KEEP IT DIRTY, vol. a., “Filth” (2017)
LIBRARY OF TEARS
Harsh Bhavsar (Video)
Owen O’Carroll + Gavin Keeney (Text and Diagram)
If a place is itself surrounded by fire (falls finally to ash, into a cinder tomb), it no longer is. Cinder remains, cinder there is, which we can translate: the cinder is not, is not what it is. It remains from what is not, in order to recall at the delicate, charred bottom of itself only nonbeing or nonpresence.
[ . . . ]
What a difference between cinder and smoke: the latter apparently gets lost, and better still, without perceptible remainder, for it rises, it takes to the air, it is spirited away, sublimated. The cinder—falls, tires, lets go, more material since it fritters away its word; it is very divisible.
—Jacques Derrida, Cinders (1982)
OBSCURE OBJECTS OF DESIRE
The messiah comes for our desires. He separates them from images in order to fulfill them. Or rather, in order to show they have already been fulfilled. Whatever we have imagined, we already had. There remain the (unfulfillable) images of what is already fulfilled. With fulfilled desires, he constructs hell; with unfulfillable images, limbo. And with imagined desire, with the pure word, the beatitude of paradise.
—Giorgio Agamben, “Desiring,” Profanations (2007)
If, as reported, John Milton wrote Paradise Lost (1667) in his dreams, channelling some ancient wellspring in submerged memory, and William Blake’s poeticized universe was in favor of the establishment of a primordial freedom from the Ancient of Days (the architectural demiurge), then it is also possible to see Max Stirner’s proto-anarchism as a form of the same privileging of obscurity—namely, the ripping of obscurity from its negative state and its conversion to a positive state.
So too, one might take the reported statement by Francis of Assisi regarding carrying the devil on his back, up into Heaven no less, as an existentially charged equivalent to Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (1790).
Certain works, then, especially those that conform to the vague premises of “transmedia,” intentionally negotiate the obscure desire for recognition and a place in the authorized discourse of the Arts and Humanities while, at the same time, undermining the very premises of the “situations” reserved for such recognition—i.e., abjuring and negating the very forms of desire that apparently justify such works.
Such works, then, accept or intentionally play against that obscure desire for a place “at the table,” while nevertheless embracing a certain primordial, proto-artistic continuum at the expense of a static state—i.e., an embrace of the phantasmatic versus that somewhat hopeless or luckless chase for acceptance.
Transmedia, then, as an artistic gestalt, generally ends up valorizing “filth,” or the useless and the recondite. (See diagram, “The Vector of Transmedia,” below.)
Indeed, the production of works under the spell of that obscure object of desire might be turned into a positive proposition versus a “sickness unto death.”
If Sister Death, the Franciscan evocation of the embrace of mortality as the end of all self-serving endeavors, and the valorization of Holy Poverty as a path to so-called “redemption,” is recognized as a figure for the pointlessness of all vain pursuits, and if the Franciscan Second Death is not to be feared because Sister Death is only ever a passage toward that ancient wellspring of submerged memory, then works that transgress the rules imposed by disciplinary demiurges are also works that hail a type of “filthy” rebellion delineated in the works of Milton, Blake, and Stirner, not to mention Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, Kazantzakis, and Derrida.
Filth, or lowliness, is thus (paradoxically) “redeemed” through the evocation of a free path for works (the singular work developed across works for works), versus the formalization of a work as commodity: i.e., it’s as if the “use-value” of the use-less was freed from surplus-value, and works produced across platforms against the dictates of platforms conformed to no known rules, while deforming contemporary definitions of “situated practice” and diverse forms of cultural production given over to platform cultures.
In evading forms of capture by forms of Capital, including the subtle forms associated with academia and the art world, transmedia flies under the radar and over the horizon—valorizing both “flying” and “horizon”—while negotiating or re-negotiating proscriptions, inhibitions, admonitions, and all obvious forms, apparatuses, and regimes of appropriation and expropriation.
THE VECTOR OF TRANSMEDIA (DIAGRAM)
Sister Death visited me last night,
It would seem, in my dreams,
Though I am uncertain it was Her.
How do we know when She comes?
How do we know who She is?
Did She visit for no reason?
Or because of the caffeine abuse,
The cigarette abuse,
And the late-afternoon vodka,
Poured well into the evening?
She reached from the end of the bed,
To ask for my hand,
For whatever reason.
I insisted on asking,
Repeatedly: Who are you?
Repeatedly she called to me,
Gesturing and imploring.
My refusal only had to do
With the fact that I did not know
Who she was or why she had come.
It reminded me of falling asleep
On the isle of Iona, long ago.
Of the sea calling to me,
As the Sun fast set in the West.
Sea as siren of Death.
I did not go with Her,
Because I did not recognize Her.
But I hope she returns,
If only to clarify Her terms.
To see what “images” are on offer.
EXTERNAL LINKS + MEDIA
I am a force of the Past . . . I come from ruins. I am looking for the brothers [and sisters] who are no more.
—Pier Paolo Pasolini
Time is the one thing we can all agree to call supernatural. It is at least neither energy nor matter; not dimension, either; let alone function; and yet it is the beginning and end of the creation of the world.
If the historical project does not consist of unveiling a grand truth, but rather lies in shedding light upon a “constellation of events” or “nodes in which events, times, and mentalities intersect,” the historian’s task is to keep these nodes in tension among themselves rather than producing a false totality that smoothes over the cracks. So, for example, if the node of the Renaissance is in a productive, significant tension with the node of philology, the latter is also in tension with the node of the critique of ideology, which is in turn in tension with the node of contemporaneity. And both epochs are in a productive, albeit different, tension with the nodes of utopia and reality.
PROJECT 1 – “MEDIA, TRANSMEDIA, AND THE MULTIPLE ARTS”
CEPT University Summer School, “Media, Transmedia, and the Multiple Arts” (archival and exhibition research), Ljubljana, Slovenia, Venice, Italy; Co-produced by Gavin Keeney, Harsh Bhavsar, in association w/ University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Architecture and Faculty of Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia, and IUAV and Giorgio Cini Foundation, Venice, Italy; Ljubljana, Slovenia, Venice, Italy; May 2017.
Students: Aahana Banker; Shreya Killekar; Siddhraj Rathod; Mariya Valiulla; Krishna Jani; Shikha Patel.
Via Ljubljana archives and public collections, the work of the 1980s Slovene art collective NSK was examined (inclusive of the icons of IRWIN and the editioned prints of the controversial post-punk musicians Laibach), with a visit mid-May to a retrospective exhibition of NSK work at the Palazzo Ca’Tron, Venice, in association with the opening of the Venice Art Biennale. Forms of inspired flâneurie (wandering aimlessly), transmedia, multimedia exhibition, and literary-critical exegesis were utilized as research methodologies.
Students produced multimedia dossiers (photographic, videographic, and written documentation) of the project, critically commenting upon the various historical and contemporary artworks and publications examined, archives visited, and exhibitions and events witnessed over the course of three weeks in Ljubljana and Venice. The primary subsequent records of the “hunt” for forms of transmedia are a short video featuring the “wandering aimlessly” methodology and a set of divination cards utilizing images collected over the three-week project. The divination cards traveled to London in June 2017, for further development of the methodology of the “throw” (the reading). They were duly returned to Venice in July 2017 and donated to the Giorgio Cini Foundation Library. A digital and analog media dossier was also “gifted” to CEPT Archives in June 2017.
VIDEO (HB) – SEMAFORO TRAILER (MP4) – 332.5 MB – 5:50
SEMAFORO COMPLETE (HB) – SEMAFORO-S17FA004 (MP4) – 2.1 GB – 24:13
Full video currently withheld but on deposit at CEPT Archives …
The full video is part of an archival “bequest” donated to CEPT University Archives upon completion of a May 2017 Summer School project held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Venice, Italy. The SWS project, “Media, Transmedia, and the Multiple Arts,” was an informal quest for the definition of contemporary “transmedia,” via an examination and forensic report on past and present art collectives and individual initiatives, plus a sustained foray into the 2017 Venice Art Biennale. Tracing the peregrinations of the “Argonauts” (seven CEPT and non-CEPT students) across the urban fields of Ljubljana and Venice, into and out of key archives in search of examples of transmedia, the video ends in an abandoned theatre on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, with a reading to seagulls of a set of divination cards produced during the 15-day project and based on a 16th century divination book discovered in the libraries of the Giorgio Cini Foundation, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy.
EDITIONED DIVINATION CARDS
“Semaforo” – CEPT University Summer School: “Media, Transmedia, and the Multiple Arts,” Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Venice Italy, May 2017 – Editioned set of 26 double-sided, black-and-white and color cards designed by Harsh Bhavsar, Gavin Keeney, and Julio da Costa – Photography by SWS students and Harsh Bhavsar – Based on Triompho di Fortuna di Sigismondo Fanti Ferrarese (Venezia, 1526) – 24 x 8 cm – Laser printed by Al Canal, Venice, Italy + Grace ICT, Venice, Italy, 300gm off-white card stock – “7 + 1 = 0” letterpress stamp by 3B Press Tipografia, Venice, Italy, 300gm Magnani watercolour paper – Edition of 1 – Giorgio Cini Foundation, Venice, Italy.
PROJECT 2 – “LIBRARY OF TEARS”
“Library of Tears” (design competition, magical-realist performance); Co-produced by Gavin Keeney, Reza Ghafouri, Owen O’Carroll, Harsh Bhavsar, Ishita Jain; Ahmedabad, India; March 2017.
Students: Callan Green; Marta Agueda Carlero; Monica Chaudhary; Pranav Dhawan.
Based on a design competition brief, which was then categorically subverted, the project abstract concerns a new small library in Hyde Park, London, England, one of London’s several royal parks. Hyde Park (142 hectares, and extending into Central London) notably conjoins Kensington Gardens (111 hectares, and extending into West London), with The Serpentine and The Lido acting as hinge, and the fashionable Serpentine Galleries (home to the annual bespoke pavilion and “house” commissions) serving as high-end, art- and architecture-tourist destination. To the east is Mayfair, home to art galleries, boutiques, and hedge funds. To the west is the former bohemian quarter of Notting Hill. Hyde Park notably has been associated with demonstrations since its creation in 1637.
VIDEO (HB) – LIBRARY OF TEARS (MP4) – 2.17 GB – 14:50
VIDEO (HB) – WILL IT CRY? (MP4) – 292.2 MB – 1:56
PROJECT 3 – “KHI + ORDO”
“Khi + Ordo” (unfinished transmedia project); Co-produced by Ishita Jain, Gavin Keeney, Harsh Bhavsar, w/ Joel Singh Negi, Darshita Jain, Kartik Vora, Honey Bhutoria, Mayank Singh, Mitul Kajaria; Ahmedabad, India; April 2017.
It was the time of the absolute. Everything was programmed. Each citizen of “Ordo” knew exactly what they were supposed to do and where they were supposed to be. All the citizens were programmed regularly so that they fit into the schema – willingly.
There was one man, Khi, whose existence Ordo had missed. He was never programmed. He thought for himself. As he encountered the citizens of Ordo, he found them lacking what he had in plenty. Far away from the city, yet from within the city, he kept on tinkering. He had embedded his secret within a machine. He could communicate to the people who had not been a part of Ordo. That’s what he enabled his machine to do. The machine recalled imprints of those who were not configured.
Khi will fall in love with the mermaid. In setting off for Kochi by sea, he is blown off course, all the way to Venice, Italy. Along the way he is subject to numerous terrors, including the songs of sirens and numerous sea serpents (mostly inhabiting his imagination).
The mermaid begins her descent into despair. She is now the Dying Mermaid. Khi has failed to arrive in Kochi, not to save her but to hear her story – of how she was collected and installed in the antiquities market, adorning the edge of an upscale café attached to the market at the water’s edge.
Khi is shipwrecked in Venice, where, upon examining ancient and petrified archives, he discovers the extinct territory of Aquileia, a province that once extended from present-day Venice, north to Ljubljana, Slovenia. Upon setting out to return “home”, Khi is once again shipwrecked in London, where he discovers Mayfair, an upscale village embedded in the sprawl of metropolitan London. It is there that he conceives his final plan to reclaim the lost territories of three semi-mythical “homelands” – Ambli, Aquileia, and Mayfair.
VIDEO (IJ) – THE DYING MERMAID (MP4) – 155.8 MB – 03:45
“The Name of the Other is the potential of the insurrectional, which may be given human agency through the collapse of normative subject-object relations. The collapse occurs through the conflation of identities versus the preservation of distinct identities. It is a difficult subject to parse, given that it implies that the field of cultural politics has a reserve function that is ultra-humanistic and transpersonal. Yet it is from within such a ‘principality’ that renewed systems of patronage and new forms of independence will emerge in the age of Cognitive Capitalism. Human agency will provide the necessary will to counter total closure and complete subjection. The necessary works to foster the rebirth of the necessary human agency and will to counter absolutist closure comes, as it always comes, through the alternative power of life-works oriented toward new life – new works. The author and the patron are simply the vehicle for the re-introduction of the necessary speculative coordinates.” – Gavin Keeney, Knowledge, Spirit, Law: Book 2, The Anti-capitalist Sublime (2017)