the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

taussig on nicknames and their relation to the baroque

Posted by rigorousm on February 20, 2015

Nicknames make you ask questions you wouldn’t ask of an “ordinary” or real name. Nicknames open up names and the act of naming. They splay language open so as to provide alternate universes by stepping out of the rut of everyday life. Having a nickname or an alias is like having a mask, a cover over the real face, similar to what a facelift provides. (123, “The Designer Name”)

You can think of it like this. A nickname sits between one’s real name and a false name, and it is in that ambiguous space also that I would place the face or body changed by cosmic surgery. To the extent that such a face of body is like a false name or an alias, it can seem inauthentic, strange, and troubling, and this is what we find in expressions of distaste toward cosmic surgery outside of Latino cultures, for example. On the other hand, you can, as I have been at pains to point out, think of a nickname not as false but as an adornment– like pearl earrings of a modish hat– and problems such as inauthenticity, being true to one’s body, one’s age, or one’s looks, are irrelevant, which is precisely the aesthetic of the baroque, in which the love of the theatrical, the artificial, and the extravagant was second only to the labyrinthine complexity of the state, the corruption of the bureaucracy, and the heavenly ordained [pwer of the king. It is in this way, then, that the aesthetic of cosmic surgery is today infused with the current political setup, that extravaganza of false faces. (126, “The Designer Name”)

… the baroque, wherein an aesthetic of artificiality and the inordinate complexity of statecraft theatricalizes the world… (109, “The surgeons of the underworld”

— Michael Taussig, Beauty and the Beast, 2012.


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