WEEK IN REVIEW: the seed of chaos and the conspiracy of art

(Evan Karp)

As I set out to write about this past week something unexpected happened: my conscious mind admitted that no matter how loud it is, insistent and commanding, controlling, it really is but the chauffeur of my subconscious. All my drives and deeds the constant need to subsume it. I know best, I say; I push the days forward with all of my might, and push with my pushing way into the night; I know best that I am tired.

O subconscious, divulge to Litseen the ever-sinking, manifold meanings of Litseen. Reveal the memorrhaging of roadside headlights in deermind. Still on road, keep moving! Portend the pre-teloi, so we may peer into mirror and find still life in empty desert; smell ourselves in the commingling of pre-fauna flora; feel ourselves in every particulate. Reveal to us the feeling of the first time; show us the bafflement that accompanies instillation, how the underground relents to and even dreams of assimilation as it composes manifestos made of hatred.

This is not made of hatred. We are not made of hatred, though we so often use it as an engine. The airport food of existence: hatred. The ballpark beer: hatred. What else can you do? All your drives and deeds the constant need to extinguish the seed of chaos, the comet’s tail we’re all supposed to steer with.

Charles Kruger attended Thursdays at Readers and interviewed curator Jack Hirschman, who said the purpose of a reading series is “not to showcase so much as to get some important work out there… To get good work out, not just anything. Hopefully, when people read they will read the best work they can. I want them to read the best work.” And:

“Bringing original languages from all over the world is in itself a very important political thing. Because there are many languages that are going to cease to exist, before mid-century.” [Full interview with footage]

By the time you are reading this you have been thought about so many times and with so much fondness by so many people—many of whom you have never exchanged a word or so much as a glance with—that your insistence in acknowledging only the knowledge you have is profoundly buffoonish. We Still Like videos. “Alchemy:” think you can come up with something for that? Read this. [More on We Still Like]

What’s in a name? In our “look at me” era, everyone’s a brand. Privacy now seems a quaint relic, and self-effacement a thing of the past. Yet, as Nom de Plume reminds us, this was not always the case. Exploring the fascinating stories of more than a dozen author impostors across several centuries and cultures, Carmela Ciuraru plumbs the creative process and the darker, often crippling aspects of fame. Create your self.

A year ago, it would have killed me to miss First Person SingularLyrics & Dirges 1 Yr AnniversaryLitquake Epicenter with Steven T. Jones and his Burning Man reportsDennis Lehane w/Eddie MullerInsideStorytime: Trips and Traps, and Writing w/o Walls- Subterranean. Really. I would have felt like I was abandoning my own private purpose! The manifestation of my reason for being here. Anguish, real anguish, I would have suffered. My reason for being here is to be there, wherever there is; thus I am the reason for there. One of the reasons. Laugh at “scenesters” all you want; without them, your building is just a bunch of bricks placed gingerly atop one another: huddled but afraid of fall. Perhaps, afraid to huddle at all.

Mortar doesn’t do it, subconscious, Litseen. You’ve got to do better than that!

Last night, Literary Death Match joined forces with the BAN6: Visual Arts Exhibition at the YBCA. This didn’t make any sense to me. It was free! thanks to the (future) intersection of fashion and writing. Literature should be free. But the night was summed up in the somewhat desperate, exclamatory question asked by both multiple judges and host Alia Volz: “Would somebody please talk about literary merit?” The works were all good in themselves but the show cheapened them, an obvious example of our modern devaluation of art in the failure to frame it properly. I don’t want to pick on LDM. Really, I don’t [this was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to – if you’ve gotten this far, jesus, click on that last link, laugh at me, cry]. I could say this about many series. LDM is just the most glaring example and, though providing the authors a reason to write, last night reminded me of The Conspiracy of Art:

…there must be an angle from which all of this useless excess of sex and signs becomes meaningful, but, for the time being, we can only experience it with ironic indifference. In this unreality of porn, in this insignificance of art, is there a negative enigma, a mysterious thread, or, who knows, an ironic form of our destiny? If everything becomes too obvious to be true, maybe there still is a chance for illusion. What lies hidden behind this falsely transparent world? Another kind of intelligence or a terminal lobotomy? (Modern) art managed to be a part of the accursed share, a kind of dramatic alternative to reality, by translating the rush of unreality in reality. But what could art possibly mean in a world that has already become hyperrealist, cool, transparent, marketable? What can porn mean in a world made pornographic beforehand? All it can do is make a final, paradoxical wink—the wink of reality laughing at itself in its most hyperrealist form, of sex laughing at itself in its most exhibitionist form, of art laughing at itself and at its own disappearance in its most artificial form, irony.

Would somebody please talk about literary merit?

As long as art was making use of its own disappearance and the disappearance of its object, it still was a major enterprise. But art trying to recycle itself indefinitely by storming reality? The majority of contemporary art has attempted to do precisely that by confiscating banality, waste and mediocrity as values and ideologies. These countless installations and performances are merely compromising with the state of things, and with all the past forms of art history. Raising originality, banality and nullity to the level of values or even to perverse aesthetic pleasure. Of course, all of this mediocrity claims to transcend itself by moving art to a second, ironic level. But it is just as empty and insignificant on the second as on the first level. The passage to the aesthetic level salvages nothing; on the contrary, it is mediocrity squared. It claims to be null—”I am null! I am null!”—and it truly is null.

Videos and perhaps more thoughts to come. Hopefully yours. But it’s best to condense. Condensery w/Corina Copp + Jean Day was last night, too. Wish I had gone there instead.

Jack Foley responded to my profile of his “lifetime in poetry,” on the occasion of his publication of Visions and Affiliations: California Poets and Poetry 1940-2005, with the following statement: “I wrote the book, as I have written all my books, to change people’s awareness, to expand their sense of the world.”

I don’t wonder if the afterparty was any fun. I know it was. But what was it after?