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?"