[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 13

David Chirot david.chirot at gmail.com
Tue Jan 12 22:36:05 EST 2010

I don't really think of what i am questioning as being part of a "moral
conscience" per se--i think of it as a looking into the functions and
functioning of language, which might include also a language which is in
itself a form of silence.

An area which i have been writing about in the last couple of years more and
more is that of the Literature of the No. This involves several writers and
several examples of methods and "appearances" of the No. These are unwritten
works which in themselves refuse to be written, while creating a space which
nonetheless exists as a an area in which the writings while unwritten have
effects in their own of writing--this is just one aspect--

In a sense, i am concerned, interested in a way with the call to the spaces
of art which claim with some degree actually, paradoxically, to a morality,
of a moral nature--to not be concerned with being the moral conscience of a

The political analogy is not necessarily silence at all, but on the
contrary, a continuing functioning of writing which claims to a certain form
of "moral high ground" as/for art in that it is in a sense "above" such
What interests me are the questions which Pierre Vidal-Naquet raises re
language and other issues within a culture's existence which are effected by
the practice of torture (in his case)--when it is practised by a society as
it is now by the American society.  How has this affected the language
itself?--What do the contradictions between what a culture purports to be
for itself and what it actually does open up as spaces of various kinds of
silence and writing?

What spaces do they open up for forms of invisibility of the most visible
events,actions language uses, while at the same time how are other areas
made suddenly more visible in order to lessen the visibility of others, and
how do these in turn effect the ways the language is used not only towards
the events themselves, but towards a continually spreading "cancer" which a
society makes invisible to itself in order to focus on other areas which it
assumes are 'distant" from the "diseased areas."

These questions are not necessarily "moral;" they pertain as much to human
psychology --and how humans use language to function psychologically when
facing various events, actions, questions--

For example, one may examine language uses in terms of constructing denials,
or in constructing refusals--and from there, asking oneself what are some of
the differences among these--?

Art has always had, i think, quite a wide area of its activities taking
place in areas in which it has had nothing to do with the moral conscience
of a society at all. I think in the last few decades, the question of "the
ethical" has been one which as introduced "moral conscience" under a
different set of names, words; again this has been area long open to
writing, literature, culture--both of questioning the ethical and of in turn
shifting this aspect of writing again into other terms which are those
considered to be "in our time," whatever time that might be.

In a paradoxical way, I have often found that writers, cultural workers, who
most often call for art, or areas of art,  not to be a moral conscience,
have just as many sets of ethical concerns as any other, and to pass as many
judgments as any other--

That ethical concern may appear very much as the area which Joanna points
to--even the words "being tasked with being the moral conscience of a
culture" may also be an expression of a form of ethics, morality, simply
saying, that perhaps one need be "tasked" with an alternative "for a
change," although the predominate mode today in the US is already really one
of this nature. In large part, it might be the attitude in which the most
"power" of a kind today resides--

I am not interested in "tasking" art to be a moral conscience; what i am
interested in simply is asking as many questions possible and learning of as
many exaaples of possible, of the ways in which language functions in the
society i live in at present, in the situation in which it exists at

I also very much am interested in spaces which are not "tasked" in the sense
that all too often from al too many differerent directions, each with
varying degrees of power in varying institutions, one is being tasked to
function, think, act, behave, write make art--in short, to live--in a much
wider wider variety of ways than one is aware of, so many of them rendered
invisible by opacities which in turn demand transparences--and
transparencies which are created to enforce opacities--

One of the first things noticed as a child for myself was that language and
actions are often essayed to be forced to correspond when in fact most of
the time they do not--the lives of language and the lives of persons are
very often at variance--in order to make them appear to correspond--how are
language and action used to make it at least appear so?  Or, if they not
appear so, how to justify this--and so on and on and on--inolving all manner
of subtractions and additions, appearances, disappearnces misinformations
disinformation rebranding all the techniques involved in the study of what
Jacques Ellul calls "Propagandes" (singular in the English translation of
his classic work on the subject--)

For, at what level are not many of the uses of language not variations on

The question of an Outside, the question of the No, of disappearance-all are
questions which find one as quickly as one finds them, by "chance"
or-vocation--or any way which questions choose to "arise"--via reading
Mallarme for example alongside yet another book on the JFK assasination and
its myriad conspiracies, solutions, coincidences--and then turning to say
Maykovky's How are verse made?--poetries which erupt out of the most
peculiar places . . .asking questions, all of them--

On Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 5:12 PM, Johanna Drucker <drucker at gseis.ucla.edu>wrote:

> John,
> Much different. I agree.
> I do want to make a space for art that is not tasked with being the
> moral conscience of the culture too.
> Johanna
> On Jan 11, 2010, at 4:09 PM, John Haber wrote:
> > The analogy to rebranding is very interesting indeed, in an excellent
> > post.  Let me ask more about it, though.  Now, to me it's only an
> > analogy, and of course whatever venting we may wish to have about
> > torture and Israeli policy aren't instantly illuminating regarding art
> > except as a kind of red flag.  (Hey, there's injustice in the
> > world, so
> > don't let it happen in this realm.)  Indeed, it could actually
> > disguise
> > the problem, by suggesting distinct realms after all, which the whole
> > problematic of complicity in art is supposed to question.  Thus, my
> > question would be this:  if the political analogy is silence, then
> > does
> > that open possibilities for art, in which making visible is part of
> > the
> > game?  Now, I realize that acknowledging something, as argued well,
> > doesn't make it go away.  But it's still different from silence.
> >
> > John
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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