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days following, 105-143

I just watched Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz. More frightening, I just watched a plane disappear above the clouds.

The advice is insistent on how to deal with COVID. From the Stoics. It is part of the general onslaught, a how to of personal reconciliation that would be worthless were it not for the Romantic and soteriological tradition of personal salvation. (That would be the Romantic tradition of nationalist salvation and the soteriological tradition of personal salvation.) For example, suicide and the idea of a personal death. See Schopenhauer.

The two, nationalist and personal, are combined in the idea of Brexit:

Here is a snapshot of nationalist culture in auto-affectionate self-parody. And here is a portrait of Schopenhauer with his poodle.

painting inside my skull

it might be useful to think of it shaped like a donut.

and be not conformed to this world

— thanks Isaias Braga

“It was bad back then; society was diseased.”

— writes Julianna Baggott, Pure, (London, UK: Headline, 2012), 63.

“[He] imagines that this isn’t real, that, instead, it’s just some elaborate reenactment of destruction, not the actual destruction itself.

“He remembers once being in a museum … Each display was dedicated to a theme: before the impressive prison system was built, before difficult children were properly medicated, when feminism didn’t encourage femininity, when the media were hostile to government instead of working toward a greater good, before people with dangerous ideas were properly identified, back when government had to ask permission to protect its good citizens from the evils of the world and from the evils among us, before the gates had gone up around neighborhoods with buzzer systems and friendly men at gatehouses who knew everyone by name.”

— Ibid., 236.

“My body is the truth. It’s history.”

— Ibid. 413.

Notes, you might say. But don’t you think we are no longer free to float happily with fragments?

No need.

Yet the demand is more imposing than ever personally to reconcile the contradictions, that are quite public, evident in our political lives.

I would say that our political lives impose but that they are equally irreconcilable for being mutually incompatible, a clamping down here with a liberalisation there, liberalisation of cannabis or euthanasia laws with mandatory mask-wearing and the possibility of mass vaccination being mandatory as well.

The rift is not between the public and the private, making one irreconcilable to the other. It is a general crazing of the public to which the private is not equal, is not enough crazy.

There is no point of view given by state mandate but the mad movement of a conflicting polity, so that any attempt personally to reconcile oneself to it can only end in disaster.

Or in the absurdity of believing a conspiracy is behind it.

As we used to say, undercover of human malice or stupidity, the conspiracy of confusion and disinformation serving political ends–but this time, unpoliticisable, irrecuperable to any recognisable political viewpoint, ends set for self-destruct.

And yet, are we happy to be getting on with the craze of fragments?

There seems to be something like an expectation we ought to be able to understand we take on; we should be able to make sense and reconcile for ourselves the competing interests the results of which we can only anathematise.

That is we cannot undo them.

Cannot analyse them.

Slippery as,

So neonatology as well as neontology concern the study of neons.

— at the antilockdown rally aotea sq. 4.9.2020,
courtesy Simon Wilson
(note cap)

One sometimes thinks that for a voyage to the depths of the human soul one needs a powerful submarine, and in the end is surprised to find oneself in a wetsuit trying to sink into a standard household bathtub.

— Andrés Barba, A Luminous Republic, Trans. Lisa Dillman, (New York, NY: Mariner Books, 2020), 11.

…the demands of international treaties trumped by nationalist interests…

…but also the ramifying in the nationalist arena of conflicting global interests…

It is worth restating these are not macro interests, rather a micro fragmenting … and this bespeaks a kind of vulnerability to the broader strokes–hammer blows–of which the Left seems to have become wary.

Given that you are a force of opposition, what do you want?

Calming devices used to be those narrow perspex boxes in which you could see and witness particulate sorting processes. Sometimes with oil.

Then diving you see a skate, a ray, shake off the sand in which it is camouflaged, and the sand settle.

…it settles without you doing a thing.

This is what you are watching slowly coming down–the pretence is that it happens quickly.

The pretence is that it can–that it can operate by some human, humanly imposed scale of time, of time reduced to the technologically available advanced scale of minute increments speeding past, speeding into the past under what Virilio calls dromological pressure. Speeding into the future. This is what you get speeding into the future.

This is what you get, I have been writing in my other writing: it is not speed except that it is communicable and the speed is of the communication. Which makes a joke of communication.

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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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days 40-50 – or, walking in circles

Doug McEachern, says his bio, in the book I have in my hand, left school wanting to be a writer. The book I have in my hand evidence he succeeded.

Having left school, he was caught up in the ’60s. The bio puts it that he was “led astray by the political urgency of the campaigns against the Vietnam War and conscription.” This was in Australia.

It gives some indication of what is to follow, Stardust and Golden–the name of the book I have in my hand.

The author then enjoyed a long and “successful” academic career, where is not stated, before leaving university tenure for South Australia “to become a writer.”

This, his first novel, might give us a clue: Stardust and Golden is published by The University of Western Australia, 2018.

It returns us to the 1960s–

Several days of persistent heat forced forward memories of life before all-pervasive air conditioning.

–runs the first line of the novel, making redundant all of the foregoing.

We might recall the opening line of Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers: It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.

And we might consider there is no common measure.

Or we might consider the 1 million planets Raymond Ruyer invokes to demonstrate “that the power of chance is very limited”:

“Consider 1 million planets, each inhabited by 2 billion humans. Each of these humans (106 x 2 x 109) during 1 billion years, tosses every day a die forty thousand times (in one thousand series of forty), that is, practically does nothing else. Approximately how many times would a series of forty sixes arise?” The impression is that such a series will be produced at least some of the time. We can wager 19 against 1 that it will be produced, because (106 x 2 x 109) x (109 x 365 x 103) is still 20 times smaller than 640. Because the duration of life on earth is approximately 2 billion years, it is easy to see why it is extravagant to attribute to chance alone the formation of a nervous system, a circulatory system, the eye or the internal ear, whose ordered complexity has no common measure with the arrangement of a series of forty sixes.

— Raymond Ruyer, Neofinalism, Trans. Alyosha Edlebi, (Minneapolis, MI: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), 163. (Note: original work published in French in 1952.)

From the puffline of Graham Swift’s Booker Prize winning Here We Are the phrase–

pulls back the curtain on the human condition.

The removal of the statue of Hamilton in Hamilton, Morgan Godfrey writes, augurs in a new age: …”and after him every statue celebrating the men who made the empire. It’s 2020, after all, and postcolonialism is giving way to decolonisation.”

There are then in his article for the Guardian some nice turns of phrase with “the tragics” and “the nostalgics” used to call out the empire defenders. That is defenders of the misbegetting of colonial monumentation in the present time of decolonisation.

Morgan Godfrey ends with, “The only way to acknowledge the history they made–invading the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki–and the society they’re responsible for–where Maori are on the wrong side of every statistic, from incarceration to joblessness–is to tear it all down.”

There are many wears of tearing it all down.

Consider the work of Nicola Samorì:

– from the Cannibal Trail series, 2017, oil on copper, detail
– from the Malafonte series, black Carrara marble, 2018

Donna Tartt recently described the process of writing a novel as like “painting a large mural with a brush the size of an eyelash”. My own favourite–

writes Edward Docx, also for the Guardian

is that it’s like trying to fill a swimming pool with a syringe. Or, in a different mood, that writing a novel is like trying to hold a vast and intricate maths equation in your head that seeks to represent reality and through which you are trying to lead people without them ever getting wind that said equation is, in fact, impossible to solve or that, actually, it might not represent reality at all.

Docx, a writer, is introducing his review of Daniel Alarcón’s novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, which, he writes, makes gains (walking in circles?) on the side of the equation, while losing on the side of “immediacy, intimacy and involvement.”

Docx, the writer, answers the question, what we might call the ontological question, on his personal website, of the meaning of the writer’s existence, by writing that being a writer means “to give precise and enduring expression to the human experience”.

Alarcón is not found to have failed in this regard. But the assumption that immediacy, intimacy and involvement are what is being calculated in the above equation is not given as part of the equation.

Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream makes me think of two other perfect short novels, or novellas, Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami, and The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima.

I just noticed that the puffline on the front of Alexandro Zambra’s novel Documents is Daniel Alarcón’s.

On page 51 of Documents, Zambra writes this suggestive phrase–

I sometimes think, from this suspiciously stable place that is the present

From this–the same?–suspiciously stable place that is the present, I think–

the poem

is much better

now you

are looking at it.

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days 31-39

My copy of Alejandro Zambra’s Not to Read in its white card cover blue inside embossed with the logo of Fitzcarraldo Press, having taken as long as it does to push a ferryboat over a mountain, has arrived. The day of our return from Rotorua.

Its translator says about writing: “We write to multiply ourselves.”

Its writer, on the other hand, Alejandro Zambra, in another, a beautiful book written about being a secondary character, against the notion the author is (ever? always?) a primary character, Ways of Going Home, says about writing:

“To read is to cover one’s face …

“To read is to cover one’s face. And to write is to show it.”

Faces might be understood in the fullest sense Levinas then his translator, Lingis, gives: an absolute imperative to which we respond because we must, for which we are responsible.

Faces call on us to respond. With all sorts of ruses, cupidity, nudity–eyes rolling in viscosity, entirely as exposed as uncovered genitalia; entirely as penetrating as the genital (and other, neuroliberal, for example) penetralia.

J. went running in Rotorua. A good place I have discovered is a place where water comes out of the ground hot.

In this period following the COVID-19 call not to let aerosol spit loose, not to be promiscuous in our gazes or exchanges, face to face, she found the ones she encountered while running on the path through the redwoods would set their faces and not meet her eye. She remembered, as I do, as we do, the New Zealand of threat: and she speculated that we still do not meet each others’ eyes because we might want to beat each other up.

Well, this is true. You don’t meet my eye on the street if you think you are being confronted with the threat of violence.

Whatchoo lookin at?

or, then you answer, and:

Come ere n say that!

In this NZ, reading a book is not hiding or saving face, it is exposing it to:

fuckin poof!

Reading? clearly an elitist white colonial pastime.

(It’s always intriguing to know what translates poof to the female equivalent. Lezzie it ain’t. Doesn’t contain the requisite threat of violence.

(fuckin bitch! perhaps. But this is more likely to be preceded by a short interchange in which presumptions to intellectualism are invoked and questioned.

(fucking bitch! Think you’re smart! & so on.)

J. had been worrying, running on, worried, about the averted gazes and looks of the women she passed. Turned a corner, then, at the beginning of a track leading uphill she had intended to take at a walk, she saw a group of patch-wearing men. And she decided to take the uphill track at a run.

But what were they doing there amongst these giant trees? They were of course walking. Not on bikes. They were walking in the trees.

And how can anyone amongst the redwoods not be affected by them?

Lingis writes of the sequoia in the way that they face us with an imperative too. We take it on ourselves to breath in to our cores and to pull ourselves up from the depths of ourselves upright. We learn not rigidity but the reaching up of our uprightness from them. We stand straighter and breathe deeper from them. And we discern in them the deepness of life into which they plunge and from which they soar upwards. Their solidity. Not their stolidity. Their airiness, their breath and rootedness. Not their territorial uprootedness. Not the threat they experience of that territorial rootedness being challenged.

So there are challenges to the colonial experience of Maori here. The redwood is an import. The plantation of redwoods here at the edge of Kaingaroa forestry is a colonial imposition on the landscape.

Driving through this landscape, from Auckland to Matamata to Tirau to Rotorua the “home of Maoridom” as a sign by the Blue and Green Lakes put it, how can anyone escape from the sense of a colonial imposition that has razed the forests, impregnated the land with foreign grasses, and, in autumn, with trees which colourfully lose their leaves? Land for which the use is farming and the economic advancement of populations in a global marketplace for primary produce?

Striking vacant land, you ask, seeing no meat or milk producing occupancy of animals, you ask, What’s the use?

Then these gangmembers in the redwoods, as J. said, aren’t they enjoying the trees? Isn’t this good for them and for us?

I didn’t need to think too long about this theme we, because we grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, have often revisited–of the threat of violence every look may contain–to say:

But it is their exposure that is in these eyes. They feel exposed.

And probably more now since COVID-19. They are exposed to a threat of invisible violence. They are also socially exposed: someone may be judging them as to how well they follow the rules, social-distancing, self-isolating, uniting against the virus.

We feel and have felt so vulnerable in this country, that we do or do not choose to expose ourselves.

That we hide as if from the threat of violence. But strangely the cultural order tends to be maintained that we do not expose ourselves in writing or film-making or dancing or theatre-making or composing music or poetry and do not write books to expose ourselves and do not appreciate those who do. As if we ourselves were being exposed.

Then, by the same wariness of local censure and fear of the threat of violence, we still now look to cultural production–to even the production which is that of our own culture–to put us on the world stage, to take us to a global audience, which exposure we will not experience as our own, personal exposure but claim as national pride.

So we are proud of ‘Jacinda’ and of our efforts in the world and we look to the ways in which we may capitalise on our success in fighting COVID-19–and we find culturally we are succeeding, inviting Avatar here, getting Benee airplay, without the least exposure of the facts.

And isn’t it good to be exposed in this way?

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day 52 – 55: our demands

… we have just discussed it. And together, as a team or nation or society or whatever the hell it is, we can do it! We can beat this normality back into the slimy hole from which it has once again begun to slither. Or the right off the barren promontory from which it has once again begun announcing itself. Like those poles with loudspeakers on them announcing the party line. We can hack it down, we can Hone Heke axe it down because the flag should not be a loudspeaker.

All that needs to happen… perhaps I should put it in bullet points, talking points, Trump decision points, that he prefers above facts … but it is no more than a suggestion. A necessary one.

All that needs to happen is that you and I and yours and mine, that we tell the government 2 things:

  1. government is about taking over permanent control of those controls that control the economy–including taking power over them from off the so-called automated mechanisms and systems of the market: such automatic systems were anyway installed sometime, their operation managed and maintained, by actual people, so can be suspended;
  2. we are going into lockdown on an annual basis. We are appropriating social isolation. We, the people. Whether bosses and managers and businesses and so on like it or not, every year, for a period not shorter than 4 weeks, we do not go to work, to school, and so on, except to engage in essential industries: we need food, and obviously, from our experiences this year, toilet paper and some other basic goods (and wine, or sake, or vodka, beer, marijuana, and other legal highs), and we need access to medical facilities for the vulnerable, and the vulnerable equally need our care, and the little errands we might run for them which make all the difference in our communities. And then we choose a date… And we do it.

This is better than the occupy movement, if you think about it.

But you want to know if the good will of banks and lending institutions and landlords and service providers for electricity and gas and water and telephone and internet connection will be there in the absence of a pandemic, like COVID-19?

We must insist that the government insists that it is.

Be kind, we say, to the planet and to our social and psychic ecologies, for the well-being of our hearts and spirits and minds and what is wrongly called psychological well-being, as if it were treatable (no, it simply exists under conditions which are less internal to human bodies and brains than social, under whatever (economic) conditions are those of society), so also for the social ecology, which term we today must use in preference to the more usual economy–for obvious reasons.

As for the planetary well-being, this should also be obvious. 8% reduction in carbon emissions. Each year until at least the end of the century. 2100.

80 years. 80 lockdowns x 4 weeks–or longer if you like? why not extend for six?

Not quite the sabbatical principle–but that’s OK.

We can. We can beat this thing. This capitalism. This normality. This planetary degradation. This human and species extinction.

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day 44

I’m dreaming of a theatre. Another one. This one’s doing Howard Barker’s The Last Supper, so it’s called Theatre for Breakfast. But it could equally be called, as Barker called his own theatre, ‘theatre of infection.’

I have been writing that there’s only one thing worse than catastrophe, the avoidance of catastrophe.

The avoidance does not itself constitute the catastrophe. It performs the wrong reversal. It is not a question of Think how bad it could have been! but one of reversing the threat or inverting it: How good is it!

Today at the beach two young women stood at the edge of the sea, where it sank into the sand, and one of them threw her arms up in the air and sang out: I feel so free! then both acknowledged without the demands on their time of the social or work, they had been released. They were free.

It was a beautiful day. The beach pushed right against the horizon like a knife. (Which makes one think of another Barker play, The Wounded Knife.)

What would it take to puncture that blue? associated by some with death.

To be free of the demands of work and the social, How good is it!

It is not what we have avoided but that we have encountered.

Thank your gods. But Barker abjures us to rise to them. To become unforgivable. To rise to the occasion of delivering ourselves up to whatever it is. Even our own fiction.

A fiction is preferred. Preferable. And unforgivable.

Theatre for Breakfast performs bearpit style. A central circle where the audience hurls an actor or two, or in Barker’s case, many–he expressed hatred for the economies of writing for reduced (human) resources early on. Austerity of theatres or dances for one performer, or socalled performance art. Austerity avoiding catastrophe: imagine: no art!

But art, How good is it!

So the audience hurls the actors in onto a surface of sawdust or sand to soak up whatever bodily fluids come out of them–usually just spit. But what is unforgivable? And sweat, of course. They are sweating like slaves, and panting and eager like gladiators. And hot and well-greased. And blooded like prey. (Which is the name of a book by Herbert Blau, a friend, rest in peace, or do as you will, How good is it!)

Dirty. Will it make any sense, this time, you ask? having not seen Minus Theatre, or heard about it, and heard that it was better heard about than seen.

This is the strength of Barker: one of his first unforgivable acts–beyond unforgivable in NZ–to declare his theatre elitist. But not then to let the elite get away with it. And equally not let the culturally underprivileged or underprovided get away with it either. This is just the setup. Anyway, the elitism Barker is talking about isn’t privilege as such. It’s not about money. It’s about the elitism to which art makes its appeal–not as a beggar or chugger, charity case: but the intellectual elite to whom moral challenge is as essential as air; but this necessity is really everybody’s, says Barker, only not everyone will come to theatre because of the material setup.

But is it just the material setup? Isn’t it that theatre to many is by its nature inaccessible? Not lack of access–which funding bodies always want to be reassured is being provided–but aversion.

We can say all we like it’s a matter of education or being excluded because our stories are not the ones being told. But is it both? Or is it the former? necessitating an investigation into education. Or is it the latter? necessitating the re-education of those who might be doing the excluding.

The broader question is Who really wants to be morally challenged?

Isn’t this the last thing we want? Don’t we need art, theatre the way we need drugs, alcohol, to escape too much reality?

Can a taste for one’s values being thrown into a crucible or a bearpit be developed? Barker seems to think it can and that this is the necessity of theatre.

Then, aren’t we too used to having our values simply thrown away?

Or a more extreme way of saying this: aren’t we simply used to and don’t we more enjoy our degradation? … And isn’t this the similarity between art, theatre and drugs, alcohol supported by art-as-entertainment or escapism?

And for degradation we can easily swap in numbing or the more proper word anaesthetic.

I recall in one of the many filmic portraits of him one in which Oscar Wilde made the following essential distinction: some drink to forget; I, on the other hand, drink to prolong the moment.

pause

… good wine of necessity is wine no matter what its quality that acts to prolong the moment …

… in some cases so good it engenders states of clairvoyance …

Tonight we watch Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy with Daniel London’s eyebrows and Will Oldham’s legs (really, quite incongruously), Yo La Tengo’s understated score and an extraordinary song using the word congregation to mean something like popular will: we are sometimes with the congregation; sometimes it is against us. Watch out when the congregation is against us. [Please let me know if you know what, who done it.]

I want to make 100 movies in New Zealand where nothing happens.

It would take 100 to get the message across–to turn around the “cinema of unease” by which NZ cinema is and has been damned to be a thing without its shell twitching every time it’s poked with a sharpened stick.

Electrodes attached to it never able to relax in its skin.

Skin off salt rub.

100 movies in which nothing happens. A woman at the lip of the sea says I feel free. A cinema free of the congregation so free of the necessity to jab it with home truths and watch it jump.

This cinema would then be the opposite of Barker’s theatre. All it would say is chill out people! It’s OK! Stop trying so fucking hard!

Then I feel as though I am in a desert again among the deliberate acts of ugliness and abomination that compose our indigenous architectural landscapes, our relentless uneasy culture and its treasure trove of icons.

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day 39-43: what is political beauty?

On day 33 why is religion the thought that corresponds to the preceding virtues of good wine & food, good politics & sex, good art & conversation? Why is it not philosophy? When it is a matter of thought.

Because it is a question of practice.

Is philosophy not a practice? Well, I ask you: Is philosophy a practice?

Or is it eminently impractical? Do we not look for a practical philosophy in our popular intellectuals? Alain de Botton. Even Slavoj Žižek. Or Noam Chomsky. And Naomi Klein. And those whose star is sinking or has sunk. Susan Sontag. Edward Said–who gave to intellectuals a task in wider society. Michel Foucault–now seen as a prophet, to the undoing of his philosophy (we might say, exactly). Who else?

The Classics? Aristotle is still rolled out to examine unexamined lives and provide a happy medium. Plato is disenfranchised of his franchise in Socrates, who is rehabilitated as the sceptic he was not. Manqué, perhaps.

Do we not look for an application first then fit a name to it, later? And are those public intellectuals not most popular who come with an application already flagged? Waving their flag? Kings and Queens and Jacks and Knaves of philosophical territories whose craftmarks are emblems sewn in appliqué into the general motley. Or melee. Houses and lineages of refereed citation. Schools and academies of followers?

The undoing of philosophy is in authorship and authority. Religion has no such qualms. And note: in the Western tradition, we still leap a couple of thousand years to prefer the Greeks over the sainted pedagogues, Anselm or Aquinas, or John the Scot. Or earlier, Augustine in Algeria: Lord make me pure but not yet.

Even the apostates are passed over for the pagans. Or we want to see in rebellion the scientific spirit not the philosophical one. (Spirit in the Humanist construction is not suspicious.) Religious means only a discipline of thought … How funny when you think of it that our scientific spirit is pursued religiously, without, except in academic journals, attribution of names; while philosophy is all who said what. (Mirowski maps the ramifications of opening science with the spiritual can-opener.)

In places Voltaire did not reach or that Rousseau did either a respect for the nobility of a Natural thought unsullied by Culture (i.e. Enlightenment Humanism) still prevails, or one is celebrated for not having suffered the castration of an original philosophy from its root in religion. Buddhism, as we know well, becomes a useful household cleaner. Yoga is the recognition the body is the spirit from many thousands of immeasurable years ago (time immemorial) (although a matter of Western projection). So also projectively, Islam spawns radicalism (although a matter of a Western inspiration for Pankaj Mishra (here) going back to our first two figures).

Nonwestern religious thought is seen to be superior in the same Rousseauean sense that gave us the noble savage. Few of nobility have resulted. But many optative savages, whose minority belonging need only be attested to by the declarative, I identify as … a cannibal or an algorithm?

Philosophy, the Enlightenment legacy, the cogito, the churchy inheritance which held onto the split between mind and body, materialising it in the discourse of neurology, like a psychic vacuum cleaner, sucking aesthetics into the bag–neuroaesthetics–and relegating metaphysics to a cultish following and the gender-class-race politics of Dead White Men: what could be more a religious undertaking than eternal return? But then Communism is now metaphysics. And metaphysics is a matter for belief. And its childish suspension. Studies in mental health have shown it’s healthy to have something to believe.

Isn’t a religious experience one we seek out?

Isn’t a philosophical experience one of consolation? (Boethius imprisoned could ask, where is this famous consolation of philosophy?)

Isn’t a poetic experience one of whimsy? made of fancy bread?

And isn’t scientific experience one of the mundanity of existence? engaging a loss of innocence that everything is really as dull as it appears to be.

Until there is an unprecedented event …. “[The disease] can attack almost anything in the body with devastating consequences,” says cardiologist Harlan Krumholz of Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, who is leading multiple efforts to gather clinical data on COVID-19. “Its ferocity is breathtaking and humbling.”

Good politics, what might this be? Does the Center for Political Beauty have the answer? (It is interesting how different it looks unEnglished.) Is good politics not now more problematic than good religion? (K. sent me links to this and this. And I find all I want to say is that to hinge political beauty on the Holocaust is the aesthetic effect which has been sought for it under neoliberalism to the abdication of the power in politics and the commendation of the beauty in letting the market–including the art market–run it.)

… where is that breath of fresh air? that mind breath Ginsberg said was a poem, is it here or hereunder

Or is it that data turns consumption against itself?

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day 38

Who wins from the complete re-orientation to data as standard of value for the global economy? who, in the completion of this process I wrote about in the previous post?

As is perfectly expectable but quite unbelievable for a philosopher not a pulp fiction writer–but perhaps he himself would contest contesting or policing the distinction–Žižek’s COVID-19 book is out. I remember Welcome to the Desert of the Real, after the 2001 attacks, taking up Baudrillard, who had taken up Deleuze and Guattari’s formula, what would be called a meme today, writing 9/11 never happened. (D & G: ’68 never happened.) “But Pandemic!: Covid-19 Shakes the World is thin on humour. ” writes Yohann Koshy for the Guardian. And thin on this kind of scalpel-sharp kind of humour, this oyster-shucking humour–the kind that flipping back and forth, puts the oyster back in isolation, violently extracts it. Puts it back in.

It is left to something or someone called Medium (Julio Vincent Gambuto) syndicating to the Milwaukee Independent to say it never did: “A carless Los Angeles has clear blue skies as pollution has simply stopped. In a quiet New York, you can hear the birds chirp in the middle of Madison Avenue. Coyotes have been spotted on the Golden Gate Bridge.” Welcome to the deserted real of post-Chernobyl-like re-wilding.

J. walking on the northern ridges above the Hauraki Gulf, looking down on the bays, saw the seas begin to boil, saw flights of birds a thousand, two thousand of them, descend from the hills and skies. Black shadows had corralled kingfish and kahawai as effectively as a net. The orca ringfenced the bigger fish and schools of smaller fish they were and continued to poach on. The boiling seas extended from bay to bay.

She crossed to the southern side of the island, again patches of calm water began to agitate. A guy chucked in a line, lost his hook. Tried again. Lost the hook again. The fish too big. A third time, he pulled in kahawai 2 foot long.

Žižek’s book says wait for the recession. It repeats Adbusters, who call it 1929 come again. They call for Occupy 2 in response. And for those able to give to foodbanks. They end, Let the bosses know, if they fuck us, we multiply.

Who wins from the migration of media–of total human cultural media, of what we might call the apex predators of human cultural mediation–online?

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day 33

a propitious day to state the sabbatical principle, of one in seven is our rest taken, one day in seven, one year in seven

work is the saddest passion it will never be done

and rest relief on the seventh according to the seven virtues:

good wine

good food

good conversation

good sex

good art

good politics

good religion,

that follows them that is their thought and that accompanies each with thought and that follows rest relief from work

and from the sabbatical principle the good of birds mountains fish and seas, not men, women

and the virtuous things that are without number

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