Unaltered By Perception

November 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Nicholas Rombes, The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing

For I’ve come to see, in retrospect, that there was a void at the heart of the films that Laing destroyed, and that through his description of those films he was attempting to fill, somehow, that void, as if talking about the films might fill in the meaning that they themselves lacked. I also came to understand that Laingn didn’t think of the destroyed films as “lost treasures” at all, but instead as something more dangerous, as expressions of pure nothingness. A nothingness that goes beyond nihilism, beyond philosophy, a sort of absence that’s so seductive and so powerful that to look upon it is to corrupt a part of your soul (p. 67).

“…I’d watched them, all right, and seen something in them that should never be seen, and I’m not talking about a real-life killing on camera or a dangerous, evil idea convincingly expressed by an otherwise sympathetic character or anything like that. What I mean is that there was something there, in between the frames, something that wasn’t quite an image and wasn’t quite a sound. It was both and neither of those things at the same time. In other words, an impossibility that, because it expressed or represented a new way of being, had to be destroyed. An extreme, undiluted truth, that’s what I’m talking about” (p. 69).

As Laing looks down at the picture I think about the missing children, the ones in the news, and that Laing’s reasons for destroying the films only made sense if you believed there was such a thing, as he had called it, as undiluted truth because in fact, well let’s face it, we’re luckless when it comes to truth because there’s just no way to grasp it without polluting it or mucking it up with ourselves, as if the observer effect didn’t only apply just in physics, but in metaphysics as well because, sure, you can coax it out, the truth, but the moment it shows or reveals itself to you it’s changed in response to being detected, and maybe that’s what Laing meant, after all, that somehow, against all reason, the films in question had actually managed to capture the truth unaltered by perception and that’s why they had to be destroyed… (pp. 60-70).

The shoebox seemed to vibrate there on my lap, like a dying wasp, and I imagined opening it right there and unleashing a terrible fury and blaze that was meant for some apocalyptic future, like some carefully erased sentence slowly re-appearing across the page (p. 76).

See also Guillaume Apollinaire, Yves Bonnefoy (here and here), Stan Brakhage, Karl Ove Knausgaard (here and here), Steven Millhauser (here and here), and Simone Weil.

A Kind of Other-ing

November 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Simon Critchley, “Cult of Memory: Simon Critchley Interviewed” by Daniel Fraser, The Quietus 2 November 2014

One moral of Memory Theatre is that it is a kind of parable of writing. Here is someone who writes and then goes crazy and then that writing becomes a sort of monumentalisation of death in this fantasy of total recall where everything would become meaningful at the moment of the extinction of one’s life in death. Which is a very reassuring picture of writing, writing helps us to remember but in many ways writing should be pushing us towards that which we can’t remember, that which escapes memory, that which really haunts us. Or again to push us towards something which actually involves other people rather than this masturbatory activity of writing which can lead to catastrophe.

I think there is a way of writing, a kind of Derridean theme: you can try to write in a way which encourages a certain otherness in the self, a certain self-distancing, and Memory Theatre therefore is a negative example, something to be avoided. However, Memory Theatre is also importantly a universe without love, this is what an existence without love looks like and love is also a kind of other-ing. It engenders a disposition in you which is orientated towards something which you cannot control or recollect. It is the same way I see psychoanalysis which again is not premised on a fantasy of total recall, it’s about an orientation towards something which is in you that is maybe not in your conscious memory, and is not really memorialisable in any way.

Does It Mean Stopping Writing?

November 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Simon Critchley, “Cult of Memory: Simon Critchley Interviewed” by Daniel Fraser, The Quietus 2 November 2014

Bataille is of particular interest to me because you could see Bataille condemning the memory theatre and in particular the memory theatre that is Hegel’s fantasy of absolute knowledge, the closed economy of the theatrical space in the book, and opposing that in the name of what he calls throughout his work ‘sovereignty’. Sovereignty is an odd word to use in many ways, because what Bataille was interested in wasn’t sovereignty as the capacity to make a decision or act in a certain way but rather to engage in an experience where you give up who you were and be free of that fantasy of a closed economy.

So in Bataille you’ve got this cultivation of a series of experiences: eroticism, squandering, sacrifice and so on and so forth which are about staging something which would let that memory theatre go in a way; would let go of the delusion of absolute knowledge.

In many ways you can read the book as a negative moral: the point of the book is what’s not in it in many ways. I wrote the book in order to try to correct that tendency in myself which of course you fail to do but nonetheless you have to try.

To write at all is to construct some kind of delusional memory theatre which so often leads to you becoming like some machine which just produces words, like Zizek, just saying the same things over and over again. How do you stop doing that? Does it mean stopping writing? Maybe. Maybe it means writing in a different way such as writing collaboratively, something I’ve tried to do over the years to try and give up the authority of the voice.

See Particulars Being Various

October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Simon Critchley, Memory Theatre

Poetry lets us see things as they are. It lets us see particulars being various.

Prior Presence

October 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation

How can I, in my speech, recapture this prior presence that I must exclude in order to speak, in order to speak it?

Written Asunder

October 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Karl Ove Knausgaard, “Handke and Singularity,” Archipelago Books 24 September 2014

Therein lies the merit of the poem [Paul Celan’s The Straightening], the fact that it cannot be referred to other than by quoting it, cannot be retold, cannot be used for something secondary, and points to nothing other than to itself; in other words, it is singular, primary, the thing-in-itself, as a stone on the ground is singular, primary, the thing-in-itself. That is to say as close to the singular and the primary and the thing-in-itself as a language can come, because even in a language which persistently negates itself, representation is of course unavoidable. Where it reads ‘Grass, written asunder,’ I imagine, in all its simplicity, the grass that grows on the lawn in the dark outside the window by which I sit and write, and by ‘written asunder’ I understand a form of violence which perhaps — or perhaps not — has something to do with the way in which it is seen or represented.

[From an essay presented by Knausgaard at the Skien International Ibsen Conference, 22 (?) September 2014.]

Mourning the Lost Modernist Energies

October 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Lars Iyer, “Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom: Lars Iyer Interviewed,” by Daniel Fraser, The Quietus 12 October 2014

Diagnoses of the death of literature are old news. We’ve heard it before. There’s a dying breed of cultural pessimist, which mourns for a lost world of old culture, for the time when Art and Literature were taken seriously. But there’s another kind of cultural pessimist, who mourns for the lost modernist energies that depended on the old cultural world as a kind of foil.

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