A Radical Cut In The Texture Of Reality.

November 16, 2014

Three Toronto Readings

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Nov 29th
Until I see everything clearly I want to hunt myself down
8-11, 233 Spadina Ave
Reading with David Balzer and Emma Healey


Dec 2nd
HHR 'Speak Easy' no. 3 
Hart House, 7 Hart House Circle
Reading with David James Brock 


Dec 4th
Livewords
Betty’s (upstairs), 240 King Street East
Reading with Ralph Kolewe, Sue Reynolds and Paul Vermeersch



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November 14, 2014

Roger Fry Quote

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And here we touch on a curious economic accident, the importance of which as a determining condition of art production has never been properly emphasized. In modern life, great works of art generally have been, and I suspect, almost must be, produced in defiance of the tastes and predilections of society at large. The artist, therefore, except in those cases where he possesses inherited means, must be able to live and function on an extremely small sum. He must exist almost as sparrows do, by picking up the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. What wonder, then, that periods of artistic creation and impotence are as hard to predict or account for at the weather itself! And yet there is a certain irony in the fact that every civilization is ultimately judged by what of spiritual value it has contributed to the human patrimony. It is only at each present moment that this appears to be of so little consequence as to be negligible.

– Roger Fry



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November 13, 2014

Some Short Quotes

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I dedicate every pore to what’s here.
– Ikkyū


Skepticism is the elegance of anxiety.
– E.M. Cioran


Do it or don’t do it – you will regret both.
– Søren Kierkegaard


I make art in order to give other people my problems.
– Mike Kelley


Why else keep a journal, if not to examine your own filth?
– Anne Sexton


Theory is good, but it does not prevent things from existing.
– Jean-Martin Charcot


How long can a person recover before it becomes another form of not being?
– Claudia La Rocco


I don’t do anything with my life except romanticize and decay with indecision.
– Allen Ginsberg


There are not millions of deaths. It happens millions of times that someone dies.
– Etel Adnan


The artists I work with turn to emotion because this is where ideology does its most devastating work.
– Jennifer Doyle


It is not that I have no past. Rather, it continually fragments on the terrible and vivid ephemera of now.
– Samuel R. Delany


He loved the moment when a bouncing ping-pong ball stops bouncing, but one doesn't know if it has finally come to rest.
– Eliot Weinberger on Hans Faverey


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


The more a ruling class is able to assimilate the most prominent men of a ruled class, the more solid and dangerous its rule.
– Karl Marx


But a creative life cannot be sustained by approval, any more than it can be destroyed by criticism – you learn this as you go on.
– Will Self


If I do nothing, if I study nothing, if I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.
– Vincent van Gogh



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November 12, 2014

Three passages from Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Simpson

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etienne gets out the lines and in two minutes we know we’re on the school because we’re pulling in mackerel easy. he watches as i hold the hook and snap the fish into the garbage pail, which is my reveal. it’s sunny and it’s windy and it’s perfect and the arms of the day are wide open and no one has to be anywhere. i see a northern gannet and i love gannets because they can disconnect their wings before they plummet into the sea after a fish. imagine disconnecting a body part! the gannet swims over to the boat smelling the fish blood and etienne hands the gannet a fish and says “the bird is my family, all of this, the fish, the seals, the water – this is my family,” which is his reveal.

our eyes meet because now he has my attention. i walk over and hug him and he is the kind of person that can give and receive a real hug and i’m not one of those people because my alarm system goes off when people touch me and I freeze up and shut down. this time that doesn’t happen. i decide to kiss him and it’s perfect and easy and we make out void of awkwardness but with a clearly defined beginning and a clearly defined ending, then he drives back to shore while i gut the fish in the back of the boat using his terrifyingly sharp knife, feeding the guts to the gulls and the gannets. he drops me off on the dock. we thank each other. we say goodbye and i pay attention to each step, instead of looking back.


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old lady levi then asked ira to speak and tell them about the project. he lit a cigarette and he told them three things. first, that the band council had asked us to help the elders document all the ways they related to the land in the past and in contemporary times. second, that throughout the project, the elders would be in charge. they would make all of the decisions because as far as he was concerned, they were the experts. and third that the final document could be whatever they wanted.

then he sat down.

old lady levi stood up, thanked us and asked us to leave. she opened the living room door, watched us as we passed through it, and then told us to wait outside until she reappeared.

we did. for probably two hours.

we heard a lot of talking. some praying. some singing. some more talking.

ira smoked. i drank watery maxwell house out of a styrofoam cup, and then bit teeth marks all around the top edge, wondering what was going to happen to me when i hit the end of the prozac prescription no one was monitoring.

then we heard old lady levi’s footsteps. she paused on the other side of the door. i imagined her hand on the handle, hesitating and then opening it.

we stood up.

she looked through us and said, “come back next month, maybe a monday next time. monday is better.” she went back into the room and shut the door.

ira lit another cigarette, did up his coat, and walked outside, remotely starting the car on the way. it was nearly four, and the sun was sinking below the stand of black spruce out my window. we retraced our morning’s steps back to thunder bay. a month later, this time on a monday, we went back, and we kept going back for two years, sometimes moving the meeting twice a month.

i redrew the maps those old ones kept tucked away in their bones. i took these notes:

how to pluck the feathers off a goose
how to roast a duck on an open fire
how to block the cnr lines
how to live as if it mattered



....


bringing up trauma from my life made therapy-lady cry, especially if it was “aboriginal” themed. she said “aboriginal” a lot, and i knew she was trying to be respectful so i planned on letting it slide until the breaking point and then i was going to let her have it in one spiralling long manifesto. therapy-lady liked to compare my life to refuges from war-torn countries who hid their kids in closets when airplanes flew over their houses. this was her limit of understanding on colonized intimacy. she wasn’t completely wrong, and while she tried to convince me none of us had to hide our kids anymore, we both knew that wasn’t exactly true. i knew what every ndn knows: that vulnerability, forgiveness and acceptance were privileges. she made the assumption of a white person: they were readily available to all like the fresh produce at the grocery store.

lucy says that I made a critical mistake on my first day of therapy. “you have to lay all of you indian shit out on the first day, drug abuse, suicide attempts, all the times you got beat up, all of that shit. then you sit back and watch how they react. then you’ll know if they can deal or not.” lucy had a social work degree but she didn’t buy it, which is always useful.



[You can order Islands of Decolonial Love here. Highly recommended.]



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November 9, 2014

The counter-literature prize

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The wrong books win the prizes: safe books, conventional books, books that strive for the known excellence of today rather than for the unknown excellence of a not yet known future. Books that are too much of their time, as opposed to books that leap into the pure breakthrough risk of the untimely.

We think there should be a prize for books that are different, unusual, unnerving, too political or unrealistic, not quite right. We think there should be a prize for books that are really, really good but - because they are just too different - will most likely never win any of the many literary prizes that already exist in the world.

For now, this prize is only a hypothetical entity. What might be the best way to bring it into reality? Who should the judges be? How would we even find the strange, counter-literary books in the first place?


[Unfinished.]



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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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