In a world where identity is performative it becomes the responsibility of the individual to iterate identity. Every aspect of a person, every action, thought, modes of navigation and so on becomes part of a process to coagulate a seemingly continuous identity however we know that every moment implies a slight yet re-iteration of how the individual is forming relations to the world. Within a performative regime where language is groundless or have no foundation identity becomes a matter of affording and/or investing in yourself as yourself. Here identity is not just a matter of politics, more importantly it becomes a matter of economy. Your identity is private and can be owned like any other something in the world.
Since 1990 your identity has become a commodity like any other, and it is your most important asset. As we all know what you sell is ultimately your identity.
Some identities are valuable others economically uninteresting and hence packaged away or just stored in the lost and found bin. Your identity, if you are not one of those packaged away, doesn’t just need maintenance, it also need protection, both digitally and in the physical world. Your identity needs surveillance.
The price to pay for an identity that is understood as performative is a paranoid world where each and everybody constantly looks after and surveilles the position of her identity. The problem is not so much if your identity gets stolen or hacked, but what is a problem is that somebody or everybody can want to appropriate your identity, attack it due some sort of power, capitalise on it for some reason or use information to tailor campaigns, trolls, commercials and that’s what we know. More over you always run the risk of losing the precious identity that you have invested in with a single wrong move, any utterance can be used against you and in today’s world it is fairly easy to be disqualified and dismissed. And you know, we all know, that it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t there is anyway no ground to what is right or wrong, only lobby and economy.
When Nixon sold out gold standard and Derrida language in 1971. What happened is that they disqualified any form of prominent stability – one of them and important was ideology. After 1971 there is only one ideology which an ideology of lack, lack of conviction and it’s nobody’s fault. It can be in no other way in a world that is governed by an understanding that all value is performative and has no grounding, no origin, no reasons to not change. But as nothing in this world is fixed things are even better or worse, because without fix points how can be know or verify change. It’s all floating Boss.
Ideology can perhaps be defined as “under no circumstances” or “over my dead body”, no fuckin way, and this is a matter or principles, no matter what. Politics on the other hand is the very absence of permanence and instead we have negotiation, and the only thing that must not happen is that we agree, that we reach a point of grounding, of settlement or index. A definition of politics might be “under these circumstances it is necessary to…” or “in this situation it has become important to…”. Ideology is stable, static, long term, grounded and heavy handed whereas politics is the exact opposite: unstable, dynamic, short term, floating and easy going. Most of all politics is performative and as long as it is it certainly has no substance, it cannot have.
A world formulated around performativity is in many ways great but we should remember that is not only good but comes with a lot of darkness, and one of the darkest ones is called paranoia. Paranoia prompts fear, the building of walls and proprietary views of the world. In a world governed by performativity we will all tip toe acting as saturated airs of Bartleby. I rather not since whatever I do can and will be used against me. Temporarily it might be the case but in the long run, performativity dis-empowers.
Performativity with its relations to phenomenology and postmodern or post-structuralist thought proposes that everything in the world, in reality or within symbolic order if you like, does not “exist” in itself but we can only access its representations. Things soft or hard, physical are not “real”exist only as the sum of its relations in the world. This is our lucky day because had it been otherwise, could we have a direct relation to thing in themselves transformation would be impossible, and with that movement, time, dynamics, change. Something cannot not have relations and, however impossible, something without relations simple doesn’t exist. Evidently relation doesn’t mean to be friendly and engage in water cooler chats although it’s a real good show, it simply means that there is the possibility for some or other cohesion, or transfer.
An interesting question is what happens to imagination in a or our performative regime. One possibility is that imagination simply vanished because the very idea of imagination is that it is ruled by totally fuzzy logics, impossible impossibilities, by non-relations, indetermination and contingency but such stuff cannot exist in our current regime as that would tear down the entire system in so much that some thing can exist without relations, at least to some degree at some point or moment. Another option is that we indeed fear imagination because it has this inscription of being unfaithful and contingent and who wants to end up contingently some where else? Scary shit and instead it seems that our current regime’s capitalism plus provides us with tools that perform the illusion of imagination but the safe version, from retreat centres to computer games, from an afternoon in the spa or tarot reading, care practices (at least too many), pilates and nameless forms of escapism, but it is never imagination. Animated Hollywood movies is perhaps a good example for how something that was created to stimulate imagination today has become so extremely saturated that there is no space for imagination left. Everything is delivered so that I don’t need to feel haunted but instead sconsume properly and certainly don’t imagine.
What is the place of art in a world that look and operates like this one? With a bit of pushing and pulling one could say that performativity undid art. In this world there is no place for art, there is no place for contemplation because what art does is to open up for the possibility of losing oneself – it is a letting go of the subject and identity, and that would be deep torture for a contemporary identity. In this world art has transformed into information, efficiency and participation, when in fact what we need is contemplation, uselessness and the promise of spaces where performativity is disqualified. Art’s job is not to make friends but instead to insist on the possibility of autonomy.