Archive for January, 2012

"The Adrenaline Blooms": Gaudy Possibilities #2 (The Patti Smith Orbit)

by on Jan.31, 2012

In his last post, Lucas invoked my previous post on “The Andy Warhol Orbit” and I responded with an anecdote about Patti Smith, which I had just heard on Swedish Radio. I heard this report about Patti Smith and how she had inspired a generation of female Swedish punk singers. In the show, this one woman recalls seeing Patti Smith in Stockholm in the late 1970s and talked about how it had inspired her. But what she talked about was not necessarily her music so much as what she wore, how she moved: the image she presented of herself. This inspired the Swedish woman to start her own punk band, imitating Smith’s image and imagery, the total effect of her image.

One thing that stuck out to me was that she said she had emulated Patti Smith in every way except her hairstyle, which she had taken from Mick Jagger. In context of my orbit post, this makes total sense: Having entered Andy Warhol’s orbit, Jagger developed the image of a kind of transvestite, something this Swedish musician picked up on.
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"The field– it's covered in blood!"– 'Watership Down', 'a world of difference' and the Necropastoral

by on Jan.27, 2012


[[UPDATE: I’m certain there is an occult link between Watership Down and the ‘Bunny House’ sign in the ‘Food Now’ fake protest performance in Dan’s post just below. I think these two ‘training exercises’ are actually one continuous decades long training exercise.]]

Montevidayans, I’ve recently been musing on the feverdream that was the movie, ‘Watership Down’. This trailer pretty much sums it up as I remember it. Except in my memory, ‘heroic bravery’ is completely outweighed by violence, tyranny, and the excellently mis-matched evil eyes of the bad rabbit. And what the narrator calls ‘a world of difference’.  I’m going to rewatch this film and write more, but for now, here’s the trailer. Anyone else remember this nasty bit of film?



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by on Jan.26, 2012

Sex, booze, hoodies and most illegal of all, food. But it is the declaration of hunger that is truly blasphemous.

“Alaska Army National Guard Soldiers assist Anchorage Police to calm or detain rioters as part of the training scenario of exercise Vigilant Guard Ft. Richardson, Alaska, Wednesday April 28, 2010.”

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Zurita and Ecology: Leonard Schwartz and Joyelle McSweeney

by on Jan.24, 2012

[I thought this article relates to the discussion we are having in the “gaudy” discussion thread below:]


…Grace of its linguistic and visionary commitment, its capacity to imagine what is perforce outside experience, Zurita has written a poetry that surpasses what a more politically committed poetry could have achieved. Zurita’s poems might be figured as an eco-poetry in which the space between nature and history is closed up, once we realize that the work reimagines the entirety of the ocean in such a way as to include those thrown from planes into that ocean. And reimagines the mountains in such a way as to include the Disappeared thrown from planes into their snows until one can only speak of those mountains as containing those people. And renders the desert no longer conceivable except if the voices and the deaths in the desert are made a part of that desert. It was Camille Dungy, the editor of the anthology Black Nature: Four Centuries of African-American Nature Poetry who pointed out in her CCP appearance (#221) that the poets in her book do not necessarily view a tree as simply a tree, since it might also be the case that someone was lynched from that particular tree; they do not look at an agricultural site as an idyl, since one’s ancestors might have worked that land in slavery. Indeed, only certain privileged, bourgeois perspectives can divorce “nature” from “history” in order to yield a “nature poetry” that refreshes us in its aftermath. I have argued that to view Nature apart from other discourses and entities (like language for example) is analogous to the pornographic (without taking any position pro or con on pornography), where one function (Nature) is fetishized and isolated from other functions and possibilities (as sex is in pornography). By contrast to a nature poetry, an eco-poetics seeks out complicated interrelationships between multiple modes of the sensual. Zurita’s is one of the great poetries to overcome the artificiality of the nature/history distinction, to give us the Tree and the invisible histories enacted in and around the Tree, as Dungy calls for.

The view Schwartz take of Zurita shows its relationship to the “necropastoral” (as opposed to “Nature Poetry” or “Political Poetry”, never mind that he uses the “porn” trope that I so dislike.), which Kent suggested was incompatible in the comments below the “gaudy” post.

Here’s an excerpt from Joyelle’s piece about Zurita and the necropastoral:

Pinochet’s military converted the very landscape into a mass grave, dropping bodies from airplanes into the mountains and oceans, so that they became, in the words of Zurita’s song, “stuck, stuck to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains/stuck, stuck to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains.” This kernel of assemblage is repeated in all the micro and macro structures of Zurita’s visionary landscape, which saturates and resaturates Pinochet’s landscape (continue reading…)

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"Gaudy Possibilities"

by on Jan.23, 2012

The other day Gene Tanta asked me some questions about assertions I made about art and poetry at the & Now Conference in San Diego. They are good questions, and they’re definitely worth thinking about, but they are broad. So in order to really reply to them, I’ll take a few different posts, and hopefully I’ll at least show Gene my thinking, my intuition, my bleeder’s disease.

First up, I think it might be useful to summarize my argument from the festival. I talked about Raul Zurita but first I talked about the Lion King. I talked about “Scar,” the creepy uncle who tries to ruin the natural (very authoritarian but multicultural) order of the lion kingdom by infecting this natural nature/order with those icons of the unnatural, the affect, the blurry and uncouth hyenas, foreigners even to the happy multicultural order of the kingdom, screaming/laughing icons death drive and/or the pain/ecstacy of jouissance.

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Aase Berg wins Aftonbladets Litteratur Pris

by on Jan.22, 2012

Aase Berg, whose work I’ve translated pretty extensively over the past 10-12 years (Transfer Fat, my translation of her book Forsla fett, will be out from Ugly Duckling any day now, and Dark Matter, my translation of her book Mörk materia will be out from Black Ocean this fall) has been awarded the prestigious Aftonbladets Litteratur Pris for best book of poetry/literature of 2011 for her book Liknöjd Fauna. Here’s the article in Aftonbladet announcing the award.

Previous winners include: Tomas Tranströmer (back in 1958), Lars Gustafsson, Göran Sonnevi, Lars Norén, Ann Jäderlund, Lotta Lotass, Sara Stridsberg and Johan Jönson.

Congratulations to Aase.

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Blake Butler on Nikanor Teratologen's Rolodex of Atrocities

by on Jan.17, 2012

Blake’s review can be found here.


Assisted Living, by Nikanor Teratologen, was originally released in Sweden in 1992 under the title Äldreomsorgen i Övre Kågedalen (roughly translated: Caring for the Elderly in Upper Kage Valley). The book immediately caused an uproar, due in part to the book’s endless “Satanic” parade of rape, murder, sacrilege, bigotry, pedophilia, etc., but also the author’s use of a pseudonym, which led critics to accuse a wide array of major Swedish authors as the creator, including the now goofily popular Stieg Larsson. The result was not only instant-cult-classic and controversial bestselling status for the book, which later would be credited to the novelist Niclas Lundkvist, but also a slew of varying takes on the book’s content, both praising its wild innovations in the way of language and stylizing, and predictably defaming it for its utter lack of reverence, apology, or “humanity.”

I would just add a little background. Blake mentions that it reminds him of both Aase Berg and Dennis Cooper. That’s not a coincidence. Teratologen’s books are published by the press Vertigo, which is an awesome press run by Carl-Mikael Edenborg, who happened to have once been a member of Surealistgruppen in Stockholm, where Aase was a once a member, and he’s also published Dennis Cooper’s Frisk in translation. As with Aase, Edenborg’s aesthetics are very 19th century/Gothic-influenced – he publishes Lovecraft, de Sade, Bataille, Samuel Delany, Leiris etc.

(He also has a cafe in the Old Town of Stockholm in case you’re there.)

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I Know the Word “Stradivarius”: Why I Chose Aase Berg’s Transfer Fat for The Rumpus Poetry Book Club

by on Jan.17, 2012

Article on Rumpus about Aase Berg’s Transfer fat (which I translated).


This month at The Rumpus Poetry Book Club we’re going to talk about translation, hard work and why we love the sheep’s head. We’ll be looking at the work of Aase Berg, specifically her book, Transfer Fat, which has just been translated into English by Johannes Göransson and is being published by Ugly Duckling Presse. We’ve been wanting to talk about translation for a long time in the club but it’s a tricky business. If we were going to talk about translation we needed to be able to talk about the whole difficult, magical, risky process. It’s easier to end up disappointed in a translation: a can of something that sounds and sort of feels like a poem instead of the real, fallible, madething. For my part, I didn’t want to pick a translation until I could feel all the hands and voices involved. Everyone uses the words artisanal and sustainable these days but I’m not sure what they mean in a lot of those cases.

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Joyelle will discuss apocalyptic art with China Mieville and Evan Calder Williams

by on Jan.14, 2012

at Warwick University in the UK next week. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and participate in the symposium on “salvage punk.” Here’s the info.

Joyelle will give a great talk that involves Rihanna, Aase Berg, Kim Hyesoon and PJ Harvey, as well as a talk more specifically about the idea of the necropastoral and a reading.

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The Global Economy in Trans Terrorist Style (starring more Star Fuckers and "Mickey" Jagger!)

by on Jan.13, 2012

Another discovery I made in Brazil is the hipsterlicious trio known as Banda UÓ.  I think their name is an adaptation of “wow” into Portuguese–a gesture that already opens our orifices to Third World counterfeitness and the group’s cheesy garbling of Anglophone hits.  Banda UÓ reworks classics like Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” and Willow Smith’s already excellent “Whip My Hair,” which they’ve mutated into the rock star drama of “Shake de Amor.”  Here’s their explanation of the song:

What has Mick Jagger ever done to you to deserve the plotline in “Shake de Amor”?

The song is based on the story between him and a TV host from Brazil named Luciana Gimenez. The story is satirized, but basically the story is, the Rolling Stones came to Brazil to do a concert with the tour Bridges to Babylon, and Jagger met Luciana. The two hung out for a couple of months, while he was still married the the model Jerry Hall. Then she got pregnant and he denied everything, trying to get out of the situation. That’s why in the chorus we say “vou me vingar de você” (“I will avenge you”) a billion times, she is really pissed.

I wonder if Banda UÓ reads Montevidayo?  Almost everything about “Shake de Amor” seems inspired by Johannes’ post on star fuckers, Andy Warhol, Candy Darling, and Mick Jagger!  Candy Mel (“Honey”), the trans singer in the group, even casts herself as the center of Johannes’ “orbit of transveticism.”  If there’s an added ingredient to the music video, it’s the final shot in which the star-fucker-cum-star gets a decorative splash of Jagger’s blood on her face.  Also listen for machine gunfire throughout the track:

I’ve relished thinking about this video as a cannibalist, terrorist reckoning of sorts (continue reading…)

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No Rectification or There about It: Gertrude Stein’s Improper Names

by on Jan.12, 2012

In the 1932 The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein assumes the name and voice of her life companion, playfully and in plain language overriding the boundaries a name is supposed to set. The narrator tells us,

I may say that only three times in my life have I met a genius, and each time a bell within me rang and I was not mistaken, and I may say in each case it was before there was any general recognition of the quality of genius in them. The three geniuses of whom I wish to speak are Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and Alfred Whitehead.

Most obviously, this passage operates as a roundabout means for self-aggrandizement—Stein speaks as another person in order to render herself praise. We could decide to applaud the spectacular audacity of this move, or we could criticize her for appropriating another woman’s identity. Looked at another way, though, the narrative set-up renders any unique identity equivocal. At the same time that The Autobiography does the work of establishing Stein’s celebrity, through the far-easier-to-read writing style of Alice B. Toklas, it throws into question the singularity of the “genius” it extols.
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Gene Tanta on Johannes' Theory of Creepy Art

by on Jan.10, 2012

Over on The The Blog, Gene Tanta has posted a response to my &Now paper (which his related to my most recent post). Here’s an excerpt of his post:

Anyway, I raised my hand, warned that my question may seem moralistic, and asked the damned thing: what does it mean when evil becomes fun? What does it mean, as a goal, to meet totalitarian violence with violent (spectacular) art? How does evil (turned out by fascists like Pinochet, or in by artists like Zurita who had poured acid on his face as a metaphor for totalitarian oppression) not become a distraction or an act of mere entertainment? In order words, what happens when injustice becomes fun or a pageant of performing bodies?

Here are a few more questions that come to mind as I reflect: Can art, as a goal, be more than fun? Should art, as a goal, be more than a parade manifesting the gaudy possibilities of experience through the streets or through the halls of academia? What is the difference between a parade and a protest march? Is claiming the privilege to feel proud for existing as the thing that is possible to manifest the best that art can do or is art more imbedded in life than that?

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"Strange Circus": Horror Movies, Surrealism, Trauma and Art

by on Jan.09, 2012

In a comment to Lucas’s post, Lara wrote about Trauma:

Johannka, you asked me how I think trauma functions on MV? My sense is that we’re collectively pretty traumatized by the horrific state of things, what Joyelle calls “this present hellish universe.” We are all very hungry for pleasure, despite this. Or maybe, to spite this.

We often feel crushingly trapped/threatened. We are collectively trying to tunnel a way out through art that makes us “susceptible, vulnerable, exhilarated, chagrined, obliterated, changed into Art” (again, Joyelle’s words).

Sometimes I’m able to locate pleasure in my own debasement. Sometimes I’m not. I’m not often able to locate pleasure in the debasement/humiliation of others, even if it’s clearly staged. In fact, it totally repulses me. I don’t feel “intrigued but chagrined.” This is a visceral reaction, not a moral one.

My intestines are my morals. I am a limited creature. Only one of my six legs actually works.

It’s this seeming tension between pleasure and debasement, horror and beauty, trauma and trauma, resolution and compulsion, marked out by both Joyelle and Lara, that I would like to think a little bit about.


Matthias Forshage, one of the founding members of the Surrealist Group of Stockholm, who wrote “Surrealism in Ulterior Times” with Aase Berg (a document frequently quoted on Montevidayo, it’s where Joyelle and I get the phrase “meet us with the lemurs”), has written an interesting article about the surrealism of horror movies (in fact the entire blog is well worth reading):

It is one of the main points of surrealism to not deny the unusual phenomena and their dynamism, but still reject all these more or less religious poor explanations, avoid succumbing to premature rationalisations. In the movies, let them go on with their fairytale concepts, they’re not fooling us, we know that the dynamism of weird happenings, chance and significant casual events is an aspect of life itself, and such a dynamism can be remarkably effectively simulated and savoured in the particular fiction of the horror movie. It contributes to teaching us to see. It orchestrates and emphasises those poetic atmospheres where everything is hanging in suspense and anything seems possible, the moments of the surreal. On the most simple level this is obvious in films of hauntings; all these haunted houses, the poltergeists, the insistent messages and the chaotic disturbances. It’s partly very banal, still often very effective, sometimes orchestrating a liberation of the anti-utilitarian, fetishistic or just poetic surrealist sense of the object, sometimes luminous juxtapositions, constellations of things, true poetic images, classic surrealist assemblage. A literally convulsive beauty is sometimes achieved in the very “over-the-top” absurdness of many stories; where strange events and convergences, personal tragedies and emotions are so densely accumulated together with the unfettered expressionism of blood and gore (for this particular line, Re-animator (1985) remains a centerpiece). In a way this is the old formula of Walpolian Gothic, plausible human reactions to implausible courses of events, the mechanics of the mind encountering the world of inclusiveness where anything is possible, the so-called paranormal or maybe the surreal. Yes, on an aesthetical level, this is clearly a kind of expressionism, but since surrealism is not an aesthetic it doesn’t mind employing other aesthetics for its purposes…

It is the ambience that I love in horror movies, before all the weirdness has been explained away, usually through some idea of the traumatic: ghosts and hallucinations were caused by a child dying or child abuse or some such tragedy. Often it involves the child because the child represents the future; horror movies are often about the tragedy of stalling the future, the descent into anachronism or children who will never grow up, distorted families etc. I get bored with these explanations, but the build up always feels the most tumultuous to me, the most affecting.

It seems perhaps that there are two models of the traumatic at work here: (continue reading…)

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