Monday, November 30, 2009

LRL4 with John Taggart Feature

C.J. Martin and I coedited a feature for the new Little Red Leaves, a gallery of poets writing in relation to John Taggart. The feature also includes an introduction I wrote for the gallery, a new long poem by Taggart, "Kitaj Angels," and a selected bibliography of John Taggart criticism and scholarship compiled by Robert J. Bertholf. More details below!

Announcing the newest issue of Little Red Leaves!

Featured in this issue is a festschrift for John Taggart, edited by Thom Donovan and C.J. Martin, with poems from Theodore Enslin, Pam Rehm, Eléna Rivera, Joel Chace, Kevin Holden, Frank Sherlock, C.J. Martin, and Thom Donovan. Also in this section is a new long poem from John Taggart, "Kitaj Angels," as well as a selected bibliography of works by and about John Taggart, compiled by Robert J. Bertholf.

This issue also includes new video from Jesse Seldess, a pamphlet by David Brazil, and extended selections of new work from Tyrone Williams, Maryrose Larkin, and erica lewis, as well as poetry from Nathan Austin, Tamiko Beyer, Sarah Mangold, Elizabeth Zuba, Carter Smith, Carol Guess, Britta Kallevang, Rob Halpern, Kate Schapira, Lauren Ireland, Margaret Konkol, David Wolach, Anna Elena Eyre, Kate Colby, Alexander Dickow, dawn lonsinger, Richard Owens, Laura Goldstein, JenMarie Davis, and Felicia Shenker.

LRL4 sees the complete redesign of the LRL website, as well as the launch of three new books in our LRL e-editions series:
Tina Darragh's & Marcella Durand's collaboration, Deep eco pré
Divya Victor's first long player, SUTURES
Norma Cole's Do the Monkey
*See the ebooks page for further details:

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Sreshta Rit Premnath, Abhishek Hazra

Avi Alpert
Diana Artus
Lindsay Benedict
Daniel Blochwitz
Steven Brower
Jon Cotner & Andy Fitch
Mark Cunningham
Chris Curreri
Thom Donovan
Nathan Haenlein
Nina Höchtl
John Houck
Devin Kenny
Richard Kostelanetz & Nick Eve
Matt McAlpin
Jean-Marc Superville-Sovak
Julie Tolentino Wood


DEC 15, 6-8 PM AT LUDLOW 38
Ludlow 38
European Kunsthalle Cologne / Goethe Institut New York
38 Ludlow Street
Between Grand and Hester
New York 10002
Tel. +1 212 228 6848

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Perform 09--Week 2 at BOMBsite

Here is the second installment of my journal for the 09 Performa biennial, at BOMBsite. It features coverage of performances by Alexandre Singh, Omer Fast, Shana Moulton, and Tan Lin.

"Had Singh’s performance been shorter, I think it would have been more palatable. However, I also understand that time was a crucial aspect of the piece. How long can one sustain telling a story? (Scheherazade of The Arabian Nights, the archetypal storyteller, did so for a thousand and one nights in order to save her neck.) How can one pleat the discrete elements of a story in such a way that narrative strands and characters return after long tropes, detours, and hiatuses? How does storytelling embody an act of mind—both of remembering and imagining—that gets an audience to think about how they are processing something being heard and made-up in their own minds separate from the storyteller?

These are some questions I think may be important to ask after Singh’s performance, but also after a performance I saw later in the week, Omer Fast’s Performa commissioned “Talk Show.” ”Talk Show,” like Singh’s stories, takes up storytelling as a practice, and as a problem of cognitive-phenomenological investigation. Only while Singh was more concerned to investigate storytelling as an art of construction—of assembling disparate elements and making them hang together in one’s attention—Fast’s piece was concerned with storytelling as an art of transmissability—handing-down and bearing across cultural information."

Tan Lin's Chalk Playground pics

Check out over 400 pics of Tan Lin's chalk playground performance this past weekend here. My write-up of the event is forthcoming hopefully later today.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Emergency Reading in Philly

If you are in Philly next Tuesday (Nov. 24th) come hear me read with Julian Brolaski at the Kelly Writer's House on the UPenn campus. Details here.

Thanks to Julia Bloch, Sarah Dowling, and Jason Zuzga for inviting me!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Performa09 Week 1: November 1st-7th, 2009

Performa09--Week 1: Arto Lindsay's SOMEWHERE I READ, Guy Ben-Ner's Drop the Monkey and talk with Jon Kessler, Dexter Sinister's First/Last Newspaper and film showing of David Loeb Weiss's Farewell, Etaion Shrdlu, Tacita Dean's Craneway Event

On Sunday, November 1st I went to Times Square where Guy Ben-Ner's Performa commissioned video, Drop the Monkey (2009), was being shown on one of the bright lcd billboards with subtitles (the film is originally in English and Hebrew). I am a Ben-Ner fan, so was looking forward to seeing what he had come up with for the 09 biennial. My first impression of the video was that it was a bit of a fuck you to the biennial. The backstory for the video, revealed to me during Ben-Ner's conversation with sculptor Jon Kessler the following evening, is that Ben-Ner submitted a proposal to make a video which would be shot as Ben-Ner travelled between Israel and Germany to be with a girlfriend who he was seeing at the time. Free airfare? While Drop the Monkey may be taking the piss, its motivations are clearly not as simple as that. The radical procedure at work in Ben-Ner's video is that each shot occurs after Ben-Ner has traveled to Berlin or Tel Aviv by plane. So, as Ben-Ner put it poetically at Cooper Union, each border crossed produces a shot.

I like thinking about Ben-Ner's traveling in his video after the other videos he's made, all of which feature domestic spaces transformed into sets, and which use Ben-Ner's family as props and players. With Drop the Monkey it is as if Ben-Ner has broken through the interiority of his work--a world of play, perversity, and odd transferences featuring literary characters such as Herman Melville's Ahab and Daniel Defoe's shipwrecked protagonist, Robinson Crusoe. The fact that Ben-Ner flies back and forth to see a girlfriend in Berlin is significant since Ben-Ner would seem to seek a line of flight away from (or out of?) the nuclear family in his previous videos while negotiating domestic responsibilities such as taking care of his children.

During the talk, in response to questions from Kessler and the audience, Ben-Ner insisted that he made the video in order for his work and his life to be involved with one another. The commission with Performa seems, then, created from a genuine want to be with a loved one, and to also risk capturing that other person through Ben-Ner's contractual obligations to Performa (Ben-Ner used the word "capture" numerous times during his interview with Kessler). Whenever Ben-Ner spoke about his commission there was an anxiety that he seemed to perform: that he may lose the loved one through his commitment to the art project (which he did); that he may also not fulfill his obligations to his employer (which he was only able to do under emotional duress). The situation is perverse, and intended as such by Ben-Ner. The perversions of the film raise more question than they resolve. What is art when making art becomes inextricable from the practical dilemmas of our life (such as how to be with a loved one when this being with is inconvenient or unfeasible)? What happens when our lives become the actual vehicles of live art (rather than the opposite). Life itself becomes a kind procedure, or form, determining the work. Inversely, the work becomes a set of consequences in one's life.

In the video, Ben-Ner is still a loner, as he is in his earlier films such as Berkeley Island and Moby Dick. He is a one man band as he plays both parts (himself in Tel Aviv and himself in Berlin), and operates a video camera via remote control and clever makeshift remote devices (in one scene he attaches a pole to a tripod so he can track himself as he circles the camera). Through the video, Ben-Ner comes off as both a comedian and a deject. Travel is always bound up with melancholy, and almost every piece of art or literature involved with travel may be said to be a work of longing. In the video, Ben-Ner writes on a t-shirt that he eventually wears for the duration of the video "I wish I were somewhere else." Never does Ben-Ner make reference to the Holocaust, but as an Israeli traveling back and forth between Germany and Israel the fact looms. (As Ben-Ner joked during the Q&A: "It [Berlin/Germany] is one of the last places in the world where we [Israelis] can go and still feel like victims.") To "prove" to his patrons that he was in Germany or Israel for discrete shots, Ben-Ner often filmed himself in front of monuments and other sites indicating place. In this regard, Ben-Ner's obligations to Performa also become obligations to history: to prove that he was 'there', at a definite place in space-time. These debts haunt any diasporic people; Ben-Ner's very personal art becomes an allegory for more universal experiences: longing, remembering, loving and, mainly, keeping one's promise.

I read once in Henri Bergson's Creative Evolution that poetic rhyme schemes offer an intuitive way to proceed in composition, as though language were itself a life form growing and evolving. In Ben-Ner's Drop the Monkey it is significant that the artist has chosen to rhyme his script, and even more so that the rhymes seem to work both in Hebrew and English subtitles. It is as though Ben-Ner's rhymes were composed in both languages at once, something inconceivable to my uniglot mind. Hearing the rhyme scheme, it struck me as Shakespearian, but then everything rhymey (ABAB) tends to sound a bit Shakespearian. Is the function of the rhyme scheme to remember? Is it to add an additional risk-factor (what will the next line be? how can it fit with the narrative arc of the work?) Does it function procedurally—a generator of the text? The only moment of the video when Ben-Ner speaks English is when he recites T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": "I grow old ... I grow old ... / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. // Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? / I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. / I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. // I do not think they will sing to me." The recitation of Eliot's love song is appropriate given the similarities between Eliot's dramatic persona and Ben-Ner's character in Drop the Money. Both are neither here nor there; they are indecisive, naval gazing, and self-deprecating. They long for what they do not possess, and from this sense of dispossession derives both comedy and tragic ironies.

The second work I encountered at Performa09 followed immediately after Ben-Ner's video premiere in Times Square. Just to the left of the Times Square bandstand, a group of people with cell phones and tan trench coats were gathering to participate in Arto Lindsay's processional sound piece, SOMEWHERE I READ. The participants formed a line and proceeded to the bandstand. While they did so they held up their cell phones so that the public audience could hear what sounded like a camera rhythmically clicking. With each "click" the participants turned their heads, mimicking the mechanical motion of pre-digital cameras reloading. The gesture was appropriate to Times Square, given how much picture taking goes on there, especially on the bandstand.

Before Lindsay's participants occupied the bandstand I saw numerous couples and groups of people posing for each other with cell phones and cameras. From the bandstand the procession strutted down Times Square halting frequently so that it did not lose anyone. It also performed a dance, which resembled "classic" Hip-hop choreography (imagine 80s Hip-hop moves post MJ's Thriller). The reference to Hip-hop reminded me at once that Times Square was once a place where break dancers would show-off their routines and aspiring rappers their acts. It also reminded me that Hip-hop dance mimics mechanical technologies in dances such as "the robot" and in the "popping and locking" of your basic old school break dance routine. Given the "futurist" theme of this year's biennial (09 is the 100th anniversary of the Futurist manifesto) Lindsay's choreographic choices seemed historically resonant.

As with all public art, what can be most interesting about the artwork are the ways it is received by an unsuspecting public. One middle-aged woman snidely warned that the procession was some kind of "cult"; teenangers with hoodies and baggy jeans asked incredulously, "people are watching this?" Teenagers in "free hug" shirts appropriated the event, giving hugs to the crowd walking beside the procession. As a contemporary art format, there is a sense that the procession/parade/march is a emancipatory format inasmuch as it proves there is power in the mere assembly of bodies, and especially in bodies organized for dance/music/discourse. Is this Lindsay's point?

Where I thought SOMEWHERE I READ was unsuccessful was in the scale of the work. The sound piece playing from the camera phones was barely audible amidst the many sounds and noises of Times Square; likewise, one wanted more bodies, more mass for effect. 500 people marching in tan trench coats instead of 30 (at most). One also wonders (as with much art), if one would not be better off organizing bodies for a particular political cause. Do Lindsay's processions not represent a longing for collective demonstration, thus the potential for action? How can art not seem alienated in this regard, when there are so many urgent causes for whom bodies should collectively gather, protest, and demonstrate?

The third event I attended was the opening of Dexter Sinister's The First/Last Newspaper pop-up in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I didn't know what Dexter Sinister was going to do, I just knew it was going to be good given Dexter Sinister's track record for blending high concept art with cheap and dirty design. I was not disappointed. After bumping into Cory Arcangel and discussing with him Dexter Sinister's projects in relation to his own (both of which appropriate heavily from the work of others, and address obsolescent technologies), I realized that Dexter Sinister was showing a film. The film it showed is a rarely screened film by documentary filmmaker David Loeb Weiss called Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu that chronicles the night of July 2nd, 1978 when The New York Times switched from analogue to digital printing technologies.

What I saw was really like nothing I've ever encountered. Elegant in its simplicity, wondrous in its artifactuality, one is first shown the Linotype printing process, a process involving large machines that produce metal letters from a vat of molten lead. After watching this process from start to finish, one sees Times editors working with type-setters who, Tetris-like, fit all of the type for the individual newspaper pages and accompanying spaces into a metal frame (a frame per page). While the type-setter reads (upside down and backwards) what is written, the editor proofreads. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

Carl Schlesinger, an ex-Linotype operator himself and the narrator of Weiss's film, was in the audience for Dexter Sinister's screening and talked about the film explaining how dramatic the night of July 2nd 1978 was, and how difficult it is for our present to imagine the risk the Times took by changing from analogue to digital at that particular moment in history when digital technologies were as yet unproven. In a kind of reversal of this 'progressive' technological movement, Dexter Sinister is undertaking a project fitting with the spirit of their design practice as it engages technological obsolescence: they are printing digitally using electronic scanners and contemporary multimedia software, but then posting the news via wheat glue (the original adhesive for early printed news). In doing so, they will both historicize newspaper printing processes and have a public reflect on the current state of the news as, currently, printed editions are overtaken by electronic ones. Where 100 years ago the Futurist manifesto embraced technologies of militant speed heedlessly (a phenomena which Paul Virilio and other historians have been highly critical of), Dexter Sinister puts on the brakes provoking critical reflection, if not alternative utopias inherent in the obsolete.

I attended a few other Performa events this past week, but the event which most affected me was Tacita Dean's contemplative and painterly documentary featuring the late Merce Cunningham and company, Craneway Event. Although Dean's film requires patience (at times I was brought back to my experiences of watching certain films by other painter-filmmakers such as James Benning, Michael Snow, and Stan Brakhage), I believe the film was worth spending time with.

In the opening shot of Dean's film one sees a seagull stretch its wings repeatedly, each time about to take-off. Finally the bird does take off. The rest of the film alternates scenes of Cunningham rehearsing with his company. While one can view the film as a document of Cunningham's rehearsals in late life (there is something particularly beautiful about the fact that we see Cunningham wheelchair bound throughout the film given the many iconic images of the dancer-choreographer caught by camera in mid-air), the film transcends documentary becoming a work of art in itself. Dean, who has made other works of art after such art world heroes as Robert Smithson, advances her own problem of how to be in conversation with the work of other artists while preserving the integrity and singularity of her own practice.

While watching the film, I was intensely aware that Dean's background is in painting. While we see the figures of the dancers clearly, they are often transformed by the light in the building where the dance takes place--a dock warehouse converted into a performance space along the Craneway Pavillion in Richmond, CA. Cunningham's dancers rehearse within a building with walls of towering, latticed glass. There is something religious about the experience of the warehouse bathed in light, only instead of stain glass we just have regular glass. One is also aware of the time of day in the film, and how diurnal shifts effect how the dancers are perceived, the dancers being at times transfigured by a certain incident of light, or obscured by shadow and glare.

The glass walls of the Craneway building also allow the film's audience to see much of the San Francisco Bay. The view is panoramic. And the wide lens Dean uses enhances the panoramic effect. Throughout the film we see boats and ships in the background--phenomena which Cunningham comments on repeatedly. There becomes a sense that the dance is native to this landscape. Not just the landscape as a series of physical facts, but as a series of durations overlapping and occurring synchronically--coevally. Certainly the movements of the dancers reflects the specific goings-on of the docks, and of the larger area of the San Francisco Bay. Again and again one is reminded of the gull from the first shot of the film. At other times the dancers mimic the creaky mechanical movements of nautical technology (ropes and cranes), and a general feeling of transport (goods being brought in and out of port).

While Dean is certainly painting with light, I believe that she is also providing a loving portrait of Cunningham, whose practice is a practice--clearly--of patience, and of a deep attention to duration as an essential quality of one's environment. The dance, Craneway Event, is born out of this fact and Dean's film shows it. The dance is an event and the film what expresses event--event being that which happens, and through which time finds shape, structure, and integral form. When the film was over I heard people speaking admiringly about Cunningham's dance techniques. One person exclaimed, “it [the film] makes me want to dance." It was difficult not to be moved by this film, which got to essences by carefully observing physical facts, and acted generously towards someone who, like so few artists, made of their life a continuous work of generosity—an overflowing cup of care and concision. For many in the audience who knew Cunningham, I don't doubt that Dean's film may have also seemed a somber farewell. In the closing shots the glare of a setting sun is at the center of the shot and lights the dancers moving separately in clusters. The light of the sun is the diurnal light of an actual day. That light gives way to something else. Mainly applause. The dancers bow to Cunningham having finished their dance. The credits roll, the lights come on, and we clap in the main chapel of St. Mark's Church.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Aufgabe 8 Release Event


Tuesday, November 10th, 7:30 pm

Dixon Place
161 Chrystie St.
doors open at 7pm, $6

with guest editor Matvei Yankelevich and local contributors Ari Banias, Paolo Javier, Rachel Levitsky, Kimberly Lyons, Tim Peterson, Matt Reeck, & Laura Sims

Editors: Rachel Bers, Julian T. Brolaski, E. Tracy Grinnell & Paul Foster Johnson
Contributing editors: Jen Hofer & Nathalie Stephens

Featuring Russian poetry & poetics, guest edited by Matvei Yankelevich

Poetry, essays & reviews by

Nathan Austin, Ari Banias, Jasper Bernes, Damaris Calderón, Xochiquetzal Candelaria, Miles Champion, Corina Copp, Phil Cordelli, Alan Davies, Geoffrey Detrani, Elena Fanailova, Inti García, Dmitry Golynko, Linor Goralik, Noah Eli Gordon, Sarah Gridley, Suzanne Jacob, Paolo Javier, Paula Koneazny, Sergey Kruglov, Dmitry Kuzmin, Rachel Levitsky, Kimberly Lyons, Catherine Mavrikakis, Kirill Medvedev, Eduardo Milán, Alan Mills, Anton Ochirov, Akilah Oliver, Tim Peterson, Matt Reeck, Margaret Ronda, Trish Salah, Andrey Sen-Senkov, Laura Sims, Aleksandr Skidan, Maria Stepanova, Nathalie Stephens (Nathanaël), François Turcot, Dmitry Vodennikov, Dana Ward, Diane Ward, Karen Weiser, Elisabeth Whitehead, Tyrone Williams, Sergey Zavyalov, Igor Zhukov, Tatiana Zima, and Olga Zondberg.

Cover and interior art by Kim Beck

Eileen Myles interviews CAConrad...

about Conrad's The Book of Frank at Harriet.

Craneway Event

A crane a way down
From heaven deep in this

Dance in medias res
A way we are not in

Nature dance elaborates
The bay ways these ships

Once detached what they
Conveyed what we can't

Convey places outside
The body what we notice

What we say a fugitive
Sense a bird alone

In this space and light
That is not in the way.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I am what I am

-after William Cordova

Who history gets to save
A wheel rim continuously
Unrolling we powers unworked

Become different powers big
Ones go like little ones
Like a set of powers building

Against systems of sky what
Remains represents a draft
Of a draft sketched on a dirty

Napkin ephemera conveys what
Is passing what will pass
Into the night unafraid

Another name for this blank
Another name for this posse
ble pasty effacement thing.

Tomorrow I Am Teaching Amy Balkin's Work

In solidarity with those struggling to create commons for environmental sustainability and justice...

Friday, November 06, 2009

William Forsythe's Decreation at BAM

reviewed in The Brooklyn Rail:

"Reading Simone Weil this past week before reviewing Decreation, it became clear to me just how unidimensional Forsythe’s rendering of Weil’s idea of decreation is. At times I want to cry reading Weil, whose pages offer metaphysical insights hard-won from her life of pain, deprivation, and self-elected martyrdom (Weil was born into an agnostic middle-class French Jewish family, yet throughout her life chose to live among and, perhaps more importantly, undergo the suffering of the poor—their work routines and social struggles). However painful romantic encounters can be, no romantic encounter can compare with Weil’s decreation, which refers to the struggle to overcome the creaturely within human existence in order to experience God as a feeling of eternal time and space. Weil’s seeking of conditions of poverty (material, sexual, physical, and otherwise) was no doubt her way of decreating, and thus, as Carson puts it, “telling” the eternal."

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Cut Per Border

-after Guy Ben-Ner

If your eyes will believe
And I believe they must
Believe there is no swindle
Just the proof of our being

And not being here just
The proof of this apartheid
Love is a trip that blinks
That lisps with each word

Owing to travel rhyming
Like artifice unravels like a
Plot device my life as if
Anyone could be writing this

Anyone but you anyone
But I we don't mean to be
Shakespearian we just are
Like some regret I had

Leaving this border in
The rhyme scheme in the
Splice how can we not be
Forced our comings

And goings force vanishes
Fantasy is the face we
Give it dejected never
Satisfied with movement

I don't want to reenact
This fantasy without a
Face without a mask I want
To pre-enact the way

We will have been keeping
Our promises in animal
Grace before we made
Contracts a pound of flesh

For every debt the world
Subsidizes for being 'live'
Having divine contact
We are in a time of demi-

gods of kings and queens
Lesser artists kiss their
Rings this is the thing
The night goes on

In privacy or one's
Imagined public trying
Merely to subsist on money
And power which feels

False take the piss
Out of economy by funding
Love as though in more
Feudal times shitting

I mean blooming in
Your mouth I mean this
Intense national longing
To always be doubly

Exchangeable a promise
Kept to no one a stain
On the screen of my love
My tele-present love

That perverts any notion
Of possession love
The anti-territory love
The always already disaster

We are not where we are
Displaced by wanting
Life and art to be the same
To partake of the same

Substance how to get laid
And how to get out of
This country always the
Victim never the victimizer

The mouth says distantly
Kissing any distance that
Would let it any place-
holder or whatever

Mother-tongue would
Not rhyme with history
Leaving damages unclaimed
The nowhere that is.

The Dispossessions: a Via Negativa

Last spring I received an email in my inbox asking for recipients to draw pornographic drawings for the cover of a forthcoming poetry book:

To the nitty gritty: We are looking for super dirty (even middle-school mentality) line-drawing porn, especially featuring penises and vaginas. Something small, something you'd draw on a desk in a coupla minutes. You may want to consult the attached text (of the chapbook) for "inspiration."

The images will appear on the backboard of the book, which will be covered by a dust cover using die-cut peep holes.

The book of poems by Judith Goldman, The Dispossessions (Atticus/Finch, 2009), takes as its subject the 'junk' (or, if one prefers, dispossessed) language of the internet. Throughout the book, Goldman sculpts language found from internet sources (chatrooms, websites, et al) and whittles them down, forming edgy exercises in the vulgate. What is remarkable in reading the book is how ickiness can switch to gorgeousness in a split second, and the extent to which vulgarity is spiritualized--turned into a spiritual exercise, albeit a negative one. What takes shape is a via negativa (paths paved by hell) of the virtual age--of the many ways we are mediated, and fantasize one another through this mediation. The poetry makes one feel close and then distant again. It flickers with impossible proximities. There is a mood about the poems peculiar to our age. The language is immediate, and yet prophylactic; hands-on (Goldman's method is collagist), and yet vaporous. It reminds us that in all relationship is the threat of violence, violation, humiliation, harm.

Invites rather, uh, Awkward questions
Clutching at the first thingLickety uh Do we have no other words to use?
Seeds wreaking violence
A negative dialogue between seeds
Words do not harm each other
Looking for words [that] don’t harm each other
Grammar as window,
Words as voyeurs
A word [that] does not give
Onto anything else
Voyeurism of one word giving onto another
No accumulation?
This horror will not bear my words
The words are mute

Wait, is it
Loud in here because

because This silence is very loud

--from The Dispossessions

The internet is both a carnival and a void into which we speak. It is a night of the world--nothing has been created yet and everything would seem possible. Goldman's language evokes sacred discourse through the backdoor--the back entrance and poop chute. Words are muted because there is nothing to hear here. "This silence is very loud." A profound negativity is of the hour. It is a negativity of words accumulating but not saying anything; of a world of appearance in which images speak mutely. The aughts are a Babylon of nonsense (degraded sensuality). Recent poetry makes present an imagination increasingly dependent on unreality. The unreality, say, of the physical distance separating those who wage war and those who are victimized by it; or, say, of those who slave for consumer values and those who consume recklesssly without a thought for others/the Other. There is a feeling of dread throughout Goldman's book--that things cannot end well. Though the language is also beautiful, and titillating, and playful. There is likewise a sense in the book that we can all see each other constantly, that as Paul Chan says we suffer from a "tyranny of connectedness," and that this connectedness only complicates our alienation. Constant connectedness does not mean contact. Nor does seeing (physical perception) equal disclosure (revelation, understanding, faith). The book cites an orgy committed at the expense of the entire world, and worlds yet to come. An orgy of perceptions, an orgy of consumptions, the orgy of total warfare perpetrated by the United States and its allies within and without its national boundaries.

Monday, November 02, 2009

from "Paul Chan My Neighbor"

"The question I kept asking myself watching Chan's video was: why Sade? The press release for the show states that for the past few years Chan has been making work exclusively after the Marquis. One reason seems obvious. It has two names: Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. The Bush administration remains Chan's central foil, and as such Chan will probably be remembered and studied as one of the most important American artists--if not the iconic American artist--of the Bush years. That the Bush administration broke with the Geneva accords, encouraging torture among its military and governmental agencies, is a source of guilt and shame that the United States has yet to properly resolve--neither through symbolic exchange or legal retribution. One can only hope an aesthetic practice like Chan's own signals the beginning of a process of desublimation which can properly deal with the United States' ongoing crimes against humanity.

But we are also living in a time of virtuality, and the pornographic is one of the predominant mediums of virtuality. Throughout his writings and interviews, Chan makes reference to the primacy of Lacanian cultural theory for the past twenty years. This primacy does not seem a coincidence given the central idea of Lacan's theory of the subject: that the subject's "reality" is a construction of what he or she "imagines," whether this imaginary take the form of a belief structure, fantasy, or ideology. Pornography has always been an exemplary scene of imaginal encounter. And so I think Chan chooses the Marquis de Sade as muse because Sade represents an age of both extreme cruelty and virtuality (the fact that what we imagine constructs what we believe rather than the reverse)."

from The Activist Press in Recent American Poetry

"Throughout modernity, there is also a vital tradition of the small press serving a politics, and doing so through formal exploration (form not given, but discovered through a situation, process, or event). The poem, I would argue, is a form of action; it does something in the world--to culture, to a readership--and is therefore active. The question of what poetry does recalls the Spinozan proposition: we have not yet determined what a body can do. That is, the limits of what the poem can do inscribe the limits of existence in its consequences. These consequences necessarily bear out a politics and a social purpose--however privately and uniquely. A press becomes activist where it cultivates political means (not ends). If I could perceive any major split within small press culture at the moment, it would be along the lines of action in the sense of how I am using the term. How can poetry support a political and social purposiveness without rendering poetry instrumental? How can an "avant garde" tradition of innovation and experiment be negotiated with real political, economic, and social struggles?"