Immanuel “Daddy” Kant sees space as a kind of regulating force that inheres in the human, who becomes fully Human by being able to regulate the outside world. In the unknowable outside, the small-letter earth, objects are organized according to some freaky chat we have no access to. But the human mind receives intuition from these objects’ appearances, and converts it, through the Grand Genius of Reason, into a properly spatial World, the World of Human Men, which the mind then projects outwards, onto and as the World.
Colour and taste, for Daddy Kandy, are not qualities that come from this external intuition. They are simple fancies of the mind; they ‘are correctly considered not as qualities of things but as mere alterations of our subject, which can even be different in different people.’ Space already exists among objects, but the human mind can only become Human (which means, of course, European, White and male) by ordering that existent spatial grid according to the particular judgement of colour and taste.
To taste, for Father Kantmas, to correctly taste, is to order earth’s objects into a World of aesthetic and moral beauty, an a priori faculty that shivers our bowels with Kanxiety.
But then here’s me, in a supermarket this morning, and I burp into my facemask – proper beery burp. I taste myself. I am barred from projecting my faculty of taste onto and as the World, left instead with my own internal rumination, my self-regurgitation, and World stops existing. How do I know what this supermarket chain is, its ultra-familiar products and permanent chocolate offers, without being able to project my tasting faculty onto it?
Tiqqun and The Invisible Committee had a lot of fun with ‘there’s no such thing as the self’ in the ’90s but where exactly did that get us, other than into baggy suits with square shoulders, playing snake on Nokia 3310s? The greyness of the Nineties makes me queasy still; its self-affirmation, ironically, as the grand negator of the self.
At this stage of the genocide of Kanternity, the mask is the mechanism that withholds the possibility of recognizing non-taste by forcing taste back inside the tasting faculty. I mean, my mask bars my tasting faculty from projecting taste outwards. I cannot receive sensations from the outside earth. I cannot, therefore, produce the World. Instead, I consume my internal tastes. I burp inside my mask. I am unable properly to decipher the sensations of earth and turn them into the rationality of language; I cannot speak inside my mask. I am turned into pretty poetry, nonsense-like.
So, the non-existence of the self, which we were so happy to wank over in the slick waxed-sacks of the Nineties, is written as an outward rejection of internal constitution: the fancy French theorists say that this deformed soldier called the Self should be thrown out, tossed away, unspoken. But throwing this weird self-thing out is exactly what the self always did anyway as it Kantemplates itself. The self asked to be thrown out for its birthday and for Kantmas all at once. And Tiqqun are giving it just the present it wants like a fucking Red Coca-Cola Truck on the adverts.
Instead, the self-vomiting facemask throws the self in. The mask is self-focused, trained resolutely on the self-regurgitation of self.
Mask forces self’s consumption of self, tasting finally its own deadly medicine.
2. Tongue spew/chew
Olivia Douglass spews out the invasive sickness of having a tongue.
In the first long poem of her collection Slow Tongue, the tongue is removed from the speaker, Adesuwa, who now finds it
The removal of the tongue is the impossibility not of speaking but of projecting tongueness onto and as the World. The springboard is disabled; projective faculties banned in the Kanspital where they cut black women’s mouths out.
In the book’s opening poem, the options are already revealed, perfectly, as the speaker approaches the poet M. NourbeSe Philip.
*I came to Nourbese full and heavy bodied*
SPITE IT OUT OR CHEW
*I chew suck slide play and caress*
The first reaction to the removal of the tongue, in a joyous refusal of that violence’s refusal to speak, is to chew it down even deeper, chew it over, ruminate, regurgitate. Douglass’s tongue is cut, so she puts a mask on and vomits into it, disables language’s summary refusal of her ability to speak by collapsing the internal projective mechanism of the self.
Language is money as capital, the formulation of an external World according to the order of an internal and autonomous Subject – it is the place of projection, where the petit ideologies of bourgeois subjectivity are drawn as the cosmos and grafted into everything that can be called Human. Language is internal movement outwards, organized according to an a priori logic that is called exchange. Language is the speaking of the self, the outwards-moving act. So what happens in Slow Tongue?
Last december efe had found auntie crouched in between two cars with her hand clasped over her mouth swaying in agony she said that she had gently peeled aunties hand from her face apparently then auntie stopped swaying and opened her mouth wide enough to ache
and thats when efe saw it aunties tongue was lines with market stalls that she said only sold plasters tissue hot water and salt she said that she had seen tiny little women buying from them and sprinting through the gaps of aunties teeth and that she heard them screaming
Her mouth was lined with market stalls that sold what seemed like medicine, but the medicine stopped her forever from speaking. Not only stopped her; that medicine was the regulation of language. What is a tongue but a bridge for holding market stalls, a contract of exchange between the constituted World and the constituting tongue that speaks? What is a tongue if it isn’t an exchange floor where co-constituting transactions between World and Self occur?
What Douglass knows is that my mask bars my access to the external machine of taste-disabling, which is the virus, the thing that turns my taste faculty off; meanwhile, simultaneously, my mask renders inoperative the projective faculty of my taste, forcing me instead to taste myself. I register myself as my aesthetic sensation. I form moral propositions according to my internal world.
The mask is not here to throw out the self. It is far more complex than that. The mask preserves the self, caring for the self in its poetry of nonsense, by rendering the self’s operation inoperative.
3. A Guide to Self-Vomiting
Fred Moten says the beautifulist shit. In most animals, regurgitation is life-giving, the vomiting mother passing life to the child. In humans, regurgitation can be either voluntary or involuntary; the ingestion of toxins, undigested blood or food.
Regurgitation of a person’s meals following ingestion is known as ‘rumination syndrome,’ a rarely diagnosed eating disorder. Is poetry a kind of rumination syndrome? A dramatic enactment of a general inability properly to digest, or improperly to refuse identity. Deep or considerate thought is sometimes described as chewing something over, and when such rumination is detached from any impulse either to solve or dissolve the problem, we speak of it as a form of mental disorder. What happens when we think of the psychic in relation to this problematic of indigestion, where identity is not formed so much as consumed as an endless problem?
The construction of the self itself is a question of the gut, a mode of improperly consuming. The mask, in this hungry scene, is not a barrier to tasting, or a mechanism with which to change one’s taste. It is, instead, the undoing of taste. The act of the mask is to refuse the refusal of taste, turning away from the external force that turns the tongue away from World-production, thus doubly refusing World.
There is a poison held within vomit. The maternal operation of regurgitation – spewing digested food, deep ruminations, into children – is the poison that the self needs to escape from self. The maternal is already given away – maternality is the condition of being already given away, beyond the regime of appropriation that profit and consumption demand from us all. The maternal is givenness against and before the appropriating mechanism of capital, of viruses.
The regurgitation of self is the act of improperly processing and consuming selfness. There is no singularity possible in the ethical machine that churns back up the ideology of self. But it cannot simply spew it out, throw it over, eject the poison. The poison upholds the system, created within the ‘internal differentiation’ that Moten finds in black poetry.
The internal mechanism of projection defines itself as given differently to the self by being the operator of poison, the consumer of regurgitated poison, of maternal givenness. It is simultaneously the ‘refusal of the imposition of identity, as well as the refusal of the denial of the right to identity.’ The maternal operation of self-regurgitation has already been refused – a virus threatens to take away your taste. And Kant says you are not Human without this defining faculty. Mask-vomit in the supermarket, though, denies that refusal, opening instead a self-differentiated poetry that crumbles the sense of poison and food into a doubly churned-up vomit, a poetry beyond sense and the stupidity of Kantian Reason.
In a similar scene, famously-masked MF DOOM (RIP) finishes his rap by inviting the next rapper onto the stage, towards the microphone, but only on the condition that the next rapper is already given within MF DOOM himself. MF DOOM has regurgitated his internal poison against the mic and consumed it again himself, which collapses the Kantian operation of World-production. Instead, MF DOOM makes an internally differentiated collective earth in which the rappers are already given to each other, already as different from themselves as they are from each other.
The ‘well edjumucated’ rapper spits:
Whoever go next on the mic, he put a booger eewwww
His exit on some calm shit
Begged him on the regular for kegs of more Vomitspit
MF DOOM’s snot is swiped over the microphone, reconsumed as a new phonographic landscape, given in sound already to the next thing that sings.
MF DOOM is desperate for more of the sickness on stage, for the next reproduction of himself to gob all over the microphone, because he knows that the mask he has been wearing since long before the pandemic is an assemblage of self that regurgitates that meaning of self back into himself, the vomiting feeder, the life of puke, turning the language that his selfness projects outwards into a regurgitative poetry, a rumination syndrome, an inability to properly speak/digest/taste.
MF DOOM invites the next speaker to vomit on the mic as an act of sharing, of ethical self-undoing, because MF DOOM is already vomiting into himself, and through that poetics he constitutes a profound dilemma within the self itself: what does the self do when it cannot affirm its existence by projecting onto the world? It makes no universal proclamations; it just ethically undoes the constitution of the self from within. You know – masks, psychoanalysts, pandemics, vomitspit. The lot of it.
Listen, through the blur. I feel sick. Come here, let me vomit down your trunk, you filthy elephant.
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason.
Olivia Douglass, Slow Tongue. London: self-published, 2018.
Fred Moten, ‘Manic Depression: A Poetics of Hesitant Sociology’, 2017 Northrop Frye Professor Lecture, University of Toronto, 4 April 2017.
MF DOOM, ‘Vomitspit’, MM…FOOD. Minneapolis: Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2004.