network news: those pesky piskies 1 2
Pisky or Pixy?
The survival of "pre-Celtic savages" to a comparatively late date in Britain is probable enough. Of this "race" were perhaps the Atticotti, whom St. Jerome says that he saw in Gaul when he was a boy. That would be in about 350~360. He says he saw them eat human flesh. "Quid loquar de caeteris nationibus, quum ipse adolescentulus in Gallia viderim Atticottos, gentem Britannicam, humanis vesci carnibus." He even goes into details as to their favourite portions of the human body and their somewhat emancipated views on the marriage question. Sexuality, like ideology, depends on the mutual redefinition and occlusion of synchronic and diachronic formulations. The exact, contingent space of indeterminacy - the place of shifting over time - of the mutual boundaries between the political and the sexual is, in fact the most fertile space of ideological formation.
This is true because ideological formation, like sexuality, depends on retroactive change in the meaning or labelling of the subject. Just as the superimposition of an allegedly stable metaphoric significance upon the metonymic category of "pisky" makes possible convention figurations of the legibility of a distinctive pisky "morphology", so it produces the need to construe such an emblem of pisky difference that will securely situate that difference within the register of visibility. Ideology is produced everywhere and all the time in the social order, but some institutions, by definition, those that usually corroborate the prevailing power arrangements are vastly more powerful than others. The stories they endorse are more difficult to challenge, even to believe that people were often "pisky-laden" and what you had to do to get free was to put your hand into your pocket and turn it inside out. The pocket evidently represents the line of the least resistance. Retaliation, reversion of the code is according to its own logic, on its own terrain, in order to regain an identity (which is impossible in any case), is to turn the pocket inside out - to enter the realm of the "fictitious story". It is also important that the structures of contradiction in these ideological narratives become most visible under the disassembling eye of an alternative narrative, ideological as that narrative may be. The beginning of the narrative is different from the end, and the two parts cross themselves in a middle figure that conceals their discontinuity.
How do we take into account these kinds of identifications? It's not that there is some kind of pisky that exists in pale biological form that is somehow expressed in the gait, the posture, the gesture; What is imprudently called a "pisky" can no longer be distinguished, with the same assurance, from truth, reality, horses, etc. On the one hand the receptacle is mobile and even contradictory, because this separability and divisibility antecede numbers and forms. Once named it immediately becomes a container, to bring it to that point at the junction of nature and culture where the real journey begins.
Once a man who had been preaching somewhere out Morvah or Pendeen way came across the Gump on his way home to St. Just and saw them. He tried unsuccessfully to catch some under his hat. The conditions of plausibility are therefore crucial to this visible analogue of a living, socio-ideological concrete thing. You have to be very careful if you see them that you do not go too near or they will carry you off. Magic, shamanism, esoterism, the "incomprehensible" all underscore the limits of socially useful discourse and attest to what it represses: the process that exceeds the subject and his communicative structures. Certain interpretations of experience strike us as plausible: they fit with what we have experienced already, and are confirmed by others around us. So we complete a "circle" of social reality where fairy stories, whether Cornish or otherwise, may be divided into two very distinct classes, literary and popular. The former, though in their origin founded on the popular lore, are just literary "fakes," but in the anamnesic movement of truth, what is repeated must present itself as such, as what it is, in repetition. The true is repeated and what is repeated in the repetition contributes to the perpetual contest of stories that constitutes culture. Its representations, and our critical accounts of them, reinforce or challenge prevailing notions of what the world is like, of how it will be. For the recurrent topology of the pisky indicates, by its defensive assertation of a visible marker of otherness, a fear that the categorical institutionalisation might challenge the integrity and reliability of anatomical sameness as the guarantor of illusions of relief perspective and depth (both spatial and psychological).
The piskies of "popular tradition", though they have certain points of resemblance to the literary or idealised fairies - enough to show some common origin -are of a very different type as a whole The stories about them seem to resolve themselves into two classes, which in modern folk-lore have been mixed together a good deal. The class which is the ruling material force is, at the same time, its ruling intellectual force - the class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production. In addition, the diachronic opening-out of contradictions within the status quo, even when the project of that diachronic recasting is to conceal those very contradictions, can have just the opposite effect of making them newly visible, offering a new leverage for critique. The pisky calls to be rethought precisely as a compulsive repetition, as that which conditions and disables the repetitive illusion of an inner depth, necessity or even essence of small beings, apparently not spirits, though doubtfully human. They are ugly, often misshapen, sometimes covered with hair, and usually with not much else. Ideological constructedness, not just of our ideas but of our subjectivities, seems to control the scope for perception and recognition. You cannot see them by day, but at times they are seen at night, and if you are pisky-led you may hear them laughing at you, though you cannot see them.
Supposedly, these tiny creatures were once upon a time much larger but were destined to shrink so much in size that each eventually became discrete quantities of energy movement articulating a nonexpressive totality. Neither model nor copy, their drive processes could not be released and carried out in the metalanguage of theoretical drifting. The piskies are sly and cunning, but not of very high intellect, as is shown by the ease with which they can be taken in by things that are outside their experience and by verbal quibbles. The pisky eye pauses not so much to understand its own social reality as to detail its delineation in the provisions of this enactment. Holding to a specialised reading of a certain political, sociocultural empowerment within the context of the pisky realm, because of its specific isolation within the discursive totality of our time, this shattering of discourse would reveal a fragmentary phenomenon which has been kept in the background of more communal signifying.
Just as the conditions of plausibility superimpose an allegedly stable metaphoric significance, this visible analogue of a living, socio-ideological concrete thing makes a borderline between oneself and the world shaping itself around and through us. Certain interpretations of experience govern our understandings of the social order, conventional figurations of the legibility of a distinctive pisky "morphology" securely situate that difference within the register of visibility. Understanding produces its own social reality at the same time as ideology is produced everywhere: as heteroglot opinion, as plausible. So it produces the need to construe such an emblem of pisky difference that will therefore be crucial to a "circle" of social reality, as social reality produces its own means of mental production.
Ideological representations, and our critical accounts of them, reinforce or challenge prevailing notions of what our subjectivities contribute to the perpetual conflict between dream and reality, the structures of contradiction in these ideological narratives become most visible under dreams of wrenching paradox. They fit with what, by definition, disassembles the eye of an alternative narrative, so we complete the contrary position from which that body comes to appear.
It is the lapse of biological form repetition that represents nothing, imitates nothing, working against identity, against gender, that disables the repetitive illusion of an inner depth, necessity or even essence that is somehow magically, causally exposed. In addition, even when the project of opening-out that diachronic recasting is to conceal the inscribed pisky body - this shattering of discourse emerges as a fragmentary phenomenon of anatomical sameness. Perhaps this would be a matter of working against identity, against gender, and of letting that which cannot fully appear persist in its disruptive promise.