Monday, September 28, 2009

For Eleni and David

Armies swerve in your breath
Become porous to perfect rest
Insist their guts give out

That the plague is everywhere
We will have been without
Organs or an agreement

To no longer do violence
Committing shit in the other's
Mouth loving the face for when

It isn't eyes all full of ink
I would spill a million tons
If it would bring the dead back

And end these wars become
What we would have become
Were the world so cited.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Damn the Caesars vol. 5

Check out the fifth volume of Rich Owens' Damn the Caesars, which includes a gallery featuring new work and an interview by Brenda Iijima and Tyrone Williams.

Blood of the Beasts

--for Dorothea Lasky and Brenda Iijima, after Temple Grandin

The painlessness we all inhabit the
Stancheon and the pressure that holds
The body holds one within their own
Eternity what they must have felt as
They entered it not nirvana but a cold

Of the senses wiring the mind that is
Not us but is what we do from the remove
Of a camera that is not life being lived
But our deaths performed in advance

There is an automation of the eyes
That brings the whole to peace when
The animal is touched and not whipped
Ritual is what survives them the soul
Is anything that remembers this.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Mobile Archive opens tonight... Art in General. Here is an excerpt from an interview I conducted with Mobile Archive curators Galit Eilat and Chen Tamir, which will appear in FANZINE soon:

Thom Donovan: Do you see an evolution to the archive based on the different places it's traveled to? Do you perceive moments when the archive has changed dramatically? Moments of sea change in the collection?

Chen Tamir: It's always changing because each institution adds up to twenty-five DVDs. By definition it changes each time because it has to with each stop.

Galit Eilat: But I think the archive also depends on which institution is curating it, and making decisions about how to deal with it, how to present it. So it's not just the content, but also the form. What discussions will come with it? Discussion can arise around different issues related to the archive. So we are not only talking about the video works themselves, but how they become articulated. That's what I mean by "form."

TD: So each different institute articulates the meaning of the archive in its unique way?

GE: It's a different context. Different curators choose to show different works to a particular audience.

TD: Why are archives which cross international boundaries important?

CT: I think it's about facilitating dialogue and cross-cultural exposure. The work that's in the archive is coming from very personal perspectives, but together they create evidence of certain mind-frames within cultures, certain issues important to particular cultures. The more these videos are watched the more understanding we gain. For example, a lot of the works in the archive are from Israel or Palestine, the Middle-East and Eastern Europe, and for them to come to New York right now while the US is at war with Iraq and Afghanistan and in an economic war with the entire world makes it extremely urgent that we establish dialogue between cultural producers from those parts of the world.

GE: For me, it started with the permanent archive, and using videos from the archive in presentations. The traveling archive grew out of a desire to share with other places and also out of the idea that other institutes would contribute something we were not aware of or we don't have the possibility to communicate with because it is from another country, continent or nation. All of this was especially important given the geopolitical context where I come from, where there is not much dialogue between countries. By having the archive travel it is easier to engage in dialogue. Already the archive has contributed quite a bit in this way.

CT: It's also interesting to think about the economy of these archives. A lot of artists don’t upload their videos online because this is not a framework they'd like their work shown in--they would prefer exclusivity for their work, for it to be presented in a gallery--but they do want the exposure a traveling, exhibited archive provides for. And the archive is more like a library since none of the works were purchased, but given to the archive by artists for distribution. You could think of it as a library of viewing copies of these works which otherwise would have market value but do not because they are not editioned. But they do have value. They are physical things, and we have them. Someone may have paid $5,000 for them, and it's in their house, or a museum may have purchased them. It's sort of a parallel economy.

TD: So it's somewhere between the YouTube model and the exclusivity of a private collection?

GE: The archive foregrounds the symbolic value of art works. In fact, we may distinguish a collection from an archive in terms of an archive's symbolic value. The former is dealing more with market value, the later with symbolic values. This is one way to imagine a different economy. What if we distribute works without instruction, without a manual? How then to communicate with the artists and between institutions? The value of works of art become determined more and more by how they are shared.

TD: Could you clarify the term "symbolic value"? I think I know what you mean, but just wanted to make sure.

CT: Cultural value vs. economic value. You can't put a price on it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

David Wolach on his Occultations

David Wolach has made interesting mention of the Nonsite Colletive in relation to his Occultations, a book which I would recommend, especially for those interested in intersections between cultural politics and visionary poetics. Here is an excerpt from Wolach's full essay, which can be found online here:

The work of those who have contributed to Nonsite Collective—Rob Halpern, Taylor Brady, Kaia Sand, David Buuck, Jules Boykoff, Thom Donovan, Eleni Stecopolous, and others--gives us a related, but higher-stakes and, I think, richer poetics in this regard. A couple years into exploring these questions, Rob Halpern invited me into the conversations that Nonsite was (is) having. The discussions have been enormously generative, as Nonsite was (is) asking, in various ways, those very questions: what the use of our explorations might be, how metaphor (here, in contemporary experimental poetries) obscures and yet has the potential to reveal that which is obscured—those sites and nonsites (i.e., systems of power/powerlessness mapped or made perceptible) that are socially invisible (Zukofsky: "As the eyes / near wreck / to create"). In their draft proposal, Nonsite affiliates write: "[Nonsite] will activate affinities between an array of efforts to make perceptible, apprehend, map, or narrate consequential social phenomena and occulted disasters." Reading this, having a book called and dealing with occulted disaster, really excited me, and nearly immediately Nonsite conversations complicated the project. And so Occultations, indeed the poems here, have become more than insular explorations; they've become conversations and at times critique of how and whether poetry is in a position to "make perceptible" or "narrate" "occulted disasters."

So, beyond the more obvious interest in the occulted disaster—here, in these poems, the languages of "news by internet" and "poetry while fucking" and "shotgun healtcare" and “pharmaceutical discourses” rehearse a flaccid attempt to lay bare to a capital-driven wartime suffering and know if not acknowledge the econsystems of those who are completely other—I'm also interested in poetry as occulting itself, or, perhaps more precisely, the degree of inertness the contemporary western poetic black market expresses in the face of systemic/global disaster—what Buuck (The Shunt) dubs “war dash time.” Are we, in fact, in asking these questions, our own category errors?
--David Wolach

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Walking Through Walls

-for Galit Eilat and Rachel Zolf

That they could
Walk through walls
Not at all a miracle
Not at all miraculous

Like walking on wa
ter turning stones
To bread raising
The dead the real

Revelation that they
Are walking through
Walls to kill people
To kill the little ones

On the other side
Of that wall can not
Make us feel any
thing but some eerie

Sense one gets some
times from having
Mistaken the figural
For the literal the

Metaphoric for what
Is all too real like
When Toni Morrison
Speaks of "tongue

suicide" we can ima
gine real tongues
Going before teeth
In the mouth so far

Beyond speech are
We so far behind
What could have
Possibly been said.

I am thinking of
Walls differently now
Than when they came
Down as a result
Of your gun site
As a result of your fist
Pounding against
The doors of the powerless
Your Sawzall cutting
A hole to the other
Side of the wall
We have stories to
Prove this and
All of them are false
Never was there
Salvation in not
Being captured.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

For The Mobile Archive

Was it so strange
For the soldiers to
Encounter art a hole

In space forming between
The people and the
Multitude the people

Could have been did
They say it was strange
I can see through walls

All of a sudden I can
Finally see through this
Wall I've defended

For so long but which
Hasn't defended me
Art becomes a defense.

Checkpoints and time
Which embodies you
If they have tried

To disaggregate your
Collective experience
Of time perhaps it

Is this disaggregation
Which becomes common
A bond formed

Where we could not
Be the constant
Impossible transit

Pass that was our
Imaginary the ghost
Of those who couldn't

But had to pass through
Solid walls the loss
Of those who wouldn't.

I hear your blood
It will not be like

My blood through this
Wall it will be like

The world disappeared
And for a moment

We discovered a new
World where our blood

Should have been
A trace where those

Bodies won't be out-
lined a place where

The bombs don't
Continue to strike in

Our minds for zero
Sum games these

Softer powers of
Diffusion having no

Design so suddenly
O so suddenly

Tarrying with what
God could be instead.

But there are not
Even videos here
Which could account

For those ruins
But if there were
Videos which could

Account for those
Ruins which could
Transmit whatever

It means to be
Ruined they would
Be here they would

Be here a million
Miles from nowhere
In the desert of

Our conversation
The certain distances
Of our discourse.

Pathos we're fucked if we only love
A sound the voice makes and not
The words not what the words mean
Again turning to the darkness again

We're fucked if all we're doing
Is saying things if we're only saying
Them in the way they're supposed
To be said our love's all talk.

Catherine Sullivan et al at Metro Pictures

Paulina Olowska, Stephen G. Rhodes and Catherine Sullivan

September 17 - October 17, 2009

Metro Pictures
519 West 24 Street
New York, NY 10011

Based far from New York and each other—Poland, Los Angeles and Chicago—Metro Pictures brings together new work by each for this season-opening exhibition.

Paulina Olowska's 5 large-scale collages use an autobiographical narrative featuring a young couple riding in a vintage Volkswagen convertible under a large umbrella that shields them from the dynamic and dangerous: taxes, former loves, desires, doubts and the past. These images relate to Olowska's 2007-2009 sculpture Car Mobile, a large Calder-esque steel mobile that will be installed in Miami in December. The collages are silkscreen on paper and fabric, with gels, tape, foil, oil marker and crayon.

Stephen G. Rhodes combines video, painting, sculpture, photography and drawing to weave history and memory, reality and fiction in ambitious and complex multimedia installations. This new work is based on the Disney theme park attraction The Hall of Presidents and centers on dual video projections mirroring each other inside an upturned Oval Office. Each video features the remains of Animatronic versions of Presidents Lincoln and Washington enduring numerous indignities including being bullwhipped. Also in the installation are two of Rhodes' Vacant Portraits, paintings that reference the dull portraiture found in local banks, country clubs or The Hall of Presidents. Rhodes paints the sitter as abstracted ghostly residue. This series was introduced with a cacophonous installation shown in New Orleans as part of Prospect 1 in 2008.

Catherine Sullivan's new single-channel film LULU – Or: To What Ends Does the Bourgeoisie Need Despair is based on the 1978 affair between silent film star Louise Brooks and British theater critic Kenneth Tynan who was also the creator of the erotic musical review Oh! Calcutta!. Sullivan's work consists of original film as well as appropriated footage from a televised 1971 production of Oh! Calcutta! and Brooks' 1929 film Pandora's Box. Sullivan restages the climax of Pandora's Box (a scene in which Brooks' character Lulu is murdered by Jack the Ripper) portraying Kenneth Tynan as Jack and the elderly Louise Brooks as Lulu. Characters derived from Oh! Calcutta also inhabit the interior where this scene takes place. The film fuses all of the footage through overlays and dissolves, hoping to create the effect of Tynan's sexual imagination.

Paulina Olowska was born in 1976 in Gdansk, Poland and lives and works in Warsaw. She attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA 1996); and the Academy of Fine Arts, Gdansk, Poland (MFA 2000). One-person exhibitions include Portikus, Frankfurt (2007); Sammlung Goetz, Munich (2007) and the Tate Modern, London (2008). Group exhibitions include the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008); 5th Berlin Biennial (2007) and Centre Pompidou, Paris (2007).

Stephen G. Rhodes was born in 1977 in Houston and lives and works in Los Angeles. He attended Bard College in New York and Art Center in Pasadena, California. He has had recent exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Berlin and was included in Younger than Jesus at the New Museum (2009) and Prospect 1 in New Orleans (2008).

Catherine Sullivan was born in 1968 in Los Angeles and lives and works in Chicago. Her numerous one-person exhibitions include the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Tate Modern, London; Secession, Vienna; Kunsthalle Zürich, Switzerland and The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago.

Nature & Autres Anomalies

Check out Yedda Morrison's website featuring works from her upcoming show in Montreal, "Nature & Autres Anomalies." Among a hand-full of younger contemporary poets and visual artists, Morrison is pushing the envelope of her visual and language-based art practice, which is devoted to an examination of natural exploitation in relation to the subjugation of women and "others." In her work, the treatment of nature (both imaginal and real) becomes a thin limit for a viable human rights and fair labor practices. Her work proves language (both visual and word-based) to be utterly complicit with ecological welfare and justice as it extends justice among a potential multitude.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Check out the debut issue of Wild Orchids, edited by Robert Dewhurst and Sean Reynolds here. The first issue is dedicated to (Herman) Melville and features writing by Kim Evans, Benjamin Friedlander, Jennifer Scappettone, Stacy Szymaszek, and many others. Being personally invested in what Dewhurst calls "affected/inspired forms in literary criticism" I am looking forward to reading what the editors have in mind.

"WILD ORCHIDS is an annual journal of affective/inspired forms in literary criticism. Our issues hope to reencounter, write close to, and trace the unlit flows of our favorite writers, in volumes centered around single authors.

We are currently reading submissions for our second issue, which will take shape around the life and writing of NYC poet HANNAH WEINER. Unsolicited submissions are encouraged, but please have a look at our first issue before offering to contribute.

Send all correspondence to wildorchids [at] endingthealphabet [dot] org, or 359 Lafayette Av / Buffalo, NY 14213."
--Robert Dewhurst and Sean Reynolds

Sunday, September 13, 2009

L&T Workshop 2009

Thanks to my Bard College Language & Thinking students this summer for making it the best workshop yet. I am still listening to the CDs from our mix swap and preparing a mix of my own for an eventual care package. Special thanks to Becca Franks for sending along the above group photo.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Boog Festival

Lots of great stuff going on at the Boog festival this weekend. I would highly recommend Paolo Javier's Poet's Theater gallery tonight, featuring Charles Bernstein, Cori Copp, Dana Ward and many other terrific acts.

Fascist Groove Thang Exercise

Exercise: rewrite these lyrics (from Heaven 17's "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thing") any way you wish:

(Everybody move to prove the groove)
Have you heard it on the news
About this fascist groove thang
Evil men with racist views
Spreading all across the land
Don't just sit there on your ass
Unlock that funky chain dance
Brothers, sisters shoot your best
We don't need this fascist groove thang
Brothers, sisters, we don't need this fascist groove thang

History will repeat itself
Crisis point we're near the hour
Counterforce will do no good
Hot you ass I feel your power
Hitler proves that funky stuff
Is not for you and me girl
Europe's an unhappy land
They've had their fascist groove thang

Brothers, sisters, we don't need this fascist groove thang

Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Reagan's president elect
Fascist god in motion
Generals tell him what to do
Stop your good time dancing
Train their guns on me and you
Fascist thang advancing

Brothers, sisters, we don't need this fascist groove thang

Sisters, brothers lend a hand
Increase our population
Grab that groove thang by the throat
And throw it in the ocean
You're real tonight you move my soul
Let's cruise out of the dance war
Come out your house and dance your dance
Shake that fascist groove thang
(Shake it!)

Advancing Feminist Poetics & Activism

Click here for the (more or less) full schedule for Belladonna's upcoming "Advancing Feminist Poetics & Activism" symposium at the CUNY graduate center.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2nd Edition of Over-Sensitivity

Jalal Toufic has released a 2nd edition of his 1996 book, Over-Sensitivity (Sun and Moon Classics), via his Forthcoming Books. Here is what Toufic has to say about the significance of the 2nd edition:

"While many books are first announced as forthcoming (for example in the inflated bios of mediocre academicians, who keep mentioning such books as forthcoming over a period of years), then published, Over-Sensitivity, published originally in Sun & Moon Press’ Classics series in 1996, is here republished, in a revised edition, by Forthcoming Books, this making its status more explicit: even after its publication, it is still forthcoming.

What does a second edition indicate? That in the case of the first edition, one’s fruits were ripe but one was not ripe for one’s fruits (“Oh Zarathustra, your fruits are ripe, but you are not ripe for your fruits!” [Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra])?"
--Jalal Toufic

Like many of the writers and artists who preoccupy Toufic throughout his books (Walt Whitman, Jack Torrence, Gertrude Stein, Francis Bacon), it interests me that Toufic himself is acting as a version artist. A version being a difference that makes a difference; a resurrection that does not happen once but multiply within what Gilles Deleuze calls "a disjunctive synthesis." What surprises me is that under a list of "Books by Jalal Toufic" on the first pages of Over-Sensitivity (2nd ed.) Toufic does not list the 1st editions of (Vampires) and Distracted (the two other books for which Toufic has written 2nd editions). Aren't the first editions equally important as versions of their own forthcoming? Or, on the other hand, possible counterfeits (those 'false' resurrections to which Toufic also refers)?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Paul Thek, Our Contemporary

The micro-management of meat
Under glass mistakes for orifices
Crises the sun where your eyes

Should have been because the dead
Are genderless because no one
Needed to know what's under the hood

Fingerless they can't i.d. you
Underground man hippie fingers
Are like little dicks you make of

Yourself a mask to hide within
Things to hide within the world
Abandoned to it like a tomb.

Some spaces distribute
The body in time was
Wax the body in space
Was a cast unsalvageable
Because no one wants
A masterpiece to be
A crypt of what we will
Have been a difference
Pink makes on your skin.

We cope this risk is an
Answer to the flesh
Anyone's analytic
Of the sublime

Any body's tomb
With whom do you
Identify who will
Not answer to 'me'?

Where bones are laid
To rest who will manage
The dead and those
Who cannot die

I am trying to tell
You something but am
Afraid the power of
Flesh overpowers me

The powers of reliquary
Do not remember me
Every name in history
How do we distribute

Petal pink makes
Malthus blush others
Do the math what you
Encase like head space

Thek the headless
Always our contemporary
Our savage contemporary
Tongue-ring sticks out

From missing prints
Pharaohs abscond
From historical sense
The sense of headlessness

Makes a tomb in the public
Pinko of the real
When fascism flares up
Your art withdraws.

That we are meat
And worship the fact
That God is also meat
A formal feeling comes

We call it a technology
Of the self remember
What we have become
A prayer to blood

A prayer to fake
Blood the mannerist
Sun still winking like
A hole that doesn't

Stink what totality
Doesn't stink of men
Mimics monuments re-
fuses to delay in glass.

The Mobile Archive at Parsons

The Mobile Archive: The Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Parsons The New School for Design
Kellen Auditorium, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
66 Fifth Avenue, New York City
Admission: Free

In conjunction with the North American debut of the Israeli Center for Digital Art’s Mobile Archive, Art in General and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics co-host a conversation between Galit Eilat, founder of the archive and director of the Israeli Center for Digital Art, and Ramallah-based curator and art historian, Reem Fadda.

Eilat and Fadda consider the role of art as a tool for civil disobedience and passive resistance that affects its surroundings, wielded by individuals during times of social or political distress. Within this context they discuss Liminal Spaces, a long-term project examining the possibility of joint action in light of the ever-growing existential hardship of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. Video works that were produced during this project will be on view at Art in General as part of the Mobile Archive, a cross-national library of video art.

Galit Eilat is a writer, curator, and the founding director of the Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon. She is co-editor in chief of Maarav, an online arts and culture magazine, as well as academic advisor of the curatorial program at the Technion Extension, Institute of Technology Israel. She lives and works in Tel Aviv. Recently, she has curated and co-curated exhibitions including: Speed of Light, VideoZone, the Fourth International Video Art Biennial in Israel; Never Looked Better, the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora Tel-Aviv; and Chosen, a collaboration between Wyspa Institute of Art and the Israeli Center for Digital Art. Eilat has written for several books, catalogues, and magazines such as ArtPress, Vector Magazine, Lettre International and more. She has co-edited the books 'Never Looked Better' and the recently published 'Liminal Spaces'. She has participated in numerous panel discussions and given lectures and screening programs at Kuda, Centre Pompidou, Van Abbemuseum, Nova Gallery, and other venues and festivals.

Reem Fadda is a Ramallah-based curator and art historian. Fadda was Director of the Palestinian Association for Contemporary Art (PACA) between 2005-07 and worked as Academic Director to the International Academy of Art – Palestine, which she helped found in 2006, as part of her approach in broadening the perimeters of curatorial experience towards education. She co-curated and been involved in many projects revolving on contemporary topics in the Middle East, especially those pertaining to architecture, space and geopolitics, such as Liminal Spaces 2005-08, Ramallah Syndrome, which is showcased in the Venice Biennial 2009 and Tarjama/Translation currently on view in the Queens Museum of Art. She is the author of "Palestinian Women Artists: The Land = The Body = The Narrative", 2007. She received her MA in Curating from Goldsmiths College, London and was currently awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her PhD in History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University, where her research focus is contemporary aesthetic theory and practice of the Middle East.

About the Mobile Archive exhibition at Art in General
From September 24 to October 17, 2009, Art in General will present the North American debut of the Mobile Archive, an international collection of hundreds of video artworks assembled by the Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon. The Mobile Archive has been traveling the world since its first stop at the Kunstverein in Hamburg in 2007 and includes artists such as Candice Breitz, Koken Ergun, Guy Ben-Ner, Jumana Emil Abboud, Omer Fast, Ruti Sela, Yoshua Okon, Yael Bartana, and Mark Lewis.

Art in General is the only U.S. venue for the Mobile Archive. The exhibition will be presented in multiple formats: visitors will be able to select and watch any video from the archive in the Project Space; view specially curated screenings by independent curators Regine Basha, Adina Popescu and Chen Tamir; as well as attend daily screenings of work by featured artists from the archive.

Opening Reception Thursday, September 24, 2009 from 6-9 pm
Please check for further information.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

For Bob Flanagan

We have not yet determined
What a body can do
What death can do

One’s own death indefinitely
Deferred yet certain
Pain becomes the only thing

We can control we have not
Yet determined what the body
Can do the body in pain

Sculpting it surviving despite
Other acts of grace
Drive a nail through your dick

You land on your feet
Pain is a dance with death
Piercing your life your

Lung-filled breasts live
Because you permit
The only mastery left to them.

Free As Air And Water

September 16 - October 27, 2009

Opening reception
Wednesday, September, 16, 7 - 9 pm

Allora & Calzadilla, Amy Balkin, Robert Bordo, The Bruce High Quality Foundation, Ross Cisneros, Amy Franceschini and Free Soil, Andrea Geyer, Hans Haacke, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Runo Lagomarsino, Andrea Polli, Marjetica Potrč, Simon Starling, Temporary Services, Oscar Tuazon, Lidwien Van de Ven

Curated by Saskia Bos and Steven Lam

41 Cooper Gallery
The Cooper Union
41 Cooper Square (lower level)
New York, NY 10003-7120

Phone: 212.353.4200

Gallery Hours:
Tuesday - Saturday, 11am - 6pm
Mondays by appointment only

Free as Air and Water Symposium I:
Artistic responses to self-sustainability and climate change
Wednesday, September 16, 5 - 7pm (before the reception)
The Cooper Union, The Great Hall
7 East 7th Street
Amy Balkin, Hans Haacke, Yates McKee, Andrea Polli, Marjetica Potrč
Moderated by Doug Ashford

Free as Air and Water Symposium II:
Art in relation to human rights and the freedom of expression
Monday, October 12, 7 - 9pm
The Cooper Union, Frederick P. Rose Auditorium
41 Cooper Square
Doug Ashford, Andrea Geyer and Paul Ramirez Jonas, among others

A catalog will be produced documenting the symposia and exhibition and will be available to purchase after the exhibition. Please check the School of Art website for additional information.
This project was funded in part by generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Robert Lehman Foundation, and Duggal Visual Solutions.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

America's "Weimar moment"

"...So how do we connect the reality of our dismal life-expectancy and health-cost statistics to the hysterical sobbing of people who come to town-hall meetings furious that "the insurance companies won't be able to make a profit"? Much of the epic woe is not about healthcare or public options. It's about roiling resentments that need to be dressed up as something else, the coded mummery of Halloween monsters hybridized into new chimeras of hate. It's about fear that precious resources are being transferred to "alien" others. Fear that the gains of others are ill-gotten, leaving the lonely patriot survivalist as victim, "thrown away," trash. In these fiery monologues, even our president is figured as conspiratorially alien-birthed, from a galaxy far, far away, who's just pretending to be one of "us."

This morning I saw a picture of President Obama dressed as Hitler, complete with little mustache, tacked high on a tree trunk. At first it seemed jaw-droppingly ridiculous, sociopathically paranoid. But if the rule of reversal is what's encoded in that image, all people of good will must worry that what's really at stake for some of our gun-toting, demagogic fellow citizens is nothing less than America's very own Weimar moment."
--Patricia J. Williams, from Reverse Nazism and the War on Universal Healthcare

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Coping Subject

I am currently starting a longer essay on Catherine Sullivan's work. Can the argument be made that the subject of contemporary life is one who, more than anything else, copes?

Literally, what the performers in my works are doing is coping. They are coping with instructions and demands, and whether this produces acting or dance, I don’t know. It’s grounded in their response to the task, and their perspective on it.
--Catherine Sullivan

I am interested in how Sullivan's work intersects with biopolitical procedures in the 20th century, and how avant garde experimentalism (Dada/Fluxus/Happenings to present) may both undermine and extend the procedures of biopolitical governance--what Foucault called "Governmentability" and Hannah Arendt cited as "a society of laborers without laboring." Which is to say, a society of managers and the micro-managed rather than lords/serfs, masters/slaves, bourgeoisie/workers, etc.

See also Paolo Virno's discussion of "virtuosity" in A Grammar of the Multitude. Sullivan's performers invert Virno's notion of virtuosity--the pereptual condition of a society lubricated by intellectual labor--by instructing her actors to give virtuosic perfromances of trauma--what becomes expressed as the remnant of a repressive social content. To virtuosically assume these roles would be to "survive" them (in Elias Canetti's sense of this term) or "cope," in the sense of the above quotation from Sullivan.