Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Switching to Wordpress

I have decided to switch from Blogger.com to WordPress (which gives me more design possibilities) & host NOMADICS blog on my own server. This will therefore be the last post I am posting here.

Please change your bookmarks to the new address, http://pierrejoris.com/blog or just click here and bookmark the new address. Hopefully those blog owners who have NOMADICS in their blogroll will take the minute necessary to change the url. Many thanks.

I will leave this site up for the time being with the present post showing to give my readers time to switch.

The switch is basically complete, except for the largish blogroll, as that one has to be moved one by one.
Though that, in turn, will allow me to check the links & make sure all those blogs are still active.

See you all over at the new & (hopefully) improved NOMADICS
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Marinetti's Manifesto Meets MoMA

Yesterday at high noon I saw a man wielding a hammer in a glass house & screaming how beautiful speed & war are. That was Charles Bernstein reading F.T. Marinetti's The Founding and manifesto of Futurism on the 100th birthday of its publication in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro (see yesterday's post). Charles did smash the pulpit, but refrained from having a go at the glass walls or at the Matisse, and looking around for something that wouldn't upset the host of the event, the Museum of Modern Art, he spotted a pile of copies of Poetry magazine (co-sponsor of the event). Instantly recognizing the economic bull-value (hmmm, I thought I had typed "null-value") of Poetry, poetry, "poetry," no matter how you spell it, he set them flying with a thorish swing of the hammer. The pile had stoically set there for an hour and more by then, with a sign indicating that they were free for the taking, but it was only after Bernstein had liberated them from their stackness and they had achieved their own random orbits on the floor, that the audience scrambled greedily for freebies (there must be a lesson about poetry in this too).

On a lesss serious note, it was fascinating to realize that this superb piece of manifesteese, which demands the removal, abolition, annihilation, destruction & liquidation of all museums, when read in the context of the MoMA, showed itself perfectly fit to live there. Indeed, you wouldn't want that manifesto out live in the streets, its proto-fascist tendencies are clear enough (I was surprised more women did not respond to Marinetti's lines, but maybe Charles' reading was ironic enough). The conclusion being that nothing fits a museum better than a historical manifesto against museums & for a new & live art. Marinetti's work did show live greatness later when Thomas Sayers Ellis gave an excellent reading of the sound-poem sections of the Manifetso of the Futurist dance.

On the other hand, when Charles Bernstein read extracts from Mina Loy's Aphorisms on Futurism, which date from 1914, it was clear that those texts were as fresh, relevant and live as they were when Loy wrote them. Which made my day.

In the Glass House

There goes the Pulpet
There goes the Pulpet
Matisse is saved
Matisse is saved


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Friday, February 20, 2009

Happy 100th B-Day, Futurismo

100 years ago: left column 1/2 way down.
100 years ago: left column 1/2 way down.

Dear friends,

Happy 100th Anniversary of Futurism!

Today is the day, one hundred years ago, when the Futurist Manifesto was published on the front page of Le Figaro in Paris!

Celebrate in extraordinary ways. Come together, create the future.

Futurist salutations!


RoseLee Goldberg
100 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011
212 366 5700

Marinetti Futurist Poem
Marinetti Futurist Poem

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Keith Waldrop @ Poetry Project

Great pleasure last night to catch a rare (at least for me) appearance of Keith Waldrop at the Poetry Project. He is one of the secret treasures — I wanted to say secret masters — of poetry in this country today. ّWell, semi-secret, judging from the large and appreciative audience that had gathered last night — but still, his work should indeed be way better known than it is. Maybe his new book, Transcendental Studies - A Trilogy, just out from University of California Press, will do just that. And don't worry about the title: before reading from the book, KW explained (hand pointing at where he was standing & then at something a bit further away) that something transcendental is something that "is not here, it's over there." I was enthralled by the reading, the quiet intensity, the accuracy of the saying, where, to misquote him, tropology maps topology — so much so that I forgot to video until nearly the end. Here, then, the last 40 seconds of his reading:

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jonathan Littell reads Maurice Blanchot

Jonathan Littell

Next month Jonathan Littell's controversial novel The Kindly Ones will be published in Charlotte Mandell's translation by Harper-Collins. Meanwhile, for a special issue celebrating the 100th anniversary of La Nouvelle revue Française (NRF), Littell wrote an essay on reading Maurice Blanchot on reading. The original French version can be found on the Blanchot website; Mandell's translation of this piece has just been published on the This Space site. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Write about Blanchot, I am asked – or with him, or alongside him, or against him, it doesn’t matter. A difficult task, he himself would have said. All the more so since the problem immediately arises: how to write in the wake of this thinking without being carried away by its language? No one, to my knowledge, has managed it (except perhaps Foucault, Levinas: frightening predecessors). Well, let us try, even if it means taking that risk.

So what is this reading that Maurice Blanchot invites us to enact here, at once light and serious, a "joyful, wild dance," fundamental (founding the work) in its very insouciance? The first thing one could say about it is that it seems to us inseparable from his conception of writing as experience. "The story [le récit] is not the relation of the event, but that event itself," he wrote around the same time (in "The Song of the Sirens," reprinted in The Book to Come). Writing does not describe, does not relate, does not signify, it does not represent a thing, existing in the world of men or even only in the world of the imagination; it is neither more nor less than "the test of its own experience" (Blanchot again, I forget where, unless it's Bataille – so indistinguishable is their thinking on this point), the faithful account of what happened at that moment, the moment when the one who, seized by the desire to write, sat down in front of a blank piece of paper and began putting language onto it. It's not that the text that results from this experience – poem, story, novel – is deprived of meaning, is not shot through with elements referring to the reality of life; rather it's that these elements function (to use a comparison that Blanchot would no doubt have discreetly avoided) like what Freud called the manifest content of dreams: the rags of reality they cloak themselves with so as both to manifest and veil their truth, their very reality. Thus, if writing is related to truth – and it certainly is, it has to be, or else not be at all, or in any case fall outside of the realm we designate by that mysterious word, literature – it is not by way of knowledge. Literary writing does not explain, does not teach: it simply offers the presence of its own mystery, its own experience, in its absence of explanation, thus inviting not some illusory "understanding" ("Reading either falls short of understanding or overshoots it," writes Blanchot), but precisely a reading. "Reading is freedom," Blanchot tells us, "a freedom that can only say yes." Yes to what? To experience; to the experience, usually born in anguish, of the one who writes, which is answered by the experience – by turns casual and transfixed by "the rapture of plenitude" – of the reader. Two experiences thus facing each other or rather tangential to each other, in any case radically irreducible to one another. For the author, the writer (Blanchot continually shifts between these two terms, plays on them), precisely, is the one who cannot read. Noli me legere, Blanchot wrote elsewhere, in other contexts, several times. Returning to this injunction thirty years after "Reading," in a strange afterword to two early stories called Après-coup, which comments on these stories while at the same denying the possibility of any commentary on the author's part – taking up this injunction, then, he follows it with a curious personification of Writing itself. Writing, "dismissing the author [not the reader, we should note]," addresses him in extravagant terms: "Never will you know what you have written, even if you wrote only to know it." An implacable sentence, from which the writer has no possibility of escaping, even if he can never entirely avoid the temptation, for him the supreme temptation, of seeking his own truth in what he has written; he then becomes, turning back towards his work, "the guilty Orpheus" (Après-coup, again), incapable of leading his Eurydice to the light of day, and who loses her by that guilty turning back; powerless, he sees her draw back, swallowed up in a shadow forever impenetrable to him. The writer is thus the one who remains to the very end without any work to his name (and perhaps that is why Plato, in a gesture of mocking irony – or supreme offhandedness? – can write in his Second Letter: "There are no works by Plato and there will never be any," before adding, as if to mock our astonishment even more: "What is now called by this name is in fact by Socrates during his sweet youth," that same Socrates who, as we know since Plato has told us, never wrote, so profound was his mistrust of "the impotent instrument that is language" [Seventh Letter]. But is Plato actually the author of these letters? We don’t really know).

Hence the vanity of asking the writer what he "wanted to say," what he meant, as if writing came from his wanting, from his free and sovereign will. It should rather be linked with anguish, as Blanchot stresses (invoking the example of Kafka). Already, in 1935, in Le dernier mot, one of his first stories, he wrote: "Fear is your only master. If you think you no longer fear anything, there’s no point in reading. But it's when your throat is constricted with fear that you will learn to speak” (thus linking not only writing but also reading to anguish – a connection that two decades later, in "Reading," he will considerably modify). Writing is also related to desire (of the one who writes), but it is not the accomplishment of that desire, in the sense that it fulfills or appeases it, even if only temporarily; rather, it deepens its voracity; and so, Blanchot suggests, there falls to the reader the task, both arduous and frivolous, not of bridging the gap between the limitless desire of one who is losing his footing in writing, and the texts that are like the fragments of cooled lava that this experience leaves behind it, its scoria, but of discovering this gap, thrusting back into the shadow not the book, but the author (once a sad Orpheus with his lyre, now a pitiful Eurydice), and leading "the work hidden behind the book" (I'm paraphrasing) into the light – a gesture, though, that is carried out for him alone, in the solitude of his reading, an experience that is both unique and also infinitely renewable since it is lived for the first time at every reading, for every reader.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

On von Stauffenberg & the George Circle

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg in 1926, 17th cavalry regiment in Bamberg.
© Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive)

Have abstained from catching Valkyrie, the Tom Cruise flick on von Stauffenberg's attempt to assasinate Hitler, but came across an interesting article by British historian Richard Evans speaking of von Stauffenberg's connections to the poet Stefan George and his circle, and its influence on the aristocratic (and in no way democratically inclined) German Graf. Here are the opening paras of the article; the rest can be read here on the signandsight site.

Why did Stauffenberg plant the bomb?

Whatever his motives for killing Hitler, Stauffenberg was no role model for future generations, says British historian Richard Evans.

Few incidents in the domestic history of Germany during the Second World War are more dramatic than Colonel Claus Schenk, Graf von Stauffenberg's attempt to assassinate the German "Leader" Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944. The hushed conversations and secret debates of the conspirators beforehand, the near-misses of their previous attempts, the breathtaking audacity of the final bombing, the chance circumstances behind Hitler's survival, the violent and desperate confusion of the final hours at army headquarters in the Bendlerstrasse in Berlin, the stark tragedy of Stauffenberg's summary execution, the mystery of his final exclamation – "long live sanctified Germany!" – all of this has become the stuff of legend. It is not surprising that the conspiracy of 20 July 1944 is now to be the subject of a Hollywood movie.

Yet Stauffenberg was much more than an action hero driven by the kind of simple moral imperative that suits Hollywood's desire to portray everything in terms of starkly opposed opposites of good and evil. He found moral guidance in a complex mixture of Catholic religious precepts, an aristocratic sense of honour, Ancient Greek ethics, and German Romantic poetry. Above all, perhaps, his sense of morality was formed under the influence of the poet Stefan George, whose ambition is was to revive a "secret Germany" that would sweep away the materialism of the Weimar Republic and restore German life to its true spirituality. Inspired by George, Stauffenberg came to look for a revival of an idealized medieval Reich, in which Europe would attain a new level of culture and civilization under German leadership. A search of this kind was typical of the Utopianism that inhabited the wilder shores of Weimar culture – optimistic and ambitious, but also abstract and unrealistic. It was ill-suited to serve as the basis for any kind of real political future.

Such influences set Stauffenberg apart from many of the longer-standing members of the military resistance, whose multifarious projects and plans to overthrow Hitler dated from as early as 1938, and were driven above all by a belief that the war the National Socialists were aiming for was unwinnable. To launch it, they believed, would cause incalculable harm to Germany. It was this, rather than any fundamental opposition to National Socialism as such, that motivated the leading members of the military-aristocratic resistance in the late 1930s and at the beginning of the 1940s. Like them, Stauffenberg thought of himself first and foremost as a soldier, in the centuries-old tradition of his family, and for a long while, this military identity outweighed the influences he had imbibed through his membership of the George circle. But even in the late 1930s, he was markedly more sympathetic to National Socialism than were many more senior officers. His relatives were wont to describe him as the only "brown" member of the family. While he was later to lose altogether his enthusiasm for National Socialism, he never lost his contempt for parliamentary democracy. This alone would make him ill-fitted to serve as a model for the conduct and ideas of future generations.

In the 1930s, Stauffenberg was at first enthusiastic about National Socialism's promise of spiritual renewal, and supported Hitler in the Reich presidential elections of 1932. He welcomed Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor, and took part in a street demonstration in its support on the night of 30 January 1933. His enthusiasm never led him to join the Party – for him, the George circle was the only party -, but he considered the National Socialists were leading a movement of national renewal that was sweeping away the shabby parliamentary compromises of Weimar. More than this, he also believed that a policy of purifying the German raceDer Stürmer accused George's poetry of being "Jewish" and "Dadaistic" in character. For Stauffenberg, Hitler's achievements in revising the Versailles Treaty remained paramount.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Coney Island of the $$$ Mind

Long lovely Sunday walk along the beaches of Coney Island. But a pincement de coeur at seeing all the boardwalk places and the amusement park closed — Mayor Bloomie &, rumor has it, The Trump (what was The Joker in the ole Gotham City comics) possibly also, have ideas about how to renovate / update / or whatever euphemism you prefer for greedy landgrab development of the old seafront. I hope there are enough people around to watch over the project as it materializes & ready to holler & raise a stink in street & media.

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