SUNDAY, 5 AUGUST 2001
Back from Beirut and very, very tired (after a ridiculously long day which started at 6:00 A.M. yesterday morning and ended when I collapsed on the studio couch at about 6 P.M. this evening). Regular updates should resume tomorrow.
10:45 Saturday, 4 August 2001. (We will remember it for you.)
BEIRUT NOTES (in progress)
Four days of cappuccino. The last day coffee boiled with cardamom.
J.T.: apropos what you said as we stepped into your car Saturday night on the way to the airport: over remaining a stranger in a city vs. meeting many people: it seems to me that the former affords a choice: loneliness or solitude; the latter affording the possibility of exceedingly 'free' observations -- indespensible for certain types of writers / writing.
Different sorts of remembering and forgetting (who will advance (or who has already advanced) a typology of remembering and forgetting?): I find it strange to completely forget a childish statement made more than half a lifetime ago (in my case more than 23 years ago) to remember it again on the eve of its closure.
MONDAY, 6 AUGUST 2001
Re: remembering and forgetting... During my 12 hours of badly needed sleep last night I was surprised to have a dream about the girlfriend before my ex-girlfriend (my ex-ex).
And speaking of vampires, I'm mightly impressed by the new Diesel (for successful living) ads, which read like pages torn from a Taoist life extension manual. Up to now I've only seen two, 'Don't Have Sex' and 'Drink Urine' but according to this July 30 article in Strategy there are 11 all told. Strategy also reports they are meant satirically -- 'This is a big joke' claims Diesel Canada's ad manager Marissa Guerrera -- but please don't tell that to the millions of Indians and Chinese who regularly practice this sort of thing. (On the other hand, who cares? They aren't exactly Diesel's target market are they?). The 'Save Yourself' campaign was put together by the Dutch agency Kessels Kramer.
(A recent news story reported that over 3 million Chinese regularly drink their urine. Google search: Urine Therapy.)
Watched about an hour and a half of Kevin Branagh's Hamlet.
BEIRUT NOTES (in progress)
17:30 Friday, 3 August 2001. (Detail, reduced 50%.)
Over real and imagined hells:
It is widely reported that Malcolm Lowry, while at work writing Under the Volcano, used to gaze at night across the water of Vancouver's Burrard Inlet (Lowry lived from 1940 to 1954 in a waterfront shack in Dollarton, North Vancouver) at the flaming retorts of the SHELL OIL refinery in Burnaby, whose huge blinking sign spelled HELL (the letter 'S' had burned out). Which begs the question: "Is hell ever real?" (The sign in the above photograph only appears to spell SHELL -- in reality it once spelled something else.)
(I know nothing about the 'civil' war.)
Granularity: where a (photo's) reduction of 50% in size expresses considerably less than 50% of the (potentially receivable) impact. Reproduction at 100% provides a better impression but is still not adequate.
(Monument?) Best is to stand there. And standing there, to witness the aftermath of the movement of so many metal grains... "Het snoert je de mond."
17:30 Friday, 3 August 2001. (Detail, 100%.)
TUESDAY, 7 AUGUST 2001
Found in L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze (while helping A. with a short text):
"There are no deaths, there are assassinations..."
Found while searching for clever euphemisms for 'Beirut bowels': Roger's Profanisaurus (the funniest here being 'crop spraying').
BEIRUT NOTES (in progress)
View from the balcony of Room 810, Mayflower Hotel.
White Light, White Heat.
From a fixed vantage point -- the visual: the 6 A. M. glance of the dark skinned maid (Sri Lankan?) who shakes out her curls and opens the shutters of the house across the way (padding barefoot back and forth along the balcony).
From a moving vantage point -- the remaining senses: what surfaces (what amalgamates, what comes to the forefront) when color mixes to intense white: a potency, an erotic synaesthesia of heat, sound and smell (the smell of the sea, of jasmine, of roasted and spicy food, the occasional whiff of something rotten, perhaps something dead; the scintillant heat, the reservoirs of airco; the squealing tires, a cat's meeouw, backfiring cars, car horns, the call to prayer, jack hammers, the loud buzzing of insects).
Mmm. To drift oh-so-slowly through this.
While in this state (or should I say while in this set and setting?), two memories arise (both arising more than once). One is of Jamie King excitedly recollecting his one and only K. adventure for the benefit of Stewart Butterfield and myself last November in London. In the middle of it Jamie described his walking out in front of an oncoming train and his standing there to face it, claiming to us he wanted to feel the full force of the oncoming locomotive with his body (his friends quickly pulled him back). There was a specific movement that Jamie made when he told us this, he repeatedly slapped his chest with both of his hands, a sort of 'come to Pappa' movement. It is this movement that I remember now.
And then there was that day in Islamabad, during the summer of 1992, when I dropped a hit of acid and we drove out into the countryside. At that moment I was so struck by the delicious combination of heat, sound and smell that I wanted to jump off the jeep and roll like a dog in it, to cover myself in it. I remember this too.
WEDNESDAY, 8 AUGUST 2001
Bill Humphries writes to thank me for the recent post and explains,
"I'm reading Richard Powers' Plowing the Dark and now I can imagine the building where Powers' character Martin is held hostage."
Someday I hope to get back to reading Powers. I know he gets considerable flack for his overblown language and his super bright characters (such as this thumbs down from an Amazon reviewer: "Every character here is so clever, so insightful and articulate that they all blended into one big aphorism-spouting bore..."), but the more I think about it the more I like it that he populates his books with such exaggerated and superhuman beings, every single character smarter than smart.
A perfect example of this character prodigiousness is found on page 18 of Galatea 2.2. The protagonist, author Richard Powers (an allonym, one suspects, of the 'real' author Richard Powers) exchanges words with Dr. Philip Lenz (cognitive neurologist), over the superiority of Dutch culture. Dr. Lenz has just declared Holland a 'negligible nation.' To which Mr. Powers replies:
"They've had more than their share of world-class painters and composers, for a negligible country."
"Oh, please, Mr. Powers. European-class. The world, it may stun you to learn, is predominantly black haired. A plurality of those live without adequate shelter and would use The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp as a canvas roof patch if they could."
"All right. I'll grant you the pretty pictures and a few good tunes. But they've never amounted to much in the novel writing department have they?"
"That's the fault of translation."
"Not the limits of that expectorant Low German dialect? An orthography to write home about. And crikey! How do you deal with that syntax? An even by native speakers not until the ultimate grammatical arrival capable of being unraveled word order that one's brain in ever more excruciatingly elaborate cortical knots trivially can tie."
His burlesque was note-perfect. He tore it off, at tempo. It chilled me. How much homework had the man done? Could a cognitive linguist parody a language he didn't speak? I didn't want to know.
(Ref: my own brief review of Galatea 2.2. Scroll down to 'Pygmalian Prays to Aphrodite.')
BEIRUT NOTES (in progress)
Taking a walk along the Corniche at dusk.
(We will remember it for you.)
Once, while walking along the Corniche at dusk, I heard a car backfire and witnessed a group of older women spontaneously duck their heads and break into short run. They stopped and grinned sheepishly at each other the moment they realised what had actually happened.
There is 'the body in the mind' and there is the Corniche. Lots and lots of very buff (well exorcised?) joggers work out here -- i.e. both in their minds and on the pavement.
I find the presence of numerous watchposts (and tucked away tanks) in such a recreational atmosphere somewhat disconcerting. No photographs! Jalal later explains: one of Beirut's largest Club-Med-style beach clubs is reserved for the military and their families.
Yet another story, this time over the row that followed the placement of a temporary sculpture by Tony Shakar. Permitted by the city government yet proscribed by the nearby mosque. "If not on the Corniche then where is Beirut's public space?" asks exhibition organizer Christine Tohme (definition of an organizer: one who furnishes with organs, makes organic, makes into living being or tissue). Christine continues: "The mosque suggested the removal of the sculpture 'for its own safety', while the city offered to place soldiers to protect it."
(Later I realise that Christine's question is rhetorical, for 'public space' is a issue not only on the Corniche but everywhere. In truth, what is common is tragic. (See Garrett Hardin's The Tragedy of the Commons.) The best 'public space' I know is private space that is offered to the 'public' as a gift.)
Re: my own circumspection about what to say and what not. What's the point of seeing (or hearing) something if you are not allowed to write (to yourself) about it? I'm the first to admit I know nothing about what is going on here.
THURSDAY, 9 AUGUST 2001
It's been raining hard here in Rotterdam the last day or two. Which is fine. The exterior cloudbursts and dark thundershocks seem to mirror (in a sympathetic magic sort of way) the state of my insides (my stomach has yet to catch up with the rest of my body).
Stewart writes: "Funny... what others admire in us is often not where we feel most capable."
Elsewhere it's good to see that the dancemonkeyboy video is getting all the world-wide attention it deserves. Even funnier than the video is the commentator at As the Apple Turns who in scene 3223, 'Sweet Lord, Take Us Now' wonders out loud, "Is this the portrait of a fat bald man who has taken to pouring crystal meth on his Lucky Charms in the morning?"
Oh shame, where is thy blush?
BEIRUT NOTES (in progress)
13:30 Friday, 3 August 2001. Boy in empty lot.
In Beirut I walk in the sun and the sun browns me.
Hysteria is a form of vibration. What matters to me is whether this vibration be after-effect or premonition -- a way of dissipating (excess) heat or organizing one's attention. I see the walls and insects here all vibrating hysterically. The rest seems in trance.
Re: Beirut as a city of f(r)actions, multi-confessional identities, tribes.
It was not so long ago that I let slip: "Politics is for dogs. Are we not men..." Now, sitting comfortably on the terrace of cafe 'The Chase' in Achrafiye with Tony Shakar, I take it back. At least here, while in discussion with Tony. (For what do I know about this place?) Tony convinces me: "In Beirut politics IS existential." (Existential, aphoristic, anti-systematic.)
Over real and imagined hells (cf. note 4): "Hell is other people."
I confess. (In cafe Modca -- where waiters serve each cappuccino with a glass of water that I cannot drink -- I confess in order to attend to the fact of my hysteria -- hysteria that takes the form of a confession.)
Later I ask myself about the difference between evangelical brand loyality (consider the recent prediction that the only two companies who will survive the PC wars will be Apple and Sony) and confessional partisanship. Perhaps this is too simple a question. But what matter the degree? is a much harder question.
FRIDAY, 10 AUGUST 2001
Elsewhere: Jouke quotes Giorgio Agamben:
(...) "toys and ritual objects demand analogous behaviour: once the ritual and the game are over, these, being embarrassing residues, must be hidden and put away, for in a sense they constitute the tangible denial of what they have none the less helped to make possible" (...)
and adds some interesting embellishments ('Toys as time killers' "Every tool is a clock of sorts.") to Agamben's take on play, ritual and the 'destruction of experience' (amnesia?).
BEIRUT NOTES (in progress)
14:20 Friday, 3 August 2001. Boy on curb.
He ain't heavy, he's my brother.
Don't you think it's a shame that the classical figures of speech -- you know, those clever little ways we have to turn a phrase -- don't include examples of right speech?
Of course everyone asks: "Why did you come to Beirut?"
And I find myself telling the story (for the um-teenth time): "What brings me to Beirut? Well, I came to meet J.T. and to invite him to come teach in Amsterdam this fall." "Yes, I know." "It's interesting how things work out. Not so long ago (to be precise on the 28th of February...) I had a chance to meet C.D. After hearing me talk about my work she wondered whether I'd read J.T.? I said no, I hadn't, but if she'd be so kind as to write his name in my notebook? Thanks. When I got home I did the requisite searches on Google and Amazon. At the time I couldn't find anything more than listings for a couple of his titles. About a month later I visited London where I was lucky enough to find a copy of '(Vampires)' in Foyles. A quarter of an hour after opening it I was completely hooked. Shortly after I ordered all his other books. I find the man's writing absolutely amazing."
What am I saying here? Here I'm deep in 'away' territory (as opposed to being deep in one's 'home' territory) amongst strangers, so obviously my speech acts should be framed differently. Yet I tell the exact same story that I tell at home. Is this elaborate (long-winded) need to explain (or perhaps more precisely, secret hope that others will see the story's significance and explain it to me) justified in the light of 'right speech'? Especially here in Beirut amongst those that actually know J.T.?
In other words in my meetings with others does my (over)enthusiasm (for J.T.'s work) bring about a diminishment of their persons?
(There's a difference between telling the 'truth' and telling the 'truth' so as to be helpful. As Renee Turner recently pointed out to me, both Hamlet's truth seeking and the truth-telling of Gregers Werle in Ibsen's 'The Wild Duck' achieve no less than tremendous disaster.)
SATURDAY, 11 AUGUST 2001
When people you like start explaining to you 'what you are' and 'what you're not' you should (at least) stop and pay them some attention. You'll probably learn something.
Receptivity and spit-in-your-eye: "An artist is someone who allows things to happen to themselves." and "An artist is someone who sets things in motion."
Elsewhere (actually in Berkeley) Ray's been salting the Hotsy Totsy Club with piquant quotes from the Second Earl of Rochester. From this, the Earl's side of the Atlantic we're proud to present his (the late Earl's) cunning revitalisation recipe (anno 1678) which, interestingly enough, requires one make a 'Body without Organs' (26.11.00).
And here's some grist for the "I live in a different world than you do" mill (a perennial Alamut favorite) from the Many-Worlds Interpretation FAQ:
Question 4: What is a "world"?
Loosely speaking a "world" is a complex, causally connected, partially or completely closed set of interacting sub-systems which don't significantly interfere with other, more remote, elements in the superposition. Any complex system and its coupled environment, with a large number of internal degrees of freedom, qualifies as a world. An observer, with internal irreversible processes, counts as a complex system...
SUNDAY, 12 AUGUST 2001
Forget I.E. Netscape 6.1.
Paul-is-dead. Dirk's comment (this morning, on the Generosity mailing list) concerning the famous rumored death of Paul McCartney very neatly meshes with last night's perusal of this page on Quantum Immortality. Yes Virginia, (somewhere) Paul did die and that was his double you saw crossing Abbey Road...
(A link provided by Dirk offers an exegesis of the aforementioned cover art: "John is dressed in white, as the preacher. Ringo is dressed as pallbearer, Paul, who is out of step, barefoot, and the only one holding a cigarette in his right hand when he is a left hander, is obviously a corpse. It is rumored, although we aren't sure, that people are buried barefoot in England.")
I'm tremendously pleased with myself: the one big and good thing that I did today was to join a new gym. Sure I'm going to miss the just-around-the-cornerness and tennis courts of the old gym (which unfortunately closed on August 1st) but the new one's got much better machines and a swimming pool!
Been awhile since I checked out the Project Xanadu page. (What a great logo!)
MONDAY, 13 AUGUST 2001
Hey! Be careful with that.
TUESDAY, 14 AUGUST 2001
Forget animal-human confusions, my stomach is still upset.
Hoffmann's The Sand-man and Hitchcock's Vertigo. The two are obviously linked, yet nowhere online do I find articles or papers which connect the two. Why is this?
Found in the archive: Riviere's theatre d'ombres.
Jamie King arrives this evening for a brief visit (he's been covering the Hackers at Large Festival in Enschede for Mute and Teleopolis). We go out for some of Rotterdam's finest (dinner at Opazzo, icecream at Capri). We discuss the plot of the novel he's working on and he tells me about a Buñuel film which he saw recently which I again need to ask him the title of. We walk home discussing the effects of S. divinorum.
WEDNESDAY, 15 AUGUST 2001
Woke up thinking about hysteria... how hysteria effectively manages our receptivity and how the hysteria we feel today may manage as much past events as events which are yet to happen, the events of say next Tuesday, or even one day next year.
At breakfast Jamie and I have our ritual Kevin Kelly argument. Afterwards he leaves for London. I take my bike to a bike shop to have it repaired.
It's very, very warm. Walking along the Coolsingel I see a 'zwerfer' stretched out on a stone slab doing a perfect imitation of Holbein's 'Dead Christ.' I wish I had my camera with me.
Bought a copy of Copenhagen. (I came across the title the other day while searching for links between quantum physics and theater and what I read made me curious. Today I 'perchanced' upon a copy.) The play, based on historical fact, contains many interesting details from Bohr and Heisenberg's friendship:
"The first thing they ever did was go for a walk together. At Göttingen, after that lecture. Niels immediately went to look for the presumptious young man who queried his mathematics, and swept him off for a tramp in the country. Walk - talk - make his aquaintance."
THURSDAY, 16 AUGUST 2001
Attributed to J. B. S. Haldane: "Reality is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine."
Object lesson in plain and simple: MIT's homepage.
FRIDAY, 17 AUGUST 2001
To 'gear up'. To get going. To feel this actually occuring in one's body. (Admit it. You were worried that it might not happen. Or that it might come too late.) The relief of this.
The nitty-gritty of getting going. The build up of momentum. Pressure. Speed. To carry you along. To get you through. (But then you wonder at what expense this hell for leather, this acceleration? Will the act of getting there, the ballistification of the body -- cut to 31 January 1961: we see the 'unmanned' capsule with the animal body, we watch as space chimp 'Ham' is strapped into his couch -- mean you have to forgo (with your senses pulling G's) all which is 'passed over'?)
Spent the day in Amsterdam. Had coffee with Ulay. Met with various folks at DasArts. Met with Mike Tyler.
In between these meetings I bought two books on quantum physics.
SATURDAY, 18 AUGUST 2001
I enjoyed very much meeting you again yesterday. (We spoke of it as being 15 years but I think it has been more like 17. A good cycle for periodic meetings.)
When I got home last night I looked up David Warrilow and found that my copy of the 'Complete Dramatic Works' included 'A Piece of Monologue', a piece which Beckett wrote for Warrilow in 1979 and which Warrilow performed for the first time in New York in 1980.
Having read it over breakfast this morning, I think your intuition is correct. The DasArts block could definitely use some Beckett. But I wonder, what of Mr. Warrilow? From his bio I figure he must be now nearly 67 years old. Do you think this makes him too old to come to Amsterdam? (Interestingly enough, it still makes him too young to perform the piece Beckett wrote for him. In 'A Piece of Monologue' Warrilow's character repeatedly states his age both as "thirty thousand nights," which my calculator tells me is 82.19 years, and "two and half billion seconds," or 79.27 years, a discrepancy which I suppose is attributable to 'artistic rounding', but which is, in any case, quite a bit more than Warrilow's current biological age...)
I was completely fascinated by your description of Warrilow's interpretation of 'The Lost Ones' (with minatures! and on his kitchen table!). How long ago was that? You also mentioned Rebecca Horn made a film of it or used it in a film... was that by any chance 'Buster's Bedroom'?
Later, searching for further references to Warrilow and 'A Piece of Monologue' I find this:
"In 1978, the actor David Warrilow asked Beckett to write him a play about death: the result was 'A Piece of Monologue' which begins with "Birth was the death of him." According to many scholars, Warrilow's request was a tautology since all of Beckett's dramaticules are 'about' death. But as spectators watch these playlets, what the piece is 'about' is not so clear. They are not alone in their confusion. Billie Whitelaw, one of the most accomplished Beckett actors, admits that when she looks at a text in preparation for a role, "it's gobbledygook." Beckett himself is unable to offer an explanation. About 'What Where?' he once said, "I don't know what it means. Don't ask me what it means. It is an object.""
(Susan Chandler Haedicke)
SUNDAY, 19 AUGUST 2001
Made lots of phone calls today, including calls to Mitsu to talk about his and Miranda July's possible partipation in the DasArts block and to Tom McCarthy (General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society) to talk about his and artist Rod (The Jonestown Re-enactment) Dickinson's possible participation in the same.
Had tea with Jules and Ada at the Hotel New York.
Tom sends me the transcript of Rod Dickinson's deposition to the INS last March and prefaces his mail with a personal note concerning cricket:
"... I know cricket must sound like an odd pursuit to the non-converts, but suffice it to say that Beckett worshipped the game and it is in my opinion the most exemplary model of an Event Structure, weaving space, death, technology and repetition perfectly together. Each game lasts five days, and I have a ticket (which I had to apply for a year and a half ago) for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday (the first three days), and will try and get into the ground Sunday and (if it lasts into the fifth day, which it doesn't always) Monday..."
Later had another long (phone) discussion with Annemie Vanackere. Annemie is reading an essay over Poe's The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (a description of a man hypnotised during the moments leading up to - and beyond - his physical death...)
MONDAY, 20 AUGUST 2001
I discovered this evening that David Warrilow died 6 years ago (on the 17th of August 1995 -- exactly 6 years to the day that Ulay brings up Warrilow's Beckett work in Cafe de Jaren.)
An extreme vastness of Beckett links.
(Over my hesitation about what to publish and what not. Mr. Lira sez: "Go ahead. Write bad. You are a completely fail-able person.")
Boy am I busy.
TUESDAY, 21 AUGUST 2001
Steven Shaviro on Tehching Hsieh (at one-year-performance.com).
Ralph Abraham (the chaos mathematician) on the Orpheus legend. (A talk given at the Carmel Bach Festival, Sept. 1990. Warning: this text contains factual errors!)
"... Cocteau made the first film on the Orpheus legend, The Testament of Orpheus in 1939 (sic). In a preface called 'The Film-maker as Hypnotist', he wrote, "I have often thought that it would be not only economical but admirable if a fakir were to hypnotize an entire auditorium. He could make his audience see a marvelous show, and moreover could order them not to forget it on waking. This, in a way, is the role of the screen -- to practice a kind of hypnotism on the public and enable a large number of people to dream the same dream together."
WEDNESDAY, 22 AUGUST 2001
As I left the studio this morning I was struck by the perception that everything that happens, happens 'just in time' (JIT) -- in other words, I was struck that both my 'hesitation' (the delay one feels when one feels 'too early') and stress (a quickening one feels when one feels 'too late') ensure that events follow the course that they should. If that sounds like fatalism, I apologise, but that's how it felt this morning.
(And now, with the writing of this, the classic image of Peter O'Toole, as Lawrence, turning back into the desert to find the man who has fallen off his camel. 'There is no such thing as fate...')
Meetings today with 3 inimitable fountains of cultural intelligence, Ronald van Tienhoven, Dragan Klaic and Alida Neslo.
Steven Shaviro's list of Best American Novels 1950-1999. There is some very interesting -- albeit at times dark -- fare in this list. (Shaviro's site showed up while looking for recent info on 'performance artist' Tehching Hsieh.)
This body is 16, 589 days alive.
THURSDAY, 23 AUGUST 2001
Very hot and muggy weather. Had another meeting in Amsterdam, this time with Dick Westerneng of Koan Float. Went for a drink afterwards with Mark and Chris. Arrived home to an exceedingly hot and muggy house. This is not my favorite weather...
I did manage to empty my mailbox on the way out the door. A.'s sent me a number of photocopied pieces from the 'Shattered Anatomies' box including an interview with Richard Foreman which I read on the train. Mr. Foreman produces many good sound bites:
(... At the beginning I went through a sort of phenomenonological stage and I wanted the perception to be just sitting there for a long time, sensing "Oh, this body is there in this space and I'm getting the essence of it", both in terms of phenomenology and in terms of the influence of Gertrude Stein's teaching that you should 'penetrate' the essence and existence of things. Then I changed and I concluded that things didn't have any essence, didn't have any existence, they were just perceptually organised things in a huge web of possibilities and I guess that's sort of where I am now.)
(... When they do what I say I did it still often completely misses the point because if I say on this line "the character goes over and smashes a table with a hammer", somehow I go through many permutations of how he can smash that table with a hammer -- so that, at the same time, he dreams about protecting that table against damage, for instance. Or maybe the music implies this. In my work I am always trying to figure out how to negate what is being done, and to say that everything that is being done is provisional, it's just one possibility.)
(... In order to be a success with other people, with your business and everything else, obviously you have to put on blinkers like a horse wears so that you're not continually distracted by what we decide is in the periphery. I want to take off those blinkers and I want to notice all those things in the periphery that I think really in a sense give you the spiritual dimension, give you the richness of life. I relate this to somebody who taught in England for many years, who was very influential on me, and that was Anton Ehrenzweig who wrote 'The Psychoanalysis of Artistic Vision and Hearing' and The Hidden Order in Art. I was always impressed with Ehrenzweig talking about what keeps perception lively, as opposed to its going dead as it does for so many schizophrenics, which is the fact that unconsciously one is always scanning in the visual field all kinds of "extra" material that fights the brain's tendency to make a good gestalt that works to simplify everything you encounter in life. It is that fight between your gestalt-making ability and the squiggles of everything else that make things sparkle and come to life in consciousness.)
(... I try to control it because I think it is very hard not to be swept into one's interaction with other people and forget that you're a dead man; you're a hollow, dead man living this life. I'm very good as a teacher, very good at lecturing and making people think "He sounds nice, and I like his play" in spite of whether they're going to like my work or not. And yet I hate doing or feeling this because it's an ego trip which fools me into thinking that everything around me is lively and that I'm interacting with the people I'm talking to. This isn't what's deep inside -- which I know could be another way of fooling myself. But I think "No, all these people I'm talking to are fucked-up, they're missing the boat. I'm fucked up, I'm missing the boat." Yet, it's very hard to remember this. So my control is in trying to make a structure in which I cannot evade what I think is that truth.)
FRIDAY, 24 AUGUST 2001
"No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise."
Took back two videos to the library, a week late and still unwatched. Too tired nights to look at films. Will have to rent them again when I've more time. Picked up a a couple books on Alexander Calder and a copy of Radiohead's Amnesiac. Went to the gym but when I got there I found that I'd left my runners at home. Did the sauna thing instead.
BEIRUT NOTES (in progress)
18:30 Saturday, 4 August 2001.
Violence (can be forgiven when expressing the desire for) liberation.
The introduction which curator Christine Tohme wrote for the catalogue of the exhibition 'Mediterranean Metaphors II'. She handed it to me and watched me read it. We sat near the sea drinking coffee.
The war was initiated in 1975... It hit me in 1993. I started relating everything around me to the war years whereas during the war, I didn't even associate the war to the war, but viewed it as a transitory glitch of the peace period. Looking back now, I find it disconcerting that I spent my time amidst the civil war oblivious to the changes around me. Seven years ago the bubble burst and I found myself standing on the edge of a period that had affected every living aspect of my life, trespassing and violating everything I held as true. It was perhaps this realization which led me to the challenging and questioning field of the art world.
The artists' search and continual growth speak of the types of transition that have become a daily reality in our city, Beirut. They confirm the diversity of discourses and silences which make up our Lebanese contemporary culture -- religion, memory, censorship, apathy, and urbanity. As a curator, I search for artists, who in their work keep a third eye for this transition and relate it to their present condition. Their work is not a dramatic by-product of the war, but rather a critical, formal research of what we are, what we will be vis-a-vis our socio-political context.
Christine Tohme. Beirut, 2000.
SATURDAY, 25 AUGUST 2001
It's so damn hot I've got all the windows open. Outside -- across the little harbor -- they (the city? the merchants association? the 'Groeten uit Rotterdam' store?) are doing their best to imitate St. Tropez with a pile sand, beach umbrellas, lots of tables and chairs, food, drink and samba music. I have to admit I kinda like the samba music.
R. (probably riding his bike) calls to ask an interesting question about my preferred usage: "Do I use 'days old' or 'days alive'?" As a matter of fact I've always preferred 'days alive' but R.'s question made me stop and think about it. Old can be construed to mean over and done with. Alive, on the other hand, can be construed to mean still happening: each and every one of one's days still being alive, still (re-)occurring somewhere.
Once... No time just space.
Exquisite Ex-timacy: Jacques Lacan vis-à-vis Contemporary Horror.
In the same manner in which time and space as the fundamental coordinates allowing the universe to function collapse within the monstrous singularity of a black hole once the 'event horizon' has been crossed, the pivot around which the human universe of meaning is structured is a void. It is an abyss in which determinate meaning comes to an end, and as such associated with an overwhelming force, threatening the stability of the psyche with psychosis, if it is approached too closely.
-- Stefan Gullatz
BEIRUT NOTES (in progress)
Eagle's Nest Restaurant (Alamut). Beirut, 4 August 2001.
Walking I walk with a walkman. Perspiring, I listen to Pan American 360 business/360 bypass. It's a perfect fit.
We all sit together. Next to me Tony bangs the tabletop to the love syncopations of Oum Kalsoum and Fairouz and tells stories over the role of their music in the war. Unlike
during the Vietnam War Vietnam, where only American GI's listen to the black J. Hendrix, here in Lebanon both sides do their R&R listening to the same love songs.
Symmetry, pop music and war. (Funk balls -- scroll to bottom of entry.)
SUNDAY, 26 AUGUST 2001
Hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. HOT. Rain. Rain. Thunder. Lightning. Thunder. Lightning. Hail. Rain. Thunder. Lightning.
MONDAY, 27 AUGUST 2001
One of those tidying-up-loose-ends days where one actually 'opens' more than one 'closes.' (The story of my life I'm afraid, though I did manage to pay some bills...)
TUESDAY, 28 AUGUST 2001
At the station in Rotterdam I can't remember my PIN number. Panic.
I arrive in London around noon. Tom meets me at Liverpool Street station and we walk together back to his flat, each telling the other what we've done since we last met. ("So what have you been up to?") Tom tells me about his work transcribing the depositions made before the International Necronautical Society, his holiday in France, the details of Will Self's disastrous deposition. I tell Tom about my visit to Beirut and my meeting with Jalal Toufic.
All the while zig-zagging through the streets (Tom's a great guide).
With a step we enter a gate and find ourselves immersed in the muted calm of Bunhill Fields, one of the city's many graveyard-parks. Here (Tom leads me over to show me two graves) the remains of Wiliam Blake (find-a-grave) lie next to the remains Daniel De Foe (find-a-grave).
The balcony of Tom's 12 floor flat provides a great view of the city. To the left the Millenium wheel. To the right (in the distance) Highgate hill. Below are two tennis courts. Tom has two tennis racquets but I don't have runners. I think I can play tennis in bare feet. It sort of works (though at one point a kid yells at me, "How can you play tennis in bare feet?"). Tom wins.
Adrian Heathfield and Rod Dickinson join us for dinner. (Rod asks: "So what brings you to London Paul?" and I answer: "I came to meet you guys and talk about the DasArts block.")
We talk into the wee hours and many interesting things are said. A conversation which is a dream of a dream at a table; a moment from one of Adrian's texts (Facing the Other: The Performance Encounter and Death):
"...And if trauma is a necessary repeated suffering of an unknowable event, then to the extent that it is not willed, this critical writing is the trauma of a peformance."
reminds me of the opening of Jalal Toufic's essay on 'eternal recurrence', 'You Said "Stay," So I Stayed':
"Catastrophes such as the atomic devastation of Hiroshima, the Rwandan genocide of 1995, the continuing barbaric sanctions imposed on Iraq since 1990 and that have as of 1995 resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqui children, affect the will with desuetude. Who or how many can will the eternal recurrence of such catastrophes. Nazi Germany, an episode seemingly of the triumph of the will (the title of Leni Riefenstahl's 1935 documentary on the Third Reich's Party Congress in Nuremberg in 1934), was, through the concentration camps, in the last instance a cryptic fundamental attack on it. Evil is nostalgic. How much nostalgia, a symptom of the desuetude of the will, have the concentration camps produced! How nostalgic is the Nazi period irrespective of its recourse to Heimat, mythical tradition, etc. Only what can be willed so as to call for its eternal recurrence does not produce nostalgia...
and especially, a bit further on in this essay this remarkable passage (emphasis mine):
"...Nostalgia is basically less a will for the repetition of an event than an indication that one did not will the event fully, did not will its eternal recurrence. Nostalgia reveals not only what I feel now about a past event, but also how I willed that event when it happened in the past: I did not will its eternal recurrence. When it is not merely a psychological mode, nostalgia is basically a facet of the present event. With regards to any event toward which I feel nostalgic, I know I did not will its eternal recurrence when it happened. We are nostalgic beings not only because we are creatures who remember in a transient present, but also because we do not will events fully. This basic nostalgia is not linked to the fact that, granted the following three assumptions: gravity is never repulsive; the universe is not so special that it remains forever static; and the evolution of the universe is deterministic, "the average of the initial data which define the state of the universe at any time can never again be close to the average of the initial data now"; but to the circumstance that one did not will the event's eternal recurrence. Until we undergo countless recurrence and attain genuine volition, beneath "willing" the event what we, nostalgic beings "will" is nostalgia, rather than the event itself..."
The guests go. Tom prepares me a bed. I fall asleep reading Blanchot's essay 'The Gaze of Orpheus.'
WEDNESDAY, 29 AUGUST 2001
I wake up and read a bit more of Blanchot's 'The Gaze of Orpheus.'
We go out for coffee. While I'm in London I'd love to find copies of Philip K. Dick's novel 'Eye in the Sky' and his short story 'Orpheus with Clay Feet.' The novel, unfortunately, is out of print. Tom proposes we try a used bookstore that he knows. We start to walk.
Talking non-stop, we zigzag through the streets. We cross graveyards. (Tom's a great guide.) Tom tells me he's got an idea for DasArts. We talk about this.
We stop for lunch. Deleuze's suicide comes up and a new word which completely transforms my understanding of this event: defenestration. I wasn't aware that defenestration, or jumping out of windows (ie. to one's death), is part of the French intellectual tradition.
More bookstores (now we are looking for Toufic for Tom). We walk. We talk. We pass Fortnum and Mason's where I grab two bottles of 'Tawny Orange' marmalade.
At Waterstone's I purchase a copy of PKD's Collected Short Stories vol. 4 (for 'Orpheus with Clay Feet' -- which I find out later is not an interesting story) and a copy of David Deutsch's The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes-And Its Implications (lots of poor reviews on Amazon but I like it).
THURSDAY, 30 AUGUST 2001
Home again. Attended the wedding reception of Arno van Roosmalen and Dorith Schultz. Annemie has brought Tim Etchells to the party. During our brief talk Tim says a number of things which strike me -- his description of his 2 minute, one-to-one encounter with the naked and bleeding Franko B ('Aktion 398'?) being one,
"I was able to make eye contact with him. We looked at each for a while. Suddenly he asks me: (and Tim puts on a London accent as he says this) 'Are you alright?' (Incredulously) I ask him: 'Are YOU alright?' He (sighs) and answers: 'I'm a bit tired.'"
and the fact that we both know (and very much like) Tony Shakar in Beirut (see Beirut notes: 11, 15, 23) being another.
FRIDAY, 31 AUGUST 2001
I wake up thinking of writing as a form of research, as a way of learning. (I wake up thinking about how disasters might be written.) I take the train to Amsterdam, to DasArts. I meet with the staff and then visit the Geuzen studio (am caught in a downpour). On my way to Centraal Station I drop by Airplant for a cup of tea. I take the 6 o'clock train (packed, I sit on the stairs, there are delays). I leave my bike at the station in Rotterdam and go to the Schouwburg to see the new piece of Michael Laub. I go out to Off-Corso with Dick Hollander. I walk home.
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