Monday, 29 October 2007

An interview with Badiou.


Tonight, the supermarket was full of students buying ironic pumpkins for halloween. Not 'tonight the supermarket was full of students ironically buying pumpkins for halloween'.

nb is there a Nick Cave song that mentions someone with a 'pumpkin sized head'?

Friday, 26 October 2007

The hegemonic efficacy of being completely knackered.

Students and theorists of hegemony, those who seek to discover why the proletariat has not overthrown capitalism, to lay bare the mechanisms keeping the general population acquiescent and politically inactive, perhaps overplay the effect of various ideological apparatuses, of the commodification of the world - although these things are not to be dismissed. What shouldn't be underestimated is the sheer fact that vast numbers of people, including the present author at the exact present time, find that work leaves them totally knackered. If your lucky, you spend 9 hours a day on some highly specific task that nonetheless requires ingenuity - like flogging advertising space. If you're unlucky, you spend 9 hours a day of total monotony and mechanical repetition. In both cases, come 5.30 you're knackered, mentally and physically. The weekend is just recuperation; the evenings a mere unravelling. Your mental and physical energies already syphoned off by powers inimical to your interests, confiscated from you 7 turned into capital. You return home an empty integument, wanting nothing more than to sit down with a beer and replay the day as anecdote to a sympathetic companion. The contagion of work's slow stain...

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Titus, Law, Violence

One of the things Revenge deals with is the individual’s relation to the law, the possibilities available inside and outside the law- the possible opposition between earthly, state law and some notion of divine/ natural law.

Titus begins with horrific act of tortue, mutilation, burning and execution of Alarbus – all of course within, sanctioned by, the law.

Thus, the first kind of violence we encounter in the play is that of the state. The state stages a spectacle whereby the body of the condemned is tortured and executed. What perhaps happens in this play is that the kind of theatrical ‘Sadism’ we encounter here ceases to be the exclusive property of the state. Characters arrogate to themselves the violence which in the first instance is the prerogative of the state. They (Tamora & sons) repeat it parodically, emptied of symbolic resonance. And the play itself participates in this process. Or, the surplus of sadism which sticks to the law (simultaneously concealed and strenghtened by it) here walks naked.
In Titus, violence typically fails to achieve symbolic meaning. But the play shows this failure. See, for example, in Greek tragedy – e.g. Oedipus tearing out his eyes or in Lear, Gloucester - “I stumbled when I saw”. In both cases, the loss of sight has meaning-ful resonance. In Titus, the very semblance of symbolic meaning is mocked. See, for instance, 3.1 Aaron asks for the hand of Titus. This is to be a symbolic act of reparation, a kind of gift to the sovereign (cf. earlier, the ‘gift’ of Alarbus to the dead). This symbolic meaning is precisely a semblance. It turns out of course to be a ‘joke’. It involves, to begin with a kind of crude pun on the idea of giving someone your hand ('Give me your hands of we be friends')

The closest we come to symbolic violence is act 1.1. 96:

LUCIUS: “Give us the proudest prisoner of the Goths,
That we may hew his limbs, and on a pile
Ad manes frartum [‘to the shades of our brothers] sacrifice his flesh
Before this earthly prison of their bones,
That so the shadows be not appeased,
Nor we disturbed with prodigies on earth.


“Religiously they ask a sacrifice.
To this your son is marked, and die he must,
T’appease the groaning shadows that are gone

LUCIUS: we have performed our Roman rites.. [

Alarbus exists here only symbolically, as a token. Here violence is an explicitly symbolic act – i.e. a sacrifice, even though it is as horrific as acts perpetrated later on in the play. It has this symbolic envelope. Its still part of a world where are these ritual and symbolic meanings.

Now in the subsequent violence you get the same kind of bloody horrors, violence visited on the body, but it is as if it has slipped any kind of symbolic envelope, meaning or correlative, so leaving behind the sheer naked violation of the action.
But again, the play is aware of this very subtraction. As if we are moving from a world of symbolic meanings and metaphysical guarantees, to grand guignol senselessness, with Titus representing the older Roman nobility, bound by ties and by symbolic rites.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

A Poem (Akhmatova)

"And, as always happens in the days of final rupture,
The ghost of the first days knocked at the door,
And in burst the silver willow
And all its grey, branching splendour.
To us, frenzied, disdainful and bitter
Not daring to raise our eyes from the ground,
A bird began to sing in a voice of rapture
About how much we cherished each other"

Film - By Samuel Beckett (Part 3)

Film - By Samuel Beckett (Part 2)

Film - By Samuel Beckett (Part 1)

Saturday, 20 October 2007

The opposite of waiting

He has never satisfactorily explained, Gla., what he was doing stood outside the French Institute that time at ten o'clock in the evening. I thought that, like me, he must have just come out of Andrei Rublev, but he had no idea it was on. He seemed shifty. He was waiting, evidently. It could not have been drugs. He has never taken or been interested in stimulants of that sort. I had an idea it was something altogether more criminal. But I have avoided asking him about it for perhaps 10 years. I reminded him the other night but he just laughed and chnaged the subject - 'how can you watch Tarkovsky anyway?'. 'You have to forget time. It is not at all like waiting, for instance. Not at all like that. Perhaps the opposite.'

Sunday, 14 October 2007


"The experience of a linear organic flow of events is an illusion.. that masks tha fact that it is the ending that retroactively confers the consistency of an organic whole on the preceding events"

"One must insist on the opposition between the appropriation of the past from the standpoint of those who rule [..] and the appropriation of that which, in the past, retained its utopian and failed ('repressed') potentiality.

"In order to break through, the New must first express itself in the old form"

What postmodern Theory most lacks is any historical sense - not only for the radical difference of the past, and the rebuke, the tacit questioning gaze with which the past regards us. But the trick of seeing in the present the enigmatic eddy of past and future. This eddy powered the engine of Walter Benjamin's thinking.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Always historicise!

The enjoinder ‘always historicise’ is the one most conspicuously missed by so much contemporary Theory. This means, for sure, asking things like ‘does the ‘Symbolic Order’ really mean the same thing in pre-literate largely oral cultures (there is always this language of the Symbolic fixing, mortifying etc, which may be in some ways print-culture specific). But the imperative is also about the very emergence of the concepts – what has happened such that the Symbolic can become visible? What allows it to be an object of reflection for us? The birth of the concept as symptom, as indexical of a shift on another level. This level, visible through its symptoms = history.

To be serious about theoretical reflection is to be ready to engage in a tremendous labour of detail, the sifting through all kinds of cultural and historical minutiae. With a microscope and telescope at once, maintain perpetual vigilance against the self-evidence of the contemporary moment. Dig into its contingency. What is unserious is to wonder around wide-eyed in the bazaar of the present pointing to endless examples of one’s pet concepts – ooh look, another instance of the Big Other! These New Concepts that can never drink their fill of examples!!

mutation not decline

It's no longer disciplinary institutional power that defines everything, it's capitalism's power to produce variety - because markets get saturated. Produce variety and you produce a niche market. The oddest of affective tendencies are okay - as long as they pay. Capitalism starts intensifying or diversifying affect, but only in order to extract surplus-value. It hijacks affect in order to intensify profit potential. It literally valorises affect.

Friday, 12 October 2007


Via Infinite Thought: "'Frieze is so capitalist it's Marxist' - Jonathan Jones. So capitalist it's Marxist Indeed, opines magog. We must insist: the ruling class knows what it is doing. The insights of cultural critique come as no surprise to the advertising exec. The intricacies of Deleuze are congenial to the Israeli war machine. Marx is read profitably by stockbrokers.

But this proposition, that the Ruling Class already has the knowledge 'we' have, that they are not ideological dupes sleepwalking through their acts of corporate vandalism etc but soberly and even cynically ensconced behind ideological spin, this is almost universally resisted by the intellectual classes. They think it unsophisticated, vulgar, conceptually uninteresting. For some reason, they want to think that the ruling class is stupid. As if their own knowledge was - politically speaking - enough. Not at all. Their own knowledge implies no political position. ONly active commitment will do.

How to Get Ahead in Teaching

Selling advertising is like teaching, declares magog: you want them in place X, but they have to think they arrived there by themselves. Both teaching and selling involve producing in your subject a false experience of their own agency.

Advertising Copy

Gog: How, magog, do you square your communist leanings with your job in an advertising company.

Magog: it is important of course to understand the production of symbolic goods immanently and in terms of its pragmatics. But all along with the intent of stabbing it in the back. One must only maintain one's critical distance.

Gog: but pro-capitalist advertisers themselves have 'critical distance'. They too understand it 'critically', only in order to DO it better!

Magog: Yes of course. The difference between the pro and anti capitalist advertising executuve is not that one has critical knowledge while the other is immersed in the 'how-to' of his employment. The difference is only an act of ethical commitment. A different in final project.

Gog: but to what effect?

Magog: One day I will leave the business and write a book.. it will blow the whole thing wide open.

Gog: or serve as more fuel to the fire?

Monday, 8 October 2007


"Flabby, pale Narcissus", he said, "Though you left it years ago, the pool has kept your face. A ghostly sliver, a print-out of light. But you are not unique. Scattered through those landscapes, there are pools and tarns and spinnies with faces trapped inside them." "It wasn't a pool. It was Blea tarn" I said "I caught my first fish. If there's a face there still its a child's face".

Then, we started dancing round the room. We sang 'gog and magog have got a blog' to the tune of 'control' by Gossip.


To be honest, he told the newbe, we don't know exactly what makes a great phone salesman. You can say the right things in interview but then .. nothing. It seems to be something to do with the voice. Of course, you have to be saying something that makes sense, but that's just the alibi. It's the voice they respond to. It's all they have. They answer to something in your voice and if that's not there, it's no deal. If they buy your voice they'll buy the product.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

gog, magog, job

Gog and Magog have a job as well as a blog, so we plan to write all our posts at the weekend but then feed them into the blogstream on a day by day basis. Hopefully a rhythm of exchange between the dispeptic gog and the eupeptic magog will develop in the coming times. Our resources are finite. The working week drains our enthusiasms and confiscates our speech. Gog in particular is a cyborg in so far as the speech he must use at work is an oiled machine which functions to persuade others to part with money. At the weekends, he must detach this apparatus from his tongue and larynx. The resulting stammers, clacks, and eventual articulation (hopefully) will be made available here.

Beauty has no other origin

"Beauty has no other origin than the singular wound, different in every case, hidden or visible, which each man bears within himself, which he preserves, and into which he withdraws when he would quit the world for a temporary but authentic solitude"

This short statement is from Genet's essay 'The Studio of Alberto Giacometti'. Its enigmatic immobility is certainly related to the essay, but also interrupts it. It neither follows from the preceding paragraph nor opens into the next. Genet does not repeat the familiar notion that beauty is a salve, a respite from incommunicable suffering. After thinking about Giacometti's figures, which are like relics or like emissaries, an idea of beauty stands revealed to him. Thus the general idea is distilled from the particularity of Giacometti's sculptures. These sculptures, too, withdraw from the the world, attain solitude. This is the attained solitude of Beauty. The artist's 'singular wound' and the object created are analogues of one another. And both are equidistant from the world.