Thursday, December 01, 2005

"the world / is a stage but we are too"

The awaited bombs,
the mounds of skulls,
the Kalashnikov guns,
the infant dressed for fame,
they are all now too
not that they would admit it

The awaited bombs,
the appointed coordinates,
the fake blood,
the real blood,
the recreation
of the whole world
by non-mastery

This is the guilt
the blood by guilt
of the vicious and uneven
never touched

Upon except
at its edges and least
coherent points
the places
from which one
talks distractedly

The martyrologies,
the hagiographies,
those who cathect
the world not yet
lost already
to not be lost yet

A terminal world
of discomfort I want
to love them all, but I can’t
think of a single name,
not a single shelter
or point commensurable
for naming itself

The names of histories
and actions
until it is too late…
a serial of late commas,
of commas arriving
too late in premeditation

Another “avant-garde”
acting forgotten until
it was too late these words
of apostrophe and asides
and interior chatter, the world
is a stage but we are too

Perhaps your insomniacs
dream of action,
perhaps a world or worlds far beyond
any point of being woken
so surpassed are they
by the senseless

The actions performed
out of concern
for free-fall and dance,
the “floating leaps” again,
the vertiginous precisions,
cuts and points which must
be finally of this dance

Are the unnamable points
of action, are
actions taken
because there is not
and only the non-
ability to be vigilant

The unnameable
where we find each other again,
an image
before an image
in abeyance of unmitigatable ambivalence,
possession not to be possessed

Thoughts then make
these gestures with the hand
somnolently of what
the bouncing and faceted
body can do

You take them to sleep with you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Ambivalent Image

Deren's final image of a woman 'suicided' in Meshes of the Afternoon is an ambivalent image. It is, what's more, an ambivalent image FOR other images ambivalent or not. In this case, it is an image radicalizing a situation of 'understanding' (accreting coherence in disjuncture) a woman's action or impulsion to kill herself. For other ambivalent and non-ambivalent images in my attention, Deren's image supplements against a finally coherent stucture (an understanding) for the desperate women of Palestine and elsewhere whether actually suicided or not.

This first image of a woman suicided is supplemented by another ambivalent image from her film: that of a woman's legs in profile stepping across four spatially (if not temporally) discrete terrains by means of film editing (cuts); as Deren herself tells us, this image is intended to present a woman walking across eternity to initialize the first ('primeval') in the last ('killing one's self') of a (recurrent, aleatory) series.

The ambivalence of this second image may be said to supplement that of the first insofar as it raises the dual specters of religious belief and contemporary scientific-philosophical consideration for immortality / resurrection. Can we use the ambivalence of these images to accrete a disjunctive coherence of the present crisis of belief as it is linked to "liberation" struggles and "fundamentalist"-materialist power plays alike (Bush Admin. preempting and augmenting [conjuring?]ubiquitous 'terrorist' threats for territorial advantage and control of natural resources)?

There is an elaborate (and kitschy) iconography / hagiography that glorifies one's decision to take their life and the lives of an enemy population in the current Islamic world. Videos of "martyrs" typically w/ Kalashnikovs, air-brushed wall posters, public service announcements / TV commercials honoring "suicide bombers," "martyr's picture goes here"-esque plaques, children's cartoons. Yet something rings false in an assumption that such an iconography would be merely enough to lend belief supportive of a will to die. The images from Deren's film lead me to this final ambivalence: that the situation in Palestine seems a kind of 'perfect storm' whose unaccounted variable is an uncanny and widespread willingness to die, a willingness that it is difficult to believe is the result of humiliation, material deprivation and effective ideology / propaganda alone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Meshes (notes, discursus)

Motor co-ordination (or lack thereof) of Deren's figure (in dream). This is a film abt. dream experiences, a descent into Bergson's virtual as it is made / becomes actual, as dream images become actualized, “triggered” or “thrown up” as such: "And it may occur that, of an afternoon, these restive captives of memory – refreshed by new contexts and released by the lax discipline of sleep – may triumphantly regain the province of actuality."*

It is also a Bardo (taking my lead from Toufic's work on film)... a film form for reincarnation, recurrent resurrection (eternal return), where through / upon / within dream Deren's figure is reborn (dream within dream within dream) and dies (or is, rather, ‘suicided’? / substituted by her lover)

So the end does not feel like an "end" proper, the one to which all good “psychological” dramas lead (and as much of Deren's writing shows (cf. "Magic is New") she was constantly struggling to describe an "experimental" cinema against "psychological," action-driven narrative film), but as Deren demonstrates by her bifurcating "narrative" structure only a possible end, one of many ends.

One can imagine the multiple lives / moments of Meshes’ protagonist through a continuous film sequence / montage -- both the life in which she commits suicide / is suicided and that of other percepts, movements, emotions etc. As in dream experience we should not assume any of these moments are of a continuous identity, life or body... but of an accreted body coherent only in multiplicity and discontinuity.

Deren's woman is a sleepwalker, a sonambulist for whom the (cinematic) world is an objective "people mover" conveying her up stairs, providing wind-sources, creating the illusion she is being thrown about by camera movement... Her movements become necessary, or necessity's opposite -- where the will / effort is not active but the person is acted upon.

Aleatory in resentiment? Reactive? Should one be said to be reactive in all dream states insofar as they are felt involuntarily and not ‘re-acted’? "As a result of his type the man of ressentiment does not 'react': his reaction is endless, it is felt instead of being acted."**

What may complicate a reading of Deren’s figure in Meshes of the Afternoon as a figure of ressentiment (among other things) is Deren’s own commitments to dance as well as her crucial move towards the “dance film” after Meshes. We might even say that Meshes is already a dance film, or at least a film about movement, insofar as it describes a woman moving as a body within spaces, and amidst objects and people by the particular “magic” of montage, camera work and special effects creative of “unreal” spatial and temporal configurations.

In lieu of Nietzsche’s privileging of dance as a “metaphor for thought” (Badiou)*** and as a primary image of “eternal return,” can we view Deren’s films after Meshes as a resurrection / reincarnation of the body ‘suicided’ in Meshes's final scene?

It is interesting to read Deren’s descriptions of her films as a series. Typically, the filmmaker reserves Meshes as a first effort nevertheless significant, but not as important to her as later films; she also reserves Meshes as a film about “emotional” complexity. Deren’s next film, At Land, she claims to be ostensibly “about” stable identity in changing environments, and the films afterward to address specific problems of dance: “Choreography for Camera” how camera / editing will be part of the dance; “Ritual in Transfigured Time” how a “widow” can become a “bride,” things their transfigured (substantiated?) inverses; Meditation on Violence presents a furthering of the problem of the camera person / editor / filmmaker participant in the dance, how camera itself dances, as well as the sense of dance coming from “unconstrained interiority” (Badiou); her last film before Divine Horsemen, The Very Eye of Night, I read as addressing a dance beyond interiority and intersubjectivity towards the cosmic (unconstrained exterior).

The last move of Deren’s shortlived career is obviously towards experimental and participatory ethnography, where the move towards exterior is thrown back on interior thru moments of possession, possession being a meeting between immortal exterior and interior human in the mortal body of the human being. Seeing Divine one is reminded, finally, that Deren’s main concern is with movement, and how the camera and editing can give appropriate form to the singular psychotic-hysterical moment of possession (the body “jerking” about, the wide eyes tending to roll back).

As with the case of other artists who “died young” (on time?) one wonders where else there was for Deren to go, possession seeming a telos for the movements of her films about movement… or a coming full circle insofar as her primordial image, her primitive scene, may be the “signature” shot from Meshes of a woman’s leg stepping by means of cuts across four different terrains (beach, asphalt road, carpeted room, lawn with tall grass), and this movement by cut constitutes a movement across eternity to kill oneself the very inverse of genetic coming-to-be (where in genetic survival one has “beat the odds” to live, here one has beat the same odds to die).

The move that concerns me in the film, and that I imagine may trouble “feminist” film critics is that from the bedroom where the woman confronts her lover, to the objective shot where we find the woman dead, broken glass surrounding her on the floor. In the bedroom scene, Deren’s woman of course draws a knife on her male counterpart only to discover him an image (photogram), and to shatter the image as though it were a mirror. It is the glass of this broken photogram that we see collecting on the shores of a beach in the next scene, and in the scene after that piled at the feet of the dead woman. A psuedo-psychoanalytic reading of this scenario may have it that Deren has displaced the object of her murderous aggression / desire (her male counterpart) upon her self; in Nietzsche, such an interiorizing displacement of drives, may be read as an instance of ressentiment, where that which is re-feeling is that unwilling to “re-act,” to express feelings actively towards a present verticality of eternity, to express towards forgetting where forgetting is a means of “health” or joy, a moment decided and divided (bifurcating) in eternal return.

The final image of Meshes, I read as deeply ambivalent. It is an image that fortuitously presents itself to me as I have been reading about the situation of women “suicide bombers” / “martyrs” in Palestine and elsewhere. If journalist Barbara Victor is correct in her assessment of the four women martyrs she discusses in her book, Army of Roses, these women are the victims of a double-bind, whereby to not act as “martyrs” they forego the same rights / honors as their male counterparts in a society in which women struggle for gender equality; on the other hand, Victor makes the case that the women she discusses martyr themselves in last resort to find exonerated “ways out” from limited social roles. Are these women not “suicided” then in the sense that Artaud uses the term to discuss Van Gogh's death? The gramatically awkward term “suicided” presents an impasse: that what would seem to be an act committed by a self of agency is in fact committed by that self as the agent of larger social desires and mores. In this case, the general desire (or particular, insofar as it may be that of a privileged authoritative leadership or hierarchial belief-structure) both to defeat a collective enemy (Israel and collaborators / supporters) while also to maintain conservative social values. To suicide someone, as in the case of Van Gogh, is to direct the energies of self against the self, and for such a direction of energy – of drives and emotions – to end up destroying that self, "self-destructing". This suiciding direction of energy may describe the “emotional complex” of Deren’s protagonist in Meshes; it may also belong to the case of women not allowed to “re-act,” to “move,” or to “dance” insofar as they belong to a culture utterly humiliated by an enemy, and which would use this humiliation as a means of regulating desires and values.

An ambivalence about the position of Palestinian women lingers for me in Deren’s description of her own figure having to pass through all of time to kill herself: “What I meant when I planned that four stride sequence was that you have to come a long way – from the very beginning of time – to kill yourself, like the first life emerging from the primeval waters.”**** Such a suicide is a joy not the opposite but inverse of the joy to live. If Nietzchse’s ethics is founded on “dice throws” in eternal recurrence, that an individual should act as if that action should be committed for all time, and that to make decisions, as such, is to affirm aleatory-becoming as the only means of being; then can one not destroy themselves willfully as a dice throw, and therefore in ethical affirmation?… Such a view of suicide would seem to tread against the foundations of Western philosophy, where Spinoza’s notion of the “conative” as a being’s effort to prolong its existence indefinitely remains central, if not a priori.

*Maya Deren from a letter to James Card, April 19th, 1955
**from Deleuze's *Nietzsche & Philosophy*
***from Alain Badiou's "Dance as Metaphor for Thought" in *Handbook of Inaesthethics*
****Maya Deren, from 1960 “program notes”*

Monday, November 28, 2005

L'Ange cont'd

"Dance is innocence, because it is the body before the body."
-- Alain Badiou

A drawn out time
of pictures
are twigs of us
are twigs of us carried
carry us twigs of us and milk to parry

To parry of us the forgetting
of us broken
and forgotten again
across time
broken and the almost dark
forgetting of having watched

In trance
painting is in the strokes
the strokes
of painting frozen
and stopped stopped but not broken
on a vast
desert of paint

Is us watching one climb
a case
of image is us watching
the body
move the body ascend

Is to repiece replace the body again
as image this again
of animation to ascend
the image again

This body thought it was not one to comprehend
it thought the body again
in all good hearing of image
it thought this body falling to accrete to ascend
in one tableaux in another it thought
this body again

Repeatedly of parries of twigs it thought
the burden of seeing again
of enduring these tours of the dark

I am not one for spilt
milk I am
not not one split for split pictures
I am not one for
the whole to be broken
for the hole too broken
so I could be

The stuttered body
picture a thought
for stuttering
the whole of a falling
light a failing

I am not for the composited split the deposited split
I am a light source again stuttered
and falling through a painted source

Which is light for now

I am not for not spilt milk
I am the paintedness
the stop and start of this hellish
body the body we remember
to intend

I am only an instrument
a light box when I want
to be a sky
as it rolls over and darkens a sky
of bluest paint

I am part of the fallen
I am of the risen again
the risen discretely I am
an image of paint departing
from light sources uncertain

These are the holes we make in hellish dark to descend to rise to descend again

This is

The body
we remember
to attend
I am a reason for this line
of dark the line
of light
diagonals break
the dark
of climbing
figures I am merely
a picture
an image recapitulated
of the body

We remember
to resuscitate and
setting into motion
flight of burden
flight of of and twigs to be
resurrected and descend again
on projected wings

I will not be split milk and I will
not be entirely a light
accreted by these sensed figures I am

Riven into the light
dawns draws twilight of flayed flying
I intend clouds a sense of flying
if you will make like an animate dance
histrionics are hell

Reacting the line activates a line again of light
driven risen into
no longer
a no longer to be hell

I have passed the time parried
I am
a puppetry of disjunctive
image parries
an angel climbs an angel again
in discernible pictures

I am a grade I am a degrading
of angel image
parried to be for the body

Reunite with the body
like film projects in a light
box to be projected
blow like that imminent
wind his wind of late day

Over time
this re-acting landscape over
and over
this insensuous

The Kleistian line then dances an Antichrist
diagonal lines of stairs to descend to ascend again

A line to descend is not to decline
in grace to descend is not to decline
in grace the painted night it is to cover
night light paint to repulse these makes
these masks of paint

It is to ascend actually and weightless not unlike

...This empty yet emphatic phallus

to Chantal Akerman

The most
angelic sex
may be between
two women
(or so many more)
after the open
road of men
and after a mirror
of one's own

...This empty
yet emphatic phallus


To repeat a light to
before before the stairs
stairs like a ladder
with dolls and twigs as if
a burden
a suffering of each
body like a burden
to be carried across

The locks of hair
from hell
a hell
of light (optical)
each body
image a burden
to carry child from
light boxes
situ of graven
situ of gravity

The gravity of a doll’s
hair to parry
the blows to pray
to parry
stairs of breath
books reference if we
are to carry
up the stairs in disjunct
rhythm of light
up the stairs dark
an expression of expressionless

Of hair of living tableux
still and rhythmic to bear
the light of light
projector exhaust
stop action of craven
light broken
light to bear

Shadow to bear
I am then this body
this despairing body to bear
up the stairs
of twigs where flashlight
won’t do us any harm
shadow not this moment shadow
light won’t do

us harm

Won’t do this moment
harm to parry
and sex it won’t
make a difference if it is him
or if it is us
it is us carrying
the empty sex of us up

The stairs in Being’s empty
Being's empty
of us up and
up these stairs by degree
to repeat a moment
to repeat
moment upon moment
of moment up the stairs
of light

A momentum
those stairs
of light if we repeat
this is not to reflect
the empty image
the images of stairs enough the split
we always carry
a feeling for split pictures
pitchers split
milk of the body
about us mounting spilt stairs

An enclosure
of light a slit
of light the falling aperture
of light
it is a burden
to carry twigs unto the whole

*after Patrick Bokanowski's *L'Ange*

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Difference & Resurrection

What the eternal return expresses is this new sense of the disjunctive synthesis. It follows that the eternal return is not said of the Same (“it destroys identities”). On the contrary, it is only Same, which is said of that which differs in itself – the intense, the unequal, or the disjoint (will to power). It is indeed the Whole, which is said of that which remains unequal; it is Necessity, which is said of the fortuitous alone. It is itself univocal: univocal Being, language or silence. However, univocal Being is said of beings which are not univocal, univocal language is applied to bodies which are not univocal, “pure” silence surrounds words which are not “pure.” One could thus search in vain within the eternal return for the simplicity of a circle and the convergence of series around a center. If there is a circle, it is the circulus vitiosus deus: difference here is at the center, and the circumference is the eternal passage through the divergent series. It is an always decentered circle for an ex-centric circumference. The eternal return is indeed Coherence, but it is a coherence which does not allow my coherence, the coherence of the world and the coherence of God to subsist. The Nietzschean repetition has nothing to do with the Kierkegaardian repetition; or, more generally, repetition in the eternal return has nothing to do with the Christina repetition. For what the Christian repetition brings back, it brings back once, and only once: the wealth of Job and the child of Abraham, the resurrected body and the recovered self. There is a difference in nature between what returns “once and for all” and what returns for each and every time, or for an infinite number of times. The eternal return is indeed the Whole, but it is the Whole which is said of disjoint members or divergent series: it does not bring everything back, it does not bring about the return of that which returns but once, namely, that which aspires to recenter the circle, to render the series convergent, and to restore the self, the world, and God. In the circle of Dionysus, Christ will not return; the order of the Antichrist chases the other order away. All of that which is founded on God and makes a negative or exclusive use of the disjunction is denied and excluded by the eternal return. All of that which comes once and for all is referred back to the order of God. The phantasm of Being (eternal return) brings about the return only of simulacra (will to power as simulation). Being a coherence which does not allow mine to subsist, the eternal return is the nonsense which distributes sense into divergent series over the entire circumference of the decentered circle – for “madness is the loss of the world and of oneself in view of a knowledge with neither beginning or end.”
-- from Deleuze's The Logic of Sense