January 25, 2013

Sergio Chejfec quote


Neither of us would have imagined that, years later, these events would be written down on paper. If we had foreseen this, we would have acted differently, guiding our steps according to our idea of posterity; fortunately, we did not. (This foreseeing should be clarified, however, given that if M knew the reasons why I would end up writing these pages, he certainly would have done what was needed to avoid his abduction, though, in fact, he did nothing at all to cause it. They say that one could avoid innumerable problems, mistakes, and catastrophes if one knew how things were going to turn out, but this is an impossible dream. The most extreme example of this is that we are all certain of death – and even, expanding things a bit, about the decline of civilization, the destruction of the environment, and the inevitable ostracism of the sun – but are still unable to avoid the end. What keeps us from losing hope in the fact of this inescapable truth? A belief in the interim, in the fact that, in the meantime, things happen that are worth experiencing.)

- Sergio Chejfec, The Planets


January 21, 2013

Resistance as Paradox


The paradox is as follows: we, as artists and viewers alike, know that art is fundamentally conservative, yet we still want to believe that it is radical and revolutionary. Within the space of this paradox there is room for a great deal to happen.

Art is conservative because the moment you call something art (or theatre, literature, etc.) it has already been contained. The things it can change, and the ways it can change our thinking, have already been limited. Art is the corner in which transgression and questioning are allowed, at times even encouraged, and making art is like being told to go stand in that corner.

The recent, romantic history of art is a history of alleged transgression. So many of today’s standard art moves began as small deviances and transgressions. And while it does seem there are now no rules left to break, more to the point is that knowing a transgression, if successful, will soon be canonized and therefore de-fanged, drains all energy from the gesture.

Politics requires efficacy. Trying to change things entails immense frustration. The tension between this lived frustration and potential for efficacy often feels absurd.

Politics as a spirit of resistance, as a desire to open up possibilities. And yet: resistance, in order to remain resistant, must always be unfinished, a work-in-progress, because if you win then you're in power and somebody else has to resist against you. (I am wondering if this paradox might ease the inherent frustration involved in any act of sustained resistance.) Something similar might be said of opening up possibilities: once they have been opened one has to move on. There is something restless, unsustainable, about such modes of political thinking.



January 16, 2013

Protest and Projects


Your rent goes up, you now need to work more hours to pay it, which means less free hours to protest the underlying political changes that led to the increase. A vicious cycle. When you are unemployed do you have time to protest or must you spent that time looking for work. There is something about time, about everyone remaining overextended, that keeps the status quo in place. When you are busy all the time, stopping, even for a moment, produces anxiety. Being precariously busy for money is the ego-gratifying trap that keeps each life in place, little time to think, little time to dream of anything else. And what would something else look like? Weekends and vacations are only shadows. And yet the hands want to work. There is one kind of anxiety when the overwork addiction momentarily pauses, and another kind when one genuinely does not feel useful in the world. Or to feel one's use in perfectly doing nothing, more perfectly then anyone has ever done nothing for as long as life exists. Some have too much work, others too little. Some die of obesity, others of starvation. And, in the end, we all die a natural death of too much time.

We are working on things. We are working on projects. Some of these projects will be seen by a few people and some by a few more. These few and few more are all, also, working on projects, only some of which we will see. In ten years most of these projects will still exist, in twenty years less, in fifty years I would guess, generously, less than half, and in one hundred years considerably less than that. In two hundred years we will be lucky if one or two of these projects made by us today, made by those who come to see our projects, or by those who go see their projects, are still being viewed or considered by anyone. And yet now there are hundreds if not thousands. Perhaps some will exist in an archive or library waiting to be rediscovered. Maybe it won't be one or two, maybe ten or twenty, I have been accused of being too pessimistic in the past. Will the world two hundred years from now still be livable, recognizable, and why doesn't this question matter more to how we proceed today? One truism might be: projects have no future; but any historical period in art has produced a majority of works that were left behind. Art is what survives, is a quote I once heard attributed to Duchamp, and he has certainly done so, survived, at least until now. Is there a point of no return, past which one's survival is genuinely assured? Might we still forget about Rembrandt, about Kafka, about art?


January 15, 2013



I don’t even know what kind of writer I am.

Maybe I'm the kind that doesn’t know.


January 13, 2013

Four sentences


In entertainment culture, superheroes become dominant during times of war.

Agent provocateurs promoted violence, which was in turn used to justify greater state repression.

I feel extremely alienated by the dominant discourse, but I also feel somewhat alienated from a long series of other, less dominant discourses.

Like planting a flag on an artificial moon whose purpose is to host flags, and now it’s all just covered in flags.


January 10, 2013

Lene Berg quote


I think that one should defend the right of art, and actually of every one of us, to be eccentric, odd and even boring. That art is associated with society’s elite is a sociological fact. This does not mean that I as an artist must respect the same boundaries. For me art is a place where I have been able to work quite freely with issues that are not yet fully digested. Mainstream reality is very constricted. In art you do not necessarily have to follow fixed patterns, and the requirements for distribution are not as narrow and dogmatic as with film and television. But every field has its limitations, codes and power struggles. In order for interesting things to arise, these things must be challenged.

- Lene Berg


January 9, 2013

Dora García quote


Whatever meaning we give to outsider art — art made by psychotics; art made by non-professional, untrained artists; art made by the socially marginalized; art that is not art because it was never conceived as art; art made spontaneously, that is, without knowledge of what art is supposed to be; art that is defined as art by other people (insiders) instead of its maker (an outsider) — whatever meaning we give to outsider art, it says much more about mainstream art than about whatever is outside it.

Logically speaking, then, “mainstream art” (or art tout court?) should be made by sane people; trained and professional people; socially successful people; mainstream art is art that has been art since the moment of its conception; un-intuitive art, that is, art made with well-grounded knowledge of what art is supposed to be; art that is defined as art by its maker (an insider).

No wonder then, that the truth about art might sound like: radical artists profoundly mistrust the ideology of art.

- Dora García


January 8, 2013

David Shields quote


We live in a culture that is completely mediated and artificial, rendering us (me, anyway; you, too?) exceedingly distracted, bored, and numb. Straight-forward fiction functions only as more bubble wrap, nostalgia, retreat. Why is the traditional novel c. 2013 no longer germane (and the postmodern novel shroud upon shroud)? Most novels' glacial pace isn't remotely congruent with the speed of our lives and our consciousness of these lives. Most novels' explorations of human behavior still owe far more to Freudian psychology that they do to cognitive science and DNA. Most novels treat setting as if where people now live matters as much to us as it did to Balzac. Most novels frame their key moments as a series of filmable moments straight out of Hitchcock. And above all, the tidy coherence of most novels--highly praised ones in particular--implies a belief in an orchestrating deity, or at least a purposeful meaning to existence that the author is unlikely to possess, and belies the chaos and entropy that surround and inhabit and overwhelm us. I want work that, possessing as thin a membrane as possible between life and art, foregrounds the question of how the writer solves being alive.

- David Shields, How Literature Saved My Life 


Excerpts from All the Stories by Dora García


Two messengers were sent with two different messages: the one should tell 'You are all mortals', and the other 'You will live forever'. Only the first one reaches us, the second messenger is still trying to deliver his message.

In a far away country, men are so wicked that babies refuse to be born.

There is not just one universe, but many, all threaded together like pearls on a string, and then tangled.

Two people wait in the street for a theatrical event to start, impatient to see the actors, who are said to be very good. As they grow tired of waiting, they realize that the theatrical event has already started, and they they are the actors.

A way is found to freeze aging. All people look like eighteen, although of course there are real eighteens and fake eighteens. A test circulates among people to distinguish the fake from the real, the real eighteens being highly appreciated as sexual companions.

A man takes the train every day to his job and back. Every day the train goes through a tunnel for about two minutes. Then one day the tunnel does not seem to ever end.

Twin sisters present themselves to the world as one single woman. One of the sisters represents the outspoken, social, successful self; the other sister takes care of the tender, familiar, sexual and emotional side. When one of the sisters kills herself, the other has to cope with all aspects of the fictive personality they had both created.

Technology is irrevocably changing the world. Including human feelings.

Tanks enter the city to extinguish a revolution. Citizens fight the tanks with stones, and then one soldier comes out of one of the tanks, crying: Why do you throw stones at us? Don't you realize we are here because we love you?



January 5, 2013

Walking Stewart and The Roll of a Tennis Ball Through the Moral World


He did still have some visitors to break up his loneliness, though. His old friend John Stewart was in the city for a while, and - how time was changing him! Strange to think of all that had passed since their days together in London, reading the day's papers and philosophizing until the wee hours of the morning at the White Bear coffeehouse on Piccadilly. Back in 1790, Stewart had been perhaps the only man in London who could draw more stares than Paine himself. Tall, muscular, and exotic, Stewart had lived the kind of life found only in adventure fiction. He'd shipped out to Madras as a young clerk for the East India Company in 1763, only to decide that - as he announced brusquely in a letter to company directors - he was "born for nobler pursuits than to be a copier of invoices and bills of landing to a company of grocers, haberdashers, and cheese-mongers." And he was right: joining an Indian prince as a secretary, he rose through the ranks to become an army general and a prime minister - before, incredibly, throwing it all over to walk on foot through the mountains of Persia and Turkey, the deserts of Arabia and Egypt, deep into Ethiopia and into the terra incognita of central Africa, and then back around the Adriatic and Mediterranean to Paris. When he reached London, he was dubbed by the incredulous press "Walking Stewart." Never was there a more apt name; for he later hiked through Lapland and down into central Asia, and after sailing to New York walked all the way down to Paraguay. Walking Stewart became, as his friend Thomas De Quincey put it, the first circumambulator of the globe. Stewart attributed his survival to two things that struck anyone else back then as incomprehensible: a vegetarian diet, and an utter refusal to ever carry a weapon.

Yes, they'd made quite a pair back then. Paine, a failed grocer and customs officer who had moved to America and overthrown the monarchy, and Stewart, who paraded through Piccadilly in Armenian garb, his mannerisms mixed with those of all the exotic lands he'd walked through, and his speech and accent now a mélange from the innumerable languages he'd learned. It was muttered among onlookers that Paine had become some sort of inventor, going about trying to sell iron bridges - and Stewart, well, nobody knew quite what to make of him at all. The man wouldn't talk of his fantastic travels; instead, he was always distributing bizarre pamphlets he'd privately printed, bearing titles like The Roll of a Tennis Ball Through the Moral World. The few who could read past their strange diction and publication date - for Stewart had invented his own calendar - found all sorts of curious ideas inside. Stewart found it incomprehensible that women put up with child care, and believed the state should establish daytime nurseries so that mothers and fathers might work or improve their minds. He saw nothing wrong with prostitution, and considered it a typical city business like lamplighting or driving a taxi - indeed, he saw little wrong with sex, and so believed there should be "promiscuous intercourse... that the population might not be come redundant."

And now, as they sat aged in Manhattan, Paine and his old friend still warmly disagreed on many issues: Walking Stewart had always been dubious of Paine's cries for overthrowing kings, and he thought Paine's support of voting rights was absurd. What would it come to, Stewart scoffed - giving the vote to women and apprentices as well? And while Stewart was a confirmed atheist, Paine still believed in a God - in an animating moral force, if you will - he just didn't believe in the Bible or in clergy.

But they were both misunderstood geniuses of a sort; Paine found his books banned in England and despised in America, and Stewart brooded over the fate of his own pamphlets as well. He had a notion, he said, of preserving them for posterity. Stewart bid his readers, when done reading him, to bury his books in their gardens at a depth of seven or eight feet. They were to tell no one else of the location; but then, on their deathbeds, they were to breathe the secret to a trusted few. These fellows would keep the secret burial place until their deathbeds years later, and would communicate it again - down though the centuries, and the millennia, a secret society of philosophers passing down at death the sacred memory of the locations of Stewart's writings. Oh - the Circumambulator then feared - but what if someday my works prove unreadable because the English language itself has moldered away by then? He thereupon decided that first his readers should translate the works into Latin, then bury them.

Paine watched his strange friend return to England. Poor John! a traveling ascetic whose only real pleasure had been in music - the man was going deaf now. Their times were drawing near now... too near, in fact. Word came back from across the ocean months later that Stewart's ship had been dashed to pieces on its way to Liverpool. It sounded like he hadn't survived, hadn't even had the chance to pass on his secret burial spots to his brotherhood.

- Paul Collins, The Trouble with Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine


January 3, 2013

Judge McMahon and the Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement


…this court is constrained by law, and under the law, I can only conclude that the government has not violated FOIA by refusing to turn over the documents sought in the FOIA requests, and so cannot be compelled by this court of law to explain in detail the reasons why its actions do not violate the Constitution and laws of the United States. The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me; but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable catch-22. I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.

- Judge McMahon, as cited in the Wired article ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Ruling Lets Feds Keep Mum on Targeted-Killing Legal Rationale