Monday, April 14, 2014


Malcolm Clarke with the Synthi 100 via the RADIOPHONIC GALLERY on "Caption: It's 1974 and a bearded and long-haired Malcolm Clarke intently studies the settings of the EMS 'Delaware' synthesiser, located at this time in Room 10. The small supplementary mixer at the bottom was constructed by Richard-Yeoman Clark. The box on top of the Delaware contains a standard BBC Peak Programme Meter (PPM)."


Sol Lewitt wall drawing number 49 (Diagram and Certificate).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

everything is being

Louis Althusser, 1978.

You speak of “disgust”; I hear this word around me from among the best of them. And yet here it’s not as it is in your country, but it’s the same word. It’s the word that openly says that we can no longer find our place in all this shit and that it’s vain to look for it, for all places are carried along by the insane course of things. We can no longer bathe at all in a river. Unless you’re a picket planted in the current that silently holds on. To a bit of terra firma. The important thing is to find this bit of earth beneath the waters. After all, it’s the “shaking-up of the world” of Montaigne who, when it comes to conjunctures, saw quite a few of all kinds. But the book is already written; you have to find something else.

- Althusser, letter to Merab, 1978.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Work in progress #######

There is a child, a child inside of her mother, a child listening, listening to the echo of her own hand pushing through water. It is quiet, but not still. Her ears forget to listen, to her mother's heartbeat, to her digestion, to her blood. She decides that she is a plant, inside an animal, growing towards....


Thursday, January 2, 2014

"House" by Hank Lazer

           pad  pod  site
preparing a place
a launching pad
              a landing site
small birds  chickadees
finches  sparrows  ride
out arctic wind
bobbing on suspended
bird houses hung
              from pine branches
small words as
on an ever
              moving sea we
live & breathe
riding upon this
              language house a
moving place that
feeds; carries

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Holding the Great Ear-horn

We operate under the assumption that the photo-object forms a relation with the being-present-as-eventThis assumption then contributes to a learned history of object-events, diffuse throughout culture, simultaneously and paradoxically both representing and creating culture.

This assumption, in semiotic terms, the indexical nature of the photograph, forms and pervades all of our assumptions regarding representation.  This assumption needs to be interrogated further, as archeology suggests new understandings of the nature of the transmission of culture.

An approach that seems to make sense for a discussion of the photograph, and its transmission of culture is a combination of evolutionary and diffusionist approaches.[1]  It seems most useful to think of the object in terms of its relation to time within the cultural context.  Wissler’s age-area hypothesis notes (bringing together diffusionist and evolutionary paradigms) that objects in a culture tend to move from the center outward, with the oldest objects being located at the periphery.  In this model, the evolutionary leaps tend to happen in the center of the culture, and then diffuse throughout the periphery. At the periphery of culture, then, are the institutions, where normative behaviours and ideologies are located, as objects/cultural material (in our examples, the photo-objects and their implied contexts) transmitted and located themselves.

The problem, of course, with the photograph is that it folds itself back into culture in ways that other historical objects do not, reappearing and redeploying itself as an indicator of power relations.  The photograph functions as a visual text itself, its veracity shored up by its history as index, and also situates itself within culture through the context in which it appears.  This relates directly, of course, to how we encounter the art-object (and the context in which it is placed as it is photographed).   One doesn’t have to look any further than ArtForum to encounter a particular semiotic of art display, with art being displayed in clean, white, well-lit rooms, organized in a rational synthesis of design and educational strategies.  The diffusionist function of art has been bolstered by the presence of the photograph, which states (through a circular logic):  this is how things should look when one looks at things.  This awareness of looking and its reproduction (in cleanly designed magazines, monographs, etc.) has led to a transformation of the gallery space, from salon to “white cube” to an ostensibly newly hybridized (but no less ideologically driven) space.

Problems in the representation of artwork parallel the questions of archeological representation suggested by Stephanie Moser in “Archeological Representation.”[2]  Moser’s semiotic read of the work of representation conjured the question of objects being seen in contexts.  She notes, “archeological representations ‘make meaning’ because they employ devices that are not used in written and verbal communication.  These devices can be described as conventions that appeal to our sense of reasoning in ways that text cannot.”[3] We have seen this critiqued in ethnography and film; Michael Taussig writes of both in his discussion of Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo:

Then what of Werner Herzog’s delirious effort in his film Fitcarraldo, set in the early twentieth century Upper Amazonian rubber boom and constructed around the fetish of the photograph, so tenaciously, so awkwardly, clutched by Fitcarraldo, the visionary, its great ear-horn emerging from under the armpit of his dirty white suit, Caruso flooding the forests and rivers, the Indians amazed as Old Europe rains its ecstatic art form upon them.  Bellowing opera from the ship’s prow, it is the great ear-trumpet of the phonograph, an orchid of technology in the thick forests of the primitive, that cleaves the waters and holds the tawny Indians at bay as the patched-up river-steamer wends its way into this South American heart of darkness.[4]

The “delirious” re-contextualizing of the art-object (in this example both Caruso and the phonograph) serves as an site of power.  Therefore, it is not merely the culture-object which is moving/diffusing throughout cultures, but it is the power structures and Western ideologies which are being attached to the object.  We see this same recontextualizing in the contemporary museum experience, in which the culture-object is presented less as an object, and more as a force that “holds” us (in the utopic parlance of the visual designer), and more often than not “holds us…at bay."

[1]I am most interested in Steward’s work suggesting a distinction between a “cultural core” determined by environment and evolution, and the “total culture”, which contains elements of culture susceptible to diffusion (Barnard, 56).
[2] Moser, Stephanie.  “Archeological Representation,” in Archeological Theory Today.  Ian Hodder, Ed. Pp. 266.
[3] Ibid.  pp 268-9.
[4] Taussig, Michael.  Mimesis and Alterity.  Pp. 203.  New York:  Routledge, 1993.

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Saturday, July 6, 2013


from "On Certainty" by Ludwig Wittgenstein

9.  Now do I, in the course of my life, make sure I know that here is a hand - my own hand, that is?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013



The Maternal Gun

You woke up one morning, and your grandmother was a gun. Even stranger, you could see through her eyes as you sighted the weapon at the sky, the clouds parting.

How can the “being-there” of vision allow for a side-stepping of perception (and what might be called an empirical understanding of the world)?  How can the contemporary notion of “play” undermine its evolutionary purpose?

The (relatively) new adverts for the United States Army are a good example of the confusion of not-here-and-now and the here-now.  In contrast to the televised adverts for the Marines, which deploy a series of nationalist icons (the Western Landscape, the Flag, the Eagle, the Salute, the Uniform) in a clearly montaged mise-en-scene, the Army spots utilize Hollywood cinematic techniques for immersion (including match cuts allowing the viewer to “look through” night vision scopes and project herself into the scenario).  This fairly clearly echoes the satisfaction of pretend play, although in this case, childhood pretence (and accompanying desire) and insertion into an imagined scenario is being utilized for ideological gains.  The Army televised advertisements suggest only the tenuous singularity of the role-playing game, or the singular cinematic hero of the Hollywood era (Wargames, Spygames, Deerhunter – the reference to play continues), reiterated in the tagline “An Army of One."

And the logical endpoint is drones, a mobile architecture for 'looking through.'

What is central to this idea of advertising is the removal of the idea of consciousness from other beings.  Through the utilization of cinematic and proto-cinematic machinery, subjectivities are being reduced to their mediated (insubstantial) counterparts, corresponding to the object-oriented world of the autistic child. One does not have to look much farther than the photographs at Abu Gharaib to see an example of a sort of learned autism.  Susan Sontag writes in “Regarding the Torture of Others”:

Even more appalling, since the pictures were meant to be circulated and seen by many people: it was all fun. And this idea of fun is, alas, more and more -- part of ''the true nature and heart of America.'' It is hard to measure the increasing acceptance of brutality in American life, but its evidence is everywhere, starting with the video games of killing that are a principal entertainment of boys -- can the video game ''Interrogation'' really be far behind? -- and on to the violence that has become endemic in the group rites of youth on an exuberant kick.

We can see clearly here the role of visuality (and photography specifically) in disseminating ideologically dangerous ideas about play, simulation and entertainment.  The frivolous nature of “play,” divorced from its evolutionary intent of “being-in-the-world,” is amplified and expounded in end-of-the-world scenarios like those suggested cinematically in the television series 24, the films The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon, and religious teleologies such as Left Behind.  The “plausible” nature of each of these mediated events only serves to distance the viewer from the nature of the “real,” an archeology Sontag suggests in her essay. 

In these scenarios, the “actual situation” begins to disappear, leaving only a trace, fundamentally undermining the individual’s situation in society, and fundamentally changing (and challenging) the function of play, redirecting the functionality from “at-the-material-world” to “at-the-immaterial-world.”   In this inversion of materiality, “Grandmother” becomes Grandmother-image, gun becomes gun-image, and the world becomes a flux of image-vapor, groundless, but for the ghosting of a once (ever?) perceived world.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

from "On the Nature of Things" by Lucretius

Existence and Character of the Images 

But since I've taught already of what sort 
The seeds of all things are, and how distinct 
In divers forms they flit of own accord, 
Stirred with a motion everlasting on, 
And in what mode things be from them create, 
And since I've taught what the mind's nature is, 
And of what things 'tis with the body knit 
And thrives in strength, and by what mode uptorn 
That mind returns to its primordials, 
Now will I undertake an argument- 
One for these matters of supreme concern- 
That there exist those somewhats which we call 
The images of things: these, like to films 
Scaled off the utmost outside of the things, 
Flit hither and thither through the atmosphere, 
And the same terrify our intellects, 
Coming upon us waking or in sleep, 
When oft we peer at wonderful strange shapes 
And images of people lorn of light, 
Which oft have horribly roused us when we lay 
In slumber- that haply nevermore may we 
Suppose that souls get loose from Acheron, 
Or shades go floating in among the living, 
Or aught of us is left behind at death, 
When body and mind, destroyed together, each 
Back to its own primordials goes away. 

And thus I say that effigies of things, 
And tenuous shapes from off the things are sent, 
From off the utmost outside of the things, 
Which are like films or may be named a rind, 
Because the image bears like look and form 
With whatso body has shed it fluttering forth- 
A fact thou mayst, however dull thy wits, 
Well learn from this: mainly, because we see 
Even 'mongst visible objects many be 
That send forth bodies, loosely some diffused- 
Like smoke from oaken logs and heat from fires- 
And some more interwoven and condensed- 
As when the locusts in the summertime 
Put off their glossy tunics, or when calves 
At birth drop membranes from their body's surface, 
Or when, again, the slippery serpent doffs 
Its vestments 'mongst the thorns- for oft we see 
The breres augmented with their flying spoils: 
Since such takes place, 'tis likewise certain too 
That tenuous images from things are sent, 
From off the utmost outside of the things. 
For why those kinds should drop and part from things, 
Rather than others tenuous and thin, 
No power has man to open mouth to tell; 
Especially, since on outsides of things 
Are bodies many and minute which could, 
In the same order which they had before, 
And with the figure of their form preserved, 
Be thrown abroad, and much more swiftly too, 
Being less subject to impediments, 
As few in number and placed along the front. 
For truly many things we see discharge 
Their stuff at large, not only from their cores 
Deep-set within, as we have said above, 
But from their surfaces at times no less- 
Their very colours too. And commonly 
The awnings, saffron, red and dusky blue, 
Stretched overhead in mighty theatres, 
Upon their poles and cross-beams fluttering, 
Have such an action quite; for there they dye 
And make to undulate with their every hue 
The circled throng below, and all the stage, 
And rich attire in the patrician seats. 
And ever the more the theatre's dark walls 
Around them shut, the more all things within 
Laugh in the bright suffusion of strange glints, 
The daylight being withdrawn. And therefore, since 
The canvas hangings thus discharge their dye 
From off their surface, things in general must 
Likewise their tenuous effigies discharge, 
Because in either case they are off-thrown 
From off the surface. So there are indeed 
Such certain prints and vestiges of forms 
Which flit around, of subtlest texture made, 
Invisible, when separate, each and one. 
Again, all odour, smoke, and heat, and such 
Streams out of things diffusedly, because, 
Whilst coming from the deeps of body forth 
And rising out, along their bending path 
They're torn asunder, nor have gateways straight 
Wherethrough to mass themselves and struggle abroad. 
But contrariwise, when such a tenuous film 
Of outside colour is thrown off, there's naught 
Can rend it, since 'tis placed along the front 
Ready to hand. Lastly those images 
Which to our eyes in mirrors do appear, 
In water, or in any shining surface, 
Must be, since furnished with like look of things, 
Fashioned from images of things sent out. 
There are, then, tenuous effigies of forms, 
Like unto them, which no one can divine 
When taken singly, which do yet give back, 
When by continued and recurrent discharge 
Expelled, a picture from the mirrors' plane. 
Nor otherwise, it seems, can they be kept 
So well conserved that thus be given back 
Figures so like each object. 

Now then, learn 
How tenuous is the nature of an image. 

And in the first place, since primordials be 
So far beneath our senses, and much less 
E'en than those objects which begin to grow 
Too small for eyes to note, learn now in few 
How nice are the beginnings of all things- 
That this, too, I may yet confirm in proof: 
First, living creatures are sometimes so small 
That even their third part can nowise be seen; 
Judge, then, the size of any inward organ- 
What of their sphered heart, their eyes, their limbs, 
The skeleton?- How tiny thus they are! 
And what besides of those first particles 
Whence soul and mind must fashioned be?- Seest not 
How nice and how minute? Besides, whatever 
Exhales from out its body a sharp smell- 
The nauseous absinth, or the panacea, 
Strong southernwood, or bitter centaury- 
If never so lightly with thy [fingers] twain 
Perchance [thou touch] a one of them 

Then why not rather know that images 
Flit hither and thither, many, in many modes, 
Bodiless and invisible? 
But lest 
Haply thou holdest that those images 
Which come from objects are the sole that flit, 
Others indeed there be of own accord 
Begot, self-formed in earth's aery skies, 
Which, moulded to innumerable shapes, 
Are borne aloft, and, fluid as they are, 
Cease not to change appearance and to turn 
Into new outlines of all sorts of forms; 
As we behold the clouds grow thick on high 
And smirch the serene vision of the world, 
Stroking the air with motions. For oft are seen 
The giants' faces flying far along 
And trailing a spread of shadow; and at times 
The mighty mountains and mountain-sundered rocks 
Going before and crossing on the sun, 
Whereafter a monstrous beast dragging amain 
And leading in the other thunderheads. 
Now [hear] how easy and how swift they be 
Engendered, and perpetually flow off 
From things and gliding pass away.... 

For ever every outside streams away 
From off all objects, since discharge they may; 
And when this outside reaches other things, 
As chiefly glass, it passes through; but where 
It reaches the rough rocks or stuff of wood, 
There 'tis so rent that it cannot give back 
An image. But when gleaming objects dense, 
As chiefly mirrors, have been set before it, 
Nothing of this sort happens. For it can't 
Go, as through glass, nor yet be rent- its safety, 
By virtue of that smoothness, being sure. 
'Tis therefore that from them the images 
Stream back to us; and howso suddenly 
Thou place, at any instant, anything 
Before a mirror, there an image shows; 
Proving that ever from a body's surface 
Flow off thin textures and thin shapes of things. 
Thus many images in little time 
Are gendered; so their origin is named 
Rightly a speedy. And even as the sun 
Must send below, in little time, to earth 
So many beams to keep all things so full 
Of light incessant; thus, on grounds the same, 
From things there must be borne, in many modes, 
To every quarter round, upon the moment, 
The many images of things; because 
Unto whatever face of things we turn 
The mirror, things of form and hue the same 
Respond. Besides, though but a moment since 
Serenest was the weather of the sky, 
So fiercely sudden is it foully thick 
That ye might think that round about all murk 
Had parted forth from Acheron and filled 
The mighty vaults of sky- so grievously, 
As gathers thus the storm-clouds' gruesome night, 
Do faces of black horror hang on high- 
Of which how small a part an image is 
There's none to tell or reckon out in words. 

Translated by William Ellery Leonard.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Recuperation of the Indexical

This is a (probably un)startling return of the real:

From The New York Times:

NEWS ANALYSIS: Unraveling Boston Suspects’ Online Lives, Link by Link

Once the search for the marathon bombing suspects focused on Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the brothers’ social media postings provided a rich vein of material to mine.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spirit wounds

'The wounds of the Spirit heal and leave no scars behind. '
- Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit.

In this passage Hegel is talking about the beautiful soul, which, always ready to forgive, to forget faults, perpetually returns to itself, rediscovers itself, reconstitutes itself, recuperates. It is possible to see in this phrase the very definition of the work of the Spirit. It's expresses precisely this process of recovery, healing, return, the re-knitting of the skin after the wound, in other words, the plasticity that appears as the very movement of the absolute.

- Catherine Malabou

Thursday, April 11, 2013

toward a mainstream poetics

[K. Silem Mohammad] on the origins of Flarf:

Towards a Mainstream Poetics

Want to take seriously [Pixar-esque weasel/clown-faces behind me fleer and moue] for a bit here Mike Magee's reconfiguration of the poetic Mainstream.

Others have pointed this out before, of course, but "mainstream poetry" as usually construed by its opponents is anything but. What on earth, as Mike asks, is mainstream about Robert Pinsky? A mainstream is a forceful, central current that carries in its path all the debris and livestock and entire vacationing families that get vortexed into it. It is not a carefully constructed iron walkway that escorts the effete peripatetic poet safely above a scenic view of the countryside and its filthy horizon. In the mainstream, you have to shout to be heard above the roar of the already-tired water metaphor I'm spinning out here. In the mainstream, the weasels with clown faces have uzis. The mainstream is the scary global video game we live in, everyday, and it has nothing to do with some absurd publishing scam within which a few bloodless surrealists and failed classicists and Tools of the Homespun False Consciousness get to define what is normative.

If you want to break it down by sales figures and numbers of readers, the margins between the Big Names and the small press world are negligible in light of the overall money-losingness of poetry. Most of the poetry read on a daily basis in this country, I'll wager, is amateur poetry circulated between individuals and posted on the internet.
So what would it mean for poetry to be truly mainstream? It would have to be aggressively public, perhaps--distributed via mass mailing or spam messages, say. It would have to be as shameless as television in its bid to engage new readers, and even, potentially, make money. Imagine that: poetry that made money. Do you feel a bristling in your blood at the hint of sacrilege? What shall I do with all the money my new, Mainstream poetry is going to make...? After I pay off my student loans and credit card debts, maybe I'll finance a series of poetry billboards that respond electronically to the radio signals from passing cars and compose digital aleatory compositions designed to influence the way people shop for fabric. Maybe I'll fund a political party whose platform involves the legalization of plagiarism. Maybe I'll pay some high school kids to translate the Iliad homophonically and have homeless people read the results on cable access TV. Although it would make more sense to pay the homeless people, wouldn't it? You see how anarchically irrational and unfair poetry in the real world would be!

Let's start a lo-fi, low residency MFA program dedicated to the advancement of guerilla Mainstream poetics. As Juliana Spahr recently mentioned, there are certainly enough unemployed poets with Ph.D.'s out there to band together and get such a thing accredited. I don't know how that stuff works, but basically don't you just take out an ad in Poets & Writersor whatever and then people pay you money to entertain them in the countryside for a weekend or two? Give the thing some hip jazzy name like the Institute of Post-Avant Poetics, and you're all set. And stop at nothing--T-shirts, coffee cups, bumper stickers, mouse pads.... Invite big-name poet-celebrities to our conventions: Suzanne Somers, Leonard Nimoy, and Jewel alongside Lytle Shaw, Anselm Berrigan, and Lisa Jarnot. Special musical guests. Softball games. Cotton candy. And in the background, the weasels with clown faces, always softly stalking and slavering.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

from "The Coming Insurrection" by the Invisible Committee

First Circle

“I AM WHAT I AM.” This is marketing’s latest offering to the world, the final stage in the development of advertising, far beyond all the exhortations to be different, to be oneself and drink Pepsi. Decades of concepts in order to get where we are, to arrive at pure tautology. I = I. He’s running on a treadmill in front of the mirror in his gym. She’s coming back from work, behind the wheel of her Smart car. Will they meet?

“I AM WHAT I AM.” My body belongs to me. I am me, you are you, and something’s wrong. Mass personalization. Individualization of all conditions – life, work and misery. Diffuse schizophrenia. Rampant depression. Atomization into fine paranoiac particles. Hysterization of contact. The more I want to be me, the more I feel an emptiness. The more I express myself, the more I am drained. The more I run after myself, the more tired I get. We cling to our self like a coveted job title. We’ve become our own representatives in a strange commerce, guarantors of a personalization that feels, in the end, a lot more like an amputation. We insure our selves to the point of bankruptcy, with a more or less disguised clumsiness.

Meanwhile, I manage. The quest for a self, my blog, my apartment, the latest fashionable crap, relationship dramas, who’s fucking who… whatever prosthesis it takes to hold onto an “I”! If “society” hadn’t become such a definitive abstraction, then it would denote all the existential crutches that allow me to keep dragging on, the ensemble of dependencies I’ve contracted as the price of my identity. The handicapped person is the model citizen of tomorrow. It’s not without foresight that the associations exploiting them today demand that they be granted a “subsistence income.”

The injunction, everywhere, to “be someone” maintains the pathological state that makes this society necessary. The injunction to be strong produces the very weakness by which it maintains itself, so that everything seems to take on a therapeutic character, even working, even love. All those “how’s it goings?” that we exchange give the impression of a society composed of patients taking each other’s temperatures. Sociability is now made up of a thousand little niches, a thousand little refuges where you can take shelter.  Where it’s always better than the bitter cold outside. Where everything’s false, since it’s all just a pretext for getting warmed up. Where nothing can happen since we’re all too busy shivering silently together. Soon this society will only be held together by the mere tension of all the social atoms straining towards an illusory cure. It’s a power plant that runs its turbines on a gigantic reservoir of unwept tears, always on the verge of spilling over.

“I AM WHAT I AM.” Never has domination found such an innocent-sounding slogan. The maintenance of the self in a permanent state of deterioration, in a chronic state of near-collapse, is the best-kept secret of the present order of things. The weak, depressed, self-critical, virtual self is essentially that endlessly adaptable subject required by the ceaseless innovation of production, the accelerated obsolescence of technologies, the constant overturning of social norms, and generalized flexibility. It is at the same time the most voracious consumer and, paradoxically, the most productive self, the one that will most eagerly and energetically throw itself into the slightest project, only to return later to its original larval state.