16 May 2012

Somewhere Between the Empirical and the Essential

I guess at this point it's a given that the whole hauntology matter has run its course, becoming a rapidly shrinking speck in the rearview mirror. In a piece over at 3AM, Liam Sprod offers a backward glance, and it's a fairly strong overview of the matter.

As to the point of whether the esthetes misconstrued or misappropriated the gist of Derrida's original argument, it all makes for a moot point, since Derrida offered it in his unpacking of Fuliyama's "The End of History?", which in itself may or may not matter since (as I understand it) Fukiyama later claimed that everyone -- Derrida and neo-con triumphalists alike – had misread his original thesis.

At one point says of hauntology as a musical aesthetic:

"...For in falling into the trap of repeating an anachronistic desire for a future that is lost, this form of hauntology misses the essential nature of this future as always-already lost."

I don't recall anyone ever asserting otherwise. Which is why so much hauntological fare harkens back to source material of a certain vintage and ironically flirts with evocations of nostalgia and childhood. If anything, it serves as a deeply skeptical and circumspective response to the fatalism embodied in the end-of-history verdict as it has been bandied about in recent decades.

At yet another part of the essay, Sprod offers:

"The answer lies not in repeating lost gestures, methods and sounds or calling for a failed utopianism, but in rethinking the very possibility of the lostness of that temporality itself."

Which is how I understood it all along. It's the nature of that form and of the type of circumspection I mentioned above; of a certain type of wariness or gnosticism. The sort that brings to mind something I recalled and starting thinking about a few days ago. For an unrelated reason, I recalled Homi K. Bhabha's notion of "the Unbuilt" from some years ago, and it's basis in some remarks made by Wittgenstein in Culture and Value:

"Our civilization is characterized by the word 'progress.''Progress' is its form rather than making progress being one of its features. Typically it constructs. It is occupied with building an ever more complicated structure. And even clarity is sought only as a means to this end, not as an end it itself. ...I am not interested in constructing a building, so much as in having a perspicuous view of the foundations of possible buildings."

Bhabha, when he first put the notion forward, was speaking in the context of discussing possible memorials and monuments. Which may be fitting in a way, since nothing usually spells death and decline like an ideology that proclaims itself as having achieved its own teleological aims.

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