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celebrating Santiago Gamboa, as well as stating the obvious & wondering once again at the sentimental Left, melting even before it gets to the battlefield–were we fantasizing? grinning stupidly, terrifyingly

…the reasons someone who’s about to shoot another man thinks he has may vary, but the deed is the same, someone will press the trigger, and when the lead breaks the skin and drills into the cranium and damages a lobe and perforates it and opens a path in the brain, a life with a history and past will be cut short and a body transformed into a bloodstained mass that will fall to the ground, and that fact, which is horrible in itself and can’t in any way be explained or justified, makes all the reasons equivalent; in the middle of the twentieth century it was ideologies, then it was land or the control of resources, reserves of hydrocarbons. …

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam, on Saturday.

Do you know the contemporary name for perversity? It’s democracy. If a chimpanzee with a drum becomes popular and amusing, he could be elected president.

– Santiago Gamboa, Night Prayers, trans. Howard Curtis, Europa Editions, 2016, p. 222

…the world wasn’t made for harmony and kindness, but quite the contrary, for confrontation. The world is a boxing ring, a battlefield. And you don’t go to battlefields with smiles and soft words, no, sir, you go armed to the teeth.

– ibid., p. 232

We played with madness (were we fantasizing?) until the afternoon gave my mouth the terrifying smile of the idiot.

– ibid., p. 290

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Since remarkably little has changed in the intervening 17 years in respect of arts and cultural policy in NZ, I have forwarded the letter linked to below to our current Prime Minister & Minister for the Arts, Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern

Letter to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

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of course as a contributing writer you may find yourself on a beautiful site (designed) with some beautiful writing (actual critique) and you may ask yourself…

the answer is:

the perverse

delights of

artistic incest

& nepotism

in NZ

introducing

the pantograph punch

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Heiner Müller’s instagram courtesy of n.1edicoes

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Douglas Lain of Zero Books interviews Slavoj Žižek

Marx’s labour theory of value: there’s something strange about what Žižek calls Lain’s metaphor of the “good Christian boy” who wants to believe.

And there’s something strange about the circularity of Žižek’s argument, as a populist philosopher, about the horror of the Left’s reactiveness to the Right’s activation of erstwhile Leftist policy platforms for, exactly, their populism: Marine Le Pen’s stand on easier access to healthcare and greater support for pregnant mothers, for example. (But then these can be seen as what Michel Houellebecq calls “nativist” concerns (in Submission): encouraging the put-upon ‘ethnic French’ populace to up birthrates, live longer, than immigrant sectors.) Žižek is saying something when he reports the comment of a friend: now the Left moralise, where they used to politicise; and the Right politicise, where they used to moralise: immigration is a moral and humanitarian issue for the Left; it is a political opportunity that the Right exploits. … Žižek’s call for the self-criticism of ‘us’ “progressives”, what does it mean?

We should spend less time judging statements like his, that if he could have he would have voted for Trump? And more time doing what?

It might get close to Nietzsche’s critique of reactive politics and affirmation of active policy … but is stymied by Hegelian dialectic and Lacanian (inbuilt) negative disavowal, the double-negative logic of not not affirming.

What the Left could use is some Nietzsche. I used to think not, but Nietzsche’s excoriation of those who set their values on a continuum orientated towards the best cover up value judgements that are from the start moral interpretations, moralisations.

The Left’s looking for a better way than the Right is only to perform the Hegelian dialectic dance of if you go that way, than I’ll go this way.

Here’s the link to the interview. See what you think. LINK.

…as for the labour theory of value and Žižek’s call to “de-substantialise” it, isn’t this precisely what is assayed in Anti-Oedipus (along with a critique of Lacan) and A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari?

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stand links to stand

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we prefer not to

team human – where every failure presents an opportunity

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stop the signing of the TPPA

The government doesn’t understand the TPPA just like you. The Prime Minister is not your representative, he is your friend and equal. A likeable guy. I pay him to be your friend, a likeable guy. You pay him too. He’s a nice guy. Tim Groser doesn’t need to know what’s in the TPPA. Smarter guys than him, experts from overseas, have put this deal together and as a country we’d be stupid not to sign it. I knew Tim as a kid. He was a likeable kid. I wonder what his mother would say. But as a country we are not signing it. Representatives New Zealanders have elected are signing it on Thursday. Have New Zealanders elected these representatives and have they elected them to sign the TPPA? Is the signing representative of a consensus? These are academic questions. If you object to something your government is doing, there are channels to get your voice heard. Just as if you object to something your neighbour is doing you can complain to the council, which is obliged to, I feel like repeating that, obliged to respond. The Right Honourable John Key does not respond to any individual complaint because he is not answerable to anyone. He is not Robert Muldoon: he is not his own man. He is a man who belongs to the memory of a likeable kid, like Tim Groser, who as an adult and as the Prime Minister of New Zealand has put in place strategies to ensure his ongoing likeability. He is a bully about this. He will not be remembered. He will be liked. We’d be stupid not to. Why wouldn’t we sign? Why wouldn’t we like him? He is like us, likeable, just richer. And the Prime Minister. Elected. Part of the government. Representative. Signing on our behalf. Signing on behalf of our better selves.

What I feel like doing at this juncture is nothing. Inaction. Not industrial action, striking. But nothing. Not declaring, not striking, not acting, not accusing, shaming, judging, educating, but stopping what I am doing, whether I am driving the bus, tending the aged, signing the deal, any deal, selling the house, writing the paper, reading the paper, writing the article, talking, walking, teaching, arresting, selling, buying… stopping.

Who is protecting your job if you stop too?

On this day, stop your car. By all means take your keys. Turn off your computer. Walk away from your desk. Stop believing in social media as a tool for social activism. Turn off your phone. Leave your phone alone. Everything that ties you to this world of action is also a link in the chain binding you to the actions of your elected representatives. Who will sign. Who think it is better to act. Stupid not to. Stop.

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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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“That Yasusada’s “false” presentation proved to disturb and scandalize a small corner of our culture at century’s end is, it seems to me, perfectly appropriate and precisely to the point of the work’s force and meaning. After all, is the matter of nuclear omnicide and everything it implies in terms of our collective psyche a tamed and settled matter?”

a brilliant interview with Kent Johnson conducted by John Bradley

 

the background here

 

quote: even, when there are signs in red-ink all over the window that say “what you see through this window is not real,” the viewer ignores the signs, and looks on uncritically, enthralled. So the question arises as to what it is the viewer is seduced by, drugged by, before coming to the looking-glass. It’s a serious question when it comes to the whole troubled issue of “witness,”

 

from the interview here

quote: imaginative treatments of Hiroshima or the Holocaust extend the work that only actual witnesses can begin. And it must be extended.”

And: if we circumscribe formal or presentational boundaries for its practice and expression, we effectively say that testimony and remembrance have a limit

 

AND: “For Motokiyu, again, the strongest and most sincere “reality” he could attain was through the creation of the most real human character he was able to imagine– one with rough edges, bad language habits, quirky sexual predilections, deep longings for his loved ones, unresolved feelings of anger, strange flights of ironic humor, instincts of compassion and generosity, embarrassing spells of confusion, stumblings into pettiness and egocentricity, unusual tastes for the foreign, etc.”

finally – not finally, the Yasusada is beautiful – : “Our collective, pornographic preparation for mass death can’t be explained without the undertow of Thanatos, always pulling at our toes and teasing, teasing us toward the ultimate snuff-flick our common body would star in, so to speak.”

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