metaphysical & metaphorical musings : art, architecture, and arithmetic

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Silent Insurrection Begins

It won’t be televised.  It will be in your living room.

After an eight-hour jam session with Baudrillard, “meat-eating furniture” was probably the last phrase I wanted to hear.  But that didn’t stop reality:

This is just plain weird, but it seems like a useful sort of weird, at least for our purposes.  I don’t think this is quite the rebellion of objects that Baudrillard has in mind, but there are (at least) two factors at work here that seem relevant to our purposes.

First, the epithet alone screams “Consumer Accident!”, in every sense of the term.  A writeup from the Baudrillard-Virilio ad agency would probably read something like:

“Tired of just circulating signs?  Now, you too can enjoy the spectacle of the accident in your own home!  Hours of fun, and utility!  Works great with children and most pets! (Children and pets not included.)”

Second, this is self-professedly art.  Strange, even morbid, but still art—fatal art.  Art depicting the consumption of organic bodies by mechanical objects.  An obscene excess by our standards—greener than green?—but this excess is made essential to the thing itself (and isn’t this, in itself, really the condition of art?)—the power of the mouse-eating table is the fact that it eats mice when no table really has to do so.  Fatality is function, and accident is essential.  The amalgamation of practical objects yields an art which draws its power from the accidental, develops a material poetics of the accident.  In skipping the entire fossil-fuel cycle—fatal speed, terminal velocity?—it also extracts sacrifice from symbolic exchange and grants it pure utility.  I don’t think this is obscene yet, but what if we were to start encouraging rodent populations as a power supply?

“Our electricity bill has gone way down.  Not only do the appliances power themselves, but on Saturday nights, which used to be family TV night, we bet on whose chair will catch the most spiders.”

The dual-utility object is seductive: it is not overtly terrifying, but maintains its fatality as enigma.  Baudellaire’s seduction—“vertigo of obscenity”—shocking and disquieting (149).  The fatal strategy forces the subject into the paradoxical political position: subjectivity is a breakwater against change, emblematized by death, and now the fatal art-object forces this into the most mundane part of our lives—our furniture and appliances—as a means of showcasing our obscene position, “returns the subject to mortal transparency” (144).  Instead of being haunted by the excrescent body, the art-objects use them as energy.  Instead of trying to suppress accidents, this art actively welcomes them.  The utopia of the accident, embracing the thing itself and bringing it into our very lives.

“Camping’s a breeze with my new grill.  The scorpions add a little zing of flavor.”

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