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Being an Illustrated Study in Creative Criticism

Benjamin Boyce

The rightsmoral and otherwisehave been asserted by the author(s). The critical bookends of this piece were conceived as a research project for the ICONOCLASMS program at Evergreen State College, Winter Quarter, 2013, run by professors Lisa Sweet, Miranda Mellis, and Elizabeth Williamson.

Year of the Serpenitent Critically Othersuch Press

Poetry cannot be criticized except by poetry. A judgment that is not itself a work of art ... has no civil rights in the Kingdom of Art. Walter Benjamin (GS, 1:69)

The Working of the Work of Art in the age of Metacritical Reduction
In the Prelude to Thomas @ Winters last completed manuscript, The [OMITTED], which MS he insisted on calling a grimoire, for his 1 authorial intentions drove him to such pretensions of tone in this prelude (composed in the spring of 1998, and reproduced below), @ placed his protagonist, the Builder, in a heated battle with his own shadow. This battle occurred after three dreams, each in the vein of an Origin Mythyet owing their voice to disparate mythological 2 traditions. One supposes that, had @ continued with his Pantheon, and built on these myths, there would have grown three distinct narrative structures, leaning one against the another, and lending in their leaning dimensions which each could not secure on its own without violating their thematic consistency. Alas, @ did not survive into the millennium, and his Pantheon was perforce interred, along with his corpus, for a full 10 years, at

In the sense of pretenders-to-a-throne, for The [OMITTED], by design, possessed an archaic empiricism that predated the Enlightened sciences predated even their forbearer, Alchemyfor The [OMITTED] was to be an experimental operation in the magical sense.

In his notebooks Thomas wrote: Of course the Hebrews incipit cant be bested: In the beginning God created For what is more primary, primal, primeval than the creative monad? [] That said [] we must strip away the concept of a God, even of creativitywe must begin with a pre-beginning, we must first establish that a beginning can happen, and as it were prelude a preface with a foreword [] Thus The [OMITTED]s origin will have four beginnings, beginning with the one who conceives of them, where we will reduce him to a state of total silence, from whence he can encapsulate a state preceding beingbeing a blank awareness. From that state will commence the iterative origins [] These origins will have three modal-tonalities: The Atheistic (philosophical/semantic), the Polytheistic (dramatic/ anthropomorphic), and the Monotheistic (humanistic/narrative) [] we should model them off of the trimesters in the wombeach being prerequisites to eachother (for the final, the genesis of man, is how the other two, preceding, are able to be conceptually conceivedby a one who possess the power of gnoetic and emotive conceptualization

which point we, Steven Sevrs, had been graced access to it and have, over the last two and a half years, been doing the editors task of securing a definitive edition of his works. In so doingin acting not only as the editor, but also its critic (for how can we engage with these texts without undertaking their understanding?)we in effect became their builders shadow. Insofar as we acted the intermediary between the text and its reading, we were implicated by the writing as an interloper among its words. At every step the intentions of the @uthor has checked our purpose, and fought with it, and sought to undermine our 3 interpretations with his invocations.
A word more on the grimoire (modified from the French: grammaire, or grammaroriginally meaning any book writ in Latin): this is to be compared and contrasted with a commonplace bookthe latter being the product of a certain personalized brand of study, where a thinker will dedicate a notebook to housing drawings, quotes and glosses on what they are researching. The first book in Thomas Pantheon began as a commonplace book, titled The Blackbird Variations [1], filled with introspective journal entries and excerpts from the books he was studying (Nietzsche, Jung, the writings of the Christian Mystics), woven through with the fantastical adventures of a certain shadowy character. Over the course of that books composition, the @ began tying events in his life to events in the book, and the line between what can be considered fiction and what is more or less certainly fact began to blur. In book two of his Pantheon Thomas moved away from fantasy and toward poetryin book three from poetry to a harrowing sort of journalism interspersed with a manic philosophizingand when he stumbled upon the prelude to book four, The [OMITTED], he found in himself a renewed interest in fantasybut not the sort that descends from a flight of fancy, nor either the genre-ified realm of swords and sorcery. He wished not to make a book about magic, but a book of magic, and by that, the entire substructure of its composition stood in defiant opposition to what is commonly called literature. He was not dealing in meanings (textual and subtextual)though those were certainly considered and constructed, but all of them served a distinct focus of evoking not a response (dramatic, narrative, character-based), but rather invoking a state. Ergo the pretentions of everything surrounding The [OMITTED]they are not there to make the @ or the book out to be better or higher than the surrounding literature and peoplebut simply removed from them. A magic circle is a consecration, a setting-apart from the commonplace. Thus in approaching the disinterment and publication of this textwhich we are only graced to give a part of, but the prelude, at this timeour common mode of perception, of critique, of seeing the meanings and tying them to

This contention between the authors mode of composition and our mode of exposition (in the sense of exposing what is in the text) has led us to a central question about the work of art (in general): who has authority over it? Is it the artist, or the criticor else that allimportant third party and participantthe audience? Certainly, the question of authority resides after the factfirst for the work is finished (set) the moment it is transmitted (that is: read, or seen, or simply no longer worked upon). And secondly, the work as an experience rarely leaves room for questions of authority without that experience deflating, retreating, even ceasing. That is: to think about an experience has the effect of removing oneself from the experience, and while certainly the experienced consciousness can hold to both the experience and the experience of the experience simultaneously, one can only be so aware of what they are aware of, and that they are aware of what they are aware of, before their awareness itself intrudes on the experience, and they are aware, in the end, of not their experience, but only their own awarenessof. Leaving behind these (either semantic or philosophical) considerations for a moment, if the authority of a work of art (meaning: the ability to define its terms, meanings, and intentions) is to be gauged accurately, it cannot be over the work, but in the working of the workthe authority of the work to work within the audience; to elicit a response. Criticism therefore has a dual (and possibly contradictory) role. The first is to examine this working of the work of art and its attendant response: what are its qualities, what are its causes, and what are the ways in which it accomplishes these. The second role is to evaluate the work of art according to its empirical realityits 4 historical, biographical, political and theological pretexts, subtexts,
the common understanding, the common language, is confronted by the intention of the @, and his pretense of authority.

Theological as opposed to spiritualmeaning not a tracing of its essence / frequency, but a tying of its substance to a certain religious system. Furthermore, we can contrast political influences with social influence (the ideas that the kunstwerk partakes of, rather than the ideologies it promulgates or condemns), historical with heratical (where dates and movements (i.e. modernism, Marxism, surrealism, etc) are overlooked in favor of the cultural climate or the artistic atmosphere of the time of its composition); and biographical with psychological, where what is sought is not a diagnosis of the authors habits, neuroses, quirks and so on, but

and the readings that follow. This secondary role of the critic can take on the shape of formalism and structuralism, which seeks out the system that (it supposes) has built the work of art (or seeded the necessity of its beingmaking the kunstwerk in question in a sense inevitable, being as it is the extension of a greater force); structuralism, in aiming to extract the formalities of its construction, links the kunstwerk to the greater systems it manifeststhat it is an extension of, negatively as polemic or positively as proselytization. The secondary role of the critic follows from a rigorously objective mode of assessing reality which has its roots in the Enlightenment, where the four major tresses of modernity were erected: Empiricism, Aestheticism, and formative Capitalism: whereby, to rid his seeing of the inefficiencies of superstition, modern man sought to orient phenomen in relation to what makes sense, what is sensible, and what forms the widest possible consensus out of the near-infinite variations of human orientation and occupation. This has had phenomenal results: on the industrial level, the technological level, and too the cultural levelleading to revolutions which have continually toppled and refined authority, progressively transferring it from an external source to an internal one. No longer is there a divinely ordained kingnow we champion democratically elected representatives. No longer is there a priestly caste mitigating between the individual and their salvation (read: their personal growth), but each individual is handed responsibility for their own evolution. Likewise, each man is his own baron, and is given the chance to own stock in the worlds fiefdom. This is not to say that the impulses toward superstition or servitude have been entirely vanquished. They have actually proven to be the English Ivy of the mental forest. Abuses in the economic and personal realms are nowhere as apparent as when responsibility for ones holdings are trusted blindly to a few charismatic moguls. And as for the superstitiousit is impossible to separate any opinion from relative fictions. Prejudices themselves seem to be a side effect of living in societyeven the society that seeks to root them out, does so with increasingly extreme prejudice. 5 The enlightened man is bidden to stand at a distance when
instead that ineffable how of the who he was/is. Man is here used not prejudicially, but impersonally, which may no longer be possible in this society.

viewing his world. And yet that distance does not wish to remain emptyconstantly rushes into that objective separation terminologies, conventions, mannerisms, proprieties, which in effect prejudge the viewed phonemenwhich in effect prejudices the onlooker from engaging with his experience directly, for his awareness has so far advanced that it ever seeks to usurp a direct knowing of a thing, an eventeven moreso another person! It would seem that the (subjective, selective) objectivity of our lenses (empiric and aesthetic) places the onus of understanding on the subject who looks (from longingly to disinterestedly) through themthe subject who can never be objective due to their very particularity. The subject who furthermore cannot lay claim to a fact that is not tied to an experientially verifiable, codifiable, reproducible 6 operation: an obvious meaning, an obvious subtlety , free of all

Walter Benjamin, in The Origin of German Tragic Drama, writes In empirical perception, in which words have become fragmented, they possess, in their more or less hidden, symbolic aspect, an obvious, profane meaning. It is the task of the philosopher to restore, by representation, the primacy of the symbolic character of the word, in which the idea is given self-consciousness, and that is the opposite of all outwardly-directed communication. Since philosophy may not presume to speak in the tones of revelation, this can only be achieved by recalling in memory the primordial form of perception. Platonic anamnesis is, perhaps, not far removed from this kind of remembering; except that here it is not a question of the actualization of images in visual terms; but rather, in philosophical contemplation, the idea is released from the heart of reality as the word, reclaiming it's namegiving rights. Ultimately, however, this is not the attitude of Plato, but the attitude of Adam, the father of the human race and the father of philosophy. Adams action of naming things is so far removed from play or caprice that it actually confirms the state of paradise as a state in which there is as yet no need to struggle with the communicative significance of words. Ideas are displayed, without intention, in the act of naming, and they have to be renewed in philosophical contemplation. In this renewal the primordial mode of apprehending words is restored. (pp. 36, 37).

We areneedless to sayfar removed from the time of Adamthat is, from the time when the act of naming things was not bitten by the need to struggle with those employed words, and their communicative significance. We are pained by fundamentalism (religious and political) for this very

fictional, superficial, superstitional connotationa culturally 7 constellated instance of quantifiable and conditionally qualified meaning. A meaning that is ever in doubtfor meaning is tyrannical, definition is wrothfully manipulative in its subjugation of the phenome to the pretense of definition. By its very existence as a thing on which to stand, definition enables both an understanding 8 and an undermining, but only ever indicates an overstanding of the phenome. Beyond this, such defining judgment further exacerbates
reason: it assumes that words (and the world) represents exactly they have been defined asleaving no room for humor, irony, or the cleverness of wordplay. But the concept of the Edenic, the Adamic, we still carry with us a child that is beginning to learn words trusts their power andbecause of their convictionwe, the adults charged with teaching themact accordingly. Yet the moment a child knows her colors, we would much rather misname them and have her correct us, than to merely be right. On the one hand, because that gives her the power of being right, and on the other, it gives her the opportunity to learn, if she is perceptive, that what we say has the ability to possess a non-literal, ulterior meaningthat most of meaning is, in fact, anterior to the representations that float upon its surface. Where physics lays claim to the quanta (from the Latin for how much?; the minimum amount of any physical existent involved in an interaction), the humanities are left to deal with the qualia (from the Latin for what sort or what kind?; meaning individual instances of subjective conscious experience; i.e. the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, or the perceived redness of an evening sky.) To bridge and subsume these two, we have introduced the concept of the phenomebeing any discrete unit of perceptible thingnessany thing that we can interact with, whether directly, indirectly, or though observation. A word more about quantahow deeply imbedded is commodification in our language! To pay our attention to something, to find a piece of artwork interesting, to buy into an idea, to own our beliefs. Lending our attitudes and opinions the weight of the quantifiable gives them the luster of permanence of material objects. And yet they remain permeableinsofar as meaning passes through them, they are meaningful. Everything in our lives, to quote the childrens poet, is actually made of plastic and hard plastic hurts. Overstanding as the objective understanding of a phenomewhich possibly cannot be proven objective in observation, but only when that phenome is objectified within the framework of a particular objectivewhen it is used toward a specific end does meaning (as a means) become stable within that orientation.
8 7

the alienation which has made mechanisms of our bodies and endlessly recursive meta-cogitators of our mindsin the factories of 9 goods as well as thoughts. And where does this leave the work of art? One can gauge its popularity, and assign it value through how much it has earned (in cultural or monetary valuehow many s or $s it has accumulated), and how much of an effect it has on other artists and works. But those evaluations are removed from the experience of the work, though they follow from itthe experience which itself can be evaluated by classifications of form and content (through punditry, by performing an intervention on behalf of a school of thought, or through pedantry, by equating it to the standards of the genre it is working within). Still, these evaluations are removed from the experience of the work of art in that they comment on its structures, and not the effect it has within the audience. And so how are we, as criticsas those who provide entry to the kunstwerk, those who not only evaluate a work but give the audience various and deeper access to its workinghow are we to work not with its effects and quantifiable structures, references, all the surface-level appearances involved and invoked in its set form but with its qualia, with its veritywith its unique (and worthy) existence as an outpouring of the human pneumathe breath which, invested into a work, imbues it with the capacity to challenge, change, and interact with the experience of other human beings? The most obvious solution may be the best: the role of the critic is to provide more of the work of artto extend its resonance and provide the audience with insight into what it hidesstructurally, stylistically, and secretly, in its heart, in the seat of its resonance, in that essence that cannot be claimed by the critic as actually there, but only intuitedonly, as it were, super-stitched into its textual cloth. The critic has her toolsall the various tools at her disposal: her knowledge of form and historical context and so on and so forth. But her foremost tool is her own sensitivity. Is her ability to subject

Which is a reference to Marx Theory of Alienation, where he describes a worker, within the capitalist society, becoming a replaceable cog in a machine only interested in his ability to do a simple, repetitive task which he does not own (which is stripped as much as possible of his individual touch). This might be extrapolated to include the thought factories of contemporary academia, which are increasingly moving away from the humanities and toward the worthwhile pursuits of the S.T.E.M.-cell.


herself, like a shadow, to the working of the work of artfor it is the shadow that is responsible for perceptible depth, and it is the shadow that affords the onlooker with the intimations of more dimensions to the object than is immediately seen. And then, if the critic is to survive, if her activity is to be validated, she must communicate her findings. She must appropriate the objective of the work of artwhich is always (admitted to or not by the artist) to reach the audience. To bind itself as a subject of the other. For only by being witnessed is a work finished (which witnessing is not a passive actionwhich is an active action, for fictions are real when they are not believed in but partaken of whether or not there is a seed within it that will take root, the fruits very sweetness supposes there is another somewhere out there, that would delight in tasting it). Only by being assimilated into the body of experience of the audience is the working of the art given over to its hoped-for purpose, which is the same purpose that drives every phenome in existence: to be more than it already is. Steven Sevrs March, 2013


Prelude to

Thomas @ Winters



nce there was a man who wished to build. He tried his hand at this craft, at that art, and one by one he mastered them. He mastered the forms and the formalities, the conventions and tonalities of drama, music, sculpture, painting, textiles, verse and prose. Then the man saw there was nothing he could learn, either from teachers or the artists themselves. And so he quit the world, walking south until he came upon a path, with a stream beside it. As he walked this path, the thought: What is the worth of all this learning? Where is the needfulness in it? It allows me to do this, and to do thatand were a people to ask anything of me, I might accomplish itto the excess of their expectations. But where might I find my own satisfaction? Where is the labor that would give a fair return on my effort? As he thought these thoughts, the stream babbled to his left (for he was walking east-ways now)and as it babbled, it caressed his hearing, and soothed his thoughts until he became quiet. Then, he stopped walking and faced the stream, seeing on its other side a field of poppy flowers. He knew the danger of them both: the stream and too the flowers. But the man who wished to build, he looked past the solvent and dissolvent, and his eyes landed on a place apart from either. Look: he saw the forest of blue-leafed trees. He alone could see this, for he alone looked past what lies between the path and those same trees. He spied the forest, and he strode toward it, crossing the cold coursing of the stream and the sonorous seeming of the poppies without being dissuaded by either. His thoughts were quiet as he approached the wood. Yet once he crossed into its deep shadows, his quietude deepened, and inverted, and became a hollownesshis attention became like a vacuum, and through his senses he absorbed the forest into himself: every drip of dew and sway of bough; each rustle of insect and sigh of beast entered into him, so that within the space of a single step it seemed as though he were indistinct from that forest, that surrounded him. And on his second step, it was as if there were no him

swiftly, fluidly, he moved through the forest, at-once with it, circulating through its uncultivated growth and lending to it the pre-ordering magnitude of his sentience. He knew it upon entry, and knowing it brought knowledge to itit knew itself through him, through his movement through it. Listen: it did not awake, he did not wake it, but by his awareness its nature knew its own natureand once it was filled entirely with self-knowingit opened up to him its heart, wherein was a secret. The man who had been the builder, he crawled into this secret heart, which was ordinarily a thicket. And once within this thicket, his awareness deepened yet again, past silence, past vacuum, into the perfect symmetry of the VOID.


The First Dream:

An Origin of Things


() Nothing.



(0) Before there was Anything, there was Nothing.



(.) And then, there was Anything.



(1) Anything moved through Nothing until Something became possible.



(1) When Something became possible, it began to grow more possible in Anything.



(2) Something grew in Anything until it could become no more possible.



(3) Then Something separated from Anything to become a thing itself.



(5) As soon as Something departed from Anything, it met Nothing, and Nothing it became.



() Anything again grew ripe with Something. Again, Something grew so possible that it became distinct from Her. Again and again, as soon as Something was not Anything, Nothing came of it.



(13) Many times this happened. After many times, Something knew it could be, but that it was not yet. Something then fled into Anything, in order to not be for Nothing.



(21) Nothing followed Something into Anything, for Something was not Anything. Anything resisted Nothing, and this resistance spread out into a surface. As Nothing possessed neither end nor beginning, this surface became infinite.



(34) Upon this surface the resistance of the [n]one and [m]other trembled and whorled. Something gazed at the ripples, where the possible and the not-possible were being bound into finer and finer knots.



(55) Looking closely at their resistance, Something knew it was neither of Anything, nor for Nothing. Something knew it was of something else, which willed it to become a thing itself.



(89) And so Something extended itself into the knots, which caught it, and fashioned of it qualities. These qualities were dual, for so the surface spun them: giving way to Dark and Light, Dense and Diffuse, Near and Far, and so on.



(144) Something was fragmented into many things. And in the sum of things, it was able to be a-thing itself. Yet ever about it, Nothing and Anything abounded in their strife, causing Something to endlessly refine itself. In this refinement became possible another thingwhat may in fact be



Everything ()




The Second Dream:

An Emergence of Being


First we start with darkness. Before we dream and before we wake there is always the slimmest instant of total darkso that is where well start: First, there was darkness, and the darkness was named Nuos.



Then, in the darkness, there was a seed. Dont ask why or how because neither those questions exist yet. Then, there was a seed, planted in the dark.



Around this seed was something like a shell, and that shell was like a want; a wanting ringing through the deep. Eventually, this wanting grew so strong that the shell dehisced off of the seed.



The shell fell off in a million piecesin infinite pieces, actually, and these pieces fell through Nuos, until the darkness was made fertile, and the shell became like a cloud, circulating in the deep.



The cloudwhose name is KaosShe floated in Nuos until something happened: the seed began to grow a root! And because Nuos was filled with Kaos, the root had something to grip when it reached out of itself.



When this root, named Uros, grew into Nuos, Nuos countered it, and forced Uros to move in a different direction.



Nuos again countered Uros, and Uros changed course again, and on and on the Root grew into Nuos, until many opposites came to be: Yes and No, Come and Go, Will and Love, and so on.



This continued until the Root was so big that it knew itself to be Real. And knowing itself to be real, Uros wondered: What am I? And Uros spoke to His self: Self, go forth and tell me what you see!



So the Self of Uros opened, and looked upon the Tree that Is. This Self was like an opening and also like an sphere, and his name is Cronos, or Time.



As Cronos looked upon Uros, he came to know what IS, and this knowing was a thing itself. It was like a measure, and like a warmth, and her name is Nuit, or Space.



As Cronos and Nuit explored Uros, something like a song came to be. This song is named Harmony, and she reverberated throughout the body of Uros, and then traveled beyond Him, into the Darkness.



There, in the Darkness, Kaos was, and She heard that song and was woken by it. And waking, She knew herself to be wretched and unreal.



Kaos went to Uros, and sought to be made real by Him. But He became hard against Her, and would not give Her what She wanted.



So Kaos returned to the darkness, and in it She studied Harmony. And for Her restlessness, She bent and plied the song of Cronos and of Nuit until She had made for it a compliment.



With this complimentwhose name is MelodyShe returned to Uros, and began to sing Her song into Him.



Melody drew the attention of Nuit, who spoke to Cronos: We know what IS, but we do not know what BECOMES. Let us leave our Father and explore what is NOT-YET.


Cronos did not think this wise, for they had been bidden to know, not to do. Yet Nuit was insistent, and she reached out of Uros, and shortly Cronos followed, for in truth they were inseparable.


Once outside Uros, Kaos moved to snatch them, for She knew that they would make her real. Uros saw Her greediness, and pushed Kaos from his children. As the Seed and Shell struggled, so all the opposites were pulled apart and linked by myriad spectrums, into which Cronos and Nuit fell.



As they fell, so was born the Sculum Sculathe Age of Agesat first as a point, and then as an expanding sphere, then cooling and giving birth to stars and matter and swirls of gas and onward, outward Cronos and Nuit were draped between their ordering Father, and his wanting consort.




The Third Dream:

A Genesis of Man


In the very beginning we were not as we are now. We were not men and women and childrenwe were instead a single person. Now, this is just a story. And in this story the name of the person we were was Adam Kadmon. When Kadmon began, he was nothing more than a seed, swaying on the waves of the sea.

Soon enough, he sprouted arms and legs, and these grew and grew until his feet touched the mud, and the top of his head touched the air.


At that moment, Adam came to stand on the island his head made out of the water. Above him, the sun made transit across the sky, as below him his island began to grow.

Soon, all manner of life was on his island:

the growing thing, the creeping thing, and those that flew and perched in the Tree at the center of his island.

Kadmon was not alone on his island. He was only one, but with him was his self, and his self was that same Tree.

Adam walked about his island, examining every form upon it. He named these, and by naming them he knew them.

Then he fell to sleep. This was in the evening. He left his body, and walked along the shore. There, he heard a voice. This voice he named Liath, who laps against me, and often as he slept his awareness would walk the shore, conversing with her, that voice.

Every morning when Adam woke, he would prostrate himself next to the Tree in the center, and commune silently with what made him man.

One night, Adam opened his eyes to see a little girl leaning over him. Her face was as bright as the moon. Looking down, he saw his Tree growing from his chest. The girl said to him: Abba, it is me!

He smiled, for he knew who she was. Then he reached up and plucked a fruit from his Tree. He gave this to her. She thanked him and kissed his cheek, then left him to his slumber.

On another occasion, Adam grew tired of being only with his self. So he took some mud, added flora and fauna to it, and then breathed some breath into what he had formed. His creature stood, and he named it. Then he toured it about his island, showing it all the forms there, and explaining how they fit together. His creature comprehended all this, but when Adam brought it to the Tree in the center, his creature was compelled to the fountain hidden at its base. When it tasted what came from there, it became ravenous, and slurped greedily at the secret waters. In no time it became engorged, and Adam saw it knew no satiation, for it was made from his own want. Adam revoked the name he had given it, and cast it from his island, forbidding it from ever returning.


After that, Adam grew despondent, for he truly wished to be with another. One night the voice of Liath asked him why he was downcast, and, again in needfulness, he invited her onto his island.

When she stepped onto his land, she at once became as he imagined her to be, and the further into his garden they went, the more definite and beautiful she became, until they were standing before the Tree in the center. There, she spoke: How, you have a water of your own! I would to taste this. I have nurtured you, now nourish me.

So Adam allowed her to taste the water of the fountainhead. Yet once it touched her lips, she became hideous, and sought to dominate him. He wrestled with her, and she was not stronger than him, so that he cast her from his sight, and moved his island inland.

In her depths, the water of Adams life mixed with Liaths incessant movement, and this caused an irritation in her. From this irritation sprang many beings, some more definite than others, but all of them monstrous.


Finally, Adam prayed. He prayed and then he fasted. He fasted from sleeping and eating and even from his want and loneliness. In that state, he fell to sleep, and the eyes above him lifted him upward. When he returned from the high places, he was no longer one, but two. Around the Tree now wrapped a Vine; Beside the man lay woman. Face then beheld face. Her eyes opened before his, and she was the first to witness he who had only witnessed, and not known touch before.



The Builders Rite

rustling, and the man awoke. In his ears pounded his heart and across his skin spread a cold dampness. Something approaches. He rose. He was naked. Nothing separated him from his surroundings. His mind was clear, but his feelings trembled. He chose to meet itwhat sought him, and he crept through the dense brush, until he came to the forests edge. Not its outer edge, but the inner. Listen: he alone came to the clearing in the center of the forest, for he alone sought what hunts a man. The clearing was not wide, but it was wide enough to contain a hill. He walked forward, across the dark grasses, until he came to the crest of the hill. There he stood, his hair bristling, and looking down he saw a single pane of glassbut before he could examine it, a movement rushed toward him. He was not ready. His feet were not planted firmly, nor his muscles tensed with expectation. Of a sudden, what hunted a man was on him, throwing him to the ground. He rolled, dodged, and pivoted back to his feet, throwing his weight at his attackerbut it evaded his grasp, circled behind and wrapped its arms around his chest, lifting him high and slamming his body again to the ground. The man tasted dirt, the sharp tang of grass mixed with the saltiness of his blood. He stood again, and went at his enemy sideways, expecting its evasion and grabbing hold of its wrist. Its cold wristthen its dark face was before him. He knew it and he did not know it. It was him and it was something other than him. It moved its face closer, sought to lock its lips to his. He abutted its movement with his forehead, turning his torso and extending a leg and pinning it to the ground. It used his force to regain the advantage. His face was against the grass, his eye an inch from the pane of glass. This side of the glass was dark, as though poured from very pap of darkness. He knew if it cut him it would infect his blood. His right arm was in danger of breaking loose from its socket. He took a deep breath, exhaled a loud groan and leveraged all his weight against his left shoulder, reaching backward with his legs

The dark self was caught, toobut can you break a shadow? Its limbs were only as solid as it needed them to be, and no more. What did it want from him? I want you to become me, me to be you, he heard it wheezing. I am real insofar as you are convinced of a thingand you do not believe in anything enough to make me real. Make me real! Invest your belief in a something! The builder now gripped his shadows neck with both his hands. He sought to crush it, but its pain was transferred back to him, and he could not breathe. Belief will never be over me, he thought. It is my instrument and my mortar. It is my medium and I its craftsman. The shadows voice intermixed with hisif we do not form a foundation, we will only build ruins. Give us a purpose and we will aide you, and your building will reach higher and wider than any building of this age. His seeing was fading. It, too, was becoming dark. He refused to answer his shadow. It was his ambitions nails and his desires wheel and could be implements of his martyrdom or sainthood. Yet he wanted neither. What then do you want? Something greater than a wanting. Wanting need not be the end, but it is inherent in every beginning. There was the sound of breaking glass. A crack appeared across the sky. He looked upward, seeing in the vault of heaven the blue leaves above his waking self. He was in the thicket. He was naked. He stood and came to the clearing, walked up the hill again and found it: The pane of glass. His shadow spoke to him, from the treeline, speaking: We follow only that which has a direction. The man reached into the earth. The earth was formless and he could give it form. But what form? A ball of clay? A brick, a pot? Whatever he would build would become his definition this much his shadow showed him. He reached into the earth beside the pane of glass, and pulled form from itwhich took shape as a building, The Eitherverse, so-called, The Dream Foundary.

Thomas @ Winters June, 1998


So long as the approach is an aesthetic one, paradox must have the last word. Walter Benjamin, Origins, 216 To flatten these myths into singular panes of viewing will have the effect only of defining our own lenses. Thus we seek not to interpret them, but to interpenetrate them with our thoughtshere arranged not systematically, but epigrammatically, around these topics of attraction: the Critic, the Creator, and the Kunstwerk. * *

Origin myths are removed from the contextualizing world. They happen, as it were, in uteroin a state of isolated activity. This is both a product of and a prerequisite to their rule of simplicity. For beginnings, in order to open up a wide enough field for a host of middles to play out towards ends, must be wrought of the simplest possible terms and subjects. The Builders origin, however, takes place in the middle. He comes from society, where there are already multiple arts and schools. Once he achieves masteryor else, once he has drunk his fill of training and practicehe removes himself. He seeks a state of quiet where he can fathom an answer to his question: What for? What for, all this skill? He possesses the will to artificeyet does not desire a mere artificial producthe is seeking the impulse that will make his work authentic. This is what spurs his questand also what spurs our inquest. Our inquest (toward an authentic understanding of the work in question) which proliferates dramatically in both its plausible meanings and possible inaccuracies in inverse proportion to the builders story. For after seceding society, he is left with his thoughts. And once he has thought enough, he sees a state even more removedand this he chases after, avoiding the pitfalls of icy analysis and the pratfalls of hedonistic pleasure, entering a forest. 99

Which is no more a forest than the stream was a stream, or the poppies were narcissistic narcotics. That is: the forest is a metaphor. And if we ask what it means, we need look no further than how it affected the builder: it regressed him. He became a knowing, and the way he moved and interacted with that wood was as an animal his knowing became instinctual, and by thatby being divorced from questions of causes and statements of intent, this knowing of his was transferred to the forest. This knowing again worked according to the laws of osmosis, and once it found its fullness, it instantly converted; causing the man who would build to regress one rung further: he planted himself in a secret. He became like a plant himself: and rooted into the ground, he regressed even more: into a state of unknowning. Into the consciousness of deaf, dumb, and blind matter. And thus begins the first dream. The first dream which, we can take it from the illustrations and we can infer from certain tells within its textual interface, that we are being shown the beginning in the most basic way it can be conceived (by the @uthor). A beginning either of the world, or consciousnessor even a single idea. For beginnings must be supremely simple in order to sustain every mode of causation. They must precede all complexity, in order to be infinitely extrapolated upon. Only simplicity can do this! In fact, the first dream shows the state of something looking for a way to be itself, only to be denied that again and again. It is not enough to maybe be or maybe dobut without that maybe there is no action there is only nothing without the potential for something. Actuality, implies the myth, is a dramatically tenuous fiction, resting between ZERO and MIGHT-BE-ONE. Something itself can be said to not exist (or only exist partially) until all the infinite variations of Something have been allowed for. Thought can be thought of as a way to speed up this process, for it proposes a variety of variations, merging them with possibility, then proving them to be plausible or implausible. The human capacity for error is a great boon, for possessing the possibility of wrongness assures one freedom from the tyranny of righteousnessfrom the ISNESS of the father (in his Uros Aspect) which demands obedience, demands that we be witnesses to its will, with whatever of our own we possess.


For one thing, descendant as it is of another thing, is different than the thing that caused it, and only finds wholeness when it has proven to be the exhaustion of the cause of its being. Something neither is (for there is only everything), nor isnt (for there is no such thing as everything)it becomes. Something is always (in the story) acting. There is a will within it (a need, a want) and a will behind it (a fate, a destiny) driving it into being. * *

A critic deals in shadows; she traces the lines of definition that connect to the work of art and give it depth and relevance both in the time of which it is apart, and in the mind of the audience. Insofar as artand the aestheticis inaccessible to reason and rationality, the mind views it as a conspiracy, as a plot whose effects might be apparent, but whose workings are just out of sight. The mind thus suffuses matters of taste and beauty with a paranoia of signs and concepts, leading toward ever more complex formulations of the experience that the work of art provides. This is the fractaling of the shadow that has occurred since before the modern period, culminating in the mysticism of jargon that the post-modern theorists employ. Conspiracy and inspiration, after all, have the same root: to breathe. * *

A shadow is a breath made visible. It rests entirely on the air, and is of no weight. However, it moves along with the object that casts itit is its extension. In the empiricists method, the shadow of the kunstwerk is connected to historical and cultural matters. Prejudices and intentions are plotted and evinced, which invariably undermine the working of the work of art because they are created by the instrument that stands outside the experiencethe analyst is outside the structure, in order to be an intermediary of its meaning and effect. But if she is trained only on the shadows that as it were are absences of lightthat are in fact solid objectsthe building blocks, the mortarif she has no access to the breath that causes the kunstwerk to workits fuel, its passion and its pleasure resulting from the freedom of its existencethe freedom that sets it apart from mere ornamentalityif she, the critic, is barred from accessing the subtle life within the working of the work, then all she 101

is able to create is the deathmask of it. She is a forensic examiner of a crime whose statute of limitations has long expired. She is a knowledge base, and can only add to the corpus of intelligible forms that wends through the dark earth of humankinds historical meander. However, this her lesser work (in the sense of obvious and objective) is usefulquantifiable and codifiable and useful, even if only to a select few. For in this studiously detatched analysis she becomes the provider of more and finer building blocks. She is the mediary between the endless data and its infinite connectivity, and the poet who seeks material. In her rooting is found the essential ingredients for his sprouting. In terms of The Second Dream, the analyst is the roots and the artist is the branchessymmetry need not be exact, but must be commiserate in order that either growth (the upward (toward the transcendent) and the downward (toward the actual)) neither topples nor dies out. For the one provides the other materials each are unable to secure due to their orientation. * *

Criticism, as such, cannot come about until after there is something to critiqueuntil there is a text for the critic to speak about, the critic, whose onus is to speak about speaking, to write about writing, and to comment-on, has no basis on which to stand. This is why it is a later development and why it always inhabits the post sphereit always stands outside, beside and aside the kunstwerk and its working. Yet this is what allows it to be the culmination of the arts their highest point and in effect their summation (so long as it is made into a lp, which feeds back into the arts). For the critic who is aware of awareness (made so by studying various expression of awareness, and setting herself between as many points and views as she can) is able to set them in relation to eachother. She is Nuit, she is Spacethat which is related through. She urges the artist to step out of his boundariesby indicating the melodic noise that is being made at the very edge of Uros, or what IS. This is also why she is blamed for his fall from gracefor, even though she is denying nothing, she causes the artist to deny, she causes him to sin in the sense of forcing him to recognize his own inadequacy, his own not-enough-ness. She manifests the crushing destiny of not the successful seller-artist, but the Blakean Geniushe who invents the new and crooked roads, not he who perfects the paths already trodden. The critic thus delivers the inspired artist to his own 102

downfall. By giving him knowledge of what is good and what is bad about his produced states, he is either compelled to give up on invention (becoming then a slave to convention), or else to give himself over to the Death of Menwho is Kaos, who gobbles up every ambition and inspiration and sucks the poet dry, but cannot or in fact does not have a taste for the critics insights (contrasted with the artists inspirations), for these insights are themselves ordering, they are the natural and undenaturable extension of the historical reality of Uros. They are empirical and as such refuse to make Kaos real, refuse to truck with Herfor She is merely possible, not actual, which makes her the poets beloved and nemesis. She is messy and wretchedly unrealand only realizable by intoxication and by the subsequent dismemberment of he who muses. The critics tone of sobriety does not suppress or repress Herbut rather gives her no entrance, for its hardness. * *

The artistic act (not the process, but the act itselfthe moment (synonymous with movement) of creating) is a state (rather, a phase, a changing state) of expansion. The critic, coming after, declares where that act has ceased. She traces the boundary and the threshold, and though she may guess what will be next, she cannot rightly say, without herself becoming an artist. For part and parcel with the artistry is the process of infinite failurea failure without end, which means a constant trying, where there is no yodaic constant of doing, but only attempting to do, infinitely, with the constant prick of insufficiency, untilas if upon accidentthe artistic intent is actualized in that momentary movement of expansion. The critic comes subsequently, and sees the work in its fullness (of being finishedof returning to a state of nonacceleration, a static state of capture, where the material of the art has been trapped by the artist), and therefrom extracts her inquiry. She is the wielder of the sexy (seductive, sinister) S-curved scythe of questions, the ? which upsets and truncates (and gives way for, and excites, and brings to blissful-blindness) the phallic ! of the artist. By her, and only by her, can the seeing-eye know something other than knowledge, which in the First Dream is called Harmony, and which resonates through the being and life that is livedwhere historical reality and the transcendental state intersect within the body that experiences. However, criticism of the mindsolely of the mindentirely dry and mechanisticonly a seeing, a deaf 103

witnessing divorced of the connective tissue (the measurement and warmth (read: radiance) of the heart) leads only to disharmony. The mechanism must be oiled with somethingthere must be a fluid element in the works or they will clang deafeningly along. That is the aesthetic must be adopted by she who is the commentator-on the aestheticfor how else is she to prove that she knows what she is speaking about, other than by employing it to her ends? This is one aspect of the epigraph reproduced before our first foray into pedantry: A judgement that is not a work of art has no civil rights in the Kingdom of Art. There is something that escapes the mind, when it comes to art. Something that may be sensual, or may be spiritualby which is meant state-ual or atmospheric, for there are many different states of spirituality, or essential resonance, from high to low, so think not of spirituality as a blessedly idyllic state. It is in fact terrifying, horrendous, hellish and excruciating just as much 10 as it is heavenly, uplifting and liberative . So there may be something that occurs that the mind itself does not have access towith its understanding. But a human being is not only given understanding. She has at her disposal the empathetic powers, and by them (mediated and measured by the mind) is she able to access an overstanding of the worka direct knowledge of what is hypostasized in the kunst. This spiritualsensuality is most easily understood, in action, as playfulness. * *

Playfulness exists in these myths only under limited conditions. Neither Anything nor Something are playfulfor Anything is a darling yet radical maybeable to move, but not to discover; whereas Something is driven by the dire compulsion to find the critical mass which will contain its creative charge. Something must be, and is obliterated each time it attempts to define itself, apart from

We will furthermore opine that any religiosity that does not account for the terrible aspects of reality (and therefor whatever is deemed, in that system, to be the Godhead) is opiatic blather, and is in fact relying on that which it deniesto good or to bad ends it matters not, so much as it is false for retreating into a spectrum of pastels, and away from the starkness of the world in which we have been planted. Plainly: utopia and dystopia both pale in comparison to the mixture that contains them both. Verisimilitude is found in a balanced admixture of the imaginations moody swing upon the spectrum of the possible.


its might be. In the interplay of Nothing and Anything there comes a point where playfulness ariseswhere the rich intersection of possibility and impossibility is allowed to flourishwhich comes about once Something no longer pursues itself for its own sake, but allows that it is to be made something, by another force, greater than itgreater than its circumscribing mother and obliterating father. * *

In the Second Dream, playfulness is again some time in coming (if time can be said to pass during these scant pages and dwarfish paragraphs). Kaos is too wild and Uros too strict to participate in a play. Cronos alone, the detached eye, both isolating and allsolating, both filled with attentions pan and attentions span to a nearly immeasurable degree (for Cronos is an openinghe takes inand an orbhe faces in all directions) can conceive of a state that is neither rigidly real, nor wretchedly unreal. Yet Cronos cant do anything with this conception (conceiving, concepting). Is only Nuit who possesses the innocent defiance that allows for inventionthat spurs invention, which is the application of harmony to the orgiastic forms of melody. * *

By descending into manifestation play comes to befor the stakes are thus softened by the protections of Uros and spiced by the elicitations of Kaos. This descent into manifestation is not without a melancholic aspect however, for to assume form is to die, is to take part is historical time and material space; is to be rooted in place and then subject to decay, and datedness, and all the pain involved in the disconnection from a state of pristine order. So once play becomes possible, work becomes unavoidable. Effort is transformed from a direct outpouring of the demiurge, the UR-os, and fragmented and given to each of the constituents of life. To live is to struggle, but also to foment comedy. Silliness and satyrism, tragedy and sorrow, are the sideffects of being borninsofar as to be born means to become mortal. And the hero dies a thousand deaths, in order to be worthy of being borntruly born, as a human being, as a descendant of the Prototypewhich the Third Dreambut not us, at least not yetspeaks of. * * 105

By the playfulness of her questions the critic evades the two failures of her discipline: pedantry and punditry. By the punditic we mean not its original meaning of an expert called upon to speak about her field to the public, but the softer meaning it has garnered in recent years upon the American networkswhere the expert is an expert primarily at arguing opinions. The critic who suffers from punditry succumbs to being the tool of her opinions, just as the pedant succumbs to being a tool of his rulebook. She walks not the middle pathshe snakes and curves between the two extremes, invoking understanding by threading her gnoetic weave through the apparent facts, the effective factors, and the inspirations the artist has embedded in his work. Her insights become personal (for only she can arrive at her conclusionsonly her particular brain with its highly personalized networks of neurons can formulate (through constellation) what she has, as she hasthis is indeed her unique voice, groomed and procured through her own masteries) and once they become personal, she must begin her justificationsher argumentsher exclamations. For it is not enough to state findings, one must also propose questions. And it is not enough to propose questions, she must also penetrate her quarry (trapped by her queries), with either the sharp blade of her convincing judgments (her points), or through the long-form dedication of an excavation. She chooses her specialty and devotes her life to it: Heidegger, Medieval Alchemy, The Surrealists, and then penetrates a single aspect of the surveyed earth, boring into the corpus, seeking the veins that run through it, seeking those last bits of valuable minerals that have not been already touched upon and brought into the light. Applying new and different processes to the raw materials to extract even subtler, more precious elements from them! She has at her disposal a host of acids and solvents. But the highest purpose of all acids are found in the belly that makes them solutions of assimilation. The critic, too, must build. She must invent a new process. She must refine an old process. She must make not only her subject matter yield more and heretofor undiscovered aspectsshe must also perfect her tools and her methods. It is not enough to specialize, one must personalize too their means. Either by sharpening and narrowing, or by widening and allowing for more connections. We are not Adam any more. It is not enough to name; and it is too much a pain to be truly naked. But there is no shame in a patch of exposed skinzoomed up on, it is


an alien world fraught with crevices and forestsa new wilderness, minute and microscopic, which she makes her Garden. The creative will reorganizes materials to suit the expression of a value. It assigns value in its activity. From this value the kunstwerk accumulates potency, which might be translated into meaning by the viewer, or an emotional state through the mode of its relation (reading if it be words; seeing if it be a plastic form; listening if it be music or the spoken vowels of the poet and the rhetorician). This value is negotiable, plotted along the vectors of its effect, its technique, and its meta-signifiers (the name of its maker, the rarity of its being, the time and the place that suffers it to be a fetish of its historical point of origin). This value may be inherent due to the genius of its conception. Leaving the definition of genius be for a moment, we will build upon this notion of value, to say that there are gradations of it. One kunstwerk is more valuable than another. Why this is, and how it is so, is a matter that might fill volumes and their attendant hours of consideration. But that it is, is certain. Not every kunstwerk is created equal. Not every piece of art is worth the attention of the viewer, nor are they all worthy of being evaluated. If the time that man has been in the world is a fraction of a fraction of the entire span of the existence of the world, this only works to compound the value of his attention on the forms that he encounters. Thus: not all art is art. Not all craft is worth the while of its evaluation. That it is worth making relies on what the maker learns from crafting it. What he gets from the process involved. Where it leads him, what questions it evinces, what masteries it proves he needs learn. But the viewer, the audiencethey who form the concerts power by uniting in its soundsthey must be interested, they must be struck, they must be elevated, drawn in, drawn out. The creator must then have access to something they do not normally have access to. He must have been gifted or through long and arduous trial won the fire that as it were comes from heaven, that he uses to ignite the souls of those who pass byand stop, because they must see what he has to show them. He is a mirror, and becomes transparent in and of himself so that what is reflected might pass through him (or if he is visible he must play with that light in novel ways).


Shitty art only matters in its relation to kick ass art. Kick ass art only matters in its relation to the asses of those it kicks. Great art stands apartit may be in dialogue with the works it follows from, it works off ofbut if it does not stand on its own, in relation to the viewer, its worthiness is called into question. Wit, compassion, realism, insight, lament, effectivenessthe scholar might be able to mine these out, but only if there is an audience does the work of art matter. Shitty art is that which fails to relate to those who view it. Shitty art results in forgetfulness, stupor, dumbness, wariness, ill humor, as well as disinterest. Value is tied to quality. The highest quality a work of art might win is to be inspiringto incite more art, more communication, more feeling, greater depth of observation, finer states of being, more subtle turns and sprints of fancy. Once value is applied to the material, a potential is established: perhaps there is a critic there to unpack itperhaps the reader loses the threadbut the value that is trapped in the kunstwerk waits impatiently to be tasted. This impatience is relative to the genius that conceived of itthis impatience is a value that vibrates, that claws out of its shell, that stirs and stirs in the abyss of not-being-known, making rich the soil of its chapters and lines of perspective in the greedy hope of the future audience that might stumble upon the seed that whines, that cries out sleeplessly, that the parent cast far and casts constantly. The failure that the artist is burdened by bleats at him with incessant threats of impotency. But the seed wriggles on, furious and ignorant of its impending death. Waiting for a curiosity to find it, to set it loose. Churning in the sea of voices, the genius irritates that motion, giving vent, making muddy the waters. Find me, read me, look at me. Needy little daughters are the works of art, frozen fictitiously in pages and canvas.