31 August 2010

Late Summer Beatzzzzzzzzzz

This Big Boi-heavy mix has been my driving to work or trying not to get hit by cars while riding my bike or jogging music. It sounded especially good Tuesday-last when the heat was in the hundreds (!) and it actually felt like summer! This one's dedicated to Thom Donovan who is currently putting together a little feature on the prosody of hip hop and who just sent me a draft of his critical-work-in-progress Sovereignty and Us, which promises to be in heavy rotation for what's left of the season. Bounce.

Summer Beatzzzzzzzzz by Michael Cross

30 August 2010

Norma Cole in Buffalo, 2005

[Note: I recently came across a file of "scholarly introductions" I delivered in Buffalo and thought to post some of them here. Over the years I've thought of expanding some of these into more "essayistic" form, but I maintain fidelity to these introductions as short critical blasts!] 

I made myself promise to forego introductions contingent on technical, scientific jargon I do not understand. But this specific introduction is different. My brother the physicist, has corroborated my findings and assures me that my reading, however tentative, can be confirmed by cold, hard scientific fact.

And so, the hologram:

The hologram is a three dimensional image produced by light-wave interference patterns, most often created by uniform laser sine waves. It’s helpful to think “interference” here in terms of the waves produced by the contact of a stone on the still surface of a pond. Say you drop two such stones. The nexus of interference, then, is where the two sets meet, crest, and still.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is how the hologram works: A single laser beam is split to create an interference beam and an object beam. As the beams are refracted, they are reflected against mirrors and sent through special amplifying lens, only to meet again on the surface of a unique film stock that is consequently saturated by the light of the lasers. The object beam, however, is delayed in reaching the film, because it first “impinges” on an object, carrying the information of its distorted shape to the film stock. Ultimately, “After development, if the hologram is illuminated by a beam of light from the direction of the reference beam, the object beam is recreated, and the object “appears.”

Which is all to say that an image is dimensionalized as consequence of a refracted force that amplifies the very manner in which the object is presented. In a sense, the hologram is a kind of distorted mimesis. Enter Norma Cole.


Move the Anarchy, there is a Sky musing on us. Performing
letters. This is vision image couldn’t hold. Radically negative
dread. It’s not about degrees. (10)

“This is vision image couldn’t hold.” I’m struck by this line, not only because it is a concise and startling way to speak of the work of poetry, but because it fundamentally characterizes Cole’s craft.

Couple this stanza with her further musings on process in the extraordinary poem The New Arcades: A Pocket Guide, and I think we’re on to something. She writes,

E “intervals,” we are the shape memory alloy, ultra-resilient, available and lit up

H room for difficulty, complexity, resistance, as in “please let me be misunderstood”

I in terms of the generation of a new system’s generations of systems

K the glass roof’s suspension of disbelief

S Hey sis, is freedom from memory freedom from sociality?

I see Cole’s work as the testing grounds of a vision that inundates image, a vision that saturates mere inscription by overdetermining presentation. Her vision dimensionalizes the image, escapes its arbitrary thresholds (especially fidelity to a single Idea), through a pattern of interference that splits phenomena from experience. It disrupts one to one correspondence, whether it be the thralldom of idea to form or the suture of memory to being-in-time. In short, Cole’s poetry attacks the image as a sine wave of lyrical distortion.

In My Bird Book, published by Littoral Books in 1991, the un-truth of memory is tested by a being-historical now-ness; the image is duplicated, doubled, made a palimpsest of mimetic inscriptions maximalized to the threshold of impotence. Phantom birds sing a present delayed from the presentation of its past:

your Memorance of Me package
stand stage deliver (14)

The lyric disrupts history’s composition of the present, and through the refraction of a memory from its truth, the apparition appears as unbounded vision, rising forth from the disaster piling around our feet. She writes,

separation is the first fact
Happenstance wrote how a letter became a body of forgetfulness flaring // (39)

In her collection Mars, Cole cites Deleuze:

“Your secret can always be seen on your face and in your eyes.
Lose your face. Become capable of loving without remembering,
without phantasm, without taking stock” (78)

Loving without remembrance is an ethical imperative in these poems; “oneself” becomes “the spacer,” reverberating between the object and its presentation. This directive is put to the test in Cole’s aptly titled prose poems “Artificial Memory” in her newest collection, Spinoza in Her Youth. But it is perhaps most obvious in the title poem of that volume, a homage to the blind photographer, Evgen Bavcar. She writes,

Afternoons in cities have colors as do voices and faces. Individuals
sitting for their portrait seek their subjectivity in the objectification
of the gaze of the photographer “How do I look.” Here is
the camera’s inanimate lens, and here is the operator whose gaze
is of an unprecedented interiority. What to “present” to this
circumstance. He tells her to look at his hand, an oblique vertical,
doubt’s exclusion. (38)

How to present interiority without relying on what’s known? For Cole, the ethical injunction of mimesis does without re-presentation—it dimensionalizes the nonidentical by over-amplifying the very process by which we come to experience, to know, to co-respond. This effort multiplies the resonance between sensing and knowing, drawing on the very surface of the image an image turning to face itself.

It is my great honor to introduce Norma Cole, newly materialized in her current three-dimensional form.

27 August 2010

Mika Rottenberg's "Squeeze"

K. and I went to the MOMA this past weekend and after squinting at some favorite drawings by Sol Lewitt and Agnes Martin and some huge paintings by Twombly (all on display thanks to the recent Fischer Collection acquisition), I sat on the floor and watched Mika Rottenberg's intriguing video installation "Squeeze" over and over. While it's certainly indebted to Matthew Barney (and maybe Andrea Zittel, strangely, though I haven't quite figured this one out!), it's strange and beautiful and super interesting and totally worth your time.

Curator Alison Gass writes, "With Squeeze...Rottenberg enters new territory, both literally and metaphorically. She shot documentary footage at a rubber plant in India and at a lettuce farm in Arizona, and spliced it together with scenes of female workers in a paranormal factory (actually a mechanized set constructed in the artist's studio). Through the video's unfolding story line, the otherwise incongruous products from each of these sites are mashed into one mass-produced "art object": a lumpy and subtly revolting cube made of rubber, decomposing lettuce, and blush."

In other words, viewers find themselves in this cubic, revolving machine in which a caste system of specialized labor plays itself out as women workers "harvest" lettuce, rubber, and blush, only for all three products to be thoroughly masticated and regurgitated by the mouth of this scarely exacting machine.

I can't find any video of this particular piece, but here's a short profile on Rottenberg's "Mary's Cherries," which sort of gives you a sense of the tone (though it is almost a decade old! ):

26 August 2010

Genocide in the Neighborhood, Part III

Cross: One term that seems to escape the conceptual rigor afforded concepts such as "consensus" and "community" is "justice," a term frequently used by both HIJOS and Colectivo Situaciones in relation to the escraches and its political praxis. Both collectives use the phrase "making justice" as if we should already understand what they mean by it, and yet there's a sense that justice is somehow the product or telos of the action—a becoming-justice. Opening the book at random, here are some phrases I've underlined:

"The escrache creates a different idea and practice of justice, one opposed and antagonistic to formal justice. And with this new justice, it founds a new practice and concept of democracy. "

"Justice doesn't depend on an institution that embodies it, but on an action that produces it."

"HIJOS is a social movement that is organized around a demand for justice. It was in response to this concrete demand that the escrache, a practice that founds a new way of understanding justice, was invented."

"But what we do is construct another justice, which we understand in a very different way, another idea, another practice, something that's constructed in the neighborhoods. A justice that is social condemnation."

I understand that HIJOS wants to exist outside "a politics that delegates to the institution the job of producing justice" (114), but I worry about their relation to the concept. On the one hand, I get the sense that the underformulation of the term is perfectly intended: "justice" is a variable going into the escrache, a concept that evolves with the movement of the event and somehow becomes a metonymy for the process in toto; as such, we could say that we "make justice" aesthetically, and that what we call "justice" is different for each performance. On the other hand, I want to take them at their word that justice equates social condemnation, which totally terrifies me! This is scarily reminiscent of the Westboro Baptist Church creating "justice" by socially condemning homosexuality at public funerals! As a one-time Catholic-schooler, the notion of justice as social condemnation gives me the willies! I wonder if you and your co-translators ever discussed this aspect of the book before adopting the project, and how you yourself react to the problem (if it is a problem!) as a reader of the work.
Whitener: I think you've touched on a very important aspect of the book, and I think this is the part of the book that people most frequently comment on. I think it's really important to talk about, and so I'd like to open this up a little towards more of a conversation. As well, as the most frequently commented on part of the book, it makes me feel like this is the part that we failed to do a good job of introducing. I think Jena (Osman) (who did an amazing job of editing the introduction as well as the rest of the book, along with Juliana (Spahr)) was pushing me towards addressing this more in the introduction and I either resisted or was worn out by the editing process and didn't do a good job. However, I wanted to ask you a little more about your reaction. You wrote: "This is scarily reminiscent of the Westboro Baptist Church creating "justice" by socially condemning homosexuality at public funerals!" I think it would be really useful to just take this example and think about how it compares with the escrache. As well that I want to step out of the role of (which I think I slipped into in the last answer and which I didn't like) of "representing" the book and switch into a discussion between us as friends. because I think it is really important to think the limits of the escrache and that's something I really haven't been successful in doing, so maybe your question can serve to get us to a place of doing that. What do you think? So I'd be interested to hear more of what you think about "to what extent are the escrache (based on your reading the book) and the church scenario similar"?

24 August 2010

Kirby & Amadeus

These dudes are our new foster puppies, and sadly, both have demodectic mange, which means their immune systems have been compromised and, as a result, skin mites are eating away their fur! Some shelters euthanize puppies with mange, especially the sarcoptic (contagious) kind, which is especially tragic as demodectic mange is an easily curable condition with some time and medicated shampoo and ivermectin from an eye-dropper. Katja's been giving these guys a ton of TLC, and as a result they should be good as new in a few of weeks time. Which is to say, they'll be on the market for a new home if you're interested in a super spastic furball or a surprisingly calm and gentle mutt!

And this is as good a time as any to plug Katja's blog Rebound Hounds, if you're interested in learning more about the rotating cast of characters that come through our apartment door...

23 August 2010

Genocide in the Neighborhood, Part II

Cross: You mention that the practice of escrache has been adopted in other parts of Latin America with markedly different results, and in the book, participants from both HIJOS and Colectivo Situaciones mention in passing the expropriation of escrache-like practices by formal political parties. What, in your opinion, makes the escrache practiced by HIJOS, Mesa de Escrache, and other organizers more effective (and I leave this purposefully open to interpretation: "effective" how so? as art? as a political practice?)? Certainly, by working so exhaustively in the community to build bridges with local residents, there's an implicit trust that's totally absent when a political group comes stomping through the barrio. Also, that participants have nothing to gain from the performance must put residents at ease. In watching the videos, however, I can't help but feel that a good portion of the local community must view the event as a total hassle! I wonder then if part of the performances' success can be attributed to the collective's relationship to consensus and consensus-building, one of the central themes of the book. Asking why and how decisions are made (and to what end) naturally leads to the question of how the opinions of collective and community members factor into this decision making process, and while some collective members seem to think consensus is crucial to the event's "success," others emphasize dissensus. Can you address the problem of consensus in these performances as it relates to the event's "success" (or "authenticity")?

Whitener: This is a complicated set of questions that I´m not going to be able to even begin to answer. Let me just say to readers of your blog that the book does a much better job of discussing all this than I could ever do. Three initial points and an addendum.

In my previous response, I referred to a dual movement that the book calls forth: grasping or inventing and reflecting or self-distancing. Your question of hassle touches I think on this second aspect. One of the reasons we decided to translate this book (and as well I think the reason that Colectivo Situacions choose the escraches for their first work of militant investigation) is that all of our experiences of reading it passed through difficult moments of reflection and self-distancing. I think one of the amazing effects of the book (and a reason that it's worth reading) is that it opens a space for this type of reflecting, which in my experience is so difficult to come by, a reflection on givens, on our responses to an object, and on the ideas we use to frame these responses. I think your question of "hassle" moves precisely into this area: what makes "hassle" a useful or adequate category for viewing or thinking the escraches? Where does thinking the escraches through this category get us?

Second, shifting topics completely, I don't want the reader of these posts to feel like we are setting up an opposition between the book and a set of youtube videos. There shouldn't be a relation of video as evidence which the book is being tried, tested, or judged against. This is not to say, of course, that the book (as an object) and the escraches (as a practice) shouldn´t be tested: obviously, every practice has its limits and it is very important to think them and be conscious of them (and this is a thematic that is discussed in some depth in the book). But I think this question of testing pushes us into another aspect of the book that we haven´t raised: the book is not only a discussion of a particular practice that took place in Argentina but also the exposition (and testing even) of a "new" practice of collective investigation of what Situaciones are calling militant investigation or research. I think your question brings us into the territory of discussing "objectivity" and the construction of truths. Situaciones would argue that objectivity is an ideological construction (one that both the traditional left and right are implicated in). What happens when objectivity is "discarded"? Is there another ground for thought, for action? Militant investigation pretends to provide an answer to these questions.

Third, the degree of cultural translation required to understand the escraches is enormous (and this was one of the reasons that we almost didn´t translate the book: it's too enmeshed in a specific cultural context). So the book is an experiment in cultural translation; it could be a failed one. But I think the most important thing to keep in mind when attempting to preform this translation is the following: over 30,000 people were "disappeared" by the dictatorship and these were (for the most part) militants or persons connected to the left. This has two consequences. The first is that given 6 degrees of separation, the disappearance of 30,000 persons means that the majority of the population in Argentina knows someone either directly or indirectly (someone's uncle, someone's mother's brother, someone in their neighborhood, etc) who was disappeared. The second is that this was a dirty war, waged directly against political opponents. As a result in Argentina to this day, there is a deep, unresolved sense of national shame, anguish, and anger that a state could possibly do something like this. As a result, it forms a political antagonism. (It's perhaps comparable in some way to how certain segments of the population feel about the pre-civil rights US: the good ole days or a biopolitical nightmare). This speaks to your question in two ways: the shame/anger over the dirty war is in some ways a hidden universal, something that the majority of Argentineans have access to, it provides the ground both for consensus and dissensus. Consensus and dissensus exist together because the escrache reveals and activates an antagonism: you can agree or disagree but you can't escape the structure of feeling, you can't escape responding. And, secondly, this addresses the first part of your question, the genius or importance or "effectiveness" or "success" of the escrache was, in part, finding a way to activate and address this unresolved trauma of historical memory. It´s not a practice that addresses class, race, sex, gender (as such or only): the importance of the escraches is that they are one of an emerging set of practices that are attempting to address the law itself, how to think of the law, and how it is institutionally put into practice. This I can´t help but see as an incredibly important political event.

One more thing re: consensus: as you note, that's a debate in the book. One of the great things about the way the book is put together (as a dialogue) is that it doesn´t paper over disagreement either between the members of HIJOS nor between HIJOS and Situaciones. In this instance, I would really refer people to the book itself: I don't think I can adequately represent the depth of these exchanges as they take place in the actual book, which are challenging and fascinating. Moreover, they demonstrate a really important fact of political movements today: that in any movement multiple positions both exist within and are taken up in practice by the movement/practice/group. What I took away from these discussions as being useful for a US context is a questioning of the terms that we hear so frequently and which have been taken over by NGO organizing: "consensus" and "community." Obviously, these terms paper over a lot, and the book can serve as a site for opening up a discussion of them.

20 August 2010

Whitener on the Escrache

Cross: I wonder if we can start with the escrache? Could you walk us through a particular performance so we might better visualize the different elements at play here? Do any particular performances come to mind as uniquely well-executed?

Whitener: Well, to try and answer your question, I´d start by saying that I´ve never actually been to an escrache or participated in one (in Argentina, although the form or something similar has now spread to other Latin American countries, but without the same effect). I followed the escraches through indymedia and later through the circulation of video from the artistic groups who worked on the escraches, such as Etcetera, Grupo Atre Callejero, and Taller Popular de Seriagrafia. However, for all intents and purposes I am very much like the reader of Genocide in the Neighborhood: trying to imagine what this could have been like and what it could mean. Which I feel somehow is the right position or rather the position that the book wants us to be in, because it is foremost a book about imagining, inventing, finding ways to contest and resist on two very difficult terrains: first, the terrain of historical and cultural memory (the trauma of the dictatorship) and second that of law and apparatuses of institutional legal power.

Looking at the book now (which occasionally is an absurd experience, since we started this translation project in 2005, so the book is now like a ghost to me in some ways), what strikes me is that this placing of the reader into a position of trying to imagine, grasp, find the right level or pitch to relate to the book is a result (in part) of it´s status as translation. There´s something very powerful in translation, how it opens a space for a series of reflections (on let´s say the “home” culture: what is law here, who has been killed here, etc) and then attempts at invention or grasping (what is this, how did it work, why did it exist, etc). So, the fact of the original book´s aims coupled with the English-version as a translation, I think provides the context that makes the deeper levels of significance of your questions possible (what IS this thing? what is the right pitch for relating to it?).

Having said that, the book discusses how the escrache went through two phases. The first was a mediatic phase, where the escrache was more focused on bringing media visibility to the fact that genocidists were still living free in Argentina (the video you posted of the defacing of the house, is an example of this kind of escrache I think). For these escraches, as they describe in the book, they would plan the escrache that morning, call the newspapers and TV, protest at 4 and make the 5 oclock news. However, HIJOS and the other groups involved realized that this was a really limited form of resistance and wasn´t actually confronting the cultural and historical legacy of the dictatorship. So, they developed a different model. The moved away from the center of the city into middle and working class neighborhoods on the periphery of Buenos Aires and they stopped inviting the media. And from this they developed a new approach: they would spend months and months (3, 4, 5 months) going door-to-door in the neighborhood and talking to neighborhood residents about the conditions of impunity (that all military personnel responsible for the killings under the dictatorship had been pardoned), about the idea of social condemnation (if there is or will be no institutional justice, a different kind of justice must be invented, a community or popular justice that turns the neighborhood where the genocidist lives into a kind of prison), and about the need to confront this part of the past, to reconstruct the social fabric destroyed by the dictatorship, and to begin to retake public space. Then after months of work, they would schedule the escrache for a certain day. Frequently, thousands of people would turn out. These escraches were like marches with performative aspects (popular music traditions, performance groups, etc) that would then culminate in an action in front of the genocidist´s house and a marking of the house (usually with paint).

In the introduction to the book, I provide some youtube links that illustrate specific aspects of the escraches (police presence, performance elements, etc) but I also say that we should be careful not to rely too much on these visual depictions. Because what the speakers in the book argue (at least on my reading) is that the most important outcomes of the escrache were: a new form of “organizing” via an activation of cultural memory that required months of laborious door-to-door work in specific communities; the idea of social condemnation, or of re-thinking institutional justice, by turning the neighborhood into the “prison”; and finally that the escrache became a machine of subjectivation, that people came to the escraches with one identity (worker, student, etc) and left with another. This transformative aspect of the escrache, both into terms of subjectivity and daily life within a given neighborhood (and the reconstruction of the social fabric destroyed by the dictatorship), is something that obviously a video would have difficulty capturing or that would escape a merely visual depiction of the escraches.

19 August 2010


General Videla's escrache circa 2006:

Escrache of Jorge Julio Lopez? Note the lone comment following the video: "justicia"

This one is pretty belligerent, especially when coupled with the soundtrack...

I like the dancing circa 2:40:

18 August 2010

Genocide in the Neighborhood

I’ve recently finished reading the newest Chain Links project, Genocide in the Neighborhood, a book so rich and compelling I don’t know where to begin. Edited by community wunderkind Brian Whitener, Genocide in the Neighborhood takes as it’s central theme the conceptualization of a super knotty and deeply fascinating aesthetic/political practice called the “escrache,” what Whitener provisionally defines as “something between a march, an action or happening, and a public shaming.” This first stab at describing the event admits its provisionality given that the book’s project in toto is an effort to make sense of this “performance” in terms of its political, social, and aesthetic significance.

Originally edited by the Argentinean “militant research” group Colectivo Situaciones, Genocide in the Neighborhood is organized dialectically around a set of hypotheses that are tested in public conversation, revised, and tested again. According to Whitener, Colectivo Situaciones “works with other collectives and radical groups, both in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America, to collaboratively produce new types of knowledge about current political practices and the social and political environments in which those practices take place.” In the case of the project at hand, Colectivo Situaciones takes the human rights organization HIJOS, or “Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Forgetting and Silence” (that is, the children of the disappeared) as its subject, a group “work(ing)…to revindicate the lives of those disappeared under the Argentinean dictatorship and to fight against the systematic cultural forgetting which has been the legacy of post-dictatorship Argentina." By studying the HIJOS and their preferred method of engagement, the escrache, Colectivo Situaciones hope to investigate how aesthetic practice can help to “make justice.”

Most readers are probably by now familiar with the cultural significance of the “disappeared,” those 30,000 or so Argentinean citizens who “vanished” under the dictatorship of General Videla from 1976 to approximately 1983. However, once democracy was restored, the process of reparations became complicated. Here’s Whitener working through the kinks of this particularly complicated history:

“In 1984, the newly-installed democratically-elected government commissioned a report to detail the repression under the dictatorship…However, the report also advanced for the first time a theory which came to be known as “theory of the two demons”…a politicized interpretation of the historical experience of the dictatorship…(which) attempts to cast the political struggle of the 1970s as a confrontation between two irrational demons: on the one side the militarists and on the other the left (guerillas), whose struggle held “normal society” hostage.”

In response to this theory, the democratic institution progressively extinguished any trace of the disappeared by first halting investigation and prosecution of militarists involved in the genocide while later pardoning all involved for acting in “due obedience” with the then-recognized government.

HIJOS began the escrache as a practice to address this government-sponsored collective cultural forgetting by “creating justice” through collective aesthetic practice. The result is always different because the performance is staged around a particular subject, but each escrache begins with the same set of concerns: HIJOS isolates a “target,” a militarist living among the community in anonymity who once participated in the disappearances in a significant way. They then partner with the local community to execute a performative shaming. Often this performance includes canvassing of flyers, graffiti, musical performances, theatrical engagements, etc., all aimed at educating the local community about this particular person’s role in the disappearances, in effect rekindling interest in the political consequences of the 1970s.

Needless to say, these performances raise a number of provocative questions around the notion of justice, the value of public shame, and the praxis of aesthetic performance, each so deeply imbricated with the concerns of contemporary poetry that I don’t quite know where to start. As such, I’ve asked Whitener to join me in a public conversation of our own around the book’s concerns as a way to open up the discussion. I hope to post our interview here in real-time as he responds to my questions. In the meantime, I invite readers to submit their own thoughts/notes about this project here. If you haven’t read it yet but have been planning to pick it up, I invite you to do so now, as this book demands the kind of community engagement it so beautifully promotes.


Keith Fullerton Whitman: Generator 2 by Michael Cross

16 August 2010


1984 studio appearance (just out of high school?)

Boris, 1991 (Joe Preston on bass)

12 August 2010

Brian Teare's Albion Books

Nathalie Stephens's Vigilous, Reel: Desire (a)s accusation is the first book I've seen in Brian Teare's Albion Books series, and I was totally floored by how sumptuous it is. Made from scraps and off-cuts, Teare designed the book using the materials at hand, and it's truly one of the more flawlessly realized chapbooks I've seen in awhile. We spoke the other day about upcoming projects, and the future looks very promising for Albion.

He sent the following precis via email explaining his process, and given the constraints, I'm even more interested in the project now on the level of book design:

"Founded in 2008, Albion Books is a one-man micropress specializing in limited edition poetry chapbooks, broadsides and print ephemera as well as in hand-bound hardcover and limp-bound books. The press uses conserving natural resources and keeping production costs below $100 per project as formal constraints, while the goal remains to make as fine an object as possible within the given limits: 1) at least 80% of the paper for each project must come from “off-cuts” donated by or bought from other printers; 2) all letterpress printing is done on a shared 9” x16” Chandler and Price platen press, and 3) all type is hand-set: no motor may be used on the C&P, and neither plates nor new type are made for a print run. Though each edition is kept small to enable production by one person, the final rule of the press is meant to encourage and sustain gift economy within the poetry community: at least 35% of each edition must be given away or bartered."

The writing itself is an elegant post-Lacanian meditation on desire and obligation. Here's Stephens (or "NS," as she seems to refer to herself nowadays):

These are desire's hermaphrodisms, counter-sexed, unchecked, in pieces on the floor. Demand rent from need makes a seam up the middle of me. It is here that I mis-dream the dream of what Buber calls "the double cry." Echo ingested and thrown down, undaunted. Woken, what sleeps, seeps from dream, de-means: Que me veux-tu? What do you want from me?      


On Land is San Francisco's best locally-grown music festival, though I rarely hear people talk about. Organized by local label Root Strata (run by one-time Tarentel member Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (and did I see him play bass in Thingy once?)), this year's event features the very best in blissfully droney experimental electro-acoustic music(s). Here's the four day line-up:

September 2nd
Barn Owl
Starving Weirdos
Pulse Emitter
Danny Paul Grody
Rene Hell

September 3rd
Oneohtrix Point Never
White Rainbow
Pete Swanson
Golden Retriever
Aster (Eli Keszler &
Ashley Paul)
Robert A.A. Lowe

September 4th
The Alps
Date Palms
Metal Rouge
Le Révélateur

September 5th
Dan Higgs
Bill Orcutt
Ilyas Ahmed
Common Eider, King Eider

There are at least two artists playing each day I'm dying to see. Pulse Emitter's "Meditative Music" CD-R series has been consistently intriguing, and Danny Paul Grody's recent record Fountain has been on heavy rotation all year. I haven't seen Barn Owl perform yet, though I've heard they're great live, and Rene Hell's new record for Type, Porcelin Opera, is pretty badass.

The second day features Daniel Loptin doing his Oneohtrix Point Never jams (I've posted tracks from his side project Games here) alongside Portland dronester White Rainbow, Pete Swanson of once-awesome and now defunct noise band Yellow Swans, and Robert Lowe solo (onetime front-man of 90 Day Men,  more recently performing under the Lichens moniker).

I'm super excited to hear Date Palms on day three, a duo featuring Tape Chants guru Gregg Kowalsky performing Indian ragas? And then day four, Daniel Higgs (once of Lungfish), Grouper, Common Eider, King Eider (Rob Fisk's new band (founder of Deerhoof)), etc.

I've been waiting for this one all year and have already acquired tickets for the 3rd and 4th if anyone's interested. Tickets can be had through Cafe Dunord or at Aquarius Records. Not to be missed, for sure...

11 August 2010

The Blood of Christ in the Later Middle Ages...

by Caroline Walker Bynum: Church History, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Dec. 2002): pp. 685-714

"But even in the Mass of St. Gregory, blood escaped. It flowed in the Mass, and outside it as well. And it leapt away from the host as well as leading to it. For example, this wing from the St. Anne altar of the Wiesenkirche is Soest, 1473, combines the elements of the Gregorymass I have carefully sorted out--vision, eucharistic celebration, and purgatory--and yet does more. What we see here before an astonished Gregory is the blood leaping not only from chalice to pope but also from chalice to graveyard where the poor souls who receive it appear to rise from the dead under its saving power. The impact of this Gregorymass is completely different from that of the almost contemporary painting attributed to Dedeke. It is not clear whether mass is being said. The pope wears his tiara; the paten is empty; there is no host on the altar linen. Blood takes on a life and direction, an energy, of its own. Although iconographically the Gregorymass was by definition connected to altar and celebrant...this version seems to pull the blood directly from Christ to the penitent souls at least as insistently as the very different Dedeke version lifts souls toward heaven through the host consecrated by the celebrant. In the Dedeke mass, the roundness of the elevated host echoes the roundness of the naked bodies (both shoulders and buttocks) that rise and gesture toward a Christ's body that is subsumed in the host. Movement is inward and upward. In the image from Soest, the patterned floor (an exercise in perspective) carries our eyes not to pope or chalice but to the side wound itself; yet the sharp lines of blood then pull away not only from wound but even from chalice and toward the little angular figures in the churchyard. Our eyes go toward Christ, and then away, toward the souls who need salvation. The movement is inward, then outward; the picture splinters to our right. Blood saves, but it spills out in order to do so."(712-3)

10 August 2010

Dworkin week continues...

This one was also a bit too long for the scanning bed, so I scanned both ends and glued it together in InDesign; that said, no matter how I scan it, the super subtle crest in the middle simply won't appear. I thought to include it anyway, however, as it's one of my favorite Dworkin poems. He printed this one himself back in 2007, and if I'm not mistaken, it marks his first run at the helm of a Vandercook. The production is pretty spot-on: super large printing surface at 15 inches long by 7 wide, printed on lush off-grey (Rives BFK?)...click to enlarge...


And just to prove that I can, in fact, scan, I've included the full text from Dworkin's Vigilance Society chaplet, All Saints, my favorite Dworkin poem of all time...


09 August 2010


So, I scanned Craig Dworkin's beautiful new broadside "MANDATA LOQUERIS" as a follow-up to Friday's blog post, but the scanning bed isn't quite long enough to capture the full image...

As such, I thought to include the complete text to accompany the stunning visual presentation. Produced by one of my favorite printers in the game, Patrick Masterson, for his The Rest Press and designed by Robert Finkel, this short text perfectly captures the kind of excitement and wonder (and straight up detective work!) that characterizes Dworkin's critical prose.

Here's the text in its entirety:

"Henry James first met Oscar Wilde in 1877. As the latter's flamboyance and notoriety grew, so did the incidence of the letter sequence w-i-l-d in James' fiction (appearing not only as the word "wild" but also in the simultaneously more exact and veiled "wilderness," "bewildered," et cetera). James almost never used such words before his introduction to Wilde, an encounter which seems to have sparked their appearance in his fiction, and their occurrence increases as James becomes increasingly anxious about the younger writer. The frequency of these words spikes dramatically in 1895, the year of publication for both the testimony of Wilde's trail and James' novella In the Cage. In the aftermath of the scandal, as publicity subsided, James' use of such words declines, tapering quickly after Wilde's death in 1900.

Between 1877 and 1900 the letters w-i-l-d haunt James' writing, just as the provocative character of Wilde himself haunted James, whose correspondence suggests that he was by turns jealous of, and offended by Wilde—as well as terrified by the kind of exposure revelations like those at the Queensbury trial might bring to men, like himself, who were uneasily closeted. As James wrote about the trial in a letter to Edmund Gosse [8 April, 1895]: "it is the squalid gratuitousness of it all--of the mere exposure—that blurs the spectacle." The seemingly gratuitous alphabetic signature in James' fiction both exposes and blurs as well, paradoxically disguising their proper referent with "a really unique kind of 'briliant' conspicuity" (as James goes on to describe Wilde in his letter to Gosse.) Encrypted, James' morose lettristic delectation suggests a preoccupation that dare not—and yet at the same time cannot help but—speak its name."

Click on the image to take a closer look at both the graph and Masterson's exacting printing practice...

07 August 2010

06 August 2010

Notebook Fridays: Craig Dworkin

Craig Dworkin just returned to Utah after a summer of travel, and I thought to ask him to send something for Notebook Fridays; rather than scan a selection from his notebook, however, he submitted a lengthy lexicon with the following note:

"Here's the project: in Laurence Sterne's Tristam Shandy one of the conceits is a 'missing' chapter: the pagination skips ten pages and the narrator announces that he's removed the previous chapter because it was so good it upset the aesthetic balance of the whole book.

So I'm writing the missing chapter to be printed as a signature that can be slipped into a copy of the book to 'complete' it. Hubristic, huh? Formally, it's based on the similarity of the 'f' and 's' letterforms in 18th-century typefaces that still had the 'long-s.' It will use all the eligible vocabulary from the list (though note that the raw list has to be edited down to remove anachronistic terms—both words that would not have been in use in Sterne's day as well as words that will not work with a long-s, which wasn't used in the terminal position)."

Read through the lexicon below:


05 August 2010

Game Recognize Game

I'm super excited to announce that Haecceities is off to the printers and should be available by the end of the summer! Perhaps the following essay/blurb by Taylor Brady (sadly chopped and screwed for the backcover due to space constraints) will pique your curiosity? Here's Taylor:

In Haecceities, Michael Cross extends his engagement with a metrics of the word into a prosody of the lexicon. Shaped by the torsions of a space where the word is both unit of measure and the quiddity on which measure bears, these poems push Zukofsky's word-count line toward an encounter with Duncan's sense of prosody as “open possibilities of design.” There is a difficult joy in rhythms that strain and spring (Hopkins-like?) to work that openness in fields of what we might have thought otherwise enclosures and foreclosures. A preference in diction for the archaic (“aroint,” “halidom,” “volant”) or the contemporary-obsolete (“pleather,” “kodachrome”) is not mannerism, but a call to encounter words before the boundaries they stake have been fully settled, or after they've been overgrown. Words, arising weed-like in the abeyance of their legislated meanings, occur as sound, or as song. Here I recall as well that the lexeme of these poems' measure lives in imagination as both word-unit and law-unit, and that to drive a wedge—to disenclose the space—between these two powers, to discover the field of words' public illegality, is a central task for poetry.

Prompted by the force of this outlaw song, a reader may then dig, unearthing ruins or uncovering shoots of what such “rich and strange” vocabularies have or shall have brought to light as meaning. This philologist's and lexicographer's delving, and the articulations and rhythms of the source texts it activates, must be taken as an outside located within the articulation of the poem itself: rhythmic duration as extimacy. What emerges for me in this digging—research as song, singing as search—is how densely the domain (or demesne, to give the poems' lexicon its due) of these words is packed with sites of emergence, the words themselves naming points at which the abstraction of meaning from song, law from custom, value from use, army from body, state from commune, first proposes itself as possibility.

Archaism and anachronism thus become transit-points by which I read myself back to a place of decision where such processes—not yet having hardened into the world we falsely know as the one, given, and historically inevitable World—are taking place, but have not yet taken place or do not yet (and no longer?) have a place to take. Vocabularies of heraldry mark the passage, through the vanishing medium of the emblem, of practical magics of interchange with land, animal, kinship and dwelling, into the symbolic obduracy of nation, property, inheritance and fortification. Outmoded and specialist jargons of domestic, sacred, and martial architecture mark the nascence of a split between the craft worker's “respect for materials” and the built allegory of divine command. Crucially, this nascence, throughout the poems, is also a nescience: we do not yet know how this will turn out or, having taken sufficient distance from the point of decision, we are faced again with the necessity to decide now.

We remain to this side of the archaic, the medieval, the obsolete: words in Haecceities are haecceities, and site us still in the opening of a chronicle we had misrecognized as closed. The possibility I find enacted as song in this opening is that the not-yet of historical closure might be the waste margin in which to glean a new life in common with words.

04 August 2010

Damn the Caesars || Rich Owens

My boy Rich Owens is on ANOTHER hot streak; when this dude heads into the shop he leaves with handfulls of beautifully designed and executed print objects, and this current batch is no exception. Just opened a package containing Carrie Etter's Divinations, Marianne Morris's "So Few Richards, So Many Dicks," Dale Smith's "Josiah Wilbarger: 1833," and the new Damn the Caesars (featuring new work by Keston Sutherland, Mike Basinski, Allen Fisher, and Emily Critchley, among others). Rich's editorial work is super careful and intentional, and he always champions work that I might not read otherwise. I totally respect his project, and I'm hoping we'll see even more from the press as he and Kara and CeCe move to Maine. Word on the street is Rich will have a full-on print shop in his new house in Scarborough, so we can expect more soon: check it out here http://damnthecaesars.org/.

03 August 2010


If there was ever a mix to make a clean-cut argument for dubstep, its Joker's guest mix on Mistajam's 1Xtra show:

Joker on 1Xtra by Michael Cross

Heavy Rotation

Lukas Ligeti: Afrikan Machinery (Tzadik)
Charanjit Singh: Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (Bombay Connection)
Ciara (w/ Ludacris): "Ride"
Fugazi: Steady Diet of Nothing (Discord)
Rick Ross (w/ Styles P): B.M.F
You Fantastic!: Homesickness (Skin Graft)
Michael Gira: I Am Not Insane (New Swans demos) (Young God)
Joker: Guest Mix on Mistajam's Dub-step program 1Xtra
On (reworked by Fennesz): Something That Has Form And Something That Does Not (Type)
The Alps: Le Voyage (Type)

02 August 2010

Report: David Wolach's "The Commons & the Body"

Last Sunday, July 25th David Wolach presented the third event in Nonsite's summer suite on commoning, "The Commons & the Body."

Wolach (like Donovan the week prior) opened with a writing prompt:

"What would giving up a proprietary relationship to one's own enclosed body entail for you?"

I wrote the following:

"Allowing others to help define the boundaries and limits of my body?
Implicating the other in overcoming my own discomfort with it?
Remediating shame like groundwater."

Here are some notes from what followed (I tried to attribute sources when I could remember!):

We must switch the question from what a body is to what a body can do.

Wolach's three points of interest in the body as commons:

1) Labor organizing
2) Illness
3) Poetics of emulation (temporary suspension btw. corporeal body and the rest of the world)

Affective capacities we can share for mutual subsistence...?
Poem as appendage of the body?

the body=concepts/inscriptions
a body=materialized

How can organizing/outsourcing be further radicalized as a set of movements?

The body as usefully submitting to other bodies—to outsource the body to a wider coterie.

Liz Grosz: The body is incomplete...depends on triggers from the outside...

Wolach: Interested in the minor triggers of the body...occluded potential...

Prompt #2: List some things that would have to be in place for the release of a proprietary relationship to the body to be mutually beneficial?

My response:
"A different set of regulatory codes that allow the body to occupy space in a shared manner...
A different relationship to use and operativity..."

Rob Halpern: Prosody as organized pulse...
David Buuck: Permission to fail // to risk having needs met // fear as necessary precondition
Taylor Brady: Possibility of de-skilling
Anne Lesley Selcer: No one is "enclosed"
Chris Daniels: I don't own something I am // I don't "control" my body as it ages, shits, etc.
Brian Teare: Commoning exists outside of systems...the spontaneous...
Yedda Morrison: Difficulty dealing with the body of my body that is still on my body (her daughter was sitting on her lap as she spoke!)

Some pics: