by Joyelle McSweeney on Feb.24, 2011
1. Strange (Political) Meeting s
In my reading of Wilfred Owen, I’ve suggested Owen constructs a continuous spasming necropastoral mask/masque in the charnelfields/skin of Europe. This necropastoral stages strange meetings; the dead meet the living, or the dead meet the also-not-more- or –less-than-dead, the war eats holes in itself to move the speaker around, the speaker and Death moan together, the worms/words move through bodies and continually produce new masticating/speaking heads; in all these modalities before, after, and even event are also spasmed and distended. The ‘strange meeting’ might be enfigured as an ampersand, which is a kind of eaten-away Moebius strip, incompletely delivering impossible contacts, inefficiently flooding, dumping, jamming, breaking out, collapsing, gesturing, speeding up, distending, suspending, petering out. The ‘pity’ of war emerges like goo from these pits, but it is also the force that creates its own distended tissues and pitted surfaces. The Pity is Art. As Owen said, The Poetry is in the Pity.
This spasming, ampersanding, defective interpenetration, with its goo-, moan-, and pity-effects, is of course a model of politics and temporality completely alien from liberal models of the body and the state, of points and events, of agency, of hierarchy, of flowcharts of power, linearity, historical time.
2. Case Study 2: Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl.
In Christian Hawkey’s dossier-like Ventrakl, Hawkey ‘tracks’ the dead poet Trakl through a series of texts, intertexts, countertexts, translations, translation games, interviews, photographs. In a familiarly post-modern (reductive) way, we could say that the ‘holes’, the aperture between Hawkey and his subject or ‘target’, become a field of indeterminacy that then become gradually sedimented with text to create the diagrammatic, essay-like body of the book. But what kind of diagram is this?
In this photograph, which comes towards the end of the book, a face emerges—or does it? Is it a face or a stain? The dark spots propose competing features which nevertheless cannot completely blot out the face. The face and the stains make an assemblage, a strange meeting here, an excess production which goes further than the portrait photograph ‘should’. What does face say to stain? Or does stain wear a face mask: my head, my head? The face-stain are an ill production, erraticness itself, material as errata, out of time and place but stinking, persisting. Or maybe dead. A spasmatic non-chronology. In the strange meeting, they are ill-distributed, defective, a defective ampersand, linking and breaking, blotting out and emitting, speeding up all over her face.
These residues are goos, actives, pitties, piercing through the face of Art and spreading more Art all over its face. These residues are the strange meetings.
The centos and homophonic translations in the text itself are like these residues; what looks like a hole turns out to be not a declivity but an emission, an eructations. The image wobbles up from the surface of the text, collapses on itself, goes bad, decays, burgeons, stinks, backs away, leaves a rotted wall:
Orphans die more gleefully in the green West.
A tapestry made of gelatin. Binary ears.
A hand raised into the wavering trauma-light.
Bright pearls cluster—as if glued—around
The newly opened eyelids of an infant.
Blue lies beneath this all bending, as do
Stunted uncles, kissing. Azrael,
Shaken, backs his red go-cart through the wall.
The image emerges when the surface oversaturates. Goo, stain, gelatin, blue, green, kissing/pity, the stunted uncles of stain-force. Between the ‘binary ears’, the mush gelatin of brain matter, the registering spectre also known as ‘trauma light’. Wave a hand through me, I am barely here. “Bright pearls cluster—as if glued—around/The newly opened eyelids of an infant.” Art plants eggs in its own eyes.
3. Conclusions so Far
Art plants eggs in its own eyes. Produces image.
Image stains the face of Art.
Image is where Art’s face and stain are in an inequal, unstable, shifting, assemblage. A rotting, defective ampersand.
Image is Art’s face/stain.
Where Art exeeds itself.
Strange meetings in the necrotic tissue of Art’s face.
4. But is it political?Tune in next week!