The Weary Nihilist

“A flesh that rots, decays, and dies.  We are beings that not only think being, but that are beings among beings.  What are we to do with that fleshiness of being, of existence; a fleshiness that endures entropy, that decays, that dies?  How can we redeem that flesh when we’ve abandoned all transcendent realms, all reconciliations, all teleologies, all eschatologies?” [1]

How is one to commence with redeeming the flesh? How are we to get to the corporeal being? It must be to turn towards the eye-of-the-flesh contra Augustine. In other words, contra the entire arch of dead power that has brought us to the current situation, the implication being to clear out once and for all the ruse of western consciousness. What does it really mean for us to abandon all transcendent realms, etc.? It must be to traverse beyond that perspectival space of the trinitarian formulation, and therefore to displace that contribution by which modern power operates.

The will is the symbolizing processes of the dead perspectival spaces of modern experience. Of Nietzsche’s ‘dead will’ we are dealing with a simulation where the will was only ever an affiliation of perspectival space. What surfaces in the dead will is that everything ordered itself around challenges emoted from a will that did not exist.

Headlong into exterminism, we’d do well to remember we are living through a major extinction-event. This extinction event ought to be grasped as the accumulation against death. It is the locus of the fascist character of modern politics – power is that energized by the psychology of seduction wherein the will may experience even its own extinction as aesthetic, as Benjamin noted. Today the commodity-system sells back to the standing-reserve of the masses its own destruction as the walking-dead, whilst simultaneously the security state amps up its imperative of safety and the techno-religious orient themselves to the life-enhancing technologies. – All signs of the resurrection effect of dead-power. That the extinction event produced by the capitalist impulse should have at its heart-of-hearts an empty finality: power has no existence as a representation, only to put into play symbols enticing that threshold of life and death. It is at the threshold of life and death that power operates. What more can the extinction-event be except for the “pessimism of strength”? [Heidegger]

This is probably the darkest post on the blog so far, but one cannot shy away from that knowledge that we are already deep into the cyclical exchange of dead will. It shall be that the humans near the end put all their cards on the technologies whose instrumentalities destroyed them. How are we to set ourselves a different trajectory? Is it possible amidst the walking dead? The real question upon that question ought to be, how come fascist power is so charismatic? Extinction would have been consummated out of the operation of the will, not emerging from a lack but rather from the superabundance of life. As that which conceals its lack, such power is found everywhere where the charismatic, energetic, and technical are found moving like a shadow across the history of western consciousness.  To wage life over death (the Augustinian confession of faith in dead will) is that of the inversion of death over life. The secret of the dead will is that it works through the symbolic form of a defense of life against death. 

The ruse of western consciousness is that power does not exist, making it all the more possible for its symbolic order of simulation to wedge between every crevice of the material world (of denotation). It is by such means that the will suppresses the region of facticity. It seems to be the nihilation of facticity. For the eye-of-the-spirit it is all or nothing, and charismatically so.

The divided-will of classicism was put to an end with Augustine’s metaphysics where the will broke into the region of the will.  Thereupon it became the usurping of the eye-of-the-flesh (the corporeal body) for the simulation of the “first principle of God”. This originates an entire arch of power as mirroring-effect (McLuhan’s power as a “medium”, Baudrillard’s power as “mediation”, Foucualt’s power as a “relational field”, Nietzsche’s power as “will to will”, Marx’s power as “exchange value,” Kant’s power as “judgement”, or Augustine’s power as “pure flame of the will.”) The reality-effect is such that it is only a perspectival appearance through which we are the commandments. Western consciousness undergoes the exterminism of corporeal being under the sovereignty of the simulation of the dead will. At the end of this arch of power, we reside now in the walking dead: living amongst the debris of the history of a simulacrum of will which is nothing in itself (Nietzsche’s purely fictitious world).

Playing it out until the very end, this modern power of death over life has its origin in those signifiers of redemption (Augustine) and the understanding (Kant). It is already late in the day. As Kroker said, “we are fated to live through the dying moments of a historical force the symbolic-effectors of which, having exhausted themselves in rhapsodies about the suprasensory realm, have now taken refuge in the more prosaic ‘codes’ of a narcissistic culture.” [2] Dead power has swept down from the ideal into the material topos of the body. Or as Baudrillard remarked, “the real is no more than a stockpile of dead matter, dead bodies, and dead language.” [3] Power encircles the realm of the flesh and awaits its terminus.

Towards the superabundance of life in the strength of its pessimism, the strong-arm of modern power cocoons itself into the rhetoric of high-tech. What resides at the core of this technics is the reduction of material experience to the language of value/truth, whereby the will has been so murderous in its truth effects. The appeal of ‘living forever’ as a downloaded will in the machine, all the while casting out the eye-of-the-flesh, fulfills that seduction of the eye-of-the-spirit towards its power of life-enhancement. It should be noted that the transhumanist impulse is predicated on that arch of dead will, the exterminism site of modern power. As Nietzsche said, “the will to power can manifest itself only against resistances; therefore it seeks that which resists it” [4], so what are we to do with fleshiness when survival is predicated upon such power? In the end, amidst the walking-dead, fascist power would’ve distinguished itself in the face of the extinction-event the imperative of preservation and the enhancement. It seems that we – those living in the culture of consummated nihilism – are living through this locus of accumulation against death.

The culture plays itself out upon an exchange that is the inversion of death.The gravitational point is Nietzsche’s ‘will to will,’ concertized in the simulacrum where power is invested with all sorts of libidinal energy: just as Barthes said of language (“I am interested in language because it wounds or seduces me”[5]) the same can be said of the life-enhancing annihilation of capitalism. With the imagery of the walking-dead we have manifest the sign of our own disappearance as we find ourselves in the carceral of dead will. What to do with the fleshiness in a society already predicated on its disappearance, on the decentered, disembodied and transparent (information society) discourse of power and the sign? The body has become vermin (Kafka) as the dead will seeks to float itself out of embodiment into an exchange-principle of information.

Wither is the eye-of-the-flesh? What would’ve occurred in the arch of western experience would’ve been the closing of the eye-of-the-flesh (embodiment in the corporeal body) and the opening of the inner-eye (eye-of-the-spirit) of consciousness – a will to God, normative, transcendence, wealth, information. It began there with the Augustine confession and it ends here in technicity. What would’ve occurred is the exteriorization of the faculties of the body by which power operates. What began with Augustine is finished off by the techno extermination of flesh as the most life-enhancing imperative! Headlong into the “neutering” (Barthes) of the real, we are the first generations to pass through this funnel, as the virtual class picks off the surplus capital of transcendent will from the standing-reserve, and meanwhile catastrophes loom. To inquire into what to do with the flesh, we ought to remind ourselves that the abstraction from corporeal existence is the key to the nihilism of power. We have all become Nietzsche’s weary nihilists.

As an artist my own answer to this question of what to do with the flesh is, of course, centered around art. But really, art? Hasn’t art been the conduit for the arch of dead will that was discussed above? Quite so. But there is something lurking in art that not only puts it to an end, but buries it in the geological substrate. Maybe through a mineralizing of the field, the inorganic pushes beyond the power whose truth-effect was to cover the void? What was that “real” transformed into a sign-system anyway, except an optical effect of the image? What happens when the optical effect of the perspectival dead-will is displaced by an imago of materials asserting themselves beyond the psychology of the artist? There can only be a stepping back from the position of the artist as a controller of the field where the world as will and representation comes to an end. No more composition, only sedimentation. How else are we to get beyond that abstraction from corporeal embodiment which power operates, except by honing-in upon the material embodiment of the Object? – Perhaps it is only ever a vague hope that through embodying the Object we may once again embody ourselves? As an artist I do not want information, I want the flesh. This is a stretch and those with more understanding than I possess may rip my answer apart, but it seems to me that if there is to be a redemption of the fleshiness of being then it shall be to the fleshiness of materials that we ought to turn. Or, perhaps its too late and entropy has already set in? Perhaps all we shall do now is await the fallout of our weariness?

works cited:
[1] Bryant, The Walking Dead
[2] Kroker, The Disembodied Eye
[3] Baudrillard, Forget Focualt p 103
[4] Nietzsche, Will to Power p 346
[5] Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text p 36


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