Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page


In Uncategorized on March 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm

A previous Demotic Archive text-gathering- on artists (mis)understandings of Lenin – included material from Robert Motherwell’s 1951 anthology The Dada Painter’s and Poets. I wanted to unfold further the influence of this book, forming a sense of how it was read and utilised by new generations of poets and artists upon publication.

What follows is a gathering of poetic and discursive materials as “a starter” on this topic selected and written by Jerome Rothenberg, who observes in an email 12/03/11:

… yes, there is in fact a great deal that I could say, with Motherwell’s book as a point of departure.  When David Antin and I first sat down with it, shortly after it appeared, what it opened up was both surprising and needed as a way into a kind of poetry and art that we and others were soon exploring or maybe re-exploring.  Before that Dada was something that would turn up in what were already historical accounts of experimental modernism but it was really Dada Painters & Poets that began to flesh it out for us.

The materials below begin with three poems from Rothenberg’s THAT DADA STRAIN collection, with its varying, exploratory proximities  to the ideas, personalities, languages, and histories of Dada. Two discursive pieces then provide (1) a poetic- historical overview and  (2) a trajectory from Dada through Kurt Schwitters, Eugene Gomringer and Seneca singer and ritualist Richard Johnny John…

I also read these materials in relation to two further quotations. The first is Anne Waldman’s comment on the “various trajectories of collaboration” the Motherwell anthology demonstrates.  The other is Brion Gysin’s recollection to Nicholas Zurbrugg:

Everytime we met [in the late 50s in Paris], Tzara would whine, “Would you be kind enough to tell me just why your young friends insist on going back over the ground we covered in 1920?” What could I say, except, “Perhaps they feel you did not cover it thoroughly enough.” Tzara snorted: “We did it all! Nothing has advanced since Dada – how could it!”



the zig zag mothers of the gods
of science       the lunatic fixed stars
& pharmacies
fathers who left the tents of anarchism
the arctic bones
strung out on saint germain
like tom toms
living light bulbs
“art is junk” the urinal
says “dig a hole
“& swim in it”
a message from the grim computer
“ye are hamburgers”




Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, 1916

A glass tube
for my leg    says Hugo Ball
my hat a cylinder
in blue & white
the night    the german ostriches    the sink
he pisses in
all these become his world
his dada song, begun there
holds the image
until it comes at us:
the image from its cross
looks down:
a ribbon
a revolver
these contribute
to his death
also to what his death contributes
later, too hysterical
too sick with god
& time:
a carousel
a roasted poet
the queen says to his mind
& enters
where the street of mirrors starts
she sees his face
in hunger of the world
as pain, the consciousness
of death    not why we die
bit why we dream about it
& why our dreams can’t save
the dying remnant
as I write this poem
the voice cries
from a further room
the dancer / singer calls me
from a further room
I step into an obelisk
below the waist
my mouth opens to sing
but freezes
in grief for you
the collapse of language
tabla tokta tokta takabala
taka tak
a glass tube ecstasy
escapes from time
babula m’balam
the image & the word
over your bed
hang    crucified
again the cabaret explodes
again again
in glass
a glass nerve
a priestly gas pump
her hair out





sad in his world
or in yours
he walks for years beside
the economic lilies
explores the mysteries of bread
a wax archangel
stands on his tongue
his hands     cold     dry
deprived of water
in the room under the room
where Lenin sat
aromas of Bukovina gather
Moinesti with its corn mush
brinza cheese
redheaded Leah
like a hungry wolf
the word he dreams is
dada ice
dada piano
dada flower
dada tears
dada pendulum
dada vanilla
dada don quixote
dada humid
dada archipelago
dada pharmacy
dada sexenial
dada dichotomous
dada dichroic
dada dicrotic
dada didactic
dada didelphian
dada diluvial
dada dingdong
the fur of dada stretched out in the sun
dada on a hill old fox old dada
sammy rosenstock alive old exile
got Zurich on my mind
glass toys betwixt the stars with chains
electric flags & posters
“logic is a complication!
“logic is always wrong!
cries dada
holy cow
o cube
o hobby horse
the freedom first encountered in
first trip to Zurich
ghosts drunk on energy
they pulled the bells of war down
martyred the cabaret
until it exploded
like yiddish dada in the street
the overture to cheese
o Sammy brother
the sad one of your tribe
you said: disgust
you sat next to the photo of
redheaded Leah
under the axe & clock
your monocle hung from your vest
red life grew distant
in the room where Lenin sat
the walls sang politics to us
his nurse’s name was “dada”
so was yours
& sputtered poetry
redbellies laughing thru empty skulls
“my name is Sammy Rosenstock
“is later Tristan Tzara
“I am so sad with life
“I love it
“I am of course Rumanian
“I allow myself to contradict
“I put an owl in a hexagon
“I climb on the stage
“I’m prim
“I’m formal
“I applaud the revolution
“the hands of bandits
“blind worms & dada nightmares
“invade your bowels
” messiahs are passee
“the word we dream is
“dada sweepeth out
“dada teareth linens
“rips clouds & prayers to shreds
“thou rides on hiccups
“dada has a balcony
“we squat there     pregnant birds
“we shit on thine umbrella
“dada is against the future
“dada lives
“in fire          wisdom      fear
“– is fear of dada
“like a star? —
“no           like a fish      a plant      the moon
“a metal word
“distorted      boiling
“illumines the urethra
” sixty fingers on each arm
“I am a monster too
“I play with cushions
like hymns of queens
the eye of Lenin
now so wide
pushes the curtains
the chess game opens like a poem
metaphysics of perdition
rules them
tired of the stars
his horse eats colored snakes
o angel horse
on thee rides Hugo Ball
himself an angel horse
here Huelsenbeck & Jung walk
here Arp
here Janco
here kings of Zanzibar
here april nuns
here Tristan Tzara
ghost of Abulafla no ghost
he makes his buttocks jump
like belly of oriental queen
madonna face of Emmy Hennings
a silent fiddle
cuts the room in two
Hugo like a mannikin
at piano
stammers      yodels      farts in rhyme
in lusts of sabbath
— hiccups —
— bowwows —
dusts off the mask of dada
cardboard horsehair leather wire cloth
wears dada collars      dada boots
cothurnus of a bishop
lesbian sardines
ecstatic mice
vanilla derbies
from comers of Cabaret Voltaire
how many kings crow?
how many krazy kittens
cry for you?
how many centuries between
Zurich & Moinesti?
how many grandfathers?
how many clicks before the poem ends?
how much incesticide?
how many accordions to serenade
redheaded Leah?
Lenin dies
brave gymnasts march again
thru workers’ suburbs
Stalin’s moustache adrift
— o feckless future —
writes Mandelstam:
“huge laughing
“cockroaches on his lip
“the glimmer of his boot-rims
“scum & chicken necks
“half human
“the executions slide across his tongue
“like berries
o revolutions of the fathers
you tease us back to death
pink sands of California
line my coast
saloons & oracles
stemming the tide
can’t end it
you are dead
& dada life is growing
from your monocle
ignored      exalted
you lead me to my future
making poems together
flames & tongues      we write
like idiots
ballets of sperm
a brain song for the new machine
squadrons of princes pissing in the street
— intensity      disgust —
an empty church from which
you drew the drapes back
the face of Jesus on each drape
“on each Jesus was my heart”
you wrote
messiah of stale loaves
of frogs in shoes
god dada
messiahs are passee
there is no greater saviour
than this      no eye
so credible
your fart that night was luminous
it stoked the cannons
thruout Europe
in the bus to Amsterdam
in Missouri in Brazil in the Antilles
in a bathrobe
under your bed the shadows massed
like sleeping robbers
the moon became our moon
again o moon
over Moinesti
o moon of tiny exiles
moustaches of antelopes we eat
& cry out “fire”
a swamp of stars waits
toads squashed flat against
red bellies
at center of a dream
— magnetic eyes —
whose center is a center
& in the center
is another center
& in each center is a center
& a center on each center
composed by centers
like earth
the brain
the passage to other worlds
passage to something sad
lost dada
an old horse rotting in the garden
maneless      waiting
for the full moon
someone leaps into the saddle
rushes after you
exuding light



“You are mistaken if you take Dada for a modern school, or as a reaction against the schools of today. … Dada is not at all modern.  It is more in the nature of an almost Buddhist religion of indifference. … The true Dadas are against Dada.” (Tristan Tzara)

Which was Tzara’s way of proclaiming Dada’s postmodernity — not as chronology but as an irritation (a disgust) with solutions altogether (“no more solutions! no more words!”) & with prescriptions (old or new) for making art.  It is important to remember: that at the heart of Dada was a pullback from the absolute: from closed solutions based on single means: not a question of technique, then, but of a way of being, a state-of-mind (of “spirit”), “a stance” (: Charles Olson, decades later) “toward reality.”  For which the only technique was the suppression of technique, the only sense of form was to deny form as a value.  And for all of that, Dada drew from means that were common to its time & to its predecesors in Futurism & Expressionism: a series of projects it would work on until its own (predicted) self-destruction as a movement.  Collage.  Performance.  New Typographies.  Chance operations.  And a high devouring humor.

At the same time Dada had its myth(s) of origin.  Its time was one of war, its place the neutral heart of Europe.  In Zurich, then, a group of artists/poets, brought together by a flight from war & time, set up a venue of their own (the Cabaret Voltaire) & took a name at total variance with the names that came before (expressionism, futurism, constructivism, orphism, etc.).  Their strategy was what a later poet (E. Sanders) would call “a total assault on the culture” — or in the words of one of their own (R. Huelsenbeck) “the liberation of the creative forces from the tutelage of the advocates of power.”  From Zurich the movement dispersed to Germany & France & elsewhere: a first international & generational outcry, by means of art & at the same time making Art (with capitals) its central target.  The “official” German version lurched toward a leftist politics, while the French, holding the center of European modernism, turned Dada into Surrealism (1924) & brought the movement to an end.  With that turning came a realignment with Art or an attempt to conquer Art’s domain: a sense that Dada-qua-Surrealism — like Dada-qua-Bolshevism in Berlin — was itself a solution rather than a challenge to all possible solutions, Dada included.  But the Surrealist accomodation — if it was that — was mild compared to other attempts to rein in the revolutionary nature of the new poetry & art, in favor of a middle-ground & fashionable modernism.  Through all of which, Dada remained a lurking presence, erupting from then to now in a string of neo-Dadaisms, the careers of which will be charted in the volume still to follow.

As with other “movements” before & after, Dada was largely the work of poets or of those who saw in poetry a liberating gesture setting it apart from that of Art.  Of the poets in the Zurich group, Hugo Ball was the founder of the Cabaret Voltaire & of the first Dada magazine, with which it shared its name; he claimed — in a Dada act that turned into a kind of mystic seizure (see below) — to have invented a new “poetry without words,” but fled Zurich shortly thereafter to live out his life in the Swiss mountains, as a kind of Catholic Dada saint.  Tristan Tzara (b. Sammi Rosenstock in Rumania) was — at nineteen — the movement’s principal publicist & its link to the Dada poets of Paris (Breton, Soupault, Peret, Picabia, et al.), some of whom would be, in turn, the founding fathers of Surrealism.  In a similar vein, Richard Huelsenbeck brought Dada to Berlin & a new life at the edge of postwar German politics.  Less overtly political, the work of a number of other German & Dutch Dadas (Kurt Schwitters, who changed his movement’s name to Merz; Hans Arp; Max Ernst; Theo van Doesburg, working through the Dutch De Stijl) crossed notably into poetry, with Schwitters & Arp approaching major status as new language artists.  Finally, New York Dada (so-called) virtually preceded that of Zurich & focused, oddly, on such European expatriates — circa World War One & early 1920s — as Duchamp, Francis Picabia, and Else von Freytag-Loringhoven.  Like Futurism & Surrealism, the movement also had worldwide implications.


(with Charles Bernstein, Regis Bonvicino, Marjorie Perloff, Cecilia Vicuña)

Marjorie Perloff: How has translation of German Dada and Concrete poetry – Schwitters, Ball, Jandl, etc.— influenced your own poetry? Does it seem more congenial to you than French Dada?

Among the Dadas, Schwitters was clearly the one with whom I had the most extended encounter through translation, while the Concrete poet on whom I worked extensively wasn’t Jandl so much as Gomringer.  With Ball the only kind of translation I attempted was a performance of his soundwork, Karawane, which I slipped into my own performance of That Dada Strain.  The translations also included a smaller group from French-language poets such as Tzara and Picabia, but it was That Dada Strain, the whole series of poems, that was as much my response as the translations.

Back in the late 50s or early 60s, when Motherwell’s big Dada book opened me up to Dada, I thought that what was needed was a gathering of actual poems.  Motherwell had presented very few of those, and so I announced that I was preparing an anthology to be called That Dada Strain and to be published by my press, Hawk’s Well.  I translated a handful from Tzara, Arp, Schwitters, Huelsenbeck, and Picabia, but the press didn’t last and I got otherwise diverted.  I didn’t really come back to anything like that until sometime in the 70s, and That Dada Strain, as it emerged then, was a series of poems addressed to the Dada poets – transcreations of a sort, to use Haroldo De Campos’s term.  Translations and appropriations were embedded or collaged in some of the poems, and sound poems and  actual translations were sometimes included in performance versions.

In doing that I don’t think I was so much favoring German Dada as Zürich Dada – not least of all because the antiwar and transnational stance of the Zürich exiles corresponded to my own feelings about Vietnam and the Vietnam aftermath – about the whole twentieth-century experience of war and repression if it came to it.  Even so, Paris is very much there in the two opening poems, as well as Schwitters’ Germany in the poem addressed to him.  It was Schwitters too on whom I focused later – by way of translation – because I saw him as an experimental extremist whose work coincided with much in our own time but had never been translated and carried over into English.  (Except by him, of course, when he was in exile in England.)  That Schwitters was himself a victim of war and fascism also had an appeal to me.

What I did with Schwitters was both to translate him and to follow him into performance.  I also tried to bring him forward as a precursor of concrete poetry, but his concrete poems like his sound poems and his poems in English needed no translation.  Where I got into the translation of concrete poetry was with Gomringer – a whole book of poems translated into English as a kind of primer, I thought, not only of Gomringer’s poetry but of the fundamentals of translation, operating in an area of minimal poetry that seemed to eschew translation.  Even more of a transcreation for me was a series of ritual songs that I translated from the Seneca Indian “society of the mystic animals.”  I had collected these in a collaboration with the Seneca singer and ritualist, Richard Johnny John, and I wanted a way to show the sophistication of the apparently minimal use of words and vocables (“meaningless” sounds) in Seneca chanting.   Instead of setting up a song poem like this




The animals are coming

I set it up like this:




The animals are coming     HEHUHHEH




The results, I thought, followed along the lines of what Ernest Fenollosa, early in the game and speaking of something quite different, had called “a brilliant flash of concrete poetry.”


SOURCES: “THAT DADA STRAIN”, “A GLASS TUBE ECSTASY, FOR HUGO BALL,” and “THE HOLY WORDS OF TRISTAN TZARA”  are from  That Dada  Strain (New Directions, New York,  1983).

PROLOGUE TO DADA appears in  Poems for the Millenium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Press, Vol. 1 (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1995), whilst the concluding Excerpt From the Sibila Interview appears in Poetics and Polemics 1980-2005 (University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2008).

The quote from Anne Waldman is from her Vow to Poetry: Essays, Interviews and Manifestos (Coffee House Press, Saint Paul), 2001 319. That by Bryon Gysin is from Nicholas Zurbrugg ed. Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis), 190.

See Jerome Rothenbergs POEMS AND POETICS blog archive here and the UBU Web ethnopoetics gallery here.



In Uncategorized on March 10, 2011 at 12:22 am


The latest installment of the Demotic Archives – in which Vladimir Ilyich Lenin offers a set of resources for art writing – developed alongside I DID NOT KNOW THAT LENIN WAS LENIN, my current commission for the Merzman festival in Manchester.

As part of this project I began to explore how Lenin was/is figured in numerous texts by artists, writers and philosophers (both his contemporaries and our own). The quotations that follow chart a certain “artists’ Lenin” emergent through the work of Viktor Shklovsky (quoting Maxim Gorky), Sergei Eisenstein, “the young Roumanian Marcu”, and Dziga Vertov.

The Lenin that unfolds from these writings is, of course, highly partial and radically different to the Lenin of Lenin’s own writings, or of most historical account. Read in this way, the quotes propose a  figure of Lenin composed of the radical (or not) nature of art practice, and the artists “eccentric” or otherwise stance-in-relation to reality… The images for this post are stills from Vertov’s Three Songs About Lenin (1934).

This gathering also suggests how notions of legacy between artists – and between art, literature and politics – might be operating. The story by Marcu is quoted in and from the introduction to the Robert Motherwell edited The Dada Painters & Poets: An Anthology, a text with a history of influence and appropriation amongst artists and writers in New York and elsewhere, upon its publication in 1951 (a future post of the Demotic Archive will explore this influence further).

This sixth installment of the Demotic Archive concludes with Antonio Negri, whose The Porcelain Workshop: For A New Grammer of Politics, is a key text for the movement of philosophical ideas and methods into writing and art practices. The Negri quote here is from the first chapter of Porcelain. Negri is responding specifically to Lenin, and the “impasse” around conceptions of power in both Lenin, Max Weber and Carl Schmitt…


“It so happened that we had a free evening in London, and a small group of us went to a music hall, a small democratic theater. Vladimir Ilyich laughed easily and infectiously on watching the clowns and vaudeville acts, but he was only mildly interested in the rest. He watched with special interest as workers from British Columbia felled trees. The small stage represented a lumber yard, and in front, two hefty fellows within a minute chopped down a tree of about one meter circumference.

“‘ Well, of course, this is only for the audience. They can’t really work that fast, ‘ said Ilyich. ‘But, it’s obvious that they do work with axes there, too, making worthless chips out of the bulk of the tree. Here you have your cultured English-men!’

“He started talking about the anarchy of production under capitalism and ended by expressing regret that nobody had yet thought of writing a book on the subject. I didn’t quite follow this line of reasoning, but I had no time to question Vladimir Ilyich because he switched to an interesting dicussion on ‘eccentrism’ as a special form of theater art.

“‘ There is a certain satirical and skeptical attitude to the conventional, an urge to turn it inside out, to distort it slightly in order to show the illogic of the usual. Intricate but interesting.’

SOURCE: Viktor Shklovsky, Mayakovsky and his Circle (Pluto Press, London, 1972), 116-17. The story here is Shklovsky’s quotation of a text by Gorky.


“I have seen the Montagues in a tiny theater in Paris, the very same Montagues whom Vladimir Ilyich Lenin crossed the whole city to see…” (78)

“I notice with astonishment that today’s student, freed from the study of religious instruction reveals the same hostility to the study of dialectics. And I believe this is because, in the process of teaching this almighty shining miaculous method of cognition,  the heavy hands of our sophists, catechists, Plisses and Perekhavalskys are too often laid on it.

Instead of an all-penetrating science, as it was understood and presented by Lenin; a science invoking us to study and reveal its nature and essence everywhere, in everything and over everything (“Begin with the most simple, ordinary, mass-evident, etc., from any premises: the leaves of the tree are green; Ivan is a man; Zhuchka is a dog, etc. Already here, as the genius of Hegel noted, is dialectics…”). Instead of this, the boring catechists, pettifogging pedants, and casuists come to the institutes, and in their hands the living spirit of the sorceress Dialectics disappears. All that remains is an indigestible skeleton of paragraphs, abstract propositions, and the perpetual motion of the vicious circle of once-and-for-all chosen quotations. (204)

SOURCE: Sergei Eisenstein, Immoral Memories: An Autobiography (Peter Owen, London, 1985).


When we left the restaurant, it was late in the afternoon. I walked home with Lenin.

“ ‘You see.’ he said, ‘why I take my meals here. You get to know what people are really talking about. Nadezhda Konstantinova is sure that only the Zurich underworld frequents this place, but I think she is mistaken. To be sure, Maria is a prostitute. But she does not like her trade. She has a large family to support – and that is no easy matter. As to Frau Prellog, she is perfectly right. Did you hear what she said! Shoot all the officers!

“ ‘Do you know the real meaning of this war?’

“‘ What is it?’ I asked.

“‘It is obvious,’he replied. ‘One slaveholder, Germany, who owns one hundred slaves, is fighting another slaveholder, England, who owns two hundred slaves, fora fairer distribution of the slaves.’

“‘ How can you expect to foster hatred of this war,’ I asked at this point, ‘ if you are not, in principle, against all wars? I thought that as a Bolshevik you were really a radical thinker and refused to make any compromise with the idea of war. But by recognizing the validity of some wars, you open the doors for every opportunity. Every group can find some justification of the particular war of which it approves. I see that we young people can only count on ourselves…’

“Lenin listened attentively, his head bent toward me. He moved his chair closer to mine… Lenin must have wondered whether he should continue to talk with this boy or not. I, somewhat awkwardly, remained silent.

“‘Your determination to rely upon yourselves,’ Lenin finally replied, ‘is very important. Every man must rely upon himself. Yet he should also listen to what informed people have to say. I don’t know how radical you are or how radical I am. I am certainly not radical enough. Once can never be radical enough; that is, one must always try to be as radical as reality itself…’”


I’ve managed to make Three Songs About Lenin (at least to some degree) accessible and comprehensible to millions. But not at the price of cinematographic language, and not by abandoning the principles which had been formulated earlier. No one would demand this of us.

The important thing is not to separate form from content. The secret lies in unity of form and content. In refraining from shocking the spectator by introducing objects or devices that are unnatural or extraneous to the work. In 1933, while thinking about Lenin, I decided to draw from the source of the people’s creative folklore about Lenin. I would like to keep on working in this direction.

If he saw darkness, he created light.
From the desert, he made orchards.
From death – life.


A million sand grains make a dune.
A million peas make a bushel.
A million weak – a great strength.

Are these images and songs of nameless poets of the people any poorer than the images of the most refined formal works?

The subject in which I am working is the least studied, the most highly experimental subject of cinematography.

The road along which I am going, in an organizational, technical, down-to-earth manner, and in all other senses, demands superhuman efforts. It is a thankless and, believe me, a very difficult road.

But I am hopeful that, in my field, I will be able to defeat formalism, to defeat naturalism, to become a poet not for the few but for the ever increasing millions.

It is far from simple to show the truth.
But truth itself is simple.

SOURCE: “The Writings of Dziga Vertov”, in P.Adams Sitney, Film Culture: An Anthology (Secker and Warburg,1971), 364-5.



We are faced with a double impasse that seems to impose a necessary choice between two possibilities. The first consists in taking power and becoming another power, that is to say, inescapably remaining a power. The second attempts to totally deny the power exerted over life, and therefore emerges as a negation of life itself. From this point of view, the concept of proletarian power that we find in Lenin is completely symmetrical to that of bourgeois power. The concept of liberation is caught in the vise of power. Might we not imagine, on the contrary, that freedom, singularity and potency (puissance) come about as radical difference from power? (17-18)

SOURCE: Antonio Negri, The Porcelain Workshop: For A New Grammar of Politics (semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 2008).


In Uncategorized on March 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

My essay on EVERY DAY IS A GOOD DAY: THE VISUAL ART OF JOHN CAGE has just been published in The Fanzine here. Entitled NEW POETHIC FOLK CULTURES OF JOHN CAGE GO LARGE it begins as follows:

Still trying to hold in mind the experience of viewing Every Day is a Good Day, the show of John Cage’s visual art, first seen at BALTIC in Newcastle last summer, and now touring the UK. Or, rather, keep some memory of the show in dialogue with the reproductions in the catalogue; hold to its distinctiveness whilst seeing it alongside Cage’s music and writing; unfold its specifics without losing sense of the contemporary. A relationship to Cage in 2011, as always, is a shifting, complex thing.

The show itself has developed its own strategies for negotiating between process and object, the somewhat occasional role of visual art in Cage’s practice and the central focus such a monographic exhibition bestows. As conceived by the artist Jeremy Millar it has adopted Cage’s own structure, developed for Rolywholyover A Circus at MOCA, Los Angeles in 1993, of a “composition for museum” that sought to ensure no two visits encountered the same exhibition….

Continue reading over at The Fanzine here. Before you go, VerySmallKitchen offers a sampler of EVERY DAY IS A GOOD DAY, sequenced less according to methods of chance circus than via the images available from the Hayward Press Office.

EVERY DAY IS A GOOD DAY is at the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow 19 February-2nd April 2011, and at the De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill on Sea, 16 April-5 June 2011.


IMAGE CREDITS (FROM TOP): Mushroom Book Plate X (with Lois Long and Alexander H. Smith), 1972  Colour lithograph; Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel, 1969. Lithograph on Black Paper; River Rocks and Smoke: 4-11-90 #1, 1990;  Score Without Parts (40 Drawings by Thoreau): Twelve Haiku, 1978. Hard-ground etching, soft-ground etching, photoetching, drypoint, sugar aquatint, and engraving; Dramatic Fire, 1989. Aquatint on smoked paper; Where There is Where There – Urban Landscape, No.27, 1987- 89. Flat bite etching with aquatint. Courtesy Crown Point Press; New River Watercolour Series IV, No.6, 1988. Watercolour on paper; New River Watercolour Series I, No.3, 1988. Watercolour on paper; HV2, No. 17b, 1992. Aquatint (using twenty-four plates). Courtesy Crown Point Press; Global Village 37-48 (Diptych), 1989. Aquatint on brown smoked paper; Dereau, No.11, 1982. Colour photoetching with engraving, drypoint and aquatint; 75 Stones, 1989. Aquatint on smoked paper; 10 Stones, 1989. Colour soap ground aquatint and spit bite aquatint on smoked paper; (7R)/15 (Where R=Ryoanji), August 1983. Pencil on Japanese handmade paper. Courtesy Ray Kass; Where R=Ryoanji: R3, 1983. Drypoint. Courtesy Henning Lohner. All images © The John Cage Trust.



In Uncategorized on March 1, 2011 at 9:03 pm

[Free Writing from the Sleep Room]


[verbatim] If I could cross time. Beckett writes, “straggling grey moustache and hunted look.” A good way to describe. It is 22:07. Not yet time, the registration does not start for another hour. Black nails. Clock ring. Blue pen. Glowing finger. Red. Lamp x 2, 2 x on. White blanket. White room. Eye in the sky directly in front of me & omniscient. “Watch the television, you’re on vacation.” “But to me this is work.” Structures repeat & give, with only a small space of tenure. I forget words lately. Keep wanting to write, “she winged into the room.” Volcanic ash fastens these electrodes to my head. “She winged into the volcano.” How does one write when one’s being winged into a volcano? Only urgent words. Punctuation gets thrown to the sidelines. A bird in the falafel restaurant, it brushed up against me. One of those small precious things, I felt the flutter of its wings against my ankle & N. said, “that’s for your dreams tonight.”  But Faulkner, I was thinking of Faulker repeating “attenuation” in Absolom, Absolom! again and again & at 1st you think it’s because he’s forgetting that he’s used it, but then, he points to it at one point. He says something like “‘attenuation’, a better word ,” – something like that – it’s a wonderful moment, you see that he chooses it and no other. And that’s the key: that a word itself can become a character. Also a sentence, if repeated enough. This, this, this. Character is repetition of structure. I am wrapped in special kinds of tapes & wires. I am islanded w/i this exoskeleton of measurement. A half an hour has passed. Not quite enough. What is it to wake & write. Perhaps I will try tonight. The room is on the cool side. My apartment lies alone, uninhabited, away from my restless sleeps & somnamulent wakings. What extents do we go to for material. What is this material for? All this stuff. Who. What. Nohow On is Beckett’s book here in front of me under the writing pad. Indeed. “Bonjour,” Nessie says outside to one of the patients. 4 of us here tonight, I only know of 1 other. I heard him through the wall. An American guy. Here for epilepsy I think. All those delicate wires. I found a blonde hair amongst them. Remnant of 1 who has been here before. Blonde hair, feathers, brushing against. One of the small, delicate ones. There are so many textures in this room, a corrugated plastic that looks like a snake shedding. The EMG tight around my ribcage reads


patient unit

“You can be  my first patient,” she said at the beginning of the night. Pathologized from the getgo, though I am only here to. Writing as pathology. So we have: the bird at the falafel place (brushing), word as character, my right index finger glowing red. Faulkner & ‘attenuate’, McCarthy, this amazing sentence in the opening of The Road – something about a spider. He takes from what he knows & he makes it into these delicately wrought epics. So much attention to each little thing. 10:49 & still on the page. Maybe this is how to write. Extreme situations. Embla Patient Unit. Islanded. Patiented. Pathological. Slightly chilly. My task here is to sleep. No computer. Black lines coming through this white page, penned. Biking through Kreuzberg is where I felt most free. To go straight into sleep from writing, when is the last time I’ve done that. Writing –> then straight into sleep. Glowing red finger. Experience as character. Vice versa. To write in the you & have it be spoken aloud (11 :00) would give the idea of a voice talking to the one who looks upon the writing. Beckett: “what an additional company that would be! A voice in the first person singular. Murmuring now and then, yes I remember” (13). Images are sentences. I look at myself from the inside, not the out. Sleep: is also looking from the inside & yet I must compose from the out. How do I get in? Not unless I am asleep. And yet to record sleep in words from the outside, words, which are always awake, does it even make sense. The images are an algorithm. Imagist. McCarthy’s spider. Faulkner’s ‘attenuation’, Beckett’s play with ‘you’ ‘I’ ‘he’ so that the ‘I’ dissolves. I in the sky. Filmed. There are no windows in this room of walls.



“… a (you couldn’t call it a period because as he remembered it or as he told grandfather he did, it didn’t have either a definite beginning or a definite ending. Maybe attenuation is better) – an attenuation from a kind of furious inertness and patient immobility…” (Faulkner Ab, Ab !)

“And to the far shore a creature that raised its dripping mouth from the rimstone pool and stared into the light with eyes dead white and sightless as the eggs of spiders” (McCarthy The  Road)


Sketch by Gilles Boss. Note: in the installation, the projector is meant to go behind the mattresses, not in front.

You walk into a simple black room with a curtain entrance and lie down on one of the mattresses provided. You look up. There’s a video projected onto a white ceiling and a small mirror angled down towards you. It looks like jagged brainwaves are passing across a large computer screen and you can see them pass across your body, too, in the reflection.

There is a layering of voices surrounding you inside the black room, female, somehow connected to the brainwaves. You realize it is words. In the shape of waves. The voices are repetitive, at times a whisper. Every once in a while a single word or a fragment crests from the waves, and you can read something; sometimes, amongst the voices, you can listen in, understand; the two connect.

The video seems to loop and repeat, and you get the feeling of being trapped in the middle of a very small apperture of space that is somehow unfathomable. The time at the top of the screen shows no more than minutes, very early in the morning, but its seconds seem to stretch out forever.

When you emerge from the black room, you are asked what the words said and what the voices said and you find this difficult to describe.



This is the last of three posts that comprise Sandra Huber’s SLEEP/ WRITING/ ROOMS. Part 1 is here and Part 2 here.