Shane Anderson - Utilizing a plethora of devices – erasures, pseudo application forms, Oulipo constraints, and the limits of the paragraph – this is indeed a virtuoso collection that takes on the problems of (modern) travel, power relations, historical and mental representation
Shane Anderson, Études des Gottnarrenmaschinen, Broken Dimanche Press, 2012.
These three texts manifest the schizoanalytic modelisation of subjectivity described by Félix Guattari in Chaosmosis, between material, energetic, and semiotic fluxes; concrete and abstract machines; virtual universes of value; and finite existential territories. Together they explode our expectations by dizzying narrative the way John Zorn dizzies the saxophone, the way Marina Abramović dizzies the body, the way Ryan Trecartin dizzies the cinema. As Anderson puts it, “ Stories are dead, performance is everything.” And as Gertrude Stein put it, in anticipation of Études des Gottnarrenmaschinen, “He is expressing the time-sense of his contemporaries.” - Christopher Higgs
- "It’s not often that a collection of writing reaches as far and wide as Shane Anderson’s debut work, Études des Gottnarrenmaschinen. Broken Dimanche Press is extremely excited to be publishing this bold collection which includes three works that explore the boundaries of fiction and poetry. Utilising a plethora of devices – erasures, pseudo application forms, Oulipo constraints, and the limits of the paragraph – this is indeed a virtuoso collection that takes on the problems of (modern) travel, power relations, historical and mental representation. Using humor as a tool to diffuse these heavy-handed themes, Études des Gottnarrenmaschinen takes the musical analogy of the ‘étude’ seriously, considering these to be studies, “lessons,” difficult, all aimed towards a future idea of what fiction could be, pushing up against a static Aristotelian scheme.In this collection the reader moves from a Rome both ancient and modern to a reconfigured world of global travel, and on to a unique, philosophical examination of translation, rationalism and the possibility of the transcendent. Instead of being envious of the video game as the site of literary potential, Anderson has boldly taken on the form in the first piece of this collection, “Failed Proposals,” and what we get as the result is the closest one can come to having a Playstation story that Barthelme or Perec would be happy to sit down and play.The second work, an extended version of “The Gospels of Movement,” which first appeared online, in its depiction of St. Patrick as the Slack Dog Snake Driver explores modern forms of travel and the potential for violence, searching and debunking the myth of Ireland’s patron saint, but also in an Andersonian way, reasserting it.The final work in this collection is the "Cartesian Diver," an extraordinary undertaking that explodes the idea of what words can and cannot achieve in the world of objects. This piece takes up Descartes and his Meditations on First Philosophy and as French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux has recently suggested, Cartesian rationalism is not as easy to do away with as modern philosophers would have us believe and as such, Anderson takes another, necessary stab at Descartes and leads us to surprising ground, giving way, in the end, to the Cartesian Evil Deceiver: a blueprint for what a speculative realist fiction could read like. In each of these pieces form is used with special care, finding the best tool to explore each of its powerful ideas."
It’s not often that a collection of writing reaches as far and wide as Shane Anderson’s debut work, Études des Gottnarrenmaschinen…[a] bold collection which includes three works that explore the boundaries of fiction and poetry. Utilizing a plethora of devices – erasures, pseudo application forms, Oulipo constraints, and the limits of the paragraph – this is indeed a virtuoso collection that takes on the problems of (modern) travel, power relations, historical and mental representation.To help celebrate the publication, Anderson and I discussed the book and many other things related to it.
CH: Here’s an opening question: two opening questions, you can choose to answer either or neither or both: (i) How could you write such a thing? (ii) How could such a thing let you write it?
SA: Truth be told, I don’t know. But, if I try to explain it to myself, then there’s a pivotal moment in 2010 when I decided to stop being ruled by (widespread and essential) fear and to embrace it instead. It meant not letting myself fill my time with distractions to avoid the fear but to sit, for long hours, doing nothing but being yellow bellied. This resulted in directly responding to my surroundings (Rome, Ireland, my bed, etc.) in ways which I could never have foretold and which I still have trouble intellectually understanding but which I feel, affectively, and which I stand behind completely.
This isn’t an answer, really, is it?
CH: Yes, I think it begins to open pathways to an answer or answers. Could you say more about the relationship between the creation of the book and your surroundings? I’m very interested in this idea you’ve raised about affective space.
SA: I grew up in a tourist/casino town and have always hated the idea of travelling but because of work and living abroad for so long, travel is often a necessity. As such, I tend to create tasks for myself in other cities, like searching for every English bookstore in town or trying to find bars or cafes that remind me of the ones in Berlin. At some point, I realized this was pathetic and somehow in contradiction to what I always thought travel could be (which would be akin to some sort of revolutionary act, i.e. of getting away/outside from/of yourself and the way things are and actively changing them, but then of course I always knew this is already tainted by consumption (of goods and experiences) and there’s also a part of me that agrees with Samuel Johnson in his Rambler 6) and so I would look closer at that and try to sit for as long as bearable in front of the Colosseum and observe the tourists taking pictures with the gladiators wearing plastic or watch the tourists on Grafton Street throwing Euros at the human sculptures. I wanted to take part in the fun but I knew I had problems with it and I couldn’t really think of another way to engage in my surroundings, so I started investigating certain historical aspects, turned to books, which is a cop out, I know, another way to distract myself from fear, and then when reading Celtic myths or talking to the composer Luciano Chessa about the occult and Italian fascism, suddenly, the spaces started to open for me and the fear disappeared. The layers became present and it is these layers that endlessly fascinate me. Then, thinking about them, I realized I wanted to capture all of this, to somehow do a geological cross section and have the big hunk of dirt there in all of its ugly beauty.
CH: “…talking to the composer Luciano Chessa about the occult and Italian fascism” seems too juicy to not ask you to elaborate!
SA: Luciano is a dear friend; a great composer, musician, instrument builder, collaborator and musicologist. When I learned he would be giving a concert in the late great Giacanto Scelsi’s living room and would be performing his music and Scelsi’s amongst others, I booked my tickets immediately. Scelsi, who pops up in the Études (namely, in Failed Proposal 89), was very interested in the occult (you should see some of the books on his shelf!) and someone Luciano has studied in depth. In any case, we were discussing Evola, whom Scelsi knew, and Luciano informed me that Mussolini had had some contact with the UR Group and had ditched this pagan-leaning group for the Church only when he realized that there would be no way to take over Italy without the Church’s support. I was astonished. But I shouldn’t have been, really, considering the fact that there had been ties between the fascists and the Futurists and the Futurists and the occult (Luciano’s book from UC Press addresses the latter half of these relationships, mainly). I could be getting this all wrong, but nevertheless, we decided, with the ghost of Scelsi following us, to visit the district EUR (formerly, E42) and I was really spooked when I saw a tumbleweed in front of the Palazzo della Cività Italiana and then saw a really banal urban interaction between a mother and a child. Here was a very rigid (and now practically empty) urban planning sector with very suspect claims to rationalism, the symbol for ghost towns and a domestic scene that was happening in thousands of other places in the world all piled up on top of one another. This terrified me but at the same time made all that dissolve. It’s hard to put it into words, but the idea of so much happening in the same place is astonishing. Think about hospitals, for instance. The whole life cycle is happening in the vicinity of just a couple of hallways and the perception of this is so heightened, I think, because of the institutional setting – just as a gallery or museum heightens the experience of other objects under a different category. Anyway, space is very, very weird when you think about it.
CH: My silence isn’t silence. For some reason, as I think about your last answer I cannot shake the image of Giorgio Agamben in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film The Gospel According to St. Matthew. I picture his young face. I picture him traipsing across the same landscape as you, dressed as the Apostle Philip. I picture you squinting at the sun. I picture the handheld camera. I picture you wearing sneakers. I imagine the imaginations he must have been harboring as the camera rolled. I imagine the imaginations you must have been harboring as your fingers punched the keyboard to bring Études des Gottnarrenmaschinen (Studies of Godfoolsmachines) to life in some other place. The convergence of neo-realism, contemporary philosophy, and Jesus all in one location. The convergence of fascism, the occult, and music all in the same location. Makes me think of Foucault’s heterotopia, “The space in which we live, which draws us out of ourselves, in which the erosion of our lives, our time and our history occurs, the space that claws and gnaws at us, is also, in itself, a heterogeneous space.” Would you say that the individual parts of Études work toward a convergence or a divergence of space, or rather: how would you characterize the relationship of the different parts of Études, or rather: can these parts make other machines or are these parts the parts of only the Godfools?
God I love that movie! And it makes me sentimental, something I’m not, usually, but the first time I saw it was the first time I met Ferlinghetti at the Castro theater in San Francisco! Glorious! And the music! Bach! It’s just perfect really.
I think there’s something to that Foucault quote that is very pertinent here. And have you read that n+1 article about the stupidity of computers? It seems relevant as well.
Personally, I tend to think of the pieces as exploring different converging spaces (Rome/Las Vegas, Ireland/Mexico, and my bed/a utopian bed) but that they are converging only through our interaction with them. Also, I believe there is some relationship between the places in all three studies but perhaps that isn’t very apparent.
I take the term étude (study) very seriously. These are not an attempt to unify differences but rather to explore and push each of the boundaries as far as I could. What can a form do? A paragraph? A dialogue? Without words? And what about an engagement with Descartes or an algorithm? And homophonic interpretation/play? If not anything else, then each of these studies at the very least began with questions and this is what unifies them; the desire to do more than they probably can.
I don’t believe there is any one machine but a number of machines and that any one machine can be used for different purposes. I’m not sure if we can think about a spoon as a machine, but let’s for the time being. From one side it’s a cup, a bowl, a birdbath and from the other, it’s a pointing stick or even a knife.
CH: Following Deleuze, we can most certainly talk about a spoon as a machine. And your description is magnificently interesting because you make it sound like a ’pataphysical machine, the kind of machine I am most interested in exploring (of course, if you ask Alfred Jarry, all machines are ’pataphysical). Are you familiar with his book Exploits and Opinions of Dr Faustroll Pataphysician?
The experimental aspect of Études seems explicit in your questioning, “What can a form do? A paragraph? A dialogue? [etc.]” But I’m curious to know if these questions preceded the process or if they arose from the process (or perhaps, like a feedback loop, it was reciprocal?)?
And furthermore, if the words form a machine, what other machines would you describe as connecting with Études? You mention Descartes, obviously, and I would venture Chomsky and Jarry, perhaps certain Oulipo texts. Others?
SA: The experimental aspect, as you called it, preceded these texts in that these are questions I have been interested in for a number of years but which found their own specific manifestations only once I had written something I either liked or didn’t but in both cases I felt like it was something which I didn’t know what to do with. For instance, I quite liked the first algorithm text I wrote using Descartes’ Meditations but I didn’t understand it. It felt like there was more in this piece and this system than just the single go. So, I then tried to provide a context for the piece, for my own understanding, and then it slowly evolved into the dialogue with Descartes that is in the book now.
And, to give a contrary example, I didn’t like the arch of the first three Gospels (N.B. they have changed significantly from the form up at Abjective) but I liked the writing and felt like there was something there. I didn’t know what to do with them, but when I returned to Ireland in 2011, I realized that they wanted to talk about the limitations of the paragraph (and even of the sentence) as a means to talk about the limitations of movement (i.e. as something which starts in one place (A) and ends in another (B)) and what movement could mean.
I don’t know, I tend to work intuitively, trusting that my reading will inform my writing and that a healthy dose of forgetting is clouding over everything just enough to not induce panic and I guess I wanted to try and get as deep into these texts as possible, to shed the fear of seeming insane and make them be what they felt like they needed to be and face the consequences later.
Those are all good text machines, you’ve mentioned. Favorites have always been: Donald Barthelme, Flann O’Brien, Arno Schmidt (especially Gelehrtenrepublik), Heiner Müller, John Ashbery, Lyn Hejinian, Bernadette Mayer and a bunch of other older stuff and theory that I’m too embarrassed to mention.
CH: Allow me to become metatextual for a moment. We are striking through particular words and phrases in this conversation, which mimics a device used in Études, and harkens, at least for me, back to Derrida’s discussion of Heidegger’s concept of “sous rature,” which Spivak translates as “under erasure” in her Translator’s Preface to Derrida’s Of Grammatology. I’ve always disliked that translation because to me “under erasure” refers more accurately to something like Tom Phillips’s A Humument or Ronald Johnson’s Radi Os or any number of other “erasure texts.” Instead, what Heidegger does by crossing out Being in “The Question of Being” (which is, to some extent, what Derrida takes him to task for not going far enough on) is different in my mind from erasure, because of the trace, because of the visible presence underneath the violent attempt to silence. As Spivak puts it, “Since the word is inaccurate, it is crossed out. Since the word is necessary, it remains legible.” Do these philosophical conversations resonate with Études, from your perspective? And further, how might you characterize the function of the strikethrough in the book?
SA: Awesome, Chris! Yes, that Spivak quote certainly resonates but I would make the distinction between the two uses of strike through in the studies. In ‘Failed Proposals’, the strike through is in the reality of the fiction (an act of editorial megalomania!) whereas in ‘Cartesian Diver’ it has a closer relation to the sketch you just gave – and these are distinguished by the one being a single strike through and the other being a double strike through. Of course, we could explain the double strike through of ‘Cartesian Diver’ on a purely pragmatic level; that is, we could take the Descartes text as a checklist that was doubly accomplished and then ghosted of its meaning (the embossing, which is supposed to give a text special meaning, looks more like a pallid script, a text that has given too much blood at the blood bank. But, that would be a little too catty, right?).
I agree that the term ‘under erasure’ is less than ideal, and with regards to ‘Cartesian Diver’, I would say the category erasure would be as easy as talking about it on this pragmatic level but also perhaps just as deflating.
I have issues with erasures although I find some of them successful. We don’t need to go into it fully here but very briefly, I would say that erasures tend to restrict themselves only to one or two planes of interpretation (in the best cases, they can be emotional, but mostly they’re merely intellectual games engaging with the source material and the context they’re in in a very ‘smart’ way but which never let the reader take the text much further (perhaps it’s a problem of TMI? A baroque silencing?) – and in the worst of cases they feel like an over-educated graduate student hopped up on too much caffeine and Baudrillard for his/her own good) and they just don’t feel very rich to me. They feel ‘smart’. And it’s like: Bravo! High-five! Phallic totem destroyed! But then, suddenly, like in Terminator 2, the totem’s molecules start to gather again and create a monster even more ugly and more difficult to destruct [insert dramatic music here].
Recently, I translated an introduction to a book on Appropriation Literature with the German poet Uljana Wolf and while I found some of the examples fascinating, they very rarely ever became more than just chin scratching material. For me, the engagement with Descartes was more essential than that. It seems to me, that even if modern philosophy likes to think it has gone well beyond Descartes (although Quentin Meillassoux makes a strong argument that we shouldn’t abandon the Cartesian project so rashly), we still tend to think, on a day to day level, like Cartesians. I’m here and you’re there and I’m inside my head and you’re not, etc. Thus, once I started the project (which actually arose out of a dream I had about Descartes, and then in one of my swimming mantras… long story) and once I got a better idea of what it was that I was doing, it seemed somehow necessary to engage with Descartes in this manner, to use some of the tactics of the past fifty years (Oulipian constraints (the short story ‘Reflections Rendered’ uses only the characters (i.e. letters) of the Cartesian Meditations’ sections that are doubly struck out), erasure and homophonic/algorithmic writing) to demonstrate in some weird way that we’re still human and that we still operate with the same naive belief systems but that frustrating these systems is productive and vital. Hence, the Heiner Müller epigraph from Mauser. But, the goal was also to push it a step further and to begin to make new meanings. Whether this is successful or not is something which I question and which I would say my newer work, in poetry, is moving towards. Not to say that it’s a failure. Only that I’m excited by other questions at the moment.
This all sounds very programmatic and again I would like to emphasize that this all came out intuitively and that I worked on these texts with the Barthelme model of ‘being bored and just looking for a little fun.’ In fact, each of these studies took place when I was taking a break from a novel I have been shelving and unshelving for more than three years. Maybe if I listened to Pascal’s advice on fear and boredom a little more closely, these texts would have never been – but then again, didn’t Pascal have to first write them and ignore his own advice? - Interview by Christopher Higgs
Meditation 3 NO. 38
Eel, harpoon curries, antlered in darkness to in on foreskin ornately flaking, foreskin tenderly peppered, against cap-a-pie mirrored swords also, ornately left oh dear out, inkhorn fish left in, coat hangers could coagulate fat could deflower inside warmth more flower; eels antlered in darkness galore when ornately could coagulate fiddlesticks in oily and deer lick could flower forever; this beyond caked ornately flaking in tenderly stacking, antlered in sparkling so ornately or harpoons if itching around also bladders more unless stewed eels sharpen, eels ornately even between cap-a-pie sharpened, harpoons not in below could mirror fat flake, blankets could but dusted blankets not even though lightly, harpoon between the time to sleep, whichever even apart from lightly could whet fat settling, even darkness caked from ornately even in should even though, although, eels as though accordions, eels have inordered once before bladders oily as eels without finger keys or in; this, foreskin could but shoulder, even in since encrusted ornately or shells even in as though barring harpoons neither could mansion bladders not even before eels could mirror fat not even from harpoons tenderly mansioning, eels ornately darkness egg-like piebald eel chips, this addles eels soft, eels ornately or in darkened flaking. Eels could save looking glass fat could traffic fat not even like snipped within lightly then could crack fat flake, after harpoons cap-a-pie, ornately even between even fuck darkness foggy in fat only if if limbed inkhorn fish even in, eel every like harpoons tenderly mansioned could mirror fat flake, each flake amidst darkness harpoons drapes over—cap-a-pie even if flaking, even by, what harpoons tenderly mansion—ornately, in as accordions inordered barring neither until wherever erected, fat not could mansion congratulations like if whenever manicured, bucks, toothed, accordion past man-keen to stingray lightly, eels inordered in white in case to neither mutilate eels narrow ornately coagulating folding: that antlered in mushy given ornately or goodness in as nutting, nothing antlered in as at fat could while spearing ornately neither deceiving eel organs by deer licks if mutilated.
AND = EELS, var.
GOD = FLAKE, var.
THAT = ORNATELY
NATURAL = WHILE
DECEPTION = ORGANS
IN = HARPOON, var.
REFLECTION = SETTLE, var.
AM, var. = IN
I = TOO
WORKMAN = DEFLOWER
And, in truth, it is not to be wondered at that God, at my creation, implanted this idea in me, that it might serve, as it were, for the mark of the workman impressed on his work; and it is not also necessary that the mark should be something different from the work itself; but considering only that God is my creator, it is highly probable that he in some way fashioned me after his own image and likeness, and that I perceive this likeness, in which is contained the idea of God, by the same faculty by which I apprehend myself, in other words, when I make myself the object of reflection, I not only find that I am an incomplete, imperfect and dependent being, and one who unceasingly aspires after something better and greater than he is; but, at the same time, I am assured likewise that he upon whom I am dependent possesses in himself all the goods after which I aspire and the ideas of which I find in my mind, and that not merely indefinitely and potentially, but infinitely and actually, and that he is thus God. And the whole force of the argument of which I have here availed myself to establish the existence of God, consists in this, that I perceive I could not possibly be of such a nature as I am, and yet have in my mind the idea of a God, if God did not in reality exist—this same God, I say, whose idea is in my mind—that is, a being who possesses all those lofty perfections, of which the mind may have some slight conception, without, however, being able fully to comprehend them, and who is wholly superior to all defect and has nothing that marks imperfection: whence it is sufficiently manifest that he cannot be a deceiver, since it is a dictate of the natural light that all fraud and deception spring from some defect.
—Shane Anderson, Rene Descartes
The Gospels of MovementShane Anderson
Sermon 1: Something
A slack dog snake driver scuttled up the hill. Admiring the tree ripples, the blackberries, beloved, the nestles. Past the Mound of Hostages, a tower, stairless, lay. Up there were wheel throwers, tarmac hammerers, spud farmers, barn babies. They threw down triangle-faced icons; shoe shrines. Spat prophesies, an eyeless woman, laughing. Plighting the plights of the Snake Driver, she warned against a yellow door; black; green; purple; blue. She promised sons; and that every one would escape, finding stairs in mountains, lakes. In places named after famous thieves or filled with greed, they would make names for themselves, for their father. Though they would never return, others, she threatened, would. Peregrinating here, looking for them, the sons, they would bring greed with them, the greed for experiences. These, she said, will willingly buy their faces, the sons' faces, storing them on shelves and walls, sliding them between pages. Mixing up their names, some will confess they didn't come here to learn, but to forget, themselves, secretly, abroad. Yes, she said, their greed will lead these to forget many things. That you drove your sons away and that they never had anything but black disdain for their father. That you were kidnapped, a slave, will ignite like colored gunpowder in their brains, fading from their memory, quickly, losing shape. Commit everything you ever wrote to flames, she exhorted, and they will never know you are from foreign soil, peregrinating here like them, the others, the greedy. Still, she consoled, you will always be known as the Great Snake Driver, the heroic one who rid this hilly post-glacial landscape, green and purple, of the snakes there never were.
Sermon 2: Nothing
Against the scenic routes, the Slack Dog Snake Driver decides. Sinking in Travellers' traces intimated from a lack of foundation, the antiquated caravan tracks are being repaved again; filled in; another fugitive layer of asphalt, by marshy peat abiding. Driving, on the tolled freeway, the Slack Dog Snake Driver reads. WELCOME TO STAB CITY, SLOW DOWN and BEWARE OF FALLING ROCKS; lit up, blinking. The Slack Dog Snake Driver drives slow, slower. Down goes his window; a rock falls, is thrown. Smarting, he pulls over. A laughing hooded figure, shank bearing, scurries behind a building, disappearing. Breathing in muggy lung knives, air thick with poverty and violence, the Slack Dog Snake Driver feels his head. He ponders the Pythian highway illuminations; bleeding, slightly. Already late, he decides against punishing the lowly priest of mischief and drives further, to the church behind the boortrees, a Travellers' first communion. Inside, he finds tabernacle altar linen, paddle feet; rowel spurred flying lecterns; stone lions, lit up, tomb leaping. Griffons and musicians on consecrated bread knives; a tree spirit sugar sifter wine skimmer; a unicorn crested candelabra. Sitting next to the Snake Driver, a Driveway Paver fighting off a hangover in shirtsleeves straightens the plastic of plastic wrapped lilies, then shakes the Snake Driver's hand. Outside, the bells toll and the rain lashes, buckets. The Travellers, gathered, still, listen to the cat and rat jammed organ, the pipes that demand improvisation like their lives. In procession, their sons and daughters toe toward the Blood and the Body, toward the expectations of their mothers and fathers. That's my girl, says the Driveway Paver, the one fiddling with her tiara, her hair. What does she have in there, the Snake Driver asks, picturing an ice pick, an axe. You'll see, you'll see, is his answer and then, this is going to be a blast the Driveway Paver laughs, crinkling the plastic, throttling the lilies. Receiving the Body, the Driveway Paver's daughter palms something, connected by a wire to her tiara. The Slack Dog Snake Driver fears. Salvation isn't far, is nearer. With the Blood in her mouth, the Driveway Paver's daughter turns around, faces the Travellers, teeth baring, fiendish, finger depressing button, flashing, HE IS IN ME, neon, from her tiara. The Slack Dog Snake Driver claps, thunder. Deluged by an explosion of laughter, the Driveway Paver sighs relief, smelling of asphalt, whiskey.
Sermon 3: Everything
Ash walking stick turned tree, blossomed legends and history. One day, the Slack Dog Snake Driver, old, will return there. To fashion a new staff from its branches or to stumble on the one he knew, retrograde. He will arrive to a crowd, huddled, waiting for the warmth of tale. In the beginning, he will say, there were granite outcrops, dense bracken, grazing regimes. Rudders carved with instructions. For boat building, games. Maps navigating other worlds and serpent-infested seas could be found in bogs with butter, stored, shorn wool pillows made for sleepseeing, for the sacrificed, the dead. From one side of the country to the other, swollen feet bore iron crosses, hairshirts, and seals; until turnips tasted like tar, spuds molded, and others let us starve. United by language and hatred, the others gauged our currency as wheelbarrow full worthless and burned grain they couldn't eat. Aside from dying, abroad bound boats and useless built roads were our answer. One fishmonger turned hooker, turned icon, into song. Suddenly, sheep outnumbered men. Afterwards, there were spatchcocks, bombs. Miniature portraitists became crime scene reporters, family photographers in front of ships. Probable prodigal sons measured marriage proposals in road frontage, yarn-spinning another world in letters, possible at home. Later, men without opinions gave theirs. Bronze monuments were molded, erected, greened. Adorned with tigers and chevrons, women took control, framed homes, shifting. People stopped uniting except for paper. Dissatisfied with their lives, they climbed rivers. Shot laser bows and arrows at one another, laughing. Shifting, they rode an eye, spit from the top, snogging. They entered buildings, tubes and further tubes, watched screens, slept or tried to; then they stood up on the other side of the world only to come back, gone shorter and shorter, less and less. They said that everything the world had to give could be found at home for less. They fingered colored cubes according to algorithms, herding, barbarian, electronics, hoarding. They discovered that man sweat smelled like fish, woman sweat motor oil. Roads became cables, libraries looked like gun towers. Rusty barges farmed worm infested salmon, harvested mussels stuck with disease, then became apartment buildings. Meanwhile, peaty water streamed from everything, which is to say, the Slack Dog Snake Driver will say, everything everythinged, everything bled together. All the while the Slack Dog Snake Driver will stand, whittling a staff or praying for the ash to turn back. Those gathered, uncomfortable, will mistake this tale for stand up. They will laugh nervously, then fervently, and the Slack Dog Snake Driver, tired, will lie down under the ash tree, blowing his nose like a trumpet then sleeping
Multiple Places, 2013
They said: Hello, are you there? Hello? Are they on the line yet?
Boot clack reverberation in a stairwell.
They said: Hello Bastian, hello Jean-Marie, how’s the weather in jolly ole? Congratulations on the Pritler. Wonderful news. Tell me, what was it for? The floating bank or those museums that are disappearing?
A ceiling to floor clogged rain gutter mark in an apartment shaped like an upside down Mayflower.
They said: Most excellent. Call me sentimental, but I’ve always loved what you did for us down in Houston, you know, the one without a façade? Every time I’m there, I stop and admire, my oh my is that a fine building – I just wish I could find it! Ha ha. But that’s another story, am I right or am I right? What do you say gentlemen, shall we get down to business?
Gnawed on gristle politely placed in a napkin.
They said: I’m having a little trouble understanding you. This PDF here says and I quote: Las Vegas, Las Vegas, the hotel/casino projected by the award winning Swiss architecture firm Sieg & de Gagnant, ventures to map out the triumphs and treasures of the Brightest City on Earth from its marshland beginnings to its current hydrochloridization of long-gone epochs and foreign metropolises in a complex of buildings – duh duh duh, skipping ahead – weaving new recreation history into a sinuous maze of sensations, Sieg & de Gagnant will overturn/perfect the Brightest City on Earth as a towering miniature of itself, converting all expectations into a wide-eyed sense of wonder and wonderment. OK. Right. It’s just that, uh, how do I say this? Just, uh… What does that mean, exactly?
Eraser leftovers lined up like javelins.
They said: Gotcha. Ooooh, gotcha. Gotcha. Ooh, ho, ho.
Pitchforks then boilers then lipstick. A cloud of fat loiters over the animal rendering plant as the American flag whips in the wind.
They said: Hot damn if I don’t – this is going to be big. Jumbo big. Bigger than the, theeeeeee uh, shit, I don’t know, that uh, that sailing opera house in Sydney? Or maybe even that that that that radio tower in Paris? Don’t you think? I wager to say not even the Brightest City on Earth has ever gone to such extremities. Can anybody confirm this?
In a circle, one child whispers to another who whispers to another who whispers to another and so on. What starts as a giggle from an inside joke is then flustered further and further until this now public secret is mocked and ridiculed. Laughing and laughing, the children can’t stop laughing at how muddled up everything’s become.
They said: Every son of a bitch who prints knock off postcards, T-shirts, tote-bags and whiskey flasks will be sueable and/or ownable by us. We’ll be the Brightest City on Earth and the Brightest City on Earth will be us, you understand? Looks like you’ll be buying that second beach house after all, eh –-
Some dissolvable pills become porous flamingos and dolphins. Others elephants and chickens. Defective pills grow so large that children are pushed out of bathtubs.
They said: This is going to be big. Jumbo big. People will close their eyes and ruminate and what will they see? You better believe it.
A colonial tapestry rendering the New World with maps and landmarks and people fills up the gallery’s wall, then walls, then weaves itself into the floor, slowly seeping into the foundation.
They said: this is going to make us piles and piles of money – ha ha ha ha ha!
Las Vegas, 2020
Birthday parties. Wine tastings. Honeymoons of the planned and unplanned varieties. The annual Regional Hotdog Eating Competition. Truckloads of busloads of pit-stained wrinkled people lactating coupons, complaint forms and bond money.
Camera change, zoom in.
Does it mean anything to you Swissies – laugh-track, some real – that you’ve encroached upon the American Dream? Clap-track, more real. Shattered glass syllables in words for emphasis, the prickling fingertip sparkle of an arm that’s been slept on. Did you ever bother to think about the hairless children whose last wishes had been to come to you? Of the thousands and thousands who no longer have a timesheet to fudge on? Loud hushed whisper, getting louder the more the voice is tempered. Did you even consider the headaches and fender benders, the dinner table desperation orbiting around the welfare office? Does this mean anything to you? Go-get-em-Greg-track, hoo hoo hoo.
Little disc bouncing off the screen corners then back drifting response. Dozing Video Switcher Technician scrambling to load image.
Of course of course it means it means something something to us to us Greg Greg. Telephone crackle thereto. Hallo? Hallo?
Doubly located and rectified by Senior Audio Technician.
I said, said Greg Mothes, unfazed, do you realize that the National Bison Association no longer has a home for its yearly obstinacy? That these zephyrs and buoyancy will no longer flow?
You better believe you’re sorry!
Delicate mixture of clap– and boo-track. The audience jigsawed by both lights flashing alternately, the 9-volt battery taste before a seizure.
I’m agreeing with you, Greg.
So you would agree that you’ve ruined Americans’ dreams?
One split screen filled with the faces of Sieg & de Gagnat, the other dedicated to the abandoned Fat City hotel/casino. Scrolling factoids underneath.
We must follow ours after too, or?
Boooo-track. Greg Mothes’ gracious arms calming the crowd that isn’t up at arms. And what do you chocolatiers and cuckoo clockers dream? Chuckle-track. Was that a French or German accent that Greg Mothes, the Brightest City on Earth’s favorite daytime television host, was trying on?
Brief telephone silence like dust settling on amplified houseplants.
Greg of spaces.
Of spay-ces? Little laugh and hands up.
Of over the desert and mountains spaces. Germanic structure and so, most definitely, Bastian Sieg. Spaces hanging above the world like a curtain. Cloud-floating, bobbing. Sieg’s name and abbreviated biography ticking across the lower portion of the screen. All the way to the Greatest Cavity in the Earth will it careen. Flewed. Like bloodhound gums to the world. You say this, no?
No beginning, no end?
People say lots of things, said Greg Mothes, but what I want to know is, what is it going to look like?
The Greg Mothes tie straightening tick. A rapier – usually something pancreatic, palmy.
Far away it looks like glass, reflecting, like you can see through a cloud. French inflection. Video Switcher Technician deductively popping up Jean-Marie de Gagnant’s particulars. But closer from the bottom you must picture the seabed. Sandy grey. Unknown. The sides are something like too much soap in a sink. Billowing.
The Greg Mothes raised-eyebrow-chin-down-out-then-up protrude.
And where’s the valet?
The monocoque structure has but one door, a closed oyster to be pried open to be opened. It is very difficult to get inside, even when you calibrate the structure’s position to your own position. Video clips of thunderstorms at twilight. But inside, why you want to leave is the forgotten. This is something inviting, like a warm hug or a sweater. Everything you want is there. In places, a forest of marble pillars; in others, wide open spaces like deserts. There’s a floor cool to the touch, like a breeze on bare feet in the summer. Chandeliers jellyfish in midair in rooms with beds that smell like peaches, not connected, moving. You know? Spaces rising and flowing, filled with white and gold, gilded?
Is this a hotel/casino we’re talking about here, or some kind of over-exposed zoo/brothel?
No, no, it is definitely a hotel/casino, a superb hotel/casino, with one floor only, no hierarchy, you see, with a single lobed card table stretching through the entire building, where every game ever made is played. There are slot machines too, slot machines that make you feel like you’re in the dark cinema when you lose, slot machines that put you on the stage when you win. There are dark perimeters we want to make where all dissatisfaction can fester. Our desire is to capture the Brightest City on Earth’s black hole concept of recreation, to expand upon its inexplicable capacity for joy.
Laugh– or aww– or jeer-?
And will you build this dream for other dreams to inhabit?
This is the impossible.
Definitely a jeer-track – or, wait Ms. Up-And-Coming Audio Technician, a gasp-?
We pick up the pencil and we put it on the paper and we don’t know where to start.
A little humbled now. Then what aaaaarrreee you going to do?
We bring another recreation idea to end, something that our sleepless nights fills.
Let me get this straight, you’re going to build another hotel/casino?
Speculation factoid explosion.
This is right Greg.
And what’s THAT going to be like?
Telephone silence like the air pressure wheezing out of a thermos.
Video Switcher Technician gearing up segments of Greg Mothes and sports stars visiting balding children with tubes in their arms.
It will have proportions, Greg, that were previously believed to be proportionless.