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theatre | …: first half in epistolary form

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3 essays 3 endings: art research | theatre writing

the following portable document format text was written when I realised that the book I had been working on, about theatre pt. 1, about writing, pt. 2, begged the question. The question it assumed answered, that it took for granted, was, What’s the point of art research? Sometimes called practice-as-research and artistic research, I mean, What is it? And, why should I care to look at theatre or at writing from the perspective of these being two different research practices, as two different avenues for art or artistic research?

I attempt to answer these questions, I assay to and these attempts are recorded as the 3 essays; and whether successful or not, they have 3 endings.

I completed pretty much the whole of the part about theatre (as art research) before I realised it was begging the question (I hope I’m using that phrase correctly. My understanding is that it doesn’t mean asking or raising the question but proceeding without thought for there still being a question at all). 3 essays 3 endings looks forward to this part and the part about writing (as art research). They are preparatory essays, an extended pretext, setting out the reasons for art research before doing it with theatre and writing.

I went backwards, kind of unwriting the book I thought I was writing. I also went sideways, like one of those battery-operated toys, that, when it hits an obstacle, changes direction at random.

I decided to run through the entirety of my findings from the part about theatre in a series of 68 letters. These were addressed to ‘you’ the reader here on squarewhiteworld (against the darkroundearth). I should collect them all (I did), but you can find them through the search function (like this).

What I wanted to say about writing as art research has so far only come out in the two lectures presented at Auckland University of Technology in 2021. These have audio. The Lecture on Reflective Writing is here. The Lecture on Academic Writing is here.

Since writing 3 essays 3 endings, I also presented ten lectures on moving image theory and context. This series of lectures takes up on many of the ideas from the book; that an art practice, making work in moving image, is a way of thinking, or can be; that to engage creatively with a medium is to think with it; that this constitutes a form of art research. The series, without audio, is here.

If you would like to support the completion of the book… or you might prefer to support its noncompletion… please contact me. Comment and critique is welcome, either through contact or comments. Thanks!

Best,

Simon

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a note on T H E__A C T__O F__P O I N T I N G__OUT illustrations by Travis Bedel

Theatre is the act of pointing out. Performance is dissimulation. Theatre is simulation.

Where everything has been pointed out, even more, where chaos can be pointed out, there is no room for time. Performance cannot simulate chaos; it can but only as dissimulation. Theatre spatialises time.

Cinema, the moving image, is also an act of pointing out. It is said it is the act that points out time. It is, however, cinema, the moving image, the act of pointing out its pointing out of time. That is to say, it dissimulates, is a performance of, time.

Cinema, the moving image, in whatever way it is produced, is able to reproduce chaos. Cinema can isolate and point to chaos. In this respect, it is a theatrical event.

The fact of its spatialising time is not as important for understanding the theatricality of cinema and the moving image in general as its ability to represent chaos. Neither is it really important if this representation is actual. To best understand the theatricality of cinema is to understand it firstly to point out chaos. This is an aspect of cinema, in the history of the moving image, that its history elides.

– Travis Bedel

Along with this lovely description of what we do when we try and reconstruct a philosopher’s philosophy from influences and so on, in this case Bishop Berkeley’s:

Let us then take these slices of ancient and modern philosophy, put them in the same bowl, add by way of vinegar and oil a certain aggressive impatience with regard to mathematical dogmatism and the desire, natural in a philosopher bishop, to reconcile reason with faith, mix well and turn it over and over conscientiously, and sprinkle over the whole, like so many savoury herbs, a certain number of aphorisms culled from among the NeoPlatonists: we shall have–if I may be pardoned the expression–a salad which, at a distance, will have certain resemblance to what Berkeley accomplished.

Alongside this, from his lecture, “Philosophical Intuition,” given at the Philosophical Congress In Bologna, 10 April 1911 (yes, 111 years ago) [here], Bergson, still with Berkeley, talks about the natural order, the order of the universe. It is in one of his typical cascades of conditional propositions, If a body is made of “ideas”…If it [a body] is entirely passive and determinate… If we are mistaken when under the name of general ideas… that, from if so, never seem to come to a then conclusion, or the conclusion is given in part halfway through, as here, completely throwing you off the trail of the conditionality that is its predicate:

…if it [a body] is entirely passive and determinate, having neither power nor virtuality, it cannot act on other bodies; and consequently the movements of bodies must be the effect of an active power, which has produced these bodies themselves and which, because of the order which the universe reveals, can only be an intelligent cause.

You will recognise this as Berkeley’s going to God; and in fact Bergson’s pulling apart of reading-learning philosophy–from the outside of historical influences, all the way to the inside of the intuition animating it but that it never seems to be able clearly to state, leading to the philosopher having to revisit and revisit the initial insight of her (his, in this case) intuition in work after work, never satisfied she has finally provided it with its definitive formulation–his pulling apart of how philosophy works is outstanding, but difficult.

Reading Bergson is like slipping into another timeframe. I think there is a reason for this feeling, that it has to do with the displacement of a time-of-chaos by a time-of-repetition, the advent of cinematic time, screentime; and that this, screentime, has replaced the inner experience of time. A theatrical and therefore subjective event.

What however drew my attention was the phrase because of the order which the universe reveals, because, what is the order which the universe reveals?

It is definitely not that of chaos or, in Deleuze and Guattari’s formulation, that of chaosmosis. Neither is it of a time that unreels, one thing after another, or that neuroscientists have lifted this metaphor from to explain how the brain processes ‘real time’ in consciousness.

If the universe reveals an order, what is it?

We might want to account for it through recourse to Newtonian physics or Euclidean geometry, or even to the classical physical order of Einsteinian relativity, where No one is playing dice with the universe.

Does the universe on the 29 October 2022 reveal an order?

Ask yourself, does it?

What has changed to make us think that it does not?

(Unless it does, for you; unless the universe does reveal an order: but in order to do so, I would guess it would have to go by way of something or somebody transcendent, like Berkeley’s God. I would guess that if the universe does reveal an order to you that it would have to be a transcendent order; and I would be surprised if it was not.)

Although… Smart Design… aren’t scientific explanations, like evolution, of an order?

Doesn’t the explanatory model of science produce an order of events? in order that they may be explained?

Isn’t Climate Change of this order? (Isn’t this the reason we ought to trust the climate scientists? because their models extrapolate from historical tendencies foreseeable results?

((there is more to making Climate Change the order of business of time, there’s the virtualhere’s a bit more from 11 years ago.)

(Yes, there may be debates between models: but when the disparities come down to details is when we really ought to be afraid.)

The universal order of the arrow-of-time is thermodynamic: it goes towards entropy. Although the flow is orderly, entropy is not but is its cancelling out. Ultimately the universal order ends in heat death.

Flows cease.

– Travis Bedel

quasiunique beat signatures (QUBS): the original article, “Quantum watch and its intrinsic proof of accuracy,” distinguishes QUBS from DS–conventional delay-stage derived values of the time, saying that, although QUBS itself derive from DS, as a ‘measurement’ of the delay between wave packets being sent out, QUBS beat-signatures more accurately indicate the time. Where there exists a discrepancy, the fault lies with DS.

QUBS is the unique signature of that instant in time, a time that can no longer be considered a continuum or to belong to continua. The quantum watch time of QUBS is its fingerprint. The measurement between or relative or relative to zero of a time-setting does not apply here.

The quantum fingerprint points out an instant of time, rather than in time. Or: it’s already in time and requires no other points of reference outside it.

This use of quantum effects can be compared to the quantum accelerometer enabling navigation without ‘outside’ reference points. (here) This is said to be the way migratory birds navigate. (here)

– Travis Bedel

Does the universe on 2 November 2022 reveal an order? Not like in the old days.

In the old days order was manifest. We didn’t need quantum effects to reveal it. Then, neither did we need classical physics. And it was still a negotiable order: the sun would rise in the East; the seasons would cycle through; and to every life there would be a cycle of birth and death. The negotiable bit was its measure of freedom. That is, fiction.

The sun rose in the West. Summer came one day and was chased away the next. It was winter for the following hundred years.

Before my death I was regenerated and lived in immaculate suspension. After it, I was born and yet I was not. It was not until I ceased to be that I became who I was.

The universal order does not need, did not need to reveal itself, in the old days. Today the Nobel is awarded for proving that the universal order as it had been revealed does not exist. It is a fiction. (here)

– Travis Bedel

The order goes to utility. That’s how it’s played. That’s how inaction in the face of imminent global catastrophe is castigated.

Yet, where do we get this idea of time unrolling? As it unrolls towards, well, it could be chaos, entropy, catastrophe or a positive outcome through technoscientific mitigation of the mortal risks, that is progress: where do we get this idea either of progress? or of an orderly progress towards inevitable and universal disorder?

From the utility of time conceived like this, says Bergson. And in a way and unholy alliance or abberant nuptial, so does Bataille.

Bataille speaks of expenditure without expectation of return: that’s life. That’s the life of the sun. It’s what it does. Its inaction is composed of thermonuclear expenditure in radiation without expectation of return.

Lingis’s reading of the ‘accursed share’ (Bataille) refers to the ‘organs of display’ that tropical fish have and the organs of profligate floral display in the vegetal world.

Flowers are self-conscious enough to want to look their best. Their best goes far further than is necessary for the useful purpose of attracting germinatative species. Bees might care whether they’re blue or yellow, red, orange, white, attractive on ultraviolet spectra, but that is about the limit of their concern. They don’t go in for frills, flutes, formal arabesques, barocco volutes, tendrils, patterns and extra elaborations: these are extraneous. They comprise a share that is accursed for being inutile, useless; and when we think of human display, sexual, predatory, aggressive, territorial, erotic, individual, social and the fashion, the curse is there too.

This uselessness may be borne out in the current climate by practices of extraction and exploitation that go far beyond need, as far beyond as floral or piscine and avian peacockery does in nature. We are cursed by the curse of extra, an unfair share.

Who gets it is not the point. Saying it’s in our nature, as animals, possessing organs of display, is not the point either. The point is, whether it’s to the end or the beginning of the end, the progress fallacy.

Progress passes. It is always on the way. So it is never inevitable but ever in/de/terminate.

And in/de/terminable.

Another way of saying this is that progress, to adapt Malabou, resists its occurrence to the very extent that it forms it.

(Malabou’s statement is on identity: identity (here the identity of progress) resists its occurrence to the extent that it forms it.)

Where is the generosity in the view that the future approaches head-on like a truck? (The phrase is John Ash’s.) And there’s no getting away from it, like the dream where you’re paralysed; and, there’s no getting away with it, like the dream where you’re guilty.

Where is the generosity in a future foreclosed to possibility? foreclosed to the virtuality of the present that leans over it? This second foreclosure points out a secondary impoverishment.

A future foreclosed to the virtuality of the present impoverishes the present of potential, of power. It saps the political will: there is really nothing to be done. Without delay.

Delay, farting around, as Vonnegut put it somewhere, is where time is not a dead thing but living and lived. This is as true for the protein swapping that creates it for cells as for the hesitation presupposed by the profligate elaborateness of the human nervous system, comprising locally networked nerve-centres and the costliest organ in the body, where all display is focused, the brain (costly in the sense of accommodating surplus expenditure, expenditure without expectation of return: fireworks). Brain screen, Deleuze puts it.

The brain is a display screen. The expense of it is not calculated for any sort of return, just more expense. This ‘compensatory’ expense ratchets up nervous tension around other sorts of accumulation, wealth, status, elevation, speed, erecting skyscrapers, superyachts and supercars and spaceships; and sublimates it in (the compensations of) art (cinema and so on), porn, eroticism and fetishes.

The brain is for display only. Thinking goes on in the delay, during the hesitation. The delay is thinking.

The stammer is consciousness.

Identity, I wrote on a wall recently, is an accursed share?

– Travis Bedel

At 3:20pm 4 November 2022 is there a universal order?

Will the sun set, daylight saving, around 5 to 8? and rise again tomorrow over the eastern hill-line?

Will the suburbs still be here? Will business go on … as usual?

The business of human societies follows the order set down in nature, more or less, and the order of business in nature follows that in the cosmos, in the great and greatest harmony. The ‘more or less’ comes from generating and interposing circuits of delay into the general order of the universal economy, and paying for them, because they’re worth it, whatever the cost. In fact, the higher the better, to suck up the surplus.

Lighting rooms, prolonging life, sheltering and feeding ourselves, providing entertainment and decoration, fashion and frivolity, these are all about extending delay. They go entirely against the idea we have of time unreeling, since they wind it up, switch it back, hold it in systems of relays and pass it through obstacle courses and traps we set for it, so that time eddies and spirals, stretches and recoils, and so on. Time thickens, Bergson says.

If the delay is thinking, the systems we have for trapping time are called knowledge.

Doesn’t it happen that we have thickened time to the point of entropy and disorder?

Hasn’t there been a change in phase-state?

Time has ceased to be the order of time, is rather orders of time. Byung Chul-Han (The Scent of Time, 2017), goes as far as to say that from time being date-stamped, to order, it has become dyschronous. Chaos besets time itself. There is no longer any duration to time. It is unthickenable.

To-order time he associates with the vita activa of the perpetually entrepreneurial self. Time chaosifies from its maximum use, where there is no time to spare and, as a result, no content to time.

He wants to promote the vita contemplativa as a means of reclaiming time. That is useless time.

I think he confuses content with form. But so to do can only be accomplished by first spatialising time, as an empty form to be filled. Once filled, time is of no duration and cannot hold content. Too thin, it is Unzeit.

Another way to say this is that once the repetition of chaos is possible in time, the confusion of time and chaos also becomes possible. In fact, the representation of chaos in time makes the confusion of time, its representation as chaos, possible. Dyschronicity is presupposed by the possibility of the moving image to repeat the unrepeatable, chaos.

The order of the day, 4:16pm 10 November 2022, does not follow the order of Bergson’s, 111 years ago. It is not universal. This year’s Nobel Prize winners for physics declare it not to be, prove it not even to be, locally real. Then isn’t the question of non-time, empty, Hunger-Artist thin time, anorexic time, Unzeit, its irreality?

It unreels. Nothing much more can be said of it. Stiegler contends that it cannot be wound up, that this is the problem technics have bequeathed us with to be knowledge; and that as a result there is the crisis in knowledge of its technicity, a technicity that can only be retrospective; and yet it entails a loss of memory.

However irreal time does not spool out in a straight line. It is not that labyrinth. It runs out like a natural occurrence, like leaves moving randomly on trees, or waves, each wave unique, and repeatable as its cinematic image, as its moving image points out. It winds up, impending over the future, like a storm.

– Travis Bedel

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the significance of dissolving sugar: or, the earth has lost its centre

The image appears in Bergson’s Creative Evolution of mixing sugar and water. In some readings it is either a lump or a spoonful of sugar. The quantity is unimportant. What is important, Bergson says, is that I must wait until the sugar melts.

“This little fact is big with meaning”, he writes.

Deleuze takes up the image as shorthand for its big meaning: the time it takes for the sugar to dissolve. Now, this duration cannot be measured as it transpires. Only when the time has expired can it be.

Neither can this time be, Bergson writes, protracted or contracted. It is, he says, an absolute: on elapsing, it will have been the duration required in order for the process to complete itself, in order for the sugar to have dissolved. On the basis of its necessity, the actual elements, water, sugar, glass, Bergson says, are abstractions. Time is not here the variable, it is the a priori and a posteriori condition for the process to take place.

Nor can this be said to be contingent on the will of the observer or contingent on observation: the time it takes will always be the time it takes. I can attend to or not attend to the passage of time. It will have the the same quality, and its quality will not be that of a quantity: its duration will not be its measurable duration; two instances of dissolving sugar in water even if measurably identical in duration will occupy a duration that, lived, is absolutely different each time. It is then of a different quality and is an individual, unique, incapable of replication and irreducibly singular, such that Bergson writes it is in the manner of a consciousness.

It can be said that consciousness has for Bergson the qualities of irreducible and radical difference, and a uniqueness of interiority, a subjectivity that is singular and individual, because of the time it takes to pass through, because of its duration, not that the sugar dissolving in water is conscious or participates in the subjectivity of an observer or by participating in an inner experience of time that is consciousness. Consciousness is what it is because of its duration and it is from the qualities of an individual duration that the individual receives its qualities, not the other way around.

Duration can be said to be the source of difference, and this is what Bergson’s Creative Evolution is about: duration as being where creativity originates.

The difficulty reading Bergson today I believe comes from having lost or covered duration. Our inner experience of time has been replaced by screen-time, the digital involves images that are always moving whether or not movement is depicted, or cinematic time. Movement itself it not the key. The temporality movement occupies is.

The time it takes for sugar to dissolve in water: on screen, this time is no different each time footage of sugar dissolving in water is shown; the time it takes is no different each time it is watched. We may be different but, again, this duration does not gain its qualities of irreducible and unrepeatable singularity from us, either in our paying conscious attention or in our inattention to it.

The other way around: we have covered or lost in duration the source of the individuality of consciousness, its creative source, and that of our own individuation.

Consciousness comes from time. This notion of time, or duration, is unscientific, anti-scientific even; but then I wonder how much science owes to the technology that gives us our primary experience of time, that technology concerned with the moving image?

Emmanuel Carrère, as a finalist for the Gregor von Rezzori prize, gave an address in Florence in 2014. In it he considers the difference between fictional and historical characters, those drawn from life and those made up, for example as ideal types. Doing so he describes well what distinguishes the ones who lived, in this case Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate:

These two men, Jesus and Pilate, weren’t mythological figures, gods or heroes, living in a fantasy world where everything is possible because nothing is real. They were a colonial officer and a local visionary: men like you and me, who had specific faces, wore specific clothes, and talked with specific voices. Their meeting didn’t take place like things we imagine, in one of an infinitely variable number of ways, but the way all things happen on earth, that is, in one specific way that excludes all others. We know next to nothing about this specific way, this unique way, that had the privilege of passing from the virtual to the real. Yet it happened.

— “Resemblance,” translated by John Lambert in 97,196 Words: Essays. It handles really I suppose of what makes the unique individual unique. Yet it is called “Resemblance.” I would say that in the singular quality of duration it is not identity that is at issue, or that identity is so only in so far as it is resemblance. Duration has rather to do with difference than identity, Deleuze would say, difference in itself, whereas identity goes towards the same.

The event of sugar dissolving in water or Christ appearing before Pilate: I am more struck here by Carrère’s statement that this is the way all things happen on earth, in one specific way that excludes all others; and of course I am also struck by his coincidental and parallel statement that we know next to nothing about what way this was, which excluded all others, that had the privilege of passing from the virtual to the real, that is, of occurring. Bergson, and Deleuze from him, says the virtual is no less real. Bergson’s duration depends on it. This passing is, for both, from the virtual to the actual. Only the event in actuality, actualised, can be measured; quantity, number, for Bergson, presupposes the setting out of one thing and another in space, not the qualitative difference that is in duration.

That quantity, number, setting out for example images one after another, belongs to space, and not time as Bergson understands it, tells us why he held cinematic time to have no relation to understanding absolute time, duration. He rejected early cinema in much the same way Freud did, and for similar reasons: it is all just chases. Although there is something Freudian in this.

For Bergson, it was all merely motor-sensory, without a memory or spiritual, or artistic, component. He liked it for the study of biological processes and thought it outside of enabling to be seen natural processes that are ordinarily invisible to be trivial. Yet, in his cinema books, Deleuze takes him to the cinema for its philosophical importance.

There is an intermediate point to be made here. Bergson’s and Freud’s rejection of film for being trivial is based on subject matter and genre, and the first subject matter, from the first commercial screening made in Paris in 1895, developed into genre was not either the chase or highly kinetic, motor-sensory, movement-based moving image sequence we are used to thinking of, in for example L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat

On the approach of the train the audience is said to have rushed for the exits. The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station was only the year following the Lumière brothers’ first commercial showing of a programme of short films. What grabbed the attention of the audience at the earlier screening was not the chase elements, or the thrill of speed and movement.

It was, the leaves on the trees are moving. It was, the dust from breaking the wall billows in a cloud. It was the smoke, steam, spray from waves and the waves themselves in all their chaos that were appreciated. From this appreciation grew the Wave Film. (Support for the notion that the Wave Film was the first genre can be found here: Jordan Schonig’s doctoral thesis, “Cinema’s Motion Forms,” 2017, p. 62.)

This too is a little fact with a big meaning. I deal with some of the implications in my moving image lectures (6, 7, 8, 9, 10). I would love to think that these have an afterlife.

I opened The Needle’s Eye, Fanny Howe, by chance on this passage:

Babette Mangolte, the French filmmaker, wrote that now, with digital image, and “no shutter reprieve, no back and forth between forty-eighth of a second dark followed by one forty-eighth of a second of projective image, with no repetitive pattern as regular as your own heartbeat, you are unable to establish and construct an experiential sense of time passing.”

— 2016, p. 86.

This goes to the question of what enables us to establish and construct an experiential sense of time passing. Where do we hear the heartbeat of time? With Deleuze, I would answer that in cinema we do, whether it is digital or not. The movement in the image is the issue because this movement has a distinct duration, and, replayed, it has the same duration.

Should it surprise us that the individual clip is the same individual each time it is played? The significance of the Wave Film is that it did surprise. That what in nature was unique and unrepeatable could be repeated on screen captivated audiences of early cinema.

We should also bear in mind the reach of cinema from its beginnings. Within in a few years almost every country in the world had seen cinema and in many places cinema was in production. This accounts for major advances in cinema being able to take place outside of the traditional centres of culture. For example the first feature film was made in Australia, The Story of the Kelly Gang, and released in 1906.

Film was, considering the forces of production mobilised, considering its global mobility, what might be called a first (world-)war-machine. The means of production circulated as rapidly as the films made. What was spreading, what spread so rapidly, was not simply a new form of representation, medium, a new art form or a new from of entertainment, production and consumption, and it was not simply a new way to represent movement and time, but was a new regularisation or gave a new norm to time and to the experience of observed movement, and therefore scientific knowledge.

What might happen from this point is attention might suddenly cut between topics. We see this in modernist literature, in parataxis. It is strange that accounts of modernist poetry treat this as if the juxtaposition of dissimilar topics in a newspaper or their coincidence with the commodity-form might explain it. It is strange, because what distinguishes cinema is the ability to jump between spaces, to be anywhere and at any time in the next cut, as long as it is the next, and then the one after that, as long as it is in the temporal sequence of the moving image, and along its duration.

In cinema and screen time over all, the time element specific to it is strengthened at the expense of its spatial element; and this spatial element includes historical succession, just as Bergson suggests that number and quantity follow on from a setting out that has less to do with time than with space. The time element of cinema and screen becomes rigid and for that reason replayable, no matter the chaos of movement in the shot or the distance in space or space-time a single cut leaps over: for example, the millions of years between the bone being thrown into the air in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the spaceship it cuts to.

Deleuze is right to think about screentime in terms of duration, in Bergson’s terms. But this leads to the greater problem he addresses in Cinema 2. This problem is the loss of belief in the earth. The problem is also stated by Deleuze this way: the earth has lost its centre. It has not because of loss of belief. Both statements belong to the problem of duration as the source of that creativity, its origin, that the earth is.

How still to tackle this problem? How, when our own creative origin has been lost or covered over in the inner experience of time by screentime? I would suggest… doing nothing.

I would suggest passing through screentime. I would suggest making images adequate to pass through. We cannot restore a centre to the earth or an experience that has become alien to us. That is belief in the earth.

We must not try. We must not must. We pause, stop working, pass through …

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putting it to the vote:

…the lyric has limitations. I’ve found myself impatient with the lyric form. And that’s the reason I changed my style, a rebellion against the traditional, contemporary, lyric form of, say, William Carlos Williams. I had had it that way. I found my language was responding to the form rather than to my sensibilities. I was getting a little too self-conscious about it. So I decided: Cut loose and give emphasis to the imagination rather than to the line. By “imagination” I mean also the intelligence within the imagination, giving the intelligence its opportunity to explore the imagination as far as it will go. Of course it has a form, but it’s a form that constantly renews itself because the intelligence is restless. Emotions tend to repeat themselves over and over again, whereas the intelligence is constantly renewing itself, recreating itself. Therefore, I feel in the prose poems the emphasis is on the intelligence with an undercurrent of emotion. In the lyric form the emphasis was on the emotion and the intellect was the undercurrent. I’m also following Pound’s rule, that poetry should be as good as good prose. That it’s a vernacular, colloquial thing. And vernacular, the colloquial, doesn’t sing. It talks. If you want to sing, then you write an elevated line, an elevated language. Occasionally, I’ll do that. There are moments. But, on the whole, the contemporary tradition is talking. And if that’s the case, then why not come out and use the prose line?

— David Ignatow, The Art of Poetry No. 23, interviewed by Gerard Malanga

Today I was resolute. I was following Baba Yaga’s advice: (see below) and not choosing between the different callings but listening for which would burn the rest up. And then I read César Vallejo (below), who led me to David Ignatow (above and below).

I began again to doubt the direction I’d given myself in the morning. And so, as if the imagination is a democracy, I’ve decided to put it to the vote. On the evidence you have here, should I:

a) write more of those pieces (for example, here) that in extremity (for example, here) come close to poetry?

b) continue with the letters that started here, the first part reaching its completion one year less one month ago at number 68? (This is what I resolved to do this morning; the second part, about writing, is unfinished business.)

c) write that book proposal for a booklength study drawing out the implications of the ideas developed during the series of lectures about moving image: animation and schematism (lectures 1-5); modulation and screentime (lectures 6-10)?

d) develop the same material as in c) for publication as separate articles in peer-reviewed academic journals?

e) give up writing altogether? It’s flattery to call it writing anyway. What I do is scribblage. After all, when “everybody’s a fucking writer,” there’s already too many.

f) all of the above?

g) Other: suggestions welcome!

How to vote: please use the contact form.


IN A DREAM

a vacuum cleaner held over my head
is drawing out my brains through my nostrils,
blood running in a column straight up
into the vacuum bag whining like a jet engine.
I feel my intestines too beginning to move up
through my gullet and soon they will be pouring
through my nose. My bones quiver in their sockets,
my knees are shaking. I sit down,
emptiness is becoming me. I can no longer think,
I just listen to the sucking vacuum.
Here goes my heart, straight up into my throat
and choking me, pumping in my throat.
It is filling my mouth, it is forcing its way
between my teeth. The vacuum roars
and my mouth flies open and my heart is gone.

How is it I keep writing?
The vacuum roars and whines alternately,
my ears stick to my head but now my head
is rising, a wind is whistling through my skull.
My head is being lifted from my neck.
Take me altogether, great vacuum:
my arms, legs, sex, shoes, clothes,
my pen gripped in my whitened hand
drained of blood. Take me altogether
and I triumph, whirled in the vacuum bag
with my satellite heart, brain, bones and blood.

— David Ignatow, May 1973

Stumble Between Two Stars | Traspié entre dos estrellas

There are people so wretched, they don’t even
have a body, their hair quantitative,
their wise grief, low, in inches;
their manner, high;
don’t look for me, the oblivion molar,
they seem to come out of the air, to add up sighs mentally, to hear
bright smacks on their palates!

They leave their skin, scratching the sarcophagus in which they are born
and climb through their death hour after hour
and fall, the length of their frozen alphabet, to the ground.

Pity for so much! pity for so little! pity for them!
Pity in my room, hearing them with glasses on!
Pity in my thorax, when they are buying suits!
Pity for my white filth, in their combined scum!

Beloved be the sanchez ears,
beloved the people who sit down,
beloved the unknown man and his wife,
my fellow man, with sleeves, neck and eyes!

Beloved be the one with bedbugs,
the one who wears a torn shoe in the rain,
the one who wakes the corpse of a bread with two tapers,
the one who catches a finger in the door,
the one who has no birthdays,
the one who lost his shadow in a fire,
the animal, the one who looks like a parrot,
the one who looks like a man, the rich poor man,
the extremely miserable man, the poorest poor man!

Beloved be
the one who is hungry or thirsty, but has no
hunger with which to satiate all his hungers!

Beloved be the one who works by the day, by the month, by the hour,
the one who sweats out of pain or out of shame,
the person who goes, at the order of his hands, to the movies.
the one who pays with what he does not have,
the one who sleeps on his back,
the one who no longer remembers his childhood, beloved be
the bald man without hat,
the thief without roses,
the one who wears a watch and has seen God,
the one who has honour and does not die!

Beloved be the child who falls and still cries
and the man who has fallen and no longer cries!

Pity for so much! pity for so little! pity for them!

_____________

¡Hay gentes tan desgraciadas, que ni siquiera
tienen cuerpo; cuantitativo el pelo,
baja, en pulgadas, la genial pesadumbre;
el modo, arriba;
no me busques, la muela del olvido,
parecen salir del aire, sumar suspiros mentalmente, oír
claros azotes en sus paladares!

Vanse de su piel, rascándose el sarcófago en que nacen
y suben por su muerte de hora en hora
y caen, a lo largo de su alfabeto gélido, hasta el suelo.

¡Ay de tánto! ¡ay de tan poco! ¡ay de ellas!
¡Ay en mi cuarto, oyéndolas con lentes!
¡Ay en mi tórax, cuando compran trajes!
¡Ay de mi mugre blanca, en su hez mancomunada!

¡Amadas sean las orejas sánchez,
amadas las personas que se sientan,
amado el desconocido y su señora,
el prójimo con mangas, cuello y ojos!

¡Amado sea aquel que tiene chinches,
el que lleva zapato roto bajo la lluvia,
el que vela el cadáver de un pan con dos cerillas,
el que se coge un dedo en una puerta,
el que no tiene cumpleaños,
el que perdió su sombra en un incendio,
el animal, el que parece un loro,
el que parece un hombre, el pobre rico,
el puro miserable, el pobre pobre!

¡Amado sea
el que tiene hambre o sed, pero no tiene
hambre con qué saciar toda su sed,
ni sed con qué saciar todas sus hambres!

¡Amado sea el que trabaja al día, al mes, a la hora,
el que suda de pena o de vergüenza,
aquel que va, ñpor orden de sus manos, al cinema,
el que paga con lo que le falta,
el que duerme de espaldas,
el que ya no recuerda su niñez; amado sea
el calvo sin sombrero,
el justo sin espinas,
el ladrón sin rosas,
el que lleva reloj y ha visto a Dios,
el que tiene un honor y no fallece!

¡Amado sea el niño, que cae y aún llora
y el hombre que ha caído y ya no llora!

¡Ay de tánto! ¡Ay de tan poco! ¡Ay de ellos!

— César Vallejo, October 1937 (translated by Clayton Eshleman)

WHERE SHOULD I PUT MY ENERGY?


Dear Baba Yaga,

I am blessed with many interests, talents, and

desires. They pull me in different directions,

thereby ensuring that movement is forever lateral

and never forward. How do I determine which of

these fires to stoke?


BABA YAGA:

Whether or not you may say so, there is always ;

one fire louder than the others, more consuming. ,

Who knows why–maybe the twigs it devours are aged

best, maybe the wind is stillest around it. It is

not for you to think on. Let this fire get too ;

big. Let it threaten the forest. Let it eat the

other fires around it, until they are living in it.

You will see ; abandonment of yr smaller flames is

not needed to grow yr wildest, most dangerous one.

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

— Taisia Kitaiskaia, ASK BABA YAGA: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles, (Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017), 139.



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self

I’ve had only one psychedelic flashback in my life. It was about 20 minutes into a therapy session. Unfortunately, I was the therapist.

“This was many years ago now, and I believe it lasted much less than a minute. But when that particular veil lifts, time is a yardstick with no markings. For time to be meaningful, one must have purchase on a moment, and then another, and the temporal distance between the two can be measured, like the distance between two pitons on a rock face. But on the other side of the veil, the pitons cannot hold. There is only presence, and presence does not have a duration. Nor does presence, at this deepest expression, require a …”

so begins Eric Jannazzo’s article for the online magazine Psyche (link here). Apart from the compelling first line, what is striking in this article is the analogy to both film and photography with psychical life. I know, it is not here in this quote. But Jannazzo goes on, …”consider an amoeba placed under a microscope. We can adjust the focus to bring a particular plane into sharpness, and in so doing other planes become obscured. The full ‘truth’ of the specimen cannot be seen all at once, but can be approached only in the aggregate of various planes of focus.” He imagines the self to be the same: “So it is for the self.”

The three planes of focus for the self, he says, are these: who I am; who I am really; and, who I am really, really. Only the second is the plane of focus of psychotherapy. The first is what a stranger might ask you in a shared social context: who are you? The second is a question of the social role having any kind of significance and of your significance within it. Maybe it is who I mean to be and what that means, rather than who I am and what that is. While the third is, says Jannazzo, a spiritual enquiry. Not that of an organised religion or organising cosmological story, it is “an enquiry into who or what we are most essentially … outside the frame that reifies the idea of the self as an individual unit, instead recasting it as a natural manifestation of, and inseparable from, the timeless substrate from which it arises.”

It regards the self from its relation to time; who I am really, really is in relation to time, a time arising from timelessness; and here, in view of time, the analogy comes in: “Imagine a dramatically sped-up film of Earth’s history.” … In other words, the inner relation I have to myself really, really, is in relation to time; and the time of that inner relation is given the analogy of a film, as if film were time itself: cinematic time replaces an inner sense of my relation to myself in time by way of the analogy that is made between time as it is essentially and as it is in a film. This analogy is what is called the time-image.

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on transcendental experience … after Mario Levrero

Mario Levrero begins The Luminous Novel… he is a writer from Uruguay, was. An unnecessary detail, perhaps. Alejandro Zambra, a writer I admire, Chilean, as it happens, or happened, like Bolaño, yet very unlike him, writes about Levrero that we cannot, we readers, we cannot hope to understand that mythical beast, that chimaera, that the literature of Latin America is, without taking in the part Levrero has in it. He says something like that.

And we might for a moment consider the chimaera. Mythical, yes, but also a fish…

…although to call it a fish is to dismiss the inventiveness that’s gone into it. …but also man-made, the chimaera:

…here pictured as a kind of babble of bodies.

Chimaera is mythical, fish and … here made by Kate Clark:

Or, consider the following, in view of literature, from E.V. Day:

The chimaera is also a work of conscious and deliberate construction. Matching chicken and lion, bird and reptilian parts. To put on display, and this is the key word, don’t you think? display.

4222 years ago, the Egyptians weren’t engaging in the earliest known taxidermy for the sake of producing chimaera to display. Embalming and processes of corporeal preservation, of animals, including humans, was conducted not for the living but for the dead on whom these practices were being used. Unless we consider that the exhibition of the dead was not as we understand it but for religious purposes.

Was the intended spectatorship some kind of cosmic audience?

Probably not, because the way out into the cosmos was back in through the world, a world of living deities and cosmic entities present rather than having to be presented, not requiring elaborate rituals, for example, in order to be presented, but already there, in attendance. And these were waiting to see themselves join the throng of the dead.

Their embalming and preservation must have seemed like having to join the queue, for the afterlife. Death.

And now they see themselves sail the stygian waters of the Nile into the omphalos of night. They don’t leave their bodies… no Judgement will have to restore the lucky ones who got the winning ticket to their discarded corpses.

Embalmed, taxidermied, they wait in line, the living gods, and travel over into death beside themselves, beside themselves, if everything has gone well with their preservation, beside themselves in the same way as we might think of an other world being beside this one. An early multiverse.

It is also the Egyptians we tend to thank for our first glimpses of chimaerae. (The word itself is something like a chimaera.) The Sphinx, whose riddle is herself. The bird-headed people, the dog-headed, and the alligator-headed dog.

When does this all change?

Is it at the birthplace of the human individual that Siedentop announces with the advent of early christianity? When, he maintains, before a subsequent crackdown by the institutions of a priestly caste, there were just as easily female communities and communities in which women were considered individuals as they were male… children, individually, born with a relation, a corporeal relation, to the living body of Christ, and, to life everlasting?

So Larry Siedentop maintains in Inventing the Individual: the Origins of Western Liberalism, 2015.

If you bear in you this inner connection, in your living body, this special relation that is special to you, would not the display of the dead pass to individuals to behold? Would you not already have in hand your ticket, to join the queue…?

General exhibition would be a thing institutions might want to have some say over, so restricting entry to an other world, and cutting out the ones not worthy for being somewhat… chimaerical. Raising ticket prices, and so on.

Cutting out animals entirely. Women. Naughty children. Saving them who’ve not had time to sin. Little angels. But all would press against the gates, to see… the exhibition.

Instruction enters. Education, and edification. Now it is on how to live beside yourself, next to your immortal part: the real you. It is no longer the practice of separating to be rejoined in the afterlife.

Until we consider resurrection in the body. Then we have to consider which one the dead part is: and it is clear. It is the body of the animal to which the soul is glued on, by cosmic taxidermy. Well, not really. More by transcendental taxidermy:

the human soul stuck to the body of a corpse… and which the afterthought? For the afterlife, the latter.

…Is resurrection in the body metaphorical? or… virtual?

This would make sense. I mean: it would make sense. The rational part of sense, to which the soul is the best proportion, the perfect ratio. … And freed from the body takes off, like this:

Pause.

What part is the insubstantial again? and what the rendered insubstantial? the de-prioritised?

It’s that old body of the animal again, of which the chimaera is the perfect example: a constructed thing.

A mechanical thing, even, that David Bentley Hart rails against with such seriousness. Seriously. (In a nod to Hart I wanted to say, with such wanton solemnity.)

A book I am reading. Roland is a dog. He talks to the narrator on serious subjects like the dismissal of the transcendental experience (of living beside yourself, body and soul) by the mechanistic world view. The book’s success will be in the measure to which Roland separates himself from the views of Hart, the narrator.

From instruction, edification, tutelary and educative purposes, to … entertainment, would seem to be the path followed by chimaerae into modernity. Entertainment and art, that is. And we ought to think of those lesser souls belonging to lesser bodies, bodies more chimaerical, like those, classically, of women. And of the children who are yet to be edified and educated; and of non-whites, yet to be colonised, indentured, and given a mission.

Too embodied, these ones.

Will Hart allow his dog, Roland, to be one of these?

And what of the bodies of literature, like Latin American literature? The chimaera of …?

I don’t think Zambra really uses the word, chimaera. χίμαιρα is the female form of χίμαρος, meaning, in Ancient Greek, male goat: female goat.

– Jacopo Ligozzi, c.1600

I said female goat… but we do have here the fire-breathing part, and the querulous lion: is this masculinisation concessionary?

We can ask the same of literature, of course, as well as we can whether it is non-concessionary.

Mario Levrero begins his novel… this happens in the first two pages… by relating the sort of psychologism that Hart might reject.

Levrero tells us that he had a transcendental experience, which he told a friend about in the form of an anecdote. Why an anecdote? Because the etymology of anecdote is clear: it means unpublished account (ἀνέκδοτος = ἀν- not + έκδοτος published. έκδοτος derives from έκ- out of or ex– and δίδωμι, which is the first person singular of the verb to give).

Levrero’s friend says he must write it down. It would make a great novel. A great and luminous novel, perhaps, like we have here in our hands.

And Levrero says no. Impossible. Impossible to recapture the transcendental experience, to do it justice, in anything more substantial than an anecdote. End of discussion.

Except that it’s not, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning.

Levrero forgets, and this is the important point: he forgets the friend’s instruction, the friend telling him what he must do; he has, afterall, rejected it. And, anyway, it turns out they are no longer friends.

He forgets it. Levrero says, of course, what he is in fact forgetting is his resistance to his friend’s advice. And from this resistance comes the whole problem. The problem that is The Luminous Novel, in its published form. Because his opposition to the idea inflames it.

He tries again and again to write down the anecdote in which he relates his transcendental experience. And he dismisses each effort, and destroys it. But, the next important point: the urge and urgency to pursue the idea no longer comes from the friend, the friend who is no longer a friend, but from Levrero himself. It comes from inside him.

He attributes to himself, to his inner being or core, or soul, if you like, the demand, the commandment to write … and even tells himself it was own idea. It came from him…

And what is he doing, then, the poor man, torturing himself, when every effort to write down the story of the transcendental experience is in vain?

One thing is for sure, he can’t write his way out, he can’t write himself out of this problem, because he is the problem!

He is the problem and the cause of the problem and he can’t cut himself into two halves, even if they are unequal halves, returning to himself once he has cut himself off from or cut out the criminal part. The corpse, if you like. The animal. He can’t claim transcendence by following the only part that is transcendental.

As I said a psychologism, or a psychological ghost story. And, like Hart’s, a spiritual one.

The friend is ghosted, dead to you, and you tell yourself it is you yourself who told you what you must do because of what you had done.

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the old sensitive trees    you see on the coast here

they can make you believe   life is sad

gods in the forest


a character's always he or she or they
never it Levinas    the French Jewish philosopher

my friend, Alphonso Lingis, you can call me Al
and when you call me, I am called to myself
    to answer for myself, Al
       as if my self is what you have when you're busy
               doing other things    also from Lithuania

anyway, Immanuel Levinas insight is God is individual
is not the general category of transcendent Being
       an individual    like a character, he she and they

they pull their own roots out of the ground

the old sensitive trees do not oppose the young
and when you meet God, it's like anyone

hey, how ya doin? like the song ...

they throw themselves they hurl themselves off cliffs

yell, Bollocks overboard ! 

and hurtle out of bed like they are leaving this life

any gods       must die?

it's a question you can only answer with a proper name.

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grief, and a sense of loss…

we have to …

no, we don’t.

wake up?

no, we don’t.

and it is as if we are passing through a dream…

pass through

dreams passing through a dream…

pass through

gathering the images to us we want

desire is like turbulence

in our transit

who has time these days to furnish themselves

for the interior decoration of their minds?

who has time to…

choose carefully, cos you’re gonna be spending a lot of time in there …?

who has room?

to gather together the images around us…

we want?

in our transit, passing through.

and I recall your 20th century critique of an airport,

a hotel lobby, or foyer: that it was merely a place to pass through,

a transit lounge. Decorated by …?

“architecture is the first science of sensation”

I think we need more screens.

we don’t. cos you’re not gonna be spending much time in there, at all

and pushed up against the body by pain, it has evicted us

pushed up against the wall… it’s nice to have something to watch

out of the corner of your eye

Lou Reed & John Cale knew Andy knew:

a pathology, which the Quay brothers say somewhere is what they need to find

as if a pathology were … no, yes, a character or gave character, by giving to the work

direction: to the transit, direction

gathering together the images … in the turbulence of a wake,

a passing through, in the turbulence of a …transit.

in pain, we lose our sense of independence to

the body,

like an alien thing, like an image we didn’t choose or want.

Who has time, anyway, to furnish the room of the mind?

…or sick, discovering my time is not my own…

it passes differently, differently passes, with indifference to … the wallpaper.

time we have no choice but to pass through

rewards of loss, in shame

but loss, no matter still

what we have really lost is the body

no, we haven’t. It is, as used to be said of desire

repressed.

but loss, no matter still:

still in your room, still against the wall, still

evicted from your sense of self, out of the corner

of your eye: images.

Are they the one’s you would have chosen?

it was repressed, your desire. Now it is not.

but the shame is how your body has evicted you

the sense of loss is from its betrayal.

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on shrinking

In, as part of, Claire Bishop’s original Artforum article, “The Digital Divide,” there appears a ‘media case study’ where Mark Dion says what he’s afraid of in the digital, as part of it. I talked about this in the lectures uploaded here. In a strange serendipity, Mark Dion appeared in another Artforum I picked up yesterday. Now, here that is.

That serendipity I have been thinking about all through the writing of the lectures linked to above. Had been. I thought it connected with the recourse to character, that thought seems to necessitate. At least, this is the impression Gilles Deleuze gives: of personae being necessary to think through; conceptual personae, that is. And there is a passage in The Logic of Sense where Deleuze writes of the torsion of character.

This torsion is the experience familiar to us when thinking about blue cars, for example, of blue cars coming to us out from the images the world is full of, as if having their own intentionality. Or, for example, that experience of reading about Mark Dion in an article unconnected to the one by Claire Bishop, which I had set myself to read for the sake of the topic on which I was lecturing–digital media and the moving image. And now that same sense of a torsion, of images attracting themselves to the characters of thought, as if having their own intentions, when I read in Wayne Koestenbaum’s My 1980s, in an essay supposed to be about giving advice to the young, that is really more about Koestenbaum giving up (pretensions of?) teaching.

What is the connection here? not so much Mark Dion as what he says in the ‘media case study’ beside the Claire Bishop article: because Bishop’s article asks why the number of artists (in 2012, when it appeared) who thematise the digital, media, is so few. Perhaps the more interesting point she makes is that the preference she sees for artists to use older, analogue media devices, rather than the newer, digital ones, with which contemporary life seems to be saturated, that this preference is itself expressive of a thematisation of the digital for its repression.

Dion’s example in the ‘media case study’ is for taking the side of resistance to using digital media in his art work. It doesn’t seem like he is himself repressing the digital, and so thematising the digital in spite of himself. Rather he prefers for people to experience his work at the scale on which it is built, to be surrounded by it, near it, and to have a spatial relation to it.

My thematisation of the digital in my lectures has more to do with temporal relations, brought about the moving image and screentime, that are a part of the digital condition, than with spatial ones. But the spatial relation is striking, since on the screen the work, the image, the blue car or the Mark Dion, are small. Or that they shrink…

And this is where Koestenbaum’s essay in My 1980s comes in: making a contrast between “image and reality,” he realised, in the dream he’s recounting to us, that he was the sculptor of his fate, and, he writes:

… as a consequence of this new self-determination, I began to grow small, as in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, until it seemed I was only a photograph of myself, a miniature pedagogue, with the jauntiness of a child on the way to kindergarten, lunchpail in hand.

–Koestenbaum, 2002.

– alternative pedagogy, workstyling, at Mildred’s Lane [look how little everything and everyone looks]

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