Zavod Sploh

Primož Čučnik: A Few Disconnected Thoughts about Farting

(Upon the vinyl record release)

Farting is not a criminal offence (like spitting in public places can sometimes be) and it also cannot be taxed. Society does not control farting, while the resulting stink is unpleasant for fellow human beings and perhaps harmful to the environment. Farting is hard to trace and as many who have tried to catch and document this sudden sound coming out of their ass have found, it is also hard to capture. The best farts are characterised by the fact that, despite their vague announcement from the lower parts of our intestines, they are difficult to predict and are also elusive, it is hard to actually control them and they like to slip out.   

The reason why society has not regulated farting yet is that farting is first and foremost a private matter that we are publically ashamed of, whereby we support the saying about the fearful ass not daring to joyfully fart in company. For the ‘offence’ of farting in public, we do have an apology in the exclamation ‘first health, then culture’, but, for most people, public shouting is also an object of unease rather than that of joyous preaching. The cause of our reservation is probably the loud sound accompanying the act, so its sonic aspect. If we have an open family relationship, then, at home, for example, we can fart all we like without hiding it, while laughing at its smelly consequences, to which we are forgiving. In the private sense and in the circle of our loved ones, farting can be a happy event that releases tensions and connects us. Why then does the same sound made in public, among strangers, cause the farter nightmares, which, instead of in a direct and happy expression, are manifested in unease, holding back, painful awkwardness, social fear and mimicry? Farting is the litmus test of social anxiety, for, in a noisy, infuriated crowd, we can fart all we like and nobody will hear us, while the smell will not be traceable due to the great number of people. Metaphorically speaking, it is precisely the noisy and infuriated crowd that points to the negative aspect of farting, as it leaves behind a smell without an origin, acts clandestinely and cannot predict the consequences of its provoking actions, which sometimes elicit repression. Thereupon, if we put it allegorically, a fight breaks out between the people and the police over the right to fart freely, with the people getting the short end of the stick, at least in the short term. The victories of farts in society are comparable to the (un)successfulness of social revolutions; the latter are often announced, but rarely succeed. The positive aspect of farting can thus be represented only by an individual who knows how to secure himself a space that is quiet enough for the fart to be heard. A fart requires a dogged intellectual such as the old Diogenes of Sinope.

Farting and its philosophy must be placed in the organic part of the human ‘being-in-the-world’. A fart is a shot out of the rear part of the human body, while a thought is a discharge of the ‘pure’ human spirit. In his Critique of Cynical Reason, whose title already smilingly pays tribute to Kant, Peter Sloterdijk placed the fart in the physiognomic main text between the stuck out tongue, smiling mouth, proud breasts and things related to the ass. He characterised the ass as the beggar among body parts, which languishes in the dark, and compared it to the idiot in the family. That is where the most mirthful and inspired family stories are born, that is, if the ass is relaxed and not ashamed of its music of course. The plebeianness of the ass, so the working-class moment of its antic nature, does not need any special emphasis. The ass drinks ordinary beer, it does not order craft products. In relation to its sonic aspect, it easily overcomes all the above afflictions and anxieties. A contemporary Diogenes stands in the middle of a square and joyfully, without any shame, farts into a microphone. Cynical gestures are replaced by a sonic kynicism of farts and poots, which are piping, puffing, thundering, echoing, quiet, pooting, blowing… But the irony is that the ass also emits shit and other refuse and that the genitals are related both to birth and the discharge of urine. Or that is not irony at all, but belongs to the catalogue of various anal cacophonies. Let us see what Sloterdijk (2001, 150) says in his short section on farts: “To speak of the fart is not difficult insofar as it represents a sound that always means something in social situations. Witnesses of a fart inevitably interpret the sound. [...] The scale of meaning stretches from awkwardness to contempt, from humorous intentions to lack of respect.” Trying to stifle a fart during a public appearance, in a quiet public space or important company, means a severe form of self-denial, which always happens against the backdrop of our memory of experiencing the beauty of a morning fart in the quiet and the solitude of a garden or a balcony when the entire night is released in a spontaneous greeting sound of the new day. Thus, the public is expressed with all the power of an unrepressed privacy. The fart is – by now we can say as much – the privilege of actors, lunatics or poets, whom the philosopher takes as his inspiration. Farting during writing – what a stimulus to thought and what an incentive for inaudible imagination. The consequences of intestinal functioning on the spelling of the spirit are of an eliminative nature. The fart is an expression of the necessity of existence. Toxins and refuse must get out of the body. Thought must get out of the spirit.

“Semiotically, we assign the fart to the group of signals, that is, of signs, which neither symbolize nor depict something but rather point to a situation. [...] The fart conceived as a signal shows that the lower body is in full action, and in situations where any reference to such regions is absolutely undesirable, this can have fatal consequences.” (ibid.) Farts should thus be musically categorised as organic symphonies, found sounds. Recording farts means collecting material proofs of the sonority of the body in action. The consequences of such symphonies are, precisely due to the suppressed nature of the act itself, which in most people arouses shame, quite unresearched. A historical insight into this topic would be necessary, but I do not have time to tackle it here. If we listen to a composition created from ‘fartestifying’ (the testifying of farts) as a sound installation or a recording on a record, we cannot fault it with anything. We could, of course, imagine a live performance in which the musicians would use their asses instead of instruments or, better yet, play the farts with their mouths or horns and trombones. That would be a first-rate experience within high culture, but no composer so far has dared write it on the staves, as they would doubtlessly meet with the resistance of most orchestra members. This is another proof of how farting can point to the underground of the psyche and reveal a broader social problem, which cannot be dismissed by simply advocating farting as a private and solitary act of the stomach, the intestine and the ass. Let us be open to the possibility that, one day, such a composition could be accepted and understood as an expression of the end of dualism, as a representation of the humorous and, at the same time, no less serious connection between our body and spirit.   

Despite our reservations, the fart is an eternal democrat, which will not fall for the trap of current opinion and does not care for secondary characteristics, colour, gender, age and this or that power. Despite its humorous substance, it is a tragic hero of democracy. Only lunatics can fart; farting does not befit kings. Lunatics must fart for themselves and at the same time also for the kings. The lunatic is the king’s ass in the metaphorical sense. The lunatic has to be represented and used for humoristic and also humanistic purposes. The contemporary world is a world of noisy non-listening, while the fart demands that one is concentrated on listening in silence, in which it obtains its true meaning. To make space for a fart means to create an environment for one’s internal world, which is expressed in all its unrepressed beauty and diversity. That is perhaps the world of provocation, a sort of a flipped middle finger, which signals that we are not done with the cynicism of party politics and wars, but are on the right path if we become aware of that and are prepared, in case we smell something foul, to fart back without any reservations.

Sloterdijk, Peter. 2001. Critique of Cynical Reason. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Translated by Maja Lovrenov

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