Sunday, October 28, 2007

Kafka, 2.0

Our singer is called Josephine. Anyone who has not heard her does not know the power of song. There is no one but is carried away by her singing, a tribute all the greater as we are not in general a music-loving race. Tranquil peace is the music we love best; our life is hard, we are no longer able, even on occasions when we have tried to shake off the cares of daily life, to rise to anything so high and remote from our usual routine as music... Among intimates we admit freely to one another that Josephine's singing, as singing, is nothing out of the ordinary.

Is it in fact singing at all? Although we are unmusical we have a tradition of singing; in the old days our people did sing; this is mentioned in legends and some songs have actually survived, which, it is true, no one can now sing. Thus we have an inkling of what singing is, and Josephine’s art does not really correspond to it. So is it singing at all? Is it not perhaps just a piping? And piping is something we all know about, it is the real artistic accomplishment of our people, or rather no mere accomplishment but a characteristic expression of our life. We all pipe, but of course no one dreams of making out that our piping is an art, we pipe without thinking of it, indeed without noticing it, and there are even many among us who are quite unaware that piping is one of our characteristics. So if it were true that Josephine does not sing but only pipes and perhaps, as it seems to me at least, hardly rises above the level of our usual piping—yet, perhaps her strength is not even quite equal to our usual piping, whereas an ordinary farmhand can keep it up effortlessly all day long, besides doing his work—if that were all true, then indeed Josephine's alleged vocal skill might be disproved, but that would merely clear the ground for the real riddle which needs solving, the enormous influence she has.

Franz Kafka, "Josephine the Singer, or, the Mouse Folk"
If Borges and his Croatian doppelganger Danilo Kish are the intellectual visionaries of the unlimited scale of the internet and 2.0, Kafka is its true sage.

Reading this weekend of Tila Tequila and her 1.8 million Facebook buddies and her new reality show, it's hard not to reflect on 2.0 and reality TV and YouTube and YouPorn so on, much as I've restrained myself in the past. What does it mean that we're making so much content, so many pictures of ourselves? Does it make it easier for us to define and express ourselves, or are we just kidding ourselves waiting for the next hero? Does what is expressed matter, or does the act of expression suffice? Does it let us free ourselves, or does it complicate coordinated effort by making it more difficult to get on the same page?

And as soon as I invoke Borges -- prophet of infinitely extensive libraries and consciousness -- in this context, I hear Baudrillard tiptoeing in the back:
If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where, with the decline of the Empire this map becomes frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts - the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing), this fable would then have come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.
Where does the blogosphere -- this great collective soul -- stand vis-a-vis its referent?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not sure how to answer the metaphysical queries but I do know that if you'd like your piping to be viewed as art you'd better stop philosophizing and start applying some enhancement cream!