A Radical Cut In The Texture Of Reality.

March 21, 2015

You can’t just do the moves, you’ve got to let go.


Let’s say there was a writer who decided that, in his lifetime, he wanted to write a hundred books. Before he had even started his very first book he had already decided: I’m going to write a hundred books. Of course, the moment he finishes his first book he immediately starts writing his second, then his third, and on and on it goes. When he finishes book number fifty he thinks: this is amazing, I’m already half way there. Then, just after book sixty-two, he dies. As he is dying he thinks: I could have made it, I really could have made it to a hundred. Now let’s look at the content of the sixty-two books he did actually manage to write...


March 18, 2015

How did I become so bitter? (comment stream)


I posted the question "How did I become so bitter?" on Facebook. This is the comment stream:

Too much lemon. Go easy on the lemon next time.

not sure I could tell you how, but I could think of a few good reasons why

you're not bitter. the speed of your mind and the want in your heart can't be matched by the trudge of reality.

Could say the same

Funny, you don't look bitter.


Dig the i out and put an e. It will be - ok -

social media addiction

cuddle deficit?

how do you think it happened?

Because what you are doing is nearly impossible. But don't give up.

Old age, happening to me too

it´s because they lied to you......all of them.....

do not become bitter Jacob, we need you and your thoughts/posts...go out and sit in the sun and so...

I keep asking myself this too

I was born this bitter!

hahahaha. wondering the same myself. but its no mystery really!

Just happens with age. As soon as you start freakin out about hearing people who were born in the 80s are are now over 18 you become bitter.

It's just a logical reaction, at a certain point.

I tried bitter, but that stuff'll kill you. So I'm angry. Keeps all of the other feelings alive. In theory, at least. Maybe.

Because you didn't eat enough butter

I think my bitterness actually peaked in my early 20s, for some reason.

People keep telling me yoga and meditation keep the bitterness at bay, but the bitterness goes so well with the paranoia that I'm on the fence.

Maybe because deep down you are too sweet. Try doing something bad on purpose? Balance things out...

Or walk around making sensory observations until you forget the bitterness for at least a moment.

Are you bitter, or cynical. One is a waste of energy -- the other, the result of intelligence. At least that's the way it seems to me.

Perhaps because you still give a shit.

You seem too busy. But then I may be not busy enough

Half Japanese-Put some sugar on it

Bitterness is the fate of the idealist. Sunlight, lots of fluids and a GG award can help.

Sit in the sun and close your eyes. Try to think about who you are, rather than achievements

It's usually because your ratio of leaf to water is wrong, or the water is too hot, or you left yourself brewing too long. Try using a thermometer and a timer, just to practice for a bit, and take yourself out of the water before you usually do.

One of the tastes we try when the others grow tiresome

i ask myself the same question somedays, guess it must be the business

brush your teeth?

I'm wondering what took you so long.

Bonus track: The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea


March 16, 2015




Can't leave interdisciplinary performance alone the game needs me.


March 5, 2015

Passage from The Fourth World by Diamela Eltit


When I turned twelve I had my first sexual encounter. Transmuted by the ancestral force of passion, I was on the verge of consummating the act, but I didn’t know then if I was being liberated to experience glory or to experience punishment, for all I wanted was to go further – I had to go much further – until I could fuse hesitation with acceleration, disorder with precision, in the sacred flesh.

It happened on a street. The sky was darkened with clouds. I was walking attentively along a narrow street when I sensed that someone was following me. My heart began to pound, yearning for the secret pleasure that emerged from some part of my brain.

I soon realized that I was not the one being followed, but the one following someone else, someone slender, walking unhurriedly, and seeming to glide along in an affected manner. The equivocal situation made me fear I was hallucinating, but the sound of the steps, the crisp air, and the uneven sidewalk confirmed that I was deeply immersed in a real situation.

I was astonished to realize that not only was I following an unknown person but also I didn’t know why I was doing it. Inexplicably, and in some crucial way, however, that moment pulled me away from the world I knew and pushed me into another in which that hieroglyphic person would make similarity and difference fade into one another.

At one particular moment I lost sight of the figure. Dejected and vexed by inertia, I began to double back, thinking nostalgically about my loss. I felt deprived of some absolute presence, more fundamental than my parents and more mysterious than the sum of my fluctuations.

Sadly, I started back. Of the four roads from which I could choose, each one was as equally possible as it was a mistake. I quickly realized that not only had I lost someone but also, in the search, I had become lost myself.

It would have been absurd to wager on which way I should return. One of those roads would take me home, but if I were to choose the wrong one, it would take me three times as long to get back. It seemed as if I were being punished for letting myself be guided by my impulses. Soon it was going to get dark and the city would become even more dangerous. I had been warned about it so many times that now it seemed like a dream to be exposed to it, just on the edge of twilight and shielded by anonymous, conventional dwellings.

Some curious faces observed me while I stood there, stubborn and rigid, trying to decide which way to go. Becoming desperate, I tried to reconstruct my original route, but each possibility seemed equally valid to me. As I got cold, I became more anxious, so I made a random choice. I had no memories or assumptions that would have convinced me that I should have headed south.

I was facing a long and lonely walk, intensified by fear every step of the way. There was nothing to distract me, except the darkness that was overtaking the sky ever so quickly.

Suddenly, when my miserable condition was too much for me to bear, I saw that same figure standing nearby. I froze, overwhelmed by irrepressible desire. Without thinking, I walked through the darkness, guided only by the scent of another person’s skin near me. I stopped.

I felt myself being pushed up against the stone wall, breathing in unison with the figure that was stroking me. Expert, soft hands ran all over my body and fingers pushed against me in order to remove my clothing. In that public exchange, those hands that traversed my body back and forth found their way to the most stimulated part of me.

Unable to feel the stone wall jabbing my back anymore, I sought a deeper reality once those caresses had prepared me for that moment. Feeling totally outside my body, I tried to touch the other person, but a pair of hands stopped me.

As if in apology, our mouths became fused with the passion of our saliva. My tongue became a sword, seeking not only to wound my rival but also to lick my ally.

Out mouths witnessed a combat of shifting liquids that became desperately and painfully prolonged. My breathing became nasally vulgar as the undulations, domination, and pricking left me out of breath. Unable to continue, I decided to consummate the act, but the figure fled, leaving me stinging against the stone wall.

Then the pain began. A sharp, genital pain, provoked by vigorous and demanding desire. Alone and shameless, I resigned myself to the personal glory that I had assiduously attained for the first time. Satisfaction was measured by the curve of desire and the dimension of abandonment. When the violence of the stones returned, I knew it was over.

The hours it took me to get home were agonizing, for I cursed and cursed the whole way, trying to destroy my sexual vitality. I saw myself as an outcast, I was unworthy of living with my family, and I felt as if my mind and body had been condensed into all the encrusted afflictions of the world.

At intervals, strong surges of well-being helped return me to a state of moderation, reducing the denigrated feeling I had about myself. The accursed sermon of reason incessantly accused me of a perfidious crime whose fine was permanent shame and horror.

I promised to make all kinds of sacrifices, even castration, in order to alleviate that burden; yet something had become hopelessly perverted in me and, deep inside, I had exposed myself to a cynical yet honest life.

I suffered intensely for several days but, little by little, even though I was feeling much anxiety, I concentrated on elucidating exactly what happened in that meeting on the street.

I couldn’t determine who or what seduced me that evening. Despite continually reconstructing that encounter I could never ascertain anything with any proof, even though I know I encountered youthful plentitude in the flesh of a young female beggar or a young male vagabond who, as night approached, performed a charitable act for me.

- Diamela Eltit, The Fourth World/El Cuarto Mundo


March 4, 2015

The Doppelganger


[This text was originally published in SIC #2/The Characters]

You turn the corner and there he is. He’s you but he’s not you. He’s pathetic. He’s you, but if you were someone else he would also be you. He’s the person you see unexpectedly when you’re walking down the street, turn a corner, and suddenly chance upon a version of yourself. But what I’m trying to explain is that it’s him. He’s always the same person. I realize this is not an original idea. Doppelgangers have a considerable history in literature and art, and this year alone there were two feature films about characters encountering their doubles. But he doesn’t need to be original because he’s you and, let’s face it, you’re not so original either.

All of this is only preamble. What’s important is that we try to see things from his perspective. Because he knows that he is in fact himself, but you know that he is also you. If you woke up tomorrow with another face, you might have an intense moment of crisis, but in the end you would still know that you’re yourself. And when you turn the corner to stumble upon him, for him it is a bit like he has just awoke with another face, your face, but he’s used to it. It might have bothered him a long time ago, when all this first began, but now it no longer phases him. He simply glances in your direction, thinking here we go again. He’s accepted the fact that constantly others will approach him, others who view him differently than he views himself.

Over time he has become philosophical about the matter. Everyone believes they have a self and is encouraged to over-invest in this belief. However, since his own self is, on an almost daily basis, undermined by the intense projections of relative strangers, he has no choice but to take the opposite road. He works each day to under-invest in his own sense of self, to see it most clearly where the edges blur and he is indistinguishable from many of those who surround him.

Over time he has come to find a strange comfort in this daily fact. As you turn the corner, stumble upon him, and are disturbed, thrown off-guard by your sudden encounter with some new version of yourself, he takes it all in stride. We are each, perhaps, ourselves. But, at the same time, every street is filled with hundreds of others who might also be us, and if they were, or are, what difference would it really make to each of our lives? All you have to do is turn a corner.


February 26, 2015

Five quotations on suicide


During the decline of Christian moralism few groups have risen so rapidly in the overall estimation of society [as the suicide has.] It was dangerous for Donne to suggest that suicide was sometimes not a sin. It was still daring for Hume to reason that it was sometimes not a crime. Later one had to point out that it was sometimes not simply a sickness of the soul. Now it seems necessary to argue that it is sometimes not a virtue. To paraphrase Freud, what does a suicide want? Not what he gets, surely. Some simply think of death as the absence of their present state, a state which pursues them like a malignant disease and which cannot be otherwise escaped. Others consider it quite positively, as thought to die were to get on in the world. Seventh Heaven, after all, is a most desirable address. Still others spend their life like money, purchasing this or that, but their aim is to buy, not to go broke. Are we to say to them (all and every kind) what we often say to children? no, Freddie, you don’t want a pet boa, you wouldn’t like the way it swallows mice.

It doesn’t follow at all that because it is easy enough to kill yourself, it is easy enough to get, in that case, what you want. Can you really be said to want what you cannot possibly understand? or what you are in abysmal confusion about? or what is provenly contrary to your interests? or is plainly impossible? Is ‘I’d rather be dead’ anything like ‘I want to be a chewed-up marshmallow’; or: ‘I want 6 and 3 to make 10’; or: ‘I want to be a Fiji princess’; or: ‘I want a foot-long-dong’; or: ‘I want that seventh scotch-on-the-rocks’; or ‘I would love to make it with Lena Horne’?
– William H. Gass, The World Within the Word

Suicide is a crime of loneliness, and adulated people can be frighteningly alone. Intelligence does not help in these circumstances; brilliance is almost always profoundly isolating.
– Andrew Solomon

The obsession with suicide is characteristic of the man who can neither live nor die, and whose attention never swerves from this double impossibility.
– E. M. Cioran

The destructive character lives from the feeling not that life is worth living, but that suicide is not worth the trouble.
– Walter Benjamin, The Destructive Character

Only the suicide thinks he can leave by the door that is merely painted on the wall.
– Vladimir Holan


February 25, 2015

Wanted: Men Who Love / Against Self-Criticism


I think the article Wanted: Men Who Love by bell hooks and the article Against Self-Criticism by Adam Phillips actually compliment each other quite nicely.


February 22, 2015

Desire Without Expectation (possible beginning of yet another new book)


This book is not reality. No book is reality but this book especially so. Things that happen in reality are often extremely obvious and just as often utterly counter-intuitive. This might also well be the case within the pages of this book but this fact for some reason does not bring this book any closer or farther away from the reality which it is not. Even as I write that this is not reality I have to admit to myself that I don’t actually know what reality is, I don’t know what freedom is, if it is something I want or something I’m only afraid of, I don’t actually know how to change anything but suspect so many things so deeply must change.

When I think what exactly is the problem, I always, almost immediately, have the opposite thought: that there is in fact no problem. There are social climbers, people of unfortunate integrity, people of great efficiency and others who are able to generate so much space around themselves. There is as much devastation as we can bear and there is always more. There are so many problems and in the same way there are none. There is a fairly specific idea I wish to express as well as a fear I might never exactly get at it. The idea is also too simple and no problem: that time goes in circles like the seasons and forward is just another empty word. My desire is to speak as clearly as possible.

About 200 people live here now. It used to be a city of many millions. We know there are may other cities in the world, all about the same size, or perhaps virtually any size we are able to imagine, all with their own ways of organizing things, but we don’t know how many or where. We don’t know if there are a thousand people left in the world, or a million, or ten million, or how many more. We know each other and we have to live together because there’s no one else.

* * * *

I wasn’t sure I would ever write another book. I was once again becoming obsessed with the book Prisoner of Love by Jean Genet. He didn’t write a book for fifteen years and then, unexpectedly, he wrote one last book, his most political, in which he recalls the time he spent in Palestine. I thought: fifteen years of blissful not writing, is that how long I’ll have to spend before one final burst of intensity? It has already been five.

One part of me tells myself: I have already said everything I have to say. It is time to step aside, make room for other voices. Writers who write less are the best kind of writers. Writers who write about themselves, as I am doing now, are the worst. But then the fantasy returns: after fifteen years one final burst of eternity.

* * * *

This book isn’t reality, but it also exists in relation to the fact that something does exist we might and should refer to as reality. Could there be a story in which all 200 people who live here, in which each and every last one is a protagonist? 200 people is everyone I know, most likely everyone I will ever meet. How could I possibly decide to include some of them and exclude others? At the same time, if I take this further, why am I the narrator, which is also a kind of protagonist, why can’t each and every one of the 200 others also be the narrator? But as I sit here writing this down I already know the answer – you simply can’t question everything all of the time. If you’re going to do something, you have to do it. We have a printing press that doesn’t work. We tried to make it work but failed. Someday we might try again. We have a photocopier that works some of the time but we can’t really spare the electricity. And when the ink cartridges run out there will not be any more. Unless someone eventually finds some. I have pencils and paper and use them to write this. A single copy that I will write, will remain unread, and then will be lost forever. A single copy with 200 protagonists. Each of these 200 will be written about in third person. I am that third person.


February 11, 2015

Tangentially yours — Jacob Wren & Todd Lester in conversation, #4


The conversation so far: #1, #2, #3

Dear Todd,

I kept trying to answer your second letter but then I keep coming back to something that I didn’t quite get around to in your first. (I promise I won’t remain one whole letter behind for the entirety of our correspondence.)

It was the question you ended with: “Do we make it worse for people around the world we purport to care for by ‘taking the bait’ in these situations? Do we assure that they become the homo sacer?” It was a question that continued to haunt me. Then I was reading the remarkable book May ’68 and Its Afterlives by Kristin Ross and she historically reframed the question for me in ways I felt really get to the heart of the matter.

This reframing has to do with the ‘third-worldist’ discourse of the sixties and the backlash of the ‘anti-third-wordist’ discourse that arrived in the eighties. In the French context, much of this sixties discourse took place in and around François Maspero’s bookstore La Joie de Lire. Kristin Ross writes:
In these years dominated by the decomposition of the European empires, Maspero’s bookstore and press took up the task of representing the image of an exploded world where Europe is no longer the center. And, in so doing, La Joie de Lire became a center of sorts in the lives of many militants, an inevitable stopping place along daily trajectories, a place where, particularly during the Algerian period, any number of censored periodicals, state documents, banned books like Alleg’s La question, as well as foreign, difficult to locate, or ephemeral political pamphlets, could be found downstairs; a place that was not just a meeting place, nor even, as Maspero himself called it, “the meeting place for all the contradictions of the left,” but, quite simply, “the liveliest bookstore in Paris.” It was there that many readers found the tools by which, in the words of Claude Liauzu, “to take into consideration the fact that the West was no longer the measure of everything.”
Editions Maspero was the first French press to publish Fanon’s Les damnés de la terre with its preface by Sartre, as well as works by Ben Barka, Giap Cabral, Che Guevara, Malcolm X, and others. I think some of the background Ross gives for this endeavor is particularly telling:
…in a 1973 interview [Maspero] recounted a specific event, a great “shock” as he put it, that made him lurch in [this] direction. A student in the mid-1950s in ethnology and a militant member of the Communist Party, Maspero attended the first festival of ethnological film ever screened in Paris. There he watched a Jean Rouch film about hippopotamus hunting among the Dogon. It was less the film itself that jarred Maspero than the interventions by a number of Africans in the audience critiquing the film’s “folkloric” dimensions; they went on to complain about a 1932 law still in place that denied them access to a camera in their own country without the approval of the government. The anecdote is significant in reminding us of one of the most important factors in the development of a third-worldist perspective in postwar France: the sheer number of African, Caribbean, and Asian intellectuals, so many of whom would become loyal clients of La Joie de Lire, living or spending lengthy stays in Paris in those days. For Maspero, it was to this first experience of “meeting” or conjuncture – the film by a French ethnographer and the critique it generated among the “people” it sought to represent – that he later attributed what would become his own commitment to diffusing, making available, a range of works in which people engaged in political struggle represented themselves.
If I understand it correctly this third-worldist perspective was a commitment to the fact that struggles and thinking in other parts of the world – Cuba, Vietnam, Africa, etc. – must be given room and support so they could lead the way. And that Western thinking certainly couldn’t claim to know what was best for anyone, since Western imperialism and capitalism was the main thing that must be fought. (I hope I’m not simplifying too much.)

Cutting ahead to the eighties, to the television show “Le procès de Mai” made in 1988 to mark the twentieth anniversary of May ’68 and hosted by former UEC militant, co-founder of Doctors Without Borders, Bernard Kouchner. Describing the program, Ross explains that:
Certain topics are not merely neglected but actively targeted for amnesia, erased from the record. This is the case in one of “Le procès de Mai’s” most striking manipulations, one that occurs quite early in the broadcast. Kouchner, who has just praised the ’68 generation’s “daring to dream” in a tone of high self-satisfaction, switches abruptly, and briefly, into the posture of self-criticism. “But we were navel-gazing, we forgot the outside world, we didn’t see what was happening in the rest of the world, we were folded in on ourselves.” He continues much more triumphantly: “We didn’t know what we would discover only in the following years: the third world, misery.”

In one fell swoop, Kouchner assumes the power to clear away an entire dimension of the movement: its relation to anticolonial and anti-imperialist struggles in places like Vietnam, Algeria, Palestine, and Cuba, where Kouchner himself travelled in the early 1960s to interview Castro for the Communist student journal Clarté. Kouchner has conducted a massive clearing of the terrain so that he and his friends can “discover” the third world ten years later, like the first colonial explorers of virgin lands. A whole world disappears – the war in Vietnam, the iconography of Che, Mao, and Ho Chi Min, the efforts of editors like Maspero – which is to say a militant or combative third world, so that another can be heroically “discovered” years later: the third world as figured in the Human Rights discourse, of which Kouchner has by that time emerged as one of the principal spokesmen. Fanon’s “wretched of the earth” as the name for an emergent political agency has been essentially reinvented: the new third world is still wretched, but its agency has disappeared, leaving only the victims of famine, flood or authoritarian state apparatuses.
This shift from the third world revolutionary leading a path for Western emancipatory thinking towards the third world victim desperately needing Western help is something that happened before my time, but Kristin Ross documents it at great length in a manner I found utterly convincing. (I was about to quote her for several more pages then thought better of it.) Foreign assistance can be given and foreign assistance can be taken away, but with your own revolutionary struggle the level of agency might vary but there is always a clear position you can claim as your own. As well, with Western aid I so often have a feeling that one hand gives some token offering while the other hand continues to exploit mercilessly. By this point in history so many revolutionary struggles have been assassinated and undermined that it’s hard to believe they are still viable. But what else is there but the knowledge or hope that everything worthwhile returns. And now there’s a new moment of possibility with Syriza in Greece.

It is now mid-February in Montreal – it is really fucking cold and snow-drenched here, walking home the other day the snow was hitting my face so hard it hurt – so that would most likely make it the time of year in which I find myself most jealous of the fact that you actually had the guts to pick up and move to Brazil. Along with Portugal, Brazil is one of the places I most romanticize in the world. (I’ve been to Portugal but never to Brazil.) (As well, I would also like to go back in time and live within the aisles of La Joie de Lire.) When you speak about your “love for cities that pulse, contract, absorb and accommodate the mobility and dreams of regulars and newcomers alike” I can feel some sort of magic reaching out to me through the computer screen. To this list I might also add: cities that thaw out and melt.

I definitely have more than my fair share of white guilt. I think it’s only this year I’m really trying to think what it would mean to get beyond it a bit. Guilt is certainly conservative if not downright reactionary. Yes, we need to speak out against injustice, but equally important is to find ways to make room for other voices who are also speaking out, perhaps even more intelligently, but for all the usual systematic reasons are not being heard. At a beautiful talk I heard her give last week, Leanne Simpson spoke of “creating communities of co-resistance,” which I felt was especially precise. These are all thoughts I have but I still wonder how far away I am from making them happen. Since, with freeDimensional, you’ve actually done so much more along these lines than me and perhaps, even in this dialog, I should be listening more than talking. I think at the moment I’m slightly possessed by the fervor of the newly converted. ‘The fervor of the newly converted,’ is one of my favorite expressions, if it actually is an expression and not just something I made up. How someone new to a particular topic or question will experience it so much more intensely than those who have lived with it for years, or even for their entire lives.

I have been listening to DJ Haram’s soundcloud page, so full of amazing sounds that cut through this endless winter, mixing Jersey Club with Middle Eastern diasporic instrumentals and so much more. I feel this mix of different cultures and modalities is the future. It is, of course, also the past, present and future. And at the same time I question this feeling. Maybe mixing everything all together creates a sense in which the source cultures become more apolitical, at times even distracting us from the struggles within each culture that are most important.

I have read, and loved reading, Vilém Flusser but didn’t realize he had lived in São Paulo. It reminds me a bit of my fascination with the years Witold Gombrowicz spent in Argentina. Vilém Flusser and Witold Gombrowicz having dinner together is kind of a nice, historically improbable, image. And while I’m being ahistorical, maybe Ernesto Laclau could also join the party. I keep trying to tell myself that things weren’t necessarily better in the past, and what is most important is to try to figure out what can be done starting from exactly now. So perhaps I will end here.

Jacob Wren