A Collection of Eyes.

September 28, 2008

– Lily Robert-Foley

Many of you may have probably been following the recent efforts in Congress to stimulate the economy and bail us out of our recent economic problems.   A connection between a small detail of these efforts and a recent thread of conversation on The Green Lantern blog occurred to me the other night while listening to the news, waiting for my sleeping medication to kick in. 


As many of you know, one feature of a proposed new spending plan includes what some in Hollywood—I mean, Washington—call, “golden parachutes”. This means, to the best of my understanding, that in order to assess responsibility and provide incentive to corporate big-wigs who have swindled the American public and fucked the economy, the bill plans to reserve some of its funding to pay off big bad CEO’s and the likes as they are punished. 


To me and probably most of the people reading this blog, this seems almost painfully absurd.  However, when questioned about the merit of this plan, Republicans and those in support of these “golden parachutes” replied that the big pay-offs are necessary as incentives to the landed gentry to comply with regulations and policies that will help those who actually need help. 


You can blame the drugs, the bad posture, the genetic history of mental illness—but as the synapses were misfiring in my brain, I was reminded upon hearing this, of the reasoning behind curtailing educational benefits for veterans returning for Iraq.  The implication was that if the government offers too many goodies for veterans as they return home, where’s the incentive to stay in Iraq?


And the synapses, like a band of blind people playing laser tag, led me to contemplate even further a field to the general notion the Right in this country holds that if we provide too much help for those in need, they will act like leeches on society and won’t be inspired by their poverty to work hard and support their economy with their back breaking labor and mystifying ingenuity. 


Over the past week or so there has been an on-going conversation on The Green Lantern Blog about the nature of subjectivity.  Perhaps I am the only one who has identified this conversation as existing and as being on this subject.  But I believe it is there.  It involves the location of the audience in writing (1), the practice of keeping secrets (2), and America’s obsession with packaging (3).




Here is a writer, sitting at her desk.  She is writing for someone.  In this case, any and all possible readers of The Green Lantern blog.  Last night, however, she wrote for an old lover whom she doesn’t know anymore and has nearly forgotten.  This morning she wrote for someone she does not know, and all last year she wrote for no one: for truth, maybe or for knowledge or for history.  Possibly:  to un-write that which was written before.  Or maybe for herself, as she watches herself, and as the writing appears on the screen she becomes her own audience.  But she is certain that somehow she writes for someone, because she has a desire for this someone—an unnamed specter or spectator—to understand what she is writing.  Therefore she writes for an ear or a set of eyes.  Her motivation to write—although it emerges from the wet, dark labyrinth of the self—is located in another. 




Here is a hypothetical situation:  my lover is keeping a secret.  He says one thing and does another.  Because I believe what he says, the result is that I believe one thing, and he does another.  This discrepancy is born of the disparity between subjects:  that I am not him and cannot be him and he is not me and cannot be me.  This means that somewhere in the chasm between subjects (people), there is the possibility for reality to become something other than what I believe it to be.  I think another word for this possibility and the experience of it is “terror”.  For example, as I put my foot down on a stair, I believe that

A) the stair exists,

B) that because it exists it will continue to exist,

C) that it is made of wood and is hard,

D) that it will support my weight and will enable me to complete my ascent or descent of the stairway. 


And what if I am wrong?




Packaging serves a number of purposes.  Ostensibly, it keeps the interior clean, sanitary and protected from the horrors of the world outside the package (of which there are many).  In our society it also identifies the product for us.  A loaf of bread is a loaf of bread is a loaf of bread.  But an Iron Kid’s Bread is not a Wonder Bread is not a Tastemaster Buns.  The inside becomes somehow defined by this exterior.  The relationship between what is presented to the public and what substantiates a hidden interior is complex.  Perhaps the American obsession with packaging can somehow be made analogous to an American obsession with defining reality, with making it durable, reliable and safe:  to process and condense the rent between the self and the other, from where the anxiety of representation is born. 


If I could only package my lover.  If I could be certain that what he shows me and tells me is a true representation of the secret world that hides behind his face, and of the moments of his absence when he thinks and does things I cannot witness.  But I cannot, so I am forced to either trust him or to become insane—to question the reality that is most possible for me to believe.  Eventually I realize I cannot know his reality and he cannot determine mine.  In the end, we share reality.  It is partly what I believe and partly what he believes, and also, partly what I believe he believes and what he believes I believe, and partly, what I believe he believes I believe and what he believes I believe he believes, and what they believe.  I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.  I think Bob Dylan said that. 

Lastly, I will attempt to relate the first part of my essay to the second to a new art space in Pilsen called, La Espacia (1437 W. 17th Street).  The exterior of a house is its packaging.  It looks like a face.  Inside, someone else’s reality is unfolding, away from you, in private, in secret.  In between the street and the house is a window.  That is where those who are inside can see what is outside and where those who are outside can see what is inside.  That is where we find language, and other ways of sharing our realities, and in the process, inventing them.  La Espacia is a single wall that has been built on casters.  During the day, the wall is kept inside the house on the right hand side of the dining room to let light in (to let the world into the house).  At night the wall is rolled against the window and front lit so that the public can view it.  In the liminal space between public and private, there is a window and in that window there is art.


At the beginning of the essay I cited several examples of reasoning from Right Wing ideology in this country.  Each of these examples locates the power to act in the individual.  The individual solely is responsible for his own economic well-being, and the only course of action for the government is to provide incentive to individuals to act upon this agency.  It bears repeating that in every instance this incentive is based on the desire to make money. 


This ideology is built off of a uni-directional model of subjectivity.  The subject desires, and based on a chaotic collision of these desires, society, economy and community are supposedly created.  The desiring subject alone has the capacity to decide what reality is and what is possible within its bounds.  This logic provides no space for the interaction of subjects, for the collective imagining of society that does not happen in the eyes and in between the ears of one person, but in the space between two or more subjects in communication. 


I hope that the thread that I have reiterated in the second section of this essay connecting the space of the audience in writing, the practice of keeping secrets, and the American obsession with packaging has shown that reality and society are indeed collective.  That reality is not the lone impulse of one individual’s desire, but the negotiation of different view points.   That reality is a movable wall rolled on casters between a dining room wall and a window facing the street.  It’s that model of reality that makes La Espacia, love, and The Green Lantern possible.