APRIL 2001


Rebirth and Redeath

Whoa. Toufic's chapter on 'Thresholds and Imaginary Lines.' I've just started reading Toufic's book and I am completely stunned. His style recursively 'documents the moves of consciousness' across his subject in the most extraordinary manner and this particular chapter absolutely rocks. Talk about one-way doors, turning corners in one's life, and singularities that appear behind you -- images which I've been giving a lot of thought the last couple of months... I feel I have been experienced. Now I'm being educated.

Note: as a companion to Toufic's study I'd love to find a copy of Gregory Waller's 'The Living and the Undead: From Stoker's Dracula to Romero's Dawn of the Dead.'

From Alain Silver and James Ursini's The Vampire Film:

"Waller's thesis is that movies and literature about the 'undead' (he includes vampires within the larger 'genre' of films dealing with the undead) are at their core explorations of the issue of survival. He sees these works delineating a battle between the human desire for continuity and immortality and an equally strong desire for death and closure. The ambivalence humans feel towards these opposing issues inform most undead films, some falling on the side of closure and what Waller calls the 'butcher work' (for instance, Tod Browning's Dracula) and some on immortality (John Badham's Dracula)."


Not Me

not you, nor us. Nor them.

Heather Anne Halpert on mistaking journals and weblogs for journalists and webloggers:

"It makes me howl when people assume this is me -- laid bare. I once had someone tell me, to prove a point, that she'd gone back through the archives and mapped my writing to specific personal events. It was hard not to laugh... Naturally. This is the extent of me. Exposed. You can turn me over and prod my soft spots, stick your fingers into my orifices and smell me. Each bit of what you think is my soul corresponds to a point on or in my body defined by three coordinates. Click here to browse them."

Jalal Toufic on the use of (on the device of) letters and diaries to both reveal and simultaneously hide *the nature of reality* (in Vampire films):

"These confessions, though, hide that a bigger secret is being hidden, for the different fragments, like different shots from different angles, are being used to edit around all the objective inconsistencies in the chronology and space. This remains a secret to them, that they confessed their secrets precisely to hide the secret(s): the inconsistencies in reality."

"... because the differing points of view permit the intercutting of a smooth story that does away with the inconsistencies to be otherwise met in the world."

Why stop at paper and screen? Why stop at the thought that the truth revealed through (the frames of) paper and screen -- will always (already) hide more than it reveals? Why should this be different from other forms of mediation? Why should we privilege the live, real-time, person-to-person, face-to-face? Go ahead. Stick your fingers into my orifices and smell me... What makes us believe that *live* is more 'there there' than anything else? More 'there there' than elsewhere?

True is false. True is false. 'There is no there there.'


Not I

Caravaggio's Doubting Thomas (detail)

Baby, pinch yourself and remember this moment. An experience like this has got to be worth at least a couple million words.

At Minerva in Groningen, we are doing a workshop on weblogs and weblogging. Which I am finding very difficult. Without the experience, the little theory and analysis that there is -- sounds (even to my ears) frighteningly hollow. What remains is my own enthusiasm and the conviction that this practice (as a form of sustained inquiry) will be very, very important to (future) artists.

Three obvious requisites: Curiosity, trust, patience.

Didactically, experience-before-theory beats theory-before-experience hands down. While some experiences are close to being instantaneous, other experiences are accrued over time. Weblog experience is accrued over time. So what can we do for the rest of the week? Tonight Mr. Lira suggested searching for analogous experiences amongst the participants. Good idea Mr. Lira. But what in the world is comparable to doing this?


metastable, a state which is not stable, but which lives long enough to have significance, is called metastable.


Down Time

Toufic's own jump cuts (with the first paragraph over Wyeth's method of 'sustained inquiry' and the second paragraph over an imaginary character's amnesia/lapses):

"The painter Andrew Wyeth portrays Helga in so many works -- 246 works: 4 temperas, 12 drybrush paintings, 63 watercolors, 164 pencil sketches and drawings, etc. -- in so many attitudes, positions, surroundings, moods, that in the situations that have not been portrayed she is absent from herself.

"His talk is occasionally interrupted by a black screen then resumed at the same point with "as I was saying." At other times, although the shot is not interrupted and none of those present interrupt him, he keeps interjecting his talk with: "as I was saying."


Wyeth's Braids (detail)

The Helga Pictures (The Norton Museum of Art):

"The Helga Pictures represent a unique body of work for Wyeth. The subject of virtually the entire group is Helga Testorf, a neighbor of Wyeth's in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The collection was executed over a 15 year period, from 1971 to 1985, completed in total secrecy, known only to the artist and model."


Weblog workshop ends...


Nationalistically (physically, spatially), we are definitely entering a strange and confusing age. As yet another proof of this, Heerko van der Kooij forwarded me the following post (submitted to Nettime by one Alessandro Ludovico):

Yesterday a liberticide law has been approved by the Italian Parliament.

The law clearly states that the publishers of periodical news on the web who are not 'professional' journalists (or write on behalf of them) could be fined for up to 250 dollars and arrested for up to two years, and accused of the 'clandestine press' crime.

Under the big publisher's lobby pressure they have applied the same old rules for the printed press to the web.

A professional journalist is a journalist that is registered in the National Order of Journalists (Ordine Nazionale dei Giornalisti). In order to be registered you have to take an exam with a National Order's members commission.

Today lots of Italian independent webzine publishers, frightened by the announcement, announced they would stop their activities.

By now one of the major tech-zines is promoting a national petition against this senseless law.

In the Italian Constitution is clearly written: "Everyone has the right to freely express his thoughts with spoken words, press and any other medium."

While it is easy to laugh at the ridiculousness of the nation state ("They just don't get it, do they?"), the very ease of our laughter makes me rather uneasy. I wonder how much of this we are actually getting? How much of our *modern sense of identity* is supplied, afforded, and supported by our physicality, our spatiality, our 'social beingness' -- our belonging to our nations, to our states? And when the old divisions and distinctions completely go (as they undoubtedly will) what is going to replace them?

One man's answer (anno 1994): Douglas Barnes, The Coming Jurisdictional Swamp of Global Internetworking (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Anonymity).


In the library at Minerva last Friday I picked up a collection of articles on film theory (Film: A Montage of Theories) which I've been slowly perusing. The book's back cover blurb says it well: "The theories conflict. Those who love movies should not be upset by the fact there seem to be deep contradictions in these 39 articles. What kind of aesthetic theory can reconcile realism and fantasy, entertainment and education, mysteries and musicals, slapstick and spectacle?"

What kind of aesthetic theory indeed... Here are some striking (and strikingly ideological) passages from one of the articles, Cesare Zavattini's 1952 manifesto, 'Some Ideas on the Cinema' (Note: this is the essence of neorealist theory -- it was Zavattini who wrote the scenario for De Sica's Bicycle Thief):


"No doubt one's first and most superficial reaction to everyday reality is that it is tedious. Until we are able to overcome some moral and intellectual laziness, in fact, this reality will continue to appear uninteresting."


"The most important characteristic, and the most important innovation, of what is called neorealism, it seems to me, is to have realised that the necessity of the 'story' was only an unconscious way of disguising a human defeat, and that the kind of imagination it involved was simply a technique of superimposing dead formulas over living social facts."


"So there is no question of a crisis of subjects, only of their interpretation. This substantial difference was nicely emphasised by a well-known American producer when he told me:"

"This is how we would imagine a scene with an aeroplane. The plane passes by... a machine gun fires... the plane crashes... And this is how you would imagine it. The plane passes by... the plane passes by again... the plane passes by once more..."

"He was right. But we have still not gone far enough. It is not enough to make the aeroplane pass by three times; we must make it pass by twenty times."


"The question is: how to give human life its historical importance at every minute."


"For peace, too, the human moment should not be a great one, but an ordinary daily happening. Peace is usually the sum of small happenings, all having the same moral implications at their roots."


"People understand themselves better than the social fabric; and to see themselves on the screen, performing their daily actions -- remembering that to see oneself gives one the sense of being unlike oneself -- like hearing one's own voice on the radio -- can help them to fill up a void, a lack of knowledge of reality."


Sustained inquiry. Lynn Canyon Park, 9 January 2001 (first quarterly iteration). Still can't see the forest for the trees, even from here. (But by now you should know that all your forests are belong to us. Gaa...aack!!)


Best Before...

All Your Base Are Belong to Us.

Whereas 'All your *brand* are belong to us' is completely new or still sounds exciting and fresh to some ears, to others the phrase is as dead as a doorknob. The epidemiology of an Ebola-like meme: (1) capable of crossing great distances in the twinkle of an eye (2) local flare-ups tend to burn out quickly.

It would seem that after beauty, beyond pleasure, and past consumption, the only thing left for 'jaded folk' like us to experience is the shifting expression of the sublime, ie. total assimilation (or the contemplation thereof).

Cats: You have no chance to survive. Make your time.

We Jaded Folk: Ooooh!



The wife of the first man in space.

A photograph of Valya Gagarin hearing the radio report that her 27 year old husband Yuri was safely back on earth following his 108 minute flight. Today is the 40th anniversary of that day. Gagarin died while test piloting a new jet on March 27, 1968. He was 34.

Greedy for the experience of others (July 1 2000).



The last couple of days I've been working on a proposal for a project. I'm still working on it today and I'm very sure I'll be working on it tomorrow too. Deadline is Tuesday morning...

This day last year: Wooden sharks and robin crashes.


Everything but the Idea

Last night I went to bed feeling that the structure I've been working on still misses some essential point of focus (the Dutch would call this the 'clou'). This morning woke up sniffing and sneezing. Figures... Before getting back to work I doctored myself with antihistamines and coffee and cooked myself some comfort food (roasted kasha cooked with dates, mixed with tahini and pieces of apple and then sprinkled with soy sauce and red pepper flakes). Trying to remember what I am looking for is 'what is looking.'

Sustained inquiry: 'He Loved Him Madly' from Miles' Get Up With It.


Talk to me this afternoon and I'll tell you exactly why artists are not designers.

The Ability to Sustain (14 June 1999), Gadamer Revisited (15 June 1999) and One Hundred Years of Solicitude.


All Your Base Are Belong to Us

Yesterday began with the presentation of my proposal in Arnhem and ended in a 6 hour session with an Italian crew making a program about the exhibition in Milan. Unfortunately the presentation in Arnhem did not go as hoped. Where I was extremely pleased with the concept and the way in which it complemented Josette Jacobs' dissertation, the concept did not please the NUON. It seems they expected something else. Gee... I wonder whether I expected too much from them? In any case a number of procedural mistakes have been made. Curious to see where we go from here.

A boat trip with the documentary crew. From L to R, the cameraman Bruno Beltramini, the lighting guy who's name I didn't catch, the director Giampaolo Penco and the sound recordist Bruna Perraro.


Three free palm apps which increase the value of your palm: the forward looking Tik Tok (which can time anything from eggs to the length of new friendships), the backward looking date calculator CalDate (which calculates things like your days alive -- for me today that's 16,464), and AutoPond (an amazingly clever networking game).



Last night at the Schouwburg Annemie Vanackere invited me to watch the Dutch premiere of Jérôme Bel's 'The Show Must Go On.' I suppose I could simply call Bel's latest piece a neorealist dance performance and be done with it; but that would justify it with an ideology where none was needed. So instead I'll say that it was the most radically UN-sophisticated performance that I've ever seen. Bar none. And by 'unsophisticated' I mean not sophisticated in the proper sense of the word 'sophisticate.'

sophisticate, involve (subject) in sophistry; mislead (person) thus; deprive (person, thing) of simplicity, make artificial; tamper with (text etc.) for purposes of argument.

Bel's recipe: Take 18 untrained dancers, a dj-without-a-mixing-panel, a pile of pop music CD's. Play the songs and represent the lyrics as literally as possible. Remember this: AS LITERALLY AS POSSIBLE. Let the whole effect be amateur and clumsy (ie. let it be as amateur and clumsy as we, the audience, are, or feel we are). Let it be banal (ditto). Repeat until done.

clumsy, awkward in movement or shape, ungainly; ill-contrived; without tact.

banal, commonplace, trite. Originally a feudal word; the use of the lord's mill was compulsory for all tenants (bannal mill), whence the sense 'common to all.'

Following Bel's recipe, the following thoughts came to mind:

  1. the craftiness of 'no craft'

  2. the situationist critique of the masterpiece (said to reduce whoever looks at it to nothing)

  3. Joke Robaard's Defile, a fashion show 'of normal people wearing their own clothes' produced in 1999 for Festival a/d Werf in Utrecht

  4. some of the bridges or transitions in Von Trier's 'Breaking the Waves,' where attention is focused on a banality so long that it becomes uncomfortable

  5. the ongoing discussion that I am having with Rogério Lira over exclusivity



Bel's piece, 'The Show Must Go On' was advertised under the caption, 'pop music as collective memory' (popmuziek als collectief geheugen) but how collective is our experience, our memory? How common is our commons? Certainly Bel's choreography made me think of a collective mind's-eye, an audience looking out at itself and simultaneously seeing inside its own (collective) head, at the screen, the flickering cave wall of (projected) collective consciousness.

Remember the ending of 'Being John Malkovitch'? With all those people crawling into poor Mr. Malkovitch's head? Sharing the prospect?

I remember a story a friend once told me about how he used to listen over and over to one of Bob Dylan's albums (he was a fan and this was a long time ago), until he reached the point that this particular Bob Dylan album became his album. And how one day my friend was visiting a friend of his and the friend of his put on the same album and it sounded completely different to my friend. Rather than being shared it was lost to him. From that moment on he felt it was no longer his album.

From the 'The Show Must Go On' program guide:

"The possibility of an art-piece, even a choreography, today is not to propose an utterance, but to invite the spectator to re-invent him/herself, or perhaps less utopic, to re-search his/her ideology of spectating, of constructing Self, or articulating security. The artwork can not say anything in itself, it can represent a political idea or concept, but today the artwork is a formulation of itself. The artwork can only investigate, or re-search, its own domain, and become self-conscious through reflection (per speculum in aenigmate) and through this awareness it can become an experience of the Self (the spectator) but never an experience of something else. To be part of an art-experience is always only the experience of the self."

(Marten Spangberg)



How un-sophisticated can you go?

Well maybe you can go so far that the erstwhile un-sophisticated turns highly aesthetic. (Thus undoing any intended -- or unintended -- ideological pretensions. It looked to me, for example, like the crowd of young people present at the premiere the other night were absolutely un-impressed with the performance's ultra-un-pretentiousness -- ie. if there was a revolutionary message in it for them, it was lost. They expected slick escapology for their money and attention and found none.)

An excerpt from Truffaut's 'La Femme d'a Côte' (from the program guide to 'The Show Must Go On'):


Hold on, your radio's working. I'm happy you're interested in the news, to know what's going on in the world.


No, I only listen to songs because they tell the truth. The more stupid they are, the more they tell the truth and in that way they're not stupid. They say, "do not leave me" or "your absence has broken my life" or "I'm an empty house without you" or "let me be the shadow of your shadow" or even "without love, we're nothing".


Well Mathilde, I have to go. I'll come back.

Does the Top 40 tell the truth? And if does tell the truth, what does the truth tell us?

Or to put this in another way, I once asked, "Why so many love songs?" (And why so many of the 'same song'?) In answer Jouke posted on 4 January 2000 the following clever passage from Dave Hickey's Air Guitar:

"We need so many love songs because the imperative rituals of flirtation, courtship, and mate selection that are required to guarantee the perpetuation of the species and the maintenance of social order -- that are hardwired in mammals and socially proscribed in traditional cultures -- are up for grabs in mercantile democracies. These things need to be done, but we don't know how to do them, and, being free citizens, we won't be told how to do them. Out of necessity, we create the institution."

And in the same groove (them synchronicities are a-flyin' today) Stefan Kunzmann mails me a piece of an 1991 interview with Heiner Müller because he thinks I may find it interesting...


Heiner Müller, der Abstand zwischen Alltagsbewußtsein und Kultur vergrößert sich ständig. Vor hundert Jahren gab es in Deutschland noch Arbeiterbildungsvereine, in denen z.B. deutsche Klassik gelesen wurde. Heute absorbieren Videos und Boris Becker die geistigen Impulse breiter Schichten. Daß ein Gedanke, wie Marx es formulierte, die Massen ergreift, ist mittlerweile unvorstellbar.


Das ist kein Problem des Abstands, den hat es immer gegeben. Zum ersten Mal in der Weltgeschichte gibt es mehr Lebende als Tote, bilden die Lebenden die Majorität. Kultur ist immer auf >Geschichte, auf die Toten bezogen. Wenn jetzt die große Mehrzahl von der Kultur und den darin verhandelten Problemen unberührt bleibt, ist das nicht nur die Ignoranz der Lebenden gegenüber den Toten. Mehrheiten interessieren sich nicht für Minderheiten. Es sei denn, um sie zu vereinnahmen.


Heiner Müller, the distance between everyday consciousness and culture is increasing. A hundred years ago there still existed Arbeiterbildungsvereine (clubs to educate workers) where people read for example the german classics. Today any such intellectual impulses are overwhelmed by video-clips and Boris Becker. Today it's almost unthinkable that "the masses are seized with a thought" as Marx put it.


For the first time in world history there are more living than dead, the living form the majority. Culture always refers to history, to the dead. If the majority of people are now indifferent to culture and the issues that culture addresses, then it's simply a matter of the ignorance of the living towards the dead. Majorities are not interested in minorities. They are only interested enough to appropriate them.



"An art-piece as (a part of) a 'show that must go on' (hardly a goal, the show being rather unstoppable -- as in everything goes, but art is late to find out, after having been such a stopper of sorts), at the most un-stable, offers a rhetorical bi-stability of self-consciously looking at/looking through (Richard Lanham). It's the panic pendulum of being serious and being not, of being a state and a process, of being truth and lie, of being oneself and being not: all in one, not the one or the other, or the one for the other, but at the same whatever moment in time.

"Doubt any kind of self congratulation or dis-appreciation."


In the Mood Swing

(Elsewhere) a lot of my friends appear to be grumpy (or worse). Here in Rotterdam I'm happy to report that I'm just sleepy and sneezy (allergies).

But all this talk of periodic cantankerousness reminds me of a little story...

The seven dwarves are in Rome and they go on a tour of the city. After awhile, they go to the Vatican and meet the Pope. Grumpy, for once, seems to have a lot to say; he keeps asking the pontiff questions about the church and in particular, the nuns.

"Your Holiness, do you have any really short nuns?"

"No, my son, all our nuns are at least 170 meters tall."

"Are you sure? I mean, you wouldn't have any nuns that are, say, about my height? Maybe a little shorter?"

"I'm afraid not. Why do you ask?"

"No reason. (pause) "Positive? Nobody in a dark suit who is about 75-90 centimeters tall?"

"No. I'm sorry."

"Okay. Thanks anyway."

Grumpy seems dejected at this news, and the Pope wonders why; so he listens to the dwarves as they leave the building.

"What did he say? What did he say?" beg the other six dwarves.

Grumpy scowls, "He said, they don't have any short nuns."

And the other six dwarves start chanting, "Grumpy fucked a penguin! Grumpy fucked a penguin!"


Pecking Order

(Boy toy)

Remember children, dwarves -- just like you -- can be awfully cruel at times! Why Mommie? Why? Why? Why?


(Someone recently remarked that I seemed so disciplined (especially in this guise). While this appears to be true -- it is not true. The truth is: in order to manage my dis-order I go to great lengths to hide it. I'm probably more undisciplined than you are. Do rest assured.)

Two paragraphs wrenched from Toufic's *magnificent* Pattern Book:

(Immobilization and Tunneling. Pg. 49)

"Ça va? How can things be fine, when one is stopped dead in one's tracks, when these immobilizations are happening. Muscle comes from the Latin musculus, which means little mouse. There is a proliferation of mice and rats in the infamous plagues of vampire films, as if people's muscles had slipped from them and were moving around, leaving them to an immobilization/paralysis due to fear and death."

(Labyrinth. Pg. 68)

"When lost, not only in space and time, but also in one's mind, one should stop following signs and landmarks, above all disregard the subliminal, what one glimpsed fleetingly at the edge of one's vision, or had a presentiment of, or vaguely sensed -- stop any reliance on meaning. An eclipse of meaning should occur, one treating one's mind as an image track on the sound track. This should replace the attitude one has when one still thinks one is not yet in the labyrinth, and which resides in noticing, so as not fall into the labyrinth, all kinds of foreshadowings in the guise of jokes, parapraxes, metaphors... [several examples deleted, ed.] ... be cautious about the fact that you are noticing these warnings, announcements of the labyrinth, since, unfortunately, these cryptic announcements of the labyrinth continue to occur even after you are already in the labyrinth (one encounters here yet another figure of the impossibility of being fully in the labyrinth: alongside memory, a kind of forgetfulness of what happened, since the warnings against an eventuality that already happened continue), seducing you into both thinking that you are not yet in the labyrinth and into continuing to interpret them, notice them, rather than revert to an eclipse of meaning. In the case of a labyrinth, the only time you don't need these warnings is when you don't notice them, since one notices these warnings only in the labyrinth."




Jouke writes:

- How to get the truth out of people?
- There's no truth in people, only in their relationships.
- How to get the truth out of a relationship?
- You don't, you engage in it.

In order to engage (in) a relationship -- you have to move closer to it, subject yourself to it, do the subjective thing. But I wonder, this moving-in-towards, would this be in relation to the relationship itself (at best an abstraction) or to the other party? (more concrete, as towards the other him, her, or them?) And which of these two perceptions provides the best 'subject matter'?

We are truth-seeking time machines. (According to Toufic (see below), such moving-towards-subjection necessitates falling into the past of the other. The other provides the reference or framework for the subject's experience -- and the subject imagines the other's perception. And so forth.)

Coexistence of the Senses
Jalal Toufic

"In previous historical eras, the person who moved from a large distance (i.e. beyond the possibility of direct instantaneous communication) toward a second person belonged to the past of the latter, the reference, until they met.They were separated by as much time as it would have taken a message to get from one to the other by the fastest means available then (nonetheless, in relation to events like an eclipse of the sun, they were contemporary). With the advent of telecommunication, if one person goes to visit another, he would be in the past of the other, but were he, while on his way there, to decide to phone the other, both would become contemporaries. Then once he resumed his journey toward the other, he would be once more in the past of the latter. A fluctuation between being in another's past, present or future."


Notes to Myself


Re: Trying to teach myself to watch movies at home (with Cocteau's Orphee, Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali, Dreyer's Vampyr.) At times I find myself watching the same scenes over and over again. At other times I find the act of watching difficult and become impetuous -- I find it difficult to sit still for so long -- my attention does not so much wander (wanting to browse) as wonder (wanting to make connections). What is related to this thing that I watch?


Re: Altered states. I note that I don't cry when I read books and that I do cry when I watch movies (like Pather Panchali).


Re: Wandering an industrial area trying to find our way to the party at Atelier van Lieshout - Ville (AVL). Speaking about cruelty to animals and then hearing the screech of peacocks. Approaching strangers for direction:

"Excuse me. Is this the way to the Keileweg?"
"Hello. May I ask you something? Do you know where the Keileweg is?"

We head off a couple times in the wrong direction. We start down a long, lonely stretch of road. A black van pulls up next to us. Inside are two guys and a dog (german shepard).

"You looking for the party?"
"Thought so. You can come with us."

(We go back and forth before a threshold. (See Toufic who quotes from Stolker's Dracula:

"The carriage went at a hard pace along, then we made a complete turn and went along another straight road. It seemed to me that we were simply going over and over the same ground again; and so I took note of some salient point, and found this was so."))



-1, -2, -3

March 2001

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