Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Manufactured Fiction

'The environment is so full of television, party political broadcasts and advertising campaigns that you hardly need to do anything. We're just drowning under manufactured fiction.'
(J G Ballard, who died on Sunday, in The Observer, September 2002)

'I want to go to East Grinstead'

Gertrude Stein described the experience of coming from Oakland in these terms:

'What was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there.'
(Gertrude Stein: Everybody's Autobiography)

When Augé (in Un ethnologue dans le metro) describes the non-space of the Metro as 'the collective without the celebration, and the solitude without the isolation', he too is reflecting how it feels to have a form without substance, to find a label attached to some sort of empty cabinet, to be in a situation where there is no experience (or no 'there') there, where the extensional, the denotative, seems to be the only option because the connotative, the intensional, is either denied or is suppressed or has gone missing.

If modernism proceeds, typically, by finding ways to 'make it new', as a revolt against or overturning of tradition, whatever 'tradition' means, then one question raised by these comments is whether this particular fish is rotting from the head inwards and downwards or outwards from within. Whether, in terms of one of the false dilemmas posed by modernism, form takes precedence over content, an endless sequence of new moulds into which something is poured and thus reshaped, or whether content pushes form. (It scarcely matters here that form and content are actually indivisible; it's how we think of them that counts. And, of course, there are parallels between 'content' and movement, or grass roots politics, on the one hand and between 'form' and the avant garde, or party structure, on the other.)

Varèse seems clear enough, at least at first, that content pushes form:

'Form is a result - the result of a process. Each of my works discovers its own form. I have never tried to fit any of my compositions into any known container.'
(Edgard Varèse: Rhythm, Form and Content)

So too is Creeley. 'Form is never more than an extension of content'; this in a letter to Olson. Olson quoted it in Projective Verse. Creeley later expanded on it as follows to make poetry analogous to something naturally occurring:

'Form is what happens. It's the fact of things in the world, however they are. So that form in that way is simply the presence of any thing.


'The what of what was being said gained the how of what was being said, and the how (the mode) then became what I called form.'
(In Martin Lammon: From an interview with Linda Wagner, in Written in Water, Written in Stone)

In fact, both the proposed relationship between form and content and their perceived relationship with the natural are ambivalent.

For Zukofsky, for example, 'Poetry convinces not by argument but by the form it creates to carry its content.' (Zukofsky: Test 52, from A Test of Poetry, 1948). However, that's because he conceives of poetry as a sort of totalising procedure in which 'content' changes its meaning to become poetry's organising forms just as the 'content' of science is a formalisation of the world with which it engages, which is somehow formless without it:

'[I]t appears that the scientific definition of poetry can be based on nothing less than the world, the entire humanly known world.

'Like the theories of science which are valid because they explain most, this definition will be valid inasmuch as it will be comprehensive.'
(Zukofsky: Poetry / for my son when he can read, 1946)

Which is why, in the spirit of Zukofsky, Ron Silliman can say in a curious formulation, about the work of Alan Davies, that 'the content of form is anger' and of Zukofsky himself that there are two alternative readings: 'Zukofsky as suggestion of possibility' on the one hand and 'Zukofsky as horizon or limit' on the other. Whilst for his own part Silliman himself claims to use form ('The purpose of the poem, like that of any act, is to change the world') as a technique to break down, a sort of exemplary act, his own cognitive limits:

'When I wrote the first volume of Ketjak in 1974, I used a systematic methodology to break down certain habits of mind that prevented me from focusing on the sentence as the point of perception.'(Ron Silliman: Wild Form)

'A book is a machine to think with,' according to I A Richards. (Richards: Principles of Literary Criticism, 1926) Williams too, conceives of poetry in these industrial terms rather than those of Nature:

'To make two bold statements: There's nothing sentimental about a machine, and: A poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words. When I say there's nothing sentimental about a poem, I mean that there can be no part that is redundant.

'Prose may carry a load of ill-defined matter like a ship. But poetry is a machine which drives it, pruned to a perfect economy. As in all machines, its movement is intrinsic, undulant, a physical more than a literary character.'
(William Carlos Williams: Introduction to The Wedge)

But in fact what Zukofsky and Williams both represent is actually quite a 'tame' view of form, in which the world is codified but somehow not engaged with except with rubber gloves. (An earlier post on technology may give a flavour of what I mean.) For Zukofsky 'form' implies a sort of conceptual syntax, permitting no unorganised conception and no excess of the natural over conception. For Williams it's more explicit: nothing is 'sentimental', 'ill defined' or 'redundant'; everything becomes part of an idealised mechanics, just as the ideal of 'science' hovers over Zukofsky.

Of course it's Kerouac (hence the title of Silliman's piece) who represents (quite self consciously) what 'wild' means in this context. But Kerouac's rhetoric is solipsistic, even bombastic. Indeed there's a self contradiction. What ought to come from the future or from outside or from the natural ('discovery') actually comes from the past and from within, from the confected: 'every image and every memory'. So that the encounter isn't, in the end, with the alterity of, say, an undiscovered wilderness but with his own 'exploding' mind. As with a tantrum in a playpen there's a reaching out towards totality, for a freedom of speech that denies others' freedom not to listen, but at the same time an awareness of limitation which functions for Kerouac rather as shame does for Levinas:

'What I'm beginning to discover now is something beyond the novel and beyond the arbitrary confines of the story... into realms of revealed Picture... wild form, man, wild form. Wild form's the only form holds what I have to say - my mind is exploding to say something about every image and every memory.... I have an irrational lust to set down everything I know.'
(Jack Kerouac: letter reproduced in J C Holmes: Nothing More to Declare)


Of course the dilemma I posed at the start (which comes first, form or content?) and its essential absurdity may still seem somewhat abstract. And yet if one thinks about composers things get a good deal clearer. Consider, for example, the apparent opposition between Milton Babbitt's total serialism, theoretically total control, and Cage's indeterminacy. Whereas for Babbitt form arises out of the rigorous construction of content, for Cage the content (which is often something quite unknown) is invited to participate, a revelation of Sound corresponding to Kerouac's Picture, through the rigorous prior construction of 'arbitrary' formal constraints.

And so to Ayckbourn, which might well seem at first a very odd leap to have made.
But Ayckbourn's conceptual approach resembles that of Cage at least in this respect, that he uses form, a priori, rather as Cage does, to compel the arrival of results for which the corresponding causes don't exist and thus to break the discursive, organising syntax of what we think of as reality.

And yet this resemblance masks a sharp distinction.

Augé describes what interests him about the Metro as 'the play between the subway map - which is there, and is imposed on us - and the various ways we find to move through it'. Ayckbourn's characters are likewise at odds with his plots. They live with what Gloria Anzaldúa calls the 'emotional residue' of unnatural boundaries. They struggle to get free of them and, in the end, remain imprisoned together by what is randomly positioned, orthogonal or parallel relative to them but which is emphatically not them at all. When, for example, Tom punches Norman in Table Manners (one of The Norman Conquests) it's by way of protecting Annie; however Tom has misunderstood. When Doug knocks Vic into the swimming pool in Man of the Moment, indirectly causing his death, he ought to be taking revenge. In fact, it's out of a sort of knee-jerk chivalry, like an emotional Groundhog Day. And so on.

Whereas, and this is a major distinction, the thrust of Zukofsky, Williams, Cage et al is to open up new frontiers (progress: the impulse to colonise and coerce, to 'civilise' through the operation of boundaries or of science, to deny the idea of the ruin) Ayckbourn deals with what Benjamin calls the 'refuse of history' and what Freud called the 'refuse of the phenomenological world', that which is left behind by such constructed objects as rugs, board games and swimming pools:

'Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition.'
(Gloria Anzaldúa: Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza)

'... to demonstrate a historical materialism which has annihilated within itself the idea of progress [...] Its founding concept is not progress but actualisation.'
(Walter Benjamin: The Arcades Project, N2,2)

'Where the categorical network is so closely woven that much of that which lies beneath is concealed by conventions of opinion, including scientific opinion, then eccentric phenomena which have not yet been incorporated by this network at times, take on an unexpected gravity.'
(T W Adorno: On the Logic of the Social Sciences)

Whereas Cage's approach is inclusive, bringing into account what the attention would have overlooked simply by widening the scope, even though in practice someone of a later generation like Silliman behaves as a sort of gatekeeper, drawing a Manichean distinction between the ridiculously named 'post avant' and those he dismisses grandly as the 'School of Quietiude', the effect of Ayckbourn's stagecraft is quite otherwise and exclusive: aspects of experience and motivation are cut off arbitrarily rather as Peter Pan's shadow is cut off by the closing window.

Thus Jack's morality in A Small Family Business has a purely denotative quality, it acts as an empty label since he crumbles like the rest. So too the play's attempt to reconcile the Thatcherite principles of individual greed and family solidarity, which excludes Jack's daughter, Samantha. Likewise Vic in Man of the Moment, whose self reinvention has been only of his image in the media. And Nerys, Vic's original victim and now Doug's wife through the exigencies of the plot, who has been excluded from the play altogether.


In bringing exclusion into the mechanics of the plays, in other words, Ayckbourn writes not as the victor or about the loser but rather out of the state of defeat, out of abjection, out of the dream and reality of Oakland, or rather of East Grinstead, less heroic even than Hastings, not as one of the tramplers but out of what has been divided, broken, trampled and left behind as progress goes on progressing.

So maybe what Benjamin said of Baudelaire could find some relevance here:

'That which the allegorical intention has fixed upon is sundered from the customary contexts of life: it is at once shattered and preserved. Allegory holds fast to those ruins...

'Baroque allegory sees the corpse only from the outside; Baudelaire evokes it from within.'
(Benjamin: The Arcades Project, J56,1 and J56,2)

Friday, 17 April 2009

Three Views of Duplicity

Alan Ayckbourn on corruption:

'The human mind, left to its own devices, can usually justify any code of behaviour it chooses to suit circumstances. Beware!'
(Ayckbourn: programme note to A Small Family Business)

Gordon Brown on the behaviour of Damian McBride, a man he personally employed, whilst Chancellor and as Prime Minister, for more than ten years:

'I have said all along that when I saw this first I was very angry indeed. I think the most important thing we do is reassure people everything is being done to clean up politics in our country.'
(Gordon Brown: statement in Glasgow 16 April 2009)

Barack Obama's Nuremberg defence of those who carried out torture in Guantánamo:

'This administration has made it clear from day one that it will not condone torture ... those who carried out their duties ... in good faith ... will not be subject to prosecution.'
(Barack Obama: statement accompanying release of CIA memos 16 April 2009)

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Discrepancy, Surplus and Rhythm

Johnson's rebuttal of Berkley's immaterialism was material enough: he stubbed his toe, a demonstration that reality and what Berkley thought about reality were discrepant.

But what about the hurt that stubbing causes? Why do toddlers complain (about, say, a bump on the knee) when the hurt itself has faded? Perhaps they're inventing memory, developing a sense of time in all its passing and perdurance: the hurt received back then versus the remedy just now delivered; what you thought was there versus what actually is there, and so on.

I quoted this from Scurati once before:

'Here in the zone of contact, the cause does not precede the effect. Here the chronological order doesn't matter. Here the cause of what has been done not only still has to be discovered but actually does not yet exist.'
(Antonio Scurati: Il sopravissuto)

This variant comes from Wu Ming:

'We are on the summit of time, where the answer precedes the question, the effect precedes the cause, death precedes birth.

'You had to climb this hill to understand the journey you had taken.'
(Wu Ming: Manituana)

But time is also rhythm.

Lazzarato describes (in Videofilosofia) how Bergson distinguishes between, on the one hand, time as perceived by the senses and, on the other, time as conceived by the intellect. There is more 'reality' in sensation, according to Bergson, and that 'surplus' of reality in perception is to be sought, according to Nietzsche, within the body. He then traces the whole thing back to an Aristotelian sense of time extensively measuring the movement that is in Nature (in other words a cosmology) versus a neo-Platonic view of time as intension, as measuring out the movement of the soul.

In Svevo's La coscienza di Zeno the breathing of Zeno's dying father has a fretful quality which Zeno imitates 'almost unconsciously', before affording himself pauses which he hopes to pass on to his patient. The rhythm of the father's dying breaths seems to become part of the room 'from that point and for a long, long time after that.' In fact what Svevo seems to be describing here is the sort of entrainment whereby memory develops as a sort of felt persistence.

In a related passage Zeno plays the violin:

'Even the lowest sort of being, once he knows what three, four and six note figures are, knows how to pass between them with the same rhythmical exactness as his eye knows how to pass from one set of notes to the next. With me, though, once I've played one of these figures, it sticks to me and will not let me go again, so that it gets mixed up with the figure following and deforms it. In order to put the notes in the right place I have to mark time both with my feet and with my head, and so much for nonchalance, for serenity, so much for music. Music that comes from an organism that's in balance both is itself the time that it both creates and exhausts.'
(Svevo: La coscienza di Zeno)

And here, finally, for good measure, are some quotations from Sapienza in Onda, the Rome section of the Anomalous Wave, 18 March 2009:

'We have entered a new era. Today we can say this unambiguously, without prevarication. The recession is concrete reality: the government doesn't doubt it: police against the students, police against dissenters, police and baton charges against those who won't pay for this crisis!

'The Wave isn't dead. The Wave isn't some memory of youth. The Wave is alive and it doesn't intend to stop. The Wave causes fear.'

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Christianity as a Narrative of Progress

'... in the Christian religious tradition there are two grand narratives: the story of Salvation, which tells of the shining path taken by man returning to God, and the story of the Fall, which instead narrates the dark business of the estrangement between creature and creator which followed Original Sin. Christianity in its pre-modern form developed the latter almost obsessively ... the modern version, by contrast, has insisted mainly upon the former, associating it with the layman's idea of progress: thus all would turn out for the best thanks to Science and Technology, which would resolve the problems of humanity, eliminating suffering and injustice from the face of the earth.

'Well I believe that now might be the time to go back and place more weight upon the story of the Fall.'
(Antonio Scurati: Il sopravissuto)

A Third View of Obfuscation

'I may not be able to love but I force myself to pretend to believe in it ... For the future I don't have the slightest hope but I constrain myself to disseminate faith in that future, projecting it like a trompe l'oeil onto the pealing plaster of the school hall. I don't have dreams, those I had have fallen from me ... and yet I feel I have a duty to nourish those of young people [...] I am hard with myself and soft with them. From them I expect everything, and for them everything good; of myself I don't expect anything any more. I feel pity for everyone except for my own person. For myself I reserve a more perverse sentiment and a punishment that's more subtle: I know that I am not happy, and I blame myself for that, and I condemn myself, by way of retaliation, to pretend that I am.'
(Antonio Scurati: Il sopravissuto)

Two Views of Obfuscation

‘One must always explain the matter clearly to an adversary. Only then can you be sure that you understand it better than he does.’
(Svevo: La coscienza di Zeno)

‘They never tell you why they are doing anything. That way they don’t find out that they don’t know themselves.’
(Chandler: The Long Goodbye)

The Artist as Serial Killer

The story of Pygmalion is a gloss by an optimist upon what gets done by artists. So in this story there's no murder. Having created her out of ivory, the artist falls in love with Galatea. After she is brought to life by Aphrodite she goes on to bear him a son.

Or perhaps you should 'murder your darlings'. This was Q's advice (Arthur Quiller Couch: On the Art of Writing, 1914) though it's been claimed on behalf of others. The context is what Q calls 'purchased ornamentation'. The ones you fall in love with are the worst. The artist must be rigorously unsentimental about such things and always chuck out what is dross.

Then there's Beckett's onwards and upwards version, likewise fairly terse: 'Try again. Fail again. Fail better,' which comes from Worstward Ho. Do it better next time, if you can: a story of making progress.

So 'fail better' towards some end? Which is where progress always leads us. Not necessarily. The same phrase was recently used, unacknowledged, as the title for a piece by Zadie Smith on writers and readers in The Guardian. Though she does quote Adam Zagajewski: a story of Hunt the self. But what exactly is the self? 'It likes to dress up, to masquerade':

'Neither custom officers
nor their beautiful dogs will find it. Between
hymns, between alliances, it hides itself.'
(Adam Zagajewski, from The Self)

'To me,' Smith comments:

'writing is always the attempted revelation of this elusive, multifaceted self, and yet its total revelation - as Zagajewski suggests - is a chimerical impossibility. It is impossible to convey all of the truth of all our experience.'
(Writing as Self Betrayal, from Fail Better)

But unfortunately there's a kind of prurient chastity about this sort of thing. The self plays Peekaboo. At the point of total disclosure time would stop. Whereupon the self would presumably stand there motionless and naked like the girls at the Windmill Theatre. Yet time doesn't stop like that. Rather it avoids such indecent truth because if time really were to seize up there would be no more artistic production, no more 'analysis' in Lacan's terms. Instead time just carries on regardless like the Ford or Fiat production lines in 60s capitalism. And in that case doesn't writing (don't all the arts indeed) become a sort of all encompassing narcissism (a kind of personal subsumption by each artist) for ever holding the floor and yet never quite reaching the end? I'd tell you everything about myself, is what's implied by this conception, except that isn't possible. Which also leaves the arts without any social dimensions. Or, like Mobius the Stripper in Josipovici's titular apothegm, a surface with only one side. (In Josipovici's split screen story Mobius reveals himself psychologically across the top half of each page. Eventually he kills himself, leaving the final top half blank. Conversely it is only during the remainder of that page that a writer who has been struggling to engage with what he's doing across each lower half can now begin writing fluently.)

Obviously there's a connection here with Ovid. Like Zagajewski's quoted poem, Ovid's telling of the Narcissus myth is a sort of parable of nominalism (how the word for the thing and the thing itself become detached from one another) and maybe too of phenomenalism: how the things of the world become bundles of sensory inputs. Echo loves Narcissus but she can only echo him, and so she pines away; she leaves behind only her voice. Narcissus loves the image of himself, and ends up suicidal.

But with this difference, that implicate in this version is the social dimension. Without a sense of herself, in other words, Echo is nothing; but without a sense of other people, Narcissus is also doomed.


And yet 'each man kills the thing he loves,' according to Oscar Wilde. So the impulse towards murder isn't just about moving on or about failing better despite what's been said above. Nor yet is it about something that's postponed through endless self revelation or about bringing all that to an end.

It's implicit in Catullus, for example:

Odi et amo, quare id faciam fortasse requiris.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

I hate and love. Perhaps you ask how I can do this.
I don't know, but I feel it happen and I'm crucified.
(Carmen 85)

Here a chiasmus structure binds together exteriority and interiority, positive and negative, empathy and exclusion ('hate and love' versus 'feel it [...] and am crucified') into a single unit, a completed conceptual object full of potential for action but without the action itself.

But whereas Catullus creates an object kept suspended in the present, Rodchenko describes an inflection of this, an object which is receding into the past or from which he himself is moving forward into the future: The lingering last hopes of love are destroyed, and I leave the house of dead truth'. This is history conceived of as a sort of numinous object: 'The crushing of all -isms in painting was for me the beginning of my resurrection,' was how he had also put it. It's something that results from some sort of course of action, that's equipped with both an outside and an inside (like the inclusion and exclusion in Catullus) even though it's since been emptied of its potential and is thus described as 'useless', and with a structure that had been sketched out through time rather as a building is stretched out in space but which now obtrudes, albeit briefly, into the present:

'When I look at the number of paintings I have painted I sometimes wonder what I shall do with them. It would be a shame to burn them. There are over 10 years of work in them. But they are as useless as a church. They serve no purpose.'
(Alexandr Rodchenko, in Novyi Lef, no 6, 1927)

The filaments of Kafka's Odradek, another inflection, in Die Sorge des Hausvaters, The Cares of a Family Man, stretch out not only through time but also in space. For Kafka, though, it's the narrator who is history, exceeded by his conception, some 'useless' thing or creature, some 'strange bobbin whose true form we will never know, still less the purpose of its existence' but which moves nonetheless in a contrary direction to that of Rodchenko's church, out of the past, through the present and so on into the future, like the progress of DNA, as Kafka contemplates his own extinction with disquiet.

Girolamo De Michele writes of it thus:

'It exists but it doesn't have any function; it has a form, and yet it is formless. It is suspended in an intermediate dimension, as though halfway between some useless object that has lost all function and an object that's going to be reused for purposes that are both new and unexpected.'
(Girolamo De Michele: New Italian Epic e allegoria, in Carmilla)

And Kafka himself writes as follows:

'I ask myself, to no purpose, what is likely to happen to him? Can he possibly die? Anything that dies has had some kind of aim in life, some kind of activity, which has worn out; but that does not apply to Odradek. Am I to suppose, then, that he will always be rolling down the stairs, with ends of thread trailing after him, right before the feet of my children, and my children's children? He does no harm to anyone that I can see; but the idea that he is likely to survive me I do find almost painful.'
(Kafka: Die Sorge des Hausvaters, The Cares of a Family Man)

Of course, an object that's 'lost all function' has become entirely external in how it is perceived. Its pointlessness excludes us or we have turned away from what's within. However, it is still an object, something that's been created, retaining full interiority nonetheless. Conversely the object 'that's going to be used for purposes that are both new and unexpected' (the example De Michele himself comes up with is the McGuffin, the television protagonist of Wu Ming's 54) may have no content as such (the McGuffin lost its innards). However, it can still offer possibility, the possibility of approach and entering into, of filling with new content, thereby remaining an object. Even the surprise of disappointment is on offer:

'When I came home I expected a surprise and there was no surprise for me, so of course I was surprised.'
(Wittgenstein: Culture and Value)

Or that which Duchamp offers in what Lazzarato calls the 'null set' of the readymade, which also remains an object, to which there's nothing added except the artist's choice.


In Hi/story, I wrote of time as extension (the winding road, the hands of the clock, how many hours have gone by) against time as intension: of how it feels to be here now, to be doing these things and to have these affiliations. The mechanisation of time is, in many ways, the beginning of its failure as a whole. Indeed the Taylorised factory may have begun along with the clock, whose hands complete and re-complete their frictionless journeys endlessly, over and over, without accumulation or result.

When Q advises murder it's in the service of one's craft, in the pursuit of some single and excellent object: excellence as a remainder. For Beckett that pursuit is in the plural, of better and better objects: steady progress up a hill. But for Zadie Smith it's the production line itself that really counts: an endless succession of essentially fungible manufactures, where time is never switched off.

In Carmen 85 the 'object' Catullus creates is fully formed, but all movement is in potential. That is, it has no extension, being virtually pure intension, pure affiliation. Rodchenko's 10 years' production, on the other hand, is his own artistic practice perceived as a sort of perdurance: thingness dividing itself into its various temporal parts as the world gets divided even as we travel along the road, through different towns and villages, watchful of the scenery. Whilst his 'useless ... church' is a sort of endurance: a sense of the temporal wholeness of the world as it continues, along with us. So that any decisive movement there is, whatever distance he sets, is not of time but of the attention and of purpose: he moves forwards, leaving his 'church' behind as a sort of detritus. Whereas Kafka privileges the object over the human, endurance over perdurance. So that whilst Humanity is maintained through successive generations the continuance of Odradek, by contrast, is as an entity that is permanently single, undivided.

In other words time, as a concept at least, persists.


And yet sometimes something happens that's quite different, that finally cuts through time. In Antonio Scurati's Il sopravissuto, a boy walks into the gymnasium of his school. He's meant to be taking his viva. Instead, in a destructively creative act (Scurati is explicit about 'the basis of its analogy with the work of art') he shoots dead seven teachers. Only one is left behind: the 'survivor' of the title.

So why exactly does he do it?

One theory (that of the criminologist, Dr Salini) is that the 'serial killer' works in a circle, that he selects 'trophies' (aspects of the loved one reflected in the victim), constantly narrowing in a deferred or indirect way the gap between 'the original' (the one that's loved and hated) and 'its similar', who's the victim, until Browne's 'mortal right lined circle must conclude and shut up all.' Until, that is, the circle reaches its end (or its beginning) 'either with the capture of the murderer or with the death of the loved one'.

Significantly, Salini delivers this explanation within the gym itself, where it's framed by an obscurity, by a lack of differentiation that's on the one hand both external and geographical ('[O]utside the gym ... in whatever direction one turned, North, South, East or West, one saw only accumulations of water vapour in suspension') and on the other both internal and temporal: 'Everything in the gym, the walls, the furnishings, the men, was pasted together out of blind materiality. One was in the instant prior to the creation of a universe that was endlessly deferred.'

So time has stopped. At least for now.

'We are living,' as the text announces later, 'through a back-to-front creation.' A more social situation than had been described within the gym, and one in which, as the survivor puts it, the killer (or the artist):

'wants it to be us that finds the reason for what he did, the reason not even he can understand. We and he are complementary moves within the same debate. In killing he has put the question. In living we have been asked to come up with the response. We have been called upon to complete that which he has begun [...] This is what he wants from you: he wants you to be the one that closes up the circle [...]

'Don't pay any attention to common sense. Here in the zone of contact, the cause does not precede the effect. Here the chronological order doesn't matter. Here the cause of what has been done not only still has to be discovered but actually does not yet exist.'
(Antonio Scurati: Il sopravissuto)

Almost as though reprising Michaelangelo's painting of the Creation of Adam from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the killer had even pointed his finger out towards the survivor ('It wasn't an act of aggression, rather it was an election') during the very moment of the killings. But with this difference, that in Scurati's version of what happens Andrea Marescalchi has to step forward from the crowd through the fact of his survival, through his (negative) selection by the killer, whereas the killer himself, Vitaliano Caccia, seems to recede from view altogether, just one amongst a crowd of disaffected youths, 'the pointed end of the arrow'. Indeed he has acted, according to the Public Prosecutor, having been 'chosen from within by a group of his own age to complete a death mission', 'a kind of collective mandate set by a group of his peers.'