A Radical Cut In The Texture Of Reality

July 29, 2015

Renee Gladman Quote

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I wrote a book whose title I withheld from the book for a long time as I wrote it and slept on it and not because I didn’t want the book to know itself (I had no influence on that), rather, because I feared that once I put the two together they would go on without me.

- Renee Gladman, Ana Patova Crosses A Bridge



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July 21, 2015

Notes on Re-thinking Time

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[This text was originally published in Four Minutes to Midnight 13.]



Leaving one place not yet arriving at the next. Also not really traveling. Hovering on the cusp of movement. Some anxiety around the decision: will I go for it, make the necessary choice, arrive somewhere? Fondness for this space of non-arriving but fearful it’s a trap. There are in fact three traps:
• the place left,
• this in between of both traveling and not,
• some final destination.

It would be easier to arrive if one was certain, less uncertain, that one could leave again. But I’m already beyond tired, comically dying of exhaustion, and if given a chance to rest I suspect I might rest forever, until the end, an end—one of many.


+ + + +

David Graeber, from The Art World as a Form of Politics:

It is the peculiar feature of political life that within it, behavior that could only otherwise be considered insane is perfectly effective. If you managed to convince everyone on earth that you can breathe under water, it won’t make any difference: if you try it, you will still drown. On the other hand, if you could convince everyone in the entire world that you were King of France, then you would actually be the King of France. (In fact, it would probably work just to convince a substantial portion of the French civil service and military.)

This is the essence of politics. Politics is that dimension of social life in which things really do become true if enough people believe them. The problem is that in order to play the game effectively, one can never acknowledge its essence. No king would openly admit he is king just because people think he is. Political power has to be constantly recreated by persuading others to recognize one’s power; to do so, one pretty much invariably has to convince them that one’s power has some basis other than their recognition. That basis may be almost anything— divine grace, character, genealogy, national destiny. But “make me your leader because if you do, I will be your leader” is not in itself a particularly compelling argument.

+ + + +


I had ideas but lacked motivation. Who doesn’t have ideas? Who doesn’t lack motivation? The situation is desperate, yet everyone still scraping by wonders if somehow they’ll scrape by forever. Something I read a long time ago, a review of a Bob Dylan song, Dylan dream-driving through the empty streets of the post-apocalypse city. The review said the problem was in his dream he survives, everything is gone, annihilated, not a living soul for miles, centuries, forever. In his dream he survives. In each of our dreams, as everything burns to shit around us, bad decision after bad decision, we, each of us, survives. Breathing underwater because we hope we still might.

No one falls asleep and gently dreams their own annihilation. Being murdered, sure, attacked, beaten to death as each good individual is beaten to death through the long haul of life. Various pleasures along the way. But being annihilated like a speck of nothing along with everyone else, all at once, in one fell swoop, gone. Where is the value in feeling as unimportant as we truly are? Daily life under global famine. Life during the plague. I arrived too late for Dylan. Missed the moment when he rode his wave, a wave I suspect he never deeply cared for. A wave he rode by hanging on to each mask. But he survived.


+ + + +

Luc Boltanski, from On Critique: A Sociology of Emancipation:

Everyone recognizes reality (or recognizes what, in their experience, clearly pertains to reality) only because others designate it to them as such. Reality suffers from a species of inherent fragility, such that the reality of reality must incessantly be reinforced in order to endure.

+ + + +


What we can and cannot change in the world comes back to questions of what is and is not reality. Convincing people, winning them over, is mainly a matter of slightly altering the socially defined parameters as to what reality might become. The reason propaganda is so effective. If something is everywhere, presenting itself as reality, it becomes a reality. The everywhere is the reality. If the king says he can breathe underwater he is still, for all intents and purposes, the king. Until overthrown. Kindness is not complex.

We all have a sense of what is and isn’t possible. If we were to each feel as unimportant as we actually are, might we think more of the future? Of the future without us—a future in continuity. But to think this future requires a new idea of time, a conception of time within which ‘the future’ might no longer exist. Past, present, future are lines in the sand. Where and when will we find this new sense? What daily experiences is it analogous with? If I do something now for the future, already I have set myself apart from it. How do I do something with the future as if it were part of me and I am still alive within it? As if destroying the future was destroying myself.


+ + + +

Nina Power, from The Pessimism of Time:

But should the Left be coming up with ‘new’ ideas all the time? Politics is not fashion—and, in any case, even fashion is more cyclical rather than endlessly transhistorical. […] Certain fundamental things that the Left seeks to abolish—exploitation, inequality, material poverty, exclusion—are more present than ever and while they may take on ‘novel’ forms, the real newness may simply be quantitative, as more and more people ‘pay’ for a crisis they didn’t create.

Perhaps the real problem here is the way in which time itself always serves as the measure for all politics, and all critique of politics, whether it be the bleak future, the heroic past, the desolate present, the utopian tomorrow, the shadowy past or the dawning of a new day. […] If time is a weapon used against people fighting against the speed and brutality of what is happening, we may be forced to use a different image of time—or perhaps an image of a world without time altogether—against those whose only measure seems to be the maximisation of profit in the shortest possible period. The question of whose finitude counts and whose doesn’t—a brutal marker not only of the division between life and death but between the more important distinction between those whose life/death ‘counts’ and those about whom nothing is counted at all—is played out in the only post-religious ‘infinite’ permitted to matter: permanent accumulation. The dedication to amassing at the expense of life itself reveals a terror of time so disturbing that any politics of temporal pessimism/optimism looks insignificant by comparison.

+ + + +


From the other side, nature is reality.

There is nature as social construct and then there is nature: lungs, blood, air, water, nightfall, hunger, running, sunlight, food. Nature no amount of propaganda can erase.

Time before clocks, after every last clock has stopped. For the people in your own tribe you fight to the death. All kindnesses pertain. Other tribes are another story. By this I want to say something about time. Breakthroughs in history don’t pertain to geography. In geography they must have the same breakthrough again, using their own language, their own terminology, their own moment. But I slipped when I wrote the word breakthrough. Breakthrough denotes progress. Instead: history and geography as the same thing. Time against progress. Time that keeps itself alive.


+ + + +

Biologist Jonas Salk:

If all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.

+ + + +


Sometimes I think we must gather and fight. Other times I think: a fight is something you can win or lose, our situation too tragic for further loss and further loss is exactly what’s coming.

A new way of thinking about time might be something else. Not fighting, not winning, not losing; stepping aside and into continuity.

Out of history then we don’t quite know what. Then no more then’s. No more or less alive than the world. There are lines between days, between years, between eras, positions and disciplines. Lines, once drawn, fight for their self-fulfilling survival. What is and is not reality and how what is not reality is useful for maintaining territory.

Everything that destroys the world gives at least someone’s ego a quick, powerful boost. Neoliberalism is the totalitarianism of capital. Monsanto is the Lysenko of neoliberalism. “The resistance of being to purity.” (Inger Christensen)

The term planned obsolescence is generally attributed to the industrial designer Brooks Stevens who used it as the title of a 1954 talk. Wikipedia says: Stevens defined it as “instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary”. His view was to always make the consumer want something new, rather than create poor products that would need replacing. Planned obsolescence is our current economic model of time.

And so little reality would be required to prove, allow us to feel, be smashed by, the reality that this is in no way the case. A matter of slightly altering the socially defined parameters as to what reality might become. You cannot throw time away and then get another chance.


+ + + +

Gianni Vattimo, from The Transparent Society:

Amongst the many definitions, there is one that may be generally agreed upon: modernity is the epoch in which simply being modern became a decisive value in itself.

+ + + +


Kindness is not so complex. Solutions are not so complex. But the course we are on is enough to make me believe in the fucking devil.

The devil is insecure. To do these things you must be driven by something awful. There must be some great pleasure in it. That we are the pinnacle of history and it’s all downhill from here. Reality TV and shit pop songs are the pinnacle of glorious history and it’s all downhill from here. No one wants the middle, so much more tragic and musical to be the first and last. Business is business.

I am searching for a new sense of reality and a new sense of time. As must be obvious, I don’t have answers. I have thoughts. I spend many hours blankly staring at the internet each day. (All citations above found on line.) My work, my writing, my art for so long has hinged on wanting to be new, unlike the rest, breaking something open, cracking the paradigm, the hot new thing that leaves all past art in the dust. It’s part of the problem as is so much else. I don’t know if art and this new sense of time will exist in the same world.



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July 16, 2015

My Apologies

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This book is not reality. No book is reality but this book especially so. Things that happen in reality are often extremely obvious and just as often utterly counter-intuitive. This might also well be the case within the pages of this book but this fact for some reason does not bring this book any closer or farther away from the reality which it is not. Even as I write that this is not reality I have to admit to myself that I don’t actually know what reality is, I don’t know what freedom is, if it is something I want or something I’m only afraid of, I don’t actually know how to change anything but suspect so many things so deeply must change.

When I think what exactly is the problem, I always, almost immediately, have the opposite thought: that there is in fact no problem. There are social climbers, people of unfortunate integrity, people of great efficiency and others who are able to generate so much space around themselves. There is as much devastation as we can bear and there is always more. There are so many problems and in the same way there are none. There is a fairly specific idea I wish to express as well as a fear I might never exactly get at it. The idea is also too simple and no problem: that time goes in circles like the seasons and forward is just another empty word. My desire is to speak as clearly as possible.


+ + + +


In one hundred years it will be 2222. That is the first side of this mirror. On the other side: one hundred years ago it was 2222. This year has been chosen at random due to its repetitive beauty. The iconic year 1984 was famously chosen by reversing the last two digits of the year it was written: 1948. But this book has all taken so long that I can no longer guess when it began or finished. I have already missed the year I wanted to catch, perhaps in the same way that one misses the future when you try to predict it, or the way one has already missed or forgotten the past. At different moments we are different creatures, or not, I don’t know. Or I do know, what I don’t know is if this is the most helpful or useful way to describe it. There might be a more simple way: at different moments we are different, from ourselves and also from others, also from the other that is the self. There are others and others and others and others, and all of them are also us, if you want it, or if we try. I’m the other and everything I do is adding others.

Guilt is conservative. We are all implicated in more ways than we will ever know but shouldn’t feel guilty. We should be angry, must become open to an anger that experiences possibilities everywhere, that opens towards genuinely other ways of seeing our predicament and where it might first or most crack.

Most of the changes that might concern the contemporary reader took place many ages before my time. One of these changes concerns the fact that time is no longer so carefully measured, therefore I can no longer accurately state how long ago each of these changes took place. But knowing how many years, decades or centuries have passed since a given event no longer seems of primary importance. More immediate concerns dominate. Another change: the further in distance one travels the less it is possible to know. There might be other places, on this continent or further, living as we do or living in completely other ways. We don’t know. Some have set out to find more but either found nothing or have no way of sending their findings back. Very few set out. We live here, in the ways that we live, and find other ways of travelling, movement both more and less precise, each movement an echo from somewhere else. In writing this down, in this way, I am directing my energy towards maximum clarity, whether or not you notice or noticing means anything. The steps taken that brought us here are steps we all took together. Can you see what makes this statement such a direct one?


+ + + +


Clarity, to speak clearly, to convey what I experience in ways in which it might timidly be met by your experience, neither one overpowering the other, in which reality might shift through and within this meeting. The year 2222 has been suggested, but closer might be 3333 or 4444. We are in the future which is also a past. This is the thing I’m most trying to understand, the trance I wonder if I’ll ever be able to properly express. The repetition of a single number, three or four times, or five, is a way of suggesting other, more confusing, repetitions. But when you experience them they are actually not confusing at all. They are timeless. I wanted to write something completely different than I’d written before and instead I’ve hit this dead end that doesn’t yet know in what way it may or may not be the future.

Here, when we travel we transform. That is a kind of trick, where you trick yourself to experience other sets of knowledge, becoming a meeting place where diplomacy might occur, in the same way these words might become a meeting place between you and some shade of exhaustion, the exhaustion of the reality which this book is not. Every trick has a place to hide and a truth on which it might snag.


+ + + +


We don’t count the years but we do count each other. There are about two hundred of us not including children. This writing is a trick, a trance, a song and a game that at least all two hundred can play. It is a book in a room. You go into the room and you write in the book. You go in alone or with others. You take turns writing or you write together. You read what came before or you start from scratch. When the book is done we will read it aloud and then start again. We have made a life for ourselves that we now want to share, speak as clearly as possible, also further mystify. Later I might edit it, or I might not let you. This might be one book or it might be many. It is not reality.


[Unfinished.]



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July 14, 2015

Greece

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Reading article after article on Greece and thinking the reason for Thatcher’s ‘there is no alternative’ is that alternatives are continuously crushed.





A few of the better articles I read:
Why I’ve Changed My Mind About Grexit by Daniel Munevar
Yanis Varoufakis full transcript: our battle to save Greece
Alexis Tsipras: Hero, Traitor, Hero, Traitor, Hero by Alex Andreou
Zoe Konstantopoulou: Nο to ultimatums, Nο to the Memoranda of servitude
Greece and the EU: a macro and micro mess up by Mariana Mazzucato
Slavoj Žižek on Greece: This is a chance for Europe to awaken




I still can't get over this line: “Well, the Eurogroup does not exist in law, there is no treaty which has convened this group.” It can be found here.




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July 13, 2015

Remembering...

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Mohammad Mosaddegh
Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán
Patrice Lumumba
Salvador Allende



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June 29, 2015

Four quotations on sex

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The ubiquity of such struggles occurs, not because of some fundamentally problematic quality of sexuality, but on the contrary, because sexuality has qualities that draw other problems to it as people seek sexual solutions for the neverending conflicts and ambiguities of the hassle of living life as a human being, whether male or female. The entangled relationship between the sexes is the site of attempted solutions, which give the appearance of ‘problems’ only because the solutions are unsuitable. Sex is an arena within which other kinds of problems get played out.
– Sheldon B. Kopp, If You Meet Buddha On The Road, Kill Him



This is also why, for Freud, “everything has a sexual connotation,” why sexuality can infect everything: not because it is “the strongest” component in people’s lives, exerting a hegemony over all other components, but because it is the one most radically thwarted in its actualization...
– Slavoj Žižek, Less Than Nothing



Another paradox: Often the one most plagued with lust is the one most capable of restraining it. The monk and the philanderer are likely to be the same person.
– Qiu Miaojin, Last Words From Montmartre



In abstraction, sex reveals the intangible force of its own irreconcilability and becomes what it is in reality: a spell for togethering doubling as a boundary.
 – Paul Chan



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June 26, 2015

All Profound Distraction

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My text All Profound Distraction can be found in this anthology on the theme of concentration.




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June 11, 2015

And then, as the book was nearing completion, I suddenly panicked...

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The original title for this book was Artists Are Self-Absorbed. And then, as the book was nearing completion, I suddenly panicked, feeling I couldn’t give the book such a negative title, that sending it out into the world with a self-defeating name was almost a form of self-sabotage, and my entire life had been a series of incidents of self-sabotage and now was the time to change. To get on my own side and, hopefully, turn things around a bit. And in a way I already had another title in my back pocket: Polyamorous Love Song. It was a title I had used for a short-lived music column and it was a title that had already received much love. The idea of the column was that most love songs, mainstream or otherwise, are directed towards one person, the ultimate soul mate or new excitement, and maybe a polyamorous love song, a love song directed towards a few (or many) soul mates, might undermine some of the basic songwriting assumptions, be a small step towards a more liberating, emacipatory way of being alive. Then something else occurred to me: that this explanation might also be a form of self-sabotage. So many paradoxes piled upon paradoxes.

It was around that time I became obsessed with the idea that I wanted people to read my books long after I died, that I wanted to be one of those authors – like Kafka, like Walser, like so many others – whose work only found a substantial readership after they were gone. I didn’t want to do anything in particular to bring about this goal. I just wanted to work, to live, within the vague, unverifiable hope that it might eventually come true. And it occurred to me that this hope was a bit like the Christian idea of an afterlife, that my body would die but my work would live on in the eternal heaven of a considerable posthumous readership.

And then another thought. Maybe all works of art are some kind of polyamorous love songs, offerings sent out into the world in order to get everyone to love you. Works of art and literature are not directed towards one person but towards many. Songs in the sense of bird song, messages thrown out into the world. At times I felt that everything about being an artist is encapsulated in the tension between these two titles, between Artists Are Self-Absorbed and Polyamorous Love Song. And by changing the title it was almost like I was trying to say: look, I’m no longer self-absorbed. I’m not the same person I was when I started writing this book, when I started dreaming it. Or at least I wish I wasn’t. However, I fear I am more the same than ever.


- From the interview: "I Have Never Watched Pornography" - 11 Questions with the Author of Polyamorous Love Song



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June 10, 2015

Four Decades

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1988-1998: Theatre & Anti-theatre
1998-2008: Translation & Polemic
2008-2018: Books, Music & Hospitality
2018-2028: Emotion & Decolonization



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