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for a kind of record, parts IV & V

IV.

I am very happy

you could hear the risk in his voice

he rubs his penis across her waist

the danger

 

what did you say to me

did you say

too much

too much of looking over the precipice

too much of walking around and around

in these dark rooms where I live out empty days

Cavafy

 

and the stripper

with her hair glossy running

down around her breast

curling into the hollow

of his loin

in a bituminous river

 

approach

retreat

take hold of yourself

and girded against the unexpected

smell

get a good grip

 

the small of her back

wipe your finger

pull the latch

open the window

a light breeze

with the tang

of revelation

 

V.

but I was just angry

every night

No not every night

every night and always

every night

 

what happened last week

anyway

every night

I can smell dogshit

 

my body boils

is the pit

in miniature

a model of hell

no light escapes

and the light in the cave is not reassuring

although it dances has the highpitch whine

of a blade of a wire a single strand spitting

in a vacuum

no relief just the superimposition of totem

animals one over another over another over

another incessant pull gravity and

the vanity of man

 

who should commit suicide tomorrow or tonight

who should give himself up to the pull of the Platonic

the shadow does not me

shadow does not

not me

 

what expression escapes

mortal danger

or should I say personal

but vanity should emote

 

I should kill myself tomorrow or tonight

I should take my life

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for a kind of record, III

III.

Is it time

a sheering

a shelf

the world

borne up

by what

Is it so much

 

Is it time

by the capillary action

of years of photographs

of looks

of looks lost on one another

Is it so much

 

I had no idea

daylight would be

like this

I had no idea

of love

in the daylight

 

Your eyes are blue

volcanic lakes

 

without depth

without heat

 

simply welling up

so much time

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Mirowski & Neoliberal thought collective & faith

Let’s move the conversation beyond power. This is what Foucault was doing in his final seminars (see particularly 13/13 The Courage of Truth, 1983-84). As described by economic historian Philip Mirowski, the neoliberal thought collective, that is the Mont Pèlerin Society, is not about securing or maintaining élites in power, either in political power or in economic power, or in view of the field now addressed in terms of a political economy.

As Mirowski, following Foucault, makes clear, the agenda is truth. The conversation we might be having is not about power and its exercise within the political economy post-truth, given the bruited collapse of veridification, which has been for some time now the demesne of media–both sounding off on the collapse of knowledge and information, of knowledge into information and data, and therefore the levelling of information with disinformation (with which goes the task of the expert, the knowledge worker and scientist as a data gatherer, noncommentator, nonsyncretiser, empirically distanced and politically-economically disinterested), both this and under media control within the production of media as the producers in the knowledge market, of political economy. The conversation might now move to a post-power conception of truth, where knowledge is power.

Power-knowledge performs as its own supplement. It supplements itself. This is its production as fetish, a question both of currency and value. It is also the reason for the investment of the richest and most powerful corporations in what is called Big Data, since it is called Big Data to hide the fact that it is nonsummative: enumerable data, innumerable data, but not one big datum rather the prospect of infinite growth in the production of data. Knowledge in a post-power dispensation is an economic unit. So that thing called immaterial labour by Hardt and Negri is always for the sake of an idea, the truth not of capital itself–the labour theory of value is hardly sufficient here–but the capital of truth itself.

The truth and the lie of the immaterial labourer are equally available to media to be promulgated, published, fetishised, as they are, since it is the market that will make the ultimate selection for the sake of the idea of truth. The knowledge worker, the scientist, the expert researcher, all are freer than ever before. They are like artists and just as powerless, just as powerless as the powerful.

Who rises to challenge the market as the arbiter of truth post-power? …and it could be said it is in this sense that we are now postmodern: gone is the tortured, fractured and fragmented art of power; welcome the unified, global and free art of truth, a truth beyond the grasp of any individual, ineffable, belonging to the political economy, a belief secured and maintained on its idea.

 

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destroyed wisdom

dear diary, today I like this phrase “romantic materialism.” today I ordered Elizabeth Grosz’s The Incorporeal and John M. Harrison’s Viriconium. …today I am nervous. today I am suspended between two ideas: one is, against immaterial labour and semiocapitalism, the idea of the place of care, care of the body, its pleasures and needs; it is an idea of the palliative industry, in which all media participate; capital care functions to feed on an industrial scale those who can afford to live inside it; it functions to distract from the suffering and from the desire and from the passions of the body, with easy listening, predigested package language-worlds, of viewing, touching, tasting, light-comedic mediatised commodities, popularised pulp & pap, lubricated & comfort sex; it is the service culture of safety & health; its wealth is the investment in an aging population even as it is being born, being born into an aging population, a universal retirement village and hospice is where you will live, dance occasionally, nod off, eat, shit & fuck, if you are born as one of the lucky ones. The other idea is postmodernism. It comes after modernism because it defrags it into the universal agreement to believe in price without cost, in the nonsymbolic exchange of money as the value of all values. Where modernism left you looking at yourself looking, postmodernism recognises that look–priceless… so destroyed wisdom today is my subjectline, the umbilicus of deconstruction from which I hang

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scripts of AT THE STOCK MARKET MEETING

I.
Spend the evening pressing flesh and spending money.
That, after all, is what it’s for. And,
well, money’s money.

Fat and fatuous, a fatal
combination—when not being
utterly, utterly charming.

Stretching to 3 or 4, I’d say
and a slap on the wrist.
Hang back,
honestly,

hang about, squeezed tubes in a rasp,
and the spitting, the spitting image
of suited shades loitering around
in the afterlife,
all on tenterhooks,
the very dregs,
too keen
with flickering porcine eye,
too keen by half,
a-trot in the half-dark,

one little pig, 2 or 3, 4
at a stretch
belted and buckled and gaping on,
buttoned and bottled
and raising a queer sort of
high-pitched sound,
not quite human,
a-squeal in the dust-yard,

the harsh cross-light of history, I’d say,
the torture-chamber herself,
steam and quite unmistakable smell
of freshly cut carcase,
a nose for blood,

5 and no more, tubes full
and the gutter-grey suddenly
a luminous shade of hope,
a pink-eyed shade,
falling over oneself,
over and over
as if entirely bereft of the scaffolding of bones,
fresh to the trough,
through the sublime carpentry
of our unmaker,
sliding down stairwells,
crossbars,
collecting splinters
in the hoof of the tongue
that pop like bubbles
on the roof and gums,

the heart sucks and quivers,
shoves the hub and heel
with the delightful infinity
of going against the drill pattern,
all the old numbers,
gown flapping open
at the cuffs and ankles,
streaked with heaven knows what stain,
ardent stain, no more naked clothed
than cut open by the gaze,
chest and armpit,
touch is the subtle retractor.

And the horizon deepening,
the departed on the farther shore beckoning
or, who can tell,
impossible clouds looming.
It has been like this always
but you have not noticed the lips on your partner,
his chest heaving and sobbing,
that apneia

her self-awareness quickened
by the sudden attention
of a, can it be? an oldish man,
to make it harder on her,
he is spitting forward his false teeth
and sucking them back,
to make it harder on him,
he is now retching into her lap,
now looking up into her eyes,
her lashes nothing flying can escape,
and fearing his gorge rising,
sending his questions flying,
and she is asking
what is the question he has for her?
but it is vomit

it hits the stainless steel at a bad angle
and splashes onto the friend
who receives as a gift,
who, quite unbelievably, saw it coming
and got him into the nearest mens

she is not there when he gets back.
The old man has taken her home with him.
Only the male interest remains.

The subtle retractor is brilliant at extracting information
under the disguise of chance,
a chance meeting
with the torturer after many years,
buying sausage at the same store,
thinking, I am not in the same torture chamber
I was before.

Only to feel the years rush away and the dryness
in the throat return
and the blood pumping in the guts again
and pinching of the tubes, throbbing,
a rasp and boot stamping down.

How out of place I must seem! You think,
at the delicatessen counter of the supermarket.
But it is not a private feeling.
The electric saw that cuts him cuts me.

Her lips that speak also refuse.
They lead to the rallies
and the rallies lead to the arrests
and the arrests will never stop
until names are named. They
refuse.

The lips that refuse are removed.
They are removed in hospital rooms.
Not in butcher’s shops.
The light is flat,
sometimes at sunset a luminous pink
and the scent of fresh flowers beside the bed.
On the lavatory table.
The best of care.

The first surgery will cut off the tongue.
The second will take the teeth from the upper jawbone
and remove the lower jawbone in total.

The last surgery will join the skin where
the mouth was to allow a small tube,
no larger than a straw,
for food to pass down.

The whole procedure will be perfected
by erasing any trace
of there having been any surgery at all.

Without lips the subject will
look on without mouth.
And the flowers will be changed
beside the bed.
The curtain will be pulled to protect
her dignity.
No pain will have been meted out.
In the absence of words, all words
will have been reduced to
a simple whistling
from the hole
where the lips had been,
a high tone for excited
while a low one means relaxed.
A singing-along with everything.

The whole story will stay in the eyes
but the eyes will be in the background.
In the foreground will be the monstrosity.
The monstrosity will always be in the foreground.

How lovely to be able to give to the young
what their dreams and visions spell out
to them without benefit of hindsight or
experience.

Another one’s nose was removed
without the least trace being left
in a perfection of which
even the most consummate artist
or the best cosmetic surgeon
could be envious.

Not no nose to speak of:
one with no nose to speak,
one with no nose at all.
An immaculate disfigurement.

I have thought about these things.
About terrorism as the atom bomb
of the poor. And the murder of a young
child. Erased.

It was never a young child. It was a sucking
in foul street. We share breath
tonight you and it.

I, I will always be on its side.
You be on yours.
It was never a dairy owner.
It was that dairy owner.
You will never be a dairy owner.
On your side of the counter
are lined up the prime minister
and the camera crew, the minister
for justice, the twelve jurors, and you,

it has slit a neck and the weightless blood
bubbles and joins into larger bubbles
which rise
and float and burst,
according, as it is said,
to the breeze blowing from paradise.
Now lightly.
Now in a steady rain
gently falling on every man,
woman, and on those
who are scarcely even here, their
short lives, pets and children,
the animals left in the mist
of the species which did not survive.
On indigenes in general
count among the fallen
on your side of the counter
everyone after a certain number,
the certainest number
one.

II.
When you look at the face of money—nothing
but when you look at the face of age—living
hard to give it up
smashed in my car
the ribs clawing at the metal
the rods, racks, the pinions
poking here and there
pain like a crisp clear
morning

like a crisp clear
morning
hard to enter into because it is the last,
like waking on a dawn and refusing waking
no bed
no warm arms
no source
no support of life
no home
pain only
only pain
where there’s always room inside
the entry so narrow—
the exit is so wide

a slice even when followed next instant
by the crack of bone-break is different,
a connoisseur can hear it,
a victim feels it
but worse, much the worst—knowledge:
to know a hand cannot be re-attached
and know the ligaments, nerves and sinews
separated, to know the parting of the limb,
the eye, ear, the torn or cut, the split, the
lost organ, to know from this waking
no going back
to habit
the body at a point of no return

your body, I know
your body, your face billows
out from it and I want to take a pin
pop it

Your hands lift your face like wet clothes
try to put it back in place
and hold it, feel it slipping
from your fingers, dripping heavy
as wet clothes, a drapery impossible
to fix back on its scaffold

Your face today so full of self-satisfaction
unlike money: to stare at the face of money
is to feel the blood drain out
nothing come back at it with its privilege
to be nothing joyless
like looking in a shop window.
somewhere in the distance
the sound of boots
steadily approaching

Hell to be got by humans, by human
hands, before the flood
hell to be erased from face to foot
hell to waste all the flesh has put away
for the soul to enjoy
in old age—not to laugh, of course,
the soul is artificial, which is why
it lasts but an instant
burns everything up
even the reason for its existence
the air itself. There it is.

There it is.
There is nothing else. May as well
admit it. A burden. But to get rid of it
would be to assume there’s something
else, something other than this. There
isn’t. Bear it.

The children are arriving.
Hear the boots?
Somewhere a shop window
with all its five fingers
and five toes
a monstrous thing
smash it!
a monster
smash it with a brick!
do its head in!

something’s wrong
something has gone very wrong.

[performed 19 November 2016

at Auckland Old Folks Ass. by Minus Theatre:

Chenby Dien

Michael Ferriss

Jeffrey Gane

Alex Lee

AmberLiberté

Felipe Oliveira

with the assistance of Monique Wakaka

directed by Simon Taylor]

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Minus Theatre update: new show 7pm Saturday 19 November 2016

minus theatre update: we prepare for one night only, 7pm Saturday 19 November, at Auckland Old Folks Association, 8 Gundry St. of at the stock market meeting

we are making progress with a new form developed from thief (theatre of imitation, expression & f___ery) called Theatre of Elements. To understand what elements are you don’t have to read Alphonso Lingis. But I recommend you do. Elements are themselves understandings – affective connections, without a communicative or representational image, between people. … We meet in a foreign country where we don’t share a language, but we share, what? air? earth? the gravity of the mass of the planet that gives us our levity? and, recognising in each other our mutual inability to communicate, of course we laugh. Such understandings are all that connect humans with animals…except animals don’t laugh. Do they?

minus has been travelling in this foreign country since early 2014, kind of stateless I suppose. Where thief follows an internal logic, of each participant taking on, in her own and his own body, what is internal to another, TE follows an external logic of things that are composed of objects and subjects, bits of the world from which affects, investments, projections are not able to be extricated, elements which are as imperative as the earth and the ever-thinning atmosphere to the perpetuation of this theatrical and ephemeral transaction. These are things as multiplicity, these elements, since they are real and tangible, and are given this other dimensional spin of feeling and emotive force. The element is not then the inert thing but the thing asking that you take on towards it a certain angle of approach: it is an emotional demand, a relation and a risk.

Please propagate this information through your friendworks and sharenets and come and see what we are doing.

Contact simon@minustheatre.com

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part one of a four-part project. Minus Theatre workshops begin May 5 2016 at Auckland University of Technology

and we will begin work towards a piece called “at the stock market meeting” – a tragedy!

I would like to complete 4 public pieces this year. They already have names!

And early 2017 join them together in an epic work!

By May 5 I am hoping we can bring into the group some new people & maybe bring back

some of those we miss!

Please put out word that this is what we are doing to all your contacts.

And contact me any time if you or others

want to talk about plans for the next projected public works

of Minus Theatre

best

s

simon@minustheatre.com

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l’imagination au pouvoir: the theory of modern art & the crucial “Giorgione effect” according to Enrique Vila-Matas

When back in May ’78 I was able to interview Salvador Dalí in his Cadaqués house, the painter kept going on about a Venetian painting: “A while ago, just before you arrived, I was looking again at Giorgione’s Tempest. There is a soldier, and a naked woman holding a baby. It is a pivotal painting, though our fellow countrymen don’t know it.”

The Illogic of Kassel, 2015, by Enrique Vila-Matas, p. 158

The Tempest, Giorgione, 1506–1508

[Strangely enough, this painting too is a theme in the great English experimental novelist, Nicholas Mosley’s Metamorphosis. He wrote the novella in 2014, aged 91. Like his masterpiece, Hopeful Monsters, written in 1990, it affirms the force of biological mutation in metamorphosis and is as optimistic about the future of life and of human life through transformation as Enrique Vila-Matas is about the future of art in transforming itself with life.]

…that interview with Dalí unexpectedly took on greater depth when I read by chance Mallarmé’s recommendation to Édouard Manet that is for some the founding statement of the art of our time: “Paint, not the thing, but the effect it produces.”

I immediately thought of Manet’s The Railway, that painting that dumbfounded critics of the time. In it, a young mother looks at us, while her daughter stares at the plume of steam from a passing train.

– Vila-Matas, ibid., p. 159

The Railway, Édouard Manet, 1873

[This scene, as described, without the steam, is repeated in A Man in Love, the second volume of his life story, called My Struggle, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, an avowed art-lover, who speaks of how a painting can make him cry where the events of life do not. At once the proximity of these themes will be discerned to the European cultural and political tragedy of mid-twentieth century totalitarianism, of which Vila-Matas is at first sentimentally aware and to which, in his encounter with what has become by 2012 of the avant-garde at Documenta, he later unsentimentally reconciles himself.]

la réminiscence archéologique de l’Angelus de Millet, Salvador Dalí, 1935

In the foreground, the little girl has her back to us. In the background, there’s the great cloud of smoke that the train has left as it chugs through the center of Paris.

I noticed that the structure of The Railway reminded me of Giorgione’s The Tempest. Looking it up, I saw I was not mistaken, may people had said the same. And then I thought if only Manet’s picture had an actual trace of what someone had done before. A sketch or a hint of Giorgione would allow us to see the direct connection between the two, in the same way Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase would acquire greater depth if it contained an actual trace of Manet on the canvas. And might it not be that Dalí, lost in a very dark Spain, wanted to bequeath to me that day the effect that introduced modernity, the crucial Giorgione effect?

Se non è vero, è ben trovato, Dalí was known to say. That was, in fact the expression he quoted to me in that interview when I told him that his book [Le mythe tragique de l’Angélus de Millet] formed a sort of “obligatory perimeter,” while leaving free in the center of language a great “shore of imagination,” perhaps with no other object than for us to play on it. To this Dalí  replied that his wife Gala, when she read the book, had said: It would be great if what he wrote were true, but if in the end it turned out not to be, the book would be greater still.”

– Vila-Matas, ibid., p. 159

L’atavisme du crépuscule, Salvador Dalí, 1933

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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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