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An Aesthetics of Collective Epilepsy

Death is certain. If evolution finds its dominant expression in a mutation, in a transformative resistance to the continuity of change (to the paradox of the Pisces swimming up stream, approaching cessation under the eyes of its constellation) then extinction is its adversary. Evolution devolves from out of Extinction. It steadfastly unfolds the impossibility of evading an end. Immortality as such, is itself prefigured in the act of mutation.

The immortal spirit does not, contrary to the ’legendary psychasthenia’ of the preying mantis, develop on account of the morphological form of mimicry that an irrational organism imposes upon its environment, but appears as a willful denial of what the rational organism presupposes: an awareness of it own finitude, of its involuntary insertion onto the frontier dividing representation (the spirit) from reality (the body).

Mimesis thus mutates into form under two constraints:

1. As a first-order development in the evolutionary process of the animal, which passionately transfigures its composition in response to the world it accommodates.

2. As a second-order apparition (following, most importantly, the inexplicable emergence of the intellect) in the paranoiac resistance of the rational process to the world it attempts to articulate at its accommodation.

It was on the grounds of a primordial narcissism that ancient civilizations, such as those of Egypt, Persia or Greece, mimetically projected an immortal image of their bodies outward, in an aesthetic endeavor that would ultimately undermine the authenticity of the mortal-in-the-real.

The project was perilous.

The danger it presented followed persistently separate but parallel trajectories:

One psychological. One pathological. One industrial.

In distinguishing the body from its image (at once diametric and mimetic), the immaterial representation to which the material reality was connected, eventually assumed its own symbolic efficacy. It germinated within the elaborate network of epiphenomenal relationships the intellect attempted to align in its interest, and itself became the authoritative locus around which such relationships emerged. The advent of what would become the modern psychoanalytic crisis:

The specter of subjectivity. The illusion of the ’I’ against the reality of the eye. The pineal gland staging a stage-less performance.

By constructing the corpus as bi-partite, the phantasm of the physical therefore becomes both an object of aesthetic interrogation and the subject that interrogates. In its isolation, severed in its very difference from the corporeal, it censors (according to the ethical domain - also immaterial - to which the spirit surrenders) the content from which it originally took its form.

It folds over the coordinates of its creator, and initiates a self-reflexive revolt that confuses the grounds on which the topology of the psyche is governed. It absorbs the impact of a trauma, transubstantiates it, and launches it defiantly back at the body in a relentless barrage of bullets that, symptomatically, follow no linear law of pathology. The manifest sign severed from its reference, the image from its body, and the creation of a spirit that had at “once been an assurance of immortality, becomes the uncanny harbinger of death.”

A pathological paradigm is born, reaching its apotheosis in the experience of epilepsy, in an utter submission of the animate, to a process of mechanization in the inanimate. Man’s manifestation as machine, at the service of his own reproduction.

Dostoyevsky has a seizure while staring at the sun.

As an object of aesthetic inquiry, instead, the spirit found its ancient expression in the material domain of traditional mediums. Monuments were erected, paintings were painted, the contours of sculptures carved out as imitations of idols assuring immortality. The representations all made in the liking of man. Aesthetic anthropomorphisms that intended to reproduce the creator as creation. An impulse rooted initially in the divide between representation and reality, collectively moving towards an indistinguishable coincidence of the two, towards the undeniable arrival of photography, towards the realization of Plato’s worst nightmare.

Functioning under the guise of a ’referential illusion,’ the mechanically reproduced image is at once the reference and its referent. It denotes the content of the produced message, while occulting its mode of production. No longer revealed from the foreground as the product of a particular craft or technè, to interrogate the photographic image is not to criticize the creative process, but that to which the creation refers: the world. Not the rotation of the gears concealed by the surface of the clock, but the time to which their circular motion makes the pendants point. The deceptive conjunct between eye and object, whereby idolatry reaches the peak of its most perilous summit; and man, contrary to the images he rendered functional, himself becomes a function of them.

Images multiply and, in a manner analogous to the human spirit, spontaneously assume their own symbolic efficacy. They configure the qualities of the first-regime of madness: an autonomous series of passionate signs, mechanized by their inherent interconnectedness. Returning, in their compulsion to repeat, to haunt their creators. (specters against spectators) To participate in the perpetual manifold of the industrial war machine, the free-market of free-floating signifiers. Where referents-refer-to-referents, layers-lay-upon-layers, and humans, utterly dispossessed, are subject to an eternal recurrence of the image, to a collective economy of epilepsy.

Amir Mogharabi

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Sean Raspet
The Ones We Work For