4) Please consider Lenin. In 1920, in the midst of raging civil war, and shortly after a Social Revolutionary wounded him in an assassination attempt, he spoke before a Moscow conference of revolutionary architects, poets, and Constructivist artists, including Mayakovsky, Rodchenko, and Tatlin. It is dangerous, comrades, he said, to believe that Soviet art and architecture in the era of the dictatorship of the proletariat can outstrip the present and model the future. It is rumored that many of the petit-bourgeois intellectuals in the audience snickered at the ironic obviousness of such a remark. Mayakovsky, drunk, opened his trousers and produced his flaccid penis, saying, with a dead-pan matter-of-factness, Look, it is a cloud. Christian Rakovsky, later to become a leader in Trotsky's Left Opposition, laughed, and so did Brik and Mandelstam and Lunarcharsky (the latter who, in democratic spirit, had chosen to sit among the artists). Stalin, sitting across the aisle, two rows back, inhaled, blew smoke, and took note. It is said that Lenin was unusually lethargic and hesitant in this speech, perhaps due to his recent gun wounds. Taking the above scenario as starting point, make up a relevant question relating to Poetic Architecture, and then answer it. Could the erect cloud have fashioned a future? If so, which aphrodisiacs should have the Constructivists offered flip-floppy Lenin? ) Derrida has said, in speaking of deconstructive architecture (Tschumi, Eiseman, Johnson, Steven Holl, COOP Himelblau, and others): First of all, they do not only destroy, they construct, effectively, and they construct by putting this architecture into a relation with other spaces of writing: cinematographic, narrative (the most sophisticated forms of literary narration), finally experimentations with formal combinations... all of this is something other than a restoration of architectural purity, even though it is also a thinking of architecture as such, that is, architecture not simply in the service of an extrinsic end. So, I am now increasingly tempted to consider this architectural experience to be the most impressive deconstructive audacity and effectivity. Also the most difficult because it is not enough to talk about this architecture; one has to negotiate the writing in stone or metal with the hardest and most resistant political, cultural, or economic powers... It is these architects who come up against the resistances, which are the most solid ones in some way, of the culture, the philosophy, the politics in which we live. Doesn't this quote suggest to you that as soon as Derrida leaves the ethereal sky of Continental philosophy and enters into discussion about matters concerning everyday technology, that he comes across as a banal blabbermouth? In any case, consider, because he has a point: As long as innovative poets do not bring the imagination solidly up against the category of Authorship, that hardest and most resistant of ideological powers in the cultural field, will they ever succeed in constructing a truly new poetic architecture? Answer and speculate, in Piranesian fashion, what a revolutionary Archi-texture might be.
On the Magnificence of Dead Authors
I’m hardly in the position to take an argumentative or supportive stance for or against the Kent Johnson who wrote this (he being far more knowledgeable about Authorship than I). However, since I’ve been away so long and would hardly want to give the impression I’m skimping, I’ll offer my desultory thoughts.. First, one’d have to have ones head up/in the proverbial hole (not so you’d be visiting George dubya Bush, but far, anyway.. say Kerry distance) not to concede that Kent Johnson’s effort re: Authorship is worthwhile (he’s not chasing phantoms). And that some didn’t laugh at the Yasusada episode, is one too many flaccids for a single blog post… My difficulty is that there is a moral problem from the point of view of criticism to speak of Barthesian ‘dead authors.’ Although the case can be made without reference to Wagner that Parcifal is racially purist, the case to the opposite can also be made all too easily. Moreover, in my universe of historical punishments (I’ve literally just created this universe since really I’m a moral relativist), I’d hate for Wagner to get away scot free. But there is more to Kent’s argument than this. The Yasusada episode exposed deep ‘other cultural’ baggage that American readers can bring to a text and it is deeply important that such notions are erased from the cultural consciousness (what is that?) - not just in America. Out of curiosity, how do you (reader), read these translations from Sawako Nakayasu?. But I think there is even more to Kent’s argument than a purging of cultural assumptions, and I hope more to it than tackling aging language poets. If I understand him correctly this ‘bringing the imagination up against the category of authorship’ is rather like the Duchampian example of removing self from the work (we know this by now to be impossible). If this is so, it is curious that the point should be made. I mean haven’t writers/poets like Burroughs, MacLow, McCaffery, etc. already done this? I suppose the ‘problem,’ should one read it that way, is that such experimentation has effectively died and what passes for experiment is little but lang po imitation or ‘weirdness for wierdness’ sake.’ Lang Po is not authorless… Lang Po’s have gone to the extreme of questioning linguistic mediatedness, surely?, but they have not investigated ALL by which we are mediated.. Authorship being one issue.. But for the top prize, if we ‘imagine up against Authorship’, will we clear the path for new poetic architecture ? I’d say no. It’s an interesting and, as Kent’s projects have shown, exciting path but there is much more than culture (authorship, if it’s not clear, I identify as part of that) alone.. there is mediation in physical bodies, in environments, architecture etc etc. I’d ask if poetry can imagine itself up against those areas too…

1 comment:

ben said...

testing the comments box