scenewash project sifting through the rubble

** - STUPID UNDERGROUNDS: An Essay by Paul Mann


 
      i. Zone - Apocalyptic cults and youth gangs, garage bands and wolfpacks, "colleges" and phalansteries, espionage networks trading in vaporous facts and networks of home shoppers for illicit goods...
 
      ii. Trajectory - In what one could call, not without historical cause if perhaps too casually, the standard modernist map, the relation between hegemonic center and oppositional margin is more or less constant. Marginal groups are suppressed almost to the point of invisibility; or at least to a theoretical "position" of "silence"...
 
      iii. Vertical - The horizontal extension of the trajectory tilts along another axis, much older, much more deeply embedded, much more stupidly anthropomorphic, and precisely the logic that gives rise to the term "underground."The space of tunnels and hence also of communication--subways, fiberoptics, sewers--and of escape...
 
      iv. On "stupid" - Intelligence is no longer enough. We have witnessed so many spectacles of critical intelligence's dumb complicity in everything it claims to oppose that we no longer have the slightest confidence in it. One knows with the utmost certainty that the most intense criticism goes hand in hand with the most venal careerism...
 
      v. Nihil - One might find it amusing to assume the pose of someone who states problems with brutal simplicity. As in this little nugget: Every historical form of cultural and political revolt, transgression, opposition, and escape has turned out to be nothing more than a systemic function. The notion of recuperation...
 
      vi. Croatan - Nothing could be more quintessentially American than the stupid underground. It is more basic, more historical, than all the structures and pseudo-guarantees of liberal democracy. If America as such can be mythologized as a nation of dropouts and a shadow underground of Europe, it also immediately begins to generate its own dropouts...
 
      vii. Subliminal - The stupid underground can be mapped onto a familiar and perhaps quite objectionable psychotopography: it is a zone of the repressed of culture and thus, according to this model, both a pathological site giving rise to all sorts of pathogenic surface effects, and a therapeutic matrix, a place where impacted energies...
 
      viii. Net - Over and over again we are offered new models that turn out to be the resurgence of everything they presume to leave behind, that exhaust their force even as they grind on in the stupidest, deadliest, and hence perhaps most critical repetition (all that is left of the critical), and yet still hold out the lure...
 
      ix. Virtual - The invention of VR goggles and gloves lags far behind the vast array of prosthetic subjectivities that already exist, and helps to conceal the insistent possibility that whatever is offered to or claimed by us as reality has never been anything but virtual, a matter of surrogation. As always, the fact that everyone already knows this...
 
      x. Quack - What should one think of a Nobel Laureate who proposes, quite scientifically, the theory of "directed panspermia": that the nucleic proteins from which "life itself" arises were sent here from another star system? Or the notion that, since the biochemical structure of psilocybin spores resembles nothing else on earth, they too were exported, as the very seeds of consciousness, from somewhere out there?
 
      xi. Stupid Gurus - The fashionable mathematics of fractals, precisely in the reduced form pilfered by what once were humanists and who know virtually nothing about it, provides us with the figure of a sort of zeno-graphically receding infinitesimal repetition--the sub-cell reproducing the topography of the whole organism...
 
      xii. Conspiracy - The stupid underground is the home of the mutant hybrid. What would have seemed to be--what, we are told, a prior cultural order labored to preserve as--distinct, conflicting, contradictory ideas and values are tossed together; categorical boundaries are blurred by rapid movements across them. Sin, pleasure, political subversion, "nostalgie de la boue," heroism...
 
      xiii. Loud - There is a certain justice to giving the task for discovering the silent forms of control to those whose primary mode of operation is enormous volume. The trajectory from loud rock music to even louder industrial music (Boyd Rice/Non plays too loud even for much of the stupid club scene) to experiments in subliminal sound is continuous. There is, in a certain sense, no difference, no line between sound so loud it is all one can hear...
 
      xiv. Day Job - Best of all, furthest along its trajectory, is "zerowork," the refusal to work, the refusal to bid for equal alienation, disappearing from the tax rolls, from the very category of the unemployed. But how then to survive? By hook and crook, and the stupid underground is rife with pipedreams and proven scams. Loompanics Press offers the libertarian illusion...
 
      xv. Nomad, Rhizome - Intellectual economics guarantees that even the most powerful and challenging work cannot protect itself from the order of fashion. Becoming-fashion, becoming-commodity, becoming-ruin. Such instant, indeed retroactive ruins, are the virtual landscape of the stupid underground. The exits and lines of flight pursued by Deleuze and Guattari are being shut down and rerouted by the very people who would take them most seriously...
 
      xvi. SI Revenant - Today you can purchase a copy of The Society of the Spectacle, now precisely a "mythic" text, newly translated by a professional scholar to purge it of those pesky inaccuracies that made earlier versions so difficult for all those pseudo-pro-situs to understand, and published in hardcover by a university press, for about $20. A souvenir edition...
 
      xvii. Skin - How much can be made of a brightly colored scar? Only yesterday the tattoo was presented--and who was there who would have bothered to argue against it?--as a radical form of self-expression, an intense and immediate means of repossessing the body, taking it back from all the social systems that, one believes, have stolen it...
 
      xviii. Fuzzy Fun - It is notable how often the interviews in Modern Primitives--stupid interviews in general--resort, even while describing the most extreme practices, to the category of fun. The subjective analogue, the affective dimension of fuzzy capital might be fuzzy fun. Stupid fun. Piercing is fun, drunkenness and drugs are fun, sexual excess is fun...
 
      xix. Sur la Plage - Plagiarism has etymological roots in kidnapping, specifically the stealing of slaves or the enslavement of freemen. The plaga too is a Net. In 1987, an "International Festival of Plagiarism" (actually just a few venues in London and San Francisco) announced the coming-out of sign-theft. What had always been characterized as the most obscene, insidious, pathetic attempt to pass off someone else's text or authorship as one's own now wrapped itself in the heroic banner...
 
      xx. Kulture Krit - Is this what "Adorno" had in mind? All this armchair "ressentiment," other-envy, hyperactive "nostalgie de la boue" lapped up by university presses and colloquia? All these literary critics and social scientists demonstrating their irrelevance in the very process of asserting their political engagement, extending their great critical powers to prove, at enormous length, what everyone already pretends to know about ideology, about power, about resistance...
 
      xxi. Secret - We have mapped the stupid underground as the capital of the culture of resentment, of a strict, self-indulgent, and self-evacuating reactivity, lamely proposing "new" models and modes of existence that nonetheless can never be entirely reduced to the dialectics of recuperation, and that, even as they sacrifice themselves to such a facile criticism...
 
      xxiii. Desert - Why so much stupid-critical fascination with the desert? Foucault dropping acid in Death Valley is the perfect journalistic figure of the final cause, if you will, of theory itself. You go out into the desert to escape the social world, have visions, go native, clear a space to begin again, look into whatever abyss, encounter gods, escape in order to be...
 
 
       
 

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