Refining Commitment


“Time Is On My Side” was originally written by Jerry Ragovoy under the pseudonym Norman Meade. In 1963, an arranger by the name of Garry Sherman contacted Ragovoy after trombonist, Kai Winding, had interest in the song’s more commercial potential. However, Ragovoy did not have any extra lyrics prepared, save for five words that comprise the song’s title: time is on my side. 

In October of 1963, Kai Winding recorded the inaugural version of “Time Is On My Side.” This version was adopted from Jerry Ragovoy’s under the production of Creed Taylor and sound engineer Phil Ramone. At this time, the song contained only one additional lyric—you’ll come running back—and was sung by an unaccredited background vocal group comprised of Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick, and Dee Dee Warwick.


The next recording was performed by Irma Thomas, a young singer from New Orleans. With the song moving away from being primarily instrumental to that of a sung song, Thomas’ arranger, H.B. Barnum, needed additional lyrics. So Barnum hired Jimmy Norman to write the lyrics to the original Ragovoy version. Norman famously finished the lyrics with only minutes to spare before recording in the actual Los Angeles studio where Irma Thomas was to sing.  


Despite the expanded lyrics, “Time Is On My Side” was not yet a hit.


Finally, in June of 1964, the young British rock-and-roll band, The Rolling Stones, recorded a version retaining the same expanded lyrics Irma Thomas used the year prior. Released in October of that year, the song was to become a signature for the Rolling Stones and the generation that followed.1


~


Nevertheless, truth turns as perceptible as a surface when any multitude of interactions begin to stack and amass a certain visibility, beckoning an almost unanimous look. Participation drips stalactite-like, guiding the eye down and dropping onto the stalagmite below. The form, although able to vary greatly, holds the appearance and elementary function of an hourglass. If participation were to be given a form, this natural phenomena has all the logic needed for such a description.


Follow the trickle of activity guided along by the contingencies of place. A trickle thickening to the picking, possessing, and displacement of flow. Locate the weight—singularity turned stagnant. Watch it commune within the radius of a common gravitational degree. What was singular now begets community. What becomes common pushes, conically, the criterion of an outsider. What falls, stands historic. In the end, what is forgotten eventually melds—columnal—into a structure upholding the ever-refreshing act of singular participation.


~


The hourglass amassment of participation is “Time Is On My Side.” In order to endure and continue to connect with connectivity itself, this song cannot become static and rooted within a single possession, a possession that would spell an antithesis to time itself. More accurately, singularity attempting to modulate the conditions of cultural obsolescence. Obsolescence is, and always has been, the renewing catalyst to our own connection with connectivity, an access to an us always appearing, retroactively, within accumulation.


Material culture, under the current form of capitalism, is becoming increasingly indebted to communist ideologies of ownership. With so much iterative differentiation, the life expectancy of any cultural capital is reduced to such a finite amount of time that durational potency is reduced in favor of increased fluidity, permeability, and replaceability. This plasticity is only heightened by fair use policies, DIY interactions, and premeditated incremental distributions—all processes enabling the perceptibility of cultural commodities to become endlessly displaced, or more importantly, replaced. What appears as possession by individual consumers is mistaken, as the owner-less preference is attested by the worn-out or outdated subject/object relationship rather than the worn-out or outdated object.


We have slowly drifted away from the durational potency of possession due to the gnawing potential of what lies just across the threshold of so much succession. The obsolescent nature of consumption then becomes a centrifugal fixation, divesting from the durational for the sustained sense of relevancy associated with the deferential—an always-cusping inevitable. A cusp never appearing to crest in part to its tightening conical contour. In other words, our own participation  refining—unbeknown to us—due to our own self-seducing preoccupation to anticipate the transformability of any occupied now.


Within the endless turnover of cultural possession, we surprisingly find ourselves increasingly melded to each other, a form of being for each other made possible by the transience of possession. Subjects remaining intact due to the intelligibility of subjecthood being further attributed to what can only be described as a pseudo-animistic belief in object-hood.2 Obsolescence dematerializes our trace and, in so doing, our inscribed instructions used to dowse the “yet-to-be-assigned” in any new succession. If we then take the permanence of the medium away, what remains is actually just Malickian hands handling the handlings of the other. The subject is—with less pain aided from a lessening in the perceptibility of finitude—emptied of content from the outside.


~


“Time Is On My Side,” as it is performed by The Rolling Stones, testifies, as well as anything can, as a conical point overlaying a lost drip, ossified into what then becomes a now static strand of obsolescence—a metaphoric punctuation on an endlessly disowned phenomenological inquiry.


The song, indeed, touched onto and into its own permanence through the iteration performed by The Rolling Stones, at the cost of having any current generational pertinence. An achieved permanence more to do with the perfect timing of their adoption, rather than any notable quality in their rendition. Fans in that inaugural generation found their own image within “Time Is On My Side,” and, in so doing, diminished their unthematized potential in favor of a shared anthemic vision, a relation to time, managed by their own allusive cusp toward the crest of their, then contemporary, culture—working to construe any absolute left (in the strictly numerical).


~


It is true that, if we are to believe the philosophers, the real meaning of our lives appears in an uninterrupted discourse capable of articulating even its own interruption, ever reviving in immortal intersubjectivity. It never has the meaning it has in our lives.3


What is more likely to result from the continued exposure to obsolescent materialism is the refining of commitment towards the delineating effect attributed to durational significance, attested in the form of desiring a possession rooted in a specific iteration. A commitment otherwise liable to face—everyday, every hour, indeed, every manageable minute—the self as substitutional. A refinement which attempts to outmaneuver an unspoken heteronomic oath—self-sacrifice by way of being liable to become substitutional—by the predictive calculation of self-substitution. The subject, in order to construct agency and consistency, approximates the event of their own substitutional possibility, however paradoxically, through a mistaken ability to modulate the infinity of variation into a finite destination, an impossible infinite that seems all too finitely possible when its perceptibility is given to the inexhaustible, yet banally predictable, plurality of the other.


…the risk in the logic of sacrifice is that the subject or subjects who expose themselves to a shared, yet ungraspable horizon of death in the sacrificial act do not in fact enact community as an unworking of identity, but rather seek (impossibly) to appropriate death and put it to work in order to realize its transfiguration into a substance or subject. […]for the logic of sacrifice to be properly sacrificial, not only would the victim have to die, but the sacrificer would have to commit suicide. (loss without gain).4


The predictive evasion posed in the quote above is complicated and intentionally evasive toward accountability. This is because situational truth develops a normative appearance out of an ever finer parsing of iterative differentiation. The strain under which acquiring the adequate attentiveness eventually collapses situational truth into a stronger presumptive appearance, than it opens unto an inhabitable reflection. The resistance of the lived to live, within something already lived through its explanation, develops a demeanor, which, in this text, is the split result of being able to understand the self as something formal and the lack of seeing the self, completely, in any laid out form.


~


The Rolling Stones continue to perform “Time Is On My Side,” even though they are no longer able to embody many of the identifying characteristics of the song. An inability solely on their part, not due to any ideological opposition or lack of trying. They cannot embody the song simply because they cannot inhabit the voice of timelessness, while simultaneously representing, however uncontrollably, the decay and finitude of the human body. Mick Jagger, now over seventy years old with sunken cheeks, grey hair, and strained vocal chords, renders the song fraudulent through his physical presentation. Yet, within that ailing body is an image that brings about a more concrete set of contingencies in relation to the refinement of our of commitment to endure the existential nature of duration: to meet ideas of ownership with humility or humiliation. Again, it comes down to whether or not we meet the situation with substitution.


In this instance, the body of Mick Jagger can be bound to Levinas in a very practical relation. The humiliation we can perceive is not so much the unflinching glance toward the face of the other (in this case the body of Mick Jagger), but more the escape from encounter by way of relating their relation within the plasticity of substitutional shaping. The one who sees this body as humiliating asks why he cannot see he is already dead to the relation he is attempting to illicit. To be even clearer, the humiliation refers the witnessing of the face to the substitutional function of the uninterrupted discourse, for the dying body is revived through the humiliation of seeing the living not accepting the death of their symbolic potential.


The moment of humility gains less through the acceptance of the body and the silence given to the demand for an answer. The demand within the one who finds humility, sees the impossibility to revive the body through articulating this interruption, which is inscribed in actual flesh. Nothing can be said. One can only accept to affirm the fight for life within the truth of death.


Today, when we watch Mick Jagger performing “Time Is On My Side,” we can choose to be the one being sacrificed for the continued, although futile, life of the other: Humility. Or, we can turn our face and, by so doing, sacrifice the other to grant singular subjectivity an indefinite deferral.


Endnotes:

1. Wikipedia, “Time Is On My Side,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Is_on_My_Side (accessed May 6, 2012).

2. Merriam-Webster Online, s.v. “Animism,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/animism (accessed December 1, 2014). To paraphrase, Animism (from Latin animus, -i “soul, life”) is the religious worldview that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence.

3. Emmanuel Levinas, “A Man-God?,” in Entre Nous (London: Continuum, 2006), 47.

4. Ian James, Fragmentary Demand (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 183.

Me:
Oh yeah, oh yeah. That’s perfect.

Mom:
How’s that?

Me:
That’s just fine.

Mom:
Okay.

Me:
Okay. That’s just fine. You’re going to be…

Mom:
You’re going to be a movie star!

Me:
Yup. And…

Mom:
People are going to see you and you won’t know it. Well, someday you will know when you pass over, won’t you?

Me:
You’re going to have a lot to say.

Mom:
Yup. You are going to have to come back and let Darren know you’re happy with all his work. Do you know who I am? Huh? Quiet today…not saying anything.

Me:
Maybe she’s nervous.

Mom:
Yeah…

Me:
Hey! You have the same shoes as I do.

Mom:
Yeah! Say we just got you new shoes. She went from a size eight to a six-and-a-half. Lost a lot of weight hasn’t she?

Me:
Yeah.

Mom:
[Directed to my grandmother]

Getting tired…?

You don’t mind if she sleeps do you?

Me:
Who’s the roommate?

Mom:
She’s blind.

Me:
Yeah, I see that. National Geographic, in braille.

Mom:
Yeah, she’s blind.

Me:
So she reads really well?

Mom:
Evidently, she sits in here and she will be talking to herself. She reads out loud. She doesn’t even know I am here.

Me:
Pretty impressive.

Mom:
Yeah.

Me:
Is she…Is she with it?

Mom:
I guess so. They said so.

Me:
I mean, does she hold conversations? Have you talked to her?

Mom:
No, I just come in and…I don’t know if she can hear or not. She is usually in her chair reading or talking to herself and I don’t know if she can…

[to my grandmother]

Are you getting tired?

You don’t care if she goes to sleep, right?

Me:
No. It’s okay. By the way I am seeing it, there isn’t going to be…I mean, I don’t need much. There’s just not much movement. So…

Mom:
Well, you didn’t want a lot did you?

Me:
No.

Mom:
You want the dead stare.

Me:
Yeah.

Mom:
The confusion.

Me:
So, that girl working at the desk out there, is that ████’s mom…? In the desk back there…

Mom:
[Name]?

Me:
I can’t remember her last name…████ ████ ████! ████’s cousin.

Mom:
I don’t know who that lady is. I mean I know…

Me:
You mean, you talk to her all the time, yet don’t know who she is?

Mom:
Yeah, I know them all by face but I don’t them by name. I know ████, and ████. Her nephews go to….went to ██████ ████.  They don’t know because they basically got asked to leave because we want money rather than education.

Me:
They were basically asked to leave?

Mom:
Yeah, there is really a bunch of crap going on.

Me:
At school?

Mom:
Yes, I am so fed up….

Me:
Struggling to survive I guess…wouldn’t you say?

Mom:
We have a…Let’s put it this way, we have a power hungry priest…

Me:
Yeah?

Mom:
And we have a little entourage that…It’s just…Yeah, a lot of bad things. ████ and a bunch of others approached him concerning several things going on and he told them to keep their nose out of it. So ████ did write a letter to the bishop but I don’t think it went anywhere. We have a ██████ they hired for ███. ██████ has six offenses against ██████ for stealing.

Me:
Wow.

Mom:
And they picked ██████, took ██████ to jail, and ████ bailed ██████ out. We are paying this ██████ eighteen dollars an hour.  ██████’s not doing ██████’s job. ██████’s screwed them out of a truck. It’s just….

Me:
I don’t know how…They just do not know how to run things.

Mom:
████ is supposed to be this wonderful educated person and ██████ was the one who hired ██████.

Me:
Well…Come on now.

Mom:
Well…I don’t know. I am just fed up with it. And ████ stabbed ████ in the back. ████ does so much, ████ gives money and time. Anyway…

[Silence]

Mom:
Okay, it’s twenty to eleven.

Me:
Okay. I want to get ten minutes worth of footage. We have four minutes left.

Mom:
Okay, that’s fine.

Me:
I want to do two minutes of this other thing. So. Because I…Well, never mind. I don’t need to do that.

Mom:
Well, it’s okay. What is it?

Me:
Well, there is this function that reverses the color. So, everything that is black turns to white and everything white goes to black. So, it is just reversed.

Mom:
Yeah?

Me:
And I was just going to…

Mom:
Do it.

Me:
Nah. I don’t want to.

Mom:
What’s two more minutes?

Me:
Well, two more minutes is two more minutes. I’ll just do a different view for a couple more minutes. But I think I have it the way I want it.

Mom:
Well, if you want nothing, you certainly have it.  [Laughs]

Me:
Yeah, well, that’s the…

Mom:
I am just saying…

Me:
…It’s more powerful than anything else.

Mom:
That’s what I mean. There’s nothing there. You are a perfect actress.

Me:
You’re stoic.

[Laughs]

Mom:
[Laughs]

You can hold the pose. Look how sad her little hands are.  Do you have her hands, how they’re all scrunched together.

Me:
Yeah.

Mom:
They go into the fetal…

Me:
It doesn’t look like it is relaxed though…

Mom:
No it isn’t. You cannot part her fingers, either.

Me:
Really? Do you know why that happens?

Mom:
No. Just part of the decay of the brain I guess.

Me:
Yeah, probably the parts that close and control.

Mom:
[Directed to my Grandmother]

Are you getting tired of this?

Me:
[Laughs]

She’s like, “get me back in my bed.” Almost done.

Mom:
Well, we will go down to your brother’s and have a scone and cup a coffee.

Me:
We are going to want a little bit more than that…It’s twenty to eleven?

Mom:
Yeah. We can go for breakfast someplace else and stop and get a latte on the way home.

Me:
Yeah, I would really like to get a latte or an iced coffee. I would also like to drink a big glass of water. I had so much caffeine yesterday. It was bad. I had a Maté. You know that thing you fill it up with the leaves and put the strainer-straw in it. I had, like, twenty of those yesterday. They’re little things, like an espresso shot, but I was shaking by the end of class. Then I had an energy drink on the way and those things are instant bad news, really.

Mom:
Yeah.

Me:
I don’t know why I did it, but when I was driving I thought it would be…

Mom:
Trying to stay awake?

Me:
No, not awake. Just wanted to get…like…

Mom:
Pumped up?

Me:
Yeah, pumped up to have a good drive, which was good for a while but then I just crashed.

Mom:
Yeah that’s the problem with that kind of stuff.

Me:
It is insane how….

Mom:
Well I got a few things for you to take back. I actually made cherry white chocolate scones.

Me:
Oh, wow! Nice.

Mom:
Well, I don’t know if they are any good or not.

Me:
Hopefully.

Mom:
I kept one for myself. I made five. I was like “what the hell!” Then I made you a three grain muffin.

Me:
Great. Those will be perfect for in the morning to switch up the breakfast cereal.

Mom:
It’s oatmeal, shredded wheat, and bran flakes, but they are not half bad. They’re really heavy…

Me:
I like dense…

Mom:
I do too…Then I made rhubarb bread and chocolate chip cookies for ████ because I know ████ likes chocolate chip cookies.

Me:
Yup, ████ definitely does.

Mom:
No nuts.

Me:
No nuts? Awesome.

Mom:
Yeah, because I know ████ doesn’t like nuts.

Me:
Well thanks Grandma…hmmm she went to sleep. Let’s get this last minute here. It’s fifty-two seconds…

fifty-three…

fifty-four…

fifty-five…

fifty-six…

fifty-seven…

Mom:
[Directed to my Grandmother]

Tired?

Me:
…fifty-eight…fifty-nine…

Mom:
[Directed to my Grandmother]

Ready to take a nap?

[End]

Endnotes:

I would like to thank my mother for her willingness to…

1. The dialogue originated out of a prior project I began in the spring of 2008. I had recorded my grandmother with the intent to use her static portrait (due to severe alzheimer’s disease) within an exhibition context. Years later, I discovered that an audio track was also unintentionally recorded and includes conversations with my mother whilst we sat behind the camera set up in front of my grandmother. What follows is an unedited transcript of this audio track. For me, this accidental presentation works less to illuminate the text, but, instead, and like the experience, linger alongside and haunt my ever-appearing sense of and confidence in intention.

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Darren Tesar (b.1984 USA, lives and works between USA and Taiwan). Tesar graduated with a BFA from the University of Wiscosin-Stout in 2008 and with a MFA from Glasgow School of Art in 2010. He currently works as Programme Director at FOGSTAND Gallery & Studios, Hualien, Taiwan. Recent activities include: fromming (Exhibition text for Death is the mother of beauty: Charles Matson Lume), New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, New York Mills, MN, 2015; Guest Curator: Absolving the Object: Kaifeng Chun, Richard Frater, Song-yun Kim, Latent Spaces, Singapore 2015; Time after Time, Market Gallery, Glasgow, UK, 2014; Nameless Forms, Latent Spaces, Singapore, 2014; Refining Commitment, XMS Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan, 2013; Reverential, published for the exhibition, Della Liquidezza Della Terra, Milan, Italy, 2013; Resident Artist at Seoul Art Space_Geumcheon, Seoul, South Korea 2013; Kneading/Needing, WOWHUH, Brooklyn, NY, USA, 2013; Writing Fellowship at Vermont Studio Centre, VT, USA, 2012.

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Title photograph by Flickr user Jon Callas.
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