Jonny’s mess divided
Jonny’s mess divided: on the work of Marie Gyger
Text: Camilla Paolino
For this is not simply a narrative, but above all primary life that breathes, breathes, breathes. *
On the 20th of November 1759, Etienne was fired, removed from office, for he had dared an outrageous proposal: to tax the rich and privileged in order to restore the kingdom’s finances. He had envisioned an insidious tool for doing so: a tax on external signs of wealth, such as doors and windows. Melting down goldware and silverware was also part of the plan. Big, fat laughs resounded at Court. Big, fat laughs shook the bellies of Power. And so, he got removed and his name turned into a depreciative qualifier, associated with austerity and everything cheap and shabby. Trousers with no pockets for money were named after him, and so were the portraits of the poor, drawn along the outlines of their shadows. Shadows framed to represent bodies. Shadows employed to replace them at last. Their referential value annihilated, the shadows roam unleashed and give way to unadmitted desires, to swearwords the tongues never spoke, to murders the hands did not commit. Like in that tale by Hans Christian Andersen where a man’s shadow gradually takes his place and reduces the man to be its shadow instead. Places swapped, the man and the shadow travel the world together and, on their way, meet a princess who eventually marries the shadow and condemns the man to death. An arbitrary death sentence and the referent is erased, the matter does no longer matter. All that remains is interchangeable profiles with no flesh and no depth, signs exchangeable against each other rather than against the real. And then, signs producing signs without any longer passing through flesh, as by some sort of parthenogenesis or the process of asexual reproduction in which the offspring develops from unfertilized eggs. Yet, here the eggs are fertilized: fertilized and bokanovskified, that is to say multiplied by seventy-two. They bud, proliferate, divide – numerous groups of identical embryos decanting in bottles. Twin after twin, twin after twin, they come – a nightmare. Squealing and chattering they enter. They swarm between the beds, clamber, crawl under, peep through the screens. In a moment, the place is maggoty with them. Interchangeable and disposable units, or signs, or shadows that do no longer chase bodies. The nightmare of swarming indistinguishable sameness. In this engineered conformity, the singularity of the voice and the singularity of words undergo homogenization in order to achieve perfectly efficient exchangeability. The matrix takes the place of the mother in the process of generating language and the latter shrinks. And so do the limits of the worlds that language itself could bring into existence. Jonny’s mess better be set free.
* Clarice Lispector, .As for the Future., 1977 and with the help of M. Atwood, Bifo, A. Huxley, U. Le Guin, E. de Silhouette