Margiela Ceramics: Geophasia and Arbitrary Consumption

by Nick James Scavo
Sep 24, 2015

The consumption of cultural materials emanates from machinic processes within social reality; yet, culture consumption highlights two primary issues that stratify views on products that publicly communicate. One, the consumption of culture can aggregate individual processes that define and qualify the lives of agents both solitary and in association. Two, it can structure modes that move agents to orchestrate complex processes as communicative. The issue exists in treating these two stratifications as mutually exclusive, or taken up as having momentary interplay. Moreover, the processes are often flat out denied — and thus plurality is lost at the hands of a flighty sociology or unknown metaphysics.

Treating consumption as an implicit action resultant from machinic action across objects gives agency to the individual desire to consume, as well as to the structural basis of a consumptive process that is instrumental to communication.

Here, as an apt metaphor, an argument for the implicit consumption of cultural materials as being “bio” is described as Geophasia, the deliberate consumption of earth, soil or clay — a consumption of nonliving materials. The Geophasic consumption of materials, to the point that they have no nutritive value in sustaining the “bio” of the species, is a non-subjectified form of consumption that ultimately takes place naturally in the laboring and action of any agent. The movement of the agent as consuming materials unrelated to the natural sustaining and digestive processes of life gives rise a surplus laboring — a consumption that exists beyond the scope of subjectification that usually occurs when an agent communicates a particular tendency of their species. Often described as a disorder, Geophasia as an actual practice is harmful and is often taken up as a practice when poverty and famine implicate the eating of earth as an appetite suppressant and filler, or within highly specified environmental and cultural contexts. Yet, Geophasia, as an act, also implicates a potentially transhumanist form of consumption in that is an alteration of the human condition of consuming living materials in an effort to sustain an agent’s life.

This is to say, Geophasia is a form of non-utilitarian consumption, a form of nutrient replacement, filling the stomach with dirt or rocks arbitrarily and non-essentially. Consumption, a process inherently defined by death — the mortality of agents and objects intertwined in the biological laboring to continue a particular existence — forces the treatment of individual life as distinguished from all other things. This is a process innately attached to a power dynamic, where life is actually taken by consumption. Within this condition, an inherently human condition, consumption becomes a rectilinear course of movement that cuts through the implicit, immanent, multiplicitous shape of the real world, a world that includes the facticity of society and the cultural materials that communicate within it.

There is absolutely no practical reason to eat earth; yet, Geophasia serves as an apt metaphor specifically in regards to how an agent can initialize the arbitrary consumption of signifiers outside of the need to consume materials for survival. Geophasic consumption does not indict the desire or ability to propagate an individual, rectilinear line of self-perpetuation. Rather, Geophasia remarks upon the arbitrary nature of this line, perhaps emphasizing a negative utility, taking shape as surplus labor. Geophasia can diffuse the private disclosure inevitable through specific consumption, a disclosure that reveals signs often unacceptable in the public sphere — e.g. the killing of animals, or the oppression common in the private domain. These signifiers, despite their use by individuals to sustain particular or structural forms, are real within a realist ontology of the social and public world, and form the crystalline, repeating shape of interacting agents communicating and existing publicly and privately, appearing in communication. The selective consumption of only certain signifiers, a diet of cultural materials, imposes an emphasis on the sustenance of a particular body distinguished from all possible consumptive efforts.

It is this effort to individualize consumption and choose specific signification as meaningful or important that seems immediately attached to concentrated substances interacting within an inherent power dynamic. Yet, it is impossible to deny the linear movement of individual life consuming these specified materials; the facticity of an individualized consumption has become so ingrained in the contemporary social landscape that it’s structure is one of so many private domains interacting virtually through communicative efforts via media. Without denying selective consumption, the Geophasia of cultural materials merely emphasizes the arbitrary nature of consumption. Geophasic consumption is non-essential to a social predilection for dominant or alternative signifiers in consuming communicative objects; the consumption of cultural materials is arbitrary unto a total view of all possible consumption.

Communicative cultural materials are often fashionable. They are repeating forms — forms that overlap in folds of differentiation as expressions of private life; yet, the nature of the private is inherently disclosed within the ontological sameness of human ecology — a repetitive shape that forms an infrastructure in public life. Fashionable materials are selected by the machinic privatization of an inherently public labor. These materials are consumed based on their communicative signification that’s resonant as a result of its particular shape within the context of a particular, patterned moment. Geophasic consumption sees this particularity diffused within the sameness and indiscernible nature of all objects. This is innately paradoxical. For one, the sameness of objects itself becomes indiscernible due to there being no common signification applicable or innately understood as valuable or virtuous as a consumable material.

The private nature of accepting a particular mode of consumption can block it from public view; yet, somehow, the propagation of fashion marches on, season after season, under the pretense of communicating privatized desire as property disclosed as potentially consumable to the public. Nevertheless, the fashionable nature of specific materials areimplicitly fashionable when read as necessary to public life. Fashionable materials overlap in private moments, when the individual chooses to consume; then, a platform for public life is sought so that the agent can communicate a possible trajectory. This often forms an ad hoc association of signifiers that progresses an individual, rectilinear line through the immanent shape of material. This is Geophasic only when seen as potentially necessary for a context, but arbitrary to a total — a contextual overlapping occurring in the polis of all possible consumption. Of course, for the sake of communication, many of these arbitrary signs can be accepted, perhaps contractually, amongst interacting and communicating agents — but the assumption of such signs must not be lost, their arbitrary nature not forgotten.

Yes, in the grand structure of the social world, the individual can use the shape of fashion to achieve appearance between private and public life. But, as stated earlier, the consumption of these fashionable materials can easily be read as an individualized process begetting the concretization of an identity, the programming of a self construction, etc. Moreover, the signification surrounding fashionable materials can be seen as a structural basis that machincally produces forces and labors forever entwined in its assumptions. The Geophasic consumption of cultural materials does not discredit the process of individual consumption, nor of structural or assumed signification begetting labor modes. It merely recognizes that given the implicit nutrients of all possible material, that their form is arbitrary. The kilning of silt and clay in fire is the arbitrary material — be it cow skin stripped to make leather, or plant matter picked for fiber. The original materiality emphasizes its eventual fashionable form to be inextricably linked to its original material. Geophasic consumption places this materiality as the primary context to predicate the consumptive line the individual may undergo.

Of course, the familiar message of deconstruction can be used as an epitome of utility and style when analyzing this material — a method for the handiest of scissor-users, as the blade is taken to woven fabrics interwoven over the course of decades, slicing garments with beautiful and sometimes oppressive results. Yet, consumption itself can be seen as interacting with an equalization of objects not necessarily rendered as essential for a hierarchical, digestive meaning. The passivity of a Geophasic consumptive mode highlights a public situation where limited resources don’t necessarily beget “death,” a Battle Royale situation that emphasizes survival of the fittest. In aesthetics, this orientation can be used to credit the whole fashion as important communication device — based on its ability to use materials alone to construct its context. But again, this communication, as an actuallypublic communication, is predicated on the sole knowledge that seasonal material is arbitrary unto its total goal of mass communication.

Such, the facticity of society is an earthen construction of plural molecules — individual yes — commonplace and yet strangely crystalline in their repeating, always complex layout. The plurality establishes a network of repeating patterns; and, such, a realist ontology of a social world would only emphasize the human condition of communication, oft seen as a nebulous a shape in the labor of consumption. As Hannah Arendt notes:

“Aristotle distinguished the ways of life (bio) which humanity might choose in freedom, that is, in full independence of the necessities of life and the relationships they originated. This prerequisite of freedom ruled out all ways of life chiefly devoted to keeping one’s self alive — not only labor, which was the way of life of the worker, but also the working life of the free craftsman and the acquisitive life of the merchant.”

In short, Aristotle oddly defined a freedom as a concept when one is allowed to contemplate “things eternal,” where everlasting beauty can neither be brought about through the producing interference of humanity nor be changed through human consumption.

Geophasia would reverse the idea of a transcendence from consumption, replacing escape with the recognition of a constant toil that is arbitrary, but essential as a consumption of this implicit, everlasting beauty. This mode emphasizes that the most energetic objects within social communication are but dirt and rocks, akin to all objects, and that fashion’s ability to contextualize these positions is arbitrary and essential — essential regarding fashion’s machinic production of new materials to be consumed — essential to the human consumptive interface. Geophasia gives the earth, silt, and clay precedent in the production of fashion; so, the roughest of mineral content is sculpted by the individual’s will and line, but one inextricably linked to the availability and consumption of an implicit material.