February 22, 2013

Excerpt from Antje Majewski / Alexandro Jodorowsky interview

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Alexandro Jodorowsky: I’ve developed it into an art. The art of Tarot, for me that’s an art. So it’s the tarots that brought me to it. I developed it. And that’s how I came that far. Without trying. It does it all by itself. I always wondered what sanctity is. There are champions, heroes, geniuses, saints! No. So, I wanted to know what sanctity is. OK, for me, sanctity goes with churches. There’s Catholic sanctity, Muslim sanctity, Buddhist sanctity, OK? And the just man of the Jews. They all have different ideas, because they’re part of the prejudices of the churches. So I wondered what civil sanctity is. How a being that does not belong to any moral law of a religion can perform acts of sanctity without belonging to any sect—simply out of love for humanity. Or perhaps not even for that—simply out of love for art. You understand?

Antje Majewski: Yes.

AJ: So I began to imitate sanctity. Every Wednesday I imitate sanctity. Sanctity is being at other people’s service. Without judging them. Except of course, seeing the inner treasure everyone has. And trying to awaken it. Without any desire for profit, because I do it for nothing. Not even a word of thanks. Without deriving any benefit. No benefits. Simply doing it for the pleasure of doing it. OK. And that’s why I do that. I imitate sanctity.

AM: And why ‘imitate’?

AJ: I put it on, I’m not saintly by nature. I imitate.

AM: For me, you…

AJ: I imitate, I imitate. I do that when I think I should be a good person. And I do it.

AM: And why you do doubt?

AJ: I don’t doubt.

AM: But why do you say you imitate?

AJ: What? Why do I say what?

AM: For me, you are like that. It’s not imitation.

AJ: Not all the time. Not all the time. For example, when I’m going to read or in my conferences, everything that’s for others, I suffer a lot in advance. I don’t want to do it. I really suffer, it’s terrible. And then I’m in a bad mood. And once I get there, I change, and afterwards, once it’s over, I’m euphoric and pleased. I pledge myself to go on with it.

AM: Yes.

AJ: And afterwards I ask myself why I pledge myself to do that. I’m mad. It’s years, thirty or so, thirty years I’ve been doing that, and every time, I suffer. And afterwards I do the thing again. So it’s not a state of sanctity. You understand? I imitate.

AM: (laughs)

AJ: I imitate. But it’s a good imitation, because there are people who imitate being an assassin. In reality, I think everyone imitates something. Authenticity is difficult to find. You yourself look for authenticity. To see what you really sense in objects, it’s a quest—a modest one—about objects, isn’t it? But from the moment we’re in our mothers’ wombs, we begin to imitate our families, parents, we have a nationality. Nationality is imitation, it’s not a reality. To be German, or Chilean or French is imitation. Because we’re much more than that. Being a man or women is imitation. Because we’re everything. In reality, we have sexual desires, but that’s not what we are. We’re something else. Age is an imitation. Because spiritual age doesn’t exist. And so on. We imitate thinking, we imitate feeling, we imitate desire. But the real being we don’t see. So to get near it, we have to imitate. And from imitation to imitation, sometimes you get there for a moment. Really, there are moments when you get there. Yes indeed, there are moments you get there. (laughs) But every act of kindness I do, I force myself. It’s not natural, I force myself to do it.


[You can watch the full interview here.]



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February 20, 2013

On making YouTube playlists

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It seems now every year I make a YouTube playlist. I made one in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and I'm already working on one for 2014. There is also the playlist I made of music from Japan. I have  written about this process twice: A play list of 83 videos (with commentary) and A play list of 96 videos (with commentary).

I have been meaning to write about all of this again. How these internet habits feel like a part of my art and life, and how often they feel more like art than my actual art practice, and yet how this idea has also somehow become thinner and less compelling to me since I first wrote about it three years ago.

Also I wanted to write about how videos keep disappearing from these lists. I just opened the playlist from 2010 and the fist thing I am told is that '12 videos in your playlist have been deleted from YouTube.' The internet is a place where things disappear and nobody notices. In fact, the internet is a place where things appear and disappear and practically nobody notices.

2011: 10 videos in your playlist have been deleted from YouTube.
2012: 6 videos in your playlist have been deleted from YouTube.
2013: 1 video in your playlist has been deleted from YouTube. 

As time goes on more and more of these videos will disappear. And I have no right to them, I have only compiled them for a moment in time. YouTube is a privately owned corporation and can delete whatever videos it likes.

Art is ephemeral. Life is ephemeral. But what is strange (or actually completely predictable) is I have absolutely no recollection of which videos have disappeared. I have no notes. They are gone, and if YouTube hadn't told me of their absence I think I would have barely noticed.

I don't know if my logic will be as apparent to everyone else as it is to me. But all of this leads me to believe that there is still something really remarkable about writing books. The books will also disappear. But not quite yet.



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February 17, 2013

Lauren Berlant Quote

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...lives are not novels - or maybe they are, as no critic has ever accounted for all the acts and details in a novel either.

- Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism



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February 13, 2013

Opening fragment from 'Speaking These Lines for the First Time'

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A performer stands alone on stage reading a text from a screen in front of them. It is a different performer every night but the text is always the same. The performer has never seen the full text before. For each line that appears the performer has a choice. They can either say the line on the screen or replace it with a sentence of their own. It is a kind of game they are playing with the writer but it is an extremely difficult one. The writer has all the advantages and the performer has only the adrenaline of the real time encounter. In many ways it is completely unfair to the performer, and at times we will definitely watch them squirm. (Perhaps the most honest pleasure of theatre: when something unexpected happens, when something goes wrong.) However, in the end the performer will prevail.

Speaking These Lines for the First Time is a game about freedom and unfreedom. What does it mean to use the freedom we have in our culture: on stage, in the media, in our daily lives. We say in a democracy we are free but often our options to utilize this freedom can feel extremely limited. Is the stage a place we can make use of our freedom? Is the media? The internet? The text that appears on the screen will playfully, but also sometimes cruelly, navigate within the labyrinth of such questions. At times the text will throw the performer soft balls, giving him or her easy opportunities to replace what is written with his or her own honest convictions. It is a game in which the first rule is that you read what is in front of you and the second rule is you can break the first rule at any time. But if you break the rules does it actually change anything? And if not what would?




Section One

For the next hour I will be reading sentences from the screen in front of me.

The sentences will be divided into four sections.

In section one, I will be reading sentences that I have seen before but have never spoken aloud.

Section one is, mostly, an explanation of what will be happening here tonight.

After that, the work begins in earnest.

Because – in sections two, three and four – I will be reading sentences I have never seen before in my life.

For each sentence that appears I have a choice.

I can either read the sentence as it is written.

Or replace it with something I would prefer to say.

When I am saying something different from what is written, you will know I am doing so because what I say is not what appears on the surtitle above my head.

I can also choose to say nothing and stand here for a moment in silence.

All of this is a kind of game I will be playing with the writer.

In this game, the writer has the advantage.

Since he knows what is coming next and I do not.

Much like in Las Vegas, the house always wins.

Or how, no matter which political party you vote for, the government remains the government.

No matter how I try to intervene, the text is still the text.

I can change things within it, but it will continue on regardless.

At times, the writer will make me say things I couldn’t possible agree with.

Such as:

“Former Nazis make the best teachers and parents.”

Or:

“When you commit suicide you bring yourself a little closer to God.”

And I will have to decide whether to say them or not.

These are of course statements the writer doesn’t agree with either.

He is trying to win.

What exactly he is trying to win is unclear.

He is putting words in my mouth that might make me feel foolish, vulnerable or confused.

By putting unexpected words in my mouth, he is trying to make my performance more real.

Our lives are surrounded by things that we might describe as “not real”.

Television, movies, photographs, advertisements, the internet, pornography, etc.

One of the reasons we might wish to go to the theatre is to see something that feels more real.

More real than television.

More real than photographs.

More real than advertisements.

You get the idea.

I am really here, standing in front of you.

I am really speaking each of these sentences for the first time.

The way this text is written it is very difficult for me to intervene.

This is much like many other things in the world.

If I wanted to change something in the world that I think is wrong it is also very difficult.

Much like if you, as an audience member, wanted to change something in the performance here tonight your options would be limited.

You could stand up and walk out.

You could yell something.

You could run up on stage and do something unexpected.

However, none of these things are likely to alter my performance in any significant manner.

Much like my own interventions in the text are unlikely to greatly alter this evening.

Unless I were to start changing every single line.

To say something completely different each time.

Which is not the game.

Which is not what I have been asked to do.

Of course, there is not only the matter of what I say but also the question of how I say it.

However, on this point as well, because of the straightforward manner in which the sentences are written, there is limited room for play.

Limited, but within limitations there are always possibilities.

If I say something with sarcasm it might mean the opposite of what the writer intended.

Or if I make the “crazy sign”, moving my finger in a circular motion directly next to my head, I might imply that what the writer is saying is crazy.

There are likely other options along these lines.

As I continue to play the game, and get into the swing of things, it is possible my options will increase.

When the writer writes isolated statements he makes the game easier for me.

If the sentence doesn’t directly relate to the sentence that came before or after, it is much easier to replace it with one of my own.

To demonstrate, what follows is a list of twelve isolated statements.

“The first world thrives off the blood and sweat of the third world.”

“Life in the Western world is wonderful.”

“Poor people can still live lives filled with meaning and joy.”

“The internet is more democratic than television.”

“Life is short, seize the moment.”

“People’s misdeeds are generally caused by insecurity.”

“People will behave differently in different situations.”

“There would be no crime if there was no poverty.”

“Greed is not natural.”

“Listening to me say these things is a waste of your time.”

“I like things that are evil.”

“This text is far too didactic.”

To further assist me, when the writer believes he is writing an isolated statement he will place it in quotation marks to indicate that I might attempt replacing it with another sentence.

But, of course, I can also attempt replacing sentences that are not in quotation marks.

Isolated statements occur frequently in our society.

For example, one of the strategies employed by television news is that each of the different stories are presented as if they don’t directly relate to each other.

This makes it more difficult, rather than easier, to make sense of what we are watching.

The news presents not a coherent picture of our world, but a series of seemingly disconnected facts.

What would the news look like if it instead tried to present a more coherent picture?

If it tried to link the various news stories together?

If it tried to show how the various news stories relate to each other?

If you use this as an analogy for my task here tonight it creates a paradox.

When the sentences I say are more isolated from one another it is easier for me to intervene.

And when the sentences are more connected it is more difficult for me to intervene.

Unlike the news, where the lack of connection between different statements makes the world we live in seem more incoherent, in this game, a lack of connection between statements makes the game, for me at least, more empowering.

However, this is true only if we assume that it is more empowering for me to say my own sentence rather than the one that is in front of me.

Which is by no means clear.

Since what is written might very simply be more interesting than anything I am able to come up with on the spot.

This is another way in which the game is extremely unfair to me as a performer.

But I am brave and stubborn.

And will persevere.

Now that we have explained the basic premise, we will listen to a song for approximately two minutes.

It will give me a moment to catch my breath before we continue.

[A song plays for two minutes. During this time the performer can do as he or she wishes.]




Section Two

As previously announced, I am now reading sentences that I have actually never seen before.

And, as was explained in the previous section, in this task I have a certain degree of freedom.

Freedom is a strange idea.

One might think that one can only be free in a pure sense.

That freedom means having no responsibilities or connections.

But, in fact, one can only be free in relation to rules and restrictions.

There is no such thing as pure freedom.

To be free is not to be able to do whatever one wants.

To be free is to be able to change the spoken and unspoken rules that one exists in relation to.

In this game I can change some of what I say.

But it is unclear whether or not I can change the rules.

For example, if I were to stop reading, and spend the rest of my time on stage dancing, would that change the rules?

To change the rules is always difficult.

It takes time.

And if it goes wrong it can result in complete disaster.

Totalitarian states are an attempt to completely change the basic rules of how society operates.

They do so through violence. By force.

Changing the rules through solidarity is even more difficult.

As well, one person’s freedom is often based on another person’s unfreedom.

The fact that I am free to stand here on stage and speak is based on the fact that you are sitting there willing to listen.

Which is another way of staying that you are not free to speak.

If everyone here were to speak at the same time it would be chaos and my freedom to speak would be canceled out.

So my freedom to speak is based of your lack of freedom in regards to speaking.

Of course, in a sense, you are all free to speak.

But the rule we have all agreed upon is that I speak and you listen.

My freedom to buy a cheap pair of running shoes is based on someone else’s unfreedom of having to put together those running shoes while being paid a very small amount.

However, both my freedom to buy the cheap running shoes and the child’s unfreedom to put them together for a low wage serve another purpose.

To make money for a corporation.

My perceived freedom and the child’s obvious unfreedom work together to create profit.

Profit is what occurs when some people make more money because others make less.

A billionaire could never become a billionaire in a world that was fair and reasonable.

But, of course, life isn’t fair.

When we say life isn’t fair we are also, in a way, accepting the unfairness of the world.

By believing the world is unfair we also create the conditions for unfairness to occur.

Unfairness begins at birth.

Some people are born:

“More attractive.”

“Physically stronger.”

“More intelligent.”

“In wealthier countries.”

“With richer parents.”

These people will, in general, have an easier life.

People who are privileged are rarely aware of the extent or origins of their privilege.

Most people in this room fall into this category.

The things that really upset us do so because they remind us of things in ourselves we don’t like.

If I am upset that the world is unfair, it is also because I am nervous that I am unfair.

Or that I directly benefit from injustice.

Guilt is conservative.

Guilt is not connected to action but to inaction.

Guilt says: I am doing nothing, but it is all right because I feel bad about it.




[Unfinished.]



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February 10, 2013

Heriberto Yépez on 'to see what happens'

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And when one of us used that phrase - ‘to see what happens’ - I thought seeing what happens was impossible. To see requires involvement. And once you get involved, you see nothing.

- Heriberto Yépez, Wars. Threesomes. Drafts. & Mothers



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February 8, 2013

Excerpt from I Want To Start Again

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Dissatisfaction, alienation from my own body (and the bodies of others), boredom, an overwhelming sense of disowning, of not wanting, everything I have (perhaps as a way of owning it more naturally or subversively), anger and sadness, in great quantities, that seem to have no object or purpose, nowhere to go. These are the traits, the reasons, that convince me there is little point in writing about myself honestly. Who needs to read such things? Toward what end? But I have written all my other books and now it seems I have no choice. I am the only topic left. At least I can use my anger for slander.

The artistic life has convinced me that people mainly want to read inspiring stories. I don’t. In this fact I might well be in the minority, but I’m certainly not alone. There is most likely a way, or many ways, I could describe my life so that most would find it inspiring. There are so many ways to tell a story. In writing this, I feel such a strong desire to control how my story is told (perhaps after I’m dead, a moment which so often feels to me will come remarkably soon.) I don’t want others to decide what my life has been. I want to decide. Apparently what I most want is to portray it as slanderous.

The neurotic has the feeling that he wants something, can’t say what it is, and nevertheless is frustrated not to get it.

Critical optimism. Naïve on purpose.

I read about Quantum physics and think: this is scientific evidence that has found an incorrect solution. Something is missing, I don’t know what, but some of the basic premises through which the experiments are conducted and interpreted must be wildly incorrect. They do experiments, record results, yet because of some fault in their basic understanding they do not see what is actually there. Or they do see what is there but miss something else even more important. This is my feeling when I read about Quantum physics and I have absolutely no idea whether or not this feeling is correct. However, when read about Quantum physics I also don’t feel that I’m reading about myself. Am I the scientist who looks at the evidence (of my own life and experience) and comes to the wrong conclusions?

A friend in Berlin tells me about retrocausality. He attempts to explain it – I believe he was quite drunk at the time, perhaps I was as well – with an example: two particles are placed in a particle accelerator, traveling at speeds so fast, and yet variable, so that one particle is, in a sense, temporally ahead of the other one. One particle is in the future and the other in the past. When you alter the future particle, for example by hitting it with some sort of beam, it affects the past one. This experiment has been used to hypothesize that events in the future can concretely alter things in the past, that it is possible for a affect to occur before its cause. At least that’s what I thought when X first explained it to me. However, further research made it clear that retrocausality remains little more than a science fiction hypothesis, and has never been proven, experimentally or otherwise. At that moment I felt more gullible than usual. I always feel gullible. Yet things in the future do alter things in the past. Writing this book will change how I view my own past, and also how others perceive it.

There is one past we have lived, and another past we tell now. I have always searched for ways to reinvent myself. Some of the stories, facts and reflections I will be recounting are stories I have told over and over again, over the years finding better and more effective ways to tell them. One improves a story by selecting the sharpest details, choosing what to leave out and what to keep in, various gradations of nuance and timing. All of this happens instinctively, without noticing, most often based on the subtle reactions of the listener. And yet none of the stories would work if they hadn’t once actually occurred; if they hadn’t, more or less, happened to me. Many of these events were dramatic at the time, while others only became so gradually over years of recounting. Others find their first life here, as I remember things that previously had fallen away. This is something I thought I would never do, write about these events all in one place. In so many ways I’m against it. I hate thinking about the past and I hate nostalgia. And yet, like so many others, with every passing year I become unerringly more nostalgic, almost against my will.

A number of times I have watched some of the most brilliant artists I know shift, over a relatively short period of time, into some of the least interesting artists I know. I feel this process always has something to do with purity, with wanting to be pure, the purest.


[You can read one possible opening for I Want To Start Again here.]



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February 7, 2013

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro Quote

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For me, anthropology is in fact the theory—to sound a bit like Trotsky—the theory of a permanent decolonization. A permanent decolonization of thought. That is anthropology for me. It is not a question of decolonizing society, but of decolonizing thought. How to decolonize thought? And how to do it permanently? Because thinking is constantly recolonized and reterritorialized. I have always thought that the notion of “a society against the state” is a profound notion and it has to be deepened. And this goes along with the idea of a society without interiority. This means that, finally, interiority is the state. I still like the wordplay: “the state is the self.” Thus a society without a state is a society without the self, without interiority in this sense. This is animism, the idea that the subject is outside. It is everywhere. And that society is not a guard, that the state is neither guarding nor a guard, meaning that the society does not coincide with the state. That is the idea against the state. Against the state means a society without interiority, which only recognizes itself while being outside of itself. This is the idea of a society without a state. What does it mean to live in a society without a state, against the state? We don’t have any idea. You have to live there to see how things happen in a world without a state. In a society that is not only lacking the state but, as Clastres thought, is against the state because it is constituted precisely on the absence of the state. Not because of the lack of a state, but upon the absence of the state, so that the state cannot come into existence. And animism has to do with that. Animism is the ontology of societies against the state.

- Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, from Assemblages: Félix Guattari and Machinic Animism



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February 6, 2013

Miguel Gomes Quote

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And this idea of thinking that what the characters are missing—more than the loss of the Portuguese Empire or the land loss of the land—I think its their youth. I think that cinema, also, in a way is missing its youth. Back then in the youth of cinema, the viewers would be more available, there would be a larger ability to believe in things. It’s like the process of aging as you were talking, there is a moment when you believe in Santa Clause or whatever and then you grow up and see—no, it does not exist. But in a way, cinema can restore this belief even if you’re believing in unbelievable things, which is I think is far more moving to believe in unbelievable things. So you know it’s fiction, it’s a lie but somehow it gets you back in time into the moment where you believe these things. I think that, for instance, people that were seeing 1920s Morneau’s films, maybe they had a larger ability to believe in these vampires and these love stories. Because cinema is now more than 100 years old, it’s much tougher to believe and we are much more aware of things. This is a problem for us to believe in a very direct way.

- Miguel Gomes
 


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February 4, 2013

Four quotes from Empire of Neomemory by Heriberto Yepez

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A good portion of that enormous distance that Olson always maintained with respect to his body, he learned from his mother, for whom all corporeality was risk. We cannot understand Olson if we do not understand the abyss his mother sowed between him and his body, early on, to the point of his conceiving of it as his lugubrious satellite or golden cloud. When he got to Mexico, many years later, Olson was mostly surprised at the manner in which the descendants of the Mayans—as he said in “The Human Universe” (1951)—took pleasure in one another, in the natural closeness of their bodies.

It was as if the distance between Olson and his body could only be restored by a complicated postal system. Something similar was the case with women. Olson always maintained distance—like his father, who his mother had chosen precisely for his being a firm man, who became, at a certain moment, an alcoholic. (The firmness of a man is directly proportional to his averted vertigo.) Through his whole life Olson had a fear of the feminine body. Olson knew that to come close to a woman was not only to come close to the open body he had learned to fear through his mother, but also, above all, to come close to a woman, as he knew very well, was to come close to his own body. (Why does woman signify body, psycho-historically? Because the parallel fantasy indicates that male signifies mind. Genders were put in place in order to survive dualisms.) “Woman” is that which the “male” unknows of himself. And vice versa.

In order to not come close, Olson, very early on, became a devoted student. From a very early age he sought to become cultured. And it is to have another body, to make it possible to flee from the real body, that our civilization teaches us to construct a fantasy body, the body of requested information, the imaginary body that one constructs, we might say, by reading, by selection of others’ memories, cybermnemic editing. And for those of us who continue on the path of the imaginary co-body, the body of the poem, the story, the essay, the body, the text—the body is transformed into the replacement-body. I do not want to live here. I want to live in language. The word is the island where I am moving to. The text will become the history of the loss of our body. The text is both the balm and the poison.




All story has closure as its theme. Reduction. Sudden limits. Born in Poe as an oppressive genre, the story is a capsule of claustrophobia in which time pretends to be trapped in a quick space. The story—temporal narration turned spatial limit—attempts to store away the All thanks to the perfect synthesis and linear time. What genre is more linear than that of the story?—if Europe invented the novel, the neo-Oxident invented the short story, and in this mutation we can see the shift that occurred between these Co-Oxidents. In comparison with the long novelistic reign of Europe, that of the United States will be succinct. The North American empire will be brief, as brief, technical, and fantastic as the best science fiction stories.




Burnout is the perfect crime. Be it Bartleby, Funes, or the dandy, let’s not ignore the fact that the fed up man, within the vociferous yawn of his dissipation, hides the fact that he has appropriated All. Burnout is theft. Weariness is a strategy for appropriating the world. “I am weary of Everything” means I possess everything. Which will always be false. Not only because the All does not exist properly but because to appropriate it is the pantopic and the pantopic is the illusory.

This is the first great trick of weariness: the trick of its appropriation, the trick of its looting. This theft will be hidden beneath the giant complaint, beneath the shouted apathy or the ironic gesture. Boredom is a theft that denies its own agency, its own action, depreciating what it has stolen. The burnt out man appears to get away with what’s his, because it can be argued that he possesses it ALL! —and he is satiated with this, Same as Always—he continues arguing that “in truth...I don’t want it.” Because the All which the burnt out man has appropriated is an All-Undesired, the burnout pretends to reject it, however, as we see, the rejection of the possessed All is the same trick by which he retains it. The burnout is not responsible for his illusion of having it all. The burnout is no more than an involuntary comedian. It is not an accident that excess forms the basis of imperial life.




Linear history, Oedipal history, is our fantasy, and to perpetuate it we invented the myth of an authoritarianism arising from the preterit, even though authority can only be exercised from the present. Borges, whose work was concerned with the manipulation of time, claimed that each author invents his precursors. Or, to put it in Phillip K. Dick’s terms, the Oedipal structure is a Counter-Clock World, a world where, as in this Dick novel, the libraries destroy books and the dead emerge from their graves. The best-kept secret of linear oxidental time is that it is written from the future to the past.



Empire of Neomemory by Heriberto Yepez is translated by Jen Hofer, Christian Nagler, and Brian Whitener and published by chain links.



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February 3, 2013

Anne Boyer Quote

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I have said I am a poet in order to suppress being a cultural critic — because the lure of cultural criticism is that it gives an endless opportunity to waste one’s life. for culture is almost always wrong, and always presenting us a wrong to contemplate: and how addicting it is to perform one’s cleverness, again and again, to lob each fiery thought at each of the million wrong ships which float by, doing nothing about the sea itself.

- Anne Boyer, doing nothing about the sea itself



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Perverse Curating Essay Fragment

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The Curator is expected to know the difference between good and bad art, select relevant examples from the good, and arrange them into consequent, thematically resonant exhibitions. Works should complement each other rather than clash. Themes should be relevant and sophisticated. Perverse Curating says fuck that. Why must art be well-behaved and why is it the curators job the color within the lines? Who is willing to put art together in provocative ways that defy all notions of politeness and common sense? Instead of works that complement each other, what if the art was at war? Would a more perverse, combative form of exhibition-making, over time, lead to more exciting art?



[Unfinished.]



Other approaches to Perverse Curating can be found here and here.



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