Friday, July 18, 2008

Rationality and Totality, Part XIV

-Meret Oppenheim,Etwas unter einem Heuhaufen,1969

The power of the combi-permu modality is to be able to draw upon and utilize any force from anywhere at any time in any way in order to “get things moving.”

Constraints on the method aren’t part of the modality—they are not rules, standards, or conditions which determine which connections may or may not be made, as is the case in the recti-method.

The "constraints" which appear upon the interplay of the combi-permu modality are the result of the interactions of forces becoming discovered in the course of the application of the combi-permu modality. The discovery of these interacting or interlocking or even sedimented forces is one of the most positive outcomes of the combi-permu modality. The “constraint” is discovered and its discovery is a delight, though undoubtedly upon further reflection one can become frustrated by its existence, but only if one lapses back into passivity, which is probably precisely what “upon further reflection” indicates—lapsing back into passivity.

The “constraint”, which is the discovered block of incapacity to combine and permute, actually opens up all sorts of new realms for combination and permutation. In this sense, it is wrong to call it a constraint—and we could call it an “affirmation”, without being in error or guilty of putting a smiley face on in the face of adversity. For example in the case of Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined tea cup, one must ask oneself why be unsettled, disturbed, and surprised? Why does the tea cup have cognitive effects? Such an object is not really very strange—not really that far from objects used in our everyday life—it’s only a tea cup, a strange little tea cup…So what? What’s artful about that? But this tea cup is actually a great work of art, and thank god someone had the soul to see it as such, to pass it on to us. The tea cup does "get things moving." It discovers geographical features within our psyches of which we were unaware. (And of which I believe we would have remained unaware if we restricted our investigatory practices to those within rationality.) It is surprising and revelatory because it hits up against a “constraint” within our shared practices of combi-permu. It locates a block of incapacity and is a protest against it.

Surrealism—it has been reduced to a freaky genre. But I think we return some of its seismic potential when we see it as opening European rationality to combinations and permutations European rationality had forcefully excluded for centuries,

“We are still living under the reign of logic, but the logical processes of our time apply only to the solution of problems of secondary interest. The absolute rationalism which remains in fashion allows for the consideration of only those facts narrowly relevant to our experience. Logical conclusions, on the other hand, escape us. Needless to say, boundaries have been assigned even to ex- perience. It revolves in a cage from which release is becoming increasingly difficult. It too depends upon immediate utility and is guarded by common sense. In the guise of civilization, under the pretext of progress, we have suc- ceeded in dismissing from our minds anything that, rightly or wrongly, could be regarded as superstition or myth; and we have proscribed every way of seeking the truth which does not conform to convention. It would appear that it is by sheer chance that an aspect of intellectual life - and by far the most important in my opinion � about which no one was supposed to be concerned any longer has, recently, been brought back to light. Credit for this must go to Freud. On the evidence of his discoveries a current of opinion is at last developing which will enable the explorer of the human mind to extend his investigations, since he will be empowered to deal with more than merely summary realities. Perhaps the imagination is on the verge of recovering its rights. If the depths of our minds conceal strange forces capable of augmenting or conquering those on the surface, it is in our greatest interest to capture them; first to capture them and later to submit them, should the occasion arise, to the control of reason. The analysts themselves can only gain by this. But it is im- portant to note that there is no method fixed a priori for the execution of this enterprise, that until the new order it can be considered the province of poets as well as scholars, and that its success does not depend upon the more or less capricious routes which will be followed.

It was only fitting that Freud should appear with his critique on the dream. In fact, it is incredible that this important part of psychic activity has still attracted so little attention. (For, at least from man's birth to his death, thought presents no solution of continuity; the sum of dreaming moments - even taking into consideration pure dream alone, that of sleep - is from the point of view of time no less than the sum of moments of reality, which we shall confine to waking moments.) I have always been astounded by the extreme disproportion in the importance and seriousness assigned to events of the waking moments and to those of sleep by the ordinary observer. Man, when he ceases to sleep, is above all at the mercy of his memory, and the memory normally delights in feebly retracing the circumstance of the dream for him, depriving it of all actual consequence and obliterating the only determinant from the point at which he thinks he abandoned this constant hope, this anxiety, a few hours earlier. He has the illusion of continuing something worthwhile. The dream finds itself relegated to a parenthesis, like the night. And in general it gives no more counsel than the night.”-- ANDRÉ BRETON, From Le Manifeste du Surréalisme, 1924, First Surrealist Manifesto.

Surrealism—a bunch of freaky nonsense and BS and so naturally I am very fond of it. However I do think Breton’s comments bear directly upon the serious matters we wish to and need to investigate. I don’t plan to put on my “aesthete’s hat” while doing so. I’m going to put on my hard hat. A granitic pluton trembled and shook the European plateau…There was a whole lot of shaking going on. I want to feel those shakes to rediscover something about the “constraints” of rationality—what those "constraints" indicate about the relationship of rationality and totality.


Post a Comment

<< Home