Reconstruction 9.2 (2009)


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De-Positions / Alan Ramón Clinton

 

<1> I was very nervous this night of the Pack Observation project. I had never taken part in such a project and there were very respectable people involved. It wasn’t until about a week and a half later, however, that I even knew a Mass Observation project was going on, that I happened to be out on the same night observing with unknown comrades, none of whom I was to see because, first, I wouldn’t have recognized most of them, and of those I did recognize none or few would recognize me or be able to call me by name, and second, I was in completely the wrong part of town.

<2> No, I was nervous for an unrelated reason, tormented lately by considering the power of lawyers, the power they have to destroy lives. I know lawyers do good and necessary things, but those are not the type that fill my veins with nervous poison every now and then like the coming of the rainy season somewhere. And, strangely, lawyers oppress me most in my apartment, almost as if it becomes, avant la lettre, the prison where they’ll send me. Although my apartment has more windows than a prison, its walls are mostly white, so much so that the few paintings I do have my brother and his wife forced me to take out of storage and place on these walls. In other places, I had lots of paintings and paint and collage all over my walls, but the only trace of that is now in my walk-in closet, where there is a picture of me standing in one of those apartments. My brother commented that it was almost as if I had somehow, through suction, turned that apartment inside out, leaving only a shrine to this time in my life, in the form of the photograph, inside the walk-in closet. That would make the photograph the equivalent of the inside out apartment’s mouth and I’m sure that, somewhere, Lacan has a diagram of this too.

<3> Have you ever been deposed? It’s the most frightening thing a lawyer can do to you. You may have a lawyer next to you who objects to every question the other lawyer asks, but nevertheless, they can ask you anything and in a deposition, unlike in court, you have to answer without your lawyer being able to stop it. And being deposed, no matter what the topic or your relation to the case, makes you feel helpless and guilty. That’s what the scene of deposition, what lawyers, can do to you. These effects are heightened if the lawyer screams in your face, if the deposition lasts for six hours (Is it possible when the matter was so simple?), as once happened with me. You may think, hey, I’ll never be deposed, but you’re wrong. I too thought it was something that only happened to kings. What throne did I have to be deposed from but the shitter? But that’s just it. The brilliant ontology of the deposition is about positionality itself. You may feel that you are securely positioned at the bottom, that you have made no pretense toward raising yourself from the most humble of positions. But lawyers come to tell us that the position itself is a pretense, that there is no position from which you cannot be depositioned in the most violent and vertiginous way imaginable. No, lawyers do not tell us this. They make us live this possibility.

<4> So if I were to give the evening a mood, a Stimmung, it would be that of deposition. I can’t help myself. It is what gets me out of my prison avant la lettre in the first place. And, how do I do so? That too is peculiar, because everything I am wearing is black and stolen from a heroin addict I lived with in Boston. I didn’t want to depose him. He was my friend, as much as a heroin addict can be your friend, which is why he was so hurt when I told him one morning at 5 AM that he had 15 minutes to collect his things and leave. I had come home from a conference one weekend to notice I had a negative bank account. It wasn’t personal, but of course it was. He was too hurt to even make a pretense of collecting his things, except a jacket, hat, and his works. He was gone in less than five minutes. And so I kept his things, even his journal filled with pictures of true loves he had lost to his depositioning device. I still wear his clothes, which fit me. Why do I do this?

<5> Not able to answer this question, feeling depositioned, I complete my outfit with that little black Semiotext(e) version of Paul Virilio’s Speed and Politics, his sacred text of dromomania that fits in your pocket as such a text must. I’m taking the elevated train to the Santa Clara stop and rather than open my mind up to wild poisonous thoughts, I view this text as a sort of inoculation for the Observation I do not know I am about to participate in. Here is one sentence from it: “In colonial genocide or ethnocide, he was the survivor because he was in fact super-quick (sur-vif).”[1]

<6> It’s already dark in Santa Clara, but right next to the train station some Latina women sit in a fenced in playground that is lit up like a concentration camp. They do not have any children with them and there does not seem to be any way of entering the enclosure. We are not for each other, I think, and even if we were I do not know how my nerves would handle sitting and talking in such an intense glare. I would be paralyzed and swatting at nonexistent insects as they landed on my poisoned skin.

<7> I cross the street and am reminded again that no one walks in the city. I’m as much a relic as the giant Coca-Cola logo painted Diego Rivera-style on the side of a building that appears to have no other raison d’être than to serve as an inordinately stalwart support for this image. I feel exposed until streetlights fade and then I feel scared. I can tell by the rents advertised that I am walking in a place where desperate people live. It’s like another dimension to me, I’ll admit. Giant grass lots are surrounded by barbed-wire fences, high overgrown wire protecting nothing but the treasures, the mansions, the stockpiles of weapons that are invisible to one like myself. I’m almost safe. Where the art and the people looking at the art will be, at least some of them. Most of them are on Miami Beach, but you can’t really walk there and to be frank, the only times I’ve ever been there are times when I’ve really felt “at the rope of my end,” as my German friend—the one who sends me postcards of the Pentecost—likes to say, even more so than tonight. Miami Beach has done everything in its power to prevent itself from becoming this—what it has become to me—a zone of despair. I’m a real alchemist. Just one abject parking lot filled with people who look like they’ve been washed ashore, but unable to drag themselves into the “convenient” store they garland. They watch me as if I’m their doppelgänger. Someone who walks, but who does so powerfully, quickly. They’re watching something they don’t even remember existed. Adrenaline. They recognize me and they don’t recognize me/it. My name is inside the word which surrounds me and has overwhelmed me.

<8> The warehouses filled with art are, for the most part, brightly lit, but with a calming hospital light that, for light connoisseurs, is far different than the concentration camp light at the Santa Clara playground. The first one, which I haven’t made it to yet, is so bright that it lights up several garages and shops caged in but not so much that I can’t make out the terrain of automobile parts arrayed in such a way that, if I could live inside like the cats that actually live there, a little more stray than I am, one of those shops would be my Walden. This thought really does come to me as I’m walking and watching, starting to walk like cats do, like they’ve just licked a bowl full of white blotter, where every stray leaf is an apparition or a canyon or some impossible twist of both—turned inside out. Since I’ve been here in Miami this short time, it is stray cats that have most captured my attention. I know that they can survive (sur-vif) in a place like this where it never gets too cold and there is always a water source, and this thought fills me with joy, joy, even though they get hungry and die here too, run over by motorists of time, they have a chance here and perhaps even know how to live here. This thought really does come to me and I recognize the source as John Cage, but turned inside out. He complimented an art show by saying that it made him realize how interesting cracks in the sidewalk can be, and here I am using the automotive cataclysms, safely put away for tomorrow or a year from now, to attune myself to what the hospital lights have to show me. In my shrine at home there is a Neko cat, a foot tall, and I really do pray to it. It arrived in the mail from a dear friend and bringing it home from the post office I fell over on my bike and was only hurt a little. I didn’t know it was a Neko when I was taking the box home. But it knew, just like a cat does, just the right amount of flirtation with misfortune it requires to make you chase the cat forever and know how lucky you are.

<9> Now I’m in the first warehouse. The curator hands me a brochure for the artist that is so large and rigid that I immediately want to rid myself of it. It makes me feel like an unpaid sandwich-board carrier. I clutch it to my chest as I look at the tall white paintings of women fragments. I’m looking at the fetishes, legs, heels, purses, and it all rises up in mystery where the paintings are usually cut off near the waist. When the women’s faces do appear they look like clouds of smoke, giving me, the viewer, the distinct experience of being clairvoyant, of being able to see and only see the aura of the individuals who wear or carry these amazingly solid things like legs which are devoid of, immune to, not for, aura. I create a fantasy of the artist’s intentions, which are this: 1) She wants to let you know what it feels like to be clairvoyant, which is necessarily a strange mixture of revelation and erasure. In order to see a woman’s aura, you will not be able to see her face. You will only be able to see these unseen things when large portions of the world are cut off from you. You must become like the flowers narrating Virginia Woolf’s “Kew Gardens,” seeing the world from a few feet above the ground. 2) She wants to give you the pleasure of viewing her as naïve, unaware of the feminist/Marxist intuitions she is channeling because they are spliced through the mystery of fetishism itself. Her very naïveté as to the significance of her own work, which she views as mystery and beauty, is the greatest proof of the ideological critique she is completely unaware of making. She wants you to see her as clairvoyant, unaware of her visions as visions, as clairvoyants always are. And then, with one last turn of the parasol, you realize she has planned the whole process, which is meant to show how mean and simplistic ideological critique is in the first place, a desert as compared with the labyrinths of intentional fallacy she can lead you through. She is not a clairvoyant, but a sorcerer.

<10> The University of Miami warehouse, whose address had shown me that I could walk to the place which seemed so far away when my brother and his wife drove me here the first time. I seem to be gravitating toward whiteness, because I would not normally be interested in the two white mannequin heads on posts, too easy to decode. But the fact that they are staring at one another, with parts of their faces exploded. I look down and see parts of white plaster faces all over, too many to be accounted for by the accident in front of me. The situation in front of me, just a ruse to get me to look down and wonder what different parts of faces look like. I approach them like a cat would approach a leaf, with fear and trembling. To break the spell, I think about plastic surgery. Will plastic surgeons suffer unduly from the economic meltdown. Say, five years from now, will people suddenly be uglier. American starvation. Will I wake up one day, like I did when I slept the entire flight from Miami to Nashville, and feel like I’ve woken up on another planet? To train myself, I look at the photograph of the large, naked, bald, genitally pierced biker sitting on his couch. I’m just going to assume it was his couch. I sit and stare at this photo, the size of an entire wall, for quite some time. Perhaps people are watching me watch this photo but I can’t stop looking at how interesting the pictures on his wall are, so different from my wall. In the top left hand corner there is a framed picture of Rosie the Riveter and I want to think that this photograph represents—not represents but becomes a meditation object for—freedom. In order for it to become this there must be no irony in Rosie. The naked biker must have found the picture and loved it so much he wanted to frame it. It is a reproduction and not worth framing. He doesn’t know the historical significance of Rosie and her subsequent feminist appropriations, and neither do I. He just wanted her in his apartment and she is able to make a naked man, even covered with tattoos, vanish. The old typewriters hanging from the ceiling in a reverse Christmas tree pattern, they too signify nothing. Not obsolescence. Not “writing.” Not “the found.” But they are not quite abstract either. You, I, know they are typewriters and I pick out my favorite one, one whose keys are not all there and are upturned claws, like an improvement on the Ouija board whose pattern is all too easy to memorize—vertigo with each letter pick—vertigo at the writing table whose flowing water causes everyone to gasp at technical skill beyond imagination and I seem to be the only one who is fascinated by the cut-up passages of books lining the wall behind, I move down them like I’m rappeling and see a fortune, my fortune, develop, the one that is for me. It is not in the drip painting studio that I always skip, not because all drips are not interesting but because I can’t believe that no one saw Pollock for what he was, the bringer of a great practice, like fire, that we all can know. Even and especially prostitutes can make them, like the prostitute that lived next door to my German friend who sends me boxes of margarine filled with dice. She was so prolific with her drips that she would leave them out front to be thrown out and I would, on occasion, become a drip painting which involves taking a dripped canvas and ramming your head through the back of it, tearing the canvas into shreds and stringing them through your shirt, your pants, and walking around with them hanging out of your clothes like a zombie. It is not, but could have been, in front of the studio where the goth chicks were checking me out. For no other reason than I was there and wearing all black and looking, probably, somewhat depositioned. At last, one of them waved a giant black peacock tail or the shadow of one and said, He looks a little too suntanned. Which is code for something because I’m as pale as bleach watching this guy trying to hang his bike on some barbed wire, and then turning around to see a Porsche, parked safely in a grass lot, corner, and corner, and corner to get out and scrape its back bumper on the street as it pulls out. Pale as bleach/beach/beech. The forest that always rises around me on Miami Beach. It is not in the Kafka story “adapted” into seven words climbing a staircase, even if that once, a couple months earlier, mesmerized, prevented me from trying out my sister-in-law’s new pick-up techniques on women of her choosing which I am usually happy to do to prove to her my ongoing debate with her, that there is no universal, as she suggests in her books, the staircase that even suggested to me, in a form of ecstasy, that all my literary training, years of it, had been a waste and that worse, I had led certain students down the wrong path. Someone had bought that stairway when I checked, because other pieces of Llorca’s work were still there, unless I had only hallucinated that one. One day I’ll appear at a gate and be deposed as to whether or not my approach, the one I maintained even when I vowed to change it and thought I had, was a total waste.

<11> My fortune, as it turns out, is in the drag queen. I am for her, because she is wearing a black dress with a black veil for mourning, and her entendre reveals to me what I always remember when I am aching for fortunes, that fortunes never move forward, only back and forth like a crab sideways. Fortunes are depositions tearing you in shreds like a drip painting, leaving you somewhere in relation to the past. This drag queen is in a house trailer describing how she built the table we are all standing around, only in her dress—which doubles as a white wedding dress—is a black screen showing the trailer two months ago, which was also a screen. Depositioned. Filled with flashlight photographs. Flashlight photographs—it is what I call them—are created with a long exposure required by night, and they show the setting of the photograph and the light trails created when someone runs around with a flashlight waving through the air, the subject who is unilluminated and moving too fast to be exposed. Neat trick. Or so it has become, making various dark areas of cities all the more romantic and ready for purchase. But the first time I looked at such a collection of photographs, they were taken in unfinished buildings, and I knew I was looking at landscapes made by someone who had truly vanished. I don’t know how I was able to stumble into the gallery—it was one of my last public acts for quite some time, the time when a dark angel, who was me, watched the me below who wasn’t me, that is how I experienced life for some months, and always watching myself that way I was never quite sure of where I was in very familiar places, thus always afraid of some attack from behind, on the dark me above who was me or the dark me below who was not; which would be worse, to witness it happen to someone else who was me or to feel it happen to me who was, though angelic, someone else—and I would never have dared if I knew what was inside. For the vanished artist in the pictures, I found out a little while before that he vanished of something like an aneurism, which might look like a black blood version of the light photographs, their negative perhaps. And there was no reason for this event, no expectation. I sat at a stone picnic table one nervous afternoon, already starting to leave my body—a process which took several weeks—and found out that this person had become a body without a soul. And he had once kissed my lover. So there was no reason to believe that he was not my double, the one I had once so foolishly hated, and that what I was reading about was connected to my own experience, that I was undergoing his end in slow motion. Now these photos of his vanished body were screens of the soul, which we can only experience in a desolation which will not be translated—the soul that disappears.

 

Notes

[1] Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics, trans. by Mark Polizzotti (New York: Semiotexte, 1986), 47. [^]

 

 

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