Garbage In/Garbage In the Necropastoral: On the Road to Kimp'o Landfill: Kim Hyesoon & Camile Rose Garcia & Césaire

by on Apr.06, 2011

The remains of an albatross chick whose mother fed it plastic plucked from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Camille Rose Garcia's Sleepwitch. It uncannily mimicks the decomposed form of the dead chick, while also presenting a system which cannot cleanse itself of toxins but recycles them as counterfeit-nutrients, a distributive system which spreads poison, poison which then saturates the picture plane, creates the visual rhythm; to 'take in' the picture, the eye follows the poison; vision is bio-identical to poison

The Road to Kimp’o Landfill
by Kim Hyesoon, trans. by Don Mee Choi

Cut my hair short again
I don’t want to pull out
the names etched onto my hair that grows daily
As rain fell, garbage bins from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floor
must have been turned upside down
Hair fell profusely
I kissed in a place where garbage came down like rain
I kissed where I vomited all night long
Every time I sang, vomit flew in[…]

I have long been obsessed by this poem by Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi, and its necropastoral ecologies/economies, here turned on the vertical plane of an urban highrise where garbage falls from the upper stories ‘as rain fell’, falls like and as rain via rain’s distribution system, takes the symbolic vector of rain. Intuitively, the verticality of the apartment building strikes me as an esophagus or digestive tract, catching all this falling hair and garbage and rain and vomiting it back up and out; the speaker is one more micro-organism in the gut of this building, absorbing and releasing toxins. The speaker’s hair is etched with what she ingests. She wants to cut it off of her, cut herself off from its memorial function,refuse to be a memorial register– but more and more of hair/garbage falls as rain from the sky. No hole can be left, no absence not immediately re-filled ‘profusely’. There is a scarcity of nutrients, but plenty to eat. Garbage is what is the case. Garbage in/Garbage in to the urban ecosystem, the global ecosystem, the body. So it is with Camille Rose Garcia’s paintings; see image and caption, above. (continue reading…)

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Elizabeth Taylor: Citizen of the Necropastoral, Queen of the Underground

by on Mar.23, 2011

The Queen is Dead! Long and Undead Live the Queen!

a warhol, silver liz

Elizabeth Warhol Taylor is and has always been dead, the undead potential of media, on horseback, draped in silks and white diamonds and kohl eyeliners, counterfeit, celluloid Art in its most beautiful and x-ray-vision form, a gaze that spreads tabloid damage.

From her debut in ‘National Velvet’, her violet/violent eyes were an excessive, uncanny pooling of beauty, Art’s narcissistic pools that overflow and contaminate every thing with their vision. Art’s font is a human animal hybrid, in silks, in satiny eye-shadow drag: (continue reading…)

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Strange Political Meetings in the Necropastoral: The Sleepwalkers

by on Mar.21, 2011

1. Last year, the (Mexican-American) fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte collaborated with MAC to introduce a ‘Juarez’ line of cosmetics, featuring blush, eyeshadow, lipstick and nailpolish with names such as ‘Juarez’, ‘Factory’, ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Sleepwalker’, ‘del Norte’, ‘Quinceanera’. The line was inspired by a visit by the Mulleavy’s to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

2. The women of Ciudad Juárez suffer two notorious distinctions which are not unrelated: they are being murdered at the despicable rate of at least 500 raped, mutilated, murdered, and tossed in the desert over the last 10 years, plus another 500 missing; and they are employed at foreign-owned factories known as maquiladoras, jobs for which they are atrociously underpaid ($55 for a 45 hr workweek, according to Amnesty International). Their work at the maquiladoras leave the women vulnerable to murderer(s); many are snatched and murdered commuting to and from work, walking across the desert to and from bus-stops. The corporations have declined to provide protection for these women or screen busdrivers.

3.The Mulleavys have said that they were inspired by the women they saw in the (dangerous) early hours crossing the deserts or at the busstops; they called these women ‘sleepwalkers’ and made them the focus of their line (continue reading…)

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Strange Meetings in the Necropastoral (and in Wisconsin)5: Harryette Mullen's Muse & Druge, Tom Hibbard's "Glory of Public Employees"

by on Mar.09, 2011

Fi Jae Lee, Everything Ascending into Heaven Smells Rotten

In past posts, I’ve argued for the political nature of the Necropastoral through three case studies: of Wilfred Owen, Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, and Aime Cesaire. Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Strange Meeting’ gave me the model for thinking about the necrotic, decomposing, hole-y membrane of the Necropastoral as a meeting place for strange political meetings—that is, unstable, queer, spectral meetings unanticipated and unprescribed by conventional political rubrics. In this post I want to look how Strange Meetings are entailed in Harryette Mullen’s Muse & Drudge and in Tom Hibbard’s “The Glory of Public Employees” about the ongoing protests in Wisconsin.

On Muse & Drudge

1. I do not want to argue that Harryette Mullen’s Muse & Drudge is a necropastoral, exactly, although, to paraphrase Marvin Bell, it is a necropastoral inexactly, inexactness being one measure of the necropastoral itself, the balance that won’t zero, the membrane that serves both as medium and material, the deformation zone, the text as a site which passes itself through itself. Mullen’s work is not as Gothic nor as herbaciously inclined as most of the Necropastoral, but it is a kind of bios where bodies are media registering the waxing and waning, accumulating and debriding material of the text. Moreover, like the Necropastoral, Muse & Drudge is a flexing membrane, a hyperpermeable and permeated membrane, a paradoxical, non-binary zone which refuses to be economical but generates doubling, impossible spectres. (continue reading…)

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The Goo of Art: Necropastorals, Woundscapes, Blood and B-movies

by on Mar.03, 2011

In a recent post, James wrote:

“With both–and with Grosz too, I would say– we’re left with an aesthetic that I like to think of as the abandoned house approach to art. You go in and wander around, but no one lives there anymore.”

In her post about “Strange Meetings” in the Necropastoral, Joyelle wrote:

“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.”

Both of these makes me think about B-movies. Of course Plath with her goo-language and Wilfred Owen with his already-kitsch imagery of the war don’t feel out of place in discussions about B-movies. Nor for that matter does Trakl, whose poems often feel like the accounts of serial killers and madmen.

Here is a trailer of Aase Berg’s favorite movie, The Beyond:

(continue reading…)

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Strange Political Meetings in the Necropastoral 3: Aimé Césaire, Lonely Christopher

by on Mar.02, 2011

The View From Aéroport International Martinique Aimé Césaire

Lucas’s post on Michael Klein’s reading of Lonely Christopher’s The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse has prompted me to get back to work on my series on the ‘Strange (Political) Meetings in the Necropastoral.’ I take the term ‘Strange Meeting’ from Wilfred Owen’s famous poem of that name; my notion is that the charnelfields of the Necropastoral, like the charnelfields of Owen’s war poetry, entail a decomposing, mucoid substance which hosts strange meetings: The living and the dead, the not-quite living and the not-quite dead, the wounded, the bleeding, the moan, the worm, Death, the Poet, chlorine gas and petroleum can meet, eat, shit, interpenetrate, shred and shed, goo, make apertures, struggle with each other, shove their faces in and through each other’s mouths or chestwalls, generating more slime, puke, language and goo, charnel and necrotizing material, ie Art, and never arriving at a final configuration.

Although the Necropastoral is no respecter of hierarchies (except the absolute reign of Art and Death), I wouldn’t describe these strange meetings as egalitarian ‘exchanges’ or conversations of the sort Obama likes to host with Republicans in the Oval Office; instead, these strange meetings occur in a lightless, mucoid, digestive, altering, mutating, flora-and-fauna rich field of uncertain conditions that may not ever solidify into ‘outcomes’. Thus the strange political meetings in the Necropastoral not only revise liberal notions of freedom, of the healthy, sound, bordered, well-lit social body of the individual (the borders Michael Klein is so interested in defending against Lonely Christopher) and the healthy, sound, bordered body of the state, but are also a revision of the narrative genre of History; we never know what the ‘outcome’ is, the ‘outcome’ never stops happening, the outcome can only be damage, the outcome sometimes happens backwards, has irrational retrospective events, reinserts itself in the field, tears the mucous membrane of the field, the outcome is anachronistic, re-edited, happens at different speeds, we can’t link the cause to the effect because we reject the ideological primacy of the ‘cause’ and because we are interested in illicitly generating so very very very very very many unearned and exorbitant effects.

Case Study #3: Aimé Césaire
The title of Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to the Native Land marks it as a counterfeit; the work was in fact not occasioned by a return to his ‘native’ Martinique but was begun in Yugoslavia after a visit to Rilke’s castle. For Césaire to literally return to his homeland and write a diary about it might be an unstrange political meeting; the authentic document of an authentic return to the authentic homeland for the purposes of ‘authentic’ political liberation. In this counterfeit realm of Art, however, Césaire’s contact with the landscape of Rilke’s vision causes him to be contaminated with vision, and in this state of possession he conjures a spectral, counterfeit Martinique, enacts a strange meeting, has aesthetic intercourse with the spectre of his nativity, a sort of self-incestualization to produce the occult Art-material of the book. (continue reading…)

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Strange (Political) Meetings in the Necropastoral 2: Meetings in Art's Face

by 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. (continue reading…)

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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’ (and no, not the kind that you would click here to discuss with legal help if you find yourself in a similar situation to that around WikiLeaks).

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!
(continue reading…)

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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:
(continue reading…)

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Necropastoral, the Abject, and Zurita

by on Feb.02, 2011

Raul Zurita will give an onsite, bilingual reading and answer questions at 12 PM on Friday, Feb 3, at the AWP in DC

Josh asked a good question in the comments field below, namely, in what ways the necropastoral converges with the abject, and how these dynamics play out in the historical example of Pinochet’s mass graves and the symbiotic (sym-necrotic?) literary mass graves of Zurita’s Song for His Disappeared Love and other works.

The necropastoral certainly shares many features with the abject, but what’s important about the necropastoral is that it is specifically ecological in its concern. It moves from Kristeva’s mapping of a figurative, pyschoanalytic landscape all oriented around the self to the literal landscape and the body as porous to that landscape and to the cultural landscape and to other bodies, living, dead, ghostly, human, inhuman, artificial; in some (but not all) ways it’s the model of the psychoanalytic i.e. interior landscape of the abject turned painfully inside out, and shedding the psychoanalytic content itself. That is, the self and its dramas are not so important in my thinking. There’s something more massy, assembled, necrotic, material, decomposing, and literally field-like about this way of thinking.
(continue reading…)

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Can the Necropastoral be Political?

by on Jan.31, 2011

Catastrophic birth defects caused by industrial mercury poisoning, Minamata, Japan

In a word, Yes.

When I reframe the pastoral—already a defunct, anachronistic, dead, imperial and imperialistic literary form—as a necropastoral, I am calling attention to the excesses, intensities, inequalities, anachronisms, morbidities already implicit in a genre contrived to represent separation, quarantine, timelessness, stasis, protection from upset and death.

The necropastoral exposes the pastoral as saturated with the counterfeit, with anachronism, with death: counterfeit in that it was an urbane and courtly form supposedly trading on rustic and agrarian simplicity; anachronistic as it purported to embody a both an earlier Golden Age and a continual present tense, just adjacent to courtly, urban or imperial time; and deathly in that it was a twin or doppelganger of the Afterlife. Arcadia’s most famous resident, after all, is Death himself; Death says “I” in Arcadia. [Death says, “ego”; Death says “I’ll be your mirror.”]

Finally, the term ‘necropastoral’ trades on the adjacency of the pastoral to infection, political upset, plagues, the pastoral as the space into which fictional courtiers travel in the time of plague, carrying the plague of fiction with it. The contamination of the (fictive) pastoral with the (fictive) urbane creates the plague of literature. The necropastoral allows that contamination to metastasize, refuses to hold the line back on chaos, infection, decay.

So the term ‘necropastoral’ hypertrophies the morbid, counterfeit nature of the classical pastoral, while breeding mutant lilacs out of the dead plague ground of later models. Necropastoral seeks to activate these suppressed aspects of pastoral—the necrotized, the infectious, the counterfeit , the pastoral as a site not of separation but of deadly traffic, not of a wall but a membrane, not an idyll but an unstable compact, not a place of simplicity but of the worst intentions. Where classical pastoral insists on separation and containment, necropastoral posits supersaturation, leaking, countercontamination. Our contemporary understandings of biohazard and ecology activates the specter of necropastoral ; our ravenous media (over-)exposes it; the necropastoral is the toxic double of our eviscerating, flammable contemporary world, where avian flu, swine flu, mad cow disease, toxic contamination via industrial waste, hormones in milk, poisons leaching out of formaldehyde FEMA trailers, have destroyed the idea of the bordered or bounded body and marked the porousness of the human body as its most characteristic quality. The body is a medium for infection, saturation, death. The supersaturated, leaking membrane of the necropastoral is thus politicized by our modern understanding of ecology, globalization, the damage of industrial politics does to bodies. The spectral quality of capitalism, the way money and debt accrues and erodes in damaging patterns, the way damage to bodies is sometimes the first materialization of corporate malfeasance, the occult way capitalism’s distribution systems amplify economic, political, biological damage as it spreads across the globe—this is necropastoral, the lethal double of the pastoral and its fantasy of permanent, separated, rural peace. In emphasizing the counterfeit nature of pastoral, the necropastoral makes visible the fact that nothing is pure or natural, that mutation and evolution are inhuman technologies, that all political assertions of the natural and the pure are themselves moribund and counterfeit, infected and rabid.

Jack Smith’s film “Normal Love” is an infectious example of the necropastoral in this political vector, its inflamed, febrile palate hazily presenting a bunch of heavily costumed, transgendered, downtown urban denizens dressed as screen gods and goddesses and occupying a kind of anachronistic, broken down Hollywood Elysium, featuring spraypainted leaves and cows. The very formlessness of “Normal Love”, the wastefulness of its gratuitous makeup and costumes and use of time and sprawling cast, the expenditure of time involved in its ‘production’ (whole days spent making up the actors and spraypainting the leaves a preferable shade of green), indeed, the absolutely unproductive nature of its production rendered it unmarketable, unsalable, even unnameable. Caught up in its glamour, its Fata Morgana,Smith edited and re-edited this footage for decades, could neither complete the film nor settle on a title; Diane di Prima, who acted in the film, says Normal Love “literally cast a spell on him from which the artist never emerged.” Smith could not extricate himself from the fatal/fetal membrane of this contaminating, mutating, untimely, poorly paced, put-on spectacular, this entirely gorgeous, entirely gratuitous necropastoral.

Ariana Reinas’s The Cow might be another; in both works, the damaged, mutated body cannot help producing lyric beauty like another kind of engorgement, another kind of sepsis, another kind of eruption, another kind of leak.

And so are Raul Zurita’s plangeant, particulate necro-epics, which expose the landscape of Chile as a mass grave and piece together particulated, aerated voices, bodies, testimonies, the living, the ghostly, and the dead, not into rehumanized sovereign forms but into a membranous, inter-penetrating, fluxing, supersaturated, hyperanimated radiant hyperfabric (-ation).

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Corey on Necropastoral

by on Jan.27, 2011

Josh Corey has an interesting post up on his blog about the Necropastoral. Here’s an excerpt:

“But I need to think more about the larger, rather seductive claims Joyelle seems to be making about pastoral in general. Necropastoral seems rather more specific than “postmodern pastoral” or even “avant-pastoral,” the terms I’ve grown accustomed to playing with; it would seem to go beyond a pastoral that merely foregrounds its own artifice, the better to play with the tradition of turning nature into a standing reserve for sovereign authority and cultural norms. Is it a zombie pastoral, the pleasure of the walking dead in devouring brains, the hypersublime viral pleasure of mindless multiplication, unlife, earth without world?”

I would say that this observation seems to be getting at Joyelle’s ideas: “”This “mediumicity” seems very similar to Timothy Morton’s notion of ambience as the tendency of environmental writing in general to “re-mark” the boundary between subject and object, transgressing that boundary even, without ever erasing it.” Especially since we’ve been discussing “ambient violence” on this blog.

I would say that I’m a bit perplexed by Josh’s distinction of Apollonian and “cerebral” Lisa Robertson and the supposedly Dionysian Plath. I think this raw-vs-cooked binary doesn’t work at all for me. I have a hard time imagining either Plath or Joyelle as non-cerebral (and Joyelle invokes Cocteau as a model all the time, very Apollo). Perhaps this is another case of distance vs absorption. I’m trying to think this over, think if the Morton paradigm (tho I haven’t read him, I’m taking this from Josh’s post) can be used to move away from the raw-vs-cooked type of dichotomies.

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