David Foster Wallace from an appendix to his famous essay on David Lynch.
From an interview with the artist Margaret Chardiet aka Pharmakon on her sister’s website (presumably by her sister):
“The name it’s self is the gateway to understanding what the project is about. Pharmakon is an ancient Greek word; it means both poison and remedy, at the same time. It is the philosophy of something being dual in nature. The idea that something which could harm you, could also help you. But the distinction that is important to me is that the project is about duality, not juxtaposition, it is not about two things that are on opposite sides of the same spectrum, it is about two things that are opposite being the same thing.
There are many themes that fall under that umbrella. If you break [Pharmakon] down to it’s core, it is human connection. It’s not some cold power electronics project. It’s hot and sticky. It is the moisture in your groin. What is it? You can’t help it; it’s just there. I didn’t mean to put it there. I know it’s offensive, but the human race is disgusting. If they think I am acceptable, then I am doing something wrong, frankly.”
I don’t think that Fire Walk With Me is a great movie but Wallace’s interpretation of it makes me like it more, and his explanation of what makes something Lynchian helped me understand why I am so drawn to his aesthetic: its unflinching depiction of the mixed up nature of reality, with nothing to separate dark and light, them and you, just a terrifying sense that you do have some of this darkness inside of you and so does everyone you know.
There’s obviously a feminist interpretation here, and I think there’s a reason so many female and queer artists recently have embraced a Lynchian aesthetic, as I think Wallace is points out that it is inherently part of the way “others” experience reality and employing it is a great way to expose that to those who don’t naturally feel it.
Contrary to what we ordinarily believe, consciousness is not a stable, self-regulating entity. When left to itself, deprived of organized sensory input, the mind begins to wander and is soon prey to unbridled hallucinations. Most people require an external order to keep randomness from invading their mind. It is very difficult to keep ideas straight without the assistance of a sensory template that gives them boundaries and direction. When people have nothing to do, they generally begin to fret, become depressed, and become anxious; unless they turn on the television or find. some other activity that will direct their attention, their moods progressively deteriorate. That is why people report their worst moods on Sunday mornings, when, deprived of a cultural script, they flounder in the quagmire of freedom. The mind was not designed to be self-regulating or to function well when idling.
This is where objects can be helpful. As Arendt observed:
The things of the world have the function of stabilizing human life, and their objectivity lies in the fact that … men, their ever-changing nature notwithstanding, can retrieve their sameness, that is, their identity, by being related to the same chair and the same table. In other words, against the subjectivity of men stands the objectivity of the man-made world …. Without a world between men and nature, there is eternal movement, but no objectivity.
(Arendt 1958: 137)
Artifacts help objectify the self in at least three major ways. They do so first by demonstrating the owner’s power, vital erotic energy, and place in the social hierarchy. Second, objects reveal the continuity of the self through time, by providing foci of involvement in the present, mementos and souvenirs of the past, and signposts to future goals. Third, objects ‘, give concrete evidence of one’s place in a social network as symbols (literally, the joining together) of valued relationships. In these three things stabilize our sense of who we are; they give a permanent shape to our views of ourselves that otherwise would quickly dissolve in the flux of consciousness.