August 31, 2006

New Scientist Poetry

On my way back from Düsseldorf, I indulged myself with my new addiction: New Scientist magazine. Imagine my shock when fuck me if there isn’t an article by Simon Armitage about the relationship between science and poetry. It stands out immediately because every other article is characterised by depth analysis whereas this reads like it has slipped in by accident and should have been in the Reader’s Digest. “Science by another name” as it is called, despite claiming to explore the links, starts out with a first column of personal anecdote demonstrating that poets really are as disconnected from scientific thinking as their stereotype. He concludes with a short poem:

“Being more in tune with the feel of things than science and facts, we knew that the tyre had travelled too fast for its size and mass, and broken through some barrier of speed, outrun the act of being driven, steered, and at that moment gone beyond itself towards some other sphere, and disappeared.”

(I took the liberty of removing the poem’s line endings just show it is not a poem at all, just a sentence, with no distinguishing poetic artifice). Putting aside the formal, it has no trace of relevance to a discussion of science and poetry, and in combination with what went before only confirms the stereotypes ‘science’ readers will probably have of poets. Armitage compounds the situation by summing up with observations about the relationship. Apparently “Science is besotted with perfection. [whereas] Poetry …goes out of its way to describe every occasion in a new and fresh and surprising way.” The example he included failed that criteria then. “A successful poem brings a kind of animal comprehension [yes this is supposed to be someone able to fashion language art!]…from a common pool of experience.” Animal comprehension being a pretty daft idea to offer up in a discussion with science, but Science (and poetry) are then summed up as dealing with ‘likeness, similitude and equivalence” As a poet I’d say that is definitely not what poetry deals with, and I expect scientists would question this from their perspective. I work regularly with scientific language and have worked in science collaborations and I would say that there is a surjective (so use a mathematical term) relationship between poetry and science, which is in language, usefulness and enquiry. Putting Armitage (and the other British establishment ‘poets’) aside as historically marginal (though damagingly hegemonic), the congruence of 21st Century poetry to science is in theoretical speculation, experimental enquiry and the creation of formal and linguistic tools that make these investigations useful (not for animal comprehension) for thinking, growing, and resisting.

August 18, 2006

More Madness

Just stumbled on this:

Apparently evolution is least accepted in Turkey closely followed by ... America. Coincidentally to my good impressions of my visit, Iceland comes top on rationality too.

Visiting America?

The 'security alert' only delayed my flight to Reykjavik by a few hours - arriving at 3am in the end. But the madness of travelling to America is played out each day on the TV. So I have to ask: why continue to visit America? The question is actually academic for me because I decided when Bush bombed Iraq that enough was enough and adopted a personal boycott. I don't expect this effected the Evil Empire but made me feel better. Recall we all enthusiastically boycotted South Africa. I have been interested for a while in the debates that took place in Germany before the Second World War among artist and writers around whether it was better to stay in the country to resist the rise of Nazism or go into exile. Ultimately most of those who stayed were either dead or compromised. After Bush's last election 'win', there was a brief period of talk about liberal Americans emigrating. Whether they did or not isnt my question. Even if my decision is silly to other people, putting aside the political reason for not visiting, the question is: given the immediate definition of criminalisation of any visitor (except Saudis, maybe), the scans, the visas, the body searches, the massive delays, the stupidity of border guards, the laughable panicks, why are people not voting with their feet?

August 17, 2006

Back from Reykjavik

Back from Reykjavik. I can’t recommend this trip too highly; I guess it is just like you’ve seen it on TV – geysers, mountain ranges, glaciers, wild Martian landscapes – though, as a city boy I steered clear of all this outdoor Romanticism. Reykjavik itself: It is an unusual city, low-rise, sprawling, reminiscent of a cross between Douglas and Ramsay (in the Isle of Man. There was a great feeling. Lindsey Gordon from Peacock Visual Arts in Aberdeen recounted from someone else the Icelanders are like the Irish would have been if they had not lived under the English. But the commitment and understanding of contemporary art was marvelous. The reason for my trip was to see Alan Johnston’s show at Safn Museum – which I had, in my slapdash way not researched so it turned out to be a 3 person exhibition with Séan Shanahan and Ragna Rόbertsdόttir.

Alan Johnston works are almost invisible. His wall drawings are made of short, irregular pencil marks, closely woven to form recognizable geometric shapes. The Irish artist, Shanahan had some of his ‘trademark’ monochrome paintings on MDF on show which were particularly engaging through the thickness of their presence, but the high point was his steel rod drawing. This consisted of a steel rod passing through the space of all three floors of the gallery. A brilliant exhilarating piece. Ragna had worked directly with the walls, covering one with a square-form of tangerine-brown lava-mud, and a ‘landscape’ of lava chips between glass sheets.

If you have followed that link you will begin to see how important Safn is. Created by Petur Arason since the seventies, the collection is amazing, displayed in a pure white minimal spaces of a converted house with shop front, it features pretty much everybody you would want from Weiner, Long, Graham, Flavin, Buren, Fulton, Horn, Judd, Kawara, Andre, (etc) plus Icelanders such as Rόbertsdόttir, Arnarsson, Eliasson, who I should have known better. There was talk that the future of Safn is uncertain, which is staggering, as I am racking my brains to think of anywhere I like better. Iceland has an international treasure here far more interesting than geysers and glaciers.

I also managed to see a small show of Salvo paintings in the Corridor Gallery. I didn’t know Salvo’s work (though apparently he is really well known especially in Italy – I must get out more) and this gallery is actually someone’s flat. Quite a strange gallery experience.

Petru introduced me to Hafþόr Ybgvason, Director of the Reykjavik Art Museum. Hafþόr had a good chat as he showed me round again exciting if sometimes challenging spaces and we agreed that there were joint projects crying out for us to pursue.
I visited the National Art Gallery which was a nice set of spaces but little artistic merit on show.

It goes without saying that I also began to note for a Reykjavik poem.

August 09, 2006

Sartre on Genocide

The stream of images and reports of the continued American-back Israeli evils triggered my return to Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1967 article Vietnam: Imperialism and Genocide, written in his capacity as President of the International War Crimes Tribunal.
It is not surprising that a search of American websites, even/especially academic philosophy ones, that there is remarkable vitriol aimed at Sartre (one of my heroes). As this tends to be at the level generalised dismissal, I guess it is as much based on fear and hate of someone who got them bang to rights. Anyway, the striking thing about re-reading the essay is that simply replacing the Vietnam references with Iraq/Lebanon and America with Israel/America you get a pretty trenchant and accurate indictment of the current practice of genocide. As I write this, an Israeli on the TV has just said that as far as he is concerned for every Israeli who is killed 1000 Lebanese should die. As it is, they are only managing a ratio of 10:1 at present but they haven’t actually invaded properly yet. Add to this 3000 wounded, the million displaced, and the environmental disaster of the oil slick caused when they bombed Jeih power plant. It is generally felt that 45% of casualties being children is indictable also. Although personally I don’t subscribe to this equation that makes a child death more meaningful; in the seventeenth century it was felt that a child death was less significant because they were less aware of what they were losing. Call me old-fashioned! Either way, there’s genocide (by definition intentional) going on.

To add further outrage the ‘solution’ being pushed by Blair is the proxy international army to be a ‘mandated’ contracted-out Israeli army. Blair’s been looking for his ‘legacy’ before he fucks off to some highly paid international statesman-troubleshooter. He’s not actually said yet whether he is putting British troops in. Not much has been made of the fact that he already holds the record for sending the Army into more conflicts in British History so maybe one more won’t matter. Except to the dead.

Anyway this is a text for the "50 Heads" project, I have been working on during this period of darkness:

0. With epiphanous sigh save your rapture and replace it;
domination is not prostitution penetration is safe
temporary customer care from punishment as long as
there's no permanent damage – spread over time autism:
ceasefires and resolutions (surpassed): an enforced
homosexual encounter until it is too late. I close my eyes.
It would be good for the musicality if you opened the door
without saying unwritten rules, assumptions stroke
expectations govern an employee's working relationship
with the employer to the length of flowers bound
appropriate for subsequent use. Repulsed GUERNICA
(veiled in a blue): under your gaze, with semen dripping
from my face, masturbate on my knees the horrible noise
of extractor fans vows to thee my country – a cruel rather
than vicious 'mistress', highly skilled, the mechanical
aspect of their gestures calculated rather than frenzied,
offer no resistance, use my labour to please eager and
committed rather than virginally tentative, derogated
effectiveness astray as gestures of consolation from
interference patterns of net and skin. To compromise, or
accept barbarous dissolution, endless war denotes
‘reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of
micro-tactical actions’ and a future that looked bleak for
vertebrates: 1

August 02, 2006


"interrupted pendulum" with equal probability finding grains spinning up or down, some part which cannot be assessed, only non-zero within ourselves, and the amount of each does not depend on the presence of the other, fundamentally non-local fields are to accelerations as falling is to shopping, tales of passing vicariance, conserved so long as the masses did not interact; preyed on and preying, fearful of collision preyed on and preying between them. Prognosis varies from hope here to fear there and fear here and hope there. Senescent memory loss, language deterioration, poor judgment appearing first as function. Under the continuous symmetry of time translation symptoms continue as a daily torment and will do, despite all our bijective vinculum to someone non-local; conjugate variables appear separated, that old couple can only cleave together until they are cleaved apart, the system of fear to curl up with cumulative mistakes, a smell like tobacco, tired leather and urine and loss: you can't remember the end all the time. So ending matters only in its manner, it’s martyrdom iff lives are ultraparallel: 1