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Who shops at Hugo Boss? (thoughts about futurism)

by on March 21, 2013

In a particularly wild-eyed passage toward the end of the introduction to Realist Magic, Timothy Morton describes the “phenomenal display” of a particular painting — Yukultji Napangati’s painting Untitled, 2011 [you can see an image of it here] – as “lurching towards you, hypnotizing you and owning you.”

My use of the term ‘wild-eyed’ here is, I want to be clear, in no way intended to be pejorative (quite the opposite!).

And neither, I should add, is what follows in the paragraph below intended as such.

Reading Morton’s description of the force of Napangati’s painting, I thought of Filippo Marinetti’s declaration in the Futurist Manifesto that art “can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice” [link to a full-text English translation here]. Given the direct contributions of Marinetti’s blend of futurism to the rise of fascism, the reasons for my above disclaimer should be apparent —  it isn’t my intention here to associate OOO with fascism (as should be clear enough from the views I’ve expressed on this blog).

What I do find interesting here, upon juxtaposing the texts, is the perverse appreciation apparent in Marinetti’s manifesto, for something like what Morton describes as art’s capacity as “a demonic force, carrying information from the beyond.” Consider the seventh point of Marinetti’s manifesto:

7. Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece. Poetry must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces, to reduce and prostrate them before man.

Couched in the language of war and industry, Marinetti grasps at a conception of the aesthetic as a nonlocal dimension, at work between objects that withdraw from access — “unknown forces.” Of course, Marinetti is only interested in speculating on the withdrawn unknown insofar as it can be prostrated “before man.” Not merely correlationist, but fascist. Indeed, we could conceivably credit, at least in part, Marinetti’s inspiration of Mussolini with giving us the term fascist to begin with.

The fascist’s keen interest in the aesthetic, in the most colloquial sense of the term, is indisputable enough.

To wit, Hugo Boss clothed the Waffen SS before he clothed…whoever it is that shops at Hugo Boss (not grad students).

Consider, as well, the obsession of the Nazis (and militant nationalists in general) with enforcing the purity of artistic display, with crafting national myths, with military parades and goosesteps.

Beyond all this, at the ontological level, I wonder about the zone of the fascist — predicated upon the proliferation of nonlocal mechanisms of control. The object that is fascism (hyperobject, perhaps, in his terminology) seeks to enforce what Morton alludes, in his article in continent, the brittle and rigid state of a nonautonomous zone — literally, a police state.

[I wonder: would it be then, that one is not a fascist, but rather that one fascists?]

I am interested in reading further into Realist Magic. Morton writes with a sense of urgency in the introduction on the danger of the variety of thinking of objects — and of the aesthetic as well, I assume — that “cleaves to rigid consistency.” That enforces brittle stasis. That adheres to any state.

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From → Morton

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