Authenticity: In two forms of afunctional signs

The two forms of afunctional signs, here the specific and literal object indicating direction, place, service or content of a location, are such: first, the absence of referent. A sign looms over a demolished Café, it reads cafe, it calls to them looking for a cup of coffee, the cafe is gone, missing. The second: superfluity of the sign. A local shop or restaurant, in a place small enough to have need, capacity and interest for a single shop or restaurant, but which still undergoes a logo, a description, a slogan, a name, but which would be equally prosperous, for being pure necessity, with a different sign and logo. The first, the absent referent of the absent cafe, is contrasted with an active referent, like the grammar of motel signs, granting to ignorant travellers the location and quality, full or no, wifi or no, hbo or no, motel-style or hotel-style. The second, superfluous small town restaurant, is contrasted with graphic design branding logo bullshit. This latter contrast isn't a question of the active capacity for signs to indicate, or the intention behind any indication. It's probable some primitive branding occurs in a superfluous sign or less intensively thought out image, and it's also probable that branding is a stupid behavior that does little to justify its expense or its aesthetic desertification. The contrast is instead how the practice of brand or sign is entwined in the one; a shitty soap store is essentially a shitty soap and image store, while a cafe without another for a hundred miles is a cafe, the sign being nothing to speak of.

The prime sign discussed here is the afunctional superfluous. The absent referent refers instead to a present absence; the sign is ironic or frustrating or quaint or sad, it speaks to the former presence and current absence, a decline of some sort, but it can't reach the point of an active engagement while being itself so lacking. The active referent sign is the place for basic grammar and syntax, work I am not fit to speak on intelligently. The branded signifier is distasteful and undignified, it is beneath any human being to talk about, and yet, they do. Barring those three, it is the afunctional superfluous that marks the sign and then encounter of the properly authentic sign-undergoing.

There is and should be a bubbling hesitation here, and whenever conceptual authenticity is invoked. It is a dangerous premise, either hierararchically, this practice is, in itself, better without reference to conditions or aspects, or as a conceptual boundary, this is because it is appropriate to itself and nothing else. Critiques of authenticity are usually some variety of empiricist, pointing out all the ways a thing is not appropriate or even identical to itself, or how this moral mystification of the higher fails to elaborate itself, taking itself as a kind of authentic or appropriate quality itself, so authenticity is the authentic way of things to be instead of itself interrogated (what if authenticity is an ugly and pathetic way to be, for instance). The former argument tends toward a Foucauldean faux-humility; "There may be an essence or truth somewhere but it isn't here", a rhetorical defense mechanism to avoid the problems of actively undertaking anti-essentialism, and effectively caches the old thin metaphysical authenticity by marking it the standard for a concept's self-identity. In order to then describe the strange existence of a thing that appears authentic or self-identical, contrary authenticities are proposed, distribution, problematization, (deferred) relation, etc., but still a practice of being-authentic even if the literal and reductive authenticity of a previous era is criticized. Authenticity here is a ghost but is a sign like the demolished cafe, an absent and structuring presence. The latter, on the assumption of authenticity's value, makes its point well, in that authenticity is too cheaply done when it is, but abandoning it to the unreconstructed and paleo-thomists more ensures the authenticity discussed is the stupid rather than potentially other kind.

Instead, a definition of authenticity should be only of the functionalist variety, a description of that which exists in the recognition and understanding, where it exists, of a thing as authentic. It should further be unbound from self-identity; an authenticity is a strain characterizing the structure of relation. It obviously doesn't inhere in objects, taking a sign from the front of a store and putting it in an antique shop changes what thing it is. But neither does it inhere in the relations themselves, it is an outcome and the understanding of authenticity is an aesthetic one; how is authenticity achieved and that achievement is the nature or essence of authenticity as an aspect of a thing separate from authenticity itself. These are not abstract or prior conditions to be satisfied, but features of practical authenticity. This latter, this practical authenticity, is an effect of the afunctioning sign itself. Consider the null sign, pointing to an absence, then the ugly sign of a contemporary shop, that exists and is referential. The latter conveys a series of purposes; this shop is clean, nice, shitty people, the kind of people you like, they come here, you'll like it, this shop is here and not elsewhere. The former only effectively conveys its own being, that it is, and is a sign, and is non-referential. What it does (says), and what it is, are severely identical. Now consider the other opposed cross-pair, the designed shopfront and the could-be-otherwise shopfront. It could suggest to some eye that it is the selling that is inauthentic, but that's a very limited description of a chain of effects. Instead, put it this way. The shop that begs, in design, for customers, is making itself be as its audience. It is in the way the people it wants to come are, it is the same or looks to be the same as them. The other kind of shop sets up, however, a minimal chasm, a so-called otherness, by having its existence entirely (or to the degree that it is) untied to your attractions. It speaks nothing to you, or nothing in particular, because the nothing it speaks is how much it needs to. The shop sells the thing you need, and its very far to get another one and more expensive, so you buy the thing you need at the shop, regardless of if the sign is inviting or the slogan makes you feel the void that people who are inclined to enjoy slogans enjoy to feel, the sign outside of that shop is not being-sign but not-being-sign, being an empty signifier such that the structure of a restaurant would be incomplete without it (and would compose itself a further and active sign, a signless restaurant being creepy or psuedist modern, depending on how urban or rural the environment). The lie of "otherness", in every and all vulgar identity schemes, is the lie of the first kind of shop sign, that communication is between two sames and distinction is between two others. But the truth, here of authenticity, is that the communication between sames is absent and so is distinction, while between difference, and not other, between difference, there is communication and a being-with which is absent any other way.

To put this last point in less abstract terms: some fucking bonehead drives his car down the street and sees a sign for a shop, the sign is designed, it spells out, in the shop, he will find the things the man he strives to be strives to buy, and if he goes, he buys the things, he does the striving necessary for him the buyer to be him the be-r. The buying he does isn't the thing to be done, because the buying is too specific; how to make a thing for each such bonehead, impossible, the striving is all that is needed and the striving is made by the sign and the logos and shit all plastered over the shop. He, the fucking bonehead, is only such that he goes into places where he already knows what they are, places with full and complete signs, signs that mainly indicate that he has been in one or this one before so that he can never be caught off guard and end up getting the wrong coffee style or whatever haunts his particular vapid soul. In this is only the absence of encounter, the mingle of thousands of necessities and attractions, neither thing so stark in its being that there can congeal a being-together between them, this is about microtransactions that build to a head, and to a purchase. Change the shop, the man feels off-put, change the man, he falls from the demographic conception of a customer anyhow; these are two things that lack the necessity of strict identity because they are more adequately understood as a continuum of the same process. Now, the second kind, some person makes for a shop, they need some coffee, same as the first one, but they find no comforting same-signs, no proofs of corporate uniformity or brand consistency, they go in a shop and have to get what the shop sells, have to drink what the shop makes, their own desires then limited. They might get some gross coffee, or strange beans on their gravy and biscuits or they might get sick with polluted water, but the absence of their necessity to the functioning of the object, and the object's manifest indifference toward the man as object, leaves not otherness and estrangement but conjunction and interaction, both enduring individual identity for the single moment necessary to form a way of being in which both are to each and become other than their identities for the period of their being-together.

This is why the response to the afunctioning sign is that of authenticity and not truth or some other similarly shaded absolute concept. The absent referent (being qua) and the superfluous sign (being-with) both intensively produce being as the primary, or at least loudest, nature of their sign. As it does so, both suggest the distinction of a faltering, a miscommunication (the sort of which communication is structurally necessitated by), a gap, and as a gap, an identity, and as an identity, a something to be conflated-with another something. By not functioning, overtly, and by persisting, overtly, the need to explain the latter in light of the former means that the being of the object is its primary character, that there is identity between the thing-itself and the way it is-itself, and that this identity is placed in difference rather than same. The afunctional sign is a sign as such because it needs something, if afunction, to be.

This, to be clear, is not to claim anything more for signs and authenticities than has been established here. They are not real concepts and don't establish necessary hierarchies, even if contingent ones do exist (i.e. fuck your shitty brand and your shitty brand life, it is worse and so are you). The danger of ignoring their continued functioning is that it repeat the structure of authenticity (and word and being, etc.); absence is granted power because of itself as absence, truth becomes metaphysical, the thing that isn't, is able to become more than the thing that is. Instead, authenticity as practical needs to be acknowledged and its functioning as an aesthetic aspect needs to be further elaborated on.

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