Friday, October 19, 2007

Xasthur - Defective Epitaph (pt. 2)


Adolf Loos: "When walking through a wood, you find a rise in the ground, six foot long and three foot wide, heaped up in a rough pyramid shape, then you turn serious, and something inside you says: someone lies buried here. That is architecture".

(Sourced here).


In "Symbolic Exchange And Death", Baudrillard contrasts the meaning of death in primitive and modern societies.

Baudrillard's view of the meaning of death in primitive societies echoes the work of French anthropologist Marcel Mauss. In these societies, the dead were incorporated into cycles of gift exchange and this incorporation made them part of the same community as the living. In modern society however, the dead are excluded from all symbolic exchange with the living. They are cast out of society and segregated in hospitals, funeral homes, graveyards, the ghettos of the dead. Death has become a-social. Baudrillard: "Our whole culture is hygienic, and aims to expurgate life from death".


An epitaph fulfills the same function as the tombstone on which it is inscribed: it buries the dead under an idealized, hygienic meaning. The epitaph is the make-up of the dead. Where hospitals, funeral homes, graveyards and tombstones work through architecture, epitaphs work through a linguistic operation.

So what is a 'defective epitaph'? It is an epitaph which no longer fulfills it's function, which no longer hides death but on the contrary announces it. It is an epitaph which exhumes the dead. It is a linguistic device which in failing has opened up a route between the society of the living and that of the dead.

But as gift exchanges with the dead, sacrifices to the dead, have been neglected, the dead are sure to be unreconciled, unexpiated, sorcerous and hostile. And the sound of these supernatural corpses prowling around the body and the soul is the sound one hears listening to Xasthur's latest album.


mike said...

I've been really fascinated by both of the posts you've made on this album; I got it recently and it's been in constant rotation ever since. It's really an excellent album, and everything you've said here is really just heightening my enjoyment. Thanks!

valter said...

Thanks Mike! I thouroughly enjoy your excellent blog too, especially the Frans Zwartjes review.