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Anette Horn and Peter Horn. Identity is what we sell.

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Anette Horn and Peter Horn. Identity is what we sell.
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  Identity is what we sell Anette Horn and Peter Horn This is preview. Please do not quote without our permission! The myth of consciousness is the spontaneity of the self. Identity is the thing  –   we tend to believe  –   which is present to me without any mediations. But that is not so: identity is a sign and functions according to the laws of signification. The concept of sign always already implies the differance  between the signifier and the signified. The meaning of every identity  –   as suggested by a metaphysical linguistics  –   is its unique being, its living presence, as eidos, as substance, as essence, as existence  –   now. 1  Linguistics, however, should know, after all, that t he signifier “I” does not refer to something unique. A signifier is the possibility of its own repetition. 2  It is the very conventionality of the signifier which suggests the necessity of a transcendental signified, 3   called “I” or “ego”, which suggests the difference  between the “inner” and the “outer”  experience, that “I” is different. But there is no access to this presence, even one`s own. There is no privileged presence. The order of language is reciprocal supple mentarity. The srcin called “I” is the impossible. Language is not a function of the speaking subject. While speaking the subject is absent. Because we always already lack this self-presence called “I” it is what we desire.  Marx diagnosed the structure of the human psyche in the structure of production and of the products, in externalization; in a complementary fashion Freud discovers the structure of society and family in the structure of the unconscious. The proper, which never existed, is externalized into a sign system, expropriated. Even the unconscious becomes accessible only if it becomes a sign, e.g in a dream. The basis of our existence and the possibility to sell and to advertise is to give signs instead of objects, words instead of feelings, money instead of material things. 4  Identity is a consumer good which arises out of the  process of exchange. Nobody is there for anybody, least of all for himself, except in a process of exchange, which refers to a general equivalent in the circulation and the infinity of references from sign to sign, from representation to representation. Levy-Strauss sees the names for family relations constituted in the exchange of women, the clan names arise from the culturally constituted exchange between families. Identity is from the beginning a marker, a “brand” in a process of exchange. What we need to understand is, how identity now, in a capitalist 1  Cf. Jacques Derrida in Grammatologie. Frankfurt am Main 1974, S.26 2  Cf. Derrida, 1974, S.165 3  Cf. Derrida, 1974, S.127. 4  Cf. Derrida, 1974, S.350  society, becomes a specific consumer good. On that basis we will understand effective advertising. The “problem of identity” arises in the form which interests us here with the disengagement of the subject from certain social bonds and relationships, which had determined its “identity” before and with th e bourgeois demand that the subject be “unique” and “srcinal”. Whereas before social identity had been  produced socially, the demand arises that one ought to think about oneself. Of course these demands and the reality of late capitalist society are in an indissoluble contradiction. It is because of this that the “role” and the “identity”, the socially expected behaviours and the individual answer become a central  problem of the social sciences. It was Walter Benjamin who understood that the production of the ideological order and thus the structure of the individual was no longer a matter of art, literature or religion : Consumer goods have taken the place of   the allegorical modes of perception.“ 5  The art of illusion wanders from the arts into industry, from painting to advertising, from architecture to technology, from sculpture into the industrial arts. This is the srcin of a commercialized culture for the masses, which serves profit interests only. 6  The ideological order shows itself as a secularized biblia pauperum in the catalogues of the big warehouses, in the colourful prospects of the travel agencies, the refined short advertising films, but above all in the consumer goods themselves, those fetishes of wellbeing, which suggest who we could be, what our “identity” ought to be.   Benjamin described capitalism as a „natural phenomenon with which a new dream -sleep came over Europe, and in it, a reactivation of mythic powers. ‟” 7   The suggestions of who and what we could be are visually present in the shop windows, but more even in the dreams of TV advertisements and presence of the consumer good in facebook pages and glossy journals. Benjamin considered the new urban panorama, nowhere more dazzling than in Paris, as the extreme visual representation of what Marx called the fetishism of commodities.” 8   The world in which we move every day is more and more an expression of consumer goods but at the same time advertisements have to hide the exchange character of things. C onsumer goods become allegories of “identity”, they become 5  Benjamin, Gesammelte Werke , Bd. I.2, S.686. Cf. also Hans Heinz Holz, Vom Kunstwerk  zur Ware.  Neuwied, Berlin 1972; Hannelore Schlaffer, Kritik eine Klischees: „Das Kunstwerk als Ware‟.  In: Heinz Schlaffer (ed.),  Literaturwissenschaft und Sozialwissenschaften 4 . Erweiterung der materialistischen Literaturtheorie durch Bestimmung ihrer Grenzen. Stuttgart 1974. 6  cf. Susan Buck- Morss, Benjamin‟s Passagenwerk: Redeeming M ass Culture for the Revolution” . In:  New German Critique S.212f and Walter Benjamin,  Das Passagenwerk (2 Vol.) Ed. by Rolf Tiedemann. Frankfurt am Main. 7  Cf. Buck-Morss, S.215 8  Cf. Buck-Morss, S.213  “human” in the form of wish -fulfilling prostitutes and the streets of our towns  become facades of a fantasy brothel. They need to tell us that they are not of a foreign nature but something of our “selves”, our “identity”. 9  Consumer goods are means by which the world of sensual things remodel human sensuality and its perception of the world. We must begin to have empathy with consumer goods to see in them more than mere useful artefacts. The consumer goods have to create their own aesthetics to help this process of empathy. Furthermore the objects for consummation have to be re-staged from time to time to shorten the  period of usefulness and to encourage the consumer to replace them with the newest model. One could say that the dynamics of capitalist industrialism had caused a curious reversal in which „reality‟ and „art‟ switched places. Reality had become artifice, a phantasmagoria of commodities and architectural construction made possible by new industrial processes. The modern city was nothing but the proliferation of such objects, the density of which created an artificial landscape of buildings and consumer items as totally encompassing as the earlier, natural one". 10  The aesthetic of the consumer goods, the sensual appearance and meaning of its use value retreats from the object as such, appearance is as important for the act of selling and buying or even more important than  being. If something only “is”,  but does not look like “being”, then it will not be bought. He who controls the appearance dominates the senses of the fascinated consumers, and the consumer goods borrow their language from the mating game of human beings. The images must be such that the viewer will be confronted with the dissatisfied areas in his own being, and the appearance must make the satisfaction of these wishes appear possible. Benjamin described the new urban -industrial  phantasmagoria as a „dream - world‟, in which neither exchange value nor use value exhausted the meaning of the objects. It was as „dream -images of the collective‟ - both distorting illusion and redeemable wish-image - that they took on political meaning. The new public buildings were „dream - houses‟”. 11  Advertisement works if it succeeds in this way to sell the consumer an “identity”.   9  Georg Lukács, Geschichte und Klassenbewußtsein. Studien über marxistische Dialektik. Neuwied und Berlin 197O, S.246 10  Cf. Buck-Morss, |Anm. 3a|, S.213 11  Cf. Buck-Morss, |Anm. 3a|, S.214
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