The Baroness collapses the rationalizing conception of the body as a machine

The Baroness collapses the rationalizing conception of the body as a machine

As Marcel Mauss puts it in his important 1934 essay “Techniques of the Body,” the body is “man’s ?rst and most natural instrument

conscious or fully formed statements against these violent changes. Like all of the cultural effusions of this period of New York’s avant-gardes, they become complex-and to some extent not fully legible-maps of an ongoing process of negotiating, rather than making ?nal sense of, the radically new social and cultural terrain of machineage New York. If we understand the machine works to be open-ended in this way, our view of the history of New York Dada itself becomes more open. Signi?cantly, a gap appears that allows for the reemergence of some of the more irrational characters into the same historical ?eld. The common tendency to discuss the performative forays of Miss Reisen Dating Seite, say, the Baroness or Arthur Cravan as anomalies, or as anecdotal amusements surrounding the “legitimate” New York Dada works, usually de?ned as the machinic works of Man Ray, Duchamp, and Picabia and the readymades, might partially begin to break down. I am proposing a continuum of irrationality from the machine works (with their failed attempts at sublimation) to the immersive, ?amboyantly desublimatory objects, poems, and promenades of the Baroness. And yet, one would not want to assert the possibility that a body during the World War I period could escape the machinic or technological. . . man’s ?rst and most natural technical object, and at the same time his ?rst technical means.”22 The Baroness’s body, and her own various machine-related objects, are clearly technological (or technologized) in this sense: they are conditioned in and through modern, urban, industrial culture (this is part of their power and poignancy). But, emphasizing the organic as well as the mechanical, they are not organized rationally like the typical industrial-era images of a machine or machine/body. They are irrational machines, pointing to the irrationality of technological processes that never obtain the clean ef?ciency promised by Americanism. The links between machines and the human body/self are multiple. Machines are feared or celebrated (depending on the point of view) as instruments of the rationalization of the human body and self under the regimes of Taylorism and Fordism.23 This is perfectly illustrated in the ludicrous congruence of machine and human movements in Chaplin’s 1936 ?lm Modern Times, which shows the Tramp’s regimented human movements on the assembly line exploding into neurasthenic jerks (the jolting of the machines somatized into a mental/corporeal disorder) and the human body becoming incorporated into giant machine gears, which “chew” and regurgitate it (?g. 3.4).24 Chaplin plays the ultimate disorderly subject who, through

It is precisely against this ‘humanism’ that the new industrialism is ?ghting

his irrational excessiveness and inability to be incorporated into the logic of the machine, threatens to throw a wrench into its smooth functioning (while, reciprocally, the machine continually threatens to mutilate and destroy him).25 Chaplin’s movie, which renders machines as symbols of the dysfunctionality of modernity itself (a modernity that is contrasted with the more authentic, bucolic, family-centered [if impoverished] lifestyle established by the Tramp and his beloved Gamin in a shack out in the country), also constructs machines, and the regimented bodies they require and entail, as the tropes of such rationalization. Chaplin’s failed stint as a department store guard (which ends with him inviting the Gamin to sleep on the beds and skating blindfolded around the toy department as masked men hold up the store) points to the fact that the capitalist industrial system, most crucially, functions to regulate bodies not only by turning them into ef?cient machines of production but also by constructing them as perfect consumers. The supposed “high wages” paid in the Fordist system were aimed at allotting the worker extra spending money, which he must (as Gramsci puts it) spend “rationally” in order to “maintain, renew, and if possible, increase his muscular-nervous ef?ciency and not to corrode or destroy it.” American rationalization, Gramsci notes, has “determined the need to elaborate a new type of man suited to the new type of work and productive process,” and, he continues, “the truth is that the new type of man demanded by the rationalisation of production and work cannot be developed until the sexual instinct has been suitably regulated and until it too has been rationalized.”26 The Taylorized/Fordized “new man” would be a machine of perfectly ef?cient, speedy bodily movements, but one who was either physically restrained and surveyed by those who had an interest in his productivity or (even better) psychologically inculcated with self-regulatory moral constraints, such that all of his energy could be expended on labor and none would be wasted on the “animalistic” excesses of extramarital sex or drinking-just the kind of excesses that, as we have seen, the New York Dadaists excelled in perpetrating.27 Gramsci also emphasizes that the Taylorist/Fordist system is a profound threat to individualism; in fact, as a Marxist thinker attached to ideas of corporate or collective power, he supports the system’s erasure of individualism and notes that “it is certain that [American industrialists like Ford] are not concerned with the ‘humanity’ or the ‘spirituality’ of the worker. . . . ”28 Gramsci’s embrace of the deindividualizing effects of industrialism contrasts to the much earlier, and more pessimistic, recognition by Simmel that, with the “growing division of labor . . . [the individual] has become a

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