the 'groucho fractal'

Bolagrams exist to describe the topology that exists in experience but disappears when projective representation attempts to map the situation. This disappearance is frequently the basis of comic situations, and we use one here to condense the logic of boundaries through a joke. The reference comes from statements made in Marx Brothers movies that raise the issue of the "uncanny" relationship between existence and properties.


As Slavoj Zizek points out in Tarrying with the Negative (p. 259, n. 36), problems begin when predicates (descriptions, etc.) become metaphors. As the Russian formalists (Jacobson et al.) argued, "describing a thing by its predicate ultimately equals saying what a thing resembles."

The Marx Brothers capture this as a point of humor in the following:

(Groucho, defending his client Chicolinni)" This man looks like an idiot and acts like an idiot, yet all this should not deceive you — he is an idiot!"

(Groucho, wooing a lady) "Everything on you reminds me of you, your nose, your eyes, your lips, your hands everything — except you!"

(Groucho, being introduced to a stranger) "Say, you remind me of Emmanuel Ravelli. —But I am Emmanuel Ravelli. —Then, no wonder that you look like him!"

Using the first statement as a paradigm,the judge is in the position of the victim "immobilized"by the paradoxical use of semblance for identity. The "real client" is A, the Big Other, the authority of the reality of identity. Groucho directly cites the self-referential quality of the client's appearance, which could be a disguise ('i') orthe client's true nature ('j').

The "problem of predicates becoming metaphors" is the dynamics of the line representing the "network of symbolic relationships" linking the subject ($) with the"Big Other," the source of authority and authenticity. As a result, the subject is immobilized (the paradox "paralyzes"its victims) and him/herself split. In most works of art, thesplit is the basis for the use of a proxy called, in bola-terms, the "fictim" — a representative who uses a "phallic" transposition in point of view to gain insight into the anamorphic nature of appearances.

© 2012, Donald Kunze, all rights reserved