Welcome back to Wednesday’s new series, THINKS to Think. What follows is the second transmission — authored by David Hall.
No Meaning but in [Shit]
by David Hall
We might begin by taking a brief moment to consider shit – considered shit and shit considered.
Shit is sensed, for all its worth, and the sensing of shit does not come without its ability to remain somehow unfixed, some atopological polyvalence: that shit encountered here and there and everywhere. Shit, in this sense, has a distinct affinity with its form and content, utility and function, utterance and meaning, but still all the while remaining both hard and soft. That is to say, shit’s real.
So, the real shit, that’s the shit. The real shit being both figuratively and literally bound to its veiled affect that creates a series of wakes in which the social, context, and extra-cultural/-representational strategies might pour in. This is what happens after both conceptual and post-conceptual textual images pour themselves out leaving figural linguistic referents – a poor pouring via Steyerl via Buchloh via Benjamin and back to the devalued commodified object. That shit’s alterity is always accounted for, and that its alterity establishes shit’s value. But this alterior evaluation does not come without its uses, shit is big, shit is wide, shit covers a lot of figural and rhetorical territory. We hear and see this shit all the time, no new shit here, only today’s shit: the shit of the day. So, the real shit is historical too – the shit of history and history’s shit.
This is one way of accounting for one particular vector of shit.
But if shit and its history is on the table then we can often look further than shit’s propositions and negations. This is another way of saying that shit isn’t easily defined, but one knows shit when one encounters shit. Another potential platitude: not all profanity is shit, but all shit is profane. Shit is hard to pin down, but the reveal of its emergence is anything but unnoticeable – shit can often be concerned with its visibility. But what gives shit its historical and cultural significance, its archival relevance, is its strict adherence to formulaic and non-literal uses, often to a proposed emotive end. Shit is evaluative because it is expressive, whether that expression is an evaluation in itself, a critique, or another radicalization in the form of fetishism. Shit’s a let down.
This is another way of saying that I want more shit and less “scatalogical determinism.”
Continuing with its establishment of value, we might also take shit’s various substrates for granted. Granted, shit’s obscenity discharges it by virtue, shit is excrement too, marking its exclusion and inclusion and the immediacy of forgetting the other’s difference. But we already know this about shit: it’s everywhere by way of its placelessness – but the commodiousness of shit is not in its ability to be ubiquitous, but in its proposed ordinariness. This is one way of saying that shit is in the eye of the beholder.
So, we’re saying shit that is shit that is everywhere and can everywhere be anything, and always ordinary, is produced. Shit’s production, and the production of shit, does not come without impending and illicit critiques of late capitalist consumerism and its engendered libidinal economies – the hot shit. But hot shit, here, is not only produced but also rapidly consumed. To put it another way, shit has currency and can sometimes substitute itself as currency. Regardless of the temperate value of shit, its production and consumption emerges in its performance, that is, shit is designated.
The designation of shit – “that is shit,” “this is the shit” – is not necessarily “new,” but untimely and unforeseen. Shit is surprising even in its supposed ordinariness. That shit too is often incorporated into various claims to the discrepancies between authenticity and alterity, repression and repetition. The claim to shit can often be in an attempt at transgression – we think shit is like this but really shit is like this – “this is my shit.” Claiming shit can demonstrate a historical designation of value – the shit par excellence – avant-garde shit and the shit of the avant-garde: the artist’s shit.
In this sense shit cleanses – cleaning shit – by way of claiming, or being claimed, to be the shit. This gesture is not dissimilar to forming an obsolete object of reflection by way of attempting to cleanse the present of the past – polished shit, some shit in the limelight – but cleansed shit is also another proposition toward disavowal and disinterest – fuck that shit.
Shit is convenient – “look at this shit” – as it relegates the responsibility of implementation, a use, after it has already been socially exchanged and encountered. Shit is compressed and economized. Shit has a message and a meeting point too. Shit behaves.
As someone else once said, “Who stepped in this [shit] and how did it get so luscious?”
Slavoj Zizek, Violence
Hito Steyerl, In Defense of the Poor Image
Benjamin Buchloh, Allegorical Procedures
Walter Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
John Cage, Lecture on Commitment, A Year From Monday
Lisa Robertson, Nilling
Boris Groys, On the New
David Hall writes in sentences and often works with materials already charged with significance. You can reach him at todavidjameshall(at)gmail.com