New Writing @ Exile

by Travis Jeppesen on April 23, 2016


The purpose of ALL writing should be to create an entirely new language every time one sits down with pen in hand.


Unafraid of “asignification” (meaninglessness.) Because, like writer’s block, it doesn’t actually exist. (New language = new meanings.)


To work in something like a trance state, letting the body guide (glide.)  Because the body has its own language. Not completely severed from mind, of course – that’s impossible. But to allow the body to take precedence over mind, in the total machinery – the body-mind machine.


Not just any machine. What I’m most interested in is motion, movement. That’s always been the most important thing. From a to b, hence: line. I have this body here, and it’s really good for nothing other than pure motion – forming ways across the scape. The scape, in this case, being paper. Hence: vehicle. Body-mind vehicle. Trance poetics of vehicularity.


Vehicularity being an automaticism. Because 1.) all writing is, and 2.) I’m a machine.


New writing necessitates other ways of reading: stroke, rhythm, movement, gesturality, systematicity, resistance. Poetics of indeterminacy (M. Perloff.)


Nature also has many forms of writing. The waves (as V. Woolf recognized, translated.) The clouds in the sky.


My writing is not contemporary. Because it is produced outside of time, a state of trance mindlessness, it comes from the past and the future, is detached from the now. Resist belonging: I don’t belong to this time, neither does the work.


To go outside language, into nothingness – approaching a state of perfection.


Poem about the dryness

by Travis Jeppesen on April 22, 2016

Surface rumble is my fucker giraffe.

To be an austrian so lightly.

Can you touch/fall apart the sky?

Oh to be bi.

To fuck a goose and not be afraid.

Aren’t you inside me not and then what the hell.

All different flavors of ice cream – yeah, that is something to really get bisexual all about.

But then the goddamn sun it wouldn’t quit shining, and so I shot it.

Shot it so I wouldn’t have anything to do.

The goddamn sun and its minerals.

Why can’t you face it (what is only seeming.)

The light forecast fell apart right over the bog, a child’s voice in the tetherance.

I forgot how to have an ant.

Do you want all misty-eyed to rot the tomato version whose blanket furs.

Grant to the distant iota.

The way paper bag shivers.

Shivers in the lightning rod’s dim virginity.

Whatever night meant before it rotted.

I got on the ceiling in order to imitate a fan, suddenly all was mediterranean in its too-night sheen.

Aren’t you bothered by the feathers, she might’ve asked me.

But reverse snobbism cool-window’d out the hopes that populism weaned.

And zeros danced on the balcony to christen the devil buddha’s fried crispy remembrance bra.

Against Unity

by Travis Jeppesen on April 20, 2016

The world had its own ideas once, and now it has run out of them. This is why we love it so: it’s alive. An animal, to be sure, and lodged in the free-floating that is an apparatus we might grasp on to even while it is eating us raw.


Our virtues had been forgiven and forgotten, a place on the strand offered to us, whence we might withdraw, unblemished by the limits of our placedness. A stance from which we might shout. Hardened generation of time’s siftliness.


He saw himself as a river, and that is how it got introjected. Introjection is projection backwards, internal. Spines with strings attached, suspended from clouds. The sun gets injected into the brain.


It takes an entire lifetime to learn how to dream properly; in the meantime, we have the violent act of translation to carry us. The inadequacies. There is a corollary to lust here which remains perennially unexplored. Were we to traverse the possibilities, crossing them out one by one as we trespass our way through them – suddenly yr foot is stuck in the sand, so deeply there is no choice but to detach it from yr body – the process completes itself just as the shore empties of its human occupiers. Yr time, you learn eventually, belongs to the machinery of someone else’s longing; the “other” is all those who endeavor to convey yr meaning.


You immerse yrself in the task of definitionality: the splatter-spatialization of all languages, human and other. The symbols with their intentions, bleeding all over the climate. Two figures: Hermes Hermaphroditus. (Splatter-Sprache.)


We are confronted with a map of the present and it frightens us into being, a cartography too real, because within its coordinates a photographic likeness of all our mistakes has been implanted and the green of the poisoned skies hums its radiated forecasts at us – the sort of dream that won’t allow you to sleep. The body without unity. Shattered glances that become a pool for the spectators to swim in – the spectatorial pool… And now, the grayness has returned to the sky, marking out a familiarity – a rat-object known by all the rest for the shrill of its squeals. Pretty soon it will swallow what’s left of us. (Ode to a poet who was recently swallowed by death.)


And then time was little more than the matter the substance that we would have forgotten had we not all been there counting wasting away the idle hours that knew no heroes only the losers among us could ever succeed at fathering up to speed the low-level countenance that was, at best, a present to the heart… but too many people had had their excitement driven out of them by outside forces whose voices resounded a basso profundo an allegiance to the absolute bottom, yeah that was the thing we thought we knew when it mattered to be a collectivity, the thing to be asserted – and me, I was lost before I even got a chance to find myself, a ceramic object submerged in the sand – found by someone else, the stranger, the bomb, the loss, what was left of the feeling of love…


There are two artists in the mindeye of the socius’s inner rot and only two, but projection and introjection infrequently collide, and then the work that bursts out of it is an animal, and the sand I am walking upon is more alive than the foot I gave birth to in the urethral splat of godliness that is lacking a proper name.


“This is truly the life-force,” she said, but she was looking at someone else. He had a vagina that looked just like hers, and someone took a bath in it, there were marble ruins all around, a police officer arrived mid-submersion to inscribe an anti-signature into his labial folds in a language that cannot be spoken.


The lexicon consisting wholly of ambivalences. In the village whose entire architecture was constructed from word-formations, its inhabitants pathologically illiterate.


Which language are you currently speaking. As I stare out at the world, the language floats away. A self-broadcasting that floats. That floods. Here, on the other side of the void. In the land made of orifices. The ground swallows you as you are walking. The ground is made of god. Absent father who put you here without celebrating. Pre-selection, to be drawn upon: worldvoid. To die without thinking what’s coming next. Without thinking.


Why can’t life perspire in the same way I do – because there’s no true freedom, that’s why – this neo-romantic cult of the lost macho adolescent, sexless and private in his guise – arid sounds that can’t be unhatched because the shell is shattered. Fear that you might one day run out of things to die for.


What is death but a person to go inside, another species.


There is an animal inside that speaks to me in the rot’s language. When I stand in the sand and hear the sirens shrieking, I will take off all my clothes and become an inanimate object for you.


Life has meaning insofar as it eats our fears for us while we’re standing in the sand dreaming. Were we to translate the sky into a language you might recognize, would you actually take the time to read it?


For some, research entails staring at a blank white wall until it collapses.


Represent one kind of freedom and it is there there before you you are dying a large stone a rock having replaced yr foot and the desire to escape the knowledge that you can no longer be a part of this and everyone out there, they all want a thing from you a thing you are tired of giving, and so why go on living you ask yrself but no, perhaps that’s not it either and there you are lost once more and there are children everywhere, the dispersal, mixed variables scattered about –


At the end of the sun, the rain, stars raining down upon all yr fears, an ideological snowstorm of fuckography, this is not me I am not the entirety that spells out that forms a riverscape for me to collect my weepery, yeah a giant genital forecast me on top of the world and no more lies, no more victors, who is there now to represent our fears.


Faciality is a graveyard you can swim in. The corpses all boats of joy.


Inanimacy as the liberating factor. In the days before gender.


The hermaphrodite came over to map me. But it ended up getting mapped instead. The void was made of paper. The better to make ashes with. Erasure happens on so many levels, one has to do little more than breathe before awareness kicks in.


There’s my name in another language. The ache of definitionality. I want to own this day so bad. So tell me why I am speaking – to deliver a message?


Me in countless versions, the language of the multiple – my selves and their inherent otherness – I as an army of ghosts, I as a flood. I framed while simultaneously leaving the container: anti-signature.


The river bled into a sea. Actually, the sea feeds the river. The key to all this being the way in which we fall. The bottom-up direction, the reverse spill. Staring at the world is great; it makes nothing happen so lightly. Without force, speculation becomes a constancy; it never ends. Never wanted a body – just a presence. A heart so fuckless as to be pure.


Wake up in the haze of days, yearning to be an escaper. Dog with three heads won’t let you. He’s all quantity, no qualities. Outwit hermetic dog-god, be humanity’s savior. It’s not just a fantasy. We aren’t the products of the sunless world, the endlessness of time, the triumph of the unknowing, the light that knows no time. All the seeming that goes into each effort. Erased by a cloud of ink while three heads bark in simultaneity. Whinnying lightness: a horse that floats. Air is like water – each time you breathe, you drown…


Wash the blood off yr meaning.


My god is a dead fucker whose face has wheels on it. You need something from me? I’m gonna teach you how to be the universe’s whore. I don’t want something; I own it. No and not really; both at once. When I was a serpent, the gods were after me constantly. Yeah, I had an entire army of unknowing backing me up. Performing raids on the superfluity of the quasi-real, which is clogging all the drains. Quit fucking owning me, I will give you a prize. No one really knows for sure how deep to go; the stature of the situation we now find ourselves in. Wrench apart yr claws, the legs of you, to reveal the entrapment of the ideal. Every sex act a mapping of the impending era that has arrived in order to be destroyed.


From Michael Müller: Who’s Speaking? Forthcoming from Hatje Cantz, June 2016.

New Writing

by Travis Jeppesen on April 13, 2016

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The Green Ray

by Travis Jeppesen on April 12, 2016


Monday July 2nd                                August the month it’s meant to happen. Plans get made, the fleetingness of the ruse. She gets dropped within minutes: no more vacation.


Tuesday July 3rd                               The way time is divvied up, here in the straight world. Sun so bright it hurts yr eyes. Reading, now, beneath the statue. What happens when you have noone to go with. Will you sit still. That statue over there.

You can meet people! A friend who doesn’t understand what longing gives birth to. I’m not the adventurous type. I don’t want to fuck a statue.


Wednesday July 4th         The city flashes past us, les banlieues. Asking everyone what you’re supposed to do on vacation. The weather in the countryside is strange. A survey. Why go anywhere. Paris has everything. There’s no sea.


Thursday July 5th               Dans les banlieues. They go camping. The parents with their babies. A communion with nature. She still has no idea: where to go, what a vacation is. She finds herself an alien. Go to Dublin, sister suggests. She asks her niece whether she likes foreign countries. They tell her to come visit, come to Ireland. Her mother will be there too. But she wants a warm country. She is at least certain of this. She’ll call Jean-Pierre and know something.

A card on the ground. Queen of Spades.


Friday July 6th     Telephone rings. Jean-Pierre. She wants the Antibes. No go. She can’t go anywhere. Jean-Pierre is a jerk who never sees her. Alone in her apartment with her plant.


Sunday July 8th Walking down the street another suburb. Regain contact with yrself and others, flyer reads. Her bourgeois friends ridicule her for not knowing where to go. She is stupid for her not-knowing, her non-assertion. Stop attacking me. You’re sad and pathetic, you will be alone forever because she can’t figure out her vacation. We only want to help you, we’re yr self-righteous friends. A red dress expresses something, she doesn’t know how to express herself, she is too much a person, she is improvising. I’m not alone, I have someone, I just don’t see him right now. Her friend is willing to play the tough bitch to “help” her. Move on, another friend tells her. Ask the spirits and the stars. She is still romantic enough to let things happen on their own. I find cards all the time, she says: this has meaning. A medium said green would be my color this year. And it’s true: everything I see is green. Green, the color of hope. A little green man. She’s not stubborn, life is just hard. Crying next to the roses.

Why does nature make her sad. Other people’s problems, what a drag. Only mine are interesting. (The way most people think.)

Cry cry. Let it all out. Tears aren’t the thing to fear. Aren’t the thing. That is life.

She cries for no thing.

She’s not allowed to.

You can vacation with my parents. Her sister wants her to go to Ireland, to see her mother. But that’s not a real vacation. A house, a garden. Sunshine sea and children. What is a vacation. Nothing’s real.

She’s fond of her family, but she can’t. So come to Cherbourg with me, her friend tells her.


Wednesday July 18th       Cherbourg is a place to go on vacation. Is it far enough away. Far enough to matter.

Cute dog swimming in the river. A mountain called Mont Roule. That place over there is called La Hague. Pointing.

To be inhabited. A person place or thing. Mattering in the streets.

Mattering is akin to rotting. Persons places things, all meant to be inhabited. When I hear her voice, I go inside that as well. Inside inside inside. Going on vacation means being led around by good friend with colorful clothing. Sky is the same color as the water, the air we breathe. The other shore is complètement sauvage.

You see the dude staring out at the marina, you are instantly drawn to him, you want him inside you: to be inhabited. Vacation means sex. I go outside the city so that someone can come inside me. All this water, the fluidity surrounding.

The man’s eyeballs’re on the girl and her friend. One or the other, perhaps both of them. The man is horny and they stare right back at him. When a man stares and that staring almost becomes an understanding. Of the world that takes its own time in happening. All natural light. It is a summer of haze thus far.

Leisure is the self-reward invented by the middle class. Enablement is its historical definitionality click, cling to it as it disappears with the century’s soft waning. When we speak of liberalism, it always entails a preservation of a falsity, I mean a construct. Look at that man looking back at us. Which one will he attempt to fuck.

What is yr name, yr friend asks him. Brazen. He tells them his name. Name is an object also. You can remove it, but there are still some eyeballs.

He saunters over with his red sweater tied round his neck. Running his hand along white railing that protects them all from falling into the sea down below. I can’t wait till the day comes when I’ll finally understand something. All my life I’ve been waiting, and I’m still standing here, eyes in my hand. Please take me to the other side, where the shore is said to be wild. Will you meet me here tonight, or do I have to do something to earn it. We’re on vacation.

The man will go to Ireland the following day. That’s so funny, I almost went there. My mother. I’m here instead. Life makes no sense. That’s why we go on vacation. We get to belong to the middle class. Are you alive yet?

The man is a sailor, all alone. Yr friend is willing; you, the protagonist, you want it too, but you insist on the pre-arranged plan, dinner with the family. You want it so bad, which is why you refuse to allow it. You want A and its opposite, not-A, both and at the same time. This is what makes you the protagonist.

A promise is a thing that sticks to yr soul and doesn’t allow you to move. At all. You are motionless, a thing in the ocean, floating in yr own stillness. I want to be a part of the ocean, apart from it, and to sink. I want all the things I am not actually wanting, and this is what makes me alive, nubile today. And anyone who wants you just complicates things, therefore must be rejected. Yr friend would have said yes. That is why you are different, no one will ever understand the extent of yr objectity.

Oh, look at the sky. They serve you pork chops; you’re a vegetarian. They think there’s something wrong with you. There are lots of things. Robots improvising. What about fish. Other people. You have health problems? Dairy? You must have a lot of problems. The lettuce was alive once too. I don’t see it that way. To me, a lettuce is very far removed, it’s much more remote from me. Oh, this thing I am. Have I forgotten it already? An animal is closer to what I am. Others are vegetables. Also (for example): mineral people. Or a piece of lint. A lettuce is a friend. Lightness and air. Vegetables = bodies without organs. It’s not about hating. Maybe I’m not aware of things a cucumber in my vagina, but at my present stage, the way I am now, it is a question of instinct: this is how I feed myself. When we speak of skin, we often forget about porousness – the holes. There are more gaps in every surface that we are incapable of acknowledging, because if we were to acknowledge them, we would fail at the survival game, we would drown.

It’s a question of awareness. You, a meat, you eat meat because you don’t care what you’re doing. The flesh that governs you is somehow not a part of you. This itchy abjection, the constancy of it, is what absolves you, the fish in the ocean, drowning…

You can also save money by having a conscience. But I can’t eat flowers, because they’re a picture. Something real, in their scientificity.


Thursday July 19th            Two lay in the sun, while another two swing, in the backyard. Swingers embrace, kiss, pick strawberries. Swinging and boats make her nauseous. The young girl asks her about fruit and boys. Her boyfriend’s name is Jean-Pierre. A fake boyfriend. Will you live with him? Yes, one day. She has lots of boyfriends.

It pours out of you, yr skin. You are always writhing. This is why there can never be any vacation. For what is real is the sense of constancy: escape. I am in this world, and it is a planet. Plenty of phenomena here we may throw our hoop around, pull it in and submit to our lenses. I don’t have to eat any animals because I already got plenty, living and crawling around inside me. Not just bacteria, parasites either; real fur-lined specters with absent causes. My throat abounds with skylarks whose speciousness is truly a ruse, a moment we call becalming. Play a board game in which the words emerge as detached objects, take a photograph of the result and you have a new poem. If unsure, just ask the others around you for the meaning of it all. None of these people can be trusted.

Willingness, the wild star of light.

Tell me what the words mean, I am looking for something.

You don’t play word games with the others. You prefer the company of pre-language-age children.


Friday July 20th   Children play, adults speak. They keep picking her apart, are able to find a flaw attached to every new subject that arises. The sea. She can swim, but not sail. Sailing makes her puke. She is a Capricorn. Sign of the goat climbing the mountain. Sign of getting high and never going back down again… Arise, yr highness, the sea. That is why she don’t like to sail. But the goat, she is always alone.

We don’t know you really, but we get the sense that you’re a naysayer. What’s wrong with you, anyway? Why is it that you are unable or unwilling to take part, to do anything? Where did you get this marvelous ability to talk yr way out of every suggestion? This stubborn steadfastness, a composed core, hinting at a singularity… Why wait? Finally some sunshine, and now a rejection of the sea!

I’ve done lots of things. Yet you blame me for everything. I’m a nice person!

You’re a plant, she is told.

At the sea in the water. Not-drowning.


Saturday July 21st             Takes a walk down a country road. Arrives at a wooden gate. Turn back around again…

The sun gone, the wind. A storm approaches.

This variance. Picking flowers, in the maybe-be. Smell the lilac. Another wooden fence. The approaching storm, a sign. Now the tears cannot be prevented.

The children greet her. Aren’t you bored? No, I saw the sea.


Sunday July 22nd               Children play with a dog, the adults with their banal conversation… The friend that brought her here is leaving. She stops her. Take me with you. I can’t stay here all alone.

She is escaping. Escaping her vacation.

Well, she’s different from us. The adults understand, the children don’t. She’ll be all alone.



Monday July 23rd              Man following her through a park. Everywhere she goes, he is there.

Everywhere and anywhere she goes, the goat can’t be left alone. And yet the goat is so lonely. Back at the flat, the goat phones her boyfriend. Cherbourg was nice, but it’s over. You know how I am. Can I use yr place in the mountains?


Wednesday July 25th       In the mountains, children, families everywhere. Tourists. The goat wanders among them. Goat climbs the mountain, perennially alone.

She climbs back down. Nothing’s happened. She is bored, crying. It hasn’t been half a day, she has to leave this place. No more vacation. Back to Paris. No one understands.


Thursday July 26th            The streets of Paris are grim and empty. Everyone on vacation.

At the hair salon, friend tells her she’s crazy. You have money, go away again. But I hate going alone. An emptiness that is a mountain and a sky.

Meet someone. I don’t know what to do. Tears again. Stay in Paris?


Friday July 27th   Walk along the Seine, the sunbathers. Shirtless men dreaming.

Friend seated at outdoor café calls out to her. Someone you are eager to speak with. I’m on vacation, lost, looking for a place. Friend gestures to the ominosity of the cloud-clogged sky.

I got married, friend tells her. Have a son. It’s not always easy, but the story’s too long to tell. This is my long ass vacation and I don’t know what to do with it. Climb a mountain? Get married? Bury myself in the waves of the sea?

Two weeks left. I went away, came back, went away came back again… I am ambushed by the effects, the result of my working life. Now I’m in Paris, an idiot once again. The weather’s awful and I have to get away.

The weather will change.

That’s the thing: the never-changing. When the sun’s out, it’s too hot in my apartment.

I know. I’ll give you my apartment in Biarritz.


Wednesday August 1st   The sea again. A crowded beach is a popular vacation destination.

From the mountains to the shining sea. A descent. Too many people and the joy she feels, to be among them.

In the apartment, hides all the framed photos – the people in someone else’s life she doesn’t wish to see. She is not a part of anything.


Thursday August 2nd       Running down the shore along the crest. A bikini. Chases the sun away. Now rain.

Communion with nature, friend’s re-marriage. Up and down, up down. The staircase, waves. These ancient seawalls. Crashing against rocks. Distant lighthouse. Spectrality. Up and down old old stairs. The children who ignore, the men who want. Climbing upon the rocks, she finds a Jack of Hearts. Violin.

Some old people seated on a sea wall talking about Jules Verne. One just re-read 20,000 Leagues. Bearded old man look like Jolly Saint Nick. Then there’s The Green Ray. Eavesdrops. A kind of fairy tale, the heroine a Snow White or Cinderella, a love story set in Scotland. A country I like a lot.

Book club discussion. Searching for something. And one even saw it, for a split second. The sun resting on the horizon. At the final stage, a kind of pale green shaft. So clear, like the blade of a sword, slashing through the finality of a day. Horizontal beam of heaven. Crested finitude.

We won’t see it today. Though the day is fading. Sky too hazy. Not a chance. Verne says that when you see the green ray you can read yr own feelings, those of others too. Heightened perception an effect of the green ray. That’s what happens to his heroine. She don’t see the ray, but can finally read her feelings as well as those of the young man she has met. That’s what love means, in the story: reading.

Jolly Old Saint Nick pipes in with an explanation of his own. He’s seen the green ray five times in his life. Some summers you can never see it, cos the atmosphere won’t allow. Today too hazy, too many clouds. The way his wife just said it. But when it’s clear… If we will ever have a clear day.

Foreverness reigns. The mild associations. Extreme clarity. This phenomenon has a reason: refraction.

There’s the sun, but it’s not really there, not where you’re seeing it. It’s a little lower, because of the way the sun’s rays curve. The closer the sun, the greater the diffraction. When the sun appears to touch the horizon, it is lying to us, it is actually already below the horizon. The solar disk seems slightly raised, half a degree perhaps.

Then there’s the dispersion of colors. Like a prism. Light passes through a prism, there’s a spectrum. The color that’s most curved is… blue. Not green. The green is near the blue. Red yellow green blue violet. Blue violet real weak. What we see best are the yellow and the green. When the sun sets, the disk is slightly raised, but the blues and greens’re higher than the reds. So when the disk sinks below the horizon, the last ray you see is the green.

There is romance and there is science. There is the sky, which has its own form of writing. It knows not to explain things, for explanation = ruination.


Friday August 3rd              Another day, another beach, as some asshole might say. Put down yr towel an empty plot of sand. Nearing three in the afternoon, sun so bright the sky.

Girl next to her engages her in conversation about the beach. Guess her nationality. Swede. Loves traveling alone, sunbathing topless, summertime tans. Taste of saltwater on her lips. You envy her confidence in being traveling alone – you want it too.

You decide to go somewhere have a drink. Bridge going cross the water, no a pier. You see that beau mec over there. Where. He swims real good. I’m on vacation alone, of course I look at guys. Fiancé gets jealous. Not good to be alone, not good to be with the same person too long either. Nothing’s good. It is a world you cannot have it all. A world where things come apart at their own becoming, and you don’t even know why; mysterious colors in the sky.

Yr relationship and how you define it. The failure, ultimate, of all definitionality. A vacation, something one must profit from. We should go out one of these nights. Get loaded. Bring a couple guys back. Looking towards land, the mermaids that we are. Go out where.

Let’s go cruising. I’m ready for it. Horny as a motherfucker.

Me I can’t find my ideal. Ideal is romantic. Money don’t matter. I always think… No candles, no clichés. Just the thing, the undefinable.

Questioning her relations with people. The tears’re gonna come again. I never do anything to find someone, something. Yeah, I fall apart all the time. A piece of me down there in the ocean, another part of me up here, high above, on the mountaintop. When I’m in-between, that is always when the tears start to come. That is what I don’t care about – nearing far. A guy won’t come to you – you have to do something. This incessant fear, yielded by coupling. The writing that the sky does – on this, the clearest of days. Do something: people tell me that all the time. As though I were a mix of things, an omelet. Do something, look for something: it’s all talk, empty words, meaninglessness.

Feeling over talking, says the Swedish mermaid.

I listen to people, I watch them live, that doesn’t mean you can trust any of them. People like me, goats, climbing mountains all the time.

I play with people, says the Swede. So now she’s admitting she is one of the ones that cannot be trusted. You can’t reveal things, that is for sure. To do so is to just ask for torture. Like a card game: don’t show what’s in yr hand all at once. Or else you lose.

My hand’s empty, you say, I have nothing, and that is when the tears come. Yr green beret against the azure ocean, blue of the sky. I have nothing and that is a freedom I do not want. I therefore must reject the entire philosophy of having. A sailboat behind you. Why do you cry. I don’t know how to have anymore. So forget everything.

I am not like you. I am not like you. I am not like you. I am not like –

I’m so open, I am open to everything, and yet I am perceived as a closed system: the tragedy of my being. Were I to escape it, I would have to become another person somehow. Listening, watching. All the time. How exhausting. That is me: exhaustion on vacation.

Forget. Just forget. Tonight we’ll lose ourselves! Those men over there our victims.

Mermaid invites the men over. You go blank. Pretends to be Spanish. Standard flirtation scene – bored and a little drunk. You have no desire to play along. This isn’t the way. It is one way, but not the one. What do you think? Nothing, of course.

Now they’re talking of yr sadness. Great when the world takes note. Urge to run away, never see any of these people ever again. While they make a display of their mediocrity. Mermaid asks what you wanna do. And so you run away. Leather jacket sleazeball chasing after you. I’m not the one for you I don’t want a ride on yr motorcycle. Fuck off into the sky.

Back at the apartment, call the train station. Get away from this all before it’s too late.


Saturday August 4th         Train back to Paris. Train somewhere. Waiting. The vacation that never ends; never begins, either.

Beau mec comes wandering over. Black t-shirt and an interest that’s just cursory. Unburdened by the peregrinations of loyalty. You’re reading The Idiot. Book about a social retard like you. I’m going back to Paris. You want him here next to you.

Saint Jean de Luz. His destination. To train. Cabinetmaking. An artist, then.

An artist and a secretary: love at first sight. Saint Jean de Luz is five minutes away, a fishing port. She tells him she ruined her vacation. Paris train called. She’s never been to Saint Jean de Luz. Take me with you? Mais oui, bien sûr.

Walking on level ground, along the piers. Normally I’m wary of guys, she says. I never run after them like I did with you. It is a risk, so why not. A conversation about love, with lots of self-clarification.

To give yrself to another person. Petty fascism that a day breeds.

Three times in my life. Are you in love at the moment? Pause indicates a loaded question. No. But I hope to be, finishing his beer. A smile. What. Nothing. I’m a fool. I haven’t met a guy in a long time. If you just give yrself away once to a person, you feel so alone afterwards. The separation that that entails. From one self to another; both selves within you. And many others…

She doesn’t wanna go back on that train right now, maybe never again. The ethics of loneliness, she pontificates. The troubles of having too many goat-selves to mind. Purity is an illusion; dream; energy. The waiting… Look up at the sky to see what’s being said. Better to wait than to destroy yr hopes.

Walking along the shore. A souvenir shop, called Rayon Vert. She remembers the conversation, the old people. It’s incredible. Suddenly everything means something. And she’s never had that before. The cards on the ground don’t count. What. He wouldn’t understand. Let’s go watch the sunset on that cliff. You work on Monday? No. Still on vacation. Will you spend some days with me near Bayonne? It’s so simple. Let go of yr flock. Come. Niceness. Say you will. We’ll wait. Wait for what? Patience.

Sun’s going into the ocean. This moment to be rid of all this. The finality that happens when a day calls itself done. The enunciation in the descent – the fade all around. What is the green ray. The last ray at sunset. When you know it is truly away. This force, the lines deep, deeply embedded in the sky’s paper. Jules Verne wrote a book about it. About what it means to truly fade. Burden of trust disappears into the fold of longing. I haven’t read that book. It is green, does it bring luck? Not exactly. There are no guarantees. It helps you to learn something. What. I’ll tell you later. I want to know. So would I. I think I get it. Tears before the fading. The engulfment – total. To read without understanding, read what it is I feel. The only thing that’s real. Make up the memory, that way it’ll last. Because in the end, finality’s a flash.

The Anatomy of Melancholy: The Paintings of Christian Schoeler (1978-2015)

by Travis Jeppesen on January 10, 2016

Still Life

As Rilke once noted, in writing of Rodin, the artist eventually comes to the realization that he is limited by the surface just as the writer must ultimately grapple with language’s intrinsic failures to adequately convey the essence of a thing. Surfaces, surfacing: Isn’t the melancholic realization of the painter identical to that of the obsessive, the lover, the day that the realization is reached that you can never truly know another person? For what is there but the surface that prevents us from crawling into the skin of another, thinking their thoughts and feeling their feelings with them, inside them, discarding our own physiological realities in a gelatinous act of becoming another, pre-existent being? Couldn’t we propose that nearly all art that addresses, nay, idealizes the human figure, is an act of reconciliation on behalf of the artist who wishes to do just that?

These are the thoughts that flood my brain when I consider a painting by Christian Schoeler. It is because Schoeler clearly works out of inner necessity, impelled by something like love, though I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that. His quest for capturing and rendering beauty in his male portraits certainly has its historical precedents – it is loudly part of a tradition, it announces itself as such – but without the self-referencing that positions the artist on a higher, godlike plateau of being above his subjects. God is not Christian Schoeler – God is the boys he depicts.

At the same time, most of these are studio pictures. In that, they take on the difficult task of attempting to capture “natural” beauty within a frame, or a framed situation that is going to reveal at least some vestiges of its artificiality. Thereby, the medium makes reference to itself, often in the form of the models’ explicit outward gaze at the viewer or the staginess of their pose. The visual is allowed to be truly and totally visual.

Like Larry Clark, an artist he admires, Schoeler’s primary concern is with boy-men situated on the edge of becoming – that vulnerable situation/moment in life, that state of being stranded between boyhood and manhood, that is fraught with existential inevitabilities. “Most of the decisions are made on an emotional basis,” Schoeler insists in a recent interview. Emotion, as opposed to formal or conceptual concerns, we may presume – a bold admission in an era when art is moving away from the purely visual and further into the conceptual, almost as though in reaction to the broader, increasingly image-based culture. This is where the Clark comparison comes to an end: For Clark, who assumes what could be called a similar faux naïve melancholic stance towards his subjects, his subjects’ engagement with the wider cultural milieu – and that milieu’s representation of the teenage male body and its sexual prowess – is a constant presence in the work; one need look no further than The Perfect Childhood, a book that combines Clark’s own photos with news clippings, hand-written letters, movie stills, and teen celebrity posters, among other forms of trash/sex culture memorabilia, in forming a complex psychosexual art object that simultaneously serves as a manifesto for the artist’s obsessions. Schoeler, on the other hand, completely ignores culture altogether, transmitting his obsessions purely through the paintings – even the settings are often obscured to the point of illegibility in order to focus solely on the subjects themselves, typically depicted singly or in pairs, to the extent that the pictures attain an air of timelessness reminiscent of Rainer Fetting’s portraits. Furthermore, the paintings showcase a Hegelian impulse for capturing a precise state of affairs, linking the concrete with the Ideal. In the case of Schoeler, it is a concretion rooted in a semantics of melancholia.

From an interview with Francesca Gavin: “The true antagonism lies within the difference between ethics and aesthetics. […] In my mind there is a certain melancholy, a degree of light in concert with a degree of darkness, a sad finesse, which is directly connected to gay sexuality.”

In his 1917 essay on “Mourning and Melancholia,” Freud elucidates the structure of melancholia. It is, of course, rooted in loss. When you lose someone you love, according to Freud, you subsume that person into the structure of your ego. You take on attributes of that person; in doing so, you are able to sustain them, you are able to sustain your love for them.

Because time moves too fast for us, there is a reason for preserving and idealizing certain forms. We don’t know what Schoeler’s personal relationship is with his models, we don’t need to know. Love occurs on several layers; in the human realm of relationships, in the aesthetic realm of beauty and idealized form. It is the latter form of love that Schoeler prefers to talk about when asked by an interviewer whether he is currently in love, referring to the work of fellow artists with whom he feels an affinity.

Whether you choose to view the male figures in Schoeler’s paintings as projections of the artist’s past-present self on the vulnerable precipice of becoming, or as literal figurative representations of models with whom he may or may not have a more intimate relationship, the same othering device is at work. Contrary to classical psychoanalytic definitions of melancholia, however, this is a form of love-loss projected externally through the creative act, rather than subsumed within the artist’s ego. I would even go so far as to argue that this is a tactic of ego-destruction, which aligns Schoeler with a number of (namely literary) explorers of extreme states of being, from Rimbaud to Kathy Acker.

An act of melancholy – for example, a painting – is then a method of preserving something that will otherwise, inevitably, be lost. And Schoeler is correct in linking this to homosexuality. Via Lacan and Hegel, Judith Butler has identified traditional Western conceptions of gender as equating “having” and “being” with “masculine” and “feminine,” respectively, with regards to the Phallus. Such divisions have been naturalized through the stringent laws of heterosexual discourse that dictate societal norms. Women (and, I would argue, “feminine” boys such as those typically found in Schoeler’s paintings) must cope with the ludicrous expectation of having to “be” the Phallus while having to conceal their lack of the Phallus; this compromise is conceived as “appearing,” or masquerade. Butler writes: “The mask has a double function which is the double function of melancholy. The mask is taken on through the process of incorporation which is a way of inscribing and then wearing a melancholic identification in and on the body; in effect, it is the signification of the body in the mold of the Other who has been refused. Dominated through appropriation, every refusal fails, and the refuser becomes part of the very identity of the refused, indeed, becomes the psychic refuse of the refused. The loss of the object is never absolute because it is redistributed within a psychic/corporeal boundary that expands to incorporate that loss. This locates the process of gender incorporation within the wider orbit of melancholy.”

This returns us to that curious statement of Schoeler’s regarding the tension between ethics and aesthetics. Lost in an orbit of desire, stranded between their own private sexual battles and their position as potential sexual objects, Schoeler recognizes that the essence of his subjects is their vulnerability – something a more sinister artist might try to exploit or de-sensitize. Furthermore, I would have to add that there is a sense of shame in desiring – to love, to become, to subsume – another, a shame that is intrinsic to gay identity-formation. What we have is the classic vision of homosexual-as-outsider, a melancholic refusal to cope by feigning gain; a celebration, really, of loss and the humanizing beauty of suffering through memory, nostalgia, and hope.

Of course, in suggesting this, I risk suggesting that Schoeler is a wispy person deluded by dreams, unable to act but through art. To clarify, I have to propose that Schoeler, on the contrary, is an artist who understands that dreams are, in fact, the stuff of real life. Further, he is able to intuit that pain is the being of “being well.”

In the end, we give in to the desire to see Schoeler’s boys as characters or totems in the formation of a future epic. An elimination, a denial of the meta- level, brings us back once again to a joyous affirmation of the surface. A surface that is, perhaps, not sexual or even tactile – a distancing effect is used to fog these subjects in the dreamlight of a parallel universe. Youth will fade, the twinks will become something else – kings or else tyrants, fools – we cannot know, a picture tells no stories – art is not life, but a dream, a moment captured. Time’s formidable absence from the cause of being elevates these snatches of becoming into relics of affirmation, providing the illusion of a living continuity of beauty uninterrupted. Chaste and refined, Schoeler’s paintings are still lifes with living beings.


Trash, the Body, an Accident

But enough about corporeality – we are dealing in two dimensions here. Is this a problem? If so, how to articulate this challenge, how to articulate it in a way that it may be overcome?

Argument: There is, in fact, a sensuality that takes place when no bodies are present.

The sensuality of solitude is closely related to the act of creation. I’m not talking about a masturbatory process that is linked to ego fulfillment; rather, the depths of a field that transcends the confines of the self, the gulf of selves that is our inevitability, as each one of us is not one – is, in fact, a collective entity. [1] That is why each time we are painted, a completely different figure emerges. Just as a landscape never stays the same, the body, the inner being that it reflects, is a constantly shifting and evolving field of perplexities.

To find this sensuality, we must look beyond the figures, at the backgrounds. What do we find there. Total abstraction, most of the time. No, for the totality is in fact always a merger between those blotted-out forms that articulate nature for us and the human body structures that are struggling to find their expression. There is a competition between the two forms of life here, one that is not necessarily resolved in, by the painting. Painting, an unnatural act, can make anything come alive. This is its animating paradox. And, when it is successful, the apparent formlessness of nature is just as important as the (mostly precise) human forms inserted into the landscapes.

Doing “bad painting” is easy, Schoeler asserts, when the question of German neo-Expressionist terribles like Baselitz and Oehlen comes up. There’s no challenge in that. It’s a generational thing; Schoeler is no longer part of that generation that feels the need to break those rules. This points to a shift in the cyclical notions of badness in art. Now it’s more risqué to try and paint beauty.

Is Schoeler painting beauty in the classical sense? If so, he worries, then maybe what he is doing is kitsch. It’s a subject that comes up a lot in my conversations with the artist. Am I doing kitsch, he asks, and if so, is doing kitsch a bad thing? Sometimes he says that he’s proud to be painting kitsch, that he’s engaging in a dialogue with it. That to make a beautiful painting in the 21st century is something like penning Romantic poetry, an endeavor that no serious contemporary artist or critic would accept anyway. (Greenberg actually sources the roots of kitsch in Romanticism at one point, in its identificatory impulse towards the effect of poetry on the poet. Great art, avant-garde art, always identifies itself rather with cause rather than effect, argues Greenberg.)

“Democracy isn’t something to eat,” a Kurdish Iraqi dissident once stated. To that, we might add: Kitsch isn’t, necessarily, something to shit. Artists like Schoeler seriously trouble the old Greenbergian dialectic. Writing in 1939, Greenberg identified then-still-emergent abstract art as the forefront of the avant-garde, as it was the first time in history wherein artists had begun to imitate the processes of art itself (rather than, say, nature, presumably.) At the same time, as the result of rapid industrialization and improved living standards, a state of supposed universal literacy was attained as the masses began flooding into the city from the countryside. With this new enlightenment and work schedule that allowed for amounts of free time hitherto unknown, the masses met with boredom for the first time, and thus required their own form of culture – though they could only tolerate one situated on their “lower” level, lacking the refinements of the master classes. “Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas.” [2] Chez Greenberg, kitsch is incendiary, deceptive – something that one must always be on guard (avant garde) against; hence, he invents a role for the critic, while simultaneously identifying the moral stance of the avant-garde artist, whose duty of upholding the standards of good art is rooted in a natural instinct; the avant garde artist “has an organic sense of what is good and what is bad for art.” [3]

If abstract painting represented the heroic avant garde of good taste, then outside of popular culture, within the art historical canon, romanticism was enunciated as the enemy, veering dangerously close to kitsch in its attempts to dissolve the barrier of the medium that is the dividing force between the emotions of the painter and the spectator. And, insofar as he flatters the spectator, Schoeler could be said to be performing a feat of kitsch romanticism. Though the dichotomy is not that simple, because according to Greenberg, the artist who flatters cannot simultaneously enlighten. Schoeler shows that it is possible to do both.

Schoeler feels forced to identify his practice as engaging in kitsch because, in the eyes of the art status quo that believes its duty is to uphold these categories, what he is doing is somehow too physical, intimate, dirty, present. In short, it is a sort of anti-conceptualism. What makes it so is the central presence of the body. Body becomes an expression, an extension, of being. For expression is extension: a point that Greenberg misses in his bitter dismissal of Romanticism. How can one truly separate feeling from thought in the authorial or spectatorial experience of the work of art? The main problem with Greenberg is that he never managed to throw Descartes in the trash where he belongs. In such discourses, mind always perseveres over body. What’s left for the body? It becomes a thing only women and gay men need concern themselves with: this burden of being and not-having.

But a warring and combative physicalist viewpoint proposes that mind is but an extension of body, so why isolate one from the other? The idea of extension is infinitely productive, enabling thousands of tiny universes to appear. We are all, to an extent, victims of the era we live in. Intoxicated by the endless whirl of technological “progress,” it hardly ever occurs to us that the most essential questions may, in fact, be the most primitive ones. By confining these questions – to which no easy answers have ever been found – to the toilet bowl, by trashing history in our arrogant obsession with contemporaneity, we are only accelerating the process of universal destruction. It is with this knowledge, this supra-physicalist perspective, that Christian Schoeler moves forward. He very well might be asking the same questions as Rembrandt and El Greco before him, but it is not done in willful ignorance of the world he is living in. He knows this place is a world of ugly accidents, of brutalism, ignorance, and danger. It is a radical gesture to deal openly and directly with beauty in times like this. Christian Schoeler is a radical traditionalist, a neo-Romantic.

There is a boy, he is naked, he stands on the precipice, the edge of a body of water. The water is green, which means it is not completely clean. Not necessarily dirty, but polluted by foliage, by the efflorescence of its surroundings. He puts one step forward, into it, to test it. He does not know if he can trust it, what that is. It is a moving forward: that is all, seems so simple, and yet it scares him. Scares us. So many of us. For us many, those of us who are scared, it is much better, safer, to stay put, avoid the uncertainty of the future unknowable.

On the other hand, how silly this fear seems. Look over there, you can see the other side, it is not so far away.

He wants to be always walking. But he cannot go where there is no surface to be seen.

It could also be a field, of course, not water at all. But in this version of things, it is a lake, a sea, a body of water. It may be vague, but it is still liquid, that much is certain. Maybe it is different for you.

Total immersion entails, more than entails, is akin to loss. We must move forward in order to make new discoveries, but we’re giving up control by doing so. Uncertainty is a tall order. We turn our back on past experiences, reject the sentimentality of nostalgia. But the longer you ignore that gulf of lack that forms the center of your selves, that multiple being that each of us is, the more it widens, threatening to drown the you that has to live this life, that must stay afloat, live and love and hate and die.

Schoeler manages expression without a face. And yet not. There is a reversal of orders going on here. The boy has his back to us, we cannot see his actual face. His face is turned towards the landscape, the same thing we are facing towards. And yet what looks back at us. Faciality – screens, surfaces, images – a hylozoic force that not only receives our gaze but projects one of its own back in our direction. We are looking, the boy is looking. Looking, looking. What looks back? The answer is simple. The face is the landscape. What does this face-landscape consist of?

The question of flatness is an interesting one. Ultimately, it is something that Schoeler totally rejects in his painting. This greatly troubled his professors at the Munich Art Academy, ardent Color Fieldists, who wished that Schoeler would abandon painting figures and simply leave in the backgrounds. A lot has happened since Color Field painting. Ever the bad student – like a lot of great artists, a dropout, a reject – Schoeler not only persisted in his loyalty to the figure, he sought to disrupt the “pure” painterly qualities of his backgrounds by making them, by and large, accidental. Taking a photograph of a spot of dirt on the studio floor, enlarging it to make a full distorted splotched landscape, then fucking with it in the post-processing, various layering effects, to get it to the right degree of blurriness, contrast – a troubled surface. While the illusion of depth is always the most classical effect, the surfaces of his figures – not only their skin, but their clothing, the objects they hold in their hands – remember, we are dealing with extension here on a grand, endless scale – are similarly tortured, usually by the strange way the light inevitably violates their bodies. For this is a violence being done to them – a subtle violence, maybe – but it is violence nonetheless and it is the violence of vision, the violence of this world that we were brought into without choosing and must now make our way through.

Being: always a lack. Awareness of one’s sensitivity to a living field does nothing to lessen or deplete it. For this is what the body becomes: a landscape. The living organism a confluence of forms. He works at and on the surfaces to lessen the affects, diminish the sharpness, a field of being. A protective shield against the violence that the eye is capable of. Or not. For what is often mistaken as a softening of forms, of the overall image, might also be seen as a brutalistic assertion of something.

So when Schoeler has an accident in the studio – when a mess is made, when a field becomes tarnished, a plane polluted – then it is always a lucky accident. A piece of trash is photographed, becomes a landscape, or perhaps even the surface of the skin – one of many surfaces. For, ultimately, the body is the landscape, vice versa. Being a part of something is being apart, the networked indulgence of a total sensuality that does not need to be zoned-in on in order to siphon out its definitionality, all liquid and pure. True, the painter is the architect of visual meaning. But the store by which he sets up his practice can also get sucked in. You are in the way, you piece of filth, and thus, you become a part of this wider mess, even as it is transformed into beauty. There is nothing “soft” about these images, beautiful as they may seem. This is Schoeler’s crowning achievement, this rendering of a hardedge beauty, something very coarse and rough, the body in its blurred causality. The sum of all the conditions that led it to get to that point, the interpretative state it is in when it is projected on the canvas or on the paper.




untitled #066, 2011

Memorialization – something that takes place within the doctrine of safekeeping. I am haunted by a memory, and so I wrap it up in protective layers, the folds of an image, I externalize it, it is then there, outer, projected into space, it is something I can look upon, a safety latch. The colors of my memory crackle in the thinness of the daylight. I retreat into a permanent darkness – the only place I can be truly alone with these thoughts. Ever mindful of the interactions going on around me, I remain silent, untranslated. What escapes me – certain things that might have happened in the past, certain things I might have been. All those selves that once trespassed me, so many of them have died now. So many of them gone into the silence. A wry new day. A dull light that shudders. Now I have grown my hair long. It falls down way past my shoulders, I smoke a cigarette, I am pretending to be. Pretending in the half-light, that glow that signals late afternoon, hour of all permanence. Mood effects every movement I make, even the tiniest gesture, I am one of those guys. I have that glint. Don’t worry, it signals no violence. I am tired of having thoughts. I only want to be depicted. I don’t wanna be surrounded. Look, my shoulder, it looks so messy. When I grow my hair long, I become an example: primitive man. There are no shadows on the wall behind me, he’s been sure to block those out. No one wants to distract from this façade.

Though maybe in the background, it is true, you can make out traces of a ghost. Or an image removed, something that has been erased to make way for this focus. You could conjecture that it is smoke from the cigarette he is holding that forms this specter. The way that smoke begets a separate image, separate from what you think you are actually seeing.

I am not a fag and I do not want to be seduced. I do not have a sexual orientation and I am the answer to this mayhem. I am my own definition of maleness, I am what can never be believed. The family has fallen away, the individual can be re-heroicized. Schoeler does not work within the confines of any “community” in the normative sense. We’re not fighting any of those old wars anymore. The battle within and amongst the selves takes precedence over the old political identity dichotomies: male-female, straight-gay…

Memorialization can be thought of as the process of creating out of loss, the substitutive recovery of a lack. Sometimes that process manifests itself in physical form, as in a painting. But that doesn’t mean that the painting is capturing an (auto)biographical memory. A memory can also be forged, the end product of a forgery that is embedded within the creative act. I risk suggesting here that there is something dishonest about the creative act by noting that forgery is inevitably involved. Here we go again, another contradiction that this type of painting reveals: Within forgery, the production of a truth takes place. (In China, we were confronted with another version of truth. Everyone knows that China is the global capital of the simulacrum, the fake. Capitalists and intellectual copyright obsessives paint the Chinese as a race of pirates, out to destroy our precious legal-financial system in the West that says that ideas and artworks belong to individuals – not all of mankind. That by stealing my work, by replicating it so that you can profit from it yourself, you are stealing my identity, you are stealing my truth. In China, people fail to see this Western wrongness that is behind, nay, thrust on what they are doing. Their tradition is not ours. In Taoism and Buddhism, chanting – ritualized repetition – presents an alternate model of truth-forging, wherein the more you repeat something, the greater the degree of truth and potency it assumes.)

Boy in the forest squatting naked, rests his hands upon his knees. I knew him as I was painting him, that was our moment together. I could not know him after the fact, it wasn’t allowed. He was so full of life then, the dead expression on his face, I caught him believing in something. That’s what’s poignant about youth, especially the cynical ones, for no matter how bleak the outlook, belief – that which keeps them going – always shines through. When I catch him believing, when I depict it, I know I am depicting my own belief. That foreshadow of a future world that will blacken out all of this world’s failings. I’m not talking about heaven, ideality. The boy wears red sneakers, he is still rooted in this world, he looks to another.

It is in the forest that so many memories get made. You can look at this shelter in two different ways: as being generative of life or else the advent of decay. Both are the same thing, really. It is possible to look at the forest and only see decay. Because from decay springs life. What’s important isn’t so much the fact of the forest itself but of the things that happen inside that lend themselves towards the forging of the truth, the forged truth, that is the memory. It can be so simple – you just being there naked. Another boy stands behind a tree, looking. Next to the tree, he sort of competes with it. You think about it later when you are in the studio, painting another picture, and then process closes in on itself: you paint another one, a boy, and this time, his torso becomes a trunk. His arms raised above his head, the truth of his bone-thin anatomy is concealed when you use the brush to go down down down, from his armpit down to his pelvic bone, where the frame interrupts and the image abruptly cuts off. He was there – that is the substance of the memory – though the real thing that’s going on cannot be seen, for it is the thoughts that are being thought inside his mind, the thoughts I am thinking as I paint his picture.

Painting and Writing


Painting is a language, as well, but it is one that can be very hard to read. You have to look hard for the signs, and even if you manage to find them, there is no guarantee that you will be right. Painting is the language of metaphor, it is true, and yet not. It does not always present us with something we want to see.

I am standing in front of an image, it is a figure, male, he is naked, he has his face hidden by his arm, his genitals with his left leg, arched upright, he is splayed out on the floor, his right leg providing support, it is a stressed, not entirely comfortable position, it is a being-thought-of. Today is more like yesterday. It is a dark image, what’s happening here with the light is very strange. Schoeler has chosen to accentuate the softness of the light by restricting its expression to a grayish, earthy blue – the dirt beneath your fingernails as a child after a full day at play. It is also a blue of exhaustion, a blue that says that night has come and so the normal, expected thing to do is fall asleep. This man cannot fall asleep, though, the distress is evident in his body. He is interrupting the darkness, it is cruel to be awake. His eyes all splotched out in the rendering by the shadows, one of these shadows forms a black burnt-out star. The image spells hesitancy, a not-giving-in to sublimation – that is what insomnia is all about also. Look at the blue, the man is being raped by the light, it is not at all clear where it is coming from. The background neither. I imagine it is an attic, for attics are spaces that generally have no windows, and the light cannot be coming from the moon, it is artificial. The only thing that’s bright, white, is that arched leg…He is cowering, because he is somehow mortified by the light, by what it might bring, the consolation. His body forms a constellation. He is a sort of moon and I am the planet when I am looking at him.

To be displayed.

There is a ghost inside that shadow, most of them. That ghost has a name; it is called absence. One can fill that absence, inhabit the ghost, with words. But this tactic presents its own set of problems. Narrative implies movement. To impose any sort of narrative on to a static image is, then, inevitably – whether we like it or not – an act of trespassing. My day-to-day thus varies a great deal from Schoeler’s, although necessarily there is a lot of movement in each of our actions. But the ultimate destination is very different for each of us. The role that invention plays…Don’t get me wrong, we’re both filling empty spaces up, we’re both spilling something down and then ordering it up. There is a loneliness in doing all of that. But we’re not talking about the psychology of the process here. Save that for another chapter on the obvious, melancholia. What’s interesting is the two different forms, purposes of movement.

Describing versus inhabiting. The image does something that the words can fill? No, that’s like a bubble. A thought came to me today while I was writing something else that the words can somehow fill out, inhabit the scenario that the image introduces. But that’s somehow unfair to the image. When I say image, it doesn’t have to be something physical; an image can occur in, occupy memory. Sometimes that type of image more powerful than a painting.

Sometimes the two have a very strained relationship. Gertrude Stein saw what Picasso was doing, said “I can do that,” and picked up her pen. Wonderful things happened, even though it wasn’t really Cubism, as some have strained to explain. But then one day, when Picasso started to write poetry and (briefly) decided to give up painting altogether, Gertie wasn’t all too happy about that.

It is perhaps best to view the two abstractly – that is to say, from a very far distance. That is to say: to see their similarities more than their differences. Magnify those similarities, to the extent that we can view a novel as a painting and read a painting as a novel. Get rid of all narrative, conceptual, pictorial prejudices. Perception is the last frontier. It is the gateway to everything else, the entire politicognitive superverse. Liberating ourselves from the prison of our categorical prejudices, we are able to see, for instance, the body as landscape and the landscape as body.

The difficulty then becomes considering writing as an act of seeing. This is the challenge posed by the new art writing. Will it overtake what is busy being there in another form. But writing has a materiality to it, as well, let us not forget. The base form of its materiality is sonic, a fact that all poets intuitively get. Writing should have a rhythm to it just as each painting has its own rhythm. Participating in a synaesthesia of circumstances, we arrive at leveled ground, a new sense of order.

[1] Here, as elsewhere, I am freely adapting one of the key Deleuzo-Guattarian conceptions of schizoanalysis, as posited in their famous dual work Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus), wherein the self is not a single, unitary being, but always a multiplicity. See, for instance, p. 3 of A Thousand Plateaus.

[2] Greenberg, Clement. The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, 12.

[3] Ibid., 28.

Ceal Floyer at Esther Schipper

by Travis Jeppesen on November 25, 2015

“Ceal Floyer is a savvy swayer, a maven cracker of aesthetic one-liners that burn with a sustained snap.”

A review of Ceal Floyer’s exhibition at Esther Schipper, Berlin, is now online at Artforum.

Car/Holly Herndon

by Travis Jeppesen on November 23, 2015



Side One

Robotic feedback fuzz, the language of malfunction. Suction-feeder leads into ambulate bliss bog, now I let the machine drownscrape me forward. Forward, foreword: the arm is a tomato. The waves of yr brain get scrambled toilet-like, if the toilet could electrocute you. I don’t want to live in a world with verbs. Do you? Crypto-bionic brainfuck warrior. An underlying suction radio fuzz, tuning the radio. “literally sleeping at the office.” A brand new trivia question. “This summer I will be in a car accident.” Head collides with windshield, death comes so fast. Joke about the obsolescence of technology: this is a cassette tape. Why don’t you join the twenty-first century already?

Who wants to be a part of the scanner ray. So nefarious, reading you. When it stops, to be a part. No mutant commando, no knowledge. No way to stop what has already taken place, the transcription as it guides by and by.

Chorus of automatic windows going down. Car soundtrack.

Then there are these dense vibratory waves that waver, their tones don’t stay steady, nothing is guiding. It is like to be a part of things. Thin electronic interference perhaps, someone’s car. This is just density, the body. No rhythms, no pop references, except what accidentally pops up when tuning the radio – the unbearability of (g)listening.

A siren in the distance as monotones fuzzed-out through distortion are intoned for an uncomfortably long duration. But the siren passes you by. The authorities not coming to save you. Is this horror movie soundtrack? I am thinking how I can be this, a human wristwatch.

Jolt and death can alike be such sexiness, no there is no body (a joke!) This is music that fuzzes out your head, wait are you dead yet. Music for a corpse perhaps, to be played alongside him in the grave. The suctionality of overbearing.

Matte-face? No. At least not ratte race! But as the suction of yr face might prove to be-go, oh all willilly. Eyebrow, a butterfly molesting yr lashes. As the souptones kick in. And the fins of variability know a knowledge that is pre-anniversary memories. Crinkle in the softness as the gege kicks yr spine. Suddenly a neckbrace might make the equation get unremolested. If only I could be myself to you.

Bass undertone kicks in no cut that out. Like another room. Still the scratch-crinkle that says this is darkness, no temporality. Nothing to be measured by. That is not a sin for me, really.

Bathroom toxins in that bass. The fundamability of a helicoptered silence. Stray to ray-in the radiance of that battled vestibule. Matte-face doesn’t want shit for a toxin. Matte-face only wants what’s breath to be the pure upon the horizon. Every breath that’s pure is one that divorces itself from toxin. I am ugly and about it, to be you is to frame me-lessness beyond loath-buttery.

The notes of dryness massage yr ears. Oh fuck, a thinness. Little breath synthesized through a repetition device called maverick insignia. That is what I cane here for. I mean a violence. Something with nails to live by. Through me.


Side Two

Starts with a breath but goes away real fast, kind of like after a car accident. The buzzing of cars on electronic night highway going on all around us. We don’t want to have “elements,” epiphanies of belonging. We belong in our units, from which we cannot mustn’t separate ourselves.

An aerial aether.

True, the gradual fade in, the crunch of the tires at arrival time. Within the exhaust pipe, low baritone emitted – see, play this vehicle like an organ (!?) The merveillance of projection, when to be arrived at implies some sort of implicit machinal fandangling into a spot. You know my name, creature. I only act out in order to fathom the pause, to create some confusional missteps on the way to the party. The bubbles might even have a seaness to them. Tap on car door to get re-let inside, you are in a dangerous hood, that McDonald’s just don’t feel right. You’re picking at the lid of the gas cap but you can’t remove it it is stuck oh fuck. Bugs crawling on me at a time I feel I didn’t deserve it. All the people spilling into my inbox this morning. Get in a car and drive away from them. I hear the sound of the air. A rattling goes about it. This music meant to drive a person insane while driving a car; the rain on the windshield; a noble pursuit.

Open the car windows up to the nature forces that are going to destroy you anyway, come on, let’s let outside get inside for once, it is sexier that way: sprinklers on the yawn, the scifi encounter that is the car wash. Car is a type of engulfment, the different scapes you traverse could actually be different planets. The need to get past then, there – what’s that – an artificial scream? I don’t even know where I am anymore. Morphs into a filterfuck. A slight beam.

The cars going past you that you have nothing to do with. Some dilapidated space age vehicle starting up – thinking it might throw you. Mostly it is lonely, car. Going from one place to the next, it is a bit like a mechanical failure to ontologicalize upon the right carpet. And now the sounds of the truck gods that will take you up to heaven. Yes – always to be there, waiting.

My ride just arrive and then something weird happened. Bubbles of melancholy spilled out of her car. What I wonder is if the safer zone dialect I’ve developed has any key-in to the numericals being shoplisted right off that value site. Crush bubble mechanics are crescendoing in yr ear as you hear this, you are in yr car, going going going, do you even know where it is you are going anymore, I don’t. Hear in the machine’s cruel whisperings a message from god. He wants us to turn off and just be for a little while, but so many processes are happening at once here. A cigar in my car, we are covered in smoke. You unseen a person that may soon get invited somewhere. You can’t drive you want the car so bad. Car envy, like diamonds. The thing that boxes us in, crashes us. Sexy in our onward coming. And when in another direction comes right up to ours on an otherwise empty highway road. Oh the engines roar, they are mechanical lions. When I get inside that animal, I will be it (a separate answer?) A zone cushes out the flagrancy of our tush loan. See you in the next blockbuster that needs you to explode.





by Travis Jeppesen on November 9, 2015

A review of Jia’s Berlin solo exhibition at Artforum.

Site, Specific, Objects

by Travis Jeppesen on October 22, 2015

A review of Site, Specific, Objects at Galerija Gregor Podnar, at Artforum.

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