A Radical Cut In The Texture Of Reality

April 28, 2022

New PME-ART Website

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We've been working hard over the course of the past couple years to create a new PME-ART website, documenting over twenty years of unexpected and innovative work:

https://www.pme-art.ca

This is where you can watch the online conference Vulnerable Paradoxes, download the related free PDF publication In response to Vulnerable Paradoxes, listen to Jacob’s teenage songs from Every Song I’ve Ever Written, as well as many other experiences. We are excited, since this is the first time PME-ART has really had a full website, casting new light on our history and practice.



A heartfelt thanks to everyone who made it happen: Development and writing by Fabien Marcil, Jacob Wren, Kamissa Ma Koïta, Sylvie Lachance and Burcu Emeç / Translation and editing by Marie Claire Forté / Graphic design by Kamissa Ma Koïta / Video editing by Muhammad El Khairy and Kamissa Ma Koïta / Web integration and additional design by Andi Hernandez







(We worked so long and hard on this thing and, for much of the time we were doing so, I kept thinking to myself: everyone has a website. No one is suddently going to get excited that we have a website now. It just sort of brings us up to speed with everyone else. Why are we working so hard on this thing? And I still don't really know the answer to that question. But, nonetheless, that's what we did and here it is.)

(Looking over all the projects we've done since 1998 gives me such a strange feeling. What exactly do all these projects have in common? Would it be better if they had more in common with each other? Or less? I've been doing PME-ART for about twenty-five years. I'm now fifty, so that's half my natural life. What to make of it all. I actually wrote a book trying to understand it better. But doing the website somehow opened up what I previously understood and now I find myself wondering about it all, all over again. So many decisions about what to make were made in the heat of the moment. Or for reasons that then changed before the thing was made, or that changed as we were making it, as they should. A twisting path. An emotional rollercoaster. A story that now seems to have been told mostly in retrospect. PME-ART: a mix of non-dance, non-theatre and non-performance.)






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April 19, 2022

Excerpt from chapter nine of the work-in-progress Damp Heaven





They took a boat because they believed it to be the most ecologically responsible manner in which to get there. They chose that specific boat because it ran on solar energy, a relatively new thing at the time. (Not solar energy but boats that ran on it.) Perhaps a sailboat would have been even more ecologically sound, but that is not the boat they took. And a story about sailboats is a story from a previous time. (Not to romanticize the past, but boats that ran on wind certainly have their merits when compared to boats that run on oil.) The journey was scheduled to last about seven weeks. They knew where they were going, but not exactly what they planned to do when they arrived. They planned to do something useful. Something extremely illegal which they also had vague hopes would be equally helpful. It would involve breaking into buildings and accessing heavily encrypted computer servers, skills they had researched but still had relatively little direct experience with. They did not think what they were doing was the best or most useful activity currently available to them or to anyone else. It was more like an experiment. An activity that might lead to other ideas or activities, if they survived, and managed to reach the other side without spending the rest of their lives in prison. It was not a good plan. In a sense it was an act of desperation.

Harmattan and Penelope stood on deck, pressed against the railing, together staring off into the distance. Harmattan was almost consumed with doubt regarding the relative soundness of their plan. In fact, there was no need to doubt, the plan was fundamentally unsound. The water spread out in every direction with no signs of surface life. However, Harmattan knew that under the surface the waters were teeming. This divide between the surface and what lay underneath felt, for a long sharp moment, to be of almost complete significance. Then, a moment later, it seemed to be of little significance, little more than a pale cliché.

And then there was the question of Penelope, who practically insisted on joining them in this mission, ever so gently refusing to take no for an answer when told he wasn’t invited. He wasn’t invited but managed to invite himself and come along. And now they stood side by side staring out at the insignificant non-metaphor of the placid surface. Neither of them spoke. Harmattan noticed that Penelope rarely spoke without someone speaking to him first. Penelope rarely spoke, only replied. However, when he replied to a genuine and complex question he would often reply at great length. So if, right now, as they were staring across the water, Harmattan wished for Penelope to speak, all he would have to do is ask a question. But did Harmattan wish Penelope to speak, and if so precisely what question should be asked? What, if anything, did he genuinely want to know? On this voyage there was an enormous amount of free time, and vast stretches of it had been spent in relative silence. The sound of the boat steadily plowing through the water was the constant undertow to all conversational silence. It occurred to Harmattan that silence between two people, or in this case silence between a person and an algorithm from the future, was more a part of conversation then it was an alternative to it. Mistral and Fremantle were most likely down below in their rooms. There were periods when they spent a great deal of time together, and others where they kept their distance, perhaps needing the space to more privately prepare what they were soon planning to do. But, he thought to himself, under the circumstances they were getting along rather well.

There was a time when Harmattan had actually felt he was the ostensible leader of their little unnamed group. But then Silvering appeared on the scene and took over. And now, on this particular journey, perhaps Penelope had become the leader, almost by default, since Penelope always seemed to have a clear and useful idea as to how they might proceed. If Harmattan thought about it, he didn’t really mind no longer being in charge. There was something interesting, almost comforting, in being just another member of the group. At times it felt almost like being an observer within the constant external details of his own life. He tried to think back to a time when he felt more like the leader. Did he prefer that time in any way from the vagaries of the present? And had anyone else in the group really considered him the leader, or was that only his own eccentric way of seeing himself at the time. Then he found himself thinking something quite different. When they arrived at their destination, they would need to all work as a team, smoothly and effectively, could he honestly imagine this? And, whether or not he could imagine it, when the time came they would need to do so regardless. He would have to put his own concerns aside and lose himself within the immediate necessities of the group. Could he do that?

Harmattan looked over at Penelope who, at least on the surface, appeared to have none of these worries, then looked back out at the water. Should he ask Penelope a question and, if so, precisely which one? Penelope had so much external information that was simply unavailable to him, some sort of cosmic overview, though he realized the matter was not nearly so simple, since there was also something in the way Penelope was made that never allowed him to know any more or less then absolutely necessary, as if he was solving a complicated puzzle but only allotted one clue at a time. Harmattan turned again to Penelope and asked: “Do you already know whether or not what we’re about to attempt is going to succeed?”

And Penelope replied: “Of course not. But, at the same time, I do know something. Or it’s as if I know something. But that something is less like a thought and more like a feeling. In this sense it’s probably not so different from you, since you also must have many feelings about what we’re about to attempt.”

It was true, Harmattan did have many feelings about it. But he’d known Penelope long enough now to know that when Penelope described a “feeling” something quite different was meant. For Penelope, a feeling was more like a premonition, and such premonitions had a tendency to be almost startlingly accurate. Therefore Harmattan decided he would enquire further: “What kind of feeling do you have about it? Can you describe it? Are there details?”

Penelope replied: “As I believe you already know, what I see, what I feel, is ever-shifting. I realize you didn’t want me to get on this boat yet everything I felt was telling me I had to join you. I’m an algorithm that’s designed, among other things, both to assist and to survive. So if this mission wasn’t something I could both help with and survive, it goes to reason, I wouldn’t be here. My being here, in and of itself, represents the feeling that things will, at least in some sense, work out. But no, I don’t have any details.”

Harmattan couldn’t decide if he was reassured by this answer. Or if Penelope’s intention was to be reassuring. Could it even be said that Penelope had intentions? The way Harmattan understood it – through some improvised combination of observation and conjecture – is that Penelope existed in a sort of feedback loop. Penelope would do something, that occurrence would be transmitted to computers in the distant future, those computers would check the historical repercussions of what had occurred, and then Penelope would receive a signal back indicating how to proceed. It was this signal that Penelope referred to as a feeling. Or at least this is how Harmattan understood the situation, since it was also clear that Penelope understood it in some completely different manner, something considerably more fluid and swirling. For Harmattan it was a phenomena to be observed, while for Penelope it was the entirety of both his being and his experience. There was no possibility of taking a step back to achieve some greater perspective.

It can’t just be solar energy, it also has to be anti-capitalist solar energy. On that particular boat they were only passengers, paying customers, with (of course) absolutely no say as to how the overall affairs of the ship would be run. The boat likely had a smaller carbon footprint than other boats of its shape and size, but in the long run how far will that get us. There was one night when they were all sitting around that their running joke began: they would stage a revolution on the boat and turn it, bit by bit, into a floating revolutionary utopia. The different surreal and ineffective ways they planned to do so became the main content of this running joke, for example: taking all of the pillows from all of the rooms and loading them into the bridge so the captain and his staff could not longer get in, no longer steer the ship, and their in-progress utopia would float aimlessly for as long as it took to work out all of the utopian organizational kinks necessary to get everyone on board. But what would prevent the sailors from simply removing the pillows? This is where the imaginary fun really begins. They would need to convince the sailors that even touching the pillows would for some reason prove fatal, or perhaps only make them lose all navigational ability, or convince them of some other thing that might make them not even so much as touch a single pillow. Such convincing would most likely entail at least some degree of hypnotism, or some Pavlovian exercise in which something bad happened each and every time one of them touched a pillow. None of these routines were especially humorous, but they had a great deal of time to pass together and all the different, unrealistic ways they were going to bring their floating utopia into being seemed like the most effective conversational strategy with which to make the time pass. When they kept at it long enough they would frequently reach a point of no return past which any new proposal would send them all into fits of unstoppable laughter. This despite the fact that they all knew it was not especially funny.

Though this was an adventure – they were all on an adventure – in actual fact they spent most of their time waiting. An adventure in waiting. If they had taken a plane, this time of waiting would have never occurred. So many things they had been thinking about together were fundamentally about slowing down, about all the things that happen when you slow down that couldn’t quite happen in any other way. This joke about turning the boat into a floating utopia, with the assistance of every last pillow on the vessel, was a joke that would have never happened if they hadn’t all had quite so much time to kill. After about a week of it, Fremantle got to thinking how she actually didn’t care for the joke at all. It was less a joke then a hymn to the ongoing futility of their collaborative efforts. They couldn’t actually bring any sort of utopian project any closer to becoming reality, all they could do was make jokes about it. Or, more precisely, endless variations on a single and singularly unfunny joke. A joke to kill time or a joke to kill other ways of talking that might bring into real focus some genuine possibilities for change.

Fremantle also had doubts regarding her own personal motivations for joining this expedition. Was she rushing toward something or only running away? The ridiculous blackmail letters had escalated over the course of many months. She had consulted so many lawyers. Then she had left notes in response that simply said: “Do as you wish. I refuse to be blackmailed.” Over and over again she wrote “Do as you wish. I refuse to be blackmailed.” and taped the note to her front door as the blackmail letters continued, but no information was ever released to either the press or to the public. Still, each blackmail letter seemed to wear on her nerves just a little bit more and it was from this feeling she suspected she was now fleeing. What was strange was the more letters that were stuck to her door, the more she suspected that everything within them was a complete fabrication. Lies concocted to fuck with her head and wear down her nerve. But the fact that the accusations were pure falsehoods for some reason did not make her feel any stronger. Released with enough skill, a lie could do just as much damage as the truth. And these lies had, in fact, for quite a long time, made her doubt the integrity of her own parents. How much could anyone really trust anyone, no matter how long they had known them or how tight the bond? Maybe it would have been different if her parents were still alive and she could have simply asked them. And now she was on this boat with three long time comrades she desperately wanted, and even needed, to trust. Could she? But also, she thought as she stared across the water, it didn’t really matter if she could. She had to.

The title of this chapter ("To the success of our hopeless mission") is a refrain that was frequently used by a group of Russian dissident intellectuals, as mentioned in the book Dead Again: The Russian Intelligentsia After Communism by Masha Gessen. To the success of our hopeless mission. It was used mostly before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and then the wall fell, and their hopeless mission in fact succeeded. The fall of the Berlin Wall, from my perspective, is a significant factor in our current predicament. As long as there was a clear alternative to capitalism, represented by the rhetoric of the Soviet Union, capitalism felt it had to put on a bit of an act that it was the better alternative, pretend it was fundamentally intertwined with the values of democracy, and then after the wall fell it was no longer necessary to maintain even the remains the pretense. Trade Unions that were previously granted a certain degree of leeway to prevent the workers from turning to socialism, temporarily pretending that capitalism was willing to cut them a better deal, could now be treated differently. Since the wall fell, from the perspective of the ruling class, unions are only there to be broken.

The Soviet Union was certainly no utopia. But, much like Cuba, for a certain period of time (and for those who didn’t live there) it represented the possibility of an alternative. (I continuously ask myself: why does everything have to be this way? How can we awaken the possibility that everything could be different?) And this solar cruise we are currently on is also not a utopia, no matter how many pillows our four intrepid travelers are comically able to corral or recruit. We are often told it is not the destination, but rather the journey, which is important. Nonetheless, I feel I’ve recounted enough of this journey and it is now time for us to arrive. Disembarking from the boat, our four travelers were not surprised how desolate the location at first appeared. They were not surprised but perhaps they were disheartened. To come all this way only to be greeted by some patches of wet mud and concrete.



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April 14, 2022

Three Spring Poems Written Rather Quickly

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1.

I’ve perhaps written enough for one person in one lifetime.

If someone were to read the entirety of my published works, depending on how fast they read, it would probably take them a few months. This seems to me a good amount of time to spend on a single author, because of course it is much more important to read many authors, as many as possible.

But of course I can’t stop. Can’t stop writing.

Will I write something in the future that is different or better than everything that came before?

And, if I do, will I or anyone else notice?

I don’t know if I ever really thought art was important. But I suspect there was once at least some small part of me that thought art was at least a little bit important.

However, in our current predicament, what seems important is: air, water, soil.

(Not necessarily in that order.)

(Not so much art.)

What seems important versus what I spend my time doing.

So many different shades of climate grief.

Will what I write in the future be any different than what I have written in the past?

Is there a future? (But this question is a dead end. We make the future one day at a time.)

What will I write today? / What will I write tomorrow?



2.

Poems.

I was young and I wanted to write poems.

I thought poems would grab the reader by the throat and radiate all meaning that words and thoughts and feelings could contain.

But I did not want to write poemy poems. I wanted to get to the point. As sharply and precisely and quickly as possible.

I was young and wanted everything to happen now.

It was the eighties.

The eighties were already almost done.

I couldn’t find the poems I wanted to read so I wanted to write them myself.

And I did. So many fucking poems.

That were published. And read aloud at reading after reading.

And I learned that poems were almost nothing like what I had hoped for or thought possible.

They were something else.

And so was I.



3.

It is so easy to make meaningless art.

You don’t even have to realize you are doing so.



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April 12, 2022

Damp Heaven first attempt at a description

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Damp Heaven is a novel about how, in our times of ecological collapse, different groups come together to devise real and unreal strategies. For example: one group discovers a formula that turns oil into stone, building up a worldwide network to destroy as much fossil fuel infrastructure as possible. Another group works to covertly infiltrate various global corporations, secretly pushing them toward more environmental practices. Another discovers ways to telepathically communicate with kittens, searching for how to put this knowledge to good use. And some researchers realize that perhaps the artificial intelligence they have been developing has mysteriously traveled two hundred years into the future and now they must decode the messages it has returned with. Over the course of the book these different endeavours meet and don’t meet, interacting in ways that are both fortuitous and misguided, giving a picture of a world in which we know we must act immediately but perhaps struggle to understand what actions are most effective.



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April 5, 2022

Some passages from Sara: Prison Memoir of a Kurdish Revolutionary by Sakine Cansız

Some passages from Sara: Prison Memoir of a Kurdish Revolutionary by Sakine Cansız:



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I knew I was right – a prison break would constitute an action taken against the enemy. If I’d been able to use the opportunity it would have been a good hit. Probably I was too optimistic, but this dream was just too beautiful.


*


It was just too strange. All those guys who supposedly loved me so passionately tended to idolize me. They hardly dared love me, they said, because of my goddess-like nature. But with their clumsy, unbounded, disrespectful, and cheap declarations of love, they essentially smashed an idol that they’d created. Their emotional world contained a drive to dominate others. Where did their woolly feelings begin, where did they end, what were they based on, and what were they good for? On the one hand, these men were secretive, egotistical, and individualistic; on the other, they were crude, exuberant, and absolute. At any moment their supposed love could flip over into a desire for revenge.


*


The woman friends I’d brough in lost confidence in me, saying my dreams were beautiful but impractical. That was bad. Yes, I lived in an exorbitant fantasy world, but the actions I fantasized about were doable. The question was, should we take risks and allow ourselves to dream, or avoid risks and reject dreams? I always preferred to take risks, and that was the choice I made my whole life.


*


At the hospital, we sat together in the waiting room for a while. The men wanted to know what had been done to us, and I told them what we’d been through. Fatma was silent. Her coldness was hard to take even in normal times, but now we were sharing our journey to death together. Everything about her was calculated and measured. What a strange person she was. I believe in recognizing life’s beautiful sides. I wanted to die laughing and dancing. I think only those who know how to value life are ready for death. Otherwise, neither life nor death has any particular meaning.


*


In prison, these events gave us strength and hope – and not just us but prisoners from other political organizations too. Some accused us, once again, of reckless adventurism – we’d heard that a lot when we first got to prison, especially from Kurdish leftists. They said it was madness to wage an armed struggle against the junta, which would then take revenge on the civilian population. But they feared the enemy more than they cared for the people. They thought of the enemy as an invincible, all-powerful force. When things got hot, instead of fighting him, they preferred to take a break. When the enemy proclaimed that he had annihilated all revolutionary thoughts, they believed him. Ultimately they just didn’t believe in revolution.


*


Her knowledge was of such immeasurable value that we tolerated her sometimes obnoxious behavior. She tended to squabble and interfere in everything. When bickering erupted, and women got angry at her, I tried to calm the waters by emphasizing Mevlüde’s positive qualities. But Mevlüde herself never shied from conflict. Replying to the general criticism of her, she said, “In the past I was worse – sometimes I couldn’t adapt at all. That’s why the friends sent me home. But I’m beginning to change myself and my behavior here.”


*


I thought of my own escape attempt back in Malatya. What a beautiful night! I’d been overjoyed, as if I’d done some important action. I’d actually succeeded in getting physically outside. I’d told myself, Now I’ve done the hardest part, I’m home free. I thought I’d really escaped. I imagined telling the friends about my successful escape. It was like a movie: August 20, 1980, the only beautiful night in Malatya! But no, I just made it to that point and didn’t know what to do next. I hadn’t done enough planning, and I didn’t know the area, so my success was short-lived. If I could have walked directly into a forest, I would’ve made it. In the mountains you can always hide, they provide protection. It was probably worse to be captured outside than to have not tried at all. If you’re too weak or clumsy, faint-hearted, or otherwise unable to even try something, that’s understandable. But to succeed at the hardest part, and still have enough strength to keep going, yet ultimately fail because you didn’t think far enough ahead or because you are overconfident and drunk with success… Did I enjoy taking risks? Being a victim? Making sacrifices? I had to think more about the concept of sacrifice. It had all started when I got angry. Conventional wisdom has it, “Those who stand up in anger, sit back down damaged.” But of course that was no justification.


*


In love there should be no lies or roughness. Yes, I was a dreamer, prone to illusions. My attitude toward love was utopian. Meanwhile I thrived on conflict. A moment without struggle was like torture for me. It was struggle that made life worth living and gave me strength.



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March 29, 2022

"there are musics that hunt for an exit"

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"As Pierre Boulez once remarked of liberal society, “The economy is there to remind us, in case we get lost in this bland utopia: there are musics which bring in money and exist for commercial profit; there are musics that cost something, whose very concept has nothing to do with profit. No liberalism will erase this distinction.” He might have added: in the bland “utopia” of value pluralism, where one thing is as good as the next, there are musics that hunt for an exit."

– S.D. Chrostowska, Utopia in the Age of Survival: Between Myth and History



[I'm especially interested in that last phrase: "there are musics that hunt for an exit."]



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February 26, 2022

The Air Contains Honey at Les Salons acoustiques

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The Air Contains Honey at Les Salons acoustiques
Sunday, March 27th at 4pm
La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines

Order your tickets here: https://lachapelle.org/en/schedule/jacob-wren-adam-kinner-this-air-contains-honey

The Air Contains Honey is an “orchestra” that mixes professional and amateur musicians in search of a warmth and community spirit they may or may not find. All of their songs follow the same basic structure: a quote sung four times, an instrumental break, and then the same quote sung another four times. For the audience, as well as for the performers, this is a chance to hear an orchestra in the process of discovering its sound as it goes.

Featuring a combination of some or all of the following people: Nadia Chaney, Patrick Conan, Catherine Fatima, Michael Feuerstack, James Nicholas Dumile Goddard, Hanako Hoshimi-Caines, Thanya Iyer, Adam Kinner, Liam O’Neill, Lara Oundjian, Pompey, Stephen Quinlan, Rebecca Rehder, Erin Robinsong, Frédérique Roy, Jacob Wren (and possibly a few others.)

(The Air Contains Honey don’t perform very often. Don’t miss your chance.)


Facebook Event







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February 10, 2022

lowercase pamphlets & Sentences Written Over Time

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I am happy to have my work be one of the first three lowercase pamphlets:

Sentences Written Over Time by Jacob Wren

New Bones: Abolitionism, Communism, and Captive Maternals by Joy James

Just anarchy: a conversation between carla joy bergman and scott crow


*


lowercase pamphlets (so far) are curated by carla bergman and chris time steele

Graphics and layout design by Maia Anstey and carla bergman, with support by Jamie Leigh Gonzales, and printed by Listening House Media.

lowercase pamphlets range in scope and topics, but are rooted in amplifying kinetic ideas. A common thread throughout the series is the writers are sure to inspire.

Themes from forthcoming pamphlets include, abolition, colonial time, autonomy, feminisms, madness, anarchy, and much more.

The pamphlets in their unique ways share stories of justice and freedom for all. Plus the pamphlets look cool.

Why pamphlets? Because we’re trying to find each other outside of the algorithms that seek to divide us. We think pamphlets are sometimes the perfect size for hashing out an idea in an accessible and fun way.







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February 6, 2022

MACHO INTELECTUAL by INVASORIX



I studied with a macho-macho-man
He was a very popular teacher
HE WAS AN INTELLECTUAL MACHO
HE WAS AN INTELLECTUAL MACHO

He impressed with his subjectivity
and everybody wanted to listen to him
DON’T PLAY DUMB
HE WAS AN INTELLECTUAL MACHO

He spoke to me about Foucault,
about discipline and punishment
And he just wanted to shut me up
to fuck me up and fuck me, to educate and dominate me,
to annoy and humiliate me, to bend me over and break me
to impress, flirt, outshine, confuse me
lecture me, bluff and indoctrinate me

He spoke to me about Ranciere, too.

I worked with a macho-macho-man
He was a cool guy
HE WAS AN INTELLECTUAL MACHO
HE WAS AN INTELLECTUAL MACHO

He spoke to me about struggle and self-determination
about anarchy and polyamory
DON’T PLAY DUMB
HE WAS AN INTELLECTUAL MACHO

You never stop talking
You never listen
and you only seek to stand out
HE WAS A PROGRESSIVE,
GESTURAL, RELATIONAL, GLOBAL-LOCAL,
MEDIEVAL, ENIRONMENTAL, HEDONIST,
ACTIVIST-ELITIST, VIRTUAL, CONCEPTUAL,
SPIRITUAL, INTERNATIONAL ARTIST

SITUATIONIST

I came across a macho-girl
She was a potential sister
SHE WAS AN INTELLECTUAL MACHO
SHE WAS AN INTELLECTUAL MACHO

We mistook fraternity
for ambition and competition
HERE, WHO IS, HERE, WHO IS THE INTELLECTUAL MACHO

We are sick of competing,
of self-sabotaging
of abuses of power

I don’t sell myself, I don’t exploit myself, I don’t let myself get fooled
Don’t hide, don’t pretend, don’t let yourself be censored

I don’t sell myself, I don’t exploit myself, I don’t let myself get fooled
Don’t hide, don’t pretend, don’t let yourself be censored




[You can find more INVASORIX here: https://invasorix.tumblr.com]



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January 17, 2022

Hey! Listen to me! I'm on the stereo!

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Thanks so much to Nantali Indongo and CBC's The Bridge for having me on air the other day.

We talked about Cheap Trick, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, PME-ART, Vulnerable Paradoxes, Every Song I've Ever Written, Zoom meetings, being on tour, my Instagram, child star syndrome and so much more.

You can listen to it here.

[As well, if you want to check out Momus covering the songs I wrote when I was a teenager you can find the playlist here.]

[And if the title of this post doesn't mean anything to you, you might want to listen to this.]



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