Are we to think that this diffuse seduction, which is neither attractive nor dangerous, this specter of seduction that haunts our circuits without secrets, our phantasies without affect, and our contact networks without contacts, that this is its pure form? As if the modern happening with its participation and expressiveness, where the stage and its magic have disappeared, would be the theater's pure form? Or as if the hypothetical and hyperreal mode of intervention in reality - in acting pictures, landart and body art - where the object, frame and staging of illusions have disappeared, would be the pure form of painting and art?
We are living, in effect, amongst pure forms, in a radical obscenity, that is to say, in the visible, undifferentiated obscenity of figures that were once secret and discrete. The same is true of the social, which today rules in its pure - i.e., empty and obscene - form. The same for seduction, which in its present form, having lost its elements of risk, suspense and sorcery, takes the form of a faint, undifferentiated obscenity.
Shall we refer to Walter Benjamin's geneology of the work of art and its destiny? At first, the work of art has the status of a ritual object, related to an ancestral form of cult. Next it takes on a cultural or aesthetic form in a system with fewer obligations; it still retains a singular character, though the latter is no longer immanent to the ritual object, but transcendental and individualized. Lastly, the aesthetic form gives way to a political form in which the work of art as such disappears before the inevitable progress of mechanical reproduction. If in the ritual form there are no originals (the aesthetic originality of cult objects is of little concern in the sacred), the original is again lost in the political form. There is only the multiplication of objects; the political form corresponding to the object's maximum circulation and minimum intensity.
Seduction too would have had its ritual phase (duel, magical, agonistic); its aesthetic phase (as reflected in the "aesthetic strategy" of the seducer, whose domain approaches that of the feminine and sexuality, the ironic and the diabolic - it is then that seduction takes on the meaning it has for us: the possibly accursed distraction of appearances, their strategies, their play); and finally its "political" phase (biking up Benjamin's term, here somewhat ambiguous). In this last phase the original of seduction, its ritual and aesthetic form, disappears in favour of an all-out ventilation whereby seduction becomes the informal form of politics, the scaled-down framework for an elusive politics devoted to the endless reproduction of a form without content. (This informal form is inseparable from its technical nature, which is that of networks - just as the political form of the object is inseparable from the techniques of serial reproduction). As with the object, this "political" form corresponds to seduction's maximum diffusion and minimum intensity.
Is this to be seduction's destiny? Or can we oppose this involutional fate, and lay a wager on seduction as destiny? Production as destiny, or seduction as destiny? Against the deep structures and their truth, appearances and their destiny? Be that as it may, we are living today in non-sense, and if simulation is its disenchanted form, seduction is its enchanted form.
Anatomy is not destiny, nor is politics: seduction is destiny. It is what remains of a magical, fateful world, a risky, vertiginous and predestined world; it is what is quietly effective in a visibly efficient and stolid world.
The world is naked, the king is naked, and things are clear. All of production, and truth itself, are directed towards disclosure, the unbearable "truth" of sex being but the most recent consequence. Luckily, at bottom, there is nothing to it. And seduction still holds, in the face of truth, a most sibylline response, which is that "perhaps we wish to uncover the truth because it is so difficult to imagine it naked."
CultureTexts Arthur and Marilouise Kroker
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