“Utopias are found on islands…” – Umberto Eco
One may ask, if this was any way to put together an issue…and why not; I have asked this question many times to myself, without any convincing answers. Nevertheless, out of fragmented, disjointed, fractured, chaotic and non-articulate debates and discussions, something has been put together, and here I would just take refuge in Umberto Eco’s words which he said, while delivering a lecture on The Absolute and Relative, “Here, I will limit myself to confounding your ideas rather than clarifying them…”That said, I can now go ahead and present to you our platter of thoughts and ideas this month.
A magazine that survives an ever-deepening existential crisis each month, has enough reasons to brood and mull over all the existential strands – political, philosophical, psycho-analytical, cultural and ideological, that the new “complex” world throws at us – and to locate the most meaningful pursuit amidst all the seemingly ‘lost causes’, is a terrifying proposition – an exercise that requires upturning of our most fundamental ideas of truth, happiness, loneliness, love, being, meaning on a regular basis… Every new day unleashes such an astonishing smorgasbord of images that it seems simply impossible to extrapolate any meaning or future. It’s an atonal music that threatens to shatter our innermost pagodas of peace.
Alan Badiou’s notion of “monde atone” – worlds lacking a point.
A series of videos had gone viral on Youtube called ‘Hysterical literature’ – viewed over 16 million times in 200 countries, the videos feature seven women sitting in front of a dark background, reading some part of their favourite book, simultaneously being pleasured by a vibrator. They all reach orgasms by the end of their reading – tripping, straining, stuttering, swallowing, giggling, shaking, screaming and convulsing in between. According to Clayton Cubitt, the American artist who envisioned and shot this project, “I asked myself, ‘What if the women could in some way have a conversation with themselves?’ I thought the best way to go about it would be to have them read a passage from their favourite book. It would allow self-expression without the pressure to pose or sound a certain way in a formal portrait or an interview. I would also remove me from the onscreen experience and make for a fascinating battle between the mind and the body. The society that we live in tends to want to view art and sex through different lenses. ‘Hysterical literature’ was my attempt to blend the two concepts. So I put art on the table and the sex under it.” One of the women featured in the videos, Danielle, in an interview later said, “The project was shot at a very particular point in my life last year. From then until now, I’ve confirmed a lot of what I consider important components of what happiness looks like to me. Sexual expression, honesty and transparency in my personal life and within my artwork are at the top of that list. Hysterical Literature is one of the several important things that led to these realisations.” The blog which features these videos and the accounts of the experiences of these women while making them, ends on this note, ‘Okay, and now, the shameless product placement. ‘Is the real artist of the evening? The Hitachi Magic Wand Massager’.
Drawing room conversations
Private drawing room conversations of secular-liberals routinely throw up snatches like, “Technically, I have to be outraged at Modi, but really, my only hopes are pinned onto him…” Is that what Zizek meant by ‘the paradox of the hidden complicity between today’s religious fundamentalists and the “post modern” universe’?
The death of a film-maker, whose body and sexuality were as much a part of his identity as his body of work, suddenly exposed a comparatively closed society to a certain new kind of narrative surrounding sexuality, gender identity and morality – and without a protective screen or temporal delay, its symbolic universe was disturbed and shattered more brutally than others. And the society, in a state of panic started to build its own conceptual armour as defense. A conceptual Neitzsche, “Nature knows no forms and no concepts, nor even any species, but only an X, which for us remains inaccessible and indefinable….truth becomes a movable host of metaphors, metonyms, anthropomorphisms…” to a conceptual Isidore Ducasse, “ What will happen when we run out of new vices? How will satiety and idleness be staved off when designer sex, drugs and violence no longer sell? At that point we may be sure, morality will come back into fashion. We may not be far from a time when “morality” is marketed as a new brand of transgression” with many strands in-between…
Time Magazine recently slated social-atomization, the idea of living completely alone, as the numero-uno of the most influential ideas that are changing the world.
An ongoing project, the masturbate-a-thon, a collective event in which hundreds of men and women pleasure themselves for charity, raising money for sexual-and reproductive health agencies, and according to the organizers, “It is raising awareness and dispelling the shame and taboos that persist around this most commonplace, natural and safe form of sexual activity”… Slavoj Zizek in his recent book, In search of lost causes made the following comments on it, “ The ideological stance underlying the notion of the masturbation is marked by a conflict between its form and content: it builds a collective out of individuals who are ready to share with others the solipsistic egotism of their stupid pleasure. Freud already knew about the connection between narcissism and immersion in a crowd, best rendered precisely by the Californian phrase, ‘sharing an experience’. And what is crucial is the underlying symbolic pact which enables the assembled masturbators to “share a space” without intruding on each other’s space. The more one wants to be an atomist, the more some figure of the big Other is needed to regulate one’s distance from the others.”
Study of Happiness
The study of happiness is now serious, scientific business, with professors of happiness and a new Journal of happiness studies which claims to “examine both cognitive evaluations of life and affective enjoyment of life and addresses the conceptualization, measurement, prevalence, explanation, evaluation, imagination and study of happiness”…
In search of….
The happiness of Danielle, the hopefulness surrounding Modi, the conceptual paradoxes surrounding Rituparno, Time Magazine’s new lists, collective masturbation or the research papers of the Happiness journal and so much else out there, are all new collective/solitary spaces thrown open by a very complex global machinery… and there are bizarre new prescriptions, absurd maps and we are all struggling to navigate in collective/solitary ways – pursuit of happiness, pursuit of meaning, pursuit of life – evermore confounding ideas – treat the pages inside as those taken from personal diaries- of people caught in time, in between the past, present and the future, in search of the island.
“An island that didn’t exist could be sighted among the reflections of the sea, so it was also possible to confuse two islands that did exist, or never to find the one that was the intended destination.
And that is how islands become lost.
And why islands are never found. As Pliny said, some islands are forever wavering” –