Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"The Subject"

assembling the generative? generating assemblies? manifesting manifolds, or an infestation of many foldings? randomly, ramdonly, ramblingly, I started connecting the work of Paul Neagu this morning, to that of James Merrill, and the reason for that, I guess, are the tables, tables that are sculptures, that are altars, that are planchettes, and so, in the spirit of Neagu's cosmogonic use of the "hyphen" and Merrill's use of the OUIJA, and as well in Neagu's GAG, or "Generative Art Group", I just wanted to see if any random connections could be made that would stick, or resonate at all. I opened up Merrill's _The Changing light at Sandover_ on google books and just ran my scroll bar down and stopped and waited until it loaded that page and this is the page I generated:

What struck me as interesting is the section beginning:

In darkness. An imagined dark, a stage
Convention: domed red room, cup and blank page
Standing for darkness where our table's white
Theatre in the round fills, dims ... Crosslight [...]

Which, if you continue on, is obviously a sort of description of the workings / wanderings of the planchette on the ouija, but the description is 'built' in such a way as to recall all of the major elements of the structure which Neagu used throughout a large portion of his career in various forms which he developed as a piece called "The Subject Generator" (1975).

You can find various pictures of the device:

From "Out of Actions" (Schimmel):

A 1974 pencil drawing of the object labeled, "The Subject," clearly offers evidence of the fact that the object is an anthropomorphic representation of the artist himself and the objects placed on its surface represent not only the "new subjects" but the elements of energy it generates.

this drawing gives insight into the meaning of his work. By literally drawing a parallel between himself as artist and "The Subject," he suggests that the powers of generating art are likewise transferred to "The Subject." [...] "The Subject" is a meta-art artwork: a work that embodies all the possibilities and preconditions for art.

In a way, Merrill's piece does something similar, and I think this is a standard poetics trope, I mean, really it's the way language itself functions. When you write something, like a poem say, people will say, "Have you read Merril? Or Funkhauser? or whatever, and they may not, but, what I'm getting at, is this avatarial displacement, this object-subject, or, as Sloterdijk calls it, a nobject.

But look how beautifully Merrill calls up the self as a creative act, the distance and the subtlety of the portrayal:

About us, these bright afternoons, we come
to draw shades of an auditorium
in darkness

So, with a gracefully bifurcated sense, "About us" becomes environmental, but also "about us"
a narrative told about 'us', and that narrative and environment would be 'bright afternoons'
feeling almost like clothing in this space, bright afternoons, is somehow an expression of an aboutness of persons, that transfiguration is continued and reworked in the next section, but in an even more abrupt framing in "we come to draw shades - of an auditorium in darkness'
this is something of a three-fold manifestation, drawing as in drawing images, drawing as in pulling out, or attracting, or abstracting, but even more, it makes of "The Subject" a sort of architecture, the architecture of generativity... And so, I guess I am trying to point at "The Subject" as both a local agency in the standard sense, but then, as with both of these pieces, see it as an emblem of a higher, or more abstracted generation, as in a person's actions are understood as local events, but each of those events is part of the general sum of events by means of something like 'the butterfly effect' which I take to mean it has some 'computational' content, it partakes, or really, is partaken of, as a total historical actuation, ie Syntaxis. But as I have written before, that event nobject is unable to be seen exactly. We understand the principles, but the nobject (The Subject) is vast. It is interesting to note another of the titles of Neagu's work. He performed and reperformed a piece called "Blind Bite" in 1971, 1972, and 1975)

And then there is the curious set up in the poem itself, which along with some of the more fang-like versions of "The Subject" give me pause in their 'vampirics' and which do tend to set up some kind of nested or parasitical image.. Once again, Merrill's is very subtle, one has to intuit the image almost, or even moreso, 'perform it in your mind':

domed red room, cup and blank page

You already have auditorium word implanted
and auditorium gives depth to domed red room
but also heightens the sense of soundings

dome dread room (or rune)

The red of the dome being so quickly followed by cup
fluidically fills the cup with something like blood, or maybe just paint
or the red is a displacement of 'read' as the cup is immediately followed
by the page.. In my mind I see a page splashed with blood, but also
a performance action using something like paint..

These are pretty standard tropes of making art, and Neagu's "The Subject" could be any software avatar which is commonplace these days, but there isn't a whole lot of poetics of the avatarial self as an element of historical computation going on. Alan Sondheim has worked with these themes, and the theme itself is worked out blindly in everything anyway, from pop music, to fashion, to politics, because what it describes is an emblematics of the materiality of memic exchanges, and of viral or innoculatory force in semiosis. But I guess what attracts me to this period of the 70's is the sort of frontier quality of the work, its roughness, and by contrast, its subtlety, or eloquence.

In "Out of Actions" it says:

Beginning at the age of about sixteen in 1954, Paul Neagu began to evolve a cosmological theory of aesthetics [...]

And here I am at almost 46 trying to do exactly the same thing.. I guess some of us just work a little slower.. Paul Neagu died in 2004, and James Merrill in 1995. In the meantime, I think it's safe to say, the world has been "Gradually Going Tornado" in "The Changing Light"..

(the blind bright spot of where we are)

Good Evening, Gentlemen.

Neagu Photo Archives at Richard Demarco

Long Interview with James Merrill at Paris Review

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