in plato’s republic, there is a myth that details the roots of injustice in absence, invisibility, and separation. the shepherd gyges discovers a ring that bestows invisibility upon him, allowing him to transgress the limits of convention and nature when he kills the king and seduces his wife with its aid.
this radical egoism, radically separated from others and the world, as emannuel levinas argues, is ultimately a “positive event,” just as the existence of “closed doors and windows” is as essential to the essence of home as “the possibility for the home to open to the other.”
however, most of us do not exist in the mode of panopticon, police, or ruler — seeing while not being seen — but in its inverse — not seeing while being seen, not seeing who sees us. and just like a home offering hospitality, this mode can be liberatory. most of us, even if we identify with the ruling class ego, are Others, even or only if to ourselves. perhaps one of the most exemplary of urban emotions is the hair-raising spine-shiver of absent eyes. confession, for instance, but liberated from the confessor.
for to confess, both in a christian tradition and in the multiplicity of meanings that such a tradition usurps, is to articulate pain. sin, being the alienation from one of oneself, is inscribed in the utterance of light, or language. both being seen by, while not seeing, one’s confessor and the experience of sin that is being seen by, but not seeing, oneself create a strange, estranged language — that is, the very basis of language.
when yaeji sings or raps or murmurs on the opening track “feelings change,” or rather when she confesses in cloud-rap triplets — “speaking like breathing it’s easy to say that i haven’t changed my mind i’m doing so fine drinking up what i have left of water in my glass i have missed all my chances to be so honest” — she speaks in the confessional tone — that is, of honesty: as the impossibility of being honest. if honesty is self-accord, speaking, like breathing, is a transfiguration of pain, if not into honesty, at least into the recognition of its lack — if not into an accord, at least into a chord that in its music coheres.
or — and, i must confess, i’m not using this language necessarily as a reflection on the music but as a point of entry into the music — when on “drink i’m sippin on” she sings/raps/confesses: “bringing out the colors of me/ i feel so fine/ making off with what you can’t see/ i feel so fine” — we picture the club as a confessional, a place of fracture certainly — the box is always divided — but here the division is not between seeing without being seen, but rather, for there is no confessor when the dj participates. Every fractured individual in a place that is itself fractured (and in the cracks of society) partakes in the confession of being seen without seeing.
i mean, being so wholly yourself (“bringing out the colors”) that there is no distance for reflection (“with what you can’t see”). being so wholly yourself that you do not shrink away from a gaze, for you yourself are not looking.
when she confesses on “passionfruit” — “tension/ between us just like picket fences/ you got issues I won’t mention for now/ cuz we’re fallin apart” — even though she commands us not to pick up the pieces, the music coheres in their distance. could you ask for more than the wholeness of fragments?
yaeji already gave us “therapy,” and now she gives us the vulnerability and intimacy of a fractured world1, where we only in its cracks commune, not seeing, we are seen, as ourselves, and being finally ourselves, we see. i thank You for this!
1. she sings raps confesses on “raingurl”2 (and my mishearing (this transcription will have been wrong) renders): “x/ nobody can really find me/ x/ and when i am so free to finds me” — a plural infinitive, isn’t that wonderful? nobody, but myselves, split selves, seeing/seen, nobody but those who in this space become selves.
2. this song also includes possibly the best lyrics of 2017: “mother russia in my cup and my glasses foggin’ up”