artictoc [Planetary Practical Magazine]

volume2 special feature Prime Object

A Rule Will Always Appear as "A Specific Thing of Which There is Only One In the World.":Kenjiro Okazaki

Kenjiro Okazaki
One of Japan's sharpest Artist-Thinkers, talking up contemporary culture with the keenest of eyes, a child-like creativity, and a super-loaded, tenacious and rapid-fire intelligence. His work as an artist, writer, lecturer, and theoretician push up against the potentials of art withover whelming speed and radiance.

When you take up George Kubler's concept of the 'prime object,' what kind of possibilities do you see in it?

The word 'prime' in 'prime object' means something elemental which cannot be reduced any further. So the term can be paraphrased as 'original object' or 'original form.' Speaking of primary form, one is reminded of the Platonic solid, to which the prime object is indeed similar, in the sense that it also becomes a standard for things produced thereafter. Nevertheless, a prime object is not simply an abstract mathematical notion, but an object. It is specific, for if a prime object had not been created (or invented) as a thing in the first place, the rule (or law) would have never come into existence. This specificity can be restated as accidence. All tools or things have a prime object as their norm, and follow a consistent and complete rule, in the form of a system (or series). In other words, there are as many different systems as there are things (prime objects).
For instance - and Mr. Nagashima mentions this also - being a vase and being a plate are not compatible states of being, as the Aesop's fable about "the fox and the stork" teaches us. You can not follow the rules of the vase and the rules of the plate at the same time. They may be similar but will never become one with each other. And this difference consequently ends up leading back to the differences between the groups which use each object (storks and foxes).
This thinking of Kubler is similar to the idea of Paradigm introduced by the science historian Thomas Kuhn. According to Kuhn, scientific theories are never a universal knowledge, but are regulated by specific norms (paradigms) shared within each group (thus, building a theory is equivalent to making a variation on a specific paradigm shared within a group).
Kubler's prime object is a better concept, in that it places the existence of things and tools before humans. Even if a certain thing is currently not used by anyone, it will someday function as a rule. A human is positioned as a subject only through the usage of objects. In other words, there exist already as many paradigms as there are things.

You mean everything can fundamentally be a prime object?

Yes, all things potentially have a system of their own. But you can not choose several objects at once, because a single prime object will try to complete itself by requesting that all other things be seen as a variation of its system. The fact that a prime object is both a rule (law) and a specific thing simultaneously, means that it exists as dogma, like the ten commandments. What is required is not one's understanding of the thing, but rather the relationship between that thing and the world, or how the world exists for that thing, and then you also have to understand the world accordingly.
That is why if you try to treat all things equally as a rule, you would go crazy - as if you were trying to eat pudding, pot-steamed hotchpotch and gratin all at once - it's simply impossible (laughter). There is no position from which you can decide which, between the pudding and the pot-steamed hotchpotch, is better. Once you choose the pot-steamed hotchpotch, winning or losing can only take place within the rules of the pot-steamed hotchpotch.
Then how do you choose a thing? Well, the only way is to make a choice based on your intuition and resign yourself to it. You try treating a certain thing tentatively as a rule. In other words, you treat an accidental thing as inevitable for the moment - just like an antique dealer taking his chances on his merchandise, or a chick believing that the first moving thing it sees is its parent. You have to make the thing a rule for at least five years, although it might be a complete sham (laughter). You accept every detail as a necessity and try to reproduce it. In other words, you keep trying until it is formed as 'technique.'
However, it is necessary to reawaken afterwards to the fact that there are also many other things in the world. This is, as a matter of fact, equal to realizing that "the self is not one but many, with each of the other selves engaging in different other things simultaneously." There is actually a self that likes pudding, in addition to the self that likes pot-steamed hotchpotch, but they mutually forget each other while being absorbed in their respective objects. A convenient switch is at work, so that they don't intersect. If so, where does this switch take place?
If likened to living things, this would be the logic of a species, while it is also similar to the logic of compartmentalization.
For instance, take the issue of whether crossbreeding is possible or not. It is often said that reproduction is not possible between different species. But actually, species are regarded as different when it becomes clear that they cannot be reproduced (laughter). If you are a dog, for example, the specificity of each individual would be eliminated, regarding creatures which are irreproducible through crossbreeding and therefore belong to other species, such as ants, lions or hippopotamus. They would just be reduced to the generality of the species, like saying that a hippo is a hippo. On the other hand, if you have a reproducible partner, or if you are sharing a certain rule together as members of the same species, each individual difference and specificity is secured as if it were an object of affection. So you would love this particular Buddy, and not dogs in general. Thus it becomes clear that the sharing of the rule or norm of reproducibility is the condition for the securement of specificity, singularity and specialty. This is what's fascinating about the notion of prime objects.
In other words, a thing that might become a rule always appears as an extremely special, one and only object. Therefore, the switch takes place between the (seemingly) individual and special object, and the (seemingly) generalized thing. And this is very likely to happen.

What might be the trigger for recalibrating those systems of generality and specificity accordingly?

Reproduction does not occur so easily within combinations of living things, for example between a dragonfly and a frog. However if we're concerned about the reproduction of objects, and not living organisms, then that does take place at times (laughter). I mean, just like the ugly duckling, it is possible for a dragonfly that thinks of itself as a frog to appear, which then goes on to make the frog its prime object. There are actually insects that choose a leaf as their prime object, truly identifying with its appearance and gesture. The point is that the relationship between things is the quality of prime objects, where something takes something else as its norm, and starts reproducing it. Things start learning other things - start mapping one another. This mapping or transcription calls for the notion of subject, or for love. I also talked about the sudden leap of a subject to a cup, in the last issue of this magazine.

So you are saying that our own potential lies in becoming an object...

There is a Japanese nursery song called "Machibouke" (Waiting in Vain) in which a hunter keeps waiting in front of a tree stump where a rabbit had once accidentally bumped into. The hunter's standpoint is indeed absurd. But the prime object is in the standpoint of the tree stump. Someday someone will surely bump into myself as an object, and be reproduced. It is inevitable. That is why things never perish. From the standpoint of things, as Kubler sees it, there is no exterior (subjective) time within which to situate them. The subject is doggedly on the side of the tree trunk - the side of things.

Then, if we take prime objects into consideration, would we have no choice but to deem all our judgments of the present moment invalid?

The rule for judging things does not exist in advance, for the things themselves are the rules. However, a prime object is too absorbed in itself as a thing, that it lacks orientation - it has no sense of direction.
What is necessary, therefore, is to distinguish the difference between one law and another. Discretion is required which prohibits mixing up the good and the bad, and demands the application of a different set of rules. This difference is not an ascription of a specific object. What Kant called left-handed-ness, and Plato called Khora, is exactly what makes this judgment possible. This is the fundamental principle for knowing the difference that lies at the beginning of the world - although this difference cannot be described.
The left-handed-ness is the principle for knowing that you can't walk on both the right side and the left side simultaneously. It is the same as the principle of love according to which one cannot have multiple partners as spouses. That is to say, it's the principle of choosing a thing when you can only choose one thing. You call left hand the opposite of your better arm. It can be the other way around, but not both. This asymmetrical articulation was also the momentum for producing the so-called subjectivity. So then what is left-handed-ness after all? The useless left hand is the very principle of becoming, which creates the differences between the world and produces love and revolution. To sum it up, you could say that it's the fundamental principle of the leftist (laughter). The art of the paradigm change that switches prime objects lies here.

George Alexander Kubler, Shape of Time : Remarks on the History of Things, 1962