Last and best on the menu: The dead flesh is not ‘obscene’, while her naked living body would be considered so by the broadcasters of the awards show and the publishers of Vogue, unfit for viewing. We must not expose the red of the living, pleasure-feeling nipple, but if the woman were dead, and her breast ripped off, turned inside out, that would be acceptable to show kids. Here’s an idea of how it would look, the celebrity in the flesh and in the raw, her acceptable appearance nuda e cruda.
That is, the meat is a surrogate for the flesh inside her, her own flesh.
A surrogate. Through the use of surrogates for their pain and death, the supreme race produce their supremacy and the other’s abjection and subjection. Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Toni Morrison all explained how it works, concretely and symbolically.
She signifies her torn flesh but not with her torn flesh, not the torn flesh of the multi-millionaire individual, whose flesh of course cannot be literally torn, but whose every emotional discomfort attains that metaphoric status. The grand task of expressing the dissatisfactions of the divine individual of the supreme race is pretext enough for the tearing of the flesh of another creature. White supremacy, the forerunner, model and foundation of capital species supremacy, provided her with a virtual being, an ideal wraith, even before cinema and the digital media realized it practically in such a way as to stablize it for maximum flexibility and render it all but completely invulnerable. The politics of idealism are for this: that if we were to be informed that the material of Lady Gaga's dress was not the flesh of a cow but say that of the 11 year old daughter of a Congo coltan miner or Afghan poppy farmer, this performance, avidly consumed in digital reproduction, would assuredly be received and promotionally "read" by the Guardian, BBC and New Statesman as no less purely discursive, the referent victim no less absent and looming in the wings for frisson-production. Because it is already so, every day. Lady Gaga adorned, as always but a little less sophisticatedly, in the flayed carcass of the class of life she accumulates might come across as only slightly artier, more retro, than she looks in the corny beef getup, but no doubt to the commentariat it would still involve merely and all-importantly the manipulation of signs – the concrete exploitation dismissed as only the unavoidable means of a “critique” of the (reverse) exploitation - by those entitled to do so. (see Hegel).
A good post-modern education prepares the professional audience-leaders to receive the expression of the master race’s anguish, the hog-squeal of capital, of Lady Gaga of the ruling class, victim of the insatiable spectatorial mob, as capitalists require: the celebrity aristocrat is admired for being so generous as to entertain the hoi polloi with an education in her suffering at their bloodsoaked hands as the greedy consumerists butcher and consume her, another proprietor Individual martyred for the pleasure of the depraved cannibal rabble.
At the most basic level, grasping mediation as the extraction of productive labor (value) from the body radically alters the question of visual pleasure by contaminating it with the question of murder.
The dialectic between pleasure and murder that underpins the society of the spectacle brings into relation the Freudian parameters for psychoanalysis – specifically the struggle between the pleasure and the reality principles – and Negri’s idea of participatory social production theorized under the category of “social cooperation,” and resolves it has a dynamic best grasped in the logistics of the image. For it is both pleasure and murder, indeed the (mass) pleasures of (systematic) murder, as worked out in the calculus of the image that sustain the reality of hierarchical society. A corollary to this deduction is that pleasure and murder do not have to be conceived in terms of individuals and their responsibilities or fates, but rather these are precipitated along the lines of force perpetuated by bureaucracies, such as the CIA, in which many participate but no one is accountable. Thus we can see that often as not, people neither work nor are murdered in discreet units: fractions of us work, fractions of us are killed both at the level of the concrete individual and at the level of the collective. The deep meaning of flexible production/accumulation includes not only the vertiginous movements of factories and markets, it is also that the shattered subject of the postmodern is a result of an organization of labor that produces value and takes life in inorganic units, units that do not respect, or better, have transcended the unity and indeed the singularity not only of locales, communities, and families but of the human individual. Whether we kill part of ourselves while watching TV or whether 8,598 viewers of Fox news are responsible for the death of one Iraqi child, value and exploitation are, like the shares in your pension plans, worked out to the nth decimal place in capital’s brutal calculus. -- Jonathan Beller, The Cinematic Mode of Production