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.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I am very pleased to announce that my e-chapbook, Make Believe, is now available as a PDF at Wheelhouse Press's website:

Thank you to David Wolach and Gianna D'Emilio for co-designing and hosting the book. Make Believe collects poems that I began writing in the fall/winter of 2006 and did not complete until the offer from Wolach to publish a chap this past spring.

"Make Believe, broken into sections, each of which explores, plays with, and critiques specific filmic tropes and conventions, jumps from these explorations as more-than-ekphrastic-springboards into the oft ignored poetic waters of belief, event, and the material conditions of our epistemological assumptions around what is public and what is private, what is use and what is using, what is other and what is othering. With the deeply thoughtful poetics and politics Donovan is known for, these poems both attack and nurse the body-as-proprioceptive-reactive becoming. And as often the case with Donovan's work, the ear is shaken first."
--David Wolach, Wheelhouse Press editor

Nostalgia is not a groundwork

For this video no face will be

Healed by lines color hovers

For her eyes like a grief of names

Never given so unsalvagable

Did they open to these distances.
--from Make Believe