Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kocik in SF, Noel and Burger at Pilot in Seattle

Two great events below, both of which I'll miss due to being out of down. This is certainly turning into the week of kicking self for not being someplace where important things are happening.

Prior to the newsletter announcements below, a word on Kocik's Nonsite Collective talk/discussion. Which can also be said of what's occurring in Seattle's small poetry community lately, by the way. An urgency and vitality I really admire, much of it spurred by longer-time Seattle poets such as Robert Mittenthal and Nico Vassilakis, much of it picked up on and done with by a newer, hungry crowd of politically invested artists.

Anyway, regarding Robert's work. It was Kocik who, along with Amber DiPietra, Thom Donovan, and Eleni Stecopolous (among many other Nonsite participants), if I remember correctly, began focusing in on somatics a few years ago as part of a "disability" and poetics curriculum (series of events). It was this curriculum that got me deeply interested in the Nonsite Collective, and thus eventually involved. I felt that the questions being asked and the activities which resulted from the Collective (see the website for curriculum materials, essays, etc) were vital on myriad levels, but what I appreciated most was a radical sensibility that showed its vulnerabilities, that desired to critique its own positions while also focusing in on problems that I felt to be the most urgent and often least asked in regard to the relationships between art, sociality, and the political. "Cross disciplinary research" hopes to defend against specialist power brokering and stagnation. Each person involved, regardless of background, was and is committed to asking questions central to making aesthetic practice through cross-disciplinary research a practice, an ongoing field of honest discovery and mutual care-making, which, as Kocik notes in one of his talks up at Nonsite Collective's website, in a sense defines aesthetic practice as that which opposes various forms (systems) of oppression.

Post-ableist poetics and somatics were, and are, central to my work, first in performance and the physics of labor organizing years ago, and second, as this body developed a deadly degenerative disease--one that I still have trouble embracing, even dealing with, especially now as this mouth tries to speak fast for a performance of Maledetto and often can't make it--and has thus largely turned to more sustained acts of writing and stillness. Through all of that Robert's work has spoken to me: his commitment to social change (which involves interrogating what we mean by "social change") is very, very real. It demands of us a collective doing, an active collective inquiry. His multi-genre book Overcoming Fitness was one of the additives for the fuel that first got me writing Occultations--the first few strokes years ago--and attending to performance again, believing that there are more physical acts I could perform. Amber DiPietra and Petra Kuppers have also been vital in this regard, and by late 2007 I could say the same regarding Nonsite Collective, as a self-sustaining whole, as well as each of the participants, as they circled around what gets counted as "disability" and why. These honest conversations had me hooked, for lack of a better vocab.

So as the commons curriculum (last summer's curriculum) developed itself, what emerged again was an interest in a relationship between post-abelism (disability activisms and poetics) and somatic practices. Both Thom Donovan and myself honed in on this relationship in different ways for our talks/discussions. Robert also contributed an awesome essay on commoning ("Stanzas in Commoning") during this time, which also discussed somatics-commoning inseparability, sending it to Thom and I, among a few others, over email--available now by way of the Nonsite Collective front page--which I then gave "analysis" (response) to by way of a poem written (started) a week later during a hospital visit. I mention this because Robert stresses not just orienting around "sorely needed" and missing services, but poets giving up proprietary relationship to the body by way of, among other things, gaining extra-poetic, or even non-poetic knowledges, developing understanding of the terrain of other fields (such as that of the post-industrial medical complex, or property law, or domestic spycraft, etc), to anyway move from the myopia of institutional concerns--even writing per se--and towards developing critique of and participatory alternatives to the oppressive features/arguments of just such analytical systems (using what strengths we have, perhaps writing, perhaps not).

In hospital a week after Robert's call, it was more clear than ever how opaque our understanding of this vast complex really is. What small learned practices have I at my disposal to make visible and visceral this opacity? Language arts, obviously, but with that skilled labor also comes quite a bit of experience with research techniques, observational and otherwise--but most importantly, the time--here--to impassively witness. To turn site into nonsite. That and turning nonsite back into site is what Robert's work here helps clarify and expand. As often enough what gets counted as "expert analysis" or sorely needed specialty (cf medical discourses, the gaze, the creole of insurance "options") under neoliberal capitalism amounts to those in power stealing resources and excluding the vast majority of us from even understanding the terrain enough to form an immediate response (which is why "transparency" though important often means little), and there are ways both to expose and remediate some of this were poetry (and of course any other field) to move outside its own sphere of exchange. We need become better interlopers, better cross-disciplinary collaborators, in other words, into specialist worlds, to know these systems and their languages--these oppressive institutionality--in deep, not just gestural, ways. And conversely to use what strengths we do have, by way of what we practice with one another, to do so with, for, and as one another (as common body).

For my talk, and in previous email discussion with Robert, we were both excited by the potential for the body to be- or become commons. For the body (or "a body") to be the initial site of radicalization, giving over, laying bare to another or others for subsistence, mutual care. To deprivitize the body as moment one in an activist process. But how? Under what conditions? For whom? And in what ways that do not make for a Borg-like living room scene (pardon the Trek reference)? Regardless, to begin with a body, I think Robert, Thom, and I generally agreed (as have many others in Nonsite and elsewhere), is to acknowledge this as necessary condition for any enlarged aesthetic-political set of actions--for further commoning, for organizing, and so forth.

So Robert, now after several months of further thinking, making, and self-critiquing (I can only assume), comes back to the questions we were circling around during the summer curriculum and (I'm obviously excited to see) challenges us to do, to find some direct routes and go--to haul ass (OK, my words, not his). To use our disadvantages to our advantage (so to speak). Not that we weren't actively making or collectively doing over the summer and since, but I love the directly stated urgency of Robert's blurb-invite below. And no doubt there will be some much needed re-thinking and extending of prior suppositions, activities, statements, etc. Because Robert, I've come to understand, does not sit still--even a little. He doesn't languish with an idea. I so wish I could go to this. I'll be with my father and brother over the holiday, so if interested in attending, please contact Nonsite Collective. And look out for further info/talk excerpts/links etc on Nonsite's website (front page).

NONSITE || Robert Kocik's "Offering Up the Body As Food".

Please join us this Wednesday, December 22nd at 7pm for a conversation with visiting architect, artist, and poet Robert Kocik.

Robert writes of his thematic, "Offering Up the Body as Food," "I'd like to place together (as they are inseparable) two major Nonsite concerns: commoning and somatics. Perhaps the discursive is getting us down (it's so little of what we are and what language is). It's hard to get the commoning meetings to get us anywhere (just as when I work with the Phoneme Choir or teach saw-sharpening or voice, if I don't cut the talk and just 'do,' there is no transformation.) Spread-thin is the mode we're all in and need to use to our advantage. Let me introduce INSTEADS (instead of what we'd be doing otherwise, instead of our recognizable artworks, instead of the status quo and to some extent instead of homesteading (in that all the land is already owned) as clear (well, luminous) objectives to be carried out. Wholly speaking, somatics is tripartite: bodywork and then offering up the energized body as activism and I-lessness (the ultimate protest against privatization). Thus commoning, though seemingly an objectiveworld practice, comes from emptying and quickening of compassion within. What I see with I aside (what hurts most and offers the greatest alleviation): Planned Pauperization Of Almost Everybody (PPOAE) and the need to translate the green of the forest of the commons of old as today's money like water or air, nobody should be able to own a billion parts to another's one. Taxation is an unsolvable distraction preemptive maldistribution is the work of poets. Vowed to change, as it is from the power of vow that means arise."



Sunday 19 Dec 7p at pilot books
219 Broadway E - Upstairs in the Alley Building

Melanie Noel writes poems, often in correspondence with musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers and their work. She lives in Seattle.

Mary Burger is a writer, visual artist, and landscape designer living in the Bay Area. Right now she’s wondering aboutRobert Smithson’s relationship to environmentalism.

From an introduction at subtext in 2006:

Burger balances what might be an inherent need to make meaning with a “rigorous skepticism about a fixed privileged subjectivity” and acknowledgment that language controls us as much as or more than we control it. Meaning is thus “something negotiated between participants, not something absolute.”
In an interview ( she talks about wanting to resituate the confessional. Instead of relying on an extremely simplistic point of view, she wants to embrace the “complex, almost inconceivably polyvalent context in which any utterance exists.” To explore different registers of language and utterance – and experience.
Your Golden Gate
The obligation of the living? Verify, in solitude, the veracity of perception. Resolve the discontents of desire and repulsion. Find value, pleasure, and significance. Or anything at all.
I labored through undergraduate Heidegger, I romanticized high school Camus, and I believed in the achievements of the mind. Did I understand then that the obligation doesn’t end? Illusoriness of perception. Disorientation of desire. Disruption of time. Infinite potential, infinitely vulnerable. Each realization the seed of its own demise.

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