09 June 2006

Art|Politics|Beauty|Power

let me do a couple of things here:

first, lance said in his post that American Book Review is “in crisis,” and i thought i should let yall know that “crisis” isn’t quite the term at this point. “flux” would be more like it, and if what i was TOLD is happening does happen (so this is qualified), the situation may even be somewhat improved. illinois state had removed its long-time funding for a full-time, professional managing editor, which meant that the 2 people on the editorial wing (joe amato and me) and the 2 people on the production wing (tara reeser and sarah haberstich) were tasked not only with the expected duties but also details like...”um, has anyone checked the mail in the past month?” it didn’t work. (no shit? really?). if the editorial wing does move to another institution, it would seem that that new institution will restore that funding and position, which would allow the ed staff and prod staff to do what they’re best at. the person who has been proposed as the editorial point person for the journal in its new home is a very capable guy, and if this all goes through i think ABR will be in good hands.

if anyone has anything more up-to-date on this deal, please chime out. i’m no longer entirely...um...informed. hah.

so that’s done! (check.)

next: dear blonde (although only her hairdresser knows for sure...), i loved your post. (i’d say it left me ecstatic but that would be too...TOO.) lovingly, i’ll point out that this was my favorite section (perhaps b/c i have a short attention span...):

>Why can’t making art be the politics of making art?

>What’s the problem with creative and passionate dissent?

>Is it useful to ask ourselves questions about being, even if it might draw criticism or open us up to being accused of jacking-off?

one thing striking about your post is that it’s primarily composed of questions, which i find much more comfortable than monologues, this latter being what most of our posts have been. lance’s tyler gowan excerpt sounds a resonant tone for “us” (this tribe, whatever we are...)----how do we respond, as intellectuals and artists (or artists and intellectuals---this latter would be my personal ordering) to the fact that the public has gone to sleep? the masses slumber as we jack off, i guess---all of us in bed, then? (i don’t cum via dissensus---in times of conflict, most women’s capillaries shrink up, which is why a lot of women aren’t very into make-up sex...but hey, if that does it for others, why disrupt it?)

art is always the politics of making art, but apparently any insistence to that effect sounds to most of our citizens like a very shrill alarm clock. if we don’t control our readers, how do we respond to the fact that they just hit the snooze button and roll over?

i have a pretty bad jones for the russians myself; i’ve often been told i should “move on”...get “up to date”...but i still find them far better at discussing power than most thinkers, bar foucault, etc. here’s a shklovsky snippet from his memoir:

"So we see that Gorky is made of disbelief and piety, with irony for cement.
Irony in life is like eloquence in literature: it can tie everything together.
It makes a substitute for tragedy."

ouch! shit!

and so, ted! i love arguing with you, so let’s have it (note: there will be no sex afterward). keeping the power problem in mind, i’m thinking that what i loved greatly about poststructuralism was the suggestion that we could keep 2 ideas in our heads at one time. you wrote that altho...

>innovation is a path to the beautiful, it is beauty itself which is the goal, to my mind. Where I become doctrinaire about innovation is where I see conventionality hampering an artist's ascent to the beautiful....

do we as a group have a problem with the notion of innovation for the sake of innovation? (i’ll assume yes.) does our “tribe” have troubles with folks hoping to join b/c they have some notion of wanting to be an artistic rebel---just to be an artistic rebel? little of this has much to do with addressing power (to my mind). we have a habit of setting ourselves up as existing (“being,” blonde said, echoing heidegger maybe, ironically?) In Opposition.... many of us are old enough to flash to james dean and the anti-hero hero etc etc. but what plagues is, In Opposition To What?

my concern with beauty is that i want to do beauty (yes, i’ve failed, sue me) even as i’m conscious of beauty as a construct and as a commodity, a thing that can be romanticized right along with james dean, who ultimately served as (many things but also) a fabulous billboard for cigarettes.

sure; i want beauty as much as the next guy: the elegant turn of phrase, the well-turned ankle. i just want to maintain also the awareness of how violent those sorts of “turns” can turn out to be (and violence isn’t always bad in this context). the artist’s ascent is already hampered, yes? or perhaps we could say that the artist’s ascent will be a struggle against the powers of gravity, the baggage on her back, cigarette smoking, etc.

is it possible that one of us may be able to compose the utterly unexploitable piece of art? if “beauty,” and all its commodity-driven problems, is a good-size ascent, could unexploitability become...K2?

because, listen, al-zarqawi is dead. so is the pregnant woman (and her driver and, as many anti-abortion republicans have *interestingly* failed to point out, HER FETUS); and, you know, we’re still committing my-lai’s (anyone else shocked by this?).

seems to me there’s plenty that needs doing culturally, much of which has to do with abuse of power, and whether we want it to or not, or notice it happening or not, our work is going to do work. beauty does work. i can’t control my reader, but maybe i can attempt to ascend the slope that has to do with (at minimum) half-assed attempts to...attempt. to direct. against.

i mean, i’m obsessed with truth, but i can’t help but trouble “truth.” this is ok, right?

lance: check out drew gardner’s Petroleum Hat. great poems, brutal, smart, funny as fuck.

other than that, can we just have a moratorium on the list thing? unless we can manage, say, Top Ten Reasons Not to Fart in an Elevator...etc....

kass

4 comments:

blonde said...

dear kass thank you with GREAT passion.

lidia

jdeshell said...

Do we need to differentiate between the beautiful and sublime here? Kant argues that the beautiful is an experience of limits, while the sublime is a feeling of limitlessness. The sublime creates a distance, the beautiful intimacy. “The sublime moves, the beautiful charms.” I’m wondering if this is part of the argument between Ted and Kass, where charm is rather dangerous, as it mystifies and mythologizes, whereas movement, the movement to action, is an action of seeing through charm to the substructure of power relations (among other elements).

Kant also says that “black eyes are more closely related to the sublime, blue eyes and blonde coloring to the beautiful.” The sublime is coded by Kant as masculine. The sublime would answer Lance's question about Hogg, as it would be difficult to call it 'beautiful.'

Wendy Steiner argues, in Venus in Exile, that the 20th century is a century of the sublime. She argues that a return to beauty would be liberating, in that it would be a return to ethics and intimacy. Well, maybe.

Lance Olsen said...

KASS: I'm heartened by your news about American Book Review. The last I heard—this would be back in April—there was a good chance ABR would be forced to close its doors with its fall issue. There was some hope, though, that a deal could be worked out whereby the magazine might find a home, under the auspices of Jeffrey Di Leo, at the University of Houston-Victoria. Is that still in the works? I wish that good news alleviated the point in my last post about the slow drying up of those outlets in print form, but, alas, alas.

JEFFREY: Thanks very much for reminding us about the distinction between the beautiful and the sublime.

I might add, with respect to the latter, a reminder of my own: Lyotard's notion of "the postmodern sublime"—that impulse in art to put forward the unpresentable in presentation itself while purposefully denying the solace of good forms, the consensus of taste which makes it possible to share a nostalgia for the unattainable. The postmodern sublime puts forth no norms of appreciation, but rather embraces notions of heterogeneity and openness.

Connotations surrounding the notion of "beauty" (and/or "singing," for that matter) seem to lead us down a very different path that doesn't allow us to account for such powerfully transgressive innovative texts as Delany's Hogg, Burroughs's Naked Lunch, and Kathy Acker's Blood & Guts in High School.

And so we're back, I think, to accepting various experimentalisms up to various projects, no?

Kass Fleisher said...

jeffrey, liberation, or a return to ethics, would be fabulous—would that it were so.... and i have sublimely dark brown eyes, btw....

and lance, yeah, di leo in houston, but i have heard *nothing* to indicate that this deal went through so i hesitate to name names (too late!).

but that's a side bar to jeffrey's interesting nudge. i like lance's seconding nudge to recall that with pomo sublime we

>put forward the unpresentable in presentation itself

terrific!, and no to "consensus of taste"; yes to "openness"—it all sounds lovely. i don't think it's happening much, but it all sounds lovely.

should i say it's not happening much "any more?" are we ("we") going to grapple at some point with the ... consensus ... that pomo has come and gone and we should be investing in something known as "now what"? i love lytotard too and we need to be conscious of such constructs, and presenting the unpresentable is certainly my goal, but we're also going to have to strike out a bit on our own. talk about "open"—unknown territory!—or so i HOPE. i feel like i'm seeing a lot of rehash, even DOING a lot of rehash—maybe all of that is even necessary—but what now? what next? beyond?

what comes beyond presenting the unpresentable? of course, some folks are telling me that the logical next step is presenting the presentable. duh. backwards much? where is *forward*? it's like i can't find the gears on the drive shaft.

thanks,

kass