July 2020

day 74 – day 87 of the world winding up business

“When times are hard, like they are now, what’s the use of knowing stuff?”

— the end of Cixin Liu’s Of Ants and Dinosaurs (Trans. Elizabeth Hanlon, (London, UK: Head of Zeus, 2020), 248).

OPERATION LEGEND: “a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across all federal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the sudden surge of violent crime.”

MEETS

Wall of Moms

Portland

…although involuntary hospitalisation and treatment is deemed to violate an individual’s civil rights in the US, running for president would seem to meet the conditions of posing a danger either to themselves or others in order to be held for evaluation…

“Police said they have recovered 420 bodies from streets, vehicles and homes in [Bolivia’s] capital of La Paz, and in [its] biggest city, Santa Cruz, in the span of five days. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of them are believed to have had the virus.” — from here.

…winding up business:

For those who might have thought a drug to treat COVID-19 might have a value beyond measure, no. That its value is capable of measure is a measure of its value.

COVID-19 presents–and is presented by the Guardian article breaking news of the breakthrough–an unprecedented (the article says there ought to be a stronger word) opportunity … to make money.

This is not turning others suffering into profit, profiting off others’ suffering, as the soul is said to off the body, as the body is said to turn the soul’s suffering to its own profit, but a profitable speculation on turning the suffering of others around, profiting off the prospect of the positive outcome of their future health.

You can read it for yourself and make sense of what kind of breakthrough is being celebrated here.

Have you been wondering about representation? American critics have been pointing out the debt–suppressed–still owing–20th century dance in the West owes to Africa, and in America, black dancers.

This is not any kind of reciprocation, payment or token but look at Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring being prepared for a tour that with COVID-19 didn’t happen:

Evening. I have been reading about von Zemlinsky in a poem by John Ash. The first part dwells on or in this word evening in English, German and Turkish. Ash has adopted Istanbul as his home city. I wonder how he feels about the Hagia Sophia, about Erdoğan leading the first prayers–at least in the front row of bent over figures, for the camera op–since it has become a mosque and is no longer a museum. Did I imagine him wearing a mask? Erdoğan that is.

What does it mean for the Hagia Sophia to become a mosque? has it reverted to being a mosque? is this a reversion or is this progress? and if progress to what far horizon are we bound? and we might even ask so literally.

I have been following Tim Mackintosh-Smith in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta. He stops in Turkey, second leg of the journey, in three episodes [1, 2, 3]. The Hagia Sophia is a place when our documentarian visits that epitomises the interpenetration of Christianity and Islam in its architecture–high above the heads of those bowed in prayer now, are images, not so much graven as mosaic, Christian icons.

Strange to have seen that the Hagia Sophia twice in very different circumstances so recently.

Von Zemlinsky is yet to reappear. Or perhaps he has pre-appeared.

Besotted with the Alma who wed Mahler and on Mahler’s death married Gropius, of Bauhaus–of the building, incidentally we used regularly to visit of an evening in Berlin, evenings spent following the Wall in its nearby span through our neighbourhood of Kreuzberg–he, von Zemlinsky, held himself to be so ugly he could not bear the sight of himself. A dwarf. And writes Ash, how many of these giants of the Western musical canon were short: Berg towered over most of them. Stravinsky. Mahler himself. Schönberg. Von Zemlinsky, the dwarf.

Where would he have pre-appeared but in the poetry of Bolaño? where there’s always a dwarf, and a hunchback, like he inhabits a Tom Waits song.

There exist slow-acting déjà vu. Perhaps I am yet to hear von Zemlinsky’s 4th Quartet, to have tears–what does Ash say?–dashing from my eyes? Unless I … and haven’t we all imagined we would sooner or later meet this criterion … have not the heart, not the sensitivity, cannot feel, do not understand the musical language, have lost the sense of its symbolic relatability? have been rendered with the rest of these generations who are now living deaf to it? We might not be falling into hyperbole to ask whether this is not a deafness or an intellectual dwarfism, a dullness that afflicts the whole of our civilization. And what would it mean if it did?

My friend–long distance–by email–but I hope she does not mind that I name her as a friend–Aliette Guibert-Certhoux liked to say we have lost in the West a common symbolic frame of reference–we have lost the Symbolic. She includes among her own friends Guy Debord and Baudrillard.

She wrote very movingly on the death of Baudrillard he was a favourite of the nurses, the old … I was about to write roué, and, as I am lacking acute accents within easy reach, I looked up the word. We know that a roue is a wheel. What roué refers to is the wheel which would be the punishment for a debauchee, for all those litanised by the #metoos: he would be broken on a wheel.

Does this make any sense?

The wheel. The Wall of Moms. The #metoos.

I was surprised that an Australian feminist thinker could not countenance–that means face–the late Irigaray. She would only consider the early Irigaray. Not the Irigaray of the evening who wrote so strongly it is perhaps only a true understanding of sexual difference that will, that can, save us.

And Oscar Wilde? will it also save Wilde? … He enters the poem of Ash, by way of “The Birthday of the Infanta.” And this pre-appearance is so striking I have to quote what it turns up, noting first that it handles of a dwarf hunchback:

“The Dwarf mistakenly believes that the Infanta must love him, and tries to find her, passing through a garden where the flowers, sundial, and fish ridicule him, but birds and lizards do not. He finds his way inside the palace, and searches through rooms hoping to find the Infanta, but finding them all devoid of life.

“Eventually, he stumbles upon a grotesque monster that mimics his every move in one of the rooms. When the realisation comes that it was his own reflection, he knows then that the Infanta did not love him, but was laughing out of mockery, and he falls to the floor, kicking and screaming. The Infanta and the other children chance upon him and, imagining it to be another act, laugh and applaud while his flailing grows more and more weak before he stops moving altogether. When the Infanta demands more entertainment, a servant tries to rouse him, only to discover that he has died of a broken heart. Telling this to the Infanta, she speaks the last line of the story ‘For the future, let those who come to play with me have no hearts.'”

You see? It is as we feared.

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days 62-73 showing 60% at 17:17

There is nothing “most beautiful and most wonderful” about the coronavirus, to return to Darwin’s words, but it, too, is a thing of nature. We cannot wish away our connection to it.

— from LA Review of Books

We cannot wish away our connection to COVID-19. Darwin, Karl Kusserow writes, doesn’t allow us to forget the connectedness of all life and to wish away the parts we don’t like. Not that we have a right to life equal to or comparable with the virus, any virus; not that it can be claimed the virus, that viral life, because alive, mutating, reproducing, like us, is alive in the same way as us. This is not connectedness–and is as far from connectivity mediated in communication as we can go. Still our connnectedness constitutes us together. We are as connected conditions. For different forms of life.

We don’t simply depend on the same or a comparable structure of particles in aggregate. We depend as much as the virus on life being possible, on the conditions being available. They are to us and they are for the virus.

We don’t need to understand COVID-19 in its clever opportunism or admire its survival strategies. How like a body, how like a gene of our bodies, it is selfish, as Dawkins wrote, and how its wants are not so dissimilar from ours.

But the virus, this one, and the next zoonotic species-leaper, are connected to us and the climate we have and continue to disrupt, parts of the same planet we are spoiling. And this is Kusserow’s point. That image of “magnificent desolation”–the earth floating in darkness. The darkness on the face of the deep. Swirly blue marble–a kid’s thing. The darkness undivided and too deep ever to be divided.

So what did God actually do? to make such a strange bedfellow for hermself as Creation, and such a strange one for us as our virus, the one we are connected to; the one whose claim is that of a gene, a viral gene, like ours.

My note here read: what if connection in community were more like this?

How develop communities when we are in community with the agents of our destruction?

It is for the sake of everyone in the world that the slave asserts himself when he comes to the conclusion that a command has infringed on something which does not belong to him alone, but which is the common ground where all men–even the man who insults and oppresses him–have a natural community.

— Camus

the big nudes

if we can delay one day

On the virtues and aporia of economics:

In the meantime, the reduction of a society and culture to dependence on mathematical abstraction has infantalised a grown-up civilization and is well on the way to destroying it. Civilizations self-destruct anyway, but it is reasonable to ask whether they have done so before with such enthusiasm, in obedience to such an acutely absurd superstition, while claiming with such insistence that they were beyond being seduced by the irrational promises of religion. Every civilization has had its irrational but reassuring myth. Previous civilizations have used their culture to sing about it and tell stories about it. Ours has used its mathematics to prove it.

Yet, when this relatively short-lived market-society is gone, we will miss its essential simplicity, its price mechanism, its self-stabilising properties, its impersonal exchange, the comforts it delivers to many and the freedoms it underwrites. Its failure will be destructive.

— David Fleming, Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy, Ed. Shaun Chamberlin, 2016, from the epilogue.

Roberto Bolaño warns of the dangers of picking up and reading Osvaldo Lamborghini with bare eyes. He also attributes to Lamborghini a third but secret strain running through contemporary Argentinean literature, from the writer Bolaño calls his literary executor, César Aira.

Lamborghini, writes Aira , “insisted that all of the great novels were run through with a slight melody, a little jingle.” He has earlier remarked on Lamborghini’s fascination for a single line in Dickens’s David Copperfield which makes the rest of this work redundant.

David accompanies his maid Peggotty to feed the chickens. She throws the grain and the hens peck. “But the boy is looking at the freckled arms of the woman and he marvels that they don’t prefer to peck there.”

Aira writes, “That passage enchanted him.”

Aira, who, Bolaño writes, takes up the secret third strain running through Argentinian literature commencing with Lamborghini, invokes Leibniz to explain this monadic aspect of Lamborghini’s writing, of expressing the whole universe in microcosm.

He writes, “I remember, incidentally, Osvaldo had a method for writing when, for some reason, “he couldn’t write”: it consisted of writing one small, unremarkable phrase, and then another, and then another, until he had filled a number of pages. Some of his best texts (like “La mañana”) are written that way; and it is conceivable that everything may have been written that way.”

Bolaño has several times saved my life. Reading his Unknown University led to this work: a kind of record.

I had just finished my PhD. I thought I was doing what I should be doing. In the academy, but not of the academy, since also engaged in artistic research, I thought I had proven myself. Both as a teacher–I taught through the years I was working on my doctorate–and as a scholar-practitioner. But…

And just the other day I picked up his essays, Between Parentheses. His work returns me to the fact of the value of literature. Of course it’s religious but not ass-kissing. And sometimes Kundera will do, with his emphasis on humour and the irony the regime can’t stand. And with his reminder of how easily we sink into moralising, moralising by proxy, decreeing on behalf of … Phoebe Bridgers’s screaming has just now interrupted my thought

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