Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Note on Farting

In a recent e-mail, someone noted that a student stated that there is a different between a real fart and a fake fart with such differences "proven scientifically". I giggled at the statement and then realized that perhaps such proven-ness should be called into question. So, here I write a note on farting.

What is the difference between a real fart and a fake fart, if such a difference actually exists? And if such a difference "actually" exists in what domain or "frame" does it exist?

There is clearly no difference in sound as I can produce a fake fart that sounds real with my arm pits or with my hands to my mouth OR I can just be silent...and say it was a "SBD" (Silent But Deadly)...I can also point to examples where a "real" fart is laughed off as being "fake" because it just sounds so "real" that a human could not have produced such perfection. One could close one's eyes and realize that it is rather difficult to tell the difference between real and fake, also perhaps illuminating how "realness" and "fakeness" play out differently with different abilities.

Ah, but you are saying, the smell Adam, its the smell that illustrates the difference between "real" and "fake" so to be educative we must take that on. But, alas I can sit next to a smelly person that "fake" farts but because of the context of being next to a smelly person the movement of arms to pits or hands to mouth send out a odorous smell miming or producing a fart-like smell. One in such a situation is left pondering was that "real" or "fake" and one probably realizes that he/she/ze just doesn't know.

So the distinction of "real" and "fake" makes no difference. One could combine the "sound" and the "smell" factors to say make a "fake" fart with one's arms to pits and spray "fake" fart smell from a bottle bought at a joke store and produce a sound/smell that creates the same consequences as a said "real" fart, once again making no difference in effect.

But, as a scientist friend pointed out...a fart is determined by the escape of gas from the...well you know what differentiates a real fart from a fake fart is that escape of gas. This scientific distinction made me realize then that the issue of farting and its authenticity is dependent on the frame by which one thinks about the "fart". One can as a scientist study a fart and say that there is a distinction between "real" and "fake" based on the evidence that has been collected, verified, and used to create the intelligibility of the fart as something that emerges out of a particular oriface of the body. Or, one could look at the issue from a different frame where the fart can be explored historically - how did the fart as something that provokes "disgust" or "laughter" emerge? Why has something that is seemingly natural been imbued with such significance? It is perhaps here that the distinction between "fake" and "real" become unimportant or problematic because the consequences of the "fart" (real or fake) do not produce different reactions, but depending on the space/time of the fart produce laughter or disgust or both simultaneously.

We see then that issues of "real" and "fake" even with the fart are perhaps rather complicated as such issues are dependent on which frame one looks at the issues through. Science may need to make such distinctions between "real" and "fake" while other frame may see such distinctions as problematic because such distinctions allow for different, perhaps hierarchies to emerge.

I leave this note then with a clip from Zizek and his engagement with the Ideology of Toilets which seems fitting with the present topic.