23 April 2013

The Shapes of Things

"Perhaps they were a bit more adept than others at making out or even provoking the auguries of good fortune. Their ears, their fingers, their palates -- permanently on the alert, as it were -- lay in wait for such propitious instances, which could be set off by minute details. But when they surrendered to those feelings of unruffled beatitude, of eternity undisturbed by the slightest ripple, when everything was in balance, deliciously slow, the very intensity of their bliss underlined the ephemerality and fragility of such instants. It did not take much to make it crumble: the slightest false note, a mere moment's hesitation, a sign that was perhaps too vulgar, and their happiness would be put out of joint; it went back to being what it always had been, a kind of deal, a thing they had bought, a pitiful and flimsy thing, just a second's respite which returned them all the more forcefully to the real dangers, the real uncertainties in their lives, in their history."
- Georges Perec, Things: A Story of the Sixties [1965]

* * * *

"Like the dream, advertising defines and redirects an imaginary potentiality. Like the dream's, its practical character is strictly subjective and individual. And, like the dream, advertising is devoid of all negativity and relativity: with never a sign too many nor a sign too few, it is essentially superlative and totally immanent in nature. Our night-time dreams are uncaptioned, whereas the one we live in [during] our waking hours via the city's hoardings, in our newspapers and on our screens, is covered with captions, with multiple subtitling. Both, however, weave the most colourful of narratives from the most impoverished of raw materials, and just as the function of nocturnal dreams is to protect sleep, so likewise the prestige of advertising and consumption serves to ensure the spontaneous absorption of ambient social values and the regression of the individual into social consensus."
- Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects [1968]

* * * *

"He's recently read a news item about the millions in bootleg CDs that funnel through Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, along with trucks stuffed with counterfeit Marlboros, real marijuana, and heavily disguised convoys of depleted uranium, stolen fuel rods, Kalashnikovs, any species of unthinkable thing desired or sold by shadows traveling under the rose.

"At the Megastore, all is legitimate, flawlessly manufactured, factory sealed. Its revenue spills cleanly into the raging river of cash and credit and digital wealth, spinning numbers in and out of corporate bank accounts. Somewhere, no doubt, this river sucks up the tributaries of loot generated by the inauthentic, the counterfeit, the Jennifer Lopez knockoffs. A spike in the current from the world's numberless laundries send it all rushing faster to the Falls.

"Malcolm doesn't have to persuade people to buy things. They can't help themselves. He merely has to interpret, a few times a day, the sometimes fractured language of the customer's desire, recognize the piece of music or musician whose name they've forgotten or can't quite bring to mind, or figure out from froggily hummed signature riffs what album by which performer a song they want appears on. The gross abundance and variety of music and books and movies stimulates an epidemic wish to own a copy of everything. As customers dawdle or race along the wide rows of product bins, their eyes snag on reissued memory tracks, groups they've read about in magazines, music they might not like to hear but which is thought to define the present in an important way. As each moment passes, by the time they get the music home to their audio systems, other newer music defines the moment they're listening to these acquisitions, and still newer music will nail down the moment that replaces that moment. All these moments eventually condense into a boxed set as the perfect past, the sound of an era. Memory becomes the sound track of perfection."
- Gary Indiana, Do Everything in the Dark [2003]

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[1] Associated Press, 1959
[2] "The American Look", 1958
[3] Safe, Todd Haynes, 1995

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