CHIROT ZERO ZINE--ANNOUNCING NEW BLOG

Dear Followers, Friends, fellow Workers:

I have just begun a new blog/zine called
Chirot Zero Zine A Heap of Rubble--
Anarkeyology of hand eye ear notations
---
http://chirotzerozine.blogspot.com
the blog is more exusively concerned than this one with presenting essays, reviews (inc. "bad reviews") , Visual Poetry, Sound Poetry, Event Scores, Manifestos, Manifotofestos, rantin' & raving, rock'roll, music all sorts--by myself and others--if you are interested in being a contributor, please feel free to contact me at david.chirot@gmail.com
as with this blog, the arts are investigated as a part of rather than apart from the historical, economic, political actualities of yesterday, today, & tomorrow
as with al my blogs--
contributions in any language are welcome

Free Leonard Peltier

Free Leonard Peltier
The government under pretext of security and progress, liberated us from our land, resources, culture, dignity and future. They violated every treaty they ever made with us. I use the word “liberated” loosely and sarcastically, in the same vein that I view the use of the words “collateral damage” when they kill innocent men, women and children. They describe people defending their homelands as terrorists, savages and hostiles . . . My words reach out to the non-Indian: Look now before it is too late—see what is being done to others in your name and see what destruction you sanction when you say nothing. --Leonard Peltier, Annual Message January 2004 (Leonard Peltier is now serving 31st year as an internationally recognized Political Prisoner of the United States Government)

Injustice Continues: Leonard Peltier Again Denied Parole

# Injustice continues: Leonard Peltier denied parole‎ - By Mahtowin A wave of outrage swept the progressive community worldwide at the news that Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier was denied parole on Aug. ... Workers World - 2 related articles » US denies parole to American Indian activist Leonard Peltier‎ - AFP - 312 related articles » # Free Leonard Peltier 2009 PRISON WRITINGS...My Life Is My Sun Dance Leonard Peltier © 1999. # Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance - by Leonard Peltier, Harvey Arden - 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 272 pages Edited by Harvey Arden, with an Introduction by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, and a Preface by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. In 1977, Leonard Peltier... books.google.com/books?isbn=0312263805... - # Leonard Peltier, American Indian Activist, Denied Parole And Won't ... Aug 21, 2009 ... BISMARCK, ND — American Indian activist Leonard Peltier, imprisoned since 1977 for the deaths of two FBI agents, has been denied parole ... www.huffingtonpost.com/.../leonard-peltier-american_n_265764.html - Cached - Similar - #

Gaza--War Crime: Collective Punishment of 1.5 Million Persons--Recognized as "The World's Largest Concentration Camp"

Number of Iraquis Killed Since USA 2003 Invasion began

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator

US & International Personnel losses in Iraq &Afghanistan; Costs of the 2 Wars to US


Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In America's War On Iraq: 4,667
icasualties.org/oif/

Number Of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered In Afghanistan : 1,453
http://icasualties.org/oef/


=

Cost of War in Iraq

$691,188,637,164

Cost of War in Afghanistan
$229,137,844,021

The cost in your community

www.nationalpriorities.org/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=182

flickr: DEATH FROM THIS WINDOW/DOORS OF GUANTANAMO--Essays, Links, Video-- US use of Torture

VISUAL POETRY/MAIL ART CALL Cracking World’s Walls & Codes Concrete & Virtual

Cracking World’s Walls & Codes Concrete & Virtual


VISUAL POETRY/MAIL ART CALL
No Sieges, Tortures, Starvation & Surveillance
GAZA-GUANTANAMO-ABU GHRAIB—THE GLOBE
Deadline/Fecha Limite: SinsLimite/ongoing
Size: No limit/Sin Limite
No Limit on Number of Works sent
No Limit on Number of Times New Works Are Sent
Documentation: on my blog
http://davidbaptistechirot.blogspot.com
Addresses: david.chirot@gmail.com
David Baptiste Chirot
740 N 29 #108
Milwaukee, WI 53208
USA

Miss Universe Visits Guantanamo: 'A Loooot Of Fun!'



Miss Universe Visits Guantanamo: 'A Loooot Of Fun!'


The current 'Miss Universe' Dayana Mendoza (formerly Miss Venezuela) and 'Miss America' Crystal Stewart visited US troops stationed in Guantanamo Bay on March 20th, the New York Times reports. Here's Mendoza's account of the visit from her pageant blog last Friday. She says the trip "was a loooot of fun!"

This week, Guantánamo!!! It was an incredible experience...All the guys from the Army were amazing with us. We visited the Detainees camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how the recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting. We took a ride with the Marines around the land to see the division of Gitmo and Cuba while they were informed us with a little bit of history.


The water in Guantánamo Bay is soooo beautiful! It was unbelievable, we were able to enjoy it for at least an hour. We went to the glass beach, and realized the name of it comes from the little pieces of broken glass from hundred of years ago. It is pretty to see all the colors shining with the sun. That day we met a beautiful lady named Rebeca who does wonders with the glasses from the beach. She creates jewelry with it and of course I bought a necklace from her that will remind me of Guantánamo Bay :)

I didn't want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

CHIROT Essay: Outside/Outsider Writing, Appropriation, Plagiarism, Copying and refusal

Can a writing which is directed towards writing as an Inside, with the world itself
considered as an "outside," be capable none the less of generating if not directly an
Outsider Writing, an Outside carrying a myriad potentialities of Outsides, of Outsider
Writings, which, in order to remain Outside, have to be brought Inside in as deferred and
vague states as possible?
That is, an Inside "turned Inside Out, " so that the Inside turns into the world, while the
Outside turns into writing—a writing, which, deliberately as deferred and as vague as
possible, can never completely realize itself other than as fragments, markings, literally
"essays" in the "critical poem" gesturing towards a Book whose very non-existence is a
continually present potentiality questioning the very need to realize what it so vividly
sketches, for fear, perhaps, that the very finality of the Book's realization would put an
end to writing?—That is, to "close the book" on potentialities--? And so remove all
possibility of an Outside--?
Such are the kinds of questions and challenges the work of Stephane Mallarme offers
regarding an Outsider Writing. An Outsider Writing, that is, considered as having as its
goal an Inside which prevents the Outside from realization, while preserving at the same
time the potentialities of the Outside on the Inside. Mallarme's work may be considered
under the aegis of the Writing of the No, in that the writing itself is saying a No to the
realization of its own most cherished project, meaning, paradoxically, that the project
exists all the more powerfully through the "power of suggestion."
In a way, Mallarme's "incomplete" Book project, this No to the writing of itself, is not
unlike Walt Whitman's chapter heading in Specimen Days that "The Real War will
Never Get into the Books."
This sense of the words themselves of The Book, and the War that is not in the Books—
this sense of words themselves saying NO to their own realization as/in a Book—and that
this is UNDERSTOOD by the writer who dreams of without realizing the Book—is
presented by William S. Burroughs in his Introduction to JUNKIE, in which he is
advising the reader about the Glossary appended to the book:
: "A final glossary, therefore, may not be made of words whose intentions are fugitive."
It is not only the project of the Book that Burroughs' fugitive words are saying No to; it is
also to the collecting of words in a glossary whose definitions are stable, "completely
realized." The project of this Fugitive, Outside Writing is to say No not only to
definitions, but, by extension, to the possibilities of appropriation, quotation, translation
and plagiarization. What one holds in one's hand as a "book," then, is a compendium of
words which have "moved on" well ahead of the reader, leaving behind nothing but
abandoned skins, discarded costumes, no longer operative false leads and red herring
clues—in short, all that remains is something raw, exposed . . . and in continual
movement—as the refutation of its being a "Book."
Mallarme's Book shares with Burroughs' Fugitive Words and Whitman's War Outside
the books, the idea of suggestion being the means to "read and see" a Real which is "not
there" directly. Though Unwritten, Unread, Mallarme's work exists as an absence which
is its own presence, so that, as George Steiner writes in My Unwritten Books: "The
Unwritten is not a void."
Burroughs' " perpetual motion machine" Outlaw/Outside writing/poetry necessitated by
the Outlaw's non-stop need to elude the Law, to be Outside of it—in words, in writing—
creates incessantly words which are Unwritten immediately following their being
written—writing exists as its own unwriting, as its own act of vanishing, disappearance—
creating with each word and its vanishing a continual "series" of telegraphic dots and
dashes as it were of a message which is continually "Left behind" to be read by the nonreaders
of the actual writing itself, which has already "left the station" in the hands of a
Non-writing for Non-readers of the Real, of that "Book" which exists outside of writing.
Like Mallarme's Book and Whitman's Real War, this reality remains Unwritten precisely
because of its being continually writing—writing, that is, in the present moment in the
flow of Time. The Real, that is, is continually absenting itself even as it is writing the
Real. The Real is writing, in the present, active tense, the presence of an absence which
is itself. Mallarme's Book, Whitman's War and Burroughs's "words whose intentions
are fugitive" exist then as absences, beyond "the Law" and, paradoxically, inaccessible to
the writer who envisions them, works with their materials, and yet knows that the writing
if completed ceases to exist. If the Book, the War, the fugitive words are "fixed" by a
completion, they cease to exist as what they are: something at once immensely public in
conception while being also the most private of ideas.
The Incomplete Non-Book of Mallarme and the raw remains of departed words of
Burroughs create a situation in which Writing as a Writing exposed rejects the
possibilities of appropriation, of translation, of being copied, and rejects them not to
remain intact, "original," but to maintain an impersonality in the face of the "possessive"
actions of others who seek to make these "unclaimed" writings their own. In other
words, the would–be copyist, appropriator, translator of these works "completes" the
impersonal exposed remains of a Book and converts them into their own personal
possessions. Ironically the "death of the author" is turned into a field day for the vultures
who create themselves as originals out of the "dead" remains of the Writing of refusal, of
the No.
This creation of originals which claim to be "unoriginals" "copies," embodies the
opposite of the Fugitive words; that is, they express the desire and need to conform.
What might not be the best way to conform, not to "step out of or across the line," than to
copy works of others so that one is oneself not accountable for the words used, the forms
employed, the punctuation at work? The concept of an "opacity" in writing works as a
mask to cover up as it were any signs of accountability. One wants to produce texts
without being "responsible," hence the copying and "completion" of the texts of others.
One aspect of both translation and appropriation is precisely that what is done with the
original text is NOT to copy, but indeed to create meta-narratives of and/or with/for them,
and not necessarily parallel ones, either. Ducasse/Lautreamont in his Poesies sees
plagiarism as progress; tha is, the plagiarized text, plagiarized at a different point in time
from the writing of the text plagiarized, is only "progressive" if the later version
"improves, "corrects," the faults, the mistakes of the originary text, mistakes made plain
by the knowledge of later time. This linear concept of the "progression" of plagiarized
texts as a series of "improvements" through time is reversed by the Oulipiens, who see in
older texts uncannily like ones in the present, a form of "anticipatory plagiarism," what I
call "plagiarism in reverse."
The forms of plagiarism as it is commonly understood today, even when employing the
misunderstood quote from Ducasse, are not corrections in a "progression," but instead a
bringing to a stand still of the movement of words and ideas by plagiarizing directly the
original. Plagiarism, then, is a case of "illegal" or "unethical" copying as opposed to the
legal copying of the kind Bartleby the Scrivener is employed at until he "prefers not to"
anymore.
Bartleby's rejection of his role as copyist is his rejection of conformity in re the use of
words. His language of unwritten words now is "outside" the Law and he dies in Tombs,
the place where criminals are sent. His "outlaw" language of refusal creates and Outsider
writing, one that is, even though imprisoned, mysteriously absent, elsewhere, "going on"
not as a void, but as an unwriutten writing that eludes the possessive eyesof his former
employer who comes to observe him in the Tombs. As a pairof inquisitive eyes
observing Bartleby n the prison, the employer subjects the writing of the No to a
panoticonic view, seeking some sign of "activity" that it may classify as being
"comprehensible" in side the language of conformity, of coipying. Thi taking possession
of his unwritten language bartely refuses by means of presenting the appearance of
silence. This appearance of a disappearance makes elusive to the empoyer's Bentham
eyes the Fugitive, outlaw language which Bartleby is writing as the unwritten. The
employer's continued visits to the tombs are prompted by a sense that bartleby is "up to
something," even though silent and static in his unmoving state. The employer, though he
cannot see it, senses the presence of that absence which is the writing of the No.
In examining the questions of translations and appropriations, one needs to remain aware
of the possibilities for these to be used in ways which, while being "camouflaged"
perhaps as "artistic," may instead be directed in more sinister directions. As usual, there
are a good many more than "two sides to a story," and it is in fact this very potentiality,
these many possibilities, and the uncertainty principle in regards to which are being
activated--that makes the activity of working with as well as studying such materials a
more complex and subtly variegated one than may at first be supposed.
For example, in his "Arcades Project," Walter Benjamin envisions a work made entirely
of quotations, which would be an aspect of the philosopher's conception of an "ideal
language." Yet by the very act of appropriating these quotations and arranging them,
Benjamin has become the Author of a work whose impersonality as already "exhausted"
language is translated into a new context in which it becomes a language Belonging to
Benjamin
To open some of the myriad possibilities in any given moment in the act/work of
appropriation and/or translation, let's use for a few moments the point of view of
Burroughs' words whose intentions are fugitive.
The figure of "Benjamin's Baudelaire," which has become a more familiar and preferred
"Baudelaire" for many English speaking readers than the actual (so to speak) Baudelaire
and his actual works, is a "living example" of this form of "ideal language" functioning in
the direction of a totalizing system, in which the "colonization" of the past is carried out
in order to draw from it the indications of the immediate or eventual triumph of the
translator/appropriator's ideology/theology/theory of preference. That is, one amasses
and arranges the objects and quotations of the past in such a way as to become the
accurate predictors of a future envisioned via rear projection and reverse
engineering. (Benjamin's "Angel of History," after all faces backwards, looking to the
past while flying backwards into the future.) Thus, perhaps, a new form of astrology may
be created as well as "theses on history."
This is not unlike Francois Le Lionnais" description, on the part of the Oulipo Group-of
"anticipatory plagiarism:"
Occasionally, we discover that a structure we believed to be entirely new had in fact
already been discovered or invented in the past, sometimes even in a distant
past. We make it a point of honor to recognize such a state of things in qualifying
the text in question as "plagiarism by anticipation." Thus justice is done, and each is
rewarded according to his merit.2
One might also think, in another way, of these "predictions" and anticipatory plagiarisms," as "ruins in reverse"
as Robert Smithson, following the lead of Nabokov, calls construction sites.
One might look at this from the point of view of a language "whose intentions are
fugitive" and recognize in this "ideal language" the dream of an entropic steady state of
"security" in all senses of the word, in which the desire for a homogeneity is realized.
That is, in conforming to anticipations and predictions, language finds in so conforming a
conformity which assures that a "steady state" has been realized. The "end of history"
after a certain way of thinking, in which all the anticipations and predictions have
reached their apotheosis from which no further movement is possible . . .
One may examine both translations and appropriations in terms of what frame the
translator/appropriator is working to insert the "original" work into. That is, the frame of
the translator/appropriator's conception of an "ideal language," whether of poetry, history,
ideology, theory etc. Within the language and society in which they would like their
translation/appropriation to "succeed," to "convince the reader of the value of the work
beyond its original words and tongue." Again, a conformity is posited as the realization
of a project of transfer of ownership from one frame to another, an appropriation, a
translation of one language into that which is possessed as anticipated or predicted—by a
steady state which awaits it.
In a "fitting" sense, since this work may involve legal difficulties at some point, the
translator/appropriator may become a form of advocate for the "case" of the work of soand-
so to be included in the files of the "ideal language" and the culture which it is
participating in the formation of. To "argue the case," so to speak, it may be necessary to
withhold some evidence, and exaggerate perhaps the importance of other bits and pieces
of "evidences." To alter the meaning of a word here or mute the tone of another there.
Small shifts spread over the course of a poem, a collection, a body of work, accrue and
accumulate and so build from within the un-ideal original the structure of its "metanarrative,"
a new and ideal shining City from out of the shell of the old, to paraphrase the
IWW slogan.
This forcing to conform by omission and alteration is opposed by a fugitive language, in
which al conformity has to be jettisoned as soon as it is even slightly realized. A fugitive
language is negentropic in that each time a steady state is momentarily attained it is
immediately undone, destroyed, so that a new state will emerge, as music arises out of
noise, and returns to it, over and over, cycling—recycling—yet never the same, never
conforming, never existing in a "steady state" of entropy . . .
At a certain level then, what is sought for via the "ideal" aspects of translations and/or
appropriations is to produce works which are in conformity with the standards desired by
the society/culture into which they are being introduced, at least for "the time being," and
hopefully "for a long time to come."
The underlying impetus of this might be thought of as the resistance to the uncertainty
principle, and the desire for a "security" even in what are called "risky" or "experimental"
phases and forms of work.
It is in this sense that an artist like Dubuffet observes the action and writes of an
"asphyxiating culture." The "Arcades Project" from this perspective becomes an
immense temple-tomb, a colossal assemblage of bric-a-brac on the order of Citizen
Kane's Xanadu, a monument to another aspect of the Benjaminian cosmology, "The
Collector."
"The Collector" aspect of constructing the "ideal language," via translations,
appropriations, is that one becomes a tourist and, if so capable, a tour-guide, which is
what many of Benjamin's works basically are. The Situationists, who conceived of
themselves as drifters among the psycho-geographies of the urbanscapes, setting out on
the long patrols of the derive, scoffed at both conventional and "cultured/philosophical"
tourism as "tourism in other people's misery." From this point of view,
translation/appropriation becomes the collecting and "taking possession" in all senses of
the word, of photos, images, icons, objects, texts, musics, dances which paradoxically
belong to others who can't have them, or can't have them in the way that the one "taking
possession" of them does.
The irony is that in the age of "intellectual property," the "death of the author" should
become such an idealized trope, because if anything, the "author" is more alive than ever.
Again, the specter of the legal profession arises, the one in which Bartleby made his
decision to "prefer not to" be a copyist anymore, and simply become, literally, "silent as
the Tombs" in which appropriately named penal institution he perishes, he, the former
handler of "dead letters." For today one witnesses the spectacle of legal entanglements
regarding the appropriation or translation of authors' works, or of their appropriations of
others' appropriations, and a Ron Silliman can threaten to sue an anthology which
attaches his name (owned by him) to a poem not written by him but by a computer.
(What would happen if a poem written by him were published as an anonymous piece, or
attributed to some totally unknown, perhaps even non-existent "name"?)
Until late in the 19th century, there was no copyright to protect American authors from
having their works pirated and distributed to great profit by publishers aboard, especially
in England. An aspect of the plagiarism that so obsessed Poe was that an author could
steal willy nilly from another, and so make money off another's labor without having to
do the actual work at all. The attacks Poe made on plagiarism were not always so much
about "intellectual property" and "originality" as about the artist being paid for their time
and labor and sharing in the profits it created for the publishers. Poe understood this
from his own experience, as he had been employed at one point on basically plagiarizing
an entire book on conchology, adding just enough "original" touches here and there to
make the pirated edition appear "not the same, but new," for the benefit and profit of the
publishers. This form of "authorship" was fairly common at the time, and one that was a
logical progression from the earlier heyday of Travel Literature (discussed in a previous
post.)
In its earlier phases, travel literature ranged wildly from rather crude cobblings together
of rough bits and pieces of others' works, with, if the cobbler of the work had some
imagination, some (invented) "previously unrecorded" and especially thrilling and "New!
Astonishing! Marvels Never Before Seen nor Heard Of!" thrown into the mix to add to
the sales and also to the ever more hallucinatory visions of the lands on the other side of
the Atlantic, the Indian or Pacific Oceans.
As the literature "developed," it included such articles as books written under one
pseudonym in English, which in turn is translated by the same writer under another r
pseudonym into French, and from there translated back into English by the same author
again under a different pseudonym, and finally arriving in English, is plagiarized from,
given some embellishments plagiarized from other texts, and re-created as yet another
entirely "new" book with yet another pseudonym for author.
In a sense, travel literature itself as writing travels, across texts, across languages, across
pseudonyms or anonymities, al the while bringing into view the slightly altered versions
of other versions themselves slightly altered from yet others previous which had been
born out of embellishments, sailors' yarns, imaginations running rampant with foreign
fevers and al manner of efforts of each traveler to outdo his fellows in the extravagance
and 'detail" of his or her reportage. The documentary, the guidebook, become works of
fiction which are al the same about places, peoples, fauna and flora which at least
partially do exist at some level, if not in actuality then in the actuality which is created by
the fact of their having been placed into language, as writing, for is not writing in itself
considered a form of proof—or reproof—against the suspicion of pure unadulterated
lying?--
(I recently came across an advertisement trumpeting the latest edition of an old classic of
the Travel Literature days, one which is made up of a good bit of plagiarism, some
invention and some pure nonsense that the Indians had fobbed off on the gullible
explorers. The book is still in print as having yet a value as a guidebook to the areas it
concerns! )
{{{rewrite: Lautreamont and Poe made great use of this tradition of poetic license being
extended in travel literature in their works on such subjects as conchology-a book on
which Poe plagiarized, with a few additions, at the bequest of an unscrupulous, pirating
publisher---or Buffon's Natural Histories, which Lautreamont's Les Chants de
Maldoror is in large part constructed gaily from in vast swathes of pure plagiarism. And
these, in turn, are cheerfully mixed, spiced, with le Comte's Baroque treatments of the
Gothic tradition, along with plenty of doses of scientific jargon culled from various dust
collecting texts. }}}
Witness the opening of Moby Dick, which consists of the etymologies and examples of
the names of the whale through time and around the globe, among many languages,
literatures and cultures. The very immensity of the Whale itself appears out of this
gigantic citation of quotations which build up an immense bulk of words, sounds, letters,
syllables, allusions, quotations with in quotations, obscure references and mythical
fables---an incredible array of massed materials in which the Whale swims and dives,
appears and disappears, acquires al manner of traits which it just as swiftly sheds . . .
indeed, existing in writing, the Whale becomes that White space of a page speared
through with the blackness of letters as Moby Dick is with harpoons—
The White Whale as White Page—a vast "emptiness" inviting the "filling in" of the
harpoons and the lashed body of Ahab—a writing which is carried around the world and
seen among all manner of peoples—a White Whale existing as much in language as in
the oceans—a White Whale whose spaces are vast with room for the appropriations of
texts and 'sightings," for captain's logs and seamen's tales—the White Whale which
travels the world accruing translations, appropriated lore and quotations, becoming in
itself a vast floating library . . .
I noted before that there is a relationship--as there is in Moby Dick--between the uses of
appropriation and translations, mimicry and copying, which make of writing potentially a
form of acting, even of an acting in a theater constructed by the writer and in which the
writer becomes both the director and the leading character or characters. It is possible
also for the writer to become the audience as well and in turn the critics, who provide
reviews, commentaries, blurbs, hatchet jobs and fawning notes of introduction for some
favorite of theirs whom they wish to promote in the role of a kind of "private agent."
This dispersal of the "writer" through so many roles in turn begins to generate ever more
series of meta-writers, meta-dramas, meta-commentaries until one has what is basically
the long glorious history of the productions of Shakespeare's Richard the Third and
their myriad spinoffs, including Johnny Rotten copying Laurence Olivier's Richard in the
film version for his creation of the character and existence as a performer on stage of--
Johnny Rotten, who in his turn is ranting and attacking the Queen.
This theatricality of a writing which makes use of appropriations and translations
(including invented ones) means that the "author" does not "die" but instead becomes an
actor, an ACTIVE participant, in which the presence of other voices begins to issue
through the throat and the writing of "some one else" and to find issue via the writing
hand--or typed machine—of this actor. The actor who is the role that the writer has
become, speaks lines which are--whose?--The writer's? the actor's? the role's? And out
of these emerges a writing which is a fiction which is at the same time real, or a reality
which is fictional, and al the while is performing an activity which is a gestural, visceral,
sonic and visual action writing which may in fact exist "nowhere at all" but as the nonwritings
of a non-writer who regards thinking and writing as the same thing, as
simultaneous actions, just as imagined writing may exist in a sphere in which it has no
need of being "written down," as it enjoys in fact the freedom of it's not existing on the
page, but in the "else wheres,' where it is in the possession of no one--
When Bartleby says "I would prefer not to" and instead stands staring at the blank view
through his window of a very close pressed wall of the building opposite--is it into these
elsewheres that his writing now is being done?
So it is that a personage like my "El Colonel" and Spicer's Lorca, and Yasusada's Spicer
as well as the Yasusada created by the reader out of the accoutrements that are provided
for the acting out of the role--so it is that these "non-existent" writers mingle with actual
writers who are actually dead, in a theater in which ghosts are lovers and fictional nonghosts
consort with ghosts and the action of the writing is THE LIVING of that being that
one is to think of as either "the author" or "the death of the author author." For it is not
death, but dispersal across, through, within, and away from writing itself that is the action
of the being formerly known as "the author."
Writing has lives of its own in which the writer may find encounters with it, that outside
which now and then bumps into him or her, and then, after a bit, takes off again. Or an
outside which is found, hidden in plain site/sight/cite all around one, that writing which is
continually alive and changing, moving, at once fugitive and glimpsed by, as Robert
Smithson calls it, "the artist's glance," which can be a work as real as any object, yet not
exist except in the time and the "art of looking" of the artist. For once it becomes an
object, then the artist is "signing over" the time and art of looking as a possession in
which someone else "owns the art" and in a subtle or not so subtle way, also "owns the
artist."
The real death of the author may then be the sense that exists at present of the author, a
being tied down by legal contracts to a name, an identity card number, an address, a
telephone, email, fax, a place and status within such and such community of other
authors.
It is this death which a writer may well choose to "prefer not to" be part of, and so find in
a "fugitive" existence the ever changing words and lines of a lexicon which cannot be
fixed, nor colonized, nor turned into yet another copyrighted name-plated representation
of themselves, all ready to charge off to court to protect a name attached to a function
which they may at the same time profess to desire the death of.
President Reagan, the Great Communicator, was in his own way an interesting
example of a collector of quotations with an ear and eye to creating his own form of
"ideal language," one which has proved to be one of the most radical in its effects of
modern times. Reagan loved quotations, and his bedside reading consisted of a single
colossal tome of nothing but quotations, organized for use on any occasion imaginable
and many , one imagines, not yet imagined, but that one should be prepared for, after all,
as The Great Communicator.
Having been an actor, a president of the Screen Actors Guild, and a long time pitchman
for Westinghouse and GE, as well as a radio announcer and tv celebrity both as actor and
advertiser, Reagan had no problem at all memorizing hunks of quotations, plagiarized
and appropriated lines and bits of speeches, and "was never at a loss for words," a
favorite technique being to tell some ancient joke or story "as though for the first time,"
so that it's being a quotation was not even noticed. In this way, he appeared to be an alert
and quick-on-his-feet-thinker though in fact he was just pulling rabbits out of his well
stocked hat.
Reagan's cheerful attitude to taking away the meanings of lines and replacing them with
the same words, only now heard as his own, reached a moment of triumph in his
appropriating the anti-Vietnam War song "Born in the USA' as his own campaign song in
1984. Suddenly, the verses disappeared and all one really heard were those endlessly
repeated choruses of "Born in the USA, Born in the USA" as though that was all that
mattered. And in cynical way, he was right--after all the song was made for a movie and
appeared long after the actual War, so how it could literally be "an anti-Vietnam War
song?" Reagan's appropriation in a sense exposed the song's appropriation of the
emotions of another time and another person, and so the Reagan version had as much
"validity" as the original did. And, it being a song for a movie, who better to make use of
it than an old movie actor, one who had actually appeared in war movies, if not the actual
war, unlike the song's author, who had done neither.
And Reagan even quoted in Russian, with translation--the famous "trust but verify"
"Russian proverb" he had learned from his buddy "Mr. Gorbachev." At one point, in a
pure unadulterated paroxysm of patriotism, he forgot himself and recounted his "war
memories"--actually scenes from a war film he had played in. In a sense, to show the
"reality" of his emotions, he was "quoting from memory" a "real war scene" in which he
had acted competently enough to convince himself that he had actually been in the war.
In this way, quoting from his roles allowed him to create a non-existent biography which
al the same was "documented on celluloid," that could be edited into various versions of
his official "biopic."
In Poe's brief "sketch" written to accompany an illustrated plate, entitled "Morning on the
Wissahicon," (a forerunner of Reagan's "New Morning in America" as already a
"Mourning on the Wissahicon)--a traveler takes a jaunt down the Wissahicon and
discovers unexpectedly, so close to the metropolis of Philadelphia, a wild and savage
remnant of an America already thought to be long past, and but the figments and shards
of a former dream. He sees an Indian in a wild overgrowth of unspoiled natural
landscape, and as he drifts by the dramatic scene, there even appears a magnificent and
authentic American deer--a sort of proto--"Deer Hunter" moment in which the marveling
traveler is confirmed in his belief that at last he has found the old, the real America, of the
wilderness and "savages," and the untamed wild life and untrimmed flora of his "native
land."
Yet, the traveler later learns, all of this has been an elaborate and beautifully staged
simulacra, for a wealthy Englishman has purchased the former Colonial landscape, and
populated it with a servant dressed and made up as an Indian, let the flora go carelessly to
seed, and provide the whole as a topping to the cake, a domesticated deer who is able to
pose as a wild one for the passersby of a Sunday. Already a "quotation" of what had
been a stock vision of the "old America" in all its "savage splendor" has replaced the
original with a copy which "outshines" as it were not only the long vanished original, but
has also made, on is certain, the old real estate greatly increase in value by looking so like
what it had replaced in terms of what had been thought to be along lost memory with a
Brand new and vivid recreation posing as indeed "the reality of today."
Poe's Englishman thus has accomplished already the creating of an "ideal language
and landscape" made entirely of quotations, and for Poe, the "mourning" in this
"morning" is that the morning is in a sense not yet over with and it has already been
replaced by a quotation of itself, which will "outlive" the former and so in a sense give
cause, if one recalls it at all, for a "mourning" for the "morning on the Wissahicon" which
now no longer exists except as indeed an ideal language and landscape "in quotation."
The further "mourning" is that the English, who had been the former and for a while
defeated Colonial Power, have now wrested away what had been known of as an
"American original" and turned it into an English-owned and recolonized landscape
preserved as a copy of the vanished original.
At the time that Poe began writing, ruins were all the rage, due in good part to Gothic and
Romantic literature from Europe--the kind of literature and ruins Benjamin was later to
write his now famous unpublished thesis on. Americans were in a state of anxiety, as
their country seemingly had produced no "real ruins." Poe--who had attended school five
years abroad in Scotland--had seen "real ruins" and as he replied to one critic who
accused him of writing in the manner of the Germans of the time--"Terror is not of
Germany, but of the soul." Having witnessed the decomposition and descent into ruins
via disease of his dying mother, dying older brother and then dying wife, Poe realized
that the lack of "real ruins" are, like Emerson's Nature--"the blank and ruin we see in
Nature is within our eye"--not a lack at all but instead the blindness to what is in front of
one--the decomposition and decay at the core of being, no matter how "new."
In his "Philosophy of Composition," Poe constructs an impeccably rational method by
which he has gone about composing his poem "The Raven." No "romantic ruins" or
frenzy inspired him, no "inspiration," but, instead, a kind of calculating feat of
engineering brought to bear on the decomposition of the very thing that has constructed
the poem--the rational, the logical, and the "constructive" mind. The use of quotation
passes from humans to a bird--"quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'" The bird may even be a
copy of a bird, a mechanical bird whose cries are repeated by virtue of a timing
mechanism triggered by the last lines of the verse preceding its next outburst. Or they
may indeed be those of a "real bird," "quoting" "nevermore," a phrase which plunges the
student in the poem into one of those ever deepening and decomposing morasses of the
soul which Poe depicts also in the guise of decomposing bodies and languages, which
devolve into black birds' cries (perhaps "quothing the Raven" itself--??!!) as in The
Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.
Poe, with his rationally constructed tales in which decomposition and irrationality begin
to "take over" and Burroughs with his fugitive languages whose words change their
meanings frequently not only in time--from week to week or day to day if need be-- but
also vary from place to place along the trail of the outlaw addict, evidence a yearning for
a language which will elude the colonization process of appropriation and quotation. For
Dubuffet, the "way out" of this nightmare in the "asphyxiating culture" of the art world
was Art Brut as he originally found it and conceived of it--that is, Dubuffet recognized its
existence there, while having the honesty himself as an artist to know that he himself
might learn from these "Raw" artists while not being one himself.
That is, not that there will be an "authorial self" who is "original" but that there may exist
"languages" and realms of" communications" in and among and through which the
possibility of a continually "living" yet "invisible" writing is "on the move," while behind
it are the deposits of its shed skins, its discarded, outdated notations, to be picked up on
as "news" and "clues" so as to distract and confuse those would-be appropriators and
translators of a writing which does not want to be read, and so creates "fakes" of its nonself
in order to provide "cover" for its ever elusive voyages, fictions to amuse itself with
as it observes the futile hunters continually being led round and round in circles,
deciphering non-signs as signs and elaborate scrawls as "lucid notations" of a "lost
language" or of a "new language" which they alone will become the possessors of the
secrets of, the sole appropriators and translators of, the alpha and omega of a literature
which now is thought to "belong to history and civilization" and which instead is simply
an empty wooden horse, a decoy duck, while somewhere, elsewhere, the writing leads
lives of its own.
The issue of appropriation, as noted, begins to change with the introduction and spread of
copyright laws, as with the acceleration of the production of copies in themselves--
Benjamin formulates his questions re "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction" close to a hundred years after Poe has begun doing so. Hawthorne,
writing in the 1840's roughly, in The House of Seven Gables, already has as a major
figure a Daguerreotypist who provides, along with the narrator, commentaries on the art
of the photograph in comparison with that of painting--that is, in terms of their status as
not solely copies of persons and scenes, but also as methods directed towards revealing
what is otherwise hidden to the eye of an observer. The "composition" of a
daguerreotype then, becomes a form of decomposition of not only a painted image, but as
well of the "image of the person" themselves--"revealing" aspects hidden not only to
others but also perhaps to themselves. As a "reversed mirror image" in a sense, it gives
an oddly "corrected" image of that image which one had previously supposed one was
seeing as others do.
The very decomposition of the House—as with Poe's House of Usher-- itself becomes as
it were a method of "letting in more light" via the cracked and fissured surfaces, which is
the "pencil of light" with which the camera writes into existence a new method of
representing things not only singly, but serially, or, as in the famous mirror scenes in
Orson Welles' films Citizen Kane and The Lady from Shanghai—in an endless series
of mirrorings of the self trapped in the light of the moment which is turning it into the
past as the figure moves before the --and into--the hall of mirrors.
One might begin with an examination of many of the texts of the Classic American
Literature (D.H Lawrence) as the first literature to in a sense compose via
decomposition and in so doing decompose the "future" of its own literature before it has
happened. (Rather than being a deconstruction avant la lettre, as Poe's work has
furnished examinations for, it is a decomposition of the work of time on things before
they have begun to exist.)
One finds that already a century and a half ago and more, there already exist in this
Classic Literature the contemporary issues of copying, appropriation, translations,
quotations, cataloging, "secret messages," "messages in code," the examination of
handwriting itself as a method of literary "criticism," the centrality of the role of death,
the appearance of "intelligent machines" and "psychic communications" as a form of
scientific possibility. These are among the ghostly, the after-effects existences, of
unknown writings and languages which haunt the forests and wildernesses, and as well
are still living among them in many vast areas, the complimentary American forms of
Gigantism (Walt Whitman, Paul Bunyan, Earthworks) and the Minimalist (Emily
Dickinson)--as well as the use throughout American popular art of the copy of an object
to represent the trade or concept for which the object's copy is supposed to stand. (The
vast and eccentric systems of signs used in the US a hundred fifty years ago are basically
the creation of a three dimensional sculptural-visual poetry of incredible variety and
ingenuity. In a sense, it is a writing for persons who may not actually know how to read--
in any language--or simply not in English--)
One of the aspects of this writing is that it in ways is more related to Art Brut and
Burroughs' fugitive languages, than to the more confining and constrained of the
commonly in use American examples of today, as it sees and makes use of everything as
writing. This is neither "the world as text" nor "the text as world" or today's rather
fundamentalist and curiously Puritan conception of a "material word" on the page, with
the attendant "sacredness of the book, the text," but something blasphemous (Melville to
Hawthorne, on completing Moby Dick: "I have written a wicked book and am as clean
as the Lamb")- --that is, that the world is alive with writings which are moving and
changing at every moment, and themselves exist on living beings as well as on insentient
"materials." (Melville also writes to Hawthorne, that the very hand which lifts now the
pen that it has just written with, is not the same hand that just formed the last completed
letter of script, and will not be the same as the one that writes the next--)
To give but a few examples of these fugitive languages hidden like Poe's Purloined
Letter in plain site/sight/cite—consider--
Tattoos, scrimshaw, the Scarlet Letter, the letters of the words of an unknown language
carved into the black rock of an island, (in Pym; Robert Smithson wrote of these as
"perfect proto Earthwords" for "a new art criticism")--the disappearing inks and
concealed treasure maps, the Goldbug and its revelations--as well as the "readings" of
Nature by Thoreau and Emerson, and the observations as signs in turn of the "Leaves of
Grass" which are the tongues of the sleepers below ground, and, beyond that, "the untold,
the unwritten war" that "Will Never Be Written in the Books" of Whitman's "Specimen
Days, or the insects and flowers in Emily Dickinson which form the kind of private
language which she uses to "but cross the room and be in the Spice Islands" (the
continual voyage theme)--all of these are writings which extend writing far beyond the
"normalizing" conventions of the limits of the page--
This vision of a language which is continually in movement, continually changing,
concealing itself, reappearing, being thrown overboard, or bobbing about as the carved
coffin bearing the absent Queequeg's script and with it the sole survivor and author to be
of the tale of the late Pequod--is itself from a period in which the American language
was in flux, not yet standardized and fixed into the defined and set stone of Webster's. A
chaos in spelling, punctuation and grammar was perfectly acceptable, as were the wildly
varying degrees of abilities of readers to decipher the riot of signs and symbols running
amok all around them, and so was a sense of writing as something alive and unfixed,
nomadic and tending, like Art Brut and the addict's fugitive Jargons, towards an anarchy
and "Civil Disobedience" which have become increasingly tamed, toned down and timid.
For example, consider that today, a work of appropriation in a conceptual sense is
proffered as that of "unoriginality, copying" and the "author" thus no longer "exists"
except as a functionary, a filer of data, a sorter of files. This is precisely the work which
Bartleby is assigned to, and which he one day simply decides that he would "prefer not
to" do anymore.
Bartleby's act of Disobedience he pays for by being incarcerated in the Tombs, there to
die, refusing all the while to accept anything offered out of a sense of obligation by the
employer who had put him there in the first place, as a last resort against homelessness.
In a peculiar way, may one not say that Bartleby is a kind of "political prisoner," (civil
disobedience since 9/11 carrying much heavier potential penalties than it has in some
time, if ever) in the sense that he will no longer carry out the contemporary (today's) idea
of what it means to be an author-cum-death-of-the-author? Instead, he would "prefer not
to" be a writer who writes as the death of the author as it exists in the conceptual
formulation of copyist and filer, even if rejecting this method of writing-as-the-death-ofthe-
author means the loss of his freedom, and following that, of his life.
In short, Bartleby would "prefer not to" BE a "death-of-the-author-author" but instead
simply to die.

Institution as Medium. Curating as Institutional Critique?









March 12, 2010








Christoph Büchel
Deutsche Grammatik, 2008
Installation view Kunsthalle Fridericianum (detail)
Courtesy: Galerie Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, London
Photo: Stefan Altenburger



Institution as Medium.
Curating as Institutional Critique?

Symposium
26 – 27 March 2010


Location:
Documenta-Halle
Du-Ry-Straße
Kassel, Germany

http://www.fridericianum-kassel.de/symposium
http://www.curating.org

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Kunsthalle Fridericianum and Postgraduate Program in Curating, ICS, DKV, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, are hosting the symposium Institution as Medium. Curating as Institutional Critique? on Friday, 26 and Saturday, 27 March, 2010.


The two-day symposium Institution as Medium. Curating as Institutional Critique? intends to put the possibilities, opportunities as well as the limitations of current critical curating up for discussion based on the presentation of exemplary projects, curatorial programmes, theoretical analyses and artist talks. The symposium will focus on art institutions, exhibition formats and exhibition paradigms. It will include presentations and discussions and additionally serves as a communicative platform enabling curators, students, scholars and artists to engage with curating.

If we view exhibitions and art projects as an institutional apparatus that allows curators to convey certain meanings and new viewpoints to a broader public, then what is important is how new audiences are addressed, how knowledge circulates and which social spaces and institutions are created and addressed. Thus, criticism through the medium of the institution "art" may have only just begun and we have to take the issue of the messages of exhibitions seriously. So what are the opportunities, possibilities and impossibilities of critical curating? How and for whom are programmes shaped, which deviations from formats change content?


Friday 26 March 2010
12.00 Welcome Rein Wolfs / Dorothee Richter, Introduction
12.30 Oliver Marchart, The Politics of Biennialisation
13.30 Dorothee Richter with Damian Jurt, Irene Grillo, Maren Brauner,
Postmodern Education. Round and Round it Goes, Where it Stops Nobody Knows
14.30 Visit exhibition (WHITE REFORMATION CO-OP) MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO by Thomas Zipp at Kunsthalle Fridericianum
16.00 Maria Lind, Contemporary Art and its Institutional Dilemmas
17.00 San Keller, Pre-, Pre-, Pre-, Preview / Rein Wolfs
18.30 Carina Plath, From Curatorial Studies over Kunstverein to Sculpture Projects and Museum. Curatorship between Liberties, Conditions and Conservation
19.30 Panel 1, Curatorial Appeal: with a.o. Marysia Lewandowska, Renée Padt (Konstfack, Stockholm), Lisa Le Feuvre (Goldsmith College, London), Sissel Lillebostad (Creative Curating, Bergen, Norway), Tim Brennan (University of Sunderland, MA Curating)


Saturday 27 March 2010
9.30 Welcome Rein Wolfs / Dorothee Richter, Introduction
10.00 Helmut Draxler, Ecstasy in Mediation
11.00 Axel Wieder, Institutions and Crisis
12.00 Giovanni Carmine / Hassan Khan, Possible Encounters
14.00 Stella Rollig, Legitimating
15.00 Stih & Schnock, Who Needs Art, We Need Potatoes
16.30 Søren Grammel, A Series of Acts and Spaces
17.30 Panel 2, Educational Critique: How to Swot Curating
Hyunjoo Byeon, Lisa Boström, Övül Durmusoglu, Alhena Katsof, Natalie Hope O'Donnell, Alessandra Sandrolini, Andrea Roca, Adnan Yildiz. Moderators: Maja Ciric, Isin Onol
18.30 Comments & Conclusions

Location: documenta-Halle, Du-Ry-Straße, Kassel
Accreditation until 17 March 2010: symposium@fridericianum-kassel.de

Programme updates on http://www.fridericianum-kassel.de/symposium and http://www.curating.org
Next application deadline for the Postgraduate Program in Curating, ICS, Zurich University for the Arts: June 2010
---------
Current exhibition at Kunsthalle Fridericianum:
Thomas Zipp
(WHITE REFORMATION CO-OP) MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO









41 Essex street
New York, NY 10002, USA

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Brad Brace: trivial travel---Global Islands Project -- ongoing series of multi-media pdf-ebooks/field-recordings





Global Islands Project -- ongoing series of multi-media
pdf-ebooks/field-recordings -- a pastoral, pictorial and
phonic elicitation of island parameters.

Your (Art)world is based on mutual relief at your common
corruption. Maybe some cultures are based on even worse. But
that wouldn't change the bad faith of it and as years go by,
you wake at night in terror of your whole life being an act
of bad faith, where everything is self-interest and nothing
more, where every human interaction is driven by a silent,
even subconscious calculation of some ulterior motive, to
the point that a sea of bad faith has taken over your whole
life, there's no small island left from which you can even
try to build a bridge of good faith, because even that
effort becomes suspect, even good faith is nothing but
self-interested, even altruism is nothing but solipsistic,
even your professed agonizing right here right now is
nothing but a gesture, made to the conscience in order to
assure it that it exists.

http://bbrace.laughingsquid.net/id.html
http://bbrace.net/id.html

Island 1.0 is Ambergris Caye, Belize
Island 2.0 is Koh Si Chang, Thailand
Island 3.0 is Lamu, Kenya
Island 4.0 is Narikel Jingira, Bangladesh
Island 5.0 is Isla Mais, Nicaragua
Island 6.0 are The Grenadines, West Indies

Global Islands Project:

Island 1.0 -> http://bbrace.net/islands/island1/island1.html
or http://bbrace.laughingsquid.net/islands/island1/island1.html
-- over 800 images and hour-long audiotrack -- 69mb -- (acrobat 6)

Island 2.0 -> http://bbrace.net/islands/island2/island2.html
or http://bbrace.laughingsquid.net/islands/island2/island2.html
-- over 535 images and hour-long audiotrack -- 78mb -- (acrobat 6)

--

http://www.archive.org/details/global_islands_project_island_1.0
http://www.archive.org/details/global_islands_project_island_2.0
http://www.archive.org/details/global_islands_project_island_3.0
http://www.archive.org/details/global_islands_project_island_4.0
http://www.archive.org/details/global_islands_project_island_5.0

Global Islands Project -- ongoing series of multi-media pdf-books -- a
pastoral, pictorial and phonic elicitation of island parameters...

http://www.bbrace.net/id.html
http://bbrace.laughingsquid.net/id.html

bbs: brad brace sound
http://69.64.229.114:8000
http://www.bbrace.net/undisclosed.html

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Friday, March 12, 2010

NYT Book Review: REALITY HUNGER A Manifesto By David Shields--reviewer, Luc Sante






The Fiction of Memory


By LUC SANTE
Published: March 12, 2010
Consider the state of literature at the moment. Consider the rise of the memoir, the incidences of contrived and fabricated memoirs, the rash of imputations of plagiarism in novels, the overall ill health of the mainstream novel. Consider, too, culture outside of literature: reality TV, the many shades and variations of documentary film, the rise of the curator, the rise of the D.J., sampling, appropriation, the carry-over of collage from modernism into postmodernism. Now consider that all these elements might somehow be connected, might represent different aspects of some giant whatsit that will eventually constitute the cultural face of our time in the eyes of the future. That is what David Shields proposes in "Reality Hunger: A Manifesto." He further argues that what all those things have in common is that they express or fulfill a need for reality, a need that is not being met by the old and crumbling models of literature.
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Illustration by Mikel Jaso

REALITY HUNGER

A Manifesto

By David Shields

219 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $24.95

Related

Excerpt: 'Reality Hunger' (March 14, 2010)

The Free-Appropriation Writer (February 28, 2010)

David Shields's Web Site

Audio

To call something a manifesto is a brave step. It signals that you are hoisting a flag and are prepared to go down with the ship. David Shields's clarion call may in some ways depart from the usual manifesto profile — it doesn't speak on behalf of a movement, exactly — but it urgently and succinctly addresses matters that have been in the air, have relentlessly gathered momentum and have just been waiting for someone to link them together. His is a complex and multifaceted argument, not easily reducible to a bullet-point list — but then, so was the Surrealist Manifesto. "Reality Hunger" does contain quite a few slogan-ready phrases, but they weren't all written by Shields, and some are more than a century old.
One way in which the book expresses its thesis is in its organization: it is made up of 618 numbered paragraphs, more than half of them drawn from other sources, attributed only at the end of the book. This will remind readers of Jonathan Lethem's tour-de-force essay "The Ecstasy of Influence," published in Harper's in 2007, in which every single line derives from other authors — note that Lethem acknowledges a debt to Shields's essays. But what reality is such magpie business enacting? Shields answers: "Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity and by delight, we all quote. It is as difficult to appropriate the thoughts of others as it is to invent." He is, of course, quoting Emerson.
There is an artistic movement brewing, Shields writes. Among its hallmarks are the incorporation of "seemingly unprocessed" material; "randomness, openness to accident and serendipity; . . . criticism as autobiography; self-reflexivity; . . . a blurring (to the point of invisibility) of any distinction between fiction and nonfiction." He briefly summarizes the history of the novel — set in stone by the mid-19th century — and that of the essay. One form is on its way down, the other on its way up. The novel, for all the exertions of modernism, is by now as formalized and ritualized as a crop ceremony. It no longer reflects actual reality. The essay, on the other hand, is fluid. It is a container made of prose into which you can pour anything. The essay assumes the first person; the novel shies from it, insisting that personal experience be modestly draped.
The flood of memoirs of the last couple of decades represents an uprising against such repression. So why have there been so many phony memoirs? Because of false consciousness, as Marxists would put it. Shields (echoing Alice Marshall) is disappointed in James Frey not because he lied in his book, but because when he appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show he didn't say: "Everyone who writes about himself is a liar. I created a person meaner, funnier, more filled with life than I could ever be." After all, just because the novel is food for worms doesn't mean that fiction has ceased. Only an artificial dualism would treat every non-novel as if it were reportage or court testimony, and only a fear of the slipperiness of life could perpetuate the cult of the back story. "Anything processed by memory is fiction," as is any memory shaped into literature.
But we continue to crave reality, because we live in a time dominated by innumerable forms of extraliterary fiction: politics, advertising, the lives of celebrities, the apparatus surrounding professional sports — you could say without exaggeration that everything on TV is fiction whether it is packaged as such or not. So what constitutes reality, then, as it affects culture? It can be as simple as a glitch, an interruption, a dropped beat, a foreign object that suddenly intrudes. Hence the potency of sampling in popular music, which forces open the space between the vocal and instrumental components. It is also a form of collage, which edits, alters and reapportions cultural commodities according to need or desire. Reality is a landscape that includes unreal features; being true to reality involves a certain amount of wavering between real and unreal. Likewise originality, if there can ever be any such thing, will inevitably entail a quantity of borrowing, conscious and otherwise. The paradoxes pile up as thick as the debris of history — unsurprisingly, since that debris is our reality.
Luc Sante's most recent book is "Folk Photography." He teaches at Bard College.

The Fiction of Memory

Published: March 12, 2010
(Page 2 of 2)
Shields's text exemplifies many of his arguments. "The lyric essay doesn't expound, is suggestive rather than exhaustive, depends on gaps, may merely mention," he writes (quoting John D'Agata and Deborah Tall), and so it is with his book, which argues forcefully and passionately, but not like a debate-team captain, more like a clever if overmatched boxer, endlessly bobbing and weaving. And for all that so much of its verbiage is the work of others, it positively throbs with personality. This is so not simply because Shields includes a chapter of autobiographical vignettes; he puts his crotchets on display.
Skip to next paragraph

REALITY HUNGER

A Manifesto

By David Shields

219 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $24.95

Related

Excerpt: 'Reality Hunger' (March 14, 2010)

The Free-Appropriation Writer (February 28, 2010)

David Shields's Web Site

Audio

He is serious perhaps to a fault. The decision to identify the authors of the appropriated texts was, he tells us, not his but that of his publisher's lawyers, and he suggests that readers might want to scissor out those nine pages of citations. This is a noble and idealistic stance, of course, but it overlooks a human frailty that is undeniably real: curiosity. His asceticism seems also to govern his view of narrative. He is "a wisdom junkie" who wants "a literature built entirely out of contemplation and revelation," and thinks that "Hamlet" would be a lot better if all the plot were excised, leaving the chain of little essays it really wants to be. But while it's true that Shakespeare's plots can sometimes seem like armatures dragged in from the prop room, they are also there to service the human need for sensation. Sometimes Shields can give the impression that he dislikes the novel for the same reasons Cotton Mather might have: its frivolity, its voyeurism, its licentiousness.
On the whole, though, he is a benevolent and broad-minded revolutionary, urging a hundred flowers to bloom, toppling only the outmoded and corrupt institutions. His book may not presage sweeping changes in the immediate future, but it probably heralds what will be the dominant modes in years and decades to come. The essay will come into its own and cease being viewed as the stepchild of literature. Some version of the novel will endure as long as gossip and daydreaming do, but maybe it will become more aerated and less controlling. There will be a lot more creative use of uncertainty, of cognitive dissonance, of messiness and self-­consciousness and high-spirited looting. And reality will be ever more necessary and harder to come by.



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Human Rights Watch: Nigeria: Investigations, Prosecutions Needed to Help Stop Violence






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The Week In Rights
March 11, 2010
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Sectarian Killings in Nigeria Continue
Investigations, Prosecutions Needed to Help Break Cycle of Violence

"They came with guns, ammunition, and machetes," a 25-year-old student said. "One group surrounded our village and started shooting. I saw many villagers - women, children, and some men - hacked to death. I lost one of my daughters, who was 7 years old."

The recent massacre in a mainly Christian village near Jos left at least 200 dead. Two months earlier, 150 Muslims from another village were massacred in a tragically similar fashion. More than 13,500 people in Nigeria, 3,000 of them in and around Jos, have died in sectarian clashes since the end of military rule in 1999.

Nigeria is deeply divided along ethnic and religious lines. Human Rights Watch research shows that profound levels of poverty, the failure to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the violence, and discriminatory government policies fuel tension and underlie the cycles of violence. The government policies deny government jobs and scholarships to people who can't trace their ancestry to a certain area.

"This kind of terrible violence has left thousands dead in the past decade, but no one has been held accountable," said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher. "It's time to draw a line in the sand."

Read more »
Photo: © 2010 Reuters
Initiative Aims to Make Oil, Mining Profits Public 
Most Companies Miss Deadlines to Show Openness to Natural Resources Revenues

In many countries, an abundance of oil, gas, gold and other minerals – and the money these natural resources bring in – can lead to large-scale corruption that fuels human rights abuses and undermines development.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, established jointly by governments, nongovernmental organizations and energy companies, aims to alleviate part of this problem by creating greater transparency around natural resource revenue.

But of the 22 countries accepted as candidates in 2008 to join the Initiative, 20 countries – including Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone and São Tomé e Príncipe – failed to meet this week's deadline for a review of their compliance with the Initiative's standards. The missed deadline raised doubts about these countries' commitment to  report openly their profits from natural resources.

Read more »
Photo: The new presidential palace under construction in Equatorial Guinea, where many languish in needless poverty. © 2009 Human Rights Watch
Most Popular Headlines
Iran: Stop Undermining Women's Rights
On International Women's Day, Iranian women's rights activists have issued a call for freedom and gender equality in Iran. This initiative is crucial to the overall struggle for democracy in Iran. It is also a tribute to the strength of women, who continue to demand their rights and support fellow citizens in the toughest of times.
Thailand: Investigate Killings of Children
The Thai government should promptly investigate the use of lethal force by Thai soldiers against Burmese migrants, which resulted in the death of three children. The army said soldiers fired on a pick-up truck carrying 13 undocumented migrant workers from Burma after the driver failed to heed a signal to stop for inspection.
Ireland: Update Abortion Laws
The Irish government should implement the will of the Irish population by liberalizing the country's restrictive abortions laws. In a survey published today by YouGov, a polling organization, more than 60 percent of those who responded said they support access to abortion in Ireland in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities, or danger to the pregnant woman's life or health.
Ethiopia: Open Impartial Inquiry Into Candidate's Killing
The Ethiopian government should urgently initiate an independent investigation into the murder of an opposition candidate for parliament and bring those responsible to justice. Aregawi Gebreyohannes, the victim, was a candidate for the Arena-Tigray opposition party for the upcoming elections. He was stabbed to death by five men at his home.
Editors Picks
Sexual Violence: Help Haiti's Women
by Liesl Gerntholtz
The Daily Beast
Driving through Port-au-Prince's Parc Jean Marie Vincent camp, the first thing I notice is how massive and congested it is. After that, the smell and the heat hit me. I had come to the camp to interview a young rape survivor, as part of a Human Rights Watch mission to Haiti to investigate sexual and other violence against women in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Burma: Election Laws May Shut Down Opposition Parties
Newly issued laws in preparation for 2010 elections in Burma are designed to exclude the main opposition party and ensure a victory for the ruling military. The new law's assault on opposition parties continues the sham political process that is aimed at creating the appearance of civilian rule with a military spine."
Chad: Inside a Dictator's Secret Police
by Reed Brody
Foreign Policy

For the two decades that he has been free, Souleymane Guengueng has constantly relived the two years he spent in a Chadian prison, where he watched hundreds of cellmates die from torture and disease. Thrown in jail in 1988 for still-unknown reasons, the deeply religious civil servant took an oath before God: If he ever got out alive, he would bring his tormentors to justice.

Philippines: Protect Witnesses to Maguindanao Massacre
Philippine authorities should act swiftly to protect eyewitnesses to the November 2009 massacre of at least 57 people in Maguindanao province on Mindanao, and to protect their families as well. Concerns for the safety of witnesses are highlighted by the killings of two relatives of witnesses and the shooting of a third.

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