If you look real close at the ad above--typical of many from the 1950s and a veritable wet dream for feminist cultural studies mavens looking to wax prolix--you'll read in the lower right hand corner "touch no dirt, breathe no dirt, see no dirt."
I love that last line, "see no dirt."
Of late, I have been thinking loads about the dynamics of seeing--this, in anticipation of beginning a follow-up book to Tex[t]-Mex, with the working title Eyegiene.
Eyegiene is a neologism that is meant to fold together issues of cleanliness with matters of seeing--good hygiene and good eyegiene, then, are meant to resonate homonymically, but also, perhaps more importantly, biologically.
Take pornography, or even, more tame, the category of the erotic. I am fairly proficient in this research and recent developments in commerce and technology suggest to me that things are only going to get more accelerated in the near future.
I'll write more about this soon, but the innovations in the free distribution of erotic materials (see redtube.com or streamsex.com to see what I mean--NSFW and NSFAnywhere, for some folks) will no doubt impact in ways sexual and semiotic, and do so in a ways that are hard to predict.
When I think about internet erotica, I always think of an experment that Dominic Streatfeild notes in his Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography:
It strikes me that something along the same lines is possible with broadband internet access to prohibited forms of entertainment, in short, to dirt. I am only scratching the surface of these ideas as I jot this down but it is certainly something I hope to explore more fully. In a way, my Pee-wee Herman essay on sexuality and surveillance touched on the consequences of state voyeurism and the policing of the visual (in a theater, no less), but Eyegiene has to take this farther.
Here's a selection from the introduction to the new chapter:
Let me begin by giving Pascal a bath, subject him to the rigors of a washing, a white-washing, in a way, that is not white. In line, waiting, not patiently, Descartes.
Two baths. Two toilettes. Two hygiene-rich ablutions as prelude to a presentation.
A preface wherein we, together wash.
Here it is.
The eye has a reason that reason will not know.
do you see what i mean?
does my idea present itself to you?
have I monstrated or demonstrated, here, before you, what you need to see?
See, Pascal, that old French convert--great scientist, Pascal’s law,
“A change in the pressure applied to an enclosed incompressible fluid is transmitted undiminished to every portion of the fluid to the walls of its container.”
but we, here today, are not here to understand scientific principles that are at the foundation of physics, physics of the material, at least is not our focus....
that was a joke, a serious joke.
not our focus.
professors, we say that a lot, “Focus,”
this, then will be our focus.
it’s just a metaphor
an always already.
when we say we are going to bring something into focus, or focus ON something, we’re merely letting our listener know that we are, in some cases, finally, getting to our thesis.
so, the focus,
the focus here is not FOCUS, but it does concern the eye and the concept of eyegiene which is not hygiene but sounds like it.
i’ve now lost my focus.
maybe if i close my eyes
yes, that’s it, in the dark, i can see.
in the dark, i can, metaphorically, watch,
i see a writer named Jacques Derrida--again, to say i see him is metaphorical as he recently died of pancreatic cancer, but, here, in the dark, i can see him, feel his ghost, watch his smile.
at the thievery.
at the joy of the supplement.
he’s watching as I say that we need to be blind--blind like, Homer, like Oedipus, Like Teiresius, Like Milton, Like Joyce, Like Borges, even, for the young here--like Stevie Wonder.
Blind, we have to be blind in order to see.
the eye has its reason, that reason will not know, does not care to know, has no mind to know.
it is a voracious locus of the psyche, through its portal pass rapacious photons that leave mute and cacophonous traumas on the space of our souls. In another time and another place, I wrote these words:
"I read it as a foregone conclusion that the days of the illuminated manuscript have returned--medievalists take note] Yet the current cyber-injected offspring of the Gutenberg Bible and Egyptian hieroglyphs available on numerous Internet off-ramps are more cagey, more sophisticated. Diverse images move and metamorphose, eliciting and soliciting our desire, leaving words to scurry behind, filling in the gaps and needs of our word-addicted Reason. One might argue at this juncture that Philosophy is nothing more and nothing less than the collective attempt to regulate the Babel-like chaos of word-dominated discourse. As we move from words to picture, however, Philosophy as we know it does not provide us with the critical tools necessary for our encounter with the oscillating dynamics of Image. Hermeneutic troubles clearly loom ahead. Texts carry gobs of information. A book, a picture, a word, a line: texts are not unlike cells within which rest DNA, codes which carry the collective history of an organism--Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari take a version of this to its theoretical extreme in their exploration of rhizomes. Biochemists have genetics, Philologists etymology. All of this recalls the clich that literature is a mirror of society, which I think needs to be revised rather than dismissed. Literature (and by literature I include all the media that a community uses to tell stories about itself: television, cinema, advertising, fiction, poetry, video games, etc.) is like a mirror of society, but today one needs to employ the metaphor with two caveats: first, it is a shattered mirror, with brittle edges that cut and permanently scar the psyche of those who peer within; secondly, the mirror is not passive--one looks into this mirror and is affected (unpredictably) by what one sees: memory, in this regard, tattoos the mind. Literature mirrors, or, better put, literatures mirror the nations that re-produce them; the mirroring is always already a kinetic rendering that is subject to the pull of diverse gravities, with significant indices of refraction. With or without knowing it, we have returned to that ever popular category, the dialectics of representation, a dialectic central to the Humanities at least since Plato's Socrates and Glaucon spoke of shadows and prisoners within an allegorically-pregnant cave."
Mosaic A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature Winnipeg; Dec 1995
we need to think more, reason more, about seeing, about what happens when we do not think about what we see.
that reason will not know
that reason WILL not know
that reason will not KNOW
willing and knowing NOT to see, or, better put, to see and not know.
that is what we live when we try to fathom the monstrous abortion walking the hallways of the White House, the “phenomena” that is the Fox News Network, the explosion of paparazzi Blog sites with millions of hits and lots to see for all to see and no one to know.
eyegiene in an unsanitary visual world
eyegiene in a world made filthy with sights and not enough insight
eyegiene for a dying planet wounded by the now almost seven billion nasty voyeurs walking across its surface.
in our lifetime we will have already seen homo sapiens, our species evolve into homo visualis, from a primate that knows to a primate that sees, primarily, and that in itself is as damning a reality as the melting of the polar icecaps, the enormous hole in the ozone layer, the mendacity of Houston-based oil firms, etc.
is this a sermon?
am i about to embark on
a harangue wherein i espouse
better eyegeing, draw up for you
in marvelous technicolor powerpoint
a schematic for some delicious prophylactic
for the eye, rubber gloves, rubber, eye-condom
am i , a hypochondriac gone mad,
a hypochondriac with a fetish for seeing.
or am i some kind of olphamalogical moralist?
do i seek to bring light to darkness?
will christ, soon make a cameo. behind Derrida? in mask.
but it is time to cue Descartes who wrote, and we know it, by heart, here in the dark; it is known so well we call it his credo, his credence, his faith, though it is our faith that is in it, not his, he’s dead: I think, therefore, I am.
here today, i want to thank Descartes for his cameo, for his deigning to walk in, unprepared for his closeup.
but now, i must bitchslap him
steal from him
push him to oneside.
in the lurid economy of a culture with bad eyegiene--imagine the following scenario, an eye, with feet, NOT washing after going to the bathroom.
NOT cleaning between its toes (fetid eyelashes on our eye)
and eye LETTING the last drop of its urine be absorbed by its underwear
and NOT changing its underwear everyday.
yuck. in short, bad bad bad eyegiene, unsanitary, polluted, filled with offal and just plain awful.
i think therefore i am
i THINK therefore I am
i think there I AM
i think THEREFORE i am
none of it cuts it anymore
we don’t have time to think
we are too bound up in our hobby of seeing
I see, therefore, I see, more
is that better? or maybe
I am, therefore, I see.
Internet, Television, Gameboy, therefore, I watch.
from Descartes’s comedy of beauty, a fantasy land where woman and man might have the luxury of imagining, in thought, in mind, in the mirror of their mind, some image of themselves as sentient, as thoughtful, as someone who existed, we subject to ourselves to an evolution in reverse where we are reduced to slaves to these damn beautiful things inside our heads, no, not ideas, but these globes, these windows to the soul, these eyes which we believe bring us knowledge but only bring us sights, and we, without the proper tools to process these sights, we, we become willing slaves to an ocular dominatrix whose lick of the whip gets more and more famiar all the time.
i think, therefore, i am. becomes
i see, therefore,
back to my watching words.... in the lurid economy of a world with bad eyegiene, a world where our critical capacity to see is handicapped by the pollution of a visual hurricane where we see everything again and again and again....
close your eyes and watch
--kennedy getting shot, zapruder’s film, headshot bam again and again and again
--challenger exploding, kaboom, kidde’s teacher on board, kaboom, closeup on parents faces, as they ponder the odd new clouds defacing the beauty of a gorgeous florida sky, kaboom, again and again again
--twin tower’s exploding first one, call the cameras, cue the helicoptors, gun the high-definition units, symbol of America on fire, the today show, good morning america, cbs morning news, cnn, fox, msnbc all there with there next wave instamatics, click, shutter, whirr, click shutter whirr, we, in the dark of our psyche, shuttered as well, eyes glued to a box, and, also shuddering, silently, screams howling and echoing across the plains of our witnessing. but that was just the set-up, that was just the foreplay for Osama bin Laden, saudi richkid, imagine Paris Hilton with Jesus Christ’s looks, but Paris Hilton’s love of the camera, and you have Osama, or, at least the Osama, we know, not the Osama we don’t know, the Osama trained by the CIA to use the Taliban against the Soviet’s in Afganistan.
osama bin hilton
paris bin laden
motherfucker, we are in need of better eyegiene, because if i did not know better i would confess that I can’t tell one for another.
each knows the power of the camera, literally, each fellates the knob of the lens, cue porno metaphors, suchs the tumescent head of the camera’s lens before shoving it into our bodies.
we smile with recognition, we have been here before; we will be here again.
smiling and not smiling. for its painful, it hurts us as it goes into us but the trauma of this penetrating camera is so god damn familiar that we have come to love the pain, like an old friend.
where was i, have i gone and lost it again, here, in the dark.
i was going to show you pictures, bring a prop, do some visual schtick, i always do, it’s what i do, but not here today
today, to speak of eyegiene, to make us aware of the metaphorics of visual pollution, the only prop i need is the dark.
i was saying,
i was talking,
kennedy, the challenger, 9-11
but that was just the set-up, the first plane into the twin towers, that was just the foreplay for Osama bin Laden, saudi richkid, imagine Paris Hilton with Jesus Christ’s looks, but Paris Hilton’s love of the camera, and you have Osama, that was just the teaser for the money shot of the second plane in morning primetime smashing its way into the twin towers, the twin gonads of America, the twin prosthetic tits of American corporate america.
we watched. and our eyes have never stopped shedding tears, as they do when something gets into them, involuntarily, trying to wash it out, wash it out, wash it out,
the economy of the eye’s hygiene, its own ability to wash itself, to sanitize itself through tears of its own making, without any conscious effort on our part, an unconscious (cue Freud) sanitary instinct, will be, in the end, the only thing to give us hope.
thank you for letting me talk to you in the dark; an impossibly retarded performer, i thought it was the only way to make you see, make you feel, make you sense the meaning of the word I made up, that did not exist, until today, eyegiene.
The dynamics of eyegiene, whatever it turns out to be, however it evolves, are at work in the talent and the camera of Andrzej Dragan. In David Lynch, his "subject" as well.
What am I talking about--something like synesthasia, some chiasmatic or just plain inverted movement of the senses and the psyche where associated values are displaced--the visual becomes despotic and our old primate habits of mimicry kick in.
Certain eyegienic tendencies are at work in Big Man Japan as well--my debts to the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin (The Ritz) for the headsup on this filmed piece of magic!