Upper Lower Class

Richard Prince Millionaire Nurse 2002

Nostalgia unfolds with an elaborate and secret eroticism. As Fran Leibowitz has said, the past always seemed better because we were younger. And being young we were discovering the things that thrilled us and drove us. For nearly all Americans Pop Culture Imagery has defined our lives – through the internet, movies, television, magazines, but mostly, through advertising. Andy Warhol lived through 1940s pop glamour culture – Coca Cola and Movie Stars. For Richard Prince it’s 1950s and 60s Americana counter culture – pulp fiction and American loners. His nurse is hidden beneath a shallow Modernist painting. She emerges from the Rothko field a masked and caped hero who is, mysteriously, a millionaire. And in one fell swoop we have become nostalgic for the clever mashup of passé Cold War American sub-cultural brands – economic superiority, theatrical spirituality and super hero eroticism.

Repetition and first time: this is perhaps the question of the event as question of the ghost. What is a ghost? What is the effectivity or the presence of a specter, that is, of what seems to remain as ineffective, virtual, insubstantial as a simulacrum? Is there there, between the thing itself and its simulacrum, an opposition that holds up? Repetition and first time, but also repetition and last time, since the singularity of any first time, makes of it also a last time. Each time it is the event itself, a first time is a last time. Altogether other. Staging for the end of history. Let us call it a hauntology. This logic of haunting would not be merely larger and more powerful than an ontology or a thinking of Being (of the“to be,” assuming that it is a matter of Being in the “to be or not to be,” but nothing is less certain). It would harbor within itself, but like circumscribed places or particular effects, eschatology and teleology themselves. It would comprehend them, but incomprehensibly. How to comprehend in fact the discourse of the end or the discourse about the end? Can the extremity of the extreme ever be comprehended? And the opposition between “to be” and“not to be”? Hamlet already began with the expected return of the dead King. After the end of history, the spirit comes by coming back [revenant], it figures both a dead man who comes back and a ghost whose expected return repeats itself, again and again. Jacques Derrida Spectres of Marx 1994.


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