Monday, December 15, 2008

a harbour teeming

Your hair holds a whole dream of masts and sails; it holds seas whose monsoons waft me toward lovely chimes where space is bluer and more profound, where fruits and leaves and human skin perfume the air.
In the ocean of your hair I see a harbour teeming with melancholic songs, with lusty men of every nation, and ships of every shape, whose elegant and intricate structures stand out against the enormous sky, home of eternal heat. 
On the burning hearth of your hair I breathe in the fragrance of tobacco tinged with opium and sugar; in the night of your hair I see the sheen of the tropic's blue infinity; on the shores of your hair I get drunk with the smell of musk and tar and the oil of coconuts.



The Death of Socrates, from Plato's Phaedo

Then he turned to us, and added with a smile: "I cannot make Crito believe that I am the same Socrates who has been talking and conducting the argument; he fancies that I am the other Socrates whom he will soon see, a dead body--and he asks, How shall he bury me? And though I have spoken many words in the endeavor to show that when I have drunk the poison I shall leave you and go to the joys of the blessed--these words of mine, with which I was comforting you and myself, have had, as I perceive, no effect upon Crito. And therefore I want you to be surety for me to him how, as at the trial he was surety to the judges for me: but let the promise be of another sort; for he was surety for me to the judges that I would remain, and you must be my surety to him that I shall not remain, but go away and depart; and then he will suffer less at my death, and not be grieved when he sees my body being burned or buried. I would not have him sorrow at my hard lot, or say at the burial, Thus we lay out Socrates, or Thus we follow him to the grave or bury him; for false words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil. Be of good cheer then, my dear Crito, and say that you are burying my body only, and do with that whatever is usual, and what you think best."

When he had spoken these words, he arose and went into a chamber to bathe; Crito followed him and told us to wait. So we remained behind, talking and thinking of the subject of discourse, and also of the greatness of our sorrow; he was like a father of whom we were being bereaved, and we were about to pass the rest of our lives as orphans. When he had taken the bath his children were brought to him (he had two young sons and an elder one); and the women of his family also came, and he talked to them and gave them a few directions in the presence of Crito; then he dismissed them and returned to us.

Now the hour of sunset was near, for a good deal of time had passed while he was within. When he came out, he sat down with us again after his bath, but not much was said. Soon the jailer, who was the servant of the eleven, entered and stood by him, saying: "To you, Socrates, whom I know to be the noblest and gentlest and best of all who ever came to this place, I will not impute the angry feelings of other men, who rage and swear at me, when, in obedience to the authorities, I bid them drink the poison--indeed, I am sure that you will not be angry with me; for others, as you are aware, and not I, are to blame. And so fare you well, and try to bear lightly what must needs be--you know my errand." Then bursting into tears he turned away and went out.

Socrates looked at him and said: "I return your good wishes, and will do as you bid." Then turning to us, he said, "How charming the man is: since I have been in prison he has always been coming to see me, and at times he would talk to me, and was as good to me as could be, and now see how generously he sorrows on my account. We must do as he says, Crito; and therefore let the cup be brought, if the poison is prepared; if not, let the attendant prepare some."

"Yet," said Crito, "the sun is still upon the hilltops, and I know that many a one has taken the draught late, and after the announcement has been made to him, he has eaten and drunk, and enjoyed the society of his beloved; do not hurry--there is time enough."

Socrates said: "Yes, Crito, and they of whom you speak are right in so acting, for they think that they will be gainers by the delay; But I am right in not following their example, for I do not think that I should gain anything by drinking the poison a little later; I should only be ridiculous in my own eyes for sparing and saving a life which is already forfeit. Please then to do as I say, and not to refuse me."

Crito made a sign to the servant, who was standing by; and he went out, and having been absent for some time, returned with the jailer carrying the cup of poison. Socrates said: "You, my good friend, who are experienced in these matters, shall give me directions how I am to proceed."

The man answered: "you have only to walk about until your legs are heavy, and then to lie down, and the poison will act."

At the same time he handed the cup to Socrates, who in the easiest and gentlest manner, without the least fear or change of color or feature, looking at the man with all his eyes, . . . as his manner was, took the cup and said: "What do you say about making a libation out of this cup to any god? May I, or not?"

The man answered: "We only prepare, Socrates, just so much as we deem enough."

"I understand," he said; "but I may and must ask the gods to prosper my journey from this to the other world--even so--and so be it according to my prayer.

Then raising the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison. And hitherto most of us had been able to control our sorrow; but now when we saw him drinking, and saw too that he had finished the draught, we could not longer forbear, and in spite of myself my own tears were flowing fast; so that I covered my face and wept, not for him, but at the thought of my own calamity in having to part from such a friend. Nor was I the first; for Crito, when he found himself unable to restrain his tears, had got up, and I followed; and at that moment, Apollodorus, who had been weeping all the time, broke out in a loud and passionate cry which made cowards of us all.

Socrates alone retained his calmness: "What is this strange outcry?" he said. "I sent away the women mainly in order that they might not misbehave in this way, for I have been told that a man should die in peace. Be quiet then, and have patience."

When we heard his words we were ashamed, and refrained our tears; and he walked about until, as he said, his legs began to fail, and then he lay on his back, according to the directions, and the man who gave him the poison now and then looked at his feet and legs; and after a while he pressed his foot hard, and asked him if he could feel; and he said, "No;" and then his leg, and so upwards and upwards, and showed us that he was cold and stiff. And he felt them himself, and said: "When the poison reaches the heart, that will be the end."

He was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said--they were his last words--he said: "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; (1) will you remember to pay the debt?

"The debt shall be paid," said Crito; "is there anything else?"

There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.

Such was the end . . . of our friend; concerning whom I may truly say, that of all the men of his time whom I have known, he was the wisest and justest and best.

Translated by Banjamin Jowett (1892)

(1) The god of health and medicine.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

from the window

All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers, is contained in the dog.
—Franz Kafka

Outside of a dog, a man's best friend is a book. Inside of a dog, it's Too dark To read.
—Groucho Marx

"Dogs don't make mistakes."
-Sherlock Holmes

My mother groan'd! my father wept. 
Into the dangerous world I leapt; 
Helpless, naked, piping loud, 
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

—William Blake, "Infant Sorrow"

oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men,
or with his nails he 'll dig it up again!
You! hypocrite lecteur! mon semblable,- mon frere!

-T.S Eliot

By the dog!


I wanna be your dog.
—The Stooges


Cyclops: Ram, get a clean one
(ODYSSEUS searches on his knees for the skewer, hiding it.)
Odysseus:No, no, no, it's all right,really. I'll pick it up.
Cyclops: Ram, a clean skewer!
Odtsseus: (From under the table): No, really.
(RAM exits. ODYSSEUS, on his knees looking, gets near the door.)
Odysseus: That;s the way I am, sorry.I hate losing things.
Cyclops: My men, my money. My way home.
CYclops: Your life next.
Odysseus:That I don't mind.Just hate losing things.

chasms of blue

at the enormous distance above my 

subterranean living room the houses take root,

the mists assemble. The mud is read or black.

Monstrous city, endless night!

lower down are the drains.On either side, nothing but the thickness

of the globe. Perhaps chasms of blue sky, wells of fire.

A Rimbaud 

time lapse

francys alys

where are you Hanna?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Syntagma, Athens,1984

                                         valie export

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Come on is such a joy

Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey

Writer, lead vocal: John Lennon


Come on come on come on come on 
Come on is such a joy Come on is such a joy 
Come on take it easy 
Come on take it easy Take it easy take it easy 
Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey.

The deeper you go the higher you fly The higher you fly the deeper you go 
So come on come on 
Come on is such a joy Come on is such a joy 
Come on make it easy 
Come on make it easy.

Take it easy take it easy 
Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey.

Your inside is out and your outside is in 
Your outside is in and your inside is out 
So come on come on 
Come on is such a joy Come on is such a joy 
Come on make it easy 
Come on make it easy Make it easy make it easy 
Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey.

Monday, June 23, 2008

down to the present

“The forming of the five senses is a labor of humanized nature.

The forming of the five senses is a labor of the entire history of the world down to the present.”

Marx’s Economic and Philosophic manuscripts of 1844.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

the lie of the land

my companion for these walks was thoroughly familiar
with the lie of the land, and knew the best time to take in
each rustic scene, and the places best viewed in the
morning hours, which were most charming and
interesting at sunrise and which at sunset, as well as
the coolest, shadiest areas in which to seek refuge from the
burning midday sun.

Diderot on Art, The Salon of 1767

Monday, April 21, 2008

portmanteau and what she found there


Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

perfect mute

Rosalind Nashashibi
By Will Bradley

Rosalind Nashashibi's Bachelor Machines Part I centers on the unspectacular activities of the Italian crew of the cargo ship Gran Bretagna as it travels from Italy to the Baltic Sea. Over the course of thirty minutes, the men go about their business--attending to ship activities, eating, smoking and playing cards, dancing (furtively) in the dining room. But this is not the stuff of "reality television"--the onboard community of men is not subjected to the sort of documentary-making that seeks to expose its subjects' private lives to an audience hoping for a prurient glimpse of a world they'll never know. Nor is life aboard ship aestheticized. There is a sense of respectful distance, a refusal of intimacy that belies the filmmaker's intimate access--a refusal underlined by the dialogue being in Italian, none of it subtitled and none of it important, really; or rather, not to the point.
Instead, Nashashibi's cinematically literate shot-making animates the ship and the literal machinery of global commerce--dockyard cranes, shipping containers--in a way that evokes both Dziga Vertov's constructivist celebration of the machine age and Jean-Luc Godard's dystopian reprocessing of Vertov in 1970s films such as British Sounds.
One scene, in which two seamen repeatedly open and close an uncooperative door on deck, verges on silent comedy. In another, the setting sun heaves brilliantly into view through an open hatch, creating a textbook vision of the cinematic sublime--a vision so entirely part and parcel of the everyday experience of the crew that it passes entirely without acknowledgement.
The artist's use of 16-mm film (as opposed to more readily manipulated digital technologies) and the interpolation of herself and her camera as an acknowledged but silent character situate her as an unreliable eyewitness, neither orchestrating events nor erasing her own presence. She keeps her head to the ground. Her method suggests an unspoken collaboration with the people she represents; the work neither depersonalizes nor universalizes its subjects, and there is no sense of performance for the camera or of an attempt to produce some emblematic moment that can sum up the complexities of individual lives.
Her earlier Hreash House (2004) centers on the gathering of an extended family in an apartment block in Nazareth. It also avoids the conventions both of televisual storytelling and of the handheld, uncut art video, assembling a simple narrative whose interest is generated in the cinematic details, the particular gestures of the participants and the close-up shots of textiles and interiors, as much as by its overall arc. There is hardly a story, just an ordinary middleclass family going about the preparation and aftermath of a fast-breaking meal during Ramadan. Also presented without subtitles, the film subtly communicates a sense of social convention that is at once spontaneous and scripted. Once again Nashashibi finds herself in a context that is not her own, allowing us to occupy her subjectivity without feeling guilty or manipulated.
This balance of poetic subjectivity and documentary restraint can be traced back to the films of the French ethnographer Jean Rouch, which had an outsize influence on European filmmakers in the 1960s. But Nashashibi works in light of the very public deconstruction of the techniques she has adopted, and she employs her verite; approach to build a deliberate fiction, secure in the knowledge that no one will mistake her work for an attempt to portray the inaccessible truth of the situations she is filming. There is a latent politics at work in Nashashibi's practice, though she avoids addressing the direct political questions that might attend, for example, the working-class identity of the sailors in Bachelor Machines Part I or the Palestinian identity of the family depicted in Hreash House. Rather, she manages to explore a wider representation of the relationships between behavior and belief, control and convention. Her film of students in the Glasgow University Library, for example, simply titled University Library (2003), is a compressed typology of behaviors, presented via shots and setups that also foreground the modernist architecture of the university building. The contrast between the evident intention of the architecture and institution (highly controlled and directed toward an idealized model of learning) and the actual activities of the students (caught between the dictates of the institution and personal or social imperatives) makes for a gentle and subtle investigation of the ways that power operates, and the ways it fails. Appropriately, Nashashibi captures the students distractedly tapping their pencils, staring into the ether, listening to music on their headphones.
Nashashibi's background as an Irish-Palestinian artist educated in England and Scotland (she graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 2000) is often invoked as an explanation for her interest in the workings of particular subcultures and communities. But her interest, at least in ethnographic terms, can be seen more easily as having something in common with structuralist anthro-pology. Her film Eyeballing (2005), for example, is a playful series of static shots of objects and landscapes, some close-up, some in wide angle, in which it's almost impossible not to see the apparition of faces. Plainly, for evolutionary reasons, the human brain is hard-wired to recognize the combination of two dots or circles with a line beneath them as a face. These images are intercut with footage of New York City police--men and women--shot as they enter and exit what looks like a side door to one of Manhattan's many police stations. The juxtaposition between the deeply structural recognition of the faces and the deeply cultural, costumed roles played by the cops emphasizes the place of representation and ritual in the world around us. The faces emerge from the city and are both its inhabitants and its totems--or, in the artist's words, its "gods or monsters."
Recently Nashashibi translated her investigations into book form. Mute: On Sound is an essay composed mostly of found photographs and archival images, from reproductions of premodern art and documentation of ritual behaviors and local traditions to modernist architecture and performance. An acknowledgment of the influence of Pier Paolo Pasolini's films on Nashashibi's work, it uses his unorthodox reading of Freud and the assertion of the stubborn presence of ancient mythology in contemporary culture as a framework within which to draw together the artist's particular personal inspirations. Symbolism and ritual are presented as ways not of binding us to the past but of creatively resisting or transcending the conditions of the present.
Carl Jung once said that mythologizing "gives existence a glamour we wouldn't want to be without." Nashashibi seems to agree-- she borrows from the quote for the title of her most recent set of photographic works, a triptych of found images representing dancers in the Malawian village of Gumbi, a scene from Pasolini's Oedipus Rex, and a portrait of La Cicciolina. But the ideas of myth and glamour she is interested in are not those produced by the contemporary star-obsessed mass media, but rather, the glamour of everyday life, the myths made by rituals that arise from direct, sometimes banal, social interactions.
Still, one of the characteristics of the documentary mode in which Nashashibi works is that it seems to offer the possibility of truth, and so some kind of truth is always attempting to return beyond the index of the image, all the reality that can't be caught on film: the world outside the frame, the time before and after, all of the invisible conditions that surround the production of a particular image. It is a paradox of this kind of myth-making, this kind of ritual or glamour, that, while the documentary image can never embody the relationships of meaning that give it its power, it nonetheless exists as the social production of imagery, of symbols and their meanings.
In the end, it is as if Nashashibi is telling us that we are condemned to act out the rituals of a script we have only inherited--whether as model-airplane enthusiasts in Omaha, Nebraska (Midwest: Field, 2002), as young men playing football in an East Jerusalem town (Dahiet Al Bareed, 2002), or as members of a crew on a cargo ship making its way across the sea. After all, this is a world and a series of myths that are not of our making but that, in occasionally subtle and often unsubtle manner, make us.

Bidoun Magazine and Copyright 2007

Thursday, April 3, 2008


I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful—

Plath's Mirror