A Radical Cut In The Texture Of Reality

June 10, 2021

Bridget Collins Quote


And for anyone who writes, or acts, or dances, or sculpts, or paints—for anyone who is drawn to make anything, ever—there’s another side to the story. Because we know that the cost of not making things is higher. It doesn’t matter what we make—whether we’re playing the grand jeu, or writing epic poetry, or putting up bookshelves—but we need to do it, and we need to care. The times I’ve felt closest to despair weren’t when I was throwing myself into writing (even though I sometimes let everything else slip, including sleep and personal hygiene), but when I couldn’t work at all. Whether it’s because you don’t have time, or you don’t believe in yourself, or because you’re a perfectionist—for whatever reason—sitting on your hands forever isn’t just a waste. It will make you unhappy. I believe that creation nourishes and heals us, that on some level it’s what we’re meant to do, all of us. Yes, it might transform us, but that’s the point.

And that in turn makes me wonder whether, really, it’s the mystique of art that has such destructive power. Not the act of creation, but the baggage that surrounds it: not only the self-fulfilling prophecy of the great artist who goes mad, but the competitiveness, the arrogance, and the fear. If your entire sense of self-worth is bound up in your novel—if you are so afraid of failure that you can only work once you’re good and drunk—if you would literally commit murder to beat your classmate in the final exams… It looks, at a glance, like you care too much about what you’re making; but in fact you’re staring beyond it, already fixing your eyes on the mirage of success or failure. You’re preoccupied, not with what you can control, but what you can’t; and that way madness lies.

- Bridget Collins, “I Wanted to Be on Fire.” On the Connection Between Art and Self-Destruction


June 9, 2021

Jean-Luc Godard/Robert Bresson Dialogue


Jean-Luc Godard: Why were you so committed to sunlight?

Robert Bresson: It’s very simple, really. I have seen too many films where it’s gray or dark outside — which can create a very beautiful effect, of course — but then the next shot suddenly shifts into a sunny room. I’ve always found that unacceptable. But it happens so often when we move between interiors and exteriors because there’s always additional lighting inside, artificial light, and when we go outside this disappears. Which causes a completely false disconnect. Now, you are aware — and surely you’re like me in this respect — that I’m obsessed with the real. Down to the smallest detail. Fake lighting is as treacherous as fake dialogue, fake gestures. Which is where my concern for an equilibrium of light comes from, so that when we enter a house there will be less sunlight than there was outside. Am I being clear?

Jean-Luc Godard: Yes, yes. Very clear.

Robert Bresson: There’s another reason that may be more correct, more profound. You know that I lean toward the side — not intentionally, mind you — of simplification. And let me clarify right away: I believe that simplification is something one must never seek. If you’ve worked hard enough, simplification should arrive of its own accord. But you must not look for simplification, or simplicity, too soon, for that’s what leads to bad painting, bad literature, bad poetry… . So I lean toward simplification — and I barely realize it — but this simplification requires, from the point of view of the photographic shot, a certain force, a certain vigor. If I simplify my plot and at the same time my image fails (because the contours aren’t well enough defined, the contrast isn’t strong enough), I risk falling into mere sequence. I, like you, believe that the camera is a dangerous thing; meaning it’s too easy, too convenient, we have to almost forgive ourselves for it: but we have to know how to use it.

Jean-Luc Godard: Yes, you have to, if I can say it like this, desecrate the technology of the camera, push it to its … But for me, I do that differently as I’m more, let’s say, impulsive. In any case, you can’t take it for what it is. Like the fact that you wanted sunshine so that the shot wouldn’t collapse. You forced it that way, to keep its dignity, its rigor … which three-quarters of the rest don’t do.

Robert Bresson: That’s to say that you have to know exactly what you want in terms of aesthetics, and do what you need to do to realize it. The image you have in your mind, you have to see it in advance, literally see it on the screen (understanding that there will be a distinction, even a total difference between what you see and what you end up with), and this image. You have to make it exactly the way you desire it, the way you see it when you close your eyes.

Jean-Luc Godard: You’ve been called the cineaste of ellipses. I imagine that for people who watch your films with this idea in mind, you’ve outdone yourself with Balthazar. I’ll give you an example: In the scene with the two car accidents (if we can say two, since we see only one of them), do you feel as if you’re creating an ellipsis by showing just the first one? I don’t think you thought of this as withholding a shot, but as placing one shot after another shot. Is this true?

Robert Bresson: Concerning the two skidding cars, I think because we’ve already seen the first, it’s pointless to show the second. I prefer to let people imagine it. If I had made people imagine the first one, then there would have been something lacking. And I like seeing it: I find it pretty, a car spinning around on the road. But after that, I’d rather make the next image out of sound. Any chance I can replace an image with a sound, I do. And I do it more and more.

Jean-Luc Godard: And if you were able to replace all of the images with sounds? I mean … I’m thinking about a kind of inversion of the functions of image and sound. We could have images, sure, but it would be the sound that would be the important element.

Robert Bresson: As far as that goes, it’s true that the ear is much more creative than the eye. The eye is lazy. The ear, on the contrary, is inventive: it’s much more attentive, whereas the eye is content to receive, other than in exceptional cases when it, too, invents, but through fantasy. The ear is, in some sense, far more evocative and profound. The whistle of a train, for example, can call to mind the image of an entire station: sometimes of a precise station you know, sometimes of the atmosphere of a station, or of tracks with a stopped train. The possible evocations are innumerable. What’s good about this, this function of sound, is that it leaves the viewer free. And that’s what we must strive toward: leaving viewers as free as possible. And at the same time, you have to make them learn to love this freedom. You have to make them love the way you render things. That is, show them things in the order and in the way in which you want them seen and felt; make others see those things, by presenting them in the way you see them and feel them yourself; and do all of this while leaving them great liberty, while making them free. Now, sound evokes this freedom in greater measure than does imagery.

Robert Bresson: Yes, but I should first tell you how I see myself in relation to what’s being made. Just yesterday someone asked me (it’s a reproach that’s made of me sometimes, perhaps without meaning to be one but nevertheless …): “Why don’t you ever go see films?” And it’s true: I don’t go to see them. It’s because they frighten me. That’s the only reason. Because I sense I’m moving away from them, from contemporary films, more and more each day. And this frightens me because I see that these films are being embraced by the public, and I don’t foresee that happening with my films. So I’m afraid. Afraid to propose something to a public with a sensibility for another thing, a public that will be insensitive to what I’m doing. But also, it’s good for me see a contemporary film from time to time. To see just how big the difference is. So I’m realizing that without meaning to, I’ve distanced myself more and more from a kind of cinema I feel is moving in the wrong direction — that’s settling deeper into music-hall, into filmed theater, that’s losing its interest (not only its interest, but its power) — and heading for catastrophe. It isn’t that the films are too expensive, or that television poses a threat, but simply that that kind of cinema isn’t an art, though it pretends to be one; it’s a false art, trying to express itself using the form of another art. There’s nothing worse or more ineffectual than that kind of art. As for what I’m trying to do myself, with these images and sounds, of course I feel I’m right and they’re wrong. But I also get the sense that I have access to too many means, which I try to pare down, reduce (for what also kills cinema is the profusion of means, the abundance; abundance can never bring anything to art). That moreover, I’m in possession of extraordinary means all my own.

Jean-Luc Godard: You were speaking a moment ago of actors …

Robert Bresson: There’s an unbridgeable gap between an actor — even one who is trying to forget himself, to not control himself — and a person who has no experience being on film, no experience with the theater, a person used as brute material, who doesn’t know what he is and who ends up giving what he never intended to give to anyone. The way you capture emotion is through practicing scales, through playing in the most regular, mechanical way. Not by trying to force emotion, the way a virtuoso does. That’s what I’m trying to say: an actor is a virtuoso. Instead of giving you the exact thing that you can feel, actors force their emotion on top of it, as if to tell you, “Here’s how you should feel things!”

Jean-Luc Godard: It’s as if a painter hired an actor instead of a model. As if he said to himself: instead of using this washerwoman, let’s hire a great actress who will pose much better than this woman. It that sense, I completely understand you.

- from Bresson on Bresson: Interviews, 1943-1983


June 7, 2021

we're celebrating our twentieth anniversary again


As many of you already know, back in 2018 PME-ART celebrated its twentieth anniversary with a book and a performance.

Now, a few years later, it seems we're celebrating our twentieth anniversary again, one last time, to mark Daniel Canty's French translation of the book, now entitled Un sentiment d’authenticité : ma vie avec PME-ART.

To do so, we've invited a few past and present collaborators to read from the book and share a few of their own thoughts on the matter: Martin Bélanger + Marie Claire Forté + Nadège Grebmeier Forget + Kamissa Ma Koïta + Elena Stoodley.

(I'm extremely curious what they'll each have to say but, since I don't really understand French, it's possible I might never know. In order to celebrate the French translation of the book the event will be entirely in French.)

(Also, I promise that after this event we'll stop celebrating our twentieth anniversary.)

Find out more here: Mardi 8 juin, 17 h, Virtuel: Un sentiment d’authenticité : ma vie avec PME-ART


April 29, 2021

Four PME-ART events in May/June 2021


Mercredi 12 mai, 17 h, Virtuel:
Un second sentiment d’authenticité: Authenticity Is a Feeling à l’épreuve de la traduction avec Daniel Canty et Jessie Mill
Conversation conviviale

Regardez-le ici : Première partie, Deuxième partie

Monday, May 17th & Tuesday, May 18th at 5pm:
A User's Guide to Authenticity Is a Feeling
La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines

20 ans de création et d’histoires par Yanik Comeau
Une question de risques par Guylaine Massoutre

Friday, June 4th at 10am:
En réponse à Vulnérables Paradoxes
With the participation of Aisha Sasha John + Burcu Emeç + Dayna Danger + Elena Stoodley + Kama La Mackerel + Kamissa Ma Koïta + Lara Kramer + Mai thi Bach Ngoc Nguyen + Malik Nashad Sharpe + Marilou Craft + Milton Lim + nènè myriam konaté + Po B. K. Lomami + Sonia Hughes
Online at the Facebook page of PME-ART

In collaboration with OFFTA / LA SERRE – arts vivants
Watch the video of the launch
Download: In Response to Vulnerable Paradoxes

Facebook Event

Mardi 8 juin, 17 h, Virtuel:
Un sentiment d’authenticité : ma vie avec PME-ART
Présentation Jessie Mill / Lecture-performance Martin Bélanger + Marie Claire Forté + Nadège Grebmeier Forget + Kamissa Ma Koïta + Elena Stoodley
En collaboration avec Terrains de jeu du FTA
Regardez-le ici : Un sentiment d’authenticité
Facebook Event

Download: In Response to Vulnerbale Paradoxes

Sur commande ici: Un sentiment d'authenticité : ma vie avec PME-ART

Order: Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART

Bonus: video of short reading plus my answers two short questions about Authenticity is a Feeling to celebrate the French translation.

Image: Daniel Canty

Image: Leontien Paula Allemeersch

Image: Kamissa Ma Koïta

Image: Fabien Marcil

Image: FTA

April 20, 2021

Cornel West Quote


I’m going to close with the notion of “utopian interruptions.” What I’m talking about is always tied to failure. It’s no accident that the figures that I invoke – Beckett has an aesthetic for failure, doesn’t he? So does Chekhov. So does Kafka. That wonderful letter that Benjamin writes to Gershom Scholem, July 1938: “You’ll never understand the purity and the beauty of Kafka if you don’t view him as a failure.” Of course, if it wasn’t for Max Brod, we wouldn’t even have the text. Kafka believed he was a failure through and through.

Or, as Beckett says in his last piece of prose fiction Worstwood Ho, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Like Sheldon Wolin’s fugitive democracy, prophetic religion is a fugitive affair – an empathetic and imaginative power that confronts hegemonic powers always operating. Prophetic religion is a profoundly tragicomic affair.

The dominant forms of religion are well-adjusted to greed and fear and bigotry. Hence well-adjusted to the indifference of the status quo toward poor and working people. Prophetic religion is an individual and collective performative praxis of maladjustment to greed, fear, and bigotry. For prophetic religion the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak. Yet it is always tied to some failure – always. There are moments, like the 1960s in capitalist civilization or the 1980s in communist civilization that prophetic awakening takes place. It doesn’t last too long, because the powers-that-be are not just mighty, but they’re very clever and they dilute and incorporate in very seductive ways – or sometimes they just kill you!

– Cornel West, Prophetic Religion and the Future of Capitalist Civilization

[From the book The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere.]


April 6, 2021

POSTPONED*** I Can't Stand the Idea of Putting Words in Someone Else's Mouth

I Can't Stand the Idea of Putting Words in Someone Else's Mouth

POSTPONED*** The roundtable performance I CAN'T STAND THE IDEA OF PUTTING WORDS IN SOMEONE ELSE'S MOUTH between Jacob Wren, Luis Carlos Sotelo Castro, nènè myriam konaté, Rajni Shah and Veronica Mockler that was originally scheduled for today (April 14th) at 4 p.m. has been postponed. A new date for the performance will be announced shortly.

We are very sorry for the inconvenience and hope that you can join us at this later date.

This roster of artists, writers and researchers comes together to consider the practice of 'unscripted' listening and speaking. At once an ontological workout and a probing of recent performance work, the table will tackle questions such as: What is listening from a place of not knowing? What is the relevance of 'unscripted' speech today? For these practitioners, embodying the 'unscripted' is a necessary state of struggle for it resists the productivity of colonial interaction.

Sign up here.

Facebook event.

Poster by Dublin-based graphic designer Conor Lumsden.


April 4, 2021

fortune cookie


I’ve been wondering a lot lately about whether or not - at some point in the not too distant future - I should leave PME-ART. And then the other day I got a fortune cookie which said “Depart not from the path which fate has assigned you.”


April 2, 2021

Reverse Portrait


[This text was originally published in the Kim Waldron book Another Woman _ Another Woman.]

A woman has a portrait in her attic. As she gets older the picture gets younger. Not her image in the picture but the picture itself. There are no other words to explain this. You look at the picture and somehow you know you are looking at a different, a reverse, understanding of time. The wooden frame gets younger, the pigment, the brushstrokes, the idea to even make the work in the first place. Up there in the attic, where almost no one ever goes, the self-portrait carelessly leans against a wall getting younger. Meanwhile the woman continues living her life. Her life is the important part of this story, though it will be difficult to tell the story in a way that makes this at all times clear. The problem is: she knows about the picture in the attic and so do we. It would be an exaggeration to say she thinks about it constantly, but she does think about it, from time to time, more than from time to time. For her, this picture represents something like her “ideals,” it is her ideals that are getting younger, but for us, at least so far, it represents almost nothing. It is a MacGuffin, a red herring, a picture that is getting older, but everything is getting older, every minute of every day. No, already I’ve gotten myself confused. The picture is not getting older, as you already know the picture is actually getting younger. That is the counter-intuitive, the magical, part of this story. The part that makes no sense.

Have I mentioned yet that there are many pictures of the woman, existing out there somewhere in the world, paintings (well, mainly just the one painting in the attic), photographs, drawings, illustrations. She even appears in images she apparently doesn’t appear in, in the background, or just a sliver of her at the edge of the frame. These images have been made for a wide variety of purposes. For example, one is an image that was part of a planned advertising campaign. However, when the company saw the image they vetoed it. They thought of their product, and they thought of the image, and came to the kneejerk conclusion that one would not be able to sell the other. (They did not mean that the product would not be able to sell the image, though that was probably true as well.) This unused advertising image was placed not in an attic but in a filing cabinet. Let me try to get back to the woman’s life, which we still know relatively little about. The part of this story that is most important is the part we so far know least about. As I have already mentioned, the part that is most important is this woman’s life.

One day the woman decides to attempt an experiment. She goes up into the attic with a large format camera and photographs the portrait. It is a woman photographing a portrait of herself, as the portrait is getting younger, to find out if she can photographically capture this magical painted reversal of age. As she does so, she realizes that for much of history portraits were created from paint, then for much of more recent history portraits were captured on photographic film, while now portraits are captured digitally and often called selfies. (We already know the proportional gender of the historical painters in relation to the proportional gender of the historical subjects. This is a contemporary story and things have not changed nearly as much as they should.) She was not a painter, so she asked herself: what would it feel like to paint another persons portrait? Or to paint her own? To consciously or unconsciously mix your own personality with the personality and image of the sitter? Or with the personality and image in the mirror? She had the photographs she took of the painting in the attic developed and had to admit she found the results rather unspectacular. It just looked like a normal painting, there was no evidence that it was getting younger before her (or the cameras) eyes. Just as in a normal photograph of a normal person there is no evidence that they are getting older before our eyes. The process moves too slowly. (Is it worth noting that the eye of a camera is called a lens?)

The woman knows that there are many images of her that exist somewhere out there in the world. She has seen many of them. She has also created many of them. Some of these images have even been sold for a small profit. Once she received an email from someone who owned an image of her, someone she had never met. “You don’t know me,” the email began, “but in some strange way I feel that I know you. Every day, as I drink my morning coffee, I can look to the far end of the dining room where a picture of you hangs on my wall. Maybe you already know this and maybe you don’t, I’m not quite sure.” She did not already know this. The email continued: “I know it is not actually you looking at me, out from that image, across the entire length of the room. It is not you, but I feel somehow judged by that gaze and therefore, in some sense, I feel I am being judged by you. It goes without saying that I am most likely only being judged by my own guilty conscience. You might have already guessed the particular reason for this feeling of being judged. It has to do with wealth, with my ability to purchase your image alongside many other remarkable works of art. The amount of money this work cost is almost nothing to me, pocket change. The reason you might not know that I drink my coffee every morning under the judgmental gaze of your image is because I purchased it on the secondary market. That is why I know, of the amount I paid for it, none of the money went directly to you. In my life, especially as I get older, I feel guilty or regretful about many things, and for some reason this is one of them. Therefore you will find attached, if you choose to accept it, a money order for the exact amount I originally paid for your work. As I said, for me it is nothing, but I suspect for you it will be a substantial sum. I see no reason you should not accept.” She stopped reading, transferred the money order into her account (what the email said was true, for her it was a substantial amount), and shut down her computer. She did not reply to the email, on that day or any other. She could not afford to refuse the money but she certainly did not want to thank him for it. She never heard from him again. In her ideal world, he would assist her financially while continuing to feel guilt. Maybe this guilt would lead him toward other good deeds in the future. She could only hope.

In the attic the painting continues its journey toward youth. (For a moment she wonders: does the painting know it’s getting younger. But how could it know.) Every few months she heads up to the attic for a visit. She sits across from the painting and, on this particular day, she even finds herself talking to it. This conversation is private, just between her and the painting, so I will not recount it here. Of course she does all the talking, the painting does not respond. Or it only responds by getting younger at an imperceptible rate, though at times she almost feels as if she can sense it changing before her eyes. In the attic there are many other objects that have been brought there because they were no longer needed in the rest of the house. I will not list them all. I will focus only on one particular item: a polaroid camera that no longer works. At one time it was a novelty to be able to take a picture and almost instantly see the results. Now this is obviously no longer the case. She picks up the camera and holds it in her hands. It hasn’t worked for a very long time. She examines it from every angle, rotating it calmly from hand to hand. What was once an exciting new thing is now little more than an item of nostalgia. Strangely, as she examines it, it suddenly goes off, a picture smoothly whirring out the front slot. She puts down the camera and holds the picture in front of her, staring at it, watching as it slowly develops. She is not surprised to see that it’s a picture of her. But not her now. Her from fifteen years ago, the last time she remembers using the camera, the last time she remembers it working. It is strange to see her younger self slowly come into focus within the white frame of the polaroid. Just as it is also strange to look up and see a painted version of her younger self, leaning against the wall. And then she has a strange thought: aren’t all images of our younger selves. Every image, no matter how imagined or arranged, is simultaneously a documentary image from some moment in the past. Even a selfie is an image of us a few seconds ago when it was first taken. She does not want to live in the past. She prefers to live in the present, if such a thing can even be said to exist. She leans the still developing polaroid against the painting and heads downstairs back to her normal life.

Dorian Gray had a picture in his attic to tell a story of corruption. This is not a story of corruption. The picture in the woman’s attic is just another picture, just another image, albeit one with certain magical qualities. It depends how you choose to tell the story. I’ve chosen to tell it badly, perhaps because I’ve chosen to tell it using only words.


March 24, 2021

Reading Bhanu Kapil (from 2015)


Reading Bhanu Kapil (from 2015):

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

[In honor of the publication of Bhanu Kapil’s book Ban en Banlieue, published by Nightboat Books, the writers Amina Cain, Douglas A. Martin, Sofia Samatar, Kate Zambreno, and Jenny Zhang gathered together in a conversation to talk about the work of the British-Punjabi writer. The conversation was published in three parts.] 


March 21, 2021

Mariame Kaba Quote


So, maybe I just have a different perspective and I talk to a lot of young organizers - people reach out to me a lot because I’ve been organizing for a long time - I’m always telling them, “Your timeline is not the timeline on which movements occur. Your timeline is incidental. Your timeline is only for yourself to mark your growth and your living.” But that’s a fraction of the living that’s going to be done by the universe and that has already been done by the universe. So, when you understand that you’re really insignificant in the grand scheme of things, you just are, then it’s a freedom, in my opinion, to actually be able to do the work that’s necessary as you see it and to contribute in the ways that you can see fit. So, I think that’s my answer to that.

And self-care is really tricky for me, because I don’t believe in the self in the way that people determine it here in this capitalist society that we live in. I don’t believe in self-care, I believe in collective care, collectivizing our care, and thinking more about how we can help each other. How can we collectivize the care of children so that more people can feel like they can actually have their kids but also live in the world and contribute and participate in various different kinds of ways? How do we do that? How do we collectivize care so that when we’re sick and we’re not feeling ourselves, we’ve got a crew of people that are not just our prayer warriors, but our action warriors who are thinking through with us? Like, I’m not just going to be able to cook this week, and you have a whole bunch of folks there, who are just putting a list together for you and bringing the food every day that week and you’re doing the same for your community, too.

I want that as the focus of how I do things and that really comes from the fact that I grew up the daughter of returned migrants, African-returned migrants. I don’t see the world the way that people do here, I just don’t. I don’t agree with it, I think capitalism is actually continuously alienating us from each other, but also even from ourselves and I just don’t subscribe. And for me, it’s too much with, “Yeah I’m going to go do yoga and then, I’m going to go and do some sit-ups and maybe I’ll like, you know, go to…” You don’t have to go anywhere to care for yourself.

You can just care for yourself and your community in tandem and that can actually be much more healthy for you, by the way. Because all this internalized, internal reflection is not good for people. You have to be able to have… Yes, think about yourself, reflect on your practice, okay, but then you need to test it in the world, you’ve got to be with people. So, that’s important. And I hate people! So, I say that as somebody who actually is really anti-social… I don’t want to socialize in that kind of way but I do want to be social with other folks as it relates to collectivizing care.

- Mariame Kaba

[From the remarkable book We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice. But you can also find the interview here.]