One of a kind, None of a kind
We cherish the idea of a one of a kind. But the sui generis is a problematic concept — assuming it could exist and that if it could exist that it could be recognized. After all, what does it mean, to recognize something? Usually to slot it into a category, either Kantian if you are slightly metaphysical, or everyday, or even into Foucault’s Chinese dictionary where things start to form their own categories. I suppsoe the latter is a start at problematizing a species which heads its own genus. We could stick Wittgenstein’s admonition against the possibility of a private language also, as the opposite of such, or at least an oxymoron, since the very idea of language is something that has hooks outside itself and maybe is even totally consisting of the outside with an inside (not total for sure) being merely a condensation of sorts.
The sui generis is a hinge concept being hate and loved, seemingly simultaneously. On the one hand, the one of a kind is a mythical beast much beloved by collectors and when it enters the economic realm of valuation it is truly priceless: either not worth putting a price on it or astronomically valuable, only affordable by, say, institutions or individuals so weatlthy that they function as institutions.
But then of course monsters are sui generis. Having no kin (think of Victor Frankenstein’s creation) they roam lost and abandoned, excoriated, practically unseeable because of their category confusion and when they are seen, confusion begins, and almost immedately thereafter the lighting of torches and, as Jeff Goldblum puts it in Jurassic Park “then later there is running and screaming.” One could even say that monsters are de-monstrations of ‘hinge-ness’ (aligned with that favorite of cultural studies ‘hybridity’).
‘Hoaxing’ is rife at this hinge point, a hinge between the human and the in- or non-human, the barely sensed and the no-sensened but nevertheless felt in some fashion, btween self-consciousness and consciousness which simply seems to have a self. For some, the lucubrations formed by this pivot demand the daylight, an agency which will dry up, expose, what is perceived as the dankness, or at the very least the anxiety caused by uncertainties of origin, placement, and apparent irrationality due to febrile human perception. Often times, the only way ordinary human perception/conception can make sense of the ‘one of a kind’ is to imitate it in a teasing manner, so as to say, ‘look, there is really nothing there; I did this.” Perhaps art started that way; perhaps in some respect it still proceeds in that fashion, in the long Hegelian haul of some obscure, half-seen (itself we see now as somewhat monstrous) dialectic.
the one of a kind, the sui generis, hence falls prey to the legal concept of res nullius, from Roman law meaning things which are unowned, or lost and abandoned, but which CAN therefore be taken up by the first one who comes along and claims ownership. I would say that hoaxing is a form of ownership, as well as de-coding that which was formerly lost and abandoned in the sense of unreadable. The untranslatable: from a certain viewpoint everything SHOULD be translatable, should have its Champolion and Rosetta Stone … if it doesn’t have such (that is, theatens to remain res nullius) then it must be a hoax and ownership can be claimed under the rubric of a default because of a sort of false consciousness. (The Voynich Manuscript is the most recent example of this phenomena….and interesting that it compares it to the ‘monstrous’ text of H. P. Lovecraft, the Necronomicron).
But what of the idea of the ‘offene stelle,’ a blank space akin to silence, to withdrawal, maybe akin to apophatic ‘prayer’, maybe Eastern nothingness, maybe what was formerly known as ‘nature’ before it began to cease to exist? Where is the neceesity of blankness now to be inscribed, in a completely ajudicated world, a world where being-filled-formed-taken (‘ownership’) is peremptory? (Late Latin peremptorius, from Latin, destructive, from perimere to take entirely, destroy, from per- thoroughly + emere to take: 1 a: putting an end to or precluding a right of action, debate, or delay)