Cultural Discourse looks at a broad range of cultural issues.
31st March 2018

On the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Group

I. The New Social Formation as a Hypersubject

On April 2, 1968, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin–the granddaughter of the granddaughter of Hegel–Thorwald Proll and Horst Sohnlein created what became known as the Red Army Faction when they exploded bombs on the shelves of two department stores in West Germany: the Kaufhaus Schneider and the Kaufhoff store.  Nobody was injured but that same night the four were arrested as a result of materials the police found that linked them to the bombs.

The power interests  of big business and the American government was viewed by the group as merely placating shoppers with material contentment that left them too narcotized to even bother realizing they were being subjugated by capitalism. Galvanized by the police brutality which had occurred a year earlier when the Shah of Iran had visited Germany on June 2, 1967 and one of the pacifist protestors, Benno Ohnesorg, had been shot and killed by police, the group began to form a year later. The night after the shooting, Gudrun Ensslin had remarked: “It’s the generation of Auschwitz–you cannot argue with them!”

West Germany had thus generated a new internal proletariat, the Red Army Faction, which now proceeded to invent itself by going to war against the capitalist imaginary and its various anthropological types.

On October 31, 1968, the four defendants were sentenced to three years in prison, and it was while in prison that Ulrike Meinhof, an editor and writer at the leftist periodical konkret, met and first had discussions with Ensslin. On June 13, 1969, they were released from prison, having served only 14 months of their 3 year sentence.

Ulrike Meinhof

But in April of 1970, Baader was arrested and sent back to jail to serve out the rest of his sentence. Gudrun and Ulrike then devised a plan to rescue him: they developed the idea of Baader and Ulrike collaborating on a book together, a plan that would get him transferred from prison and moved into a research facility, the Institute for Social Issues. Ulrike arrived and pretended to work on the book with him at a desk, but then four members of the RAF entered the institute, fought with the guards, fired teargas and shot one of them, Georg Linke. Baader, meanwhile, together with a disguised Ensslin jumped out the window. Hesitating for only a moment, Ulrike Meinhof then jumped out the window after them, effectively ending her career as a journalist.

The RAF had declared war on the World Interior of Capital, but once they fled out the window of that research institute, their ontological status shifted from what Giorgio Agamben has termed “bios,” or the realm of inscriptions in the social order, to “zoe,” or “bare naked life,” unprotected by socially coded flows inscribed into one’s subjectivity.

Once they are on the Outside of the World Interior of Capital, their physical somatic bodies must now be taken up by mediatized place holders in the semiotic vacancies left behind by their vanishing. These become the Wanted posters of the Baader-Meinhof group that are found immediately hanging up all over Germany.

The terrorist, in going underground, is determined to unplug him/herself from the realm of bios, or cultural representation, which is essentially the realm of the state apparatus’s ability to code the flows.

The terrorist miniaturizes the state apparatus’s ability to code, decode and uncode the flows, and this is why the terrorist must be immunologically targeted by the state, since the state reserves for itself the right to code all social flows, especially identity flows. It cannot have its citizens usurping its ability to code the flows and create new assemblages at will, especially unprecedented assemblages such as those created by the terrorist.

The terrorist is always creating new assemblages between himself and machinery: man-weapon-transport assemblages, for instance. The terrorist removes himself from the coded flows that the state apparatus imposes precisely by severing and rupturing all Synaptic Identity Connections so that the terrorist is able to move through the state machinery with increased mobility.

The terrorist captures the state’s ability to code all flows, removes it from the monopoly of the state and uses it to maximize his freedom of movement–i.e. appropriating assemblages with helicopters, planes, weapons–by autonomizing the ability to form new identities and new assemblages with machinery and apparatuses at will.

Thus, the terrorist as a disruptive social formation is a miniature version of the state itself, and the only way to stop the terrorist is to capture him and put him on the inside of a system–i.e. prison–that freezes all his motions by servering all his Synaptic Identity Connections with assemblages. Thus, frozen in place, his identity is now fixed and locked into immobility, because in prison the terrorist can no longer form man-weapon-transport assemblages that maximize his motion through the system.

If the terrorist can no longer sprout assemblages like new organs out of his body at random, then he is no longer a threat to the state, for his movement can then be carefully tracked. No new flows can be coded by him.

Indeed, the terrorist identity is an unstable one that is part of a larger Hypersubject that captures and collects identities, using them as so many masks to hide itself. The terrorist Hypersubject is composed of members who have very morphically unstable identities that can slip, slide and disintegrate and reform at a moment’s notice so that his identity cannot be coded and locked into a fixed assemblage.

There is thus a direct relationship between fixity of identity and coded flows: with a stable identity, the subject can be tracked with social security numbers, birth dates, health records, etc. that capture and code all flows emanating from him and leading back to him.

Terrorism can only emerge in an age of Hypersubjects with liquefying identities that are constantly morphing and dissolving. The terrorist must be able to sever himself from all assemblage points imposed by the state and become a modular unit unto himself. He must be capable of plugging into and unplugging himself from any and all assemblages with state functions. He becomes a Modular Subject which sprouts identities at will, for his subjectivity can be broken down into units which can be moved about and unplugged or replugged into novel flows with new entities.

II. Icons

The first person to die by the Baader-Meinhof group was a police officer who was shot by Gerhard Muller during a nighttime shootout. It was at this point that authorities began to regard the organization as “criminal” rather than just “political.”

On May 11, 1972, in reprisal for a fresh wave of US bombings in Vietnam, the group began a wave of bombings that spread throughout Germany, in Karlsruhe, Munich, Hamburg. In Frankfurt am Main they set off three pipe bombs at the Fifth US Army Corps stationed at the IG Farben buildings. Thirteen people were injured and one man was killed.

But then on June 1, 1972, Andreas Baader and Holger Meins were both arrested–while TV cameras rolled–and taken into custody at the siege of Hofeckweg. Holger Meins would later die by fasting in prison, and his death would become the first RAF martyr that would inspire a whole new, Second Generation of increasingly more and more violent killings, bombings and kidnappings of various government and civic officials.

On June 7, 1972, Gudrun Ensslin was arrested at a boutique as she was looking for new clothes with which to disguise herelf, and on June 15, they arrested Ulrike Meinhof.

But inside prison, the group became more powerful than ever as their mediatized icons began casting ever larger and larger shadows into the mediascape, icons which began to inspire further imitators. Before their imprisonment, the police had been looking for some 30 people, but after the death of Holger Meins, they were after 300 people, and the Criminal Investigation Office estimated that their sympathizers now numbered over 10,000.

The Arrest of Holger Meins

Thus, the immobilization of their physical bodies now begins to shift to the sphere of effectualities of images and icons–via the gigantifying effect of TV and newspapers–across the West German landscape. While in prison, the members of the RAF become works of art, transformed by the powers of the media into action-generating icons that radiate out across the socius.

In the metaphysical age, it was the artist who had the power of creating icons out of martyrs by painting images of saints or Christ as larger than life characters across their tesserae. But in the post-metaphysical age, it is the media which have taken over the martyr-machine function: for simply by casting their images via the transmission of electrons at light speed (instead of tesserae), their image icons are a creation not of the artist who, in contemporary art, is no longer given the power or legitimacy of doing this (Andy Warhol did not create icons out of Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley; he came upon them as phenomena that had already been created by the amplifying power of electronic media). So, as Russian theoretician Boris Groys has pointed out, it is the media themselves which have now taken over the icon-generating power of the traditional artist simply by projecting the images of terrorists and martyrs whose acts become inscribed in our mind’s eye by beaming them through the electronic landscape.

III. Second Generation

With the First Generation all now locked up in Stammheim prison, the Second Generation of the RAF, inspired by the death of Holger Meins, proceeded with ever more violent and reckless deeds: first, on February 27, 1975, they captured and kidnapped the political lawyer Peter Lorenz and demanded the release of Horst Mahler, Verne Becker, Gabriele Krocher-Tiedemann, Ingrid Siepmann, Rolf Heissler and Rolf Pohle. None of this group were accused of murder and so the demands, which were reasonable, were acceded to. The group then released Peter Lorenz in a park. Ensslin, Baader and Meinhof watched all of this unfold on television and decided that the success of it would inspire them to try something bigger.

For their next act, the Second Generation of the RAF stormed the German Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden armed with pistols. Six RAF members took eleven hostages up to the third floor of the embassy and laid them on the floor. They called themselves “the Holger Mein Commando” and they said that if the police approached the building they would blow it up. When there was no response, they shot the German attache and the police dragged his dying body down the stairs. They then demanded the release of the original Icons: Ensslin, Meinhof and Baader. State Chancellor Helmut Schmidt denied them. They then insisted that they would kill a hostage every hour if their demands were not met and proceeded to shoot and kill another hostage, Dr. Hillegaart.

Then, at 13 minutes to midnight, a bomb went off in the building and blew out the front windows, from which several hostages escaped and most of the terrorists as well, who surrendered.

The group was put on trial on May 21, 1975, but on May 8 of 1976, Ulrike Meinhof was found dead in her cell. She had committed suicide without leaving any note, by tearing blue and white prison towels into strips and then tying them together. Then she pushed her bed away from the window, laid the mattress on the floor and put a stool on it. She tied the rope around her neck, climbed onto the stool and put the other end of the rope through the close mesh over the window grating and jumped.

On April 7, 1977, the Second Generation murdered the Federal Prosecutor General Siegfried Buback as his car pulled up to a stoplight: a man on a motorcycle armed with an automatic rifle pulled up beside his Mercedes and filled it with bullets, killing both him and his driver.

Brigitte Mohnhaupt was now in charge of operations, and she wrote a letter claiming responsibility for the murder at the hands of “the Ulrike Meinhof Commando…”

The verdict for Baader, Ensslin and Raspe was read out on April 28, 1977: life imprisonment for each.

In retaliation, on July 30 of that year, Brigitte Mohnhaupt and Christian Klar visited the residence of the banker Jurgen Ponto with his family. When Klar pulled out his pistol and aimed it at the banker, he told him it was a kidnapping and when Jurgen protested, both Klar and Brigitte shot him to death.

In creating a history of violence for the group, they are inscribing themselves into the socius. In his essay on “Art in the Age of Biopolitics,” Boris Groys suggests that it is only narrative documentation that enables one to discern the difference between a natural and an artificial object. Like the replicants in Blade Runner, of whom one cannot tell by looking at them whether they are natural or artificial, it is only the photographs that give them a fake subjectivity that inscribes them into life and history. There is no objective way of determining the difference between a GMO and the real thing except by showing the documents or the blueprints which enabled the product to be produced.

Likewise, with the RAF, in exiting from the World Interior of Capital, they have entered into the realm of Agamben’s “bare naked life” in which they have no political or cultural representation (bios, in other words) that would inscribe them into history and give them political rights. Part of what drives the anxiety and violence of the group is that, in exiting from the World Interior, they are in an ontologically perilous situation in which they have no valid documentation to prove their existence as a social formation. Therefore, the violence is meant to inscribe their existence onto the body social of the host culture in lieu of works of art or other narrative documentation that would confer upon them the right to exist as a separate political entity.

Hence, the original importance of Ulrike Meinhof to the group: she was their only valid means of contact with the world of narrative documentation that they possess, despite their scorn of her fear of violence. In reality, they needed her to inscribe them upon the body social of the GDR, but ultimately, it turns out not to be enough, for violence must be used as narrative documentation, an alternative means of giving them the right to exist. The media, in reporting on these violent acts, does not give them political legitimacy (“the right to exist”), but it does confer upon them the ontological status of actually existing entities. In other words, their existence is “recognized” by the media, but not legitimized.

IV. Final Act

The Second Generation of the RAF continue with their attempts to get Baader, Ensslin and Raspe liberated from Stammheim. To this end, they decide to kidnap Hanns Martin Schleyer, head of the Federation of German Industries and the Confederation of Employers’ Associations, and a member of the board of Daimler-Benz. This was all organized by the brilliant strategist Brigitte Mohnhaupt, who herself was not allowed to participate in the acts so that a surplus remainder of the group would always exist if the others failed.

On Monday, September 5, 1977, the RAF kidnapped Schleyer at his cortege of cars. They intercepted it, shot all his police escorts and pulled him into the VW minibus and made off with him.

But the GDR dragged their heels and would not accede to their various demands, so they turned for help to the PFLP, who hired four people to hijack an airplane, forging for them fake identities as Iranians.

The entire thing was a huge debacle, with the plane landing at various locations throughout the Middle East until finally, at Aden, the plane was stormed by GSG 9 commandos, who killed the four hijackers.

In Stammheim, when Baader, Ensslin, Raspe and Irmgard Moller heard about the failure of the plan, they all agreed–as one version of the story goes–on a suicide pact. In his cell, Baader supposedly faked a violent struggle by first shooting a bullet into his mattress and another into the cell wall and then he picked up his gun and held it, awkwardly it seems, to point at the back of his head, whereupon he shot himself. But many are skeptical of this, and Irmgard Moller, who stabbed herself but survived, said there was no such suicide pact.

“The Murder of Andreas Baader” by Odd Nerdrum (1978)

Gudrun Ensslin hung herself in her cell with a piece of loudspeaker wire cable and Jan-Carl Raspe sat on his bed and put his 9-mm Heckler & Koch pistol to his temple and fired.

The RAF’s response was to shoot and kill Hans Martin Schleyer. They took him out to the woods and shot him. On the afternoon of October 19,1977, the French newspaper Liberation received this communique: “After 43 days, we have ended Hans Martin Schleyer’s miserable and corrupt existence.”

In the end, 28 people had lost their lives in assaults mounted by the RAF, while 17 RAF members were killed. A Third Generation of RAF members, however, continued for the next twenty years assassinating heads of corporations and US military personnel all the way down to 1998, when they called it quits.

In targeting heads of state–i.e. lawyers, judges, bankers, military men–the RAF were essentially performing acts of erasure, like the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten’s crossing out of the icons of the previous order and installing his own name or the name of his sun god in their places. The RAF likewise, were crossing out the icons of the global world order and installing icons of themselves as urban guerillas in the semiotic vacancies left behind by the destruction of these previous icons.

The various bombings are the equivalent of a Samson-like attempt to pull out the pillars of the World Order of Capital. It is an art war in disguise as a war of political representation: one order of signifiers is pulled down while another is installed in their place.Through their various assassinations and bombings, they were attempting to install a new set of signifiers inside the capitalist imaginary: thus the Anthropological Type of the urban guerilla replaces the type of the CEO or the banker or politician. It is a war that proceeds by destroying an order of icons and replacing them with the new. One sign regime of a disaffected internal proletariat attempts to recode the older regime with its own semiotics.

“Hanged” by Gerhard Richter (1998)

German art was doing something similar at this time with the art of Gerhard Richter and Josef Beuys: both artists were busy erasing images and constructing new signifiers to overcode the old Modernist iconotypes. Richter erases the photograph with his photo-realist paintings and recodes them as theorized images. Beuys erases the ready mades of Modernism and reterritorializes them with his own private semiotics. The RAF were essentially performing something similar at about the same time in the sphere of political representation.

For the postmodern age that is now fading off over the horizon behind us was an age of liquefactions, dismantlings and deconstructions of all previous narratives that had their roots in the metaphysical age. Derrida with deconstruction in philosophy was busy dismantling the logocentric age, while the political Left was busy, all over the world, launching terrorist operations aimed at dismantling all narratives whatsoever.

The postmodern age was an era of assault on all previous narratives. But that age, with its ideologically motivated terrorists, is disappearing now. New disaffected social formations have come along to replace them, but they aren’t ideologically motivated: they are motivated by White Power on the one hand, or Islamic extremism on the other.

Terrorists guided by Marxist narratives have now become an artifact to be studied by the collector of ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

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7th March 2018

On Hypermodernity

On Hypermodernity

by John David Ebert

1.

Every new world age must be preceded by an Event of such momentous significance that it causes a tectonic shift, or discontinuity, in the ontological architecture of a society. Hence World War II was the great Event that separated Modernity from Post-Modenity, irrevocably dividing one world age from the next. Everything that we think of as “postmodern” came into being after it: eclecticism in architecture; the death of the metanarrative (Lyotard); the rise of minority cultures; decolonization and the Voice of the Cultural Other being expressed in academe (Spivak), etc. etc.

Likewise the Event that separates Modernity properly speaking–demarcating it, say, from the Enlightenment–from all that went before it was the French Revolution and the succeeding Napoleonic Wars that eventually, once the dust had settled, led to the Haussmanization of Paris: a complete structural reworking of boulevards, streets and demolition of old, worn-out neighborhoods that was already consistent with the Revolutionary tendency toward Deconstruction; that is to say, of the getting rid of old grand historical metanarratives (hence the advent of the metric system; the attempt to implement a new world calendar by getting rid of months and days named after old European gods and goddesses intertwined with Christian eschatologies). The difference in world horizons is exemplified by comparing Ingres’s 1827 painting “The Apotheosis of Homer” with Manet’s 1862 “Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe.” Whereas the former painting apotheosizes the West’s grand Homeric narrative of descent from the Classical world, Manet’s painting absolutely defies all attempts at trying to find a narrative in it.

After the restructurings of Haussman, the French Impressionist painters put Paris on the map as the capital, not only of the nineteenth century–to quote Walter Benjamin–but of the entire project of Modernity down to World War II (after which the center of the art world shifts with Abstract Expressionism to New York, although Paris becomes the Intellectual Capital of Postmodernity in the 1960s).

Such Evental shifts between world ages can be found all throughout history, for they are not at all unique to Western Modernity. The seventeenth century BC, for instance, was an age of horizonal demarcation with the advent of the two-wheeled horse chariot and compound bow that, in the West, created the Mycenaeans of the Pelopennese, Troy Level VI (1700 to 1200 BC) and the Hyksos invasion of Egypt which was ruled for a little over a century by Semitic peoples from Palestine. The Hyksos dynasty ended the Egyptian Middle Kingdom and their expulsion from Egypt by the twin brothers Ahmose and Kamose around 1530 BC marked the transition of Egypt into its New Kingdom imperial phase and the creation of its trans-Palestinian Empire.

Another such Event takes place around the year 1200 BC, which brings this Late Bronze Age of the chariot empires to a close with a massive systems collapse signalled by the Trojan War (end of Troy VI, circa 1250 BC) and the eruption, from the Black Sea, of marauding Sea Peoples who systematically dismantle and destroy the Mycenaean world, the Hittite Empire, and nearly all of the cities of Palestine. Egypt barely survives this period intact, but its imperial days, from that point on, were over.

Not to digress too far, but I think it is important to understand that such world ages are nothing new and indeed, make up the ontology of history, which is catastrophic and dis-continuous.

2.

The Great Event, likewise, that signifies the decisive shift from Postmodernity to Hypermodernism was September 11, 2001.  Up until then, as Baudrillard once pointed out, Events had been on strike and had apparently ceased to happen, as globalization dissolved history into its anticlimactic end. But 9/11 was the great Hyksos Event that signified the transition of American political power from the concerns of what Carl Schmitt called its “grossraum,” that is to say, its trans-national hemispheric domain, to the building of an Imperial Security State Apparatus, with a global external proletariat defining a specific Outside in the form of those neo-Hyksos barbarians known as the mujaheideen and their various genealogical offshoots (ISIL, ISIS, etc.).

At least, this is the Event that signalled the shift on the political plane, for on the technological plane, the shift can be more precisely demarcated in the year 1995 when the National Science Foundation turned the Internet over to the public. The impact of the Internet on all previous forms of media is the equivalent on the technological plane of the Hyksos Event of 9/11 on the political plane. For the Internet now proceeded to provide Hypermodernity with its World Interior which, as Peter Sloterdijk pointed out, had earlier been architecturally expressed in the 1851 Event of the Crystal Palace in the Great Exhibition in London of that year–preceded by the Parisian prologue of the Arcades of the 1830s–which provided Modernity with its World Interior: namely, that of a global shopping mall.

This was a kind of translucifying of retail space–an opening up of it, as it were–by liquidating its walls and rendering them transparent to the outside. As Walter Benjamin pointed out, the department store came into being out of the Parisian arcades, as well as the concept of retail stores connected by labyrinthine alleyways with iron and glass enclosures. (Whereas the Crystal Palace simply enclosed all retail space into a single gigantic, linear open mall lined with purveyors and merchants: the ultimate outcome of that phase of Modernity marked by the discovery and conquest of the New World, and the expansion of Western imperialism across the planet, from whence signifiers of all kinds and sorts were ripped from their various cultural contexts and put into the circulation of Industrial capitalism).

Whereas the World Interior retail space of postmodernity was the advent, in Edina, Minnesota in 1956 of the shopping mall, which introduced the innovation of turning all the retail spaces away from the city center and faced them, as it were, with their backs, while enclosing itself in a bi-level air-conditioned interior as a miniature city. The shopping mall, with its fake plants, strategically placed fountains, and above all, its electified staircases in the form of escalators became the world interior of postmodernity.

And along with it, what Marc Auge termed “the Non-Place,” that is to say, the eruption, during the 1950s in America, of the Interstate Highway System and its various motels, fast food restaurants and strip malls, all of which had a decentralizing effect on the quaint old city center of the traditional modern city. While the downtown areas began to crumble, the city exported itself to the countryside so that, as McLuhan–the great prophet of postmodern media–put it, “every truck stop cafe with a television and a newspaper became as cosmopolitan as New York or Paris.”

But then, Hypermodernity put an end to the shopping mall, which began to dissolve and disappear during the decade of the 2000’s as the Internet, in turn, decentralized the mall by exporting it to the living room: in effect, the mall became an individualized, rather than a communal, experience. With the Internet, the individual never had to leave his home to shop, and so during the 2000’s retail stores, shopping malls and their connected media–bookstores, record stores, magazines and newspapers–began to disappear as they were absorbed into this new totally electronic World Interior.

3.

Whereas the media of postmodernity had all been analogue–records, cassette tapes, photographs, magazines, celluloid–the media of Hypermodernity is exclusively digital. With the satellization of the Exosphere, the analogue telephone became transformed into the cell phone and later the smart phone, which jacked the individual into the World Interior from wherever on the planet he happened to be. He didn’t have to go anywhere to be included in the new Hypermodern World Interior. And all his analogue photographs could be dissolved from their nitrate surfaces and melted into cyberspace directly from his brain as his camera became an appendage of the new World Interior. His vinyl records were dissolved and liquefied, and his celluloid films transformed into bytes that obsolesced the movie projector. All analogue media were liquefied, dissolved and fed into the new matrix.

Now the individual became empowered to become a new kind of entity, for Hypermodernism has created the Hyperindividual, a new–and bizarre–kind of individual that is nothing like the traditional Western idea of the transcendent Self, for this new self is floating, discarnate, deworlded and decontextualized from all world horizons. The Hyperindividual has no connection with history, community or any kind of idealistic, utopian projects. Those all characterized the past. The Hyperindividual is a world unto himself.

Hypermodernity pours liquid scorn upon all utopian projects, since such projects presuppose a historical narrative behind them. The Hypermodern individual has no connection with the past or the future, indeed, does not even have any connection with the preceding moment, for he / she exists in a timeless, spaceless, ahistorical and modular present.

The structure of Time in Hypermodernity is modular: it is composed of a succession of present moments, each of which is isolated and has no relationship to any preceding moment, or any future moment. The ontology of the individual is that of an amoral hedonist achieving sensory gratification in each present moment, which is disconnected from all others. As a result, there are no values and there are no visions and above all, no connection of the individual to any traditional social formations. He has become a nomad, on his own, disconnected, modular and historyless. (Hence, the advent of the Dangerous Loner, a new anthropological type of Hypermodernity).

Whereas the Transcendental Self of Western history was an objective entity who was actually embedded in a historical flow that connected him ultimately all the way back to the Greeks, the Hypermodern individual has no connections to anything but the luminous glow of cyberspace.

Now that he / she has become disconnected from all utopian projects and all sense of community–for there are no longer any world spaces for him to gather within as part of one or another social grouping–he / she can, within the World Interior, gigantify him or herself to the level of an Icon by using the new media that enable this process to take place: as I pointed out in my 2011 book The New Media Invasion, Jeff Bezos is Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg is Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are Google. On Facebook, the Hypermodern individual becomes a unique presence in cyberspace, with his own website and his own videos; the technology now enables him or her to gigantify out of all proportion to any relation of scale that would connect him to any group or social formation whatsoever.

Thus, the sobering truth now begins to dawn: Marxism is dead. Critical Theory is dead. The public intellectual is dead. For all these phenomena presuppose connections of the individual to larger social formations beyond himself as a modular unit isolated to sensual gratification in the present moment. The Internet–with its satellized connections to the Exosphere–unplugs and deworlds the individual, putting him into orbit about the planet.

Hence revolutionary protest groups such as the Weatherman underground of the 1970s, or the Baader-Meinhof group in the German Democratic Republic of the 1970s now give way to the phenomenon of the lonely, isolated spree killer who stands for Nothing and represents no one. The spree killer, disconnected from all social formations whatsoever, wishes to leave a Mark on the socius because he feels somehow disincluded from the larger project of Modernity. The irony is, however, that in actuality there is nothing that he is disincluded from since Hypermodernity has melted down all coherent social formations. The modular individual as world island unto himself is the only ontological self that exists in Hypermodernity.

4.

Under the conditions of Hypermodernity, there is no longer any Art World, per se, no longer any New York or Paris that functions as a cosmopolitan world center for the artist to be a part of. Art now, simply exists wherever there happens to be an artist–scattered at random across the striated landscapes of the global planetary surface–or he is a criminal who, like Banksy, must get into the city, make his mark–just like a spree killer–and get out quickly. Anselm Kiefer, with his isolated junk shop world horizon at La Ribaute, typifies this new ontological status of the artist as a loner who creates his art out of junked signifiers taken higgeldy-piggeldy from the blown out civilizations of the past.

Is there any longer even such as thing as the practice of art as an activity distinct from, say, science? The plasticene anatomical corpses of Gunther Hagens would seem to defy any clear separation of art from science. In these new vague ontologies, an artist like Anselm Kiefer begins to take on the ontological status of a junkyard dealer.

Under the conditions of Hypermodernity, there are no more Art Movements, only individual artists dotting the ontological Clearing opened up by this new, and uncertain global World Interior.

Hypermodernity is the Death of Art. But not, perhaps, of the artist, who manages to eke out a living like a retrieval of some Robinson Crusoe figure washed ashore with a junkheap of broken signifiers from dead worlds surrounding him.

5.

On the economic plane, Hypermodernity is based upon the neoliberalization of the planet under Clinton in the 1990s. With Free Trade Agreements, the World Bank, GATT and NAFTA, the economy is sent into orbit around the planet and becomes deworlded: all local economies–such as the farmer in a village in Mexico–are simply wiped out, and the result is the empowerment of local criminal organizations, such as the cartels in Mexico, or the Russian mafias, which rush in to fill the gap and try to supply the missing supplement of local need. Thus, the economic transformation creates as a side effect its own internal proletariats and what the German theoretician Heiner Muhlmann calls “disruptive cultures” as a result. Empowering the global ecumene means a disempowering of local community structures, generating violent counterreactions in turn.

6.

Finally, in Hypermodernity there is no longer anything to achieve. Marxism is dead. Utopianism is dead. Revolutionary movements–despite the Arab Spring–are gone. Idealism is non-existent under such conditions, since Hypermodernity locks the individual into a modular present that is disconnected from all preceding presents. There is only the Now. Anything that has occurred more than 48 hours ago, simply ceases to exist.

Civilization has now become the sum total of its population: a planet of individuals achieving instant gratification, amoral, valueless, unmotivated and without Vision. All exoskeletal “spheres,” to use Peter Sloterdijk’s term, are gone and now there is only social “foam,” that is to say, individuals rubbing up against other individuals, each with their own private semiotic sign regime clashing with each other’s. In Modernity, civilizations with their own sign regimes clashed with one another; in Postmodernity, terrorist groups as social formations clashed; but in Hypermodernity each individual is a nation state unto himself armed and equipped with his own electronic sign regime to do battle with other suits of light in cyberspace.

With the annihilation of all geographic distance due to globalizing technologies, there is now nowhere for the individual to go to. The World Interior of the civilization now exists on a glowing, self-luminous surface in front of him. There is, furthermore, nothing to achieve, since all utopian projects have come to an end with the liquidation of all social formations.

In Hypermodernity, too much is never enough, for it is a society of excess, surfeit and signifier overload. Anyone can become “famous” for any reason, but under the conditions of constant electronic liquefaction, that fame will last precisely 48 hours. In a society in which everyone can become famous, no one in particular is famous. Thus, the structuring anthropological types of the previous world order of postmodernity are simply melted down under the impact of the unfolding architecture of planetary cyberspace: celebrities and public intellectuals cannot exist under such conditions because the digital technologies of Hypermodernity enable anyone to enter the civilizational Clearing without the slightest effort. Hence, there is no discipline that is necessary to master because all such conditions have been liquefied and melted down, to be thrown onto the junkheap along with all other civilizational paradigms.

But: there is an Empire to build, and you must be careful, in this new world interior, what you do and say, for you–as a perpetual and continuous inhabitant of its inside–are constantly under surveillance. There is no place where you are not. The Forum and the Agora are everywhere.

You do not need to go to them, they are already wherever you are.

You are civilization.

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2nd March 2018

Introducing the Art of Morpheus Lunae: On the Paternal Vulva

On the Art of Morpheus Lunae and the Paternal Vulva

by John David Ebert

“…how with shrinking hands he cut the incision in his thigh and carried him in his man’s womb, father and gracious mother at once, and well he remembered another birth, when his own head conceived, when his temple was big with child, and he carried that incredible unbegotten lump until he shot out Athena scintillating in her armour.” –Nonnos, Dionysiaca, Bk. 1.6-10

For Lacan, the Phallus existed on all three of his registers: on the level of the Real, the phallus is precisely the biological organ which we term the “penis.” But at the level of the Imaginary, the Phallus is a fantasy that the infant identifies with in order to impress his mother. He wishes to be the Phallus for her, the thing that keeps her interest focused on him and away from the Father. But in order for the individual to be properly initiated into the Big Other of society, a symbolic castration must take place, in which the individual realizes that he cannot be the phallus for the mother and that he must accede to the paternal authority which Lacan terms the Name of the Father. For him, the Father is sacrosanct, and the Phallus at the level of the Symbolic Order is precisely his authority. It’s a bit like Greek initiation into the Academy.

Lacan, however, completely ignored the vulva. For him, it had no metaphysical valency whatsoever, but I would suggest that the vulva, too, exists on all three registers: on the level of the Real, it is the pink, fleshy vagina that is the gateway and portal for all entities into this world; but the imaginary vulva is what I term the “metaphysical vulva” and it is not a physical thing at all, but a metaphysical reality that, once appropriated, accedes to the Symbolic Order of a society as a creative signification.

It was Heidegger who invented the so-called “metaphysical age” which he saw as beginning with Plato and continuing all the way down to Nietzsche–an age which Derrida termed “logocentric,” since meaning was firmly anchored in Transcendental Signifieds that were actually, in some way, “out there” and which could be reached by the Knower through a long, Hegelian pilgrimage through the Stations of the Cross, as it were, to match one’s concepts with their ultimate quilting points. All the metaphysical concepts of the metaphysical age, were, according to Lacan, anchored to what he called “quilting points,” and when slippages occurred–i.e. when a signifer came unglued from its signified–a psychosis could result, thus thrusting the individual back out of the Symbolic Order and into that swamp of images, myths and phantasies which he termed, dismissively, the imaginary order.

But it was Peter Sloterdijk who pointed out that the metaphysical age–in which the Paternal Authority reigned supreme–was preceded by a pre-metaphysical age, in which the ruling archai that governed the imaginary significations of a society were all gynocentric, to use Bachofen’s terminology. The signifiers were mythic and firmly rooted in the authority of the Great Mother. The vulva was her primary icon, for it was the source of all life and the ultimate signifier of all gateways to the Underworlds of initiation into her various Mysteries.

Heidegger’s metaphysical age, however, did not begin with Plato, but actually with Homer, and its primary characteristic was an appropriation of the metaphysical vulva from the Goddess and a dethroning and discrediting of her powers. Zeus claims the metaphysical vulva from the goddess and uses it to give birth to Athena, the goddess of wrath and Reason, from out of his skull–which has to be cloven open by the axe of Hephaestus. When Zeus gives birth to Dionysus, likewise, by retrieving his embryo from the shattered ruins of Semele and having it stitched into his thigh, he appropriates it again. (And note that when Hera parthenogenetically gives birth to the smith god Hephaestus, she attempts to reclaim the metaphysical vulva, now, however termed “the paternal vulva” in the metaphysical age [which includes Karl Jasper’s Axial Age and its various prophets–all men–who give birth to the Logos from out of their own skulls, where the paternal vulva now lies]).

Even the Jews got in on the game, for Moses and Homer are equally the architects of this age: when Yahweh takes the rib from the side of Adam and causes Adam to give birth to Eve, it is the paternal vulva at work once again, just as it is when the Christian God gives birth to Christ as the Logos from out of his own mind and appropriates the biological body of Mary as his vessel with which to do so. She, a virgin who never knows the pleasures of the phallus on the plane of the real, actually becomes an instance of the paternal vulva. The “Magnificat” in which she accedes to the Paternal Authority by saying “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” is really a way of saying, “My vagina will become the gateway of your will.”

In the Medieval epoch, the spear wound inflicted upon the side of Christ on the Cross was specifically meant to refer to the paternal vulva with which Adam gave birth to Christ. Here is an image of the vaginal wound from a fourteenth century psalter made for the Duchess of Burgundy:

Which brings us to the artwork of the new German artist Morpheus Lunae, in whose painting entitled “Folds VI: The Breaking Part,” he has perfectly compressed the image of the Crucifixion–a dead Transcendental Signified–with the paternal vulva. Myth is all about compression. It is actually the reverse of psychoanalysis, which attempts to decompress such images and sort them out and, especially in Lacan, to lift them out of the swamp of the imaginary register and transform them into the linguistic signifiers of the symbolic register, thus freeing the hapless patient from what Slavoj Zizek once derided as “the Plague of Fantasies.”

Fantasies, however, are not a plague. They are composed of images in the form of mythic compression of signifiers that have been densely interwoven as messages from deeper oracular zones within us. Each one of us, that is to say, contains a miniature Delphic Oracle within us from whence these mythically compressed images arise and which function as messages to us. Learning to read and decipher them is what straightens people out. Crushing and dismissing them via the Lacanian L-shcema is a complete failure to listen. Lacan comes to the Delphic Oracle like Apollo and kills its Python, thus wiping it out with his phallic sun rays. No more messages from the maternal vulva, but only from the Name of the Father, which is simply another name for the Paternal Vulva.

The paternal vulva is currently working out the final stages of the metaphysical age through science, in the form of in vitro fertilization, cloning, genetic engineering and test tube babies. These are all concretizations of the mythic vulva of the goddess now appropriated by Father Science. Indeed, there is currently a struggle going on for possession of the metaphysical vulva, and this forms the subtext of films such as the Alien and Blade Runner movies which do, indeed, come to us from the level of the imaginary. As James Hillman pointed out, they do not need to be translated into logocentric concepts in which their multiple meanings and ambiguities are crushed in the Name of the Father. Derridean sliding of signifiers, in which meaning proliferates like the heads of the Hydra, is the more apt image here.

What does the paternal vulva mean? The German artist Morpheus Lunae invites us to consider it through the process of aesthetic arrest before a single image which compresses multiple meanings into it. It is currently the hidden signifier of our culture, and the battle for its possession is the ultimate and final outcome of Heidegger’s metaphysical age.

I foresee a great future for Morpheus Lunae, who is following in the tradition of such great European surrealists as H.R. Giger and Zdzislaw Beksinski.

The art of Morpheus Lunae may be purchased here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MorpheusLunae

And his Patreon page is available here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/folds-vii-viii-v-11587750

 

 

 

 

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