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field recordings 2013:09:08 17:12:46 – 2013:10:19 14:22:30

Riverhead at the end filled me with a sense of anomie. But not quite. The ugliness of it truly sub urban, and the ugliness of its continuation through developments designed in batches – designed for the market rather than for people to live in, resting on scarifications of an architectural scale and quality: the true architecture of landscape despoliation. And the sound of machines. And trees falling with a vicious crack echoing in the brown armpit of the valley, almost encircled by the eponymous river. And hee-hawing or strafing of men aggressively laughing. The neighbour.

You know, I think of that song lyric – “when I was dead / in Riverhead” – and a corner of sentiment sneaks in. Because Riverhead gave us a lifestyle – and something to hate, which as the Italians are said to say is as important as having something, or someone, to love. So that revisiting these images, there is a strength of purpose in the capture of them – real feeling – which is unlikely to be recaptured in the same way. Somehow John Campbell’s marvelous mouth shining like a solar anus fits – the crack that the light gets in, it really does. Get in.

Riverhead topographically is dominated by the rugby fields. Field recording are also felt. The grounds glowing nightly Soylent green under floodlights. Floodlights that were horrendously expensive to put in and are equally expensive to run. No expense spared. And in the mist maybe a kid is practicing his dodges, duck, dive, and a grown man is stretching his hammies.

Riverhead. Years ago submissions were being solicited – pre-Draft Unitary Plan – for the future development of the town. We all put together some ideas. Dad drew some pictures. We were not optimistic. But down at the 100 year-old hall it was a chance to meet some more locals. Talk about what others envisaged as a vision for the place. Like Auckland itself – which it in fact precedes as the initially projected site for the city – the town turns its back on its natural asset: the river. In Auckland’s case, this is of course the harbour. Was every watery space somehow associated in the colonist planner’s mind with an open sewer? Anyway, the plan we presented was to turn the town to face the river, opening up public walkways along its looping length with shops and eateries and a riverside culture.

It therefore whispers the words ‘another missed opportunity‘ when I see the suburbs tumescent breaking through the skin of the historic town: the dormitory vision of a sleeping skirt for citizens to cling in to. Waiting for their own cancers. Because there has been a slew of cancers recently in the nor’west of Auckland, centring on Kumeu, Huapai, Riverhead. The doctors at the medical centre talk about it.

Anomie. And a sadness that if not altogether sweet is not altogether painful.

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on the art of undoing: knots, illustrated with some beautiful works by Julien Spianti

It must seem confusing. I’ve been advocating, advocating by the most simple means, the means of naming, which cannot these days be anything but an ironic take on branding, or on meme creation, undoing. But I’ve hashed undoing. I’ve hashed it by calling it by that tag, that could not these days be seen as anything but ironic and therefore transparent and therefore self-…something, and by then accusing Creative New Zealand, acting in complicity, with all sorts of complicities, major and minor, from the government to the individual artist, of undoing an institution, Downstage, a venerable institution, an institution almost fifty years old.

And now we must ask what is the difference?

Then I was listening to Bill Calahan singing about his apocalypse, making all sorts of connections, major and minor, from the government to the individual artist, and I decided it was tentacles. Or maybe strands. Or better, braids, if we think of a river. A river running over the shingle, across the plains. The Waimakariri. Did you know, briefly, when I checked the spelling, it was known as the Courtenay River? Now that I have the spelling right, it is again the Waimakariri. But it would have been spoken. Not spelled. As Lorde sings, So there.

Of course, again, I think of Courtney Place. The view out onto the twin domes of the old public toilet, the Taj Mahal, onto Kent Terrace. Or course, I think again of James K. sleeping on the draughty open slats of the bus stop bench.

What do you do if you undo but separate the strands? the streams? of which the river is braided? And even when there is no shingle basin, no separation, no plain to see them single silver snaking blending weaving down there, undoing the river would still mean to find each water in the waters, each flow in the act of blending and weaving, and separate each current, in its process.

What if the moutain withdrew its tentacles? It would draw up the waters of the Waimakariri. You would see them all, in all their colours.

I found the apron straps had formed a knot. And a knot, as Wyndham Lewis tells us, is a form of energy. The form of energy. An energetic form: the forms of martial arts are the same; they sculpt the air. Henri Gaudier-Brzeska saw this too. Sculpting expresses the energy already present in the medium.

We have a front-load washing-machine. It knots the apron straps into a ball. How do you undo a knot?

We could stop. Appreciate the knot. Try different media. Submit them to the front-load washing-machine. Knot them up. Admire the washing-machinic expression.

I have no doubt they would each be different and each one in its way would be worthy of admiration. Different passages of parallelisms, interlacings, bifurcatings, crossings, inversions, subversions, perversions. Transversalities.

But consider, just consider, we want to undo. Do we need to know, as I mistakenly suggested in a previous post, invoking Michel Foucault talking, if I recall, about Romanticism, was it? Do we need to know how a thing is made to unmake it?

No. We don’t even have to follow each complicity, from the complicities of government to those of individual artists; or, in the case of the Southern Alps and its Waimakariri, we don’t need to retrace every braid, each stream in the current to its source in melt-offs, run-offs, mountain streams, each tributary, major or minor. This would in any case be misleading: the river is braided by the rocks in its course, not from the summit of its source. Similarly, the intentions of government and individual artists do not need to be eked out for us to know there is a flow of eventuation, finding its summary energetic expression in a knot.

Destruction would already look different. I’ve considered before detaching the straps from the aprons before submitting them to the wash and washing them separately. Perhaps we use velcro. But the straps themselves need cleaning. They’d knot up worse on their own without the opening out of the aprons themselves, which in some way breaks the flows of energies and makes for serial and not singular knots.

My mother sat in the sun patiently undoing the strands of apron straps, picking at them with her fingers, and her mother’s fingers. At some point or other she gave up. Then she’d simply sit. In the sun. Have a gin. Smile more or less benignly. J., however, said just pull randomly at the knots with your fingers. Randomly. Without thinking about what goes or weaves in where. I don’t have the energy, said my mother.

Pulling randomly works. The strands loosen; the energetic form weakens; the straps separate: the knots undo. A certain tentacular emancipation is effectuated. To each apron two straps. When before the braid, the confusion.

So I think undoing is like this. It is like what Michel Foucault did with discourse. The reading, the analysis is random but inclusive. Pulling now here now there at the energetic form. You have to have the energy for this. Because it is not immediate. First one line will work its way loose: one contributor, one kind of complicity, one agent of knottiness. Name him. Name her. Then progress.

One is never enough. For anything like a knot to occur there have to be at least two.

What happens in a case like the destruction of Downstage is like a vengeance. A revenge killing. All those tentacles, some were good, some bad, sure, all lopped off, some wriggling on the carpet, escaping down the easy stairs of sentiment, Such a shame! … some long dead dead ends … some outright castrations … some cuttings-off merciful … some stupid … but taken in sum, to shut down every flow, to sever the root or plug the spring – a drought may still be a flow – but fracking the earth, killing the spring. No. There is something different in destruction than undoing.

 

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join the undoing movement and undo poverty, property, hunger, waste, debt, hurt, wrong, and all your petty mistakes

 

undo

it

all

now

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what I was thinking of

the problem of writing: in order to designate something
exactly, inexact expressions are unavoidable. Not at all because it is a neces-
sary step, or because one can advance only by approximations; on the con-
trary, it is the exact passage of that which is under way

– Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaux, p. 20

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Please visit https://gust.com/c/littleelephantltd for more, request access and forward to friends who may be interested.

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Dear Alice, Crime Oil #7

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your whole life it contains

All the buddhas of all the ages have been telling you a very simple fact:
Be — don´t try to become. Within these two words, be and becoming,
your whole life is contained. Being is enlightenment, becoming is ignorance.

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to Toby Behan, on his review of Violent Baby – realtime composition music and dance by Kristian Larsen, Julia Milsom, Rory Dalley, Chris Reddington and Emma Johnston at The Pallet Pavillion, Christchurch 2 Feb 2013

“What is this person doing reviewing?”

I suspect my meaning is this:

Please leave yourself behind next time you go and see a show.

To come away having seen a piece of work with only your personal opinion is a double failure.

The work has not been good enough to produce anything new in you.

You have not been good enough to produce anything new in your review of it, in your writing.

It is the second failure, which is yours, that you play out in public as a critic:

On the one hand, you have a bad show and bad art, because making art is the artist’s job; on the other, you have a reviewer who is not up to the job, which is writing.

The horrible part is that the failure of the review to live up to its responsibility as a piece of writing and go beyond personal opinion affects the reception of the art whether the work is good or bad.

For the critic to say he or she is merely giving a personal opinion is an abrogation of responsibility and an abuse both of the privilege afforded by the public role of critic and of the art work the critic is meant to serve.

– review here

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skin tight to love and to serve series

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false effort

So much of the performance of conventional NZ masculinity – what it means to be a man – can be summed up as false effort. The voice lowers, even to shuddering in its lowest registers. Speech is halting. It is a machine that stalls, turns over, starts up again with a cough, with the threat that at any time it might stop altogether. And have to get taken to the shop.

Grunts and inarticulate expressions of effort make their way into even the most mundane exchanges. “Good aaah morning.” The impression being given and the truth that men are seeking to give out is that it’s hard being a man, as Lou Reed sings in the VU song: “living in ahhh a trash can / my baby calls me aaahh up / she tries to hit me with thuh ahh mop / I can’t stand it any more”…

The attitude of false effort contrasts with the suavity, fluency and cool of, for example, Italian men, who become suspect for the very reason of their ease of attitude, their panache, why worry? even when it’s all front. Perhaps all the more when it’s all front. Staying cool in any situation, taking little sips, rather than draining the can dry, is suspiciously artificial. It goes against male appetitiveness and competitiveness. Whereas if the appearance is that effort is required, it must somehow be justified and it justifies: it self-legitimates. A long pull on a cigarette – when they were more fashionable – or a long and antisocial draining of the jug in one continuous adam’s apple bobbing draft followed by Aaaahhhh! as much meant to convey satisfaction – mock – as effort – false.

Ease is unknown to the man who practices false effort. A man who is unburdened, unharried by this sense of masculinity as a crushingly manual undertaking is a faggot, poof, or foreign. Ironic then that the grunts and sighs and huh-huh-huhs of false effort resemble so closely a gay porn soundtrack. But then, sex is honest work and hard. Or ought to be.

For the opposite sex to indulge in false effort is called faking. In fact, you might say that NZ women have to apply themselves to a greater degree to the production of an easy attitude by way of compensation. They must at all times be fluid, smooth, and are subject at all times to admonitions not to be uptight, go with the flow, calm down, when it is NZ men who are semi- or pseudo-hysterically giving birth (or doing poohs) at regular intervals, Aaaahhhh! Women are sweepers, minimisers, cleaner-uppers. They clear the stage of obstacles just so that their men may make the most mountainous of the dust motes which remain. They are expected so to do.

What makes it so difficult being a man in NZ? The answer would be the same for most women: other men/women. Albeit that women show their superiority in what they are prepared to tolerate. And then bitch in the background clique.

False effort is never found at more concentrated levels as where men meet, professionals, labourers alike, the residues of our once egalitarian society. With the gentrification of the pub, NZ men constitute a floating diaspora. Myth says it is the barbeque, around the grill. But high levels of false effort can be encountered in a phonecall. Ending with the obligatory and often uncomfortable – perforce – Cheers!

Commentators have suggested that male reticence – deeper underlying sensitivity which cannot bring itself to expression – causes the sentences of the NZ male to stumble and sigh and fart and groan and… pause. Before coughing, or laughing. For no apparent reason than the noise. If this were the case, the cause, then men are clearly more sensitive and show greater sensitivity to members of their own sex among whom they play out the routines of reticence – often passing the point of caricature – than to the opposite one.

NZ men are sensitive to the needs of women to make them feel more comfortable, safer and more it ease, just so they may be affirmed in being uneasy, uncomfortable and unsafe, and protest all the louder at the unfairness, the hardness of their lots, their jobs, their lives, at the shit they have to deal with. And their fear. NZ men are sensitive to the needs of women to have babies and therefore baby them. After all, it’s aaaaaahhhh hard being a man.

I have focused on speech, because I came off a phonecall – to another man, of course – where I realised I had slipped into vocal false effort, but I think false effort can be extended, as an ontological category, or style of being, to dress and other technologies of the self. Sartorial false effort can be considered like Chanel’s recommendation to dress and accessorise completely in character and when perfect to take away one element. But the other way around: to take away every element characteristic of style or a style and add one thing it is too hard to do without.

The man who moves easily is less than a man. He should never look too comfortable in his skin as in his clothes. The NZ man is most natural when dressed in nothing more than his comforter. So long it remains clear he is uncomfortable there is no affectation. Afraid of ease, he should never be afraid of his own fear and therefore wear whatever fear dictates, camo gear, for example.

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