on vision

The current obsession with “transparency” ensures that secrecy and invisibility will permeate all aspects of social life. Nothing will remain but telepathic ghosts wearing tinfoil helmets.

Opaque objects will slowly vanish, thereby dissolving all proof that the perfect crime ever took place. The stain of enjoyment cleansed by “two great events: the white light of the stars and the black light of terrorism” (Baudrillard, Seduction, 96). Hollywood whitewashes “history” even as terrorists’ create it; this fabricated “history,” purged of all negativity, throws all nationalism into the realm of pure fiction.

“Shadow and glimmer are virtually interchangeable. And, indeed, why not switch them? A shadow of hope, a glimmer of despair” (CM iii, 78).

What use is the panopticon, or even its superior variant the omniopticon, in a world where transparency is realized, in a world in which all inhabitants are invisible, all objects not registered on any visible spectrum?

“War means destroying the enemy’s quality of light” (Baudrillard, CM v). Light will become the deadliest of humanity’s weapons with which it will certainly mutilate (possibly even destroy) itself: photon-scalpel causes molecular wounds that destabilize the invisible state, making the ghost opaque and vulnerable to murder. The new murder: murder by light, murder by opacity.

Whence the perverse desire that fuels the will to invisibility, the will to transparency? The desire to become invisible is a perverse desire to identify with God: to have the power to affect the visible world while remaining unseen. It is the ultimate form of voyeurism, to watch without being watched as a pure disembodied gaze, an organ without a body. The will to transparency, on the other hand, means to identify with glass in all its various forms (mirrors, two way mirrors, frosted glass, stained glass, etc.). The perversity of glass lies in its fragile nature and the satisfaction that comes with smashing it to pieces—it is a weak form of masochism, it invites attack.

The most common use of glass is for mirrors and windows; to offer a reflection or separate one side from another. This is perfectly what modern society is: a mirror in which the first and third worlds (mis)recognize each other—the first world projects its anxiety onto the third world, the third world sees its desire reflected in the first world. The window is the screen that keeps “the other” from intruding too closely upon our neighborly indifference, a screen to keep “the other” at a distance yet visible.

Invisibility would be the worst form of being for the rapist—his power would then be reduced to a common form of assault: his victim having zero chance of identifying him as her violator. On the contrary, invisibility could give a certain type of pervert satisfaction: to give pleasure without the other ever knowing the source of that pleasure, like pleasure gleaned in the dream-state.

The last thing to consider is the ambiguous nature of darkness as it relates to invisibility, opacity, and transparency: it is at once a combination of all three. Darkness renders objects invisible and cannot be distinguished from itself. At the same time, darkness is also opaque, it has a surface which cannot be penetrated by vision. And, lastly, darkness is also transparent: darkness can be seen through insofar as all there is to see in darkness is more darkness.


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