i’ve used roman’s brilliant image-act, hydrant fire, not as an ‘illustration’, but as a visual-act analogue, for the developing ‘theory’ of this blog. and as with all theories, they are works in progress, and thus need revisiting, which requires a certain amount of repetition. and i’ve also suggested that stein’s theory of repetition, which implies a continuous encounter with difference, is equally significant.
such is the nature/knowledge/guesses/necessities of pearodox. and of, provocation.
and, as i’ve suggested below, this blog is attempting to rethink what it’s possible to do with a blog. my ‘method’ is to resist the built in bottom-t0-top chronology, [without resorting to more sophisticated, back-end programming], by building in a circularity of references through repetition to what’s come before, and may come next. that sort of spontaneous structure is indeed, present here. not that i expect anyone to get it, or, to read this flow of posts to ‘get it.’ i don’t. but it is there if anyone wants to know. there is a rough sort of coherence to the discontinuity.
and, as an admission i’ve not posted before: this blog is an experiment for me: because:
i’ve written things most of my live that no publisher would publish. because it’s usually too image-heavy, too odd, too long, too academically unrecognizable, too politically rogue, or in fact, sometimes, unsavory, to get published these days. and, to be honest, i’m unwilling to cave into those conditions.
‘academic writing’ is, usually, often, hopelessly conservative and anemic. but even then, it gets worse. some publisher does the numbers and kills 99% of what’s possible. thereby, dumbing down academic discourse itself. see below.
thus roman’s image-act: the setting fire to the very possibility of preventing fire. as a political statement, of course.
there are historical moments only possible to represent by the phoenix. not as some kind of political theory, but as a momentary historical necessity as the only way ‘out’ to some other future possibility.
i’m risking roman’s view of his own work here… but i’m so glad he’s allowed me to post it… it is, after all, one of the best ever aesthetically expressed emblems of ‘democracy’ today, and our relationship to the state. not to mention it’s subtext: the demise of the global environment.
and, why ‘they’ don’t want us to believe in anything… beyond conspiracy theories, the tacitcs of this is pure j. h. hoover. the greatest paranoid of the 20th century. if anything, his ‘judgment’, hoover’s, should be put to the test.
NASA’s footage of the first landing: designed by donald trump. signed off by barck obama, hiliary clinton. by bill clinton, bush jr. tony bliar, mitterand, rumsfeld, sharon, netanyahoo, bush senior, ronald reagan, maggie thatcher… and of course, the back-stabbing alliance: Gove-Johnson-May. political machinations are nothing but opaque.
A found manuscript, left on my doorstep: without images. it was almost too burned to read. but i had a team of forensic specialists reconstitute it. they did a fine job. so the following transcript is as close to ‘authentic’ as possible. no one on the team found a single flaw. but one: who has proof of authenticity? or, of those who put voice to it?
detective: m.d. danjou
PROOFS OF CATASTROPHE
Lemmas of Ultimate Difference
(in which differences will be put to the test)
In like manner the first ratio of nascent quantities is that with which they begin to be. And the first or last sum is that with which they begin and cease to be… And there is the like limit in all quanitites and proportions that begin and cease to be. And since such limits are certain and definite, to determine the same is a problem strictly geometrical. But whatever is geometrical we may use in determining and demonstrating any other thing that is also geometrical.
The interdiscipliary concept, Logos, meant both word and ratio, both oration, the way in which thoughts are expressed, and ratio, the demonstratoin through sequenced propositions of the thought itself. Rhetoric and mathematical thinking are inseparable. By extension, word and number are identified–both designate relationship. Any shift away from the objects themselves toward the relation between them results in idealism. For idealism is the inevitable consequence of the hegemony of relationship. It possesses as its deepest secret, the most subtle form of nihilism. Ask yourself, Is it the hand, or is it hands? The former constitutes difference unassailable by the homogenizing influences of the same. My hand AB is the given, and is never reducible to the class of all hands. Once the realm of the specific has been entered, it can never be left. It is this immersion in the empirical that is the generative force of all aesthemata, of all differences, all uniqueness.
M. D. D’Anjou
By aesthetic, I do not mean a theory of beauty or a theory of art. The former would lead us down the path of pleasure, both optical and emotional. The later through a domain of methodologies and epistomologies. The aesthemata in the ancient sense were experiences suffered. They were not far removed from phenomena, the sudden, immediate confrontation with foreigness, with otherness, with the natural world gathered to crescendo in an epiphany of alieness, with something of the quality of contradiction and barbarousness. Alienation gathered at the very threshold of perception, imminent, stimulating the reflexes to peak readiness. And at this threshold arrives the conceptual to judge the state of reaction.
M. D. D’Anjou
“…philosophers keep filling in a definite fundamental scheme of possible philosophies. Under an invisible spell they always revolve once more in the same orbit; however independent of each other they may feel themselves with their critical or systematic wills, something within them leads them, something impels them in a definite order, one after the other – to wit, the innate systematic structure and relationship of their concepts. Their thinking is, in fact, far less a discovery than a recognition, a remembering, a return and a homecoming to a remote, primordial, and inclusive household of the soul, out of which those concepts grew originally: philosophizing is to this extent a kind of atavism of the highest order.”
“It use to be said that, as all abstract words were originally concrete metaphors, something of the latter will always adhere to the word through all its semantic history. This view is discredited now, but it still has much truth in it…. But it looks as though abstract words and ideas were on loan… from a latent concrete formulation which is to be found… in the structure of the argument into which the word is fitted.”
Number – one oneone oneoneone oneoneoneone oneoneoneoneone oneoneoneoneoneone oneoneoneoneoneoneone oneoneoneoneoneoneoneone oneoneoneoneoneoneoneoneone none nonenone nonenonenone nonenonenonenone nonenonenonenonenone nonenonenonenonenonenone nonenonenonenonenonenonenone nonenonenonenonenonenonenonenone nonenonenonenonenonenonenonenonenone
Word – aeiou : bcdfghjklmnpqrstvwxyz :: wh ur d : w o r d :: mouthear : braineye :: hand : grasp :: fingers : digits :: field : Nileedge :: flood : Sirius :: boundarystone : compass :: Horos : Seth :: Oedipus : Tiresius :: poet : republic :: art : science :: logos : logos
Sentience – a physiological vector simultaneously moving through perception and language, with and without correspondance between them — i.e., when anunciated by the reader — AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRHAAAAAGuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuement
Sentence – sumbolon moving through western currents- coins or bones are broken in two parts along an unpredictable divide, the break the proof the holders of the halves are the partners of a contract – even if the holders are not the original partners — i.e., Ronald Regan with Herbert Kohl laid a wreath at the the Bitburg SS Cemetary, and five months latter Nakasone paid tribute at the National Yasukuni Shrine where WWII war dead are commemorated, signing the registry with his official title.
Sense – attempts (versucher) to determine, within the field of sentience, and in the form of sentences, either spoken or written, correspondances between fragment of the sumbolon — i.e., The event that Homer relates and I paraphrase: “It was with a large boundary stone (horos) fitted into her chastity belt now slung like a slingshot, that Athene felled Ares falling with the impact of ten Hectors onto the plane of Troy.”; corresponds perfectly with Freud’s failure to recognize Tiresius, seer because he lived seven years a man, seven a woman, as the voice, Oedipus heard but couldn’t hear, of the Sphinx returned.
Scalar Notions: [Note: formatting isn’t worked out yet….]
1] Everything that exists is physical.
The crush of infinitessimals crushes common sense.
2] Things which do not exist may have effect.
Apperception finds no imprint among the diminishing bands of its spectral lines.
3] Since number exists, it is physical.
I a similitude subtends not 1 but an infinite regress of partitioning cells.
4] Number exists in all things.
Billions of years bred atmosphere from microbial mud at the edge of continental shelves.
5] Number is not quantity.
Sirius burns through dusk as the Nile floods, and floods when scribes have gathered the yearmark of Re.
6] If number is not a quantity, it must be a quality.
Days undivided in the blueness of youth are shorter than days divided in the redness of youth.
7] Number is a quality of a thing.
Age seasons age, distance cleaves distance, leaves shadow leaves.
8] Number is that quality of a thing that determines its relations of quantity.
From snow to water edge stepping stones gather footfalls between views incommensurable with views.
9] A relation of quantity is a quality of a things expressed as a ratio of magnitude.
How high the heat of fortune that fractures the turtle’s back; or, how great the force that breaks the bones of symbols?
10] A ratio of magnitudes gathers magnitudes together in forms of comparison.
Every tortoise is an avatar, each a great eclipse that stays the hare.
11] The form of a comparison is determined by the qualities of the quantities compared.
No arrow in flight changed place until the sun replaced the earth, until the earth became a moon, until the moon, earth.
12] Since the quality of all quantities is value, a comparison of magnitudes is a comparison of values.
London knew no harsher judge than Newton, panned for gold in blood.
13] The form of a comparison of magnitude is therefore determined by the comparison of values.
Mechanical Fates trace, thread, bind minstral caesurae to place.
14] Values are either scalar or vector.
Coal dust settled heavy on the commons.
15] A scalar is a value without unit or direction; it is a pure magnitude.
Deeds that cast themselves in heroic shapes of inertia, generate the orbit.
16] A thing without unit or direction is without quality, and therefore cannot be a number.
Watch the surface of a perfect sphere revolving in a perfect dark and hold its volume as the surface vanishes in a flash of phospherescence.
17] A scalar is therefore not a number.
I is that which measures all things, endlessly.
18] A scalar either must be quantity, or does not exist.
19] Quantity without unit or direction does not exist.
Without forgetting, we’d die of being whole.
20] Therefore a scalar value as pure magnitude does not exist.
I the surface of the sphere that vanished.
21] A scalar value has effect only as thought.
Empty orbits decay as a sick sun feeds itself itself.
22] A vector is a value with unit and direction; it is a value relative to its trajectory in spacetime.
23] A comparison of values must compare like forms; that is, scalar to scalar or vector to vector.
23] A scalar value is value only as thought.
24] A vector value is value as thought and as physically existant.
25] Scalar value is the origin of metaphysics.
26] Metaphysics are effective, nonexistant ideologies.
27] A vector value consists of two components; a thought component and a physical component.
28] Both vector components are coextensive, co-creating and inseparable.
29] The form of comparison of vector values is determined as a resolution of the vector components.
30] Vector value is the origin of aesthetic empiricism.
31] Aesthetic empiricism proves that life is multiply asymptotic.
Ours is a geometrical time breadthless bounded unbound aspiring as air grows still thinner rarer than breadthless without a single tangent the last ray the last sun vanishing to oceanic edge pacific rolling massively over into a darkening emptying orbit quod est faciendum
Derive this passage always things smaller than that behind which we hide below deck enraptured threshed and diminished similitudes called just edged by right lines against which increments of immense infinitestimals adjust measure of revolutions of the margins splitting casting out law the excluded middle
Ford the river in the spring thaw, ice threatens a clear extinction – burial in silt of rotten log run from the north for centuries. Trunks cut from the deepest tangle of forest, matted hair clinging to a clay and granite soil itself stripped by glacial flows. Impervious to all but the movements of the smallest animals shaped in the lichen coated briar. Silt is just another of its forms stirred up in the torrent. So one subject parts from another. One frozen on the bank looking after the disappearance of the other. Unable to know of its arrival in another place. Unable, therefore, to move away from the shore. Ice floes slowly recede as the rivers empty the lake tundra and empty the north of silence. Against this mute resistence – watch the other go. White skin of the hand grasping a sodden log, red skin of the hand exposed to a sun, wrapped in a forest green silhoutte – evanesces at the vanishing point against the other side. Left in the time of a single frigid breath. Eyes close that the last memory remain glacial. Grey and trecherous. Clenched ice an angony of hot and frozen flesh.
The stray eye gathers another world that has no correlate in that gathered by the eye that walks the line we’ve no singular gaze between us one cannot map the other calm a clear volume a crystal vase large enough to inhabit to possess the expanding light of stars clear of all matter with potential to interfere until the wind begins to blow to curl about calf about thigh air brief and thin as vanishing dream breath warm in the genitals
Here the opaque domain beautiful mains to all else that strokes singular fingers tensors at full strength the mostleast magnificent binding fleshspace in the timeflesh not grasping but gripping jugular not physiological debate or circulatory examen but lust deathsex blood to blood, Blood we’ve none but prophylactic extradition as the law divides all difference so much for synthetic elation the ecstacy of differ a (o)nce that cheap imitation that figurative contour con tours ours there where the skin slips under her slip slip his tongue slips sails from the slip lip lashandon’tgivemenowhip Homes
Imagining the other debriefing may be thought when thought goes native when the world is the case wilds of the ambush moist in its surges in your hands and the silk black and tied tightly more to to to force gently the caress that takes you in lips and breaks wood spintering while the palms sever bonds and the cock or or oars cleave the stream the ripening waves flash upon flesh waves upon crests heating approaching sliding under there the potential for more of meaning fact and the world fact filling the world robust against a vaporous ideal this is this is fact this the physical the anchor the logical rising descending prey against prey
In the hunt absence is compressed denser than grief and anger is drawn.
bare feet sear pavement in midday blaze boredom is dense recognized in stars that wave and then the procession of cages sweat matted fur sickness in pale eyes sick skin peeling back the rage all that they’ll never have beyond the bars man or child’s throat either the broken pulse the neck heart muscle blood congeals between canines just one lunge lust for the gathering spring for the endless drink the mudhole thrist the pack the charge attack fresh kill so go days and days lover father teacher son mother cousin sister friend fucked and fucked face after face after face the same crowd the same crowd crowed cowed same
I wish to make something central, ballast in the hollow of a barren night, without star, moon dark, simple grace whirling round the gravity of mistrust no levity withstands the beauty poisoned air above the trees where the great owl glides spreading silence with its wings it sees the darkest movements race to escape rush to be fed
Time is not continuous plunge and surface plunge again resurface less longing to float cradled by waves lost where waters are warm come to what is only fragment of rock island for a foot until the next wave stronger splinters trees shattered glass awash shrapnel moments able to steel the liquidity of moments sometimes recall sometimes lose flee through darkened passages below the surface our migrant ways shabby mendicants call to ourselves reverberations in tunnels repeat and bring no closer what it is desperate to retrieve we bolt behind a stainless steel door cold fingers clench an expanding warm breath at the edge and over one cannot recount the fortunes how far into the earth can one push one’s hand at its limit what will it reach what could it possibly grasp
wood smell comes from us off the slope of fallen snow out of shrill air the blinding glare increases awe at such lack such extreme quick cutting excess what cannot be felt positions us far across the stone room away from ourselves thawing by the wood burning what could what must also be ourselves crumbling there into spark and ash settling heavier than it ought into it the denser memory sinks there to keep a coal
fuel dry lichen coating the log cast and cast again cast against the rock the glacier rock shore far far up in the north bleached where bleaching is a decade high summer rays pitched low razor breeze and the lips peel press pert peck still an adolescent attempting to breath hips in the snow age turns cold the lake comes up wind the size of cumulus overtaking the loss the excision of joy lips part the numb days crest the grey grey grey flat palm mauls the cheek and the number without limit fractures granules glass slivers fish flash driftwood dead in the way the lakes expand and land turns down bog and the bitter roots rivulets and leeches and brazen biting gorse mud and the thorns stick too deep to remove
Night where the hawks cross the gate, above waters sweeping in the rays of a low full moon, harvest in the brilliance of a sun that conjures tides still higher. Unseen, the pull is doubled – pressure of one flat hand against an abdomen and another against the earthern cradle between shoulder blades – bay waters packed and backing up the river, deepening its salt. Hawks waver, frail at the edges of currents in the continental sweep toward a darkening horizon. Will the seam allow passage? Sudden freefall into other worlds accompanied by nausea – each fall a flaw from which we stand to lose so much.
point no parts to play ideal certainty where ever it lies unanswered unansweredable Pythian eye brilliant among shearing of days treasure of the Delian Nile rising source is arrival no point of departure blind Horus marked grain horos boundary stone turned to in an unmirrored gaze mirrored Tiresean hope in Tiresean drag lost in the Oedipal divide unable to be bridged hangs history quod est demonstrandum
The utter falseness of all belief in meaning has caused cataclisms before before the shadowy metaphors we name the images shifting as we shift before the mirror-screen but in our own absence that constant substraction from what we are our spines recede or protrude in skin traces that mask the structure upon which we stand, and never bear witness to what we know or never can.
At the base of my skull I fear to desribe these rhythmic vibrations pulses of stress that seem to bode a cataclism approaching when I’ll drop dead of some unknown havoc working in the dark curvatures of my spine they are what I write and too often live the slightest oppressions that lead to the exclusion of all well-being here in the center of my body is the blackest impenetrable knot undecipherable mute a gathering of dark cloud in that night sky that overhangs
It’s as some say when they say that even the softest sufferings never heal we’re all primitive in the wounds we take pride in and mark the points of entry like the fiercest warrior always ready to bare the softest tissue to searing instruments each cry cauterizes memory in its place the echos the terrible cries rooms full of bird flapping and panicing eyes desparate to find the way free through a cloudless sky and those that have no regrets they’ve been to the edge of the savage land and know the bristles that tear the air they’re the faithful ones those that never went down that grow old that tell this story that wager suffering is the grist of loving labor they cast the stone to the well and have no need of the wish such is the luxury of torments relieved in the dark waters the stone settles mute though not silent cold and growing still colder no response when the warm breeze ripples the water skin never a taut drum but the fragile wave in a diminishing light only the near grass grows
my cry a man’s never written never dropped onto the tongue dries suspended silence against us threatens We’ve sounds hung on diverging airs filled with shadow spread the thinning dark
like uranium you must be enriched before you become lethal
Ascetic fears never let you bathe. Mouths full of salt and sand threaten instant extinction. They signal return to those that take too much, stripping off skin. Or to those who bask only in their own masking, grafts for the swelling tongue. Bouganvilla chokes the jasmine that chokes the rose. Breath seeps through space tiered, geometric, rowed, crushed. The wind is tidy, the tempers unruly. Expect me. There. Between each chime. The absense that gathers the dust, the thorns, the barking of dogs. Each bark a memory, a coyote at the base of a canyon millenia-deep in the strata. In that echo – dusk of the audible, a pinon so brisk it sears. How deep can it run? In their grasp, fingers tighten the tenderness, against the pulse of an unmet object – the cry that over the valley, expands, and then settles to feed among lichen inching along granite. Call for me, in a famine. Between my lips there’s succour. Among the whitest of teeth. Bared for you. Flesh, raw as the uncut grass, thick for sinking in. Charm and the wit of nails set to test the limits. Embrace in coarse beds of hair, black against pink skin – languid, and the eye, closed about its dream, felt at the tangent of a pressing fingerprint. Here we are. Light of the darkened door. Floor seams beyond it. Converging in darkness. Trace of the imprint. Stored as the color of the words of fury. Lips able to drink it in. Without measure.
Parts of speech leave the whole unimagined by the presumption to say something. To be sleepless unwillingly. Vacant, the night. The undreamt restless over a cool memory – a vapor, the dread diminishes as it draws, drags, on. Forgetting, we go there. There was no choice. Yet, and each unprovoked thought the bird with clipped wings. Still, it desires. Its song the canyon. The hardest softest walls of each palm and tips of the fingers lighting the line along the lip. Where, we might part. Or, bind. Leave the trail. We might. Would we? Gripping, shattering, the sledge. Close, eyes. Darken, the weight, put the birds down. About to.
Loss condenses on glass, film slow to filter light and quick to take hold of the house held exposed against its will a face unable to conceal what it’s unable to bear it creeps along the floor boards relentless the climb downward from the uppermost stories a slow cascade but in vehemence a similar assault summer or fall the temperatures are cold heat pumped out slow arc the fists folds slow drum beat beats against the temples no entrance no exit no outside the inner lining of language fascia that wraps the dark voids of synapse of holes of joints where movement bends always takes an unsuspected turn hovers and without continuity breaks off begins again in another member slow breath slows sates
Free associations we now could know, if the pieces were gathered, were never then, are never now free. Nor, therefore was verse. URRR. Free then yet again ran aground. Grounds what could have been the grounds how could this possibly be grounded grrrrrr or ground around about that time round and round we go sybil again yet still civil matted hair in the ground cave shelter against the loss of millenia when the moon was to be counted on apparition in the night in flight voice voices the airy mulititudes before bronze the stone and after the iron willed cutting wide swathes evenly even in the trees and then the rivers left behind drywetbeds orwetdrybeds rideride and rideon on andon we’ve knowledge there that ledge there hide it round as apples stash it never to decay never again to be wished away hides oh the hides we’ve clothed ourselve in to stay alive even evenly lying upon ouselves deliberately to be missed to be breadthless too easily taken for ought else but the fertile rows cornwheatgrass seeds cast
why why fast at the sand track rasp and the large gap the slips the breaks in the road sentences lopped off fragmented stories stories that skew veer swoop duck and make a break you’ve the last line the conored ox the box conor the dive the dive the lack nailed and fast hammered always desire for the other slippage slippage ship shambles and the ashes cans banging on the grate fridgid quest for another
How does one stay alive? Gone with god and the soil refined from granite veins. Yet it no longer bears me up nor any resemblance from which I feed. With god, the human hosts explode. I no longer love them. Let them go. I watch them, and me, recede beyond the water’s edge. They, I among them, turn to look a last time, hover in the stillest moment above the quavering sea, without a trace of grief, vanish. When I turn to go, will I see? That I’ve become the crime. A natural genocide. How I long in this breech being no other percieving none to close my eyes
Here where all colorfades to an opaque translucence, barely a contour or taste of another climate vanish to a point linger between breaths and go dark drawn back to impossible density fuel for another appetite vaguely familiar when it comes deja vu in its slippage water over tongue without scent or significant trace adder gathering in ineffable silence in an earth covered in snow stillness coil of solidity flake against ice
In the cusp between us, poetry vanishes. We are dry bone, brittle, hair fractures widening into bitter nights. Even the coldest of northern snows, ice of the tundra, would warm us. Mean in the least of times, full in the comforts of excess – we’ve lost the sentience necessary to split the hard core of accumulated duress. We weigh in at dusk, each step toward the north reverberates among the ice roots of the arctic. We’ll miss the thaw – crawl along the borders of diminishing light, not hoping for its return, but cherishing each incremental loss of its strength, wanting the faintess flicker, its finality, to go pitch black, its absence then the shadow accompanying our weakening presence. Beyond the edge of darkness, what will come after us?
Pulse pulse chipsiliconchip not beat beat beating but a digital rhythm reverberreverberreverber remembering cleanly clean clean clean cleaning cleansing of grace tones over without overtones over over over and over tones dense dead silences between beats in these interstices history ends and the fragment the moment becomes autonomous coming to be a more coldly bold Automaton
we’ve not gotten the call backs to the crowding at the river’s edge seers of the passing though we’ve charge for the telling we’re the unheard the unheard of shaped like the X-brace uncompressed tense bloodline vectors antinomies repelling the sheared cliffs’ faces facing off we’re strained thin thinner thinning the breadthless welds of the mending the minding bending again to terse dimensions confrontive bondage lashes in the close space closing in your face differences expanding explosive more matters the closer they approach haptic as the eyes close no thought to pry them open darkening contradiction opening again space of the non-law not law where the hand rests only if hand moves flesh lust red dusk curve sweeping out another time this time body subtended
Quiet in the green streets dressed down further further from beating asyndetons paralysis there sets in steps in step with each further going down break crack there in the back’s swelled lumbar of each night the hate reigns white hot in the black and blackening valleys the poor views the hell holes those OHzones where the blood thins the dead die the dead live home to us all as the skin sheds the glare bares down bears grudge upon grudge the hate heaps the vendetta creeps toward the last few lying fagged tied tagged shelved with the shit shovel
cut the word card deck deep and the chances are chances that meaning can be reached steep cuts of the number line trancendentally deep never repeating in the never ending time what could never be said more simply never the death limit if the limit’s well defined only if the approach is fleshed out fed well always another smaller than ever before imagined such slow oppression goes unnoticed until the quality has vanished all differences to zero slower and slowing but still hotter heat rising dangers of cold blood still the surroundings stilling as it makes noise blue respiring as the line’s cut cell sets empty red rushing out of time
Clearly nothing matters neither poetry nor mathesis negations or affirmations we are the thing undecided refusing to be named passed over in silence in silences slightly intensifying sound a fraction more fallow denser inaudibly shifting in sonorous fields heat cupped in the palm as fingers curl about the ear an uncommonly common practice as the age ages pulse beat by pulse hope by hope diminishing in a world ever smaller ever rarer
ps. this post is dedicated to susan gevirtz: see below for susan gevirtz
two possible versions, in addition, of: the middle tongue
[a third space]
Dylan’s Nobel Prize for literature:
dylan’s comment, when he was finally goaded into responding to the Nobel committee by being accused of arrogance and impoliteness, was:
“The news about the Nobel prize left me speechless,” Dylan said.
“I appreciate the honour so much.”
The singer-songwriter later told the Telegraph, “Isn’t that something … it’s hard to believe.”
“Amazing, incredible … Whoever dreams about something like that?” he said.
Is Dylan speaking in the mode of irony?
it is impossible, really, to imagine that dylan’s use of language in his response was not meant with a ‘literary’ value equivalent to the very reasons he was given the prize in the first place: ‘the news about the nobel prize left me speechless’ – perhaps he meant that literally, not literarily? (if so, that would be a pearodox) in the sense that it ‘reduced’ his ‘speech’ to ‘literature’? making him literally, as a singer, voiceless? if that might be the case, then, wouldn’t that be something and hard to believe? and indeed, in keeping with those he most writes/sings/performs about, whoever of them dream about something like that? then, there was a comparison of his work to homer and sappho, to a period when ‘literature’ was ‘sung.’ when it could only be sung because there wasn’t a printing press or major record labels to distribute ‘song.’ that might be hard to take for a contemporary of the beat generation, whose closest allies were ‘poets.’ it would also be a condemnation of today’s ‘culture’ in general. it might also be a condemnation of the entire cult of individual ‘genius’.
my comments are not meant to defend or accuse him. but they are genuine political/social questions. and perhaps they reflect his only possible response? equivalent to that of his resistance to be allied with the protests of the 1960s? an expression of his mostly deeply considered, ‘politics’? to interface with ‘politics’, but through refusal/resistance to NOT be equated with its processes because they all inevitably fail? because they all inevitably co-opt? … because… perhaps only ‘cultural activity’ has any social meaning, and that is what ‘politics’ aims to eradicate? so to be ‘political’, if one supports ‘culture’, means that the only option is to oppose ‘politics’? i could continue with this analysis, but i think anyone can carry it to their own conclusions. and will anyway.
therefore… let me compare him to zappa, who at least ‘equally’ deserves a nobel prize, and whose response to being awarded the nobel prize would have no doubt been the same as Satres.
it would be un-scholarly of me, therefore, to not cite zappa’s greatest work from his entirely instrumental album, hot rats: it’s difficult to single out a single track of that album as better than another. they are all equally good. but the gumbo variations of 1969 might be one of his all time, greatest works/performances. the following youtube version is at least a pointer in that direction. there is also the remastered version that was released in 2012, though that too seems tame. digital compression is a terrible thing. it de-substantiates our bodies. but it’s still inspiring.
in case readers are not aware, zappa was NOT a member of the standard rock&roll establishment. he opposed himself to them, constantly, covertly in his renegade stylistics, and often overtly in his lyrics. the music world has never, for example, experienced a concert shared by zappa and… any other ‘pop’ band. see, for his own view, for example his lyrics for Plastic People:
Oh, baby, now you’re such a drag
“i hear the sound of marching feet…
Down sunset boulevard to crescent heights
…and there…at pandora’s box…
We are confronted with…a vast
Quantity of…plastic people…”
Take a day and walk around
Watch the nazi’s run your town
Then go home and check yourself
You think we’re singing
’bout someone else
or in his song: who needs the peace corps?
I will ask the Chamber Of Commerce
How to get to Height Street
And smoke an awful lot of dope
I will wander around barefoot
You know I’ll have a psychedelic gleam in my eye at all times
I will love everyone
I will love the police as they kick the shit out of me on the street
I will sleep…
I will go to a house.
That’s, that’s what I will do
I will go to a house
Where there’s a rock & roll band
Because the groups all live together
I will stay
I will join a rock & roll band
I’ll be their road manager
And I will stay there with them
And I will get the crabs
But I won’t care
and equally presciently, from Mom & Dad:
Someone said they made some noise
The cops have shot some girls & boys
You’ll sit home & drink all night
They looked too weird…it served
Ever take a minute just to show a real
In between the moisture cream & velvet
Ever tell your kids you’re glad that
They can think?
Ever say you loved ’em? ever let ’em
Watch you drink?
Ever wonder why your daughter looked
It’s such a drag to have to love a plastic
Mom & dad
therefore, if there is a homer or sappho of the 20th century, it’s zappa.
Zappa always stood outside that musical ‘establishment’. he is closer to artaud/brecht/eisenstein etc. than any other pop musical performer of his era. his style is nothing like those of the greatest hits: the beatles, the rolling stones, etc. it should not be surprising, though it continues to be, that boulez orchestrated his work, deadening it in the process musically, though in effect, interpreting him, not entirely wrongly, as a latter-day varese. boulez no doubt identified with zappa from his period of touring as the Music Director of the Compagnie Renaud-Barrault, and Zappa fit in with his agenda years later as director of the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique / Musique (IRCAM) at the Centre Georges Pompidou. And as Zappa’s very early appearance on the steve allen show, shows, he has always been a counter-cultural showman who represents an alternative history of the mainstream, bohemian/beat/hippy accounts of the ‘avant garde’.
to ‘hear’ some of this difference, listen to Brown Shoes Don’t Make It. You’ll hear Brecht not rock and roll. you’ll hear something closer to theater, musicals, stand up comedy, fusion styles, not what you typically hear in listening to pop music in any genre. something ultimately completely unique. and viciously critical.
Zappa’s ‘work’ is deeply politically personal, intimate, and direct about everyday life. It avoids the cliche’s of most lyrics, while still confronting the most important of social issues:
it would be remiss of me to not claim this: that zappa is one of the greatest western musicians of his period. he’s as important as any modernist great from any global culture, or, genre. in western terms, he’s a musical stein. even a nietzchean.
My talk addresses the use of ‘voice’ philosophically. My comments therefore pertain to film and all forms of sonic media in general. To get us in the spirit of my talk I being with a few seconds from the Tuva Throat singer Borbannadir.
To comprehend this definition, we must rigorously avoid a misunderstanding; that, to signify something is to communicate it. To ward off that misapprehension we must answer the following questions:
How are we to understand materiality and significance, and their relation? What does the italicization of significance connote? Barthes’ use of materiality is straightforward; it refers to “the sonic effects of the tongue, the glottis, the teeth, the mucous membranes, the nose;”  to the “body in the voice as it sings, the hand as it writes, the limb as it performs.”  These embodied forces determine the diction of enunciation, which constitutes its ‘grain,’ that allows us to recognize the identity of a speaker when he/she speaks.
Barthes theoretically allies the grain with the geno-song, a biological, materialist concept he transposes to music from Kristeva’s linguistic analog – the geno-text – individual works of pheno- or species-text exemplified by genres like romance or science fiction texts. The geno-song is defined thus:
[it] is the volume of the singing and speaking voice, the space where significations germinate ‘from within language and in its very materiality’; it forms a signifying play having nothing to do with communication, representation (of feelings), expression; it is that apex (or that depth) of production where the melody really works at the language – not at what it says, but the voluptuousness of its sound-signifiers, or its letters – where melody explores how the language works and identifies with that work. 
Significance, then, is italicized to warn us against mistaking it for communication, representation, or expression. It is what works at language but not at its meaning. Meaning, for Barthes, is a product of the reductive forces of the pheno-text by which culture enforces limits to understanding, to significance, by “reconcil[ing] the subject to what in music can be said: what is said about it, predicatively, by Institution, Criticism, Opinion,” by which he means the codes of langue that always precede and police the voice.  Significance of the grain, Barthes acknowledges in a passing parenthetical allusion to another of his foundational texts, derives its value when the text emerges in the work.
In order for a voice to have grain, to have non-communicative significance, it must break the codes of works, of pheno-songs and pheno-texts, and emerge into the text of the geno-song through listening to the relation of the body of the speaker, singer, or player. The relation, he tells us, also transcends individualistic subjectivity because it is erotic and physiological – it is not a psychological subject who sings or listens, the voice is not an expression of any subject, but it’s dissolution, produced outside of the laws of culture, beyond the valuations of ‘I like’ or ‘I don’t like.’ 
We are all familiar with these poststructuralist themes: text vs work, authorial death, corporeal jouissance, the politics of language. My intention here is to remind us of what the stakes were then, (and which I strongly believe are still relevant today), in putting significance beyond reductive codes that normalize meaning, and in relation to a decidedly non-subjective but still embodied materiality. Sound, music, voice, all have the critical capacity to de-subjectivize, to break free of the narrow circuits through which the codes of culture restrict most of us to ‘expressing’ only individuality. The politics of the grain of the voice aims to produce collective responses against liberal humanism’s ‘voice’ that atomizes the social through its infinite and repetitive broadcast of bankrupt individualist, subjectivist fantasies. While this claim may appear hyperbolic, it is what Barthes intended, and accurately represents the political aims of much poststructuralist thought – to free our voices from a double dominance; from the dominance of normalizing pheno-songs on the one hand, and on the other, from communications of reductive meaning, between singers and listeners.
I now turn briefly to Derrida’s analysis of ‘monolingualism’ as a means by which to define voice, not as a work but, by analogy, as a ‘text.’
Monolingualism opens by staging the scene of a dialogue about “performative contradictions.” The umbrella formulation of the contradiction reads: “I have only one language; it is not mine.”  The contradiction, thus formulated, may easily be justified. In Kristeva’s terms, the contradiction lies between pheno-text and geno-text; for Barthes analysis of the voice, between pheno-song and geno-song. I propose here another dichotomy between pheno-voice and geno-voice, which I will formulate in a moment. Each of these oppositions is a species of the Sassurian legacy; parole refers to having one language through one’s ability to speak it; while langue refers to the impossibility of ever possessing a language at all because it forever supercedes the capacity of speech. A second defense of Derrida’s performative contradiction lies in the dialogic; in the reciprocal, bidirectionality of speaking/listening, in the inevitability of networks of co-interpolations; signifying networks in which speakers call listeners into being, and vice versa. Recognizing that the stakes of ‘giving voice to’ involve communication, but not necessarily significance – what is it that is given voice, for what purpose, and by what means? – we quickly find that a long series of antinomies unfolds here: truth and lie, confession and judgment, proof and construction, monologue and dialogue. This partial series demarks some of the undecideable parameters of “performative contradiction,” and therefore of what the act of giving voice signifies.
This series of antinomies also allows us to suggest initial definitions of pheno- and geno-voices.  The pheno-voice is an agent of communication whose role is to negotiate contradictions in the act of giving voice, in its performance of irresolvable contradictions whose function is not to generate, but to suspend, meaning.  The geno-voice arises in a particular network of interpolations as an advocate for some vector of signification; it is always a product of objective conditions both exogenous and endogenous to it.  This means that the geno-voice is an assemblage of all other voices (the text emerging in a work) that have responded to the call of a given performative contradiction.
A voice is an agency that advocates by calling for a particular significance for a given network of co-interpolations. It is a polygenetic agency, a call without a singular agent, without identity – polyphonic, polyglot, and polyatomic – a complex network of nodes and characteristics resonating along the vocal scale of the network of terms show here on the paradigmatic axis.
To put this in the precise language of performative contradiction, a geno-voice is not more objective than subjective. In Barthes’ terms paraphrased above: it is produced by listening to the relation of the body of the speaker, singer, or player; with the additional qualification of plurality or relations among speakers, singers, and players. A voice interpolates values, and is therefore essentially, necessarily a sociopolitical agency called into being through its encounters with antinomies, with the Other that is both exogenous and endogenous to it. To recognize that we BOTH always and never speak only one language, that language is BOTH ours and not ours, is to know, as Gevirtz has so beautifully put it, that when we give voice to anything at all, it is to speak with the middle tongue and to take the forked road.
I now turn to some examples to illustrate this theory of the voice. In 1979, the Caribbean poet Edward Kamau Brathwaite gave a remarkable lecture at Harvard entitled, History of the Voice, published in 1980 in book form. The aim of this work was to show how Black Caribbean poetry emerged simultaneously with and through the musical geno-songs of Calypso and Reggae with the conscious intent of distinguishing itself from the dominance of British English taught in Jamaican schools. His lecture demonstrates in extraordinary detail how these geno-songs are based in the materiality of the Caribbean environment, like its weather, and from the polyglot patois of black Jamaican idiom, in order to resist the master’s poetic language exemplified by the Shakespearian metrical model of iambic pentameter. I’ll cite here only one of his many examples, in which he compares Shakespeare to his own poetry, to illustrate this.
He describes the difference between these lines in this way:
…not only is there a difference in syllabic or stress pattern, there is an important difference in shape of intonation. In the Shakespeare…, the voice travels in a single forward plane towards the horizon of its end. In the kaiso, after the skimming movement of the first line, we have a distinct variation. The voice dips and deepens to describe an intervallic pattern.
Barthe’s concept of the geno-song is readily apparent here; the “shapes of intonation” the dipping and deepening of the voice, and the emphasis on the “intervallic pattern,” are all terms which stress embodiment. Based on this type of polygenetic, poetic analysis, he then elaborates the concept of “nation language:”
First of all, it is from, as I’ve said, an oral tradition. The poetry, the culture itself, exists not in a dictionary but in the tradition of the spoken word. It is based as much on sound as it is on song. That is to say, the noise that it makes is part of the meaning, and if you ignore the noise (or what you would think of as noise, shall I say) then you lose part of the meaning. When it is written, you lose the sound or the noise, and therefore you lose part of the meaning.
[History of the Voice,17]
Significance, meaning, is co-created in the intervallic spacetime between the material recitation of spoken/sung sound and song; it arises as much from noise as from written language. But nation language also demonstrates the polygentic, performances of contradictions that are the fundamental condition of monolingualism, what Brathwaite calls the ‘total expression” that determines the uniqueness of Caribbean poetry, [slide12] that is based on:
oral tradition … [that] demands not only the griot but the audience to complete the community: the noise and sounds that the maker makes are responded to by the audience and are returned to him. Hence we have the creation of a continuum where meaning truly resides. And this total expression comes about because people be in the open air, because people live in conditions of poverty (‘unhouselled’) because they come from a historical experience where they had to rely on the very breath rather than on paraphernalia like books and museums and machines. They had to depend on immanence, the power within themselves, rather than the technology outside themselves. [original emphasis]
Total expression is performed in the antinomic space between listener and singer, between the voice and the call; that is to say, the singer is also and simultaneously a listener just as the listener is simultaneously a singer. Singer and listener reciprocally interpolate one another, but do so relative to the historically unique immanence of breath, poverty, and Jamaica’s material environment. It is the particular material conditions of its island state that calls forth the particular vector of significance as both noise and language, and that gives polygentic voice to the particular Caribbean agency without agent of nation language. This polygentic voice is a corporeal agency that embodies a diction recognizable as what Bourdieu has called the collective-individual, and Spivak has called the planetary subject – subjects that resist social atomization because they listen to the call of total expression, and learn to give voice to the network of co-interpolations.
We need a new term for such an agency without agent. Gevirtz has given us a profound image in which to locate it; giving voicewith the polygenetic middle tongue so that we can take the forked roads between noise and meaning, between listening and speaking, between giving voice and calling, in order to complete the community of the geno-voice. For her, the model derives from the “the virtual space of all the tele-technosciences, in the general dis-location to which our time is destined…”, as Derrida has described the event that governs communication today. Remember that significance doesn’t necessarily imply communication of linguistic meaning; that geno-songs and geno-voices aim to destabilize, to dislocate meaning in the networks of co-interpolation.
What I will next demonstrate, using the work of the American poet and performance artist, David Antin, is that giving voice to something in the tele-technoscientific virtual space of communication today takes the form, as Gevirtz’s poetry brilliantly models, of broadcast. As she puts it in a poem entitled, “Prosthesis:”
The Voice Speaks to its own mouth
and also from a speech external.
Antin, has developed his work with voice in the medium he polemically and with deliberate understatement calls simply, talk. Antin does not write; he speaks improvisationally before live and radio audiences, records and then transcribes his talk verbatim;
these talk transcriptions are then arranged on the page free of the formalities of proper written conventions such as punctuation and standardized paragraphing and sentence structure, making use of elliptical spaces between talk-fragments, then published as texts. As with nation language poetry, the immanence of the occasion of his talk performances is fundamental.
David Antin, Tuning, New Directions, 1977
Each published talk is preceded with brief introductory written texts that describe the circumstances of each talk, in a voice that is as direct and familiar as the talk-texts. These introductions are polysemic in that they reflect on the polygenetic significances of the talk mise en scène. Their function is to draw the reader into the occasion’s immanence, and are analogous to Brathwaite’s notion of total expression; they historicize, locate, conjure up a past-present moment.
In 1977 he performed a talk entitled, Tuning, which may be thought of as his aesthetic manifesto. Radio broadcasting is clearly one of his intended paradigmatic registers, as in the phrases, tuning the radio, tuning a musical instrument, to tune in or out, and in the colloquial expression of song, a tune. His intent is to make an alliance with everyday practices of non-narrative conversation, as at a dinner table. He is resolutely not a storyteller; we might think of him as pursuing the forked paths between a radio or TV commentator and an essayist like Montaigne. His overall intent is, to use an awful neologism, to de-literature-ize, through the presencing act of talking, and by using the poetic equivalent of jazz improvisation; each talk piece is a consummate example of a geno-song, performed rigorously in a geno-voice.
Antin begins to tune the middle tongue, to tune into the forked zone of the antinomy, exogenous/endogenous; he ‘calls’ his talk into existence as talk and immediately tunes his listeners exogenously to be complicit in the freedom from expectation, and endogenously to another antinomy – the personal, contradictory zone of generosity versus “self”-indulgence. He immediately creates a dialog about ethics, drawing speaker and listener onto the same forked path, while putting them in the explorer’s frame of mind, the erotic frame of wanting to know. He suspends meaning, suggesting that ‘communication’ is necessarily a negotiation and never certain or resolved because it requires consensus.
Antin’s politics of tuning is similar to Barthes’ grain of the voice; its aim is to produce, as suggested above, a collective resistance to the liberal humanist ‘voice’ that atomizes the social through its infinite, repetitive broadcast of bankrupt subjectivist fantasies, which can never be generous, and only ever “self”-indulgent. Tuning is, therefore, a tuning to collective listening/speaking of polygenetic voices, to giving that amalgam a collective chance. An assessment that “seems only fair.” Talk becomes the preeminent ‘record’ of urgency because it’s immanent, and a demand for judgments that must be made now, because we listen to his call and are thus made complicit in what ‘we’ all desperately need to address. Listeners will be taken seriously because they are witnesses to a polygenetic vocal event to which they have been called to participate and judge. And because they listen, they are ethically responsible. Antin’s talks literally produce extra-legal courtrooms in which listener/responder voices will be heard, judged, and acted upon.
Antin’s aim has been to free our voices from a double dominance through listening to talk; from the dominance of normalizing pheno-songs on the one hand, and on the other, from communications of reductive meaning, between singers and listeners. His appeal is to “some sense of urgency out there a passing police car they have an audience they have an audience and a need and they may respond to it badly but they have their sense of urgency” He suppressed perhaps saying, ‘at least.’
Antin calls us to urgency of what we do not yet know, but could; not to the unknowable event itself, which is just that – incomprehensible. Sight is overrated; sound is more singular and so a more reliable form of evidence. So talk is far more believable than writing because ‘we’ can experience it collectively and simultaneously, and agree or not, on what the voice says, even when, and perhaps especially when, we misunderstand. Antin’s method is to mediate these disparate ethical calls.
To round out my ‘talk’, I’ll now turn briefly to Samuel Beckett’s “Rough for Radio I,” written originally in French in 1961, but not published in English until 1976 as “Sketch for Radio Play” in Stereo Headphones, no. 7. This work has been largely ignored by Beckett critics, in part, because Beckett himself considered it surpassed by his later radio works, particularly by “Cascando,” 1962. “Rough for Radio I,” however, if less developed in aesthetic terms than his later works, is far more relevant to my theoretical discussion here, because it addresses what a first encounter with radio may have been like. I don’t have time here to discuss this short but complex work in much detail, and will highlight only a few of its elements. The two main characters are simply called HE and SHE. HE has invited SHE to his flat for reasons that are never made completely clear, but, as SHE says: “I have come to listen.” In the first part of the work, the dialogue between the two characters establish the scene and state of HE’s mind – the flat is dark and cold, HE is troubled and responds irritably and with barely restrained hostility to SHE’s concern for him and interest in the event. As SHE says: HE has suffered her to come. The event that unfolds only very slowly and haltingly depicts SHE’s first encounter with both operating a radio, learning to tune it, (knobs must be twisted not pushed), and with it’s transmission only of voices on some channels, only music on others, and both simultaneously playing on still others. SHE’s response is of incomprehension and astonishment. SHE cannot understand the relation between the voices and music, cannot understand where they are, if they are together or not, why they cannot be seen or see each other, or whether or not they are in the same situations. Beckett depicts HE as equally unable to comprehend the experience of listening to the disembodied voices and music; HE does not understand SHE’s question – “Are they in the same… situation?” But when she modifies her query to – “Are they… subject to the same… conditions?” – HE replies, “Yes, madam.” Beckett suggests that HE has been traumatized by listening to the radio, and that HE has become addicted to the experience of listening. SHE asks: “… you like that?” HE responds: “It is a need.” At this point, SHE leaves the flat.
In the second part of the radio play, HE makes two successive telephone calls to his doctor, but reaches only the latter’s secretary. The secretary’s voice is never heard; her comments can only be surmised from HE’s answers. During the two calls, the radio alternately plays voices and music simultaneously. The sonic effect is palimpsestic, yet riddled with the secretary’s silent responses and HE’s silent pauses as he listens to her, and to the radio. HE is very agitated, in a state of panic, describing his situation as “most urgent.” The radio music and voices become increasing faint, and HE is now terrified that they will completely stop. “They’re ending,” he tells the secretary, and with terror shouts, “ENDING.” HE for a moment imagines that the voices and music will come together, then realizes that that is impossible. “…how could they meet?”, he asks. The secretary, after apparently asking: Isn’t that what all last gasps are like?, hangs up abruptly, or the connection is accidentally lost. But she then calls back immediately, the music and voice are heard together, though fading, and finally cease. Against this sonic background, HE’s replies to the secretary reveal that the doctor is unable to come until the next day because he has to attend to two births, one of which is breech.
What, then, are we to make of “Rough for Radio I?” My view is that it is Beckett’s critique of broadcast’s power to alienate, to create trauma, panic, and psychosis through its enforcement of isolation of individuals from each other. The disembodied voices produce a general sociocultural condition of disembodiment, nothing less than a psychotic historical rupture in the human condition. It is an allegory of social breakdown, the breakdown of relations between HE and SHE, between HE and the doctor, between He and his wife who has left him; in general, the breakdown of human relations caused by the advent of the tele-technoscientific, virtual, sonic space of communication, represented by both radio and telephone. That the musicians and speakers are isolated from each other, will never be able to inhabit the same situation, never come together, is what explains why they are subject to the same conditions, those of alienation. This interpretation is reinforced at the work’s end by the now thankfully rare condition in which women once gave birth – confinement. The radio confines it’s listeners to their living rooms, just as the telephones opens up a global virtual space of sonic alienation, with speakers/listeners reduced to disembodied voices on either end of the telephone line, and just as the broadcast musicians and speakers are confined to separate channels. “Rough for Radio I” is a grim depiction of the death of the communities of nation language and its total expression that both Antin and Brathwaite work to restore. Antin’s urgency is powerfully figured here by two possible types of birth; will a post-broadcast humanity be born in its confined condition safely, or, literally inversely, by breech? Beckett no doubt intended breech to be understood homophonically – as much a breach of law, code, and most importantly, a breach of relations, as a breech birth, which equalizes the potentials of life and death.
“Rough for Radio I,” then, goes into this breach, as a work of broadcast about broadcast, in formal terms; but much more importantly, in affective terms, it is an attempt to produce a condition of immanence in listeners through identification with HE and SHE. In other words, Beckett’s work represents the alienation between the radio’s speaker/voices/music in order to produce an understanding in listeners that they are, actually, literally, those characters. HE and SHE are literally voices in their heads, and their material signification emerges their, in the reciprocal events of listening/hearing, and hearing/listening. In this sense, “Rough for Radio I” speaks with the third tongue and takes the forked road between listening and giving voice, between HE and SHE, between patient and doctor, between music and voice, and finally, between the birth and death of humanity as it listens to and speaks of the historically inscribed conditions of broadcast modernity. Beckett’s remarkable allegory of immanent urgency is a consummate performance of contradictions that demonstrates our monolinguistic fate – that though we speak only one language, it can never belong to us.
By way of summary, I will end by citing a few lines from Gevirtz’s poem, “Prosthesis,” already referred to, which is, and better because realized rather than merely theoretically speculative, another revision of the concept with which I began, the grain of the voice:
Stettheimer’s set for Act I of the 1934 production of Stein’s “Four Saints in Three Acts.” Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Photo by Harold Swahn.
Stein wrote Four Saints in Three Acts, in 1927. Later it was used as the text for an opera of the same title, performed with an all black cast in 1934 in several locations in the US. The music was written by Virgil Thompson, a dear friend of hers she met in Paris, who was little known at the time. Here is a very short excerpt:
How can it have been have been held.
A narrative who do who does. A narrative to plan an opera.
Four saints in three acts.
A croquet scene and when they made their habits. Habits not hourly habits habits not hourly at the time that they made their habits nor hourly they made their habits.
When they made their habits
To know when they made their habits.
Large pigeons in small trees.
Large pigeons in small trees.
Come panic come.
Acts three acts.
Come close to croquet.
Rejoice saints rejoin saints recommence some reinvade.
Four saints have been sometimes in that way they way all hall.
Four saints were not born at one time although they knew each other.
One of them had a birthday before the mother of the other one the father. Four saints later to be if to be one to be to be one to be. Might tingle.
Tangle wood tanglewood.
Four saints born in separate places.
Saint saint saint saint.
Four saints an opera in three acts.
My country tis of the sweet land of liberty of thee I sing.
Saint Therese something like that.
Saint Therese something like that.
Saint Therese would and would and would.
Saint Therese something like that.
Saint Therese half in doors and half out out of doors.
Saint Therese not knowing of the saints.
Saint Therese used to go not to to tel them so but to around so that Saint Therese did find that that that and there. If any came.
This is to say that four saints may may never have seen the day,like.
Any day like.
The many reasons Stein has remained on the fringes of theoretical and aesthetic discourses may be resolved to a single one. To borrow a crucial concept from Bakhtin, the chronotopicity of her work is not ordered by metaphor or the narrative regimes of representation expected by modernist literature. Stein’s work in nothing less than a cataclysm for established literary practices, then as much as now. What do we call her works if neither prose nor poetry? And what methods do we use to understand them? Assimilating her to contemporary idiom, they might be called audiovisual apparati operating on chronotopologies ordered, after 1913, by the spatializing, performative figures of “play,” “landscape,” and “geography,” that, to be navigated, require the temporalizing forensic attitudes of a detective. She used the analogy of a motor moving in a moving car to convey the relational movements of speaking and hearing simultaneously that her works embody. To this end, her works literally invent the punctuation, vocabulary, and grammar of a new linguistic calculus, predicated on a syntax of analytic rather than synthetic relations. Through these efforts, Stein “constructs” a nonnarrative, nonrepresentational chronotopicity in order to correct the semiological damage to “becoming through the world,” the consequence of a naïve realism – naïve because of its reliance on substantives, on nouns and adjectives, on the description of objects, rather than on facilitating experience of felt (made, done, acted, performed) “movements” through relations performed in-on-with-within the “stream of thought.” To accomplish this task, she reinvents language in all its dimensions and uses. She also frees them of unidirectional diachrony, as she reserves the right to move through any spatio-temporal dimension in any direction.
David Goldberg again
A ‘saint’ then, is a ‘being’ able to move through any spatio-temporal dimension in any direction. A ‘saint’ is therefore, a science fact-fictional being. In the music realm, a la Stein, Sun Ra of course comes to mind. The ‘theory’ of this blog then is in part determined by my analysis of Stein’s early work, Orta, or One Dancing, a portrait of Isadora Duncan:
This said, ‘language’ itself is both a barrier and a possibility for ‘believing-feeling-in-moving in any direction:
Stein’s grammar and syntax are completely predicated upon this relationality between material world and material subjectivity as mediated by language. She constructs a language to embody “thought” in spacetime continua in which language “dissolves,” or “cross-fades,” coevally, in opposite directions: first toward language and “signification,” and secondly, toward its negation through an emphasis on its performative transitivity, to its re-embodiment and restoration of knowledge of the “vague” corporeal fringe. Her language is a language of, a language and, a language if, a language of but and by; it is a language on the move as much as a language of movement. It is a language of overtones that attempts to reduce the mediation of language to its diminishing, ever evanescing limit. It is a language of transitive consciousness, in which the transitivity moves is both directions. Her methodological moving throughliterature is a philosophical rejection of the dualism between epistemology and ontology. Stein’s Einesteineian epistemology emerges from her rejection of dualism in all of its manifestations, by refusing to act as though the mind and body were dichotomies, and thereby rejecting both as ‘centers.’
I think I’ll have to next, or soon, talk about the poetry of the contemporary American poet, Susan Gevirtz.
If there were two gods, each would be called necessary. Now, a being is called necessary in one of the following senses:
Either the necessity of its existence is essential to it. But such necessity cannot belong to anyone else.
Or there may be a cause for the necessity of its existence. So the essence of the necessary being will be the effect of a cause, which demanded the necessity of its existence. But by the necessary being we do not mean any thing whose existence is connected with a cause in any manner.
Tahfut al-Falsifa, The Incoherence of the Philosophers – 11th century
… Of actions done by man those alone are properly called “human,” which are proper to man as man. Now man differs from irrational animals in this, that he is master of his actions. Wherefore those actions alone are properly called human, of which man is master. Now man is master of his actions through his reason and will; whence, too, the free-will is defined as “the faculty and will of reason.” Therefore those actions are properly called human which proceed from a deliberate will. And if any other actions are found in man, they can be called actions “of a man,” but not properly “human” actions, since they are not proper to man as man. Now it is clear that whatever actions proceed from a power, are caused by that power in accordance with the nature of its object. But the object of the will is the end and the good. Therefore all human actions must be for an end.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, – 12th century
Today, it is almost impossible to imagine that a Christian theologian would cite a theologian of Islam, unless to denounce him. While, it must be pointed out, Islam considers both Christianity and Judaism as fundamental to its theology. How more surprising is it that St. Thomas, the founder and bedrock of Papacy theology, would hold al-Falsifa in the highest regard? Even more surprising in today’s shallow waters is that both St. Thomas and al-Falsifa shared the same rationalistic roots. Both were as committed to the pagan Aristotle as they were opposed to his polytheistic paganism. Both argued for reason in the cause of faith. Faith was possible, they reasoned, only through the distillations of Aristotelian logic. Both insisted on “proof” that God existed. Rational proof, not revealed, Biblical truth. They reasoned that faith was possible only through reason. What could be more at odds with today’s right wing fundamentalism of Christianity and Islam? (Not to mention the right wing fundamentalism of Jewish Zionism?) Judaism’s secularism and spiritualism is fundamental to both, however, and both rely on it. Hence, it is far from clear that al-Falsifa’s dilemma, “If there were two gods…,” has been negatively or affirmatively solved. Religion in today’s climate seems to be as polytheistic as ever it was.
Hegel, the philosopher par excellence of western dominance to whom we should give guarded credence, nonetheless taught rightly that the past is deeply embedded in the present. This means that even our shallow time has great historic depths if we chose to look for them. George W. Bush re-initiated the Middle Ages with his onerous phrases – “the war on civilization,” and, “empires of evil.” On the other hand, the post-Enlightenment era we inhabit, following the utter failure of scientific rationalism demonstrated clearly by the mid-20th century World Wars, and ushering in our age of militarism, has also reawakened a desire for faith in something other than bankrupt capitalist secularism. This renewed desire is one of the most problematic attributes of THIS, OUR, time. Yet, it is NOT a demonstration of the failure of secularism. Au contraire.
To what “end”, then, human desires and human actions? Both al-Falsifa and St. Thomas argued that the “end,” in the sense of purpose, was “god.” To what end, then, human purpose, human desires, and human actions? For these two theologians, the “end” of human life is devotion to god because this end, god, is causeless, though necessary because causeless. God was conceived as the cause of all causality. The first argued for Allah, the second for Yahweh. Two gods. It becomes immediately clear when reading their arguments for faith that both gods are equally proved to exist because the limits of reason are clearly demonstrated in each case, and, faith becomes a necessity. Reason is indeed powerful in the human sphere where causality does in fact determine many, though not all, things. But since causality cannot determine itself, it must be un-caused, or caused by something itself uncaused. This un-causality can only be explained by some trans-causal cause. What is it that has created causality? Because human reason cannot comprehend this question, it confronts something other than itself, something greater than its human limits can understand, that must lie beyond “properly human action.” Humanity is forced to confront its own ultimate limit. The consequence of recognizing this very limit constitutes its greatest knowledge – that it cannot know in rational terms that which lies beyond causality. In this recognition, the pre-Enlightenment subject recognizes her anthropological limit – where her great rational human limit ends, her faith must begin. This “cannot know”, based on the certitude of causality, is faith. Faith is the necessary ‘end’, and the rational consequence, of reason. Both St. Thomas and al-Falsifa ‘proved’ this, in theological terms. Since al-Falsifa and St. Thomas do not disprove each other, their non-exclusive monotheisms, therefore, must prove polytheism. This must be our conclusion from reading them comparatively. Both Allah and Yahweh must exist. Or, neither can exist. Today, with the rise of religious militancy, with the violence perpetrated in the names of God, Allah, and Yahweh across the planet, the ‘proof’ that this paradox is far from resolved is daily revealed. And therefore, the ‘state,’ as fragile and corrupt as it may be, gains renewed currency because its mandate is to mediate religious extremism, through secularism. Even though it has abandoned its mandate, and even though it never, in fact, accepted it. The so called ‘founding fathers’, in the US and France, of ‘democracy’, were ‘Deists’ – in today’s parlance, agnostics, and would be widely condemned for that, by the majority of today’s global population. The ‘state’ then is thoroughly undermined at the level of its very foundation – summed up by the ‘fathers’ most fundamental principle: ‘the state cannot legislate morality.’
This train of thought brings us directly to Piazza San Pietro, to the center of power of the Catholic Church, to the symbolic and actual site in which the Middle Ages is still very present, even as it is wrapped in Bernini’s vast Baroque, architectural arms. As one walks through the square surrounded by Bernini’s masterpiece, past the Roman obelisk, one walks into the Renaissance Basilica that now stands over Constantine’s original 4th century church and therefore into the early Christian past. St. Peter’s Square is a palimpsest of conflict, condensing in its layers a 1000 years of conflict and struggle that made Christianity one of the world’s dominant religions. It is often forgotten that after Constantine recognized Christianity in 300 C. E., it wasn’t until 800 C. E. when Pipin the Short gave Italy’s entire Po Valley to the Pope, that the Church became a powerful worldly force. Pipin’s gift came with a price; in exchange for this enormous land grant, he required that his son, Charlemagne, be crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor, forging for the first time a theocracy that has come to be called Caesaropapacy, an alliance between secular militancy and religious power. Centuries of conflict ensued in which Kings and Popes sometimes easily collaborated, sometimes fought ferociously in opposition. The city of Rome was, over centuries, redesigned so that its boulevards all led away from the pagan Roman Fora, and instead to St. Peter’s, making this “mother church” the de facto center of the city. These boulevards and the immensity of the square served the Church well; Pope after Pope created a series of Saint’s Days and religious events that transformed the Julian calendar into the Gregorian calendar to mark time for the Vatican’s progress, and purposes. Throughout the year, extravagant, ritualistic, parades wound through the city to draw its inhabitant’s attention away from the Fora’s poplulist pagan and civic culture, and focused them instead on the otherworldly power of the Christian God. By these means, the pagan cults were slowly replaced by the worldview of monotheism. At least superficially. One has only to scratch beneath the surface to reveal that even the Pope’s official title, Pontifex Maximus, derives from the office of “High Priest” of the (pagan) Roman period. And even the doctrine of the Trinity may be interpreted as a form of polytheism.
The Vatican today remains a theocratic microstate in the image of Caesaropapacy in the very heart of the Italian capital. It is Catholic Christianity’s sovereign state, replete with all the vestiges of power: semi-legal autonomy, it’s own laws, religious ‘ministers,’ police force, and surveillance. The Pope is a head of state analogous to any other head of state, with full capability to operate on the world’s stage with this difference; his power is vested in God and not in the people’s secular will. It is this very difference that gives him his specifically secular power, since heads of secular states need his religious power to further their secular causes with their religious populations. Condoms, for example, or, no condoms; Bernie Sanders ‘unofficial’ meeting with Pope Francis during his presidential primary campaign against Hilary Clinton. And it was into this peculiar world, this peculiar religious state, that on 9 May 2009, the artist Liuba walked with deliberate slowness and great courage dressed, at a glance, as a Nun, to perform The Finger and the Moon, a work of minimal but potent pageantry that invoked the doctrinal debates of al-Falsifa and St. Thomas, and called up the profound depths of the past in our religious present.
Lest it be thought that Liuba acted callously and merely to provoke violence with a naïve impunity, while risking a polymorphous and perhaps perverse blasphemy and a pointless martyrdom, it is crucial to understand that she studied with an Imam to pray as Muslim’s do; was advised by a Rabbi; studied Brahman and Zen rituals; and with an Inuit shaman. Finger and the Moon was performed with great care and accuracy, with sincere devotion and is a genuine and groundbreaking work of ‘religious art’, in the ecumenical, scholastic traditions of Thomas and al-Falsifa. But given its symbolic location in Piazza San Pietro, it must also be interpreted as a form of civil disobedience meant to raise questions about religious conflict, violence, power and the role of the state. It raises questions about the power of symbolic and direct action that in her work mirror the difficult conundrums of personal faith and political commitment that are wrapped up in such pressing issues as separation of church and state, the legislation of morality, the mechanical inhumanity of secular politics grounded in neoliberal financial capital where ‘value’ has no other meaning than economic value. Liuba brings powerfully to bear ideas of free speech, the relation of public speech and to private responsibility, in a nexus where appearance and reality are elided, where the expected and the unexpected collide, where the Other is forced to confront the Other, where, ultimately, difference resists all resolution to sameness, and the paradox of al-Falsifa’s two gods are bound together like two north or two south poles of a magnet. We might imagine the effect causing the compass to loose its bearings, which politically it certainly has. How might we navigate through a religious center so radically displaced?
Lest it be thought that Liuba’s performance was only a private act, it is equally important to know that her embodiment of religious paradox, of her manifestation of an unresolvable aporia of faith, was captured by dual cameras and streamed live over the internet to a plurality of international sites. Like most works of religious art, hers was a widely public one based on the power of witnessing, significantly bridging the material, secular world with the virtual, transcendental world, the world of unsuspecting random pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square with the expectant home and gallery audiences gathered to observe the performance. The real-time and real-space of the event has been transubstantiated as a database not limited by time and space, commensurate with global capital, aesthetically mirroring the cosmology required to maintain the religious world view, just as the two camera points of view maintain on a formal level the impossibility of resolving the differences between Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Zen, and Native American faiths. Finger and the Moon suggests a kind of hierology of displacement, of the aporia between the real and the apparent that is the very condition of religious faith. It puts faith where it is best suited – in suspension between ‘worlds,’ whether these worlds are actual, virtual, or ‘faithfully’ imagined. Another form of a ‘third space.’
Liuba’s performative act goes still further. If a nun of uncertain order, a nun who is clearly ‘out of order,’ is a figure of religious aporia, she must lie beyond “properly human action” that is strictly policed by religious doctrine, where humanity is forced to confront its own limits. But because a nun is also a woman, Liuba displaces the masculinism at the heart of the hieratic by challenging the very dogma that it is the priestly role to certify through the setting of definitive limits, including those of gender. Thus, Finger and the Moon is also a powerful challenge to the patriarchy so endemic to most religious practices. Liuba’s patron saint is the 16th century St. Teresa de Ávila, the Carmalite nun of Jewish origins who at the age of seven ran away with her older brother to experience martyrdom among the Moors. In St. Teresa’s book, El Castillo Interior, a clear reference to the 13th century Sufi doctrine of Abu-l-Hassan ash-Shadhili, she analogized the journey of faith by comparing the contemplative soul to a castle with seven successive interior courts that symbolized the seven heavens. Surely, whatever one thinks about religious faith, and this writer is an atheist, Luiba’s entry into Piazza San Pietro must be understood as a journey into at least the first of these seven courts, where religion and politics, the public and the private, the syncretic constitution of religion, and therefore of faith, are inseparable.
If Liuba has other patron saints, they would be Fellini and Gertrude Stein. St. Teresa plays an enormous part in the latter’s monumental Four Saints in Three Acts, where she is given the ecstatic role that Bernini immortalizes in his sculptural homage to her in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. For Stein, St. Teresa is a figure able to bridge feminine and masculine power, erotics, and language, with a powerful assembly of poetic imagery. Fellini is an evocative figure here because of his trenchant filmic treatments of the rife contradictions between religion, sexuality, politics and the everyday life of Italians. But it is also a useful context in which to understand Luiba’s aesthetic practice, to understand her culturally-oriented, filmic, character-driven performances. Many of her works would easily fit into his films because they use absurdity as social critique to confront the contradictions between individualism and public norms. Liuba’s work is deeply Italian, while also able to challenge the absurdities at the root of our globalized culture, with a candor and critical devotion equal to that of Fellini. Finger and the Moon is a remarkable work of syncretic aesthetics. That St. Teresa, Bernini, Stein, and Fellini, not to mention St Thomas and al-Falsifa, impossibly find a disjunctive synthesis in her performances speaks volumes for the uniqueness and power of her courageous work.
Such rational faith is the aesthetic necessity for art to confront religion and its politics could not be achieved by anyone but a saint. St Liuba, then, is a new patron saint of a profoundly activist art.
Liuba puts faith where it is best suited – in suspension between ‘worlds,’ whether these worlds are actual, virtual, or ‘faithfully’ imagined. In another form of a ‘third space.’
The project started in 2006 with a preparatory research on the main religious beliefs and on the different ways of praying in the world.
LIUBA spoke with the Imam of a Mosque and went to pray with Muslim women; She talked about Jewish Religion and Prayer with the Rabbi of a Synagogue; she investigated the practice and the spirituality of Buddhism speaking with different people; she went to pray Zazen in a Zen Temple, she traveled to a Native Reserve in Quebec, Canada, to know more about North American Native Spirituality.
Then she worked with the Italian stylist Elisabetta Bianchetti to conceive of a special nun dress with multi-religious references and details. Looking carefully at the details, the dress is different from traditional religious clothing. It has been designed taking inspiration from the Renaissance Madonnas.
Performing in real life situations involves unpredictability of reactions and events. LIUBA had many kinds of reactions and interactions from people, many of them meditating about the performance’s meaning or being surprised about it.
LIUBA’s cameraman, Raymonda Gentile, was hidden to the public and recorded both the performance and people’s reactions.