SLENDER MAN & KNIFING AS HORROR-COMMUNICATION

Digital Anonymity, Becoming-Imperceptible & the System of Destructive Writing

Becoming-anonymous is an aspect that is always already there within subjective relations. Becoming-imperceptible is a possibility, ever-present in the form of a real virtuality. Uniting visibility & invisibility, invisibly grasping all the various facets of exteriority & drawing these heterogenities into the cold, visible digital light of homogeneity, all these are movements that recede through the very process of manifestation. Within heterogeneity, a xeno-homogeneity is at work. As Gilles Deleuze says, “one has to disappear, to become unknown.”[1] In the unknown realm of imperceptibility we may see connections between even the most extreme of oppositions. Monstrous, deformed chiasms underlie seemingly irreconcilable positions & dualities; beneath the dialectical oppositions, there lie machinic assemblages, xeno-homogeneous zones in which creation & destruction melt into one. At these points of connection, a strange form of destructive writing is born, a writing that emplaces itself, malignantly, among the wiring, a wired writing without identity, without face, without personality, without subjectivity: “writing has no other end than to lose one’s face, to jump over or pierce through the wall.” Writing, once it has gone through the critical phase of deanthropomorphisation, becomes a penetration of the wall separating the underworld from the superstructure of anthropocentric society. Facelessness is one of the primary manifestations of becoming-imperceptible (perhaps it would be more accurate to speak here of a manifestation that recedes from presence through the very act of its unfolding), while nevertheless tolerating all oppositions. Facelessness is neutrality, limitless acceptance of duality. Here, in the space of nonidentity I choose to call the xeno-homogeneous zone, oppositions that would otherwise tear each other apart are accommodated in intimate proximity. Facelessness is at once masochism (the passive enjoyment of being stripped of one’s identity), & pitiless sadism (the transgressive jouissance of seeing somebody’s face being ripped off, cut open, skinned), but also, thirdly, sadomasochism: the demonic combination of two, seemingly incompatible perversions or passions. In the stage of sadomasochism, a new „sadomasochistic entity” is born, an impure, hybrid creation whose ambivalence synthesizes the most abject elements to be found in both masochism & sadism.[2]

Words & sentences, once they proceed to flow out, cannot be held back, especially not when they pertain to the tearing apart of identities, for the combinations of words are, in themselves, lacerations, tears & wounds appearing on a victim’s skin. Destructive writing is at once a slow, patient polishing, a passionate boring & a transgressive piercing of fleshy walls. As a sadomasochistic entity, it cannot be anything other than a function of becoming-imperceptible, a performativity whose sole objective is the elimination of other performativities. Destructive writing, not unlike philosophy, is “born from something else,” a product of the Outside that cannot be articulated with anything, except incoherent words, bloody sentences, smears of excrement, all coalescing to compose lines of deterritorialization.[3] When conceptualized as a sadomasochistic entity, writing becomes a mode of deterritorialization, an escape that renders this performativity deconstructive, non-identifiable, impersonal & inhuman, a performative destruction of intelligibility. It is, in other words, a Dadaism equipped with lethal star-bits that drill into the flesh, producing pain, chaos & passionate, sadistic release. This drilling machine, through its destruction of identity, produces empty masks. Engravings, dents, holes & tunnels are already contained by drilling tools, be they textual or physical machines, tools of sadomasochistic play or tools emplaced within the realm of productive work. These movements, while contained, are already present as real virtualities. In their final form, virtualities expose themselves in the form of a destroyed face littered with bloody holes. Writing becomes destruction when symbols are replaced with horror-communication, the performative production of absence. Decoding, destruction & deconstruction: three acts, three phases of deterritorialization. Within the non-dialectical devastation of dualities, the three acts demonstrate their powers. I write, I communicate, I give birth to signs & tear faces apart; all the while, my own subjective gaze is torn asunder. My face in the mirror becomes an absurd smudge, an empty, hollow mask lies in front of me. Once agonized, the face is a passive hollowness. “Is there any assemblage without a point of deterritorialization, without a line of flight which leads it on to new creations, or else towards death?” – asks Deleuze.[4] What if creation becomes the breeding of death? Destruction as creation: would this constitute the ultimate stage of identity. Emptiness as identity, the emptiness of identity. Writing on Jean Genet’s 1961 drama, The Screens, Susan Harris Smith enumerates the various forms of absence contained in Genet’s play:

All the characters are caricatures of social types – the whore, the lieutenant, the academician, even the Arabs – as the Whites were in The Blacks. Mr. Blankensee is composed of a wig, false teeth, & an orthopedic outfit, for exmaple. Like the creation of the Pope in Brecht’s Life of Galileo, the Lieutenant & Warda the Whore are created on stage by being dressed in the symbols of their professions. There are also many counterparts to these masks: Said’s empty pants, the mother’s empty suitcase; Sir Harold’s empty glove, Leila’s empty hood; the 1840s stereotyped characters; the faces of the dead painted white; the decorated dummies; &, of course, the screens & the images painted on them. Everything is false, a hollow show.[5]

From the above enumeration, I seek to extract this sense of an overwhelming, ontological vacuity. Every one of us has almost certainly been assailed on at least one occasion by a sense that the entirety of the world is “false, a hollow show.” This malignant feeling cannot be confined to the theatre, which undoubtedly functions as a place of concentrated, reterritorialized falsity. When applied to the emptiness of theatre masks, destructive writing allows us to generalize & deterritorialize the emptying, derealizing experience of theatre. The emptiness of the mask betrays a love of life lived as semblance, a love of life lived as empty spectacle. Deleuze challenges us to embrace “a love of life which can say yes to death.”[6] Masks, as empty surface-refulgences, are “hollow shells” that serve to “replace the faces that once lay behind them.”[7] Becoming-imperceptible is a process of unification with the mask itself, a creation that breeds absence within a language deemed suitable for playing the role of host for this parasitical organism. The parasite loves life, even at the expense of killing its host. Death 1.0 serves as the mechanism for jumping beyond Life 1.0 towards Life 2.0. Through the creation of lines of flight, becoming-imperceptible is at once an annihilation & an exit, a loss of face & the shredding of all identity through horror-communication – a strange line of flight leading to non-duality. A face that enjoys, suffers & screams – like a fading star entrapped within a black hole – reveals the schizoid desire of the broken subject to escape, exit, secede into an abyssal freedom. What we must escape, according to Deleuze, is the pernicious desire for recognition:

There is a whole social system which might be called the white wall/black hole system. We are always pinned against the wall of dominant significations, we are always sunk in the hole of our subjectivity, the black hole of our Ego which is more dear to us than anything. A wall on which are inscribed all the objective determinations which fix us, put us into a grille, identify us & make us recognized, a hole where we deposit – together with our consciousness – our feelings, our passions, our little secrets which are all too well known, our desire to make them known.[8]

When the face is shredded, punctured & penetrated, ecstatic release breaks through the dominant system of significations. To become faceless is to lose one’s face & take away the identities of others: the black hole strips away integrity, exchanging separate, apparently discrete elements, concentrating exteriority & interiority in the xeno-homogeneous zone. The black hole is the xeno-homogeneity of imperceptibility, a sink that swallows passions, desires, feelings & secrets that irradiate space long after they have disappeared. In the place of the torn face holes & blobs of coagulated blood coalesce, replacing its contours, deforming it to the point of unrecognizability. Is becoming-faceless also a becoming-black hole? Can becoming transform into a form of purely negative unbecoming? Grids traverse faces that have already been integrated into technologies of surveillance & measurement, responding to the gravitational pull of desubjectifying black holes, bending the whiteness of the face until it degrades into something else, something darker, something infinitely more evil, something that is not considered fully human by the machines, hence making surveillance impossible, inoperable. Racism, encoded within the algorithm, is broken by its own mechanisms. Secrets, desires & passions, sadomasochistic disappearances are concealed by digitalized mouths, eyeballs & flaring nostrils. The ecstasy of destructive writing, the insanity that is philosophy, is there within the eyes of a digitally reconstructed simulated body. From the infinitude of time, the perversity of hidden manifestation emerges. When writing on imperceptibility, we ourselves cannot avoid descriptions that veer toward the absence of intelligibility. The eye, surrounded by a darkened, insomniac eye socket, is threatened from within: once vision attains to the summit, it cannot but fall back into obscurity. The black hole – eye socket complex is a deconstructive zone which provokes subjects to go all the way, to sink into lines of flight that shall never again release the singularities trapped among their folds.

Digitality as hyperrreality & reality “in itself” becomes ever more chaotic, while newer percolations, transgressions, transitions & communications are produced, abducting reality into simulation. These transgressions are no more reducable to mere extensions of reterritorialization, nor may they be interpreted as being territories of memory. Rather, they may be conceptualized as virtual places of deterritorialized intimacy, intimacies that cannot be remembered. In the space of virtuality, as Nancy says, “there is no side of the ’self.’”[9] Selves, in the mode of the virtual, contain an absolute lack of depth. Intimacy contains a secret, but this secret is nothing more than the shadow of a dream that insinuated itself into the heads of two or more puppets. Non-memory demands a place of enactment, a theatre stage that disindividuates & deanthropomorphizes communication, subsuming both sender & receiver within a limitless, molten intimacy. Becoming-imperceptible is a mode of horror-communication. Within space, mouths & orifices open to one another, like two colliding black holes or two eyes opening to the Sun. Mouths collapse into the black eye socket of the other, the alterity that would swallow us whole in a vertiginious movement: facelessness is at once a pair of black holes (the opening, expansion & swelling of the blackened eye) & the erasure of particular contours, the bleeding of discrete forms into the cold, dead white wall. The very ground seems to open up beneath us, once reality has been digitalised & recoded. Can dark-eyed women have this effect upon their unknowing, seduced victims? Deleuze & Felix Guattari seem to be of this opinion in their book on Kafka. In reference to the portrayal of women in Kafka’s stories, they write the following:

What, then, is this genre of women with dark, sad eyes? They have their necks bare, uncovered. They call you, they press against you, they sit on your knees, they take your hand, they caress you & are caressed by you, they kiss you & mark you with their teeth or, in contrast, are marked by yours, they violate you & let themselves be violated, sometimes they suffocate you & even beat you; they are tyrannic but they let you go or even make you go, they chase you & always send you off. Leni has webbed fingers like some sort of leftover from a becoming-animal. But women present an even more precise blend of things; they are part sister, part maid, part whore. They are anticonjugal & antifamilial. [10]

Every caress on the part of these hybrid creatures, these hidden vampires, is also an implicit rejection, a potential laceration, a slap in the face. The reverse also pertains: every time we touch such dark eyed, sad women, our embrace could become, at any moment, a violation, even a skinning, a knifing. Even among two young girls, the friendly embrace can easily slip into either a homosexual tryst or a violent confrontation, like two kittens struggling for access to resources or for the sheer fun of it, licking anuses or biting ears, whichever it happens to be. Anybody who has owned cats would attest to the uncertainty of animal affects. Similarly, human affects also display a radical uncertainty that can escape control all too easily. Horror-communication is one such excessive mode of escape, an affectivity that makes an exit from propriety. Could it be a touch that has become excessive, a caress that has somehow transformed into a punch? Black holes – like blackened, corroded pieces of bone – flow towards nonidentity. Lines of flight are clawings, scrapings, leading to black holes & torn, wounded, suffering faces. It makes no sense to ask whether horror-communication is morally repugnant or aesthetically pleasing, excessively inciteful or absolutely unseemly, for it contains each of these modes & more. Bright faces are like so many pieces of wrinkled paper, waste destined for destruction. Lost letters, shredded skin & bloody tissues, all these are pollutions of whiteness, teeth full of plaques: all these are but the initial stages of becoming-black. Is it impossible to meet with a white wall perforated with black holes? Space as movement is an emptiness generated by black holes irradiating their deterritorialized surroundings with dark energy. Micro-metamorphic deterritorialized motorical space generates hyperspaces of elemental intensities that should, ordinarily, exclude one another. What is revealed is that the elements themselves are paradoxical. Paradox, defined as knowledge beyond knowledge (paradoxa) impregnates all it touches with darkened visibility: innocent, snow white faces & the black face of extinction, dark eyes already pregnant with death, a gaping mouth growing into the size of an enormous cave, contours giving way to the void… All these are elements that continually seek to escape, only to be reconcentrated, reterritorialized within a system of infinite chaos. Within hyperspace, everything is para-doxical & non-dialectical: even those elements that are inflamed with hatred for one another are combined in an impossible unity by the gravitational field of the singularity.

Motorical space is a sinkhole in which pieces of skullbone & the gazes of sad young girls coalesce. This is far from anything resembling closure, for the young girls do not close their eyes forever: these eyes open onto the light of infinity. Acceleration is segmented, eyes move ever more paranoically, as if the small pieces of cracked skullbone had, by some misadventure, bored themselves into the black retinas of the sad young girls. Chiasms are created by the skull-illnessbox & the thought of annihilation. The latter hide among bony cavities that form the inner structure of the deformed skull-illnessbox, continously pulsating. The uncertain, ambiguous zone inhabited by the black holes is shrouded by the white eyelids of the young girls, floating like butterflies in a spring breeze. Black holes, white walls, hidden sadomasochistic desires, & the multiple logical fields of disorganization & inbreeding. The hardness of the piece of bone, as well as the threatening sharpness of its serrated edges, can easily produce death in motorical space, accelerating until the dark eyes of these sad, pretty young girls pop under the pressure applied to their doomed eyeballs. We must show that motorical space & segmented acceleration are not mutually exclusive concepts. What we need, when theorizing cases such as the Slender Man legend, is – in Deleuze & Guattari’s words – a “method of segmentary acceleration or proliferation” that “connects the finite the contiguous, the continuous, & the unlimited.”[11] Caresses, wet labias are so many sites of subsumption, degradation & disappearance, radical alterities feeding upon a degenerative, infected vaginal absence, flowing into an empty womb that cannot be impregnated. Reversal does not yet entail the pressing out of organs, it is not yet a manifestation of interiority’s desire to escape. The dark eyes of the sad young girls are pregnant with the emptiness of their sexually inactive wombs. Neither annihilation, nor destruction, nor an ending: rather, this is an absentology, a negativity that deterritorializes in a productive manner. Deterritorialized would only be partial were it to abstain from penetrating eyeballs & darkened minds, or the exchange of eye sockets with black holes.

As stated above, the surface of the skull-illnessbox or the motorical space of its plane, or the absolute becoming of its critical point is amenable to radicalization, or escape – deterritorialization – for it already forms a chiasm with the thought of death, the cracking of bone & the touch of an empty mask; sensuality, flowing into sensuality, along a hidden pathway. Escape is not an escape from the world, so much as a drilling into the world: the destructive writer, as Deleuze & Guattari say, “doesn’t flee the world; he grasps it & makes it take flight on a continuous & artistic line.”[12] On the 31st of May, two girls in Wisconsin attempted to sacrifice another girl, ostensibly for an internet meme, Slender Man. What was this act, if not an artistic attempt to make the world take flight? The character is a fictional entity created for a 2009 Photoshop contest, & although fan fiction has emerged supposedly linking the character to earlier hauntings, no proof has emerged for an earlier provenance. Art & violence are united in their rejection of life. Art makes possible a darkened, murderous, deterritorialized vision. These delusional girls were, in their own way, violent performance artists who did not so much reject the world than make it escape. They drew lines upon the body of their victim, continuous, bloody, artistic lines of flight. Deterritorialized, artistic delusional vision is not directed at the world in its givenness, but at givenness itself in its failure to make itself manifest. The original territory of delusional artistic vision is the violence of internality, strangely decomposing into queer obscurity. From here it sucks up the raw materials that serve as the basis of its infernal plasticity. And precisely here, in this inner-directed sucking motion may be discerned that which makes possible the movement itself, the sensuality that characterizes these otherwise anonymous, monstrous, murderous female artists. Even in their absence, they are capable of provoking destructive writing. Caressing us with their blades & their electronically enhanced virginal labia, they are perfect objects of aesthetic appreciation. Almost paedophilia, one could say, in the spirit of a Lewis Carroll. The darkness is not restricted to their wombs, which will undoubtedly one day be filled with something or other. Rather, it is the lack of access to the murderous young girl that breed delight, an enjoyment that penetrates to the images of their dark eyes. They – the digitalized simulacra of these “preteen killers” – cannot be touched.

In every caress, there is always so much more. It cannot be emphasized enough to what a high degree the sensuality of sadness impregnates dark, saddened eyes. The key to this existential sadness resides in Being itself, a Being that has been shredded even prior to any concretion of manifestation. Emptiness is pregnant, supple, like the breasts of a woman who has freshly given birth, or the teats of a cow: it was not meant for us, but we would very much like to lick these fleshy, pink extensions. Teeth chew into our flesh, like those of a baby aggressively sucking upon its mother’s breasts. The vulnerability of our meat melts into one with the hardness of the teeth. From darkened eyes, annihilation spreads virally. But it is not the eye that deterritorializes, but technologically enhanced reverse-vision, the gaze that blends with nomadic black holes. Like Slender Man, these singularities make their way into images & memories of the past, enacting a false, retroactive reorganization of the past. (Parkinson 2014) Slender Man is a self-replicating idea, a nomadic singularity that takes flight, time-travelling into images of the past, recoding itself into human memory. Darkened vision is the internality that sucks into itself the productivity of the generative womb. Would the retroactive darkness encapsulated by Slender Man be a vision of the night that has somehow fertilized the minds of millions of Internet users? Like the dark eyes of melancholy young girls, annihilation travels across boundaries & historical periods, until it grows a multitude of mouths biting our flesh: these internal mouths bite us from within, while we proceed to bite hands that formerly caressed us. The dark eyes, like plaque-infested rotten teeth, do violence to our skin: each language, including the language of destructive writing, “always implies a deterritorialization of the mouth, the tongue, & the teeth.”[13]

Dark eyes do violence to our skin, like so many vicious teeth. Violence brings flesh into motion, the entirety of the body becomes flooded with motorical space. This is violence of a most fatal kind! It is impossible to survive the violence of the dark eyes, these gazes that bore into our flesh. These future brides may even rape us at some point, biting & suffocating us, but there is nothing to do but submit to this laceration: teeth flow together with semen, urine & sweat in an infernal mixture, flowing into perception. Connections, rhizomes & wires connect with eye sockets, pieces of bone & black retinas. Motorical space & segmented acceleration result from coming into close proximity with depths, holes & orifices that produce sensual chiasms. Access can only be attained through further deterritorialization. Dark eyes & obscured vision are not darkened by the Outside; rather, the Outside is an emanation of sickened interiority, an interiority that opens onto new interiorities. Turning inward, until we abandon any pretence of a future, absence can suck futurity into itself, & black light may radiate the hemispheres, not unlike the fading light of a dead star. Holes, chasms, tunnels & lacunae infect both philosophy & interiority. Nancy: “It’s no surprise that our thoughts, ideas, & images are swallowed up in holes, instead of lingering within reach of their sides: caverns, crying mouths, hearts pierced through, inter fices et urinam, skulls with staring eyeholes, castrating vaginas, not openings, but evacuations, enucleations, collapses – & the whole body as its own precipitation into nonspace.”[14] From whence do melancholy, dismemberment & cruelty originate? How may so many passions hide among the folds of a single body? Within the eye that turns inward, there lies a recognition of the entire world as illnessbox. Several dimensions, multiple orifices & unbearable multiplicites all coagulate within a multidimensional phase space. Bitterness & feelings of loss infect language, permeating every sentence with the groundlessness of horror-communication. One moment to the next, seemingly innocent young girls may be infected with mimetically transmitted fantasies of violence. The deterritorializated eyeball finds a home in cybernetically mediated intensive networks, subcultures & fetishes.

Until now, I have strived to delineate the contours of facelessness, in order to conceptualize the social space of disappearance. It is only when we understand what it means to be completely indifferent, neutral, almost like a stone, that we may exist in an acentred manner. For Deleuze, an “acentred system” is a structure wherein “images vary in relation to one another & tend to become like the reciprocal actions & vibrations of a pure matter.”[15] Pure anger, similarly to pure hatred or pure love, the love of life that would assent to death, become pure energy, expenditure without reciprocity. It would be inaccurate to say that acentred space would be constituted solely of lack or absence. Deterritorialized zones of non-memory constitute “centres of indetermination” formed in “the acentred universe of movement-images.”[16] Once spacetime is bent out of shape, violent schizoid interiority is released, gaining extension. This original act, however, cannot be remembered by any agent. It is acentred, for in this intensive phase space infected by horror-communication, no remembrance is possible. Horror-communication is a communicative gesture, a manifestation that reveals the impossibility of communication. It is a Freudian slip that ends with one or more corpses lying on the ground, a deterritorialized, indeterminate stammering that explodes into bloodshed. Horror-communication is violent excess, as well as a sensual reorganization of the receiver. Sadomasochism & faceless centres of indetermination are key components of contemporary cybernetic systems. Non-memory is constitutive of a productive excess, working its way to the surface through deterritorialized, schizoid centres, moving in a primal soup composed of images. The centre of non-memory, because of its self-hatred, becomes civilizational, a globalized, image-producing machine, powered by “an eternal past, eternally without present.”[17] Collapse of language, corrosion of flesh, outflow of death into chiasmatic flesh: this is the manifestation of horror-communication, a sadistic release of pain that destroys all participants. It would be a mistake to consider the operation of acentred zones to be some primordial mode of Being, for there is no “thing” that may “be.” Within the primal soup of images, there is only the play of light upon an empty inner screen. Destructive writing, once it penetrates the skin, becomes acephallic: “no head or tail, then, since nothing provides support or substance for this material.”[18] Non-linear, aggressive & inviolable in its violations, destructive writing is a material that does not need any support. It cannot be invalidated, for it is ruination. Horror-communication enters deterritorialized social space through the keyhole, the protocol that allows re-entry for computer viruses: the flesh of cyborgs is nothing more than a sign, a signal inviting penetration, exploration. Internet Explorer is hungry for pussy. Internet Explorer 2.0, new & improved, is a hungry eyeball, an anus looking for a penis or a fist. Internet 3.0 is future incarnate: “Dead or alive, neither dead nor alive, I am the opening, the tomb or the mouth, the one inside the other.”[19] One inside the other, Internet avatars bleed into one another’s mouths. Hyperreality is a queered zone of indifference, a non-reproductive labyrinth of aggressive cyborgs & twisted preteens.

Penetrations, transitions, transgressions open gates into the infinity that is cyberspace, in which dualities collide & melt down into pure matter. Digital code systems besiege the flesh, until images are nomadize. Only nomads have a future. Two subsystems, let us call them the “light” & the “opaque,” when they combine, form a mixture „like the power which makes people fall into the black hole or ascend towards the light.”[20] It does not matter which way we fall, the point is to either fall into Hell or ascend into Heaven. Staying in one place, however, is impossible. Deformation, mutation & non-identity are products of transit zones, while demons are animals who arrive through the gateways. The deterritorialized, acentred field diverts writing, deforming it into a pulsating mess. All codes are made to be recoded. Recoding machineries are intimately connected with deterritorialization, however this production is nothing more than the proliferation & dissemination of non-identity, a posthuman hypermedial transformation. Peripheries, heterogeneous elements, abject remnants & old jokes circulate in the form of memes, blogospheres & abandoned websites, enacting the acentering of the Internet user, submerging perception within a primal soup of images.

Retraction is a characteristic of all existents, preteens & blogs included. The Slender Man phenomenon began in 2009. If we were to follow a reductionist materialist explanation, our focus would be upon the media technologies of the time, such as the photo editing softwares that made possible Slender Man’s creation. But meme systems run deeper than mere materiality. Slender Man is free of particularities. Behind his masklike face, there is nothing at all, not even matter. Rather, this is a “pure matter,” a motley collection of chaotic pulsations that refuse to congeal into a system. He refuses to give solutions. Instead, Slender Man is the source of what Donna J. Haraway has termed “radical curiosity.”[21] When this frighteningly empty face confronts us, our expression changes abruptly. There is no characteristic of Slender Man’s visage that may be said to be noteworthy. It is this absence that orientates our uncertain, ambigious vision. He is a something that cannot be delineated or identified. This erased face is “an evocation” that has “withdrawn into itself.”[22] Facelessness retracts into itself once it fails to evoke any associations, erasing its own contours ceaselessly. Return is eternal, producing absence eternally, without the possibility of escape. An eternal absence, a non-communicative excess: the transcendence of identity, the ruination of memory. Evoking its own absence continually, the face that has left all identifying marks behind itself is an excessive, eternal non-memory.

Slender Man’s radical alterity resides not only in his vacuity, but his proximity. His movements are already there, perverting children through the prosthetic use of cybernetics & blogging. We ourselves are there, in front of the screen, engaged in the process of becoming cyborgs. The face of Nothingness is in your face. Slender Man’s horroristic communicativity & sadistic seduction of young girls opens up portals to destructive writing, in which the non-existent sender makes his inner complexity available to naiive, doomed social agents. The message is sharp, like the knives it brings into motion. All this is brought about through a perverse, ecstatic posthuman connectivity. Digital technologies predicated upon a supposed need for constant contact deterritorialize social fields, until the barrier separating simulation from reality is forever breached. Slender Man’s messages demand the removal of the Other’s face. Underneath the pale mask, there is nothing. Not only is he a postmodern meme, but also a prophet of acentred acephallic subjectivity & the end of all metanarratives.

Stefan Herbrechter has argued for a mode of posthumanism that privileges “the arrival of the unimaginable.[23] This unimaginability is introduced by unexpected sources of violence, peaceful albeit ill-adjusted individuals erupting into madness. According to Herbrechter, the end of humanity is an uncertain, albeit unavoidable futurity, a future event that cannot be conceptualized through anthropomorphic systems of thought. Anthropomorphism is never complete, not even in the case of Slender Man. However much he may eerily resemble a tall Caucasian male, Slender Man as meme cannot be reduced to any existing human cultural code. Neither is he the polar opposite of a human. Inhumanity escapes from a mere dualistic opposition to all that which we like to associate with humanized Being. Rather, he is the herald of a more complete deconstruction & destruction of human presence: Slender Man is the non-identity lying in wait. We see the grotesquely elongated body, & yet it is still the absence of a face that rivets our attention. Exteriority is internal to subjectivity itself.[24] The absent face & the elongated body meet in one protracted decapitation of human presence, until nothing anthropomorphic is left intact. Separated from presence, identity collapses into the dark eye/black hole complex, cascading into all forms of corporeality. Slender Man’s faceless head is a cut, an incission within our Being, a wounding of that which we are. Once penetrated by memes, the soul is annihilated: “If a blade or a shard cuts through my skin, my soul is cut to the exact depth, force, & form of the wound. And if I die, the soul becomes death itself.”[25] Opened up to the Outside that it is, the soul achieves conformity with the wound. The acentred zone is the place of sadomasochism, alterity, mental collapse & irrational xeno-homogeneity.

Wounds are created: wounds & injuries upon the white surface of the soul, inscriptions that transform the soul into a doomed non-place that serves to “withdraw it from its outside.”[26] Wounds are legible, decodable signs, passionately addressing us to ecstatic participation & dissemination. Infinite recursion & retraction are natural consequences of cybernetic mediation. After the stage of retraction, passionate energies & intensities build up, until the body bursts open. Horror-communication does not hide anything: both form & content are unveiled, as bleeding, wounded structures, damaged tissue that shall never heal. This writing carves out crevices & caves, places of inhabitation within the digitalised body. Tear up the face! – this is Slender Man’s ethical imperative, this is his message. From the eternally open acentred, faceless zone, violent discharges flow out through the wires, disseminating liquid incitements in cyberspace.

The acentred zone of indifference produces infernal writing, while suspending the mechanism of encoding. What movements bleed into the schizoid palpatations that constitute hyperreality? After productivity, non-reproduction is the sole remaining community. No more letters, we need fractalized drops of digital blood. The levers of digital information networks seem to demand blood sacrifices. Nothing gets the media as excited as a massacre: surprise serves to stimulate machineries of representation. Even attempted murders are exciting, if & when they may be connected to Internet infrastructures. Cybernetic networks are tunnels, gateways between worlds. Hands, motivated by memes, hurt & wound an infinite list of hated Others, until even violence is destroyed by the hyperviolence of excessive representation. We may view videos of people being shot, burned alive & cut open on repeat. There is nothing to stop this infernal, sickened repetition. It is all too easy to forget that writing was always a process of wounding. To write is to inscribe, to carve into stone. Writing carves itself into flesh until, through a process of complete deterritorialization, human presence is excised from communication. Through an ingenious etymological detour, Vilém Flusser connects writing with the creative destruction of the lifeworld:

The English to write (that in fact means “scratch,” as does the Latin “scribere”) reminds us that scratching & tearing come from the same stem. The scratching stylus is an incisor, & one who writes inscriptions is an incising tiger: he tears images to pieces. Inscriptions are the torn pieces, the cadavers of images; they are images that fell victim to the murderous incisor teeth of writing—hence the shock with which inscription was greeted by those who first received it. The ancient Jews fell on their knees in terror before the two tablets, & in the Metamorphoses, the Golden Age was one in which there were not yet any inscriptions: nec verba minantia fixo aere legebantur (“At that time there were no threatening words to be read, fixed in bronze”). The writing incisor turns against the images we have made of & from the objective world. It turns against that zone of the imaginary, magical, & ritual that we set in front of the objective world. It tears our representations of the world apart to order the parts so torn into directional lines, into countable, accountable, criticisable concepts. The myth of human creation shows the antimagical engagement of all writing. This is why all writing is basically shocking: it shocks us out of our prescriptive notions.[27]

Writing is a wounding of the lifeworld, an attack against life & materiality. Communication is laceration. More precisely: the destructive writing that tears up the body is a form of virulence, a virtuality virality. Digital viruses, bits & pieces of code drift, carrying Slender Man to distant minds & orifices. When transmitted by devices of inscription & reproduction, writing opens up zones of deconstruction, rendering the body vacuous, a hollow shell that may be filled with letters & decomposing words. Closure imprints words upon emptied flesh, through an extracommunicative, perverse language, forcing bodily expressions into grammatical structures. Messages besiege the body in the most literal sense, diverting it from reproduction towards the hyperaccumulaiton of images & simulacra. According to Mark Fisher, an essential characteristic of the “eerie” is that is disconnects us from our moorings, leading to a gradual, almost imperceptible alienation & separation from the lifeworld.[28] Suspension is not accompanied by any great event or shocking discovery. How does suspense connect with horror-communication? The horrific, I argue, need not be conceptualized as an event, a sudden, unexpected occurrence. Suspension separates the body from its environment, emplacing it within a motorical space: chains, handcuffs, closed doors, whips, all these elements contribute to a spatialized alterity, an otherness that cannot be reterritorialized within the everyday realm. Suspending the body on hooks is not an addition, a supplementation or augmentation, but rather a retraction into passivity.

Suspension leads to fractalization & non-linearity. Slender Man, through the disconnective gesture of knifing, creates new conjunctions. Fragments & incoherent fractals are processes of cyborgization. It would be overly simplistic to equate cyborg-being with mere augmentation of human bodies. The meme is not a projection of human fears or desires, for it has an agency of its own. Hyperreality escapes from subordination to human desire. Slender Man is a cyborg in the sense of being a cybernetic organism, a form of hybrid life composed of machinic & organic elements. Within this meme, social & natural realities combine, rendering the borderline between these supposedly separate territories problematic. The cyborg problematizes boundaries through its hybrid, simian existence. Passive rhythms eerily empty human presence, until all points of correspondence are gradually erased. Connectivity becomes a disconnective synthesis, an infinite destruction whose real basis has been eroded. The faceless monster challenges our own identity. As phantom, Slender Man eerily erases distinctions between representation & represented, real & unreal. Who knows from whence the next danger will arrive, from which direction & in which person mania will manifest itself. His stretched, elongated body reminds us that the Internet is a place of both electric light & digital darkness. This elastic, plastic body escapes from representation through its excessive proliferation. Young girls believe his messages & connect with him through queer friendships & cyborg communication channels. Slender Man necessitates a form of degendered horror-communication through which he may concentrate attention upon his degenerate corporeality. This pale vampire enacts an infinite deterritorialization that cracks open the illusory wall separating illusion from reality, the genuine from the fake, the copy from the original. After life, only the pale deformed presence remains. Digitally mediated killings are consummations of virtuality, horrific communications in which heterogeneous digital fragments meet with the disassembly of bodies. One article on Slender Man notes that it is primarily the young who are most sympathetic to this malignant, pale presence. The meme demands blood sacrifice, otherwise he could very well consume the entire world. He was hungry for young, fresh flesh all along. The cybernetic mutant, the posthuman cyborg, these are far from benign entities. Instead, they are deities in the most literal sense of the term. Social fields, once they are saturated by horror-communication, become awe-inspiring. From the Something Aweful blog, Slender Man proceeds to spread his seed among pre-teens, like a hyperaccelerated pedophile, a machine of perversion. Slender Man’s success demands machinic multiplicities & a level of complexity beyond that which human beings can process, while also preventing us from fully accessing his interiority. Community possession of the memes of production entails a radical transcendence of private property. Everybody is liable to be infected by memes & viral messages. But communal possession also entails a collective responsibility: we must all feed the meme, from time to time, with our eyeballs.

Pieces of flesh, torn ligaments & posthuman horror-communication all point toward the dark eyes of two young girls, eyeballs whose black eye sockets beckon us to join in & embrace the Slender Man cult.

MARK HORVATH

*published in ALIENIST Magazine #7 (January 2020): AUTOMATIC AUTONOMIA

 

[1] Gilles Deleuze & Claire Parnet, Dialogues, trans. Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam (New York: Cloumbia University Press, 1987) 45.

[2] Gilles Deleuze, Masochism: Coldness & Cruelty, trans. Jean McNeil (New York: Zone Books, 1989) 38.

[3] Deleuze & Parnet, Dialogues, 74.

[4] Deleuze & Parnet, Dialogues, 72.

[5] S.H. Smith, Masks in Modern Drama (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984) 154.

[6] Deleuze & Parnet, Dialogues, 65.

[7] Smith, Masks in Modern Drama, 164.

[8][8] Deleuze & Parnet, Dialogues, 65.

[9] Jean-Luc Nancy, La Regard du Portrait (Paris: Éditions Galillée, 2000) 61.

[10] Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, Kafka. Toward a Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986) 64.

[11] Deleuze & Guattari, Kafka, 58.

[12] Deleuze & Guattari, Kafka, 71.

[13] Deleuze & Guattari, Kafka, 19.

[14] Jean-Luc Nancy, Corpus, trans. Richard A. Rand (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008) 75.

[15] Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1. The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986) 76.

[16] Deleuze, Cinema 1, 62.

[17] Maurice Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond, trans. Lycette Nelson (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992) 10.

[18] Nancy, Corpus, 13.

[19] Nancy, Corpus, 15.

[20] Deleuze, Cinema 1, 92.

[21] Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble. Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016) 37.

[22] Nancy, La Regard du Portrait, 56.

[23] S. Herbrechter, Posthumanism. A Critical Analysis (London: Bloomsbury, 2013) 77.

[24] Nancy, La Regard du Portrait, 32.

[25] Nancy, Corpus, 144.

[26] Nancy, Corpus, 135.

[27] Vilém Flusser, Does Writing Have a Future?, trans. Nancy Ann Roth (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011) 14-15.

[28] Mark Fisher, The Weird & the Eerie (London: Repeater Books, 2017) 13.

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