IF YOU GAZE FOR LONG INTO AN ABYSS, THE ABYSS GAZES ALSO INTO YOU


When a child gazes upon the world, what is the World? The world is an abyss. Or at least the world is incurably strange. Or the world is a mirror and the mirror is the abyss which gazes back almost instantly. Or it is an obsession. When a child gazes into the world the world is a screen which is also a mirror, in which they might observe their own gazing both into the screen and the world and also into themselves and therefore outside of it. This is called consciousness, or the experience of existing within a space which is not.

As a child, I was terrified of Sesame Street, of its uncanny terror, its population of monsters, the flatness into which the world could descend should the right word be uttered, reality rendered in ink. The animated scenes tended to occur in nonlocations, black canvasses of space in which, rather than upon which, new realities could be created, erased, and manipulated, both of their own accord and without awareness.

It was in this liminal space that form was conveyed. Fundamentals of geometry, language, concepts of color and line and perspective. By removing placing these so entirely in the realm of the abstract, form became synonymous with Nature.

MONSTER (OED): Originally: a mythical creature which is part animal and part human, or combines elements of two or more animal forms, and is frequently of great size and ferocious appearance. Later, more generally: any imaginary creature that is large, ugly, and frightening.

The difference between A MONSTER and THE MONSTROUS is in the costuming. A monster is itself a thing which evokes fear because its form cannot be easily defined. That which looks like a bird and behaves like a bird but displayed sentience beyond that of an average bird, which eats of the raw block of space from which language is made and creates its own name through a digestive absence, that creature in which occurring traits are recognizably conflicted, is a monster. That which it does, define itself as BIRD, to put on a costume reducible to a single signifier when no such designation is applicable to its hybrid form, is monstrous.

The monstrous represents an attempt to control the uncanny, the strange, the indefinable, to make it turn, a gear in a system into which is does not fit. Muppets, just a letter away from the endearing “moppet” [a small child; a doll; a fool], put on human costumes and attempt to navigate a world which is, for them, filled with monster and monstrosities. They encounter unfamiliar objects and manipulate them until they can be defined – made into a sign: a word, a letter, a number.

As a result of the desperation for definition, everything in Sesame Street becomes the uncanny, always slightly removed from its actuality as a result of the fact that it has been NAMED. Naming, then, gives way to nonsense – the named thing cannot behave appropriately in the space created by the definition – it seeks to stretch, move outside of its container, multiply into a cacophony of SOUND and FUNCTION. See: The Yip Yip Aliens & The Radio

The aliens speak in a “nonsense” language, the only discernible words of which, in this skit, are NO and RADIO. Even as they fuse word and thing, the negation is always already present in the structure of their lexicon.

The result is the language, whether mathematical or phonetic, has to exist in a non-locatable realm in order to be isolated, removed from all objects, so that each sign might be understood as an autonomous entity existing in the realm of the abstract before being tethered, almost arbitrarily, to an object. In this way, language itself becomes a monster. Letters themselves morph, change, take on and cast off various affects and appearances, perform feats of self-transfiguration that terrify.

It is this terror, this combination of SHOCK & AWE, that prompts the viewer to make a concerted effort to understand the monster, to further define it, to gaze into the abyss so long that the abyss gazes back, converses, and eventually becomes a MIRROR. In such a manner, the child puts on the costume of the monster, and, finding pleasure in the image, in the power of defining the ultimately luminal, becomes monstrous. Speaks.

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