Friday, April 29, 2011

Eleni Stecopoulos: on "Somatics"

For my last post at Harriet for the month, I gave Eleni Stecopoulos a questionnaire about "somatics," which she responded to most generously. So generously in fact that only her first response appears at Harriet. The others will hopefully be appearing at Wild Horses Of Fire soon.

It’s all psychosomatic. And somatopsychic. I don’t think you really escape your formation; you can only become aware of it and move towards some other understanding/practice that is remedial. I remember this New York Times article which opens with an anecdote about a medical conference on the ways those in “developing” countries somatize their depression in stomachaches, dizziness, and other mysterious physical symptoms: “Toward the end of the meeting, a doctor from India stood to speak. ‘Distinguished colleagues,’ he said, ‘have you ever considered the possibility that it is not that we in the third world somaticize depression, but rather that you in the developed world psychologize it?’” (“Mending of Hearts and Minds,” NYT 5/21/02). In the West the body is othered, but also in the sense of being displaced onto “the other,” whose labor disburdens or delivers the colonizer of his body. (And at the same time this other gets mystified as a healer who can resurrect the absent body. Think of Artaud among the Tarahumaras.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Arthur Echo Echo (@Harriet)

Here is a little write-up I did about my "incubation" session at the Movement, Somatics, and Writing symposium this past February, featuring somatic exercises by Petra Kuppers, Rob Halpern, and Bhanu Kapil:

What I wanted to do through the workshop were two things: prompt writing through a series of exercises which could enable participants to write through their distraction—distracted modes of perception, of focus, but also things one does involuntarily, when the body is indisposed with a specific set of tasks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rob Halpern: on "Somatics" (@ Harriet)

For my last few posts at Harriet during National Poetry Month, I have asked a few different poets to respond to the term "somatics" with regards to their work. Here is Rob Halpern discussing the term.

Maybe the passively voiced question, “what is being done to bodies?”—together with our potential resistance to that—helps get at what you are referring to, Thom, as the “biopolitical” in my work? And I’m thinking here not only of incarcerated bodies, but our own bodies as well. What is being done to them? It’s a question that complements the question What is to be done? For me, to think this question requires a shift from an emphasis on an over-valued notion of agency toward a very different idea I call patiency, which has less to do with the body as the sovereign scene of its own actions, and rather with the body as scene of disabused sovereignty. Patiency refers to the suspension of our proprietary relations to our and others’ bodies and life processes, the recognition, and perhaps even the affirmation, of the corpus as open, disarmed, and vulnerable. I want to find in this figure of the patient not only passivity and submission, but the latent material—affective, erotic, and social—for movement just waiting to be aroused by uncoded sound and unanticipated touch. Maybe this is “somatics”?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

To let it out

--after Not An Alternative

To let it out so that [______]
Can’t use, blank that
Won’t produce, that for now
Won’t be a subject

Negates their using our
Emotions up in a public way,
Blocked by virgin forests
Participation reigns

Blocked by reified relation
Blocked by these tissues
The way this tear in the eye
Becomes commodity

An intellectual thing blocked
By the things we would share
So that [______] can’t use
So we communicate today

What images won’t remain
And names negated
By creative potential
Blocked by consuming the social

All that doesn’t remain
Will be let out,
The tear in your eye when it
Won't become.


A blank expanse we reenact
Because there is no beginning
To this rememory, no origin of
Your crying, how any one continues

Subtracted from this feeling
Of joy another monument, runs through
Our breath like green, like a lung hasn't
Taught / any / one / to / breath / yet

Incites horizons, green of what
Hasn't been said, punctures the world
One world-sized ear or lung
Undifferentiated with witness

Creamy expanses written before
A mark was, written before
A mark was the world.

Friday, April 22, 2011

School Nite with the Commons Choir (@ Festival of Ideas)

MAY 7th & 8th
a FILM and a performance by THE COMMONS CHOIR

This COMMONING event is part of SCHOOL NITE: a weekend long iteration of the Future City, inspiring reforms through art exhibition, lecture, performance and/or installation. Held in conjunction with the New Museum's Festival of Ideas for a New City.

LOCATION: School Nite will inhabit five stories of the OLD SCHOOL at 233 Mott Street


MAY 7th
10:0PM in the Courtyard of the Old School with 30 performers:

The Commons Choir (conceived and directed by choreographer Daria Fain and poet architect Robert Kocik) will perform RE-ENGLISH. By means of choreoprosodia (the fusion of movement and prosody) the Commons Choir will draw upon hormonal hymns, movement-amulets, phonic garlands, spells, the optative mood, poetry and a reparative narrative to re-tune and de-delude our language. Is English an inherently commercial, mercenary, duplicitous tongue or is that just human nature? The premise of RE-ENGLISH is that today's ecological, economic, security and equity crises are direct consequents of the sonic and connotative qualities of superpower english.

Performed by:

Hadar Ahuvia, Christina Andrea, Lorene Bouboushian, Corinne Cappelletti, Jessica Cerullo, Chun-Chen Chang, Levi Gonzalez, Mare Hieronimus, Hazuki Homma, Akira Ito, Masumi Kishimota, Athena Kokoronis, Eliza Ladd, Martin Lanz, Melanie Maar, Douglas Manson, Mina Nishimura, Omagbitse Omagbemi, Eva Perrotta, Peter Sciscioli, Larissa Sheldon, Kensaku Shinohara, Samita Sinha, Hadley Smith, Jhon Sowinski, Despina Stamos, Julia Ulehla, Larissa Velez, Ami Yamazaki and Kota Yamazaki

MAY 8th

COMMONING MEETING with a talks by Robert Kocik and Thom Donovan. The focus of the meeting will be money as commons: what to do about the current income disparity crisis. Dozens of countries in the Global South have begun programs that simply give money to the poor, often unconditionally. Though the emphasis in the U.S. is on work-not-welfare and privatization, social programs yet account for over 40% of federal spending. (Clearly income inequality increases social spending.) How can we re-structure income and growth so that money is not inequitably distributed to begin with? This meeting is a call for discussion, proposals, actions toward a broader, more munificent prosperity.


Common: Filmic interpretations of "commoning" directed by Iki Nakagawa with contributions from Caterina Verde, Douglas Manson, Mike Taylor, David Thompson, Daria Faïn and Robert Kocik.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Phoneme Choir at St. Mark’s Poetry Project (@ Harriet)

Last Friday night I attended Daria Fain's and Robert Kocik's Phoneme Choir at St. Mark's Church. Here is a link to a write-up I did about it, including extensive video footage of the performance.

Something which strikes me seeing the Phoneme Choir perform together for the fourth time, is to what extent the group has perfected their blend of movement/dance, song, and gestural/proto-semantic poetry (what Kocik refers to as “prosody,” “phonemics,” and “choreoprosodia”). At certain moments the work’s ‘development’ would seem entirely dependent on movement and choreography; or, on the other hand, some combination of recitation and song. Yet the whole piece culminates at a few different moments in a kind of controlled frenzy in which moving bodies, voices/sound, and word (loosely defined) would seem to become interdependent–coextensive, coeval. In the tradition of the “total work,” Fain’s and Kocik’s somatic opera–one I would argue approaches the scale and virtuosity of a Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson, or Robert Ashley–seems something both old and new for poetry. A return to things Greek–a Dionysian atmosphere redolent with 60s theatre and intermedia performance. But also a new way to conceive of poetry through modes of collaboration and group process in the interest of mutual care, healing, and a radical re/channeling of both proprioceptive and proto-linguistic energies. For a taste of Fain’s and Kocik’s choir, I encourage you to take a look at the video footage compiled (below) from the performance at St. Mark’s Church for the Poetry Project’s Friday Night Series (currently hosted by Brett Price).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Their reigns, my reigns, our reigns

When art does what they say
When art obligated them to move
When art fulfills this sense of movement
Into consent--is this a commons?

When art is a failure to move within the commons?
When the freedom drive idles?

Blamed by my sociality
This gift of war flames
Blamed by my locality
Three or four husband me

Like neighbors there is no
Connection between
Only proximity, only sounds
They make inside my insides

The scores of one displaced
Their movement there is a
Sound, of movement no one
Hears without a war

From which harsh gifts come,
That we were these gifts,
Their sharing and what
Can never be shared.

A deadened social potential
State name/shore up
The affect of “we have given up”
We are the robots and
No, no one will be given back.

We who play at waste

If at the end of this social potential, this potential of bodies in common and their common places in the language, there remained a rainbow--both covenant and broken promise.

Nothing will have been fair blow after blow. No awaiting holler inter(in)animating the time it took travel to undo. The upholstered air around our breath. The space left-over singing anything but me.

My voice like an area punctured by a wall of beats. What you can still feel as you swipe your card through the narrow slot. Feeling for the longed for beginning of feeling again. To create something other than “reaching your creative potential.”

For Dodie

No one comes back
But every one comes

Love cut-up again
Like a fantasy we project

In these states the asshole
The mouth we shared

Lips know their way only
Not where they’re going

The cunt like a fantasy
No thing returns as it was

All that was otherwise
Before our organs were.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Madeline Gobeil: Did you start writing to escape from solitude?

Jean Genet: No, because I wrote things that made me even more solitary. No, I don’t know why I started writing. What the deeper reasons are, I don’t know. Perhaps this: the first time I became conscious of the power of writing was when I sent a postcard to a German friend who was in America at the time. I didn’t really know what to say to her. The side I was supposed to write on had a sort of white, grainy texture, a little like snow, and it was this surface that led me to speak of a snow that was of course absent from prison, to speak of Christmas, and instead of just writing anything, I wrote to her about the quality of that thick paper. That was it, the trigger that allowed me to write. This was no doubt not the real motive, but it’s what gave me the first taste of freedom.

from Somatic Poetics (@Harriet)


The poem has not yet determined what a body can do. Somatics? The poem sites the body’s (lack of) determination within a socio-political field. In this way is it both constructive and deconstructive. Feeling (affectivity) can over/indetermine any sense of the thing (poem) having been constructed or it having been taken apart. Lyric (what has traditionally been called lyric) is the typical mode of this over- or in- determination. Composition demonstrates (it exposits) but it is also a site where states of feeling, awarenesses, ‘being,’ and consciousness are undergone. Like a patient (or Orpheus) goes under. Eleni Stecopoulos: “Orpheus had to climb down the base of his skull because the message wasn’t getting through.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

5 Questions (for Contemporary Practice) with Tania Bruguera (@ Art21)

Check out the feature I did at Art21 blog with Cuban artist, Tania Bruguera, practitioner of Behavior Art and Useful Art and organizer of Immigrant Movement International, based in Corono, Queens:

While I practice that expanded version of aesthetics, my work is about the role of the artist in society and the possibilities for art to be directly involved in social endeavors. In order to get involved in social issues, it is important to truly commit to real action. The challenge is that artists are very often confronted with the institutional wall. So the work gets caught between a sort of hyperrealism and representationalism that affects the expectation of the artist, but also the ways in which the institutions are ready, or in some cases not, to deal with this kind of work. It is the old dilemma of responsibility in art and what the people in the institutions think the artist should be doing. Unavoidably the work starts dialoguing from an institutional critique standpoint. A new institutional critique where we do not wait for the institution, but we become “institution builders.” Sometimes within the inside of an already existing institution; other times ignoring them, so they have to catch up. It is positive institutional critique.
--Tania Bruguera

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Remains... (@Harriet)

Here's a little statement I wrote for Harriet, on the "emergence of the subject" through poetry and art:

After the armor has been forcibly removed by an adversary, after one has become vulnerable to attack — this is the moment when the “real” subject would seem to emerge, or at least a subject with more reality than it previously had. This subject is both more collective and more singular paradoxically, for it having given itself to a relationship of combativeness. What remains is something between what it was before that having become vulnerable to attack, and the armor scattered around it afterwards. Perhaps the art object or poem is the residue or remains of this event? This is at least something my book-to-come is attempting to explore.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If there were some rainbow at the end of a truncheon. Coerce the crowd and call it art. Call it organization, set the museum adrift. A horse shits on the shiny floor. The voice of the police forms into a voice again. Visual quotations of that commons we’ve never been. If there were some rainbow in those words "crowd control." The voice of the father like a reign machine. In the 30s in the 60s in the 90s. Before we could represent as art the things that were being done to us/that we participated in/that we were doing. Left over from some rainbow, the blood of some truncheon, some whip.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Commons questionnaire (@ Harriet)

Here is a little questionnaire I generated for a collaboration I am working on with Rob Halpern, as yet untitled. On commons/commoning...

Saturday, April 09, 2011

some images from Adrian Piper's Past Time: 1973-1995 (at Elizabeth Dee gallery, winter 2010)

The legal anomaly of smog passing for unpotentialized fog. Is our actual dream in common. Is our nightmare systems move too quickly. The ocean pumps sound the world grinds to zero sums. Not because there is no consciousness, but because there is. The passage of clouds too quickly in our despair. First they sold-off our hands (remains), now it's time for our lungs, our skin. But I don't want to be a fucking last man. Fear of amor fati when we feel fucked in a global sense. What remains from your cynicism, sloughed-off. Bad affects abound across territories no one has the guts to legislate to regulate to legislate to regulate to legislate so we are all crowned fools. And if the whole world became a grave? And if your universalism led to a little island with perfect waves, a preordained sunset, a pile of cash--would we call this Robinsade or Robincide? Climbing over whose backs to the good life. No one even wants to save the moon. If not for the view from their little windows, which open while a million others close.

Friday, April 08, 2011

What remains if a commons isn’t common? A gust runs through us, an organ on the outskirts or outside this having. A specific body the real estate inside us. Sometimes the air is disguised as being shared. We have given up what has forced us to give up on history. Someone says "you are good" when what they really mean is you are easily fucked over. Docility, like a syndrome, the students respond "my education that’s what disaster surpasses me." My culture, what I have known, gives new meaning to entropy. The Dan Graham-like photo shoot of crystalline houses. Split-entry like a place where the past breaks with the present and ‘we’ becomes compossible. There is no commons, no passage yet within this interior. Except where I made the first cut the ear began its work. Of obligation, patient like the obligation to be sung into silence, the wishes of aporia. When aporia is the only passage, no return, no name across this law, no crossing out. Or erasing the face is enough, or giving back, to bring those bodies back. They want/we want their/our cut of the pie. But only get this cut. Parts of the part in blind sunlight. Shade pulled until there was no world. When what I mean is: don't get used to the night.

Almost soiled my self--is this calculable?--the retreat as ever into being, always being. I can hear their digging like Renfield in Coppola’s Dracula can hear all the insects and animal life underground. Fills me with a dread, telepathy of a thousand cranes developing, making vectors through my heart, my breath, my life, my love. Having harnessed the effort of a billion brutes where the commons is in actuality and what hasn’t been imagined yet? Compossible like gestures, gene pools, muscle memory. Compossible like an affect transmissible in collective expression. The faces reflecting me before speech became lucrative, codified as perceptible song on some retroactive-impossible barricade. There are gestures we are making unawares (true force of multitude?) and rhythms other than having (been) worked. Rimbaud imagined work as the principal source of infirmity, immiseration, anti-sociality. All the things the species has done in spite of this. All the nobility—that specific bodies persist in their dance. Inventing worlds because ‘I’ is what remains from their invention. Because, incalculable, bodies persist specific to their dysfunction. What ruptures us, a fulfillment of communitas.

A Grave In Exchange for the Commons (@ Jacket2)

There is so much going on at the newly launched Jacket2, it is a little overwhelming. For my own part I contributed a piece on Fred Moten's poetics with regards to commons and the Black Radical Tradition. With much help from my wonderful editor, Julia Bloch.

Wars I Will Have Seen (Project for an Archive of the Future Anterior @ Vimeo)

Here is a link to a live interview I conducted with Simon Leung, Sreshta Rit Premnath, and Warren Niesluchowski at CUE Art Foundation in Chelsea, NYC. The second event of the Project for an Archive of the Future Anterior.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

ANIMAL COMMUNISM (in Shifter17: Re___Ing)

The new SHIFTER just came out, which includes an essay I wrote on "animal communism" with regards to the cinema of Artavazd Peleshyan. Check it out (in PDF and hardcopy) and support a great publication! Thanks to Rit Premnath for his editorial skills and to the editors of Rethinking Marxism where the essay will also appear in a forthcoming issue.

"Something often noted about Peleshian (in the little criticism I have found about the filmmaker) is his use of telephoto lenses—a lens often used for surveillance, and to obtain close-ups from a distance. Film scholars remark that this peculiar use of the camera was to produce candid, documentary/ethnography-style footage. My own take on Peleshian’s use of a telephoto lens is that it has something to do with the filmmaker’s ontology, an ontology that strives to create both a form of closeness and a form of distance through apparent closeness. To use the telephoto lens the way that Peleshian does is no doubt to have at a distance. But it is also to lose at this distance, inasmuch as it is to allow the view to be obstructed in often random ways, thus to break the illusion of proximity. As such presence and absence, concealment and disclosure intertwine—a spiritual modulation."


Here is a little review I wrote about Yvonne Rainer's performances at the Baryshnikov Art Center last month. Hopefully a sketch for a more extensive offering about Rainer's work (I had too much to say, and too small a word count).

"During much of the piece the dancers flock, proceeding around the dance studio in a rectangular formation, walking with their hands out as though about to receive a manicure. Periodically a dancer will call out a command—“toast” or “freak-out”—and the pack will respond in unison. Other times a dancer will break off from the group, soloing or reciting a text. As in Spiraling Down, Assisted Living: Good Sports 2 is structured through a series of passages by disparate writers and thinkers, including Lydia Davis, William James, and Rosalyn Deutsch. Many of these passages, which indicate the breadth of Rainer’s reading, are of a political nature, especially the recitation that closes the performance, which imagines political despair as a pair of eyes adjusting to the dark. They play off of the choreography itself, creating various frictions."

Others Letters :: Amber DiPietra & Denise Leto

A selection from Amber DiPietra's and Denise Leto's forthcoming epistolary poem, Waveform, is now up at Others Letters.

"We began with conversations about how to hold ourselves in space, as both Denise and I experience considerable trouble getting out of bed in the morning due to our separate forms of chronic illness. We also exchanged images and made collages as part of this collaboration. This collage contains: the waveform (captured with sound editing software) of Denise and I laughing hysterically after a long night of editing, Denise’s MRI, photos of a warm pool where I swim, swimmer torso photo, and a brochure I received prior to glaucoma surgery."
--Amber DiPietra, on Waveform

Monday, April 04, 2011

Permanence (at Immigration Movement International)

When I see the Land-Art pieces which could remain like permanent exhibitions, or at least temporal exhibitions for some decades – in the appropriate conditions to be experienced inside or outside the institution –, or when I see that institutions have achieved a system to work and collect non-object works, I ask myself: Why are there no institutions doing the same thing today with art of social implications? Why is there no long term commitment by the institutions when they want to have social insertion pieces in their exhibitions and collections? Why is social art collected in the format of a traditional art medium alien to the demands of social art experience? Why do people want to have a conclusion before their eyes when public art works are not seen but understood, experienced, discussed…?
--Tania Bruguera, Paris, before the project starts

Saturday, April 02, 2011

from All I Want is to be in a Band, Man (X)

All I wanted is to be in a band, man, I guess
That makes me an expressionist, I guess that makes
Me an anti-specialist, to want to trade instruments
With you non-instrumentally, mid-show
Like a K Records band or maybe Factory
Because they didn’t know how to play them yet
We are off into some other way of being played
Some other commons in your hands and breath
Into the incalculable music plays irreducible
To number, how many we would number, what new
Powers playing our way out of power—if one
Were only in a band, I could talk to you, and idleness
Could interrupt us, and riffs. Being in a band
Would be the only mode of work—goddamn plentiful.