:: Essays

Lugubrious Complexity: Braxton | Sollers | Smithson published 14/04/2018

“Structure,” in this sense, is for Barthes “a little bit like hysteria. If you pay attention to it, it becomes a reality. If you pretend to ignore it, it goes away.” The distinction can be likened to the signifying logic of the Freudian dream work, which is above all “poetic” (metaphor, metonymy), as opposed to literal/symbolic. “There are,” Barthes writes, “in fact two sorts of phenomenon: those which stand up to being looked at (the realm of ‘what is secret’) and those which are produced by being looked at (the realm of ‘what is for show’).”

Louis Armand on the influence of free jazz on cultural criticism.

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Comrade Plekhanov published 06/04/2018

In late August 1900, Lenin was travelling by train from Zürich to Geneva. He was thirty years old, and newly released from a year’s imprisonment in St Petersburg (for distributing seditious literature to striking workers), followed by two years’ exile in Siberia. The man he was travelling through Switzerland to meet was fifteen years his elder, the pioneer of Russian Marxism, and in a foul mood. Lenin felt love for this man, Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, akin to “infatuation”.

By Edward Lee-Six.

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Ann Quin: a Peculiar Fish Without Fins (Blurring, Filth, and Smut. Or, What Ann Quin Means To Me) published 05/04/2018

What is a blur? Can a blur be colossal and awe-inspiring? Can grime equate to more than the sum of its parts? We are faced with the image of a blurred window. A window frames what we look at, through it, it serves as a lens to the world outside, we see what it allows us to see, but when this lens is blurred, smudged with grime, what do we see? The grime? Or what we imagine – through experience or memory – what’s on the other side? Quin’s window stands before us from the outset, before anything, obscuring our view. In smothering her subjects and themes this way, Quin’s corrosion serves to magnify her intentions. Berg is dirty. Quin is dirty. Her writing is smeared with filth.

Lee Rourke on Ann Quin.

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‘The Stuckness That Isn’t Exhaustion’: Beckett and Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘The Tetschener Altar’ published 02/04/2018

‘We are what we are. The setting has to come out of the text, without adding to it. … In ‘Godot’ it is a sky that is sky only in name, a tree that makes them wonder whether it is one, tiny and shrivelled. I should like to see it set up any old how, sordidly abstract as nature is, for the Estragons and Vladimirs, a place of suffering, sweaty and fishy, where sometimes a turnip grows, or a ditch opens up.’ And in case we don’t get it: ‘Nothing, it expresses nothing, it is an opaque no one bothers to question anymore. Any formal specificity becomes impossible.’ There is something speaking to this in Friedrich’s painting, as if what it seems is that we have a sky, a mountain, a cross, a metal Christ – apparently. A set of diagrammaticals, sans labels, inveighing against both meaning and the world, a spectacle without place, something that inaugurates picturing after the fact.

Richard Marshall on Caspar David Friedrich and Samuel Beckett.

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This is no Dérive published 30/03/2018

There are ribbons of different colours tied to the trees and bushes. They are put here as markers indicative of various sexual preferences, but I prefer to think of them as tokens offered by the votaries of Isis…

2 people are watching from behind a tree. There faces seem to take on animal characterises. At a rustling sound I turn and flee.

Bridget Penney continues her Abney Park psychogeographical investigations.

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Ghostlier Demarcations published 27/03/2018

The J—- family of Orlando, Florida is out for a walk in the park. A——, the middle child, suddenly begins to rise like a weather balloon. Up, up, up and continues her ascent through the atmosphere, out the exosphere, until finally her little body is adrift in deep space. The scene describes something that actually happened, according to the family’s mother, Z—— J—-. The rest of the family insists that A—— died of leukemia.

By Steven Felicelli.

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Healthy published 22/03/2018

After ten minutes the GP called my name. She was only a little older than me, twenty-nine, maybe thirty, and I followed her down the hall. Inside her office she told me to take a seat. She sat down as well and her face was illuminated by the white of the computer screen. I immediately saw my name and my medical history. She would’ve read the notes detailing when I broke my arm on my birthday, when I overdosed on instant coffee and had a panic attack, and when, once, I skateboarded down a hill and crashed into a wall at the bottom of it and knocked myself out cold. She must’ve thought that I was terrible at being alive. Thank god she didn’t remark on it and, instead, asked the important questions, like:

“Are you urinating blood?”

By Thom James.

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The Empty Sweat of Sport published 07/03/2018

Make no mistake, for all its cardiovascular benefits, running is wasted time. It’s boring. Friends have often asked me what I think about while I’m running, and it’s a deceivingly difficult question. At the risk of sounding like some fortune cookie runoff, I have to say I’m actively thinking about not thinking. I’m not thinking about the pain blossoming under my right kneecap. I’m not thinking about the burning in my lungs, like a cigarette being dragged down to the filter. There’s so much to not think about. There’s no ball, no points, no coach on the side-line. No one to hold you accountable. No teammates depending on you. No heterosexual butt-slapping.

By Chris Ames.

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Twin Peaks as Islamic Process Metaphysics published 03/03/2018

The notion of incomplete souls and transmigration fused with bodily resurrectionist metaphysics is shimmering darkly all the way through. Yet we also see a metaphysical repertoire that includes at least three views: firstly that when death strikes for some the soul is separated from the body; secondly that there’s an eternal cycle of transmigration involving an infinite process of reincarnation to human and subhuman bodies; and thirdly the perfect and intermediately perfect are disembodied and the deficient undergo transmigration for the purpose of purification. In this there are interesting though imperfect links with the Islamic philosophy of Ibn Abi Jumhur al-Ahsa’i.

Richard Marshall on the strange metaphysics of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

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Frozen Ropes published 01/03/2018

What did D.C. Williams say?

Time flows or flies or marches, years roll, hours pass,
Time flows by like a river with the flotsam of events upon it; no… time is a moving picture film, unwinding from the dark reel of the future, into the dark can of the past.
Or maybe it’s is a plain or ocean on which we voyage,
or a river gorge down which we drift;
maybe it’s a row of house fronts along which the spotlight of the present plays.
What did Santayana say?
“The essence of nowness runs like a fire along the fuse of time.”

By Tony Oats.

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