P O R E S   4
An Avant-Gardist Journal
of Poetics Research
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title page

Tony Trehy
Questions of Ideology and Ideological Apparatus

Gallery of work from contributors to the Forum on Women Writers:
Elizabeth Jane Burnett
Marianne Morris
Susan Johanknechtarmour
Emmanuelle Waeckerle
Carol Watts

Alan Halsey
An Open Letter to Will Rower

Allen Fisher
Minimaus: in response...

Will Rowe
Invisible Power

Frances Presley
Piano Trio by Nicola le Fanu

Frances Presley
two flames

Frances Presley
Frances Van Goor

Philip Davenport
Vogue Divine

Bill Griffiths
In Audience

Tony Lopez
What Can Be Done

Dell Olsen

Feeling Lost and disenfranchised?

contemporary poetics
and the re-inscription
of urban subjectivities

'The kind of agency that has a chance of mattering in today's world can thrive only in a culture of acknowledged complexity, only in contexts of long-range collaborative projects that bring together multiple modes of engagement – intuition, imagination, cognition … the more complex things are, the less certain the outcome but also the more room for the play of the mind, for inventing ourselves out of the mess.' Joan Retallack

'There is nothing less natural than subjectivity. It is possible to decipher the entirety of the capitalism system through subjectivity' Felix Guattari

Reinscribing urban subjectivities: Body and Site

In a discussion of language writing in 1983, Steve McCaffery described a desire to utilize poetry as 'a context of productive play for a repoliticization of the word as a scene for common human engagement.' (North of intention p.152). More than twenty years later, I want to investigate what 'repoliticizing' the word could possibly mean, in this era in which language is slippery, treacherous and complicit in the dominant structure of power.

In the discussion of language writing that McCaffery was involved in 'repoliticising' the word meant various things; treating the sign, not the word, as the critical unit of inscription, treating writing as writing and not as meta-sign, proposing a shift away from literature and poetry towards new and innovative textual practices which produced texts that were to be produced in collaboration with the reader and were not for the reader's consumption. Could it also be in embodying a pleasurable engagement with and commitment to ideology critique that interacts with the rules and relations of the system of capitalism but is not paralyzed by them? And does it therefore suggest that each era's attempt and each individual's attempt at politicization of the word within that era will manifest differently, as rules and relations change, as do the individuals co-existing with them?

In this first decade of the twenty first century, discursive interpellation happens thicker and faster than any previous decade. It occurs on the everyday micro-level of newspaper headlines and articles, billboard, supermarket and cell-phone advertising, and professional or unwritten codes of conduct. It is the concern to associate oneself with a particular product, idea, ideology, behaviour or practice. It also occurs in the presence or absence of relationships between individuals, neighbours, commuters on the same train, claimants in the same dole queue, residents of a community under the same fear of violence, the same stress of poverty, the same stress of reaching targets. I am interested in how considerations of body and site in recent live art practice could open new possibilities for poetics and the re-inscription of urban subjectivities. Is it at all possible on the micro-level of my writing, to challenge interpellation? Is it at all possible to counteract the disenfranchisement I experience with macro systems of organization that force me to accept the mediocrity of hierarchy and sacrifice, and that force a non-hearing of my protests?

These considerations hinge on two elements – body and site, investigated through live art and site-specific art. Live art is concerned with notions of liveness and the embodied event, as opposed to the mediated event (through photography, TV, video, digital media). The body is the material of live art, as is a heightened awareness of the body and its responses to determined situations. The live performances of the artist, the Vacuum Cleaner, currently operating in the UK and the US, are concerned with finding ways to intervene into capitalist and consumer patterns of behaviour. The lack of mediation makes it harder for the content to be lost, although less people are reached. Inseparable, in a discussion of the Vacuum Cleaner's work, are questions of body in relation to site. The body performs an action in a particular site. If the action or the site were different, the event would not exist in the same way. For example, Every first Sunday of the month during a period in 2003, the Vacuum Cleaner and friends went to their local Asda (owned by Wal-Mart). Each person took a trolley, hung their bag on the handle and pushed it round the store in a long line without putting anything in it.

The performance could exist as a score:
'Go to your local Asda and push an empty trolley around the store. It's important to take some friends so you can do it in a line. Anyone who puts anything in their trolley is immediately disqualified. There is no winner or loser in the game'.

Main benefits to the players seem to be the simple pleasure of pushing an empty trolley around a supermarket. There seems to be a pleasure in doing the opposite of what is expected in such a situation and of course, the activity is entirely free. Once, a store assistant described the activity which she was finding strange down a telephone to a manager as 'Well, they're not shopping properly.'

Nick Kaye in his book Site-Specific art defines site-specificity as a concern for an exchange between a work of art and a specific place. This exchange is essential and a site-specific work needs to be self-aware that this exchange is taking place. The exchange in the Vacuum Cleaner trolley piece exists on the level of behaviour, and the shop assistant's remarks above point to and materialize the behaviour expected in supermarkets. This enmeshing of embodied behaviour in a specific site is highly political as it goes some way to 'writing over' normative consumer behaviour with another kind of behaviour that affects the 'performers' (who take the risk of behaving abnormally in a highly regulated space) and the real shoppers who witness this deviant, elegant behaviour.

The Vacuum Cleaner has also performed the Praying to Products meme many times in large stores up and down the country. This intervention works something like this.

Performers walk into the store, some stay on the ground floor and the rest disperse throughout the store. Some go up three lots of escalators to the home and soft furnishings department on the top floor. At 2.45pm the cries start breaking out all over the store. 'We give thanks to you Selfridges, for the opportunity to consume and consume and buy all I need. And when I'm lost, You give me needs so that I know what I need. You are my guiding light, the way, my path. You are almighty, all-powerful, you give my life meaning.' Some prayers are small and silent in corners of the store. A shopper might stumble across a kneeling body whispering words of adoration. 'Selfridges you fulfil me, come into my life again.' Bodies moving up and down escalators. 60 voices. This unexpected behaviour is deemed unacceptable by the shop's management. Security guards rush from one outbreak to another, ejecting some, but confused when the voices stop in one area and break out in another. 'Hallelujah! Praise be to Selfridges the almighty. You are my lord, I worship you who have saved me from the obscurity of not knowing my purpose in life.' Shoppers stop shopping, product in hand, staring at the bodies. 'Let us hold hands together, brothers and sisters, and raise our voices in thanks to the almighty, amen'
The performers leave when asked to by the security guards. This intervention can provoke the following sensations and responses in the performers; extreme elation, pleasure from endorphins in a post-adrenaline rush, solidarity with other performers, necessity to talk excitedly, desire to talk to strangers, a heightened sense of physical awareness, abounding energy, a propensity for laughter, feelings of invincibility and being untouched by the stresses of urban life and the disenfranchisement of the political system, a sense that every action makes a difference, an acceptance of one's self and one's life, a general sense of optimism.

Art creating such a physiological response is a result of the placing the body in a particular site, performing a particular action. Judith Butler's consideration of Althusserian interpellation as being non-totalitarian is relevant here (see The Psychic Life of Power). Lapses in interpellation can be forced and temporary, caused by taking drugs, listening to music, dancing/clubbing, or by this form of intervention into the public space, whose lapse is experienced for the participants through the sensations listed. Such interventions affect the way that the site is then experienced by those who witness the action and they lodge themselves in the memories of these witnesses who contribute to a viral reporting on the event to their friends and families. The authority of the official discourse of consumerism is unbalanced, confused and corrupted as another voice is heard.

From a post-colonial perspective concerned with race and identity, Homi Bhabha's account of the subject formations possible for black peoples outlines how it is 'possible ... to redeem the pathos of cultural confusion into a strategy of political subversion', by utilizing 'ambivalent identification' or 'self-conscious masking' as a cultural artifice to denote difference. For Bhabha, the adoption of a mask in the formation of a performative agency has the effect of unsettling notions of real identity. He continues that 'mimicry, hybridity, sly civility ... this liminal moment of identification – eluding resemblance – produces a subversive strategy of subaltern agency that negotiates its own authority'. The Vacuum Cleaner's intervention into the urban space gains such an authority in the experience of the participants, in the response from the authorities within the store and in the witnessing by shoppers. For those stultified by capitalism and consumerism, the 'mimicry, hybridity and sly civility' of the praying to products action is a strategy for beating back, even if temporarily, the oppressive interpellation that hails us all to support a consumer-oriented society.

Sianne Ngai argues in the article 'Raw Matter: a Poetics of Disgust' that in our society, we have little outlet for disapproval or outrage at the system as we are conditioned to continue with our lives (contributing to the GNP through our daily work, propping up the system of consumerism with the money we spend etc) in the face of all adversity. Alienation and disenfranchisement are widespread. For those who don't want to believe in shopping as a new religion, who experience the current system of political representation as dissatisfying, and for whom art and artistic responses often insufficiently skirt the issue of organization and power relationships, the Vacuum Cleaner's invitations are one way of reclaiming a little bit of power. His interventions are one way of manifesting disgust, which is difficult for individuals whose conditioning is 'infested with bourgeois morality' (Ngai) that limits the possibilities of expression of disgust and outrage against a system that stymies human potential with the pursuit of profit. As Felix Guattari has argued, there is nothing less natural than subjectivity, moulded and shaped as it is by the exigencies of capitalism. Such interventions, (sometimes entitled 'art-activist' for being sufficiently embedded within practices of live art and contexts of activism), suggest possibilities for seizing, enhancing and reinventing subjectivities back from the clutches of capitalism, by providing opportunities for temporary lapses from its hold.

My strategy in this project is to show my abhorrence of this system, to not be subsumed by it, is to confront it, not only as an abstraction, but as a network of relations that embody power. My strategy materialising the relations abstracting, supporting, upholding, preceding, encouraging, surrounding, abetting, accepting, moralising, marketing, financing, and loving the objectives of capital. This insistence is on the relational surroundings of the system, its oxygen, its carriers; it is an insistence on laying bare the everyday renewal of the vows of acceptance of this system. It is researching where these vows are si(gh)ted and where they are enacted. Such relations and vows are very clearly those that I am implicated in daily. Sianne Ngai comments that 'The force of disgust is outward rather than inward, the social attunement between subjects … is paradoxically effected by a distancing'. She posits as 'ethically important' the distancing in which an articulator of disgust finds herself in front of the other, 'who stands in the space … prepared for him through that act of withdrawal.' Ngai describes the act of disgust as one of withdrawal. This withdrawal may involve the inarticulation of disgust, or the inability to express abhorrence of something and, tactically, a gesture of 'pointing' which at first may seem to be mimicking a 'moving toward' but is crucial to pin down or ensnare the object. When it is used excessively, when one points insistently, more attention is paid to materializing the relations abstracting and preceding the object, rather than the object itself. This insistence also precedes a final action of turning away, of repulsion from the object. In the Vacuum Cleaner's performances, the turning away from, the revulsion and abhorrence of what is being mimicked becomes clear.

Relational Aesthetics and the 'other' in the text

'It is impossible to cast an objective eye upon oneself, one can only contemplate the result of perpetual transactions with the subjectivity of others.'
This concern for otherness that Nicolas Bourriaud (Relational Aesthetics) theorizes can also be traced in discussions around procedural writing and writing based on chance procedures. Jena Osman argues that chance procedures can allow for a multiplicity, letting an 'other' into the text, while also affording the reader a pro-active role as 'writer' or producer of the piece (see Telling it Slant). Joan Retallack's concept of 'poethics' - an 'ethical' poetics - is concerned with the organization of creative work in relation to the complex conditions of society. Retallack, influenced by John Cage, suggests that the starting point for poethical work is 'when you no longer wish to shape materials (words, visual elements, sounds) into legitimate progeny of your own poetics.' Retallack argues that poethics will change 'your sense of the relation of your language to the world beyond the page – to everyday life and death.'

I'm approaching the notion of subjectivity and its attendant concerns across the fields of performative and visual art. I've felt it necessary to incorporate an awareness of current movements within these disciplines into this discussion; possibly for similar reasons that Adrien Piper felt it necessary to move into the arena of performance, devising deliberately disruptive social experiments such as Catalysis III (1970), as an ethical response to political events. She comments how the events of 1970 (the bombing of Cambodia, the student killings at Kent and Jackson States, the emerging Women's Movement), triggered her move from conceptual art and toward performance. Although performance may appear to more adequately respond to political events, I would contend that response needs to happen in all art forms, in all areas of work and in all geographical locations. In the realm of writing, which is often approached as a form of mediation, my challenge has been to find a way for writing to 'seize' subjectivities and not just write 'about' seizing subjectivities. However, while acknowledging that these differences exist, I think it is possible to build a poetics that practices a self-aware responsibility for the subjectivities it produces, either in the making of the text or in its reading, or where these two actions are conflated, both. This kind of poetics, possibly a form of 'poethics' will be constituted out of the reciprocal transactions between language and the world beyond the page, of the organically and reciprocally parsed interfaces between language and 'everyday life and death'.

I want to turn now to two pieces of practical work. I spent many months this year struggling to conceptualize a writing practice that would have similar considerations of body and site. Through a consideration of body and site and the expression of disgust through pointing and withdrawal, I hope to have outlined various writing and performative strategies that force brief lapses in interpellation.

Inroads and Characters out in their Thousands

Research in the area of relational aesthetics is driven by conceiving of a different relationship between reader and writer; one that is not ruled by the hierarchy of writer over reader, of active producer over passive consumer, so that both roles are protagonistic and deceptively fluid. The project inroads considers words, language and writing within a network or collaboration, experiencing the latter not as an add-on but as a point of departure. Inroads uses theories of relational aesthetics in order to develop a practice of collaboration. Collaborators were engaged by advertising the project through an art-activist listserve. The discussion produced during the game becomes part of the piece. It was an attempt to devise a writing game which would intervene into the urban space, in a way similar to the projects in the first part of this essay, creating situations and writing text that would generate double-taking glances, questions, stories, anecdotes, comments, memories, and associations that then go on to become a part of the language and history of that space. In proposing a game that requires a behaviour from the participants which contravenes the behaviour normally witnessed on the streets, this piece also intervenes by seizing, enhancing and reinventing the subjectivity of each, providing a story, some anecdotes, a link with the other participants, and a relationship with the streets, buildings and institutions of London based on a critique of power and possibilities of protest against the same. Inroads exists in two forms. The first was a performance-game held on June 25th 2005 in London to which individuals were invited to participate with this email invitation and flier below:

inroads is a writing game in which the road replaces the page as a space for writing. This game is for individuals who believe the roads also have a voice, who want to reclaim our shared urban space from the stranglehold of predictable behaviour, and nurture well-being by rising to the challenge of freedom through risk.
The Politics of Nonviolent Action by Gene Sharp was published in 1973. It is a survey of 198 different strategies of civil disobedience against powers that exploit, degrade, and limit human potential. The list of 198 methods is a source text for this game and is worth reading before the game commences.
To bring with you (essential): a critical knowledge of the institutions, corporations and traditions of London
To bring with you (desirable): camera and sound recorder


Inroads in London began with a study and implementation of the list of 198 methods of non-violent action. A group of five individuals (including myself) spent one hour reading the list and deciding where an inscription of each method would be appropriate in contemporary London. For example, the method number 77, International consumer's boycott, could be (and was) inscribed outside the Exxon-Mobil oil company in Kingsway, WC2. The method 159 b) Hunger strike could be inscribed outside McDonalds or Tesco. Some chalkings were inspired by actual actions that had taken place in a site, others inspired by the possibility of this action happening in a site (e.g. 146, Judicial Noncooperation – outside the Royal Courts of Justice) or by the irony or absurdity of an action in a certain site e.g. 73, Policy of Austerity, outside the Banqueting House, Whitehall, or 178, Guerrilla theatre, outside the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. The hour's planning was recorded, as were the discussions held during the chalking process about where to go, who was going to chalk and photograph which methods, and spontaneous discussions about locations which presented themselves as opportunities as we walked around the city. The first chalking took place at 10.55 am (179, Alternative Social Institutions, outside the Royal Festival hall, SE1) and the last took place at 4.57 pm (57. Lysistratic nonaction, in Peter Street, Soho, W1). 45 methods were chalked in 5 hours.

Response from the authorities and public
The action provoked angry shouts from security guards outside the Saatchi Gallery, 'You're going to get rid of that!' (185, Politically motivated counterfeiting) and interest from a policeman in Parliament Square (124, Boycott of elections; 131, Refusal to accept appointed officials; 195, Seeking imprisonment). This was the most exciting part of the game and the moment when we were most efficiently using our group's resources to chalk up quickly and then leave the area. This last intervention is especially appropriate because as of 1st August 2005, little more than a month after the game on 25th June, such interventions are illegal due to the Protest Exclusion zone set out in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act. This act delimits an area of up to a kilometre around Parliament Square where protests are illegal unless authorized and controlled by the authorities. Whether or not Inroads would be construed as a protest is debatable and depends on the relationship between the words and the site, but the very fact of altering the environment by leaving a trace could be an intervention that might not be tolerated by the authorities.
Other than the above response from officials, there were responses from the public. A couple approached us as we were writing at the bottom of Kingsway and said '146, Judicial Noncooperation; 152, Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events' reporting on the chalkings they had seen on their way there. Tourists took photos of the chalkings around Parliament, as well as of Big Ben. Lots of fliers were handed out on the South Bank, near the London Eye, as people asked us what we were doing.

The Road Replaces the Page
The first chalkings were performed quite fast, I was more tense at the beginning, uncertain of the response the action was going to provoke. It was difficult writing in chalk on the ground, very tiring, my knees ached after a while. The chalk kept breaking in my hand due to the uneven surface. The smoothest place to write was in front of the Edith Cavell Statue, opposite the National Portrait Gallery (34, Vigils) but this also was the chalking that rubbed off the quickest. The chalking outside the Royal Festival Hall was still there two days later. I also found it more difficult to spell, my sense of the progression of letters in the word was changed. Writing on a larger scale meant I couldn't see all the word I was writing and I became involved in contours of each letter.

Photographs of the chalkings were assembled into a website. The sound recording was transcribed and sections were added to the website to materialize the conversations, discussions, negotiations and anecdotes that accompanied the game. This game can take place in any city and is ongoing.

The second manifestation of Inroads was held in Edinburgh during the week of the G8 meeting and it was conducted differently. I inscribed all of the 198 methods in order, starting at Waverley Bridge in Central Edinburgh, moving up through the High Street, over George IV bridge, along Bristo Place and finishing in Bristo Square, writing a constant string of words for over half a mile. Each time that someone stopped to read or ask what I was doing, I would offer to whisper them a section of the long poem Characters out in their Thousands.

All day on Sunday, I'll be doing a piece of writing to ensure, in yet another different way than those already in process and being planned, that protest against the misery and boredom of capitalism has another voice over this weekend. I'm a writer and text performer, and my work is about rethinking what is called 'writing' and 'art'. I'm especially interested in the divide between, or fusion of, art and activism. On Sunday 3rd July, starting at 10am, I'll be writing and performing a text which I would like to invite you to visit / participate in. I've been thinking recently about the language that protesters use, as well as thinking about the experience that we are going through as we struggle to organize our protests and our own lives. You may want to bring some thoughts / experiences / conversations to share.
We are writing this list of methods of action because I think they talk about other options, and the history and geography of political action, while we lose ourselves in the now of excitement and possibilities. Please pass by, say hello, and I will whisper in your ear a poem. If I shout it out to no-one in particular it will get lost in the sounds of the city. I want to offer you some words, an intimate gesture in a violent, aggressive world. I wanted to foreground and experiment with 'artifice' to encourage myself and my readers to question the way 'things are', and the way 'a poem is'. I wanted to foreground a multiplicity of procedures so that I and my readers will be encouraged not to think there is nothing else that can be done, that there is not another procedure or process that can be embarked on to do writing or organize communities and lives. The hinging of the poem Characters out in their thousands into the found text 198 methods of non violent action was inspired by that source text's very pleasing artifice of a list or even 'checklist' that could inspire resistance as much as it tries to organize it into kinds and types. I want the poem to manifest a diversity of (writing) tactics, a diversity that was necessary for the civil rights movements that the list is concerned with, or for the contemporary global justice movement.

Characters out in their thousands is a collage of texts ranging from words from a novel published in 1934, the transcript of a spontaneous rant uttered mid-military regime in Brazil 1968, through the diary of a anti-capitalist protestor in Genoa in 2001, to an ultra-contemporary IKEA catalogue, 2005. This long poem is constituted of three parts. One is a thread of phrases in Brazilian Portuguese which run all the way through the left hand side of the chapbook. The second is a group of writings entitled 'mc pit-a-list self endearing its ugly head', and the third is another group of writings entitled 'sudden change to whatever'. It was my intention with this poem to attempt to embody the philosophical and ideological concerns that I have discussed throughout this essay most specifically that of interpellation (or inscription) into the dominant culture, and the forcing of temporary lapses to bring about re-inscriptions of subjectivity. The text aims to manifest the tension between these two positions. The 'Mc pit-a-list self endearing its ugly head' section is concerned with the subjectivities summoned in contemporary society – in order to materialize some of the relations supporting, abstracting, upholding, preceding, encouraging, surrounding, abetting, accepting, moralising, marketing, financing, and loving the objectives of capital. 'Sudden change to whatever' tries to map out possibilities for forcing lapses in interpellation.

But how can a poem itself be such a lapse? Could it be by requiring the kind of attention that resists a commercial culture, a commercial culture thriving on and demanding manifestations of frenzied concepts of pseudo-culture and the attention-deficient subjectivities they interpellate? Could it be by refusing to oversimplify? Refusing to pacify? Could it be by presenting itself as a long-range collaborative project? Could it be by insisting upon multiple subject positions to resist the dominant culture's smoothing over of difference? Could it be by denaturalizing history to attempt to undo the airbrushing out of History's alternate currents, its objectors and residues? Could it be by consisting of fragments of anecdotes, stories and text, passed on by friends and fellow writers? Could it be in compiling or 'stockpiling' an overwhelming 'vibrating body' of literary, musical, philosophical, scientific, legal and linguistic leavings, that will map out coordinates in order to think about positioning within time and space? Could it be in processing my 'database' of linguistic experiences, associations, reflections and intuitions through everyday texts such as newspapers or gas bills to start examining (my?) interpellation into the system? Could it be in manifesting disgust?

Much of the text is concerned with protest, and indeed a protest is a manifestation of disgust, as it can also be a temporary lapse in the daily drudgery of the competition otherwise known as Western democracy. The poem does manifest a long thread of disgust through the Portuguese section. The source text for this is a spontaneous speech of disgust by Caetano Veloso, the Brazilian musician. This rant took place in 1968, four years into the military regime, during the state-sanctioned music festivals. The object of Veloso's disgust is censorship of his song, ironically entitled 'Ι proibido proibir' (It's forbidden to forbid), by the people at the festival, who were demanding a more explicit, 'sloganistic' discourse against the dictatorship. He tirades against his own fans as they refuse to listen to his latest innovation by booing, jeering and pelting him with eggs and fruit on stage. He is haranguing what he sees as an interpellated youth, manipulated by an aesthetic dictatorship concerning which songs should be supported and which maligned. It is a manifestation of disgust against the monopolizing of resistance into limited, pre-existing, pre-packaged, recognizable forms. It is a protest against a subject position interpellated into alienation by posturing about a revolution. Without a consideration of how revolutionary change in society could possibly be brought about without welcoming and nurturing new and innovative forms, nor engaging in some kind of 'self-scrutiny', such posturing is futile.

By inserting this rant into my poem, I aim to disrupt the monolingualism of the remainder of the book and challenge non-Portuguese speakers to pay attention to the words and process them somehow. Joan Retallack does something similar in Mongrelisme in which she introduces questions in Spanish, phrase by phrase, each phrase changing slightly the reader's sense of what this text could be manifesting. I break down the documentation of the moment Caetano Veloso 'lost it' into chunks, which I place opposite a text concerned with interpellations and their lapses. These blocks of text serve to materialize a time and space beyond the site of my current struggle.

Various manifestations of disgust are important to the piece and so are possibilities for the re-inscription of subjectivity. It is interesting to note how postcolonial theories of race and identity have provided a framework to consider the inbetween, or what cannot be easily interpellated, the 'anti-absorptive' in terms of identity. W E B Du bois was one of the first writers to theorize a discourse of multiple, contradictory subject positions out of necessity of being both African and American (1903) and this research continued throughout the twentieth century, largely augmented by Black, women and lesbian writers, such as bell hooks and Audre Lorde who consistently refused to eclipse multiple facets of self in order to present a self that was nameable, containable and absorbed into dominant discourse.

In his essay 'Unrecognizable texts: from multicultural to anti-systemic writing', Jeff Derksen asserts that anti-systemic writing is writing that counters a system which seeks to interpellate subjects, but without trying to replace that system with another system. He suggests that this can be done in two ways; by articulating the hidden or the inexpressible (which I have determined in Characters out in their thousands as the anxieties, the obedience, the submission to authority, the bad moods, the financial conscription to the system) and by disarticulating the links or relations through which power passes and which give an appearance that everything is as it should be, and that CRAP (Capitalism Represents Acceptable Policy, acronym and spoof march devised by the Space Hijackers).

Repetition is everywhere in the piece, to interrogate both the experience of perpetuating the system 'have you ever threatened a toddler with being told off by a man in authority' and ephemeral resistances to this experience 'have you ever deliberately caught eyes with someone as you get on the train' (p6). On page 10 there is a slow, repetitive development of a sentence, interspersed with disrupted journalistic text of concerns about the phenomenal success of the web service provider google. This manifests a relation between development of sentence (or place, or company) and its obedience to syntax (or status quo / profit motive). On page 24, there is a slow repetition re-inscribing words by unfixing them from their meanings and refusing to situate a word in the same context twice.

poets believe ghosts by escaping responsbility in these women
and never have grey blankets known non-violence by believing

with nothing to read but a bible these women believe
and lean against the red marker and write H block

reading nothing but grey Mairead Farrell 14 years
became a skilled negotiator on blankets and never knowing

non violence by leaning against the wall and writing H block
man pinning down man in Castle Terrace what's your name (p.24)

characters out in their thousands also oscillates between narrating events, manifesting events concretely and creating open spaces for the reader's experience and narratives to become enmeshed with the fragments of text on the page. By attempting to consider the texts that have formed me, I am re-inscribing a subjectivity in these pages and opening up my own polemic (choices, engagements, affiliations, priorities, intuitions, actions and behaviour) for public scrutiny and for self-scrutiny.


That site plays a role in my writing, that there is an action or behaviour that my writing points to and materializes, underlies my sense that the page is not enough. Not denying the importance of much innovative writing's ongoing contribution to the politicization of the word, a poetics solely concerned with the interiorities of the page seems inadequate in current times. The other dimensions of what you do with text and where you put it also matter. The issue of accountability and responsibility of words and their writers to questions of human rights and violence and prejudice is central to my poetics. In a society where a very distant parliamentary representation disenfranchises most people, and the issues of class, race, gender, disability and region still determine the winners and losers, I have chosen for my poetic practice to be accompanied by the body, and its behaviour and actions, to try to be effective and accountable and responsible. Elizabeth Frost comments in her essay on Leslie Scalapino that 'Scalapino anticipates such theoretical positions as Judith Butler's in Bodies That Matter: (that) the post-post-structuralist question has become how to get back to the body, to materials that matter, to frank corporeality.' In the communities that I am part of, the body is also the crucial tool; in direct action and direct democracy 'spokescouncils'(where one has to be as present as possible to have a voice). However, the tension between corporeality, textuality and desire for common human engagement means that it is not always easy to facilitate dialogue between movements in either direction. The tension between writing as textual practice and writing as meta-sign or transparent narrative is highly fraught in politically active communities in which there is a premium on information and communication, on countering the dis-information and amnesia of capitalism. I feel that a narrative writing strategy is useful as stories do inform and politicize people, especially when used together with formal experimentation. Yet the struggles of writers from Gertrude Stein through to the Language poets and beyond have been concerned with valuing a poetics 'that is' and not a poetics that 'is about'. I feel strongly the need for my poetics to also be a form of activism – a form 'that is' activism. Such a call for engagement with the public sphere echoes Steve McCaffery's desire for 'common human engagement' and Felix Guattari's assertion that 'the only acceptable end purpose of human activities, is the production of a subjectivity that is forever self-enriching its relationship with the world - an “ecosophic” fact that consists in an ethical-cum-political articulation between the environment, the social and subjectivity.' Such an articulation involves choice between the multiplicity of options that each area opens up. A 'poethical' concern for which forms, or which combination of forms, are enabling or damaging in the context of their use, is important when committed to hybrid articulations. But it seems important to constantly choose what discipline or issue or question needs to be worked on today. If my aim is to situate my work within the arenas of activism and art to materialize both the obscured relations of capitalism and the alternatives we are told don't exist, then what is necessary in a constantly shifting world, as Donna Harraway has argued in her Cyborg Manifesto, is an embrace of alterity, contradictory standpoints, hybrid and mutant subjectivities, and permanently partial identities.

(abridged version. Complete text and all documentation of projects available online. www.openbracket.org.uk)