Beyond Identity

We appear to be alienated, one-sided individuals (an x) but in essence we are multi-sided creatures and are capable of a lot: we are capable of different forms of labor, of producing in multi-faceted ways; we also ‘do not belong to ourselves,’ ourselves being part of a mesh that extends into the micro and up into the macro. By opting for the appearances of a static, we forget processes.

Identity Politics works within this frame as it is absorbed into capital (nay, not even absorbed: it has always been a product of capital). We are consigned to identities, ignoring our multi-side dimensions as we are set into poststructural containments: dialects, ethnicity, gender identities, sexual orientations, occupations, race, religion, etc., where the one-sided feature of identity is highlighted and bolstered. It produces a ‘heap’ thinking as we all are lodged into our heaps, consigned to heaps.

Whereas the particular identity is crucial for struggling, critiquing or challenging the confines of social relations, power and the like, the one-sided feature perpetuates confinement: “I am x”, without filling the other side “I am human,” ignores the human universal aspect, reproducing forms of appearance in society by reducing identity to a reified object and a static (linear determinism of particulars), thus reinforcing the alienated individual. This forgetting of the universal aspect of our commonness has led to identities as consumer lifestyle brands.

Consigned to separate heaps in the reproduction of identities according to the dictates of personalization combines, it is with the division of labor that identity formations emerge (as its condition of possibility) just as people’s labor becomes an ‘exclusive activity.’ Thus reified the politics of identity becomes a reactionary tactic, diverting issues of common interests in favor of the particular form of appearance – absent of the totality it favors re-branded bourgeois identification, as a form of neoliberal atomization. Identity ignores common bond or shared valuation in favor of forms of appearance produced as markets.

But a critical look at identity would from the purveyors of that reality-tunnel implicate me into a circular argument: I am a “white male” susceptible to the very containments I am trying to critique, trapping me into a cycle so that it refers to what is being critiqued in order to explain the critique – i.e. it attempts to explain the argument and also causes it: your identity is to be blamed as the cause of your critique. But as I previously mentioned, such forms of appearances that are produced as markets are impoverished positions. I ought not be judged for what I appear to be but how I work in the world (to what degree I attempt to transform this world). At both macro and micro scales the atomized appearance begins to look like a thoroughly superficial aspect: the “white male” body in which I find myself incarnated is not my own: it is already host to a myriad of different organisms found on the micro level. Focusing solely on the surface feature of my race and gender not only serves to lodge me in a particular heap of neoliberal structures, it misses the more fundamental fact that my body is an ecology. The view from the sacred cow of identity fails to look at the world geologically or ecologically – through fields of scale that outstrip the atomized, temporal construction of identity through capital.

The problem is how to proceed: how does one step back into the position of the universal (“I am human”) up against scales of the anthropocene that surpass it? That is a question I will leave hanging.

In any case, my politics can be observed in my art. As an artist the task is always to convey without speaking directly anyway. Specifically, look at the way the field of painting is dealt with in my work and you will see two main features: [1] non-illustrative painting; [2] geologic formations. These two features, apart from picturing, suggest an underlining political engagement. The insinuation in the subtitle of my blog “Mineralizing the Imagination” suggests a primary aim of displacing identity into geology. The concern of mediation is brought forward as a geologic field in association with negation so that abstract-geology becomes an iconoclastic gesture. “Mineralizing the imagination” equals a kind of destruction of mediation that would form as the imaginary projection of identity. The geologic from my position is an iconoclasm.

The materialization of the field suggests displacement of the ideological and social chains that bound and atomize us – pitting groups and subgroups off against each other as it tends to do – in favor of geologic reality. It is my assumption that the geologic could serve as a scale disrupting the tiny, accumulation-machine of a personality, in favor of a world without – without the forms that structure what we inhabit as a social world, and therefore an effacement of identity.

The problem I left hanging above could then steer towards how to associate the geologic negation with a negation of the sacred cow (me as a consumer lifestyle brand), and this in order to associate the strata with the common valuation.

Where is the human in the face of geologic reality? Truthfully, the human is left wanting. The competence of the constructivist is scarce, its utopia of an artificial culture left wanting. Perhaps the appeal towards a wider vision of what is possible is gotten by way of the shared material affirmation, which while pulverizing the subject in its determinate negation holds over for the equivalence of the “human” with the “matter” – as the flesh, as body, as the facticity of the body of nature?

Iconoclasm is conceived as a critical suspicion of appearances. This suspicion is turned foremost towards the category of the particular identity whose condition of possibility is the market: the lived ideology of the particular, which emerges out of conditions of production of relations between people and objects. It is not enough to construct an intersection of how various powers cut through the relations between people and objects – one must go to the very heart of the matter and that is egoism as such. This structure is “mineralized” – no longer depicted as a presence but rather through indices of absence presented through the speculation of geologic time.

Whereas the politics of identity reifies identity as a static category, atomized according to the symbolic effectors of the political economy, a true theory of emancipation goes beyond this because it is based on the end of mediations; most formidably, it is destruction of the sacred cows that are capital’s forms of appearance.

To quote the Zohar, “The messianic world will be a world without images.”

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