Sunday, February 28, 2010

Killing Kanoko, Japan Times

Here's a good review of Killing Kanoko from Japan Times, the biggest English-language newspaperin Japan.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The aesthetics of Dorian Gray

On a recent post I brought up what I see as the “Gothic” side of Bolano, and I’ve also posted a few things about the Necronautical Society, and their interest in trying to find forms of aesthetic expression that relate to death and nothingness. Below I’ve put up a few quotes relating to this theme. I don’t see an interest in how aesthetics intersects with death as being in any way morbid or willfully perverse. Only the most doctrinaire and utopian notions of artistic expression would think so. I also don’t see anything new in this--in fact, the manifestos by the Necronautical Society seem to have more in common with the often pitch-black sensibility of the Elizabethans than with many notions of the avant-garde that have circulated since the 60’s. But that is partly the point: for writers like Bolano and McCarthy, we aren’t marching toward some bright singular future free of death and shit and rot. Rather, they’re more interested (to paraphrase one of the sections of the Necronautical manifesto) in the ugly, horrifying portrait of Dorian Gray in the attic, not the static, beautiful one the public can see.

Bolano in 2666:

“He ushered in something that would later be known as the new decadence or English animalism…This painting viewed properly (although one could never be sure of viewing it properly) was an ellipsis of self-portraits, sometimes a spiral of self-portraits (depending on the angle from which it was seen), seven three by three and a half feet, in the center of which hung the painter’s mummified hand…It happened like this. One morning, after two days of feverish work on the self-portraits, the painter cut off his painting hand. He immediately applied a tourniquet to his arm and took the hand to a taxidermist he knew, who’d already been informed of the nature of the assignment. Then he went to the hospital, where they stanched the bleeding and proceeded to suture his arm.” The great irony here is that the section of London where the painter lived begins to rapidly gentrify because of his grotesque success--more painters move in, then boutiques, then “cutting-edge restaurants.” In Bolano, nothing is stable for long. The site of this act of aesthetic horror becomes one more yuppified area of town.
* * * *
Plath famously loved the uncanny, and loved brining statues and such to a kind of life. One of my favorite poems from The Colossus, though, does the opposite: she poetically transforms a ruin into the remains of a decaying beast. This is from “The Burnt-out Spa”:

An old beast ended in this place

A monster of wood and rusty teeth.
Fire smelted his eyes to lumps
Of pale blue vitreous stuff, opaque
As resin drops oozed from pine bark.

The rafters and struts of his body wear
Their char of karakul still. I can’t tell
How long his carcass has foundered
The rubbish of summers, the black-
leaved falls.

One of the great things about this poem is the sensual delight the poet gets from decay. The details (the “char of karakul,” the “rubbish of summers”) are as lovingly described as flowers in a garden. It reminds me--to go back to the Dorian Gray metaphor--of how the monstrous version of the painting always sounds so much more vivid (and paradoxically alive) than the banal beautiful version.
* * * *
Kafka also focuses on this theme, especially in “A Hunger Artist,” where the very lack of purpose in the artist’s act of starvation could be seen as an ultimate example of art-for-art’s sake. After awhile, the hunger artist isn’t even starving himself for the public anymore. He becomes largely forgotten. There have been many readings of this story--political, psychological. But they usually wind up trying to do exactly what the hunger artist so successfully keeps from--namely, trying to fit his story into a more coherent and totalizing narrative. It is the senselessness of this aesthetic act that is important.
But there’s also his story “The Penal Colony.” One of the components of the brutal writing machine is the “Designer,” the part of the machine that is rearranged to form different words. The machine itself sounds like something one of the Viennese Actionists might have invented, though of course the condemned have no real choice but to submit to this act of violent physical transformation. Ultimately, the machine doesn’t write: it tortures.

“The Harrow was not writing, it was only jabbing, and the bed was not turning the body over but only brining it up quivering against the needles. The explorer wanted to do something, if possible, to bring the whole machine to a standstill, for this was no exquisite torture such as the official desired, this was plain murder. He stretched out his hands. But at that moment the Harrow rose with the body spitted on it and moved to the side, as it usually did only when the twelfth hour had come.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interview Hiromi Ito

Readers of this blog have the opportunity to ask questions of brilliant poet Hiromi Ito. If you send in the question in the comment section, I'll forward them to Hiromi Ito via her American translator, Jeffrey Angles, and she will respond some time in late March.

So, please send in your questions.

Hiromi Ito is the author of Killing Kanoko (Action Books, 2009) as well as many books in Japanese. Here's the full wikipedia entry for Hiromi Ito.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fairytales, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Fashion, Fetishes, Kate Bernheimer

I was just teaching a class on the fairytale, which included a discussion of Kate Bernheimer's "Complete Tales of Merry Gold, and these things:

What I started thinking about as I talked to the students was this: Desolation Row as the fairytale dramatizing the space/time where/where high/low divide collapses - literary modernism joins fairytales and folk songs on the hit charts. The version I played in my class was actually the Royal Albert Hall version where he is famous booed and called "Judas." Also, notably, where he wore what came to be called "the sellout jacket." It is as if the high-low collapse is embodied in Dylan and the reason it happens is - like in fairytales - through a magical object: the sellout jacket. It is as if history is changed by Dylan putting on a piece of clothing.

This of course harkens back to Ron's dismissal of "fashionist" poetry in favor of a more ontological "structure adequate" to the historical period. Dylan was Patti Smith's favorite; and she became a rock star, according to her recent memoir, largely by getting an "androgenous" haircut (she doesn't know what the word means, the meaning is lost in translation, resulting in an exotic, magical, fetishized signifier). And throughout the memoir (as I pointed out in a previous post), clothes participate in huge shifts. They are as important to Smith as art.

And this of course explain why when I read Smith's memoir I kept confusing it with Bernheimer's "Merry Gold" to the point where now they seem to be part of the same story, I can't tell them entirely apart.

Another thing I thought about: The common idea of low culture is that it's populist, readily available. But as Daniel Tiffany shows in 'Infidel Poetics,' low culture is frequently cryptic, encoded, "filled with secrets" (in Twin Peaks talk). And indeed in the final verse of "Desolation Row" the speaker claims that indeed "Desolation Row" is real but that he's had to "rearrange" the "faces" of its inhabitants - ie creating a code.

Codes, secrets are often associated with elitism and moving away from social/political action. But in the 1960s it's precisely the secrets of Dylan's mid-60s albums that causes (or at least partially causes) a huge social shift with youth dropping out etc. Many of them because of their interpretations of Dylan's cryptic songs, the result of which many end up at his (supposedly secreted) doorstep in Woodstock claiming to be the real face behind the "rearranged" faces.

Just some post-class thoughts.

Translation (Kittler, TIffany)

Kittler on Translation:

"A medium is a medium is a medium. Therefore it cannot be translated. To transfer messages from one medium to another always involves reshaping them to conform to new standards and materials. In a discourse network that requires an 'awareness of the abysses which divide the one order of sense experience from the other,' transporation necessarily takes the place of translation. Whereas translation excludes all particularities in favor of a general equivalent, the transposition of media is accomplished serially, at discrete points."

Tiffany on Bataille and translation:

"Yet one could also argue that by enacting the impossible (translation), the translator enters the realm of magic, death and madness. Thus, by evoking death, translation discourse (including the Marxian theory of exchange) evokes the impossible, the unknowable, the ineffable. Yet the impossible, as Georges Bataille observes, overwhelms utility, truth, and meaning, and thus engenders through translation unspeakable (and inconceivable) forms of exchange. Indeed, the impossibility lodged within translation is itself death, madness - and originality." (Radio Corpse, 187)


I'm reading Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae. I remember it being trashed a lot when I was in college, but it's full of wonderful readings of decadence.

Here for example, on Kleist (and Bob Dylan):

"Decadence is a style of excess and extravagence which approaches self-parody. It operaticizes by overliteralizing. Hence one laughs even when shocked or repelled, as in Sade."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The gurlesque anthology is out. Get it at SPD Books.

As for myself, I've finally been convinced that I was wrong about the gurlesque - what I wrote about it was not about the gurlesque, but something else. So the proponents and opponents of the term finally win: I take back everything I've written about the gurlesque. It was about something else.

Internet Shit

Why is it that at every festival or conference of contemporary literature, you run across all these experimental/language writers - either in personal discussion or as part of panels - that are so concerned about how bad the writing is on the Net?

This think that the poetry is shit, the writers are not properly educated etc? This of course goes hand in hand with their obsession (seen most prominently on Ron's blog) with the obsession with trying to forward their legitimate heirs. The importance of lineage.

See my post on My Own Private Idaho. The experimental poets act like social community that arranges the proper burial and installs Keannu Reeves' character as the proper descendant, while the Internet constantly behaves like River Phoenix's violent and joyful dance on the outskirts.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Events I look forward to this week:

The Nanovic Institute for European Studies
The Week of February 22-28

Monday: Emmanuel Faye Lecture
Tuesday: Emmanuel Faye Workshop, All Art is Propaganda opens
Wednesday: Marjorie Garber Lecture
Thursday: NI Film Series: Prospero’s Books, Jehanne Gheith Lecture

Exhibition: All Art is Propaganda
Opens on Monday, February 22nd

All Art Is Propaganda is an exhibition organized by University of Notre Dame undergraduate students Micahlyn Allen, Kelly Fallon, and Juliana Hoffelder under the direction of John Sherman of the Department of Art, Art History, & Design. The exhibition is located in the University of Notre Dame Library Special Collections from February 22 to August 20, 2010. All materials on display in All Art Is Propaganda are drawn from the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections’ Eric Gill Collection.

For a full description:

Monday, Feb 22 – Tuesday, Feb 23
Emmanuel Faye, Associate Professor at the University Paris Ouest–Nanterre La Défense

In the most comprehensive examination to date of Heidegger’s Nazism, Emmanuel Faye draws on previously unavailable materials to paint a damning picture of Nazism’s influence on the philosopher’s thought and politics. This lecture at Notre Dame will be the first time Faye speaks on the subject of his book, Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy, since the English translation was published this fall in the United States.

Public Lecture on Monday, February 22 at 4:00 pm (with reception to follow)
Eck Visitors Center Auditorium
"National Socialism in Philosophy: Being, History, Technology and Extermination in Heidegger's Work"
Copies of Emmanuel Faye’s book, will be available for purchase.

Workshop on Tuesday, February 23 at 3:00 pm
339 O’Shaughnessy Hall
“Heidegger and the Nazi Movement in the Interpretations of Hannah Arendt, Eric Voegelin and Aurel Kolnai”

Sponsored by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Henkels Lecture Series (Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts), and the Departments of German and Russian Languages and Literatures, History, Philosophy, and Political Science.

Wednesday, February 24 at 4:30 pm
Hesburgh Center Auditorium
Lecture "Shakespeare and Modern Culture"
Marjorie Garber, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English and of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University

Marjorie Garber is also Chair of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies and Director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. She is senior Trustee of the English Institute, a member of the Board of Directors of the American Council of Learned Societies, and served until recently as the President of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes. A graduate of Swarthmore College (B.A. 1966; hon. D. 2004) and of Yale University (Ph.D. 1969), she has taught at Yale, at Haverford, and—since 1981—at Harvard. In her newest book, Shakespeare and Modern Culture (Pantheon, Dec 2008), Garber focuses on the reciprocal relationship by which modern culture makes Shakespeare and Shakespeare makes modern culture.

Sponsored by the Provost’s Distinguished Women’s Lecturer Program with support from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 5:00PM
Lecture: “'I had to take my son and my mother into exile': Experiences of parents and children in the Soviet Gulag"
Dr. Jehanne Gheith
Associate Professor, Slavic and Eurasian Studies and Co-Director, International Comparative Studies at Duke University
DeBartolo Hall, Room 208

Based on multiple interviews with Gulag survivors and children of Gulag survivors, this talk explores how the Soviet Gulag experience changed the experience of intimate relationship, causing radical disruptions that often lasted a lifetime. In particular, we’ll look at the experience of mothers and children as they move into exile, as babies are born in the Gulag camps, and as children tried to relate to parents who have been arrested. We will think together about short-term and long-term effects of these multiple disruptions and how they continue to affect people today.

Sponsored by the Russian and East European Studies Program in the College of Arts and Letters with support from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.

Prospero’s Books (Rated R)
Thursday, February 25th at 7:00 pm
Browning Cinema, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center

Peter Greenaway had to cancel his engagement due to a last minute scheduling conflict. We are pleased to announce that Nanovic Faculty Fellow Peter Holland, the McMeel Chair Shakespeare Studies, will be introduce the film.

Working the familiar Shakespearean territory of The Tempest allows Greenaway to run wild with the visuals, embedding frames within frames, composing each shot like an independent work of art and flanking the main action with purposeful but controversial imagery. Co-sponsored by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, Shakespeare at Notre Dame, and the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Tickets: $6, $5 faculty/staff, $4 seniors, and $3 all students. Call 574-631-2800 or visit


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Experimental Swedish Documentaries

In case you missed the link that amazing Swedish writer Sara Tuss Efrik posted in the comment section to my response to Ross about Swedish movies, here is her comment again. I definitely suggest checking out those films. I'll writesomething about them shortly:

Sara Tuss has left a new comment on your post "Swedish movies":

Have you seen the swedish documentary Maggie in wonderland and Swallow it by the directors Mark Efrik Hammarberg and Ester Martin Bergsmark? I think you may like it. Check it out here:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Necronautical manifesto

This group is great--"experimental" (a term I find myself disliking more and more) in the best sense. McCarthy's Remainder is a truly haunting novel, full of fascinating ways to think about memory, space, and matter, and I've mentioned Critchley's work in some previous posts...

The Immigrant/Craig/Harriet

[Craig PS is whipping the normally so docile Harriet Blog into a frenzy with some provocative recent entries. Here's my response to his entry about bilingualism. I will write a response to his entries on David Larsen's translation practices later today:]

I’m bilingual, but I generally refer to myself as an immigrant, because bilingual feel like a euphemism, and there’s more to this issue that just the language – how one walks (seriously), talks, dresses, writes poetry, writes about poetry all have to be policed.

The immigrant’s body is kitsch, the immigrant’s language is kitch: either because it’s a token of the authentic (tourist tsatchkes) or because it’s not a token of the authentic. The immigrant is a site of excess (words have too many meanings, literature has too many authors, they are exotic and predatory, they ruin the illusion of cohesion, of coherence etc). And that’s why they have to be policed. And this also goes back to why I am critical of notions of “community” that are based on “realness” and “authenticity.” The immigrant is inauthentic.

As for my poetry, I have a book called Pilot where I work with the way two (and more) languages interact to create contorted versions (very “exotic” – to refer back to your last post – at least to myself) of these languages. In part i did this by writing in a strange Swedish, in part by translating that swedish in various ways; in part by translating American canonical texts (Cronenberg, Scalapino, birthing manuals) through various langauges. I wanted to teach the reader how to read like a foreigner, like a grappler, a stumbler and bumbler of languages. Because that reading is violent and beautiful.

Well, I could go on. I got on this site because I wanted to respond to your translation post but you’re just one step ahead of me all the time Craig and now my daughter is crying so I will respond to the Larsen statements later perhaps here or perhaps on my own blog since that thread now appears over.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Deleuze Quotes

As readers of this blog probably know, Deleuze is my favorite of the Big French Thinkers that so dominated English Departments in the past 20 years or so. Part of my affinity for Deleuze is that my interests in aesthetics and philosophy overlaps with his, with his favorite writers (Lawrence, Woolf, Faulkner, Artaud, Kafka, Proust) and painters (Bacon, the Mannerists, Cezanne), and philosophers (Hume, Nietzsche, Bergson) being many of my own favorite. The fact that he was able to find so many connecting points between those figures (often through his emphasis on forms of expression and thought that embody immanence, and becoming, instead of more classical and categorical representations of reality, experience) I find fascinating. Recently I picked up what seems to have been his last essay, entitled “Immanence: A Life,” which was published in 1995. Here are some quotes:

“We will say of pure immanence that it is A LIFE, and nothing else. It is not immanence to life, but the immanent that is in nothing is itself a life. A life is the immanence of immanence, absolute immanence: it is complete power, complete bliss.”

“What is immanence? A life…No one has described what a life is better than Charles Dickens, if we take the indefinite article as an index of the transcendental. A disreputable man, a rouge, held in contempt by everyone, is found as he lies dying. Suddenly, those taking care of him manifest an eagerness, respect, even love for his slightest sign of life. Everybody bustles about to save him, to the point where, in his deepest coma, this wicked man himself senses something soft and sweet penetrating him. But to the degrees that he comes back to life, his saviors turn colder, and he becomes once again mean and crude. Between his life and his death, there is a moment that is only that of a life playing with death. The life of the individual gives way to an impersonal and yet singular life that releases a pure event freed from the accidents of internal and external life, that is, from the subjectivity and objectivity of what happens…”

“The indefinite article is the indetermination of the person only because it is the determination of the singular…”

“It even seems that a singular life might do without any individuality, without any other concomitant that individualizes it. For example, very small children all resemble one another and have hardly any individuality, but they have singularities: a smile, a gesture, a funny face--not subjective qualities…individual life, on the other hand, remains inseparable from empirical determinations…”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Narrow House

[I got this email from Johnny Woods. I actually blurbed this book. I'll try to find what I wrote. I deeply recommend this book. I'll try to find some poems to link to online.]


As the economy continues to tank and personal obligations are sucking funds away from Narrow House, Lauren, Jamie, and Justin are pleading you to help us out a bit.
If you are planning on purchasing Adam Robison and Other Poems, Poems by Adam Robinson, we would greatly appreciate it if you pre-ordered it today. We just can't afford to print the book otherwise.

Which really stinks.

We love this book and want to print it before Adam's book tour in March.
Please spread this email far and wide. I know some of you have already preordered and we love you.

Lauren and Jamie and Justin

Pay Pal link to preorder ARAOP:

"The Miraculous"

This is in response to my previous post about Clement Greenberg and the comments it responded, particularly from Archambeau:

If the "avant-garde" has been resistant to the "miraculous," I should mention that it seems to me that it has been the primary goal of the workshops to eliminate "the miraculous" - to teach everyone to write tasteful poems. Thus the post-1960s avant-garde and the post-1960s workshop poetry - traditionally seen as opposite - seem to have a common opponent in the iconophilic 1960s collapse of high/low divide (Dylan, happenings, Godard, Jack Smith etc).

The workshop seems to have almost explicitly sought to re-establish poetry as the realm of the "real", opposed to "the miraculous" of low, mass culture. This is to a large extent what I take it to mean when people like Tony Hoagland criticizes "the surrealist excess of the 1960s" (the "miraculous" sounds a lot like "the marvelous").

It always annoys me when conservative folks like Hoagland blames high modernism for the loss of popularity of poetry in this country, when it seems to me a far greater blame should go to the workshop pedagogy, for which teaching poetry means teaching the masses not to go "too far," to have to earn their images, to not be in other words "miraculous."

Swedish movies

Ross asked me to name some favorite contemporary Swedish movies (aside from Fucking Amal and Let the Right One In). Perhaps some of the Swedish readers of this blog can chip in and offer some advice, but here are a few notes:

I like all of Lukas Moodysson's films except Mammoth, the most recent one (which I wrote about a while back), especially A Hole In My Heart. Together is also a wonderful comedy about the 1970s. Moodysson was also the producer - I believe - of a pretty good road movie made a few years ago, Det Nya Landet (The New Country), as well as a wonderful documentary ("The Terrorists") about young anti-globalism activists who were jailed in connection with the protests against EU back in 2003. He started out as a poet and he still publishes poetry, but I'm not sure any of it has been translated.

Roy Andersson's "Songs from the Second Floor" is sort of Strindberg's Dream Play updated for the fall of the welfare state. Really brilliant.

I like "Farval Falkenberg", which is a kind of sentimental story of five young men; the story is pretty weak, but the cinematography is evocative of the later Gus Van Sant movies (Elephant, Last Days etc). I assume it's translated as "Farewell Falkenberg" but I haven't seen it in English. It's pretty.

Then of course there's older folks: Troell, Bergman, I Am Curious (Yellow) etc, and art film that is likely totally impossible to access.

Anyway, that's from the top of my head. Please feel free to add to this list.

Of course, there's a lot of good music:

I also found this awesome "live" performance of "Pass This On":

Monday, February 15, 2010

Almodovar, Broken Embraces

I just watched Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces on Saturday night. It was of course good. Not as great as Bad Education or Talk To Her, but certainly better than Volver.

Like most his recent movies, this one is almost a remake of Hitchcock. We get the shlocky costumes, un-well-wrought jump in time and absent woman of Vertigo, the problematization of looking/gazing and the position of prosthetics of Rear Window.

Most notable was the extreme proliferation of disabled bodies and how they seemed to literalize McLuhan's old paradigm of technology as a prosthetic: a blind writer typing on a special type writer, using a special phone, a special internet, a woman in a wheel chair and with crutches; and strikingly, how these seem to overlap with the use of cameras (some of which have their own crutches). The movie begins with the blind writer seducing a woman by having her read the paper to him.

But perhaps most importantly: the shot of the wig, done as well as the original (Vertigo). Almodovar, like Lynch and Wong Kar Wai, loves Hitchcock's obsession with women's hair. I love it too. I want to make a movie of just those kinds of shots; maybe just the shot from behind the hair, close up.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lady Gaga vs Aase Berg

Here's a great post by Steve Halle comparing Aase Berg and Lady Gaga.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Clement Greenberg's "Avant Garde and Kitsch"

In order to understand a lot of contemporary poetry's ideas about "avant-garde" and "kitsch" it is good to look at Clement Greenberg's classic essay "Avant Garde and Kitsch." A lot of these ideas seem to come from Greenberg.

In his essay, Greenberg divides art into avant-garde and kitsch. Avant garde is the "genuine" art of our age, art that moves our society forward. It manages to be genuine by eschewing such tasteless things as subject matter in favor of art that focuses on the very processes of art, the medium of art itself. That is to say poems about language etc. This is more geuine - in fact like "God"! - because it's more honest; it doesn't dabble in imitation. Unfortunately, as a result of this heroic act, avant-garde artists are marginalized in our modern world.

This modern world is more interested in kitsch, which is characterized by its inauthenticity. Kitsch is "vicarious experience and faked sensation" [Think: that goodreads review of The Hounds of No which called it "affected" etc]. It changes according to mere "style" not real, profound reasons [ie the "hipster" critique I've noted so frequently]. It is also "the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times." In other words, kitsch is not immortal, but too caught up in its time (again, like the hipster).

What makes kitsch especially problematic is that it is an "inhuman" parasite that "can take advantage" of a "matured cultural tradition" of modernism. It is a "virulence" with "irresistable attractiveness." [This is of course the root of the issue I like to talk about: the foreign/parasite is kitsch. And also, why translations become kitsch in so many people's eyes and problematic in many others - translation transvestisizes the original, as I noted in a post below.]

Why is this virus/parasite so attractive? Because "there is no disconnectivity between art and life". And also because it's "dramatic", offers a subject matter, imagery, "the miraculous."
It is not genuine in other words, because it does not restrict art to the medium, the process of art. By not restraining their image-production, kitsch works "spares" the audience from having to engage with too much "effort." Genuine art should make its viewers/readers work hard, earn their insights, and you need to have the proper education.

This spectacular art that blurs life/art with is fake imagery can of course be blamed on Romanticism: "Indeed the Romantics can be considered the original sinners whose guilt kitsch inherited. They showed kitsch how. What does Keats write about mainly, if not the effect of poetry upon himself?"

Those darn swooners, the Romantics, were too much about affect and not enough about arduous, well-educated, trained earning of insight.

And of course it ends with Greenberg stating that the easiness of kitsch makes it a tool for Fascism; avant garde art is of course too difficult for the use of Fascists; complexity becomes an ethical stance.

Commentary: In many ways Greenberg is describing High Modernism rather than the historical avant-garde - Dada and so on tended to be opposed to the very hierarchies of education and training that Greenberg's notion of avant garde depends on. For example, throw Pushkin overboard, burn down the museums etc. Further, as Andreas Huyssen points out in "After the Great Divide," a lot of avant-garde art was about engaging with mass culture.

The greatest irony is of course that the High Modernists were explicitly Fascist (Eliot, Pound etc). You can see this irony is for example Donald Revell's tortured argument in The Art of Attention, which blames Dada protesting for Nazism while absolving Pound as a wise sage for his attentive poetry in Pisan Cantos (he was in a cage!).

But for me the important thing to take away from this essay is the way much of american poetry discussion about community, avant-gardism etc seem to stem from Greenberg: the valorization of the community separate from the larger society, the inherent ethics of "complexity", the inherent immorality and "fakeness" of affect and spectacle.

Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe and "The Dying Dandy"

I like this little clip because it contains snippets of Smith's and Mapplethorpe's collaborative movie "Still Moving" and the movie based on Mapplethorpe's nipple-piercing, a film that immediately recalls one of the most famous works of Swedish 20th century art, "The Dying Dandy" ("Den Doende Dandyn"), which I will post as soon as I find it and manage to post it to the blog.

Here's John Woods' cartoon version of it (from our ongoing collaboration):

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Maribor by Demosthenes Agrafiotis trans. by John and Angelos Sakkis

[From John Sakkis:]

Dear Family and Friends,

Oh happy day. I just wanted let you know that The Post-Apollo Press has published Maribor, a translation from the Greek done by Angelos and myself. The book is now officially available for order through Small Press Distribution. I received the box this afternoon at the SPD warehouse and it looks great! Here's the link

It's been a couple years in the making between the translating and the editing and publishing. But it was well worth the wait, Post-Apollo has done a beautiful job and I couldn't be more happy with having Demosthenes make his American debut with the press.

Attached is the official Post-Apollo press release.

Thanks for all the support,
Love you guys,

Pound: The Image, Necrophilia, Women

[Here's a paragraph from Daniel Tiffany's Radio Corpse in which he discusses the way Pound assumes a female role in his book on Gaudier and "The Limbs of Osiris" - this is where i got the idea of the image as transvestisizing language. Much of the book is about what Tiffany sees as Pound's attempt to erase his own Decadence and necrophilia - first through Imagism and then through more extreme means:]

"Changing gender, as a poetic device, also exposes Pound to the illicit pleasure of being visited or haunted by *images* (an experience that always enacts the return of a dead or lost object). Hence, one is "haunted" by reality when one receives images, instead of making them. The pleasure of receiving images is illicit, in part, because Pound associates feminine passivity with Decadent poetry. As he sees it, the masculine values of "technique" and pragmatic action are constantly threatened by the death-obsessed and hedonistic instincts of the feminine. Whenever the male poet assumes the voice and body of a young girl, he succumbs not only to the passivity of death but to the passivity of the image (which institutes the servitude of idolatry). He denies on the other hand, what Pound views as the active character of the male body, and therefore allows himself to be inhabited by ghosts (a pleasure that derives, essentially from a denial of corporeality). Yet he also extinguishes his intellectual powers, as Pound sees it, by mimicking the girl's absorption in materiality (a sacrificial pleasure that trnaforms not only the Image, but the poet himself, into an eroticized corpse). Thus, by assuming the place of the unutterable feminine name, the poet runs the risk of becoming either a live dwelling for the spirits of the dead, or a corpse. He succumbs to a force that is essentially passive and a pleasure that is not ony irresistable but fatal to the explicit aims of his poetry." (131)

It's fascinating how this struggle remains a powerful force in American poetry - Pound's anxiety/fascination with femininity, death, decadence. The anxiety about poetry turning into a "wax museum" is essentially a fear of decadence (criticized of course as "kitsch"). I think the valorization of the "real" community of "real" people in "real" spaces (as recently discussed on the Harriet blog) can also be seen as part of this anxiety about death and decadence. I view Ron Silliman's anxiety about excess, translation and "softness" and his desire for a "hard", pragmatic, technical poetry as an inheritance from Pound.

I think this also speaks to a number of recent conversations about necrophilia, corpses, women and images on this blog.

I think of the Patti Smith book I quoted below as the opposite of Pound... The opposite of Silliman... And this is also how I obviously see the "Gurlesque."

(Important to note: One of the things that makes Ron endearing is his love of Project Runway etc.)

Here's Ford Madox Ford's description of a young Pound, the Pound Pound had to cover up and try to erase (also from Tiffany's book):

"Ezra had a forked red beard, luxuriant chestnut hair, an aggressive lank figure; one long blue single stone earring dangled on his jawbone. He wore a purple hat, a green shirt, a black velvet coat, vermillion socks, openwork tanned brilliant sandals... and trousers of green billiard cloth, in addition to an immense flowing tie that had been hand-painted by a Japanese Futurist artist."

And of course the anxiety of decadence is at the heart of Steve Burt's "New Thing": As Jon Woodward makes explicit, it's a poetry opposed to "candy surrealism." Excessive, decadent surrealism. So we need to become more thingy than Imagism, than objectivism.

Now I thnk I know what poetry Jon means and I don't really like that either, but not because it's "Candy" or "soft" but becuase it isn't soft enough!

It also makes perfect sense that Burt should advocate for this stance in light of his repeated attempt to erase Sylvia Plath from American poetry, as Plath's maybe the great American modern poet of openly embracing the necrophilia of decadence, of daringly invoking kitsch (she's afterall the poet who speak with a vocal prosthesis in Jed's wax museum). I'll write about that soon.

Patti Smith and Kate Bernheimer

While Joyelle and I were devouring the Patti Smith memoir I quoted from yesterday we were both struck by how similar in style and story it was to Kate Bernheimer's novels, in particular, The Complete Tales of Merry Gold. And most of all the chapter called "The Chinese Robe," in which Merry goes to fashion college and befriends two guys with whom she invents various mysterious forms of fashion before she steals a robe from a dead girl and one of the boys is killed:

"With great ease I began to win prize after prize at school for my work:skirts made of rose branches, pants sewn of apple peel. And before leaving my apartment each night to go out, I would make us newget-ups. I dressed Semyon and TIbor in whirly-gig pants, with ants in cages as earrings (we placed bits of leaves in so they wouldn't go hungry). I would have used butterflies but I never saw these in the city, though once I saw a drafonfly as big as a pigeon fall from the sky."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More on Patti Smith

This is a bit of a follow-up post to the one I wrote about fashion a while back.

I just finished reading Patti Smith's memoir "Just Kids" about her life together with Robert Mapplethorpe; it's very moving, very sad, very inspiring.

One thing that's hard to notice is the emphasis on clothes, interior decoration and other objects. In our culture of course fashion is generally viewed as shallow, while art is "deep." In her book, Smith casts these two in a totally different view; a view which suggests their connection, not the opposition; and in which the depth-paradigm is replaced by what can be seen as a magical or fetishistic paradigm.

Throughout the book, Smith describes clothes that she wore, necklaces Mapplethorpe made, object they arranged, interiors they decorated. But these supposedly "shallow" endeavors radiate with meaning. For example, deciding to be an artist is synonymous with buying a Baudelaire graycoat. Probably the single most important issue she concerns herself with in the book is what she and Robert wore. Art is not autonomous, it's part of their lives: just as clothes and interiors are. They meet through a Persian broch; Mapplethorpe develops as an artist through decorating their apartment and through changes in clothing style:

"I came home and there were cutouts of statues, the torsos and buttocks of the Greeks, the slaves of Michelangelo, images of sailors, tattoos, and stars. To keep up with him, I read Robert passages from Miracle of the Rose, but he was always a step ahead. While I was reading Genet, it was as if he was becoming Genet."

"He discarded his sheepskin vest and beads and found a sailor's uniform. He had no love of the sea. In his sailor dress and cap, he resonated a Cocteau drawing of the world of Genet's Robert Querelle. He had no interest in war, but the relics and rituals of war attracted him. He admired the stoic beauty of the Japanese kamikaze pilots who laid out their clothing - meticulously folded shirt, a white silk scarf - to be donned before battle."

"It is said that children do not distinguish between living and inanimate objects; I believe they do. A child imparts a doll or tin soldier with magical life-breath. The artist animates his work as the child his toys. Robert infused objects, whether for art or life, with his creative impulse, his sacred sexual power. He transformed a ring of keys, a kitchen knife, or a simple wooden frame into art. He loved his work and he loved his things. He once traded a drawing for a pair of riding boots—completely impractical, but almost spiritually beautiful. These he buffed and polished with the devotion of a groom dressing a greyhound.
"This affair with fine footwear reached its summit one evening as we returned from Max’s. Turning the corner off Seventh Avenue we came upon a pair of alligator shoes, aglow on the sidewalk. Robert scooped them up and pressed them to him, declaring the treasure. They were deep brown with silk laces, showing no trace of wear. They tiptoed into a construction, which he often disassembled for the need of them. With a wad of tissue stuffed into the pointed toes, they were not a bad fit, though perhaps incongruous with dungarees and a turtleneck. He exchanged his turtleneck for a black net T, adding a larch cache of keys to his belt loop and discarding his socks. Then he was ready for a night at Max’s, without money for cab fare but his feet resplendent.
"The night of the shoes, as we came to call it, was for Robert a sign that we were on the right path, even as so many paths crossed each other. "

"Our most prized books were on William Blake. I had a very pretty facsimile of Songs of Innocence and of Experience, and I often read it to Robert before we went to sleep. I also had a vellum edition of Blake's collected writings, and he had the Trianon Press edition of Blake's Milton. We both admired the likeness of Blake's brother Robert, who died young, pictured with a star at his foot. We adopted Blake's palette as our own, shades of rose, cadmium, and moss, colors that seemed to generate light."

"When Robert came home, he was surprised by pleased. “What possessed you? He asked. I just shrugged. But when we went to Max’s, my haircut caused quite a stir. I couldn’t believe all the fuss over it. Though I was still the same person, my social status suddenly elevated. My Keith Richards haircut was a real discourse magnet. I thought of the girls I knew back in high school. They dreamed of being singers but wound up hairdressers. I desired neither vocation , but in weeks to come I would be cutting a lot of people’s hair, and singing at La MaMa.
"Someone at Max’s asked me if I was androgynous. I asked what that meant. “You know, like Mick Jagger.” I figured that must be cool. I thought the word meant both beautiful and ugly at the same time. Whatever it meant, with just a haircut, I miraculously turned androgynous overnight.
"Opportunities suddenly arose. […]"

It's of course perfect that Mapplethorpe turned into a photographer. Even more perfect that the political storm that surrounded him in the 1980s shows that supposedly harmless aesteticism is deeply political.

Ett lysande namn

[One of my favorite internet journals, Ett lysande namn, has a new issue up. Even if you can't read Swedish you can go to look at Sara Eriksson's illustrations.]

Dammigt, vidgande, självklart. Huset utan det vanliga ljuset, som rymmer omöjliga rum, byggnadsställningar och konstsalar. En bortglömd trädgård, en brant trappa lutande ned mot utgången... Vårt vindlande trippelnummer har äntligen anlänt.

Mellan tunna väggar spökar Kristofer Flensmarck, David Wäyrynen, Kajsa Sundin, Lotta Lotass och Jonas Brun. Mellan valv och passager viskar och väsnas Stefan Hammarén, Elise Karlsson, Bjarne Holmsen, Ralf Andtbacka, Fredrik Nyberg, Anna Sandwall, Emi-Simone Zawall, Heidi von Wright, Helene Ringberg, Olof Eriksson och Lyra Ekström Lindbäck. Och i de ändlösa korridorerna rasslar kedjetexterna av Joar Tiberg, Anna Hallberg och Ann Jäderlund. Alla ropar de till varandra via vår klippa, vår pelare illustratören Sara Eriksson.

Så varmt, varmt välkomna ska ni vara till;


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Craig/Harriet Blog/Community

Craig Santos Perez has an oblique critique of something I wrote about "COMMUNITY" on this blog. I wrote a brief response. You can head over there and read it if you're interested.

Also of interest: the outrage caused by the post on "Translation."

Monday, February 08, 2010

Bolano and Poe

After reading Bolano’s story in The New Yorker this week, I was struck by how Gothic Bolano’s writing is--a quality that isn’t often discussed when critics talk about his work. It might be because to even bring up the word “Gothic” frequently implies something lowbrow, something cheaply violent. Yet Bolano really does remind me of Poe at times--there’s the constant sense of existential unease (so different from the psychological unease in more realist fiction), there’s the atmosphere of irrational violence (the unsolved murders in 2666, the “unidentified assailants” in “William Burns”), and there’s that strange Poe-like combination of aesthetics and murder/moral corruption (the horrific photography exhibit in Distant Star).

In a way this makes sense: Bolano was influenced by Borges, and Borges by Poe. Even the detectives scattered through Bolano, including some of his poems, have echoes of Poe…

As does this wonderful line from “William Burns”: “We’d been tricked by the real killer, hidden somewhere far away, or more likely, by fate.”

Friday, February 05, 2010

Timothy McSweeney

Joyelle's uncle, Timothy McSweeney, whose name was used for the journal McSweeney's died on January 24th. Joyelle's brother Ross wrote a little note about his passing which is now up on the McSweeney's website.

Timothy had a tough life (gay in the wrong time and place, schizophrenic, at times homeless) and I feel the whole McSweeney's thing is a little strange but I know Joyelle's family appreciate it because in some ways it allowed Timothy to be an artist, which he was not quite able to be in real life; he was a promising artist but in a fit of rage in the 1960s burned all his work except for two pieces. After that he started a big mail-art campaign aimed at finding his real family and that's how Dave Eggers first came across his name.

Patti Smith

[I love the new Patti Smith autobiography, Just Kids:]

"My treasured objects were mingled with the laundry. My work area was a jumble of manuscript pages, musty classics, broken toys and talismans. I tacked pictures of Rimbaud, Bob Dylan, Lotte Lenya, Piaf, Genet and John Lennon over a makeshift desk, where I arranged my quills, my inkwell, and my notebooks - my monastic mess."


"...It had been raining anddroplets trickled down from his thick curls. He had on a white shirt, damp and sodden agianst his skin. Like Jean Genet, Robert was a terrible thief. Genet was caught and imprisoned for stealing rare volumes of Proust and rolls of silk from a shirt maker. Aesthetic thieves."

From Clement Greenberg's famous "Avant-Garde and Kitsch":

"... the Romantics can be considered the original sinners whose guilt kitsch inherited. They showed kitsch how. What does Keats write about mainly, if not the effect of poetry upon himself."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Perloff and Critchley

Recently I found myself rereading parts of Marjorie Perloff’s The Poetics of Indeterminacy, and once again wishing that she would bring more of a philosophical element into her work. I should make it clear that I think Perloff is an excellent close reader and an exceptionally lucid writer. Like many people, my introduction to experimental poetry was largely through her books. But something that I find frustrating about her work (and also about the work of certain other critics who write about experimental poetry) is her unwillingness to take on the larger philosophical issues that provide the ground of so much contemporary literature -- the issues of death, non-being, and “becoming,” that really started in full with Nietzsche and continued through Heidegger, Bataille, de Beauvoir, Sartre, Foucault, Cixous, Derrida, Kristeva, and Deleuze. (Not that there aren’t major differences between all of those people…) This unwillingness to bring a philosophical dimension to her writings sometimes leads to some curious readings. For example, Perloff’s Rimbaud is oddly one-dimensional--as if he had more in common with Saussure than Nietzsche. (I would argue it’s almost impossible to really get a sense of Rimbaud without thinking about Nietzsche. There are passages of Rimbaud--the “Car Je est un autre” phrase, and his letter on the disordering of the senses--that almost sound like they could have been written by Nietzsche.)

Her book on Wittgenstein’s influence on contemporary writing is fascinating, but her interest in Wittgenstein, as she herself more or less admits at one point, has more to do with his writing style than with his radically new way of approaching language. I have to admit I’ve never found her coupling of Gertrude Stein and Creeley and the LANGUAGE poets with Wittgenstein completely convincing, though I’ve seen it frequently repeated by other critics. The later Wittgenstein used a very intense, specific method involving a careful study of “cases” and ordinary word and phrase usage. I love Gertrude Stein, but she wasn’t interested in ordinary language usage--in fact, she was drawn toward the exact opposite, in non-ordinary usage (which is what makes her such a great writer). The same is true of most of the texts Perloff examines in the book…

The importance of philosophy to poetry (and vice versa) can’t be overstated, and many of the most ambitious poets in the past 150 years or so (Rimbaud, Whitman, Dickinson, Mallarme, Artaud, Lorca, Vallejo, etc.) have also been philosophers of a type, their work being less representational than, as Deleuze would say, “expressive.”

Simon Critchley’s Very Little…Almost Nothing addresses the issue of nihilism, and his main focus is on Beckett, and Beckett’s ability to put “meaning” on trial, so to speak. The issue of death saturates the text. It’s a wonderful book--with great sections on Blanchot, Adorno, and Nietzsche himself. Critchley is associated with the novelist Tom McCarthy, whose Remainder I plan to write about on this blog shortly. They’re two of the chief members of the International Necronautical Society--a group that wrote an outstanding manifesto stressing the importance of death to literature, and the importance of thinking and writing in ways that go against banal, totalizing strategies. Critchley has also recently been involved in a fascinating debate with Zizek about the role of violence in contemporary politics. In short: I realize comparing Critchly’s work with Perloff’s is somewhat unfair, since he is a trained philosopher, and since his books therefore have a different emphasis. But the scope of his work on aesthetics, especially Very Little, has such a generous, expansive element! And I believe this expansiveness comes directly from his willingness to relate aesthetics to issues of nihilism, becoming, the death of metaphysics, etc.

I don’t agree with Critchley’s arguments entirely--he agrees with Heidegger, and believes that Nietzsche never escaped the metaphysical straitjacket he fought so hard against. I tend to agree with Deleuze and Derrida, and think that Nietzsche actually DID largely escape metaphysical modes of thought…with the “will-to-power” being less about “power” in our usual sense, and closer to what Deleuze means when he talks about “force.” But overall the book makes a compelling case about Beckett, and Beckett’s own struggle to think through what death in our modern sense really means…

The Image

"The image is a transvestite of the word."

- Daniel Tiffany, from his brilliant book Radio Corpse about Pound's idea of the image and its dual characterstics: the necrophiliac/decadent dimension and the progressive, "modern" element that tries to erase the necrophiliac element.

What's uninteresting to me about the "new thing" Steve Burt describes in his essay in the Boston Review (and I believe his description is pretty astute) is that it's the attempt to have imagism without the ghosts, without the transvestitism.

And this is very much related to translation: Translation transvestisizes the "original."


I've blogged a bit about my troubles with the valorization of "the community" in a lot of American poetry discussions. This strain of thought is perhaps most extensively expressed in my mentor Jed Rasula's book American Poetry Wax Museum, which I think captures the essence of the pro-"community" rhetoric: the wax museum is fake, kitsch, "vocal prosthesis" (that phrase I think is about Plath); while the community is real, real interactions, real men and real women making real natural children (not the kind Joyelle discussed in her "Future" of "Poetry" talk).

This has something to do with the fear of the image: it's transvestite of language. It's kitsch (explicitly in Jed's dismissal of Robert Bly). It's death in language. The community is about life, the natural. The wax museum is a crypt full of costumey images. And far more interesting as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Who is James Pate?

New Books by Sandy Florian, Joshua Marie Wilkinson

Sidebrow Books is pleased to announce its first two full-color, full-length collections, Sandy Florian's On Wonderland & Waste, featuring collages by Alexis Anne Mackenzie, and Joshua Marie Wilkinson's Selenography, featuring polaroids by Califone's Tim Rutili.
Both books are available now for preorder at a special discounted rate of $30 for the pair, 25 percent off the cover price.
On Wonderland & Waste and Selenography are also available separately for $18, a 10 percent preorder discount.
To order, go to

Sidebrow’s inaugrual anthology, a multi-threaded, collaborative narrative featuring work by 65 writers of innovative poetry, is also available at a discounted rate of $10:

Thank you for helping our fledgling press by buying direct and spreading the word.


Jonathan Mayhew has a little post about jazz poetry, a genre I find reprehensible. I know, I supposedly like all things bad, but this is one instance I just can't go for it.

However, what interested me about the post was that Jonathan suggested that "adoration of the Other" is a feature of kitsch. This seems very interesting to me because, as I have written on this blog, I think kitsch as a lot to do with the foreigner: the foreign body is kitschy (fantasies about foreigners tend to involve the kitschiest S&M, the foreigner's body is the stuff of theatrical violence and costumey sex), the way the foreigner is alienated from the Real World is kitschy; basically the foreigner turns the world into kitsch for the natives (turns poetry into wax museums and poems into "vocal prosthesis" or makes them write silly jazz poetry).

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Spivak and Nietzsche and Beckett

While cleaning out my bookshelves the other day I stumbled upon the following quote by Nietzsche that Spivak uses in her wonderful introduction to Derrida’s Of Grammatology. I’m posting it because it relates directly to some of the themes I was discussing in the Deleuze, Bacon, Beckett, and Minnis essay. Spivak writes “If we want to hold onto 'the important main activity' we have to go further then the unconscious, we have to reach the body, the organism. If the 'unconscious' is unknown to us, how much more so the body!” She then quotes Nietzsche: “What indeed does man know about himself?...Does not nature keep secret from him most things, even about his body, e.g., the convolutions of the intestines, the quick flow of the blood-currents, the intricate vibrations of the fibres, so as to banish and lock him up in proud, delusive knowledge? Nature threw away the keys and woe to the fateful curiosity which might be able for a moment to look out and down through the crevice in the chamber of consciousness, and discover that man, indifferent to his own ignorance, is resting on the pitiless, the greedy, the insatiable, the murderous, and as it were, hanging in dreams on the back of a tiger. Whence, in the wide world, with this state of affairs, arises the impulse of truth?”

Beckett’s comedy is linked directly to the ways “the objective, ideal, and purely spiritual” (Nietzsche’s phrase) tries to erase physical fragility, mortality, etc. One of my favorite examples of this is the extended speech on ethics that Vladimir gives as Pozzo repeatedly asks for help beside him in Waiting for Godot.

Poetry, The Movies


“The image is not a symptom of lack, but an uncanny, excessive residue of being that subsists when all should be lacking.” (Steven Shaviro, from The Cinematic Body)

[About film criticism] "Beneath its claims to methodological rigor and political correctness, it manifests a barely contained panic at the prospect (or is it the memory) of being affected and moved by visual forms. It is as if there were something degrading and dangerous about giving way to images, and so easily falling under their power. THeory thus seeks to ward off cinema's dangerous allure, to refuse the suspecte pleasure it offers, to dissipate its effects by articulating its hidden but intelligible structure. Behind all these supposedly materialist attacks on the ideological illusions built into the cinematic apparatus, should we not rather see the opposite, an idealist's fear of the ontological instability of the image, and of the materiality of affect and sensation?" (Shaviro, The Cinematic Body)

“I agreed whole-heartedly with Jacques Vaché in appreciating nothing so much as dropping into the cinema when whatever was playing was playing, at any point in the show, and leaving at the first hint of boredom –of surfeit – to rush off to another cinema where we behaved the same way and so on (obviously this practice would be too much of a luxury today). I have never known anything more magnetizing: it goes without saying that more often than not we left our seats without even knowing the title of the film which was of no importance to us anyway. On a Sunday several hours sufficed to exhaust all that Nantes had to offer us: the important thing is that one came out “charged” for a few days.” (André Breton, from The Shadow and Its Shadow)

“The room is darkened. Suddenly the Ganges floats into view, palsm, the emple of the Brahmins appears. A silent family drama rages with bon vivants, a masquerade –a gun is pulled. Jealousy inflamed. Mr Piefke duels headlessly and they show us, step by step, mountaineers climbing the steep, demanding paths. The paths lead down through forests, they twist and climb the threatening cliff. The view into the depths is enlivened by cows and potatoes. And into the darkened room – into my very eye – flutters that, that... oh, dreadful! One after the other! Then the arclamps hissingly announces the end, lights! And we push ourselves into the open... horny and yawning.” (Jakob van Hoddis, Der Sturm 47, 1911)

“Cinema. Whirlwind of movement in space. Everything falls. The sun falls. We fall in its wake. Like a chameleon, the human mind camouflages itself, camouflaging the universe. The world. The globe. The two hemispheres... Fusion. Everything opens up, tumbles down, blends in today, caves in, rises up, blossoms. Honor and money. Everything changes. Change. Morality and political economy. New civilization. New humanity. The digits have created an abstract, mathematical organism, useful gadgets intended to serve the senses’ most vulgar needs and that are the brain’s most beautiful projection. Automatism. Psychism...” (Blaise Cendrars, “The ABCs of Cinema,” 1917-1921)

“In the theaters: The spectator who is no longer immobile in his chair, who is wrenched out, assaulted, who participates in the action, who recognizes himself on the screen among the convulsions of the crowd, who shouts and cries out, protests and struggles.” (Cendrars, “ABCs of Cinema”)

“Rather the roaring of hordes of desperate zombie losers than rhymed verse or political rhetoric.” (Aase Berg and Mattis Forshage, “Surrealism in Ulterior Times,” 1996)

“The ulterior times: raging and unintelligable, but still remarkably banal and predictable. Surrealism in the ulterior times unreasonable, compromising, conspiratorial, confused, single-minded, bloodthirsty. Meet it by the lemures or on the blood stained back streets or in the parks that still are ugly!” (Berg and Forshage)

Monday, February 01, 2010

Teenage Girls

Great poetics statement by Kate Durbin at Delirious Hem:

"Say the boundary between “life” and “art” is mocked in performance, whether a performative text (see Helene Cixous), a parade of unnatural fashions (high school halls become the theater), or a false fit of demonic possession. When one is possessed with performing the pose of this line, she must be ready to be labeled an attention whore, a witch, an interestingly packaged but ultimately substance-less sell out. In other words, prepare for your art, which is only your life, to be dismissed."

The most overrated quality of art: Disinterestedness. And in this piece, Kate brings in Plath and why she has to be dismissed: she is not disinterested enough. This is also related to why kitsch has to be dismissed: it is everywhere (on the shelves for example or on TV). Plath is of course someone who is constantly playing with mass culture and kitsch (her very body becomes kitsch repeatedly).

And it seems this has something to do with why those saviors of good taste, the October writers, had to call Joseph Beuys a fascist.