Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Malefic's Mirrors III


Mirrors play a seminal role in the lyrics to the music of US Black Metal Band Xasthur.

This is the third in a short series of posts, written in anticipation of Xasthur's forthcoming album, "Defective Epitaph". In these posts, I examine some of the lyrics to Malefic's music to find out the significance of the mirror in Xasthur's aesthetic.


What would happen if a man's face could adequately express his suffering, if his entire inner agony would be objectified in his facial expression? Could we still communicate? Wouldn't we then cover our faces with our hands while talking? Life would really be impossible if the infinitude of feelings we harbor within ourselves would be fully expressed in the lines of our face. Nobody would dare look at himself in the mirror, because a grotesque, tragic image would mix in the contours of his face with stains and traces of blood, wounds which cannot be healed, and unstoppable streams of tears. I would experience a kind of voluptuous awe if I could see a volcano of blood, eruptions as red as fire and as burning as despair, burst into the comfortable and superficial harmony of everyday life, or if I could see all our hidden wounds open, making of us a bloody eruption forever. Only then would be truly understand and appreciate the advantages of loneliness, which silences our suffering and makes it inaccessible. The venom drawn out from suffering would be enough to poison the whole world in a bloody eruption, bursting out of the volcano of our being. There is so much venom, so much poison, in suffering!" Emil M. Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

Infinite regress: Cioran's text placed parallel to the lyrics to Xasthur's "The Prison Of Mirrors" (from the 2006 album Subliminal Genocide), like two mirrors, to make them reflect each other and so form a recursive image...

"The Prison Of Mirrors

The prison of mirrors... we can't see / Yet trapped we are... by its reflection / It sees all fear and watches our downfall / It will rip all lies and pride from the soul / You see all... all that you hate / Force fed memories, suffer humiliation / Victim of darkness, of the inner hidden kind / I am the eye within the gleam / Shatter before a mirror that stares into (a shallow soul) / Poison yourself... revel in waste / Poison yourself, in the name of evil... destroy yourself / I will always be the reason to hate your self / Mirrors... will oppress your mind / and follow all... all that you hide / Blind, step inside a subconscious warfare to guide the oblivious / Mirrors of torture, unforgiving expose your sins / Your suicide by the mirror's shattered blade"


The prison of mirrors evokes the image of a mirror maze, a dizzying labyrinth of looking glasses.

"Bataille reverses the traditional metaphorical sense of the labyrinth that links it with the desire to get out. Just as philosophy allows one to leave Plato's cave, the labyrinth (from Bacon to Leibniz) is where those without access to the thread of knowledge are condemned to lose their way. Knowledge always takes the form of something to end all error and errantry. Bataille, on the contrary, denounces ('Icarian') solutions. Above all, he denounces the wish that it lead somewhere, have a solution (...) because the only result of this wish is that, far from being a real exit from the labyrinth, it transforms labyrinth into prison. To will the future (...), to submit it to planning and projects, to wish to construct it, is to lock oneself into a devalorized present that is airless and unlivable. "The project", according to Bataille, "is the prison". To want to get outside of the labyrinth, making this into a project, is to close it, is to close oneself in." Denis Hollier, Against Architecture. The Writings Of Georges Bataille.

In this mirror maze, the referent is multiplied by reflections bouncing off each other from so many angles that both self and referent get lost; distance and proximity as well as separation and apprehension (arresting; seizure; grasping; understanding) are unbalanced, perverted, desintegrated.

There is no minotaur at the center of Xasthur's mirror maze. Rather, the monster is the labyrinth itself; the monstrousness is dispersed from the center of the labyrinth. Daedalos's maze relates to Xasthur's mirror maze as monarchical power relates to postmodern power (á la Foucault). The minotaur was part of the monarchical power of King Minos. The violence of the minotaur was centralized, intermittent, stable, conspicuous, and extravagant: seven Athenian youths and seven maidens, drawn by lots, were sent every ninth year to be devoured by the Minotaur. The violence inherent in the mirror maze is diffuse, continuous, invisible ("we can't see / Yet trapped we are") and operating in non-heroic (i.e. micro-) practices.


"Man is necessarily in a mirage, his very reflection mystifies him, so intent is he on grasping the ungraspable, on using transports of lost hatred as tools" - Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share.

Post scriptum

An interesting essay on aphorisms as mirrors (link)

No comments: