by carl wilson

Recollected in Tranquility
(feat. N/OULIPO)

cale_2003.jpg
John Cale: See second half of this entry.

A belated (but expanded) edition of the usual Thursday Reading this week; things have been hectic.

Catching up eagerly on the L.A. n/Oulipo conference, courtesy of Harlequinknights' reports (parts 1, 2, 3 and 4). Wish I had been able to witness Stephanie Young and Juliana Spahr's "FOULIPO" talk, a meditation on the (dis)connections between the Oulipo writers and 1970s feminist body/performance art - which then itself became a piece of semi-Oulipian body/performance art; the written text seems a poor substitute (and not just because of the "nudelipo" aspect). Speaking of 1970s body art, here's the worst display copy in the Toronto press this week: "Vito Acconci really into himself." Insulting and misleading. On the other hand, my colleague Sarah Milroy's interview with Acconci was my most pleasant surprise on paper this week. I was sorry to miss his talk at Harbourfront.

Unlike (it seems?) Franklin, though, I do think Johanna Drucker is on to something about the problem of academic/literary/formalist oppositionalism, though I'm not certain what, at least till I read her new book. It has to do with class and clique, and the impotence of spectacular protest in a spectacular society, in which not only art but most intellectual discourse tends to devolve to a condition of spectacle. That said, one should disavow blaming artists/intellectuals for their own marginalization, as we so often do. Obviously there needs to be a third vantage point found to triangulate these questions (closely related to the ones Jane and friends have been debating). And, as Drucker apparently said, to make such a critique of critical thought is by no means to abandon critical thinking.

(Perhaps my permanent favourite Destroyer verse: For someone so beautifully scarred/ I imagine it must be hard/ To stay away from a life of public relations./ But try! Girl, you've got to try./ You've got to stay critical or die./ Stay critical or die.) (Btw, coming soon: the promised post on Destroyer's Rubies.)

On a Torontocentric tip, the bit about Christian Bök on the same panel was, and I say this with a great deal of respect and affection, hilarious. ("I saw nothing gendered about my presentation," he said in response to an audience criticism of the square-jawed guydom of his stuff. "I was simply reading a straight academic paper in accord with the traditions of the discipline.") C-Bök is in exile in Calgary these days. We miss you, Sister Christian, won't you please come home? Find an audio excerpt from Christian's work-in-progress The Cyborg Opera - an attempt, as I understand it, to breed techno music and poetry - here.

Returning to the usual suspects, the main fare in Toronto music pages this week is John Cale features, all detailing how his groove-laden new album Black Acetate was inspired by Drop It Like It's Hot, though none of them spend much energy contextualizing it with the electro of previous album Hobosapiens. The best, unusually, is Tim Perlich's interview in NOW: ""There's another song that Pharrell did where he uses a spray can as a rhythmic device. That was the first one that pinned my ears back. As I listened to it, I thought, 'This is more than just a single, it's a comment on the whole millieu, a cultural statement as well.' " But eye's Mike Doherty (scroll down) and The Star's Greg Quill also cover the Cale-dogg beat. (See also Exclaim's Cale chronology.) (Cale begins a three-night stand at the Lula Lounge in Toronto on Sunday.)

Elsewhere in the weeklies, Dave Morris gets off a well-earned herpes joke over the Sony "rootkit" scandal. (Coming soon to a California courtroom.) Eye also does the Arcade Fire chamber squad Bell Orchestre (two sets tonight at the Music Gallery) while NOW fills its violindie quota with Andrew Bird in a fine piece by Sarah Liss. (I especially like the bits about the purity of whistling and his suggestively "strange ambidextrous tongue" ... though Miz Liss deflated any Twin Peaks fantasies.)

Pet peeve: Terms of critical theory getting misappropriated to arts journalism in literal readings that shred their specific referents. The classic case is "deconstruction," which has become so pervasive that I'm sure I've used it colloquially myself, but there's a prime example in Eye's film section this week, in Adam Nayman's review of Bee Season, which he calls "hopelessly de-centered." Does Nayman mean that Bee Season has (apparently in despair) dethroned the Cartesian unified ego-subject and now conceputalizes itself as composed of contradictory fragmented identities, a historically produced contingent self dependent on its discursive positioning? Or does he mean that the movie lacks focus? That it's uncentred, perhaps?

The Globe today covers the wonderful Meredith Monk, who's in Vancouver this weekend, with excessive attention to her newfound friendship with Bjork, at the expense of exploring Monk's own long career (subhed, nearly as bad as the Acconci one: "Me and my pal Bjork," sigh); as well as Bell Orchestre.

Down south, Sasha is sharp as usual on Houston hip-hop in the unlikely precincts of The New Yorker; and Jody and Jane tear David Brooks yet another pair of assholes [edit: oh, and an extra-wide from Jace Clayton] for his fuckwad take on the gangsta face of the French riots. (On which subject, btw, I recommend to you Doug Saunders' column in the Focus section of tomorrow's Globe. Also tomorrow, I begin a biweekly column that will be a roundup of news and amuse-gueules from academia and related parts; it's a little anchoring feature on the Focus "Ideas" page, which I edit. I hope it will be entertaining, but it will also be a clip-job from academic journals and blogs, etc. I probably won't post about it here very often, but thought I'd let you know.)

Hmm, am I crazy enough to go to Austin for the Veronica Marsathon?

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, November 11 at 11:41 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (8)

 

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Posted by andrew on November 13, 2005 09:44 PM

 

 

Guy, you're being pretty harsh on Nayman. He may be full of bologne but I don't think it's fair for you to call him on it. I remember a rather lazy and conveniently recontextualized summary of the anxiety of influence prefixing one of your columns a few years back.

Posted by benstimpson on November 11, 2005 10:56 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson