A Sexy Odyssey

What can maybe be said to connect or preoccupy us all – regardless of where we are in the world, what culture we’re raised in, what race we feel we belong to or the differences in identity – is a feeling and acknowledgement of the want/need to be noticed by others. Now this isn’t a cynical comment about obtaining a sense of self-gratification but that of not being lonely, of being apart of a community and a reciprocation of identity formation.

And of course, this desire to be noticed manifests itself differently relative to the level of culture, community and individual identity itself. And while this post will refer exclusively to where I am situated in (England) and where I am enveloped in (America), I wanted to take the opportunity to semi-seriously make note on the preoccupation of the desire to be noticed, as emphasized on the media I am involved with, which in my opinion is characterized as the desire to be seen as Sexy. (and what I can extrapolate out of the seemingly trivial subject of sexiness)

This is not what is sexy but how.


 

There is no being sexy – in the same way as there is no being sincere – as it suggests intent on doing and artificially constructing a mode of being or doing and of being seen that is not true to itself (in other words, inauthentic). It is what is presumably what happens to you, without your acknowledged doing. Except, as we will come to see, such a basis for authenticity, sincerity and even sexiness is through the process of ideological cynicism and a performance for an other and oneself.

Authenticity is one of the primary and fundamental criterion for any being – having the capabilities of possessing and carrying out what could be described as Attitude – to be seen as sexy. As such, authenticity suggests a being for oneself which instigates confidence (another criterion of sexiness).

Confidence is the link between performer and spectator, an exuberance that can be spotted, if not, called for from the performer. Ideological cynicism is what allows a performer of sexiness to both act as if one were sexy and, as a result, be sexy from such action. Any act of sincerity performed enough times inevitably puts oneself into a position of sincerity (even if only from an on-looker. Yet if both performer and spectator believe in the existence of either sexiness or sincerity, does it matter at all?).

It is not only authenticity and confidence needed to be sexy, and such a rigid and well kempt definition surely goes against the lure of sexiness itself, but here is to my mind, a litany of sexiness: appeal, charm, allure, seduction, concealment/secrecy, allusion, teasing, eroticism, contentedness, and the spectacle etc.

One begins the act of sexiness by first being dishonest, insincere, inauthentic, and incomplete. Sexiness is a reenactment, a construction or playing out of being, a productivity, an action, a performative rhetoric. By literally doing the actions of sexy, one tricks oneself into believing and thus invariably become sexy (but of course, one must know what sexiness is in order to perform it, yet, in my opinion, it is not so much what is performed as it is the performance itself that is sexy. Which is to say, there is no being one way or another, there is only being).

This acting or Performative (Procedural) Rhetoric is nicely described by Levi Bryant on an idea thought by Ian Bogost as to how we learn through playing video games such as SIMS. “A Performative Rhetoric is a rhetoric that persuades not through language, but through situating an audience in an activity. The audiences understanding is transformed through the activity of doing. In this regard, games are a form of rhetoric. They change us through their play.” Interestingly, the audience described here is the one playing the game, in other words, the actor performing or ‘playing’ the role of sexiness. Yet because such an act of sexiness is characterized by its being an act for an audience, a spectator, then a second audience exists and can be said to also posses the understanding of sexiness – the receiving of pleasure – by being put, as well putting themselves through, the act of doing, the act of being a part of a spectacle or an audience.

This Performative rhetoric can also be considered along the lines of Ideological Cynicism, following the procedure of belief. The difference is, where or to who the feeling of sexiness exists, in the performer or its audience? The rhetoric allows for oneself to believe in oneself, effectively tricking oneself into becoming, in order to finally become, so others too can witness it. Ideological cynicism, on the other hand, allows oneself (the audience) for the option of having the potential to see, witness and experience sexiness where ever it may not ‘actually’, or intend to, exist.

The similarity is in a shared truism: Fake it til’ you make it! Zizek has a lot to say about Cynicism, and so I will go through two ways in which I can appropriate him for my own cause (without just referring you to him).

The first is in the way such an actor produces for themselves a sense of authority confirmed by their apparentness, attitude, confidence and supposed authenticity (to the eyes of others). This authority plays a crucial role in Lacan’s symbolic order, whereby we treat the subject of authority only with regards to their authority irrespective of what they are like without it. As Zizek says, this takes the form of a fetishistic disavowal: “I know very well that things are the way I see them /that this person is a corrupt weakling, but I nonetheless treat him respectfully, since he wears the insignia of a judge, so that when he speaks, it is the Law itself which speaks through him”. Sexiness, then, replaces the Judge. Regardless if one is actually or truly sexy, the confidence and performance with which the subject is enacting, takes the role of authority,  receives from it all the gratification and acceptance of its audience for whom can only believe that it is a sexiness irrespective to how they actually feel.

Another example of fetishistic disavowal is, as described in one of Zizeks stories, how one can perform the same lucky ritual or superstition even if one disbelieves in it, and have its effects still ‘work’. “seeing a horse-shoe on his door, the surprised visitor said that he doesn’t believe in the superstition that it brings luck, to what Bohr snapped back: “I also do not believe in it; I have it there because I was told that it works also if one does not believe in it!”” It could be said that if only one believed what one hoped to see or experience, one would end up experiencing that very thing, if not only a fiction produced via ones own imagination. Its how the dirty mind sees sex everywhere! 


 

Sexiness is a technique of seduction, not in search for a partner to fill the gap of sexual inadequacy or to confirm its (sexiness) existence, but of acquiring an audience. Sexiness is a play of the spectacle, set up as an Amphitheater home to an all-seeing audience competing among each other over the cause of sexiness and over the acquisition of the experience of sexiness itself. It is also this competition that further emphasizes, even rarefies such a feeling of sexiness to both performer and audience.

If one were to pinpoint the sexy in the subject, one would come away empty handed and exhausted. For what we can only find is the reflection of our own idiosyncratic eccentricities and fetishistic desires that transposes the sexy from the performer into the mind of the spectator.

In his book Mythologies, Roland Barthes describes Wrestling as a spectacle of excessive, exaggerated and most importantly, grandiloquent gestures. Yet these gestures are nothing without its audience, for what makes of wrestling without them? Two people limply fighting, unconvinced of their own performance? This is to say that sexiness – and wrestling – is a direct relationship between performance and audience.

I’m inclined to say that it is with the apprehension of never being able to achieve, attain, or gain full satisfaction from the object of sexy is what constitutes sexiness itself. It is a never full-filling eroticism that goes beyond the mere illusion or caricature of sex appeal. Yet what constitutes the erotic? Barthes asks, “Is not the most erotic portion of a body where the garment gapes? In perversion (which is the realm of textual pleasure) there are no “erogenous zones” (a foolish expression, besides); it is intermittence, as psychoanalysis has so rightly stated, which is erotic: the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing (trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the glove and the sleeve); it is this flash itself which seduces, or rather: the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance.” The slow reveal of the clothing (or obstructive toy) that masquerades the object of sexy.

This disappearance is the curiosity a spectator feels that is diminished through an eagerness to see more – such as the trouser leg raising beyond the ankle, exposing too much, yet not enough –  and yet what is more is not what is there, as it is what is not there is what we actually want. The libidinal intensification one now feels is a result of now having endured the prolonging of sexual teasing.

Paradoxically, after all, there is no audience a performer of sexiness can/does perform to directly, as if the performer were just as aware of the audience as they were of the performer. Except, one performs believing such an audience exists, even if not to be watching. Which is to say that sexiness is as much for an audience as it is for oneself.

Thinking Horrifically – A Vicintiy of Horror

I think a lot about the horror and suffering of the world, from the minute and seemingly trivial up to the all-encompassing and overwhelming — Ironically, it is these two extreme ends on a horrific spectrum that we lost sight of. Too small and we disregard or deem unworthy of being named, such as losing money, falling over, being disorganized etc, and/or too big it seems to resist such a naming, such as ecological disaster, political corruption and even ones own future self.

The inability of seeing beyond the confines of a median horror out towards the periphery of inner-self and outer-life, what we name as the experience of horror is that which is – quite literally – in our very local vicinity. For instance, depending on the severity of injury, we regard and thus associate horror based on the length of impact such an injury has on our future – how it effects our ‘local’ foreseeable future self. Or, of being aware that we are in close proximity to an outside horror, such as stabbings in your neighborhood. Its because of this short-sightedness that it becomes much easier to care for these local horrors than it is too acknowledge the wars going on in other countries, the emotional anguish of strangers, or the deep depths of our own unconscious or future self (e.g. smoking), and finally the ultimate horror that will effect us all yet seemingly none is ecological disaster – a too grand of an object to contemplate and thus tackle oneself let alone think about. It is a horror so sever that it breaches its own boundaries as to escape the very confines of what can be considered terrifying.

This post is not about the horrors of the world as such, as it it a personal rumination on horror and how effectual thinking horrifically – that is, in terms of locality (a nearness to us) – can be useful to the way we think and act in this world.

                                                                   —————

As it ought to be known, I don’t like watching horror films – or more precisely, I find myself too easily susceptible to strong feelings of sadness that I reduce all interactions to a minimum. Nor any material that readily presents itself as content uneasy for light viewing, such as the bite-sized clips naughtily posted on obscure facebook pages of tortured animals, fights between people on derelict streets, the terror that overcomes individual people of all ages – unnecessary cries of toddlers, children that are lost, adults losing someone, old people forgetting themselves. Or even watching the news or listening to talks told reminiscently. Of course, one should be aware of the suffering of others as to allow empathy to flow, responsibility to take place and care to take action, but it is not that by not watching these videos I attempt at avoiding responsibility and effectively caring for, and building relations with, others. Or relieve myself of guilty feelings by pretending pain doesn’t exist.

But it is paradoxically the nature of ‘enjoying’ the experience of emerging oneself in horror (films) that nonetheless separates us from a real horror to contemplate and explore and tackle or live alongside. It is this that one invariably loses sight of the horror that occurs on base level, at the very local vicinity of day to day, moment to moment micro-actions that have and leads to much larger longer lasting consequences. All Horror is necessarily mediated through imagery, with each level of mediation taking us further and further away, presenting to us a caricature, ideal, type, etc., from the acute reality of horror one needs to not only take seriously, but acknowledge such contemplation of micro-horrors are worth taking seriously.

Horror is reassuring.

It seems oxymoronic to suggest Horror is reassuring. That it soothes us and prevents our being fearful and scared, consoling and comforting us by presenting to us that which we might most be fearful of, mediated through imagery/films/books. But it is this mediation between us and them, our reality and that reality, that allows us to displace or defer the sense of fear we feel by transcribing it onto a different reality altogether. Wherein, I’m not so much as scared by my reality as I am of/for yours. Intuitively, this suggests an added ability to empathize for a reality that is not our own, except, as I have previously remarked, this mediation or displacement between realities is what disables us from every actually coming to experience the true horrors of an others experience. Reassurance to me means a reminder of what goes on and what could go on. It sets itself up as a marker of terror, providing us the tools of how to feel and when to feel it like a big brother – a quality with which does exist in art.

Again, Horror is always necessarily mediated through some artistic medium with the goal of allowing us to acknowledge such horrors in the first place. But my problem is that mediation is only the beginning, what it misses or what we miss from it is the awareness to an all too true unseen reality of horror that are dismissed, ignored or unworthy based on the grandiloquence of Horror that mediates in the first place. Not unseen as undocumented, but as not worthy of contemplation because it doesn’t conform to any horrific ideals. If Ecological disaster strays from our imagination as not being horrific, so too does the other end of the spectrum with the minute and seemingly trivial. The exaggeration of Horror paradoxically only cares for the means in-between the two ends of sizable horrors – from the tiny to large. This is to say that another task for Horror is to really bring it back down to reality, not focus solely on the very local and instantaneous horror that can happen but on the slow undulating unsexy horror that exists from mental health to climate change.

Like the somewhat insincere attempt to console your friend in hopes of getting them to stop crying, avoiding any attempt to help aid the cause of the crying, conversely then, horror is the insincere friend who wants for you to only cry about the subjects for which horror deems worthy of contemplation – the very local, effectual, visceral and instantaneous and filmic horrors –  and not the real underlying and overlying problems.

When speaking about believing, Zizek says it is not that we don’t believe – when for instance we say “I Love You” –  but that we believe too much. It is not that we don’t believe in the effects of saying I Love You that by not saying it we save ourselves any quarrel or burden, but that we in fact believe in it too much and its effect. We believe “absolutely” in the power of saying I Love You that any deferral or reluctance for saying it doesn’t risk the inevitable consequences of doing so. And this in some ways, about belief, is what we do when we watch a horror film. One could happily say to themselves that what they are watching is not real, that the character of the killer clown or groups of zombies isn’t real, that we don’t believe in it. But, apart from believing literally in killer clowns and zombies themselves, we do in fact believe in a kind of ‘monster’, and as such, because we believe so absolutely, we reside ourselves to the comfort of watching these imagined monsters mediated via the screens of horror films as to not allow ourselves to fall trap to the real horror of our everyday reality. That horror films literally provide a caricature and face of a monster so deeply disturbing we would rather go outright an watch it, full frontal, – as if we were the ones in control of our own sense of being scared – than be witness and victim to the true horror of the faceless unknown that is not meditated but totally real and in out periphery. We believe in monsters so much as to only confront them on our own terms. We create superstitions as to make them real, relieving us of the doubt that we don’t know of what were most afraid of (Yet how can we be scared of that which we don’t know we’re scared of?). One could say that, calling mummy or daddy to check underneath your bed at night, or in the wardrobe, is a way of creating for yourself an image of an monster that which you don’t actually believe, but nonetheless are still frightened of as the feeling of being scared itself has to be pointed towards something, yet this something is always in a local vicinity to one self as that which is outside our own reality can be quite easily dismissed. The parent then is the mediation between the child and the monster, for when the parent says nothing’s there, you continue to sleep, except that its not being there is really not a sign of its non-existence as it is more a process of being scared through something (the parent), of confronting through someone, as to alleviate any feeling of personal horror. As such, a mediation could thereby be seen as a horror for a spectacle that is quite literally dispelled and dissipated, dispersing and diluting the power of horror over its audience. Paradoxically, the child wants to prove its own disbelief. By getting its parent to check what the child already doesn’t believe is to confirm for the child that which doesn’t already exist. A parent confirms what you already believe, or not believe in. The imagination of the monster is as real for the child (and us) as the monster itself.

“Scratching an itch that doesn’t exist – thereby bringing it into existence” — Timothy Morton

This is what I mean when I say horror is reassuring. Media provides us with the scapegoat of reality, as we all know, as to not confront it head on. Of course one could say that horror films are a horrific reality in and of themselves, but I’m not talking about the realness of horror as I am the impracticality of mediation when it comes to understanding what is also really horrific – our everyday micro-actions and those action within – and contributing to – a far larger macro-horror (world). Taking cue from art, we need to quite literally give a face to the faceless monster, bring about its existence in out imagination as to dispel with it. In order to overcome the fear of Horror, what one needs is to think Horrifically.

Unkempt Thoughts — Act I

Among the few truly influential and attitude re-adjusting books I have read, E.M. Cioran’s debut book On The Heights of Despair (Written at age 22, similar to when I first read it, aged 21), is certainly one of them. Although this will not be a review of either the book or pessimism in general (although those will certainly feature in the near future), but a presentation of the unedited and unrefined notes scribbled within the empty spaces of the pages themselves – and in this way, such a direct and affected response to Cioran via these notes can be taken as a review itself, except not from any post-reading contemplation but an immediate reaction. Also, not every note made was necessarily a direct response to the text but an additional rumination using the framework with which I had indulged myself in through reading such a text.

On a side note, because I made just as many notes as did Cioran, I will make a few separate publications that allow for ease of digestion.


 

— I would hate to think that I am perfect, and I would hate to think that others think I think I am perfect. But one of the troubles of Being is that we cannot know whether we are deluding ourselves or not. Like anybody, I’d like to think I’m not deluding myself, and if I’m not, well then I’m pretty damn perfect if you ask me.

— If there are possible absolutes, we are not one of them. On the spectrum of all possible worlds, all possible words have failed because of us. We are the cause for their failure, a median on the spectrum of non-existence. How can you know of anything if living a reality is just being alive in a world of either absolute good or evil? Such lack of conscious comes from a world where you don’t know you are not. We are the truly pessimistic world because we know of a world wholly better than ours. A world that doesn’t exist and yet can never cease from existing. An impossible. The paradox of the worst kind of suffering is not enduring absolute suffering, the worst pain imaginable, even though such suffering goes unthought as one can never know of anything except pain, and thus wouldn’t know themselves to be enduring anything but living a life as if nothing else was known, but, with the taste of hope this world offers coupled with the sense of freedom from pain.

— This world can be described as: Life is the emergency we must attend to

— What’s more cynical, sadomasochistic, and ironic than trying to make something out of living knowing such horror?

— All great and revelatory ideas bore from pessimism, its the only reason we do anything. Become radical, think differently. Because we ignore, refuse and rebel against ourselves and the normalities of the world. We fight it. But all radicality must soon come to an end with its own inevitable collapse. Until we regress once more, indefinitely! A fight for and against ourselves!

— Life lived is nothing but contradictions, opposites and partial truths all places along a spectrum.

— How torturous sleep would be if the night went over in a blink of an eye. The nights begun and I’m already beginning to feel the pain.

— Teaching others to suffer is on the spectrum of criminality, facing its counterpart of the gruesomely and torturous knife crime. Slicing at the flesh exposing the innards. Stabbing, one would hope, by anything other than the rusty blunt blade, skewering, fragmenting, severing each vital organ as it jaggedly punctures through. Wishful thinking is hoping the blade remains inside us as to not reveal our absence and bleed out. To allow the metal in becoming as much apart of us as any other ligament. Its metal re-filling the gaps where flesh and self once was, only to be removed again leaving us with a physical and emotional hole, an emptiness in need of filling with life. We cannot teach suffering no more than we can teach knife crime or even suicide. We can only teach through the history of suffering, through acts and recitals. Suffering need not be voluntarily shown as it makes itself present anyhow. Teaching through noticing, of oneself and others. Connecting, relieving selfishness.

— What does one do when given money in a way that one is unable to return, to then find themselves having to return or owe the so called gift-giver in investments of small sums that may or may not equal the gift received for the rest of ones life? Just as how we are gifted life, forced into a world. Life gives us life. But unlike that of anything outside ourselves, we cannot return it. We cannot return to a place once before, to be unborn from life. And to commit suicide is to do oneself an injustice! We are thus left to live in obedience, sometimes slavery, towards nature giving back that which we never asked for.

— Should we care for the unborn? The wish to be born to fight the necessity of ever having been born! If only one had the option to be born. I don’t wish to be unborn, just unborn.

— I suffer at a greater intensity so others don’t have to. I feel it too, but it is the greatest of selfish acts one can do in feeling comfort knowing other feel a similar, if not greater, or even worse, suffering than our own. But it is through such selflessness that we wish to recreate what we have experienced, to also suffer at a greater intensity so others don’t have to, and so on, indefinitely, until we are all equally suffering and suffering equally.

— The sad paradox of anti-natalism is the hope that those who make the decision not to reproduce, ought to be the ones reproducing.

— Just look how disgustingly privileged I am, alive but never living. How selfish must I be to have a life others die for. I am deeply sorry. I feel a duty of care to live and carry on living the lives of all those who lost theirs.

— I don’t feel this emptiness so many others proclaim to feel. It is, in fact, a feeling of fullness, of nothing else being able to quench my first, feed my hunger, pleasure my appetites. It is in this sense that I am in fact empty of all things to come, all that I long for. I don’t wish to dine on what I once had, provisional pleasures. I have a fetish for the new, not the long lasting beauty but the ephemeral pretty. A longing to be able to turn myself back on and repeat a pleasure, forever fresh. For otherwise they turn sour and bitter, regurgitated.

— There’s no surprise the sad man sleeps throughout the day becoming restless at night. Sleep being a quasi-suicide, a trial of death. We cannot know of such people because they are no where to be seen. Away during the day in a dreamt up coma.

Transfiguration of Objects – The Third Object (Preliminary Outline)

    1. There Exists
    2. Within such Existence exists objects
    3. Among these objects exists what we call world
    4. This world is a container of, and hosts many, objects
    5. We are the objects for whom know themselves as Objects
    6. Upon the unique relationship between container and contained – World and Object – bores a third conceptual or imaginary object: The World-Institution
    7. Such a World-Institution only exists in relationship with the Object for whom they know themselves as Objects, and interact as such. – Perceive it, is conscious of it, refers to it, plays or is active with it. Existing in such a way that actions are for a World-Institution
    8. Within a World-Institution lies all objects – human and non-human, physical and non-physical, real and non-real – that has the potentiality of transfiguring or actualizing into its own third conceptual object created from any number of individual relationships made between Objects and objects, altogether forming one unified relationship
    9. The third objects are what we refer to as Holy, Ritualistic, Sacred or Artistic – Objects that cannot exist without some relationship and activity towards a World-Institution
    10. No object necessarily ever becomes actualized or Transfigured
    11. No object requires of itself to be moved, adjusted, artificially constructed or installed in order for it to achieve Transfiguration
    12. No third object can be experienced in the same way by any number of Objects. The greater the number of participants in the relationship between Object and object, the more complex the third object becomes and therefore less understandable and differs experientially between participants
    13. Such third objects are necessarily complex as they are formed by, and inform, a community – and as such, vague and/or general interpretations emerge
    14. It is the weird that allures us, awaits us, to the object – to discover it or let itself be revealed in a way that was otherwise missed before. Weird because it is what was once seen as commonplace now seen as foreign 
    15. Luring plays the part of enticing a response of Noticing and Discovery – within both Object and object – that prompts Objects into a performance of doing that engages the actualizing and actualizes the engagement
    16. Activity or performance is what allows for a specific mode of perception or Attitude that sets the stage for Objects to properly connect, collaborate and form a relationship
    17. Attitude is what allows Objects to succumb to the allure of objects which allows for discovery and noticing to take place
    18. Once Noticing and Discovery is engaged, critical investment or involvement thus ensues
    19. A limited perception of the Institution demands a limited access to the experience of third objects. Which is why it is necessary to expand to the experience of an open world as being the container and place holder of potential transfiguring third objects accessible to anyone

 

An Object-Oriented Love Affair

When you really want love you will find it waiting for you.

— Oscar Wilde

And what is the task of defining what Love really is? What necessary and sufficient conditions must there be for such an experience or event or object to exist?

The allure and inexpressible or untranslatable – from experience to words – of Love, is akin to the experience of Art and the Sublime. They each posses that which cannot be fathomed by mere words alone. This said, taking Oscar Wilde as our cue, is the experience of Art, the finding of it, not unlike that of Love? Or is it that, any art-object laying out there submerged in the noise of other objects, hidden, doesn’t necessarily require the seeker of aesthetic experience to find the art-object, but of waiting to be called forth by the art-object itself, and allow oneself to succumb to its mysterious allure – Some inner-voice or subconscious tic beckoning the soul in the colliding of two great forces creating that single object, the art-object. And again, is this not the same with Love? That the longer the relationship one is in, built from Love, the stronger the fusion of two objects transformed into one homogenized object, or one person made up of two halves. And to operate or function properly without malfunction is to resist splitting back into two empty halves?

To hide a passion is inconceivable: not because the human subject is too weak, but because passion is in its essence made to be seen: I want you to know that I am hiding something from you, that is the active paradox I must resolve: I want you to know that I don’t want to show my feelings: That is the message I address to the other. 

— Roland Barthes

Is passion in this case the insatiable desire or longing to love and be loved or, love itself, or all three simultaneously? Is Love or Art, as described by Wilde, waiting to be found and such a finding of Love or Art as said by Barthes is made to be seen? That the art-object wants us to know that it is hiding something from us, the Art in the very ordinary object of reality waiting to be discovered. And does any attempt at revealing ones now new found experience of Art or Love diminish or interrupt that very experience due to its failure in translation? Does one have to pretend that one experiences Love in order not to conceptualize it fully as to lose that sense of discovery with which you found? In other words, to be in a perpetual state of being caught off guard to the true nature of Love or Art. 

It would be impossible to ‘love’ anyone or anything one knew completely. Love is directed towards what lies hidden in its object.

— Valéry

Is the attempt at understanding Art an inadvertent self-sabotage to the potential of aesthetic experience? Does such contemplation of the art-object transmute that object dead, and thus reason for contemplation is to dissect such a corpse. As Guy Debord suggests, all contemplation or speculation initiates an alienation between viewer and object, and as such, will further separate the experience of Love/Art away from the subject. Which means such an attempt of dissection or contemplation proves futile to the otherwise hidden essence of the object itself. Is this what Graham Harman refers to as Withdrawal? That all objects containing their essence, its thing-in-itself, means we cannot get full access to it. No matter the amount of interpretations and/or how deep we probe, the search for its true meaning, its essence alludes us; escapes; remains hidden on the outside of the reality that perceives it; withdrawn. But what if such a withdrawal is what constitutes the very existence of the art-object itself? That there isn’t so much an essence that cannot be excavated and remains there despite our trying, but that its essence relies on the collaboration and collision between two objects?

If pure love exists, free from the dross of our other passions, it lies hidden in the depths of our hearts and unknown even to ourselves. 

— La Rochefoucauld

Such an essence formed via the collaboration among two objects reveals itself to no one. Or, that the essence is split equally between them and access to the other half is inaccessible and still remains lost or hidden. And this feeling of losing access to its essence, of the inability of obtaining its secrets, is all the more severe when one understands that it isn’t the un-graspability of a distant essence that is cause for discomfort, but in the very absurd situation of having that essence lay locally within us, taunting us with the illusion of accessibility. One can feel content knowing any answer to the question of essence lay outside away from everyone’s reach, but distraught with the responsibility that such a possession of the answer lies within and within us only. In this case, Essence – the thing-in-itself, is like the set of keys gone missing only to reside in ones back pocket the entire time.

The Freedom To Not Be

There’s no doubting that the excessive usage of social media is damaging or harmful to an individual’s spirit, body, and soul, and to get clean from such an obsession is to temporarily remove oneself from the virtual reality – and subsequently conversation with fellow users, which now comes at the cost of surviving the winter of solitude and ironically, to recede and take a step back away from the over-self-analysis scrutiny of how one is in relation to other people/users and to go in hiding with only one’s own flesh and blood, body and mind to reflect upon. But this removing or deleting of one’s entire online existence from the corpus of the internet is a solution to the problem of existential angst, confusion of identity, limitless freedom and consequential inauthenticity that proves hopeless and unhelpful in the long run. It is this innocently ignorant or uncaring attitude of believing one has the freedom, ability, or state of mind to simply exit from the world of social media and cut off all involvement and connection with the internet (the part of the internet one can only really care to fully acknowledge if it has something to do with our own self) which leads me to believe we are yet to fully actualize or consider the real-ness of the internet and social media, and at understanding that its now apart of our reality that will only ever integrate and incorporate itself with and within our existence at an exponential rate that leaving or avoiding or stopping the usage of the internet will become extremely difficult, if not impossible. And so, an alternative solution is needed in order to live an anxiety-reduced state of confusion, despair-free, happily fulfilling life with and within the internet. This solution doesn’t require a change of action, nor of attitude, but of gathering an understanding to the workings of social media –  its effects and consequences on our behavior towards ourselves and others – and lift the veil revealing in all its superficial charm the illusion of the virtual ideal life that acts as a surrogate to our own seemingly pitiful lives. 

 


 

Although it may not feel like it, social media has become the dominant mode of creative self-expression and, more importantly, one that is more akin to High Art than anything else, and can only be seen as the natural progression from writing to drawing, to photography and film, to now videos and images that are, albeit, not too dissimilar from the previous mediums mentioned, particularly photography, but still nevertheless embodies its own unique characteristics and functions that enables to separate itself and become its own. But because of its plasticity and ever changing form, it doesn’t conform to genre and so cant be seen to reside more with literature than contemporary art or film; except, it has taken the essence of each of those and made it its own subject matter: the subject itself, the self, the author, the performative persona for which we embody. Before social media, it has never been too hard to distinguish between fiction and reality in art, and the link between author and work has never been so closely connected before since social media, and it is this distinct characteristic, I believe, that has caused mass confusion of self and others with the blurring between performance and action, authenticity and insincerity, freedom and slavery to an unchanging and forever going virtual system. Social Media is the subject of subjects.

 

Art As The Selfie Onto Our Reality

 

Has social media given us the opportunity to be ultimately free with limitless possibility as opposed to the limited opportunity of circumstance in the real world? In other words, has social media allowed access to our true selves we otherwise have missed out on or could only internalize because of the supposedly overbearing circumstances of reality? Or, are we now too free with no real sense of direction that is needed for a fulfilling life? Are we now in a blended mix between the limited freedom of the real world and the limitless freedom of the social world and our own sense of identity, parrying between the two, contributes to the mass confusion we all feel because of our inability of being able to tell the difference between the identity of the online-self and real-world-self and this together is a cause of inauthenticity?

Throughout the history of artistic creation it is not uncommon to see an Author substitute their own person for that of a fictional character, or scenes of people employed to tell a fictitious reality that, upon witnessing, becomes a reflection of our own. And it would not be hard to believe that these fictitious characters used to reflect their own reality is any less authentic than its author, and yet with social media, the blurring or combination or schizophrenia between these two persons, author and character, has an affect on the notion of self identity and the real world consequences that happen because of it. As well as the ambiguity of authenticity and sincere actions.

The identity of the author and the online persona isn’t so distinct as to be two separate people, nor so combined as to be one but a half and half mix that interchanges between the real and virtual world. Provisionally and capriciously flipping between the ‘roles’ the actor plays and acts out to the degree we don’t know who is who or which is which when encountering with the actor whether in the virtual or, more importantly, the real world. To such a degree also that the actor them self has also forgotten or got confused over their own identity of playing which role.  

We are not so good at introspection, self analysis and third person thinking that makes the purpose of art all the more important, to act as the reflection to our own ways of being that self-introspection falls flat. In other words, its to look at our own hands through, or with, the mirror. Of course, this ‘reflection’ of our reality could instead be viewed as its own kind of reality that has no accurate bearing to our reality and it is in the many interpretations of the people to discuss and, more importantly, reflect upon the reflection and to not take anything as truth without further speculation.

The problem of course is social media has taken an inward approach to looking at reality by taking as its subject, the subject who’s contemplating the subject, in other words, the self. It is a self-oriented art that plays out a faulty and unreliable self-analysis and introspection that art was there in order to bring us back to reality. It has in effect, brought reality to our own control that’s completely and consciously socially constructed and curated and has provided a competing pluralistic reality among the billions of subjects where nothing can be made coherent, no sense of what’s what and who’s who and has pushed us back farther down the rabbit hole in terms of understanding our own being and position in the world.

 

The Archaeological Self

 

What’s very strong about forming our identity through social media is one: we have a clear understanding in the progression of a particular identity through scrolling back the history of its life, and two: counter-productively, we have the ability to manipulate and curate and delete what goes on the internet of ourselves, for the most part, that contributes towards the strengthening of our own sense of identity and who we want to be seen as. This is opposed to how one’s identity, pre-social media, would have formed and developed whereby what you say of yourself, what you let yourself show to others, makes up only half of what contributes to your identity, the other half being what others make and say of you, which affects and collides with other people’s sense of you and to some extent what you think of yourself. Because if introspection is so bad that we need art, and this case other people, to provide us with the reflection of our own reality we’ve been living, then we must believe, to some degree, the assignment and identifiers of character others make on us. But this of course requires its own reflection, otherwise it would be dangerous and/fatal to believe what others say of you because of ones idea of limited access to our own sense of identity. Its set up as a perfect dialectic (thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis), we prove the thesis of our own identity, others provided the anti-thesis of our identity, and we compromise or provide a synthesis of our identity between the two.   

 

The Social Medium Is Half The Message 

 

The disconcerting paradox for avid social media users is the way in which an audience or viewer makes judgments about the person relative to the particular social media app used. It would be presumptuous to think that every social media app has no differing causal effect on the author and its audience because the difference between the ways the apps function guides its users to act and present themselves in different ways limited by the design of the app itself. For instance, the small difference in having ‘Friends’ and ‘Followers’ affects the curatorial outcome for their identity. Also, each app is intuitively understood by the masses of its users as having its own unique connotations that if one were to post a picture on any one of the multiple apps available, the interpretation of that image would differ dramatically based on the presumptuous ideas of the app itself and what the consensus for how that app functions is. And with Instagram in particular, there is the assumption that it functions as a tool to showcase a users life in the best possible light, an ideal life represented through carefully curated highlights of one’s life. It is because of this constructing of an ideal life, and the seemingly insincere motif of showing or revealing only that which you want to be seen as, reveals more about you that you wish when one starts to think about all those photos that go un-uploaded, hidden, or absent. That now your identity is made up of all the photos you haven’t taken or rejected to upload, because of the presupposition that every upload is a fake or inauthentic portrayal of the idea of the ideal identity through which you want to identify as having first wanting to show the best and more ideal aspect of your life. The more you try to hide, the more revealing the hidden becomes. It’s often said that we have an online-presence, but we forget we also have an online-absence. 

 

Community of Ghosts

Social Media is a haunting community of ghosts who are not only afraid or weary of the absence of their own presence but the presence of those that are absent from them. Initiating a performance between these two states where they are unaware or unable to identify if their thoughts, actions or resting soul can be seen, hunted and dissected.

Their movements and interactions are steeped with superstition, not knowing whether they can be seen and so act in such a way as if they were, modifying their behavior at the present moment and foreseeable future. This locks them into a perpetual anxiety-induced enforced performance whereby if caught not doing, they risk becoming non-existent. Such as how one might change, control, manipulate, or censor their behavior or actions, with a heightened sense of self-consciousness, when one walks around their room or house stark naked, with no real way of being seen, yet are aware that every movement they make, every action they perform for as long as they are in this condition (that of being naked), could be spotted and caught out for being the selves we wish were not seen. Thus, for as long as they are in this superstitious condition of being seen and performing for a potential non-existent other, they act in a way that maintains their appearance and holds up to their own ideals of self. This condition of being naked, I believe, is analogous to the condition of being on social media, except, we are now at a point where the interaction with social media and the internet is somewhat of an enforced participation where one’s clothes are never coming back on and left forever naked, forever voyeured, forever paranoid, forever performing for the invisible other, the community of ghosts. We have no option of being a slave to a system of the commodification of self for fear of potentially being an outcast to an ever growing community, a community with which we would inevitably be left behind and alienated.

The phones we have tied to out waist are the ghosts, the alternative spirit of the individual.

We have to perform in order to survive or prolong the anxiety of being caught out for not doing, for not performing, for not being or seen or noticed for who we really want to be or for whom a system wants us to be. It is an anxiety of performing just enough to keep our heads above the water, away from drowning into non-existence. So long as we engage we prevent the risk of humiliation done onto ourselves and others done onto us.

But, this anxiety or fear of not performing is by no means irrational. Due to the reason that one’s identity is formed from the development of socialization, as well as individuation, and a collaboration among the community. And to not participate with social media, to take hold of your own identity, is to allow others who know or don’t know you to form, meld or create  your identity on your behalf, and thus you really do risk the fear of becoming something your not, and so you then feel somewhat forced to make an identity for yourself relative to who you think you are, who you would like to be parried with what others think of you and what the system potentially imposes onto you. It is an enforced freedom to be and show who we really want to be for if not, your freedom to your own identity is created for you. The confusion over one’s sense of identity is the result of the paradox that if one chooses not to perform or participate, to however much degree, your identity online, as well as the intermingling with your real-world identity, is created for you. And so, if you do decide to participate and form your own identity, it is only because you now act in such a way that you don’t risk becoming non-existent which means your own sense of an authentic identity is compromised and essentially obscured. Thus a catch-22 happens with result to one’s own sense of authenticity that effectively hinders your well-being.