A Radical Cut In The Texture Of Reality

July 11, 2016

Alicia Garza Quote

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I think we have to be clear a revolution is a process. It’s not an act, and it’s not a destination. The second thing is, I think what people are calling for is radical action, and what people are saying is we don’t want to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Ultimately, people have the right to feel disgusted, and frustrated and to be calling for new types of action that get us further than where we’ve gotten so far. If people are serious about getting involved and figuring out how we take the movement to the next level, it really has to be focused on making sure we’re building a base of power that is more powerful than their power.

- Alicia Garza


[Read the rest of the interview here.]
 


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structural inequality

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It seems so hard to truly understand, or more to the point to really feel, structural inequality. It's even harder for the people who benefit from it. (I am of course one of them.) But even though I know it, so often my privilege remains more or less invisible to me. Of course I want to believe that my success solely relies on my talent and persistence, everything in my life would feel so much better in the comfort of this belief, but I now know this is very much not the case. Seeing the situation as it is results in all sorts of complex feelings of powerlessness, guilt, denial, etc. Men are especially bad at dealing with their feelings. (I still have to continuously remind myself that my decisions are more often made based on feelings and less often based on thoughts, while of course feelings and thoughts are also in constant confluence with each other.) But I also often ask myself: what is the motivation to change a system that you clearly benefit from? Some people want to simply do what's right, but I don't believe we can rely on that or them. Sometimes I also believe, and I'm not completely sure about it, that positive changes to structural inequality would in the long run benefit everyone. That benefiting at the expense of others is a psychic pain. That a more egalitarian situation would also be more joyous. That living respect for others would be a more energizing way to live. But I'm not sure why exactly I believe this. I also feel I have no proof. And if I look in the mirror I'm not sure what I'm really doing to be the change I wish to see in the world.



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July 3, 2016

Rich and Poor readings in Berlin and Cologne

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I will be reading from my new book Rich and Poor at these fine events:


Berlin:
Thursday, July 7 at 8pm
Hannah Black and Jacob Wren at Saint George's Bookshop 
Saint George's English Bookshop Berlin 
Wörther Str. 27 
Facebook event


Cologne:
Friday, July 15 at 8pm
Mark von Schlegell & Jacob Wren at "Schalten und Walten"
Schalten und Walten 
Sömmeringstr. 47a 
Facebook event



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May 26, 2016

World Stage Scholars-in-Residence Matt, Julia and Denise discuss the song Literature




As part of Every Song I've Ever Written at World Stage / Harbourfront (June 9th and 11th), World Stage Scholars-in-Residence Matt, Julia and Denise recorded a discussion - which doubles as a cover version - of my song Literature.

It's never occurred to me to analyze one of my songs in this way, and I'm completely fascinated by all the insights that Matt, Julia and Denise provide, but I thought I would mention a few things I was thinking about back when I wrote the song that, having not written the song, these scholars might have missed.

The first line is "Everyone I met was writing a novel," which to me suggests that the novels the song is talking about might not be the best novels ever written. Perhaps these are wanna-be novels, amateur novels, works by young people who haven't yet found their voice. Literature and art are full of works by young people who want to be artists but don't yet know if they're up for the task. This also, of course, reflects my own youthful insecurity that I would never manage to write anything of lasting worth.

The line: "literary novels about the holocaust" definitely for me conjured the frequently quoted Theodor Adorno line: "to write lyric poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric." (There are many different versions of this quote.) But it also might bring us back to the first line: by writing failed or not-very-accomplished literature about world-historical tragedies are we even further devaluing them? Are we writing to illuminate the world or only to try to escape our own lives?

The "lottery ticket" might refer to achieving literary fame or riches, but from my beginner perspective at the time it might also only refer to getting a first book published or a first screenplay produced. These are noticeably more modest goals than achieving a lasting literary reputation.

At one point Matt asks: what is a non-literary novel? A non-literary novel might be a popular novel, for example a novel by Stephen King or Dan Brown. Which a lot of young writers were also trying to do. But I wasn't writing (and singing) about them. I was writing about the more pretentious camp of which I was definitely a member.

And, yes, I wrote the song Literature in the nineties, long before 9/11. But the idea that the line "And writing or not writing, these are twin terrors" might refer to the Twin Towers is kind of mind blowing for me.

I'm sure there is so much more I could say, but a writer who answers back to every single point raised by literary critics analyzing his work is a rather pathetic creature. I just wanted to add a few extra thoughts to the conversation. Thanks so much to Matt, Julia and Denise for taking the time to think and speak about my long-ago song. It is an honour my teenage self would have never imagined possible...



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May 12, 2016

May 11, 2016

"I’ve often wondered what it might be like to live in a world without money."

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"I’ve often wondered what it might be like to live in a world without money. How completely everything might or might not change. When I talk about a world without money people often tell me it’s something so completely impossible it might not even be worth broaching the topic. But money hasn’t always existed and I see no reason to be certain that it will always exist in the future. Without money I suspect many of the most extreme abuses of capitalism would be considerably more difficult to perpetrate. And yet money is so abstract, especially the billions that exist as little more than numbers on a computer screen. As Agamben has said: “God didn’t die, he was transformed into money.” But, I sometimes think: old gods are continuously being replaced with new ones. Rich and Poor isn’t a novel about a world without money, but when I follow its logic it might slowly begin to lead me in that direction."

- From: In Conversation: Jacob Wren discusses Rich and Poor
 


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April 28, 2016

Hannah Black Quote

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Down in Atlantis the curator showed me around the space, gesturing to invisible artworks that will soon be expensively shipped from far away to fill the room. I am the least famous and the least rich and the least well paid artist; I am paid partly in the fame of other artists. I am paid pyrrhically in the currency of my desire to be seen on my terms. My desire has almost as many social claims and credit operations on it as a straight man’s sexuality; both are supposed to justify the movements of capital that provide the basic infrastructure of contemporary art. Overdetermined, my art-making suffers the fate of all socially appointed agents of desire; it becomes intermittently impotent, and terrorized by the threat of its own softness.

- Hannah Black, Dark Pool Party



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April 24, 2016

Hannah Black Quote

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From Los Angeles I write, “Perhaps getting to know a person is like getting to know a city.” The plate glass windows of downtown, the way you are with your friends; the dull suburbs of a half-hidden unhappiness. On the East Coast I’m an animal and on the West Coast by a miracle I am changing back into a woman. But what kind of woman? At night I’ve found a wall inside myself and I try to describe it. I can’t stop crying! I hate myself! I’m a real girl! The wall inside is stone, it doesn’t have a body or a part time job. The person I’m considering falling in love with just as soon as I can stop crying, which should be any year now, brings me a book called Architecture without Architects to distract me from the luxury of my tears. In the book, white colonialists describe the buildings that seem to them miraculous, built invisibly, built by no one. I touch a black and white page to show that I love the image of an ancient city in the desert in Morocco. But imagine, I say, thinking of labor and domination, how terrible it was to build it. My person says, with certainty, because she is always sure, “They built it only at night.” By what light? I ask, looking at her. I can feel my eyes, which are nothing. She says, “They built it only on nights with a full moon.” My inside cracks, now it’s outside and I don’t deserve anything. There is anxiety in my touch but we are comradely now and then, both surprised for example by the thought of Hegel as a baby. Yes perhaps even Hegel can grow up to be a woman from time to time.

- Hannah Black, Dark Pool Party 



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April 23, 2016

work that dares to remind us

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"Rich and Poor is art in resistance, a work that dares to remind us of our capacity for revolutionary love..."

- Jade Colbert in The Globe and Mail
 


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April 15, 2016

The Stopping Number

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I feel five books is the perfect
number of books for a
writer to publish
I have published five books
I want to stop at this perfect number
I want to stop before I ruin it
but I won’t stop
I will ruin it
five books is a somewhat arbitrary
symbol of literary perfection
but I have so much anxiety
about everything being too much
everyone doing too much
moving past strong youthful desires
continuing only out of habit
for one moment
you’re in sync with the zeitgeist
or so they tell you
then the moment is gone
one cannot simply fly into the air
to have some perfect overview
of one’s entire life and practice
one is down in the trench with it
in the muck of it
unable to fully see
what is coming from where
if, like me, you have no desire to kill
only to survive
take the risk of being where you are
you can feel the number five
is the stopping number
yet cannot ground this feeling in anything
or for that matter actually stop
the stopping number
who wants to stay in this trench forever
I finished five books
without ever looking back
and wish
as I now look back
I could turn
not to salt
but to stone



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