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PATAPHYSICS PUBLISHING ISSUE
BALLARD, BURROUGHS & RE/SEARCH: V. VALE INTERVIEW
AFTER THE AVANT-GARDE BY SYLVÈRE LOTRINGER
SURVEILLANCE AND WARINESS BY RUPERT SHELDRAKE
RUPERT SHELDRAKE INTERVIEW
A RIVERDALE ADDRESS BY DAVID SHAPIRO
ARCHITECTURE AS HYPOTHESIS – MADELINE GINS & ARAKAWA
RON PADGETT INTERVIEW
AVANT-GARDE POETRY AND BOOTLEGGING BY RON PADGETT
ARIZONA HIGHWAYS BY RON PADGETT
PALINDROMES: WILLIAM THOMAS INTERVIEW
A 4,963 WORD PALINDROME BY WILLIAM THOMAS
IN RECENT YEARS HAVE ANY ASPECTS OF YOUR CONCERNS WITH SPACE ALTERED? VITO ACCONCI, BRIAN ALDISS, NAT & ALI, CARL ANDRE, J. G. BALLARD, MAURO BARACCO, HAKIM BEY, LAWRENCE BLOCK, STEPHEN BRAM, NADINE CHRISTENSEN, TOM CLARK, ROBERT CLARKE, BRETT COLQUHOUN, DAVID CORBETT, PETER DAVID, MADELINE GINS & ARAKAWA, JOHN GIORNO, MIRA GOJAK, LEON GOLUB, MICHAL GOVRIN, THOMAS GROETZ, BERNARD HEIDSIECK, HORST KIECHLE, JUTTA KOETHER, RICHARD KOSTELANETZ, CHRIS KRAUS, TOM LAMBERTY, NIKI MARANGOU, GERALD MURNANE, DAVID NOONAN, CHARLES NORTH, KLAUS OTTMANN, MARY JO PUTNEY, MIA VAN DER ROHE, TERRY WINTERS
GEMINI BY TONY TOWLE
THE NAGI GROUP BY RANALD WHITE
JAMES SCHUYLER: CHARLES NORTH INTERVIEW BY JUSTIN JAMAIL & ANDREW McCARRON
A GRAPHIC DESIGNER IN THE 1940S
THE MAKING OF A MONSTER: SUMMERTIME FOR HITLER & CONVERSATION WITH CULT GERMAN ACTRESS LOTTI HUBER (BERLIN, JULY 20, 1985) BY SYLVÈRE LOTRINGER, BECOMING A POLITICIAN BY LEO EDELSTEIN
TYPHOON BY JUDITH ELLISTON
SHOWER CURTAINS BY AARON FOGEL
STRANGELY LIKE WAR BY DERRICK JENSEN & GEORGE DRAFFAN
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JONATHAN BILLICH
THE GOODS BY MIA VAN DER ROHE
BARNEY ROSSET INTERVIEW
ONE MAN SHOW WITH MAPS BY PAUL VIOLI
NEBEL-LEBEN (EXCERPTS) STEPHEN BRAM/ANDREW HURLE
SECURITY AT THE COMPOUND
Pataphysics Publishing Issue Editors: Leo Edelstein, Yanni Florence Associate Editor: Judith Elliston ISSN 1035-5197 pataphysicsmagazine.com
Pataphysics PO Box 6054 St Kilda Road Central Melbourne 8008 Australia ÂŠ 2005 Pataphysics
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V. VALE INTERVIEW Pataphysics: Ballard, Burroughs and RE/Search – they’re I guess in some ways the three major subjects aren’t they? V. Vale: [laughs] That’s very good because we’re in such an incredible age of information overload and everyone’s become such a self-promoter, and everyone’s become a self-marketer, trying to turn themselves into a brand name, with all the marketing that implies. We’re really at some crazy point now, and I like Ballard’s ‘village theory,’ which is there’s only so many slots in the brain for really important people in your life, and once those slots are filled that’s it. Did you feel that way before you heard that term? Oh no, that was completely influential. I sort of live my life through aphorisms. One of Burroughs’ little statements was: ‘My affections are not spread all over hell.’ And I’ve thought about that a lot and realized that, sure there could be like five or ten thousand people on my list of influences, but very few are truly in-depth satisfying, and I am positive from the time I spent with Burroughs and Ballard that they are two of them. And the only other influences are not so much people but more or less schools of thought so to speak. One is dada/Surrealism – to me there isn’t any difference between dada and Surrealism, because most of the major dadaists just became Surrealists – I say most, not all of them, and the ones that just stayed dadaists I don’t think evolved as well. Surrealism was a very powerful influence on me – I have hundreds of books on Surrealism, I have monographs on almost every artist. Most people never get exposed to this material, ever, or if they do it’s just one work of art by Leonora Carrington or Dorothea Tanning, or the ‘lesser’ names, and yet they are like my favorite artists. They’ve said so much with their paintings in terms of generating these mysterious metaphors. But Surrealism as a school is so rich, I mean you could spend the rest of your life trying to find the books, and studying the writings and the paintings and sculptures and everything the Surrealists created. Very few people have seen all those really great early Surrealist magazines. I’m also a big fan of the Situationists… In RE/Search (#8/9) J. G. Ballard spoke of his free trip across Germany sponsored by Mercedes-Benz (for their 100th anniversary), and that it was then that he suddenly realized that the future wasn’t going to be like New York, LA or Tokyo, but more like a suburb of Düsseldorf – an immaculate consumer goods paradise… I remember that, yeah. You can read a lot of interviews, but not many of them have the kind of breadth of those RE/Search issues – something that ends up being somewhat of a life-raft in this corporate field you describe… It’s definitely a corporate ocean now. And all the companies are going haywire and schizo, because we’re in a schizo ocean culturally speaking – everything’s schizophrenic, or schizo-culture like Deleuze and Guattari. All the punks that I knew in San Francisco were reading Semiotext(e) – the ‘Schizo-Culture’ and ‘Anti-Oedipus’ issues were very influential on me. And they’re still relevant, if
not more so. But today it’s not just schizo in terms of being bipolar – it’s multi-polar, because we’re so assaulted by this kind of colonizing, alien commodification. Everything’s trying to get you to buy something, and filling your head with all this imagery. I think we have to do everything we can to resist that. The human spirit I think – if there’s any left – seems to me on a rail against being so easily quantified and categorized and commodified. That’s the biggest war going. We’re assaulted by so much corporate branding, and tiny little scenarios. There’s another quote I like a lot, about how we have never been subjected to so much theater i.e. we’re watching other people live their lives instead of living our own lives. Every thirty second commercial is a little tiny play with a little plot on it. Those ads are the true criminals of today. Yeah, they’re thieves. And no one dreams anymore. I think there’s a correlation between television watching and all this electronic imagery – they sort of crowd out your own dream images. I ask people all the time, What did you dream? and it’s been like years since they can remember a dream. I think this has something to do with excessive imagery input from television, or video games, or browsing the net – it might have something to do with that. Basically what happens – here’s the big war: the big war is for your personal interiority, your interior space. That’s the only kind of time-space where you can actually start being more of yourself. So it’s like equipping yourself… Like equipping yourself for an expedition to the North Pole or something. In terms of that we can I guess look to the work and ideas of Burroughs. Yeah. One of my favorite quotes from Burroughs: ‘It can’t get too quiet for me.’ Last week we talked a little of when you lived with Burroughs for ten days in the mid-’80s. Yeah, it was very interesting. In several interviews Burroughs spoke in quite significant ways about his belief in telepathy and how he thought it occurred all the time. Did you see any particular evidence of that when you were communicating with him or in his relationship with other people? Well yes, he said things like that. There’s that famous saying how your knowledge influences your vision and your perception, and also your desire – the Surrealists thought your desires create your reality, well, yes and no, I would say. But certainly, I had a person in a book point out that Burroughs was a cat-lover, so consequently everywhere he went, say with other people or something, he was always the first to spot a cat, because the other people weren’t interested in cats, but he’d see one way up in a window, or way over there out of the corner of his eye. I think it’s true both your knowledge and your desire influence what you see, and because I’m such a hard-core skeptic on any so-called occult phenomenon, I just frankly wasn’t primed to be alert for any of that. On the other hand, being kind of a Surrealist, I certainly believe in what you call objective chance – it’s just happened to me too many times, like for example I remember going to Paris and it seemed like everyone I knew there I just ran into on the street – I mean that’s a huge city, how could that happen?! Or even in New York City I ran into, I don’t know, Kenneth Anger or whoever, just on the street. That happens a lot to me – I don’t know what to make of it, certainly if you’re with someone, like in a personal relationship for a long time, you get extremely psychically attuned, and you both almost react exactly
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the same way to some phenomena or stimuli, or you just start to say one word and the other person knows the whole paragraph. I certainly believe in magic and all that, but I don’t exactly do a bunch of humdrum rituals. I mean, if you want to change your life you have to write it out – writers are magicians. A really good writer changes the world – I think that’s what Burroughs did in his writing, and for me every single book I do doesn’t start getting anywhere until I write a table of contents and just start fleshing it out, but it’s got to be written, it can’t be in my head. It’s got to be posted, I have to put it somewhere and just look at it and keep looking at it regularly and then the book starts to become that outline, and the outline might change a little, and as it changes I re-print it out and post it up. But that’s a form of magic – you want this book to happen and that’s how you make it happen. It’s a form of pretty intense visualization to do your table of contents and keep updating them. And they’re keying of course to a phone book – you’ve got to also have all the names of everyone that might help you in the project too, and you keep mulling them around in your mind, and then new names get added – but that’s all magic, really. I think it’s following the principles of magic when you do a book. I’m sure you do exactly the same thing I do. That’s a kind of positive, libertarian magic, whereas the corporations... They use magic too – it’s for vile ends. I’m kind of doomed to be a Hegelian till I die, I guess. I really think all my activity has to be in the direction of more consciousness for more people – the Hegelian goal. The idea that something’s not even history unless it’s participating in more consciousness for more people. When you stayed with Burroughs in Kansas was it basically to do a series of discussions with him? Yeah, I taped him day and night, as much as he could stand! I had a great tape recorder that they don’t make anymore. You could hook on a battery pack and it would record for at least sixty hours straight! How did you arrange the visit? Well it was pretty simple. I think he was pleased with the little book I did on him, RE/Search #4/5, and with the interview I printed in Search & Destroy, and it just worked out. I asked and it happened that it was a good time, he wasn’t going to New York or anything, he was going to be there, and so it sort of instantly happened on very short notice. Had you seen him earlier in New York in The Bunker? I never saw him in The Bunker, I didn’t have money in those days to travel. By the time I went to New York he had gone. But I did of course visit John Giorno in the legendary Bunker, and Giorno’s there to this day. But Burroughs was kind of a minimalist in a lot of ways, and I would like to think I am too. He ate very simply, you know, very simply and not much. With your discussions with him in Kansas – they started casually? Well, I’m kind of like Andy Warhol – supposedly he taped all his lunches, and he just had the tape recorder on all the time and everyone put up with it because it was Andy. When I went to England to interview J.G. Ballard, the recorder was already on and recording before he answered the door. I mean I don’t even want to miss the greeting, because there might be something important there. But I kind of learned that philosophy from reading about Phil Spector because he always recorded the musicians as they were tuning up, as soon as they entered the door there
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were hidden microphones recording everything. He often got his best introductions for songs – intros or outros or bridge ideas or whatever – from musicians just tuning up and reading the charts for the first time and playing around, and I thought hey, that’s pretty smart. It’s an inclusive idea of how art develops often without intention. Oh, we have to do everything we can to thwart intention and premade speechmaking and all these automatic pilot – I always think we’re all of us simultaneously three types of consciousness, and this isn’t mystical. There are parts of us which are machine, there are parts of us which are animal i.e. hunger and sex drives and things, and only a small part of the time are we really being human, although we are kind of being human all the time. But to me being human means that you’re kind of deducing general principles, overviews, big patterns, aerial views so to speak – you’re kind of universalizing or trying to. With RE/Search you’ve always been interested in a kind of archaeology of information and bibliographies… Yeah, when I can there are huge book lists and record lists and film lists and favorite this and that, and it would be really great to make every interview as a video documentation as well because I think every object you have around you says something about you – in other words it’s all revelatory. So if you’re interested in Burroughs, you look at everything in his life, and just go on the assumption that it was all made out of a choice, and that choice is out of an aesthetic that person has constructed. I’m very much interested in the problem of what I call authoritarian aesthetics, because that’s what keeps a lot of people from seeing and experiencing something right in front of their eyes. They have these authoritarian aesthetics inculcated in them. You have a whole lot of tapes from your time with Burroughs. Yeah, I came back with so many tapes and I looked at this enormous pile and said forget it, it’s too much work! Even just to find where the good parts were, because a lot of the time it was just like, ‘Would you like some tea or coffee? I’ll make some, don’t get up,’ that kind of thing, because you don’t want him to do anything for you, you want to, if anything, make the tea or coffee for him, not the other way round. I’d try to bring him things to eat and take away some of the mundane needs if it was at all possible. That’s what all adepts do for their mentors, you know! [laughs] If I could call myself an adept – I’m not sure I deserve the term. Maybe there was something in the recordings that at some point in the future will be revealed to you. When things are displaced in time a lot of things can be revealed. That’s true. In fact displacement in general is an extremely good creativity-enhancing, almost conscious mechanistic thing you can do. It’s always useful. I mean I love to do the dishes because it’s something that has to be done, it’s one of my favorite things to do, but it seems to free up my mind to wander, put things together and let my subconscious solve problems that may have arisen. It’s interesting that electric dishwashers take that time away. I have a dishwasher but I refuse to use it. It would rob me of these few moments of kind of reverie time. You leave the water going so no one wants to talk to you, because it’s too loud, and the water’s going wasting down the sink. It’s a way to sort of reclaim some private time and space and interiority, even when there’s people only a few feet away from you. Burroughs drank alcohol and liked joints – that was going on when you were there?
I’m afraid so. I personally don’t consume either, but there was definitely a regular consumption of both. Although at the time it was a little unfortunate but I think he was a bit on edge because he was trying to cut down on alcohol, which is not easy. But he still partook of the clear very strong liquids. I think he tried to not drink until five o’clock, he had some little rule going – sort of like Ballard has! But Ballard claims I think pretty much to have almost entirely quit alcohol, because he’s older. I have a feeling he probably still has a little red wine with a meal, but nothing like those hard spirits. I believe he’s totally off those. Well, he is 73 now. There were other people around in Kansas when you were there? Sometimes, yeah. And sometimes we did a number of things, it wasn’t like we could just sit around. I think one day he had to go to Kansas city and get his methadone, which was a five or six hour drive right there. Did he see that as a problematic thing? No I think he was happy to get it. It was kind of sad that he had to make such a long drive on the freeway to get the methadone, from Lawrence to Kansas City and back. But sometimes we’d go out shopping. He tried to regularly spend some time painting or working on paintings or art. He’d take naps too, so I wouldn’t take a nap with him, I’d just go out by myself for an hour or two and come back. James Grauerholz wasn’t there, and in fact I slept in Grauerholz’s house, which was next door, so that’s why it was very easy, I just had to walk about a hundred feet or something. There were certain things that I was expected to take care of, like do a little shopping for him on a regular basis. I think Grauerholz came back on the last night and someone made a huge dinner and about twenty people came over, but not to Burroughs’ house. It was at a woman’s house, and they were all just local regular folks. No one was giving Uncle Bill special treatment. How did he behave at those kind of events? He was very friendly and sociable, towards women especially, it seemed like, or women certainly as much as men. As I said, Burroughs didn’t eat much. It’s sort of a joke, you serve him a sixcourse dinner and it seemed like all he ever took was one bite of each, like he wanted to experience the full range of flavors, but just a little bit. He was always very polite and complimentary to this woman especially who went all out and made a pretty big meal. When you were there did you ever feel that you weren’t getting on with him and it was problematic? [laughs] Yes! Now that you ask, yes, because it’s hard to spend that much time with someone, and reflecting back I think I would’ve been better off spending less time with him. That is funny – you hit on something that I hadn’t really thought about. Maybe it’s never good to spend too much time with anyone, unless it’s your chosen mate! His house was just a standard thing bought... Yeah, it was an old one-story cottage I think from the ’30s, you know with a little porch – a small, minimalist house. It was just a plain wooden thing with small rooms, you know, not big rooms, and there was a bookcase in the front room, and there was this small table in the back of the front room with two chairs and that’s always where William and I sat. We were just sitting around for a lot of the time, and feeding the cats and going out playing with the cats, and then he’d do a little gardening. He had a pretty big yard – at least an acre. There was a TV which he absolutely never watched, and I remember there was a bunch of magazines having to do with
knives and guns. He seemed to know a lot about knives. One of the highlights of the visit was him giving me a knife-throwing lesson – I think he did that several times actually – ‘Well now, let’s see if you’ve got any better at your knife-throwing…’ Had you been interested in those kind of things before that? [laughs] Not exactly! Only theoretically – I’m one of these people who – I really like to just live in the world of words. I’m happiest either reading or writing or editing or whatever. With knife-throwing, I never felt I was truly getting better – knife-throwing always remained a mystery. Many times it was the handle that hit the pine board instead of the sharp blade. You actually throw it by the blade and then you kind of flick your wrist, and you’re trying to estimate the distance and all that and how to flick your wrist so you actually get an impalement, so to speak. He talked about how in The Bunker he had four locked doors between him and the street… so there was a little less security in Kansas. What was the appeal of living in the country? Well when Burroughs came back to Manhattan, from living abroad for so many years, and he came back from London, Allen Ginsberg introduced him to James Grauerholz. Grauerholz was very young at the time, but he sort of grew into the role – he started out being his secretary and then became his assistant and then became his manager and then his full 50% partner and heir – but he had to work his way up to that. In the meantime, Burroughs being who Burroughs was, started attracting all these young, cute, gay junkies, I suppose is the way to put it, who started plying him with heroin. These cute young boys would show up with heroin, and it was hard to resist. Even though Burroughs had been off heroin for over twenty-five years – he even wrote a little booklet on how he kicked called APO-33, which I have a copy of – he got hooked back. And being on heroin doesn’t help you become a writer, contrary to myth, because you have to spend so much time and emotional energy on scoring. So when Grauerholz finally got enough sort of power in the relationship he persuaded William to get out of New York, because he probably rightly feared that William wouldn’t last. I think the reason he went along with it is because he could shoot guns in the country, and he also liked to go fishing, although not nearly as much as shooting, and he could also afford to buy his own house. The main appeal was that he could shoot guns. You can go out in the country and shoot guns, not just anywhere, but there are places you can go and just set up a target or a bunch of tin cans and just blast away. Were you planning another volume on Burroughs? Well I had a number of concepts in mind. I mean from a purely selfish standpoint I just wanted to see how much time I could spend around him. He’d come to San Francisco twice and I’d been able to hang out and all that, but still it didn’t amount to that many hours. I had wanted to do this book project. See, one of the most influential books in my life was written by Henry Miller – it wasn’t Tropic of Cancer, although I really liked that, but my favorite one by him is The Books in My Life. Burroughs was very important to me, and he was not one, as you know, to suffer fools gladly. It’s hard for me to speak about times during my visit when I may have positively been reprimanded, but it’s possible, when you get to his age, or maybe he was always like that – he’s always someone who just speaks his mind pretty much. He’s not tiptoeing around you, like, well I won’t say anything that might possibly upset him or hurt his feelings. So I’d ask him something and he’d say, ‘Oh I can’t remember!’ or ‘That just doesn’t interest me anymore!’ when I tried to talk with him about Joseph Conrad’s Victory. I had all these questions on many sheets
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of paper. I was trying to do my version of The Job, which for me was a sort of overarching philosophy text. But it wasn’t a good time to try to do that! With interviews there’s sometimes a kind of spontaneous energy field that occurs, and after doing so many of them over the years your relation to the process of interviewing has probably developed in some way. Well one of the key Burroughsian concepts is – or is it from Brion Gysin? – the concept of ‘the third mind.’ Whenever any two people talk a third mind kind of arises that’s bigger than the two of them. My favorite type of conversation is when people start speculating, when a thought new to you arises and you’re giving form to it through words in real time. Or when you suddenly come up with a theory, and then you start bringing in these examples. That would apply to your interviews with J.G. Ballard… Well, Ballard at one point in time really digested the most important ideas of Freud, and so everything that happens with him kind of gets filtered through a psychoanalytic deconstruction automatically. And I think to go back and read, for example, Ballard on Freud, and then start reading the original key texts, well there are a lot of other approaches to life you could have that would be far less illuminating! I think Freud needs to be reclaimed for the really valuable insights he had. Ballard considered him one of the most important minds of the 20th century. The photographs in the Ballard RE/Search had a distinct sense of bleakness and abandonment… Well RE/Search has always been a project against authoritarian aesthetics. It’s always been conceived as a maga-book – it would like to have the elements of a magazine and a book. One of the problems with art-making today is that everything has become so self-conscious and self-referential that I’m just sick of it. So I like to print photos of things that are not considered art, but I think they are, like freeway interchanges. I learnt that from Ballard actually. Accidental art or just found objects or an old wall that shows a face, things like that are the kinds of subject matter that I choose and would prefer to use as much as possible. But I also like things that kind of in my eyes look beautiful, whatever that means. We had a number of really beautiful black-and-white photographs in our Ballard books – they were not the conventional subject matter of art, but to me they were art. Maybe you’re using the mechanism of the printing press to further the concept of art. Actually I sort of consider myself, except I would never call myself this, but it’s all about really, cultural revolution, which is what punk rock was all about – completely questioning, and the whole project is against hierarchy, in particular against the status-quo hierarchy as to who allegedly is important. Since I self-publish, whoever I think is really important, I can say it. And I’m saying no, there aren’t that many people to pay attention to, who are really complex and rewarding. In terms of design I’m a minimalist, but I also dislike the value system of modernism which exalts the newest technological development – it’s all an obsession with perfection of surface. If anything I’m all for the opposite, the Japanese wabi-sabi idea that the only beautiful things are really old and worn. So you’re almost finished putting together a new book of Ballard quotes and interviews… Yeah, I’ve completely been in a Ballardian universe for a the last year and a half. It’s taken me a very long time to plough through all the interviews and read every word of fiction I can find. What
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I’ve tried to do is bring together under the cover of one book you know, his entire world vision in terms of aphorisms and very precise observations. I mean, ultimately Ballard is all the different characters he speaks – there is no one Ballard. Given that in his own writing nothing is real and nothing is unreal, and nothing is true or is untrue – given the context of that, essentially the major point of his writing is to function as a kind of provocation. I’ve included variants from different interviews so you’ll be able to see how he’ll have the same thought but it’ll be slanted differently, the nuance will be different, or there’ll be some other additional references. He doesn’t repeat himself without adding a whole new qualification or additional words. I’m preserving that, because that’s evidence of how his mind works. Ballard’s a philosopher, really. He seems to have thought about everything under the sun! He’s always ahead of his time, and I hope that Super-Cannes and Millennium People are not as prophetic as some of his other works. The scariest thing is that they deal with random violence and random urban terrorism. I certainly don’t want to go to some cinema-multiplex and have a bomb go off in front of me! That’s the kind of world he’s predicting, in cities like London, for example. But I think he’s probably right. Millennium People is quite a displacing book – probably more so than Cocaine Nights and Super-Cannes – with secret dimensions perhaps… Well, Ballard, he’s kind of a dual personality in that he’s half-poet and half-philosopher. And he’s also half – loving parent, I’m sure [laughs]. I’d love to see these home videos he’s making – he gives them to his kids. He said, watch them in ten years and you might find them interesting. What are they of? He has a video camera with a zoom lens and he says it has an amazing microphone that picks up across the room and he’s made all these home movies mainly – I don’t know whether they’re at parties – it seems to be they’re mainly of the children, and family gatherings, but he said sometimes they’re like Woody Allen films! With a slightly different tone maybe… Yeah, perhaps! I know I’d love to see them, even though I’d doubt if Ballard has any auteur theory about himself, but one never knows. He certainly has great taste in films – that’s one thing I’ve been finding out. Whenever he recommends something, I for one completely agree. Vanishing Point he says is a much better road movie than Two-Lane Blacktop. And of course I completely agree with that. You know, he likes Buñuel, he likes the people that I like. But because he’s half-poet, half-philosopher, I think the poet in him doesn’t like to become a didactic political activist-speaker – that’s too simple for him, he’s always after something deeper. It’s absolutely amazing how so many of Ballard’s observations seem to be valid twenty, thirty, forty years later, and there are very few people you can say that of. In fact many of them seem to have just been written yesterday. Ballard has many sides to him. I could’ve divided the book of quotations project – there were some more categories I could’ve used, such as ‘Ballard the interior designer,’ where he describes, for example, some 20th century café with a futuristic rocket motif, you know there’s a rocket there and all these shiny surfaces, and then he describes a sex hotel with all this erotic imagery for a short story in which the population had drastically dropped and even the government was trying to encourage people to breed, and subsidizing these sex hotels, where there’s a constant showing of sex films and sex toys and clothes are for sale everywhere. It’s just really trying to get everybody to breed but it doesn’t seem to be working too well! But Ballard’s turned
all the categories upside-down, and made you notice a lot more – you know, like airports or prisons or weapons ranges or high-rises or abandoned swimming pools and hotels, freeways (especially complex ones), beach towns, all these things really, he’s made his own – they all look Ballardian now, to me at least. And I can’t think of any other writer on the planet you could say that of, or in the century, even. What he’s showing is the underside to what’s really going on. As with Burroughs, there’s a kind of trust in one’s paranoias, in the sense that they could be a heightened level of intuition, perhaps… And motivation especially. A lot of people do things and they don’t even know what their true motive is. When did you first read his work? It was back in 1973. I used to haunt used bookstores, and bookstores of any kind, especially looking for remainders, and I was already for years a heavy Burroughs fan. Then I saw this beautiful hardback from Grove Press, with a nice red dust jacket of a Mexican death skull on the cover and a very striking title: Love and Napalm: Export USA. It was remaindered for $1.98, and had an introduction by William Burroughs, and so naturally I bought it just for the introduction, but also for the title, and I just spent days, weeks reading it, because it was so dense, and trying to come up with a comprehension of these almost post-Burroughsian, nonlinear narratives. At the time Ballard was still under the influence of slightly more traditional science fiction – well, he said in an interview years ago that H.G. Wells was a big influence on him, in the sense that Wells actually read real science books or magazines and then transferred things into his books, which I doubt many science-fiction writers of today do, or any writers. They almost never read those, they’re just reading kind of more pop-culture things like newspapers or magazines. Ballard read all these very hard to find, expensive, specialty scientific magazines and other non-literary texts. In fact Ballard makes a whole big deal about industry trade publications, all kinds of what he calls ‘invisible literature,’ which he thinks could possibly be more important than the so-called things that are just thrust in our faces – you know, the daily local newspaper, or big city newspaper nearby, are the main things people read unfortunately, if that. Of course, as you know, we’re seeing this massive decline of reading, at least in America. I mean if you want to do something different I think you have to start with different input. You can’t just have the same input, although Ballard is a different case because he used to watch a lot of television, which I could never watch, but then in one quotation he says he watches it with the sound turned down, so that makes it different, and not nearly as powerful. It becomes more transparent. Early on he noticed that Ronald Reagan would have really benign smiles and body language and gestures while saying the most threatening, horrible, sometimes racist things, and he was just gambling that most viewers couldn’t tell the difference – the emotional message of reassurance and smiling and all that was getting through and no one was really paying any attention to the manifest content. Another of Ballard’s themes is the intrusion of technology into deep consciousness… Oh, sure, absolutely. He’s the one who said that every technological invention changes everything, and it takes a long time to figure out the implications for most people – of course he’s much faster at figuring it out. I mean, sex times technology equals the future. RE/Search #8/9 was based on some interviews with him – that was the first time you’d met him?
Yeah. It was really based on two nine-hour taped interviews, even though in the book it only says one. His house is about an hour on the train outside of London, and famously he’s still there, and even though he made some money from Empire of the Sun, not necessarily the book sales, but the movie rights, even so, apparently he didn’t change anything in the way he lives. He didn’t move to some penthouse in the center of London and greatly increase his overheads – he kept his overheads low. That’s a very wise thing. As soon as people start in that other way they become like the mechanical bride – money is a machine, it can animate and distract people from leading more creative lives. Exactly, and that’s what I liked about Duchamp. He made a science almost – very early on he determined that he would keep his overheads as low as possible. I think there was an interview where Ballard said, well I gave a bunch of it to my kids and the rest of it is just sitting in the bank, or something like that. I think he did buy a new car, but it was just a Ford, not a BMW or a Mercedes, just a silver Ford. And then he hired an American woman to restore his two Paul Delvaux canvases that had been destroyed by the Nazis when they bombed London. That’s about the only extravagant thing he did you might say; he had those Delvaux canvases brought back to life in living color! He resurrected them from the dead – they’re in his house and are really large. But there is some aphorism I quoted in ‘Modern Primitives’ years ago, something about in order to be extreme and wild in your work you must be disciplined and careful in your daily life. You can be mentally very wild if you have a very secure foundation, which Ballard has in his home obviously – he bought the house in 1960 and he’s been there ever since. How would you describe his house? He had a funny quotation about his house: after his three children left for university, he felt like he was living in a stage set of what the house had formerly been, and even when the children would come home once in a while during spring break or something, he felt like it was a cast re-union party! But his house reminds me of Burroughs’ house a little bit – very spare and slightly disorganized, and like Ballard said, you can do all the cleaning in five minutes if you put your mind to it. That statement is some kind of homage to Quentin Crisp, I think, who said after you’ve lived in a place for three or four years, it doesn’t get any dirtier. It depends how dirty the air is, I guess. Well Ballard’s not in sooty London, he’s out where there are lots of trees by the Thames, so maybe the air is kind of self-cleaning there or something. But I really like the fact that unlike a lot of writers who changed their lifestyle when fame and money hit them, that really didn’t seem to affect Ballard at all. And then, of course, you know he turned down the Commander of the British Empire award less than a year ago – he was offered it and he declined. He said it’s preposterous, there’s no Empire anymore! You talked before about Ballard the interior designer – what would you say is his sense of interior design? Well he had kind of a lounge chair and he had these silver palm trees over them, which I found quite amusing. He mentioned that Emma Tennant gave them to him – the editor of Bananas (he wrote a bunch of stories for Bananas in the ’70s). That’s when that happened, but he just never got rid of them, I guess. I don’t know what clues you could get as to the interior of Ballard just from his house, because in a weird way it looks slightly disheveled and almost nondescript. Except for the Delvaux paintings and those palm trees, and a fair amount of books, but not that many.
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I somehow don’t have the feeling he’s a pack rat, he’s quite the opposite. But the true voyaging goes on inside his head, I mean, he’s got a Boschian universe inside his head – imagine Hieronymus Bosch updated, to include all the latest technology, well that’s inside Ballard’s head, for better or worse! But a lot of Ballard’s fiction is amazingly poetic and transcendent and really there’s some absolutely gorgeous writing in there, and not dour and gloomy and morbid at all – just beautiful writing. When you were doing the interview you just sat in the one spot and talked to him? Oh yeah, yeah. No one moved for eight or nine hours. That was fine with me, because it’s so amazing where he takes you. You can ask him about anything and you’re likely to get some kind of illumination that you didn’t expect whatsoever. How have you felt about his recent books? They just keep getting better and better I think. There are only two people I care about the most from the 20th century, and one is Burroughs and the other’s Ballard. Now isn’t that a way to simplify your life? Well, I also think Duchamp and Warhol are the two 20th century artists worth concentrating on – read all of their interviews! That’s clearing out a lot of clutter. It sure is, especially when you discover how many hundreds of interviews of Ballard have been done, and hundreds of little essays and book reviews, and not to mention articles on him that include little bits of interviews. With Ballard, the thing that makes me the happiest is The Complete Short Stories, even though it’s missing a number of stories. He’s written seventeen novels, so fortunately he’s left us plenty to study, especially those hard-to-find interviews which are just gold. What people like Burroughs and Ballard do for you is that they just help you decide what you think about something. Burroughs, for instance, completely destabilized the number one prestigious occupation in America with Dr Benway – this sort of quack doctor. And the mechanisms of power, he’s very sarcastic about that, and he learned that partly by being this heroin addict who always has a lot of trouble with the law, and all these people you have to deal with in order to score your drug. (Burroughs had the best bullshit detector of anybody – he could just read you instantly. He could meet someone and size them up and know what was wrong with them.) Ballard has so many observations that you can just think and think and think about. He throws out these funny statements like, ‘Only the artificial can be completely real,’ or ‘A person’s obsessions are as close to reality as you can get,’ and ‘We’re trapped by categories, by walls that stop us from seeing around corners,’ and ‘We tolerate everything but we know that liberal values are designed to make us passive,’ and ‘Lists are fascinating, one could almost do a list novel,’ and ‘Learn the rules, then you can get away with anything,’ and then ‘Crossing frontiers is my profession.’ ‘A general rule is that if enough people predict something, it won’t happen,’ and then ‘I always tell the truth, it’s the new way of lying – if you tell the truth people don’t know whether to believe you,’ ‘Freedom, the last great illusion of the 20th century.’ There are just millions of these things! ‘Freedom has no barcode,’ ‘There are bridges in the mind that carry us to a more real world, a richer sense of who we are, and once these bridges are there it’s our duty to cross them!’ He says so much that dare not be said. Just like he talked about the invisible literature, he’s talking about the invisible, true motivations for people’s lives – like this one: ‘Breaking the law is a huge challenge for professionals’ – that’s totally what most lawyers and CEOs are all about. Both Burroughs and Ballard are about destabilizing authority, or authoritarianism, and exposing
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the real motives behind people’s behavior and then, of course, uncovering you might say, true crime. And trying to discover the secrets of creativity. It’s funny how they both see parallels between art and crime. Ballard’s new works, like Millennium People, in some ways are morphing into even more of a philosophy/criticism, almost an incitement – the relationship of the text to the reader now seems to be becoming more embellished… Yeah. Well, you have to remember that Ballard did start out writing for small science-fiction magazines, and then he kind of mapped out traditional science-fiction territory, but I think much better than anyone else. He imagined a future in which everything starts crystallizing in a really beautiful way, and that’s The Crystal World, and then he imagined a world that was completely overcome by water – The Drowned World. But then he said The Drowned World from a psychoanalytical standpoint represented the past, and the future is going to be like Yves Tanguy painted (Yves Tanguy was quite an influence on him), which is of course a desert, and that’s like The Drought – that’s more the vision of the future that I think he sees. Because he foresees the oceans as being covered by a thin molecular layer of pollution that kills all the fish. I could see how that could happen, with the rate the corporations are dumping all these radioactive and plastic waste products, just completely unrestrained and unregulated, millions of tons. That’s why the Mafia got into garbage, because you get paid extra amounts of money, especially for radioactive waste, and they just, in the cover of night and completely illegally, dump it out in the ocean, and reap all the money – ‘Oh yeah, we safely disposed of that stuff.’ Ballard has this statement: ‘The arts and criminality have always flourished side by side.’ I kind of like that, because in a way a lot of the current-day artists are just con-men – they are like criminals. They’ve figured out how the art production and mythologizing works, and they’re doing it. They’ve figured it out and it obviously works. Ballard describes himself as kind of naïve on some level, even though he knows more than anyone else that I know and trust. See, Ballard you can trust. There are so many other writers and artists who are just mercenaries and they don’t have anything to say. They don’t have any vision. They don’t have any deep culture – or they don’t have the kind of culture I respect. In Millennium People, the burning film library/archive and video store, the burning of the American century of various famous actors – they’re very potent images. Also the idea of bombs in the Tate Modern, that they were the most radical artwork that had ever set foot in there – you could trace these things back to the situationists – in some ways they make perfect sense in the current context. Also his speculation on the fascist dimensions of the Tate Modern. You mentioned the other day that Ballard is more of an artist than he makes out. Yeah. Like I said before, the category of ‘Ballard the interior designer.’ Also, ‘Ballard the clothes designer,’ from those early science-fiction stories describing bio-plastic clothing. I mean, ‘Ballard the set designer.’ There are the most gorgeous descriptions in those early novels, in particular The Crystal World, and The Drowned World, or even The Drought. Like, what a set designer! That’s why there’s no substitute for reading, because a Ballard book somehow simultaneously provides something external – a Ballardian external world – but at the same time gives you the interiority of what it’s like to look at the world through a character like Ballard’s eyes. You get both at the same time. Even with film, you can’t do that the way you can in a book. And Ballard has said several times how when you read a book, you’re closer to someone else than
even if you were in bed with them, where you may not know what they’re really thinking! The nice thing about reading a book is that you actually are being creative, you’re the one whose imagination is summoning up the imagery as you read a Ballard novel. Both Ballard and Burroughs, as a result of changing the way you think about things, change the way you relate to your own life – that’s something that universities now fail to do. Oh yeah, the universities are completely irrelevant. In fact, that’s a good idea to think of, what would a truly relevant university be teaching now? I’d love to have the Burroughs-Ballard university. That would just bring you completely up-to-date and equip you much better for the future. I would like to have even more from Ballard on ethics, because again, that Freudian psychoanalytic training we desperately need now because so much of what we do isn’t necessarily done for the reasons we tell ourselves we’re doing things. It’s so important to bring that to light, just to get to know ourselves more – that’s part of the business of living, to find out who the hell each one of us is, and how we can become more that way. Both Burroughs and Ballard give us examples of people who didn’t follow other people’s advice, or follow any clichéd way of how to live your life, they just did it. They took risks. They risked everything.
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AFTER THE AVANT-GARDE BY SYLVÈRE LOTRINGER I knew I wanted to talk about the avant-garde. We all know that the avant-garde is dead and that’s why we keep talking about it. If it were alive we wouldn’t pay much attention. In a sense it is more alive now than it ever was before. Look at the Situationists: they were the last avant-garde. Granted, they didn’t do that much in their lifetime, just getting drunk, getting lost and getting paranoid about each other. But they had a life, and they knew they would eventually win out. The mystique was still there. They carefully archived everything and now they’re bigger than any movement before, although they were just few and far between. We always need an avant-garde to look back on, preferably a suicidal avantgarde. This way we’re sure it’s dead. Some avant-gardes hang on too long and they become kind of a drag, like the Surrealists after WWII. The avant-garde is best when it has become history. It’s much more difficult to make history when you are alive, especially when history has been dead for some time. And we don’t quite know what to do about it. Maybe it’s not dead enough or maybe everything else is dead so the idea of an avant-garde may still look kind of fresh. In a sense the avant-garde is dead because we all have replaced it. But are we really alive? And is art surviving its death? There can’t be an avant-garde without art, but does art still exist for being spread thin everywhere you look? Baudrillard once asked this innocent question: ‘What do you do after the orgy?’ So here we are. What do you do after the avant-garde? This is the story of Semiotext(e). Semiotext(e) belongs in New York because there’s no history there. It’s good enough if you remember what you did the day before, and who you are. Many people still have no clue. They’ve been dead for a long time and they’re still running around like headless chickens, spurting words, running after their careers. There’s no time to die in New York, let alone live, so no one even tries. No wonder groups don’t have a chance. When I arrived in New York in 1972, I certainly had no intention of creating one. The group only existed for a short time, a few years at most, and I’ll tell you why. Because in New York everyone is their own avant-garde. That’s why the Semiotext(e) group didn’t last too long. It wasn’t an avant-garde group anyway, not even a group to speak of. It was what happens after the group. I was lucky enough to have missed the ’60s in America, so I had to reinvent from scratch something I had not experienced. No wonder it came out differently. I had to figure out what was going on in the present and it was difficult enough. We were into semiotics, no less, so there was hardly any competition. No one at the time had a clue as to what semiotics meant, nor cared really. That was fine. We were trying to demolish semiotics anyway. By the time people started getting it, and thanking us for doing what we did, we had already moved on to philosophy, politics, art, to the clouds. The group outgrew the university, and it outgrew itself too without quite realizing it. It was just a series of accidents. History is made of accidents, but there can be accidents without history too.
Avant-gardes don’t happen by accident. They make up manifestos and publish programs that they spend the rest of their life betraying. We never published any manifesto, so we never had a chance to change our minds or betray lofty goals. We had no idea where we were going, or that we were going anywhere for that matter. It was like adjusting the lens on a camera. You don’t know what you’re looking at before you focus on it. So we adjusted to the situation, and then the group went out of the frame. We became an avantgarde by default. What else was there to do? One thing about the avant-garde is that it’s mostly humorless. Dada is the glaring exception, but it never was a group to speak of; there were too many holes everywhere. Dada never took itself seriously, didn’t even capitalize its name. Andre Breton and his men, on the other hand, capitalized on everything. Breton published the famous Anthology of Black Humor although he had no sense of humor to speak of and was color-blind. He was a totally uptight little man. Didn’t he say that he would never show himself naked in front of a woman if he were not in a glorious state of erection? No wonder he kept his hair long and wore a cape. A cape, can you believe it? I don’t think he would have ever dropped his pants in front of the Academy as Kafka’s chimpanzee did. Kafka’s monkey obviously had nothing glorious to prove, all he wanted was finding a way out. He’d been wounded and captured, so he copied human ways as monkeys do, in order to be let out of his cage. He couldn’t care less about the Academy, just repaid them in their own coin, showing them his ass in lieu of his wound. This is what an avant-garde is supposed to do: drop its pants in front of academies. The avant-garde never monkeyed their way out of their cage. On the contrary, they tried everything to be admitted to the club. Why otherwise would they spend all their time abusing everybody around, as the Situationists did? It wasn’t exactly the way to keep their distance. The avant-garde wanted everyone to pay attention to them, especially those they attacked. In reality, they became the watchdog of the art world, its most indispensable appendage. It is not surprising then that it was rewarded posthumously. It was all a con-game. They were the bouncers of the art club, standing at the door and keeping the others waiting in the cold. The more exclusive and nasty they were, the more seductive. That’s also what happened to French Theory in America. Everyone begged to be let in, terrorized by the thought that they could be left out. And then they moved on to something else. They couldn’t care less about theory, it didn’t change anything in their lives. All they cared for was their glorious erection. The Academy had no way of knowing whether the chimpanzee was candid or pulling their leg. That’s what I like so much about humor – it remains imperceptible. The chimpanzee was playing with the code upheld by the Academy and they were too uptight to admit it, or too cowardly to acknowledge that he was challenging them. The real challenge that humor raises is its very existence. And even if it is recognized for what it is, there’s nothing much one can do about it. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. But this is what gets people thinking. I would not have understood all this myself had I not been put on the spot and forced to think. It happened in the early ’70s. I had just spent a year with Félix Guattari and his group in Paris and returning to New York I thought I should get involved with a group of ‘radical therapists’ and ex-mental patients. I helped them organize a weekend meeting in a brownstone in Chelsea, some thirty people in all, psychiatrists and patients coming from various places on the Eastern Seaboard. It didn’t turn out to be at all what I imagined. It was dull and a bit oppressive, with some people already jockeying
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for whatever power they could grab. We started by going around, asking everyone to tell briefly who they were, creating some illusion of intimacy. At one point a participant started telling his life in great detail, his doctors, the hospitals he had been admitted to, etc. No one budged. Everyone listened patiently for a long time, thinking in petto: this must be one of them, a ‘mental patient.’ A radical psychiatrist improvised himself as the chairman and moved behind a little table. He looked around and asked suavely if anyone found anything objectionable in this person there taking a lot of everybody’s precious time. After all, had we not all of us come a long way to discuss serious matters pertaining to madness, therapy, the politics of institutions. This made sense. Instantly someone rose and told the ‘mental patient’ to just shut up. They didn’t say anything, just smiled and discreetly left the room. I remember thinking: Well, this must be the way one treats mental patients in this country. So it was the acceptable code, and I didn’t think any further. The rest of the morning went by, a bit stuffy, with the radical psychiatrist and a colleague of his now presiding over the discussions. I felt a bit depressed, I didn’t know why, and I went up to the roof during a break looking for a bit of fresh air, a view of the open sky – I was dreading to go back, but what could I do? I was one of the organizers. Suddenly I found the leg of a mannequin lying on the roof. I was doing sculptures at the time and thought I could use it, so I returned downstairs, feeling a bit better, holding the leg in my hands. Then I saw the little table and the two psychiatrists seated behind. They were looking at me and my leg and without thinking I put the leg straight up on top of the table. I was smiling. That might cheer up the atmosphere. Little did I know. The same little dance started again, but this time it was at my own expense. The psychiatrist now in charge once again asked around (he wasn’t forcing anything on anyone) whether this was the proper thing to do, putting this leg there, right up his nose, while we were having an important discussion. A woman immediately rose, and objected angrily to the fact that it was a woman’s leg I had put on display; then another man silently rose and took the incriminating piece of equipment off the table. It finally dawned on me that I was being treated exactly the way the ‘mental patient’ had been a few hours before. It had taken me to be put in the same position. Suddenly I realized what the ‘patient’ had done and what the ‘code’ really was about. It had been some kind of ‘schizzy’ behavior. The man had tested the pseudo-liberalism of the assembly, pulling everybody’s leg to force the little power game to crystallize. So I simply took the leg under my arm and left. Later in the afternoon, walking in the street (still holding my leg) I happened to meet a group that was coming from the meeting. They stopped me. They were very excited. After I left they started arguing about what had happened, and it cleared the air for the rest of the discussions. One year later I organized the ‘Schizo-Culture’ conference at Columbia University, with two thousand people attending and a slew of major artists and philosophers. I didn’t expect anything of the sort to happen, and on a much wider scale. I was again taken by surprise. And this time the effect was to turn Semiotext(e) in an entirely different direction, defining the course it was going to adopt as a group (or without one to speak of), as a magazine and a small independent press for the following two decades. Humor forces people to look at themselves and what they are doing in a different way. This is the main strategy I used all along after that in relation to the various academies that we were confronted with: the university, the art world, the radical establishment. But nowhere
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in the magazine was it said explicitly what we were actually doing. We never told our readers what they should think either, just let them think things through for themselves. Because understanding is never enough, it has to seep through in unpredictable ways, through chance or accidents, just being alive, and no one can do that for you. Thinking isn’t just a matter of intelligence, but of necessity. This is also the strategy we adopted for the series of small black volumes, which were presented without any introduction, critical commentaries or learned footnotes, or supporting quotes. Avantgardes impose a certain line, but truth is what happens when the mind is moved to realize some things for itself. It is the same process that leads to making art. And why should politics be any different? It took a little while for the magazine to get there too. But there was something of the sort going on from the start, something about madness and thinking, although mostly looked at from the outside, as an object of reflection. The first issues of Semiotext(e) were published in 1974–75 and they were on Ferdinand de Saussure, the founder of general linguistics. But in reality they were about Saussure’s anagrams, on the madness of the linguist. So there were two Saussures, not just one. There was the linguist and there was the madman, just like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The linguist was hammering out a new code and the madman was breaking it down on the side, dreaming of a secret language that got passed on from generation to generation, words that were hiding under other words, like a crazy quilt, or a crazy puzzle. We didn’t directly attack the pretensions of semiotics to be scientific, we simply let Saussure do it to himself. We let one language devour the other, leaving nothing behind except a strange scientific delirium. This is what happens when you push science far enough, in fact when you push anything to some kind of extremity: then it drops all pretences, like the chimpanzee dropping his pants, showing the dark face of madness. Delirium is always more interesting because the truth is showing through. The secret was the real code, a psychotic code, but Saussure didn’t know that it was and he kept looking and looking for some kind of rationality. I’m just giving you an idea of what the beginnings were so we don’t have to come back to that. No one has read these first issues. We had to have first issues just in order to exist as a magazine, but really it all started somewhere in the middle, in the midst of this linguistic delirium. And then the delirium spilled over from language and I realized I was in New York. I was much more interested in madness than in pure science. Living in New York made me realize that madness wasn’t an exception. Capitalism is total madness and New York was the apple in the eye of capital. We didn’t need an avant-garde in New York because New York was the real avant-garde, although everyone was doing their best to be rational. Rationality is a very thin crust imposed on the world and it cracks from all sides. That’s the kind of accidents I was talking about before. Accidents rule the world we live in, not the crust. But we hang on to the crust for dear life. This is also the story of French Theory in America. The following issues were turned towards academe. They were meant to introduce the American readership to a number of theorists, like Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault, who devised new paradigms about capitalism and unwittingly described in advance the reality of contemporary society as we experienced it in the strange cultural laboratory that New York was at the time. It had little to do with the European vision of a hierarchical society ruled by exploitation and class struggles, and more with a multiplicity of flows escaping in all directions and making no sense whatsoever, a cosmic madhouse rather than a stern panopticon. I
called it ‘schizo-culture,’ and this was the title of the momentous conference Semiotext(e) organized at Columbia University in 1975, in which Foucault, R.D. Laing, Deleuze and Guattari and Lyotard participated, but also William Burroughs and John Cage, who were thinkers in their own right. It was the first attempt to launch a bridge between French theorists and American artists, and this was the space the magazine was going to occupy for the next decade, playing one world against the other and affecting both from the outside, foreign to both as it was foreign to each country and to itself. Unlike the avant-garde, Semiotext(e) never attempted to belong anywhere, and did its best to betray the expectations of those who may have had a nice cage ready for us. The idea always was to find a way out, but it doesn’t exist before you create it, so we kept burning our own traces, abruptly jumping in different directions, losing at every step the readership we had just created among young academics, radicals and artists. Semiotext(e) first started publicizing theory, but it didn’t take long to realize that the way out was also the way out of theory. And this is where the paradox began, which never quite cleared in the minds of those who thought that we were digging in, that we were ‘French Theory’ and eventually celebrated us for it. Like the chimpanzee, I was trying to find a way out of theory by carrying theory under my arm, like a mannequin’s leg. And it took some time for me to grow legs of my own, a lifetime really, and a few operations to boot. It gradually became theory on the march and not just theory on the page. The problem was that, at first, I had been looking for a theory that existed. I hadn’t realized that everything is theoretical if you look at it with a theoretical mind. Gilles Deleuze once said it in a lecture: All my life, he said, I tried to get out of philosophy, to work my way out of philosophy, into music, films, literature, everything but philosophy, especially the history of philosophy. But, he added, I could only get out of philosophy as a philosopher. You have to use your own language in order to get out of it, and this is what Semiotext(e) has been trying to do. While everyone else was trying to learn it as a lingua franca, a foreign language, ‘foreign agents’ kept speaking it as their own because that was the only way to find a way out.
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SURVEILLANCE AND WARINESS BY RUPERT SHELDRAKE Long-lens celebrity photographers often look at people from a distance through telescopic lenses. We interviewed the leading practitioners in Britain to ask if they had noticed whether their subjects seemed aware of their focusing on them, even though they were at a distance, and concealed. There was a general consensus that some people seem unaware of being watched, while others seem to have an uncanny ability to know when they are about to be photographed, such as Princess Diana, who, over the years, seemed to become increasingly sensitive. One photographer commented: ‘She was possibly the most extreme example of somebody being constantly aware that there was a possibility of being photographed. Because she was so against being photographed, she honed that awareness down to such a fine degree that it was almost impossible to catch her unawares. She claimed that she had a sixth sense, and said she could smell a photographer a mile away.’
at some times than at others: ‘They are at a very heightened state of awareness at the start of their day, because they want to be sure that they are not being watched. The second state of heightened awareness comes just before the bit of work that they are going to do. They want to reinforce the fact that they are not being watched and that they are going to get away with the exercise. We recognize those two stages and our state of awareness rises with theirs.’ When it came to the question of whether people had a ‘sixth sense’ about being watched, we found a divergence of opinion. One private security officer, a former policeman, told us that he was sure that most criminals had no such ability: ‘If you have a good covert observation going and there is no outside influence that interferes with that, they haven’t got a clue. They just get on and do it. There’s blatant stuff going on and they do not know they are being watched.’ A senior police officer in the Surveillance Unit at New Scotland Yard in London asserted categorically that there was no such thing as a ‘sixth sense.’ He recognized that some people did in fact detect when they were being watched, but he explained it in terms of the operator having made a mistake, like allowing eye-to-eye contact to occur. Others experienced in surveillance work have a different opinion. Rick Dickson, a narcotics officer in Plains, Texas, said, ‘I’ve noticed that a lot of times the crook will just get a feeling that things aren’t right, that he’s being watched. We often have somebody look right in our direction even though he can’t see us. A lot of times we’re inside a vehicle.’ A sheriff from the Midwest told me she was convinced that some people could tell when she was watching them through binoculars, even when she was well hidden.
One long-lens photographer who worked for the Sun said that he was amazed how many times people whose picture he was taking would ‘turn round and look at the lens,’ even if they were looking in the opposite direction to start with. He did not think they could see him or detect his movements. ‘I am talking about taking pictures at distances of up to half a mile away in situations where it is quite impossible for people to see me, although I can see them. They are so aware it is uncanny.’
Some officers simply say that some people know when they are being watched. The chief security officer at a leading department store in London summarized his experience as follows: ‘Definitely when you are on the job on the shop floor you can see that people will turn and stare at you. You can be hidden out of the way watching somebody and they will turn around and look at you. Any in-store detective who says he has never been caught out watching somebody is a liar.’
The ability of people to detect when they are being stared at through telescopic lenses shows that telescopes not only focus light into the eye of the observer, but also focus the looker’s attention on to the subject.
Everyone agreed that some people under surveillance seem to know when they are being watched, and detect people watching them. Everyone agreed that there is an increased chance of the watcher being noticed if he or she looks directly at the person under observation. But if the detective is detected, did his looking cause the ‘client’ to look at him because of the sense of being stared at? Or did the ‘client’ know he was being watched simply because he was alert and saw someone looking? As we have seen, some surveillance officers take the sense of being stared at for granted, while others deny its existence.
Among surveillance personnel, it is generally agreed that when people are being watched or followed, it is important to look directly at them as little as possible. A senior officer in the Customs Investigation Unit at Heathrow Airport told us, ‘A good surveillance officer should not stare at anybody. An officer should be looking to one side, or staring past or looking in any other direction. The main thing is to avoid eye-to-eye contact. You are always far more conscious of someone you have seen looking at you. That will then trigger a very human response of “Why is that person looking at me?” and people become conscious of that person. They might check subsequently to see if that person is still looking at them.’ All the surveillance officers we interviewed agreed that some people were unusually ‘surveillance conscious,’ especially criminals and people with something to hide. As one British police officer expressed it, ‘A lot of our clients, as it were, are professional and professionally try to avoid any form of surveillance and are constantly looking for it. We have to devise ways to be there without being seen.’ Moreover, the ‘clients’ are known to be more vigilant
These questions are easier to answer when people are being watched through closed-circuit television (CCTV). Especially when the cameras are hidden, it is impossible for someone to know by normal sensory means when he or she is being watched on a TV monitor in a distant room. Can some people tell when they are being watched through CCTV surveillance systems?
Closed-circuit television surveillance systems are installed in many office blocks, hospitals, shopping malls, airports, car parks and other public places. Several different kinds of cameras are used: overt cameras, often deliberately placed so that people can notice them, with the intention of deterring undesirable activities; adjustable cameras concealed within dark or mirrored covers so
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they can be rotated and zoomed without the movements of the camera being seen; and covert cameras, disguised and hidden from view. Surveillance by CCTV is a substantial industry, which grew dramatically throughout the 1990s. In Britain alone there are several trade journals covering this field, such as Security Surveyor and CCTV Today, filled with articles reviewing new products, trade statistics and debates about the efficacy of different surveillance systems. For example, do open-street systems, the installation of which is encouraged by the British government, lead to a reduction of crime? Or do they simply cause criminals to move elsewhere? In many cases, CCTV cameras are used to record videotape, so that if an incident occurs, the tape can later be examined to try to identify the perpetrators. Many cameras are also linked to TV monitors that can be watched by security officers. In practice, most monitors are not watched most of the time. When I have visited security control rooms containing banks of monitors, I have often found the security officers were reading newspapers, giving only an occasional glance at the TV screens. There is general agreement among surveillance professionals that most people do not notice when they are being observed through CCTV. Some people commit crimes right in front of the cameras. But others do seem able to detect when they are being observed. We interviewed ten CCTV surveillance officers, and found that two were inclined to a skeptical view. Barry Thorne, head of security at Harrods department store in London, said, ‘People who are looking at the cameras are the exception and are often the ones hoping to commit a crime. Security officers will obviously look at these people particularly if they are looking around in a suspicious manner. Therefore it is hard to tease out whether looking at someone makes them look at the camera, or whether these people were looking at the camera in the first place as they sensed they were being watched.’ Nevertheless, most of the officers were convinced that some people could indeed sense they were being observed. For example, Charles Sibert, head of a large restaurant complex in Lakewood, Colorado, said that even when hidden cameras were used, ‘Some of them know they’re being watched, mostly crooks. They look at the camera. They get fidgety; they walk back and forth. They try to get out of the eye of the camera. They look up. It’s kind of comical sometimes.’ Tony Coopland, the security manager for Sheffield City Council, had had similar experiences: ‘It is amazing how many people do look back at the camera when you are looking at the monitor. It is like an extra sense, or whatever.’ A former SAS officer engaged in anti-terrorist surveillance in Northern Ireland told us that the men they were watching often seemed to know when they were being observed. On one occasion they were looking through a hidden camera in the roof of a shop opposite at suspected terrorists going in and out of a betting shop: ‘We removed a slate drilled a small hole in the roof and put a lens through it to look down the street and watch. After a couple of days we got the feeling they knew we were there. The third day they did a raid on the shop. They ran a van into the bottom of the shop to burn it out.’ Les Lay, who works as security manager in a large firm in London, has no doubt that some people have a sixth sense. ‘They can have their backs to the cameras, or be scanned using hidden devices, yet they still become agitated when the camera is trained on them. Some move on, some look around for the camera.’1 When he worked for an international bank in the City of London, some of the
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staff were suspected of dishonesty, and in an attempt to find the culprits, he said, ‘We set up covert surveillance cameras targeting one area for a few days and then moved to different areas. People definitely got a sense they were being watched. We even had guys go up to sprinklers and smoke detectors to see if there was a camera there.’ Sometimes store detectives find that when shoplifters detect that they have been watched, they return the goods that they were about to steal. Here is an example from London: The incident that sticks in my mind was when two women were shoplifting in the shoe department. They had a shopping trolley, and they had taken quite a few pairs of shoes off the shelf and put them in this trolley. There were no staff around, but we were watching them on a discreet camera when they suddenly took them all out and put them back and left the store. There was no reason at all we could see why they changed their mind. The camera was hidden behind a half black dome on the ceiling so you could not see when the camera was pointing at you. They were looking at the camera as they put the shoes back on the shelf. They made it very purposeful, as if they were saying, ‘We are not going to steal these, we do not want to be arrested.’
One store detective told me that he used to be a shoplifter himself, specializing in bookshops. ‘The prickle of a nearby camera would pop me out of my fear, indecision and consumer choice. I have a stark memory of selecting a corner hidden from store detectives and selecting the book I wished to steal, when my eye unerringly swerved and located a high-mounted camera. It is rare in a shop for the eye level to drift above the shelves of wares. I can only attribute this sudden shift of perspective to an intangible feeling of being watched.’ We encountered only one amateur who had carried out a surveillance exercise, Denis Williams, who lives in Sussex. A drug dealer rented a flat in a block near his house, and the coming and going of his customers caused much distress to local residents. The police were reluctant to take any action, so Mr Williams, the organizer of the local Neighborhood Watch, decided to film people visiting the dealer, using a video camera on a tripod at the rear of his front bedroom. At times I would simply leave the camera running on auto record. I later edited the tape showing dates and time on the footage covering people going to the flat. What was interesting was that whilst I was actually in the room operating the camera a fair number of people who were simply walking along the road seemed to look up at the bedroom window. Yet when I was not present and the camera was running on auto, few seemed to look!
Although observations such as these are very suggestive, only controlled experiments can reveal whether people really can detect when they are being watched through CCTV.
Some schools of Asian martial arts place a strong emphasis on the role of intentions. They generally think of the sense of being stared at in this wider context. Intentions are closely related to the direction of ‘life energy,’ usually transliterated as ch’i, chi or qi from Chinese, or ki from Japanese. In one of the t’ai chi classics, this is expressed in the saying ‘The intention directs the ch’i. The ch’i directs the body.’2 A British practitioner expressed it as follows: ‘This subtle, delicate level of the intention can be sensitive and flexible, finding out the right angle for a throw or a punch, sensing the weak spots in an opponent’s defense, exploring the line of least resistance. Here the will is like a soft mental feeler or antenna, which goes out sensitively and explores the terrain, as if, before the actual execution of the technique, one were to perform it in imagination first.’ The other side of the coin is the awareness of these intentions
by the person towards whom they are directed. An opponent’s intentions are detected not only by observing body movements and other sensory clues, but by being aware of the flow of ch’i. In several schools of Chinese and Japanese martial arts, students carry out exercises in which they are blindfolded and try to feel when and where an opponent is about to hit them. In the following exercise, the blindfolded person was placed within a circle of classmates: At some time a preselected member in the circle would begin to think hostile thoughts at the person in the middle. They would slowly raise one arm, the hand held as if holding a hand gun, and attempt to ‘shoot’ the blindfolded person. If that person sensed something, he was told to shout out ‘stop,’ and point in the direction he perceived the threat to be coming from. At first we weren’t too successful, but after a couple of months we did get better and better. Our teacher said that there was nothing magical about any of it, and that in man’s early history our senses would have been far sharper than they are now. All he was teaching us was a way of trying to get back some of the lost abilities. Roger Ainsworth
Since 1990 there has been an upsurge of interest in Japan in research on martial arts, and laboratory studies have now been carried out with both Japanese and Chinese practitioners.3 Of particular interest are a series of investigations of to-ate, an ancient martial arts technique of attacking an opponent without physical contact. Mikio Yamamoto and his colleagues carried out these studies at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, in Chiba, Japan.
failure to slip into the mind, because what you perceive is what is going to happen. This analogy with the intimidating look of a lion draws attention to the fact that the principles of martial arts may not be limited to human beings. Indeed, several systems of martial arts have been based on careful observation of animals’ fighting. T’ai chi is said to have originated when its founder, Chang San-feng, saw a crane fighting with a snake. The tiger, monkey, leopard and praying mantis have all been the inspiration for various styles of kung fu.5
Excerpted from The Sense of Being Stared At and other aspects of the Extended Mind by Rupert Sheldrake (London: Hutchinson, 2003). For more information about the book visit www.sheldrake.org.
Mathews, R., ‘Sixth sense helps you watch your back,’ Sunday Telegraph (April 14, 1996), 16.
Payne, P., Martial Arts (London: Thames and Hudson, 1981), 34.
Kokubo, H., ‘Contemporary active research groups in Japan for anomalous phenomena,’ Japanese Journal of Parapsychology 3, 1998, 19–63.
Yamamoto, M. et al., ‘Study on analyzing methods of human body functions using various simultaneous measurements,’ Journal of International Society of Life Information Science 18, 2000, 61–97.
Payne, Martial Arts, 72.
In order to rule out the possibility that the person attacked was responding to visual or other sensory clues, or to suggestion, the researchers kept an ‘attacker’ and a ‘receiver’ in sensoryshielded rooms, three floors apart. The ‘attacker’ was a Chinese qigong master. They videotaped the receiver, and measured his skin resistance and his brain waves, by means of an electroencephalograph (EEG). In a series of trials the qigong master directed to-ate at the receiver at times randomly chosen by the experimenters. In many of these trial periods the receiver visibly recoiled and showed alterations in EEG and skin resistance. The results of these randomized, double-bind trials were highly significant statistically, indicating that the to-ate involved an ‘unknown transmission,’ that is to say a form of transmission currently unknown to science. From the point of view of the qigong master, what was being transmitted was ki or ch’i.4 In the context of the theory that ch’i flows out of a person, directed by intention, and can affect the person to whom the intention is directed, the influence of the power of the gaze is one example of a more general process. Terry Ezra, who teaches aikido and has practised for more than 30 years, said: ‘One of the things I am always telling my students is you are always projecting awareness and consciousness through your eyes.’ But this influence can be projected in other ways too: ‘Not only out of my eyes, it feels as though it comes out from everywhere but especially my hands, lower belly and forehead. When I do this there is definitely something like electricity flowing through me.’ A practitioner of the Korean martial art jung do, Andy Macarthy, emphasized that the projection of energy through the eyes could be practised deliberately in order to intimidate opponents: ‘In a sparring situation you can just put on “the look” and as soon as you get the other person to look down you know you have won. If you imagine looking at a lion, you don’t want to do it for very long because all of a sudden you feel its immense strength. You must imagine your opponent as subordinate to you. You can never allow thoughts of
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RUPERT SHELDRAKE INTERVIEW
subject to the same kind of taboo they have in our own. The educational system would probably respond as well, at the very least by not denying these phenomena and putting children off them. But it might also respond by encouraging them and helping people to develop them better. Intuitions are very useful, and probably underlie the success of many people in sports and business, although probably much less so in the academic world. How ‘strong’ do you believe telepathy could become?
Pataphysics: When did you first become interested in the psychic realm? Rupert Sheldrake: I have always been interested in psychic phenomena, as most people are, but as a result of my scientific training repressed or dismissed this interest for many years. In the late ’60s I traveled in India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia and lived for a year in Malaysia, where I was working at the University of Malaya. This exposure to Asian cultures had a big mind-opening effect for me. I found that many of these psychic phenomena were taken for granted by intelligent people that I met and seemed to be backed up by a lot of experience and evidence. However it wasn’t until the 1990s that I realized that quite simple experiments could lead to major breakthroughs and these insights were the basis of my book Seven Experiments That Could Change The World (London: Fourth Estate, 1994), which still forms the basis of my ongoing research program. If sight could affect things, as you suggest in your recent book The Sense of Being Stared At, do you envisage any future technological development that would acknowledge this? If sight can affect indeterminate events in electronic circuits, then it might be possible to have sight-activated technologies, but at present this can only be a vague speculation. Do you have any thoughts on how radio-waves might impact on telepathic possibilities? No. Since telephone telepathy seems to occur with mobile phones as well as with land lines, it doesn’t seem to be abolished or greatly inhibited by radio-waves. In regard to the work of parapsychologist William Braud, do you think the emergence of a more ‘labile’ culture of less organization is necessary for any major psychic evolution? Probably. But the culture is already exceptionally labile, and I wouldn’t suppose it needs to become more so. Since beginning your experiments have you noticed any increase in your own telepathic abilities? I don’t know if I’ve had any increase in telepathic abilities but I seem to have noticed more incidents. Before I took an interest in this subject, I had standard skeptical attitudes and tended to brush aside or dismiss any instances that occurred in my own life or with people around me. I think paying attention helps both to recognize what is going on, and to allow one’s sensitivity to grow. What sort of impact do you think extrasensory perception would have if it became more widely accepted? I think if ESP were more widely accepted, people would pay more attention to it in their own lives and in the lives of animals. I think anthropologists would look again at other cultures, who have been talking about this forever, but whose experiences were brushed aside by anthropologists as being superstitious. We would have a lot to learn from other cultures where these abilities have not been
Some people are already far more telepathic than others, and are sometimes very telepathic with particular other people. Some of the most striking examples are with identical twins. To find out how strong telepathy could become, I would look at pairs of twins who experience it on a regular basis and who have actually made an effort to cultivate and encourage this ability. I would also look at exceptionally telepathic animals which could give us many clues, for example N’kisi. You have spoken of the problems resulting from the rationalization of science and the introspection of religion that occurred in the West in the 17th century. Do you consider your research as rehabilitating the relation between science and the spiritual? Is it necessary that science now be taught in a more holistic manner? I think my research could open up a new area of dialogue between science and the spiritual. I have explored some of these issues in my book with the theologian Matthew Fox entitled Natural Grace: Dialogues on Science and Spirituality (London: Bloomsbury, 1996). Yes, I think it’s very important to teach science in a more holistic manner, but unfortunately most schools and university science curricula are highly conservative, mechanistic in spirit and laden with facts. Many students find these courses boring and offputting, which could help trigger a movement for reform. Can you foresee any future break away from the atomistic model of socialization installed in individuals in the West from an early age? What has been the response from schools and children to participation in your experiments? I think a recognition of the reality of telepathy and interconnectedness is one factor that could help reduce the atomistic model of human personality that is still so predominant in the West. There has been much interest in my experiments in schools and at least 50 students have done projects on the sense of being stared at. I also give quite a number of talks in schools in Britain and have given workshops to secondary school teachers on how to conduct my experiments in their classes. There has been an enthusiastic response. But this is still on quite a small scale. Would you consider it possible that the nuclear radiation emitted during accidents such as Chernobyl could activate pathways to higher levels of telepathy or alter morphic fields? I have no idea, and I don’t see any reason why nuclear radiation should have any effect on telepathy. Would you say that the treatment of animals as non-sentient objects in the contemporary world has affected humankind’s ability to advance beyond so-called ‘rational’ thought? The mechanistic attitude to animals is expressed most clearly in industrial factory farming. However this co-exists with a completely different attitude that most people have towards their pets, where they certainly do not treat them as mindless machines. I have discussed this split consciousness and its implications in my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (London: Hutchinson, 1999).
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ARCHITECTURE AS HYPOTHESIS MADELINE GINS & ARAKAWA Here is what architecture means to us: a tentative constructing toward a holding in place. Walk into this building and you walk into a purposeful guess. The built world floats a hypothesis or two as to how and by what the apportioned out comes to be everywhere, the everywhere.
ARAKAWA: Here is the house we were telling you about. ANGELA: I don’t see any house here. GINS: Granted this is not what in our time most people dream of coming home to. ROBERT: This heap? GINS: Yes, a low pile of material that covers a fairly vast area.
ANGELA: That would make this pile of junk a very bumpy blueprint. GINS: Let’s take ourselves around to the other side. ROBERT: Sure. GINS: Having made our way around the house, we are now on its south side. ROBERT: How about that! A huge stack of clothes has been thrown together. Assembled randomly? But the way it’s piled up here on this side seems to be identical to how it has been stacked up over there at the northern end of the heap. Heights and depths differ, though. ANGELA: We were simply unable to discern the symmetry from the other side. It was only once we had moved around it that . . . Our being able to make out so much more from this vantage point, do we chalk that up to how the light is hitting it on this side, to what a northern light brings to the fore? ROBERT: Could it be that the intricate way things are piled on the left side – the west, I guess – closely resembles the pile or piles giving it its shape on the right – the east? I am actually beginning to spot some defined edges here and there.
GINS: In which case I say we go in now. Do you ANGELA: Are we at a dump? This low pile covering want to go back around to the north side, or shall we a vast area. enter from here? GINS: What you take to be a pile of junk ranges in height from three to eleven inches. It measures close to 2,400 square feet – or 2,900 square feet if you include the courtyard. ROBERT: Courtyard?
ROBERT: Diagonally opposite us . . . Is that an ordinary house over there? ARAKAWA: That’s a tract house from the fifties. ROBERT: Where we are standing strikes me as somehow an extension of that house’s front yard.
GINS: The shining part in the middle that has a lot of GINS: Why don’t we go back around this house to green around it. enter it through its front door. ANGELA: That’s hilarious. Your house is shorter ANGELA: This . . . this whatever it is . . . has a front than its shrubbery. and a back? ARAKAWA: [Laughs] I myself find that surprising. GINS: Of course. Shall we take a walk around it? ROBERT: A front door by which to enter this ROBERT: Go around it? Why bother? I can see doormat sort of thing, this giant shower cap . . . everything I need to from here. GINS: Here we are. Try to get in from, let me see, GINS: Isn’t it wonderful that you can see all of it at about here. You need to come back a few inches. once – as if you were looking at it in plan?
2 – GINS & ARAKAWA ANGELA: How do you expect me to get into something this totally flat to the ground? GINS: You have to go under it. Pick it up and insert yourself into it. ROBERT: I can’t get a hold of it. There’s nothing to hold onto. ANGELA: Wow, it’s so light! What material is this? GINS: A new material developed by NASA. ANGELA: Is it fireproof? ARAKAWA: Definitely, and waterproof. It’s flexible, durable, and, to our delight, it happens to provide great insulation as well. ANGELA: That’s unbelievable. GINS: Take that section of material you are holding in your left hand and push it up a little higher. Bring it up to at least waist level. ANGELA: Oh, here’s something that looks like a handle. If I hold onto it to slide the material . . . ARAKAWA: You need to slide it to the left at the same time you push it upwards. ANGELA: Yes, it opened. This is scary. It keeps changing . . . volumes open with my every motion . . . With each push . . . it’s changing right in front of my eyes, with each push . . . pushing open . . . opening. How I spread my arms to push it open . . . It takes shape from how . . . If I push it to one side . . . It is as if I am that snail . . . How does that song go again?
They carry it with them, they eat it, they excrete it. They go through it. It goes through them. An interpenetration in the best possible taste because, as it were, of complementary tones: passive and active elements. The one simultaneously bathes and feeds the other, which covers ground at the same time that it eats. The moment it displays its nudity, reveals its vulnerable form, its modesty compels it to move on. No sooner does it expose itself than it’s on the go Note too that you cannot conceive of a snail emerging from its shell and not moving. The moment it stops to rest it pulls back into its shell. (Other things might be mentioned about snails. To begin with, their characteristic humidity. Their sang froid. Their extensibility.) Snails go along glued bodily to first and second shells. Clumped earth: second shell. They carry it with them, they eat it, they excrete it. They go through it. It goes through them.*
ROBERT: That’s heartening. I begin to see what is expected of us in here. First off, we need to stretch our limbs as much as possible. When I stretch my arms up as if I am about to hit a volleyball, the material rides up and . . . I can see a fairly large area. Is that a kitchen facility . . . a kitchen in the center? GINS: Yes, that is the kitchen. Your arms are raised up high. Atlas supporting the globe. And do you see where that gets you – it gets you a house that begins to have rooms. ANGELA: Rooms form depending on how we move. If I bend down, I nearly lose the room. Would you open up the room a little more where you are?
ROBERT: I will play a caryatid and you go off to the farthest end. I am beginning to feel more at ease within this. I find it much less strange. But, the thing GINS: I have no trouble recalling that song whose is, the three of you now appear to me as a bit on the lyrics are the parent text to this house’s theme song. It strange side. Are you emitting snail pheromones or goes like this: something? Snails GINS: You’re at least four inches taller than the rest But getting out of tight ground is quite another matter. of us . . . so you probably should be the one to hold The more credit to them for going in, given how much harder it is to get out. up the structure near the small hill by the window. Loving clumped earth, snails go along glued bodily to it. * Both the theme song and its parent text use in full Francis Ponge’s poem ‘Escargots.’ Ponge’s snail musings adumbrate our concept of an architectural body. Did the poet go toward the snail, we wonder, with a similar concept in hand? Or – and this is more likely, given Ponge’s express wish to be at all costs fair-minded, that is, to take the side of things and creatures – did the gastropods simply present this to him, to a mammalian explorer, as a reward for his reportorial efforts on their behalf. In any case, there can be no doubt that, as great and as intimate as the human architectural heritage is, the architectural heritage of snails is as great and far more intimate. That
the architectural know-how of this gastropod prefigures the concept of an architectural body, a concept that, for us, has been decades in the making, has as stark a reality for us as – now, little snail, cover your ears for a moment – the stabbing of an undersized fork into the body of an escargot, the plunking of it into one’s mouth, and a biting into and a toothing through a muscularity god-awfully reminiscent of tongue. Francis Ponge, ‘Escargots,’ Selected Poems, translated by Margaret Gutton, John Montague, and C. K. Williams, edited by Margaret Gutton (Winston-Salem, N.C.: Wake Forest University Press, 1997), 38.
ARCHITECTURE AS HYPOTHESIS – 3 ROBERT: Wow! It really opens up into a large area, despite its having an incredibly low ceiling. Lights come on as areas open. ANGELA: The floor is uneven. Does it slope? GINS: For a closer look at our effect on this house, let us each take a deep breath. The material expands and contracts as we do. ROBERT: Where do people sleep? Or take showers? What about cooking?
hypothesis. Architecture as hypothesis plays off of the long-short history of architecture as non-hypothesis. Constructed to exist in the tense of what if, it presents itself as intentionally provisional, replacing definite form with tentative form, the notion of a lasting structure with that of an adaptive one.
GINS: Yes, cooking – that doesn’t present a problem. The house has a full complement of rooms. Whatever people do in other houses, they can do in this. ROBERT: You mean people can actually live here?
Everything that can be done in an ordinary house can be done in this one, but some maneuvering may be necessary to reach the point of sitting pretty. Each piece of material on the pile has ribs or spokes that open like those of an umbrella. Ready-to-be-activated expanding mechanisms lie at four-foot intervals. Depending on which setting has been selected, the house lies low, just as it was when you first saw it, and as it has remained all the while you’ve been in here, or it expands a little, getting some height, or, on the highest setting, it really achieves its full stature, including a dome and a vaulted ceiling. There’s a setting to accommodate anything you want to do in the house. For example, you had asked before about how feasible it was to light a stove and do some cooking. Cooking can take place within an ample kitchen that forms and stays formed until one selects a lower setting that causes the material to close back in and down. We predict that drawing the unfurled material back and down to be within touching distance will be a high priority for most inhabitants of houses like this. Remote-control switches operate sensors that bloom and fabricate the house on behalf of those who are ill or handicapped. You are not given a finished house but instead form it through your movements and through those of whoever else is in there with you. All materials are impervious to weather. Four people have entered a work of architecture that floats the Sited Awareness Hypothesis – or, as it is also known, the Architectural Body Hypothesis. Upon being entered and used, this work of architecture, which only becomes what it is through being entered and used, gives corroborating evidence for this
GINS: Of course. I was hoping you’d want to. ARAKAWA: Live here and do daily research. ROBERT: Research into what? ARAKAWA: Into what goes into being a person. This place can help you do that. What part of the house do you think you’re in now? ANGELA: I haven’t the foggiest idea. But I at least have it in me now to feel it to be one room or another. I’m interested in doing that research you speak of. GINS: We’ve entered the living room. We probably should sit down and rest for awhile, so let’s head for the couch and chairs. ROBERT: Oh, really? GINS: Since the living room remains missing, we will have to stretch out and reach up to form it. Have you ever pitched a tent? ROBERT: Not one this large. I have some nice memories of watching a crew put up a huge tent for a friend’s wedding . . . and then of being inside it. GINS: Let’s see. There are four of us, so that means we have four poles available. Of course, on a higher setting the structure could rally many more poles . . . as many as needed. ROBERT: But if I am going to be a tent pole or caryatid, how can I also sit in a chair? ARAKAWA: If we initiate the form, other spines within the surrounding material will kick in and take over . . . for ten minutes at a time. GINS: Of course, it would really get going and open
4 – GINS & ARAKAWA up if we had the house on one of its higher settings . . . one that engages the whole set of spine-deploying mechanisms embedded in the fabric. ANGELA: How many settings does this living space have? GINS: Three. A zero setting that we call the snail setting. And then a medium setting, in which the material stays always at a slight remove from those within it; we have named this the close-to-snail setting. The highest setting is the one that does it all; when this is on, spine-deploying mechanisms are fully engaged; we have named it roomy. ROBERT: At this moment . . . you have it on the snail setting, I think it would be fair to say. All the while . . . always turned to that?
humansnails. First shell: on-the-spot humansnail-made wrappings of sited awareness. Have the man-made become as to the point as the snail-made. Thick with one’s own breathing. Thick with one’s own landing-site configurations. They carry landing sites with them, they swallow them, heuristically for a direct mapping. They expel, exude, and disperse landing-site configurations. They go through their ubiquitous sites, i.e., the sum of all landing sites of each moment. Their ubiquitous sites go through them. Note too that you cannot conceive of a humansnail emerging from its shells and not moving. The moment it stops to rest it pulls back into its next pair of shells. (Other things might be mentioned about humansnails. To begin with, their characteristic timidity. Their sang froid. Their extensibility.)
ARAKAWA: Snail setting all along. This setting provides the most intense way to use this . . . tool . . . this piece of equipment. This house is a tool, a procedural one.
A person’s landing-site dispersal usually does not straightforwardly present itself as ‘breathing material.’ How dare we put scare quotes around the breathable massenergy of the universe turned world?! GINS: A functional tool, whether it be a hammer, a Oh to have the opportunities of a snail!! Would that telephone, or a telescope, extends the senses, but a one could check up on what disperses in the name procedural tool examines and reorders the sensorium. of what one feels oneself to be. Your actions cling ARAKAWA: Let us then cloak ourselves in solemnly to you and respond to you as if they were growing merry stanzas that guide us in the use of this piece of out of you like fingernails. One’s house becomes one’s pet or one becomes the pet of one’s house, or a equipment within which we are moving. mixture of the two. Humansnails But getting out of tight spots is quite another matter. The more credit to them for picking up an edge and going in, given how much harder it is to get out. Loving their medium, humansnails go along glued bodily to it, all their breathing closing in palpably around them. They carry this with them, they swallow it, they expel, exude, and disperse it. They go through it. It goes through them. Their medium: sited awareness All that a humansnail disperses: (its) ubiquitous site. Call all that a humansnail disperses: (its) architectural body. An interpenetration in the best possible taste because, as it were, of complementary tones: passive and active elements. The one simultaneously bathes and feeds the other, which covers the distance it breathes in and out and forms. Humansnails go along glued bodily to second skins or shells (architectural surrounds). First shells: shaped volumes of the beloved medium of humansnails. First shells: shaped volumes that form by virtue of actions humansnails take within second shells (architectural surrounds). First shells: relatively large atmospheric globular samples of the beloved medium – medium as oneself?? – that wraps around
ANGELA: It’s time for us to move through it now, isn’t it? ARAKAWA: It sure is. I’m bringing my hands down to my sides and bending slightly forward and just plunging ahead. Each of you should assume a similar posture and then forge ahead. Each goes off in a different direction. ROBERT: When do we get out of the snail phase? GINS: Well, you know, it’s possible to dwell in this house for days on end without ever moving it off the snail setting. I think for this, your first time in it, we should probably leave the dial where it is. It’s the most direct way we know to reorder sensateness . . . sensitivity . . . sensibility . . . one’s sensorium . . . landing-site dispersal . . . sited awareness.
ARCHITECTURE AS HYPOTHESIS – 5 ANGELA: As a way to engineer that direct mapping the two of you speak of? If so, what should we do? Should we move around more? ARAKAWA: With less to attend to in this snailsetting living room than in ordinary ones, it becomes easier to focus in on the effect each action has. Come toward me, toward this couch, moving in an exaggeratedly slow way. Can you see it from where you are?
you has been suddenly greatly reduced. It becomes easier to observe yourself as an agent of action because this closed-in world exacts fewer purposive moves. ARAKAWA: Even so, there is still a semblance of an agent and there is still a great scattering. GINS: Yes, it becomes predominantly a world of landing sites. Down to that level of abstraction.
ARAKAWA: Each of us becomes an everywhere ROBERT: I see no couch. I can’t even see you at this evenly distributed agent, dropping the centralizing point. habit that members of our species have had for such a terribly long time. What I am about to say might ARAKAWA: Then move toward the sound of my sound irrational to you – but if it turns out to be voice. Go a little slower. what is going on, then rationality will have to be ROBERT: I have spotted a couch leg. redefined. An everywhere evenly distributed agent – a GINS: Head toward it . . . still in slow motion . . . ubiquitous site or an architectural body – will even be and, as you do, describe everything you see and feel. able to renegotiate gravity. ROBERT: Something that extends from the back of my head all the way down along the broad of my back to a little below my waist pushes me forward. And with every step, I feel and see a bobbing horizon, a low one, a horizon that I look down to actually. As I carefully dole out the movements that constitute this step I am taking, using tiny haulingsup and miniscule pushings-through to lift my right leg, I see being added to a room – a room? – that moments before had within it only a single couch leg, what I make out to be your foot, and Angela’s frame from her shoulders on down. Angela, I cannot believe how much you are swaying.
GINS: The gravity that gets accorded to apportioning out, which, for a more complete picture, probably ought to be spoken of as an apportioning out and in.
ARAKAWA: That little group you describe equals your ubiquitous site, everywhere you have landed or could land. Call all that which is in the immediate vicinity of a person a ubiquitous site.
GINS: You are casting about as you always do, but with a difference. In the snail setting, the feel of the house and its weight cast you even before you can start casting about on your own. Through its casting of you, through its determining of how you come to be kinesthetically and proprioceptively disposed, the house prompts your actions. How we have been cast, how we are kinesthetically disposed, determines how we choose to act and if we can.
GINS: This is a ubiquity of you . . . inclusive of . . . your power to compose a world and be in contact with it . . . inclusive of all contact, of whatever variety, you have with the world. ARAKAWA: Defined to let loose an everywhere at once, the word ubiquitous even so fails to convey this covering of everywhere at once we experience in here. The rapid succession of events called experience overreaches ubiquity, I guess. GINS: The number of purposeful actions required of
ROBERT: It feels as if the material will go from only clinging to my back to fully engulfing me. With each thrusting of my limbs, or head and neck, or torso against the house that sits on top of me and drapes over me, I find myself in drastically changed circumstances. ARAKAWA: When in the snail setting, the house only has those rooms that the actions taken within it produce.
ARAKAWA: Closing in on you, the tactile surroundings sculpt kinesthetic possibility or kinesthetic with-it-ness. This sculpted kinesthetic with-it-ness – the tentativeness of any moment – can be thought of as the matrix of person. GINS: Kinesthesia – body feel or bodily feeling . . .
7 – GINS & ARAKAWA can never be had apart from imaging. To begin with, to move at all . . . One needs to image, for example, where to place one’s arm prior to moving it. ANGELA: Everything is responsive to my every move. I am at the wide-open part of an enclosure shaped like a side pocket of a pair of slacks. The draping material extends out from my neck and shoulders down toward the pocket’s narrow end. This end is not sewn in place but is instead a temporary horizon, bobbing, all activated by . . . my every move.
GINS: In addition to standing stock still, close your eyes for a moment. What do you find as your body? ROBERT: I find my body to be at the mercy of this material that doesn’t leave it alone. Always lightly resting on my back and responsive to my every move, this thing you call a house threatens to . . . GINS: At how many spots along your back would you say you feel it? You know, any registering of a point of physical contact equals a tactile landing site.
ARAKAWA: If the contact feels continuous, then you have probably joined several smaller tactile ROBERT: Being within this enclosure makes landing landing sites into a few large ones. Your head, neck, more palpable. shoulders, back: a single landing site or two. ARAKAWA: As far as landing goes: the material GINS: It might be a good idea to try to re-divide lands on me, upon me. Through its actions, my them, that is, to approximate how they might have body ‘lands punches’ on the material. The activated been before they were combined. Tactile landing sites bobbing-up-and-down horizon that is draped into report: that is there. Coupled with kinesthetic landing shifting place lands ever differently. A lot depends on sites and imaging landing sites they report: that is whether I land on my feet or not. there as that. GINS: I must say that what we have enclosed in here, ROBERT: It is as if I had been turned into a statue of within, as you aptly describe it, a shallow pocket, is myself . . . not the caryatid of before. From the points ‘that which registers.’ of contact – tactile landing sites, I guess – forward I am entering into, or feeling into, the feel of my ARAKAWA: The body has a spherical kinesthetictissues. Ubiquitous tissues feel to me to be very proprioceptive-tactile dispersive potential, breath-like but simultaneously not that breath-like. tentativeness at the ready. GINS: There is that which can register whatever turns GINS: Kinesthetic landing sites are of course closely up . . . The registerings are the landing sites we speak allied with tactile landing ones. Often tactile landing sites will prompt kinesthetic ones to come alive. of. Because you are being so tactilely activated from ARAKAWA: We would like to be able to keep track behind, your kinesthetic-proprioceptive wherewithal of all that gets registered at any given moment. That is now being cast with a decidedly frontal orientation. within this pocket one has far fewer than the usual Tactility and kinesthesia toggle-switch into one number of things and events to take note of suits our another, so, were you to suddenly happen to purpose well. bring your hand to your chest, kinesthesia would GINS: Fewer things to keep track of in the outside immediately give way to tactility at that spot. world, but as far as the body is concerned nothing ROBERT: About kinesthesia . . . I feel all porous changes: the number of places in the body that need and it, kinesthesia, functions as that which animates at each moment to be kept track of stays roughly the porosity. I am a filter, and this shallow pocket we are same, doesn’t it? within is another, a different type of filter, perhaps ARAKAWA: Yes and no. The number of landing sites a slightly more porous one. Rapid exchanges are particular to the body itself stays within a predictable going on between these two filters, and the speed and range, which happens to be a fairly wide one. But quality of the exchange depends on how my body . . with the house on the snail setting, the number of . My body casts about within this material and then strictly bodily landing sites cluster at the high end of actions and events cast my body. A lot depends on that range. how that sculpture, my cast body of felt sense, goes
ARCHITECTURE AS HYPOTHESIS – 8 on to cast the rest of the pocket’s volume. ARAKAWA: Because your eyes have been closed, it would seem that what you have described has been imaged. But as all description springs into action within kinesthetic-proprioceptive bounds, your visualizing of your body with your eyes closed has surely been produced by perceptual as well as imaging landing sites. This ought not to come as a surprise to anyone; but nearly everyone finds this surprising. Open your eyes. ROBERT: Wow!! It’s all so different. But I remained motionless, as you instructed me to, and so, I believe, did the rest of you. It could not have been only our breathing that so greatly altered this place. GINS: And yet . . . to the extent that breathing is sufficient to change landing site configuration . . . As abstractions that act as conduits for apportioning out, landing sites . . . Or landing sites may be abstractions, but they are ones designed to let that which gets apportioned out, that which is prior to abstracting, flow through with the minimal amount of interference. What, I should ask you, is landing for you now? ANGELA: The entire house is landing on me . . . on us. There are so many landings I hardly know where to begin. ROBERT: When I breathe in there are a lot of landings as a result of that . . . I am feeling my breathing more than I ever have before. What I breathe in lands in the lungs . . . but I can’t exactly track it to there, although in a way I can. But my attending to all this breathing . . . my solicitousness to my own breathing, would you characterize all that taken together as landing? ARAKAWA: Yes, I think so. I am thrilled that you came up with that. Linking breathing and landing . . . we hadn’t quite gotten to that yet. ANGELA: What a cozy spot. If you don’t mind, I think I will curl right up here and take a nap.
RON PADGETT INTERVIEW Pataphysics: How long had you been thinking about writing a book about your father, Wayne Padgett? Ron Padgett: I wanted to write it when he was still alive. I thought it would be wonderful if he, who had led a very colorful and dashing and interesting criminal life, could collaborate with his own son who was a writer. But because his life involved secret information about other people, he feared that public disclosure could seriously damage these people – physically seriously damage them. But he told me that after he died I could write any book about him that I wanted. Was there any issue then about other people being affected by the information? Some of the information I came up with was from trial transcripts, newspapers, FBI files – they have 1300 pages on my father – and other public sources. But some of the other things I discovered, mainly through interviews with his friends and associates and even some of his enemies, could’ve been hurtful to a few members of our family, and so I had to be discreet about what I chose to quote. But it turned out I didn’t have to censor myself very much at all. I was able to write the book I wanted to write, and holding back a few things didn’t change the book, it just kept me from unnecessarily wounding family members. But I did spend some sleepless nights thinking about such issues. You start by talking of your father as a hero, and as you grow up and become a teenager you enter a certain phase where you dislike him… I went through a period in my adolescence when I disliked him intensely but it was simply because he was my father and I was as rebellious an adolescent as he had been. It was just a typical father-son conflict. I was trying to start to grow up and become my own person with a certain amount of independence, and being the caring father that he was, the protective father and sometimes the controlling father, of course he didn’t want to give me that freedom, and so I rebelled. That seems quite normal to me. In doing the research and thinking about him and writing the book, I grew closer and closer to him. I understood him better – his vices as well as his virtues – and I was grateful for that. I also came to feel that he and I were more alike than I had ever imagined, and more different than I had ever imagined, as well. It was a very involving experience that made me love him in a way I had not been able to love him when he was alive. I should add that it was not a sentimentalizing experience, but it made me respect and admire him more and feel even sadder that eventually he had gone off in a direction that I would have preferred he had not taken. I felt more regret about that than I ever had. This later part of his life being when alcohol was legalized in Tulsa, and he had to work out other ways of making a living? Yes. He became more of a criminal, and a less attractive one. As a young swashbuckling bootlegger he was a combination of a western cowboy and Robin Hood. With his good looks, his big manly comportment, and his great charm, he had a lot going for him, but
when he got older some of the other forms of criminal behavior he got into were unattractive. In writing the book, I came to regret that he had not found some other way to live in the latter part of his life – something more constructive and positive. Like someone said, he would’ve made a great secret service agent [laughs]. That’s the kind of thing he should’ve done, but of course it was impossible. You quote Emmett Dalton’s description of an outlaw: ‘An outlaw’s got to be cagey as a coyote to live even a short time in the land of his father. The alert outlaw acts a good deal by intuition. His wits and sense become acute as a wild animal’s. The ordinary pitch of faculties is not sufficient. His life constantly depends upon the accuracy with which he judges men.’ That idea of the ‘outlaw’ – would you say it was something that was occurring all the time with your dad? He did have an instinct for making very quick judgments under a lot of pressure. He was a shrewd operator in that respect. He also had an instinct for knowing – someone described it as his radar – when the local police were nearby or when he was under FBI surveillance. His ability to intuit danger was astonishing, almost weird. He was very good at sizing up the people he was dealing with, and then he was equally good about being diplomatic with them when he needed to be diplomatic and being tough with them when he needed to be tough. In the kind of businesses he was in, to survive the way he did, you have to be shrewd, astute, observant, and quick, and in his case, fearless. You wrote of how, when your dad was in prison, he said it was relaxing not to carry money. He did time only once, but yes, he did say that. I thought that was quite interesting, because what you’re really talking about in some ways are the pathways people take away from the established belief system, and when someone has a certain attitude like your dad and probably, to some extent, like yourself, it’s a question of how do you actually go about living. I suppose to him the whiskey sales were like almost performing some social service rather than being a criminal act. He never suffered any guilt or doubt about selling illegal whiskey. But throughout his life he did have a way of justifying to himself all of his criminal behavior. He thought of himself as a good guy, even when he wasn’t, because for him morality was very important. He couldn’t have lived with himself had he thought of himself as the bad guy. I think that his father’s suicide – my father was 11 years old when this happened, and he was kind of turned loose in the world with this trauma, which his mother did her best to assuage, but it was way beyond their comprehension – propelled him into desperation. It was 1933, during the Great Depression, and his mother was penniless, and he and his brother had to go out and scavenge and look for odd jobs, anything to help their shattered mother put food on the table. Some unknown fate threatened to overwhelm the family, causing his mother even greater grief and anxiety, which he could not bear to see. This situation funneled him into what might be called survival behavior: he would make money however he could. In high school, he was an independent and sometimes rebellious young man, and he never went to college of course. There was no white-collar track for him. Given the workingclass milieu he grew up in, and with so many police officers gone off to serve in World War 2, the time was perfect for him to get into a business such as bootlegging. Many of his customers were highly respectable people: ministers, the mayor at one point, the chief of police at another point, and some of the most established and reputable businesses in town were customers of his. It was
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impossible for him to feel he was doing the wrong thing, especially since he was providing for his family, for his wife, his son, and especially for his mother. He always took care of his mother. They would’ve had a difficult time without him. His mother would’ve had a much more difficult time. Not only that, he was able to step in and rescue a lot of needy friends from desperate financial situations by just giving them money. There was no other way to get whiskey at that point… The entire state of Oklahoma was a ‘dry’ state. Even after the repeal of national prohibition in 1933, when alcohol became legal in most states, in Oklahoma prohibition remained in effect by state law. There were always other bootleggers in town, but eventually the newspapers dubbed my father ‘the king of the bootleggers.’ What was his relation to the product – you said he didn’t drink much – how did he feel about the material he was selling? He would drink occasionally, but he was like a lot of bartenders, he didn’t drink much. Measured in the terms of his time, he was a very moderate drinker. In our home there was never any alcohol for family consumption. He kept a bottle of scotch in the kitchen under the sink, in case a friend came by and wanted a drink. But I never saw my father take a drink, and I never saw him come home drunk, ever. One of your books is called Tulsa Kid – it was a formative thing, living in Tulsa? How did it seem after you left and went to New York? When I was growing up in Tulsa, it never occured to me to imagine living anywhere else. I had a relatively happy childhood there. Tulsa mainly seemed a nice, clean, pleasant place to live. But around the age of thirteen, I began to look around and ask questions, such as, ‘Why can’t black people eat in the restaurants with us?’ and I began to feel that too many people who professed to be true Christians were in fact hypocrites. I became outraged by social injustice and
personal hypocrisy. And the more I read and thought, at 15, 16, 17, the more I felt like living elsewhere. A few other like-minded people confirmed my feeling, such as a neighbor across the street, Dick Gallup, who became a poet also, and a classmate at high school who became an artist and writer, Joe Brainard. Then I fell in with a crowd of students at the nearby university and I got a job in a bookstore, and met people there, so by the time I graduated from high school at the age of 18 and went off to New York City to go to university, I was ready to leave. The vantage point of New York allowed me to see the kind of life I’d had and how I’d been formed by it, which sent me into a period of rejection of my home town. It took me a number of years to make my peace with Tulsa, and to realize that, like anywhere else I’ve ever been, you take the bad with the good. I still have very strong and even cherished memories of Tulsa, I still think about it, I’m still in touch with people there, and in fact I’ll be going back there soon to do a reading and some interviews, which I look forward to. But after a few days, some sort of creeping dread comes over me and I have to leave again. Which doesn’t stop me from having a soft spot for it. When Tulsa became a ‘wet’ state, your dad had to start doing other things to live. He never saw himself as going to some more conventional type of reality, it’s like there was no way that was ever going to happen. Conventional life wasn’t in the cards for him. He did have partownership of a club, where he worked – that was a legal enterprise. He also invested in real estate and in several oil ventures. And an energy-saving device. Yes, he was part owner of a company that manufactured an energysaving device. And he was also part-owner of a car lot. He had a number of other irons in the fire at various times, but they didn’t afford him the kind of excitement that mischief did. When the book spins into the ’70s, there’s a general sense
that something could get out of hand a lot more easily in his life, when he starts to deal with these, as you suggest, more criminal characters and slightly more problematic people… Yes, he did begin to associate with much dodgier people, partly due to one of the legitimate businesses he went into after whiskey – he became a bail bondsman, dealing with some dangerous people, and got to know them, unfortunately.
AVANT-GARDE POETRY AND BOOTLEGGING
He was connected in some way to Las Vegas – he went there for a short time, didn’t he? He had friends out there, but he went to Vegas mostly for two reasons. First, for recreation, and second, to launder money. He had friends who worked at casinos, but he didn’t have any criminal dealings there, aside from taking coins into casinos and exchanging them for paper money. The casinos didn’t know what he was doing. Would you say he was an organized person, or was he someone who didn’t make many plans and just relied on his intuition? He was always wheeling and dealing, coming up with new schemes, and in order to carry them out he had to be rather organized in his thinking. But as far as creating a balanced, structured, predictable life, no, he was never able to do that, or he never wanted to. Extreme stability was not his strong point. Were you exposed to Surrealist writers when you worked at the bookstore? I don’t think I read the Surrealists then. I did begin to discover modern literature when I was about 15 or 16, much of it coming from Grove Press. Also I was reading books from New Directions – Pound, Williams, Kenneth Patchen, Rimbaud, Lorca. But my reading of the French Surrealists came shortly after I got to New York. Your dad’s personality made quite a big impression on you. It certainly did, but not on me as a literary person: he had no literary bent whatsoever. But when I was 17 he gave me his stamp of approval. Knowing that he completely approved of what I was doing made it much easier for me to go off to New York and continue to write poetry. It’s amazing that he encouraged me to do something that was so alien to him. His elasticity in that respect was remarkable. From him I also got self-assurance, an unquestioned belief in what I was doing, and ‘the world be damned.’ My father went through life doing what he wanted to do, constantly coming up with new ways to live, and I think that gave me the courage to forge ahead. Of course I didn’t have the guts – or the desire – to lead a dangerous, criminal life, but some would say it took courage for a teenager in the 1950s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to announce publicly that he was a poet. Maybe that’s the next step after being a criminal.
The following excerpts are from poet Ron Padgett’s memoir/ biography, Oklahoma Tough: My Father, King of the Tulsa Bootleggers. Wayne Padgett was a big, handsome, charming cross between Robin Hood and John Wayne, but his dark side took him into various forms of crime, beginning with bootlegging in the 1940s in the then ‘dry’ state of Oklahoma.
In my junior year of high school I got a part-time job in a bookstore and started a literary magazine. I invited my friends Dick Gallup and Michael Marsh to be co-editors, and my friend Joe Brainard to be the art editor. Dick and I wrote to writers we admired, asking them for material, and in the spring of 1959 the first issue of The White Dove Review appeared, a collection of poetry, prose, and art in a simple 5.5 x 8.5 format. The contributors to that first issue included Jack Kerouac, Paul Blackburn, and Clarence Major. Over the next year or so, four more issues appeared, with work by Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Ron Loewinsohn, Peter Orlovsky, Gilbert Sorrentino, and David Meltzer, as well as local writers Ted Berrigan, David Bearden, Martin Cochran, Dick, and me. My mother contributed twenty dollars toward the production cost of each issue (around ninety dollars) and bought me the saddle stapler we used for binding each issue, but my father seemed to take no notice of the venture. That is, until one day he stopped by my bedroom door and said, ‘You could be put in jail for publishing this.’ He was serious. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Sending obscene material through the mail.’ He was referring to the use of the word fuck in one poem, the first time that word had appeared in The White Dove. Only a year before, the publisher of Lady Chatterley’s Lover had been prosecuted for using the word fuck. To my knowledge, no one had ever published anything in Tulsa with fuck in it. Daddy wasn’t giving me legal advice, he was expressing his moral disapproval. I had heard him utter the f-word only once, the year before, to a buddy at a car lot. He used other swear words at home, with great flair, but not the f-word, not in my presence, anyway. I remember thinking, Here’s a guy who breaks the law every day of his life, and he’s all hot and bothered about fuck! But the oddity of the larger situation dawned on me only years later: at one end of our house was the office of one of the biggest whiskey businesses in town, while at the other was the ‘office’ of an avant-garde literary magazine. Really, though, I was simply imitating my dad: I had my office desk, I operated a cottage industry, and I pursued a project that most people would have considered bizarre. But what was truly bizarre was that Daddy was reading Beat and Black Mountain poetry. One White Dove contributor, Ted Berrigan, at that time a graduate student at the University of Tulsa, thought of my father as a legendary figure, the last cowboy. A few years after The White Dove, when Ted and his young wife were on the lam, eluding her outraged parents, they holed up at my parents’ house for a few days. Some months afterward, a man knocked on the door and asked my father if he knew a Mr Ted Berrigan. ‘Who are you?’ my father asked. ‘I’m a private investigator hired to locate Mr Berrigan.’ ‘Then get the hell off my goddamned porch.’
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ARIZONA HIGHWAYS When Daddy and his girlfriend Kam had come back to Tulsa from California as man and wife, they rented an apartment and then bought two houses, one on South Jamestown (the one where the FBI came knocking) and the other near the Tulsa International Airport, which they rented out. But they continued to spend a lot of time out west. From 1966 to 1968, Daddy was moving back and forth between Tulsa and Arizona, mainly Phoenix, Tucson, and Scottsdale, handling stolen property for Donald Sparks and Jerry James, two guys he had known back in Tulsa. He shifted some of the merchandise in Tucson, through a local bondsman, the rest in Tulsa or in Kansas City’s ‘Italian’ neighborhood. He was probably fencing for Tulsa associates, as well. According to Kam, Don Sparks was ‘a cowboy who rode rodeo, a tobacco-chewing, quiet guy, a country boy all the way, a little guy, but muscular. Jerry James was a great big guy, overweight and hyper, a high-rolling go-getter. They were completely the opposite. To us they were real friendly and fun to be around.’ To the FBI, Sparks and James were less amusing. In fact, they were two of the Ten Most Wanted men in America. In 1967, Daddy and Kam had lived a few doors down from them in a Scottsdale apartment complex, where you could rent by the day, week, or month. Sparks and James needed to keep moving around. As a precaution, Daddy rented his apartment under the name of Wayne Johnston. It was there that Kam had become pregnant, in August of 1967. The conception was accidental, as mine had been. Sparks and James, along with wife Nell and girlfriend Joan, respectively, moved on to Tucson. Daddy and Kam returned to Tulsa, then went back out to see the two couples. Kam and Wayne were staying at the James’s, a ranch-style stucco house, with a front yard, cactus, and sliding glass doors leading to a backyard patio – a normal southwestern house, located at the end of a deadend street, with desert beyond. Under the alias of Mr and Mrs J. W. Jones, Jerry and Joan had been living there for three months. It was January 23, 1968. Daddy had stashed his Cadillac at a shopping mall, but had forgotten to unload his clean shirts from the trunk. Jerry drove him back to the mall to retrieve them. The women set about cleaning house. Kam was shaking a rug outside the patio door when a swarm of men crashed in from every direction and one of them, holding a shotgun, shouted, ‘Freeze!’ She froze for a moment, then took a step. ‘I said freeze!’ the man growled.
The agent said, ‘What’s your name?’ ‘I have nothing to say to you without an attorney.’ ‘Not even your name? You’ve been well schooled,’ he said. She fell silent as the searching continued. Finally the agent said, ‘Well, Mrs Padgett, I thought I’d let you know they have your husband locked up downtown, if you want to call a bondsman.’ According to FBI records, as Bureau agents had moved in to surround Jerry James’s house, other agents saw a big white Cadillac Eldorado with two occupants leaving the area: Occupants of vehicle observed Bureau cars and immediately took off at a high rate of speed. Pursuit immediately instituted by Bureau Agents covering escape routes, while other Agents went to the house and arrested [blacked out, but probably Joan Taylor] who identified herself as [blacked out] when Agents entered the house. Pursuit at high rates of speed ensued in areas of highway construction, congested school areas, and heavy traffic toward outskirts of the city. Bureau cars gave chase at speeds of up to 95 miles per hour, but were outdistanced by the Cadillac and Cadillac observed by Bureau cars traveling in opposite direction on a different road. Agents’ effort to stop this vehicle by signaling unsuccessful, so vehicle was rammed by Bureau car to prevent escape and further high speed chase through town. Driver of the vehicle identified as Wayne Merriott Padgett, who refused to furnish any information other than his name. Padgett refused to identify other occupant of vehicle or whereabouts at moment, and denied knowing [blacked out, but probably Sparks or James]. Since Padgett was driving vehicle purchased by [blacked out, but probably James] and had just left the [blacked out, but probably James] residence, he was arrested for harboring.
The January 24 Arizona Daily Star front-page photo of Daddy, as well as his subsequent mug shots, show him wearing a windbreaker with no shirt beneath. He had never gotten to the clean shirts in the trunk of his car. The look on his face is the same as one sees in the mugshots of veteran criminals, not that of the cocky kid in the mugshot taken of him twenty-seven years before in Houston. Or is it simply the face of a forty-seven-year-old man who had left the house without a comb, who had removed his upper plate, and who had been through a massive and draining adrenalin surge? When Daddy and Jerry James had left the house, James was driving. Momentarily losing the feds outside of town, the two switched seats without stopping the car – quite a feat, considering the size of both men – and, as Daddy later told Kam, he slowed the car down but didn’t stop as James bailed out and hit the ground rolling. The FBI, the Border Patrol, State Liquor Control officers, Pima County Sheriffs’ deputies, Tucson city police officers, and the Arizona Highway Patrol unleashed a massive manhunt, even calling in a helicopter from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, scouring a large area five miles east of the city. But James, hiding all night in the desert, eluded them. The next morning he made his way to Don Sparks’s rented house, where agents then moved in and arrested both of them. The two put up no resistance, though there was a virtual arsenal in the house. Back at James’s house, agents had found a large supply of burglary tools and weapons, as well as a roomful of fur coats and silver services.
‘Well, I’m putting a robe on,’ Kam insisted. With her silk pyjamas outlining her pregnancy, she felt vulnerable before a stranger.
Coincidentally, their arrests came exactly thirty-four years after John Dillinger had been arrested, also in Tucson, the last time he ever would be arrested, before being gunned down in Chicago.
The agent lifted the cushion out of an armchair, making sure it concealed no weapons, and told her to sit down. He himself turned a dining room chair around and sat on it, facing her, never taking his eyes off her. No one had said anything about a search warrant, but she could hear the tank covers rattling on the toilets.
Jerry Ray James, 28, originally of Oklahoma City, was wanted on charges of attempted burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, and assault with a dangerous weapon, in Mays County, Oklahoma; burglarizing a bank at Mobeetie, Texas; and escaping from a Mississippi jail. Donald Eugene Sparks, 38, whose previous home
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was in Electra, Texas, was wanted on a federal indictment for residential holdups in Gadsden, Alabama. Now both fugitives were held in lieu of $100,000 bonds. It turned out that Jerry’s girlfriend Joan Taylor was wanted in El Paso for bank burglary, conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen property, and transportation in aid of racketeering. Her bond was set at $10,000. Neither Kam nor Nell Sparks was charged. Eventually Sparks and James were extradited, then tried and sent to prison. Joan Taylor was released on bail in Oklahoma City and married the bondsman, who, two years later, shot and killed her.
At the January 31 preliminary hearing in Tucson, the commissioner ruled that there was no evidence that Daddy had any knowledge of the warrant against Jerry James. Besides, the fugitive had been harboring him, not the other way around. Daddy’s charge was dropped. The legal decision was sound but, according to Kam, the $1,800 Daddy had paid the local ‘fix’ man might not have hurt, either.
Late in the afternoon of the first raid, Kam had been followed to the airport by FBI agents, who told her she would not be welcome in Arizona anymore. She took a 6 P.M. flight to Tulsa on a one-way ticket.
Years later, Kam said that she and Daddy had gone out to liven up the Christmas holidays of Sparks and James, but given the date of the FBI raid, January 23, one wonders about the extended length of this Christmas visit. Obviously they were up to something more than holiday cheer. Daddy later told one of his Tulsa buddies about taking part in residential robberies in Arizona. In one he and his accomplices dressed up in police uniforms to gain easy access to a wealthy home, robbing the occupants at gunpoint. His direct involvement in these armed robberies – a quantum leap in crime that makes my heart sink every time I think of it – would have taken place in the two years before the FBI raid. Kam confirmed that Daddy took part in these stickups, though she didn’t remember the police disguises. She recalled spraying his silver hair brown for one job, and his wearing a ski mask for another. Generally the trio wore business suits, white shirts, and ties. They wanted to look nice.
Meanwhile, Tulsa bondsman Pete King was flying from Tulsa to Tucson to post Daddy’s $1,000 bail. King was a friend, and besides, he favored making bonds for professional crooks. He also owned Tulsa’s Reeder Hotel, where a lot of small-time hoods lived. It was on Boston just two blocks north of the Orpheum Cigar Store, a walk-in bookie joint. I remember wandering into the Orpheum one afternoon when I was about 14, because I was curious about it. Inside the door was a glass display case with cigars and a cash register. An old smell of dust and tobacco smoke hung in the air. At the far end of the long room were some large blackboards high up on the wall, with lines, words, and numbers in white chalk. Off to the right, someone rose from a chair, so I turned and walked quickly out the door. It never occured to me that Wayne Padgett’s son would have been welcome there, or that the business operated under the protection of the police department, whose headquarters were only three blocks away.
By July 12, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dianos, noting that no new information had turned up to implicate Daddy, closed the case against him.
Excerpted from Oklahoma Tough: My Father, King of the Tulsa Bootleggers by Ron Padgett (Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003).
WILLIAM THOMAS INTERVIEW
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A 4,963 WORD PALINDROME A Gassy Obese Boy’s Saga by William Thomas Star? Not I! Movie – it too has a star in or a cameo who wore mask – cast are livewires. Soda-pop straws are sold, as part-encased a hot tin, I saw it in mad dog I met. Is dog rosy? Tie-dye booths in rocks. All ewes lessen ill. I see sheep in Syria? He, not I, deep in Syria, has done. No one radio drew old one. Many moths – I fondle his; no lemons are sold. Loot delis, yob, moths in a deli bundle his tin. Pins to net a ball I won – pins burst input. I loot to get a looter a spot paler. Arm a damsel – doom a dam. Not a base camera was in a frost, first on knees on top spot. Now a camera was a widened dam. Ask: Cold, do we dye? No, hot – push tap, set on to hosepipe. Nuts in a pod liven. A chasm regrets a motto of a fine veto of wars. Too bad – I all won. A sadist sent cadets – a war reign a hero derides. A bad loser, a seer, tossed a cradle – he begat to cosset – a minaret for Carole, Beryl, Nora. We’re not as poor to self. I risk cold as main is tidal. As not one to delay burden, I don’t set it on “hot”. A foot made free pie race losses runnier. As draw won pull, eye won nose. Vile hero saw order it was in – even a moron saw it – no, witnessed it: Llama drops – ark riots. Evil P.M. in a sorer opus enacts all laws but worst arose. Grab a nosey llama – nil lesser good, same nicer omen. In pins? No, it is open. If a top spins, dip in soot. Madam, as I desire, dictates: Pull aside, damsels, I set a rag not for a state bastion. A test I won e.g. a contest I won. Kidnap, in part, an idle hero. Megastars, red, rosy, tied no tie. Blast! A hero! We do risk a yeti’s opposition! He too has a wee bagel still up to here held.
crate, open a cradle, his garret? Sample hot Edam in a pan. I’m a rotten digger – often garden I plan, I agreed; All agreed? Aye, bore ensign; I’d a veto – I did lose us site. Wool to hem us? No, cotton. Site pen in acacias or petals a last angel bee frets in. I met a gorilla (simian); a mate got top snug Noel fire-lit role. Manet, Pagnol, both girdle his reed bogs. Flan I reviled, a vet nods to order it, Bob, and assign it. Totem users go help mates pull as eye meets eye. Son – mine – pots a free pie, yes? No. Left a tip? Order a dish to get. A ring is worn – it is gold. Log no Latin in a monsignor, wet or wise. Many a menu to note carrot. Cat in a boot loots; As I live, do not tell! A bare pussy, as flat on fire, I know loots guns, fires a baton, nets a hero my ale drop made too lax. If it is to rain, a man is a sign; I wore macs, no melons rot. I use moths if rats relive, sir, or retire. Vendor pays: I admire vendee, his pots net roe. Nine dames order an opal fan; I’ll ask cold log fire vendor to log igloo frost. Under Flat Six exist no devils. Marxist nods to Lenin. To Lenin I say: “Mama is a deb, besides a bad dosser.” Gen it up to get “ova” for “egg”. I recall a tarot code: yell at a dessert side-dish sale. Yes/nos a task cartel put correlate: E.S.P. rocks a man. I am a man, am no cad, I’m aware where it’s at! Fire! It’s an ogre-god to help, man, as I go. Do not swap; draw, pull a troll! It’s not a cat I milk – calf, for a fee, sews a button – knit or tie damsel over us. Mined gold lode I fill until red nudes I met in a moortop bar can. I sit, I fill a diary – trap nine men in ten-part net – oh, sir, I ask, cod nose? No, damp eel. So, to get a name! I say, Al! I am Al! Last, I felt, to breed, deer begat. To can I tie tissue – damp – or deliver Omani artist – a man of Islam. In a den mad dogs lived on minis a signor who lived afore targets in at. As eremites pull, I, we, surf, fantasise, mend a bad eye. No hero met satyr; Tony, as I stressed, won’t, so cosset satyr.
Is it sold loot? No, I suffered loss. A man is god; Amen! I came nice Tahiti (sic). It’s ale for a ban if for a fast – is role to help mash turnip? Use zoo? No – grasp order – use no zoos. Warts on time did sag. No grade “X” “A” Level? Oh, “A”! I’d a “B” or a “C”. So – pot? No, we lop. Date? Take no date! Bah! Play L.P. Miss (a lass, all right?) flew to space in NASA era. Rose no (zero) cadets ate raw. As a wise tart I fined rags red Lenin, we help pay bet – a risk – cash to Brian. I put a clam in a pool – a pool wets. Mahdi puts a stop to harem – miss it in one vote, lost in one, veto of none. Post-op, no tonsil; I ate; no tastier, eh? We sleep at noon time so I dare not at one; no time stops as I time tides. A bed: under it, roll; in a mania, panic! In a pond I did as Eros as Lee felt tenrec. “Ink” – list it under “I”. Termites put pen in a way. Democrats wonder, I too. To slay moths a dog did. I saw elf; elf, far now, is a devilish taboo, ragnaked. I hid a bootleg disc. I, saboteur, toss it in. Oops! No legs! Laminated, a cask, conker in it, negates all if it is simple. Hot pages are in a mag, nor will I peer, familiar tat, so lewd, native rot. Toner, ewe wore no trace; vagabond ewes do. Oh, Ada! Have pity! A pitiable eel – “Oh wet am I!” – to save, note: bite gill as I do. Call a matador minor, eh? As I live, don’t! Is torero no rigid animal debaser if tipsy? Ale drew esteem in a matador. A bolero, monks I rate play or go dig rocks; a can I step on. Go! Gas – it evades a bedsit – set a roost on fire. Boss sent a faded eclair to green imp or dog, I’d don a belt to boot it; if Ada hid a boot, panic. I mock comic in a mask, comedian is a wit if for eventide. Vole no emu loved is not a ferret, so pet or witness a weasel if not. I hired less, am not so bossy, as yet amateur. To stir evil, Edna can impugn a hotel: bad loos, hot on Elba: I may melt. Tart solicits it rawer, gets it rare. Push crate open; I ram buses, use no trams.
A vet on isles made us sign it, a name. Foe man one sub.
Did I say, not to idiot nor a bare ferret, to trap rat, strap loops rat? Stewpot was on. Hot? I was red! Lessen it! Fine man on pot? No, pen inside by a bad law. So I made rips – nine delays.
Ale, zoo beer, frets yon animal. Can it? New sex arose but, we sots, not to panic – it’s ale – did I barrel? Did I lose diadem, rare carrot in a jar of mine? Droop as tops sag – unseen knots.
Aside no dell I fret a wallaby; metal ferrets yodel, like so. On a wall I ate rye. Bored? No, was I rapt! One more calf? O.K., calf, one more, bossy! No! Lock cabin, rob yam, sip martini. Megastar was in a risk.
Some Roman items in a.m. ordered “Is room for a ban?” “It is,” I voted: I sat pews in aisle. Beryl, no tiro to my burden, made off for a contest, I won kiss. I may raid fine dales. I raid lochs if I to help am.
A cat ate straw as buck risk cud; evil foe, nil a red nag ate? Bah! Plan it – silage. Model foot in arboreta.
Cat? No, I’m a dog; I’m a sad loyal pet. A design I wore – kilts (a clan); if net drawn, I put it up. Royal spots snag – royal prevents rift.
Forecast for Clare v. Essex: If no rain, a man is ref. Fusspots net foxes.
I, dark Satanist, set fire – voodoo – to slat. I design a metal as parrot, I deem it now. One vast sum is no ten in set – amen! Indeed, nine drag a yam, nine drag a tie. Dame nabs flower; can we help man? Woman is worse nob.
Composer, good diet, are both super, God – label it a love of art, lustre. Video bored, no wise tale e.g. a mini tale – no sagas seen. Knack: cede no foes a canal.
Demigods pack no mask, cap nor a bonnet, for at last a case is open – I left a tip – it wets. A dog wets too. Radios to help pay my tip, pull a tip.
Mud level rose, so refill a rut. A nag of iron I made to trot I defied – I risk leg and its ulnae. Can a pen I felt to bid dollar or recite open a
Pay – as I sign I lie; clear sin it is; e.g. “Amadeus” sign I – lira for ecu, decimal – sin as liar. Trad artistes pull a doom, a drawer won’t.
Senor is a gnome, latinos’ bad eyesore. Help misses run to border, Casanova, now, or drab hotel. Ma has a heron; I sleep, pet’s on nose, sir! Rev. I rag loved art live – fine poser. Ultra-plan: I feign, I lie: cedar to disperse – last one? No, last six. Enamel bonnet for a dark car to toss a snail at. In it all, Eve lost; Seth’s a hero slain on a trap – Rise, Sir Ogre Tamer.
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Upon Siamese box I draw design. I, knight able to help, missed an alp seen in Tangier of fine metal pots. Tin I mined rages – order nine, melt ten. Tone radios; tones are not to concur. Ten-tone radar I bomb – best fire-lit so hostel side meets eerie mini red domicile. A gulf to get is not a rare tale; no time to nod. Row on, evil yobs, tug, pull. If dogs drowse, fill a rut. An era’s drawers draw. Put in mid-field in a band I dig a tub deep. Staff on a remit did refill a minaret. Sam’s a name held in a flat, or, sir, bedsit. I wonder, is it illicit ore? No ties? A bit under? Retarded? Is ’owt amiss? I’m on pot; not so Cecil, a posh guy a hero met. A red date was not to last so Cecil sat. Tip? An iota to pay, a dot; sad, I drop item. I’d ask, call, Odin, a Norseman’s god: “Pay payee we owe radio dosh o.n.o.” I to me? No, I to media. Peril in golf – is ball a “fore”? K.O.! Vexed I am re my raw desires. Alto has eye on nose but tone-muser pianist is level-eyed. I lost a tie. Blast! In uni no grades are musts. Avast! Never port! Sea may be rut. Part on rose? – It’s a petal. Define metal: Tin is … (I gulp!) can! I am a fine posse man, I pull a ton. Ron, a man I put on, I made suffer of evil emu’s sadism. Leo’s never a baron – a bad loss but evil – topple him, Leo’s lad. Assign a pen, can I? A pal is note decoding. Is damp mule tail-less? No, ill; I breed for its tone. Radio speed, to grower, grew. Open a lot? No, stamp it; if for a free peso – not ecu – deign it. Times ago stone rates, e.g. at Scilly, display a wont. No wish to get a design I, Sir Des, I’ve let? No bus sees Xmas fir. O.K. – cab – tart it up; tie lots – diamond, log or tinsel; first end errata edit. So “le vin (A.C.)”, Martini, Pils lager, one tonic. I pegged a ball up to here when I got a top star role, Beryl. Gun is too big – won’t I menace? Yes? No? Ill? A cold? Abet icecap’s nip. U.S.A. meets E.E.C. inside tacit sale – see! Beg a cotton tie, ma! No trial, so dodo traps exist. Arabs underadmire card label good hood stole. In rage erupted Etna. Will a rotunda, bare villa, to tyro. Lack car? Non-U! Get a mini! My, my, Ella, more drums per gong; get a frog – nil less. Rod, never ever sneer. Got to? I disperse last pair of devils (ah!) here today or else order cash to breed emus. Said I: “Are both superlative?” C.I.D. assign it lemon peel still. I wore halo of one bottle from a ref (football) – a tip; so hit last ego slap a mate got. Late p.m. I saw gnu here (non-a.m.) or an idea got a dog to nod – I made felt to boot. Fill in a lad? Nay, not all, Edna – lash to buoy. Did you biff one Venus? Not I! “Broth, girl!” ladies ordered – “No, with gin!” – a fine plate, maybe suet; no carton I made rots in it. Med: a hill, Etna, clears in it. Ali, Emir, to slap in/slam in. All in all I made bad losers sign it – alibi. Set a lap for a level bat.
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A bed, sir, eh? To put cat now? Drat! Such an idyll of a dog’s lair! That’s it, open it – a cage! Big nit sent rat! Some day (A.D.) send ewe. No, draw a pot now, do! Of wary rat in a six ton tub. Edna, ask satyr: “Tel. a.m.?” No, tel. p.m.; Israeli tuner is damp. Use item: “Anna Regina”. No! Dye main room (“salle”) red! Nice caps for a sea cadet in U.S.A. – Now I, space cadet, am it, sea vessel rep. Pin it on Maria, help Maria fondle her fine hotpot. No! Meet; set up to net, avoid a lesion. Set acid arena: Bruno one, Reg nil. Like it to sign in? Even I am nine-toed! I vote votes. Oh, can a nose-rut annoy? No, best is Dorset. I know, as liar, to snoop, malign. “I’ll order it to get a bedroom door,” began a miser I fed. Am I to peer, fan? Is a door by metal? Ere sunup, drowse, nod, lose magnet. Food? Buns? I’ll ask. Corn? I’ll ask. Corn – I snack. Cats snack (cold rat). Sum for a bag: nil. First, is remit “traps in net”? Yes, on a par. Coots yell over a dam I made. Bared nudist went a foot, I made roots. I tip a canon: “Row, sir, at same tide; man one: row tug.” Sewer of denim axes a wide tail – a terror recipe to hero made manic. I, to resign? I? Never! “OFT I FELT ITS SENSUOUSNESS” – title fit for evening is erotic; I named a more hot epic – error retaliated – I was examined for ewe’s gut, wore no named item. A star is worn on a cap, it is too red. Am I too fat? Newts I’d under a bed. Am I mad? Are volleys too crap? A nosey tennis part-timer sits rifling a bar of mustard. Lock cans, stack cans in rocks, all in rocks, all I snub. Do often games, old ones, word-pun use; relate, my brood, as in a free pot I made fires, I manage brood. Moor debate got tired rolling, I lampoon, so trail saw on kites. Rod sits, ebony on nature, so Nana chose to veto video. Ten in main evening is O.T.T. i.e. killing; Ere noon, urban eradicates noise, lad, I ovate not. Put esteem on top (to hen, if reheld). No fair ample hair – am not I nipper-less? Eva estimated ace caps I won as united. A Caesar of space, Cinderella’s moor, Niamey Don (a Niger-an name), ties up mad sire, nut! I, Lear, simpleton male, try tasks “A” and “E” but not “XI”. Sanitary raw food won top award one Wednesday – a demo. Start nesting, I beg a cat. I? Nepotist? Ah, trials, God! A folly, Dinah, custard won’t act up; other is debatable. Velar: of palate; sibilating is “s”. Resold: a bed, a mill, an ill animal – snip, also trim. Eilat in Israel can tell I had ’em. Tin I stored (am I not raconteuse?) by a metal pen. If a night, I wondered, rose, I’d all right orbit on sun, even off. I buoy, did you? Both Sal and Ella, Tony and Alan (“Ill if too bottle-fed, am I?”) do not. God! A toga! Ed in a Roman one, rehung! Was I, M.P. et al., to get a map? Also get salt? I, hospital lab to offer, am, or felt to be, no fool – a hero. Will it sleep? No, melting is sad ice. Vital repush to be raid, I assume. Deer, both sacred
roes, Leroy (a doter, eh?) has lived for. I, apt sales rep’s idiot to greens, revere vendors selling or fat egg-nog reps. Murder O’Malley, my mini mate – gun on rack. Calory total: liver, a bad nut or all I wanted (“et puree garnie”): lots. “Do, oh do, ogle bald racer,” I’m dared – N.U.S. bar at six. Esparto, dodo’s lair to name it, not to cage bees, elasticated, is nice. Esteem, as up in space, cite bad local lions, eye can emit now. G.I. boots in ugly rebel or rat’s potato gin (eh?) were hot. Pull a bad egg – epic, I note, no regal slip in it. Ram can … (I’ve lost idea!) Tarred nets, rifles, nitro, gold – no maid stole it. Put it, rat, back or if Sam (“X”) sees sub on televised rising, I sedate Goths. I won’t – no way. Alps, idyllic stage set, are not so gas-emitting, I educe. To nose, peer, far off, I tip mats onto lane. Power grew or got deep so I dare not stir. Of deer, billions sell. I ate lump – mad sign, I do cede – tonsil a pain, acne pang is sad also. Elm I help pot, live – tub’s sold; a ban or a bar, even so, elms, I’d assume, live for. Effused am I not, up in a manor, not all up in a mess. Open if a main A.C. plug is in it. Late men I fed late – pasties or not. “Rapture” by a maestro prevents a vast sum erased. Argon in units, albeit at solid eye level, sits in a … (I presume not) … tube, son. No eyes: a hot laser – is Ed wary? Mermaid, ex-evoker of all A.B.s, I flog. Nil I repaid. Emotion! Emotion, oh so do I dare, woe! Wee yap-yap dog’s name’s Ron. An idol lacks a dime tip, or did, as today a potato in a pitta slice costs a lot – tons. A wet adder ate more hay. Ugh! So, pal, ice cost on top? No, miss, I’m a two-sided rat, erred nut, I base it on erotic ill; It is I, red now; it is debris, rot. Alf, an idle he-man as “master animal lifer” did time, ran off at speed, but a G.I. did nab an idle if dim nit. Upwards rewards are natural life’s words, God. Fill up guts, boy, live now or do not emit one later. A rat on site got flu. Gaelic, I’m odd Erin, I’m Eire, esteemed islet. So hostile rifts ebb. Mob, I.R.A., dare not net R.U.C. – no cotton. Erase not, so I dare not nettle men in red rose garden – I’m in it. Stop late men if foreign at nine. Esplanades, simple hotel, bath, gin – king is Edward IX; obese; Ma is no pure mater. Go! Rise, sir; part anon. I also rehash tests – ‘O’ Level Latin, Italian. S.A.S., so, to track radar. Often nobleman exists alone – not sales reps – I do. Trade ceiling, i.e. final part, lures open if evil trade. Volga River rises on no steppe. Elsinore has a Hamlet – Oh, Bard, row on Avon! A sacred robot nurses simple hero’s eye; dabs on it a lemon. Gas, iron, Essex often stops, suffers in a mania. Ron fixes several crofts, acer of maple. Hot, I fish; cold, I arise laden; if diary amiss, I know it set no car off. Foedamned ruby motor, it only rebels. Ian I swept aside to visit, in a bar of moorside red, Romanis met in a more mossy ale den. Inspired am I, Oswald. A bay bed is nine p on
top. No name, niftiness – elder saw it. Oh no! Saw top wet star’s pool – part star, part otter. Refer a baron to idiot, Tony, as I did. Smart ones use submarine. Poet, arch-super-artiste, grew artistic. I lost rattle; my amiable, not oh so old, able to hang up, mina, can deliver it, so true. “Ta, matey!” – says so Boston (Mass.) elder I hit. On file S.A.E. was sent – I wrote poster re fat on side, volume one – loved it, never off it, I was in. Aide mocks a manic; I mock comic, I nap: too bad I had a fit, I too. Bottle ban odd, I go drop mine, ergo trial ceded a fatness, sober if not so, or a test is debased. A vet is agog – no pet’s in a cask – corgi dog, royal pet, a risk no more. Lob a rod at a man I meet. Sewer delays pit fires – a bedlam in a dig – iron ore rots it. No devil is a hero – Nimrod. At a mall a cod is all I get. I bet on Eva, so Tim ate whole eel bait, I pay tip, Eva had a hood sewed. No B.A. gave car to Nero, we were not to rev it and we lost a trail; I’m a free pill, I wrong a man. I erase gap; to help miss it, I fill a set. A gent in ire knocks a cadet. Animals’ gel on spoon – it is so true to basics – I’d gel; too bad I hide kangaroo baths – I lived as I won raffle, flew as I did go, dash, to my, also too tired now, star comedy: A wan, inept, upset I’m retired, nut; its ilk, nicer. Nettle feels a sore; sad, I did no panic in a pain, am an ill or tired, nude, based item; it is a spot. Semitone, not a tone, radios emit; no, on tape; elsewhere it’s a tone. Tail is not on; pots open on foot, even on it, so let oven (on, it is) simmer – a hotpot’s a stupid ham stew. Loop a loop, animal – cat up in air. Both sacks I rate by apple hewn in elder’s garden if it rates, I was aware – tasted a core. Zones or areas, Annie, cap, so twelfth girl, lass, alas, simply (alpha beta) done, Kate. Tadpole won top Oscar, Obadiah, “O” Level axed. Argon gas did emit no straw, so ozone sure drops argon, oozes up in Ruth’s ample hotel or sits afar off in a bar – of elastic, is it? I hate cinema; cinema dogs in a mass. Older effusion to old – lost, is it now? Reward: a mood.
Damsels, I note, vary tastes so cost now desserts. I say no! Try taste more honeyed. A bad nemesis at naff ruse will upset. I, mere Satanist, e.g. rater of a devil – (Oh wrong is a sin!) – I’m no devil’s god, damned. Animals, if on a mat, sit. Rain, a more vile drop, made us site it in a cottage. Breed deer – bottle fits a llama. I lay, as I emanate, go to sleep, mad ones on docks – air is hot. Entrap, net, nine men in party raid - all if it is in a crab-pot room, an itemised, under-lit, nullified old log den – I’m sure voles made it rot in knot. Tubas we see far off lack limit. A cat on still or tall upward paws to no dog is an ample hot-dog, ergo nastier if tastier, eh? We, raw amid a conman, a mama in a mask, corpse et al., err. Octuple tracks at a son’s eyelash side distressed a tall eye doctor, a tall ace, rigger of a vote: got put in egress; odd, abased, is ebbed, as I am, Amy, asinine lot! Nine lots! Don’t six rams live? Don’t six exist? Alfred, nuts or fool gigolo, trod never if gold locks all in a flap on a red rose; made nine or ten stops. I heed never, I’m Daisy, a prod never, I terrorise viler starfish. To me suitors, no lemons, came rowing. Is a sin a mania? Rot! Sit! I fix a looted amp or delay more, hasten not. A baser if snug stool, wonkier, if not – Alf says – super, a ballet to no devil, is a stool too. Ban it, actor, race to no tune. May names I wrote wrong (Is no man in it, a long old log?) sit in row, sign irate Goths; I dare drop it. At felon’s eye I peer, fast open – I’m nosey, esteem eyes. All upset, ample hogs resume totting. Is sad nabob tired? Roots don’t evade liver in Alf’s gob. Deers I held right; oblong, apt enamel or tile rifle on gun spot to get a man – aim is all. I rogate, minister. Feeble gnats, alas late, prosaic, a canine pet is not to consume hot.
All upsets it. Radar trails an Islamic educer of a riling issue, damages it in Israel. Ceiling is, I say, a plan, a case of one deck. Can knees sag as one Latin image elates, I wonder?
Nine mates, nine tons I must save now on time – editor raps a late man. G.I.s edit also, too. Do over if tests in a task radiate. Rob ran; I, too, fled.
Oboe diverts ultra foe, volatile bald ogre – push to berate; I’d do, ogre. So, p.m., Oct. first, never play organ’s stops – lay or put it up in ward ten.
“Omega” – list in alphabet.
I back colony’s sober omen of lack of lace. Rome, not Paris, a wonder. Obey retail law – a noose killed oyster. Reflate my ball, a water-filled one. Disabuse no name of emanating issue.
It’s eta; no, it’s a beta – Tsar of Tonga rates isles. Mad Ed is all upset at cider, is Ed? Is a madam too? Snip? I’d snip, spot a fine position, snip nine more cinemas. Do ogres sell in a mall? Yes, on a barge so rats row tubs. Wall last canes up or Eros, an imp, lives to irk, rasp or dam all tides sent. I won’t – I was no Roman – even I saw tired row – a sore. He lives on. “No!” we yell. Up, now! Wards are in nurses’ sole care. I, peer, fed, am too fat? Oh, not I, test no dined ruby ale; dote not on salad it’s in – I am sad. Locks I rifle so troops atone re war. Only rebel or a crofter animates so cottage beheld arcades, so trees are sold, abased. I redo, rehang, I err – a wasted act; nests I’d – as an owl – laid. A boot’s raw foot, even if a foot to master, germs (ah!) can evil do. Pan is tune-pipe – so hot notes, paths up to honeydew. Odd locks, a maddened (I was aware) macaw on top, spot no seen knots, rifts or fan, I saw. Are maces a baton, madam? Oodles, madam? Rare laptops are too late – got too lit up. Nits rub – snip now, I’ll abate, not snip, nits I held. Nubile Danish tomboys I led to old loser as no melons I held; no fish to my name. Nod lower, do I dare? No, one nods a hairy snipe. (Edit: one hairy snipe, eh?) See silliness, else we’ll ask Cornish to obey deity’s or god’s item. I, God, damn it! I was in it! To Hades, acne trap, sad loser! As warts pop, a dosser I – we – vile rat, sack! Same row, oh woe! Macaroni, rats, as a hoot, tie. I vomit on rats.
Loo, wet, issues old idiot; evading, I sneer, obey a deer, gall a deer, gain alpine dragnet for egg I’d net to ram in a pan I made to help master. Rags I held, arcane poet, arcane poetic error, all odd; I bottle fine panacean lust. I’d nag elks I ride if editor toted a minor. I fog a natural life. Roses, or level dumb ones – rows in a mown, ample, hewn acre. Wolfsbane made it a garden in May, a garden indeed.
Final cast like rowing – I sedate play, old as am I, God! Am I! On tacks I ran; I saw rats. A Gemini tramp is May born.
No, it is opposite. Yaks I rode wore hats, albeit on deity’s orders. Rats age more held in a trap, nip and I know it – set no cage now.
A gander, a line of live ducks, irk cubs. A wart, set at a cast on knee, snug as spots. A poor denim for a janitor, racer, armed aide, solid idler – rabid; I’d elastic in a pot, tons to sew. Tubes or axes went in a clam, in an oyster. Free booze – lap it all up. Pity, my apple hot, so I’d a root stew. God, a stew! Tip it at feline! Posies, a cat’s altar often, no baron packs. A monk caps dog – I meddle here – hot? Pull its leg! A bee was a hoot, eh?
pataphysics magazine 53
‘Perhaps, for the central nervous system, space was not a linear structure at all, but a model for an advanced condition of time, a metaphor for eternity which they were wrong to try to grasp…’ J. G. Ballard, ‘Myths of the Near Future’
IN RECENT YEARS HAVE ANY ASPECTS OF YOUR CONCERNS WITH SPACE ALTERED?
VITO ACCONCI BRIAN ALDISS NAT & ALI CARL ANDRE J. G. BALLARD MAURO BARACCO HAKIM BEY LAWRENCE BLOCK STEPHEN BRAM NADINE CHRISTENSEN TOM CLARK ROBERT CLARKE BRETT COLQUHOUN DAVID CORBETT PETER DAVID MADELINE GINS & ARAKAWA JOHN GIORNO MIRA GOJAK LEON GOLUB MICHAL GOVRIN THOMAS GROETZ BERNARD HEIDSIECK HORST KIECHLE JUTTA KOETHER RICHARD KOSTELANETZ CHRIS KRAUS TOM LAMBERTY NIKI MARANGOU GERALD MURNANE DAVID NOONAN CHARLES NORTH KLAUS OTTMANN MARY JO PUTNEY MIA VAN DER ROHE TERRY WINTERS
pataphysics magazine 55
Public Space in a Private Time
Time is fast, and space is slow. Space is an attempt to place time, and understand time; space is a need to have something to see and solid ground to stand on; space is a desire to follow the course of events, and to believe in cause and effect. The electronic age obliterates space, and overlaps places. You travel by airplane: you’re in one place, then it’s all white outside the window, and then – zap! – you’re in another place, with nothing in between. You’re switching channels on a TV set, re-winding and fast-forwarding a videotape, instead of watching a movie from beginning to end. The electronic age establishes the primacy of time. The video game, versus the pinball machine. The push-button phone versus the rotary phone. The digital watch versus a clock whose hands travel around a field in which each individual second has a place. In a fast time, public space – in the form of an actual place with boundaries – is a slowing-down process, an attempt to stop time and go back in history and revert to an earlier age. The plaza, bounded by buildings and owned by a corporation, is a nostalgia for 19th century nationalism.
Dear Leo In the unlikely event that you have read my utopia, WHITE MARS OR, THE MIND SET FREE, you will know that, in a near-future when travel to Mars is possible, the old-fashioned misnomer ‘space’ has been abandoned and we speak instead of ‘matrix.’ Your question regarding space perpetuates the confusion my future travellers seek to avoid. So I will talk about living space. Since I have had to live alone, my living space has expanded. Not only have I adapted, but I have developed new ways of finding more space. When I am invited out to dine or to attend parties or other meetings, I develop asperger’s syndrome. I can be chatty if I wish, or I can maintain complete silence – something I would never have dared to do as a younger man. Responses to my silence vary. Some merely believe I am old and therefore dotty, while others believe mine is the silence of wisdom, akin to the wise old owl who sat in an oak. I take this opportunity to offer you my poem Hitler’s War as an attachment, hoping you might care to use it in a future issue of your excellent journal.
Hitler’s War as Foreshadowed by Early Criticisms of Late Beethoven Certainly there is an interesting Intensity here, but also something bizarre and a little absurd. Some of his most recent compositions for percussion and voice leave many admirers in the dark. He increasingly withdraws into himself thus absenting himself steadily from the pursuits and interests of his listeners. He seems to have lost contact with reality Bombarding us with many false notes paying heed to nothing but his own concerns. The great composer has, through his deafness, lost discriminating judgement. We must admit that what is missing is that oceanic sense of being so needful in a musician whose music has hitherto been unparalleled and incredible. His disturbed sensibility as expressed in these variations seems to have forgone all possibilities for future Utopian redemption.
NAT & ALI
I started to permanently live in Australia in 1996. Since then my attention towards issues concerning the state or relativity between elements that are conventionally perceived as distinct from each other (subject and object, here and there, foreground and background, inside and outside, etc.) has gradually and increasingly intensified. My enquiries on the un-separateness of things, on their intrinsic and essential way of ‘belonging together’ (according to a definition proposed by Heidegger), have become strong and pervasive inputs of the investigations I usually carry out in relation to issues associated with the fields of architecture, landscape and urban studies. I can’t consciously say whether this can also be ascribed to a condition of uncertainty and often vagueness directly related to my own relative way of appropriating/misappropriating – and navigating throughout – a foreign language; or perhaps to the new experience of a landscape extremely different from that of my previous European conditions – a new Australian landscape, both urban and natural, imbued, at least according to my original European way of experiencing space, by a stronger dimension of horizontality, a greater presence of the sky, a deeper sense of expanse. When I first visited the new NGV in Federation Square, these issues, together with the reasons of my pervasive interest in forms of architecture/landscape/infrastructure, strongly and suddenly emerged, somehow retrospectively making sense of their continuous presence in my life, when I stepped in the ‘red room’ with the Pilbara Series works painted by Fred Williams. Since then that room has become one of my favorite places in Melbourne. Perhaps, thinking here of the question posed by Pataphysics, the experience of those works, even more as a whole in that room, may have as well contributed to affect, possibly to reinforce, some aspects of my concerns with space. Going to that room has become a way for me to visibly experience the invisible and incomprehensible intermingling of foreground and background, of here and there, of up and down, of sky and ground.
Mauro Baracco (Melbourne, October 2004)
In recent years have any aspects of your concerns with space altered? Only in that I seem to be occupying rather more of it.
dear leo yanni and Judith, thanks for the invitation to respond to the question. i’m not sure what the ballard quote means. it’s hard to talk about space. i made this expansion of a quote from lawrence weiner which says something about space and about why it’s hard to talk about. ‘art is and must be an empirical reality concerned with the relationships of human beings to objects and objects to objects in relation to human beings’ lawrence weiner art is and must be an empirical reality concerned with the relationships of human beings to objects and objects to objects in relation to human beings. the relationships of human beings to objects and objects to objects in relation to human beings. human beings : objects human beings in relation to objects human beings : (objects : objects) human beings in relation to (objects in relation to objects) human beings : (objects : (objects : objects)) human beings in relation to (objects in relation to (objects in relation to objects)) human beings : (objects : (objects : (objects : objects))) human beings in relation to (objects in relation to (objects in relation to (objects in relation to objects))) etc. human beings : (human beings : objects) human beings in relation to (human beings in relation to objects) human beings : (human beings : (objects : objects)) human beings in relation to (human beings in relation to (objects in relation to objects)) human beings : (human beings : (human beings: (objects : objects))) human beings in relation to (human beings in relation to (human beings in relation to (objects in relation to objects))) etc. human beings : (human beings : objects) human beings in relation to (human beings in relation to objects) human beings : (objects : human beings) human beings in relation to (objects in relation to human beings) objects : (objects : human beings) objects in relation to (objects in relation to human beings) human beings : (objects : (objects : human beings)) human beings in relation to (objects in relation to (objects in relation to human beings)) (human beings : objects) : (objects : human beings) (human beings in relation to objects) in relation to (objects in relation to human beings) (human beings : objects : objects) : human beings (human beings in relation to objects in relation to objects) in relation to human beings
Dear Yanni, Yes sure, my experience of space is constantly changing. Recently I moved in with my boyfriend and started a succulent garden, that altered things. My sense of space is affected by community, politics, technology, being in the desert... You know the way Agnes Varda merges herself into her films, the way she’s led by her hands, her intuition as well as her new handheld camera. She goes between documentary and fiction, collecting and discovering gradually, bit by bit. She’s silent and close to her subject. It sounds ominous and its a bit nerve-racking but as a woman it’s that kind of proximity of things that most effects my experience of space. The precarious merging of me with the world makes me feel like I’m always on the road. All the best with your next issue, Nadine
Time’s vague vista opens up through Successive rooms we’ve dumbly cruised among In possession as we’ve never quite been At the witching hour, though now there’s little bang Left to relish, nothing much, just these same vague Vistas, all lost, receding the way the man On Jupiter mission got littler And littler, as we, older, grow closer To other spheres than to that earth we recall
Many years ago, the ghostly head of psychologist, Carl Jung, appeared to me in a dream and led me into a workshop where everything was made of living stone. Words were put into my mouth that said, ‘There is no such thing as death, only change.’ I also came to realise that ‘Everything in the universe is in some way alive, even what we call “dead” matter, and even empty space itself seems to have life.’ None of this reflected my conscious opinions at that time, but was, in fact, information supplied by what Jung termed the ‘collected unconscious’ concerning the true nature of reality. It turned out that the dream was the first of well over twenty thousand forming my ‘individuation process,’ another term of Jung’s, referring to the growth and broadening of the human personality by means of integration of archetypal reality through the unconscious. Everything I have learned since in the inner processes, all of the information supplied by the collective unconscious, has fully substantiated the declarations of the initial dream. Jung admitted himself that the term ‘collective unconscious’ is an inadequate one, for what is actually involved is another reality consisting of soul and spirit lying behind the whole physical universe, forming the foundations of full and ultimate reality itself, whatever that may be. This is why initiates into the Mysteries, from the beginning of ancient Egypt onwards, always stated that reality consists of body, soul, and spirit. Indeed, if the individuation process goes far enough and is successful, then the unification of these opposites may be achieved at highest level. Not just within the human individual, but in wider reality itself. Not only are physical objects in outer reality countermatched by soul/spirit contents of inner reality, but also seemingly the space in which each exists. Nevertheless, we must be extremely careful of imputing the same laws and situations to inner reality that apply to outer reality. Though distance in space seems to exist in unconscious/spirit reality, as in outer reality, when we experience it through dreams and active imagination, this in itself is misleading. It is apparently presented to us in such a way because we would not comprehend it in its true form. We would ask, how could contents move in a reality that has no space and time, though this seems to happen? Yet there is no certainty even as regards to the physical universe, for as another of my dreams stated, ‘Time is a con-trick, set up for man to live his worldly existence within.’ This meant ‘contrick’ in a positive sense, in that we are fooled into believing the reality we function in is actually how it appears, but that it has really been ‘set up’ that way artificially for a purpose. Being in a timeless reality, the spirit apparently cannot grow or evolve of and by itself, and needs life in physical reality to accomplish this on its behalf. In other words, man and the rest of nature exist on behalf of spirit/soul reality. So time as we know it, or think we know it, is ultimately an illusion, and through the collective unconscious does not exist, although again, there is an appearance of time in certain
circumstances. This has been called ‘sacred time,’ which, the mystics have always told us, is the only real time, and being out of time and timeless, is therefore for all time. Consequently, the truths of sacred time, the holy truths, are themselves timeless and for all time. When Jung had a heart attack and as good as died briefly, he found himself going over to the afterlife. He says that as all earthly desires fell away, he at the same time became the sum total of his worldly life, became his own history, and was now taking this over to a gigantic dark rock that was also a temple. This would be the Higher Self, the higher immortal to which we mortals are attached, sometimes symbolised as a temple. However, Jung did not die and was fated to recover, though from then on worldly reality was never the same to him again. He fully realised that the true meaning of life, and indeed, of the whole physical universe, lies with the spirit in a much wider reality, of which the physical universe is but an aspect. Spirit imputes a living numinosity to matter that the latter totally lacks in a split-off state, Over the last few centuries, modern man became increasingly dissociated from the concept of numinous, holy reality, and with the development of science and the exploration of matter, became entrapped in a way of rationalistic thinking that severely demeaned the very purpose of the life process. Though science has been forced to concede, and may even be eager to proclaim, that extensions to the reality we know must be fact, so that the physical universe is just a small corner of ultimate, fuller reality, this is nevertheless still viewed in a materialistic way, so that the concept that it could in total be of a spiritual and even holy nature is not even considered. Yet anyone who makes the journey through the collective unconscious, through that other reality that lies behind the conscious universe, is soon forced to realise that those extensions are indeed of a spirit/soul nature, and that this symbolizes its contents to us in the form of archetypes that can only be called religious or spiritual, though of the darkness as well as of the light. These apparently have the ability to break through the veil to the material world, as for example the visions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, or the many sightings of UFOs and aliens – soul and spirit representations, therefore. The ultimate truth of man is that he is part of the Higher Self, and the Higher Self is in lower aspect part of the World Soul, and in higher aspect part of God. During the inner processes, consciousness may become unified with the Self to a degree, and through the Self as mediator, with God. This from the view of the spirit amounts, as Jung tells us, to God’s incarnation, in which the timeless reality of the spirit fuses with the world of matter, in what we take to be worldly time, though still in the unconscious. In other words, matter becomes spiritualised, while spirit becomes concretised in matter (or soul), the meaning, incidentally, of Christ changing water into wine.
My study of math as an undergraduate acquainted me with the notion that, just as shadows are two-dimensional projections of three-dimensional objects, so might three-dimensional space in its entirety comprise a ‘shadow’ of a four-dimensional space. This conceptualization can be extended to spaces of infinite dimensionality, i.e., n-dimensions where n is an integer of any size. The intrinsically limited nature of perception – i.e., one’s point of view being confined to the limited number of dimensions one knowingly inhabits – accentuated my notion that there is a fundamental reality, or truth, which can only be guessed at. This became one of two spiritual insights of my life. It was enhanced one night while working on a proof concerning isomorphic projections of topological spaces, and the realization that two distinct and representationally different mathematical objects could be mapped onto one another in such a way as to reveal their intrinsic unity. Multiplicity could be an illusion, I realized, and this intuition was quite profound. The real ‘thing’ could not be seen but was more real than either of its two ‘representations.’ The second major spiritual insight of my life concerned the dead. I have had profound and unexpected connections with both my brother and my late wife after their respective passings – nothing as pronounced as visions or voices but quite distinct awarenesses of their presence. Both of these insights concern a sudden appreciation of something both concrete and invisible – meaning that visible space, as I knew it, was inherently incomplete. And that remains my conviction: not that space or time are illusory, but our grasp of them is inherently limited. Thus our epistemological connection with existence should be characterized by nothing so much as humility. Thank you for the chance to get this off my metaphorical, and thus invisible, chest.
In recent years have any aspects of your concerns with space altered?
Yes. Iâ€™ve become increasingly concerned that thereâ€™s no longer enough of it to accommodate all my stuff.
All that used to be known as space lies within the extended domain of a person (an organism that persons). Through her involvement with all that takes shape as her body and that stretches out and takes shape between her body and the limits and margins of what surrounds her, by means of landing sites that report on what’s ‘there,’ a person co-constructs (together with bioscleave) an architectural body. Bioscleave: all that cleaves as bios.
In recent years have any aspects of your concerns with space altered?
It’s not what happens, it’s how you handle it.
Perhaps if there was a suspension of boundaries between things, with either space invading being or being poured out into space, time would cease to exist, time would be cut out.
Dear Leo, Yanni, and Judith,
Hi. Here is a statement about space, and since it’s a subject of which I know so little, I can philosophize! Now space and time are increasingly ‘up in the air’! ‘Spaced out’! While I am or hope to be (!) ‘spaced out’ – in your face! In my face! The cosmos expands and devolves. What can it mean today to be insurrectionary in art? The book on drawings is still being set up. Hopefully it will appear within a relatively short time! How do you like the leadership of America for a Free World?! We have the worst and meanest president in the history of this country. There are others involved of course, but it looks to me like this whole lousy business was set up by just two individuals, Bush and Cheney. And look at the havoc they are creating. How about an issue on Iraq?
All best wishes,
Layers of Changing Space in Jerusalem View from a Hilltop The space around me is Jerusalem – my city for over twenty years, since I moved here from my hometown, Tel Aviv, returning from my studies in Paris. All these years, still a pilgrim in Jerusalem, I have been exploring its unique space. Breathtakingly beautiful, always surprising, uncontainable, and constantly changing: the changing light of the four winds of its slopes between desert and lush vegetation, the changing seasons, the changing years of rain or drought, and the changing history – imprinted on its landscape. During the last ten years, Jerusalem’s space has become the focus of my writing Snapshots (*), a novel – whose narrator, the woman architect Ilana Tzuriel, is planning a Monument, or rather an ‘Anti-Monument’ for Peace in Jerusalem. Ilana’s fictional project is located in a real place: on the highest hilltop of Jerusalem, The Mount of the Evil Counsel. It is seven minutes drive from my apartment, just outside downtown; yet, it stays as a foreign ‘enclave,’ belonging to another space and time. A bare hilltop, covered with rocks, thistles, wild herbs, broken glass. From time to time a herd of sheep, led by an Arab Shepard, crosses it. On its slope,
next to the remains of a Jordanian outpost, stands the ritual bath of the nearby Jewish neighborhood, and on the very top of the hill erupts the communication antenna of the U.N. forces, stationed at the ‘Governor’s House,’ a relic from the British Mandate. A desolate Hilltop that dominates an incomparable panoramic view of three hundred and sixty degrees. A space intensely layered – topographically, ethnically, politically and textually (**). The Hilltop’s name, The Mount of Evil Counsel, is a quote from the New Testament, and looking northwards it faces the Saint Sepulcher with Jesus’ grave. To this hilltop Abraham and Isaac, with the young men and the donkey who accompanied them, arrived after three days walk, and watched ‘from afar’ Mount Moriah. And from here Celestial Jerusalem was shown to Ezekiel by the Angel. Beyond the Old City walls, constructed by Suleiman the Magnificent, stands the golden dome of The Mosque of Omar, where Mohammed leaped on horseback to heaven. The famous view to the north crosses the deep valley of Hinnom, also known as Gehennom or ‘Hell.’ At its bottom, springs the Gihon source, the only natural source of water for the city – next to the three thousand year old site of
David’s City. A few steps farther are Gethsemane and the old Jewish cemetery on The Mount of Olives, by the Arab village of Sillouan. To the South, the hilltop faces Bethlehem and the truncated Mount of Herodion, with the remains of Herod’s winter palace. From the fountains near Hebron, farther to the south, the first century aqueduct carried water to the Temple. Today Arab villages and Jewish settlements cover the hilltops, up to the Arab village of Zur Bah’r and the Jewish neighborhood of Talpiot. To the West, lay the dense rooftops and greenery of the new city. And to the East gapes the abyss of the Dead Sea, an enduring deep tone. The deepest place on earth, at the bottom of the Afro-Syrian rift, shows like a long crack less then twenty miles away; and beyond it, on the other side of the river Jordan and the Jordanian border, the Moab Mountains hover. A hallucinating décor that gives a sort of supernatural if not divine dimension to the place (***). For years I have been attracted to this hilltop – climbing to observe from its heights how the city’s space is changing. During the ’80s, a wooden café in a ’60s style, ‘The Shepherds’ Hut,’ stood there, just above the last houses of the Arab village of Jabl Muchabr. I used to come here late in
the afternoon to have a coffee and write in front of the view. During the first Intifada (1987–1991), it was burned down. In its place a Frontier Patrol shack was built. In the years that followed the Oslo agreement (1993), a delicate balance was maintained among the Jewish neighborhoods, the U.N. base and the surrounding Arab villages, leaving the hilltop for children’s games or shepherds. Tension was in the air, like a transparent frontier of fear mixed with exquisite beauty, always palpable, whenever I parked my car and climbed up the hill with my drafts of Snapshots.
next to the Western Wall, cutting across borders of holiness and hatred in a gush of life.
My character, Ilana Tzuriel, planned the Peace Monument for the hilltop as a changing Installation of huts, or Succas – inspired by the intentionally temporary hut that becomes, during the Holiday of Succoth, the dwelling place for Jews – in memory of Exodus and the nation’s wandering in the desert. In Ilana’s project, the visitors-dwellers would study at a ‘Release Center,’ constructed of water and glass, a contemporary interpretation of the laws of ‘Release’ or ‘Sabbatical Year.’ According to these biblical laws (never fully applied), all land, property or debts are liberated every seventh year, during which the land stays fallow, the crops are given freely to all, and fences are knocked down, in a reminder of Man’s inability to own the land, ‘for the whole earth is Mine’ a notion still poignantly radical in a global market world, or in Jerusalem.
Once again, these very days, Jerusalem’s space is radically changing. Facing the Hilltop, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, the construction of the Separation Barrier, known as ‘The Wall,’ advances like a snail, crossing Abu-Dis, reaching southwards. It painfully changes lives. It radically changes the city, the region’s space. It cuts Jerusalem from Bethlehem, from Hebron and from the natural space of the Judean Mountains. It creates a barrier between Arab villages. It condemns to isolation or dismantling Jewish settlements. It separates de facto Israel from Palestine.
The armed conflict of the Second Intifada broke out in the fall of 2000. For long months Jerusalem has been under siege, with dozens of terrorists’ attacks and suicide bombers leaving hundreds of dead and wounded. The Frontier Patrol shack was turned into an armored post, and on the road coming up from Jabl Muchabr a checkpoint was installed. From Bethlehem the sound of Palestinian Militias firing could be heard as well as the retaliation of Israeli tanks. My growing pain and rage were mixed with despair. In my last draft of Snapshots, Ilana’s plan was expanded to include a ‘prophetic’ project of rebuilding the ancient water aqueduct that crosses the present zone of fighting from Hebron to Jerusalem. As the war intensified, so did the imaginary flow between The Square of The Mosques to the Saint Sepulcher, in a continuing cascade
I kept sneaking to the hill top. One day I was amazed to discover bulldozers on its slope. A few months later the stunningly beautiful new Promenade, designed by Laurence Halpern, was ready, as if an echo to Snapshots. The Promenade has not been officially inaugurated, because of the danger. Yet, in summer afternoons its paths are visited by Arab children and mothers from Jabl Muchabr, some courageous joggers, and a few strollers.
A security barrier, replacing the frozen Peace Talks turned into violence. Originally vehemently advocated by the Israeli Left, being built by a right-wing government. Its route, designed to protect as many Jewish neighborhoods as possible, harms the Palestinians. It becomes for a period the galvanizing symbol of the Palestinian Fight for Freedom, and of Anti-barrier demonstrations. It provokes from the International Court of Justice a declaration of its illegality. While a recent ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court judges it legal, but has demanded some changes in its route to make it less onerous for Palestinians. Is this barrier going to be ‘The Wall of The Ghetto?’ And for whom: for Palestinians or for Israelis? Will it discourage terrorism, and put a border on hatred, or only instigate more frustration and hatred? Does it establish the grounds for a future recognizable border at the end of occupation? Is this barrier the unavoidable stage of separation needed to delineate property, identity, nationhood? Is it a fatal mistake, or is it a means to one day enable the tearing down of barriers and of fences, as in the year of ‘Release’?
I climb the Hill, watching this complex space changing, year after year, raising the most challenging question about space: What is the space that will make a place for the complexity of otherness; multilayered enough to enable the co-existence of fully distinct ‘others’? Facing this question will require not less then a global revolution – in the Muslim Jihad’s claims to ownership of the land, in the Christian Western aspirations of dominion over Celestial Jerusalem and terrestrial oil wells, and in the Zionist dream. And maybe there also must be a Jewish dimension of ‘Release.’ I stand on the Hilltop in the midst of an oppressive present moment. I watch this intense space imprinted with history like an Archive of the layered story of Western civilization, with its heights of belief, love and poetry and its abysses of stupidity, fanaticism, jealousy and cruelty. I stand on the Hilltop, in the midst of this amazingly beautiful arena of nature and mankind, and I cannot resist naming it ‘outrageous hope.’ Another synonym for ‘Jerusalem.’ August 2004 *
Michal Govrin, Snapshots (Hevzekim, Am Oved, 2002) translated from the Hebrew by Barbara Harshav, forthcoming in Riverhead Books of Penguin-Putnam, New York. Hevzekim won the 2003 ‘Best Book of the Year’ Akum Award in Israel.
** For a historical-political analysis see: Michal Govrin: ‘Martyrs or Survivors, the Mythical Dimension of the Story War,’ Partisan Review, 2003/2. *** For a reading of Jerusalem as a feminine place of desire see: Michal Govrin, The Name, translated from the Hebrew by Barbara Harshav, Riverhead Books of Penguin-Putnam, 1998; And, Michal Govrin, ‘Chant d’outre tombe,’ in: Le passage des frontières: Autour du travail de Jacques Derrida, colloque de Cerisy, Galilée, 1994. Photograph of view from the hill by Rachel-Shlomit Brezis. Drawing by Michal Govrin. Translated from the Hebrew by the author and Judith Graves Miller.
Space has never been linear. Had it been Cartesian in recent history, then the
comfortable embeddedness changes to one of gently being pushed combined
digital condition today is such that space is seen as a continuum which is
with the localised feeling of skin contracting where evaporation is high.
broken down into a large quantity of discrete elements. Just as digital images are broken down into pixels, space can be broken
An oscillating fan introduces the concept of Ma, defined as ‘time and space between.’1 The ‘between,’ the rate of oscillation as well as the distance of
down into a large number of finite volumes. A pixel with a transparent colour
the fan, needs constant adjustment. Whilst one-directional, the interaction
value would be the equivalent to a finite volume of invisible air. Yes, contrary
between the fan and myself is as real as the one between people who, like
to what our eyes would have us believe, space on earth is not empty.
molecules interact by computing the appropriate distance when passing
Embedded in nature at one level we are even more so at the molecular level.
each other on the pavement, stand next to each other or seat themselves
Interlude I: Bangkok, where I have been living for the past 2 years, is a
in a restaurant. The model simulating such interactions with nodes and
saturated city, highly stimulating with regards to imagery, noise and smells.
connections in space through time is an amorphous construct. Arrested at a
Urban space is different here, interpersonal space a bit more so, but the most
particular point in time the resulting spatial construct would be highly irregular.
profound differences take place in the space right next to your skin.
Only in extreme cases of marching armies would it result in a regular grid.
I sweat, and I am reminded that the space immediately next to me is not empty. Air molecules interact constantly with the molecules making up the
Just as the Swedish word pair of mirrored letters – ‘rum’ and ‘mur’ – connote a mutually necessary condition,2 our built environment can, and should,
cells of my derma. High in energy the warm air relentlessly energizes my skin.
incorporate information as to the conceptual structuring of the space within/
Through its outermost layer my body senses the materiality of the immediate
without. To this end, with Amorphous Constructions I use intuitive irregularity
space surrounding me. As droplets of sweat evaporate they take a small
and natural imperfection to impregnate the visible constructs with the deeper
amount of energy with them cooling down the area of departure. The natural
structure of digital space.
reflex of the body attempts to increase the area of potential evaporation
– shedding layers of clothing, spreading out its limbs, embedding itself in this
Note also: paragraph 62. ‘Fireworks in Japan are released one at a time with an interval between each to appreciate the Ma as well as the beauty of each. Fireworks in America are displayed as many as possible at one time to fill up the dark sky. It is a power show.’
soup of humidity. Winter in Seoul. The exact opposite takes place in conditions of extreme cold where the molecules next to my skin suck away energy. The body tries to contract, limbs hug. Interlude II: Back in Bangkok: A fan increases the amount of air passing my skin and thus the amount of droplets which evaporate. The feeling of
Kunio Kudo, ‘Purity Insanity Playfulness’ in Scott Marble et al [eds.], Architecture and Body, Rizzoli, New York, 1988, paragraph 46.
‘The Swedish word for ‘room’ is rum: its mirror image is mur, which means wall. That is a coincidence which contains a truth: halls and walls are mutually necessary.’ Thomas Hellquist, ‘Room on the run’ in ‘Rummet pa Rymmen,’ Arkitekturmuseet och författarna, Stockholm, 1998, 8–15.
pataphysics magazine 80
Berlin Death Trip #2
Outside the apartment in Prinzlauerberg, the early evening dusk seems really Kodachrome and magical. They walk across the square, and the bleeding mush of headlights smeared across the sky reminds her of red light on the Greenwich Avenue fire truck in the Love Stinks movie. She smells the fragrance of the fucking linden trees, it was the same smell she’d read about described nearly a century ago by the exiled artist Hugo Ball in his diary. They’re on their way to another meeting of Jerome’s at the Berliner Bar, but underneath her rage she feels that time here’s moving differently, more slowly. Sylvie thinks: It’s very ancient here. A shabby row of granite buildings slumped as if they’re holding hands around the park; a statue dipped in pigeon-shit and red graffiti. They pass a storefront with a window full of marionettes and puppet body-parts: arms and legs and heads. She imagines the ancient shopkeeper wrapping parcels up with brown paper and string; she imagines cigarette burns along the wood-frame edges of the counter. A calendar above the door to a curtained-off back-room; an electric jug for making coffee. Recently, there was a segment on the Letterman show to this effect, in which Dave spotlighted Famous Shoe Repair Shops in Manhattan. This was before they’d disappeared. The shoe repairmen were ridiculous, of course, just as ridiculous as the idea that something as replaceable as a shoe would be repaired and not discarded. A sign, hand-painted in blue script, hangs above the window. What she is feeling is a surfeit of unescalated time, a time when buildings were receptacles for sediments of human stories. The art historian Gert Schiff once said to her about Hugo Ball, and all the other Zurich dadaists: ‘They were working there, for a long time, where no one noticed what they did, in absolute obscurity.’ And now Gert Schiff is dead.
She thinks about the walks she took in New York City when she arrived there in the 1970s: Jeff Weiss and Carlos Ricardo Martinez’s storefront puppet show and theater; people sitting on the stoops; the Kiwi Bar; the pool tables. The time before she questioned herself every minute of the day, because there was something mysterious and wonderful around the turn of every corner. In New York the mystery’s been used up, but in the former-east, you somehow feel it. She wishes that Jerome could feel this too, that they could simply walk around Berlin together. But she’s angry too, and it’s impossible to say it. Her dreaminess, and all their old routines, now seem doomed and dated. Why does he betray her in this way? Both of them grew up with politics. Content was their bond, mixed in with a cheerful nihilism. Why does he sell out everything they’d once agreed, together, to believe in? How can he tolerate these Euro-counterculture men who ignore the basic premises of feminism? Since arriving in Berlin she’s watched him at the beck and call of people who, at best, he feels indifference and contempt for. Why hasn’t he started working on his book? Once, she would have looked at him and said Jerome, I’m fighting for your soul, but now this seems ridiculous, a hopeless cause, she’s simply fighting to release the rage that ricochets around her body. She’s 36 years old. Jerome can’t understand why she’s so angry. There was a time when she believed she could amuse herself, just having interesting thoughts and sharing them with Jerome, forever. But now it’s not enough. Her capricious observations have started hardening into principles. She is not the mousey shy defenseless waif he thought he could recast his furtive youth with. When Sylvie’s mad – which is almost every day now – her mother’s Bronx Jew accent rises in her voice, criticizing everything. He says: ‘You cannot like me if you do not like my friends.’ She is a shrewish hag, just like the women in the paintings. He wonders why she doesn’t just come out, admit that she’s a lesbian?
from Torpor, forthcoming Semiotexte/MIT Press
Dear Judith, Leo and Yanni, thanks a lot for your invitation – I know we missed the deadline but I’d like to answer anyway since I like the question a lot. What changed the Merve space the most was Heidi’s death 2 years ago – space becomes a phantom-space which becomes ‘unfillable’ by circling it. But since I think Sun Ra said that ‘There’s no place like Space’ I stepped in and out at once. To become a bit more precise about where I think we’re heading, have a look at the table below trying to get as much space on space out of a blank sheet / a screen shot:
Sense Status Systematics Operation Unit Category Density Dimension Mode Code Topos Expert
Best Tom Merve Verlag
Real Space Synaesthetic High Density Net Explosion m3 Real Sky Scraper 3-D-Space Analog Building City Architect
Computing Space Tactile High Integration Circuit Implosion Bit  Symbolic Integrated Circuit 1-D-Chain Discrete Writing Chip Engineer
Computed Space Visual High Resolution Network Presence Pixel [spot] Hyperreal Integrated Calculus 0-D Hybride Ciphering CAVE Mathematician
My concept of space
In the recent years my concept of space has changed altogether. The present space is diminishing and the historical space is expanding. I move from Alexandria of the Ptolemes to Delos on an open boat traveling from island to island in the Cyclades. The space is deep blue, the island ash colored. Delos is chained with diamond chains to the bottom of the sea since Apollo has been born under a palm tree there and the island stopped emerging and disappearing from the waters. From there the boat departs for the Nile Delta and the fabulous city of Alexandria. On its streets I follow a procession of flute players. As a disciple I follow them deep into the night. A faint music covers the city until dawn.
Niki Marangou, 30/9/04 Nicosia
in recent years i have been painting a lot more and making fewer films .. so i have been thinking a lot more about pictorial space.. a lot of the pictures particularly the gouaches are arrived at through a process of montage .. taking images from different sources and configuring them through the process of painting to form new spatial scenarios. the pictures become like film-stills or moments in an undetermined narrative. yesterday diving in an underwater cenote or cavern in mexico i was suspended in 20 meters of crystal clear fresh water unable to tell apart from rising air bubbles whether i was floating in air or water.. this moment profoundly shifted my notion of a bodily relationship to one of our most known experiences of space.. gravity..
Dear Leo and Yanni,
That’s a provocative remark by Ballard. For me, of late, it’s aspects of concerns with both space and time that have (been) altered: possibly not waist or chest but certainly sleeves, inseam, cuffs. I still like the metaphor of ‘spacing out.’ I’ve become a little disenchanted with Kevin Spacey, who I thought for a time was going to be the next great American actor, didn’t you?
The philosopher Edward Casey suggests (in the forthcoming second edition of his book Spirit and Soul) that the postmodern is really about re-grounding Space, and returning Being to Place, which unites Earth, World, Time, and Space into a place of soul or anima loci. My own thinking has always been less concerned with place or space than with displacement, deterritorialization, and the nonsite of the abject. But as the accelerated globalization and displacement of Being in some parts of the world effects increased regionalism in other parts I have come to believe that the true character of Being lies in an eternal dialectic of Place and Space, of â€˜placeabilityâ€™ and displacement, which the great Robert Smithson already foresaw thirty years ago in his pivotal environmental installations he called Site/Non-Site.
Thank you for the invitation to respond to your question: In recent years all aspects of my concerns with space have altered. That’s the nature of pictorial space – it’s mutable and multiple; an assemblage of moving psychic visualizations. De Kooning said ‘The nice thing about space is it just keeps going.’ Going, going, gone.
GEMINI BY TONY TOWLE
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THE NAGI GROUP BY RANALD WHITE
My outsideness, however, was nothing new. Its position varied in relation to points though – those earlier students as a matter of fact were intolerable without my grip, completely painless, upon the angles of their sight lines. There lay the true condition of their disharmony, and I thought at least something could be done, not necessarily with the certifiable docility of their condition, but rather the arrays of semi-unknowing belief in the dotted lines emitted from their eyes.
The people just fade to nothing if we don’t do certain things. If they ruminate for a certain amount of time they’re going to fade here. The space is cursed or something. People will not last if they think or concentrate or meditate. You will fade to gray and then nothing if you are not distracted. The bell is hit twice, and you should be programmed to understand what it means – not dream, not dream.
A rationalization then: the physics of transportation evolved only a little in a very long time and thus any comment on such matters should take this into account. The psycho-diagram of disbelief propagated by NAGI allowed only for a little abstraction. Their words were a propulsion, in fact.
Through the rooms we went, their reality-defiance astonishing me. The guide kept going, leading the way as all good guides should, but it soon became unbearable. He waved me to come forward a little further past another of the huge gray walls, this one’s edge extending up diagonally into darkness and piercing the damp soil we’d been walking on. But I knew what was coming up after the metal drums dumped in the water and I told him quick smart, ‘No, no, that’s enough!’ I awoke in an all-encompassing night filled with vibrations, the acrid smell of excavated church-side drains wafting up from stories below, skeletons gripped to their pneumatic drills… The facts I had so far had left me with the seemingly unanswerable question: Had the NAGI group somehow ‘seen’ me way back in time and space as a younger person imparting my views to those obedient people? That I may have been being observed sent a religious chill through me, all the more so by the fact that NAGI had never been anywhere near that all-understanding tree in the playground. None of the students or teachers had cared at the time of course – it was my contrivance. And I was elegant in my love of the their newfound worldly visions – attributable, absolutely, to my persuasions. Such it was, I delivered day after day, week after week, the most noble instructions to their increasingly erased consciousness. The erasure was not mine. Never was there the violence we now understand through the attitude towards cults in the general world. My visions had been peculiar however (at least if you viewed them alongside the training schedules that dully endorsed their dangerous official nutrition) and the shift of diet toward certain highly-sugared foods, for instance, was apparent as what I would later call a ‘tunnel device.’ I didn’t go on about right or wrong. Nor did I take their right to think away. Who, for instance, does think? They wanted to live and I gave them an opportunity. They would always speak of practical things, how do you do these things and therefore live as a dog or pig would? And music, another thing of importance, was never entirely away from them. You asked, did I like their peddling minds? I gave them a structure, and so did the sugar. The NAGI group know where I’m going with this mother, and if damage is done to my trajectory as a result I will compensate. The ambivalence of NAGI’s streetwise manner… the new structures they settled their talents toward, mocking and canceling what I and the rest of our group and also every other damn person I’d ever met hadn’t considered. NAGI doing something to electricity – turning it on itself, the secret core of capitalism, downgraded, upgraded, reversed, lit up through some almost religious evaluation of its unknowable properties. To see it all work was astonishing, a visual hierarchy of convincing fakeness. But their quick discussion encompassed only the raw diagram of their actions – meanwhile I was left with a vantage point available only to those ‘outside.’
Through many a bad time I wrote. I knew the compulsion of their words, shredding away from me a reality I’d only halfapproached in disbelief. How many hours can one spend with such a contemplation before something – in my case the NAGI group – found its way in? But in fact I’d never corresponded with any other potentiality except via the words I’d used, the stories I’d told and projected. Not for me such a version of the truth. I’d gained several of those versions, muddy and indiscriminate, from observing but never obeying the inviolate laws. The NAGI group were so frank and it seemed to me fortunate. They knew their boundaries were forever changing, and that I alone could help them with their pathways. I was alarmed by their disunity. What had I expected? Some kind of militaristic maneuver? Objective I had tried to be, but there were no joins (i.e. the joins between the dots of the cathode ray tube being eye-hidden, thus we lose our true awareness and are hauled away, one by one – if we were always seeing the joins we could know perhaps what was being contracted on our souls – but this isn’t a good example.) What could I make of this? For them a patent (and they had patents on everything despite their relaxed demeanors) was like jumping out of a cartoon, out of breath. Because their patent-scapes, engineered for the borderline-ghastly behavior that ran the current of their micro-worlds, always exceeded their consciousness. Speculating on my past and future simultaneously I hurtled somewhere, their cruiser tunneled with Whitisms of all sorts.
NAGI’S GENERAL ASSERTION Albeit NAGI was unable to fold sideways. They had parked with the chiefs, the disobedient bunch who’d likewise emerged from boundaries similar to them. But they had odds against them. Now it’s hard to find an aesthetic to appease their non-homeness. Which structure is best – well it doesn’t matter. But how to climb surely a wrong enclosure was the ultimate question. How the NAGI group functions is thus: fanfare the equilibrium between all enclosures and follow with assertions ranging from the purely inaccurate, to the precisely technical. Often this would compromise health, and the ‘greater gains,’ as they referred to them, were hard to comprehend.
NAGI’S COST ASSERTION No cost to NAGI to wherever. No state certificates passed. Replacing data: Electricity over a less than 2 second power surge minus the extra coordinate blooms of visuality hypotheses.
NAGI’S VISUALITY DIAGRAM It would, if given the chance (a phrase they often used) bloom in several simultaneous places. The components were always ‘given a chance’ to perform. The conditions were often difficult. Immersed in
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the buildings’ longing for power, they cross-directed currents whilst saying repeated phrases, prayer-like. They insisted they were not prayers though, rather they referred to these words as ‘directional technical instructions.’ Such was the quasi-bureaucracy of their visions – or more precisely, their ‘alterations’ to reality. Their material wealth thus could appear endless, and if projected for any ongoing time would default reality itself. They knew, of course, that this reality system was only a means to an end – what concerned them most were the subtle acts of variance in their patent-scapes. An individual like myself would be chosen for some quite particular reason. But, when all was said and done, I knew I had at least some kind of upper hand. Regardless of their confidence and experience, I was aware, more or less as soon as the rough concepts were explained to me, that I was in fact leading them toward a fault-line in their systems... © 2004 The Estate of Ranald White
View The Correspondence of Ranald White at pataphysicsmagazine. com
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JAMES SCHUYLER: CHARLES NORTH INTERVIEW BY JUSTIN JAMAIL & ANDREW MCCARRON This spring we paid a visit to Charles North at his spacious apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to discuss his relationship with the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Schuyler and his thoughts on Schuyler’s poetry. North, Poet-in-Residence at Pace University in New York, has published eight striking and ingenious books of poetry that have earned him an ardent following, and No Other Way, a remarkable book of selected prose that includes three essays on Schuyler. In one of these, North wrote, ‘[Schuyler] continually reminds one of all that poems can be and do, all that can happen between the start of a poem and its conclusion.’ Of Charles North’s poetry, Schuyler himself once wrote, ‘His joy in words, and the things words adumbrate, is infectious: we catch a contagion of enlightenment. To me, he is the most stimulating poet of his generation.’ North met and befriended the psychologically troubled Schuyler in the early 1970s. Together they edited Broadway: A Poets and Painters Anthology in 1979 and Broadway II in 1989. Surrounded by portraits of North and his friends (many painted by his wife Paula) and other memorabilia (including the original copy of ‘Light from Canada,’ a poem that Schuyler dedicated to North), we felt somewhat intimidated, but also certain that we had come to the right place. North, for his part, was all easiness, plying us with coffee and sweets as he welcomed us into a comfortable sitting room.
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Justin Jamail: When did you first read Schuyler? Charles North: My guess is that I didn’t read him until I took Kenneth [Koch]’s New School Workshop in the winter of 1966 – which is when I started writing poetry myself. He introduced us to all these poets I’d never heard of, and Jimmy was one of them. The books that I read first were May 24th or So and, later, Freely Espousing. Freely Espousing came out in ’68 or ’69. I’m pretty sure those were the only things available by him except for those limited edition collaborations (Tiber Press?) Jimmy, Kenneth, John Ashbery, and Frank O’Hara each did with a painter. So it was through Kenneth that I came to know of Jimmy. Really, everything I did with respect to poetry at the beginning was a result of Kenneth’s teaching. JJ: Did you already know of Koch at the time of taking the New School class or did you find him by chance? CN: Neither, quite. I had taken a master’s degree in English at Columbia and had kept in touch with my advisor, John Unterecker, who was himself a poet (and was also in the process of doing a biography of Hart Crane). I had just begun to be interested in poetry, and Unterecker recommended Kenneth, his colleague at Columbia, who moonlighted at the New School. I kept putting it off – probably out of sheer insecurity – but finally did enrol in Kenneth’s poetry workshop, and it turned out to be the last time that he taught there. Andrew McCarron: Did the poems you read of Schuyler’s in that workshop make an impression? CN: I’m not sure whether we actually read the poems or whether Kenneth just mentioned Schuyler as someone to read – or whether I heard about him casually as a result of conversations with Kenneth or other people I then met. But I loved his work, and after discovering Freely Espousing, I read it until it was practically falling apart! I did the same with Tony Towle’s book North (which had nothing to do with me). Somehow, those were the two books that first attracted me. Of course, I was soon fascinated by the poems of Ashbery, O’Hara and Koch as well, along with some younger poets Tibor de Nagy was publishing in chapbooks – that was where I first came upon Joe Ceravolo, for example. AM: Do you remember when you first met Schuyler? CN: I do, partly because I was so nervous! The story’s a little roundabout. In the spring of 1970, I showed up towards the end of a poetry workshop Tony Towle was giving at the Poetry Project (where, by the way, I also met Paul Violi). We hit it off, and Tony gave me a great deal of encouragement. Soon after, I showed him a poem I had dedicated to Schuyler called ‘Lights’ – it’s in my first book, Elizabethan & Nova Scotian Music – and Tony, who had known Jimmy for some years, sent it to him. I was very shy about it all. Anyway, a few months later, out of the blue, the wonderful poem ‘Light From Canada’ (which I still think is one of Jimmy’s best) came in the mail with a dedication to me, a gloss explaining an allusion to a line of O’Hara’s, and a note saying ‘Let me return the compliment.’ Needless to say I was thrilled. About a year later, again via Tony, I met Schuyler at a party in Morris Golde’s apartment in the West Village. Morris was a businessman who was very involved with contemporary music and the arts in general. I think, though I’m not positive, that this was the same party where I rubbed shoulders with Leonard Bernstein, and in addition had the experience of seeing him dancing lip to lip with some guy, which for me, innocent as I was then, was a shocker. I don’t remember who actually introduced me to Jimmy, but I do remember that I was almost literally dumbfounded and very embarrassed about that afterwards. Later, I remembered that he had said practically nothing, either. (Did he
say, tongue-in-cheek, ‘Finally,’ or did I make that up?) As I’ve said before, one of my lasting regrets is that I didn’t know him when he was younger and healthier. JJ: Did you know anything about him at the time? You knew his poetry, but did you know about his circumstances? CN: Just in general terms. Actually, one spring, ’71 or ’72, Anne Waldman asked my wife, Paula, and me if we would be willing to spend the summer with Jimmy at 49 South Main Street (in Southampton, L.I.); Fairfield Porter and his family, with whom Jimmy lived, would be in Maine for the summer and Jimmy wasn’t going with them. We had already heard about Jimmy’s breakdowns and such, but, after some agonizing, decided we couldn’t not do it. As it happened, it fell through at the last minute, when Ruth Kligman, whom Anne described to us as ‘very resilient’ (she was the girlfriend of Jackson Pollock who survived the car crash) decided to do it. AM: I wonder how that would have gone. CN: God knows. Well, you know, Ron Padgett and his family had a famously bad experience living with Jimmy during one of his breakdowns. So I’m just as happy it didn’t happen. I never saw him at his worst. When he used to come over for dinner here in the late ’70s he was often silent and looked unwholesome, to put it mildly. He would play steadily with his false teeth with his tongue – at least that’s what it looked like. But he never acted crazy. Once after dinner – I don’t know whether he was especially tired or didn’t feel well, or what – he asked if he could sleep over. We were a little nervous about it, especially as Jill, my daughter, was very young at the time, but it was already late and of course we couldn’t just turn him out. After a quiet night – for him anyway – he left in the morning. I do remember him requesting eggnog more than once when he was here for dinner in the winter, and my going downstairs in the snow to get him a quart, which he drank straight down. JJ: How did the dinners first come about? Did you correspond with him? CN: Not correspond, we lived too near each other, but I had gotten to know him by then. Paula and I just thought it was a nice idea. I had visited him regularly during the time he was at the Lincoln Square Home for Adults (where he was by far the youngest resident) on 74th St and Broadway. Darragh Park and I were his main, if not his only, visitors there. Darragh was an extremely faithful friend. In fact, I recall once entering the place and being addressed as Mr Park. Actually – this isn’t what you asked but it’s related – when I visited Jimmy during his time at the Payne Whitney Clinic, he would complain that so few came to see him. To tell the truth, it was sometimes exhausting to be with him, especially in these circumstances, and especially when he was next to silent. Visits were a mixed blessing in other ways too. I saw him at the Allerton ‘Hotel’ before he moved into the Chelsea, and that was one of the most depressing places I have ever been in in my life. JJ: There is a footnote in the diaries referencing Ann Dunne’s remarks on the squalid conditions in that apartment. CN: Oh, I didn’t know she visited him there; I didn’t think anybody did! It was pretty horrifying, the fleabag of fleabags. His room consisted of a bed, on which, at least the few times I saw him there, he lay surrounded by a sea of dirty laundry that reached just about to the height of the bed. And of course the smell was pretty bad. Moving to the Chelsea, with the help of his generous friends, I’m sure changed his life. AM: There’s a tradition of the crazy poet – John Clare, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and so forth – how do you think Schuyler relates to this tradition?
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CN: Well, I don’t like to think of him – I don’t think of him – as a ‘crazy poet.’ I’ve never found his poetry crazy; he managed just about invariably to spot what shouldn’t be published and kept it to himself. I saw an early manuscript of The Morning of the Poem, and I was very happy when the book came out to see that he had omitted a few poems that were really over-the-top. Of course like Clare and Cowper, he is exquisitely sensitive to things other poets don’t write about. I guess you could call his attention to flowers obsessive, or even a displacement of feeling. But unlike, say, Plath and Lowell, he rarely refers openly to his mental disturbances, and when he does, it’s always in a matter-of-fact way, nothing histrionic or exhibitionistic. That’s what makes his Payne Whitney poems so admirable – it’s reporting about insanity, in a low-keyed way, not the insanity itself. AM: It’s always creeping in kind of the corners of Schuyler’s poems. It’s never central. CN: Maybe you see more of it than I do. Or maybe I don’t want to see it. That’s possible too. I remember talking about Jimmy’s poetry with my friends, like Tony, and marveling at the clarity, delicacy, brilliant contrariness, and other remarkable qualities of the writing of this person whose life and person (almost helpless dependency on others, overweight, etc.) were often the extreme opposites of those. I guess we all know about the flip side of obsessive and compulsive behavior, at least in artists. But again, I’ve never found the poems themselves ‘crazy.’ In fact, quite the opposite. AM: There’s not a smoking gun. CN: No, but I don’t really think the subject comes up via the poetry. On top of all this, and again apart from his life and whatever megalomaniacal behavior appeared in his breakdowns, as a poet he’s so modest. He makes such a point of saying he just wants to ‘see and say.’ You know, he never published that ‘immodest’ poem I quoted in my piece ‘No Other Way,’ where he says, in effect, that though people think he’s modest, he’s ‘a great poet. No other way.’ I’m pretty sure that was one of the poems he deleted from the Morning of the Poem manuscript. I don’t think, by the way, giving way momentarily to the impulse to tout himself, privately or publicly, is in any way crazy. In my experience, we all feel the same way, at least in our heart of hearts, no matter how quiet we are about it. JJ: Any thoughts on his prose? CN: The prose I knew back then consisted of a few things that appeared in The Paris Review and were later collected in The Home Book, which Trevor Winkfield edited, and the novel Alfred and Guinevere, which I had heard about and found (and loved) at a used book store (inscribed to ‘Chester’ – Kallman, I’m sure). What’s For Dinner came later. The only diary material I knew (and thought exquisite) was what was included in his books of poems, like the section in The Crystal Lithium. I had seen a few little art reviews in Art News, but I didn’t really know his art writing – or his letters which are about to come out, edited by Bill Corbett. And now we see that all along he was at the center of prose beauty! Imagine! AM: Are there parallels between his fiction and poetry? CN: Yes, but more so, I’d venture, with respect to the diaries, letters, art writing, where he’s as brilliantly attentive and specific as he is in his poems. He’s always seeing more than most others see, and saying in a better way than most others say. I have been struck by the childhood experiences and even dialogue that pop up unexpectedly in poems – you know: ‘Put that down, dear’ – but apart from some connection to Alfred and Guinevere, which is about kids, I don’t know that I have much to say about that. JJ: Let’s return to his visits. What would you speak about at dinner?
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Poetry? CN: Never, as I recall. Actually, he was rarely talkative at those dinners – more so when I met him for lunch in Chelsea. Sometimes with Trevor Winkfield too. Maybe he just relaxed when he was here, since it was, after all, a family atmosphere, and I think that was a big part of what he liked about coming. Of course Paula’s a wonderful cook too, and Jimmy liked to eat. At the lunches there was almost no shoptalk, though we did gossip – though nothing like the ‘dishing’ that he and Darragh engaged in on a regular basis. I remember being astonished once at his telling me that not only did he intensely dislike the poetry of one of our most distinguished living (then) poets, who could be assumed to be a colleague if not necessarily a close friend, but that he intensely disliked the person! He could also be extremely nice, appreciative, and generous with his praise. He was, as I’m sure you’ve heard, extraordinarily witty, in conversation as well as on the page, and another regret I have is that I didn’t receive more than a handful of his fabulous letters. Wait till everyone sees them. Oh, a tiny example of his wit. He wrote a blurb for my first big book, Leap Year, which I was very proud of, but which no one ever saw, since Kulchur Press, rather than printing the blurb on the books, printed them on a cheap insert, which of course always got lost. Anyway, when The Year of the Olive Oil was in production, I asked him if the blurb could be reprinted. He said of course, then proposed a slight reordering of what he had originally written, then wrote to me that I was free to use either the new or ‘the King James version.’ AM: Why did you invite him to dinner? CN: Well, partly because we knew it was important to him. He ate regularly at the homes of a few other people, too, Katie and George Schneeman’s, for example. Certainly I wasn’t a close friend. I don’t really know how close he was with those friends who were closer to him than I was. But I know he liked families, and he liked comfortable situations, from sitting snugly in a taxi for a long ride uptown to simply being taken care of. And over the years a number of people cared for him in one way or another, from the Porters with whom he lived for so many years, to those who paid for his various apartments, to his various assistants. It’s not that we weren’t friends of a sort – certainly we had a poetry connection – and he did ask me, at one point, to be his literary executor along with Darragh Park (which, after agonizing about, I declined. At the time I was overwhelmed by everything to do with my father’s Alzheimer’s disease, and I couldn’t see past that. Jimmy was very nice about it.) Nathan Kernan, in his exemplary biographical notes for his edition of Jimmy’s diaries, included Paula and me among Jimmy’s ‘good friends.’ I suppose it’s possible that, for a time, we were, but it never really seemed like that. He wasn’t so easy to be with. I’ll tell you an anecdote: John Ashbery was having a party and Jimmy invited Paula and me to go with him. We were supposed to go down to the Chelsea, pick Jimmy up, and then walk over to Ashbery’s. Well, either Jimmy had the time wrong, or he was too eager, because we got there an hour and a half early! I hardly knew John and had been very much looking forward to seeing his apartment, and I was very embarrassed when John said, rather bluntly, come back later. Another time, at a party at Barbara Guest’s studio, Jimmy was drunk – even though he was taking antabuse – and as he was leaving he said he would write me a poem. He stood there at the elevator and wrote and wrote and wrote and finally handed me a piece of paper covered in wavy lines – no words whatsoever. I guess I should have taken it in stride, but I remember feeling awful and embarrassed for Jimmy. So I wish I had seen him the way his old friends had, and as I think Tony Towle did in the early days and Larry Fagin and
others too, when the wit and charm I’ve now seen in his writing were evident in person. When I met him he was already thick and medicated, and when he came over in the winter he’d wear this big sheepskin thing and had long, very matted hair. I know he attracted attention on the street. He described himself at this point as looking like Buffalo Bill’s grandmother [laughs], which I think is absolutely wonderful, but not so far off. AM: Like Oscar Wilde on a bad day. JJ: Not a lot of people who knew him at his lowest also knew him in the ’80s after things started to improve. Was there a sense at the time in the ’70s that it was only a matter of time until he improved? Or did it come as a complete surprise? CN: It was a surprise, at least to me. Again, I’m sure having someone to take care of his food staples, cash, laundry, as well as poetry business, on a daily basis must have helped immensely. He clearly loved having his ‘assistants,’ as he called them – Eileen Myles, Helena Hughes, Tom Carey, etc. – and grew very close to each of them. JJ: How did Broadway come about? CN: Let’s see, he was at the Chelsea already – right? Well no… maybe we began talking about it when he was at the Lincoln Square Hotel For Adults? [CN leafs through chronology from diaries] Let’s see, yes I think it was there. I’m pretty sure I was the one who brought it up. Back in the late ’60s he had put together this one-shot mimeo magazine called 49 South (named for the Porters’ address in Southampton) which I had a poem in, and which everyone had fond memories of. I think I said, why not do a second one. Possibly he suggested our doing it together, I don’t really remember, but in any case, he wasn’t in any condition to do much of the work. We decided to have one poem or one drawing from a number of poets and artists we both admired, and somehow the magazine became a quasi-anthology. We were both living on Broadway, and Paula’s cover drawing is a Broadway scene out of our apartment window. Jimmy and I both got a kick – I can still hear his slow chuckle – out of the little invitation we composed, which read, ‘Send us your best unpublished poem (or drawing).’ AM: Do you see Schuyler’s influence in younger poets these days? CN: I do, but it isn’t always a positive influence. As you know, any original artist is dangerous to imitate, Schuyler probably more than most. His poems can appear to be so plain, and of course plainness is not what most good poetry has going for it. As I’ve written before about the so-called New York School, imitating Ashbery, Koch, O’Hara, Denby, etc., comes each with its special pitfalls. Then again, I’m sure I’ve taken something from all the aforementioned! JJ: People have compared Schuyler to Bishop. Do you think it’s just a coincidence of sensibility or a direct influence of one upon the other? CN: Both among the experts in poetic line. I’m not sure. She, of course, wasn’t that much older than he was. I know he admired her work and she admired his. My guess is it was mostly a coincidence of sensibility. Actually, Jimmy was the one who suggested that I send her a copy of my first book, Elizabethan & Nova Scotian Music, because he knew I admired her poetry. One of the things she wrote back was how much she liked his poems, and how rare it was to find good love poems any more. That’s interesting, isn’t it. Though I admire them, Jimmy’s love poems are not my favorite part of his oeuvre. Of course Bishop in general is so much tighter and more formal, but they do deserve to be spoken of in the same breath. AM: Also, they both have fairly broad appeal.
CN: Well, I know Bishop’s appeal transcends party lines, though interestingly, when I published a review of Geography II in the Poetry Project Newsletter – the first or second critical piece I had ever done – I remember people around the Project giving me strange looks. She was the Establishment back then, and for some that was that. Actually, that’s probably still the case in certain circles. Schuyler’s appeal, at least as I see it, is a lot narrower. Sad to say, it will probably remain so, as much as you and I and many of those we know would like to think otherwise. As I tried to point out in that piece I wrote on Vendler’s NY Review piece on Jimmy, I don’t think there’s enough for the regular critic of poetry to sink enough teeth into. Critics aren’t fond of just pointing and saying, Isn’t that remarkable! which in the case of Jimmy’s work and that of some others is the best service one can perform for readers. AM: Then do you consider Jimmy underrated or under-appreciated? For example, his Collected is currently out of print. CN: Both. Absolutely. AM: Speaking of poetic recognition, let’s talk about Schuyler’s winning of the Pulitzer Prize in 1981. Do you recollect how it affected him? CN: No, not really. Well, it certainly helped his reputation. And I bet Helen Vendler wouldn’t have written about him if he hadn’t won. Public recognition has a way of snowballing. JJ: Did it help more to have won the prize or to be associated with Farrar, Straus? CN: I’m sure they both helped. How many do you imagine were even aware that The Home Book existed, let alone that it was published by Kenward Elmslie’s tiny Z Press? JJ: The reason we brought up the idea of Schuyler having broad appeal is that eight years after the Pulitzer he gave that famous reading at Dia Art Foundation. All those people showed up… the line wrapped around the block, etc. Ron Padgett said when he first knew Jimmy he thought he knew maybe 80% of the people who liked his work, but at the reading (forty years later) he felt he knew maybe 5%. Darragh, describing the same phenomenon, recently referred to Jimmy’s following as a ‘complicated cult following.’ CN: Yeah. I think Darragh’s characterization is accurate. And I feel the way Ron feels. Speaking of which, I haven’t heard much talk about Frank O’Hara in a long time. Maybe ‘complicated cult’ is the true ideal, as long as ‘complicated’ has some connotations of quantity as well as quality. In other words, no question of ‘major’ poets, but tant mieux. The Dia reading was the most thrilling I think I’ve ever been to, the loudest applause I’ve ever heard – thunderous. And again, the line around the block was a surprise. Dia itself was a pretty big deal, though, wasn’t it? There would have been an art world base audience, in addition to those who were already fans of Jimmy, and as I recall, Dia did some good publicity. I don’t mean to be a wet blanket. I would love to think that Jimmy was the sole draw, and that he is now beloved of everyone who reads. JJ: And yet, by the end they were all applauding and happy with the experience. CN: Yup. AM: How was his reading style? CN: Straightforward. Unexceptional. I don’t remember any patter. But exciting nonetheless, for Jimmy too. You know, after having declined for so long, he quickly, not surprisingly, developed a taste for giving readings. Who could have predicted that? AM: How did his subsequent reading at the 92 street Y compare with the Dia reading?
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CN: I don’t remember the Y reading very well. JJ: We’ve talked about Bishop. Schuyler knew Auden personally. Do you detect a poetic influence? CN: Not sure. They were so different. Jimmy does have that very nice poem about Auden, but that has more to do with the person than the poetry. Auden was such a formalist, and ‘social commentator,’ and Jimmy so immediate and even casual, seeing and jotting down. People don’t mention it much, but Jimmy did do some subtle things with meter, for example, organizing some of his wonderful short poems in 3- and sometimes 4-beat lines, like ‘Salute’ and ‘Buried at Springs.’ And of course no one else wrote, or writes, the sorts of ‘skinny’ poems Jimmy did, with their expert lineation. AM: Also, the juxtaposition of colloquial and formal language – right? CN: Good point – although with Jimmy, more colloquial than formal. JJ: You say you continue to read Jimmy’s poetry. How has it changed for you over the years? CN: Very interesting question, which when I reread his Collected last week set me to wondering about, myself. My favorite books are still Crystal Lithium and Freely Espousing, and I still think Morning of the Poem is superior to A Few Days, both as books and as long poems. Are those minority or majority opinions? JJ: A majority of those we’ve spoken with. CN: One of the things that make me admire A Few Days less than The Morning of the Poem – though I would give my eye tooth to have written either – is what I see as an increased selfconsciousness in the later poems. Less of the remarkable and seemingly effortless (which of course it wasn’t) immediacy and natural flow that characterize the great earlier stuff. A: What are your feelings about the Payne Whitney poems? CN: I’m all admiration – though I’ve never felt they are Jimmy at his best. Still, their courage and straight talk is inspiring, as is his calling himself ‘Jim the jerk,’ and broaching the big question: ‘What is poetry anyway?’ JJ: Can you tell us about some poems you’ve had change of heart about? CN: It’s not so much a change of heart about particular poems as an increased sense of overall strengths and weaknesses. Yes, there’s a good bit of preciousness, and a good many slight (though often charming anyway) poems. Yes, like everyone else he repeats himself, but yes, the poems I used to think are wonderful are still wonderful, and there are so many of them. Freely Espousing alone has ‘February,’ ‘December,’ ‘A Man in Blue,’ the Dante sestina, ‘Hudson Ferry,’ ‘April and its Forsythia,’ ‘Salute,’ ‘Buried at Springs,’ ‘Going’ (one of the great neglected ones), ‘Earth’s Holocaust,’ and others I’m forgetting at the moment. The Crystal Lithium has many more. All his books have wonderful things in them, including the miscellany of early stuff Trevor Winkfield put together, The Home Book. I’ve always felt that if O’Hara is an ‘I do this I do that’ poet, Schuyler is ‘I see this I see that.’ In his great lyric poems, so many of which are quite short, it’s as though one thing is happening after the other but they’re not really. It’s treating space as time. It’s really very much like painting. AM: Do you like ‘Empathy and New Year’?
but I believe we get fooled by the fact that everybody we know loves his work. It’s not only that those we know are poets, but that the poets we know are the ones who happen to love his work! That’s not the case out there in the poetry society of the U.S.A., any more than it’s the case with Koch, O’Hara, Guest, or even Ashbery. I have a neighbor who is a poet, a very nice guy who was originally a protégé of Robert Lowell’s and whose national reputation is a good deal bigger than Schuyler’s. Fred Seidel. I don’t know if you know his name – this is where the poetry committees and ‘communities’ (read: factions) come into play. He and Schuyler were nominated for – was it the National Book Award? – the same year. I remember talking to Fred in the elevator about it. He was hardly aware of Schuyler! One of the things – maybe this is a way of getting to the heart of the matter – I complained about in my response to Helen Vendler’s piece (which was positive, by the way) was that I didn’t think she gave any sense of why Jimmy is such an extraordinary poet, almost as though the fact that he is had never occurred to her. As though, yes, to go back to your earlier question, she was attending to him not because she really liked or truly admired the poetry, but because he had won a prize, had been nominated for another, and in addition had published a book-length poem. In that sort of climate of readers and critics, it’s hard to imagine poets getting their due for the right reasons if at all – except occasionally, when someone like Douglas Crase writes about Jimmy. But of course it’s Vendler’s opinions that get the attention. JJ: On another note, you’ve said you don’t think Schuyler will be considered a major poet. I mean, it seems to me that if a poet like Schuyler has any weakness it’s a limited range – not a limited emotional range, but of subject matter and style. CN: Actually, I’m sorry now I ever brought up the major-minor idea! I’ve written elsewhere that the ‘minor’ poets are the ones who more often inspire me. But yes, I can’t imagine him ever being considered major, whatever that means. However, I wouldn’t agree that the limited range is a weakness in any sense. Poets – artists of all kinds – write about or paint whatever they’re ‘given’ to write about or paint. I’m sure, as I suggested before, Jimmy’s focus on landscapes, and especially flowers, must be some sort of displacement: what you don’t or won’t write about has a way of showing itself to be what you care most about, or in some fundamental sense are. But in the long poems, he did show a lot more of himself than previously, and the range, especially in ‘The Morning of the Poem,’ is quite large indeed. I guess if I were editing a Selected, I’d omit some of the poems that focus on flowers, say, but I don’t think I’m willing to call it a weakness in the area of subject matter – and certainly not style. What counts, always, is how well something is done. Is Creeley’s narrow range a limitation? Is Kenneth’s reliance on ‘poetry ideas’ – formulas – a limitation? I may prefer certain of Jimmy’s poems to others, or feel I’ve seen enough of what seems to me to be a particular kind of poem of his already, but that’s true of all one’s favorites. Did Chopin write too many nocturnes? That’s a long-winded answer, I’m afraid, and it’s my fault for introducing the mostly unimportant and in some ways spurious distinction between major and minor poets! By the way, I’ve written elsewhere about the experience of reading a Schuyler poem and feeling, at first, this is familiar, nothing out of the ordinary, and then having the poem ‘strike,’ much more sharply and importantly than seemed possible at first glance.
JJ: What’s Schuyler’s most undeservedly neglected work?
AM: ‘Empathy and New Year’ comes to mind. He’s just observing what’s going on, but by the end he has taken the reader into a profound meditation on the nature of time.
CN: To me he is seriously neglected in general. I hope I’m wrong,
CN: Yes. A colloquial meditation.
CN: I like that poem very much.
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AM: Do you teach Schuyler at Pace University? CN: Not as much as I teach some other contemporary poets. Actually, I find he’s very hard to teach, for the same reasons he’s hard to write about. Maybe I also care too much about how he goes over. It depends on the class, of course. I have taught him in advanced courses. In my experience he doesn’t wow beginning writers as much as the other New York poets – or, for obvious reasons, Ginsberg or Sylvia Plath or, say, Mayakovsky. Again, I probably have too much invested in him. All of us who teach have had the experience of having our favorites fall on deaf ears – but with Jimmy it’s more likely to happen than with the others. It has to do with a lot of things, I think, his subject matter, his quietness, his subtlety, his preciousness, his falling through the conceptual cracks. Or maybe when all is said and done he’s, dare I say it, a poet’s poet. Many of the best poets are! AM: What are some things people should know about Schuyler? CN: The writing first and foremost, poems and prose. Really getting to know it. The only thing I can think of – and remember that I didn’t know him that well – is how tough he could be when it came to the things he cared about, especially writing, as I witnessed first-hand
in going over potential contributors to Broadway. Some of those I suggested, who I thought were naturals, he was derisive about! He eventually gave in on a few, but not all. Apparently he was a wonderful editor of his friends’ poems, and they were lucky to have him. From reading his letters in manuscript, I learned that he helped Kenneth a good deal with at least one of his books on teaching kids to write poetry. Like Fairfield Porter, with whom he was so close for so long, he could be quite blunt. But he could also be charming. I tend to think that the Jimmy I knew was too often not himself, too often a heavy and heavily medicated lookalike, who miraculously managed to retain some of his marvelous abilities. Seeing photographs of him from the ’40s and ’50s in his published diaries gave me a very different feeling about what he was like at the time when I wish I had known him. I’m sure the literary biography Nathan Kernan has now signed on to write will give a much more balanced picture than many have at present.
Book covers: A Few Days, Selected Art Writings, The Home Book by Darragh Park, What’s for Dinner by Jane Freilicher
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THE MAKING OF A MONSTER
SUMMERTIME FOR HITLER by Sylvère Lotringer It wasn’t planned, just happened, and then it snowballed into something that strived to be a film, and remains at least a strange and muddled experience. What triggered it was a play on mad actor and dramaturg Antonin Artaud that writer Chris Kraus, a theater director at the time, staged at St Mark’s Church in New York in the spring of 1985. The script came from a weird interview I made years before with Dr Jacques Latremoliere, the psychiatrist who subjected Artaud to a massive dose of electroshocks during WWII at the Rodez asylum. The psychiatrist sounded even more cracked than his illustrious patient. My part as Artaud was limited to having my head ritually shaved on the stage. Obviously it was meant to be a one-time shot. Just a few weeks later I was in Berlin invited by the DAAD for the summer to do some research on death iconography at the police archives. I ended up doing it in a very different way. The play in New York included some fictional video footage (I played Artaud as an outgrown child in a cute sailor’s outfit) and the idea came very naturally to shoot another scene re-enacting the famous (alleged) meeting between Artaud and Adolf Hitler at the Einstein Café in Berlin. All I needed was an actor willing to play the part. I put an ad in the Zweiter Hand (second-hand) newspaper, from which the film took its title, and a half-dozen wannabe Hitlers answered my call. The day I arrived in Berlin I met a video team and they offered to shoot the rehearsal, young actors putting make-up on, gluing a Hitler moustache and re-enacting one of the maniacal speeches Hitler delivered at the Reichstag. This footage triggered the entire project.
is strictly banned in Germany; besides, he considered himself something of a leftist. I had him dress like the Führer and theatrically (but silently) address from a podium the patrons quietly conversing in the elegant Café Einstein’s garden. The scene was discreetly being shot from the roof by two cameras. Everybody there did their best not to notice anything, and the waiter made a point of telling us that he didn’t mind it himself. Only some Jewish customers apparently did. It didn’t take long for Reinhard to become upset with the project and his increasing hostility became an integral part of the script. Every morning before the shoot I wrote him into the script. The constant overlap of life and film began to take its toll. I kept pushing for it somewhat irresponsibly. It was obviously unfair to make this young actor pay for a past he had no part of, actually rejected strongly (his father had been involved in it). But I didn’t know exactly where it all was going and I kind of enjoyed the ride in a perverse way. Reinhard felt cornered. He couldn’t bring himself to stop, playing the lead, but he multiplied acts of resistance, like driving the crew round and round the Reichstag (he drove a cab) for forty minutes before the shoot to signal his growing displeasure. He was getting out of his mind.
The plot kept feeding on the tension. It runs as follows: Gunther, a young unemployed Berlin actor, is invited to try out Artaud. After he’s turned down for the part, he breaks down and is being reborn as Hitler while the sound of a Wagner opera and a fleet of EastGerman helicopters are blasting overhead. (It happened to be the anniversary of the communist regime.) This tragic and ridiculous character, Gunther-Hitler, feels doomed by the sense he has of his sacrificial mission toward the German people. In front of the ‘Eva Bar,’ he meets a young prostitute who quickly understands what is happening to him and decides to reclaim him from his madness. I met Reinhard, the young actor I picked, a She enters his delirium and impersonates few days before. He sold me his Beaulieu for him Eva Braun. Later on I realized that I super-8 camera and it didn’t take me long to had freely riffed on Freud’s famous essay on realize that he was another Artaud clone. He Jensen’s Gradiva, which aimed to validate had Artaud’s complete works in German on the concept of repression. A young woman his shelf and he looked a bit weird. He was impersonates the ancient character of also an adept of Wilhelm Reich’s therapy and Gradiva among the Greek ruins as a way of would hit his head against the wall to cool off. bringing a young German archeologist back So he sounded perfect for the part. He would to his sanity. have rather played Artaud than Hitler, but I asked a wonderful older underground agreed all the same. He didn’t realize, and I German actress, Lotti Huber, a star in many didn’t know myself at the time, that he would of Rosa von Praunheim’s edgy films, to play be playing Hitler live in the streets of Berlin. Eva Braun, but she flatly refused. She told As it turned out Reinhard wasn’t exactly together and impersonating Hitler in public didn’t help any. Wearing Nazi accoutrements
me she’d been in a concentration camp herself. Instead she made an ominous reading of Gunther’s palm, prophesizing his
transformation into a monster (‘I see clouds, I see stormy weather coming towards you...’). I eventually gave Eva’s part to a budding actress, an ingénue. Both Evas, the young star and the prostitute, eventually confronted Hitler-Gunther in a confusing scene in the Wannsee’s lush gardens (the Nazi leaders met there in 1942 to decide on the fate of the Jews). Reinhard’s frustration, in the meantime, was breaking more and more into the open. During a rehearsal he threatened the director with a rock (he only crushed an egg on my head instead). These scenes of rage were also shot while they were happening and later integrated into the film. He didn’t like any of it. The whole thing was getting over-the-top and so was he. Finally he had no other choice but dropping out of the film altogether. Fortunately we had to stop shooting at that point too. The summer was over and nothing guaranteed that it would pick up again the following year, as I intended it to. One year later, coming back to Berlin all the same, I decided that I would turn the tables on reluctant Reinhard and reclaim ‘my Hitler’ from his Eva. On a Saturday night I walked in the Templedrome outdoor ballroom dressed like Hitler. Gunther had consented to go dancing there in the crowd with ‘prostitute’ Eva. Without a word I took him away from her and I started dancing with my Hitler creature round and round, holding him tightly against me. He acted like a zombie, a puppet out of a Hoffman’s tale. Finally I kissed him on the mouth as if I wanted to breathe some life into him. Or was it something else? It is quite amazing that the film would have gotten that far, but the last scenes we shot after that were never edited in. I don’t even remember where they went. It was as if this final recognition made any conclusion irrelevant. The entire project was irrelevant. Everything about it was displaced and muffled, just like Gradiva. Even its flippancy was wrong, not to mention the explicit overacting. I felt sorry for my trapped actor, but I ended up stepping in too. With no avail, of course. I couldn’t bring the past back in any shape or form. The monstrosity was still inside, and there was no way of experiencing it. As the director admits in the film, ‘I look at Hitler and feel nothing.’ And yet in a sense this failure is the most significant feature of this film that never really was one. The emotional ‘torpor’* that made it possible didn’t belong to anyone, not even to me. The nightmare of history was still alive. And there was nothing one could do with it. *Torpor is the title of Chris Kraus’ new novel, to be published by Semiotext(e) (semiotexte.com)
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CONVERSATION WITH CULT GERMAN ACTRESS LOTTI HUBER (BERLIN, JULY 20, 1985) by Sylvère Lotringer Telephone rings. Allo. Lotti Huber? Yes.
As an actress, Eva Braun? Yes. You can play that yourself, darling. It would be very beautiful. I’m sure, but… It isn’t my style really. Really? Rosa thought differently. He was the one who suggested you for the part. Rosa is a darling. My darling Rosa. Honestly. I should play the actor Eva Braun… That’s a good one. You don’t know me even.
I saw you in a film. It was in German, Do you speak English? so I’m not sure of the title. It was about Yes. three older women living in a retirement home and you’re just back from a walk. I am a friend of Rosa. I live in New York. You’re telling them about meeting soldiers, I helped him shoot the Death Magazine occasional encounters. You are very when he was in the States. I have been in Berlin for a little while and I started making flirtatious…. a film. Oh yes. Our Bodies Are Still Alive. It was Ah yes.
funny, wasn’t it?
I was wondering if you would be willing to play a scene.
Yes, very funny. And I recognized there someone with a lot of presence, a very unusual actress…
What kind of scene.
Yes, yes, yes. Paying me a compliment isn’t OK, I have to explain. Don’t be shocked… going to get you any further, my dear [both I’m never shocked. Get cracking, young man. laugh]. Tell me, when did you sweat this idea Alright. The film’s called: Zweiter-Hand out of your poor head? Hitler. It’s been a month. I tried to get hold of
I’m free. We aren’t having any shoot that day. Then you should come at eighteen hours to my place and we’ll have a little sherry together. ‘Happy Hour,’ as the Americans call it. Do you drink sherry? Certainly. I’ve lived in England as well [both laugh]. Do come. I’d like to look at the man who has this very odd idea, I must. And bring the script along with you. Well, some. I write the script along the way. I’m writing it right now. Alright. It will be a pleasure. I live at Leibnizstr, a philosopher’s name. I am a philosopher too. Number 58. I’ll be waiting for you.
BECOMING A POLITICIAN by Leo Edelstein ‘Hitler, Hitler, where are you?’ ‘Adam... Adam answer me. It’s me Eva.’ ‘You’re not Eva.’ ‘And you’re not Adolf Hitler?’ ‘I’m not YOUR Adolf Hitler.’ ‘Well, you’re Gunther... aren’t you?’
What is it called?
Rosa. Finally I got him this morning.
‘Leave me alone... You betray me.’ I think this is great. I am fascinated. When you’re coming here I would like to meet you… ‘This has nothing to do with us.’
Second-Hand. Yes. Since I am in Germany, and being Jewish myself I thought I should make a film about Hitler. So I put an ad in the paper, Zweiter Hand, to find an actor. I got quite a few people interested. We had a rehearsal and I picked the person for the part. Yes. I want Hitler to be a character piece, not Hitler himself. An actor making the kind of speeches Hitler used to do, and going about his everyday life, walking in the streets, etc. But today, inside the Berlin walls.
I would like to meet you too.
Oh, you are in Berlin. You are. Then we must meet some day. And what is your name? Sylvère. You speak like a Frenchman. I’m French.
It’s a bit like what Lubitsch was trying to do in Vous êtes français… To Be or Not to Be. Ah je suis français, oui. Yes, that’s the question. Wonderful film.
Je pensais que vous étiez américain.
Fabulous. So what would you like me to do?
Non, je vis à New York depuis douze ans.
It’s a bit like a Pirandello play, the actor becoming the role and everyone around him unsure whether he’s serious about it or just cracked. In one of the scenes he’s playing Hitler with Eva Braun.
Mais pourquoi, c’est très charmant. J’aime beaucoup la langue.
And I should be playing Eva Brown? [chuckling] I was wondering if…
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‘No one makes fun of Adolf Hitler.’
In any case, I doubt very much that I will take ‘You’re crazy.’ this role. ‘Don’t ever say that! I’ll kill you!’ You wouldn’t want that? ‘Adam look at me. This is Eva. I love you.’ I doubt it. I must see the dialogue. I must see ‘It’s too late.’ what it’s all about. I can’t just say yes, yes. ‘I’m your Eva Braun...’ Where are you calling me from? ‘The German people... is waiting...’ I am in Berlin.
Vous parlez très bien le français. Oh non, je manque de pratique. Mais alors – let’s change over to English now. And now you give me this shocking news. What about Saturday?
– from Second-Hand Hitler, a film by Sylvère Lotringer
Hitler’s argument was with consciousness and time, not people. The film Second-Hand Hitler mutates time and space like Hitler the man. We watch, terrified, the creation of the oversensitive monster. It is a monster without allusions, the voice is denied the moment it is spoken, the actor’s words unbearably ambitious, the Hollywood of the Never-Never. We must film Hitler again, before this wall that I walk past finishes, a prophetic filmmaker may have considered. Ambition must suit the crime. Art must be the final disappointment. To lose art we must find the psyche, drenched in a beautiful, kind audience. Then quick movements of the original’s hand and wrist can be analyzed – should be analyzed
– for they show mesmeric potential. To teach a boy to mesmerize we must give him some lines – he is an acting experiment, and his becoming-a-politician is only possible when reality is lost. Delusion must enter his soul, acting for itself, climbing into his throat, a modest plague born. Who can ever play the role of Hitler? – surely one of the most difficult questions of the last century. So many tried, in all shapes and guises, but they all fail, never quite as badly as Hitler failed, because they remain artists, badly so. Hitler’s failed artistry was a launching pad – the actors who played Hitler went off into other roles, Hitler pollution
maybe occuring there – telemovies and movies with a little ‘Hitler’ residue.
up a fuss because he hates time, and the director pulls him up from time, a magician Our Hitler of Second-Hand Hitler goes further. pulling the rabbit from the hate. We know we are dealing with something Then the ceremony of his becoming, his serious, starting with his anger at being Hitler birthday. An accomplice utters, ‘Films are being his Hitler. Pyrotechnics and breathing real.’ The Hitler sees the new man and exercises prepare his expectations. If he he ‘was bold and cruel.’ And his love life fails now he won’t even be an actor, just the is all cross-wired. Hitler must run from it. imagination in a cold world. With this one He cannot live in the laconic rumination of chance he can go further than he has ever others – bar talk. Nor can the German people gone, he can prove that he was right after reside in his love. Then he must run from all. If he can jump from this cartoon and be the director, who breathed his life open. The brought to life by the electrical current of the director sees his mirror-boy – the light son film then we can surmise an accurate Hitler – and they dance the night away. amid the time machine. Hitler will always kick
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STRANGELY LIKE WAR BY DERRICK JENSEN & GEORGE DRAFFAN One of humanity’s oldest written stories – one of the formative myths of Western culture – is that of Gilgamesh, who destroyed southern Mesopotamia’s cedar forests to build a city.1 According to this story, Enlil, the chief Sumerian deity, who must forever watch for the well-being of the earth, entrusted the demigod Humbaba to defend the forest from invaders. But the warrior-king Gilgamesh killed Humbaba and leveled the forest. Enlil sent down curses on the deforesters: ‘May the food you eat be eaten by fire; may the water you drink be drunk by fire.’ These curses have followed us now for several thousand years.
A voice from Papua New Guinea: ‘You white people use sawn timber to build your houses. We Niugini use black palm for flooring. We use cane instead of nails. We use Kunai to make our roof instead of iron. Machines of the company have spoiled our black palm trees, our cane, and the dozers have trampled our Kunai land. Gone is the Malou we use to make our traditional clothes for sharing our customs with the other villages. Machines have spoiled our land and our tradition. Money is no compensation.’2
North America, Europe, and Japan, with 17 percent of the world’s population, consume three-fourth’s of the world’s traded timber. The United States is by far the largest consumer of wood and paper products. The global wood and paper industry manufactured $850 billion worth of products in 2000, $260 billion worth from the United States.3 Of the major categories of wood products (fuelwood, roundwood, lumber, panels, pulp, and paper), the United States is the top consumer of all but fuelwood. And in every one of those categories, the United States consumes more than twice as much as the next-largest consuming nation. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States consumes between 25 and 38 percent of the world’s wood and paper products.4 Canada forms a good case study, one that is sadly repeated the world over. In 2000, the United States got 40 percent (or 6.6 million tons) of its newsprint from Canada.5 The United States also gets a third of its lumber from Canada, primarily British Columbia.6 At least ten of the top fifteen wood products corporations based in B.C. sell more than half of their products outside, primarily to the United States. Weyerhaeuser, Pope & Talbot, Lousiana-Pacific, Champion International, and U.S. companies are among the top recipients of timber quotas in Canada. Furthermore, U.S. corporations and investors control interests in several ‘Canandian’ corporations: West Fraser Timber is controlled by the Ketcham family of the United
States, and Cariboo Pulp and Paper is owned by Weldwood, which is owned by Champion International (now part of International Paper).7 But the real U.S. giant in Canada is Weyerhaeuser. Not only did it recently acquire MacMillan Bloedel, an immense Canadian company in the process of deforesting much of British Columbia, but it holds 34 million acres of long-term licenses to timberland in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. Ninety percent of the lumber manufactured in British Columbia is exported, with two-thirds of it going to the United States.8 Seventeen percent of B.C. lumber goes to Japan – mainly structural lumber cut from coastal old-growth forests.9 The B.C. government provides timber corporations with below-cost woodcutting rights (costing Canadian taxpayers an estimated $2.8 billion per year) and direct taxpayer bailout of antiquated and polluting mills ($329 million just for the Skeena Cellulose mill). It also waives environmental protection laws ($950 million annually) and allows (or rather encourages) timber companies to ignore aboriginal title to forestland (requiring hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation).10 When environmentalists succeed in temporarily halting some deforestation, you’ll often see articles in the corporate press mentioning the number of houses that could have been built, were environmentalists (or frequently ‘environmental extremists’) not so selfishly intransigent. But what these articles nearly always fail to mention is that more than a third of the trees cut are pulped for paper.11 The truth is that the pulp and paper sector drives the entire wood products industry. Pulp mills are extraordinarily expensive, and so when they’re built – usually with massive subsidies of public money – they may as well be huge. The size of the individual mills plus the incentive of free public monies leads inevitably to overcapacity: the capacity to pulp more wood than even a further-subsidized market can bear. But the mills aren’t generally entirely subsidized, and so the corporations that build them end up with a debt. This means the mills have to be run, whether or not there’s a market for the paper, which means trees ‘need’ to be cut. Lots of them. The trees that aren’t made into paper are made into lumber or panels, or burned as fuel for the mill. One consequence of this is that the market becomes glutted with lumber, plywood, and so on – mere by-products of the pulp and paper process. Another consequence is that more forests are destroyed. Before wood fiber is pulped, whole trees are chipped into tiny pieces at chip mills. Because they use entire trees, including small ones, chip mills encourage clearcutting and short cutting cycles often, often consuming entire forests a hundred miles or more from the mill. Last year alone, more than a million acres were cleared to feed 140 chip mills in the southeastern United States.12 And the number of chip mills is increasing: in less than twenty years in North Carolina, for example, the number has jumped from two to seventeen. These seventeen chip mills alone can process 250,000 tons of chips per year: 8,000 to 12,000 acres of hardwood and softwood trees. The same processes occur, constantly, around the world.
The largest ‘landowners’ in the world are timber companies. The Canadian corporation Abitibi-Price owns a million acres in the United States and Cananda, and holds cutting rights to 19 million acres more. Barito Pacific holds 2 million of Indonesia’s 21 million acres of forestry concessions.13 Canadian Pacific Forest Products owns or holds tenures on 24 million acres. The Japanese paper manufacturer Daishowa controls nearly 10 million acres of timberland in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada.14 Karl Danzer
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of Germany controls more than 7 million acres worldwide, including concessions accounting for 10 percent of Zaire’s forests and 40 percent of its logging, and an Ivory Coast concession of almost a million acres. In the 1980s Danzer also operated in Brazil and Argentina.15 From its concession of 750,000 acres in Gabon’s Bee forest, the German corporation Glunz obtained okoume logs for its Isoroy subsidiary, the largest tropical plywood producer in Europe. Seeking more ‘raw material,’ Glunz also gets logs from Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, and the Congo. Hyundai signed a thirty-year logging agreement in the Primorskiy Krai in Siberia in 1990; much of the timber is exported as raw logs; Hyundai has also expanded into the upper Bikin watershed.16 International Paper has controlled as much as 12 million acres across the United States. The Timber Group branch of John Hancock Insurance Company controls more than 3 million acres in the United States and Australia.17 The Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi controls more than 20 million acres of timberland in Australia (wood chips), Brazil (plywood), Canada (pulp and paper and chopsticks), Chile (wood chips), Papua New Guinea, and the United States (wood chips). New Oji Paper, associated with Mitsui of Japan, controls 17 million acres of timberland and operates wood chip, pulp, and paper mills in Canada, Germany, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Brazil, Thailand, Chile, and Indonesia. The Malaysian timber company Rimbunan Hijau owns or controls more than 9 million acres in Papua New Guinea (and accounts for more than half of PNG’s total timber cut), Malaysia (2 million acres), Brazil (more than a million acres), Khabarovsk Russia (almost a million acres), Cameroon, and New Zealand. Rougier Ocean (a French corporation) controls more than 300,000 acres and a sawmill and plywood plant in Cameroon, and exports logs to France, Italy, Spain, and Japan. Half of Cameroon’s debt to France was canceled in 1994 in exchange for Rougier Ocean’s access to Cameroon’s timber, while French President Mitterand’s son was, coincidentally enough, a shareholder in Rougier’s Cameroonian subsidiary. Rougier also has the largest foreign holding in Gabon timber (more than 90 percent of Gabon’s timber cut is exported as raw logs). The Malaysian company Samling signed a 1994 agreement giving it access to almost 5 percent of Cambodia’s land area and 12 percent of its remaining forest. Samling has entered into multimillion-acre agreements in Brazil. In 1991 Samling and the Korean company Sung Kyong obtained a twenty-five-year license to log 4 million acres in Guyana. Samling also operates at ‘home’ in Malaysia, with rights to cut more than 3 million acres. The Malaysian corporation Tenaga Khemas has a concession of almost 2 million acres in Guyana.18 And so on. Here are the words of Along Sega, Penan headman from Long Adang, Sarawak, rejecting money from a Limbang Trading Company manager, after the graves of Along Sega’s family were destroyed: ‘I told him, even if I have to die of any cause I shall not trade the bodies and souls of my parents and relatives to save mine because our bodies, dead or alive, are not for sale. I refused the money and pleaded with him also that if you have so much money already please don’t come here to take our land. But he just shook his head, laughed and replied, “We have been licensed to work on this land. There is no such thing as your land in the forest because forest belongs only to the government. Take this money or you get nothing.” I still rejected the money.’19
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Excerpted from Strangely Like War by Derrick Jensen and George Draffan (Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2003.) 1.
John Perlin, A Forest Journey: An International Guide to Sustainable Forestry Practices (Durango, Colo.: Kivaki Press, 1994), 35–39.
Philip Hurst, Rainforest Politics: Ecological Destruction in Southeast Asia (London: Zed Books, 1990), 132.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2001 Global Forest and Paper Industry Survey (New York: PricewaterhouseCoopers).
United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization, Forest Products Yearbook 2000, FAO Statistics Series 158 (Rome: UN FAO, 2002), A-6.
Joseph C. Tardiff, ed., U.S. Industry Profiles: The Leading 100 (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 2nd edition, 1998), 438, 443.
Wyng Chow, ‘U.S. Prime for Picking, Housing Suppliers Advised,’ Vancouver Sun, January 28, 2000.
W. Patricia Marchak, Falldown: Forest Policy in British Columbia (Vancouver, BC: David Suzuki Foundation and Ecotrust Canada, 1999), 86.
Clayoquot Rainforest Coalition, The Coastal Lumber Operations of British Columbia, Project 2: B.C. Mills to U.S. Markets, Report II: 6–8 (Unpublished draft, August 1997).
Ibid., II:6, II:14.
10. Tom Green and Lisa Matthaus, Cutting Subsides, or Subsidized Cutting? Report commissioned by B.C. Coalition for Sustainable Forestry Solutions, July 12, 2001, iii–iv. 11. Ron Glastra, Cut and Run: Illegal Logging and Timber Trade in the Tropics (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 1999), 4–6. 12. Lynne Faltraco, ‘Chip Mill Fact Sheet,’ (Concerned Citizens of Rutherford County, N.C. January 2000). 13. Miller Freeman, Forest Industries 1991–92 North American Factbook, 178. 14. Environmental Investigation Agency, Corporate Power, Corruption and the Destruction of the World’s Forests (London: EIA, 1996), 24–25. 15. Conrad B. MacKerron, Business in the Rain Forests: Corporations, Deforestation, and Sustainability, ed. Douglas G.Cogan (D.C.: Investor Responsibility Center, 1993), 56. 16. Environmental Investigation Agency, Corporate Power, Corruption and the Destruction of the World’s Forests, 27, 41. 17. John Hancock, company news release, 13 October 1999. 18. Environmental Investigation Agency, Corporate Power, Corruption and the Destruction of the World’s Forests, 22, 26, 28–29, 30–31, 40; World Rainforest Movement and Forest Monitor, High Stakes; Laurie Goering, ‘Gadding about Guyana,’ Seattle Times, August 10, 1997, K2. 19. Hurst, Rainforest Politics, 117.
Not the rent or the bills to you, sir. It is improbable. There can be no state infringements, this getting on in life, this doing what must be done—did Hitler promise us a way without? Wander. It seems as though we could maybe excerpt from it, and/or, if you were interested, do an interview around the book for pataphysics. No sense in it, or judge for their only-if-we-did-it right, ever merging with them, forever, disparaging them, oh for those sea-birds without it! You have all the web at your disposal, copy and paste. I copied and pasted their attitudes together and I found not necessarily a bad angle on me, but it was a ferocious task. To get to the bottom of that task one should ask something about what it is, that personality of yours, how does it get ‘carried away.’ And what do those amalgamations of cutting and pasting see? Liver of a drinking poet. The firm notes, unruly, delicate. They were born into it. That being capital L life. Enthusiasm and their insistence made us try likewise. And what happened? Tutti-frutti cult hedged its bets. Then I was born also into airline America. And how are you? No, I never shaved. Meteors of those communication flashes, well you got to do something with it, that being Electromagnetic Whiz, buzzing here, there, the places without it outnumbered. So we went insane from it all OR used it, like the mercury, and all the other poisons, to attain dimensions. Certain poisons gave us some escape routes. To make use of all their rubbish. All rubbish is good. Good soil was the answer though, because to mutate leaves a bitter taste. So the hotel was also owned by the adjacent mansion-owner. His brand of psychedelic melding followed the usual rules, and on this occasion allowed us into the next-door room, substantially more space than our improvised multi-function office/lounge/bedroom. The memorial for the previous occupant had been majorly deleted—everything was gone except the purple/green carpet. White walls again reigned. But within this room I found the height (for we were seven stories up) troubling. On looking out the window I thought immediately of the figure of Carl Andre and the fear of falling. At the other end of this large rectangular room, double doors led to a ground-floor patio (it was the back of the wizard’s mansion). A nearby but far enough away road echoed. A wall inscribed with bits of memorial graffiti (for the rectangular room’s deceased occupant, and, oddly to me). Large trees watched over all these spaces. So if the economy evades us we enter these rooms. They are separate, discrete places that, embroidered by a dream, live together, each supplementing their wayward haunts. They are more real than a computer game, substantially so. In fact the spaces tweet via a non-entity economy. There is no desire to ‘do better.’ There is no desire for the objects and experiences made by the hand. What you want is something like a coconut, a plant’s invention, free, bountiful, with a beautiful liquid elixir. See, the hands that make the goods do a damage to you. You must find a thing ‘at its source’ without the input of slavery. You must evade ‘economy’ to find greater currency in total earth without human hand-brain ideas, developed from slavery. The land must be reclaimed from the rentiers. Start by changing idea of home. Attempt ‘home’ closer to skin. Your body strengthened by this process. Think of the general equivalence of all land masses. Forget the ‘bad dream’ of the rentiers. ‘A climate change education’—the statement by me amused the old gentleman the most, and all the others also. He was the one who laughed in side-splitting style. Laughter beyond the realm of reason, for the joke was indelible, unstoppable, belonging in Lola. Later I was to visit a muddy jail, prisoners being moved and jostled in knee-high mud. ‘Does that put you off shoplifting,’ my companion muttered. Well, foolish shoplifting, certainly, I thought. Well I also had a borrowed camera—in its case it looked more like binoculars. The camera could hone in on a subject or ‘fall back’ and see me at a distance holding the camera. After asking instructions from a muddled guard with a sweat-stained pale blue guard’s shirt, we found our way to the appropriate room—as the polished alloy doors slid open I was to meet with the prisoners, a ruddy dirt-skinned bunch, menacing, who also drank and smoked tobacco and marijuana. I asked them questions, appealing to their dangerous minds, to the point where they had accepted almost 80% of me. The remaining 20% still caused me slight worry. The camera interested them a little too much. I asked them about the old Soho. People who navigated the language with regard to liberty can be conjured by their reaffirmation. Under the right conditions their name will then appear more frequently in your life. They will be able to successfully affirm themselves in your life as best they can. Immaterial, they belong to the texture of the sound-mark interface, waiting for further release. A discipline to account for the dislocation of navigation powers. All useful navigation replaced by poison. The instinct and the earth disrupted through religious concepts of mind, a language that assaults the velocity of creative earth memory. You must comply to our needs. Vigorously the lonely powers evaded him as he stood near a cliff, now owned by the New End Church. Well, he had watched their manners unfold, he thought he knew their conduct, their poisonous desires had to be comprehended fully in order to deplug it from his creative and therefore open and prone consciousness. If it wasn’t for his little mind’s lighthouse he’d be done for. Their funds and actions were arguably the most virulent strain of plague ever to set foot on humans—never before had true potential faced such peril. They were organized, they had technology, and they could program a freedom holocaust across the board. Such was his dislike for them he knew, by will alone, he could grow wings when he leaped. But it was beyond him to notice that their cameras were already in place, filming his failed will to power. There was always one more example to set. This is your land. You are one of us. The group who belong. Water around the rocks, effervescent. Shoes covered with water then, walking through water. Sea-birds out on the island of rocks, further out. Waist deep in water. Trousers covered with water. In communication with the sea-birds. You are one of us.
It is I who is here, who have my stuff on your table Mr President. But I’m here to help you. ‘Kind of not sure what to do,’ you thought and as good as said. I’m there for you, your kind of assistant. So then I ask, ‘How many hours of footage have you watched of Adolf?’ You laugh and think I’m funny. But you did a not-quite-proper salute, and it was being filmed... ‘That obvious, huh?!’ he says, and smiles. (What is in his face? We think of religion, and know it’s there, but what else. Kindness and confusion? Is there boredom? And an ultimate lack of consciousness? We have been working toward this group state and he now is the desirous emblem.) Peaceful President who is keen on my personality. So what if you have a taste for antiques, I like you and you like me. Even if the candy-colored prints of this month’s Lady end up below stacks of other newspaper at the bottom of the incinerator, I rescue the torn sheets, take them to the steps outside the room, where, in a gymnasium square they, the Vermin they called them, are going to be shot. Well I wait for the inevitable, then hear the collapse. They have all fallen down, no guns were fired. They are still living. A call from one, the food rations: ‘Mashed potato, cauliflower...’ Poverty: the great misguiding principle. As though a living entity was always meant to be proudly fulfilled. A government cannot provide any expansive consciousness with any amount of anything it can find—there is a strictly limited field. It must quickly revert to force as if needing to prove such limitation. False-ownership rites prevent entities from trying to advance. A government has a complete interest in preventing any leap of consciousness. The unpleasantness of denatured environments causes an artificial nature to reign, whereby the intuitive rhythms are replaced by capital. Hysterical ‘money’ space emerges, tugging at consciousness through a sado-masochistic union of pride and denatured space. Their emotions were bad enough. Better that death came and went as a dream. They, their voices attempting feeling, or non-feeling, or hate, all fell for an economic climate. Love inclined to the right, indented with a capital amount of pleading, well it was gone. Then how to see under the tree? Move your body in and rest calmly. Remain. A problem with the binding. Among other problems. All books fall apart or should. Binding the pages together to make what? A book. Why must you make a book in this day and age? Why must you assemble other people’s and your own words? Is it almost a religious act, or a religious act of a person unable and unwilling to accept religion, or perhaps supplanting religion with a formal concept of the assemblage, the ‘energy’ of several things intertwined? Are we ‘religious’ people, embalming words and pictures with a gravity somehow necessary to rescue a spirit needing more than just religious belief to redeem its consciousness? Why do we make these books in an age of super mass production? Can the rescue occur with just some people looking at these assemblages and releasing their magic, letting it fly to other districts? Like if you thought really, really hard about it you could be there in ‘Paris in the ’20s.’ Time travel is possible, but would it be worth it? This is starting to seem perhaps like: I’ve been reading Ron Padgett. I have. What we are on about is the nature of the thinking mind in its need to be somewhere. Say, where are all the ‘famous’ shamans from ‘the ’20s’ as it were? They are handy now to unteach the industrial. ‘Paris in the twenties’—a place where all the artists gather now is... where they sell things? The industrial world secretes the wrong kind of thought. Do we look for the insurrectionary? The radical gathers dust, wanting this somewhere made, wishing awayness on its always difficult encounters. Now the sea-birds are our radicals. They are not rejecting any system. To not have to reject any system means that your system can work better. But that’s just an idea. Things are so entrenched. A way of life is basically stupid. People being sugared into senility. The life-form, a beast called King of Security, comes forward: ‘Excuse me buddy. The manager doesn’t want you in here anymore.’ An Arabian to be sure. The psychic mess of plastic meats, automated butchery, and no livid desert wanderings for him. Instead he now polices a phantom video arcade of false scarcity, preventing the scarring of the city—he, eyes of meaningful elevation, among elation of leisure-time TVs, doctoring a morbid disposition towards running with the goods out the IN door, drawing the line at me, now banned and never to return to the strolling aisles, blitzkrieging my hands over highly-engaged dream terror. The veneer that distracts the entities, cheaply and carelessly thrown over the ancient energies, the oldest of the oldest. We should expect this veneer to be all wrong, out of kilter, deranged, cynical, having faced the, to them, invisible realms of space and time. Fleeing from an economy is a method of entry into the other realm of space still present. The 40,000 years leaves large traces, and cannot be abolished by flawed imperialistic desires. To flee the economy the individual risks death, abandonment, as physical land has been fenced with ‘laws.’ No one should have to risk the peril of the physical body in order to see openly the ‘other realm,’ yet that is what is required. The imperialism and kings and queens so thoroughly occupied with heroic myths of culture & establishment. The outside there is where? It is a mirror image of the inside. This book emerges with all echoes under a piercing sun disappearing into a cursed time plughole. The freer the flimsy veneer becomes, the more irrational and wrong the expression of its delusional sovereignty becomes. A box called The Big Hit: 40 cans of Pepsi and 40 assorted chocolate bars. The descent begins.
JONATHAN BILLICH PHOTOGRAPHS
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INTERVIEW WITH BARNEY ROSSET
I got the impression that they liked each other. So Robbe-Grillet wrote a film script with the idea that Haskell would be the director/ cinematographer, and when they finished it, it was going to take place in Brazil – it was a locale which they both liked, and had spent a good deal of time in – but when the time came to do it, all the things necessary for making the film simply were not there. Robbe-Grillet had already made films at that point…
Pataphysics: I was thinking about your early experience with film – making films was the thing you wanted to do before becoming involved with publishing. You’d made the film Strange Victory… Barney Rosset: Yes, but I’d sort of given up after that. It took a long time to make – too long, I felt, in terms of what we got. However, consciously I wasn’t thinking of publishing… What was the medium for Strange Victory – was it a 16 or 35mm film? Well it was shot in everything – 35mm, 16mm – and a lot of it was from footage taken by other people. The title of the film, Strange Victory, alluded to the post-World War II cultural and political climate in the United States. It portrayed a country which had successfully, with its allies, destroyed the centers of racism in important parts of the world, but, at the same time continued to allow some of the same evils to continue to exist here at home. So we had won, or had we really? That question is what made it a ‘Strange Victory.’ You’d also made films earlier during WWII. Well, I was a filmmaker in the army, meaning that I was at the same time a group leader and a photographer. It was actual reportage. It provided military intelligence, history, news, etc. I was always interested in film and photography in general. A few years ago I had a show of my photographs of Joan Mitchell that I took while we were together in the late ’40s. So photography and film were important early on, certainly much more so than publishing. I was looking at some journals that I kept around the time I started or restarted Grove about 1952 – I had much more to say about film and photography and painting! I hardly mentioned Grove. But Grove gradually superseded that.
Yes. Haskell met Robbe-Grillet, I think, in Turkey, where RobbeGrillet had just finished L’immortelle, and Haskell had just finished shooting America, America with Elie Kazan. Did you feel there was a collaborative potential with Haskell and your film interests at that point? There was at an earlier time. After the war ended we bought an airplane together – neither of us knew how to fly, but we had the plane! So then we learned how to fly it so as to use the plane as a camera platform. Wasn’t buying an airplane very expensive? No, it was little more than two thousand dollars, and it was a new, wonderful plane, and almost impossible to crash it. Together we made one little film using the plane up in the sky. And Haskell went on to continue making film, and I left and came to New York, to go to a film school actually. What school was that? Well it was some school that is now long, long gone, and really wasn’t very good! But I found a remarkable place to live at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Once I got to the school I decided it was the wrong place, and then started making Strange Victory, which took over two years to make. In the meantime Haskell went his own way, and shot some very good films, including, early on, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? At the time what was your impression of Hollywood?
What was the allure of publishing?
Good and bad. I went to UCLA in 1942, and I went there just after the war started, again to learn how to make motion pictures, and they supposedly had a school there. Well, they didn’t! They were going to have one, but it was still in the beginning stage. But I did meet Joe Strick, who later as a film director did Genet’s The Balcony, and Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, and Ulysses of Joyce – those films were not typical of Hollywood.
It was there!
After you started publishing, you went on to distribute films…
And the writers such as Henry Miller that you began publishing in 1961 at Grove – you saw them as having an application in terms of film…
That was a bit later on. But we started publishing material about films and film scripts pretty early on as books.
First a word about Henry Miller. I wrote my freshman English paper, ‘Henry Miller versus the American way of life,’ at Swarthmore. I had read two Miller books, The Cosmological Eye and Tropic of Cancer and been tremendously taken by him. That was 1940. I did not actually publish the Grove edition of Tropic of Cancer until 1961, about twenty years later. So, to the question, I certainly did. I commissioned several writers, including Beckett and Alain Robbe-Grillet and Marguerite Duras to write film scripts, and they did. We produced the Beckett, we didn’t produce any of the others, but it was purely for monetary reasons. I think today we would’ve been able to do them because of the tremendously less expensive way one can now make films. At that point we were caught between television, which was just starting, and Hollywoodstyle filmmaking. The amount of money necessary to do a feature film, even a relatively inexpensive one, was beyond us. There were various things – I grew up with Haskell Wexler, who became a great cinematographer. Haskell met Robbe-Grillet outside of me, and
Was that an unusual thing at the time? Relatively – we did ultimately many books, different kinds of material, articles, essays, about film. For example, John Huston made a film about psychoses caused by war – he shot it in the army – but they didn’t have much desire to show it, except perhaps to themselves. But we published the script of it, and oddly enough I don’t think we ever contacted John Huston – I didn’t! Maybe the person who did the book did. Did you like John Huston’s films? Some of them, yes, very much. And I liked his father, Walter Huston. I much earlier had asked him to be one of the main documentary characters in Strange Victory. I actually found where Walter Huston lived, and went to see him as if I were a messenger boy – and he got very annoyed. His major interest was how did I find him. He was living in Manhattan. He turned me down. He was a big motion picture star at the time, but there was always something about him that was very serious – something I liked… But at Grove, for
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example, we had an international film festival, here in New York, in the mid-’60s, and it had wonderful films from India, Brazil, Peru, Japan, etc. I felt that those films also fit right into the mainstream, if you could call it that – of university studies, and we began to try to get them with books accompanying them as textbooks, and to a degree it worked. It would’ve worked a lot better now with video, or DVD. What I was trying to do I realize now was a DVD! What other filmmakers have interested you? Well my favorite filmmaker of any, ever, was Jean Vigo. And he still is. Zero for Conduct and L’Atalante are his two feature films. The man who did the cinematography on Beckett’s film was the same one who did Vigo’s. I went and found him – Boris Kaufman. He had been in France but when I found him, he was here, and had been successful in Hollywood. He shot On the Waterfront, for example. I didn’t know then that he was also one of the famous filmmaking Vertov brothers. The other two made their careers in the Soviet Union. They were very successful for a while, and then I think they fell out of favor. They started with the right kind of idea – the news, the dynamics of the day, and then I guess the Soviets saw that that could be dangerous! You commissioned Beckett to write an original screenplay – and he did, and it was the only one he ever did… Yes, and he came to the United States when it was shot. We were talking recently about Beckett’s Eleuthéria, a play he personally gave to you to publish, and your idea of filming it as a series of fragments… Putting Eleuthéria on as a straight play is far beyond me let alone as a film and is far beyond anyone else I personally know of, because of the difficulties within the script. Beckett gave me the play and then, later, said, I can’t stand it, I can’t translate it, I hate it. But Beckett had done that on every book he gave me, and then five or six years later always changed his mind! But in this case he died. So, with Eleuthéria I waited six years, and I wasn’t thinking about it any longer, and then the head of the Beckett Society came to me and said, Why don’t you publish it? Why not indeed. And in the spirit of Kafka’s executor, Max Brod, who had been instructed by Kafka to destroy The Trial and other books upon his death, Brod did not. So together with John Oakes and Dan Simon of Four Walls Eight Windows, we formed a new company called Foxrock (Beckett’s birthplace in Ireland) and we published it. It is Beckett’s version of the end of the theater as it was then known – it called for a very, very complex staging in order to shoot the demolition of the theater as it then was. In the end, the sets, everything, on stage are destroyed, and thrown all into the orchestra pit! During this the audience riots and attacks the cast; i.e. in the script. Like Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire…
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Right! It’s a thing like that, something that simply had never been done then or since. All the machinery of the theater, the music, whatever, is destroyed. Finally, only the main character in the play remains isolated. At the end he is lying in bed facing the wall, saying nothing, just waiting for Godot to appear. It’s a natural thing for a DVD, the great new medium which can endow creative people with the ability to work under the conditions which we have thought of as belonging only to painters. Today’s small cameras and other inexpensive equipment can and are becoming the creative means as the painter’s canvas and oils have been heretofore. For example, we could take photos and film of Beckett, facing that wall in front of him, and by using projection TV, transform it into our own luminous opening to the world. When we have the means, the tools necessary to see out of our dead ends we must strike out and search for our own Eleuthéria, or shut up. Samuel Beckett will be there, observing silently, as always. When his own play, Eleuthéria, did not really prove itself capable of a satisfactory solution, he looked at that wall in front of him and saw Godot, Endgame, Krapp’s Last Tape, and more. A play within a play, it lends itself to numberless different interpretations. I’ve been thinking of certain settings, say in Thailand or Mexico simply because I like them as places where I want to be… Perhaps a small group of people could gather etc., etc., etc.
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pataphysics magazine 149
pataphysics magazine 150
Published on Dec 20, 2009
Ballard, Burroughs, V. Vale, Sylvère Lotringer, Rupert Sheldrake, David Shapiro, Madeline Gins & Arakawa, Ron Padgett, William Thomas, Vito...