Apocalypse (but the good kind)

(sorry this is so disjointed)

Gazurmah, Mafarka’s monstrous “parthenogenetic” child, “…the invincible lord of space, the giant with immense, orange-colored wings”, was to Marinetti an expression of a “scorn for women”—to use his own oft-derided line from the Manifesto. In Marinetti’s mind, Gazurmah represents the triumphant construction of the future by the warrior-poets that would seize it: a reproduction “without vulva”, the “spirit of man” itself likened to an “unused ovary” to be fertilized by Mafarka’s futurism.

However, Marinetti himself, blinded by his own Promethean ambitions to construct an art out of war, is entirely unable to grasp what Mafarka means. If, though Benjamin, we “politicize art” (Marinetti’s novel Mafarka the Futurist in this case), Marinetti’s own embedded meaning—the delirious, misogynist fever of Mafarka flips into an emancipatory reproductive politics.

I’m reminded of Greg Egan’s Diaspora here, in which the “orphan”, born a blank slate and (obviously) without parents, embarks on a process of self-discovery and autopoesis that molds the protean original self into a person. The obvious parallels between the orphan and Gazurmah are here. In fact, though one is digital and the other material, they are both essentially the same thing. Despite Gazurmah’s known provenance, he is an orphan too.

But what is more important is to introduce Marcuse’s analysis of the phylogenetic and ontogenetic in Eros and Civilization. The phylogenetic, following Freud, is the personal, the psychoanalytic: this is the space in which the orphan constructs themselves, the same any biologically produced child would. Claire’s critique of Marinetti (to me) hinges around the already terminal state of the orphan at birth. However, the identity of “the orphan” belies the process of autoproduction that comes as the orphan becomes an entity of their own. In Mafarka, the novel ends with apocalypse.

But by politicizing Marinetti’s writing, we can pin his ‘apocalypse’ to the destruction of biological order, of natural necessity, of the supposed distance of man from nature itself. This is the transition, in Marcuse, from the phylogenetic to the ontogenetic, from the individual to civilization as a whole. Gazurmah, a product of love but also of work for Mafarka, is a construct which by its existence points beyond not only biological necessity but capitalistic, bourgeois reproduction altogether: the injection of libido into toil, which to Marcuse spells a dramatic death for our current world, governed as it is by the “performance principle”.

Unwinding the performance principle is the “liberation [they] are compelled to reject”—it’s baked into the brain, composed and enforced in the process of being brought up in a repressive civilization under the aegis of the performance principle. Much less the creation of Gazurmah himself, Mafarka’s construction of his son is this libidinal work, a work “away from genitalia”, and more so, the reintroduction of the aesthetic as interlocutor between the sensual and the rational, two poles that the majority of queer theory has been historically obsessed with. Sexuality becomes sublimated, libido’s “trend towards cultural expression” blooms, and Eros comes to the fore, modifying civilization away from a slavish fixation on reproduction for reproduction’s sake.

Finally, in Marcuse’s view, the libidinization of toil transforms it into play, which then culminates in “display”. Is this not what Mafarka does with his son, showing him off to dominated, dying subjects? Does Mafarka’s “large son”, a totally insane undertaking, not upend reason, and pull sensuality out of the body and into civilizational space?

 

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