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Issue 0






It is an international, interdisciplinary journal based in Paris, New York and Brussels that allows for the expression of young HPHUJLQJWDOHQW3ODWHDXGRHVQRWFRQoQHLWVHOIWRRQHVSHFLoF domain or medium. It explores a space where image, text, taste and acoustics blend. While there are active international communities of academics and professors, the journal seeks to apply this model of communication and collaboration to students around the world. The project is to create a student ‘collective’. 3ODWHDXLVDVWDUoVKWKDWVSUHDGVLWVFUHDWLYHOLPEVRXW to the world, it is the object that concretises the transatlantic, and global exchanges between two educational institutions: The American University of Paris and Eugene Lang College. Plateau’s method is to lay out a challenge for its contributors DQGUHDGHUVk&DQ\RXFUHDWHDFRQFHSWXDOoHOGRXWRIDYLVXDO FRQVWUDLQW"y7KHFRQVWUDLQWJDLQVGHoQLWLRQDQGFRQFHSWXDO resonance, abstraction then arises from a word that is concrete or visual. The constraint for Issue 0 is Blur: this is a selfUHpH[LYHWKHPHDVLWH[SUHVVHVWKHMRXUQDO VLQWHQWRIEOXUULQJ all boundaries, the boundaries between media, disciplines and countries. The blur brings together. While the link or the tie still holds two entities distinct, blurring entails a cross-fertilisation, a dissolving of two entities. Yet, the entities do not completely merge, all things are at once interacting, layered and blurred. Blurring leads to the possibility of transformation. Francis %DFRQ VoJXUHVEOXUWKHERXQGDULHVRIZKDWFRXOGEHFRQVLGHUHG one of the most distinct entities: the body. With the use of blur, the bodies sink into their surroundings, escape from the limits RIpHVKWKHOLPLWVRIWKHURRPPHOWGLVWRUWDQGWUDQVIRUP Blur allows for transformation by suppressing all contours. Blur also describes movement, like the whirl of a spinning top. Therefore the concept of blurring is not constructed within WKHFRQoQHVRIRQHSDJHEXWUDWKHUHPHUJHVLQWKHLQWHUOXGHV DVWKHUHDGHUpLSVIURPRQHSDJHWRWKHQH[WLQWKHEOXU of the changing pages. The name of our journal is inspired by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ in which the content is divided not into chapters but rather into “plateaus�. As such, the reading of the text is not linear; each plateau can be read independently. The Blur issue follows Deleuze and Guattari’s rejection of a hierarchical organisation in favour of a “rhizomatic� structure. The blur issue has no chapters or sections: its ambition is to form DFRQVWHOODWLRQZKHUHWKHYDULRXVoHOGVDQGSDUWLFOHVRIWKHLVVXH condense and connect to form a haze, to form a whole.




Uta barth’s photographs make me hold my breath. Those out of focus images speak to me so intimately. They whisper. I have always felt a delicate and visceral connection to her photographs. She knows the way i see – the way i know the world. Severely shortsighted, my eyes have never felt the edges of things. For me, all objects bleed into one another.

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colour photograph on panel, 51x51cm

(2) GROUND #42, 1994,

colour photograph on panel, 28.5x26.5 cm


I discovered leaves when I put on my glasses for the first time. Before then, I had never really understood leaves on trees as a singular phenomenon. To me they were nothing but a collective mass. With the glasses, I could make out the line and silhouette of each leaf. That tree – the tree of discrete leaves – stopped me dead in my tracks. It introduced me to the edges of things. Seeing through glasses makes you see twice. Definition and sharp focus is teased out through the blur. The blur is always there, just outside the edge of the glasses frame. The blur never dissolves. Uta Barth does not deny that blur. That’s why she makes me hold my breath. Her blur reminded me of my own. By abandoning focus, Barth has not lost anything. No, quite the contrary. Without focus she has found something else. What this thing is – what it is possible to catch as you look into her photographs – is absence. These photographs exist through (and also speak) a poetic of absence. I first sensed this poetic when I realised that, along with focus, Barth abandons something else. This something is the subject. Barth photographs backgrounds. She photographs walls and distant landscapes. What is missing is the foreground. Perhaps missing is the wrong word. The foreground is there. We just can’t see it. The out of focus background is a witness to this invisible foreground. If the background is out of focus, something else must be in focus. Focus does not exist without its inverse, and vice versa. Simultaneity reigns. You just have to look for it. That which is in focus in these photographs is the invisible foreground. It is the empty space that is (silently) stretched over the visible part of the image; the background. To look at these photographs – to see them – one must traverse this vacuous space, this void. To see something, one must first see nothing. It is this act – this way of seeing – that makes me hold my breath. You can’t breath in a vacuum. There are no particles. There is nothing to see. Pushing us across this void, Barth teaches us to see, as if for the first time, as if we had been blind and have finally found sight. Finding that sight, we don’t care that there is no focus, that the image has no discernible subject. All that matters is the seeing itself. Indeed. That these photographs have no tangible or corporeal subject is crucial. The very absence of a subject – the physical thing that inhabits a foreground and demands focus – is what makes these photographs so beguiling. They pull you in with an invisible subject, with nothing, with empty hands. To sense this absence – to address this absent presence – is to understand these photographs. Only then can one see these photographs, these photographs that ask us to perform that moment of first sight, that articulate the instant when the eye opens. It is through this moment that absence moves into presence. Barth captures this movement. She frames it. She holds it still. Looking into her frames, we can feel seeing. Seeing out of not seeing. Barth makes us aware of the rhythm of this metamorphosis. She makes us feel it, embody it. I hold my breath. Then I breathe again. As if for the first time.

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$FLJDUHWWHLVLFRQLFLQoOPQRLU but more importantly, cigarette smoke is as well. Visually, cigarette smoke plays an organic role in this period RIoOPKLVWRU\

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Black and white filming, lighting designed to differentiate between even the most miniscule nuances of grays and off-whites—the technical apparatus of film noir reveals the smoke of a cigarette as the silvery gauze through which the spectator sees the treacherous dark lips of a beautiful woman—lips one imagines as ruby red. There would be no sexual innuendo of the sort enjoyed by our parents and grandparents on the silver screen without the ever present curl of smoke rising from Bogey’s cigarette, dangling as it always does from his lips. There would be no play of seduction without the sultry demand for a light from the sensuous Lauren Bacall or the forbidding Joan Crawford. The spectator cannot possibly misinterpret the beauty of cigarette smoke in film noir, from Double Indemnity to Pickup on South Street. What the film noir spectator fails to realize is that cigarette smoke appeals so completely to the sense of sight that the rest of the senses are left woefully betrayed by the black and white screens of the 40’s and 50’s. The wispy trail of silver and gray smoke—a visual signal originally intended to evoke certain realities about the world in which it has been embedded is ironically a signal which has aided and abetted the willful repression of the unpleasant realities of that world—that pleasure is inextricably linked to violence and pain. Though crime and violence are to be expected in the world of film noir, cigarette smoke is most often linked to the moments of exquisite pleasure, which shield our protagonists from the harsh realities of the worlds they confront. In Ghost Writer (2009), Roman Polanski points this out when one of his characters, Adam Lang’s secretary says “I allow myself a cigarette—only at times of great pleasure or of great stress.”

SMOKE SCREENS: WHAT’S BEHIND THE CIGARETTE? Mostly however, beauty and mystery are evoked through the impeccably well-lit curl of cigarette smoke as it wafts its way into the murkiness of city streets. But the cigarette itself – the white cylinder from which the smoke will be produced--connotes the instrument of violence or the denotative scepter of those in power. When a captured victim’s hand becomes the replacement for an ashtray in the service of a venal and evil man looking to torture someone, the cigarette belies its role as a weapon in an ugly world. The cigarette is a trophy of power and symbol of the ease afforded the criminal class each time an imperturbable though nicely dressed gangster multitasks by turning the morally upright private detective he has hired into his fall guy, while simultaneously asking his hit man to light his cigarette…A cigarette lighter at the scene of the



crime (Hitchcock); a particular brand of cigarette, Ariston, smoked by the serial killer (Lang)…there would be no film noir without the cigarette. The cigarette nonetheless blinds us to the power of visual images to repress the other senses in the narrative space of a film. Jacques Tourneur’s classic, Out of the Past (1947), subtly underscores the lopsided iconicity of the cigarette and its smoke in three scenes which frame the opening and closing of that film. Whereas most film noir will use cigarettes in consistent ways, Tourneur embeds a number of intriguing variations on the connotative potential of the cigarette. Indeed, Out of the Past takes a dig at many of the uncontested moral truths of film noir mantra, but three of its sequences alone suffice to uproot the cigarette and its symbolic place in noir filmmaking. The establishing sequence creates the first commentary on how a cigarette can fail to live up to its reputation as a symbol of power. In this sequence, a series of landscape shots serve as backdrop for a drive into the small town of Bridgeport. The shots of mountainous landscapes evoke the Western genre. The film takes on noir proportions when the viewer follows a final tracking shot of a car pulling into a gas station in the center of town. What follows is an extraordinarily abrupt reverse angle shot where the viewer hesitates between focusing on two potential figures. The first and most obvious point of focus is on the driver of the car. In the reverse angle, the dark-suited man has stepped out of the car and has assumed the fairly typical position of the ominous guy from the city. He is poised to light his cigarette, seemingly assured that it will serve as his calling card and do his menacing introductions for him. The viewer is indeed strongly tempted to keep his eyes on this man, having been trained from the viewing of other film noir, to fear such an entrance into a small town. The second possible focus for the viewer is the back of a young small town boy, captured very low in the frame because he is busily repairingTHE SILVERY GAUZE THROUGH a car tire, an activity which requires working low to the ground.WHICH THE SPECTATOR SEES A higher angle focus, such as the one enjoyed by the city guy in the actTHE TREACHEROUS DARK LIPS of lighting a cigarette, usually wins out as a point of focus for a spectator,OF A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN but in this case, something goes wrong. As it happens, the city guy will turn out to be the film’s primary hit man, also right hand man to the underworld powers. As he strikes his match and lights his cigarette, the viewer is lulled into watching his cigarette smoke drift up towards the mountainous landscapes. If the viewer has been totally indifferent to the young boy up to now, they can no longer ignore him, as his response to this ominous gesture of introduction by the hit man is totally alarming. The boy doesn’t react at all. He doesn’t hear the match being struck, he doesn’t seem to smell the cigarette burning (though NO ONE ever SMELLS a cigarette burning in film noir)….in short, he does not turn around in fear and apprehension at the perception of the cigarette because he does not perceive the cigarette. It is only when the hit man throws his match at the boy’s head, insulted that he has to break all of the rules of cool cigarette protocol to get the boy’s attention, that he and the viewer discover the boy’s deafness and muteness. The cigarette’s power as a quintessential form of visual stimulus in film noir has been doubly underscored in this opening sequence of Out of the Past. You cannot fear what you do not see, that is, if you are deaf and

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dumb and deprived of forms of sensual perception other than sight. All it takes is an abrupt reverse angle both to hide the hit man and his cigarette from view and therefore to emphasize the importance of that cigarette as a visual stimulus in the narrative space of the film. In fact, worlds crumble, as in the case of this hit man, who by this point in his cigarette ritual is feeling the pains of emasculation. His white stick with burning ember is deliciously hanging from his lips as he practices that ever so crucial activity of speaking in threatening ways without having the cigarette fall from his mouth. The power he exercises through this ritual is already lost, however, in that that power is revealed as merely borrowed. The hit man’s primary role in this establishing sequence in small town Bridgeport is to get information about Jeff Bailey, the private detective his boss wants to hire. In this bizarre case, it’s a job he cannot do while smoking. After discovering that the young boy is deaf and dumb, but able to read lips, the hit man is reduced to having to take the cigarette out of his mouth in order to make his question about Jeff Bailey’s whereabouts understandable to a person who can only read lips. The cigarette goes from being a symbol of urban menace to being a mere obstacle in the completion of thug’s job. Hit men are almost always brought low in a film noir film, but rarely in an opening sequence and never in such exquisite tandem with undercutting the cigarette’s role in urban power play. By carefully distinguishing the possibilities for sensory perception of the cigarette, first denying the usual visual prominence it enjoys, then by eradicating the possibilities of aural perception and finally by subtly reminding the viewer that the sense of smell is never evoked in the ritual of the cigarette and its connotative power, Tourneur playfully rips away at the smoke screen of moral and domestic values usually perpetuated by the noir film. Most viewers are happily lulled back into the power and beauty of cigarette smoke and smoking and the establishing sequence just described is conveniently forgotten, most notably, when Jeff Bailey begins his first flashback narration about his regrettable past. His narration is kicked off just after he has lit his cigarette while driving in a car with closed windows. The narration is delivered not only to the viewer but also to a young fresh-faced blonde woman with whom he wants to spend the rest of his life though no one except the viewer is convinced that Bailey is good enough for the small town girl. In a close-up shot inside the car we see him light his cigarette. We see her face with downcast eyes in the background of the shot as she willfully submits to hearing a sordid story of his past and to inhaling his second hand smoke. The invasion of her private space goes unnoticed by all as the camera moves away from her face and closes in on Jeff Bailey reveling in his cigarette and in his own story about his past. It’s a story which begins with a description of a woman, a dame named Kathie, who not only smokes, but who also carries a gun and can shoot—to kill. As Bailey puts it, she was a woman who was able to make her bullets good. The young fresh-faced woman has been “smoked out” of the viewer’s vicarious desire for a smoke-laden tale. Just when all seems to have returned to normal, and the cigarette has regained its position of mystery, beauty and pleasure, the two additional scenes which help to disrupt certain givens re-emerge as haunting


reminders of what the opening sequence evoked. In the first one, Bailey has already become the fall guy; has become controlled by the woman who can smoke and shoot; has seen her shoot his alienated partner; has seen her flee from town with 40,000 dollars and has gone on to learn to live without her. He has finished his flashback narrative along with his cigarette and has entered the home of his ex-boss to finish one more piece of business before coming back to Bridgeport to live happily ever after--away from his past. Re-enter Kathie, the woman he had once been hired to find, who abandoned him and is now herself safely “back in the fold” with her old boyfriend—Bailey’s old boss. They reconnect at breakfast in the boss’ home and then Kathie wastes no time in coming directly to Bailey’s bedroom. She tries to convince him that she had no choice but to abandon him as she did 3 years ago, JUST WHEN ALL SEEMS TO HAVE and to try and persuade him that she needs him just as much as ever, RETURNED TO NORMAL, AND THE to save her from Dewitt, her boyfriend and Bailey’s boss. As she enCIGARETTE HAS REGAINED ITS ters the bedroom, Bailey reaches immediately for a cigarette. He does POSITION OF MYSTERY not light it right away and what follows is a revealing shot-reverse shot sequence between them. Each shot includes both Kathie and Bailey in the screen space, indicating that they are still exercising relatively equal power in the exchange at this point. There is even a slight suggestion, given the downward cast of Bailey’s eyes, that Kathie will once again convince him of her vulnerability and need for help. Once Bailey lights his cigarette, however, there is a 4-shot sequence of close up head shots where Bailey, framed by the slight wisps of smoke floating between the two of them, slowly gains his upper hand. The relation of dialogue to shot sequence is crucial here. In the first shot, where they are still both visible, with Bailey’s face shot from over Kathie’s shoulder, she says that she has missed him and that she has prayed that he would understand her. Whereas he looked as if he might be convinced by her argument up to this moment, he now lifts his downcast eyes and says incredulously, “You prayed Kathie?” We then have the first close up of her alone on the screen as she says, “Can’t you even feel sorry for me?” In the second close-up Bailey says, “I’m not even going to try. Now just get out of here. I have to sleep in this room. The third close up is a very quick and very close shot of her face with no dialogue. The fourth is a close up of Bailey’s face as he says “Let’s just leave where as it all was.” In other words, in the battle of close-up images and dialogue codes, Bailey wins the battle by having his capacity to speak overcome hers. All of this occurs after he has lit his cigarette. As she leaves the room, he takes the cigarette up to his lips and clears the air of her presence by inhaling deeply. Rather than creating a sensual link between them, the cigarette functions as a defense against her, not the usual role of a cigarette between genders. Visually, the appearance of Kathie in Bailey’s bedroom is a disturbance to him, which he overcomes as suggested by the very deliberate use of a close-up of her face where she is, for once, at a loss for words. Her beauty is given one last chance to defeat him in this shot, but his subsequent line “Let’s just leave it where it all was”—i.e., in the past-- proves that he is able to draw a curtain on that past. Prior to this scene, there have been a whole series of comments about the visual beauty of the view from the boss’ home and Bailey wonders aloud if he has been brought

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here to admire it. As this bedroom section of the film reveals, he has indeed been brought here, not to view the landscape , but rather, to be taken in by the beauty of Kathie once again, so that he can be set up as the fall guy for the next in a series of the boss’ schemes. The line of dialogue, “I have to sleep in this room” suggests that her physical, visual presence is problematic for him primarily because it reminds him that something objectionable about her might linger once she clears out, such as the smell of her perfume. Once she has left, as he smokes and returns to writing a letter to his future wife, the viewer senses that the cigarette fumes, wafting up to heaven, have had a greater effect on the turn of events than her prayers, and that he has successfully rid his sleeping quarters of her distinctive scent. This is one of the rare scenes in film noir where the smell of the cigarette is in some small way evoked—as a smell that can rub out the lingering perfume of a beautiful but deadly woman. Smell and sound, rather than the visual appeal of the cigarette dominate the third and final scene which combines the idea of using a cigarette capable of announcing one’s ominous arrival and equally capable of perturbing one’s sleep. The third sequence thus combines the concerns of the first two I have already discussed. When Bailey has finally positioned himself to be able to control negotiations with Kathie, we are privy to a final sequence shot entirely from a medium long shot range. The sequence is dimly lit, as Bailey enters Kathie’s bedroom, while she is sleeping. There are once again mountainous landscapes, lit by a mere sliver of moonlight. Bailey enters, positions himself carefully beside the bed, his back reflected in the mirror of her dressing table. He proceeds to light his cigarette such that the smoke, as it floats upward, will be caught and highlighted by whatever small amount of lighting is available in the room. Again in medium long shot, the viewer sees a sleeping Kathie, awakened almost immediately by the sound of the match striking and possibly also the smell of the cigarette, since her eyes do not follow the sound, but rather, look blankly in front of her as if she is waiting for her senses of sound and smell to direct her to the appropriate visual focus. By the time she has turned her gaze to Bailey, he speaks through the haze of smoke he is producing: “What are you so scared about?” The response of fear and apprehension so fervently hoped for by the hit man at the opening of the film from the deaf and dumb boy--that almost instinctual fear of what a cigarette being lit in one’s sleeping quarters might portend--is successful in this scene in ways that it was not at the opening of the film. The reasons for which one might want to keep a person out of a room where one sleeps are also evoked. The cigarette, which should create a sensual bond laced ever so slightly with danger, has turned the tables on Kathie, the sight and smell of a beautiful woman have been repulsed, and in this final scene, Bailey has succeeded for once in blindsiding those in power who have been taking him as a fall guy throughout the film. His entry into her sleeping quarters constitutes a menace, but one which is backed by the force of moral order rather than the threat of the underworld’s power. Bailey, the good guy, is smoking the ominous cigarette this time around.


Cigarette smoke lit by film noir techniques is invariably beautiful, and what hides behind it is quite beautiful as well, though it is usually linked to underworld powers and portents of evil, a trend which has been announced and, to some extent, undermined in these three scenes. The iconic stature of cigarette smoke has also been twisted by Tourneur to reveal its inner workings and its willful separation of the senses in order to privilege visual stimuli. Through Tourneur’s sly and playful look at the other side of the cigarette he has produced one of the most beautiful images of cigarette smoke which has ever graced the silver screen.

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THE IN’S AND AROUND’S OF PROCESSED SOUP “I was wrong. Instead, colours, lines,shapes and forms took refuge in unexpected places: they hid in Roman and Arabic letters and numbers; in circles, rectangles and squares; in yellow, blue, and green. They dissimulated as fonts, covers, titles and indices; as the graphic lines and IRRWQRWHVRIERRNVWKH\FDPRXpDJHG as letters, price lists, dissertations and catalogues; as diagrams and budgets. They hibernated not in 14 1 14-16 but around ‘artworks.’” 1.Walid Raad from “Scratching on Things I could Disavow: A History of Art in the Arab World” Appenix XVIII

d un o ar


One form of refuge moving to another, the liminal space remaining concealed. And with this, Walid Raad talks about what happens in a very particular time in Beirut. But really he speaks to more than that. He speaks to a world in which 0’s and 1’s come to rule. In which data has power, and with data comes lines shapes and forms. The pricelists conceal the truth behind a creative process. The catalogues mask details behind hard facts. But it is the blurred space in between, the movement from discrete to discrete, that this refuge can take form at all. The around is what comes to bear: the form itself of the refuge. The in is what comes to be harbored: the liminal space that grants this refuge its ability to form in the first place. And it is this harboring, the concealment, that gives an ability to escape a world of data and enter into a world of creativity. Every catalogue has a recipe for its creation, and it is this blurred space that reveals the history behind the form. The recipe is the discrete, the refuge of line forming line. But a recipe is never just measurements and items listed in order on a page. It requires mashing and smashing, estimating and spilling, tasting and amending. In the end, it is not what we see on the page of a recipe book that we taste but the blurred mixture. The lines of a recipe become the form of a meal. But what really happens in between? What is the story behind the refuge, behind what we actually taste? 1-1.25kg/2lb 4oz-2lb 12oz ripe tomatoes 1 medium onion 1 small carrot 1 celery stick

2 tbsp olive oil 2 squirts of tomato purée (about 2 tsp) a good pinch of sugar 2 bay leaves

1.2l hot vegetable stock (made with boiling water and 4 rounded tsp bouillon powder or 2 stock cubes).


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1. FIRSTLY, PREPARE YOUR VEGETABLES. If the tomatoes are on their vines, pull them off. The green stalky bits should come off at the same time, but if they don’t, just pull or twist them off afterwards. Throw the vines and green bits away and wash the tomatoes. Now cut each tomato into quarters and slice off any hard cores (they don’t soften during cooking and you’d get hard bits in the soup at the end). Peel the onion and carrot and chop them into small pieces. Chop the celery roughly the same size. 2. SPOON THE OIL INTO A LARGE HEAVY-BASED PAN and heat it over a low heat. Hold your hand over the pan until you can feel the heat rising from the oil, then tip in the onion, carrot and celery and mix them together with a wooden spoon. Still with the heat low, cook the vegetables until they’re soft and faintly coloured. This should take about 10 minutes and you should stir them two or three times so they cook evenly and don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. 3. HOLDING THE TUBE OVER THE PAN, squirt in about 2 tsp of tomato purée, then stir it around so it turns the vegetables red. Shoot the tomatoes in off the chopping board, sprinkle in a good pinch of sugar and grind in a little black pepper, then tear each bay leaf into a few pieces and throw them into the pan. Stir to mix everything together, put the lid on the pan and let the tomatoes stew over a low heat for 10 minutes until they shrink down in the pan and their juices flow nicely. From time to time, give the pan a good shake this will keep everything well mixed. 4. SLOWLY POUR IN THE STOCK, STIRRING AT THE SAME TIME to mix it with the vegetables. Turn up the heat as high as it will go and wait until everything is bubbling, then turn the heat down to low again and put the lid back on the pan. Cook gently for 25 minutes, stirring a couple of times. At the end of cooking the tomatoes will have broken down and be very slushy looking. 5. REMOVE THE PAN FROM THE HEAT, take the lid off and stand back for a few seconds or so while the steam escapes, then fish out the pieces of bay leaf and throw them away. Ladle the soup into your blender until it’s about threequarters full, fit the lid on tightly and turn the machine on full. Blitz until the soup’s smooth (stop the machine and lift the lid to check after about 30 seconds), then pour the puréed soup into a large bowl. Repeat with the soup that’s left in the pan. (The soup may now be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost before reheating.) 6) POUR THE PURÉED SOUP BACK INTO THE PAN and reheat it over a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until you can see bubbles breaking gently on the surface. Taste a spoonful and add a pinch or two of salt if you think the soup needs it, plus more pepper and sugar if you like. If the colour’s not a deep enough red for you, plop in another teaspoon of tomato purée and stir until it dissolves. Ladle into bowls and serve. Or sieve and serve chilled with some cream swirled in. For other serving suggestions, see opposite.

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Quantities listed one by one a page. Spoonfuls of red mush tasted one by one by the tongue. A new form is reached. Tomatoes become linked to celerly. Carrots blend to onion.

But the red form tells it all. Its slightly creamy texture is mixed with little particles of red blobs: it is grainy yet smooth. The tang of the tomato blurs together with the sugar:

Methodologies: processes that make new forms. But it doesn’t just happen with the turn of a spoon in time to data. Details are changed and added, affecting the final result. Some remnants of the first form are left behind. Others are completely changed to new. And the last remaining links of the quantities on a page can only be tasted through the blur. A new methodology is made. 1. Once the soup is in the bowl, mix with a spoon. Be sure to notice the thickness of the soup. A little less vegetable broth added here. There was no measuring cup. Instead, tomatoes were added. The soup is better thick, maybe a bit to thick. Will make note of this for next time.

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2. Take a spoonful and bring close to mouth. Notice the steam coming from the red mush. It must be too hot. Maybe it was cooked on too high of heat. If so, that means the nutrients have all left, evaporated into the air. But that is all part of the blur. The nutrients left in the soup itself all depends on this. They are what can tell the history. It is elements like these that can speak to the creative making of the soup. The data may be finite, but it leaves hints to the past transformation of 12 oz of ripe tomatoes behind, allowing them to enter the infinite world of mixing and stirring.

it is no longer sweet and acidic, but somewhere in between. The heat of the vegetable stock takes away the crisp coolness of the tomato: it is no longer fresh but comforting. All that is left is red mush. Quantities have taken refuge in the redness of the soup. Data becomes other data, to be read by the taste buds of the tongue. But what is taking refuge in what? What happens when the sugar and the tomato blur? What do our taste buds really read?

3. Once the spoonful is cool enough. Slowly taste the soup. Make sure to swirl it around the mouth a bit. A mix of flavours should be tasted. Nothing stands out too much. But wait. There is a bit too much tomato. It is a bit acidic. Maybe some more sugar should be added. Stir in a spoonful if needed. Taste again. Much better this time. The blurriness has become apparent. One bit of data stands out over another. The history is revealed. It is these small details that come to matter, that come to tell the story, and not the red mushy soup as a whole, not the finite form. And with this new methodology, we don’t just taste data. And we don’t just taste the opposite page, the new serving suggestion. It is true, we move from one form to another. But it is in the small details that are left behind or not mixed enough that we are able to read the history of this transformation. We move beyond the sight of data and into the blurred world of what happens before and after this data. And this is where the creative process lies. It is in the details: we taste a process. We understand how form could produce new form. We peak inside to what is harbored. This is where we can once again gain control of our data. And Walid Raad may have been wrong. Discrete lines and forms can only take refuge in other discrete lines and forms. But he was only right in realizing that the around itself has significance in telling its own story, its own hibernation of the in. It is only through looking around that we can come in to the blurred world of form meeting form and creativity taking shape. We taste not red mush, but the details of process.

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1997 was fourteen years ago. Only a year before that, journalist Adrian Deevoy said he “found [Blur] on the verge of a nervous breakup.” It’s little more than two months past the year 2011 and they are reuniting, quietly, but in their own precarious way, happily. Go back to ’97. Each member, their own respective vices consuming them, began to drift in and out of focus, the group as well. The times had been strange. Coming off an early career high, Blur was crowned the Princes of Britpop by both the British music press and the tabloids. It bred into band leader Damon Albarn a closed feeling and his interactions with songwriting partner Graham Coxon became tense. It wasn’t all bad, though. Born out of the tension was the product of asynchronous musings: Albarn with his head moreso in composition and Coxon floating across the Atlantic to the raucous and nascent micro-genre’d American alternative scene. And as the musical tension eased but the personalities still churned, Blur reconvened after a brief hiatus and learned to appreciate the sound that so much dysfunction could make. That sound became the catalyst for both the album that saved Blur’s career and what eventually broke them apart. Blur, the self-titled and aptly named record, was born out of confusion: loud and cranky, and like any birth, it’s also beautiful and supremely universal. Having exiled themselves to the vague and iridescently ominous wiles of Iceland to record the album, they created something oddly transatlantic but also vast in purpose and message. It’s a smattering of lean American rock hyperbole, taking on shades of R.E.M. and Pavement, but never quite leaving behind the trace elements of their origins in Albion. And no matter how hard they tried on Blur, they always sounded like themselves, like

Blur. By the end of the year, critics of all sizes decided to call it a well-played makeover, both modern and disdainful of the current trend in British music (as a whole) with modernity. But initially they were stumped. Just two years prior, Blur had leapt to the forefront of the British music vernacular as one of the only “British” sounding bands out there when grunge was the dominant sound coming from across the pond. The album Blur untethered the group from the position as the face of the British music scene, and allowed them freedom to move around and flex their musical intellect in a way their audience had not yet seen. By grafting the stylistics from the groups that influenced them and they in turn influenced, Blur created a wholly new sound. Despite the musical transformation, though, the members of the group were not going through a transition as fruitful or pleasant as their album was. Britpop, the cultural movement that had chosen Blur as one of its godheads, had imploded and so had Albarn, Coxon & co. The stress of this pop deification drove a spike between Albarn and Coxon, and their relationship as both friends and songwriters frayed more and more. Their relationship with Rowntree and James was also frayed. And you can hear it: Blur is rife with a desperate feeling of four personalities being torn asunder: a slow-but-sure drifting apart. The antepenultimate track, “Strange News From Another Star” is the most personal of the whole album while remaining the most vague. It’s filled with washes with distortion and echo, enhancing the distant but familiar stargazing that fills the song like a constant wonder. The song begins, and there’s talk of Death Stars and meat and people and guns and the fact that all these things are tantamount to little pieces of static information, flying






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through space. It’s a great existential yawn from a band that had hit the wall spiritually as well as philosophically. For the first time, Blur released a record that told the stories of all four of its own members rather than stories about the British way of life or wackishly Dickensian characters that are too literary for the Cool Britannia’s generations attention deficit. All their popculture aphorisms of the past are flung out into the universe to be their own thoughts, divorced from context. Albarn’s wonder with the melancholy of it all is so convincing that even the most casual listener would get the impression that he would have drifted away long ago were it not for his dedication to the music. The instrumentation coming out of the combined clatter of Coxon, James and Rowntree is dense and vast, but each member’s personality is clear. And yet, they were still drifting apart as a group, despite their unified sound. Consider this: did you know Blur were the first band to be sent to Mars? It was 2002 and Y2K had come and (obviously) gone, but by then so had Blur. Blur the album had made a thunderous dent in the charts as well as the critics’ pool and allowed them to move beyond their trappings as a Kinks-esque band, full of observations and pith. It indicated the moment in which the band began to disintegrate as much as come into their own. While it may be very “Cure” to make that comparison, in a flash five years had passed and the world had changed (The Cure were well before the Internet and band-space travel, two things which Blur became known for), and music was now moving in a far different direction than had been projected. For Blur, things changed internally within that stretch of time. Coxon had left the group after a disagreement with Albarn, though not before recording and touring the last fullband effort, 13. The distance they had all coursed away from one another had grown exponentially and changed things in that time. And yet, if you still go back to “Strange News From Another Star” you can hear the exceptional sadness but clear and distinctive purpose and belief in the music that had all but left Blur by the time of their complete fracture. “Strange News” is a ballad filled with history, discontentment and reverence. It would only be a matter

of time until they had gotten to that point emotionally, physically, musically and otherwise as a band; hitting a glass ceiling. The very notion that they were on the surface of another planet actually must have been a frighteningly dwarfing notion when one stops to consider the gravity of it all. So it’s 2008 and Blur have just reunited after many a year of rumormongering in the music press, two separate but equally great music careers (Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon, respectively), one impressively hedonistic but smartly titled memoir (Alex James), and one charming flop of a politician (Dave Rowntree). Luckily, they seem genuinely happy to see one another. After more than a decade of relative non-existence as a band and separation as friends, they drifted back together. They played joyous and well-received reunion concerts. Blink and it’s 2011. Blur say they’ll be back for good now, like old memories bobbing to the surface of your mind; returning. Blur had become a splintered and exploded band by the time they recorded “Strange News From Another Star” and in the years following, the tension that had once flung them to opposing ends of space defused and has instead become the connective tissue that has redoubled their binding. They - Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James, and Dave Rowntree - had all received transmissions from some lonely outpost in the cosmos, buzzing with the static of punditry and politics and media and talk, talk, talk. It was a communiqué they themselves had probably written while out in space, bouncing off something and returning years later, when they had become wiser than before. Their name has always been apropos to their sound and self-awareness as a band, confirming why twenty years into their career, Blur have transmuted those extraterrestrial impulses into universal appeal. They have become one of the few bands that actually had been there, to the loneliest reaches of the human experience, only to drift back eventually to tell others what they had seen, heard, and eventually created.



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Synaesthesia begins with the blurring of boundaries between senses, with the displacement of perception, and, in literature, as a rhetorical device. Hearing color and seeing music are just two examples of synesthetic experience that involves the dislocated stimulation of a sense. Yet synaesthesia can be imagined mapped on a larger scale, spreading beyond the geography of the individual body or expression, programming the entire design of a literary work. Such is the case of James Joyce’s novella ‘The Dead’, in which distance, location, and dislocation happen to be central themes, united through the image of snow.1 The theme of geographical dislocation is typically found in post-WorldWar-I works such as T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (“Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch”2) or Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, in which the room turns out to be more cognizable than the character and his consciousness, dispersed around Europe. But most of all, of course, in Joyce’s Ulysses whose last words, “Trieste-Zürich-Paris, 19141921”, set the text itself beyond spatial and temporal boundaries alike. All three of these works were published in 1922. The short-story collection Dubliners, however, came out in 1914 and was completed by 1907, that is, well before the apocalyptic event which unsettled European geography took place. Rather, the sense of displacement in Dubliners’ last story, ‘The Dead’, is of a local scale, but still with Great Britain and Europe in the background, as poles of attraction. A mythological, rural Ireland, as represented by the nationalist Miss Ivors and the nostalgic Gretta, is contrasted with Dublin, Great Britain and ‘the continent’, to which the protagonist Gabriel is attracted. He is an emigrant of sorts among the rest of the story’s characters and perceives even his own body as estranged and distant after seeing himself in a mirror. A series of displaced sensations prepare for this moment of alienation from a dislocated self. Synaesthesia cannot be said to take place explicitly in ‘The Dead’ the way it does in Joyce’s novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or Ulysses. Yet the novella’s main character seems to be equally disposed to and often comes quite close to a synesthetic experience. While imagining a painting of Gretta, for instance, Gabriel is thinking in musical terms and desires to call the image Distant Music. At another instant, he seems to almost hear and smell touch: “the first touch of her body, musical and strange and perfumed” (215-6). Gabriel’s disposition for synesthetically displaced perception is a reflection of his dislocated, unfitting self. While standing next to an encumbered with food Christmas table, the outsider Gabriel ironically pronounces a speech about “living in a less spacious age” (204). The nearly onepage long, detailed description of what is on the table overwhelms the reader in terms of space relationships between objects and which item is beside, between or behind which other objects. “The raisins and almonds and figs and apples and oranges and chocolates and sweets” thus seem to form an uninterrupted continuum of undistinguished items (202). Distance begins to shrink and replacement as well as displacement is henceforth facilitated, in preparation for the blurring of distance between the protagonist and the world he inhabits in the story’s concluding part. ‘The Dead’ ends with a sense of dissolving solidity, which corresponds to the distortion of spatial and temporal boundaries, confronted by

1. All cited pages correspond to ‘Dubliners’, London, Penguin Books,1992. 2. “I’m not Russian at all;I come from Lithuania, a true German” (line 12) in Michael North’s translation for the 2001 Norton Critical Edition of ‘The Waste Land’.


3. James Joyce, ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, London: Penguin, 1996, pp.150-151

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the main character in the course of the story. In the last two paragraphs, a large number of desaturated words accumulates (“shades”, “fade”, “wither”, “dissolving”, “dwindling”, “softly”, “faintly”) to match Gabriel’s “own identity [which] was fading out into a grey impalpable world” (224-5). A perturbed sense of space is vaguely mixed with a destabilized self. Having transcended Gabriel’s body, syneasthesia as a symptom now stretches out to the body of the text, manifesting itself in the increasingly cantabile quality of ‘The Dead’ near its end: “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead” (225). Although the novella is consistently narrated in the third person from beginning to end, in its last two paragraphs in particular the voices of the main character and narrator become less distinct. The distance between the two fades away as if under the unifying influence of snow that is said to be “general all over Ireland”. Curiously, the moment Gabriel experiences epiphany in the story is precisely at this last instant of most intense blurring. In other words, instead of obscurity and confusion, blurring here paradoxically brings revelation and a sense of sudden clarity of thought. The overwhelming descriptions of the previously mentioned encumbered Christmas table in addition to the synesthetically disposed experiences Gabriel goes through in ‘The Dead’ eventually lead to his realization of his proper position in time and space. Syneasthesia (confused location) thus oddly becomes a condition for epiphany (definition of location). Yet the epiphany we find in ‘The Dead’ is an unusual kind of epiphany for instead of an ephemeral occurrence, Gabriel’s leap of understanding seems to be suspended and therefore last, as both story and collection as a whole end before it has ceased. Dubliners thus could be said to continue even after it has ended, through this final suspension of epiphany, which reflects the collection’s overall theme of urban paralysis, where the only dynamic entities seem to be the sky above Dublin and the snow coming from it. Snow, an all-pervasive and recurrent motif in ‘The Dead’, in fact functions as the trigger for Gabriel’s epiphany. Once again, in an almost synesthetic experience, it is when Gabriel hears the snow hitting the window pane that his state of realization is unlocked. This last instant of suspended epiphany that marks the story’s ending is strangely evocative of the sand conceit in Chapter Three of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In the middle section of Joyce’s novel, the image of sand is used to illustrate the concept of eternity and eternal damnation, inspired by Stephen Dedalus’ fall to sin at the end of Chapter Two. A mountain of sand, the conceit goes, contains an infinite number of sand particles and yet after all of them have been picked up one by one in the course of “millions upon millions of centuries”, “not one single instant of eternity could be said to have ended”.3 Ubiquitous and infinite, snow in ‘The Dead’ is in a sense a quieter, yet equally powerful celestial equivalent of infernal sand in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. For snow is the image that blurs time and space into timeless universality and also brings epiphany in ‘The Dead’.


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QUESTIONS TO EZR A POUND ON FASCISM In A Station Of The Metro The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough. -Ezra Pound __________ Questions for Ezra Pound on Fascism How to boil the subway down to a cherry tree? How to put each body in a pink uniform? To dampen the train as a whole. Turn it black; suddenly still. Tunnels into roots, in one dip of the pen. The dark kettle of your mind, Ezra, boils and boils. A beautiful debasing, swarming with logic. How to boil down a poem, a thought, a world? You, so concerned with what will perish, Did you ever examine what’s lost in the vapor? The wars that crawled out of your kind of conception. How to wipe away the unfit millions? A spill of faces. Cities, wet and black, in the wake of a bomb. Boil till blackens the pot; Till the only thing left is the cooker, you, Ezra. Can a bough run through cities efficiently enough? Are you the only one wise enough to conduct it? Can a cattle car be boiled down as elegantly? Your weathered face manifests in the blur. The last one left, peeking over the platform’s edge.


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NO TITLE Whispered hello, hello exultant. Two people like quiet horses nuzzling, the mud exultant. Two people, like the high and sprawling oak, singing too, “Exultant”. Like wet tendrils of hair, creeping vines along a neck, after the rain finally comes, when you are happily caught in it, exultant. Have you ever touched a horse’s kind shoulder? The part of its back that would be burdened with most of your weight if she were sweet enough to let you on? Have you heard the metal bit tapping against her square teeth sounding, in a way, clean? Two people, their complicated insides twisted and hollow like hand-polished trumpets, exultant. Have you been upon a horse while she’s running? Each tendril of her mane will crack like whips once the wind hits them, exultant. Could you let her run forever, at her own pleasure, and love it more than guiding her course? Could you enjoy letting her run from a comfortable distance, instead of being a part of her motion?


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SEPTEMBER LETTER TO ERICK It’s falling apart, Erick. What I’ve been building is sloppy. I’ve been waiting for your letter, though you may have never written it. I want its medicine all to myself. 5 blond children mock the black crane in the harbor. Polluted water, how is it still so tranquil? Even with the horns and screens and the chopping of unmarked helicopters. Today, the homes of protestors in Chicago and Minneapolis have been raided. Four riot cops in a young family’s living room. Four giant insects preserved in sweet amber. The blond children are being strapped into strollers. The crane has flown away. I’ve been closed for maintenance for 3 years. I never got to be young because I was a girl, Erick. Always watching my own back, while still trying to love. The city is the scapegoat for my own deficiencies. I fall ill for no reason. Forget to change my clothes for days, trying to love. I knew one boy an hour before letting him kiss me on the train. Two dirt covered men watched us, but I don’t blame them. You don’t want to acknowledge where you are while you’re in those tunnels, Erick. The train could stop and no one would know you were there for a million years. If that boy and I were lost that night, excavators would’ve found us, mouths still pressed together like bookends where no books live, and the populace of the future would still stare and assume as they do now, and for the same reasons.


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A PROBLEM OF HIGH-DEFINITION When I squint my eyes while gazing at the lamps along the street there is a streak of light penetrating through the blur. All else is a haze, but the streaking light is straight and direct. It leads to its source at which I can look without blinding myself. If I do not squint, thus leaving all objects in reality defined, then I cannot look at the light; it pains my eyes. I sit and stare until the lamps pass me and then I shift my unfocused gaze to the taillights of the forward car. The wipers sweep the pelting rain droplets and return with a screech of uneven rubber on convex glass; the monotony of rain and wipers blur with all of the lights. My grandmother drives me home after we went to the Globe Store where they still had heavy brass revolving doors and a grand foyer of marble and fresh merchandise. It is closed now. A strip mall was opened up down the street with simple steel doors and carpet. Nonetheless, my matchbox car makes me happy. That made sense: the rain, the toy, the store, and my grandmother who wept on national holidays about all of her friends who died in the war. The war made sense. Hitler was bad and Roosevelt and Churchill were good. Even Stalin was “good” because he was on our side, but not many people know that, I suppose. Americans received kisses and flowers and French people and Dutch people danced, embraced, and wailed with joy. DeGaulle marched proudly, and French soldiers stood side by side with British and American troops. They all died to beat evil. My grandmother cried on national holidays and the flapping flag made sense there draped at 45 degrees on the porch. The world was clear. She said she would disown me—even though she loved me—for studying in Germany, the enemy. Years passed, I know the history. I am going to learn language, culture, to be an ambassador for my country. I am a cosmopolitan for the world. Friends came and went and we shared stories, but I often felt the sting of being an American. Europe was rebuilt by Marshall’s plan and The Wall came down, the west won—we all won, right? No. The lesser of two evils, perhaps, but we won nothing and I came home in a fuzz. Then I went to France. “Why France? Having lived in Germany, why would you want to go and live in France with the cowards?” demanded a republican friend fresh on his second layoff just in time for the holidays. “First the enemy and now the cowards?”

The eggnog tasted sour with the liquor, and after shaking the glass, I stared at the melting ice; I waited for an answer to surface slowly with one of the cubes. “Don’t know. I just always liked Paris since I visited it with Marie back in 2007.” Marie’s father was dying of cancer when we visited them in St. Cyr just outside of Paris. There we ate pink meat and haricots verts covered in olive oil and basil. Outside a gentle breeze wafted the sweet scent of lilac. “Do you Americans eat pink meat? I know you usually like it well done,” her mother innocently inquired. “Yes, madam, I don’t mind, merci.” Later, before I was to return to Paris, we drove out to the palace at Versailles in her parent’s Peugeot. She was too tall for the little car and her black hair, stuffed into a bun, whipped violently since the driver’s window did not close all the way. We passed fields of daisies in the sun in silence. Soon, however, the clouds mounted and blocked the sun and upon arrival the sky released a torrent of rain. We rushed under one of the massive windows to look inside, but we did not go in; it was too expensive. I observed the table where the idealist President Wilson once sat bathed in peaceful sunlight after the haze of war evaporated. He decided to save the world, but the American Senate decided to end the world and never visit the Belle Epoque again. That crazy hazy Wilson. I stared for a long time. The rain subsided, the sky cleared, and we sauntered on down to the gardens. I looked at Marie and smirked as I stepped over the tiny arched fence bordering the grass and she smiled, pointing at the tiny sign indicating the illegality of this act. “Oh you rebellious little Yank. C’est interdit.” Three years gone. Again, I find myself in Paris, but now as a resident. Sometimes, as I sit wrapped in a long scarf over a shot glass of coffee that quickly exudes its heat, I think of home and my grandmother and my country. I have expanded sharp limits and crossed blurred boundaries. I am older now, no longer affected by being an American. Quite contrarily, I wryly smile, as I am an American, but here in France: I learn this language and I live this life no longer in fear—fear of the unknown. I am a young man alive, aware in the world and I do not define myself. I have become the blur and I squint my eyes at the passing lamps because in this fog I can see light straight and direct.


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What would the future of feminism be without women? The more feminist theory progresses, the more it seems that it may come to this, as the words, “woman” and “women” become less intelligible over time. In the post modern period the word, “woman,” seems to hold little meaning except to symbolize a vast and intricate web of social and cultural implications. Most everyone will agree that feminism is, at its core, a movement that seeks the liberation and equality of women. Yet no one can seem to agree upon what a “woman” is. Judith Butler suggests that this is because there is no single definition for the word woman. To Butler the word “woman” is defined by its social context. As such, it is unstable. In the excerpt of ‘Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity’, found in Feminist Theory, and in Feminist Contentions: a Philosophical Exchange, Butler proposes a feminism that roots its meaning in the fluctuations and diversity of the word woman, rather than perpetuating the myth of a stable subject conducive to heteronormative, hegemonic discourse.

Integrating Butler’s philosophy into the feminist movement requires an ideological shift that poses a threat to many theorists. However, I do not think that Butler’s ideas pose a threat to the movement in the least. If anything, her theory of performativity represents an opportunity for feminist discourse and action to transcend the limits of the hegemonic, male centered, and heteronormative discourse that it is fighting against, and to create a multidimensional shift in paradigm within the modern era. Butler’s theory not


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only shakes the “contingent foundations” of feminism, but it revolutionizes the movement, and the entire conceptualization of gender. In ‘Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity’, Butler states that gender “ought not to be construed as a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts follow; rather, gender is an identity tenuously constituted in time.” (503). Analyzing this concept makes it possible to understand what the implications of Butler’s theory are for feminism in general. By defining gender as “tenuously constituted in time”, she implies that feminism must either accept to be rooted in an unstable and diverse subject and adjust accordingly, or discover another subject to be based upon besides gender. To use an unstable subject as the basis of theory, can only lead to unstable theory, theory that cannot transcend the limits of a particular period of time or population. Thus, Butler reveals the danger of a single feminist subject and asserts that historical and cultural influences determine the appropriate actions and reactions of subjects: not an ontological gender identity. The “tenuousness” of the subject results from the fact that history continuously changes, so the constitution of the subject – the social context that dictates the appropriate gender performance of a contemporary subject – inevitably fluctuates as well. To universalize the term “woman” would be to attribute an unchanging constitution to the female subject, which Butler contends is a falsification and the perpetuation of a myth that enforces the discourse of power imposed upon women by a heteronormative society, which is responsible for the polarization of gender definitions. She supports this notion with the theory of “gender performatives” (499): gender as “a stylized repetition of acts”, and a “constituted social temporality” (503). Such definitions find their roots in predetermined cultural constructions of gender norms. The repetition of gender performances, characterized by the gestures and actions that a society deems appropriate for men and women respectively, perpetuates the semblance of an ontological gender, which causes the two sexes to act differently from one another. However, Butler argues that without the continuous repetition of such performances, gender has no significance. Instead the performance of gender is “inscribed on the surface of bodies… This also suggests that if that reality is fabricated as an interior essence, that very interiority is an effect and function of a decidedly public and social discourse, the public regulation of fantasy through the surface politics of the body” (173/174). She explains that these socially regulated performances enforce a heteronormative discourse that ostracizes those who act outside of their anticipated gender roles, “we regularly punish those who fail to do their gender right. Because there is neither an ‘essence’ that gender expresses or externalizes nor an objective ideal to which gender aspires, and because gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender create the idea of gender, and without those acts, there would be no gender at all. Gender is, thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis; the tacit collective agreement to perform produce, and sustain discrete and polar genders as cultural fictions is obscured by the credibility of those productions – and the punishments that attend not agreeing to believe in them; the construction ‘compels’ our belief in its necessity and naturalness” (502). The punishment to those who “fail to do their gender right” proves that such a rigid definition of gender is a subtle and insidious manipulation of power and control over the production of gender definition. One of the main points of contention to Butler’s argument is that it clashes with the traditional notion of autonomous agency, which many theorists believe is a central component to feminist empowerment. Sealy Benhabib raises the concern,


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“If we are no more than the sum total of the gendered expressions we perform, is there ever any chance to stop the performance for a while, to pull the curtain down, and let it rise only if one can have a say in the production of the play itself? [...] Given how fragile and tenuous women’s sense of selfhood is in many cases… this reduction of female agency to a ‘doing without the doer’ at best appears to me to be making a virtue out of necessity” (Benhabib,23). However, what Benhabib seems to perceive in Butler’s theory, as the destruction of agency, is merely a relocation of agency. It is clear, that within the theory of gender performance the subject cannot determine its historical context, that which constitutes its initial performance. However, the agency that Butler presents in her theory is just as powerful, if not more powerful, than the sense of agency which allows the subject to filter its social and cultural influences in order to constitute itself. Butler’s subject may not choose the history that constitutes it, but it can choose to change or alter its future by breaking from the gender performances that society expects from it. She says, “No subject is its own point of departure” (Butler, 42), but that does not mean that no subject is not its own point of destination. On the contrary, “queer theory” proves just how malleable the human subject can be, and this malleability is a positive, not a negative, characteristic. Butler’s theory proves itself, as she proclaims the instability of the female subject, as she authors the theory, which changes that subject, forcing it to progress and to redefine itself. Benhabib’s argument that “women’s sense of selfhood” is “fragile and tenuous” is not a reason to halt the progression of a movement or philosophy. Feminism cannot stop perfecting itself because women are “fragile”, nor should it impose a monistic definition of the female subject, since it was the monistic definition of “woman” by a male centric society that incited feminist resentment in the first place. If feminist discourse is to be anything but a tool of male centric tradition, then it must transcend the rules imposed by such a tradition. It must develop its own definition of discourse, in its own language. Theorizing with the words and definitions imposed by a phallogocentric discourse could only replace one exclusive hegemon with another. The goal of feminism should not be to define “woman” in a way that inevitably limits female potential in the very stability of its definition. The goal of feminism should be to replace an oppressive form of power with a less oppressive one: a power that allows for women to achieve their potential without the restrictions of gender norms. Once uniformity ceases to exist within the spectrum of gender, there will be no reason to categorize gender performance into terms like man or woman. A “woman” can be a man dressed as a woman, a person with a vagina, a person who feels like “the other” regardless of biological anatomy etc. So what does “woman” mean today as a result of Butler’s theory? Woman means the potential to revolutionize a system of power, which is not only oppressive to women but also oppressive to any person who does not naturally fall into the predetermined and narrow category of today’s “man,” as defined by the anticipated social performance of the male gender. Butler’s theory is not only applicable to women, nor are gender norms only oppressive to women or members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual community. Gender norms restrict the performance of all subjects. The issue at hand for the contemporary feminist is not the displacement of autonomous agency, but the issue of exclusion. If “gender” and “woman” represent fluid subjects there is no longer any


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reason for feminism to be based on exclusion, that is, based on “woman.” Because what is “woman”, in post modern discourse, is what is “not man.” If feminism promotes the social and political empowerment of women, then it inevitably promotes the social and political empowerment of “not man”, and what is “not man” is a term that corresponds to a much more diverse population than solely, “woman”, as it is defined in traditional or biological terms. Assuming that “man” is a term embedded with the connotation of the ultimate form of power in the modern world, many persons born “male” would not fit into this category. They, like women, would fit into the category of “not man”. In other words, if Butler proposes that feminism accepts an unstable subject, she must accept the drastic implications of such a proclamation. A feminism that incorporates gender performance into its foundations can no longer be feminism, but pluralism. Criticizing the U.S. involvement in the Gulf War Butler states, “I suggest that we have been in the midst of a celebration on the part of the United States government and some of its allies of the phantasmatic subject, the one who determines its world unilaterally (Butler, 44)…No subject is its own point of departure; and the fantasy that it is one can only disavow its constitutive relations by recasting them as the domain of a countervailing externality. […] a fantasy of autogenesis, is always already masculine… to become a subject on this model is surely not a feminist goal” (42). In other words, a stable subject can only exist through the conscious or unconscious exclusion of other potential subjects. It thus unilaterally IF FEMINISM PROMOTES defines itself as the sole entity worthy of subjectivity. A hegemon emergTHE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL es when one subject excludes all other subjects from vision, and when EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN, it deems all other subjects less relevant or less good than itself. Butler claims THEN IT INEVITABLY that this “unilateral” thought process defines the philosophy of the U.S. PROMOTES THE SOCIAL AND government at the time of the first war in Iraq. I argue, and I do not think POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT OF that Butler would object, that this “unilateral” thought process characterizes “NOT MAN ” the production site of heteronormative, “male” centric, hegemonic discourse. If feminism wants to break from this discourse, then it must propose a new one, and a new discourse cannot be produced at the same site as the one it opposes. As a result of Judith Butler’s theory, feminism must become a movement that transcends the limits of such discourse. Doing so requires a theory of inclusion, total inclusion, in opposition to the narrow and rigid definitions of “gender”, “race” and “religion” imposed by a discourse of division and exclusion. This is why I believe that feminism needs a new name; one that is not based on the restrictive and sexed term “woman”, that was defined by the exact hegemonic discourse that the movement opposes.


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CHEVALIER “Chevalier” wakes up in a blur, after a great catastrophy, all that’s left of Earth’s fertile land is desert, crushed by massive PDFKLQHV&KHYDOLHUoJKWVDJDLQVW violent machines to save the last remaining animals from the smoke, VWHHODQGoUH





The result of the blur issue is the creation of a concept of blur. While the intent was to create a rhizomatic organisation, with no hierarchy and all essays and art works connected on a same platform, we can observe that a certain rhythm GLVWXUEVWKHpDWQHVVRIWKHSODWIRUP The Blur issue falls into a cyclical structure. Plateau has become a camera’s barrel, the pages its lens, and the reader the photographer. While turning the camera’s barrel, adjusting the focus, the reader draws a circle shifting from sharp distinction to blurriness. From the haze of Neue’s “Split smoke” to the sharpness of Frode & Markus’ photo sequence “Chevalier”, from the ingredients of Renee Carmichael’s UHFLSHIRUWRPDWRVRXSWRWKHoQLVKHG tomato mush, from the microscopic scale of Camille Buiatti’s cells to the macroscopic realm of the room in which you are holding this journal, Issue 0 dilates and contracts VXJJHVWLQJWKDW%OXULVQRWDoQLVKHG state but rather a becoming.





Editor in chief Oona Doyle Design & art direction Lou Benesch

Cover art by Esteban Gonzalez Title font “Nemoy” by Bastien Sozeau

Design contributors Léa Wolf & Esteban Gonzalez / ARTICLES


Isobel Parker Philip Alice Craven Renee Carmichael Max Gardner Lilyana Yankova Muggs Fogarty Robert M. Olechna Hanna Waldhorn Anna Aarela Jean De Trémontel Large Esteban Gonzalez Simone Ringer Raphael Leco Arnaud Lajeunie Raffaele Cariou Camille Buiatti cargrocollective/camillebuiatti Raphael Leco & Louis Clais Amanda Vincelli Frode & Markus


This publication was made possible thanks to The American University of Paris, Eugene Lang College and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


A special thanks to: Caitlin Barretto, Alice Craven, Neil Gordon, Elizabeth Parker Arthur, Celeste Schenck, Julie Thomas, Sam Yehya, Oliver Feltham, the SGA and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.



EDITOR’S NOTE by oona doyle


ESSAY 6-7 the movement towards by isobel parker philip

PHOTOGRAPHY poursuites by arnaud lajeunie


ESSAY 8-13 smoke screens: what’s behind the cigarette? by alice craven

SELECTED POEMS by muggs fogarty


PHOTOGRAPHY dies dominica by raffaele cariou


RECIPE 14-16 the in’s and around’s of processed soup by renee carmichael SOUNDS from another star by max gardner


SHORT 64 a problem of high definition by robert m. olechna DRAWINGS tranches d’aîtres by camille buiatti


PHOTOGRAPHY 25-39 split smoke by esteban gonzalez

PHOTOGRAPHY found photographs by raphael leco and louis clais


MUSICAL DISTANCE 40-42 synaesthesia and snow in james joyce’s ‘the dead’ by lilyana yankova

ESSAY why feminism needs a new name by hannah waldhorn


DESSINS 43-48 china ink, based on photographs by raphael leco

PHOTOGRAPHY chevalier by frode & marcus


POSTSCRIPT results of the experiment by oona doyle


FLOUTERIES 17-23 blur prend le large by large


Plateau is a student-run international creative journal supported by the New School in New York and the American University of Paris. It is...