Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rob Ager: Collative Learning

Rob Ager is a Liverpudlian film critic. His website is called Collative Learning. Though some of the movie-related texts on the site seem far-fetched and crack-pot, I recommend the videos: they are cogent, well-organized, and intriguing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Other In All This

Preservation of art is essentially a social phenomenon. It happens through a social nexus and a social context— through an Other, or (usually) many Others. Put simply, preservation is the result of people wanting to preserve your work. What motivates this process? Why do certain poets inspire this dedication while others do not? It depends what we may find at the root of dedication (to a poet or to any artist.) The question arises (and it is an uneasy one) whether dedication is more emotional or intellectual, more about feelings or thoughts, or whether it is caught somewhere in between. My own sense is that this kind of (internal, psychological) scaffolding is more affective than intellectual. It is a compelling emotional drive. That is why poetry which demonstrates little affect would seem to have meager chance for continued life over a long period of time— decades, centuries. Why would anyone want to preserve you, if you have no emotional gravitas? Who's going to develop an affective drive to resuscitate you? Of course, there is no affectivity in Kant either. But philosophy engenders a very different horizon of expectations— cognitive complexity is a sine qua non, and affective flatness is desirable. There are moving passages in Kierkegaard, Buber, Sartre, but they usually result from rhetorical flourishes, rather than demonstrated passion (though these two sometimes merge, and it can be hard to tell the difference.) Poetry that is all intellect falls between two stools— it lacks the intellectual rigor of philosophical discourse, and the emotional gravitas that usually attends durable poetry. I think that most poetry which survives for any length of time generates an implicit affective compact between reader and poet (or, to be more deconstructive, reader and text). Those that preserve poetry do so because someone has engendered an emotional attachment in them. Even if, as in Eliot, we are made to feel something because the emotions portrayed are entropic.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

On Shelley's Birthday

This weekend, I was in New York to do a reading in Brooklyn, and I got my first chance to talk in depth to a member of the Flarf Collective. It was a stimulating, if invective-laden, conversation, but my opinion remains unchanged- I do not think flarf makes for the creation of memorable poetry, and I fail to see how it adds to the Duchamp paradigm (of the "ready-made") that was put into place one-hundred years ago; presented again here, in a mystifying fashion, as new: anti-art. How retrograde is it to want to produce durable work? Most manifestations of a post-modern sensibility encourage a sense of ephemerality, transience, "positive obsolescence." Post-modernists often tend to adopt the opinion that any other mode of perception is backwards; though, if the tide turns in my direction, this theoretical approach may itself be perceived as junky and corny. Anti-art is junky and corny. And I am developing a new philosophy of readings.

As per what the Flarf kiddies might turn against us: when emotion becomes stylized, it turns hokey. No one is going to have a problem with raw emotion, if it is presented with savvy and taste (even, I'm guessing, the Flarf crew). We must wrestle, at some point, with the notion of the trans-historical, where people, poetry, and history are concerned. New Historians believe that subjectivity is unstable, and that very little is trans-historical. However, if literally nothing were trans-historical, there would be no reason to read Shelley anymore, and there are valid reasons to read Shelley. It is not merely his emotion that remains compelling, it is the emotions produced by the textual enactments of his ideology. In other words, how his politics made him feel. This is a key that is important to us, if we want to document 2009 (as the Recession looms, festers over us) effectively, and it is something which Flarf cannot do: to take an honest look at our consciousness, make conscious the ideologies which determine our thoughts and actions, and both see and exteriorize what affect lies within this process. So, the Recession does not diminish or drain off our humanity.

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