Gardening in the graveyard

‘So few are lucky enough to naturally catch alight.’

At this point I round things off
as the Gardener and I have been sitting for quite some time,
and I have thermos cramp in my left hand.

As I stand up, the Gardener prepares to speak,
working his Gardener hands into base elements, beginning

I suspect, right back, further than crustaceous time, perhaps even
at the moment of failure to begin in the first place,

and the frustrated sigh that trembled it all into one, mega,
abominable error of speechlessness.

He says:

‘If you permit such things, I’ll put what I think
you have just said into my
own words.’

‘Oh,’ I say, giving out a little smile, ‘That’s a good one.’

The Gardener-look I get tells me
it’s time to leave – feeling I’ve already outstayed my welcome.
‘Which way do I go from here?’ I say

seeing as I can leave by two routes, one that leads up to a nick
of light through the trees in the graveyard,

and another that leads down to a dark dot, hub of a burglary
happening in the far off distance.

‘Right up to the end we Gardeners like to leave that in the
hands of the individual executor – be my guest.’

He says, trailing off into the ambiguous
shuffle of a gardening glove.

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Laughing in the voice of the reader

I begin training – a keen spit-distance to monitor resistance and friendship in the external signs of vital companionship. To moisten the negotiations. To hoick as much as I can fit in my throat and somehow make it come out laughing in the voice of the reader.

How long will I be in your life for?

I want to think about the body of the reader and the poem.

Nin on D.H:

“the body had its own dreams”

“Lawrence was patient. He gave his characters time. They are to find their own way and hour of resurrection. It was very slow this gaining in confidence in the wisdom of the body. So Lawrence was patient, through a maze of timidities, retractions, blunders, awkwardness’s”

I relate to the durational progress of confidence in the intimacy one rekindles with ones own senses and bodily instincts in the everyday sense – and in specific ways in the act of writing – the translation of form into new suspicions of form.

I wonder at the relation of the individual’s moment of rediscovering the wisdom of the body – to lurch inside wisdom – to that of another individual’s – taking place somewhere else.

Is it necessary to communicate the lurch? How does this happen if you don’t understand it enough to put it into some form of language? Do you resist primarily the duration of the resurrection and rather you commit intimacy through habits of memorisation, transformation that is possibly imbedded in your own experience of time as much as anyone else’s.

These habits ultimately have recourse to their wild body of dreams – in this way habits are true and virtuous, because they exceed us without warning, change course, leave us standing alone with nothing but the resurrection of one’s body. Ultimately alive and well in the chemical reaction (tension/resistance) of the intimate relation – apart but reacting together.

This state of transformation is the habit-relationship.

However it is necessary to consider the reader relationship more specifically (especially if I want to establish a relation between the reader and his/her own voice, over and above my own or those of my characters. I need to consider the significance of duration in terms of intimacy and companionship with the reader and how this will be vitalised by the voices in the monologue.

Age and environment of protagonist – does it matter?

Nin on D.H. “It is an effort to recapture genuine evaluations, like those of children before they are taught. A child will say to an older person who has been playing with him and participating whole-heartedly in his make-believe: Are you older than me? How can that be?”

To resist at any age you wish. To become companions whenever it suits.

Hannah Arendt (Reflections on Literature and Culture) suggests Kafka’s protagonist’s super-human-ness resides in a consciousness without career other than resistance – a pure antagonism that generates a model behaviour or ‘good-will’ over and above the moral realism of the situation or context or environment or institution or ‘façade’ that the protagonist single-mindedly confronts.

The profession of resistance – rather than the habits of one professional reality requiring moral opposition from another to exist. This reminds me of how Arendt wrote about Aquinas ideas of good and evil and that evil is not the absence of good but self sufficient and mobilised by its own mechanisms. The binary does not illuminate the mechanisms of each in a singular way – the binary distorts agency whether for better or worse.

Resistance has a long romantic history.

I want to dwell on this a bit more to get at how I’m going to conduct my own romantic pursuits in this collection.

“Blueprints cannot be understood except by those who are willing and able vividly to imagine the intentions of the architect and the future appearances of the building.” (104 -5). Here Arendt suggests Kafka’s approach is more involved with imaginative consciousness rather than sensory experience.

“Kafka’s protagonists are not motivated by any kind of revolutionary ambitions; they are propelled only by their good will, which exposes the hidden structures of this world almost without knowing it, or wanting to.” 104

“Kafka’s stories…contain no elements of daydreaming and offer neither advice nor edification nor solace”

I think I can attempt to vitalise resistance while flaunting the romantic excess of subdued and uninhibited contradictions of ‘daydreaming, advice’ and ‘edification’ – this is hard to articulate, but if I get out of the habit of characters or voices concerned with whether romanticism is progressive or regressive – and enter at the heart, the spinal column, the nervous system – whatever and whichever means – in each case to ride Benjamin’s ‘wave’, resist and protest and continue to do so, to resurrect resistance, the body of it as it fails and succeeds, joy of birth on top of birth. I want the writing to come to an experience of resistance – rather than prioritise ‘distance’ or ‘lack’ or ‘phenomenological truth’ as exhibits of the experience vs. consciousness debate.

In logical terms:

Resistance is a key social tool – key to the purpose and hope of non-linearites – social action and vital companionship.

This is how resistance works – as a process that memorises the living action of something or someone whether they are alive or dead – always the purpose of exceeding the social contract of death – but the necessity of transcendence is thus discredited by ongoing resistance in this situation – as transcendence is mono-resistance – sapiens-resistant and so in this case falls down.

To trust in pure purpose, how romantic. I am a romantic, I require the bustle of time and the solitude of eternity. But this is where companionship comes in.

The world has changed. The world outside Kafka’s novels is now focused less on necessities as such but the speeding up of necessities – to put them in stride with our time-keeping, even ideally ahead of us, insisting true structural mechanisms are merely forms suspicious of other forms. What we are living with is the death of necessity in favour of acceleration of resistance over and above socially plausible timeliness and companionship.

So time is mobilised in new ways – but still with little hope of structural companionship.

I will be dealing with visualised habits of resistance exceeding us and coming up short at great speed. This is why light and sound and visualisations of the future will be so important to the writing – are already. The universe may be telling a good joke – and who are we to hurry it along? As Calvino said one should never ‘hurry myth’.

I initially said I wanted to look at how people imagine, neglect, seek out, and/or memorize the worlds or concerns of others. An individual can pursue true habitation of purpose in a world of others (go solo), and put more concisely an individual can pursue and assume the habits of a shared purpose vitalised by this collection of individual variety.

To share in the world consciousness is the human condition but to share habits and purpose is more difficult to negotiate as it requires durational and non-linear protest – because all social interactions lead to non-linearity’s – however this require a commitment to true and varied purposeful uninhibited resistance.

Does this warn against idealism? Or reinstate a new way of thinking idealism? In a way you could take the chance – chance is realised nicely in this sense – but I still don’t like the predominance of one idealism – ignorance, sameness, indifference – whatever it is. But then hope here lies with the writer reader relationship – the companionship of imaginations. The chance to achieve vital signs, or if it takes your fancy, to die “of exhaustion – a perfectly natural death.”

I begin training.

See through hand

Chris Kraus is quoted on Wikipedia, on her collection Video Green

“Collecting in its most primitive form implies a deep belief in the primacy and mystery of the object, as if the object was a wild thing…the object didn’t function best as a blank slate waiting to be written on by curatorial practice and art criticism.”

Here there is a wild tension between object as that which sees strait through us – or we are made naked by it to the point of visual impermanence, through me to it – making me transparent – and the object as a sustenance beyond (our organic dependence on) light, beyond our dependence on a combustion of form to turn out perception.

To state the obvious – we pass through our own body on the way to the unsurpassable object.

The Regenerate Lyric, Elisa New – Wallace Stevens Pg 79 Excerpt. Stevens in Parts of a World would ‘draw the expressive or reflective subject into the object. Romantic affect would be purged in favour of comic effect…the artificer now has no power of expression outside the object. Rather than reflect on experience, mimetically, the Stevensian speaker now becomes the naked object of reflection’

And not just the object of reflection but the thing or perception seen through by the staring object. In this way objects show us our transparency over time – and reflect ourselves back in their eyes as more objects leading to more objects.

Socialising with objects. The well-being of objects.

In the Anglo Saxon fragment ‘Judith’ the premonition of victory in battle reads, “They are doomed – as God showed through my hand!”

I’d like to relate to Anais Nin again on D.H. on his preoccupation with the body, specifically bodies at war.

“What drives him to despair is his very conviction of the sacredness of the body – and war is a monstrous holocaust of innumerable bodies.”

“Lawrence’s language makes a physical impression because he projected his physical response into the thing he observed”

Contrast object-ness to individual assertions and outbursts in Nin’s words:

“Individuality is always bursting forth, always destroying any permanency, as if in suspicion of form”

Suspicion of form is important in my poetry, because it makes the balance between a transparent utterance or voice and the objects that lead it through other objects, that allow it to socialise in the world.

Is this more a criticism of the anthropomorphised mannerisms of the object through which his protagonists seek individual substance – or the assertion of the object-ness permanency of the thing that rejects like a tenant at the end of a lease the impermanent resident? Kafka uses strangers, tourists – anyone without a permanent address or regular job! So the latter, if a little like the former is key here.

In one section of the collection I’d like to convey what its like to be a stranger in a world of things. To resist something in the structure, the deep form of the world and to be watched in the world as light is watched by casting itself about, this way and that, as if trying to free itself from a violent suspicion – to never know the last look in the eye – this is the fate of the individual, while it is also the hope of the social act of resistance – the chance companionship amongst vital objects.

Battle of the ‘I’ bulge

Pip Adam wrote in her Writing Journal in 2007 – Turbine

“I keep thinking about how first person narrative seems to have gone out of fashion with me a bit. I think it can only say one thing, which is something like this: ‘I am wrong about myself’. ‘You are a better person and you will see all the ways I am wrong about myself’. Hmm. Yeah, I feel that’s it basically. I think sometimes it can say ‘you are wrong about me, but not very often. I don’t think it can say ‘you are wrong about you’. I will test this thing at some point.”

Immediately I recognize the bulges of intimacy I’m so fascinated with when considering the voices in my writing and their relationship and proximity to the reader. Is it poignant to say ‘these voices are as wrong as you want them to be, and your’s is as wrong as they need it to be’. What is the connection between empathy and resistance to identification – even with one’s own reading voice? How am I going to get the reader to hear their reading voice? I think I need to start with a process of translation – of a ‘you’. Putting your words into my words?

Co-conspirator

1.
Of all the women, you shone right through my hand.

Perhaps it was the long hours spent playing snap –
sparks of recognition, shared amusements –

fires, tables, pillowcases and
sparingly, Adams apples,

discretely mixed
decks.

2.
But this is our first appointment. (Keep in mind
greetings are the long-way to estrangement). I cut to the chase:

How long, I wonder, will I be in your life for this time?
At each interview I ask this at least once,

I’ve learnt to evacuate a tone in the un-categorical throat of company
right from the get go – I will allow a wild case of the hiccups

if it comes out of nowhere
and so it is to you
my first words become

GLASS of WATER.

3.
And so it will be no brief life of thirst
but debriefed, hand-opened,
trick of advice –

‘You must drink from the glass upside down,’ you say,
unwrapping your mouth, clearing space.

So I swivel on the couch, flinging my head over the edge of the seat,
bum where my back would usually make its hut
and sip appropriately from a glass,

water upright,

bottom lip relegated to the highest rank of features
conscripted for this audience.

4.
From here on you are a combination

falling headlong into the ceiling fan,
playing in the plaster work -you peck the strands of perspiration
that fly between us, moistening compromise

over details.

A lamp-neck witnesses the hand shake,

for the calibre of negotiation looks down on natural light
that can so easily debilitate the full implications
of a patient object.

5.
We’re honoured to do business in such esteemed company
as these monkish lamps.

We seal the deal by flicking light switches
into the early hours,

illuminating our laughter,
until we place our teeth about our bunched fingers,

still in hysterics,
though comely,

as two women should be when turning things on their head,
watching the moon perpetrate the curve,

murder just showing
through.

When my father tells the story

He starts as usual with an all too believable detail – potting seedlings in the washbasin at the end of the kitchen. His ankle itches. He warms you up to this by moving his body in a vertical shiver. He runs it from his head to the part of his leg where it happened. He has an insect that he rouses from somewhere inside him. If he knew he had it in him, he would call it ‘a keeper’. But he doesn’t know that the insect is what makes him a storyteller.

The appeal of Monuments

When picturing the queue to the soul, the line and the travel of this work there is the appeal, the argument and the arrest of companionship. This is the image that I wanted to work through after going to: Between Moments and Monuments: Considering the future of Contemporary Sculpture in the Public Realm, a One Day Sculpture panel discussion.

“The individuality which each of us has got and which makes him a wayward, wilful, dangerous, untrustworthy quantity to every other individual, because every individuality is bound to react at some time or other against every other individuality without exception – or else lost its own integrity, because of the inevitable necessity of each individual to react away from any other individual, at certain times, human love is truly a relative thing, not an absolute.”

D. H. Lawrence states the paradox of asserting individual independence and the compelling appeal of others, of relationships and companionship throughout this process.

ap·peal

– an earnest or urgent request to somebody for something
– a request or campaign to raise money or resources
– the quality that makes somebody or something pleasant or desirable
– a formal request to a higher authority requesting a change in or confirmation of a decision
– the hearing of part or the whole of a previously tried case by a superior court, a request for a hearing, or the right to have such a hearing

Thinking about monuments brings up (historical) portraits. The memories circulated on their documents. Who are the equivalent sitters, subjects and personalities in art today I thought? Are the tics now perceived temporal and spacial enigmas, conundrums, or cheap tricks in the work? Perhaps they are now event based personalities – this suggests a communal or companionship based personality is asserting itself.

Impermanence and appeal to the time and history of the contemporary work is predominant rather than the representation of an existing reality. What does an objects resistance look like? What friction does this imperative appeal to? “In love there must be resistance’ writes Lawrence “We ought to pray to be resisted and resisted to the bitter end.” Anais Nin reasserts “There must be resistance in relationships. It is the basis of strength, of balance, of unison”.

At Alex’s housewarming last night I talked to Tom about his job as a council gardener. He mostly works in the cemetery. If you are one of the few living things around you attract attention – you are the beacon of conversation. In addition to the various talks he has with ‘old ladies’ and the morbid and/or curious, he describes the funereal monuments. There is grave of a cat memorialized in stone, a life-size representation of it being touched totem like by passers by. People often deposit things between its paws as if leaving a marker or two of their time of observation.

There is also another memorial he finds strange, of the woman and her four cats who all seem to be buried together in the same plot. Kate proposed that they’d all perished in a house fire, their ashes scraped together and laid to rest. It’s less pagan than the Egyptian mode of sacrificing animals with respect to company in the afterlife. Tom added that the ashes of the fridge were probably included in the mix so in a way its not that far from the truth of the scene – its appeal to a the cult of the afterlife – a monument that re-emphasises or reminds us about the simple act of observation and observing time.

Dorita Hannah quoted Battaile ‘monuments inspire fear’. She then went on to say ‘the ephemeral control of space’ is instituted in the name of imperatives of freedom and security, rhetoric imperatives. In the work of art there also needs to be a resistance beyond merely the drive to forge ahead or be moving ahead in the name of (aging) ideals. At all times a work needs to appeal to action, to constitute through this appeal fresh ideals that will offer us a healthy kind of companionship over time.

There is an emphasis on real time architecture to look at the expanding relation to resistance that continues to take place, in company, in companionship and in the appeal to companionship. All this makes me think that faith in specific forms of memory defines areas of time. Faith in the memory of the experience and its document or new monument.

In my own practice letting words and sculpture inhabit different arenas and audiences but coming together in the reading, performance or artist talk – the appeal of my intention to an audience considering it in relation to the written or exhibited work: My observation of the intention, the cheap trick of performance, the quantity of unknown prepared outcome – and the outcome to follow and follow.

[Public Forum: Between Moments and Monuments: Considering the future of Contemporary Sculpture in the Public Realm
Saturday 8 March,10.30am – 12.30pm, Pacific Blue Festival Club, Frank Kitts Park, Wellington.

Leading voices in contemporary art and performance will examine how artists are rethinking the concept of public sculpture. The forum will address temporary artistic responses to location; the role of performance and participation, and the capacity for temporary works to sustain permanency through the social imagination. Chaired by Rob Garrett – the panel will include Christina Barton, Claire Doherty, Dorita Hannah, Roman Ondak and Amy Howden-Chapman.]