WHAT AM I,” then? Since childhood, I’ve passed through a flow of milk, smells, stories, sounds, emotions, nursery rhymes, substances, gestures, ideas, impressions, gazes, songs, and foods. What am I? Tied in every way to places, sufferings, ancestors, friends, loves, events, languages, memories, to all kinds of things that obviously ARE NOT ME. Everything that attaches me to the world, all the links that constitute me, all the forces that compose me don’t form an identity, a thing displayable on cue, but a singular, shared, living EXISTENCE, from which emerges - at certain times and places - that being which says “I.” Our feeling of inconsistency is simply the consequence of this foolish belief in the permanence of the self and of the little care we give to what makes us what we are.
“As we’ve learned from the avant-garde, all dominant forms invite their structural transgressions, sitting ducks for whatever forces transpire to disrupt their logic. These inversions are not confined to the aesthetic realm alone, of course: religion has its blasphemers and the military its mutineers; with modern consumerism came an epidemic of shoplifting; and entering into marriage automatically opens the possibility of adultery. When correctly packaged (that is, in aesthetic guises) transgressing social expectations is widely celebrated as a form of expressivity. When stamped with the imprimatur of Art, social violation is much vaunted as a sphere of knowledge production, rebellion and bad behaviour celebrated as privileged domains of truth. Political avant-gardistes would maintain that these transgressions of social norms can never be completely contained by walled-off spaces - whether museums, or language practices, or households. If selves are constituted through networks of institutional, symbolic, and material everyday practices, then given the homologies between psychic and social structures, sufficiently disrupting the first must, in some corresponding way, rattle the latter. In the experimental spaces opened by deliberate violations of institutional norms lie the weak links of subject to structure. Creating these provisional, experimental spaces opens the possibility for social subjects to be pummeled by affective and aesthetic shocks, to be uncongealed and remade - and as theorists of cultural revolution tell us, nothing will ever change, socially or politically, without basic character structures beind remade too. At the very least, shaking things up emblematizes the possibilities of subjective dissidence from symbolic law. What can we learn from this? What we learn will depend on whether we regard adultery as a relatively contained cultural practice, taking, in other words, an aestheticist position (“adultery for adultery’s sake”), or whether, like theorists of a political avant-garde, we see its violations of convention echoing through wider social contexts, joining forces with other movments aimed, ultimately, at renegotiating the conditions of hegemonic consensus. Isn’t this what causes so much of the squeamishness and angst about adultery - the fear that it does indeed indicate that all vows, all contracts, are up for renegotiation?”
-Laura Kipnis, ‘Adultery’