ARMED CELL 5

ARMED CELL 5
WENDY TREVINO & DERECK CLEMONS BRIAN ANG ERIC LINSKER DAVID LAU KATY BOHINC “A BEGINNING...” POST-CRISIS POETICS: DAVID LAU’S “COMMUNISM TODAY” WE’RE SO SOCIAL NOW FANFARE FOR THE WARRIORS from DEAR ALAIN

ALEJANDRO VENTURA MANIFESTO # -1: NOTES ON NONPARTICIPATION

ARMED CELL 5 Edited by Brian Ang armedcell@gmail.com armedcell.blogspot.com Cover images by Kern Haug from 10x10 Parrhesiastes for Anarchy’s Necessary-Imagination kernhaug.com Physical edition of 100 Free ARMED CELL seeks poetry and poetics: to publish materials urgent and necessary for political action.

ARMED CELL 5 was first distributed at the Brian Ang and Kern Haug drums and text performance at the Breathing Works installation, New York City, 9 August 2013. ARMED CELL 6 will appear in February 2014. Submit cover images and writing by the end of December 2013 for consideration.

WENDY TREVINO & DERECK CLEMONS

1. A BEGINNING All that paper against the fence

You have to leave your rooms

Spaces that know what they want to be

As much as you don’t want to

Your love mostly like something or someone

That leaves you alone in a room so spare

Only potential can live there

____________
This text consists of “notes” composed by Wendy Trevino between November 2012 and March 2013 that were later arranged, titled, and edited by Dereck Clemons.

2. CONCLUSION Paris Hilton’s been to jail Like the rest of us

3. AFTERWARD Focus on the individual grave or casket, even a series Will attempt to erase the lawn mowing & architecture & one is likely to forget The agency involved in making themselves sick. You have to pull away Assuming a starting point like the Big Bang to see the graveyard. There are so many invisible graveyards.

4. FURTHER ASYMMETRY It feels nice Noticing a face’s lack of symmetry & wanting to look again. You are new, You are different—you were someone with a reason to say something. The imagination is a funny thing, & many years can go by Without anyone knowing they imagine anything, even as they believe they can. It’s like smiling, someone smiling at you with a building burning behind them & you’re not sure, but you think it’s one of those flowers opening in the light of history, but it’s only like that. It matters in the same way everyone sharing something important that day got a stick & poke, like sharing a language, a given. Still there’s a tendency to forget, as if a search for something specific led only to generalizing necessarily so, & so badly you want that face to be a part of everything.

5. EXTENSION It wasn’t nature or nurture, it wasn’t where you grew up, when you spent your whole life in one place, when taking a country wasn’t part of the plan, but since you were there & didn’t know what to do with them once they made it past adolescence & seemed to have sincerely converted & were starting to ask questions…. * It wasn’t the idea of how you were related either, exactly, Related evangelical, the good news universal a blanket for every modern amnesiac Nightmares of bleeding without forgiveness, like Marat Except destroyed by all those known only as All Of Them * It was always you, the constellation of you, how the bridge, the sky scraper, the coffee shop, the ocean, it all orients the constellation of you—as if you were the only thing in the sky, as if you were the only thing not in the sky looking still further up as another & then another parachute opens & you & nobody really wants to know

6. EPISODIC The episode where terrible religious arguments are a good reason to let people go & you choose your power, which is to say you’re one of those people who will do absolutely anything & people can think it’s getting easier to forget nothing’s happening & do something

7. CANCELLATION It’s not like that it’s not like that The cartel was sending a message The insurgents were sending a message The government was sending a message The videos went viral & never became that One

8. THE THREAT Society cannot be protected from phantoms of its own making Spyware & the atomic bomb & the value producing detective * A petition gauges the threat & something about thinking we’ve done something Or that a threat is more than it is, makes it minimal, the threat the immeasurable presence of the spectacle around it & potential for fire * How our own despair, sorrow & tears are turned against us in every purchase. The pay is isolating

9. SEX In The Histories, the woman named Bitch, who made everyone believe the king had been raised by dogs, then wolves, then dogs again The king whose birth was the death of a kingdom The king who went into the street & immediately distinguished himself mixed with The story of Pandora, & Three Men & a Baby, & the corrupt advisor & the good king Holding everything together is the Lone Ranger for liberal feminists With her Sancho Panza moving westward, getting used to being alone without being alone & the faster she moves, the closer you are to the speed of light, already a thing to do, for kicks * Commentary on the recent fight follows the fighters in every medium, all those stories about advertising & the crime rate on Jersey Shore, where the best thing to happen to a man is the worst thing that happens to a woman, except it won’t appeal to all those people trying to stop working, working toward retirement, not even innocence means anything anymore & no one will believe you, & you can’t figure out if you were lied to & what’s a “lie” anyway when you’re speeding away from a city you had returned to for the feeling of friends, people creating somewhat cohesive feelings—like a story that begins anywhere from memory, revolution, which explains the guns, the speed—you know it

10. MORE ON CONTROL Other things started to feel more important Not exactly what you’d been afraid of, It having been more about control * Conscience became code for nationalism under multiculturalism, You have to be human & surviving & wanting to travel back in time When all these monuments made a little more sense

11. NOON, TUESDAY Even the department store clerk, Whose Friday today is, Thinks: Noon, Tuesday Hearing this siren Anywhere in San Francisco

I am writing to produce, Not out of loneliness

Not out of impatience In relation to bad examples Of living, the absence of

Complete destruction says you don’t know Where your heartbreak begins & ends Anymore, it just always hurts

12. COMPLETE DESTRUCTION, or TOTAL FREEDOM Relying on relations, exploiting them in order to compensate for the ways your privilege has not prepared you for the work you do * You go over & over what someone said— How friendships forged from the hatred of a common enemy Are less secure, you forget, than what— Thinking instead of the lack of an unnecessary center, How the marches converged in Cairo & Montreal, How by the time you got to the square you were thousands, You were pulling down a fence

13. THAT IS IT Was it like that? Was I watching out? I wanted to stay connected, I still had faith— But did I think it would have an effect? Or was I worried only? Their specificity, a love of yellow dresses & their willingness to burn them— A fear of being alone. Did I think that? I didn’t even sense the closeness until the announcement. But I thought I did it, made it happen Like I was still determining something. I didn’t know I was done. All this struggle as the result of friendship. So I was done.

It was not helpful. I was too close. You take whatever is there The easier to leave it the moment you feel threatened. You don’t even choose. Do you bring anything? Besides what you find on the street You can’t tell people what to do.

BRIAN ANG

POST-CRISIS POETICS: DAVID LAU’S “COMMUNISM TODAY” “Communism Today” refers to events in the California university protests between October 15 and December 11, 2009. The protests began on September 24, the first day of classes at most University of California campuses, with a faculty-organized UC systemwide walkout.1 Exacerbated by the 2008 economic crisis, the State of California’s budget cuts to state institutions had prompted university administrations’ approvals of tuition hikes, layoffs, furloughs, and cuts to departments and services. The walkout protested the administration’s handling of the crisis that harmed faculty, workers, and students, increased salaries for senior administrators, and sought to shift accountability away from the administration toward the state. The lead up to the walkout included the physical dissemination of the pamphlet Communiqué from an Absent Future, released online on the day of the walkout, which contextualized the university’s crisis in the economic crisis’ erasure of college graduates’ economic futures and called for generalized revolt, including occupations, taking inspiration from the recent use of the tactic at the New School in New York.2 The day of the walkout included its largest rally on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza followed by a General Assembly in UCB’s Wheeler Hall that made a call for an organizing conference on October 24; after the call was made, an attempt to escalate the assembly toward an occupation of the building was thwarted by an antagonism “between those who viewed the occupation attempt as a ‘vanguardist’ affront to procedural consensus and those who viewed it as an effort to seize an important opportunity for collective direct action.”3 At UC Santa Cruz, the Graduate Student Commons would be occupied for a week while throwing “Electro Communist” dance parties in the commons space below its balcony, adorned with such banners as “WE ARE THE CRISIS,” “OCCUPY,” and “END CAPITAL,” emphasizing the Communiqué’s sentiments with action: “This crisis is general, and the revolt must be generalized.”4 ____________
David Lau, “Communism Today,” first poem in ARMED CELL 1, 2011. 1 “A Correction: From Shared Governance to Collective Action,” http://ucfacultywalkout.wordpress.com. 2 Research & Destroy, Communiqué from an Absent Future, in After the Fall: Communiqués from Occupied California, http://afterthefallcommuniques.info, February 2010, an anthology assessing the events of 2009. 3 “We are the Crisis: A Report on the California Occupation Movement,” ibid, 2. 4 “Occupy California,” ibid, 12.

The poem begins with a “[c]all-in request” for “Mozart and the percussion great,” his 1782 Singspiel opera The Abduction from the Seraglio. The opera is a quintessential work of “Turkish music,” part of the “turquerie” fad in Western Europe which exoticized the culture of the militarily threatening Ottoman Empire by using stereotyped sinister Turkish characters and Turkish percussion instruments not otherwise used in Western art music at that time. The opera, emphasized by the non-possessive conjunction “and,” represents a historicized Mozart bearing antagonisms for critical consideration, paradoxically “NonLos Angeles” while consumable through the postmodern DJ and global city,5 reclaiming Mozart and the Western art tradition he signifies for a politicized poetics in contrast to those that negatively defined themselves to this tradition, such as the Black Arts Movement. This emphasis on historical antagonisms “cut[s] back” formal “line binding force,” as in the resistant opacities of Lau’s previous book Virgil and the Mountain Cat, toward a poetics more directly representative of recent antagonisms, as in the representation of a “They” tactically against “our comrades.” The subjects of this antagonism are specified by “Fuck Dave Kliger,” the title of a communiqué released on October 16.6 The previous night, a second, brief occupation at UCSC of the Humanities 2 building, galvanized by UCSC professor Bob Meister’s exposé four days before making clear the use of tuition hikes to back construction bonds and satisfy bond rating agencies,7 included three students being pepper sprayed by campus police for carrying a picnic table toward the building. Kliger, UCSC Executive Vice Chancellor and Campus Provost, emailed the campus the next day to criticize the occupations by emphasizing cleanup costs; in non-administrative vulgar language, the communiqué criticized Kliger’s emphasis in the context of the structural cuts. The events clarified the antagonism between student resistance and the administration and its police: “let there be no end of generosity toward comrades who are punished for their courage rather than for their complacency [….] [W]e know that as the movement becomes more militant the brutality of the police and the punitive character of the administration will not cease to make itself evident.”8 The poem represents antagonism against “anarchist[s],” used pejoratively in combination with “faggots,” the primary antagonism immanent to the “SIM card,” technology equipped student movement being between “anarchist,” action-prioritizing tendencies that advanced the occupations and “Trotskyist” tendencies prioritizing ____________
5 6

See the section Non-Los Angeles in Lau’s “Fanfare for the Warriors” in the present issue. “Fuck Dave Kliger,” http://occupyca.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/against-klige. The Occupy California blog was an important disseminator of links, photos, communiqués, and articles as the protests progressed. 7 “Post Occupation Call to Revolt,” http://occupyca.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/ucsc-students-occupydeans-office-15-october-2009-call-to-revolt; Bob Meister, “They Pledged Your Tuition,” http://www.cucfa. org/news/2009_oct11.php. 8 Research & Destroy, “The Beatings Will Continue,” After the Fall, 13.

procedural consensus and movement building that decried the occupations as irresponsible adventurism.9 Crossing these tendencies were renewed solidarities with workers, including with workers supportive of occupations: “See if the janitor has the key to open these doors.” The means to these actions (“He’s the one we need”) open toward the ends of “everything,” galvanized by the total desire behind one of the protests’ slogans, “We Want Everything.” The “telos” this desire navigates toward is the “undead,” absent future10: a poetics expressing this condition may draw from past artworks, such as “insurrectionary Velazquezes,” Picasso’s 1957 series of 58 paintings reinterpreting the court painter’s 1656 Las Meninas. Picasso’s art historical gesture endures by his insurrectionary modernist repetition of the past masterpiece, but a post-crisis poetics drawing from this tradition must diminish formal autonomy and be “incapable / of enduring independent labor monitors” in order to represent the renewed antagonism against workers exacerbated by the crisis. Historical forms being no longer adequate, the poem includes subcultural slang (“wild Mike is straight up drugs”) opaque to art historical knowledge and representative of the subcultural networks that were necessary for clandestinely executing the occupations and drawing the tactical, celebratory dance parties productive of collective bonds. The “Sri Lankan and subjective confusions” of British Sri Lankan musician M.I.A. “adopted that language” of diminished autonomy and subcultural slang, modulated to a British Tamil specificity; her most recent album at that time, 2007’s Kala, combined Tamil sounds referencing her Sri Lankan experience with sounds and lyrics referencing the album’s recording locations of India, Jamaica, Australia, Liberia, and Trinidad to represent the subjective confusions of bird flu and the antagonisms of the global dispossessed: “Hands up – guns out – represent now world town.” The album is a pop realism of globalization,11 “as in Balzac[’s]” literary realism of industrial capitalism when the 1960s “rude boy” Jamaican subculture still “had rivers to cross” through the economically-driven Jamaican diaspora to influence British subcultures, the metaphorical obstacles of Jimmy Cliff’s song “Many Rivers to Cross” on the 1972 The Harder They Come soundtrack. That album would contribute to the global popularizing of reggae, especially upon British punk bands such as The Clash, which M.I.A. would sample for her most recent Kala single at that time, “Paper Planes,” correct music for militant, totality-oriented dance parties. “A snort of laughter,” an involuntary assertion of presence, “to knot” globalized reflection back to the local situation “en El Encanto Sanitarium,” a convalescent home in City of Industry, an industrial suburb of Los Angeles founded by businessmen in 1957, the same year as Picasso’s series, to use the powers of a local government for industrial interests without the costs of residents: to meet the minimum ____________
9

“We are the Crisis: A Report on the California Occupation Movement,” ibid, 2. “A Plea from the Undead,” http://occupyca.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/a-plea-from-the-undead. 11 See Joshua Clover, “Terrorflu,” Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry and Opinion 1, 2008.
10

population requirement, Industry’s leaders redrew the city’s boundaries to include the Sanitarium’s 169 senile and mentally challenged patients.12 The Sanitarium is “near the [Pomona] [F]reeway,” congested with shipping container-laden trucks between the LA and Long Beach ports to rail yards and warehouses in the Inland Empire; the poem continues the previous “river” metaphor to analogize these shipping containers, the standard units of global transport, as “flowing [the] 100,000 stanzas” of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, history’s longest poem composed between 400 BC and 400 AD, to invoke historical selfconsciousness for writing in the post-crisis era of capitalism in progress. Continuing the flow of local reference, “let Placitas bloom 1,000 at a time” refers to Barrio Planners, the LA Chicano urban design firm that proposed to retrofit neighborhoods with small plazas as stages for local Mexican culture with the slogan “let a hundred placitas bloom!” as well as to Placitas, New Mexico, a popular place for communes in the late 1960s. Barrio Planners was thwarted by a planning bureaucracy that favored the building of thousands of minimalls by private speculators in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and immanent antagonisms, including murder, proved Placitas’ communes unsustainable by 197113: cultural revolution stabilized “quickly into inauspicious jobs.” Out of a consciousness of past defeats and the inauspicious jobs of the absent future emerged the university protests’ slogan “Occupy everything,” “the immediate formation of ‘communes,’ of zones of activity removed from exchange, money, compulsory labor, and the impersonal domination of the commodity form,”14 to which the poem adds, “including Humanities,” the putting of studies of art, history, literature, and music such as above toward immediate struggles: “Communism Today.” A depoliticized humanities “in the midst of a capitalist society [being] like a reading room in a prison,”15 the poem points toward action, without which politicized studies are meaningless, by the periodless transition to its second section, a reference to the Humanities 2 occupation. “Moody’s,” one of the global “Big Three” credit rating agencies including for UC’s bonds as illuminated by Meister’s exposé, has “no process for [the] light picnic table” that was part of the police violence during the Humanities 2 occupation, given the processual distance between global finance and local protest mediated by state repression, but homogenous police “chemical sprays” were far more brutal at the G-20 summit protests earlier that April for being in “The City of London,” the capital of global finance, including kettling and a death. From the summit protests, “humid with so little high morale, / such a limited call-up of man,” the poem reclaims “call-up” from its state militaristic usage for a ____________
12 13

See Victor Valle, City of Industry: Genealogies of Power in Southern California, 2009, 75. See Mike Davis, Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the US City, 2000, 56; and Lawrence R. Veysey, The Communal Experience: Anarchist and Mystical Communities in Twentieth Century America, 1978, 190-191. 14 “We are the Crisis: A Report on the California Occupation Movement,” After the Fall, 5. 15 Research & Destroy, Communiqué from an Absent Future, ibid, 10.

popular militancy necessary for overcoming state repression’s limits and contrasts the possibilities for protest in the less enforced university situation. The organizing conference on October 24, called for on the day of the walkout, occurred at UCB and called for a statewide “Day of Action” on March 4.16 Unwilling to wait until the spring semester, action-prioritizing tendencies “launched a website and signature page calling for an indefinite student, staff, and faculty strike beginning on November 18, when the UC Regents would meet at UCLA to vote on a proposed 32% student fee increase,”17 seizing upon the explosion of interest, discussion, participation, and production of images and writing set off by the occupations. The experience of the accelerated “time window” was proximate to one of psychoactive drugs “in the dime bag // near our distant sun / of fungal alphabets,” present at the politically galvanizing dance parties, the experience of creative and primal energies released by the protests: “papeles” (papers) “for horses.” Additionally, experience needs analysis to be a politics, as in the economic “analysis of the base” emphasized in Communiqué from an Absent Future to distinguish recent student struggles from those of the 1960s, that “[b]ecause their resistance to the Vietnam war focalized critique upon capitalism as a colonial war-machine, but insufficiently upon its exploitation of domestic labor, students were easily split off from a working class facing different problems.”18 Those struggles were defined in relation to an exoticized Vietnam, “a turquoise Ho Chi Minh,” turquoise bearing its exoticized introduction to Europe through Turkey from its derivation from an Old French word for “Turkish,” while recent student struggles have no distance from the economic crisis’ totalizing proletarianization. The November strike was also supported by the movement building tendencies, their antagonism with action-prioritizing tendencies temporarily displaced by the strike’s chimerical urgency “hard by the pachyderm // bobcat of bridge” over its ideologically dividing “river.” The strike’s first day included an attempted occupation of the Architects and Engineers Building, home of UCB Office of Capital Projects, “[t]he tossed office” strategically targeted for being a “riverine” nerve center of the university’s use of tuition hikes for construction projects, a relay in the global logic of neoliberal privatization and thus a local battleground between “exponents” of privatization and communization, as made clear by the prepared “flier for this one” disseminated by the occupiers under the name “Anti-Capital Projects.”19 Forced to abandon their attempt when administrators locked themselves in their offices, the thwarted action nonetheless had galvanizing effects ____________
16

“What is a Movement and How Do We Get One?,” http://occupyca.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/what-isa-movement-and-how-do-we-get-one-in-response-to-some-critics/. 17 “We are the Crisis: A Report on the California Occupation Movement,” After the Fall, 2. 18 Research & Destroy, Communiqué from an Absent Future, ibid, 10. 19 Anti-Capital Projects, “No Capital Projects But the End of Capital,” ibid, 18.

upon the strike’s second day, emphasized by the poem’s periodless transition to its third section, in the contrastingly unplanned occupation of UC Davis’s “Mrak Hall,” its main administration building,20 and the escalation at UCSC from the first day’s occupation of “Kresge” Town Hall to a storming and three day occupation of Kerr Hall, its main administration building. The poem emphasizes a 1994 performance at Kresge by the black gay theater troupe “Pomo Afro Homos” as part of the local historical “submerged / water fountain” feeding recent struggles, a local reference to Santa Cruz’s former fountain, the Eastside Triangle. The poem also emphasizes California’s ethnic cultures as conditions feeding struggles represented through food, the “[t]ap rooted,” entrenched Indian “tandoori” and Chinese “fermented chili bean paste.” At UCLA, the strike’s second day included an occupation of Campbell Hall, renamed for “Carter and Huggins,” two Black Panthers murdered in the building in 1969; the Black Panthers would again be invoked in the statement from the occupation of the Business Building at San Francisco State University on December 9,21 renamed “Oscar Grant” Memorial Hall after the black man fatally shot by Bay Area Rapid Transit police on New Year’s Day 2009 that produced an anti-police movement through the year. The occupations’ invocations of local ethnic politics expressed the desire to “expose the true violent nature of our society”22 beyond the university protests, the homogenous police violence behind the privatization of the UC to “ICE raids.” This explosive sequence developed occupation as a tactic for challenging society beyond the university: “The movement […] [t]akes places.” The poem’s final section begins with representing the rally and police violence at UC Irvine on November 24,23 “a lawless area / in the south of the country called Irvine,” emphasizing the national and then global scale, “determined by valleys of the Irrawaddy,” Burma, to invoke socio-economic self-consciousness for action in the global north. In the wake of the strike, the poem considers extremism: “Is anyone worth poisoning? // Which one of us will be the elf king?,” the supernatural killer most famously depicted in Goethe’s poem “Der Erlkönig” as part of a 1782 Singspiel, the same year as Mozart’s that began the poem. The poem’s subject is “just chilling,” considering “several distinct calls” within the movement: to continue sounding the issues toward a “boom” of the economy, to reinforce culture such as by the Palestinian tradition of “olive wood” carving, and to push into “delirium” in the struggles against the status quo. This representative multiplicity produced UCB’s student-led Live ____________
20

UCD was less active in the protests than UCB and thus had less enforced possibilities for protest. I was a student at UCD at that time and remember traveling back from UCB after the strike’s first day, depressed about the thwarted occupation attempt, and waking the next day to a call by similarly upset UCD students to converge on Mrak and transform our lives. 21 “We are Still Here,” ibid, 31. 22 Ibid. 23 “UCI – November 24,” http://occupyca.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/uci-november-24.

Week that held an open, unlocked occupation of Wheeler Hall from December 7 until the administration’s police raid on the early morning of December 11. In response, a group marched on the Chancellor’s house carrying “torches” and destroying planters, windows, and lamps, a militant product of the difficult to extinguish “tire fires” of ideological crisis divergent from the desire toward renewals of the economy and status quo. This militant “boom” challenged the movement’s tendencies that prioritized non-violence through its desire to “cross out the movement[’s]” limits “to move” toward generalized revolt.24 2010 included the statewide March 4 protests that spilled out of campuses into their cities, a strengthening sense of other struggles produced by the economic crisis, and a migration of radicalized participants in the university protests to Oakland, including myself, drawn by its proximity to the actions at UCB and the Oscar Grant movement.25 Participants who were also poets produced politicized poetry projects influenced by these struggles, including July’s “95 Cent Skool: Summer Seminar in Social Poetics” organized by Juliana Spahr and Joshua Clover, an organizer of the originating walkout among many contributions, and an Oakland house reading that I organized in October by Jasper Bernes and David Lau, both participants in the protests. The reading drew an audience of fellow participants and Bay Area poets; Bernes read from We Are Nothing and So Can You and Lau read “Communism Today” and the other poems that I would publish in ARMED CELL. The reading provided experiences of recent struggles through poetic form: fellow participants were provided formal reflection through recognition of shared references, while Bay Area poets, who largely wouldn’t be involved in post-crisis struggles until the Occupy movement, were provided recent political experiences through formal expertise. Many participants and poets met for their first times: the reading was productive of the collective bonds among groups that would contribute to Occupy Oakland. When I launched ARMED CELL at the 95 Cent Skool’s sequel, the Durruti Free Skool, in August 2011, I chose “Communism Today” as a first poem for its consideration of the university protests, privileged for being the sequence of struggle most proximate to my experience at that time, in combination with materials for opening new possibilities in the post-crisis era of capitalism in progress, one among many approaches that I’ve editorially argued as useful for political action. One month later, the start of the Occupy movement transformed “Communism Today”’s obscure student slogan “Occupy everything,” preserved in its emergence, into popular social significance: post-crisis poetics organizes materials that could be useful for immediate struggles and in combination with materials to be produced in the struggles to come. ____________
24

“The Emptiness of Liberal Morality,” http://occupyca.wordpress.com/2009/12/25/the-emptiness-ofliberal-morality. 25 For a chronology of California struggles, see http://occupyca.wordpress.com/timeline.

ERIC LINSKER

WE’RE SO SOCIAL NOW We’re so social now SO SOCIAL SO SOCIAL I was gang narrated I was gang narrated He gang narrated me He gang narrated me Then she was gang narrated Then she was gang narrated Then they gang narrated her Then they gang narrated her Until it hurt because *at rider* it Didn’t 0002 Until it hurt because *at rider* it Didn’t 0002 It was a valid date It was a valid date 50% 50% There is something you should know about my heels There is something you should know about my heels They come off when I’m raped They come off when I’m raped On MC escher’s phone On MC escher’s phone Like when usher took off my sketchers Like when usher took off my sketchers Also didn’t hurt Also didn’t hurt At rider, but the side effects were said to At rider, but the side effects

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DAVID LAU

FANFARE FOR THE WARRIORS Work from the Eighties by Will Alexander and Nathaniel Mackey People of Reclimbed Abysses The legacy of the 1960s, the energy of social change & struggle, pervades the work of Nathaniel Mackey and Will Alexander. Fredric Jameson’s account of the decade in his 1984 essay “Periodizing the 60s” begins with 3rd world decolonization in British and French Africa, the first world sit-ins in Greensboro in 1960, and the Cuban breakthrough in the Caribbean. The 60s marked the moment when marginalized peoples of the world, after enduring some of the deepest known injustices, rose up to confront their oppressors in one of the great chapters in the ongoing story of human liberation. Jean-Paul Sartre captured the situation preceding this global upheaval in his introduction to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth: Not so very long ago, the earth numbered two thousand million inhabitants: five hundred million men and one thousand five hundred million natives. The former had the Word; the other merely had use of it. This new revolutionary moment also complicates political Marxism’s central tenet, namely that the industrial proletariat in various advanced countries is the truly revolutionary “class.” For the emergent New Left this will now appear as a crude reduction of radical political possibilities. Singular or exemplary in the period is the black liberation politics emanating from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas, leading to the rediscovery of half-comprehended histories—destroyed, ignored, or suppressed by imperial and colonial domination. These submerged pre-colonial histories and present-day political breakthroughs, particularly in Africa, suggest practical possibilities for artistic creation and political praxis. Will Alexander’s work Soniferous Whirlwind Correspondence, serialized in two early issues of Nathaniel Mackey’s journal Hambone, bears traces of these times of 60s (and 70s!) struggle. The author of these “Letters to Rosa” is Oranzio. Their subject matter concerns a kind of familial drama ensuing in the aftermath of their father’s death during his political activism against the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal:

My father was never fully explained to me, only that he committed crimes against the Salazar dictatorship and was condemned to death in Lisbon but escaped to sea and disappeared on a ship somewhere out near the Madeira islands several months before my birth. The “Salazar dictatorship” sustained Portugal’s late-colonial possessions through wars in Angola and Mozambique. The “family” endures, Oranzio possibly most of all, a kind of season in limbo (the Starkie biography of Rimbaud is referred to at one point), as his sister Aurora practices a kind of “primitive voodoo” on him and his two other sisters Ida and Camille, to which the latter two finally succumb. At the end of the letter, Oranzio will remind us again of Portugal and guerrilla wars of decolonization waged in Africa: Thinking of the two deaths of my father (of dying to the home, of dying to the body), the latter more strongly appeals to me as he sailed across the Atlantic attempting to sabotage the Portuguese colonials with a volley of Communist tiger fangs. The letters, as in other of Alexander’s work from the period, reverberate with the strong political affect of the time: joyous anger and vexation, stinging with a “surrealism of the word” (Garrett Caples), with phrasings that cross a multitude of signifying registers. In Nathaniel Mackey’s work the traces of the 60s political openings are also visible as are non-western cultures and civilizations. His essays, poems, and novels acknowledge literary precursors Wilson Harris, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Charles Olson, and the significant roles played by a kind of worldly multiculturalism in each of their distinct poetics. Take for instance the opening passage of The Bedouin Hornbook, the first installment in the ongoing epistolary novel From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate. “Heterospecific” and “hyperhistorical”—two of Mackey’s coinages—the densely wrought letter sounds some of this culturally broad and temporally deep symbolic infrastructure awakened in the 60s upheavals. One finds Vodou’s Erzulie, but also Lorca’s duende; John Coltrane echoed by Archie Shepp, and musician-protagonist N weirdly echoing both of them. The letter offers a rite, a series of discrepancies as starting positions, a constellation of engagements, presentiments of danger and portent as well as utopian possibility. Narrator and multi-instrumentalist N seeks spiritual kin in part by wearing all these “figures” as disguises or echoic revoicings, as “specter of dispersed identity and community” (Mackey). In the very first instance (moment’s notice and gnosis) of the letter, N recalls a dream where he discovers the pieces of a bass clarinet strewn about the pavement next to an open manhole, from which it seems to have come:

Only the funny thing was that, except for the bell of the horn, all the parts looked more like plumbing fixtures than like parts of a bass clarinet. Anyway, I picked up a particularly long “pipe” and proceeded to play. This passage literalizes the idea of playing a very deep note, one of N’s occupations, dividing his time as he does between saxello, bass clarinet, and contrabass bassoon. The novel growls as deep as the Coltrane tune “Spiritual” plummeting the infrastructural base and superstructure of a post 60s society: revolution stalled out but neoliberalism still to come. To borrow from Bessie Smith: these birds of the Mystic Horn Ensemble definitely sing transformations—of a post-colonial hybridity of cultures and a capitalist world in economic transition. Postmodern Cultural Revolution In his well-known essay on the work of Amiri Baraka, Mackey writes: During the sixties, assertions were often made to the effect that jazz groups provided glimpses into the future. What was meant by this was that black music—especially that of the sixties, with it heavy emphasis on individual freedom within a collectively improvised context—proposed a model social order, an ideal, even utopic balance between personal impulse and group demands. Here I want to add a paraphrase derived from George E. Lewis’s remarkable book about the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), called A Power Stronger than Itself: each member of an ensemble in this period (Ornette Coleman’s double quartet, for instance), becomes increasingly unconstrained by instrument and or group interplay. The singularity or “inside” of “solos,” “time,” “melody/harmony,” “tune” all breakdown and undergo a thorough, though uneven innovation by leaps and breaks. The changes and modes of post-bop give way to a restless “will to change,” culminating for a time in a free jazz “ultra-out wall of sound (no head, no recognizable structure)” (Mackey), before finally opening up to a communal practice of performance in the style of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. I hope that’s a succinct, musico-cultural encapsulation of the many New Left political hopes and dynamics at work in the 60s, and which I will call, following Fredric Jameson, a homology for cultural revolution. The idea of cultural revolution immediately resonates with the Chinese experience in the mid to late 1960s; the CCP, led by Mao Zedong, and having come up against limits in its revolutionary transformation of China, formed cadres of young red guards to carry on further root and branch communizing and

socialist measures throughout China. Like the musician character Jarred Bottle, a foil for N in several of The Bedouin Hornbook’s “After-the-Fact Lecture/Libretti,” Mao and the red guards saw their politics as a “work which would somehow mobilize exhaustion, put it to new and unheard-of uses.” The emphasis in the period fell on subjective transformations familiar now in the phrase “the personal is political”; the key opposition in this version of class struggles no longer being bourgeois and proletarian, but bourgeois and revolutionary. Fredric Jameson’s looser notion or figuration of cultural revolution (a conception original to Lenin’s New Economic Program) helps to explain the layered, cancelled presence of different modes of production (including anticipations of the future) within a given or existing mode of production. It is in highly creative, and revolutionary periods (often very difficult times, it should be added), that the otherwise inert and variegated traditions of the past become palpable and lend their energy to the present once again. Mackey writes in the poem “Tonu Soy,” from the 1993 volume School of Udhra: Underneath something moved, ran away with him, syncretist wish to be beyond schism, recollected bliss to erase the movement of troops, wall of money, rickety floor, boarded house known as history “Syncretist” here in Mackey’s novels, essays, and poems is cross-cultural expanse crosscut with temporal/historical depth. That moving something “underneath,” might just be the lived experience of making things change, effecting the reality of art and politics, while restoring a lived actuality to the past. The above excerpt reads as a meditation on the ultimate destiny of the human community—as attunement to “the long countdown to utopia or extinction” (Jameson), in which the poem “annexes the trace of its historical locus” to the “Dream of a just world,” to offer two contrasted and disparate quotations from Mackey. The 60s gave radical, often Marxist-inspired artists quite a shot in the arm, as the axis of global political concern widened once again. One of Alexander’s poems from his first book, Vertical Rainbow Climber, provides a telling example. In the midst of “Apocalyptic Sundown Shadows” and its one enormously complex prose sentence, we find: …Karl Marx in frozen earthquake chambers making sandstone prayers to hashish Madonnas, his dilated eyes claiming redemption from errors he tells us he did not commit, and he is right, innocent as an ill constructed bridge collapsing, this is the tragic subsoil of mythical infecundity…emptiness

bleeding from this final Manvantara above the weakened stone of empty dialectics. The poem’s invocation of Marx wants to preserve the totalizing dialectic of Capital or Theories of Surplus Value, absolved of Stalinist crimes, but, to invert Deleuze and Guattari’s famous image, beard this Marx even further, with imaginative richness recalling a 60s countercultural openness to psychic excess, social delirium, and left political awakenings: “this is the tragic subsoil of mythic infecundity.” The Marxist-Hegelian dialectic of urban development and capitalist proletarianization has its run-in with impossibility here in Alexander’s visions of societal collapse, LA’s notorious banalization of apocalyptic end times. Marx as “ill constructed bridge” suggests the difficult contemporaneity of the founder of historical materialism. Mackey’s poesis works a similar vein in the historical bedrock. In a central section in The Bedouin Hornbook, N finally has his sought after encounter with a much-rumored LA band, The Crossroads Choir, in a performance of high figurative or symbolic significance. As N tries to get a sense of his surroundings for the show, takes in his inestimable surroundings: One moment it seemed I was in an intimate niteclub, the next a domed arena with a seating capacity of thousands. One moment it seemed I was in a cramped garage (the sort of place Ornette’s band used to practice in during those early days in Watts), the next a huge, drafty warehouse in Long Beach or San Pedro or some place like that. One moment it seemed I was in a cathedral, the next a storefront church. The possibilities seemed to go on without end. I was “everywhere,” which, I now knew, was nowhere in particular, a blank check drawn on a closed account. Disorientation and spatial reconfiguration: both resolve in an anchoring economic metaphor. The text then moves on to a first take on the performance of the band, the “De Chirico” canvas setting giving way to a parade of performers: The band’s features seemed to suffer from a surplus or an overcharge of features….one moment suggesting the Assyrian god Humbaba, whose face was built of intestines, the next the Aztec rain god Tlaloc, whose face consisted of two interlocking snakes….Their entrance threatened to go on forever—a slow numberless stampede, of musician after hyperbolic musician…. It seemed they were every band I’d ever heard or even dreamt I’d heard all rolled into one.

Here the musical experience is framed as a grand reemergence of the past’s dormant possibilities in which all earlier music and musicians come into view—listening itself as some kind of layering or cancelling, but still preserving activity. This Deleuzean disjunctive synthesis of a passage, a kind of mash-up of the empirical and the transcendental—really sitting there yet seeing the unity of world cultures on parade—serves as an uncanny, fleeting narrative instance for humanity’s “shared history”: “butchers / in black tie, beast brought out in / the beastly, ‘animals in human skin’… / Against that this manyfooted, / musicfooted beast, basketmouth / begun to / leak again.” Non-Los Angeles The regular letters of Broken Bottle are punctuated by a series of “After-the-Fact Lecture/Libretti,” what N refers to in Atet A.D. as “intercalary divagations.” One particular Lecture/Libretto, “April in Paris,” from Djbot Baghoustus’ Run, the second installment of the epistolary novel, finds Jarred Bottle sitting impatiently at a traffic signal in LA while recalling Frank Wright’s tune “China,” recorded for the Actuel label in France, a tune that Aunt Nancy, one of N’s band mates, had just been “spinning” for him. (Saxophonist Frank Wright it seems relocated to Paris in time to imbibe some of the Gauche Proletarienne Maoism of the late 60s.) The scene is a classic representation of Los Angeles social reality, as Jarred Bottle waits patiently in his car for the light to change to green, even though he’s in the only car on the road at 3 am: He thought of a quip he’d heard once or twice: Revolution would never occur in a country whose people stop for traffic lights late at night when there’s no one else around. Here we have part of the admixture of elements in the unfolding mental landscape. A few paragraphs later he’s thinking of his girlfriend April, who’s in Paris, worriedly contemplating her brewing love affair with another women: elle s’appelle China. “The coincidence had all but blown him away,” we’re told. He begins to project himself into the love affair, assuming China’s position. The vision he’s having of himself becoming woman culminates in the memory of a scar on April’s body he used to massage: In what sense did April’s hard scar-tissue limp have to do with the movement of world-historical masses, with political, cultural and psychic reconstruction of a kind suggested by reports of a unisex China?

This hallucinatory “dance of redistributed limbs” gives us an associational figure of the extremities of liberation still reverberating in this novel of early 80s LA. A leveled-out cultural dynamic seems to relativize all norms. Finally the light does turn green but there’s nowhere for Jarred Bottle to go now. “Green was irrelevant to the out he was after.” The anti-hero of a kind of implacable non-Los Angeles, Jarred Bottle appears, like other figures from the text, as an anti-Angelino. The culture industry LA, the emerging nodal point of global trade and financial flows, finds itself deeply estranged, in the manner of an imaginal and revolutionary dislocation—rebel LA becoming an everywhere. Non-Los Angeles here in this sequence of epistolary novels is a “World Stage,” the name of the venerable Leimart Park progressive jazz and cultural venue; the novel’s multiculturalism is also consonant with the internationalization of LA (Latino and Asian immigration; international investment)—familiar from Mike Davis’s famed accounts of city. The lecture/libretto concludes with Jarred just sitting at the traffic signal—itself an oppositional act—and pursuing, á la Frank Wright, an “even more extreme or extravagant out.” Here the jazz term “out” begins to take on political valences of meaning: ever more disparate geographical and utopian possibilities. He imagines the cops coming up to his car on the empty street, the site of his withdrawal from the “rat race.” “The cops would ask him had he been drinking,” Mackey writes, to which Jarred Bottle replies: He’d tell them he was a Rastafarian, that he was waiting for the red, yellow and green lights to come on at the same time. “All this time,” he’d explain, “I’ve been thinking about Paris and China, but it was Ethiopia I was actually headed for.” The cops would have no idea what he meant. The year is 1981. Even though Bob Marley has died at the end of The Bedouin Hornbook, it still seems possible to chant down Babylon.

KATY BOHINC

from DEAR ALAIN Let us add that contemporary philosophy addresses itself at all times to women. It might even be suspected that it is, as discourse, partly a strategy of seduction. – Alain Badiou, “What is Love?” Dear Alain, There, got it, round two. multiplicity. said Badiou. you mother fucker stole my brain. except, you’re wrong. still working in Euclid’s plane. enlightenment is the real projective. where parallel lines meet at the horizon and a line is a circle. it’s true that the abrahamic religions have a problem with historicity and crusades. somebody’s always got to be right before and in order to get to God. buddha knows the line is really a circle at the horizon anyway, where we all should strive to dwell. the point, it’s a line. the line, it’s a circle. the circle, it’s a flower. that point derrida collapsed in the derivatives market? don’t worry about it. we’ll fix it when we wake up. cat life number 27, ladybug reincarnate.

____________
Dear Alain. Love letters of a poet to a philosopher. The process of differentiation that is love, approaching a truth. As played by the tension between philosopher (subject alpha) and the poet (subject omega). From another angle, Badiou’s conditions on philosophy: Love, Politics, Math, and Poetry imposed on him.

Dear Alain, My new roommate Brandon is a found poem. I like it. When I think of all the things I don’t have time to be nostalgic for I feel irresponsible. It makes me care about the heart more than being smart. It is not that time is a mirage, but that it’s a villain and I am consensually guilty of moving on. There’s no grammar around that. Just hiding from the images that bring us most comfort. We long for revolution, but I have been there and all that’s fought for is the peace to enjoy the apple on the worn wood table. It’s folksy to center the flowers in their vase, simple and symmetrical, but I’ll still call it beautiful for my Ma. Do you mind? Yours, Katy

Dear Alain, I love you more than ever. You wrote that the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings have a universal significance. They prescribe new possibilities whose value is international. I could not agree more. When Mubarak finally stepped down, I was just headed from my office to lunch. I stepped outside to consider the importance of this revolution, this televised moment of history as important as, the paris commune or the french revolution or, or, as important as, Tahrir itself. Tahrir means To Freedom, literally, or, independence, as I’m sure you know. And as I stepped out outside on the street I began to sob. I really did. I was crying on the street and thought, perhaps you look a little silly on the street here, so I went to the bookstore where my friend Rod works. I cried more at the bookstore. All in all it took about two hours to exhaust myself of the tears and I am not sure anyone really understood – most people just think I’m overly emotional or maybe crazy – but I cried because I am not crazy and Egypt proves it. That moment when he left, when Mubarak left through peaceful means, through universal, peaceful spontaneous, beautiful power of the people, it’s, it’s every single person in the world who said “things can be better,” it’s every single person in the world who dared to say “torture is wrong,” it’s every single person who dared to dream, it’s every single person who went to sleep with hope for a better future, it’s every single ignorant fucking imbecile who only said “no” going to hell, it’s everyone who called me crazy for hoping, for believing, for wanting more, it’s to hell with them, and it was worth it, it was all worth it, it was true, it is possible, it was worth the sacrifice it is all worthwhile we can and the big words are worth a damn and I cried and cried and cried because all the idealism was true and all the blood and the bruises and the torture was losing, it wasn’t structure anymore, it was a tall building made of electric fence for everyone to hail with bruises and scars and untouchables, that facade collapsed, and there was a sun to heal the scars, and the romance of poetry survives and this is why I cried: for all the pain of anyone who ever said “I guess that’s how it has to be” because it didn’t have to be that way the day that Mubarak left, it was singing and dancing in the street among all the people, it was the resounding ring of the subtle non-violent line, it was the rise out of silence of the truth, that magic of the white dove from the darkest, gentleman’s top hat,

the scar become the badge, the tear become the holy water, the transcendence, the moment where the best side of humanity came true, and everything we write for, everything we live for, everything we ever dared to believe was worth it all. PS. It’s parallel lines meeting at infinity. It’s when Gauss looked at the horizon and said, but parallel lines do meet, they meet at the horizon. It’s the dream of the platonic form lapping at the edge of the shore and the tide rushing over one last time to a blazing red dawn, the kind that makes you wake up and breathe as if for the first time and all those tones of sarcasm fade into some jellyfish dying on the sand and it’s blindingly beautiful the stuff we always knew was there but just grew too cynical to care except maybe deep in the night we risked a word or two of “maybe” and “i hope” and “it still is” and “there is more” and we dreamed and we dreamed and we dreamed and it was the real projective plane and things do happen at infinity and i still believe in love and i’m getting on a plane because i believe that if the egyptians can then why not, we can have it too. i still believe. please tell me you do, too. I love you. Tell me these words mean something to you. Tell me. Bisous.

Dear Alain, Alain, the problem ultimately is that to define anything is to take a position of power. Are you comfortable with your power? I hate power. I refuse to define. I refuse it. I refuse to be powerful, I refuse to make sense, I refuse I refuse. I refuse in protest. I’m a soft, silly, wild flower basket of love. All I see is your ego and I’m going to stuff a chalky powder comment in the cracks, because I hate power. My mission is to dissolve it. But of course, this is my deepest secret I reveal to you! My deepest secret because to name a mission is itself to have power – don’t you see? I don’t give a damn I forgive you always! What, rules? What rules? They’re power. They’re cultural sets for specific power layers, they’re always false when turned over or meshed. Fuck them. You need something? You need to know you’re important? You are. Does your power put things in jeopardy? Always. Do I forgive you? I don’t even have a choice. I am a poet. I have no power. I have nothing. I am water. I know love. I give everything your psyche needs; I take nothing. No story, no moment of self, no words of self. Some babble if your ego needs. I give. You need. There is love. There is love. There is love. Yours PS Mallarme you would say. Sounds to stroke. No meaning. No power. And damn you, you’re right. But honestly, you’re wrong. Because you can go fuck your power. And by hot damn, wasn’t Mallarme, wasn’t Mallarme, wasn’t Mallarme? You know what I’m going to say, dearest, dearest dearest…

Dear Alain, These letters are just shit. I’m only writing them because the literati will eat them. I know. I know. But the truth is power. Is lines in the sand and you know the bloom doesn’t come from lines. Political events cannot be quantified. You said it. Page 7, 32, 45, 66-69, 98-100, XYZ, Politics and Metaphysics. Definitions, blah blah blah. Who cares about categories when there’s death by dehydration? The bloom Alain, I’m talking about the bloom! Tais-Toi! I’m going to melt you PS it’s more than form, it’s more than Mallarme, it’s underneath…

Dear Alain, In your words then. Shortly, K

The real characteristic of the poetic event and the truth procedure that it sets off is that a poetic event fixes the errancy and assigns a measure to the superpower of the intellect. It fixes the power of the intellect. Consequently, the poetic event interrupts the subjective errancy of the power of the intellect. It configures the state of the situation. It gives it a figure; it configures its power; it measures it. Empirically, this means that whenever there is a genuinely poetic event, the Intellect reveals itself. It reveals its excess of power, its repressive dimension. But it also reveals a measure for this usually invisible excess. For it is essential to the normal functioning of the intellect that its power remains measureless, errant, unassignable. The poetic event puts an end to all this by assigning a viable measure to the excessive power of the intellect. Poetry put the Intellect at a distance, in the distance of its measure. The resignation that characterizes a time without poetry feeds on the fact that the Intellect is not at a distance, because the measure of its power is errant. People are held hostage by its unassignable errancy. Poetry is the interruption of this errancy. It exhibits a measure for intellectual power. This is the sense in which poetry is “freedom.” The Intellect is in fact the measureless enslavement of the parts of the situation, an enslavement whose secret is precisely the errancy of the intellect, its absence of measure. Freedom here consists in putting the intellect at a distance through the collective establishment of a measure for its excess. And if the excess is measured, it is because the collective can measure up to it. We will call it a poetic prescription for the post-eventual establishment of a fixed measure for the power of the intellect. Excerpt Translated Conceptually from Politics and Metaphysics Alain Badiou

ALEJANDRO VENTURA

MANIFESTO # -1: NOTES ON NON-PARTICIPATION Against Art—Fun Ends—Everyone is Full of Shit A joke was popular among dissidents, a joke used to illustrate the futility of their protests. A poet and her husband walk along a dusty city road. A banker stops at their side and tells the poet that he will now rape her husband. He then adds, “But since there is a lot of dust on the ground, you should hold my testicles while I am raping him, so that my balls will not get dusty.” After the banker finishes his job and rides away, the poet starts to laugh and jump with joy. The surprised husband asks her, “How can you be jumping with joy when I was just brutally raped?” The poet answers, “But I got him, his balls are full of dust!” – Slavoj Žižek Tactically speaking, it may be time to mix it up a little. An integral part of critique has to do with refusal and disavowal, subtraction and not simply addition, no instead of yes. We shouldn’t forget that at the end of the day critique is about, in a word, negation. The big myth—our false utopianism—tells us that when everyone is an artist, there will be no such thing as labor. This is both a promise and a lie. The business of producing culture has become a form of compulsion no less oppressive and systematic than its consumption. In any case, what are we accomplishing? Like unwitting character witnesses we’re made to extol the virtues of capital and all of the good things it makes cheaply available, things like poetry. In this way the effect of our generational explosion in art-making and cultural production, democratized and curved exponentially by technology and the Internet, is that the justifications for structural resistance are met with an everincreasing skepticism. When even poverty begins to lose its reality, politics cannot keep hold of its authenticity. In other words, what injustice? Look at all this art. We are the enemy. Taking poetry as an example we can identify two notions of how to participate in cultural production while somehow offering a critique of it. The first is a conventional approach, where people still use words like beauty. We are told that more poems are morally good for society: more people will love poetry, and this will have the desired pacifying

effect—already a contradiction. The idea is that poetry will rain peace and equality down on us like manna from heaven. A nice example of this philosophical mystification—and there are countless others—is Dorothea Lasky’s essay, “Poetry is Not a Project.”1 This view belongs to people who remain more or less openly attached to the idea of a benevolent father. They are the conventional careerists. They see nothing wrong with it. They think it makes a vague if slightly uncomfortable sort of sense, elitism. They talk about things like identity politics. They assign magical qualities like talent and genius to people and the discourses of art. In other words, they believe. On the other side of this coin are posturing-conventionalists. Here we can lump together everyone who writes “conceptual writing,” who use words like “experimenting with form,” who refer to the Internet, and so on. The gossip in this case is that radicalizing a form of art—a nonsensical phrase—will help us to radicalize society. Maybe what they mean is that we will see a formal innovation in contemporary dance, and then organize the systems of production accordingly. This kind of aesthetics is difficult to take seriously because it is fundamentally reactionary. All of the contemporary artists of the world belong to this group. Some people think it makes perfect sense, elitism. A good example of this misunderstanding of the critical efficacy of culture is found in Ubuweb’s criticism.2 At least you can say that the contemporary writers play the game better because they are willing to take advantage of the rules. They believe, but say they don’t. If you have to choose between these two modes I would advise this more cynical version because it is trendier. We’ve inherited the idea that somehow a hired fool can function as a sort of free radical, the person at court who sympathizes with the plight of the masses, tells a joke that enlightens those in power, and is finally redeemed. It’s no wonder that we love this image of the fool. We want to unburden our complicity. Cultural critique represents our problem with bad faith. It’s a kind of metaphysical lip service. Lately we have to wonder about Tilda Swinton, if she is an anti-capitalist or something. Or James Franco, a celebrated gallery artist. A blog appeared in Time magazine calling him the first public intellectual of the twenty-first century. This kind of stupefying double-talk happens in the other direction as well. HBO produced a movie of Marina Abramović, a contemporary artist turned Hollywood celebrity, documenting her as she slips from her exhibition at MOMA and into a photo shoot as a fashion model—she sells perfume I think—and then wouldn’t you be damned if it isn’t James Franco who shows up for an unscripted cameo during her performance at the museum. Needless to say, both of these approaches are full of shit, and we are all guilty of claiming them as motivations for our work. ____________
1 2

http://www.uglyducklingpresse.org/catalog/online-reading/poetry-is-not-a-project-by-dorothea-lasky. http://www.ubu.com/concept/AgainstExpressionTOC-Essays.pdf.

At bottom the mistake is to think that ethics exists immaterially, out of context, as a form. As Josef Kaplan points out in his essay, “Theses on an Aesthetics of Violence,”3 we need to confront the fantasy of the critical potential of art. Referring to this bedrock confusion in the context of ethical philosophy, Wittgenstein wrote: “If a person could write a book of ethics which really was a book of ethics, this book would, with an explosion, destroy all the other books of the world.” Things don’t work that way. Ideas do nothing. The persistence of this mystification speaks to the very important ideological use that capitalism reserves for art and its attendant beliefs. You can’t eat a poem. This is why we cry, let the people eat poems: because poetry is not for the people. What would the aesthetics of non-participation look like? An analysis of the practices of refusal and withholding in civil resistance is needed. Eileen Myles’ call for a poets’ strike is a starting point. Other models might be the recent standing protests in Turkey and the sex strikes of various women’s movements around the world. What we make is culture. It makes sense to use this as leverage, to deny it as part of our political practice. The critical potential of doing nothing, as targeted collective action, is that it can reveal an imbalance in power. It also has the supreme advantage of requiring so little of us. At the very least it would allow us a momentary reprieve from the injunction to produce, a break from our frenzied participation, a holiday from our cultural labor, a time for clarity instead of much confusion, a time to disavow the compelled speech that poetry has become.

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3

http://www.lanaturnerjournal.com/archives/josefkaplanviolence.

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