Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Simon Critchley on Comic Thought


Our CATTt is derived from the one implicit in WIP?  Modernist arts are referenced throughout this text as a relay for understanding the "non-objective" (non-mimetic) treatment of ideas in the history of philosophy.  The "Documents of Contemporary Art" series includes a collection on "The Artist's Joke," which might have worked.  Duchamp anchors this collection, as he does the one we used on "Appropriation."  Pressed by an interviewer to accept sophisticated hermeneutic readings of his Readymades (such as the geometry book left out in the rain), Duchamp replied, "It was a joke.  A pure joke.  To denigrate the solemnity of a book of principles" (cited in Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art).

Appropriation is a twofer, since it includes the bit strategy while foregrounding the logical operation of detournement.  The CATTt context frames the collage method first in relation to the quarrel between philosophy and commerce.  Advertising already uses appropriate inference, including bachelor machine juxtapositions and fallacies of ambiguity and relevance.  The apparatus context shows that the flow of mass or pop media discourse is the "natural language" of electracy (pop media : electracy :: inscribed Greek epics : literacy).  Appropriation is electrate "writing" (designing).  The categories of image metaphysics are emerging through this modernist arts practice of the photogram (the principle of "taking" pictures).  The second point is that appropriation in general, and detournement in particular, extend the logic of joke-work fully into conduction as the fourth inference principle (the one that electracy adds to the -ductions invented within literacy).  The instruction from the CATTt is to introduce detournement into the joke mechanism, as the ultimate device for turning up the unthought.  Routine distinguishes its direction (attitude), its -vert on the plane of immanence, as diversion (not conversion, perversion, subversion, or adversion).

One example illustrating the logic is Jeff Wall on Dan Graham's Homes for America (1966-67).
The magazine pieces are structured as small, ironically insignificant defeats for liberationist ideas, as "defeatist interventions" in the mechanisms of ideological dominations.  They are aimed at interrupting the flow of standardized, falsified representation and language, and inducing a "mini-crisis" for the reader or viewer by means of the inversions they create.  Reflected in the provocations and interventions characteristic of 1960s Situationism,  in which an unexpected and confrontational gesture interrupts the established rhythm of relationships in a specific context, and induces a form of contestation, paradox or crisis, this approach thereby exposes the forms of authority and domination in the situation, which are normally imperceptible or veiled. The most notable artistic image of this is the unexpected "void" or "rupture" in this seamlessly designed social surface, and conceptualism's origins are filled with such blanks, erasures, tears and cuts [,,,]  It aggravates Pop irony by means of humour noir, and attempts to elicit a recognition of the terroristic aspects of the normalized environment of images, things, spaces and mechanisms (Appropriation, Evans, Ed., 43).

Monday, April 5, 2010


Dean's instructions for creating a stand-up routine provide our "tale," showing us how to style the blog invention of a concept for conducting theory online.  The blog is not a finished routine, but a "rehearsal," the backstage planning and preparations.  For mnemonic purposes, Dean's advice is to locate our bits within a fully imagined situation.  The principle is that a bit is a particular situation and our response to it, dramatized as our own experience.  The heuretic rule is to substitute our own policy problem for the joke situation.  The joke mechanism, and the mining procedures for filling the slots of the mechanism, constitute inferential steps for thinking the unthought.

The joke mechanism consists of two stories, two interpretations of one situation.  To use a Margaret Smith version of one of Dean's examples, take the situation of Smith visiting her parents.  The parents wonder why she doesn't visit more often.  The cultural expectation guiding the first story concerns what is appropriate according to norms, etiquette, values:  families should respect and care for and about one another.  The connector (pivot, switch, hinge) prompting this norm (expectation) is "visit."  Dean's advice is to locate a connector open to a second interpretation, a different assumption.  This second assumption is Smith's ATTITUDE, the assumption of her persona, which is hostile to her family.  She tells a second story expressing this assumption:  "I would visit more often, but I can't get Delta to have its plane wait in my yard while I run in."  The mechanism as a whole is this conjunction of two stories around a shared term.  The instruction is to translate the family visit situation into the situation of our policy problem, in which we imagine ourselves as a participant with an attitude.

Here is where we modify Dean, to fit his advice into our CATTt.  A context is Virno, in that Dean's first story exemplifies practical reason, the application of rules to cases to guide judgment.  In fact the joke takes a Machiavellian approach to the cultural rules/expectations, one that is more cynical.  The second assumption in Smith's bit is that most families do not get along.  This assumption is just as familiar as the normative behavior, but violates decorum.  Freud might say this violation releases the energy used to repress this attitude, and so we laugh.  Zupancic noted that the unofficial attitude is familiar, and yet suprising when it appears.  The comedic stand, she says, is that when a husband returns home unexpectedly, one may assume that there is a lover hiding in the wife's closet.  In tragedy the husband (Othello) assumes this as well, but is wrong. 

The relevant point for our concept concerns its purpose of an inference leading to the unthought.  The unthought here must include the unofficial as well as the official expectations; that is, the attitude of our persona must itself be surprised.  The contribution of Analogy (Appropriation art) is responsible for producing this effect.  We learn about "appropriate" (noun) by appropriate (verb).  The potential addition to the mechanism is already sited when we note that Dean's mechanism relies primarily on fallacies of ambiguity (the connector is open to multiple interpretations).  The other major class of fallacy is that of relevance (red herring, ad hominem and the like).  The key point to note for now in documenting the rehearsal is this instruction to apply the generative mechanism not only to the expectations or assumptions of the policy debate, but also to the assumptions motivating your attitude to the debate.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Conceptual Stand-Up

The function of tale is as vehicle for the CATTt inventories.  Users encounter the emergent poetics of the invention through some form that partly demonstrates and partly explains the new method (or concept).  Plato introduced his new concept of "method" in the form of "dialogue."  Commentators remind us that Plato invented this form, but we recognize the heuretic practice in it:  the scene of Socrates conversing with interlocutors is an interface, embedding the encounter with dialectic in a familiar situation.  Dialectic (method) is a core practice of literacy, unfamiliar in the oral culture of Athens, transitioning from orality to literacy.  In the terms of our Theory (D&G), "Socrates" is Plato's Conceptual Persona.  Part of the nature and purpose of "method" (the concept) is communicated by the aura associated with Socrates as an iconic type:  the gadfly.  The image of thought associated with this icon is complex, including the representation of Socrates as a sophist in Aristophanes's The Clouds.  D&G provide many examples of this holistic effect of the Conceptual Persona portraying the image of thought.
Kierkegaard's "knight of the faith," he who makes the leap, or Pascal's gambler, he who throws the dice, are men of a transcendence or a faith.  But they constantly recharge immanence: they are philosophers or, rather, intercessors, conceptual personae who stand in for these two philosophers and who are concerned no longer with the transcendent existence of God but only with the infinite immanent possibilities brought by the one who believes that God exists (WiP?, 74).
Here is the first dimension through which we understand Routine as our concept:  the image of thought evoked by the figure of a stand-up comic.  "Stand-up comic" is for us what "gambler" was for Pascal's thought:  a vehicle evoking the tenor that is Routine.  The image of thought shows the attitude that frames thinking through Routine.  "Attitude" concerns the state of mind within which the thought happens, concerning belief or desire (for example) directed towards our Target (the problem in the world, the disaster).  Taken as a whole, or as a position of enunciation within the culture, comedy implies a certain attitude towards reality, which is the answer Routine gives to a fundamental question of philosophy -- the transcendental question (where are we when we think?).  Alenka Zupancic offers an insightful description of the comedic stand, relevant to Routine.
There is something very real in comedy's supposedly unrealistic insistence on the indestructible, on something that persists, keeps reasserting itself and won't go away, like a tic that goes on even though its "owner" is already dead. In this respect, one could say that the flaws, extravagances, excesses, and so-called human weaknesses of comic characters are precisely what account for their not being "only human."  More precisely, they show us that what is "human" exists only in this kind of excess over itself" (Zupancic, The Odd One In, 49).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Prudence as Joker

The primary instruction derived from Virno is based on his proposal to adopt logical fallacies (exploiting the structure of joke-work:  condensation, displacement, secondary elaboration) as sources of innovative inference practice in conditions of ethical/political crisis.  "Jokes and innovative action displace the 'rotational axis' of a form of life by means of an openly 'fallacious' conjecture, one that nonetheless reveals in a flash a different way of applying the rules of the game:  contrary to the way it seemed before, it is entirely possible to embark on a side path or to escape from Pharaoh's Egypt" (163).  The pragmatics of laughter and the forms that elicit it are guides to the exact site of interface, the moebius twist, crossing body and language.  The two slopes of language are hinged here, enabling discourse and jouissance to coexist in one practice.  Here is the point of departure for electrate ontology.  Literacy ontologized the semantic register of writing; electracy ontologizes the musical (choral) register.  It is the site of Lacan's letter/l'etre.
The logic of crisis is most evident in the articulation between instinctual apparatus and propositional structure, between drives and grammar.  Each attempt at delineating a different normative "substratum," though it unravels within wholly contingent sociopolitical circumstances, retraces and compounds, on a reduced scale, the passage from life in general to linguistic life.  Anomalous inferences are the precision instrument by virtue of which verbal thought, delineating a different normative "substratum," recalls, each time anew, the anthopogenetic passage.  Their anomaly lies in the manner in which language preserves within itself, though transfigured to the point of being barely recognizable, the original nonlinguistic drive (160).
it is worth a further citation, to make the Target instruction emphatic:  introduce a fallacy into the argumentation of your public policy debate.
The multiple use of the same material and the displacement of psychic accent are the two fundamental ways of reacting to the intensifying of chronic problems presented by the application of a rule to a particular case.  Furthermore:  these are the two ways in which,  in the process of their application, we return to the primary system of reference that is the "common behavior of mankind." Multiple use and displacement are the two main genres of fallacy and the primary genres of jokes.  However, as we have just seen, in jokes (as well as in the unusual application of a rule) fallacies have the value of counterfactual hypotheses, and therefore they take shape as heuristic procedures.  The two types of jokes (as well as productive fallacy) correspond to two types of creative action on a vast scale:  Entrepreneurial innovation; Exodus (146).