Torn from Ghostly Hands: The Object's Property
by Duane Rousselle — European Graduate School & Trent University
September 17, 2012 – 00:00
Co(te)lette stages a confrontation between two notions of property. The first takes its point of departure from the belief that objects can be held in place for extended periods of times, each part of a larger aggregate whose sovereignty over the parts can (and must) be maintained at all costs. Those who subscribe to this notion of property insist that the film be read strictly according to the choreographer’s intentions: each body in the film is struggling against the pressure to be the property of the narrative/gaze. This is the tragedy of property about which Proudhon declared: “Property is theft!” Mike Figgis summarized this struggle with clarity when he remarked in a recent interview, “one thing [the choreographer] said was: ‘I am nervous already about the fact that you might take this away from me.’” An uncertainty ensues over creative ownership. In the final instance do these bodies not also own the finished product?
The dancers sit with limbs sprawled. Arms take on a life of their own. An arm stands erect with fingers pointing away from the body. Abruptly, a finger delimits front from back. A hand pounds the chest, assuming itself part of the body. In this precise moment the body is propertied. The body walks with parts unified into one motion. It breaks and trembles. Objects do not remain in place, the body does not remain unified. Without warning, a hand detaches from the determination of the body and slaps the face, ass, etc. Objects fight back against the claim of the body. They insist on being their own property. The hand slapping the ass should not be read as a mockery of what it means to be a perfect woman. The problem is more precise: it is the insistence of femininity, the inability to do otherwise.
Max Stirner discovered a second notion of property through his critique of Proudhon: “Proudhon thinks he is telling the worst about property [but] a theft becomes possible only through property.” We have here the discovery of a property that forgoes the pretension of ownership by a ghostly body. Rather, “property […] should not and cannot be abolished; it must rather be torn from ghostly hands and become my property.” Stirner robs the ghostly body of its claim to power. He becomes the hand that strangles himself.
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