Somnabulist in the graveyard // Tan Lin, Pam Lu, Subterranean ambience

by on Apr.21, 2012

Hola, long time no see.

1. The somnabulist in the graveyard. I was reading an essay written by Angana Chatterji and I couldn’t help but think of Montevidayo. Angana is the anthropologist who helped launch the inquiry into unmarked mass graves in India-occupied Kashmir. She writes:

In undertaking work for the Tribunal, I have travelled through Kashmir’s cities and countryside, from Srinagar to Kupwara, through Shopian and Islamabad/Anantnag. I have witnessed the violence that India’s military, paramilitary, and police perpetuate against Kashmiris. I have walked through the graveyards that hold Kashmir’s dead, and I have met with grieving families. I have listened to the testimony of a mother who sleepwalks to the grave of her son, attempting to resuscitate his body.

I was struck by the oneiric, almost lyric nature of this image: the mother attempting to wake her son from death while she is herself asleep. The mother and the son rhyme together. They are denizens of two types of subterranean life: the dead son in the graveyard and the mother’s underworld, by which I mean not her dreamlife, but her traumatized melancholia. The image reveals the strangeness of inherently political imagery–not strident as in American protest poetry, but surreal, contradictory, grotesque.

Angana is reading tonight at AAWW with journalist Mirza Waheed, whose novel The Collaborator stars a Kashmiri teenager who collaborates with the Indian military as a counter of corpses, and the artist Kanishka Raja, who has created a series of paintings and an artist book re-imagining Kashmir as the Switzerland of South Asia; Kashmir used to be the setting for pastoral Bollywood romances until the state crackdowns moved the films to Switzerland. Here’s his artist book.

2. I’ve been blown away lately by Tan Lin’s Insomnia and the Aunt and Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot. They’re going to be reading at AAWW on April 27 with poet Juliette Lee and in conversation with avant poetics scholar Dorothy Wang. I figured it seemed like a good fit for this site, so I’ve asked Triple Canopy’s Lucy Ives to live-blog the event on Montevidayo. Here are some descriptions

Tan Lin’s INSOMNIA AND THE AUNT is an ambient novel composed of black and white photographs, postcards, Google reverse searches, letters, appendices, an index to an imaginary novel, reruns, and footnotes. The aunt in question can’t sleep. She runs a motel in the Pacific Northwest. She likes watching Conan O’Brien late at night. She may be the narrator’s aunt or she may be an emanation of a TV set. Structured like everybody’s scrapbook, and blending fiction with nonfictional events, INSOMNIA AND THE AUNT is about identities taken and given up, and about the passions of an immigrant life, rebroadcast as furniture. Ostensibly about a young man’s disintegrating memory of his most fascinating relative, or potentially a conceptualist take on immigrant literature, it is probably just a treatment for a prime-time event that, because no one sleeps in motels, lasts into the late night and daytime slots.

Part fiction, part earnest mockumentary, Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot follows a band of musicians as they wander the parking structures of urban downtown and greater suburbia in quest of the ultimate ambient noise—one that promises to embody their historical moment and deliver them up to the heights of their self-important artistry. Along the way, they make sporadic forays into lyric while contending with doubts, delusions, miscalculations, mutinies, and minor triumphs. This saga peers into the wreckage of a post-9/11 landscape and embraces the comedy and poignancy of failed utopia.


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