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Saturday, June 30, 2012

metaphysics of paper 2

...The heavy mouth, the portable clay – it is here that I want to plant land, survey, plant some stakes.
The first stake has to do with the various motions that are in play in inscribing the tablet. The first motion is that of the sign itself, which is entirely the act of a gesture. Of course, the very fact that the gesture is immobilized in the sign signals the potential divide between the sign and the gesture – once the trace is standardized, the gesture recedes before the tool itself: the printing press is prefigured in Enmerkar’s act. Perhaps it is a mark of that mechanical future that Enmerkar does not consult the gods before creating his magic object, if we think of the gods in opposition to tools. There are mythical hints of this in the Eastern Mediterranean myths concerning the human rebellions against the gods. Still, Enmerkar does not act in conscious rebellion against the goddess Inanna, his protector: he simply responds to a particular human incapacity, a heavy jaw.
That first motion is echoed in the second motion, which is the material in which the figure is written. The text is always inscribed on something – some substratum, some hyperkeimenon. This is the orginal sublimated object – it gives itself to its own substitution by existing, on that day, in the moment of inscription, as the inscribed thing. And its movement is subordinate to the figures that are inscribed upon it – they exist above it, so to speak. They fly, like cherubim and seraphim, like bugs and Gods, and land. The substratum travels, too, but dumbly, materially – its flight is to the flight of the figures as the flight  of a thrown pebble is to the flight of a bird. However, the doubleness of its mobility is essentially like that of the figures. As a standardized object, it is immobile enough to bear the inscription. But as a limited object in space,  it also can be sent. And it is here that it intervenes in the social logic of writing – it is here that its sublimation is, and always will be, imperfect. For if the written couldn’t be sent, then the object itself would have a heavy mouth. In limit cases – of heavy blocks – writing and the object slow down. In the imagination, this slowing down has to do with a superhuman memory, or a monument. The block, the marble or granite of the monument bears the fall of the figure into the imperial realm of “eternity”, outlasting the human generations just as the tablet can circulate outside of the community. The flight of the day is frozen into the date of the monument. 
The second stake is in the trick, or trope, the turn, the trope, the magical transformation of object to beast, sound to sense, mark to meaning. Why is this a trick or a trap, however? It will take civilizations of nostalgia to answer that question, but the question seems to be posed, or coiled at least, in the story. The transformation of sound – which can cause a mouth to get heavy – into sense is paralleled by the transformation of the mark into meaning, but going in this direction, we leave behind the hyperkeimenon, we forget it. In the story, the Lord of Aratta is tricked into surrendering by taking the tablet in his hand – it is the tablet itself that has the magical meaning. This trick  is reversed in a more common fairy tale, that of the fatal sealed letter. A prince or troublemaker is given a sealed message to carry to a king. The message states that the king should murder the messanger. Here, the trick is the script, and the matter it must be written on is the veil. Matter eclipses itself – one of its tricks.

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