the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for September, 2014

on Guy Debord, Situationist International

Posted by rigorousm on September 30, 2014

S.I. “can be defined summarily as the invention of a new species of games. The most general aim must be to broaden the non-mediocre portion of life, to reduce its empty moments as much as possible.”

– Guy Debord, “Toward a Situationist International”

“Situationism gradually became an art without works, an art of idleness, an art of pure critique, an art of destruction and self-destruction. And in that sense it was, more than ever, Debord’s art.”

– Vincent Kaufman , Guy Debord: Revolution in the Service of Poetry

— Christopher Byrd, Guy Debord: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of a Brilliant Crank (read full text here)

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henderson on jungian psychology and the rites of initiation

Posted by rigorousm on September 29, 2014

Any of us can see… that there is a conflict in our lives between adventure and discipline, or evil and virtue, or freedom and security. But these are only phrases we use to describe an ambivalence that troubles us, and to which we never seem able to find an answer.

There is an answer. There is a meeting point between containment and liberation, and we can find it in the rites of initiation…. They can make it possible for individuals, or whole groups of people, to unite the opposing forces within themselves and achieve an equilibrium in their lives.

But the rites do not offer this opportunity invariably, or automatically. They relate to particular phases in the life of an individual, or of a group, and unless they are properly understood and translated into a new way of life, the moment can pass. Initiation is, essentially, a process that begins with a rite of submission, followed by a period of containment, and then by a further rite of liberation. In this way every individual can reconcile the conflicting elements of his personality: He can strike a balance that makes him truly human, and truly the master of himself.

— Joseph L Henderson, ‘Symbols of Initiation’ in “Ancient myths and modern man,” Man and his symbols p 157

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maggie nelson on sentimentality and taking risks in writing (and life)

Posted by rigorousm on September 29, 2014

Is it important to risk sentimentality?

Some writing doesn’t brush up against sentimentality as often as other writing. But whatever “bad” edge your writing brushes up against, I think it’s important to touch it. You can always pull back from it, but at least you know where it is. It’s like when I was a dancer, we were always encouraged to fall in rehearsal, so that you could know what the tipping point of any given movement was. That way, when you did it on the stage, you could be sure you were taking it to the edge without falling on your face. It sounds like a cliché, but really it’s just physics — if you don’t touch the fulcrum, you’ll never gain a felt sense of it, and your movement will be impoverished for it.

— Interview with Bookslut (link to full text)

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maggie nelson on inspiration

Posted by rigorousm on September 29, 2014

All of which is to say: leaning against other texts, thinking with other minds, letting another person’s writing (or art, or being) haunt you, inhabit you, inspire you, bother you, quite thoroughly, isn’t just a means of spurring one to produce thoughts or books. It’s also a wager about how deeply intertwined our consciousnesses may be. It is to wonder (as Henry James did, in his late novels), whether consciousness exists between us, in the air, rather than within individual minds. The wild and productive gambit of “leaning against” is that we’re not really leaning against others, but against a great throbbing consciousness, a soup of soul and mind in which we all share, even if that sharing is characterized by dissensus or a mirage of separateness rather than a blurry unity.

Your writing relies heavily on quotations of others. It works like a kind of scaffolding; the quotes become the thing you build from. This reliance places you in conversation with great thinkers; it allows you into their discourse. You’ve called this collaging of quotes canon-making.  Who is in your canon? Is it important for writers to construct their own canons?

All writers have their own canons; some just show their hand more than others. A lot of writing I love — Paul Celan, for example — doesn’t appear to wear its canon on its sleeve. It sounds like deeply weird, idiosyncratic language boomed up from a dark inner cavern. But once you look a little closer, it does invoke a canon: vocabulary can be a canon, recurring images can be a canon, favored linguistic registers can be a canon, even favorite sounds can constitute a canon, and so on. Anyhow it feels a bit redundant to name names, as my work is filled with them, but some figures that I’ve noticed recurring across my books are Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Cage, Eileen Myles, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Roland Barthes, Sylvia Plath, Friedrich Nietzsche, André Breton, and Chögyam Trungpa. In what I’m working on now, the main correspondents are D. W. Winnicott, Eve Sedgwick, George and Mary Oppen, Sara Ahmed, and a few others.

— Interview with Bookslut, 2013 (link to full text)

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maggie nelson on obsession and recurrence in writing

Posted by rigorousm on September 29, 2014

In her introduction to Touching Feeling, Eve Sedgwick says, “I’m fond of observing how obsession is the most durable form of intellectual capital.” You write your obsessions. There’s a constant “reexamining” that happens throughout your work. Subjects reoccur. Ideas get turned over, held up to the light, then turned over again. Do you share this notion of obsession as intellectual capital? Do you find there’s an eventual exorcism that happens when you write about your obsessions — whether it’s your aunt’s murder, a breakup, the color blue, or the concept of cruelty?

I am always surprised at how the same concepts or problems recur throughout my work — not always happily surprised, I might add; can’t I get onto new things already? But perhaps the real surprise is in finding the same issues in such disparate places…. Sedgwick herself has written movingly about how knowledge is not something one gains once and then moves on, but rather something one knows and then forgets, and then re-knows differently, and then re-knows or re-forgets again, and so on. The latter process is far more interesting, intellectually and spiritually.

I do find there’s an exorcism to the obsessions. Sometimes this is welcome, other times there’s a little mourning involved. Like, I miss the blue I loved before I wrote Bluets; blue now is not the same as it was then, when blue was my secret. … I relate to that. But there are always new pains and new pleasures around the corner, so there’s no need to mourn for too long! …  Not that any exorcism is total, but my troubles on that account are infinitely more worked through than they were at the project’s start.

— Interview with Bookslut, 2013 (read in full here)

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Jung on compartmentalization

Posted by rigorousm on September 26, 2014

A man likes to believe that he is the master of his soul. But as long as he is unable to control his moods and emotions, or to be conscious of the myriad secret ways in which unconscious factors insinuate themselves into his arrangements and decisions, he is certainly not his own master. These unconscious factors owe their existence to the autonomy of the archetypes. Modern man protects himself against seeing his own split state by a system of compartments. Certain areas of outer life and of his own behavior are kept, as it were, in separate drawers and are never confronted with one another.

— Carl Jung, “The soul of a man,” Man and his symbols, p 83

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Ratcliffe on the narratives of depression

Posted by rigorousm on September 26, 2014

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Luiselli on personal geography and symbols

Posted by rigorousm on September 26, 2014

Cities have often been compared to language: you can read a city, it’s said, as you read a book. But the metaphor can be inverted. The journeys we make during the reading of a book trace out, in some way, the private spaces we inhabit. There are texts that will always be our dead-end streets; fragments that will be bridges; words that will be like the scaffolding that protects fragile constructions. T.S. Eliot: a plant growing in the debris of a ruined building; Salvador Novo: a tree-lined street transformed into an expressway; Tomas Segovia: a boulevard, a breath of air; Roberto Bolano: a rooftop terrace; Isabel Allende: a (magically real) shopping mall; Gilles Deleuze: a summit; and Jacques Derrida: a pothole. Robert Walser: a chink in the wall, for looking through to the other side; Charles Baudelaire: a waiting room; Hannah Arendt: a tower, an Archimedean point; Martin Heidegger: a cul-de-sac; Walter Benjamin: a one-way street walked down against the flow.

— Valeria Luiselli, “Relingos: The Cartography of Empty Spaces”

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Renzo Piano on The Centre Pompidou in Paris

Posted by rigorousm on September 23, 2014

“[It] is a double provocation: a challenge to academicism, but also a parody of the technological imagery of our time. To see it as high-tech is a misunderstanding. The Centre Pompidou is a “celibate machine,” in which the flaunting of brightly colored metal and transparent tubing serves an urban, symbolic, and expressive function, not a technical one.”

– Renzo Piano

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Filler on the Case Study House program

Posted by rigorousm on September 23, 2014

“Officially known as Case Study House #8, the Eames residence was built as part of the architectural demonstration program organized in 1945 by John Entenza, editor and published of Los Angeles-based journal Arts & Architecture. Recruiting the most advanced young architects in Southern California, Entenza set out to provide easily adaptable models for developers and homeowners about to begin the most concentrated period of domestic construction in American history. Although Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler had built seminal Modernist houses in Southern California beginning in the early 1920s, Entenza wanted examples more suited to the modest means of average families. Participants had their houses published in Arts & Architecture and received some financial help, but in return had to agree to open their homes to the public for a while after they were completed. The Case Study Program won many converts to the Modernist cause, and even though most postwar suburban design followed more conservative prototypes– such as the mass-produced houses of the Levitt organizationon the East Coast– a few enlightened developers, like the California builder Joseph Eichler, reflected the progressive attitudes Entza promoted, through which good Modern residential design was accepted on the West Coast well before it spread throughout America.”
Makers of Modern Architecture: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry, Martin Filler, p 113.

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