The art of tracing IX: Foucan and the birth of the critic

What is critique? What purpose does it serve? According to Michel Serres and Bruno Latour, we are running out of entities to accuse, due to half a millennium of critics on a killing spree. 'Critique has run out of steam', as Latour asserts. When critique discerns, it labels, and when it labels, it creates. God was a critic, executed by his own method (meth OD). Paradoxically, critique may thus affirm what it tries to subvert or deconstruct. Critique, as a modern phenomenon, has been associated with another modernist innovation – revolution.

In its final anticipated overthrowing of the alleged adversary, revolution claims to open the pearly gates to an utopia. This dialectic scheme will unavoidably end in a new totalitarian reign, which, then, in turn, must be overthrown. D & G therefore claims that, for it to have impact on the states it wants to alter, revolution must be constant, and never fulfilled. The persona needed for this operation is the becoming-revolutionary. Kafka is, thanks to his joyous surfing on the waves of Law and bureaucracy, one of this guild's prospects.

The closest one comes to a place of constant revolution without resolution – at least up till now, when the leaking social system is the target for a multinational plumbing operation – is the utopia of the www (beaks pecking the soil for worms, or speakers sending noise up in the atmosphere, or both?). The vast realm of YouTubea is in that sense emblematic. The following composition sets the critic on our philosopher-traceur in the YouTubean maze.

The tracer of the day, Sebastien Foucan, is one of the founding fathers of parkour. In the first clip, Foucan is in dire straits with an angry chicken chasing him. We don't know his crime, only that the ferocious bird is after retaliation.

Perhaps Foucan is a representative of the last category there is to criticize (at least within the rationale of the critical humanist project): the whole of mankind. There is a long tradition of accusing man, but the majority of critical voices of animals has so far been silenced. This particular chick is a determined, street-wise, and cunning anthropologist, something that is evident in its knowledge of city-planning, short-cuts, and the use of escalators. Man built the city, the streets of which angry birds now hold. I bet there is a pissed-off post-humanistic posse of poultry rigging their slingshots outside your house right now!

Foucan is there to show all entities that man will not leave traces to the same extent as before. Rather, and to a greater degree, man will trace in the sense of sketching. By drawing creative, yet ephemeral lines of flight through the city, Foucan demonstrates how an "enlightenment without the critique" could be performed. HypheNation is my nation. The city is a burrow for the becoming-animal of man. By not playing the part of the guilty, and without making counter-attacks, the philosopher-traceur is enhancing a true ecology. Consciousness of umwelt, doesn't have to lead to masochistic asceticism.

Be as it may, with the becoming-critic of the chicken, the next hunt for the traceur moves us to Madagascar, where a fierce fight between a mongoose and a cobra has heated up a bunch of betting men (perhaps this, from a bird's-eye view, was the Foucanian crime in the clip above).

Casino Royale was a reboot of the Bond-series. Daniel Craig's Bond is a freshman, who just earned his license to kill. He is not yet the full-fledged man of taste (and of the world) that we are used to see him as. Intimidated over a loss in poker against Mads Mikkelsen's villain, Bond just grunts angrily at the bartender, who is asking him whether he wants his dry martini shaken or stirred. Bond-as-we know-him would never lose his temper in such a way. The other Bonds are nihilistic, yet tasteful men, i.e. critics, that don't give a damn about what they allegedly protect: empire, queen, state, democracy, etc. But Craig's Bond is still in conflict with himself, as well as with the values he has been hired to defend. He has not come out as a critic yet, and, paradoxically enough, this is what the traceur helps him to do.

Never mind the shitty story, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Bond starts to chase Foucan through shanty-towns, thickets, and finally a construction site. Foucan is always several steps ahead, and an increasingly irritated Bond must use foul tricks to keep track of his elusive prey.

The major, and most modernistic, sense of the verb 'to trace' is claimed by characters like the spy, detective and hunter, while traceurs represents the sketchy, scrying, and minor meaning of the term. The tracker is in it for the game, whereas the traceur, striving only to fuse with the middle kingdom of becoming, refuses to be the prey.

Repeatedly, Bond gives proof to his deconstructive skills, deconstruction being one of the cardinal competences in the critical repertoire. What other place than a construction site could be more suited for an exam in the art of critical deconstruction? The havoc Bond wreaks upon that poor scaffold shows that he is inaccurately named - if there is a bond, he will not cherish -- as Foucan does (tracing out even more bonds out from the present material) -- but, break it.

Where Foucan is climbing the fence, Bond is forcing it with a bulldozer. Where Foucan jumps down the holey facade, Bond violently short-circuits a lift with a monkey-wrench. And finally, where Foucan performs a underbar (which happens to be the word for 'wonderful' in Swedish) through a small opening near the ceiling, Bond fiercely pierce the plaster wall beneath the opening, making a new hole.

This last manoeuvre is the most lucid testimony to where the difference between the philosopher-traceur and the critic lies, and to what the implications for their respective agendas are. On the one hand, the traceur synchronically confirms and denies that the two rooms are distinct from each other. Denial by confirmation. here is A and B, A could be B, B could be A. On the other hand, the deconstructive critic, in his attempt to raze boundaries between two concepts, only affirms the boundary, and thus making it more impenetrable, let alone producing debris for others to clean up. That ugly hole will be filled by tomorrow. Confirmation by denial. A and B are the same! A will never be B...

How long will process and becoming provoke, and elicit the critic in and from, man?