Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dear Art in the Present Time,

Dear art in the present time,

It’s mostly the noise we like.

“What ease,” one might say.
“What else?” another might.

I’ve been meaning to write for a while now.

Q: Why do you keep thinking about these things?
A: Why do you keep breathing?

There are many sand castles on the beach of thinking.

What would Freud have written if he had paid attention to the surrealist poets and to Dada? What if he would have encountered Ashbery?

The trajectory (in Ashbery) of forward wandering. The way that what is dismissed continues, that what is noticed doesn’t accrue, that the conglomeration begins to resemble, reassemble, coherence. What do such things mean for those critics interested in the uncanny and repetition compulsion? The attentiveness, the object-hood of subjectivity, where we recognize in meaning-like ways, our distance from final meaning, over and over again.

“Our unique and solitary home.” (Stevens)

I’m reading some Roman Jakobson this week: “[O]ne topic may lead to another through their similarity or through their contiguity.” Metaphor or metonymy. Still, even after Jakobson, we still haven’t done much, not nearly enough, with metonymy. (Tomorrow, maybe . . .)

If each historical period has its episteme (through Foucault) that governs the totality of how knowing can be experienced, what is ours?

Zeitgeist, I suppose, is another way of asking it?

(Knowing that such a thing would entail stepping from it, and that poses insurmountable difficulties.)

“Why don’t you just say /what you mean?” //  Why don’t I? (Armantrout)

OK, to use something of the structures of Foucault (keeping in mind the critique of his rigidity, etc), The Renaissance gave us the large scope of metaphor (convenientia / aemulation / sympathy / analogy) as a way of knowing. It was a working through of similarities, of making guesses through resemblance—of interpreting signs—knowing was poetic (metaphorical).

Then entered the Classical episteme, and reason: representation. Language becomes transparent, and the subject is bound to escape its representation. Knowing was metonymical (scientific / categorical).

The Romantic through the Modern period: The eruption of the “I.” Language does not represent knowledge, but, rather, creates it, following deeper, hidden structures. This causes a constant series of binary oppositions to erupt (for some reason): Man vs Nature, etc.

Is any of this helpful? Emerson shines an inner light and T.S. Eliot can’t get to sleep?

Ways of thinking—ways of making art, can only exist in their period—outside of their period, they become other. Suddenly Hamlet also wants to kill his father and sleep with his mother . . .

The thinker in Stevens who has the mind of winter to understand snow and the attendant vacancies of all that is and is not there is each of us in our episteme.

So where would that (if anything close to true [TRUE being under constant pressure-see below]) leave us now? “Dear Art in the Present Time,” the writer begins . . .

We’ve problematized the similitudes, the representations, and the I. We’ve seen the underside of Modernism, and we’ve fractured upon its shore. We’ve swept that breakage, that inherent criticism of Modernism back against it, as Postmodernism. But now we feel we’ve left that behind as well (what does one do when one leaves behind “leaving behind”?). Well then? One cannot become post-categorical, sorry. Language forces it upon us.

Is this a stance, an episteme, of only skepticism? And then what of skepticism’s twin, fanaticism? Whoopee, if that’s where we are. Abracadabra.

But then again, all ways of thinking are implicated in the “Will to Truth” where what can’t be assimilated is pushed away, violently. (Foucault through Nietzsche?) Is there nothing other than social and situational for truth to be? Wasn’t that Foucault’s great weakness, that his critique of TRUTH was to be taken as true?

Someone must always be oppressed. “The poor you will always have with you.” –Jesus

We imagine the present moment. And then we try once again the theory of trying to get outside of theory, where “if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice” (RUSH).

All these poems of identity I’m seeing seem holdovers from Western /Christian beliefs of individual salvation. What am I to do with them? “What does your identity do, Superman?”

More interesting is the obliteration, the more Zen-like other within the individual, where the author, being no one, has as much claim on going nowhere as going all places at once.

And how did Emerson get back into this? Through John Cage? Through Bloom? Abracadabra, indeed.

All best regards,



At 12/24/2010 6:25 AM, Blogger Julio de Luna said...

Fountain! You are the garbled
death-syllable raised by finality
into meaning. You die down
into your beginning and your
beginning is a flower always
blooming and in blooming
always wilting. You are women
dying in childbirth, who, even
as they blossom and give,
collapse and are themselves
taken. You are the jet of blood
from the generalissimo's
throat. In you oxidize the coins
of young women desperate
to have children and of
young men hoping their
one peso will clone itself
in the waters into many.
But you have no power
to grant wishes, only
to show us this: how to die
IN life, so that we may truly live.

- de Luna

At 12/24/2010 8:50 AM, Anonymous David Pritchard said...

A fine post. Thanks for sharing these fragments of reflections. Agree particularly that we don't use enough metonymy. The folks who use more metonymy (Derrida comes to mind) get hammered for being difficult. As if we should be able to simplify thinking into neat little boxes. Long live the pharmakon! thanks.

At 12/24/2010 3:07 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Hi David (Hi, de Luna!),

I meant to get that Jakobson bit up by now, but it'll have to wait. We're busy watching the Santa tracker today.

I wish there were more of a conversation going on around metonymy. It's a wide open field upon which a lot of art resides.


At 12/27/2010 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow, I think the spay-art reduces the pathos of the thing. We have no power to grant wishes, and yet the Generalissimo is truly[a]live. Where does this leave the blossom? In black light?


At 12/27/2010 6:44 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Still it beats sticking your hand in the mouth of an angry dog.

At 12/27/2010 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you beat the dog, what else can you expect??


At 12/27/2010 8:40 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

A ribbon maybe?

At 12/28/2010 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that's de Luna's cue. De Luna? Where are you?


At 12/28/2010 11:59 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I think we might be on our own this time, Eli.

Maybe we should write our own.

"The dogs are racing"

seems like a likely enough opening phrase.

At 12/28/2010 3:47 PM, Blogger Julio de Luna said...

Brothers! I would not leave you alone
in this world, but I am only as far from you
as the breadth of your breath! Breathe
and I am there, oh in this world of spheres!
And even if we three are the only ones
here, Eli, John, the weight of our bodies
will bury us, because the heart is shaped
like a spade, and our ulnas are shaped
like handles,and our skulls are shaped
like the bowl a beautiful woman washes
her hair in before cutting it off and entering
the moss-mute nunnery of her death!

- de Luna


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