2014-11-17

The Capital Riding the Law under the Gaze of the Terror

Legend has it that the sage Aristotle fell in love with an Athenian prostitute to the point of losing his reason. The anecdote was later taken up by many writers and artists throughout History in different versions. One of them is the poem Lai d'Aristote by Henry d'Andeli (or Henri de Valenciennes), in which the character of Alexander the Great appears as the third party. Alexander, while conquering India, falls in love with a local young court lady, who distracts him from his war duties. Aristotle, who is responsible for the warrior's education, suggests him to abandon the beautiful woman, in order to accomplish his military labor in a proper and virtuous way. After that, the courtesan decides to take revenge on the philosopher, by seducing him while he is engaged in his studies. Aristotle cannot resist the temptation, and she agrees to grant him her favors, provided that he accepts to be ridden as a horse. The fable seems to prevent the Knowledge, face to its jealousy against the Power, from the risk of falling victim to the Lust, and distancing itself in this way from Virtue.

But today we can interpret this allegory in a different sense. Thus, even though the West was able to conjure for quite some time, thanks to the Christian Virgin, the ancient pagan Sacred Prostitute, she seems to revive today
in global capitalism under new forms. Now it is the Law who becomes openly seduced by the Capital, jealous of the pleasures the Terror enjoys in its intimacy. And, even though the Law presents itself as an example of virtue, the fact is that it doesn't hesitate to be humiliated, by obeying the dictates of the Capital. All that happens while the proud Terror, regarding from afar, enjoys the moral weakness of the Law, its lack of will.

Image after Johannes Sadeler I's Phyllis and Aristotle (16th cent.) [pd] and others.

2014-11-11

Immortalize the Moment

If the sacrificial phenomenon can be basically described as the dissociation of body and spirit, then it could be argued that many seemingly profane and banal contemporary practices would be imbued, even if only in a vague manner, by a sacrificial character. Something of this sort must have been thought by Roland Barthes when he said that photography "emits" a "eidolon", a "Spectrum", which is in fact nothing less than "the return of the dead" (Camera Lucida. Reflections on Photography, 1980). Later on, he explicitly states: "Photography has something to do with resurrection". It would be, therefore, in photography, something which derives from the universal mythic theme of the death and the resurrection. Thus, today everybody can immortalize his most significant moments.

In this sense, modernity should be understood as a fragmentation, a relaxation, a détente of the mythical -- we would go as far as to say the sacrificial -- rather than its overcoming. 

Image after Andrea Mantegna's The Crucifixion (1457-59) [pd] and Benvenuto Tisi's (Il Garofalo) The Ascension (c. 1510-20) [pd].

2014-11-10

The Metamorphosis of the Leader

Considering the purest sense of the terms, democracy and capitalism are antagonistic notions. While in democracy the power resides in the people, in capitalism it is held by the capitalists (or by the capitalist mechanisms themselves). Thus, true democracy implies the control of capitalism, while a more pure capitalism means a deficiency in democracy. It is therefore not surprising that the neoliberal capitalist regime that rules throughout the West today is necessarily accompanied by imperfect, empty, fake democracies, if not something prone to totalitarianism.

In addition, capitalism involves a powerful propaganda apparatus, one of their objectives being precisely to build the myth of democracy and bestow
their representatives with an almost sacred character. Thus, neoliberal "democratic" leaders must be sufficiently charismatic and pregnant to appear to be more politicians than actors. For the policy is in reality practiced in the realm of the capital, and the fundamental role of these representatives is to play a theatrical plot. The paradox is that they must look like the old great statesmen, while their attributes must be those of an actor or a public relations professional.

It could be even argued that the best leaders of our time would suffer from a certain schizophrenia
-- at least in practice: they must pretend to have conviction, determination, security, courage, political will; but must be unambitious, obedient, submissive, fearful of the true power. The spectra of many statesmen assassinated in the last century precisely by practicing politics, surely must be present in their worst nightmares [aw].

2014-11-03

The Eternal Return of the Capital

One of the main illusions of capitalism is to believe that money has a value in itself. Especially in the past few decades in which the dominant currency in the world -- the dollar -- is no longer backed by any real wealth -- as was the case of gold -- and economies go more and more into debt. The monetary authorities would have us believe that a crisis can be solved by creating money. But this fictitious money not only does not contribute to the creation of wealth, but in fact reproduces and exacerbates the social inequalities and the mechanisms of capital extraction from the productive towards the financial sectors. By contrast, following the well-known law of conservation of energy, we could say that "wealth can be neither created nor destroyed, but can change form".

On the other hand, it is necessary to debunk the myth according to which quantity and quality can be independent notions. This is particularly relevant in the case of money. Thus, we could say, using a spatial metaphor, that the quantity bends as it increases, involving in this way the quality. Or in other words, wealth does not grow unidirectionally, but rather bends, twists, in some sort of cyclical manner, to end up reproducing itself.

Based on this logic, we propose to give visibility to this essential contradiction between the notions of money and wealth. To do that we create a helicoid consisting of a sort of materialization of money, that is to say, a representation of wealth. Or to be more accurate, a helical torus or spring, closing on itself, consisting of 13 turns, as the annual, but also eternal return of the lunar cycles, referring to the uninterrupted -- and unconscious -- flow of wealth reproduction [aw].