Daimon Lovers - Phantoms of Fashion
Studies of fashion usually put an emphasis on fashion being defined by the "system"; industry, media, celebrities, etc. Fashion is mainly seen as a social spectacle, an arena of images, garments and bodies, all defined from the outside, or performed as a persona before an audience.
Another way to approach fashion is to see it as an affect in the most biophysical sense, a psychosomatic and neurological event, a phenomenon taking place as an extension of the mind and a biomechanical sensibility which merges dream images of the mind with a physical sensorium of the social organism. As esoteric sensations of seduction and allure, attuned to seek recognition and attention of peers, lovers and rivals.
Fashion as shamanic prosthesis and phantom limb: phantasy incarnated.
“In sorcery, blood is of the order of contagion and alliance. It can be said that becoming-animal is an affair of sorcery because (1) it implies an initial relation of alliance with a demon; (2) the demon functions as the borderline of an animal pack, into which the human being passes or in which his or her becoming takes place, by contagion; (3) this becoming itself implies a second alliance, with another human group; (4) this new borderline between the two groups guides the contagion of animal and human being within the pack. […] If becoming animal takes the form of a Temptation, and of monsters aroused in the imagination by the demon, it is because it is accompanied, at its origin as in its undertaking, by a rupture with the central institutions that have established themselves or seek to become established.” (Deleuze & Guattari 1000p: 247)
Not only is fashion sorcery, it is a form of "carnal alchemy," (Flowers 2013) a passage which mobilized passions to transmorph the inner and outer flesh of the embodied mind, merging pleasure and pain, phantoms and phantasy. Fashion is a prosthesis that binds together the phantoms and dreams of the mind, the ghosts and daimons of lust and allure, with the transformative technologies of the socialized and cultured flesh of the body. Fashion makes the body anew, both materially and neurally. It is the metaxy, the in-between, the realm of the daimon, the chtonic ghosts of the lower neural domains, a transporter, a vector between the plesures of the mind and the pleasures of the senses. As the priestess Diotima teaches Socrates, love is not a deity, but a great daimon. Fashion is a sado-shamanic prosthesis conjuring the merger of the animal, daimon and phantom bodies of the self into social limbs of neural phantasma.
The Greek term phantasia was a mix of sensation (aisthesis) and opinion (doxa) that overrides the Enlightenment obsession with Reality as a guardian of Truth, as both sensation and opinion can simultaneously be both true and false and is also a central component in knowledge. And Plato connects aesthesis, what appears, not only to phantasia but also to episteme, the word he uses for knowledge (Theaetetus 152c). Plato does thus not equate phantasia with a false unreality (or imagination) but on a parallel level to that of truth and knowledge, a knowledge tied to sensation. Also Aristotle pays attention to the coupled phantasm of mind and body; “no one can learn or understand anything in the absence of sense, and when the mind is actively aware of anything it is necessarily aware of it along with an image (phantasma); for images (phantasmata) are like sensuous contents except in that they contain no matter” (De Anima 432a). Chiara Bottici traces phantasma to a crucial role in both cognition and action in Greek thought, as “phantasmata are not phantoms or specters. They are simple images without which even our most elementary mental operations would be impossible.” (Bottici 2014: 18) Similarly, phantasia is the basis for appetite, and Aristotle claims “there is no desiring without phantasia” (De Anima 433b 29). As Aristotle has it, phantasia is more than mere cognition, as it connects desire (orexis) with action (praxis).
Cassandra Crawford posits that prosthetization is tantamount to rebirth, a regeneration into liberators enhancement and existential transcendence (Crawford 2014: 3). What is given birth is a rupture, a radical departure and consummate rapture that engulfs the wholeness of existence, binding together the prosthesis of the flesh with the phantoms of the mind. The aesthetic prosthesis is a technology which moves he wearer into the normalizing domain of the naturalized, moralized and able body, what Casper and Moore (2009: 179) call the “hypervisible” body, the sexualized body we seek, peek, leer, stare, adore, and gaze at: the phantasmic body.
Cain of Gnosis (2016) Mixed media, 27x25cm
The phantom is a ghost, an esoteric illusion, yet it also renders visible. The Greek phantazein means ”to make visible, to display.” The phantom body is an ideal made flesh made social made political. The normalized dream of the phantom body correlates to Foucault’s perspective of the “anatomo-politics of the human body,” the surveillance, categorization and manipulation of bodies to optimize and make docile its capabilities (Foucault 1990: 139) Yet this body continually slips through control. Fashion is a feral phantom, a transcendent prosthetization and projected surface of sexualized dreams by which flesh and fantasy intersects into an alluring domain of ghost-images and alluring phantoms. As a phantasm, the dreamed body is here a haunted illusion, anchored in the flesh and draped in dreams. Yet it is important to highlight that the power of the body is not suppressed but also usurped and a blade sharpened against the normalized sexual dreams of society. As Eileen Zurbriggen and Tomi-Ann Roberts means, “There are many rewards for self-sexualising, including popularity, status, power, and increased chances for romantic relationships and sexual exploration. Moreover, it often feels good to fulfil the roles we are expected to fulfil, and doing so can garner acceptance and (in the adult world) substantial rewards, such as career success and higher salaries. It would be a mistake to dismiss girls’ choices as having only costs, and no benefits.” (Zurbriggen & Roberts 2013: 308)
Fashion is a phantom limb. The draped and alluring body is made visible by sexualized attention, merging the neural maps of the body with the sensorium of seduction. We could think of it as the desire which connects neural maps with mind maps, attuning the sensorium to affects, emotions and the feeling brain (Damasio 2003). As Crawford notices, “phantom limbs are curious to be sure because they often move in the world like fleshy limbs — waving goodbye or gesticulating during conversation — because they possess lovely or disturbing histories — wearing precious engagement rings, favorite lace-lined socks, or blood-filled boots; because they can exist tenaciously and sometimes audaciously — penetrating solids, objects, and even the very viscera of others; and because they “physically” detach from the body — leaving gaping holes as the hovering bit follows the body with reverence and in perfect harmony.” (Crawford 2014: 7) As a phantom limb, fashion is an alluring form of cultured techno-corporeality. A shadowy limb of the sexual mind, fashion is a beacon of temptation and frames flesh, merging our senses to heighten body appeal as well as communicate and culture its sexual availability.
Ravenous Djinn (2016) Mixed media, 31x28 cm
Garments, accessories and jewelry, like prostesises, bruise, rub, lacerate, and hurt, yet also heighten our awareness. They come to live with us, become socially “worn in” and lived-as-flesh. It is because of the profound intimacy with phantom limbs, Crawford notices, “the tendency for prostheses to rouse and civilize
unruly phantoms and for phantoms to animate lifeless prostheses — that prostheses have become invested with therapeutic, transcendent, evocative, and other qualities.” (Crawford 2014: 8) This is why phantom limbs and prosthesis comes to form alloplastic, or “phantom-prosthetic relations”, between ghosts in the body and external limbs, a relationship cultured by dreams, arousal and functional experiences. In this sense, fashion acts as the ultimate form of embodied seduction and a prosthesis of aesthetic enchantment, merging garment, phantom and flesh.
Within the resent wave of neuroscience, the role of prosthesis, phantom limbs and ghosts of the mind have gotten new attention. “With the trend in neuroscientific research of challenging the relative stability of neuronal connections in the adult human brain (the hardwired paradigm),” Crawford notes, “phantom phenomena began to be attributed to neuronal malleability (the plasticity paradigm). Relocated in the brains rather than the minds of amputees, the phantom was rendered biomedically “real,” factual, and authentic rather than fictitious, fraudulent, and fanciful.” (Crawford 2014: 13) Similarly, the prosthesis connects with the phantoms of the mind, opening a passage that fundamentally transforms both body and brain. The ghosts of the mind are real.
The phantom prosthesis of fashion is one of several mental images, or neural masks of the real. Vilem Flusser noticed that the “I” is an abstract point where concrete relations intersect into a knot, and from which concrete relations set out: “We can then of course ‘identify’ ourselves with these knots of relations within ourselves: for example, as a heavy body (nodal intersection in the electromagnetic and gravitational fields), as an organism (nodal intersection in the genetic and ecological fields), and as a ‘psyche’ (nodal intersection in the collective psychological field), and as a ‘person’ (nodal intersection in the mutually intersecting social and inter-subjective fields). (Flusser 1999: 104f) Fashion is the prosthetic mask which acts on all intersections, tying together the phantoms of the mind with the subjective and social realms, a shamanic implant, transgressing the shapeshifting of mind and body.
Yogini Gaze (2016) Mixed media, 24x41 cm
It is not enough to say fashion is embodied. High heels, liposuction, breast implants, corsets and cosmetics, or any other form of aesthetic enhancement, is a socialized and sexualized prosthesis and phantom limb; a daimonic mask that does not hide but reveals. It is a ghost-meets-matter which lives in symbiosis with us, a seductive shadow which moves with us in both our experiences in the flesh and in dreams, and the daimon binds the two worlds together. In sexual arousal, projection and dream merges with the sexual sensorium, tuning attention to manipulate our experience of the temptation and carnal knowledge. Our sexual dreams are full of embodied ghosts, phantom limbs and daemonic members, merging with accompanying technologies and visual regimes. Sacred garments, sexual enhancements, shamanic masks, daemonic appendages shape the hysteric pleasures that haunt the misty and libidinous grounds spanning the landscapes of flesh and spirit, reason and imagination, inhabited by phantoms and daimon lovers, incubus and succubus. Like the femme fatale, a temptation of pleasurable sin, and as Elizabeth Manon has it, it is “evil by design.” (Manon 2006) The demon lover, the serpent, the spider, the beast, thrashing through the garden of Eden with the pleasures of carnal knowledge. Like all animalistic phantoms with an otherworldly sirens’ call of allure, pleasure and pain, and with enchanting as much as feral grace. Like any form of body-building, practices of the enchanting carnality, the technologies of the self are meant to merge flesh, passion, and mind with ethereal toning, bewitched limbs and artificial appendages. Fashion, as a phantom prosthetization, is the sexualized synergy of these endeavors, of textile aesthetic appendages merging with neuroplastic processes, mental images and sexualized body schemes of the neural mirror-image of the self.
In prosthetic pleasure and pain, sex magic and sado-shamanism, fashion is phantasy incarnated.
Bottici, Chiara (2014) Imaginal Politics: Images Beyond Imagination and the Imaginary, New York: Columbia University Press
Casper, Monica & Lisa Moore (2009) Missing bodies: The politics of visibility. New York: New York University Press
Crawford, Cassandra (2014) Phantom Limb: Amputation, Embodiment, and Prosthetic Technology, New York: New York University Press
Damasio, Antonio (2003) Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Orlando: Harvest
Deleuze, Gilles & Felix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Flowers, Stephen (2013) Carnal Alchemy: Sado-Magical Techniques for Pleasure, Pain, and Self-Transformation, Rochester: Inner Traditions
Fluster, Vilem (1999) “Shamans and Dancers with Masks” in The Shape of Things, London: Reaktion
Foucault, Michel (1990) The History of Sexuality Vol. 1, New York: Vintage Books
Manon, Elizabeth (2006) Evil by Design: The Creation and Marketing of the Femme Fatale, Urbana: University of Illinois Press
Zurbriggen, Eileen & Tomi-Ann Roberts (eds) (2013) The Sexualization of Girls and Girlhood: Causes, Consequences, and Resistance, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Inverted Succubus (2016) Mixed media, 29x30cm