Sixth weekly sum of daily notes, in the run-up to Silence: 2014, a cross-border artistic witness. See the Soulographie site (soulographie dot org) for the day-to-day.
Silence: December 2014.
Artists worldwide to practice silence through the month as they will, in different ways, to deepen global contemplative capacity cross-culturally, and demonstrate mass solidarity.
Upcoming, a short play for an evening of shorts (me, Israel Horowitz, Winter Miller, and Wendy MacLeod), for Planet Connections, benefiting City Harvest. Am collaborating with Tenderloin Opera – here’s a piece of what we’ve come up with so far, a play called Frail/Ingilin – after the two main characters:
States of matter – frozen melted salt cavern
Cold less, less-less, one less layer
Snow crunching under her feet
Seeing your breath in air
A day less cold and one less layer
Light eyes, in a wool coat, wind cries her eyes
Blinding light, melt multiplies white
Snow crunches feet
Breath in the air
An un-scraped windshield
Off an abandoned car
Increase in the federal subsidy for loneliness
Many-masked, in line
In line at Amos House
Their names are Frail and Ingilin
Soup and bread
No money, no sleep
Jagged contours of buildings, blue sky in movement
The move is mine
Sun’s a nerve: floats electricity
Nerve to nerve, we shine
A fresh breath in the lungs
A renewal of strength
Green ice melting thin
We got here too early
They let us in
Sun on my neck as hot as tortured ants, light focused by the window
Up to 80 above from 10 below
Living in my blood, back from icicle death
Green ice melting white
Fewer will be cold tonight
Talking about what will be made tonight. New minds, made tonight.
Her kids grow up and become activists.
Untreated mental illness, schizophrenic, uncaring family gave up, services cut, small government, society, “bootstraps”
Lack of funds…
Things could be otherwise
We get as far as what we give
The point is to be completely empty at the end, like a juiced lemon
Speak your mind
Give back what’s been given
Believe in a spiritual way
Never forget where you’ve been
Feed the hungry
Know your politicians
“Our goal is unifying all the people of this world”
Bahá’u’lláh – change the world’s order
Cold less, less-less, one less layer
Rearrange the states of matter
Blinding light reflecting off the snow
Green ice melting white
Nerve to nerve, we shine
A couple from Lyn Hejinian (today and tomorrow) – who says some things I’ve been trying to find a way to say for a long time…
From her essay: “Rejection of Closure”
Two dangers never cease threatening
the world: order and disorder.
– Paul Valéry, Analects
… Language’s creative condition and its problem can be described as the disjuncture between words and meaning, but at a particularly material level, one at which the writer is faced with the necessity of making formal decisions—devising an appropriate structure for the work, anticipating the constraints it will put into play, etc.—in the context of the ever-regenerating plenitude of language’s resources, in their infinite combinations. Writing’s forms are not merely shapes but forces; formal questions are about dynamics—they ask how, where, and why the writing moves, what are the types, directions, number, and velocities of a work’s motion. The material aporia objectifies the poem in the context of ideas and of language itself.
These areas of conflict are not neatly parallel. Form does not necessarily achieve closure, nor does raw materiality provide openness. Indeed, the conjunction of form with radical openness may be what can offer a version of the “paradise” for which writing often yearns—a flowering focus on a distinct infinity.
… In the “open text,” all the elements of the work are maximally excited; here it is because ideas and things exceed (without deserting) argument that they have taken into the dimension of the work.
The “open text” often emphasizes or foregrounds process, either the process of the original composition or of subsequent compositions by readers, and thus resists the cultural tendencies that seek to identify and fix material and turn it into a product; that is, it resists reduction and commodification.
In “Resistance,” I proposed the paragraph as a unit representing a single moment of time, a single moment in the mind, its content all the thoughts, thought particles, impressions, impulses—all the diverse, particular, and contradictory elements—that are included in an active and emotional mind at any given instant. For the moment, for the writer, the poem is a mind.
… One of the results of this compositional technique, building a work out of discrete fields, is the creation of sizable gaps between the units. To negotiate this disrupted terrain, the reader (and I can say also the writer) must overleap the end stop, the period, and cover the distance to the next sentence. Meanwhile, what stays in the gaps remains crucial and informative. Part of the reading occurs as the recovery of that information (looking behind) and the discovery of newly structured ideas (stepping forward).
Yurii Tynianov : “The unity of a work is not a closed symmetrical whole, but an unfolding dynamic integrity… The sensation of form in such a situation is always the sensation of flow (and therefore of change)… Art exists by means of this interaction or struggle.”
Thinking about Antigone…
The departmental shows are picked by the students, here. Students and faculty alike make proposals. I’ll be going on about Sophocles tomorrow; over and over again, a move to silence, to aporia –
Greek tragedy is argumentative, but not dualistic. Where there is one view, there are extremes of it in other directions until it cedes to an infinite range of possibilities. Between itself and the other (opinion, for example), there are options; between itself and the extent of itself, there are options.
Purgation through pity and terror: we skate over this, but it always bears consideration. Pity and terror are quite different from each other – motions together and apart. By holding them both in the body of a single experience (the tragic experience) we are purged or clean or awake. The function of tragedy is to wake us up to paradox.
Antigone has been received as an opposition of the self against the state, or morality against legislation. Even factoring in the ways Creon persuades us and Antigone annoys us, the conflict is rendered basic. But Greek drama runs in cycles because it’s not circular – breaking down to semi circles – it’s spherical, dividing to hemispheres, the creeping way that day divides the world – shifting and ambiguous lines.
Creon and Antigone require each other, but they’re each stuck in a different kind of no-place. Antigone starts the play outside a wall and ends the play inside a wall, never successfully holding position between walls. Creon has all the power in the room, but is unable to exercise it – he is ineffective in every attempt to influence outcome according to his desires.
Deprived of effective political and moral action in a heroic sense (action that is timely, transformative and enduring), Creon and Antigone are left with paranoia, rumor, and conspiracy, exercised in the sphere of language. Bonnie Honig suggests that this is intense melodrama – more internal and heated than simple plotting. Good and evil are at work within each other; both are suspect. Her descriptions therefore suggest noir in particular – the battle of grays.
Where the Bacchae is a problem of competing hedonisms in the arena of the psyche, Antigone is a problem of integrity (holding anything together) in public space. The world is public; our privacy cheats, steals and lies to survive, and who can blame it?
The play is also a confluence of genres, again in Honig’s view (and I’d want to work with her). Greek drama is stylized, but we don’t know the style; Antigone, so much about articulation, is well set up as an exploration of genre.
WELFARE STATE MOVES TO BARROW-IN-FURNESS
(from an article by Baz Kershaw, on the Welfare Stare International performance collective, in Jan Cohen-Cruz: Radical Street Performance)
In 1983, at a time when most alternative theater companies were running for ideological cover, Welfare State International began a seven-year project in Barrow. John Fox, founder (with Sue Gil and others) and artistic director of Welfare State, described the project’s aim as:
developing a concept of vernacular art whereby we respond continually to local demand, producing plays, bands, dances, songs, ornaments and oratorios to order, so generating a social poetry of a high order within a very specific community context. (Fox, 1987)
[and later, expressing the frustrations that gave rise to the concept of a 7 yr. residency…]
We were obliged to start from ART rather than from LIVING, to generate more product rather than process and work to rapid (and to an extent commercial) deadlines in strange lands. We could not allow ourselves to develop pieces organically over years or to respond to or follow up on the longer term needs and rhythms of the host community, because essentially we were not part of any community. (ibid)
Silence 2014 is an act of street theater. It is a way to form and focus community; it shows up; it is free. Its vernacular is universal, a “social poetry of a high order.” Hopefully.