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ARMED CELL 7

ARMED CELL 7
QUESTIONS OF THE CONTEMPORARY
from MELOS
from FML
from COMMUNISM IS UP THERE
AND WE ARE DOWN HERE BUT IT IS
HAPPENING NOW
from CATASTROPHE CROWN: 1-5
DISPLACEMENT IS THE NEW
TRANSLATION
JOSHUA CLOVER
ANGELA HUME
DERECK CLEMONS
OLIVE BLACKBURN
TED REES
KENNETH GOLDSMITH
ARMED CELL 7
Edited by Brian Ang
armedcell@gmail.com
armedcell.blogspot.com
Covers by Mayakov+sky Platform
from an Odyssey (an anti-ode
essay on Architecture)
mayakov-plus-sky.blogspot.com
Physical edition of 100
Free
ARMED CELL 7 was frst distributed at the East Bay Poetry Summit, Berkeley
and Oakland, July 2-6, 2014. ARMED CELL 8 will appear in January 2015.
Submit cover images and writing by the end of November 2014 for consideration.
QUESTIONS OF THE CONTEMPORARY
JOSHUA CLOVER
Immaterial labor. What is it
really and the periphery. A system
is not a solution.
Also does transport create
value where there was none
or is that just buying cheap
and selling dear. The next MIA
will it be terrible again.
The next Robyn will it be
great again. Fall 2007 spring
2005 we will never their
like again. Ill show you a god
damn panegyric. Why do things end
because teleology.
The land will become sea
and so will be free sang the Dutch
villeins. De Wittes picture
of the worlds
oldest bourse 1602 Amsterdam
is in Rotterdam do you not
see how this is a fucking
problem. Hi-Cube intermodal
shipping containers used
for shops Shoreditch also
homeless holding cells Elephant
and Castle. Surplus population
and the arbitrage
of minor emotions. Hip-hop riots
and the space of fows is one
talk I will never give
again. Straight hoodie and luxury
goods chorus Gucci Gucci Louis
Louis Fendi Fendi
Nada. Some of our friends
were dating Leninists and
that was weird. We should read
Vol. 2 again together srsly
so boring but babies are
defnitely Department III. Oh and
Also? Reproductive labor. What is it
really and wages for house
parties Oakland
I need an emoticon for lol
and finching with dread
simultaneously. Why do things
seem to shudder
because volatility. What if they fgure out
how to hedge against
like everything. COINTELPRO
tip: permanent counterrevolution
needs quants!
A possibility is not a program.
Summary as of fscal
fourth quarter 2013 Kreayshawn
is not coming back. Production
is not coming back.
Allan Sekula is not coming back.
Some big container ships are
coming back some are
underwater. One standard 40 ft
container equals two
Twenty foot Equivalent Units or TEUs
but so does one Hi-Cube
despite eight additional m
3
its not an exact science like
Max Martin. Just a slab of
unfgured air a kind of room
to move. The desire of a planetary
civilization three pct
maybe three point fve
and enough left over for the aesthetic.
Annualize that shit.
What if its just cruel mercantile
plus dubstep from here on out.
What if its just
if the rich win the living
will envy the dead. Why do things keep on
because reasons.
from MELOS
.
(if the life of the mind
dies with the sun
who will have seen
fapping
a sudden
chirop
tera
myo
desopsia
sequoia
dendron
its shivered
limb
moon
a pin atmospheric
obsidian
economy of
river
ANGELA HUME
riprap split
intimately
like the split down a
mammal body
(furious with anyone who
in the fabrics
camphor
conifer
capped in
yellow (if the sun
were gone
we wouldnt
know it
(follow the link to how hot will it get?
threshold beyond
which
.
to go
the grove
Santa Lucias
granitic
basement
batholith to
bark and cone, fog
drip
damp
the fbrous
bed
(give of the breast
beneath a head
loam
timber
(fear
the war:
dose
estimation
wrecked
plant sievert
.
brain sub
merged in a bath of heat
and minerals
(sudden epidemi(c
ology
imagine
living
two thousand years
(gland
butterfy-
shaped
in a girl whose
cells
refuse to
die
and all the sea
wells
.
back of the
tongue a silvering
globe
lodged like yesterdays
sex symptom
so bold
binds like the memory of a frst
unkindness
caved irreversible
as the palms chained
line of the head which you
trace with her index fnger
(depression took hold
year of tar
sands four-degree
scare
year of the
aquifer
at frst: night
sweats, night blight
dreamt of rages
junk effects vital functions
like breathing
and the minds pigment again diffused like a gum
bichromate
(there, a place for a book on song

the crisis is the end of the commons is
a very slow
violence
and we do not heal
vocalization
declines
in foraging breeding
(and we say
not because we did not love
.
no longer have we
desiccates
dinning lines the skulls inner
amplifed to such
a pitch
medicate the withdrawal of
history
10 then 20 then
nothing
stunning
a warm
flm
welling in the stomach
like a sink stopped up
like peace
slept and slept
we were often so
diffusely
social
.
such small
assemblies
distributions of
rescue practice
(number the days
the money
involving a question of water involving
habits of mutual
aid
((for four days I remained in the room blearing my lungs arms
streaked like a tub in my throat
copper
voluntary
rationing
voluntary
association
read:
large volumes of
seed
moved from
farm to farm, leading to a great
diversity in
plants
as in spring on the air odors of
skin
rehearse: mutual
protection
to make the body more
bearable to
regain a cathexis of the world
save our life
____________
if the life of the mind / dies with the sun references Can Thought go on without a Body? in The Inhuman:
Refections on Time by Jean-Francois Lyotard.
In the section beginning such small / assemblies, some of the language is from or resembles language
from The Withdrawal of Tradition by Jalal Toufc and Thinking in an Emergency by Elaine Scarry.
from FML
from Chapter 1
She entered the event hall and hurried, intent on creating as much distance as
possible between herself and the Scouts, and determined to take the frst door she happened
upon.
It was a festive, gala event to be sure. Holographs fashed among guests and staff,
swarming around each other, into and out of existence, impossible for Ellen to sort even as
she squeezed and pushed her way through the crowd.
For every guest, there were perhaps two to three foating panels flled with images:
a spaceman she recognized as Palmer Eldritch, recently returned from some faraway
adventure or other;
actress Lindsay Lohan as a mechanized war hero for her latest featured Experience
BLR: the Bin Laden Raid;
a man who looked exactly like Ben Franklin that would be Ben Franklin Jr.,
inventor, investor, and President of the United States Disney Haliburton;
footage of Franklin Jr. presenting a medal to Experience researcher Mary Bosworth;
several misshapen, spherical, red space aliens that looked exactly like the goombas
from Super Mario Brothers and so named ever since their recent, unexplained appearance
foating in the depths of the solar system and more recently waddling about on Earth.
Then were the Experiences, so many in number she couldnt keep up: Tennis
Feelings, Fog that Hid Shapes and Distances, Hordes of People Crouching in a Meadow,
BLR, and others.
She recalled as well that what she didnt see was vast that these physical projections
were only small extensions of the Prism running through peoples minds.
And then she saw the show shed apparently been in: the Family Vacation members
smiling and waving in a driveway here, running through busy streets there, cringing in a
car that was fying through the air moments before crashing down to the road again.
These images were followed by clips of one of the two teenage girls from the show,
clearly associating with the masked characters known as the Pesky Riot Girls.
She tried to recall the names of the faces. My name is Ellen, Im married to. My
kids. But there was nothing else.
DERECK CLEMONS
She passed a few people in purple wraparound clothing draped with sashes and felt
the increasingly familiar shift within her head. If she could just get downstairs to that room,
then she could get out and fnd someplace to form a plan.
Then she tripped as the sound clicked on again: Hello, yes, Disk Seventy-Nine: I
was walking in it must have been one of my sisters steps, turning left around this person,
she turned left, right around that one, and she did, shoving, speaking but hearing my
words and those of another ftting the same grooves: the Tapes were active at last: this is
where you come in, Ellen.
Ellen now found herself among several guests in formal attire. They had blanched,
papery faces. One of them, holding his stomach, excused himself from the group.
Basically, she heard the voice say, if you want to make it out alive, you had
better start talking to yourself. Because that is where youll fnd me.
Find what? Ellen asked, exasperated.
But there was nothing. Someone bumped into her, causing her to step on someone
elses foot. She tried speaking and found only silence. Then she found that if she tried
remembering as she spoke, the words rose to her lips:
The Tapes were strange and came like this: I tried to hurry but was stuck watching a
woman throw back her head and laugh as I stumbled around; a man doubled over, clutching
his stomach, his eyes bulging at the foor: the Tapes happen like this: The Amnesiac
Escapes, timeless, and like so many others before, its path carving an arc through the
light, across the ages in so many refections:
the junior high teacher, parched and fanning her face with a hand, her white blouse
spotted with sweat she looks from her students directly at me: I move past and feel her
mind leap to the recording:
a group of chatterboxes by the fake freplace, brass cages on their heads as I pass,
their minds also fy to the recorder.
This is how I move, not just navigating but creating the maze of the Tapes; the
blank-slated fgure carved by the Tapes, sickened on the memories, thoughts, which fooded
my mind, carrying me with them.
This was the frame. Each person I came near, I made sick by the light of the Tapes
that ran through me. With it, I rotted their minds warping their piece of the Prism at each
turn.
Then the voice which was like her own, only older left as quickly as itd come.
She looked around, dazed, and saw that several people to the right and left of her path,
many shed never actually touched, had grown visibly ill and confused.
The many others, however, had turned to a tri-D projection of Ben Franklin Jr.s
bespectacled face. At the rooms center in dizzying, hyper-real colors and shading it
was this outsized projection that had addressed the crowd several times already.
Currently it spoke of innovative technology previews and the motives behind
the replay of the explosion: My greatest achievement, the Prism, at which most of the
guests cheered, thank you will measure every guests response while it searches for the
terrorists among you. And especially one among you Ellen Griswold let me say its an
honor to have join us today.
Her face fashed onto several screens.
Tell us, Ellen, how it feels to have betrayed the citizens of the USDH, Earth, and
the solar system by aiding dangerous specters from outer space, and making everybody
sick and disrupting my big plans.
The crowd politely clapped, some chuckling at the whimsy and candor, but none
seemed truly to believe Ellen was in attendance. A fellow dressed only in a cape, with
several sparkling rings on all his fngers, looked directly at her, but his gaze continued
wandering without recognition. An elderly woman in a Jupiter costume cupped her hands
around her mouth and whispered conspiratorially:
West Coast Express! Ben Franklin Jr.s latest Installation innovation. Please enjoy
this preview of our latest Experiences.
It was an ad. There were several more as the back of the expansive room fnally
came into view. Several thousand images ran across the back wall in streams, any of them
available for download and either Experience or Synthesis.
A cluster of people had gathered babbling at nobody Ellen could see: The Riot
Girls and space ghosts confound your senses! The Griswolds are out of control! Experience
it now!
Join me in a tour of this lovely Experience!
She scanned the crowd and saw two Scouts had made their way to the middle of the
room, black helmets and khaki-clad shoulders moving above the guests.
Ellen ran a hand through her hair and gazed at the blue, swirling lines in the mint-
green carpet, increasingly troubled by it all.
Odd that the recording was so insistent upon her speaking or articulating herself.
She tried speaking again, tried remembering, but nothing was there.
As Ben Franklin Jr. rambled about how amazing Experiences were and how Feelings
helped any occasion, she brushed past a kid in a backpack, then another, and spotted what
shed wanted at the back and headed for it a set of doors.
She twisted and turned among guests crowded about a pair of restrooms, waiting to
get in. Then the lights dimmed, and she wasnt sure anybody else saw this happening the
contour lines of the room and the people in it extended into a place she watched unfold with
a weird, new objectivity: the back of her mind slipped away as she spotted the junior high
teacher.
She recalled having mentioned this person moments ago when the dimensions of
the room had frst begun shifting into and back out of place: now she saw her, surrounded
by a group of junior school kids green skirt, white silk blouse dappled with sweat, fanning
her face with a hand. She watched Ellen pass. Ellen wondered if the womans mind was
now on the recording and what that even meant.
At the back of the room she saw people were streaming in and out of what looked
like a service door. Then she reached out her hands and pushed against one as a tall waiter
with white hair did likewise, ignoring her.
Once on the other side, in a wide, tiled hallway lit by overhead panels, she watched
the white-haired waiter join other staff going in and out of kitchen doors down to her left.
She might go through the kitchen or otherwise fnd a stairwell down to the courtyard,
which she could cross but she had no assurance of reentering on the other side. Better to
take the ground-level foor over to the other wing, where the room with the signaling red
light was located.
Just as she started to move in that direction, however, two Scouts pushed through
the doors behind her and quickly approached.
One of them grabbed her shoulder. She spun around.
OLIVE BLACKBURN
from COMMUNISM IS UP THERE AND WE ARE DOWN HERE BUT IT IS
HAPPENING NOW
taking an axe to everything we might have known
about ourselves
blotting our own eyes
come quick
we managed to push through
and be damned, the portal is open
In other major cities, violent acts are singular
and isolated
The violence in L has become collective and focused
But the primary conditions are the same
As soon as the kids fgure that out, were in trouble
the consummation of the party will be its demise
Not your bullshit art openings with an open bar
and no fucking name tags. Where are the name tags
you fuckers?
art-cum-work
we-are-really-serious
Communism represented is communism tamed.
The relation between aesthetic risk and militant praxis:
Artists who argue for challenging experimentation, risky
choices, doing what is not allowed or permitted must
face a turn towards criminality. Those who take such an
aesthetic project seriously can end up in prison or dead.
If you are not ready for such consequences, admit that
you want to make normal art.
basically, everything is on the table
take possession of the utopian kernel
the black pearl
the booty
We will engage in combat. Long, probably boring,
endless war, more like a dog circling to make a bed
than an armed offensive.
You can be the Military Commissar of the Bad Left
let us specify: savage, ineffective, unconcerned
ask me why and ill spit in your eye
ask me why and ill die
the drive to be approachable, compassionate, and
welcoming is the frst misstep of any vanguard
nobody talks, everybody walks
once you cooperate with the feds, we will renounce
and disown you
With Friends Like the ISO, Who Needs Enemies?
Next Level security culture: none of us know anything
about each other or about anything that is happening
her obsessively clandestine habits kept her living in
rabbit holes and gnawing on roots indefnitely
the undergoing, experiencing, and acting that takes
place in real or virtual proximity to others
taking control of this small battleground that the
group has become
sniffng each other
meeting our match
too much to want and too much to despise
if i forgive you, you will shoot me in the head
the deepest secrets we will engrave onto our own femurs
to be deciphered after the fesh has decayed off
our bones
you are not a comrade
you are a priest-in-waiting
a bride ready to enter the church
and wed the counter-revolution
the situation is pushing towards a crisis
the inevitable moment has come: pick sides or perish
loyalty oaths for one and all
inventing ones use-value for the cell
or fnding out what it was retroactively
what a great, metered militant she is
measured, thoughtful, preeminently respectful
of feelings
a sharp tactician and a diligent researcher
those bellowing mistakes
their deafening echo
we have no illusions about what happened
we do not have any precise feelings about it
These developments are no mere hubristic/cultish
mistake, however.
with crisis after crisis, its all bad news
the headlines are thick stripes of black
the usual pragmatism will prove ineffectual
These are the fnal days of the capitalist mode of
production and we are happy to have a seat at
the table.
When stepping out of an ironic relationship to
current events by being fred or fucked with,
one thought we are left with is oh, I can do things
on the eve of the revolution, we will prepare the
fnest banquet imaginable
our favorite food is reception food
an insurrection so slow you lose interest while
watching it play out
as evasive a fnale as one could expect
TED REES
from CATASTROPHE CROWN: 1-5
The offng is high-def refecting
as in warp over weft, bowled inversion
remains strangling conjurors on prowl
for succor in distract and blame.
Yet to vacay in locales uneffected
by irradiant loss is to lounge in dejection,
sipping Maotai in marbled obscurity
or wave jade tower beside respirator salesmen.
A cough in rain shadows gristle,
encroachment engines throttle fully
and Eurasia trips out on Siberian kush,
gathered in a tent constructed of cold.
From the top foor, the views majesty:
an unparticular particular crowds as scrim.
An unparticular particular crowds as scrim,
adrift on international circuits til settlement
sedimenting in moulin blanc vastness
as absorptive kettle. In kiddie subatlantic,
this new tarn approaches, shore-licking,
quotidian of gallons billioning and billioning.
We can surf on the cognates results, disgorge
fotsam onto gross sheen. Such dismalities
abetted, she whistles thrice, indicative
of unions tide-ruined, imported grit speckling
damask yards, climbs towards spectra miles
from habitability. I model desert tigerstripe
or stalker, mere pebble in crackled moraine,
cwm or cirque radiating out equatorial.
Cwm or cirque radiating out equatorial
as proppants in slickwater reincarnate alamosauri,
Condors sink in idiot sprinkled lushness.
The Fata Morgana of subsequence: stumbling
in quotidian haboob, bleats of desiccated chattel,
blazing star husks forlorn in pahoehoe.
Arc-eye endemic in such erg, each burg
a Bodie, Bannack, or Barkerville undesignated,
belt Kolmanskopped as present fancy,
tutting uncertainly with visages shattered.
The obvious reference, fresh appendicular
whitenesses recline in xerophytic stackers
obscuring occasional coned yardangs,
paresthesias muteness reddening to chronic.
Paresthesias muteness reddening to chronic,
erected drywall delineated contra sallow gloam,
smacks tarred roundabouts, bister accumulated,
there is none which is not a poison. Assets glint
in symmetrical gridded array, laser-graded
effciency chossing fragilities, mitigation fowing
towards a fogged descant, caged and failing.
Spine on lichen, lupine felds concertinaed,
dihedral circulations of sheet lightnings quest
for repast now quartered, shorted to dry squalor,
links lost in blight. Between dust and altocumulus,
severance: slung, clefted abodes vista-pock,
whinging xerostomic in buttressed washes,
a genufection to clattering extraneities.
A genufection to clattering extraneities,
glutted promenades sop plushy-strewn,
blooming jellies waft heedless, fuorescent
attempts to Whac-A-Mole brine-thwarted.
Stats thrive, nominal empathies crouch
tin-roofed, covenant in slick burgeoning
as iron oxidates symmetry. Angler pants
de rigeur, dreams of Baros fummoxed,
soused strands bulge astarboard each mass.
While calamity diminishment rears nattily,
so much depends upon the itemization
of wretchedness, its direct bosom in scrilla.
Thaw measured as such, sole index still
in a hypoxic imminence, the swells throb.
DISPLACEMENT IS THE NEW TRANSLATION
Syntax, like
government, can only be obeyed. It is
therefore of no use except when you
have something particular to command
such as: Go buy me a bunch of carrots.
John Cage
1
Translation is the ultimate humanist gesture. Polite and reasonable, it is an overly
cautious bridge builder. Always asking for permission, it begs understanding and friendship.
It is optimistic yet provisional, pinning all hopes on a harmonious outcome. In the end,
it always fails, for the discourse it sets forth is inevitably off-register; translation is an
approximation of discourse and, in approximating, it produces a new discourse.
Displacement is rude and insistent, an unwashed party crasher uninvited and
poorly behaved refusing to leave. Displacement revels in disjunction, imposing its
meaning, agenda, and mores on whatever situation it encounters. Not wishing to placate, it
is uncompromising, knowing full well that through stubborn insistence, it will ultimately
prevail. Displacement has all the time in the world. Beyond morals, self-appointed, and
taking possession because it must, displacement acts simply and simply acts.
Displacement never explains itself, never apologizes. In 2010 at Columbia
Universitys Rethinking Poetics conference, the Mexican-American poet Mnica de
la Torre, in the middle of her presentation, broke out, full on, for ten minutes entirely
in Spanish, leaving all those who pay lip service to multilingualism and diversity angry
because they couldnt understand what she was saying. De la Torre thereafter resumed
her talk in English, never mentioning her intervention. No symbols where none intended.
Comprehension is optional; displacement is concretely demonstrative.
Globalization engenders displacement. People are displaced, objects are displaced,
language is displaced. In a global circulatory system, there is no time and certainly not
enough energy for tracing the long supply chains that lead to understanding. Instead, there
is a blinkered lack of understanding, ultimately yielding to resignation. Nobody seems to
KENNETH GOLDSMITH
____________
1
John Cage, Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) Continued 1971-
72, M: Writings 6772, 1973, 215.
notice anymore. Advertising signs in ballparks are presented in foreign languages,
completely incomprehensible to the vast majority of the meatspace audience, addressing
instead the far-fung televised, webcast audience; bypassing the local for the unseen, the
unknown, the elsewhere.
Translation is quaint, a boutique pursuit from a lost world; displacement is brutal
fact. Translation is slow food: a good meal with friends, in a warm environment, a bourgeois
luxury; displacement is not being able to read the menu in fuorescent-lit refractivity that
appeared out of nowhere onto Main Street. Translation is the faux-nostalgia for the LP;
displacement is the torrent-laced, mislabeled MP3. Displacement is a four-dimensional
object, at once expanding and contracting, unifed while exploding, devouring everything
in its sight.
Syntax, said John Cage, is the arrangement of the army.
2
Legislated by the
laws of grammatical concord, syntax sets chains of linguistic assimilation into motion,
a situation whereby words are forced to adapt to words surrounding them, formally and
sonically. Cage views language as being expressive of a societal politic, and therefore
ripe for contestation: This demilitarization of language is conducted in many ways: a
single language is pulverized; the boundaries between two and more languages are crossed;
elements not strictly linguistic (graphic, musical) are introduced; etc. Translation becomes,
if not impossible, unnecessary.
3
Shattering language into pieces as a political act. Picking
them up and putting them back together the wrong way as an act of liberation. Creative
misuses of language like homophonic translations and mondegreens as models of playful
anarchy. Question linguistic structures, question political structures.
Computer networks are also arrangements of the army, but their logic is already
that of displacement, pulverization, crossed boundaries. As citizens of these networks, data
packets are by nature both stable and nomadic; they offer a parallel for the movement of
bodies in space. Moving in bulk, data packets course through networks like charter groups
on holiday tours or Bangladeshi workers trundled off to UAE labor camps. Buffered and
queued resulting in variable delays and throughput depending on the networks capacity
and the traffc load they are dispatched through labyrinths of nodes, borders, switches,
gateways, routers, and immigration checkpoints. Aping the mechanics of the RAID drive,
displacement spits its subjects across the globe, redundantly segmenting and replicating
them one part can easily be swapped out for another thereby minimizing chances for
loss while increasing chances for totality.
We have faith that data packets will constitute themselves as promised but often
that proves to be false: the high-def video we were seeking is merely a cellphone grab, held
____________
2
Foreword, ibid., unpaginated.
3
Ibid.
up shakily for ninety minutes at a screen in a dim theater. In our computational ecosystem,
these spurious artifacts take on the characteristics of an unwanted guest. We invite someone
for dinner, but they dont behave the way we wish: perhaps theyre unkempt, or rude
we toss them out. But sometimes they sneak in unawares. The malware, keylogger, or
Trojan horse that surreptitiously slips in under the guise of a pirated program, movie, or
link, settles in, becoming a part of the household. Sometimes we have no choice but to
accommodate our displaced guest.
Displacement, on a larger scale, is no different. Acid rain is displaced weather.
Petroleum is displaced prehistoric life. Nuclear waste from Fukushima washing up on the
shores of California is displaced industry. Melting polar ice caps are displaced Ice Age. The
Great Pacifc Garbage Patch is displaced geography, a displaced landmass comprised of
displaced rubbish. These riotous amalgamations of displaced color and form accidental
collaborations between nature and man are permanent reeftecture for fshes.
Plastic bags twisted around branches of trees become year-round foliage,
transforming bare winter oaks into everblues and everreds, technicolor displays that make
New England Octobers pale by comparison. Seasonal narratives take on a rouge character:
older bags, their shape deformed by sunlight and rough weather, disintegrate into futtering
faglike shreds before being blown off the trees by gales. Those same gales attach fresh
bags to the trees, blossoming anew each day.
A tree grows to devour a metal grate that once served as its protector. The tree
now becomes the guardian of the grate, swallowing it whole, nestling it deep within its
core. A state of dtente: the tree doesnt die. Instead, it adapts like the man who, in midlife
after complaining of stomach pains, discovers that he has been carrying his conjoined twin
unbeknownst to him within his belly all these years, fetus in fetu. Displaced tumors as
fetuses; displaced fetuses as tumors.
In Hong Kong after a typhoon, 150 tons of microplastic nurdles were blown into
the sea, so small and numerous that they could never be gathered. Theyve become so
intermeshed with the sand that beachgoers now prefer nuzzling these new spongy, pliant
grains between their toes to the natural sand. PCBs are displaced toxins, permanently
enmeshed in the rivers mud. Removing them would only stir up their noxiousness, so they
slumber in the riverbed undisturbed for eternity. A part of the rivers ecosystem for so long,
its hard to remember a time when they werent there.
Retained foreign objects are displaced industrial items which have become lodged
inside of living bodies, coexisting with organs and fesh for years without incident or
detection. A bullet shot into a boys face remains comfortably embedded for the next eighty
years. The bullets heat sterilizes it; once lodged, infection is impossible. Unnoticed, life
goes on. Metal melds with bone: plates in legs, silver in teeth. A teenager swallows a pen,
where it remains in her stomach for a quarter of a century. Finally removed, it still writes.
Surgical tools left in bodies are known as retained surgical items. One man is found with
sixteen of them inside him. Doctors remark on his bodys amazing ability to get used to
things.
Displacement is modernism for the 21
st
century, a child of montage, psychogeography,
and the objet trouv. Appropriation is the engine of displacement, mechanically moving
unimpeded toward its goal. Trading in binaries this either can or cannot be appropriated
appropriation eschews messy questions of morality, ethics and nuance. A boundless
annexing machine, it sucks indiscriminately. The consequences are low transnational,
networked, fast-moving and ubiquitous, terrestrial law cant begin to compete. Instead,
appropriation abides by the law of the network, which is the law of open standards, of
select all. Flexible and cunning, it always fnds a loophole.
The digital ecosystem is a decontextualizing machine, wrenching pieces from their
constituent structures and finging them across the globe. In this context of no context,
meaning becomes pliant. Detached from their original circumstances, artifacts arent
devoid of meaning; instead, they acquire new meanings, nestled into new frameworks. By
dismantling the precisely constructed framing apparatuses that uphold any ethos, poetic,
or politic, appropriation effectively knocks the legs out from under ideology, rendering the
subject neutered, little more than a defated bag of bones.
Appropriation is a cipher, cobbling together bits and pieces willy-nilly, resulting in
bizarre Frankensteinian artifacts: iPhones cloned with TV antennas and USB ports; PDFs
of books with pages pieced together from various editions, in various languages, editions,
fonts, and font sizes; some pages are upside down, others are missing entirely; Hollywood
blockbusters with hard-coded Telgu subs; Tollywood blockbusters with singed-in Urdu
subs. There are ten Harry Potter books in the Chinese series as opposed to the seven penned
by J.K. Rowling. Appropriation thrives on provisionality, the craft of the kludge its ugly
but it works. Quantity over quality: trawl in deep enough waters with a wide enough net
and youre bound to catch something. Take it now. Sort it later. Or never sort it. Compile &
stockpile. Redistribute & resell.
Sampling and remixing are based on borrowing. Borrowing is translation. Polite and
neighborly, it involves exchange and social discourse, agreed upon terms and conditions.
Sampling is the art of mindful recontextualization. You sample a riff of a James Brown
song, building your song off it; you dont simply re-present the whole song and call it your
own. Likewise, remixing bears the hand of the mixer, marked by an individual aesthetic.
Remixing is a game of telephone, a conversation, mindful of the version which proceeded
yours and the version which will follow. I always tried to bring something fresh to anything
that I used, said Jimmy Page, commenting on his reworking of preexisting material. I
always made sure to come up with some variation.
4
Appropriation, on the other hand,
is effortless and brutal, dumbly picking things up whole and dropping them whole into
new situations. Anonymous and authorless, displaced versions are replicas and knockoffs,
indistinguishable from one another except in metaphysical ways: conceptualization,
contextualization, and distribution.
Robert Smithson didnt make paintings of the sky; instead, by refecting it in a mirror,
he displaced it, fusing it with the earth, dropping squares of blue into seas of green. Blazing
azure one day, smoggy grayish-yellow the next, Smithsons gestures were at once formal
color studies, quiet meditations on nature, and political statements on ecology. The mirror
is a displacement machine which appropriates all that passes before it. A pre-programmed
automaton, the mirror employs no judgment or morals, indiscriminately displaying all
that passes before it. Refect something emotional, the mirror becomes emotional. Refect
something political, the mirror becomes political. Refect something erotic, the mirror
becomes erotic. The mirror works around the clock, refecting a dark room all night long
when its inhabitants are sleeping, or an empty apartment all day long when its inhabitants
are at work. Like its cousin the surveillance camera, the mirror displays scads of dark data,
but unlike the NSA, the mirror has no memory: every image passing across its surface is
ephemeral. Great crimes are committed before mirrors; no one is ever the wiser. If this
mirror could talk... The mirror, then, is closer to a movie screen than CCTV, a surface upon
which images are projected/refected in reverse. But unlike the movie screen, the mirror
never goes dark. Smash the mirror, disperse the image. Toss the pieces in the trash, they
continue to dumbly refect.
The displaced text is a mirror, taking on the hue of whatever it is placed near.
Displaced authorship solely consists of determining what the text will refect. Refect
something emotional, you have written an emotional text. Refect something political, you
have written a political text. Refect something erotic, you have written an erotic text.
Mirrored writing is not writing: it is copying, moving, and refecting. Editing is moving.
Want to alter your text? Move it elsewhere. The displaced texts natural environment is in
the network. Born of copy-and-paste, everything about the displaced text is circumstantial
and temporary. Ricocheting across the networks, the displaced text restlessly replicates,
morphs, and self-distributes. The text assumes the affect of a mirror, offering a curious kind
of utopianism which should not be confused with nihilism except that, like all utopias, it
indirectly advocates a tabula rasa; like most utopias, it has no concrete expression.
____________
4
Vernon Silver, Stairway to Heaven: The Song Remains Pretty Similar, Businessweek, May 15, 2014.
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-15/led-zeppelins-stairway-to-heaven-vs-dot-spirits-taurus-
a-reckoning. Accessed May 28, 2014.
The displaced text is always recycled. Recycled language is politically and
ecologically sustainable, promoting reuse and reconditioning as opposed to the manufacture
and consumption of the new, counteracting rampant global capitalist consumption by
admitting that language is not able to be owned or possessed, that it is a shared and endlessly
abundant resource. The digital ecosystem with its replicative and mimetic processes yields
limitless resources too much is never enough.
Yet and this is where it gets interesting the displaced texts entwinement with
the latest technology, its scraping, warehousing, and hoarding of data, its celebration
of baroque excess and fetishizing of waste, aligns it with nefarious global capitalist
tendencies. In addition, theres an imperialistic aspect to it, a colonizing imperative. Like
a virus spreading rapidly across networks, it threatens to take on the character of a huge
multinational monster. All of these contradictions are part of the discourse of displacement,
inseparable from its processes, production, and reception. The limits of the network are the
limits of its world.
Displacement is a shift away from linear models of political orientation: neither
left nor right, progressive nor reactionary, but swirling and sideways. The right tries to seal
borders and legislate displacement out of existence, oblivious to the fows that whirl freely
around it. Meanwhile, the left still holds out hope against hope for translation cant we all
just get along? Displacement, instead of responding to difference with understanding and
consideration, responds to difference by swallowing it whole.
Odd things appear: retained foreign objects. Things that I dont understand. Things
I didnt ask for. A system update will, unbeknownst to me, drop things into the midst of my
environment. I have no idea they are there. I panic and wonder whether I can go back to
an earlier version. I cant. Notwithstanding that, I begin to toy with the idea of going back
to the previous system, the one I knew, the one I was comfortable in. There is no going
back. I struggle, I whine, I eventually adapt myself to it; the displacement, once obtrusive,
becomes the new normal at least until the next upgrade. I dont move them generally
they cant be moved so I live with them. I learn to accept them, even though I might
not understand them. My computer has thousands of such displaced items on it. I cant
translate them. The song that shows up in iTunes. I cant tell you where it came from. I wish
I knew. The song has no identifying information, no ID3 tags, no provenance. But I like it.
I tame it by tagging it, domesticate it by fling it on my hard drive. It becomes mine.