Monday, 5 February 2018

Picture Post #33: Bourgeois Reminiscence








'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.'

Posted by Tessa den Uyl and Martin Cohen


Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio . Florence . Italy
 Picture credit: Antonio Borrani, 2017
  
Fragments of appearance are offered in the form of leftovers, sold at a market stall by the ounce. Not by the weight per square metre, as used by some manufactures, or by the linear yard. In any case, most likely these surplus fabrics, extras left over after use, could not reach those required measurements.

So instead here we find the evidence of what is left. Fragments not big enough to decorate an entire sofa, but maybe for a cushion it will do. Limited quantities for limited decoration.

The leftover fabric is a measured out merchandise until complete exhaustion. An excess to be sold anew. But this is not the defence of the poor, but rather of a poverty that, solely by its unoffending presence (when permitted) constitutes a critique of possession -- respects the form of private property.

Making such sense of self through this projection into an external referent is a form of psychosis, or to use a Lacanian term, foreclosure. The relation of the subject to the Other is one of dialectic exclusion. Is aspiring to images that offer a make-believe form of prestige a way to enhance an illusion, or to add to alienation?

For sure, we do not find cushions cut from this cloth in the iconic depiction of The Potato Eaters by Van Gogh…

17 comments:

Martin Cohen said...

I only had a very modest role in this post, so perhaps I can say I think it is a very good one? Antonio Boranni's image is both 'quotidienne' and delicately aesthetic, and this quote sticks in my mind: "Fragments not big enough to decorate an entire sofa, but maybe for a cushion it will do". But as to the message of the piece, I remain a little unclear. Projection? Lacan? Rather I see the scraps as much more ordinary than that, disconnected from their creator's hopes and imagined uses.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Martin,
Thank you for your comment.

Admitting the post has something pretentious, for we deal with notions, where is truth? More roads lead to Rome, but if Rome is the image, no road will ever take us there. We take projections
and highlight them, to expose other projections. Whether this is objective reality is doubtful. Not to be caught by projections is difficult, similar is to say not to be caught by attachment, and the only thing we can be attached to is an idea. To extend the content of the post would be to say that as long as we project ideas that are founded on agony, distress will be its consequence. And humanity continuos to spin ‘absurd’ webs, rather invisible ones, they easily escape our sight. Thus to see the scraps as scraps, disconnected, are we able?

Keith said...

On a perhaps banal, everyday level, isn’t one of the stock ideals of commerce to match up customer with product? Isn’t that, simply put, what’s happening here? A natural complementarity that delivers at least four wins: win 1 (the consumer), win 2 (the vendor), win 3 (the gross domestic product), win 4 (the environment, for lack of discarded waste). That is, a natural churning of the marketplace, which centers unremarkably on things and services — nicely aligned with unaffected wants and needs, indistinguishably real and imagined.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Keith,
Your description of the market place, in my opinion, is the way from hell to heaven and back again.

Keith said...

With characterizations like ‘hell’, Tessa, you sound as if you’re not a big fan of commerce or the marketplace. Yet, surely, it’s universal: whether among citizens of the smallest tribes around the world (including bartering) or among citizens of nationally scaled societies. And within, I would venture, just about every social construct in-between. No matter the precise contours of the exchange resorted to, individuals typically aren’t wholly self-sufficient islands, right? They usually need (or want) something that someone else can and is willing to provide, while offering something in return, whether coin of the realm or sought-after goods. It’s the classic, rudimentary quid pro quo, in the context of economics: no matter how simple (informal and minimally structured) or complex (formal and elaborately codified) the mechanisms that define how it such exchanges happen. As for your label ‘hell’, is it really so hellish if the ‘marketplace’ entails a woman in the photo turning acquired cloth remnants into covers for cushions rather than sofas? Likewise, is it so hellish if the ‘marketplace’ entails two families, both living rustically alone and off the grid in the backwoods of Alaska, decide to exchange elk meat for lumber? It’s easy to stumble into classism.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Keith,

You cannot negate classism within the point of view you offer. Classism is a reality, not a fantasy.

The more codified and complex the exchange becomes, more superstructures take place within the exchange. Up to a point where it becomes difficult to distinguish how something was raised. Properly within that obfuscation the psychologic and the economical condition of the poor remains unmodified.

Ecology, in relation to a tragic human condition, is a euphemism for economy.

Thomas Scarborough said...

One wonders whether fragments always existed, or whether they are a symptom of modern consumption.

Martin Cohen said...

"the only thing we can be attached to is an idea"
- but what about feelings?

Martin Cohen said...

Isn't the reality of such searches that choice is REDUCED? That if one had the money, one could find more? Or is it that through such searches you can 'stumble upon' something that you did not even know you wanted? But if you did not want it, then you are surely wasting your money!

Martin Cohen said...

You are becoming very enigmatic, Thomas. Heracleitean, one might worry.

Keith said...

We’re actually on the same page, Tessa, as to classism — or at worst, only one page removed from one another. In one fashion or another, classism is ubiquitous — though to strikingly different degrees, depending on where. Classism is one of the spurs to modern-day populism, which is becoming almost as ubiquitous. But classism is more than just an attitude. It’s more than just an inscrutable social predisposition or invention. It’s more than just the result of competition in the presence of uneven advantages. And it’s more than just unyielding political ideology. Classism has connections to the expanding inequality gnawing at societies globally, of all politically philosophical persuasions. A sidebar — perhaps informative as to the transactional nature of the marketplace — is ‘behavioral economics’. Up to a point, the latter helps us understand the effects of psychology — and bounded rationality! — in decision-making. Including decision-making as participants in all the cracks and crannies of the marketplace. Meanwhile, we don’t know the circumstances of the woman selecting from among the remnants. My worry in overly hastily discounting the marketplace, as it has evolved, is in romanticizing earlier periods of history, fancying that life was then less pitiless.

Thomas Scarborough said...

It's something one aspires to. Heidegger gave us the timely reminder, 'Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy.'

Now in the Potato Eaters, 133 years ago, even the poorest know no fragments. They have whole cloth on their table, and whole cloth on their bodies. But in our monthly Picture Post, we find fragments. Has something changed, and if so, why?

Do we now so value things according to their monetary worth -- a very abstract thing, capable of infinite subdivision -- that we no longer value them for what they are in themselves?

On the other hand, perhaps we are simply reaching a point where humanity is so stretched on the planet that even the scraps have value?

Tessa den Uyl said...

I guess when the feeling is detached from the question why we are having that emotion, the feeling is just a passing experience without further ‘weight’. But as soon as we cling to it, we have already positioned the feeling in some other relation, which is an idea. I am afraid that many of our feelings are taught. (A certain circumstance evokes certain feelings or vice versa, but the feeling derives from a previous thought about how we relate the feeling towards specific circumstances). I think that to be attached to a feeling is to be attached to an idea about that feeling, otherwise attachment would not take place.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Even if one would have the money, you cannot buy the symbolic values that stem from it. Choice was reduced within the conception of the product.

Martin Cohen said...

You seem, Hereceitathomas, to be saying 'no' to your earlier question?

"Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy" - but I find your expanded comment quite thought-provoking!

Martin Cohen said...

"classism". Is that a suitable subject for a post? A Keith investigation?

Thomas Scarborough said...

Keith seems to speak of the marketplace as being self-adjusting. Some call it a rising financial platform: prices rise, earnings rise, and inflation by and large is self-cancelling. What is often left out is that this may preclude any significant change in the status quo. The platform moves vertically, yet on top of it, all remains the same.

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