08 April 2012

Dandy Preliminaries

An excerpt from my upcoming thesis project-

Picture this: a cabinet. Any kind you like. Wood, metal, plastic, smooth, curved, angular, squat, tall, drawered or cupboarded, old, new, colored, colorless, etc. Whatever its construction, make it curious for yourself. A curious cabinet. A cabinet of curiosities. A wunderkammer. Do you have it? If you don’t you never will. If you do, you don’t. At any rate, let’s call this cabinet dandyism. Wait. It seems as if I’ve thrown a strange and ill-fitting cover over our/your/my cabinet with this word. Not just a word, an –ism! “We demand answers! We need clarification!” Don’t worry, this sensation will pass. Slowly. Or it won’t. I don’t want to lie. At any rate, we are not done with the canvassing of cabinets, the covering of dandyism. There is a third accessory to arbitrarily contend with: horror. “Oh no! Another word, another term?! What a mess! What a…what? Not what, but how. It is the how of wonder, the how of dandyism, the how of horror that will fill, constitute, and shatter our presupposed cabinet. I hope that you didn’t make it too precious. Also, try to start thinking about the shelves, the compartments, the drawers, of your cabinet. You’ll find that they are many-in-one, Legion[i] In a way, demonic[ii]. Here’s the last (I promise) addition: this little triad is completed by a certain horror. It is the horror of the dandy when, according to Barbey, he exceeds “astonishment” and moves into “terror”. This is the fine line between careful, ironic, ascetic aestheticism and “eccentricity” (a bad word for Barbey, but something else for us). The eccentric, the monstrous, the horrific, the dandy (him/her/itself a kind of monstrous) are all concepts thrown to the boundaries of thought, like the catapulted pollen-globes of that strange triadic orchid described by Darwin[iii]. They are all and always “in retreat”, and used to re-treat us to the limits of what we know or think or think we know. They are illegible via their interpretive fecundity, stimes-glimmers glimpses of something else, they are an abundant withdrawal, an overwhelmingly absent presence.

[i] Gospel of Mark, 5:9.

[ii] Thacker, Eugene. In the Dust of This Planet.

[iii] Davis, Whitney. "The Dandy and the Organic Metaphor".