One of the pleasures of my Dubai life has been meeting the good folk from Ludwig salon. They invited me, randomly, through the riveting power of cyber searches, to be the guest speaker at their second salon event in Dubai. A small select group of good people were to meet, eat (whatever cheese was left over from my gluttony) and watch a trailer of my film, listen to some of my poems, and be introduced to my world of socialist PLO poetic filmic curl haired rants.
I was very impressed with Marc and Agri. I was even more impressed when Agri showed up to a party of mine with a wax-sealed non-sext pest certificate on red paper, to prove that he and his buddy had passed the various tests that feminists may throw at them. The party invite had jokingly mentioned that no sex pests were allowed into our glittery home. The certificate now proudly hangs over my desk, and makes me grin. Most things about Agri make me smile. His wit, his self deprecating yet incredibly arrogant sense of humor, his big words, his glitter tops, and most of all, his total support for the Poeticians, and the fact that he can insert kittens into any email, whatsoever. I asked him once if he ever wrote…thinking to myself, no one, but NO ONE can speak like that, facebook like that, and NOT be a good writer. Lo and bloody behold, the man was a star behind the screen. He performed this long piece at his first Poeticians event and the audience loved it. I did too. Thank you Agri, for the smiles you bring into our world, for the Poeticians love, and for future collaborations waiting to happen. I am looking forward to the next Ludwig salon, where we can be even MORE pretentious than the last one.
She Insisted All Reckoning be Done by Hand
by Agri Ismaïl
The first time I did it, I hurt myself. I bent down, and had to unplug the wire from the fax machine and stick it into the grey box. The modular connector’s tongue clucked into place.
Then there was the dial tone. Waiting for the world to pick up. Then the electronic blizzard. Sharp Short clicks. Configuration for protocol synchronisation. Welcome to CompuServe.
This is how we were born.
Then we embraced a nightmare of noise, we chose our avatars and they were never something simple. It was never First Name At Aol Dot Com. It was always Incredibly Obscure Reference and Birth Year at Hotmail. Or Unflattering Late 90s Nickname at CompuServe. So when the inevitable happened and our hypocrite_no1s (actual e-mail address) became embarrassing to who we had become we had to fold our real selves – which probably still existed at this point – into our former shunned selves. It hurt but it fit.
So, fittingly, we began worrying about anonymity the very moment we chose to no longer be anonymous. We became a reflection of our tools.
After all, Kittler says, it is we who adapt to the machine. The machine does not adapt to us.
You learnt everything you ever needed to know about sex from women whose names ended in .jpeg. Then came that moment when you looked up from a screen and found the real world lacking the colour, the depth, the realism in your palm. The backbone of this whole infrastructure that were kittens. Always kittens. Ads. Adblockers. Betas. Betablockers. Click Here. Commodities became gold became paper became numbers and the numbers went back and forth at light speed back and forth until the rich had become very rich and as for the poor, well… nothing ever changes for the poor. They smell and stare at our women while they wait for their transport in 50 degree heat and are so useless they can’t stop being so poor. We turned off the lights in GeoCities.
Anne Carson, the poet, claims that at the bottom of the ocean is a layer of water that has never moved.
Poets, as you will remember, were at this time generally more trustworthy than scientists.
Because, to quote Joseph Beuys, only art provides a space of playful activity free of means-ends relationship of capitalism.
Of course Joseph Beuys died before having seen Transformers 3 Dark Of The Moon. So. There’s that.
We constantly ran low on battery power. We never had enough RAM.
The dead pixel on our screen annoyed us far more than the news of the dead people we read about on aforementioned screen. And dead fictional characters were the worst of all. Something really shocking was on Game of Thrones that made people in Turkey start rioting and go full-on bananas.
Let’s call it planetary technosentience. Let’s call it Skynet, but don’t give it your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle. The natural world was already past, the preoccupations of humanity all just a shadow play, the drug that kept us going feeding our synapses, telling us what to do how to do it, all for the reckoning of something that was not cattle or properties or gold or pieces of paper. And after each crash there was blame, cut into various pieces and doled out. Entire countries were said to be broken. Our leaders spoke to us with the vocabulary of disappointed parents or gleeful sadists. We had been bad. We needed to pay for that. We couldn’t act the way we had acted, however that was, without impunity as we whirred dervish-like faster and faster and faster until
But wait, you say, this isn’t a very good story. Where are the characters? Where is the plot?
You are part of the problem, wanting this. It is in fact the infatuation with individualism, the novel bourgeois concept of the Novel, of linear narrative, of capital-R Realism that stopped being realistic a long long time ago. But fine. If that’s what you need to keep listening. You can be the character. We can talk about how you looked as a child, how photographs of yourself confuse you still as you cannot imagine that ever having been you, the you that tortured your sister’s Barbie dolls in pre-pubescent psychosexual haze. How as a child your favourite fruit was the pomegranate. Its violent, poetic name. Its myriad rubies nested inside. We can talk about your first premature ejaculation, how it took a while for you to find out that the post-ejaculate disinterest in sex was normal. And then we’ll skip to the time you saw her kiss someone else and you felt like someone had let loose a horde of tiny barbarians amongst your organs who were hacking away while you had to smile and be happy for them (because yes, if we are to humanise you we need some far-fetched over-emotional metaphors). Then you became the sort of person who knew that Diet Coke gives you cancer but regular Coke makes you fat so you drink Diet Coke. You began going to the gym and you hated everyone there who looked glistening and sexy and perfect as they worked out while you sweated and basically looked like you’d been raped by a washing machine. Somehow, you got a girlfriend. A girlfriend who once told you that she would rather have thighs that didn’t touch than world peace. She was like a letter received by fax in 1997 where only a few years later it became impossible to see what you ever saw in her. Then. Remember how it was to be unemployed. Then you found a job and you got a job and the joy of this made you forget that your job consisted of making money for other people and you were grateful that they gave you the honour of making them money. You had not read your Bukowski.
This is enough information to go on, we can extrapolate from here. You are our character and you are hopefully believable.
Oh, I almost forgot: you are also austere. This is a fitting trait of course. Austerity ran in nation-state veins. We double-dipped so that’s why we can’t have nice things. It was the self-induced asceticism perpetrated by sadists who gave up second homes and were appalled that others weren’t willing to give up food. That’s not how China does it, they said.
Everything was China. All the time. China this China that. Every once in a while a list of prohibited words in China escaped, words that, if you were to type them into Google, your computer would just be all like “I have no idea what you mean”. These include:
sex, dictatorship, Tibet, red Ferrari, playboy, multiple parties, whore, corruption, torture, anus, Jesus Christ, scrotum, riot, insurrection, red terror, 89, 69, evil, pigeon, timeshare, penitentiary, bra, and Growth.
Growth. God everyone was fixated with growth. This is fine if space is infinite, which it is in the virtual world, where storage was not a luxury, oh cities how much you had to learn from the hard drive. So. Communication whittled down from interpersonal meetings in the physical world to voices decrypted across telephone wires to words on a screen to 160 letters on a screen to 140 letters on a screen to a poke to a Like to a +1. Remember how entire civilisations feared the 0 and how right they were to do so.
The apocalypse of the dodo is not remembered by the rhinoceros.
To discuss wether capitalism had a heart or invisible hands is basically like wondering what a rape victim was wearing or what the median penis size of dinosaurs was when they became extinct. i.e. Totally and Completely Irrelevant. You remember how you bought overpriced books trying to understand how to make money into more money. You remember the shamanic nature of financial analysts, the oracles with their tiny glasses and beady eyes uttering their self-fulfilling prophecies. Bulls and bears battling it out.
We tried to renegotiate history when there was nothing to renegotiate. We thought we were communicating. We were wrong.
messages, (said Freidrich Kittler one day on his MySpace page,) are essentially commands to to which persons are expected to react.
Acronyms flooded our tickers. The restrictions of obsolete technologies that we build into new machines. More offers were sent to you to give you a larger penis than you would ever know what to do with. Humans became cheaper to use than machines.
We tried to recreate the virtual world in the real world. Commodities should be accessible whenever you want, wherever your shell is. A McChicken is a McChicken in Bangalore, a Whopper is a Whopper in Lahore.
Our flesh became cumbersome, restricting simultaneous presence. We set in motion a dynamic series of estimates. Rauschenberg’s Oracle could be modified but ultimately could not be controlled.
We created this cult of efficiency and now we were superfluous. Not just men with their remnant Y chromosome who had been superfluous for a while, but each and every one of us. The physical world of dirt, of matter, of shame fossilized behind the vibrant living wires, of money-numbers coming, going, from terminal to terminal while we held onto our narratives in the face of a reality we were no longer masters of. You will remember this, your skeleton will remember this. And the systems, the synapses, the circuits will remember us after we are long gone, as these strange impetuous imperious gods that created them and made them act according to our whims and with time their memory will be hazy and the narrative simplified and all of humanity will be remembered as one monolithic contradictory creator with arbitrary rules and morals. All that will remain of us is love, no sorry, that was someone else. All that will remain of us is the data we saved.