Archive for February, 2011

Strange (Political) Meetings in the Necropastoral: Owen, Hawkey, WikiLeaks

by on Feb.21, 2011


A key factor of the necropastoral for me is not just the way it manifests the infectiousness, anxiety, and contagion occultly present in the hygienic borders of the classical pastoral— ie the most celebrity resident of Arcadia is Death—but also its activity, its networking, its paradoxical proliferation, its self-digestive activity, its eructations, its necroticness, its hunger and its hole making, which configures a burgeoning textual tissue defined by holes, a tissue thus as absent as it is present, and therefore not absent, not present—protoplasmic, spectral. In the next couple posts I want to look at three phenomena: Wilfred Owen’s War Poetry, Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, and WikiLeaks– to try to think about how the necropastoral stages networks and ‘strange meetings’.

My hypothesis is that the strange meetings in the necropastoral eat away at the model of literary lineage that depends on separation, hierarchy, before-and-after, on linearity itself; simultaneously, the ‘strange meeting’ could be considered as one of the necropastoral’s political modes. The strange meeting of Lady Gaga and Julian Assange, the strange meeting of Cairo, Egypt and Madison, Wisconsin!
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by on Feb.20, 2011

From YC and Mefi. Make sure to watch the first video. It will change your life.

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The Cannibalist Manifesto

by on Feb.20, 2011


"Abaporu" ("the man that eats"), a painting by Tarsila do Amaral, inspired Andrade's manifesto.

In the Jodorowsky/Marilyn Manson interview Monica wrote about, Jodorowsky says, “The title of your album is ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’. Straight away, I think of the symbology of Christ. What happens every day at church? Catholics eat and drink their God. I believe that makes them vampire cannibals…”

If the artist is a victim, like the Catholic worshiper or God, it is because she is also a cannibal.   She cannibalizes others; they cannibalize her.  This is what Brazilian Modernism declared along postcolonial lines via Oswald de Andrade’s “Cannibalist Manifesto”:

“Carnal at first, this instinct becomes elective and creates friendship.  When it is affective, it creates love.  When it is speculative, it creates science.  It deviates and transfers. We arrive at utter vilification. In base cannibalism, our baptized sins agglomerate – envy, usury, calumny, or murder. We are acting against the plague of a supposedly cultured and Christianized peoples.  Cannibals.”

Inspired by the eating of Bishop Sardinha by the Caetés Tupi tribe, Andrade pronounces, “Tupi or not tupi, that is the question.”  (continue reading…)

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by on Feb.19, 2011


I’m in public. I’ve got that pulsing thing in my right temple. I’m basically tithing 90% of my thoughts here. I roll in with this fishbowl feeling and head straight for the people who look least drunk. Someone tries to strike up a conversation but I’m being really standoffish. Everything feels translated into Sanskrit. I’m like retarded and operating remotely. I think about staring hard into a mirror someplace private but it’s like there is no bathroom only a line to the bathroom. Some people I know are floating around like a Greek chorus so I bail. Try to hail a cab but I can’t even deal. I’m walking south toward the bridge eating an energy bar splashing bottled water on my face. I feel the sky pressing down like a positively charged void. I feel so sick. I feel impossible. I feel like after-birth.

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Raul Zurita's reading at Notre Dame

by on Feb.17, 2011

Here are three films of Raul Zurita and his translator Daniel Borzutzky reading at the University of Notre Dame earlier this month:

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Mildred Pierce #4 & John Berndt on Bernhard-Kinski-Theodore

by on Feb.16, 2011

Hello! It has been some time. I’ve been hiding out while finishing up the fourth issue of Mildred Pierce, a (maga)zine I co-edit with John Bylander, themed Comedy and the Grotesque. This post is promotional as well as sincerely in conversation with recent posts on atrocity kitsch and trauma and performance.

Mildred Pierce #4 has among its contents a really fascinating essay by experimental musician and performance artist John Berndt which argues for the work of Thomas Bernhard, Klaus Kinski and Brother Theodore as constituting a particular genre of art that performs a (histrionic, deranged) Hitlerian mode. Here’s an excerpt:

Even without unpacking the full context that elevated Hitler to become a unique reference point of 20th century evil, something remains quite communicable and riveting about the Hitlerian personality, the Hitlerian performative style. This archetype is a threatening genie that is difficult to put back into the bottle. A serious trauma to social self-conception imperatively calls for transformative re-enactment, as those effected by the trauma of the trauma attempt to integrate “impossible” information, creating hybrid experiences that branch and dilute the underlying meaning in multiple unexpected directions—a dangerous, potentially important game. …

Three brilliant and transformational artists who emerged in the wake of World War II, who were each deeply personally scarred by events during the war, and had direct contact with frighteningly absurd elements of the Nazi reality, and who were each able to make immense use of the Hitlerian mode were the Austrian author Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989), the Polish/German actor Klaus Kinski (1926-1991), and the German/American comedian Brother Theodore (1906-2001) (collectively “B-K-T”).  Each was deeply personally scarred by events during the war, and had direct contact with frighteningly absurd elements of the Nazi reality. …

With all three, there is a house-of-mirrors relationship between the characters they created (impossible, aggressive, imploding madmen) and their own private lives, which seem to have involved quite real anti-social tensions, as well as various public masks or simulations of unreasonableness they created, the artifice of larger-than-life mythologies. Therefore, three superimposed levels of sustained impossibility (relating to the actual artist, his characters, and the quasi-fictional-autobiographical overlay to the artist’s life) are common to each of them. This unstable boundary between performance, performer, and self-conscious legend, a major focus in Bernhard criticism, is equally strong in the cases of Kinski and Theodore.

Raul Zurita, in the q&a after his AWP reading, explained that when writing, “everyone else is writing” — “in writing you are allowing other bodies to occupy your body.” Kinski, according to Berndt, admits to no shared experience; and all three of Berndt’s examples led mainly anti-social lives, and moreover their literary and stage performances are basically anti-social. The Hitlerian mode is megalomaniacal, of course — it’s mad, a worldview that admits no infiltrators who could potentially reenvision it. Versus Zurita, this is a much different approach to embodying or channeling or performing collective trauma artistically – or is it? Zurita’s compassion is a far cry from Theodore’s crankiness but they seem to share an instability/multiplicity of voice, as well as a vividly accusing anger — and confusion. I don’t know Zurita’s work well enough to say much more, so I’ll leave it there, the question is open.

The full essay, which Berndt is planning on expanding into a book, is available in Mildred Pierce #4 — ordering info and a full TOC are available here.

Here’s a performance by Brother Bernhard Kinski at the MP release party in Baltimore last week:

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by on Feb.15, 2011

There have been a couple of interesting posts about Joyelle’s “necropastoral” recently.

Here is Christopher Higgs’ from HTMLGiant.

Here is Michael Leong from BigOther.

Probably most people missed it because it was buried at the end of my long post about theatricality, but this is what I wrote about Joyelle’s “King Prion” possessions:
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Will the Victims of Art Please Stand Up

by on Feb.15, 2011

Somewhere or the other Alejandro Jodorowsky has this absolutely amazing quote (my notes lie: I thought it was from this fascinating interview he’d conducted with Marilyn Manson:

“To be an artist is to be a victim because if you don’t do what you want you die.”

(Note how Jodorowsky steers the interview like a shaman, a critic.)

To be an artist is to be a victim because if you don’t do what you want you die. I love how this art-model collapses the notion of “agency”. (James and Johannes had picked up on the anxieties around agency in their posts on political art. But then all art=political art, and such anxieties are rife. Welcome victimhood.) Artist The Victim is also Artist The Serial Killer. If you do what you do want, if you make the art you want, the art must take lives, must kill, must kill all it knows, must kill the real the human the authentic (so-called), including you yourself (so-called), must die itself. It has to be that wily and sexy and decadent and destructive and excessive and twisted. Everything must go kaput (you’re left with “Possess Nothing,” aka the most kinetic reading there was off-site AWP!). At least there must be paroxysms. Syncopes.

Either way, to be an artist is to be in trouble.

To be an artist is to be a victim because if you don’t do what you want you die. Almost or exactly like a mystic. I’m thinking in particular of Meera (but also of Shams Tabrizi, Kabir, Al Hallaj, Socrates, Joan of Arc, Hannah Weiner).

According to legend and hagiography, Meera continued to write poems and songs for Krishna (whom she considered to be her true consort) surviving repeated attempts by her dead husband’s family to kill her off, not to mention everyday harassment. Different versions exist, for instance, about what happened when she was sent or given poison by her relatives. Either she turned a different color (off-color, or one version says golden), or the poison turned into nectar within her, or Krishna himself drank the poison for her and turned blue. Art as poison as alchemical as hoax. Then at some point, she took off and wandered the streets of the Indian subcontinent, singing and dancing and causing great consternation amongst the people and the relatives with her unladylike drifter behaviour. Kumkum Sangari has pointed to the “inappropriable” (inappropriate!) and transgressive role played by the “spiritual surplus” of Meera’s bhakti in the 16th century. Possessed by a want-to-art so extreme so excessive it’s like a death-wish.

[Bonus: A sampler of Meera’s poems sung by Bombay Jayashri. Also, MS Subbulakshmi playing Meera in 1947. The story goes that MS actually swooned, fell at the feet of Krishna, during the film shoot in Dwarka.]

Freud via Zizek: “…death drive is that which prevents you from dying. Death drive is that which persists beyond life and death. Again, it’s precisely what, in my beloved Stephen King’s horror/science fiction terminology he calls the ‘undead'”. Bataille’s notion of expenditure. Love / tears its shirt. Then there are the great love stories of the Indian subcontinent. Laila-Majnu. Heer-Ranhja. Shirin-Farhad. All lovers all victims all the time. Kind of like artists. Or like Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Monsters and zombies and saints. Gaping and lolling.

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by on Feb.14, 2011

The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords played out like postmodern fabulism–a paranoid Pynchonesque gunman (Jared Loughner) shoots several people in front of Safeway, including a girl who was born on 9/11 and a beautiful blonde congresswoman, whose astronaut husband, we were told at the time, was stranded in outer space. The event externalized the fictive hysterical realism we associate with blatantly unreal novels by the likes of Pynchon, Delillo and others. And after the shooting, we found ourselves in a national conversation that had less to do with gun control, mental health, or nativist hysteria, than about the violent effects of language–specifically, a non-identity-based right-wing hate speech, what you might call a hate speech of ideology. This outcome was symmetrical to the origin of the attack since Loughner’s mens rea derived from a deep skepticism with language itself.

Loughner saw himself as a revolutionary and a cultural producer: his “final words” on youtube talk about revolutionary treason against a government and The Week informs us that he was a bad poet who wrote slam poems about taking the bus and showering. While his beliefs combined an incoherent stew of anarchism, schizophrenia, and tea party currency vitriol, one of his main motives was, curiously enough, a desire to stop the government’s use of grammar as a mind control device. Obviously it’s unwise to ascribe a political ideology to someone as mentally damaged as Loughner, but what I found immediately curious about Loughner’s linguistic views is how much they resembled many things that left-wing avant-garde academic poets take for granted. Loughner, for example, believed that language was both fundamentally arbitrary (his enmity with Giffords began, miraculously enough, in August of 2007, when he asked her: “What is government if words have no meaning?”) and also a hegemonic exertion of systematic power (“The government is implying mind control and brain wash on the people by controlling grammar”). These views are either reprehensible or insane when stated by Loughner–and the former instance is not that substantively different from high theory’s anti-foundationalist take on signification and the latter is one of the central arguments of language poetry–that when an author uses language in a conventional way, he subjugates the reader with an invidious control.
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New Books from Action Books

by on Feb.13, 2011

We’ve got two new books out from Action Books, Helsinki by Peter Richards and Privado by Daniel Tiffany. We’ll write some more about them in the coming days. You can get them for a sales price of 12 bucks (instead of 16) if you buy them from our Action Books site.

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Bob Holman & the Chinese avant-garde – Saturday 2/12 at 2pm

by on Feb.12, 2011

I’m back from AWP, a Maxine Hong Kingston benefit, ailments physical and metaphysical.

  1. Obligatory description of AWP. It is like being in an airport where you know everyone.
  2. Do-over: It is like taking a vacation inside Facebook.
  3. Did you notice the carpet was hallucinogenic? I was actually photographed in the AWP equivalent of the Sartorialist. You can see the schizophrenic carpet below.

Okay the point of this post: Anyone in NY should come to our event tomorrow with Bob Holman and seminal Chinese avant-gardist Cai Tianxin. Why, you ask?

  1. He is one of the most important young avant-garde poets. Those of you Montevidayo fans who love blood, vivisection and transcendent sunlight, check out the language of his from the Berlin Int’l Literary festival website that I’ve pasted below.
  2. He is a math genius. Here is his math department web page.
  3. Did I mention Bob Holman will be there? Details below, Hypocrite lecteur,—mon semblable,—mon frère!

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Pageantry and Atrocities: Possession vs. Witness in Zurita

by on Feb.11, 2011

Can I just make a very obvious point implicit in Joyelle’s pop quiz: There seems to be this pervasive idea that “experimental” poetry is something apolitical or “ironic” (I understand less and less what that word means), something that belongs to recent American poetry, something that is not really serious.

One of the ways Carolyn Forché maintains this distinction in her anthology Against Forgetting is by claiming that foreign writers write “poetry of witness,” merely witnessing such horror makes the writing strange (almost against the poet’s will). But, the ‘witness’ part is important– it’s not the atrocity but the witness, the emphasis on experience, that defines this genre and legitimizes and homogonizes the variations and intensities and fantasies and excesses of the writing itself.

Raul Zurita is such an interesting case because he could be made into an iconic “poet of witness” – having been tortured in a shed for weeks after the Pinochet coup and then having spent the subsequent two decades writing visionary, grotesque poetry and engaging in outrageous protest stunts (self-mutilation, airplanes, milk trucks).
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Fernando Solana's The Hour of the Furnaces

by on Feb.10, 2011

Here’s a visual aid to help you further with the Montevidayo Poetry Pop Quiz:  a clip of Fernando Solana‘s documentary La hora de los furnos from 1968.  The 2:45 mark, especially, brings home the connection between the cow, Reines’ The Cow, Zurita, and the neoliberal policies that brought about dictatorships in Latin America.

Good luck!

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