Friday, April 29, 2011

@ Harriet: Donovan Talks With Halpern & Stecopoulos on "Somatics?"

First, many thanks to Rob Halpern, Thom Donovan, and Eleni Stecopoulos--whose poetries and critical writings, social engagement and radical pedagogies a la participation in Nonsite Collective--I am deeply indebted to. Indebted in the sense of communis--the reciprocal gift, i.e., receiving and giving care--that perhaps needs occur for an ethical sociality, a common body to emerge from, and as alternative to, the rubble of neoliberalism. Rob and Eleni respond to Thom Donovan's questions as part of Donovan's ongoing series at Harriet regarding a poetry of/from "somatics." Rob and Eleni give several of us--among countless others they note can be named--mention with respect to the question of what somatics might mean as set of practices, as set of common and yet importantly overlapping investigations and collaborations. Thom's work here, like the engagements I've been part of, perhaps, is shaped by critical interaction and participation in other media, as well as broader social concern. For me, from labor organizing alongside participating in auditory and acoustic live performance, gestural and live art--and from years of living with "disability" as defined by an ableist culture. For Thom, I suspect, and related--thru his engagement with dance and the visual arts, contemporary conceptual and land artists. And I think Thom and I probably both felt that Rob's opening remarks (followed by other gorgeous ruminations by he and Eleni) registered deeply. From Rob:

To be honest, Thom, I don’t know what “somatics” means. And if “somatics” means something to me and my work, this can only be because it has some collective resonance, if only as a provisional frame of loose reference for investigating together the relationships between body, language, and social space. Somatics seems to be about working collaboratively in a range of areas to link very different practices by way of some shared concerns around embodiment: from poetics to choreography, psycho-geography to medicine, body work to translation, community history to political militancy.

Prior to publication of the interview with Rob, I emailed Thom about, I believe, his first post at Harriet regarding somatics, what I too take to be a constellation of becoming social relations and direct and indirect collaborations, not a term or field--an emergent set of rather diverse responses to what amounts to a crisis of the living: aesthetic practices that nonetheless all house within them the poison seeds of disembodiment, erasure, obsolescence, and violence upon this construction called the body. I emailed Thom thanking Thom for what I felt he was crucially getting to as part of these Harriet posts, and importantly thru interview, problems of discourse somatics begins to confront, or come into tension with, discourse in the sense of sedimentation, fixity, taxonomy, expertise, locality, and potential devaluation, via, rather than "return" to the body in CAConrad's sense (which is a finding of infinite excess and a social relation), a referent for something like a universal singular--something, as Stecopoulos notes, could resonate as replacement for or analog of "voice," hence, enclosure.

Related, lurking here is always (for me) a blurring of the important distinction between "a body" and "the body." I've wondered also about those of us who seek to articulate that heteronormative blurring, deconstruct it, and then reconstruct it on other terms--a project of gender negation. At what point does "somatics"--as term denoting a multitude of practices, as it stands--potentialize that blurring but also potentialize  occluding or precluding it, making of "a body" a sort of tradable good, an articulated (even designated) membrane beginning to harden contra lived relations and their unavoidable contradictions (and high stakes)? Thom, Rob, and Eleni, I felt, help address for me the complications and contradictions of bodies in searching contact in this regard. And of course so have so many others--those souls Rob and Eleni write about (David Buuck, Brenda Iijima, CAConrad, Brandon Brown, Amber DiPietra, Robert Kocik, Daria Fain). Something Rob writes I think warrants a great deal of lingering on:

So much has been made of “the body,” and yet it feels as though it’s always about to become a bland fetish, a hygienic fixture, an allegorical trope, rather than a set of messy stakes and real consequences. Brian Whitener and I were talking about this on Sunday afternoon at the “Movement, Somatics, and Writing” Symposium. What is not being talked about when we talk about “the body”? Whose body? Can it ever be definite? Can it ever be singular? Brian was referring to false intimacy, and the porousness of skin, and I was thinking about our vulnerability to penetration—be it by flesh, prosthetic, or bullet—and an unsettling line at the limit of Music for Porn: “My cock hardens in a soldier’s wound.”

Rob importantly locates some of these practices that have been called "somatics" within a concretized (as well as future-anterior) social frame of "messy stakes and real consequences," later quoting both MLK from his "Letter" and Bruce Boone from his Century of Clouds.  The immediate complicating of meaning and practice here with concrete stakes is, it seems to me, to "confess" to the vulnerability we have with one another and to discourse, to "confess" perhaps to the discomfort of unwitting, inevitable, or potential complicity in the mechanisms of identity reduction (to commodity and to the obsolete) that "somatics" emerges from, where to make visible always has tactical downsides (I think here of Dean Spade's "Trans Law On a Neoliberal Landscape" as a treatment of the militancy of relative invisibility, its power as organized and cloaked counter-intelligence--"under cover of darkness.").

Enriching Rob's important acknowledgment of the contradictions and stakes of real bodies, Eleni's remarks register, for me, a malleable framework for thinking about bodies and bodies thinking us anew (as our senses become theorists and conversely) that I take to be crucial for we who seem, at this moment, to be collaborating:

 Recently the poet Patrick Durgin asked, “Is ‘somatics’ the new voice?” I thought this was a very interesting question because it raises the implication that poet-critics who invoke the term may be turning to the body for the same reasons that voice gets valorized—for uniqueness, authenticity, immediacy—the metaphysics of presence. But for me, the answer is “no.” Because my sense of somatics ultimately leads me away from the individual body and toward the interdependence we learn from disability culture, the microcosm and macrocosm we learn from Chinese medicine, where the individual body is always porous to the whole, toward environmental medicine where the highly sensitive prefigure the condition of the oikos—as I once heard Mei-mei Berssenbrugge say, “we’re not the aberration but the vanguard.”

I don’t look to the somatic for authenticity, but rather native estrangement. In a Poetics of Healing colloquium I curated with physicians and poets on the subject of listening, the medical historian and emergency medicine physician John Tercier said something that has stayed with me: “Poetry is language made strange, language that draws attention to itself. In illness the body is made strange. One of the things that privileges poetry [as therapeutic] is that there’s a certain relationship between the body made strange and language made strange.” But also I would say that in illness the body recognizes itself as strange. And in healing as well. One’s body becomes other, in the sense of care—you have to care for yourself as an other, or allow yourself to be cared for, which is also a kind of care. It’s the way that “therapy” derives from therapeutes, the attendant, the one who waits on you, serves you, treats you in the drudgery and abjection that sickness brings—treats you without any certitude, without knowing whether you will be cured. Lately I think it’s precisely in this labor—this experiment in the dark, this art of composition in real time—that the poetics of healing lies.

Here's to these labors, and to three writers, and their/our countless friends, for whom the stakes are too high to allow for common sense to be anything more or less literal than it is: to sense commonly, which can only come thru "this experiment in the dark," a lived relation vulnerable to estrangement, a "strange" thing, paradoxically emerging from dissensus, ultimately from ruptures in Common Sense. Messy and real.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Vincent in NY

This is truly exciting. Many of us have loved and been fascinated by Stephen Vincent's "haptics," drawn energy grids of event cum hand & body, and in May Stephen's work will open in New York. The details are below, stolen from Stephen's blog. A congrats. And a thanks again for his two haptics he sent me, from readings/discussions in the Bay the past couple times I was out there. Check out the blog, too. Especially if you are not in/around NYC in May.

I am pleased to announce a new May show of my drawings and unique accordion fold books at the Jack Hanley Gallery in New York. If you are in the City during May, I will be delighted if you can check out the works! I will be there for the opening weekend and Reception. 
Gallery Details:
Friday, May 06 – Saturday, May 28 2011
Reception, Sunday, May 08,
6 – 8 pm
(Gallery will be open both Saturday & Sunday, 11 – 5; it is Gallery Week in Tribeca!)
Jack Hanley Gallery, 136 Watts, New York, NY 10013 (Tribeca)
(For directions to the Gallery, etc.)

DiPietra & Leto's Waveform

Please check out the new addition to Thom Donovan's Others Letters. DiPietra and Leto's collaboration is fascinating, gorgeous. I love the intersection of collage, epistolary poem (lyrical and terse), private and public here, body and repetition, body and struggle, body and machine. From Thom's announcement of the installment:

"When you have a chance, please check out this excerpt from Amber DiPietra's and Denise Leto's wonderful "epistolary poem,"Waveform, now up at Others Letters:

Others Letters publishes the correspondences of contemporaries--especially those articulating problems in contemporary practice--on an ongoing basis. 

If you have letters or email you'd like to share, by all means do so! I would love to hear from you....

Hope all are well,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review of The Arakaki Permutations

Richard Lopez contributes a generous review-close reading of James Maughn's startling The Arakaki Permutations, now out from Black Radish Books. Check out the book and review HERE.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Galatea Resurrects & BR Books

As usual, Eileen Tabios has curated a veritable tapas of book reviews for Galatea Resurrects. Among the books reviewed are James Maughn's newly released Arakaki Permutations and Kathrin Schaeppi's Sonja Sekula: Grace in a cow's EYE: A Memoir, which garnered two reviews, one from Tabios. Also featured are new poems from Marthe Reed, author of the BR book Gaze. Enjoy the issue. And many thanks to Tabios.

CAConrad & Halinen, End of April

Courtesy of Greg Bem of SPLAB. Please join CAConrad for a special (soma)tic poetry workshop or a reading. But why not both? Click on the image to enlarge for full details. I'm personally very excited to see Conrad again. He's reading and workshopping on my mother's birthday. In the skin.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Synchronous Excesses

Synchronicity, thinking of KPrevallet's notion of. It just so happened that... Or did it?

At Michael Cross's The Disinhibitor blog == a set of translations, encirclements by Brandon Brown. Of Baudelaire's "Obsession." Did not close that window,

instead (as the week of searing labor rallies reaches its dangerous pitch--"dangerous" because I still fear mistaking non-immediacy for non-effect) "minimized" it. And opened onto Bhanu Kapil's this:

I want to think about performances that stem from a text, where a text has reached the limits of a verbal capacity.  The scene that exceeds the book, or cannot, in the book, be redistributed [re-dreamed]  ...

I take this out of context. But think even so this moment of reaching (jumping? as in: with eyes closed?) is worth the meditative operations of B.B's B's Ocean. So as to.

Since also I have so far gone inverse, from the gestural deep into the text. As deep as the seam will let me.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Beauty Is A Verb Cover

I love it. The cover for the forthcoming anthology (post describing it below) of poetry & essay on/of disability & post-abelism, Beauty Is A Verb. I'm not sure who designed the cover, so no attribution yet--until I email lovely editor-human beings Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, and Michael Northern. Which I will do today.  

Week of Action & Solidarity - Workers in Oregon, WA, and BC, Canada Rally for Worker Rights

Mark your calendars. And please join us. In response to increasing attacks against state workers, and workers generally, by unfettered corporations and/or legislators. April 2nd marks the beginning of a week of actions. Schedule below.

   SATURDAY, APRIL 2 -- 2 p.m. at Peace Arch Park in Blaine -- This international rally will bring together unionists, students, activists from Canada,Washington State and Oregon to extend hands across the border in solidarity with all workers. This event will be co-sponsored by the British Columbia Federation of Labour; the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO; and the Oregon AFL-CIO. Please email Lori Province from the WSLC about mobilization efforts.

    MONDAY, APRIL 4 -- 5:30 - 7 p.m. at MLK Memorial Park in Seattle -- The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at 6:01 p.m. in Memphis, Tenn., where he was standing with sanitation workers demanding their dream of a better life. Today, the right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a middle-class life are under attack as never before. Join in this National Call to Action on April 4 and stand with other civil and human rights activists, union members and supporters, Latinos, Asians and immigrants, religious supporters, environmental, student and women's groups -- as we stand together across the country against a political agenda that is attacking working families, their human rights and their dignity. This event, sponsored by theCommunications Workers of America, will be at 2200 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Seattle.

    WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6 -- 12pm/Capitol -- Washington Community Action Network will bring hundreds of community activists and students to Olympia in an attempt to find the sacrifices that the Legislature will make the bankers and billionaires pay to get us out of the economic crisis.

    THURSDAY, APRIL 7 -- Time/precise location TBA -- Health care unions, led by SEIU District 1199NW, will mobilize health care workers in Olympia to demand that the Legislature fix the deficit problems and to look into the faces of the victims.

    FRIDAY, APRIL 8 -- Noon at the Capitol Steps, OLYMPIA -- This is the big one! All union members and supporters of public employees and quality state services will rally in Olympia to demand answers on how the Legislature will share the sacrifice by extracting a price from the bankers, billionaires and CEOs that got us into this mess, and how will they create jobs. In our state we will not allow workers' rights to be stripped away!