tirado/thrown


Philosophy for (S)Lowriders

lowrider-1

One of Infinite Thought’s recent posts on walking/stomping mentions some reflections of Alain Badiou’s that seem to channel Paul Virilio’s dromological musings:

 ‘To an epoch such as ours, nothing circulates as fast as capital, its merchandise and its communications, it exists as a particular oppression bearing time which is translated as the normal speed to which the subject must bend. I speak purposefully here of a structural speed. It is very different from the capacity for a sudden decision as is necessary for the subject exposed to an event. To this imposed rapidity, I oppose this maxim: ‘go slow/be slow/slowness’. A maxim which, remember, was already explicitly to the fore in certain workers struggles of the 1970s. ‘Go slow down the imposed speed of production needed for it to work its proper rhythm’.

In the same post, the friend who passed on this excerpt from a lecture on Plato to Infinite Thought recalled an anecdote about freedom and the pace of walking from an encounter with Badiou.

‘When Badiou was down here J Clemens and I were walking with him down the street. We had to keep stopping and turning to wait. He made a joke of us and he told us that for the Greeks to walk slowly was the privilege of free men.’

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On the one hand, I couldn’t keep myself from thinking about the lowrider, that cybernetic Chicano contribution to car culture that is more signifier than tool.  In light of Badiou’s commens, the lowrider’s calling to cruise “low and slow” is more than a sign of resistance against a dominant culture consuming vehicles for commerce-oriented transport and circulation, i.e., for participation in the political economy.  The lowrider can also operate as a sign of freedom, using the car outside of the circuits of transport and work.   The lowrider’s not built for speed, but for show.  They are cars that precisely don’t work, revealing a leisure unavailable to capital’s rapid circulation.  I defy you to speed along in a bouncing or tilted car.   This, in spite of non-emancipatory tendencies within lowrider culture.  

One could only imagine Badiou at a lowrider show.

(For an example of “low and slow” see 0:24, 2:20, and 3:35 in the video below.)

On the other hand, thoughts return to walking.  Being harried, walking fast-really fast-is the mark of a typical commute.  Mercilessly, I slash through the spaces opened up between people on sidewalks or subway passage to at least think that I’m either dampering my habitual tardiness or even approaching punctuality.  It is a mark of my servitude to the wage, a monstrous Hyde-like tendency that gives way to a relaxed dawdle during the weekend, when I would like to not be hurried, entertaining the (not-so) decent Dr. Jekyll in me.  Captialism and schizophrenia?  Why yes, me thinks so.

so-fucking-lonely

The decisive matter in all of this, as mentioned by IT’s friend in the post, is the mastery of temporality, a concern that has dogged me since first hearing about the ‘moment’ in Kierkegaard as an undergraduate.  More on that later, perhaps.

Images: Lowrider from howstuffworks.com; Nicola Villa,“Walking”, 2007, “So f*cking lonely”, 2008.  (More fantastic images of walking at her site…)



How do you say ‘mestizo’ in Russian?

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Above is one of many images of Soviet playing cards bearing Maya-inspired illustrations from a post on EnglishRussia.com, as referred to tirado/thrown through a special informant.  

Aside from being visual delights, you are initially left trying to ask questions about their provenance, much less making the attempt to decipher them.  They merely rest taciturn, sphinx-like, callado, to whatever you attempt to ask yourself, because they are quite fascinating.  Whatever inspired the workers at the Soviet state enterprise responsible for producing these magnificent artifacts, they generated a pretty exquisite group of cards; they’re imaginative and downright noteworthy.   Who knows? Perhaps a bored KGB officer doing slop-work in 1950s Mexico City came across a deck of Aztec playing cards from Baraja Cuauhtemoc and passed over the naipes to an acquaintance at the state playing card factory in an act of camaraderie. 

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The magic of cards like these is that they are portable pictograms giving the the gamepiece something more interesting to look  at and wonder about than a regular stack of casino cards.  Seriously, they beat the Grateful Dead Aztec-Inspired playing cards.  Want to get a sense for Mayan language and culture during a few hours off?  Take your card to the library and check it against a codex and lexicon!  To think that gambling implements could have the potential to be edifying!

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Modernist flourishes on the Soviet cards such as the cats the queens hold in her hands speak of a mixture of ancient imagery and contemporary adaptation.   The distinct configurations of each of the two jokers in the deck speaks to the confluence of Mesoamerican and European at work in the deck.  The blue card seems to be rendered with a more appearance, while the red one seems almost Medieval European in a Mayan style, but I leave that up to experts to decide.

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However, the images on the face cards are quite faithful to the drawings in codices: with respect to gestures, facial expressions, postures, decoration, and detail, which makes them all the more interesting to discover.

Still, the cards leave me with more questions than answers.  Is the existence of these cards a trace of a mestizaje in the USSR in the form of a curiously made instruments for everyday entertainment, or is it just a fluke of historical detritus washed ashore?  What do these items say about the way Soviets conceived the work of producing items for everyday life?  Why the odd reaction of being surprised at the discovery that Soviets (of all people-gasp!) produced these cards for everyday use when in the US typically has largely uniform face cards from a number of different companies, and when decorated cards would be only for serious gamers and sold as speciality items?  When will we see Mexican and Central-American takes on the matryoshka doll?  Or perhaps more symmetrically, could we find a Latin-American toy, like a balero, trompo, or loteria game festooned with Russian-style decorations? 

At some point, it would be great to give those Cuauhtemoc cards the kind of critical treatment they, as well as these Soviet ones, rightfully deserve.  For now, I am of mixed emotions.  At once I am unexplainably melancholy at seeing items produced by a now-lost regime bearing images from a destroyed civilization.  At the same time, I’m quietly joyful for their existence.

 

Image Credits- Maya Cards: Picdit, English Russia;Barajas Cuahtemoc: World of Trading Cards; Transcription of the Dresden Codex: FAMSI



For the End of the Work Week
April 18, 2008, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Items | Tags: , , ,

 

the moving target

What we have to loseConflict

When these lovely pieces appeared in my blog reader courtesy of Infinite Thought, I was immediately smitten. With speed being the name of the game in this electro-delivery world, I wanted to post toot sweet.  Then I realized I was a work, and held off from doing anything until the time was available. 

The God that Sucked

Want a way to think through the near-endless contingency and insecurity involved with working life?  Try your with these cards from the Almanac of Precariomancy, a nice primer on the terms and figures of market-mediated existence. Notice, interestingly enough, how gifts have no material place in the schema of unadulterated risk.  Only rewards figure in this arrangement of terms.

Interns built the pyramids

I could easily imagine a set of these cards appearing as promotions or subscription premiums for publications like The Baffler or its distant cousin in the UK, the Idler.  They even have something of a Baffler-esque aesthetic, harkening, notably, to covers for issue numbers 9 (“Workplace: An Injury to All”) and 14 (“The God that Sucked”), to say the least of any Idler cover.  They could also make perfect accessories for risky parlor games or lunchtime picnics.

As pieces of contemporary folklore, these are the closest things I have noticed continental Europe having to Mexican loteria cards.  If you could only interpret relationships between the cards in the Mexican game other than with respect to their random placement on the naipes (game boards), the relationship between the two would perhaps be more than imaginary or darkly speculative.

The Almanac of Precariomancy’s website has a complete description of the card set, along with a guide to its use.

Feeling lucky?