Give Me Convenience Or Give Me
by Philipp Wüschner
In the eccentric 19th century, some English aristocrats let so-called ornamental hermits live in their gardens. In exchange for board and lodging and the promise of eventual pay, they were supposed to perform some form of exotic wisdom, a wisdom which usually had no meaning beyond its representation, as an interaction between guests and hermits was not intended.
A young man, who wishes to retire from the world and live as a hermit, in some convenient spot in England, is willing to engage with any nobleman or gentleman who may be desirous of having one.
Payment was made after the end of the service period, which was set to last up to seven years. Almost 200 years of solitude later, no one is paid anymore, one feeds on yogurt sullied in their lap days ago, and the end of isolation is not in sight. We as a community, or whatever, are faced with a choice that concerns everything symbolic that has lost meaning: to be thrown away or become ornamental. In view of a language that has become reference-less, like an arabesque of razor wire that stakes out sensitivities and identities, and a morality that has long since crossed the border to the decorative, it is no longer clear what one should decide on this question. And if one should not be secretly thankful that this choice is no longer a matter of one’s own will, but is decided by the gaze that falls upon you.
A long time ago, according to the late criminal, sectarian and musician Charles Manson, being crazy meant something. Nowadays everybody’s crazy. Total paranoia is just total awareness. Perhaps, in this situation of totalised attention, there really is nothing left other than turning the gaze, making observation itself the thing to be observed. The first thing you would notice are the edges that representation has carved into your own life, the impossible hollow patterns, vague angles and frayed corners that assemble a blend of residual existence, which has fallen off during an attempt to produce a straight forward plan for life. To one’s own surprise, one could realise how unobtrusive material in
comparison to ideology, is actually patient, dedicated and somewhat forgiving, and that urbanity’s promise of freedom may just as well begin in the heating pipes of our own residential prisons.
“Only when effectively interrupted,” the media theorist Friedrich Kittler wrote about the Ready-made, “can the absolute determining functionality of the artefacts appear as themselves.” Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a bad promise – the effective interruption of our functionality – that we could meet each other and thereby appear as ourselves. It isn’t very likely, though. However, the young man cited above, who in 1810 offered his services as an ornamental hermit in the British Courier, founded the hardcore punk band the Dead Kennedys in 1978 and there processed his failed quest for paid self-isolation with the words:
Because your role is planned for you
There’s nothing you can do
But stop and think it through
The story is probably not quite right – but what if