A Radical Cut In The Texture Of Reality.

October 12, 2014

A short notes on: Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie

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The Book of Disquiet

The Book of Disquiet was written as a series of inter-related fragments that Fernando Pessoa worked on between 1913 and his death in 1935. It was discovered in a trunk left behind in his small room, a trunk that also contained a lifetime of other writings: poetry, plays, philosophy, criticism, translations, linguistic theory, etc., variously typed, handwritten or illegibly scrawled in Portuguese, English and French. He wrote in notebooks, on loose sheets, on the backs of letters, advertisements, handbills and in the margins of earlier texts. The Book of Disquiet was first published in Portuguese in 1982 and there have been many different versions since, as various editors and translators attempted to put the book together in whatever way seemed best to them at the time.

Fernando Pessoa also continuously fragmented himself into other writers he famously called heteronyms: imaginary characters created to write in different styles. Some of his most fully developed heteronyms include: Alberto Caeiro, a shepherd, a humble man of little education who nonetheless wrote poems filled with philosophy and paganism; Ricardo Reis, a classicist, a monarchist, a doctor who wrote in an austere, cerebral manner, with particular attention paid to the correct use of the Portuguese language; and Álvaro de Campos, a world traveller, whose poems expressed a fervent wish to experience the entirety of the universe in himself. However, Bernardo Soares, the author of The Book of Disquiet, an accountant working on Rua dos Douradores in Lisbon, was merely a semi-heteronym. “He’s a semi-heteronym,” Pessoa wrote in the final year of his life, “because his personality, although not my own, doesn’t differ from my own but is a mere mutilation of it.”

Pessoa clearly planned to compile his fragments of disquietude into a finished manuscript, but never managed to do so. Based on the many notes he left behind, if he had been able to complete the book in his lifetime, it is likely he would have edited it down towards a shorter, more cohesive narrative. Like many authors, he might very well have edited out some of the most contentious, vulnerable or revealing passages. Therefore, the ramshackle glory of The Book of Disquiet that we know today derives in no small part from the fact that it was assembled long after its original composition, and that this method of assembly implicitly acknowledges the work’s deeply unfinished nature.



Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie
The only basis for truth is self-contradiction. The universe contradicts itself, for it passes on. Life contradicts itself, for it dies. Paradox is nature’s norm. That’s why all truth has a paradoxical form. – Fernando Pessoa

When you watch a film that makes you cry, do the tears come from within the film or from within you? This is a stupid question, since the answer must be something like: a bit of both. Another question might be: if you were to get together with your friends and remake the film not in order to imitate it, but in order to change it into something closer to your own life, would this new, remade version still make you cry?

The relation between art and emotion is a long and complicated one. With Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie, PME-ART rewrites The Book of Disquiet page by melancholy page, altering the emotional tenor of the book in many subtle and unsubtle ways. Of course, within any conventional view of literature, rewriting such a classic and deeply loved text is practically sacrilege. But the intention here is not to break any particular canonical rules, rather to see what happens when a door long assumed to be locked is partially reopened, when fragments left unfinished seventy-nine years ago are mischievously treated as if they still remained unfinished today, as if one could simply continue working on them.

Fernando Pessoa was a great writer and it is unlikely that PME-ART will be able to consistently match his eloquence or depth. They will give it their best shot, but clearly that cannot be the point. This is a more playful, democratic, collaborative notion of writing. Pessoa’s virtuosity in turning his own compulsions and doubts into literature here meets a contemporary moment, the year 2014, in which compulsions and doubts are expressed in a multitude of old and new ways: online, in televised pseudo-reality and in every kind of autobiographical literary expression. What might it mean to rewrite these fragments today? What shades of early twenty-first century emotion might be woven into Pessoa’s unfinished twentieth century elegy?

One joke we often tell: PME-ART is rewriting The Book of Disquiet to make it a little bit happier. But just a little bit. And then what kind of happiness could this possibly be? Is it the author or the reader whose mood will be lightened? The word ‘happiness’ perhaps conjures an imaginary past-life America: ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of…,’ fantasies that in the harsh light of our current economic and ecological collapse might seem threadbare at best. At times, in artistic works, there is a kind of reverse psychology effect; extremely sad works can make you feel happy and vice versa. Sometimes simply expressing something socially taboo, for example extreme sadness or apathy, gives the viewer or reader a feeling of release, even elation. Pessoa’s almost absolute melancholy has this effect on many readers, and therefore the happiness being sought of course already exists between the lines, in the affect of the original text.

One clue to the added happiness PME-ART is searching for might be found in the unfinished nature of the composition itself. While previous experts and translators sought to work towards some definitive version of The Book of Disquiet, here we clearly find ourselves drifting towards the distant other end of the finished/unfinished spectrum. (Emotions, one might suggest, are always left unfinished.) When nothing is finished, everything remains possible. At least for awhile. Or at least within a work of art. This is one of the paradoxes that art can scratch away at and evoke: sometimes a job well done is a job left partially undone, to make room for the future. Pessoa never finished his masterpiece The Book of Disquiet, and neither does Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie. One can gaze at a fragment and fear its implicit sense of failure. Or one can glance at a fragment and think: this is only the beginning.




Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie happens from October 23 - November 1, 2014 at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery.


Facebook event here.



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October 11, 2014

Twenty all-time albums

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No one asked  me but I started wondering what a list of my twenty all-time albums might look like so this is an attempt:


Alhaji K. Frimpong – Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu
Chrisma - Chinese Restaurant
Connie Converse - How Sad, How Lovely
Destroyer – Streethawk: A Seduction
Electrelane – The Power Out
Al Green – The Belle Album
Hailu Mergia & The Walias Band - Tche Belew
Las Malas Amistades – Patio Bonito
Lloyd Miller – A Lifetime In Oriental Jazz
Mammane Sani et son Orgue - La Musique Electronique du Niger
Moles – Instinct
Momus – Circus Maximus
Mustafa Ozkent – Gençlik Ile Elele
Nas – Hip Hop Is Dead
Palace Music – Arise Therefore
Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble – s/t
Reiko Kudo – Rice Field Silently Riping In The Night
Selda – s/t
THEESatisfaction – awE natural
Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth



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October 2, 2014

The search for new forms of art is somehow directly connected to the search for new ways to love.

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"My favorite read this summer, Jacob Wren’s latest book Polyamorous Love Song, surprisingly ends with a happy moment of a loving couple, after weaving layers and layers of dark stories about art, sex and violence. A group of New Filmmakers are making films without camera, by scripting and directing their lives as if these were movies. Mascot Front is a terrorist organization that might or might not be an art movement.

In the book, the search for new forms of art is somehow directly connected to the search for new ways to love.

The events in the book take place in a world where art is in crisis, the society is in violent struggle, and artists and activists are looking for new strategies to work, to engage, to create change, to make sense. But at the same time, to blur fiction and reality, to establish multiple points of view, to battle dualities, to be transgressive and unpredictable.

It is a world that looks suspiciously like the world where we live now."


- Eva Neklyaeva, from her program notes for Baltic Circle



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September 28, 2014

Moyra Davey Quote

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To be making something as yet unformed, unknown—to be living in a deferred moment—is the most seductive way to exist.

- Moyra Davey, Polyvalence



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September 27, 2014

Moyra Davey Quote

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Finally, there is the accident of words: what wells up when we make space for such occurrence, when we lie on the bed in morning sunlight and bring laptop to lap. I’ve often heard it said, most recently by novelist Monica Ali, that as writers “we’re not at liberty to choose the material, the material chooses us.” Geoff Dyer has noted parallel statements by photographers: “It is the photo that takes you” (Henri Cartier-Bresson), “I don’t press the shutter, the image does” (Arbus), and one from Paul Strand on choosing his subjects: “I don’t… . They choose me.” While I’ve always intuited this about pictures, I was skeptical when it came to words. But I now know it to be true, beyond any doubt, for writing as well.

- Moyra Davey, Notes on Photography



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Future

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If you truly begin to alter the system
in fundamental and emancipatory ways
they kill you
if they can’t buy you first
they kill you literally
or in some other way
bombs and teargas are the music of neoliberal governance
you can struggle your whole life
to change a few small things
“to have a political life is, often, to have a broken life”
and if you succeed beyond your wildest dreams
they kill you
and jail your friends

If everyone in your coalition agrees
your coalition is to small
they kill you
but how to stay focused
on five, ten, fifteen generations into the future
if there is no future
there can be no change
the only thing that works is persistence
the only thing that works is persistence
the only thing that works is persistence
I hope some day I can begin
to imagine things again
or for the first time



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September 23, 2014

Sentiment

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From my near perfect disaster solitude
I wonder what might be possible
when it comes to interacting
with others, I continue to try my best
but feel all such interactions
are like little gusts of wind
that come from nowhere and go nowhere
never enough to fill a sail
yes, this is about loneliness
but also, no, it is not about loneliness
often I confuse loneliness and ethics
how to treat others well gets confused
with how to fully engage
solitude against solidarity, longing
for solidarity
I think: if you don’t know how
to be alone you don’t know how
to be with others
then: this must be the point, that
I don’t know how to be alone
don’t know how to be with others
everything that is true is also not true
trying to find something honest and vulnerable
trying to be something honest and vulnerable
trying to find the right lie



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September 17, 2014

Revised list of ten books

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After reading A Feminist Response to "List Ten Books that Stayed with you Some Way" I decided to redo my previous list. This new version was also made somewhat spontaneously, while at the same time attempting to correct my previous, perhaps unconscious, bias. Here's the new list:



1. Aliens & Anorexia – Chris Kraus
2. The Transformation – Juliana Spahr
3. Motion Sickness – Lynne Tillman
4. The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll – Alvaro Mutis
5. Ghostly Matters – Avery F. Gordon
6. The Manuscript Found in Saragossa – Jan Potocki
7. The Girl in the Road – Monica Byrne
8. Third Factory – Viktor Shklovsky
9. Event Factory – Renee Gladman
10. Ethics Of Luxury: Materialism And Imagination – Jeanne Randolph 


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Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie

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Things are better when left unfinished. Though he worked on it off and on for approximately twenty-three years, Pessoa never managed to finish his Book of Disquiet. It is a book of fragments upon fragments, left behind in a trunk along with a lifetime of other writings. As a writer Pessoa also continuously fragmented himself into other writers he famously called heteronyms: imaginary characters created to write in different styles. The Book of Disquiet was also written by one of these versions of self, a semi-heteronym called Bernardo Soares, an accountant working on Rua dos Douradores. With Adventures can be found anywhere, même dans la mélancolie we will continue to re-write these fragments. We are both sure and unsure of our task, much as Pessoa must have been as he continued to compose endless versions of the ever-growing original manuscript. Is our task to make the book a little bit happier or a little bit more contemporary? That is one humorous story we might sometimes tell ourselves. Perhaps there will soon be others.



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September 12, 2014

Jacqueline Mabey wrote this on my timeline...

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Jacqueline Mabey wrote this on my timeline:


"i've been thinking about your comments about only experiencing solidarity as a short-lived or temporary condition. and thinking that maybe that's critical to it: we stand in solidarity with others in order to reach some critical mass or moment of progressive chance, some change of state. so maybe solidarity is utopian in that it is no-place, it is nowhere you can inhabit permanently but a shifting space of alliances."


Followed by this link:


Students show solidarity by helping Columbia rape survivor carry her mattress



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