Rationality and Totality, Part XI
As an example of a production of the combi-permu modality, I offer Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined cup, Le Déjeuner en fourrure, 1936.
Nothing original, unconventional, or surprising about a tea cup or some fur—nothing unusual about lining something with fur—but something entirely startling, unsettling, hilarious and delightful about lining a tea cup with fur…a choice of combination which does not suggest itself from within the framework in which we usually operate.
This framework from within which we usually operate is, I believe, a framework of functionality. If we were to attempt to deduce (via recti-method) a new tea cup, I think we would attempt to design a tea cup which would give “better,” or perhaps “more,” functionality. It’s easy to judge why the fur-lined tea cup is not a part of our practical reality but comes to us via the surrealists. “It isn’t very functional.”
“I wouldn’t like that,” I think, imagining myself drinking tea from a fur-lined cup, putting a fur-lined spoon into my mouth, licking the food from off of the hair. “And then I wouldn’t like cleaning up the mess afterwards, as that would be difficult to do and would cause a lot of the hair to come out, ruining the implements quickly,” I reckon. “How unhygienic,” I judge, as I think of bacteria growing in the food particles I would be unable to completely clean from between the hairs.
Beyond the functionality of a porcelain tea cup, there is something reassuring about its cold hardness. I think I prefer, as a matter of actual aesthetic experience and taste, the cold hardness to the soft warmth of the fur-lined alternative. But that’s probably not true. It probably is not a matter of "actual aesthetic experience and taste," but rather of convention. Never in my life have I used a furry utensil. I'm not accustomed to them. If I try to think, purely in terms of sensation, what it would be like to use furry utensils, I could imagine that as pleasant. I seem to derive an inordinate pleasure from licking hair in the one case where I do so. I also like warmth. The tea itself is warm to hot; it would be warmer from an insulated cup. One could come to prefer, as a matter of actual aesthetic experience, a fur-lined tea cup.
What then of the practical difficulties of a fur-lined tea cup (cleaning up afterwards, etc.?) We could, if we decided we preferred the actual aesthetic experience of a fur-lined tea cup, devise techniques, instruments, and technologies for making these practical difficulties much less so, for alleviating or even removing them, if we so choose. Even if these newly devised techniques, instruments, and technologies involved some greater expense, (not necessarily the case,) we could choose to bear those costs as the cost of our pleasure. We do that all the time. In an age of technological prowess, we have the power to make way for all manner of impractical and dysfunctional combination and permutation, using our technology to remove the impractical and dysfunctional barriers of these different combinations and permutations.