Travels Inside the Archive
New & Selected Work
1977 - 2007
The Age of Briggs & Stratton
Translated from the French by Genevieve James & Raymond Federman
Trees of Death, The Tree of Life
Trees of Death
I barely dream more than once or twice a year, my nights are dark, my days full of meaning, I only dream in the middle of the day, I dream by trade, laborer, artisan, goldsmith. However one rare night, I did dream I was in a forest, it was, I recall, in India, I was walking amidst gigantic trees and suddenly I found myself in front of an enormous tree trunk. It divided its space in all directions, each branch, each ramification ending with an animal, a lion, a bear or a leopard. That single tree was in itself a forest of tigers, giraffes, pandas and wolves. There were many wild beasts, all very mighty and powerful. Each tree limb sprouted forth to become the backbone of an animal. Each moved a little, while remaining linked, since its body, from the bottom or from the back, identified with the timber of the tree. It was terrifying, hideous like Medusa's head bristling with snakes, the entire hair of this fleshy flaming bush bustled, contorted and growled. Noah's complete Ark as vegetation came out from the earth upon the spine of that trunk. It was terrifying but very gentle. Richness, satisfaction and plenitude emanated from this plant, it overwhelmed me. Even the wild beasts arched their backs. It seems to me I always knew wood was made of flesh, and if branches did bifurcate, flesh had to change its species. This multiple assemblage of regulated madness gave me rapture, a great peaceful rejoicing. I never forgot that tree, that glowing reproductive bouquet of life. That great animal plant is the tree of the species. It is the tree of life, perhaps I found the tree of knowledge.
Beyond the Pale
Starlight and ShadowStarlight and Shadow [pdf]
The problems that you have are exactly what you need, said my friend, standing under the cold winter
starlight, speaking of his own life, and I did not understand him.
I stand apart from yet do not wish to stand apart from what I do not understand. All those things that
are on the other side.
I send things across to the other side on the understanding no one may be there and in the hope
someone will be there.
I take nothing for granted and am grateful when something comes across from the other side and am
never tempted to take anything that comes for granted.
I want the light never to be differentiated from the not-light and I understand that what I want has
nothing to do with what is going to happen.
Tonight I hobbled out to do physical therapy downtown. The block where the place is located is the
worst block in a town noted for its violence. I always limp in fear as I approach. Tonight there were
sirens, flashing lights and cops running around in the street as I turned the corner to that block. Police
cars were roaring up, slamming on brakes, policemen jumping out with weapons. Voices on
loudspeakers, paramedics. Ambulances, fire trucks. As I hurried along I passed a glass front office
building that should have been closed. Inside police were constraining a young man who was bleeding
profusely from his face and body. I noticed that the street was slick with what I had thought to be
puddles left by the heavy rains. In the bright lights from the police headlights, however, I now saw
that the puddles were dark red pools of blood.
I don't know if I can remember the way things were before I began to remember how things are and I
understand that I do not understand this.
(Here in the shadow.)
by Tom Clark
the thirty-second release in the Ahadada Books Online Chapbook series
12 or 20 (small press) questions: Jenna Butler on Rubicon Press
Form-of-Life: Giorgio Agamben, Ontology and Politics [pdf]
Theory & Event - Volume 13, Issue 1, 2010
Form-of-Life: Giorgio Agamben, Ontology and Politics
Richard Bailey, Daniel McLoughlin and Jessica Whyte
In the years following its publication, Agamben's claim that the concentration camp is paradigmatic for contemporary politics was taken up by sociologists, geographers, legal theorists and political scientists, who used it to analyse everything from migrant detention centres to humanitarian camps. By 2002, when then US President George W. Bush, echoing Fukuyama, told a military academy gathering that "the 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress," the proliferating wars and draconian emergency regimes in place in many liberal states made it more difficult to view this as cause for optimism. By 2005, when State of Exception was published in the midst of the "War on Terror"—which saw the declaration of a state of emergency, the suspension of a host of basic rights and the utilisation of Guantanamo Bay as an interrogation camp in which so-called enemy combatants were placed outside the reach of the US court system—Agamben's analysis of our time seemed disturbingly prescient._______________________
The reception of Homo Sacer was undeniably bound up with these events, which seemed to confirm its central theses. The immediate descriptive value of Agamben's thought was, however, double-edged. While the political prescience of the work led to enormous interest from across a range of disciplines, it also tended to obscure the underlying philosophical claims about the nature of Western politics and metaphysics that provide the horizon of intelligibility for his more provocative arguments. Homo Sacer not only took aim at the proliferation of camps and exception in contemporary politics, but identified them as symptomatic of a profound dysfunction in the architecture of the political and philosophical architecture of modernity. For Agamben, the categories and institutions that we have inherited from our political tradition have been emptied of their meaning by contemporary biopolitics, and yet continue to live a spectral afterlife through their hold on our political imagination. Contemporary politics demands both a diagnosis of the nature and structure of the new nomos in which we live, and the radical renewal of the categories of political thought.
The motivation for this symposium was to examine the continuing relevance of Agamben's Homo Sacer beyond the particular political moment in which it was initially received, and to contribute to working through its underlying philosophical and political claims, and its implications for political praxis. We solicited contributions under the subtitle "Giorgio Agamben, Ontology, Politics," and it is through the constellation that many of its contributors rethink Agamben's political philosophy, in light of his critique of Western metaphysics, and his contribution to a new ontology of potentiality.
The Ship of Fools Scrapbook
Ekleksographia: Wave Two: William Blake and the Naked Tea Party
edited by Philip Davenport
an exercise in asymmetrical publishing, and is a shoe (or even two!) thrown at the spotlit shrug and yawn.
b. March 31, 1936
Selected Poetry of Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy at The Poetry Foundation
That afternoon the dream of the toads
rang through the elms by Little River
and affected the thoughts of men,
though they were not conscious that
they heard it.--Henry Thoreau
The dream of toads: we rarely
credit what we consider lesser
life with emotions big as ours,
but we are easily distracted,
abstracted. People sit nibbling
before television's flicker watching
ghosts chase balls and each other
while the skunk is out risking grisly
death to cross the highway to mate;
while the fox scales the wire fence
where it knows the shotgun lurks
to taste the sweet blood of a hen.
Birds are greedy little bombs
bursting to give voice to appetite.
I had a cat who died of love.
Dogs trail their masters across con-
tinents. We are far too busy
to be starkly simple in passion.
We will never dream the intense
wet spring lust of the toads.
Theatre of War
"This is definitely not your ordinary war photography — and the double entendre of the title hints at the multiple layers of meaning embedded in this seemingly mundane video."
Since I'm Island-born home's as precise
as if a mumbly old carpenter,
shoulder-straps crossed wrong,
laid it out, refigured
to the last three-eighths of shingle.
Nowhere that plowcut worms
heal themselves in red loam;
spruces squat, skirts in sand
or the stones of a river rattle its dark
tunnel under the elms,
is there a spot not measured by hands;
no direction I couldn't walk
to the wave-lined edge of home.
Quiet shores -- beaches that roar
but walk two thousand paces and the sea
becomes an odd shining
glimpse among the jeweled
zigzag low hills. Any wonder
your eyelashes are wings
to fly your look both in and out?
In the coves of the land all things are discussed.
In the ranged jaws of the Gulf,
a red tongue.
Indians say a musical God
took up his brush and painted it,
named it in His own language
(March 30, 1923 – August 20, 1986)
Milton Acorn: in love and anger
More Poems for People
On Milton Acorn
Poetry Is Dead is working with Geist magazine on the Jackpine Sonnet Contest. Milton Acorn, who coined the Jackpine Sonnet, has left behind him a legacy in form. Poetry Is Dead met up with Acorn’s longtime friend and fellow poet James Deahl to talk more about his work and what he left behind.
Dorothy Livesay And Milton Acorn
There is no doubt that More Poems For People is not as organized or as tightly written as Livesay's Poems for People, but what it lacks in organization and compactness, it makes up in political passion and probing love poems. Both Livesay and Acorn longed to speak to the people of Canada. Acorn did this in a more focused and political manner. Livesay did this in a more elusive, inviting and evocative manner. Both Livesay and Acorn are poets of the people, and both poets speak in a way that is accessible and vivid with the perennial themes of the human journey.
The Idea of a Poem: an Interview with Milton Acorn
Acorn was very much indebted to the vision of Livesay, and those who follow in the tracks of Acorn and Livesay stand in a noble Canadian line and lineage. There were those like Ken Leslie, Archibald Lampman and Alexander McLachlan before them. There are those like Robin Mathews, Ted Plantos, Marya Fiamengo and James Deahl who follow them. May the tradition of Canadian political poetry ever thrive and flourish. May it also be given much more time, place, and public attention.
by Jon Pearce
The Natural History of Elephants
In the elephant's five-pound brain
Poems are composed as a silent substitute for laughter,
His thoughts while resting in the shade
Are long and solemn as novels and he knows his companions
By names differing for each quality of morning.
Noon and evening are ruminated on and each overlaid
With the taste of night. He loves his horny perambulating hide
As other tribes love their houses, and remembers
He's left flakes of skin and his smell
As a sign and permanent stamp on wherever he has been.
In the elephant's five-pound brain
The entire Oxford dictionary'ld be too small
To contain all the concepts which after all are too weighty
Each individually ever to be mentioned;
Thus of course the beast has no language
Only an eternal pondering hesitation.
In the elephant's five-pound brain
Death is accorded no belief and old friends
Are continually expected, patience
Is longer than the lives of glaciers and the centuries
Are rattled like toy drums. A life is planned
Like a brushstroke on the canvas of eternity,
And the beginning of a damnation is handled
With great thought as to its middle and its end.
The Rage Is Not About Health Care
That a tsunami of anger is gathering today is illogical, given that what the right calls “Obamacare” is less provocative than either the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Medicare, an epic entitlement that actually did precipitate a government takeover of a sizable chunk of American health care. But the explanation is plain: the health care bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. The real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964. (....)_______________________
If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.
They can’t. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress.
Loren Webster finds the times suitable for a re-reading of Eric Hoffer's The True Believer
Ratzinger is the perfect pope
As the College of Cardinals must have recognized when they elected him, he is perfectly - ideally - qualified to lead the Roman Catholic Church. A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence: in short, exactly the right man for the job. He should not resign, moreover, because he is perfectly positioned to accelerate the downfall of the evil, corrupt organization whose character he fits like a glove, and of which he is the absolute and historically appropriate monarch.
No, Pope Ratzinger should not resign. He should remain in charge of the whole rotten edifice - the whole profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution - while it tumbles, amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins, about his ears.
Hands of a Cellist
Transformations Through Light
Helmar Lerski (1871-1956)
March 19 - June 25, 2010
via gmtPlus9 (-15)
a short film on Lerski's portraits
Draft 104: The Book [pdf]
Rachel Blau DuPlessis
There is no actual “the book,” but it does exist.
The book withdraws into itself.
A book flakes, sometimes. Spins, spouts, charges, sputters.
Opening yod, its little eye, the book is awake.
The book, traveling backward, holds a smaller book, which it is reading.
A book is, however, an acceleration, or causes one.
“A” might turn into “The” book.
Only some books turn.
A door is a hinge. A book is another.
Opening a book is like tripping over a threshold.
A book is one gloss of the book.
Another book shines in the distance.
The book is the ledger of its whole account.
Every word adds up the word that never was.
Sometimes in a book, even with letters properly spaced, one finds a white rift open down
And inside every letter is a tiny dark book.
Sometimes the book falls from your hands. You have entered into its dream; it seems to
It’s about time you talked about the book. When you come
to think of it.
One dark line down the page is not a book. But it could suggest you begin one.
A book is the goal, but not just any book.
Canadian Political Poets: Milton Acorn And Robin Mathews
Knowing I Live in a Dark Age
Knowing I live in a dark age before history,
I watch my wallet and
am less struck by gunfights in the avenues
than by the newsie with his dirty pink chapped face
calling a shabby poet back for his change.
The crows mobbing the blinking, sun-stupid owl;
wolves eating a hamstrung calf hind end first
keeping their meat alive and fresh...these
are marks of foresight, beginnings of wit;
but Jesus wearing thorns and sunstroke
beating his life and death into words
to break the rods and blunt the axes of Rome:
this and like things followed.
Knowing that in this advertising rainbow
I live like a trapeze artist with a headache,
my poems are no aspirins...they show
pale bayonets of grass waving thin on dunes;
the paralytic and his lyric secrets;
my friend Al, union builder and cynic,
hesitating to believe his own delicate poems
lest he believe in something better than himself:
and history, which is yet to begin,
will exceed this, exalt this
as a poem erases and rewrites its poet.
Ron Dart _______________________
Poetry Is Dead
Issue 1: Birth/ Rebirth
Poetry Is Dead: What the hell happened?
Poetry books in Canada today sell around 300 to 500 copies on average. A huge success sells around a thousand copies or more. The stats get worse: In 1999 close to 1,000 poetry titles were printed every year, two years later that number dropped to around 600. And past 2001 poetry is simply slotted in the “arts” category, which isn’t doing so well either. Poetry books are given less and less space on bookstore shelves, and so naturally less are being produced. The last time you asked a sales clerk at Chapters for the poetry section, he giggled. Not only is poetry getting squished out of the publishing world, it is allocated less space in popular magazines and literary journals.
Let’s face facts: poetry is dead.
So why did it die?
The stools huddled together,
for another one of his incoherent solo poetry slams.
"It's lonely in the modern world"
Unhappy Hipsters and the deadpan aesthic_______________________
In Defense of a Grey Ecology: Think Biospherically, Act Ecosystematically
Anthony Paul Smith
My point of locating the city at “the centre” of a new ecological policy for reorganizing society along eco-political lines could be better described as an attempt to place human beings in an ecosystem where they will thrive and be less destructive to the wider biosphere. The point is often brought up by neo-agrarians that we’re “disconnected” from our food. I agree and I think most reasonable people presented with the brute facts of food production in the first world will have to agree. The answer to this problem is not some kind of individual piety, where individuals grieve over their inauthenticity within the food web, but an unconscious piety, a directing of attention that “just happens”. The model I take here, following and extending Philip Goodchild, is that of money. Money directs attention for us unconsciously, it values for us (somewhat like the the Buddhist allows the prayer wheel to believe for them or the “bad faith” Catholic allows the liturgy to do the same in a different context). There is a political response that will finally be successful and would constitute a radical change from the current capitalist determination of ideological green thinking (meaning the ways businesses have responded to militant greens, rather than the ideology pursued by the militant greens themselves) and that political response is to remove the false choice between ecologically viable and ecologically destructive forms of life. Freedom is here the ability to choose one path, rather than to choose between an infinity of paths (as a friend tells me Sartre says). This is also why I ultimately disagree with Adam’s Paulist nihilism of hospitality. The political act of a cold vegetarian/vegan (as opposed to the “authentic” vegetarian or eater of “happy-meat”) is to show that one can choose this path without regard for personal feelings. One simply does it because it is just, even if it is ultimately weak, without trying to convert the meat-eater or holding their “righteousness” over the others.
In Defense of a Grey Ecology: The Amphibology of the Greenest Green and the Blackest Black
Anthony Paul Smith
Interview with Wendy Brown
Broken Power Lines
CPS: You have argued, speaking of neoliberalism, you have argued that neoliberalism does not simply promote economic policies but to quote you “disseminates market values into every sphere of human activity.” What distinguishes your perspective here from the despair found in someone like Adorno? What would it require to translate the despair that many people experience in very personal and de-politicized ways into a form of political mobilization?
Broken Power Lines :
Wendy Brown: That is an interesting question because it assumes that neoliberalism produces despair. I wish it did but I am not convinced that it does. I think that the process that some of us have called neoliberalization actually seizes on something that is just a little to one side of despair that I might call something like a quotidian nihilism. By quotidian, I mean it is a nihilism that is not lived as despair; it is a nihilism that is not lived as an occasion for deep anxiety or misery about the vanishing of meaning from the human world. Instead, what neoliberalism is able to seize upon is the extent to which human beings experience a kind of directionlessness and pointlessness to life that neoliberalism in an odd way provides. It tells you what you should do: you should understand yourself as a spec of human capital, which needs to appreciate its own value by making proper choices and investing in proper things. Those things can range from choice of a mate, to choice of an educational institution, to choice of a job, to choice of actual monetary investments – but neoliberalism without providing meaning provides direction. In a sad way it is seizing upon a certain directionlessness and meaninglessness in late modernity. Again, I am talking mainly about the Euro-Atlantic world: without providing meaning, it provides direction. So I think it is quite a different order of things from the one that Adorno was describing.
CPS: You mention the Tea Party. What exactly do you think the Tea Party is a symptom of, and is there any way to harness this kind of populism to a more progressive agenda?
Wendy Brown: I think a lot of us are very new to figuring out what the Tea Party is and is a symptom of – so I am not quite ready to commit on that subject. I am just reading the same New York Times articles that everybody else is and trying to get the hang of it. Clearly, it is polyglot. Clearly, there are a lot of different political dissatisfactions that are being harnessed by what for the moment is a single movement but doesn’t necessarily look like it will stay unified. That said, I think one thing that one can see in the Tea Party political attachments, if that is what they are, is a sense of deep frustration with a state that cannot solve political, economic or social problems. I am especially struck by the number of Obama supporters – let’s put it this way, Obama voters – who now identify themselves with the Tea Party movement. They haven’t even necessarily turned against Obama but they are clearly frustrated by an economy out of control, by the absolute scandal of bailed out big banks and big corporations, by the extreme inequalities in income that seem incommensurable with the old principle of hard work and reward. Obviously, that kind of dissatisfaction and anger could be captured by left as well as by right. I am not even convinced that it makes sense to see the Tea Party movement as right. It is taking all kinds of reactionary positions, but I am not convinced that everybody attracted to it has the desire to be or will be, in some permanent way, a card-carrying member of what is being characterized as right-wing extremism. I think that the very kinds of dissatisfactions that many left liberals feel with a state unwilling to actually dominate the corporations that have it over a barrel, and the finance capital that has it over a barrel, are shared by Tea Party types. Yes, I think there is exploitable material there. That said, one of the really painful things that the Tea Party movement also reveals is what it means to have disinvested in education in this country. There is just an extraordinary amount of political ignorance and fantasy in what I’ve seen as some of the leading Tea Party analyses and positions. It’s not that fantasy and ignorance are new to politics, but you can really see what it means to have given up on having an educated citizenry in this country. It is not just that the facts are wrong but the ability to make arguments and analyze what are admittedly complex situations is just woefully missing in a lot of what you hear in Tea Party formulations. That is true on the left too, so we’re in a very serious crisis of knowledge and education in this country, and I do worry that our concern to try to figure out how to mobilize discontent, despair, and resentment for the left rather than the right probably doesn’t take the measure of what is needed in the domain of education.
This blog is devoted to how power never functions as intended
via Horner's Corner
Bird Men and Pots
b. March 29, 1905
Macabre visions of a true eccentric
Sue Hubbard on Edward Burra
I hear GOP folks and Tea Partiers bemoaning the fact that media and Democrats are using the extremes of their movement for ratings and to score points. This is like Drew Brees complaining that Dwight Freeney keeps trying to sack him. If that were Martin Luther King's response to media coverage, the South might still be segregated. I exaggerate, but my point is that the whining reflects a basic misunderstanding of the rules of protest. When you lead a protest you lead it, you own it, and your opponents, and the media, will hold you responsible for whatever happens in the course of that protest. This isn't left-wing bias, it's the nature of the threat.
There is of course a deeper question about the limits of strategy. It's possible that if the Tea Partiers cleaned up their ranks--purged the birthers, publicly rebuked people like this guy, banned Hitler signs, loudly rejected any instances of racism--that they simply wouldn't have much of a movement left. Martin Luther King was trying to lead a black community that was demonstrably patriotic, and had, in the main, rejected political violence as a strategy. He could afford to be picky. In the case of the Tea Parties, it's possible that once you subtract the jackasses, you just don't have enough energy left.
Ta-Nehisi Coates (Atlantic)
The frightening face of American fascism
All that has changed. As US writer Sara Robinson said in her excellent article, Fascist America: Are we there yet? when elements of the right-wing political elite begin to wink and nod at grass roots violence, or actually encourage it, you have the beginnings of fascism. The tea partiers, some of whom brought guns to rallies outside Obama appearances, are reminding a lot of people of the Nazi Brown Shirts. They haven’t started shooting yet – but I expect someone in Germany brought guns before they fired them, too.
Fascist America: Are We There Yet?
Whose Country Is It?
The far-right extremist groups are on a collision course with demographics. And the future scares them.
Charles M. Blow
Virtual idiots to fake march on Washington
Welcome to Glenn Beck's World: What If the Tea Partiers Ruled the Country?
Imagine a land where white, patriarchal, religiously zealous, Tea Party-type patriots rule. It's called Utah, and what happens here should terrify you.
Why Do Anti-Government Tea Partiers Love Government Handouts?
At the art opening,
he'd been convinced the blank canvas symbolized endless possibilities.
Back at home,
it was just one more reminder of his own desperation.
The Gaze of Orpheus & The Essential Solitude
From “The Gaze of Orpheus and other literary essays.” Maurice Blanchot. 1943. Translated by Lydia Davis. 1981.
Paralax 2009 Vol. 15 No. 3
Special Issue on Jacques Ranciere
A Body on the Gears: On Mario Savio
a review of Freedom's Orator: Mario Savio and the Radical Legacy of the 1960s by Robert Cohen
Krapp's Last Tape
There is No Night
Jack Butler Yeats
d. 28 March 1957
Paul Virilio / Sylvere Lotringer
Translated by Mike Taormina
As the oxymoron in the title of this book indicates, there’s something deeply ambivalent about Virilio’s work and it is impossible to shrug it away in any simple way. Actually this ambivalence deserves to be looked at more closely: it is so thoroughly embedded in his writing (or, alternatively, in the nature of his enquiry) that most of his readers will be shocked again and again to realize that this prodigious prophet of speed, undoubtedly the most important thinker of technology since Martin Heidegger, actually hates technology with a passion. And yet passion there is, possibly stronger even than hate, and so infectious that this absolute rejection of technology could also be experienced as a form of love, or devotion. In any case, it is a very powerful bond, and he certainly couldn’t have done what he did without it. Virilio’s world is a crepuscular one, but so flamboyant and poetic that it could easily be mistaken for a new dawn._______________________
Street Haunting: A London Adventure
... here we must stop peremptorily. We are in danger of digging deeper than the eye approves; we are impeding our passage down the smooth stream by catching at some branch or root. At any moment, the sleeping army may stir itself and wake in us a thousand violins and trumpets in response; the army of human beings may rouse itself and assert all its oddities and sufferings and sordidities. Let us dally a little longer, be content still with surfaces only—the glossy brilliance of the motor omnibuses; the carnal splendour of the butchers’ shops with their yellow flanks and purple steaks; the blue and red bunches of flowers burning so bravely through the plate glass of the florists’ windows.
embraces the Ouse near Monks House
28 March 1941
inventing the pain of others
ads without products comments on David Foster Wallace's Kenyon Commencement Speech - 2005
One of the basic ethico-political use-values of literature has ostensibly been that it allows us access into the lives and minds of others - that we learn empathy and understanding through these experiments in otherness. Well and good. But there is something troubling about this basic value that comes across in Wallace’s address. No matter how hard it tries, literature kicks against the representation of others in their average everydayness, in their quotidian normality. It loves to take its quarry on the worst day of its life, the days of dramatic action and traumatic suffering. It definitely not that it’s impossible to write otherwise, but that’s the way the gradient runs and resistance to the affectual mandates implicit in the form leaves the work haunted by what’s not there. Is this normal day actually the worst day? (Think for instance of Mrs. Dalloway, which plays out this haunting quite literally…) Like the depressive logic of Wallace’s after-work drive to the supermarket, even the seemingly ordinary is luridly tinged by what we might call literature’s all-encompassing tendency to crisis.
Whatever the life-logic advocated in the commencement speech, Wallace’s wider work of course displays a disturbingly deep awareness of this very problem. While it may be overly-broad and somewhat self-indulgent to think so, what the speech nonetheless communicates is a basic incompatibility (or is it an over-compatibility?) of the literary perspective and a healthily coherent personal perspective on life.
The Two Travellers
Jack Butler Yeats
The Party of Cruelty
James Howard Kunstler
It was amusing to see the Republican party inveigh against health insurance reform as if they were a synod of Presbyterian necromancers girding the nation for a takeover by the spawn of hell. This was the same gang, by the way, who championed the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, then regarded as the most reckless giveaway of public funds in human history. Along the way, they enlisted an army of nay-sayers representing everything dark, disgraceful, and ignorant in the American character. If the Republicans keep going this way, they'll end up with something worse than Naziism: a party that hates everything but believes in absolutely nothing.
Frum Hard Turn Left
David Frum has decided to reinvent himself as an African-American liberal.
After being fired from his cushy sinecure at The American Enterprise Institute for daring to question right wing dogma on public health care policy, David Frum has decided to reinvent himself as an African-American liberal.URNews.ca
Frum will embrace such loony liberal views as compulsory homosexuality in the military, marijuana recess programs in schools, equal time for Satanism, Income Tax and Tofurkey.
“I saw David, or D-Boy F as he is now calling himself, yesterday and he seemed to be handling the transition well. He had gone to a European film in the afternoon, had a few espressos and even bought a second-hand book, a novel,” said a friend who wished to remain anonymous. “There was a little slip when he freaked at this homeless lady, telling her to get a job, but otherwise he seems to have changed lanes pretty well. He is taking saxophone lessons. He’s gone from the Think Tank to a Pink Tank.”
On the Web. On Your Mind.
"Canada’s The Onion?"
Interview with Theodore Enslin
Scale in the Woods
Leisure tam, a cut of wood, timbere in these woods, a tone
of many tones, of tones timber cut in these woods leisurely sound a
lesion in sound in wood told as a wedge on wedge one cut above
another whet of the saw timbere as pile piled on wood, likeness
and not alike, no lesion in the act, the act of the lesion opened less
in the wound that opens leaves itself a lesion, long after timbere,
sticky pile is gone.
Robert J. Bertholf
If you think harmonically, you think vertically. And you do not really make the connections. If you think contrapuntally, it is a question of voice leading. That is in every part of the composition, not simply the melodic line, but the other contributory lines. You are making the constant progression. I would say that was very difficult for me to assimilate at the beginning. As I became better at it, I was not writing anything I would save, but I began to hear that way. And I think that I do hear that way now. That certainly is very important.
(b. March 25, 1925)
Niedecker Conference Photos
October 9-11, 2003
Theodore Enslin books
The Weather Within
In Memory In Homage
Not the symbol we are in need
deep need of scene not what stands
for it. We are fed the importance
of metaphor yet when it's exact
it is the scene itself exact
to that day we need to bring
an axe against the root of the tree.
We need not reach for synonyms.
The blade's the blade.
The St. James Entrance
To One Of Nearly A Dozen
Levels Of Book Stacks
London Library Lightens Up
The London Library bills itself as "a university library for people who are no longer at university." It is the largest independent lending library in the world, with over one million books and periodicals housed on some 15 miles of open-access shelves. Over 95% of the collection may be freely browsed, and 97% is available for loan. The central tenet of the library is that since "books are never entirely superseded, and therefore never redundant, the collections should not be weeded of material merely because it is old, idiosyncratic or unfashionable: except in the case of exact duplication, almost nothing has ever been discarded from the library's shelves." This has resulted in a library chock-full of books, ten floors of them and growing, with another half-mile of shelving required every three years. And all of this in a library that has been located in the same London townhouse on posh St. James Square since 1845.
To Build A Cathedral [pdf]
It is needful to return with caution
to return to not to revise not wisely
a matter of re vision
Bruckner listened not always wisely
to those who would mend what they found faulty
incongruous unsafe often they were wrong
the builder listened at peril building
on ledge that appeared and then vanished
through drought and the drowning
Needful in return to go quickly
to the structure itself and wonder
how it could come to be.
The cathedral is never finished.
as a sheltering is never finished
it is a structure incomplete
wards off the rain and yet the rain seeps in
the structure rises and obscures what was open
sheltering a view arcane a beginning
seems to be is not complete
pediment to spout a gargoyle
to divert the rain and still seeps in
via Mrs. Deane
Cadence, Country, Silence: Writing in Colonial Space
The first mark of words, as you began to re-hear them in this empty civil space, was a blur of unachieved meaning. That much I knew already. But the oppressiveness started to change, for I could sense something more.
Where I lived, a whole swarm of inarticulate meanings lunged, clawed, drifted, eddied, sprawled in half-grasped disarray beneath the tidy meaning which the simplest word brought with it from England and the States. "City": once you learned to accept the featureless character of that word —responding to it as a Canadian noun, with its absence of native connotation — you were dimly savaged by the live, inchoate meanings trying to surface through it. The whole tangle and Sisyphean problematic of people's existing here, from the time of the coureurs de bois to the present day, came struggling to be included in "city." Cooped up beneath the familiar surface of the word as we use it (city as Paris, London, New York) — and cooped up further down still, beneath the blank and blur you heard when you sought some received indigenous meaning — listening all the way down, you began to overhear the lives of millions of men and women who went their particular ways here, whose roots and legacy come together in the cities we live in. Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver: "city" meant something still unspoken, but rampant with energy. Hearing it was like watching the contours of an unexpected continent declare themselves through the familiar lawns and faces of your block.
Though that again is hindsight. You heard an energy, and those lives were part of it. Under the surface alienation of our words, and under the second-level silence, there was a living barrage of meaning. Private, civil, religious — unclassifiable, finally, but teeming to be uttered. And I felt that press of meaning. I had no idea what it was, but I could sense it swarming toward words.
And buoyed by that energy, I started to write again.
Wheelbarrow with Flower Pots
b. March 27, 1879
Idols and False Notions
The idols of the den are those of each individual; for everybody (in addition to the errors common to the race of man) has his own individual den or cavern, which intercepts and corrupts the light of nature, either from his own peculiar and singular disposition, or from his education and intercourse with others, or from his reading and the authority acquired by those whom he reverences and admires, or from the different impressions produced on the mind, as it happens to be preoccupied and predisposed, or equable and tranquil, and the like; so that the spirit of man (according to its several dispositions), is variable, confused, and, as it were, actuated by chance; and Heraclitus said truly that men search for knowledge in lesser worlds, and not in the greater or common world.
There are also idols formed by the reciprocal intercourse and society of man with man, which we call idols of the market, from the commerce and association of men with each other; for men converse by means of language, but words are formed at the will of the generality, and there arises from a bad and unapt formation of words a wonderful obstruction to the mind. Nor can the definitions and explanations with which learned men guard and protect themselves in some instances afford a complete remedy—words still manifestly force the understanding, throw everything into confusion, and lead mankind into vain and innumerable controversies and fallacies.
Foucault Studies - Number 8, February 2010
Emotional Intelligence: Elias, Foucault, and the Reflexive Emotional Self
via Philosophy's Other: Theory On The Web _______________________
3 sequences from _______________________
The House Of The Golden Windows
Small Pastoral Displaced
gold as light
in noble frame
the window gold
from the east
the window's light
is in the west
from the west
the evening light
We see it
as an eye's catch
not to possess
further than the rainbow
foot that holds the span
to the elements
not common gold
in air and water
and elixir .
Photographs about Place
Suspension, evasion, and inversion:
a conversation with Ken Babstock
SQ: To clarify, I don’t think I want to remove myself either, but the delight of taking language so far out on its leash. Even a poet such as Dennis Lee in Un and Yes/No, to my mind at least, doesn’t remove self from the equation. In fact the more he breaks down what we think of as “meaning’ in a poem, the more emphatically human and lyric the poems seem. In any case, yes, I love the image of field of sound and mice of meaning… I just asked Lisa Robertson about line breaks, and now I ask you. Your use of enjambment is gorgeous, so compact that it seems almost spring loaded. And not that it’s calling attention to itself. In a poem such as “So Hush A Mask” it’s both springing and when one takes a closer look, utilitarian. That is to say none of the breaks screams “line break” but together they all exemplify a kind of tongue and groove maneuver, something I would describe as a key aspect of your work—as it is for Muldoon, for example, and Heaney. Does this seem right?House of Anansi Press
KB: I think it’s fair enough to say “key aspect.” I do admire the illusion of the fall, the cascade, the uncontrolled skid, the hydro-planing on new rainfall that occurs over there on the right-hand side. Sometimes there’s such shearing and heaving I can feel it in the musculature holding my eyeballs in place. I’m speaking of other poets here. Yes, Heaney and Muldoon were enormous for me in my twenties. I have a very clear, distinct memory (it has duration, the memory, which I find bizarre) of failing miserably at a poem all afternoon many years ago. I was collapsing into this failure, really emptying out, when I started to re-read Heaney with entirely altered eyes; in fact, it was like putting my ears where my eyes were, or an eardrum where the retina was. I went back to the poem having stopped intending for certain rhetorical things to occur. I simply wanted to mimic sound and movement. I wanted to achieve the same topography, or twill, or texture right up there on the surface. Suddenly the verbs were moving, the qualifiers were string instruments, and there were vertical lines, webs, of connection up and down through Heaney’s vowels. And then Muldoon; well, the interest is ongoing. There’s no end to it. “Duration” enters into the game, along with suspension, evasion, and inversion, in ways I’m still trying to understand. And an open gamble with disassembled order which I found liberating.
and The Drunken Boat
R.I.P. Social Media, it was a nice dream while it lasted
Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, Buzz or any of the other hundreds of wannabes out there fishing for VC dollars as their only viable business model are not social media. At best they are just another play on the whole social network idea and at the worst they are nothing more than marketing coal mines.
All those so-called social media gurus or experts out there who do nothing more than get companies all jacked about the idea that followers and friends are the new marketing crack are no better than snake-oil salesmen. The only problem is that in the process of lining their pockets they have polluted and torn apart something that could have been a turning point in our society.(....)
It has only been in the last little while that I have even begun to question the idea about Social Media being about the larger conversation. I still hold out hope for that admittedly idyllic dream but the reality is that Social Media has lost to Facebook and the marketers when it comes to the small conversation. In fact I would suggest that while people like Joel Postman and Tom Foremski suggest that social media is more about publication rather than conversation, I am seeing it as nothing more than a marketing platform.
via Jerz's Literacy Weblog
Suffocating in the Villa des Charmes
Alexander Alexeieff's illustrations
Adrienne Mesurat by Julien Green, 1929
A Journey Round My Skull
I am not at all sure that I define life, since I think that life tends to exceed the definitions of it we may offer. It always seems to have that characteristic, so the approach to life cannot be altogether successful if we start with definitions. All I really have to say about life is that for it to be regarded as valuable, it has to first be regarded as grievable. A life that is in some sense socially dead or already “lost” cannot be grieved when it is actually destroyed. And I think we can see that entire populations are regarded as negligible life by warring powers, and so when they are destroyed, there is no great sense that a heinous act and egregious loss have taken place. My question is: how do we understand this nefarious distinction that gets set up between grievable and ungrievable lives?
Judith Butler interview
The South Pennine Uplands
All sides now: a correspondence with Lisa Robertson
LR: Sorry, but I don't see L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E as a camp. So I can't be associated with it. Mine is a different nationality, a different generation, a different politics. I feel more conditioned by the FLQ than by the language poets. I read many of their works and sometimes drink with some of them, but for me, as for those poets themselves I think, poetry is not bound by movements, periodicities and canons. Poetry is a continuity fueled by political passion. The Songs of the King James Bible, the songs of Cheika Rimitti, Donne, Veronica Forrest-Thomson, Denise Riley, Moure, show us the breach as being the active but submerged tradition of a subversion. The caesura, its turn, as Agamben reminds us, is what distinguishes poetry from prose, not the customs of distribution of words on the page. In the time of the caesura a thinking gathers, dissolves, moves. The immaterial work of the caesura is to subvert the fixing of language by protocols and institutions, to renew a historicity within the subject.
Lisa Robertson at
Coach House Books
and Small Press Distribution_______________________
b.March 24, 1919
City lights pocket poets anthology
I Am Waiting
I am waiting
to get some intimations
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and I am waiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder
edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
includes poetry by:
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Patchen, Allen Ginsberg, Marie Ponsot, Denise Levertov, Gregory Corso, Jacques Prevert, Robert Duncan, Jerome Rothenberg, Nicanor Parra, Robert Nichols, Anselm Hollo, Malcolm Lowry, Frank O'Hara, Philip Lamantia, Bob Kaufman, Janine Pommy-Vega, Charles Upton, Pablo Picasso, Robert Bly, Diane di Prima, Jack Kerouac, Andrei Voznesensky, Pete Winslow, Harold Norse, Anne Waldman, Jack Hirschman, Stefan Brect, Peter Orlovsky,
Antler, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ernesto Cardenal, Antonio Porta, Adam Cornford, La Loca, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Daisy Zamora, Rosario Murillo, and Alberto Blanco.
A Man in a Cafe
b. March 23, 1887
1. A Cure for NostalgiaHarp & Altar issue 7
There may have been a peak in their numbers beginning with the start of the Industrial Revolution winding down some time after the advent of the computer. I’m talking about a tribe of people who were obsessed with not leaving well enough alone, who couldn’t turn their backs on a crippled appliance or mechanical device. All can be resurrected as something else. These were people who took apart watches, radios, engines requiring combustible fuels, washing machines, blenders and stereos. There was nothing that couldn’t be broken down to its constituent parts which would then be sorted and streamed into meaningful employment in the service of some other gadget. Members of this tribe were the kind of person who couldn’t keep still, who turned gear shafts and car parts over and over fitting them into this contraption or that, even if it meant execution was carried out with Rube Goldberg-like efficiency. My father was such a person, and I grew up in such a household. A tape recorder became a dark room timer in which my father’s voice would say agitate for however many minutes followed by a certain amount of music, a turntable became the foundation of a zoetrope, paper film strips fit into removable brackets, the detached screen door became part of a box-shaped snake house when some were caught in the back yard.
An antecedent of steampunk, the aesthetic of both groups may involve grommets, gears, wing nuts, and moving parts to be visible. Though steampunkers chose varnished wood and claw feet over the streamlined modernism of the post-Atomic age, this was not a requirement for those who prefer to dispense with a certain amount of fuss and just get the job done. We felt right at home in the world of Artemis Gordon’s gizmos in The Wild, Wild West, though the mechanical transformations we lived with were constructed with Bauhausian form=function theory in mind.
There is also an element of longing in this process, that nothing is ever entirely let go of. Nabokov wrote that a speck he removed from his eye when a child in Saint Petersburg still exists somewhere. The Rule of the Nabokovian Eye Speck insures that every single molecule is recycled whether you’re cognizant of its regeneration or not. Identities are in a continual state of flux, electric mixers power a skiff, motorcycle helmets buffer a trampoline, a bicycle pump becomes a long flashlight. The process continues to the point where identity is completely hybridized. In this way, little is lost. It’s an optimistic re-shuffling, a rebirth.
Der Mensch im Ding
"a short film about ‘things’, inspired by Marx’s approach in ‘The Fetish Character of the Commodity and its Secret’".
- Box 3, Spool 5
Sarah Palin's "Planet Earth" and the End Times
If you're among those speculating about Palin's intentions, I'm here to help. As a casualty of a tongues-speaking, faith-healing, demon-battling storefront church childhood, I keep track of Pentecostals and Charismatics the way some people stalk abusive exes, and I have a sick feeling that I can decode this new iteration of her mission for you.
Tea Partiers: The (Distorted, Screaming) Face of Conservatism
Borders, Contagion, Contract
archive : s0metim3s
The specificities of empire, or this empire, should not be understated or overstated. The nation-state was always part of an international system, an empire facilitated not just by guns but by small pox, not only by repression but also a very particular model of military strategy and legality. This was an empire forged by oceanic expansion and common law. Rule Britannia borrowed from piracy (and made legitimate pirates of some) in order to secure its rule of the waves. Common law, with its reliance on case law, and unlike the canonical law of the Romans, unfolds through a subtle play between precedent and approximation – or, put another way: common law navigates power through repetition and variation.
But if all of this suggests that contagion is hardly foreign to empire, that does not imply that empire corresponds to contagion, that it can or should be opposed by a politics of sanitation, immunisation or pathologisation. In other words, neither an orthodox reading of Marx, nor a quick reading of Deleuze and Guattari will do. Social democracy imagined it would stop the spread of capitalist exploitation through state protection. Historically, this is why Labor parties form such an attachment to migration controls. It’s an approach that remains current: one essay on the rise of precarious work calls it a contagion. I should note that this is not entirely an inaccurate picture, though it seeks to inspire the closure of those borders as if the borders themselves is not what makes this race to the bottom possible in the first place. But, that said, it’s the historically unprecedented movements of people from the peripheries of the world market to its core, from the late 1970s on, that drives the expansion of precarious forms of work in the latter, what in another respect might be called the colonialisation of metropolitan spaces. Hardt and Negri, writing on globalisation, slip perhaps a little too easily into describing it as “the universal contagion.” Some deleuzoguattarians, on the other hand, sound a lot like biotech venture capitalists, or Israeli military strategists.
Collapse Vol. IV: Concept Horror
I have no time for those pompous imbeciles
Who go into ecstasies before bunnies' burrows
Because nature is ugly, tedious and hostile;
It has no message to transmit to humans.
How pleasant, at the wheel of a powerful Mercedes,
To drive through solitary and grandiose places;
Subtly manipulating the gearstick.
You dominate the hills, the rivers, and all things.
The forests, so close, glitter in the sun
And seem to reflect ancient knowledges;
In the depths of their valleys must lie such marvels,
After a few hours you are taken in;
Leaving the car, the irritations begin;
You stumble into the middle of a repugnant mess,
An abject universe, deprived of all meaning
Made of stones and brambles, flies and snakes.
You miss the parking-lots and the smell of petrol,
The serene, gentle glint of the nickel counters;
It's too late. It's too cold. The night begins.
The forest enfolds you in its cruel dream.
Editorial Introduction [pdf]
Surveying a century in which experience has taught us that man is capable of inventing ever more atrocious forms of violence and horror, is it necessary to remark that much of modern thought offers little to soothe, and much to exacerbate our disquiet? Nietzsche famously observed that the psychic well-being of the human organism is predicated, minimally, upon a drastically partial perspective, and ultimately upon untruth. Human cognitive defaults continue to cry out against the insights which modern physics, cosmology, genetics, neuroscience, psychoanalysis and the rest seem to require us to integrate into our worldview. As for philosophy, it has largely replaced wonder, awe, and the drive to certainty with dread, anxiety and finitude. Moreover, despite the diverse technological wonders they have made possible, the modern sciences offer little existential respite: There is no consolation in the claim that (for instance) I am the contingent product of evolution, or a chance formation of elementary particles, or that my ‘self’ is nothing but the correlate of the activation of neurobiological phase-spaces. Yet mundane thought, whether through obstinacy or inertia, maintains its stubborn course regardless, as if oblivious to their consequences, or at most allowing them to subsist at a safely delimited, solely theoretical level._______________________
What if, prising the more disturbing elements of modern thought loose from their comfortable framing as part of an intellectual canon, we were to become fully attentive to their most harrowing consequences? What if, impatient with a consideration of their claims solely from the point of view of their explanatory power and formal consistency, we yielded to the (perhaps ‘unphilosophical’) temptation to experiment with their potentially corrosive effects upon lived experience? If the overriding affect connected with what we ‘know’ – but still do not really know – about the universe and our place in it, would be one of horror, then, inversely, how might the existing literature of horror inform a reading of these tendencies of contemporary thought?
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
Al and Me
Remembering Canada’s most famous poet ten years after his death
Purdy is famous for his depiction of the place so strenuously celebrated in the recent Al Purdy A-Frame Anthology: little Roblin Lake and the scant village of Ameliasburgh, old United Empire Loyalist land in Prince Edward County. You see those proper nouns? When the tall, big-elbowed poet celebrates a region, he hauls the whole of his country with him. One of his last major poems, “Say the Names,” strides across that country, naming its historical and mythological places, with the undisguised intent of celebrating a whole country, an abstraction to be made tangible to the expansive Canadian mind. In that poem, he insists that you speak the musical names aloud, including those from my home, Osoyoos and Similkameen._______________________
From the beginning of my serious poetry life, I, too, have been interested in place. Here, though, is our difference on this matter. Purdy loves his place and gathers it to his self, so much so that he will be identified with it, become in time our most famous Canadian poet. I, on the other hand, have been tentative in verse, Purdy’s opposite in that regard, maybe, finding any connection with my place via my physical senses, perceiving my Okanagan ground and my body with the same procedure.
Al will say, “I am a screen thru which the world passes.”
I will say, “The white wolf hides in the snow.”
inside .... outside
b. 23 March 1952
Between story and truth
Translated by Franson Manjali
Between literature and philosophy there is lack of this entwinement, this embracing, this sacred mingling of man with God, that is to say, with animal, with plant, with lightning, and with the rock. The separation between them is indeed that of untwining, unclasping. The mingling that is thus unmingled is divided by the sharpest of blades: but the cut itself forever shows the effects of the entanglement. Between the two, there is something that cannot be disentangled._______________________
Truth and narration are separated in such a manner that it is their separation that installs them as one and the other. Without the separation, there would be neither truth nor narration: there would be the divine body.
Not only is narration susceptible to or suspected of lacking in truth, but it is deprived of it by principle, being deprived of the body present as its own enunciation, its own exposition.(...)
Between the figure and the dazzlement remains the absent body of God. What remains is a singular body of absence, which is approached from every side by narration and the perspective of truth. The former describes the shape of the body, and the latter inscribes its excavation. Between what is described and what is inscribed, there is only writing (l’écrit), the interminable graph engraved on the lead of a seal affixed on the site of the retreat. The scene is played around an empty tomb, a hollow mummy, a portrait resembling no one: around a body henceforth displayed and declared as "body", that is to say, as absent outside.(...)
Do not abandon the bodies, even if the work is to be shunned. Such is the task. Do not abandon the bodies of gods without wanting to call back their presence. Do not abandon the service of truth nor that of the figure, without however, filling up with meaning the gap that separates the two. Do not abandon the world, which becomes always more world, more under the spell of absence, more in interval, incorporeal, without saturating it with signification, revelation, proclamation or apocalypse. The absence of gods is the condition for both literature and philosophy to be in. It is the in-between which legitimates the one and the other, both of which are irreversibly atheological. But they both have the responsibility of taking care of the in-between: of guarding its open body, and of allowing it the possibility of this opening.
None of our yearnings has any reason to exist. Our attentive gaze is an absurdity allowed by our winged inertia.
those poetries of the sea
Dark Pines Under Water
1941 - 1987
This land like a mirror turns you inward
And you become a forest in a furtive lake;
The dark pines of your mind reach downward,
You dream in the green of your time,
Your memory is a row of sinking pines.
Explorer, you tell yourself this is not what you came for
Although it is good here, and green;
You had meant to move with a kind of largeness,
You had planned a heavy grace, an anguished dream.
But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper
And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper
In an elementary world;
There is something down there and you want it told.
the child and his wood
The Forest of Estrangement
I dream and lose myself, doubly so, in me and the woman ... I'm consumed by the black fire of an overwhelming fatigue ... I'm constricted by the false life of an enormous positive yearning...
O tarnished hapiness! ... Eternal hesitation at the crossroads! ... I dream, and behind my consciousness someone is dreaming with me ... And perhaps I'm no more than a dream of that Someone who doesn't exist. ...
The dawn outside is so far away! and the forest so near to those other eyes of mine.!
In the clepsydra of our imperfection, steady drops of dreaming marked the unreal hours.... Nothing is worth our while, O my far-away love, except to know how sweet it is to know that nothing is worth our while.
The static motion of the trees; the troubled quiet of the fountains; the indefinable breathing of the sap's deep pulsing; the slow arrival of dusk, which seems not to fall over things but to come from inside them and to reach its spiritually kindred hand up to that distant sorrow (so close to our soul) of the heavens' lofty silence; the steady and futile falling of leaves, drops of estrangement in which the landscape comes to exist only in our hearing, and it becomes sad in us like a remembered homeland - all of this girded us uncertainly, like a belt coming undone.
And just as we were thinking of mentioning the forest, it looms once more before us, as dense as ever but now more anguished with our anguish, and sadder with our sadness. Our idea of the real world flees in its presence like a dissipating fog, and once more I possess myslef in my wandering dream, set in that mysterious forest...
[ Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, edited and translated by Richard Zenith ]
“Clonal Quaking Aspens
The Oldest Trees on the Planet
(80,000 years old, Fish Lake, UT)
The Oldest Living Things In The World_______________________
While Pando isn’t technically the oldest individual tree, this clonal colony of Quaking Aspen in Utah is truly ancient. The 105-acre colony is made of genetically identical trees, called stems, connected by a single root system. The “trembling giant” got its start at least 80,000 years ago, when all of our human ancestors were still living in Africa. But some estimate the woodland could be as old as 1 million years, which would mean Pando predates the earliest Homo sapiens by 800,000 years. At 6,615 tons, Pando is also the heaviest living organism on earth.
The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection
Translated by Leon S. Roudiez
There looms, within abjection, one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside or inside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable. It lies there, quite close, but it cannot be assimilated. It beseeches, worries, and fascinates desire, which, nevertheless, does not let itself be seduced. Apprehensive, desire turns aside; sickened, it rejects. A certainty protects it from the shameful—a certainty of which it is proud holds on to it. But simultaneously, just the same, that impetus, that spasm, that leap is drawn toward an elsewhere as tempting as it is condemned. Unflaggingly, like an inescapable boomerang, a vortex of summons and repulsion places the one haunted by it literally beside himself.
When I am beset by abjection, the twisted braid of affects and thoughts I call by such a name does not have, properly speaking, a definable object. The abject is not an ob-ject facing me, which I name or imagine. Nor is it an ob-jest, an otherness ceaselessly fleeing in a systematic quest of desire. What is abject is not my correlative, which, providing me with someone or something else as support, would allow me to be more or less detached and autonomous. The abject has only one quality of the object—that of being opposed to I. If the object, however, through its opposition, settles me within the fragile texture of a desire for meaning, which, as a matter of fact, makes me ceaselessly and infinitely homologous to it, what is abject, on the contrary, the jettisoned object, is radically excluded and draws me toward the place_where meaning collapses. A certain "ego" that merged with its master, a superego, has flatly driven it away. It lies outside, beyond the set, and does not seem to agree to the latter's rules of the game. And yet, from its place of banishment, the abject does not cease challenging its master. Without a sign (for him), it beseeches a discharge, a convulsion, a crying out. To each ego its object, to each superego its abject. It is not the white expanse or slack boredom of repression, not the translations and transformations of desire that wrench bodies, nights, and discourse; rather it is a brutish suffering that, "I" puts up with, sublime and devastated, for "I" deposits it to the father's account [verse au pere—pere-uersion]: I endure it, for I imagine that such is the desire of the other. A massive and sudden emergence of uncanniness, which, familiar as it might have been in an opaque and forgotten life, now harries me as radically separate, loathsome. Not me. Not that. But not nothing, either. A "something" that I do not recognize as a thing. A weight of meaninglessness, about which there is nothing insignificant, and which crushes me. On the edge of nonexistence and hallucination, of a reality that, if I acknowledge it, annihilates me. There, abject and abjection are my safeguards.The primers of my culture.
from Under The Dome: Walks With Paul Celan
translated by Rosmarie Waldrop
Paul Celan continues a conversation:
— We talked the other day, you talked the other day about the spirit of place. It’s true, there is such a thing as the genius loci, isn’t there… For example, us: we have been divided, cut off, separated by an invisible, political barrier. That is, the most remote border goes back to the most remote border… As if the least visible one became in spite of all the most noticeable and marked it with a red-hot iron: one and the same language on both sides of the barrier. I was born in Czernowitz, you were born in Bonsecours-les-Valenciennes, as I like to say… And here we are. Note that I don’t say… here we are in a fine mess.
Where I come from? Who I am? Where I’m going? I won’t try to answer or, rather, I’ll try to answer along a parallel by telling bits of a story. I’ll talk about Paula — my mother — who is the feminine of Paul. Paula is the daughter of Jules, who is the son of Jules, and Paula’s father has a son Jules, my oncle and Paula’s brother. The first, or the oldest, Jules was a paver, that is he paved roads, and I can assure you, knowing the family, that he paved the hell of the North with delight, cruelty, and perfection. This particular hell still exists, around Thivencelle, Blanc-Misseron, Escaudin, since we are driving there and it is now “classified.” What does hell consist of? What is a paving stone, a series of paving stones on the surface of hell, become unnegotiable for humans? A first answer, because Paula refers back to Paul: the paver is the one who puts in place, who thinks of, hobbling. Another answer: the paving stone refers to the word, i. e. to stammering. Driving over paving stones you cannot talk but in stammers. I’ll continue my family history.
John Cage on music, laughter and silence
via Steve Himmer
The Structure of University Education
None of this is to pick on these people, only to point out that the "culture wars" are only a side effect of a longer-term economic process that is indeed mostly out of academics' control. Like anyone who cares about these things, I have a bit of false nostalgia for the good old days that I never knew, but if cultural studies has taught me anything, it's not to mourn the decline of an institution born in elitism and sustained by it.
Rethinking the Human Sciences:
Rethinking Academic Discourse:
A Poetic Approach to Intellectual Endeavor
My starting point is the postmodern and deconstructive
challenge to intellectual tradition,
which I find powerful and compelling
but not effectively realized
in the works of the theorists who propone it.
But if thought is language
how can academic writing
still be so passive, transparent, functional?
If thought is language
how can we justify
If thought is language
how can one
traditional academic prose?
if we are no longer willing to admit
if thought is language,
then writing must become the ideas
it seeks to express –
form and content
one and the same
and poetry thus presents itself
Interdisciplinary Studies, Global Education, and the Languages of Criticism
Selected Papers from the 6th Annual Human Sciences Conference
at The George Washington University 2001
March 22, 1908 – June 10, 1988
At the Primitive Gates of Accumulation
Massive drone of death metal capital
City centre remake metric black hole in middle Europe folk
Dark rubs in an urban sub sonic signature glass of speculative spaces
Monolithic tone of choices freighted over ocean
Earth’s altar tarred with the red of growth cap spilling up hills
No alternative to doomy trance rant for the slow discord scoured redolent economy
In commodities crude stalagmite drone as oil done and one gold
Who thought feudal discard could record again today at the gates of accumulation
When low rumbles of developers caterpillars enter the gentry on jags
Long slow ambient death spiked with crisis in cities tithed
Douglas Barbour Feature
Editor: rob mclennan
civilization has its version of
primal scattering languages
riddle via metaphor
A lunatic tower
The history of
is itself compelling
George Steiner’s After Babel
[pp 57–58: words where they appeared
on the original page])
Firefighters hose demonstrators
The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore
In Memoriam: Charles Moore
from Affirmations and Defacements, 1976
1908 - 1993
The Outlying Counties and Then Some
So why this quaking in the trees, the winter sidewalks so quick to melt?
We were circumspect and felt every reason to be: some background
of the thoughts we thought then, laden with parasols or peacoats,
a clean bordering on magisterial that we had acknowledged years before
(we were conscious of doing so) made the rabbits tamer, the squirrels
vaguely harmonious. So much for the rapture of wheat fields, the ones
far enough out we’d have to pack a thermos and several spare tires
before the arrival on a scene of sparse trees, sparsely situated
in a forgiven landscape, the landscape itself a reflection
of the grace that gathered elsewhere. This was, of course,
long before the shortening of salutations,
mauve to midnight and slowly back again,
long before any of us could remember.
The AALITRA Review [pdf]
A Journal of Literary Translation
No. 1 March 2010
Australian Association for Literary Translation_______________________
Happy seventh the cassandra pages.
Congratulations and thanks Beth.
the lake in silence
Translated from the German by Allen Mundy
Being silent can be expected of us in one situation and unexpected in another, but it can also be incidental. It is unexpected, for example, when someone giving a speech loses their train of thought or when a confused person is at a loss for words. Silence is expected from an audience listening to a speech or from people in the reading room of a library. Silence is incidental when no one perceives it as silence; all speech is continually and almost imperceptibly interrupted by pauses of various lengths. These are the three forms of non-articulation, in contrast to silence in general. Silence as not-speaking is the absence of articulation, silence generally is the absence of sound. Human silence, silence as not-speaking, is thus the linguistic form of silence and is what concerns us here. (Poyatos 1981, by way of contrast, distinguishes between acoustic and kinetic silence.)_______________________
The following is intended to make the case for a single thesis; namely, that there can be no language nor speech without silence, nor can there be silence without speech (No signs without silence, no silence without signs). Speaking and silence live in a symbiosis; they are dialectically dependent on one another.
This appears to be and is a rather simple assertion, yet it necessitates certain conclusions, especially as regards the determination of the subject area of linguistics. What is called for then, is not an essay in praise of silence, although, to be somewhat contradictory, there is much to be said in appreciation of its roles in language.
I will attempt to describe the relationship between language and silence without resorting to arbitrary, authoritarian distinctions between forms of silence which are profound or meaningful and others which indicate nothing more than a lack of thoughts or feelings. My description will nonetheless contain an ethical element. It seems to me that the only representation of the real gradation between the two, with all its simultaneous undertones and contradictory aspects, is to be found in literature (cf. Hart Nibbrig 1981). In the end, literature derives its force precisely from the attempt to map out unknown realms between language and not-language, between speaking and silence; these realms are filled in in the process. Orpheus is the western mythological archetype for this endeavour: how he brings order to mankind by singing and playing his lyre, how he is ultimately incapable of bringing Eurydice back from the underworld due to his turning round upon hearing her footsteps behind him, and how his head continues to sing and recite even after it is torn from his body by the scornful Maenads.
Putting aside for the moment artistic intensity, this conscious working with the literary forms of language, it must be said that grappling with silence is indeed a characteristic of all speech. The effort of the speaker namely, the perpetually self-repeating work of the mind to make articulated sound capable of expressing thoughtí (Energeia, Humboldt 1963:418) is precisely the effort to draw the dividing line between silence and speaking. Thus, silence becomes the reverse as well as an integral part of language. ëSilence is a sentenceí, says Lyotard (1987:11). I shall attempt to show that, not only does it divide and link other sentences, but it is also to be found inside of them and is, furthermore, inhabited by them as well.
1911 - 1996
Spirit into Matter: The Photographs of Edmund Teske
The Word Humiliated
Scholasticism, at its very origins, was not just chatter; it became chatter. Oddly enough, this chatter invaded the scholarly world and came to provide its security. Molière and François Rabelais bear witness to this chatter, these meaningless words. Then too, there is Shakespeare: “Words, words, words.” Suddenly the tragic discovery was made that words were only words, without power to act. People became acutely aware of the uselessness of mere talk. People were not aware of this during the Middle Ages, when the word was venerated, not only in liturgy but in all its forms. After the sixteenth century, we have an avalanche of talk that is increasingly useless.
This development is easily associated with the bourgeoisie: they reduced the word to the schematic needs of business, or to conceal what people wanted to avoid saying. In this view, the word became insignificant amid the elegance of the court, through Marivaux’s subtle use of it in his plays, and because of everyday triteness that lacks any reference to real life. Mundane and intellectual chatter mixed together (as Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point shows so admirably) finally collapse into wordlessness. Eugene Ionesco’s reputation as a playwright is based on this situation.
The speaker’s error comes from the absence of something “to say,” so that he doesn’t say anything, but (as poet Jacques Prévert puts it) just goes on talking and talking and talking. We have an excess of talk devoid of meaning and veracity. We are satiated with electoral and political speeches (which we are sure say absolutely nothing), with false conversations, and with books paid by the word (some find it necessary to write, and so become writers by trade!). In spite of the lack of anything to say, the speaker continues as if he were a wordmill moved by the wind, and he becomes responsible for the fact that no one can any longer take any word seriously. No word can be taken seriously, because the rush of these words prevents us from discovering the one which, in the midst of the torrent, has meaning and deserves to be listened to.
via Feral Scholar
Portrait of Shirley Berman_______________________
Topanga Canyon and
Madison Grammar School, Chicago
1954 and 1934
The Place of the Solitaires
Let the place of the solitaires
Be a place of perpetual undulation.
Whether it be in mid-sea
On the dark, green water-wheel,
Or on the beaches,
There must be no cessation
Of motion, or of the noise of motion,
The renewal of noise
And manifold continuation;
And, most, of the motion of thought
And its restless iteration,
In the place of the solitaires,
Which is to be a place of perpetual undulation.
Archipelago: 10th Anniversary Edition 2007
Van Gogh in MoscowBright Nostalgia: Poems for Osip Mandelstam
Katherine E. Young
Moscow, USSR, 1984
Summer bleeds through our fingers.
On our twig boat we ride downstream
dabbling hands in the water,
slippery green reeds brushing
our fingertips. We catch fish
in the evening; moist and crackling,
they turn black for our fire.
In Sardinia, a Russian ballerina
carves patterns in her veins,
pirouettes across her room,
wakes to white coats. “I am oh!-so-tired!”
she cries before she flits away.
There are paintings that crawl from cracks
in the wall, faces dwelling
in the mind, eyes seeping into
one’s own eyes, glittering evilly. . . .
When I have draped my veins on Sardinia,
danced vibrant among shrieking canvasses
and brought my boat in from the reeds,
I shall become a fish,
bones like these.
Katherine E. Young
edited and published by Katherine McNamara.
State of the Union
Most of the richest people on the planet have seen their fortunes soar in the past year.
The poor must - though it is so sad - die in the streets of America as they do in Calcutta before we have a perfect market. How to legitimize this disparate allocation of poverty, disease and starvation? I am not sure, but I am buoyed by the consent of the governed in their own eradication. Town Hall meetings show that suffering is embraced as long as we can kiss up and kick down. Scapegoats help.
"The Challenge of Mass Incarceration in America" [pdf]
via Charles Bernstein
Adam Smith's invisible hand meets magical realism on the border
On the border, Adam Smith meets magical realism. Here the market tenets of supply and demand, the basic engine of both the migration and the drug industry, are supposed to be overturned magically by a police state. Consider one simple number: The border is 1,900 miles long. If two people slipped through each mile in a 24-hour period, that would amount to 3,800 people a day. That adds up to 1,387,000 people a year. Or consider this: One bridge from Juarez to El Paso handles 600,000 semi-trucks a year. One semi with a freight load of 24 tons could probably tote enough heroin to satisfy the U.S. market for a year. Add to the mix the inevitable corruption of the police agencies: A few months ago, a Border Patrol agent in southern Arizona was busted for running dope in his official car for 500 bucks a load._______________________
Few discussions about the border come from facts. Most discussions of the border come from fears. We seem to prefer slogans and fantasies: free trade, "just say no," gigantic walls.(....)
The border should not be an issue in American life, but rather our window on the world. All our foolish beliefs are refuted here. Free trade is creating the largest human migration on earth. Our belief that drugs can be successfully outlawed has created the second-most profitable industry in Mexico and a gulag of new U.S. prisons.
Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
Arcade, a digital salon
Under our three rubrics—Conversations, Transactions, and Publications—we offer an array of blogs, journals that seek to redefine their genre, forums for the exchange of ideas and observations, videocasts and podcasts, and other features for scholars, students, and the public. Our international, multilingual community is committed to redrawing, and sometimes erasing, the lines between contributors and readers.
1895 – 1974
photo by Mark Gerson
Spring 2010, Web Issue 13Why David Jones? Why Now?
Kathleen Henderson Staudt
On the weekend of St. David’s day (February 27- March 1, 2009), the Cathedral College of Washington National Cathedral sponsored a conference on “Faith, Art and Poetry in a post-Christian Culture,” focusing on the art and poetry of David Jones, with Kathleen Henderson Staudt and Esther de Waal serving as organizers and conveners. The conference was coordinated with the opening of an exhibit on David Jones and his Circle at the Lauinger Library of Georgetown Unviersity, an event which featured a talk by Derek Shiel and the showing of Shiel’s film, In Search of David Jones: Artist, Soldier, Poet._______________________
This issue of FlashPøint has at its core the papers offered at that conference, enhanced by other fine work that places Jones’s work in various modernist contexts.
from The Botanical Garden
Translated by Brian Evenson
For a long time I believed that life was a continuous flux, the slow and perpetual transformation of one thing into another contiguous to it, insensibly, without progression, but without rupture either, like the Metamorphoses for Twenty-Three String Soloists by Richard Strauss that is playing at this moment on the radio, astonishing thread, knotting and unknotting the same theme, amplifying it, contorting it, reducing it to a tenuous netting, where it rediscovers all its strength and sets out again before dying in the deepest tones, I was wrong; or at least, I didn’t distinguish, then, the stages which are clearly visible to me now. There are thresholds, beginnings and endings, this is without doubt a very mediocre clarity but it’s my day’s harvest.EXPLORINGfictions
The beginning is that which in itself doesn’t necessarily replace something else, while after it there is another thing which very naturally is or occurs; the ending is, on the contrary, that which in itself, very naturally, necessarily or most of the time replaces something else, while afterward there is nothing else; the middle is that which in itself replaces something else and is followed by something else. The whole is that which has a beginning, middle, and end.
And then there are intervals.
A Taste for the Secret
Jacques Derrida and Maurizio Ferraris
Translated from the French and Italian by Giacomo Donis
Death of Tarelkin
A Exter, 1957
Costume and Scenery Designs
The Ballets Russes
“There is no serious War on Drugs. Rather, there is violence, nourished by the money to be made from drugs. And there are U.S. industries whose primary lifeblood comes from fighting a war on drugs.”
Charles Bowden on “The War Next Door”
CHARLES BOWDEN: Well, where the money goes is mainly, if you look into it, we're selling them our hardware. This is part of our beloved military-industrial complex. That's what they get for the money. But the Mexico military has historically been involved in drugs, I mean, going back decades. This is no secret. They were supervising Rancho Bufalo in Chihuahua, a huge marijuana plantation in the '70s._______________________
What we're doing is what the-you know, we have three policies that affect Mexico. One, we have the free trade agreement, which has bankrupted small farmers in the country and destroyed small industry in the country. Two, we have an immigration policy which means a Mexican would have to live 150 years to get a visa to move to the United States, which has unleashed the largest human migration on earth. And three, we have our war on drugs, which over the course of forty years has made drugs in our country of higher quality more available and enriched a bunch of criminals in Mexico and the United States. That's our policy.
From Wall Street to Skank Street
Poking the frog at Gunther's Garage
The petty right and the bumbling left find themselves unexpectedly meeting one another these days, as they navigate the craters of our bombed out economic landscape. Were it not for the ideological war in progress (it's not a cultural war, no matter what the university pundits say, it's a capitalist state sponsored ideological war), they would probably form a powerful combined populist movement that would scare Washington right out of its silk shorts. Naturally, political strategists on both sides do everything possible to keep the rank and file from discovering the growing overlap of liberal and conservative thinking (or in some cases, nonthinking).(....)_______________________
For all the Marxist economists there are in the world, you will not find a single one working on Wall Street or in Washington. If there were, Americans would better understand that the economy is not so much one big cohesive glob of real economy and virtual economy, one big glob of inseparable goods and financial services as a single value, as our economists would have us believe.(....)
Meanwhile, the "real" economy as most of us experience it, is stretched out dead as a day old codfish down there on Main Street. And all Obama or any other politician stewed in the super-capitalist ethos can do is pump money into the banks, and then beg the bankers to come out of their gilded lairs and trickle on the corpse. That's the problem with capitalism -- capitalists.
The Tea Party: lofty ideals, grubby facts
And so today, once more, wealthy corporate interests are winding up an angry populace – amid an economic slump – with spurious talk of freedom. Having enjoyed the benefits of their own empire for the last 50 years and pocketed tax cuts during the Iraq war, the 21st-century Tea Party movement is now grumbling about paying for power._______________________
Of course, there are some differences. Today the Tea Party is a suburban, rather than urban, phenomenon; its Fox News philosophers lack something of the depth of Hancock, Adams and Benjamin Franklin. But the parallels are noteworthy: in its use of marches and street theatre it echoes the tarring-and-feathering mob politics that once governed Boston harbour. So, too, its impressive use of new media. The pamphlets and cartoons of 18th-century New England are now replaced by blogs, cable television and internet radio. Also its religiosity: out of the Boston tea party emerged a "solemn league and covenant", drawing on America's Protestant pre-history and committing its members to collective action against the British. In vogue among modern Tea Party members is the line from the Declaration of Independence: "We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Art and threatened/threatening nature
In Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno and Horkheimer speak of a "remembrance of nature within the subject". It is partly through philosophy, through a thinking that operates with what Adorno (inspired by Walter Benjamin) calls constellations, and partly through art, that this remembrance can be preserved. While Adorno, through his negative dialectics, tries to show the importance of "the priority of the object" before the idealistic notion of the constituting role of the subject in experience, he finds in art a sort of pain memory of the sensuous, a memory of how the priority of the object and the material – which originates in mankind's dependence on nature – has been denied and repressed throughout history. In the early lecture "The idea of natural history", Adorno on the one hand emphasizes the importance of breaking through what has petrified into second nature, and on the other the need to see nature itself as historical. Nature is more than what man makes it into when he perceives it as something opposite to himself and his making of history. It is the domination of nature, man's mastery over nature, which turns it into something static and unchangeable: a perpetual repetition of the same course of events. What can be predicted can also be manipulated for one's own profit: an approach to nature that in the end is detrimental to man himself. But art can offer a change of perspective._______________________
According to Adorno, art is where nature is remembered, where the repression and denial of nature is remembered. Hence, art also points toward the possibility of a realized nature: in art we glimpse the freedom that could become reality if we acknowledged ourselves as part of nature. Nature and freedom are not complete opposites. Without acknowledgement of nature, freedom cannot be realized.
“How the poem is born”
"Instinctually you know that it bubbles up like a birth, nothing short of an ethereal genesis, the inscape, the primary essence of formless thought spawned in an inward landscape. The Poem as reflection, poem as thought bubble. The forming of a glass wall that keeps things in and keeps other things out."
poetry journal of Avantexte Press
The Disciplinary Frame
Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning
The light falls on them from the window in the background, so I cannot make out their eyes clearly, but I sense that all three of them are looking across at me, since I am standing on the very spot where Genewein the accountant stood with his camera. The young woman in the middle is blonde and has the air of a bride about her. The weaver to her left has inclined her head a little to one side, whilst the woman on the right is looking at me with so steady and relentless a gaze that I cannot meet it for long. I wonder what the three women’s names were—Roza, Luisa and Lea, or Nona, Decuma and Morta, the daughters of the night, with spindle, scissors and thread.These are the last words in what seems to be Sebald’s text, and the photograph in question does not appear. Over the page, however, there is a final image with the title “Photograph of the author by Jan Peter Tripp.” We have no reason to doubt it. We may make of it what we will, whatever we can bear, at the point where this imaginary is about to pass from us and is at its end. There is nothing left but seven blank pages and the final cover, on which we may read what critics have written. In one citation, Sebald’s book is described as “an archive of family photos, a documentary record of German Jewish life from the late 19th Century to the late 20th.” This certainly throws light on the photographs. But, as Sebald writes, “There is a mist that no eye can dispel.”
The Emigrants, by W. G. Sebald
It is not clear that Sebald writes about the photographs that appear in the pages of his book. And it is not clear that the photographs that appear are about what his writing describes. Yet is it not because these things are unclear that Sebald’s “unclassifiable” book has filled its readers with the sense of being moved by something that cannot be documented, something that has remained hitherto unsayable, something that has resisted coming to light? Could it have been otherwise for the book to give witness to the unforgettable forgotten that declines to enter the tribunal of history but has not vanished into the grave?
Few have shared Sebald’s scruples. His book has few companions. For the rest, meaning must be arrived at. Truth must be told. Photographs and writing must be dependable instruments. They must communicate. They must be made to do so. Though this would seem to entail that there would be something futile and something excessive about writing about photographs, about saying what is there to be seen, few have been deterred. The stakes are too high. Meaning might escape us. Repetition of what is said to be already evident is compelled. Nothing can be left unattached. The photograph must be spoken for. It must be clearly kept in place.
Now, we do indeed have something excessive and futile and all the more violent for that. And so, from Sebald’s almost unbearable restraint, it is to this violence of meaning we must move.
Kukei , akopee – Nein!,
The Boss: On the Unresolved Question of Authority in Joseph Beuys’ Oeuvre and Public Image
An unconditional acceptance of Beuys’ interpretive authority over his own practice has caused the discourse surrounding the oeuvre to fail to touch on a central unresolved question within it: the question of authority itself. In order to understand the significance of Beuys’ work in the context of the artistic and political debates of the 1960s and 1970s, however, it is crucial to grasp the inner conflicts and unresolved contradictions that run through it, as well as the way Beuys publicly performed the role of the artist with regard to this question of authority. On the one hand he incessantly attacked traditional notions of the authority of the work, the artist, and the art professor, with his radical, liberating, and humorous opening up of the concept of art with regard to what a work, an artist, or a teacher could still be and do beyond the functions established by tradition, office, and title. On the other hand, however, it seems that in the presentation of his own interpretative discourse, Beuys regularly fell back on the very tradition of staging artistic authority with which he was trying to break.
While he abolished the common understanding of the artist’s role and demonstrated in his own practice that an artist could be not only a sculptor or painter but also a performer, politician, philosopher, historian, ethnologist, musician, and so on, he nonetheless had recourse to a traditionally established role model when projecting an image of himself to the public through the role of a visionary, spiritual authority or healer in full agreement with the modern myth of the artist as a messianic figure. While at one moment he provoked free and open debate through perplexing, if not deliberately absurd, actions that left himself open to attack as an artist, at the next moment he would bring a discussion on the meaning of these provocations back to orderly paths by seeking the seamlessly organized worldview of anthroposophy as an ideological justification for his art practice. On the one hand, he gambled on everything that traditionally secured the value, claim to validity, and hence authority of art and artists, while on the other hand he assumed the traditional patriarchal position of the messianic proclaimer of ultimate truths.
Der Chef, 1964
The crucial thing, however, is that Beuys did not simply produce an aura of authority but that he also exhibited the material conditions of its production in all their crudity, and exposed the contradictions inherent in this process in all their obvious absurdity. In this way, Beuys simultaneously constructed and dismantled an aura of authority. The performance constituted an event. Its eventful qualities were, however, simultaneously also reduced to a minimum—not much happened. A man lay wrapped in a blanket between two dead hares and made strange noises for hours. The scaling down of the performance to an activity that could scarcely be perceived as an activity at all, the stretching and expanding of time, the death rattles from under the blanket, and the overall gravity of the mise-en-scène in general creates a peculiar regressive atmosphere. Very much in line with the analysis of auratic authority that Werner Herzog developed in his films, Beuys here too foregrounds the peculiar regressive pull (Freudians would call it the “death drive”) inherent in the peculiar gravitas of auratic authority—a pull that equally also creates its limitation, in that its own weightiness sooner or later weights auratic authority down and brings it to the point of collapse. And indeed, in Der Chef Beuys staged the mechanisms producing this auratic authority together with the event of its slow collapse.
via Steve Himmer
Of the 504 Vietnamese civilians
who were murdered at My Lai in 1968 by the U.S. Government,
175 were shot at point-blank range in this ditch.
Photo and words: Mike Hastie
Into The Dark: The My Lai Massacre
March 16, 1968
I am a dissenter from the current patriotic slogan, give me amnesia or give me death. Thus, I actually remember the 00s.
And so I know this: what caused the current crisis solved the last crisis. In general, the slowdown in compensation to the working class - and the middle class is largely a working class that aspires to be thought a gated community, although they only own the means of the production in the distorted sense in which the fans own a band - and the unemployment that was bound to result from the crash of 2001 was solved by the same clever economists who are now bemoaning their Oops moment. The solution was a boom that largely depended on milking the one real asset people had - houses. It was a political solution to insure the survival of the politically constructed "Great Moderation", which in turn depended on extruding the care and maintenance of social welfare goods into the private sector and the destruction of labor bargaining power. Economists, now, have flipped the question not to whether the solution to the last crash has delivered us to a bigger crash, but the more sportif question of who predicted the crash. Amnesis requires bread and circuses – in our current parlous state, it requires the destruction of our narrative intelligence through a media regime of absolute pablum and the framing of the debate about our national fate in terms that would shame a seventeenth century peasant. If we want to know what caused the present crash, we have to have an answer to the question, who benefited most from the solution to the last crash? Who benefited from the housing bubble that was the response to the tech crash of 2001? The political answer is, of course, the plutocrats, the financial sector, big oil and defense, and their political proxies, the Bush administration and the Republican congress. The larger answer is the same class of oligarchs that have made such huge strides in entrenching their economic and political power since the country chose to the path of conspicuous consumption, loose credit, and a completely impotent and unorganized labor force – also known as Morning in America.
Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies
Brancusi sculpture exhibition
Photo by Alfred Stieglitz
The Card Index As Creativity Machine [pdf]
I want to argue that Barthes’ use of index cards moved from operating as an archival device – an aide-memoire, on which he transcribed passages from his reading and recorded his thoughts – to operating, increasingly, as an organisational device, a kind of ‘creativity machine’ that served a crucial function in the very construction of his written texts, and shaped his thinking on textuality and the role and operation of literary criticism.
Culture Machine Vol 11, 2010_______________________
In this way, I want to extrapolate from the specific case of Roland Barthes to develop a larger, concluding argument: that Barthes’ specific usage is illustrative of wider intellectual usage of card indexes as pre-digital creative media; in other words, not just as an archival device, but, crucially, as a key historical technology of invention. I intend this last term in the precise sense in which Derrida (1989) understands it, that is, as an oscillation between the performative and the constative, with the former working to disrupt itself (the performative) and the latter (the constative) – or what might be termed the unsettling operation of invention.
Notes on war aesthetics
... the crisis is not over information but attention. In recent conversation with Louis Cabri and Jeff Derksen, they advocated a poetics based in part on holding close to a statement from Louis Zukofsky that "Poetry is information." Though Cabri's granular lines of poetry posit a very different visual and verbal apparatus from Derksen's narrative sentences, I understood both to be arguing for a poetry that is supported by irreducible facts of world socio-economics, which poetry accesses at the level of formal structure as well as educative content. Though Cabri's work is deeply intensified by his reading of Zukofsky in connection with contemporary social metrics, it is hard to make the case that Zukofsky meant his statement in terms what has become the current landscape of information, alternate medias included. Zukofsky's generation witnessed the corporatization of information in the U.S. where "news that stays news" became most apt as an advertising slogan. It is of little importance what Zukofsky thought of the phenomenon of "the media," though his poems reflect a hunger for information that is akin to Ezra Pound's eye for detail despite the delusions of grandeur. What Zukofsky's poetry evokes (and what Cabri also engages) is an attention to that which lacks information, fails to make news, or slips through the grids of any report. Yet the value here is not in moving such information from lost to found, but in the way poetry intensifies the relation of both lost and found. In the poem from the early 1960's "THE OLD POET MOVES TO A NEW APARTMENT 14 TIMES", Zukofsky writes 14 window-like sections, through which one gets a glimpse of poetry like this:
Oilwar / Empire
to La Paz, Bolivia
The location of poetry is somehow between the missing or failed information and the urgency of knowing "Their names," capitalized and italicized with the hot breath of the students but still left in anonymous collectivity. Information as such does not contain within the seeds of conflict resolution or social transformation. Information posits both loss and gain, knowing does not always breed action, concentration seems to be the dialectical link between the two. Poetry has an addictive relation to information but its ability to strain, magnify, and recompose allow it to separate itself from the arena of competing information systems, in the way that a thief, once hold of his bread, slips away to share the food with his shady company.
where students shouted
in the court of a hospital to
a doctor on call-
give us Their names,"
were shouted at from inside:
"They're poor people
we cannot identify them
they do not have documents." (229)
Poems by K. Silem Mohammad, Kent Johnson, Gary Sullivan, Clayton A. Couch, Timothy Yu and others.....
César Vallejo - Ten Poems
[No one lives in the house anymore…]Ten Poems from Poemas Humanos [pdf]
b. March 16, 1892
- No one lives in the house anymore – you tell me -; all have gone. The living room, the bedroom, the patio, are deserted. No one remains any longer, since everyone has departed.
And I say to you: When someone leaves, someone remains. The point through which a man passed, is no longer empty. The only place that is empty, with human solitude, is that through which no man has passed. New houses are deader than old ones, for their walls are of stone or steel, but not of men. A house comes into the world, not when people finish building it, but when they begin to inhabit it. A house lives only off men, like a tomb. That is why there is an irresistible resemblance between a house and a tomb. Except that the house is nourished by the life of man, while the tomb is nourished by the death of man. That is why the first is standing, while the second is laid out.
Everyone has departed from the house, in reality, but all have remained in truth. And it is not their memory that remains, but they themselves. Nor is it that they remain in the house, but that they continue about the house. Functions and acts leave the house by train or by plane or on horseback, walking or crawling. What continues in the house is the organ, the agent in gerund and in circle. The steps have left, the kisses, the pardons, the crimes. What continues in the house are the foot, the lips, the eyes, the heart. Negations and affirmations, good and evil, have dispersed. What continues in the house, is the subject of the act.
translated by Clayton Eshleman
translated by Clayton Eshleman
I Like America and America Likes Me
Photo - Caroline Tisdal
Beuys’s most famous Action took place in May 1974, when he spent three days in a room with a coyote. After flying into New York, he was swathed in felt and loaded into an ambulance, then driven to the gallery where the Action took place, without having once touched American soil. As Beuys later explained: ‘I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing of America other than the coyote.’ The title of the work is filled with irony. Beuys opposed American military actions in Vietnam, and his work as an artist was a challenge to the hegemony of American art.
Beuys’s felt blankets, walking stick and gloves became sculptural props throughout the Action. In addition, fifty new copies of the Wall Street Journal were introduced each day, which the coyote acknowledged by urinating on them. Beuys regularly performed the same series of actions with his eyes continuously fixed on the coyote. At other times he would rest or gather the felt around him to suggest the figure of a shepherd with his crook. The coyote’s behaviour shifted throughout the three days, becoming cautious, detached, aggressive and sometimes companionable. At the end of the Action, Beuys was again wrapped in felt and returned to the airport.
For Native Americans, the coyote had been a powerful god, with the power to move between the physical and the spiritual world. After the coming of European settlers, it was seen merely as a pest, to be exterminated. Beuys saw the debasement of the coyote as a symbol of the damage done by white men to the American continent and its native cultures. His action was an attempt to heal some of those wounds. ‘You could say that a reckoning has to be made with the coyote, and only then can this trauma be lifted’, he said.
- Tate Modern