Object Permanence: Andrew Cameron on Mark McKnight
The question is: how does one hold an apple
Who likes apples
And how does one handle
Filth? The question is
How does one hold something
In the mind which he intends
To grasp and how does the salesman
Hold a bauble he intends
To sell? The question is
When will there not be a hundred
Poets who mistake that gesture
For a style. (1)
The involuntary, as a concept, is clearly different from, and yet often appears in the same shape as, what we call addiction. The former is bodily, unthinking, based in biological survival, and from its own point of view, universal. The latter could be described similarly albeit with the added element of choice; a conscious choice that initiates a series of moments within which decisions are then made outside and below the realm of conscious choice. In such shadowed depths of the mind, the contours of addiction and the involuntary blend, deepen, and lose separation. As an aside, why no other name for this adjective turned noun: the involuntary? An action made object, to cut the noun from the adjective whole cloth is the laziest means for thinking one as the other. "To be" substitutes for "to do," and suddenly we're back in the space of addiction. In that space, doing and being are indistinguishable. Addicted action produces no excess meaning outside itself, and so escapes the bounds of meaning altogether, or rather, means nothing. To not merely be nonsense, such an action re-enters meanings boundaries as self-reinforcing reason, advancing for and to no end. Why? Because. Never enough, the answer calls forth further questions, and so propagates itself, survives, through time. Yet the thought of survival returns the discussion to the sphere of the biological, the unthinking, the bodily, and as such, the involuntary. What are we talking about? Of course we are talking about beauty, of course we are talking about images.
To further his own argument on the matter, Aristotle reminded us that, "even when things are painful to look upon - corpses, for instance, or the shapes of the most revolting animals - we take pleasure in viewing highly realistic images of them." (2) The point attempts to prove itself by flirting with its inverse: even when things are painful we look, but obviously when things are pleasurable. As an aside the sudden juxtaposition of the two, pleasure and pain and their common use in a single argument, is instructive of Sade's first clarity: pain and pleasure as polar extremes can often be indistinguishable, that is, constitutive of one another's meaning. Here the full reality of the one, while existing from a physical standpoint on its own (hand slaps firmly to skin...), can only be realized through the conceived relation to the other (...followed by furrowing light kisses). Meaning, in this case, is not only relative but also dependent. Knowledge of pleasure, as knowledge of pain, must be gained and grasped individually, but even in that moment acquisition of the other accrues.
A description seems necessary: Two holes appear in the relatively flat and featureless dirt, one apparently made by impact because naturally round, sloped, and cratered, and the other seemingly dug by human force, somewhat ugly because haphazard rather than random, oddly deep, and exploratory because directional without seeming directed. Scale is impossible to determine. Whether measurements by inches or by millennia would suffice simply can't be said. Seeking universals once made one a Modernist, that is, whether this image was taken at eye-level or from a plane, it was certainly captured from above…
Similarities abutted always beg the question, is the one the other if I can see it as such? Alas, the one and the other remain themselves ever more so while linguistic definition proceeds by defining all the things one isn't to determine all the things one is. But what again of the involuntary? Think of hands recoiling from flame without needing a concept of heat, think of dodging a projectile, think of smiling back at the person firmly behind you, penetrated, in love. What are we talking about? Do we need theory, should there be a theme? "This is about queerness," we could say. We could also simply look around the room to see what and who are present. We could continue to refine the relation between a depth and ourselves, between seeing the macro as the micro and vice versa, between two men and an as yet to be gendered third all separated by a lens. The truly queer creates meaning where there has previously been little, and while it actively flirts with the possibility, it absolutely does not allow itself to be understood. Sometimes context is its own excuse, and sometimes a seed can only arrive at fertile soil chambered within layers of tough thorn, protected and obscure.
July 9, 1997
I'm so sorry for everything I've said. I'd take it back if I could. I am willing to admit that, in some sense, these descriptions of my visits have obscured the sufficiency of the meals I've had. I will not admit, however, that sufficiency is something I could be reasonably expected to live with. That is, I am truly sorry, but an insufficient meal is available, and nothing else tastes as sweet. (3)
1. Oppen, George. “Five Poems about Poetry.” New Collected Poems. New Directions, 2008. Print.
2. Aristotle. “Poetics.” Oxford World’s Classics, Aristotle, Poetics. Ed. Anthony Kenny. Oxford University Press, 2013. 20. Print.
3. Wenderoth, Joe. Letters To Wendy’s. Athens, GA: Verse Press, 2000. Print.