Friday, July 01, 2016

Stuffed Cat

After David Hammons

In this world anterior
To where you have been
What you will become
The drum is a reminder
Of another world
Extant but not recoverable
Still hidden by its being revealed
An open secret or prophecy in reverse
Of all lost things they tried to destroy
The sun as it shines on dead things playing alive
Uncanny because we think any moment they might wake

Awaken cat! Where there is only the sunlight of recognition
And the refusal of the life-like dead to be recognized
Your snow globe is not a ghost
The coverings on these mirrors only obscure who you’re not
A relation of objects begetting objects
Readymade for the fall of Amerikkka
Armed as it were by your right
To opacity and enigma
What is and what ain’t.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

For Julius Eastman

For the basic
For the base not the super-structure
There is this structure

There is a motive to song
Dissonant and aswarm
Like killer bees or simply

Bees riled collectively
These refrains increase
We are their surcease

The reason for this ante-
anthem other pronouns
Don’t like othering

Real basic like a feeling
Or a feeling of a feeling

Without a season or
Stars to guide you
There is this structure

Not anarchy
This end of theme
Of fugue

Against Cage’s silence
Meaning being in
The closet

Beyond Reich’s bruised blood
His drumming
There is a motive

Actual refusal and not a semblance
In dissonance
He makes a plan

Picks the right instrument
To kill whitey
Tear it up

Controlled bellowing
Let the rest balloon
Until all masters are dead

Or this isn’t antagonism
After 400 years
But stasis sustained by noise

By swarms erring
Until the End of the world
Composition carries this

Of the post-expectant
Of redress or what counts

As redress counting-off
Gives Bach a reason
To do evil

To do evil against evil
Be crazier than the craziest
Grammar of suffering

Because you had to act sane
In this sea of whiteness
Martyring a piano

An instrumentation
To alchemize voice

Mackey’s wear and tear
Of too much heaven
Coming up for air

In hell’s sub-basement
Its sub-sub-basement
Smoking with all the lights on.

The Art of Withdrawal

The following audio recording presents two parts of a longer work I have been writing about "artist withdrawals," presented for Patrick F. Durgin's "Poetics of Agony" MFA workshop last fall at the Art Institute of Chicago. In it I look at the correspondences between the work of Lee Lozano and Ben Kinmont as a means of considering more broadly the problem of "withdrawal" in art discourse, a topic that has interested me for some time, and which seems more timely than ever given the increasing importance of art practices that refuse and/or problematize participation with institutions and marketplaces.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

from “A way into no way”: Autonomia and Recent USAmerican Poetry

Hannah Arendt reads the refusal of the passengers in terms of her larger critique of totalitarianism and the break-down of authority within the state. As the title of Moten’s poem indicates, I believe that this is yet another example (from a litany of examples in his poetry and scholarship) of the (forced) experiment of Black life in the United States. Here what is being tested is another form of politics, a politics of the unauthorized, unlegislated, and unadministered. The refusal to leave a train indicates not just an isolated event for Moten, but a continuum of spontaneous resistance and refusal definitive of Black ontology. To not leave the train is a test—a testing of the authority of the municipality and thus the state. It is also a test—as in an experiment. Or: “experimental slant can’t help but hurt you. look how hard and sharp it makes you breathe. You have to refuse in real time with things that revise in real time when the wind is closed.” Like music composition and performance, refusing to vacate a train is also an expression of the general intellect inasmuch as it objectifies knowledge that becomes transmissable within a particular cultural tradition, namely the knowledge of resisting artfully. Not unlike the autonomists, Black life is characterized—if not essentialized—by forms of refusal that do not conform to state authority, that, in other words, do not play into the hands of sanctioned political expression.

Echoing the notion of the “post-political” in autonomist discourse, Moten coins the term “ante-politics.” What Black collectivity and autonomists share most in common is the tendency towards refusals that anteriorize politics, forcing political expression outside or beyond the enclosures of governance towards what Saidiya Hartman calls a “politics without a proper locus.” So that the “rent party is the curriculum of the rent party,” which is to say, theory and practice become immediate to one another through collective social expression. “This is how we never arrive” is obviously a reference to the train stuck at 110th St., but it also echoes Moten’s larger historical-ontological-political project, which employs Afro-Derridian formulations and terminology to register a temporality that is anterior—other than itself. To not arrive, in this case, is to practice a politics of the “ante”—of the exterior; one that will not cohere into a state formation, that will uphold an ongoing experiment, an ongoing test of “fail[ing] to legislate.” These connections are elaborated in Moten’s collaboration with Stefano Harney, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, which evokes numerous political and social formations against the state and university. Not least of these is the undercommons itself, which like the maroon communities that precede it creates enclaves autonomous from the intervention of the Anti-Black state.

These “ante-political” practices of Black autonomy finally involve what Moten calls after the poet-scholar Nathaniel Mackey the “open secret,” the fact that Black essence hides in the open, and that this hiding both protects and makes vulnerable. Or, in the words of Moten’s “test,” “the refuge is open and can’t be safe.” To be “ante”—to be on the outs of official political practices (as Blacks have always been in the United States)—constantly risks the uncertainties of lawlessness, precarity, and porosity towards the other. It also opens to the possibilities of conspiracy—a breathing together such that “our breathing empties the air with fullness and we’re in love in a state of constant sorrow.” “the outcome is a process, a way into no way.” “A way into no way”—in other words, an exit, an exodus, without termini, without station, just sitting in the dark together, “in real time when the wind is closed.” 

Monday, May 16, 2016

In Search of African-American Space at Pratt Institute

May 20, 2016
10:00-5:30 PM
Higgins Hall
Pratt Institute

There were roughly four million enslaved people living in the United States when the nation formally abolished slavery in 1865. If the African American experience emerges from the structure of slavery what does architecture have to say to that experience, and what can the formerly enslaved say to an architecture whose primary purpose is to fortify the state, as Vitruvius set forth in the Ten Books on Architecture. This is a question that is being asked again today in response to the escalation of state violence toward people of color, which is taking place at the same time as the emergence of a black aesthetics. The symposium sets out to bring together in a conversation a group of historians, architects, writers, performers, activists and artists who are in search of African American spaces from a variety of perspectives. The discussion will critically examine: Brooklyn as a destination on the Underground Railroad—past, present and future; the experience of African American space in the museum, the memorial, the monument and the mundane, and the experience of “a politics without a proper locus,” to quote Saidiya Hartman.

10:00 Introduction:
Frederick Biehle, Jeffrey Hogrefe and Scott Ruff

10:30 Black Radical Tradition in Brooklyn as a Destination on UGRR—past, present and future
Jeffrey Hogrefe: Moderator

Allison Guess
Black Geography and the Emergence of Black Radical Tradition

Frank Decker
Independent Scholar
Plymouth Church and the Underground Railroad

Brian Purnell
Bowdoin College
From Segregation to Congregation: African_American Spaces and Places in Brooklyn

12:00-1:30 LUNCH

1:30 Museum, Monument, Memorial and the Mundane
Frederick Biehle: Moderator

Rodney Leon
Reprise: African Burial Ground

Scott Ruff
Pratt Institute
Culture in Translation: African-American Spatial Tropes

2:30-2:45 BREAK

2:45 Politics Without a Proper Locus
Thom Donovan: Moderator

Radiclani Clytus
Brown University
Visuality and abolition of slavery

Ann Holder
Pratt Institute
Visuality of race and space in antebellum urban

Marisa Williamson
Pratt Institute
Performance: Sally Hemings in Paris

5:00 Plenary and Reception

Politics Without a Proper Locus: panel introduction
In Saidiya Hartman’s seminal Scenes of Subjections, Hartman takes-up Michel De Certeau’s notion of “practice” in order to document and analyze daily acts of resistance and redress by slaves. Through “practice” slaves expressed, in Hartman’s words, “a politics without a proper locus,” which is to say, political actions and expressions unrecognized by the official politics of the dominant society. If, to quote De Certeau, space denotes a “practiced place,” what are the consequences of reproducing space without a proper location and thus remaining, in Ann Holder’s words, “improper”? This is one of the central questions our panel pursues today, in relation to the experience of slaves and ex-slaves in North America. Despite the formal extension of civil liberties to African-Americans (and the limited enforcement of those liberties by the US justice system) I wonder to what extent the practice of a politics without proper locus remains essential to Black spatial practices and architectural design. Today’s presenters have so far discussed the spaces and places of the Black Radical Tradition and of the Underground Railroad. The following presenters will link these spaces and places to what Fred Moten calls “ante-politics”—the politics of the outside, of being anterior, of Black collective research and fugitive planning. By attending Black spatial practices, I believe we might contemplate what architectural and spatial propositions issue forth from a Black Radical Tradition. We might also imagine, following Frank Wilderson, what might be gained by “remaining in the hold,” which is to say, tarrying with spaces intrinsic to the slave experience, whether that be the hold, the plantation, or the spaces of flight and temporary refuge along the routes of the Underground Railroad. To what extent should rupture with Anti-Black civil society, what Aime Cesaire articulated as “the end of the world,” remain the guiding principle of Black spatial and architectural practice? What might a Black “ontology”—the specific capacities that extend from the experience of slavery and the continuance of its effects and structures in our era—offer to those wishing to intervene in and revolutionize the built environment? How, in Frantz Fanon’s words, do “zones of non-being”—spaces of forced labor, natal alienation, general dishonoring, and domination—not only necessitate rupture, but also produce desirable, if not ideal, spaces for cohabitation, socialization, and commonality? Given this panel’s critique of occularcentrism, I wonder too how Black spatial practices both resist the white gaze by facilitating what Simone Brown calls “dark sousveillance”—a passing under the gaze of white civil society—but also radicalize an ensemble of the senses. What are the sonic, olfactory, and tactile spaces of Black life and the Black Radical Tradition and how might these spaces, again in Moten’s words, “cut” and “augment” one another, thus conceiving an outside to dominant incarnations of political and social space? If, following Eduardo Glissant, Black aesthetics is defined by the artist’s “right to obscurity,” to what extent should architecture also aspire to be obscure, opaque, and illegible? Inasmuch as fugitivity and flight are intrinsic to the experience of slaves and ex-slaves, how can and does Black architectural space persist in motion—both a monument to and the embodiment of stealing away with one’s self? How too might architectural design embody what Neil Roberts calls “sociogenic marronage”—the ongoing collective practice of freedom that extends from the struggles and modes of life of slaves?

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Reading for Melissa Buzzeo's BFA Workshop at Pratt Institute

Melissa Buzzeo asked me to give a reading and talk about my work the other night at Pratt. I liked so much the company and the sense of rapport with her students.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

For Eleni

If we are sick
And we are all sick

How do words care
For the sick?

We are dying to live
There is something

I am dying to tell you
When language ends

Don't call this cure
Call this method

Call this the necessary
Blocks we throw up

To know we are here
And not just a voice

That pain is just the beginning
Of what we will say

To each other a kind
Of poetry just without

The poem.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Tzak feature

George Life, editor of Tzak, has kindly posted a set of poems of mine composed over the past couple years.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Tripwire 10: A Pestschrift for CA Conrad

An updated and extended version of my essay, “None of us have rules, none of us have scripture”: CA Conrad’s Advanced Elvis Course and the Politics of Spirit, appears in Tripwire 10 along with many other essays, remembrances, and tributes to CA Conrad.

TRIPWIRE 10 * A Pestschrift for CAConrad, with an interview, prose, poems, & a play by CAConrad, plus TC Tolbert, Magdalena Zurawski, Frank Sherlock, Anne Boyer, Marianne Morris, Allison Cobb, Jen Coleman, d/wolach & Elizabeth Williamson, erica kaufman, Thom Donovan, along with work from Danielle LaFrance, Juliana Spahr, Lila Matsumoto & Samantha Walton, Sarah Hayden, Nibia Pastrana Santiago, Frances Kruk, Sheila Mannix,  Jenifer K Wofford, Alicia Cohen, Cesar Moro (trans. Esteban A. Quispe), Heriberto Yépez, ko ko thett, Steven Farmer, Nachoem Wjinberg (trans. David Colmer), Ghayath Almadhoun (trans. Catherine Cobham), Bert Stabler, Julian Francis Park on Claudia Rankine & Fred Moten, Tyrone Williams on Jocelyn Saidenberg, erica kaufman on Frank Sherlock, Eric Sneathen on Chris Nealon, William Rowe on Joshua Clover, Danny Hayward on Lucy Beynon & Lisa Jeschke, David W. Pritchard on Marie Buck, Kristin Palm on Wendy Walters, Linda Russo on Lorine Niedecker, James Sherry on Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Laura Moriarty on Syd Staiti, Nich Malone on Towards. Some. Air. (eds. De’Ath & Wah), & Ryan Gato on P. Inman. Cover by Yuh-Shioh Wong. 340 pages. April 2016. $15.