December 28, 2015

A long and short playlist for 2015 (with commentary)




I said I wasn't going to do this anymore, because YouTube now has too many commercials, but it seems I can't stop.

I've now made YouTube playlists in 2010, 2011, Japan, 2013, 2014 and now 2015 (also above.)

The playlist for 2015 is so long (over five hundred videos) that this year I've also made a shorter one that contains some of my favourites

In previous years, my commentary was about how things I do on the internet now seem part of, or even more interesting, than the rest of my artistic practice. But this year all I'm thinking about is my internet addiction. For the first time in my life I'm finding it difficult to read and I think it might partly have too do with how much time I spend online. 

I have just managed to spend two weekends offline, and will try to keep spending weekends away from this thing for the rest of the year. I don't particularly think I'll succeed. But we'll see what happens.

I think what disturbs me most is how little interest I have in doing anything else.



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December 25, 2015

Excerpt from the introduction to Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART

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It all seems so strange to me – in one sense every time we begin a process I am aiming for a breakthrough, hoping to surprise myself and make something that doesn’t particularly remind me of anything I’ve seen, or if it does remind me of something else, if it does remind me of some other work, or some particular aspect of my own previous work, I still want it to do so in a surprising way. And yet on the other hand I no longer believe in any of these things, they seem to me only like some youthful fantasies that my current understanding of the world can no longer support. What’s important, it now seems to me, must be something else: to make work that doesn’t feel empty, that raises striking questions, where the content and form are inseparable. But also to deal with the collaborative process in as honest and human a way as possible, and for the integrity with which the work has been made to come across as we perform it.

I am still working on all of the same artistic questions I started with thirty years ago, and often wonder if they are now only bad habits, or if the fact that I’m still working on them displays a certain degree of necessary commitment and fidelity to my earliest artistic impulses. At the same time, I’m also working on a more recent set of questions, many of which almost completely contradict the earlier ones, and most often I make no attempt to resolve these contradictions. Everything I do brings me into paradox and the paradoxes only deepen over time.

Nonetheless, as a matter of principle, I remain fiercely against those who say that everything has been done, even if I am somehow, gradually becoming one of them. Because how do they, how do we, know. There is always a certain energy and curiosity in believing that anything might still happen. As well, saying things go in circles has a different emphasis than saying everything has been done, since every time you come around again the things you do are both the same but also, somehow, desperately not the same at all. Yet now it is still 1996 and therefore, at age twenty-five, I very much believe it is possible and important to make something completely new in art.





[Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART is a new book I'm currently working on and is scheduled to come out Spring 2018.]


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December 21, 2015

Internet Addiction

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I have decided to try to stay off the internet during the weekends. (I just managed my first weekend in more or less ever.) I will most likely fail, but I thought I would announce it here anyway. Each time I fall off the wagon I will do my best to get back on. When it comes to email, ‘it can wait until Monday’ will hopefully become my new mantra. So if you see me on social media during the weekend you will know that I am weak.



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December 14, 2015

Rashayla Marie Brown: "Especially to the radiant child and the wunderkind, I ask you to open your hands and release your anxiety."

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I’m not going to lie to you. There are rewards for this amnesia – people will call you avant-garde or controversial, you don’t seem hindered by oppression, you aren’t didactic, you will gain access into places – alone – because you are one of the chosen ones who don’t challenge the institution. But you will be in the ivory tower, alone.

We can explore such ideas as the post-black, the post-racial, and the post-feminist because our ancestors’ world was a world of firsts before the post. I appeal to you to acknowledge your influences, publicly and loudly. I implore you to do your research and cite your sources. I ask you to share. Do not be lulled by the open gate or window, and then close it behind you so no one else like you can enter. A sense of competition is bred into the art world that makes you feel like you will lose if you aren’t the chosen one. Especially to the radiant child and the wunderkind, I ask you to open your hands and release your anxiety.

- Rashayla Marie Brown, Open Letter To My Fellow Young Artists And Scholars Who Work On The Margins – A Tribute to Terry Adkins


[Read the rest of the essay here.]



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December 13, 2015

Karissa Chen: "It’s simply that you cannot imagine you could be wrong, and so you cannot see."

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The thing I want to tell that male journalist with the Asian wife, or even to Michael Derrick Hudson with his stolen name, is that these Asian women whom you’ve reduced to names and monikers and symbols of your discontent — they fall outside of your imaginations. Despite all of your privilege, your belief that you have the right to imagine and shape worlds as you see fit, you lack the capacity to conceive of the multitudes that lie inside the women whom you claim to speak for. Your singular wife. Yi-Fen Chou. My grandmother. Myself. And so many other Asian women I know. We are constantly breaking stereotypes. We have varying, changing dreams, and move through this world expressing ourselves in unexpected ways. We are living, breathing examples of how your constructions of us are paper-thin, weightless. It’s simply that you cannot imagine you could be wrong, and so you cannot see.

*

One more point on audacity. I don’t think all audacity looks the same. The audacity that a white man has because he believes he is entitled to something very particular, something very expected is different from the audacity of an immigrant who has no idea what is coming, who plunges ahead despite not knowing, but who, despite all odds, believes she deserves something better, something greater than her imagination. This is the same audacity that will allow her to let go of everything she’s worked for if it comes to it, because she has the audacity to reimagine her future, again and again, as is necessary. She has the audacity to expect better even when the world tells her she shouldn’t dare.

- Karissa Chen, The Audacity to Dream: On Asian Women, Feminism, and My Grandmother


[Read the rest of the essay here.]



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December 12, 2015

Stories...

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The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are not necessarily true.



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December 11, 2015

Zoe S.C. Todd Quote

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e) Listen to people without MFAs or PhDs. Listen to people who have lived experience. Listen to people who are angry. Listen to people who are not being shown at galleries. Don’t tell us to be polite. Don’t police our voices. Just sit with it. Ask yourself why people are angry. Acknowledge any part you play in that.

f) If you have the urge to be a White Saviour and speak for us, just stop. Just turn off your laptop, back away from your desk and go make yourself useful by working in reciprocity with Indigenous people and/or POC. Ask yourself how you can amplify the work of POC and/or Indigenous people without centring Colonial institutions or legal orders or colonial voices.

- Zoe S.C. Todd, So long and thanks


[Read the rest of the essay here.]




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December 9, 2015

Jesse B. Staniforth on “of the North” – Quebec filmmaker uses YouTube and unauthorized music to portray the Inuit

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I highly recommend this piece by Jesse B. Staniforth:


“of the North” – Quebec filmmaker uses YouTube and unauthorized music to portray the Inuit


As well, in a Facebook comment Jesse added this note:

The story I submitted was so much longer than it was supposed to be so a lot of it had to be cut for space (and they did a GREAT job). However, I originally ended with this coda, which I think is worth sharing:

I emailed Mara Gourd-Mercado for clarification about the statement, asking, “rather than presume the Indigenous audience of this film is misreading it, are you concerned that your reading of the film ‘confronting stereotypes’ is grounded in your lack of knowledge and experience of Indigenous communities? Do you stand by your contention that this film is critical of those stereotypes?”

Gourd-Mercado replied, “One of the main things we take away from our conversation last week and that is important for us to express right now is not the RIDM's perception of the film. We need to listen to the opinions that are emerging from the Inuit communities, and to establish communication channels with members of this community. We hope to be able to enter a more inclusive dialogue regarding the film and our programming moving forward. As we stated this takes time and we are ready to put in the work at any cost.”


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December 8, 2015

Some favourite things from my 2015

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(It seems I really do love lists. As is often the case with me, many of these things were released prior to 2015. I have listed them more or less in the order they gradually came to me.)



Books:

Bodymap – Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
In an I – Popahna Brandes
May ’68 and Its Afterlives – Kristen Ross
Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde
Lee Lozano: Dropout Piece – Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer
The Fourth World – Diamela Eltit
Bodies of Work: Essays – Kathy Acker
Tattooed Forever – Dalia Rosetti (story in Animal Shelter 3)
Her 37th Year, An Index – Suzanne Scanlon
Garments Against Women – Anne Boyer


Writing: 

Anything and everything by Hannah Black
Anything and everything by Jackie Wang


Music:

Aina More – For People With Short Attention Spans
Rapsody – Beauty & The Beast
Lexii Alijai – feel-less
Shamir – Rachet
Little Simz – A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons
Vince Staples - Summertime ‘06
THEESatisfaction – EarthEE
John Carter – Fields
Kelela – CUT 4 ME


Exhibitions: 

Cuts Make The Country Better – Edith Brunette and François Lemieux
Talk Show – el instituto / SBC Gallery


Performances: 

its not a thing – keyon gaskin
Resistance Solo – Miguel Pereira
Uro – Anna Natt
J'AURAIS AIMÉ TRAVERSER – Elaine Juteau in collaboration with Andrée-Anne Giguère and Luis Felipe Ortega Gil



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December 6, 2015

Under the good intentions, the beach

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Sexism and racism in art
I now feel these are the questions
I will spend the rest of my life debating
as Raymond Boisjoly tweeted:
“...as if art was more important than
our responsibility to one another”
I have never particularly liked to argue
because I’ve never particularly
thought I was right
but like anyone I can easily be
pulled into an argument
especially on the internet
and then what
am I learning something?
I want to remain open
to listen, but the tone of the arguments
so often makes me feel
like arguing instead of listening
(not even talking about fascists or
trolls, but about complex, genuine,
distressing disagreements)
people generally don’t change so much
will anything I say
change anything you think
or vice versa, how or why?
I have been accused
of letting guilt run away with me
but what would it be like
to live in a more just world
and what is the correct
attitude to take us there
when I’m doing my best to
understand your argument
to listen, to be open
but all I really feel is disagreement
there is very little in my daily experience
that gives me any real sense of possibility
yet I know I must keep feeling
possibility regardless
regardless of our differences
regardless of my despair
I don’t want to get too lost
in the details
whether this work of art is sexist
or that one is racist
if you respectfully disagree we
can respectfully disagree
I don’t want to spend all my time
attacking works that ethically suck
would instead prefer to spend my time
praising works that are ethically
and artistically glorious
when something is sexist or racist
we have to speak out against it
loudly and clearly
even with the possibility that later
we might see other aspects
how to speak out yet avoid
these endless, go nowhere debates
stay off the internet
what is my opinion worth
so much less than my actions
I do so few actions
apart from making art
and I believe in art less than ever
but strangely, almost against my will,
I still somehow believe
all of this I write
from the bottom of a depression
which might not even be a depression
an alienation, a loneliness
a never-been-able-to-have-close-friends
an internet addiction
that has in some sense converted me
so I now see so much more racism and sexism
in art and in the world
and I thought I saw so much before
before the internet
when I was also lonely and alienated
my loneliness and alienation
also forms of luxury and privilege
the really fucked up thing about me
is I can always walk away
I never get that attached
this must be a defense mechanism
and how do we argue
without letting our defense mechanisms
carry us away
and how to make people feel structural inequality
how to make people feel structural inequality
how to feel structural inequality
fully and violently, so it would completely wrench my gut
gut me to the core of my privilege
gut me towards action
this isn’t a real poem
just some thoughts in the shape of a poem
when people are being killed in the streets
dying from lack of resources
in stupidly profitable wars
killed by their loved ones
we need poems of pure rage
this one is not
I do feel rage
don’t know if I have any right to it
can feel how I take up too much space
but not how to share the meager resources
our racist and sexist world grants me
I am starting to make attempts
through these attempts I begin to see
just how hard it is, how it doesn’t just work
everything in my life and work
an endless trial and error
the definition of praxis
and these attempts draw me into further debates
as I try to understand
why people say the things they do
if we could all replace our childhoods
with something more open
more generous
if I could snap my fingers
and capitalism would be gone
replaced with something
more caring and more hopeful
what kind of debates would we have then
what would they feel like
who would they be for
who would we be



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Raymond Boisjoly tweet

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Still thinking about this tweet from Raymond Boisjoly: "...as if art was more important than our responsibility to one another"



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November 30, 2015

Tania Canas Quote

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We are not a resource to feed into your next artistic project. You may be talented at your particular craft but do not assume that this automatically translates to an ethical, responsible and self-determining process. Understand community cultural development methodology but also understand that it is not a full-proof methodology. Who and what institutions are benefiting from the exchange?

- Tania Canas, from Some points to consider if you’re an artist who wants to make work about refugees 


[You can read the rest of the essay here.]



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November 29, 2015

Patricia Boushel Facebook post concerning of the North

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"Many of us watched the of the North controversy billow up over the course of the past week. It’s fascinating to witness something that so few people saw gain such traction, but it’s also heartening that the reaction was so strong. Though social media is a terrifying identity construction machine through which we pick and choose the values by which we wish to be known by others and an arguably imbalanced tool for popular education, it’s an easy outlet for denouncing and condemning racism. Many wish for there to be a greater share of consideration, understanding and love towards those who’ve been especially disadvantaged, dispossessed and whose well-being is still not the bottom line of our own free will. I tried to watch the film, but by the time I got around to it, the circulated link was removed. We've heard from articulate folks that it is cruel, and I've heard from very wise and loving people that it was also beautiful. I vacillate between desire to have accessed the coveted object of discussion and the discomfort of yet again being in a position of witnessing a stilted perspective enabled by a tool for self-broadcast and public institutions that intend on increasing diversity content, and crafted by a singular privileged viewpoint. Rationally, the film being seen by more people could create a better context for conversation about its controversial content, and yet intuitively, the film being seen by more people will invariably wound the people in it, as well as so many others who identify with them. This isn’t about censorship against free speech, political correctness against artistry. The time of distanced, self-profiting voyeuristic cultural practices, particularly in our post-Truth and Reconciliation nation(s) is over. And how about making humility as valuable as creativity?

-  Patricia Boushel



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November 28, 2015

When people hear the word racist...

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When people hear the word racist their first impulse is to become defensive, to say that they're not racist, etc. But we were all raised in a racist and sexist culture and we all have racism inside of us. It only gets worse if you disavow it.



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November 27, 2015

In the interview...

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In the interview he says "it's not a racist film." But for me this isn't possible. If we are both reasonable people, and you think the film is not racist, and I think that it is, than for you the film is not racist and for me it is. We have different histories, different experiences, and different ways of understanding these issues and questions. It is a debate. It cannot suddenly, objectively become one or the other. The fact that people are protesting the film opens the question and keeps it open. The next question is where do we go from there. And whose opinion gets to dominate the conversation. And is there any possibility that the discussion might actually lead somewhere productive, towards more justice and less racism in the world. All these questions are further complicated by our overwhelming - historical and current - situation of structural inequality.



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November 25, 2015

Art and Politics

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Every time I have an argument about art and politics it strikes me anew: how weak I am at engaging with people I disagree with. And how little experience I actually have with the task.



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November 24, 2015

Nostalgia

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Reading Carl Wilson on Adele started to make me incredibly nostalgic for a time "when self-consciously cool people put populist music down on principle." (But if I think about it more, I feel what we need isn't a return to cool elitism but rather more praise and attention for work that is in continuity and dialog with the rage of Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, The Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo, current feminist waves, etc.)



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November 19, 2015

I've started saying I'm semi-retired

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"Beware the barrenness of a busy life." - Socrates



I've started saying I'm semi-retired. It's both a light joke and deadly serious, as if my life depended on it. So far, in what we might call reality, I'm working more or less as much as I ever have. But my attitude towards this work is hopefully, gradually starting to change. Saying I'm semi-retired is a critique of the fact that, as an artist, I feel I'm under constant pressure to over-produce. As soon as I finish one project I'm already being asked what the next project is. It seems there is a natural, unspoken assumption that what an artist does is produce a never-ending supply of works that fulfill an equally never-ending series of empty slots within various institutions, projects and structures.

I'm naturally somewhat prolific, so overproduction has never seemed like an impossible task. But I've also felt that, for me, being artistically prolific is almost like a bad habit. I think the absolutely hardest thing to do as an artist is to keep making good work, work with integrity, over an entire lifetime. (I have now been making work for twenty-five years which is perhaps why these questions are now hitting me with such peculiar force.) I've always thought that the best way to last is to produce less, to really consider each step and never unnecessarily rush into anything. At the same time, at certain moments, a sense of recklessness and spontaneity is also essential. It's not like I've got it all figured out. And I don't exactly want to figure it out. I want to remain open enough to whatever happens that I might still end up somewhere I previously didn't even have the tools to consider possible.

Nonetheless, I've started saying I'm semi-retired. It has something to do with no longer feeling I have to do everything, feeling some things are more important than others and my actions have to reflect such values and realities. One definition of capitalism is an insatiable need for growth, for more, always more, and I feel as an artist, often living hand to mouth, I am also expected to do both as much as possible and often more than I can. I am searching for ways to say, more clearly than I have before, that this is not where it's at. Time needs to be understood in other ways. We'll still have to see in the future whether saying I'm semi-retired is only wishful thinking or, to put it more bluntly, to what degree I end up a hypocrite. But more is certainly not always more.



Finally, as a critique of many of the assumptions in what I've just written, I will finish with - and very much hope you will read - this piece by Pampi Thirdeyefell: Art with Teeth because #CreativesLabor



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November 17, 2015

Dream

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Last night I dreamt I was an arsonist. As I headed to set one last fire, I got a text saying "it's a trap," turned around, and decided to go see art instead.



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October 15, 2015

Fred Moten Quote

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with nothing it’s impossible and easier, the same but really close to one another but unbridgeably far from one another, the way we flee a broken park when the island is a shipwreck and a language lab and half of school falls away.

- Fred Moten, The Feel Trio



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The mid-career blues...

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Of course, in a way, I meant that I have something like the mid-career blues: a feeling that I've done a lot already and it's not as clear as it was before what else I should do, how or why. If I can actually do anything better than I've done before and what attitude I might take, or what kinds of changes I might make, to make it so. But I also had the thought that 'the mid-career blues' are something that exists, something that's going around: that many people who have been making art for a good while, who most likely have as much behind them as they perhaps have ahead, might feel something a bit like this. That it might be normal, and even that it is perfectly understandable.



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October 14, 2015

letters we wrote to friends after reading "polyamorous love song"

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Jasna Zmak in Croatia has started this beautiful thing:


letters we wrote to friends after reading "polyamorous love song"


An excerpt:

"It was then when I decided this was something I ought to do. So, I am giving this book to you, as a present. I am giving it to you, but on one condition. Or actually two. The first one is that you read it. The second is that, upon reading it, you do the same as I did: you think of a friend who you think might like it, who you think will be a nice addition to our small community, you give it to him/her as a present and along with it, write a letter to explain why you think this person and this book might go so well along. Then you give them the letter and the book, and you forward the letter to me, so I could publish it here.

You decide on the length of the letter, I am just asking for the language to be English so that more people could understand it… and, of course, at the end of the letter you make a small note about this principle so that when your friend is done with reading, he or she can send it to the next person, including a personalized letter, so that this circle could go on expanding…"



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September 12, 2015

Forty-two Sentences

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Either you're with us or you're with someone or something else that might be equally worthwhile.


Freedom of speech is most often the freedom to be celebrated for saying things that support the status quo and to be ignored for saying things that challenge it.


Instead of freedom of speech, freedom to establish a more egalitarian alternative to capitalism.


In my two year attempt to write a kind of strange, fictional-autobiography I now realize the block is very simple: I don't want people to know about my life.


Jealousy of other artists is perhaps the most natural part of being an artist.


Artists should have honest discussions about ambition.


Having the courage to be very briefly arrested for your artistic convictions.


If there was no capitalism I would still have desires. But what would they be?


The feeling that I'm trying my best mixed with the feeling that my best isn't actually very good.


Time before clocks.


Christmas is proof that the dominant culture is in fact dominant.


Vulnerable paradoxes.


Mohammad Mosaddegh, Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, Patrice Lumumba, Salvador Allende.


It is completely possible for an argument to be both brilliant and wrong.


It’s going to get worse before it gets even worse.


Remembering that neoliberalism began not with Thatcher but with Pinochet, and suspecting it will return to its roots.


The best thing to do is apologize, but one should perhaps not already be planning one's apology before one does the bad thing.


It seems everyone needs an other against which to compare, but some of us find this other within.


Markets will self-regulate themselves into ever increasing, more volatile speculative bubbles that sporadically crash.


If there really was a free market it would collapse of its own accord.


When working on a new project, for me the hardest question is always when to fight and when to compromise.


All the artists I admire are such a strange combination of completely open and completely stubborn.


There are already so many books and movies and songs and wars: why make more.


The importance of writing books that are compelling in such a way that they will never be nominated for any awards.


I feel like other writers are trying to write the perfect book while I’m trying to write brilliantly imperfect ones.


I'm hopeless but not without hope.


Reinventing the reinvention of the wheel.


Emotions, one might suggest, are always left unfinished.


During the final game of the world cup, the star player decides to score on his own team's goal as an act of treason.


Solitude versus loneliness.


Desire without expectation.


The assumptions that are in a discipline's blind spot are in fact the same assumptions holding the discipline together.


Money is the lie that makes things possible, so possible we could weep.


Feeling desire is beautiful. But acting on it requires a certain degree of ethical reflection.


If there wasn't a heaven why would anyone bother dying?


Men emotionally recounting how when they were younger they were repeatedly told not to cry.


Posting the same thing over and over again seems, to me, the more I consider the matter, to be the true essence of the internet.


A feeling that the things I'm most interested in generally don't exist.


Keeping art boring in the name of artistic excellence.


Letting things not work.


This feeling that I’ve never been in more intense despair, a feeling I’ve certainly had before.


Racism and sexism are the gasoline of capitalism.



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September 7, 2015

Eight quotations on loneliness

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The drama of being a loser in the sex selection sweepstakes reveals a confounding irony that is at the center of Houellebecq’s work. You might have been abandoned by your mother (as most of his characters are), indifferently raised, humiliated by your peers; you might be temperamentally aggressive and hostile and feel very little kinship with or interest in most people you meet; you might find true contentment only when you’re alone. In short, you might be thoroughly unsuited for human society. But this will in no way relieve you of the need for other people. You will suffer unbearably from your loneliness, and you will not have any way to fix it.
- Elaine Blair



God knows most of us Americans hate being alone. This may explain why our popular culture is the best in the universe. We keep pouring the cream of our genius and love into producing the antiloneliness serums that our movies, pop songs, and television shows. We take nothing more seriously than our fun. Well, all of this has been said many times before, often by pundits displaying that other familiar compulsion, to make people feel bad about what makes them human and sociable in whatever way their world allows. Loneliness is no sin. It is “an infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing” in need of infinite consolation.
– Peter Schjeldahl



Learn to love solitude, to be more alone with yourselves. The tragedy of today’s young people is that they try to unite on the basis of carrying out noisy and aggressive actions so as not to feel lonely, and this is a sad thing. The individual must learn from childhood to be on his own, for this doesn’t mean to be lonely: it means to not get bored with oneself, because a person who finds himself bored when he is alone, it seems to me, is a person in danger.
- Andrei Tarkovsky on being asked, ‘What would you like to tell young people?’



Loneliness, which is really lack of love, is the pain of being unable to be present, makes us inhabit our bodies differently. At its most radical, loneliness’ pain relates to a missing presence beyond any comprehension or memory, as the speech of what feels the unspeakable. Where it does not, or rather cannot, remain trapped in the self-soothing, heterosexual loops intended for it, it may become a question of political engagement.
- C.E., Undoing Sex: Against Sexual Optimism



Loneliness is the deal. Loneliness is the last great taboo. If we don’t accept loneliness, then capitalism wins hands down. Because capitalism is all about trying to convince people that you can distract yourself, that you can make it better. And it ain’t true.
-Tilda Swinton



So often loneliness comes from being out of touch with parts of oneself. We go searching for those parts in other people, but there’s a difference between feeling separate from others and separate from oneself.
- Diane Ackerman



Suicide is a crime of loneliness, and adulated people can be frighteningly alone. Intelligence does not help in these circumstances; brilliance is almost always profoundly isolating.
- Andrew Solomon



I have been trying, for some time now, to find dignity in my loneliness. I have been finding this hard to do. It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one’s solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem.
- Maggie Nelson



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September 6, 2015

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha Quote

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This border is rotten meat, a hallucination, a wavering line
a stupid idea. Can't we blink and it'll be gone?

- Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Bodymap



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September 2, 2015

Waiting Poem (First Draft)

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I’m trying to figure things out but I’m not figuring things out, unable to separate my thoughts from my feelings from the things I have utterly and totally wrong. It all folds together in one long unfigured mush. After I die they can dissect this mush and find the tumor. Someone will decide if this tumor is a thought, idea or feeling and someone else can decide that they’re wrong. They might decide to argue about it or decide it’s simply not worth the bother. But for now I am still alive, trying to figure things out, searching for where to start, or what might be the beginning and what might be the end. Having a beginning or an end might be a start. A crime scene needs a clue, a culprit, a verdict, but more than any of these things it needs a judge. When I get sad I want to blame someone and I want that someone to blame myself. I don’t know what the point is of publishing books after you die but I know there is often an increase in demand. When posthumous demand decreases we might think of it as a different kind of success. And then there is this chronic hacking cough, the most literal thing I am currently trying to figure out. Everyone thinks they are my friend but I am forced to admit I don’t think of them in quite the same way. Let’s let differences remain different! Or let’s not and say we did! Last summer I was sad and this summer is similar but different. How are we to understand a pain that won’t let us ever quite escape? How many pages have I written or will I write before I die? Too many and, what’s more, too few. A sinking feeling that is almost criminal? I am trying to figure things out but in the grip of a terrible unfiguring. Before I had no readership but now I have only the readership that will hate these words. There are so many of us who all agree, who want to replace literature with telepathy. And if we can agree on that I am certain we can agree on so many wonderful things. Do you want to read the first three pages of a possible new book and let me know what you think? Past page fifteen I have the terrible, awful, horrible feeling that there is no turning back. I am trying to turn back, figure things out, learn where I went wrong. Each fork in the road is a devastating lie regarding the nature of choice. Things come too easy to me and it is all unbearably hard. But keep going, we keep going, as each step demands and falls in love with yet another step. This is the true nature of time. Different shades of waiting and different calamities of time. When you turn against things they turn towards you, and again, turn into step after delicate step. One of the words I have been using far too often in my writing is the word tears. This word is like so many words, an appointment I probably should have cancelled. This word is like a secret that is also the exact opposite of a secret, a secret place. A secret that needs editing and will always remain unedited. Crying as you write the word tears.



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August 31, 2015

Health Problems

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This isn't fiction.  I am writing about this here and now because it is something not everyone knows about me and I often wonder if this is a mistake. I always feel that I'm an open book, but I also think I constantly find ways of being an open book that are actually quite secretive. As an artist, this might even be said to be on of my virtues. But that's not what I'll be writing about today.

I have had more or less the same health problems for the past thirty years, and at times it seems to me they have been getting incrementally worse for that entire time. These days I am in so much pain I am barely able to function, but for the most part I manage to function anyways.

At the same time, even though I have been in this pain for so long, I still don't really know what it is, what causes it, or what the best treatments might be. I would say starting at some point, maybe about ten years ago, I have simply tried to ignore my health problems to the best of my ability. Unsurprisingly, over this period the pain has steadily worsened.

I've never been able to get a diagnoses to prove it, but I feel my health problems are somewhere in the realm of chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. But, then again, maybe not. Maybe my understanding of what ails me is way off base and therefore hindering my ability to seek improvement. But the more general description chronic pain would be difficult to undermine.

The right side of my body hurts much more than the left side. The pain in the right side of my body seems to emanate out from my right hip. But I also wonder if the pain in my hip comes from some sort of slight twist in my lower small intestine. Or if there is a relationship between the hip and the intestine that prevents either one from fully releasing. It is also possible that the problem originates with my gait, that my right foot doesn't land correctly and therefore keeps the right side of my body twisted. At any rate, these are all either symptoms or origins of the pain I've been in for the past thirty years. I also have regular headaches. And lately there has been a fair bit of nausea.

A more recent problem, that's maybe started around five years ago, is a chronic cough along with difficulty breathing. This cough has gotten much worse in the past six weeks and perhaps has inspired me to write this post. My understanding is that my rib cage pushes forward and presses into my lungs. I'm also not sure if this is a correct diagnoses.

About ten years ago, when I was more often seeking treatment, I found I couldn't actually get myself to do anything the doctors or health practitioners suggested. I would go for the appointments, listen carefully to everything they said I should do, and then do none of it. After awhile of this it was only a short step to no longer seeking help. At the forefront of my mind throughout this pathetic comedy was that if I did their suggestions I might live longer, and mainly what I wanted was to die as soon as possible. Obviously, there is a very intense and intimate relationship between my health problems and my considerable depression. Maybe my more severe depression started around the same time as my health problems, but I have always has a melancholy temperament.

However, I do still do a few things to take the edge off the pain: acupuncture, osteopathy and I also wear orthotics to partially correctly my walk. All of these things help a little, but as the years roll on they seem to be helping less and less.

I often write about my depression but I rarely write about my health problems. I think the reason for this is I do suspect there are things I could do to at least slightly improve my health but for the most part I don't do them. I am ashamed of my continued inaction. Sometimes I feel it reflects a deeper truth about me, that I don't really want to live, that I am living my life as if it were an extremely slow and aggravating suicide. (For example, I eat poorly and get no exercise.) At other times I feel there is no real truth in it. That I simply didn't manage to figure out the root of the problem and after awhile gave up trying. This is the opposite of what one should do in activism, and I am obviously an extremely poor activist for my own health.

But, when I write about how awful the world is, I often feel that perhaps I wouldn't find it as awful if I wasn't in constant, almost unbearable pain, and hadn't been for the last thirty years. And I worry that this skews my outlook as an artist, and of course also my more general outlook on life. There is so much defeatism in my work and thinking, and it seems a bit too obvious that this outlook is related to my defeat in the face ongoing physical pain. I so often wonder what life is like for other people.



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August 28, 2015

Yes and No

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For the past six weeks I've been saying no to all work offers, saying that I can't take on anything new until I've finished my next book. Every time I say no to anything I almost feel like I've committed a crime. Makes me realize the degree to which I've programmed myself over the past twenty-five years to say yes to everything.



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August 23, 2015

Two Kristin Ross Quotes

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"The logic of emancipation concerned concrete relations between individuals. The logic of the institution, on the other hand, is always nothing more than the indefinite reproduction of itself. Emancipation is not the result but the condition for instruction."



"Time or temporality is a human, social construction, and as such is tainted by the contemporary biases and dominant prejudices of the moment - such as the idea that dominates our own time that one should accumulate the most capital one can, hoard it to oneself, and then die."



- Both quotes from Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune by Kristin Ross




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August 8, 2015

Ten Years

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Lacan is not this kind of poet of failure. The truly traumatic thing is that miracles – not in the religious sense but in the sense of free acts – do happen, but it’s very difficult to come to terms with them. So we should reject this idea of a poetry of failure. For Lacan, Real is not this kind of Thing-in-itself that we cannot approach; Real is, rather, freedom as a radical cut in the texture of reality.
– Slavoj Žižek, from Conversations with Zizek 


I have now been doing A Radical Cut in the Texture of Reality for ten years. The first post was on August 8, 2005. As I recently wrote:

When I started my blog almost ten years ago, the main reason was that I was struggling with writers block. I was tired of sending my writing out to publishers and having it rejected, or accepted but with alterations that frequently made it feel less like my own. I would think about the various publishing opportunities open to me and it would kill at least some of my desire to write anything new. And then, suddenly, with this blog I could write just a few sentences and put them out into the world immediately. It didn’t have to be the greatest thing I had ever written. It could simply be a chance for a few interested readers to see my working process, and if they liked it to encourage me with their comments. To try things out and learn through doing.

In this sense A Radical Cut has been about as effective a thing in my work life as I am able to imagine. When I started ten years ago I had almost completely stopped writing, and somehow all this got me going again, put a few of my words out into the world where they could be both criticized and encouraged. I'm not sure I would have written any of the books I've written over the past ten years if I didn't also have this forum to share things as they went, to pursue dead ends in public and to see what my thoughts looked and felt like when I shared them online.

Ten years is a long time to do something and I wanted to somehow mark the occasion. So far this is all I've come up with. I wonder if I'll manage another ten...



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July 30, 2015

“Better late than later.”

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I've been thinking about this paragraph:

In 1915, as the American economy boomed, the huge supply chain that supported horse-drawn transport—harnesses and horseshoes, wagons and buggies makers (13,000 of them), farriers and blacksmiths, hay balers and feedmills—looked like a robust and vital segment for deploying capital. 1920 was the year of “Peak Horse” in the U.S.. By 1940 it was gone. This was not “low-cost”, incremental progress. It was an economic disruption so fierce that the phrase “buggy-whip maker” became a business simile for loser.

(It's part of the conclusion of Carl Pope's article: Get Ready for Ugly as "Free Markets" Begin to Deal With Climate Crisis.)

1915 was one hundred years ago. Is it possible that by 2040 oil will seem like a thing of the past?

There is this feeling that things are moving too slowly, or not at all. But, at the same time, I also have the feeling that when things do change sometimes they can switch really fast, like rats fleeing a sinking ship.

I don't think this change will in any way save us. Wars over oil will be replaced by wars over water. And the environmental degradation that is already underway will bring along with it more flooding, hurricanes, typhoons, migration, famine, disease, mass species extinctions and, as previously mentioned, war. But if oil were to become out of bounds, or even greatly reduced, in my lifetime it would be really be something to see.

The phrase “Better late than later.” comes from a Christiana Figueres speech. And whenever I hear people say 'It's already too late' I think the exact opposite is true in any given situation. The true motto of all activism is that there is always something to be done, it is never too late. And you don't yet know what is or isn't possible until it happens.

Arthur Ashe: "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."

Albert Camus: "One must imagine Sisyphus happy."


+ + + +


As an addendum I thought I'd return to a section from an earlier post entitled Stories I started but couldn't finish:

I have been thinking so much about solar energy, about how much of what I read, especially from a mainstream perspective, seems misplaced. When I read that we will not be able to generate enough energy using solar and wind, I feel they are completely missing the point. The points are:

1) That these new, sustainable technologies will force us to use less, will demonstrate – on a real, lived, experiential basis – that resources are renewable but not infinite.

2) That there is more autonomy, and less greedy profit, in a decentralized power grid.

3) That the many exorbitant expenses of polluting the air and water are simply not being factored into the standard calculations. Environmental devastation is expensive on every level.

But it is mainly the first point I obsess over. Let’s say you have solar panels on the roof of your house. Each day, you will use only as much energy as these panels generate. When it runs out you go to sleep and wait for the sun to come up tomorrow. The energy is not infinite, not available twenty-four hours a day. There are limits and you learn, out of necessity, how to live within them.

This, for me, is the main lesson of sustainable technologies. They would force us to live differently, to be aware of daily limits, to find solutions that acknowledge real limitations. They do not make life easier in every way. They make life harder in some ways, ways that force a fundamental shift in how we see the world and our place within it. I also suspect that working within a series of concrete, reasonable limitations would bring along with it a kind of reality and even joy.



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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 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 and also a fear that I might yet do so badly.


+ + + +


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.


+ + + +


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.


+ + + +


I did things that I knew were wrong. That I knew were wrong as I was doing them and that I still know are wrong today. Why did I do them? I actually believe I know why, know why with such an intense precision that as I think it cuts me in two. Yet each time I formulate these reasons they fall short. There was a meeting. I believe all of us were there, everyone I’ve ever met and everyone I’ve ever known. At the meeting I was asked to explain myself. I was told first I must change, then I must apologize to each of those I hurt, then they must each agree to forgive me. Over time I must continue to change. At any point I could be asked to leave and never come back. All of this was explained to me before I was allowed to explain my reasons. But of course there was no true need to explain it. I had been at these meeting, been a part of them. They do not happen often and I had not been to many. But I had been, and as I was doing the things I knew were wrong I also knew that this was the possibility. That there would be another meeting, I believe only the third or forth in my time, and that I would be its sole focus.

As I started to explain, those around watching and listening with such muted intensity, I hear my own voice as if it were a voice from somewhere else carefully speaking to me. The voice is saying that something came over me, a desire or a terror,



[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 Árbenz 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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May 17, 2015

C.E. Quote

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Loneliness, which is really lack of love, is the pain of being unable to be present, makes us inhabit our bodies differently. At its most radical, loneliness’ pain relates to a missing presence beyond any comprehension or memory, as the speech of what feels the unspeakable. Where it does not, or rather cannot, remain trapped in the self-soothing, heterosexual loops intended for it, it may become a question of political engagement.

- C.E., Undoing Sex: Against Sexual Optimism



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May 12, 2015

Jericho Brown Quote

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Poets whose work supports the status quo often fail to acknowledge that their poems are just as political as poets whose work questions it.

- Jericho Brown



From his text Love the Masters which can be found in The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind



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April 23, 2015

Anything is possible, but not everything.

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[This text was written for the performance One Thing Leads To Another by Emma Murray.]



Anything is possible, but not everything. Thinking you know exactly what is going to happen next is the easiest way to be wrong. Of all the things that are possible, among which we might even include many things that are relatively impossible, rather few are likely. It is possible that the next sentence in this text will be about dinosaurs, while it is likely that it will not. It is possible that human beings will become extinct much sooner than was previously thought.

Of the things that are possible, it is difficult to arrive at a percentage that might be generally understood to be desirable. If human beings were to become extinct, it might be said, from differing perspectives, to be both desirable and undesirable. After you, as an individual, are gone, why would you exactly care what does or doesn’t happen? But it is possible that you do. Or at least a part of you does. What might be the best way to understand this particular part?

Desire can be understood in terms of sex, but it can also be understood in terms of everything else. For example, the desire to be alive, or to continue living. The desire for the impossible, far from being a contradiction in terms, is in fact extremely common. Things that I desire that I am frequently, or at least implicitly, told are impossible: an end to war, an end to capitalism, powerful people treating those they have power over with enormous kindness and generosity, etc. But, of course, all of these things are essentially as possible as anything else. I see no proof otherwise.

It is possible that one thing causes another, but it is equally possible that it does not, or that we have the cause wrong. However, whether the cause is clear, unclear, or misleading, the desire to find and know the cause for any given thing is not difficult to understand. Every moment is a mystery waiting to be solved. Or a pleasure screaming to remain unsolved. A pleasure screaming to remain lost. Understanding everything completely and perfectly is the death of all pleasure. Fortunately this is impossible, and there is also of course great pleasure in learning, in coming to understand something. As every conspiracy lover knows all too well, almost everything happens for a reason, but then, every now and again, something beautiful happens for no reason at all.



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April 12, 2015

Unit of Measurement

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We hate the government
the government represents us
we hate the government that represents us
the government doesn’t represent us
it represents corporate interests
corporate interests that give them money
money they use to get us to vote for them
we don’t vote for them
but someone does
with thirty percent of the vote
you can have a majority
the majority never says to itself:
I feel inferior because I’m only
worth thirty percent
it says: I used strategy and guile
to flip my thirty percent
into absolute power
perhaps every vote feels superior to the vote
sitting next to it, glancing over,
thinking: let me handle this
I know what I’m doing
or perhaps not

Our vote represents us
we hate our vote, our choices
we hate the choices that represent us
a vote is a unit of measurement
but the hatred we feel for the government
cannot be measured
if you want to understand the present you
have to read history
if you want to understand history you
must understand human nature
human nature is malleable
it is formed by the society and
culture that surrounds it
perhaps not entirely
our history: we came here, said it was ours
but it wasn’t ours
there is enough for everyone if you’re willing to share
if you use only the small part that you actually need
they say the government is ours but it’s not ours
it’s against us, but that
doesn’t mean we’re not the same
the problem of government is a problem we all share

I know someone will tell me I shouldn’t
use the word hatred in this poem
that hatred is unproductive
but we do hate the government, I think,
how they reshape our world in their image
I know someone will tell me
I shouldn’t be so simplistic or didactic
but perhaps all I’m trying to say
is that the simple things are complex
and the complex things are as simple
as poison



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April 1, 2015

Two blank pages.

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Sometimes, when my notebook is almost full but not quite – the notebook I carry around in case I have a thought I want to write down, or when I’m working on a book or article – when this notebook is almost full but there are still five or ten empty pages left, I feel suddenly that I need a new notebook, a completely empty one. I feel this moment is almost the entire story of my life, always wanting a blank slate, to start again, to forget all the pages I have already written before I can even consider writing new ones, almost like a curse. The pages I have left empty over the years, always just a few at a time, if they were all put together could make up several new empty notebooks, but for me it never seems to work that way. I am writing this now because in this notebook I’m currently writing in there are only two blank pages left, and I want to fill them so I can then get a new notebook. I have already filled one page (my handwriting is large and clumsy and I only use every other line to make room for notes) and am now six lines into the second blank page. Why do I always want to start again? What do I hope will happen next time that hasn’t happened all the times before? Does this ‘wanting to start again’ make me a better artist or a worse one, and if I were to somehow leave it behind what would I actually be moving towards? I almost never look back over old notebooks, much like I so rarely think back over my life so far. But here near the bottom of the second, no longer blank page, I feel the way I almost always feel during endings: I don’t really want to deal with them so instead, while still asking myself questions, I just sort of throw them away.



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March 21, 2015

You can’t just do the moves, you’ve got to let go.

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Let’s say there was a writer who decided that, in his lifetime, he wanted to write a hundred books. Before he had even started his very first book he had already decided: I’m going to write a hundred books. Of course, the moment he finishes his first book he immediately starts writing his second, then his third, and on and on it goes. When he finishes book number fifty he thinks: this is amazing, I’m already half way there. Then, just after book sixty-two, he dies. As he is dying he thinks: I could have made it, I really could have made it to a hundred. Now let’s look at the content of the sixty-two books he did actually manage to write...



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March 18, 2015

How did I become so bitter? (comment stream)

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I posted the question "How did I become so bitter?" on Facebook. This is the comment stream:



Too much lemon. Go easy on the lemon next time.

not sure I could tell you how, but I could think of a few good reasons why

you're not bitter. the speed of your mind and the want in your heart can't be matched by the trudge of reality.

Could say the same

Funny, you don't look bitter.

bittersweet

Dig the i out and put an e. It will be - ok -

social media addiction

cuddle deficit?

how do you think it happened?

Because what you are doing is nearly impossible. But don't give up.

Old age, happening to me too

it´s because they lied to you......all of them.....

do not become bitter Jacob, we need you and your thoughts/posts...go out and sit in the sun and so...

I keep asking myself this too

I was born this bitter!

hahahaha. wondering the same myself. but its no mystery really!

Just happens with age. As soon as you start freakin out about hearing people who were born in the 80s are are now over 18 you become bitter.

It's just a logical reaction, at a certain point.

I tried bitter, but that stuff'll kill you. So I'm angry. Keeps all of the other feelings alive. In theory, at least. Maybe.

Because you didn't eat enough butter

I think my bitterness actually peaked in my early 20s, for some reason.

People keep telling me yoga and meditation keep the bitterness at bay, but the bitterness goes so well with the paranoia that I'm on the fence.

Maybe because deep down you are too sweet. Try doing something bad on purpose? Balance things out...

Or walk around making sensory observations until you forget the bitterness for at least a moment.

Are you bitter, or cynical. One is a waste of energy -- the other, the result of intelligence. At least that's the way it seems to me.

Perhaps because you still give a shit.

You seem too busy. But then I may be not busy enough

Half Japanese-Put some sugar on it

Bitterness is the fate of the idealist. Sunlight, lots of fluids and a GG award can help.

Sit in the sun and close your eyes. Try to think about who you are, rather than achievements

It's usually because your ratio of leaf to water is wrong, or the water is too hot, or you left yourself brewing too long. Try using a thermometer and a timer, just to practice for a bit, and take yourself out of the water before you usually do.

One of the tastes we try when the others grow tiresome

i ask myself the same question somedays, guess it must be the business

brush your teeth?

I'm wondering what took you so long.





Bonus track: The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea



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March 5, 2015

Passage from The Fourth World by Diamela Eltit

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When I turned twelve I had my first sexual encounter. Transmuted by the ancestral force of passion, I was on the verge of consummating the act, but I didn’t know then if I was being liberated to experience glory or to experience punishment, for all I wanted was to go further – I had to go much further – until I could fuse hesitation with acceleration, disorder with precision, in the sacred flesh.

It happened on a street. The sky was darkened with clouds. I was walking attentively along a narrow street when I sensed that someone was following me. My heart began to pound, yearning for the secret pleasure that emerged from some part of my brain.

I soon realized that I was not the one being followed, but the one following someone else, someone slender, walking unhurriedly, and seeming to glide along in an affected manner. The equivocal situation made me fear I was hallucinating, but the sound of the steps, the crisp air, and the uneven sidewalk confirmed that I was deeply immersed in a real situation.

I was astonished to realize that not only was I following an unknown person but also I didn’t know why I was doing it. Inexplicably, and in some crucial way, however, that moment pulled me away from the world I knew and pushed me into another in which that hieroglyphic person would make similarity and difference fade into one another.

At one particular moment I lost sight of the figure. Dejected and vexed by inertia, I began to double back, thinking nostalgically about my loss. I felt deprived of some absolute presence, more fundamental than my parents and more mysterious than the sum of my fluctuations.

Sadly, I started back. Of the four roads from which I could choose, each one was as equally possible as it was a mistake. I quickly realized that not only had I lost someone but also, in the search, I had become lost myself.

It would have been absurd to wager on which way I should return. One of those roads would take me home, but if I were to choose the wrong one, it would take me three times as long to get back. It seemed as if I were being punished for letting myself be guided by my impulses. Soon it was going to get dark and the city would become even more dangerous. I had been warned about it so many times that now it seemed like a dream to be exposed to it, just on the edge of twilight and shielded by anonymous, conventional dwellings.

Some curious faces observed me while I stood there, stubborn and rigid, trying to decide which way to go. Becoming desperate, I tried to reconstruct my original route, but each possibility seemed equally valid to me. As I got cold, I became more anxious, so I made a random choice. I had no memories or assumptions that would have convinced me that I should have headed south.

I was facing a long and lonely walk, intensified by fear every step of the way. There was nothing to distract me, except the darkness that was overtaking the sky ever so quickly.

Suddenly, when my miserable condition was too much for me to bear, I saw that same figure standing nearby. I froze, overwhelmed by irrepressible desire. Without thinking, I walked through the darkness, guided only by the scent of another person’s skin near me. I stopped.

I felt myself being pushed up against the stone wall, breathing in unison with the figure that was stroking me. Expert, soft hands ran all over my body and fingers pushed against me in order to remove my clothing. In that public exchange, those hands that traversed my body back and forth found their way to the most stimulated part of me.

Unable to feel the stone wall jabbing my back anymore, I sought a deeper reality once those caresses had prepared me for that moment. Feeling totally outside my body, I tried to touch the other person, but a pair of hands stopped me.

As if in apology, our mouths became fused with the passion of our saliva. My tongue became a sword, seeking not only to wound my rival but also to lick my ally.

Out mouths witnessed a combat of shifting liquids that became desperately and painfully prolonged. My breathing became nasally vulgar as the undulations, domination, and pricking left me out of breath. Unable to continue, I decided to consummate the act, but the figure fled, leaving me stinging against the stone wall.

Then the pain began. A sharp, genital pain, provoked by vigorous and demanding desire. Alone and shameless, I resigned myself to the personal glory that I had assiduously attained for the first time. Satisfaction was measured by the curve of desire and the dimension of abandonment. When the violence of the stones returned, I knew it was over.

The hours it took me to get home were agonizing, for I cursed and cursed the whole way, trying to destroy my sexual vitality. I saw myself as an outcast, I was unworthy of living with my family, and I felt as if my mind and body had been condensed into all the encrusted afflictions of the world.

At intervals, strong surges of well-being helped return me to a state of moderation, reducing the denigrated feeling I had about myself. The accursed sermon of reason incessantly accused me of a perfidious crime whose fine was permanent shame and horror.

I promised to make all kinds of sacrifices, even castration, in order to alleviate that burden; yet something had become hopelessly perverted in me and, deep inside, I had exposed myself to a cynical yet honest life.

I suffered intensely for several days but, little by little, even though I was feeling much anxiety, I concentrated on elucidating exactly what happened in that meeting on the street.

I couldn’t determine who or what seduced me that evening. Despite continually reconstructing that encounter I could never ascertain anything with any proof, even though I know I encountered youthful plentitude in the flesh of a young female beggar or a young male vagabond who, as night approached, performed a charitable act for me.

- Diamela Eltit, The Fourth World/El Cuarto Mundo



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March 4, 2015

The Doppelganger

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[This text was originally published in SIC #2/The Characters]



You turn the corner and there he is. He’s you but he’s not you. He’s pathetic. He’s you, but if you were someone else he would also be you. He’s the person you see unexpectedly when you’re walking down the street, turn a corner, and suddenly chance upon a version of yourself. But what I’m trying to explain is that it’s him. He’s always the same person. I realize this is not an original idea. Doppelgangers have a considerable history in literature and art, and this year alone there were two feature films about characters encountering their doubles. But he doesn’t need to be original because he’s you and, let’s face it, you’re not so original either.

All of this is only preamble. What’s important is that we try to see things from his perspective. Because he knows that he is in fact himself, but you know that he is also you. If you woke up tomorrow with another face, you might have an intense moment of crisis, but in the end you would still know that you’re yourself. And when you turn the corner to stumble upon him, for him it is a bit like he has just awoke with another face, your face, but he’s used to it. It might have bothered him a long time ago, when all this first began, but now it no longer phases him. He simply glances in your direction, thinking here we go again. He’s accepted the fact that constantly others will approach him, others who view him differently than he views himself.

Over time he has become philosophical about the matter. Everyone believes they have a self and is encouraged to over-invest in this belief. However, since his own self is, on an almost daily basis, undermined by the intense projections of relative strangers, he has no choice but to take the opposite road. He works each day to under-invest in his own sense of self, to see it most clearly where the edges blur and he is indistinguishable from many of those who surround him.

Over time he has come to find a strange comfort in this daily fact. As you turn the corner, stumble upon him, and are disturbed, thrown off-guard by your sudden encounter with some new version of yourself, he takes it all in stride. We are each, perhaps, ourselves. But, at the same time, every street is filled with hundreds of others who might also be us, and if they were, or are, what difference would it really make to each of our lives? All you have to do is turn a corner.



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February 26, 2015

Six quotations on suicide

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During the decline of Christian moralism few groups have risen so rapidly in the overall estimation of society [as the suicide has.] It was dangerous for Donne to suggest that suicide was sometimes not a sin. It was still daring for Hume to reason that it was sometimes not a crime. Later one had to point out that it was sometimes not simply a sickness of the soul. Now it seems necessary to argue that it is sometimes not a virtue. To paraphrase Freud, what does a suicide want? Not what he gets, surely. Some simply think of death as the absence of their present state, a state which pursues them like a malignant disease and which cannot be otherwise escaped. Others consider it quite positively, as thought to die were to get on in the world. Seventh Heaven, after all, is a most desirable address. Still others spend their life like money, purchasing this or that, but their aim is to buy, not to go broke. Are we to say to them (all and every kind) what we often say to children? no, Freddie, you don’t want a pet boa, you wouldn’t like the way it swallows mice.

It doesn’t follow at all that because it is easy enough to kill yourself, it is easy enough to get, in that case, what you want. Can you really be said to want what you cannot possibly understand? or what you are in abysmal confusion about? or what is provenly contrary to your interests? or is plainly impossible? Is ‘I’d rather be dead’ anything like ‘I want to be a chewed-up marshmallow’; or: ‘I want 6 and 3 to make 10’; or: ‘I want to be a Fiji princess’; or: ‘I want a foot-long-dong’; or: ‘I want that seventh scotch-on-the-rocks’; or ‘I would love to make it with Lena Horne’?
– William H. Gass, The World Within the Word



Suicide is a crime of loneliness, and adulated people can be frighteningly alone. Intelligence does not help in these circumstances; brilliance is almost always profoundly isolating.
– Andrew Solomon



The obsession with suicide is characteristic of the man who can neither live nor die, and whose attention never swerves from this double impossibility.
– E. M. Cioran



The destructive character lives from the feeling not that life is worth living, but that suicide is not worth the trouble.
– Walter Benjamin, The Destructive Character



Vollmann reports that suicide rates drop dramatically in people older than forty. Because, as he rightly surmises, the absurdity of doing what nature will do anyway reveals itself.
– Julie Carr, 100 Notes on Violence



Only the suicide thinks he can leave by the door that is merely painted on the wall.
– Vladimir Holan



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