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based on more than six years of research, the exhibition examines the aesthetic power of the documentary form – from the photo essay to reportage, social documentary to photojournalism and art – in recording, analyzing, articulating, and confronting the legacy of apartheid and its effect on everyday life in South Africa

What Lanier, a software expert, reveals to me, a software idiot, is what must be obvious (to software experts): software is not neutral. Different software embeds different philosophies, and these philosophies, as they become ubiquitous, become invisible.

“You have to be somebody,” Lanier writes, “before you can share yourself.” But to Zuckerberg sharing your choices with everybody (and doing what they do) is being somebody.

When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned.

Everything must leave a mark. Everything has a material reality. Everything happens in space. As you read it, Remainder makes you preternaturally aware of space, as Robbe-Grillet did in Jealousy, Remainder‘s obvious progenitor. Like the sportsmen whose processes it describes and admires, Remainder “fill[s] time up with space,” by breaking physical movements, for example, into their component parts, slowing them down; or by examining the layers and textures of a wet, cambered road in Brixton as a series of physical events, rather than emotional symbols. It forces us to recognize space as a nonneutral thing—unlike Realism, which ignores the specificities of space. Realism’s obsession is convincing us that time has passed. It fills space with time.


Something has happened here, someone has died. A trauma, a repetition, a death, a commentary. Remainder wants to create zinging, charged spaces, stark and pared-down, in the manner of those ancient plays it clearly admires—The Oresteia, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone. The ancients, too, trouble themselves with trauma, repetition, death, and commentary (by chorus), with the status of bodies before the law, with what on earth is to be done with the remainder. But the ancients always end in tragedy, with the indifferent facticity of the world triumphantly crushing the noble, suffering self.

In place of the pleasure of the rich adjective we have an imagined world in which logistical details and logical consequences are pursued with care and precision: if you were to rebuild an entire house and fill it with people re-enacting actions you have chosen for them, this is exactly how it would play out. Every detail is attended to except the one we’ve come think of as the only one that matters in a novel: how it feels. The Re-enactor in Remainder only ever has one feeling—the tingling—which occurs whenever his re-enactments are going particularly well.

It wants to offer us the authentic story of a self. But is this really what having a self feels like? Do selves always seek their good, in the end? Are they never perverse? Do they always want meaning? Do they not sometimes want its opposite? And is this how memory works? Do our childhoods often return to us in the form of coherent, lyrical reveries? Is this how time feels? Do the things of the world really come to us like this, embroidered in the verbal fancy of times past? Is this really Realism?

Netherland recognizes the tenuous nature of a self, that “fine white thread running, through years and years,” and Hans flirts with the possibility that language may not precisely describe the world (“I was assaulted by the notion, arriving in the form of a terrifying stroke of consciousness, that substance—everything of so called concreteness—was indistinct from its unnameable opposite”), but in the end Netherland wants always to comfort us, to assure us of our beautiful plenitude. At a certain point in his Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, the philosopher Slavoj Zizek passes quickly and dismissively over exactly this personal fullness we hold so dear in the literary arts (“You know…the wealth of human personality and so on and so forth…”), directing our attention instead to those cinematic masters of the anti-sublime (Hitchcock, Tarkovsky, David Lynch) who look into the eyes of the Other and see no self at all, only an unknowable absence, an abyss.

The nineteenth-century flaneur’s ennui has been transplanted to the twenty-first-century bourgeois’s political apathy—and made beautiful.

…In an essay written half a century ago, Robbe-Grillet imagined a future for the novel in which objects would no longer “be merely the vague reflection of the hero’s vague soul, the image of his torments, the shadow of his desires.” He dreaded the “total and unique adjective, which attempt[s] to unite all the inner qualities, the entire hidden soul of things.” But this adjectival mania is still our dominant mode, and Netherland is its most masterful recent example. And why shouldn’t it be? The received wisdom of literary history is that Finnegans Wake did not fundamentally disturb Realism’s course as Duchamp’s urinal disturbed Realism in the visual arts: the novel is made out of language, the smallest units of which still convey meaning, and so they will always carry the trace of the real. But if literary Realism survived the assault of Joyce, it retained the wound.

Relación entre ese nouveau roman y la descripción de Rosalind Krauss del Inicio del minimal art en los 70 (en Pasajes de la Escultura Moderna)

El nouveau roman se caracteriza por un grado de objetividad llevado al punto en el que el autor no interviene con las situaciones o los personajes y muchas veces los personajes son sólo espectadores de un mundo de objetos que parecen cobrar el principal valor (en cuanto actantes) de las obras. Este movimiento, en el que se incluyen en mayor o menor medida a Nathalie Sarraute, Claude Simon, Michel Butor, Robert Pinget, Marguerite Duras o Samuel Beckett, entre otros, fue apoyado por grandes críticos, como Roland Barthes, sobre quien ha escrito páginas agudas Robbe-Grillet.

La escritura de Alain Robe-Grillet ha sido descrita como “realista”, “fenomenológica” (en el sentido que le da Heidegger) o como “una teoría de la superficie pura”. Las descripciones metódicas, geométricas y a menudo repetitivas de los objetos y de los lugares revelan la psicología y la personalidad de los personajes. El lector tiene que recomponer la trama y las experiencias emocionales a partir de la repetición de las descripciones, de la atención prestada a detalles en apariencia insignificantes, y de las rupturas en la continuación lógica, como si se tratara de un rompecabezas. Este proceso recuerda el método de la psicoanálisis en el que el significado profundo se revela por medio de la discontinuidad o de la asociación de ideas. Tanto la trama como el desarrollo cronológico están fragmentados, por lo que la novela resultante podría ser el equivalente literario de la pintura cubista.

Critiques of this form by now amount to a long tradition in and of themselves. Beginning with what Alain Robbe-Grillet called “the destitution of the old myths of ‘depth,’” they blossomed out into a phenomenology skeptical of Realism’s metaphysical tendencies, demanding, with Husserl, that we eschew the transcendental, the metaphorical, and go “back to the things themselves!”; they peaked in that radical deconstructive doubt which questions the capacity of language itself to describe the world with accuracy. They all of them note the (often unexamined) credos upon which Realism is built: the transcendent importance of form, the incantatory power of language to reveal truth, the essential fullness and continuity of the self.

Yet despite these theoretical assaults, the American metafiction that stood in opposition to Realism has been relegated to a safe corner of literary history, to be studied in postmodernity modules, and dismissed, by our most famous public critics, as a fascinating failure, intellectual brinkmanship that lacked heart. Barth, Barthelme, Pynchon, Gaddis, DeLillo, David Foster Wallace—all misguided ideologists, the novelist equivalents of the socialists in Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man. In this version of our literary history, the last man standing is the Balzac-Flaubert model, on the evidence of its extraordinary persistence. But the critiques persist, too. Is it really the closest model we have to our condition? Or simply the bedtime story that comforts us most?



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