That feels to me to be a great example Andy, and I was talking to a disseration student about something very similar in terms of digital avatars and sythespians and I’d mentioned NFT’s to him as a similar discourse on authenticity and the problems of such notional authenticity when you get into the thickets. We were speaking about the romantic ideals of actors “putting their he/arts into it,” and those famous method actors who dive in deep with their signature intentionality in becoming and subsuming) and how “signed-in” and “signed-up” they are with their signature being, as opposed to the synthespian who is “modeled” on someone/something dead and so someone else controls the strings. Unlike with reflections of vampires (!) where the glass cannot capture their live appearance on the scene, what you see is what you get, but apparenty, and yet in-apprently, we believe that there is something transported “in” via the vessel and yet no blind (single, double) taste test woud be able to uncover the authentic. “Knowing” that Tom Cruise actually cruised is like all that authenticity that had Hollywood couples really in love, instead of play acting. This, again, plays very nicely into the performative, that is apparently a gold standard and that the more degrees one is separateed from it, the more tainted and inauthentic it is. Paper-pushers placed against the apparently potent " real deal" even though we need convincing by some inspiring publicity dept!
So, according to Austin, if you say something authentically then it actually happens, but if you are drunk, are not of sound mind, are play-acting, or ape or parrot (for animals cannot “mean”) then it leans on the thing, without being the thing: it is a parasitic speech act. The example I always use is Ross and Rachel in Friends. The “will they won’t they” is doubly stumped in terms of distance from “real” marriage and thus “real” commitment. All the way through we’ve wanted them to get it together, and then they go to Vegas, not for NAB, but end up getting married by an Elvis. Thing is, they were drunk and so were not married. Luckily, for the actors, they were also acting and so the words didn’t “stick.” So, the performative needs to be “backed up” or it is a sh*t deal! There’s a funny thing going on in the pUKe at the moment about what constituters work and what constututes play with Boris Johnson having a party in the no10 garden during lockdown. The squeezing out of the jam and the pickle seems to be the flexibility in the authenticity of the event and how the home is work and the work is home, in this case. I’m not following too closely, but there’s some interesting borders of what is sobert and what is drunk and what is social and what is actual (work).
It’s also a bit like the difference between a symbolic and an indexical sign, according to CS Pierce and here Roland Barthes used this argument in Camera Lucida when he’s talking about a photograph of his mother. He argues that it, the photo (pre-digital) is not a symbolic (words are symbolic signs in that they have an arbitrary, and not natural or any appearance to their signified or referent) or iconic (looks or appears like what it signfies) relation to what they point towards but an indexical one that is “actually” connected. A little like the projecting pipe from Donnie Darko he feels there’s a link from his now dead mother to the photograph he now nostalgically stares at. The light hits the lens, hits the films, gets developed and englarged and now he is staring at a concrete remainder of that time, that place, and that some indubitable, inhabitabled, having-been-ness. This is what people often decry in having been lost. If, however, there are only always-already but traces then it becomes something of a problem. There is a strong mythology around indexical signs that are apparently wedded, welded and connected to what has been but is not necessarily there, if it ever truly was, in all its supposed all-together-ness!
Returning to NFT’s (to keep this post within a more eminent domain) a colleague earlier sent me an email with a link to this story. He wittily titled the link “the work of (f)art in the age of mechanical reproduction.”
Rather than paraphrase my reply, I’ve pasted it across as its close to what we’re talking about here and I think it’s a really funny story:
*Funny that’s it’s a fart as the wacky unforgivable who’d-a-thought, and so apparently hard to monetise, item of interest, or accrual in interest. The inflation of the fart (both bodily and financially) is actually something I broached in two publications trying to liken what comes from the head (thoughts, art, etc.) against what comes from the tail (the fart, etc.) with a quasi-concept I developed called "excrementality" (a joining together of two previously opposed topographies). It’s a great play on Benjamin with that title and I dig the way that she is playing with this newly coined space of exchange and almost auto-destroying the idea/l. There was something on the World Service yesterday morning about the Portrait Gallery, I think, selling certificates of works of art as NFT’s for certain of their artworks. Was funny how serious the business slot was on this trend. No critical discussion but an acceptance, though they did put that famous proviso on about the seller keeping the “thing itself” even though your NFT thing is as good as golden! Honest. ***
***Yes the works of fart for the discerning fetishist who can at least hold onto this passing wind, in not passing time, is a great fart experiment, that seems to circumvent the secondarity or supplementarity of the art work that does not give you hold of the thing. She kind of makes it sound like the NFT is primary and that the jar that will be sent along is the secondarity, thus reversing the art work order of proceeding. In any event the parergonal structure (the supports that the supposed free-standing thing needs in order to be trusted as being what it apparently already is) is often a part of these things. I remember hearing about Andy Murray last year selling an NFT of some prize that he’d won but, obviously as it seemed to him that the “buyer” might beware that it really is something of “his” that they are partaking of, that he “threw in” some dinner or some do with him. The NFT seemed haunted by some excess that he needed to plug with a meet and greet into, even though that was a supplement. ***
The fart, at least, is given its time. Perhaps there’ll be a two girls and one (fart) jar reprise. If I was their agent I’d suggest they could do a retread of that!