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Kevin Magee on Mon, 3 Jan 2000 15:04:37 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> local commas


COMPONENTS FOR DIFFERENTIALS, part one


Walking past the Agnes Martin again, the thought of how in the room with
all the other paintings the receding gridwork and overlay of analysis
sounds like (if a painting can sound out a thought) a stop on all that
emotion, all that sloppy color, all its violence. The violence at the
level of abstraction of a language or figuration, any figurative
'system' or arrangement. How to look for the texts and artworks, the
cultural forms (accounts of the importance of concerts in the Warsaw
ghetto) that organize around more than impulse and improvisation to
expression, but confront power by circumlocutions, the circling around,
even the miming of how power speaks to draw it out from the other or
others even those who profess to be powerless. No one is powerless.  

How a poet might be said to read for the words and not for the world the
words construct. The atomizing the painter in the video was doing and
talking about. Acceptance of accidental and multiple meanings as part of
the machinery of the lyric. Painting and philosophy are more
deliberative, and work off one another this way, building on to an
already existing pattern to continue to construct or reconstruct
something that's been destroyed. Coming up from the basement 
with your painting one day, the next day passing by the burned-out 
house down the street from 74th Street (the 'Christmas House' or 
'Xmas House', the one in the neighborhood that always had the
most lights, and the thought that it might have been the overload on the
wiring that burned it down, though it's the aging furnaces that bring
down many of the houses here in winter).

Getting off the freeway at West 25th on the way to West 10th and
Professor five people in the car and nobody knew the streets there, the
neighborhood. The accident of getting there, recognizing people waiting
at bustops, stopping the car, giving them a ride. Dexter Davis saying at
the museum how he thought he was named for Miles Davis and Dexter
Gordon. Nothing is enough, nothing will ever be enough, the thought at
one time there might be a threshold or portal opening into the past, and
how each poem was driven by this thought, that at the end of the
composition time would be completed and imagination represent itself,
fulfill itself, contain within itself the present moment and its
prophecy. Or can the event be written now, can the event be said to be
happening now, in the experience of its impossibility? 

The event observed as a painter sees, everything on the threshold of its
disappearing, or that it has this virtuality about it, and it's not that
the performers in the loft or in the theater, or the paintings, or even
a few words exhanged with the painter, that might be said to be
"virtual," rather the one passing through or across them and writing
them, not writing about them, but writing the event into the record,
documenting a set of actions or gestures that happened and which are
observed from such a distance that the effect is spectral. The false
consciousness written into any review or event-specific journalism,
whether it's a scene from a war or a work of art, when it's driven by
the form of reporting on, another reason for the poems that have emerged
from hearing report-backs, and they have to be spoken, there has to be
that element of makeshift and improvising in the talking about what
somebody saw and heard at a place they were at, especially if it's a
pressure point or focal point of a potential crisis, or developing
conflict (a strike or lockout). 

Reznikoff's unwritten project to write a history of Jewish immigrants to
Cleveland. It couldn't be done without his going to live there. Asking
Ernie Gehr about Reznikoff and the look of surprise on his face, though
the verbal response deflected the facial expression, and drew a
difference alongside the acknowledgment: the visual rhythm in the
filming and the heightened graphicness of detail in the writing. Garment
workers. By the waters of Manhattan. Immigration. Tradition and
diaspora. How to keep a learning space from becoming a church, knowledge
hardening into ritualized gestures. Why power or how power uses ritual
forms, though you would have to draw a difference between dominant
and--and looking for the word for what is not dominant the thought
occurs that it's in the problem of "subculture" or "underground" or
"counter-culture" where the drive against dominant cultural forms is
contained by being locked into an opposition. 

What is a dominant cultural form. Rituals that pass for knowledge. The
abstraction of the ceremony, though the title of the book African
Ceremonies caught the corner of your eye and thought of the teacher
telling about the expression on the face of the mother watching her
child perform a gesture translated from another culture. It's the
translation that undercuts the ritual, the bad grammar or wrongness in
the relay of information from one culture to another that provides an
opening for something new to take place, something that hasn't been
thought or experienced. Rabbinical is ambulatory, and wanders around its
subject, the library and museum and concert hall as Testament to what is
possible, even if the Poussin looks like a ritual by now, or it's how
it's looked at that's become a ritual, and the El Greco and Caravaggio
and Andrea del Sarto are passed by as one would walk past an object in
their house, that object which if it is property, a possession,
stabilizes perception among the transitoriness of shows that come and
go. 

The conflict within any tradition that produces ritual in place of
knowledge might be one expression for the space between the object and
the frame. How it's not the art itself that stops meaning anything, only
the thought about it or the thought that depends on it when it can't see
it any longer.  Toussaint l'Ouverture somehow evading the monument
Lawrence's prints would make, however caught up in the thought the
prints are in the text of history (how the visual impression made there
can't be separated from all that's outside the frame, the abyss that is
the space in time of the African Slave Trade, the genocide, and the
thought that even if you know it, that it's the image where the presence
of the thought makes itself felt, that there's a slave revolt in Haiti
only a few years after the U.S. Constitution is written, and a 'nation'
formulated, placed in words on paper that is not stone). The illusion in
history that any nation might be founded on a document.

Documents: the constitution of this or that 'nation' read as events in
time in front of the debates and papers and agreed-on principles from a
series of congresses that conceptualized internationalism, and it's the
collapse of the Second International, under the pressure asserted by
national boundaries, trade wars turned war drives, that weighs on the
rooms where the paintings from the different "modernisms" are. The
passage from one period to the next in the history of an art or an
artist's work and how the wars outside it confront it with the blankness
that power exerts, the same power everywhere and nowhere on the
shopfloor Tuesday when the kicker on the 66 got bent. 

If the experience of that could be written, and it can't outside of
finding some form from which to abstract the perception of power, and
powerlessness, involved on a shopfloor when a machine is damaged, since
it's got to be somebody's fault, and the person running the machine and
had been for several days was a woman, new to the machine but learning
it, and learning it well, the steady rise across the several days in the
amount of paper sent through it, and whether the age of the machine and
the amount of paper being run through it, or the size of the paper being
cut, or even an oversight, though an overlooking of this or that bolt in
the set-up should not have produced the damage that occurred, the
conviction everywhere evident at the edges in the remarks overheard from
others that the accident of a bent bar has to do with the gender of the
operator could be observed getting internalized, going somewhere that's
connected to how a person might feel, and conclusions they might draw
about what they're capable of doing, and you could see that her feelings
had got hurt. 

The power that weighs over every shopfloor, that machines are more
important than people, gets ritualized in the relations among the
workforce, and where there should be something said like "it could
happen to anyone," or "it's happened before" or "it's not your fault,"
especially from one of the workers who've been there more than her year
and a half, there gets said in place of that a wisecrack or witticism
that troubles all the surrounding silence and suspicion in the aftermath
or after thoughts about the damage to the machinery and reminds a
sensitive worker that nobody is anybody's friend, at least among the
divisions and effects of power which can produce only the surface of
civility, overdetermined casual exchanges of information and remarks in
passing exhausting in their opacity for anyone in search of something
else. 

The silence of a painting waiting for the thought about it as a frame
that keeps changing, shifting with time, moved by forces neither the
painting nor the thought about it can control, outside the gallery or
museum where history either happens or, after the sense of Lev
Bronstein, is made. Why does this space have to be different from
everyday life. C, LISP, Perl and Java, UNIX/Linux or Windows NT.
Transmission Control Protocol. Gateways connect networks. So: you can
crack a phone network, and you can pretend to be someone else by
stealing their email address and using it for your own needs. You can
also copy an existing site, and make visitors think they're on the
original one, and when you log into a host or server your password also
travels along these nodes (to "nuke" usually means to 'kill-9' on UNIX).
War technology. The hybrid/construct/performance. The performative
aspect of the new technology and media and visual control. Critical
voices? 

The art part, why does it insist on visuality. To think they control
everything that they can control everything they can't control
everything. What is a male fantasy. What does a male fantasize. The
'male fantasy' defined along its gender only and not its class (as if
economics had anything to do with sexuality) (the impact of labor on a
body) (the construction of consciousness) male or female trained to obey
or follow or adhere to a strict set of coordinates, survival mechanisms,
experience of scarcity, its impact on a nervous system, inculcated in a
social system whose parameters are not to be explored or modified but
adhered to, the shape or state of a mentality that adheres, sticks to, a
thought like the mastery of basic tools or tasks, pleasure in the
repetition, making the same movement over and over again, even if it's
the same mistake over and over again, until your body, your hands, know
what they need to do to complete the task, learning to type like
learning to play the piano or violin, or mastering the codes for a
program, that it takes a lot of duplicating--the discourse of the
replicant in the conference papers from Rotterdam and Kassel.

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