September 19, 2014
Robert Kelly: An Alchemical Journal (10)
Most things can be done without machines. Enough suitably intricate vacant circuitry is available inside us to obviate external mechanisms. The adjusters of these circuits are called angels, the program tapes fed in are called reality, or time. Whoever the programmer may be, he or they or she are anxiously awaiting the outcome of each run. Alchemy is the science of becoming aware of the whole project in which we are being engaged. Alchemy is the science of being used. Alchemy is the science of use. Its name probably means the art of the black, & alludes in all likelihood not to the black soil of Egypt but to the black blankness of the unknown brain, the silent areas’ in which the Operator, bent night & day over his fire, eventually kindles a Voice, one that guides him in the science of penetration, science of final separations.
The lawn of genre: Wittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyer
All of England was once a lawn, Wittgenstein says. The whole of the country, with its uplands and lowlands, with its suburbs and towns, was once the quintessence of lawn. [...](....)
And it was in the name of the English lawn that the enemy within was kept down, Wittgenstein says. The Peasants' Revolt was crushed for seeking equality on the English lawn. The Diggers were transported for declaring that the English lawn was part of the commons. [...]
But never was the English lawn so lush as in the great universities of England! Wittgenstein says. Old expanses of lawn, strewn with meadowsweet and buttercups in high summer. Crocuses blooming in spring.
Wittgenstein Jr comes to an end as the carefree life of a student comes to an end. Salvation of a sort is offered to Wittgenstein Jr, but he disappears. A clue to his whereabouts was seen earlier when students go to his room to check on his well-being and spy scraps of paper tacked to the wall with only one word visible: APERION, Anaximander's word for the eternal or cosmological infinity (also spelled "apeiron" but this is how it appears in the novel). Perhaps this is an additional mark of excess to the one Derrida says signifies the participation in a genre without membership, a mark that is itself not part of the genre yet necessary for its distinction and recognition. Aperion then is the mark of a universal principle of existence, an abstraction outside of life that nevertheless makes life possible and is apparently sensible only in the light of a particular afternoon and in the freedom, lightness and excess of writing, and yet which, as Fischer's cavil confirms, must also succumb to the ever-encroaching English lawn.
Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010
Tate Modern: Exhibition
Tate Etc. issue 32 (Autumn 2014)_______________________
The Wheel Turns, the Boat Rocks, the Sea Rises
There have undoubtedly been stable periods in human history, but you and your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents never lived through one, and neither will any children or grandchildren you may have or come to have. Everything has been changing continuously, profoundly—from the role of women to the nature of agriculture. For the past couple of hundred years, change has been accelerating in both magnificent and nightmarish ways._______________________
Yet when we argue for change, notably changing our ways in response to climate change, we’re arguing against people who claim we’re disrupting a stable system. They insist that we’re rocking the boat unnecessarily.
I say: rock that boat. It’s a lifeboat; maybe the people in it will wake up and start rowing. Those who think they’re hanging onto a stable order are actually clinging to the wreckage of the old order, a ship already sinking, that we need to leave behind.
If you want to know how potentially powerful you are, ask your enemies. The misogynists who are trying to sabotage, delegitimize, and silence feminism and feminists only demonstrate in a roundabout way that feminism really is changing the world; they are the furious backlash and so the proof of that change. The climate movement is similarly upsetting a lot of powerful people and institutions; to grasp that, you just have to look at the tsunamis of money spent opposing specific measures and misinforming the public. The carbon barons are demonstrating that we could change the world and that they don’t want us to.
Right now, we are in a churning sea of change, of climate change, of subtle changes in everyday life, of powerful efforts by elites to serve themselves and damn the rest of us, and of increasingly powerful activist and social-movement campaigns to make a world that benefits more beings, human and otherwise, in the longer term. Every choice you make aligns you with one set of these forces or another. That includes doing nothing, which means aligning yourself with the worst of the status quo dragging us down in that ocean of carbon and consumption.
Against Animal Authenticity, Against the Forced March of the Now:
a review of Nicole Shukin’s Animal Capital
Karl Steel’s How To Make A Human: Animals and Violence in the Middle Ages
In the newest version of this old spiritual, humanist fantasy, capitalism imagines that the Internet and digital finance free it from factories, machines, heavy products, and, especially, workers, mostly now just consumers, as production goes on somewhere else in places not quite caught up to the fully human present. In this new present, power comes from the wind and sun, not steam and coal, while light transmits words and images effortlessly, without the strainings and sortings of printers and ink and scribes. When the animal rendering of the first (dis)assembly lines gives way to the portability and omnipresence of digital rendering, when stationary peasants give way to migrants, the soul of capitalism ascends from its dull carapace into a celestial glory infusing everyone fortunate enough to live in the true present.
Nicole Shukin’s Animal Capital interrupts these contradictory fantasies: on the one hand, capitalism’s self-serving fantasy of an animal/animated capitalism that thoughtlessly and mechanically “knows best,” and on the other, capitalism’s purported abolishment of a presumptively bestial corporeality into a realm of pure, digital spirit. The first fantasy process “renders” life into being capitalism itself, while also rendering animal bodies into products, like film stock, one of Shukin’s key examples, and also the animals of advertising. The second “renders” animals in the sense of digital rendering, or so it thinks, by turning away from physical stuff towards the purely spectral existence of finance and discourse. Shukin’s book frustrates all these processes of rendering, by emphasizing alternately either the cultural existence of animals, to combat the notion of an inert, predisursive natural existence, or the corporal character of capitalism, which cannot be abandoned, whatever its dreams of escaping animality to become pure culture.
In a larger sense, critical animal theory, as a “new thing” in criticism is, arguably, just another product, and, like all products, its time has already slipped away, almost from the moment of its introduction, in favor of still newer critical modes like critical plant studies and object-oriented ontologies, whose pieties claim to outdo anything else to date in their sensitivity to the wholly other. The delight in reviewing a book from 2009, five years on, is that of refusing the market’s demand always to be of the moment. The past, whether medieval or more recent, has its resources. It offers us a way to stop the smooth flow of capitalist time. And with Shukin, we must aim to be as adaptive as capitalism itself, always seeking some “counterhegemonic” (one of her favored words) purchase to whittle away at its fantasies and satisfactions, always looking for some way to get off the clock and to live on terms and in times other than what capitalism sells back to us, without ever imagining that we have got free of our obligations to our animal selves.
The critical core of Steel’s book lies in his radical proposal that “the human is an effect rather than a cause of its domination of animals; that the human cannot abandon the subjugation of the animal without abandoning itself; and that the human can therefore be said not to exist except in its action of domination”. He argues, moreover, that because the human is contingently constituted rather than natural or given, the violence which founds the human needs to be incessantly reenacted. Steel explicitly extends Judith Butler’s understanding of identity as a performative recitation to the category of the human when he proposes that because “the human never comes completely into being, it is always trying to justify itself …. [T]he supposedly foundational act of the human can never cease, since it can never be founded on anything but the act itself”.
...Steel’s book participates in an exciting movement to “bring medieval studies into mutually beneficial critical relations with scholars working on a diverse array of post-medieval subjects, including critical philosophies that remain un- or under-historicized”. Such critical philosophies include posthumanisms and new materialisms of various stripes, affect, thing, and object oriented theory, ecocriticism and critical animal theory, and theories of sovereignty and biopower. Steel’s book certainly brings the Middle Ages into intimate relationship with contemporary critical philosophies, particularly those philosophies devoted to deconstructing the sovereignty of the human and elaborating an ethics of co-constitution and co-existence.
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Peace - Burial at Sea
Madman or Master?
The EY Exhibition: Late Turner - Painting Set Free
David Shook translating Mikeas Sánchez
Those who sleep beyond day and night
beyond solitude and abandonment
dream of life
and are scared to live
who doesn’t it scare?
And those of us who are awake
we who live through absence
from the solitude of smiles
we who die each instant
and console ourselves by filling emptiness
with the joy of bodies
we also dream of living
Drunken Boat Issue 19
September 18, 2014
Reception & Effusion: fragments on asemic objects, after Ponge
There is one activity can always engage in: the gaze-of-such-a-sort-that-it’s-spoken, the comment upon what surrounds him and upon his own state amidst what surrounds him. Right away, this lets him recognize the importance of each thing and its mute supplication, the instances when, in their silence, they make us speak them, according to their value, and in themselves,—outside of their habitual signifying value,—with no alternative, and yet measured. By what measure?: their very own.
I swear language is capable of getting in the way of my use of it.
– Francis Ponge, “Les Façons du regard” [Ways of Seeing]i
Sometimes I can’t bear the effects of its having a mind of its own . . . !
To hold a pebble in your palm once is to understand how every pebble behaves,
how every pebble has ever behaved (since well before the flood,)
is to understand that a pebble wouldn’t move, or couldn’t move,—
that a pebble shouldn’t move,—
unless acted upon by an external force (to quote a phrase),
is to feel that a pebble has no force,
but has been brought by what it is not to where it has come to rest—
Ponge: “It is sometimes the case that the stone itself holds signs of having been stirred. In its final stages, as pebble, gravel, sand, dust, it is no longer able to play its role as bearer or supporter of animate things.”ii
Is this what it means to be without will:
moving only passively through the space on the side of things,
being moved, breaking down, until there is nothing left but pebble, gravel, sand, dust,
until there is not enough left of you to even house or support your suppressors, the ones who caused
you to stir, to disintegrate?
And does a stone continue to possess its body as it falls away to pebble, grave, sand, dust?
And is there even such thing as totality in geology, or has all that was once integral broken into discrete bodies? A sort of incomplete whole.
And to what whole, beyond the pebble itself, could the pebble belong?
Sky High, Skin Deep
dark technologies of mediation
Renata Lemos Morais
What I propose in this article is a theoretical approach to processes of mediation that are not visual. I address unattainable and invisible processes of technological mediation in which mediation itself becomes, parallel to the overabounding surrounding excess of visual percepts, a form of inaccessibility that in its totality becomes unfathomable. Such understanding of mediation goes against simplistic notions that reduce its meaning to "that which makes communication accessible."
Not every instance of mediation can be easily accessed in a world of pervasive media. Dark technologies of media, which range from drone-mediated to nano-mediated networks, lead to partial and absolute degrees of inaccessibility. Pervasive media produces two different realms of non-access: informational and physical. Parallel to the informational obscurancies of dark data and drone-mediated surveillance, weird tales are told about the physical inaccessibility that is a property of nano levels of mediated matter. Dark mediation belongs to science-fact just as it belongs to science fiction. It pertains, simultaneously, to the combined material ecologies of culture, technology, and nature. Pervading data systems and matter itself, our dark technologies of mediation are hidden in plain sight.
Dark mediation presupposes different degrees of inaccessibility. It is, therefore, mediation that leads to partial or absolute noncommunication. This inaccessibility can belong to the realm of disappearance, in which we find the forbidden, the hidden, the forgotten--or it can belong to the absolute, the ethereal, the ontological. The materiality of media technologies and their technological dust are not only causing a lack of breath -- they are also creating a curtain of fog that obfuscates mediation.
The Cahiers Series: Center for Writers & Translators, The American University of Paris
Translation as visitation. Translating silence, or the inability to translate silence. A word that does not want to be translated. Translation as story. Attempting to translate grief. Translation as unanswered letter to the dead. Translation as discovery, biography, or history. Invisible translator. Translation with seams, as weave, as warp or weft, as continuity via femininity. Translation as architecture, music, painting, or poetry. Translation as inevitable failure. Translation of the body, of text into movement or gesture. Translation as transportation, transformation, reformation, performance, puppetry. A translation scrambles the syntax of daily life.BOMB 129, Fall 2014
Translation as conversation. The twenty-three pamphlets in The Cahiers Series echo each other, recombining as cells into a larger body, as, “An instant / translation of / what was splitting / into cells / or wasn't” (from Idra Novey's Clarice: The Visitor, the most recent cahier). Or as Anne Carson in Nay Rather, #21, seems to be saying to Isabella Ducrot (Text on Textile, #6): “My white paint is your broken weft of Penelope.” The series makes a story that does not want to be linear, as if rearranged by Carson's random number generator in “By Chance the Cycladic People.” It asks: Does translation spring forth from an inalienable desire to retrace our many steps to the source, to before-language—to the story as it is so many stories before they become text—so as to rediscover, each of us, our own individual paths back to language?
September 15, 2014
Draft 98: Canzone
Rachel Blau DuPlessis
Yet this part of the work remains closest to darkness.
The knowledge of yearning will not be complete.
There is no there; it’s all degrees of here.
Cannot touch them whom we are marked by.
But they are palpable and enter this place.
Be nomadic, nomad. Wander with the wanderers,
yet safe in the room. There is at once too much
and much too little. Wait it out.
“The bit of ugly, the glitch, the torn, the sweeper, the tender,
the constant reminder that things are being made, unmade
and tended”--you are now one part of all of this.
You will be it, help it, answer and feed that
surface of cries, chirps. You will call out.
Live in empathy. Let the agony be. Comfort it.
Reject the whole that someone claims is rule.
A hole, a line, a hold, a lie, a hope,
a hype will slide you through this most dangerous spot.
Resist only rectitudes, resist the crazed
and driven knowers. Find and replace.
Though the mechanism to depict this is
called documentary, still it needs the stinging
pulse of lines. This matches that.
All “ofness” exists
for much more Of.
The beyond moves to two places: here and there.
To achieve connection,
is there just one route of passage?
There is not.
There Is Madness In This Method:
Commentary on a fragment from Deleuze and Guattari’s What Is Philosophy?
It is often said that people are indifferent to the dreams of others, that only the dreamer finds the story he is recounting of any interest; I have always been perplexed, even shocked, by such received wisdom. I usually find people’s dreams very interesting, even the seemingly banal ones where nothing strange or untoward happens. I like Deleuze and Guattari’s association of dreams and philosophy, for I find dreams very philosophical, and Deleuze’s philosophy very oniric. I used to (30 years ago!) express this by saying that Deleuze’s philosophical style incarnates a constant “pulsation between the conscious and the unconscious”, but though I still agree with the thought I find the vocabulary too academically “recognizable”.
People are indifferent to others’ thoughts, just as they are indifferent to an other’s dreams. Until some danger crops up, and their attitude changes. If the danger is to them, they panic and run, or at least give a wide berth. If the danger is to the dreamer or the thinker, people may find an unhealthy interest in observing al that from afar. But it is not the recognizable, “obvious”, dangers that count, recognition is for the indifferent. The dangers, the risks, are in the experimentation, the doing of things outside correct thought that are tied to getting one thinking. If you are not on the lookout you will perceive nothing: “they often remain hidden and barely perceptible”. Hidden in plain sight, if you are willing to use the eyes of the mind.
The scream of geometry
Translation by Linda Rugg and Andrzej Tichy
These things are on your mind as you sleep: (1) a landscape (2) two bodies (that is: one animal and one human) (3) the car. The landscape includes the rain. The car includes the bottle. The human includes the eye and the hand. The animal includes the idea of mortality. The rain includes the soldier. The bottle includes the idea of Albania. The eye includes the mother. The hand includes the wall. The idea of mortality includes the witness. The soldier includes the father, the idea of Bulgaria the names, the mother the end, the wall the moment, the witness the shot, and the shot the shot.
Animals, landscapes. Direction, journey. One hundred soldiers shooting a Romanian policeman. A Macedonian. What is your image of this? You anticipate – but what? Which words are included? One hundred professional boxers shooting an Algerian news announcer. There are deserts, oceans, mountains, lowlands, savannas. Then there are evergreen forests, broadleaf forests, cultivated soil, tundra. Finally glaciers, prairies, pastureland, tropical rain forests, and taiga. Rank these. Animals, landscapes. One hundred Lebanese shooting a Belarusian maid. An infinite number of ways of not knowing. But the number of directions is infinite only from a mathematical perspective, in reality it is finite to such an extent that it spoils the whole journey.
It’s the sea
refusing to be worn.
Any laugh is a laugh at structure
the audacity of it
to carry off
our share. Our brevity. Only a fool, or the inspired folk
would laugh at the sea,
listen to its silver-tongued absurdities.
under your stone shoulder, holding sun up
one’s live long day.
The smell of salt haunts
a village with the
mad howling, an answer for the gibber of waves:
of broken plates
cackling at the edge of town.
The Cuttyhunk Photographs of Charlotte Mandell
with texts by Lynn Behrendt, Billie Chernicoff,
Robert Kelly, and Tamas Panitz
exploring "the flanges of words"
As citizens in the commonwealth of language, we are anxious to make new work freely and easily available, using the swift herald of the internet to bring readers chapbooks and other texts they can read and download without cost. The first publication in this series is Eyeland, photos by Charlotte Mandell with texts by Lynn Behrendt, Billie Chernicoff, Robert Kelly, and Tamas Panitz.
In future weeks, we will make more texts available, including the long poem The Language of Eden by Robert Kelly.
September 12, 2014
b. September 12, 1858
An Alchemical Journal (6)
It has been my intention to banish all learning from these pages. Only what I have stood under will serve our purposes, gentlemen. Say the blessing &, we will begin. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one being to sever the biological bonds that have held it to life & amber waves of grain. The purple mountain’s majesty (Yesod) above the fruited plain (Malkuth). Learn the colors. Defer invention. Isnt it just like a burnt-out painter to invent the telegraph. What hath man wrought indeed. I know so little of history I can almost breathe.
mapping space in fiction:
joseph frank and the idea of spatial form
Joyce was among the first, if not the first, to upend, after the manner espoused by the Russian Formalists, the traditional hierarchy of form and content in the novelistic tradition. But unlike them, and perhaps unaware of them, Joyce here offers a more nuanced understanding of the creative process, which does not hasten to remove the artist entirely from his creation, but allows him to fade into it, becoming an invisible presence, behind or beyond or above his work though still very much there.
As Joseph Frank points out in his early study from 1945, Spatial Form in Modern Literature, Joyce, in Ulysses, works with the assumption that his readers are Dubliners, intimately acquainted with Dublin life and the personal history of his characters, thereby allowing him to refrain from giving any direct information about them; information that, contrary to his intentions, would have betrayed the presence of an omniscient author. What Joyce does, instead, is to present the elements of his narrative in fragments, as they are thrown out unexplained in the course of casual conversations, or as they lie embedded in the various strata of symbolic reference, allusions to Dublin life, history, and the external events of the twenty-four hours during which the novel takes place. The factual background, which otherwise is so conveniently summarized for the reader, must be reconstructed in this case from fragments, sometimes hundreds of pages apart, scattered through the book. As a result, Frank argues, the reader is forced to read Ulysses in the manner he reads modern poetry – continually fitting fragments together and keeping allusions in mind until, by reflexive reference, he can link them to their complements. Indeed Joyce himself, although his model was Aristotle, says as much of Ulysses in a letter to Ezra Pound of 9 April 1917: ‘I am doing it, as Aristotle would say – by different means in different parts.’
Taking his cue from Sergei Eisenstein, Frank observes that the juxtaposition of disparate images in a cinematic montage automatically creates a synthesis of meaning between them, which supersedes any sense of temporal discontinuity. This is equally true for the poetry of Mallarmé, Pound, and Eliot, as it is of the modernist novels of Faulkner, Woolf, and Dos Passos. Frank extends this thesis from Joyce and Proust to Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood, but the same may well be said about a disparate list of works from Nabokov to John Hawkes, Julio Cortázar to Italo Calvino. Indeed the study of spatial form in narrative is ever more relevant today than any time in the past.
Water Cycle 2 (undercurrent)
via junk for code
Reading Violette Leduc’s La Bâtarde
“At the age of five, of six, at the age of seven, I used to begin weeping sometimes without warning, simply for the sake of weeping, my eyes open wide to the sun, to the flowers. . . . I wanted to feel an immense grief inside me and it came.”
Foreword to Violette Leduc’s La Bâtarde
La Bâtarde (1964) is a harsh title for an autobiography that is full of animals and children and plants and food and weather and girls falling in love with girls. It’s true that Violette Leduc was the illegitimate daughter of a domestic servant who was seduced by theconsumptive son of her employer, but to choose such a melodramatic and reductive title, “The Bastard,” tells us how hard it was for Leduc to escape from the way her mother described her, and in that description gave her daughter an internal crucifix on which to nail her life’s story.
It’s not surprising, then, that the furnace at the center of Leduc’s autobiography, and indeed all her writing, is stoked by her ambivalent steely-eyed mother, of whom she writes, “You live in me as I lived in you.” Yet if the young Violette’s tears spill from eyes that are open to the sun, the older Violette’s words spill from the same place too. She is not blinded by her tears, nor are her eyes shut to the pleasures of being alive. Which is to say Leduc was a writer very much in the world despite the distress she suffered all her life. What’s more, she was a writer who was going to give maximum attention to the cause of her distress and create the kind of visceral language that often irritates men and makes women nervous.
Simone de Beauvoir
On Violette Leduc: Interviewing Sophie Lewis
“I am a desert talking to myself,” Violette Leduc wrote to me once. I have encountered beauties beyond reckoning in deserts. And whoever speaks to us from the depths of his loneliness speaks to us of ourselves. Even the most worldly or the most active man alive has his dense thickets where no one ventures, not even himself, but which are there: the darkness of childhood, the failures, the self-denials, the sudden distress at a cloud on the sky. To catch sight suddenly of a landscape or a human being as they exist when we are absent: it is an impossible dream which we have all cherished. If we read La bâtarde it becomes real, or nearly so. A woman is descending into the most secret part of herself and telling us about all she finds there with an unflinching sincerity, as though there were no one listening.
“My case is not unique,” says Violette Leduc at the beginning of this narrative. No; but it is singular and significant. It demonstrates with exceptional clarity that a life is the reworking of a destiny by freedom.
... my work on Leduc was very slow. I felt that I needed to make decisions about tense, about tone, about degree of disclosure for almost every sentence. There seemed to me to be an oscillation between an almost forensic, dispassionate detailing of thought and feeling, and a lyricism that aimed to paint feeling more passionately—yet Leduc would never intentionally sacrifice clarity or exactness. So I somehow had to marry the two impulses all the way. It was tough work.
I’m wary of translations that are guided more by the translator’s personal approach than by their feel for the text. I do occasionally turn down books for which I don’t think I have much sympathy—that’s a principle. I don’t have the flexibility (yet?) or the command of English or simply the ear to translate anything and everything. I’m much surer with some voices than with others. I think translators should have a commitment of sympathy to the texts they work on and be open about this. Of course I’m ready to work hard to capture and recreate a new or challenging voice. But there’s no gain in working against one’s personal linguistic grain.
The Day Comes to an End
The Death of Adulthood in American Culture
A. O. Scott
Adulthood as we have known it has become conceptually untenable. It isn’t only that patriarchy in the strict, old-school Don Draper sense has fallen apart. It’s that it may never really have existed in the first place, at least in the way its avatars imagined. Which raises the question: Should we mourn the departed or dance on its grave?
An Investigation Into the Reappearance of Walter Benjamin
Adam Leith Gollner
History tells us that the influential German literary critic died more than seventy years ago. So how is it then that Benjamin is now out doing lectures and has published a new book?
So much of therapy – and I use that term precisely – is about making other people comfortable and society feel safe. Analysis differs in that it suspects that accommodation is the problem the analysand suffers from.