[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 4

David Chirot david.chirot at gmail.com
Sat Jan 9 07:15:19 EST 2010

"Purity" is a very interesting--and "terrifying" concept when one considers
that Robespierre said that the "Twin Towers" so to speak of the French
Revolution were:  Terror and Purity.  The first use of terror is
Robespierre's, and it is a State Terrorism, preceding by roughly 70-80 years
the first acts of "terrorism" by the nihilists and other small groups in
Russia. The "Purity" of the Revolution demands a continual vigilance
("eternal vigilance is the price of freedom" as a sticker says, in the
USA)--and a Security guaranteed by Terror.Since Robespierre's time, think
how many Revolutions have employed Terror and vast secret police networks to
guarantee their purity--a term picked up by the Fascist Dictatorships of
Latin America under the "Shock Doctrines" (Naomi Klein's magnificent book's
title, an expose of the Friedman inspired "Free Markets bring Free
Societies)-as the State's leaders believed strongly in "cleansing" their
societies of the "impurities" of "diseases" such as Marxism, Women's Rights,
Unions, Freedom of Expression, etc etc--State Terror today in the USA is
very much alive in the fight to keep "pure" the "democratic" way of life;
Terror is the agency for cleansing the world via "Shock and Awe" and it is
by State Terror as laid down in the Patriot Act and trhe hoist of other acts
which have been added on to it--and evidenced in the world wide network of
covert prisons and Guantanamos, Abu Ghraibs and Kandahars, the latter where
the world's biggest prison outside of Gaza is being built.  The State of
Israel uses Purity and terror against their Arab minorities and against the
Palestinians, with purity being put in action as ethnic cleansing.

In art and poetry, Mallarme introduced the phrase "the purity of the
language of the tribe" to Modernism; the idea of stripping away al the
effluence's and unnecessary baggage which language has accumulated through
time--and in Mallarme's time, the Victorian period, or Parnassian--in
France--the example of Huge also--playing a "huge" part--although what
Mallarme's "purity" pointed to on the one hand was his development of the
symbol as an indirect means of  approaching the poetic object/vision, and on
the ohter hand the "purity" of poetry as music, which Mallarme hoped to
demontsrate with the visual score of "Un Coup de des . . . " with its
spatially presented pauses, silences, bursts of constellations of words
around a main theme or phrase--a purifying of the extraneous burden of
speech in a sense, as it turns language into an ever purer "music" and a
visuality itself exhibiting "purity" in the uses of spaces large and small
among the letters, punctuation marks and words--

The drive for Purity which Mallarme opens in his own way one may find in
various 20th Century examples such as the Bauhaus, constructivism, the De
Stilj forms of architectonic-painterly minimalism and grids, Minimalism
itself and in contemporary poetry in the US, Language Poetry in its earlier
phases, in which the poem is to be purged of reference, of narrative, of the
subject etc--a kind of Puritanical drive which has always been part of
American non-indigenous Cultures--as well as the use of Rebranding to
"cleanse" things of their former negative associations simply by giving them
a new and "pure" name.  The USA of course had its Purity "saved" from the
Indians via the terror of Genocide and the terror of slavery, Jim Crow,
lynching was used against the Black population.  Today this same Terror is
employed against eh "impure" elements of illegal aliens, detainees who are
not even accused of even accused of anything more than perhaps being a young
male Muslim citizen or not.

"(Profiling" is an outgrowth of the obsession with Purity and leads to the
employment of State Terror--.)

"Political Correctness" so-called can n itself be examined as a form of
"purifying the language of the tribe" in order to "cleanse" the language of
various sicknesses, diseases of the mind and soul--disease of the
politically "incorrect." kinds.

What the British and French have called "the new McCarthyism" in the USA
today is the nation wide efforts by various groups large and small to
expunge any critique of the State of Israel as well as to cleanse the nation
and its institutions including those of learning of any sign of any form of
"civilization" as such to emerge from Palestine and other "terrorist,"
"non-state" peoples, just as this was employed against American Indians,
Communists, Anarchist and other groups historically in the USA.  To guard
the Pure is the State of the eternal Vigilance of the McCarthyite forms of
Terror such as blacklisting, exposing "secret sympathizers," "fellow
travelers," etc etc--

The "War on Terror" itself is a war agsint the "impurities" of non-state
terrorisms, which are portayed as barabric, uncivilized, in human, "beyond
the pale of civilization" and so one is justified in exterminating them in
the name of the Purity of the State, which, being s State, is assumed to
posses al those Pure elements of the Democratic State--

The originas of therm "avant-garde" after al are military, and the early
avant-gardes were Pro_War andinfluenced greatly by themilitary andits
technolgies, or Anti-War such as Dadaismwith its Anarchist and in berlin
extreme left Communist leanings, directed agsint any form of "State" War
machine including that of the massive institution erected and known as Art
and the Art Institutions as part and parcelof the Massive State Apparatus
which includes lnaguge, expression and indeed "arts and crafts." In that
sense, "art" and "poetry" can be seen as "complicit" with the entire project
of the State Machine--

In the USA today, i think significantly, one finds the word "avant" being
used without the "garde"--that is,as though by "purifying" the term of its
military origins, one is somehow cleansing of it of any connection with the
War Machines--

The "twist" in this example is that in turning away from the "dirty"
military apparatus, the "avant" ceases to be part of a critique of it, and
instead rests complicitly funded by the State bureaucracies and corporations
which are part and parcel of the War Machine. The apolitical aspect of
current American avant poetiess, arts etc is one often remarked on, in
contrast to the opposite "take" of the arts in the 1960's which openly
opposed the Vietnam War and gave ful support to the burgeoning Women's
Movement, AIM, Black Power, Latin groups--at the time, the avant-garde was
not separated from events in the world, whereas one may suggest that today's
avant is.  Yet "one cannot hide from that which never sets" as Heraclitus
says--that is, the "avant" may hide an open opposition, while all the while
holding onto a a quiet complicity in the forms of funding and being
influenced by the policies laid down by various corporate and lobbying
groups, just as the government is.

I think that with his military studies and his own socially involved work as
well as with his writings through the decades speed, vision, the accident,
the cinema, photogrpahy,  and machines, the city, the military--and how the
arts and the military have long shared many of the same equipments and
"visions--that Paul Virilio has been for myself the most interesting of the
theorists to emerge since the 1970's.

As a reaction to the theorizing 1970's and 80's as well as an accompaniment
of the rising tides of the power and influences of the  Ultra-Cons and
neo-Corporate-State Fascism beginning openly with Reagan, that the overall
tendency in the USA is further andfurther to the Right.  In language, Reagan
was a great influence primarily via his turning serious things into little
jokes, in using ridicule and in making heavy use of quotations and
clihes--his bedside reading was an emormous compendium of quotations, idees
recues and the like--the effect of this is that at fristslowly and then ever
more rapidly, thelanguage itself begins toturn agsint what it had been and
so words become distorted, have their meanings and allusions altered, and
re-frame the boundaries of discussions, or dispatch entirely with the
boundaries and simply make vanish whole swaths of areas of discussion.
Ridicule is more effective than outright censorship, as is the rebranding of
the names of the things which remain the same--and especially since9/11 a
new form of cleaning up of language, thoughts, allusions, references has
taken place.  Following the long period of ridicule has been the current one
of an often choking language, as the words begin to evolve into rebranded
versions, have their allusions and meanings pulled out from under them and
new rugs underneath them installed, new floors, new foundations--so that
words mean more and more the same as their opposites.

Language is a form of seeing--vis the use of names and descriptions,
acronyms--idees recues--the construction of new cliches in the
institutions--al of these aspects of language guide the way a culture sees,
and what it sees,  things formerly visible now are hidden in plain
site/sight/cite or have even in many cases simply been disappeared.  yet,
since their names and the language used to see them has changed, this change
is not noticed for some time, that so many thngs formerly"here" and "there"
have vanished and been replaced with an entirely new vocabulary inwhcih one
discovers one's thoughts are being bent in a different direction one's eyes
are looking at different views, and what one hears is no longer the same
tune nor recitations but a new poetry, a new form of address--and al of
these carefully safe guarded by their own forms of Homeland Security, their
own guiding lights of Purity and Terror.

There is more I would like to develop here, but i feel i have already taken
up a lot of space and time, so will at least pause if not stop entirely
all my very best to al for the weekend, the new year and my deepest thanks
always for these discussions--
(the "role of art" i practice in my own writing and art works and so feel
that description is rather redundant and often ties the tongue and mind up
more i a half minute than it takes just so "show and Tell" without causing
rampant confusions not there in the works, or at least one hopes so!--)
or do asearch of david baptiste chirot

On Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 9:33 AM, Gerry Coulter <gcoulter at ubishops.ca> wrote:

>  I think what we want art to do does not matter. Art will do what it
> wants. When we speak of "wanting art to do something" it probably is not an
> artist speaking. If it is, it is probably a frustrated one. Papers write us
> and paintings paint us as surely as the television watches us and the book
> reads us.
> Its nice when art is viral though...
> Best
> Gerry
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [
> empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Johanna Drucker [
> drucker at gseis.ucla.edu]
> *Sent:* January 8, 2010 8:27 AM
> *To:* soft_skinned_space
> *Subject:* Re: [-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 4
>  All,
>  These comments, and Cynthia's statement "What do we want art to DO?" seem
> really to the point.
>   John Haber:
>  However, these approaches, like indeed good old
> irony, describe how art by its nature slips out from its apparent or
> intended closed structures.  That describes what went wrong, but also
> offers grounds for admiration and hope.
> David Heckman:
> To fold this back into a discussion of art, I think art can help us
> introduce the interval back into daily life.  It doesn't necessarily tell us
> what to do with that interval, but it reminds us that there can and should
> be interruptions in what otherwise might be a monotonous, automatic flow of
> life.  Even the various "movements" are primarily concerned thinking about
> the various aspects of work (the concept, the process, the materials, the
> product, the thinking about art, etc).   As "art" (artifice), art implies a
> tension with those things that aren't art (the
> What-would-have-happened-if-you-hadn't-made-art-or-hadn't-made-it-in-this-way).
>  I have a question for John, re the nice succinct and useful summary of
> the history of the 1970s and postmodern critical turns. I share your sense
> that the 1970s were a crucial turning point, they even self-identified that
> way with the adoption of postmodern as the rubric (I date postmodern art
> criticism pretty much from the Pictures Exhibition, the writings of Douglas
> Crimp, Craig Owens, and others). But the term in play in that era was
> "contingency" -- a way to resituate artworks within their various networks
> of signs, power relations, politics, meanings, poststructuralist "play" etc.
> This was all extremely useful -- especially realizing that in my experience,
> at least, art theory in the 1970s was still being taught as a version of
> Greenberg (!) unquestioned, at least in art school (I was at CCAC from
> 1970-73). But I don't think the word * complicit* was ever used in those
> contexts -- the theoretical discussion arose so much from the
> poststructuralist reworking of signs through the Derridian *différance* and
> so on -- and of course the really important feminist theory, queer studies,
> post-colonial discourses -- all of which thoroughly dismantled autonomy (and
> "purity" -- though these are not synonymous). So I'm curious to know if
> anyone can cite a use of the term complicit in 1970s or 1980s literature?
> I'd really like to know.
>  Thanks, again, for all these rich and fascinating and wonderfully varied
> posts.
>  Johanna
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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