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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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Curzio Malaparte, choice cuts of The Skin with photos by Lieutenant Wayne Miller illustrating

the moon broke the edge of the crater like an eggshell

— Malaparte, The Skin, translated brilliantly by David Moore, New York Review Book publication, 2013. Original work published as La pelle, 1949. p. 36

All of us, officers and men, vied with one another to see which of us could throw our arms and flags in the mud most “heroically.” We threw them at the feet of everyone, victors and vanquished, friend and foe, even at the feet of the passersby, even at the feet of those who, not knowing what it was all about, stopped and looked at us in amazement. Laughingly we threw our arms and our flags in the mud, and immediately ran to pick them up so that we could start all over again.

— Ibid., p.58

We marched with heads high, singing, proud at having taught the peoples of Europe that in these days the only way to win wars is to throw one’s arms and one’s flags heroically in the mud.

— Ibid., p.59

Naples, Italy, August 1944. Ensign K. Dimin, (left), and Lieutenant Fritz Plumer, relax in former Royal Palace at Naples, Italy. Steichen Photograph Unit: Photographed by Lieutenant Wayne Miller, August 1944. TR-11092. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2015/12/08).

Jimmy was an honest fellow, socially of the middle class, and of moderate culture. In civil life he was a clerk in an insurance company. His culture was of a standard far lower than that of any European of his station. It was certainly not to be expected that a little American clerk, who had landed in Italy for the purpose of fighting the Italians and punishing them for their sins and their crimes, should set himself up as the Christ of the Italian people. It was not even to be expected that he should know essential facts about modern civilization—for instance, that a capitalist society (if one disregards Christian pity, and weariness of and disgust with Christian pity, which are sentiments peculiar to the modern world) is the most feasible expression of Christianity; that without the existence of evil there can be no Christ; that capitalist society is founded on the conviction that in the absence of beings who suffer a man cannot enjoy to the full his possessions and his happiness; and that without the alibi of Christianity capitalism could not prevail.

— Ibid., pp.62-63

Naples, Italy, August 1944. Children in Naples. Little boy helps one-legged companion across the street. Steichen Photography Unit: Photographed by Lieutenant Wayne Miller, August 1944. TR-11306. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Malaparte on his dog, Febo:

“His mere presence helped me to acquire that contempt for mankind on which the serenity and wisdom of a human being primarily depend.”

— Ibid., p.165

Naples, Italy, August 1944. Children in Naples, Italy. A group of little Italian boys pose. Steichen Photograph Unit: Photographed by Lieutenant Wayne Miller, August 1944. TR-11307. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2015/12/08).

The edges of those dreadful wounds were held apart by thin steel wires, wound round wooden pegs of the kind that in musical instruments serves to keep the strings taut. One could see the naked heart beating; the lungs, with the veins of the bronchial tubes looking like the branches of a tree, swelling exactly as the foliage of a tree does when the wind blows; the red, shining liver very slowly contracting; slight tremors running through the pink and white substance of the brain as in a steamy mirror; the coils of the intestines sluggishly disentangling themselves like a heap of snakes waking from their deep slumber. And not a moan came from the half-open mouths of the tortured dogs.

And suddenly I saw Febo.

He was lying on his back, his stomach exposed and a probe buried in his liver. He was staring at me; his eyes were full of tears, and they had in them a wonderful tenderness. He was breathing gently, his mouth half-open, and his body was trembling horribly. He was staring at me, and an agonizing pain stabbed at my heart. “Febo,” I said in a low voice; and Febo looked at me with a wonderfully tender expression. In him I saw Christ, in him I saw Christ crucified, I saw Christ looking at me with eyes that were full of a wonderful tenderness. “Febo,” I said in a low voice, bending over him and stroking his forehead. Febo kissed my hand, and not a moan escaped him.

The all had a wonderfully tender expression in their eyes, and not the faintest moan escaped them.

Suddenly I uttered a cry of terror. “Why this silence?” I shouted. “What does this silence mean?”

It was a horrible silence—a vast, chilling, deathly silence, the silence of snow.

The doctor approached me with a syringe in his hand. “Before we operate on them,” he said, “we cut their vocal cords.”

— Ibid., pp.170-172

Naples, Italy, August 1944. Children in Naples, Italy. Little girl holds her apparently blind baby brother. Steichen Photograph Unit: Photographed by Lieutenant Wayne Miller, August 1944. TR-11308. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

General Cork asked what Germany, France and Sweden were really like. “The Comte de Gobineau,” I replied, “has described Germany as les Indes de l’Europe.” “France,” I replied, “is an island surrounded by land.” “Sweden,” I replied, “is a forest of fir trees in dinner jackets.” “That’s funny!” they all exclaimed, looking at me in amazement. Then, blushing, he asked me whether it was true that in Rome “there were bro…hm…I mean…a maison de tolerance for the priests. “They say there’s a very smart one in Via Giulia,” I replied. “That’s funny!” They all exclaimed, looking at me in amazement. Then he asked me why the Italian people had not had a revolution before the war to throw out Mussolini. “So as not to displease Roosevelt and Churchill, who were great friends of Mussolini before the war,” I replied. “That’s funny!” they all exclaimed, looking at me in amazement. Then he asked what a totalitarian State was. “It’s a State in which everything that isn’t forbidden is compulsory,” I replied. “That’s funny!” they all exclaimed, looking at me in amazement.

— Ibid., p.206

Naples, Italy, August 1944. Children in Naples, Italy. Boys on cart. Steichen Photograph Unit: Photographed by Lieutenant Wayne Miller, August 1944. TR-11320. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2015/12/08).

I like to remain detached from danger—to be able to stretch out my arm blindly and lightly touch it, as one touches something cold with one’s hand in the dark.

— Ibid., p.247

Naples, Italy, August 1944. Children play while mother works. Steichen Photograph Unit: Photographed by Lieutenant Wayne Miller, August 1944. TR-13030. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2015/12/08).

As always, the populace ascribed to that awful scourge the character of a punishment from heaven … [for the] sins, the corruption and viciousness of men. And side by side with repentance, with a melancholy desire to expiate their misdeeds, with the eager hope of seeing the wicked punished, with an ingenuous confidence in the justice of a Nature that was so cruel and unjust—side by side with shame at their own wretchedness, of which the people are sadly conscious, there was growing up, as always, in the minds of the populace a base feeling of impunity, the origin of so many deeds of wickedness, and a miserable conviction that in the midst of such great destruction, such widespread chaos, anything is lawful and just. And so men were seen in those days to perform deeds both base and sublime, inspired by blind fury or by cold reason, almost by a wonderful desperation.

— Ibid., p.263

Naples, Italy, August 1944. Reading notices. Steichen Photograph Unit: Photographed by Lieutenant Wayne Miller, August 1944. TR-13034. U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2015/12/08).

if there’s one chapter you must read of this The Skin, it’s the one called The Flag, “the flag of the country of all peoples and all men,” “It was a flag made of human skin”.

Naples, Italy, August 1944. Older woman holds baby. Steichen Photograph Unit: Photographed by Lieutenant Wayne Miller, August 1944. TR-13038. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2015/12/08).

more of Lieutenant Wayne Miller’s photographs, here. (Wayne F. Miller, 19 September 1918 – 22 May 2013)

Naples, Italy, August 1944. Boy enjoying fruit. Steichen Photograph Unit: TR-13050. Photographed by Lieutenant Wayne Miller, August 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. (2015/12/08).

Tom Clark liked a bit in Malaparte I too liked, again about Febo, here.

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two things worth saying

that Max Richter says, plus the beginning of a third, in the liner notes for The Blue Notebooks, last first, since it considers the music:

“I come from a high-modernist classical music training, … where maximum complexity, extreme dissonance, asymmetry and impenetrability were badges of honour. If you wrote a single tonal chord–even by accident–people would mock you, and concerts were more like the issuing of manifestos. I wrote a lot in that tradition, but came to feel that, for all its technical sophistication, this language was basically inert.”

[worth pausing there, for a minute.]

“It reached almost nobody beyond the new music cliques. I didn’t want to talk to just those people. I deliberately set out to be as plainspoken as possible.”

The third thing, left here hanging for its suggestiveness:

“I chose the texts … to reflect on my sense of the politics of the time. Facts were beginning to be replaced by subjective assertions”…

And the first last:

“I wanted to invite the listener in, allowing them space to reflect rather than be beaten into submission. The world is tough enough, and I don’t want to add to the brutality.”

[another pause is called for.]

“Over the years, I’ve ralised there’s a balance to strike, and that actually, as our world spins into something quite threatening, increasingly based on loud and vicious rhetoric, I want to talk about quiet protest.”

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oblique strategy for today, by Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt

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as Mitski says, “I wrote what I needed to hear”

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a musical interlude–takes me back to chapter two you know who

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“That the Holocaust…” —Jacqueline Rose: on getting stuck inside your mind by experience, as a traumatic diktat

…could have become a premise–that is, a proposition which produces its own logical conclusions–is striking, or rather strikingly different from seeing it, for example, as unrepresentable atrocity, as unassimilable, or barely admissable trauma in the way Judith Butler, citing Primo Levi, has so powerfully described…

— Jacqueline Rose, The Last Resistance, 2017, p. 214

— Antoni Tàpies, lithograph

As I thought about it, it seemed to me that the idea of ‘premises’ as diktat over the future might also do as a working definition of trauma. When I was studying Sylvia Plath a long time ago, and trying to understand the appearance of the Holocaust motif in her writing as something other than the opportunism of which she was accused, I read an article by German psychoanalyst Ilse Grubrich-Simitis on working with second-generation Holocaust survivors that has stayed with me ever since. She described how the language of these patients was characterised by a dull, thudding referentiality, with no mobility or play, as if they were saying–in a way only made clear after the most difficult analytic listening–‘this happened,’ ‘happened‘ ‘happened‘ over and over again, to compensate for the silence, the psychic refusal to acknowledge the reality of the Holocaust, in the generation before. And in one of his evocative articles, ‘The Trauma of Incest’ of 1989, psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas describes how trauma shuts down the mind of the patient. The problem is not believing what they say, but the fact that that is all they have to say, so that there is nowhere else left for them to go inside their minds.

— Ibid., 215

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LOVE AFTER LOVE
by Derek Walcott

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you



all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,



the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

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some lines out of Marina & Sergey Dyachenko’s Vita Nostra from the dark academy & the Ukraine + two works by Ivan Marchuk

Everything would amalgamate in front of her eyes, and then clear again. Strange harsh outlines swam out of the darkness. Sasha saw a city, sharp roof peaks, intertwined ropes and wires; one-dimensional creatures, brown like coffee grounds, jumped over them like fleas on unwashed hair. Resembling check marks drawn with a thick brown marker on a list of groceries, they twitched their legs, wriggled, and then made sudden jerky movements. Sasha would never be able to explain why she found these creatures so repulsive, but every time she shuddered at their appearance.

“Thirty-one. Thirty-two. Thirty-three…”

At “sixty,” the brown check mark insects would notice that they were being watched. They saw or felt Sasha’s presence and crawled closer, up to her very eyes, and moving her head was impossible.

Perfectly defined graphical landscapes unfolded in the background: mountains, arches, building, and towers, a gorgeous and sinister city. The oily pavement glistened, like a carbon-black ear of corn. From one fragment to another the distant landscape changed, filled with details, became three-dimensional; the amount of brown check marks grew with it. They threw themselves at Sasha, like a cluster of starving bedbugs. Lacking arms, unable to breathe, she chased them away the only way she had at her disposal–by concentrating. By staring.

— Marina & Sergey Dyachenko, Vita Nostra, translated by Julia Meitov Hersey, 2018, pp. 215-216

– Ivan Marchuk, From the series New expressions 1994-1997 #431

“Nikolay Valerievich…”

“Yes?”

“Am I no longer human?”

“And why is it so important to you?”

Sasha looked up. Sterkh sat across the table from her, calm, benign. His ash-blond hair framed his pale triangular face in two parallel lines.

“I’m serious, Sasha: what is so important about being human? Is it because you simply haven’t experienced anything else?”

“I’m used to it.” Sasha looked down.

— Ibid., pp. 260-261

– Ivan Marchuk, Warning, 1986

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Arriaga, writer of Iñárritu’s “Trilogy of Death,” the films, Amores perros, 21 Grams & Babel, his immersive novel, The Untameable, some lines from it illustrated with works by David Gremard Romero

With pain, at least it feels as though that part of the body is still alive. Numbness is a near certainty that something in you has died.

— Guillermo Arriaga, The Untameable, translated by Frank Wynne & Jessie Mendez Sayer, 2021, p.13

– David Gremard Romero

the story of David and Absalom … Faulkner had written a novel inspired by it. “And if Faulkner chose it, it’s because it’s ambiguous and intense,” …

In the Bible story, Absalom sends his servants to murder his half-brother Amnon, who has raped his sister Tamar. For his crime, and because of issues of succession, Absalom comes into conflict with his father, King David, and raises a revolt against him at Hebron. It pains the king to be at war with his son. There is no ceasefire between the two armies. King David’s followers find themselves at an advantage: Absalom is surrounded and tries to flee on a mule, and the mule walks underneath the thick boughs of a great oak, and his hair is tangled in the branches, and he is taken up between Heaven and Earth; and the mule he is riding walks away. Absalom is found by Joab, the king’s commander, who orders his summary execution. When King David hears that his son Absalom has been killed, he greatly sorrows and goes into the chamber above the gate, and weeps; and as he goes, he says: “Oh Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would god I had died for thee, Oh Absalom, my son, my son!” But Joab rebukes the king, saying that Absalom had been a fierce and implacable foe; this was no time for remorse, but for retaking of power and regaining the respect of his subjects. Overcome with grief, but resolute, King David decides to retake command.

— Ibid., p. 165

– David Gremard Romero

The Good Boys believed that the Devil was slowly leeching into the modern world, corrupting humanity and distancing Man from god. It was their moral duty to stop this. They were the vanguard of the evangelical moral army that would halt the Fall of Man.

— Ibid., p. 164, against which I noted, forget Thought Police. Hail the New Moral Army.

– David Gremard Romero

“You can take the tiger out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the tiger.” I understood Borges and Spinoza: the tiger eternally wants to be a tiger.

— Ibid., p. 196

A lion does not wonder whether it is a lion. It is a lion.

— Ibid., p. 197

– David Gremard Romero

While he was hunting Nujuaqtutuq he had forgotten the golden rule: stop every hundred metres and look behind you, because the landscape you see ahead is not the same as the landscape you leave behind.

— Ibid., p. 285

– David Gremard Romero

The doctor grudgingly wrote [Chelo] a prescription and we stopped at a drugstore to buy contraceptive pills.

The woman behind the counter seemed reluctant to hand them over. She slid them across surreptitiously, as if they were illegal drugs. As Chelo was paying, the woman leaned closer: “Let god be the one to decide whether or not you have children, not you.” Chelo glared at her. “If that’s true, then let god be the one to tell me,” Chelo said.

— Ibid., p. 674

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