I'm not sure I believe in poetical ways out anymore. I know I certainly used to - back in the days when every poem I could encounter might perform a newly specialized abstraction of catharsis or transcendental bliss. But I think I wanted to encounter poetry then as a means of by-passing poetry and landing somewhere else entirely, jumping into infinity via the linguistic catapult; I also think I am a much better reader of poetry than I used to be. That pivot object at the end of the Immortality Ode is complicated, for me, by the preceding two lines:
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
So that the object is distinguished in its meanest particularity by, and only by dint of, the "human heart", or rather, the condition of being part of the human race that allows the utterance "To me" to gain a foothold amongst the innumerable joys and fears of everyone else who doesn't happen, at this point, to be me. The condition of this experience of ruling out despair is the assumed joy of absolute connection to the social body at its most abstracted level, the level of biological species; "Thanks" to the emblem of my absolute similarity I can appreciate this meanest object as the backwards reflection of the joy we started with, or if not exactly the same joy, then one which derives its depth of feeling from the same wellspring of universal song which give certain "Thoughts" their universal excellence - except that I can't, because that a priori bliss doesn't seem nearly as symbolically biological as it seemed to Wordsworth.
I think what we're no longer capable of is not distinguishing the identities of the most useful meanest objects, of which I can think of dozens - pornography, pop songs, cigarettes, the poor - but arriving at them replete with the knowledge of their power to reflect that which Wordsworth already felt deeply in the blood: that he was embedded in the universe he describes thanks to his very physiognomy as a poet. And that's a pretty bad mark in itself, or lack thereof, isn't it? I sometimes think that everything I write is a bad mark, another flagging up of the attempt to coral a diagnostic passion into a slightly less that parallel symptomology of experience (ha!), but then I also wish I didn't think so often along the binary of diagnosis in verse, versus the cultural symptoms of bad affect (I don't anymore, anyway). In Benjamin's writings on Baudelaire he distinguishes between the possible social and moral readings of his work, which I think map on to my (now abandoned) binary quite nicely; it's obviously extremely difficult to write from both perspectives at the same time, although maybe that's what's now absolutely necessary. In Baudelaire, for Benjamin, the two are fused in the speaking (not ventriloquising) empathy of the commodity. Perhaps I'm getting off-track, but since I'm at this point anyway:
"If the soul of the commodity which Marx occasionally mentions in jest existed, it would be the most empathetic ever encountered in the realm of souls, for it would have to see in everyone the buyer in whose hand and house it wants to nestle".
Leaving aside the notion for the moment as to whether or not, or at least in what sense, Marx was joking, isn't this kind of universalism more the sort of stuff [good] poets are made of? Perhaps I feel that I approach my objects, however mean, not with the full knowledge of my human and super-human powers, but rather with this knowledge implicitly circumscribed by the far more easily delineated knowledge of the bad humans I feel bound to distinguish from myself, and further to render crap and pointless by assumption. In order for mean objects to have the power to banish despair, I need a vision of "humanity" to which, right now I do not have access; or rather, which is systematically screened off from me by my inability to experience it as anything other than the mendacious .jpeg of a thousand blended hands begging for me to want to nestle. Humanity is the logo of corporate idealism.
* Centuries hence, despite faster-than-light travel, human interstellar exploration is stagnating.
* There’s not enough money in it for the vast controlling companies such as Zantiu-Braun, now reduced to extracting profits via “asset realisation” — plundering established colonies that can’t withstand Earth’s superior weapons tech.
* Now another Z-B squaddie, trained to use the feared, half-alive “Skin” combat biosuits, which offer super-muscles, armour and massive firepower, all queasily hooked into the wearer’s bloodstream and nervous system.
* Secret plans to make off with a rumoured alien treasure.
* Resistance is unexpectedly tough, thanks to locals such as Denise Ebourn who have mysterious access to neuro-electronic subversion gear far subtler and perhaps more dangerous than Skin.
* Meanwhile, how fictional are the stories about a fabled Empire that ruled our galaxy for a million years before becoming…something else?
* Genuine hopes to avoid bloodshed - while lofty idealism results in chilling atrocities, and even Z-B may be less cruel and monolithic than it seems.
* A breakneck interstellar chase leads to a satisfying finale and an unexpected romantic twist.
At some point in the future I promise to utilize this blog for something less benignly parasitic, but much more fulsomely attractive, than advertising. Watch this underscore. Last night Timothy Thornton read the entirety of Jocund Day in the Sit Room, and it was real. I don't think there's anything quite like it currently in the world. Make it yours. Tim's giving another reading tonight in Cambridge with Tomas Weber and Simon Jarvis.
Sarah Kelly, Jonny Liron, Francesca Lisette, Joe Luna, Nat Raha, Linus Slug, Josh Stanley, Timothy Thornton, Anna Ticehurst, Jonty Tiplady, Mike Wallace-Hadrill, Tomas Weber and Steve Willey are all represented in this new anthology from Chris Goode's Ganzfeld imprint; exchange paper for paper here. Huge thanks to Chris Goode, whose limitlessly exacting blog is here, next to list of his forthcoming appearances in meatspace. Hola Chris!
I'll sing you a new ballad, and I'll warrant it first-rate,
Of the days of that old gentleman who had that old estate;
When they spent the public money at a bountiful old rate
On ev'ry mistress, pimp, and scamp, at ev'ry noble gate, In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!
The good old laws were garnished well with gibbets, whips, and chains,
With fine old English penalties, and fine old English pains,
With rebel heads, and seas of blood once hot in rebel veins;
For all these things were requisite to guard the rich old gains Of the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!
This brave old code, like Argus, had a hundred watchful eyes,
And ev'ry English peasant had his good old English spies,
To tempt his starving discontent with fine old English lies,
Then call the good old Yeomanry to stop his peevish cries, In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!
The good old times for cutting throats that cried out in their need,
The good old times for hunting men who held their fathers' creed,
The good old times when William Pitt, as all good men agreed,
Came down direct from Paradise at more than railroad speed.... Oh the fine old English Tory times;
When will they come again!
In those rare days, the press was seldom known to snarl or bark,
But sweetly sang of men in pow'r, like any tuneful lark;
Grave judges, too, to all their evil deeds were in the dark;
And not a man in twenty score knew how to make his mark. Oh the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!
Those were the days for taxes, and for war's infernal din;
For scarcity of bread, that fine old dowagers might win;
For shutting men of letters up, through iron bars to grin,
Because they didn't think the Prince was altogether thin, In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!
But Tolerance, though slow in flight, is strong-wing'd in the main;
That night must come on these fine days, in course of time was plain;
The pure old spirit struggled, but its struggles were in vain;
A nation's grip was on it, and it died in choking pain, With the fine old English Tory days,
All of the olden time.
The bright old day now dawns again; the cry runs through the land,
In England there shall be dear bread — in Ireland, sword and brand;
And poverty, and ignorance, shall swell the rich and grand,
So, rally round the rulers with the gentle iron hand, Of the fine old English Tory days;
Hail to the coming time!
- Charles Dickens, 1841
from The Common Muse: An Anthology of Popular British Ballad Poetry 15th-20th Century (Penguin, 1965). Victorian Web has the following information: Dickens wrote this savagely satirical ballad for the Liberal journal The Examiner; it was published on Saturday, 7 August 1841, shortly after the Tories had taken over the government in a parliamentary election. The anachreontic song is a parody of a popular ditty about a Fine Old English Gentleman who, "while he feasted all the great, / He ne'er forgot the small."
"There is a world by negation, then, and it presses on us. Bathos and failure are both crucial here, and their differences subtly but keenly felt: as bathos necessitates a bifurcation of value and its appropriate distribution, here and there, cross-hatched in the shadow of the cosmic faux pas, failure tends irredeemably towards a linear end-stop of utter cancellation; where bathos has the potential to act prosodically and diagnostically as the mark of an experience that derives its legitimacy from a latent truthfulness hardly yet disbanded, failure cannot be so easily or comfortably entrained into the services of measure-taking because so relentlessly immeasurable; we are the progenitors of bathos, it is performative and alive to the possibility of its success, but failure is the very opposite of success, and does not thus shed the light of understanding any more than it confers the historical weight of the tragi-comic; bathos must have its object, but failure is merely viral; failure is the pit that opens up beneath the limpid cloud of bathos."
- from the insert toHi Zero 6, which is out now, featuring poems by Samuel Solomon, Adam Weg, Ian Heames, Amy De'Ath, Justin Katko, Eric Linsker, Tom Bamford, Tim Atkins, Luke Roberts, Emily Critchley, Jeff Nagy and Richard Owens.
Since Blogger seems to have disabled commenting on comments, this goes here for now, in reply to Helen Bridwell's comment on the original post, below. If anyone knows how to fix my internets, please let me know. Yours incapably, etc.
That bit about net utopianism, that is the single most torturous sentence in the whole thing, Timothy Thornton picked me up on those objects too, and in fact suggested "phantom" as a means of distinguishing them as the most ghostly part of the whole set-up. By me, that is. They are the significant lack of the whole thing. What are the objects that net utopianism purports to critique? Tim was right to say that they are at least phantom, because the "critique" of some of this stuff is non-existent. Still, the sentence felt *right* to me, in a way that perhaps only scrolling down some of the comment sections on Art Fag City blog posts could ever attest to. For example, this from a year ago in response to Price's piece:
"Hi, Seth. It seems you are more interested in books than the Net. Many of your references to the Net are negative or written in a dry, anthropological tone. ("Self-consciously generous transparency," "an infantilizing rationality," "circumvent[ing] traditional ethical standards," and so on.) You sound at times like a threatened print writer criticizing bloggers. Your collection is also a disconnected hoard of images but the subject matter is books and magazines. Is having the fingers in each shot to distance yourself, as the antiquarian lover of one type of medium, from the complained-about effects of the medium in which you are communicating? The idea of showing books as a retro "hoard" page is great but could probably do without the accompanying talking down to Internet users. Books and magazines have their limitations and pathologies as well. (Maybe that's the point you're making--if so it could be clearer.)"
The same astonishing distinction between being, like, "negative" about the innernet, but having a "positive" outlook crops up everywhere, which is slightly alarming, a kind of binary code dialectics for schmucks. In "Kool-Aid Man in Second Life" Jon Rafman / Kool-Aid Man bats off this exact nonsense when his interviewer poses the question: "Yeah, a lot of this sounds very pessimistic, yet the work...seems very optimistic", to which Rafman / Kool-Aid Man responds: "Yeah that's a good question, how can we take so much pleasure in a movie in which all humankind is completely annihilated?".
It's a speculative piece, so in a sense I'm creating a version of "net utopianism" out of all the bad net art and half-baked London shows I've seen over the last year and a half or so and then lambasting it with an impossibly shit parody of itself. Those "objects of critique" are actually just what bad net art ignores, or rather, what feels to me is being deliberately and scathingly dispensed with when I'm enjoined to celebrate amorphous and nebulous concepts like "multiplicity" and "plurality". That's what got my goat about the Vierkant article. Consider his:
"The use of “We” is not to advocate solely for participatory structures of art but to insist on a participatory view of culture at large, and ultimately of taking iconoclasm itself as a quotidian activity. Whereas in previous times it was legitimate to conceive of culture as a greater system with impassible barriers to entry and a finitude of possibilities, culture after the Internet offers a radically different paradigm which our “They” idiom does not allow for. This is not to say that we have entered a fully utopian age of endless possibilities but simply to claim that culture and language are fundamentally changed by the ability for anyone to gain free access to the same image-creation tools used by mass-media workers, utilize the same or better structures to disseminate those images, and gain free access to the majority of canonical writings and concepts offered by institutions of higher learning."
So what, we haven't quite got to the "fully utopian age of endless possibilities" yet, but since regular folk can freely torrent a cracked version of the latest Photoshop and spam away we're at least on the right track? The necessary but unspoken corollary to this thinking is utopia as image management, the point at which the best of all possible worlds is not one without any advertisements but one in which we all make our own advertisements, and they're all equally as effective and equally as fucking massive. This is what Ciscso Systems is telling us, if only we could all listen at once. Net utopianism, insofar as I've constructed it, can't critique anything, let alone an object, because what it wants is for us all to imagine that a free online community is interesting to the world at large for anything other than selling discount Xanax. It's a necessarily gross speculative construct, because I wanted to argue against an extreme side of things that probably doesn't really take effect outside of a general tendency not to think too hard about what the work is doing.
Next I want to have a go at this:
"my best guess is that they/it are the real world of commodities, which is to say infinite plurality of virtual worlds, which is to say RL?"
Because I think what you've written there, and what you infer, and what happens when I read that, are all different and competing things, the structures of contradiction inherent in every object virtual or otherwise, the snake eating its own tail in the animated .gif of fetishized transcendence.
The following was written for the Your Body is a Temple collective of artists, whose work, amongst others, will be the subject of discussion at the South London Gallery in Peckham on Wednesday night.
The internet is a giant pun.
When Marx describes, in the first chapter of Das Kapital, the religious world as the reflex of the real world, he does not demand that we eradicate the former in order to better understand the latter. Rather, he suggests that only with recourse to the mist-enveloped world of religion might we find a suitable analogy with which to understand the fetish-character of commodities, in which a definite social relation between men assumes, in our eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. [Marx, K., Capital (London, Lawrence & Wishart,1967), pp.76-87, and see esp. p.77. The full text of Vol. 1 is also available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/index.htm] In the religious world, says Marx, “the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands.” The infinite plurality of virtual worlds has arguably superseded the religious one in Marx’s formulation whilst maintaining a degree of mysticism necessary to their self-replicating evanescence; the internet is the utopian refuge of the fetish-character, wherein Marx’s satire of our propensity to equate as values the products of specific social labour by their exchange becomes a form of triumphant, perpetual dissolution of “character” itself. Fetish unbound and free from any hyphenated attachment to social state or being might instantiate itself at infinity speed across the length, breadth and scope of the living net, no longer merely prescribed in aspect; life endowed with independent being is grateful for your traffic, and wistfully imagines that your heart will beat forever in the silver lining of the chat-box panelling the screen. The internet is a giant pun, whose giddy shimmering between life and realism might at any point tip ruthlessly into either of those de-mystifying dead-ends, but whose imperial magnanimity is in any case the pre-condition for both. "What we desire is to bring into a world founded on discontinuity all the continuity such a world can sustain". [Bataille, G., Eroticism (London, Marion Boyars, 1962), p.19] But then again, we can always just create another world.
The viral strain of net utopianism -- that assumes, with lethal cupidity, that the instantiation of the screen as site and sound of a radical participatory mass-media culture of constant prosumer re-definition is the means by which the image is freed from its authenticity of presence in some backwater post-Benjaminian dungeon -- is as blithely and reductively universalist as the phantom objects it purports to critique. The internet has done more than any other invention in human history to instigate an ersatz universal equivalence of experience and subjectivity disguised as the harmonious interaction of endless and immutable particularity. Advertisement logic as profile stimulator. Meme extraction. This is why the internet is so profoundly at home in the New Age, or whichever cultus of abstract man is lashed to its latest masthead banner ad for freshly bottled emotive water. The internet is brilliant at producing the wholeness we desire to extract from it because it is built on the sale of a radically interactive egalitarianism which alleviates political and economic reality into its very own neo-sincere celebration of utopian avatar expressionism.
Someone has recently said:
In the Post-Internet climate, it is assumed that the work of art lies equally in the version of the object one would encounter at a gallery or museum, the images and other representations disseminated through the Internet and print publications, bootleg images of the object or its representations, and variations on any of these as edited and recontextualized by any other author.
So as the distance between us is forever annihilated into the barest intimation of formal intersubjective fantasy, the image accelerates farther away from us than ever before – the dialectical tendency of the limitless re-deployment of an image across multi-platform occurrences is that we may never finally approach anything except the knowledge that we have encountered an artwork, and the proliferation of pure image becomes the merest coded announcement of its own narcissistic predilections for display. Seth Price has referred to “the embarrassing and stupid demands of interactivity itself, which foists an infantilizing rationality on all “Internet art,” and possibly Internet use generally, by prioritizing the logic of the connection, thereby endorsing smooth functioning and well-greased transit” [Price, S., Teen Imagewww.distributedhistory.com/Teen_Image.pdf], although this assumes that what is at stake is the completion of the artwork, rather than any specifically diagnostic claim about what might happen to physicality in a network of remote, as opposed to tangible, experience - what about the logic of the dial-up, the logic of the bad connection, the logic of the YouTube faith-healing account? How does a participatory structure distinguish between credit card fraud and facial recognition? How can I look into your eyes on Skype and know that you see my eyes looking back at you? How can we enjoy intimacy with an infinitely deferred other? If your body is a temple, who (or what) is worshipping inside you?
“In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race”. At the crux of that interaction now is the formation of the “human race” itself as the magnanimous progenitor of its own global and technological refresh-rate. Together, you are told by Cisco Systems Incorporated, we are the human network, in the blissful rhetoric of implied corporate idealism that says, because it does not say it, that without Cisco Systems Incorporated we are the dismembered faceless backwards-looking monads in helpless disarray. What we need now is an art that is as far removed from the ersatz utopianism of the Cisco Corporation as it is deeply cognizant of the social conditions and structures through which that logic arises. If there is any chance of a critique of the limitless technological and cultural expansion that might also engender the hopefulness in particularity of the experience of virtuality as becoming more real than it yet remains possible to be, it will emerge here, in this world, right at the heart of my refusal not to accept the data that does flow through my bloodstream like desire.
Click here for the gallery site, and here for more YBT.
I mean, I have a long slow fear that starts with the pause button and coagulates to my best impression of a sinking pig. I've been re-tweeting you for months and all I get is this lousy shipping? And Dr. Freud said: "The very thing, then, that she only sought to hint at quietly because she was really supposed to conceal it from him completely, that she is actually all his before the choice is made, and that she loves him, all this the poet allows to emerge into the open with admirable psychological sensitivity in the slip of the tongue, and by so doing he is able to assuage the unbearable uncertainty of the lover as well as the similar excitement of the audience about the outcome of the choice." The thing here then is the proxy certainty of the jeans in question, worn by any number of admirable celebrities, but not yet mine; at least the manufacture of this particular slippage, or smear, is the overburdening of the debt to style that the ode to leg-wear itself omits thanks to its all-too-passionate declaration of true love's material reflex. Recovery.
If you listen to both of these at the same time, something incredible happens. Peter, if you think this is one of those banalities you mentioned, I beg to differ. This is a portal into the very heart of the world. Point it at the sun.
I just can't believe she wore those jeans like me. This is, of course, eminently believable; but in the dream economy of passionate consumer affect, where emphatic utterance is the non qua sine of the perfect object's post-aural effervescence, the emotion merely slides back round the globular surface of the song to impregnate itself with the desire for its own gleaming smudge tool. The fact that the jeans in question aren't named in the lyrics is even better - their archetypal phantom presence flags up the gaping lack at the heart of the tautology. What we end up with is a pop song so brutally naked in both love and barbarism that it was always already the rape of itself. ARK should run for the presidency of the IMF.
The wreckage beneath standing beeches was lit at this place by a glare of sunlight concerted on flat, dying leaves which hung onto life by what was broken off, the small branches joining those larger that met the arms, which in their turn grew from the fallen column of the beech, all now an expiring gold of faded green. A world through which the young man and his girl had been meandering, in dreaming shade through which sticks of sunlight slanted to spill upon the ground, had at this point been struck to a blaze, and where their way had been dim, on a sea bed past grave trunks, was now this dying, brilliant mass which lay exposed, a hidden world of spiders working on its gold, the webs these made a field of wheels and spokes of wet silver. The sudden sunlight on Elizabeth and Sebastian as, arms about one another's waists, they halted to wonder and surmise, was a load, a great cloak to clothe them, like a depth of warm water that turned the man's brown city outfit to a drowned man's clothes, the sun was so heavy, so encompassing betimes.
A knee which, brilliantly polished over or beneath, shone in this sort of pool she had made for herself in the fallen world of birds, burned there like a piece of tusk burnished by shifting sands, or else a wheel revolving at such speed that it had no edges and was white, thus communicating life to ivory, a heart to the still, and the sensation of a crash to this girl who lay quiet, reposed.
In next to no time that bath was run, with Merode stretched out under electric light and water, like the roots of a gross water lily which had flowered to her floating head and hands. This green transparency was so just right, so matched the temperature of the hidden bliss, that she half closed her eyes in a satisfied contemplation of a chalk white body. She felt it seemed to sway as to light winds, as though she were bathing by floodlight in the night steaming lake, beech shadowed, mystically warmed.
Worshiping a Word God will destroy the USA, for life is composed of cubed opposites. Simple Cube Divinity is the most perfect and life-supporting form existing in the universe and on Earth - including Earth itself. Do you realize that a 4 corner square rotating 1/4 turn creates a full circle? A full rotated square will create 16 corners, 96 hours and 4 simultaneous 24 hour Day circles within only a single imaginary cubed Earth rotation. This amounts to a spiraling quad helix of Earth as it revolves around the Sun - rotating as it revolves around the Sun, to induce the value of the Sun revolving about the Earth. This act demonstrates that both Sun and Earth rotate around each other simultaneously - thus creating Opposites existing only as Opposites with a zero value existence between the binary and cancelling to nothing as One or God theism. All Creation occurs between Opposites, and exists only as Opposites - with a zero value existence. As One or as a Godism, all Opposite values cancel out to nothing. The Circle you see around Earth divides Earth into Opposite values equal to a zero existence. As One or God, both Earth and Human cancel to nothing. The whole of the Universe is composed of Opposites - with a zero value existence - that cancels to nothing as One or a God. Humans worship ONEness of DEATH, thus they are destroying the LIFE of all Opposites by which all Creation exists. I have found Evil lies in the Bible that will rock religious and academic values to their primitive origin. There is no Human or God who can match my Cube Wisdom as a Cube Phenomenologist - The Cube God Measurer. While the Circle of Earth rotation is a perpetual embodiment as it is void of the Corner Time notches that accumulate as aging Life for the 4 corner residents. Have you mentality to know 4 Days rotating simultaneously on Earth?
Ray has wagered $10,000 that his theories cannot be proven wrong. The site has been criticised for the "centered 30-point type" of its design and the "endless blather" of its content.
my villi caress your face, learning the soft curves of your cheeks, the bridge of the nose. i introduce my friends, a couple of belligerent stick figures. you seem bored and disengage from my hose station with a yawn, filling out the required forms as you rollercoaster stomach drop into the oblivious void of bliss at our feet, squawking like a wounded gull. the bridge is silent now, as mitochondria dance in the bellies of beasts below, the green, greasy stench rising to dance in my nostrils.
I need to feel endless in both directions. It's personal.