September 2007

RJF is about Bacon and soap

Evasiveness. It’s a word that comes up early on in Norman Manea’s The Hooligan’s Return, with a special emphasis, in association with the work of Sebastian. (Strange how my favourite European writers hail from the Bukovina, portless, though it is: Paul Celan, for whom the place belongs to men and books; Gregor von Rezzori, for whom it is the Babel of a biblical mingling of races and cultures; and Norman Manea, for whom it is the source of a certain voluptuous evasiveness – to conflate the three, the clowned capital of a cultural carcinoma.) You can almost taste the word, like water clouded with the current of a contemporary antisemitism, like spring water coloured by the deep geological rifts in post-imperial Europe, post-WWI, pre-WWII: you can feel on your tongue the effervescence added by the Cassandras, Norman Manea’s uncle Ariel being one, the sparkle of gun-metal; and you can almost taste the sweetening of the assimilationists, Sebastian, in Manea’s account, being one.

Evasiveness is not complexity. It’s not irony. It’s not the legendary Jewish humour. It’s engaged in the very thing it pretends to have no truck with. It’s an embattled category, a category of the embattled. (Strange how rightly Manuel DeLanda characterises Gilles Deleuze’s philosophical affirmations as first avoidances of the essentialist image of thought, then of the typological image of thought, in Virtual Science and Intensive Philosophy when Deleuze admits as much, where he writes that all philosophy begins with a misosophy; strange because the admission of being embattled is generally treated to a thoroughgoing evasiveness, in which, unto the non-state sponsored philosopher – Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bergson – is rendered what is his, a virtual, pyrrhic victory, whose being rests in the matter of a becoming without history, whatever victory has already been claimed, actually and in time.) You can hear the anglo- translators – and funnily enough, Hugh Tomlinson, of Deleuze and Guattari – you can hear their efforts to cloud the franco- readings of anglo- writers with evasiveness; the anglo-american pragmatists, like Emmerson and Whitehead, come out rather evasive than mistranslated. Even in David Hume, you can hear the self-satire realised, actualised, in its francophone colouration, a pre-audition of Malcolm Bradbury’s joyless lampoon of continental theoretisation, and of titles like How Mumbo-Jumbo Came to Dominate the World. Evasiveness finds its alter-ego in political and cultural correctness, its molar resistance.

The loss of a common western-world symbolic frame-of-reference has been mourned since the imperial idea was invented. Its plenitude might even have been precipitated by its impending lack. George Frazer’s Golden Bough we know as an action claiming the edges, folding them in, an act of evasiveness. We know the efforts to define the cosmetic and pharmaceutical edge of consciousness as the same kind of act-in-defiance, as an act-of-nostalgia. Consciousness was lost at the time that its other was invented. Face was lost at the time or preceding the time at which face came about. It had to be, it had to be saved.

In trying to make work that is engaged, I find myself making work that is evasive. Where am I? Local, specific. The best problem, and the best concept, is that which is true to, and true of, the one thing, first and last, Adamic and eschatalogical. Differentiation as the rule of life, we can locate in this evasiveness. But where it comes from or where it’s headed, ultimately, no: in the middle, there is evasiveness.


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BRAZIL est.1995 fucoffee.2007


here I am in the process of dissolving from behind the coffee machine at Cafe Brazil, 256 K’Rd., at the commencement of the dissolution of the coffee machine and the cafe itself, processes that will achieve their full expression and reach completion on Sunday, September 30th, 2007.

point to point

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portrait of Edomie (“Sod”) Johnson, aka “the buggers’ Vera Lynn”

Catatonic, snoring quietly, her large body unclothed, she lay upon or near a divan. At times her eyes were open though glazed, resembling those of a fish. Inquisitive blue-bottles, profiting from her total lack of self-consciousness, whiled away the summer afternoons in exploring what had long ceased to be her private parts.

– Daniel Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, Random House, London, 1993, p. 41

Edomie, Sod, ran a club, Daniel Farson writes, in Soho, not far from the Colony Room. Her mornings were spent shoplifting, her afternoons in the catatonic state described above, her nights singing and entertaining, as “the buggers’ Vera Lynn.”


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the entrance into life’s so narrow and the exit’s so wide and what’s in the middle is too short to learn the meaning of detraque

At the same time that an author is designated, thought is subjected to an image and writing is made an activity different from life, having its end in itself … in order to serve ends against life.

– Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues II, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, Continuum, London, 2006, p. 19

Ageing quick, according to Fanny, is not to age precociously, on the contrary, it would be that patience which really allows the grasping of all the speeds which pass.

– Ibid., p. 24

A flight is a sort of delirium. To be delirious [delirer] is exactly to go off the rails (as in deconner – to say absurd things, etc).

– (Cf., the category detraque in these posts.) Ibid., p. 30


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necrosis contrasts with apoptosis, programmed cell death, is its sloppy and localised, country cousin

Death by Asphyxiation, photograph by Andres Serrano, found at:

I would like to cut into the idea of this association between death and representation, this ideal association (see preceding post). In doing so, you see, I’ve already invoked a further association, in The Morgue series by Andres Serrano, which goes against its grain. Serrano has suggested in an interview that what interested him in making his series of photographs of dead subjects was less that they were dead and more that in death their spirit was somehow clearer to his camera, to his viewpoint. His interest is spiritual. But it is also practical. His images of the dead are more alive for the fact that the subjects are dead. In looking for the spirit or the life after life of the dead he succeeds in provoking the feeling in the viewer that it would be a great relief if they were in fact dead and didn’t have the afterlife his photos show them to have.

In the spirit of seeking such relief we might turn to the body of a loved one laid out in a funeral home. He or she is dead without a doubt, cold clay to the touch, the lines of the face fined out, the genitals covered, the eyes closed, at peace in God’s peace which is our peace of mind, granted by what Slavoj Zizek would call the Big Other. We reassure ourselves that they are not there. We seek communal reassurance that nothing is there: Don’t look at a dead person for the image that will reflect there was a life, there was a world. The spirit expressing a life, a world, is Elsewhere. They are gone.

From the anodyne settings in which our corpses are arrayed, with greater or lesser cosmetic intervention, we derive the spooky commonplaces of a secularised belief. (Call it fashion, nothing in itself, but it’s also a relief, a release.) They watch us looking at them. They’re cracking jokes. They’re indulging in celestial vices, the vices they enjoyed in life transferred to Elsewhere, if not Heaven. They’re enjoying the comfort that we find in imagining them absent from the poor cloddish matter of their bodies. No, the body was never them, it was the mere mechanism in which they were housed. We rediscover the old Manicheism – matter bad, spirit good – enough of it, anyway, to suit, to garner our grief. As Zizek additionally says, it’s sufficient that someone else truly believes, enabling us to believe by proxy (on a screen, as it were, in 21 grammes).

Isn’t there, in the death we turn to for relief from death, another kind of death? And isn’t it because we stage death in a simulation, as a simulation, in which it’s all there, apart from death?

Then, is it a complete solecism to say that to represent death as everything but death itself is to deaden representation, so that representation itself assumes this identity, this history, which is death’s own?


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a study in necrosis, or a shattering of the vessels [SheviretHaKelim]

For as long as I can remember I’ve associated representation with death. Between the picture and the word, and at their divergence in the image and the symbol, it’s always seemed to me that the word, the symbol, is a special case. As if the blackening of the fingers in the photograph above came from printer’s ink.

As if words were a desperate attempt to pick traces of life from an empty shell after the mollusc, or whatever creature once occupied it, had been sucked out, your tongue finds white mother of pearl.

As if it were more hopeless, then, than the image in your mind or memory, or the picture formed by the hollow, licked clean of muscle, smooth of viscera, in your imagination, the voice echoes with signs and the words scrape husks against each other, seedless, in a Qlipphoth, in a death rattle.

The ear of the listener is like that shell.

The mouth of the speaker is like the husk.

In the archive, which, of course, doesn’t echo, what’s been recorded lies intestate, in dry black lines, on its white slab, out cold. The written word, undead, in an undeath that is not opposed to death, has had this association with the morgue. Whatever voice it elicits or image it calls up in the chambers of the body, in the brain’s camera, with whatever internal representation I’ve provided it, in the cavity it’s formed or found (in the cavity of the ‘I’), it has insisted in its symbolic structure and the emptiness of its ritual.

There’s been no outside to its virtual or actual representation, only the return of the same, the monstrous reality of which the written word is one instance. If it has been a special case, it has made itself an example of, not an exception to, the impossibility of a beyond to representation that the simulation has, that bounds the sensorium and its logic of sense, in the impassibility of life in death.


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days 18,19, 20 @ sf

day 18: Anja solo, Jeff reading. We invest the precepts. We cannot approach dance at all like we do acting. In fact, the dance changes everything. Or everything we have hitherto found changes on its way through this other discipline, rigorously, anexactly.

day 19, a quorum, for the first time in months, it seems. Barnie plays bass, K. like Mingus. Paul on the eighty-eight keys. Jeff on brushes & mixing bowl. Erika, voice. Anja studies Gene Kelly for Ida’s big number, a skeletal umbrella, dancing in the light. Very exciting to hear the band.

day 20 we consider the traffic, transitions, knee plays for the first third of the entirety. Paul absent, Erika half-mouthed for having a cracked tooth and cracked filling repaired hours earlier, Ida becomes soap, “worn down to a sliver.” She becomes the very corpse, turned by a magician into soap. Her wrapper sticks to her, like ectoplasm, like a body leaving a burrow made of the meat of other bodies, new flesh, her wrapper marked with RJF or RIF, it doesn’t matter, either will be the act of magic – whether myth or reality – the rendering down of people in order to make soap.


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a monument to sensation, I am the cheese

we may say that “percepts” are related to the passive selves involved in the synthesis of living presents at all scales of reality, in the organic and inorganic world. Even though these presents are constituted by “contemplations” or “contractions of past and future instants,” they do not refer to a psychological reality. As Deleuze writes: “The plant contemplates by contracting the elements from which it originates – light, carbon, and the salts – and it fills itself with colours and odours that in each case qualify its variety, its composition: it is sensation in itself. It is as if flowers smell themselves by smelling what composes them … before being perceived or even smelled by an agent with a nervous system and a brain” (WIP [What is Philosophy?], 212). On the other hand, affects refer to state transitions which must be understood as “becomings,” in the sense of a becoming-animal or becoming-plant […]. The artist must reach that intensive state where one can leave one individuation field to enter another, where one can reach “a zone of indetermination, of indiscernability, as if things, beasts, and persons … endlessly reach that point that immediately precedes their natural differentiation” (WIP, 173). Finally, having reached the very being of the sensible, the artist must place these percepts and affects in their own plane, a plane of composition, a bloc or compound of sensations whose “only law of creation is that the compound must stand on its own” (WIP, 164).

– Manuel Delanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, Coninuum, London, 2004, p. 217


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and then K. played bass like Mingus

– Charles Mingus, April 22, 1922 – January 5, 1979


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towards day 18 @ sf, part 2

The RJF project is a laboratory for making soap. A special kind of soap. The pieces that comprise the working script talk about soap and processes. For example, in the ‘renderings’ (pages opposite) dealing with the historical figure of Francis Bacon, they give instructions that reflect lines of enquiry and that make him a character: his function is as role-and-model. Specifically, the givens of his painting, the rejection of abstraction and of illustration, without succumbing to the figurative, choosing rather the figural, contribute in the heterogeneous assemblage of the laboratory and bear causally on the production – of soap. Other figures present in the working script possess different functions but are similarly causal.

Joseph Plateau’s ‘renderings’ make him less a character and more an exemplum. His mathematical problematisation of minimal surfaces – of soap bubbles and, metaphorically, of images, in the phenakistacope – figures to exemplify a positivistic reduction in (and of) the scientific (and cineastic) method. He acts like lye water. He plays the part of a rendering down, a shadowing of the processes encountered in the laboratory.

Franz Kafka’s presence in the working script, as the inventor of the burrow and the penal colony, of the writer who is not a writer but a mole, betrays the source of the texts, ‘renderings,’ in readings. His character occurs to gauge results against the surface of the skin and into and below the surface. He investigates the scene. He checks the needles, the gauges, the extensity of measurable results. He problematises the objectivity of the laboratory by producing a narrative of the events unfolding in the production (of soap) as if it were a crime (in process). Of course, K. – the name we’ve given the character – can only ever find in his whodunnit that he has dunnit.

Muriel Belcher, the proprietress of The Colony Room, and ‘mother’ to Francis Bacon, ‘daughter,’ in, you will remember the latter’s bon mot naming his local watering-hole, his “concentration of camp,” Muriel acts on the production of soap in this laboratory by providing it with a social content: ‘soap’ is part of the daily traffic of The Colony Room, where the subjects of conversation are invariably, says Daniel Farson, sex, scandal, drinking and daydreams. Concentration, to follow the Baconian procedural, logic of process, inverts on camp. Meaning oscillates, indeterminate. Soap renders a concentration of camp from a camp of concentration. A cascade of perversion from this indeterminacy: the transposition of a single letter, RJF, RIF.

And so, Ida, the character name for the dancer theme, substitutes for Felice Bauer, Kafka’s epistolary inamorata, via Ida Bauer, Freud’s “Dora’s” given name. “Ida,” hence, implies K.’s last love, Dora, whom he made promise to burn the body of work he left at his death, who checked herself, as if the corpus were to be held over for some kind of evidenciary hearing. The dancer theme then works by implication, folding in letters, saving what is to be lost – in this case, probably people – from fires, from that final rendering.

This is not all there is to it. The Joseph Plateau character also has his eye, in the text we attribute to him, on process. He gives the myth of Mount Sapo as a version of an original and monocausal explanation for the production of soap. And I have mixed levels, historical, textual, real and metaphorical, actual and virtual, plateaux. But I think we can say, a heterogeneous assemblage. And begin to think through the individuation of the soap we are producing. There is a virtual outcome, at least, which passes through the givens of our laboratory, of which the givens, in turn, pass through the chance invoked in each repetition we make in rehearsal towards our production, itself no more than a cover for these chances, their actualisation within the probabalistic field, a field-work, a problem, an experiment.


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