The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

January 8, 2007

Foofwa - This is an open letter of sorts. I've been working with materials
from Geneva for over two months now, not including the third trip itself.
In the irreality of the image - an image the opposite of the punctum, an
image surrounded by an imaginary gnawing at the surface content - I've
lost myself, almost become sick. Distance in time and distance in space
are both inherently obdurate, unbreachable; there are no jump cuts in the
real, and if I've made an error in video for example, it remains an error,
cut off from the source. It's not only the affaire-Maud (aM forthwith),
but the very notion that such affaires now, are at a distance; they are a
constancy. The Alps, the Aletsch glacier, retreat into the format of a
picture book, and with every step of that retreat, something is lost
within the haptic; touch has disappeared, replaced by "communication"
which already foreshadows the permanency of distance.

There is something else, however, which is the defuge or decathecting,
which began with aM but continued as time advanced. Every video I made
with the Geneva or Alps material involved a yanking-back; I couldn't
return to the measure of the real, for example, that the four of us most
likely felt in the grange. This relates to memory in general - in this
case, differentiated (in the sense of a formal operation upon internal
time consciousness) and exacerbated; to crawl back would be to be torn to
shreds upon the spikes of events, words, adjectives, vowels. Yet it has
been a long time since I've been so close to the bone with a subject, in
particular one so close itself to the sublime.

I'm tired of naked bodies and after aM, they become a kind of litter
reminiscent of war. And all the movements such bodies might made, from
falling and failing to flying and fleeing - spanning the continuum from
suicide to death - just so - not tiredness, no, certainly not arousal, not
disinterest - perhaps the flight of something which never really
approached. Day after day I've looked through image after image, tape
after tape, as if some secret would arise through special effects of even
juxtaposition; what occurred instead was an internal mapping of every step
all of us took physically and psychologically through that, and every
other, landscape.

Every organism is an organism of and by slaughter, every landscape, a
landscape of death. Hannibal's elephants haunt the Alps. Where nothing
lives always has fuzzy boundaries where the limited exigencies of life are
contested. I think of the unholy matri-patrimony of aM and what it has led
to, almost a denial that only Rilke was capable of. Actually climbing to
the bluff, the church, the grave, seems an impossible memory now, as if I
have robbed the experience of another. Memories always teeter on the verge
of recognition.

So this is to say, and not to say, that the work from Geneva and the Alps
has entered a period of dormancy, one with an almost-consciousness of
waiting. The rocks still gnaw at me; I think of the possibility of climb-
ing between the twin peaks near La Gruyere. That would be an _episode._

So the work continues, wide-awake, and has entered a period of illustra-
tion, as time distances and we become increasingly disinvested of psycho-
logical trauma, if not of psycho-history itself. I manipulate images of a
woman I don't know, have never known, among motions and images of the rest
of us. That this would lead back to Aletsch, through Blatten to Belalp, is
both a dream and an obsession. And we would be there in this false spring,
when the world supports clear skies and a kind of moody warmth that
appears after great exertion. And that one or another would be furiously
creating. And that that, would be that.

My Best Times and Best Writing! At least I think so... :-(

Sometimes supreme happiness comes my way as a fold or potential field
opening up vast possibilities and new horizons. All these languages that
grace my shelves! Fijian, Tahitian, Tibetan, Pali, Sanskrit, Romansch -
the world blooms with new grammars, new structures for organizing the
universe acoustically! Now I also play the erhu, some simple north-
Saharan-like repetitive trance-songs - and harmonicas (I just read a poem
which included a "mouth-organ" in The Ladies' Home Journal Treasury from
1956 - I've mentioned this book before, there's even a reproduction of a
cover by Sargent! And the harmonic minor (C minor) harp from Lee Oskar is
fantastic! I walk down the street making up Yiddish tunes as I go. And
speaking of which - yes, on the short-wave, or upper middle-wave, around
1700, there's Rebs galore, what seems to be a Chassidic station in Yiddish
and Hebrew - and the tunes are fantastic. I just installed a very old
version of Final Cut Pro on my Mac Powerbook, and here it is, burning
madly away, a new piece - it can take it's time, I have other machines,
I'm rattling away on this new laptop which I need for my also new class in
Beginning Filmmaking at Brown! This was through Leslie Thornton - the
class emphasizes digital everything except the camera - in a way it's the
phenomenology of film itself that's at stake! Here's a frame - what do
you want to do with it? The Flower Ornament Sutra keeps my busy at night -
and there are so many wonderful books here - Roberto Harrison's writings
are nothing short of incredible, intense, abstracted, neuro-psychological,
what does that mean?, slightly conceptualized, veering, always fascinating
- and one can always go back to Kristeva's Language, The Unknown - how
young she was then! - which reminds me of my continuous mourning-the-Alps
and that never to be reproduced / revisited trip which produced probably
fifteen or twenty hours of brilliant dance, video, soundwork, even just
pacing the middle of the European continent, such as it is. And then that
unforeseen trip to Rilke's grave in Raron - and the Duino, the Orpheus,
the letters to Merline, and now Erich Heller's The Disinherited Mind,
which I can always recommend as an old friend - here I am on the chapter
about Nietzsche and Rilke! Not really a small world - I've been look for
commentary - it just came along! Just as the wonderful O'Reilly book on
Unicode - I mean really really wonderful! arrived after Sandy told me
about it - I ordered a review copy - it's just the thing of course for
codeworkers or anyone wanting to understand the potential of the graphemic
universe transformed into universals given this-and-that tolerance class
and an always already limited digital space! It's sitting right next to
another review copy - this is PC Music, the easy guide, 3rd edition - and
here I am on the Mac, making new video and audio, and on an old Mac! But
this is what I found for the PC - something called the Taksi Desktop Video
Recorder at Source Forge which promises great things, translating window
into usable footage - as if video were still "footage" - one can imagine
of course that 24 frames a second really implies these rectangles moving
by us one by one - this is far from the truth now. It's all internal, it
can be any way one wants! Unlike Badiou - and I have so much Badiou - and
it reads like stringent iron, that truth that binds just about everything
and then of course veers off into poetry and art - the French are like
that - I think Kristeva's one of the best, not to mention M. Derrida. More
and more I've been listening to disembodied voices on the shortwave - not
the Net - which is so flat, so predictable - shortwave space - radio space
- is deep space, the deepest space - you might or might not hear a signal
- signals and stations come and go - static of all sorts intervenes -
static itself is interesting - and listen to this! I picked up a numbers
station a couple of nights ago - the same comforting female voice, Spanish
numbers - even around the same place on the dial - about 6800 Mhz - that
seems to be like a singles bar for spies - anyone can join in - the code's
unbreakable of course, which just goes to show what one-to-one encryption
can do - I mean both ends have the same code book - there's no structure,
no rhyme or reason - you can't break a structureless code unless you've
got the book or massive processing - and if the book's unique, even that -
the processing - produces nothing. So you're listening to clear imperv-
iousness. The other night, our cat got really sick - for the first time we
sprayed for the larger cockroaches - I hate killing, but they were begin-
ning to swarm - when they were injured, we put them outside, praying for
their revival, karma, just elsewhere - anyway I think the cat caught
something or other - not sure - but she became lethargic, drinking a lot -
there was vomit and diarrhea - she's recovered well now and again purrs
constantly which keeps us going; there are odd words in Sanskrit that
relate to English words like 'middle' or 'calculator' - some languages
from our parochial viewpoint just seem to meander - meanwhile that first
video I did tonight - it was horrifying! apocalyptic! - as if sex and
violence and death and suicide were all entangled in the television image
- and this in less than a minute and a half - I don't dare show it! It's
far too graphic, too disturbing! At least for me - something like the
avatar head pieces I did a while ago - but those were excusable! They went
somewhere, said something! - This is just a dead-end piece; I found Waite
and Dion Fortune on the Kabbalah - ok, I've read the real thing, the
Zohar, know some Hebrew, used to know a bit about the Sephirot and for
that matter used to know some Kabbalists - I mean people who really
studied this stuff, obviously in the original, reminds me of Dogen -
anyway - the Waite and Fortune are something else entirely - it's that
weird British thing that sent ladies to ashrams - maybe the thing Koestler
objected to in The Lotus and the Robot - just checked - the new video came
out amazing - by which I mean that I've never seen anything like it -
that's what keeps me going - when a world opens up like that - so I've
been trading off books, paring them down - unfortunately there's more
equipment around - I can't help that - without money, with all this stuff,
we'll still starve - but the image will be ok. I'm one of those people
with "irons in the fire"! I'm a "hot potato"!  I've got "something on my
mind"! I'm forever planning, forever Amber! I've been using the linux
Zaurus 5600 again - it's fairly old as these things go now - small computer
looking like a PDA - but with linux, one can do anything! Speed means
something completely different in linux! Anyway I'm playing scrabble games
and wondering if they somehow do increase neural connectivities - I sure
hope so! PJ O'Rourke was on television today, a three-hour interview - it
was fantastic, memories of Hunter Thompson - they were close - said that
Hunter never figured it out - what to do after 50 - and collapsed - anyway
didn't that whole period collapse? I saw Bobby Seale talking as well and
got Soul on Ice again - just the force of language then - it's already
going to read like history, flattened into non-existence - look at Marx's
Capital or the theses or manifesto or whatever - it all reads like a
whisper - that's happening to the Situationists - culture speeds - the way
we're working now - all this distributivity - it's impossible to relate to
modernism, I mean the telephone, old-time baseball, network television,
the structure of Shakespeare or Hemingway. You can feel the canons passing
in the night! When the caissons go rolling along! It's true what they say
- it's all over before it began - this species - our own - is in full
bloom - I mean in the technical sense - we're the red tide of the planet
itself! Look at the deaths we leave in our wake! Look at the wakes we
don't have for our dead! Who has the time! Hundreds of thousands dead in
Iraq - no time - it's the killing fields - American men and women - the
remnants of the anthem - I hope I can trade some of my cassettes to Steve
Tobin who produced my latest CD - I'm remembering things like the Factory
stuff or Sleep Chamber - just like Ayler but maybe fifteen or twenty years
later than Ayler - there's some kind of absolute there - it's gone now -
you'd think when things reach some sort of climax - Daniel Buren say -
stuff's all over - but the truth is, people like to look at stuff and
listen to stuff and it doesn't really matter whether it's been done before
or not - it's the wonder of the world that's coming through to them, just
like with the shortwave, and with all of the noise of the shortwave as
well. I'm trying to place Grotowski - his poor theater in all senses of
the word ended up at Irvine where he's world-famous - why not? That
Artaud-like anguish seems to have vanished in favor of memory, but what do
I know - I never knew in the first place. People are afraid of sexual work
- it remains some kind of taint - what the three of us did at the Grutli
set up disturbances a couple of magnitudes greater - how to release the
tape - Crepuscule (Twilight) or some such - I can never remember plurals -
for example it's Gruyeres for the area, but it's La Gruyere for the town -
the cheese is incredible; they use robots similar to the new library ones
but in the cheese factory they turn over I think seventy-five pound disks
of the stuff for perfect aging. And it does age perfectly! Gruyere cheese
or raclet cheese are amazing! I'm sure my spelling's a mess again. I never
listen to cultural-political writers unless they're in power. All that
energy in a posteriori analysis. I need someone to say - the bomb's going
off in maybe an hour from now, here's the address, the people that did it,
the reasons why, etc. etc. - and really have this down - not someone from
the group itself - although that would be interesting - yes, maybe that -
all this sudden speculation on/about Islam - our country isn't even pub-
escent - there's not that much sex! - We're like infants with guns! - You
know what a mess that is - even our speech is brutal - we're so drunk with
brutality we don't recognize it - it's not in front of us, or what we
swallow - it's our essence, it's our core, our primatology - and for that
matter everyone else's - but the power and the waste is here. I've got to
get the small Afghani rebab strung up - try ukelele strings? - one of the
catgut broke - if my hearing were better in terms of native pitch, the
erhu would be a piece of cake - it's not, but the rebab at least has three
frets - not much to go on, but something. The ceiling crack in our loft
has been widening; the beams might be broken and among other nightmares I
imagine the whole thing collapsing. We've got a metering device on them.

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