The only acceptable Leonard Cohen cover?
Saturday, April 27, 2013 7:35:24 AM
The indispensable backdoorbroadcasting.net
Lots of new stuff on the indispensable backdoorbroadcasting.net:
... starting with the 2013 Hayes Robinson lecture – which is an
annual lecture from the department of History at Royal Holloway:
and the annual Hellenic Institute (also at Royal Holloway) chipped in with an interesting lecture on the Greek Diaspora:
And one more offering from the History department at Royal Holloway:
Lots more links the BBC news section.
Friday, April 19, 2013 7:45:33 AM
WWTBD – What Would Thomas Bernhard Do
Fabulous looking event:
WWTBD – What Would Thomas Bernhard Do
Talks, discussions, lectures, films, performances, concerts, parties
May 17–26, 2013
Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier
1070 Wien, Austria
As a prelude to its repositioning, the Kunsthalle Wien organizes a ten-day festival dedicated to key issues of today's society. WWTBD – What Would Thomas Bernhard Do takes up the tradition of Thomas Bernhard's critical and recalcitrant thinking, transfers it into the present, and breaks it down into various disciplines in the sense of a concise analysis of the present.
Deliberately posed without a punctuation mark, the question What Would Thomas Bernhard Do does not raise expectations of a singular answer. It rather makes room for a wide range of statements, discussions, as well as the construction of both stable and fragile investigative and intellectual edifices. What Would Thomas Bernhard Do does not only work in a scientifically logic or poetical way, but also musically, visually, and, above all, in the togetherness and confusion of a marathon without a traced-out finishing line.
About one hundred protagonists from the fields of fine art, music, literature, art theory, sociology, philosophy, and economics will participate in the performance of a spectacular and innovative play. Six to twelve acts a day will be modulated in different tempi and tonalities so that they work as singular elements, but also become part of the overall tableau developed by WWTBD in the course of its ten-day duration. The invited protagonists being confronted with each other in the choreographed sequence and in different formats and the visitors are productively involved in what happens, offering leeway for interpretation along the fault lines of society.
Lectures will be followed by performances, discussion rounds by readings, vocal numbers, or musical performances, conversations, and DJ and party events. The stage set by the US artist Barbara Kruger and an intervention by the Austrian artist Heinrich Dunst provide the two constant factors for WWTBD.
Friday, April 19, 2013 7:22:58 AM
Mitchelmore on Knausgaard
Let's be clear: is not about the life of Karl Ove Knausgaard. The interminable specifics of the content are superficial necessities for an experiment in stretching the everyday to such a degree that it becomes translucent...
Stephen Mitchelmore discusses Knausgaard's My Struggle – Book 2 (A Man in Love).
Friday, April 19, 2013 6:24:04 AM
Well this is embarrassing...
Goodness! Nothing from me for almost three months. I think that's my longest spell of blogging silence ever. I've been working too hard and playing far too little, and that looks set to continue for a while. Regardless, I have a few fine articles stacking up from kind contributors that need to see the light of day forthwith. So, expect them, and a few minor interventions from me, too, over the coming week or more.
Thursday, April 18, 2013 3:42:01 PM
'Subterraneans' from Low (1977)
Writing in The Quietus, Nix Lowery gets it spot on, calling 'Subterraneans' Bowie's "most po-mo moment on , and also arguably the most beautiful":
'Subterraneans' is a multi-layered and celestial piece, a sonic painting brimming with referentiality and subtext. With a reversed bassline taken from his rejected soundtrack, Bowie references his attachment to the film, to his character Thomas Newton, and to the general sense of a man out of step, and out of time, with his surroundings – allegorically explored earlier in his work through his 'Major Tom' character. The main melody, a sweeping and encompassing phrase, contains a melody audibly mirroring Edward Elgar's 'Nimrod' from his Enigma Variations. Whether coincidental or deliberate, there are subtexts to be read here. 'Nimrod' is part of a series Elgar wrote in which each piece obliquely referenced one of his acquaintances. 'Nimrod' referenced Augustus J Jaegar, who convinced Elgar, when in a moment of great despair, to continue writing music, citing the German composer Beethoven as an inspiration. Bowie, too, was surfacing from a period of disillusionment, despair and drug induced creative drought – perhaps Visconti and Eno were his Jaegar? Or perhaps the idea of Berlin, and its isolated idealists, was his muse? The shimmering ethereal backwards melodics combined with synth-strings recall Eno's solo work significantly – on 'Subterraneans' more so than on any other Low composition. Lyrically, Bowie echoes the cut-up style of beat poetry, and a lone jazz saxophone answers the lyrical call, summoning surrealism and the creative fire of Burroughs and Ginsberg. Regardless of the replete referentiality of this track, its real beauty is that it works emotively, a contemplative and fragile beauty like ripples on a lake, Subterraneans' melodies flow organically. Ripples too, of its magic can be discerned in Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack, and most audibly in Angelo Badalamenti's collaborations with David Lynch – Subterraneans reaches towards futurity with a surreal and mystical architecture.
Tuesday, January 08, 2013 8:41:15 AM
A Meillassoux bibliography (in English)
Paul J. Ennis has compiled a useful bibliography of Quentin Meillassoux in English (hat tip to Steve).
Saturday, January 05, 2013 10:35:42 AM
Duane Pitre - Feel Free
Friday, January 04, 2013 6:42:57 AM
Ben Lerner and the administration of fear
Paul Virilio says the title of his book The Administration of Fear "sprang to mind right away as a direct echo of the title of Graham Greene's
well-known book, ... I use the expression "administration of fear" to refer to two things. First, that fear is now an
environment, a surrounding, a world. It occupies and preoccupies us... [it] also means that States are tempted to create policies for the
orchestration and management of fear... When I read Graham Greene's book, I found the expression "ministry of fear" to be particularly well
chosen because it carries the administrative aspect of fear and describes it like a State."
Fear, then, is a product of the State, part of the modern mood; something the State contributes to, sustains and extends through its
activities - and often especially through the activities it pursues to counter fear's epiphenomena. The administration of fear, then, is the
administration of fear that the State causes and makes perpetual by its actions. The administration of fear Graham Greene is a Catch-22
Asked by his interlocutor Bertrand Richard "isn't it inappropriate to use the same expression for both the tragic historical events of the
Second World War and what we Westerners are experiencing today," Virilio replies that he does not think so. A brief discussion of Hannah Arendt
and an overview of his dromology, his politics of speed, is followed by a fascinating thought: when "Henri Bergson, the theorist of duration, and
Albert Einstein, the inventor of relativity" met in Paris (in April 1922) they were not able to understand one another - a unique rendez vous, a
moment of fate, happened but did not take place. Science became part of the "military industrial complex" and philosophy failed to think a
political economy of speed.
Dissident Trotskyists once argued that the Second World War never really ended, just morphed; certainly, today, war is ubiquitous. The war on
terror was a response to fear that has created an ever-present climate of anxiety, the administration of which only makes more plain to its makers
the need for it - and clearer to the rest of us that the situation is both manufactured and all too real: this is hell, nor are we out of it.
Virilio takes a novel to furnish him with a metaphor with which he can think about the present. This is one of art's tasks. Perhaps another,
however, is the administration of fear itself. Art doesn't just provide metaphors. As a matter of actuality, it works with words to
administer, to oversee, to organise fear. Fidelity to our metaphor must make us ask, however, whether, as with the homologous activity of the
State, the very fact of this administration doesn't itself add to and extend the reign of the regime of fear art portrays itself as the
antidote to. What if ministers to fear, furthers fears aims and objectives? What if is not only the
name of a novel but a name for what novels are?
A novel organises material to augment itself, prove the worth of its story, prove the fact of its own requirement, prove the worth of its own
solution (a novel is the answer to its own question). Or it subverts itself, shows the worthlessness of its form and instantiates, in that move, the
humanity of its humility (refuses to answer the question it has itself posed). A novel administers fear, pretends lack away, narrates with hubris,
brings up the bodies and declares that all shall be well - narration as order, as good governance - or it dismantles itself, not allowing itself
ever to be itself, allowing itself only to be the motor of its own disruption: not to be the sum of its parts, and to have parts that disrupt its
Crudely stated, Virilio thinks that speed equals terror: "the question of global finitude... the enclosure of consciousness is happening in a
world limited by the immediacy of nano-chronology - the acceleration of reality is a significant mutation of History." The novel has always
concerned itself with time. Virilio believes only a meeting of new Bergsons and new Einsteins can save us. Perhaps...
American poet Ben Lerner's overpraised debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, has its hero, Adam Gordon, an American poet on a year out in Madrid, wonder whether, on seeing someone weeping in front of a painting, he has ever himself had "a ‘profound experience of art’".
In such a mediated world is an authentic, immediate, profound experience even really possible? At the beginning of Leaving the Atocha
Station the thrill for the reader is whether Lerner can sustain this investigation into the administration of, the separation from, authentic
feeling that Gordon is trying to work through, in his poems and his life, in the novel. But it soon becomes clear that the investigation - which
if it is authentically to be a process of thought about the way thought can preclude authentic feeling - has to fail to succeed. Sadly, it only
succumbs to its own logic. After a promising start, Leaving the Atocha
Station becomes a dull book about a rather precious young American poet abroad. The question, at whatever 'meta' level it
is pitched, of whether it is possible to have a profound experience of art was rightly joined, in the novel, to the question of how to make the art of having a
profound experience of one's own life without becoming an alienated spectator of it. The novel fails, however, not because it sets that existential question
against the backdrop of the profound and real tragedy and crime of the bombing of the Atocha Station, but because it loses its nerve and becomes merely a
The fear that Adam Gordon - has he ever had a ‘profound experience of art’? - and our own experience of the novel are weakened by the
inability of Lerner to communicate the alienation his hero feels because the novel he writes is itself so very sure of itself. In a world where a bombing like the
one that killed 191 people and wounded 1,800 at the Atocha Station can occur, we're served badly by a novel that doesn't recognise that the
disaster is not something a novel reports on - however well, however badly, however obliquely - but something that structures and disrupts its
very being. To have a profound experience of art is not possible inside the administrative space of the contemporary novel of fear - most
especially because the contemporary novel is not nearly afraid enough of what it can do, of what it is.
The Ministry of Fear could very well be the title of Kafka's collected works. For Graham Greene it was the title of a novel of war and faith -
great narratives both. For Lerner, ennui and irony - late capitalism - stop Adam Gordon from feeling. But perhaps ennui and irony are already
profound experiences of their own. Only a novel could explore that, but only if it didn't administer the answer.
Wednesday, January 02, 2013 1:13:16 PM
Knausgaard and Das Unheimliche
How does Freud define the unheimlich (in his famous essay here)? The question is important – and we should be clear we know what it is asking: the question is not, what is Freud's
definition, but rather how does he go about defining the word? What is his method? What needs noting is that Freud's process of
(arriving at a) definition, his attempts at clarity, problematises the very idea of a fixed and final definition. And this paradox can be used to gain some insight into how a novel opens itself up to the problem of its own subject matter, how the novel deals with the self-undermining fact of itself.
The unheimlich – crudely, the uncanny, or the opposite of what is familiar – itself points at something beyond definition and
suggests language – and the particular kind of conversation that psychoanalysis is – is always in excess of itself. As Bifo Berardi
argues this excess is what makes (poetic) language (potentially) revolutionary. And it is what makes fetishising the mot juste a
reactionary step. Freud's etymology is scientific or pedantic, depending on your sensibility, but quaint, dogged and laughable regardless –
and it echoes in this essay in miniature the insightful purblindedness of his whole weltanschauung. The unheimlich essay (available in volume 14
of the old Penguin Freud Library, Art and
Literature but not the new replacement to that volume; I hear the editor Adam Phillips didn't want it included for some reason) begins with
an extensive trawl through many complimentary and contradictory dictionary definitions. We see the word pulled and pushed and extended and bent
to move between meaning unhomely or undomestic to ghostly, haunted and on to secret, concealed. Page after page of yet more exact definition and
one finds only that exactness and definition have proved illusory. Uncannily, unheimlich is a word that contains secret worlds and will not
settle down. Uncannily, unheimlich names something that can just about be named but barely owns its own definition. In a sense – and we
read in the essay its multiple senses – it is the word for what poetry is always concerned with: nomenclature – naming with absolute
precision what absolutely has no precise meaning, naming what always wriggles free of being named and held down, naming what is always
beyond language in language, naming what is left behind, unsaid, unheimlich, after language has got close, moved nearby, danced around, scented,
Once Freud has waded through a number of definitions of unheimlich, dissatisfied he walks us through several definitions of its antonym
heimlich. He finds something deeply strange, something unheimlich, during this work: secretly, heimlich is not the antonym of unheimlich at all,
but rather its sometime synonym; their secret sharing is that they secretly share the same meaning: "What interests us most in this long extract is to
find that among its different shades of meaning the word heimlich exhibits one which is identical with its opposite,
unheimlich... Thus heimlich is a word the meaning of which develops in the direction of ambivalence, until it finally coincides
with its opposite, unheimlich." Heimlich shivers with an an unheimlich quality. Unheimlich finds in its opposite only itself. Specifity
– a scientific trawl through the dictionaries – has led us back to an unheimlich place. Specifity has proved itself merely to be a
mode of obscurity. The domestic is weird, very weird . Underneath the heimlich, the homely, the unheimlich . It takes Freud a few pages
of dictionary-sourced entries to prove this; it takes Karl Ove Knausgård a novel.
The finest novel of this year, (the first volume of six, the series entitled ) is a novel of the unheimlich
and an unheimlich novel. It was so far beyond anything else published this year because of its engagement with the fact that quotidian
dreariness, everyday pain, and something numinous that lies just beyond sight, beneath grief, certainly lies always beyond language, is
precisely what the novel at its best yearns to reach, knowing it will ever fail to reach there. This is not a typical bildungsroman –
life's untaken paths are not the novel's concern. Cliche, commonplace and unremarkable constructions abound. Language's untrodden paths are
not a concern either – the path language is always already taking, the path we're never not on, is suffused with the unheimlich: the yearned for doesn't get us any further than just our everyday yearning, The subject here is death – and whether writing/language has anything
to say about this commonplace disaster that haunts and harries and shapes us everywhere we turn.
The novel begins, before it gets caught up in a sometimes pedestrian if always hypnotic retelling of a young man growing up, with the
unheimlich. Knausgaard the author writes directly about death's ubiquity (the first line, in Don Bartlett's translation, is: "For the heart, life
is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops.") Knausgaard the boy is then described seeing, on the TV news, after a disaster, a face
in the sea. Beneath the whole novel something is stirring, something unheimlich that can't be said. After Knausgaard's father dies, the key event
in the novel, the huge, overwhelming presence he was in Karl Ove's life continues. As Knausgaard and his brother clean the filthy detritus his
dead drunken father has left behind in a house become hovel, he realises that he has to write this, has to write of this, write out of this, write about the stink, the
misery, the pain, the boredom, the embarrassment because the stink, the misery, the pain, the boredom, the embarrassment is never all there is
– things are always in excess of themselves, and in this way things are like words, are like icebergs, and their excess isn't captured by words
but mirrored by them.
If, uncannily, words, sometimes, mean the very opposite of themselves; if poetry, language at its most distilled, at its finest and most
dense, is at the same time language freed from crude referentiality; if and when, as Freud shows us, unheimlich can mean heimlich – what can we make of words?
And what, so labile, can words make? And why might this – call it porousness, call is slipperiness, call it irony – why might this
unreliability of language be something either to celebrate or, more, even to find radical or potentially liberatory? Can we even agree with Bifo that
it is? Doubtless, language, used instrumentally, used to pass along (messages about) value, used as info-exchange, is language as reaction, but
is poetry really other to this? Millennia of poetry hasn't saved us – but perhaps millennia of poetry has prevented us finally from fully falling?
Perhaps Knausgaard's struggle is our struggle – to see that the unheimlich is the heimlich, that the unfathomable death of a father might
actually be, in reality, both the same as and at the same time the opposite of the clumsy symbol and actual tragedy it is in and out of a novel. And perhaps the
separation of in and out of a novel finally fully collapses here – and collapses the only place where it can: in a novel.
Saturday, December 29, 2012 8:40:11 AM