Delicate Equilibrium of Periodical Flesh (2008)

This essay was originally intended for publication in a coffee table book devoted to a series of photographs of vaginas by the artist Chin Chin Wu. This was written in a feverish state one night in March 2008.

1. The postmodern image functions as an anesthetic by reducing all dimensions to abstract code. It amputates the point of contact, the tactile dimension where the wound - which constitutes the subject by a kind of frantic productivity - anchors the body in time and memory. The tactile and optical dimensions collapse into a surface, time and space are frozen in a non-dimension. But in Vis-à-Vis, two surfaces, or faces, meet at an immanent point of contact. High-definition becomes no-definition as the body of the viewer (or voyeur) and the surface of the image are folded topologically in a living presence where boundaries dissolve, and where primordial memory evokes a very real tactile sensation. That is, you cannot look at these images without touching, or without being felt by them. The fundamental rule of pornography (look, but never touch) is broken.

2. These images stare back at us. The vagina as primordial orifice already contains the eye. In the opening credits of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo – a film that identifies the postmodern image, and the voyeur, as murderers – we see an eye that transforms, via photographic negative, into a vagina. The eyelashes become the pubis, etc. We then find ourselves in a strange dimension full of topological figures like the Mobius strip as the credits continue to roll. Topological figures have unusual properties. For example, a Klein bottle's interior contains its exterior: "The Klein bottle is one structure that creates no exclusive domain as it is a modality that, through a structural twist, unifies the inside and outside surfaces into a continuous surface." If observation and vision follow an either/or (subject/object) pattern, then here all our assumptions about the visual sense are confounded. An observer inside the bottle sees the interior and exterior simultaneously. The transcendent model of vision, which photography and all other optical technology is based on, gives way to an immanent visual space in Vis-à-Vis: the voyeur consumes the image while being consumed by it.

3. The postmodern image is continuous with its modes of production (human, technological, social); in other words, reality and the image have collapsed in an immanent plane where the subject and its environment are indiscernible. Reality consumes the image, the image consumes reality. Baudrillard called this "Integral Reality:" "Integral Reality is the perpetrating on the world of an unlimited operational project whereby everything becomes real, everything becomes visible and transparent, everything is 'liberated,' everything comes to fruition and has a meaning". Or more succinctly, "Integral Reality: the irreversible movement towards the totalization of the world". Reality is integrated with the image at this stage, which is beyond the (historical) orders of the simulacra. All the signature forms of the last decade - tabloid media, reality television, social network websites – reveal this principle of Integral Reality. Like the subject in the Klein bottle, we see the world's interior and exterior simultaneously. It is impossible to watch reality television without an intense feeling of locking into an assemblage of voyeurs that encompasses "everyone." Each perception forms a single field of vision. Every observer, everyone who participates in this voyeuristic "culture," works in unison to construct the filmed/recorded scenes. Reality co-extends with its reflection in a total environment.

4. When we consider the cultural hysteria surrounding the paparazzi photograph of Britney Spears displaying herself to the world, we have another example of a topological image. We see a pop megastar's vagina, but the frenzied response it stirs cannot keep up with its technological modes of production (internet message boards, tabloid television and print, etc.), and the hysteric culture of voyeurism that surrounds it becomes its own object. Cultural production has replaced the artist, as for the first time we can see the collective mind in its objective form, without any need for an artist to translate or represent it for us. Voyeurism is raised to such a hysterical pitch that it becomes self-reinforcing, causa sui. This photograph represents nothing, but it presents the world to itself via negative or reversal. It performs the traumatic cut that orders reality, or the hole in the Klein bottle where the subject dissociates into a total environment (the crowd, the group, the entire order of communication technologies). This is literally a face-to-face with Britney, with ourselves, and with a market demand utterly detached from the consumer which excretes the postmodern visual dimension as a total medium, or organismic interior.

5. On some emergent, collective register, the culture of the last decade shows all the symptoms of oedipism, a pathological condition in which the subject performs a kind of self-castration by the violent removal of an eyeball. In the same way, embodied vision is wrenched out of its axis with tabloid overexposure, reality media, and other forms of social surveillance (Facebook, MySpace, etc.), as it dissolves into the environment, becoming a kind of compound eye or collective vision. In 1928, Georges Bataille identified this new visual paradigm which had already been explored by various avant-garde groups (most notably the Dadaists, who absolutely negate the image and the eye). In the final scene of Story of the Eye, Bataille conflates the enucleated eye with the vagina in a celebration of sexual and criminal excess:

Sir Edmond was always poker-faced except when he turned purple. Nor did he bat an eyelash now; but the blood did shoot to his face. He removed a pair of fine scissors from his wallet, knelt down, then nimbly inserted the fingers of his left hand into the socket and drew out the eye, while is right hand snipped the obstinate ligaments. Next, he presented the small whitish eyeball in a hand reddened with blood.
Simone gazed at the absurdity and finally took it in her hand, completely distraught; yet she had no qualms, and instantly amused herself by fondling the depth of her thighs and inserting this apparently fluid object. The caress of the eye over the skin is so utterly, so extraordinarily gentle, and the sensation is so bizarre that it has something of a rooster's horrible crowing.

Here vision is removed from its static coordinates, and at this point the reader no longer holds the text at a remove, but comes into direct contact with it, in a sense folded into the visual field (or the consciousness) of the text itself. Don Aminado's gruesome murder is a traumatic moment that freezes the reader in horror, and for a moment perception, memory and time are blocked, or proscribed, while the object (the text) takes on a life of its own in a frantic productivity: the horror and fascination of the scene forces imaginary projections, the voyeur is distributed along the surface of the image, as the text folds on itself. This trauma is repeated in today's tabloid media, where again the voyeur is frozen, photographed and murdered. Postmodern consciousness is torn from its axis and distributed in a hive of mediated perceptions, and we are all necessarily corpses – murder victims.

6. The image is captured and distributed throughout the environment; you can feel the heat and energy of the body, and the softness of the skin. As in Vertigo, Lost Highway, Story of the Eye, or the Étant donnés, the voyeur is simultaneously victim and murderer, subject and object. If the real only manifests in traces, or negatives, then we are also the forensic photographer. In each case, the artist functions as murderer, victim, photographer, police officer and devil's advocate. The image is overtaken by the reality it excludes (and vice-versa), as we witness our own death from an inexplicable remove. Following Donald Theall, each of these works might be considered paramodern, or beyond postmodernism (yet developing within radical modernism: Surrealism, Dada, Klee, Duchamp and especially Joyce). In each we see a theory of topological vision (and subjective observation) which is more in line with quantum mechanics and hyperdimensional mathematics than the comparable theories - like Kant's romantic/heroic subjectivity, or Balzac's modernism, in which vision is microscopic, or the radical transparency of postmodern panoptics. The first (and probably last) step toward formalizing this theory was taken by Gilles Deleuze, who understood that the real, extracted from the prearranged structures of language, immanizes subject, object and environment in a radical exteriority, a topological surface where interior and exterior are twisted into a Gordian knot.

7. In Marcel Duchamp's final work, Étant donnés: 1° la chute d'eau / 2° le gaz d'éclairage ("Given: 1 degree The Waterfall, 2 Degrees The Illuminating Gas"), the tabloid image comes to life as a fusion of burlesque peep show and crime scene. Étant donnés is a comment on the Black Dahlia crime scene photographs, which triggered a temporary psychosis - driven by tabloid overexposure which was catering to the the morbid fascination of the masses - with their gruesome depiction of Elizabeth Short's mutilated corpse. Duchamp was indirectly tied to the murder, since his friend and protégé, Man Ray, was a close associate of the man believed to be the Black Dahlia's murderer, George Hodel. In Duchamp's version of the crime/tabloid photos, we see half of a woman's nude body (presumably a corpse), which is covered in a pig's skin to create an illusory tactile gestalt. The scene exists in three dimensions but by a kind of optical illusion it looks like a painting or photograph. In the scene, the woman's vagina is stripped of its labia (the folds), and the vulva is over-emphasized. As Jean-Francois Lyotard observes, Étant donnés is organized so that the vulva and the viewer/voyeur's line of sight collapse in a single vanishing point that consumes subject and object in a total environment: "The viewpoint and the vanishing point are symmetrical. Thus if it is true that the latter is the vulva, this is the specular image of the peeping eyes; such that: when they think they're seeing the vulva, they see themselves. Con celui qui voit. He who sees is a cunt" (137-138). The same could be said of the Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan tabloid photographs. The paparazzi are cunts; we are cunts for looking and buying. Duchamp anticipated the irritating aggressivity of tabloid culture we've seen in the last decade, where the voyeur immanizes with the crime scene - as in a dream scene – becoming all the actors in the surreal tableau: victim, murderer, photographer, etc. But the real murder is this wrenching, enucleation or dissociation of the optical and tactile registers, the loss of contact with the real (the pig's skin).

8. The perfect crime is unsolvable. Baudrillard calls the murder of the real by the simulacrum the perfect crime. X marks the spot because the spot (or the precise moment when a crime is committed) doesn't exist. We see the same thing in Bataille's analysis of a forensic photograph in Documents, or in Finnegans Wake: the crime is unsolvable because it never took place (the ice in the former and the narrative space of the latter are topological, fluid, networked environments: the corpses of Finnegan and the gangster are in constant motion). The X, or the corpse, resists representation because it is in a perpetual state of (inanimate) becoming. Like the voyeur, it perpetually murders itself. The murder victim (in all its associations) is a chiral object. Chirality is a property found in topological structures like the Mobius strip. A chiral object cannot be mapped onto its reflection, there is some minimal yet absolute difference that separates the object from its mirror image irreducibly. What Zizek calls the parallax view is this chiasm, or intersection, between an object constituted by an internal contradiction, or the violent cut (which contains interior and exterior) and twist that forms a Kleinian topology. The parallax (which is associated with optical theory) interferes with the investigation, barring the crime from ever being retraced. It keeps the murder scene, or the location of the trauma which constitutes subjectivity (and vision), in constant motion. The objet a is a chiral object which conjures illusions and phantasmagoria (in Benjamin's sense), and the scene of the crime is always-already a film, the film spinning on the reel. It's worth noting that forensic scientists use chirality to determine whether a knot was tied by the left or right hand, and the word chirality comes from the Greek for "hand."

9. But what the murderer occludes (not the murder, but the act of concealing the evidence), and what the postmodern image bars us from ever really experiencing, is the flesh. This is the term Merleau-Ponty uses for the immanent tactile plane between subject and object, vision and image, or what he calls the flesh, or "wild Being," which is pre-reflective and precedes the conditions of consciousness. Merleau-Ponty's model of the flesh is topological, not Euclidean: "topological space" is a "milieu in which are circumscribed relations of proximity, of envelopment." He sees the topological image or model as "the image of a being that, like Klee's touches of color, is at the same time older than everything and 'of the first day' (Hegel)" and a "perpetual residue" which lives indefinitely: the flesh is "constitutive of life, and [...] founds the wild principle of being." If optics is rooted in reflection (which in the classic models assumes that the eye is fixed in space and time, and that there is a definite exteriority or surface that separates the body from the visual field), then the paramodern theory refers to an enhanced visual sense, like we see in synesthetes, where body and mind are indivisible. Topological images perform the impossible task of exploiting the visual dimension to simultaneously dissociate and reconnect the voyeur to the body, to the tactile sense, and to the anesthetized affective sense (the sense of place or time, for example). For Merleau-Ponty, topology is the most appropriate model for a pre-reflective, pre-optical ontology, or "Wild being," where the body displaces representation. He calls this primordial ontology "the flesh." An image is only topological if it has illusory contours, like those found in optical illusions where two images are seen; never simultaneously, only as competing figures in a non-background, or an anti-medium. The background in each figure (bound by illusory contours) is really a figure. But to make this claim in regards to Vis-à-Vis, or the other works examined in this essay, the real space of the gallery or theater has to coextend (or co-exist in the same ontological dimension) with the represented image or concept.

10. In the postmodern or tabloid image, the visual dimension is a virulent prosthetic, or an extension of the body that reverses in the mirror of simulation. Optical space becomes "the deadly deconstruction of the body." In topological images, on the other hand, we experience the illusion of a body growing, or a surface folding on itself. Topological images cause a tactile, affective sensation, or an abstract "sense" (of place, causality, or being, for example) where interior and exterior are folded together and simultaneous. According to tensor network theory, the brain locates the body (and possibly the mind) in space along two coordinate grids: "Tensor Network Theory [...] realizes that the same physical vector of a head movement, measured in a sensory coordinate system (of the vestibular apparatus) is compensated by an eye movement (driven by the extraocular eye muscles) where the two (sensory and motor) coordinate systems are not identical to one-another, and both are different from the Cartesian x,y,z,t." The motor coordinate system is non-orthogonal, intrinsic and topological. If Jameson is correct and postmodern space is a "hyperspace," then it can only be read by the traces left by the spontaneous flow of affects and tactile intensities. Postmodern hyperspace moves around the subject while the subject moves through it.

11. As Chin-Chin Wu indicates in her own writings, Vis-à-Vis addresses and undermines key binaries like "face/genitalia" and "vagina/mouth," which function conceptually as parallax or chiral objects. These binaries originate and "exist" in the same conceptual structure, held in the delicate equilibrium of the high-definition flesh. At the interface between the audience and the work of art, the traumatic event (the crime) is imagined or represented totally, with no missing clues or unread traces: subject and object fuse, voyeur and image are immanized, and the body is restored to material space and time (against any spectral, postmodern images or representations). The image is knotted to the real.

Because there is something in the touch of flesh with flesh which abrogates, cuts sharp and straight across the devious intricate channels of decorous ordering, which enemies as well as lovers know because it makes them both – touch and touch of that which is the citadel of the central I-Am's private own: not spirit, soul; the liquorish and ungirdled mind is anyone's to take in any darkened hallway of this earthly tenement. But let flesh touch with flesh, and watch the fall of all the eggshell shibboleth of caste and color too. - William Faulkner. Absalom, Absalom! (New York: Random House)1972, 1936. p. 139.

see also

Jean-Michel Rabate. Given: 1°Art 2° Crime: Modernity, Murder and Mass Culture. (Portland: Sussex Academic Press) 2007.

Anthony Vidler. Warped Space. (Cambridge: MIT Press) 2001.

The Writer of Modern Life: Walter Benjamin

Topologies of the Flesh: Steven M. Rosen

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Shells strewn across the carpet. I crack open another one and squeeze the soft pink matter onto a mirror surface. I cut the quivering jelly mass with a thin razor and load each sliver individually on the little grill. It takes a few seconds for the features to emerge. Its eyes open first, then its mouth parts, reluctantly it must be coaxed before it gapes. I inhale slowly and watch its green eyes scream in the reddening blaze. These are brain cells in metabolic reaction with the flame, resonating with cannabis, and living artificially before blinking out. Onset begins a few minutes later.

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Tentacles (2009)

Tentacles, revolving stages, no longer containing images, no more points of light - just invisible concepts you recognize and know immediately. The experience is smaller, no longer at the mercy of a fluid dimension, the circus has passed. Is there an invisible operator, or a conscious will, behind the apparent organization of history into formations, patterns, and synchronized events? The brain hemispheres are two transparent enclosures, cells of space. Their outlines are exerted in an afterimage. The body is an outline-afterimage made of static. A bounded dimension rolls over the static surface: two surfaces converge but never fuse. Images of spines, needles, sharp exoskeletal forms, twisting tongues flicker in and out of view, always covered by an anonymous film, a revolting fluid that steams and boils. It never clings to anything, a fluid-solid like mercury. It migrates from image-object to image-object, it oozes over everything simultaneously. I try to envision crime scenes first. A corpse holding a flag, naked, unadorned, but already buried in time, has been folded into. a posture, posed for observation. Its face melting under layers of artificial menace - the facial muscles were rearranged by the killer. The flag is covered with unidentifiable symbols. Vegetable structures, black molds with nothing inside, lingering soft lunar surfaces, crawl over the crime scene. Spores left by the criminal. The investigator has a notebook with a glossy surface. He uses an expensive custom pen, grooved metal and plastic; reflected light glances off as he takes notes. He's drawing a map. Re-imagining the crime in sharp, grisly detail. Exposed interiors, anatomy through the lens. The intestinal tract has been maimed but this was concealed by the murderer. Delicate surgery, the abdominal wounds were sewn shut, the scars invisible to the untrained eye. The corpse is partially hollowed-out, an organ has been extracted, a black market organ that, when eaten, has psychedelic properties. Sawed through the bone, divided into sections like a city map. The killer's apartment starts to sharpen into clarity. The murderer is an alchemist, we learn this from his library. Black ooze bleeds out of mannequins, plastic busts, indistinct outlines of beautiful women. Maps under glass. All of these ornaments are ignored, I can feel their seductive pull. The scene itself exerts a material presence. It seems vaguely conscious. Halogen spotlights, stage lighting and floodlights, security networks: the space is enormous. Pale light and green water-reflections. Underground compartments. The arrangements of limb and muscle seem to indicate cardinal directions, a scheme of cartographic orientation. The detective leads the way into the catacombs. The killer begins the moment the detective disappears. First, the door is closed, silently. He cuts the lights, kills everyone inside, soundless, inhuman, descending on them from obscure heights. The body is a compass. The murder is fresh. A fresh corpse. But the victim was kept as a slave for weeks. The anonymous tip was left by the murderer, a series of recordings. The detective realizes this exactly thirty seconds too late. By then, his entire unit is dead, something is waiting for him at the end of a corridor. It starts winding around him. It has a distinct but not absolute advantage.

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Cold Blood (2011)

1919, a photographer/painter in his studio in Italy. Memories of childhood somewhere in Eastern Europe. Flashback to age 16, with the gang he ran with in secondary school: they antagonize everyone, have contempt for journalism (newspapers and magazines) and mass media photography, which they mock in nihilistic collages. The way modern history was being constructed had to be ravaged, the group mind or sensory apparatus had to be mutilated: a philosophy of life based on the writings of Nietzsche, Blake, Stirner, Spare, a radical individualism, a devotion to unconscious drives and their cultivation leading to eruption. He invents games and strategies, explores ritual magic, studies non-Euclidean geometry, in his youth. Flashback merges into present. Advanced machine sigils (gears within gears) meditated on in altered states. He watches her move and observes the mechanisms of organism: fluid, multilayered with segments that contain more organs and sediments of biological material like geologic strata; imagining fractalated shapes. Trying to animate machines with occult forces. They create machines that spew abstract poems and proverbs, cut-up newspapers and classic books. They claim these are attended by a resident spirit, a genius loci, which influences their output. Machinery becomes their specialty, he conspires with them to create an underground market of forbidden technology and avant-garde machines. The object is to open a new dimension, machines as a lens into another dimension (the influence of works on the 4th dimension and the occult connection). Spirits that arise naturally inhabit these machines, like an animating force buried inside dead matter unleashed by technology. Preoccupied for a while studying this energy, like Reich’s orgone: an invisible magnetism in a sub-spectrum off the human threshold. He writes for small Dada periodicals, and later in conspiracy with the Surrealists, and anonymously in science journals, technology magazines, newspaper and magazine articles and opinion columns, pulp science fiction and detective magazines. But pulled toward technology, a species of technology unique to avant-garde modernism, led to it by an unseen force, a black silhouette of pure screen that visits dreams and hallucinations and seduces chosen targets, like his brain is trying to work out an impossible puzzle from fragments of data, little clues strewn over a crime scene. Start with the painter in the art studio, at school, with his nude model for an afternoon sitting. Discolorations of skin, bruises and sores. Her markings tell a story, they leave a trail that can’t be traced back to a source. He’s drawn into her narrative which already spawns nightmare scenarios. What scenes has she acted in? The wounds and markings starting to consume the painting: that’s where the living mystery of a person is revealed, he realizes, this is how they acquire depth and texture: these markings which inspire endless speculation, spiderwebs of conjecture. Trying to imagine the nightmare tableaux while staring at the early afternoon light slivering through the loft’s imported glass as the day changes color. He wants to use bits and pieces of machines to represent the model’s internal anatomy. Gears for organs and viscera, he’s building by layers, some compulsion to keep opening the body into negative space, to separate it into constituent pieces, as the perspectival space is consumed by a hive of machines. An all-enveloping structure, a great architecture of space. To separate its constituent pieces. This is his first romantic ideal of the machine. She’s a corpse surrounded by flies in the painting. The flies are almost invisible and you can see them smiling and feeding happily under a magnifying glass; and at yet another remove (under one of the microscopes from the appropriated office building), you see the corpse’s horrified rictus frozen in reflection on the compound eyes; rolling landscapes of shiny black insect eyes multiplying out into magnified space for eternity reflecting the horrified facial expression of the murdered woman. Furiously paints this image in a trance state brought on by a combination of drugs, meditation, experimental games, scripted arrangements and ritual magic. She’s the ritual sacrifice, the model. Slowly transforming into a pure image, the painter’s ideal (he thinks he’s being initiated by some invisible academy of master painters). Studying Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp, maybe those geniuses are behind his initiation. Drinks wine, studies her from every conceivable angle. From Eastern Europe, not sure exactly where, he can’t remember, abandoned by parents to drunk aunt (later uncle). He’s learning to paint at a prestigious academy in (?) as fascism gains a footing. Influenced by Futurism, but especially drawn to Dada and Russian Futurism.

He buys a screen that’s haunted by an animating presence. Finds this projection device (made by a skilled and mysterious engineer) in an underground market one day while wandering: dry sewers, grave networks dug by the nighcrawlers (diggers), caves and old aqueducts. She shows up on Ash Wednesday, a gray image lying in a corner near a real hearth full of dying coals. A line sketch that takes on weight and substance, that materializes and grows organically over time. A young female voice is trapped in the flat space of the screen, still lacking form. Sees glimpses of her, young and thin, with large radiant eyes. Usually a blur of television static in a vague figural shape (the psychoanalyst: projecting an image, part of an obsessional neurosis characterized by visual fixation inherited from the ritual habit of his work as a painter). He falls in love with the image. She becomes the new model (the real one mysteriously vanished). She turns into static over time, keeps fading. She could be a hallucination caused by drugs and insomnia and depression, according to the analyst.

Schizophrenics respond to one of the machines they use to manipulate the body, the electromagnetic shell in this case, the three-dimensional electromagnetic field generated by neurons, heart, the skin, etc. Schizophrenics feel it. They have some kind of emotional resonance with the machine, joined by a solidarity of affect or felt experience (or the qualitative feeling of its absence). They visit some of the schizophrenics wearing expensive suits, hats, watches and other accessories.  See Madness and Modernism for case study (the woman remotely manipulated by engineers). They build an image of the machine from each of the patients’ accounts and four of them share duties painting its blueprint: a wireless mind-control device. Using electromagnetic patterns to reprogram the human machine: nervous system, muscular system: even the blood, the humors, all the smearing viscera.

In a nondescript building, not sure how he got there, walks into a knot tentacles hung from a chandelier of glass, pearls, slime and jewels; bright antiseptic light over an operating table that’s surrounded by a cloud of flies. There is nothing on the table, only the suggestion of something from certain angles in the room. Upstairs in the boudoir, looking for something, not sure what, drawn in by the lonely shadow of the bureau next to the closet (also invisible, needs to strain to see it). He searches on top and behind the drawers  and his eyes are sort of guided along by a set of objects that radiate lost meaning, leading him like the convolutions of a labyrinth: broken glasses, a fragment of a mirror that cannot show a full reflection (you only see part of any object), an ink well (the ink bubbles), something like a naked enlarged human cell, a wet vesicle,  a monstrous tadpole egg… scattered coins and a water stain: these cues lead him to an envelope. Uses a thin penknife, a folding scalpel, to open the seal. Inside are nineteen photographs, each one numbered, old Polaroids with fragments of addresses, phone numbers, random number sequences and words.  He becomes a detective, these start coming to him in the mail from an unknown source, someone playing a game with him. Telephone messages and numbers, some unclear characters. Blood splatters, drawings of organs, vague deviant sex acts, money, exotic animals. Some kind of surrealist prank. He will hunt down the marked locations which fade from existence as he closes in.  The city opens up as he approaches the nonplace described in the photographs, a crime scene off the grid. One of the scrawls on a photograph: “The perfect form of a dress” (the dematerialization of its form). The perfect crime: it has been edited out by his memory, omitted by his unconscious which is dragging him into its center. But it wasn’t him, he knows what happened but he wasn’t involved at the same time: like this is something that will happen in the future , that exerts a kind of inevitability which sucks him in, and he can do nothing about it, just speculate on how the mystery will unfold.

A show where each member of the audience is terrorized, a horror spectacle with audience interaction that blurs the distinction between theater and reality by assaulting the senses with macabre images and sounds, and through the use of live actors and imposters. The total dizzying effect disrupts thought patterns. A special effects blitz on logic drawing on phantasmagoria (with a glass harmonica at the entrance, a few of them in fact, and calliopes and noise generators inside). Pure sensory noise with no harmony or logic designed to violate the soul – everything decomposes into noise, reality in static form as random storms of bits and fragments. Body sections, maps of the anatomy, a meeting with Brunuel. The fake ritual quartering of a sacrificial lamb with mob audience. The violent-sexual imagery gives the audience the hot shivers. Popular for a moment, then suppressed viciously by authorities. The group is singled out by fascists in Italy and Spain, who erase all traces of the art collective. Some key members are killed or kidnapaped and presumed dead. The others move underground and the group changes shape. The first section takes place between 1919 and 1924. END of first spider girl.

There’s a window into the banquet, climbs into a window in time. A hollow tube connected to other tubes that branch out into the ether. 1924: the first success, financial independence from sales on an art/technology/collectibles/oddities market. The figures in this marketplace appear and disappear like ghosts, matter in its wave-condition, as if they exist in separate registers. Becomes a dealer in the illicit. Is he also between worlds, not quite real? Stumbles on a scientific monograph by a German physicist about the particle/wave duality (or whatever was known at the time about particle/wa've). Mulls his own insignificance, an atom of energy, matter, information, formulae, the fading identity, the lack of fame or reputation, and finds in it another kind of life charge, a right-to-exist that inheres in the real. The reaccumulation of force into himself after his encounter with the girl. He needs obscurity, maybe invisibility, to exist. This is when he starts to utilize invisibility as a strategic approach to life. He finds himself at a crowded banquet in ‘24 where all of the food seems alive on the platters and The guests are these gaping black orifices on vibrating stalks that kind of fold their food into their rotting mouths rather than chew it.  The waiters circle in never-ending swarms, each with tiny mouths, the same hairlines, identical creases in their foreheads. The pig’s eyes are alive with intelligence, twitching neurotically on a platter; the shrimp and fish leap around idiotically. All of this can be blamed on the anxiety of the servers and the cooks, who are giving a terrible presentation and will receive a thorough and unkind dressing down in the prince’s work quarters later in the evening. They will receive the strap from the boss. The prince talking to the head of commerce after the dinner, asking why, given their mechanical obedience and predictability after training (the oily laughter, greasy pig guttural laughs from the back of their throats through the corner of the artist’s eyes) the staff have failed in this routine situation? He thinks about the question for a while, chews his lip and stares at the cookware hanging like the executed in the kitchen, and realizes what the head of commerce is leading at.

Dream where he gruesomely blinds a challenger in a knife fight. He turns into the victim later attending the dream-funeral. Eyes become black solid-form fruits protected from an army of flies by a layer of gauze. Wandering in the desert without coordinates, with no means of self-reference, driven off the axis, following the circular overhead paths of the vultures.

Through the 1920’s, the formation of the group as a response to Dada, Futurism and Surrealism, but also to fascism and communism. Document their minor celebrity in eastern Europe and Russia. Constructed games and real life confrontations. Moving in a theater space between real and constructed life. They want to live between two coordinate systems, in a non-space off the grid. The other side is closing around on them from above. Interested in noir and crime and murder, irregular research happenings with surrealists and others, a subculture around evil sensationalism, censored art, pornography, violent and sexual imagery concealed and circulated among artists since early civilization, occult sciences and technologies. Their idea is to construct reality the way the media (newspaper writers, poets and photographers, creators of games, crosswords, comic strips, drawings, etc.) constructs a mass hallucinated reality: by addressing the meanest impulses, igniting cruel drives by shining a light on them and stealing their life. Exploring the late European malaise, can’t see through it, a fog obscures everything. Reality is starting to dissolve into a blur of white and yellow at the edges. They get involved in various money-making schemes, organized crime, money running pyramids.

The fascination with galvanism, Mesmer, the occult, altered states of consciousness, the brain, calculators, information, drugs. The computer runs on coded symbols and so does the brain (language). They see people as living machines made of forces and instincts mixed with abstract symbols. A socio-scientific monograph combining the research with the theory. Hallucinogens from Mexico and South America (they go in 1928 for three months to study ethnography: the purpose of the research is to map out the “hallucinatory space” or spiritual dimension experienced by shaman). The use of psychedelic drugs by shaman cultures is a primitive form of a technology whose time hasn’t come (and of course they want to usher it in). They deliver impromptu speeches at events, attract attention, fights break out. They move out of the public eye, hiding in crowds, make an art of hiding and moving in crowds. Read Poe and Rimbaud and de Quincey.  Meet Walter Benjamin in ’27. Reproduce at least ten poems here, marking the passage. Experiments with stanzas and layouts, multimedia, formulas, instructions, stage directions, poems for ear, eye, heart, skin and brain. Art that envelops the senses and the interior. He’s not sure why these seem to be coupled.

Parties in 1920’s Europe with the culterati and the elite, moving across the continent like a depraved circus, Berlin and Paris and Zurich. Social Darwinism, society events, conformity, pecking orders, sexual selection. The sort of petty meanness native to the combination of controlled alcohol consumption and a general emptiness of spirit. A death clings to them, they live in plastic scenes and this changes their interior shape. The painter just silently registers these insights. Social groupings always comical from a distance. Pretenders forcing their way into the scene. They look in their drinks, solemn, deep in reflection. The coupling of misery and reflection, reflexivity as a theme in his life, the way It crops up (not long followed by notions of suicide) at the low points, when life congeals and solidifies. The arrival of the protag’s second love, a new contributor. She has a scarred past, ritual and murder and an evil family connected to the earliest Nazi families and benefactors. Used by her family as a whore for powerful secret societies (including the Nazis), families with corporate interests underwriting the rise of fascism over Europe. Violent anti-Communist, anti-Semitic, pedophilic, sadistic, wealthy conspirators. The new spider girl is submissive like the model at first. She reduces him to something less than human. Second breakdown. Skulls, machines, psychic phenomena, studying creative forces, how they mingle with sexual drives.  Tall and skinny now. He becomes invisible, walking on a thin sheet of ice like glass with the fascists underneath but it’s like he’s floating above them and fucking their women at the same time (the new girl sort of includes all German women, condenses the group mind to a concentrated essence – all of her looks and gestures as a model in his studio, that’s how it started).

Every sign of genuine life has evaporated, burnt out, by the end of the decade. New art exhibit (in Germany): Galvanized corpses fed through a grinder, each with price tags, the galvanizer has a corporate name and logo. Everything is stamped, branded, processed in the violent machinery of social institutions (which are miniaturized somehow). This is Weimar dying in a sun baked field at the edge of the pit. Feels like he’s on the parallel of reality in a sort of mirror space, like he’s slowly entering hell, being consumed by it. The piece is about mass murder, they put it on in Germany. His new spider girl is behind this one. She witnessed the Great War through a window, she watched the carnage as if it took place on a three dimensional screen and saw the Germans get retreat and get slaughtered in an open field. Their bodies unceremoniously deposited in a ravine. Another war in Europe is unavoidable by 1940. He designs a new sceheme, a social situation: she will become the mistress of a high ranking officer in the Nazi party and climb the ranks. He secretly plans to project into her body like a shell or puppet he can control by remote: she’s a hollow mannequin now, soul burnt out by psychosexual overstimulation: the tender flesh of youth now hardened, scaled over, bloodless after contact with the lower frequencies of perversion. They move to France and England, divide their time. All traces of their exhibitions and paintings, collages, etc. are hunted down and confiscated. Back room murders, theft. The market no longer deserves art. Any concrete remnant of its presence is erased with the last machine.

Bataille, Benjamin, Caillois, Tzara, Breton, Haussmann, Cage, Satie, Duchamp, Wells, Joyce, black nude dancers, Gestaltists, German Expressionists, Crowley, Gurdjieef, Spare, some murderers, Fulcanelli, assorted criminals, Man Ray, Einstein, Bohr, Lewin, Adorno, Magritte, Freemasons, Caillois, Heidegger-Hitler, insiders in Surrealist movement, spies, diplomats, hugely wealthy politicians come to exhibitions. Nazis, Futurists, Wyndham Lewis, Sicilian mafia, Weimar layabouts and addicts and whores, Paris ascetics, Julius Evola.

 Zoo animals, study animal trading in Europe in the 20’s. They study animal markings and patterns.

Violent anti-politics. Everything submits to negation, which should be aestheticized. Experiments with anesthetics (opium admixtures and derivatives), hallucinogens, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation.

A surgical theater, recreating Rembrandt dissections with real cadavers. The galvanized corpses are programmed to dance. Experiments with robots, mannequin shells over gears and pistons, programmed to eat and fuck, made up to look like women without expression, dominas. They keep them in a sealed studio with a window/mirror overlooking from the upper floor, mirrors arranged as a spiral above the performance space. A small theater performance that only depresses or enrages. They can’t see or feel anything, no brains, just programs and formulas. They invent puzzles and mazes, real labyrinths. Theater, the black masque or ball, the carnival for adults, the murder mystery, starts to converge with European reality. They begin seeing the stage automata everywhere.

They need adventure, wilderness, oxygen, so they move to the US, in the 1930’s (start in ’33).Through NY to Hollywood. They recreate scenes, impersonate folk heroes like John Dillinger. They become the detectives who investigate their own crimes. Find work in comics, ads, journalism, in New York. They give language lessons. Gangland. Try to take on the American spirit in order to pervert it. Brecht, Faulkner, Duchamp, Man Ray, filmmakers. Money through galleries in Europe, smuggling art out of Germany. Smuggling avant-garde art. Moving and laundering money through these galleries, which become a front operation. They start working in secret with Surrealists, Acephale, anarchists and other agitators. Interested in violence for the sake of violence, bombs, staged terror attacks as art. They design pop artifacts. Conjuring things in reality through ritual visualization, they project disposable commodities, logos, mascots, commercials. They live in a constructed reality and it’s being sucked into America, some horizon America. The celluloid promise, the film starlet as escape, the girl-mannequins trained in underground photography studios, each layer of clothing removed is another level of hell. A descent into the heart of the war, a descent into the real. They start to cast these women, figure models. They film underground scenes, documentaries about aspiring models and actresses. The interview process, the audition for fresh faced newcomers. The first one is interviewed, a sweet young white suburbanite whose white teeth remind the artist of white picket fences and tubes of toothpaste, a gleam about her, a sanitary and perfected look. She becomes a machine, stripped of flesh and humanity by the end of the audition process. Sound quality changes over the course of the film, increasingly noisy and shrill in a hollow background. An acoustic burial of sorts. The film disintegrates like something in time, cocooned in the time it projects within itself. Some crossover with the Black Dahlia, the aspiring actress. Wealthy black magic cult, corrupt police force. Filming the Wizard of Oz. One is a murder suspect (series of suburban fathers butchered in a specific way, posed in the households like mannequins performing absurd domestic tasks). The LAPD descends on him without warning, high speed chase through 1930’s SoCal suburbia in (lookup make/models in LA Noire). They make small private films for wealthy private collectors. Living in suburban Southern California, quite wealthy from schemes. Alcohol and cocaine, prostitution, pedophilia. Nude photography and cocktail parties and orgies. Man Ray and George Hodel. The original underground Hollywood orgy cultists, they bring in the occultists, the Satanists, Crowley’s apprentices, La Vey etc. Combine pornography, gore, violence and surrealism in experimental films for Hollywood aficionados. A cult market underground. Porno animations where the limits of reality are challenged.

Comic books, like Fantomas, the anti-realism and sick indulgence inspires them. They sell a few strips and watch them decline in the Times of each major east coast city (deliberately ruining the strips for audiences, killing the narrative) before moving on and changing names, faces, clothes, personality traits, gestures, etc. , like great actors, and their identities which lose solidity as the thirties wear on and start to disintegrate. Dust on advertisements, decide to go back underground.  On vehicles through the dustbowl, the asceptic desert, stripped of life and color; seared, boiled clean of all contaminants. All in a storm. He looks in a mirror, for once, the eyes speak to him, tell him a new story about himself, something he couldn’t see reflected in the eyes of Europeans, and he avoids his reflection in America. He sees the Americans as an inferior race, a future slave race (but not for Germany): for the spider girls.

He visits her, his former mistress, now a shut-in wife. She is a different person, speaks in a different voice; he hears someone else’s words and expressions in her speech & gestures. She goes silent at odd moments and he takes the time to explore her wounds, her scars, as her flesh falls apart slowly, withering old soft flesh off the bones and the guts which he can smell in the closet (where the sloughed remains are kept), a faint after-odor in her wake as she floats like a specter through the drawing room.  She is a living corpse, kind of a passive living corpse. She feels compelled to show him all the rooms and spaces in the estate. He meets the husband, starts exerting secret influence on the Nazis by remote, tries to destroy it from within, but fails by ’38. Gives up on Europe and sees the new, post-Apocalypse potential of the undead commodity, the image that comes to life by magic (galvanization, calling invisible forces out of the great archive), a living form that spreads happiness and security, a sense of wealth, that is enclosing them in a new skin: a virtual body, a protective shell or womb, and its future lies in America, some monstrosity that will sleep forever and suffocate history reduced to a fetus smothered by the weight of its insides. END of second spider girl.

The third Spider Girl is a demon, 12 years old, seduces him aggressively. An ancient spirit sometimes possesses her and he has conversations with it, they relate. Lead actress in one of the films for an old Los Angeles hills pervert (his identity is becoming more vague, blending into the Hollywood background like a ghost of conformity and repetition). He’s consumed with The Monk by Matthew Lewis, with Artaud’s translation of it. Study Bataille’s work on Eros and death. Spider Girls is a film, set for release on Pearl Harbor weekend. It is surreal with suggestions of violence and sex (No pornography: they don’t break laws in art, but not subject to censorship or government oversight either ), but forgotten after everyone ships off for war. They dress up as clowns, sell their services as lifelong public entertainers in newspaper ads.

The heart, he realizes, is a parasympathetic system, a machine, part of the automatic processes of the central nervous system.  Understands how to reproduce it technologically. He sees it as an invader, an outsider, separated from him by an irreducible gap. He treats it as an adversary and in this adversarial role it becomes infinitely more powerful. She becomes a montage of faces and body sections and invisible layers (fashion, anatomy) brought to surface. She becomes an outline, a silhouette, filled with ghosts cycling in and out rapidly on a rotating cylinder, images of the dead. Retro erotica, horror erotica, wax figure theatre, ghosts in violent orgiastic revelry. He hosts orgies with galleries of the dead brought to life through a dimension injected into a film roll, a glowing pink gel. A menagerie of characters, the social types arranged in a tableaux. He watches them cycle in and out like fiery animated images on the inside of a stereoscope: exploding and converging pieces of the human form. They dance for him, perform every act of depravity he can imagine. He is haunted by a phantom guilt, isn’t sure what he did. The feeling it arouses, he remembers describing it in a poem, a few weeks after buying the screen from the oddities collector. Then the narrative shifts by violent jerking redirect and he’s waiting by a locked door under a lamp with a black vinyl lampshade. The light bulb inside is being devoured by its plastic sheath.

Mickey Mouse, Orson Wells, Sergei Eisenstein, Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Howard Hughes, World’s Fairs, desert gas stations, John Dillinger, American Freemasons, Freud on vacation with a very young mistress, Duchamp and Man Ray (again) conspiring over a chessboard, failing, the pieces are tangled together (Duchamp and Ray are the only ones from Europe who reappear). The low hum of their conversations, run the collective like an organization because it has become a media syndicate. In its corporate inflection, an image on its surface or underside: glowing black fragments of glass arranged in honeycomb. Still hunting the black market, still undiscovered underground films and machines, photographs. The avant-garde commodities black market, a sub-market in Europe spreading into America. Doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, celebrities.  The black market is growing. There’s automaton Babe Ruth and Charlie Chaplin, wax Marx Brothers animated by electric charge. They meet Tesla in New York and buy illicit technology.

They discuss film as a channel for a new fascism, a subtler kind of fascism, interiorized fascism (considering, in an American spring breeze, where fascism went wrong), using waves to modulate neuroelectric fields and change brainwave patterns, like the Church, altering brain patterns (triggered intervals/releases) for mind control, enforced compliance with the state (the collective) and its will. A total art form, an industry. They feel young at the end, ready to start over, done with one creative cycle and ready to start a new one, after the long interregnum of the global economic collapse where the avant-garde charge tapered off and faded. Away with politics, history, art, commerce. Excited by the promise of geographic reorganization offered by the war. They see everyone losing WWII, total destruction of the human species seems logical. The wind shaking the frame of the space, sealed in the suburban landscape, the night sounds lurking behind a storm’s deep approach. Frozen in the pause between thunderclaps, the ice cream trucks in diminishing day followed by kids on bikes, old and broken, watching the children in the rearview, driving home, closing shop. They know all the stops, the kids do, pretend they are rounding the bases while cutting corners; waiting for him at Oak Drive. Dead wax figure emperors of the suburban sprawl before it really explodes, watching through a window, in the clouds of light. Waiting for death in the living room with red light slanting through the blinds, the sun setting spectacularly. They all die in the suburbs, anonymous, their work forgotten or erased, lost in the madness, the tumult, which becomes visible as they become corpses in a still frame that stays frozen for eternity (show suburban network sort of webbing out into eternity: image of civilization evolving as a great mechanical/concre/te/glass machine: an enormous fantasy construct)..


The first sensation that reality, as an edifice, is being exposed and obliterated at the same time. The sound of people in the distance reacting to his private gestures and inward reflexes, like his nervous system is pulling the puppet strings of everything around him. Planes enter his field of vision at choreographed moments, for example as he’s thinking about what his head would look like from above. This only happens once – over an intense 8-10 hour period – but he keeps a detailed log updated every few minutes in a shorthand journal, and backs up his claims with tape recordings of the sensations (not his word), which his doctor claims are the constructs of an excited imagination. Dr. G gives him some stern pragmatic warnings about the horrible consequences of giving in to delusional schizoid percepts. The artist plays back the recording of the sounds to challenge the doctor’s terms -- “percept” and “sensation” -- as the inventions of a false science. These are relative and unqualified universals. After this it is like he is living inside his own paintings and sketches, increasingly an inhabitant of the visual media of the era – film, painting, collage, montage – which has the aura of the new still; his delusional complex becomes a marketable commodity. He can live outside of history.

The gradual disappearance of the dream of being a great painter. Always wraps his hands in bandages so he can go out after painting. Also wraps the torso. Part of his daily routine is to celebrate progress by drinking until loss of consciousness, has to visit oblivion regularly. The shape and color of the void suffuses his work. Today he celebrates the elimination of some material: progress often takes the form of eliminations. Lets the randomizer determine the type of drink (wine, bourbon, beer), so the spirit of the evening is under the machine’s control. On the way to the determined location he loses himself. Unknown body of water and bridge. The blue eyes of the bridge, the face of its underside changing expression every hour. This is the perfect locale for painting and taking notes, the area captures so much climate variation, studies the variations of its style like historical styles. Starts to read the currents of energy in the city crowds and tries to represent these as rivers, oceans and streams (crowds also vary in mood). Everything seems fluid for a while but this proves to be a passing phase. Studying how city and nature are interwoven, or can be at least, in surreal images. Landmarks and animal forms: like the way a suspension bridge resembles an African hippopotamus rising above the water’s surface, or the way cobblestones turn into a nest of rats when you stare at them after a long voyage. Themes erupting together: nature and technology, civilization and the animal. Social realism as anthropomorphized animals, cities as rates of hypophotonic flow; diagramming these intensities with research projects in the city. Tries to paint a “living darkness.”  Methods for translating these into paint and surface. The faces in the crowds become masks, everyone is behind a mask. People outside watch him paint through the open window. Reads, watching the life of the town which burns everywhere, conjuring imaginary worlds and lives for the characters. The struggle of the solitary individual against the great leveling force of big society and mass production. Cars go by, everything is in clocklike order. Stationary rhythm. Time is waiting for something from him. Private room, drug experiment, listening to experimental noise music with a shivering background that transforms into percussive rhythm, trying to conjure infant memories. Feeling through the memory zone, an ether. Projects into it. Hovering milklights on a bowl are seen through fetoid eyelids, shadows of the real which hasn’t given birth to him yet. On the other side of a dome now. He’s walking on its surface. He strolls along cheerfully, without effort, as the curvature (which is visible out to the horizon) pulls him forward. Shapes and forms on the horizon like mechanical objects. Tries to move toward them but they only recede further. Feels small and gentle, sensitive to everything. Listens to the shadows: they leave traces and signatures on the wall. Starts to identify the shadows by signature resonance. He falls asleep again. Wakes up and the milklights are dancing. He watches the milklights in slow motion melting together. They change color and dance together in a slow waltz under the dome. He was poisoned, never felt better in his life because this is death. This is real joyousness, like he’s identified the source of all that is joyous and beneficent, but when he tries to paint the image later in the afternoon, the result looks monstrous. An eerie semblance to hideous faces, shadows, gore, crowds of demons, a quality that evokes terror: the scene unfolds into a hellscape. That image always coincides with (or conjures) something evil.

A game involving early modern laboratories (the classic setup with microscopes arranged sort of magically in a pentagraphical diagram). This is a haunted sci-technical space, a zone for new capitalist projects, new mutations of the commodity, total system disequilibrium across coordinates. He was drawn to it before by clues in dreams and trance, in random outbursts of uninterrupted texts and maps, and by the general magnetic force exerted by the place. He photographs it, wants to view it on a tiny scale, studying it behind a plane of glass like in a laboratory setting. Nested forms again. The new company is studying cell structure and membranes in the abandoned downtown office space. The metropolitan commercial space has been dead since the industrial boom, the city still in the ashamed afterglow of its mania. A real estate development firm was hired by the government to renovate the building: a sprawling, dusty attic space haunted by cold furniture and ugly carpeting; morbid fashion, some decorations and crippled wall hangings, dull lamps casting off subterranean light, he compares it to the light of a small torch in a sepulcher that crumbles slowly, the light source for someone buried alive: the building has been buried alive, it is a murder victim. The gradual decay of the office building, new but stuck or interred in the afterhours malaise of dead asphalt lit by pale globs of neon, these are non-colors, something to study later, some are moved around by currents, appear to move in an elliptical orbit beckoning like the all-night service and coffee and cigarettes and burgers and gasoline at 24-hour diners (quote real advertisements). The city feels abandoned here, revealing itself in its nakedness. The building becomes the centerpiece or anchor of his mind’s image of the city. He’s drawn by unseen forces of attraction to places. These are always off the grid, in a nether dimension.  The 14-18 hour workers lined up in dirty clothes, hands cracked like old swells of butcher meat cured, browned and forgotten on old hooks in lifeless unlit freezers. Chains rattle in a breeze that doesn’t exist. He is here and then there, keeps flashing in and out. They become livestock in his mind, then a theater audience. A complex with multiple and connected stages. Falls into this theater, which becomes another holy landmark. He’s quietly struggling within himself, with the other half of himself, consumed by fits of self-loathing and doubt. The urban zoo, a white zoo. Vacation in Lisbon where a series of earthquakes devastated major parts of the city but information about the disaster was censored and suppressed by authorities (with violence and threats). Explanation for the censorship is never given. Lives multiple lives among other artists and musicians buried under the Lisbon ruins. He needs vital affects and percepts to survive inside the parasitic commercial structure that has drained the life from him. Lisbon’s streets at midnight are electrified by jazz music, experimental poetry and dance, avant-gardism which is gaining a footing in the mainstream of Europe and America. The 20’s consumes them and they become invisible. The French women start cycling in and out of the group. Comedy sketches and routines highlighting a play on words, something sexual or gross, bodily functions. Goes to a vaudeville show and leaves disgusted, like watching the traps set for the group mind snap shut in collective mental stasis. The herd is a contractual stasis among the population, which is by definition unaware of itself, un-self-conscious. The real humor is in the audience, he thinks, in the sick joke that  is played on them.

The liberal capitalist turn, postwar celebration. No more of the reactionary conservatism that led to the Great War. He isolates himself. First dreams and images then real women cycle in and out of the small elegant apartment. The women are sweet, smell and taste like fresh flowers. This is a perpetual theme of the artist’s life: the object’s freshness. It is detached from everything in a vacuum seal and therefore unattainable, always behind a curtain or seal. He wonders about the form of his own heart, maybe it requires the asepsis of the vacuum seal, a natural attraction to it. Later she becomes a swollen fruit in the paintings, a feminine idol or archetype from savage orgies and ceremonial magic. They target and lure prey like animals, they both become insects caught in the web spun, both common prey to circumstance. Tries but cannot remember the lessons from childhood myths and fairy tales about the seductions of evil, feminine seduction, and wonders how these hardwired lessons were forgotten. Was his own memory is erasing them? Like the memory itself separated from the rest of the mind, an autonomous being split from the soul or primary self (a psychoanalyst: what mystery surrounds this itinerant consultationist and self-proclaimed adept? Invents initiation tales with spiritual leaders, shares insight about their cultism, his perverse inquiries about the artist’s private life, strange little nonsensical notes he leaves for himself as reminders about unclear events/ locations/ characters -the painter finds these bits scattered in the gutter floating on bubbles of raw sewage in the open morning air – the psychotherapist gets inside patients through spirits and demons, envoys in the electric space of nerve impulses).  Explaining his ghastly appearance to the therapist. He gets those cold sarcastic radiations from ex-lovers more frequently. Making him feel cold, sick, pasty, infantilized and shuddering behind closed curtains in the bedroom. This is morning. The cold along the wind’s edge is like steel. The curse becomes apparent, visible. He feels the spider girls, phantom sensations of their insides, their warm anatomies, the legs in a primal V shape. Describing this under hypnosis to the mortified therapist. He blacks out, an indescribable flash followed by a prolonged flat-lining of experience, wakes up from the erasure with a festering wound, rolling around on it in agony in a tortured dream, but remembers right before the blackout feeling the heat (volcanic, blinding) build to a violent seizure. A violent turning inward, tries to represent the heat gradient of their guts in sunset reds, oranges, yellows and purples. Quietly weaving paintbrushes between long fingers while he imagines novel combinations of color for the new painting. Stirs some tea with a dirty fork, dark tea with a visible film covering its surface, which he ignores while taking a sip. Starts playing chess with the girl on the screen, driving himself crazy. He sees his own moves reflected in hers. Maybe the screen is some kind of mirror which has drawn out his psychic essence, his personality’s other half, which is captured in its visual space… Obsessed with this visual space. Somehow it is primary, the concrete world is derived from it. Stares into the reflecting pool at the mirror world, he sees himself content there, knows he can take root in this world, his true habitat as modern artist. Absorbed in it, he sees himself folded up as a seedling, his own masks within masks hiding knives, a nested series of identities. He’s stealing from the rich and the incorporated at costume balls that he never remembers but that always leave the afterimage of flashbulbs filling space as the primary light source (then cut to those lights flashing out, the smoke hanging in the air, everyone falling deaf and silent, and the chandeliers become hanging nests of spasmodic flashbulbs, some dead bodies when everything suddenly returns to normal), with his crew poisoning these lavish dinners, serving wine and hors d’oeurves and disappearing.

Black parasols open spontaneously, like flowering organs. Anonymous workers fill the streets during a lunch hour thunderstorm. This is the business district, among dead rose petals in a hotel room, watching pedestrians scurry under dark nylon beetle shells that shine in the chromium rain. The phenomenon of humans transforming from a collection of individuals into a mass, a hive. The balcony girl across the street. Sensations of her fading silvery hair on the electrified air, she leaves her afterimage in flashes of lightning. Feeling lazy in the afternoon, dreaming, watching the lives scatter in choreographed synchrony under the window.  These storms always put him in the mood for a nap. Some red and green blooms along the edge of the great shadow of black umbrellas. The color contrast is marked. The black nylon rotates around clusters of bright red and green as the arrondissement cedes to the great unfurling curtain. He makes a mental note to draw sketches of these parasols in the evening, the bright ones, to study the color contrast, but forgets an hour or two later. Memory lapses are becoming a problem. The leisure and relaxation of the creative act, letting the images pour out of your mind. You don’t want to force it; master painters never force the images out. This is a small city, another nameless one from his desultory travels through secret Europe (keeps forgetting to keep a diary, even now, when he couldn’t possibly care less about life). These cities are recalled only in dreams so they are open to interpretation, they can be read as arrangements of symbols. An aside about paying for hypnosis. He grabs his umbrella and dissolves into the crowd. A jab in the ribs, the brief glimpse of a penknife gleaming in a gloved hand. He shows the hypnotist this scar. About ten ticks later, another glimpse of the knife, then a grotesque mask, a lit cigarette, images pouring into the street through the smoke. The rain stronger, people shoving harder and walking more determinedly. He feels the anger of the group surge in him, a parasitic invader that becomes a source of intense pleasure. Loafers clopping on the wet pavement. What felt super real before (during the transition)has become dreamlike, blurry: an optical illusion where matter disappears, more the way he imagined it before he left the hotel room. Like he’s become part of a great pile of humanity and a figure in his own painting at the same time. The corpse buried under the wall of black umbrellas. His pain and blood mix with the movement and the heat of the crowd. He hasn’t fainted yet, consciousness won’t let go of him, the stab wound must not be fatal. Abandons himself to the warm healing waters of the city and winds up in another bar. Drinks all night to numb the flares, wakes up rolling on the wound and goes to a private doctor who looks at the infection. Describes it as a fresh infection. The doctor transforms into the psychologist and the hypnotherapy session ends with the therapist sitting cross-legged, palm open waiting for coin. The painter gives him the money. Doctor interrupts him as he’s leaving: one more thing. Nurse enters and the doctor takes tissue samples on a scalpel, very delicate slivers like pale rose petals. Conversation with the visibly shaken doctor, talks about collecting cities.

Feigning illness, his nursemaids and servants outside the door. Prohibited from gazing on his monstrous form: its casts a distorted shadow. He listens to the gossip through a wide crack under the door.  The body like a sculpture or mannequin, uses makeup and raw materials to create the illusion of syphilitic decay. Amputates a hand. Craters and sores on the skin, wild discolorations. More and more obsessed with altering the body, altering the interior being. Ends up feeling like a beast in a disgusting frivolous parasitic shell made of disposable material, like he’s a creature in the womb and he has to eat his way out of this disposable uterus  to get born in the world. The shell rotting away, eventually disappearing to reveal gaping anatomical folds. His skin is transparent, a giant adult fetus in the x-ray light. One of the gossipy nursemaids catches a glimpse of its monstrous reflection and attempts suicide shortly after, and he has to disappear again.

He has to force his way through a wall of cedar paneling which collapses to reveal the hidden space behind the stairs. It feeds you forward into a rotating dining room. A pair of tablets on the dining table, cold dark outlines against a heavy slab of ancient oak. False teeth, a row of shields, utensils made of imported rare bone, hybrid admixtures. Taking stock, a mental inventory of the constellation of ornaments. He re-enters the room as it rotates imperceptibly, has to force it open again for some reason. A bubble opens inside the film set, it opens into another scene through a vivid window of spacetime.  A real, taxidermied fist around a clump of  black hair mounted on the far wall. You want out but can’t remember why. You just have to get out before something terrible happens. Panic sets in, nerves overheat, seem to flare like an old electric heater in the crossed wires of terror and rage. This is the moment of complete muscular paralysis when the injection is taking hold. You feel the peak set in here, a violent seizure like sudden lockjaw of the entire body. Another winter draft blows through the dining room and the false teeth chatter. You hear something approaching from seven, maybe eight floors above. All your memories suddenly seem vague, like a cloud has fallen over the mind.  The sound descends from the upper floor with a hard inevitability. You are fixed in its design.  Falling on you, a devouring maw. Lairs, worms, streams of lava, venomous red fluid. She’s wearing a hat and a name tag, a sales rep frozen in the form of a tissue-mannequin. A magnetic black mannequin with an electric shell. An inverted life force, whatever naturally opposes the soul. A death force.

crime scene = newspapers, photographs, maps, event map describing the murder, temperature, time stamp, altitude, clues, the murder is impossible, it is too simple, in a sealed room, a closed circuit, the space folds, the scene is always mutating somehow, perhaps on a rotating platform? The victim. A totally nonsensical arrangement of clues, none having to do with the crime, all absurd; description of the crime. Transcripts of the interrogations and witness reports, all of the accumulated evidence is textual, all grafted on the map, the crime scene encompasses the entire city, the clues are so interconnected and spread so far out that the entire space has to be considered (chain reactions of cause/effect which smear culpability over everyone and the entire space) the victim's location can't be pinned down because the topological space of the city is constantly shifting, the victim is the absence of the city, the constitutive absence or negative presence that holds the disparate parts (the clues) together – the scene isn't constructed by the victim's non-presence (corpse), it is the afterimage left by an unknowable event, we are trying to map the event, to track movement down to the finest detail (which becomes impossible at some point, as you encounter obstacles, obstructions, and various opposing forces during the navigation). Crime scene photographs, forensic evidence, autopsy data. The piece is a huge accumulation. The text will contain excerpts with a picture of the map.

Late night train ride under a web of stars and a moon lit to high intensity, its scars and pores visible as if under magnification. He steps outside to take in gulps of clean night air gliding at high speed, and returning to his seat he bumps into Aleister Crowley who is limping down one of the aisles. The old man is wearing a monocle and a tailored suit and sporting a slim goatee. Something – jewelry? – flashes from the inside of his left cuff, from a hidden compartment. The painter considers the magical air of the man, seizes this rare moment to capture this quality and study it in transience. There is a technique to his general method as an actor on the social scene inherited from the circus impresario, a dead stare filled with Satanic knowing. He looks into Crowley’s eyes and sees nothing: the showman’s emptiness of being, the mimic, a puppet of some metastasized fantasy. The painter introduces himself, shakes the left hand which flexes, all veins and bone. Crowley fixes him with the cold stare, struggling to recognize the young man. He manages to lure the old magician back to his compartment with promises of a machine that will induce a mystical experience.

“I’m looking at the extremes of association between auratic zones.”  - at a private gallery in the Swiss Alps – His friend is on the radio leaning forward with a pen and a notebook documenting everything the artist hears, says, and does. He is updating a kind of three dimensional folding map in real-time. Back and forth between the key -- a stack of cards lined with symbols and icons -- trying to keep up. The artist is wearing a bud in his ear for two-way radio transmission. He flashes back to the execution of this piece. She’s wearing a mask, enters wearing a white robe for the sitting. She only does body work and always wears a mask. A known burlesque performer. He meets her again in the 1930’s while vacationing in Moscow, she’s a Bolshevik spy now, a phantom along the periphery. She’s not wearing the mask anymore but hasn’t lost the faceless quality. In the painting she is still wearing the robe, the mask, the layers of paint, the primer, the early sketches. She becomes a receptacle of the outstripped, outgrown and deteriorated elements that form the painting’s singular history. She is wearing her own interior in a self-overlapping auratic zone projecting from her being.  The uncomprehending audience sipping wine and chewing their food too loudly, the clash of awkward sounds with the awkward silence. He continues about the potential of film to one day bring this woman (the subject of the painting) to life by condensing all these “auratic zones” into a super-montage. But this is far off in the future, mere speculation. The priest sitting cross-legged next to the model in one variation, another with a police officer. Allegorical cartoons of the major social institutions interact with the masked and robed model.

At a private collector’s downtown studio loft (a repurposed workspace) to buy taxidermy. Sounds of the city through an open window which the artist is gesturing at impatiently.  “Why do you leave this open?” The collector stares through the window with the empty gaze of someone remembering a dream, mining dead weight from the unconscious.  “I don’t own a clock.. my watch broke a few days ago… it started to tick in reverse… so I have no way to keep time. “ He shrugged helplessly. ”The sounds of the city have a regular rhythm. I let the sound count the time for me. I’m working on a radio clock, in fact. Let me…” Simon waits, folds the lighter shut and slides it into a pocket. The collector paces around nervously, large hands squirming together. He draws an outline around the room and lingers for a while in each of the corners like his motor system is locking involuntarily.  “Doesn’t it get cold at night with the window open?”  The artist turns into a detective,  bars of shade fall across his face like window blinds closing. A chameleon taking on a secretive and brooding air.  “I shut the window at night…” He adds, “But not because it gets cold.”  The artist nods, lazily studies a piece of objet d’art which is leaning against a bedside table (tries not to ask about the bed). “So you don’t keep time at night?” The artist asks. “No, and this has become an issue for me. I struggle with insomnia and night terrors.” He opens the door. “Step outside with me?” The artist tries to look busy. “No, I only have a few minutes. I came for that.” He is pointing at something that’s hanging from the loft’s ceiling, a lump dangling in midair covered up in an obviously careless and hasty way by an old blanket. The collector does an about-face, nods, exhales, shuts the door and returns to the room in a single fluid motion. The bony hand flourishes as he lifts the blanket to reveal a pair of taxidermied gorillas frozen in mid-fornication.
“This is a very primal mating scene,” he announces. The male is tearing the female’s breast with its huge teeth. Real blood is matted into the female gorilla’s fur, she seems to be gushing blood. Recollects an episode at a travelling zoo exhibit witnessed as a child. Found the tickets under the hand of a department store mannequin peeking out of a sewer drain (one with smoothed-down non-human features, according to his journal). The index finger of the mannequin hand was pointing skywards from a puddle of sewage and refuse, the ticket flashes for a second and he is the only witness. A wild tremor, primitive excitement, overwhelms him as he snatches the ticket. He can get away with anything for the first time, stomping down the street, prize in hand, he owns everything in front of him. Alone at the exhibit, the two gorillas who break out of their restraints and mate violently in front of the children. He’s the youngest and no one to buffer the trauma, no parent figure to shield his eyes, so the episode leaves a deeper scar than the rest and he can feel this in the shape of his bones. The tornado of shrieking teeth and fur.

“i'll whip you and open you up so your soul is shining out and reflecting on me”

The sensory cortexes are mutating. His organs are mutating (sucking jelly sound recorded under the skin) as he matures. Was it one of the machines from the underground market? Maybe the brain is adapting to a new environment introduced by the mirror space. All the ideas starting to blur together.

The studio is full of mechanical body parts: heads, arms, & torsos operated by a radio wave device. A primitive remote control, with red, yellow and green buttons that flash at random intervals. The body parts connect to the radio network & and the network has to be trained by hired operators. (Three/ four hours of paid training a week). Montage of the factory process: building and training the automata. The parts sewn together by the artists in a secret ritual that takes place off-studio. The film is set in the past, in Europe. The mise-en-scene: moldings, furniture, scale models (dollhouses, children’s toy models are repurposed, and the mechanical actors scaled down or illustrated)… are in a state of irreversible deterioration. European civilization (figured as a shell or façade) is dying around the mechanical automata, which seem to take on more life as the environment rots.

Sitting around a table conspiring as one mind. New experiments with social groups and arrangements, creating lab rat scenarios to open the psychological interior: what kinds of vicious, strange or inexplicable instincts can be uncovered and brought to light? If Dada and Surrealism are offending the official standards of decency with cheap shock tactics and direct verbal abuse, they want to look behind the scenes at the inner workings that keep this veneer intact, and expose it.  A scene where everyone invited to a party is being spied on. The room is a giant recording device. It rotates imperceptibly, a slow cylindrical winding-inward. They want to see how long it takes the party to realize. A secret sign language you might catch out of the corner of your eye: nodding, eye movements among the hosts and the serving staff (which seems infinite). The anxiety and rage of a herd in the bull’s eye of a predatory ambush. A deep chord is struck somewhere in the lower registers of human instinct.

Posted at at 3:12 PM on Saturday, January 6, 2018 by Posted by WM | 0 comments Links to this post   | Filed under:

six-act play

incomplete. summer 2009 (?)

The crime scene is a space of maximum transparency and surveillance where an unsolvable crime has been committed. The perfect crime requires total knowledge, so the scene maps onto itself; it operates as its own reflection. In this scene, the Private Eye tries to map the event in hi-definition. The stage is a fluid environment of tense and setting; it combines moments, sites, dreams, simulations, cellular automata, and relational units of space. The crime is never solved because it avoids capture, it can't be recorded. The footage is all that remains of the event. Its origins are mysterious. The footage tracks a series of performances on a stage, which the investigators believe describe the crime scene in some of its variations: (1) a magic show, (2) a tryst, (3) a murder, (4) a dream sequence, (5) a comedy routine and (6) a burlesque striptease. There are other stages and characters which are uncertain or shifting. Background of psychotic image streams, the shadow or unconscious of the surveillance footage. A network of dissociated affects, scenes, images and time.

1. (magic show) a bald magician tattooed with sigils performs a murder trick, saws his female assistant in half, blood and guts spill on audience in a shuddering curtain. Horror sigils, death symbols that come to life, become hideous creatures. Spells and formulae, thunder/lightning, masks, Noh void-faces, oozing eye, (spider species), whip, machine, torture, corridors, halls, screaming, flesh, weapon, blood, spiderweb, thin filaments, dread, the surfaces are curvilinear.

2 (tryst) girl passes through woods, drops something valuable, boy passes through same woods, at the same time (signature), finds it. Sequence repeats ad infinitum. Inventory of minimal differences: movements, gestures of lovers and trees. Nature waste, dancing limbs, her limbs extend into black night-trees across black horizon.

3 (murder) fluorinated light, fluorescent zombies crowd around an object, accusing.
Object: "I live in the desert and perform strange acts as the impulse occurs to me."
Zombies: "You stand accused. Who is afraid of us?"
Object: "Everyone is afraid of lawyers."
Murder, zombies collapse around object in a hungry rage.

4 (dream sequence)
Blood fans over a black background, descends in patterns on a spider web. Anonymous figure in glasses paces neurotically through various dimensions. Cut to zombie reenactment of bondage sex ritual: corpses painted like clowns, vampires, prostitutes, zombies - absurd corpses. Bleeds into fascists in uniform, make-up, boots, wigs. They persuade elemental forces out of the cadavers. The anonymous figure salutes a zombie general.

5 (comedy routine)

6 (burlesque striptease)
see video

Posted at at 12:53 AM on Monday, August 5, 2013 by Posted by WM | 0 comments Links to this post   | Filed under: