Thursday, March 17, 2011

Exciting Read O The Day: Williams on Toscano on Williams on CPT

[I cannot watch the news any longer. The images are too much. Panic attack earlier I think precipitated by them. On in background as I heard first in the morn about the traveling radiation. Selfishly thought about my mother. Went back to bed. Then: The death toll, as of my return tonight to this, the afternoon break-from-work post, is at 13,000 and rising in Japan. And the discussion over the numbers and images is what this means for the American and global economies, which is to say the stock market... Panic does you no good my grandpa used to say in the showers before going in his retiree complex pool... afraid not of the pool but the showers, toxic I used to know they were toxic to us.]


Doing my once-a-day break n read, then write, I came across new responses to the Labor Day 2010 event now on that event's blog, which as I write this, "event's blog" feels productively problematic in relation to the conversation that had me getting up from my chair and pacing several times in a row (first time that's happened this week). I've only read one response, the others later, but the Williams-Toscano piece is a deeply exciting one. I suspect Alli Warren, Suzanne Stein, Brandon Brown, David Brazil, and Sara Larsen (and contributors to) will not mind me excerpting what I take to be one of the disappearing axes of Tyrone Williams' piece on Toscano (or Toscano's on Williams, or the two as they morph thru each other):

CPT (even the small part I witnessed at Miami University, Ohio in early 2009) relentlessly puts forth the dilemma of articulating positions for resistance, if not opposition, and the seemingly impossibility (or difficulty) of locating positions for resistance, and yet the radical non-site of CPT suggests that this indeterminate (in space and time) resistance might be more potent than any kind of localized/specified politics of opposition since the “opposite” itself has been annexed by capitalism/imperialism and the historical failure of a Marxism contorted into “premature” states—a prematurity that resulted in totalitarianism. Would these histories serve as warnings for what is posed at the outset of CPT, that “premature truncation into social discourse in general”? Would poetic discourse, here, serve as a kind of anti-absorptive obstacle and reserve for a culture and economics founded on the innovation/obsolescence dyad?

Rodrigo Toscano from (New Resistant Subjects [Bot to Bot]} part 4 of Conditions of Poetic Production and Reception

One way that [kari] edwards invited the precariousness that we‘re talking about (―not an avant-garde that must think itself in relation to an ‗outside‘…or one that plays in sandboxes of semiotics forever either‖) was by incorporating biological-physical death as an inbuilt limit to key life-making processes (labor, art, sex); and by extension, the ―freedoms‖ that these processes suggest, that they must be embraced as completely as possible. But I would suggest too that these same ―life-making processes,‖ – that they too, be understood as constrictions to yet other life-making processes, ones that are as yet unidentified. This would suggest a rather strange embrace of anti-―purpose‖ (even as voluntary degradation!) so that we have to make curiosity, make the chimerical, make the evanescent even, that is, in contrast to ―research.

There is not only translation of a poetics into a space there is only translation of the body into the body in another space even if—especially if—the body is the “same.” This body typing this today, 1/18/10, MLK Day, a “national holiday,” is not the same body that will soon arise from this chair.. 

Williams' and Toscano's (re)turn to the body here is crucial for current and future political-poetic (aesthetic) engagement. The body as first site(s) of resistance and transformation, of becoming; and the absorptive economy that blocks and threatens to block a return (or turn) to the body as such. There's more than an analogy between labor organizing in the concerted, more directly goal-driven way one thinks of such organizing, and the CPT discussion Williams and Toscano engage in here (not to mention Williams' poetry, and in CPT itself).

It's that "getting up from my chair" or "arise from this chair" moment, the determinate coordinates of that getting up or not getting up, and the indeterminacy-potential of that motion, that I'm interested in. In Williams' beautiful reminder of the little deaths each of us undergoes in the moment the body rises. But also in the parameters (perceived and "actual") in the moment between starting to rise and having risen into (unto?) something else. Here getting "stuck" in that middle position can be thought of as an affective disability now re- or de-articulated as liminal strength, as capacity of/thru the as-yet and the un-named. I'm interested in this. And in relation to Williams' wondering whether CPT enacts thru its continual moments of release-time (where bodies under stressful reaching--these entities--desire us to release them for more pleasurable future positions), an indeterminate resistance (and tension) that might be "more potent than any kind of localized/specified politics of opposition, since the "opposite" itself has been annexed by capitalism/imperialism."

[ Toscano and Williams discuss edwards' commitment to the possibilities the body's embrace (as acknowledgment, as limit, but as therefore possibility-making) of its own death in this regard, as to embrace life-making processes of labor, sex, art, to truly hold onto them, is to allow for the body to translate into another, for these little deaths to occur along the way (a letting go and return, a continual dispersal and return, an urgency there in this process). And what edwards' poetics and activism might afford us here (a gorgeous right-on connection come what may), and my thinking of the counter-commonsense involved in that giving over to another, in a kind of death of self and so its return but transfigured, this embrace (presence), instancing a poetic that closes gaps between just-then and just-now, between representation and non, between bodies (life-giving contact and giving up of propriety in a sense, a more than acknowledgment, in each instance, sex, art, labor, speaking of de-privatization), where radical liminality, even disappearance or non-legibility at moments of contact (not in general but in these generative moments of greatest urgency, intimate) can be counter-intuitively a potent resistance of indeterminacy, becoming--hence a making or opening up to what Toscano senses these processes might be constricting? I don't know... I think of edwards here in relation to Dean Spade lately, having just read the work of both, together...]

That unexpected difficulty--prima facie impossibility, for some--of getting up (where "to get up" isn't an abelist or normative notion, but obviously metaphorical of any social or other movement) I take as the zero-moment of resistance, hence central to the problem with what reads, to me, in an otherwise uncompromisingly nuanced piece, as flat distinction between local political opposition on the one hand and indeterminate resistance instanced as "non-site" by CPT on the other (this reading, of course, hinges on what Williams means by "local," not so much on what counts as as oppositional). Or: that "political opposition" is not also potentially laden with indeterminacy in that praxis-oriented or dialogic way that CPT opens up and that "hides" from inoculation by capitalism. Not that I take Williams to be asserting this near-binary tout court, or not that I take CPT to be recapitulating it either. Since rather than an assertion, a deduction, we get "warning" here. As resistance to categorical splits, to border generally, the positive articulation of that warning perhaps, i.e., part of the poetics of CPT.

I've felt the very illegibility of unhousing fixed self, felt the tiny death, these small chasms in my risings, and felt them as not poetic, not in political organizing, not either--but in/as both. Moments of radicalization. But also a legibility or fixity inherent in, or as possible consequence of, that (repetitive) motion of rising up from my chair, feeling the exposure of that (a feeling of completing the task, as it were, that is this body's enclosed shape to the world, body-snapshot). I've felt its compliment, not getting up (resistance lacking), or mistaking not doing so with doing so, via the virtualization of the motion, which is to say in failing to get stuck, the increasing likelihood of mistaking the motion of clicking into as getting up or as getting stuck, going somewhere- (becoming some I-) else, mistaking virtualization as social becoming rather than the next legibility-making position (the next release) to occur, ["click-ing/link-ing/scroll-ing"] mistaken often enough as something other than monument to its prior iteration. A fixed body, or isolated body, or body that becomes slowly and alone, stills until it is monument to your future you. The thinking ahead that the body parameters in CPT (these tension moments) induce in me, a compression and/or a projection of subjective times... feels markedly different from the virtualization of action (the virtual rise writing this) in its inverse-ness (its lack of potential for projecting ahead, with no-thing to project ahead to, non-expectation in a negative or void sense), and yet the inverse relation is not not obviously so maybe, but I've felt it, from my experience of CPT the several times I've encountered it, that very projecting ahead Williams writes about (or is it Toscano?). As sitting audience. The experience for me also speaks to Toscano's notion--which Williams enacts in his own writing a world in On Spec--that "our languages need to be freed for us to be free... in a sense." And so the book gives way to radio play, radio play still not "enough," the thing needs wiggle out into the live-gestural. There's an after-effect (affect?) of CPT participation as audience (but more so as entity perhaps) that I think hopes to undermine the stranglehold of privatized language (the languages of globalization) but also privacy (online activism, a mono-linguistic non-gesture eg) has on us. And so CPT is agitational. Agitation for the agitators. But then the "is" maybe drops away in favor of another illegibility. Or I should say: another bug. (Williams' hope for less de-bugging, riffing on Toscano's boogie and sexualizing it, this erotic multi-coding is something necessary, I think. For Toscano's delineating differences between strikes and orgies is also to talk about their contiguity, their shared aspects. --- in "Strikes & Orgies," Wheelhouse PRESS Anthology 2009, also in Try Mag Issue ?)

Elsewhere I've written (in relation to CPT too) that organizing is (or often is) poetic in its indeterminacy and potential for constant becoming and embrace (or gift) of death ("even self-degradation!"), contiguous with the array of poetic motions of resistance. Though the poetic "of" organizing (of local political resistance with an eye towards non-border) is often enough pointed out to be threatened by the sedimentation of fixed opposition (hence exclusion and all else), not unlike the either/or moment of getting up/clicking over, that threat is pervasive, not of course unique to what we might think of as local political resistance (unless, by chance, such resistance is localized insofar as it willingly or unwittingly fortifies tactical, strategic, or social borders). What strikes me as the challenge here, is: how to translate into without raising the specter of necessary distinction above (potential binary) when evoking what is at least alluring for me--that the the poetic of organizing can be that "anti-absorptive obstacle" Williams sees CPT as pointing towards. Perhaps instead: organizing as potentially part of, and catalyst for, a diverse (trans-national or trans-) spectrum of un-activated possibilities ("as yet undefined" "life-making processes") the social in general carries around like a heavy shadow.

And that for organizing, Toscano and Williams' crucial challenges here seem to be: what might an organizing of indeterminacy with resistance to the things that block non-border look like, i.e., concretely? Or as pervasively as to no longer be legible as such? Or as I think of it: how might the organizing conversation (linguistic and non) itself (the poetic intentionalized), a social form Toscano is intimately familiar with, inform, making less demarcated, the larger political frame? ----if one asserts the mechanics of these conversations to be potentially right there in the name: dialogic, indeterminate, trans-bordering and so trans-national, not legible as system of binaries and partitions but as organized opposition or resistance to structures and systems that seek to kill that becoming? I suspect I may be reading Williams and Toscano wrongly here, taking this conversation a bit far afield (tho it hopefully speaks to the spirit of their larger works, at least), with perhaps my presupposition--that political organizing can involve both resistance-as-becoming as well as be oppositional (or resistance) to what would make that conversation illegal, and still not necessarily be a social form that's closural or sedimented enough to be, almost definitionally, necessarily subsumable by capitalism/imperialism. Which would make the organizing conversation potentially contiguous with other ways we can take up (or try to articulate) indeterminate spaces, CPT among them. Nonetheless, CPT and Williams' work I've taken for some time to be pressing on the seemingly intractable problems of articulating a social resistance of trans-localism (in the narrower sense of the local than I'm using above), indeterminacy viz. what, so to speak, Lenin famously calls the "temporary dictorship needed" (instrumentalized concession) to get to Toscano's getting "somewhere else." And not just the seemingly intractable problems, but the concrete paradoxes and contradictions seen especially in goal-oriented sociality under capitalism/imperialism.

Turning non-site into site (to continue the Smithson/Nonsite reference made by Williams), or performing the contiguous arc of living poetically via making new language forms, then organizing from them, and again, etc., treating these as contiguous poetic activities, or a contiguous activity, seems on the edges (or maybe is one of the hidden vortices) of Toscano's CPT. And Williams' On Spec. So, then, what happens "after" we "get up" from our chairs after interacting with CPT's Pig Angels? A question, again, that assumes we do get up, that the body translates into the body--necessarily? Can we imagine circumstances in which this is not the case? Or only not noticeably the case? And what of the relationship between CPT and Toscano's other work in the labor movement? How do these motions inform and transform one another, translate that body into another, and then another, and so forth? The question isn't about authorship. It's about the potentially generative "oscillation" of activities, or maybe more precisely, the contiguous movement from CPT to its related union organizing, as, for lack of a better way of saying it, a becoming of recursion.

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