From the Guardian this morning. A single-day cross-section of gathering unrest.
And from Iceland in particular: "The yoghurt flying at the free market men who have run the country for decades and brought it to its knees."
Yes. Yoghurt as projectile protest. Not yoghurt exactly but skyr. (In addition with snowballs and eggs.) Roger Boyes' description:
Icelanders all but stormed their Parliament last night. It was the first session of the chamber after what might appear to be an unusually long Christmas break. Ordinary islanders were determined to vent their fury at the way that the political class had allowed the country to slip towards bankruptcy. The building was splattered with paint and yoghurt, the crowd yelled and banged pans, fired rockets at the windows and lit a bonfire in front of the main door. Riot police moved in.
Perhaps creativity will no longer be relegated to sea-turtle costumes and giant earth goddess puppets. Let us instead find what sticks and splatters and stains and marks. Not to mention that which has live cultures which, if manipulated enough and engineered correctly (see Larry Cohen's The Stuff on this point), could be trained to swallow entire Parliament buildings whole in a giant Akira seething mass.
Sometimes truly avant-garde moments show themselves in the strangest, strangest places. Like in a beauty pageant. She actually won because of this.
Eat your heart out, Carolee Schneemann. This is what performance art should look like, pointed toes and all.
And here we have their brilliant point of contact: a deregulated MMORPG economy and massive online inflation.
Not sure if this led to rampant foreclosures on magic caves and repossessions of swords of dark summoning, but one can imagine. (And sub-prime loans on dragon shields for those who have shown themselves unlikely to conquer enough elf-mage tribes, or whatever the hell they're called, in order to repay their virtual banks.)
the Laibox©! Take the hip-hop industry's current obsession with auto-tuners (i.e. "robot voice"). What the Laibox© does is to take any vocal input and make it sound like Laibach vocals, heavy, guttural, Slovenian-accented, mining-of-totalitarian-history vocals.
And better, the Laibox© can be hooked up to any source. Wolf Blitzer on CNN? Now he sounds like a militant, power-drunk barbarian revolutionary with "third world hunger." Jane Austen audiobook? Banal "experimental" poetry readings? Body-wash ads?
Like Laibach promised in "Hell:Symmetry," with the Laibox©, I really can "speak your language" and make it mine, "clear-cut and crude."
The Laibox©... bringing Balkan defamiliarization and historical discomfort to the masses.
In case anyone was harboring fantasies that the Obama administration would represent even a nominal turn toward the resecularization of American politics, think again and check out the rather staggeringly religious structure in which his inauguration has unfolded.
(Particularly notable is Rick Warren's polyglot hailing of variant names for the almighty. We're getting closer to the Senate debating via speech in tongues and snake handling.)
Praise song for the day.
Right off the bat, we know we have a winner. Not only does it evoke our current hodgepodge of neo-New Ager "praise" (albeit inflected slightly differently here, given the evangelical rhetorical overtones of Obama's speech), it also can't help itself from calling itself something other than a poem. A poem? Oh no, this is a praise song.
Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.
One of my biggest pet peeves in poetry, and one that signals a much deeper problem, is the overuse of the "someone/something" trope. (i.e. "not love but something like it", "and we felt it there, something like the silence of a day", etc). Supposedly it means that these are honest poets, struggling with the fundamentally imprecision of language to grasp those things that are "more important" than names. Really it means that you're a fucking lazy hack.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
Maybe my favorite part. I get that she is trying for a sort of pluralism, uniting poor, ramshackle musicians and their ubiquitous empty oil drums (which might now be a sign of wealth for the traces of precious crude within) with the rich, school cellists, not to mention the "urban" boombox. Or at least a version of postmodern global tribal mashup. But mostly, it sounds to me like an actual band that I'd like to hear. Called the John Brown Harper's Ferry (Blues) Explosion.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.
OK, so all is noise and bramble, that apparently tears holes in tires and uniforms. Yet we encounter each other in words. What then is this mysterious noise and bramble if not language? This is quite typical of the American cult of authenticity and suspicion of artifice, the idea that if we could just get past that noise of failed communication, all would be right. It achieves the remarkable unity of being attentive neither to the brute material facts of money and buildings and blood and history nor to the fact that there is nothing beyond miscommunication. Our misspeech is not just the best that we've got, it is the only thing that gives constancy to desires and hopes and all those other properly inauguration day themes.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."
We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
This, for me, is just pure cynicism, even if (or precisely because of being) well-intentioned. To speak of the names of the dead (without actually speaking their names, just the promise that one is doing "something" like that) who did this work, clearly coded as slave work, at the inauguration of someone who is nothing if not the best defense of global capitalism available today, is rather sick. I have no urge to deny the racial significance of Obama's election. But what this achieves here is a horrific narrative of progress, as if we needed those people to slave and toil and die in order for some small consolation now. This is a discontinuous history, one that cannot be retrofitted because of a slow increase in tolerability. It serves only to flatten and iron out, rather than elevating past blood into new fever and hunger.
They did not die for this day. The died because of imperialism. They died for no good reason whatsoever, other than the ceaseless cycling of capital.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."
Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.
All well and good, but what we need is the cold assessment that few live this way. And saying that it's time for change is word, not deed (given that the Democratic party isn't exactly the union of theory and praxis we envisioned, this opposition stands here).
What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
Ah, so we need love beyond marital. There's a word for that. It's called "extramarital love." And while it might be "mighty" fun, last time we crossed that with a president, he got himself impeached.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.
I think I'll just answer this with an image, not a poem:
I was sent this by a collective I know, and I put this up first as just an image, to let it stand alone. But CR let me know that this is in fact from Israel's 2006 attacks on Lebanon.
And now I'm struck even more by my mistake here, by something like this which remains a sort of singularity but which is made not commensurable but one in a series. To borrow from Badiou here, we might think of these instances (that which might be Lebanon, that which might be Gaza, that which can never be part of the kind of death exchange calculus Israel wishes for) as + 1's that never manage to expand the set. Or at the least, we should guard them as such, holding off their inclusion into calculations of "acceptable loss."
From the terroristic stance replete with weapons (although not nostalgic spears, meaning that we've moved beyond early 90's Satyricon releases), Nazi-echo names (though Mr. Werewolf denies any NS leanings, he just enjoys mining the bleak depths of European history, à la Laibach), obligatory inverted crosses, black and white photography, and indiscernible nationalistic-seeming eagle resting on... that's right, a black nimbus encircling the balaclava-clad hed of our protagonist...
... to your standard heavily inscribed logo with a photo of Werewolf in the BM equivalent of bling (nail sleeves and an inverted-cross chain) in his corpse-painted glory in, where else, a dark forest to...
... to a wolverine behind a tree. I love the sincerity of this (and his tongue poking out, presumably at the decaying hull of the Christian faith). Wolverines are cold-dwelling nasty creatures capable of waging war on you. Apparently, this little fellow is capable not only of biting your shins, but of doing so as a satanic warmaster of the night.
This came my way via Retort - an update on the situation.
A vivid note from Athens to a friend in Ithaca, NY: The government still hasn't realized this is an overwhelming protest by the people verging on an insurrection. But never mind. They will leave sooner or later. Two things. One important and one just funny. At the boy's funeral his class mates read a letter out addressed to us. It was a great J'Accuse of our generation and how we have stripped youth of dreams, values, aspirations, how they feel ashamed of us but would like to be proud of us only all we do is buy and sell. "You don't dream any more, you don't fall in love, all you do is buy and sell and we are ashamed of you." It was really a great text. I shall find it somewhere and translate it for you. Now the funny one. Scuffles and skirmishes are continuing all over the city and at one of these yesterday where the cops were harassing some school kids, people in the cafes near by (oldies on the whole) dashed out and started throwing the sandwiches and cakes they had been eating at the cops! It's a lovely scene. Oh, and we (the Greek state if that is 'we' of course) have run out of tear gas. I don't know just how many tons have been used. Final bit, a banner that read "Money for the banks and bullets for the kids". More later.
To Giorgio Agamben
16 February 1990
I send you a copy of my Italian preface from 1979. I have marked in it the various passages that, to me, best express the meaning of the book. And thus my consistency, which many could indeed call cynicism. This depends on the values that they accept and the vocabulary that they use. If in passing you evoke this preface in your preface, this would sufficiently compensate for its absence from this kind of collection of my writings about the spectacle, which would otherwise risk being noted and perhaps interpreted badly.
We were charmed to meet you, and I propose that we dine together as soon as you communicate to me the moment of your return here.Amicably,
Behind me, the illuminated city. Searchlights swept the sky for the sheer joy of it. I imagined them thronging the plazas of white marble, orderly and alert, their bright eyes shining with enthusiasm for their floodlit avenues and silver cars.
It had all the sinister fruitiness of Hitler Youth propaganda.
(from William Gibson's "The Gernsback Continuum")
murder is not allowed, it is an absolute and unpardonable sin; it ‘may’ not, but yet it ‘must’ be committed. Elsewhere in the same book he sees, not the justification (that is impossible) but the ultimate moral basis of the terrorist’s act as the sacrifice for his brethren, not only of his life, but also of his purity, his morals, his very soul. In other words, only he who acknowledges unflinchingly and without any reservations that murder is under no circumstances to be sanctioned can commit the murderous deed that is truly — and tragically — moral. To express this sense of the most profound human tragedy in the incomparably beautiful words of Hebbel’s Judith: ‘Even if God had placed sin between me and the deed enjoined upon me — who am I to be able to escape it?’
- Boris Savinkov
Reading Trakl again and was startled by this poem.
It is a stubble field, where a black rain is falling.
It is a brown tree, that stands alone.
It is a hissing wind, that encircles empty houses.
How melancholy the evening is.
A while later,
The soft orphan garners the sparse ears of corn.
Her eyes graze, round and golden, in the twilight
And her womb awaits the heavenly bridegroom.
On the way home
The shepherd found the sweet body
Decayed in a bush of thorns.
I am a shadow far from darkening villages.
I drank the silence of God
Out of the stream in the trees.
Cold metal walks on my forehead.
Spiders search for my heart.
It is a light that goes out in my mouth.
At night, I found myself on a pasture,
Covered with rubbish and the dust of stars.
In a hazel thicket
Angels of crystal rang out once more.
Back after a hiatus from here with merely a public service announcement of sorts. All of you really should get your hands on Andrez Zulawki's 1972 film The Devil. Utterly stunning, bleak as hell, political-allegory horror pic.
It is a delirious, haunted mess of a film, that for me reads as a fellow traveler of Bellochio's Pugni in tasca (given the vision of decaying aristocracy and schizoid families) with the brutality of Fulci, pervision of Pasolini at his best. (In addition, its conception of "the Devil" or a low level emissary of Satan is remarkably secular, critical, and bleak. More on this in my next post on the Luciferian turn.)
And the whole thing shot through with an apocalyptic fury and sadness. It draws its inspiration from the repression of anti-censorship movements (and hence got itself banned for a number of years), but at the heart of it, it is a film about a failed revolution in a failed world, petty betrayals and blood-soaked snow. Like von Trier's Europa trilogy and Malaparte's Kaputt, The Devil is, at its core, a dazed stare into a Europe that perhaps can never bury its dead properly, a filthy map whose lines are getting no clearer with distance from the war.