On the Unbearable Likeness of Being


On the unbearable likeness of being; or who the fuck is Alice?

by Jeremy Fernando (sb rmx)


The question that haunts all modern society is that of the individual. It takes the form of either "who am I" (the question of identity) or "what is my place in society" (the question of relative value). Even though they may seem to be unrelated they are actually the same question, for the notion of individuality is meaningless without a point of reference, an externality: in other words, there is no self without another, the other, all others.

And here, if we listen carefully, we can hear an echo of Jean-Luc Nancy's beautiful phrase, singular-plural. In order for any singularity, we have to take into account plurality: which also means that the selection of any singular version, meaning, act, is always already a moment of violence against all other existing possibilities. For if every act is but one of the potentially infinite possibilities (since they are possibilities, one cannot know in advance how many variations there are) there is no way to know if the decision made is a good or bad one till it happens; more than that, there is no way to legitimately choose one over any — every — other. Hence decisions, acts, choices, are always already made in blindness; all one can know is that one is choosing.

But as Milan Kundera so aptly points out, the fact that each decision is made "in an instant of madness" (Kierkegaard) does not make it any easier: the "lightness" is indeed rather unbearable. For the lightness of each decision does not refer to us, but rather to the fact that there is no grund: thus, the onus, and hence responsibility, for each decision falls squarely on our shoulders.

This, though, merely exacerbates the paradoxical situation of individuality: in order to be responsible one has to be able to take responsibility, which would entail a certain notion of the self, and more precisely a self that is independent of all the other factors affecting that same self. Otherwise we would be able to escape this responsibility by pulling an Adolf Eichmann: "I was merely following orders."

But if the notion of a self is meaningless without correspondence to other(s), where would this singular notion be located?

We can hear echoes of this very same question in blogs; where the very notion of the self and its relation to the other, every other, is being addressed. For in order to be a 'blog' it has to be a singular object (even if two, or more, blogs share the same name, each blog is a singular entity onto itself and no other); however, in order for its existence to be known it has to be acknowledged by another, some entity other than itself. Even if the blog was the work of a single person, and (s)he was the only other that referenced it, it would still, and only, be known if that referencing happened in another venue, platform, site.

Hence, what is crucial is that there are two separate situations in place, and more importantly, there is an exchange between them. One must never forget that an exchange can only take place when there is a ground of similarity; whether real or simulated (even if there was a difference) is irrelevant. Even in their difference (for, there would be no need for any exchange if they were exactly the same), there has to be a certain sameness, likeness. Perhaps it is in the very paradox of similarity and difference that the true profundity of likeness comes to light: the alikeness of the exchange must first be liked before the differences that allow this very exchange come into play. And what is being exchanged is nothing other than data.

Here, we must not forget all data bears echoes of datum (thing given). More specifically, the situation of this giving is one where the parties involved are of an unequal standing (for instance, a master to a slave): hence, there is no expected reciprocation of this gift. This is opposed to munus which is a ritualised gift, and where exchange is the order of the day. Since a datum is an unexchangeable gift, this suggests that it can also be objectless: in other words, what remains important is that the gift is in the giving. And it is this aspect of the gift that Marcel Mauss, Georges Bataille, and Jacques Derrida, focus on when they explicate their notions of a pure gift. And if the giving of the gift is the gift itself, perhaps one can argue that the reception is equally important. This suggests that what truly matters in this notion of giving is time itself: what is sacrificed (for, in giving, something is given even if there is no object), a sacrifice that is objectless, "that doesn’t have to be consumed by fire" (Bataille), is the time taken to both give, and receive.

In the context of blogs, it is the time taken to link, share, give, and the time taken to read, re-post, re-link.

Which brings us back to the question that we were attempting to meditate on. The singularity of the self is not located in some notion of self, but rather in that moment of decision, choice, where the self has no choice but to reify momentarily in making that choice. In this moment of absolute blindness — where one is choosing despite lacking any legitimacy — the self is doing nothing but exposing its own unknowability, its own otherness.

At the moment of sharing a blog, the blog is exposed as nothing but the moment of sharing. In other words, all blogs only are singular, are itself, at the point of being shared — sent, read, spoken about, written on.


And it is in this spirit that I am sharing a dear friend’s blog. I present to you, one of my favourite thinkers, writers, photographers: http://alicereneztay.com/

And if you’re still wanting to know who Alice is, surely you’re missing the point . . .


Jeremy Fernando is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow at The European Graduate School. He works in the intersections of literature, philosophy, and the media; and is the author of 5 books, the most recent being Writing Death. Exploring other media has led him to film, art, and music; and his work has been exhibited in Seoul, Vienna, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He is the general editor of both Delere Press and the thematic magazine One Imperative; and is a Fellow of Tembusu College at The National University of Singapore.



security, blankets, some assembly required

Metamorphosus Interruptusexposure, transparency, opacity - hopscotch threshold"patchwork, for its part, may display equivalents to themes, symmetries, and resonance that approximate it to embroidery. but the fact remains that its space is not at all constituted in the same way: there is no center; its basic motif ('block') is composed of a single element; the recurrence of this element frees uniquely rhythmic values distinct from the harmonies of embroidery" (d+g, atp, 476). the cut must be complemented by the crossfade. Mimetic PolycarbonInscriptions and Artefacts "in the electric age we wear all mankind as our skins" (mcluhan, understanding media). this is my politics of touch.
i hope you like it.
"whether from the point of view of structure or that of development, the Voice as a psychic element can only be accounted for in relation to an entirely different psychic sphere. when the matrixial cavity of passage becomes a matrixial acoustic-resonance camera obscura, partial-objects and partial-subjects are not separated by a cut but are rather borderlinked by frequencies, waves, resonance, and vibrations. they share and are shared by the same vibrating and resonating environment, where the inside is outside and the outside inside" (ettinger, matrixial borderspace, 186). lines, flight, labouringTreatise on Table TennisB-Side Wins Again the "closer" the skin of spectacle is to the animal body proper, the more virile the transmission. "the borderline between I and non-I as co-poietic poles of the same vibrating string are transformed into a threshold and transgressed. instead of the objet a of the Voice, I therefore suggest speaking of a metramorphic link a — a matrixial voice. even more effectively than the Gaze, the Voice as a matrixial erotic antenna for psychic emission and reception testifies to the metramorphic processes of transformation in unconscious shared cavity. the psychic voice-link opens in us a matrixial time-and-space of encounter where, like in a resonance-cavity, inside and outside vibrate together" (ettinger, matrixial borderspace, 186).Silence is Goldengesturing-gesturing "it is as though a smooth space emanated, sprang from a striated space, but not without a correlation between the two, a recapitulation of one in the other, a furtherance of one through the other. yet the complex difference persists. patchwork, in conformity with migration, whose degree of affinity with nomadism it shares, is not only named after trajectories, but 'represents' trajectories, becomes inseparable from speed or movement in an open space" (d+g, atp, 526).Double-Eightscapital needs to insinuate itself into every conversation so that the singular body may be more fully laid bare for corporate invasion. "the matrixial resonance camera obscura where metramorphic event-encounters take place locates the inside as a shareable space-and-time and the outside as in-corporated-without-fusion" (ettinger, matrixial borderspace, 186).

Skin Tectonics, Surgery and a Question of Autonomy

the performance of relation. the relation of performance.

Courtesy of Thomas Florscheutz

thomas florscheutz
from the multiple entry series

[11:48:06 AM]

sportsbabel: when i write a blog post on sportsbabel, i've said it is "my body"……

sportsbabel: then it gets fed into facebook, and the formatting changes when it becomes a note
sportsbabel: but i can then tag people in the note
sportsbabel: more expressly make explicit the relation


sportsbabel: now i've found more recently that when i re-read my own work — particularly the work just published — i am going back to facebook rather than the original blog
sportsbabel: now, it's partly to see my own relationality fed back to me
sportsbabel: but is it not also a fascination with my own plastic surgery?
to see the machine change your form
sportsbabel: yes.
is totally fascinating

Medusa: LOL

sportsbabel: so i get plastic surgery and grow network fibres out of my body, by touching with my eye and finger.

Courtesy of Eric Rondepierre

eric rondepierre
piano (from the suite series)

sportsbabel: i think the warm welcome flips into domination
sportsbabel: at the "halfway" point
growing network fibers is not necessarily a bad…
i guess this is actually pointing back to the trauma of breaking relation in the web
it's when the relation cannot move anymore via weight of the network
then this becomes burden
and thus the flip
into domination of trying to maintain same
rather than accepting the trauma of movement in a networked form
sportsbabel: or with facebook, just tapping into the fibre like a phone line to eavesdrop
sportsbabel: but it's called database management.
sportsbabel: we don't eavesdrop specifically on you (the freedom), we just abstract models from databases for statistical profiling (the non-freedom)…

[11:58:27 AM]

(we are not describing an emergent nation insofar as it presupposes, or wants, a Philosophy and a Politics, but in the sense that it demands we explore the myriad ways in which it facilitates our very being-in-common under the rubric of a branded identity … that is why your thoughts are needed, my friend, that and no other reason)

klōn, gestation, labour, natality



i woke up one morning to find out i had been cloned.

it was painless, really. a few bits of data lying around had suddenly been reconstituted into a new me. clippings whose sum value approaches zero as the replication approaches infinity, the baudrillard-image might suggest, xeroxing their way across the ecosystem.

i didn't feel a thing…

Gamespace (Panic)


'Replication has also long been manifest in the sportocratic imagination, its genealogical roots reaching back at least to the mechanical reproduction of baseball cards and bubblegum. But these flattened, lifeless representations lack sufficient dynamism for a culture hell-bent on its own immortality, and so we begin to animate the images by repurposing the data stocks and flows generated as a derivative of baseball's industrial production process. At the cusp between biomechanics and the age of simulation, Strat-O-Matic becomes the link in the helical chain connecting Branch Rickey and scientific management in baseball with Billy Beane, the sabermetric revolution and the third wave eugenics of baseball performance.'
(June 2006)



'Though the vector of flow is clearly directed towards an obsolescence of the body, the question is if we will continue to see periodic eddies in the current, in which we "retrieve" the body or parts thereof for one purpose or another.'
(July 2005)

* * *

Bodies without organs.
Bodies without bodies.
_____ without _____.
Fill in your own fucking theory.
(June 2007)



'This identity constellation of corporate consumer control is marked by its architecture and interface, and it obscures its bodily remainders in the process. In navigating multiple identities, on the other hand, one explicitly acknowledges the remainders, indeed embraces them. The former is an administered, metered and exchanged passage into the skin, while the latter offers a contingent and outward invitation of the flesh.'
(March 2009)

Mimetic Polycarbon

Mimetic Polycarbon
(Facebook Self-Portrait)
January 30, 2010

'The gestural body is a moving body, and is thus always already a political one as well. The logic of skin tectonics suggests that such a moving body will never be fully captured by the tightness of its spectacular skin, for there will always be a slippage between integumentary layers. And it is this slippage that constitutes the contemporary zone of opportunity, of resistance, and of indifference.'
(February 2010)


Boris Groys, 'The Weak Universalism', e-flux:

"Today, in fact, everyday life begins to exhibit itself—to communicate itself as such—through design or through contemporary participatory networks of communication, and it becomes impossible to distinguish the presentation of the everyday from the everyday itself. The everyday becomes a work of art—there is no more bare life, or, rather, bare life exhibits itself as artifact. Artistic activity is now something that the artist shares with his or her public on the most common level of everyday experience. The artist now shares art with the public just as he or she once shared it with religion or politics. To be an artist has already ceased to be an exclusive fate, becoming instead an everyday practice—a weak practice, a weak gesture. But to establish and maintain this weak, everyday level of art, one must permanently repeat the artistic reduction—resisting strong images and escaping the status quo that functions as a permanent means of exchanging these strong images."


(to laura dean, for fanning the flames)

signal, noise, emphasis

Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, p. 370:

"But on the other, the schizorevolutionary, pole, the value of art is no longer measured except in terms of the decoded and deterritorialized flows that it causes to circulate beneath a signifier reduced to silence, beneath the conditions of identity of the parameters, across a structure reduced to impotence; a writing with pneumatic, electronic, or gaseous indifferent supports, and that appears all the more difficult and intellectual to intellectuals as it is accessible to the infirm, the illiterate, and the schizos, embracing all that flows and counterflows, the gushings of mercy and pity knowing nothing of meanings and aims (the Artaud experiment, the Burroughs experiment). It is here that art accedes to its authentic modernity, which simply consists in liberating what was present in art from its beginnings, but was hidden underneath aims and objects, even if aesthetic, and underneath recodings or axiomatics: the pure process that fulfills itself, and that never ceases to reach fulfillment as it proceeds — art as 'experimentation'."

* * *

In my most recent post I jotted down a few notes on what I perceive to be the emerging outlines of a sporting imperialism, following the work set forth by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in Empire. I wanted to give emphasis to how far-reaching and powerful this form of imperialism is, and so I used the rhetorical flourish of hypertext markup language to communicate this (<em> being the markup tag for "emphasis" — often italicized — in HTML).

My goal was to communicate the expression "sporting <em>pire," a bringing-together of two different languages into one word without dissolving the tension between them.

1. Wordpress
However, to do this within the Wordpress publishing interface required me to "escape" the angle brackets so that it would not confuse the browser into thinking I wanted the following text emphasized — which I did by using the "escape codes" for the brackets, &lt; and &gt;.

Sporting Empire - Wordpress

2. sportsBabel
Because I had escaped the characters properly, my browser was notified that this was not in fact markup and "sporting <em>pire" was rendered exactly how I wanted.

Sporting Empire - sportsBabel

3. Feedburner
As with almost every blog and social media application today, when I publish a post it generates a syndication feed so that my content can be ported to other applications or communication services. My feed for sportsBabel is syndicated by the Feedburner service, which is owned by Google. After generating an XML file that was then processed through Feedburner's system, everything still looked as it should.

Sporting Empire - Feedburner

4. Google Reader
Here's where it gets interesting. I import my sportsBabel feed into Google Reader — a service from the same company! — and this "news aggregator" treats the <em> as an HTML markup tag and renders everything after it as italicized. And yet Google Mail, a different service owned by the parent company to which the same feed is emailed, keeps it intact as above.

Sporting Empire - Google Reader

5. Facebook
I also import my feed into Facebook, with each blog post becoming a new Facebook Note. This allows me to share my work with a diverse audience as well as leverage the Facebook "tagging" feature with friends. When this particular post was imported, however, the <em> was treated as HTML by Facebook and stripped out, simply leaving "sporting pire."

Sporting Empire - Facebook

Is this how an Empire declines and falls, one stone at a time: through language, translation, portmanteau, hybridity and (sportsbabelist) glossolalia? Or does this fragmentation and recoding of linguistic flows actually signal a strengthening of Empire's grasp?