PART 3: RITUALIZED SACRIFICE, GAUGING THE MATERIAL-SOCIAL

PART 3: RITUALIZED SACRIFICE, GAUGING THE MATERIAL-SOCIAL

(from Conditions of Poetic Production and Reception)

NK: In theatre, specifically in Artaud’s theatre-world, there is this way of approaching
some felt “pre-” that lingers into the “now,” so felt and so lingering as traces of violence
wreaked in and on the subject, through the very emergence of the “subject” as such.
Social aversions (verbally or physically spanked into us as children) always form in
reference to some socially-shared pleasure once felt, now demoralized, so subversive it
threatens society’s structures in this “now.” Homosexuality; cannibalism; polyamory;
miscegenation. Ourselves as subjects rise up out of learning these social aversions;
sacrifice (of pleasure, Eros, Dionysian compulsions) is paramount; Artaud’s theatreworld
births itself. Transgression of social aversions becomes stage energy (whether
pornographic, theatrical, private), simulations of what’s sacrificed through selfpreservation
in order to succeed within legal and moral modern society. Adorno: “In
class society, the self’s hostility to sacrifice includes a sacrifice of the self, since it was
paid for by a denial of nature in the human being for the sake of mastery over
extrahuman nature and over other human beings.”

Whereas poetic discourse chats up, theatre ritualizes in order to make live this site of
birth (of the modern human) and violence (to the human)… while I write around this site
of violence “now,” I could be “performing” it, embodied…. “poetic discourse” becomes
non-transgressive, in this light….

RT: Totally, I hear you on this question of controlled, non-harmful (to persons)
consensual violence. Just recently, I made a near total mess of my “respectable”
“poetic” self at a gallery in the Chelsea art district here in NYC. The event was for the
launch of a poetry journal, Eco Poetics, which is edited by Jonathan Skinner, somebody
who I consider to be an ally in the world of poetry, who’s always edging poetic discourse
to the “outer” somewheres and sometime else’s—away from the glitzarama of urban
<exchange-value fixated> poetics.

There were a only handful of poetic compeers present at the event, a teeny
spectatorship, to be precise. I felt comfy cozy, but also, something was gyrating inside
of me, something unstable, eruptive, something impossibly total feeling. The posh
district in the midst of a recession, the national cultural liberal-left slumberama under
Obama, my actual twitchy cock alerted (unsure), the burning afterglow of six-mile subseven-min. pace training run, a “poetics theater” praxis on the verge of collapse (this
always, hence a “performative” calm heating up), the Belgian yeasty brew in my water
bottle, these factors and a half-dozen more (many half-consciously known to me) I gave
into as fully as I could, there, then.

Right off, I should say that I found people’s readings before me to be quite interesting;
each one had an amazingly ample perspective on cultural matters, each reader
stimulated me. So the run-up was a launching point too.

When I got up, I initially felt like tossing the podium out onto the street; short of that,
after crawling on my knees toward it (a half-committed snarky gesture that I critically
disagree with in retrospect, in that it served as a mere stand-in to a more thorough act),
I tipped it on its side (left to right, back and forth), very slowly, carefully, feeling/reading
its “tip-point,” the point at which if I let it go, it would crash on the ground. From that
point on, the podium (which I didn’t “use” at all for the rest of my reading) became a kind
of “tested” partner in the space.

Next, I distributed several sections from “Feel Your Media—Bitch” to several people
present. We read passages like this out loud:

R: You interested in mind-fucking?
S: Mhm.

R: You want to see the poets mind-fucking poets?
S: Yeah.

R: You sure you want’ em?
S: I’m sure.

R: They’re going to give you an overall physical first…alright?
S: Ok.

R: Okay?
S: Yeah, that’s fine.

R: Yeah?
S: Mhm.

R: Are you stupid?
S: Hardly.

R: You’re not?
S: No.

R: You know what you want?
S: —I know what I want.


Afterwards I got on the ground and did “plank tumbles” (on my back, legs flung high in
the air, then plopping down really hard; incidentally, I re-injured a gimpy ankle doing
that). During that exertion, I had two spectators alternatively say, “mm—hm” and
“siddown, slut!” After that, I put my ear to the ground, and began to very forcefully “assslap”
the ground in offset jaunty rhythms to lines like these:

“Every single minute, second, of people—around the globe—recording—distributing—
their plight—for all the world—to see—to become—us—for a minute, a second, is—”

“Every single—bone—broken—gash—sustained—retained—by the people—is a
plexiglass crack—on the snazzy eye of—the idol’s—crooked—face”


Anyway…there were about six more such physical-verbal activities…and it sounds
rather fitful all of it (about 12 minutes total), and it no doubt came off as such to some—
and how not?

What in the world was I after? (Also, given that “Feel Your Media—Bitch” was written to
be “performed” (god I hate that word) by five people along with music, the piece lasting
just under one hour). Well, I have a hard time answering that straight out, to be honest
with you. I wasn’t in pursuit of anything that would “stick” or necessarily “make a scene,”
that’s for sure. It seemed more a moment of pure expenditure without any “lift” (artistic
or even immediately political poetic lift) from the event. I also don’t think I was being
“transgressive” per say, nor do believe I was force-feeding a “critique” of anything
specific. Was it a series of “compulsions” dumped on people, just because I could? The
day after, I definitely felt so, but now, I most decidedly say no.

Ok—I should take a crack at it—what was I doing? Well, your excellent gloss on
Adorno’s quote about social-material “personal” sacrifice is very clutch for me to even
begin to think of it. So, I’d say my action that night was a ritualized “sacrifice” of selfpreservative moments previous to the “event,” specifically, political representative
moments (as expended by text, as re-potentialized by several psychodynamic bodily
responses to those text-meanings). Perhaps it was a desperate way of hailing &
demonstrating the very ability to have social-political art “act out” of its “own” accord (a
neo-modernist illusion, to be sure, but still, different orders of action angling in on the
problematic of political representation).

Question (feeling rather empty now): how does one gauge connection—in full
disbelief—and still have it mean something?

R: You interested in rotating devices?
S: Mhm.

R: You want to see gauges gauging gauges?
S: Yeah.

R: You sure you want’ em?
S: I’m sure.

R: They’re going to give you a sensation of expanding fast—at first…alright?
S: Ok.

R: Okay?
S: Yeah, that’s fine.

R: Yeah?
S: Mhm.

R: Are you naturally artistic?
S: Hardly.

R: You’re not?
S: No.

R: You know what you want?
S: —I know what I want.


NK: Connection—in full disbelief—to me, implies the fundamental mediation of
everything thus connected. Wish I could have seen this playing (rather than
performance) at the gallery; what I imagine you to be enacting, in part, is a living
illustration of the ways that sensuous, human, bodily energies (including those energies
that go into the pretty much aesthetically-not-sensuous drudgery of rote, repetitive
jobplace work) get ossified in material things, and how these things can “dominate.”
That podium, it needed to come down, feel its foundations rocked, why? So that the
conceptual, theoretical assumptions of the audience are rocked—that podium placed in
front of poets at a gallery opening being like a manifestation of Aesthetic Assumptions
as such.

This starts to reveal the question of how to target and effect the very mediation of
connections between things and people – how to intercede in that. Even in the title of
your piece, “Feel Your Media—Bitch” (FYMB), I think there’s an implied compulsion to
intercede into the mediation of media (if I can get away with that), to foreground that, to
portray “intimate” one-on-one sensuous interactions as hyperreal experiences of media,
to suggest media as the real-ist that this world gets, and, like in an later episode of
FYMB, to actually bring a laptop on stage and present the “intimate” relationship
between machine and body that many of us experience daily.

Where I find the “gauging” of connections most creatively (and, even, politically)
charged, for me at this moment, is in looking at subjectivities – of role-players, and how
these roles mediate our subjectivities to such a total extent, who’s to say what lies
“outside” the roles we inhabit? In that later scene in FYMB, with a laptop on stage and
players reading from the screen (with certain quite subtle role-affectations developed in
the poetics themselves), the thing, the computer, is what “delivers” the subject positions
to these role-players. I mean that they literally find their expression (their lines) inside
the thing, but also more abstractly depend on this object to facilitate their social
relationship to both the artificial “scene” and poetics theater space, as well as to the
audience and the porous sociality of the world that continues to drudge no matter what
subversive piece is performed in whatever hallway or closet. The agency given, lying in,
exorcised out of, the object in the episode…fascinates me.

Because: as if it’s not hard enough to deal with the connective mediations (and
antagonisms therein) between yourself and another body; as if it’s not enough to
attempt communication while speaking out of the multiple masks you don, layered to
ridiculousness—it’s in part only in interaction with some inanimate object (computers,
increasingly) that you’re able to make manifest, for a flicker of a moment, the felt and
projected traces of an identity that’s socially validated, verifiable. It’s like…the most
magical theatre Artaud could have posited becomes increasingly necessary, possible,
and utterly subsumable in the encroaching of objects into our subjective roles. What
makes us…us…is what, very tangentially, I see FYMB grabbing at—what says my face
isn’t merely a trace of my media?

Well (phew) there’s still body-to-body contact. Can’t stay subjectively mediated through
virtual wavelengths forever, luckily. I guess returning to your question, it seems like
foregrounding where and how the subjectivity of an individual slips into some
personification of an object, how objects seem to require their presence in order for
bodies to make manifest a socially valid identity (even if it lasts only momentarily)
necessarily gauges connection while necessarily proving it trouble-laden. To me there’s
an absolutely immediate relationship, one that jumps out, between this and political,
global concerns—where objects and subjects and their antagonisms are totally charged
roles in which to analyze events.

RT: I think you just hit on it—why it bugged me kneel-walking up to the podium. At that
moment, it wasn’t about the podium (its object <social> status)—it was about a solitary-subjective moment, a “me,” what He “thought” about it. You know, I could have just said
that, “and then…he kneel-walks up to the podium, the gesture, a mock reverence of
still-bodied utterance; it collapses into its opposite; mock becomes frock of podium authority,
oops.” What followed though, I think speaks to your “connective mediations.”
The actual tipping of the podium, demonstrated a tension between it and me, and by
apprehension of that “what’s going to happen; what do I want to see happen” moment, a
tension between the spectators themselves is brought into momentary being. The
realization of points-of-no-return in social relations is still what’s on the table, politically, 
for me. The word is still Revolution. Tipping points, tons of them, building up toward it.
But the object (touched, handled, engaged) wasn’t tipped, it wasn’t crashed on the
ground, so the object-status of the language that followed after that activity can be said
to be neither prologue nor epilogue to that act of tipping. What is it? It’s the politically
intentional positing of an unstable field of possibilities, not “random” or “chance” based
possibilities, but rather, body-based, the actual impulse someone felt to come and help
hold it up or to knock it down, that was preserved. The “drama” from that moment on
is—how is this us—going to be expended. Feel Your Media—Bitch.

But these are Poetics Theater tactics. I want to return to your notion (the way I read it)
of a PT strategy, beginning with this “lingering traces of violence wreaked in and on the
subject, through the very emergence of the “subject” as such,” the stuff about “social
aversion,” as made—how to put it—sensible (?) through “sacrifice.” What’s haunting me
is your suggestion of (actual) body-rupture as poetic strategy.

Can “social aversion” hold up (long enough) to detourn it?

What might be the opposite of “mastery over extrahuman nature and over other human
beings (in order to succeed within legal and moral modern society)?”

Can the commodity be made to bleed?

NK: That the podium wasn’t tumbled is indeed revealing. The challenges of articulation
have been, and will be, many. But articulate we must—Revolution, or “the realization of
points-of-no-return,”as apt as any a place to“begin.” I get this uncanny, almost fateful
sensation in articulating myself right now, because there’s a dire risk of receding from
this moment of unleashed potential that you speak about. Language comes right now
(or is always already here) to flatten me out, skewing allusions to action into mere
verbal traces of those actions as soon as they’re articulated. Right now I can’t write realtime,
that’s the necessary element to writing, versus song, play, theatre (embodied
forms). Hence I think your language in FYMB was neither prologue nor epilogue to
Revolution (symbolized by a tipsy podium) because it was mediated by body
movement. There’s no direct antagonism between language and action; instead I think
there’s multiple, simultaneous antagonisms, and because of this, the artist can find
ways to skirt and shimmy into, between, amongst these antagonisms. If it was a direct,
binary relationship of opposition between action and language, or speech and writing,
we’d be screwed.

And so I guess I’m starting out by talking about tactics here, as well. The ideas of
sacrifice and ritual are really important to me right now because in them I see a zone
where these multiple antagonisms are not flattened, nor presumed “over,” nor abhorred.
They’re lived through and they threaten, and when we sacrifice to them we risk losing
identity—and walk into that, knowing it’s likely a space we’ll inhabit. If the object-world
seems to subject us to its own rules and regulations, if we’re increasingly asked to find
our reflections through the mediation of exchange, sacrifice removes the quasiautonomous,
concealed agency in the object by setting up parameters. I think certain
ritualized practices, by making equivalence overt rather than hidden, create a space
where we can imagine a world in which commodities no longer assert themselves as
social entities. By setting up something to sacrifice, or to sacrifice to, what’s concealed
in an exchange relation is brought into full relief. I don’t mean, however, constructing a
wide system of sacrifice that defers responsibility to some kind of myth or messiah
“beyond” the lived world—just that ritualized spaces in the lived world are generative. I
think there’s a major relationship between the (inherently exclusionary) recuperation of
a person’s identity through the mediation of objects and the concealed nature of the
object-world itself. Exploring one of these sites effects, or bleeds into, the other. This
begins to suggest where actual body-rupture might be political action. Body-rupture
would be a tactic. Inhabiting social aversions causes identity to reconstitute—this is
body-rupture.

How to place this historically. One thing I’m starting to think is that an historical
placement isn’t necessarily antagonistic to real-time. That it has been from the… I don’t
know, inception of Western philosophy, okay, but it doesn’t have to be. You are
interested in and so talented at revealing those points-of-no-return because I think
you’re really aware that these moments are also spaces in which energy is contributing.
Points-of-no-return are so-named because from an historical glance-back, we perceive
them as such—they can’t be called that unless we’re straining our necks behind us to
see how the world appears in perspective. So you can’t “see” it, a point-of-no-return, as
it’s happening, because it qualitatively isn’t that. Quantitatively it isn’t that either; I mean
that the historical glance-back also necessarily changes the elemental structure, adds
and subtracts the quantitative parts that we say constitute that “period of Revolution.”
The way a bank of statistics hones in on particularities, while therein excluding others,
quantifying (therefore qualifying) some while disquantifying and disqualifying others.

So an historically engaged rupture might be kind of what we’re talking about here. Your
work, I think, tends to construct and allude to that time and space of rupture, attempting
to tactically produce and embody it. Maybe one way of gauging a work’s rupture is
whether or not the work itself bleeds: how does it leave traces, and does it trickle.
Are we asking for blood, then? In a way I think I am, in a ritualized way I am. Man, if you
or I could articulate an alternative to that mastery (and slavery) required in the individual
in order to be an individual in modern society—we’d have some things solved, huh! A
giant conversation. Well, I think part of the problem is how we suffer from internal and
external equivalences between radically nonequivalent parts (in ourselves and –
expanded – to the global). A rupture of the object and of the body (however poetic you
want to take that) exposes this fetishism. Would that, could that make something bleed?
Would it point towards something else besides a recuperated individual? Would that
also be a fundamentally different set of material relations? Yeah, I think so. What
“comes first,” though? That’s – the point-of-no-return perspective; right now what we
can do is revel in contributing energy.

RT: Stealing, the solitary (or shared solitary) pleasures of stealing, comes from rerouting
the location of objects without crossing the requisite gates of exchange (to “skirt”
to “shimmy”). Ok, let’s say it’s a bag of fancy ground coffee at your local (chain)
coffeehouse. One might say, it’s “there,” right? “There it is, on the shelf, gleaming,
aching for location-transfer.” Well, it isn’t “there.” Boulders tossed up by a volcano end
up as “there.” Commodities are never “there.” They are always in motion—as dynamic
social relations. So, if, as proletariats [classic nomenclature retains grains of ground
pleasure & pain]—if as proles, our human labor-power (as commodity) is never “there”
either (no matter how much lotus meditative stillness is flung at it), then, where is it? It
is, as we’ve been saying, bleeding, bleeding onto others’ (approximate) locations
(“affect”). Save for solitary sages proclaiming otherwise, the jig is on, we’re both in
circulation and are circulatory entities. “Current mood”—ekphrastical.

So location of objects (which I’d prefer to call bobjects, so as to induce objects to bob on
up, pop, rupture) is not just about rational “decisions” and civic “negotiations,” but
largely about subtle spatial power struggles (what we used to call the “distributive
dimension of production”). These spatialized antagonisms are the very pulse of the
post-modern city, sometimes inaudible, sometimes quite deafening (btw, “struggles”
without attention to location, let’s call them stroogles, ie, “a stroogle for justice;” too
many stroogles on the Literary Left, actually).

Ok, what are the requisite gates of exchange as regards Aesthetics?

At the level of the Art Bobjectry (text, film, “a night of multimedia blah blah…”), I’d say,
the gates appear as abstractions, degrees of bodily-impulses that get marked-up as
ideological bruising, gashing, and that ever-so-slight blush on the pate of “taste.”

R: You interested in rotating devices?
S: Mhm.

R: You want to see gauges gauging gauges?
S: Yeah.


It’s by confronting (engaging-to-bypass) abstractions (masks) that we start to “heat up”
in terms of a desire to construct a more naked, less recuperable individual ™.

Say I’m a “random passerby” walking into a gallery space in Chelsea. Say I’m an
historically-always-teething actor never quite synchronized to “my time?” I’m no titanium
cheetah stolen from some other district, I am homo laborans in this district in search of a
steal myself. What is my time? What’s here for me? Will the whole mass of the cities’
proles “receive” my love tonight? Will it accept “rejection” too? Will the bribes be prickly
funny, or with they fall flat? The requisite gates of exchange, what are they?

{S on knees into “patty cake” position; R on knees, arms up in surrender position; J on
knees in arms over head arrested position; N on knee clasping hands together in
solidarity hand-shake position; M on knees, with both hands into Muslim deathmourning
position (hands outstretched, clasped together as if offering a meal, but close
to face, head bent downwards; all hold positions for 30 seconds}

{voice clip (N)} Confirm me, baby.

{full-body position rotations: S now with arms up in surrender position; R into knees in
arms over head arrested position; J on knee clasping hands together in solidarity handshake
position; N on knees, with both hands into Muslim death-mourning position
(hands outstretched, clasped together as if offering a meal, but close to face, head bent
downwards; M into “patty cake” position; all hold positions for 20 seconds}

{voice clip (N)} Yeah I’ll play patty cake with you alright!
____
Part 3 of “Conditions of Poetic Production and Reception” first appeared in print in West
Coast Line 62. Parts 1 & 2, “Squat Theatre and Crisis” and “Body Capacitance and
Edging in Poetics Theater” can be found at Jacket Magazine40. Part 4 “New Resistant
Subjects (Bot to Bot)” appears in The Poetic Front Vol 3 No 1. Part 5 “Transitions of
Capitalist Hyperspace (shake your booty)” appears in Issue 2 of Critiphoria

Barzakh Mag