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September 08, 2005


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“Our very self image requires alienation from our bodies, sensations, perceptions. Does intensity overcome, perhaps momentarily, this alienation, making us forget it?”

I think you have hit upon it, at least for me.

I know I am who I think I ain’t most of the time, yet I am always surprised when forced to face it. I’ve mostly accepted it as a brute fact, and never seriously explored it in terms of something such as alienation.

The aftermath of the storm cracked the façade. Will I patch it with more alienation?


"Does intensity overcome, perhaps momentarily, this alienation, making us forget it? This, I think, was the old idea of shock in aesthetics."

I'd say that doesn't "overcome" alienation, but rather that it wipes out (momentarily) the possibility of either being alienated or not alienated, since it wipes out the stability of my self together with that in relation to which I might either be, or not be, alienated. (I think this stated in Lacanian terms as the trauma of the Real, though that is not the theoretical framework I prefer).


Lynn: I think we can only be alienated and the question then is what kind of alienated we are; as you say, much of this is beyond our control, outside the us that is produced; yet, I would say we remain nonetheless accountable.

Steven, I might say it as trauma as the Real but I wasn't sure whether shock aesthetics provides that sort of trauma; so, I wasn't sure if it provided a wiping out or rather some sort of momentary jump/lapse/forgetting. Maybe for now I'll go with the non-traumatic view of shock art, but I can be convinced.

Another way: can media be traumatic? I'm not sure. I saw a film made by a variety of directors about 9/11. The most disturbing was of the folks jumping from the World Trade Center. The sound was a kind of chant or wail. I couldn't bear it. But I wouldn't say it was traumatic.


Yes, accountable too.


Probably a "momentary jump/lapse/forgetting." But how this works is a difficult question. Recent (i.e. postmodern) re-readers of Kant's aesthetics of the sublime (e.g. Lyotard) have wanted to retain the moment of rupture, but not the subsequent movement when, according to Kant, "the mind" recovers its sovereignty.


I think a critical point occurs when we are aware of our alienation and what choices we make.

I would argue that the *typical* Katrina refugee is aware of material alienation, but not mediated alienation.

In this situation, the media is an imperfect lens of an objective situation, not a story-teller with their own agenda.

Once you are aware of your alienated situation, you can choose to 1) simply accept it and try to cope, 2) "jump the gap" and take a revolutionary stance.

Most of late-capital left thinking has wrestled with the problem of why people choose 1) over 2). The issue being in the power of media over material.

"Does intensity overcome, perhaps momentarily, this alienation, making us forget it?"

I am reading this by asking- does the interjection of the Real force us to reevaluate our chosen position with regard to our own alienation?


Does the Real force us to confront our 'chosen' position?

I think this is a better question than does a work of art or some kind of mediated production force a confrontation. And, I think that chosen here is chosen in a sense other than that of a liberal free choice, a choice that we have always already made in being the self that we are, but that we are accountable for nonetheless.

So, if we put this collectively: Katrina was/is Real. It is forcing a confrontation/evaluation. The situation is still open and fluid; it is political in that sense. There was a brief period after 9/11 when things could have been otherwise--an awareness of the class differences of those who were sacrificing their lives v. many of those who died, for example. The political moment ended as the Right won. We will see what will happen with Katrina.

I don't think the end result is sovereignty, though, but perhaps a fantasy of sovereignty.

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