Interesting note over at Stan Apps' blog about image and reification in Lukacs.
"Image" is actually central to Lukacs' literary criticism, in that the issue of realism and artist reflection, a la Hamlet, is described as an "image." He does embrace that visual metaphor. In his Marxist aesthetics, reification in realism is the result of a certain kind of mirroring, specifically realism that doesn’t engage the social and economic processes behind the details, that doesn't have any kind of dialectic behind it. He consistently returns to the visual language when talking about what he thinks the realism of dialectical materialism should be in art: the never ending dialectic of appearance and reality, often approached as confronting contradictions. He actually says that fantastic writing does this quite effectively and that the free play of imagination and unrestrained fantasy are fully compatible with Marxist ideas of "realism". He's totally into E.T.A. Hoffmann and the fantastical writings of Balzac.
It also brings to mind the ancient tradition of preserving the severed head of the tribe leader in Jullian Jaynes' The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, which is closer in some ways to the Phillip K. Dick concept of the continuation of consciousness and communication after death, with the hallucinated voice from the king's head telling you what to do.
The fact that the "bat" was actually a wrench naturally calls to mind Chtcheglov's 1953 Fourmulary for a New Urbanism:
We are bored in the city, there is no longer any Temple of the Sun. Between the legs of the women walking by, the dadaists imagined a monkey wrench and the surrealists a crystal cup. That’s lost. We know how to read every promise in faces — the latest stage of morphology. The poetry of the billboards lasted twenty years. We are bored in the city, we really have to strain to still discover mysteries on the sidewalk billboards, the latest state of humor and poetry.
So it must be that in this incident the potential for an expanded definition -- a potentially revolutionary super-proletariat that would include anyone who is bored -- would find a certain kind of illustration. It certainly demonstrates the lengths one has to go to overcome boredom -- which now necessitates batting practice with the frozen, decapitated heads of major baseball figures.
Nicoloff started with material from Bruised Dick, a collaboration with Alli Warren. Deliberate and focused titles like "People in Berkeley Need to Get Down with General Spatial Awareness" make me think things such as: "That's true!" A lot of demotic contouring done in a very alert and engaging manner. Refreshingly different from, say, the kind of widespread boilerplate avant poetry where the goal is to demonstrate that the poet is of greater intelligence than and possessed of an ethical superiority to some kind of image of average American consciousness. Phew. No stiff arming here. Nicoloff and Warren are in there. Deal with it. Lyrical, flexible, funny, teasing, and maybe only scratching the surface of what they could do -- and from here there's no telling what they could do.
Nioloff then went into Punks. Available in it's entirety here:
Propositional, focused, and oddly passionate.
Mel Nichols was next. She has one of the richest textures in a reading voice I have ever heard. And she's not afraid of fun, or raw materials, or delicacy. She read from Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon.
already slow December drops its paranormal forest difficulties strewn
& then why shouldn't leaves' red masquerade swarm the frequency of
a room caught faint & duplicated in the fluctuations of clocks
of course believe all those hermits going to the desert
fast and pray of course of course of course I scratched my own eyes out
giving you he riddle of my taciturn suspended in the dark.
more Nicols here
1. Robert Christgau's review of The Best of Ringo Starr, Vol. 2, "Better than Telly Savalas, but no match for George Harrison, or Joe Walsh."
2. Sid and Nancy: Tender scene involving a Telly Savales doll. The is the closest the movie comes to explaining the relationship, via a discussion of dolls in an approximated domestic scene.
3. The Dirty Dozen: Telly Savales: psychotic, rocking a hat.
It is, if nothing else, a measure, an image of the pooling power, will and desire in a population, even if unfocused, and even if it seems a failure, for now.
A cabaret act / descent into madness, Poor Baby Bree is constructed from recovered vaudeville songs, rescued from the landfill of sheet music stores, dating from as early as the 1850s up to the 1920s and 30s. Bree Benton and Franklin Bruno (piano) have created a kind of one-woman show by building a narrative around the stories in these rescued songs. Apparently, some of the spoken text is also appropriated, so the project approaches being Oulipo musical theater, though as with a Harry Mathews novel, it's not necessary to know this ahead of time to understand the performance. The story concerns a young waif experiencing conflicted emotions while running away from home in an attempt to join the circus. Benton channels a child consciousness caught between states of being, with singing as the one recourse truly available to her. The circus always travels just ahead, forever out of reach, an entity perhaps also known as show business. The home she has run away from was dominated by a cruel mother, a cycle of abuse she repeats unknowingly in her relationship with her dolls.
Poor Baby Bree is a strange and riveting hour-and-a-half immersion into the conflicts born not out of a failed individuation, but of a twisted one, manifest in the interstices of cultural time travel, where a dauntingly remote choice of materials and an artificiality of presentation collides with a powerful unbroken chain of affect that you can’t take your eyes off for a second. I never once doubted Benton's tears. She is a serious actress performing totally absurd material. The contours of the resulting content -- strong emotions activating sincerity simultaneously with an alienated distance of communication -- have some surprising shape shifts, including a tender and realistic conversation with a cardboard owl whose only means of expression are his eyelids, lovingly manipulated by Benton herself. The embraced contradictions of the material, message, and presentation were at their most startling when Benton smeared herself with a sticky dirt, releasing the aroma of the chocolate cake icing that the original sign of the "dirt" referenced.
As it turns out, moving only your eyes for expression may be more than enough, just as rooting through musty sheet music and stringing bits of text together to create a meditation on the relation of loneliness and the need for expression may be more than enough. It all seems surprisingly natural coming from a collector's (or art lover's) mind. In fact, a collector's mind might just be a talent for channeling the history of some other kind of speech, or some other era.
Adeena Karasick provided sustained tonal variation and a broad sense of overall contour with more fun, funny, exuberant, "performatively-oriented" giving-a-shit about the audience than I was prepared for. It was the best reading I've seen her give. This is not a situation where you show up to listen and prove you care about poetry despite the lack of aptitude or interest the poet shows in getting the material over to you. Karasick cares enough to put on a good show and she wants to be loved and is going to damn well prove to you that you should love her, at least for as long as she's on the stage.
Clearly she gives slam poets a run for their money, and I don't consider slam performance anything to sneeze at. She's a sometimes compelling and explosive ham on the same level of talent as say, Edwin Torres, and she has the dangers and challenges that come along with this fact. I could feel her fighting to not fall into a formula, which I've seen her do, and the energy this fight released infused the room with a kind of humming expectant warmth that destroyed any trace of the lingering dread which sometimes creeps upon me at a poetry reading that I might be facing new variations on the old tune of fatigue-inducement as indicator of poetic seriousness and value. Not a bit of it, folks.
There were two highlights. One a flarfy search and replaced dating advice poetics repurposing of The Rules. So much of Flarfiness is sustainability, cultural repurposing, recycling, and finding alternate poetic energy sources. A kind of eco-poetry. (cue John Latta tantrum!) The prose rhythm of this new piece shows that Karasick can deploy tonal effects keyed directly to placement and shifts in content, even though much of her work is pitched from a place where the performance insists on it's modulations despite or against variations in material the way someone might insist you join them for a drink after work tomorrow and you know they might or might not show up, leaving you with plenty to think about either way. Mixing these approaches broadened the performance horizon considerably. The other high point, and the outro, was also a detournment, this time of the Dance Pop Obama Girl, pulled from the landfill and remade into a hilarious love song "I've got a crush on Osama," as good as anything on John Stewart or the Kootenay channel. It's amazing what one word change can lead to.
I sat at my desk today and went out
it’s a disaster
these things appear before night
you have the whole world to yourself
now we hate these little things
I get these flecks of rage
I am very lucky
I thought I’d get down to business
I went to the local place
to get some things
I’ll think about these at a later date
I haven’t experienced them yet
I’m sure there will be
no trace of them tomorrow
The liquid isn’t sticky or confused
I move several times a day
directly toward the problem
I can see this will last a while
I’m sure my other half
will use its hands for this
it’s a good thing
as it makes things change.
You can get a kind of face or head
though it doesn’t
really seem worth it.
I can see how this would be
very useful for people
who need to get there.
I got home and took one out
that was about three hours ago,
I just looked in the mirror
and my head was there again
you are like me
there is a range waiting for me
I would never use
washing my hands and looking
into the future
it was no problem
you can pull
this into the new range that
meets the beautiful sounds,
like a silver shaped cylinder
floating outside your bedroom window
What was that in the mirror?
like coming home after a training course
just as it’s beginning,
be careful not to shine too brilliantly here
or something important could roll away
the liquid inside yourself
control is a beautiful thing
from Petroleum Hat
originally in Daniel Bouchard's Magazine The Poker
think like a man of action, act like a Time-Warner cable repairman
It's the phone company (any phone company), Con Edison, Sears,
indeed any service organization that thinks the world has not moved
beyond the 1950s, when to exist was to change,
to change was to mature, to mature was to go on creating one's time
to provide life with guidelines methods, systems,
and analysis to establish that the eye sees only what the mind
is prepared to disagree with
I spent approximately 36 hours during a 5 day period on hold,
and usually got disconnected when they had to transfer me
to another department... and there's nothing worse than
being dead for a week and continually
being told to go to their website for easy troubleshooting
and there were no computers or software or cell phones that
made it possible to exactly schedule when a doctor
would show up, because of course dead people
had no problem sitting around for four hours wondering
if religion is to popularization what Homo sapiens are
to hating both time and space
Time-Warner has drawn my ire not because of their cable TV service,
which I never have a problem with.
It's because I stupidly fell for the spiel
life does not proceed by the association and addition of elements,
but by dissociation and dreaming up ways to file class action law suits
against the present moment which contains nothing more than the past,
and what is found in the effect is already in the
individual, so there really isn't much competition
except for going to a satellite to get your life back.
We seize, in the act of perception, something which outruns
any phone service I can imagine
because I can switch to my phone.
But now, my connection keeps going down, and that's a huge problem --
and not just because the only cure for vanity is the faculty
of manufacturing artificial sex appeal -- the keynote of Time.
time is the most basic of commodities.
It costs nothing, but its true value fluctuates wildly.
When wasted, it can cause great losses.
When spent wisely, it lets its living people reap uncountable benefits.
Time is not money; however, it can be spent toward the profitable
motive power of democracy as love.
In its entirety, probably, it follows us at every instant;
all that we have felt, thought and willed from our earliest infancy is there,
leaning over the present love which is about to join it,
pressing against the portals of consciousness
that would hate to leave it.
Does anyone know what I'm referring to?
The essence of a tendency is to develop in the form of a sheaf,
creating, by its very growth, my phone number
twice being put on hold (and told I could leave a message -- yeah, right)
transferred a few times (and each time asked to repeat my major life errors)
I was finally told that a doctor must come to my house,
and the next available appointment would be Friday -- and I was already dead!
True time management is controlling events rather
than minutes and hours.
There is no greater joy than that of feeling oneself a sob story,
but suffice it to say
I didn't pay for my internet for 3 months last year
BECAUSE I HAD NO INTERNET IN MY APARTMENT FOR
3 MONTHS!! I HATE THEM!!!
Urge to kill...fading...fading..RISING ...fading..fading...gone...
I pointed out that since I don't have any service, I
can't really sit around at home in the middle of the day for four hours
waiting for someone who may or may not show up.
The person on the other end sympathized --
she acknowledged that she wouldn't be allowed to take off
four hours and wait for a body by the place which
at each moment it occupies in the universe,
indicates the parts and the aspects of matter
on which I can lay hold:
my perception, which exactly measures my virtual action
on scheduling technology,
and Time-Warner evidently hasn't mastered that
(along with phone and internet technology).
is an absolute only to be given to an intuition,
while all the rest has to do with
the inertia of humanity in regards to laughter the same way the
thousands of successive positions
of a runner are contract into one sole symbolic attitude,
I have had them come out to my place 6 times in the last 8 months...
I hate them with a passion.
These guys have no idea what they are doing and they
lie to your face.
my life keeps going out randomly and then coming back,
and my body has a history of failing.
The problem is the world which can't seem to get me
a strong enough signal.
I will obtain a vision of matter that is fatiguing
for my imagination
but pure and stripped of what the requirements of life
make me add to it in everyday language.
I've never hated something so much as Time Warner Cable.
In order to do something NEW ... you must give up something old.
You are doing something with every minute of your time right now.
You have been using every minute of your available time
since you were born.
You are spending all the time there is.
I cannot escape the objection that there is no state of mind,
however simple, that does not change
the essential functions of the universe,
which is a machine for
making Time Warner charge me $115 a month.
Other than that, they are pretty good.
my cable went out
about three weeks ago
and they sent out a repairman the next day.
I want to hear your voice
I want to hear your voice, as an alternative
to competing in the Olympic games.
The federal government has two choices,
it can bail out big banks
and hope help trickles down to homeowners,
or it can organize a dictatorship.
I want to hear your voice,
because it is probably the first music to
come along since some of the Kinks' older stuff that
actually brings the beginnings of tears to these jaded eyes.
I want to hear your voice
so you can talk about why it's important
to be aware of the situation.
I want to hear your voice talk about
creative and meaningful ways to take action,
chances are I will not be smart enough or fast enough
to rescue you if you're struggling.
You need to hold a lovely person in your arms.
The Department of Defense has accumulated
billions of dollars in excess property,
covering the entire range of materials,
equipment, and articles the Department uses,
including vehicles, weapons,
hand tools, lumber, medical equipment, and furniture.
A song that goes from full chorus
and band (that's loud) to a segment that is nearly
oriental in its pristine simplicity -- just wandering
piano, electronic swirlings and the whoosh of an icy wind.
I need to find out how I can brim over more
but I can barely muster the lock.
criticism wants optical swelling
with the extra things lying around
little pieces of bone
heartbeat with simple rules
we could program a computer with
okay, lame, I know...
toward the end of the song
she was waving her free hand
around my head in a frantic gesture
revolving planet with plants on it
and that way be a playmate
with jars that befriend people
what more do you want?
no sweet vision without horrible mishap
either a dilated keyboard
or jockeying insurance into our hands
the beat of flippered limbs
at the end of rope-like effort
that moment of ability
my kid has been choking on for about a year
what people don't know is
ospreys have no need for this crap
with a finger in a straight splint
for the last four weeks
I swordfight through life
hyper-extended between a farmer and a planted seed,
if he opens his eyes he is feeling the whole world's obstruction
those who contemplate the beauty of teeth
find reserves of strength in paper
the universe is full of parietal space
which explains the softest mouth
that used tongue and knew just when to say something
I the they they know how to feel about
a gentle tug upon the sun
painted a security state
regarding the theft of my friends
and sort of hinted at the time I reached into
we don't know about your life, how can we know?
these growing crystals that grow... on purpose? another day
let the beauty of what you love
be a curved splint
to account for the spelling errors
and plentiful global conspiracies
as any wind
What I'm jonesing for is more critical engagement from people challenging Flarf but who don't actually read the books. What I see here is you asking loaded questions about "Flarf" based on your reading of this review. Your questions read more as opinions than questions. Without having read the books, or at least the book under discussion, there's no way you can critically engage beyond a very superficial level about Flarf in general. It's unsatisfying to constantly read smart people doing weak critical thinking because they can't be bothered to confront the primary sources and make up their own minds -- and there is a lot of this! I'm challenging you to be a worthy opponent, which is a valuable thing.