The narrative in Gravity’s Rainbow spreads under the hypertelia of the 00000 V2 rocket across the zone in the novel. Tyrone Slothrop, the subject of the text, stages his own retreat in the novel to the zero degree of discourse. The Rainbow of gravity the rocket trails is analogous to the temporality of the text itself, climaxing in Slothrop’s final vanishing and ultimately the disappearance of the text on the rocket’s final descent.
Stefan Mattesich refers to Pynchon as breaking his own machine –his own novel, his own structure and boundaries. This theme of break-down, as in the protagonist himself, Slothrop, ‘becomes a cross himself, a cross roads, a living intersection’ on the failure of his quest for meaning, he disappears, precipitating a breakdown in the narrative and in the same East Broadway Breakdown and elucidations to mental collapse or ontological tremor in his lower east side work in Wool’s trajectory, and exterior to this, the viewer in turn fails to decipher context, meaning, or material structure to the painting, and in turn precipitates the hollowed out monochrome fallout that the paintings evoke, as in turn, Wool moves toward to self-cancel out the indexical mark, and in this way breaks down his own allegorical machine.
The pattern of time jumps, oblique associations replaying through the book and the dissociated narrative movements also filter through Wool’s own abstraction. In the novel the wacko Psi Section, through their psychic guide Peter Sachsa, in a passage which, in a very Pynchon fashion, precipitates another oblique thread through the Angel of History which precipitates the fallout of Wool’s abstracts so well, this time the Lubeck Angel - namely Leni Pokler’s character. (‘Many versions of the Angel…may apply.’) 18
The sublimated plot are anti-episodic, and compress deeper and deeper into the ‘other side’ and in between levels of being and been, from history, to the married couple Franz and Leni Pokler beyond death, to the transcript read out by one of the (dead) characters of a preterite séance, to the pages of the novel itself. The subverted narratives creates another kind of suspension, that between life and death, which envelopes, with no finitude, Wool’s layers of material ghosts displaced between print, paint, gesture, and photography.
Peter Sachsa, our sub-meta-medium is caught between life and death, and relays the transcriptions of a past séances lost to history, underpinning the compressed dimension of painted layers and registers of Sachsa, the séance, the reader, and the re-re-transcriptions confer on Wool’s paintings and Pynchon’s text the doubly cyclical versions of themselves that render both work’s structures opaque and deafly Other, and the ‘circles of confusion’ animate in them create an dequilibrium as inertial as the Rocket’s parabola.
This preoccupation with death and time in this section of Gravity’s Rainbow in particular overlaps with painting’s concerns for passage and time, and the re-doubling of the painting’s in Polaroid’s of their making. Themes of memory, before and after, are implicit in the conversation of the work.
As the characters on-board the ship Anubis sailing into the Baltic Sea are analogous to this sense of suspension at the boundaries of time and passing, and in this section of the book that Peter Sachsa’s séance textually intermits, like Wool’s painting’s visually intermit gestural passages in compressed layers, this dead character is construed as a Dialectical Image himself, flashing in the present and then irretrievably lost. Wool’s own abstraction also performs a complicated relationship to time, which, in this chapter in the book is complicitly construed as an attenuated death, the body of the past gradually decomposing the present in a state of stasis.
And like the return from the past of Sachsa’s narrative like a time continuum blip, so too does Wool create his own returns from previous work by re-photographing and re-screen printing shades of previous paintings. All uniform in size, they create a gestalt of unity or unifying narrative, but contrasts in medium and sections of gestures erased or painted over, incur a self-defining repetition of internal differences.
‘We misinterpret the expression ‘eternal return’ if we understand it as ‘the return of the same.’ It is not being that returns but rather the returning itself that constitutes being insofar as it is affirmed of becoming and that which passes. It is not something that returns but rather returning itself is the one thing which is affirmed of diversity and multiplicity. In other words, identity in the eternal return does not describe the nature of that which returns but, on the contrary, the fact of returning for that which differs.’19
Again, the paintings of Wool cross-section a sense of being and suspension. In this way, Wool’s (re)cyclical returns and reversals perform the Dialectical of his Image, and through suspension and passage, in the terms Deleuze describes, create a sense of indeterminacy and anticipation found in the arrest and release patterns of Frampton, Pynchon, and Jacobs, and leaves the boundaries of his work materially inertial.
‘”…Do you not know what it is to love, to be consumed by longing and passion?”…Wanda looms with her furs and whip, adopting a suspended posture, like a tableau vivant: “I want to show you another portrait of me, one that I painted myself. You shall copy it.’ 20
Wool’s graffiti marks bear all the codes of distress signal, action, presence, action, and the declarative. The marks are another mode of delineation and whilst seem to separate divisible registers, renders the index indivisible and untimely. The wipes, voidings and sprayed graffitas are facsimiles for immediate histories, and arrests spectator and object into a gazing dilatory contract. Because the mark is irretrievable from the picture the mark here is the image of an event, and the picturing of something already lost and solidified. It underpins a vocabulary of time and rehearses a constant distancing from not only our cognition of Wool’s heterodox surfaces but betraying our own contract with such an intimate mark.
The displaced gesture, rather than implicating the artist is monumentalised, and the lacerated residues are disseminations of the mark and fragmentations of being. This use of mark and gesture as emblem, intimate yet so radically removed, renders the paintings exterior and Other. The blurring of screen-print and paint, renders all the marks ghosting and all materiality phosphorous and alchemical, taking Modernism’s opticality and voiding it permanently and irretrievably outside of time.
‘A fixed staring at something which is purely present-at-hand (vorhanden) .In German, the word which we translate as “representation” is Vorstellung. Now, this word signifies a gesture of setting down (stellen) in front of (vor), a gesture which corresponds to the ‘frontal’ ontology of our modern, nihilistic world. I submit that the conceded essence of “re-presentation” begins to appear through this interpretation, and that it is, in a word, staring.”21
Wool’s attempts to retard the materiality of the work hollows out its production. The imagination of the work and how it was made exacerbates and paralyses its own becoming, and in its eternal return, adopts a language of catastrophe, and the viewer becomes locked at the centre of some intricate black crystal. Despite the aggressive voiding and lacerations of setting enamel, the act becomes alchemical rather than violent.
The abstract paintings render the viewer’s perception impulsive, transformative and physical. Reflections of the paintings are routed in the masochistic impulse through their sense of suspension. Benjamin’s ideas of arrest and release collides with the masochistic subject’s deprivation under the auspices of Wool’s word paintings such as RIOT, and RUN DOG RUN and the syntax of the advertising slogan, which at once enfranchises and repels the viewer’s pleasure. The abstract jetsoons of paint and print – the palpable senses of time, become shades, and like the stereoscope, creates an ocular perpetual return to non-resolution or pleasurable conclusion, in a sense, a tableau vivants of paint.
Freud remarked on Charcot’s patterns of looking at Salp ti re.
‘He was, as he himself said, a ‘visual’ man, a man who sees…he used to look again and again at the things he did not understand, to deepen his impression of them day by day, till suddenly an understanding of them dawned on him. In his mind’s eye the apparent chaos presented by the continual repetition of the same symptoms that gave way to order…he might be heard to say that the greatest satisfaction a man could have was to see something [a]new – that is, to recognise it as new, and he remarked again and again on the difficulty and value of this kind of “seeing”.’22
Whilst Freud distanced himself from Charcot’s ocular-centrism did come to believe that the desire to know (Wisstreib) was itself derived from an infantile desire to see.
‘The subversive edge may seem privileged because it is the edge of violence; but it is not violence which affects pleasure, or its destruction which interests it; what pleasure wants is the site of a loss, the seam, the cut, the deflation, the dissolve which seizes the subject in the midst of bliss.’23
Barthes on Sade…’such redistribution is always achieved by cutting. Two edges are created; an obedient, conformist, plagiarising edge (the language is to be copied in its canonical state, as it has been established through schooling, good usage, literature, culture) and another edge, mobile, blank (ready to assume any contours), which is never anything but the site of its effect: the place where the death of language is glimpsed…neither culture nor its destruction is erotic; it is the seam between them, the fault, the flaw, which becomes so.’24
In a sense, wool tackled language head on and appropriated linguistics into image and violence, rehearsing a seamless relationship between looking and reading, and then the paintings produced were along a spectrum of language and its disintegration, it was dismantled and literally wiped and visually melted away into more difficult and indecipherable ‘edges’ and boundaries, both of which as subversive as eachother, to totalise and equal eachother out. The traction of incommunicability that brings about an active viewing pleasure.
Wool doesn’t depict a private iconography of desire, but is monolithic, emblematic, and alchemical, as if he uses the language of language itself to disrupt itself and excite our viewing pleasures.
According to Barthes Wool is essentially Flauberian – establishing a way of ‘perforating discourse without rendering it meaningless.’ Read page 9 compare how wool and Flaubert use language to dismantle language, boundaries and totalities, then contrast. Barthes talks about narrativity.