December 12, 2017

Some favourite things from my 2017

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[So, yes, I really do love lists. As with previous years, many things on this list were released prior to 2017. The brevity of the last three categories reflects nothing besides the fact that I did not see as much as I might have. I seem to be doing this every year now...]



Books:
The Gift – Barbara Browning
Houses of Ravicka – Renee Gladman
The Estrangement Principle – Ariel Goldberg
As We Have Always Done – Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
This Accident of Being Lost – Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace – Patty Yumi Cottrell
Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands – Stuart Hall
From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate – Nathaniel Mackey
Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility – Ashon Crawley
Our Gospel of Regicide – Eunsong Kim
Lady of Perpetual Realness & Other Stories – Cason Sharpe
Dear Cyborgs – Eugene Lim
Rag Cosmology – Erin Robinsong
I have to live – Aisha Sasha John
Crawlspace – Nikki Wallschlaeger
Indivisible – Fanny Howe


Music:
Mich Cota – Kijà / Care
Yves Tumor – Experiencing the Deposit of Faith
Outro Tempo: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992
Poly Styrene – Translucence
Nadah El Shazly – Ahwar
November – Olympia
Carla dal Forno – You Know What It’s Like
Little Simz – Stillness in Wonderland
Group Doueh & Cheveu – Dakhla Sahara Session
Leikeli47 – Wash & Set
Moses Sumney – Aromanticism
GAIKA – SECURITY
Le fruit vert – Paon perdu
The Drums – Abysmal Thoughts
Gigi – Maintenant
The Style Council – Our Favourite Shop
Henry Threadgill & Make A Move – Where’s Your Cup
Kendrick Lamar – Damn


Performance:
Non Finito – Système Kangourou
DIY Haunt – Yen-Chao Lin
The Clapback – Niv Acosta


Film:
Deep Inside Clint Star – Clint Alberta
Random Acts of Legacy – Ali Kazimi


Visual Art:
Wood Land School
Parade of Champions – Michèle Pearson Clarke



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December 5, 2017

A YouTube playlist of 562 videos (and counting). With bonus playlists of tracks by Junie Morrison and Jenifa Mayanja.




I've now made YouTube playlists in 2010, 2011, Japan, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The above playlist is 562 videos (and counting) which means that this entire thing has now gotten completely and stupidly out of hand.

Every day on the internet I hear new music that I like (or think I like at the time.) But for the most part it doesn't stick. The next day I can't remember what I heard the previous day. And, more importantly, there's new music to hear which overrides the need to look back. (However, much of this music from the past year I have added to this playlist as I go. So this is the record of things I never look back over.)

I am currently living in an apartment with no internet in an attempt to mitigate my social media addiction. When my record player broke years ago I didn't get a new one. Instead I returned to CDs (which for some reason I'm ashamed to admit I prefer.) Most nights I leave my computer at the office and listen to CDs at home. I listen to many of these CDs over and over and over again and therefore they definitely stick. Something I find strange is that much of the music I hear online I don't know how to get on CD. Much of it doesn't even exist on CD.

I was planning to write more about how my music listening life is now so clearly divided between online and offline. But I think you get the idea. Instead...



Walter "Junie" Morrison died at the beginning of 2017 and to celebrate his life and music I made a short playlist of some of my favourite Junie Morrison tracks:





And I also discovered the music of Jenifa Mayanja this year (who is very much alive and amazing) and I also made a short playlist of some my favourite Jenifa Mayanja tracks:





(I wonder if I will actually do this again next year. I keep promising myself I won't do this ever again. Music makes me weak.)




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November 5, 2017

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson Quote

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Kinetics, the act of doing, isn’t just praxis; it also generates and animates theory within Indigenous contexts, and it is the crucial intellectual mode for generating knowledge. Theory and praxis, story and practice are interdependent, cogenerators of knowledge. Practices are politics. Processes are governance. Doing produces more knowledge. The idea is repeated over and over again in Nishnaabeg story and for me ultimately come from the Seven Fires creation story as told to me by spiritual leader Edna Manitowabi and recorded in Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back. Through this story, she taught me that knowledge or existence itself is a function of intellectual thought, emotional knowledge, and kinetics or movement. Gzhwe Manidoo (The Creator, the one who loves us unconditionally) didn’t research about creating the world or think about creating the world. Gzhwe Manidoo created the world by struggling, failing, and by trying again and again in some of our stories. Mistakes produce knowledge. Failure produces knowledge because engagement in the process changes the actors embedded in process and aligns bodies with the implicate order. The only thing that doesn’t produce knowledge is thinking in and of itself, because it is data created in dislocation and isolation and without movement.

- Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, As We Have Always Done



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October 29, 2017

Three Fragments

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1.
When the new generation arrive with their energy and ambition and you become the previous generation and of course you have their respect but of course they are also more concerned with their own trajectory, still fragile, which they believe, perhaps correctly, requires the full force of their attention and energy to achieve liftoff, and you are now the previous generation, you once achieved liftoff, now are flying, but such flight feels anything but steady, and whatever advice you might be able to offer might only bring them closer to your own current precariousness, and they need to make different mistakes than you so they can be a different generation and who are you to them and who are they to you and is it ever possible to know.


2.
Today on the street someone came up to me, said I hate your books, and punched me in the face. He broke my glasses. I previously didn't wear glasses. I've only had them for about two months and can't quite get used to wearing them. Now they're broken and my entire face hurts. After he punched me he ran, as if I was going to run after him. I feel that if he'd actually read any of my books he'd know I wasn't going to run after him. I've never ran after anyone in my life.


3. 
Reading a non-fiction book and encountering a minor character, a character mentioned only in passing, but who is clearly portrayed as despicable, and then gradually realizing the character is based on you.



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October 20, 2017

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson Quote

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Coming to know also requires complex, committed, consensual engagement. Relationships within Nishnaabewin are based upon the consent – the informed (honest) consent – of all beings involved. The word consensual here is key because if children learn to normalize dominance and non-consent within the context of education, then non-consent becomes a normalized part of the ‘tool kit’ of those who have and wield power. Within the context of settler colonialism, Indigenous peoples are not seen as worthy recipients of consent, informed or otherwise, and part of being colonized is having to engage in all kinds of processes on a daily basis that, given a choice, we likely wouldn’t consent to. In my experiences with the state-run education system, my informed consent was never required – learning was forced on me using the threat of emotional and physical violence. In post-secondary education, consent was coercive – if you want these credentials, this is what you have to do and this is what you have to endure. This is unthinkable within Nishnaabeg intelligence. In fact, if there isn’t a considerable amount of demonstrated interest and commitment on the part of the learner, learning doesn’t occur at all. Raising Indigenous children in a context where their consent, physically and intellectually, is not just required but valued, goes a long way to undoing the replication of colonial gender violence.

- Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Land As Pedagogy: Nishnaabeg Intelligence and Rebellious Transformation



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October 18, 2017

"I sometimes say I’m too much of an artist for my own good."

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There are so many different ways of looking at this question. The world seems to be in quite bad shape these days – though this might have always been the case – and art seems like such a weak response when compared to all the overwhelming injustice and looming catastrophe that confronts us on a daily basis. What is a work of art when compared to rising fascism, climate chaos, the constant and unconscionable abuses of racism, patriarchy and capitalism. Art can often feel like sticking ones head in the sand and I have no real proof that it’s not. What’s worse, art can feel like an alibi for humanity. We might kill, torture, bomb and rape but we can’t be all bad because we also make beautiful things like art. This is normally the part where I’m supposed to come up with the counter-arguments: that art can change peoples hearts and minds. But I’m not so sure that it can, at least not in ways that are significant enough to make a difference. There are no individual solutions to collective problems.

So why do I keep doing it then? I have no good answer. I’m simply an artist (of some sort) and that’s what I’m here to do. I sometimes say I’m too much of an artist for my own good. As well, it might also be true that the ‘crisis of meaning and ambivalence towards art that is endemic within the field’ has little to do with such political questions. We live in strange times (and people in every age and era have also lived in strange times.) So many of the ways people have generated meaning for themselves during previous worlds and eras no longer seem to have the required support. A sense of place, connection and community are all difficult to come by today. (I would say that capitalism needs to destroy these things in order to have our labor when and how they need it for the best possible price.) But I also don’t want to romanticize the past. I suspect meaning has been difficult to come by at every point in history. Especially for those who can see through the empty platitudes that are so often used to stand in for it.

Nonetheless, I think these are important questions for art to ask itself. I’m all for an art that asks itself much harder questions, whatever form they might take.

- from an interview with Heather Jones in Contemporary Art Stavanger



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October 17, 2017

that we bear responsibility

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We were all raised in a sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic culture. No one is immune from it's influence. We all have these things inside us. They are equally structural and perpetrated by individuals. Those who most benefit from these power dynamics have the most to lose in their undoing, have the most to gain by perpetuating them, and, at the very least, find it easiest not to see the daily injustices they create and perpetuate. But I think change always begins with seeing the overwhelming degree to which power imbalances and hatreds are part of our culture, part of our lives, part of ourselves. And change is always stunted by denying that problems exist and especially in denying that we are a part of them and that we bear responsibility. The people who most benefit have the most to gain from such denials. Yet for anyone who substantially benefits, so often it feels so much better to say or think 'it's not me', it's not me who is being sexist, racist, homophobic or transphobic. Or standing by and saying nothing while others do. The first step to honestly fighting injustice is seeing the many ways we are part of it, while - if we are well-meaning - finding strategies to never become paralyzed by this fact, strategies which also lead to action.



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October 4, 2017

Jacob Wren / PME-ART in Stavanger, Bergen and Oslo

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Stavanger

Every Song I've Ever Written - Solo
Thursday, October 19th, 2017 / 6pm-11pm
at RIMI/IMIR
Facebook Event



Bergen

Every Song I've Ever Written - Solo
Saturday, October 21st, 2017 / 6pm-11pm
Meteor Festival
BIT Teatergarasjen / USF Verftet
Facebook Event

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Book launches: Polyamorøs Kjærlighetssang & Samferdsel
(Bergen launch for the Norwegian translation of Polyamorous Love Song)
Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 / 1pm
Visningsrommet USF 
Facebook Event

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Every Song I've Ever Written - Band Night
Featuring: Elida + Johannes Fjeldstad + Kvit Skit + Second Pest + Craig Wells & Rudi Valdersnes
Monday, October 23rd, 2017 / 10pm-midnight
Meteor Festival
BIT Teatergarasjen / USF Verftet
Facebook Event



Oslo

Lansering av Jacob Wrens «Polyamorøs kjærlighetssang»
(Launch of the Norwegian translation of Polyamorous Love Song)
Wednesday, October 25th, 7:30pm
Deichmanske bibliotek, Grünerløkka / Schous plass 10
Facebook Event




Every Song I've Ever Written is a project by PME-ART



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September 27, 2017

Trophies Are the First to Go: A fiction

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[This story was originally published in Raphaëlle de Groot: Rencontres au sommet / The Summit Meetings]




There are things I still have and things I have given away. Of the things I still have I also have lists of the things I still have. Of the things I have given away I now only have the lists. The lists were created with an absolute attention to detail. An attention to detail more detailed than my extremely accurate attention to my own ongoing thoughts. There are thoughts I still have and thoughts I have given away. The border between my thoughts and the objects, the thoughts I still have and the objects I still have, and the thoughts I have given away and the objects I have given away, is a hazy one. A hazy ever-shifting border that gives me little information I am able to make use of. I am beginning to realize that the objects are also thoughts. I understand what is needed and what is needed is wisdom and the objects have wisdom and the objects have thoughts.

The weight of objects is also of the people they belonged to. The objects belonged to me but they also belonged to others. Some of them belonged to others before me and others will belong to others after they are gone. But across this belonging is the freedom of these objects to move, meet and gather both in reality and in a space that is nothing like reality that I am here calling thought. Here we might wish to speak of a certain solidarity between objects, how objects alone can more easily be moved, disassembled or reorganized in a manner that could also be stated as a sort of ongoing misunderstanding between the objects and the world. But when the objects are experienced as concurrent, are allowed to meet, to work together, they also know that now they must be reckoned with. A new complexity develops and it is no longer as unthinkingly possible to do only as we wish. Each object on each list is no longer a single, isolated line but is joined towards some larger, perhaps ungraspable, statement and whole. At times even when things and objects meet it is as if they haven’t quite yet met. Various elements, various subtle and not so subtle conditions, remain necessary in order for the meeting to become more than a meeting that has simply taken place. These conditions might be classified as vibrations or thoughts.

Objects do not die and neither do thoughts. When objects are insecure they become more solid, more themselves. It is difficult to know how to record this additional stability, how to submit it, towards the careful logic of the lists. It is the same object, whether here or gone, but it is also no longer quite the same. It is more, and this more must be recorded along a register of insecurity. This insecurity belongs to each of the individual objects but also belongs to the resonances that occur and refract when they meet. We might understand each object, not only the objects that I know about, that I still have or that have left me, but in fact all things we wish to consider, as having gone through any number of stages. I could be one of these stages or my involvement might be too superficial to merit specific mention. Having been recorded on a list might be yet another stage. Rusting, having been buried, having been loved or stolen or set aflame or given as a gift – all of these occurrences might be considered as stages within the ongoing life of the object.

Most objects consist of varying materials. Each material has a specific origin and when all the materials come together they create a space that might be described as yet another origin. The relationship between the different senses embedded within each of these origins is complex. It might be described as akin to a body that has a home, or many homes, yet within this body there is also a spirit that comes from elsewhere. When the body dies the spirit returns to this elsewhere. But the object, like a thought, never dies, and therefore the materials must find other ways of returning to the place from which they came, chipping off particle by particle, spreading themselves out across an expanse as collaborative and ongoing as the seasons.

We also cannot ignore the fact that each of these materials has been extracted from its connection with other materials using a certain degree of violence. The history of this violence holds itself within the composition of each object. Things change and things stay the same. Holding a given object in your hand, you might feel a resonance or vibration. I am currently, as part of the lists, working on a theory, a sort of poetic spectrum along which it might be possible to map the various qualities of these resonances, both for the holder and for the object. Insecurity and violence might both be seen as specific points or areas along this spectrum. This theorized spectrum will of course be subjective, but it will also express itself as a desire to be universal. At the beginning, the spectrum will only explore an object in the palm of your hand, but I see no reason why from that basic starting point it might not continue outward towards other points of connection both physical and psychic.

It is most productive when the objects choose to work together. The added solidity of their collaboration is a phenomena that I can observe, but it is also a phenomena that significantly changes me in my observation of it. The precise ways in which I am changed are perhaps the point. At first I thought the point was mainly that some objects remained here while other objects have been given away, but now I suspect that this is merely a detail. The objects might find themselves working together either here or elsewhere, at any stage in time, and also in ways that have little to do with time. What is most important is that these things do not need me in order to meet, do not need my observation or categorization. They need only to come together within the thought of solidarity, only to find a certain realm of vibration that adds solidity to each of the objects in dialog with the solidity added to each of the other objects. Once the strengthening has begun there is no reason for the objects to abandon the constellation they have so recently discovered. Over time this constellation also solidifies, and once this has occurred, if the objects are to be moved, it is far more likely that they will be moved all together, as an entirety, and far less likely that any of the individual things will be separated, by me or of their own initiative, from the larger group.

There are many categories of lists and many contradictions between categories. There are lists that clearly undermine the tentative conclusions of other lists, and lists that summarize the findings of several lists in ways in which it is difficult to correlate the overall findings with the specific findings of each of the lists that have been aggregated. When put all together, the lists do not resemble any sort of useful entirety. They are more like thoughts. Nonetheless, compiling the lists is an act that gives meaning. I also suspect, in my more generous moments, that the objects intuit the existence of the many lists, that the lists provide information, information released into a continuum, that creates sympathetic conditions for potential object solidarity and coming together. The lists do not touch the objects but the objects entwine with a world in which the lists are now one additional thing that exist.

The relationship between the actual stages each object must pass through and the poetic spectrum I am gradually conceiving is both essential and under-theorized. Many of the same terms (insecurity, violence, solidity, contentment) appear within both of these speculations. The object has its particular life, a life that is never entirely available to my understanding of it, and within this life there are sections I am here referring to as stages. Some of these stages are fairly dramatic while most are not. A stage might last a single moment or a thousand years but for the object this way of measuring time will likely not affect either the quality or quantity of any particular stage. A stage might most be considered a stage if it in some way alters one or more registers of the object. In this sense it might be said that it tilts against or within a given point along the spectrum. If, when holding an object in your hand, you sense its spectrum-value resonate with what we are currently calling ‘contentment’, it is likely that at some point in either the past or future the object developed through a stage that drew contentment towards it, or generated contentment in some other way. I don’t wish to be vague. But in order to further theorize this dynamic between a given stage and a given moment along the spectrum I would require either thoughts or information not currently in my possession. It might also be possible for the objects themselves to theorize this relationship, and perhaps the manner in which they often form and hold themselves in constellation could even be seen as some form of theorization along these lines.

There is a special list, hidden away, for objects that have caused death. On this list I have also included objects that saved lives. There is no inescapable reason for this list to remain hidden, since the objects take on these experiences, these particular stages, without differentiating them from any of the others. The qualities these more dramatic events evoke or generate become non-dramatic as they are gradually reduced towards the level of vibration, as they are weaved into a region of the object’s poetic spectrum over time. The objects are not traumatized since they themselves do not die. It would be reasonable to assume that this special list might represent intensities of violence, but it also might just as easily evoke something else: for example, intensities of desire or warmth. Nonetheless, this hidden away list represents for me a noticeable, at times troubling, aspect of both the objects that remain here and the objects that have since gone elsewhere. Apart from the lists and my thoughts, there is little evidence or hearsay as to what may or may not have occurred at any given stage. You might hold an object in your hand and sense a certain contentment, or be surrounded by a constellation of objects and feel influenced by the striking echo of their increased solidity, but neither of these experiences provide anything resembling clear information as to the historical source of this contentment or solidity, or as to why it at first emerged. But with the lists at my disposal, working backwards from moments along the spectrum towards past or future stages, I can begin to formulate certain thoughts that merge with the objects themselves towards an ever-increasing understanding of what they are and, more importantly, how they themselves understand the interconnected histories we might in some sense be said to be co-composing. Most of this history, however strongly felt, would be of little interest to anyone other than the objects and myself within the thoughts that circulate freely between us. But when matters of life and death are brought to bear on the situation, it is possible but not inevitable that evidence might alert the curiosity of certain authorities. In keeping this life and death list hidden I worry I’m becoming paranoid, while at the same time reassuring myself that I’m simply exercising a reasonable degree of normal caution.

All of these things didn’t make themselves, but I didn’t make myself either. The materials of which I am made for the most part remain invisible to me, but might be drawn into the realm of visibility through certain forms of analysis. The materials the objects consist of can be subjected to analysis, but can also be felt as vibrations, or registered through co-felt insecurity. This dynamic might also be understood as an unresolved conflict, and over time my understanding of it has also considerably shifted. In trying to understand the importance of the objects and of the constellations they come together and self-organize within – trying to understand through thoughts, through composition of many contradictory lists, through lending myself to the resonances that contemplation of these things so readily concocts – what becomes most clear is that the objects have no particular desires they wish to enact upon me, do not want me to behave more in this way or more in that, do not mind if I continue to experience them or instead some day choose to put my energies elsewhere. The ways I change through them are procured only through my own commitment and contemplation. And, at the same time, it increasingly seems to me that the opposite is also true, that the objects do in some sense have plans for me, if only in the sense that my ongoing engagement with their spectrum brings a certain clarity to my own actions and trajectory. By keeping the objects and letting them go, by letting my thoughts bleed and blur with their ever-changing intensities, I find myself doing things that I suspect I would not have otherwise done, and am therefore forced to realize that the person doing these things is also no longer the same. The objects skilfully wear their wisdom through their solidity and vibrations, and when faced with wisdom one would be a simple fool not to listen and not to learn.

At the moment I am sitting at my desk surrounded by a constellation of objects that formed overnight as if by magic. But, of course, I know that it was not magic. That the objects found each other, and in finding each other became something else, a world that raises almost as many questions as it answers. I can pick up an object in order to feel its weight and examine it, but when I put it back down I already know I will place it more or less within its given place in the larger grouping. These things would not have it any other way. There is a kind of music to these choices. I am tempted to count how many lists I have already completed but know there would be little point. The lists are only lists. It is in the act of making them that certain epiphanies or correlations will occur. Perhaps all of this could have happened without the lists, but the lists were the particular tool I chose. I’m sure I had my reasons and these reasons seemed particularly sufficient at the time. Surrounded by this constellation, I was tempted to write ‘enveloped’ by it, I feel there is at least something in this world that supports me. I might, at times, become lonely but I am certainly not alone. Someone examining the situation from afar might say I have collected these things but I know, to the contrary, that they have collected themselves. They are gifts that have been caught in the act of giving and they are lessons that do not need to be taught in order to be felt. None of these objects have a price.



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September 22, 2017

First draft of the Authenticity is a Feeling short description

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Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART is a compelling hybrid of history, memoir and performance theory. It tells the story of the interdisciplinary performance group PME-ART and their ongoing endeavor to make a new kind of highly collaborative theatre dedicated to the fragile but essential act of “being yourself in a performance situation.” Written, among other things, to celebrate PME-ART’s twentieth anniversary, the book begins when Jacob Wren meets Sylvie Lachance and Richard Ducharme, moves from Toronto to Montreal to make just one project, but instead ends up spending the next twenty years creating an eccentric, often bilingual, art. It is a book about being unable to learn French yet nonetheless remaining co-artistic director of a French-speaking performance group, about the Spinal Tap-like adventures of being continuously on tour, about the rewards and difficulties of intensive collaborations, about making performances that break the mold and confronting the repercussions of doing so. A novel about PME-ART. A book that aims to change the rules for how interdisciplinary performance can be written about today.




[Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART is a new book I'm currently working on which will be published by BookThug in Spring 2018.]


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September 4, 2017

"And whose work has no impact on their lives or the lives of the people around them."

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This manual encourages us to find out what happens if we don't deliver. If we don't give students the standard slide show, but instead make them take off their socks and rub their feet with mustard.

We know that spicy feet will not be an instant salvation, but we believe in going outside, in using our bodies and not only our brains, in absurd interventions, in silly jokes, in creating atmospheres, in learning in the gap, in destabilizing our position, in talking about money. We believe in letting things go so wrong that thinking about them ten years later still makes our stomachs hurt.

Because this experimentation is more relevant to us than mindlessly repeating what doesn't work: breeding generations of artists, who religiously believe in self-expression and individualism but look the same, think the same, act the same. And whose work has no impact on their lives or the lives of the people around them.

- Teaching for people who prefer not to teach



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August 20, 2017

Three Montreal Events in September

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I will be doing three events in Montreal in September as follows: 



Tuesday, September 5th at 8:30pm:
Resonance Reading Series: September
with Stephanie Bolster, Kelly Norah Drukker, Dean Garlick, Christine McNair & Jacob Wren
Resonance Café - 5175A Ave du Parc
Facebook Event
 


Saturday, September 9th at 8pm:
The Desire that Crosses You / Le Désir qui Te Traverse
Presented by the QUIMERAS collective
with Sophia Dacy-Cole, Camille Käse, Csenge Kolozsvari, Mayra Morales, Mariana Marcassa, Eugene Park, Claire Skahan, Ludmila Steckelberg de Santana, Anique Vered & Jacob Wren
Eastern Bloc - 7240 Clark St
Facebook Event



Saturday, Sept 16th at 2pm:
Hard to Read: Process/processus
A bilingual event presented by Art Pop/POP Montreal Symposium
with Michele Nox, Alix Ferrand, Jacob Wren, Monique Palma Whittaker, Durga Chew-Bose, Trevor Gould / curated by Fiona Duncan
Ancienne École des beaux-arts - 3450, rue Saint-Urbain
Facebook Event




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August 17, 2017

Stuart Hall Quote

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Contrary to common-sense understanding, the transformations of self-identity are not just a personal matter. Historical shifts out there provide the social conditions of existence of personal and psychic change in here. What mattered was how I positioned myself on the other side - or positioned myself to catch the other side: how I was, involuntarily, hailed by and interpellated into a broader social discourse. Only by discovering this did I begin to understand that what black identity involved was a social, political, historical and symbolic event, not just a personal, and certainly not simply a genetic, one.

From this I came to understand that identity is not a set of fixed attributes, the unchanging essence of the inner self, but a constantly shifting process of positioning. We tend to think of identity as taking us back to our roots, the part of us which remains essentially the same across time. In fact identity is always a never-completed process of becoming - a process of shifting identifications, rather than a singular, complete, finished state of being.

- Stuart Hall, Familiar Stranger 



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August 13, 2017

“If the Soviet Union could dissolve, why not the United States?”

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In this spirit Cherríe Moraga remains “passionately committed to an art of resistance to domination by Anglo-America.” And what is her vision for the future? She says the words few people utter aloud: “If the Soviet Union could dissolve, why not the United States?” Why not, indeed? And why not a new confederacy of equal, mutually respectful cultures and peoples? “The road to our future is the road from our past.”

- Elizabeth Martínez, The Third Eye of Cherríe Moraga



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August 12, 2017

The music of Jenifa Mayanja




I just discovered the music of Jenifa Mayanja who is playing tonight in Montreal. Above are a few of my favourite tracks. Better yet, check out all her albums on Bandcamp.



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August 11, 2017

“It might be nice to be a girl, ‘cause then I wouldn’t have to be emotionless.”

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"One avenue into understanding men’s loneliness is to consider how children are socialized. In an interview, Niobe Way, a lecturer at New York University who has worked with adolescent boys for over two decades, talked about how we are failing boys. “The social and emotional skills necessary for boys to thrive are just not being fostered,” she said in an interview. Indeed, when you look at the research, men do not start life as the stereotypes we become. Six-month-old boys are likely to “cry more than girls,” more likely to express joy at the sight of our mother’s faces, and more likely to match our expressions to theirs. In general, before the age of four or five, research shows that boys are more emotive than girls.

The change begins around the time we start school: at that age—about five—boys become worse than girls at “changing our facial expressions to foster social relationships.” This is the beginning of a socialization process in “a culture that supports emotional development for girls and discourages it for boys,” according to Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson. This begins to affect our friendships early—in a study in New Haven, Connecticut, boys aged 10-18 were significantly worse than girls at knowing who their friends were: “over a two-week period, the boys changed their nomination of who their best friend was more frequently than girls, and their nomination was less likely to be reciprocated.”

Still, there’ll never be better soil than school in which to grow friendships, and most boys do find good friends as children. Way, who summarized her findings in her book Deep Secrets, found that, up until early adolescence, boys are not shy about how much they love their friends. Way quotes one boy named Justin in his first year of high school: “[My best friend and I] love each other… That’s it… you have this thing that is deep, so deep, it’s within you, you can’t explain it. … I guess in life, sometimes two people can really, really understand each other and really have a trust, respect, and love for each other.” Another high school freshman, Jason, told Way friendships were important because then “you are not lonely … you need someone to turn to when things are bad.”

However, for many boys—Way calls it “near-universal”—a shift occurs in late adolescence, roughly from the ages of 15-20. In a phase of life we often think of in optimistic terms—self-discovery, coming of age—boys’ trust in each other shatters like glass. Three years after his first interview, Jason, asked if he had any close friends, said no, “and immediately adds that while he has nothing against gay people, he himself is not gay.” Another boy interviewed by Way in the eleventh grade who up until the year before had maintained a best friendship for ten years said he now had no friends because “you can’t trust nobody these days.” In interviews with thousands of boys, Way saw a tight correlation between confiding in close friends and mental health, and she observed that, across all ethnic groups and income brackets, three quarters of the boys she spoke to “grow fearful of betrayal by and distrustful of their male peers” in late adolescence, and “begin to speak increasingly of feeling lonely and depressed.”

Making matters worse, in the middle of this estrangement from other boys, as we’re becoming young men, we’re governed more than ever by a new set of rules about what behaviour we’re allowed to show. Psychologists call them display rules. “Expressions of hurt and worry and of care and concern for others,” according to white high schools boys, are “gay” or “girly.” Black and Hispanic boys, according to Way’s interviews, feel pressure to conform to even stricter rules. Men who break the rules, and express “sadness, depression, fear, and dysphoric self-conscious emotions such as shame and embarrassment” are viewed as “unmanly” and are comforted less than women. Way told me when she speaks in public, she often quotes a 16-year-old boy who said, “It might be nice to be a girl, ‘cause then I wouldn’t have to be emotionless.”

- Stephen Thomas, from The Legion Lonely



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August 10, 2017

Excerpt from a Tori Kudo interview

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Keith Connolly: What then, would you say, is the state of Maher Shalal Hash Baz today?

Tori Kudo: That’s a difficult question. It’s very difficult to run, though I am trying. In a way it could be said that Maher does not exist anymore. All the original members are gone, so now I accept whoever comes to Maher, and they are more like participants. I can continue that way, and I can create songs, so if you want to call that Maher, it’s okay. In some ways it is becoming more of a theatrical undertaking, akin maybe to Pasolini with all his actors being like a theater group, or the same actors playing in different films. I have worked with the Montreal-based playwright Jacob Wren in creating the play “No Double Life for the Wicked,” about the members of Maher and their daily lives. For example, in the play I am making pottery. It’s an attempt to show how Maher has become Maher, a kind of meta-Maher.




[You can read the full interview here.]


[And you can read a Moone Records Exclusive Interview with Tori Kudo here.]




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July 17, 2017

Do you know the work of the Montreal writer Jacob Wren?

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Luther Konadu: So knowing that as a writer, how do you carry on and continue to sustain a writing career knowing that maybe no one might read your book?

Chris Kraus: Well, it’s not one. You can find people to read your book, even if it doesn’t have that corporate media support. Do you know the work of the Montreal writer Jacob Wren?

Luther Konadu: No, I don’t.

Chris Kraus: He hasn’t been commercially published, but he’s prolific, persistent and important, and he puts his work online all the time. He’s built a tremendous following in the last ten years. He started at a point where no one knew his work, and now pretty much everyone in the alt-lit world, where the real readers are, knows his work and takes it seriously. And touring helps. When I Love Dick came out in 1997, I toured a lot. Maybe fifteen people would show up, and then they’d talk about it to their friends. And often, a book will mean more when people discover it themselves than when they order it on Amazon because it’s all over the internet.


[From In Conversation With Chris Kraus.]

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Dr. Ahmet Yusuf Quote

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The world experienced a revolution in 1492. In 1498 it experienced another. The results were hardly beneficial but they have come to be remembered as revolutions. Let us accept them and assess them as such. In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. In 1498 Vasco da Gama was exploring Africa and passing behind Africa was able to reach India. Following these two encounters a period of savagery and oppression begins on earth. The wealth of the locals whose land had been “discovered” were seized. The foundations of the capitalist nation-state were being laid in the flows of Mercantilism. The nation-state, whose foundations had been laid in this period, became much stronger during its classical period in the 19th Century. The savagery which emerged with this development was of its own creation. It also had the name of capitalism. It looked upon life, communities, societies, and nature only with the eyes of the colonialist. Externally it developed through oppression, colonialism, and pillage, while internally it did not recognize the right to life of the poorer classes. Representatives of the church also played a role in these developments, for example Robert Malthus. Economic developments in the world grew along this first course.

The second course began with the publication of the Communist Manifesto developed under the leadership of Karl Marx in the 1840s. Existing savagery and oppression in the market was to be taken from the capitalists and transferred to the state. The second course developed in opposition to the first. The 20th Century saw a little development in this direction but it was not able to produce a solution for the social or economic problems of humanity. Nor could it solve the problems of freedom for communities, peoples and cultures. Communities were only considered with respect to economic factors. For that reason the problems of freedom, equality, and justice could not be solved. This [second] course was shaped by Marxist-Leninism. It became concrete in the guise of the Soviet Union. It saw some development. However it was also organized as a dictatorship of the Proletariat. Capitalist countries closed themselves against it in fear. They were seized with fear that communism would spread from Eastern to Western Europe. For this reason certain social and economic schools of thought founded in the West came out with a third course. This was a new course. Its goal was to obstruct the spread of Communism in Europe, to prevent it. They planned to accomplish this by returning some of the rights seized from the poor and from workers during capitalism’s development. This third course became stronger through the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This course created a beautiful life for the workers of Germany, France and Switzerland. Workers became the bearers of other rights than just labor rights. In the Scandinavian countries workers achieved this at a very high level.

In 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union, this course disappeared. Capitalism took back the rights which it had recognized for workers out of fear of communism one by one.

The course set out by the Kurdish People’s leader Abdullah Öcalan emerges in the 1990s after this collapse. It strengthened as it went forward. For that reason I don’t think that calling it a third course quite fits. In fact it sounds as if it is an attempt to identify it with the third course that has collapsed and is disappearing [in the West.] This course, whose foundations were laid in the 1990s, became laid in more general terms after 1999. The details became clearer after 2007. Because in these years a crisis of capitalism was emerging. In my opinion this course is a fourth course as regards the economy. Not the third course. It is a course that rests on society, social development, life, and the organization of life. It is a course which comments on and evaluates Capitalism, Marxism, and the opinions of Rosa Luxembourg. It is a course which is against a monopoly economy. It is a course that will protect the existence of communities in so much that it is a course that pays attention to ecology to the upmost. It is a course that will find a solution for the social and economic problems of the people of the region and the world. Of course for this course to develop it must be well-presented. We cannot keep it to ourselves. We need to familiarize [others] with it through practical steps.

- Dr. Ahmet Yusuf, from A Small Key Can Open A Large Door



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July 10, 2017

Barbara Browning Quote

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Maybe you're thinking I should take everything my friend Lun-Yu tells me with a grain of salt. She also told me that day one of her favorite psychoanalytic theorists was Wilfred Bion. I'd never read Bion before, so after she left I read a bit about him, and I found online the complete text of a seminar he held in Paris in 1978. The beginning of this seminar is very interesting. At least it was to me. Bion says that he wants his listeners to imagine a scenario: they're seeing a new patient, a twenty-five-year-old man who comes in complaining of some dissatisfaction in his family life. Bion says he's not sure what family the man is referring to, and asks his age, which the man gives as forty-five. Bion is confused. He just said the man was twenty-five, and then he notices that the patient has wrinkles, and appears in his sixties. He asks his listeners to consider this confusing state of affairs and to determine whether they would, under the circumstances, take on such a patient.

He says the question is much like the question of what you would do if you walked into a bookstore, picked up a book, and read the scenario he just described. He asks you if you would continue reading this book. Then he says, imagine it's not a book, but a piece of music. Or a building you're in, and you see the way the light falls, you see the colors coming through the window. Do you want to think about the window some more?

I imagine these questions were somewhat perplexing to some of the participants in the seminar. At one point in the transcript, someone in the audience makes an "inaudible reference" to "psychotic experience." Bion calls that a very "cerebral" question, not a practical one to the analyst. He says that analysts shouldn't be blinded by labels like manic-depressive or schizophrenic. Rather, they should be asking themselves what kinds of artists they are and whether there's an interesting spark that occurs with a potential analysand that might lead to something productive in the consulting room or, as he puts it, the "atelier." Somebody asks what an analyst is supposed to do if he's not really the artistic type, and Bion says that if that's the case, then the person's in the wrong line of work. In fact, he says, he doesn't even really know what would be the right line of work, since a person needs to be an artist in everyday life.

Then he throws out the term artist, which has obviously become meaningless. The point is, he tells them, that reducing things to "scientific" diagnoses or narrow definitions is really the death of things. "You will have to be able to have a chance of feeling that the interpretation you give is a beautiful one, or that you get a beautiful response from the patient. This aesthetic element of beauty makes a very difficult situation tolerable."

Obviously I loved that. I wrote Lun-Yu and told her about the seminar I'd read and how it had moved me. She said, "Oh, that's the 'bad' Bion, from his mystical phase. That's also the part I love best." Apparently sometimes he wasn't quite so wacky.

- Barbara Browning, The Gift



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May 2, 2017

J. C. Sutcliffe review of Rich and Poor in The Times Literary Supplement

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Jacob Wren explores the boundaries and overlap between art, politics and fiction in his writing and filmmaking. On his blog, “A Radical Cut in the Texture of Reality”, he returns repeatedly to ideas of activism and, in particular, ending, subverting or re­organizing capitalism. But Wren never fully inhabits a fixed ideology: wherever his work takes a position, it also questions that position.

Wren’s previous works include Polyamorous Love Song (2014), a multi-narrative novel about resistance and identity in both artistic and political movements, and the fragmentary Families Are Formed Through Copulation (2007), by turns paranoid and cynical. His new novel, Rich and Poor, is perhaps more accessible than his earlier fiction, being told through a straightforward alternating narrative, but is equally replete with ideas. As the title suggests, one narrative follows the story of a poor person, a former concert pianist and current restaurant dishwasher who decides to kill the CEO of a massive corporation; the other narrative is the perspective of this billionaire CEO. In the first half, the poor character fails to kill the CEO despite having got a job with his company for this precise purpose. In the second half, he tries a rather different approach.

There are subtle echoes of each story in the other – confirmations, elaborations and contradictions. Both extreme positions are tempered by each character having experienced the other’s situation to a degree, and by their ability to understand, although not agree with, the other’s position. The rich man is presented not as some kind of unknowable, sociopathic enemy but as someone who makes compromises and accommodations like everyone else:
You drive your car knowing it is disastrous for the environment, and yet continue to drive anyway... You think it is terrible but not so terrible you are ready to drop everything and take action. Myself, I would prefer to run my business without any recourse to violence, but also, I have to admit, I don’t feel so strongly about it. And if I were to do so, it would be impossible to remain competitive. Profits would suffer.
In Rich and Poor form and content are an intriguing blend. It might seem odd to praise a writer known for surrealism and experimental forms for creating complex, believable characters, but Wren’s ability to do this allows him more leeway with some slightly improbable plot twists and a formal style that packs in a great deal of political argument. This is writing that campaigns against complacency while avoiding self-righteousness. Like Wren’s other work, this book is essentially not so much a call to action as a call for the reader to step away from apathy and to take seriously, however briefly, the most radical of positions.




[You can also find the above review here.]



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April 11, 2017

Permaculture

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Last night I went to see the documentary Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective and for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I really felt: this is a solution. I knew about permaculture before, and always thought highly of it, but watching the documentary it suddenly seemed to be so much more. As a way of thinking, a way of understanding our lives, a way of regenerating soil, earth, land, ecosystems and everything that lives on them, a way of producing healthy food and maximizing clear water, it seems to me to create endless possibilities and therefore to effectively replace despair. I don't know particularly what to do with this information. I don't think I'm ever going to get involved with farming, so for the time being my only thought is to learn more about permaculture and encourage others to do the same.



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March 13, 2017

Book

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I feel a perverse desire to try to write a book that every single person will hate. (I believe it has something to do with feeling imagined reader expectations before one even starts writing.)



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March 9, 2017

Ten years

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Facebook has just informed me that I joined Facebook exactly ten years ago.



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January 30, 2017

“neoliberalism” and “global warming”

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“Neoliberalism” and “global warming” are two terms specifically designed to make things that are absolutely horrible sound not that bad. (“Turbo-capitalism” and “climate chaos” are, in my humble opinion, two of the more accurate terms.)



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January 26, 2017

Alicia Garza Quote

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Intersectional politics (and practice) is not just theoretical – it is the lifeline upon which we depend for our collective liberation.

- Alicia Garza



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January 15, 2017

A few actual dreams from the past six years

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In my dream last night, the last thing I remember saying just before I woke up was: ‘Alain Badiou says the most nihilistic song is All You Need Is Love.’



In my dream last night, the name of my band was: This Unstable Honorarium.



Last night in my dream I googled: how do you fight capitalism.



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.



Last night I dreamt the telescope was invented by aliens, who sent it to us telepathically, to put us on the wrong track.



Last night I dreamed I had writer’s block.



In my dream last night I read an essay that began: “We’re sick of reading books that are only men writing about their loneliness. We want to read books by women writing about their ________.” But I couldn’t make out the last word. (I had a sense that the last word might be rage.)



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January 13, 2017

A politics of caring for one another.

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"And then I wonder if the way to fight requires some extremely long term thinking, to lay the mental groundwork for changes that might very well bear no fruit for many generations to come. Because, it seems to me, what we need now is a completely different way of thinking about what it means to live in the present and work towards the future. A different way of thinking time and accumulation. A present and future with breakthroughs but without linear progress, with commerce but without endless growth, with politics but against winner-take-all. A politics of caring for one another. I remember an indigenous saying I heard once: there is enough for everyone but there’s not enough for everyone’s greed. All of these goals seem so far in the future that I’m not even sure where to begin."

- Jacob Wren, The Year 2017: A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations



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January 9, 2017

Story number one...

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Story number one takes place ten million years ago and story number two takes place ten million years in the future. The problem is how to tell these two stories apart, how to know which is which. Story number three takes place now.



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