David Clark’s inter­ac­tive web­site projects A is for Apple (2002) and 88 Con­stel­la­tions for Wittgen­stein (to be played with the Left Hand) (2008) play out under our fin­gers and through our minds as if we were being guid­ed by invis­i­ble hands tug­ging or pluck­ing at meta­phys­i­cal strings. They slack­en to make us feel free, only to tight­en up as we zero in on sig­ni­fiers we attempt so des­per­ate­ly to decon­struct. Fort-da, vis­i­ble and invis­i­ble, proof and rep­e­ti­tion, mas­ter and slave, fall­en apples and fall­en humans, upright crowns and upside-down chairs, Ws and Ms… We wan­der freely amidst a play­ing field of words and num­bers, a game board of images and sounds, not sure of the invis­i­ble rules at hand.

Wittgen­stein said that the lim­its of lan­guage are the lim­its of our world while Der­ri­da wrote there is noth­ing out­side the text. How­ev­er these philoso­phers were them­selves secret­ly guid­ed by the mys­ter­ies of the unknown, the uncon­scious, the invis­i­ble fleshy remain­der’ that lies out­side the sym­bol­ic order. We run around through the struc­ture, look­ing for a way out, find­ing our­selves for­ev­er stuck with­in the lim­its of our sym­bol­ic uni­verse. The glim­mer of the remain­der’ or excess’ that defies lin­guis­tic, visu­al and aur­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion is that which keeps us run­ning through an infi­nite series of plots, the mean­ing behind our search remain­ing illu­sive. It is when we strike up, momen­tar­i­ly, against rup­tures that open up onto the uncon­scious, that we get a glimpse of the infi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties that our con­scious­ness restricts us from appre­hend­ing. Every­thing and noth­ing is arbitrary.

It is per­haps Clark’s sound, the accu­mu­la­tion of glitchy, uncan­ny, or spec­tral aur­al par­tial objects’  that pro­vides a key to our feel­ing of unease and our per­verse plea­sure in want­i­ng to know what secret log­ic lies at the root of this body of work. His projects could be under­stood as a con­tem­po­rary ver­sion of the total art­work, an alle­gor­i­cal impulse gone obses­sive, shot through with a hor­ror vacui. Every frag­ment of image or sound becomes a sup­ple­men­tary orna­ment’ to the greater whole, at the ser­vice of an expe­ri­ence which escapes any clear log­i­cal answer, with­out a cen­tral coher­ent core. This in oppo­si­tion to the Loosian par­a­digm of form fol­lows func­tion. Or maybe the key is in the humour that infil­trates the stric­tures of the sym­bol­ic, as when Clark makes a scat­o­log­i­cal joke on Adolf Loos’  name (sounds like loo’), based on the latter’s adamant state­ment that one needs to dis­tin­guish the urn from the cham­ber pot, death from shit. These moments reveal a tear in the fab­ric of our sym­bol­ic order, a spilling beyond the lim­its of language.

Much more twitchy and fast-paced, more cen­tred on pop cul­ture is A is for Apple. Apple. Reli­gious icon. God. Play­ing God. Monothe­ism. Sym­bol of knowl­edge. Fruit off the tree of knowl­edge, the tree of good and evil, from which orig­i­nat­ed shame and con­scious­ness of good and evil. The depar­ture of civ­i­liza­tion (lan­guage) from ‘‘nature.’’ The dis­per­sal of lan­guage. The death instinct. The undead. The poi­son apple of myth and of fact. Sci­en­tif­ic icon (of Newton’s dis­cov­ery of grav­i­ty). Cor­po­rate icon (for Mac com­put­er; record label for the Bea­t­les). The promise of dif­fer­ence with­in rep­e­ti­tion and homogeneity.Much more dream­like, haunt­ed, mes­mer­iz­ing, and philo­soph­i­cal is 88. 88 Con­stel­la­tions. 88 Piano keys. Two upright infini­ties. Twinned fat ladies. The dou­ble. Bina­ries. Polar­i­ties. Twin tow­ers. 2001. Floors of Kuala Lumpur. Two Islamic/Judaic Stars. 1889. Births of Chap­lin, Hitler, and Wittgen­stein. Chaplin’s age at the moment of his death… and the list goes on. But things don’t quite mir­ror one anoth­er here. There is the uncan­ny ele­ment, in the man­ner of the part object, of a project to be played sole­ly with the left hand (Wittgenstein’s broth­er Paul played the piano with his left hand after he lost his right arm dur­ing the First World War).

The num­ber 88 and the thing/word apple pro­vide clues to a seem­ing­ly pre­or- dained plan or con­spir­a­to­r­i­al pow­er, an alien pres­ence. Freud or Levi-Strauss might have point­ed to an innate, phy­lo­ge­net­ic or uni­ver­sal struc­ture in the human psy­che or in human cul­ture. In both projects psy­cho­analy­sis is used to uncov­er the secrets of the self as well as of ide­ol­o­gy.Pow­er and resis­tance. The phal­lus and cas­tra­tion. Intel­li­gent com­put­ers and the alien other…

On the one hand we find a vir­tu­al labyrinth of nodes and con­nec­tions with­out fixed ori­gins, a ‘‘body with­out organs’’, a reser­voir of poten­tial move­ments, traits, and expe­ri­ences flow­ing through time and space. An exper­i­ment in acti- vat­ing these points, linked in an ever-expand­ing chains of becom­ing, such that new pos­si­bil­i­ties of thought emerge. These con­cep­tu­al links are ini­tial­ly map- ped out by an author, but go well beyond his con­trol. New ver­sions of his­to­ry emerge. The chaos of con­tin­gency springs from the Ursprung. A pri­mal leap over, or despite, the void. A new con­cep­tion of nat­ur­al his­to­ry. On the oth­er hand, things seem linked, seem­ing­ly pre­de­ter­mined, inter­nal­ly guid­ed by secret cor­re­spon­dences. Under the seem­ing­ly con­tin­gent we search to dis­cov­er how this revealed lat­tice­work reflects the grand scheme of things. The world of pow­er in part unmasked. With­in the realm of the sym­bol­ic, the void takes the form of the big Oth­er, the foun­da­tion of a law we know occu­pies an emp­ty space, yet which we can­not so eas­i­ly escape.

We live in an age that has digest­ed and re-rehearsed the lessons of Marx, Freud, decon­struc­tion and post-struc­tural­ist thought. There is cyn­i­cism toward the idea of ide­olo­gies and insti­tu­tions of pow­er work­ing in our inter­est, of the law being just and guid­ed by high­er moral prin­ci­ples, and yet while we know very well about all this, we still act in the realm of the ‘‘as if’’, or even the ‘‘what if’’. This is the age of con­spir­a­to­r­i­al belief, belief in the exis­tence of an unseen Oth­er pulling the strings. The demise of the big Oth­er, due to our knowl­edge of the tau­to­log­i­cal nature of the Law (the Law is the Law), has result­ed in the appear­ance of the Oth­er of the Oth­er’. In order to be able to bear the idea of exist­ing amidst a pletho­ra of emp­ty sig­ni­fiers, Zizek asserts that, behind the vis­i­ble chaos or con­tin­gency of social real­i­ty, exists a fan­ta­sy fig­ure as hid­den agent:

the true con­spir­a­cy of pow­er resides in the very notion of con­spir­a­cy, in the notion of some mys­te­ri­ous agency that pulls the strings’ and effec­tive­ly runs the show, that is to say, in the notion that, behind the vis­i­ble, pub­lic pow­er, there is anoth­er obscene, invis­i­ble, crazy’ pow­er struc­ture. This oth­er, hid­den law acts the part of the Oth­er of the Oth­er’ in the Lacan­ian sense, the part of the metaguar­an­tee of the con­sis­ten­cy of the big Oth­er (the sym­bol­ic order that reg­u­lates social life). The con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry’ pro­vides a guar­an­tee that the field of the big Oth­er is not an incon­sis­tent brico­lage: its basic premise is that, behind the pub­lic Mas­ter (who, of course, is an impos­tor), there is a hid­den Mas­ter who effec­tive­ly keeps every­thing under con­trol. One can iden­ti­fy a sim­i­lar con­spir­a­to­r­i­al aura ema­nat­ing from Clark’s works.

Amidst the scat­tered nar­ra­tives and objects, we dis­cov­er Clark the acci­den­tal idol­a­tor, devel­op­ing a per­son­al and his­tor­i­cal attach­ment to his find­ings, in the vein of Wal­ter Benjamin’s pri­vate col­lec­tor. As he mus­es over his col­lec­tion of seem­ing­ly ran­dom find­ings, he uncov­ers unfore­see­able and coin­ci­den­tal rela­tions between things. These he weaves into secret his­to­ries, elab­o­rat­ing new genealo­gies, the stuff of affin­i­ty rather than lin­eage (in the Deleuz­ian- Guat­tar­i­an sense). Per­haps what is being revived here is not just an alle­gor­i­cal impulse but a mimet­ic one: the see­ing of con­nec­tions between seem­ing­ly dis­tant events, per­sons and things. Bring­ing these ele­ments into close prox­im­i­ty across great dis­tances and times sparks fan­tas­magoric images into being, speak­ing not only against the bar­barism of offi­cial­ly record­ed his­to­ry but also of the pos­si­bil­i­ty of re-enchant­ment. Michael Taus­sig says that the mime- tic fac­ul­ty is the nature that cul­ture uses to cre­ate sec­ond nature, the fac­ul­ty to copy, imi­tate, make mod­els, explore dif­fer­ence, yield into and become Oth­er. The won­der of mime­sis lies in the copy draw­ing on the char­ac­ter and pow­er of the orig­i­nal, to the point where­by the rep­re­sen­ta­tion may even assume that char­ac­ter and that power.“2

Tech­nol­o­gy itself is haunt­ed by the ghost of our repressed mimet­ic impulse, inhab­it­ed by a belief in the pow­er of a primeval ani­mistic oth­er. Left inac­tive, this impulse fades into the uncon­scious, to be lost in the chaos of what were once anthro­po­mor­phized con­stel­la­tions. Dig­i­tal media is inhab­it­ed by spec­tres, designed around uncon­scious dri­ves, pos­sessed by the Oth­er of the oth­er, or some­thing entire­ly inex­press­ible alto­geth­er. The trick is to keep the mimet­ic fac­ul­ty alive. In reveal­ing the social pat­terns and coin­ci­dences, Clark points to how we have a bet­ter chance of being able to trump the log­ic of the inde­fati­ga­ble Law.

1 I Hear You with My Eyes,” in Gaze and voice as love objects, by Reba­ta Sale­ci and Slavoj Zizek, Durham, NC: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1996, 96–97.

2 Michael Taus­sig, Mime­sis and Alter­i­ty, NY: Rout­ledge, 1993, xiii).