Finished my first zine a few weeks ago: All images - no text, other than found signage, and one or two letter fragments in some of the patterns I included. Lots of gestures, but none of them mine. Found on a Saturday morning walk down Clark Street between Rogers Park and Andersonville on my way to meet a friend. My last six posts have all been images too. If I don’t say something soon it’s going to look like I don’t care. An artist or an artwork not supplemented by text is like a dream forgotten upon waking. A life without speech, and speech without a searchable trace is practically nothing at all. But I just haven’t been getting in as many arguments lately. I’ve been teaching a grad seminar. Maybe taking on a leadership role makes me feel a little less desperate…even more willing to abide implicit contradictions without meddling. Not that I don’t speak. Just not quite as willfully. I gather. I collect. I’ve been busy. Not allowing other people’s confusion to confuse me, even though those conflicts are productive in a sense - they produce evidence, which is valuable proof of concept for those with little or no faith, including myself when I need reassurance. Passivity is frighteningly unaccountable to discourse, and practically invisible or at best insulting from the point of view of the ego. Good. My work is becoming like a conversation without conflict or competition. Almost without words. How very midwestern. I’ve become one of those people who’s always working on their thesis. Always working. But I always was, and I always will be. Just a little less secretively now.
46 - Forty-Six
Shêng / Upward Mobility
Beneath the Soil, the Seedling pushes upward toward the light:
To preserve his integrity, the Superior Person contents himself with small gains that eventually lead to great accomplishment.
Have no doubts.
Seek guidance from someone you respect.
A constant move toward greater clarity will bring reward.
You are progressing, rising inch-by-inch toward certain success.
What makes this assured is your refusal to tilt headlong toward your goal, slamming into obstacles and going mad with frustration.
You have a clear map before you of the steps necessary to reach your objective.
With faithful patience and a careful conservation of personal energy and resources, you will run this long, slow distance.
"Modernism is paradox. It is dialectics. It is an art that continually, relentlessly proposes that human qualities, which once were implicit and embedded in the texture of experience – qualities of intensity, depth, directness, vividness – are on the verge of extinction. They have been outlawed, or, worse still, vulgarised and commodified, so that everywhere miniaturised and compressed kitsch images of them whirl by in the ether of information, as background to buying and selling. Modern art is an act of dialectical retrieval, in what it sees as desperate circumstances. The human will only be found again, it says, by pressing on towards the human’s opposite. Depth will be found in flatness, and spontaneity conjured out of cold technique. Absolute openness and vulnerability can only be discovered through a process of rigorous masking and formality."
T J Clark
You can critique, or you can resist, but you can’t do both. Critique isn’t resistance, because it depends on the other’s acknowledgement. Resistance isn’t critique because it doesn’t, and is most effective when it’s non-discursive. The critic is always already possessed by that or those that they critique. Criticality is communal, though to say this gives it a false air of impersonality. Critique is always personal. It’s about calibration and synchronization to others. It’s conversational. It seeks converts. It’s tyrannical and democratic. Resistance, on the other hand, though it may be practiced by one community in response to an other, assumes an inassimilable towards or away from which it’s force is directed. Resistance is what you do when you and your community is under threat of invasion or absorption by the force of an other. It accepts the existence of unbridgeable gaps between communities and persons. Both critique and resistance entail their own kind of respect, and their own kind of disrespect. Colonists are always critical. Insofar as the candidates for colonization refuse to be converted, they are resistant, and beyond criticism or critique. Criticism directed towards others who do not see themselves as part of the conversation is always condescending. Resistance in such cases is an understandable, though most often resented response. Criticality towards others who are not one’s peers is perhaps an example of preemptive resistance – and insofar as it is a form of resistance, it is not critical. Criticality is proactive, productive, hygienic and necessary…responsible and accountable. Resistance is always a choice. It is superfluous. It means war. We critique what we cannot resist. We resist what we cannot critique. Critique must be legible. For resistance, legibility is beside the point. Resistance begins with acceptance. Criticality by definition does not.
All of these entries are critical, insofar as nearly all of them spring from arguments and conversations which I cannot will myself free of. They are attempts to calibrate myself to others who possess me.
Adolescents are critical because they see where they belong, and who and what possesses them. They would like to resist, but they are not independent enough to do so. Maoist self criticism is usually construed as an Orwellian kind of perversion, whereas in fact we can learn more about the logic of criticality from it than we can from many other examples. The Christian and later socialist idea would be that we are all family. Smothering accusations of False Consciousness are equivalent to ‘forgive them father for they know not what they do.’
Lucifer is critical because he is possessed by god. Critical parents are objects of mockery because they are possessed by their offspring. Resistant children are equally comical because of their obvious dependence.
One does not genuinely critique capitalism anymore than one critiques nature. One may resist capitalism by critiquing ones own participation in it. We are always critical of our families and our tribe, but never of our enemies, who are beyond critique, as are our friends. Both relations in their purest forms are de facto, and need not be articulated discursively. Insofar as they are, they are as family. All critique is intimately interfamilial. We never really critique ideas - we only appear to. We analyze ideas in order to critique persons - specifically family, who in turn are paradoxically not individuated, but nebulous apparitions we reason with. We only ever critique ourselves, and that which possesses us.
Though the best work may come from persons who are highly critical of their community, the work itself rarely is. The best work is almost always resistant, first and foremost of critique itself, and by extension of community as such. The least interesting work is that which is easiest to critique. It is almost entirely staged for discourse. This is why so much work now is so terrible, and why quality is so beside the point for it and its audience. The best work is not staged for discourse, but against it. Paradoxically, this work is the most interesting to think about, though mostly it goes without comment - either because it goes unnoticed because no one’s looking for it, or because talking about it effectively undermines the community it’s aimed at.
Resistance gets to have it both ways. Critique does not. Our confusion comes from the conflation of these very different things.