My first big essay in graduate school a couple of generations ago was titled “The Ironic Consciousness.” Dealing mostly with E. M. Cioran and Stanley Romaine Hopper, if I recall rightly, it bore an epigraph from Simone Weil to the effect of “Method of investigation: When we have thought one thing, try to see how the opposite might be true,” and one that is either from Soren Kierkegaard or based on him, to the effect that no matter what path we try to take to faith, “irony bars our way.”
I omit, if I remember to delete it, a self-indulgent autobiographical paragraph in order to skip to the point that irony was not only the quintessential European attitude ever since Nietzsche but the governing factor of American poets from Wallace Stevens on.
But Stevens’ “The final belief must be in a fiction” and “We believe without belief, beyond belief” had much in common with the incipient belief in the fictions of the inheritors of Marx mixed with Nietzsche such as the Situationists. There were a host of avant-garde movements that argued bitterly over the proper relationship between science and the imagination, and they were all alien to the cockeyed optimism of American innocence.
Situationist psychogeography, as transformed in Britain, consisted of belief-ful constructs that were constructed in a state of conscious disbelief. Wanderers with a purpose, they rediscovered the Surrealists’ state of the marvelous without marveling at it.
So Eyedrum’s “Crop Circles, Cosmograms, Psychogeographies” is about the state of the marvelous and those who marvel at it and those who only enjoy it and those who somehow manage to do both.
But the show raises so many problems for me that I have written several thousand words already, trying to locate the sources of my discontent, and will most likely continue to do so.