Oct 23, 2013

version #1

The Dissolute Subject

Alexi Kukuljevic

From a glacial distance the dissolute subject observes. With a cold, clinical gaze, softened with blush, it decomposes the animal of its concern (namely itself) into a series of impostures that form a finite and non-denumerable set. Concluding that it is separated from itself by its skin, by its surface reflection that it eyes on an other’s cornea, it comes to recognize its nudity as an impossible innocence. Imagining itself born into a film directed by Douglas Sirk, it apprehends its infantile cry as desperate, its first signs of life as melodrama. The dissolute subject thus brings a stage to every occasion and sees the role that it must play as a part that can be mastered. Shorn of the illusion of the naturalness of its character, it embraces that most primitive fiction, the I, as a cloak that can serve as both canopy and parachute.

Inclined towards decadence, the dissolute subject understands itself as an animal whose artifice has infiltrated even its most natural of sentiments, its most instinctual desires. This is not to suggest that the human is born with an iron lung. The human leans on nature, certainly, but it props itself up with a bejeweled cane. This is to say that the human being is not occasionally ornamental, but occasioned by it. It is a metaphysical mollusk. It inhabits its self like a shell with which it decorates its existence. Adventavit asinus pulcher et fortissimus.1

The dissolute subject is insensitive. Yet, its insensitivity stems from an hypersensitivity. It feels the imprint of the other’s desire pressed up against its surface like the stain of a finger left on a glass pane. With an air of detachment, the dissolute subject apprehends its own desire as an impersonation of its own objectification. Shorn of a belief in the authenticity of its like and dislikes, it pins itself to the arbitrary violence of their differentiation. It accepts impropriety as its authentic manner.

It does not identify with its consciousness. Acknowledging that consciousness makes a compelling case for itself, it struggles to feel its self as a chilly draft that enters through loose boards and shoddy construction. It states: “I am a gust of fetid air”. I = I is a rabbit pulled from a Stetson.

The dissolute subject bases its theoretical existence on the judgment that it is not a subject unless it takes itself to be an object. It thus takes itself to be a nothing attached to something. A poor excuse for a subject, but a subject nonetheless. Apprehending itself as an object, yet resisting the gravity of intuitive conclusions and the pull of grammar, it forces to utterance the symbolist formula: I is an other. The identity of its being lies in its identification with what it is not. Not troubled by contradiction, it conceives of its own being as a vanishing act, draping its subjectivity over its objecthood like an invisible film.

The dissolute subject does not believe in magic, but loves it. Reveling neither in the trick’s illusion nor the smug disclosure of its mechanism; rather it loses itself in the struggle to observe the lapsus, the blink of consciousness that allows what is not to come to be. Viewing the self as a thing manufactured, it wants a controlling stake in the business and learns early on the virtues of dissembling as a means to investing in itself. For the dissolute subject mastery over one’s appearance becomes the sole virtue; it thus becomes a student in the art of betrayal, studying the micro gestures of one’s tell. Separating cause from effect, the dissolute subject can exhibit pleasure in pain, ease when distressed, act nonchalant when harried, erupt in anger over a trifle. It thus learns to toy with expectation. Studying the intensity of sensation, measuring its degrees, moderating its effects, the dissolute subject loosens the rivet that binds the soul to the hard logic of its passions.

Its life unfolds as a game played between the I and the Me. Recognizing self-reference as a premature mummification, the dissolute subject consigns its actions to meaninglessness, making marks without direction and without sense. Playing out a game in full view whose rules are inaccessible and whose meaning is void. The dissolute subject is hermetic by vocation, a structuralist by intuition rather than practice. It sees itself as a fossil whose endless chatter illuminates a carcass that just happens to be living. Not so much overcome as buoyed by this dark image, it treats art as the skeletalization of the real.

An optometrist’s nightmare: to look into the eye of the dissolute subject—with no matter how refined an instrument—one sees night.

Seeking indefatigably to undermine the consistency that obtains in the circuit that runs from the subject to the object, it chisels away at the rut along which this animal habitually moves from the You to the Me to the I. The dissolute subject treats these designations as isolated fragments; bits of debris, grammatical continents, between which it makes trained leaps. This requires a certain syntactical loosening whereby the linguistic means through which the subject is positioned begin to waver. The dissolute subject speaks like Mike Tyson. It no longer puts its faith in the armour of syntax, but rather uses it, recognizing that we all need our armour and the armour of abstraction is one of the most potent weapons leveled at all that threatens to crush thought, reducing it to the snot of opinion.

The dissolute subject no longer concerns itself with looking or feeling comfortable in one’s own skin. Flaying the flesh of a phenomenology, its finds the banality of the abyss, that most indifferent of archives whose non-sense seeps across all borders, an alien acid burning through the ship of the world.

Suicide is not a temptation, but a necessity whose possibility inoculates the subject against the need to carry through with the deed. The human’s greatest artifice, suicide, is that most primitive and archaic of stages in which the I empties itself of its triumph over life. Such a subject does, however, incline towards a radical pessimism. Like the destructive character, who it admires, the dissolute subject has an historical sense: “a basic, invincible distrust in the course of events and a permanent awareness that everything can go wrong.”

It imagines so-called modern man as a beast limping into its future. The more we learn about its many foibles, empty triumphs, pyrrhic victories, the more it is convinced that the human has somewhere along the way stepped into a bear trap. Shattered bone. The snap sounds distant, muffled by a thick gauze, and the sharp jolt of pain has given way to a pulsing throb. The wound still oozes blood. Teeth on bone. One can smell the slow seep of marrow. It senses the quickening drain of human sap.

The dissolute subject reads Nietzsche with an inflamed brain. When it hears the knock of the uncanniest of guests, it imagines a yellow vapor pouring into the room like a coterie of poisoned cockroaches lumbering through a seam, entering the nostril of the soul as fumes cloddishly enter the huffer’s brain, seeping into the sinus, and then methodically liquefying the brain, turning it into a yucca-like mush that could be extracted, sifted through some cheesecloth and drunk with a straw, served no doubt from a coconut.

Its taste thus inclines more to thinkers who define the human in terms of its aberrant imagination than the cunning of its reason. The human being is not a well oiled machine; its relation to its past is not that of a data bank. The human archive is a disordered mess. Its dysfunction is essential.

The dissolute subject has given up on the Signatura rerum. Preferring to place itself in the holes opening across its field of experience, where a black muck is beginning to froth, like crude bubbling on the earth’s acned surface.

  1. Then the ass came out on stage, he was so beautiful and brave!

Pile Driver, Alexi Kukuljevic, photograph, 2013

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