the rigorous m

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Archive for April, 2015

flann o’brien on exhaustion

Posted by rigorousm on April 28, 2015

I opened the bed fastidiously, lay into the middle of it, closed it up again carefully and let out a sigh of happiness and rest. I felt as if all my weariness and perplexities of the day had descended on me pleasurably likea great heavy quilt which would keep me warm and sleepy. My knees opened up like rosebuds in rich sunlight, pushing my shins two inches further to the bottom of the bed. Every joint became loose and foolish and devoid of true utility. Every inch of my person gained weight with every second until the total burden on the bed was approximately five hundred thousand tons. This was evenly distributed on the four wooden legs of the bed, which had by now become an integral part of the universe. My eyelids, each weighing no less than four tons, slewed ponderously across my eyeballs. My narrow shins, itchier and more remote in their agony of relaxation, moved further away from me till my happy toes pressed closely on the bars. My position was completely horizontal, ponderous, absolute and incontrovertible. United with the bed I became momentous and planetary. … Lying quietly and dead-eyed, I reflected on how new the night was, how distinctive and unaccustomed its individuality. Robbing me of the reassurance of my eyesight, it was disintegrating my bodily personality into a flux of colour, smell, recollection, desire—all the strange uncounted essences of terrestrial and spiritual existence. I was deprived of definition, position and magnitude and my significance was considerably diminished. Lying there, I felt the weariness ebbing from me slowly, like a tide retiring over limitless sands. The feeling was so pleasurable and profound that I sighed again a long sound of happiness.

— Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman, 119-120

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taussig on performing being looked at

Posted by rigorousm on April 28, 2015

To bring sex into the fray is to engage with that “immense reservoir of electrical energy” that is Baudelaire’s crowd. Nevertheless Baudelaire’s sketch of the flaneur is but one half of the picture, the half that concerns the observer. For to look is only half the story. The other half is the look on the face and the movement of the body of the person aware of being looked at.

The truth is that the people the flaneur espies are aware—extremely aware—of being looked at. It is a game. For not only are the observed aware of being observed, but with the dispensation in the female fashion of revelation and concealment, their awareness of being observed has moved from a passive into an active realm of display that takes advantage of the observer’s conceit that he, like the fabled flaneur, is seeing without being seen seeing.

… What sort of history can be built on seeing as not seeing as the basis of knowing beauty? …

… The person being looked at but not being looked at, he said with painful deliberation, pretends to be not looked at and puts on a wooden face. Think about it! he exclaimed, carried away by his image. Wooden faces are now the rage as these exaggerated breasts pop up all over Colombia, like tulips in Holland! One part of the body stands out; another, the face, withdraws into a mask of stolidity. Not only does the person being looked at adopt a wooden face, but the person looking does as well. Her face is saying that she doesn’t see you not looking at her.

— Michael Taussig, Beauty & the beast, 2012, p 81.

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