Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Politics as Bullfight

Politicians are like bogus toreadors, with all their banderillas and their lances, and the public in its entirety yelling and egging them on. But there isn't any bull any more. The bull is in the biotech labs, in the garages where they write software, in the production houses of imaginary futures, in Hollywood, in the MIT Media Lab in Boston.

(Franco Berardi, aka Bifo, in Settantasette, la rivoluzione che viene, eds Sergio Bianchi & Lanfranco Caminiti)

Politicians as Porn Stars

Agamben argues (Cf Il volto, in Mezzi senza fine) that politics is a process first of being put on public display and then, unlike animals, of taking control of that display: of separating the image from its object, of giving objects names. A process of (en)closure in which the Open is transformed 'into a world, which is to say into the battleground for a struggle which is political, which gives no quarter. And this struggle, whose objective is the Truth, is what we call History.'

But is this accurate? Aside from whether we differ from animals in this way, one must (of course) distinguish between two different sorts of situation.

On the one hand there are those in which apprehension itself is suspect, insufficient, in which there is a surplus which vests beyond either capture or control: a possessed without a possessor, neither something which is open nor yet some sort of Commons. In this sense History is just a frosting over of what was warm and freshly baked. The point about History being its potential for the future: ice can melt.

And on the other there is the missing surplus of advertising: the Exchange & Mart of the damned in which all one's yearnings for what might be or might have been in some longed for bulky package achieve a passing, spurious satisfaction through receipt of the package alone, of its contentless appearance, of its bits of cardboard, paper, sellotape and string. And this is deficit, the emptying out of History in the furtherance of a numb and endless present: bogus product, successive bogus rewards, the prancing ninnies of New Labour; politicians not as the citizenry acting as sovereign participants in some polity nor yet (in the representative model) both inspiring and being inspired by the citizenry but as narcissistic menials in some 'customer facing department' (offstage but grandly self important, as though speaking for grand ideals); the politician as porn star, writhing for the camera in the name of missing Love.

Just as advertising and pornography 'escort the commodity to the grave like hired mourners' (from La comunità che viene) so the modern professional politician empties political institutions of their life force and makes of them hollow tombs.

Or to put that more concretely:

'To whom is [the porn star] indifferent? To her partner, certainly. But also to the spectators, who become aware (to their surprise) that the porn star, whilst knowing perfectly well that she is exposed to their gaze, is not complicit with them in the slightest. Her impassive features thus shatter any relationship between what is seen and what is expressed. She doesn't express a single thing any more but makes herself available to be viewed as a locus chaste of any expression, and purely as a means.' (from Profanazioni)