Thursday, 12 February 2009

Conjunction versus Connectedness

At last year's Radical Philosophy Art & Immaterial Labour conference at Tate Britain Bifo spoke of a shift from conjunction, the world of the connotative where subjectivities interact, change one another unpredictably, become 'other', to the connectedness of machine like functionality, a denotative and objectifying world of unaltered and non altering singularities. In Infanzia e storia Agamben looks at the decline of experience as accumulation into time as mere succession.

These two observations are by no means unrelated. Read by their lights Lucarelli's Un giorno dopo l'altro becomes a sort of road novel about that connectedness, constructed out of the subjective experience of three quite separate individuals of the (objective) links between them, and about how time and distance now present themselves as repetition.

Alessandro is a youth who works for an ISP, where he monitors internet chat rooms. Time has stopped for him since his girlfriend went back to Denmark. So he has set Luigi Tenco's song Un giorno dopo l'altro, itself about repetition, to play as an infinite loop: 'Day after day / time disappears: / the streets are always the same, / the same houses. // Day after day / and everything as before; / step after step, / the same life.' He has a docile dog (called Dog) which others mistake for a pitbull. When he first encounters Vittorio (as he himself squats in an otherwise silent chat, surrounded by the empty noise of other rooms) it is simply as lines of text replying to earlier text from someone called 'the old guy'.

Vittorio is a contract killer. He is not a serial killer, though he constructs that image for himself: 'the pitbull'. This, however, is a sort of nickname or tag used with the aim, apparently, of returning (once it becomes appropriate) back to his former anonymity through a semiotic death: 'In order to kill himself the pitbull had first had to be in existence.' His real death is experienced, subjectively, paradoxically, as a semiotic death, a literal loss of signal, as descending into white noise, as 'fading into a hissing whiteness, like plunging into a sea of grass. He thought: it's ending. He thought: for real. He thought: here.' End of signal, end of journey, end of time.

Grazia is a police officer. She is one of a team keeping villains under surveillance. In the course of her work (and the novel) she is objectified at various points by the male gaze of Alessandro, of Vittorio and of her fellow officers. Initially she encounters Vittorio as an absence, a murderer of three people who has somehow managed to slip through the net of hidden microphones. So technology fails at this stage. But her method of tracking down her suspect is taken straight out of set theory ('Narrow down. Connect. Exclude and narrow down again.') just as Alessandro's initial and very indirect contact with the person behind the 'pitbull' nickname, mediated through his colleague Luisa, is by checking through IP numbers.

Throughout the novel runs a network of roadways traversed (subjectively) by Vittorio not really as the means towards some end but as the pattern of life itself: 'On the motorway life is movement. If you stop it's because you need help.' As well as two different binaries. Grazia's putative pregnancy, which could still be resolved by a test which Grazia never quite administers but instead reveals, more or less accidentally, first to Alessandro then to her fellow officers, as a sort of item of her trailing or extruded subjectivity. And the dilemma Alessandro faces: to get his girlfriend back or move on; ie What to do about time? Which he resolves (or fails to resolve) by flying to Copenhagen, winding back the tape, turning the clock back, foreshortening distance, right at the end of the book.

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