on αὐτοκρατία: offered in the spirit of recession:

In “The Spirit of Recession” Paul Chan invokes three cycles:

  1. the ineluctability of the cycle of history – a war, a banking crisis, or scandal, a recession, repeated from father to son, Bush by Bush
  2. the ineluctability of the cycle of domination – whereby disarmament is a high calling (note already a religious-pacifist tone)
  3. the ineluctability of the cycle of the self – the most mysterious, since it is the subject of a domination, in a circular or voluntary relation with its dominated object

He brings in two disciplines or orders:

  1. the practice of religion
  2. the practice of art

Both in a practical sense rely on repetition.

The parallels between the two are well-known: it is in regard to the first, that, while also linking it with the sacrament of exchange in capitalism, Paul Chan says, I am a liar, I have no problem being a liar; he gives the context of labelling himself a Christian while in Iraq in order better and more fully to engage with Iraqis. While art practice he describes in eschatalogical, religious terms: as about being about last things, like the last thing in the service, the recessional, when the church is blessed for authority having left it. There is a beautiful role reversal at work here.

What strikes me as strange, however, as given the lie to, or the true paradox of his speech, is that he explicitly says there is no magic, when spirit or magic is clearly the issue. A perennial magical domination of the spirit.

It is a power immanent to and exercised in religious work as much as artistic work in so far as both involve, convolve, revolve, these three cycles, even when from below, in terms of their hypostasization, their iteration at a deeper, hidden level. Albeit in plain sight, as Paul Chan says.

These practices are rites – good works, work itself, right? (“Jesus,” he says, “and so much more!”) repeated, undertaken in a spirit of humility, modesty, recession, even, as suggested, yet for that very reason vulnerable to having already been coopted, to having already been made complicit, and to precisely conspiratorially and magically supporting the cycles of repetition: of history, of power, of identity.

To practice deceit in the name of a higher truth: magic, but also politics, art, the priesthoods.

There is a shape of thought, there is a gesture of thought, which is sheer mime. It is a copy. Being a copy it precedes what it resembles.