In an earlier post I write that I admire:
Those that refuse to be victims or to fall prey to the narcissism of victimhood and the creation of guilt in others, but who rather strive to transform their wounds into something universally emancipatory, the world and who affirm their own value despite being wounded.
I go on to remark that I admire:
Those that do not allow their wounds to develop into festering resentment towards themselves, life, and others, but who transfigure their wounds into something beautiful and just in the form of great art and egalitarian politics.
There’s already too many I’s here, but nonetheless these remarks touch on what I believe to be one of the fundamental vocations and tasks of philosophy, art, science, politics, and life: the erasure of self and particularity. Of course, it is true that all good science, art, and philosophy will preserve particularity, the singular, the inexchangable, and so on. The point is that those modes of engagement and thought that try to work at this level betray the singular and particular and erase it. The paradox here is that in trying to articulate the particular, singular, and individual, they become fixated on identity, self-sameness, their circumstances, thereby betraying the singular.
Everyone hates the mime, yet nonetheless, the mime is, perhaps, the highest vocation of philosophy and theory. Many of us have the mistaken impression that the mime imitates. We believe that the art of the mime is premised on a resemblance to the action-schema he or she depicts. Yet this is not at all what the mime does. The mime does not imitate, rather the mime deterritorializes. The mime detaches events from specific circumstances, the configuration of bodies that led to such and such an action, thereby liberating a sort of pure, singular essence from within these circumstances. The mime, as Deleuze argues in the Logic of Sense (and he repeatedly uses this specific example for counter-actualization and the ethics of the event), captures the event that is expressed in the happening, capturing the sense of what transpired in the happening (never to be confused with the “event”), capturing a bit of universality and eternity (and here we should recall Deleuze and Guattari’s emphasis on the materiality of art in What is Philosophy?, and how art requires a material medium to capture a bit of eternity that can then become available for the future). The circumstances under which the mime was captured in an enclosure matter little (was she imprisoned, “in the closet”, tied up, locked in a room, etc.?). What matters is the manner in which the mime is able to capture the sense of capture, deterritorializing it from those circumstances, opening it to a singularly universal scope, that strives to speak to all capture.
In this regard, we can understand the difference between the art of the mime and the art of the imitator as the difference between universalist, materialist egalitarian politics and ethics and identity politics. The latter wishes to remain tied to circumstances, to the specificities of a wound, to the narcissistic gratification that specificity confers, while the latter wishes to transfigure the wound into a universal wound that can address all captures and that can provide a call for emancipation from all enclosures. To write well about depression, for example, is not to write about your depression, but to deterritorialize yourself, to negate yourself, such that depression as such becomes theorized, such that it speaks to all depressions, such that circumstance and particularity is erased. My depression, my struggles, my family dramas and pains are boring. To speak of them is the narcissistic essence of depression itself, the very essence of depression as a “disorder” of the “imaginary” (in Lacanian terms). But what is perhaps interesting is depression mimed, depression expressed, the sense of depression, detached from circumstance, speaking to infrastructural conditions under which we all live under (K-Punk’s Capitalist Realism) and, most importantly, depression that is no longer lived as a debilitating wound but rather as a transfiguring call to action and compassion.
To turn your wounds into calls to action, something beautiful, collective symptoms, and so on is beautiful. Here our wounds become not marks of our passivity and servitude to our bodies, neurology, and society, but rather marks of the active. We take them beyond ourselves, thereby undoing the dimension of the imaginary that operates within us, turning them instead into sites of collective engagement. We grasp a little bit of the eternal and universal or that which persists by virtue of the ability of “information” and text (in all its media) to circulate throughout the world. All great art is deterritorializing, de-subjectifying, dis-identifying, and de-narcissus-ifying. Even when Proust writes about the most intimate and humiliating of his desires, even when he depicts the most singular of circumstances, he is already deterritorializing these things and transfiguring them into a particularity that reflects the universal rather than a particularity that strives to only reflect particularity. Even when Rousseau presents himself in the most crass of lights with his discussions of masturbation in the Confessions, he transfigures this particularity.
Kant famously said that all knowledge begins with experience but it doesn’t follow that all knowledge is derived from experience. This is how it is with the mime. All universality and eternity begins with the particular and circumstantial because naturalism is true and God is dead, but it doesn’t follow from this that the work of the mime is reducible to the particular and the circumstantial. It is here that the new historicists miss the point in their mania to uncover the dirty secret of the conditions under which the mime does her work. The mime has already produced an object that circulates throughout equal-being, that escapes relation to all of its circumstances and conditions, and that presents an infinite address that perhaps knows no limits. This is what it means to say that the substantiality of substances is defined not by their local manifestations produced as a result of exo-relations, but rather of their virtual proper being. There is an inexhaustibility proper to object that both exceeds the exo-relations that originate it and any exo-relations that it happens to fall into. The Epic of Gilgamesh is universal and eternal because it still manages to speak today. Likewise with Homer, the Bible, Sappho of Lesbo, and many more besides. That eternity and universality might be exhausted and die, becoming a particularity. Yet for the moment these texts and many others continue their polemical wager for universality and eternity.