Thursday, April 10, 2008

Oh God

"This is the situation Lévi-Strauss describes: the world begins to signify before anyone knows what it signifies; the signified is given without being known.  Your wife looked at you with a funny expression.  And this morning the mailman anded you a letter from the IRS and crossed his fingers.  Then you stepped in a pile of dog shit.  You saw two sticks on the sidewalk positioned like the hands of a watch.  They were whispering behind you back when you arrived at teh office.  It doesn't matter what it means, it's still signifying.... Nothing is ever over and done with in a regime of this kind.  It's made for that, it's the tragic regime of infinite debt, to which one is simultaneously debtor and creditor." (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 112-3. Emphasis theirs)

This is from their discussion of regimes of signs, and the endless chains of signifiers, in which signs refer only to other signs (words defined only by words, defined by words, etc., e.g.  I'm not sure if they actually used the term "IRS" in the original French, or if they used the French government's equivalent).  Then later, in their chapter on Faciality:

"Earlier, we encountered two axes, signifiance and subjectification.  We saw that they were two very different semiotic systems, or even two strata.  Signifiance is never without a white wall upon which it inscribes its signs and redundancies.  Subjectification is never without a black hole in which it lodges its consciousness, passion, and redundancies.  Since all semiotics are mixed and strata come at least in twos, it should come as no surprise that a very special mechanism is situated at their intersection.  Oddly enough, it is a face: the white wall/black hole system.  A broad face with white cheeks, a chalk face with eyes cut in for a black hole.  Clown head, white clown, moon-white mime, angel of death, Holy Shroud." (Ibid., 167, emphasis theirs.)

And a little later in the same section:

"The face is not a universal.  It is not even that of the white man; it is White Man himself, with his broad white cheeks and teh black hole of his eyes.  The face is Christ.... Jesus Christ superstar." (Ibid., 176)

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