Sunday, April 7, 2013

No Object #0

     The object here is to bring the concept of the object into view, and to object to it. Many resources will be marshaled into this project. Baudrillard is a big help, as he was for the "Follow-Up" pieces, but so are the Tibetan Buddhists who have been writing about this for many centuries. Good old cartoons, too, will be of use because they play with images of objects. Poetry seems to have gotten stuck short of the requisite play, again, and the plastic arts (incl. photography) hesitate to object to the object most of the time and get "drawn" back into objectification.
     The American Zen thing of truly objective seeing and being falls short, and so does the effort to scramble and deny realities. As Jean Baudrillard's The Perfect Crime says, there is "no longer any need to confront objects with the absurdity of their functions, in a poetic unreality, as the Surrealists did" (73). Our arts have hovered over various versions of this absurdity for a century now, grasping it and rejecting it. Recent avant-garde poetry has tried to include critique of social constructions in language by going both ways: some absurdist and some as anti-absurdist as the sentences of Ron Silliman. Claims are made for the value of parataxis over hypotaxis or the twists of hyper-hypotaxis or the exposé of phrasings like those in adverts or political memes through echo or translation, but still at the still center of it all is the assumption of a reality/unreality divide and the idea of a need to confront the reality we all live with/in.
     The point that Baudrillard builds beyond these attempts is that there is "[n]o longer any need for a critical consciousness to hold up the mirror of its double to the world:" that art and thinking that would expose the falsities or positionalities of the world have been undone by our world itself. "[O]ur modern world swallowed its double when it lost its shadow, and the irony of that incorporated double shines out at every moment in every fragment of our signs, of our objects, of our models"; in this post-modern world, "things move to shed an ironic light on themselves all on their own." The fresh need to present this calls for something like parody but not resolvable into a reality opposed to the laughably ironic in our world of things--not simply "meaningful" mockery. Because things "discard their meanings effortlessly," they need only to be presented in their "visibility" for us. "This is all part of their visible sequencing, which itself creates a parody effect" (73).
     The 800-year-old writings of Dogen can take us to a Japanese foothold in this area of thinking too. His moon, his finger, his words, all are pointing to it. His moon (tsuki) is total (tsu) possibility (ki).


All my life false and real, right and wrong tangled.
Playing with the moon, ridiculing wind, listening to birds....
Many years wasted seeing the mountain covered with snow.
This winter I suddenly realize: snow makes a mountain.

            translated by Philip Whalen with Kazuaki Tanahashi
                    from Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen,
                    ed. Tanahashi (North Point: SF, 1985).

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