For an account of the Ruskin Heights F5 tornado, and many comments from those who were there
go here –>May 20, 1957.
Vanessa Place Gone With the Wind.
In reading her her defense, it’s important to keep in mind that what a work is, and its intended goals, are always divergent: the work is always more than its intentions, or its interpretations. In this case, her stated purposes, however elegantly argued, can never be more than another one of an infinite number of possible interpretations, in this case, these stated goals are stripped of aesthetic insulation (not parody), and meant to participate in the ‘real world.’ There seems to be a not entirely explicit argument that the harm this work might cause is more than counter balanced by the unacknowledged (if not invisible) mastery it exposes… that is, exposes if you substitute her argument for the thing itself.
Many years ago (1971) there was a performance artist, Chris Burden who had a friend shoot him with a 22 rifle, I believe in the hand. His explanation was that shooting someone was ‘as American as apple pie.’
My reaction at the time was to ask how this would have been different had the friend been directed to shoot him in the heart, or had he himself gone out on the street, declaring this to be a performance, the central goal of which, was to erase the distinction between the aesthetic intention and its real world consequences. It seems clear to me, that in erasing the lines between the aesthetic and the real, subsuming the later in the former, we have annihilated human meaning on both levels, pretending to a god-like stance, as something akin to a pure act of nature, like an earthquake or lightning strike. In the face of this, those powerful lawyerly arguments sound to me as nothing more than defense of exactly this, on the grounds that, because the social conditions being appropriated are themselves presented to us as meta-human realities, it is justified to imitate them, even to creating the same kind of harm. Or maybe there is no implied justification, but rather, an assertion of art as pure nihilism.
I read her explanation. I am not convinced.
I got a notice from Tumblr, congratulating me on Barking Dog Annex being 4 years old. I’d forgotten it, after writing one entry. I’d given up on a novel I’d been working on for the last 8 years–working title, Found Things. It was finding a folder with my last effort to save it, that got me started reworking it from a whole different angle–thinking of it almost as poetry. I finished it in a few weeks… with a new name, putting it away as Ari Figue’s Cat as I set out to join Occupy Philadelphia on Dilworth Plaza.
This is what I found on Tumblr: 2011
I spent the morning going over the growing collection of papers, files, notebooks, journal entries—all related this Poem to the End of My Days—thinking how I might organize them for search & retrieval. I found an empty box for hanging folders, but no folders not in use. The things are damnably expensive. Kind of thing I hate to spend money on. What about this novel-in-progress… this 8 year project, which, inspecting my garden earlier, it came to me that I would never finish, that it no longer represented anything I wanted to do? I have boxes of drafts… dozens of Pendleflex forders going to waste. I don’t throw this stuff out… one never knows when something will pop into mind—like a burst bubble…an aneurism of memory, & some passage or chapter written years ago will seem exactly what I need.
I can stack the file folders of draft chapters in a box, store them in the closet, free the hanging folders & use them to organize the collection of papers & notes multiplying like kudzu. & what do I find in the first folder I open, but something I’d started working on a year ago, April…”Found Things Versed” (“Found Things” being the working title of this novel). I’d had in mind rewriting the whole thing as poetry. There were trial efforts at paragraphs of prose poems interspersed with open & broken line verse, journal entries… the prototype for Poem to the End of my Days… & I’d totally forgotten it. Or rather, put it out of reach of conscious thought, but not at all out of mind. This kind of thing happens so often that it no longer surprises me—but never ceases to wonder & amaze me… at how the mind works. It took me … 9 months… yeah, think of that. Nine months. Before I took this idea up in a more suitable form. No wonder those first 100 pages came so quickly… like pulling them out of storage.
Found Things possess a strangeness that will not easily surrender to the death of ownership. Let go. Let go of owning & more & more of the world will give itself to being found… & what you find, in not being owned, will be more truly yours than any Thing you will ever call ‘mine.’
May 9, from Jacob Russell’s Barking Dog
#348 12″x 6″ woodcut, 13 of pavement series
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