Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Galerie Dennis Cooper presents ... Kohei Yoshiyuki's The Park





'The X-ray is one of several 19th century inventions that were paired with photography and led to a new conception of the camera as being not a tool for recording what we see, but a means for capturing what we can’t see. Telescopes and microscopes were also part of this shift in understanding. The relationship between seeing and knowing was becoming more complicated and the uptake of these technologies heralded a growing awareness of there being a lot more in the physical world than our senses could detect on their own.

'The images in Kohei Yoshiyuki’s series Koen (‘The Park’) also push the boundaries of visibility and human perception. They activate our vision where it usually fails – in the dark. Yoshiyuki obtained them by taking his camera on vespertine prowls of Tokyo’s public parks in 1971 and 1979, furtively capturing on film the Peeping Toms he found watching people engaged in sexual acts. Using infrared sensitive film and filtered flash bulbs, the amateur photographer was able to grant himself a gaze that penetrated straight through the very darkness that made him invisible to everybody else there. The levels of complicity, performativity and victimisation on the part of the subjects remain ambiguous – we know we are seeing something we are not permitted to see, but we have the sense that the amorous subjects audacious or desperate enough to have sex in these places must have been aware of the possibility of becoming visible.

'Of course, there’s nothing especially Japanese about bonking in public parks. But in their localised context the photographs underline the limits of privacy in Tokyo in the 1970s. After WWII the Love Hotel phenomena had flourished in Japan, allowing couples to rent rooms for ‘resting’, charged by the hour. And even before these short stay hotels, sex in urban Japan had often been removed from the private home – where typically very little personal space was possible – and assigned to semi-public chaya ‘tearooms’. Many 18th and 19th century ukiyo-e woodblock prints survive depicting a third party casually watching copulating couples in such venues, so Yoshiyuki’s series can be situated in a historical thread of artists recording or imagining voyeurism as their primary subject.

'Blown up and printed at life-size, Yoshiuki’s photographs were shown in 1979 at Komai Gallery in Tokyo where the lights were turned off and visitors were instructed to navigate the space with hand-held torches. The prints were destroyed after the exhibition, but the photographs were published in a book in 1980 before Yoshiyuki (a pseudonym, his real name remains unknown) set up shop as a family portrait photographer and vanished into obscurity. In 2006 Martin Parr’s publication The Photobook: A History included Yoshiyuki as an unknown innovator, prompting Yossi Milo Gallery in New York to track down the reclusive artist and convince him to reprint the remaining negatives.

'The photographer’s sudden destruction of the prints and abandonment of the project suggests contention might have arisen over him showing the potentially incriminating photographs that had been so clandestinely taken, very recently, in the same city. We now have a safety barrier of more than three decades between us and the images, but their capacity to involve us prevails. It is when the figures have their backs to us and evade being identified themselves that we are most heavily implicated, no matter how much distance in space and time we have secured. As with Caspar David Friedrich’s rückenfigurs (and their modern manifestations in the surrogate bodies seen from behind in video games), we are forced to enter the image because we are facing the same thing as the depicted figure in front of us.

'Looking at the Koen series induces an uneasiness that has something to do with seeing the seer looking while seeing ourselves being seen looking. Paintings depicting the Biblical story of Susanna and The Elders, where an innocent woman bathing in a garden falls victim to exploitative male desire, can have a similar effect. The scene was depicted by the likes of Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Tintoretto and Gentileschi – its popularity being easily attributed to the justification it offered for a prominent fully exposed female nude, sanctioned under the category of ‘historic painting’. While a sanctimonious position is superficially implied for the viewer, we can’t condemn the invasive gaze of The Elders without indulging in moral hypocrisy, knowing that we ourselves have gone on to perpetuate the same gaze so prolifically.

'When we move from painting to photography the image’s capacity for implication is even stronger, because the photograph asserts that its subject at some point existed physically before the camera’s lens. It is a curious feature of the history of photography that long after the daguerreotype was superseded by cheaper and more efficient techniques, pornographic daguerreotypes continued to be produced and sold. The photo historian Geoffrey Batchen has linked this to the status of the daguerreotype as a tactile, hand-held, unique and non-reproducible object. The private act of opening the lined daguerreotype case (as with the nominally ‘sealed’ section of a men’s magazine, sealed only from those incapable of tearing the edge of a page) must have been part of the ritualised process of stimulation. The extremely long exposure time that the sexy daguerreotype image was known to have required could also have invested it with a sense of intimacy that enhanced its eroticism.

'In contrast, these gritty candid images suggest anthropological distance on the part of the photographer. Whether we like it or not we are lined up right behind Yoshiyuki in the chain of voyeurism, while in many of the images (the most interesting ones, I think) the final object of vision (the erotic act) cannot be seen. They are hardly suitable masturbation material: we are granted proximity while being denied any illusion of intimacy. Rather than removing traces of the photographer and the photographic process to suggest we are seeing directly, they make us intensely aware of the photographer and his precarious position. In this sense they are less photographs about sex, and more photographs about photography (the word means literally ‘writing with light’ but the invention was nearly named skiagraphy, ‘writing with shadow’). These images make visible what is supposed to invisible to us – sex, yes, but also, more compellingly, darkness itself.' -- Amelia Groom



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Further

Kohei Yoshiyuki @ Wikipedia
KY @ Yossi Milo Gallery
Book: 'The Park', by Vince Aletti
'SUNDAY SALON: Yoshiyuki Kohei'
'Anton Corbijn on Kohei Yoshiyuki’s ‘The Park’'
Book' 'Document Park'
'Park life: how photographer Kohei Yoshiyuki caught voyeurs in the act'



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Book


Kohei Yoshiyuki-The Park


Il Voyeurismo di Kohei Yoshiyuki


"The Park", Kohei Yoshiyuki



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Interview
in French




Fisheye : Comment vous êtes-vous retrouvé à photographier des voyeurs en action ?

Kohei Yoshiyuki : À l’époque je cherchais des sujets à photographier, notamment en traînant dans des quartiers animés. J’assistais à des scènes de bagarres ou d’agressions, mais cela ne m’intéressait pas. Le parc n’était pas loin de là où j’habitais et quand j’ai découvert ces scènes nocturnes, j’ai trouvé ça fascinant. Ce qui m’a vraiment interpellé c’est la transformation radicale du parc, le contraste entre le jour et la nuit. Un lieu pour les enfants et les familles la journée qui devient un terrain de jeu pour les couples et les voyeurs la nuit, c’est un autre monde !

Savez-vous pourquoi ces couples se retrouvaient au parc pour faire l’amour ? Est-ce encore le cas aujourd’hui ?

J’ai pris la plupart des photographies de cette série au parc central de Shinjuku (NDLR : un arrondissement central de Tokyo). À l’époque c’était un tout nouveau parc, probablement ouvert à la fin des années 1960. Il était très central dans le quartier, ce qui en faisait a priori un lieu de passage idéal après un dîner ou un film pour les couples qui commençaient à sortir ensemble. Le fait de voir d’autres couples en action semblait les exciter et, comme il s’agissait en grande partie de jeunes couples, on peut supposer qu’ils n’avaient pas les moyens d’avoir une liaison à l’hôtel.
Je ne suis pas retourné dans le parc après avoir publié ces photos, donc je ne sais pas ce qu’il s’y passe en ce moment la nuit. Mais aujourd’hui ce ne serait sans doute pas possible de prendre les mêmes clichés, les gens feraient peut-être plus attention.

Comment avez-vous réussi à pénétrer cet univers pour prendre des photos ?

Cela m’a pris six mois pour être accepté et considéré comme un membre de cette communauté de voyeurs. Pendant cette période, j’ai appris la technique pour approcher les couples. Je laissais aussi les mateurs jeter un œil à l’appareil que je gardais dans mon sac. J’avais besoin qu’ils ignorent mon matériel et se disent : « C’est juste un voyeur comme les autres, mais il a un appareil photo. » Le plus difficile a toujours été de m’approcher des sujets en douceur. Si un couple ou un voyeur commençait à faire attention à ma présence, ça devenait impossible de prendre une photo.

Est-ce que vous vous considériez aussi comme un voyeur ?

Je n’ai jamais été excité sexuellement, mais j’étais exalté à l’idée d’être là et de prendre des photos. Je pense que le voyeurisme fait partie de l’acte photographique.

Les couples se savaient-ils observés ? Comment réagissaient-ils, notamment quand les voyeurs commençaient à les toucher ?

Je pense que les couples avaient entendu parler de l’existence des voyeurs dans les parcs mais, vraisemblablement, ils n’ont jamais pensé qu’ils seraient observés. Les voyeurs s’approchaient toujours doucement dans le dos de l’homme et essayaient de donner l’impression à la femme que c’était son petit ami qui était en train de la toucher. Les femmes ne remarquaient jamais qu’elles se faisaient toucher par un voyeur. Mais parfois, après avoir commencé à caresser le corps d’une femme, le voyeur devenait moins prudent et la situation s’emballait. Dans ce cas, il arrivait que l’homme devienne suspicieux et surprenne le voyeur qui quittait alors immédiatement les lieux. Après avoir compris ce qui venait de leur arriver, les couples étaient choqués.

Quel matériel avez-vous utilisé pour les prises de vues ?

L’appareil photo était un Canon 7 à objectifs interchangeables avec un posemètre au sélénium intégré pour la mesure de la lumière, donc semblable à un appareil compact. J’ai utilisé une pellicule infrarouge haute vitesse et un flash stroboscopique additionnel avec un filtre de couleur rouge foncé. Pour le tirage des négatifs, je me suis servi d’un liquide utilisé habituellement pour le développement des images de rayons X. En apparence, tout ça est une mauvaise combinaison mais ça a très bien marché.
Dans le parc, nous étions dans l’obscurité totale et je n’étais pas capable de bien voir. Je devais évaluer les angles de prises de vue et les distances dans le noir, beaucoup de clichés ont été pris sans regarder dans le viseur.

Avez-vous été inspiré par d’autres photographes ?

Non. J’ai juste voulu photographier ces situations et je l’ai fait à ma façon. J’imagine que vous avez le nom de Weegee en tête, mais c’est seulement après l’exposition à la galerie Yossi Milo à New York en 2007 que j’ai appris que Weegee utilisait aussi des pellicules infrarouges.

La première fois que vous avez exposé vos clichés, vous avez eu l’idée d’une mise en scène originale (réutilisée plusieurs fois par la suite) qui transformait les spectateurs en voyeurs. Comment le public a-t-il réagi ?

J’ai d’abord publié une partie de ce travail dans un hebdomadaire japonais en 1972. J’ai ensuite travaillé comme photographe pour une agence de presse pendant plusieurs années. Quand j’ai quitté ce job pour devenir freelance, j’ai eu l’occasion de faire une exposition. C’était en 1979 dans une galerie d’art contemporain. La galerie se trouvait dans un sous-sol sans fenêtre. Les spectateurs se retrouvaient donc dans le noir face à des tirages grand format, quasiment à taille humaine, et chacun devait éclairer mes photos avec une lampe de poche. Cette idée de scénographie m’est venue tout de suite après les prises de vue. La réaction du public a été très bonne, sauf une personne qui a appelé la police croyant avoir vu des scènes de crimes. Deux inspecteurs sont venus à la galerie, mais ils n’ont rien signalé. Après cette exposition, j’ai décidé de publier un livre avec ces photos. Entre-temps, j’avais appris l’existence un autre parc dans lequel se rassemblaient des homosexuels. Je les ai photographiés en 1979 pour ajouter ces images à la série et finaliser le livre. Peu après la publication, j’ai entendu dire qu’un voyeur s’était vanté d’être sur une de mes photos.

Selon le photographe britannique Martin Parr, votre travail est « une œuvre documentaire brillante qui saisit parfaitement la solitude, la tristesse et le désespoir qui accompagnent si souvent les rapports humains et les relations sexuelles dans les grandes métropoles comme Tokyo ». Que pensez-vous de son analyse ?

J’apprécie le commentaire de Martin Parr. Je considère en effet que c’est de la photographie documentaire et je suis très heureux que mon œuvre soit diffusée et bien reçue. J’espère que mes photos seront aussi perçues de la sorte au Japon. Malheureusement, je n’entends pas grand-chose d’intéressant sur mon travail dans ce pays.



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*

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yes, I do. I've quit twice for lengthy periods of time, and it was pure hell to get there, and one of these days I might quit again, but no plans to at the moment. ** Tosh Berman, Thanks so much Tosh! ** Steevee, Hi. Yeah, I read that it's probably closing today even. It's very sad. In retrospect, they probably should have let it die at the old location. Like a lot of people, I followed my heart and donated to save the store, but between the poor new location they chose, and the way they thereby basically relied on customer nostalgia to keep the place going, and the big debts they had no real game plan re: resolving, it was pretty much doomed. It was such a great and important store for such a long time in its prime. It sounds like the blood sugar results thing can be easily resolved, or I sure hope so. ** Scunnard, Hey. Amsterdam is pretty and it has a very good two or three days' worth of fun in it. But don't go in the winter. LA, on the other hand, is endlessly entertaining. Even in the summer. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! We originally had this dream/idea that we could talk either Var or Iceage into appearing in the film for this one concert scene, but our budget was way, way too small for that. I like Loke Rahbek's stuff a lot. Lust for Youth, Croation Amor, and he did a terrific collab. album with Puce Mary last year: 'The Female Form'. It's really cool that you met and talked with him. I don't know the film 'Candy' or the Luke Davies book. I'll go try to find the book and film, thank you! Are you liking it? ** Sypha, Hi, James. Oh, as I think you know, 'Lunar Park' is one of my favorite novels by Bret. I'm glad you decided to retry it. I like it better than 'Glamorama', but that's just me. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. I'm very happy that you're reading the Agota Kristof trilogy. It's one of my very favorite, very all time favorite books. Ah, yeah, Art101 delays seem to be part of its nature, but soon it will be full and complete at last, and the time taken won't matter, you know? ** S., Ha ha, you do sound like Pete Townsend. No, you don't, but I get what you're saying. Why are you intending to stay at Gare de Lyon, not that that's a bad idea? ** Misanthrope, Hi. Yeah, I don't know why I like bitter cold wind. I guess I like when nature makes you feel like walking-talking, meaningless tissue paper. Why, I don't know. Here, we've got rain and rain and rain. That's all. ** Chris Dankland, Hi, Chris! I've started reading your book. I'm taking it slow because I've had a bad (but now lessening) head cold ever since I last 'spoke' with you. Anyway, I love the stories! I've been reading each one many times, and not just because my head has been fuzzy. Dissecting them is beautiful. Really great, man! It's being a very super pleasure! Cool that you're reading 'Inferno'. Yeah, it's wonderful. The symposium was a two-day thing. I only went to the first day because that was enough for me. Basically, people sitting around discussing her work. Papers on her work were delivered. Eileen was there for one session. And she did a reading. It was cool. It was kind of academic, but relaxed too. Eileen and I met in the early'80s. I was doing Little Caesar Magazine and Press then, and I really liked her poetry, so I solicited her for the magazine. And then I ended up publishing one of her early books, 'Sappho's Boat' through Little Caesar Press, and we became close friends and comrades, and we've been so ever since. Enjoy your morning and the rest of your day too, of course! ** Rewritedept, Hey. Good news about the fairly settled moving plans and the return of your computer. I had a cold all weekend, so my weekend wasn't so high keyed. Zac and I are waiting for Gisele's feedback on the latest stuff we wrote in the TV script so we can revise and move forward. She's running around because 'TVC' is playing here and there right now, but I think we'll get her opinions today. Haven't dared to reenter the novel yet, no. 'M Train' ... oh, the Patti Smith book? I'm not very interested in reading that for some reason. Paul Mitchell has horrible hair. That's all I know about him. Yeah, I think my sister found that old photo, and, in some weird mood, I made it my whatever-you-call-it. My grandma was amazing. She basically is responsible for me being a writer, I'm pretty sure. 'Strangers with Candy' was good, yeah. The short short fiction pieces plus illustrations you're making sound very cool. ** Thomas Moronic, Thanks, bud. March! Soon! Awesome! And as awesome if not even much more so maybe that... your novel is officially coming! Any details or anything you can share? Hooray, to say the least! The Eileen Myles thing was great. I told Chris a bit about it. And seeing her was wonderful, naturally. Bon day! ** Right. On the off chance that you haven't seen Kohei Yoshiyuki's 'The Park' photo series before, I thought I would share it in your directions. See you tomorrow.

Monday, February 8, 2016

4 books I read recently & loved: Brian Oliu IO: A Memoir, Szilvia Molnar Soft Split, Felix Bernstein Burn Book, Josef Kaplan Poem Without Suffering

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'My mother was a librarian and so after school each day I would get dropped off at the library. After finishing my homework and eating a snack bag of Doritos, I would start to read — it started off with all of the children’s books, before I progressed to the teen books, designated by a small black bookcase that was relatively low to the ground where one would find your Sweet Valley Highs, your Christopher Pikes. I moved onto the ‘grown-up books’ — first starting with the non-fiction books; favorites were ones that were about places and people: Sally Ride, Oregon, San Diego.

'As I got into my pre-teens I began reading the best sellers — the library was the smallest in the state of New Jersey and would often get only one copy of the book, which would be reserved well in advance by one of the patrons. This meant I would have between the time the book arrived and the time the person would come in to pick up the book to finish reading it, often sneaking into the back room to read as I suffered from horrible night terrors after reading Dean Koontz’s The Eyes of Darkness when I was eight and I did not want my mother finding out that I was reading something I shouldn’t. Most of the time I wasn’t able to finish the books in their entirety — I’d get a small snippet before someone came to pick it up, but it was enough to get a small sample of the plot and the language. Considering the majority of best sellers were thrillers or murder mysteries I would manage to scare myself half to death; not because of what was written, but because what I would imagine what happened next: a consequence of not ‘drinking deep’ and instead having my imagination fill the gaps with whatever horrible thing I could dream up.

'The most memorable instance of reading what I wasn’t supposed to was when the summer reading lists would be sent to the county libraries in order to help students pick out what book they would most enjoy and to be prepared for a sudden surge of requests for Lois Lowry. There was a huge uproar because the books that were selected for the 7th going on 8th graders were considered to be highly inappropriate for the age bracket. Not yet 12 years old, I would overhear these conversations and immediately track down the books in question: A Clockwork Orange, 1984, A Handmaid’s Tale. These images of dystopian futures, oppression, and, especially in the case of Atwood, issues of gender and sexuality, shocked and terrified me. The nightmares became more vivid, and now they had subtext!

'As a result of this, my reading habits have not changed much since I was younger: I look for writing that informs, that introduces me to concepts and worlds that I can think about and pretend to exist within. I also look for writing that will shake me to the core, that gives me a visceral reaction: of language that causes my face to scrunch up, or to nod my head, or to cringe or smirk. To me, words are some sort of magic code — a series of letters that when put together in the right order cause someone to feel something. I think that is an absolutely amazing thing: that a series of words will give me chills or alter my thoughts. It’s a powerful and wonderful thing, and something I always keep in my mind when I do my own writing.' -- Brian Oliu









Brian Oliu I/O: A Memoir
Civil Coping Mechanisms

'C:\dir Volume in drive C is Brian Oliu Volume Serial Number is 2211-20E6 Directory of C:\ 1/1/2009 10:30a 15 ITHACA.EXE 1 File(s) 2,672,476,175 bytes 1 Dir(s) 0 bytes free C:\ ithaca.exe You are the first I've come on in this harbor Treat me kindly No cruelty please. Save these treasures, Save me too.' -- CCM



Excerpt
from Rappahannock Review

The Princess, The Stranger, and The Suspension of Disbelief
This is the biography of someone who does not exist. This is not because of the fog of remembering, that imperfect mechanism, the eyes and guise of wonder and the inability of recall data that was once burned onto metal, the compression of programs and instances and documents, all shrunk down to hardware, this physical manifestation, this enabler of all things, a vitamin, an extract. This is the story of a network, a spiderweb, the decaying of a reef and the inhabitants of living things inside this thing that does not exist that we are telling you about today as you run this program that also does not exist, this paradox, this explanation of things despite the framework of the network. There is an illusion here; we run an upgrade only to find out it is nothing, a virus tricking us into thinking these versions are linked somehow: a graphical upgrade, perhaps, a system being brought up to date and characteristics improved. Let us now praise you, O, majestic while in an internal or external social network, all information true but controlled. Let us now praise famous you, O, all information controlled and deliberate; exclamation points where there is no other way to show emotion, chosen words a summary of all of the good parts, a commercial selling point to no one, selling someone who does not exist, but someone who is loved dearly for the juxtaposition provided. The snow and the ice kept us from going anywhere back then, the cold air contrasting with the warm floor, my feet splintering and cracking like the sound of a dial-tone and computers connecting. I did not know how these things worked, a clicking of a button, an empty phone line that had to be kept open at certain points so that we could get reports from friends whose cars had drifted from the melted tire lines in the road onto the white powder causing a lack of traction like when running up and out of an emptied water basin, the slide down euphoric until having to make the run back up in my father’s white shoes and old army coat, my nose bloodied from the falls and face hitting ice where the neighborhood kids whose computers I later attacked and whose faces I never attacked poured water down the hill in hopes of having the ice build layers upon itself to make our sleds faster, make our runs faster, our tailbones bruised, our arms broken, our noses bloodied. As the static hisses from a foreign speaker, one never used for playing layered audio, a noise so mechanic, so emitted from the machine, I remember packing ice up my nostrils as the rose red blood dawned on the blank ice. I am going to die out here, my blood will freeze and it will grow dark and the children will leave me here at the bottom of this depression, the parents of the children will call their names and they will go running back to their houses with their red noses, get yelled at for not taking their socks off which had frozen over in the water and are now making spots of damp across the carpet before they take a warm shower and get ready for dinner, and I do not think I will ever be found; the eyesight of cars cannot see down into the pit and they will never see the garbage can lid I begged my grandmother to use, my father’s old coat in her attic, the blood mixing with the melted water as these conversations about memory and loss and my grandfather going on runs in the park and getting lost and my grandfather going on runs in the park and forgetting he went on a run in the park and going on a run in the park and getting lost when he had never gotten lost before while his grandson is lost in a crater of nothing, a structure assembled for a practical purpose but used for excitement and exhilaration, this dangerous fun of putting on layers and sliding into the inescapable.
This is the story of disconnect and the anger at disconnect, the sound of a modem clicking off, the slight delay while connected to someone, anything, and the blankness that follows, a message sent and no response, all and no things made possible by a hierarchy and packets sent across county and country lines. This is the story of failure. This is the story of trivial things and trivia, knowledge bases that exist only to be known, no practical usage, unimportant items of information, this collection of seeds, dead seeds that cause no growth or nutrition, three roads split. This is the story of informal conversation made formal. This is the story of a phone call to my house, a road not traveled, never traveled, of a room imagined. This is the story of neither of us knowing where to go at a certain point, myself with my bloodied noses and candied heart, blisters on my fingers from carrying books and the catching up of the body to the mind, the knowledge that there is something wrong, that things do not feel right and that there is a role to be played in this world that is horrific and pre-determined, that there are no choices in any matters, that all things are exercises and that you, with your brother dying and your Spanish mother, your hair bleached blonde to prevent them from ever finding out that your last name meant anything more than your last name, that there were people represented by text, that there were people represented by text that knew nothing of you, that they knew your response to questions, at-symbols before names, periods before responses like sentences in reverse like the upside-down question marks your voice had for me, this immediacy of language and inability to stop and think and formulate responses about what I loved about love and what I loved about you, what part of your body I wanted you to touch and words that I had just read about with doors closed, caches purged at disconnect, no paper trail, no knowledge of knowledge, no thirty-second lock-out for an incorrect answer, just a stream of incorrect answers perceived to be correct without a moderator, without a central server, no ping, no lag except for the signal-based event converting into function. Somewhere in New Jersey, we looked at animals in cages, tongues licking around bars, mouths sideways. We watched phone calls kill actresses, men in black sliding in between sliding glass doors, knives plunged into chests while your mother sat behind us shaking her head at the violence and the expletives, the first words she learned in English as a child, as we were, curious to find out what and where. We were not concerned with why. Our last conversation, you asked me why I did not sit next to you, why there was a coat between us, a coat we screamed over and I glanced over a few times, your black roots coming through the bleach, my elbows and forearms nowhere near yours, a question I could never answer.
This is the biography of someone who will not exist soon. A pretty girl with short hair and a lip pucker with something that cannot be fixed, error, her body will fail, it will fail, she tells you, in less words than that, more words than that, words you do not comprehend due to the directness of the statement, the directness of death, again, never understood. This viewpoint will tilt to the left and fall and this might be the last time you hear this, this might be the last time things run this way, and so we celebrate like we are young again, revisiting photographs stored in secret folders, disguising the people we think we love with numeric file names, not names, not placeholders buried under file structures and trees where no one would ever look, system folders with extensions never considered, orphaned files with no way to be executed, to exist vegetative and without hope of re-installation, outdated programs, games and tricks that remind you of elementary school libraries, one machine for us, all of us, a voyage to be taken, a problem to be solved while surrounded by book glue and the yellowing of pages, a converted closet, the small window we would peek into while going someplace we shouldn’t, descending.
Things make a noise before they die. A gurgle made by the accumulation of respiratory secretions, the inability to swallow, cold in the extremities no longer let to go about our business of building bodies, driving down coasts to make sure people breathe correctly while lifting burdens over and over for muscle memory (the holding of the breath does nothing), our business of handshakes and sleeping in and trying to remember what our body will not let us will to do. This sound, this rattle is meant to signify a passing, our lungs willing to suck in water and fluid like when we were born, the hot air expelled making a whirlpool in our throats, all things cyclical. What it is not meant to signify is one last breath and a chance for living, a sound of hope. Things make a sound before they die, a spinning click under the left palm, a scratched grind, a pushing of air through teeth before a timeless delay, before the erasure of everything and the end of function, the flicker of red lights, the pulsating blank of static. This is why cold nights, still alone, I imagine little deaths, les petits morts, you on top of me before the grand quickening, the busy wait spiraling and moving slower than it ever should, watching each rotation like a ceiling fan after the power goes out, counting each blade cut through the air and cut off power to muscles, instantaneous rigidity signifying the crystallization of the last activity before dying out, the ghost burn in, the proof of life before hitting the water. Stop. Stop thinking such thoughts, never finish on such thoughts, this final access before whatever it is that is broken breaks and you dead for however long it takes to become interested in the living, see that I thought such things, even for a second, this eroticism in dying, this desire to be needed, the power seen of desperate resuscitation, the pressing of palm over palm into breast, a gentle touch, never, it is all ephemera now, there is a job to do and not an awkwardness to be addressed, the return of spontaneous circulation or a declaration of death, the quick puffs of air and the lifting up of the chin being sloppily reduced to mouths pressed against mouths and lust for the dying. And so I am very sorry for all of this, these ideas that appear in my head of treating you like an object and a means to an end in this situation imagined by myself that do not correspond with the reality of you losing your beauty and your body, hair falling out before the explosion of a diver off the springboard, a life like a jump from a tower.
And at some point, there is a fear that this glow will end; clouds roll underneath where goddesses stand, no eye of Athene, a beam of heavenly light like a beatific vision, la gloriosa donna della mia mente seeing me as I am, no longer enhanced by light and distance, angles and the blurring of lines and the matching of skin color and resolution, this scouring of the earth for an ideal that I can attach myself to somehow yet still stay hidden, that there is some sort of work to be done before I vanish, some advice to give and someone to make happy regardless of who I am and what I have stood for, that there needs not be any visual to be able to listen to what I have to say and care for, but there needs to be something to set me apart from all things humble, all things that I am. There will be a time of serendipity and exposure, stature smaller, curls like rotten flowers long after bloom, all faults larger and I have no choice but pray it will be gradual, that the light from the gods will not go out suddenly like a tripped breaker, all things dark and hideous, dark and real. And so I must set sail and cut off all communication, no reply to distant calls and the temptation of sex and breasts, never bathing in the river, never free of the brine that transports heat from place to place, the salt preserving and aging, and I must pray for something else, something better while the waves break around me, a gift from the churning rage of water.



Brian Oliu reads 'Super Mario Bros.'


Brian Oliu reads "Maniac Mansion."


***Flawless Remix feat. Ta$ha and Brian Oliu




________________




Meredith Alling: I say this as a compliment: this is a dirty, dirty little book. There's a lot of sex, a lot of bodily fluids, John Goodman "counter-shits" on the protagonist at one point, there's a volcanic vagina. It's glorious. Have your parents/family read this book?

Szilvia Molnar: Ha, there’s no denying that it's dirty. Funnily enough, once I was more or less finished with Soft Split, I told the publisher (Kevin Sampsell at Future Tense Books) that I was just scratching the surface of writing filth. I haven't sent my parents a copy of the book because I don't have the need to make them uncomfortable. Sex was never discussed in our home so it doesn't seem to exist between us (it's crazy, but what can you do). They're more than welcome to get it on their own, but it's up to them to see if they can deal with one of their favorite actors counter-shitting on a person. But I did send Soft Split to my two brothers because we're much closer and one of them, D, was sweet about it. Sure he was surprised by how dirty it was, but he was also proud of me. Do you read a lot of dirty books? Or, do you think there are enough (good) dirty books out there? I'm always on the lookout.

MA: I actually don't, but that's not a deliberate decision. I just don't come across a whole lot of them for whatever reason. Last year, I read Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water, and it was really the first time I'd read a female author write so rawly about sex and the female body. I loved it. All the fluids. That book made me feel fucking strong.

SM: Oooh thanks for the tip. I haven't read her yet. I'm reading Agota Kristof right now and sometimes she is despicably dirty, but with a kind of minimal language that ends up creating this intense effect. It's upsetting to read (therefore brilliant).

MA: When I think about the main character in Soft Split, I think of her as really powerful--full of life. Yet, a lot of that power is only being exerted internally. On the outside, she's stuck in this shitty job and this dicey marriage. Tell me if I'm wrong, but it feels like there's a feminist message here.

SM: I'm struggling to answer your question. I want it to have a feminist message and happy to agree with anyone who thinks it has one, but that wasn't why I started writing the story. Or maybe it was all along but subconsciously. Or maybe that's what it ended up being. Either way, I'm proud of it. What message do you see in it?

MA: Well, I think there's a lot of aspects to the book that made me see it as feminist. For one, it's a bold statement about women as sexual beings with their own wants and desires. There's also such power in this woman, and yet she's still stuck, restricted--sort of restrained in her real life, which is why she's escaping into these dream states. To me there's a message here about the simultaneous prescribed impotence and real power of womanhood.

SM: You're totally right, but I guess I wasn't ready for that kind of reaction (from anyone, really). It's strange to me how writing honestly about a woman's own desire and needs can still be a bold statement today, or even be shocking to some people. I've also had people (I guess acquaintances) tell me that they're so surprised that there's so much masturbation in the text. I just think that's hilarious. It's kind of a, "You want the truth? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH" kind of thing. But it makes it all the more fun to be honest. It also makes it clear to me that we're still not there yet. How women can express sexual desires (or the fact that women have them!) is still not accepted as fully and obviously as it has been for that other type of gender we like to turn to for "universal" representation. And there's not a single line in Soft Split that's shocking (to me) for the sake of shock value. I was aiming to describe a certain kind of honesty and see how far it could take me.









Szilvia Molnar Soft Split
Future Tense Books

'SOFT SPLIT is a dark tale about love, betrayal, dreaming, sex, airports, and office tension. Szilvia Molnar is a fearless fictional deviant.' -- Future Tense

'With its red parrots, illicit sexual encounters, and a former lover named Blondie, Szilvia Molnar's SOFT SPLIT is a welcome contribution to the library of dreams, wet and not.' -- Sjón

'If Georges Bataille had found a feral child and left her with Miranda July and Emmanuel Carrère to raise, the little girl may have grown up to sound exactly like Szilvia Molnar, whose SOFT SPLIT has the mannered depravity and whimsical uber-feminist pervdom we've come to expect from these giants of the genre.' -- Jerry Stahl


Excerpt

I’m on a train that runs along the beach. It moves with a wobbly but fast determination. It’s night & I don’t know where I’m going but I keep travelling in the same direction so I’m not worried. An older man enters the car, sits down next to me & slides closer. There isn’t anyone else in the car. He doesn’t look me in the eyes which makes this feel wrong. My right side is touching his left side. He is warmer than I am. The movement in my pelvis is silent. Muted. I want to trust what my hips want to tell me & this time they’re not speaking. Then another man comes into the same car. His hair is silver foxed. He is enthusiastic & chatty like he recognizes me from another time & place, perhaps at a party where he felt like the king & I felt like a fool, but I don’t know who he is. He squeezes the first man out of his seat. He keeps on being excited, but then the first man interrupts to explain things to me. Something about things in the world being what they are & enlightening me about the state of all beings, how women are shaped after plants & men after buildings & I yell QUIT TRYING TO EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME. I GET IT. I GOT IT BEFORE YOU GOT HERE.
    It shuts both of them up.
    I continue feeling the vibrations of the train & rub my slick & soft thighs together. I look down & see a bruise the shape of Manhattan. It’s perfectly ugly, just like the city. When it disappears into me, I wonder if I will have arrived.

*

I am training my new assistant, a chubby Indian woman who seems great but when I mention that she would also have to handle tax forms she says, That’s not possible, that’s work for an assistant, like it was beneath her to do tax forms. So I get really upset & ask her to leave. But first she wants to check her email on my computer. I scream & push her but I also kind of try to have sex with her on her way out. Gimme sum sum sum pa-rum pa-pum pum, I say & I smile. She calls me crazy & leaves. I jiggle my body parts like keys on a chain hooked to a hip.
    Now I’m all wild & ready inside, like I can’t go in any other direction but forward. My fingers want to be put somewhere.
    I go to the ladies room & ask Valerie to sleep with me. She is the assistant nobody can stand at the office. Every office has one. Her hair is short & curly. Just like her legs. She reads books by Czech authors but it was her mother who got her this job.
    I don’t care who I’m asking, but Valerie looks at me like I’m a madwoman with obscene facial hair & leaves me alone in the ladies room.
    I decide to masturbate in the stalls. My fingers start off soft, like a boutique company. Then they get all hard & busy. Corporate. Expanding. Merging. Concurring. I hear other girls trickle in. They close the stall doors behind them, like in unison. They drop their bottoms & they plant their soft butt cheeks on the gaping toilet seats. Thinking of these simple kisses brings me to victory. I lean back & close my eyes. I listen to my quick heartbeats.
    While the girls pee, I imagine their skirts grazing the dirty bathroom floor. The fabrics soaking up all kinds of drops. Then the girls go wash their hands under automatic taps. Some use soap, some don’t.

*

I am in a soft split with my filthy urges fleeing the sight of me.

*

I pick up the morning paper & the international section is missing. All of the other sections have the same front page: a picture of a bright blue sky or one big blue wave.

*

Some nights later, I am traveling with a big pink suitcase. It’s terribly heavy but I don’t know what’s in it. Perhaps it’s the insides of my marriage. I also don’t know where I am going but I am at Port Authority Bus Terminal & I have to find a certain gate. There is a flight to catch. It’s raining a lot & dark outside. After dragging my pink suitcase in circles, searching for my gate, a lady in a red uniform tells me that my gate is in Jersey. From there you can fly to your husband. Like in all unrealities, it’s always the people in uniform who have all of the answers.
    I have to get to Jersey, but I don’t know how. I am trying to run but I can’t move fast enough. I want to catch a cab but there are none. I want to catch a bus that is taking a bunch of people to my gate but I never get to it. My body is working against me, like an empty vessel. The pink suitcase is not helping either. I see that there’s a woman in charge but she doesn’t see that I need help. She is busy picking up a receiver, holding it against her ear like a seashell, only to put it down like a mistaken call.
    A girl or a friend shows up. She comes up to my hips & I’m tempted to put her in my pocket, but I don’t have time for her cuteness.
    I let her climb onto my back like a baby monkey. She releases all of her weight on me. I almost start crying, thinking that no girl can be weightless, flawless, less of themselves. With or without pink. With or without the insides of a marriage.
    The monkey girl & my tears & the pink suitcase slow me down until forever comes.
    I never get to the gate.











________________




THE BELIEVER: Your books and performances move between the intensely personal and affective to ironic baroque melodrama through quick changes between mediums, characters, scenarios, and guises. You set up registers of emotion, and then disrupt them with quotation. Sometimes it seems as if you’re mocking the reader for following you into these maudlin places. Is this what you mean by bathos? What is the difference between pathos and bathos?

FELIX BERNSTEIN: For me, pathos is basic tragedy, which makes an appeal to the audience’s sentiment, raises your ecological and moral consciousness. Bathos is being trapped in pathos but not being able to appeal to the audience, the performance doesn’t work. This has become that generic thing called “narcissistic,” masturbatory performance art. I still try to do this. Maybe I’m just trying to fit in.

BLVR: It feels like you’re role-playing as yourself, dressing up in affects and using concepts as props. Would you say the book, as a whole, is a kind of psychodrama?

FB: Or a spoof. I don’t disagree with Godard calling Douglas Sirk’s films black comedies, but they are of course, also, melodramas. Or Charles Ludlum saying the audience laughs but he cries, when he plays Camille. To do Queer Theory revisionist readings of these things, and erasing Brecht’s influence—seeing only “bodies and affect,” simplifies the art. Art shouldn’t be mere normalizing sublimation or queer desublimation, which amounts to the same thing. should actually make your problems worse. Only then can the fantasy of endless role-playing and analysis be traversed. Art is, in this way, less delusional than psychoanalysis.

BLVR: One of the things that impressed me most about your last book, Notes on Post-Conceptual Poetry is its coherency, both how clearly you identify the targets of your criticism, and the unity of voice you address them with. But Burn Book…it’s all over the place. How self-conscious were you in assembling these poems? Were they intuitive? Did they have an overall structure?

FB: What’s the actual question? Do I know what I’m doing?

BLVR: Yes, but I find it hard to believe you would write this way without a reason. What, if anything, were you trying to do by bringing all of these different styles and genres together in one book? Each piece is an expression of a different mode, and it’s hard to read the entire project as an example of poiesis because it feels fractured, so fragmented.

FB: It is definitely fragmented in comparison to my critical writing. But as for intent, often enough gay male bathos is deemed intentional, whereas female bathos is deemed “suicidal,” or troubling. Likewise, there is the difference between the intentional ridiculousness of Ludlum’s “Ridiculous Theater” and the mistaken ridiculousness of Samuel Barber’s “Anthony and Cleopatra.” More interesting is when you can’t tell. Ideally, people won’t be able to tell at the Whitney.

BLVR: When I was reading it, I kept wondering, as a thought experiment, what the thesis would be…

FB: The thesis was probably to develop something that I couldn’t develop a thesis from very easily.

BLVR: That’s what makes it so hard to read Burn Book in relation to Notes on Post-Conceptual Poetry.

FB: People who are insecure about their critical writing have a hard time making art that isn’t trying to overcompensate for that insecurity, especially if they’re in New York. How many poems reference theory and it’s just ‘cause they really want to seem like they “get it” and that they’re “hip.”

BLVR: This suspicion about theory-as-reference is interesting since it seems like a lot of your project is about how opposition is impotent.

FB: Well, I wager that playing by the rules aggressively can be a sort of opposition. Aggressively passive rather than passive aggressive. In the conversation with my dad’s character in the book, he says, “why aren’t you being more clearly oppositional? Why would you let people see you in this impotent way?” One reason is that I don’t want to produce obvious “experimental” art because I know it’ll be dismissed as “bloodline.” I try, not always successfully, to feel unpopular and annoying, not just cool and hip. Which I’ve noticed is the very wrong aesthetic for a young gay male at the moment. Which seems to be about mirroring Clueless style popularity… or being unpopular in a way that is sort of at the margins but fits in the Hollywood cliché of emo boy or melancholic girl. But what camp once was was a sort of unpopular inside joke. How now do you create an inside joke now when Joe’s Pub (etc.) is just another tourist trap in NYU’s bought up and renovated lower east side?









Felix Bernstein Burn Book
Nightboat Books

'Artist and writer Felix Bernstein’s first book of poems mordantly stages his attempt to pick between family, lovers, coteries, and solitude. Drawing on the story of child muse Eva Ionesco, Bernstein troubles the melodramatic coming-of-age story with his neurotic self-critical ruminations. Does the pouty, post-digital, coquettish boy have recourse to transgression? To answer, Bernstein rummages through the closets of his queer and familial lineages and finds many skeletons in waiting. Awkward, fragile, imposing, parodic, and earnest, these poems push brooding indifference into elegy and seduction. Burn Book, full of correspondence and confession, is an irreverent and irresistible treat for those readers who dare to be burned.' -- Nightboat Books

'To blurb Burn Book is to participate cheerfully in Felix Bernstein’s performance of willed stardom; to blurb is to enter his porn-phantasmagoria, his intellectual fugue-state, in a way that both disturbs and delights me. Burn Book—too incandescent for repose—is all genius, all chutzpah, all tragi-comedy, all theory, all affront, all career, all elegy, all gift. He lives up to Artaud’s exalted, punishing standard of flame. It’s impossible for me not to be troubled and mesmerized by this book’s poignant quest for authenticity via hyper-professionally embodied disembodiment.' -- Wayne Koestenbaum


Excerpt

EBB

I’ve thought of a centerpiece to make it stick together.



The book you mean?



Yeah…. I’ve thought: communicating with the dead. But that would be too creepy.



Why? Framing is always a way of killing. So no matter what it’ll be creepy.



Okay. But this is also corny.



So is a lot of this book. So is my death. Hanging in a museum.



Cornball.



So? Art should always be folly.



I quit analysis because it can’t handle the whole sibling thing. Daddy this, daddy that. But you were more important than him.



I was him.



Right I get it. Your last Facebook status: Emma is Charles.



That’s why I didn’t need analysis.



But I do since allegedly I have a melancholic fixation on you. I think you were the greatest and cannot be replaced instead of realizing it’s my desire that cannot be replaced, that something in her caused desire, something in the male butt caused desire, and I cannot have that thing again. So I fixate on you as “object,” a substitute that is never the cause of my desire but resembles it.



Yeah whatever but also you are dealing with my melancholic fixation on you, i.e., being haunted. But I’m not an object. Or a lack of object. I’m a ghost. And the ghost is in the machine/ego: we share the same machine.



This hurts me so much that I need tranquilizers.



But you’re tranquilizing yourself good enough by fixating more…. You’re distracting from larger and more unconscious feelings. Which is fine. But like I said you’ll fall asleep either way. Fixate or not doesn’t really make a difference. I fixate and send endless texts all the time. But what is singular about the person and what is lost in them is not related to your own attempts to handle your anxiety and panic over being alone which is what you’re mostly feeling right now.
Is this book just a compulsively produced distraction?



What is striking about this book is that it so un-heterosexual. I’m your muse and Eva’s your muse or Justin’s your muse or Gabe or whatever but you never fuck us. You finger us a little but never fuck us. What’s the deal? Chicken?



No. I’d fuck you.



But you can’t because we are simply two sides of the same brain. Right. That’s the pact?



That was your pact.



And I win. Your writing and consciousness will always be an uneven mess. Because you aren’t just you. You’re me.



The way you’re Charles.



Maybe. But it’s deeper. I’m C as a masquerade. You’re not playing me. Or playing with me: you’re me-ing me.



That’s not fun.



No. It’s not. That’s why drag isn’t fun for you. Cuz my scalp and hair fit too well as a wig.



Oh?



From above all this conflict, especially the poetry wars, seems kind of dull.



I only see it as a game. Don’t worry.



“I’m not worried.” Like when you control a doll’s voice so it says what you want. Until you can get it to speak for itself. There is that awkward moment. Where you’re just hearing yourself think. In precisely that moment you want the angelic gap to refuse your own voice. What don’t you want to hear?



I don’t want to hear anything that would get in the way of my hazy discontent with life.



So what? Worried I’ll make it all too blisteringly painful, a hailstorm of rage at the very fabric of your experience, so you’re asphyxiated by it?



Right. I’m not in the mood to be brought to your level.



But if I don’t bring you there, what will be the point of this? A further exercise in our two intellectual halves making conversation instead of intercourse—who cares?



I’ve never wanted to consciously have anything more than that.



But you’re not off the hook. Precisely because you are still here, in the rain, even, talking to a ghost. Waiting for the ghost to press up against you.



I know that you won’t. That I won’t.



Right. Now shame…



Yeah.



This game sucks. The game of affinity that you are playing. When did you become so dull?



Be in my tummy again, please?



How about you just listen to me cry in the other room?



While I get goosebumps and depersonalize…. Okay.



Peep oh, peach blow, peach blow, jump over the door.



Cocteau Twins?



Not every ghost arises the way you want it to, Felix.



Shame and agony aren’t choices.



Nope. Nobody would choose each other.



That’s where you fucked up.



I never pretended like you do. I couldn’t. When did you start?



There is no amount of bad feeling that hits a good chord and then stops reality from bleeding.



You’re ill equipped to handle the situations of nature, spirit, the infinite, etc. Do you not even miss me? Just want to join the ranks of the living, one group after another. One hook-up after another… One deconstruction after another…



The core is damaged.



The core is emptied. Not because you are compromising your integrity. But because you have no integrity. That’s why there are no soft dragons flying you around, no mermaids for you to pet or squish, no furry fawns to lead you, no tender friends to fondle you, no skinny dipping, no hill top vistas, no grandchildren to goof around with, no jogging in the park, no pillow fights, no black eyes, no sore feelings, no waves of grief that shake your bed, no magic carpets, no lush surprises, no books to tear up, no handmade circuses, no fireflies, no overwhelming convictions, no water fights, no bowties, no special charms, no murderous impulses, no cloudy days, no clinging to one boy, no fits of laughter, no slit wrists, no decorations in your new apartment, no fluffy fantasias, no golden heart necklaces, no relapses, no pocket-sized dolls, no koala bears, no ice cold baths, no seasonal mood swings, no esoteric alphabets, no delight.



None?



Not one.



Felix Bernstein @ The Poetry Project


Felix's Coming Out Video (15 years old)


Unchained Melody




__________________




HOUSTON DONHAM: What do you think about distinctions between the personal and the political?

JOSEF KAPLAN: I like the question of whether a poem could be too personal. It’s easy to write something that’s overtly too personal, something that’s totally ad-hominem and belligerent. You could just call people names, you know, or throw some epithets around. That’s not my thing, really. It’s harder to effectively confound that distinction between the partial and impartial, so that the reader has to resolve it themselves and therefore bring some set of ideals into the open. There’s a long tradition of this in avant-garde writing: Amiri Baraka, Brecht, Valerie Solanas, Chris Kraus. Barrett read it as an attack. That’s fine. The work risks that – that’s a kind of entropy the work risks in order to give contrast to other, more critical readings. It’s something to work against. What worth is writing that doesn’t put its own disaster on the line? Poets always say that, I guess, but maybe this is one way that question could look in practice.

HD: In a similar vein, what about the personal and the poetical? Much of your work fucks with ideas of the author’s voice, and maybe even ideas about personal responsibility. Do you feel personally responsible for your work?

JK: In some sense… but I try and not make too much of it. You can’t help how somebody’s going to react to something, and I’m not about to argue for or against the validity of anyone’s experience of a poem. And really, if it’s a good poem, you don’t have to, because any one reaction exists in the same way the poem does: borne out alongside other experiences, some of which might contradict, or at least complicate, that initial one. This is for me the more compelling narrative to pay attention to, rather than some imagined compact between writer and reader that either has to feel indebted to. I’d rather talk about the development of a larger, contested arc of experience, and how that process reflects back on the poem. What the character of combined interpretations means for the piece itself.

Like, how earlier you described Kill List as documenting certain social anxieties within contemporary poetry, and I noted that a lot of these anxieties were more accurately documented in the aftermath of the piece’s publication, in the host of responses it provoked. It’s not that the poem didn’t have a hand in motivating those responses, but the fact of its having done so can make the terms of that provocation seem inevitable, which alters what it means for the poem to have been written at all.

It’s all just to say that this is more involved than just one person’s tweet, or blog post or whatever. It’s a whole dynamic. I’m more interested in the dynamic than any one individual, personal component.

With authorial voice, it’s a similar issue. The big debate always seems to be “personal expression” versus “poetic formalism,” or “veneration of the subject” versus “abolition of the subject.” Everyone knows that it’s really neither – you can’t, on one hand, excise the subject from poetry. That’s just not what “poetry” means right now. Accomplishing that would need to happen through some other register. But everyone also knows that identities are mediated, received, and executed in different ways at different times, and those variations have real, material consequences for how we encounter ourselves as subjects, in our actual lives. This is why self-righteously “sincere” work is as obnoxious as anything similarly smug in its “insincerity”; the best writing takes a more difficult position with regards to either notion.










Josef Kaplan Poem Without Suffering
Wonder

'Poem Without Suffering is a book-length elegy, composed in slow motion alongside the path of a .224-inch, jacketed hollow point bullet — one that’s been fired into the bodies of at least two children, maybe more. Combining Alice Notley with a ballistics report, Tobias Wolff with Antonin Artaud, Kaplan’s relentless examination of grief evokes a poetics through which the mechanics of atrocity are indistinguishable from those of the literary imagination. At turns tender, comic, and soberingly extirpative, Poem Without Suffering presents a thin column of writing from within a world of ever-expanding cruelty.' -- Wonder

'Poem Without Suffering produces catharsis of the most extreme kind, partly through the tensions it sustains throughout. To the lethal speed of bullets, Kaplan opposes a relentless durational performance. To common pieties, the exactness of forensic knowledge. To knowledge in general, its utter inconsequence when it comes to reversing the damage. Awful, and yet I’m in awe.' -- Mónica de la Torre


Excerpt

To have it happen,
but to have it not
be considered
tragedy, at least not
in the traditional
sense, the way in
which one senses
form in drama
as human suffering.
It’s not that.
It’s not that
because sffering
is irrelevant
to the act itself.
That is, it creates
no suffering, at least
not in the moment
that it happens,
and at least not
for the children.
They don’t suffer.
Not unless we
imagine suffering
to exist beyond our
ability to perceive it,
as with the fear that
we might, after our
expiration, appear
dead in every way
to friends, family,
and medical
professionals, when
we are in fact not dead,
but living, in a sense,
conscious underneath
that appearance, left
with all senses intact,
but simultaneously
lacking the will and
motor control necessary
to express their
presence—to move
a hand, or open
our mouth and
exclaim or signal
our distress at having
been washed and shaved,
our eyes closed, our jaw
sewn into some
natural-seeming shape,
slightly cocked
like an incision,
one made just below
our belly button,
a cut just wide
enough to
accommodate
an instrument
inserted to drain
us of our fluids
and replace them
with formaldehyde,
phenol, glutaraldehyde,
methanol, ethanol,
and water, arresting us
with this solution, as if
it were an argument,
an answer to the problem
of what to do with
an empty body,
or any emptiness at all,
like a grave is empty
and so calls to be filled,
and calls our body down
into it, in silence.
And worse, that
this sense persists
past the resolutions
of our body, so that
our senses carry us
through, in utter
horror, the steady
annihilation
of our corpse
as it is worn down
and away by
the onset of
moisture, by
the weight
of gravity, time,
and insects, whose
small bodies and
mindless purpose
grant them access
to any material
thing eventually.
But this is not death.
Death, as we imagine it,
is an end to suffering,
an edge across which
the fine caul of pain
that passes always
over the touch and
whisper of life
suddenly
disintegrates
and is gone,
like in this moment,
when a jacketed
hollow-point bullet,
sized approximately
0.224 inches (or
5.7 millimeters)
at its diameter
and housed in a
5.56 millimeter
by 45 millimeter
cartridge (the same
specifed dimensions
of a NATO military
cartridge, but not
actually itself
a NATO military
cartridge, instead
a .223 Remington
cartridge, pronounced
either “two-two-
three” or “two-
twenty-three
Remington cartridge”),
weighing between
40 and 90 grains
(or, if you prefer,
2.6 to 5.8 grams),
though most likely
weighing 55 grains
(the most common
loading, by far),
slides easily past hair,
skin, and muscle,
before shattering
one or more of
the eight cranial
bones encasing
the brain. The
bone, grown of
calcium, sodium,
phosphorous, and
collagen, is too
fragile to deter
the momentum
of the lead cone
traveling at,
or even faster
than, 3,200 feet
per second,
this awesome
speed making
the force of
the projectile
devastating, even
at its miniscule
size, so that the
bone, resistant
until now against
events as various
as a tumble
from the top bunk
of a two-tiered
bed, or the impact
of a baseball
or a stone, or
a collision with
the sidewalk
or with the edge
of a wooden coffee
table, comes apart
and caves into
the connective
tissue and fibrous
membranes
that cushion the
brain, and then
deeper into
the brain’s
cerebrospinal
fluid, the brain’s
shock absorber
that protects
against the
kind of injury
conceivably
caused by the rate
at which the
head is now
flipping forward
from the shock
of the impact of
the bullet,
the bullet
that is still,
at this moment,
traveling so fast
that its speed exceeds
the speed at which
the tissues that
bind together the
child’s head tear,
so that the bullet
is actually not
even ripping the
tissues, but simply
pushing them
out of its way,
as if engaged
in an unstudied
pantomime



"cars are real" / at current gallery / baltimore / 2013


Sir Deja Doog meets Sugarbabe


poster by Josef Kaplan




*

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I haven't seen 'The Tree ...', and I will definitely rectify that. Thanks! ** Pascal, Hi, P. Rhys ... interesting point of comparison, yeah. Huh. I'm going to think about that. Nice, thanks for using your brain in that way. And thank you very kindly about 'Zac's Control Panel'! I know the stanza you mean. Yeah, that one is actually one of my favorite gif constructions I've done, so t's awesome that you particularly liked it. More thanks yet. Have a swell Monday, pal. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi. I think that way of thinking about using what feels natural for you in terms of length and then thinking of how they relate, connect, and considering ways they could grow together is really good. Like I said, I do that a lot. Vår: yes, definitely! I loved Vår. Their album is probably the album I played the most the year it came out. And, in fact, the title of Zac's and my film LIKE CATTLE TOWARDS GLOW is lifted from the lyric of a Vår song: 'Pictures of Today / Victorial'. I hung out with Elias of Vår/Iceage/Marching Church when he was in Paris last year, and he's an awesome guy. He and Zac and I have talked about collaborating on something, and I really hope that happens. So, yes, I'm a giant Vår fan. I hope your Monday rules! ** Scunnard, Hi, J. Makes sense, right? Good, good, you sound really good. Rome is great. No news there. Mixed feelings about Amsterdam, but I lived there, so that's different. Berlin: I have never gotten the much hyped greatness of Berlin. Not yet. I'm still kind of a shrugger about Berlin. But, hey, I seem to be the wrong drop in the bucket about that. ** Steevee, Hi. Thanks for linking over to the Clive Barker comment. I guess it's just how you view things or something. Or maybe how you calculate that you think people want you to have felt about something like that. But there's obviously no right or wrong to how you feel about your body and what you do with it. Anyway, interesting. ** Bill, Hey. Yeah, I hadn't listened to Namtchylak in a really long time until I came across some stuff by her recently. Pretty amazing. I hadn't thought of her in the same light as artists like Bjork and Brigitte Fontaine before, but I totally get it. Yeah, it's true, I agree about Blithe Field. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. The new Surgeon album is really terrific, and, yes, generally leaning heavily towards his techno side. Cool that your piece was well received, and fingers entangled re: #3 of Art101. Did you want to do a related post? I'm way, way game. ** Thomas Moronic, Hi, T. Thanks a bunch for exploring the gig. You especially like Immune? Interesting. Yeah, good stuff. My weekend got misshaped by a sudden bad head cold that I'm still beset with, but it wasn't so bad. Holy shit, you got the job! Huge congratulations! That's so, so great! Man oh man, that was is very sweet news, Mr. M. When do you start? ** Schlix, Hi, Uli. Thanks. Cool, yeah, about 'IA'. People seem to still really like that piece when we do perform it. Its ending is still one of my very favorite endings of our pieces, if not maybe even my favorite ending. Ha, nice, about seeing that duo in the theater. Like I told Thomas, I had a bad head cold this weekend, so I didn't do all that much except work foggily, but it was all right. ** S., Hi. Well, I know next to zip, like I said, but I can see the theoretical wisdom in not totally feeding your head into Lacan's. I don't know the Clichy high school. I hardly know Clichy. I always just pass through on my way to somewhere sometimes. The first time I ever came to Paris in 1976, I stayed in Clichy, which wasn't such a great choice, but I didn't know the city at all, and I think I chose there because of Henry Miller's 'Quiet Days in Clichy', not really focusing on the 'quiet' in that title. Anyway, blah blah. There's a high school across the street from where I live. It seems okay. ** MANCY, Hi, S! Good to see you, my pal. Thanks a bunch about the gig and the speeches. What's up and going with you? ** Okay. Let's start the week with four books I read recently and loved, as the title says. See if my pickings from any or all of them strike a chord with you. See you tomorrow.