 +0100
> From: cinziacremona at googlemail.com
> To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 53, Issue 15
> Oh I do admire the qualities of certain systems ... absorbing,
> reappropriating, exploiting happen on all sides of an argument.
> I would like to question some assumptions ...
> 1. We are so used to thinking about 'capital' as 'money'. There are other
> capitals, values, systems of exchange. I do like the way you highlight the
> thread of friendship in the Madoff affair. Were his social skills, his
> capacity to befriend, his first resource? Now that this narrative has come
> to a dramatic denouement, it is harder to think how else those resources
> could have been invested, and what returns they could have matured.
> Friendship produces other values, which sometimes translate into money and
> sometimes translate into less quantifiable values. Some of the resources
> that can be accessed because of friendship need not be bought! And this goes
> on all around us, but it is not part of the big capitalist narrative - it
> does not translate into money - which makes it harder to include it into the
> equation. I wonder if the critique of capitalism is not always struggling to
> catch up when it is too late. In commenting on the commercialisation of
> everything 'green', we should
> also comment on those who invested in the environment when there was no
> hope of monetary return. Some will have generated money on top of other
> things. Does this mean that capitalism has appropriated environmentalim
> completely?
> 2. If capitalism was not so over encompassing, would we want to find
> alternatives? Personally, I think one is never 'outside' anything. I also
> think that 'pre-' (add to your taste: -capitalist, -linguistic, -subjective,
> etc) ways of being are lovely philosophical fables. Let's ask ourselves the
> ultimate naive question: WHY do we want to be free from capitalism? What do
> we mean? What do we think we would be like if we were?
> 3. Questions of value ... Good point, what if my gift is refused? I might
> get it wrong ... I might be offering you something that is of great value to
> me, but means nothing to you. Isn't this the foundation of the wastefulness
> of Potlach generosity? Reciprocity (competition too?) can be based on
> quantity or on shared values. That's where capitalism's quantifiable and
> interchangeable currencies make things easier. Investing in difference might
> mean taking the trouble to evaluate what is of value to you specifically.
> And taking responsibility for offering the wrong gift ... Do we really all
> value the same things? Are you really exploiting me if I want your
> friendship instead of your money in exchange for a service or a commodity?
> 4. I wonder how you would translate the phallic function into female terms:
> an orgasm that doesn't even produce seed? Isn't shedding an egg a month a
> life of dissemination without harvest? (dis-egg-ation ...) Investment in
> sheer desire for living?
> 5. Your very beautiful point about credit says a lot about interwoven
> systems of value, singularity and multiplicity. Without friendships, Madoff
> would have not accumulated money. Does this mean his friendship was not
> true? Or was it also counterfeit? Does necessarily one exclude the other?
> Deleuze and Guattari open 'A Thousand Plateaus' with "... since each of us
> was several, there was already quite a crowd." I also wonder if betrayal is
> not part of friendship from the very beginning, at least in Derrida. He
> seems to depict a set of obligations that will inevitably be disappointed.
> He also delves in Nietzsche's parallel invocation: 'oh my enemy ...'.
> By the way I am living, do I create more debt or credit? In what
> proportion? "What is do be done?"
> I'll have to leave the conversation here, as I'll be away from computers
> for a week. I look forward to reading you reply(ies) on my return. It has
> been very nurturing. Thank you.
> Cinzia
> Visions in the Nunnery
> 22 to 31 May 2009
> openvisions.org
> Message: 2
> Date: Thu, 16 Apr 2009 01:37:39 -0700
> From: "Michael Angelo Tata, PhD" <mtata at ipublishingllc.com>
> Subject: [-empyre-] The Temporality of Friendship
> To: Soft Skinned Space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> >
> Message-ID: <BLU143-W17F35C5E42F68541041F86A27A0 at phx.gbl>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
> Cinzia,
> You are lovely to respond so directly and poetically to our lively
> t?te-?-t?te about giftliness and its conditions of
> possibility/impossibility.  I am especially happy you have pulled The
> Politics of Friendship into the action: from a ludic perspective, it is the
> ideal move, since it supplements the general discussion of gifts and gifting
> in The Gift of Death and Given Time with an account of what provides the
> ground or occasion for the non-exchange exchange of the gift: le
> m?nage.  For when we examine the very concrete problem of the recent Wall
> Street misappropriation of funds, the ethics of friendship?Derrida?s famous
> n+2?comes immediately into play.  For example, so many describe Bernie
> Madoff as ?a friend,? and his infidelity to the rich and famous he courted
> before his fall infuses the debate surrounding his financial dishonesty with
> an anger not entirely rooted in money, capital, investment, or return.
> The dissymetry of a Contretemps is particularly incisive, and for me calls
> to mind the radical ontological disproportion between an individual and an
> Other without which there would be no possibility of either a gift, a
> Gift-gift (the gift that discloses its poisonous content beneath the
> beautiful sensuous form), or, paramountly, that most extreme form of the
> cadeau, the gift of death.  Via Dissemination, the true gift does not
> return, as the giver does not expect remuneration, compensation or
> adequation, and the recipient immediately forgets that any gift was ever
> given, it never dawning on him or her to return anything: like meaning, the
> gift dissipates, physically as well as mnemonically, and the phallic
> function finds itself surprisingly dissipative, spreading its seeds without
> being able to harvest any growth, shoot or sprig that might result.  Is
> amiti? similarly dissipative, since clearly it must depart from the simple
> exchangism that at best produces an economy, at wo
> rst a chrematistics (system of commerce)?  If friendship, or the relation
> between an autre and an autre, exists as historical liaison, it must
> transcend the simple quid-pro-quo of commercial enterprise.  As for le
> contretemps proper, to which time or ?temps? does it run counter?  What
> exactly is the time of friendship?  How do we measure it, endure it, make
> use of it?
> Since ultimately the Gift manifests itself as waste and prodigality,
> paradigms of reception for that waste become imperative.  How do we receive
> this excrescence, this too-much-ness, this excess that is of a piece with
> the sublime: does it overwhelm us, do we feel the need to reciprocate, at
> the same time that we realize reciprocation is impossible and, in effect,
> undesirable?  What happens if, like God in the famous Abraham/Isaac fable
> central to Kierkegaard?s thought and Derrida?s appropriation of that
> thought, our gift-beyond-all-gifts is (shock!) refused?  Can the Gift, with
> all its metaphysical overindulgence, be accepted, or must it always fold
> back upon (rapporter) the giver through the magnanimous of refusal?  At some
> level, investment and the gift connect up, if we think of the capital which
> gets stored in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and hedge funds as some sort of
> gift-object: but are these gifts?  Or are they pre-gifts, the real gift
> being the unreal returns these
> investments are able, under ideal circumstances, to produce?  Or perhaps
> Wall Street is the antithesis of giftliness, since it is the gift which both
> sets economy in motion at the same time that it interrupts the circularity
> of exchangism, and hence cannot be something Wall Street produces.
> You also make me wonder about examples of contemporary potlatch.  Is a show
> like My Super Sweet Sixteen an exhibition of a potlatch economy?  Perhaps
> the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan is potlatch-y.  Clearly, American and, to
> some degree, European societies are wasteful, but does this waste involve
> that critical dimension of the potlatch, nobility?  Is the Green Revolution,
> with all its advertising machinery?everything from green bottles of
> Windex-like substances which in theory will not poison that new fetish, ?the
> environment,? to Oprah-endorsed burlap grocery sacks which, although
> inconvenient from a cosmopolitan standpoint, keep plastic bags from
> accumulating in New Jersey landfills?an attempt to manage an ecological
> potlatch?  In and through the potlatch, we destroy the precious for many
> reasons: to demonstrate the fact that these objects are ours and ours alone
> to destroy, to lord our ownership of these objects over our peers, who
> presumably own comparable objects, and
> , finally, to specularize generosity.  I think of all those cathode ray
> beams shooting re-runs of I Love Lucy and Bullwinkle into space, where alien
> SETI cultures intercept our junk, presumably to marvel at our commitment to
> the trivial.
> If friendship is an investment, it must involve all that Derrida means by a
> term like ?credit.?  For Derrida, even literature is credit-based, in terms
> of our faith in the veracity of the narrator, the fidelity of the narrator?s
> narration with respect to the particular memory which both substantiates and
> supports it, and in terms of our own credence with respect to the ability of
> a porous and aporetic language to grab hold of the world and its
> multifarious objects with some degree of accuracy, one clear enough to
> ensure a praxis of living.  As for the credit without which there would be
> no friendship or acquaintanceship, and especially not a literature, a
> contemporary mutation within the sphere of human relations arises: how are
> we to invest in that new tabloid creature, the Frenemy (for example, Paris
> Hilton/Nicole Ritchie)?  In Baudelaire?s prose poem Counterfeit Money from
> the collection Paris Spleen, friendship borders many things: dissimulation,
> philanthropic display, so
> cial obligation and, most critically, the truthfulness of truth, which at
> all moments in time might slip into the masquerade of the
> counterfeit.  Here, the n+2, or, as Derrida terms it, the
> l??tre-deux-?-parler, experiences the crisis of the simulacrum: in a sense,
> the two comprising the friendship pair in Baudelaire?s poem are frenemies
> from the get-go, their amity cemented by competition and conflict revealed
> through the politeness of sublimated pleasantries and the luxurious
> expenditure of tobacco (for anthropologists, a highly symbolic and
> meaningful gift not so much exchanged as exhausted through immolation).
> Generally speaking, aren?t we all ?Captives of Capitalism??  The problem of
> capital is that it expertly absorbs the critique of capital: in some sense,
> it even orchestrates that critique, setting up a false dichotomy so that we
> might feel some pleasure at resolving the pseudo-antinomy.  Unlike
> totalitarianism, which persecutes its opponents, capitalism invites
> antagonism, if only because the general agonistics at its core generates
> more capital; even in the wake of the current housing calamity, there is
> money to be made with the ?Loan Mod? racket, for example.  For me, the vital
> question is: is there an exterior to capital?  True, there are parasitic
> responses to capital, like Freeganism, Voluntary Simplicitism, or squatting,
> but none of these achieve freedom from capital, their motivating force,
> express cause and raison d??tre.  It seems like the only way to break
> through capital is via terror, but even this insidious tactic gives capital
> new terrain to dominate after the de
> ad are counted, collected and interred: for example, the rebuilding of
> Baghdad after the US bombs it as a response to 9/11, or the capital invested
> in the new World Trade Center monument.
> Investing in difference, as you so elegantly phrase it, is a key strategy
> to the operation of capital, which astutely realizes that even similarity
> must be marketed as dissimilarity.  Truth be told, neither ?difference? nor
> ?diff?rance? are inimical to capital: they are essential to its functioning,
> which is based almost entirely on variation, variegation and novelty.  To
> resurrect Debord: the essence of contemporary capital is diffusion, as
> opposed to that of totalitarianism, which is concentration (think: Warhol?s
> Mao series, versus the ?official? images of Mao decorating Communist
> China).  Life may very well be a Benetton commercial.  I mean, look at us: a
> fab British New Media artist conversing with an equally fab American poet
> about the nature of difference and its role in sustaining and accumulating
> capital.  I think of the ad campaign for design house Moschino: ?Consenting
> member of the fashion system.?  Becoming aware of our complicities and
> capitalizing upon them may
> be the highest form of rebellion: I say this without irony, sarcasm, or
> regret.
> Ciao for now!
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