notes from the ever-emerging field
A still life is a static state filled with vibratory motion, or resonance. A quivering in the stability of a category or a trajectory, it gives the ordinary the charge of an unfolding.
It is the intensity born of a momentary suspension of narrative, or a glitch in the projects we call things like the self, agency, home, a life. Or a simple stopping.
When a still life pops up out of the ordinary, it can come as a shock or as some kind of wake-up call. Or it can be a scene of sheer pleasure - an unnamed condensation of thought and feeling. Or an alibi for all of the violence, inequality and social insanity folded into the open disguise of ordinary things. Or it can be a flight from numbing routine and all the self-destructive strategies of carrying on.
It can turn the self into a dreaming scene, if only for a minute.
There is no evidence that the world is becoming more virtual. The cyber-prophets were wrong here. The virtual is becoming more real. It wants to penetrate and map out our real lives and social relationships. We are no longer encouraged to act out some role, but forced to be “ourselves” (which is no less theatrical or artificial). We constantly login, create profiles in order to present our “selves” on the global market place of employment, friendship and love. We can have multiple passions but only one certified ID. Trust is the oil of global capitalism and the security state, required by both sides in any transaction or exchange. In every rite de passage, the authorities must trust us before they let both our bodies and information through. The old idea that the virtual is there to liberate you from your old self has collapsed. It is all about self-management and techno-sculpturing: how do you shape the self in real-time flow? There is no time for design, no time for doubt. System response cannot deal with ambivalence. The self that is presented here is post-cosmetic. The ideal is to become neither the Other nor the better human. Mehrmensch, not Übermensch. The polished perfect personality lacks empathy and is straight-out suspect. It is only a matter of time until super persons such as celebrities reveal their weaknesses. Becoming better implies revealing who you are. Social media invite users to “administer” their all-too-human sides beyond merely hiding or exposing controversial aspects. Our profiles remain cold and unfinished if we do not expose at least some aspects of our private lives. Otherwise we are considered robots, anonymous members of a vanishing twentieth century mass culture. In Cold Intimacies, Eva Illouz puts it this way: “It is virtually impossible to distinguish the rationalization and commodification of selfhood from the capacity of the self to shape and help itself and to engage in deliberation and communication with others.”