Sunday, November 25, 2012

Traumatic Realism and the Tactic of Affectless Affect (November 6th Post)

(November 6 Post Make-up)

In Turbulent Passions, Thrift describes our general condition as ‘half-awake’ to the motivations and causal relations between ourselves and larger social forces, in a state of “waiting to be turned on” (240) What I was grappling with throughout the readings and the film, and what seemed apparent in V and Evey’s relationship as well as in Thrift’s argument,  was how there can be forms of agency without autonomy. There can be action rooted in  a certain passivity, a rejection of autonomous agency in favor of being one who acts for another.

 Reading Thrift I was reminded of Art History theorist Hal Foster’s notion of traumatic realism, in which the shocked subjectivity and compulsive repetition that he identified in Andy Warhol’s public persona and work were in fact strategic ways of surviving in the present. Warhol’s “I want to be a Machine” was a way of mimicking the subjecthood of the shocked or trauma victim, in that by mirroring the nature of what shocks you, you create a form of mimetic defense against that shock.

   Warhol’s affect of affectless existed as a surface effect that functioned as  a defensive prosthesis, a type of mask.   But this preemptive playing dead is not necessarily a “reluctance to take up things” in response to a corporeal vulnerability (242) as Thrift might explain it. Our impetus to act, as Victor articulated in his post, is based on our inherent inclination for mimicry. If we are caught in the grip of mimicry, in which to repeat or mirror is the basic condition of the body, I was curious to see how operating on this quazi auto-pilot was actually a form of individual or group agency. While Anonymous’s mask of anonymity allows for easy mimicry as well as the individual’s absorpotion  into the role of the Anonymous participant, I wonder whether this anonymity is a form of traumatic realism. What shocks us (politically? Socially?) and is our common passivity or apathy (as Victor seemed to suggest was Thrift’s underlying characterization of our condition) actually a shared affectless affect that is meant to mimic certain forces around us as a way to protect ourselves from those forces? 

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