me hut journal march 2004  

March 2004

I just turned the television on and SEINFELD was on. I was reminded of the DERRIDA film that just came out. One of the American interviewers asked him about whether the Seinfeld show was 'deconstructive' in it's parodic assault. In the first place an unfair question since he had never seen the show. He denied that it was deconstructive, rightfully so. But it is nihilistic, a sort of free-floating savagery of the mundane and the banal that is perhaps miles from any sort of Derridean project. The common American conception of deconstruction anyway (which is not the Derridaean corpus necessarily) is a kind of virulent skepticism. The American apparatus of Television, especially as it has developed AFTER Seingfeld, is self consuming, both of itself and of the public which watches it, reaching a contemporary apotheosis in 'reality shows'. Polite nihilism of a representational form can only go so far until it feels the need to escape its frame and descend into real life. It is the only way that the self-consuming artifacts of commodity banalism can find their lowest energy level, by their continual humiliation and destruction (mortification if you will).

(Perhaps the interviewer had inadvertently collapsed Derrida into certain jewish comedians, deconstruction as a perpetual banana peel. In America any kind of critical theory must needs take on an abject, groveling stance before the all-seeing Polyphemus TV eye. From Stand Up Comedy, or, Abjection in America by John Limon: "I mean by abjection two things. First, I mean by it what everybody means by it: a debasement, groveling, prostration. Second, I mean by it what Julia Kristeva means: A psychic worrying of those aspects of one's self that one cannot be rid of, that seem, but are not quite alienable--for example blood, urine, faeces, naivs, and the corpse. The 'abject,' in Kristeva's term of art, indicates what cannot be subject or object to you; but I came to realize that was also the essence of abjection as it was commonly understood. When you feel abject, you feel as if there were something miring your life, some skin that cannot be sloughed, some role (because 'abject' always, in a way, describes how you act) that has become your only character. Abjection is self-typecasting.
[….] what is stood up in stand-up comedy is abjection. Stand-up makes vertical or (ventral) what should be horizontal [or dorsal])
and then he moves from ethnicity (jewish, lenny bruce etc) to race and then gender….



robert cheatham