[-empyre-] either the victim or the killer but never the image

simon swht at clear.net.nz
Fri Nov 7 09:24:35 EST 2014

Dear <<empyreans>>,

I know the question of representation has been and will continue to be 
raised in view of trauma, torture and crisis and I recognise there is 
hardly a consensus about what it means. There is possibly an operative 
dissensus. Where the operation of representation seems to have most at 
stake - and therefore where the operation must observe protocols (of 
literalness, expert or professional (and living!) witness, evidenciary 
certitude and adequacy) - is in the confrontation with life, /as if it 
is life's other/. Biopower is a convenient epistemic intercessor between 
the bareness of 'life' and its liability to misrepresentation, however I 
would like to ask about this understanding of the image - the adequacy 
of which to the biopolitical object, in the subjection of the living, is 
so generally accepted as itself critically, even torturously and 
traumatically problematic. I mean Celan doubled his torture in its 
performance, to arrive at poetry (much rests in the comma). And I can 
hear these tortured voices railing against their own inadequacy equally 
here. Biopower as a recourse for thinking, I suggest, postpones the deep 
unease, the dis-ease around making images which in turn depict or 
imagine or perform or /inflict/ pain, by deferring to a metaphysics of 
presence. I can never be close enough to /know/; but what is the moral 
that I ought to know? I am given everything in the image. (I am reminded 
of the slogan "all men are rapists" which played in a similar space of 
victimisation - if I am not the victim, I must be the killer.) I am 
asking about the life of the image and its particular mortality, of 
images in caves and theatres of the mind, which are always alive. They 
may even be seen to possess a surfeit of life - such that representation 
is out of control! - and perhaps it is this biopower addresses in its 
attempt at control, the management of images, their quarantine, the 
spectacle of their cultural dress-up, in national costumes, and the 
ritual of their undressing, until they are bare and the flesh shivers, 
their concentration and their consumption. Whether the flames are 
righteous or luke-warm, whether the image is clothed or naked - a 
similar anxiety, a fear, a distrust, a turning away that pretends to 
turn toward. And from this follows an ethology that dare not speak its 
name: the avowal of images as the avowal of life itself, even anorganic, 
to the substrate of ideas and signs, marks and symptoms. What would it 
mean to take responsibility for images such that it would not be 
demanded of you or I that we front for them, giving and laying down our 
bodies to be signs of their truth, in the properly religious ritual?

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