Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Confessional of Control, In Fragments.

On NPR, in interview,
Julliane Moore discusses
A character crying at
Forgetting to wind a
Wristwatch in quarantine,
Chaotic dirty mess of
Blindness. The small
Things. The loss of
Personal control. These
Are the things that
Touch us, the inducers of
Emotional panic, as
The larger situation
Rakes on worse and
More severe, we neglect to
Notice, we don’t commence
To feel it until a personal,
Turning, ticking, symbol
Of tiny, systematic
Retained control is
Noticed to have stopped.
The little things. Our
Tenuous grasps on
Tiny fragments of
False control.

I listen to this, as
I drive back from the
Hospital roller-coaster
Bedside of
Watching my namesake
Fade away, to a job where
I haphazardly jot this, where
Every week in the panic of
The weak economy in the first
Industry to be hit they
Forget progressively more
That it’s easier for me to
Find a just as increasingly
Less lucrative job than
It is for them to
Replace me, the increasingly
Fewer competent members
Of their staff. Just before
The actresses interview, a
Report on plans to
Prop up, for the third or
Fourth (at least second
Major) time, an
Economic system that
Was known to
Experts in the field
Centuries ago to
Lack any potential for
Long-term sustainability.
Yet the proposal is to
Dump hundreds of
Billions of the same
Back into it, to
Slightly prolong its
Inevitable and impending
Death and subsequent
Possible reincarnation,
Time-buying transfusions
Ironically administered
To a patient with a
D.N.R. In slow death-beds and
Faulty inflated commerce,
The word “better” should
Be wiped from our
Vocabularies. For it is
Relative to…

The little things. Our
Futile grasps on time
Particles of personal
Control. On the drive back
From a distracting twenty-
Dollar call-in shift the
Cool breeze smacks my
Face from the window as
An enveloping and appropriately
Fall-feeling morose symphonic
Opeth song soothes my
Ears, scorching as a smooth
Flame from my speakers.
My own watch keeps ticking,
As I drive back to wind it,
A winding that I won’t forget
To do, and no foreseeable
Malfunction of machinery
Could cause to stop. The
Little things. Our fragments
Of control. A laptop open
With scribbled notebook
Pages, a loving embrace and
Urge back to my work from
One who understands and
Appreciates my goals. I
Know the time my watch
Keeps, my symbols of the
Fragments of control, to
Keep the bigger picture small,
While focusing an eye always on
The bigger picture, the tiny
Ticking emblems of the
Things that we can control.

Control, the things that touch
Us, make all else “relevant,”
Is “real.” Internalize the watch,
The winding, the ticking,
The goal-structure…
Our tiny particles of…
Control is hope.
Control the control symbol.


"Skyward Stability; Structure in Stark Shadows and Contrast." 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Passing of a Namesake...

Rest in Peace, Pepere.

Bernard Gerard Brault
December 31, 1930 - October 3, 2008

You will be missed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mirrors and Voices, Part 4: Reconstructing the Fabricated


Reconstructing the Fabricated

The concept of Samuel Beckett’s Nohow On begins at a juncture where the author already takes for granted that conventional literary forms have been torn down and rendered unnecessary. He is writing from a post-modern platform that is post-character, post-plot, and post-setting. Even when these elements can not be (or are not needed to be) completely removed, they are relied on as tools rather than as story-building focal-points themselves, as they would have necessarily been in literary moments prior to the one in which Beckett writes. He writes with the confidence that the efforts to tear down these problematic paradigms of the past has already been completed (by both critics and artists such as Borges), making it now his responsibility with this work to reconstruct just as admittedly fallible paradigms in the places where the old ones have been removed. The intention of the three “stories” in Nohow On, therefore, seem to be the construction of an elaborate simulacrum of both “literary form” and “reality” at the same time in the absence that the removal of prior forms of each have left. If it is understood from the point at which Beckett stands at the beginning of the work that “realities” are constructs of representations such as “literary form,” and these representative tools are also themselves constructs, and any prior assumptions of “truths” imbedded in either sides of these representative paradigms are therefore inconsequential, then Nohow On situates itself as a work that constructs new structures where the old ones have been stripped away, with the assumed understanding that the new forms are no more “real” than the ones that they replace.

The first “story” in the work, “Company,” presents an interesting corollary metaphor for the way that Beckett’s reconstruction in the entire work operates. Without giving the reader any more than elusive and extremely slight fragments of plot and setting, and only one extremely undeveloped shell of a character that we are told, in the last line of the work, has been the entire time “alone,” Beckett creates a story-telling format that operates with different necessary elements than these, while at the same time, by way of tools of language that rely on very different constructs, builds hypothetical “tangibles” by using the same sort of elusive and unsecured language. Within this tale, these tangibles are referred to as “company,” characters that are mere figures of language to keep the protagonist from being alone. These creations are built by way of language itself, which, by continually altering viewpoints, constructs a cacophony of voices, members of the “company,” that are no less yet definitely not more closely aligned to traditional “characters” than the one that we are told is alone.

Rather than utilize metafiction as merely an element of the storytelling convention, in “Company” metafiction is among the primary premises of the work, and in this way the piece is allegorical for Beckett’s reconstructionist ideology with Nohow On as a whole. The single “character” is, through language, “devising it all for company” (44). In order to not be alone, he creates, by way of narrative position and tense alterations, multiple voices that create one another. When he creates one, that one will spin off and change the position from which it speaks, thus constructing “yet another still devising it all for company” (44). The voices are the representation of characters; these representations create other representations. Thus, as the need for originals of characters to be represented becomes stripped away, we find that all are merely representations of representations, which, according to conventional story-telling guidelines, would render them to be nothing at all. Beckett, however, demonstrates actively how they are created, and therefore demonstrates that, because we are taking for granted now that conventional characterization is also merely representations of representations and therefore subjective or inconsequential, that the constructs themselves, built on nothing besides their nature as constructs, are the goal of the narration, and by their very constructed nature are viable entities, or at least as viable (or as nonviable) as any other representation. In this way, Beckett demonstrates how he will construct viability for all three of the stories in Nohow On, and demonstrates the point of the work to be the reconstruction of artificial representations that are as close to being as unhindered by “truthful” representations as the author can muster. Just as the “character” in “Company” lays on his minimalist bed and constructs a room full of voices, so Beckett stands on the blank slate of the post-modern critical understanding and constructs, with newly reutilized linguistic tools, his own form of representative story-telling.

Thus, as Borges demonstrates with his mirrors, and countless critics such as Baudrillard demonstrate with their theories of the postmodern, that all concepts of “reality” are representations that have little or no secure foundation, Beckett stands on this footing, in the chasm where the constructs have been torn down and takes the next step. He creates, just as the lone “character” in “Company” creates with language the voices of others to share the room with him, a new fallible reality to fill the gap that has been recently vacated, using as few as possible of the old tools, to rather start a new, and reconstruct false objects for the sake of the objects and their fallacy themselves.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mirrors and Voice, Part 3: Reconciling the Absence


Reconciling the Absence

The frequent question to be asked from this point, of course, is, if all representations are faulty because the represented itself and the act of representation are inherently faulty, where do we go from there? How can questions be answered if both the answer and the questions asked are inherently irrelevant? Many critics seem to have either wanted to stop here, as Derrida, or continue from a different juncture within the old structures entirely, like Jameson. If the same thought-process were to be maintained, however, the necessary next step from the point of tearing down prior “truths” would entail the reconstruction of new Art-based structures within the new-found understanding. Where critics seem to have been rare in asserting the necessity of this step and advocating for it, Artists themselves have taken up the pursuit, and constructed representational worlds based on assumptions that have become understood in the time since Borges’ work on the subject. The later work of Samuel Beckett provides a near-perfect example of the sort of reconstruction required to complete the postmodern project in relation to the problem of representation.

( be continued...)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mirrors and Voices: Part 2, Reflecting the Fabricated

(...continued from yesterday...)

Reflecting the Fabricated

In Brian McHale’s essay “From Modernist to Postmodernist Fiction: Change of Dominant,” we are told that “the referent of ‘postmodernism,’ the thing to which the term claims to refer, does not exist. (4) Thus, the term is a construct, by the nature of its existence as a linguistic symbol with which to categorize or create, at the same time that the movement, style, or body of work (depending on which context the word is used in) that it is constructed in order to describe, its “referent,” as McHale calls it, is a construct as well. The term is a reflection of the ideas that it is created to describe, but neither the reflection or the source are any more “real” than the other. The categorical term can thus be seen as a mirror, where the representative reflection is limited and altered by the angle from which it is looked into and the confines of its frame. Therefore, since both the room that the mirror reflects and the mirror itself and the descriptive reflection are fabrications (as the mirror reflects things that are not themselves “real”) it is irrelevant to be concerned with the bias or credibility of the reflection, or its nature that lacks credibility as (or by the way of being) “merely” a reflection.

This image of representational reflection operates on several levels in dialogue about postmodernism. As McHale suggests, it applies to the movement’s nomenclature, with “postmodernism” the word serving as a mirror to reflect the room of “postmodernism” the thing. This image also applies to, more generally, the project of postmodernism in relation to conceptions of reality and representation. The mirror in this case is the text, art-form, or chosen form of representation in general, while the room is the world or setting being described, the “reality” being called into question. In this regard, McHale’s essay is in and of itself a postmodern text, merely using the linguistic representation of the movement itself as an example of the way that the postmodern conception of “reality” operates, most specifically its relative representational nature and eventual inevitable irrelevance.

Viewing postmodern representation as a mirror with reflection and subject, the subject itself being a reflection, provides an interesting correlation to Plato’s classic principle of Ideas versus Forms. The mirror provides the “Forms,” the representations, descriptions, and approximations, while the room that is reflected serves as the “Ideas” that, to Plato, are the “real” versions that the mirror reflects. Obviously, the wrench that postmodernism throws into Plato’s philosophy is that, when the ideas themselves are observed to be just as representational as the representations of them reflected in the mirror, the idea that the forms are subordinate to a more relevant set of ideas is torn down, leveling the playing-field and making the allegory of the cave appear more like a hall of mirrors with no definable source for the image, but rather a potentially endless series of reflections.

It is therefore no surprise that the mirror is a common symbol in postmodern works by authors such as Jorge Luis Borges. In Borges’ fiction, the mirror is most often placed in a room with fabricated “realistic” parameters. The room is constructed in such a way that it shares enough commonality with the “realities” understood by the readership that it serves as one layer of reflection, while the mirror is placed in order to reflect this reflection, to draw our attention to the limitless number of layers of possible potential-“realities” that can be caused by representing alternate representations, which, to the postmodernist, is the task that all artists are engaged in. The room is a representation, intentionally altered (or perhaps merely biased by the chosen angle of perception), of the “reality” that Borges understands, which is, in itself, a representation in several regards (perception, perspective, linguistic, etcetera), and the mirror provides a third layer of representation, which can be altered by the angle that it is perceived from, the angle that the light is received by it from, the limiting confines (bias) of the boundaries of its frame, etcetera. By way of the inclusion of this third layer of reflection, we are reminded of the representational biases and alterations of all other layers of reflection that led to this version of the image. The third visible layer of reflection directs the reader’s eye to the idea that the images’ sources are ambiguous, and possibly non-existent. Because it is understood that neither the reflection in the mirror or the image of the room that it reflects are “real,” neither the reflection nor the image are more or less relevant than the other, and biases, limitations, and angles of perception no longer have any effect on the readers’ perception of the “truthfulness” or “credibility.” By the same reasoning, therefore, as all layers of what we perceive as “reality” are subjective representations, Borges is using the mirror to demonstrate how the worlds that he creates in his stories are no less relevant or “real” than the ones that he or his reader lives in; Uqbar is no less relevant than Europe, Bioy is no less relevant than the reader, the author’s speculation about the room that the reader sits in no less relevant than the room that the reader himself perceives from his own sensory biases.

The mirror is thrust in the reader’s face on the very first page of Borges’ short-story collection, “Labyrinths.” The first tale in the book, “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” begins with a description of how a mirror (or, more specifically, a conversation about the conceptual value of the reflective properties of a mirror, in some ways much like this one) aids in the discovery of a fictitious world. The number of levels of “fictive” representation referenced by this symbol are nearly limitless, and staggering. Conceptually, this number is allowed to be so astoundingly infinite by the reflective nature of the mirror itself. The mirror’s ability to reflect (and an assumption that what it creates is “real,” as the heresiarch of Uqbar tells us that “mirrors and copulation are abominable, because they increase the number of men” [Borges 3]) is contemplated in an encyclopedia entry (a reflection/ representation) about a fictitious place (another reflection) created by fictitious characters as a sort of an experiment with the nature of representation (reflection), which is discovered by another set of fictional characters, who reside in the principle “reality” of the piece, which is a reflection of the “reality” that Borges assumes for his readers, which is a reflection of his own “reality,” which only he can represent with whatever sort of biases or angles that he chooses and is the product of the representation of his sensory, linguistic, and cultural perceptions, among other things (all of which are reflections or subjective representations). The mirror offers no way of identifying the source of the reflections, demonstrating the truth of the comment by the “fictitious” heresiarch of Uqbar that the men reflected in the mirror are just as “real” as the men that they reflect, thus suggesting that the heresiarch, although separated by at least four layers of reflection, is no less “real” or “credible” of a relater of information or “truth” than Borges himself is. By this mirror, therefore, Borges demonstrates the postmodern project (and the meaning of the term and artistic movement itself) that he seems to agree with McHale on, that “the referent… the thing to which the term claims to refer, does not exist.” Contrary to the beliefs of Plato, postmodernism asserts that there is no difference between Ideas and Forms, the reflection is not less “real” than the reflected.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

a bit of a break... Mirrors and Voices.

I have taken a bit of a break from my online postings lately, due to the time-constraints imposed by the grad-school application process. I apologize.

To my avid and disapointed readers (*cough*), I apologize.

To tide you over in the meantime, this evening I will begin to post segments of a piece of essay-work that I am currently working on retyping and reformatting for a professor.

This is the first installment in a series, and thus a cliff-hanger; so keep posted.

Mirrors and Voices;
Borges’ and Beckett’s Collective Postmodern Project of Tearing Down and Rebuilding Representations.

Refining the Scope of the Project

To encapsulate a major theme of the Postmodern project, it has been the job of both artists and critics to tear down all that had existed before, particularly as it relates to the idea of representation, and rebuild admittedly false but just-as-plausible representational constructs in the place where structures that were held as “truth” in the modernist and pre-modern eras had been removed. In this regard, critically, far more work has been done in the earlier phase of this project; that of the removing of past assumptions of representational “truth,” than in the latter stage, the process of rebuilding where the first stage leaves enormous opportunity for new Art-for-Art’s-sake initiatives. In terms of the works of Art that participate in the project, however, effort has definitely been made on all sides of the task. In this regard, Jorge Luis Borges and Samuel Beckett represent opposite ends of this spectrum that compliment each other nicely in view of the combined project of the movement. Borges can be seen to represent the beginning of the postmodern process in this regard, the early process of tearing down, by way of the works of art themselves, the constructs of the previously assumed “truths.” Correspondingly, Beckett represents the end goal of the project, the reconstruction, by way of Art itself, of new constructs based on the assumption that the old ones, by this point, are understood to be irrelevant (these new constructs would, therefore, also be irrelevant in any regard but to the advancement of the Art of representation itself). The two authors, therefore, if taken collectively, represent, in many ways, the fulfillment of the postmodern task. Deconstruction is inconsequential if some form of Reconstruction doesn’t follow, and true artistic construction cannot take place without the tabula rasa that early post-modern truth-destruction (both critical and artistic) provides. Borges and Beckett allow us to view how the two can most successfully function together to achieve a coherent artistic (and inherently Art-focused) statement. be continued...