Thursday, March 6, 2008

early ruminations

I'm mildly annoyed by my final research paper; to quote Michael Bentley, I feel the awkward postmodern musicologist guilty of "acts of temporal [here I revise: disciplinary] rape" (Bentley: 2007). Always eager to impress (whom? Myself? My friends? My Professors?) the paper on Erik Satie and Charles Martin decided to take an elliptical spin into the orifices of material ontology. Before you hold up the red card and cry Marx, this current Historiographical "trend" does not reek of commodity-crisis. Instead, historians celebrate a 'new' approach of material hermeneutics, which grossly dissects the way the instrument (material/tool as text) informs and distorts the Kristevian subject-in-process. The theorists have taken to anti-Epistemological sloganing, and the hallowed names of Foucault, Strauss, Barthes and Derrida dumped aside for more austere inquiry into empiricism (without the bad breath of positivism, of course - theorists are very good at watching their backsides).

Interestingly enough, Eelco Runia envisions the "presencing" of the past as a form of metonymic process by which acts of "transferrence" occur. Meybe he's a slight mysticist, hands figuratively fingering the under-organs of the "thing-in-itself". He stands dangerously close to approving a doctrine of Hegelism telos, so watch out for that man. Also, the concept of metonymy over metaphor is not a new one, in fact, Runia is probaby about 40 years late. Already Roman Jackobson (and later Jacques Lacan) heralded the slippery slopes of meaninglessness precisely with the determination of metonymy OVER metaphor; hence Derrida's "defference". But Runia states that art exemplifies an "attempt to create an endurable and enjoyable intersection of both meaning and presence" - do we sense Clement Greenburgian high Modernism in his statement? Lest Runia be a historio-transcendentalist, he opens a few interesting questions which I would like to sink my jowls into.

Erik Satie and Charles Martin's Sports et Divertissements cannot be taken as face-value historical document (as ALL relics should be spared the fate of). Instead, it is a trace of historical change impressioned upon paper, fate to a confluence of artistic, intellectual, social, economic and political change. It represents a filthy marriage unworthy of empiricism: of historical "gradient" on one hand (Martin revisited the work and redid his drawings to "update" them) as well as insolent facticity (as far as I know, Satie did not alter the work at all) - leading to an illegitimate Bricade, a collage that challenges the viewer to make cohesive historical judgements about the work precisely because it resists a well-defined chronological cesura. Furthermore, it is part visual montage (image, text, calligraphy and handwritten notation) and part score; meaning that it was meant to be played. The "object" (as opposed to "thing") both acquires value in one respect, and is devalued as a thing-in-itself in another respect because it is essentially an object of transition, a template of transcience. Insofar as it is scored to be played, there always exists a fundamental lack in the ontology of the object that can only be temporally fulfilled by the performer, the subject. Incredibly, the Lacanian object petit a is precisely the subject which the object "desires" to conceal its inherent split.

But can an object have an "ontology"? Isn't it precisely impossible to talk of an object that suffers from a "split" when Lacanian's mirror stage presupposes the prelinguistic infant (and not prelinguistic mass of atoms?) Here is where Georgio Agamben's dessiction of the "human" subject (As opposed to animal) comes into play, driving the subject to its Freudian material "death", so to speak as inorganic and base. Such breaks the binary between object/subject, as either parties are inscribed into this new discursive rhetoric as co-habitant materials.

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