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Heiner Müller’s instagram courtesy of n.1edicoes

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WYNKEN, BLYNKEN & NOD

WYNKEN, BLYNKEN & NOD (OFFICIAL VIDEO) – JACK & AMANDA PALMER from Amanda Palmer on Vimeo.

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the distraction of nostalgia with a smell like marijuana the predatory dreamcatcher

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because after this Enrique Vila-Matas writes…

…during these minutes I was able to think things over and put an end to any further queistions I might still ask myself about the possible, or impossible, relationship between innovative art and a bottle of perfume belonging to a Nazi woman, about the possible relationship between innovative art and our historical past and present. … It had become clear to me that art and historical memory were inseparable.

Any activity connected to the avant-garde – assuming the avant-garde still existed (which I doubted more with each passing hour) – must never lose sight of the political dimension: one that required us to bear in mind that perhaps nothing would do us poor mortals more good than for the avant-garde to disappear, not because it was worn out, but because, through an invisible current, it had turned into a source of pure energy, transforming itself into our own fascinating life.

33.

For a moment, I thought I saw the invisible impulse cross the area and flow through that community of strangers seated in the middle of the forest. I remember thinking of the efforts of popular revolutions trying to make a name for themselves, while secret groups like this one in the woods at Kassel, or those formed during sporadic bursts of fighting, had, by contrast, never tended to be photographed or leave a trace. I recalled Sebastià Jovani, a writer from Barcelona, who said that revolutions spawned postcards and all sorts of souvenirs, while guerrilla warfare and spontaneous groups involved in clandestine struggles – volatile groups, situationists if you looked at them that way – generated emotions, common feelings that didn’t require a picture framed up on the wall. Jovani also said, if I remember rightly, that it was worth asking if anyone would really want a signed urinal in their living room. Perhaps, in that question, the difference between art exhibited in museums and art without a fixed home – art that is out in the open, so visible in Kassel, in more than one installation – couldn’t be better summed up. Art of the outskirts. Or of the outskirts of the outskirts. Like Huyghe’s work, with his humus and pink-legged dog, with his remote quagmire, where there was no organization, no representation, no exhibition – although I suspected things were interconnected there than they appeared to be.

And while I was thinking about all this, I realized how that silent revolt of the spirit was making a move at that precise instant and let itself be seen, too: the almost imperceptible was making everyone suddenly get younger on the spot.

This reminded me of that episode in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past where you see the members of the old aristocracy grimacing in a Paris salon, getting older on the spot, becoming mummies of themselves.

For a while, I didn’t stop looking around me. The music’s attempt to get us over the collapse seemed very fortuitous. That motif of death Schubert had placed at the center of Winter Journey, which we were all listening to there in shy silence, collided head-on with the idea of that voyage. Each of us allowed ourselves to be assailed by our solitude, which expanded timelessly in the evening light, the sun reflecting among the clouds, and it did so like the nightmare I most feared, the one in which I felt at constant risk of seeing everything invaded by frost and dead nature.

Death was before us like the bird singing just then, filtering through in an unequal contest with Schubert’s music. Death was playing no tricks and plainly visible, but the general resistance, the effort not to succumb to its awful, murderous song, was admirable. The imperceptible breeze ran serenely throughout, getting stronger every minute, perhaps because it was a current that advocated life. Indeed, the conspirators in the forest appeared to be getting stronger and stronger in this lull. Even so, my disquiet didn’t seem about to evaporate so easily. There were flashes of vitality within the forest group, but a certain inner disquiet persisted. I remember the circumstances of that moment well. The truth is, I always remember my own unforeseen anguish with mathematical precision: I was in the forest, I lost myself mentally in a tangle of undergrowth. I heard the cry of a tawny owl in the area bordering the woodland, and then nothing, absolutely nothing. I went on to the esplanade and saw that Europe was a lifeless expanse and then accepted that the dawn light of morning had turned into darkest night. I think I perceived a song far off in the distance that I learned in childhood and that comes back to me from time to time, above all now that I’m getting old. It’s a song that disturbs me because it says there is no escape: to get out of the forest we have to get out of Europe, but to get out of Europe we have to get out of the forest.

The Illogic of Kassel, Enrique Vila-Matas (trans. Anne McLean & Anna Milsom), pp. 108-110

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Enrique Vila-Matas, Pierre Huyghe, Ai Weiwei and I at Kassel, Documentas 12-13

“I’d been fascinated at the beginning of the seventies by some questions that had been put to Alain Robbe-Grillet, which made him writhe against theories like an upside-down cat: “Let’s say I’m old-fashioned. For me, all that counts are the works of art.”

“The works of art! These days such ingenuousness would trigger laughter. At Documenta 13, separating work and theory would have been seen as very old-fashioned, because there, according to all the information I had, you saw a great many works under the ambiguous umbrella of innovation presented as theory and vice versa. It was the triumphant and now almost definitive reign of the marriage between practice and theory, to such an extent that if ou casually came across a rather classical-looking piece, you’d soon discover it was nothing more than theory camouflaged as a work. Or a work camouflaged as theory.

“Was there any artist at Kassel with sufficient courage to just hang a painting on the wall, a straighforward painting? I imagined the great peals of laughter that would ring out if it occurred to some poor brave devil to hang a canvas on a wall in the Fridericianum. It seemed nobody there wanted to be regarded as terribly old-fashioned, so there was no way of seeing painting anywhere.”

– Enrique Vila-Matas, The Illogic of Kassel, p. 69

Untilled, characters who appear in Enrique Vila-Matas’s novel, by Pierre Huyghe at Documenta 13

Strangely, I happened to be involved in the Documenta 12 Magazine Project through <<empyre>> soft_skinned_space, a listserv onto which I have foisted my sometimes welcome, mostly unwelcome, and usually ignored observations, reflections and scribblage.

The following I wrote into the listserv under the subject heading of “Fugue” – which is interesting in so far as I have in front of me a volume by Sergio Pitol with a foreword by Enrique Vila-Matas, the writer of the foregoing on Documenta 13, entitled The Art of Flight. The English translator of this work, George Henson, apologises, that “already in the title” he has failed, because the Spanish fuga translates as both fugue and flight and in the original Spanish, the book is called El arte de la fuga. The Art of Fugue. Indirectly, for Documenta 12, I wrote:

Dear Empyreans,

the following I pursued for my own interest: I apologise if there’s nothing in it.

Roger Beurgel [artistic director of Documenta 12. It was Roger Beurgel’s “provocation”, on the question, Is Modernity our Antiquity? that led the discussion, here] in quotes:

“It is fairly obvious that modernity, or modernity’s fate, exerts a profound influence on contemporary artists.”

How is modernity tied to its fate that, either the thing itself or the myth, exerts a pull – as if equally and interchangeably? And if there isn’t anything in itself there? Only the mythic Fate, then isn’t this a description of tragedy? Is a degree of that influence to do with the desire not just to reinstaurate the determinism or fatalism of modernity on its certain path but to redeem it?

“Part of that attraction may stem from the fact that no one really knows if modernity is dead or alive.”

Which suggests exactly the spectral/corp(u)s/e mode modernity was so good at advancing: and pomo was so good at extracting – half-life apparitions and death-drive amortisations.

“It seems to be in ruins after the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century (the very same catastrophes to which it somehow gave rise).”

Surely, that ‘somehow’, tenuously holding on, like spectral rider to ghoulish horse, confirms that the modernity described here is in the grand European tragic style – or pomo pastiche thereof. The taste for setting such great store by aesthetics (however deeply internally politicised or outwardly conceptual and dematerialised), that ‘totalitarian catastrophes’ ensue from them, is modernist at the fascist end of the spectrum.

“It seems utterly compromised by the brutally partial application of its universal demands (liberté, égalité, fraternité) or by the simple fact that modernity and coloniality went, and probably still go, hand in hand.”

As a colonial antipode – foot in hand, sometimes in mouth – I’ve thought a little about colonialism’s place in respect of modernity. My view, from NZ, of modernity is only historically, not ‘utterly,’ ‘compromised’ by the cultural marginalisation that goes hand-in-hand with modernity’s centralist concerns. But this issue brings us round to whether modernity has a political armature in praxis, a Realpolitik, such that it could be ‘brutally partial’ in the application of demands that are by no means ‘universal’ nor endemic to modernity, as an era (or a constellation, an infirmament, of historically informed assumptions and happenstance).

The secular nation-state, to my mind, better expresses the political ideas and ideals of the modern era, and of modernity, than the Colonial Empire. The failure of the former – in its current crisis or decadence – offers perhaps a clearer index to the vivacity or morbidity of a political modernity.

“Still, people’s imaginations are full of modernity’s visions and forms (and I mean not only Bauhaus but also arch-modernist mind-sets transformed into contemporary catchwords like “identity” or “culture”).”

There is something about this ‘transformation’ (of ‘arch-modernist mindsets’) that merits discussion. I think it was Brett, forgive me if I’m wrong, who said that postmodernism is built on the foundations of modernism. Christine has poked a little, deservedly, at the idea of Hegelian synthesis, in the n-state. In both views there inheres the idea of transformation – a redemption even of modernist assumptions. I think this archaeological impulse, this restorative ‘moral’ and critical project – such, indeed, that the question heading this discussion can be asked – may be promoted by precisely the kind of spectacular mise-en-scene we see in Roger Beurgel’s statement on modernity.

“In short, it seems that we are both outside and inside modernity, both repelled by its deadly violence and seduced by its most immodest aspiration or potential: that there might, after all, be a common planetary horizon for all the living and the dead.”

Pa Ubu: “Hornstrumpet! We shall not have succeeded in demolishing everything unless we demolish the ruins as well. But the only way I can see of doing that is to use them to put up a lot of fine, well-designed buildings.”

Finally, a brief word regarding the n-state, an idea with its own fascination; and I’d like to know more about its provenance; since, as well as zipping up a certain bodybag – synthetic teeth mesh – it also iterates management/bureaucratic themes of ‘technological progress and infrastructural improvements’. (By way of contrast, inspired by a Polish grandmother on a European train, ’82, I chanced on the related idea of ‘n-set’ – a play on ‘NZ’ and also an acronym. The grandmother said that all her countrymen were doing in those days was watching satellite TV and making babies – “like Africa!” she said.

(N-SET became a script-scenario dealing with a covert (insurgence) operation starting in Poland to postmodernise via media’s softsell immersion the East and West and foment political revolution: to postmediatise consciousness. N-SET stands for ‘non-specified enemy territory’ – carrying forward its scenario through random acts of state-sponsored terror, according to the view that the civilian population as a whole is the only object on which a postmodern war can be waged.)

Simon Taylor

Fairytale, 1,001 chairs, Ai Weiwei, at Documenta 12

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teeth in cave

– from here

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nana nana

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other colours

hearing Orhan Pamuk talking to Robert Harrison (link to audio) – Pamuk, the Nobel Laureate, self-confessedly conservative and superficial – superficial enough that winning the Nobel makes him happy – conservative in wanting to keep the language of Turkey ‘as it is’ – the ‘dictionary of the streets’ – and not turkify or alter it to fulfil any sort of social or political agenda – but to use the language of his mother, his grandmother, which is the same, in fact, as that you hear on the streets – I felt both let down – was it Thoreau who said writers are the worst company because they never have anything to say for themselves? – and you invite them to parties – particularly those writers who are so witty and interesting – to parties where you expect them to entertain and perform for your guests – so as, I expect, you can claim some sort of glory by association – but they sit glumly – or worse start drinking, smoking, taking drugs, behave scandalously, seduce the hostess, and the host, the children – or worse, they sit glumly – as if they’ve forgotten their scripts – as if the only words they know are written ones which they do not in fact speak – as if speech is a foreign language – company a foreign concept – perhaps they only accept your invitation because they are so lonely – or worse to perform like rutting monkeys, like smoking misanthropes, like opiated invertebrates, like inebriate self-advertisers, appetitive inverted anuses, both sucking and blowing – to act up, act out, in short – according to the major clichés and minor vices – would sitting glumly be worse? – I felt both strangely let down listening to Orhan Pamuk and more strangely slightly incensed he could call himself, his Istanbul, provincial – that Robert Harrison should accept this without question – the capital of the Ottoman empire provincial? But I then considered, after, without any consideration, being put in mind of the provincialism particular to the colonies – the torturous ennui and cultural self-deprecation – when it is not wildly self-affirmative, enhanced by social and political agenda – the horrific critical void – of New Zealand – I considered, as Pamuk suggested I should, as he did, Moscow – the capital of the glorious defunct Soviet Socialist Republic. I wondered if there is a provincialism particular to fading glory? a memorial provincialism? However it could not possibly contend – if there could ever be such a contention – with the colonial provincialism of our own green ghetto, which, contraindicatively lies in the suburbs and not in the provinces of memory. The consideration of … Moscow – can it be said of London? – of Rome? – then why especially Istanbul? – proceeded from a lower-level – a baser – resonance with Orhan’s description of the provincial experience: the cultural avidity – a need to know and find out – to extend feelers and find out what is really happening in the rest of the world – that is really happening because it is happening elsewhere: the greed for news. Music, art, magazines, criticism. But Pamuk’s provincialism is not so much a provincialism of geopolitical dimensions but of sentiment, of the dusk, of the black-and-white city, settling into winter, with long winter nights, of ruins, where little Orhan played football, in the Ottoman ruins, the wooden houses that within ten years were burnt and razed. The provincialism is of the city since the city Pamuk loves is not the one which has made his love provincial, provincialising his spirit. And I suspect this is the reason Pamuk applauded the analogy obsequious pill of a host, Harrison, made, when he said that in the piece of Orhan’s writing he liked best, which he of course had to admit, it is as if Istanbul is the writer and Nobel Laureate’s second mother, usurping the voice and role of the first, whose language, as said, Orhan wants to conserve. It is a maternal provincialism. Or perhaps the mother is always like this, a province removed from the centre – of culture, of art, of enlightened politics and social democracy? Orhan’s memorialised city or mother is in the process of rejecting exactly what it is about it, about her, Pamuk loves, of rejecting its black-and-white post-empire despondency and pushing it out to … the provinces, out onto the hem of her skirts, cutting apron-strings. The memory of baking. And he wanted to be a painter, between the years eleven to twenty-two, was it? And now it has come out, his brilliant work, a bricolage of autobiographical fragments and essays – which he had hoped one day would be in a proper work of fiction – called Other Colours. Its title testifies to the provincialism foisted on him of being mere monochrome. It reclaims the technicolour to ironic purpose – it also claims it as property – while I remember the grey Wellington of my youth, which had Models, Crafts and Hobbies and Kirkcaldies’s lights, open late only Friday nights, as puddles of colour in the wind-driven drizzle – now Istanbul and Wellington both put on – performing – like those writers earlier – acting up, acting out, simply – the economic good news in lurid technicolour smiles – the other colours, as Harrison with his practised and efficacious literalism points out, of toothpaste commercials.

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played Downstage on the set for Genet’s The Balcony in white boiler suits

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directors’ cut

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