PART THREE - IN THE FRAY
An ouroboros poem: Finn to Maria; Maria to Finn
The children figure out everything else on their own.
Upon us, back to the slug
and mess of spewing acid
into the light that slides, they smiled
For good. Grabbing nothing, when I woke in this pain
I was weightless in fields
and streets misnamed
like files. I lost, I was born
Off-guard. Bestowed in blue grey with rosemary, our
wings are shifted. Into
the dampness of presence
sometimes I think she sung it all jam and binding
Love is a distant hard drive, stirring. I find quiet
assurance in four o’clock
probably the shadow to
start this place. Full in laden summer
The patterns on train seats. Be sure this world
belongs to us. So we must
go all the way, just a little
better, a moral obligation towards
What never closes. Glad to say you are the inverse
of licking a cookie. Not song
decentralised of this day
never closes. It’s the phrases she left
Too late to start, or late. Whether they’re gone
or a long weekend in berries
engrossed my little heart
isn’t chemical to burst through the ceiling
To check, a little better the balance I had left
or not. Wondering
is a digest of light. I
scorched to echo in the window was wrong
And unworthy. But whether there’s any connection
I was a floating corrupted
butterfly, dished at parties
they knew. Luxurious ease, it’s funny. It’s funny.
LIFE IN THE MEMORY DREAM:
Maria to Finn
I’m stuck on the line where Finn writes ‘It always feels like four o’clock here, too late to start and too soon to end.’ The way it goes in my head is; too late to start and too soon, starting to end. There’s that Wordsworth poem, lodged from years back: ‘The world is too much with us; late and soon, / Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers’. Centuries ago, he already knew and ever. Four o’clock as the state of someone’s consciousness, not the individual as such but a singularity that meant we could feel into it differently, according to our mutual conditions. Invention, then, could be a laying to waste in the state of the middle, of the time you are living within. Intransitive.
Ingo Niermann: ‘[i]t is already possible to record an entire life audio-visually. Soon it will surely be possible to do so by haptic and olfactory means, too’ (127-128). Wasn’t this already happening in poetry, if not in a literal sense. For instance, I look elsewhere to Bernadette Mayer’s Memory (1972), an exhibition and subsequent publication documenting an experiment in memory (or, as Mayer puts it ‘an emotional science project’); a book which slides effortlessly between senses, the minutiae of detail and the arc of expanse. It is the everyday against the infinite; a work of generation and refusal, where thought’s lyric flow is the media for (re)living, scrambled, enjambed, immediate: ‘can you remember nothing something else / i love you you are deer we don’t hear images from you’ (Mayer, Memory, 23). This quiver between the nothing and something, presence and absence; to say ‘i love you’ and pluralise that ‘you’ to the more-than-human, the scattering, precarious deer, to be caught in the photographic headlights of images unheard, said after you’re gone. When I scroll down a social media feed and what I thought was an image was actually a video, the sound leaked out like something terrible and shot, and I thought it was somebody’s life, but it was only the advert, a closed loop of commercial invention.
If media algorithms ruin the chronology of story in favour of selection, financial sponsorship and popularity, poetry was already disrupting narrative by way of the intensities of other sensoriums as time is experienced. Again there is this struggle between past and future: ‘can you remember [right now, here in the poem!] nothing something else’ (Mayer, 23), can you turn away from this? Should we ‘create gaps in our own lives’, Niermann asks, ‘in anticipation of later filling these gaps in our own fantastical twists and turns?’ (129-130). The future, apparently, is less complicated. Niermann suggests it is in the making of a self. But what about writing against the self, mindful of its institution as a violent ontology of individuality, hierarchy and racialised, classed, gendered and otherwise striated exclusion? In Twists and Turns in the Heart’s Antarctic (2014), Hélène Cixous writes:
‘The event’s immensity does not appear to me. Not until I have been back at my point of departure, that is to say at my point of initial oscillation, for some days. One morning, the event rises like a slow sun. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpse the first ray. Only today, while writing, with difficulty, upstream against the flow of time, do I see in the distance, ahead of me, the Event, in all its Light. […] It is the poet or author who transforms the ant into a hero.’ (138)
I thought of your dream of abandonment, Finn, your dream in the tunnel we cut from the letters. The event had to rise to its capitalised version, Event, to gather the immensity of something coming lightspeed towards us, and yet only to find it was already rising inside us, the slow peripheral sun. Laying its rays down like sentences. Writing in the midst of pandemic feels like writing in the midst of extinction ‘upstream against the flow of time. Who were we writing for, that our words would be reinvented by the A.I. detritus of future consciousness? Who, Niermann asks, ‘is going to do the editing?’ (132). In the archival excess of the present, we carry scraps of our past and future in the oscillating ant-trail of thick nowness.
HYPERSTITIONS: (IN)VENTING THE WILD
Writing you this from the research unit of my sleep, whisper it, hyperstition: this word which Armnen Avanessian and Anke Hennig, in their chapter, ‘Who’s Afraid of (Left) Hyperstitions?’, define as the conflation of ‘hype and superstition’: ‘[h]yperstitions are fictions that cause the conditions that subsequently make them become real’ (315). Thinking nocturnally so to say, as the critic Eduardo Lourenço wrote of the Portuguese poet Alberto Caeiro slugging behind him ‘the sad slime of “being conscious”’, this gets written.
At the side of my vision, this window with such words and their crawling distracts from the pdf of the book itself. Finn writes of the slug, ‘it can’t be for real, who does it think it is?’. So much of residue, thinking how we will do this review; I can’t think straight, I leave slug trails or sluglines instead…
Hyperstition: this word with its eerie, Nick Landian ring, might resound between two politicalpoles. We have to be careful to sound out the resonance for a future we want. In times of fakenews, deep fakes, viral scandals and social movements reliant on, and shaped by, the algorithms of the platforms in which they are carried, hyperstition conceptualises both resistant and reactionary politics. In acts of acceleration and media cycle, ‘hyperstitions locate the origins of our present in the future’ (315). The risk is we fall into a simulacrum, of flickering endlessly in the ironic ouroboros of the meta, when actually we could have ‘impact’ and ‘traction’ within the present (318).
INT. BEDROOM/LAPTOP. NIGHT:
There is a melancholy feeling of admission, a kind of shame in language at the fact of this autopoiesis, the residue of thought itself and having thought—and is that the real exceeding its concept? Is that a making beyond human invention?
How does the real exceed its concept? How do we make hyperstitions together, say, for an abolitionist future where the harms of climate crisis are more justly distributed, state violence dissipates, global capitalism gives over to fairer systems of ownership, labour and commons? It is not my job to come up with this hyperstition here. Though maybe we were writing it together already. My favourite part of Avanessian and Hennig’s essay is when they talk of the ‘swarm” of texts’ (324 - ants again!) on the website of the Ccru (Cybernetic culture research unit), and this leads them into Kodwo Eshun’s work on the genealogies of Afrofuturism, which entwine Black science fiction and Black technological music, from Detroit techno to the feedback loops of a theoretically-informed reviews culture. At what point does fiction become the real movement? Again, I am caught here in the almost of invention. I feel sluggish.
Avanessian and Hennig suggest the anthropocene itself is a kind of hyperstition. I like that they don’t capitalise the anthropocene, as if to signify it had already gone beyond itself, or was placed under erasure. The anthropocene is more than just the pattern recognition of climate change or global warming, ‘it claims that the lethal alternating of the earth’s conditions has started before our recognition and its future will necessarily arrive, unless prevented by a serious change in ecological politics’ (328). The anthropocene is a kind of heuristic device for thinking these cascades between the now and to-come, which was happening already: wildfires, floods and record temperatures, particularly in the Global South, indicate that arrival as a term here is already too late, and perhaps too white and Western-centric in thought. Can hyperstition allow for the specificity, that movement between locality and global, even planetary context, required to do proper critical ecological thought, which demands understanding of scalar disjuncture? There is much to learn from Afrofuturism, already embedded as it is in the understanding of extractivism and geological histories of Black exploitation. Phenomena which, as Kathryn Yusoff argues in A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (2018), are essential to a critical understanding of the anthropocene as a fundamentally racialised condition.
What is the critical responsibility of a wild invention?
Books Cited (not otherwise cited via hyperlink)
Cixous, Hélène, 2014. Twists and Turns in the Heart’s Antarctic, trans. by Beverley Bie Brahic, (Cambridge: Polity Press).
Mayer, Bernadette, 2020. Memory (New York: Siglio).
Wolf, Christa, 2008. Cassandra, trans. by Jan Van Heurck, (London: Daunt Books).
Yusoff, Kathryn, 2018. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
A+E is a multidisciplinary collective born out of a shared sense of discomfort in the face of climate disaster, with an urgent desire to use our creative voices to think through existing discourses on ecological precarity, coexistence and sustainable practice in both local and planetary contexts. Find out more here.
The Book of Wild Invention asks ‘Can contemporary art’s practitioners change the way we perceive nature? Employing a variety of forms that include speculative essays, poems, pencil sketches, and photo essays, twenty authors challenge the exclusive human claim to intelligence by pointing to, or inventing, new forms of coexistence for all life-forms.’ and is available now via https://www.sternberg-press.co…